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Reflections of Geese …. and Face Masks

October 12, 2020- In honor of Mom’s 84th Birthday-Given to the family with love ~ Dee

Nearly every day I hear and see flocks of geese flying overhead. We have lived near a river for over 20 years and so daily sightings of geese are common.

Each time I hear and see them I pause and smile. And I wonder…..

Grandma Wheatley’s favorite living things were birds….especially geese.  Each day her routine consisted of eating breakfast at her kitchen window and watching all the birds in her yard.  No matter where we were with her, she would stop and pause in her tracks every time a flock of geese flew overhead and she would exclaim, with hands clasped to her chest “Oh, aren’t they just beautiful. Listen to them. I just love them!”. Grandma put an intimate meaning to the phrase “goose bumps”. 

Some years ago I found  information on goose symbolism –  

If you want something done – give it to the Goose. Persevering, dogged, and ambitious to a fault, the Goose sets goals for accomplishment, and always obtains them. The goose is determined to succeed at all cost – not for the approval of others – but those with this Native American animal symbol competes with his/her own internal foe. Driven is the watchword for the Goose’s dominating personality trait – which makes them excellent in business and competitive sports. When tempered with supportive, nurturing family and friends, the Goose excels in all things he/she attempts. In a loving environment the Goose can be very passionate, humorous, and gregarious.Here are some attributes of the goose:* Communication* Determination* Fellowship* Teamwork*
* Confidence* Protection* Bravery* LoyaltyGeese are incredibly gifted navigators and instinctively know the way across the long haul to warmer climates. They forge ahead with confidence and bravery. Lessons we all can learn from our totem geese include:     * Remember your roots – don’t forget the people who helped you along the way
    * Follow your gut – rely on intuition and instinct in order to get where you need to   be
    * Communicate your needs to others – no one can help you if you don’t speak out
    * Protect that which is most valuable, but make sure you have your priorities straight      (meaning, be sure you’re protecting that which is worth protecting).

All of this is very fitting for who Grandma was.  She was steadfast and brave (always forging ahead no matter what the risks or obstacles), driven by her confidence to succeed.  She was very good at business affairs and definitely was a communicator (in many ways….). She raised her own child, our Mom,  with these attributes, which carried Mom over into her own adult life and on to us,her children.  Grandma was a protector, always stating that she would defend anything or anyone who came in harm’s way of her “babies”.  She had an uncanny sense of intuition that led her – and us – on many creative and adventurous paths.  Grandma was definitely a leader and inspiration to everyone who knew her. Grandma and Mom were very much like sisters. Caring for (and yes even arguing with) each other like sisters and always watching out for their babies. 

The year of 2020 has been filled with events and circumstances that have resulted in loss and uncertainty. Mom’s transition is etched in our repository of 2020 memories of the year, along with the reflection of lifetime memories that have come to surface.  Recently I embarked on creating face masks out of colorful, durable fabric that had been used as sacks for flour and grain that Grandma had saved from her young adulthood and later gave to me. As was common during that time Grandma made clothes from the fabric. During the 2020 pandemic it dawned on me that it was time to get this fabric out of storage and make face masks and drawstring bags to store the masks. I used thread and ribbon from Mom’s sewing supplies that she had used in her own creating.  In a sense, the face masks I have made are Grandma’s ways of protecting her babies in these adverse times and a reminder of the durability of Mom’s soul who endured so much in her life, but always found beauty in life around her. 

I was showing what I had made to a friend and explaining the history of the fabric and suddenly two geese flew by. I looked at my friend and told her how much Grandma adored geese. My friend gasped. We paused. I couldn’t help but wonder if the two geese that flew by were Grandma and Mom in what Mom might call a “fly over”. 

Each day when I hear these flying beauties I wonder if Grandma is among them. I wonder if Mom is flying with her and I wonder if they are watching over and protecting us – and each time I hear the honk of these geese, a sense of peace comes over me.  And somehow I know that Grandma and Mom are indeed with us in many ways more beyond our memories.

On the occasion of Mom’s 84th birthday, may we feel her warmth, love, comfort, reassurance and protection, influenced by Grandma, as we wear or display our face masks….and hear the sounds of geese flying overhead! 

