Thursday, August 12, 2010

Importance of Education

Last night I finally watched the movie "Monster" about Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer. I have not seen the documentary regarding this person. Apparently, she was sexually abused while living at home.

I happen to believe behavior is a result of the mixture of nurture and nature. My belief is based upon my research into astrology, especially Aquarian Age Astrology, in which we may be locked into specific boxes called genetics, but our experiences help us in determining how to deal with the situation.

This woman's life goes to show me a few facts about which I already am adament - 1) the system needs to respond in a more effective way to children who are sexually abused, 2) education in the primary and then all elementary grades needs to be strongly based upon skills that can help one manage his/her life and NOT based upon theoretical ideas put forth by educators with PhDs and EDs whose intent is solely upon developing the "upper intellect." I know many people with highly developed "upper intellects" who can barely manage their lives from day to day. Fortunately, many of my friends in this situation are married to or have significant others who are partners or even families who take care of practical matters. Also, 3) when people whose job it is to protect individuals instead use and abuse them, they need to be prosecuted themselves. In most law enforcement agencies, people typically know who are the good guys and who are the bad, yet, just as in the medical profession, legal profession, and many other professions, people protect their co-workers and peers instead of having the courage to "out" them for behavior outside the rules or accepted boundaries. I did NOT say unethical because that is a subjective matter.

Do not think I am EXCUSING her behavior. I am not. She had no right to murder others. What I am saying is there should have been interventions into her life many years before this killing spree began - interventions that could have helped her move down a different life path and better handle her circumstances. I don't remember hearing in the film, but I wonder if she quit school before graduating or how her grades were. Even bright people have a hard time making good grades when they are being abused at home.

The key to a well-managed and civil life is what we go through as young children, older children, then teens. We build neuron pathways when we are young and those become habits, which later become behavior patterns that are difficult to break.

Watching the movie hurt - it was very sad to see what happened to everyone involved in this woman's life. This woman seemed to have become a monster because of what was done to her, but many steps led to that moment.

How do we find the individuals who will be the next "monsters" and do something about that now? When I taught and was an Academic Coordinator, it was easy to see which children were problematic even in Kindergarten. I wanted us to intervene into the lives of those young children in order for them to have what I considered a better future. Others wanted to give the kids gifts (which I knew would immediately be pawned by the people with whom children lived). Some of us called CPS regarding children. Some of us pushed for better testing - my big push related to dyslexia. However, as nice as many of the teachers were, many were simply overwhelmed by the educational system and did not have the energy to do anything about any problem.

Education is EXTREMELY important in our lives - we must do better with the system and that means less waste of resources, more practical curricula, getting rid of ineffective teachers and administrators and district managements, etc.

We are an intelligent nation and we could do better than we now do. For that to happen, everyone would have to actually spend time getting involved in what is going on in our country. At least with the current financial downturn, more residents appear to be anxious to get involved.

For the most part, the brains of serial killers work the same way as the brains of the rest of us (in terms of neuron development and function). More training on brain chemistry and function should be taught to educators so educators can better help students learn to monitor and alter, when necessary, their own behaviors.

When I taught, I showed my students a PowerPoint I created to show them how their brains developed and how neuron pathways became stronger as behaviors were repeated. The lessons were 1) you have choices, 2) don't even start bad behaviors, and 3) if you do activate a negative behavior, don't ever repeat it!

I absolutely believe astrology charts and consultation help us to identify stresses and find ways out. We all experience negative situations - it is how we handle them that makes the difference.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Transferring my energies back to Astrology

Lots of changes these days. I was heavily invested in Astrology for most of my life, first as a student when I was a child, then as a Professional Astrologer with both individual and corporate clients. Being high-energied, I also owned and operated the talent agency and other endeavors plus was involved in a lot of activities.

Then the time came to pull back from the Piscean Age Astrology so that I could get a better perspective of the big picture and research the Aquarian Age Astrology. I did so, followed my own chart, did everything I believe I was supposed to do, and now the time is coming for me to close down everything else and go to ONLY Astrology and writing. For Astrology or any writings  regarding that topic, I use the DBA Lee masters - the masters is used as a verb because I, like everyone else on this planet, is here to master Life.

The Astrology website is and the blog is I may or may not type opinions in this Lee Gabor blog very often - simply depends on time available.

I always will lobby for what is right and will continue those efforts. The music, photography, etc., are fading significantly. I even sold my baby grand piano and getting ready to sell Boze sound system, stage lights, etc.

Eventually, I also will sell all the teaching items I bought and used during those years as an educator with Dallas ISD.

It especially feels great that my ruling planet (in my Astrological natal chart) Moon is finishing its trip through the 12th House in my natal chart and, in 3 months, will move into House 1 for a whole new 28-year phase. I've been looking forward to this all my life. I now have about 3 months to finish up all old projects, get rid of all the stuff I no longer need, and be ready.

