February’s almost gone

February is usually pretty busy here. The weather can vary widely; from almost 70F temperatures to a blizzard, we’ve seen it all here and then some. It certainly has been that way this month. A and a couple of her friends have a birthday this month. They’re all turning (or are about to turn) 12 this year.

There have been so many changes. I’m hesitant to write about what’s happening with A, as she’s old enough to get her own blog and tell her own story. Which she’d do very well – she and her first mother are terrific writers. Even A’s class assignments are fun to read (in a good way). Suffice it to say things are not easy here. They’re getting less easy by the day.

We had a great visit this weekend, though. Spent some time visiting and some time at a video arcade. A still has a great time doing things like that with us. I have no illusions that will last for long. But I want to enjoy all that now.

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Grow Write Guild #19: There’s Always This Year

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a Grow Write Guild piece. So here’s another…

This week’s prompt is about this year’s garden:

Grow Write Guild Prompt #19: Write about your plans for the coming growing season.

I’ve got some vague ideas, beginning with planter boxes. Simply put, I want some. At least 2. Our backyard is built on some of the most Cthulhu-awful ground in this particular area: bentonite clay. It’s rolling, it’s lumpy, it’s prone to “settling”/collapses. Yes, I know. How lucky am I that I get to grow things in this? So planting boxes is the way to go, I think.

In fact, one of the things that didn’t work so well last year were our tomatoes. Simply put, they didn’t have enough room in the containers we had available. So I’m going to say this today: If I don’t have planting boxes finished or almost finished by May (our normal set-out-the-tomatoes date), I won’t be growing any. Not even cherries or grapes. However. It’s projected to be another dry year, and I can’t seem to get water out to the plants fast enough to combat blossom end rot. I lost more than half of the San Marzanos I planted last summer due to that; it’s caused by inadequate/infrequent watering. In our case, anything less than drowning the containers 3x a day was, um, inadequate.

I was the happiest with the jalapeno crop. There were a bunch. Nothing fancy, just standard jalapenos grown from seed. But we had a lot – enough to freeze some for our Super Bowl snacks in 2 weeks. So, more jalapenos. I’d like to try some Sandias (assuming, again, a planter box) and possibly some pimientos. I think we’ve got enough space to isolate them from each other (sweet vs. hot, I mean) so that mouth-burning sweet peppers won’t be an issue. I think.

Things I didn’t get to last year that I’d like to try:

  • Some more herbs for the back wall, possibly a sage bush or some hardy rosemary.
  • Part 2 of my ongoing quest to get rid of those damn boxwood bushes. I’ve replaced 2 with lavender plants so far. Only 6 more to go…
  • I will have my night garden this year, even if I have to put all the plants into tubs. Even the new Alba I have in mind.
  • Greens. Probably not collards, but certainly mustard and kale. Maybe some carrots and beets too. Root plants definitely assume that a planting box is involved.

That’s pretty much my plans for this year’s garden. As always with gardens, we’ll see what happens.

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The Bleak Midwinter

Yes, it is an old English carol. But it’s midwinter, more or less, and it’s pretty damn bleak.

The weather is bleak. It snowed last weekend, and the snow shows no signs of melting; not off the roads, not off the grass, or the trees, or the sidewalks. Cloudy. Bleak.

But not everything. Things are getting slowly better here. A and I are talking more often. So are Mr. Goth and I. I’m becoming slowly adjusted to the idea of taking better care of myself; I make lunches for the week, even though I’m usually at home, I’m giving a diet and exercise program an honest go (and will be more kind to myself when I slip up and have to start over), I’m making practicing piano and flute a priority. And I’m working on making new things, which I’ll talk about more on my other blog. Really.

The place where we live is surprisingly lively this winter. We have lots of visitors to the bird feeder. Yes, some of them are crows and ravens, but they have to eat too. We also have woodpeckers, flickers, cardinals, sparrows, one lonely-looking black-capped chickadee, and an occasional fox. I’ve only seen the fox’s footprints, and heard our neighbors say that they’ve seen hir in the front yard, but still.

Winter will eventually go the way of other seasons in the wheel of the year. Right now it feels as though it’s never ending (and frankly, we’ve got it good out here in the US Southwest compared to the rest of the country). But it won’t last for ever. Good or bad, nothing will. That’s something I’m grateful for at the moment.

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This year, I’m not doing resolutions again. I’m not even sure I’m setting goals here, but we’ll see what happens. But here goes. Again.

I want to finish the class that I started last autumn. I’m taking 2 classes this spring, and would like to sign up for either 2 or 3 classes this summer, whatever I can afford or can schedule. It’s a whole different world from the one I’m familiar with, but I think I can do this. Got an A last semester – even though it was only one online class.

I also want to do some more soldering work. I can solder, but I haven’t done a lot with it and I still want to do more. Some more cables, maybe a couple of repairs…

Taking better care of myself is a goal this year too. My mother’s brush with cancer has shaken me up sufficiently to get going. I’ll be writing about that in my other blog, though – a bit more relevant there.

For right now, that’s all I’m willing to talk about. Oh, and writing at least once a week in each blog…a good start, anyway.

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Friday the 13th! W00t!

In case I haven’t said it yet, I really, really like Friday the 13ths. Ever since I heard a story about the origins of Friday the 13th, I’ve been a fan. It’s also changed the way I look at superstitions.

Once upon a time, I worked in a Large Standalone Electronics Store in the Big City. I worked in the service department with a bunch of other people, mostly men. My manager’s girlfriend and I became friends. One day, a Friday the 13th (I think), we were talking about my boyfriend problems. I was depressed and sad and blamed it on the date.

Then she told me what her Sicilian grandmother told her. “Friday the 13th is a lucky day. Especially for women. But the stories have been taken over by other people, so most people don’t know that. It’s a very lucky day.”

