Monday, December 31, 2012

Good Bye, 2012

And so it goes...time, that is.  On to 2013.

In retrospect were it not for two key events in 2012 it wouldn't actually be much different than any other year.  BUT, in July, the day after my son-on-law's birthday, Don Sullivan died.  Don was my son-in-law's father, my friend and the reigning patriarch of the Sullivan/Stockwell clan. 

RIP, Don. Now it's me.

The next thing to pretty much ruin 2012 was the shooting at Sandy Hook School--a place I called home-away-from-home for over 30 years.  There are no words for what happened there so...may the year 2013 bring you good health and good fortune and at least a moment or two of peace and tranquility.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter Fun

What's the point of living in CT if you can't enjoy its winters?  And having grand children who are reaching the age when they can enjoy it too is even better.

This is from Saturday at about 4 P.M. in the middle of a snow storm.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Helping Hands

It's been exactly two weeks since the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook School. 

Since that time there has been an unbelievable, world-wide response.  Donations of money and goods have poured in, web sites have been created and committees of various kinds have been organized all of which seek to aid in recovery and comfort to the families of the victims, first responders and the community in general.

My response to all of this has been a little slow.  I did donate money to my daughter who organized a drive to supply various items to first responders.  Today I'll be at Chalk Hill School in Monroe helping get that set up for the arrival of Sandy Hook School students on January 2.

Many organizations are asking that there be a moratorium on future donations of goods and food until it can be organized and sorted.

However money is still being donated to the organization run by Newtown Savings Bank and the United Fund both of whom have agreed to give 100 percent of the funds to their intended purpose.

So little by little life is settling down to its usual routine. But for many people it will never be the same.   No amount of money will ever change that.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A must-read letter.

A letter to the Sandy Hook Elementary School I Knew As A Child
     As I watch the world descend upon you and our quaint, idyllic town, I weep for your loss of innocence. Yet through my tears, I smile as I reflect upon the childhood memories that shaped my life within the confines of your safe haven. The following are my personal memories, yet I know there are thousands similar to mine:
     *In one of your classrooms, our teacher read “Where The Red Fern Grows” to us.  This singular experience ignited my lifelong love affair with reading and writing (and probably with hound dogs as well).
     *Every morning I held my little hand over my heart and said the Pledge of Allegiance with my homeroom class.
     *We dissected fetal pigs outside on picnic tables, and my fascination with anatomy and medicine was born. This same teacher also brought sheep to class, which we sheared, spun their wool into yarn, and knitted some keepsake. I am sure these sparks of animal husbandry helped shape my career as a licensed veterinary technician.
     *I developed my first real crush on a boy in 5th grade.
     *I attended after-school Brownie and then Girl Scout classes, where I learned without a doubt that sewing and cooking would not be in my future, but that horseback riding would.
     *I played hop scotch and jump rope in the firehouse parking lot while we attended classes there for several months.  Not much else to do in a parking lot during recess.
     *I had a triangular device put on my pencils because I didn’t hold them “correctly”.  I still don’t, but I have beautiful penmanship all the same.
     *I remember the names of my elementary school teachers, principal, classmates, and school bus drivers, yet have a difficult time bringing up the names of my college professors.
     *I looked forward every year to the Book Fair, Strawberry Festival, and Field Days. Jolly Green Giant footprints would lead us down the driveway to the school (he was our mascot). My mom would help organize events and my dad would do the face painting, and I was proud of my parents for being involved in my life and my education.
     *We had a deaf classmate, and I learned American Sign Language.  To this day, I can still fly through the alphabet, and I remember his personal sign just for me (a “T” pulled through my long hair).
     *Right after lunch, we would go to the library and sit cross-legged in front of the librarian as she would read us a story.  The smell of oranges still brings up memories of her.
     So, Sandy Hook Elementary School, do not let this tragic event define you.  Instead, you are defined by the happy childhood memories of generations of students like me who got their start in life within your walls. Our adult selves thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  God Bless.
     Tracy Bittner, attended 1974-1979

Who's Afraid of the NRA?

Why is Congress so afraid of the NRA? 

I guess there are two reasons.  Money and support.  The money part is easily explained,  but support? Why would that matter? To me the answer comes down to votes.  In spite of the chorus of calls for better gun control, there is a significant number of people out there who cherish their right to own a firearm and those same people vote. In fact they're quite vocal.   Hence, the NRA.