Blessings to you.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Update on Missouri Bus Crash - would seatbelts have helped

According to news reports today, the young lady that was killed in the bus crash was sitting in the last seat on the right side of the bus with the girls, which was the bus that struck the pickup truck and then moved up onto the cab of the tractor-trailer truck (no trailer, just tractor cab).  The other bus, on which sat the boys, rammed into the rear of the bus with the girls. State Troopers in Missouri state that the young girl that died would have been a fatality even if she had been wearing a seatbelt. Apparently, the last three rows of seats were pushed forward at least three rows. The statement by the Trooper is that a seatbelt would not have helped in this case.

My question is, what about all the kids that were thrown around and injured? Obviously, seat belts would have helped them. I can't speak about the girls in the last three rows of the front bus, but all the other children probably could  have been helped.

The National Traffic Safety Board states that about 1700 kids are in bus accidents every day throughout the U.S. However, hospital records of children being seen in emergency rooms as a result of school bus accidents indicates the number of children seen is higher.  In my opinion, there is no doubt that kids who are not wearing belts are thrown forward, upward, and/or to the side when the bus in which they are riding is in an accident. However, the NTSB believes differently. They state that buses are safe due to "compartmentalization." On their website, they say "An average of only 7 passengers are fatally injured each year as school buses carry over 23.5 million children daily."

ONLY 7 PASSENGERS? These are someone's kids. These are the students of teachers who, hopefully, care. These are kids with friends. How dare they think that it doesn't matter since ONLY 7 fatalities of kids on school buses occur. The cost per bus is $7000 to $11,000 to provide seat belts. Each bus carries about 50 kids. The cost for belts is a one time purchase over the life of the bus. If the bus is used for 10 years, the cost per year is $700 to $1,100. Divide that by 50 children riding the bus ONE TIME  That is about $14 to $22 added for each child who rides that bus that ONE TIME. Would a parent pay that to keep his/her child safe? But, children don't typically ride ONE TIME. Those buses are used every school day plus for after and before school activities. As the NTSB states, school buses carry over 23.5 million children DAILY.

In my opinion, mathematically, when looking at the life of the bus over time, the cost is minimal to provide belts. Also, many school buses are used for more than 10 years. They get sold to churches or other non-profits and some districts have to keep them for many years.

As with everything in life, it is wise to look NOT just at the up-front cost of something, but to spread that cost over time. If we are looking at a higher quality product, what are we paying each year for that extra quality? At least this is the way I consider every purchase. How much more should we be considering the purchase of seatbelts on school buses.

Only a few states require seat belts. Missouri is not one of those states, although it may be that the parents of those injured children begin to lobby for seatbelts on buses. A Massachusetts legislator is lobbying for a change in the law there.

A company that manufactures seat belts for buses has animations of what happens to children when an accident occurs. Children restrained by seat belts stay in their seat. Those without belts are thrown around and at risk of severe injury. Even with these animations, people fight the expense of putting belts on buses.

It is 2010. I began lobbying on this issue in the early 1970s. In all that time, there has been little progress, although Texas did pass the law and I'm very grateful for that and believe every moment I spent contacting state legislators was worth the effort. I just have a hard time believing that, in all the other states without seat belt on school bus laws, the cost of belts is too high. Taxpayer money pays for these buses and many taxpayers have children riding those buses. Why isn't every parent lobbying on this issue? People just don't know how much power they have, if wiling to be persistent. I guess it is more important to spend time on Facebook or to watch one's favorite TV show than to consider the risk our children may endure daily.

PLEASE get on board regarding this issue. You may save a child's life and never know it! You may save a child from severe injury and never know it. However, God knows what we do and watches our works.

Blessings to all! I do hope readers make the effort to lobby the U.S. Congress about passing a law requiring seat belts on school buses in every state of our Union.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fatal bus accident in Missouri

It is a sad day to recognize that, apparently, a young teenage girl has been killed in the bus collision in Missouri. According to the news, the driver of the first school bus, which carried the girls, was changing lanes and took her eyes from the road in order to look into her rear view (side) mirrors. In front of her on the road , a pickup truck had hit the cab of an 18-wheeler and these vehicles were stopped on the highway. The bus with the girls slammed into the pickup, crushing it (which killed the driver), then travelled up onto the 18-wheeler cab (there was not a load being carried - only the cab in the accident).

The bus with the boys on it then slammed into the bus with the girls. Was that driver following too close? I don't know.

The reason I'm writing is because of my belief that ALL school buses should have seat belts. There was no indication that either of these buses had seat belts. Would the girl that died still be alive if she had been wearing a seatbelt? Would the other students have been safer? I can't answer those questions, but I would like to know the truths. The news stated that many students were taken to hospitals.

In the early 1970s in Indiana, I began lobbying for seatbelts on buses and I continued that for many years, including the time I've lived in Texas. Year before last year, the Texas legislature finally passed a law requiring that, as of 2011, all school buses in our state have seatbelts.

Thank God for that, but there are still many states in which seatbelts are not required. The cost of a seatbelt is nothing compared to the emotional toll of losing a student.

I ask all of my friends to email their federal legislatures (and state legislators in states other than Texas) to request that the law require seatbelts on buses. Please do this!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Changes - I'm left brain and pro-active - don't deal well with them

Can't believe it has been almost a month since I posted. The time has flown by. My daughter and granddaughters were here from Missouri and we had a July 4 event at my oldest grandchild's home - that is the beautiful Anna that was on Good Morning Dallas, Channel 8, recently. I love to look at the old snapshots of Miss Anna. As a baby, she did hand-painted silk scarves and even had her own label. She was a joy to watch as she would pick up a brush, put it back, contemplate which of the others to choose, then finally grab one and begin painting. Many of us still have our scarves and ties.

