Monday, November 5, 2012


Tomorrow, November 7, 2012,  is a really important day.  Here are some of my guidelines on deciding which presidential candidate is best for our country. 

 I want a leader, not a boss.

I want that leader to be respected by other global leaders.

I want that leader to be gifted intellectually.

I want that leader to be in touch with average Americans.

I want that leader to understand what it is like to be poor.

I want that leader to understand the hardships of single parenting.

I want that leader to realize that students need financial help and it often won't be able to come from their parents.

I want that leader to understand the Constitution and the law of the land.


Please vote for him if you are undecided.
You are probably as sick as I am about all the negative ads, and we should not buy into them without some fact checking. To that end, if you think Mitt Romney is truthful about his background as a businessman and is the answer to our fiscal problems, try this.  Go online and read some of the information about what he actually accomplished in Massachusetts while he was governor. It would appear that he ended his four year term with a 34% favorable rating and was ranked 48th out of 50 governors.

I personally don’t mind if people change their positions based on new information.  That’s part of growing wiser. This is a good thing.  However, It feels like Governor Romney  wants the presidency so badly that he changes his position to suit his audience rather than because of  new insights.  This is a bad thing.

There is a Wikipedia link below. Other sites are available for fact checking. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Memorial Day.  An excuse to shop? A day off  from work or school?  Watching a band and eating yummy food at a downtown festival?  It's all of the above, but the main reason for this May holiday, signaling that summer will be here soon, is remembering.   Specifically, remembering our nation's fallen military men and women. 

Originally called Decoration Day, it was established before the end of the Civil War to honor the men and women who died in service of our nation.  Many small towns lay claim to having  been the first to celebrate a specific day, but over time it was officially proclaimed a holiday on May 4, 1868. It was marked by decorating graves, holding parades and attending picnics big and small.

In 1915  Moina Michael  wore a red poppy to honor those who died in war, and the idea took hold. Before too long the tradition of buying and wearing poppies spread, even to other countries.  The proceeds in some cases went to widows and children orphaned by war.

In ensuing years the original meaning has been lost and we now combine our remembering to include anyone close to us who has passed away.  We still decorate graves and hold special parties with red, white and blue flags flying, however the parades and community-wide celebrations are fewer, and in some places, non-existent.

In an attempt to return to its original intent, a "National Moment of Remembrance" was introduced in December, 2000 which asked that we all pause at 3:00 p.m. wherever we happen to be to remember those in the military who died to keep us safe.     Carrying it further, some are even behind a movement to return to the original day of observance, perhaps a specific day such as May 30, no matter what day it falls upon.  Their argument is that a three day weekend can be seen as a distraction with its multitude of activities,  rather than as a way of focusing on one important thing  - remembering those lost to us who were  trying to keep us from harm's way.

This year, for so many of our military's young men and women who made the "supreme sacrifice", we need to do more than take a minute at 3:00 p.m. to remember them.   As a nation we need to make sure that their deaths were not in vain, and live our lives in a way that brings honor to that sacrifice.  In the meantime, we can also show we care by our actions. We can say "thank you" or  give small gifts to everyone we see in uniform.  We can volunteer in military hospitals.  We can invite them to our homes for a good home-cooked meal.  We can put them in touch with possible employment opportunities.  In other words, we can give back to the living and injured an attitude of love and appreciation, while also remembering those no longer with us.

