Encore – Knowing My Limits, Again

How is it that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  This post aired in April of 2014. Obama was president, and Hillary Clinton was aiming to run in 2016. You all know the end of that story.

By 2014, I’d recovered from a stroke, had a retina reattached, uterus removed, stent placed in a major artery, and aneurysm detected in another major artery. I like to think I was wise enough not to ask the fates, “What else can go wrong?” 

Fast forward to 2018. A few days ago I was diagnosed with (another!) urinary tract infection. The following morning, I was in the ER as the infection had spread into my kidneys. I’m now resting, feeling nervous about getting behind at work, and taking strong, strong antibiotics. 

Four years ago, I set these goals. Today, I reaffirm those goals. I want to turn Wisconsin blue in the fall elections, but I won’t be any good to anyone if I’m too sick to help.

To maintain my physical and mental health, I will NOT:

  • sign online petitions. It’s too easy, and therefore often meaningless to those in power.
  • forward emails that call themselves Memes. It’s a chain letter, people, don’t kid yourselves.

To further maintain my physical and mental health, I WILL:

  • learn about the candidates and become an informed voter
  • vote and encourage my family members to vote, too
  • remind friends and coworkers to vote (even on FB)
  • donate small amounts of money to candidates I support
  • for good vibrations, wear my Team Obama t-shirt from fall 2012
  • blog!
  • keep calm, and garden on. It’s cheaper than therapy, and in the end I’ll have tomatoes.

 

Elections and Money – My Money

I’m hesitant this year. I’m no longer a card-carrying Democrat, although I play one on my blog. I just got tired of the endless phone calls and the never-ending emails, all asking for money.

I didn’t renew Emily’s List, despite my affinity for their philosophies. I was tired of the endless phone calls, the never-ending emails, and (are you with me here?) the snail mails. Emily’s List still uses the occasional flyer with enclosed envelope. In the hopes of making donations easy for the old-fashioned folks, no doubt, they still use the USPS now and then.

I haven’t donated to my favorite Senator, Tammy Baldwin, either – and I know a small donation would go a long way. The Koch Brothers and the other uber-conservative fund raisers have her in their sights – sites? Anyway, she’s a high priority target. She needs money. I haven’t donated – yet.

The State Superintendent of Schools is running for governor. I hope he wins the primary, because he could put education back on track to reverse some of the cursed backwardness that Walker has implemented.

There is one race, however. It’s a local/state race for state senator. The candidate was chair of the local Democratic party. She is a single mom of two who works for the Girl Scout council. And now, all of a sudden, I’m considering putting money behind a candidate. She could be part of the Blue Wave that I’d love to see cover my fair state.

Before I reach for my wallet, however, I need to decide exactly how far I will go. How many phone calls will I answer, and what kinds of emails I will open. And then, and only then, can I put my money where my vote is.

 

Don’t give me a gun.

This is the only Glock I want in my school.

Glockenspiel, a.k.a. Bells

We watched the #MarchForOurLives walk through the downtown of my fair city. I didn’t have my camera ready, so I’ll have to improvise. Great signs included:

Teachers need to be paid, not armed

Books, not bullets

My right to bear children who will not be shot! 

Guns have more rights than my uterus does! 

We also saw two ACLU observers with bright vests and walkie talkies. I wondered if they anticipated trouble? One was near the middle of the crowd, the other closer to the end.

Many, many drivers waved and honked. We weren’t the only watchers, either; there were many like us who came to cheer and clap and support those who participated. I was proud to see such a turnout for a progressive cause in my small, conservative city.

#NeverAgain  #MarchforourLives

 

Who Are The Next School Shooters?

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.

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. 

Teaching Peace – The Elevator Pitch

Teach Peace

Mine is purple, a hooded sweatshirt, and also has a small peace sign below the words. It’s a soft and warm sweatshirt, perfect for a below-zero bitter cold day.

And so it was that I was seated in the alcove next to our pharmacy awaiting at long last my annual influenza vaccine, alongside an elderly gentleman apparently awaiting the same. He asked me about the message displayed on my comfortable hoodie.

“Tea? Peach? What does that say?”

“Teach Peace.”

“Oh.” short pause “What does it mean?”

“It means teach people to get along with one another.” Phew, that was quick thinking. 

“And so, um, what do you do?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, so I answered the question I hoped he’d asked. 

“I teach middle school, so there are many opportunities to teach young people how to work together and be kind to each other.”

And before he could ask another question, the pharmacist arrived with her syringe and my paperwork. She slipped the needle into my upper arm with only the slightest of pokes – she knew what she was doing! – and away I went.

