Friday, September 26, 2014

The JeffCo School Board fiasco - Part I

Evergreen High School students protesting the JeffCo School Board.

If you are connected with my blog on social media at all, you might already know about what is happening with our local school district. We live in Lakewood, which is part of Jefferson County, Colorado. Since last week thousands of students from high schools throughout the county have walked out of class to protest, mainly, a school board member's proposed curriculum committee that would start out by making changes to AP History.

There is no way I can give this story justice with just one post. This will be a series. My first! Seriously, this issue is of huge importance to me and as I have closely followed this I have learned  a lot that I want to share with all of you.

To give you a little background, there are five school board members and last November three new "reformist" board members were voted in. They have a majority and have used that to promote their seemingly right-wing agenda. Now there are those who say that the previous board majority did the same with a left-wing agenda, yet somehow our school district became one of the top in the country.

With each side trading barbs, this is one thing I believe everyone can agree with: That JeffCo Public Schools has a reputation throughout the country as being one of the best school districts nationally.

We are also one of the largest, 85,542 students. And unlike some school districts in Colorado that are very wealthy, ours is a for sure mixture of class, ethnicity and race. We have a very high percentage of students, 34%, who qualify for free or reduced lunch yet we also have many students who come from upper middle class and up families. About 10% of K-12 students in Colorado attended a JeffCo school.

99.86% of our teachers are considered "highly qualified" according to federal standards.

We have the third best graduation rate of the nation's 50 largest school districts.

NOTE: A lot of this information comes from last year's annual report, done before this new "reformist" majority won the election.

Jefferson County is a purple county, with one third each of Democrats, Independents and Republicans.

In January our new school board majority took over and it didn't take long to notice changes.

But before I start with all of that, I want to plug voting. And voting in local elections. And paying attention to your local school board.

This is vital. Otherwise, your local school board could look like ours, if it already doesn't. As I write about what is going on in Jefferson County, please take this to heart. Please vote. Please speak out. I totally believe that if more folks voted in the school board election last year that these "reformists" would have had no chance of winning.

Once in power, the "reformist" majority quickly hired a lawyer. The board already has a lawyer yet these three wanted their own at $80,000 a year paid by the school district.

Then they decided to give $300,000 to a charter school and in the same meeting decided that they should not fund full-day kindergarten.

Charter schools are an issue. And $300,000 is a lot of money. I have read that there are some amazing charter schools, yet I first and foremost believe in support our public schools. I do not believe that all charter schools are as supportive of all students as public schools are. AN example would be me getting calls from teachers and students at two JeffCo schools that were having a tough time from those in power when wanting to create a Gay-Straight Alliance.

So I seriously should either leave the charter school debate to those most qualified or at least wait until I learn more before I write about them.

I think now is a good time to break. While I write my Part II, here is an article from today's Denver Post that will bring you more information on what is happening: student walk outs.

Thank you for reading. I would be delighted if you shared this post with friends.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Your bacon had a face and so much more

Everyone seems to love bacon.

When some folks find out that I am vegan they make sure they let me know how much they love bacon.

I became vegan because I do not want to do harm to any living beings, including pigs. I haven't had bacon for over 18 years.

When I see or smell bacon, I think about pigs and how awesome they are. I don't think about missing bacon or wishing I could eat it.

I think about torture, abuse, cruelty, sadness, intelligence, and squealing.

While considering this post I read articles on pigs. I could have spent months on this. Pigs are quite the intelligent beings. There is plenty of data online if you'd like to learn about that.

For me though, pigs could be the dumbest creation on earth and I would still not want to kill them. I firmly believe that if given a choice, a pig would run away from a dude about to slit her throat. She wouldn't want to die. She wouldn't want to live her life in a gestation crate, unable to turn around and unable to truly care for her piglets.

Pigs are product to those who make money off of them. Pure and simple money.

As I write this I am thinking of a little pig named Lucy. This past week she was found by neighbors of a woman who rocks compassion in my book. I found out about Lucy from friends on Facebook and immediately donated to her care. She is so young and so sick, and so precious. I am grateful that she got in the hands of humans who give a crap.

I'm not sure about Lucy's story, or where she was born. Not sure if her mom was bred so Lucy could be bacon or not. Regardless, she's in great hands now and I hope that with her illnesses she come through everything OK.

If you would like to donate to Lucy's care, click here.  We donated not only because Lucy touched us, but also because we believe that as animal-loving folk, we have to support those who go out on a financial limb to help animals that are suffering when possible for us to do so.

