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Archive for February, 2009

Dear CEO Burrell Ellis and DeKalb County Commissioners,

I am a lifelong DeKalb County resident, residing at my home on Thompson Mill Road now for the past 31 years.  I have paid my taxes, I have supported my local county as best as I know how.  My husband and I have chosen to remain in  South DeKalb County when many other people were moving further out.  We like where we live.

That is, until today when our water and that of our entire street was cut off without warning and kept off for over 16 hours, before being turned back on for a few minutes, and then back off again.

I first realized that we were without water around 8:45 this morning (Monday).  I knew I had made a pot of coffee at 8:05 and used the water then to fill my coffeemaker.  When I went to take my shower at 8:45 and turned on the water in the shower, I found out there was no water available.

I contacted the regular business number of  DeKalb Watershed Management.  I was told that they were unaware of a water problem and would check on it.  I received a return call  within an hour, telling me that they thought it would be repaired shortly.  This was at 9:49AM.   That was the only call I received from them.

Repeated calls to DeKalb Watershed Management later in the day, beginning around noon, and then every two hours or so resulted in only in being told one excuse after another – “it’s a private contractor working for a developer”  “it’s not the county people”  “they’re working on bringing it back online now” (around 6:30PM), and on and on.

I called again around 9:15PM Monday night and spoke again with the individual at the 24-hour emergency number.  He repeatedly tried to talk over me and wouldn’t listen to what I was asking.  When I finally was able to ask if they had any idea whatsoever when the water would be restored, he said that they had “sent a man out there to check things out, and he was told it would be back up within an hour.”

When I asked *where* the problem was in the water line, I was told the 4400 block of Thompson Mill Road which I knew was inaccurate.  I live at 46** Thompson Mill Road and I had driven down from Snapfinger Road on my way home, driving past the 4400’s.  There was no road crew anywhere, nor was there any work site to be seen.

When I pressed him further, he said that the contractor was actually down near the bridge – which is *past* my house.  I then informed him that the bridge is *not* in the 4400’s of Thompson Mill Road, and his response was basically “so?”

In fact, as I got in my car and drove down to the bridge over Snapfinger Creek, I realized that the work site was actually directly in front of my neighbor’s driveway located at 463* Thompson Mill Road.  There were two unmarked white-panel vans pulled over on the side of the road beside a back-hoe sitting adjacent to an enormous hole in the ground.

A man with a shovel was standing beside the hole, looking down into it.  There was another man actually down in the hole.  I could not see any sign of running or standing water anywhere.  There was obviously no gushing water like from a broken hydrant or something of that nature.

To make an extremely long story much shorter, my neighbor drove down there later after 10PM and stopped to ask the men when the repair would be completed.  One of the men said a couple of hours and the other man, she said, was obviously “wasted” – her words.

When we called the Watershed 24hour number again to ask for help, we were told that it was not a county matter.  It was a private contractor working for a developer. They could not and would not help us.

We can not wash our dishes, our clothes, even our bodies.  We can’t drink water from our faucets nor flush our toilets.  We are thankful that we do have a neighbor on the street behind us that has graciously and generously allowed us to use her facilities.

Well, I will admit to you,  commissioners, that it really disturbs me that the county watershed department (that used to be known as the “water department) will simply stand by and let the county residents suffer at the hands of people who obviously are incompetent and unable to do what they have been hired to do.

If, in fact, a developer hired a private contractor for this job, I assume that he had to have a permit from the county for this individual or company to do this kind of work.  I also assume that this contractor would have to have a license of some kind.

It is my humble, but now well-experienced, opinion that DeKalb County should possibly have this license revoked and some kind of penalty issued for the incompetence and stupidity that I’ve seen from the workers down there.  There were no supervisors present; there was no county supervision even after *REPEATED* calls to the emergency line.

The water was finally turned on tonight at 12:25AM (Tuesday) after being turned off for over 16 hours.  It lasted for less than 10 minutes.  There is now no water *again* and my husband has just told me that, after driving back down to the bridge, there is only one man down there with the backhoe, digging, and there is now water gushing EVERYWHERE.

If this is my county tax dollars at work, then it’s a complete and total WASTE, and, pardon me for saying so, but I’d like to see the entire DeKalb County Watershed Management department as well as the contractor and the developer going without water for 24 hours, unplanned, un-notified, as we have.

This does *not* speak well of DeKalb County.

