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,

Daisy

Dear Mr. President;

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

Daisy

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),

Daisy

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.

The Postcards I didn’t send – yet

I’m still sending postcards to my elected officials. I write them in cursive in the hopes that it’ll make the office interns have to work to read them. I did tell a certain office-holder that eliminating Net Neutrality would cut down the number of followers to his Twitter feed. But other than that, I’ve restrained myself rather well. Here are a few messages that have gone through my head, but not through the mail.

Dear Senator Johnson;

A secret society in the FBI? What’s next, a conspiracy theory about the moon landing? A committee to find Communists? One Red Scare was enough, thank you very much. We Wisconsinites are not proud that McCarthyism started with one of our own.

Sincerely,

No Red Rose, just Daisy

Dear Congressman Gallagher;

Your letters are long, wordy, and low on substance. Many times your responses seem to carry the intention of educating your constituents. Unfortunately, your man-‘splaining essays do more to insult the intelligence of your well educated voters.

Daisy (with a Graduate Degree, I might add)

Dear Senator Baldwin;

Keep fighting the good fight. You have many supporters here in our fair state.

Daisy, campaign volunteer

Dear Speaker Ryan;

You’re good with numbers. However, you keep forgetting that each number on your spreadsheet represents a real person. A person with rent or a mortgage, a person with bills to pay, a person who pays taxes. A person, if she has the proper ID, who votes.

A voter paying attention,

Daisy

Dear Mr. President;

Have you read the story “Kaddo’s Wall”? My students, unprompted, said that Kaddo reminded them of you. Oh, what am I thinking? You’re not a reader.

Teacher (and lifelong learner),

Daisy

Signs that a Remodeling Project is Imminent

It’s the kitchen. I can tell that the project is becoming real to me because —

I’m paging through online auctions, and instead of thinking “I could bid on that” I’m saying, “Oh, my. I already have too many of (fill in the blank).”

We walk past a clearance table at Lowe’s after browsing their flooring and cupboard options, notice a toaster oven, and say, “That would really be handy while we’re without a real kitchen. Note: Later on, I ordered that toaster oven online and picked it up in store. It was 1/2 off and had good reviews. 

I’ve been setting aside extra miscellaneous items for a garage sale when the whole project is over.

Chuck actually pays attention to the DIY breaks on DIY and HGTV. Sometimes he sees something that we can apply to our project!

Readers, family & friends, this is bound to get crazier before it gets calmer. I’ll keep you informed.

Random Thoughts on the Government Shutdown

Influenza has reached epidemic levels in 49 states. The Center for Disease Control is shut down. So is the National Institute of Health.

An author I know was scheduled to be at the Smithsonian for a book signing and presentation. She’s in Washington, but she’s not signing or presenting. Her agent is looking for an alternate location.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson is still babbling on about Hillary’s email server. Dear Senator; there are more pressing matters at the moment.

What’s happening with DACA, and are the immigrant Dreamers safe from deportation for now?

The Senate has reached a deal! And now they keep on talking, but not saying a thing. Cue the trombone with the waa-waa mute, a la Charlie Brown’s teacher in Peanuts.