The following poem was recently published in The Weekly Avocet. This is a haibun, a poetry form that combines a paragraph of prose with a stanza of haiku. You can click the link below to hear me read it.
I stand on the sidewalk, a jet of cold water in front of me, my impaired eyes unable to find a way around it, as cars whoosh by on the busy street. The ninety-degree sun beats down. A tepid breeze caresses my face. I remember how fun it was to run through the sprinkler as a kid. Why not, I think. With a hearty “Yahoo!” I dash into the water’s inviting coolness.
a hot summer day
cold water sweeps over me
I’m a child again
What did you do to cool off in the summer when you were a kid?
I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. I’m currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.
The 2012 Josephson Institute survey on cheating in high schools found 51 percent of high school students admitted to cheating on a test. Another study found cheating to be common in highly competitive, economically well-off schools. In fact, where the pressure to achieve high scores is emphasized over mastery, students are more likely to cheat according to a 2018 study by Eric Anderman, et al. If you search for cheating scandals in the news, you can read about the many and varied ways students have found to cheat.
When I was in high school, the only students who felt the need to cheat on tests or assignments were academically disinclined students who were trying to pass a class. These students were either lazy and didn’t want to do the work, or they weren’t particularly gifted when it came to academic work and needed all the help they could get to graduate. The students on the other end of the spectrum, the academically inclined students, had no reason to cheat. They could do the work quite well on their own. They didn’t worry about the need for a better than perfect GPA.
In the 1990s a long-fought lawsuit over college admissions procedures, Hopwood v. Texas, caused Texas public universities (and other states’ universities as well) to re-examine and redefine their admissions processes. In Texas, from that re-examination of admissions procedures was born the Top 10 Percent Rule.
Enshrined in law by the legislature (Texas House Bill 588) in 1997, the Top 10 Percent Rule, provides that if a student is in the top 10 percent of a Texas high school’s graduating class, the student will get automatic admission to a public university within the state. Over the years, this law had to be adjusted for the University of Texas at Austin, the flagship school of the UT system, because of the increasing number of applicants and how little room was left for admissions beyond the top 10 percent of students. Currently for the University of Texas at Austin, the standard is even more stringent. A student must be in the top 6 percent of a high school’s graduating class to receive automatic admission there.
The intent of the Top 10 percent Law was to increase diversity in state universities and to increase opportunities for students from smaller school districts. While the law has mostly accomplished that goal, it has had unintended consequences for academic integrity. The people who passed the law didn’t realize that the students seeking college admission would see being in the top ten percent as an absolute requirement, a goal to be achieved by any means necessary. As high achieving students fought to get into the top 10 percent of their graduating class, the upper limits of grade point averages were pushed higher and higher, until bonus points have become the norm and a 3.99 out of 4.0 GPA is no longer good enough. Students began to believe that nothing short of perfection would get them into the top 10 percent.
Parents got into the game, pushing their children to achieve those better than perfect grade point averages because automatic admission to the best in-state colleges depended on it. The pressure on students steadily increased. Suddenly, students were no longer cheating to pass classes. They were cheating to attain perfection: the perfect test score, the perfect grades, the better than perfect GPA. Every class and every test from freshman year to senior year of high school had to be perfect.
The pressure on the students in some highly competitive, high-performing schools can be unbearable. And while student mental health is suffering terribly, so is academic integrity. The drive to perfection has placed academic integrity on the chopping block. Plagiarism, group work to achieve perfect answers, trading of information on test questions, and various methods of discovering test answers ahead of time have become the norm in many schools. Use of electronic devices to cheat became widespread. The methods of cheating have become so prevalent that many students don’t even recognize them as cheating. It’s simply what everyone does to achieve perfection.
What harm is this doing to our society? When our highest scholastic achievers from our best schools, the kids who want to be doctors, lawyers, and engineers, have no sense of ethics or integrity, what kind of adults will they be? We need to return to an emphasis on learning and mastery of skills. We need to move away from a system that makes a numerical goal the only goal in the eyes of the students. Several studies by Dr. Anderman found students were much less likely to cheat in an atmosphere that emphasized learning, in classrooms where the teachers evaluated students on mastery of skills. We may not be able to eradicate cheating, but we can certainly make huge strides to reduce it.
N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her début novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).