Respectfully yours,
Merri G. Williams

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I don’t honestly remember how I first found TED.com.  I guess it was a link sent by a friend or one of those days I was surfing the web, traveling from link to link, reading whatever caught my interest.  In any event,  I was so fascinated by the expansive offerings on TED that I subscribed to their newsletter.

This week’s e-newsletter shared one of the three winning TED wishes ($100K prize) this year  – that of Dr. Jose Abreu of Venezuela,  a 70-year-old retired economist, trained musician, and social reformer who founded “the system” (El Sistema) in 1975 and has built it with religious zeal, based on his belief that what poor Venezuelan kids needed was classical music.

Abreu’s wish?  To take El Sistema to other nations, including the United States.

El Sistema is all about children,  many from neighborhoods which are so poor, desperate and crime-ridden, that hope is often extinguished in children at an early age, living in areas where residents don’t walk alone day or night.  And it’s focus is about saving them – hundreds of thousands of children – through music.

According to Dr. Abreu, music is a social system that fights poverty and overcomes it by the spiritual richness that music provides, becoming a vehicle of social change.

Each day, children from some of the poorest of the poor slums in Venezuela line up for free lessons at their local branch of El Sistema.  Beginning as early as two years of age, they start learning the basics, like rhythm, and the language of music.  (Sounds like Kindermusik!)

By the time they’re four, they’re being taught how to play an instrument. By the time they’re six or seven-year-old veterans, they’re playing in orchestras.

Through hard work and the assistance of fifteen thousand trained musicians as well as gifted kids who teach other kids, the system uses classical music to instill in the kids self-esteem and confidence.

In the thirty-four years since El Sistema was first founded, over eight hundred thousand children have passed through the organization.  While the majority of them do not continue on to be professional musicians, all of them are changed.

Dr. Abreu is quoted as saying,

“Music produces an irreversible transformation in a child. This doesn’t mean he’ll end up as a professional musician. He may become a doctor, or study law, or teach literature. What music gives him remains indelibly part of who he is forever.”

When asked if he thinks the system could work in the United States, one Sistema branch manager said:

“Yeah. But I mean, kids are kids. It doesn’t matter where they come from. And if you can help a poor kid in here, you can help a poor kid everywhere. It doesn’t matter the culture, it doesn’t matter the race. I mean, it’s music. Everybody love music.”

Make sure your computer is hooked up to a good set of speakers, turn up the sound, sit back, and prepare to be completely blown away by the power and beauty of  the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra (Sinfónica Juvenil Teresa Carreño), the national high-school-age youth orchestra of El Sistema, directed by Gustavo Dudamel,  newly named musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and product of El Sistema himself.   The two selections are Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Mexican composer Arturo Márquez’ Danzón No. 2.

To learn more about Dr. Abreu, El Sistema, and making Dr. Abreu’s wish come true, please visit TED.com here.

To view the El Sistema segment by Bob Simon on 60 Minutes, please follow this link.

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I am not a big sports fan;  I admit it.

The males in my family can easily and often do quote me when I get riled up, after reading about professional ball players’ astronomical salaries –

“I can not believe that that man gets paid *that* much money each year for hitting a ball with a stick!  (or, alternatively “carrying that ball down the field”)  Ten years from now, what difference will it make in a child’s life that he hit a ball with a stick?!”

(You get the idea.)

I don’t enjoy the hype and trash talk that fills the airwaves and television station breaks during the different seasons.    I know, I know – I just don’t get it.   I’m quite aware of that.

I do enjoy, however, watching high school and college rivalries.   They are so much more real than “professional” sports  – these individuals are playing because they *love* to play – not necessarily because they’re being paid to do so.  (And, yes, before you jump in – I am quite aware of college players receiving scholarships and other perks.)

But one thing that does catch my attention in sports is when you hear about an athlete who is so much more than just another jock out to make his or her mark in the world by earning mega-bucks through sports.   In this case, it’s plural – athletes.

It was a Saturday night in February, and the Barbs were playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison. It was the third meeting between the two schools, who were developing a friendly rivalry that spanned two states.

The teams planned to get together after the game and share some pizzas and soda. But the game itself almost never took place.

Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin died at a local hospital. Carlitha Franklin had been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer, but she began to hemorrhage that morning while Johntel was taking his college ACT exam.

Her son and several of his teammates were at the hospital late that afternoon when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system. Carlitha Franklin was just 39.

