Conversation Education

Talking through what it means to lead a literate life and beyond.

Conversation Education

Amplify Love with Open Hearts and Minds

She came running across the room and was in my face before I knew it.  Big bright eyes, and a knob of hair twisted up on each side of her head and a smile that forged through her too big Cindy Lou Who teeth  and blurted out,  “Who are you?” “You look like you are nice” she added. I replied, “so do you!” as  she grabbed my hand and led me over to the table where she was working with her 5th grade friends.

Photo from

Kids.  Oh how I have missed kids.  Wednesday of this week, March 30, 2022 was the first day I have been allowed back in schools since the world shut down Friday, March 13th 2020.  Two full years without access to classrooms.  Two freakin’ years without access to the heart and soul of what I do, the bread and butter, the reason for doing it all…these kids.  Soul singing, I sat  and languished in it all.  Kids with noses in books, kids in loud sobbing tears, kids playing games, kids writing, kids in small group instruction, kids working independently, kids working with partners, kids roaming the halls, kids, kids, kids everywhere.  Oh how I have missed those faces, the indescribable thrumb of a classroom in process, the amazing patience of teachers and how intently they listen to their students, face to face listening, deeply listening and responding to every move, disruption and celebration all in one breath. 

I forget just how exhaustingly beautiful this profession is.

And for all of my intentions to remain somewhat invisible as I observed, just wanting to get a sense of where these teachers and their students lived and how they spent their days, I went hardly unnoticed.  In fact, my presence seemed to cause a disruption in just about every room I went into.  I wondered, had I lost my touch of effortlessly slipping into a classroom, sitting myself down in a tiny chair alongside readers and writers or was it something else?

“Is she someone’s mom?”

“No, she is just here to observe for a little bit, I mean she might be someone’s Mom, but not of anyone in this class.”

“What is she doing here?  Can my Mom come in?”

And he wouldn’t quit.  The interrogation into who I was completely disrupted this teacher and her small group work.    I skulked down lower in my blue plastic molded seat and gave the teacher an apologetic look for such a disruption.  And then I realized, this was a novelty not only for me, but for everyone.  They had not HAD visitors in two years either.  I take a breath and acknowledge once again how the pandemic effect reaches out, creating moments that you are just not prepared for. 

Photo Credit: from ZME Science

And this is just on the surface, as I look around at seas of faces and wonder, how has the pandemic effect affected you and you and you and you and you screaming and crying shamelessly out loud for being offended?  What social graces have been lost?  What emotional barriers have been built?  What fears linger for those who still choose to come to school amongst newly naked faces, with your mask still tightly wound around your face?  

And then there are those teachers’ faces.  More weary than I recall as they have to teach as well as manage all of the outside noise, disruption, distrust, disillusion, and downright attacks on their profession, their lives, their livelihood, their very souls from an arena outside that has very little, if anything to do with what these people do and how they perform and keep moving forward each and every day, every hour, every moment.

I can’t help but think how lucky these kids are to have such talented, expert, devoted and dedicated teachers show up each and every day for them. 

Photo Credit: Great Big Canvas

Lift them up.  Ask what they need.  Offer your time or your hands or your resources.  Engage in the community  of real live people with an open heart and open mind.   Take all that time you devote to ripping people apart on social media and get involved with living, breathing people in real spaces, face to face.  We can do that now! Leave the screens, the echo chambers, the talking heads  and your tag lines at the door. Re-engage and reconnect to beating hearts with love.  Someone may just say, “hey, you look like a nice person.”  and you may reply, “so do you”.

40 Days and 40 Nights

In some yogic traditions they say it takes 40 days to make or create a new habit and when I search the significance of 40 days, while there are many, the gist of it is that we use this term to mean a really freaking long time!  It seems to be the amount of time we can refrain, or give something up, as in Lent for 40 days before Easter…

This past week I hit the 40-day mark of sheltering in place, quarantining, isolation or whatever you want to call it.   My only outings, the dreaded grocery store runs and walks with the dog.  I was fine.  We were all “fine”, you know the Ross Geller kind of “fine”.7 Signs We're Just Like Ross Geller

(Watch here if you want more of Ross and “I’m fine!” )  But when day 40 hit, the shit hit the fan.  I heard more words of frustration, sadness, grief, anxiety and helplessness than I had heard the entire time.  It seems this past week was, a breaking point for many.Deciding Your Breaking Point in Business and Real Estate Negotiations

Teachers saw a decline in kids showing up, parents found themselves completely exhausted from trying to parent AND work all day and the emotional strain was starting to rear its ugly heads as everyone in my family had their “day”.  You know the “day”.  The day you freak out because life has been standing still and all you want to do is bust out and say screw it!  Or the “day” that you are so tired, your body aches deep into your bones and the idea of getting ANYthing done seems herculean.  Or the “day” you just sit on the couch and stare out the window or binge on Netflix with bad snacks…you know the kind of “day” I am talking about.  We have all had them and will continue to have them…so why not embrace them and take it on full force.  Give yourself permission to get NOTHING done and well, even feel good about it or at least don’t judge yourself.

We need these days.  We need them because it is our very soul reaching out and telling us, for the love of GAWRat race. | Rat race quotes, Bob marley, QuotesD, to just STOP!  But stopping seems to be one of the hardest things for us to do as Americans and as a country.  We suck at stopping. 

We thrive on the go, go go and initially I was reveling in the slowing down…in the beginning.  But then the 40 days hit and my inner child screamed out,  I don’t WANT this to be the new normal.  I miss hugging people.  I miss sitting in one of my graduate classes in person, and watching the group dynamic, each nuance and facial expression capable of shifting the energy and the direction of the group.  I can’t do this on Zoom.  And as one of my brilliant teachers, Sara Cross stated, “for empaths, using  zoom makes us feel disabled”.   Aha, I thought when she said this.  I TOTALLY feel that way.  What happens when your only superpower is stilted, lost in translation, sidelined by which person the zoom decides to pick up on the audio?  My groups are lively and like family.  We often talk over each other and become most animated and we discuss and share our thinking and ideas around teaching.  These classes bring out the passion in people and give voice to the deepest insecurities, thoughts, ideas, successes and yes, even failures.  All of this fails to transfer in the Brady Bunch blocks on the screen.  Zoom is not my first choice, nor that of many others and still I move forward, like the rest of the world, and make do with what I have.

