Agency fee may go to the guillotine


by cheri sabraw

Here is the leader in a Los Angeles Times op-ed concerning the United States’ Supreme Court’s taking up a case this week called Janus vs. AFSCME.

“For 40 years, right-wing activists and fronts for the 1% have had their knives out for a Supreme Court precedent that protects the ability of public employee unions to represent their members and even nonmembers, and to speak out on matters of public interest.

That precedent faces a mortal threat in a case scheduled for oral argument at the Supreme Court on Monday. Indications are that a conservative majority of justices is poised to overturn it. That would have implications for worker rights, principles of fair compensation and income inequality, none of them good — unless you’re a millionaire.


The case is Janus vs. AFSCME. The issue in the case is the “agency fee,” which public employee unions in 22 states, including California, charge workers who are represented by those unions. The fee is a subset of union dues, which are paid by members. It’s supposed to cover only contract-related union functions such as contract negotiations and enforcement, including grievance procedures.”

Many years ago, I was part of class-action lawsuit representing those teachers who objected to the teachers’ union charging its non-members for political advertising and other “services” we would never use.

Let’s say that union dues for the California Teachers’ Association in those days when I was a young teacher were $600.00 a year. That money, taken out of my paycheck each month, was used by CTA for everything from legal representation to political advertising. In the years when  the teacher contract expired–and negotiations with the school district were the only way to agree contractually—-that money was used for collective bargaining here in California (and now in 22 other states).

Our lawsuit was victorious in that the court ruled that the portion of money used for collective bargaining was to be paid by all teachers–even those of us who were not members of the union but that non-union teachers would receive a rebate of the money used for other services.

Out of union dues of approximately $600.00 per year, agency fee or “fair share” dues are about 1/3 of the mandatory automatic monthly dues deductions. I received a rebate of about $200.00 in those days.

For those of us teachers who do not want to join the union, who will not use union lawyers, and who do not believe in union tactics of manning a strike line or keeping incompetent teachers in the classroom–we believe that being forced to pay ANYTHING to CTA or its national organization the NEA is wrong.

Most teachers who do not join the union make that decision after a year or two in the public school system.

In my experience of over 25 years in the public school system, the biggest union people were the most incompetent teachers–you know, the ones whining about everything–from having to call parents back to showing up to supervise a dance.

Unions represent teachers with “grievances.” I never filed a grievance in my years of service although in hindsight, perhaps I should have. Why should I have had to walk by all the 16-year-old boys that a certain teacher had “thrown out” of her 5th period in a daily ritual? Why should I have had to listen to a Spanish teacher four doors down barking like a dog to get a laugh from her class? Why should I have had to teach essay writing to the junior English students who hadn’t been taught much by the sophomore English teacher?

The pubic employees union never did “represent” me. It stood for all of those things that I am so much against: protection of its members over protection of its constituents-the students!; fear mongering about progressive educational change (so drastically needed) in order to protect its weakest members, and knee-jerk reactions to any idea that might weaken the union such as school choice, vouchers, etc.

Most of us will agree that the public school system has room for much improvement, especially in the areas of accountability and teacher training.

The hyperbole in the Los Angeles Times op-ed is part of the shrill wailing going on in public discourse– an effort to deliver a toxic pack of liberal lies –the ones we regular people endure in California day in and day out.

And how is our school system doing here? Last year, California ranked #30 in student achievement.

A millionaire? I am hardly one.

A right-wing activist? I am hardly one.

You see.

Good teachers do not need any union.

Good-bye Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.


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Feeling Full of Life

IMG_0793IMG_0798IMG_0803IMG_0810photography by Cheri Sabraw

Don’t these horses make you smile?


Posted in clydesdale horses, My photography | Tagged | 14 Comments

More luscious landscapes

by cheri sabraw

The landscape often dictates where we choose to live or travel.

I live next to a comforting mountain dotted with stately oaks. Oak trees represent strength and stability to me. On our property a tiny creek bubbles, dropping several feet over rocks smoothed by time. Mountains and rivers are where I feel most secure and peaceful.

Especially during work or stress, our imaginations often take us to places where a dramatic view of Nature returns us to peace or to emotion, soothing us with a continuum of meaning beyond the five senses. Our appetite for those scenes that  bring either exhilaration or comfort, curiosity or serenity, can evoke strong almost hypnotic magnetism.

Landscape photography or painting or both takes us to that world.

Consider this lovely landscape photo sent by bogard, not only one of my readers, but also one of my dearest friends from childhood, now far away living in the South.


