Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Book Report: Fields of Honor

Each August, to prime my mind for the start of the school year, I read a history book, typically one that covers the American founding.  I pick major works and I immerse myself in the ideas and the people who gave our nation its start.  The project always gets my mind whirring with new ways to teach familiar ideas.  This year, for Spring Break I decided to replicate that experience, this time selecting a book about the Civil War, which I will be teaching about in April and May.  The book I selected is a history of the major battles of the war written by a well-known Civil War historian, Edwin C. Bearss.

Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War is, in one sense, a traditional military history of the war’s battles.  All the familiar famous battles are there: Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Sherman’s march North from Savannah, and many more.  The genius of the book isn’t in the battle descriptions and details, though there is an abundance of both.  For me, the genius lays in the descriptions of the players, both the generals and the enlisted men.  Bearss’ command of the human details of the battles is exceptional and his stories will become the snippets I share with my 7th graders this spring.

It’s important to me that my students’ first go-round with Civil War history help them to learn about the savagery of that conflict.  I think that understanding race relations in the United States requires knowledge of the complexities that landed us here.  The relentless brutality of the Civil War, a war that is very much about slavery, illustrates the complexities of both the American experience and character.  Yes, there are stories of bravery and brilliant leadership.  But the story is also one of an epic tragedy; of the devastation of a war fought because we lost sight of the inclusive meaning of the freedom we claimed for ourselves in 1776.  That we would only reclaim it through savage destruction of one another speaks to some very painful truths about ourselves.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Real Life Conversations with T: Dream Interpretation edition

The backstory: I drive a 2011 VW Jetta wagon.  It’s blue,  I love it, and it’s known to my family and me as “Little Blue.”  VW keeps sending me invitations to get a new car and though I throw them away, I suppose they have planted themselves in my subconscious.

Me:  I had a dream last night.  I got a new car; a blue Buick station wagon.  It was weird, because I was concerned it didn’t have enough trunk space.  And the gear shift was on the steering column, old-school style.  In the dream, I missed Little Blue.

T:  A Buick?  That wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare.

Well okay then.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

12 Months of Miss Read: March

The backstory: At the start of 2016, I pulled out my very favorite Miss Read book, Village Centenary.  The novel is structured in months and each chapter explores a month in the year of a village school that is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  This year, my own school is celebrating its 250th anniversary and as we think of our past and look to our future, I thought that Miss Read would make a lovely companion for me.  For each month of 2016, I plan to read Miss Read’s reflection on the month.

Miss Read is a pseudonym for Dora Jessie Saint, an English author who wrote between 1955 and 1996.  Her novels were tales of every day life in small English towns.  Village Centenary is set in Fair Acre, an imaginary Cotswold community.  As is the case in nearly all of the Fair Acre novels, the novel is written in the first person and it is through our narrator, school teacher Miss Read, that the story unfolds.

March with Miss Read
As March approached, I found myself looking forward to reading my month’s allotment of Miss Read, a sure sign of how much I love these books.  I took up the chapter straight away come March 1 and read a small section.  It’s like having a good friend back in town; the sort of friend with whom a conversation picks right up where it last left off.

At just under 15 pages, Miss Read’s March chapter passed quickly, rather a lot like my own experience of the month.  As her March unfolds, Miss Read prepares to thin her book collection, a task she takes up on a cool March evening.  By the end of the night, rather than set aside books to be donated, she is instead happy to be united with familiar stories.  Her collection isn’t thinned; instead she embraces some old favorites and by the end of the evening climbs the stairs to her bed with a stack of favorite books to re-read.

Oh, how familiar that sounds to me.  It’s no wonder I love this book so much.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meanwhile, Over in Cashmere Woods

A few weeks ago, I was in the faculty work room when I noted out loud that sometimes the 7th grade smells bad.  I mentioned that I was thinking about an air freshener and two friends of mine who teach in the Upper School spoke up at once with a hearty endorsement: “Cashmere Woods,” they proclaimed.  

I went out and secured me some Cashmere Woods and it really is a rather pleasant alternative to the smell of teen spirit that can otherwise pervade a room of 7th graders come warm afternoon days.  It took the kids more than a week to realize that the room had a different smell, and even then they weren’t sure what it is, which is pretty much 7th grade in a nutshell.