I've been watching reports of by-back programs in various towns and cities.  Quite a bit of money is being spent to encourage people to turn in their firearms...or at least some of them.

To be brutally honest I think it's a waste of money.  The people who seek to do harm with a firearm are keeping theirs.  The idea that turned-in guns will somehow prevent something like this from happening again is based on wishful thinking.

Having said that, what's the answer?  I think there are two things that need to be done.  First, gun laws have to be standardized across the country.  It does no good at all if a state like Connecticut has strict gun control laws but then someone can turn around, drive to Tennessee or somewhere like that (usually a southern state sad to say), attend a gun show and buy what ever you want and walk out with it.  Not good.

The second thing is finding better ways to identify the deranged lunatics who do these kinds of things.

Take the case of the recent tragedy in Sandy Hook.   In terms of gun ownership, the mother did everything right.  She got permits and went through the process.  In terms of gun security and managing her psychotic son, she dropped the ball.  But she wasn't alone.  What about the kid's father?  What about what ever school system the kid was in?  They all have a responsibility.

In the meantime the calls for gun control will go on and I think the ban on assault rifles like the Bush Master AR15 is a good place to start. 

Now we have to address step two.

One other thing:  The NRA's proposal to put a cop in every school in the country is ridiculous.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

From A Child's Perspective

Last Monday I drove Cole to school.  As usual, he was very gabby and asked a lot of questions. 

The first was what would happen if a bad person ran out of a store with all the food?  I said the police would  be called, the thief would probably be caught and he'd go to court and maybe jail.

His next question was suppose a bad person (beginning to see a trend here) drove into a person's car and smashed it.  My answer was pretty much the same as the one for the food thief.

I told him any time someone breaks the law like steals or hurts a person or damages property it's handled by police and courts.

Then he eased into what was really on his mind.  He said to me ya' know, grampy, there was a bad person at a school. 

I said, Really? What happened?  He told me that a bad person went into a school and hurt lots of people.  Then he asked me if he was going to bet in trouble.  Without going into graphic details, I told him yes he was in trouble and that none of us ever had to  worry about him hurting anyone again.

He mulled this over for a while and then observed that people shouldn't be bad. 

I agreed and was thankful the conversation was turning to something else.

The lesson here is that as much as we try to shield and protect kids from various kinds of information, something definitely filters through.  Maybe not everything but enough to form impressions.

Not much gets by them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two more messages

Here is the text of two more messages I recently received.

Dear Mr Stockwell,
I am so deeply sad to have learned about the tragedy at our small school. I went to Sandy Hook from 1979-1982 after moving to CT with my family from MD. Everytime I think of my childhood I recall with fondness. Mr Stockwell, Mrs Tommey and Mrs Whippie. Just thought I would google you and there you were all over my search results.
You were a wonderful teacher. Your positive energy and genuine love for your work, for the children is what I always recall when reflecting back to those days. Thank you for having been my teacher!
Thinking of all of you back home.

Hi Mr. Stockwell,
I've been thinking of you and all the teachers I had at Sandy Hook Elementary. I have the best memories of that place, and my family and I are extremely saddened by what happened. I will always be grateful to you and the rest of the staff for giving me a solid foundation of security and confidence--which I still carry with me today.

I hope you are doing okay and your entire family is safe.
Best wishes,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another recently received message

Here's another recently received message from a former student in the wake of a horrible tragedy.

Dear Mr. Stockwell
a 5th grade student of yours, going to date us... 88-89. Your name as a teacher is 1 of a very few that have been etched into my memory. What I do remember is that you were a great teacher in a great school. I moved from Sandy Hook in 89 to Wolcott where I was adopted. After high school I joined the military. I currently am in the Army and live just outside of Buffalo, NY. When I saw these tragic events unfold on TV at work, I couldn't believe they were happening, especially at the school I spent 3 grades in. The only thing I can think of now is a faint image of what I remember the inside of the school looking like and the horrendous act of evil. I have 5 children of my own from 2-11 and breaks my heart that this could happen anywhere. Thank you for your many years of service to the school. My prayers are with all that have been affected by this selfish act of terror.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Recently rec'd message

Being a user of Facebook, I have accumulated a large number of  'friends' many of whom are former students.  As such, recent events have resulted in numerous private messages to me.   Here's one of them.  I'll post more in the coming days.

