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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oklahoma County Medallion Dinner


My wife, Cat, and our granddaughter Skylar, attended the Oklahoma County Medallion Dinner. During my time as an Oklahoma County officer, first secretary and then chair, I was involved in several Medallions, which are the main fundraiser for the county party. I enjoyed myself as always. It's great to see old friends and meet new people. The dinner was great, and the fellowship even better. Those who make fun of people in politics don't know what they are missing when it comes to associating with some of the finest people in our community.

The party took a beating in the last election because the Republican party managed to make the state elections a referendum on President Obama, who has never been popular in Oklahoma. Many people are asking what can we do to turn the party around. So far, the Republicans have so far been doing a good job of making us look very good by comparison. But we just can't sit back and "hope they will fail."

I think that we need to keep speaking our truths, but do so in terms that average voters understand: jobs, security, services, and rights. Whenever we propose something, we must keep in mind these goods. How will what we propose help our citizens enjoy better quality lives? If we keep doing this, and showing that we mean what we say, the voters will elect our candidates to office.

The Brennan Society

I have added The Brennan Society to my "Blogs of Note" column. This group has recently formed in Central Oklahoma to promote progressive politics and the election of progressive leaders in my state. Tom Guild, Garry Atkinson, Gene and LaDonna Hunt, and other like-minded progressives have met together to form this new group, which I hope will become a real political presence in the community.

Their next meeting is this Sunday, February 6 at 2 p.m. at Garry Atkinson's house, 3600 Burning Wood Rd. in Edmond. Tom promises that the meeting will be over in time for you to see the entire Super Bowl. The directions to Garry's house starting at Broadway Extension are as follows--go east on 33rd St--between Coltrane and I-35 (aka Shannon Miller Dr.) you will see Burning Wood Rd.--turn south (right)--pass Barberry Court and Carriage Way (both on the west side and go~ 1/2 block) and you will see Garry's home on the east side (left) of Burning Wood Rd. Garry's cell phone number is 580-977-7192 if you need additional assistance.

If you need more information about The Brennan Society, or you would like to discuss items concerning the society, you can call Tom Guild at 359-7920, home phone, or 921-3811, cell phone, or to e-mail Tom at tomguild@sbcglobal.net.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A List of Education Legislation Filed So Far in in Oklahoma


A list of proposed legislation to be considered in the 2011 Oklahoma state legislature that will directly affect public education in Oklahoma:
Oklahomans for Great Public Schools
The names following the bill number are the last names of the bills' authors.
HB 1654

Enns

Directs each school district board of education to adopt a grading policy for all students requiring a teacher to assign a grade that reflects the relative mastery of assignment; allows for makeup work; EMERGENCY.

HB 1731

Hall

Requires the district board of education to implement the options requested by at least 1/2 of the parents or legal guardians of students attending the school if the school has identified a need for school improvement for 4 years.

HB 1817

Hardin

Requires schools that recieve a petition from fifty percent of parents to submit an empowerment plan to the board of education; EMERGENCY

HB 1724

Fourkiller

Extends the current teachers in the public schools of Oklahoma salaries through the 2010-2011 school years; modifies new amounts beginning with the 2011-2012 school years; EMERGENCY.

HB 1378

Holland

Prohibits the recognition of a labor organization as a bargaining agent for a group of school district employees; prohibits school employees from engaging in strike.

HB 1651

Enns

Prohibits schools from making payroll deductions for either professional organization dues or political contributions on behalf of a school district employee.

HB 1269

Coody

Requires teachers of reading for kindergarten through third grade to incorporate the five elements of reading instruction into lesson plans; EMERGENCY.

HB 1551

Kern

Creates the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act; disallows the penalization of a student because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories; EMERGENCY.

HB 1587

Thomsen

Requires the State Board of Education to develop and construct each criterion-referenced test to be completed in no more than 60 minutes; focuses on mathematics and reading; EMERGENCY.

