The Importance of Big Sisters

My big sister, 13 years my senior, provided little in the way of soft and fuzzy physical enchantments. Certainly, in those many moments of family grief, she probably wished I hadn't been born. My brother became one of our biggest contentions, but as the years following his death slipped away, I could see that she became closer to my way of thinking, especially as it concerned his mental health and substance abuse issues. It's impossible to understand any of us if you know nothing about our brother and our father, men that failed to completely recover from different wars: World War II and Vietnam. None of the men in our family shrank from civic duty, and their legendary courage and military successes were a matter of family pride.

The stressful incidents became routine, first with Dad, and then later with our brother. My sister tried to shield me from the ongoing chaos, but ultimately she left home for a different life. I felt compensated watching her move forward, first with a career in cosmetology that supplemented college, and later as a certified public accountant. Her resilience made me feel inadequate and underachieving. I read everything anyone handed me, and I listened to my brother's long rants about politics and the military industrial complex, his ideas on philosophy and history. While only a dilettante, my brother's insight still caused all of us to become skeptics and critics, especially myself as I studied his state of mind. I knew the war caused him to come back changed. For me, the loss felt horrendous and unacceptable. During that time, we didn't have a name. Now the name is PTSD. My father suffered from PTSD. My brother died after a lifetime of trying to self manage something he had no way to understand, something that no one knew to help him with--PTSD.

Watching my big sister evolve out of the chaos of our home made me a better person. Over time, I took on adult responsibilities and tried to become independent and skilled. My work took me out of Oklahoma and the world opened up for me. Because of my fractured childhood, I managed to learn more out on the road than in a classroom. Finally, after a couple of decades of living life like a vagabond, I felt the urge to return to school. My sister encouraged and supported me, even if my choices were not perfect. Her own achievements were something I could aspire to, her years attending college, the obtainment of a professional license, and the way she managed her life.

The pain we grew up with caused us to feel incredibly sensitive around each other. Spending time together meant facing reality, the reality of our shared trauma and pain, the disappointments we shared, and the inconvenient, and often terrifying, memories. The differing points of view interfered in our ability to communicate effectively, silencing both of us. We disagreed on points about our mother, our brother, and especially our father. When he left the country for the last time, she was twenty and on her way into a better life, and I was only 7 and terrified. This contributed to our differences. I became isolated at home with our mother, an angry person that rightfully felt abandoned and disappointed, a single, older mother struggling financially and emotionally. I can barely remember those years.

My sister recently died. Her death was sudden and inexplicable, a pain unlike any other. Her death was completely preventable. She left behind beautiful grandchildren, a successful son and devoted husband, and most importantly, at least in my mind, she left me at my most vulnerable, when I really needed her. Like two points of star light from opposite sides of the universe finally conjoining after trillions of years in space, my sister's beliefs about my father, brother, and mother aligned with mine. We became friends. We made plans. And now she is in the spirit world.

Big sisters challenge our beliefs, make us better people, and watch over us. We don't need to live in their pockets to feel their presence, to feel their disapproval, or to access their wisdom. My sister was a gift. I will always miss her.


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My sister and me (1962).


An Open Letter to the Neighborhood Bully Squad

Dear Twinkies,

The notion that either of you would ask me why I'm talking to you "like that" far exceeds the absurd. Asking me if "I'm on the board" is equally ridiculous and reveals how duplicitous and phony you are. Anyone that falls for your version of "niceness" is gullible indeed, and your pool-boy-boyfriend is on the short list of people that want anything to do with you. Save your dumb questions for someone like him that's willing to entertain them. You made false and ridiculous allegations about my pet ownership and how I care for my animals. You called out law enforcement and intentionally lied, an act so unforgivable and dangerous, an act akin to swatting, an act that could have ended in a tragedy for me and my son. You lied about me and then collaborated with other people to send me that harassing hate mail. You are the definition of a sorry, nosy neighbor, a couple of Karens on steroids.