Thank you Mr.Stockwell. Chari (or Charlie as you liked to call her) and I will never forget your kindness, to say that you left an impression on us is an understatement. You never showed frustration, nor anger during all of those years we knew you. You always had a great smile to offer all of us. If that smile didn't work, then that jar of candy and jolly ranchers, always did the trick. Its funny, that I still feel badly about writing all over your desks. Even though it was always in pencil, I felt bad that someone had to clean it up. It all makes sense now that I am a graphic designer... To this day the smell of the glass cleaner that was used still reminds me of your classroom and that doge viper poster you had on the wall. As far as I can remember, the only negative memory I had at the school was in 1995 a boy in my class Kyle punched your assistant teacher in the belly and ran out of the school. It is laughable that such a minor event seemed inconceivable at the time. I remember her crying and saying "the punch didn't hurt, it was the fact that someone doesn't like me that hurts". How I wish now that adam was only loaded with punches instead... Thank you for being super-human in this kid's eyes. I cannot imagine the pain you are going through. My mom and I are only a message away if you ever would like to grab a cup of coffee and catch up. You are a good man Mr.Stockwell.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tough times

Sandy Hook School was my home away from home for over 30 years.  Even after I retired, I continued to substitute teach there so I knew many of the folks who worked there.  In fact I was part of the three-person committee who hired one of the victims, School Psychologist Mary Sherlach.

It is extraordinarily difficult for me to see the abundant news reports on this terrible situation.  I finally got it through my thick head that I should turn TV off and leave it off except to watch a totally unrelated program that I DVRed.

Driving here and there around Sandy Hook is also a painful experience because every once in a while I pass a house with a lone state trooper's vehicle sitting in the driveway and I know that's the home of a victim's family.

These are tough times for Newtown.  For a long time the town will  be defined by this horrible event. But for the rest of us life goes on so there's only one thing to do.  Move forward.  

Last night we saw Becky, Mike and the two girls.  It's exactly what the doctor ordered.  Tomorrow I'll spend the day with the youngest grand child and part of the afternoon with his brother.  More tonic for a sad time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Win win for Obama

Sorry, but I can't help but make an observation regarding all the hoopla over the fiscal cliff the nation is fast approaching (by the way, don't take it lightly.  If we do in fact go over the cliff, there's going to be hell to pay in the form of higher taxes for everyone).

So here's the way I see it.  Obama can't lose.  If the republicans give in to his demand that the wealthiest people in the nation pay higher taxes, well, Obama--and the rest of us except the very rich-- win.  But if he doesn't give in and over we go, then the republicans look like a bunch of shmucks willing to throw the middle class and elderly under the bus.  They--and the rest of us--lose big time which you can be sure the democrats will exploit during the 2014 Congressional elections.

Don't you just love politics???

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Another great Sunday morning

I've posted many pictures of Brooke & Courtney playing 'scientist'.  They love to experiment with various substances to see what they can do.

This morning we made Gak.  Gak is a silly putty-type substance that can be made with the right combination of Borax, Elmer's Glue and water.  For effect you add food coloring.

The result is a great deal of fun.  From there they go to an old standby--vinegar and baking soda.  Courtney especially loves doing this to watch the resulting eruption.

Kids love to learn.  It's as natural as eating.  But when I was in grade school, science was reading a chapter from a book, answering questions, reading more, answering more questions, etc.

Today grade-school science is often hands-on experimentation.   That's the way it should be.

It's science that's going to save the world--not religion or politics.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Where were you?

Like you,  I can recall where I was and what I was doing when certain events occurred.  The first such event for me was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

This past Tuesday I spent some time discussing a similar situation with several residents of Lockwood Lodge at Newtown Masonicare.

The folks I was talking to are all in their 80s and 90s so most of them remember Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor which took place 71 years ago today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Busy Week

Monday-Babysit Nicholas all day, pick Cole up from school.
Tuesday-Volunteer day at Masonicare in Newtown
Wednesday-Nicholas all day, pick Cole up from school.
Thursday-Volunteer luncheon, get girls off bus and stay through dinner.
Friday-pick boys up from school and keep overnight into Saturday.
Saturday-girls come over in afternoon, stay overnight and all day Sunday.
Sunday-girls all day
Monday-See above..................