HB 1714

Kern

Removes requirement for the State Board of Education to adopt the K-12 Common Core State Standards; EMERGENCY.



SB 537

Shortey

Establishes the "Quality of Education for Oklahoma Citizens Act of 2011"; requires schools to examine the birth certificate of enrolling students to determine residency status to better identify the costs incurred educating students who are

HB 1457

Denney

Redifines "career teacher pretermination hearing"; Provides protocol for the recommendation for the dismissal or non-remployment of a career or probationary teacher; Provides the rights for career and probationary teachers; EMERGENCY.

SB 1

Ford

Removes "career teacher pretermination hearing" requirements related to the "Teacher Due Process Act of 1990"; strikes the term "probationary", making all teachers subject to the same disciplinary process; EMERGENCY.

SB 534

Ford

Modifies the grounds for which a career teacher can be dismissed; removes the two month minimum for a time of improvement in response to a poor evaluation score
.

I want to thank my friend, Claudia Swisher, teacher extraordinaire, from Norman, Oklahoma for providing me this list.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tulsa Workers Win the Right to Organize


Congratulations are in order to AFSCME Tulsa local 1180. They pulled it off. The local has worked very hard since late September to get an ordinance that recognizes all Tulsa City Employees currently recognized through OMECBA’s right to have a union and requires the City to collectively bargain with employees. On January 12th, 2011, “the City Council voted “unanimously” to pass the new ordinance” according to Mike Rider, AFSCME local 1180 president.

Previously, language existed in the City Ordinance recognizing employees including LT (Labor-Trades) and EC (Emergency Communications). This language has been in the ordinance since the 80’s.

The new ordinance language adds employees classified as AT (Administrative and Technical), OT (Office and Technical), AO (Airport Safety Officers), IT (Information Technician), IS (Information Systems). Paul Woodard pointed out, “the new ordinance covers everyone that was covered by OMECBA, and no one is being left out.”

The 9 – 0 vote was a surprise to everyone. “We knew going into the council meeting that there were had enough votes to pass the ordinance, but the 9-0 vote was a wonderful surprise”, said local 1180’s political chair John Vaughn. One of the surprise votes came from councilor G.T. Bynum who had been opposed to the ordinance until that night of the council meeting. Bynum queried Interim City Attorney, David Pauling as to the legitimacy of the ordinance. Pauling said that the ordinance “merely complies with the Municipal Employee Collective Bargaining Act (MECBA). Bynum changed his vote to yes.

Vaughn further pointed out, that “we have been in constant contact with City Council members most of the last three months” as they worked to achieve this victory.

Mike Rider was quick to share credit for the victory with everyone in the local saying, “Everyone helped. This has been an across the board effort.”

GREAT JOB TULSA.

Matthew E Jordan
Labor Omnia Vincit
AFSCME Field Staff/Western Region
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bill Text for HB 1378-Abolishing Collective Bargaining for Teachers

Bill Text For HB1378 - Introduced
1| STATE OF OKLAHOMA |
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2| 1st Session of the 53rd Legislature (2011) |
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3|HOUSE BILL 1378 By: Holland |
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4| |
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5| |
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6| AS INTRODUCED |
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7| An Act relating to schools; defining term; |
| prohibiting collective bargaining contracts; |
8| prohibiting the recognition of labor organization as |
| bargaining agent for school employees; prohibiting |
9| school employees from engaging in strike; providing |
| individual not be denied employment due to certain |
10| membership; repealing 70 O.S. 2001, Sections 509.1, |
| 509.2, as amended by Section 7, Chapter 439, O.S.L. |
11| 2008, 509.2a, 509.3, 509.6, 509.7, 509.8, 509.9, |
| 509.10 and Section 12, Chapter 432, O.S.L. 2005 (70 |
12| O.S. Supp. 2010, Sections 509.2 and 509.11), which |
| relate to negotiations between school employees and |
13| districts; providing for codification; and providing |
| and effective date. |
14| |
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15| |
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16| |
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17|BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA: |
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18| SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified |
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19|in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 509.1A of Title 70, unless there |
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20|is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows: |
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21| A. For purposes of this section, "labor organization" means any |
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22|organization in which employees participate and that exists in whole |
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23|or in part to deal with one or more employers concerning grievances, |
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24|labor disputes, wages, hours of employment, or working conditions. |
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Req. No. 6410 Page 1
___________________________________________________________________________

