I Wish I Could Impose My Will on Everybody Else

A great perspective on the issue and worth the read.

Fencing With Ink

If I could force everybody to adhere to the things I believe are right, life would be so much easier. It’d be more convenient, cleaner, and free of discomfort.

Sadly, I am not a tyrannical dictator. Neither do I possess the divinity needed to call my will “moral” and another’s will “amoral.” Thus, I have to find ways to cope with changes that do not require my approval. Changes that may make me uneasy or at the very least confused.

Changes such as Target’s decision to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their chosen identity.

Right, Wrong, and Everybody Else

I am a Christian.

You just judged me. As a friend or an enemy, I don’t know, but you’ve already placed your experiences and biases on my shoulders. I politely request that we both set those things aside for a moment. I’m doing my best to listen and I…

View original post 1,363 more words

The Day Independence Didn’t Begin

While many in the United States celebrate Independence Day today, one thing we need to remember is that July 4, 1776, was only one day in the long struggle for freedom. In fact, it was closer to the end of the struggle instead of the beginning, as most people think.

Americans (known as British subjects back then) began the struggle for independence while they were fighting next to British troops in the countryside against the French (we know this conflict as the “French & Indian War”, the Brits know it as the “Seven Years War”: 1754-1763) It was during this conflict that many of our future nation’s leaders were born. For they saw the policies and practices of the British and realized then that they were going to be treated unfairly, even if they won the war. George Washington became our nation’s first leader because of the failures, which in some cases were horrendous, and successes. This conflict was his training ground! After the war was over, it was the actions of the British parliament that led to the American leaders protesting the unfair taxes placed/forced on them to pay for the war. It was through these protests that our pursuit of freedom really began.

July 4, 1776, was the culmination of our frustrations with the British. What most American forget is that we almost “kissed and made up” with the British in 1775. Had the British government accepted the “Olive Branch Petition” from the colonies, we could very likely still be subjects of the crown. Oh how different our lives would be, right?

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, almost 10 years after it began. So, let’s not take our freedom for granted on this day. The battle wasn’t won during a short fight, it was won over a long period of time. Many sacrificed all – both then and now. There are many who are sacrificing even now so that we might remain free. Don’t let us take it for granted!

I want to end with a smattering of quotes. I end this post this way because I feel we, as a nation, are headed into dark times if we continue to dishonor our heritage and the sacrifices of those who came before us. We are giving up on the ideals and principles that our country was founded on. Maybe we aren’t giving up on them, maybe we are just ignoring them. Or maybe we just don’t care because we have become too selfish and too apathetic, I don’t know for sure. But what I fear is that the road we are on will not perpetuate the greatness we have known in the past. Ben Franklin is famous for saying after the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, in response to a question about the kind of government we would have, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Today, I think he may be right. The challenge is to maintain it and those WE have elected over the years are eroding the foundations of our house. Let me be clear, WE the people are the problem, not our politicians. WE put them in office and, unfortunately, they do what WE want them to (even if is seems dysfunctional).

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
–Ronald Reagan

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
–George Washington

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.”
–Woodrow Wilson

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
–Benjamin Franklin

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
–James Madison

“I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”
–Malcolm X

If we don’t hold onto the freedoms and traditions we have been given, they will slowly be taken away. Like cooking a frog in a pot, it won’t jump out of the pot if the water warms slowly. Our environment in the US these days is a lot like the pot…

Missing the Good Stuff Sucks

Missing the good stuff in life isn’t something I relish, especially when it involves my kids. I want to be there for the things they do, whether it be sports or drama or choir or a community function or major things like graduation and moving up ceremonies. Those things are important and the support of knowing your parents are there to support you is one of the best things to help your kids feel safe and secure in this world. I know I really appreciated that my parents made it to as many things as possible when I was a kid. I didn’t always express my appreciation like I should have, but it did mean a lot.

Today is tough for me because I am missing something I feel I should be at. Instead, because of my job, I am missing it. So, instead of doing what I should be doing I am taking a moment to vent my frustration. I doubt it will help me feel better, but I just can’t help it. What’s worse about this whole thing is that it is because of my job that I am missing it and it is my profession that makes it more difficult on people, specifically parents.