And in that I changed what I was asking teachers to do based on what their current circumstances were.  I responded to what they needed and what they needed was not to discuss and reflect on Chapter 6, but to talk about their “new” teaching lives.  To give voice to all of their frustrations, successes, discoveries at getting to know new students in this new forum and to talk about those students they can’t find…

I am hoping we will learn something through all of this; that we might boil down what is essential in life and learning.  And yet, I often see the opposite, such as school systems expecting teachers to recreate the rest of the school year in a vacuum.  We must remember that much of a school day is structured around managing large groups of students.  This isn’t the case with kids at home.  Loosen the schedules and let kids find projects that motivate them intrinsically.  What are they interested in?  What do they want to learn more about?   I advocate for a weekly school schedule that might look like this:

Try to do 2 of these things each day, or one if you are really INTO it!Sunset Colours Instagram Post

Instead I see complicated schedules with kids in high school taking on hours and hours of home work and busy work each day.  Why do we insist on thinking that busy means learning? When I make these changes my teachers respond in kind, “Thank You for understanding.”  Can’t we extend this olive branch to everyone right now?  Everyone needs understanding, compassion, and to be heard.

It’s been a long 40 days and 40 nights plus.  Let’s collectively admit and accept it and now loosen the reigns in all areas of our lives where we have the power to do so!   Let’s give ourselves permission to take care of not just everyone else, but ourselves, utilizing the power of  creativity.  One does not have to be artistic to be creative.  Creativity is an energy inside of us all that we can tap into to make sense of all we are going through.  You see evidence of this all over the internet with crazy stunts people are doing, TikTok dances and musical performances we all try to mimic, or even just silly pranks.  My son Zachary watches this dude in New York City unwrap boxes sent to him each day.  He has adapted from being a destination pizza reviewer to a frozen pizza reviewer and now he receives over 100 packages a day so that he will unbox new products all live online.  He has a major following.

As human beings we NEED creative outlets and so do our kids.  What can you do to help your kids create today?  (sidewalk chalk, legos, trains, blocks) What can you do to unleash your own creative spirit?  (sidewalk chalk, legos, trains, blocks)  It might be baking, gardening, weeding, coloring in a coloring book, daydreaming, picture taking, singing, dancing, meditating, breathing, envisioning, problem-solving…the list is endless…let your imagination run free while housebound.  Please understand,  I am not advocating for you to use this time to create the novel of the century or to have any product AT ALL.  I am suggesting you engage in the process of creativity in any way shape or form that works for you, whenever it works for you.

Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world. -Brene Brown ...It has been a long 40 days and 40 nights.  We have done our Pandemic Lent, our season of reflection and preparation is up and now it is time to celebrate,  to open up the next 40 to possibility, promise and play!  What do you say?








Milestones and Silver Linings by Jess Clark

While I continue my Learning Through Teaching graduate courses for the year, virtually, of course, I am struck by the voices and thinking of those who have been thrown into a completely new way of teaching and living.  I am going to share these voices in this blog because well, nobody says it better than they do!

My first teacher is Jess Clark.

I first met Jess at Dover Middle School almost 10 years ago.  Jess is the  teacher you WANT your child to have; the kind of teacher who knows her students, celebrates her students and works EVERY day to make sure they are all working up to their greatest potential.  She is a no-nonsense, get your work done, while smiling and joking along the way  spirit.   Jess and I have worked closely together over the years, as she incorporates Notebooking into her Social Studies curriculum and then inspired her team members  to use them across all content areas.  She is the go to girl if you want something DONE!  She is a dive-in, go-for-it, discover-what-happens-along-the-way, improvise-as-needed kind of professional guru.   Jess, I miss your smiling face, your infectious energy, your kids and the work we did together!  Hang in there and I will be right there with you on the other side, a fellow hugging machine!

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people sitting

Jess, at the top of this human pyramid says it all!

This is Jess’s recent piece in response to when I asked them to write about teaching and living during a pandemic.  We “gathered” on Zoom and all read them aloud to each other.  It was moving, stilted and poignant…all at the same time and left me needing to get these voices out into the world.  Feast your eyes on Milestones and Silver Linings by Jess.

Milestones and Silver Linings  by Jessica Clark

Milestones are missed when you’re on lockdown away from those you love. 

Milestones are witnessed through pictures, FaceTime and now the ever so popular Zoom when they should be experienced in person.

Ava laughing for the first time. Noah’s 7th birthday party. Finn learning his new letters. My dad’s cancer not spreading. These are times our family should have been together instead we share these moments through our phones, computers, or waving at each other through a window.

Finn doesn’t understand why his Aunties are sick and can’t visit him. Or why he can’t skip rocks with Papa in the pond because it’s too cold even though the sun is out. That’s the part that melts my heart. He’s two and there’s no way he can understand what is happening. 

What this time has taught me early on, is I despise remote teaching. I didn’t get into teaching to sit behind a computer and chat with kids through a camera. Their milestones will be missed as well. Kids change so much in a year and realistically, we aren’t going back to school to send them off with hugs and high fives into summer. It’ll be a wave through a camera with a “Come visit me next year.”

Silver linings…they are there even when they are hard to find. I’m connecting with friends and family more over the phone and FaceTime than ever instead of texts. I’m getting outside for fresh air (does wonders) daily. I’m setting myself boundaries and actually sticking to them when it comes to work and expectations. Saving money on gas and eating in all the time rather than meeting up with friends for apps and drinks.

