#Walkup? Not Walkout?

It’s complicated. Remember when I said that? I thought I explained it. The simple solutions have not and will not solve a complex problem.

Should teachers and parents teach students to be nice to people, not to bully or harass others? Yes, yes, and yes.

Should adults, teens, and children reach out to make friends? Yes, yes, and absolutely.

Should a student who is socially awkward, disliked, and perhaps emotionally disabled suddenly find himself surrounded by “friends”? No, no, and no.

Kids, whether children or teens, know true interactions from false. They know when someone’s being sincere and when someone is just condescending. They recognize the patronizing metaphorical pat on the head. They can sense when a teacher pushes kids to approach them, pretending the interaction is spontaneous.

Kids, and most adults, too, for that matter, have a built-in BS detector. “Sit by that kid at lunch and he won’t become the next school shooter.” Um, no. No. Not effective.

I saw a social skills activity taking place at a middle school that actually made sense. Each student received 17 sticky notes – one for each death at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On each sticky note, they were instructed to write something positive. A compliment, perhaps, or a kind word. They were assigned to place the sticky notes on the lockers of seventeen different students in the building.

On the positive side: Not a locker was untouched. Every single student received at least one positive affirmation sticky note. I presume the lockers were labeled, and students knew where to find their friends’ and acquaintances’ lockers.

On the negative side: These were anonymous affirmations. The recipients didn’t know who wrote them, why they wrote them, or if they really meant what they said.

And there’s the rub. Writing 17 sticky notes is symbolic and can be part of the healing process. But if the intention is to prevent someone from becoming violent, to reach out and touch someone before it’s too late, this activity won’t do it. If the sticky note affirmations are for the writers, then yes, it’s an effective social skills lesson. If the aim is to build up the angry loner, well, sorry folks, this kind of act is meaningless.

Damn, I wish I were wrong.

Kitchen Planning, sequel.

Have I mentioned that we’re remodeling the kitchen at the O.K. Chorale? It’s all consuming, and we haven’t even started demo. We’re still planning. Details, details, details!

Chuck and I made a trip to Lowe’s – again. We have wandered the aisles in search of wisdom in cabinet design, color (paint or stain?), handles and knobs, under-cabinet lighting, and more. I didn’t know that so many decisions were involved.

Add to the sheer number of decisions the fact that Chuck and I work opposite shifts. We communicate a lot by text message and email, but any true conversation and discussion have to happen on a weekend. This is dragging out the process longer and longer.

We’re close, though. We’re close to calling the designer and telling her, “We’re ready! Here are the details! Let’s make an order!” And then the real work begins.

Due to the age of our house (built 1890), every single element has to be custom. We’ll place the order, and then we’ll wait for the cabinets to be built. Meanwhile, we have a long to-do list to prepare for this project.

  • Empty the cupboards, upper and lower
  • Store the contents of the cupboards somewhere – anywhere.
  • Set up a temporary “kitchen” in another room.
  • Set up coffeemaker in another room.
  • Invest in disposable dishes OR make a plan for washing dishes without a sink.
  • Empty the refrigerator and freezer to prepare for moving this appliance.
  • Make room for computer desk and bookshelf currently in dining room
  • Find temporary storage for dining room table and chairs
  • Cancel cleaning service until project is done
  • Remind selves that we will enjoy the new kitchen for many years before selling even comes on the radar, at which time the lovely kitchen will be a major advantage.

Meanwhile, life as we know it continues.

Violence is Here, too

When Sandy Hook School was attacked, 20 children slaughtered, 6 staff members murdered along with them, I wanted to huddle inside my own house. My little bubble was okay, no matter how awful the scene was in Newtown, Connecticut.

That fragile circle around my world didn’t stay whole, though. My bubble, the bubble that includes my students, was breached.

A man shot and killed three on a walking trail near my town in May of 2015 – just three years ago. A fourth person was wounded, but made it to safety. The shooter turned the gun on himself, and he died on the way to the hospital.

The next day, I learned that the 10 year old girl killed on the trail was a close friend of one of my students. Ten years old! With a close friend lost to gun violence! My bubble, like theirs, exploded.

About a year later, in a small Wisconsin town, a young man approached the high school prom and shot two students as they exited the dance. The two prom-goers survived; the shooter was shot by a police liaison officer and died on the scene.

Days later, I spent time listening to one of my students and her mother, both of whom knew the shooter well. The girl schooled online through my school, so she wasn’t in classes with the young people involved, but it’s a small town. Everyone knew him, everyone knew his mother. By extension, as a teacher, I was part of their bubble.

It’s the concentric circle theory, like dropping a pebble in water, but it’s a gunshot, not a pebble, spreading its impact. I hate the idea that someday it will be commonplace, not unique, to have a bubble burst by a shooting. I haven’t experienced a shooting, thank God, but I’ve been close enough to people who have.

