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.

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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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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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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. 


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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.


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The Awareness Series: let’s move on, already.

From fall of 2012 — I still feel this way. The first in a three- day series, Awareness Encores.

Breast Cancer Awareness is all over the networks – at least it’s all over ESPN, NFL Network, NBC, CBS, and Fox Sports. Guess it yet? The NFL is blowing the horn to the tune of Pink – massive pinkness in the most macho of arenas.

Pink Gatorade towels. Pink shoe covers. Pink wristbands. Pink cleats, chin straps, and ribbon decals. Pink whistles for the (real) referees, for heaven’s sake. And why?

The purpose of all this pink on the turf is supposed to make all NFL football fans think about breast cancer. Be Aware. Know it’s there.

I can’t help it. My inner cynic is screaming “Enough with the pinky dances already!” My inner cynic, for those who don’t know, is very tuned in to breast cancer in the realm of early detection through mammograms. I’m more than aware of radiation studies, chemo, reconstruction – you name it, friends and family in real life have lived it. Yes, Mom, my latest mammogram was once again normal.

Before readers denounce me as a Bah Humbug, my inner cynic must look into its own wardrobe for two (at least two) pink t-shirts designed by an art teacher who was raising money for the Avon Walk in Chicago. I also own a pink polo shirt with the Green Bay Packers logo on it and the famous pink Packers baseball cap pioneered by Deanna Favre. Both of these items sold out quickly, and not just for Deanna. We still liked Brett back then, but we who bought pink knew a significant portion of our purchase money would go toward breast cancer research.

Well, readers, you might recognize my tone already. I have contributed to breast cancer research through purchases of t-shirts, baseball caps, and just simply by donating to sponsor my amazing friends who walked the walks. So why, why would I complain about the wealthy NFL putting its pink on parade to bring attention to breast cancer for Breast Cancer Awareness?

I complain because awareness is the lowest form of knowledge. Awareness means we know it exists. Awareness means, hey, look at that guy, he’s man enough to put on pink wristbands. This pink thing must be important. What does the pink stand for again?

Awareness doesn’t mean understanding, public support, private support, or personal support. The biggest anticlimax is that all that pink doesn’t mean financial support.

I’ll pose a few questions.

The NFL plans to auction off pink gear to raise money. How much will they raise? How much do they hope to sell? What percentage of the proceeds will actually become donations? And to whom will those donations go?

How much did Gatorade spend on those towels? I’d venture a guess that it could have funded many mammograms for women who don’t have medical coverage. Those dollars might have made up for some of the bucks that Susan B. Komen foundation tried to pull from Planned Parenthood – money that funded just that.

How about those pink whistles? Cute, huh? Cute, however, doesn’t pay the bills when a woman is recuperating from reconstructive surgery. Putting the bucks directly into a fund for follow-up care would go much further than the whistle-stop campaign.

The hot pink shoes, wow, they really show up well on TV hoofin’ their way toward the end zone or during a dramatic kickoff or punt return. But again, at what cost? How much good could that money do if it were used for research toward saving lives?

Okay, NFL, you know I’m a fan. I’m a true blue green and gold cheesehead shareholder type. I’ll keep watching games, pink or no pink. The token pink, though, still irritates me.

Let’s see the teams and their officials and their coaching staff wear the regular colors and have the organization instead make a more-than-token donation to breast cancer research. Maybe when public groups like football teams move beyond the pink ribbons and towels we as a society can admit that research and treatment will gain more from a sizable infusion of cash than from muscular young men sporting hot pink shoelaces.

Until then, maybe I’ll stick to listening to my beloved Packers on the radio for the rest of October.

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Read Across America

Malala books are powerful

(as seen on Facebook)

In my life, I’d use a different turn of phrase. I’d most likely substitute tools for weapons. But in Malala’s life, the act of seeking an education was radical and law breaking. She saw books and learning as tools, but also as weapons: weapons to fight the good fight, tools to achieve great things.

The pen is mightier than the sword- and so is the desktop publisher. What remains is the reader. If the reader is taught to think and analyze, to seek understanding, then the book itself can be powerful.


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Academic Vocabulary – the Language of How To

I meant this draft to look into academic language. Most of the post survived, but the title became a more generic focus on  vocabulary and one of my favorite references was deleted. The writer in charge of revisions saw my quote from Colonel Potter in M*A*S*H (Pentagon: four wall and one to spare!) and crossed it out, claiming that no one today knew the show. Despite my reminder that M*A*S*H airs twice each weekday on MeTV, Colonel Potter’s quip didn’t see the light of day. Readers will have to remember Pentagon = five sides all by themselves.

