Making a Difference

Archived Posts from this Category

NaPoWriMo Sixth Post

Posted by on 06 Apr 2017 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, Making a Difference, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month

I will stay until the wind changes,
said Mary Poppins to the children.

Like Mary Poppins, I came when the wind was right.
And when the wind changes, I must go.

The life that is torn between service to this cause
and that person
is a life of pilgrimage;
wandering as need and opportunity are exposed.

Today, I am here.
This moment, I am present to you.
Tomorrow?

Let’s see where the wind takes us.

Politics – a long view

Posted by on 01 Oct 2016 | Tagged as: editorial, Making a Difference, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

I would like to know why a man who has had multiple wives and mistresses isn’t called out for trying to shame a faithful wife for her husband’s infidelities? I would like to know why the Republican party decided to nominate a man with no plan, with no demonstrated ability to interpret or even follow the law? I would like to know why any person can assert that Trump is perfect because he says what he thinks, but then doesn’t make the obvious connection between his words against religious and racial minorities (and women, and people with disabilities) and increasing hate crimes as the groups who most identify with him feel validated?

He rails against the people in power, yet wields that power for his own gain unapologetically, benefitting from his ability to hire teams of expensive legal experts, and intimidating and trampling hard-working people with no qualms. Still, he seems to be attracting the very people he despises as his “base” in this election. There is some truth to the idea that the way to keep the masses down is to tell them a Cinderella story and imply that if they support the oppressors they will work harder and accept worse treatment on the hope they might someday themselves rise to the ranks of the oppressors.

If I were to refuse to pay my taxes, declared bankruptcy to avoid paying financial obligations I had the means to meet, treated my spouse with disrespect, treated my co-workers and employees with contempt, and encouraged people to engage in violent acts against people who disagree with me I would be in jail. And rightly so. Here we are, with a person who (if not made wealthy by the labor of those he has taken advantage of) would be facing multiple prosecutions — who is potentially going to be elected president of my country.

Am I worried? Surprisingly, yes. I am a student of history. I can point to past and current events around the world and in the United States when people like Trump have held power — and the unimaginable suffering they create. I would like to know why anyone would support this man, and the party who supports him. I would appreciate insight into how a person can consider herself (or himself) a kind or thoughtful person when the candidate she or he supports demonstrates only the worst characteristics of humanity.

I used to vote almost a straight ticket from one party, but in the last 20 years have had fewer and fewer candidates I could support. This year, for the first time, I cannot find any candidate from that party, in local, state, or national elections, to support. On the national level, the party I used to support has become the party of obstructionist politics, with the legislative leaders of that party refusing to consider legislation or hold hearings on necessary appointments to keep the government operational. Meantime, the policies and politics of the “minor” parties at the local level are bizarre (which may not be true in all locations!), and the candidates those same parties are promoting on the national stage are neither articulate nor thoughtful about anything other than their few key issues. The president of the United States needs to be able to understand, make decisions about, and delegate authority to people with the intelligence and experience to help. The minor party candidates simply do not articulate coherent ideas on enough topics to make me confident in their training or intelligence.

For young people considering the minor party candidates as alternatives to the major candidates, please consider what happened when Al Gore and G.W. Bush were undermined by Ralph Nader. Because Nader took votes that might otherwise have gone to Al Gore, the election was close enough that a court decision threw the election to Bush — in the recounts later, it was determined that Gore actually had the votes to win, but by then the election had been certified. G.W. Bush and his cabinet participated in some of the more disastrous foreign policies; the world continues to reel and fall apart as the result of events set in motion by his leadership. Our world is slowly dying as a result of his party’s refusal to allow the U.S. to take a leadership role in alternatives to fossil fuels and the rape of landscapes in the pursuit of wealth.

For those who think that this is the year for a protest vote, that their vote doesn’t matter, please look toward Great Britain, where even the sponsors of “Brexit” admitted they didn’t really expect to win; where the long-term consequences of that vote will be affecting the lives of the young people, working people, for decades. They want to have a re-vote. Like people accustomed to video games, where the game can be restarted from a previously saved version and different choices made… But such opportunities, in the real world, do not exist.

