citizenship

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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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Dads and other real heros

Posted by on 17 Jun 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, Gardens and Life, good things, Making a Difference, parenting, social justice, Tom, Uncategorized

I get tired of the hyperbole so common in the media today, particularly when it comes to their descriptions of sports stars, actors and others in popular news. I have heard too often a high-scoring player referred to as a “hero.” And then they need to up the ante when they are faced with someone who actually does good in the world, who takes risks to help others, who is true to their values, who dies in order to protect others from harm.

Our children take what the media says seriously, and begin to emulate the non-heros. They feel as if they can never measure up to the unrealistic expectations, and they miss out on forming strong relationships in the rush to be “better than.”

True heros are not “better than” other people, they are just people. People who do amazing things in big ways or small. From the spectacularly visible work of women like Fawzia Koofi to the quiet work of people who go into dangerous neighborhoods to locate and protect children in danger, to the reluctant hero who in the moment makes a decision to do something dangerous to help another, heros take advantage of opportunities to make a difference. Many people in the public eye are doing difficult work, and good work, but are not heros. Many people who work daily at simple tasks are.

Sports “heros?” Not usually. Just highly visible people who make a lot of money until they use up their bodies.

Actor “heros?” Rarely. Recognizable, and often involved in a high-profile cause or another, but only as long as it gets them attention.

Daily heros? Many — from the parents and grandparents and other relatives who work long hours and come home tired but still have time for the kids. Teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, doctors and others who have complicated jobs and do them faithfully, year after year, never knowing how far their reach extends. They show us how to live good lives, no mean feat today.

Other heroes, like war heros and people who save others from drowning or fire, those show us all how to face our fears, face death and come out triumphant.

What is a hero? Heros are not perfect — and do not need to be. A hero is someone who demonstrates the best that humans can be at some point. A person who can, with one action, remind us all of our potential.

It’s father’s day. In the United States, people are having barbecues, parties and celebrations in honor of their fathers — and those who stand in for absent fathers. The dads who have been there for their families… daily heros. Celebrate the loving caregivers in your lives today.

Poem a Day April 7, 2012

Posted by on 07 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, social justice, Uncategorized

Mitochondria (suggested by Krista)

subtle organelles
power-generators
of true
nuclear
energy

L’Engle wrote
long ago
in time
a wrinkle:
the difference between

what-is-known
and
what-is-not-yet-known
compared to
what-is-no-longer-known

the greatest danger
in science
is unknowing
and not caring
when knowledge is lost

meanwhile
minute
mitochondria
make
music

and we whistle while we work

I first heard the term mitochondria when I was about ten, I think, reading A Wrinkle in Time. What stuck with me was the amazing intricacies of science, how little “ordinary” people know and how easy it would be to forget it all.

I know I read a little about them when I was in high school, when I was studying for a biology test (I never took biology, this was an extra-curricular competition), and then not again until microbiology (see yesterday’s post). Their purpose is simple: take the materials that the phospholipids let through and use them to make power. I like the Cells Alive page about them, it is short and easy to follow. Biology for Kids also has a great explanation. I am always astonished and excited at the infinite possibilities and the rare and wonderful coincidences that create life as we know it.

For me, what popped into my head today was the effort of the bad guys in the Wrinkle in Time series to erase the work and knowledge of science. Science threatens abuses of power. Knowledge threatens despotic regimes. It is true that, generally, life goes on in the wake of serious abuses, but at what cost? Knowing how the world works, the mechanisms that drive life, allows us to enhance, to make choices that can save lives. Yes, knowledge can also be used for evil. But at the risk of getting too far onto my soapbox, I believe that the greater the number of people who understand, who know, the less likely it is that knowledge and science can be used for negative purposes.

