Monthly Archives: October 2010

Thinking About What We Are Meant To Be


“Everyone is smart, but if you tell a fish to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein


I am spending a lot of time thinking about life choices, paths and opportunities.  We often spend a large part of our lives trying to figure out what we are meant to do, or who we are meant to be.  I spend a lot of time watching children, being a teacher and all, and I think we need to tune into the natural, innocent “knowing” that children poses.  We try to make children conform to our preconceived notion of who they should be or to fit into the mold that the experts determine is right for children, what they should be able to do by a certain age, how they should learn, and how we can measure their knowledge.  But, what if they are wrong?  What if children are born to be something else, to learn in a different way and perhaps even to teach us?

Observation is a great tool that is often underutilized but always available.  The next time you have the opportunity to observe children at play, take the time to really watch their actions, interactions with other children and choice of play. Some choose solitary play, quiet time alone.  Perhaps they a retreating from an overstimulated life.  Some chose to softly sing or hum, giving their life a soundtrack, future composers in the making.  Some chose to recreate family situations that need more processing to understand totally.  Some choose to draw elaborate scenes of dream worlds or scenes of events from their past.  Children need to process information and they need the time and medium to do that without interruption of adult direction.  Play is the method through which children learn and they need time for unstructured, child-centered play.

Take the time to think like a child.  Instead of completing a list of “have too” tasks, create a list of “want to” activities.  Think like a child.  What will help you process your world?  A quiet walk along the shore?  A hike in the mountains?  A dance class or listening to a concert?  Sometimes creating art is a way to process reality.  For me, it can be all of these things, but writing is the way I process-thinking on paper.

Children are innocent and don’t rely on preconceived notions, just on immediate desire.  Their play erupts from ideas hatched spontaneously, relying on instinct.  Trust your children to know their path.  At the most, you will give them the gift of acceptance, at the least they will be happy trying.


Filed under choice, Education, Life thoughts


Breath is the beginning, the middle and the end.  When we are born, it is the first thing we do; everyone anticipating it and waiting anxiously for that first breath. We breathe and then cry, as if longing for the simple existence we have just left, yet, here we are, in a big, strange world surrounded by those who love us, and we begin life and endless lessons.  When we are too excited, we often hear, “calm down, and take a breath” and when we get frightened we hear the same advice, “breath, it’s okay.”  Returning to the breath, to the beginning, takes us back to the place where we could just be present.

We continue on our path through childhood, young adulthood, and then, as adults, we have children of our own.  Through the delivery of our child we are encouraged to breath, perhaps more rapidly, but at the same time, in an age-old pattern, providing focus, allowing our muscles to relax and our body to do it’s job, to deliver this person into our waiting arms.  Breathing and then holding our breath, listening for the first breath of our newborn.  When it arrives, we can let out a slow breath, sigh, relief.

We age and sometimes breathing is strained or affected by external forces, pollutants, and pollens.  There are times when we feel like we are holding our breath for so long that we almost forget to exhale.  There are times when exhaling might jinx our hopes, our wishes, so we prefer the limbo state, the breathless moment before disappointment, before that realization sets in and hope is diminished, breath held, everything is still possible.  Or sometimes, the extreme release of breath that has been held too long allows us to collapse, our muscles exhausted from contraction, knots seeming permanent.

In the end, breath is almost too difficult, but still we cling to it and we struggle to maintain our breath until all has been settled and all words said.  We are given extra oxygen, prolonging the time left and giving us moments of clarity so we can get the job done, provide answers, or hope.  The breath is no longer deep, or long, for now it comes in the short gasps that accompany the transition. When the muscles tire, and the mind is ready, the breath relaxes and stops for it has done its job and taken us to another place.

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Filed under Life thoughts

Standing Up


I am beginning to realize that to begin something new, you do actually have to stand up, or at least get up off the couch.  I am an expert planner and possessor of good intentions, but I am also the “Queen of Procrastination” when it comes to establishing a new routine.

I spend a lot of time observing children and noticing the “just do it” attitude they have, which we spend a lot of time correcting, e.g. think before you act.  It is true that there are benefits to thinking things through before you blurt out words that can hurt feelings, or actions that can physically hurt someone, but too much thinking can also take the spontaneity that children have and turn it into a hesitancy and fear of making mistakes.  There is a balance that exists somewhere between impulse and no-pulse and my goal is to find it!