 So at 3:00 tomorrow, take a few minutes to reflect on those who have died so that we can be safe, and what that means for you.  Then take a few more minutes to think about those in the military, away from their homes and loved ones, and think how you can show them you care.  Surely it's worth a few minutes time in the lives of us all!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Today we held a bridal shower for  Liz, my future daughter-in-law,  at our Sandy Point beach house.  It was a champagne brunch for twenty-four women and the day was sunny and warm.  Guests were seated at decorated tables  on the water side patio, and garlands of pink flowers with white fairy lights festooned the walls above the buffet, which was prepared by another daughter-in-law, Jackie.
Presents were opened with the expected oohs and aahs, and daughter Jonelle busily made a bouquet  from all the ribbons. Click on the words "made a bouquet" to learn about this and other bridal traditions.  Because of time honored stories, Liz was careful  about unwrapping the presents, since the number of ribbons broken  are supposed to predict how many children the future bride will have.  And of course jokes were made about how many would be acceptable with respect to future motherhood.
Typical shower games were played, but one activity was worth sharing.   The women were asked to share advice for the new bride on 3 x 5 cards.  Here were a few of those "words of wisdom."
1.  Always make up and never go to bed mad.
2.  The best advice is to love, nourish and have peace.
3.  Laugh it off.
4.  Take 3 deep breaths and shake off the small stuff...and remember, it is mostly SMALL stuff.
5.  Communication and compromise are important.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff (toilet seats, clothes on the floor, etc.)
7. You catch more bears with honey than you do with vinegar.
8. You trained for a wonderful career.  Don't let anyone talk you out of it.  Always be able to work, to be independent, and to have your own money to spend.
9. Have unconditional love, fight fair, and always make up after.
10. Develop special hobbies and adventures that are shared together exclusively.  This will bond your relationship with each other and your shared memories will last forever.
11. Create your own family traditions.
12.  Promise to be kind to everyone you meet and know.
13. Act like your husband is always right, then do it your way when he is not looking.
14. Having two cars and two TVs is a good thing.
15. During the hard times (fights) pause and remember how rare true love is and how blessed you are to have it, then tell each other you love them.  Don't go to bed angry.
16.   Keep your guy on a short (yet fashionable leash). 
We all smiled knowingly at each other as the cards were read and I wondered  how many felt as I did - that being a woman is pretty special. I don't think men spend much time listening to advice from their buddies unless it has to do with getting certain basic needs met.  On the other hand we,  the so called weaker sex, shaped by the journeys  of those who went before, can spend hours talking about life's problems,  solutions, second guessing, multi-tasking, and handling whatever life throws our way. I think we are  wise, strong, clever, resourceful and resilient. Like the song lyrics from The Flower Drum musical say, "I enjoy being a girl."   
Many of us at the shower were mothers, which adds additional depth to the female psyche.  For those and for mothers across the world I say Happy Mother's Day.  May you enjoy the day, knowing that your children, whether near or far, will have you in their thoughts.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I mentioned last week that I was taking a computer fundamentals class at Edmonds Community College.   It would take care of five of seven remaining credits  needed to renew my teaching credential.  Normally I avoid anything that smacks of technology. I never learned to program a VCR, still find my DROID beyond understanding,  and yell for help whenever my TV remotes won't respond to a single click of a button. 

But, I use computers daily, write e-mails, cut, paste, design flyers, and write a blog.  Surely I could handle a basic computer class and fill up my deficit gaps, right?  Wrong!   I could give you a day by day rundown of my learning issues, but suffice it to say that my happiest day, since  the first day of school, was finding an on-campus  computer lab with tutors available for folks like me. 

I have no problem writing the papers.  Writing is a strength.  But, the quizzes are something else again.  One big problem is my inability to remember the various terminology, most of which are acronyms for vocabulary words important for understanding. For example, Here are only a few acronyms from Chapter 5 of Technology in Action, 8th edition, (Evans, et al., Prentice Hall, 2012).

OS  -  operating system
CPU - central processing unit
MS-DOS  OR   DOS  (Micro disc operating system)
RTOS   -  Real time operating systems (embedded system)
UNIX  - ?
RAM  -  random access memory
LINUX  -  open source operating sysem for personal computers
GUI - graphic user interface
GNOME  - ?
KDE - ?
OLPC  -  One laptop per child
GB  -  giga byte
PnP -  Plug and play
API  -     application programming interface
POST - power on self test
BIOS - basic input output system
ROM      -  read only memory
CMOS  -  complementary metal-oxidesemiconductor

I struggled  to put meaning to the acronyms.  Several terms were not even in my text book's glossary as you can see by the question marks.  I searched the web and found a computer dictionary which clarifies terminology for  true internet "dummies"  like me. From The Ultimate Computer Acronyms Archive  , which has 178 pages of computer acronyms,  I was able to find the various meanings.
Is your head sufficiently spinning, or are you one of those lucky techies for whom this is totally elementary?  Last week I learned about the digital divide which separates the digital "knows"   from  the "know nots".  I am thinking that  it is not a good thing to be on the wrong side of the divide; but, struggle as I might, I don't  think I will ever truly be "in the know."   However, it might not be too late for you, and you might be more open to this kind of literacy.  Take classes, classes, classes to become  computer literate.  Computers are here to stay and have taken over every aspect of our lives.  It was sobering to me, a simple farm girl, that even cows are not immune.  They probably have  RFIDs  imbedded so that their every movement can be monitored.  I find myself wondering how my deceased father would look at today's technology.  He'd probably just shake his head in disbelief,  then walk out to the barn to give a pat to Bessie as she waited to be milked. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012


