Thursday, September 3, 2015

Refuge

Each afternoon I would come home, catch up on email correspondence, switch the laundry or empty the dishwasher, prep for dinner, exercise and then prepare for class. I've needed to stay on top of Shakespeare's Henry V, including all the English and French history that surrounds the story. And then students started sending me their writing, which I love to read, which I needed to give feedback.

The past few days, I have been sustained by my Thursday after-school plans: sitting poolside and finishing "The Republic of Imagination," in time for the Ladies' Literary Society meeting tonight.

Deep breath.

I made it. I am here.

Refuge. Everyone needs refuge.

I have seen it in my students, the ones who don't feel like they completely belong at lunch, who seek refuge in my class.

I can be refuge for others. And for me that is a kind of refuge.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ed, the man who sells shutters, stops by the house in an apologetic fit.

Last June, we ordered shutters for a room blasted by the summer, afternoon sun. The shutters were supposed to take only six weeks to be manufactured and installed.

Three months later, I remember the shutters were never installed.

"Why didn't you call sooner?" Ed asks.

"Well, things got a little busy around here," I answer. I don't mention the three weddings and the steady flow of guests, and that life is passing so fast I never got around to it.

Ed feels obligated to explain what might have happened: a secretary who fell behind, and he still feels responsible for the delay because "that kind of thing just shouldn't happen."

I'm really not concerned, nor disappointed, nor an angry customer, nor do I ever consider asking for a discount for the delay. Frankly it doesn't matter. The shutters will come, and if I were angry, how could I ever take it out on Ed? I think my nonchalance throws Ed.

He's going out of his way and will return tomorrow to fix the blind that got left behind too.

I follow Ed to his car, where he hands me his card. There is a little bit of small talk, as small talk goes between casual acquaintances, and he just celebrated his 55th wedding anniversary.

"Congratulations! Did you do something special?"

"Not really. We went out to dinner."

"Well that's special."

"It's hard for my wife to get out with her back injury. Plus she's beat two different cancers and..."

I am already overwhelmed by the back injury, and her two cancers, that the last affliction is lost in my compassion for Ed and his wife.

"See Ed, that's what matters. Not shutters."

 And we both understand why the delay was only that.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Privacy

I'm waiting for my grocery total in the express-10 items or less lane, when a motorized wheelchair moves in behind me. Without looking, I assume the person is handicapped and intentionally don't look. Yet, when the man drops several items, I can't ignore him, so I bend down, pick up plastic forks from the floor and the shampoo bottle on his foot rest. He is missing a foot.

 I instinctively want to make him feel better. Yes, I know that is irrational, and I can't make his life better, unless I count this three second act of service.
 
 It's human nature to care, to soothe, to want to connect. However, to act any further would have been unnecessary and self serving. We often try to make this connection by asking questions of a stranger.

My nephew in law, when he lost his best high school friend, impulsively and with great sorrow, made his way to the tattoo parlor to indelibly honor his friend. Ten years later, and after inquiries in the thousands, he's careful to dress so the tattoo stays hidden. It's tiring to always answer the questions about his leg tattoo. Years ago, I was one of the questioners. My concern, my questioning made me think, that he would think, I was interested in him. If I had known that he would have preferred not to be asked, I wouldn't have. I had made the erroneous assumption that a visible tattoo was a conversation starter and, and not that a visible tattoo could be private.

When I encounter someone with a nose ring or a lip ring, I have the same desire to question. Why? Did it hurt? If I did ask, I might be the 100th person to inquire that week, and again, what right would I have to ask?

A new employee at our school has some hefty biceps and a slightly visible tattoo on one of those muscles. When I first saw it, my old friendly self (or so I thought), wanted to inquire; but I remembered all of the above and wanted most of all to begin our relationship and to get to know him for HIM--not for the tattoo on his arm.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Since the children have all grown up and moved away (somewhat, since London and Paloma came last night for dinner and laundry privileges), Tony, as previously mentioned, has been shifting everything into order. One of those "in order" jobs has been cleaning out the mysterious, foil wrapped, food looking items that have been in the Martinez Antartica, aka freezer, for who knows how long. On Friday, he released a ziploc bag filled with square "chicken breast" looking things.