Other people, far less honest than myself, treat you with some civility; but the hard truth is undeniable: your chronic complaining about petty, frivolous things has damaged your credibility and caused most people to completely dislike you. An example is that statement that you made about a dog barking off in the distance, but you didn't know where it was. You made it clear that you were trying to find out where this distant dog lived so you could hound its owner. Why would you bother with a dog barking during the day someplace off in the distance? Can you not help yourself? What about that time you set up those cones and tape in the parking lot? I believe this behavior is your pattern and is an outcropping that stems from your meaningless lifestyle. You are bored because you don't do anything but sit around and stew all day. You're lazy. Get a job.

I've read some of your posts about the homeless, and I want to know, why do you believe you are immune? Homelessness is a scourge on society and can happen to anyone, so why are you above the rest of us? I've read your posts about the neighborhood cats. Good grief, can't even the cats do anything to please you? Are the cats not doing their jobs? Why not leave them alone? You worry about the guest parking. You called a man's employer and complained about his work van and caused him serious problems. People suspect that you vandalized a man's truck because he parked it in the guest lot. Even if you did none of these things, it should alarm you that your chronic over-the-top complaining, your weird behavior, your lack of any steady employment, your constant griping, your meaningless existence, has everyone on edge.

Let me be clear. Do not send me any more weird mail or make any more false accusations about me. Stop using your dog to terrorize mine. You know, absolutely, that you encourage your dog's menacing behaviors, this lunging against the fence and growling and barking is an effort to terrorize Travis and make him think he is under attack. You do this intentionally to make him miserable all day.

The recent neighborhood improvements are not connected to any of your behaviors. Your so-called "owner's coalition" is a joke and is the cause of the neighborhood negativity. I have no doubt that you have done this before, and this is why you moved from your old location. You are nothing but bullies. 

If you want to run a townhome community, why not buy yourself an apartment complex? Then you can bully people all day and get sued by people much nicer than myself. But I know this for certain, no matter what you do, you need to leave me completely alone. Leave me alone; leave my dogs alone; stop your childish behavior. If you don't, then I will seek a legal remedy, one that you aren't going to like at all.

You might also consider a change. The Good Book says that if you humble yourself before God, then you will be blessed. Why not try to humble yourself and respect the people that work to improve the lives of other people. Choose what you pay attention to and take power over your actions. I strongly believe that you want no noises except your own noises, and this is the root of the problem, your complete selfishness and isolation. If so, buy some Bose headphones and start wearing them to listen to podcasts or music. You don't have to sit out there and suffer the dogs, the insects, the noisy little crap cars, the sirens, the traffic, the talking, the music, the many sounds of normal life. You can live in your own peaceful little bubble without trying to destroy your neighbors. Don't look out at the guest parking. People are allowed to use those parking spaces, and they will do so no matter what you say or how many vehicles you vandalize. Leave it alone, and live in peace. Vandalizing, calling employers, convincing people to collaborate with your destruction, and spreading gossip, will ultimately be your downfall.

Tell your grimy boyfriend, if he is to insult someone like me, he could avoid mixing his metaphors when attempting a turn of speech,. His contribution to this harassment brings the whole game to a new level. The fact that you involved a man in this, a man that is incapable of logical reasoning and has no mastery over the English language, a man that tripped his own tongue over his own feet, a man that lies about everything, makes you and him look impotent and silly.

All of you are cowards, and that includes the whole group. If you weren't bullies intent on evil, then you would have approached me as a part of the neighborhood and helped me work on a solution. Except that would mean that a real problem would have to exist, and since no real problem exists, you resort to hiding behind what was once anonymity and is now common knowledge. When you use anonymity, then you advertise your cowardice and destroy your credibility. A person that is truly trying to improve lives in the neighborhood comes forward with honesty, evidence, and transparency, even kindness. You have done none of those things. All you have done is try to run a popularity contest while you terrorize Travis and bother me.

You are just bullies.

