Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I tell people I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I always do. This year's resolutions include the typically annual "I want to lose weight" resolution. Yeah, yeah. But this year I actually have resolutions that may be achievable. (Don't even begin to explain to me how my losing weight resolution is reachable)

1. Write. Write letters, write my blog, write.

2. Be creative. Just make cards, sketch, doodle and no worries about quality.

3. Pay attention. I slipped on ice in my driveway early in Dec. and later in Dec. missed a bottom step. It is time to be more in the moment and slow down (not slowing down so I am laying on the couch more often than I am now)and pay attention to what I am doing.

  4. Make a list of chores, cross them off as accomplished, and complete the list. That's it. And it's enough.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Invisible Children

”A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

In 2011 many in the world discovered the truth in Ms. Mead’s oft restated quote. For the first time since the 1960’s U.S. citizens discovered the power of their voices. Protests at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Occupy Wall Street movement set forth a new course of political awareness and banished apathy from the political landscape. Last year the world watched as citizens in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya rallied and significantly altered the leadership in their countries; Syria continues its bloody struggle.

Each town, state, and country faces economic, social, political issues that beg for change. Change that can be had when people share a vision, collaborate, voice their demands, raise funds, and relentlessly work for their beliefs. These people no longer say, “I’m too busy.” They no longer expect others to carry the burden of a movement. These people understand that being an activist is a positive and that activism takes many forms: making phone calls, going door to door, entering data, writing letters, raising/contributing money, participating/leading protests, promoting discussions on social networks. Most people in my social circle are involved in the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Activism is a new experience for most of them and it is gratifying to see this interest in working toward a change.

However, there is a young woman with whom I am acquainted who is working on a different cause at a different level. It isn’t a local cause and it isn’t one that is well known. It is a cause that involves a murderous African leader, innocent children, and a seemingly apathetic world. Now, many say that we in the U.S. have enough severe problems and should just worry about ourselves. Why would any of us want to dedicate our time and resources to people in other countries when we need solutions to our own issues?

That isolationist viewpoint has validity. We do face serious challenges in the U.S. and we do need to focus our time and energy to fix those. But I believe we live in a global community, and if we do not work to solve the ills of others we will never totally fix our own because we are so internationally connected. I am not talking about military involvement as we have seen how ineffective that has been. I am not talking about donating money. I am talking about awareness and involvement.

Jaime Landsverk is a 20-something Minnesotan who is currently working at an internship for Invisible Children at the main offices in San Diego, California. She is working to raise awareness about the horrors of the Joseph Kony led LRA (Lord’s Revolutionary Army) in Africa and to bring about his arrest. In brief, Kony kidnaps children and forces them into sexual slavery, into murdering their families and random others, and mutilating people for no other reason than to maintain his power. Jamie spent a month in Kenya last year working with children of Nairobi and volunteered in Haiti in 2010 so she is no stranger to acting on her beliefs.

My purpose in writing this blog is to raise awareness of the evil of Joseph Kony and the horrors inflicted on over 30,000 children. They are not American children, but they are children who suffer in a way no person, let alone children, should suffer. After continued contacts from members of Invisible Children the United States government is finally putting pressure on Kony. The ICC (International Criminal Court) lists him as the #1 war criminal for crimes committed against humanity and war crimes against the civilian populations including murder, rape, and abductions. Without continued attention, pressure, contacts from Invisible Children it is possible Kony will fade from concern and be allowed to continue his butchery.

Please watch the video. It is 27 minutes long, but I ask that you make the time to watch it. While I have known about the Invisible Children and have previously contributed money to the organization, since watching the video I am motivated to do more. Writing this blog is the first step. I ordered the bracelet so when people see it and ask about it I can share the story. I plan on writing to my political representatives to help keep the issue alive so Kony can be brought to justice and children in Africa can live unafraid of his brutality.

After viewing the video your awareness will be raised. That is a beginning.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Objection Overruled

This piece describes what teachers do. Please understand that teaching is not a job but a lifestyle. Teachers live their jobs and their students are never far from their minds. I will never understand why teachers are not respected and valued. Teachers spend more time with children than their parents, wipe their tears, boost their wilting self esteem, cheer them on, advise them, push them, discipline them, help them make wise choices. We fall asleep worrying about them and wake up knowing we can help them.

Does it matter what teachers make? No teacher went into education for the money but when a football player makes more throwing or catching a ball than a 1st grade teacher who teaches a child to read, priorities are out of whack. Even worse, that football player gets more respect than people who have taught populations to read, analyze, compute, question, calculate and other skills so necessary for a productive, independent life.

