The 40 Bag Project and Books

I’m making a serious effort to keep up with this de-cluttering project. I had a rough morning today, though. I decided to go through a box of books leftover from my classroom days. Classroom libraries are a source of joy and a major cost factor for most teachers. I managed to donate mine to a new teacher when I moved to teaching online, but there are still a few boxes in the house. I went through one this morning. It wasn’t easy.

I listed several on my Paperbackswap account. One has already been requested. I have great hopes for more to fly out the door by way of the Post Office. There were a few, however, that I couldn’t post.

Three didn’t have ISBN numbers. Yes, readers, I have books old enough that they don’t carry that magic number. Without it, I couldn’t post them on the swap site.

Then there was the domino effect. I attempted to stack the new entries in the bookshelf with the others, but there wasn’t enough room. My solution: sort through the contents of the shelf and make room. I managed to group several folders together so they didn’t take up quite as much space, and I also found ancient paperwork worthy of the shredder. I reorganized so that all garden-themed books (not going anywhere, thank you very much) have one section of the shelves and all textbook types are together in another.

At this point the table was covered with piles of books and my laptop, open to the “Post Books” tab on Paperback Swap. Craziness, eh? More so than you realize; we had a meeting scheduled in less than an hour and we’d need the table by then. I did manage to get the books back on a shelf, power down and stash the laptop, and wipe down the table before our meeting began.

And I haven’t even mentioned the books I didn’t post or set aside for an upcoming rummage sale: a Leo Lionni, a Tomie dePaola Strega Nona book, and a couple more that need to be stored with others of their kind in the attic.

Books. It’s not easy being green when it comes to literature. I might sort through the garden stack again – or maybe not. It’s a good season for selling those to Half Price Books; it’s also a good season to browse through a few of my favorites.

Books. It’s not easy being green when it comes to the written word. Heaven help me if I ever have to decide between books and shoes for shelf space.

The Daisy Reality Show Returns and Reminisces

Readers, if you haven’t been around long enough to recognize the Daisy Reality Show, here’s a brief introduction.

Daisy (yours truly) hosts a reality show at the O.K. Chorale. The show’s director and her bumbling assistant keep the show on track and provide a running commentary off-screen. This episode “aired” in late summer of 2013, two years before the surprise guest was recruited to become Speaker of the House. Oh, sorry. Was that a spoiler? Well, here goes.

Daisy: I’m baking cookies this afternoon. We have no snack foods worth eating. Well, few snack foods in the house. Peanuts, cashews, the makings for trail mix – that’s it.

Assistant: I see chips. What’s wrong with potato chips?

He had to ask, didn’t he?

Daisy: It’s like Michael Pollan says in his Food Rules: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. In this case, I’m following his advice that whole foods are better than processed foods and junk food is okay in moderation when I make it myself.

Assistant (pretending to understand): Oh.

Daisy’s cell phone chirps, indicating a text message. 

Daisy: Oh, it’s La Petite. She says:

So we were sitting at the fair eating ice cream and I spotted something terrifying — Paul Ryan.

Daisy (Laughing): That’s my daughter, a good progressive young woman! I’ll respond and tell her to run, run fast, run far in the other direction.

Director: Oh, I remember you were a volunteer for Obama last year. Was it really only a year ago?

Daisy (texting): It’s been a very full year. La Petite lives in Paul Ryan’s congressional district, and she took great pleasure in voting against him twice last November.

Assistant: She voted twice? Daisy’s phone chirps again. 

Daisy: Here’s the next one!

I was walking towards him to document this with my camera and cousin Doodles, age 2, followed. Her mom was all like, “No, nooooo! Don’t get too close!”

And then, after Daisy responds with “He didn’t try to talk to her, did he? Scary.”

No, I didn’t want to talk to him either, so I stayed my distance. Took a photo of people in line to greet him.

Assistant: Twice? Is that legal?

Daisy: She voted for his opposition in two different races — Congress and Vice President.

Assistant: Oh. Um — never mind. Oh.

Daisy: Back to cookies! Real food for snacks at the O.K. Chorale.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the cookbook.

Daisy: The recipe is on my blog.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the laptop on the kitchen counter.

Readers, with the exception of the reality show, this post is entirely true. Cookies can be a good snack, I looked up the recipe on a previous post of Compost Happens, and La Petite really did text me the conversation above. She was mixing work with pleasure by photographing the county fair for the local paper and spending time there with her adorable toddler cousin and family.  

40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

Women’s Rights aren’t Tied to the Uterus.

It may have been Rosanne who said it first as she declared herself a Domestic Goddess and complained that her significant other couldn’t find anything without her help. “Like the uterus is a finding device?!” she would complain.

