Posted in audience participation, connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness

Know better, do better: your dollars

The short version: my goal is to help people be educated so they can make decisions in an informed way.

I am not trying to scare people or to be a downer, though I acknowledge that these days, most of the news is bad news.

The fact is that in a capitalistic society, the main goal is to make money. The people who produce food, who create processed foods, who make cosmetics, soaps, detergents, toys, furniture, clothes are all in it to make money.

Making money is not inherently bad. We need to make money to function in society as it exists. 

But making money has become The Most Important Thing. More important than families. More important than our own or others’ health. More important than honesty or integrity.

As a result, it’s all gone to hell.

Problems in the food supply are real. Problems with the water supply are real. Problems with the chemicals in our personal care products are real. Problems with the chemicals in toys are real. Problems with the chemicals in our household goods are real.

Most of the time, the exposures are low. (Corn, soy, sweeteners including but not limited to sugar are exceptions—exposures to these are off the charts.) But when you put them all together, they’re not low at all.

Is this reality scary? Yes. Does it mean you need to live in constant paranoia? No. Does it mean you need to throw away everything and start over right now? No.

But if we all keep on living as if nothing was wrong, they’re going to keep manufacturing as if it’s OK. We pay the price with our health, our children’s health, and all aspects of the environment.

One step back from that—we can’t decide if we want to make changes or take a stand if we don’t know what’s going on.

So we need to be educated. (That’s my job! To help educate.)

Then we need to speak out with our voices. (If nothing else, online petitions take almost no time to sign.)

But even more than that, we need to speak with our dollars. Because in America, dollars speak louder than anything else.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, motivation, parenting

Allowance, housework, and The Kid

We recently implemented a three-part economic system with The Kid.

Part 1: Allowance

He gets a weekly allowance. It’s not as a reward or payment for anything done. In our thinking, it’s a means of teaching money management, and it gives him some autonomy in a world where most of his decisions are made for him.

Each week from his allowance, he has to save $1 in the bank. That’s long-term savings for the future and is not available for anything any time soon. I keep his weekly dollars in a marked envelope; we don’t go to the bank weekly to deposit $1.

Each week from his allowance, he has to donate $1. We talked about some of the places he could give money (also not typically in $1 increments, but those dollars can be saved and donated in larger pools). He has chosen to keep his dollar in the car to give to panhandlers. Maybe not what I would have chosen, but his dollar, his choice.

The remaining dollars are his to do with as he pleases. Right now, he’s saving for a LEGO kit. (Those savings don’t go in the bank—they stay separate from long-term savings.)

Part 2: Jobs to do because you live in a house

He has jobs (chores by a less negative title) he has to do regularly just because he is part of a household. All three of us have work around the house we have to do. Many of those tasks are specifically delegated; some are “whoever gets to it.”

Right now, he is responsible to clear his dishes from the table and, if the dishwasher is dirty, rinse and put his dishes in. He needs to sweep the area under his seat after each meal as needed. He sorts his dirty clothes and folds or hangs and puts away his clean laundry. He empties or helps empty the dishwasher if he’s around when it needs to be done, and for dinner, he needs to either help with preparation, set the table, or clear the table.

Part 3: Jobs for extra money

He also has the opportunity to do extra work around the house for pay. Most jobs pay $1, though a few pay more (and a few are broken into smaller $1 pieces).

Each of these jobs is written at the top of a notecard, and the rest of the card details how to do the job. This way he can make sure he’s done all of it before asking one of us to check it.

The cards are hung on a board with a clothespin and are divided in two piles: “available” and “not available right now.” So when a job is done—regardless who completed it—it gets moved to the not available side until it comes around again.

There are things that need to get done that aren’t on any of these lists. The rule is that he helps with other tasks as requested. We will tell him ahead of time if it’s a paid job or not. No need to ask—it will be laid out.

He also can’t complete paid jobs if his “because I live here” jobs aren’t done.

The whole thing hasn’t been in place for all that long, but it’s working well so far. He can do extra work when he wants to, choose work he’d rather do (or money he’d rather make—the best-paying are often the least desirable) and I don’t need to nag.

We’ll see how long it takes for him to earn what he needs to buy his Saturn V…

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, mindset

What if? Aging edition

What if we respected aging instead of dreading and denigrating it?