That was my introduction as an adult to the way thinking differently about something can change your attitude – not just what happens, but how you look at things. As it turned out, breaking up with that somebody was a pretty damn good thing. And it happened on a Friday the 13th.

It’s been a day I look forward to ever since. Good things and bad things have happened, just like on every other day. But it’s just a date.

Happy Friday the 13th, you guys.

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Now I Can Talk

Now that the crisis has (mostly) passed, I can write about it. A little.

A little over a month ago, my mother had a discharge from one of her nipples. I should say that my mother really, really dislikes going to the doctor and will only go if she’s dying or in such misery she can’t ignore it anymore. Or an already scheduled physical. Good thing she happened to have a physical the week that this happened…

2 MRIs, an ultrasound and a mastectomy later, she’s doing well. According to her oncologist and the attending surgeon (2 different people), there’s no cancer at the moment. She has to see an oncologist in 6 months, and her doctors will be monitoring things between times, but the crisis is averted for the moment.

I wish we didn’t live almost 1000 miles away.

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It’s December Already?

Fsck me. Where did the year go?

I decided I’d try NaBloPoMo again this month. Because it went so well last month on my other blog. /insert eyeroll here

This month, the theme is “more and less”. What do you want more of in the new year, and what can you do without.

The “less” is pretty easy this year. Less drama, all the way around.

The drama has lessened considerably in A’s first family and things are feeling…more normal, I think. So that is something I want more in the next year, certainly.

Our family drama, on the other hand…The only thing I can really talk about without getting into trouble is my mother’s physical health. Last month, she was diagnosed with what appears to be Stage 1 breast cancer that hadn’t yet progressed to the lymph nodes and was confined to one breast. So she had a mastectomy on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. She went home Thanksgiving evening and sounded a little groggy (well, maybe a little doesn’t describe it quite so well). By the weekend, she sounded like her old self. In two weeks she gets to find out just how much drama is remaining in this whole thing. Hopefully it won’t be much.

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Cold and Broken. Hallelujah.

All this to say – I’ve got nothin’ today.

Not entirely true. There’s quite a bit of family stuff that I can’t really face, let alone write about. There’s a beautiful day outside, as well as the story of some high schoolers that both shame us old folks and make us proud. There’s a lot of things that I could write about, but the words aren’t coming out.

So Leonard will say it for me.

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Disaster Robots

Yesterday we went to a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament. It’s close to where C and M both live, so we invited them to watch.

The kids on the team had been working pretty hard since the beginning of the year. The tournament consisted of 3 practice rounds with robots (built and programmed by the kids) running an obstacle course and performing tasks with, at best, little to no operator assistance; a research project based on the theme of the competition (this year it was natural disasters); an interview about the team’s understanding of FLL’s core values; and 3 competition rounds with the robots.

C was there before we got there – I wound up getting turned around at one point and was 5 minutes late – and we had a pretty good visit. A spent most of the day with her team. We got to see the project presentation, which the team crushed, the practice rounds and the actual competition rounds.

Toward the end of the afternoon, M came to watch. She got to see A’s team win a 1st place award for best research project. Better still was knowing how much work everybody on the team, especially A, put into the project. For a viable product, no less.

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Politics in the Schools

I started this entry right before our elections this past Tuesday. It’s now Friday, and the results are finally conclusive.

One of the conclusions we can draw from this year’s “off-year” elections is that people don’t like taxes. They most definitely don’t like tax increases, and they don’t like to pay for things that a tax increase will allow you to have. Like, for example, a functioning public school system.

On the other hand, a sales tax increase? Hugely popular, even though the sales tax should have been included in the amendment passed last year as was intended. But anyway.

There was another series of elections this year. Every two years, there are elections for local school boards all across the state. This is the story of what happened (and what is still happening) in Douglas County. Colorado.

4 years ago, a change began to happen in the makeup of the school board. It began in 2009 with an election consisting of 2 different slates of 4 candidates each. One was backed by the local and state teacher’s union, and the other was backed by the county Republican Party. Interestingly, almost all of the candidates were in fact Republicans. This happened again in 2011. By the time 2012 rolled around, the intent of the school board was becoming quite clear. First there were the openings of charter school “academies” in a big way. There have been a couple of charter schools in the district for years now, but there has been a marked increase both in the number of schools and the number of students leaving their neighborhood schools for these.

There also came the introduction of school vouchers. They are unconstitutional in the state of Colorado as of now, but that is being decided in the court system.

Next, a change in the way that teachers are evaluated as to their effectiveness. The “not effective”, “effective” and “highly effective” scale now used has been rightly criticized as arbitrary and vague. Last spring, the announcement was made that the school board would no longer recognize the local teacher’s union as a bargaining entity (meaning that there would be no contract negotiations with them).

Not long after, there was an announcement that there would be no real “neighborhood schools” as they are currently known. Instead, each school will be its own “magnet” school with its own curriculum concentration. If a student wasn’t comfortable or interested in the curriculum offered in their neighborhood school, they would be free to go elsewhere in the district. Because freedom.

There were four candidates that were interested in making sure that the whole idea of neighborhood schools remained. That their children could go back to the schools that were second to none in the state of Colorado. Simply put, they lost on Tuesday.

There was an overwhelming amount of outside money being spend on a little county school board race. Money from the Koch Brothers and their Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Independence Institute, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education to name a few. Despite that, the race was close. Much closer than, say, Amendment 66. There were less than 10 percentage points separating the candidates on either side.

I do wish that certain news outlets wouldn’t use the word “reform”, even though the new school boards are clearly intent on quite literally re-forming their school districts.

For more information on what’s happening with the Douglas County, CO school board, please go visit Douglas County Parents.com.

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