If Travis wants to go out of his doggy door and bark during the day, he is in his rights to do so. He can go out and take a pee, sniff the dirt, bark a bit, and then go back in. That is his way of living the life of a normal dog. That is the way of every dog in our community, except your dog. Your dog goes out on your command and growls viciously and lunges against the fence knocking down boards. You later go out with a hammer and nail the boards back in. You do this so that you can complain that Travis is barking. But you don't really complain that Travis is barking. You complain that my dogs are barking. Well, Gladys never goes out there unless I request her to do so. You made fake accusations about my animals, claiming they had no food, no water, no indoor access in the summer heat, and that they are out all night. What a liar you are. That has never been true. Even the officers that came out on two separate occasions agreed that this is simply neighborhood bullies looking to create problems. Just think, had you never lied, then things might be different. I might care about your peace and solace...but not now. No one cares, especially not law enforcement. You lied to them, and they know it.

Not once, but numerous times.

Your cowardly boyfriend locked his little dog up in his garage for the entire day-Saturday. It was hot outside. Every time I walked by, the poor dog was barking its head off. You crammed two huge Rottweilers into a tiny apartment, and I noticed that you are now down to one. I've never seen you walk a dog except once. You intentionally outfitted the dog in a huge cage muzzle to make it look more vicious. How could that dog enjoy a healthy life with you? What are you thinking? As I said before, your nonsense is not tenable, nor is it reasonable. I will not tolerate any more of this. If you meddle in my life again, I will take you to court. You are not immune. Every bully ultimately pays.

And finally, I would like to point out that several units were burglarized in 2018-2019. These units were burglarized by someone that watched the patterns of people's lives. That means they are either self-employed or unemployed or underemployed. I only know of a few people around like that. It seems to me that you are working pretty hard to get rid of my dogs and complain about dogs in general. You are also angry about my camera that is installed to watch the green space over my fence. My dogs and my cameras are deterrents. So the question begs itself. Why would you do this? And one more thing, the cameras that are installed around my unit, surveil my animals. I don't need to take documentation down. I can see when he goes out there, and it is automatically recorded and stored. I can also hear what is going on. I can see. I can hear. Think about that. Your complaining is like a stench slowly fading away. It comes on strong but becomes less effective with time. It is the same with all of you. Leave people alone.

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Weird and Creepy Neighbors: What to do?

My weird and creepy neighbor saga continues with some other homeowners and renters experiencing stalking like behavior. A nice man with a large and new pickup experienced vandalism when one of the self-described "homeowner coalition" members decided that she didn't like where he was parking and marked up the door panel with a Sharpie. I don't remember the exact message written on the door panel, but the complaint had to do with him not parking in his driveway and taking up a space in the guest parking.

Another young man had his employment threatened because he parked his work truck with the company name on it in the guest parking overnight. Why he needed to use the guest parking is not anyone's business. Clearly, you can access the guest parking when you are cleaning up your garage, have a visitor coming, an emergency, or some other type of temporary issue. They called his employer and complained about this, and so the employer removed his privileges. It's strange that a man across from me can park his spare car everyday in the guest parking, a vehicle that leaks oil and has made a mess everywhere, and he has never been asked to remove it or to pay for an extra spot in the designated area. This just goes to show that the squad picks and chooses their victims for personal reasons and not for any legitimate complaint.

I am sure this is not the only employer that this squad has tried to reach and influence. They do this because they are weak, cowardly, and have never been in control of anything. Bullying neighbors from the safety of their anonymity gives them an adrenaline rush, something they can't get any other way because their cowardice is a barricade to enjoying life; and they don't work; and they don't have enough money to travel and enjoy life. It's truly sad and unprofessional that any supervisor would indulge these type of people and act on their gossip. Supervisors that act on gossip are disgusting, unprofessional, and doomed to fail.

Let me make my suggestion again: get a job, or maybe go volunteer and be useful. Stop looking for neighbors to attack and harass.