This is a stunning photo shot from the Ranchland Trail in Cambria, California. The ice plants’ lipstick seems to kiss the ocean! If you look far out to the mountains, you can see Hearst Castle on the ridge.

Lue sent this dandy of a photo taken at Niner Winery in Paso Robles. Perfect photo to send in light of Valentine’s Day approaching.


Lue’s husband John is photographer extraordinaire.

c68d9e29467153.55f472898aaebWhat an amazing piece of photography John!  The soft forest floor, sheltered by the largest living witnesses on earth, beckons the lone wanderer to lie down and rest in all-encompassing security.


John captures the nobility of the individual as she tracks toward a misty future. The choir of tall trees reassures her that the way forward is safe.

IMG_0710My photo taken last week reminds us that despite the heat of the atmosphere, the dryness of the rocks and prickly plants, we earthlings still worship the sun.


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Landscapes that tug at my heart

by cheri sabraw


My brother Steve took this luscious photograph while in Montana last summer when he and his son Tyler fished the Madison River.

Wouldn’t this scene make for a splendid landscape painting? The lone tree presiding over an obedient river tamed by orderly fencing and blushing grasses appeals to many sides of my personality.

And what about this scene?


This melody in pastel blues and mustardy yellows was taken by my sister-in-law, Lue when she and her family visited the Carrizo Plain, a large grassland in San Luis Obispo County, California.

What appeals to me about Lue’s photograph is the presence of two explorers who seem to be walking on a salty sandy earth.

And then there is a photograph I took several years ago in Buonconvento, Tuscany.

P1000212One might be inclined to enhance this photo but what I love about it are the muted blue-greens and the small house in the background.

I’d like to be sitting on that bench, peeking through the cypress trees.

Landscapes provide many avenues of thought.

Romantic escape.

Aspirational destinations.

The past.

I am still pulled by and drawn to scenes of the west.


I took this photo in Yellowstone National Park. The two bison are heading my way. I am absolutely enthralled.


Ron’s photograph of an old abandoned shack off Highway 50 in southern Utah looks almost too perfect to be true. I’d like to host a small party in that  shack, bring our Weber and some steaks (although that might upset the cattle peering on), crack open some wine and wait for the Sons of the Pioneers to show up and seranade us with Red River Valley.


I took this nostalgic photo in Scipio, Utah. The greens caught my eye and of course, the well-preserved gas pump and barn door. I’m attracted to the way men might have dressed during the years when this pump was in use. I say men because I don’t think women would have been pumping their own gas.


If you have followed this blog for more than five years, then you know Ron and I have made two trips to the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn in eastern Montana.

I love this photo, not only for the wispy dry twigs and yellow mustard that shelter the graves from the judgemental stares of most who view them, but also because there in the middle is the spot where Custer himself got his just desserts.

If you have thoughts or photos of a landscape that tugs at your heart, send them to me and I will post them.

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Phobia Schmobia


by Dinah, the Labrador

Hello, Cheri’s readership ( all ten of you)!

In Cheri’s composing, anytime she mentions my name, I have asked her in no uncertain terms ( I do this by repeatedly putting my paw with overgrown nails on her thigh while she is trying to write on her (damn) computer), to notify me and secure my approval before she uses me for her own personal entertainment.

This request has always gone by ignored. (Shock)

You regular readers, all ten of you, must know that when she photographed me growling at the Dyson vacuum last year (as if it were weird to be frightened by a sucking machine with a see-through canister that holds so much of my own hair), she did not ask  my permission.

That I now have developed a perfectly normal aversion to coming down one stair from our entry way to the only room I am allowed in, the “family” room,  is no big deal.

I decided to beat Cheri to the punch and put that psychological diagnosis right out on the table before she could use  me for your amusement.

She tends to that with many people and pets. I call that habit “ruthless.”

My decision to elevate my concern about trotting down one tile step started when I must have tripped either going down or coming up. I’m overweight; my nails look like a fortune-teller’s; is it any wonder that a 70-lb person ( I mean, dog) who walks on four legs with over-grown nails might worry about “getting a grip???”

I asked Cheri to describe the pre-dance that I now do before I can come down that one stair.

She likened it to a Roomba vacuum (there’s that V-word again) stuck in forward-backward motion, trying to move but unable to do so. The clicking of the nails on the tile, the readiness of a creature to step down (but not), the locomotion of a falling object accented by whining and whirring…

It’s really gotten out of paw. I refer to Cheri’s angst.

