citizenship

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Trying to stay upbeat, (however…)

Posted by on 12 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: citizenship, climate, economy, editorial, environment, Green Living, Politics and War, science, weather

Climate change.

I worry about the future, not that I would likely live to see the worst effects in my lifetime, but my children might — and if they have children, my grandchildren will.

Already, I believe that our climate has irrevocably altered. Things I enjoy like chocolate, coffee, vanilla… those may disappear in a couple decades, because the species that produce these treats are not likely to be able to adapt quickly enough to changing climate patterns. In our own part of the world, for several of the last ten years we have MISSED the “pre-spring” summer. When I was in college, we could count on getting a couple of weeks of near-summer weather in March before the rains returned. It would gradually warm up, and although we could expect rain as late as early July, we knew that mid-July to mid-September would be dry. So did the plants and animals, and growth cycles adapted to the peculiarities of our rainy season.

Here are two articles that I believe are based on science, that describe what has happened in the past when certain parameters are met.

NY Magazine 9 July 2017

CNN Sixth Mass Extinction 10 July 2017

I do necessarily think this will happen, but I think the possibility exists. What can I do about it? I am continuing to attempt to live lightly, with fewer purchases in general; trying to take fewer trips by cars with combustion engines; trying to eat locally when possible (with my allergies though I must supplement with additional food sources from far away…); using up and wearing out, recycling, upcycling, and other ways to prevent materials that have finished their first use from entering the waste stream.

I try to teach my children (my own children as well as my students) to be thoughtful, aware, and safe. I know that a worst-case scenario will be devastating world-wide; already such awful conditions exist in many nations near the equator, in areas that suffer drought, famine, and weather disasters on a regular basis. Cholera in Yemen. Fires in Europe and North America. Hurricanes on the East Coast and … this could be a long list. Long story short? Things are changing. They are changing quickly and the old ways of dealing with limited resources won’t work.

It’s not just the economic picture, which will definitely have to adjust; with many on the losing end finishing in poverty. It is the ecosystems that will suffer the most: animals in the wild, plants, the oceans. As each species adapts or, more likely succumbs, to the changes, our world will never be the same. Already, some changes are inalterable. They may not all be bad in the long run, but we will need to change to keep up with them.

For me, step one is to be aware. The second is to address in my own life that which I can without withdrawing from society and waiting to die. The third is to contact my elected officials, friends, others who may care; yes, I vote! But I am ill-equipped with my allergies to participate in demonstrations or sit-ins, my professional training and avocational interests do not equip me to invent a device or material that can restore our atmosphere and biosphere. For other steps, I must hope there are people who will fill in.

Am I worried? Yes. Do I lose sleep over this? Not often — Not sure what the benefit would be of that! But I am doing what I can, to the best of my ability. And I still hope, because my children and my students are worth it. I do what I can.

Do you?

NaPoWriMo Second Post

Posted by on 02 Apr 2017 | Tagged as: citizenship, climate, education, environment, NaPoWriMo

in school
we were taught
to say but not to follow
the golden rule

we learned
clear speech and calculations
invented histories
concise writing and
we yearned

for connection
between textbooks
our lives in boxes
but always looking
outward, forward, ahead

the land
sea, air, forests
dying slowly or quickly
taking a stand

for justice
for meaning in a life
once started
should be lived
with care

we studied not
the golden rule
but the laws of supply
and demand
of grasp and take

the land
sea, air, forests
dying slowly or quickly
taking a stand

in school
we were taught
to say but not to follow
the golden rule

[for more poetry, check out the NaPoWriMo website with links to thousands of participants! This link opens a new tab in your brower.]

Offline

Posted by on 09 Nov 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, politics, Politics and War, poverty

[The site was restored later that month… we must not give in to fear, we must not be afraid to speak out against injustice, and we must not be cautious when going to the aid of others.]

I have taken this site offline for a while.

Pages are gone, posts are gone. Archived, but no longer available.

