Feeding Our Neighbors

Please visit my friend Kelly Wickham, known on the blogosphere as Mocha Momma, known to me as Simply Amazing. She speaks the truth as she talks about hunger and poverty, food “insecurity” and responsibility.

Look here for her speech, transcribed into a post for all to read.

Meanwhile, keep donating to your local food bank, and get on our lawmakers to set their priorities in order. You know what I mean.

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The To-Do List never goes away.

Subtitled: One thing leads to another.

So far:

  • Labeled and put away jam from last night’s canning session
  • Discovered I’m nearly out of 1/2 pint jars
  • Started a shopping list for a trip to Fleet Farm
  • Had breakfast (cereal with blueberries) and made sure Amigo ate, too.
  • Put more blueberries in the refrigerator (from 10 lb. box we bought Sunday)
  • Reheated coffee from yesterday
  • Realized coffeemaker could use cleaning
  • Threw swim towels over shower curtain rod
  • Knocked down shower curtain rod
  • Replaced shower curtain rod AND swim towels
  • took Internet break and realized the rug in the den need vacuuming

Now the world was looking a little more complicated. It was time to multi-task.

  • Started the coffeemaker with water-vinegar mix, and then vacuumed the den.
  • Brought frozen blueberries downstairs to the freezer, and then laid out more blueberries for freezing.
  • Sampled a few blueberries; quality control is part of my job.
  • Used vinegar water from coffeemaker to attack a slow drain in the bathroom. Success!

And so on, and so on, and so on.


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I’ll take Composting for 1000, Alex.

Imagine the scene. Daisy, the compostermom, guardian of all things family, school, garden, and coffee, passes the Jeopardy test and gets on the show. A leap of faith, maybe. I do very well in the privacy of my own den, I’ll have you know. 

The first commercial break is over, and Alex comes over to talk to the contestants.

“Daisy, it says on my card that you feed your family dandelions.”

“Yes, Alex, but only in season.”

Alex turns his patented reaction face toward the camera, which cues the audience to laugh.

“In season, Daisy? When are dandelions in season, and how do you serve them?”

“They’re in season in spring and early summer, and they’re good in salads, pesto, soups, stews, herb mixes…”

And Alex moves on.


It’s true, readers. Dandelion greens are edible and delicious. I had leftover pasta with dandelion pesto for my lunch at work today, and my coworkers were suitably curious. I was eating veggie today purely by accident (I wasn’t enthused about any of our leftover meat), with my pasta + pesto + leftover green beans. It was delicious.

As the dandelions fade away, there ought to be fresh lettuce and spinach in the garden.

Meanwhile, I’ll take Eating in the Wild, Alex, and I’ll make it a true daily double.

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Save the Trees! Not.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I don’t think our dear city council members would like the words my tree would say. Remember the Save the Trees movement? The Lorax reincarnated as my powerful neighbor panicked at the thought of losing the trees closest to the road. The alternative was narrowing the street and “saving” the trees.

People, you know I’m as green as green can be. I know the benefits of trees from both the aesthetic and scientific perspectives. I see my rain barrels as half full, not half empty. I make my own compost, for heaven’s sake! In addition:

  • I recognize that trees have a finite lifespan.
  • I know from my own classes and research that trees close to a street or (gulp) in a median strip live a severely shortened lifetime.
  • I know, and I told the Council, that the road work itself will damage the tree roots beyond repair. “Saving” is all rhetorical here. Hypothetical? Figurative? It’s sure not literal.

Off soapbox now. I’ll share the photo evidence with all who wish to see it. I must warn you; it’s not pretty. Do not let any baby trees see this.

This is what saving looks like?

This is what saving looks like?

a little closer, perhaps

a little closer, perhaps

Completely disconnected from the root system

Completely disconnected from the root syste

Sidewalk replacement starts later this week.

Guess what: that’s not sidewalk art by the neighborhood kids.

Sidewalks get repaired later this week.





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Boston Stays Strong – Honors the Resilient

Boston Strong. It’s the new tagline, but it’s much more than a slogan. Prior to the Red Sox – Royals game, the first at Fenway Park since Monday’s Marathon attack, MLB took time to remember the horrific event and praise those who contributed and helped.

The best part of the ceremony was – the whole thing. Those honored were marathon staff, those who were suddenly pressed into service at a level of first aid they’d never imagined. The FBI and supporting intelligence sources, who used both high tech and old-fashioned teamwork to catch those responsible. Police forces in and near Watertown, Massachusetts, who showed their dedication to protecting their citizens.

The announcer then listed the hospitals by name to recognize their contributions the day of the explosions and the high level of ongoing medical care as the severely injured continue to recover.

Fred Rogers used to remind the nation to “Look for the helpers.” Mr. Rogers would have looked toward those honored with throwing the first ceremonial pitch since the attack. He would have respected Steve Byrne, who shielded his friend’s sisters from the first blast and then was thrown over a fence and wounded by the second. Mr. Rogers would have appreciated firefighter Matt Patterson’s rescue of a young boy. Those at the game also recognized doctor/spectators along the race route, civilians who became heroes, and volunteers who lifted and pulled away a fence to speed access to the wounded. The list goes on, showing the strength and courage of those nearby.