Anna also worked in my office when she was a little girl - she filed, straightened up the desk, threw items into the trash can, those types of tasks. I paid her by check and then cashed the checks for her. She loved sitting at the desk as a business person. She would pick up the phone and pretend to talk.

Rox and Lene are getting so grown - I hardly recognized them. They are doing very well in their school in Missouri - both play sports. I just can't get over how grown they seem.

It was great to see my daughter Krisy, especially to enjoy a steak dinner at a local restaurant. Krisy has always been a steak lover and we had a great time. I try to call her Kristina when in her presence, but she will always be Krisy to me.

Some of us who taught together at Silberstein Elementary and Gonzalez Elementary Schools in Dallas (2002 through my final year 2007-2008) recently enjoyed an evening together, along with families, at the Asian Buffet in Mesquite. The place is huge and had lots of different dishes, including steak and sushi.

It was super to see everyone. I do miss the teachers and the kids. There are truly some of the world's best people associated with Dallas ISD.

I'm hoping on Monday, Aug. 9 that we can do this again and that more of our friends can join us. I put the info on my Facebook page and this is not last minute, so hopefully I'll get to see lots of the terrific people I miss. The Aug. 9 event is right before the teachers return for the 2010-2011 year.

Now, my changes complaint - when I set up a program, I like to be proactive, to think of all possible ramifications, effects, etc., and only THEN draw up my plans and documents. Lately, it seems I'm involved in situations in which the opposite happens - we get into something, act on information we've received, then we're told the policies have changed. That is difficult for me, especially AFTER I've acted on the previous information.

It will be quite a nuisance to constantly ask, "Are you sure you want to do it this way?" or "Are you sure these are the guidelines we use" and other questions. It will be easier to just withdraw from all that and do my own program.  Maybe this and maybe that is a right-brain way of thinking and it works extremely well when one is an artist, writer, entertainer, and in many other professions that require creativity. It just doesn't work well for some of us when rules are made and then constantly changed once we're in the program.

I try to be balanced, using both left and right brain - left brain for step-by-step activities, balancing checkbook, being accountable, keeping my calendar up to date and right brain for all the creative activities I truly enjoy. I just like my actions to be "grandfathered" in, IF I've already been completing things and someone decides to change the requirements. I do understand reasons for the changes and, in many cases, applaud the need for them. I just don't accept that changes should be made in the middle of a project.

I seem to be quite a misfit these days. I am going with the flow of that to the greatest extent I'm capable. Of course, I'll absolutely be more careful in the future about activities in those groups. I don't like feeling frustrated or irritated. I wonder how many people really enjoy those emotions?

I've asked myself, "Why is this happening to you?" I've answered, "Maybe I need the lesson." Therefore, I will become much more careful to be 100% authentic and up-front with people with whom I'm involved in any project, association, business venture, etc. This isn't always easy for me in the sense that I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where we were taught to always be polite and sweet, no matter what was happening. I learned from that to not always express myself when something bothers me. I need to improve in the area of letting others more clearly become aware of my dislike.

Life is growth and I do think, as long as we're on this planet, there is more opportunity to learn. My desire is to become the very best person I can be. The recent frustrations are giving me a nudge toward being more objective.

That's all for today - will try to get back to this soon. On Wednesday, I'll be working more volunteer hours at Kirby Creek in Grand Prairie as I earn my Master Composter certification. Also, need to pick up worms in GP. The worms are for Thursday when I'm doing a 2-hour program at the Ellis County 4-H camp. This is through the Master Gardeners association. We're making Worm Towers as one of our parts of the program. The kids always love anything that includes red wigglers.

Will let you know how that turns out and, as always, I'm glad to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another mis-speak - comes down to lack of respect, in my opinion

General McChrystal and some of his aids gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. Unfortunately, a number of statements were made that showed immense disrespect for the administration in Washington (President Obama and Vice President Biden, for example) plus comments on where we are in the war effort.
The General's aid that set up the interview already has been fired.

I know from PERSONAL experience that when I don't respect someone, I am apt to make statements that show my disdain.

I think General McChrystal is simply one of the many of us who think President Obama, for all of his academic intelligence, is in way over his head regarding the practical management of this country and, especially, the military and wars. When this is the situation, it is hard for some of us to keep shut our mouths and avoid stating our opinions regarding operations and where they are leading us down a wrong path.

One of two things happened with Barach Obama. Either he is a puppet of George Soros and out to consciously transform this country into a socialist nation OR he is smart, thought President Bush was doing a lousy job, and thought he (Obama) could do better. I think I know which, but will avoid saying. However, regardless of the reason he became president, he simply wasn't prepared, in my opinion. Unfortunately, none of us truly knows how difficult things can be until we "walk in the shoes of those in command." I don't think President Obama had or has now a clue how to run the country, but he did run a great campaign. Being a Mayor, Governor, or other government administrator could have helped him greatly to be ready to be President.

