Friday, May 05, 2017

Sometimes we just have it so easy

My role of Nana is so dear to me.
My oldest grand is on the couch right now, getting ready for a day of homeschooling at my table.

Two days ago I met with some of my distant cousins.
They shared pictures of a side of the family I knew little about.
On picture was of Grandmother Mary.
"She was always such a sour puss."
"Look! I think that is the first time I have ever seen a smile on her face."

So I did some leg work.
Mary was the wife of Oliver. Oliver was the youngest of seven (living) children. My great grandfather was his brother- 17 years apart. Unlike most of his sibs, he did not go on to university. His parents passed away before his teens.
Mary had been brought up by first generation Americans who worked for the railroads. My husband's family was brought up in the rail business. Tough, hard, dirty, underpaid work. She was one of ten.
Oliver and Mary lived with her parents for the first ten years (and three children) of their marriage.
Oliver was a steel man, before unions.
My understanding is that Mary and Oliver had ten children in their first twenty years of marriage (they were married at least fifty years).
Of the ten children: two were stillborn, two passed in infancy, six were raised to adulthood.
I cannot imagine. One miscarriage and I am a mess.
Oliver worked hard, but never seemed to make enough money to sustain them.
Their oldest daughter bought a farm in Northern Maryland. Oliver and Mary moved onto that farm and the two city folks began to work with the rest of the family to raise Christmas trees.
No nice and relaxed retirement for her.
Oliver passed away in 1955. I think this picture (with her best friend and her oldest daughter) was probably at her husband's funeral. One of those rare (although probably fake) smiles on her face.
She went from family to family until she passed in 1963.

Here is Sally. Oliver's middle sister.

She had ten children as well.  Four died in one week from the flu.  Two years later two more were killed in a car crash.  She passed from the flu that year.  Of her ten children, none lived to be adults.

I cannot even imagine.
I have it so easy!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Deep Pantry

This is the day that changed my life.  My husband was in the office on the top end. Our car was near these cars- completely destroyed. I was at school- five miles away. My building was rocked and so was my world. We brought students back to a small compound that had injured soldiers all over it- many of the injured were the parents of the students. We had no idea.

For the next month I made meals for a core group of twenty people on night shift. Night shift in Saudi is day shift in the US- so they were core to the survival of the injured and moving the KIA. Several of the cooks were in the destruction, so that left the night shift to those of us who could put it together.

After having a tour in Hong Kong, I had learned to buy the things my children loved to eat in quantity when I saw it.  The supply ship would come in and three families would purchase cases of dried milk, pasta, pasta sauce, canned meats, jams, flour and yeast (one ship brought us salsa). Divide and conquer.  Each of us had a picky seven year old. It was important to them. It was then and there I can to appreciate a deep pantry.

The commissary officer laughed in Germany when I went for a mid tour breather from Saudi and ordered cases of the same things.  Those foods arrived in early October. November came with a crash and my life became one of "looking for fresh" on the economy. That meant that I would done my abaya and hijab, call one of the few drivers who still would take us places, and head to the market.
People in stress love comfort food. Finding a place that sold fresh ricotta and mozzarella was huge. I had the noodles and sauces in the pantry. I went to a huge market and found baking pans. I learned about the local fresh veggies and fruits in season and how to use dates instead of sugar. We made breads, entrees and fruit platters. It was crazy.

 Since that time, I have always had one. Deep pantry.
My family says that I am a closet prepper, but it is all about the moment.
Canning has added fruits to the winter- fruits from the area instead of South America.

After a wicked ice storm in Kansas in 2009 (we were stuck for ten days), different types of fuels were added to our deep pantry. Bees wax and soy candles, lots of solar lighting, back up water and propane were all a part of that preparation.
The garden is my new part. Having my own foods in the pantry, foods that were brought up in my backyard, well, it is a pleasure.
We finally live in a place where we can ride bikes to get places. We live in a community that can be self sufficient very easily.

Twenty years ago my life was changed by 220 lbs in the back of a pick up truck. Learning to take the good from the bad.
Maybe next year first aide will be on my list of things needed to make myself a part of the deep pantry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring gardening

Several of my family garden in southern Arizona.
Their gardens are almost done.
Mine have just begun.

Quietly it sat all winter.

 Awaited new soil and a bit of organization

 The herbs and a very early tomato are dug in.
 The raspberries and mint are finally coming back to life.

Asparagus is planted by the creek
BTW- if you are into all things Hawaii or Japan go see Laura at Occasional Nomads.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Vietnam Veteran's Day - March 29th

Did you know that?
I didn't until someone I knew put it up on her Facebook wall.

My husband and his brother both served in Vietnam.  Growing up in the poor side of their town, they both had gotten scholarships to the University of Idaho for engineering. My brother in law got kicked out because he failed to go to classes after he fell in love.  My husband quit the next year because his scholarship ran out. Unlike what my parents did for my brother; their parents could not afford to send them back by buying a slot at school. Their father had been in the Army Air Corps in Japan. Their grandfather was in WWI with the big guns. Service was an honor in their family, so off the boys went.

