The Name Game: Migrant Children


When I was in the Master’s Leadership program, the professor asked: What’s the most important thing about a person?

Though I loved this professor, I knew he was wily.  Two brave students attempted an answer, only to be told they were incorrect.  The professor walked to podium, cleared his throat, and we knew we were about to learn a very important lesson.  Ladies and Gentleman the MOST important thing about a person is his/her name!  A name that distinguishes him/her from “you,” “kid,” “son,” or “ma’am.”  As an educator you must value people’s names, whether they be teachers, students, and parents.  You’ll be surprised by how much they respect you. A lesson I’ve not forgotten.  

Know I have the utmost respect for migrant workers and am most grateful for their service.  I’m certainly not going to pick lettuce, avocados, nor apples as my career.  Even at my grandparents’ farm years ago, men wandered up the lane to help with haying season and combining wheat and oats.

I am appalled at the separation of children from their migrant families.  I am appalled the US government is spending millions to house these children.  But I am most appalled we do not know these children’s names.  Really?  WTF?  And now, the government is going to spend millions to identify them via DNA testing.  Hmm.  In this technological age, it was not considered to identify them first–through photograph, finger print, or number?  These are children–some toddlers.  I can’t imagine their terror.


people-id-solutionsUnfortunately, this is just another example of mbsp–management by the seat of the pants. No one seems to understand the consequences of a decision until they’re faced with reality.  Decisions are whimsical, often retaliatory to garner votes.  Certainly, none of the recent decisions can be viewed as thoughtful.  (Just wait.  The tariff position is about to decimate American farmers.)

Yes, I’m a teacher. Yes, I’m a child advocate.  Yes, I would gladly open my home, my extra beds, and my kitchen to six children.  And yes, I would know each of them by name.

A view of inside US CBP detention facility shows children at Rio Grande Valley Centralized Processing Center in Texas

I’m Paranoid



As an 18-year veteran of the school board, the last few months have been the most challenging I’ve ever witnessed.  I experienced both student walkouts for school safety and teacher walkouts for dismal state support for its public schools.  I grew up in an era of protest–the Kent State shootings and Viet Nam War sit-ins.  I watched on TV the riots in Watts.  I’m not Pollyanna; I knew the world wasn’t perfect. I was cognizant of war, crime, and cruelty against others.

I watched in horror the TV coverage of the Twin Towers and the shooting of Gabby Giffords in a Tucson parking lot.  I wept over the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Afterward, our school district remodeled all of our forty-four schools.  Now, when I drive by each of them, the buildings are fortresses.  (If Phoenix water wasn’t so pricey, moats would have been added). Our front office entries are bullet-proof glass, and like the movie theater, I speak into a microphone and slide my ID through the little drawer for the secretary to peruse before I’m admitted.  I’ve undergone background checks and carry a fingerprint card.

Yet, in spite of all these school safety measures, school shootings continue.  Believe me, I’ve bent my head in prayer since Sandy Hook–my only weapon.  Thoughts and prayers are of NO use to dead children and school staff members; they’ve already met Jesus.

I am paranoid of what’s to become of us.  We live in an America rife with bullying, hate, anger, and powerful lobbies which control our legislators.  Each week we lose more of our most precious asset–our youth to senseless violence. Our children are counting on us to resolve this madness.

Hey There, You’re a Rock Star


FreeVector-Rock-StarsYears ago, I co-taught Sunday school with another church member, and one Sunday she said, “Sue, I’m tired of my nomadic life on the road.”  I knew she traveled several times a month leaving both her husband and children to fend for themselves.  But she was making mega bucks.  “You know I have a teaching degree I’ve never used.”

No, I didn’t know it.  “If you think you want to teach, I can arrange a interview with our HR assistant superintendent.  You realize you’ll never make the same amount of money you make now.”

“Of course.  There’s more important things than making loads of money.  I need to be with my family, and I want to make a difference in the lives of kids.”