After pulling back the tin foil, he determined it was a kind of vegetable cake I'd previously made. I couldn't remember ever making such a thing.

"Yes, you took it and cooked it in a little hot oil."

Still couldn't remember. "Was it falafel?" I asked.

"Maybe."

Sunday morning, the freezer mystery item was sufficiently thawed, and I pulled back the foil, and indeed it may have been a chickpea concoction, but I wasn't convinced. I put chicken in the crockpot just in case.

As we prepared to make lunch, Tony pulled the mystery food out of the fridge, unwrapped it, put it on a plate, microwaved it, set it on the table. We still didn't know what it was.

The horror. The horror.

But Tony persisted and divided the food between us. We approached cautiously with forks in hand. The prayer was unusually sincere.

"I think it's lasagne," I said.

"Yes, lasagne," Tony agreed.

"But it's definitely lasagne you wouldn't have made."

"I'm not so sure."

"Look at all the meat on the bottom and scattered across the top."

"Then who made it?"

"I don't know."

But we continued to eat, because it tasted good.

Neither of us experienced repercussions from the food, and so the unidentified food adventure continues.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Commitment

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I take the sacrament once a week while attending church. It's a weekly covenant patterned after the sacrament ministered by Jesus Christ millennia ago. The administration and the prayers of the sacrament are carried out by the young men who have received different levels of the priesthood.

For a young man, I imagine this rite of passage is a great privilege, but never more so did I realize this than when I saw a young man who "passed" the sacrament in California. The young man was afflicted with what appeared to be cerebral palsy. Though he could walk, it was with slight difficulty, and he used his hands to support himself. It would have been difficult for him to pass the sacrament. Passing the sacrament consists of carrying two different trays after two different prayers. One tray contains blessed bread and the other is a tray of blessed water.

The young man "passed" the sacrament at the side of an able bodied friend who carried the trays for him. I was moved by his commitment.

Often, when I "can't" do something, I accept the "can't" and move on. For the most part this is a good thing, because sometimes, I stand on a high mountain and wish I could soar to the bottom like a bird. To act would be senseless; yet there were those who didn't accept the "can't" and reasonably, methodically, committed to figuring out how to fly. Thank goodness for those people who didn't accept "cant."

And so, I wonder what a real handicap is: the physical limitations of disability or the disability of I can't.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

 I teach writing to discover. Usually writers, non writers, and students, write to write, and it's often a chore. Or worse, people don't write.

 I challenge students to begin with an idea, a thought, an image and just write. I challenge them to be open to discoveries and surprises. Writing can clarify feelings and thoughts hiding in the subconscious. As we write, we solve problems, see a different angle, see a point of view from another person. We discover and often the discovery is a surprise. I can teach this because it is my experience.

While writing the following essay, I made a huge discovery.  While teaching writing to a fellow teacher's class, I shared the following essay along with the insights, surprises and clarity that came from the writing. I could have never guessed that the sharing of this essay would bring a different surprise six months later. First the essay:

For Dad's birthday one year, we got front row tickets to an Elton John concert. It was sort of a full circle gift, because several, several years earlier, when Loraine and I were still in high school, Dad had bought us impossible-to-get-Elton-John-concert tickets. It took both my sister and me by surprise that Dad was so hip. He'd just gotten us the most coveted tickets in town and we hadn't even asked.

This night, I sat front row with my seventy-year-old father and mother (not quite seventy) and my two adored sisters. We'd all dressed up for he occasion. In fact...I think I have a photo of the pre-event. I will check...look to the bottom of the post.

As expected, Elton John was superb. Dad was having a good time. My sisters and I were reliving almost our entire lives. Elton started pounding out the beginning chords to Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting. And then the unexpected: the usher stood at row's end and invited us to go on stage to dance with Elton John. My sisters recognized the once in a lifetime opportunity, immediately and they airlifted from their chairs to the stage. They didn't think twice; I, on the other hand, did. I looked at Mom and Dad, almost as if I needed their approval. Dad had a look of fear on his face and shrunk into his seat. I became the dutiful daughter and stayed with my parents. But here's the funny thing. At the moment, I took it as if he were embarrassed that his daughters would go to the center stage and dance in a showroom full of people. I felt it was my duty to be the one daughter with some sensibility, with an ounce of conservatism. But it wasn't so.

