After reading a recent FB post about GMOs I was instantly reminded of the infamous Dorothy Parker quote, “What fresh hell is this?” I have long known about genetically modified organisms in food and have probably even commented about them, but they have stayed in the background of my thoughts. Now, with renewed interest in their long-term effects on our health, I can’t stop thinking about what might be in my next bite of food!
My greatest concern as a pescetarian is soy. Most of the U.S. soybean crop has been genetically modified! I eat more soy than most people because I eat “fake” meat at least twice a week, AND soy is used in ice cream. Now I read that nearly 90% of the U.S. canola, cottonseed, and corn crops are genetically modified. I use olive oil for my own cooking, but those other oils are used in thousands of products. It would be difficult to completely avoid them. Cows are injected with growth hormones. Sugar beets have been altered. And don’t get me started on Aspartame- that wonderful sweetener that gives me headaches and is used in over 5,000 products.
Here are ten potential problems if we continue this trend of chemically changing the makeup of anything and everything to make growing and harvesting food easier and more convenient:
Okay, not trying to start off a lovely weekend with depressing news, but I give up! It seems that anything I buy at the grocery store has the potential for ruining my health. I’m going to go plant some spinach right now!
I mentioned on my kindergarten blog that I am cleaning out my curriculum files and getting rid of outdated lesson plans and papers that I just won’t ever use. I regret to admit that some of them have been sitting in my files since my college days. Don’t judge…I’ve been busy!
Well, I’ve decided that my “use it or lose it” mindset must extend to some of the clutter at home. Yes, Robert, I have “too much stuff” as you are so fond of saying. So over the next few weeks, before the garden chores take over my life, I’m cleaning out closets and cabinets and corners and making donations to Goodwill. It seems selfish to have books, clothes, and dishes just sitting around when others could be using them. I hope to finish by Earth Day!
On April 11th I’m going to feel great!
My mind is going to be focused and my memory sharp.
I’m going to be rested and alert.
I’m going to eat my favorite breakfast.
Nothing is going to happen in my community or family to distract me from the task at hand.
I’m going to be ready for the BIG TEST!
If I picked a random date off the calendar and told you all of the above, you would not only think I was more than a bit optimistic, but you would also be a bit skeptical of my ability to actually accomplish my goals. Yet we absolutely expect hundreds of students to do exactly that- be focused, rested, alert, and ready to take a major standardized state test on a date picked by us. And many of these children have NO control over any of the factors that will affect their ability to function that day.
Yesterday we were discussing some of our upcoming tests and it occurred to me that our plan to test all of our children on the same date is not only arbitrary, but a little foolish, especially when the results affect so many aspects of the education process. The test scores in some states are so important that administrators have resorted to lying and cheating in order to improve them. Texas is re-examining some of their testing procedures. Washington, California and other states are debating and protesting the use of standardized tests for a variety of reasons. The scheduling, timing, content, supervision and validity of tests are in question. A major upheaval seems to be on the horizon.
If we know that all of our students aren’t going to perform their best on a random date in April then does that mean we shouldn’t test them? No. Does it mean we can devise a perfect plan for testing our students? No. Perhaps it does mean that we shouldn’t give so much credence to the results of one or two “big tests”, but instead see them as what they are: a very small part of what a student knows and an even smaller portion of what a teacher has taught.
I have a love/hate relationship with cowbirds. I love their shiny feathers and fearless antics, but I know in my heart there is not much to be admired about them except that they eat a lot of insects. In fact it is their eating practices that are responsible for their worst and most infamous habit. Cowbirds literally follow cows and other livestock and eat the insects stirred up by the animals. They will also eat grain in open fields or grassy areas. They often hang out with blackbirds and starlings in large flocks. They don’t have a lot of free time to build a nest or sit around on a nest or care for their young…so they don’t. They let the rest of the bird kingdom raise their young. Yep- every cowbird you see was a foster child, raised by some other species!
Cowbirds aren’t even picky about who raises their young. They will lay their eggs in the nests of bigger birds, smaller birds, birds with different colored eggs. Cowbirds lay more eggs per season than any other wild bird. That means 30-40 eggs! And each one is typically laid in a different nest. Why the other birds don’t automatically reject the intruder egg is a mystery, but most don’t. Only a few of the larger birds will remove the foreign egg.
Cowbirds have all the attributes of the perfect parasite. They scout early in the season and early in the morning so they can easily find unattended nests. They are smart enough to usually remove one host egg and replace it with their own. The cowbirds hatch about one to five days earlier than the host’s chicks, so they get the most attention, and food, from their foster parents. And they are so big that they often crowd out the eggs or new chicks from the nest. If a cowbird happens to lay two eggs in a nest it is almost inevitable that all of the host chicks will die, either from starvation or being knocked out of the nest.
As the number of cowbirds increases in some areas there is a real danger of other species being at risk. Cowbirds are actually trapped and/or killed in some areas containing endangered birds. But apparently it is our logging and agricultural practices that have allowed the cowbird to expand its territory. The more forest we remove and land we expose, the more cattle we own, and the more grain we grow, the more convenient we make life for this bully bird! It seems like a no-win situation.