Opportunities present themselves to me on a revolving stage and all look so tempting.  New spirituality, new exercise, new meditations and of course new books to read, which lead to further opportunities.  My laptop is a cozy companion that is also an infinite trail to that famous information super-highway.  My challenge is to slow down enough to enjoy the scenery.  Ideas?

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Filed under change, choice, Life thoughts



Teaching is not for the faint of heart.


“Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.”

~ Apple Computer (just an ad, but still pretty inspiring)

This arrived in my email today courtesy of Lynn Scheurell (Creative Catalyst) and it got me thinking about how to impart the knowledge I am required to teach while honoring differences (both biological, and emotional), preventing bullying, raising self-esteem, respecting differences, differentiating curriculum and staying energized.  Teaching is a difficult job!  It isn’t like any other.  We can’t just show up, sit in a cubical, work for 8 hours and leave.  We can’t just serve people food, help them select clothing or sell them products. We are responsible.   We are responsible for educating the whole child, physical and emotional, intellectual and artistic.  We are substitute parents when they fall down or feel sad.  We are guides through the maze of often confusing State and Federal required curriculum.  Our job has no defined hours and often continues on nights and weekends.  Our pay is attached to hours, but our hearts demand more of us and our minds are constantly thinking of our students.  A simple trip to the Dollar Tree becomes a shopping trip for classroom materials, and looking a books on Amazon is dangerous!  I have no control or willpower when it comes to my classroom.  Ideas jump in my head and won’t leave until I have satisfied them with new materials or a new lesson.

At the same time, we must honor the spirit of the children in our care.  Often we spend more time with them than their parents.  We have six hours a day to make a difference, build character, help them to learn how to be creative, different, unique, and intelligent, and while we do this, while we honor the differences, we know that in order to be heard, these future inventors, creators, citizens of the world, must be able to relate effectively with others.  To be a rebel and a misfit, a round peg in a square hole (or vice-versa), or a trouble maker, is only useful if you use it to create and to make the world a better place.  It is when the vision exists and can be imparted to others, that others will listen and benefit.


Filed under Life thoughts, Teaching

Feeding the Wolf

Tonight was the third and last meditation class and though our group only met three times, there was a closeness one feels when an intimate shared experience exists in a circle.  Our wise teacher, Diana, is one who knows when to talk and when to listen.  The listening is important,  for the lessons often emerge from the words of classmates.  The pearls Diana drops in from time to time, emphasize a particular point relevant to all and her meditation tools are taught in a subtle manner.  Tonight she told this story:

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice…

“Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It’s like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.”

“I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But…the other wolf… ah! The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”

“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

— — A Native American tale told many times around the Sacred Fire

As the story ended there were audible “ah has”  as we collectively realized that we are the one who nurtures our wolf and it is up to us to decide which wolf to feed.  The story put into words the feelings I have been having.  The desire I have to feed my peaceful wolf and the magnetic attraction I have to create positive thoughts and scenarios.  This is a lesson I can share and a gift I can give my students.  The image of the wolf is one that will resonate with them because 5 year-old children love stories, especially those with a potentially evil wolf villan.  We all need to gather nice, healthy, organic food for our peaceful wolves.

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Filed under Life thoughts

A Sense of Smell

Sometimes I wonder how smells can so influence my life.  We are all familiar with the memory trigger of a well-loved song, or the feeling of looking at a picture, a snapshot of a time and place enshrined in photo paper, but smells often elude conversations of memories.

Have you had the experience of getting a whiff of a familiar perfume and having a scene from the past jump up as if it were yesterday?  I can conjure up an image, a person, a time and place when I walk into a room and a familiar scent wafts over me like a warm blanket, an old friend.  This happens to me daily when I walk into my “mothers” part of our home and truthfully, I do it so I can “feel” her through the comforting aroma of…what?  I am really not sure what it is that I smell, two years after her passing.  It is true though, and my sister backs me up on this one.  She now owns my mother’s dresser and says that every time she opens a drawer she feels mom is there.  I wander into her living room, bedroom, office or bathroom and feel a wave of sentimentality, but also one of comfort and reassurance.  I cannot bear to think of leaving the scent and happily drive her ten-year old car for the same reason.