It's 2012 spring quarter at Edmonds Community College, and here I sit one year after completing spring quarter 2011 classes in Spanish and piano. Why? I am finishing up seven credits needed to renew my teaching credential, a requirement of every teacher in order to teach in Washington state public school classrooms.  (School Days, School Daze, April 10, 2011)
Returning to a regular college classroom after fifty years was an eye opening experience a year ago (see blog), and provided a lesson in humility as I bumbled my way around campus where everyone seemed to know where to go and what to do. But I made it with a 4.0, a love and small skill in piano, and the rudiments ,though not fully internalized , of a new language. (Mexican Standoff in a Guaymas Walmart, January 1, 2012)
This quarter I am continuing with piano, and also taking five credits in computer fundamentals.  Feeling a little smug,  I breezed through registration, got my books at the bookstore ( sticker shock notwithstanding) and found parking and both buildings with ease.
It's the third week in the quarter and I am struck again by the ease of navigating the campus and finding any help I need with my classes.  Example:  The piano class has a free tutor just a phone call away.  I learned that over twenty locations have computers available for those in need.  One of them, a tutorial center in Mukilteo Hall, has tutors available to help with specific course needs.  You merely sign in, find an available computer, put your name, computer number and course number on a white board, and wait for help.  It comes quickly in the form of a friendly person with answers to your particular questions. 
Perhaps the most significant difference between today's classroom and those of bygone days is the prevalent use of technology.  Back then I had a portable manual typewriter on which I could type 80+ words a minute.  Now our household has no fewer than two apples and four pc computers in use at one time or another.  This includes two outdated laptops which sometimes seem like old friends when I am struggling with the newer technology available. But having a computer and understanding it are two different things to a person riddled with technological anxiety. Thus, I am taking  BSTEC 130, a  hybrid class which will introduce me to computer concepts, applications, HTML and the Internet using Windows and Microsoft Office, including Word, Access, Excel, and Powerpoint.  Whew!!
It's Saturday morning and I checked "My Edmonds CC" where, after signing in on something called "blackboard", I looked at my class requirements.  I then took a computer quizz and instanly received a grade.  "Ahem."  I took it twice and got 60%.  I think I will take the pass-fail grade option. 
Fifty years ago we went to class, studied, took our tests, and socialized.  I remember it as fun,  punctuated by periods of hard work and panic.  Today, it is hard work, some panic, and not much socializing, even with my poor abandoned husband waiting patiently nearby.  I am thinking that is probably true of many other students, at least in the business information technology department.  If you don't stay on top of it you are left behind.  And in the bigger picture, it's even more true.  Without understanding technology and its importance in our lives today, we will be left behind as individuals and as a country.  I am thinking back nostalgically on the "good old days" at the mid-century University of Washington. Now I find myself wondering what the 21st century students' good old days will look like.  No doubt the kind of computers, cell phones, and techy toys will be a large part.   But enough.  Now I must move on to Technology in Action where I am learning  that technology has taken over business, education, gaming, law enforcement, the military, medicine, the automotive industry, sports, psychology and agriculture.  Nanotechnology is on the horizon.  One big challenge of a digital society will be that of ethics.  Another will be the growing "digital divide" separating the "knows" and the "know nots" with respect to technology.  My head is spinning, but I am going to stay the course. More later.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


There are thousands of boards of directors all over the country doing amazing work as they guide their organizations both non-profit and for profit. One I know well is the Martin Luther King School Dream Foundation which my husband and I founded in 1999. It oversees the disbursement of post secondary scholarships to underserved students in the Seattle area, and has given out over one hundred to date. The board is made up of colleagues and friends who are committed to the good work of the foundation and meet when necessary to take care of foundation business.

In addition, my husband has been very involved with Edmonds Community College, both as a trustee locally and nationally, and also as a foundation board member. Out of his many years of board experience he has written a book entitled Walking the Board Walk which spells out secrets of an enjoyable nonprofit board experience.

Lately I have been hearing about another board of directors for a company called SPIC, (Sandy Point Improvement Company) a "for profit" board serving a recreational community called Sandy Point, north of Bellingham where we own a vacation home. I am concerned that this board needs some training on how to operate effectively for its members.

