Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolve This

Resolution - a resolve, a decision or determination. The act of resolving or determining upon an action, method, procedure etc (dictionary.com). It is New Year's Eve, and you know what that means. Millions of people will resolve to get fit, quit smoking, publish a world class novel, find the meaning of life, and discover the secret to happiness, all within the next 365 days. By February 1, however, these resolutions are all forgotten, the pounds are still gently swaying on our hips, we haven't written more than 15 words of that novel, and we really have no clue how to find happiness. If I do something differently, if I change, if I add, if I quit, then all will be right with the world and myself. The very word "resolution" conjures up an image of forcing, it is a determination, a decision to do something. Then it is our job to follow through. There is so much pressure to begin these resolutions on the first of the year, with a clean, fresh slate to work with. Why do most of us falter and begin skipping our daily trip to the gym on January 8, or buy that pack of cigarettes?

I have been successful in carrying out New Year's resolutions. Last year I resolved to sparkle every day, and yes, every day I brushed on glitter, I did not miss a single day. I am not saying that resolutions are fruitless. I will say however that we need to change our resolutions, or outer changes, to intentions, or inner changes.

Intention - a purpose or goal, aim (dictionary.com). An intention comes from deep inside, we have purpose, a goal to meet. This year I intend to be kinder to myself. I will pay attention to the negative voice inside my head. This intentions does not involve lifting more weights or completing a triathlon, but as a result of being nicer to myself I might make healthier choices. When I set an intention, if I fall off the horse, I can grab the stirrup and heave myself up again. After all, it is an inside job, no messy gym memberships or costly hypnosis involved. And the intention can change as I change. Yes it is all semantics, but there is enough pressure at this time of year to "fix" ourselves. What if we aren't broken? What if we are perfect the way we are at this moment in time? Grab that moment and go within. How can you be kinder, gentler, more loving today? Make that an intention, and have a brilliant New Year.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Compassion Is For Sissies

I made it through Thanksgiving, and as a long time vegetarian recently turned vegan, it has become increasingly harder with each passing year. I cannot stand to see the freezer filled with Butterballs. But I shied away from writing about the mass of feelings surrounding the deaths of millions of birds and the resulting pictures that filled my Facebook newsfeed. Why? Because sometimes I feel as if compassion is mocked in our society. Men are called sissies for crying, women hysterical. We don't let our sensitivity show lest we are called weak. I do not see mobs of people sobbing in front of the lobster tank at Price Chopper. We kill. We kill people, we kill animals, we value killing. People cheered when Osama Bin Laden was killed. Many of us support the death penalty. And most of us eat dead cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys. Vegetarian Times Magazine released a study in 2008 that stated: "...3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet" (Vegetarian Times). Not a large percentage of the population. It is 2014 and if that study were repeated it might show an increase of vegetarians out there, but it is still just a drop in the bucket. I admit, I am a sensitive person, and sensitivity seems to be undervalued in our culture. If I were to say that every time I saw meat in a supermarket I felt upset, or that when I thought of baby cows taken away from their mothers to make dairy products, I teared up, you might call me insane. Who cries over milk, spilled or in a glass tumbler? Is there such a thing as too sensitive? I hope not. Dr. Nalini Chilkov explored the process of creating a compassionate society in her article on the Huffington Post. Although the article is based on the practice of Buddhism, she wrote: "The path to a compassionate society arises from the intentions and actions of individuals within that society. One small act of kindness and generosity ... one act of tenderness ... one act of selflessness ... each of these moments makes a difference. No act is too small." Maybe what is important for me today is to value my own compassion, and my own sensitivity. It is a big part of who I am. The trick is to suspend judgement of others, because that is not compassion at all. I choose to eat plants rather than animals. Maybe you are a carnivore. I value compassion today, but that doesn't mean that you do not, although in my mind I am screaming at you. And if you see someone crying in the meat department, please don't judge.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Spiritual Adventuring

I cannot remember where I heard the term, "spiritual adventuring," but it struck me, enough to stop what I was doing and write it down. This blog post has been sitting here, blank, for at least a month, with only the title. As I write these words, I do not even know what the end result will be, but that is ok. By the time I hit the "publish" button, there will hopefully be a fully formed idea. For me, that is part of the fun of writing. I begin and see where it leads. To me, my spiritual life is similar to my spiritual life. I begin with a thought and see where it leads me. Over the years I have tread innumerable paths: from the religion of my upbringing (Christianity), to a place within the Unitarian Universalist community as a young adult, to experimentation in New Age concepts (yes I took a Tarot Reading course and explored Shamanism). I have participated in a past life regression, (don't even ask) and studied meditation and yoga. I have become a Reiki practitioner and have worked through twelve step programs. And I am still exploring.

