Starfish

The dreadful evening news is filled with ills
Her gleaming eyes of planes that never land
The talking heads fill space ‘tween selling pills
And finish with cute puppies in the sand

Analysis is often hard to find
The whys and wherefores hidden in a cloud
But Sunday’s sales will mollify the mind
The deals! They’ll make a killing, feeling proud

Though sometimes there’s a tone that resonates
I take a breath and turn attentive ears
A problem I can tackle for me waits
Solutions not in months but many years

One more starfish thrown into the sea
The journey matters both for them and me

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Mindfulness as a Way of Life… Not Only When Being Mindful

Are you one of the mindful people?  I am.  Well, I try to be.  I love the ideas of presence and breathing and noticing and all those mindful things.  I know the best relaxation techniques; I use them personally and with my students.  I take time to notice those around me and the sensations within me.  Breathe.  Be present.

But what about the rest of the day?  If we can take 10 minutes to be mindful on purpose that is good.  How, though, can we keep mindfulness going as a way of life?

To begin with let’s stop being busy.  Some folks wear busyness as a badge of honor.  They don’t have time and can’t make time.  They fill their schedules and their children’s schedules with so much to do that there is no time to be bored.  I loved being bored as a kid- that’s when I was at my most creative, much to the chagrin of my parents.  We dug holes and drilled holes and played Evel Kenievel.  “Go outside and play” was never a punishment but a liberation: discover, wonder, create, and sometimes get in trouble.  How often do you go out and play, whatever that means for you now, with no plan nor agenda?

Then, let’s be aware of our screens.  How many screens do you have that keep you busy?  Computer? Tablet? Phone? Kindle?  Which Joneses do you feel a need to keep up with?  The news?  A TV show?  Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?  How much time does that leave for friends and family face-to-face?  In my case, not enough.  So, I am mindful of my screen time and am trying to reduce it.  It is hard, though, when the emails come at all hours and a friend is posting photos on Instagram of his new house in a new country.  With email at work I try not to send email from home or on weekends.  I cannot be present nor help others be present when I interrupt them with things that can wait.  Perhaps we can agree to fewer emails after hours and more face-to-face during hours.

Finally, let’s focus. We  know that multi-tasking is a myth yet we still try to do too much (if you are always busy you might be trying to do too much).  A Jack of all trades is a master of none.   Businesses speak of core competencies: what are the main products and services of your business?  If you try to do too many things you may do none well.  The core competency of schools is education.  Is your school doing too many other activities?  How many of them can be done by parents and members of the community so that teachers can focus on the education of the students?  Bringing in the wider community brings people together and actually builds community because it does take a village.

Let’s be mindful of how we live life: We only get one chance at today.  Name your priorities and live them knowing it is okay to say no.  Build community and make time.  Me?  I’m gonna go out and play and breathe and notice.

Ask the Question

___Ask the
Question.  Not the
     I got you
Question nor the
     I’m smarter than you
Question.  Ask the
     Tell me who you are today?
Question.  Ask the
     What’s difficult?
     What’s the best, most interesting?
     What’s surprised you?
Question.  Ask the
     Tell me more about…
Question.  Not the judge, jury nor executioner
Question but the
___build community and understanding
Question.

Answers are not lions (but may be thorns).
Answers are doors.

___Share your
Answers.  Then ask another
Question.

Middle School Writing Lab

As we work to systematize the writing work we do in Middle School, we decided to start a new website: Middle School Writing Lab.  It will be a constant work in progress (and it was only started last Thursday so, keep that in mind).  I hope to include in each section:

  • How-To/ Explanation
  • Examples
  • Rubric
  • Word Bank

I am looking for that sweet spot between “formula” and “stream of consciousness.” I want writers to use their personal voice while accomplishing the task at hand.  If you have any amazing resources please send them my way.  Let’s Write!

Resurrection

A few days ago I received a phone call from a friend of mine.  He had recently learned that he and his mother will receive their social security cards and residency papers.  They will be able to stay in the United States.  Wonderful!  We are lucky to have them- good, caring people; hard working people.  Gentle.

This family was forced from their home country by negative situations beyond their control.  They moved to the US only to live in the shadows, experiencing violence both personal and systemic.  When you live in the shadows you cannot fully participate and share your gifts.  You live in fear – fear that you will be sent back, you might lose your job and a thousand other fears.  Those fears, though, are nothing when compared to the lived experience that sent you away from home.

