Sunday, August 14, 2011

Applying what was learned

Oh boy, the kids are coming back from two months at camp.  Now I get to test what I learned.  And, observe how I change with this new dynamic, and how my relationship with my husband changes with this new dynamic.  I believe we call this "walking the walk."

It is easier to live alone because the only person you have to negotiate with is yourself; and sometimes that is enough.

Two people make it interesting, like a dance.  Lots of room for closeness, then popping away, trying new moves apart and together and even facing in opposite directions sometimes.

Three or more, and anything can happen.  Sometimes it looks choreographed so well that it takes one's breath away.  But then, one enterprising person might decide to try a new step which upsets the choreography, but in the long run elevates the entire group to an entirely new approach.  Or, there might just be general mayhem with everyone spinning in their own orbits.

In my case, these additional three are wonderful young people who are in the midst of learning to be adults while still very much being my children.  Messy, brilliant, frustrating, amazing, argumentative, loving and generally more than I ever will have expected.  They will never disappoint me, although it seems like that on a really bad day.  I hope I don't disappoint them.

I am going to jump ahead a couple of years, and make a future observation.  When I began my next "career" and work with people who I am not related to, helping them to solve problems in their organizations or companies, and to improve how they communicate, I think I might be bringing some valuable experience.

Here's to the end of camp, and the beginning of the next legs of our journeys!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Getting back to square one

Wow!  It's back-to-school time.  I feel like this is such a multi-layered statement this morning.

The world's financial markets, and everything connected, sound like they would all like to get back to some earlier point of stability.  Was it really a stable point?  Or was it just a strange innocence?  That one is way beyond what I would like to tackle this morning.

My personal world, at the moment, is all about tying up the loose ends and reviewing what I have planned for the fall.  I had dinner with some really interesting and lovely people last night; all parents.  We were considering a couple of big questions about education:  what do we need to teach our children and what sort of careers will they be moving toward?  Age-old questions, right?

I'm feeling that it is not about the specific areas of content, although it is good to know about history, to read classics, to be able to develop a solid paragraph.  It's about having a suitcase filled with tools, and knowing how to use them no matter what the situation.  And, figuring out what really feels important and interesting -- aka, identifying a passion.

I'm hoping that during this school year I can stay focused on this with my kids.  I'm also hoping that they can learn to use those tools and passions effectively when they move into the swirling waters of the bigger world!

Recently, I have decided to re-read Getting to Yes, to help me to not get caught in the details of the daily negotiations of life.  I'm feeling like sending a couple hundred copies to Congress.  In my fantasy world I go do a workshop about effective communication with those people!

Ok, it's time to take the dogs out and get into the day.  I'm headed in the direction of "square one."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

I was watching the first dvd from the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts the other night, and heard Paul Simon sing "Here Comes the Sun".  He commented that this was written by a dear friend of his.  So, I did some investigation, and I think George Harrison wrote it.

Even if George didn't write it, I have now purchased his version of it on ITunes, along with several other songs I found while investigating.  Those guys at ITunes are very sneaky.  I'm looking for something specific and then I find myself bathed in wonderful music.  But, because most of the music that is purchased from ITunes in my house is on my computer, I also listen to Rihanna, Eminem and K'naan.  And, I have been to a Lady Gaga concert with my husband, not our kids.

So, what does this have to do with my blog?

I love connecting; with people, people with other people, ideas with people, solutions with problems.  I have been doing some written exercises about what I like, what I'm good at and why this is important.  A break away from everyday life, in a place I've wanted to spend time in, with no dogs or kids, and a daily hike is a GREAT time to do written work.  So now I have some written lists that in which I have highlighted words, analyzed and grouped similarities, and can maybe explain in less than my usual 20 minutes what direction I am taking.  I think this might be good.

I read Ellen Airgood's (author of South of Superior) blog and loved how she shares about her life.  I read Jonathan Fields' blog and felt some kindred observations.  I am hoping that I can write so it will be easy to read or you will leave the page feeling I have helped you to reframe a situation.