I have not been able to keep up a quality online presence since my eyes started to go bad, and they are not improving. With teaching, there is neither time nor interest in blogging.

Fifteen Years

Posted by on 11 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, loss, Politics and War, Uncategorized

For fifteen years, we have talked about, and gone to war pretending it fixes, the events of September 11, 2001. On that day, I woke suddenly from deep sleep the instant the first plane hit.

I lost a college friend that day. Other people lost so much more.

We all lost a sort of innocence that day, I think — the idea that the United States was so big, and so prosperous, that no real damage would happen outside of a war.

And suddenly we were in a war. A war with a nebulous enemy. A war with no clear targets to strike.

But we had the good will of the world behind us, a world that (for the most part) was as shocked and appalled at the targeting of civilians during a time of relative peace in the world.

And then things got muddied up by “politics” and we lost the focus. And we are still engaged in wars in a now destabilized and volatile, and expanding, region. It got very messy, very fast.

I do not think we are safer, fifteen years later, despite giving up (and having stripped from us) some of our rights. I know that the more we objectify individuals and groups the less free we are.

I also know that, historically, when a society vilifies and dehumanizes a group, stripping them of equality, requiring people to conform to a narrow band of behavior, belief and speech, that society is on the downward slope. I know that it won’t stop with one creed, one race, one person — eventually more and more people are caught up and then no one is free.

Do we wonder why it is so dangerous to speak up in some countries? It is because when those governments first said “this person/group is a security risk” and instituted small restrictions, no one spoke up. When the first group was arrested, incarcerated, eliminated, the majority stood by silently. And by the time the majority realized they were ALL in danger… that anyone at any time could accuse anyone and that the machinery that had developed no longer cared about guilt or innocence, or intent, or outcomes… only about eliminating people who “might” be a threat to the government….

It is not yet too late in the United States to speak up, to fight for the traditions that underpin the constitution — no matter how unevenly applied in some times and places, no matter that it is imperfect — that ALL are created equal, and ALL are deserving of the same protections and opportunities.

Fifteen years ago, the United States’ population allowed a handful of angry, hate-filled people to start unravelling the core of our society. We gave up our freedoms in many ways out of fear and in a desire to be “safe” which we are never going to be. In so doing, the people who planned, carried out, supported, and approved of the murder of thousands — including my friend — were allowed to win. We allowed our freedoms and optimism, the very things that make us “Americans” to be undermined. It is not too late to reverse that trend.

Are you eligible and registered to vote? If so, do you vote? Even in local elections, perhaps especially in local elections, every vote counts. We shape our nation and our future by participating in our government. This is a right and privilege still denied to many around the world. WE CAN reclaim our rights and our national pride so that those who would deny us both do not win. We can elect people who keep military “answers” as a very last resort — not weakening our defenses but being more thoughtful and intentional about when to use force, and more intentional about when not to.

We CAN make this world better. It takes WILL. It takes time. it takes heart

Don’t let the terrorists win. Don’t let hate win.

Work for love. Work for peace.

What’s Wrong World-wise… Political content (another delayed post, from 4 October 2007)

Posted by on 28 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, Gardens and Life, hope, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

or world-dumb, I suppose.

disclaimer: What follows is purely my opinion, based on personal experience and reflection, but hey! it seems to work for me and mine.

