School Starts for Teachers

It happens all too quickly. Teachers go back Monday for a series of meetings and a little time to prep, or prepare for the First Day of School. My Fitbit alarm is set to wake me up early so I can have breakfast and get going. I’ll either meet the gang at our new office and carpool over or I’ll park at the “old office” building and walk from there to the meeting place, the largest high school auditorium in our district.

When we arrive, we’ll hear the usual welcome, the “theme” for the year if there is one, the various award winners and 30 year pins. And then, we’ll head back to our own schools for meetings, meetings, and more meetings.

And on Thursday, the students arrive.

This is a good time to set goals. I’m not much of a New Year’s Resolution type; my “year” begins in late August. In addition to the usual “learn new curriculum” goal, I have to set a professional goal that is measurable and attainable. Oh, yeah, teacher jargon!

The goals that matter most, however, are those that cross the personal/professional line. I hope to make a positive adjustment to the new office, its location, and the configuration of cubicles. We are all in one room, so the potential for noise level is more than a little scary. Adjusting to this is high on the Goal List.

Add to the Goal List the idea of investing in School Climate. If the apple jelly turns out (from the apples picked on the new office site), I hope to bring enough jelly in to share with the whole staff. Big goals, I know. I try to make contributions while not creating my own emergencies, if you know how that goes.

The highest and most important goal is one I pursue outside of school, but a goal that has huge effects on teaching. This goal has even heavier effects on student learning and eventual student success.

  • Goal Number One: vote for and help elect legislators who understand and support public education.
  • Congress: Tom Nelson
  • Senate: Russ Feingold
  • President: former leader of Children’s Defense League, lifelong advocate for children, Hillary Clinton.

 

 

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Family Foraging

I may have mentioned that the school in which I teach is moving to a new location. I visited the new building last Saturday, said hello to my principal as she was unloading boxes in the basement (we have a storage room!), and took a closer look at the location. A few observations:

The landscaping is overgrown. We noticed milkweed and black eyed Susans in the midst of lots (TONS) of day lilies, lilies of the valley, hostas, and more. Chuck, my chauffeur, overheard the principal saying that maintenance would be tearing out everything behind the building, including aging playground equipment. He asked if we could dig out the milkweed and black-eyed Susans before the big digging machines came in. She said yes.

On the way back to the Momvan, I noticed one of the trees alongside our new office building was an apple tree! I haven’t identified the variety yet, but we looked and tasted and decided to come back for a harvest. I’m now working on version 1.0 of apple jelly. It might end up being sauce, and that’s okay. I have plenty of apples in the garage waiting for me.

As we dug up the milkweed and the flowers, we discovered a like-new, unused compost bin. Principal will ask maintenance what’s happening to it. I have tentative permission to bring it to Habitat ReStore rather than let it go to the landfill.

The results of our foraging around the new-to-me building —

  • 2 large buckets of ripe apples
  • several Black-eyed Susan plants
  • a large bucket full of uprooted milkweed
  • a few seed pods from the aforementioned milkweed
  • the bucket I filled with milkweed (found buried in the hostas)

All things considered, I think I’m going to like the new location.

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The Dystopian Novel That Wasn’t

I toyed with the idea of writing dystopian fiction. I had a plot in mind, a set of main characters, and the major events that would set the plot in motion.

The first draft was junk. Trash. The dialogue was stilted, narrative felt forced, and basically, it was a piece of crap. I didn’t hit delete (I could have, easily), but I set aside my lousy work in a Draft One folder and started over.

This time, I thought and thought hard about what attracts me to this genre. It’s not the disasters, it’s not the End of the World philosophy, but more the survival aspect. How do people cope? How far will they go to feed the family and keep them safe? What kind of teamwork or individualism seems to be most common? Most successful? And finally, perspective. How do I hear this story in my head, and how can I pass that on to my readers?

I started again with these elements in mind. And then, I had to quit. Again. For good, most likely.

My plot premise was turning out to be too close to truth. I had an election in mind with a candidate who couldn’t take losing. This candidate would lose by a landslide, and then he (wouldn’t be she, that’s for sure) would announce that the system was rigged. Sound familiar? At this point, the loser would call for his followers to riot in the streets. His followers, most of whom lacked the ability to think independently, would follow directions and start the craziness.