Unfortunately, I feel all too far away from those who could make change and stop mass shootings from becoming everyday, all too common events. Those in Congress, in the Senate, and in the White House need to pass meaningful legislation, and pass it now.

Remember When – This Shooting Happened

When Sandy Hook School was attacked, 20 children slaughtered, 6 staff members murdered along with them, I wanted to stay home. I wanted to hold onto my own children, even though they were no longer children.

I had promised to attend a piano recital, though. One of my students was playing, and I didn’t want to let her down. What to do?

I took a deep breath and went to the recital, and I’m glad I did. By leaving the house, I could tell myself that life was normal and all was well – even if it wasn’t, might never be all well in the world. My little bubble was okay, no matter how awful the scene was in Newtown, Connecticut.

My colleague was substitute teaching in a first grade class that day. She will forever remember looking into those children’s faces and realizing that those who died were just like them.

We teachers view school shootings like that. It could have been my school. Those children were just like my students. The teachers did everything right, followed all the safety procedures. And still, they died. They died violently, in a tragedy that made no sense.

My message today is this: The Sandy Hook tragedy made no sense then, and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School’s tragedy makes no sense now. The inaction of our elected officials made no sense then, and makes no sense now.

In conclusion? There will be no conclusion until Congress takes action and bans weapons and ammunition that have only one purpose: to kill.

Gardening in Winter

I ordered seeds. I brought a bucket of potting soil in the house. Next: start the tomatoes and peppers. Oh, the herbs, too. I kind of let those dry out and die from neglect.

Tomatoes, and perhaps the peppers, too, will grow in containers this year. I have a few already. Then when we discovered a new-to-us store full of collectibles and vintage goodies, I found three more pots big enough for tomatoes. Yay!

Last year was a rough year for tomatoes. I bought a lot of tomatoes and peppers from the farmers markets. The cause might have been weather, cold temperatures at all the wrong times, lack of rain when we needed it, too much rain when we didn’t, you know the drill. Tomatoes, however, can drain the soil of its nutrients. I wondered if I’d planted tomatoes and peppers just one summer too many, and the soil just had nothing to give. My solution is this: tomatoes in containers for a year. They’ll have fresher soil in the pots, and the garden soil can replenish itself with the help of organic material (compost! Yeah!) and some interim “crops” like beans and peas.

It’s still winter, though. March came in like a confused animal, neither lion nor lamb, so I have no idea how the rest of the time from now until spring might unfold. New England is getting hit with another nor’easter, as the Weather Channel says. Closer to home, Minnesota might see a major snowstorm soon. Here? Who knows?

In Audrey Hepburn’s words, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Planning that garden and starting seeds in winter – now that’s faith.

Remember when – before school safety drills?

Almost twenty years ago, it was. I taught in our neighborhood school, a relatively small building with a student population of, oh, maybe 300, max. In a tornado drill, we could fit the entire student body in the maintenance engineer’s basement storage room. In a fire drill, we could exit the building quickly and get back inside before the lessons were forgotten.

Then one day the fire alarm went off – in the rain, and during the lunch period. No one knew who pulled it or if something had malfunctioned. There was chaos at first as kids tried to figure out which exit was closest. Then there were moans and groans of “It’s raining! Hard! I’m getting soaked!” Principal and police liaison swept the school as quickly as they could and sent us all back inside.

And then the alarm went off again. This time, teachers grabbed their umbrellas and cell phones. We checked in with each other, brought the kids around to the same side of the building, and actually took shelter in a neighbor’s (thankfully large) garage. And then, someone started to whisper.

“Someone could have shot us all. Like in Arkansas, right?” “Or in Colorado. That place with the kids in trench coats.” Jonesboro, Arkansas: March, 1998. Littleton, Colorado: April, 1999. Suddenly the cold spring rain didn’t matter quite as much. All of us, teachers and students, were cold and wet and scared – but no one was shooting. It was okay, sorta kinda okay.

Today, many years later, schools often drill during the lunch period “just in case.” Many schools have an alternate location set up in case of rain or bitter cold. All of these are good signs, signs of progress in keep our students safe.

Today, many years later, we drill to keep kids away from a potential active shooter. We did lock down drills for years. Now we conduct ALICE drills – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.  No matter what the name, schools practice getting students out of the way when someone comes into a school with a weapon. No matter what the safety procedure, children and adults still get killed.

And this, my friends, is not good. Not good at all.

More Postcards I Didn’t Send

Dear Mr. Vice President;

Your behavior during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was tacky, unsportsmanlike, and just plain wrong. By standing only for your own country, not even acknowledging the Korean hosts of the game, you showed the America First attitude at its worst.

Cheering for the Masses,


Dear Mr. President;

When you support abusive men, women are listening. We’re listening, and we vote.


Dear Mr. Speaker;

You responded to 17 deaths in another school shooting by telling us that “This is not the time to jump to some conclusion.” No one is jumping anywhere unless they’re jumping out of range or running for their lives.