Every time someone buys bacon they support the maltreatment of living, feeling, intelligent beings. They pay someone to inflict harm and cruelty on that same being.

It's totally not worth it.

On our blogs main page we have several links that could be supportive of you if you would like to consider going vegan.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The pain of bigotry

It happened this week.

A same-sex marriage was recognized in Arizona.

In the form of a death certificate.

Of course the state of Arizona needed a little nudging from a federal judge.

I can only imagine what Fred McQuire was feeling as he picked up the accurate death certificate recognizing his marriage to his late husband, George Martinez.

Fred and George had been together 45 years.

What's all the fuss in denying couples marriage? What's the hurry? We should wait and think this through and see what the real harm will be?

The reason this was important, aside from being the right and just thing, was that now Fred can receive Social Security benefits and veteran benefits.

Bigotry continues to inflict pain on couples all over the U.S.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that they will look at some state marriage equality decisions this month.

Meanwhile, many couple, like Mike and I, just wait. Although our marriage is legal in many states, it is not legal where we live.

So we will keep fighting. We will keep demanding equal marriage, and I personally will call attention to those in political power who continually fight against marriage equality.

Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A recipe! Stuffed Peppers

I know. This isn't a food blog. I like to do reviews on vegan food, on restaurants and once in a while on vegan products. I have hardly ever passed along a recipe.

Last week Mike and I weren't sure what we wanted to do for dinner. I had bought green peppers at the farmer's market and thought I would finally try to make stuffed recipes. They came out so good that I just have to share my recipe.

This takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, and then the bake time. And so easy!

This is what you need:

green peppers, cleaned out, as many as you are doing dinner for (I made three)
a little olive oil
tomato paste, one 8oz can
Beyond Meat Chicken strips, cut in pieces (I think you could use the Beyond Meat meat crumbles too)
Daiya cheese shreds, your choice of flavor
Veggies, cut and diced up. You're for the picking. I used broccoli, onions, cabbage, kale and mushrooms
black beans, one bag
quinoa (optional) I thought of this afterwards!
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 350.

In a saute pan or skillet, add all of the ingredients minus the green peppers.  Cook on medium heat and mix well. Add in the salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne powder, to taste.

Remove from heat and add the mixture to all of the green peppers. Place the stuffed green peppers in a big enough piece of aluminum foil so the pepper can be fully wrapped. I add a little water in the wrapped foil so the pepper can steam.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes. You want them to bake enough so the green pepper can be cut with a fork when eating.

Ready to serve. I served this with an arugula salad. The stuffed peppers were delicious. Play around with the spices, and use whatever veggies you like.

You can make this a completely non-processed dish by not using the Beyond Meat and Daiya cheese.

Please let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Get local! - 3 simple actions

This won't surprise those of you who have read past blogs posts when I write that this post is about getting active politically.

Many people who read this blog want to make the world a better place for all living beings. Although I often write about animal cruelty issues and issues that tend to be national or international, I believe it is hugely important that each of us takes action in our own backyard.

I am going to offer three simple suggestions that you can take to make your voice heard in your own community, actions that will make your community better, or at the least, get your message out there.

The folks I am asking you to connect with are easy to find. A few minutes on Google and you will be done.

I think all three of these are important based on where I live, and what is going on in my own community.

Ready. Set. Go!

Action #1: Find out who represents you on city council and engage with them. In our case we have two folks who represent our area and I am in touch with them frequently (but not too much!). When local issues arise or when I hear about some vote at city council that concerns me, I send an email to these two. Many city ordinances that support those in need, companion animals, etc. were created because of folks like us who gave a shit.

Action #2: Find out who your Chief of Police is and write them a letter asking them to conduct training around how officers deal with companion animals. This one is of great interest to me as I have read too many articles about police who have killed a companion animal, usually a dog. Training helps. Asking your local folks to be aware of this helps too. You never know whose companion animal you will save!

Action #3: Get to know who is on your local school board and find out whether they support your thoughts around education (or other things). In our county, our school board has been taken over by folks who call themselves "reformists" but in my opinion are only spending public money to support their agenda which seems to be to change public education. This is happening all over the country. And here, the school board seems to have little care for students who are not well off. Even if you do not have children in the school district, like us, find out what is going on in your district.

That's it ! Pretty easy, right? All of these actions will make a difference with issues that are important to you. We cannot be a voice for the voiceless if we do not express that voice.

Thanks for reading!