We bask in the memories of those we love and have lost for one reason or another, a favorite recipe, coming home to a kitchen filled with the smell of brisket or waking up to fresh coffee brewing.  These are the smells I cherish.  So sometimes, I just sit in mom’s living room, gazing lovingly at her favorite books, still on the shelf (I will read them all), her tea-cup collection and the photos of her as a college graduate, a bride, a wife of 25 years, a grandmother, and breathe deeply, filling myself with memories and love.

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Filed under Family, Life thoughts, Mom

What if?

What if?

I am beginning with the premise of “what if?” today.  The idea came to visit me in a dream last night and I woke up with it floating around in my head, forming words that had to come out.  What if I come from a place of love when relating to all of the people in my life?  Of course there are many people in my life that I genuinely feel love for, my husband, my daughters, family members and dear friends, but what if that love could extend out like highways stretching across the map of my world?

I have been reading bits and pieces of a website/newsletter called Love and Logic and besides enjoying the title, I am interested in the premise: raising responsible children and having fun while doing it.  We spend a lot of time setting up behavior plans and consequences, structuring our children’s lives for success and focusing on preventing negative behaviors. What if, instead, we came from a place of pure love and helped children become positive, independent thinkers whose actions rise up from a thoughtful beginning?  What if we stop solving all of our children’s problems and throw the ball back to them?  What will happen?  According to Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline M.D. expectations are high.  I am willing to give it a try.

Over the past 32 years of teaching I have noticed a shift in the behavior of my students.  What is the cause?  Influence from the media?  Lack of concern from parents, or adults raising the children?  A collapse of our social structure and the standards we hold kids to?  A lack of real consequences for the actions kids choose to take?  It doesn’t really matter.  Using a method such as Love and Logic, offers a plan, hope, a solution.  I am willing to add this to my repertoire of love-based approaches to guide my students.  I have had  good success with One-Moment Meditations, Yoga, and Council, all based on coming from one’s heart, from love and from pure thought.  Teaching kids to calm their active bodies and minds allows the truth to enter.

I always think it is such a happy coincidence when the universe is able to line things up for a good idea.  During my class’ visit to the school library I came across Jon J. Muth’s books:  Zen Shorts and Zen Ties.  The title interested me so I checked them out.  What a nice surprise!  Books written to enlighten children through a wise Panda named Stillwater.  It was another nice coincidence when he was on NPR yesterday being interviewed about his new book, Zen Ghosts, and his creation of the character Stillwater.  Zen is infusing my life.

What if I come from a place of love?  Not just for those around me, for those I teach, for my family and friends that I love so dearly, but for myself?  What if I continue to nurture myself through yoga, meditation, walking, mindful eating and lots of writing?  Maybe love is contagious and everyone around me will catch it too.

John Lennon would have been 70 years old yesterday.  Listening to “Imagine,” the soothing chords, the true words and the vision revealed, reminded me that “all you need is love” is not just a wistful dream from the 1960’s, but a cry for change in 2010.  Beyond test scores, API, value-added, and seniority lies the love we are responsible to share with the people in our lives.  What if?


Filed under change, Education, Family, Life thoughts

Needing Less

Going gray.

Lately I have found that I am needing less.  It began with letting go of little luxuries or what I had previously considered luxuries and necessary rituals; long nails perfectly manicured, colored and highlighted hair, weekly shopping trips.  I had thought I needed these things to make me beautiful, to make me feel good about myself and to feel young, but I began shedding this fallacy last spring when I took a Victory Gardening class through UC Davis Extension.  Long nails just don’t fit with organic gardening and seemed a little anti-natural.  I had begun growing my hair out the summer before my mother died and she had said, “You are going to look stunning!”  That boosted my confidence and now  makes me remember her salt and pepper hair and her dignity.

This was the beginning-superficial looks, but I have moved on to material possessions and entertainment.  I feel good letting possessions go and it is almost a challenge to see what I can eliminate next, keeping only the items that are beautiful, have a use or are a memory.  I am finding new ways to entertain myself that don’t cost money but provide enjoyment.  Reading, writing, sitting in the yard watching birds, especially our resident doves, walking and catching up with friends provide endless opportunities for self-improvement, self-reflection and rejuvenation.

I have also found new interests that cost a bit, but the pay-off is huge. I have started the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program as a challenge to improve my writing, to meet other writers and to enjoy the instruction of highly qualified writing teachers.  I have rededicated myself to walking and exercise, I have begun a meditation practice to find inner calm and peace.

Needing less does not mean having less.  It means wanting more and finding it within.


Filed under change, Life thoughts