Right now this unique waterfront community near the Canadian border, seems to be victim to escalating levels of petty crime, drug problems and a disregard of property rights by a few unsavory individuals. It is clear that concern about these developments is growing along with dissatisfaction with the SPIC Board’s response. Some residents feel their complaints fall on deaf ears. Citizen groups including block watchers have been formed and police have been called regularly reporting suspicious activity. Some residents have even experienced intimidation by individuals who carry on their bullying behavior with apparent immunity.

While I know there are a few residents trying to solve the problems, I do NOT see SPIC and others showing leadership in terms of protecting this community and its homeowners, or giving support where needed. Maintaining the community should be at the front of their duties as elected board members. They should be supporting those who are trying to solve problems with the clout of their office and take a "united we stand" approach, by sticking up for beleaguered homeowners and targeting those who seek to destroy the safety and harmonious way of life for this beautiful area.

To those of you on the board, I say this: I think it is important for all of us, as Sandy Pointers, to realize that our ENTIRE community is at risk. Whether one lives on the lake, the bay, the beach, the heights or Neptune Beach, our property values suffer if people believe crime is on the rise and no one is doing what is needed to stop it. Word does get around. Why buy here if there are safer communities with as much to offer elsewhere. Shorthanded police officers are not the answer. Community muscle can be. You are our muscle, and need to step up to the plate of your elected responsibility.

If you need help in being more effective, I know a very good, nationally recognized author and facilitator, with a vacation home at Sandy Point, who can help you become a board to be proud of. Feel free to contact

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Marriage is about making each other’s dreams come true. I heard that on a CNN interview Don Lemon was holding this afternoon. The truth of it struck me. It also struck me that it takes two to believe in this truth or it probably won’t work. In other words, one half of the couple will most likely feel dissatisfied, discontented or devalued.

I speak with some authority as I have experienced both kinds of marriage. In the first, which ended in divorce, the focus was on my husband’s career, needs and wants. After the split, not of my choosing, and seven years of single parenting, I married a wonderful man who was a recent widower and father of five. Filled with mutual respect, genuine liking, a healthy dose of passion and shared dreams
for the future we embarked on our second chance at happiness. Twenty five years later the feelings remain the same, even at our advanced ages. He still has his dreams and tasks and I have mine. We believe in each other. We have each other’s backs.

It’s such a comfortable way to live – no fighting, bickering, putdowns or insurmountable disagreement. It’s hard stay angry if you really have your partner’s best interest at heart, and vice versa. I am sad when I see firsthand a couple struggling to stay a couple. The resulting angst, bitterness, and bewilderment are painful to watch, especially when at least part of the solution is simply changing one’s point of view, and applying the golden rule.

Here is a recent example: A young woman is invited by her boyfriend to a reunion party where he knows everyone and she knows no one. He takes no time to introduce her to his various friends, and spends much time reconnecting with them, leaving her to fend for herself. When the evening is over, she tries to explain how she feels, only to find that he is completely bewildered at her reaction and gets defensive.

My husband and I do not have to be glued to each other at a party, but we are both always aware of where the other one is, and make sure that we do not feel abandoned. We always make appropriate introductions to each other’s acquaintances. If we know there is an event where this might be difficult to accomplish we simple don’t participate.

And another: A couple will be getting married in three months. The young woman wants to spend an entire Saturday shopping and registering for gifts at various stores. The young man is trying to think of ways to get out of this task without hurting his fiancee’s feelings. Both are trying to get their way without a major argument. The relationship is new enough that each still wants to please the other.

A little input from an older adult helps avert potential disaster. An agreement is struck to spend a Friday evening checking out various stores, capped by a glass of wine and some appetizers. The shopping compromise becomes a happy memory of this important time. Finding a caring adult who has both parties’ interests at heart is beneficial.

Let’s go back to the opening statement. “Marriage is about making each other’s dreams come true.” That should be amended to a good marriage. Most people getting married have every intention of staying married, but don’t realize the level of maturity and commitment needed. When a marriage becomes troubled, help from outside sources is beneficial, IF the outside source is impartial and wants to see the couple stay married. There are some marriage and family counselors who have a different view of marriage. My former husband and I saw a family counselor who, after hearing our complaints separately, took the position that if there were that many problems, why stay married? Why indeed? If there are children involved, every effort should be made to help the couple rekindle what brought them together in the first place.

It seems like the prevailing view of marriage is that life is too short to stay in an unhappy relationship. However, If you truly value your marriage and want to make every effort to stay married, consider checking into “The Art and Science of Love” marriage workshops presented by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. Workshops in Seattle are being held in May, July and October of this year. Specific details can be found by clicking on their website. You will also find workshops all over the country led by Gottman trained therapists. I didn’t know about the Gottmans when I was going through my own marital strife, and perhaps the outcome would have been different if I had. I certainly think my children would have fared better. However, I grew in strength and wisdom as a result, and am now happy and fulfilled. I try very hard to make my husband's dreams come true, and he does the same for me. It's a wonderful way to live.

