If I Had a Patron Saint

‘Tis the season – the season for Friday Night Fish Fries, meatless meals and sacrifice. This is an encore from a few years ago. Do you have a patron saint, readers?

If I had a patron saint, it would be — that’s not easy to say. My desktop calendar often lists historical events and trivial facts, and the patron saints turn up now and then.

St. Timothy is the protector for those with intestinal ailments. My entire family could fall into that category more often than not.

St. Francis de Sales is the Patron Saint of authors, teachers, and (are you ready for this?) the deaf. Bloggers don’t have a Patron Saint – yet – so I’ll stick to Sales.

Given the current political climate in Wisconsin, the “divide and conquer” philosophy in the Governor’s mansion, I wondered (in my own liberal and ecumenical fashion) – could there be a patron saint of politicians? According to a less than scientific Internet search, I came up with St. Thomas More. Thomas studied law at Oxford and eventually became Lord Chancellor of England. Cool, eh? Sir Thomas More is also known as the patron saint of lawyers. In that vein, we should note that he was tried and convicted of treason and beheaded in July of 1535.

A more complicated search revealed that government workers, those falling victim to the present “Divide and Conquer” tactics, have a multitude of patron saints assigned to intercede on their behalf. Behalfs? Behalves? I was raised Presbyterian; I don’t know the grammar of a patron saint. St. Homobonus, he who looks out for business people, joins St. Thomas More again in a reference to taking care of government employees and civil service workers.

I find it interesting that good ole’ Thomas shares responsibility for both government employees and the politicians who ultimately oversee them. If we Wisconsin workers had to look for divine intervention, St. Thomas More might be too conflicted to help. He wouldn’t know whether to divide or unite, conquer or compromise. Would he carry a protest sign, join the overpass light brigade, or install metal detectors at the Capitol to keep the cowbells out? Would he sign a recall petition, contribute to a campaign, or sponsor a television commercial? And how would someone with these responsibilities ultimately vote?

With so many decisions to make, it’s no wonder Sir Thomas More lost his head.

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Do you recall?

In which Grandma Daisy recalles the recall election of 2012 – and wonders why this misleading “leader” plans on running for president in 2016.

So, young ones, the votes were counted. Wisconsin broke all kinds of records for voter turnout. My own city, Appleburg, reached an unheard-of 84%. Madison even had over 100% turnout. All of the registered voters turned out, and new ones registered. The election was over, but the issues hadn’t died. Oh, we still had issues. 

And in the aftermath, more issues surfaced. I had issues with the mainstream media for announcing election results long before all the votes had been counted. In fact, there were still people waiting in line to vote because their polls had run out of ballots. Polls officially closed at 8:00, but anyone in line by 8 was allowed to vote. No one is really sure whether Tom Barrett knew that people were still voting when he prepared to concede around 10. Some felt that the people were done voting by then, the votes just had not been counted.But even then, important precincts (like Milwaukee!) were not included in the early totals.

So I had issues with the mainstream media on election night. I also had issues with our local paper. Their headline said that Governor Walker had won “easily.” Easily? I think not. Estimates of his campaign spending hovered between forty and eighty million dollars. Millions! I believe the lower end of that range is more accurate. Even so, Walker and his rich buddies outspent their opponents by at least a 10 to 1 margin. That speaks of challenges, not winning “easily.” 

Easily? The man should have won by a huge margin if he won easily. As the late votes were counted and the absentee ballots came in, the gap between winner and loser got progressively narrower. Walker still won, but he didn’t win easily, children.

There’s a lesson here; make your own value judgments. Don’t let the media decisions become yours. You do your own research, my dears; read, listen, talk to people close to the candidate. If a major bigwig on national television tells you it’s over, stick around. It’s not over until all have voted and all the vote totals are in. Predicting a winner too early can discourage voters and even affect a close race. Did I ever tell you about the presidential election of 2000? Oh, that’s a great story. I was teaching fifth grade that year, and we were learning about American history. I told my students to pay attention to the world around them because they were living in historic times. But back to the story — 

The Wisconsin Recall Election of 2012 made waves worldwide. The BBC ran stories about it. Canadian media covered the events. Nationwide, people were watching us. We were, indeed, making and living history. Many of us felt that Election Night wasn’t the end; it was just the beginning. 

Kiddos, would you like to hear about the presidential election of 2000? Well, not now. I’m bushed. Tomorrow morning over coffee, that’s when we’ll talk. 

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Winter. Such a Long, Long Winter.

Winter always feels long toward the end of February. No matter when the first snowfall came, I’m always ready to look for spring right about now. I don’t believe that goofy furry faced groundhog, either. In the cold Midwest, not far from an NFL stadium nicknamed the Frozen Tundra, we always have at least six more weeks of winter after the groundhog “speaks”.