You see, today my son is “graduating” from the 8th grade. It is really just a moving up ceremony and in the grand scheme of educational things it isn’t that important. BUT, it is important to him! Unfortunately, I am missing it. Missing the good stuff sucks.

Why am I missing it? Well, I am a teacher and work for a completely different school district than both of my school aged children. What that means is that I end up missing many of their school related activities. Parent/teacher conferences, concerts or performances that take place during the school day, celebrations at school, graduations/moving-up ceremonies…you name it, I probably have missed it because I was fulfilling my teacher duties somewhere else. I am not sure why school districts schedule things during the work day. It doesn’t make sense to me and I am sure there are reasons I don’t know of, but either way it is frustrating. I am sure there are many parents who are missing the ceremony today because they have work obligations, that is the unfortunate thing schools do.

Anyway, all that to say I am proud of you, son. You have grown up so much over the last few years and this transition will be a big one for you. You worked hard this year, made some mistakes and grew from them. You worked hard this year, learned some new things about yourself and the subjects you were studying. You worked hard this year and experienced some great successes as well. You have tried new things, some you liked and some you didn’t. You are moving up in this world and I can’t wait to see where life continues to take you.

Congratulations, and I love you.

Change Is In The Air

Sometimes, you just get tired of doing things the way you have always done them.

Sometimes, you realize nothing will change if you don’t have the guts to risk something hard.

Sometimes, you’re just tired.

Change is in the air. Not something as simple as moving the furniture around the living room, going to bed earlier to get more rest, or working out more to lose some weight. No, this change is intended to put my (our) family and future in a better place.

Sure there will be people who say it isn’t smart, or wise. There will probably even be people who say I’m (or we’re) stupid for even trying. But, what about those people in history who didn’t listen to the people around them, even the ones they respected and looked up to the most? What if those people never made a decision to step out and risk something in order to get to something greater? Where would we be without them? How different would our lives be then?

So, for now some encouragement to take hard, positive steps and make harder long-term decisions. In the end, the road may be long but anything worth having is worth working for, right? At least that’s what our parents told us when we were kids and wanted something right NOW. Time to put those words into action and see if mom and dad were right…oh, and they were. I am not where I am today without listening to them once in a while. However, we need reminders of these things once in a while and now is as good as any.

There is more to come…

PS: If you needed some encouragement today to do something hard, then you can take some from me. You’re welcome!

A Forever Family Needs Help!

Help bring Chloe home!  *Regulations say I can't show you her face yet*

Help bring Chloe home!
*Regulations say I can’t show you her face yet*

The beautiful little girl above has the opportunity to go home to her forever family this year! But, she needs help. FAST!

I have written about this adoption before, If Ever There Was A Good Cause, but that was before there was an actual, real face and child to think about. The idea was there and there was a goal, but it was just so unreal and seemingly intangible. Well, things have changed and there is now a very real, very tangible goal in mind. But time is short, so anything you can do (no matter how small it may be) helps bring this pretty little girl one step closer to her new home in Hawaii with an amazing family.

They are trying to raise funds in a very short amount of time to help defray the costs of the adoption, which includes traveling to China to meet her for the first time and bring her home. With about two months to go, they could use some help, like right now!!

I am including the links to their fundraising efforts so that you can help them be successful! But most of all, for a little child of God to come home to a family that has loved her for a long time without even knowing her. Again, there can be no greater cause than this.

GoFundMe

MyThirtyOne.com

purecharity.com

Thanks so much for considering this as a way to change the world, one life at a time. Be the difference in one life.

Dollar Shave Club: Review

The old adage holds true: “You get what you pay for.”

Let’s face it, we all probably spend a lot of money each year on shaving supplies, from handles and razor blades to shaving cream and aftershave. There are all sorts of different choices out there and sometimes trying to decide can be rather difficult. Do I just go cheap and get the basic stuff or do I spend a little extra and hope it doesn’t tear my face to hell like the cheap stuff?