“Boston Strong” indeed. I’ll go a step further and call the natives and visitors to the entire area resilient. They are survivors. They’ve been to hell and back, and with each other’s support, they’ll make it all the way back to everyday life.


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Bulleted Lists

Ah, the bulleted lists. So useful, so common, so easy to skim and scan. Monday’s lists were reminders of Friday’s. No matter how we try, the losses add up to more than a list.

The lists in my inbox were anything but simple.

From the CEO: general guidelines to consider while talking with students, including:

  •  Address the issue rather than pretend nothing happened.
  • Normalize the day as much as possible.
  • Explain why the flag is being flown at half-staff.
  • There will be many “teachable moments”.
  • If it comes up, it may be useful to review our lock down and code-red procedures.

Lock down and code red? We thought of nothing else. In our virtual school, we work from cubicles and contact our students by phone and computer. We talked among ourselves about procedure and theory, how to cope, how to hide, how to get the phone call out to 911. Nothing official, no staff meeting, but our principal understood our need to talk.

Speaking of which, the principal sent out a memo to families that included its own bulleted list.

  • Try and keep routines as normal as possible.
  • Limit exposure to television and the news.
  • Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
  • Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
  • Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.

Some people do bad things, but most of the world is a good and safe place. That’s a tough sell for many of today’s kids – and adults. The last line, however, is important.

Let’s move on to the last list of the email day: a memo from the director of special education. His list was the shortest, but perhaps the most valuable of the three. He reminded us that the shooter was rumored – rumored – to have Asperger’s. If the young man was on the autism spectrum, or if he wasn’t, he was only one person. Keep these truths in mind.

  • Asperger’s is a developmental disability that does not cause people to think or act violently.
  • People with disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crimes than those without disabilities.
  • People with disabilities are more likely to be victims of crime than those without disabilities.
  • The shooting in Newtown was the act of one individual and should not reflect on any group of people, disabled or otherwise. (emphasis mine)
So that’s all, folks. Let’s now keep the bullets in their lists and far away from our children.


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Voters and Packers and Bears – oh, my!

When do Green Bay Packers fans line up for hours to see a fan of their arch-enemy, the Chicago Bears?

When that Bears fan is President Obama, that’s when.

There were some scattered rain showers, and the temperatures were cooler by the lake, but nothing stopped this crowd from seeing the President, hearing the President, and cheering him on.

Tammy Baldwin opened for him – now she can say she was an opening act at Summerfest! – and helped energize the crowd. Not that the crowd needed much encouragement; there was a hum and a buzz as the fans, er, voters waited for the headline event.


Add a few cheeseheads hats, and the scene could resemble a game at Lambeau Field.


“We are not Bears fans first or Packers fans first; we are Americans first.”

I’ll add to the playbook. The election is coming up quickly. Before we know it, it’ll be voting day. There’s no overtime in elections. Let’s consider summer to be training camp, and September the preseason. Now it’s the real thing, and the final score will be, well, final. Are you in?

November 6th is coming all too soon.

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Mitt, Mitt, Mitt.

Dear Mitt;

May I call you Mitt? After all, you’re not really earning my respect these days. The first name will have to do.

Microphones off or on, Mitt, you must think about what you say. Or maybe, just maybe, you really did think about that statement. That’s what scares me. It was, after all, full of your favorite terms. It had a number – a percent, no less! It described a segment of the population that you see as beneath you, which showed clearly in your choice of words. Let’s see.

-dependent on government 

Mitt, I work in the public sector. Does that make me dependent on government? My children attended public schools, and my daughter attended a state university. If that makes us dependent on government, then I guess we fit the profile. By the way, your perception of middle income? Way, way high. We ordinary public school teachers don’t even dream of reaching your estimate of $250,000.

-think they are victims

No, Mitt, I’m not a victim. I’ve been through a lot in the recent past, including a long (unpaid) medical leave from my job (see above). I’m a disabled adult and I wear two hearing aids, but I’m not a victim, Mitt. I’m a survivor. .

-entitled to health care

Health care, Mitt, is a right, not a privilege. Here’s where we differ. No one should have to wait seven months to see a specialist. No one should have to turn down a necessary prescription because it’s a Tier 3 and the co-pay is too high. No one should have to turn down medicine in order to buy food. Which brings me to —

-entitled to food

What exactly are you saying? That people should starve? Have you ever watched a child wolf down his school-funded breakfast on Monday morning because he hasn’t eaten all weekend? No, I didn’t think so. Or – maybe you did mean that hunger doesn’t exist, much less actually matter. (Uh, Mitt? That “Let them eat cake” quote wasn’t really Marie, but she lost her head over it. America still has peasants who have no bread, make no doubt about it.)

-entitled to housing

Once again – are you saying that a home is optional? Home doesn’t have to be fancy. An apartment, a room in a shelter, space in a relative’s basement – housing takes many forms, as does homelessness. Mitt, I’ve seen it firsthand. Have you? Frankly, having a roof over one’s head is not optional.