1| B. A board of education or an administrator of a local school |
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2|district shall not enter into a collective bargaining contract with |
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3|a labor organization regarding wages, hours, or conditions of |
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4|employment of school district employees. This prohibition shall |
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5|also apply to renewals or extensions of any existing contracts. |
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6| C. A contract entered into, extended or renewed in violation of |
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7|subsection B of this section shall be void and unenforceable. |
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8| D. A board of education or an administrator of a local school |
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9|district shall not recognize a labor organization as the bargaining |
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10|agent for a group of school district employees. |
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11| E. School district employees shall not strike nor engage in an |
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12|organized work stoppage against a school district. |
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13| F. A school district employee who violates subsection E of this |
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14|section shall forfeit all rights, benefits and privileges of school |
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15|district employment. |
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16| G. The right of a school district employee to cease work shall |
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17|not be abridged if the employee is not acting in concert with others |
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18|in an organized work stoppage. |
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19| H. A individual shall not be denied employment with a school |
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20|district because of the individual's membership or nonmembership in |
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21|a labor organization. |
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22| I. This section shall not impair the right of school district |
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23|employees to present grievances concerning their wages, hours of |
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24| |
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Req. No. 6410 Page 2
___________________________________________________________________________

1|employment, or conditions of work either individually or through a |
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2|representative that does not claim the right to strike. |
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3| SECTION 2. REPEALER 70 O.S. 2001, Sections 509.1, 509.2, |
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4|as amended by Section 7, Chapter 439, O.S.L. 2008, 509.2a, 509.3, |
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5|509.6, 509.7, 509.8, 509.9, 509.10 and Section 12, Chapter 432, |
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6|O.S.L. 2005 (70 O.S. Supp. 2010, Sections 509.2 and 509.11), are |
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7|hereby repealed. |
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8| SECTION 3. This act shall become effective November 1, 2011. |
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9| |
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10| 53-1-6410 AM 01/03/11 |
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11|

Creating a Word Cloud

My good friend, Claudia Swisher, showed me where to create word clouds. I plan to use this with my students.Word Cloud I Made About Teaching

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trying a Reading Program

I'm going to try keeping a regular reading program, something like an hour a day minimum or 100 pages a day. I would like to increase the amount of reading I do, and I've always done better if I set goals. Right now I am reading Johnathan Franzen's novel Freedom
In one hour, I read 31 pages. I don't know if that if particularly slow, but it seems like it is. I have been reading the novel off and on for a while, so part of my reason for setting a reading goal is that I might be able to read the novel before my 60th birthday, which is a year and 2 months away right now.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Supported Public Employees Right to Unionize

Memphis sanitation workers strike of 1968
Today is the national holiday honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All across our nation, elected officials will be participating in various activities to mark the occassion. They will seek to honor King's memory. But many will be dishonoring his work by their attack on public employee unions.ll

Dr. King was in Memphis, Tennessee when he was assasinated on April 4, 1968. King was in Memphis supporting a strike by the city's sanitation workers. Many of the politicians who will be praising Dr. King today, are trying to eliminate public workers right to unionize and collectively bargain for good wages and safe working conditions. In other words, they seek to destroy the very thing King gave his life to defend.

