November 2007

Monthly Archive

Update on Youssif

Posted by on 29 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: caring, children, editorial, Giving, good things, Making a Difference, Peace Making, politics, Politics and War, poverty, Uncategorized

The little Iraqi boy who is being treated for severe burns is in surgery again today. The chances are good that within a few weeks he will look more like his old self, and be able to eat more comfortably.

The full story is at CNN. Previous posts I made about Youssif were:

Terrible things DO happen to people. They seem to happen to innocent people as frequently as they do to people who do mean and horrible things. There is no rhyme nor reason to acts like this.

And good things also can happen.

When I feel badly about the state of the world, I ask myself: What can I do today — right now, even — to make the world a little better?

I don’t have to solve all the problems of the world. But each time we consciously choose to do the right thing — to be kind, to help, to support — we do make a difference.

I challenge everyone who reads this (yes, all three of you), to do just one small thing extra. Hug your kids one more time before they go to school, bring your office mates a small treat (fruit or veggie tray?), even just smile at the parking lot attendant on your way in or out. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money or planning. It just takes you.

Accomplishment

Posted by on 28 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: fun, good things, NaNoWriMo, Uncategorized, writing

It is with a whole lot of pride, and not inconsiderable relief… that I announce I did it! I have completed the NaNoWriMo challenge.

I wrote over 50,000 words (official count 50, 210) between Nov 1 and Nov 30. I finished today (Nov 28). I did NOT write anything at all on six days, so I really wrote all of that in only 22 days. No wonder I feel tired!

Finishing early seems impressive, but I readily admit that this particular story of mine is not likely to ever be read by another human being. Why?

Because I was really focused on writing volume, not making sure it all hangs together. There are many errors — factual as well as places where things just don’t quite gel — where the ideas are weak, the characters just won’t behave or the story is completely unbelievable.

I think I managed to come up with some good expressions, some nice sentences and constructions. There were some interesting plot twists, some ideas that are useful… so perhaps I will recycle this one at a later date, using the good bits and dumping the not-yet-ready-for-B-movie bits…

I liked these quotes particularly, written early on, before I was desperate to just get words down on the paper:

I moved to sit near him and handed him his piece of chocolate, holding mine out too. He looked at his, then took it quietly and nibbled. I looked at the piece left in my hand; in the other days I would have rejected chocolate like this: stale and ghosted from its time on the shelf. Not today. Today I worshiped the chocolate, studying it like a piece of art, resisting the moment I put it in my mouth. I turned it over, looking at the HER- embossed on it, the last remnant of civilization, the last sweet confection I would have.

Mom came racing into the room drunkenly and grabbed me as she lunged for the doorway. We held on together, while the books on the shelves inched closer to the edge and the plants in the house waved their branches like some sort of cheerleaders. Mom’s face was white, and her eyes were very big, and she sheltered me in her arms.

Tomorrow, I return to the BabbleStory that is both fun to write and fun to read. See you there!

Giving Thanks

Posted by on 22 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: caring, celebrations, friends, fun, garden, Giving, holidays, hope, Peace Making, Uncategorized

It’s that time of year again!

Our friends in Canada (hi everyone!) had their official Thanksgiving day last month. Now, it’s our turn.

Once again, I draw your attention to the Gratefulness.org website. This is a website devoted to reminding us about the things in life that are good, while recognizing that there are still things out there that aren’t so good.

I like the phrase “attitude of gratitude” — I have been using it for years, and honestly don’t know if it’s my invention or if I heard/read it somewhere else. But it neatly encapsulates how I try to approach life.

Honesty time, recap: I suffer (have for at least three decades) from several types of depression and anxiety: Seasonal depression in the gray, short days of winter; I had long-term post-partum depression after each pregnancy (not all resulted in children); I fight sporadic depression that is just depression… which is probably the result of the extreme generalized anxiety and social anxiety (hard to stay upbeat when everything scares you); I get panic attacks and I also have PTSD (post traumatic stress) from some incidents when I was younger that come back to bite me. Medications sometimes help, and living a quiet life definitely helps, but these things are pretty much always there in the background. I have some physical challenges as well that sometimes keep me house-bound if not bedridden.

Still, I manage to have a lot of friends (many were initially online friends who have since become very real friends), a relatively pleasant home life, a wonderful husband, and some very interesting projects. I consider my life to be extremely good!

