WE PAW Bloggers E-zine — Issues 53

This prompt is open only to WE PAW Bloggers group members on Facebook. Member contributors were asked to submit ANY writing about our feelings, our or our community’s situation, our and/or our family’s daily diary, etc. during these multiple crises; any escapism or fantasy writes, poetry or prose inspired by these situation. Contributors were asked to put the dystopia we may be feeling into words. Limits were 1000 or less written only submissions and/or spoken word readings under seven minutes in length (with text attached); contributors were also limited to one submission per week.

These are unprecedented times. Perhaps no one thought the crisis would drag on for so very long. But, we find ourselves now more than six months down this road with no easing of the crises in which we find ourselves. As we drag on and on through this period of national and global crises, this is why, as writers and creatives, we write to cope. Let us be the clarion call for a better future. This is why we “Write to Cope” — What we writers, poets, authors, and artists of all types do reflects the joys and turmoils in our societies in which we create.We creatives are the mirrors of our society in the midst of our the still growing global pandemic and a new generation of righteous struggle for civil rights and equal justice.

Artwork by Daniel Garcia

Won’t You Be My POTUS?

A Trump staffer said watching Biden is like watching “an episode of Mister Rodgers [sic]”

Close your eyes and imagine that for a moment… Imagine a Mister Rogers-esque presidency.

It was intended as an insult, but I must agree. Watching Biden’s town hall was calming. I came away from watching it feeling better about my country and about my world. I came away feeling better in much the same way that watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood used to make me feel as a child. Most importantly, I felt better about my fellow countrymen than I have in the past four years. After watching Biden’s town hall, I came away daring to hope we can become a UNITED States of America again.

The lyrics below should be sung to the tune of the iconic theme song for “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”

It’s a frightening time in America
A pandemic day for a country
What can I do?
What will you do?

It’s disheartening news for neighborhoods
More scary words from the president
Joe, please be mine?
Won’t you be mine?

I have always believed in presidents just like Biden
America needs a president just like Joe right now

So let’s make the most of this election time
Let’s get together, and all vote for Joe
Joe, please be mine?
Could you be mine
Won’t you be my POTUS?

Won’t you please
Won’t you please
Please won’t you be my POTUS?

© 19 October 2020, by D. Denise Dianaty

BYLINE: D. Denise Dianaty a.k.a. MomzillaNC

Are You Fragile?

Photo by C. J. Langer

Fragile.

What comes to mind when you hear/read that word?

Perhaps you think of a fine sculpture or miniatures. Perhaps you think of a delicate flower. Perhaps you think of a newborn baby.

How about our relationships?

How about life itself?

We go about our day, minding our own business — if we’re smart — and then bam! Something happens that turns everything on its head. Something completely unforeseen and out of our control. Something that reminds us how small and vulnerable we humans really are.

Somewhere along the way we have had the mistaken notion planted in our heads that we’re the top of the food chain. Everything must bend to our will. Nothing can defeat us.

And, yet, it never takes much to rip the rug right out from under us. It’s scary, terrifying because there’s nothing we can do about it. Except learn as much as we can from the situation to see if the decisions we made leading up to it had anything to do with it.

But that is so difficult in the middle of a shit show. All we want to do is react. Blame everybody and their brother. Crawl into a corner and cry.

It’s times like these that show us who we really are. What we’re made of. The areas where we could use the most improvement. And even though we may be feeling small and fragile we can still use the time to make us stronger, wiser, kinder.

Because then we’ll be able to show more empathy when those around us are dealing with situations like these. We can tap into those awful feelings when we were laid low for whatever reason and even if we didn’t go through exactly what someone else has gone through we can still empathize with them. We can show them understanding and kindness by doing for them what we needed when we were hurting.

No one likes to admit when they feel weak or fragile or even need help. So it’s nice when we find someone who can be there without being asked. It takes the sting out of the fragility. It gives such a sense of relief because then we don’t have to be so strong.

It seems like most of us are on shaky ground these days. Perhaps you’re feeling vulnerable, fragile because of our new global reality or maybe because of a more personal reason. Whatever the reason, know that you’re not alone. Everyone feels that way from time to time.