Classes resume today and with warm weather on the horizon, I expect that we’ll all be taking a trip to the Cashmere Woods, which I imagine to be fresh-scented, shaded, and lovely.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Traditions

I must confess that I miss the Easter mornings that featured an excited little boy scurrying outside in his pajamas to collect plastic eggs full of candy.  Those days are gone; sleeping in is now the order of a weekend morning.  Even so, the big boy set out his basket with expectations of a candy on-slaught to be provided without any labor on his part.

The Easter Bunny delivered and there were treats for everyone, of course.

One of the greatest pleasures of my adult life is the planning and execution of holiday traditions.  Easter’s annual celebration of new life and awakenings is a happy event in Sassafras House; one that I use to remind myself of the many blessings in my world.   Later today, we’ll have our Easter supper, one that features favorite dishes old and new.  But the most important thing at my table are loved ones.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Since tulips and daffodils began to show up in the market, T has been treating me to a bouquet nearly every week.  It’s a lavish treat that brings cheer to my days, especially on busy mornings, when the sight of a pretty bouquet reminds me to pause and appreciate my many blessings.  Last weekend we were antiquing and came across two Stangl pottery pots that were just my style, with a cheery yellow tulip graphic.  T gave them to me as an early Mother’s Day gift and I promptly began dreaming about the plants I would put in the pots.  T made sure those plants came my way with a fresh bouquet of tulips.  

Internet, I’m spoiled and she’s taken.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Bloom Thursday: Week 12

I’ve grown a lot of amaryllis bulbs in my time but I’ve never had one quite as slow growing as this year’s specimen.  As if to make up for it, the plant has been splendid, with both an enormous flower and a second bloom looking to show off.

I grow a garden as a reminder to be patient and look for unexpected happiness.  This year's flower has been a case study in the adage that good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Challenge in the Middle

If there is one truism in my world, it’s people who regard working with Middle School-aged students as a sort of unmitigated horror.  In fact, when I first accepted my job in the middle school, one of my colleagues told me, ‘I’d rather be homeless than teach middle school.”  “Well, okay,” I thought, “better me than you.”  One of the reasons I made the decision to give working in a middle school a try is that children this age can always use an extra ally; someone who believes in them and can help both middle schoolers and their parents to navigate the churning waters of adolescence.  They can be a challenge; kids often are.  But spending time with them is rewarding in equal measure.

In that capacity, I’ve had plenty of conversations with parents about problems big and small.  I’ve learned anew a concept I think that I’ve always known: that when it’s your child, the problem is always big.  Whether it’s a 6 year old who can’t tie her shoes or a 15 year old making poor decisions, when you are the parent of a struggling or unhappy child, the problem looms large and overwhelming.  That doesn’t change when a child is middle school aged.  

Parents in these circumstances are not always rational.  They are anxious and afraid; defensive and angry; sometimes looking for someone to blame.  My job  then is to help everyone maintain perspective and identify active solutions.  Sometimes I want to point out that everyone’s child struggles, that such difficulties are an inevitable part of growing up. But misery doesn’t always love company and it doesn’t always ease your own troubles to know that they are neither unique nor unexpected.

I’ve heard it say that having a child is like letting your heart wonder about in the world, unprotected and vulnerable.  For so many of us, that is an apt description of being a parent.  But these children of ours are all meant to be independent, a road not easily navigated.  One of the blessings in my world is that neither child nor family need to do that alone.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mother Nature Runs the Show

After a mild Winter, the first day of Spring dawned with temperatures just below freezing.  By the time the sun set, there was a whirl of snowflakes in the air.  A few stayed for this morning, mixing icy snow and early blooms from Old Man tree on the table on the back deck.

In the front yard, the crocus blooms felt the chill.

The tulips and daffodils still on the way also had a taste of the cold.  Warmth and sunlight are on the way, of course, but it’s always useful to be reminded who is in charge.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Blooms

For the most part, we’ve enjoyed an unseasonably warm March.  The trees and plants have responded to the rain and warmth and everywhere I look in my backyard, there are blooms.  Some are easy to see, like these daffodils.