“She was young and they were real close,” said Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr., who was at the hospital. “He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn’t have time to grieve.”

Womack was going to cancel the game, but Franklin told him he wanted the team to play. And play they did, even though the game started late and Milwaukee Madison dressed only eight players.

What transpired next is the kind of thing you only see in a Hollywood movie.

johntel-franklin

Early in the second quarter, team co-captain Franklin appeared at the game, wanting to play.    The only problem was that Franklin had not been listed on the pre-game roster.  In order to play, it meant a technical foul against the Madison Knights, awarding the DeKalb Barbs two free throws.

While Womack, Franklin’s coach, was willing to give the two points to the Barbs,  Dave Rohlman, the Barbs’ coach,  was not willing to take them, arguing with the referees for five to seven minutes, saying, “We’re not taking it; we’re not taking it.”

Upon being told by the refs that there was no choice in taking the free throws, Rohlman asked for a volunteer from his team to shoot the ball.

His senior captain raised his hand, ready to go to the line as he had many times before.

Only this time it was different.

“You realize you’re going to miss them, don’t you?” Rohlman said.

Darius McNeal nodded his head. He understood what had to be done………..

He went alone to the free throw line, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and looked at the rim.

His first attempt went about two feet, bouncing a couple of times as it rolled toward the end line. The second barely left his hand.

It didn’t take long for the Milwaukee players to figure out what was going on.

They stood and turned toward the DeKalb bench and started applauding the gesture of sportsmanship. Soon, so did everybody in the stands.

“I did it for the guy who lost his mom,” McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It was the right thing to do.”

Franklin would go on to score 10 points in the game, and the Milwaukee Madison Knights went on to win the game 62-47.   Afterwards, both teams went out and had pizza together.

When you look at Madison’s team record, you realize that they don’t have the best record (6-11), but they genuinely care about each other.   Womack is quoted as saying,  “We maybe don’t have the best basketball players in the world but they go to class and take care of business. We have a losing record but there’s life lessons going on, good ones.”

And taken directly from the Associated Press article:

None so good, though, as the moment a team and a player decided there were more important things than winning and having good stats.

Yes, DeKalb would go home with a loss. But it was a trip they’ll never forget.

“This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime,” Rohlman said. “They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they’ll remember what happened in that gym that night.”

Now that’s my kind of sports!  😀

Read the article in its entirety here.


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TED talks often provide some very profound messages.  This was one of them.

Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for practical wisdom as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.

Enjoy! 😀

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Three Valentine Cupids

Fun Valentine’s Day Fingerplays for your Family

Five Little Hearts

Five little hearts, all in a row

The first one said, “I love you so.”

The second one said, “Will you be my Valentine?”

The third one said, “I will, if you’ll be mine.”

The fourth one said, “I’ll always be your friend.”

The fifth one said, “We’ll all be friends until the very end.”

How Many Valentines?

Valentines, valentines,

how many do you see?

Valentines, valentines:

One for Father, (hold up thumb)

One for Mother, (hold up pointer)

One for Grandma, (middle finger)

One for Sister, (ring finger)

One for Brother, (little finger)

And here is one for you!

(make heart shape with both thumbs and pointer fingers)

Do You Know the Little Love Bug?

(to be sung to “The Muffin Man”)

Do you know the little love bug,

the little love bug, the little love bug?

Do you know the little love bug

who comes on Valentine’s Day?

He comes to give a hug and kiss,

a hug and kiss, a hug and kiss.

He comes to give a hug and kiss

To (child’s name) on Valentine’s Day!

Wedding

For Mom and Dad’s Enjoyment

“When you fall in love, I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” (Harlen, 8 )

“To get a girl to fall in love with you… take her out to eat. Make sure it’s something she likes to eat. French fries usually works for me.” (Bart, 9)

“Love is foolish…..but I might try it sometime.” (Floyd, 9 )

“Once I’m done with kindergarten, I’m going to find me a wife.” (Tom, 5)

“On the first date, most people tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.” Mike, 9

“Never kiss in front of other people. It’s embarrassing if anybody sees you. But if nobody sees you, I might be willing to try it with a handsome boy, but just for a few hours.” (Kelly, 9)

“It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them.” (Lynette, 9)

“Love and Marriage: It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble.” (Kenny, 7)

“Love; No one is sure why it happens, but I heard it has something to do with how you smell. That’s why perfume and deodorant are so popular.” (Jan, 9)

“Falling in love is like an avalanche where you have to run for your life.” (Roger, 9)

“If falling in love is anything like learning how to spell, I don’t want to do it. It takes too long.” (Leo, 7)

“It isn’t always just how you look. Look at me. I’m handsome like anything and I haven’t got anybody to marry me yet.” (Gary, 7)

“Lovers hold hands to make sure their rings don’t fall off because they paid good money for them.” (Dave, 8 )

“Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I have been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me.” (Bobby, 8 )

“I’m not rushing into being in love. I’m finding fourth grade hard enough.” (Regina, 10)

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my Kindermusik Families!