Not only do these things get used on our faces, but our wives often have similar needs to us. Only, they use the products on their legs and other parts…so they like to have their own tools too. If your wife is like mine, she probably goes through blades like crazy and it gets rather expensive when you are spending $20 (maybe more) a month on titanium blades (or some other advertised rendition).

So, we have seen the advertisements from and about DollarShaveClub.com. They were entertaining, somewhat irreverent, and a bit tongue-n-cheek catchy. We started to talk about a possible solution to our monthly hair removal expense. This seemed like a good idea so we went to their website. We looked at the different models and decided that we should not go for the cheapest one, but opt for the middle option because we didn’t want it to be TOO cheap.

As you can see, there are three options: “The Humble Twin,” “The 4X,” and “The Executive.” The $6 a month looks like it is fairly affordable. With an additional handle, another $4 at the start, we thought we were set to go. We were thinking for less than $80 a year we wouldn’t need to do anything else when it came to shaving equipment. Plus, it is delivered so no shopping needed!

So far that plan hasn’t worked yet. We have been subscribed to this service for less than a year and already we have spent more per month, on average, than anticipated. While it still might be less than we would be spending on more pricey razors, the product lives up to its cheap billing. Durability is an issue even with “The 4X” handle AND the razor heads too.

The Best Laid Plans

Once we received the initial shipment my wife was excited to try out the new razors right away. She had been waiting a few days for it to arrive. On the second use of the razor head the thing started to fall apart. It appears to be a problem with construction and materials. It’s plastic, so I guess that is to be somewhat expected. However, the piece that broke should be designed to be more durable than it is.

Within the first week after getting the newly delivered razor heads, two were broken. Both broken in the same manner and in the same place. This doesn’t seem to be a coincidence, rather poor construction and design. The razor handle is inserted and attached at this point. It slides in and “grips” the piece that is hanging out in the picture below. A weak piece of plastic at the point where the two main parts of shaving components come together. If this part is going to break on a regular basis, then there is a problem in design for sure. (Or is there? Maybe that is all part of their evil plan in this “disposable world.”)

A very thin, piece of plastic that takes a lot of pressure.

A very thin, plastic piece which breaks easily.

Needless to say, this was a rather disappointing start. The actual blades themselves seem to be fine but they don’t last through more than about 4 uses. The blades do clean out fairly well and don’t clog up much so that is nice. There are a few redeeming factors of the cheap(ish), middle group razors but that’s about it.

Unfortunately, the handle for this particular set of razor heads hasn’t fared much better and again falls victim to poor design and cheap material. In the case of the razor handle, on the surface it appears to be pretty “beefy.” It is made of solid metal and has a rubber coating/handle on it to make it feel substantial. But, the feel and appearance fall apart, quite literally, where the handle and the razor connect. The plastic that is supposed to contain the pivot point also happens to be its weakest point.

LEFT: broken   -   RIGHT: not broken

LEFT: broken – RIGHT: not broken

Because this tiny little plastic piece is the only piece that keeps the razor head from over rotating, it has to take a lot of pressure from the razor as it slides across the surface of the skin. Seeing as how it is thin plastic and that it is just barely attached to the black plastic “belly” of the razor handle, there is no way that it can withstand long-term usage. As such, we have now had to purchase four of these handles and the third purchase has already suffered this similar fate as the first two. That doesn’t give us much hope for the fourth handle.

I am not involved in the production and assembly of these things but it seems like a fairly easy fix. The bottom part of the razor handle (as seen in the photo above) should be made of metal. This point in the functionality of the razor is vitally important because the pressure from the razor head is constantly on it. The little plastic piece is not the best way to keep the razor head from over-pivoting. Once it is broken out, the razor has to be used in a very awkward position to make it still functional. Obviously, this is not ideal and makes it very difficult to get an acceptable shave.

Final Analysis

The Dollar Shave Club, on the surface, offers an affordable and convenient approach to buying shaving equipment and accessories. The affordability is hard to pass up when you are constantly having to buy this stuff at even big box store prices. Not having to think about making a trip to the store on a regular basis to buy this stuff is rather convenient because you sign up for an automatic shipment each month and it comes straight to your mailbox.