I just know when we are released from this lockdown, I’m going to be a hugging machine to everyone I see so some of you might want to be prepared. I’ve been told I give great hugs!


For more information on Learning Through Teaching, a form of professional development for educators that happens on site where teachers earn graduate credit check out our website here:  UNH LTT


Pandemic Poetry

Feeling like a fish out of water?  You are not alone!  Voices from the field.  Here they are.  They are as varied and wide as those out there.  And they all matter.

Mudskippers look like opera singers in the Thailand shallows ...

When asked to write 6-word memoirs about teaching in the Pandemic, I was in awe of the responses and decided to play around with them to create this group poem.  A Special Thank You to those who contributed!!  Do you see “your” line?


The Resilient Teacher as Resilient Mudskipper

Reflective times and moments of uncertainty

I have become the resilient mudskipper

Learning something new about myself everyday.


Quarantinis isolation toolkits virtual vibes covidiots

Forging new routines;  missing student interactions

I have more time with family

Lots of bonding time with daughter

Making family memories matters the most


Will I be giving birth alone?


I have converted to being introverted

Seizing the opportunity to get creative…

I have become the resilient mudskipper


Spring snowflakes surprisingly distract

Time in nature matters so much


Cyberland professional wear can be jammies!

Dressing for Zoom equals human mullet

Teaching in jammies makes everything better


Talking to screens instead of faces

Mind-bending sessions of virtual gymnastics

Pajama pants, tired eyes, coworker napping.

Grateful and growing in uncertain times

I have become the resilient mudskipper Pin on Views under the water








No Light November in New Hampshire

My eyes struggle to stay open.  The covers hefty on my body. The cold room beckons me to get out of bed, so I snuggle a little deeper and look out at yet another grey November day.  As I turn over, I feel every part of my body ache out in protest. It seems the grey has also settled into my bones as well as my soul. So, this is why old people flock to Florida, I think.


 With a heavy sigh I laboriously lift myself up and out of bed knowing it is going to be another day of drudgery, working toward  and for lightness and light. Coffee first and the regimen begins with light box spectrum light therapy. Then I know I must try to get onto the damned mat for yoga and meditation.  Yes, that combination always elevates my mood. Then there is woods walking with the dog. Yes, nature always helps I think as I slug down my daily triple dose of Liquid Vitamin D3 and feel my low energy working against these remedies that I know are good for me.

 Coffee first, just focus, one step at a time in front of the light and I begin to write.  Yes, writing helps. Then I read a few pages of my book read but that mat just stares back at me taunting.  It is rainy and cold and raw and grey, and the woods will be a nightmare with my golden, Scout, the mud slut who finds any patch of mud and wallows in it pushing his nose and body down deep into the cool dark sludge, he wriggles like a snake to get all the muck he can manage to stick to him. 


Lover of Mud.  Hater of bath.

And then he looks at me smiling as I try to urge him out. For every ounce of joy it brings to him, it brings me exasperation two fold. I have lost my sense of humor and take it as a personal attack on my time when he chooses mud over me. Every time. No, I can’t deal with all that mud today. 

 And as I write Scout is here, at my feet, begging for that woods walk.  Look outside dude I say as he stares up at me with those big brown balls of eyes and that brown nose that is now slowly turning to a dull pink, to erasure nose.  Yes, I think, even the poor dog feels the effects of this darkness as he loses the light, his nose loses its color as I have lost mine. “Snow nose” the experts call it.  I dream of the dog days of summer…those long days of light and swelter with that sun illuminating my skin and the poor dogs nose has enough sunshine to stay brown. 


Brown nose gone for the winter.

A physical reminder that we are all, in one way or another, affected by the lack of light. Three days of sun in the entire month of November. Three. No more. Just three. Three.

I wander into my office and see the watercolor paints.  A perfect distraction from the darkness that is pressing in and trying to suffocate me.  I should paint. That helps. Maybe later I think as I head to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.  One more cup than I usually drink. It is going to be a tough day. I know ALL that I should do and have to do, but the truth is that November is winning today.  It is winning because I know it is just the beginning of so many dark months to come.  I grumble inside and  stumble back past the watercolors and put my coffee down and begin to wash the page with water to limber it up for all of the color it will absorb in my search for joy; for the ignition of the creative energy that lives and resides inside of me. 

 And as I stand swishing the brush in the deepest darkest purple I can find, a precipitous, dizzying ray of light beams through the window and onto my workspace, almost blinding me.  In a glimmering moment of pure exaltation, I exhale a small smile and suddenly feel, a whisper lighter. IMG_2415 (2)I thank the goddess of the sun as my brush moves lightly and freely over the page.  One flicker of sunshine on my table and then you are gone. But today, it is enough. It is more than I had expected as the cloudy day settles in and around and I realize I am going to make it through, yet another, no-light November day in New Hampshire.


Mission Mac n’ Cheese

Gather the ingredients.  Lots to do. Little time.  Priority…get young son his favorite mac n’ cheese to be delivered by his sister who will be leaving tonight for a conference in Burlington where young son now resides.

It starts quickly and I am sure there is a trip to the market in store, but glory be in the highest I am relieved that all ingredients are home!  I quickly melt the butter, doubling the batch as I always do because, it seems there is just never enough. I am not a great cook, but the one thing everyone requests of my limited culinary skills is my mac n cheese.  A recipe passed down from a friend, altered and revised to be my very own secret.  

As I stare into the melting butter bubbles, I remember the most important ingredient of all.  Love. Yes, laugh if you will, but as I stand and stir the rue with fresh thyme and bay leaves it starts to come together in a scented silky smooth white that I could bathe in; I think love. I think love is comfort and the ultimate in that category is Mac n’ cheese.  Slowly as I stir, the hurries leave my body and I settle into the now. I take a deep breath into the sweet smell of thyme and stir and stir and stir.