From the Island of Conclusions (jumped there, of course),


Four Years Ago

I was disappointed in NBC’s Olympic coverage. I couldn’t find anything Olympics-related on Sunday morning – not even a compilation of the previous night’s action. Korea is halfway around the world, I thought, they could have some live events.

Four years ago, I watched the Sochi games all day long. I mean that I watched morning, afternoons, evenings – all Olympics, any time I wanted to see it. I was home, resting on the couch, recovering from major surgery (hysterectomy). It was fun having something interesting to watch; I’ve never really gotten into the daytime soaps.

Four years ago, I slowly recovered my strength and also my vision. The left retina had come loose. I’d had emergency surgery to reattach it in December. The hysterectomy and all it entailed was the second surgery within as many months. Learning about ice dancing and snowboarding was a nice distraction from all the crazy punishment my body had taken.

My boss had hired a sub for me, which was a relief. In my online teaching world, we don’t hire substitute teachers for day to day illnesses or short term events. A six week post-surgical leave of absence was a different story. I had a sub, which was a relief – at first. My substitute didn’t quite get the concept of building a rapport with the families, and they were not quiet about it. Our principal had enough complaints that she fired the sub two weeks early. I was tempted to go back early, but I didn’t. It took some will power to stay home and take care of myself.

Four years ago, I had no idea that I had yet another procedure ahead of me – a carotid catheter exam, followed by the insertion of a stent in my right interior carotid artery. That time, I didn’t have any Olympic games to distract me. A little baseball, maybe, because this happened in late April. Or was it early May? I just remember feeling overwhelmed with so many major health scares.

Fast forward four years to the current Olympic games in Korea. I’m healthy enough (knock on wood) to be at work full time, so I guess it doesn’t matter if there is daytime coverage or not. Go U.S.A! U.S.A!

Encore – the 2014 Winter Olympics, Daisy Style

Actual post from four years ago –

Actual conversation:

Daisy(musing): I don’t remember ever seeing so many crashes in ski events during any other Winter Olympics.

Daisy (to self): Then again, I haven’t really watched as much of any previous Winter Olympics.

It’s true. This year, I was home on medical leave, recovering from major surgery. I was resting on the couch, coffee cup by my side, laptop nearby and television on for most of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Amigo and I had a lot of fun watching and listening and discussing various events by day, and Chuck and I enjoyed evening shows.

Some Daisy style observations:

Snowboarders are fearless and amazing people. Add freestyle skiers to that definition, too. Shaun White, despite not medaling, was a classy guy who celebrated his opponents’ successes.

Figure skating judging will forever be questioned because of the combination of skill and style. Let’s not begrudge anyone the gold, even if she has home crowd advantage.

I enjoyed the Today Show each morning, too. They managed to interview all the recent medal winners and media darlings and have fun doing it, too. With the time difference, I would watch the day closing in the mountains above Sochi while I watched the sun come up here in Wisconsin. It was a pleasant way to start my day while recovering and healing from a major surgery.

I did have a few favorites. I liked seeing the back stories from the athletes, even those back stories presented through commercials. There was a short feature on figure skating costumes, especially the women’s costumes. Those little bitty pieces of fabric are expensive!

A friend on Facebook mulled over a question that seems to have no answer. How is it that USA bobsleds are designed by BMW, but figure skates look the same as the pair you would buy at Goodwill or Play it Again Sports? Input, anyone? Speed skating has gone through a few skate changes, but what about figure skating?

My favorite interview and my favorite moment remains Ice Dancing. Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Midwestern young people from Michigan, skating together since they were young, brought home the gold medal. Suddenly, ice dancing is a Big Thing in the U.S. And then, during the interview, it came out that Charlie also plays violin. He’d casually promised the Today Show that if they won gold, he would play for them. I’m sure he never dreamed he’d be pushed to follow through, but when they presented him with a borrowed violin, he did.

Gold medal performance, it wasn’t, but his moment in the spotlight still spoke volumes for the arts, for music, and for well-rounded young athletes.

photo from Classical Lite dot com

photo from Classical Lite dot com

So there you have it, folks, Daisy’s summary of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I won’t talk about hockey (USA lost to Canada), or that Polar Vortex that’s coming from Canada to add insult to injury. If only they’d keep Justin Bieber, too.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Actual conversation at the O.K. Chorale:

Amigo: Yea! It’s Fight Night tonight, starting at 7:00!

Daisy: You can watch it upstairs while I watch the Building Off Grid marathon.

Chuck: What?!? Waaaaa! I wanted to watch Star Trek!

Daisy: no words, just frowned. 

Chuck: It’s the new series, and I recorded it!

Daisy: again no words

Chuck: Oh, okay, I’ll watch it later.

Amigo: On my way upstairs! grabs iPhone and Bluetooth headphones and heads upstairs to drag a bean bag chair into our room and watch Fight Night, televised from Brazil.