When I was young, and watching a lot of tv, I remember seeing an advertisement for BASF.  Their line was "we don't make things, we make them BETTER."  That struck me then, and it still strikes me.  I am a recycler and a reuser.  I want to help people do what they do MORE EFFICIENTLY or MORE EFFECTIVELY.  Or, I want them to realize the answers are right there among their people, if they could just tilt the focus a little.

So, I haven't learned anything new about myself by because I have experience my observations have more depth.  And, I am deeply grateful to be staying in a place built by people who appreciate the awesome natural beauty that surrounds it.  George's voice is fragile compared to Eminem's, but it is perfect to usher the sun into my day.  It makes me very happy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm refueling, not raising my debt ceiling!

I took a hiatus and now after the end of the school year and some busy work I am back.  I have had a very productive hiatus, and am feeling restored.

Right at this very moment I am sitting in a cabin in Colorado, which has been a goal of mine for the past several years.  It is peaceful and exciting all in the same space.  I really needed a break from the heat and congestion of New York City.  In order to successfully live in a challenging place like New York City I have to leave, regularly.  I haven't done that over the past year and it exacted a toll.  Now, I feel like my fuel tank is getting refilled.

June and July were action-packed.  One daughter was in Comedy of Errors in a theater on the lower Eastside of NYC.  In the middle of that our 1998 Dodge minivan was stolen right from in front of our block in a very safe neighborhood.  One daughter was working on an IMovie about Lemurs.  Our son was tying up loose ends in order to spring free for his long-awaited summer.  Then the kids needed to get to camps in the "north countries" of New York and Vermont.  Thank God for my wonderful father-in-law and all of his support!

In that short expanse of time I learned about being an owner of a stolen vehicle and an owner of a new "used" vehicle purchased from a dealership located in the outlying Bronx.  Even though I have a detective named Angel he has not miraculously found my stolen minivan.  Apparently, someone needed it more than us.

Our home is clean, neat and somewhat decluttered with the help of wonderful Teresa and amazing Dawn Falcone.  I've been to Yankees' games we lost and games we won.  I played my first 9 holes of golf.  We visited our happy children in their camps. 

Finally, we took a ferry to Block Island for a week with the dogs and real restoration began.  I have a tan, the dogs had a field all to themselves, and I reconnected with a friend from several years ago.  Sometimes it seems that nothing big changes on Block Island, and that is comforting because it is perfect just as it is.  I even walked around the Ancient Labyrinth asking myself what I am really seeking.  That must be how I ended up here in a cabin in Colorado.  Among the Aspen trees which sing in the wind, with the sound of a stream and train whistles in the background.  Alone, with my soul mate for a few more weeks.

I like refueling.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Passion has been a big topic in my life recently.  Not the passion that turns a PG movie into R, but rather the palpable energy that fuels so many dreams, plans and actions.  Personally, passion is the label I give to those things I do that seem to take no effort.  It erases fatigue, it makes how I perceive crisp and clear, it brings a bloom to my cheeks and a rush of energy to what I am doing.  It feels positive and heartening.  And, it is so difficult to translate to others, so they understand exactly what I am envisioning.  It is that energy and excitement that gets translated most of the time; and that is often nice enough.

My level of passion gets turned way up when I am doing something, and it looks successful.  I really love teaching and watching my student make the connection.  But, I really, really love it when they make the connections and their enthusiasm for what they are learning blossoms.  That has happened with my kids over the years; not with everything but with some things.  Recently, something happened that kind of made my heart break, if I can apply that to a learning situation.