“Deb, teaching is the most important profession in the world, for without a teacher there can be no nurse, no attorney, and no plumber.  I’ve observed you; you will be fabulous.”

Deb was hired as a teacher in a Title I elementary school and earlier this week emailed me:  I’m so proud to work for such a supportive governing board and superintendent.  You’re rock stars.

Rock stars?  The true rock stars are you and your fellow teachers.  You who are paid $35-40,000 per year to educate our future.  You who collect warm clothing for children in need.  You who tutor children at risk.  You who work tirelessly day after day to ensure each child maximizes his/her potential.

Curiously, I’ve never swooned over The Beatles, Smash Mouth, nor Justin Timberlake.  Yet, I’ve been euphoric when I witnessed the myriad of student accomplishments made possible by caring and dedicated teachers.  So unless Bruce Springsteen wants to run away with me, teachers will be my #1 rock stars!


Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too

In the midst of everything gone awry both nationally and internationally, my blog today takes a new turn.  Do any of you recognize this former Youngstown, Ohio resident?


His name is James Jonah Cummings, AKA Jim Cummings.  He was born in Youngstown in 1952,  attended St. Columbia Elementary and graduated from Ursuline High School in 1970.  Curiously, both my brother and I are trivia addicts–we collect random stuff in our minds.  Jim Cummings is the most recent.  He’s:


True, he ‘s been the voice of Winnie since 1988 and the voice of Tigger since 1989.  Currently, in production, he will be Christopher Robin’s voice too!  Jim has a fascinating repertoire of voices.  He was the Darkwing Duck and the Tasmanian Devil.  His voice has also been used in  The Lion King, Aladdin, Shrek, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and a myriad of other films.


There you have it.  Another great story from Youngstown, Ohio.  And a worthless piece of trivia to consider and to share with others.  But how cool is it to tell your kids and/or grand kids Winnie and Tigger are from Ytown?  Though AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, was from England, a teller of taller tales could further suggest Mill Creek Park is, indeed, the hundred-acre wood! 



Gullibility: $



New-Small-Designer-Slim-Women-Red-font-b-Wallet-b-font-Thin-Zipper-font-b-LadiesMe thinks there is a substantial percentage of American consumers, who are so gullible they pay outrageous prices for routine items.  Of course, my daughters are in that group. To me, a handbag or wallet fulfills a need.  To them, it is a fashion statement.  So I ask you: when was the last time you ogled someone’s wallet at the store checkout?  When was the last time you coveted someone’s choice of paper towels or toilet paper?  When was the last time you envied someone’s plastic bottle of water?


This week, I was early to an appointment, so I entered a designer grocery–the kind which caters to folk with more money than sense.  I perused the inflated prices: boneless, chicken breasts at $5.99 a pound, broccoli crowns at $4.99 a pound, and the deli was serving $10 a cup coffee.  I found this curious as the day before I paid $1.47 a pound for boneless chicken breasts.  Obviously, something is seriously wrong with my palate.  Chicken is chicken.  Beef, however, is another matter.  (Ribeye steaks are far superior to round steak.)


Yet, the most outrageous item I saw on my adventure was one, peeled navel orange in a plastic container. It’s price: $6.00!  Had I known folk were so gullible, I would have picked my plentiful oranges, peeled and contained them, and undercut the price by one dollar.  Damn!  I’d be wealthy!  Maybe, next year.


Happy Thanksgiving from a First Grader


My blog publishes early this week, as I’m off to the South for Thanksgiving.  A teacher friend of mine asks her first graders each year to write a recipe for preparing turkey.  This one made me roar with laughter:

Go buy a pink turkey the size of your face, about 10 pounds, from Home Depot. Put it in a pot with chunks of black pepper.  Cook in the oven for twenty minutes at ten degrees.  Serve with a few strawberries and lots of goldfish crackers.  

Chef Micah titled his recipe Turkey Trot.  Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town.  Sorry to miss his culinary masterpiece.