  • The most important thing that may be wrong is impatience. People are impatient to grow up, to make money, to “get there” and forget to enjoy the process. My children have a relatively comfortable home, plenty to eat and lots of leisure time in between a couple of activities of their own choosing. Still, they are eager to grow up, to achieve the milestones… at their age, this youthful exuberance is appropriate. But in a parent, to be eager for them to grow faster, to finish school early, to get a high-paying job early devalues the things that make the rest important: the people, the time you spend with them, the memories you build. Gardening teaches that one cannot rush the plants — they grow and produce in their own time. Actually, parenting teaches the same thing!
  • The next problem is forgetting that what works for one person or family may not be the right thing for another. For example, whether or not we liked it, my inability to work for several years meant we survived on one income past the point we had intended. It may have been the better choice in the long run anyway, as it meant I was instantly available to the children all these years. But for another person whose career couldn’t be dropped or picked up again so easily (I am changing my focus anyway, so don’t have to worry about picking up again where I left off) that might have been devastating. Or, for a family without a spouse who was earning ‘just enough’ or who didn’t have doting grandparents to help supply a few extras, the loss of the second income (even if it had been part-time) could have meant losing the home. Gardening also teaches that the sunflowers next door will invariably bloom sooner than mine, despite my placing seeds in the best location and tending them daily. Is it my soil? The microclimate? But my blueberries are invariably sweeter than those next door…
  • A lack of charity really goes hand in hand with the above: I have heard, many times and from people in many walks of life, that anyone ought to be able to improve their lives, that other people shouldn’t have to take up the slack when people won’t “do” for themselves. But they forget, I think, that a) not everyone has the same health/strength levels; b) even in the most hard-working/successful lives sometimes things “just work out” or they are lucky… and sometimes they don’t; c) most successful people can point to someone in their past who supported them financially or otherwise to get them over rough spots; and d) it is no longer possible for many people to support themselves on their own land — most people now live in cities and hold title to neither their living spaces nor the means to be industrious. We do not all start out with the means and the ability to improve our lives without assistance. Gardening is nearly impossible without a bit of soil and the right exposure: a devoted adult in an apartment without a balcony cannot grow the same varieties and abundance as a child with muddy feet in the middle of half an acre.
  • Laughter. People take themselves too damn seriously. What is wrong with cracking a good-natured joke now and then? Laughing at a pun? Being silly in public? Our children don’t see us playing, joking around, enjoying life. Maybe they should. My garden plays its own tricks on me, sending up potatoes underneath the tomatoes though it was years since I grew taters there… and not producing potatoes at all in the proper bed! If we are too insistent on having everything “just so” and only doing things that are serious, we miss
  • The next two items are new, 28 February 2016
  • Responsibility. It is difficult to “adult” — a new concept that has been floating around the social media world. I go to school almost every day, even when I am ill — I have had only a couple of sick days in the two years I have been at my current assignment, one for my son’s emergency hand surgery, two this year for an asthma attack and the flu. Might need another one this week (tomorrow) for a virus that I seem to have acquired, but if it feels like “only” a cold of course I will go in! This is in contrast to people who don’t have sick leave and so must go in to work or lose their jobs (at best, they lose the pay for the days they don’t show up). This is in contrast to people who find ways to claim what is called “workmen’s comp” when they might otherwise be able to work. I have the option when I am ill to stay home, but out of responsibility for these precious children I teach I go in unless driving is unsafe or I am contagious! A cold virus… one that I caught at school? I go in!
  • Diversity. One could call this openness to the beauty of the differences between people and groups. As I write this, it is an election year. The outgoing president, Barack Obama, has been the first truly “minority” president of our nation. The son of an immigrant and a native-born American mother, born in what would become the state of Hawaii, he also lived outside the U.S. as a child when his mother married a new husband who came from Indonesia. He married a remarkable woman, the child of working-class parents. He and his wife both graduated from college, going on the recieve degrees in law. An amazing, wonderful example of what hard work (and some luck) can do for people in this amazing nation that is based on the rights of all to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A land where a Bill of Rights further enumerates Freedom of Speech, of Religion and of the Press, among others. No test of faith/belief may be applied to candidates or those elected to public office (which includes teachers…). No natural born citizen may be denied their rights on the basis of anything other than a conviction. And so on.
       
    However, this year… several candidates for the presidency are doing solid imitations of Hitler in the decade or so preceeding Kristallnacht. Rhetoric is flowing freely about people who are adherents of Islam; people who come from specific nationalities; people who are different. And I ask myself: what ever happened to the idea that our nation is strong because of (rather than in spite of) the great diversity of experiences that leads to wide-ranging ideas that lead to innovations and a better world? A nation that begins to criminalize existence rather than actions is on the path to genocide. We need courage to embrace, rather than reject, our neighbors and their families. We have survived segregation, interning families in camps based on their ancestry, and hysterically denying employment to people based on (their constitutionally guaranteed right to) political opinions/affiliations and sexual history. We cannot forget these lessons.

