Writing My Life

Now and Then

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… final 50-word fiction or NOT: Kakistocracy …

Today’s WordPress prompt was another perfect fit for the NaBloPoMo’s August theme, Fiction.

“Find a word you don’t know, but like, and use it in a short, paragraph length, story, or a clever sentence.” So here ’tis my effort. Kind of a somber way to end 31 days straight of blogging! WheW!


The commentary turned into a prophecy fulfilled.

The BEST shunned public service because of its position at the back of a bus driven by politics.

No one without a personal agenda entered the arena.

The populous surmised that there were no choices.

So why bother?

Results: The WORST of us govern.


… maybe it’s wise to do some research before believing political emails …

I am not a registered Republican because I consider myself an independent. On my FaceBook profile, I post my politics as “conservatively liberal” – which I know bugs some friends and family members. Most of the time I am rather disgusted with the whole political realm on “both sides of the aisle.”

While there is much to complain about, I worry about the MISinformation that is spread far and wide via mass email messages. So often what I receive is downright frightening, and I have a hard time believing these scare tactics guised as wake-up calls. Because many believe the press to be the handiwork of liberals, I suppose ultra-conservatives feel they must spread their views through nasty talk show hosts and email messages.

The first thing I look for when I receive such email messages is the source of the information – who is authoring, publishing, and sending this? So often that important detail is missing, but I’ve also learned that when a source is cited, the information may have been manipulated and thus it is compromised. For example, excerpts from Lee Iaccoca’s book that is critical of some Republicans were “revised” so that Iaccoca’s words lam-blast Democrats. (It’s lengthy, so if you follow the link, read all the way down to the bottom to see how his thoughts were misrepresented.)

Next I look at content and what purpose it serves. If the information is overly biased, I am suspect. That’s when I go to sites like Snopes.com that investigates rumors, legends, scams, etc. While some may wonder if Snopes is credible, I researched their origins, practices, and investigations and learned enough to feel that they are what they claim to be: amateur folklorists who have built “one of the Internet’s most trusted authorities.”

Recently, my husband forwarded a message to me that claimed President Obama had removed the American flag from his press conferences, and that he had decorated the White House in a Mideastern decor. Before I checked this out, I wrote the following to G.E.

Maybe I am naive, but I just can’t bring myself to see a conspiracy behind every change. Maybe it’s a subtle way of reaching out to the millions of peace-loving Muslims throughout the world. Maybe this little act [of adding a Mideastern flavor to the furnishings] has sparked the pro-democracy rebellions throughout the middle east. Maybe the flag is just out of the range of the photo. Who knows?

Then I went to Snopes to see if I could find out more, and sure enough I did. While the email showed photos of several former presidents speaking before Old Glory along with a picture of President Obama on a flagless set, the Snopes’ research explained that many presidents have spoken to the nation and an American flag was not present. Not only did the article explain why that happens, it also featured photos of such occasions. Go HERE to learn more – if you want to.

Another message claimed that President Obama has created a policy declaring that military men cannot speak at faith-based meetings. First, Donna P. Parsons of Lancaster County School District’s Instructional Services supposedly authored the message. I work for a school district in the curriculum department, and I know I would be in big trouble if I sent out controversial information with my “work signature” attached to it.

Second, it was sent by a retired vice admiral, and so maybe Ms. Parsons just emailed the admiral who then forwarded it to the rest of the world. To check it out, I went to Snopes and entered “Sgt.1st Class Greg Stube,” the name of the Green Beret who was supposed to speak at a charitable event for Catch-a-Dream.

Not surprisingly, I learned that President Obama did not create the policy but rather the Department of Defense, and it has to do with speaking at charitable events not at faith-based public events or at churches. Again, if you want all the details, go HERE.

Don’t be mistaken, I do not support many of the decisions made by President Obama and the Democrats, but I do think we owe it to ourselves to validate information. Let us be an informed citizenry, not a duped one.

And now I will step down from my soap box. =)

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… activists vs. REACTivists…

I’ve written about the current state of education – the state I live in because I am an educator. And I have to remind any new readers that education is in an upheaval for several reasons.