Happy Thanksgiving!

The Santa Claus Challenge

th-2Most of us remember when one of our classmates declared that Santa wasn’t real.  Some of us ay recall the famous Dear Virginia editorial response published in the New York Sun in 1897.  Even though, I’m old, and even though I’m currently living through the most turbulent, hateful times I find deplorable, I still believe in Santa.


Santa Claus is a spirit, who resides within most of us. When we were children, he miraculously answered our letters on Christmas morning.  In most cases.  I didn’t get a pony, but a got a Schwinn bike.  I didn’t receive a drum set, but I got a guitar.  Surprisingly, I was never disappointed.  I was happy with all my gifts–except the underwear.


As I aged, my experience led me to a greater understanding of Santa.  A mythical figure, who lived in a dreadful climate, who urged children to be good, who fulfilled wishes, for what?  A plate of cookies and a glass of milk?  Doubtful. Santa Claus , St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or whatever your moniker, came to teach.

His lesson embodied the Golden Rule–do unto to others.  But Santa tweaked it a tad.  Do unto others with anonymity.  For me, there’s no greater joy than giving without acknowledgement, nor accolade. And yes, there are a myriad of ways to get a tax deduction without revealing or bragging.   Trust me, I know.

Inside of each of us is Santa Claus.  In times of disasters, strangers help others; sometimes risking their own safety to render assistance.  With the holiday season fast-approaching, I urge you to accept the Santa Claus challenge.  Do something for someone anonymously.  You’ll be surprised by the joy you receive.    I double-dog dare you.








On Wednesday, the 2017-2018, school year commences in our district.  For the next 9.5 months, I’ll receive phone calls and emails from parents and students who complain about homework.

“My kid has to do 25 math problems every night.  Don’t you understand he plays club soccer?”

“Why do I have to conjugate every Spanish verb and use it in a sentence?  I already know how to do it.”


“Really?  You expect my child to read to me every night and require me to initial it happened?  I work full-time and have other responsibilities when I get home.  Ludicrous!”

“Why do we have homework anyway?  It’s such a waste of my free time.  Let’s just stop this silliness.  After all, I’m gifted; I get the message the first time.  I’m not in need of mindless repetition.”


Since I’ve served as a school board member for 17 years, I’ve heard every argument against homework imaginable.  Even in some of my professional journals, I’ve read about the adverse effects of homework.  However, today, it became inimitably clear why school has homework.  Lord, it was a revelation!  Preparation for life.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a casino for dinner and gambling.  True, I do enjoy wagering occasionally.  Yet, I declined.  I had to do homework.  The kitchen floor desperately needed mopped after the monsoon.  My yard’s grass, thanks to the monsoon, would be a foot tall, if I didn’t mow. The swimming pool needed cleaned and nuked with chemicals because of the monsoon.  I had to do homework.


In fact, this past week I’ve been consumed with homework. The condensation drain on an air conditioner clogged and sent water over my floor.  The patio door handle jammed and had to be replaced.  One of my dogs had poopy butt and had to be bathed.  Washing and ironing needed my attention.

And today is Sunday–a day of rest.  The Sunday crossword awaits my participation. But first, I must pay the electric and the water bills, clean out the refrigerator, dump the trash in the garbage cans for early Monday pick-up, and…ad infinitum.

Based on my epiphany about homework, the next complaint which comes across my radar screen will be answered:  Suck it up, dude.  Welcome to life.


Stupid Is Stupid


As a child, I did stupid things.  I knowingly picked some poison ivy to see what would happen and itched for a week.  I watched my grandparents’ pigs be slaughtered, even though I was told to remain in the house.  (A graphic I will never forget.) I drove the family car too fast, and I once drank far too much cider.  (Another experience, which led me to detest cider and later on in college, other spirits, like gin and tequila, where I prayed to the porcelain god I’d live till daylight.)