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abe-birthday

A new website I found that has rapidly become a favorite is Kids Off the Couch. Dedicated to connecting parents with their children via a good movie and cultural tie-ins, this weekly email will provide you with a *wealth* of information guaranteed to pique not only your interests but also your child’s.

This week’s email was directly related to Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, and the bicentennial of his birthday.

Taken from their *free* newsletter:

If Your Kids Read Only One Book about Lincoln:

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary is an exciting new biography for kids that combines photos, letters and text. Common Sense Media says “this is the way biographies for children ought to be done”.

If You Only Read One Book About Lincoln: Okay, we couldn’t narrow it down to one — here are several excellent choices. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is a lively portrait of the President’s election and his historic, inclusive Cabinet choices; our current President is said to be influenced by this biography, and Steven Spielberg has optioned the film rights.

Garry Wills’ Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America is a Pulitzer Prize winning deconstruction of Lincoln’s most famous speech, and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln: A Novel gets below the skin of the iconic figure. In Sunday’s New York Times, William Safire reviewed several new books about the 16th President — from a concise 79 page book to a momentous 2,000 page study. Click here to learn which one is right for you.

If Your Teens Only Have Ten Minutes: Have them check out this great NPR podcast, a brief tribute to Lincoln with music and anecdotes.

If You Want to Build Lincoln’s Log Cabin with your Tots: Lincoln Logs were designed by John Lloyd Wright and let kids re-create Lincoln’s early days with their own hands.

If You Only Watch One Movie About Lincoln: Young Mr. Lincoln is a wonderful John Ford film starring Henry Fonda in an unforgettable performance. Made in 1939, this black and white film is geared for adults, so not a natural fit for kids (unless yours are either devoted to classic film, or Abe himself). (1939, UR, 100 minutes)

If You Like to Learn Online: The Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated, is a surprisingly cool place to visit (next time you are in DC). Check out their Learn The Story website, a great one-stop resource for all things Lincoln.

If You Only Read One Speech or Poem: Read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (in his own handwriting) and Walt Whitman’s poem in response to the news of Lincoln’s assassination.

Diane and Sarah
Founders, Kids Off The Couch

www.kidsoffthecouch.com

***********************************************

Do yourself a favor – sign up for the free newsletter, and get set to enjoy weekends with your kids!

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I read an interesting article today about enhancing your well-being through purposeful mental training such as that done by Buddhist monks in Tibet.

Written by Brian Maffly of the Salt Lake Tribune, it is a fascinating look into current scientific research done by Communications Psychology professor Richard Davidson of Madison University, using the latest technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to document the startling control the monks demonstrate over their emotional states.  His resulting ideas about “neuroplasticity” — the notion that we can enhance brain function through purposeful mental training — threaten to upend conventional psychoterapy, which has little scientific basis.

Davidson is quoted as saying:

“We were all taught that the brain is different from other organs in the way it changes over time.  We thought the process was one of irrevocable death,”  Davidson said.  “We now know that view is definitely wrong.  The brain is capable of generating 7,000 to 9,000 cells a day.”

Recruited by the Dalai Lama, monks who participated in this study had spent, on average, 34,000 hours in intense meditation and were considered masters of the faith.   By using scans that tracked brain function, Davidson was able to track high levels of activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotional well-being.   Further studies documented measurable changes in brain activity after two-week sessions of mental training.

The most interesting part of this article for me is directly related to music.  Davidson states,  The brain is the only organ designed to change in response to experience.   Musical training changes the structure of the brain and when it begins earlier in life the greater the influence. (emphasis mine)

Come join us in our Kindermusik classes and create some well-being of your own for you and your child.  We gladly offer pro-rated tuition when joining after the beginning of the new semester!

For our class schedule, please visit our website.


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