In "Objection Overruled" someone disses teachers because they don't make much money. More often teachers are criticized because they make too much money. But the point of the article, to me, details why teachers are, at the very least, worth their paychecks.

Objection Overruled by Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers: Those who can, do; those who can't teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you're a teacher, Taylor," he says. "Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that (asked me to be honest) because, you see, I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking; if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face. How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups. No, you may not ask a question. Why won't I let you get a drink of water? Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home; I hope I haven't called at a bad time. I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today. Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?" And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder, I make them question, I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write, write, write. And then I make them read. I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful over and over and over again until they will never misspell either of those words again. I make them show all their work in math. And hide it on their final drafts in English. I make them understand that if you got this (brains) then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true. I make a goddamn difference. What about you?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Twenty-five years ago today my daughter was born. My life changed that day and I don't mean in the typical ways. I learned to pick my battles; I learned to accept her for who she is, not who I thought she should be; I learned that it is often the little moments and not the big events that a child remembers; I learned when to listen and when to keep my mouth shut--basically because I learned to ask if my role in the conversation is to listen or to advise. And I have learned that an adult child is, oh, so much fun!

We did not always get along. Mothers and daughters don't seem to do well living under the same roof. But, she went to college, matured, and I feel closer to her than I ever have. She has many qualities I wish I possessed. At 25 years old she has a self confidence it took me 40-some years to gain. She embraces her individualism and is pursuing her passion.

My heart hurts with how much I love her. I am, also, immensely proud of the young woman she has become. Happy Birthday, Princess Annabelle. You truly are "my make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pre-Summer Teaser

Sunday morning, sun is shining, 80 degrees, slight breeze, birds chirping, sound of lawn mowers in the neighborhood, children's voices. Feeling content and happy just because of the weather.

Friday, May 21, 2010


D. is a 6th grade LD student whose mood fluctuates hourly. He can begin the day pleasantly and cheerfully but turn moody and work resistant for no apparent reason. His inability to shut his mouth when in the negative mood does not bode well for those of us attempting to work with him nor does it help him in any manner. He also has a mother who does not care about his work ethic.

By 7th hour on Monday he refused to do any work. I knew that in homeroom we were going to the computer lab to let students play computer games. Trying to "motivate" D., I stated that he would be allowed computer time only if he completed his assignment. No change in behavior.

As any parent knows, when carrying out a disciplinary threat, the adult suffers the consequences of the threat as much as the child. Banish a computer, cell phone, or TV and the parent endures a pouty, bored, snotty child. Teaching is no different. During computer lab time, D. continued to refuse to work, and I continued to strongly encourage him to change his mind. It would have been easier on both of us to just let him go on a computer. Since that didn't happen, neither of us left that lab happy with the other.

After the bell rang, and as drove home, I felt irritated at both D. and myself. Was it really worth the effort to try to get him to work when he clearly wasn't going to do it? Was I more involved in a power struggle rather than academic encouragement? Was it really my job as paraprofessional, rather than as the teacher, to consistently cajole (nag, threaten, bibe, harass) him into working? Or should I have washed my hands of him and let him sit unproductively? I concluded that the next day I would wash my hands of him and let him be.

Tuesday, 1st hour, D. cheerfully greets me and announces he is going to be better and willing to work. This will make it an easier day for both of us, so I am happy with this declaration. What I would love to know is whether D. woke up that morning and randomly decided to be positive or if my hassling him the previous day made an impact.

This is one of the basic educational unknowns....what actions taken by the teacher/parapro positively impact students. If I had ignored his unmotivated behavior would he have come to school Tuesday in that good mood or would he have continued bucking school work? I wish I knew......

(One old adage President Bush and Senator Kennedy forgot when promoting the "No Child Left Behind" bill is "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." We can provide educational experiences for children, but they must want an education and their parents must want it for them. Circumstances are vastly different for school children today than when we baby boomers were in school. Anyone not familiar with school children today may not understand the difficulty in educating students for no other reason than parental support is not behind the schools.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Funny Bone

A lighter side of Mother's Day:

"I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them." Phyllis Diller

"A suburban mother's role is to children obstretrically once, and by car forever after." Peter De Vries

"A mother is a person who seeing there are only 4 pieces of pie for 5 people, promptly announces she never did care for pie." Tenneva Jordan

"Working mothers are guinea pigs in a scientific experiment to show that sleep is not necessary to human life." Author unknown

"Mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young." Author unknown

"There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it." Chinese proverb

While humorous, there is also truth to these quips. But as every mother knows, survival in the toughest job in the world depends on a fabulous sense of humor! Here's to all the mother's in the world who laugh at themselves and parenting.