Some require the eager-for-Spring gardener to come close and look for the new green life.  It’s here on the clematis.

The peach tree is getting ready for another year of sweet fruit.

My dogwood is taking things a bit slower, with an abundance of tight little buds that will soon bring me a profusion of white flowers.

There is snow predicted for the weekend.  Some forecasts suggest it will accumulate on Sunday evening.  The ground isn’t frozen; in fact, my backyard lawn is looking a bit ragged after all the rains.  But early Spring snow is a poor man’s fertilizer, so I’ll take it.  

After all, Spring is here and that is always happy!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New Bloom Thursday: Week 11

There are signs of blooms everywhere I look outside, cheering on my rather late-blooming amaryllis with a hearty “you can do it!”

Each year that I grow an amaryllis, I do so as a reminder to be patient for the unpredictable and unexpected, which just might be glorious.  This year’s amaryllis is looking to produce two flowers, just the sort of lovely surprise that I enjoy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A March 15 Post Mortem

In a phrase that I don’t expect I’ll need to write ever again, I must note that I had too much confidence in Ted Cruz heading in to yesterday’s voting.  I thought that he would take both both Illinois and Missouri in the primary contests.  Missouri remains too close to call, with a dead heat between Cruz and Trump.  But Cruz lost Illinois.  Though Trump won the state, Cruz did better in North Carolina, which I didn’t quite expect.

It’s notable that in every Republican primary that Donald Trump won yesterday, the not-Trump vote did better than Trump.  Trump earned 46% of the vote in Florida; his opponents totaled 51%.  In Illinois, Trump’s 39% was eclipsed by the 59% share of the vote that Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio earned.  Missouri hasn’t yet called the race; Cruz and Trump both came it at 41%.  Once the share of the vote collected by Rubio and Kasich is factored in, the not-Trump total is 57%.  In North Carolina, the not-Trump tally was 58%.

In all fairness, Ohio shows a similar breakdown.  John Kasich earned 47% of the vote in this state, where he is the incumbent governor.  The not-Kasich total is 52%; similar to the opponent breakdown in Florida.  My point, and I do have one, is that there is a path forward for the Republican party establishment leaders to take command of this process.  More important, the Republican party must now do this if they wish to be viable moving forward.

The alternative is a stark misery: Trump is the nominee and Republican candidates down ballot must contend with the inevitable question: do you support Donald Trump?  Both yes and no answers to this question are damning in their own peculiar way.  Setting aside the fact that the GOP’s own actions landed them in this mess, the party must now lead.  In his Tuesday night victory speech, Trump noted that he and his party are now the biggest story in the world.  I fear that’s true, but not because the rest of the world is looking to emulate America.   It’s true because the self-destruction we are courting is so colossal.  But the party of Lincoln still has time to save itself.  In a fitting metaphor for the month of March, the ball is in your court, GOP.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 15 Primaries

Super Tuesday was just two weeks ago and represented the season's biggest haul of delegates for candidates on both sides of the aisle.  It was important in the sense that it winnowed the list of candidates seeking the Republican nomination but there’s an argument to be made that today’s voting in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio is even more important.  

Some of the states in today’s GOP contests are winner-take-all.  A victory in a place like Florida or Ohio means taking all of the state’s delegates to the convention, upping the odds that the Republican party will move forward with Donald Trump an increasingly powerful contender in their leadership conversations.  On the Democratic side, today’s contests in Illinois and Ohio offer a chance for Bernie Sanders to capitalize on the labor support he pulled together in Michigan.  So it’s a big day.  How will it play out?

Let’s take the Republican contest first.  Tonight will be the last night we’ve got Marco Rubio to kick around as he’s headed for a loss in Florida, which will go to Trump.  Rubio will come in second, but that won’t be enough and he will drop out of the race.  

Last week’s cancelled Trump rally in Illinois may have scared that state’s voters and I think that things will be close in Illinois, with Cruz closing in on Trump and winning by the slimmest of margins.  Next door to Illinois, polling in Missouri is non-existent but Missouri is a southern state with a large collection of evangelical voters, with whom Ted Cruz has tended to do well.  Cruz won Kansas next door and I’m feeling good about Cruz in Illinois so what the hell…..I call the Show Me state for Cruz.  

