Alternative Facts

We’ve all heard them. We disregard them, sometimes even laugh a little at the sheer ridiculousness that someone might want us to believe. Here are a few alternative facts that circulate – wherever.

One size fits all.

Easy open package.

Lifetime warranty.

Easy return policy.

Sanctuary cities are hotbeds of crime.

The dog ate my homework.

Wikipedia rocks.

Painless childbirth.

3 million undocumented immigrants voted in 2016.

Contents not included.

He must have misspoken.

Okay, readers, I’ve made my point. Can you think of others? Add comments for me, please.

Walk a Mile in my Shoes Empathy Book Club

Sanctuary cities. Executive orders. Airport detentions. A border wall. The news is full of negatives, stereotypes, anger, and fear. What’s missing? Empathy. Here’s a book list to encourage empathy for those who come to America from other cultures, whether voluntarily or as refugees. With the exception of the first title, all are suitable for young people.

  • A Step from Heaven by An Na
  • A Korean family moves to America, and the daughter has to find her inner strength to keep herself and her family whole. Despite her intelligence and ability to learn the language quickly, the girl encounters racism and sexism as she adjusts to her new home.
  • The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
  • The Hmong people were recruited to help American troops during the Vietnam war. After the war, when the new government began to persecute them, the United States provided a safe haven for Hmong refugees. Kao Kalia tells the stories of several generations as they flee Laos through camps in Thailand and eventually settle in the Midwest. The first person accounts make for a powerful read.
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Esperanza is forced to leave Mexico after a tragedy takes her safety and her family’s wealth. She is unprepared for the challenges of living in a new country with no money and no home. Esperanza is Spanish for hope, and 13 year old Esperanza finds her inner strength as she follows a path that leads to hope and a better life. This book won the Newbery Award in 1999.
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhja Lai
  • A new home in Alabama means safety from the Vietnam war, but this family misses their old home in Saigon as they adjust to the new culture, new landscape, and strange foods and customs. Discrimination is rampant for their Asian appearance and poor English skills. A Newbery honor book in 2012 – well worth the time for the amazing writing and heart felt story.
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
  • The story takes place in Brooklyn, NY, during 1947. The backdrop of Major League Baseball’s integration helps Shirley Temple Wong and her family adjust to being recent immigrants from China. Winner of many awards, this is a valuable read.
  • Grab Hands and Run  by Francis Temple
  • Felipe is twelve when his father is killed and he must grab hands with his sister and mother and flee El Salvador for safety in Canada. This book follows their long and difficult journey, and includes the dangers they face and their doubts about leaving their home.

Readers, what are some other books you recommend – for young adults or those who are grown-ups?

We mourned, we marched, and now —

I saw it on social media. “Friday, we mourned. Saturday, we marched. Where will you be next?”

I remembered when we, the educators and the unions, packed the Wisconsin Capitol. We marched, we sang, we protested, and to no avail. Those in power still passed the ugly bill we called Act 10, sending our bargaining rights back by 40 to 50 years. Our numbers, our marches, our voices were ignored.

On Friday, January 20, many turned off the televisions and turned our backs on the scary sight of Donald Trump taking office as President of the United States. On Saturday, even more took to the streets. Rallies in Chicago, Washington D.C., and elsewhere attracted so many people that the corresponding marches could not take place. Attendees were so numerous that they already filled the march routes.

And for what did we march? For our health care, our rights as human beings, our respect – and self respect, too. We marched to remind people that women are scared, and despite our fears and worries, we won’t take any more steps backwards. We marched to say “Hey, we heard you. We heard you mock a disabled reporter. We heard you claim you had the right to grab women in their “pussy” because you were a celebrity. We heard you call immigrants from Mexico rapists and drug dealers. We heard you announce you would prevent people who are Muslim from entering this country, and we heard you suggest a registry for those who follow Islam.”

We heard you, Mr. Trump, and we won’t forget.

The question remains: what’s next? For some, it’ll be donations to Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, or local and state progressive activist groups. For some, it’ll mean participating in more events like Saturday’s march. For others, what’s next will be emails and phone calls to elected officials, whether we voted for them or not.

Trust me on this, folks. I predict further activity. We are women, and we’ll roar, in numbers too big to ignore (Thanks, Helen!). We won’t lose our right to speak freely or peaceably assemble. We won’t lose the rights to make decisions about our own health and our own bodies.

And that, my readers, is where we’re going next.

Next…moving along, not moving on

I couldn’t watch the inauguration. Late in the day, while we were on the road to take Amigo to La Petite’s for the weekend, I scanned my Facebook page. I kept getting choked up – but not sadness this time. My Facebook newsfeed was filled with friends and acquaintances determined to make themselves heard.