As many of you know, I am now in charge of my great-grandchildren, for how long I don’t know, but my grandson is on a solitary journey of being in the military and caring for a 2 1/2 and a 1-year-old. So far I have not said, “Because I said so.” But I may resort to that. It’s been 4o some years since I have had to care for babies, and I am going on 66.
Who do you think of when you hear “Dadburn It”?
“Dadburn it, Joe, what in tarnation are you doing?”
My mom had lots of colorful sayings like, “If he ever gets that garden plowed we’ll draw a ring around the house.” How about, “if wishes were horses all poor men could ride.” One saying Del’s mom and my mom both used and then I used it too was “When my ship comes in.” Now, that’s been replaced with “When I win the lottery.” When my oldest grandson decided to get married, He said, “Grandma, you remember what you always told me.” I said, “What’s that honey, Grandma told you a lot of things.” He said, “You said you’d dance at my wedding.” I used to tell him, “If you’ll get me a glass of water, I’ll dance at your wedding,”
How about “Fetch me a glass of water.”? Are we losing something by correcting all the colorful sayings? Which sounds better to you? “Leave me be.” Or “Leave me alone.” Do you use the word “Ain’t”? Remember there ain’t no such word as ain’t, because the teacher said there ain’t. You the teacher would say, “Ain’t is not in the dictionary.”
Shortly after we moved to Kentucky, a woman worried over her son’s accomplishments in school called me and said, “Weren’t no need in them there tests.” Thinking she was kidding (funning), I giggled. By the time she had finished her next sentence, full of embarrassment, I realized she actually talked that way. I would never laugh at someone on purpose, or hurt someone’s feelings, so, fortunately, she thought I was laughing in amazement at his dilemma. *I’m sure many people think I talk like a hick* I try to pick up cute little sayings and I try to remember the ones that my mom, grandma, or Del’s mom used. Since I grew up with country sayings and ways, this isn’t a far reach for me.
This comes from Chapter 2 in my novel “Stamp Out Murder”. James Freeman, a city slicker, is talking to two old Geezers in Wanton, WV. “I ain’t never been on the Internet, but I hear the youngsters talk about it. Got just about everything on there, they say. I didn’t know Benson even used a computer. He ain’t never invited me into his office. Course his office is just a room in the back of the store. I imagine it’s buzzing down there today. Too bad Old Sam come up dead.”
Late last Thursday afternoon, I was in my office, working on my new novel, when I heard a vehicle with a diesel engine pull into my driveway. I live next door to a day care center, and some parents park at the bottom of my driveway momentarily while picking up or dropping off their kids. I paid no attention to this diesel engine’s rumbling until a few minutes later when I heard a crash.
I stepped outside my kitchen door and noticed that a big, black truck had bashed in my garage door. There appeared to be no action around the truck, but because of my limited vision, I couldn’t tell for sure. Not knowing what else to do, I called 911.
As it turned out, a little girl of about four or five was in the back seat of the truck with her seat belt on when the truck crashed into my garage door. Her parents were apparently inside the day care center, having left her alone in the truck. The good news is that the driver’s insurance will no doubt cover the cost of repairing my garage door.
This reminded me of an incident that happened years ago when I was about the same age as this child. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, at the time. My mother and I stopped one evening at a small market on our way home from somewhere.
When we pulled into the store’s parking lot which sloped up to the entrance, my mother turned off the ignition and asked me if I wanted to go in with her or stay in the car. I opted to stay in the car, but after a few minutes, I was bored, so I went inside and found my mother.
When we came out, we discovered that the car had rolled to the edge of the parking lot near the busy street. Naturally, my mother thought I’d been in the car when it rolled, but I assured her I hadn’t. I had only wandered into the store because I was bored.
I’m thankful now that I did. If I’d stayed in the car, and it rolled, it would definitely have been a frightening experience. I’m sure this child was just as scared, especially with a crazy lady, me, running around the truck yelling, opening the driver’s side door to find no one there, closing it, then disappearing.
After I posted about the incident on Facebook, a friend commented that Social Services needed to know about this. I reasoned, though, that if the policeman who responded to my 911 call thought it was necessary to notify Social Services, he would have done so. Besides, if Social Services were called, and the child was removed to a foster home, that would have been more traumatic than being in a rolling vehicle that collided with a garage door. Also, since my mother left me alone in a car when I was a child, I don’t want to be the one to cast the first stone.
I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.