Every October 20th I made this for my Dad’s birthday per his request with hot dogs on the side and ice cream, always ice cream for dessert.  Tradition. I think about how I have made it every year on his birthday since he passed 6 years ago, but this year I did not. I am late in the making of this creamy, sinful goodness.  The kind of food my Mom always kept from my Dad and his type 2 diabetes to keep him alive. The food nazi we called her. Poor man was doled out 5 crackers, 3 nuts at a time and sweets were forever a “no no”.

Alarmed, saddened, guilty I think of my Dad, now gone 6 years and that sadness inside suddenly stirs and I am standing at the stovetop sobbing. Stirring…stirring… stirring…  Missing Dad.  Missing Zach. Missing all that has changed in this past year that is all completely out of my hands. 


My Mac Men

With tears streaming down my face, Dixie Chics howling in the background I let it come.  I cry for my Dad. I cry for my kids. I cry for our country. I cry for this world. I just cry a big ugly fabulous cleansing cry.

Through my tears as I add the mac to the cheese I begin to see layers of bubbles and cream and holes…the complexity of which I had not ever noticed and as I look I see places in those elbow noodles where grief  hides, where joy gathers, where people come together in these dark days of New England in search of solace and good company and yes, comfort food.

IMG_2359What I would do for one more birthday dinner around the table with my Dad as the star, loving every moment where he gets everything he wants in one simple meal?   For those days when the family was more whole and times were just a bit easier? I wipe away the tears as I put it in the oven and take a deep breath.  

Check that off the list as I rush off to get ready for work and the house fills with the sweetness of the mornings efforts.  I take the masterpiece out of the oven and smile, knowing it will fill my boy for the next week, knowing I don’t have to think about dinner again today.  And as I fill the individual containers it is imperative I have a taste and for sure it seems to be one of the better batches I have made in a long time. It’s the love.  I am sure of it.

Mac n cheese anyone?


Remembering Dad and Where I’m From

I came across this article today.   Dad died 5 years ago this September and today, October 20th would have been his 90th birthday. Every day I wonder what his thinking would be about our current political climate… and so much more.  He always had a way of saying just a few words that really made you think.  As I reread this I reconnect with so many values and beliefs he instilled in me without even trying.

Having grown up amidst campaign offices I can recall the excitement in the air of a possible win and the heaviness of an impending loss.  As kids we stuffed envelopes and spent late nights at the Wayfarer waiting for elections results to come in.  The idea that he changed from Republican to Democrat for the betterment of all speaks volumes about who he was and what he stood for.  He was more interested in the greater good than individual notoriety.  I wish there was more of this in our world.

So today, in your honor,  I will prepare your favorite birthday meal with some homemade mac and cheese with hot dogs on the side and of course ice cream for dessert.  Just so wish you were to to have it with us.

Miss you Dad.


Article about my father Don Madden, which appeared in Boston Globe, August 6, 1989


Publisher-Democrat strategist wins wide respect

By Peg Boyles, Special to the Globe, 1989

Manchester – A teddy bear of a man, grizzled, slightly rumpled, affable, with a distracted air and a habit of speaking in mumbled phrases– Don Madden seems an unlikely genius.

But business associates, friends and political insiders describe the 61-year-old publisher of the New Hampshire Business Review as a creative genius, especially recalling him as the brilliant political strategist whose media and advertising work were substantially responsible for getting a string of New Hampshire democrats elected to high office from the early 1960’s through the late 1970s.

These associates say Madden’s accomplishments have been obscured by his pronounced distaste for self-promotion, and that others have taken credit for many of his ideas.

“Don Madden is an under-stated, self-contained, non-assertive, brilliant guy,” says Bill Dunfey, co-founder of the Dunfey hotel chain (now the Omni) vice-president of the Dunfey Group and a leading Democratic activist.

Dunfey and Madden met at the University of New Hampshire in the early 1950s, when Madden edited the college newspaper and Dunfey was writing his thesis for his master’s degree on how to organize the state’s Democratic party.

Dunfey says of Madden: “He’s a brilliant conceptualizer, a quick study who can listen to what you’re trying to do and come up with a simple, straightforward idea that cuts through the complications.  It doesn’t sound like much when he first talks about it, but when he gets it down on paper, you suddenly see it’s far superior to anything else you’ve got.  Don’s so quiet and non-aggressive, so different from other political consultants. New candidates never liked him; other ad agencies never knew what to make of him.”

Republican strategists also came to respect Madden. “He understands real people.  He’s very good at analyzing the public mood,” says Marshall Cobleigh, former speaker of the State House of Representatives who later served as aide to Gov. Meldrim Thomson.  “He’s highly respected in the business.  You know you’re in trouble when he’s on the other side.”

In fact, none of the nearly 30 people interviewed concerning Madden had anything negative to say about the publisher-political strategist.

Raised in Antrim, Madden received a degree in English from UNH in 1956, interrupting his studies between 1952 and 1956 to serve as an officer in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict.

After a brief stint as a reporter for the Rutland (Vt.) Herald, he returned to Hillsborough in 1957 to start a weekly newspaper, the Tri-Town Yankee.

“It was a Republican newspaper,” Madden says.  “I was a Republican then.  I’d grown up in a Republican environment – in those days, to be a Democrat was to be a clown.”


Strong competition

     In fact, his decision to join forces with the struggling New Hampshire Democrats was derived less from partisan zeal than from “my strong belief that the state was hamstrung with a one-party system.  We need strong competition among political ideas.  If I lived in Massachusetts today, I’d probably be a Republican.”

Madden sold the Hillsborough paper in 1960 and worked as a news editor for Boston radio station WBZ for a few months before accepting an invitation from Dunfey to run the media campaign for Romeo V. Champagne’s unsuccessful 1961 run for Congress from New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

Meanwhile, Madden was pursuing his dream of starting a Manchester newspaper to provide some counterpoint to the dominance of the ultra-conservative Union Leader.