I see, today, a rapid and relentless attack on the progress that was made during my own lifetime — a rejection of so many positive things; an attempt to create a new generation of people who know so little they cannot discern fact from fiction and who therefore readily follow any leader who makes pretty promises. As a teacher, my biggest goal in life is to share what I know (admittedly a drop in the bucket) with others, to help them retain excitement and to contribute in their own way to the lives of those around them. In remembering the past, in preserving and promoting knowledge, we can create a future that is ever better.

Saturday Fun

Posted by on 10 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, education, fun, good things, hope, Making a Difference, parenting, Uncategorized

I suppose I have a strange idea of fun…

Looked forward to this all week, actually – woke up at 6, in Tacoma by 7:30, judged four flights in three rounds of individual events at the State Speech Tournament.

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Doing good things…

Posted by on 09 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, health, Making a Difference, Uncategorized

I saw a flyer for Project Healing Waters while I was in a local shop today.

Please give this organization a look — it is such a kind thing to do for people who have suffered in service to their nation. People with injuries from military action can struggle to regain a sense of peace and equilibrium when they return home. It sounds like this fly-fishing project can provide them with the sort of meditative and physical recovery they often need.

As a person with many family members who have served in the United States Armed Forces, I encourage you to consider supporting Project Healing Waters or a similar organization.

Vote for Kids

Posted by on 05 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, editorial, Uncategorized

hoping this won’t sound too preachy…

In Washington State, at least on our side of the mountains, there are many school districts with levies on the ballot for February 14. These are “Maintenance and Operations” levies. Most of them are replacements for expiring levies (there is a two-year limit on levies) and are not asking for an increase in funding. Some districts appear to be asking for LESS money than in times past.

What does this levy (tax on property) pay for?

  • Building maintenance and operations (heat, lights, repairs, custodians, etc)
  • School buses, fuel and drivers (especially important in rural districts that also historically are low income and with few options for transportation)
  • Specialist Teachers (music, art, physical education)
  • Instructional Materials (textbooks, consumable materials -lined paper for early elementary students, etc)
  • Support Services for students with additional needs
  • Fees for out-of-district services (in my district this also pays for our high school students who attend out of district)
  • Other necessary expenses that are not (fully)funded by the State or Federal sources

How important is this money to the local schools? Depends on the district, of course, but for us it pays nearly 30% of the expenses each year. Until the state begins to meet its constitutional (state) obligation to fully fund basic education, these levies are even more important.

Clearly, more affluent districts find it easier to raise money to support the schools. Less affluent districts find it more difficult, and generally have fewer options if a levy fails. All districts depend on the levies to supplement the incomplete funding from other sources.

Why should you care if you don’t have school-age children?

The children in school today will be working within ten to fifteen years. They will become responsible for the maintenance of public facilities, the preparation of our food, the care of elderly and infirm patients, the transportation of people and materials, public safety, national defense, medical services… and so forth.

Without a well-rounded, competent education today’s children will not be able to provide the goods and services that we need. More than “reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic,” courses in social studies, the arts, sciences and physical education provide critical thinking and lifelong skills and dispositions that help our children develop into healthy and capable adults.

One of the ways we keep our country strong, and our families safe, is by making sure the children have the best possible chance at life.

Please, vote to support your local schools. And, pay your taxes.

And, as you can, volunteer time to support schools, libraries, senior citizens… continue to make space in your life to make the world a better place. It’s not just self-preservation, it’s the right thing to do.

Occupy the New Year: A Challenge

Posted by on 30 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Making a Difference, Peace Making, Politics and War, social justice, Uncategorized

This is a good time to dedicate ourselves to making the world a better place. Rather than focusing on self-centered goals at this time for resolutions (lose weight, clean out the garage, exercise more), why not choose one specific project that will help many people?

For example, this is an election year. If you are eligible to vote but aren’t registered, register! If you find yourself feeling powerless, assert your power: write to your elected officials, volunteer in a campaign (whether for a politician or a cause, you can help spread the word about something you are passionate about, even from behind the scenes and even if you are not eligible to vote), attend rallies and opportunities to meet the candidates. Do you attend your school district’s board meetings? Some things they do are mundane, others affect how the school interacts with the community. Do you know who your school board members are? Or your public (utility-port-library…) district’s board members? Do you know what budget or project issues they are discussing?