And everyone comes out the other side — hopefully stronger, wiser, and kinder. So don’t give up! Use these experiences to help you and others in the future.

BYLINE: C. J. Langer

Masking The Awkwardness With Humour

Disclaimer: I don’t kneel for my students, as that would send entirely the wrong message. Besides, they are teenagers and I’m only 5’2″ — Also, I can no longer kneel. Image Source

Face to face teaching is back in full swing in Victoria, with all students over the age of 12, and all teachers, required to wear masks.

The kids generally don’t like wearing masks, and I totally get that. Still, that’s not an excuse for defiance. It’s currently a legal requirement, so whether or not we like it is a moot point.

Most of the students are quite cooperative. Some kids, though, are getting sneakier — or perhaps just less conscientious — about wearing them properly. The challenge for teachers is to find ways to remind them without being awkward or, even worse, coming across as nagging. As anyone who has tried to get a teen to do something they don’t want to do will attest, that’s only ever going to create more resistance.

As I am wont to do, I have reverted to humor in addressing the problem.

When a student has their mask pulled under their nose, I tell them “don’t fly the flag at half mask”.

When someone is not wearing a mask, I say, “Oops! Your face is naked.”

When the mask is sitting under their chin, I tell them to “pull their face pants up.”

In a quiet classroom environment, or if I want to remind someone without drawing attention, I simply make eye contact, hold my hand horizontally near my chin and lift it to above my nose.

These responses engage the students by surprising the m and making them think about what I’m saying. They generally respond with a smile and then comply. The occasional student tries to argue, which invariably ends in disappointment for them.

I am always happy when it works. I was also very pleased when, while I was on yard duty, I heard one of my students tell another kid to pull his face pants up. I smiled with great satisfaction and whispered, “Good work, kid! Keep it up!” Nobody noticed, though, because I had my mask on.

Author Spotlight: Phyllis Entis with Something Different

This week my guest is author and friend Phyllis Entis, who has a new book coming out soon. You may recall Phyllis from earlier posts about her mysteries (see here and here), but she’s here today to tell us about a completely different project.

TAINTED: From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures will be released on December 2, 2020. The book draws on Phyllis’s many years of work in the food safety industry and as a mystery author and promises to be a fascinating look at food contamination and how government regulations have failed consumers. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Take a look at the blurb you’ll find at online retailers:

“Salmonella in eggs. Listeria in deli meats. Melamine in milk. Cyclospora in lettuce.

In a world where irrigation water is contaminated by run-off from cattle feedlots and where food processors cut corners, the food preparation skills we learned from our parents and grandparents are no longer good enough to keep us safe.

Using a variety of foodborne disease outbreaks, often illustrated with the stories of individual victims, Tainted explores the ways in which food becomes contaminated. Some of the stories — such as the deadly 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak — will be very familiar. Others will not.

In this update to her 2007 book, Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives, Phyllis Entis draws on nearly five decades of experience to explain how our regulatory systems have failed us, and to talk about what can be done to protect consumers from unsafe food.”

Phyllis has graciously provided an excerpt of the book to illustrate the power of storytelling combined with science.

Chapter 3 — Betrayal

Sarah Lewis and her entire family attended a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant on May 29, 2010 to mark her sister Stacey’s college graduation. The next night, Sarah’s world turned upside down.

Already feeling unwell on the evening of May 30th, Sarah went to bed early. She awakened during the night, suffering from vomiting and severe diarrhea. The next day, Sarah’s mother, who lived nearby, took her to an urgent care facility. Twenty minutes later, she was admitted to hospital and was later diagnosed with salmonellosis.

Badly dehydrated and in enormous pain from her inflamed bowels, Sarah was moved to the hospital’s ICU. While there, she developed severe tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat), and was moved to the critical care heart unit, where she spent three days.

When Sarah was finally discharged in time to attend her daughter’s preschool graduation, she thought the worst was behind her.

About 2½ weeks later, she was back in the hospital, still suffering from severe dehydration. She was released after five days.