Whenever I need to complain about something, I include my full name and the reasoning and rationale. I am not afraid. I do, on occasion, complain about a neighbor, like the guy that let all his wives and girlfriends park behind my garage. Even when my employer sends me a survey with questions, I answer truthfully. I do not lie about anything or sugarcoat any facts. A legitimate complainant will always try to mitigate the situation with kindness and reason before creating a full-blown grievance, and someone truly trying to solve problems will always include their name. If you complain legitimately, and you don't receive the results you want after significant time, then maybe those results are in the works, or maybe they are simply unattainable. The point is that people that hide their identity are cowards. Cowards require constant scrutiny. A coward will always sneak around and steal or vandalize.

One of these squad members hiding behind anonymity worked short-time for an attorney. Now she is an expert on the law, an assertion that is truly irritating to successful attorneys all over the world that have spent years in school learning and working for a degree and a license. She came out on her porch one night yelling at me, "You are gonna get sued for slander!" If she really knew anything about law, she'd know that's a long-shot. Slander suits just don't go anywhere unless you're rich and famous. Maybe she thinks she is rich and famous. Maybe she will at least become famous...

I don't want to digress too much, but writers never have friends. People that think they know a writer, always imagine themselves in the essay, story, play, or poem. They are either angry because they believe they are actively featured in the work, or they are infuriated because they are left out of the work. I want to clear things up and be very specific. If someone maliciously harasses me, calls my employer, uses the United States Postal Service to threaten and intimidate me, or stalks me in any other kind of a way, and I receive proof of this person's identity, they will be prosecuted. And I will sue the pants right off of them, full-blown. And anytime I need to clear the record, I will write and publish my problem so that thousands of people can read it if they want. My writings are a record of what is happening in my life.

My essays are lousy as compared to the artists that I read and adore. But my essays provide details and insight into human behavior and social problems. If you are feeling as if you have the right to harass someone in their own home, in their community, then you are setting yourself up for an extreme disappointment. You could become ... famous ... for all of the wrong reasons. If you are acting creepy and concealing your identity, then you don't have any credibility. If you are sneaking around vandalizing, setting up parking cones, taping fake notices to vehicles, sending weird mail around, gossiping and collaborating with drunks, and not working at a job, then maybe you have a mental problem. Go find some meaningful, fun things to do.

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Isn't it Illegal to Stalk and Harass Through the US Mail?

A weird and creepy fan can come out of anywhere, even your own neighborhood. I really don't know which one of my literary masterpieces that my super fan is referring to in the weird letter below, or why my superfan believes I waste much time thinking of them, or why I am deserving of a certified letter that costs five bucks, but I'm grateful for the clicks. I'm grateful to all of my fans and super fans that don't know how to make a bookmark and just click around all over my site looking for a single post or a single word. That drives up my Google rating.

But chronically accusing me and my dogs of something untrue, harassing us, is not okay. It's injustice 101. It's scary because it's a whole coalition. You can see that on the envelope. Anyone would be intimidated. No wonder I am so upset. I am officially ganged up on by an entire coalition! I'm losing it!

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I wonder if the dogs know they are accused of *insert drumroll*...barking!

Sometimes Travis does go out there to bark. Usually he barks when he's hearing another dog bark, and that dog is barking because another dog is barking over on a different street, and so on and on. He also barks at nosy people that stick their eyeballs into the fence. He barks at screaming babies and junk cars that rumble around, the trash truck, and occasional sirens. He barks when he hears people yelling and talking loud. But he isn't out there at night; he isn't out there in the cold or the heat; he isn't underfed or underloved. No evidence of any of these accusations of him barking exist anywhere--no pictures, no audio, nothing. If they had any audio it would be because they harassed him and made him bark by making noises of their own. He and Gladys are just normal dogs, living a normal life, minding their own business. They are a case study in how humans should be, especially the minding your own business part. Well, Gladys is nosy, but that's okay. The weird thing is that I was home on the days referenced below, except Monday. The author writes that the dog is barking for fifteen minutes, and I'm thinking, so what? It's baloney anyway. I have cameras all over the place, and I know when he is out there. I can see him. I can see him pee on the welcome mat, step in the pee, and jump right back into the house. It irritates me to death. He's a scaredy cat, and Gladys is such a coward she never visits the patio when I'm not home. She uses her pee pad.