Lately, there have been controversies surrounding the practice of other religions within a so-called
"Christian" nation. I have read the comments of outrage, how dare we accept people of other faiths, people who do not recognize the "one true God." This outrage lately seems to be pointed at Muslims. For the past 2000 years Christians themselves have been persecuted in this way. At first I was angered, why can't we all just get along, why can't Christians accept others of different religions? But then the anger faded. I sit here as a person who has led a spiritually adventurous life, and you know what? It is pretty cool. I try out different practices, I pray in a myriad of ways, I take what I can use and leave the rest. I chant "Om" after yoga, I meditate, I give and receive Reiki treatments and I partake in sessions with a spiritual counselor. Today the image of my Higher Power is that of a Great Blue Heron and an ancient oak tree. I find peace next to a stream and I talk with my ancestors as I watch the water rushing by. Sometimes I call God a She, and am amused when people get all flustered and self- righteous (yes, that is not so spiritual of me but kind of fun). Tomorrow, my spiritual practice may change, and I may discover a way up the mountain of which I was previously unaware. I look forward to it, a new spiritual adventure. Can I get an "Om?"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Returning to Center: What To Do When My Practice Derails

I have not been writing. I can feel the deep loss of this important part of my daily spiritual practice. Three weeks ago I started a temporary job in my chosen field, which will last until Christmas. I have been underemployed for a few years now, so the position was welcomed and it has proven to be an amazing opportunity. I work with people I respect and have support in learning my craft. The only caveat? A long (hour and half each direction) commute. Before this job, I would wake up early, go for a five mile run, and head to work. I would then come home, maybe another short run or yoga class. Now I am waking at 3:45am to run a quick two miles and leave my house by 5:30. The days are shortening and daylight savings time has begun. My schedule has been disrupted and I am experiencing intense exhaustion. Three hours a day in the car has begun to wear on me, and the resulting illness derailed the daily spiritual and physical practices which have kept me centered and, for the most part, serene. My job now is to get back on track, which includes taking a few moments a day to write. My problem is, that if I cannot do something completely, I do not even begin. So today I am here, with a cup of tea and the blank page. I do not have to write a novel, I just have to write a paragraph. Disruptions are part of life; we change jobs, go back to school, experience loss or fall sick. Getting back into the rhythm of routine is nearly impossible for me, but must be done before I succumb to the negativity that plagued my life years ago, before embarking on a spiritual journey.

As I write this post I am reminded of the opening lines of the Divine Comedy: Midway in the journey of our life / I came to myself in a dark wood / because the straight way was lost (Inferno 1, lines 1-3). Dante writes that it is the "journey of our life," not my life. First, I am not alone, we all get lost, off track, or derailed. But just because the straight path is lost to us, we are still someplace, even if it appears to be dark. It might just be that the straight way is not the path I should be walking, and I need to get lost for a bit, in order to focus on my surroundings. What has the past three weeks taught me? First: I adore teaching and I adore teaching teenagers. Second: I am wrapped so tight in my habits and routines that any time I stray from the path, I lose serenity. I am not well practiced in the art of navigating through change. In the Comedy, Dante, after finding himself in the dark wood, continues on, even though he did not know how he had gotten to that place. He takes a rest, and continues on the path, although he is ultimately thwarted by three vicious creatures. It is only when he accepts the help and guidance of Virgil, that he is able to continue. Albeit he continues on a different journey, one that will result in the writing of one of the most important pieces of literature.