When I was with Dallas ISD, there were times I disagreed with my principal. It was only after earning my Masters degree in Educational Leadership and doing all the hands-on activities required that I realized what a big job it is to lead a school, its faculty and staff, its students, and ALL the stakeholders, while following the practices of the district. I gained a great deal more respect for my principal once I moved into the Academic Coordinator position.

We do not know what General McChrystal is going through every day in the war zone. Certainly, President Obama may visit there, but until he puts on a uniform, picks up a gun, and fights for his life over there, he doesn't truly understand what is going on. I think this is true of any of us. We get it WHEN we walk in those shoes.

I think General McChrystal probably will lose his job over this. He should not have spoken out against the administration. As I told my students many, many, many times - you can think what you want to, but be careful what you say. Sometimes, however, we are just bursting with frustration and we "poop" from the mouth. So, I think I understand what was going on - sort of the same thing as General MacArthur in Japan at the end of World War II - just had to say what he thought - just couldn't contain his irritation anymore. The sad thing is, this is just another example of the mess we are in that seems to show people in the rest of the world that things in America are out of control.

I've been working outside today as well as filing photos on my computer. In a few minutes, I'll clean up and go vote. At least we still can do that in this country.

NEWS FLASH - Judge ruled against Obama administration regarding moratorium on Gulf drilling.

Lee Asks: Does this mean those 150,000 jobs won't be lost and those companies won't abandon the rigs in the Gulf and move to other, more friendly nations? I hope so. I don't like paying $3.09 a gallon for gasoline for the Audi and $2.79 for the Focus. I certainly don't want to pay more than that.

Finally, I have a Twitter follower who is a dear friend and one of the finest teachers and people I have ever known. I just have to now figure out how to use Twitter AND keep what I say to 160 characters. Oh PLEASE! I am so thankful for this free blog on which I can say all I want.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I am supporting Brian Birdwell for Texas State Senate

So, where was David Sibley during the recent Republican Convention in Dallas? I didn't see him anywhere and I constantly heard other Republicans asking the same thing. However, I did see Brian talking to everyone, explaining his viewpoints on the issues.

Apparently Sibley is and has been for some time supporting Democrats with donations. Because I am pro-life, I can't support the Democratic Party. Why would a Republican support Democratic candidates against Republican candidates? I don't have a good guess about that.

What I do know is that I received a mailout the other day from Sibley campaign stating, if elected, he would introduce a bill to limit property tax increase to maximum of 5% a year. The mailout stated Brian Birdwell has spoken at a Republican Women's meeting and supported a max of 10% a year increase.

Lee Asks, did Sibley sandbag Birdwell? I don't know. I wasn't at the Republican Women's meeting, so I didn't hear the actual statement. I have emailed Brian for clarification. Could it be somebody asked a question and an answer was given offering a maximum, then this was construed as "support?"

At the convention, I did tell one of Brian's supporters that I am not swayed emotionally by his service to the U.S. and his injuries when the Pentagon was hit by terrorists on 9-11. I appreciate his service and feel compassion regarding the damage caused to him by that attack. But, when I vote in an election, it is over issues and character, not just that someone suffered. Is the candidate honest, dependable, responsible for what he/she does, maintain integrity and consistency, and how does he/she treat the "little people" ? (woops - got to watch that phrase now after the Chairman of the Board at BP used "small people" to explain the company is going to be responsible to those damaged by the oil spill.)

For decades of my life, I've interpreted the phrase "little people" to mean those of us who are not rich and cannot donate massive sums of money to campaigns. I support candidates who listen to me and other middle and lower class people as well as those who donate a lot. I consider myself one of the "little people," although certainly no longer in physical size - love all that chocolate, banana pudding, and ice cream TOOOOOOOO MUUUUUUCHHHH.

Money alone does not make one intelligent. Education is great, but so is life experience and hands-on work. 

I liked the fact that Brian Birdwell, at the convention, stood and listened to people I know who are plain middle class (and fixed income now) citizens who CARE about the direction in which our country is moving. It so happens that I agree with Brian on the issues. His website is Of course, I always suggest people study BOTH or ALL candidates for an office and make up their own minds. That is what I do and I think that shows respect for the fact that God gave us very advanced brains with which to analyze, reason, and implement action.

One more thing - and this goes out to my dear friends - if you are NOT voting, I really don't want to hear your opinion about what is wrong with our country. But then, you know that, because I say it often. If you don't care enough to vote, you just don't care.SM

April 22 is the election day for the Republican Senate Seat for Texas District 22, which is quite a few counties. That is this coming TUESDAY! PLEASE VOTE. Now, I'm going to email my Republican friends just to make sure they are voting Tuesday!

Bill O'Reilly Says He Doesn't Care

I watch news on all stations, especially Fox on Cable, since they usually are first with breaking stories. I also get emails from all over the world regarding news and events there and, especially, economics and politics.