I stopped at Hollister and inspected one of the sweaters on their mannequins. Only it wasn’t a mannequin. It was a guy waiting for his girlfriend to finish trying on clothes.
When I was pregnant with our oldest I once waited for more than an hour for my husband to pick me up from work. I called him, madder than blazes that he hadn’t come to get me. After listening to my upset he very calmly informed me that I had the car.
My mother, not wanting to lose my dad in the crowd at Disneyland, stuck her fingers down the back of my dad’s pants. She gave him several affectionate bare skin pats. Of course, my dad saw what she was doing, and walked behind her laughing. She was tagging behind the wrong man all the time. I remember this polite fellow did not mind in the least!
Dumbest Thing I’ve Done
I was displaying my art in a local festival when someone told me this fairly famous artist was also displaying his art at the festival. I went to school with the person and I wondered if he remembered me. I found his display and his father was filling in for him. I started a conversation. “I went to school with your son.” He answered, “I don’t think so.” “Yes, it was from the 8th grade on.” He looked at me and without blinking an eye or cracking a smile he said, “My son is 16.” I looked a little harder at this old man and realized I was talking to the artist instead of his father. “Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” I whispered as I slunk off.
I blurt out things sometimes like, “Congratulations on your pregnancy!” Answer: “I’m not pregnant.” That’s a hard one to get out of.
Or when I fall down I don’t first check to see if I’m hurt, I first check to see if anyone saw me.
There are stories from several authors about the escapades of boys. Some of them are so funny you will nearly bust a gut laughing. Del wrote about being a 5-year-old who ran away from home with his best friend. You can only imagine the trouble he got in. Our own Mike Staton has a few stories in it, as well as 11 other authors.
Our local schools have recently had their 2 week spring holiday. When I was teaching, those two weeks were avidly awaited – they were an opportunity to recharge my batteries and snatch a short break in cultural venues steeped in history like Vienna, Barcelona, or Mediterranean islands like Malta or Crete. The destinations never needed long haul flights, European cities being easily achievable in a couple of hours from a Scottish airport.
Now it’s my grand kids who’re locked into the school holiday system so, as a regular carer, I’m back to taking spring holiday breaks. We’ll work up to a whole week away…but not just yet… that’ll take a wee bit of practising! At present it’s a ‘Day Out’, one at a time.
Last week we picnicked at 16th century Crathes Castle, along with my daughter who had a day off work. After a long visit to a brand new soft play area, there was heaps of grass to play ball on and space to throw a Frisbee. My 4½ year old granddaughter wanted to go into the walled garden having remembered the fountain and various other interesting features from previous visits, her recall of things quite astounding.
My grandson, only just turned 2 years old, was convinced it was Tinkerbell’s Castle and wanted to go inside, though an inside tour hadn’t been on the original plan for the day. With two adults it was doable—one adult and two little kids not so much.
Aberdeenshire is coined as ‘castle country’. It has the greatest amount of castles per acre in Scotland and there’s a plethora of them to visit, some of them now administered by The National Trust of Scotland of which I’ve been a member for the last thirty years. The interiors are all distinctively different, well preserved, and full of ancient treasures so it’s with trepidation that I enter the portals with a two year old, but I think that you’ve got to culture’em early!
Crathes Castle is set in magnificent grounds of around 600 acres which are typical of other grand estates in Royal Deeside. Aberdeenshire castles have an impressive history that’s documented but also shrouded in legend. The present Crathes Castle, completed c. 1596 and which took around 40 years to build, was the home of the Burnett family for many centuries and was only given over to The National Trust for Scotland organisation in 1959, when the new Burnett heir, resident in New Zealand, couldn’t maintain the property.
Legend plays a part in the story because it’s said that the most prized treasure of Crathes Castle is ‘The Horn of Leys’ which Alexander de Burnard received from King Robert The Bruce in 1323 as his badge of office as forester (overseer of the estates). ‘The Horn of Leys’ is a highly decorated carved ivory horn which now hangs encased behind glass in the High Hall at Crathes Castle; the horn symbol also a part of the Heraldic Coat of Arms of the Burnett family (the name change from Burnard was a common trait) . Photography is not allowed in the castle but the general idea at left of the horn has been taken from a book on Amazon. (I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay over £200 for this copy, though)
My problem with visiting even fairly well known castles is that there’s always something new that I’ve not absorbed on earlier visits that just begs to be researched. I’d never thought before of what the first family dwelling of the Burnetts might have been, i.e. before the present castle was built, but it’s an intriguing question that begs to be researched. The problem is that there’s no documentation from the early 1300s to clarify the answer!