I encourage everyone to honestly acknowledge the things that are not perfect in their lives, but not to dwell on them unless they require work at that moment. This for me can be a struggle, but when I can — then I focus on the truly good things, my happy and healthy kids, my thousands of books, my ability to stay warm in the winter, my many patient, enduring friends. These are simple, but for me profound sources of happiness.

And I am pretty much always trying to find something new, to learn or give back to the world, to improve myself in some way. This year, I am doing the NaNoWriMo challenge (so far keeping up with the word count), helping my mother in her classroom, and staying in touch with my kids’ teachers. These keep me growing, and interested in life. I hope they also make me interesting!

I love my garden (when I can work in it), I really love to do art; and this year I am very much enjoying working in three different schools with kids of various ages –first grade to high school. It’s volunteer work, but I am making a difference, and it feels good.

What are you grateful for? What are the things you can improve? Count your blessings, and then pass them on, in ways large and small.

You will be glad you did.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Speedy Fingers!

Posted by on 19 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: fun, quiz, Uncategorized

Sometimes it’s nice to do something that isn’t strictly intellectual/academic. This is a cute online test — measures typing speed and returns both speed and number of errors.

I am able to type with the touch typing system

Here were my first results:

You reached 218 points, so you achieved position 9444 on the ranking list

You type 322 characters per minute
You have 51 correct words and
you have 3 wrong words

So I type about 48 words per minute (I know I type faster when my nails are trimmed and I am not distracted by the TV). I probably get to about 55 or 60 wpm on a good day.

Continue Reading »

BabbleCast images for Nut’s Store

Posted by on 19 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: art, Uncategorized

These are the images I have created for Evanonut’s Babblecast Store.

They are big, so it may take a while for them all to load. I will generate thumbnails when I can… If you are interested in GREST items, they are at the bottom of the list!

Black and White version of the babblecast

babblecast logo

babblecast logo

babblecast logo

babblecast logo

a bumpersticker

a bumpersticker

And for those of you who appreciate Nut’s tireless devotion to bringing you news of atrocities by squirrels…

grest logo

grest logo

grest logo

grest logo

grest logo

Update on School Levy Amendment

Posted by on 15 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: editorial, education, musings, politics, school, Uncategorized

I woke this morning to learn that the levy is considered to be passing with a growing lead. That lead amounts to less than 1% still… 50.3668% in favor and 49.6332% opposed. I will not hold my breath, but will wait until the measures are certified in a few weeks.

Meantime, I received a comment on the second post on this topic, from a thoughtful fellow-Babbler.

Finally, I want to congratulate my fellow Washingtonians on a REALLY GREAT turnout this year! Sometimes an off-year election gets 25 or 30% voter turnout at best. This year, the overall turnout of registered voters in the state was 48.2617% — with the least active county (Franklin in Eastern Washington) at 42.1874%! The most involved voters are in Columbia County (65.0142%), Garfield (69.0604%), Wahkiakum (66.3436%) and Lincoln (65.7975%). I note that three of those four are in Eastern Washington, where if the entire county voted they would account for less than half of one percent of the people who voted this time. Yes, EVERY vote counts! King County, the most populous county in the state had only 43.6954% voter turnout. No wonder they have trouble passing stuff! I am disappointed that my own county, the seat of state government, which has gone to ALL mail-in balloting had only 49.1892% — people couldn’t be bothered to find a stamp or a drop-box?!? Check out the numbers for your county here!

And I am reminded that a good topic for a later post would be the perceived and real inequities when more affluent and more populous locations vote on the same ballot items as less affluent or populous locations.

My favorite tea shop…

Posted by on 14 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: British Columbia, food, passages, Uncategorized

Is Murchie’s, a very old company based in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (that’s Canada).

But I don’t know how much longer they will be in business.

A friend of mine told me , “Murchie’s has gone into receivership,” which basically means bankrupt. Follow the link to the story in the Globe and Mail.

There are lots of reasons an established business can die… but I hope that Murchie’s will continue to make and sell good quality tea for a while yet. I will start with some of the more compelling reasons for a new owner to keep it going: there are very few quality North American tea companies. Lipton’s teas are mass-produced (and very bitter); and most other tea companies in the U.S. are either strictly herbal or anemic when brewed… or highly overspiced if all you want is a nice soothing cup to take the chill off a rainy afternoon.

Murchie’s teas, though they don’t all appeal to me, are more refined — not anemic, but they also don’t grab you by the lapels and shake you. They have layers of interest, and lovely color. I highly recommend their teas (they do sell coffee, but I haven’t tried it).

