Whatcha Reading?

So for November, Native American Heritage Month, I’m reading books by indigenous authors. I’m nearly finished with “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. It’s my favorite of the books I’ve read recently…


As I plunge the depths of art and yoga, as I travel more, and find new next steps, it’s great to have a team member that can finish my sentences, and pick up my work where I leave it.

Run for Office

The loss of the 2016 election seems to have galvanized women to activism. The year of our next presidential election will be the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. Just 100 years ago, our foremothers were still fighting for full citizenship in this country.

The US has terribly few women in leadership positions. It’s a problem from the highest office in the US–Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election–to local city councils and school boards.

Over the years I’ve thought about running for office, but I’ve never had the courage. And I’m probably too old. But since the election last November it’s been on my mind a lot.

Do you know someone you think would be a good candidate? Here’s a place to nominate her. Ready to Run is a national movement to get more women ready to run for office; here’s the link to the Iowa workshops.

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf


The cover on the New Yorker this week made me really sad. It seems the light of the Lady of Liberty has gone out. I just signed up to lead an effort in support of immigration and refugee rights. Not sure what I’m getting into, but it will be an adventure.

I love the diversity of Des Moines. It has increased so much since I started working here in 1980, and it still is not that great, but it’s much richer than it was.

When Republican Governor Robert Ray spread the welcome mat for Southeast Asian refugees and immigrants, he did a great thing. Since then, Des Moines has become home to a rainbow of people from all over the world. There are more than 100 languages spoken in the homes of DMPS students.

It’s exciting to walk through a grocery store and hear other languages and drive down the street and see people wearing traditional Burmese or Somali dress. We have restaurants where we can eat Mexican of course but also Thai, Indian and even Ecuadoran. Our neighbors who have come so far enrich us in so many ways.

But is this about to change? I hope not! We will work to continue the welcoming tradition of Iowa.

This week Shelly and I worked with a group of Ugandan college students who were visiting Drake University. It was a highlight of a team building session for the Adams Leadership Academy. They were so candid and open. They were so excited to experience snow!

When I asked them to close their eyes for a centering exercise, they were afraid I was going to hypnotize them! Shelly and I led them through Real Colors. Justine was the only one with a dominant “orange” personality so she and I worked out the “brightening” activity together, identifying joys, strengths, needs and values for our personality preference.

When I said good-bye to them at a reception Thursday evening, Justine was still asking how to achieve her goals. Collaboration, Justine, collaboration. We need ALL the colors to be successful.

Volunteer for Poverty Simulation

We welcome anyone interested in participating in this meaningful and impactful exercise. Please contact Linda Hulleman at the WDM Chamber at 515-222-3679 if you would like to take part.

Plan Ahead

Have you ever seen a hydrophone? Neither had I until I visited the Scripps Research Institute to learn about ocean studies. That’s the thing I’m holding in the picture at the top of this post. The researcher who gave us our tour studies whale audiology. If you’re looking for something to do, he needs help analyzing data from hours and hours of audio. Or something like that.

We toured Scripps the first morning we were in San Diego for the NAAEE (North American Association for Environmental Education) annual conference in San Diego in October 2015. Frankly, I was impressed! I didn’t think I’d ever heard of the organization and the conference looked really good.

I realized that I’ve used their materials for a long time. Most recently, NAAEE’s Excellence in Environmental Education provided guideposts for developing Teachers-Going-Green.com.

The focus of the conference was on diversity and inclusion in environmental education–subjects near and dear to my heart. So much to learn and think about. The workshop sessions were well attended, planful and informative. The NAAEE leadership is enthusiastic and positive. The last keynote, a panel of young leaders under 21 years old; their take on environmental stewardship was inspiring.

Shelly Johnson, Education Coordinator at Next Step Adventure, and I attended a variety of sessions. We were particularly interested in a monitoring project called CIMBY (Calumet Is My Back Yard) that the Field Museum in Chicago is doing with high schools in the Calumet region of south Chicago. Ideas percolated from the sessions and from visits with other educators from California, New Mexico and Michigan, to name a few.

Along with the beautiful campus at Scripps we visited the Birch Aquarium; I’ve always been a sucker for tide pools. We kayaked a fairly choppy Pacific Ocean off the La Jolla beach and caves. We got to visit the world class San Diego Zoo, and on our first afternoon we soaked in the California vibe in Balboa Park.