So, if you are going through marital angst, before you throw in the towel on your own relationship, see a therapist who believes in marriage. Consider checking out the Gottmans. The drain on your emotions and finances will surely be significantly less than a divorce.

Monday, February 27, 2012


I’m sorry. Two words that right many wrongs. Why is it so hard for some folks to understand the power of this phrase? Starting in kindergarten we teach children to use sweet words like “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” We see them posted on classroom walls, role play situations using them to thwart anti-social behavior like bullying, and make sure every child understands what respect and respectful behavior means.

Why, then, does all that teaching go out the window as folks get older and put their own needs and wants ahead of everyone else’s, ending in hurt feelings and miserable communication.

Watching the Republican candidates duke it out with each other and criticize much of what President Obama does and says, makes me shake my head in stupefaction. I have to believe they had teachers who attempted to teach them respectful behavior, and to say they were sorry if they hurt someone’s feelings, even if unintended.

What happened? If you add the forgiveness factor of the Christian faith into the mix, then saying you are sorry about causing hurt to others should be a given.

My rant today involves the furor over President Obama’s apology to the people of Afghanistan when copies of their beloved Quran were inadvertently burned by U.S. forces stationed there. Of course he should apologize, by any measure, in trying to right this wrong. Emotions are running so high that Americans serving in this mostly Muslim country can be at risk. If an apology can defuse the situation, aside from being the right thing to do, then we should be proud that our president took a forceful, proactive approach. What has me shaking my head is the stance of Republican presidential hopefuls, Santorum, Gingrich and Romney. Santorum’s statement that an apology wasn’t necessary because the act was not intentional makes me question this candidate’s ability to understand other cultures, and to be a leader in our global environment. Mit Romney’s view that an apology “sticks in the throats of many Americans” because of how many have died trying to help the Afghans is short sighted. It certainly doesn’t stick in my throat, quite the contrary. Sorry, Gov. Romney, please speak only for yourself. No doubt Ron Paul would say we shouldn’t be there in the first place, and in that case, there would be no problem.

How sad that our leader wannabees have forgotten their kindergarten lessons in civility. If we cannot look up to them for compassion and understanding, what hope is there for a more civil, effective congress. At least we have had good role modeling for the past three years. I, for one, am proud of President Obama’s messages of tolerance, understanding, compromise and getting along.

It’s not only in the economy that we experience the concept of “trickle down”. Civility, or lack of it, also trickles down - in state and national governments, in businesses and in families. In my own extended family I have just learned of an amazing turnaround between a father and his son because of the words ”I’m sorry.” Years of hurt and misunderstanding were forgotten in a hug and protestations of love following the apology.

What makes the words come so easily to one set of lips but so difficult to another’s? Maybe it’s time for everyone to go back in time to kindergarten. Perhaps the quickest and most effective way to do that is to re-read the poem below by Robert Fulghum. It is my sincerest hope that you take his words to heart and apply them to your life.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum

“All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

1. Share everything.

2. Play fair.

3. Don't hit people.

4. Put things back where you found them.

5. Clean up your own mess.

6. Don't take things that aren't yours.

7. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

8. Wash your hands before you eat.

9. Flush.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

Monday, February 20, 2012


A teacher’s schedule goes from the beginning of school in September to mid June, punctuated by various holidays, breaks and special occasions. When I look back it felt like the years zoomed by with those punctuations: Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and winter break, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, maybe a mid-winter break, Easter, spring break, Memorial Day and finally, School’s Out!

A few weeks separated these high points, and when I had my own classroom I made use of them to teach meaningful, high interest lessons. One I particularly enjoyed was President’s Day as learning about Washington and Lincoln allowed lessons on our country’s history, and values like honesty and truth telling. Who isn’t aware that Lincoln was so honest that he walked six miles to repay 6 cents to a customer who had overpaid; or that Washington could not tell a lie when asked if he cut down his father’s apple tree.

A book I particularly liked sharing with children was entitled The Story of Abraham Lincoln by Bernadine Bailey. I have had it since I was a youngster, and my cousin had it before me. It is ragged, worn, and even torn, with scribbles on the inside cover, but nonetheless dear to me. To my surprise I learned that several copies are still available through Amazon, and if you are a teacher of young children I urge you to nab one while you can.

