Conflicts Avoided on Facebook

Subtitle: What I didn’t say out loud.

I’d shared a picture of Paul Ryan with this quote attributed to the Speaker of the House: “Kids from single mothers turn into welfare moochers, criminals, and ‘takers’. The second picture showed Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton with a title announcing “We disagree.”

A buddy from my college days was offended. He ranted at me that I’d been unfair to Paul Ryan.

“He’s spent serious time in inner-city neighborhoods with no publicity, learning from people in the trenches about what works and what doesn’t about alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable development rather than soul-sucking dependency. There are other Republican office-holders (not to mention the radio blowhards) who fit the stereotyped line better, but Ryan is not one of them.

Though it should also be noted that children of single mothers ARE at higher risk for just about every kind of social pathology (low achievement in school, arrest and imprisonment, teenage pregnancy, poverty, divorce, drug abuse, etc.). Not all have those problems, of course, and there are children of intact families who do, too, but the overall rates are notably different. It’s hard to solve problems when you deny they exist.”

Deny problems exist? I teach. I’ve taught in public schools for 20 years now. I’ve worked with single parents, mothers and fathers, people who faced challenges the honorable Speaker can only imagine.

I could have reminded my angry old friend that I live in Wisconsin, Mister Ryan’s home state. Teachers who are also his constituents have written letters, blog posts, and more to show the Congressman’s lack of knowledge and real-life experience. The evidence I’ve seen doesn’t point to “learning from those in the trenches,” but rather creating his own truths and announcing his own generalizations.

Ryan is among those on the high road – at this point, at least. He and my own representative Reid Ribble have both denounced the narrow minded partisan bullying on Capitol Hill. However, I’ll stick to my guns: I experience and understand the daily struggles of families with one parent much, much better than my intelligent yet ignorant friend.

I didn’t respond to his post. I know what he meant, and I know which parts of his argument were inaccurate. Frankly, I keep him on my timeline to keep me informed of how people are thinking on the other side of many issues. It’s too bad he didn’t realize he was talking to one who lives and works in a field about which he knows little.

Readers, how do you react when confronted in this manner online? Leave a comment, please.

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Beast – an encore

Have you seen this Monty Python movie? This character was our first pet rabbit.


Here’s a photo of the celebrity in our family — the Beast Like No Other, acting protective of his friend Tiny. In reality, this big bunny is the mellowist, most relaxed rabbit around. He uses his big teeth only to gnaw on carrots and broccoli.

That’s Tiny Bunny pushing his little face in the way so he can be in the picture, too. Both of these furry sweeties made awesome memories at the O.K. Chorale.

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Rain Barrels and the Law

The entire West is facing water challenges with a growing population, limited water supplies, and a changing climate.

I saw this in a post discussing a change in Colorado law allowing residents to harvest rainwater. Prior to the law’s passing, setting up rain barrels like mine was illegal. Illegal? Yes. The Water Police would have come over and ordered me to disconnect my big barrels that collect water every time it rains.

At first, it’s illogical, thinking that conserving water would be not only discouraged, but outlawed. The old laws, however, were written for a time when the average citizen didn’t collect and reuse water. The old laws managed water rights for farmers and ranchers, people making their living off the land. The original legislation made sure the folks who needed large quantities of water for their crops and their livestock would have it and not have to fight their neighbors over every drop.

But now, in an era where individuals are concerned about water – saving water, reusing water, even treating water for household use – the old laws no longer make sense.

I’m fortunate to live in a region where water is relatively plentiful and my rain barrels are encouraged, not outlawed. It’s still important to conserve. I’m glad it’s spring, at long last, and I’m glad to see rain in the forecast sometime this week. I’ve been planting and watering, leaving the barrels ready for refilling.

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The Garden Begins!

The magic date for planting in my zone usually falls on Memorial Day. The forecast has been cooperative lately, so I started quite a bit already. I’m waiting a few more days with the tomatoes and peppers; they didn’t start well from seed this year. Better soil or better starter pots might be the answer – next year. For now, they get a little more time in pots on the deck before I measure the grid and insert the seedlings into the soil.

Square foot gardening gives me a lot of food in a relatively small space. So far, I’ve planted lettuces, spinach, parsley, peas, broccoli, and root crops: carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips. It sounds like a lot – and if all of it comes up, there will be a lot of fresh vegetables around the O.K. Chorale.

The plot behind the new garage is restarting, really. I have a small parsley bed back there (bunny food!), and the raspberries are coming back nicely. In a year or two, I’ll have a significant raspberry patch again. I(hopefully!) protect the seedlings from the wild bunnies.

The onions and garlic that I planted last fall are coming up well. I finally figured out which was which, too. The garlic is almost ready to harvest. I’ll definitely do this again next fall: plant the bulbs, and then let them lie dormant during the winter and grow as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.

I just heard a grizzled old off-grid guy on television say, “When you live this isolated and off grid, there are two seasons: winter and getting ready for winter.” Here in the city neighborhoods, we do some of that preparation. I don’t need to chop wood, but I do grow and can and freeze a lot of goodies during the “Getting ready for winter” season. The big difference here is how relaxing and enjoyable the prep time can be.

Pictures, you ask? Later. I promise.

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Why I volunteer – encore

This post is from almost exactly four years ago. My political involvement tends to swing up every four years, for some reason. I haven’t signed on officially yet, but it’s inevitable. Once again, it’s essential that we get another Democrat into the White House. This is personal. Heck, maybe “This is personal” is reason number 11.

Here’s the encore.