“It’s difficult to overstate the power of the Union Leader in the days before TV, when radio stations were weaker and there were many fewer print publications,” he says.“It wasn’t so much {the late William} Loeb’s twisted editorials as the paper’s absolute power to determine which issues would even get talked about.  Very few decision-makers ever realized the full extent of that power.”

Madden pulled together $50,000 from 10 investors and started the Manchester Free Press in1961.  He ran the paper on a shoestring budget, writing news and editorials, editing and selling advertising himself.  After he married in 1963, his wife, Mary Lee, handled all the design and paste-up work.

“The best thing I had going then was my column, `The Black Cat.’ It was political gossip, written in a whimsical style.  I offered it half-price to 27 dailies around New Hampshire if they’d agree to fill out a weekly questionnaire.  I’d ask for any good local stuff they had, get them to poll local decision-makers on issues of statewide importance.”


Column widely read

     At one point, Madden says, the column had a combined circulation of 60,000, rivaling that of the Union Leader.

Though his paper’s circulation gradually climbed to 10,000, the Free Press never got off the ground in the advertising marketplace dominated by the Union Leader, Madden says. Lack of secure financing, utter exhaustion and the feeling his  doing little to undercut Loeb’s hegemony forced Madden to fold the Free Press in 1965.

Trading on his knowledge of the state’s press, politics and people, Madden opened a small advertising agency, Madden Associates. All along he had been doing political work for Democrats – Tom McIntyre, John King, Ollie Huot and others – and through his agency handled commercial accounts.  Madden says that for the next 14 years, “I made a lot of money from politics.”

“With McIntyre, we were the first to put 90 percent of our budget into radio.  My reasoning was simple: In a newspaper, people have to seek out your ad.  With radio, there’s no escape.

“I told McIntyre,`Use Loeb as your backboard. Don’t kowtow to him.’ So we blasted him at every opportunity.  The only print media we used was the Union Leader.  In those days they ran front-page advertising and we poured money into the front page, mostly taking editorials from other newspapers and running them as political ads.”


Successful radio ads

     Observers agree that Madden’s most significant achievement in politics was the series of radio ads widely credited with sparking voters to elect John Durkin over Louis Wyman for the U.S. Senate in 1975.

“I remember the first time I met Don.  He seemed like your typical New Hampshire Yankee, like most anyone you’d meet deer hunting,” says Durkin who came to regard Madden as “the most brilliant political strategist in New Hampshire, without equal in either party.”

“Louis Wyman was the toughest Republican of them all. People thought he was unbeatable,” says Durkin. “Well, Louis had had a cocktail fund-raiser in Washington, and the list of attendees read like a who’s-who of corporate America.  Those were the days of the Arab oil embargo.  There’d been hikes in food prices.  The state had 8 ½ percent unemployment.

“Don’s most memorable ad had a smooth voice speaking over the tinkling of a cocktail piano and the murmur of voices. `Guests at a recent cocktail fund-raiser for Louis Wyman included representatives of the following companies …’ You’d hear the sound of a cash register opening, and the voice said, `These companies don’t have much to do with New Hampshire, but they sure have a lot to do with the price of gasoline, bread and sugar.’

“The ads were devastating. We carried every area that had a local radio station,” says Durkin.

As the 1970s drew to a close, Madden faded from politics. “When McIntyre lost and then Hugh Gallen, I felt we’d come to the end of a cycle,” Madden says.

He moved back into publishing in 1979, buying a failed monthly tabloid called the New Hampshire Business World.  Madden changed the name to the New Hampshire Business Review, and in typical workhorse style, he and his wife ran the paper alone the first few years.

The first year, the Business Review appeared monthly and grossed $75,000.  Today, Madden’s company, Business Publications, Inc., publishes the biweekly Business Review and the slick monthly magazine Manchester – with circulations of 15,000 and 14,000 respectively.  The company also handles about 30 special projects annually and is a $2 million operation with 25 employees.

Though Madden is nervous about the recent economic downturn, he has plans to introduce “a major new regional publication” early next year.

Response to the Business Review has been enthusiastic among New Hampshire business people.

“The paper has made an enormous impact on New Hampshire. It was a pioneering effort – prior to it, there was no statewide business publication, no comprehensive coverage of New Hampshire business news,” says Mark Bodi, the former vice president of retail banking at Numerica Savings Bank.  Bodi recently became head of corporate relations for the Manchester advertising agency of O’Neil, Griffin Associates.

“Don combines a realistic amount of hard hitting business news with a vehicle for companies to promote their products and services,” Bodi says.

Much as he disliked the organizational side of politics, Madden says he hates “the business of business.  Here I am bogged down managing three sales forces, turning up new accounts, chasing accounts receivable.  I wish I were bigger so I could afford to hire someone to do what I do. What I like to do is talk to people, write, come up with ideas.”

Madden still prefers keeping his profile low.  “It’s not modesty,” he says adding “I like to see things work.  I don’t care if I see my name in the paper.”

Madden’s views on N.H. issues

On the New Hampshire economy: “It’s a real phenomenon. Everything has ground to a halt. Suddenly everyone has stopped spending, even though we’ve got the lowest unemployment in the country.

“One of the worst things the banks ever did is come up with the idea of home equity loans.  When times are good, people spend a lot; then they’ve locked into payments for all those years.  Add that to five-year car payments, the high cost of housing.  People are spent up to the hilt.

“The banks did everything they tell their customers not to do. They overbuilt a whole market. Here they are, building $200,000 and $300,000 houses when here’s a tremendous pent-up demand for $100,000 houses. We’ve got to do something to stimulate construction of low, and moderately priced housing.  It hurts the whole system when you start shutting so many people out.”