During home schooling some things work and some things don't, but the positive thing is the opportunity to change the situation to try to make it better or more interesting.  Watching my kids express a love of learning has given me so much pleasure, even when they don't even realize they are doing it.  And, even when it's possible to tweak the situation sometimes the situation is just not working.  I get that.  But, over the last two years my high schooler has seemed to become disengaged from Science.  It never appeared that he was heading toward a career based in science, but now it seems like it's just a chore to get through.  When I realized this it was like a large, dull thud.

So, my question to myself "is it more important to have that spark in one or two areas, or is it more important to have spark, and apply it everything?"

Then, moving along to the rest of the world...
Passion can be kind of dangerous, too.  People who don't have a positive and loving base can really cause a lot of harm.  I'm listening to the news about Osama Bin Laden and Gaddafi.  Not long ago Charlie Sheen had the world's attention.  All of those lovely politicians in Washington have been sharing what they say they are so committed to.  All very passionate people who appear to believe they are involved with something life-changing and essential.  And, don't forget Greg Mortenson and his three cups of tea.

I digress.

I think I believe for learning that spark of passion must be in place for everything, and that sometimes it really helps kids, or adults, make a really deep connection.  And, it really makes me sad when whoever is at the helm isn't bringing that spark along.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Balance and beyond

Ok, Happy Easter to all of you who graciously read this blog.  It has been a wonderfully warm and sunny day.  My big lesson in balance today:  don't walk a lot in shoes you only wear a few times a year.  Ouch.

So, let's synthesize.  Being off balance and facing challenges for a while is good.  It makes me, in particular, grow and get stronger.  Being off balance and facing challenges all the time?  I don't think that is so good.  Recovery time, down time, and just being is really important to the whole cycle.  It's like taking sneakers along for the long walk after looking good in the fancy shoes.  No down time, no just being for a while, ouch.

Now beyond,
I have been trying to use some of the tools I found for The Toolbox Conference, and through reading that I have been doing.  This past week I haven't felt like I have been taking many small steps and although I seem to be spinning wheels I don't see that I am going many places metaphorically speaking.  So, when I look at a list of my passions I see:
observing peoples' behavior, then asking them questions and finding connections with my own experiences;
connecting people;
inventing experiences or activities and then making them happen;
designing games that encourage people to think outside of their boxes, and then to have transformation.

And, I have these passions because I believe I can help people feel more confident about what they do for a living.   I can help them feel special.
I believe people thirst for confirmation of their personal value.
I believe that this is essential to the success of a business, or school.
People need to balance a high level of self esteem and self regard with the importance of using their talents whole-heartedly.

Being a nice, decent person is part of my fabric.
I think that bullying is a damaging activity that can grow into actions that can hurt entire institutions.
There is a difference between being a tough but fair teacher or supervisor and being a bully.
People, whether peers, friends, coworkers or just people, have no right to bully others.  It hurts them, hurts the people they are bullying and ultimately hurts the larger group.

It works better for everyone if people are working toward improvement.  But the definition of improvement and progress has to evolve from what people really care about.  Sometimes that is in the context of a job, school or greater challenge.  Who says a janitor can't inspire an entire company or school?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Balance has been a continual topic in my personal life, and it seems, in the areas I am drawn to.

It is easier to wake up to find my expectations being met; no one likes to be startled awake to find that immediate action and response is necessary.  But, if things go too smoothly it gets boring and then some unexpected excitement which tips the boat is welcome.

I grew up in a small, orderly town and at a young age felt hemmed in.  I have always sought another leg on my journey.  I think I must have had ancestors who traveled.

Homeschooling has not been a balanced endeavor, but I truly believe it has forced me and my family to learn and look at learning in a different manner.  I think I rarely give my kids a learning situation where they are just told what to do all of the time.  I have recently craved a few days where they would mindlessly follow my directions, but alas, it is too late for that to happen.  They are thinkers for sure.  Not always good on the organization and follow-through on academic assignments but certainly engaged when it comes to situations they care about.  I wonder what Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were like as students.  And, don't get me started on those Wright brothers.  However, I am trying to improve those organizational skills.