That leaves North Carolina and Ohio.  Kasich is the incumbent governor of the Buckeye State and he will win Ohio with Trump coming in second.  

And so it boils down to North Carolina, where Trump leads the polls.  He won South Carolina and he will win Florida; I call North Carolina for Trump.

The final GOP  total for the night will be one victory for Kasich and two each for Cruz and Trump.  That doesn’t provide much clarity in the Republican contest, so I think we can expect that that GOP establishment will continue to dither.  Each day that they do so raises the prospect of a divided GOP heading into the convention and then the general election.  That, of course, is the price a party pays when it has no one willing to lead.

The Democrats are also voting today.  It will be a big night for Hillary Clinton; she will prevail in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina.  Florida is a southern state with plenty of northeastern Democratic retirees and she’s polled well there all along.  Illinois is her home state and has a powerful African American voting bloc.  Missouri and North Carolina are southern states; the sorts of places where Hillary does well.  

But the night won’t be a complete victory for Clinton; Sanders will edge out a victory in Ohio, where the state’s Democratic voters look a great deal like Michigan Democrats.  From here, the Democrats head west where Sanders should do well.  

The upshot: neither of these contests are over.

In Search of Leadership

Today’s primary voting happens in the context of Donald Trump rallies becoming more and more unsettling, with threats of violence and the kind of rhetoric that most of us believe is bad for the nation.  And therein lies the most troubling element of this campaign.  Donald Trump may be leading the GOP delegate race and he is “winning” many of the states in which he is competing for the nomination, but Trump’s victories are won with vote totals that have not yet exceeded 50%.  The totals of Trump’s opponents show that over 50% of the Republican voters want someone other than Trump but that’s not how these contests work.  As mainstream Republicans realize they are headed to a convention with a leading candidate who does not represent a majority of their party’s voters, they are seeing that there is a reckoning at hand.

The most troubling element of this reckoning is the failure of most mainstream Republicans to condemn Trump.  Mitt Romney took a brave step to oppose Trump; very few followed him.  A few Republicans are distancing themselves.  For example, Marco Rubio is willing to say that it’s getting harder and harder to consider support for Trump, should he secure the nomination.  But, honestly, that’s about it.  Congressional Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are publicly silent on the Trump issue, even while they make behind-the-scenes plans to help Republicans who are seeking re-election to Congress to find distance between themselves and Trump.  They are so afraid to lose that they are unwilling to lead.

It may be that when the Republican party gets to their August convention they will be willing to have some hard conversations about who they nominate to lead the nation.  But it would be disheartening to have to wait that long.  And if we need to wait that long, how confident can we be in a party that let it come to this?  

I’m a Democrat and I should be amused at the disarray in the Republican party.  I am not.  I believe that a vibrant democracy requires public debates of a range of ideas; we must give serious policy proposals a full airing before we commit to solutions.  Disagreements must be cordial, with neither dismissive rhetoric nor  threats of violence in the mix.  The genius of our nation has long been in our ability to compromise.  When we have failed to do so, as we did in the Civil War, the results are spectacularly awful.  To know this about ourselves and still take the risk is a dangerous move to the edge of a slippery slope.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy, Happy

I collected these hand-carved wooden bunnies when I lived in Nebraska.  As Easter approaches, I set them out and enjoy their company.  I first bought the carvings simply because they were cute and I love rabbits.  But as my collection grew and years passed, the bunnies came to be a reminder of the passing years.  When JT was small, the bunnies were placed on a higher shelf.  Toddler JT  liked to gently hold each bunny in his hands; sometimes I’d let him tuck one of the more durable rabbits in his pocket.  Their presence in this window sill (next to some framed family pictures) is both a reminder of Spring and a tour of some very happy memories.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring Break!

Today is the last day before Spring Break and, as if there won’t already be excitement in the air, we’ve opted to take the entire Middle School on a field trip to the Franklin Institute.  It will be fun and exhausting in equal measure but at the end of the day, we’ll be headed for two weeks of time off.  I’ve been celebrating all week, thanks to this bouquet of pink tulips that T gave me.