I readily admit to being old — my life is on the downslope already. My bigger concern is for the world my children face, as they enter the world as adults. We have time to correct the course our nation and world are on. We can do this by being thoughtful about the actual experience and policies of the people who are running for office at all levels. There is no vote that is unimportant, there is no race or candidate that doesn’t deserve your thoughtful participation.

Yes, I will vote. I will read the voter’s pamphlets to see what the candidates took the time to write — a thoughtful, coherent articulation of important philosophies and policies, or self-aggrandizement and promotion? Or nothing at all (really — in local and state elections particularly candidates sometimes cannot figure out the deadline… do you want a person who cannot read a calendar in office?). I will look at candidate websites. I will, for races where I am unsure, look for the public record of past votes and actions (if they have held office before), or watch for publications that vetted them. I will consider what people who have worked for and with the candidates say about them.

Yes, it matters what the candidates say and do. It matters what kind of person they are.

Yes, I will vote.

Yes, it matters.

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… ]

NaPoWriMo 2015.25

Posted by on 25 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Making a Difference, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

Earthquake in Nepal
The end of the world
for some;
a reminder of priorities
for others.

Remember to spend time with the ones you love,
before it’s too late.

Donations to organizations that help in times of disasters are needed, now and every day. The International Red Cross is one that can help. You can Donate through the American Red Cross.

Standing up for Students

Posted by on 25 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Making a Difference, parenting, Uncategorized

This is what I did Saturday morning, rallying for full funding for schools: smaller class sizes, basic cost of living increases to keep pace with inflation, more support overall for the teachers who care for our children.

IMG_0006

Set an example for your children and students. Take part in your democracy. Peaceably assemble and petition your government to make it better.

Our children are our hearts, our future. They depend on us to stand up for them.

[Late edit to include a newslink]

It’s not much, and no one seems to care to really cover this issue, but the AP did release a short story that was picked up by local outlets: Teachers Rally in Olympia. Thanks to Derrick Nunnally for writing about this attempt to help people understand that our nation’s children are important to all of us!

Grief and Loss Magnified (musings on disasters)

Posted by on 24 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: loss, Making a Difference, musings, Uncategorized

A landslide in Oso (this weekend, 8 confirmed dead, dozens more missing), an airliner missing and presumed down with all lives lost after two weeks, car- and suicide-bombers, slaughter of civilians and “enemy” prisoners… If I had all the money in the world, I could not fix the disasters that thousands of people are facing, whether caused by man or sad twists of natural events. What could we do to avert/avoid/amend some of these?

For the landslide (really a hill slide — half of the hill over the river looks like it gave way): have geologists look at topography before allowing construction, perhaps move people who are already in danger zones… a similar event happened a number of years ago in our county when an area that was (from topography) clearly prone to slides let go, destroying many homes. It wouldn’t avoid all such disasters, but perhaps we can at least side-step some of the worst ones.

For airliners, perhaps make it so that pilots and crew cannot disable tracking systems, and — we have the technology now at least — set it up so that the minute a plane deviates more than an amount (a mile? a degree of rotation) from the approved flight plan there is an automatic alert or secondary tracking via GPS? Planes would still have problems, crash or be diverted, but we might find them sooner and rescue survivors; at the least families would know sooner…

Bombings? Random mass murders by military, para-military and wannabes? Teach our children to love. Teach them to treat others with kindness. Teach them that the “other” is not automatically an enemy. But also teach them to stand up for themselves and for those who are not as strong. We won’t avoid all aggression, but we can make our communities and the world a little more safe.

What can we do when the world is broken? We can fix what we can, and we can be prudent about our choices in the future.

For those who have lost loved ones, homes, employment and the sense of security they used to have, I grieve with you.

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.

Continue Reading »

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.

Did I mention teaching full-time?

Posted by on 26 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: education, Gardens and Life, good things, Making a Difference, teaching, Uncategorized

For the last two weeks, I have been the “in charge” teacher in a classroom, and for at least another week longer. Maybe more.

Some days are much easier than others, and I have found it important to change the classroom culture dramatically. The students were accustomed to a fairly open environment, where they could talk and eat as much as they liked. They were not accustomed to turning in work on a daily basis, apparently.