On broad-based taxes:“The voters of New Hampshire do not want a sales or income tax.  The voter knows the new tax won’t lower his property tax, and it won’t go to pay for the services the politicians says it will.  Instead, it’ll pay for 200 new jobs in Concord and 500 pet projects on hold in the Legislature.  Being against taxes is like a religion here.  You can’t beat it.  It is going to take a monumental crisis to change the state’s tax structure.”

On growth: “Controlled growth is a nice-sounding phrase, but it doesn’t mean much.  I once had a theory on controlling growth.  You’d simply make it against the law ever to widen a street, road or highway. If you wanted to increase traffic flow, you’d have to build a parallel road.  Of course that didn’t happen and it’s too late now.”

On politics: “All campaigns should be three sentences long. Anchor your campaign in two or three simple issues, hammer at those and let the rest fall where they may.”

On New Hampshire Democrats: “Republicans have forever gotten elected on three things: No new taxes, local control and the mystical quality of life.  Democrats say, `If that’s what Republicans are for, we’ve got to be for something else. We’ve got to go out and educate the voters about what they really need.’

There are a dozen good issues out there that can elect Democrats. Take something as simple as parking meters, which have nothing at all to do with parking, but everything to do with raising revenue.  Parking fines are really getting under   of the average voter.

“And how come with all this quality of life, women are no longer safe in shopping center parking lots?  Why don’t we have public access to our lakes anymore?  Why has the cost of housing gotten so far out of reach for the average wage-earner?  Child care, elder care, these are all good issues for Democrats.  Democrats should be getting themselves elected on things that people want.  Instead of lecturing voters and trying to educate them on what they should want.”

Madden’s thought on politics

On the Romeo Champagne campaign for Congress, 1961: “We did something unusual in that campaign.  We put the AP wire in at campaign headquarters, so we knew in advance what the papers would be carrying that day.  That gave us a tremendous advantage, being prepared with a response instead of having to react to what we read in the papers.”

On the McIntyre campaign for U.S. Senate, 1962: “My approach was always to take a simple idea and present it in a way people could understand.  For instance, with McIntyre, we had a woman taking a dress out of her washing machine to find it had disintegrated.  Then a voice said, `This wouldn’t happen today because of the new law that requires manufacturers to print washing instructions on the label of every garment.’ Tom McIntyre wrote that law.  Ever notice the way people who take care of the small things have a way of doing the big things well?”

Lyndon B. Johnson write-in {During the New Hampshire presidential primary of 1968}: “LBJ refused to campaign.  Here he is running for president, but we have no candidate, no one to see, hear, touch.  We have to have some sort of symbol of him, something for people to do.  I got this idea of the pledge cards – having people sign a card promising to write in his name on the ballot.”

The issue became a political embarrassment.  “But the incredible thing is that even though the Johnson people publicly disavowed the whole thing, the White House used to call my office every day if the cards didn’t arrive on time.  “What can the president possibly want with them?” I’d ask, and his aide replied, `What can I say? The man likes to sit and fondle ‘em.’

“Johnson ended up with 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for {Eugene J.}  McCarthy. The press called it a loss, but I think it was a monumental win.  He won the popular election never having been in the state.”

On the 1978 Hugh Gallen/Meldrim Thomson campaign: “Mel Thomson’s support of Seabrook was the one time Thomson was on the wrong side of a consumer issue.  We hammered that issue and said “If Seabrook comes on line, your electric rates will double or triple.  It was very effective.”

School Shootings: A title I never wanted to write.

I wake yet again, with a heavy heart as I think of all of the children, all of my dear friends, colleagues, young moms, dads and yes, even myself who will walk into a school building today. I have to be honest, each time there is a school shooting I become hyper aware of the brick and mortar I am entering. I look left, I look right, I take a deep breath and hope that you asking for my ID behind the locked doors is enough to keep us all safe. I try to take solace in the fact that so many of YOU are in the building already and that on this day we will all remain safe. It is a risk and one that becomes more and more immediate and, one that is absolutely absurd, one that I will continue to take, as will all of you.

I come from an age where public school buildings were just that, open to the public. You could drive up, walk into the office at any time of the day with no buzzers, no ID, no nothing. The freedom of those times is not lost on me. That freedom is what we must work our way back to, but as my Dad said on 911, “things are forever changed”. Boy was he right. I just never knew it would continue to get worse and worse. As my career shifted and changed and I moved from one school to many I slowly saw this change of “security” as I encountered one locked door after another. My initial and lasting thoughts are of sheer frustration. I hate the idea of kids behind locked doors. I am annoyed at having to “prove” myself every time I wanted to enter as someone who would do no harm. I know I “should” be happy that these procedures are in place, but I am not. At every turn we lose one right after another and all in the name of fear. And my greatest fear is that we will continue to move in this direction, arming teachers, installing metal detectors and officers before we look at and address the root of the problem. It is time to say NO!

27973530_1624288757651329_7901777495002855559_n (1)

I started watching The Handmaid’s Tale, adapted for a TV series from a book that I read in college, a book that remains torn and tattered on my shelf from those days in the 80’s when I read it and reread it, in sheer disbelief. For me it was one of THOSE books that haunts you for life. The TV adaptation is well done as it is put in more modern times, but to be honest, it frightens me because all of the characters are saying what we are saying about what is going on in this world right now. “They can’t DO this” shout the woman as they lose their bank accounts, their jobs, their livelihood as they drink a bottle of wine together after being escorted out of their jobs one after another.

the handmaid's tale

I flash to my book group where we all discuss the absurdity of what is happening in this country and yes, we are drinking our wine and agreeing with each other, but I can’t help but think about what is going on behind closed doors and how, honestly, powerless I feel. When did WE become so powerless? I have done the marches, I have written and sent my postcards, and I will continue to work to get the right people in office …but to what end? It just doesn’t feel like enough. It NEVER feels like enough. We KNOW Russia intervened with the election and still…NOTHING happens….yet.