Yes, I understand this blog risks me as being labeled an old crone.  I get it; I’m old.  But I’m NOT stupid.  Yet, everywhere I go I see stupid people who lack decorum and common sense.  In my small world, there were unwritten rules:

  • You don’t wear a hat at the dinner table. (Believe me, I’ve knocked a few of those on the floor of some teenagers at my house.) Nor do you come to the table without a shirt. (Spare me.  I’ve no desire to see spaghetti sauce splattered on your chest hairs.)
  • You don’t spit a hawker on the sidewalk.
  • You don’t smoke a cigarette nor cigar in church.

The list is endless; I could rant on till doomsday.  (However, I often wonder if doomsday is currently unfolding, particularly in DC where decorum vanished.)  I read news accounts of kids being hospitalized for snorting bathroom cleanser, sniffing hair spray, ingesting grandma’s heart medicine.  WTF?  It never occurred to me Bon Ami, Aqua Net, nor baby aspirin were fun highs.

Thankfully, the proverbial Big Brother came to rescue the stupid with childproof medicine caps.  (Those caps wreck havoc on my arthritic hands.  Behold my dog medicine bottle.  A hammer was the only answer.)


Then, numerous warnings were required on packaging:

  • Discard the plastic bag.  Don’t let your child put it over his head, for he will suffocate.
  • Eating more than 10 candy bars at one sitting may be hazardous to your health.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle to avoid serious injury.
  • This sweater contains non-organic fibers; wear at your own risk.

What?  I feel like Big Brother thinks I’m an idiot.  Granted, I never worried about plastic bags, candy bars, helmets, nor non-organic stuff,  my children and I were smarter.

However, I recently bought new ink cartridges for my printer, which came with this warning: CAUTION:  Tri-color inks contain nitrates.  Do not drink or place in mouth.  Please know if you are invited to my house for a party, I shall not be serving multi-color cocktails.  LMAOtumblr_leqjp1SEZw1qz6fdso1_500





A Timely Tale of Bullies



th-1A few weeks ago, I shared the story of Bob, my current cabana boy.  Bob and his burly dog, Max moved into my guest house over a year ago.  For a year, Max only ventured outside when my dogs were in the house.  If they happened to see him, they’d chase him back through his doggy door.   They’d gnash their teeth if they spied him through the sliding glass door.  I would go and visit Max; I felt sorry for him, for his dad was gone much of the time.  He spent endless hours alone–unhealthy for a pack animal.  Dogs want to belong.


Like some of our children, Max was a victim of bullies.  He was lonely and afraid.  Even though, I made numerous attempts to introduce him to the group, they refused…unless his dad was present.  Surprisingly, two weeks ago, Max wandered up on my patio and came through my doggy door.  Given the mid-afternoon, Phoenix heat,  my five were all asleep in various locales.  No one took notice.  And on that very afternoon, Max moved in.  He quickly adapted to our routine.  He knows his dinner is served in the laundry room, as each dog has an assigned space, i.e. office, powder room, playroom, kitchen.   (Yes, with six dogs, I need separation at meal time.)


Further, like the rest of the pack, he understands I am the Alpha.  It is my way!  (Wish my own children understood I run the pack!). Curiously, though, Max quickly assumed another role–chief body guard of Sue.  I can not walk from room to room without him beside me. He follows me around the pool as I brush grit from the walls.  When repairmen come, I must banish him back to his own abode, as the hair raises down his spine and his teeth are in full display.  No doubt, he is my protector!


Certainly, I was hesitant to bond with Max; he is Bob’s dog.  Yet, most of us want a haven to belong.  We don’t like being made fun of or ostracized.  Each of us has something to share; each of us wants to further the greater good.  So for the most part, the rest of the pack is relieved to not be #1 in guard duty of the old witch.  All is well.

I shall never understand why Max ventured into my house two weeks ago.  Perhaps his loneliness fueled his instinct to just belong.  Hmm.  Wonder if there’s a lesson here?