  1. the GREAT REcession
  2. education REform under  President Obama
  3. the WAR between the DISTRICTS that resulted in the SEcession of almost half of Jordan School District
  4. state budget cuts – results of #1 and a state law requiring a balanced budget

While I don’t plan to describe the above issues, suffice it to say (I  LIKE that cliche’) that the current Jordan School District was $30 million dollars short, and so lay-offs were announced and battle lines drawn. The Jordan Education Association leadership stand on the front lines, and many active members fill in the supporting rank and file. Sitting on the sidelines are less passionate/committed JEA members and teachers who do not support JEA through their membership.

Along the front lines, however, are other leaders standing shoulder to shoulder with teacher union members – parents, mostly mothers. One young mother, Jolynne Alger,  is every bit the leader that Robin Frodge, JEA president, is. This mom, a PTA mom, started a grass-roots effort via FaceBook among parents in Jordan School District to fight against the budget recommendations set forth by the school board. She didn’t do it by attacking board members. Instead, she recruited other like-minded parents and took the fight up to the hill and challenged legislators to help in the struggle. I saw her in front of cameras and seated on marble floors writing out memos to state representatives and senators.

Through combined efforts of teachers, parents, and union members, the legislator downsized the budget battle to a sizable skirmish. While long-term solutions were NOT addressed in the legislative session – state equalization for money to ALL Utah schools or equalization between the 2 districts involved, Canyons and Jordan – support to Jordan arrived in the form of a bill that allows diverting money from capital funding to general funding. That means that new buildings or repairs will have to be delayed so that about $14 million can spare teachers from being laid off and class sizes from being increased. VERY GOOD NEWS.

While my own job is still in jeopardy, I still marvel at individuals who jump into the fray – sometimes BEFORE it becomes a fray. While I am a card-carrying JEA member because technically, I am NOT an administrator but a teacher on special assignment, I do not jump into frays. I have a NON-confrontational personality that doesn’t mix well with picketing, shouting, and other “in-your-face” tactics that seem to be popular forms of communication. Nevertheless, I really admire those who stick their necks out for us ostriches. (Are you loving all my analogies and metaphors?)

While a few individuals see an injustice that hurts others, not necessarily themselve, they immediately join the fight against it. I, on the other hand wait until that thing lands on my front door and hurts me, and THEN I REact. I suppose that’s better than ignoring the elephant on the doorstep as some still do, but there are times I wish I’d grow more of a backbone or better support causes that INdirectly affect me.

But I did venture up to the capitol, wrote notes to legislators, talked with JEA leaders and parents, wrote letters and asked questions of the board. I also reflected and commented on the situation through this blog, and some who read my meanderings passed the posts onto others.

I guess what I’m saying is “THANK YOU” to those who charge forth to carry the banners.  Why? Because they are willing to invite controversy into their lives on a daily basis, sit down with criticism and debate the issues, live with angst as a constant companion, and in so doing they make a difference. I don’t always agree with some activists (especially those tea party folks) or their modus operandi, but I respect their willingness to stand up for their beliefs. In the meantime, I’ll fill in the ranks – maybe not on the front lines, but NOT on the sidelines either.


… it was really wishful thinking …

Yesterday I wrote about my excursion to Capitol Hill, and I observed that many women were there to fight the good fight. Perhaps, I added, The People’s House, a nick name for the capitol building, should also be called The Women’s House. 

As I pondered that idea, however, I remembered a story my teacher friend told me that day. As educators were scrambling to meet with legislators, the difficulty of so doing became apparent. 

“I’m sorry, can’t do that right now.” 

“Maybe later this afternoon.” 

“Could you write me a note?” 

And then, my friend noticed that the football coach from her school headed toward a small crowd of lawmakers. He hadn’t even opened his mouth before one legislator called after him. 

“Well, what’s the state champion football coach doing up here on the hill?” 

The men smiled, shook hands, and then the cluster pulled Coach into their midst for a good ol’ chat. But I really shouldn’t complain because the coach was there to support his school and his district. Because of the proposal to increase class size and eliminate planning/preparation time every other day, teachers and coaches at that school decided they needed to cut some after-school activities  such as spring training for football. Students and parents were not happy about this decision because it’s hard to maintain championship teams without additional training. 

I’m not being sarcastic about this because I see the value of keeping young people busy in our non-agrarian society where they don’t have to plant and harvest crops. I just wish some groups saw the same urgency in beefing up academics as much as we beef up athletic programs. I also wish the legislators extended the same cordiality to the non-coaches, the mothers, and the female teachers that approached them.