Several showed off their pink knit pussy hats for the rallies and marches. Those pink hats on display say very clearly “We are women, hear us roar!” and “Hands off my body, you jerk.” Their presence at rallies and in marches shouted out a reminder of an inspiring woman: women’s rights are human rights.

Now here it is, Saturday, and I’m not marching. I worked on grades for progress reports, and then I started the weekly task I call laundry. Meanwhile, my friends marched. Several in Madison, at least two in Washington, D.C., a significant handful in Chicago, a few in California and Washington state – and more.

And before I forget (yeah, right), I have one more quote to share. It’s a wonderful moment when the student surpasses the teacher. This statement came from a former student, a recent college graduate. She has the right attitude.

Today, and for the next 4 years, I will show love. I will fight for equality, for human rights, for women, for science, for education. But most of all, I will use the privileges I have been given to show love to those who will need it most, so that their world may look just a little bit brighter.

Well said.

Snow Day – Ice Day prep

We had an inkling that a day off might be in the works. Toward the end of the school day, we saw an email from downtown – the Powers That Be had cancelled all after school and evening events, and the morning wellness appointments had been rescheduled. I slid a little in the parking lot; the freezing rain had begun.

By the time I saw the announcement that our local schools would close the next day, I had already prepped for the possibility of power outages. Sometimes, the two go together. Ice, power outages, kind of like chocolate chips and cookies, Romeo and Juliet, or birds of a feather. It’s not a panic situation, but we’d rather not be forced to travel the slick roads in search of eggs or bread if the trip can be avoided.

Our pantry is pretty well stocked as a general rule. A quick stop for bunny food on the way home from work, and we can feed everyone under our roof.

Blankets: if the heat goes off, we’ll need to double up on blankets. We have plenty, and at any given time most are reasonably clean. Most.

Bean bag chairs. Just kidding – sort of. Amigo has several. Bean bag chairs plus blankets equal a cozy corner for relaxing and keeping warm.

Firewood: Bring in a good stack of dry or relatively dry wood. If the heat is off, we’ll huddle up in the den near the fireplace with bean bag chairs and blankets.

Charge everything that needs a charge. That’s probably the biggest challenge on the list. If I can’t plug anything in during or after a storm, I need to be ready to keep the major tools of life charged. To give you an idea, here’s a list.

  • Smart phones – three
  • Kindle
  • Laptop
  • FitBit (it keeps my vibrating alarm on time!)
  • Is that all? No, but those are the high priority items.

I don’t have a battery operated coffee maker. If we lived in a place where power outages were more common, I’d probably get one. A generator for the freezers would be useful, too. Our two chest freezers are full of vegetables from last summer and meat purchased on sale and a full stock of soup broths (haha). In a short outage, we just leave the freezers closed to maintain their temperatures.

So, folks, how did I spend my bonus day? Power stayed on. Heat stayed on. I relaxed on the couch, watched some HGTV and DIY (no news; after I had the closing confirmed, I didn’t want to see any more news), put a loaf of bread in the bread machine, cleaned a little, sipped my coffee, ran the dishwasher, and a whole batch of small chores. A day like this is a gift, when we’re prepared for it.

Eight Years Ago

Memories — Recipe for an Historic Inauguration
Take one republic, preheated by
Poverty and
Health care crises.
Blend worries, industry failures, job losses
Top with slashed budgets and crashing morale.
Mix dedicated candidates with
and Passion.
Nurture from deep grass roots
Seek hope, change, and motivation.
Beat at high speeds until competition peaks.
Organize. Volunteer. Vote.Set aside to cool.
Season with Knowledge
Plans and Ideas
Fold in global perspective,
Authentic world view.
Ship by train to nation’s capital.
Set atop quality cabinet.

Serve with courage and inspiration.

photo credit: La Petite, at a rally last June

“That’s how (blank) felt when…”

We were bowling Friday night. Picture this: a group of teachers and spouses, most dressed in their Friday Green and Gold, gathered at the local bowling alley (and Pokemon gym) for a post-holiday party. I managed to catch several Pokemon critters while we were gathering. Chuck captured a local craft beer for himself and a glass of white zinfandel for me. And then we bowled.

None of us – okay, few of us – were any good at it, so spares and strikes were exciting. It was reminiscent of the Pepsi commercials featuring Odell Beckham and some ordinary everyday folks celebrating their own achievements. Remember “This must be how Shelly felt when she won that purple bear”? I came back from a that’ll show ’em spare announcing to my team “This must be how Aaron Rodgers feels when he throws a Hail Mary!”

And it built from there.