I think I’ll still to nonfiction. The dark underside of this election is truly frightening.

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Tying the Knot and Staying Green

Sometimes, it’s easy to be green. La Petite was maid of honor for her best friend’s wedding last weekend. I came away from the ceremony happy for the new couple and impressed by the local and eco-sensitive way they’d handled their wedding.

Repurposed windows

Repurposed windows

When we tore down the old garage, La Petite salvaged the best of the windows. She repainted them in the wedding colors and set them up as introductions to the wedding party, complete with (of course) photos.

Canning Jar Candles!

Canning Jar Candles!

Behind the mason jar, you can catch a glimpse of Amigo sipping a locally brewed craft beer. Local? Heck, it was made at the brewpub across the street!

Flowers - and another candle

Flowers – and another candle

The table decor reflected the theme in the wedding bouquets. They were lovely, featured a sunflower-like center, and were tied up with raffia. In keeping with the local philosophy, the bride and groom purchased all the flowers from a farmers’ market vendor. Notice the canning jar on our table: I like jars in this shape and size for my fabulous homemade salsa, some of which (fresh from my kitchen!) they’ll find in their wedding gift.

Will the jars find their way into someone’s canning supplies? Whether they end up holding salsa or jams or end up holding candles again, it doesn’t matter. The atmosphere that night was one of earthiness and thoughtfulness. The future looks good for this young couple.

#loveyoulangetime

 

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Sarcasm – no, thanks.

It was in a training session, a session led by a counselor and good friend, that I first learned the origin of the word sarcasm. My counselor friend grew up the oldest of 10 children. In her family, sarcasm was common and was even a valid method of self-defense. Her husband, on the other hand, had been an only child. He didn’t use sarcasm, and he didn’t like when she was sarcastic, either. The husband went so far as to look up sarcasm in a dictionary and show his wife that it meant “the tearing of flesh.”

In short, sarcasm hurts. Sarcasm causes pain.

When D. Trump “joked” that he’d like Russia to hack into his opponent’s email server, he wasn’t funny. He wasn’t clever. His claim that he wasn’t serious, just sarcastic, didn’t excuse his statements at all.

As if the tearing of flesh wasn’t enough, Mr. T went on to announce something even more inappropriate. He went off script long enough to encourage “Second Amendment People” to do something (he didn’t state it; he didn’t need to) about the possibility of progressive justices and the presidential candidate that might appoint them.

This time, D. Trump didn’t claim sarcasm. He said he’d meant gun rights advocates should gather together, organize, vote. Heavens to Betsy, he didn’t mean shoot someone! Ha. Ha. Ha.

In a land where gun violence dominates our headlines, comments like this are far from funny. A speaker encouraging gun violence isn’t clever. He is, however, crystal clear in his motive. Just as in his use of sarcasm, he wants to harm his opponent, hurt her, cause her pain, no matter how it gets done.

When Hillary Clinton speaks, she speaks clearly. She says what she means, and she stays consistent. She doesn’t resort to sarcasm. Hillary Clinton thinks before she speaks; and thinking, analyzing, contemplating – all are strengths she has shown again and again. Sarcasm, the tearing of flesh, isn’t her style.

Readers, I started writing this post before the Donald pulled his stunt over the creation of ISIL. He just goes on and on, getting lower and lower.

On the progressive side of the ballot, we’ll do well to remember Michelle Obama’s advice. When they go low, we’ll stay high. Let’s stay away from sarcasm, the tearing of flesh.

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Lots of Crocks – the results After

I have a 3 gallon Redwing stoneware crock that I bought at an antique mall. I also found a very large (6 gallon, I estimate) that had a huge crack in it. I caulked the crack in the crock, and then set it aside. I plan to plant in both crocks. You can see the #3 at the back of the table.

 

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

Here’s the “before” picture outside on the deck in better light.

Here they are in the sunshine.

Here they are in the sunshine. Some are in better shape than others.