My U. S. Congressional Representative, Joe Barton, made the statement during the Congressional hearing of British Petroleum's CEO Tony Hayward that he apologized to BP for President Obama's "shakedown" for forcing BP to put $20 billion into an escrow account. I don't think Rep. Barton was apologizing for the fact that BP set aside the money, only in the manner in which it was done, which apparently was the Obama administration's saying, "we are filing criminal charges against you, if you don't do this." Making such a faux pas is unusual for Rep. Barton, since he normailly is right on top of issues. Of course, the Republican Party then forced Rep. Barton to apologize or lose his seat on the powerful committee. To me, it is a shame this BP issue has become so politicized when it is having such a negative effect on people and the ecology. All this talk and finger-pointing is NOT solving the problem.

Anyway, in talking about this story, Bill O'Reilly said on his program (repeated again today) that "I don't care how Obama did this." Another mis-speak, I HOPE. I would not like to think that anyone on Fox Cable News has the opinion that whatever someone in government does to achieve an action is OK.  I would like to think Bill means, "in this case, I don't care." He didn't say that. We all mis-speak by commission or omission.  To me, the only point of the BP situation AT THIS TIME should be getting the spill stopped and financially supporting those people who are losing income NOW.

The sad situation about the latter is that some of those fisherpeople and other workers took cash monies over the past years and did not claim all the monies on their taxes. Therefore, they can't provide the requested tax return copies to prove their income was the amount they are now trying to get BP to pay. I know it is tempting to avoid paying taxes on all the money one makes, but it is those taxes that keep our military strong, keep our government running, keep highways paved, pay for Medicaid to help people who need help, pay for Social Security benefits to those people who have only that income upon which to live, etc. For all its faults, this is still the greatest nation IN THE WORLD and we do more to help others than any other nation I know of. For me, paying taxes is an honor, even though I don't agree with the way Congress always spends the money, and certainly not the out-of-control spending now being done. I love this county and the CONSTITUTION which limits executive power, gives me freedom of speech and the right to protect myself and myfamily, gives us freedom of religion, makes our nation great, etc.

Regarding the immigration law in Arizona, I've been watching the teacher in LA who is sponsoring a trip of his students to travel to Arizona and protest the new law. It is correct for young people to get involved and, especially, to understand BOTH SIDES of an issue so they can make up their own minds. In this situation, what if the teacher and kids were traveling to that section of Arizona about which the U.S. Government states Americans should NOT visit because it is dangerous due to the drug cartel people with their automatic weapons. Should the kids go there? I think not. However, if the teacher took them to that area, would they all understand how desperate Arizona citizens (Hispanics as well as non-Hispanics) feel. Not all Hispanics are against the new law. Some of the supporters are Hispanics who entered America legally or were born in America. Also, for many decades, ALL aliens have been, by federal law, required to carry citizenship papers with them at all times. I certainly carry my driver's license, car insurance, and auto registration info when I travel. The issue in this case is protecting the border. Arizona citizens have a right to that and we, in Texas, have a right to protect our border also. The shame is not doing this in a smart way (years ago) so that it isn't an issue not that is splitting our country and causing a lot of good people such grief. And one more point, we have yet to see how the law enforcers in Arizona will apply the law. To assume all of them will do racial profiling is an insult to the good people who put their lives on the line daily to protect and serve the people. Yes, there probably will be a few jerks, but they are the minority and it is up to the people in Arizona to stop them and CONVICT them of their wrongs.

And how awful that the Governor of Arizona had to learn from an interview in Ecuador of Sec. of State Hillary Clinton that the U.S. Government is suing Arizona over this law (which doesn't go into effect until the end of July). I guess another change of President Obama is for the White House and Attorney General's office to no longer give courtesy calls to governors regarding issues that relate directly to them.

I absolutely understand the thinking of my dear friends who voted for Obama in order to achieve the changes he touted in his campaign. However, the changes I am seeing are not the ones he spoke of - more transparancy, etc.  I can only say I'm such a realist about politics, since I've been involved in issues since I was a kid, that is was obvious Obama couldn't do what he said he could do. He is a brillian Academic, but not a practical person or realist. As Gov. Huckabee said, "he has never even operated a lemon stand." Being a community activist does not give one the management and business experience to operate this big country.

I used to joke that I supported "Miss Piggy for President." It seems to me a lot of what is happening is just as bizarre.

I hope SOON we get back to the REAL problems: putting Americans to work, stopping the huge deficit that can potentially destroy and bankrupt us, stopping the spill in the Gulf and getting the spill cleaned up as soon as possible (where are those Dutch ships and Saudi tankers that the federal government stopped from coming to the Gulf to help?), and much more.

Composting and Community Gardening and a Mentor Party

Miss Margaret and I went Saturday to work at Kirby Creek in Grand Prairie. We are doing our volunteer service hours in order to become certified Master Composters. It was HOT, but a great day. It is wonderful to see local people come to the garden to weed, water, compost, pick veggies, mow, etc. Glenda was out the other day to water and Vijit waters often. We appreciate his leadership at the garden. Enjoyed seeing Ameeta (Vijit's wife) again. The squash bus seemed to have lessened. We started 2 new bins. The greens were cut down as the guys (Vijit, Bruce, and Earl) cut the honeysuckle to free the A-frames on which the butter beans could be twined. Bob and Billy had mad the frames and they are great. We also were able to get grass clippings when Earl and Margaret mowed. Bruce did a lot of weedeating and pulling weeds. Liz and Glenda really spruced up the veggies and sunflowers. Vijit and Ameeta did some of everything. I work too, but always impressed with how much the others can accomplish. Our rest and eat time was delicious. We enjoyed chips and sala, bean dip, quesadillas, and chutney. Hands-on is really the best way to master gardening and composting.