If you’re interested in learning more there are some scant details about our visit to the castle and an intriguing mystery about the first home of the Burnett family who lived on the Crathes estate on my BLOG.
Happy (early) Easter. I love Easter, it is such low key holiday. While I decorate, it is nothing like Christmas. I have an Easter lily (safely out of reach for my animals) and an assortment of bunnies and chicks, including Snoopy dressed as a bunny and a singing Peter Rabbit.
It is a little hard to feel springy when you’re in the middle of a late March snow event. We have ice everywhere.
This year is even more low key than previous years. With a housefull of teens/pre-teens no one is really excited about Easter. Yes, they want to dye eggs & have a basket, but they aren’t super excited about it.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that they won’t have to hunt for their presents. I can’t make it too easy. I am torn between a treasure hunt for their one gift/money egg or some elaborate puzzle/joke that they have to solve before getting their gift.
Do you have something special you do/did for your teenagers on Easter?
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is around the corner so I thought I’d share a little ditty I wrote recently. Years ago when my grandmother was alive, I enjoyed walking to her house, even as an adult. Now, our town boasts a series of connected cement walkways that would have provided a scenic route from my house to hers if she were still alive. The following is set to a familiar tune we associate with Thanksgiving. To hear me sing it while accompanying myself on piano, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/over%20bridge%20along%20creek.mp3 .
OVER THE BRIDGE AND A LONG THE CREEK
Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.
My cane knows the way. I will not stray as through the leaves I go.
Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house I spy.
Hurray for the turkey, stuffing, and yams and Grandma’s apple pie.
Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.
My dog knows the way so “Forward,” I say as along the path we go.
Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house we spy.
I must insure my trusty guide does not eat Grandma’s pie. Ruff ruff.
Grandparent’s Day was a few weeks ago, and I completely forgot about it until now. Several months ago when it was my turn to facilitate our third Thursday poets’ meeting, I played my guitar and sang “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” I brought copies of the lyrics so people could sing along if they wanted. I then suggested we write about the best darn thing about our own grandmothers’ homes. To hear me sing the song with piano accompaniment, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/grandma%27s%20feather%20bed.mp3. What I wrote is below.
“It’s a good day,” the morning announcer sings.
“Now, stand by for news.”
At the age of twelve, lying next to Grandma
in her big double bed, I ask,
“Why do we have to listen to news?”
“So we’ll know what’s going on in the world,”
she answers. After local and national news,
sports, horiscopes, we begin our day.
In my own room at home, I have a radio,
wake up in the morning to all the happenings
around town, around the country, around the world.
As a teen-ager, I listen to latest hits,
The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, some comedy.
With limited vision, I’m carried off
in a way never accomplished by television.
Now, with Granma gone, I follow her example
lie in bed, listen to National Public Radio,
know what goes on in the world.
Now it’s your turn. What’s the best darn thing about your grandma’s house? Please feel free to share below.
Summer is here, which means the kids are home for lunch, most days. During the school year I send them off to school with a bag lunch and it is much the same every day, sandwich, drink, fruit snacks, and a granola bar.
They don’t complain much about the sameness. I think that they like the familiarity, plus given how short a student’s lunch hour is these days (only about 20 min) I think they like the simplicity of what I pack (or at least that is what I tell myself).
During the summer, tho’ they can make whatever they want for lunch. They can also eat lunch more in line with when they are hungry instead of when the official lunch hour is, although I do have to keep them from eating lunch at 10am.
I’ve noticed that one food tends to be the “it” food of the summer. One year it was chicken patties on a bun. Sure, one kid at it with pickles, while one kid ate it with mayo, and don’t even get me started on the kid who insisted on eating it plain. For days upon days, it was chicken patties.
The next year it was Ramen noodles. Yes, those salt laden cup o noodles and yes, I know they aren’t terribly healthy, but they are easy for three kids to make and inexpensive.
This year, no clear favorite has emerged. Of course, it is only the first week.
Do you find yourself eating the same thing for lunch? I do, mostly because I am eating at my desk and need something that one end up squished between computer keys. On the days, I am home for lunch I will think, “Today is the day I eat something different for lunch” and then end up with a salad or that old stand by cereal.
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