To Swap, or Not to Swap?

I had plans. Big, exciting plans. I was going to go to a seed swap and seedling sale on Saturday morning before The Boys (Chuck and Amigo) were even awake. Then the blizzard arrived. And not just any blizzard: the blizzard that broke records, records in snow-is-the-norm Wisconsin.

So I didn’t get to the seed swap and seedling sale. Honestly, it may have been cancelled. So much was closed, so many events cancelled, that I don’t even know if the park or the nature center was plowed. In fact, we were at the meat market watching a chef pick up $500 worth of meat for his restaurant when his wife called him to say the staff couldn’t get in and they were closing.

I wasn’t planning on bringing seeds to swap, if I’m honest with myself. I had been thinking about buying seedlings and nurturing them indoors through the blizzard and the early spring that might happen, maybe, someday. I don’t have many seeds, or at least not unique seeds. Or do I?

I have butternut squash, parsley, and dill, all salvaged last fall. Those are such common seeds that I wouldn’t bother to offer them up as a swap. However, when I found myself in the garage after cleaning and emptying a litter box in the middle of the storm — oh, let me start over without the drama.

Bunny’s litter box needed cleaning, so I walked through the garage to dump the waste/fertilizer on top of the snow in the backyard patch. On my way back through the garage, I grabbed a packet of seeds for sweet banana peppers. As long as I was there, I dug through the empty pots on my planting table to find milkweed. On my way to the milkweed, I realized I had saved more than I’d remembered. I searched through yarrow, chamomile, yellow beans, feverfew, baby’s breath, and (how could I forget?) walking onion bulbs!

The ending of the story is this. I didn’t go to the seed swap and seedling sale – if it even happened. But I did find more seeds that I could start right now – right now! – and nurture under my grow lights until spring really arrives.

Take that, Mother Nature.

Back aches and Legends

About five years ago, Chuck slipped on an icy sidewalk and chipped his elbow. He sent me a picture. Cute, eh?

Two weekends ago, he put his back out while doing our taxes. Yes, taxes. He had to shred a few documents, but the shredder was full, so he pulled out the tray to empty it into the recycling bin. As he did that, he must have twisted awkwardly. Ow! He managed to finish the taxes with the help of a heating pad and ibuprofen.

Two weeks later, he is struggling to clear major amounts of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. He’s not in pain anymore, but he is stiff. I worry about him re-injuring his Tax Break, er Back, while he’s handling the heavy, wet snow.

Chuck’s Tax-related Backache is already legend. The Blizzard of April 2018 may become legend on its own.

We’re here! We’re just busy!

Amigo asked me if I’d blogged about his barbershop chorus’ spring show yet, and I sheepishly admitted that I hadn’t. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t blogged in two weeks – ages, in the blogging world!

The barbershop chorus outdid themselves – again. The talents of a creative script writer, two knowledgeable and talented directors, and a big bunch of guys who love to sing – what could go wrong? Not much, really. They sang well, Amigo picked up the choreography (despite his visual impairment), and all the costumes were fun. They dressed as iconic musicians; Amigo was Garth Brooks. Jeans, a Wrangler shirt, and a black cowboy hat, and he looked the part.

The chorus sang well, the guest quartet was amazing, and hey, did I mention I sold two ads for the program? Next year, I know exactly who to contact and how far ahead to get in touch. This chorus is such an amazing group of people, I’m willing to give them all the support I can.

Meanwhile, back at the O.K. Chorale, it’s “Spring” in Wisconsin. Uh-huh. We’re in the midst of a record-breaking spring blizzard. As the wind blows outside, and we’re relaxing inside, I’m grateful for many things.

I’m grateful that Chuck’s back is feeling better. He threw it out doing taxes. Yes, taxes. Two weeks ago! He felt strong enough to snowblow the driveway, and I’m grateful for that. I shoveled some of the spots that are hard to get to with the beast of a snowblower we own, and then we sat down for a few minutes to rest.

I’m grateful that we made it to and from Best Buy without incident. I’m grateful for the sense of humor of the pickup truck driver, or at least whoever made the snowman in the truck bed. I was grateful earlier this week that we had an old microwave in the basement that pulled us through for a few days after the one in the kitchen quit.

I’m grateful to the neighborhood meat market for being open and for giving customers a 10% discount if we mentioned seeing their Facebook post. Heck, yeah, I saw the post! We stocked up on goodies and more.

I’m grateful we have firewood and a fireplace. If this heavy snow knocks out the power, we may need to venture outside and get more wood. No matter what, though, we’ll be warm.

 

Comprehension, Understanding, and What the President Doesn’t Get

It feels like I see headlines every day that say, “Trump Doesn’t Understand (fill in the blank)!” Recent articles in that category included “Trump doesn’t understand the Post Office” and “Trump doesn’t understand community colleges,”

Teachers know that understanding is actually rather low on the scale of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Using the updated taxonomy from the bottom up, Understanding is second on the list, after Knowledge/Remembering. Essentially, remembering a fact or concept  is the most basic skill, and understanding that fact or concept is next. Moving higher on the scale and increasing in complexity are these stages: applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Regular readers will know that I’ve referred to Awareness as the lowest form of knowledge. Awareness doesn’t even register on Bloom’s Taxonomy; it’s not even equal to Remembering. Autism Awareness? Breast Cancer Awareness? Get with it, people, we should be far beyond simple awareness of major issues.