From Kirby Creek, we went to Miss Margaret's (actually, that is a Mrs., but we just call each "Miss" as though we are teens living a century ago) beautiful home where we showered and changed. Then we went to Ginger and George's home for the Master Gardener Mentor event. As always, everything was perfect. Ginger gave a tour of her garden, hen and goat pen, bee keeping area, etc. She is Mother Earth personified.

Being in Master Gardeners and Master Composters is truly a blessing to me. The people are great and I love learning so much and getting back to nature.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remembering someone who disappeared in the Vietnam War

On Mother's Day this year, I had the privilege of visiting the traveling Vietnam War wall while it was in Ennis, TX. It was heart-breaking to see all the names and know these 58,000 plus lives were cut so short by that war. I looked up three people - one I knew growing up, one the person who crashed with my friend in 1970, and one the MIA-POW I "adopted" in the 1990s and about whom I added information on a website I published during that decade about these three young men.

All three of these young men became MIA-POWs and a symbol is next to their names on the Wall indicating remains were never recovered.

After coming home on Mother's Day, I wrote an article about the visit and about my friend and his buddy. The newspaper in the buddy's hometown, Prophetstown, ILL., published the article and someone in the area who read it, cut it out and sent it to the sister-in-law of that buddy of my friend.

That sister-in-law, Judy, emailed me and gave me information about her late husband's brother and it was very good to know more about him. It was wonderful to hear from her and to know my words touched people and let them know there are people who still remember those who gave of themselves in the Vietnam War.

I am so grateful that my parents taught me to appreciate service people and to study and enjoy history. Growing up in Atlanta, GA, the Revolutionary War and Civil War (known there as "The War of Northern Aggression" or "The War for Southern Independence") were a major topic during my youth. It was wonderful to be taken to the many battlefields and those trips gave me a lot of knowledge and appreciation of those who died for us, over many, many decades.

Also, my maternal and paternal ancestors came to America shortly after Jamestown and were active in various wars. One, John Langston (my maiden name is Langston) was a member of the House of burgesses and participated in Bacon's Rebellion, which was the first rebellion against the British.

I must have military in my genes because this is always an issue in which I remain active - especially the MIA-POW issue. We do not have an accounting of everyone and a wonderful journalist wrote an article on the 10 reasons we may still have service people in captivity in Vietnam and surrounding countries. If you, the reader, is interested in learning more about this, you can Google "MIA-POW" and find some of the wonderful associations who stay involved with this issue.

Our service people have in the past and continue to give their all for us. It is such an honor to be an American, even with all the problems that now seem to be at the forefront of our psyche. Thank God for our military and God bless each of them and America. I pray God also will bless all those family members of those three young men whose names I stared at on the Wall.

Working at Kirby Creek Community Garden in Grand Prairie

Saturday the 19th will be fun since we are having "salsa day" as we take a break from the gardening and composting tasks.

About a dozen of us showed up Wednesday June 16th to work. Many of us are working on our volunteer/service hours in order to earn our certification as Master Composters and to receive the Shepherd's Compost bin with aerator insert.

At the garden, the plants that looked wonderful the Wednesday before looked pretty bad today, either from lack of water or chlorosis or a fungus. The leaves had turned yellow and mottled and a few plants just looked deadish. We are checking to determine exactly what caused the problem.

Squash bugs had really taken over the squash plants. We washed them off, trying to drown them, but they are survivors!

We weeded, pruned damaged leaves, mulched, and did other tasks to make the garden better. Vijit and Tracy have been watering, but that takes a long time with as many beds as there are. Hopefully, the city will be able to fix the irrigation system so that the veggie beds will be watered through drip irrigation instead of hand watering. As we learned in Master Gardening, drip irrigation is always superior.

There were lots of cherry tomatoes and we had those at our "rest and eat" time. Liz brought the zucchini quiche and it was delicious. We enjoyed the cherry tomatoes with the chutney Viit brought that his wife made. Margaret brought strawberries and blackberries - it was a fun break and we got to hear more about Billy's document that lists all the planting dates, harvesting dates, etc., on one page. Vijit is going to make a copy for each of us.

Looking at the two tiny cantaloupes (one golf ball size, one tennis ball size), Billy pointed to a flower and the bee pollinated it and said a new cantaloupe may grow there. This was very interesting to me.

Saturday, we're also going to cut away vines that are growing around two more bean/cucumber frames and move those so that the butter beans can grow upward. Some of the cucumber vines were growing horizontal along the ground under those frames currently in place in the cuke bed and Billy and I weaved the extensions into the fencing on the frames so they will grow upright and, hopefully, the squash bugs won't get into the cukes.

We discussed placing Savin around the perimeter of the cuke bed to kill baby squash bugs and a more toxic insecticide around the perimeter to kill adult squash bugs. However, we decided not to do that, since the insecticide would be sucked into the roots of the cukes, thus negating the organic emphases of the garden.