I would finish this post today as a call for renewed commitment to service, to understanding, to doing what is necessary to improve the world; to reject the calls for secularism, for isolationism; to protect the most vulnerable among us including children, isolated elders, people with disabling conditions that require extra support; and so on.

Rather than give in to fear (and there is a lot going on in the world that is out of our control!), we can instead remember the lessons of our past, and pull ourselves together. We need to stand together in opposition to those forces that would divide us. We need to be stronger and braver than the pundits who proclaim immigrants as enemies and other religions as subversive.

I cannot solve the problems of the world, but I am just enough of an optimist to think that we can solve the problems of our nation. We can solve them through understanding, optimism, and the same spirit of ingenuity that is a hallmark of “Americans.” True patriotism will not turn its back on the proud heritage of inclusiveness. True patriotism will admit that past actions that deprived individuals of their rights in the absence of criminal activity on their part was not just wrong, it was unconstitutional and should not be repeated. True patriotism in our country recognizes that together we are stronger, braver, smarter, and better than when we isolate and cut off those who are different in selfish and cowardly attempts to protect ourselves from imagined threats. We grow when we take risks, we diminish when we don’t. Pretty simple.

In charge of change (another delayed post)

Posted by on 21 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, climate, economy, editorial, environment, hope, Making a Difference, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

The orginal post was almost finished in January 2009. Here is the original, and how I would finish it now:

It seems to me that a lot of the time people expect government to step in and do clean-up, not matter what the troubles, whether big or small. And it seems to me that, sometimes, government just isn’t equipped to do things especially quickly, or in small doses that might be effective before things reach a crisis state.

Now, I believe we are facing a crisis. And I don’t believe that the crisis is “not as bad as” the one we faced in the Great Depression; or the Cold War; or any of a number of Capital-Letter Events this nation and the world have faced. I believe this crisis is unique and will have far-reaching, long-ranging effects. I don’t know that there is anything particularly special or noteworthy about the crisis other than:

  • millions of people around the world are losing their jobs with little hope or prospect of finding a new one with similar (presumably livable) conditions soon.
  • the climate is changing and there are other conditions making agriculture difficult over large areas, causing crop failure and famine for millions of people, with the predictable political upheaval and conflict.
  • posturing and saber-rattling by military and para-military forces around the world, not unlike that before world war one, and world war two, the cold war… and every war and conflict.

It isn’t any one particular scruffy-looking person on a street corner that indicates homelessness is increasing. It isn’t any one particular “For Sale” sign on a street the indicates the failure of banks. It isn’t any one bank failure that indicates economic melt-down.

It isn’t any one particular event that indicates wide-spread disaster, no more than any one particular monsoon or melting glacier doesn’t indicate global warming is occuring (I hope that I don’t need to explain that global warming is happening?).

The signs of increasing homelessness were my first clue that the economy was in bad shape — and getting worse. Naively, I thought government was keeping tabs on things and would somehow have things in place to avert total disaster. Just as I, naively, expected the military to be able to effect winning campaigns.

Of course, I thought the military would have sufficient support from the bureaucrats who ordered them into battle. And I supposed that the regulatory commissions in charge of finances had the resources and rules in hand to avert the kind of disaster that followed the greedy policies prior to the Wall Street crash of 1929.

Naive. Yes. Perhaps wishful thinking as well — wanting to not have to be responsible or reactive to things not immediately under my control. Going about my own business, doing what I was supposed to do. Noticing of course that there were more people on street corners, that food banks were running low, that more houses were for sale for longer… and I noticed these things before they were on the news. Did I stick my head in the sand? Did I expect too much of my elected government? Did I fail to meet my own obligations?