The antibiotics Sarah took to combat her Salmonella infection stripped her digestive system of its normal population of protective bacteria, resulting in her becoming infected with Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a bacterium which causes severe diarrhea and cramping. A fourteen-day antibiotic regimen took care of the C. diff; however, the Salmonella was more resilient. Four months later, Sarah still was on five to ten different medications daily to combat the infection and control her symptoms.

Sarah Lewis was the first recorded California victim of a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak that sickened more than 1,900 people across the United States.

The restaurant where Stacey’s graduation banquet was held had purchased custard tarts from a local bakery. Ordinarily, the bakery used a pasteurized liquid egg mixture to make the tarts. However, on the day they prepared the dessert items for the graduation dinner, the bakery ran out of pasteurized egg mix and used fresh, raw shell eggs instead. Eggs that most likely had come from Iowa.

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, if you ever ordered something in a restaurant that just didn’t taste right, or if you’ve followed any of a myriad of cases in the international media in recent years about the safety of our food supply and various outbreaks of illness caused by food-borne bacteria, I think you’ll find this an interesting book.

If you’d like to pre-order your own copy, please click on any of the links below.

Amazon: mybook.to/TAINTED2020
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940164268374

Author Bio

A graduate of McGill University and the University of Toronto, Phyllis Entis received her introduction to the field of food safety at the hands of Canada’s Health Protection Branch, where she spent the first seven years of her professional life immersed in Salmonella, Staphylococcus, E. coli and other bad actors from the microbial world.

Entis left government work to co-found (with her husband) QA Life Sciences, a company specializing in rapid testing methods for foodborne bacteria. For the next twenty-two years, she worked closely with representatives of Health Protection brand, the US Food and Drug Administration and various state agencies to gain official sanction for the use of rapid testing methods in government and industry settings.

Following the sale of QA Life Sciences, Entis became a freelance consultant and writer. Her first book, Food Microbiology — The Laboratory, was published in 2002 by the Food Processors Institute. It was followed five years later by Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives, which was released by the American Society for Microbiology Press in January 2007.

Since 2007, Entis has written about food safety issues for several publications, including Food Safety News, The Bark, and her own food safety blog, eFoodAlert. She has also found the time to write and release a 5-book mystery series, The Damien Dickens Mysteries.

In TAINTED, Entis has combined her decades of experience with the story-telling skills honed during her career as a mystery writer to revamp and update the wealth of information contained in Old Habits and to produce a food safety narrative that is both educational and accessible.

I hope you’ll reach out and connect with Phyllis!
eFoodAlert blog: eFoodAlert.com
Author website and blog:
phyllisentis.wordpress.com
(Further contacts may be found on the above links)

BYLINE: Amy M. Reade

Balancing Grace and Expectations: Grading in the Time of COVID

We’re coming to the end of a quarter in my school district, so time for the first of four grade panics we’ll see this year. Some of my students did not perform well this past nine weeks, and have low grades to reflect that.

Image Source

This isn’t a surprise. In 26 years of teaching, I’ve never had a year without some students who failed to perform.

The tricky thing right now is ascertaining the reasons. Even trickier than in other years.

Some kids simply didn’t do the work. There were no particular obstacles in the way.

They have the necessary supplies and the teacher provided guidance and opportunities to pursue clarification, but they still didn’t turn in the work. They lacked motivation, maybe, or were testing boundaries to see what the penalties might turn out to be, or the siren call of the X-box was louder than anything else they were hearing from their adults.

Other kids didn’t do the work, but there are mitigating circumstances that I am aware of: limited access to the internet, language barriers, instability at home, mental health concerns, non-functioning computers (our district’s computers were due to be replaced in August, but we’re still waiting on our new ones to arrive, so we’re making due with dying and failing machines), or any number of other factors that have been communicated to me by families, students, or other staff at school.

My students are 12–14 years-old, for the most part. In the best of circumstances, they are in their first years of learning to navigate multiple teachers with disparate ways of doing things, and there will be confusion and mistakes. So, even when things are at their best, there’s still an argument for grace, forgiveness, patience, and second chances.