I just feed the birds each day and enjoy the company of whatever species shows up to eat. I try not to judge…
Apparently I’m expected to show up at school today. Spring break is over and it’s time to get serious about reading, writing, and…rabbits. Yes, the excitement about Easter will begin today! There will be talk of bunnies and egg hunts and weekend plans. And we only have school four days this week. Okay, we’ll get serious in April, maybe…
Today is when the craziness begins! I dread this time of year more than any other. We combine our “last ditch” efforts to teach + spring testing + spring sports + fatigue + the knowledge that the end of the year is just a few short weeks away. It won’t be long before my students will be discussing summer plans. And since there is only so much a little brain can concentrate on at one time…well, you understand the problems we will encounter.
But rest assured that Mrs. Maurer will make every effort to teach until the last week arrives! I will hope for the best and celebrate every little victory. And I have found over the years that sticking to my schedule and expectations is the best way to maintain order.
So, let the craziness begin…I’m ready!
Today begins a week of reflection and renewal for Christians. At least it should. However, I suspect that for many people it is the beginning of a week of shopping, planning, and preparation for a weekend filled with pretty clothes, fabulous food, and colorful eggs. It seems that holidays not only become more commercial each year, but more complicated as well.
In education we are constantly reminded of the separation of church and state, yet no one ever seems to have a problem with any lesson or activity that stays on the secular side of the equation. We can have bunnies and chicks and eggs all over the place- it is only when we stray over to teaching a tiny bit of faith that we get into trouble. I would love to teach the history of the symbols of Easter, but that would be overstepping the boundary and would also be a bit beyond the comprehension of most kindergartners. However, I encourage you to read about the history of the Easter bunny, eggs, new clothes, pretzels, lilies, lambs, and hot cross buns. Fascinating!
You might also be interested in the history of holidays in the United States and why some holidays are federal and others are not. You will notice next weekend that many businesses will be closed on Good Friday, but not Easter Sunday. Another interesting bit of trivia.
I could have explained the Easter symbols to you or provided links to the information, but I don’t want to deprive you of the satisfaction of finding it yourself. You can thank me later…
Have a blessed day!
Sometimes responses to prayers come in unexpected ways. Sometimes solutions to problems come from sources previously unknown. Sometimes answers to questions reveal themselves out of the blue. Such was the case this morning. I awoke with an odd phrase floating in my brain: “expect the unexpected today”. I suppose that happens when my thoughts or dreams are suddenly interrupted by my internal alarm. This morning it went off at 4:30!
So, as I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee I pondered what might be unexpected today. I suppose I will have to wait until sundown to find out the full extent of the message, but I didn’t have to wait long for the first part.
First of all, you have to understand that I have another blog and it is devoted to exploring Caddo’s history. Each week I find interesting items from the old newspapers and share them with readers. They use the names and dates to complete family research or just read the articles in order to understand the events and experiences that influenced their family members. I seldom read everything that is on a page until I get home. So that is why I sat down this morning to type an item about the “big trades day” in Caddo, and instead found myself reading an item next to it titled “A Word to the Boys”.
While it may have been the editor’s intention to speak to the young men in his community, I found the last paragraph speaking directly to me and to my current problems- weight and pain. I have given much thought during this past week to making further changes in my lifestyle and eating habits, but I really haven’t had any “aha” ideas! Still working on eating less and exercising more, but I constantly chastise myself about the last part of that. I have the idea that I should be doing something more formal and organized and exciting than gardening and walking. Neither seems like enough, and yet…I have felt remarkably well this week and didn’t even take my usual Tylenol last night before I went to bed. I have walked much more and worked in the garden without feeling any soreness. And while I haven’t lost a single pound, I have not gained one either, despite being home and being able to snack more.
“Move! Do something, no matter how small. It will be a starter.” Those are the words of wisdom that jumped off the page and into my brain this morning. I will take them to heart! Instead of focusing on what I have NOT been doing, I will concentrate on what I CAN do and see where that leads. Small steps, small moves, small goals…
And before I share the rest of the article with you, I must also tell you that a stuffed elephant that has been on my book shelf for two years suddenly fell to the floor next to me just moments ago! Talk about unexpected! I may have to be extra careful today.
May 12, 1922
A Word to the Boys
Young man, there is one thing you cannot do. You cannot make a success in life unless you work. Better men than you have tried and failed. You can’t loaf around the streets, tell foul stories, smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey, and sponge on somebody else without making a failure in life. You must learn a trade or get into some business. If you do not you will be a chronic loafer, despised by all, producing nothing, simply making yourself a burden on your parents or the state.
There is no place in the world for loafers. The ripe fruit is all at the top of the tree. You must climb to get it. If you wait for it to fall at your feet you will never get it. Smarter men will jump up and get it.
Move! Do something no matter how small. It will be a starter. Help yourself and others will help you. There is no royal road to success. Toil, grit, and endurance are the severe requisites. Wake up and see what you can do.