I've been thinking a lot about the continuum of bullying.  It starts in school, or even at home.  We hear lots about cases in schools and colleges.  Sometimes in the military.  What about when someone grows up and goes on to work in a company or institution like a hospital or university?  What happens when that person is responsible for other peoples' money, or lives?  Part of bullying is keeping others off-balance, right?

What about people who do a lot of good, but get off balance?  Today, while I was cooking dinner, my husband read in the newspaper that Greg Mortenson was being "investigated" on Sixty Minutes.  Big surprise for me!  I have read both of his books.  I have used the Pennies for Peace curriculum with my kids.  I think building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan are really important actions.

I listened to the report with my daughter.  I talked with her about what the report said.  I'm wondering what the ultimate truth is.  Have I ever heard of some person who committed their lives to doing something that seems to do so much good getting in over their heads?  Yes
Have I ever heard of projects that are described so vividly not really being as perfect as they were described?  Yes
If a tv reporter approached me, with a cameraman following him, asking if I would talk with him in the middle of a book signing, would I say "yes"?  Not if I'm smart.

What balance is not:  a sizable portion of the world's children not having opportunities for education.
What balance is not:  bullying.
What balance is not:  the status quo?

Would I grow and evolve if my life is always balanced?  To be continued...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's next?

The conference was fun.  Now what?
The world is in big time turmoil.  The media is giving the country a very contentious backdrop.  I am not looking forward to the coming election season.  It feels like no one is playing nice on the big playground.  I keep getting emails asking for money to fuel the fight in Congress, and reading about what seems like necessary budget cuts which do not seem to be long-term focused.

Raise Teachers' Status, International Leaders Urge

Current U.S. actions seen as hampering efforts

Premium article access courtesy of
Education leaders from 16 nations that have or aspire to have top-performing education systems gathered here recently to share ideas on improving teaching.
Participants spoke repeatedly of the need to “raise the status of the teaching profession”—a task that is complicated, some said, by moves in several American states to curtail unions’ collective bargaining rights....
I don't think education is something that we can afford not to support.  It's like the foundation on a house.  It's like the walls and the floors, and the windows letting light in. The United States is no longer first in how it educates its children.  Were we ever?  I don't feel like supporting the current way education happens.  Who made it so numbers-oriented?  What happened to all of the wonderful details that are the glue that hold the entire picture together?
An effective education doesn't stop at reading, writing and arithmetic.  Well-educated children are curious and feel they have the right and responsibility to get involved.  They want to take things apart and see how they work.  They want to read books, see movies, draw pictures, interview people, create newsletters, cook interesting recipes, skype with kids from other countries, graph the growth pattern of their tadpoles, and clean up the litter in the park.  Kids who are well-educated will find a cure for cancer and Alzheimers.  They will move past the reliance on oil and inefficient automobiles.  They will make the political process a real process.  They will collaborate with other kids from other countries and stop all of this turmoil.  And, they will make sure music, and art and negotiation skills are right in there with the math.
I've been off-roading it for the past seven years by homeschooling.  It's possible to do all of these things; I just don't see how that can happen in an institutional setting.  It needs to happen, but I don't know how it can.  Without the opportunities to learn the best way they know how to, and some adults who are willing to put on their rose-colored glasses for a short time, the kids never get to develop the love of learning that makes all of the difference.  School becomes something that must be tolerated.
Okay, back to what now?  Can I do something about this?  The United States education system is too big to take on.  If I work with public school teachers training them to to experiential things, they may not be able to because of the constraints of budgets or existing curriculums.  I don't want to be a teacher in the current system.  Maybe I can't do something about this.  Maybe I'm not asking the right question.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Toolbox Conference

The Playground Design Group
The Low Tech Reading Tool Group
Occupational Experts' Panel during What's My Line?
Tired and Happy Conference Director with awesome sign
Thoughtful attendees
The Playground Design group trying to collaborate
Parents' group working to determine if it was bullying or just a tough boss

