Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Local news round-up: Silvertown Tunnel, Lewisham Hospital, Evelyn Assembly

Occasionally there's so much going on locally that I have to admit I have no hope of covering it all unless I give up my day job and live on charity. (Yes, bloggers do have day jobs! No, we don't get paid for blogging! Some of us even have lives outside blogging!)

Luckily South East London is blessed with a fantastic selection of hyperlocal bloggers, many of whom you will see listed in the sidebar to the right and all of whom do a great job in rooting out stories from across our corner of the capital.

I'm sure most of my readers also visit these other blogs regularly, and those who do will no doubt have been following the stories I'm highlighting - but if you don't read other local blogs, I urge you to do so. It will give you a much better understanding of local news, politics and history, give you a range of different angles on the same story, and will prove to you just how much is going on!

Save Lewisham Hospital

Unless you have been on Mars (the planet, not the chocolate bar) for the last few weeks, you will of course be aware of the Lewisham Hospital story and the huge march that took place last weekend to support the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. I haven't covered the march on this blog - although I did take part - because it's been covered so extensively elsewhere, not least on the national news.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to decide on the future of our hospital on Friday, but there's still time to sign petitions, email him, demonstrate and spread the word about the campaign before then - more info here.

No to the Silvertown Tunnel

Meanwhile just across the border in Greenwich, there's an active campaign stepping up against Greenwich Council's support of the so-called Silvertown Tunnel (effectively a third Blackwall) which threatens to heap more congestion and pollution on the borough and its neighbours.

The proposal is one of several being put forward by TFL in its consultation on river crossings in east London, and is being backed vociferously by Greenwich Council, despite the council having no evidence to support the case for a new road tunnel.

The potential pollution impact of this proposed tunnel have been set out in detail at recent public meetings in Tower Hamlets and Greenwich and covered here in the Guardian.

TFL's consultation ends this week too, so if you want to comment on it, you will have to do so by Friday. The campaign against the Silvertown Tunnel also has a petition on its website if you want to register your objection to the plans.

Evelyn assembly

Finally, a little closer to home the next Evelyn Assembly takes place on Thursday 7 February from 7pm to 9pm at the 2000 Community Action Centre on Grove Street.

Food and hot drinks from 6.45pm, all welcome.

Here's the blurb:

Find out about opportunities for young people in the Army, Air Force, Pathfinders, Police, St Johns Ambulance & Sea Cadets

Find out about a local training opportunity for young people aged 18-24 

Find out how the Evelyn Assembly helped your community in 2012 and hear updates from Evelyn Parents Forum and Montage Theatre Arts 

Have your say on what needs to be done in 2013 and get involved 

The latest on the Convoys Wharf from residents who met the developers 

Speak to Lewisham Homes, Hyde, Notting Hill Housing, and Lewisham’s Community Safety Team 

PanTing in a BoX

Crowded waiting room. Lung issues all over the place. People sizing each other up; wondering what "she's got".

Health card and hospital card are drawn like guns and slapped down on the table. Click, click on the keyboard and seconds later your cards are thrown back at you, with barely a grunt audible from the receptionist.

You move to the waiting room and score a chair, feeling all eyes in the room penetrating your very soul. You sit, perhaps make small talk, perhaps larger talk if there is someone interesting nearby.

A technologist wanders out and all heads shoot up; all eyes staring expectantly. Everyone wanting it to be their name called so they can get the heck out of there and down to Starbucks...and probably on to the next appointment of the day.

At last your name is called. You hustle behind the technologist (in this case it's a woman) into the PFT lab. You are asked to immediately hop on the scale - everyone wants to get tabs on your weight. You step on and hope that it goes your way. It does. You've gone up 1 pound. 1 pound is a lot for someone who's been facing malnourishment square in the face.

You make a mental note to celebrate with a tall hazelnut pike after.

Then you are asked to leave the tall hazelnut pike (that's currently in your hand) on the counter as it can't go into the lab. You sulk, but comply.

