The Dove and I

Photo by Mindaugas Petrutis

Yesterday morning (before it reached 118 degrees), I washed the outdoor chaise cushions (pelted by bird poop) with eco-friendly soap and the hose.  The bolsters were heavy with water and I carried them to dry against the boulders that were once where our pool now gleams.

Once dry, I placed the cushions back on the loungers.

This morning, I noticed new “gifts” from a bird on one of my freshly cleaned cushions. The mourning dove made eye contact with me from his perch in the tree.

I Googled “how to keep birds out of trees“.

Possible solutions: a scarecrow and shiny objects placed in the branches. Neither one of these would fit my husband’s delicate aesthetics, so I thought some more.

How about cutting the branches off? Oh no. That would not do. We need all the shade we can get around here.

Ooooh! One of those large, fake owls!

Apparently, this does not work.

More ideas from the Internet: pie tins, old DVDs, mylar balloons. No, no, no.

In the end, I simply moved the chaise from under the tree. Problem solved.










Arizona · education · Health · Personal Success

Why I Became a Teacher

Joe Shillington

When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.

I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.

When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.

I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.

Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.

I teach in Arizona. We rank absolutely LAST in teacher pay. Last! 

I did not go into teaching for the money and I will never expect the pay to equal the work or expertise.

My reward is working with the children. Yes, we get summer break, but most of my teacher friends will hold a second job (teach summer school, drive Uber Lyft, etc.) to make ends meet in June and July.

Did you know…

  • Teachers must get a fingerprint card renewed regularly and they pay for it.
  • Teachers must get recertified and they must pay for it.
  • Most teachers pay for school supplies for their students.

Let’s stand behind teachers who work to help students.






Arizona · Personal Success



You don’t have to own anything material to feel life is abundant.

I walked my dog this afternoon. Cacti were blooming fire orange flowers. Wildflowers of purple and yellow were sprayed everywhere. Insects and birds were busy working.

If you can find joy in wildflowers and nature around you, then no one can take that feeling of abundance from you.






Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
John Muir

I live in a sprawling suburb outside of Phoenix. We need to get in the car in order to go shopping. I wish I could walk to a farmer’s market, but suburbs weren’t made for walking.

Once in awhile, my family goes out to the protected county park adjacent to our neighborhood. We hike the trails and talk and laugh. The outing is relaxing and refreshing both physically and mentally.

My favorite places to be out:


Where do you go?





Arizona · education · fears · Personal Success · school

The Disinterest Disease

Elliott Stallion, photographer

Dear parents-who-are-not-voting-this-year,

I understand some of you are disgusted this election year. Your children tell me in my classroom you are so upset with the choice of candidates that you are not voting in this election.

Ok. I get that.

Let me tell you what’s happening. Your kids are shutting down in my social studies class. They don’t want to learn about the election. We had “Kids Voting” this week. Half the class shouted, “I don’t want to vote!” They are repeating very hateful phrases that I cannot believe you’d ever let them hear, let alone say.

This is uncharacteristic of my students. They usually want to engage in discussion of real life issues. They are always thirsty to express their thoughts, to learn, to analyze and participate. I’ve never seen them like this.

So I reminded them that people in some other countries (North Korea, for one) are not allowed EVER to vote. Your kids know about North Korea because I told them my parents were children during the Korean War and that they didn’t have access to a school or new shoes for at least six years of their childhood.  Many of our American children (my daughters included) are untouched by deprivation of basic needs: freedom, shelter, food. But not all American children are untouched by hunger, homelessness or hate. 

I reminded my students that millions of people have given their lives so that their children might vote. Voting is a right in America. If apathy continues to grow, it might become a privilege for just a few. It once was, you know, right here in America.

I encouraged instructed the class to log onto the Kids Voting website. I distributed access codes and told them to open another tab and look up words and issues if they did not know what they were. I told them to vote according to their beliefs. I told them there is no right or wrong answer. Beliefs are your own, like opinions.

They talked to each other, they looked stuff up. They talked some more. Not a single  argument. Friends disagreed, but remained friends. No one tried to talk the other out of anything.

It took 30 minutes for the students to research and vote on about 5 issues/positions.

When they were done, most were very pleased. “I finally know what an electoral college is!” I noted that the students who were not that enthusiastic were the ones who just guessed and voted. I know this because when I asked why some felt “Just OK” they answered, “Because I didn’t know what I was voting for.”

As an educator, it’s my job to ensure I teach your child to think critically. How can they do that if they shut down? Why would they think critically if they adopt a “what’s the use” attitude? Why strive to reach compromises for the Greater Good if you only hear hate?

Upon completion, they received an “I Voted” sticker. Remember those? Remember how proud you were to wear one?

Catherine* raised her hand.

“Mrs. Wipff, why can’t we all just have our beliefs and still be nice to each other, even with people who disagree with us?”

Indeed, why not?

*not her real name

Arizona · mortality · Personal Success

The Genius of Genus


The butterfly’s head was buried in the rocks, her beautiful wings were chevrons trembling in the wind.

Gingerly, I lifted her out. Half of one wing was gone – eaten?

She was shaking. Or was it just the wind? Was she already dead? I brought her into the house and laid her on a small plate. She shivered, and then she was still.  I want to keep her, selfishly, to admire her beauty.

Terrible picture – my phone camera is s-l-o-w.  Vulture walked away from the carcass here.

Today, we saw four turkey vultures preying on something. They were on the sidewalk! We drove right up to them. A small rabbit had been dismembered and disemboweled. Body parts all over the pavement. We drove away and were gone for three hours. When we returned, everything was gone: the rabbit, the vultures…Nature is efficient. She wastes nothing.