Balboa Park Conservatory

Balboa Park Conservatory

We came home looking forward to the 2016 conference. And guess what? It’s in Madison, Wisconsin, relatively close-to-home!! It would be a great thing to send a strong and long Iowa delegation there next October 18-22nd. What do you think? Sound like a good idea? Let’s get going!

Connect to Mother Earth

I walked into the kitchen and had to squint. The morning sun was shining brightly through the door. It’s been a challenging winter; judging by the number of people walking and running outside yesterday, we’re ready for it to end. The cardinals, goldfinch and house finches are emptying my bird feeders again.

I’m itching to get back into my garden—fantasizing about trimming my redbud tree, opening my pond and hanging a set of Japanese lanterns above the Old Pond Garden. It’s time to bring the compost bucket back into the kitchen and thaw the lid on the composting bin. These are all ways I connect with my mother, the earth.

John Muir, naturalist said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Earth is where we come from. One of the strongest connections we have, but we rarely think of it.

I’m taking my classes outside to collect materials for spring art projects. Their resistance reinforced my concern that many kids don’t have the love of the soil and all that grows from it. Richard Louv’s article is hopeful abut helping kids connect to the earth, and how it will help us create the solutions to our Mother Earth’s challenges.

In a speech at Drake University last fall, President Olafur Grimsson of Iceland highlighted the connections between ice, energy, and food. “As the Greenland glaciers and the Arctic sea ice continue to melt faster than ever and NASA issues extreme warnings, some of us ask, a bit bewildered: Why does the political and corporate leadership of most countries honour and respect the Space Agency because it landed a man on the Moon, and recently a robot on Mars, but ignore it altogether when it gives us alarming news about Mother Earth?”

Viewing the Earth as mother gives us a paradigm for our origination from Earth, living as part of Earth, our expected return to Earth, recycled just as all biomass is recycled. When we know at a deep level that we are the Earth, we listen to the warnings and look for the creative solutions.

There are several answers, none really easy. The big answer is, “Use less energy.” Considerably less. Until we have clean energy sources that don’t add to climate change, decreasing the use of fossil fuels really makes a difference.

For me, this involves combining trips in my car, walking or riding my bike when I can. What does it look like for you? Please join the conversation.

Summer, my favorite!

I’m sad at the end of summer. No matter how much I’ve crammed into it, there’s always regret for the things I’ve missed. Riding my bike, learning to sail, hiking at the Ledges are on the list this year. Even when I extend the season by starting  June 1 and going til the Autumnal Equinox, it’s never long enough.

I spent my best summers on my grandparents’ farm in northeastern Missouri. What made them the best wasn’t their proximity to Hannibal or the Mississippi River. It wasn’t the trip to St. Louis  when we got to see “The King and I” at Forest Park. I do remember that as a magical night when my Mom, her sister and my oldest sister actually went out on the town and left us three younger kids at home by ourselves. Something about the Gaslight District. Hmmmmm.

It was the ordinary things we did every day that made those summers so wonderful. Pulling on shorts, tee shirt and sneakers early to go milking with my Grandpa when everyone else was still asleep. Balancing with the whole family on the water wagon. Shoveling corn into the grinder with my cousin Tommy, and the song he made up about my abilities to pitch a bale of hay just like a boy.

Building fantasy neighborhoods under the Silver Maples with Leo and Nancy and sitting through reading lessons with Leo and Mother on the front porch. Dancing in the rain after a long dry spell. Playing “Ghost in the Graveyard;” I only recently learned this name for Hide and Seek in the dark. Such a deliciously scary game.

Starting at Camp Good Health, summer programs for kids affected by the achievement gap has occupied a lot of my adult life. Moving on to career exploration and leadership development on the Mesquakie Settlement, workshops on everything from feminism to drama in the teen program in Cedar Rapids. Then the day camps we did in Des Moines that developed into year-round school at Moulton Extended Learning Center and elsewhere.

Now at the first of September, it’s not too soon to start planning for next summer. This article from the US Department of Education’s EdBlog makes an excellent point for schools and community organizations to work together, not just during the summer but throughout the year. They link to some great examples of summer successes in Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

Kids who start school behind tend to catch up some during the school year, but then fall behind when their summers lack  enrichment opportunities that wealthier kids enjoy. Summer programs keep them thinking and learning all year. Anything we can do to narrow that achievement gap is a good thing!