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This isn't the only time that I've been harassed via mail, but this time does stand out for its cowardly flavor and pathetic nature. It's really dumb that someone would go into a nearby post office and send off such unpolished and unprofessional, pathetic prose. There must be a law against this kind of behavior. Surely the second letter they threaten to send will trigger the harassment law, or at least the law against bad literature. It's a disgrace to paper to send out something that lousy. Since I am just as much of a pretend lawyer, probably even better than the author of that pathetic letter, I'm going to impress upon Travis that he needs to get out there and do a bunch more barking. The more barking, the better. That way the author of the creepy I-Wish-I-Wasn't-So-Bored stalker letter could get some kind of rehab, and me and Travis could go to Austin to watch some bands.

I guess I felt pretty distressed when I first read all of this. Like any good English composition person, I started annotating it and making comments, running it through the copier, and downloading the documents into an Adobe file. But most importantly, and this really matters, I want the authors to know that the word is sot, not sod. Example: You are a drunken sot. When critiquing my writing the least they can do is get it right. And they remark in the letter below that "I left them no choice." People that know me can already testify that in most situations that are ridiculous and stupid, I am not interested in providing anyone with a choice. That's such a weird thing to write, almost like a little passive-aggressive threat. A threat cliché

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And seriously, it is incredibly sad and disturbing that adults can act like this when all they have to do is mind their own business. All they have to do is use their minds and their work for something good to benefit society, and not bother anyone. When they make a fake call to complain about me, when they fixate on something they think someone wrote, when they try to harm an animal at its own home, they are taking time away from something more important. They are choosing to exist in chaos and not thrive in peace. It's all in the Karma.

 


Thoughts on Last Night's State of the Union Address

Last night I watched President Biden's persuasive address to the nation, and it's clear to me that the Republican Party came out of the night looking foolish and out of touch. If people are sick of inflation, then look to corporate greed for a solution. Obviously, Biden is in a power struggle of sorts with big pharma and big corporations. If they can point to his policies as problematic, they can later line up to Trump's trough and slurp up lavish tax cuts at the expense of the working class and middle America. Big oil and other polluters like them will once again be allowed to operate without those pesky regulations that strive to protect ordinary citizens. They will once again start disregarding the rights of minority and immigrant communities. 

What Trump and the Republicans aim to do is unethical, immoral, and anti-democratic. Republican Party personalities always lie to their constituents and claim that interfering in the personal lives of citizens is not their goal, but one only need to look at the mess after the overturning of Roe v Wade to uncover the false narratives around their ridiculous claims. 

Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert, and disgraced US Representative George Santos clearly represent the level of low intelligence and obnoxious personality types that populate the Republican Party. Their refusal to send aid to Ukraine, while people die and a democratic European country is destroyed by Russian aggression, is only one example of poor judgement laced with hate and bigotry. 

Hate is an indulgence, and members of the Republican Party are morally irresponsible and unable to do what is right for our country and for the world. The fixation on hate and isolationism destroyed their sense of duty and justice. 

And last night's "kitchen rebuttal" looked and sounded completely ridiculous. Katie Britt snarled out a hateful, fear-mongering, rebuke that lacked any evidence, but capitalized on her hateful nature. As a woman, I felt embarrassed by her look and her sound. Every Republican bends over for Trump, a man that steals, lies, and sexually assaults women. Trump, the con-man, will destroy American progress.

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Bad Writing in Modern English

I teach my students George Orwell's classic essay Politics and the English Language because he attacks lousy, pretentious prose with comedic indirect satire that is largely dead in modern writing. The writing of today typically dips into sarcasm, an easy below the belt tactic that contributes to the death of civil discourse in professional life. No manager or supervisor should confuse poorly toned writing for professionalism or leadership. Typing out a poorly constructed directive in all caps and sending it out to team members at an inopportune time illuminates nothing in the workplace except the sender's lack of expertise. Poorly timed, poorly toned messages disappoint dedicated people and destroy emerging relationships.