You walk down a hall, past a bunch of "breathing stations" where other patients are blowing hard and trying not to pass out; their faces brighter than your red kicks.

You enter a room and are seated. The technologist runs through the drill, although you've done this a gazillion times so there's really no need. Again, depending on the personality in front of you, you make small talk or beyond.

A tube, in which you will breathe in and out of, is given to you. Nose clips are handed to you; at least they are a sexy green.

You sit up straight - do not slouch. Slouching is not conducive to an optimal outcome. 

Your lips go around the tube ensuring they are tight. It is imperative that you do not let any air escape.

The test begins.

You breathe normally. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Take a deep breath. Breathe out slowly....push. Push.....keep it going....push. Deep breath.


Catch your breath.

***Here is where the old you, with the crusties, would have coughed and coughed and coughed and struggled. Here is where your crusties would have held you back; delaying the test while you tried to get them to function again.***

The first test is repeated twice more for accuracy.

Next test.

Breathe normally. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Deep breath in. Blow out hard. Fast. Push. Push. Push. Deep breath in. 

Picture this, but longer, plus gadgets inside

Catch your breath.

Test is repeated twice more.

Next step involves a box. A big glass box. You could say it resembles an an upright coffin.

You step inside. The technologist closes the door. Nose clips on. Lips around tube.

Breathe normally.

Pant. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Air is blocked off. You feel like you can't breathe; maybe you are dying? Nope. You can clearly hear those annoying instructions to keep panting. Obviously you will live to drink another delicious cup of java.

Keep panting. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Breathe normally.

Pant. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Air is blocked off.

Keep panting. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Testing's over. You are a guinea pig no longer. Freedom; you escape the box. 

You grab a copy of your test. Your eyes scan the page...lung function, where art thou?

Instant gratification.

You have improved. Your chunkers continue to amaze you...

Monday, January 28, 2013

The One and Only Ivan - Dreams Really Do Come True

Ivan - headed to school
I woke this morning with the familiar feel of anxiety – my heart pounding with anticipation. For a minute I had to let my mind catch up with what my body remembered already – the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards were today. I haven’t written a book, I have no stake in these awards, but nerves were taking over. There were so many books I have loved this year, so many I wanted to win. I got dressed, pulling on my Charlotte’s Web t-shirt, my son – Liam – handed me his stuffed animal for luck. It is a webkinz – a mighty silverback. Liam kissed it and said he wanted IVAN to win. With tears in my eyes, we headed to school.

My students entered, bubbling with normal Monday morning chatter. They talked about what they had done that weekend, what we had in store for us this week. Finally one asked when the awards would be announced. There were groans as I told them it was 10:00 our time, they’d be in computers. I promised to keep them updated and reminded them that the Caldecott and Newbery would be announced when they returned to our room.

In reading class we discussed the award. I shared with them Colby Sharp’s video from this past Saturday. The students watched in silence. We talked about what it meant to lay our soul bare and why we thought the video was a brave move by Colby. I read to them the book Woolburand we talked about how leaders do not follow the crowd, leaders do their own thing. Mr. Sharp is absolutely a leader in their eyes, as is Mr. Schu and many of the authors and illustrators we discussed this morning.

Finally, it was time. They headed to computers and I turned on the webcast. It was lonely to be by myself cheering at first, but exciting. I gasped when two books I wanted to win – The Fault in Our Stars and Wonder didn’t win the Printz and the Schneider respectively. However, I trust the committee and am sure the winning books are wonderful in their own right. I look forward to reading them.

At 10:40 I headed to pick them up and was thrilled to see that the library class (one of my other reading classes) had joined my group and they were watching the webcast. My colleague, Mrs. O’Brien, and I stood as the Sibert books were announced. My two classes stood and cheered for Moonbird, Electric Ben, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, and then Bomb. I had book talked each one of these amazing books, the kids were excited to recognize each. Mrs. O’Brien and I smiled at each other as they screamed over each title.