We are going to plant pumpkin, zucchini, and watermelon Saturday. We pulled weeds from beds with nothing growing in order to prepare for planting. There is a gas tiller that can be used to till those beds, but if we do a lasagna garden in one or more, we won't need to till that/those.

We also know to plant radishes at random among plants. I checked resources and nasturtiums and some marigolds also help. This is called "companion planting."

All in all, an interesting day - not much breeze and hot, but it feels good to learn.

We may experiment with one bed by doing it as a lasagna garden, as suggested by Liz.

We are hoping to see the grass, both in the bedded area as well as around the outside of the fence, mowed so that we can rake up clippings and start a second compost bin soon plus add more browns and greens to the one there now. There is a fenced in area in the SW corner of the community garden that contains lots of leaves.

Another task for Saturday is to do something with the triple wood slat compost bins that have been ignored for a long time.

We did harvest beans, squash, peppers, and there are a few eggplants growing (we didn't harvest the latter).

Community gardens are becomming more and more popular and one great advantage to working in one is learning from experienced vegetable gardeners. I appreciate everything I'm learning. Having been a city girl all my life and leading a non-domestic type life, I am really graining an appreciation of the basics and pratical tasks that can make us feel terrific as we succeed at them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Republican State Convention

Yes, I am a Republican and have been my entire life, even though my family members were mostly Democrats. I am pro-life and both fiscally and socially conservative. There are parts of the platform with which I don't agree, but they are few compared to those with which I do agree.

I do believe we need more miniorities in the party. Last year, I suggested that we begin to advertise our Ellis County party as "the party of President Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King." I didn't get far with that locally. I don't understand why making this statement is unacceptable, especially since the party was started in order to fight slavery.

Recently, I read the 2008 Democratic Party platform, which mentions Abraham Lincoln and his emphasis on establishing the trans-continental railroads. This mention of him, which is near the mention of President John F. Kennedy, infers he was a Democrat. That party uses President Lincoln and the Republican party doesn't! Strange to me.

The convention this past Friday and Saturday was interesting, especially to someone like me who loves technology. The party needs to move into this century and use more technology. I hope to see that happen.

What surprised me most was that the 2008 platform was not used as the basis for the 2010 platform, taking those planks and "red-lining" them (crossing through what is no longer important and adding new text in red ink). This would have allowed delegates and alternates to immediately compare now to 2008. Instead, the committee apparently started from scratch. This not only wasted lots of time, it created a lot of arguing during the general business meeting Saturday afternoon. Some people wanted to trash the entire 2010 platform and go back to the 2008. Had the 2008 been "red-lined," only the few areas of disagreement could have been addressed, rather than suggesting trashing the entire 2010 platform.

What also bothered me was that the amendments to the platform, which were submitted in writing, were not typed into a computer so they could be flashed on screens for all of us to read. With thousands of people in the room, some clapping, yelling, laughing, talking, etc., it was NOT easy to hear amendments as they were read.  It is difficult to vote for something when one doesn't accurately hear the content.

Regarding voting, I am hoping before the next convention, a remote voting system can be leased or borrowed so that we are NOT handwriting on slips of paper, which are then hand counted. When I taught in public school, I used remotes for almost all of my tests and the kids loved using them. A great advantage was that scoring was instantaneous.

If you've never used one of these systems, a screen at the front of the room lists choices (this screen is connected to a computer, sort of like viewing slides on a PowerPoint). With the infrared or radio frequency remote, you press your choice (A, B, C, D) while holding the remote toward the antenna at the front of the room. The choices are immediately calculated and the results shown on the screen next to the choices. There is a fail-safe function to determine that EVERYONE'S vote is counted. This is much superior to voting by yelling or for thousands of people to stand for either "yes" or "no," since the numbers cannot adequately and accurately be counted in less than 60 seconds.

When I taught, my students learned cumulative averaging by using the remotes. They could easily understand this concept and they learned how to do this for themselves. For voting at the convention, we don't need cumulative average. Instead, we do weighted scoring. Most of the remote systems can be programmed for this.

The weighted concept means if a county has 20 delegates at the convention, but only 10 are there, those 10 vote for the 20. This is important so that every Republican voter in the county is represented at the convention. I understand this and that, because of the cost of attending the convention, some delegates and alternates simply cannot be present.

Since cost is a major consideration, and to rent the Dallas Convention Center for a week for this most recent convention probably cost A LOT, wouldn't it be more efficient to use web conferencing and skyping that could go to each county? This would not leave out representatives who can't afford to attend a distant convention. Most of us from Ellis County paid only the $35 facility fee to attend last week. However, most delegates and alternates had to stay in hotels PLUS pay the fee. Apparently, the convention was paid for, but I still think we need to investigate using today's technology to reduce the cost to the individual and make the convention available to EVERY DELEGATE AND ALTERNATE IN EVERY COUNTY!

Yes, I know I am before my time. That has been my life! This will someday happen, but it takes people like me bringing up the subject to get it into the mainstream of possibilities.

