I really don’t measure my life from one January 1st to the next. Somehow, it’s easier for me to measure what has happened since last Thanksgiving. And there have been some pretty amazing people who have entered my life since then, in one case someone from the past, but in a new identity. And so, since last Thanksgiving…
After dating and living in separate places for 17 years, I finally married Toni. This woman has been an amazing presence in my life. I can’t even imagine who or what I would have been without her love and influence.
I am now a part-time ESL teacher for Oklahoma City Community College in their adult education program. After being a public high school teacher for 16 years I took early retirement to accomplish some goals that needed my attention. I am fortunate to be with OCCC. I could not be prouder of this association.
This school takes the “community” in their name very seriously in all they do. And my very diligent adult students show me every day what it really means to want to be an American and how to take pride in their adopted country. It is such a far cry from the pissy, tea-party culture of white born-here people who clearly hate today’s America and their own elected government.
Because I was once a single person living on my teaching income, I know how nervous public school teachers can become about speaking out on political issues.
And so, I have used my retired status to as full of an effect as possible by joining the blogosphere, advocating for public schools, public school teachers, and public school administrators who have to fight political fights every day just because investors see big money in privatizing education.
Yes, I make a few people uncomfortable from time to time. But for the most part, I try to let many others know that they have someone speaking up and standing up for them. Unless you have been there, most people don’t know just how exposed to criticism public school teachers can feel. That’s why I speak up.
And the cool thing about it is that I have become acquainted with some pretty amazing bloggers in the process. Claudia Swisher, Rob Miller, OkEducationTruths (Seriously, I still haven’t figured out who it is.), Jason James, Michelle Waters, Dr. John Thompson, and Seth Meier have all contributed to my learning curve in reading their work and paying close attention to their comments in social media.
Writing for Red Dirt Report
It was my good fortune this year to become friends with David Glover who seems to know just about everyone in Oklahoma City. One of those people he knows is Andrew Griffin, the founder and publisher of the online news blog Red Dirt Report home based right here in Oklahoma City.
Andrew has been a patient mentor as I have become a freelancer for him learning to write news instead of opinion. I do write opinion pieces for him sometimes. But mostly I have written news pieces that got me out and into the general public where I practice introducing myself, building trust, following leads, asking questions, photographing people to reflect them accurately, verifying what seems to be a fact — but may not be — and learning a thousand things that most reporters learn before they turn 25.
Now I know first hand how this hard work gets into people’s blood. It’s fascinating and exciting to be in a position of getting to know so many new people and their stories. And it is my privilege to get to tell their stories, too.
Politicians who are the real deal
So there are politicians who are the real deal? Yes! And it was my good fortune to get to write about some of them.
Joy Hofmeister is a Republican who ran first against the incumbent Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi and won in the primary in June, upsetting a very big apple cart that charter school raiders and other “reformers” had paid big money to stock.
As she then turned to run against her Democratic Party opponent, Dr. John Cox, I got acquainted through several phone conversations and in person. Throughout that long campaign,first in the primary, and then in the general elections, Joy always was available for a short conversation as I wrote for this blog and for a story in Red Dirt Report. She showed time and again that she is ready to lead whoever will be led, no matter which party or part of the political spectrum they come from.
It will be interesting to see how she untangles a very large mess made by her dentist predecessor.
Dr. John Cox was the opponent of Hofmeister in the race for Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction. I spent several hours on the phone with him for a story I did for Red Dirt Report and for background on a story I did on this blog.
He showed endless energy in campaigning across the state against some big money spent against him and against Republican legislators who decided to jump into the fray to help Hofmeister, who didn’t really need their help or meddling. I’m looking forward to keeping up with John, a very hard-working superintendent of a good, small school, and education professor at a neighboring college.
Cathy Cummings was someone who I had heard about here and there especially as a very good restaurateur for her place Vito’s not far from my house. But when she ran for Lieutenant Governor in this last election cycle Red Dirt Report let me do the interview of her. What a great story and a hard-working campaigner! It was fun to get to know Cathy and her husband Sean as the campaign moved along.
Cyndi Munson ran for the House District 85 seat, which is where I live, so I first became familiar with her as she knocked doors throughout the district. She ended up doing that three times over before election day. My interview of her for Red Dirt Report allowed me to see clearly what a genuine person she is with a big heart for all people no matter which party they are in.
Sarah Baker, Connie Johnson, and Paula Sophia were three other politicians in this last cycle who I found to be very real and worth watching. They are living proof that people in politics are there because they are truly concerned to give a voice to those who have no political voice. I’m looking forward to their futures in politics as well.
This has been a wonderful year for having my son and daughter both close to me so that I can visit with them and especially see my grandchildren. I have to admit that as thrilled as I am to be a grandparent, it still seems like I’m making it up to talk about my grandchildren!
Happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a blast! I am thankful for your reading and engaging in my life. It’s much richer because of you. I hope that I can make yours richer, too.