I whispered to my group that if they hurried to the room, they could see the conclusion. In record time we sat down in our own library. The Geisel was announced. I lost control of the class after Rabbit and Robot was announced. The screams reached epic proportion. I’m sad that I missed hearing Tom Angleberger yell on the live webcast as his wife won the award, but it was unreal to be in my room.

The kids finally settled down for the Caldecott. I reminded them that just because our favorite books don’t win doesn’t mean that the award isn’t wonderful and it would be a chance to “meet” new books. Then we heard them say FIVE honor books. Cheers met that announcement. Then they opened with Creepy Carrots, the kids flipped out. They loved all of the winners – with the exception of Sleep Like a Tiger, which I need to purchase so they can read, I’m sure we’ll love it too. The winner, This Is Not My Hat is such a hit that we gasped out loud.

And then, the big moment, the Newbery announcement. They looked at me, we took a collective breath. Three honors. Each one we knew, each one we had discussed, each one we loved. My heart fell. I thought there was no way for The One and Only Ivanto win – there was no way I would know all four books. I felt sick. I almost didn’t want to look at the screen. I briefly debated video taping their reaction to the winning book but quickly convinced myself it would be too much, too sad, so I didn’t. I regret that decision.

High fives, hugs, screams greeted the announcement 
The announcer got out: The winning Newbery is The One and… and they lost it. I lost it. Screams, high fives, hugs, tears. It was unreal. I don’t think I would have been happier if I had won the lottery. Kids flew at me, begging me to call Mr. Sharp on my cell in my hands. I couldn’t. Even trying to send him a text I realized my entire body was shaking. I looked up at a student in front of me, Rye, and laughed. I said, “I’m loosing it over a book, Rye.” He laughed and agreed.

We took a deep breath and kids ran off to inform my reading classes. Our stuffed IVAN was passed around, hugs given to him. He brought us luck. My RTI class came in, we discussed the awards. After lunch my other reading classes met, we read Woolbur, watched Colby’s video, and talked about how it was easier to view after the announcement.

And now I’m home. I can’t believe this day. I wish I could have taped the reaction. I wish that a school board member, my administrators, the folks who write standards or create our standardized tests could have seen that. I had 65+ kids celebrating books today, celebrating authors and illustrators. It was incredible and I know it is a day I will not forget, ever.

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I’m joining Jen & Kellee (and many other bloggers) in discussing what we are reading this week. Join us! Go to their site and link up your own blog.

Well, I set out to make this a week of professional reading. That didn’t work out like I thought. I am woefully behind on my PD books but I can’t seem to devote myself to a week of PD only. So my new goal? One PD book and one Newbery book a week – along with whatever other books I can cram in.

Here’s what I read last week. I highly recommend them all:

On tap for this week: Finish Teaching Reading in Small Groups for my PD book, read Secret of the Andes for my Newbery book.

Excited for the ALA announcement today! 
Happy Reading!

DIY: Raising Mealworms (Part 1) ~ Plus a GIVEAWAY!

by Rebecca Nickols from the garden-roof coop

I'm not only crazy about my colorful, entertaining backyard flock of chickens, I'm also passionate about the native birds in my backyard. My husband and I have a small business (Rebecca's Bird Gardens) where we sell birdhouses and bird-feeders at our local farmers' market. Even though I all about "feeding the birds" you can actually attract twice as many birds to your landscape by creating a garden that provides their natural food sources: nuts, seeds and fruit from native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.

I recently gave a presentation for the Master Gardener chapter that I'm a member of on creating a backyard habitat that will attract birds to your landscape. However, offering a variety of birdseed in an assortment of bird-feeders will give you those up-close views of the birds everyone enjoys. As a follow-up to my presentation, I'm now conducting a workshop on DIY bird-feeders--utilizing natural sources, recycled materials and re-purposed items. In addition to offering birdseed, suet and fruit to attract an assortment of birds to your landscape, providing a feeder filled with mealworms will entice insect-eating birds including: wrens, robins, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees and my favorite: bluebirds! Mealworms can be offered either dried or fresh, but of course - fresh is the preferred choice of the bluebirds that visit my feeders and... my backyard chickens!