If these officials want to truly honor the life of Dr. King, they should support public employees' right to organize rather than simply ring a bell or march in a parade.Dr. King marching with striking Memphis sanitation workers

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Highlights from Mayflower Early Service 1-9-2011


Highlights from Mayflower Early Service 1-9-2011

Chris Moore, preaching

The Prayer of Confession:
Gracious God, as we enter a new year, we confess that for too long we have let the nature of our faith be dictated to us. And by rejecting religion the way that it has been presented to us, we end up leading an empty revolution that leaves us still wanting. We end up rejecting all tradition, all ritual and all experience in the name of rejecting the religion that we feel pulls us away from you instead of to you. Help us to find some balance. Help restore in us a sense of tradition and experience that calls us more deeply to you. Help us to find new ways to be baptized into your new life. Help us to be ready for a revolution that leads us to doors and arms being flung open, justice restored and life renewed. Amen.

Scripture Lesson Matthew 3:13-17 (Jesus' baptism by John)

Sermon Title: Ready for the Revolution

In the ancient world, few could swim. Bodies of water were places of death and chaos. When people were baptized by John, it probably was the first time that they had been under water, so it must have felt as though they were literally dying and being reborn.

When one becomes a minister, one takes on a new identity that may seem like a new life. Jesus' baptism signified his new life of ministry announcing the presence of the kingdom of God. It was the beginning of a new world based on repenting our old way of relating to one another and the way we lived and acted in God's creation. We are to live now as God has wanted us to live all along.

If we consider salvation merely an individual act of repentance that appeases a wrathful God saving us from his eternal damnation, then we have yet to undergo the baptism of Jesus. Only by repenting what we have done to exploit the earth and each other can we save ourselves and the world of which we are a part.

That is the revolution to which Jesus called us, which his life is the example.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

It's Time to "Listen As We Speak"


Today a gunman, perhaps more than one opened fire on a gathering sponsored by Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona. Rep. Giffords was severely wounded, 18 others were shot, 6 are dead (at this writing) including a federal judge and a 9 year old child.

The gunman who has been apprehended, Jared Loughner, seems to have been a deeply disturbed man, but who seems to have been at least influenced by all the political rhetoric that has been irresponsibly thrown around since the election of Pres. Barrack Obama. Among other things he has posted on his social network page, "I can't trust the current government." He also has expressed hatred towards immigrants and those who "do not speak English."

No one supports our First Amendment rights more than I do, but we need to recognize that words have consequences. And when I see political rallies where people carry signs threatening a "2nd Amendment Solution" to problems they see in our goverment or carry guns to political rallies, I realize that it is pratically only a matter of time when someone who lacks judgement and restraint acts on those threats.

Such seems to be the case today.

We need to recognize the fact that all citizens, regardless of their political views, are fellow human beings worthy of the same respect that each of us would want for ourselves, in possession of the same right to dignity that each of us has.

It's time to tone it down. We do not know who may be listening, and even though we have a right to our opinion, how we express that opinion matters. We have a responsibility to honor one anothers basic humanity, even though we may disagree on our respective visions of justice.

Whether we are socialist, social democrat, liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian, left or right, we are all American, all citizens, all humans.

My good friend,Laura Boyd posted on her blog some principles I think would be good for all us to follow:

#1- Vow to speak to and about each other with respectful language and images. We are ALL God’s children regardless of color, politics, geography, faith, gender, or sexual orientation. Each life is precious.

#2- Listen as well as speak.

#3- Know that ultimately we are all dependent on something else for our joy, purpose, and well-being.

#4- Look out for one another: we do not need to confront those with differing opinions who cannot hear us; we should not turn a deaf ear to those who would threaten us; we must be watchful and respectful of one another, both allowing for our differences and taking action to protect others when we have reason to be concerned about the judgment and actions of those who would not allow for peaceful existence and differences.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Public Employee Unions are not the Problem: The Super Rich getting tax cuts is.

Great blog by Robert Reich. Republicans are trying to use the recession they created to attack public employee unions.
Among the best passages:
It’s far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public’s work - sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees – to call them “faceless bureaucrats” and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets. The story fits better with the Republican’s Big Lie that our problems are due to a government that’s too big.

Above all, Republicans don’t want to have to justify continued tax cuts for the rich. As quietly as possible, they want to make them permanent.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Wal-Mart High?