I came away with a feeling of relief that I’d finally been able to get the shot in the arm I needed to help me stay healthy. I’ll keep on washing my hands and taking other precautions to prevent these nasty viruses from entering my body. This visit was also a reminder that if I plan to wear my philosophies on my chest, I need to be ready to explain those philosophies. Wearing my “Teach Peace” sweatshirt today kept me physically warm and mentally sharp.

When school starts, I’ll be sure to follow through teaching kindness and peaceful behavior.

I’m Back Online!

Did you miss me? No, don’t answer that. I was offline for a (much too long) time while my laptop was repaired. When I got the laptop back, I couldn’t log into my dashboard or cPanel or AMP. After trying numerous combinations of usernames and passwords, even though I was darn sure I knew what it “should” be, I gave in and sought help from the hosting provider. The Helpdesk type person was very patient and, well, helpful. He went through a number of possibilities, verified my identify multiple times (for which I’m grateful), and within 20 minutes had me back on my dashboard.

Then the screen dimmed as if operating on battery, and I realized the rabbit had nibbled through the laptop cord while I was focused on troubleshooting the blogs. At this point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I laughed. There may have been tears, but hey, I laughed. 

First world problems, indeed. When I went to the computer store to buy a new cord, I had a chance to tell the folks there about the problems I’d had. Bookmarks were fine, usernames and passwords not so much. Clerk/techie nodded thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, I did get into the dashboard for A Mother’s Garden of Verses early this morning. I posted an encore, one that unfortunately is very relevant today.

Read and enjoy. It’s good to be back online.

Education: valuable or dangerous?

I went to the post office one day to mail a book. The clerk was one who knew me as a regular, often mailing my Paperback Swap books on to another reader. As he went through the standard script and asked, “Does the package contain anything potentially hazardous?” I replied flippantly, “No, independent thought is still legal.”

He laughed, thank goodness. I can just see the post service suddenly searching my mail because of my slightly sarcastic sense of humor. Oops.

There have been a few changes since that day.

  • This guy, one of my favorite clerks, has since retired.
  • There’s a new majority on Capital Hill.
  • A recent poll indicates that the new majority, the Republican side, doesn’t value education in general. Worse: the Republican caucus thinks higher education is a waste of time and even bad for the U.S. (See the Pew Study results here)

Independent thought may still be legal, but learning and thinking are less and less valuable to our government. In fact, the impression I get is that the current folks in charge want to keep the populace ignorant, malleable, and easy to control.

This is scary, people. Very scary. Dare I suggest – keep reading, keep learning, and keep connecting with your legislators. Remind them that they work for all of us, not just those who voted them into office. Call, email, send postcards, attend town hall meetings. If you dare, participate in rallies and protests.

Independent thought is still legal. Let’s keep it that way.

 

Rating Signs at the Earth Day Rally

Listen to the Scientists.

Climate Change is Real!

Make America Think Again!

Science and Education are crucial to a Sustainable Future!

Think Global; Act Local (I prefer “Think Globally, Act Locally, personally)

Alternative Energy, not Alternative Facts

With that last one, I must persist in my role as English Language Arts teacher as much as my role as progressive activist. Positive statements are much stronger than negative. If you, the sign maker, need the word NOT in big letters, go back and rephrase it. For example, “Climate Change is Real!” is much stronger than this slogan.

NOT is not a good word for a protest sign.

The phrase “Liberal Conspiracy” is more likely to stick in someone’s mind than the idea that “Science is Real.” The sign to the right has a major problem, too: no one can read it. The letters are much too thin and faint, and they fade completely in the bright sunlight.

This sign is a good example of what NOT to do. Too pale, and features NOT prominently instead of a slogan.

Clever. Could backfire, though, if those watching the march don’t get it and instead feel insulted.

Picture is from a different rally, but I saw tee-shirts announcing this philosophy.

As for message, this one gets right to the point.

I’m with her, indeed.

 

Encore – Almost – for Autism Awareness

It’s April, again. Autism Awareness Month. What are the numbers now? A few years ago, autism occurrences were estimated at 1 in 88. That’s looking almost common, rather than unusual.

Well, folks, it’s time we start 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. Parents can take it to the next level by explaining to the others in the car pool why it’s so important to be supportive of others, neurotypical or autistic or with no label at all.

These days, with a dangerously unqualified Secretary of Education and a potential Supreme Court justice who has ruled against students with disabilities multiple times, awareness can go to…well, anyway, awareness is nowhere near enough. During this year’s Autism Awareness month, make a vow to move beyond awareness into the category of understanding – or better.