One year during the pandemic on Thanksgiving day, I sat across an old friend in a dilapidated easy chair, and while watching television, the email on my phone dinged. A smart person might have ignored the dinging, but it was Thanksgiving day. I assumed an emergency happened at my work, maybe to a fellow colleague. Instead, this message asked me to verify someone's classroom attendance. This kind of thing can't be fixed during a holiday break. It is the sort of message that scheduled for a Monday morning delivery, might have been more digestible. All writers and professionals should know that the timing of your message is almost as important as the tone and content.

I love the way Orwell addresses the issue with tacked on phraseology. Right now I have a 'hen house' phrase that I am sick and tired of hearing: "That being said."

Anywhere you go, in any setting, you will hear or read some pretentious attempt at professionalism, but the aforementioned phrase above reduces whatever the writer or speaker is trying to say into a pile of meaningless rubble. Orwell, if he were here beside me today, would likely wish he was back in India working as a cop again rather than listen to the lousy prose present in 21st century mass media. He lists out "operator, or verbal false limbs" in his characteristic indirect satirical style without mercy or embellishment. Phrases such as, with respect to, the fact that, in the interests of, with respect to, and so on, exemplify what he means by "tacked on phrases" that convey nothing to an audience.

Many times my students try to write with pretentious diction. Sometimes the results are funny and charming, but overall this kind of writing will not assist the student in any academic or business venture. And people posing as professionals ought to write clearly and with empathy, timing messages with care, rather than trying to dictate to others as if they exist on a royal pedestal when, clearly, in today's society, anyone is replaceable.

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Writing on the Super Note A5X

I made a major mistake last year when I bought the Super Note A6X because the screen is not quite big enough for serious writing and thinking. Last month I chanced upon an opportunity to buy the A5X open box, which meant that I could somewhat afford to invest again. Now I am unsure of what to do with my A6X, but I might give it to my son to write his music on and make drawings of his projects. 

Now that I have the A5X, I am totally in love with the way it works. It is the size of a piece of paper without margins...it's wonderful. I downloaded my teacher planning portfolio onto it, and I also geared it up with a bullet journal, which I am using to record personal plans and activities. I created another folder to write in for random thoughts and content ideas. The teacher planning kit and the bullet journal are both Etsy purchases from a guy named Brendan, and I couldn't be happier. I had a download issue, and Brendan responded within the hour with the solution even though the problem was not related to his product. Now I don't know what to do with the tons of notebooks and planners that I have at home that now seem so juvenile and wasteful, but I don't want to throw them away because they are full of writing ideas, especially from all of those boring meetings and useless trainings that I've had to endure over the years. While other people are trying to get me to work in an uncomfortable and awkward situation, my thoughts wander off in compelling ways, often forking over into banality and sometimes forking over into comedy. You just can't put a value on observations like that--they are priceless. 

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If you feel serious about writing and you want the freedom to create content on a luxury device that is more intriguing than a paper notebook, splurge on the A5X. If you feel as if you want to write occasionally, and you aren't super serious about your output, just do the A6X Super Note. It will fit in a bag or in the palm of your hand like a greeting card. You will love both of them for different reasons. You will especially love the feel of the device, the way it writes. And it does come loaded down with an array of templates that you can use to create wonderful pages and documents. 

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The Sin of Low Expectations: Is it a trap?

Okay, I know it's true, I am thorny. I am thorny by design and not by choice. I am thorny because of my experience and what I know. I am justifiably thorny. Open your eyes to the potential in front of you, and then ask yourself if you are committing the greatest sin of all, the sin of low expectations. What if someone wants you to accept low expectations, low expectations for job satisfaction and unity, student achievement, parental involvement, equity, and social justice? I heard someone remark one day that, "Our kids are not there. These are not the kids we have. These kids cannot do this." I thought it was the most idiotic statement because an individual can only have limited knowledge of student learning styles and potential in a broad way, and students present with an unlimited variety of possibilities. We can never know how far they can go. 