Mealworms, however, are a bit pricey (especially the fresh variety) and between the mealworms that I provide for both the wild birds and the domesticated birds that reside at my property, I am spending more than I like for a treat. I had read about raising your own mealworms, but I was always a little leery of taking on this project. The worms don't really bother me, in fact (unknown to most family and friends) I've had red wigglers in a container in my laundry room for years. These composting worms have a voracious appetite and the kitchen scraps that I don't give to my chickens (coffee grounds, egg shells, etc..) go into this container. It's the beetles the mealworms evolve into that kinda gave me the creeps. And the fact that they cannot survive in temperatures less that 55°F (that means they would have to live in my house!). Also, most of the DIY tutorials I read involved sifting through the beetles and worms and keeping them in separate containers. Here is a link to an in-dept DIY: Raising Mealworms: Everything You Always Wanted to Know (and more)

Image from Enchanted Learning
A few months ago I ran across a method of raising mealworms that seemed like something I could undertake. This chicken keeper used one container and never separated the worms and beetles. Here's the link to his DIY--great instructions and photos! How to Raise Mealworms

So... back in September I took the plunge and purchased 1000 live mealworms and began my adventure in raising these tasty treats. However, this project is taking much longer than I thought and instead of waiting until I was harvesting my own "homegrown" worms, I thought I would share with our readers the set-up, steps and progress of my DIY project.

DIY: Raising Mealworms (Part 1)

The Set-up

  • A plastic or glass container. I happened to have a 10 gallon aquarium with a screen cover (left over from some former critter-pet of one of my daughters). As the chicken keeper suggested in the tutorial, you want a slick or smooth sided container that the worms can't climb up and the lid should not restrict the airflow.
  • Wheat bran (bedding and food). I bought a large bag at a feed store (50 lbs for $13.00). This was way too much. I wish I would have bought a small box from a grocery store or health food market. It would have cost more, but I wouldn't be stuck with storing a huge bag. You will want about 3 inches of wheat bran in the bottom of your container, but first put the bran in the freezer (especially if you purchased it at a feed store) for a few days to kill any hidden eggs from unwanted pests... 
  • Food to feed the larva. Vegetable scraps such as carrots or potatoes. Fruit can also be given, but I found that it attracted fruit flies; so I advise not to feed them fruit... Never offer water, they receive moisture from the vegetable mater. If you do have a kitchen scrap with a large water content (such as a tomato) elevate it on a plastic container lid to keep the water off of the bedding. Only feed them what they can consume in a short time and remove any uneaten food.--It's crazy how much they eat!
The Mealworms (I purchased mine from Wild Birds Unlimited; 1000 for $15.00).

  • Add the mealworms to your prepared container. The larva and beetles need a temperature above 55°F--so at this time of the year they're living in my house... I did have them in the mudroom, but my daughters stated that they didn't want to explain my latest endeavor to visiting friends.--Understandable; I moved them to my bedroom (ugh).  
  • Feed the worms (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, broccoli, etc.).
  • Wait. The lifecycle: The mealworm undergoes a complete metamorphosis. An adult female darkwing beetle (Tenebrio molitor) lays an egg (she can lay up to 500 in her lifetime!) which takes from 4 to 19 days to hatch. Next the larva (grub) or mealworm emerges from the egg and eats, grows and molts (9-20 times) before entering the pupal stage (the larval stage can last 12-54 days). The pupa then morphs (after up to 20 days) into...

The last stage of the adult beetle can last up to 3 months and that's the stage I seem to be stuck in... 
I have probably 1000 of the healthiest beetles you've ever seen, but still not a single mealworm. The entire life cycle and metamorphosis requires patience - so, I'll wait. And I'll update this post when I have a bountiful harvest of mealworms to offer the wild birds and my beautiful hens!