I watched from the front row, as my sisters danced their hearts out with Elton John. We shall never pass this way again. And we didn't.

Years later in a classroom full of ninth graders, the subject of life's biggest regret came up. They wanted to know what mine was. I had to share something that wasn't too personal, something that wouldn't tarnish my image. It was easy. Life's biggest regret became the night I didn't dance with Elton John.

They loved it. Over the next six years, I shared my life's biggest regret. Each class still loved it. But perhaps they loved even more, that when I got the chance to dance, I would do it.

At the end of winterim (three weeks of intense writing), when we passed out our awards for students who wrote 40,000 words and above, we first turned on "Celebration" from Kool and the Gang. We didn't end up handing out the awards; instead we danced. It was so spontaneous, so organic, so magnificent. After three weeks of sitting for hours, dedicating themselves to "Power Write Friday," an eight hour writing challenge, they wanted to hang loose and dance. Most of the students danced, some had to be coaxed, some never joined us. It was ok-all of the choices. I had to tell them my life's biggest regret. And so we kept on dancing. Not all of us, but those who didn't want this to be a moment to regret.

All these years, I blamed Dad and my daughter loyalty, for not dancing with Elton John. This morning while writing this, I had an epiphany~~Dad didn't care if his daughters were on stage dancing their hearts out. He wouldn't have thought we were goofs. He would have loved seeing all three of us and would have kept the memory in his heart. What he feared was that we expected him to come to the stage, and for him, that would have been a nightmare. I used my father's feelings as my excuse for my own inhibition. It's not a terrible thing, but it's a discovery I needed to make.

And that is why, I will always choose to dance.

While explaining the concept of writing to discover, to my new seniors, one student raised her hand.

"Remember the essay you shared with us last year about always choosing to dance?

I didn't remember right away that I'd shared.

"Did you attend the Acapella concert?"

I shook my head no.

The student continued her story, "When I was singing with Viktor, my friends challenged me to start dancing as part of the song. At first I thought "No way," but then I remembered your essay and I thought if Mrs. Martinez can dance then so can I. Viktor was surprised, we didn't even tell him, but it turned out to be the best!"

It turned out to be the best for me too.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Strategies



My friend's parents were leaving for Mexico in a week-- if she could just keep her secret until then. Once they were thousands of miles away, then, and only then, would she reveal the secret. In the meantime, she wore long sleeved shirts and kept parental contact to a minimum.

When her parents arrived in Mexico, as expected, they called home.

"Hi. We got here safe."

"That's good. Er, a, ummm, Mom?"

"Yes?"

 I have something to tell you."

"I'm listening."

"I got a tattoo."

Silence.

After two weeks of drinking pina coladas poolside and indulging in daily siestas, the parents returned home and didn't say a word about the tattoo. The exact outcome, their daughter had calculated and strategized to achieve. The dragon indelibly tattooed on her arm was safe from scrutiny, repercussion, restriction and slaying.

I've come to understand that most children have strategies to deal with a parent's potential disappointment and anger.

For my little sister and me, it was elmer's glue.

Playing kickball in the living room was taboo for all the obvious reasons, but especially since the Swiss wood carvings with delicate deer horns or a hiker's hat with a thin wood feather, were the decorations. The first time the ball hit a deer, knocked it over and broke an antler,  I thought I would surely die at my mother's hand. Not wanting to die, I did my best to glue it back. I waited for discovery and punishment like it was Damocles' sword hanging by the hair of a horse's tail.

But retribution never came; our strategy had worked, and it appeared to have worked for my mother too. Years later, when we moved Mom after thirty years in the same house, I discovered that most of the delicate wood shapes had been glued in one way or another, and I'm betting Dad never knew.

I also had another strategy for concealing tragedies from my parents. On the occasion of my second vehicular mishap, (when I hit a pole driving through an empty parking lot), I came home late so I wouldn't have to tell Dad. He woke up early, so he went to bed early. I also pulled the car as far into the driveway so he was less likely to notice the misplaced bumper. But few things got past Dad--especially the condition of his daughters' cars.