I find that being stuck in limbo (between the entry and the family room) in a place outside the powder room draws incredible attention to my predicament although Cheri’s husband, the good judge, could “care less.” He appears to be more concerned with his Wheat Thins and vodka tonic than my anxiety on the stair.

Last night, Cheri had had it watching what she termed a “pathetic situation.”

Finally, her brain clicked into gear.

She saved my life by putting an old towel (now dirty with rainy paw prints) over the one stair.

I’m coming down no problem.

Life is good.


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From the sidelines

by cheri block

My husband is playing golf at this very moment with Bob.

Bob was a year older than we were in high school. He was the star football player and a heart-throb. All of us younger girls began to drool when Bob and the other senior football players walked through the Quad with their kelly green lettermen’s sweaters on.

To me, their shoulders looked like big rounds of bedrock attached to very trim torsos.

If ever there were a human body oozing with perfect coordination, it was Bob’s.

I was the head cheerleader for two years in a row during  those years when cheerleaders actually lead cheers.

We were not gymnasts, bimbos, pom-pom airheads, or idiots.

We lead cheers from the side lines when high school football was popular in the San Francisco Bay Area eons ago in the 60’s.

From my vantage point there on the sidelines, I had an opportunity to assess the game as it progressed through the quarters. After all, I needed to call monosyllabic cheers such as
“Block that kick,” and “Touch down.”

Every now and then, I would branch out and insist that the rooting section, dressed in white, would try its hand at spelling “W- A (clap, clap) R- R (clap clap) I -O- R -S (clap clap).”

I would ask my squad to lead what today we would call  politically incorrect cheers. Today, those cheers would be censored. Everything has become so beige.

For example, if you can spell, you  read that our mascot was the Warriors. Lakota Sioux Warriors. Copying the cheers I had heard at Stanford University across the Bay, I lead the spirit squad in this one: “Give ’em the Ax, the Ax, the Ax, Right in the Neck, the Neck, the Neck.”

How violent. But boy did the crowd stand up and roar. It was especially effective when we were playing our arch rivals–the Huskies. Poor dogs. De-capitated by a strong and noble Indian tribe.

While on the sideline I was supposed to be 100% focused on the business at hand (the game), but I occasionally checked out the many hunks whose bodies were stuffed into tight white football pants.


My boyfriend Ron was on the football team at that time and most of the time, I was staring at him in his white pants. He looked pretty good too.

But every now and then, my eyes wandered over to the star of the team in 1966-67.


So it was fun to see Bob today, fifty years later. As we talked, my mind drifted back to those wonderful years on the sidelines.

But I was a good girl and said,

” Bye guys, have fun!



The Pope

by cheri sabraw

If only the Pope

In his message of hope

Had suggested a simple solution.

Instead of his hedge

On the Vatican  ledge

Where he prayed for a two-state resolution,

His words should have urged

The Arab world to converge

and acknowledge Israel’s

Right to Exist.

Only then can the process go forward

(Your Holiness)
















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Studio vs. plein air painting, 2017


by cheri sabraw

I returned to oil painting last year after a 50-year hiatus, setting up  my studio in one of our guest bedrooms.

In order to acquaint myself with painting in general, I tried several subjects in acrylic paints.

Bunny and Kitten and Labrador Acrylics 2016

“Bunny and Kitten” 11×14 acrylic on canvas and ” Dinah” 9×12 acrylic on canvas

And this one, again from my photography, taken on a lonely road trip down Highway 25 on the eastern side of King City, California.

"Highway 25" Acrylic on Canvas 12x24

I was ready to oil paint, asking my friend Linda how to clean my brushes!

The process has been stimulating to be sure. I’ve read many articles about oil painting, consulted some of my friends who paint, and studied the paintings of the 17th century  by the Dutch Masters in order to learn glazing.

The results? Well. At this point, I can say I am satisfied with my progress but have so much to learn. As my friend Glenys reminded me…once a painting is done, varnished, and hung, the errors begin to make themselves known, like small fears bubbling from the unconscious.

I am a slow painter, adding layers of color gradually, trying to establish a depth and luminescence.

I think I achieved my goal with this 24X30 oil on canvas titled “At Rest.”IMG_1101

Again, using my own photography this time, I painted “The Tenant,” one of our barn owls from last winter.


The last painting I completed in 2017 is this one, a large oil (24×36) on canvas of a bison with an impasto set of curls approaching the photographer. It is titled “No Discouraging Words.”