My short phrases only give a glimpse of the enthusiasm and activity that made the Conference such a great success!  I left with great ideas about making my materials more effective, and proof that some of my ideas were good ones.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

We have liftoff

How many times have I heard that phrase in my life, starting back when I was a kid watching the first Apollo flight?  Yes, we were all fixated on that small craft sitting atop a huge rocket getting propelled into space with three or four guys inside.  But, really, it took thousands of people, and lots of different types of connections to make that one moment happen.  That is how I feel about why The Toolbox Conference was the huge success (in my mind) that it was!

All but one attendee showed up, and unfortunately he was not feeling well.  The speaker who was going to psych up the group with his enthusiastic story didn't arrive (logistical problem) and you know what?  We went on and it flowed.  The three gentlemen who signed on as "occupational reps" were fabulous.  They went with the activity and the kids (attendees) had so much enthusiasm, and tried so hard to identify what these guys' occupations were.  Then I discussed an exercise I had given the kids in their registration packets, and again, high energy, lots of questions.  And, the afternoon went splendidly!  One group worked to design a playground.  One group developed a low tech tool to help disadvantaged kids learn to read.  And, the parents' group worked to identify whether a situation was bullying, in the workplace.  I haven't worked on game/simulation stuff like this for a long time, and I felt so at home.   The entire day felt very familiar.  That is a very cozy feeling.

So back to those people who made it happen.  My entire family supported me on this, and that made all of the difference.  The three men who spoke with the kids were gracious, had good senses of humor, and were wonderful examples of great communicators.  My homeschool colleagues who have listened to me go on and on, and especially those who showed up have made me feel throughout the entire process that I was doing something valuable.  I am a truly blessed individual!

And, now, I am working back to normal life (whatever that means).  I had the opportunity to be Michael's date Friday evening at the Karaoke party he gave for his staff.  That too was very high energy.  He and I won a prize for singing Kiss by Prince.  No wonder I was tired yesterday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Check-in Time

Well, tomorrow The Toolbox Conference is happening.  All of this thinking, talking on the phone, asking, appreciating and coming up with props will be utilized, happen and chewed on afterward.  I really enjoy this process, and I feel great about the experience that both the kids and their parents will have.  It is not going to go perfectly, and I have no idea where the loose ends will be.  But, the joy, sharing, moments of aha, having to sit still and think at one place, and just go with it at another are well worth it.  Hopefully the day will pass with no natural disasters or movie icon deaths; it's nice to have good karma.  And, maybe one day in the distant future one of the kids who have then become adults will come up to me on the street and say, "I never would have thought of trying _____________ if I hadn't come to The Toolbox Conference."  Unlikely, but a possibility.

This is the schedule.  It looks like the cute little pictures of toolboxes didn't make it in the cut and paste, but you can imagine them.

The Toolbox Conference
The Toolbox Conference is an event hosted by Genevieve Griffin, who has homeschooled some or all of her three children, Emma, Margaret and Michael, for the past 7 years.  Genevieve teaches Literature at the Upper Westside Homeschool coop that meets on Fridays here at The Church of St Paul and St Andrew.  She also worked with two groups of homeschoolers who competed in the New York City History Day project.  Before Genevieve and her husband, Michael, were lucky enough to become parents she developed interactive health education programs for The Door and The Trinity School.  Genevieve strongly believes in experiential education!
Last year Genevieve hosted a Career Fair, which gave middle and high school-aged homeschoolers the chance to meet people from a wide variety of career areas, such as Screenplay Writer, Documentary Filmmaker, Lawyer and Acupuncturist.  Although this seemed a useful and interesting experience she realized that an interactive experience involving skills, life experience and occupations would be more valuable.  And, going to a “conference” offers a good experience, too.  So, we have The Toolbox Conference!
10-10:30am  Check-in
10:30  Welcome by Genevieve Griffin
10:45   Speaker:  Mr. Thomas DeGeest, owner of Wafels and Dinges
11:00-noon   What’s My Line
12-12:30  Lunch, chat with Occupational Experts
12:30-1pm   Learn about what the future may hold for some occupations, and learn what your “role” will be this afternoon
1-2:30/3  Simulated Real Life
3ish Share about Real Life
3:30ish  Wrap up and Good-bye!