While the product may still be more cost-effective in the long run (that still remains to be seen), the functionality and durability of the product can’t be overlooked. Both pieces that get used on a regular basis, the razor head and handle, have some rather obviously glaring weaknesses making the product only marginally worthwhile. Until these weak points are addressed and fixed to make the products more durable, the Dollar Shave Club can only be deemed moderately affordable. Unfortunately, affordability is what they are selling and it doesn’t hold up under real world usage.

FINAL GRADE:  C+

What the Legislators Aren’t Doing

This is a great visual representation of what the Washington state legislature IS NOT doing in regards to funding schools in Washington. The state supreme court found the state legislature in “contempt of court” in September of 2014, yet the state legislature continues to make little progress towards the goal they set in their testimony during the trial. This chart shows, quite obviously, that the state isn’t living up to their promises and that ANY money being added to education this year is only “catch up” money, NOT additional funds as they claim in their press releases and speeches to the media.

Don’t you think it’s about time to fund education fully?

State Senator Ignores the Voter

Supposedly “serving” the 10th legislative district.

Thank you, Barbara Bailey, for making my job as an American government teacher harder. I teach other social studies classes but you have been a shining example in my classroom of what NOT to do. You are one reason why my students are confounded by politics and apathetic to the pleas of participation in the political process. They see that you (and many of the others who are supposed to represent us) aren’t representing them or the other state voters, but instead your work in Olympia shows clearly you are only representing the interests of the Republican party in the state.

I did not vote for you, though I tend to lean to the right in most cases. I voted for your opponent over the years. Why? Well, because you have consistently demonstrated that you are only going to toe the party line. I am not sure how you continue to win elections, but I suppose it has something to do with the fact that you are entrenched in your position and most voters have no idea what your stance is so much as they know your face and name. Many voters don’t care enough to know, they just vote on the most basic information. Statistics on voters and campaign ads show this most clearly. But really, that is beside the point right now.

At the moment, you and your Republican cohort in the state senate are bent on attacking teachers and dismantling the teaching profession. I am not sure why and I can only speculate, but my guess is it has something to do with private dollars finding its way into the Republican coffers in order to push for a narrow, special interest generated agenda. The responses I have received from your office (or someone that works for you, specifically Josie Cummings) also prove this out.

SB 5748 : Teacher Evaluations

SB 5748 passed out of the Senate and is now in the House of Representatives. 
This bill brings back 40 million federal funded dollars back into Washington's School system. Washington State became the first state to lose the waiver of $40 million because Washington didn't require state tests to be used in evaluations. 

Your message has been passed along to Senator Bailey. She knows that this is just the first step of many in evaluation reform and would love to hear ideas from great teachers like yourself that create a better evaluation system. Education continues to be a top priority for Senator Bailey and she greatly appreciates your comments and will keep them in mind as bills come before her. 

Best,
Josie Cummings
Aide to Senator Bailey

The excuse of finding funding dollars via teacher evaluations is a really weak look at finding ways to fund education. Our state stood up to a federal government that bullies states into unconstitutional mandates in education. Should we be embarrassed about being the first state to lose the “waiver” from the federal government? No! $40 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to funding schools in our state, a state that has Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, etc. Our state could replace lost revenue (plus more) through just a quarter of a percent raise in taxes on businesses like the ones mentioned. But, our state senators are too weak, or too beholden to special interests.

I-1351 : Class Size

Thank you for writing to Senator Bailey regarding the importance of funding education and I-1351. As you probably know, I-1351 did not include the revenue sources that would pay for this transition in education. However, The Senate is working hard to fully fund K-12 Education in Washington State. 

The Senate released their proposed budget yesterday afternoon. The Senate proposed a 1.3 billion additional dollars for K-12 education, which is the largest K-12 investment in state budget history. 
This would make education 47% of the state budget. $350 million dollars are allocated to lowering class sizes for K-3 class rooms. 