In walk these amazing kids from Stoneman Douglas High. For the first time since November (you know which November I mean) I have begun to unearth some hope rising inside of me. It has to be THIS generation with fire in their bellies, that (with millions of 18 year olds who will be eligible to vote this year) need to show up. They did not show up at our last election, disenfranchised with the process and rightly so, but ultimately action is more effective than inaction.


At the same time I feel the need to apologize to all of those generations younger than me that we did not do an adequate job at keeping this country united and safe for all of you.

At a local elementary school this week I was about to have class when a 5-minute emergency staff meeting was called. It was to address the upcoming scheduled walk out in March for 17 minutes; one minute for each child gunned down in Florida. As this is an elementary school they were working to make sure that, if teachers wanted to participate then that was their right and they would work to make that happen. What I appreciated even more was the fierce message that we must protect our kids and that although some may know about what is going on, that many others may not and that protecting their innocence is of utmost importance. While I appreciated this open dialogue I was once again saddened that this had to be a topic. Period.


We chose a career, many of us out of passion; one that was fascinating to us as we work to learn to understand the inner workings of children: the minds and hearts of these little beings that come into our care each day. The kids we each take home with us, the ones that we mull over as we are in the shower, driving to school, the ones who perplex us, the ones who hug us. We are in the trenches each and every day trying to make a difference but the distractions of the world are slowly taking over keeping us from doing what we need to do. Our schools are far from perfect, but the right to an education is what is at stake here.   We NEED to preserve this institution to ensure a fair and equal education for ALL in SAFE spaces.  2018-01-25-protest-get-up-stand-up-for-your-rights-400-300Not just the rich and the famous and the lucky, but also the poor, the unknown and the not so lucky. We are so much better than what plays out every day on the media. We just are. And fighting for the rights of each individual is just something we have to do. There is no other choice when you sit in a 3rd grade classroom and watch a teacher read aloud to a group of students who are enthralled with the reading of Wonder, as they discuss empathy, caring, understanding and what it means to be an outcast or when you see a kindergartener make her own book that she is dying to share with you or when you see a table of first graders giggling at Captain Underpants together or when you see 6th graders confer with their teacher on the Civil Rights movement giving voice to  how they are personally discriminated against. This all matters. What you do matters. Don’t forget that in the wake of all that tries to undermine that.

Tweeting is For the Birds

I confess, I do not tweet and I am (finally) at peace with it.


There, I said it. I said what many are thinking and perhaps, afraid or just not wanting to say.  I am a twitter fail.  (unless you are an avid tweeter and while I respect your choice to tweet.   I just don’t get it!)

Last week, Learning Through Teaching (LTT) hosted Lester Laminack at the University of New Hampshire.  As his presentation began he made several references  as to what could or could not be tweeted.   And while I found myself completely engaged in Lester’s talk, I also found myself suddenly wondering, “Should I be the one tweeting?” As the director of LTT, I realized the obvious answer would be yes and so I took my eyes off this belly-laughing, engaging talk and put my head down and into the light of the eternal phone flame. Instantly I felt the glow illuminate my ever reddening face as I became self conscious that I was not paying attention.  I felt like that kid in the back of the class who is interested in anything and anyone but what is going on in the room.  Onward I flew.   I mean doesn’t everyone else NEED to know how awesome this is and how much fun they are missing?

Image from Wired

So I attempted to login to twitterdeck so that I could tweet not just as me (as I have nary a few followers because, remember, I DON’T tweet). So I logged in only to discover that it was the wrong account. As I found myself, once again, in password hell (a place I frequent much too often for anyone’s comfort) I felt myself surging with heat of frustration (and hot flashes) as I threw off my sweater and thought, DAMMIT, this is NOT going to beat me!

I turned to my colleague next to me, a younger version of who I used to think I used to be, and she looked at me, shrugged and said, “I don’t do twitter.”  She owned it. She was not apologetic.  And in that moment I realized  it was NOT my age


50 year old Tweety Bird. Image by flickr

that kept me from this world of tweeting fowl, but my own personal dislike for a platform that honestly, I just don’t like! And I have tried people. I really have tried over and over and over, over the years. I keep thinking it is like that one book that you pick up over and over but you just can’t get into it. I give myself permission to abandon that book with ease…so why the hell should I struggle with abandoning this virtual platform that I just don’t like or fully get? Well, this day I granted myself permission.

So I put my phone down as everyone around me threw themselves into stitches of laughter and I realized I had missed it. Not only had I missed that moment, but I had also missed every moment since I turned my face from Lester to the almighty phone that seems to rule me and others in more ways than we ever thought possible.

And as I looked around I saw that I was in a room filled with teachers, respected colleagues and friends who were NOT tweeting. We were the anti-twitter group. dare-to-be-different-t-shirts-men-s-premium-t-shirtEveryone was engaged, laughing, listening and I thought to myself. Screw this! Isn’t this what everyone is complaining about? People on their phones?  But seriously, what message are we sending here? Is it actually possible to tweet and be completely present? One might argue that it is akin to taking notes. I would argue it is not because the ultimate purpose of the tweet is to see how many responses you can get and to see if you make the leader board for what is trending. This mechanism asks you to look back and back and back at your phone to see what others are tweeting and well, I have to ask, WHAT about the person in the room with you that is presenting? If one is trending virtually, what is happening in reality? And really, does anyone REALLY care who is not there? I ask this with respect and a niggling that we are caught up in a world that is not real. If we trend does that make the work better? Does that make what is happening in real life more or less real?  Are we ever truly present if we base our worth on what is happening elsewhere and virtually no less?

Now I am sure you are thinking, what a  curmudgeon, but I am not, at least not completely!   Part of my job is to upkeep our UNH LTT facebook page ( Learning Through Teaching) and I will tell you, it is not a task for the feint of heart. Content balanced with photos balanced with reliable sources and messages and articles and charts and graphs that align with our philosophy.  I enjoy doing it but I do often wonder…to what end? At least in Facebook the post will be there for the entire day and will not get buried in all of the other tweets that embed my feed. I can see who likes and responds and perhaps it is the speed of FB that I prefer. Tweeting seems so fleeting because it is.