Friday, March 18, 2011

What school teaches?

I've been homeschooling some or all of my three children for the last seven years.  Next year at least two of them will be in school again.  Recently I had an unexpected moment to do a very intense brief assessment.  This yielded some expected results, and some deeper memories of my own school experience popping up.  So here it is...
My children have not had a perfect, stress free experience with me as their teacher.  They have not read all of the classics, know all mathematical concepts, completed amazing science experiments weekly in our kitchen, become amazing musicians because they practice for hours and hours.  None of them ever showed great interest in preparing for the big Spelling Bee that often showcase homeschoolers.  Although our family has traveled quite a bit I have never made that cross country or round the world trip that some families make.  My children do not organize everything perfectly, do not always raise their hands in groups with well-thought out questions.  And, my experience as their teacher has often been far from ideal.  So, logically, you should ask at this point...why have you done this?

It's a collection of specific memories, and then the big picture they present.  It's the moment they walked up the stairs of the house Martha Washington stayed in at Valley Forge, pushed open the door to her bedroom and happily exclaimed, "this is her room, just like in the book (they were reading at the time.)  And, it was just the three of them standing there with their mouths open in a kind of awe as they soaked up the moment; not with 20 kids pushing behind them.  It was the many discussions we've shared about something that was happening in the world at the moment, because we have the freedom to learn about it while it is happening.  It was Emma's confidence while being a docent for an archeological dig she had participated in, when she was about 10.  It was the moment that Michael and his teammates won the NYC level of History Day for their Woody Guthrie documentary.  The experience of doing the documentary was one of the more challenging for them and me  (their "teacher") that I've had in my career, but the outcome was wonderful.  It is Margaret's love of Spanish has she works with her tutor, and then goes out and deciphers the conversations on the subway, and her taking on the tech person role during Country Day.  All of this plus much of the same.  And all tied together with who they are in the world.  Things may not always go smoothly in our home school, but how they communicate when they leave my door, what they know about, the fact they have opinions and want to contribute, and don't make fun of others who look, or think, or act differently; that is why I do this.  I don't have to have an assembly to talk about diversity or sensitivity.  I don't need to have a lesson on current events to make sure they know what is going on.  They know who the President is (I've met him).

Go back to my own school days.  Yesterday I made a list in my head about what I learned from my teachers.  Not the facts, although some of them will always be connected to certain subjects.  The question is what did I learn.  This is what I came up with:
K Mrs. Peterhans:  don't do work before you are told to or you will stand in the corner.
1 Mrs. McCollum:  follow the rules
2 Miss Knoblet:  not much of an impression but I remember I wanted my mom to be more involved
3 Can't remember her name, but I remember the wonderful lady down the hall with the exuberant personality and huge love of baseball.
4 Mr. Babich:  he screamed a lot, spanked and belittled Bobby Dorman almost daily and I learned my multiplication table.
5 Mrs. Hiser:   sentence diagramming
6 Can't remember her name but she was the best teacher I had ever had.  She had regular lessons plus taught us some French, and told stories of when she was our age.  She had a large, complicated class and somehow that was ok.  She always spoke loudly and with much energy.  The only time she got upset was when a student stole her wallet with very important photos inside.
7 - 8  Junior High  History class guy loved German (guess what language I studied in college?)  Civics teacher was large, loud, funny and used a game in class to make it more interesting (did I mention my advisor in grad school was a game designer?)  Math teacher was creepy.  Science teachers were young women.  I spoke with one of them last year and she told me she always knew I was an intelligent young woman -- I thought I was invisible.
High School  In general, painful but Mrs. Harbin was tough, charming and her reading list was pretty deep for that little school.  Mr. Macklovic made algebra and trig seem fun; and he discovered that Bobby Dorman was a math genius (remember 4th grade?).  Unfortunately I don't think he graduated from high school.  Mr. Anderson (speech) was creepy and manipulative.  Guess what?  He became the Superintendent and the financials have never been the same.  Mr. Nelson for Chemistry and Physics:  announced that women wouldn't make good scientists (but he did teach me to drive during drivers' training).  Biology teacher, he stared out the window while giving lectures that he had written word-for-word in his notebook.  Turns out his wife was dying and he was deeply depressed.  I really love Biology despite this.  And, Mr. Dillabough who was just beginning his teaching career.  He was tough, cynical and asked everyone questions so there was no hiding.  I call him now to go through kids' names before I give my scholarships.  Thank goodness he finally got married and hasn't changed much from that first year.  Still cynical, tough and absolutely loves asking everyone in the class questions.