My brother in law became a door gunner for a medic helicopter. His second tour he was a crew chief on the same type of ship.  From what he said, when he was drunk, his role was to tell the pilot when to take off- wether everyone was on or not. They landed in some pretty heated places. Purple Heart type landings. When he returned for good he finished his degree and made a pretty good living.  He died ten years ago at the age of 58 from a combination of Agent Orange and lots of self medication.

My husband was a Special Forces medic. My guy is pretty shy, but sharp as a whip. He was at the top of his medic classes and saw that field as one to get to the most people in the fastest way. When he arrived in country his assignment was an area that lost a medic every ten minutes. His commander from training spotted him and rerouted him to teach the Montagnards the art of being a medic. His brother had no idea that he had enlisted and was mighty mad. My husband experienced nightly shelling, but felt he was "safe". Of course, all 20 year old guys are invincible.

Both men left as gawky, poor, inexperienced kids and returned as solid guys. Unfortunately, they were both assaulted at Fort Ord as they got off the planes after their tours with spit and dolls filled with red paint. People justify themselves often over these tactics, just as they currently justify themselves with calling  people who do not agree with them names. I don't know how many times it has been implied that, "I am the smart one on the right side".  To each their own.

My husband left service and returned to school. He went back and forth between his GI Bill and working in Alaska for seven years. His hair was down to his waist and his bar tab was higher then the trailer rent. The GI Bill ran out, so he joined ROTC. He graduated, with high honors with a Finance major and seven minors.

He rejoined the military, with an exemption for his age. That is a whole different story.

We go to Arlington and visit some of his friends and some of my relatives. Vietnam, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan. We have friends at Arlington from each of these wars (or more politically correct- conflicts). We stand for the flag and put our hands over our hearts and remember that Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines are people who are trying to do their duty to serve a country and a people whom they love and honor. They are not political. They do it for us.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Garden is ready

Spring cannot decide the weather it desires. Cold, Hot, Warm, Cold, Ice, Warm. Today it is rain. My spinach is in and the rest of the seeds are germinating.

The spring flowers are up and enjoying the moisture.

My constant companion. 

Asparagus was planted about three weeks ago next to the creek. It will be another year before we will get to taste it.
 The raspberries should produce this year.

 Our old girl just doesn't like those stairs to get outside. Good thing we have a screen porch so she can watch us play. I will be like her someday.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The reshaping of education in the US. Why should I care?

Now, why, as a 60 year old, should I care? 
I'm retired.
My own children are out of K-12 school.
I should care because
a) I pay for the kids in the area to go to school.
b) I want an education for them that is something they will use
not just warehouse them for 12 years.

In the last 100 years, public education in the US has not really changed.
Yes, there have been different standards
but the delivery model has been the same.
Teachers are the "sage on the stage".
Student, in turn, would walk out the door after nine or thirteen years,
and be ready to be told what to do by a supervisor.
One way, "my way".

Then came computers.
Schools have, basically, stayed the same.
I pulled out a "newspaper"  Navajo class did in 1998.
Those cute Macs were used.
I was totally the sage on the stage for that project.

Basic information is now obtainable.
With help, students could find out "more" about almost anything.
I am a history teacher by trade. Do I know about every aspect of the world's history? Do I even know everything about US History?  Do I know everything there is to know about the 2000's?
Being the sage on the stage was silly.
Teachers should be the "guide on the side".

My opinion after thirty years in K-8 settings, four "one more class to finish" Masters and three years of working with 700 schools?

Primary should be totally ungraded and untested until the end of third grade. Children learn to read and manipulate numbers at such different paces. There should be a huge variation in types of books in the room (forget libraries). Math needs to be touched and moved so it is understood. (Why teach area if we don't look for a run that fits a place).  By the end of third grade children should be able to read, do the basic math facts (+,-,x,/), and know how to write/ word process.

The wealthy figured this out years ago. My son had this overseas in amazing International schools. Sites like this filled his day after he learned to read,

Fourth through eighth grade should be about teams. Give kids problems to solve and give them computers. Go. They will seek out the knowledge they need- via Ted talks or the teacher or Google.  They each work on the problem and come up with solutions. Then join the team at the end of the period and look at how to do it. Average and above average should be able to do it easily. Lower average need more support (usually in the basics).

At this point, I am describing Common Core. This is the way Obama learned at Punahou in Hawaii. The problem is that the current K-3 setting pulls kids into the 4-8 model. Once kids hit 4-8, they do not know their basics, so they feel like failures. They should be placed back into basics until they are ready- hence the one room school house worked well.

Those who fight against change are comfortable.
They receive money for the books they sale or the children they teach.
They may care, deeply. Still, it is time to change.