Now there is hope.  There is hope of permanence and pertenencia, belonging.  Having grown up in the only city he has ever known, he will now be able to participate fully in all of the rights and responsibilities of belonging.  Moving out of the shadows.  May we hear the same positive news for many other immigrants so that they, too, may move out of the shadows.

This blog was started about 5 years ago as an Advent gift for a 12 year old.  The waiting of Advent has come full circle to an emerging from the shadows:  Resurrection.

You always belonged.  Now it’s official.

Still Possible

A few days ago I was asked why I am worried about a Trump presidency.  The asker was not an ardent supporter of Mr. Trump but believed that Mr. Trump was a better choice than Clinton.  I am not an ardent Clinton supporter but believe that she would have been a better choice than Mr. Trump.

When I think of the United States, the country where I was born and raised, I think of possibilities.  I believe that it is possible for people of different racial/ ethnic backgrounds, different religions (or no religion), differences of many kinds to come together for the good of the whole.  I believe that it is possible to rise above tribalism to create something better than any of us could create alone, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I believe that the United States of America is possible- that all are created equal.

When I hear Mr. Trump make racist comments I worry about his presidency.  I worry that people who are already on the fringes of society will be further marginalized.  There are many ways to be in this world.  We can celebrate those ways, accept those ways, without saying “my way or the highway.”   Someone’s difference is not a threat to me  (although violence is a threat that needs to end) if I am secure in my identity.  Maybe Trump’s comments were made in order to get elected; if so, those who support him because of those comments worry me.  Do they seek to limit the identity of the United States to those who are like them?  Do they seek to rid the country of difference?

When I hear Mr. Trump make sexist comments I worry about his presidency.  Anyone who knows a woman worries (or should be worried) about this type of violence.  Denigrating anyone is offensive.  Would I want someone saying such things about my mother?  My wife?  My daughter?  Would I want my son or my students at school to learn this behavior? If not, then it is not OK for Mr. Trump to say those things.  Maybe Trump’s more recent comments were made in order to get elected; if so, I worry about those who support him because of those comments.  Referring to people as objects is dehumanizing.  If we are all created equal then let us raise one another up instead of pushing some down.

When I hear Mr. Trump  speak against immigration I worry about his presidency.  Friends of mine have been told that, “Trump will kick you out, send you back.”  These friends are U.S. citizens.  Students have been cornered by groups of other students who shouted, “Build the wall, build the wall.”  The adopted daughter of a friend of mine asked her mom if Trump was really going to send her back to her birth country, a place she has not been since she was a few months old.  Maybe Trump’s anti-immigration comments were made in order to get elected.  Right now they are having an immediate effect on the lives of people who do not look white.  I worry about the people who supported Trump because of these comments.  This country is a country of immigrants (some of whom who added terrible violence to the lives of many of the original inhabitants of this land).  My ancestors came from Ireland.  The whole southwest used to be Mexico until the border crossed the people and included them in the United States after the war.  To suggest that the United States is a white nation is to ignore history.  We can welcome the stranger.

I believe in the possibility of the United States where we define ourselves as all of us.  I believe in the freedoms, rights and responsibilities that belong to everyone in the United States.  I believe in the gray areas, the messy areas, where life is not a dualistic either/ or, open/ shut, us/them.  Together we can navigate the muddy waters of gray, together.  Let us, then, rise above, come together to continue creating a welcoming, bountiful community where all are welcome and all is possible.  Let this be a place where violence and discrimination are shunned in favor cooperation and courageous conversations.

For now, I will wait and see.  I will never completely write off anyone.  Because you asked, though, those are some of the reasons that I am worried about a Trump presidency.

P.S. A self-described single issue voter asked me about abortion and how I could support someone who is pro-abortion.  To begin with, I do not know anyone who is pro-abortion (in the sense that a person believes everyone should go out and get one in the way someone might be pro-chocolate- I am pro-chocolate).  I do know that in countries where abortions are/ were illegal they still happen in very dangerous conditions making a bad situation even worse.  I also know that the number of abortions has been dropping since the early 1990’s and is down to numbers not seen since the early 1970’s.  Perhaps we can continue to improve education and situations so the number of abortions continues to drop.