These days I’m hearing the womb brought up in health care discussions – again – and in protests. It goes far beyond the abortion conflict, the chatter around women’s health coverage. Birth control, prenatal care, childbirth, postnatal care, menopause, breast cancer, ovarian cancer – must I continue? I think I’ve listed enough to make my point. Women need certain health services that don’t directly benefit men. Directly, I said.

For every man who claims he’ll never need prenatal care, I’d like to remind him that his mother most likely did. Would he see his sisters, wife, daughters denied the medical checkups and procedures they need? Maybe I shouldn’t ask. Some of those speaking loudly might willingly deprive any females of what she needs medically.

And then we have the protesters shouting “Keep your hands off my uterus!” or “You don’t have one, you don’t get to choose!” And there’s the kicker.

You see, I no longer have a uterus. I had mine removed three years ago in a very much needed hysterectomy – the second most common surgery for women, following Cesarean section. Does the loss of this organ make my voice less valid in the fight for comprehensive health care for women?

Think it through, folks. Let’s not be hasty in the wording of our protest signs and speeches. I may not have a cervix or uterus anymore, but don’t count me out.

40 Bags in 40 Days – Progress?

I’m around day 15 of the 40 Day de-clutter challenge. It’s getting a little tougher now. I started with fairly sizable projects like the Box of Frames. We’re anticipating putting in new windows and replacing siding soon, so one of my daily projects involved clearing the deck. Not much went into the garbage, but some got recycled and some got stored near the garage.

Challenges fit into two categories now. One (1): big clean-up, time consuming and Two (2): small but significant removal of clutter. The old blankets I tossed from the basement fit the second category, and removing them revealed an empty milk crate. Organizing tool extraordinaire – the milk crate! It worked when I was in college, anyway.

Books are a category one project. Every time I update my list on Paperback Swap dot com, I end up mailing out more books or deciding that some just need to go to Half Price Books or a thrift store. All of those are good results.

However, I think Chuck just started a project that will outweigh all the small toss-outs I’ve done. All 40 bags in 40 days, readers. What could that project be? Well, he’s taking pictures as he works. I’ll share when it’s done. Flea Market Flip, Pinterest, eat your hearts out. This one is good.

The People are Speaking, and Speaking Loudly!

The original Executive Order on immigration was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or was it the hole in the dike? I have no idea how the protests started. I only know that citizens knew it was wrong. Americans knew they had to take steps to take care of those who fell victim to the timing of this awful, unconstitutional action.

Folks, it’s like the sixties, but with the addition of social media. When word gets out, it goes out far and it gets out fast. As I watched news from airports all over the country, I was struck by the signs. The homemade signs, quickly conceived and quickly made. They didn’t look uniform and artistic like the signs (and hats) of the Women’s March a week earlier, but they looked fantastic.

No hate; no fear; Immigrants are welcome here. No ban; No wall. 

And it gets better.

Mr. Trump, you’re making Voldemort look compassionate!

Immigrants make America great! 

Deport Trump! 

Grandchild of an Immigrant (but she was white and Catholic, so that’s cool, right?)

Fear ignorance, not Muslims.

My grandfather is from Syria.

And a favorite, seen at several airports: 

Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the retched refuse of your teeming shores;

Send these, the homeless, tempest, tossed to thee;

I lift my lamp upon the golden door! 

Get used to it, Mr. President. You’re doing dumb things. People will resist. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last time the American people will speak out. Face it; the right of the people to peaceably assemble is still there, in the first amendment, and no executive order will knock it down.

Project Postcard

I didn’t attend the women’s marches. I didn’t protest the pipeline. I don’t have my senators and representative on speed dial, either. Email is easy to send – so easy, in fact, that many in the legislative branch have inboxes that are full to overflowing, making email actually unlikely to be read.

Nevertheless, I feel I must persist.

La Petite and I have embarked upon the journey we call Project Postcard. Here’s the list of ingredients.

Awesome, artsy postcards

Postcard stamps and an easily accessible source for buying more

Return address labels, complete with zip code

Address labels for our congressional reps and our senators

All this makes it easy to make a statement quickly and get it in the mail immediately. The flashy postcards make the process fun. The stamps and address labels make it easy. We’re ready, so ready, to take on the legislative branch of that three ring circus in Washington, D.C.

Letters to D.C. offices take a while to get through. Remember anthrax? Yeah, the vetting process for mail is lengthy these days. Postcards should go more quickly, right? Well, just in case that process is also super slow for postcards, we ran address labels for our public servants’ local offices, too. Ron Johnson has an office in Oshkosh, Tammy Baldwin in Green Bay. Mike Gallagher’s local staff work out of a nice place in my lovely downtown. La Petite lives in a quasi-suburb of Milwaukee, so she sends her postcards to quasi-suburb Brookfield.

Here’s an example. Concise, to the point, includes the name of the bill and why it’s a bad idea.