The (Field Trip) Hiker 10: Sacrifice for the Cause

June 17, 2016

I pledge allegiance To all life In its interdependent diversity.
And to the planet Upon which it exists
One world, under the sky, Undividable,
With harmony and balance For all.

I went on a field trip with friends to study to the biodiversity of the open land adjacent to the Utah Tar Sands Mine. We ended up being arrested. We are dubbing ourselves “The Hiker 10” (evolved from “The Field Trip 10”).

This field trip was not a direct action with anticipated legal consequences.  This field trip is an annual family tradition. Plants are studied and data are recorded in a field journal.  Comparisons are made from the previous year to witness the impact of mining on the land.

The Intergenerational Campout has been held at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau for four years.  The campout is designed to for people of all ages to come together to experience the beauty of the land, reflect on the legacy of future generations, witness the threat to all life forms as a result of man’s destruction, and provide education on the effects of industry on those life forms. By holding this gathering in the heart of the land that is victimized by destruction, citizens experience the direct impact on every living thing.

“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.”

Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Equipped with balls of string, journals and pens, “field scientists” conducted the biodiversity experiment in an unfenced forested area with the transect method.  This involved using a pre-measured string to identify a randomly chosen area of study, counting the number of different types of plants as well as the total number of all plants and arriving at a biodiversity index using simple division to determine the diversity of plant life in the measured area.  The closer the result is to “1”, the greater the diversity.



IMG_3888The Hiker 10 never got the chance to take the data back to camp and compare it to the previous year’s data.  Instead, we were detained for four hours along the road and then carted off to the county jail in shackles – a two hour trip.  The charge:  criminal trespass.  For counting plants.


“The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”

― Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert


“We only have One Water, One Air, One Mother Earth.”

~ Corbin Harney, Western Shoshone Spiritual Leader, 1920-2007


The Earth is our Mother.

From her we get our life,

and our ability to live.

It is our responsibility

to care for our mother,

and in caring for our Mother,

we care for ourselves.

– Winona LaDuke , Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe)


It’s been a really, REALLY  long time, but I’m back.  Six years ago I decided to take a break from a lot of things. (That’s why you see a huge gap between my last post and this one!)

I’m ready to get back to work!!/thesulk/status/160506949065113600

Urban Farming: The Revolution

Give Peach a Chance Tree in bloom

Urban farming for us has been a work in progress.  We have this relatively huge piece of land (2/3 acre), in a city of over 100,000 people, that we have been working on transforming into a “farm” for raising food for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and any friends and community members that would like to have organically grown food.  Tom and I have been raising food for ourselves for a number of years, but we decided several years ago to start expanding since this size property really needs to be used more wisely for food production.  To date we have a large vegetable garden, an orchard, a beehive, a solar oven and will soon have chickens for eggs.  We are planning to transform most of our property into edible landscaping. We have embarked on a journey that we hope will reap great benefits for the rest of our lives.

And we have recently discovered that we are part of a Revolution.

Urban farming appears to be an emerging trend nationwide, as we have been discovering in our pursuit to move towards self-sufficiency.

I recently stumbled upon an article entitled Garden as if Your Life Depended On It, Because It Will, by Ellen LaConte.  In the article LaConte paints the picture for readers of the dire straights of an increasing number of Americans, especially as the cost of food increases :

….which is particularly devastating just now when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, retired or retiring, on declining or fixed incomes and are having to choose between paying their mortgages, credit card bills, car payments, and medical and utility bills and eating enough and healthily. Many are eating more fast food, prepared foods, junk food–all of which are also becoming more expensive–or less food.   In some American towns, and not just impoverished backwaters, as many as 30 percent of residents can’t afford to feed themselves and their families sufficiently, let alone nutritiously.

Solar Oven cooking dinner, August 2010

Tom & Dee s first Beehive

LaConte lists five reasons why more people should be taking on gardening for their food supply (read the article for full explanation of each point):

Peak Oil, Peak Soil and Space, Monoculture,  Climate Instability, The roller-coaster economy.

LaConte describes the predicted increase in difficulty for many more Americans in the years to come.  More and more people are turning to gardening, not as a hobby, but as a matter of survival.