Awareness might be where Trump falls with his lack of knowledge of the US Postal Service and his lack of understanding of community colleges. He knows they exist – Awareness – but he doesn’t remember much about them, much less understand how either organization functions.

El Presidente shows his ignorance, er, lack of knowledge or understanding of basic concepts, all too often. Communications through Twitter, statements released through his press secretary, and off the cuff comments all demonstrate his incompetence.

What I can’t understand is this: how did the United States elect this ignorant fool to the highest office in the land? And why do we allow him to make the nation look foolish?

The Polls Have Closed; Now What?

Big news earlier this week in Wisconsin! Progressive voters spread the word, and statewide results show it. Despite the governor’s efforts to dumb down the electorate, Wisconsinites elected a progressive judge to the state supreme court and turned down a referendum that would have eliminated the elected State Treasurer’s office in favor of a political appointee.

Now what?

That’s a personal question, too. In the past, I’ve been actively involved in local, state, and national progressive politics. In 2016, election results broke my heart. Now the massive mid-term election is approaching, and I’m not sure how deeply I want to get involved. After watching 2016 results slide down the toilet, I seriously wonder how effective our strategies are – or at least how ineffective our strategies were – and what the party activists have in mind for change.

Phone calls! I saw Facebook posts congratulating volunteers who made calls to Get Out the Vote. Meanwhile, I avoided the phone all day, every day, for several days before the polls opened – and even all day election day. Why are we still phone banking when so many people like me are refusing to pick up?

Signs! Most of our signs around town were for local races. The school board candidates with the most signs also earned the most votes, so I’ve got to say that was good. As long as the voters displaying signs promise to vote, I’m all in with campaign signs. Sh: Don’t tell, but I still have my Obama sign from 2012. I think the rabbit ate 2008, but I have my memories and my pins. 

I still follow the local party on Facebook, and I get emails from several campaigns. Email! That’s another tactic in the category of phone banks. I don’t even read them anymore, unless the email is from a friend or at the least from someone I actually know. One tactic used in sending campaign emails is this: use a different account and sender name each time. For example, George Pro for Governor might send his own emails, and Mary Jane for George Pro, Henny Penny for George Pro, and Chicken Little for George Pro will all send emails saying, “The sky is falling unless you donate! Donate now!” making it nearly impossible to unsubscribe to a particular campaign’s email.

Seriously, what next? Until my locals change their tactics, I won’t be joining them. I fear they’ll wait too long, do too little and do it too late, and the November elections will fall flat. This election is important enough that the folks in charge need to change, and need to change now.

Major, Minor – Oh, the Humanities!

It’s one notch in the larger troubles in Wisconsin, and again, it’s complicated. I can boil it down to a Governor who doesn’t value education, K-12 or university level. We can deconstruct the issue into its basic ingredients: budget cuts, high cost of tuition, student loan debt, emphasis on STEM careers, and more.

University of Wisconsin campuses are facing hard times. In fact, the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, a small yet vibrant campus, has announced that they will be eliminating 13 majors at their school.

A major is a specialty, a concentration or focus in one curricular area. A student might major in history, for example, or world languages, English, science, art, or music. Many of these areas need to be specific. A science major might emphasize biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science – the list goes on and on. Depending on the school, a major might take up half to two thirds of a college student’s course load. When all is said and done, when that student puts on the mortarboard cap with tassel, he or she will have earned a degree, most likely a bachelor’s degree, in their major.

Back to the major issue at UW-Stevens Point. English, history, philosophy, political science, Spanish, and sociology are a few of the subjects that will no longer be available as majors at UWSP. Marketing, business, and other “practical” majors will remain.

Somehow, the Powers That Be at Stevens Point still plan to train teachers in English, history, and the rest. A secondary teacher used to need a major in their area of specialty. A math major would earn a major in math, and along the way gather enough educational courses (ed psych, ed sociology, to name a couple) to qualify to student teach for a term. I’m not sure how they plan to educate the next generation of educators without majors in the humanities.

Forbes calls it “Inhumanity.”  I fear it’s something else. Along with governor “Who needs a degree, anyway?” and his attack on the state’s public school system, it seems like he and his cohorts are bent on creating a lesser-educated public. Voters with less knowledge are, after all, less apt to think critically and ask hard questions.

The sour taste coming out of our budget-starved smaller campuses might be only the beginning in what seems to be the Dumbing Down of Wisconsinites.

Inhumanity, indeed.

Don’t give me a gun.

This is the only Glock I want in my school.

Glockenspiel, a.k.a. Bells

We watched the #MarchForOurLives walk through the downtown of my fair city. I didn’t have my camera ready, so I’ll have to improvise. Great signs included:

Teachers need to be paid, not armed

Books, not bullets

My right to bear children who will not be shot! 