No caption needed. Nope.

Mailing after the fact is important, too. My fair state has senators on opposite sides of the aisle and on opposite sides of many issues, as well.

Unqualified? That’s an understatement.

Senator Tammy Baldwin is up for reelection in 2018, and the conservatives are already taking aim at her seat. I plan to let her know when she’s voting wisely, just like I will let Ron Johnson know when he isn’t.

And so Project Postcard begins. Readers, take note. How are you reaching out to contact your elected lawmakers? Town hall meetings? Phone calls? Or will you join us in Project Postcard?

The Exceptions, Thank Goodness.

I’ve been overheard at school saying, “It feels like I’m continually bringing my horses to water, but they just won’t drink.” I’m reaching out, making calls, sending emails, and I have to admit that most of my efforts are working. I’ve gotten through to parents and students by phone and by email. Several respond well when I invite them to a small group session, and those who attend and participate seem to get the material and improve their work accordingly.

And then there are the exceptions. Those who plagiarize. Those who make things up. Babble on aimlessly. Have no clue, but write a goofy answer.

Here’s an example. The student was supposed to compare and contrast the book she was reading on her own to one of the selections she’d read in class – any of the selections she’d read since January.

the story grabbed my attention because it was a good story and it had good words and good verbs and the story was a good story for kids.

Yeah, you guessed it. She earned 0 points for that answer. Another student tried, at least.

This book has garbed my attention

I’d chalk it up to a typo, but she wrote “garbed” again later in the answer.

Then there was the youngster who wrote an essay about playing soccer and ended it with “Trump: Making soccer great again.” Huh?!?

It’s plagiarism that gets me the most. We use a plagiarism checker to seek out and reveal work that may have been copied from Internet sources. Whether it’s the dreaded Wikipedia or a paper mill that writes and sells essays, Turn It In dot com will find it. In the past three days I’ve had three major incidents of plagiarism. At 53%, 87%, and 92% copied, I couldn’t let any of these go. Had they been borderline, with the only copied material names and places and direct quotes, I could have pointed out the results and reminded the students to give credit where credit was due. But with more than half of an assignment taken directly, word for word, I had to go through plagiarism protocol with each student. I called each one, spoke with the student and the parent learning coach, and then told the students they needed to redo the assignments. And then, to make it official, I recorded the offense in our google sheet for such offenses. Thank goodness, each was a first offense.

I cope with the stress of these incidents by taking breaks from grading. I’ll deal with a difficult situation, and then I’ll take a short walk away from my desk. I’ll pick up any printing, rinse my coffee cups, refill my water bottle, and then head back to my computer. I’ll take a deep breath and then attack the grade book again.

I’ll also remind myself that these kids are the exception, not the norm. Out of 45 essays and 45 Social Studies projects, if only three are copied, I ought to consider it a decent ratio. Maybe. The truth is, I’ll be satisfied when we reach 0% plagiarism. Zero.

As for the others? I wish they’d stick to making their own writing great, much less great again.

40 Bags in 40 Days

Final Jeopardy Category was Religion. The answer read, “Famous Catholics who’ve publicly answered this question include Susan Boyle (sweets) & Paul Ryan (beer).” The question?

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Of course. Now if you’re not Catholic (I’m not), Lent might not be a time of personal sacrifice. In Wisconsin, Lent might be an opportunity to find the best Friday Fish Fries.

Let’s go a different angle on the “giving up” philosophy. I’ve been slowly and steadily de-junking and de-cluttering our home. My process is fairly simple. I keep an old, worn out laundry basket in my closet, and every time I find something to donate to a thrift store, it goes in the basket. When the basket is full, I take inventory and go to a donation site. The basket doesn’t come home, either – it was worn out or breaking apart, anyway.

I saw the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and thought, “Sure, why not? This will speed up the process of what I’m already doing. Maybe my blogger and reader friends would like to join in, too.” So just in case you’re interested, here are the main links.

Here’s the basic explanation.

You can also like or follow her Facebook page.

Rather than throw out or donate a full bag each day, I’m either throwing something away, tossing a stack into the donation basket, or setting aside something for a potential summer garage sale. No matter what, the “something” will be significant. A tiny key ring or scarf will not be enough to qualify. Can the significance be emotional rather than size? Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.

I started today by sorting through a basket of linens I bought at an online estate auction. The napkins I’ll keep. The bandannas from various fundraisers will go in the donation basket. The basket itself will go out in the sale in June. The scarves? I don’t know yet. I might run them through the laundry and then decide if I’ll wear them, sell them, or send them off in the basket.

I’m not ending with a question for you, readers, not this time. I’m asking myself: can I make it? My prediction is yes. After all, I’m still making room for all the canning jars I bought a few months ago.