In December 2012, I called it Unthinkable.

An encore post that is all too timely.

This post changed titles three times already. I’ve drafted two rough starts and deleted both. There’s no making sense of the news from Newtown, CT. In its place, a flashback that hits me every time one of these unbelievable tragedies occurs.

Long ago – well, not really all that long ago. It was eight or nine years ago (now, in 2018, it’s a long time ago). I taught in an elementary school with a go-get-em principal, a woman who will remain at the top of my list for elementary principals forever. She was contacted by the local police department who wanted to train and practice the new recommended procedure to neutralize shooters or other dangerous intruders in a school, mall, or other public place

She said yes, of course. When she asked for teachers to volunteer, I joined up.

Along with most of the city’s liaison officers, several higher-up district administrators, and all the school principals in town, we teachers filed into a high school auditorium to watch an analysis of the Columbine High School tragedy. The officer in charge pointed out the main things that went wrong and then used that to tell us the rationale for the new training.

The method that was new then is now the norm for mass shooting scenes. CBS News interviewed one who helped put the philosophy into practice. “Go toward the shots,” he said repeatedly. “Neutralize the shooter or shooters.” It’s what we practiced, and it’s what they still do.

Sandy Hook Elementary School had staff who knew what to do. The principal’s last act may have been turning on her PA microphone in an attempt to inform the rest of the school that there was danger. Children told of calm teachers who pulled them to safety, hid them in corners and in closets and in cubbies, and evacuated them swiftly to the gathering place, a nearby firehouse.

Press conferences and news releases were, so far, compassionate and respectful. Grieving parents photographed from a distance, parents of surviving children showing support and empathy for those who lost theirs. But – there were no bodies, no blood, no attempts to show or suggest the carnage that remained in the school building the television cameras. For this thoughtfulness, I’m grateful. I hope members of the media continue to respect those touched by this tragedy.

But did this mass murderer show signs beforehand? We hear too many stories after the fact. Red flags, as we call them in education, fly up and grab our attention. Then files are filed and the students drop out or move out of town, out of state, out of range. The medical files remain sealed, and the only public statements come from the distant memories of people on the periphery, not close enough to have intervened.

Our public safety forces know how to get in and stop mass attacks like this. But so far, too few people know how to prevent them.

And that still scares me.

Word for the Year – Action

More than a few years ago, in January of 2009, many bloggers welcomed the new year by choosing a word. The word was to provide a focus, guiding changes and progress throughout the calendar year. That year, I chose Action. 

Scrappy Affirmations (look her up, she’s awesome), asked for suggestions of goal words for her key chains. Without thinking further, I suggested Action. 

Action is a natural for this time. To begin with, it means to continue Project Postcard. I’ll print a new set of return address labels to make this action easy.

Don’t have a word yet? Haven’t thought about it? Take a look – adopt one of these or use them as a starting point to find your own.

This is not in any way a sponsored post. You can see “my” word in her collection, and if you check out her page, you’ll see a lot more. 

Looking Back (2013) and Looking Ahead (2018)

Oh, Facebook. Those “memories” can be good, bad, humorous, and even painful. Five years ago today I posted this:

2013 is not a year for Resolutions, per se. It is a year for goals.
Recover from “stroke” that wasn’t really a stroke: gain enough strength to walk to work again.
Publish our (Chuck’s & my) book.
I said two, but a third: continue to learn and grow as a teacher in the online education world.

Where to start? The “stroke” turned to be a true stroke, visible in a later MRI with updated technology. Finding this led to another procedure that discovered a nearly completely blocked artery – a major one – and placed a stent in it. That stent is still operating well, and the aneurysm on the opposite side of my brain has remained stable. All things considered, life is precious.

Chuck and I set the book aside for a while. It’s time to pull together and get back on it. Now that he is settled into a new job with a lower stress level, he can take a deep breath and put in some time at the computer writing and editing.

Five years later, I am still teaching in the online world. I’ve stretched my learning and taken on leadership roles within my department and working on curriculum with the national (corporate) people as well. The best teachers are lifelong learners; I hope I fall into that category.

2018 will be a year to increase my activity in the political and societal realms. There’s too much negative in the world to sit back and let it happen. My word for the year is “Action” and the corresponding goal is to speak up. Postcards, emails, letters to the editors – every voice counts.

Happy New Year, friends and family. Let’s make it a good one.

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.