Here’s to a day that passes happily and quickly, with joyful students and time to appreciate the stillness at the end of the day.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

New Bloom Thursday: Week 11

My amaryllis is looking tantalizingly close to a bloom.  It had better get a move on or it will be beat to the punch by the abundant crocuses and daffodils outdoors, both of which are looking close to flowering thanks to the unseasonable warmth we’ve had this week.  Temps around here today will approach 80 again;  a perfect way to transition into the Spring Break that begins at 3:05 tomorrow afternoon.  I’m looking forward to the time off, a relaxed couple of weeks that will set me up for the marathon that is the last two months of the school year.  

I’m always impressed by the stem and flower generated by a modest amaryllis bulb.  It makes me smile every morning.  

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Michigan and Mississippi

Primary voting today occurs in two states with very significant demographic and voting differences.  Both Democrats and Republicans are voting in Michigan; only Democrats are casting primary ballots in Mississippi.  We’ll start with Mississippi, which is the easier of the two to predict.  

Mississippi’s  Democratic voters have a significantly large and influential African American block and Clinton’s well-established strength with these voters will play out as expected.  Score Mississippi for Hillary Clinton.

And now we’ve landed in with the Michiganders.  Michigan is a state with a large blue collar labor force, many of whom are the type of voters who are known as Reagan Democrats; blue collar labor workers who supported Reagan in 1980 and have continued to lean Republican despite the fact that the party is not known for its pro-labor policies.  That demographic group is going to matter on both sides of the primary.   For Democrats, the labor constituency will divide between Sanders and Clinton, with a slim majority of them in Sanders’ corner.  However, I think that Clinton will prevail in the state  because she will pick up African American voters by a wide majority.  Though Sanders has begun to close the gap, Clinton will take Michigan by a narrow margin.

The Republican contest in the Great Lakes state is a more complicated situation.  Trump’s populism is likely to gain traction among many of the Republican voters, especially the Reagan Democrat core.  Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio will split what remains and though their totals may exceed the Donald, I think that Trump will take home a victory tonight, with final numbers in the mid 30s.

Kasich will come in second, with a final voter tally in the mid-20s and Cruz just behind him.  The big news of the night will be that Rubio rolls in fourth, with support below 20%.  Rubio's campaign will still hold on for the Florida contest on March 15 but with each day that passes, that contest is more and more a do-or-die event for little Marco.

Wednesday morning update:  I failed to include Idaho and Hawaii in my predictions; moreover, I missed the fact that Mississippi Republicans were also voting yesterday.  I'm not sure why I made these errors, but perhaps it has to do with the fact that my predictions for Tuesday were off?

By a narrow margin, Sanders took Michigan, not Clinton.  That's an interesting development and makes next Tuesday's contests even more important for the Democrats.  Trump won Michigan and Mississippi.  Cruz came in second, just 1 point over Kasich.  Rubio was fourth.  In Idaho, Cruz pulled out a victory.  Two things about this are notable: First, the Trump alternative seems to be Cruz, which must horrify establishment Republicans.  Second, Rubio is looking more and more like a candidate on life support.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Seasonally Inclined

Come the close of February, I begin counting the days before my Winter tights and I can take a break from one another.  And I am always more than ready  for that break, having grown weary of twisting and wrangling to get my tights on without feeling like I’ve cut off vital circulation or otherwise endangered a major organ.

It isn’t always this way.  In the Fall, I embrace cold weather and tights, cheerfully adding a few minutes to my morning schedule and happily pulling them on.  Then, the Winter tight season is welcomed.  Come February, I start to fantasize that my morning preparations will be shorter without my tights.  By the end of the month, my longing for that extra time is so great that you’d think those extra two minutes are enough time for me to wash and fold two loads of clothes, read a book, and prepare a family meal.  I’ve begun to turn my attention toward warm weather clothing and there is no going back.

Usually I wait for Spring Break to make the swap out but we’ve got warmer weather on the horizon this week and so the swap out has begun.  Tights and cold weather clothes are being washed and stored away.   Spring sweaters and skirts are are ironed and ready for the week ahead.