Top Ten Reasons I Volunteer

10. I’m one of many who are suffering under the actions of current state *cough* leadership.
9. The tea party war against women sets us back fifty years – or more. What’s next, repeal the 19th amendment? No, don’t answer that.
8. One coworker no longer admits to being a teacher. She’s tired of the blame game in the public realm that considers state employees to be a drain on the budget, rather than hardworking professionals.
7. Grass roots are strong; anyone who has tried to turn a patch of lawn into a vegetable garden knows that. Grass roots movements thrive on volunteer contributions.
6. Contributions don’t have to be financial to be worthwhile. My volunteer time makes a difference.
5. I vote, and my vote counts. I help others realize that their votes count, too.
4. I’m not willing to run for office, but I’m willing and able to work for others who will lead well.
3. The National Education Association (NEA) was once called a terrorist organization. Now my state association members are being called “thugs.” Name-calling used to be a playground problem; I’m doing what I can to get this childish behavior out of the state capitol.
2. Someone has to make a difference.
And number one, the top reason for volunteering, is borrowed from Dr. Seuss. In the words of the Once-ler, here it is:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better; it’s not. —Dr. Seuss

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Garden Progress

Done: lettuce planted, parsley planted, zucchini planted. Root crops (carrots, parsnips, radishes, a few turnips) planted.

In seedling form: broccoli, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, marigolds.

Still on the to-do list: put fence up, plant beans and peas, transplant seedlings.

Is that all? Not by a long shot, I’m sure. Give me time, I’ll think of more.

Preparing for the landscapers who are coming to replace my lawn with perennial flowers has its own to-do list. Let’s see: it starts with Dig Up Daffodil and Tulip bulbs. What am I doing inside watching DIY TV? There’s a lot to do outside!

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Ah, the grass roots.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Anyone who has converted a patch of lawn to a garden knows the strength and tenacity of grass roots. I fight back the grass roots in my gardens, but in real life, I’m part of a grass roots effort to get like-minded people elected to public office.

Yesterday a young person came to our door. He was carrying a clipboard, so I thought “Aha. Canvassing. I wonder which candidate he represents?” I sent Chuck to the door; it was his turn, really. The last time I met a canvasser on my porch, our Wisconsin presidential primary was coming up and the young woman was supporting Bernie Sanders. We talked for a little while, and I reminisced a bit about volunteering in support of President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Then I turned the topic a little bit, bringing it back to the current election. I hear you, readers. You’re thinking, “What? Daisy, the young volunteer on the porch was the one doing the canvassing, wasn’t she? What do you mean you turned the topic? That was her job!” 

Yep. Uh-huh. Yours truly has had plenty of training and practice in messaging, staying on message, and bringing a conversation to an angle that benefits my candidate or my cause. By the time the young woman left my porch, making her entries into the database on her phone (new wrinkle this election), I had talked her into supporting Hillary Clinton. She was probably wondering, “What just happened there?”

Back to the most recent clipboard bearing youth at our doorbell. Chuck chatted for a few seconds and then sent the young man on his way. He wasn’t canvassing for a candidate, Democrat or Republican. He represented College Painters. We’re planning siding, so we didn’t hire him or his organization. I guess the lesson learned from this encounter is Never Assume Anything.

I still would have worked on convincing him to vote for Hillary.

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Volunteers – not grass roots

If you look closely, you can see some stubborn grass roots in the foreground. The close-up is a volunteer that sprouted this spring. I haven’t planted anything in this area – yet.

 

This looks familiar.

This looks familiar.

I kept thinking, “They’re not carrots. They’re not radishes. Parsnips?”

I did a little research online. The foliage certainly looks like parsnips. But how?

I planted carrots and parsnips in that area last year. Most likely, a handful of seeds didn’t germinate last spring. After hibernating through a warm and wet winter, the seeds were ready to burst.

And burst they did. Here’s one I pulled up to test the theory.

Parsnip. Indeed.

Parsnip. Indeed.

I’m planning to plant tomatoes there. Supposedly tomatoes and carrots are good companions; maybe parsnips will do well with my tomatoes, too.

 

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Teacher Shortage? Ya think?

It was just a paragraph, and it was buried within a much larger article about career education in area middle and high schools. It was just a short statement, but I stopped and read it and reread it.

Wisconsin has a particularly strong need for teachers.

Salute Captain Obvious on this one. The rationale for the strong need is as follows.

Political turmoil has made it less and less popular, and the retirement rate is currently outpacing the rate of new teachers graduating.

Less and less popular. Political turmoil. Is anyone surprised? We teachers would like to say, “Told you so,” but we’re much too professional and polite to thumb our noses at the state legislature that made this possible.

That’s part of the problem. We are professional. We are willing to stand strong, and we are willing to be advocates for the young people we teach. It’s much harder to stand up for ourselves. Getting smashed to bits by our state leadership when we attempted to speak up – well, let’s just say it didn’t make our chosen field look very attractive.

Meanwhile, fewer young people choose to become teachers in Wisconsin. We, the teachers, are not surprised.

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It’s amazing. And random.

We’ve decided not to call it “leftovers” when I empty the fridge of various foodstuffs and we have it for supper. It’s “tapas.”

I’m pleasantly surprised at how an hour or two outdoors can change my mood. I’m smiling, relaxing, taking a break, and I’m smiling. Spontaneously. For no reason other than I feel happy and content.

I’ve joked (sort of) that I should take my blood pressure before and after working outside or gardening. Maybe this is the weekend for that experiment.

Gardening and outside are not always the same thing, at least in Wisconsin’s early spring season. I have started a lot of seeds indoors – tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, broccoli, a few herbs…something about the smell of dirt makes it a rather Zen experience, even indoors.

April is a challenging month – a survival month, much like January. April, however, has the advantage of outdoor time. Planting a garden, be it flowers or fruits or vegetables, is an investment in hope. Planting illustrates faith that the future looks good. Be quiet; I’m not in a survivalist prepper mood today. 

 

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