Obviously, no one person can keep track of everything or participate in everything. But every person can keep track of something, and participate in some way, whether eligible to vote or not. Not everyone can attend rallies, not everyone can write letters, not everyone can run for office. But everyone can be creative and realistic about volunteering time and talents!

In the United States, while corporations are adept at purchasing face time and favors with politicians, the people still have a great deal of influence, if they choose to wield it.

A democracy functions best when all the people make their wishes, dreams and needs known.

I have friends who volunteer at the food bank, who volunteer in schools, as firefighters, for political causes… each one of these people makes a difference in the lives of many others in the community. And in the process, their work expresses their values.

How will you choose to occupy your time in the new year?

How will you express your values in the world?

How will your life this year make things better for other people?

I am thinking over my possibilities. I will definitely continue volunteering at my local school as I have time and energy… is there one more thing I can add? I lack monetary security that would let me donate money to organizations and causes I believe in. Perhaps I can use my writing ability more productively to support them. I always vote, but I think this year I will write to one of my elected officials on a cause I am passionate about (education!). I also hope to have a productive garden this summer, and to donate some of the foods we grow to the local food bank. I want to be more consistent in keeping in touch with some of my friends who aren’t in the same spheres as my daily life. Keeping my resolutions to a reasonable list is the hardest part. But I think I will stop there so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

Just angry enough…

Posted by on 21 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: citizenship, economy, editorial, politics, Uncategorized

…to post my extreme dissatisfaction with the United States House of Representatives for leaving all of us working people in the lurch, wondering if we will have enough left over to make ends meet in the new year. THEY have gone on vacation, secure in the knowledge that their transportation to and from work and home is paid for (by tax payers), that their health insurance (paid for by tax payers) is ready to go if they get a boo-boo while skiing on vacation, that their homes are not under foreclosure, their refrigerators have enough food, their winter jackets are warm and their hearths are cozy.

Not so for us, the tax payers. We pay them to do a job, and they have not done it. We pay them to monitor, adjust and rethink the infrastructures that allow us to benefit from OUR hard work. But WE, the tax payers, the WORKERS are seeing our real incomes erode, whether from job loss, cutbacks in hours, increases in costs to work (transportation being an important one), increases in the cost of food, clothing and medicine. Increases in the necessities.

Granted, the intended temporary decrease in payroll tax places a greater burden on the social security system in the future. But at this point in time, raising that back to the original amount creates a current, real, measurable, and potentially devastating hardship for those of us who are close to the edge. And those who are already having to put off buying groceries, or pay the light bill, or wait to seek medical care? It will hit them, too.

The less money we have in our pockets for the necessities, the less we have (obviously) for luxuries. Let’s face it: Right now, our economy depends in great measure, on people having money and time to spend on luxuries — movies, dinner out, consumable goods, leisure activities and supplies.

So the House of Representatives thinks they have earned a vacation?

Let’s give them one next November. Let’s give them a nice, long, extended vacation where they will have time to search for a new job. Maybe if they feel the pinch of insecurity they will have more compassion for those of us who are already searching for jobs, or feeling insecure in our jobs, or employed but wondering how to afford the increased costs when income is stagnant or declining.

UPDATE: December 27, 2011

So the House pulled its head out of its posterior long enough to pass the two-month extension that the Senate had already passed. Before going on vacation. What chutzpah! So now we have two more months of congressional ineptitude and posturing to contend with while people who are more interested in campaigning to keep their seats try to figure out how to squeeze the citizenry of the United States even dryer.

Here’s an NPR story on what’s going on Congress Really is as Bad as You Think.

I’d wish us all a happy new year in a few days, but I just don’t feel that optimistic.

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