There will likely still be some cool days ahead, but I have committed to swapping out the closet and we’ll just have to hope that my pride keeps me warm.  Well, my pride and cozy, brightly colored sweaters that seem like Springtime to me.

Sunday, March 06, 2016


Political news these days is unsettling in the extreme.  I don’t even want to think about what the rest of the world thinks of my nation as 30% of the electorate runs pell-mell into the arms of the hateful, ignorant, bigot we call T-rump.  So let’s just have a look at Flopsy.

She’s kind-hearted, sweet, and thoughtful.  Naturally, she’s a registered Democrat.  And she is loving the Spring sunshine.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

There is Some Voting Today

Today’s contests are rather all over the map, both caucuses and primaries.  All told, there is voting today and Sunday in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, and Nebraska.  Let’s start with the Republican caucus contests.  

Republicans are caucusing today in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine.  We are long past the days when Kansas sent forth moderate, thoughtful, leadership-oriented Republicans (think Alf Landon, Nancy Kassebaum, Bob Dole).  Nope, these days, Kansas Republican voters bring the crazy.  They’ve got lots of choices in the crazy category in this year’s GOP contest but they’ll go for Ted Cruz, by a smidge.

Kentucky Republicans will also be caucusing today, a choice they made when favorite son Rand Paul was still in the presidential race (remember him?).  Kentucky law wouldn’t permit Paul to be a primary candidate for both the Senate and the presidency.  Rand hates government so much he wanted to be a candidate for both jobs and he persuaded the Bluegrass State to caucus, where he could be a presidential candidate without breaking the laws.  Now he’s out of the presidential race and the caucus victory will go to Trump, who is faring well in the South. 

Maine Republicans are also holding a caucus and their governor has endorsed Trump.  That might carry some weight with Maine voters, so put Maine in his column as well.  The only Republican primary today is in Louisiana.  Texan Cruz held on in Texas and its neighbor state, Oklahoma.  But he hasn’t been much of a presence in Louisiana so the state’s Republican voters will likely choose the party’s national leader: score this one for Trump.

It’s notable that Marco Rubio is about to have another bad day.  I’m not going to declare his campaign on life support but it’s damn close.

Democrats also have a combination of caucuses and primaries today.  Kansas and Nebraska will both hold a caucus.  Both of these states are Republican strongholds and the Democrats there are a small but hearty lot, typically with populist, liberal tendencies.  Score both of these states for Sanders.

Democrats in Maine will caucus tomorrow.  Clinton surprised me when she held on to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday and I think that Maine Democrats will lean the same way.  The only Democratic primary today is in Louisiana.  Clinton has been on fire among Southern Democrats and she’ll win the Bayou State.

The Democratic contest is alive and well; the candidates are both organized and thoughtful, with detailed plans for governing and the kind of rhetoric we expect serious candidates to speak.  The Republicans are a train wreck and like most bloody smash-ups, it’s awfully hard to avert my eyes.  But make no mistake, we’re seeing the break-up of the Republican party and things are going to get a lot more unpleasant before this is over.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Front Porch in March

Around midweek, the Friday weather icon began to show the prospect of snow.  We’re in the last few weeks of Winter, so that in itself is hardly a surprise.  The problem, from my point of view, was the fact that the forecast for the following week suggests days with sunlight and temperatures near 70.  Oh, the temptation of such a forecast.  Each time I checked it, I refreshed with a fervent hope that the warmth and sunlight icons would still be there.

This morning, with a dusting of snow on the ground, the sunlight is still a prospect for next week.  I’m holding on to that hope and I’ve got the front porch to prove it.  Easter comes early this year and so March saw me getting ready to welcome the Easter Bunny.

The table has the blue weave tablecloth and some shades of yellow and green have joined in to welcome the new season.

T gave me the cast iron bunny and we promptly named her Flopsy.  I tied a gingham bow around her neck and she’s looking quite ready for Spring.  The front door has a cheerful wreath, another gift from T.

Soon enough, there will be enough warmth in the day for me to sit outside and enjoy the season.  That’s happy!