My job is not to worry about those people.”

Really? If you don’t worry about them, who will? We public school teachers (you know, the ones that Scottie-in-Madison calls Thugs) worry about our students. We worry about their families, and we worry about the village that raises them. It’s a village where we worry about each other, and then we take action. If you’re not worrying, I’m sure you’ll take no actions that might make a difference to anyone on your list. A list, by the way, that includes nearly half of the voters in the United States.

No wonder those voters stick with Barack Obama. It’s not because we’re entitled, but because President Obama has earned our respect. And that, Mitt, makes him entitled to another four years in office.

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Trouble in the Windy City

Trouble. We’ve got trouble with a capital T and that stands for Teachers.

With apologies to the Music Man, Rahm Emanuel might be singing this tune. Mr. Mayor has a problem. Chicago teachers said “We’ve had enough!” and walked out on strike. 26,000 teachers. Countless students. Parents scrambling for child care. Police officers on duty to monitor picket lines and wayward students.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the issues except one: the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. Regular readers know how I feel about that item. In fact, I’m going to hold my test-fail examples for another post to really do them justice.

The part of this story that hurts the most, the statement that cuts right to the heart, is Rahm’s statement that “…our kids do not deserve this.” If he intended to spark a guilt trip, it almost worked. This was a low, low blow.

Teachers in Chicago and elsewhere have put children first again and again and again. Have you heard of teachers buying classroom supplies with their own money? Teachers coming in early and staying late? Bringing work home? Grading tests on weekends? Attending meetings without pay? Walking a child to their waiting parents so the hallway bullies won’t act? Making sure their students get fed, even if it means buying snacks out of their own wallets? Teachers want the best for children.Teachers want to do the best job they can because (guess what) the students deserve a good education. 

For teachers to walk off the job, to stop teaching, means a lot more than a contract dispute. It means that these teachers have lost their trust in the system, a system that is supposed to support them as they educate tomorrow’s workforce.

Rahm, er, Mr. Emanuel, needs to cut the guilt trip. The teachers in Chicago have worked harder and harder, achieved more with less, over and over. They are beyond the point of feeling like they’re leaving students in the lurch. Teachers were hung out to dry a long time ago, and their declining working conditions had a direct impact on the students.

Most teachers agree that students do not deserve the effects of a strike. Teachers are not in the profession for the income; they’re in it for the outcome. A strike is a last resort.

Maybe my opening lyric today would be more effective as “Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for Disrespect.” The syllabication is all wrong, but the meaning rings true.

Chicago teachers have the emotional support of millions of educators across the nation. Once in a while drastic measures are necessary. This is one of those times.


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Disabilities in the workforce

I wear two hearing aids. They’re tiny but powerful digital electronic devices that tuck behind my ears and feed sound into my middle ear. This technology makes a huge difference in my life. My hearing loss is an important part of how I face the world: how I work, how I use a phone, how I listen and interact with others. It’s not all of me, but it is part of me.

In 2011, I jumped through a series of hoops to document my disability for my employer. I have a great job, and I’d like to keep it. This emotional obstacle course was tough on me, though. Phone call after phone call, email after email, fax after fax, one office visit after another – all this to keep working in my field. When I finally met with the last doctor on the list, he expressed surprise that I had handled my own accommodations for most of my working life and my education. He was impressed that I knew of a position that would suit my abilities, and even more impressed that I’d already gone ahead and gotten the job. He documented my hearing loss and made his recommendation: that I keep my position teaching virtual school.

I’ve never kept my hearing loss a secret from employers and coworkers. Unfortunately, honesty can be a dangerous policy at times. Discrimination against disabled people still happens, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, there is hope for improvement.

Today’s young adults grew up side by side with their disabled peers. Disabled or not, they’re friends, classmates, and teammates. Coworkers is a natural next step.

The number of disabled veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars calls attention to the issue of employment. These (mostly) young men and women want to pursue rewarding careers and support their families, just like their peers. They are a large and visible group that can’t be easily ignored or put down. These newly disabled join those blind or deaf from birth, those handicapped by illness or accident, and those with unexplained challenges.

Now is the time to be inclusive. Now is the time to look forward and make reasonable accommodation an everyday occurrence.

I fear a Romney-Ryan presidency. Both Romney and Ryan have already voted for laws that minimize women’s rights. They support Voter ID laws that present obstacles for low-income voters and people of color, those who do not have ready access to paperwork or the money to procure the necessary documents. Romney and Ryan would move our country’s philosophies backward, not forward. Romney’s actions and speeches show him to be out of touch with the mainstream, and I consider myself, hearing aids and all, part of the mainstream.

Barack Obama will move us forward. He recognizes that all people are created equal, regardless of gender, race, disability or sexual orientation. He believes in hard work earning rewards, and he supports policies  that will support the middle class. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies cannot refuse to accept me just because my hearing loss is a pre-existing condition. Based on his record, President Obama is the leader who will best support disability rights in the workplace.

Information regarding increasing numbers of disabled veterans from Senator Tom Harkin on Huffington Post. 


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