(I believe we only denigrate it because we fear it.)

What if being in one place for 30 or 40 or 50 (or more!) years meant you were a source of history and information? A wealth of knowledge?

What if grey was just another hair color? Bald just another style?

What if we looked forward to all of the benefits brought to us in our 40s and 50s and beyond, instead of the disproportionate focus on aesthetics and metabolism?

What if we took care of ourselves so that we didn’t feel so old and break down as quickly at 40 or 50 or 60? (And understood that we need to fuel ourselves well regardless of our metabolism?)

What if scars were evidence of stories and wrinkles evidence of having lived?

Embrace the things you’ve learned just by virtue of having lived. Do your best to let go of the crap and hang onto the good stuff. Learn from those who have lived more. (Enjoy the innocence from those who have lived less.)

Every age has wonderful things and terrible things about it. (If nothing else, parenting has taught me this.)




* This is all an enormous generalization. We use age as the variable, but it’s much more life experience and openness to learning than years lived.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Bothering to remember people

Sophomore year of college, I went deaf in my right ear. Not completely—I have about 90% hearing loss. (It was from a mistreated ear infection—meds were for the vertigo, not the infection. Steroid treatment brought back the little I have. When it stopped working, the treatment ended, and that’s where it’s been for 24 years.)

When I’m in places that are noisy, I need to be to the right of the conversation so I can hear it. Being a passenger is better than being the driver. I sleep good side down. I can hold one ear during fire alarms—and particularly bad rehearsal moments—and always held the screaming baby on my right shoulder.

At some point along the way, I learned that we hear diction more prominently in our right ears than our left, which perhaps explains why I struggle so much in noisy places, on the phone, or just being on someone’s left side if it’s not completely quiet otherwise.

I think it also explains why I have had so much trouble picking up conversations in Spanish. Besides the rapid word delivery (and currently being out of practice), I just have trouble hearing the words. Some of that is lack of familiarity, of course, but I don’t remember having that much trouble when I was younger.

Of course, when I was younger, I was also learning German. Maybe it’s just the difference in the language. Or maybe I did have that much trouble and simply don’t remember it.

If I’m in a place where I can’t hear well enough to follow a conversation and can’t seek other conversation elsewhere, I usually just mentally check out. It’s really stressful to try to follow a conversation that I can’t hear well enough, and it compounds social anxiety.

I know that immersion is the best teacher for foreign language. I’ve downloaded podcasts to listen to in the car, but what I quickly learned about myself is: unless I’m working really hard, I employ the “can’t follow it” self-preservation technique and just tune it out.

(Does having it play in the background help?)

Beyond this, what I’ve noticed lately is that I’ve started paying less attention to other things. The checking out is spreading. A couple of times in recent weeks, I’ve run into someone who I had met and maybe had a conversation with a year or three ago. They knew me by name. I didn’t even remember faces.

Some of this was a result of my job. I started in this job five years ago and had 400 students on three campuses—with three sets of faculty. I’m just not that good with names, so my energy went to learning the kids. The next year, I had more students, less than 100 repeats from the previous year, and two new campuses. All name/face energy given to students (and a small handful of people I really needed to know on each campus). This year was the first year that I didn’t have any new campuses and only half of my students were new.

I’ve gotten in the habit of not even trying to remember people.

It’s time to check back in. I’m not entirely sure how to do that, but maybe just being cognizant of it is a sufficiently good start.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, parenting


A year ago, I was just beginning my extended school year as the result of a six-day teacher walkout in Arizona.

Those days (the walkout; not so much the make-up days) were overflowing with so much emotion. Anger. Sadness. Worry. Emotions I can’t name. For example, being one of tens of thousands of people marching through Phoenix, nearly all in red T-shirts, in plenty hot weather. (Last May was not as kind as this May was.) I can’t name that emotion, but it was powerful.

I want to share with you two pieces I wrote during the walkout.

Of course, I am a teacher, so I have that angle.

I’m also a mom, and I want The Kid to have good public schools to attend.

I also live in a society where it benefits the majority of us for the majority of us to be educated. Not all college-educated, but all with basic reading, math, and critical thinking skills.