During my school years there were teachers who did and didn't teach me things that were valuable.  Sometimes it wasn't what they were setting out to do.  I think of why I took Michael and Emma out of elementary school, and some of the classroom experiences Michael has had since he went back to high school.  I wonder what their list will look like?  Or if it will be important enough for them to make one.

It's not just about what's in the books.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Counting to 10

How long does it take to count to 10?  A simple question, right?
In the past week I have found several answers to this question.  Counting to 10 gave me an entirely new idea as I finished developing the registration packet for The Toolbox Conference.  It gave me enough time to take a new perspective on one of the daily challenges of being a mother of teen/tween children.  I counted to 10 to recount memories of time spent with a very dear friend.  It gave me the time to give extra pets to a very lovable dog.  As I was reading about the tsunami in Japan I had a new understanding about how long those seconds might seem as something so overwhelming approaches, and how short as everything in someone's life is swept away.

I like taking action, and counting to 10 makes me impatient sometimes.  But, then there are times when I am stuck in all of the possibilities when counting to 10 would free me from the details and let me just choose SOMETHING! because I am getting in my own way.

Sometimes the best use of counting to 10 is just listening to my own breath, and returning to that place of balance and peace.  And, at that moment all of the swirling emotions, details and frenetic energy just return to their normal, manageable size.

So now, I'm going to go count to 10 and see what the day will bring.  Will it be enough time for my daughter to wake up and get out of bed?  Can I de-clutter the living room?  Will my already stressed outlook return to a more relaxed set up steps into Wednesday?  Can I set aside the busyness long enough to let my heart fill with gratitude and joy at all of the wonderful blessings littered about in the swirling emotions, details and frenetic energy of my complicated life?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Small Steps

Ideas are great for me; they grow like weeds.  And then I write them down and they stick together and things grow--like weeds.  Then, I need to explain how they work to other people.  Sometimes it gets sticky, but often it works.  It is very satisfying when it works.  It is especially satisfying when someone doing something connected to my ideas says they make sense and my concept works.  Does this sound familiar?  I think we probably have all felt this way.

So, I just finished reading Three Steps from Gold.  The guy who does most of the front end work on the book asks lots of very successful people about how they got through trials and challenges to find success.  Guess what?  They all have great ideas.  Their ideas grow like weeds.  Sometimes it gets sticky, but often it works.  It is very satisfying when it works.  And, sometimes it takes years to work.  And, even more importantly, they find people who believe in them to share their ideas with, and to connect to.  That is the "sticky" I'm looking for.

Life isn't about the big jumps I think; it's about the small steps that lead to the big steps that lead to the big jumps.  When I was skiing a couple of weeks ago I was removed from the small steps enough where I could observe myself and not focus on each 6 inches of snow (no more death wedge).  And, I kept wondering "how am I able to do this?"  And, for a brief moment I actually thought about skiing in the trees with Michael (briefly).