“No Discouraging Words” 24×36 oil on canvas

I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments in 2017 until I enrolled in a plein air painting class way out by the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.

There, I learned just how difficult it is to mix every color of the rainbow out of 4 base colors plus white.

Trying to mix the oils and then draw and paint a well proportioned horse proved to be a challenging and (at times when the horse switched directions) frustrating  experience.

And then there was Drago, the beautiful young and muscular quarter horse, who modeled for us at the Scottsdale Artists’ School.

Alas, my rendition, done in 1.5 hours as the light changed, makes healthy Drago look as if he is ready for the knacker.


I thank my newly-made friends from that class–Cindy Lou from Dallas, Shelley from La Jolla and Marla from Madison for their good cheer and instruction.


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An Evening Walk

by cheri

IMG_0151Painters and photographers know that the best light often comes at the end of a day, like a stimulating conversation over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

As I set out the other night for a much-needed walk up the road with my dog, I felt the hills summoning the rain rather intensely. They pulled out all the stops: make-up, fragrance, beguiling glances, and undo attention.

IMG_0167 2

The light on the hills afar revealed the extent that they would go to attract the rain. Is that war paint? Sensual blush? Embarrassment at such a lack of modesty? Even the oaks circle around curiously, their canopies arching for a better look at  such an obvious display of neediness.


On my way down the road, I turn my attention to its other side, away from the northern frenzy and to the west, where the mountain top communes with the cloud cover in a manly way. There, the oaks sink to their roots in adoration and quiet.


IMG_0181The rain moves in. The fence braces.

It’s going to be a gully-washer, those lucky hills.

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My friend Glenys

by cheri

This morning, I roused myself from a restless slumber and descended the stairs into our cold kitchen, followed ritualistically  by our fat yellow Labrador named Dinah waiting for her sugarfree breakfast of dry kibble and two pills.

On the adobe tile counter, sat a forlorn box of oatmeal I had retrieved last night from the dark and lonely recesses of my pantry. The oatmeal, or as my pen pal Glenys calls it–porridge– had been hidden by old pink and orange boxes of Annie’s Bunny pasta that I buy for my granddaughters when they come from Portland to visit Dinah.

Instead of retrieving an emotionless cold cereal bowl and dropping several dollops of Siggi’s vanilla yogurt (with 14 g of sugar per  8oz in it), I am making porridge. After all, the health benefits of eating it are well-documented..

Glenys, of all the people I have met in the last ten years, has influenced me the most about food, sugar, and now, old-fashioned but tried and true, health remedies.

I’m positive that somewhere in our pasts–perhaps as Renaissance middle-class women interacting at the local market place or as two sisters heading west on a Conestoga wagon in the 19th century or as two budding artists skipping through the Witwatersrand hills in Johannesburg–we made mischief, good food, and fine art.

In June of 2016, Ron and I met Glenys and her husband Richard in person in London. 

Within in minutes of our introductions, while walking down the street on the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, Glenys enlightened me about the perils of sugar.  When I returned home to California, a book by Dr. Gordon Lustig titled Fat Chance was waiting in my box. Who would take the time to send a friend a book? Someone who is deeply committed to its principles, that’s who.

Since that time, Glenys and I have corresponded about many topics, most of which will remain between the two of us.

Now she has me curious about all things oatmeal from not only enjoying a hot bowl of the steaming sugar-free elixir but also slathering it on a bruised or painful joint in what Glenys calls a “porridge poultice.”

I will admit that not all has been smooth between us. For example, in taking care of a burn she once experienced, she described it this way:

As it was bedtime and this was not an option [immersing the burned hand in ice water], I tried the porridge treatment and found that by covering it with a piece of kitchen paper and then cling film  to avoid a mess in the bed!  within 20 min the pain had completely gone!  so worth remembering.

Hmmmm. What is kitchen paper? What is a porridge poultice? Is cling film the same as clear food wrap?

I asked her if kitchen paper was the same as waxed paper.

As it turns out, kitchen paper is the same as what we in the US might call paper towels. Cling film is clear food wrap and luckily, we both know what tin foil is although ours is made of aluminum.

In  my childhood,  when I left my family each summer to go to horse camp, I would wait eagerly for a letter from my mom, describing for me the comings and goings of Stevie, Cindy, Jimmie, and my German Shepherd, Dickens.

Now, as a grandmother, I wait eagerly for an email from Glenys.



Posted in Education, healthy eating, Life, People | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments