Monday, June 10, 2024

Wisconsin 2024

 


The folks who currently sit in Wisconsin legislative seats that were found to be excessively and illegally gerrymandered are attempting to change the Wisconsin Constitution AGAIN.


After we all vote and decide the November 2024 election, we will have an entirely new legislative body than what we have today in Wisconsin. The maps have been redrawn (I urge you to check your address and see your new districts and leadership). The current legislature approved the new maps.


And yet they are again trying to make state-wide constitutional power changes in the August primary.


They succeeded in convincing enough voters this spring to make 2 changes to the state constitution regarding elections. We have yet to see how those amendments will affect election funding and administration. Will there be big unexpected and unapproved expenses? Will we have smooth elections with enough staffing? We do know that the state does not fully fund our election needs and that there has been much argument over expanding or restricting voting right access in Wisconsin and elsewhere. We’ll see.


Now, there’s another attempt with 2 additional changes to our state constitution, which the League of Women Voters has analyzed and determined are, as they had said about April’s changes, are too vague and not helpful and should be VOTE NOs.


Here’s my issue: I have a serious problem with making ANY changes to ANY state’s constitution that are asked for by ANY group of people who were in power because they cheated to get there. 


Constitutional changes should be carefully crafted and vetted. Their ramifications must be weighed across time before being put into place. A state’s constitution should not be made the playground of sore losers trying to punish those they feel wronged them.


Sometimes the state gets allocated chunks of money from the federal government. The two amendments being proposed to voters seek to give the legislature sole control over these monies. If you recall, some COVID money stipulated that the money given had to be used for specific COVID-related expenses or losses. At the time, the governor was willing and able to do that while our legislature complained. Evers eventually vetoed a bill brought up by the legislature that sought to seize control of those funds. These new amendment requests seem, in my mind, to be another attempt to circumvent balances of power between the 3 branches of Wisconsin government. 


Federal money can be for things like a pandemic. Or a huge tornado. Or a devastating drought. Or a chemical spill. Basically, any situation that a state seeks help with from DC and receives funds. It’s national money for our combined benefit so it should be allocated as the nation indicates with the support of the elected officials of the state. All the officials. Not just the state legislature, and especially not one whose operation has been manipulated so grossly for so many years that it finally caught up with them through the efforts of citizens and the court system.


If a Republican or other takes the governorship and leaves the legislature as Democrat-controlled, I would want both offices to work together. If federal money came in, I’d hope the 2 branches would work together with whatever restrictions are placed by the grantor. Neither would “win” all the time.


To me, life’s not about “winning”. It’s about working for overall positive movement. It’s hard. It takes time. It takes compromising and negotiation.



Sunday, March 3, 2024

My Vessel- A Poem

I thought of my 3 parts this morning and some words came out:

 

My Vessel

Three parts: body, mind, and soul.


Body feels so small now

How can I bend forward and already be at my feet?


I thought I was bigger.


My beautiful feet-

Beautiful because of what they have allowed me


Motion

Drivers

Balance


I love them more now that


The path we’re on is so much shorter than it was before.


Mind is so much slower now

Why do I always seem to be forgetting something simple?


I wished for years for it to stop.


My beautiful brain-

Beautiful because it has connected and recorded so so many things


Sights

Smells

Ideas


I love it more now that


It works more in tandem with my feet.


Spirit is so much more content now

How can I express the delicious peace I am able to reach now?


I howled in pain for so long.


That beautiful spirit-

Beautiful in its veil of acceptance that slowly settles when allowed


All

Is

One


My feet.

My mind.

That spirit.


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Another Turn

Reading my essay from the beginning of 2023 was difficult. So much has changed. Damn that “letting go” thing.


We ended Owen’s life on January 6. When I wrote last year’s essay, he was still with us and I said we were trying to hear what he wanted. His last months and the aftermath were both an honor and an emotional tsunami to survive. For the time he couldn’t quite do it for himself, I carried him outside, cleaned him, pet him, and we all loved him and circled up when it was time to bury the shell he left behind. That cat never gave up going downstairs to use his litter box. When I found him struggling to make the journey, I felt I wanted to let him go with his dignity more than I wanted to cling to his precious soul. Was his voice in there, too? Maybe someday I’ll know. The pain of loss is no longer raw but still catches me at times. We put his body into the ground and in the spring we adorned his grave with 13 ginger plants. Finding catnip left during the year by other members of the family let me know they have felt his loss, too. He was and forever will be, family.


My written goal on my Twitter account for 2023 was to work on moving the mic to others who haven’t had it.