Utah's first woman legislator


As I wrote yesterday, I stopped by Olene Walker’s portrait to pay homage to her. Gov. Walker was the first woman lieutenant governor and governor. Her party abandoned her when it came time that she could be re-elected, and it hurt Olene very much. 

Once I was on the Capitol grounds, I also stopped to say hello to Annie Wells Cannon, Utah’s first woman legislator. She was active in the territorial government, and in 1912 she was elected to the House of Representatives. Hey! Wait a minute! Women couldn’t even vote in 1912. But they could in Utah, AND they could be elected to public office as Annie was. 

That’s not all she did, however. Annie was  charter member of the Red Cross and the Utah Women’s Press Club. She was a teacher at age 14 and a doctor by her mid 20s. Of course, she also served as a Relief Society President for 16 years, worked on the general board of that organization for 8 years, and raised 11+ children!!!! 

The tributes to women may be few up there on Capitol Hill, but their CONtributions are many, as evidenced by these two examples!


… my day “on the hill” …

I really do not like the cliche’ “don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.” It’s so overused – right along with “put your money where your mouth is,” but last week I decided I needed to heed the messages of both expressions. After venting my frustrations – in rather dramatic fashion – about the conditions in our school district and state legislature, I decided I better join other educators and citizens up on Capitol Hill to voice my support for some bills that could help Jordan School District.

There is something intimidating about walking into buildings of Classicism design because they emanate an air of importance. Add the fervor of a legislative session, and visitors cannot help but inhale the tense atmosphere of decisions in the making. I didn’t expect to feel exhilaration in the face of my frustrations, but there it was: press conferences, interviews, special interest groups, pages, signs, TV reporters and cameras. The sounds of footsteps running across marble floors or climbing up marble steps echoed throughout the rotunda. A mariachi band entertained citizens, lobbyists, legislators, and school children.

Men, women, and children lined the hallways outside the House of Representatives and the Senate Chambers, and they wrote messages to their legislators, urging them to vote for or against this bill or that resolution. It was inspiring to see so many involved. I attended the press conference organized by Utah Education Association to urge passage of House Bill 295 that would ease the financial burdens of struggling school districts like Jordan and Grand by allowing building funds to be used for classroom needs. Next, I spoke to teachers, parents, and education leaders to see what I could do to help. Finally, I added to the stacks of messages being sent to legislators to plead for their help in passing legislation that supports our students’ education. It was a GREAT feeling.

Here a just a few pictures I snapped of democracy in action:

This South Jordan mom joined educators and other JSD patrons to speak out for our children’s educational future. Even HER mother came along to show support for HB 295 that would ease financial pressures, thus forcing a move towards increased class sizes.

These mothers whose children attend schools in Jordan School District are writing memos to their legislators, expressing their concerns and their demands that students come first. TV reporters interviewed the young woman on the far left.  I wonder where that footage went. I didn’t see it on any of the channels.

Looking down from the House of Representative mezzanine, I saw Hispanic leaders addressing their constituents. Now, this community knows how to make an impression. Not only did they lay out a catered feast of Latin American favorites, they entertained onlookers with a festive musical program featuring an excellent mariachi band.  Instead of feelings of frustration, this group filled the air with positive vibes!

On Thursday, the day after my TRIP to the HILL, I thought all efforts had been in vain as I heard that HB 295 and failed to pass, BUT on Friday, law-makers added an amendment to the bill that enabled its passage in the House. Now it goes the Senate, and “insiders” are optimistic about its success there.

Now I’m not an “insider” and many of the citizens who travel to the Capitol are not big time politicians either, but I feel that our voices did count. I recently learned that the state capitol is also called “The People’s House,” and last Wednesday, I witnessed why that title is so befitting. The experience did more to erase my frustrations than my whining ever did. And as I left, I paused in front of former Governor Olene Walker’s portrait because she was such an advocate of literacy and education. In fact, the painting of her shows that she’s reading A is for Arches an ABC book about Utah, written by Katherine Larsen

As I looked at Olene’s portrait, I not only reflected upon the events of the day, I thought about all the women I saw there and the evidence of women’s political contributions to the betterment of our state. I’m grateful to them all! Perhaps we should add another nickname to that stately structure on the hill: The Women’s House.