This seventy year old book, published in 1942, enthrals children to this day. In it we see a family struggling with financial woes, a parent’s death, step-siblings, chores, homework, mischievous behaviour and many other experiences a young person today might have in common with Young Abe. How his hard work, vision and dreams translated to his success in life is an inspirational message for children.

If kids are getting a long weekend off from school they should really understand why these two men were honored. The following lesson plan using multiple intelligences makes learning about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln fun and memorable.

A great resource for teachers can also be found at a site called “Apples 4 the teacher.”

Linguistic – Read stories about both Lincoln and Washington. The library and internet are filled with numerous examples.

Interpersonal – Compare the childhoods of the two presidents. Discuss the contributions and importance of each to our country. For older children compare and contrast the American Revolution and the Civil War and what both meant for America.

Visual-Spatial - Here is a great art project for Lincoln. Copy the following poem “Abraham Lincoln, Kind an good, is honored and loved by many. To help us remember this president, we put his face on our penny.” The author is unknown. Draw a penny sized circle at the end. On a red and/or blue construction paper background, paste the paper with the poem to one side. Cut out a silhouette of Lincoln, and paste it beside the poem. Using white glue, paste a shiny penny in the circle by the poem. It can be placed on a class bulletin board or taken home for the refrigerator.

Here is another anonymous short poem for Washington which can also have a silhouette next to the poem. “We cannot all be Washingtons, and have our birthdays celebrated. But we can love the things he loved, and hate the things he hated. He loved the truth, he hated lies. He minded what his mother taught him. And every day he tried to do the simple duties brought him.”

Intrapersonal: Surf the web for games and activities about both presidents. Try these sites for good information: Click on George Washington or Abraham Lincoln to bring up the sites.

Logical/Mathematical: Examine pennies and dollars for the pictures of the two presidents. List all of the presidents from our first one, George Washington, until our present one, Barak Obama. Convert the dollar to pennies or pennies to a dollar. Research what you could buy with pennies or a dollar in those times.

Kinesthetic - Using Lincoln logs, design a house you could have lived in back in the day. Role play anecdotes like George cutting down the apple tree and what might have happened as a result. Play “store” and have items for sale that might have been available in Lincoln’s time.

Music – From Washington’s time listen to an original song called Yankee Doodle. From Abraham Lincoln’s time listen to some old ballads of America.

of America.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


"I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music." by Billy Joel

I'm watching the Grammy awards, like many of you probably are. Because of the untimely and unexpected death of Whitney Houston a quick program change was made to honor this amazing singer's life.

Obviously tormented by personal problems and substance abuse, she probably had no idea how her life and death would affect millions around the world. If she could have known would it have made a difference?

I think there is a lesson here for all of us, no matter how inconsequential we think we are. Each of us matter, whether to few or many, and we need to make as many minutes count as possible.

Here are some of Whitney's contributions in poem form:

M. . . Moved us to tears

U. . . Unified the world

S. . . Seven consecutive number one singles

I. . . " I will always love you" will endure forever

C. . . Contemporary pop star often copied by others

Whitney, we will miss your incredible voice, and hope that your music continues to bring pleasure to others wherever you are.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I was in quaint downtown Edmonds the other day, and saw a sight to gladden my eyes. A little girl was walking with a grabber in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. She was accompanied by an elderly woman I assume was her grandmother. The bag was full of trash and it appeared that a good example of civic/community service was taking place.

What an effective way to teach community involvement, I thought to myself. It struck me that this simple activity put new meaning to the word "grassroots." The grandma was teaching a fundamental lesson of caring about one'scommunity. It would not surprise me if the child was learning other important lessons at home - like how to be civil to others, how to show compassion, and what it mean to be a good citizen.

How does our country's general population stack up in these four"Cs" ? Not well, if what we see on television is any measure. The rude, lewd behavior our children witness daily, the brutality of bullying at school, dissension and child abuse at home, and the out and out lies, distortion of the facts, or spin as it is now called, by our nation's leaders and media are appalling lessons that undermine our country and our world.

Although "Respect others" is posted on every classroom wall, and teachers fight the "respect battle" daily, children are often subjected to bad behavior everywhere in their lives. We decry the lack of civility in others yet important and visible adults are verbally bashing each other at home, in sporting events, in the media and even in cartoons.