Un-beknownest to me, Dad had his own strategies.

The next morning Mom awakened me with the dreaded words, "Your father's on the phone."

Truly nervous, I said, "Hello."

"How many strikes does a baseball player get before he's out?"

"Three?"

"That's right. You have two. Understand?"

"Yes."

His strategy worked. I never got in another accident again. Unless you count the time...



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Keep Doing

While running the mountainside trail, I come upon a group of Boy Scouts and their leaders on mountain bikes. The caboose leader has stopped to wait for one of the slower bikers. Just before I reach him, he takes off.  In the distance I see him stop again while he waits for the pack to move on.

This happens a few more times before I catch up to the whole group. They hesitate to wait for me, but must let me pass. Bikes are usually faster than runners, and they don't want to get behind me. Yet, I don't intend to stop and wait at every hill. So, I pass and try to stay out of their way at the trail's edge.  One boy is having trouble with his gears. I'm guessing I'll stay ahead.

It turns out there are two groups of Boy Scouts and I catch up to the first group waiting for the slower half. As I pass, the adult leader says to me, "It's pretty sad when a runner passes up bikers."

"Not at all," I respond, "it's hard getting those bikes up the hills," and I'm grateful, I only have to get my single body to the top of each rise. I don't have any gears to grind, my chain doesn't come off, and my bike doesn't break down.

Wait a minute-- it does. My body is subject to all the breakdowns of a bike and as a much more complicated machine, even more so.

My mom and I are talking about aging, because she's doing pretty well in that category. She's sharp in mind and body and can outwork any of my sisters. I ask her if she has any recommendations for aging well.

"Just keep doing what you're doing," and I guess that's exactly what she's been doing. Her advice is my incentive for running my entire hillside route and not cutting it short when tempted.

A little friendly, younger competition doesn't hurt either. I keep looking behind me for the bikers, and every once in a while, I see the leader crest a hill and stop to gaze over the valley and over the trail ahead. He looks like an Indian chief on a horse; I am the cowboy trying to stay ahead of the tribe that's after my scalp.

I manage to stay ahead of them the entire time, and when I come off the trail to the road, my hunter, bike riders, see me below. I think I hear one of them say, "There she is," though it's possible I imagined the words like I imagined the old western movie we were all in.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Deep Thinking Challenge

I don't remember where I found this poem, but it made an immediate and lasting impression. 

For three years, I have used this poem in AP Literature to teach the importance of reading and of making inferences from titles. I intentionally leave off the title and ask students to "guess" the title after studying the distinct imagery. Seeking a hidden answer may pick our interest.

I used this poem in class today, and I loved it more than the last ten readings. The language is rich, developed from the simple occurrences in nature and life.

Once again, I am leaving off the title.  I challenge you to search and name the title, the one simple word the prose is describing. When you figure it out, or think you have, scroll down for the title which doubles as the subject. Absolutely no cheating yourself of the deep thinking it will require--so much better than suduko.

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,  
it shakes sleep from its eyes  
and drops from mushroom gills,  
it explodes in the starry heads  
of dandelions turned sages,  
it sticks to the wings of green angels  
that sail from the tops of maples.    
It sprouts in each occluded eye  
of the many-eyed potato,  
it lives in each earthworm segment  
surviving cruelty,  
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,  
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs  
of the child that has just been born.    
It is the singular gift  
we cannot destroy in ourselves,  
the argument that refutes death,  
the genius that invents the future,  
all we know of God.    
It is the serum which makes us swear  
not to betray one another;  
it is in this poem, trying to speak.    
   
Lisel Mueller




The poem title and subject is: 


hope

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Root of Evil and Joy

At the end of an afternoon visit with my eighty year old, still playful friend, she asks, "Pat, do you need any money?"

Her generosity is surprising, sweet, and she bubbles with joy. I don't want to disappoint her, but I must speak the truth, "I wish I needed some money, but no thanks, I don't need any."

She continues to tell me she just sold her old house and she is flush with extra cash.