*All treats should be offered sparingly; all things in moderation... Too much of a good thing is just that: "too much".  Also, there have been some studies that link asthma related illnesses to mealworm exposure. As a nurse I'm not too worried though, there are studies that link illnesses to just about anything, but if you are raising mealworms on a large scale I would definitely take precautions (wear a mask, practice good hand-washing, keep the area clean).

If you raise your own mealworms, leave a comment below describing the set-up that you use. If you'd rather not undertake a DIY project that involves a thousand-plus beetles living in your home, but you love to spoil your birds with their top choice in treats, then I have a great giveaway thanks to My Pet Chicken! Just leave a comment below (including your email address) and in two weeks a winner will be randomly chosen and My Pet Chicken will send the gift your way!

This treat is 100% natural, and your flock will go bonkers for it! Whole-dried mealworms offer protein in a taste that chickens love without the inconvenience of storing and handling live worms. 

To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit the garden-roof coop
If you enjoy bird-watching as much as I do, I invite you to 'like' my facebook page: 

Late Night Musings

I'm finding myself getting bored. This is a tad foreign for me, as for the last 8 months while in Toronto, I've been too unhealthy to be bored. Between doctor appointments, physio, breathing and simply existing - there was no time for anything else...well except a crap load of me kicking butt in game nights and what not.

Any down time I had was welcomed with wide open arms and an "Amen".  

When I'm done with one thing, I'm looking for another. I am no longer content to sit on the couch all day just trying to breath, or trying to gather up the energy to have a shower, or searching for my lost appetite (we all know that's been found.)

I've got new blowers now. That means I have energy. I have the ability to DO. I want to take the G-man to the park. I want to run around and jump up and down and scream and laugh and cry and and and.

I want to prove to myself that I will do all those things I wanted to do when I couldn't; when it took every ounce of my energy just to get ready for, and then through, physio.

I don't ever want to forget the feeling of hating my lungs. I'm talking about my old crusties - I hope that was obvious, as I'm head over heels in love with my new ones. 

I don't ever want to forget the feeling of not being able to breathe from coming in from the cold, from making the bed, from doing laundry, from eating...from pushing myself too hard.

Sometimes these new windbags feel so normal. That scares me in a weird way; only because I never ever want to take them for granted. I always want to remember their sacrifice and their miracle. I never want to lose sight of the fact that each day I'm alive is a freaking gift. A beautiful, incredible, amazing gift.

I made this list months ago when I was still doing the granny shuffle with my crusties: 

Things I can't do now:
  • walk without breathing like a freight train
  • sing without gasping for breath
  • play sports with Brad & the boys (now I basically just stand there - I kick the ball when we play things like soccer baseball, but one of the boys runs for me)
  • go overnight somewhere without taking along a pharmacy (aerosols, o2 tank, feeding tube, etc.)
  • swim - I feel like I'm suffocating when my lungs are immersed in water
  • go out for a night without worrying about the weather and the state of my lungs that day
  • work
  • hold a baby for longer than 30 seconds (standing up)
  • carry Griffin for longer than 30 seconds (not that he needs carrying)
  • hide during hide and seek (anyone can hear me...just listen for Darth Vader
  • dance - last attempt lasted 10 seconds
  • laugh without coughing - now I hold back a lot of laughter
  • do anything for any length of time without getting completely exhausted

***One year ago I didn't have a shot at dancing in the rain. Perhaps I will do that this spring. Yes, I definitely will.

***One year ago I couldn't sing my face off in the shower or directly in other people's faces. Well, I've already been doing that. You're welcome people's faces.

That list certainly wasn't all encompassing; there were far too many things that slipped by while my crusties held me down. While I certainly didn't sit idle and watch life pass me by, I did miss out on certain things and craved the ability to do them.  

As far as never taking the new chunkers for granted....

All I have to do is spend some time with my buddy Carman and I remember how it feels to breathe as though through a straw, to wonder when that call will come and how much more of the day you can actually get through.

I'm lucky, I've had my call. I'm not in rejection. I've had an amazing recovery thus far.