I terminated my account on Formerly-Known-As-Twitter in 2023 and that was another big change for me. I’d made it a habit to use my profile page there to establish for myself and the world what my goal for the year was. While it was never perfect, the turns that platform has made since the new guy in management took over drove me away. That stage is not a place to be right now, in my opinion. Some people from around the globe who had become somehow dear to me are no longer in my world anymore because of that change. It’s strangely painful when I stop to think about it. However, if I send them loving energy into the vast cosmos, I hope it finds them somehow. I can find new and sustaining relationships near and far through other means. I know that truth now.


There’s that letting go thing, again.


What do I see when I think of 2024?


For one thing, 2024 is going to be about fledging: getting big enough wings to fly.



Our youngest son will go away for college in the fall if all goes as we see now.


I will nurture (with a lot of help) a garden into existence big enough to substantially support 3 high schools if all goes as we see now.


I will get into a system of self-care that will see me remain pain-free but develop a return to better food choices, glucose management, and strength/cardio characteristics if all goes as I see now. My body has been handling the carrying of excess weight surprisingly well but it’s time for me to see if my next evolution can pull away from the lures of the flesh a bit and fly a bit further and farther before it’s time for this me to rest. Will my rainbow aura expand and brighten even more? I can hope.


I got a second tattoo in 2023. In 2021, I decided to honor the evolution I'd undergone to that point with my first which finally happened in early 2022. I may have physically been stronger through those previous years, but my insides had been an absolute mess. The messages and atmosphere of BTS played a big role in my growth. As did friends. And COVID. And a host of other things. It’s all represented in that first tattoo, which faces me as a daily message to myself:
"I’m good enough. Face the world with your head up. Speak your truths. Love yourself. You’re not alone and you are much, much stronger than you think you are because of that."

This second tattoo crawls down the length of my left forearm making it easily shareable with others because it’s a message to the world. It's my chosen message to the world. I heard this phrase during the Grammys, I believe, and it was spoken by an Indian award winner. He said it was part of his religious tradition and its truth screamed at me as he joyously proclaimed, “The world is one family!”


The world…is one family. Wow.



My 2024 will be grounded in that wondrous idea and what it really means. What if we lived everything grounded in that short declaration? It’s incredibly humbling and awe-inspiring to me to consider. The term “family” has always had a bitter current running through it for me so this use helps me work through that. I had the tattoo artist add a bumblebee and dandelion to the phrase. The insects are my family. The weeds are my family. And yours! And I am yours! That darn yellow flower has haunted me for years with its messages:
"I’m a weed. But I feed others. I birth seeds that can fly to far places. I survive. We survive."

 

They are all my family and I am theirs.



So, my goals for 2024 are ones of flying and acknowledging more and more family. Nothing really new for me from the last few years, but It’s another turn on the theme. I feel a fullness of hope and anticipation for a new year, which are both actually rather new for me. In 2023, I wanted to witness. This year, I want to jump in.


It's time for another turn.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Bumpers, First Amendment Rights, and School District Culture

To Waukesha School Board members Mark Borowski, Bette Koenig, Karrie Kozlowski, Patrick McCaffery, Marquell Moorer, Kelly Piacsek, Diane Voit, David Wadd, and Anthony Zenobia


CC: Superintendent James Sebert and Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Gennerman

RE: Support for Melissa Tempel, First Amendment Rights, and Overall District Culture Review



I have been a parent in the district for 13 years and have worked in the district for several as well. My youngest will be a senior at South, where he chose to go after his experience in the STEM program. I am very impressed by what I've seen over the last three years and am glad he made that decision. His counselor Mr. Darling has been amazing and my son has come home several times with interesting things to talk about from some of his classes, including Dr. Freshwater’s.

The recent open resignation letters from South teachers including Dr. Freshwater, coupled with what I have seen as both a parent and employee through the years, tell an uncomfortable story that shouldn’t be.

Teachers are not robots- they are people.


Perceptions of and regulations for the promotion of robotic behaviors are both individually and communally destructive.


To me, laws and rules act as bumpers: they seek to help us all stay on a roadway heading toward a common goal. I believe the common goal in a school is to create well-adjusted children who learn facts and skills to become constructive members of society, capable of working within that society. All those individuals out there.

Cooks. Welders. Parents. Butchers. Pastors. Computer programmers. Nurses. Small business owners. Soccer players. Singers. YouTubers.

While a public school district is a public entity, it’s also a workplace. I believe anyone would agree with me that a healthy workplace, one that people stick with and work hard within, is one that makes them feel valued and appreciated.