Will our students be going to Wal-Mart High?
Tomorrow, Winter Break ends, and Cat and I go back to our respective schools for "Records Day", a day to finish up last semester's grading and prepare for the spring semester, which starts on Tuesday.

At my school, we will be facing even more pressure than we did in the fall semester since this will be the semester that we do our "End of Instruction" (EOI) testing. This testing is the biggest factor in determing our school's performance under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The feeling is that if our school does not show significant improvement in this year's EOIs over last year, when we were the lowest scoring school in the OKC school district, the school will be placed under one of the programs NCLB has mandated for failing schools, likely the so-called "transformative" model where by the administration is replaced and all of the school certified instructors have to reapply for their jobs. No more than 50% or fewer of the former instructors of a transformative school may be rehired. A third option, making the school a charter school, is also an option, but not considered likely.

We have been closely watched by the district and by the state department of education. Administrators and other facilitators constantly monitor teachers' instructional techniques. We must show that we are following "best practices" including having "word walls", "exemplary work displays", "data walls", "artifacts" and other displays of learning. Students are quizzed as to whether they have "mastered" necessary skills. Students are also constantly tested, and their test results thoroughly analyzed.

Some will say that this is only an effort to produce the type of pedagogy our school should have been doing all along. There is truth to that, but I am beginning to feel as though our school and those like us are becoming educational Wal-Marts or MacDonalds, a place where every class resembles every other class. Educational specialists, who seem to be running the show in public schools now, argue that students need this type of uniformity to keep instruction at a high level and help students master their subjects through uniformity and repetition. But teaching is as much art as it is science, many would argue more art than science. And it seems tht we are in danger of driving out the art of teaching in favor of "research based, best practice" science.

I am willing to do whatever I am asked as a teacher, so I have done what I have been told to do to the best of my abilities. I know, though, that teachers alone cannot transform schools whose students live in poverty. When we compare our American schools to those of other industrialized countries like Finland, Germany or Japan, what is left out of the comparison is this rather disturbing statistic, on average only about 5% of school-age children in other industrialized countries live in poverty, In Finland, the percentage is 3%. In the United States, however, 23% of our nation's school-age children live in poverty. And poverty is the number one factor that determines a child's success or failure in school.

That factor will not be overcome by having our children go to "Wal-Mart High".

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!


2010 will not live on in my memory as a particularly good year. We struggled to get out of the recession, and voters rewarded the party whose economic policies brought on the recession.

Education "reform" took on the theme, "We need to fire bad teachers." But no one said much about the fact that poverty is the number one indicator of a child's success or failure in school. High stakes testing became more and more important, and our students have been tested nearly to death.

Still there were some rays of hope here and there. "Don't Ask-Don't Tell" is dead, for good. We signed a new treaty with Russia that will reduce our nuclear stockpile. With the Cold War hopefully behind us, my prayer is that we will realize the strategic irrelevancy of our nuclear stockpiles as well as the danger they pose for us should they get into the hands of terrorists and/or rogue nations. People seem at last to be paying attention to the warning signs that the planet is sending us, also.

I am also optimistic when I look at the generation following us. They seem, as a whole, to be more tolerant, more socially involved, more committed to developing sustainable lifestyles than we have been. We talked the talk during the 60s but failed to walk the walk during the subsequent decades, particularly the 80s. I hope their present enthusiasm for a more just and sustainable world remains with them as they come to make their life choices.

I have some resolutions for the coming year:
1. To become the teacher I know I am capable of being.
2. To finish my National Board for Teacher Certification work successfully.
3. To continue working for a just and sustainable year.
4. To learn a new language, probably Spanish.
5. To live more healthy, get more exercise, and develop better dietary habits.
I hope you have the best New Year.

I wish you wealth.
I wish you health,
And happiness galore.
I wish you heaven when you die.
How can I wish you more?
May your joys be as deep as the ocean.
Your troubles as light as its foam.
And may you find sweet peace of mind
Wherever you may roam.
--Irish Blessing