Like a peasant who expected the liege lord to be sure that enough of the tithes and rents and fees were put aside in case of disaster; I have found instead that those relief supplies were long-since consumed by the departing denizens of the manor-house as they hosted others of similar means. Regardless of the origin of the crisis, the peasant children starve, people die. Though good intentions may now take hold, the new lord lacks the resources to contribute in any meaningful way to alleviate the suffering.

The government finds itself in a similar situation today. Though we have a new president, administration, and the legislative branch is also updated, there is little that remains for them to do.

So what are WE, whether peasants or higher-ranking vassals, going to do?

We can choose to //

I suspect that when I finish a post in mid-sentence that I was called away for kid-duty.

In the case of this post, perhaps it was also related to the hip issues I was having that year, or the class I was taking.

I would now alter the term “global warming” to the more accurate, and less-likely to be misinterpreted climate change. The rest pretty well represents my thinking, and, sadly, how prescient I was.

We are seeing the effects of governments’ lack of action in a world-wide, drawn-out recession that seems to stall each time some progress is made. Strange weather patterns of drought, extra precipitation, heat, cold, and winds are becoming more common. Low-lying nations are ravaged by combinations of higher tides and more violent storms. As I finish this post in February 2016 (seven years later), Fiji is recovering from a direct hit from a Category 5 cyclone. The overall U.S. Economy has recovered from the deep economic woes of the past decade, but by creating lower-wage and part-time jobs that keep the poor in their place and benefit the rich and powerful. Those of us who have been “middle class” are less and less likely to have extra for things like savings accounts, visiting relatives who live at a distance…

Politicians, this being a presidential election year, refer frequently to helping the “middle class” which increasingly, by their metrics, includes families who are barely scraping by. And families earning a quarter million dollars a year. They rarely talk about working class people, or those who live in poverty while working more than full-time hours at multiple jobs.

Finally teaching, I see the effects of twenty-plus years of misguided political directives on my students. In the failed refusal to support young families by means other than the barest minimums; by failures to fully fund education (Washington state legislators, I am pointing this finger at you); by ignoring overseas hostilities and human rights violations until the issues turn into full-fledged war; and by an increasing disregard for the realities of life on our planet, in part because of irrational fears over science (or is it self-serving economics that makes these politicians work to protect fuel sources that damage the planet and fail to promote measures that heal?).

I am angry about this. My sons, now grown into fine young adults, are starting out in a world that reeks of protectionism, isolationism, racism, and secularism. The founders of our nation would be shocked to see the petty tyrants mow fighting for supremacy in our land. They would be, I think, appalled at the careless disregard for human life, for dignity, and for giving all people a fair shot at pursuing happiness.

So here we are, seven years on from the original post, and I am still wondering if the people of the United States have the fortitude to do what is necessary to take back our nation. Do we have the wisdom to make changes in our personal lives in spending/purchasing, work/career, civic duties?

I purchased a used hybrid car to make my commute of over 30 miles each way to save on gasoline even though it is a big chunk of my take-home pay. We recycle, even though hauling it to the curb twice a month is inconvenient (our driveway is longer than most yards!). We eat mostly locally grown, mostly organic foods that are expensive, but have a lighter footprint for fuel and carbon production. My peculiar allergies mean we purchase many things that come from a great distance but, where we can, we do choose local! We vote…

What can you do? What will you do?

{edited several times for typos due to composing on an ipad… ]

Difficult Times

Posted by on 31 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, editorial, Making a Difference, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

I generally try to avoid politics here.

I feel, however, it is important to express important things.

And right now, I want to express my sorrow at the escalation of wars in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I am distressed and concerned about the possibility for a very serious and wide-ranging involvement.

What can we do?

What follows is “more of the same” concerning my focus on citizen participation in government and education.

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Today, not in the garden

Posted by on 22 May 2013 | Tagged as: citizenship, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, hope, housefire, loss, Making a Difference, parenting, Peace Making, social justice, Uncategorized

It has been a while again since I posted, but last night I wanted to share something with friends on a social media site and browsed through the pictures I posted here last summer.