Strike! “This must be how DaVante Adams felt when he scored that touchdown!”

Spare! and a strike to follow! “This must be how Clay Matthews felt when he caused that fumble and recovered it himself!”

Gutter ball. “This must be how Brett Favre felt when he retired – the first time.”

A missed split for a missed spare: “This must be how Odell Beckham felt when he punched a hole in the locker room wall.”

You can imagine the inspirations for these.


This must be how Richard Rodgers felt when he caught that Hail Mary against the Lions.

This must be how Mike McCarthy feels every time Aaron Rodgers throws a Hail Mary.

This must be how Jordy Nelson felt when he got speared in the ribs by that dirty hit.

This must be how Mason Crosby felt when he kicked off and then had to tackle the receiver.

This must be how Tom Brady felt when he got caught deflating his footballs.

Yeah, it was getting lamer than lame as the beers and the gin and tonics got tallied up and we returned our ugly shoes to the counter. In our defense, it was Friday the 13th, a full moon, and we’re teachers, for heaven’s sake!

So readers, let’s leave it at that. Play the game with me. What would you say to fill in the blanks? “That must be how (blank) felt when (blankety blank) happened.” Now put your Diet Pepsi down, and think on it. If it takes a little while, just remember that the 23rd time is the charm. Hey, it worked for Shelly.

That’s good, That’s not so good.

  • We picked up Amigo’s prescription. That’s good.
  • My new insurance made a typo and changed his birthdate in their records. That’s not so good.
  • Let the phone calling begin. He has a state I.D., a passport, and we have a copy of his birth certificate around, if the Powers That Be get too crazy about it.
  • Amigo and I went to Fleet Farm for bunny litter (wood fuel pellets). They were on sale. That’s good.
  • Fleet Farm was out of bean bag chairs. That’s not so good.
  • We’ll wait patiently and read the Sunday ad inserts. Fleet Farm always has bean bag chairs.
  • We ran errands this morning. That was cold.
  • We’re settled on the couch now, warming up in blankets. That’s warm and cozy.
  • Chuck just brought up the storage bins for ornaments. That’s ominous; it means he’ll want us to get up and help undecorate the tree.
  • I have a new cast iron skillet! That’s good!
  • I seasoned it last night! That’s good, too!
  • I scrambled eggs in the newly seasoned skillet! That’s amazingly awesome!

Okay, now I’m clutching at straws. Look for this desperation in seeking out the positive to increase through January 20. After that, who knows?




Playoffs! And the Giants are Coming to Town!

The New York Giants are coming to the Frozen Tundra sometime today for a game tomorrow. No snowstorm this week, so Eli Manning and company won’t have to worry about sliding off the runway like Minnesota did two weeks ago. In fact, Amigo remembers a weekend many years ago when the opposition (he’s pretty sure it was the Giants) was snowed in and had to spend a second and maybe third night in their hotel. Maybe it was this game.

Then there was the year when word got out that Manning’s favorite television show was Seinfeld, and the local Fox affiliate decided to show something else in place of the usual rerun on Saturday night. In an attempt to psych out the visiting quarterback, they played an ancient black and white special on Vince Lombardi. Only in Packerland, my friends, only in Packerland do we take our football so seriously that it changes the television schedule – on Saturday.

We’re planning to Eat the Opponent with a choice we’ve made in the past: Jersey Bagels. We’ll be supporting a local business, getting something delicious, and showing our Packer spirit at the same time. The Giants play their games in New Jersey, after all, not New York.

I’m dressed up in one of my warmest and coziest Packer sweaters with a green/yellow patterned turtleneck underneath. It’s cold, cold, cold tonight. The Giants will face temperatures not quite as bad; the thermometer is due to rise above zero Fahrenheit tomorrow. Highs might even reach the teens. Go! Pack! Go!

Take the Positive and Rephrase the Negative

When they go low, we go high.  – Michelle Obama

The Hillary Mug

Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. – Hillary Clinton

Don’t stop believing. – Journey

My inner English Language Arts teacher is cringing. Let’s get the passive out of this saying. Let’s un-split the infinitive. And then, let’s imagine those words coming out of Hillary Clinton’s mouth – and out of ours.

Believe it; fighting for what’s right is worth it.

Keep fighting for what’s right; it’s worth it.

Keep on fighting for what’s right; the fight is worth the effort. 

Believe in the future; the goal is worth the fight. 

Keep on believing and keep on fighting for what’s right. 

Readers, which do you like best? Or do you have another way to rephrase this? Let’s do it, and then let’s make t-shirts and mugs of it. Oh, heck. More importantly, let’s choose a phrase and then make it happen.