What can I learn from my favorite writer? Certain daily practices may have been derailed, and it may seem a wee bit bleak, but if I reach out and accept the help and guidance of others, I might be able to find a different way. I know that in the past when I was trying to figure out how to juggle my undergraduate work with commuting and raising a child, I only had to ask for help and my schedule smoothed out. The first step in resolving this unrest, is to ask for Divine guidance. Breathe in, breathe out, pray, take a nap, and begin again. My one paragraph has become three, and I already feel as if I am returning back to my Self.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Revising My Life

I just completed a workshop in which the first five pages of my young adult novel, were constructively critiqued by other writers (First Five Pages Blog). It was a valuable experience. I have never enjoyed revision; once I am done with a piece, and the novelty has worn off, it is time to move on to the next creative project. New projects induce fresh energy that accompanies the creative process.  But this process forced me to revise my writing, and by the end of the month long workshop and feedback from writers each week, I feel that my pages are stronger. I still have a slight revision to make and I look forward to it. In the process, my characters became real and well-rounded, and I am planning on a rewrite of the entire novel using the advice I received from my fellow attendees.

As with the creative process, asking for help with revising my personal life is difficult. Although I do know from experience that every time I ask for help and actually accept that help, my life changes in some small beautiful way. I am able to see certain things differently when they are explained by a trusted friend or advisor. I tend to have my own uniques view of the world, and it takes another person to help me to see other solutions, and to change my perceptions. Because it really does come down to perception. I have a perception of life that is unique to me. When I am reading the first pages of my novel, I see my character as I have imagine her, with all of her quirks and idiosyncrasies. Those quirks might not come clear on the page however, and it takes someone to read and give feedback in order for me to see what is missing. Same is true for many other issues including my recent job search. I had blinders on; the only jobs I could apply for were teaching jobs with a 20 mile radius of my house. Which, if you know where I live, doesn't really give me much to work with. So I asked for help, and I received valuable advice yet again from Hearn College and Career. I was given tools to work with that helped me to broaden my search to jobs with an education slant, as well as brush up on my networking skills. I was exposed to possibilities I would not have come up with on my own. I feel a greater sense of hope that I will eventually land where I am supposed to be.

As with my novel, my personal life needs constant revision. I need to be aware of problems that may arise and make the necessary changes in perception in order to stay in the flow of life. I am no longer that starry-eyed high school graduate with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. I am an English Teacher who writes, or possibly even a Writer who teaches English. Who knows what revisions the future may bring. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Engaging in Controversy

I know I shouldn't do it, but sometimes the appeal is there: the act of defending one's honor, the adrenaline, the irritation and self righteousness that surge through the body. Sometimes I just want a fight. The entire interaction is covered in my other blog: Grateful Girl Goes Vegan. I will not get into it here, other than saying that I engaged in controversy, and it felt good - until it didn't.

Self righteous anger, sometimes it can be delicious. I believe that it is a human trait to need to be right. After all, so much violence is perpetrated because of disagreement; wars are fought and millions of people have died because some people think that they are right; that their way is the only way. Self righteous is defined as "confidence of one's own rightness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others." The word originated in 1670-80, Good thing, as the Salem witch trials were right around the corner.

Why the need to be right? Mel Schwartz wrote an article entitled "Why Is It So Important To Be Right," in Psychology Today. He said:
Our educational system is rooted in the construct of right and wrong. We are rewarded for what are deemed to be correct answers and the ensuing higher grades, which generally lead to more successful lives. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth. As students we learn to avoid as best we can the embarrassment of being wrong. Getting the right answer becomes the primary purpose of our education. Isn't it regrettable that this may be inconsistent with actually learning?
We go through life being either right or wrong. Education reformers spout the standardized test movement, reinforcing this black / white mentality. Is it any wonder that we grow into either Democrats or Republicans, Pro Choice or Pro Life, for gun control or against it, and on and on. If we are not right, then we must be wrong.

I wanted to, I needed to be right. After all, I had compassion in mind when I began the argument. He was being mean to other people. What ended up happening, was that I engaged in the same behavior, I needed to be right, and he needed to be right. In the end, no opinions were changed. I am still a vegan and he still eats bacon and hates Muslims. There, I have continued the controversy by judging another human being. What happens when the ego steps aside, and I listen to another person? Maybe I can see that we are really the same, we are both afraid, afraid to be wrong, afraid to go against our own ethical code, afraid of being judged or excluded. My opponent is really just a mirror image of myself. And he is taking up too much space in my head without paying rent. So for today, I will let go of this controversy. I cannot make anyone abstain from eating meat, nor can anyone change my mind about the vegan lifestyle I follow. For this moment I will accept the world as it is, flaws and all.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Looking For Balance on the Equinox

The autumnal equinox was yesterday, a day where light and dark are balanced. It also signals the beginning of autumn, a season here in the northeast of great change and beauty, foretelling the months of harsh weather and darkness. I asked myself, as I was on my daily run: Am I living a balanced life today? Am I balancing the active doing part with rest and inner searching?

