The 40 Bags in 40 Days Project Ends

I could have ended the post title with “unsuccessfully”. I did not manage to remove from the house something significant each day of 40. I did, however, manage to pare down quite a bit and learn a few lessons from the project.

Lesson 1: Any project that requires daily participation has the risk of failure. Between teaching, handling Amigo’s schedule, adjusting to Chuck’s new job, and life in general, there will be days that I simply can’t invest the time and energy in a side project.

Lesson 2: Projects are easy at first; they get harder. The Purge the Clutter project, as I nicknamed it, started to get more challenging about 15 days in. That makes sense, too; the easy excess was easy to toss. I had to search and think through later pieces.

Lesson 3: Major pieces in the project took more than one day. The piano, for example. We’re still working on it. Expect updates along the way.

Maybe I didn’t succeed in tossing or donating bags of goods every day. I can’t feel like the project failed, though. I did clean out quite a bit, and I set aside a batch of items for a June garage sale. Eventually, I’ll take to clearing spaces again, but without the Each Day Every Day pressure.

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.

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.

“Add Your Name…Share if You Agree”

No, thank you. I might agree with the topic at hand. I might support the organization or the movement wholeheartedly. I might even be one who donated money to the cause.

But add my name to an online petition? Not any more.

Share a clever picture and slogan (a.k.a. “meme”)? Not if you have to tell me what to do with it.

You see, Facebook folks, it’s like this. Long ago, a petition was a handheld list circulated by a dedicated volunteer with a clipboard. In order to recruit signatures, the volunteer had to talk face to face with potential signature-bearing citizens. When that volunteer handed in the petition and merged those signatures with all the other papers from all the other clipboards, those numbers meant something. Those signatures came from people who had thought about the cause, the pending legislation, or the candidacy of an individual who wanted to run for office. Those signatures meant something.

Today, nomination papers still mean something. I had the privilege of circulating nomination papers for Tom Nelson, our County Executive who is now running for Congress. Everyone I talked to wanted to sign because they knew Tom or knew of Tom and supported him in his quest to represent us in Washington, D.C.

But online petitions are another story. It’s much too easy to add a name to an online petition. Many (and I’m talking thousands, more in many cases) people add their names to online petition and say, “I signed!” without doing any research whatsoever. For example, “I can’t believe they shot the gorilla!” or “Free Stevie the Murderer!” And therein lies the danger. It’s easy to sign a misleading petition. It’s easy to become incensed about an issue without knowing the facts. The number of “signatures” loses meaning as the personal element disappears.

And that, my friends, is why the Powers That Be don’t take online petitions seriously. They recognize these petitions as potential interest-grabbing statements, but Those In Power rarely act on a petition that collects signatures only online. If it’s too easy to achieve a large number of “signatures,” those signatures mean less and less.

Now for the “Share if you Agree” factor. I will continue to share posts I find relevant and/or fun. But if the original poster or sharer considers us readers too stupid to know what to do, then forget it. I rarely share posts that insult me by instructing me, “Share if you Agree.” I’m more likely to do nothing, even if I support the cause.

You may be thinking, “But Daisy! How can I make a difference? How can I be the good in the world?” Here it is, folks.

  • Put your money where your heart is. Make a donation. If you can’t donate money, donate clipboards. Toilet paper. A vacuum cleaner.
  • Volunteer. Walk around with a clipboard. Talk to voters. Attend a training session. Enter data.
  • Call your legislators. Email means less because it’s (again) too easy. Snail mail is, well, slow. Pick up the phone. It’ll help if you know the name and number of the bill that’s pending. Call even if your legislators support the bill in question; they need to be able to say “My constituents want this” and back it up with numbers.

So that’s how it goes, my friends. If you want my support, don’t ask me to share a meme or sign an online petition. I plan to stop by at the local Democrats’ office and offer my computer skills. I’ve also entered my senators’ phone numbers into my cell phone for easy access. I’m ready.

How about you, readers? What’s the best way to get your voice heard?