I have no doubt had there been a need, she would have derived great pleasure from sharing.

My dad had an oft used phrase: money is the root of all evil, and it must have stemmed from his business dealings in the old days of Vegas, when the mob had its hand in the Vegas money pot. He had his share of stories, some he could never tell.

I once heard a marriage counselor say that she preferred to work with wealthy clients because they already knew money was not the root of their problems, whereas those without money found it to be an easy blame.

So how can money be both the root of joy and the root of evil?

It depends where your heart is and what you believe will make you happy. If you can't be happy until you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, consider it your root of evil; if you can be happy while waiting for the pot of gold, it can be your root of joy. Depending how you nourish your root will determine the strength or the weakness of the fruit you bare.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Looks

Theo on a bad hair day and captured in an un-photogenic moment--but his mother still adored him.

It happens to everyone. Every once in a while, each of us takes a photo that's so bad, so preposterous, so doesn't-look-like us, that it shakes our confidence to the core. And every once in a while, we take a fantastic, almost-movie-star image fit for the Gods. Confidence restored. It's why facebook flourishes--because people only post ideal photos--unless someone tags an unflattering photo--which one can remove, right?

But here's the deal, bad photos, bad looks, awkward stages of growth--no matter how Pinocchio or grizzly bear looking a child may be, a mother's love is guaranteed. Case in point: my daughter sent the above photo just because it was so funny. She knew I'd laugh and love the little guy more. Regardless whether a baby wins contests or strangers ask if it's a boy, girl or shitzu pup, a mother will think her child is precious!!! Maybe not beautiful, but always precious.

I always thought my children were adorable and it wasn't until recently, when enough time and space had passed that I, um,,, realized from old photos that maybe they weren't the cutest kids on the block. Only second! See?

And so is the bonds of a mother's love.....

Theo on a good photo day--but his mother didn't love him any more.

Oh how I wish I were brave enough to open a facebook account where I only posted awkward, old looking, basically true life photos of myself. At least my mother would like the photos.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

One Sport Coat, Two Conclusions

My dad owned a beautiful blue sports coat with a silver kerchief in the pocket. I have photos of him standing in front of his big, black, luxury car, on the occasion for which he purchased the new coat. Thank goodness for photos that reaffirm that which slips away.

When my sisters, Mom, and I sorted through Dad's closet, the sport coat hung like an empty suit of armor. A relic from the past, I took it home.

It was too large, but we decided to have it tailored to Tony. The Russian seamstress appreciated the garment, but she warned that to keep its integrity, she could only take out a little of the bulk.  Possibly, it would still be too big. We both nodded our heads because we wanted it to work and Tony, may have been more attached to the nostalgia than both of us realized. From here, the story makes a segue (segway), in two different directions.

Direction 1. Yesterday we had dinner with two of our children, their spouses, and a friend named Ed. Tony was wearing Dad's old sport coat. I noticed it hung a little too loose and made a mental note to ask him to pass it on to goodwill. I also admit that I'm unsure of the feelings evoked when Tony dresses a la Dad. I also noticed when he took off his coat that he was wearing one of those annoying "too big" shirts, he'd inherited from his own father. My husband--cluck, cluck, cluck.

So this morning, I called from my study to Tony who sat in his study down the hall (which seems to be our most common way of communicating these days--but at least I've refused to communicate by email anymore). "Tony, I don't want you to wear Dad's sport coat anymore. It's too big."

"I like your Dad's sport coat."

"But it's too big."

"It's comfortable."

"Please give it away."

"I like wearing it along with my Dad's old shirt and his old shoes."

At this point, I didn't bother replying--Tony had clearly dug in his heels, and clearly it's not about the clothes nor how big or bad they may look. It's about the memories, the people, the ever so simple connection--and that's something a wife can't fight. I reconciled that I am doomed to see my husband dressed in ill fitting clothes, looking like an old man before his time in. There are worse things.

Direction 2. While taking off Dad's sport coat, Tony reached into a pocket and found a torn up note and a funeral program.

"I thought you'd want to see these." Tony placed the papers on my desk (if he could have, he would have sent them from his office to mine, via vacuum shoot--those hard-to-get-at, but cool gadgets one uses while at the bank drive-thru window).