I sometimes become frustrated with the superficiality of what I see and what I hear. The mundane and hollow, pretentious and predictable, sad blasphemy committed against my subject by people that barely understand its complexity or purpose; I believe this is proof of some type of sabotage. This blasphemy spills from the minds and mouths of people that are in powerful positions. How can we be so deluded? We can never know all of this. What are we thinking? Why are we here? Why do I tolerate this lie, this blasphemy?

My subject is a key that opens the door to power and democracy, equality and justice. Without the key, people suffer. Even if you possess an extraordinary key, one that is gifted and complex in design and purpose, it still might fail to render the best outcome. The key I offer my students is never guaranteed, but it certainly remains their best option for solving difficult personal and social problems. This key opens a gate to the pathway of knowledge, so how can its value be measured by people that claim it as a part of them, but then prove by their actions and words that it is something foreign and unfamiliar instead? This key, when used for good, opens the door to true power.

I'm tired of the charade. I am becoming convinced that the opposition's failure to attack with an effective offensive assault resulted in subterfuge and duplicity instead. Certain powerful individuals look only at abstractions and spreadsheets, when instead they should look inside the organization, into the head of the fish. But what would I know? Maybe I know because I recognize the sheer absurdity of what is happening. I see through the haze of mendacity straight into the eyes of the aggressor. I'm swatting flies.

Many nights and days are devoted to my key. I hold it in my palm like a precious jewel. I share my key with the people that need to unlock the gate to knowledge. I tell them to write to learn. They do it. 

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My Long and Weird Relationship with Greek Salad

Members of my family used to give me ride alongs in their big trucks down to the Houston Ship Channel to dump massive loads of grain for export. A skinny and long-legged preteen, my biggest joy was to wake up with the seagulls and step out into the gravel-like oyster covered parking lot and go into the cool air conditioned ambience of this one particular Greek restaurant on Clinton Drive. I never knew what entree to order, but I'd always start with the salad, fresh and cheesy, cold, vinegar based, with tons of olives and cucumber.

I remember eating my salad with some kind of fish, and I'd drink glasses of iced tea, and then force whatever family member it happened to be to splurge on coffee and Greek pastries. The place is long gone; the building stands empty; but the decor will live forever in my memory. Painted statues of Greek goddesses, topless, with scenes of the Mediterranean behind them guided you through a maze of columns covered in ivy to the main dining hall where rows of tables dressed in white linen and Greek inspired flower arrangements provided luxury in a neighborhood of trucks, ships, longshoremen, and an assortment of other working people, both good and bad. I continued to visit this restaurant into my adulthood, when in the late 80s it suddenly closed.

After I moved to Saskatchewan in the 90s, I found another wonderful Greek restaurant. It was inside of a mall, and what it lacked in decor it made up for with cheesy and hot delicious food, fabulous intricate desserts, and, of course, the staple of my life--Greek salad. The people that owned this place catered a dinner for me, and if I wanted to meet someone in that end of town, I would always ask to meet in my special place knowing I could always count on a table and be treated to a first class experience.

Now, everywhere on every corner, a Greek restaurant awaits. I could choose from at least half a dozen within a few miles of my Houston home, but I often attend the same one, a chain store offering both Greek and Turkish cuisine that in some ways perfectly overlap in flavor and texture. I am okay with their kabobs and pistachio covered desserts, the array of hot vegetables and the pita bread. But, for various reasons, the Greek salad comes out limp, without a fresh and crunchy texture, so I have to eat that in another place down the road. Now that I am an old lady and completely deserving of something special, I can't have my salad with my fish. But I'm not complaining. I am happy with my memories of my Greek places. I love them.