And now, the “After” picture. I was pleasantly surprised with the condition after cleaning. Most were just dirty, not damaged.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Readers, I’m thinking of planting chives in the #2, and maybe succulents in the cheese and butter crocks. What do you think?

 

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Supporting the Volunteers

I posted this Wish List recently with a comment that many items on the list aren’t eco-friendly. I gave in and bought several items to keep the volunteers hydrated and happy.

-as seen in local Democrat HQ

-as seen in local Democrat HQ

I gave in and bought plastic utensils, paper napkins, tissues, and cleaning wipes. I didn’t go for brand name products unless there was a clear difference in price and/or quality. The coffee cups I found were biodegradable, not the icky foam alternative. I stared at the paper napkins for a while; I haven’t bought paper napkins in years, so I had no idea what kind of prices to expect.

We (La Petite and I) dropped off the goodies at the Democrats’ office. The volunteers were very grateful, especially for the bottled water. The weather was hot, the air conditioner was unreliable, and they’d run out of water a few days earlier.

In exchange for the donations, I asked only for two signs. I’m the first on our block to show tangible evidence of voting preferences.

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More than Voting

“Don’t boo — vote.” –President Obama, among others, at the 2016 Democratic convention

Vote. That’s number one. The second on the list: how can I help? The obvious way to help is donating money. I’ve donated some, and my union dues donate to pro-education candidates as well. But there’s no possible way I can personally make a difference equal to the huge infusion of cash that the Super-PACs provide or the wealthy supporters often send toward the conservative side of the ballot.

Here’s another way a small donation can have an impact.

-as seen in local Democrat HQ

-as seen in local Democrat HQ

Many of the volunteers are young people. They are highly motivated and energetic. They are also, most of them, broke. The few that hold paid positions aren’t raking it in. I’ve put in less time this election (so far) than I have in the past. But I’m a savvy shopper, and I can find these items in bulk and at reasonable prices.

The only trouble is this: so many of the items on this list are far from eco-friendly. How can I address the needs of the office and stay true to my environmentalist roots? That, my friends, will be another post.

Let’s hear it, readers. How do you support your candidate, no matter which side of the ballot?

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Signs that it’s an Election Year

Readers, you’ve seen my pictures of various campaign signs. The Trump sign next to the “slow” sign in a trailer park. The “Republicans for Voldemort” bumper sticker. The signs from the recall election that spelled governor “governer”.

I was shopping for a wedding gift and for my own kitchen at the Penzey’s Spices store in town, and I saw this.

nonpartisan, but clear

nonpartisan, but clear

Penzey’s encourages their customers to vote. I think I’ve found yet another reason to shop here.

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Crocks for Planting: The Auction Chapter

I have a 3 gallon Redwing stoneware crock that I bought at an antique mall. I also found a very large (6 gallon, I estimate) that had a huge crack in it. I caulked the crack in the crock, and then set it aside. I plan to plant in both crocks.

I lost out on a few crocks in online auctions, and I was bummed. Then I saw a generic label of “Lots of Crocks” in another auction. On closer examination, I recognized that one was a 2 gallon Redwing crock, dirty and possibly cracked. The others might or might not be good enough to use as planters along with those I already had, but it was worth a try.

Yesterday I brought them home.

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

You can’t get a good look at them in the dark garage, so I moved them outside for some natural light.

Here they are in the sunshine.

Here they are in the sunshine. Some are in better shape than others.

Kaukauna Cheese!

Kaukauna Cheese!

Did it cost one dollar and 59 cents, or one and 59/100 of a penny?

Did it cost one dollar and 59 cents, or one and 59/100 of a penny?

Butter from Sheboygan; and a lot of stain or rust.

Butter from Sheboygan; and a lot of stain or rust.

And finally, the crock that led me to bid on this lot.

And finally, the crock that led me to bid on this lot.

My plan: with baking soda and salt, perhaps a vinegar/water rinse, and a lot of bow grease, I’ll see how these pretty little crocks clean up. Then I’ll decide what to plant in each one. Chives might do well in the #3.

What do you think, readers? Do you think these crocks have a future? Do you have advice for cleaning them?

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