"Thanks, I definitely want to see what was in my father's pockets."

I perused the funeral program of Dad's friend, then immediately started patching the torn papers together hoping to find just one little piece of wisdom from Dad. The torn note appears to only be his random thoughts, and yet I wonder, why did he tear the note up? His first thought, Go to Switzerland. This is no surprise, as Dad loved returning to the homeland. The second musing is the title of a hymn. To read his other thoughts, the pieces needed more smoothing, and they are currently pressed between the pages of an old Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

Wanting so badly to see a part of Dad in this torn note, I realize how much I want to read my father's thoughts. More than anything, I wish he'd kept a journal!!! So many unanswered questions that arise in his absence. What I would give for my father's thoughts--and so I vow to be more diligent with my journals. Not just this online journal, originally created for my daughters, but the blank pages of the books that someday they may hold when I am gone.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Commonality of Instincts

A month ago, a friend took Tony and I to a designated area, in a nearby canyon, to shoot guns. My favorite weapon was the AK-47 assault rifle. Yes, I too was surprised. I've usually considered my self a gentle, peaceful soul who's resisted having guns in my home. I've understood the odds of shooting myself were greater than shooting an intruder.

However, on this occasion with the expert friend and a safe environment, I felt a kind of satisfaction--the momentary, illusionary power that I could defend myself. I was a pseudo bad apple defending my turf and it felt good.

Last night after suiting up to defend myself (more on this below), I remembered a different friend who was walking his dog (a beloved ball of fluff who fit in his lap), at the neighborhood track.  A very large dog bounded towards him and viciously attacked his dog, and he couldn't immediately keep it safe. At the end of the attack, the little dog was bleeding and injured. My friend knew in that moment, he could have used a gun and killed the attacker.

It is the end of summer and as food supplies diminish, the yellow jackets and wasps have become aggressive. They are known to desecrate beehives, and I've watched them dart and dive around the hive entrance, trying to get inside. Fortunately both hives are strong enough to keep the pests at bay. But there is a flowering hedge which the insects, wasps and flies have taken over. So much, that I've avoided the staircase against the hedge for fear of getting stung. I also discovered a nest of yellow jackets in the nook of a garden grow box. The proximity to the hive required getting rid of it.

Because of the bees, I didn't want to use an insect pesticide, so I armed myself with a weapon: an electric zapper I picked up in the Caribbean to combat the no-seeums. I naively approached the nest, zapping the few hornets that came and went. Within minutes, I was under attack. Two stings later, I was furious. I dressed for war: two layers of pants tucked in garden boots; my bee suit, hat and veil; a pair of canvas and leather work gloves that reached my elbows. I was ready for war and war it was.

I posed the zapper over the nest hole and every few seconds, a snap and a wriggling hornet. They circled and buzzed but I held my ground. Then things got quiet. I waited.

While perched over the nest opening, I thought about the defense instincts we share with every creature on the planet. The will to survive and defend even to death, is a strong instinct. I don't like sharing the same instincts with a common garden pest.

Without warning, the insects started pouring not only out of the nest, but from all directions. I stayed focused and didn't run. The battery cover popped out of the zapper and a battery fell to the ground. Weaponless, I almost panicked, but I found it, reinserted and kept zapping.

The enemy, at least for now, is gone.

I felt justified in my attack, in defending my little garden of eden against the serpent hornets, but I also felt silly and cruel armed with a plastic racket made in China. That anger, that gift of adrenalin that drives survival and protection comes with consequences. People who are defending property and people have to deal with the after effects of killing--and for me, even killing insects. It's almost like it brought out simultaneously, the best and worst of me. I have the capability of being as vicious as a hornet, and it both scares me and sustains me.

Friday, August 21, 2015

It's A Choice--Again

There are only seven students in our AP Literature and Language class. I was extremely excited about this small number as it would allow for opportunities not possible in a larger group.

One of those possibilities was letting the students choose their literature for the year. There are AP guidelines: all works must be literary.

 Easy. The Canon of world literature literary works are massive!! However AP also keeps an extensive list of suggested novels as a guideline.