Image Source

We’re not in the best of circumstances right now. Even the lucky ones among us are still in the middle of a pandemic, which affects each of us differently.

The students and their families vary in their comfort with and skill at communicating with the teachers and school. Admitting you are confused and need help requires trust and faith that your admission will meet with kindness and offers of help. Too many families have had negative experiences that have taught them to be wary — rigid teachers, inflexible policies, systemic ignorance of equity issues.

Sometimes school creates trauma, usually unintentionally . . .but intention doesn’t matter when a person has already been hurt. And that trauma makes building trust harder for each subsequent educator.

So, how do I assign grades fairly? I ask myself that *all* the time . . .but this year, it’s a wider spread consideration. How do I tell if it’s fair to give a kid a zero and when I need to offer grace instead because they really are doing the best they can with what they’ve got right now?

What I do is have as many conversations as I can. I reach out to children and their families, expressing concern and offering support.

I’ve purchased chargers out of my own pocket, helped navigate our district’s systems for things like hotspots and replacement equipment, exempted kids from assignments to streamline the work flow, sat in zoom meetings to walk parents and kids through and show them exactly where to go to find resources and how to turn in work.

I want all my kids to “get there,” so I’ve tried to offer multiple paths that will let kids experience success and build trust in me and in the process so they can keep moving forward, building positive momentum.

But there are families who don’t respond to my queries. Or whose responses are less than forthcoming.

So, I’ll do my best to judge them fairly. I’ll look at all the data I have. I’ll ask the other adults who work with the child — teachers, the nurse, the office staff — and see if anyone has insight they can share with me. I give the benefit of the doubt and assume good intentions as much as possible. But, in the end, I will assign a grade. That number won’t represent the full picture, but it’s the system I have to work within.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t give grades. I’d write a narrative for each kid, summarizing strengths and weaknesses, work ethic and obstacles, and pass that information along to the next educator to help them meet this child where they are and move them forward. But, I’ve yet to teach anywhere that offered me that option.

Schooling in America is fond of trying to take a messy, subjective and personal process and boil it down to a number that we claim is objective. Foolish, at least in my opinion, but not something I have the power to change.

So, fellow teachers, what do you take into account when you’re trying to assign a number to a child’s progress? How do you try to make it fair and representative of effort and progress?

And students and families? What purpose do grades serve for you? How do you use that feedback to grow and further your goals?

BYLINE: Samantha Dunaway Bryant

Image of Robert Trakofler, by Bad Bunny

Everything pales

I can tell the outside weather
From inside my kitchen
Drips drop and draft my displeasure
To damp my condition
But everything pales
To pandemic ails

I got notice of collection
A most overdue bill
Stealing my hope for erection
An unfortunate spill
But everything pales
To pandemic fails

Munching on some chips a bit stale
Despite a lack of crunch
Suddenly a tooth starts to rail
A dental bill gut punch
But everything pales
To pandemic frails

I hear lines of misdirection
In “Q” conspiracy
I blankly seek some connection
To its absurdity
But everything pales
To pandemic tales

I too miss the conventional
Of living life classic
Truly abhor its suspension
But storming the capitol?
But everything pales
To pandemic curtails

I am angry, bitter and sad
From the pain of restrains
I’m afraid, perhaps going mad
But petty these constraints
When everything pales
To those coffin nails

© 2020, by Robert Trakofler

Editorial statement

We write to cope because we see a world leadership leading us to our worst inclinations with mendacity and cruelty. And, we see our fellow humanity following, supporting that leadership. We write to cope because the world is broken and we hope our words may help the healing begin.

“If you must support or do wrong to achieve what you believe to be good, then there is no good in your achievement.” ~MomzillaNC

D. Denise Dianaty, Editor and Graphic Designer for the WE PAW Bloggers E-Zine. Administrator for the writers forum “WE PAW Bloggers” group and its sister group “Pandora’s Box of Horrors” on Facebook.

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WE PAW Bloggers E-zine

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An ezine for members of the FB group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/wepawblog, as well as being the place to curate featured writing prompt contributions.