I often feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes basin where fresh water is plentiful and treating it for human consumption is relatively cheap. I’m more water-conscious than many, with my rain barrels and the way I reuse dishwashing water and cooking water to water my herbs and flowers. I still have moments where I’ll be running the shower to let it warm up and I think how lucky I am to live here. I could save the water in a big bucket and use it well, but I don’t have to. I’m not forced to value every drop.

When I’m hearing about droughts in California or Texas, I’m grateful to live in a climate where rain and snow are the norm. Rain fills my rain barrels in the summer while it nourishes the soil, and snow insulates the perennial plants all winter long before it melts and – you guessed it – soaks the soil and replenishes the water table.

It’s so easy to take water for granted. Turn on the tap, and it’s on. Stick a glass under the faucet; get a drink. Should be an automatic, right?

If you live in Flint, Michigan, wrong.

Flint is in the Great Lakes basin, too. Michigan, like my home state Wisconsin, is smack dab in the middle of this climate of rain and snow. And yet the good people of Flint are facing – have been facing – a water disaster of major proportions. And I think to myself, how could this happen?

To make a long story short, the city of Flint changed their municipal water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to save money. Lacking a crucial chemical treatment, Flint River began corroding pipelines and sending iron deposits, among other minerals, into the homes and schools and businesses of Flint. Along with the discoloration and rust from iron came a silent enemy: lead. Excessive lead in a child’s bloodstream can cause brain damage and nerve damage that will last a lifetime. Flint pediatricians noticed a trend of rising lead levels in their patients. Flint residents noticed poor taste and major discoloration in their tap water. I said I’d make it short: Flint leaders and state officials brushed off concerns. Thousands of Flint residents, including children, have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

Details are all over the web and the national news sources. At this time, the question is less “How could this happen?” and more “How could the Powers That Be ignore a crisis of this magnitude?”

I still feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes region, where water can be plentiful and the climate keeps it so. But I have to wonder: if this happened in Flint, could it happen here?

Sanctuary City of Mine

It’s still a very white city. There’s still racism and discrimination. But there’s a light behind those clouds.

My home town is gaining a reputation as a Sanctuary City. Sanctuary Cities are municipalities that agree to shelter and support immigrants, documented or not.

It’s not formal; no one has made a declaration or introduced policy to the City Council or put up signs downtown. It’s more of a grass roots movement; a movement that starts with everyday people and then hangs on tightly.

I see the sanctuary concept most vividly in the schools. It’s common to see students of southeast Asian ancestry, Latino children, and students with African-American roots playing together on the playground. An all-white classroom is rare – the exception, not the rule. Educators don’t ask for identification or proof of citizenship from parents in order to teach children.

Immigration law, according to our Chief of Police, is a federal issue, not a priority at the local level. In order to gain trust and help all people feel safe, asking for documentation isn’t an everyday occurrence. Our mayor made the point that he hopes city staff will “…treat each person…with dignity and respect.”

It’s still a very white city. Racism and discrimination still happen too often. However, this trend gives me hope. If we can open our doors, we can begin to open minds.

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.

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.


And More Awareness

Today’s political climate is scary in that so many seem to have forgotten the fights that have already been fought. Seeing so many attempts to return women to a marginalized group (I can’t bring myself to say “minority”) reminds me of a story from not-really-so-long ago. The original title was “Being a Woman”. Here it is, courtesy of Grandma Daisy. 

I almost posted a quiz – a list of feminist slogans and quotes along with a list of years, with an opportunity for readers to match the two. Instead, I offer you an chance to reminisce about creativity in the feminist movement. Remember the Barbie Liberation League? In the 1990s….Grandma Daisy does this sort of storytelling best, so here she is.

Oh, children, your world is different, thank goodness. I lived through a fascinating and yet difficult time we called the Women’s Movement, or Women’s Liberation, Women’s Lib for short. We reminded lawmakers and voters that we are people, endowed with basic human rights along with our, ahem, voluptuous figures. To put it bluntly, we didn’t need balls to make good decisions about …. oh, your mother is listening. I can’t say that in front of you young ones., so back to the history behind the story. We had rallies, we held demonstrations. We ran for office ourselves instead of waiting for men to take care of our needs. We worked to pass laws that protected our right to make health care decisions.We built awareness of the importance of birth control and how much that birth control meant for our freedom, our liberation. We fought for equal pay for equal work. Laws passed, medications improved, but attitudes were harder to change. 