It’s still a good post. You can enjoy it here. 



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And on we go, into 2014

Yesterday I described a few highlights and lowlights to what I’m now calling the Year of Survival, 2013. To follow up, I’ll address the other part of the challenge: What word reflects my intentions for 2014?

Many of my ongoing projects got set aside in the mess that was 2013. The manuscript for the book Educating Amigo is still in limbo, and sending out submission packages became less of a goal than learning to walk well and handle stairs without a cane. The book project is back on a front burner now, and I hope to reach out to a another potential writer/editor for guidance.

I wrote a few short grants at work, none successful. I don’t mind losing the grants; I learn a little every time I do the research involved in any project funding request. Looking ahead, my grant applications will still focus on our goals of increasing family involvement and improving reading skills. I might reach out to more grantors who have the same mission, rather than more general resources.

In a post on my employer’s national blog, I suggested setting goals in the form of a 3-2-1 summary. 3 good habits to keep in place; 2 bad habits to break or leave behind; and finally, 1 positive change. Let’s see how that looks in my own life.

3 good habits:

  1. Put my health first. Reach out to health professionals as necessary.
  2. Eat local, cook from scratch, and preserve (can and freeze) to keep the family’s menu healthy and delicious. 
  3. Rest. Make sleep a priority.  

2 bad habits to leave behind:

  1. Stop putting my health at risk by putting off routine care – this is a dangerous route to follow.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff; keep the big priorities on top of the to-do list. 

And in conclusion, 1 positive change to put into place:

Get my home office in shape and use it – for book work, possibly for summer school, and also for privacy, peace, and quiet.

Back to the first question: What word reflects my intentions for 2014?

Reach. Reach out to those who can help keep me healthy and keep my brain and body functioning properly; reach for resources that can help with grants for my work and help with the publishing process; reach for the sky, but keep at least one foot on the ground for balance.

Readers, how about you?

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Act 10 Craziness continues

Remember Wisconsin Act 10? It started as a budget “repair” bill, and when our governor’s followers couldn’t pull together a quorum, they changed the bill enough to pass it — oh, I’m sorry, I can’t summarize this quickly. It’s the law commonly known as the Union Buster. It’s featured along with a few other political topics on my Voter’s Voice page. That’s Voter, as in singular, as in me. One voter’s voice. Recently, a different sort of vote surfaced, one that requires voters, plural, to raise their voices.

According to Good Ole Act Ten, public sector unions like the one to which I belong must vote to recertify their associations in order to bargain what little they still can. Our local met last night to vote on whether or not to pursue the recertification process. Why not? Well, the whole process is still tied up in court and may be unnecessary if the related part of the law is found to be unconstitutional. Get it? Uh-huh. I hear you.

Meanwhile, all potential eligible possible members must be part of the recertification. To keep on as a bargaining entity, my local needs to get 51% of all the actual members AND the call-me-maybes. We set goals last night at our meeting; each member present at the meeting was to recruit and be personally responsible for three votes in addition to our own. If that happens, we will successfully get at least the 51% that we need.

The phone call vote is not easy, though. The Powers That Be designed the automated call process to make callers jump through a few hoops. If a caller hangs up one hoop shy of completion, the vote gets recorded as NO.

The Powers That Be underestimated us. Seriously, most definitely underestimated us. We are teachers! Giving complete directions is what we do! The leaders of our local made up a handout with two sides: One with written directions for the verbal linguistic word-person types, and one with a flow chart for the more visual learners.

Wait! I forgot a detail about the automated voting system. Anyone who doesn’t call at all is recorded as a NO. That’s right, folks, no vote at all counts as a vote towards the Governor’s union busters. All potential members who fail to call are counted in the negative column just as though they had thumbed their collective noses at collective bargaining.

Well, readers, I recruited two on my own and checked on a third potential voter. I do plan to quietly chat with a couple of my nonmember colleagues and ask them to do the democratic thing and be counted. Yes or no, pro or con, our nonmembers need to make their preferences known.

When it’s over, maybe I’ll jump back into the future and ask Grandma Daisy to reminisce a little. I’ll get back to you, folks.

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