The Toolbox Conference will happen on March 25th.  I may have 6 attendees or I may have 50 attendees; but whoever comes will get a lot out of my sticky ideas.  Yesterday my friend Anne gave me lots of great feedback and support, which has already made the conference better.  And, my son has recently told me I can't do this alone.  Good advice.  I'm glad I have him and his sisters to make sure my materials aren't lame.  I can begin to see that I am going to "go places."  Experience does that for a person.  And, people to share your ideas with.

I filled out an online form the other day to check my experience and salary against others in the US to see how on par I am.  I don't earn any money at the moment, I do get to bring my dog to work, I have a flexible schedule and I travel.  And, I realized that I have amassed 10 years of teaching experience (and people with similar experience in the US are earning $50,000 per year on average).  A pittance for preparing our children for all of the challenges of living in such a complicated world.  Something is not balanced about that.

I wonder if all of those other people get to bring their dog to work?

Monday, February 28, 2011


I met a lovely woman named Holley during our recent trip to Utah.  She was especially lovely because she was helping me improve my very modest ability to ski.  I asked for a very patient instructor.  She was patient, and wonderfully enthusiastic.  She moved my brain past the "death wedge" to a new place!  I have been blessed to have worked with two other amazing instructors, and so I had a solid foundation, but Holley helped me take a huge leap -- of faith, of not taking my fear so seriously, and of allowing myself to get out of my own way.  Something altered in the way that I moved, and I could feel lots of small pieces of experience and information synthesize.  I am grateful for her assistance and sense of humor!  And, for her use of the word "surrender."

I have been reading a book called Three Feet from Gold (Gred Reid and Sharon Lechter).  It has some great pieces of advice, one of which is Stop Overplanning.  When I look at the progress I've made there is no reason to believe I won't be successful as I continue on.  Boy, is that hard to believe as I attempt to take the next step.  It sees silly but I think I have to learn to surrender to success.

So, I revisit that feeling of things synthesizing.  That is something I'd like to help others to feel.  One conference, game and conversation at a time...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Toolbox Conference

I am going to have a conference.  It was a concept in my imagination, and now it's going to happen.  That comes from the "if you can conceive and believe, you can achieve" model.  Plus, it's key to have good friends and lots of people who don't shut out the intention right away.

Kids have a lot of value in their lives.  They spend a lot of hours learning things like how words are spelled, how math works, what science is, reading, how to make art, the list goes on.  As they grow older decisions start popping up on the screen, whether they are home-schooled or in a school.  They need to make a decision about whether they are going to high school, then college, then what they are going to start doing in their adult lives.

I reach back to my own experience.  I know I wanted to go to the University of Michigan.  That was because it was well-known, and my best friend's brother went there.  Then, she did.  People outside of Michigan knew of UMich.  I was offered a full-ride at Western Michigan University.  I wasn't sure that anyone outside of Michigan had ever heard of WMU.

So, I got myself into UMich.  I went there, which is a long story itself.  Then, I graduated.  I had no idea what to do after that, so I followed my father's advice and got a $10,000/year job as a civil servant.  I was way overqualified, and miserable.  It took some time to get out of that quagmire.  And, I could never answer the question, "what are you good at?  what do you want to do?"  As far as I was concerned, there was nothing I was particularly good at, and nothing I could realistically accomplish.

Switch back to "now."  I have spent my life jumping in and just doing things.  Not a smooth career path, but definitely interesting at times.  And now I can answer those questions.

So, I believe if you give kids a tool to examine and assess what they've done, put some value on it, and then have them try using some of those things in a controlled experiment of sorts.  And, you throw in some interesting and inspiring adults briefly telling their own stories, and then sitting down with those kids in the controlled experiments, the kids will benefit.  They will be able to start to answer the beginning questions they will need to answer to set a course as they progress through their lives, on their own journeys.