Thursday, March 03, 2016

New Bloom Thursday: Week Ten

We’ve reached the point in the late Winter when there is a hint of light at the eastern horizon when I come downstairs at 5:30 each morning.  The amaryllis greets me on these early mornings and the flower seems tantalizingly close at hand.

That’s fitting for the time of year when daylight is lengthening by a few minutes each day and the promise of Spring is at hand.   Once it takes off, the amaryllis is impressive.  I’m looking forward to the flower, which is right on target for a Spring Break bloom.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

In the Backyard Neighborhood: March 1

Though Spring’s official start is still a few weeks away, the backyard is already turning its mind to the next season.  The tips of these daffodil and tulip bulbs peeking through the soil show the way.

The hostas in this flowerbed will take longer but throughout March, I’ll be on the lookout for progress in this corner of the yard.  The start of Spring is tantalizing in this way and I love the sense of expectation that fills the lengthening days.

A larger view of the backyard reveals that there is quite a bit of Spring cleanup to complete.  Those chores are reserved for the first warm day of Spring Break and I am looking forward to them.

March is an expectant month, with green and blooms slowly making their way to the forefront.  That’s happy!

Super Tuesday Primary Predictions: March 1

Twelve states and American Samoa are voting today.  The different regions involved ensure that there are all sorts of outcomes to consider.  Moreover, regionally, the outcomes for Democrats and Republicans matter in varied ways.  So I’ll take this by party and by region, skipping American Samoa.

Let’s start with the Republicans in the South, the region they must win in a solid block to grab the White House in November.  The Southern states voting today include Alabama, Arkansa, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  

Let’s go state-by-state but first begin by recognizing that once we get to these multi-state contest days, the national landscape shapes voter perceptions in a big way.  That favors Trump nearly across the board.  The only saving grace if you are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio is that delegates are still being awarded proportionally, meaning they have a shot at getting a few.  

Trump will take Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Rubio has a shot to come in close to Trump in Virginia, a state with a wide swath of moderate Republican voters.  That state will come in for Trump and then Rubio.  Ted Cruz should take Texas, his home state, and if he doesn’t, it’s hard to see his path forward.  Both Rubio and Cruz have a shot at Arkansas.  Rubio has the support of some of the state’s leading Republicans; Cruz enjoyed a slim lead in the most recent state-wide poll.  One of them will take the Natural State…..I predict Rubio.  

So that’s rather a Trump landslide and now we say goodbye to the land of grits and sweet tea and travel north.  The Republican vote in Colorado is not binding, so there is very little polling there.  But Colorado Republicans are a more diverse and tolerant crowd.   Turnout will matter here and if it’s high, Rubio has a shot.  It will be low and it will go to Trump.

In Massachusetts and Vermont, the GOP crowd is moderate.  These folks will go the route of Marco Rubio.  Kasich will roll in second.  The same can be said for Minnesota Republicans, where I see Rubio as the winner.  

Please note that Carson is still campaigning but he’s done after tonight.  Thanks for playing, Ben.

The story for the Democrats is going to be a good night for Hillary Clinton.  She will take all of the Southern states with the exception of Oklahoma, which is less diverse than the other Southern states and is a Sanders pick up.  

Moving out of the South, Sanders should prevail in his home state of Vermont and he should look good in Massachusetts, though Clinton has the polling lead.  Based on his very good February fund-raising numbers I’m going to call Massachusetts for Sanders.  If he doesn’t win here, in a state next door to his home state, it’s hard to see his path forward.

In Colorado, Sanders should score a narrow victory.  I think that will also be the case in Minnesota.  Both states are caucus votes today and those favor true believers, an enthusiastically liberal crowd in the Democratic party.  They’ll select Sanders.

All told, it will be a big night for Clinton though Sanders (and his fund-raising!) will be robust heading toward March 15.  I still think that the eventual Democratic nomination will go to Clinton, though the contest has been surprisingly competitive.

It’s going to be a long night but when it’s done, the take away story will be Clinton and Trump.  We’re getting closer to the eventual nominees.  In at least one instance, that scares the hell out of me. Looking at you, The Donald.