Friday, August 21, 2015

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Don and I returned yesterday from a three-day trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was Don's first visit. He's a history buff, so we decided to go.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia

He also likes trains, so we traveled by Amtrak passenger train. We left from Richmond to have more choices on times to return. We wanted to return to the South Hampton Roads area in time for our weekly West Coast Swing dance lessons with Wolf and Bee Dance.  We are getting ready for International West Coast Swing Flash Mob Day, but that's another story.

Don enjoys a relaxing Amtrak trip surrounded by gadgets. According to the GPS we traveled fast!

We stayed at the Club Quarters Hotel, which was nice, centrally located, and reasonably priced. From there we traveled on foot or by subway everywhere we wanted to go. We saw Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the nearby Benjamin Franklin Museum. The next day we visited the waterfront along the Delaware River, including Harbor Park.

Don enjoys the waterfront of the Delaware River

At the waterfront we saw two separate memorials dedicated to the Irish and Scottish immigrants to Philadelphia. They were touching and educational, especially the information about the Irish Potato Famine. We toured the Independence Seaport Museum including two ships: the Warship Olympia and the Submarine Becuna. The Olympia was famous from the Battle of Manila Bay and from carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier from France to the U.S. in 1921. Don lived on submarines, but I have never been on one before, so I found our tour of the Becuna interesting.

The Irish Memorial portrays the desperation of the Potato Famine and Great Hunger
Hope awaits the Irish immigrants newly arrived in the U.S.

The Scots, also immigrants, are proud of their Revolutionary roots. Four signed the Declaration of Independence.
We also caught some live jazz music at Chris' Jazz Cafe on Tuesday night. The food was great there and just about everywhere we went.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Stonewall Resort

Don and I just returned from a three-day getaway at Stonewall Resort in West Virginia. It was beautiful. The resort is an unusual combination of a lakeside state park and campground, a golf course, and a luxurious hotel. I never heard of it but booked a vacation when given a good deal through Amazon Local. Included with the package was a full buffet breakfast every morning plus tokens that were good for free use of some of the resort's equipment. We used tokens for an hour's rental of a tandem bike, which we used to ride a lakeside trail. We could have used kayaks for free as well. We used another token for $5.00 off of a rental of an "Aqua Cycle," a type of tricycle that can be ridden across the surface of Stonewall Jackson Lake. The conveyance was like riding a hybrid of an inefficient paddle boat and a fisherman's bobber, but we had fun and could say we did it.
Foot Bridge at Stonewall Jackson Resort; boat used for daily cruises on the lake (free for guests)

Evening at Stonewall Jackson Lake

Stonewall Jackson Lake

Kayaks available at Stonewall Jackson Lake

The beauty of Stonewall Jackson Lake
We also hiked around the lake and saw wildlife, including a fawn and a huge owl. The area is historical as the birthplace of Stonewall Jackson. Unfortunately we didn't find time to make any of the historical exhibits, but we did stop at the Stonewall Jackson Lake Dam.

Don and I took pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. Why not?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Conventiculum Dickinsoniense, Aestate MMXV

Hoc anno Terentius rogavit me ut demonstrarem paucos modos docendi in sessione cinematographicā. Dedi omnibus indicem verborum utilium. Deinde pelliculam brevem nomine "Partim Nubilum" demonstravi; deinde iterum spectabamus, sed crebro per pausas pelliculae de scaenis variis mihi quaedam rogabantur, et omnes responderunt. Tandem paucos ludos electronicos per rete universale instrumentīs electronicīs lusimus a situ "Kahoot." Magistri faciunt ludos per "" Discipuli autem quaerunt "" ad ludendum.

Plurimi magistri rogaverunt me ut omnia uno loco publico edam. Iam posui multas chartas electronicas (vel indices verborum) cum conexibus in Grege Yahoo, "Latin Best Practices" quoque.

Partim Nubilum:

Bolus Magnus:

Amica Monstrorum:

Agnus in Insula:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dare to Make a Difference Fundraiser

Today I drove to a town called Kill Devil Hills in Dare County, North Carolina, for the "Dare to Make a Difference" fundraiser to benefit the United States Equine Rescue League (USERL) and The Outer Banks Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

The two groups worked together to investigate, seize, and gain convictions on charges of animal cruelty against two horse owners in Wanchese. I saw before and after pictures at the fundraising event, and the difference in the horses after just a few months of good feed and proper care is amazing.