The bumpers within a school district need to support EVERYONE involved. I have developed a deep hatred for the mantra of “Do it for the kids” due to my discovery that many teachers here and across the country have absorbed that phrase in such a way that its actual meaning is “Keep your head down and just sacrifice yourself- physically and mentally”. They feel they must stand stoically and say nothing to anyone about anything. I personally know some who even refused to speak out about a principal because they feared losing their jobs. That person ended up not able to complete their first year in the school, but not before a contract extension was given.

My guess is that the entire situation ended up being both a financially and mentally expensive one. One that could have ended differently had there not been a lot of fear.


I feel the need to mention another phrase that angers me. The phrase “Right to work state”. The original meaning was that employees didn’t HAVE to join workplace unions. Today, for many people it means “You don’t like the rules and requirements in place? Leave. We’ll find someone who will do it. No discussion.”. I see many connections between these two phrases and the situation we find ourselves in within the district today.

My point? Yes, we need bumpers within the district to make sure an employee is not spouting off about or promoting something truly destructive and there’s no way to stop them. But we also need to have trust in each other. We need ways to help someone after they hit a bumper so they can keep going down the road with us. Rainbowland was never going to be truly destructive.

This teacher should not lose her job over this. In fact, it was an opportunity to grow.


Yes, we need rules. But rules sometimes need to be adjusted to reflect the road we really want to be on, too. The future we really want. Trying to make professional people into robots isn’t my idea of a great future. In fact, I question who was responsible for the robot design?

I believe the overall district culture and rules need to be sat down with. Let’s go back to our common goal. I believe it’s to create well-adjusted children who learn facts and skills to become constructive members of society, capable of working within that society.

Together.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

On the Subject of Education

 This week, our public school board posted on their website the "resolution to affirm" they approved in January with this as the final (of six) statements:


"No student shall be compelled to affirm, through speech, writing or action, an opinion that violates their deeply held personal, religious or moral beliefs."


It's in a resolution officially titled as being supportive of "parent rights" and "transparency".


I know why this whole resolution was even proposed let alone voted on and passed. It's based on templates designed by and promoted by groups who identify themselves as "conservative" in an attempt to “save” something. They picture specific topics they wish to not see promoted because they feel that would negatively impact their histories and beliefs.


As I outlined in a response to Sen. Kapenga's recent newsletter about a survey conducted by the UW System on First Amendment Rights, I'm concerned about the application of words like "opinion" and "beliefs" within the education system. This applies to all minds. Opinion and belief are not necessarily, at the very root, true. And our understanding of what is true grows the more we explore.


I do believe this resolution substantiates my assertion to both boys during the years that they do NOT have to recite at school the current Pledge of Allegiance that includes the phrase "Under God" instead of “indivisible” as it was originally written because it goes against my beliefs. My kids' beliefs at early ages are, as 99% of all kids' are, influenced and directed by my own. That’s the beginning of early childhood development.


Brennan is still under 18 and still within the district. If he decided to say the modern pledge or write an assigned argumentative essay in support of his opinion that God created the world in 6 24-hour periods of time and that each species we see was created as-is, I will question his logic. I will ask if he truly believes these things and why. 


Will I get upset? Probably. Will I blame the sources he cites? No, but I will examine them and provide contradictory ones with as accurate & true supporting data as I can find. Would I email the teacher to ask questions to see why he’s writing this? Probably. That, calling, and meeting with teachers has ALWAYS been available. It didn't need a resolution promoting "transparency".


Will I seek to get myself elected to the board to get a resolution passed that I believe supports my opinions/side but could be used in other directions that I hadn't intended and actually wasn't needed in the first place? Probably not.


Public education is supposed to build an understanding of the realities of this world. I can go into it with loads of opinions, but studying and experiencing different realities will mold those opinions. Hopefully, for my overall growth and benefit. There have been many examples over time that this hasn’t been the case- either because of a single individual or a more systemic one.


However faulty and deeply affected by the society from which it springs may be, public education's goal has always been to help set children up with the tools they will need to live the long-sought goal of "a good life". What does that mean and are we providing that to all of our public? All of our children? 


Just like the evolution of the realities behind our founding documents, the methodologies and details have changed over time. Thankfully. "We the People" means something completely different today than it did when it was written. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" also means something vastly different today than it did when it was written. 


We and everything else in this world are both deliciously diverse and intrinsically connected. Every day we're alive should be an opportunity to explore those truths and reach deeper understandings. 


That’s real education.