The question remains, then, what do we do about it? Some people travel to warm places. Some of us stay here and face the thermometer. Some of my colleagues share links to “Frozen Office Syndrome” and “21 Products You Need to Stay Warm in the Office“. Each day we pull on our fingerless gloves, drape blankets on our laps or over our shoulders – or both – boot up our computers and get to work.

And then it’s time to come home. Home, sweet home, where the furnace is pumping and the crock pot is simmering with comfort food like chicken dumpling soup or lamb stew with plums. We can’t quite forget that baby, it’s cold outside.

Really, what does a resident of Wisconsin do when there are still at least six weeks of winter? If you’re a die hard gardener like me, you might be starting seeds right about now. I braved the cold (4 degrees above zero, people, and that’s before the wind chill) and brought home two big bags of potting soil. I took inventory of my seeds and decided what I still needed to buy. I spent almost $50 on soil, seeds, and a few random snacks and a big roll of packing tape (for wrapping books to swap), presented my $10 off coupon, handed over my own shopping bag, and focused forward. Spring will come, and I will be ready!

I can hope and plan and even dream a little. The grow lights will keep the little seedlings warm, and the Muk Luks slippers will keep me cozy. Muk Luks? Oh, that’s another story.

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Creative Winter Problem Solving

Setting: On a Monday early in winter, not so long ago

On that day, I headed out the door to find my minivan coated with a thin layer of frozen winter wonderland.

I reached for the snow brush we keep in the minivan most of the year. It wasn’t there.
I started the defrosters and searched again behind the seats. No luck. So I attacked the windows with my gloved hands, hoping that perhaps I could borrow a brush or scraper from another teacher as the rest of the staff left.
No luck there, either. My friend the reading teacher set her car to defrost and came over to ask if she could borrow my — “Oh, I see you don’t have a snow brush or ice scraper either. Good thing we both wore gloves today!”
While the defrosters blew warm air at the windows, I dug under the seats one more time and found….an old plastic air freshener shaped like an orange.
The plastic was soft enough not to scratch, but strong enough to hold up under my assault on the elements. I used it to scrape enough frozen precipitation off the windshield that I could run the wipers and get the rest. My colleague took it next, and we were ready to hit the streets.

In our school building we are nothing if not compassionate professionals. We pulled in together the next day. I waved my new snow brush at her, picked up my coffee (both purchased at a convenience store on the way to school) and stepped out of the car. She said good morning and handed me — my air freshener.
I think I’ll put this little item back under the seat in my minivan. You never know when it might come in handy. At the least, it’ll be good for a laugh. Someday.

I teach in a different school now, but I still keep a snow brush and ice scraper in my current minivan. The odd orange air freshener didn’t survive the trade-in of the old one.

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Save No Money at the Big Box Store

We needed a shed – a big box, if you will. We’d somehow missed the seasonal sales, so it took a good search to find the best deal on the best size shed. Chuck found one at a store that doesn’t usually attract our attention.

“With the discount, it’s the right price for exactly the right size, and we can have it delivered.”

“Okay.”

“Well, it’s not really a discount. It’s a rebate.”

“Then we’ll be sure to do the paperwork.”

“And the rebate is in the form of a store credit gift card.”

“If that’s what it is, that’s what it is. I’ll apply it toward garden supplies in the spring.”

We came to regret it. The delivery ran into snags and got here several days later than expected, which gave Chuck the job of assembling it outside in nasty fall-hints-at-winter weather. Then we all shared the same virus, and not even rebate paperwork could pull me away from the bucket next to my bed. Those were small inconveniences, though. The final word, however, was this: the email with the rebate instructions came after the rebate deadline.

Now we’re shaking our heads, saying we knew better, but we didn’t act on our past experience. It’s highly doubtful that we’ll go back to this store, rebate or no rebate. If we miss the sales, we’ll go to the store that has everything and more and a big orange silo in the middle.

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If Jeopardy held a Governors’ Tournament

Alex Trebek made my day. He mentioned having just finished the Teachers’ Tournament, and then he said that based on his observations, the country’s children are in good hands.

Consider the following. Instead of a Teachers’ Tournament, Alex Trebek would host a gathering of the great, er, the leaders of several states. I can see it now: Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and — well, who would you like in the third spot?

Alex: And the categories for the first round are — Roadblocks, Foreign Policy, Involuntary Quarantine, College Honor Codes, Scandals ending in -Gate, and Everything’s Better with Koch. Where should we start?

Walker: I’m going to punt on that one.