Starting to order Christmas presents for grand children over internet.  Order early for sure delivery.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Guest Blogger-"Why I did not vote for Romney"

The following post is from a guest blogger who appears here from time to time.  The opinions expressed therein are not necessarily those of the keeper of this blog spot (that would me moi).  Anyone wishing to counter with a blog of their own may do so by contacting me at  I reserve the right to publish or not any responses.

Why I did not vote for Romney
Let me start by stating that I am a registered Republican and have been since I was old enough to vote - primarily because my parents were. Let me also state that I am a liberal Republican or conservative Democrat (read middle of the road voter) and have voted fairly equally between Republicans and Democrats over the years.
When the primary season started a long time ago, I thought Mitt Romney was a sensible and intelligent man especially compared to those he was running against.  And coming from the business world, he might possibly be someone who would take a different approach to governing.
However, that was not to be.
Right away the Democrats and liberal media called him a flip- flopper. That little bit of nastiness was initially lost on me but he ultimately showed himself to blow with the wind in an effort to please all of the relatively extreme factions of what now make up the Republican Party. That was a losing proposition.
The Republican Party has become one of extremely conservative and uninformed and just plain nutty ideas. They have allowed the fringe overrun and paint the party as unbending, unforgiving and unintelligent.
1)    Mitch McConnell started 2008 by flatly stating that his only goal over the next four years was to get rid of Obama. There was not one word about the economic meltdown created during the Bush years and voters struggles with losing jobs and homes.
2)    Sarah Palin started out OK but turned into Joe Six-pack’s mouth piece spouting religion and demeaning any who didn’t believe her ideas, plus leaving Alaska in the lurch when she quit her day job as governor.
3)    Michelle Bachman was just plain off the wall with her many inaccurate pronouncements about what the US wants/needs and her wild religious beliefs.
4)    Rush Limbaugh, the self appointed representative of the Republican Party, was allowed to run rough shod over anyone who disagreed with him (that’s most of us, Rush).
5)    Grover Norquist, a God damned lobbyist, was allowed to browbeat 95-98% of Republicans in Congress into signing a pledge not to raise taxes for any reason (a lobbyist mind you) with threats of ruining their careers if they didn’t sign.
6)    Tod Aikin tried to define some rape as legitimate.
7)    Senator Richard Mourdock said that rape is God’s will.
8)    The Tea party thinks that just cutting spending will solve all our problems, overlooking the fact that they too are making use of that money with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
9)    The Republicans have pounded us about the need to open oil reserves in pristine areas of Alaska. Turns out that the US will be the number one producer of oil in the world by 2020, beating out even Saudi Arabia. We may need more refineries, but if that’s the issue, say so. We should be putting much of that money into making cars that average 40 mpg.
10) “The only way to resolve the deficit crises is to cut spending”. That’s part of it, but cutting spending does not raise the money needed to pay off the dept. However, Republican rhetoric seems to point to helping the super rich (less that 10% of the voting public) with their tax burden as their primary goal outside of getting rid of Obama.
11) The NRA (of which I’m a proud life member) has been wailing that Obama will take away our guns. He didn’t in the first 4 years and has little chance of doing in the next 4.
Note to the NRA: Let’s not make this fight over the right to own guns/clips that can fire 100 rounds a minute. Our founders didn’t have this type of weapon in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. I personally believe they fall into the category of machine guns which are illegal.
12) Republicans have been the only ones who have conjured up a myriad of ways to require voters to have ID’s. Many seem specifically designed to make it difficult or impossible for the voting poor (mostly Democrats) to vote. Certainly a National voter ID system can be produced that wouldn’t create the present problems.
13) Since 9/11, the Religious Right (Christians only need apply) has been pushing have to have their very conservative views foisted on the rest of the population and are using The Republican Party to do it. This includes wanting to control what women can and can’t do with their own bodies.
14) Donald Trump is using his own money to chase the idea that Obama isn’t an American. The Donald was still at it even after the election.

I’m hard pressed to believe that the vast majority of traditional Republicans believe those folks referenced above represent their real values. I, for one, am thoroughly disappointed in the Republican Party.
A final comment: This is not to say that I believe the Democrats are fault free either. But they seem to be much more sensitive to the majority needs in this country.
So, there you have it. This is why I couldn’t vote for Mitt Romney.
Ken Mackenzie

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy December

It's December already.  The days will continue to get shorter bottoming out on the 21st, winter solstice.  And then every day thereafter gets a little longer.  That's the good news.

For more about the month of December, click here.