It’s easier for people in power to control an uneducated populace.

On a more local level, we want businesses to make their homes here, because it benefits us economically. But they’re not going to do that if we can’t provide a good work force…

So. Support your local public schools. Not happy with how they’re being run? Go to board meetings. Find out where you can get information. Read. Talk. Learn. Speak up. Vote.

Throwing money blindly at a problem doesn’t solve it, but neither does taking money away.

With that, here were my thoughts prior to leaving the house on the first and fourth days of the walkout. The first day included a march. (From Chase Field to the Capitol, if you’re familiar with Phoenix.) I have not edited them.

But I did make note in the second one about the band. We got the instrumentalists together. We got music to play—either music in the public domain or music that had the copyright donated—and we played and played and played. We contributed to the atmosphere. Helped keep energy up. Were wildly popular.

It’s not often that the band kids are the popular kids.


I’ve read some beautiful narrations about all that’s going down today, many of them by people who don’t share much of their interior life on Facebook.

On the other hand, I, who am usually overflowing with narrations, don’t have any coherent paragraphs about all this.

I have stood in a pack of tens of thousands of people, full of nervous energy.

But today, we are not running a 10k.

Today, we are finding the energy, after a 10-year marathon, to stand up and say ENOUGH.

You can call us names. You can make up your own truths. You can pretend that public education doesn’t matter. We are not delicate flowers who wilt under nastiness.

People, we teach junior high.

I will never understand how people demonize teachers, and then send their kids to be in our care all day every day.

How people complain about having their kids home over breaks but have no empathy for those of us who have dozens of them at once.

Today, together with tens of thousands of my colleagues, in Phoenix spring weather (read: 100 degrees), I will walk. I will chant. I will sing. I will play. I will talk. I will stand as tall as my little body stands.

There is a small handful of things that I have this conviction about. Creating and maintaining a flourishing public school system is one of them.

See you in Phoenix.

(And it turns out, I did have a few words.)


I have so many thoughts. They don’t all flow. Hang on for the ride…

I’m getting ready for my 4th day at the Arizona Capitol, protesting that our government isn’t properly funding education.

We’ve been writing, calling, voting (though not enough of us…) for a decade. There have been lawsuits that the government LOST and still, here we are.

And still here we are, demonized by so many for being selfish and greedy. People whose opinions we have to just let roll, because they don’t understand us at all, and they don’t want to.

People who don’t understand and will have a conversation? Will ask questions and listen to answers? THOSE are the people we need to talk to. Not the people who already agree. Not the people for whom we have never done any right. The people who are trying to learn. We are teachers.

In the classroom, we’re responsible for everyone’s learning. Right now, we’re not. Teach the teachable. Let the others go.

Years ago (2008? 2009?), I sat in a faculty meeting where my colleagues and I were asked to vote on whether everyone should take a 3% pay cut, or if instead they should cut band, art, and library. Not only were they asking about whether I and my fellow special area teachers should be employed, but they were asking if these subjects were more valuable to students than our salaries.

We (collectively) voted to take a pay cut. Greedy, selfish teachers.

The whole situation is surreal. Why is education political? How is it that we’re so divided on creating an educated population? (I know a lot of the why behind that. It’s just so … crazy that we’ve gotten to this point. That money and greed—real greed, not “greedy teacher” greed—has brought us here.)

And then…AND THEN… to say that the only way we can fund education is to cut funding to other programs … to pit the “have less”es against each other. As if there’s NO POSSIBLE OTHER WAY. (And we’re not the have-nots, because ultimately, this all still falls under “first world problems” … but if we let it continue unchecked, that’s not going to stay the case…)

I walk around at the Capitol. I talk to people. I play with the band. And I think … I’m supposed to be teaching right now. Yet here I am, because the people in charge of taking care of us are not doing their job. They’re actively hurting us.

Playing with the band …

There are a lot of posts going around by non-music people about how amazing the band is, how much energy we bring to the event and to the people in it.

This is (part of) why we have music education. Not because music makes you smarter. Not to raise test scores. Not as a feather in one’s cap for college applications.

Music for music’s sake.

With that, the Camelbak is full, snacks are packed, the red shirt is on, and I’m headed back to Phoenix. Hope to see you there.