Christie: Wait, let me get my fleece. It has my name on it.

Alex: Gentlemen, a category, please.

Christie: Scandals ending in -gate for 200, Alex.

Alex: The first -gate named scandal started with a break-in at this hotel.

Walker: What is the Farm Bed and Breakfast gate?

Alex: No. I know Wisconsin is the Dairy state, but, um, no.

Christie:  Foreign Policy for 200, Alex.

Alex: Yes, Scott?

Walker: I just don’t think you talk about foreign policy while you’re on foreign soil.

Alex: We’re in Hollywod. Southern California.

Walker: Then we’ll go to College Honor Codes, whatever they are, for 400.

Readers, you get the idea. Today’s children are in good hands for now. But if the narrow and uber-conservative right get their way, none of will be in good hands. If we want representation of the people, by the people, and for the people to remain, it’ll take more than a game. Stay informed, and stay active.

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Is the Soup Organic?

It was a simple question. I’d brought in my latest minestrone for Soup Day at the Office. I invited a couple of coworkers who didn’t normally partake. They were friends, colleagues, and of course they deserved a bowl of Daisy’ best!

And then it came up: the question. “Are all the ingredients organic?”

I had to say no. And of course, I had to start thinking. My soup offering was made from scratch. But organic? Let’s see.

Broth – mainly a beef broth from my freezer. No preservatives, just bones boiled with a few scraps of onion and maybe peppers, too. But organic? I doubt that the meat was organic, and the onion and peppers probably weren’t organic, either.

Minestrone is all about vegetables. It’s February. The peas and corn, out of my freezer, came from the farmers’ market. The handful of yellow beans were from my garden. A little tomato sauce – canned from fresh-grown tomatoes in my own backyard. And then – carrots, onion, a little celery, all from the grocery store, none organic.

In July or August, that soup would have a lot more organic to it. Maybe that’s my next move: grow more, preserve more, and start making a point of buying organic more often.

Now if only the snow would melt.

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Measles?

I searched my archives for measles or immunizations, and the only related topic I found was flu. I get a flu shot every year. Amigo gets one every year. La Petite, now that she has medical coverage (Thanks, Mr. President!), gets her vaccine, too.

It’s not influenza that’s on people’s minds today. It’s an illness that was thought to be eradicated in the United States: measles.

I remember getting a mumps shot when my friend Julie had mumps. The vaccine was a new one; it wasn’t routine yet. It must have worked; no mumps for me. I remember getting a rubella vaccine when I was at the hospital after giving birth to La Petite. Routine blood tests showed I wasn’t immune, and I got the shot before going home. But measles? No memory of the illness or the shot.

People born before 1957 are considered immune because they were most likely exposed when they were young. I’m a 1960 baby boomer. Where does that leave me?

I did what a lot of baby boomers do: I emailed my mother.

According to Petunia, I may have had a mild case of measles when I was very young. She followed up by saying she remembered getting me a measles vaccine, but doesn’t have a written record.

So around and ’round and ’round I go. Do I need the shot? Nobody knows. While I dilly dally about getting a lab test to find out yea or nay, the city health department is setting up a vaccine clinic early one morning next week. I might just give in, get up, and go. It can’t hurt. Well, it could hurt… never mind.

 

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School Board Elections – or not

It happened – or didn’t happen- in Hagerman, New Mexico. There were three open seats on the school board. There were three candidates. No one voted. None of the candidates received any votes. None. Zero. Zilch.

Now what?

Here in the cold Midwest, we rarely get news from Hagerman or even its more famous neighbor, Roswell. Here in Wisconsin, we do take our public education seriously. When my fair city holds elections, people vote. If there’s an open school board seat (or two, or three), we’ll usually have a primary election to narrow down the candidates. Then we’ll get out the vote.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin voters did not vote for education last November. Our governor is poised to make massive cuts in public education (Kindergarten through High School) and proposes devastating budget reductions on our University of Wisconsin system.

I haven’t actively volunteered since the 2012 presidential election. I’ve made donations and signed election papers and blogged and spread the word, but I haven’t stepped up and given of my time – yet. I blame my health.. I also blame issue fatigue. One troubling law after another, and eventually I had to focus on the one issue that matters the most: doing my own job well and keeping my family fed.

Folks, I predict a rise in activism in Wisconsin. I predict letters to the editor of the paper, facebook groups, blogs, and more. As you’re waiting, look for green lights: green porch lights and outdoor lights. The weather may be too cold for yard signs, but the green lights will quietly send a message of solidarity.

Support public education: K12 and the University of Wisconsin.

Support public education: K12 and the University of Wisconsin.

 

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