The Outer Banks Brewing Station hosted the event

Today's event was hosted at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. In return for a $15.00 donation I got a free drink, a small meal, a huge piece of cake, and entertainment by Bobby Plough, who plays acoustic guitar and sings a variety of country music, much of it with a horse-related theme. Bobby is a volunteer and long-time supporter of USERL. There were also pony rides and games for the children, a silent auction, door prizes, and a free gift for all mothers, since it was Mothers' Day.

Pony rides entertained the children and raised $3.00 per ride
Singer-songwriter Bobby Plough loves horses and loves to entertain a crowd
Many silent auction items had a horse theme

Even this beautiful cake had horses on it. Almost too pretty to cut!

I had the winning bid on a painting in the silent auction. I bought it because I thought my husband, Don, would like it. Lucky for me, he did. I was happy the money went to a good cause, too.

I snagged this pretty painting at the silent auction.

I wish there had been a bigger turnout. Horses are expensive to rescue, foster, and rehabilitate, and more people would have meant more money for the groups involved. The event was a success, however, raising over $1,200. I am happy I drove to KDH to support a worthy cause. Readers who wish to help can donate online and Mark "OBX Horses" in your comments.

Some of the event's hard-working volunteers; where were the crowds?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

My First Protest

A T-shirt from the rally gives Richmond legislators a piece of this teacher's mind

Earlier this year I spoke before Chesapeake's school board about the negative effects of budget cuts on teaching and learning in my Latin classroom. But the problem lies not with our superintendent nor school board, but with Virginia, itself, which has drastically cut its per-pupil spending in recent years. The local school system is just doing the best it can with the lousy cards it's been dealt by the state legislature. Virginia's economy has improved since the Great Recession, but our schools are struggling more than ever.

So I spent most of the day at my first-ever political protest, the "Put Kids First" rally in Richmond, our state capitol. The Virginia Education Association (VEA) and the state Parent and Teachers' Association (PTA) sponsored the event.

Chesapeake Educators head to Richmond to "put kids first"

I felt a little spoiled. The event was well organized. We each got water bottles, snacks, and a T-shirt for participating. Helpers were everywhere dressed in yellow. Those who wanted it got free bus transportation to and from Richmond, which I was happy to accept. Music entertained us at the Richmond Convention Center as we waited for the march to start. Those who had special needs were welcomed and included, and there was a shuttle bus for those who were not capable of walking the six blocks to the capitol and back, although I saw a few people in wheelchairs travel the route with us.

"Big Momma Shakes" was one band that entertained us. Here's a clip:

The Richmond Boys' Choir was another great music group:

The Richmond Boys' Choir has a nineteen-year tradition of excellence

 Here's a brief clip of their performance:

But, beyond food and entertainment, why were we there? What do we educators, students, and parents want enough that we are willing to give up most of a sunny Saturday in April? The list is reasonable and much needed:
  1. Increased funding for schools and an equitable funding system.
  2. Smaller class sizes.
  3. A reduction in state-mandated tests to free up time and money for what really matters: classroom instruction.
Marching towards the capitol to "put kids first" in Virginia

 I loved the speeches and the signs. We heard from everyone from the VEA and PTA presidents to superintendents to teachers to parents to students to people who maintain school buildings or drive buses. Especially touching were speeches by an 11-year-old named Elijah Coles Brown, whose personality and confidence fired up the crowd like an old-fashioned tent-revival preacher. Elijah confessed he doesn't score well on state mandated assessments due to testing anxiety. Just his usage of vocabulary in his speeches displayed his obvious talent and intelligence.

Elijah Coles Brown attends a Blue-Ribbon School but seeks equity for all, and can he ever fire up a crowd!

Listen to Elijah working his audience:

A teacher (whose name I didn't catch) at Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School in Richmond talked about the "different worlds" of the legislators at our capitol and his middle school located only a mile away. His school is mostly Black and Hispanic and has over a 90% free and reduced-price lunch rate, which means a crushing level of poverty. The school has successes despite its challenges, and many of these successes cannot be measured by test scores.

This teacher is a passionate advocate for Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School in Richmond

One young woman in the audience held a sign, "I am a student, not a test score," and I couldn't help but agree. Here are some other of the many signs that caught my fancy:

Why are we funding prisons over education?
"Lack of Funding, High Stakes Tests, Grade: F
Many new teachers work two or three jobs to make ends meet

Near the end of the rally, Reverend Ben Campbell of Richmond put the schools' struggles in the historical context of non-violent protest against racial segregation and inequality. He says there has been "passivity" in recent years to the point where "injustice is normal in Virginia." Politicians bash education and cut support, but we need a "march on ballot boxes" after our rally due to the need to "educate every child in Virginia."