The speeches were wonderful  - Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, etc. I especially enjoyed that from Attorney General Greg Abbot. We must win in November! I am absolutely against more and more socialism.

When it came to campaigning for immediate votes at the convention, it was distressing to see how many people can be swayed emotionally by the speechmakers, rather than voting with reasoning and logic. As one group of candidates finished their speeches, I told everyone around me that one of the people had the proven experience for the position but was not the "extremely talented orator" that another person was.

The orator won. Later in the day, that orator stopped all business in order to do a big ego trip for 15 or 20 minutes. I was glad to hear people around me, who had voted for the orator, say they wished they had voted for the experienced person. My comment was, "this is just the beginning."  People are still very much swayed by personality - even Republicans who constantly criticize the Democrats who voted for Obama because of his personality.

I believe God gave us brains in order to think smart and hearts in order to be kind and loving. Many will not agree with me, but I personally think this should be a 50-50 combination, which is my interpretation of words from Jesus Christ, "As a man thinketh in his heart........"

I am very glad I attended the convention Friday and Saturday. I especially applaud those Republicans, for instance, Michael, who attended Friday and Saturday, but also was there earlier in the week to observe what the various committees were discussing. Will I attend again? That remains to be seen. Time is more and more precious and I'm not sure if I want to spend 20 hours doing what could have taken 5.

But, that is just me - analytical, before my time, and wanting our great country to continue along the right path!

Learning to be a Master Composter

For a year I heard about the Master Composter program sponsored by the City of Grand Prairie. Finally, I was able to work out the class dates and had a great time attending recently with three very smart ladies who are also in Ellis County Master Gardeners.

Larry Wilhelm, who helped create the Master Composter program in Texas, was our instructor for the classes on Thursday and Friday night and all day Saturday. Since he has been involved in the program for over 15 years, he has lots of fun stories to share. At the classes, we received the Rodele book on composting, a t-shirt, a compost thermometer, and we were fed dinner on the two nights and lunch on Saturday. The visit to the Grand Prairie landfill was very educational as was the demonstration of building a compost bin at one of the community gardens.

The three ladies and I are now fulfilling our service hours by working at the Kirby Creek Nature Preserve and Community Garden in Grand Prairie. We turn the compost bin and will create more bins and we weed, prune, and pick ripe veggies from the bountiful plantings. We also may help set up their rainwater harvesting system.

Once we volunteer 20 hours, we each receive a free Shepherd's Compost bin (cubic yard size) with the aerating insert and after the additional 20 hours, we become certified Master Composters and will be recognized by the Grand Prairie Commissioners. In other words, to become certified, we volunteer a total of 40 hours.

The program in Grand Prairie is through the Solid Waste Department, under the direction of Vijit Singh, and through the Special Projects department, headed by Tammy Chan. These are terrific people and very helpful to us from Ellis County as we registered and began to participate. Two of us worked the Grand Prairie Mayfest with Vijit and found him to be very gracious.

Composting is extremely important both from adding much-needed nutrients to the soil as well as to our becoming better stewards regarding landfills. Trains bring trash from New Jersey and other northern states to Texas. We don't want their garbage. In my opinion, this needs to stop. We also want to stop throwing grass clippings and tree limbs into the landfills. Both are ingredients for composting.

Grass clippings contain the nitrogen that is vital to compost. Brown leaves and tree trimmings provide the carbon. Other ingredients include food scraps (NO MEATS, CHICKEN, FISH, OR OILS), dryer lint, shredded paper, cardboard, cotton and other natural fabrics, etc.

I will be teaching a class on Backyard Composting in the fall at the Lighthouse for Learning, which is Waxahachie ISD's adult learning program. I'll also be working with other Master Gardeners to teach composting (including worm or vermi-composting) to 4-H young people on July 22 in Waxahachie.

I hope you are composting - it is very important!

Master Gardeners are very busy

I appreciate the kind words from Nola, who is in our Master Gardeners Association. It is amazing how much one learns by getting involved with this group, which is sponsored by Texas A&M. We have very informative classes and the opportunity to be of service at a variety of gardening projects around Ellis County.

After the June business meeting, we took a field trip to Farmers Branch to meet with Dr. Steve George of the A&M Agri-Life program. The location was the national test beds for Earthkind Roses. This is a beautiful and peaceful place to visit if one wants to take a day-trip. If in Dallas or from Ellis County, simply go I-35 north just past 635 (north of Dallas). Exit at Valley View Drive (the first exit north of 635) and drive east on Valley View a mile, maybe two and you will see the garden on the right. You cannot miss all the fabulous rose bushes. A water way is adjacent and there are swings, benches, and picnic tables.

On our MG visit, Dr. George explained the various rose cultivars that are being considered for certification as Earthkind roses. Earthkind means you need to do very little and the roses will grow. The soil is NOT amended when bushes are planted. Bushes are watered the first year and mulch is used (to help hold moisture). Various landscape companies sell certified Earthkinds.

The visit to Farmers Branch is just one example of the fun we have as Ellis County Master Gardeners. The people are great, we learn a lot, and we serve our communities. Who could ask for more? And I didn't even mention the fabulous food we experience at our monthly meeting when we enjoy our covered dish lunch. For more info, visit