So where does this leave me? I am about to attend the annual NCTE conference where twitterers will abound and I will be in the minority. I could go as I did last year and hide my bad relationship with twitter and pretend to tweet as I  play Toyblast or even glance at my twitter feed only to wonder if I have chosen poorly as the other sessions seem to be so much more interesting.  But are they really or is it just the outward projection of what is being put out there?  If I am so engaged in what is happening everywhere else at the conference I wonder,  am I  missing out?   Have I  made the wrong choice?  Am I not making the best of my time?  It is stressful.

No.  I will go, notebook and pen in hand and put the phone in the pocketbook for safe keeping and come out of the closet and admit that I choose NOT to be glued to my phone and at the mercy of the trending tweets.   I will sit in my sessions, look straight at the presenter and remember that we are not all birds that flock together because in my humble opinion, tweeting is just for the birds.



Break the Silence with Compassion

In the wake of the election I find myself at odds with everything I thought I knew… I grieve with so many and wake everyday to a face palm moment


Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

as each new appointee is named. The idea of going so far backwards in human rights, the disregard for the constitution, and utter disbelief that the behavior displayed by this man child is acceptable to ANYone hangs heavy on me each and every day.

I have noticed a shift in my graduate classes in schools, where there is a herd of elephants in the room and people who want to talk and others who don’t.  And while my first inclination is to let the conversation “go there” my next is to not. Silenced are many in the group. A group that has been together for so long…some feel empowered to speak passionately while others not so much and then you think, perhaps some people in this room voted for Trump and so we move forward with our polite conversations about conversations.

And so out of respect we do not go there…but I wonder is that the right way to go either? I realize that my classes that are largely based on discussion, heck two of them are focusing on classroom conversations and discussion, but they are stilted and without the ease and flow of yesterday. We do not trust each other anymore. We are unable to discuss anything that is disagreeable. The art of conversation seems lost or at least  dying when it comes to anything that is the least bit antagonistic.

I have lived with a Republican my entire married life and while this has been a challenge, ultimately I have respected that he has different opinions and viewpoints. And as much as I didn’t like it I had to respect it. As I have been saying from the day that man threw his hat in the ring, “THIS IS DIFFERENT”. And what I see happening every day in schools proves just how completely different it really is.  They are calling it the Trump Effect, yes it even has a name.

Stories of kids marching in to school the day after the election chanting, “Build that wall, build that wall” while others screamed out, “hang her” and “assassinate him”. Teachers are ill equipped to deal with this especially when the word from above is to not engage in discussion about the election and its’ results. (Can you even imagine NOT discussing the election…not even in Social Studies??) Teachers with election hangovers, like us all the day after, were left speechless at the behaviors going on around them. Silencing our teachers or silencing anyone is the first sign that oppression is winning.

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words could never hurt me.”

And this I knew was surely true

And truth could not desert me.

But now I know it is not so.

I’ve changed the latter part;

For sticks and stones may break the bones

But words can break the heart.

Sticks and stones may break the bones

But leave the spirit whole,

But simple words can break the heart

Or silence crush the soul.

by Herb Warren

“silence crush the soul” this phrase haunts me as I sit and listen to these stories that make their way to me after class and in the hallways because these teachers need to talk.They NEED to talk and to let kids know that these behaviors are NOT acceptable and so that is where we begin. We begin by addressing the behaviors to create a safe environment for all of our kids and teachers.


Photo Credit:Business 2 Community

I use Delta’s letter to its employees as an example of how to NOT be silent, but to speak out in volumes about how we need to be better than this.  (See here for Delta Letter) Delta took a stand on civility (that had nothing to do with taking a political side) and that is exactly what we need to do. We need to take a stand and not normalize any of this behavior because it is not normal! We need to call alt-right out for what it is, White Supremacy. We need to be truthful about what is happening right in front of our eyes and use our voices to let kids know what is acceptable behavior in school and what is not.  These kids are scared.  They are experiencing things we never experienced growing up.  They are anxious and nervous and it is our job to help them deal in any way that we can.

We can do this without addressing politics because this is NOT politics as usual. THIS IS DIFFERENT.

This is Lord of the Flies gone awry.  “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” …Lord of the Flies.

We have come so far past this and choosing silence is choosing to not be a part of the solution. So I urge you to speak out, speak to each other, speak to your students about what is acceptable and what is not.


Photo Credit:  John Bryan

One man is not the role model…we are all role models and we can do better. We can do so so so much better. And part of that is giving our students a voice, a voice that allows them to speak with confidence and the knowledge around what they are saying instead of jumping on a bandwagon of chanters and not even understanding the implications or meanings of what they are saying.  Teach them debate, points and counterpoints.  Teach them to speak with grace and compassion and hope and understanding.  Teach them to listen with their whole bodies to each other.

It is time to work with compassion, not just empathy. Empathy is feeling for others, compassion takes that one step further where you feel and then you take action. So with compassion we must move out of our grief and take actions every single day that move us away from the hatred that is running rampant in the hallways, on the streets and in between. We do have the power in each moment, in each interaction and those moments matter more than ever before.

And so I call on myself and for each of us to take action and make it known that we are in this together, regardless of how you voted, we are in this to create within the walls of our schools, our homes, our towns, our states, safe places and spaces where everyone is accepted regardless of race, religion or sex.


Photo Credit: charterforcompassion.

Education is a big part of the answer. The more we know the more we realize how much we don’t know and in that we find humility and the ability to live from a place of compassion, together, and in peace.  Our jobs as educators is bigger than ever here and we can help ourselves and our kids through this…we can.  One moment, one child, one interaction at a time and while I know it will be painful the truth is that we got this.  WE CAN DO THIS!  We have no other choice.

Thank you for listening…

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