Best, 
Josie Cummings

I-1351 was passed by the voters and has a requirement for lowering class sizes K-12. The language wasn’t written in vague terms and was not left open to interpretation when the voters passed it. However, as you can see, the senator wants us to believe that I-1351 is only for K-3. Obviously, senator, you haven’t read it or you wouldn’t/shouldn’t vote to short change the children of the state. It doesn’t matter that the initiative wasn’t written without funding. Much of the legislation passed by the legislature in our state doesn’t have funding sources tied to it, but you all seem to find a way to pay for it later. In this case, the voters passed it and want it. Denying it is just ignoring the voters and playing word games to redefine how you have to deal with it.

The other misleading point in this response from the senator is that they are giving “additional” money to education. This statement, however, is VERY FALSE. The reality to the statement is the legislature is CATCHING UP on what should be spent on education. There is no additional revenue being added to education. The state supreme court found the legislature in contempt of court and has mandated the legislature adequately fund education. At best, the additional $1.3 billion brings the state closer to funding education fully, something it hasn’t even come close to doing in the past, but is roughly $2-4 billion short of what is needed, depending on who you talk to.

Then, she drags other political leaders into the fray as well since there is no answer to bad political maneuvering.

Thank you for writing to Senator Bailey regarding funding for I-1351. The Senator appreciates your involvement with this very important issue. The passage of I-1351 clearly represents a new challenge, considering the measure makes spending commitments ($4.7 billion across four years) without identifying a revenue source. It is certainly revealing that Governor Inslee’s own budget proposal fails to fund I-1351.

Thanks,
Josie Cummings

In other words, I can’t explain our Republican plan so I will point fingers at the Democratic governor. That’s really rich. Politics at its best!

Ultimately, we need a legislature that is willing to do the difficult task of standing up for children and the people tasked with educating them. The state supreme court has said repeatedly the legislature fails in this task. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be many people in our state government that are willing to do that. Instead, we get excuses and more placating/catering to big business. (Boeing gets an $8.7 BILLION dollar tax break?) Let’s hope the state supreme court doesn’t allow the legislature to continue in this “lack of funding, drag our feet to fix the problem” game. Except that is something they are asking for, yet again!

Wearing the senator down?

When I last sent the senator an email requesting that she support a budget that gives more funding to education, closes tax loopholes for large corporations, provides more money for competitive pay and benefits for educators, and doesn’t cut state services to the poor, I didn’t get much of a response. Instead it was just a short, one line email:

Thanks for the message. I will make sure this gets in front of the Senator as budget negotiations continue.

Best, 
Josie Cummings

As you can imagine, the message doesn’t hold out much hope for her changing her position, which is unfortunate since ignoring the will of the voter seems to be the norm these days. I could hope that I am wearing her down and she is going to change her party-line, voting alignment but that seems like far too much to hope for.

Unfortunately, the broken system also discourages teens who are just now becoming eligible to vote. They see how broke the system is, they see how it ignores the voter, and they see how politicians tend to perpetuate the system to their own benefit and not that of the people. A new generation of apathetic voter is born…thanks again, Barbara Bailey.

Rock the Vote (at least three times!)

Yesterday in class one of my seniors announced that she voted in the school levy election of our community.

I was like, “YES! Way to go.” It made me happy that she exercised her right to vote and that she also had been listening to me all year while I have encouraged the seniors to vote when they had the chance. I have even used class time to allow them to register to vote online because I think it is that important. But then, she explained what happened…

She said that her dad sat her down and told her to open the ballot. He then proceeded to instruct her on how to fill it out, like exactly which answers to fill in.

My students said the comment from her mother was, “As long as you live in this house, you will fill out your ballot just like your dad.”

I was, admittedly, speechless at first. I protested and said she should have filled it out herself. But then, what could she really do? She was stuck in a hard place. I haven’t ever heard of a parent doing that before. I hope there aren’t more out there like that.

Hopefully, she gets a voice (of her own) in the next election.

Anyone out there expect their children, wife, or other family members to vote the way they do? If so, why?