Not everyone is that lucky. There are many fights to be won. Please help me do that. Be an organ donor. Have the conversation with your family. Actually, it'd be pretty cool of you to bring it up to everyone you see tomorrow and the next day...and hey, why not the next day too. People will love it if you just bring it up all the time. You could put together a presentation, perhaps a jingle. Just go nuts.

Realize how lucky you are, and then remember all of those still fighting for a second chance at life because they were dealt a crusty first chance.

Then act.

My Thoughts - Arsenal:

Top 4 ambitions: Arsenal are currently in 6th place, and are in the 5th Round of the FA Cup.

Same old Arsenal. Arsene Wenger promised at least two signings in this January transfer window. 27 days gone, no signings.

The one's that got away:

Lewis Holtby - Tottenham

Shame: Lewis Holtby has made an agreement to join Arsenal's London rivals Tottenham at the end of the season

Yann M'Vila - Rubin Kasan

Bull: Defensive Midfielder Yann M'Vila has joined Russian club Rubin Kazan, despite Wenger's advances.

Demba Ba - Chelsea  

Demba Ba joined Chelsea for £7million, despite being the EXACT type of player Wenger needed in strike.

Klaas Jan-Huntelaar - Contract extension at FC Schalke 04

There were reports that the Dutch striker would move to England in the summer, or in this window since he said that he was "very interested, and would have joined sooner if van Persie had left before", but he has vowed to stay in Germany.

Wilfried Zaha - Manchester United

Wenger admitted that he was an admirer of the 20-year-old winger, but as soon as his price-tag rised over £10million pounds, the Frenchman allowed Sir Alex Ferguson to swoop for him. 
You never would have thought he would spend over £10million pounds on a young winger that has no experience in the EPL (look at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), but still. His loss. 
Watch him rip up EPL defences next season at United. And then it will sink in that Wenger has lost his chance to buy a wonderkid.

David Villa - Unlikely

A 31-year-old injury-prone Barcelona striker, who wants to play in England? Arsenal and Liverpool calling! A bit scared of the price-tag, and no deal done.

Mohammed Diame - Staying at West Ham

Isaac Cuenca - Too late, staying at Barcelona

Edinson Cavani - LOL.

Linked with a move to England, with Manchester City and Arsenal both interested in him. Arsene Wenger claims that he has MONEY to spend.
Surely he should sign an experienced, clinical striker because if Walcott (top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions) gets injured, they are in trouble. But no. It's Wenger. -_- 

Linked, not realistic: Napoli striker Edinson Cavani was linked with a £40m move to England - to Arsenal.

Apart from the last 2 matches against West Ham (5-1 thrashing) and a scrappy 3-2 win against Brighton yesterday, The Gunners have struggled to win in the EPL.

Last 5 matches (apart from selected):
2-1 loss to Chelsea - EPL (a)
(Scrappy) 1-0 win against Swansea - FA Cup 3rd Round Replay (h)
2-0 loss to Manchester City - EPL (h)
2-2 draw with Swansea - FA Cup 3rd Round (a)
1-1 draw with Southampton - EPL (a)

Disappointing losses against Manchester City and Chelsea, because it proves that they cannot cope on the same level as them yet. 
Despite the fact that the opposition hardly went past 4th gear in both matches.

Season so far:
Played - 23 matches
Won - 10, Drawn - 7, Lost - 6

EPL Table:
3rd: Chelsea, 45 points
4th: Tottenham Hotspur, 41 points
5th: Everton, 38 points
6th: Arsenal, 37 points

7th: Liverpool, 34 points
8th: West Brom, 34 points

The Gunners are still with in a shout of the top 4 finish, but need to ensure that they win at least 10 matches of the last 15 matches, and not lose to opposition behind them.

They struggled to beat MANY teams, yet they have a BIG match-up next month against German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League Last 16.

German giants: Bayern Munich come to The Emirates to play Arsenal in the CL Last 16 on the 19th of February.
Oh boy....looks like a 9th year without a trpohy for The Gunners.

I hope you liked my first post of "My Thoughts", and I vow to post at least one new post every week. 
Speak to you all next week everyone! :D