musings

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Random Musings on my Day

Posted by on 03 May 2016 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, children, education, Education Professional, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, musings, seasons, Uncategorized

Living
is hard work.
It is better than the alternative?
The answer is: Yes, when you are there.


That curious moment in the day when the gray skies pick up the bright green of new life and suffuse creation with an immortal glow.


Success! The fledgling
finds his wings
and starts to fly.


What is better than a happy third grader?
TWENTY happy third graders!
It was a very good day for learning.

Sermons and Interpretations (delayed post)

Posted by on 26 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: British Columbia, musings, Politics and War, social justice, Uncategorized

I do NOT know when I wrote this! Probably before 2008. Not before 2007. I think it was when the boys and I were visiting friends I had met online. Here is the unedited text:

The sermon was about the Martha and Mary story where Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better path… and the rector’s take on it was based in part on what society was like at THAT time (an approach that I know some people find odd) rather than on society as we know it.  At the time the story was written (and purportedly took place), women were definitely second-class citizens.  Like many arab societies today, women did not sit with men, nor speak with men who were not part of the immediate family.  Taken in that perspective, the meaning shifts slightly — not to belittle the people who do the necessary work, but to remind us all that there are some times that it is good to sit and listen and talk…  it was not a scold of Martha, but an affirmation that women also had the right to participate in the intellectual and spiritual life of the community.

This is how I have generally made sense of this passage and similar ones in the Christian New Testament.

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… ]

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.

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Stepping Forward, Stepping Back: The dance of change

Posted by on 11 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, hope, house building, housefire, Learning Styles, musings, teaching, Uncategorized

In the wake of the fire, Tom and I are still working on finding equilibrium. The size of the apartment, the distance from my gardens, the lack of comfortable space and privacy, the noises of the city — and our neighbors — all conspire against the comfortable routines and patterns we used to have. He continues to focus on his work though without the long drive or the need to get up early to help Grant go to zero hour he has a lot more time on his hands. I focus on trying to make sense of the house plans and what we need to look at and learn about the systems and design decisions, and wish I had teaching to help me focus my energies on things other than our situation. We no longer need to think about or worry much about what Grant is up to — he will be a senior in high school and a college freshman this coming year, so he makes most of his own scheduling and activity decisions. We no longer have much to do in the yard, the garden; I have no real space to “do art”… and with our free time we aren’t yet settled in to expectations. And there are moments of extreme activity around house decisions, cleaning up items we salvaged and maintaining the apartment, followed by times when we are adrift.

It seems that some (most?) days we are caught up in a tango — step this way slowly, that way quickly, spin, reverse, proceed. Not necessarily in that order. We are stumbling along, trying to match our moves to the wild and varied rhythms of the band. It’s a metaphor that rings true, particularly since I never mastered the tango, and as far as I know Tom hasn’t ever learned the basic steps. Our lives right now are pretty clumsy. Our communication is rudimentary, and so we lack coordination of effort and focus. When dancing, once the basic pattern is mastered, there are logical sequences of steps and moves that follow; all in time to the music. In life, it is rarely that smooth; right now it is as disjointed as dancing the tango to a jitterbug tune.

One of the ideas that was prevalent in the teaching program was that learning is hard work. That what you thought you knew is challenged with each new fact, process or idea. The “newness” of the learning not only makes the current tasks difficult, it muddles the previously mastered tasks and renders any fluency, any panache, impossible. The learner stumbles, and sometimes fails outright.

Although I was once an admin assistant (and a pretty good one), all my training went by the wayside as an onslaught of emotions, immediate needs and demands from many quarters descended. Paperwork was misplaced or outright lost. Deadlines were missed. Opportunities overlooked. The many people we were supposed to talk to and work with, the coordination of who to talk to (and when) and who else needs the same information… It was too much, too fast, too overwhelming.

Stumbling. It all gets sorted out eventually, I suppose, but we are definitely not there yet.

Today, a moment of rest between sets. The band is silent, at least for the time being. The furniture is in the apartment and set up. Once the recycling truck takes the bins away, I can move some of the packing materials out of the office. I will put the cardboard in my van and take it to the house today, store it in the carport and use it in a little bit to make barriers around plants and along paths. I will have coffee with mother, lunch with a friend, a visit with another friend…

Tom will go to work, come home in the evening. We will have supper, watch some television. He will play some video games or work on his computer, and I will play my online game and interrupt him periodically with comments or thoughts that pop into my head.

In the background, we will be thinking about the next steps. Do we push for the contractor to move ahead, call the bank about the appraiser’s decision, work on making lists of items that we need to start looking for on sale so we can be ready with everything once the house is done?

What is happening with the music? Was that one beat, or two? Which direction should we move to keep from crashing into other dancers on the floor? Oops, sorry, that was your foot, wasn’t it?

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?

Repost: 2009 “Writer Profile”

Posted by on 23 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: musings, parenting, stidmama, teaching, Uncategorized, writing

I wrote this for the class I took called Ecology of Language and Place. It was posted on April 13, 2009. Although I would rework it some today, the essence of the piece is fairly intact. I was actually looking for something else, and discovered that the class blog was still active! Here is a link to the original, I believe you can get to other things I wrote at that time through this.
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Science and Experience (delayed post)

Posted by on 24 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Gardens and Life, musings, Uncategorized

I began to write this in October 2012. Here at the beginning of 2014, now finally teaching and dealing with flexible thinking as I and the family adjust to the changes of the last year, I am putting it up for comment — I do not consider this a completed piece, but a holding post until I can get the time to do justice to this topic. Thoughts and comments are invited!

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Not happening. Or maybe it will.

Posted by on 12 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Family Matters, garden, Gardens and Life, musings, NaNoWriMo, parenting, Uncategorized

NaNoWriMo has not been working out for me. I have been distracted by real life, and real life has not been a lot of fun. SO…. halfway through the month I will try to get more written, but it’s not looking hopeful. Meantime, I was prompted to write a short intro for a teaching website, and this is what I wrote:

I became a certified teacher after my own children were almost grown and gone. I have loved working with learners all my life, from the time I helped in a reading group at a library when I was ten, through high school and college when I tutored my peers, to homeschooling and volunteering in classrooms when I became a parent. My certifications include Elementary Education, Middle School Humanities (social studies and language arts grades 4-9), and Reading (all grades). In addition, I am fascinated by science and mathematics, and devour new information in those areas. I love learning! I have a large yard with a garden (fruit trees, flowers and fabulous veggies), a family that includes my spouse of over 20 years, two children, and a dog.

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