However, I get tired of wiping down desks, watching students race through tasks haphazardly if at all, and waiting for them to finish speaking so I could teach. I got tired of being treated as a baby sitter who could be tricked and ignored. I decided to insist on respect from the students, and to respect them enough to tell them the truth…
Continue Reading »

What really matters

Posted by on 24 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: editorial, Family Matters, friends, Gardens and Life, good things, Making a Difference, musings, Uncategorized

I started this month with every intention of making my goal of 50,000 words for the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. But between working, the conference and this last week when I really couldn’t write, I know I won’t make that goal.

And it’s okay. I made it almost to 18,000 words, which would be a reasonable amount most months. Here is a small graphic that shows how close I got to my goal:

They aren’t good words, the story doesn’t hang together and it’s not worth revisiting. I posted the writing I did as PDFs, but rather than linking to it here, I will tell you it’s under the Fun category, subcategory Literary Pursuits. If you choose to visit it… ye have been warned! (insert pirate laugh) And so I am letting go of this goal. I can try again next year, perhaps my mind will be more clear and I will be less distracted and distractible.

I went to the National Council for the Social Studies convention in Seattle last weekend. It was everything I had hoped for, and then some. I had to make some tough choices about what sessions to attend and what sessions I should hope to hear about later. I intended to go to a naturalization ceremony that was presided over by the amazing Sandra Day O’Connor, but I was so miserable with allergies that I decided to take some antihistamine and wander around the exhibitors’ hall. I was sad to not see one of my heros even from a distance, but it was better to rest and take care of myself than to push.

Because I followed my intuition, I met several people I would have missed otherwise, and a wonderful man, Dr. Mark C. Schug, and I had a nice conversation about his book Economic Episodes in American History. I like the innovative approach. Viewing history through economic decision-making allows students a lens to think about how their own decisions affect their lives — future lives, as well as present — and to see how other people have chosen in similar situations.

I also met Susan Austin, who gave me a copy of her book, The Bamboo Garden. A fun, easy-to-read novel I am enjoying reading it slowly when I am in the car waiting for kids. It is set in a time that we don’t often think about, and the painterly descriptions of people and places are marvelous. I am thinking about how I would use this book to teach intermediate-grades empathy as well as descriptive writing (something that I enjoy helping students learn).

I had intended to read voraciously this past week and this weekend, all the materials I obtained at the convention. But my eyes, which struggled so much in grad school, decided to hit me again. Between all the reading I was doing of materials that are not printed at a size that works for my eye defects, the dry air of the convention center, the antihistamines and sheer exhaustion I have barely scratched the surface.

So I am letting go… the materials will be here on the days I don’t work, I will have plenty of time to read over the two weeks of winter break and on the inevitable snow days this winter.

The garden is in decent shape, though already I have lost a few plants that should have been brought inside earlier. We have pruned two trees, and vacuumed out the cars today. We didn’t dig up the dahlias, and we didn’t move all the gardening equipment down to the wellhouse yet. It will happen, and the garden next year will be a lot quicker to start and a lot easier to maintain.

It is hard to let go, to realize that it’s okay to not get to everything. It is hard to choose which single thing should be done today, this moment, and which will simply have to wait until time, energy, opportunity or money allow.

I had a lovely conversation with a friend on the phone this evening. We could have talked for hours, but we talked about mostly one thing, and then let the rest go until another time.

I have been thinking about the loss of my dear friend, Hetty, earlier this month. When I saw her last time, I promised that “next time” we would play scrabble… and next time won’t happen. I won’t get another chance to see Sandra Day O’Connor, either. I won’t have another chance to attend the workshop that was titled “Teach Like a Pirate” (I heard later that it was excellent). And I won’t be able to bring back the dozens of dahlias that disappeared over the last many years.

But in the time that I have had, I have made progress. When I was with Hetty, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. And when I attend a different convention someday I will have other opportunities.

What really matters, in the end, is not what we intend to do, or what we didn’t do — what matters in the end is what we are doing in this moment.

What really matters, is being present to what we are able to do, right here, right now.

What really matters?

Next Page »