Guns have more rights than my uterus does! 

We also saw two ACLU observers with bright vests and walkie talkies. I wondered if they anticipated trouble? One was near the middle of the crowd, the other closer to the end.

Many, many drivers waved and honked. We weren’t the only watchers, either; there were many like us who came to cheer and clap and support those who participated. I was proud to see such a turnout for a progressive cause in my small, conservative city.

#NeverAgain  #MarchforourLives

 

#Walkup? Not Walkout?

It’s complicated. Remember when I said that? I thought I explained it. The simple solutions have not and will not solve a complex problem.

Should teachers and parents teach students to be nice to people, not to bully or harass others? Yes, yes, and yes.

Should adults, teens, and children reach out to make friends? Yes, yes, and absolutely.

Should a student who is socially awkward, disliked, and perhaps emotionally disabled suddenly find himself surrounded by “friends”? No, no, and no.

Kids, whether children or teens, know true interactions from false. They know when someone’s being sincere and when someone is just condescending. They recognize the patronizing metaphorical pat on the head. They can sense when a teacher pushes kids to approach them, pretending the interaction is spontaneous.

Kids, and most adults, too, for that matter, have a built-in BS detector. “Sit by that kid at lunch and he won’t become the next school shooter.” Um, no. No. Not effective.

I saw a social skills activity taking place at a middle school that actually made sense. Each student received 17 sticky notes – one for each death at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On each sticky note, they were instructed to write something positive. A compliment, perhaps, or a kind word. They were assigned to place the sticky notes on the lockers of seventeen different students in the building.

On the positive side: Not a locker was untouched. Every single student received at least one positive affirmation sticky note. I presume the lockers were labeled, and students knew where to find their friends’ and acquaintances’ lockers.

On the negative side: These were anonymous affirmations. The recipients didn’t know who wrote them, why they wrote them, or if they really meant what they said.

And there’s the rub. Writing 17 sticky notes is symbolic and can be part of the healing process. But if the intention is to prevent someone from becoming violent, to reach out and touch someone before it’s too late, this activity won’t do it. If the sticky note affirmations are for the writers, then yes, it’s an effective social skills lesson. If the aim is to build up the angry loner, well, sorry folks, this kind of act is meaningless.

Damn, I wish I were wrong.

Kitchen Planning, sequel.

Have I mentioned that we’re remodeling the kitchen at the O.K. Chorale? It’s all consuming, and we haven’t even started demo. We’re still planning. Details, details, details!

Chuck and I made a trip to Lowe’s – again. We have wandered the aisles in search of wisdom in cabinet design, color (paint or stain?), handles and knobs, under-cabinet lighting, and more. I didn’t know that so many decisions were involved.

Add to the sheer number of decisions the fact that Chuck and I work opposite shifts. We communicate a lot by text message and email, but any true conversation and discussion have to happen on a weekend. This is dragging out the process longer and longer.

We’re close, though. We’re close to calling the designer and telling her, “We’re ready! Here are the details! Let’s make an order!” And then the real work begins.

Due to the age of our house (built 1890), every single element has to be custom. We’ll place the order, and then we’ll wait for the cabinets to be built. Meanwhile, we have a long to-do list to prepare for this project.

  • Empty the cupboards, upper and lower
  • Store the contents of the cupboards somewhere – anywhere.
  • Set up a temporary “kitchen” in another room.
  • Set up coffeemaker in another room.
  • Invest in disposable dishes OR make a plan for washing dishes without a sink.
  • Empty the refrigerator and freezer to prepare for moving this appliance.
  • Make room for computer desk and bookshelf currently in dining room
  • Find temporary storage for dining room table and chairs
  • Cancel cleaning service until project is done
  • Remind selves that we will enjoy the new kitchen for many years before selling even comes on the radar, at which time the lovely kitchen will be a major advantage.

Meanwhile, life as we know it continues.

Pie Day!

We are a barbershop harmony family. Amigo sings, we drive him to rehearsal, and more. Part of the “more” involves supporting the local Sweet Adelines chorus, the women’s side of barbershop singing.

About a month ago, we attended the Sweetie Pie Social of the local women’s chorus. We bought our entry tickets. Amigo bought raffle tickets, 6 for $5, and I put in a bid on a triple fruit pie in the silent auction.

Then we had our own pie and listened to a wonderful show of fun barbershop music.

And then the announcements came. The winner of the triple fruit pie I’d bid on – the assistant director of Amigo’s chorus. He’s a great guy, and I can’t even be mad that he outbid me. Then they drew the winning ticket for the pie raffle. Amigo! Wow! I didn’t need that triple fruit pie after all! We were going to take home a pie anyway! Or so I thought.

Amigo, the young man who sings lead in the Fox Valleyaires barbershop chorus, the guy who bought tickets to support barbershop, male or female, won the Pie of the Month Club. He will get one homemade pie each month from a Sweet Adeline member for the next entire year.

He’d better share.