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Working on National Board Certification: Lost and Adrift

This year I am going to try and complete two National Board components. Last year I successfully sat for the Component One exam and that provided evidence of accomplished teaching. Component Two is designed to prove that I fairly provide differentiation for all of my students. My worry is that somehow my featured activity/lesson/artifacts will fall short of the requirements. I'm not sure if National Board envisions a large project activity or some small specific skill, whether it can be an outcropping of some paper through a writing conference, or if it must entail a specific standard and strategy. I'm skipping over Component Three and moving ahead to Component Four, which my coach encouraged me to do. But now that I've watched some YouTube videos on this subject, I am wondering if she actually misguided me. The problem is that I have only 2 more years to get these done, and they are only approved yearly in December. 

In my program, I am lacking an English coach. They did assign me one, but she failed to stay with the program. My official coach is a middle school math teacher, someone that truly doesn't seem to understand the kind of advanced English classes that I teach. My work products are possibly a bit foreign to her. She already downgraded one of my practice submissions which is a final exam paper followed up with feedback and then a student written reflection with specific prompts. Most of my classes are dual credit anyway, and this kind of lesson might have seemed extreme to someone that doesn't teach much writing.

Even worse, I am receiving no support at all from my campus or my district. Other teachers around my area receive extra planning time, financial compensation, and assigned cohorts in order to achieve this difficult certification. My district refuses to even accept the micro credentials that I complete for Board certification practice, even though the rigor is extremely high, possibly higher than anything else a teacher can do other than the actual Board Components. 

I'm not confident that I will achieve a National Board Certificate because of the time frame and my lack of support, but I'm going to try anyway even though it has been thousands of dollars out of my own pocket. I am learning to become a better teacher by engaging with this process even if my participation is only superficial because of my challenges. 

As a young twenty-something living in Oklahoma, I abandoned any dreams of ever becoming a teacher. The low pay and the location interfered with my idyllic imagining of a bright and wealthy future. I wanted to make "as much money as the men." I often felt insecure and homeless, a possible feeling of negativity left over from a difficult childhood. Later, after I partially completed my first degree, I started to imagine myself as a teacher again. But I ended up returning to my previous work because money was tight, and I had my little boy to worry about. 

Finally, I managed to navigate myself back into education. Now I am happy with my choices. Even so, I am always critical of myself, so I am possibly feeling unworthy of National Board Certification, and maybe that is why I feel so lost in the process and need additional support and encouragement.

I know I can do this; I know I can learn from this experience; I know my students will benefit; I know I have to try.

01Rose


Happy New Year Everyone! God Help Us :)

Today I went out to the Ulta store on my pre 2023 makeup run, and I am sad to report that I got pushed aside like an irrelevant old lady. It's true, I am getting kind of old, and I have been sick with some kind of stuff that might as well have been Covid for all the misery it's causing me; my hair looks kind of dry and I am palish and not so well and perky. But that is no reason to treat me like a weak shopper. 

I bought what I wanted, what I could find, and I headed out to Target. The Target looked like a platoon of looters had stormed through. Literally nothing  remained intact. An older man (yes, there are people living that are older than me) helped me manage my purchase at the automatic self-checkout. Normally I wait in line, and I don't care how long, because I want to support workers and their jobs. But this time I didn't care after the brush off at Ulta. 

I came home to the dogs after listening to the sadness in the voice of my son's ex-girlfriend during a phone call. Bummed out, I vacuumed the floor and made some guacamole. I then proceeded to write a student evaluation that is due, for some bizarre reason, on Monday. In other words, it isn't much of a party around here, not this year. 

But these are all White America problems. If I lived in Ukraine, I'd probably really have something to complain about. I'd be ducking Putin's stupidity and callous disregard for life. I'd be hungry and cold, and I would probably be struggling to keep my pets alive. I might be homeless, or hiding in a shelter. But here in the United States, I am currently under no threat of a missile hitting my neighborhood. The only missiles around here cost an arm and a leg down at the area firework stand.  The drunk drivers will be out, and Harris County is prosecuting as many of them as they can tonight. That means you can get hauled in for driving drunk and then you can get convicted all in the same night. It's like the Whataburger of courtrooms.

I don't know why I am writing. But I am glad you are reading. Happy and Prosperous 2023!

NewYear2023