Recently, those involved in this election cycle have been guilty of name calling, spinning the truth, self interest, and flagrant disrespect of their opponents . If you, like me, agonize about these issues, what can you do? I think one answer is to make a difference in one's own world. We throw our pebbles of compassion, civility and community service into the pool of caring, and teach our children to do the same. Then we hope that the ripple effect will bring about a positive change for everyone.

Here are ten effective pebbles to teach children how to be compassionate, caring, civil community members and citizens:

1. Use the example above and take your child on a "clean up" stroll through your own community.

2. Find articles in the newspaper or online about what is going on in our country and the world, and selectively share them for discussion. Example: Today, in the N.Y. Times there was an article about how protesting a soccer match caused a riot in Egypt. Talking about why riots happen, and how they can be avoided could be useful.

2. If you give your children an allowance, show involvement by having them give 10% to a charitable cause. Let them choose the cause after you discuss possible options.

3. Teach respect for the elderly by bringing cookies or pretty cards to a nursing or assisted living facility. Valentine's Day is a great time to show some love.

4. Help someone in need. Have your children set up a lemonade stand or plan some other fundraiser with the proceeds going to a needy person/family in your community. We had a real life example a few years back when a local boy was hospitalized with a rare disease requiring a long stay in the hospital and many costly plastic surgeries. The children in three local families put on a small carnival at the same time as a fishing derby for kids in the area. Over $300.00 was raised and it was all given to the boy's family. The children putting on the carnival gained skills in planning, promoting and executing a worthwhile event.

5. Have your children go through their toys and give those they no longer need or want to a charitable organization or church bazaar.

6. If your children are involved in after-school sports, where emotions often run high, insist on good sportsmanship in your child. Be courageous enough to call on others, even the coach, to do the same. On the other hand, in these same after-school sports, if you have coaches who are giving of their time and talent to young people, make sure your children and you show respect to them, especially if he team is not doing well.

7. Pick a family in need at a holiday like Thanksgiving, and provide them with a great dinner. The community college where my son teaches has a Thanksgiving outreach program aimed at impoverished families. Entire meals, with all the trimmings, are prepared at the college and delivered by faculty members. My son and his children have delivered these holiday meals to two families or more families since the girls were old enough to walk and talk. What a great lesson in sharing and compassion.

8. If your city is planning something oriented to children, like a park or playground, consider taking your child to a council meeting to give input or writing a letter to give ideas for the planned project.

9. Since the world is shrinking and we are becoming interdependent, gaining understanding of and respect for other cultures is a key to harmony. One old tried but true method is finding a pen pal. With the internet making communication easy and instant, monitoring the correspondence with a student in another country can teach a lot about how others live.

10. Teaching your children the importance of honesty,integrity and respect for others is one of the most important pebbles for the pool of caring.

Really, the "golden rule" says it all. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. How can it be said better, and wouldn't the world be a better place if we followed that one rule? It covers compassion, civility, the people in the community, and our country's and world's citizens. Start casting your pebbles today to make a difference.


Teachers and homeschooling parents can learn more about teaching civics and citizenship by checking out these sites:




Sunday, January 29, 2012


Foreclosure, bankruptcy, and short sales are words that have become all too common in today’s real estate market. They embody the good, the bad and the ugly for many home owners. We all know people who bought homes at high prices and who are now underwater on their mortgages, just struggling to hold on. We also know folks who have simply walked away from their dream homes, forced to start over, and with bad credit for years to come.

For a lucky few the short sale is the doorway to homeownership. My daughter, Jonelle, is one of those. In September she decided to give up apartment living in favor of a home big enough to expand her Etsy business and display her photography and other artistic endeavors. We were all excited at the prospect, but were naïve about the process, learning many lessons along the way. Here are some of those lessons in case you want to embark on a similar adventure.

Her story went something like this. She found a wonderful pair of agents, Kathy Bowman and Cheryl Stewart, from Lake Real Estate in Green Lake,who seemed to know the market, and had a good understanding of distressed homes. Although, Jonelle, would love to live in the Ballard, Fremont or Green Lake areas, her job was in Edmonds, and the homes were more affordable going north. She decided to concentrate on Edmonds, Shoreline, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. For the next four months she saw scores of homes that were bank owned or available for short sale, and soon learned the difference.