Reverend Ben Campbell of Richmond: the struggle for educational equality is ongoing
Teachers are more demoralized than I've seen them in my 20-plus years of teaching, but I'm convinced the pendulum of public opinion will swing in our favor. Our politicians need to quit handing millions of dollars over to the major testing companies--which lobby them hard, by the way--and trust teachers and educators again. On the bright side we got good news coverage on 8 News and WTVR.
Easy political question, "Do you support more funding for public education, yes or no?"
Her shirt reads "Put Me First." Adorable!

Those of us who work in education are not the enemy. We have childrens' needs at heart and will put kids first. We just want the resources to continue to do our jobs.

Showing off the T-Shirt I got for participating in the Put Kids First rally

On the other hand, this T-shirt says it all for those of us who put kids first

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mother Earth News Fair, Asheville, 2015

My husband, Don, and I spent Saturday, April 11, at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC. Mother Earth News, affectionately known as "the Mother" to its readers, has gotten Don and me into all kinds of trouble--er, I mean--projects.

What kind of projects? Let's see: raised bed gardening, helping our pollinators, local foods with a CSA subscription (currently Farm Chicks Produce), backyard laying hens, vermicomposting, and home cooking and food preservation for a healthier diet.

Whew! And I suspect that list is not at all comprehensive.

Just some of the hundreds of indoor and outdoor displays at the Mother Earth News Fair
Handcrafted baskets at the Mother Earth News Fair

We visited all the booths, sometimes twice. I attended a good presentation on chickens and gardens;  no, they are not mutually exclusive.

A dog lover, I also attended a workshop on livestock guardian dogs, just out of curiosity. Don attended every workshop he could find on how to help our bees and other pollinators.

I was fascinated by the Egg Cart'n chicken tractor on display at the fair.

We made a few purchases. I bought honey, a T-shirt, and a pair of vegan Fair-Trade sandals made from recycled materials. They are pretty and comfortable; I hope they are sturdy and long-lasting, too. Don purchased a system for making inexpensive soil blocks for seed starting purposes. He wants to use them to plant all kinds of annual and perennial flowers on our property as bee food.

Solar Oven on display at the Mother Earth News Fair
Several kinds of lumber mills and log splitters were on display. Don was curious about one of the larger mills.

We saw carding, spinning, and weaving natural fibers at several different booths
A homemade brick oven built on the spot to bake delicious rolls (I tasted a sample)
Many of the above pictures were taken at a "folk school," which to me seems like a great idea. If it were closer I'd enroll in classes, at least in the summer.

Several booths displayed products made from hemp; products of all kinds were often made in the U.S.A.

The food at the fair was great, even if some of the lines were long at lunch time. We also sampled some ice cream and a similar product made from coconut oil. Yum!

Natural remedies came in all shapes sizes, and price points. I suspect this one was expensive

The Livestock Conservancy and heritage breeds were a strong part of the livestock display

These alpacas were unusual looking and truly beautiful

Animals love Don; he knows how to scratch them in all the right places

Baby camel with its mom

According to a sign, "Milking Devon" oxen can be used for milk, meat, and as draft animals

The "Mountain Cedar Garden Hive" looks like a bird house and might make a nice stealth hive

Various types of horses also attended the fair

Cute little spotted sheep; not sure of the breed. If you know, please tell me!

Our presenter from Banks Mountain Farm on livestock guardian dogs spoke from the heart and knew a lot

This livestock guardian dog, a Kangal, is well socialized and friendly yet protects his flock from coyotes and other predators

Everyone we met at the fair was super-nice. The zeal of the various entrepreneurs who hawked their wares or displayed their livestock or their hard-earned wisdom was thrilling.

My cousin, Lise, and her family were visiting Asheville, and we got together at her friend's house in the evening. It was great to see her husband, Keith, and two daughters, Kaiya and Wrenna, again.

Cousin Lise

Wrenna, Lise's daughter

I see the family resemblance in Kaiya, Lise's other daughter, as she visits with Don
We were so tired, we almost fell asleep before our heads hit the pillow Saturday night. We had wrist bands good for both days of the fair, but we decided to schedule our long drive home for Sunday, instead. A wise decision.