I have written about balance before, on numerous occasions. It is a concept that has always eluded me. Right now I am traversing through the world of underemployment, so I have more time available to meditate, run, practice yoga and eat home cooked healthy meals. But what happens when that forty hour a week position becomes a reality? What will I have to let go of in order to take care of my body's basic needs, such as actually sleeping. It would be nice if I could survive on five hours a night, but alas, I am an eight hour gal. 

If I create a blue print for a perfect day, maybe I can adjust it when I do start working longer days, using a mathematical formula perhaps? If today I spend one hour running and one hour in yoga, if my time reduces by 50%, would a half hour of running and half hour of yoga still meet my needs? Here I begin to overthink and stop paying attention to what my body needs. Part of what the Autumn equinox teaches, is to first come to a place of balance, and slowly, minute by minute, begin to slow down as winter approaches. In this world of doing doing doing, we tend to ignore our bodies and the signals we receive from them. Winter is a time to sleep longer, go within, and find the peace and quiet in the dark. Our cave person ancestors weren't hunting and gathering at 7pm in the middle of winter. They were huddled around a fire, perhaps quietly making spears. 


Perhaps the secret to a balanced life begins with paying attention to the rhythms of my body. To sleep when I need sleep, to run when I am restless, and to sit and meditate when my mind needs calming. But how does one do that in the "real" world? First, when time begins to become scarce, I must look for time drains. Honestly, how many hours a day are spent watching Netflix? These precious hours can be used more efficiently. One hour of yoga versus one hour of "Ally McBeal?" No contest there, the yoga, will benefit exponentially more than mindless television. Just for today I will practice some balance, I will pay attention to what my body needs and maybe I will actually listen. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Decorating the Hallway

When one door closes, another door opens, so they say. That in between time, the transition period is often alluded to as the hallway. I have been in the hallway for a few years now, picking up temporary jobs here and there and obtaining my Bachelor's and Master's degrees, I have come to think of the hallway as a permanent space, a long narrow room that is in desperate need of some decoration. Maybe what I keep calling a transition (it does seem as if I have been saying I am in transition for a long time now) is not really a transition at all, it is the resting place for the moment. I keep waiting for the full time job, the marriage, the (insert huge life event here) and completely ignore the fact that there is merit in a so-called transition. There is movement, I don't seem to stand still, I am actively searching, seeking, changing. When I am in the hallway, I am moving from once place to another, I do not get complacent, I don't take a seat on the couch, kick my feet up and fall asleep. In the hallway I am searching for that small beam of light signifying an open door. What is behind that door a mystery and  when I am in the hallway I am in the mystery. Why not make that mystery a bit more comfortable, maybe some pictures on the wall, a vase filled with Spring flowers, my favorites, daisies and sunflowers, maybe with a few sprigs of baby's breath and eucalyptus? I could paint the walls a sunny yellow, and enjoy my time here. Today is a beautiful day: the sun is shining; I am working a few hours; I have enough food in the refrigerator; I have a man who loves me and will take me to dinner later today; and I have a beautiful space in which to live. I need to steep myself in the mystery. Will I be teaching full time some day, or does God have something different in store for me? Just for today, this moment, I will enjoy the mystery of it. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coming Back to the Beginning

I started this blog in May of 2009, and at the point I had let go of a full time job to head back to school. I was fumbling, wishing to write, completely terrified of what the future might bring, and clueless as to how I would support myself and make it to graduation. My first post was an experiment to allow my writing to seep out into the world. I was scared of what you might think of me if I actually put the words to page and sent into cyberspace. So far, no one has called me mad. It has been five years and over 200 posts. My writing has matured since that first post. I have asked for help, taken writing classes, read numerous books, written a novella and some magazine articles. I have published a book of poetry and a choral composition. And I feel as if I still have so much more work to do. I feel as if I still have a long way to go. I went back through the blog to those first posts, and see that although I have matured,  I still find myself with those basic feelings, fear, helplessness, and confusion. I now have a couple of degrees, but I still get scared when I don't get my way. I still do not live a life entirely steeped in Faith. But who does? What would be the challenge in that? Part of life is the struggle to come back to what I Know is True. I know that I am taken care of, that God's got my back. I know that when I step out of the way and allow miracles to happen, they actually do. I know that I have no clue what is in store for me and that it is far grander than I could have imagined. I am just not as creative as God, although I tend to tink that I know what is best for me.