How things have changed.

Hope, sadness; light, shadows; growth, decline; laughter, sighs.

I have been waking earlier than my normal the last couple of weeks, though I finally now sleep through most nights. And then I spend the time until I wake up reading the news and email that has been filtered and partially digested overnight. Thus de-motivated, I finally emerge into the day wondering what I am supposed to accomplish, how I am supposed to maneuver myself to get things done.

Today, once I got up I started soaking some doll clothes that were only slightly impacted (these are things that were inside plastic bags and are for dolls that survived!), got a load of laundry in, spent an hour cleaning jewelry with cotton swabs and makeup pads. I just sat down to eat a little something, and read more news…

There was a tornado in Oklahoma a couple days ago. Two that were particularly devastating. One that was in the most dangerous category. I look at the devastation on the television and it’s past my comprehension.

Until, that is, I think about what we are dealing with.

Compassion is the natural result of empathy, I think — understanding what other people are going through, if not the exact situation then being able to extrapolate from what is personally experienced to imagine a similar situation.

And what is similar is people leaving their homes in the morning, thinking they could play with (fill in the blank) when they got home. Then no home. Or, the remains of a home, but not much on first, second or third glance to salvage.

I know what that is like. I know how strange the landscape seems when landmarks are gone. I know what it is like to think there is nothing left and then return the next day and on subsequent days to find little hints of what was, and some of it good enough to keep.

I know what it is like to wake up and not know where you are for a few minutes, the light is wrong, the dog isn’t leaning against the bed, there aren’t any birds…

I know what it is like several weeks later to realize there were things that were supposed to be taken care of already and we haven’t started yet. So you start when you start, and the rest will fall into place as it can.

I know that in the weeks and months to come these families, like our family, will still be wondering what happened to (fill in the blank) and not sure if it was lost in the original upheaval or misplaced later on. And wishing…

I know they, like we are doing, will be wishing that things could just be normal. They don’t want new houses and new furniture and their “dream kitchen” — they want their HOME, and their treasured paintings drawn by loving toddler hands, and that wonderful teapot from the grandmother who is long gone.

And I know that in the midst of all of this, there will be good moments, too. Times that they smile, and times that they laugh. And they will feel strange, that in the middle of grieving and feeling lost, they also are “okay.”

I hope they will understand that it is normal to have alternating times of laughter and tears. It is normal to not always be looking around trying to figure out what to do next because soon — though never soon enough, it seems — things will start making sense again and they can get back to living.

It won’t ever be the same, and the losses will keep piling up for a while. But eventually, and sooner than they expect, it will be okay again. Not the same, but okay.

Parents, hug your children close, or call them to say you love them. Friends stay connected, even if just a phone call or facebook note. In difficult times, what saves us are the relationships.

To help the people in Oklahoma and other places devastated by tragedies and disasters, consider contributing to the Red Cross or Red Crescent.

Children and high-tech safety issues

Posted by on 17 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, education, Family Matters, parenting, teaching, technology in education, Uncategorized

Note to readers: I began this 16 days ago, and then was so busy this month it languished. Hopefully it’s still somewhat relevant.

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November Notes

Posted by on 05 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, Gardens and Life, good things, NaNoWriMo, poverty, social justice, teaching, Uncategorized

I don’t have a lot of energy to write at the moment. I taught six consecutive school days in a high school classroom, which was a lot of fun, but tiring. Different type of environment, and I spent a lot of energy helping the kids stay on task. And then, of course, I caught the virus they were sharing… and spent the weekend feeling pretty miserable. Better enough last night to get to Grant’s first SOGO concert of the year, and enjoyed myself.

Feeling good enough to get a start on the NaNo novel, not a good start, I had to spend a rather large chunk of writing and time wandering around before a good story began to gel. But now I am thinking it isn’t really meeting my need as an author. Second-guessing! Not a good trait…

What follows becomes a bit political in tone, fair warning that I am not advocating for any party or person, just expressing my concerns that people who could vote, don’t!

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