Sometimes women got creative to make a point. The Barbie Liberation League was one such example. We females were determined to be good students and make it “cool” to be smart. Math and science were supposedly men’s territory, so girls had some catching up to do. Adult role models like teachers and nurses pushed us young ones to go farther, higher, faster into the world of advanced math and sciences. 

Barbie dolls. You know the doll, right? Of course. They’re at the bottom of your sister’s closet with the rubber ducky and the worn out blankie she won’t throw away. Barbie, the doll with the unrealistic figure (39-21-33 at 6 feet tall were the proportional measurements, if you’re into trivia) was a favorite of many young girls. Girls knew she wasn’t realistic, but some tried too hard to look like her and became anorexic. A doll for a role model? Well, it happens.

When the Talking Teen Barbie came out, she had a limited vocabulary. Unfortunately, the people who programmed and recorded Barbie’s phrases had been in a fog throughout the entire women’s movement. Take a look at these examples.

Will we ever have enough clothes?

I love shopping!

Math class is tough.

Wanna have a pizza party?

In the old toy store aisles, G.I. Joe was a parallel type of doll, er, action figure, on the little boy side. His vocabulary was macho and tough – what they called “all male” back then. 

This is going to be rough. Can you handle it?

I’ve got a tough assignment for you!

Mission accomplished. Good work, men!

The Barbie Liberation League took action. They bought Talking Barbie and Talking G.I. Joe from toy stores, swapped out the voice boxes, and then repackaged the dolls and returned them to the stores. Little boys and little girls got Barbies that said, “Vengeance is mine!” and G.I. Joes that suggested, “Let’s plan our dream wedding.” When Joe proclaimed “Math class is tough”, it sounded ludicrous.

Well, darlings, that was the point. If a man couldn’t say it without sounding idiotic, why should a woman repeat that phrase and internalize that philosophy? Talking Barbie wasn’t pulled off the market, but the feminists and the Barbie Liberation League had made their point. Being female didn’t mean being less intelligent. It still doesn’t. 

Anyway , my grand-precious ones, some day I’ll tell you what we did when the guys at our college claimed that women couldn’t play jazz. Hah! We showed them, all right. Now go practice your trombone, and I’ll tell you that story later. 


The Second in the series: Awareness Encores

This post originally aired about one year ago. Since then, the magic number of prevalence has become 1 in 67, up from 1 in 88.

It’s April, again. Autism Awareness Month. Now that autism numbers are estimated at 1 in 88, shouldn’t we already be aware? Shouldn’t we as a society be moving on?

Moving on beyond awareness means learning about each other, neurotypical or on the autism spectrum. Even under the old numbers of 1 in 166, the estimates indicated so many children and adults with autism that “normal” needed redefinition.

Awareness, people, is not enough. Awareness is a low form of knowledge, and knowledge itself sits down low at the base of the learning pyramid. Awareness means knowing that the student sitting next to your child in class might have autism. Knowledge and understanding come around when that child responds to gestures of friendship, perhaps awkwardly, yet making a step toward joining the social peer group in some way.

Awareness? Awareness means slapping a multi-colored puzzle-design ribbon magnet on the back of the family minivan. Understanding means that when the minivan next to yours at the red light is moving back and forth propelled by the rocking of the teenager in the front seat, you notice but don’t judge. You might offer an understanding smile to the driver if the opportunity comes up. By refraining from negative comments, a parent provides a role model for the rest of the minivan passengers.

The “R” word is also still active, unfortunately. The word Retarded hasn’t been in active use for educational professionals in decades, but it still turns up in verbal put-downs. Awareness means knowing the label Retarded is unacceptable. Knowledge and comprehension would show that anyone with limitations in learning faces enough challenges without getting their diagnosis tossed around as a playground insult.

I wore my “R” Word t-shirt on the appropriate day. That’s my awareness activity. To bring it to a higher level, I vow to stop and comment when I hear the word used: stop and educate those who would otherwise redefine a person in narrow boxes.

Now it’s time to take Autism Awareness to a higher level, too.