Want to help out an OLD friend? Here is Murchie’s website. They ship all over the world!

The Importance of Education

Posted by on 13 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: children, editorial, education, hope, parenting, poverty, school, social justice, Uncategorized

warning: the following post contains a long rant…

You may recall that I wrote a post earlier this month about voting, about the importance of participation in the whole electoral process.

You may also recall that I wrote specifically about HJR 4204, an amendment to the state constitution that would allow a majority of people who show up to vote to decide if school levies pass. Currently, it requires what is known as a super-majority (a complicated calculation based on how many voted in the previous general election) to pass these levies that provide monies for everything from transportation to school maintenance and improvement on occasion, to before and after school activities, to… so far I haven’t named anything frivolous.

And that is the point of this post. The education of our children, from providing them with the meals their parents do not or can not (as is sadly the case in many communities), to giving them a safe place to study and play after school, to providing what is often considered “fluff” arts, music, and sports but which expand a person’s connections with all areas of learning; without these “non-academic” offerings that support the learning process (clean rooms, safe transportation, interesting activities to engage them) children do not do as well.

In my state, “basic education” is supposed to be fully funded. But basic education is not well defined. A set amount is provided by the state for every student to each district/school for the basic education, but it isn’t enough to fully cover all the costs that we expect with schools.  Many schools have to pass levies simply to provide janitorial services!

An argument against HJR 4204 was that a “minority” shouldn’t be able to impose taxes on people who don’t want to pay them.

But I reply that, if MOST of the voters don’t want to pay levies to fund schools, then they can vote. Pure and simple. In our state, any person can apply for a permanent absentee voter ballot — so the difficulty getting to the polls is not an issue.And I reply also: WHY NOT fund the schools? Why not provide ALL students with the knowledge and activities that feed growing brains and bodies, rather than relying on knowledgeable, available, financially able parents? Not all parents can provide these activities for their children…

Because our school levies are funded by property taxes, landlords and others who hold lots of property are often opposed to levies. Perhaps they don’t have children? Landlords will pass any increased taxes on in rent anyway.

Now, I don’t place all the emphasis on this one bill.  The truth is that, ideally, all schools would be fully funded — fully able to provide the services and facilities that best serve the students.  Teachers would be abundant — class sizes would be manageable.  All students who could be helped by additional services (physical or speech therapy, for example) would get it, not just those whose parents are pushy.

Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world.  Parents who are able to provide good environments for their children at home are also the ones who are most likely to advocate for schools — and those are the districts that typically pass their levies under the current system.  Inequity of this kind would not end  if HJR 4204 passes… but the smaller districts might stand a better chance at passing levies, and the students would then be better served.

The problem we have with children being unprepared for life — unprepared to work, unprepared for further education, unprepared to participate as citizens in our world — begins with the impoverished schools they attend. What purpose does it serve to merely warehouse children in aging schools, with fewer and fewer programs and more and more tests?

As I write this, HJR 4204 is passing — barely. There are 50.2395 % percent of ballots in favor, 755,061 for and 747,863 against. I am astonished. Are people really this unconcerned about the future? Are they so morally and ethically impoverished that they do not see any value in providing for children? For the future of this world?

100 years ago in the United States, many people were able to find meaningful work without even an 8th grade education. People without high school educations could participate fully — and have decent living-wage jobs. That doesn’t work any more. It hasn’t for the last 50 years.

If this country is to find new ways to survive in a changing climate, both politically and economically as well as ecologically, we need to have adults who are creative thinkers, who have some knowledge of the past and an awareness of the possibilities. They don’t all have to be prepared to go to college… but they do all need to be able to play their role in society.

Let’s support our children — our very own, and the ones in our communities. Let’s make sure they have what they need to succeed!

Boys in Concert

Posted by on 12 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: children, fun, music, parenting, Uncategorized

This is a week and a day late…  But here are a couple pics from last weekend’s concert.  The music was lovely, and I am so happy they are doing this!

The boys sit in the back row, the trumpeter on the left, the trombone on the right

The taller boy on the left is the trombonist, the older boy on the right is the trumpeter, so handsome in their concert attire!

I may complain sometimes about the trials and tribulations that face parents (specifically:  me), but seeing my two healthy, capable children doing a wonderful job at something this complicated…  this is what parenting is about:  helping your children succeed.

Veteran’s Day

Posted by on 10 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I don’t really have much to say about this day this year — except:

Thank You

To all the veterans who have served, and to their families, thank you.

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