Almost ready to give up, on a dark, rainy night she found a home that she thought would work for her, a 4-bedroom rambler in Mountlake Terrace. It looked like a good deal and besides, weren’t short sales wonderful bargains?! She and her agent put an offer on it and waited. No guarantee she would hear anything soon. And like the proverbial saying, “when it rains, it pours” she found a second house she liked even better in Edmonds which was open for bids at an upcoming auction. Still hearing nothing from the first house, she bid on the second, and continued the waiting game. She was finally notified on the first one that there was a competing offer, so she offered full price plus closing costs. And waited. The auction for the second house came and went, and she learned that her offer was not accepted, but she was second in line. Back to the first house, while waiting we did some searching and found that there was only one lien on the property – that of the lending bank. A notice came through asking if my daughter planned to rent out the home, to which she replied in the negative. It seemed like there was some movement. More waiting. People who had their own short sale stories said it could take up to a year, and still not work. She noticed that short sale homes went pending, only to appear again later as people grew tired of waiting for a response. The “not knowing” was nerve wracking.

Finally the news came that she could have the house if she wanted it. But, she needed an inspection to the tune of several hundred dollars. She also realized the property was on a septic, not sewer system which was a surprise because she assumed sewer systems were routine in urban areas.We encouraged her to get a septic tank inspection to make sure it was in good order. Several hundred more dollars later she found out the septic tank was just fine, but a can of worms was now opened. The city informed all parties that a new owner would have to pay a $4,000 + back assessment because it was supposed to have been hooked up to the city sewer several years ago. Nowhere was such an amount listed, and it certainly wasn’t listed as a lien on the property. Aaarghh! Not only that, the old septic system would have to be decommissioned and the new sewer line connected, to the tune of several thousand dollars more.

At this point she had a decision to make. She could get out of the sale because of this new development. The inspection showed a number of flaws in the house, and any potential repairs raised the amount she would be investing. But it was still a “good buy”, right? The words “as is” are part of every sale of this kind. There seemed to be no recourse to get out of installing the sewer system, unfair as it was. The failure to disclose on the sewer assessment was galling, but the city seemed to hold the cards in the matter, as the bank would not approve the sale unless the work was done.So, long story short, she decided to go for it, and see if there was some way to recoup the loss through small claims against whichever entity was responsible.

One last insult to injury had to do with the furnace. The owner said that it would go on and off and he didn’t know why. So Jonelle had a gas furnace specialist come out and inspect/fix the furnace. To her horror she was told that the furnace had not been serviced in years, and that the filters hadn’t been changed regularly, resulting in a burned out motor and a cost of $l,000 for a new one.

So now she is a bona fide homeowner with all the perks and problems that are involved. Along with the pride of ownership comes unexpected and additional costs not found in apartments – utilities, repairs, yard expenses, and the like. She said it felt like a bottomless money pit. “Yup, that’s what having a home is all about!” said I, a seasoned owner of a house, a cabin, a rental home, and two prior rentals that lost money because of the recent recession.

I think, though, that she will do just fine. She has dealt with every obstacle with inside trepidation and and an outside calm demeanor. She got a good enough deal, even with all the financial angst, that she will probably do well even if the future economic picture looks bleak.

If you are thinking of pursuing a path like hers, here are some things to think about.

1. Read up on short sales and bank foreclosure comparisons. There are many good sites, but an excellent one put out by Twin Cities Real Estate has a one page comparison of traditional short sale and foreclosed/bank owned properties.

2. Find an agent who will take as much time with you as Jonelle’s agent, Kathy, did. They went out night after night and many weekends for months on end. Bless you, Kathy. Both Kathy and Cheryl advised Jonelle and held her hand throughout.

3. Get pre-approved. Jonelle went with Sterling Savings Bank and her loan officer was Barb Huber-Read. Barb is kind, helpful and went the “extra mile” in spite of the crunch at the end caused in part by unexpected and heavy snow and a Fed Ex truck that was late because of icy road conditions.

4. On short sales determine if there is more than one primary lien holder. This can slow down the process.

5. If you are lucky enough to live in Seattle you can go to Seattle Short Sales for possible assistance.

6. If you need help with a sewer/septic system, we were truly fortunate to find Dustan Bunt, owner of Above Grade Septic. He responded quickly with a bid, was amazingly adept at what he does, and was able to handle a difficult problem concerning the depth of the sewer hook-up. I can’t say enough good things about him.

Finally, make sure you have a sense of humor and a healthy dose of patience. Finding someone who can do the leg work and field calls while you are stuck at your office desk is necessary. Also, have a big group of friends who have generally helpful natures. Lure them over with a promise of beer/wine and pizza. By this time it’s probably all you can afford. Good luck and God bless!