Then I found Urban Farming Guys, an amazing project where 20 families uprooted themselves from suburbia and planted themselves in the middle of one of the worst neighborhoods in Kansas City in an experimental effort to transform the area into a sustainable community.

Food hitting our plates with who knows what pumped into it and growing economic uncertainty. We took the seeds in our pockets and every square foot we owned and went about like mad scientists testing out innovative ideas from all around world and making them work in one of the most blighted neighborhoods in the US. Everything from urban fish farming to alternate energy. Now let’s pass it on… to our neighborhoods and the nations.

"The Hen Shack"~Tom & Dee s first chicken coop (in progress)

Then there is the Dervaes family in Pasadena, California who has named the family run organization “Path to Freedom”  with the website Urban Homestead:  Pioneering a journey towards self-sufficiency, one step at a time.

Surrounded by urban sprawl and just a short distance from a freeway, the Dervaes Family has steadily worked at transforming this ordinary city lot into an organic and sustainable micro-farm since 1983.

Asian Pears, July 2010 Peace Orchard

This family has, over the years, amazingly transformed a relatively small parcel into a self-sustaining food production operation for sustenance for an entire year. The website is full of information all based on the experiences of urban farming – a great resource for those desiring to do the same.

The more I read and investigate to educate myself on urban farming, the more I find that people all over are turning to this model of food production.  It’s refreshing, rejuvenating, exciting.   It’s a Revolution. I am proud to say I am embracing the Revolution with all my heart and soul and the journey, so far, is proving to enrich our lives and the lives of our descendants.

See posts on Tom and Dee’s Urban Farming Adventures at Tom and Dee’s Excellent Adventures.

Moving on: Saying goodbye is hard to do

Back in 1998, around November, we found Star, our mixed Blue Heeler, at the Humane Society.  We estimate that she was about 6 months old at the time.Friendly and loving from the start, we decided to adopt her.  At the time my children were still in school and living at home. 

Star wasn’t the brightest dog.  We think she may have been injured or abused in the first 6 months of her life.  She did learn to respond to simple commands like “sit” and “stay” and “lay down”.  Her very deep bark was a great security measure for our house.  In the last year, though, her bark had become hoarse and rasp, and sometimes barely audible.  In her early years, she loved going camping and scampering about in the desert.

Star’s favorite thing was being loved and petted (besides eating used tissue!).  As soon as you would start scratching behind her ears, she became jello-like and would flop to the floor while being petted.

Over the past year Star began really showing her age.  She always did have a weird gait to her walk and it became worse more recently.  The past few months especially found it hard for her to get up.  Her hind legs were really affected.  Once she got up and going, she seemed alright.  Until a little over a week ago.

I had slept in a little on a Saturday because of having to stay up late the night before to take one of my children to the ER.  So I was exhausted.  When I got up, Tom informed me that Star was not able to get up to go to her food and when he forced her to get up, she would collapse on the way to her water and food.

It was time to take her to the vet.

We prepared ourselves for this being “the time”, yet somehow there was still a little bit of hope that a shot would fix her right up.  Her appetite was fine.  She was happy.  She never complained.  Ever.

The vet took one look at her get up and attempt to walk and we could tell by the look on his face.  He immediately said it looked like she had neurological problems causing her hind legs to be malfunctioning.  Of course he gave us options, but when we considered the good life she had had, the fact that she was still happy and not in any visible pain, Tom and I looked at each other, and we knew.  The decision to put her down was not an easy one, but the quality of life she was facing was not a happy picture.

As we waited for the preparation, we got to spend a final 20 or so minutes with Star.  She was happy.  We loved her and petted her, told her how much we had enjoyed her in our lives.  Then the nurse came in to take her – we had opted not to be with her when they gave her the shot.  She was able to move with assistance (a towel was needed to hold up her hind legs so she could walk with her front legs while the human carried her hind legs).  And just like that, she was gone.

Not from our hearts.  Star you gave us so many years of joy and happiness.  Rest in peace.

A New Adventure for this Hippie Chick: Chickens and Bees

Tom and I have talked about getting chickens for years.  We are working each year to add to our methods of becoming self sustainable – we have a fruit orchard, extensive vegetable garden, and are adding to those every year.  Well, this is the year to add chickens.