When I first proposed to the class that they would choose the reading, they reacted with surprise and happiness, but I couldn't have imagined the extent of their excitement and engagement. As they looked at the list of hundreds of literary novels, they asked questions, they interjected preferences and dislikes, and suddenly this whole world of literature was open to their view. They were like students in an ice cream shop with a hundred delicious varieties to choose from and they could only have two scoops.

We only have time for four novels.

But what happened in this moment was golden beyond expectations. I bet some students will choose to read from this list, even all of this list, throughout their lifetime.

This is the purpose of true education--to inspire and incite  lifelong learning.

In this situation, the excitement sprung from choice, and I'm wondering how important the right to choose is ---in our lives--- and as adults, teachers and parents, how much more should we be giving choices?

Most of our family, in the past has laughed at the way Holly gave her young children choices.

"Do you want to go to bed in five minutes or ten minutes."

"Do you want macaroni with cheese or macaroni with cheese and tomatoes?"

Yet, at a very young age, she was already giving her children autonomy. Autonomy brings personal happiness, fulfillment, and the freedom we crave as humans.

It's already had an effect in how I approached today's mentoring. In my mind, they would really love all the great information from Mindset, but I wasn't feeling the fire. Was it because it was their first week of school? Because it's Friday? Not sure, but I gave them the choice. They chose to have another lesson on Mindset, but they wanted the fast version. I hear you class.

So....giving choices requires change from the person offering the choices, but I"m sure the choice of changing, ultimately brings the greatest happiness to the person in authority.

So what do you want? What a privilege to decide.

A-never-forget-memory: I was the creator and over-seer of a theatrical presentation that hit a few bumps. As I was expressing the difficulties to a friend, she very strongly helped me with my complaints, "Remember, you wanted to do this."

Yes I did, and my complaints ended with the reminder. The project is what I chose, so I put my nose to the grind and worked out the difficulties. My memory of the project includes the choice, the hard work, and fortitude it took for it all to turn out. Beautifully.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Time Will Tell

It's the end of summer and the bees have discovered the salt water pool. In the spring, early summer, and even mid summer, they seem to have plenty of water sources and stay far from it.

Bees and pools don't mix.

Bees, within their complicated and inspiring social world, communicate a "find."  When a scout bee finds a field of clover, a water source, or even a new hive, she will buzz back to the hood and inform her homies with a demonstrative dance. Yes, dancing. It's called the waggle dance. When observing bees, an observer who is aware of a waggle dance, can easily identify and and enjoy the display. The bee's dance moves have specific meanings--directions and measureable distances.

It's important for a beekeeper/pool-owner to keep a bee from sharing "the find."

It means I can't save my own bees from drowning. At least in the beginning of their watery plunge.

I have to watch a bee or sometimes a whole pack of bees, flail and fight for life. Just when I think they've had a bad enough experience, so they won't hurry back to the hood with good news, I can scoop the bee to safety. Sometimes it's not soon enough, and other times, they are hardly phased by 20 seconds in the water.

Often they are alive but groggy and stumble around as if drunk. It is in this state that I worry about being stung. Bees have no allegiance, nor gratitude for life savers.

One day, I saw what I deemed as the miraculous bee acrobat. I stood over her, waiting for the fine line between the "lesson" and drowning. Oh how she struggled and then--she flipped herself out of the water! I had never seen this phenomena.

Since I started back to school, I have been thinking about the students and their abilities to flip themselves out of the water or do I help them out of the water? As teachers and parents, we face this over and over again. It starts with watching a three month old baby trying to flip himself over. "Almost, almost," we cheer, and it's tempting not to give the little guy a nudge; yet if we consistently nudged, he would never develop the muscle to do it himself.

And so we stand back. We let the bee, the student, or the child struggle until, the lesson is learned, or until they've figured it out.

My first student on the second day of school-- didn't finish the reading.

"I just didn't finish the ending," he claimed.

My purpose was not to dock points but to let him struggle a little until he realized only he had the power to save himself, because in the long run, it's not about the teacher. I asked him what he would give himself.

"Twelve out of fifteen points," he answered with confidence.

This worked for me; time will tell if it works for him.