Chickens are not only good for eating bugs and providing fertilizer, but they will provide us with fresh eggs.  I am also looking forward to bonding with them.  I keep hearing and reading that owning chickens is highly rewarding.

In preparation for our “girls”, I have been reading nd joining forums and discussion groups.  I found a really great forum called “Backyard Chickens” – it has 30,000 members!  It is a great resource for new and seasoned  chicken owners.  I found a great avatar for my profile on the forum:

This weekend we will be building the coop. We are going to convert part of an old horse shed on our property into the house for our chickens.  We looked at all sorts of plans for building chicken houses and realized that the horse shed would be perfect – and inexpensive to convert!  After we build the coop, we will get our chickens.  We haven’t quite decided from whom or what kind, or if we should get chicks (the problem with getting chicks is that you don’t know if they are girls are boys….).

The names we have chosen for our chickens (we plan to get six) are:

Lucy, Ethel, Wilma, Betty, LaVerne, Shirley

We are very excited over this adventure!

This weekend we are also getting our Italian Honey Bees.  Tom has the beehive ready and has all the gear needed for getting them started and maintaining them.  He has a year’s worth of experience maintaining a beehive, so we are in good shape. We are looking forward to lots of honey this year!

So “Tom and Dee’s Excellent Adventures” continue.  Look for more posts, with photos, of our latest activities with these new additions!

Education facing the budget axe

It’s bad enough that Utah Legislators are attempting to destroy the public educational system in the state.  Along with bills that want to transfer control from the State Board over to the Legilators or the Governor (depending on which bill), the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed a total of  $257 million dollars to education programs for the upcoming fiscal year.

Ouch.  Double ouch.  Triple ouch.

What is making the situation worse is the shocker news about cutting programs at both ends of the spectrum – gifted and special needs.  As aresponse to a demand to prioritize cuts, the State Board inlcuded The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind in the amount of $20 million.  Double take.  $20 million.

"We’re going to cut some of these things, so you need to tell us in what rank of importance do you see (these programs)" Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said to State Superintendent Larry Shumway.

The State Board of Education approved a list of programs that could be cut if needed last week, and on the figurative chopping block was $20 million in funding for USDB. The board was emphatic that it doesn’t want to see education cut in any way and was only making the recommendation to assist the committee.

(Deseret News, February 8, 2011)

This axe would effectively kill early intervention services to students with sight and hearing impairments, along with services that are best delivered in the specialized setting of the separate schools.

Legislators have put state education officials in a precarious position.  Utah is already at the top of the list in class size and at the bottom in per pupil spending.  The system already operates on a bare bones budget.

What will be the sacrifice of these cuts?  What are the stakes for our future generations when education is sacrificed – for all students?  Mediocrity appears to be the mission.  Dare I say…..reminiscent of A Brave New World?  Maybe…….

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

The “beast”

 One of the funniest moments in my teaching is a memory of a middle school student who, along with her peers, proudly presented me a huge card at the end of the school year. Made out of construction paper, beautifully and tastefully decorated, the girls were anxious with anticipation as I read the outside of the card, “Ms. Taylor……” (with hearts all over the outside).

Drum roll please……

I opened the card, read the inside and choked up as I looked up into the grinning girls’ faces and thanked them. The message: “You’re the beast!”

(cross-posted to Exceptional Universe)

Making a difference: We are all “every ed”ucators

(Note:  I will be cross-posting pieces here from my educator blog, referenced below). 

Education, like many other fields, is full of its specialities. General Ed. Special Ed. Math Specialists. Autism Specialists. Behavior Specialists. Language Specialists….the list is long, the specialities wide.

But I like to think of every teacher, every administrator, every specialist as "every ed"ucators. Bottom line: We are here for kids….every kid.

I often think of the Starfish Story (reprinted on tab with same name) when a challenge comes my way in working with kids. Washing my hands of challenges to let someone else "deal" with them is not in my repertoire of teaching tools. You just never know what impact you will have on a student. It may not appear right away – it may even be long after they are gone from the school. One thing for sure, every kid deserves the chance, or maybe two or three or a dozen chances, to learn to swim.

(cross-posted to Exceptional Universe)