My first post, written in May of 2009:
Dictionary.com has 13 definitions for the word "grace." Two daughters of Zeus and Euryone, the Graces, were goddesses of beauty. Grace is a prayer said at the beginning of a meal, as well as moral strength, mercy, or elegance of form. The word itself bears special significance to many religious organisations. I met a Labrador Retriever at Kennedy Park one day who stole my heart. Her name was Grace, and a bumper sticker on her owner's vehicle read, "Grace Happens." Does grace happen or is it something that must be sought? The ballet dancer would say that it takes years of hard work, the priest might say it is an act of God. Originally a derivative of the Latin word gratus, or pleasing, gratia is a favor, kindness or esteem. Maybe today, being in Grace is as simple as showing kindness toward another. Smiling at the woman giving you a cup of coffee in the drive thru, or withholding an angry horn when cut off in traffic. There are 13 ways to come into grace, might as well start small.

Today:
What does Grace mean to me today? Remembering to connect, showing kindness, doing service whenever possible, practicing radical gratitude, and allowing beauty and God into my life. I wonder where I will be five years from now. Right now, just for this moment, I know that my life will continue to be a miracle if I just allow it to be.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Creating a Spiritual Practice

Creating a spiritual practice is much like painting a masterpiece. You sit down at the canvas and just pick up
the brush. Where do you begin? First some colors must be gathered, mixed, prepared...then maybe just maybe you feel as if you should start painting with cerulean blue. Just take a dab of paint at first, try not to go too heavy handed in the beginning. Now remember, this will not be done overnight. I have been creating a spiritual practice for years now. Layers of paint have added, colors mixed, a little turpentine comes in handy when something didn't work.

I am writing this as I am reentering society, "reality" as some might call it, after a week on Cape Cod. I spent this week running, attending spiritual group meetings, walking my dogs, daily yoga classes, eating healthy vegan food, and relaxing on the beach. Most of the week was spent in silence, on my own. It was a beautiful week, and by the end, I began to feel like a person again. It was a week I would have never been able to take had I been hired at my "dream job." It felt as if my spiritual practice was supercharged. I already have a daily practice: prayer in the morning, running meditation, and spiritual meetings with others. I also write a daily gratitude list and eat vegan food (a practice of non violence.) But the week on my own, near the ocean and an abundance of yoga classes and running trails, allowed me to, as Emeril would say, kick it up a notch. And today, as I have no full time employment as of yet, I can continue this daily practice. But what happens when I find employment? The hour of yoga and two hours of running, followed by prayer and meditation and an evening walk with the dogs, might not fit so well when working 8 hours and commuting. Plus, I am adding too much to my daily practice at one time. I have noticed, that a habit sticks when I add one at a time, and a doable goal. If I were to say, plan on adding a full yoga practice while increasing mileage and meditation time while simultaneously juggling a life, a relationship, a grown child, animals, a household and family and friends, I might internally combust. Or the new routine would just not stick.

What color can I add to my canvas today? Might it be a gentle stretch in the morning while I am brushing my teeth, and maybe a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing to calm my mind with the goal of continuing to take at least one yoga class per week?  I would love to end each day, feeling just like I did while on my retreat. But life is what happens when we are making plans. And a full immersion in a complicated spiritual practice might not pay the bills or make my partner happy. Just for today I will add a few small pieces from my retreat into my daily practice, see how the color looks on my already paint splattered canvas. I can always add more paint later. And it only takes a small shift to make a change.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Running Downhill

Uphill takes forever and no matter which direction I run, there always seems to be more up hills than down. Why? I guess because we take longer to run uphill. Downhill I speed up and it is over quickly. Same with life, the harder hills seem to take forever, but once you crest you can cruise down. It all comes down to this: is it worth the climb? If you ski, you might say yes. When I am running full speed down a hill, the wind in my hair and a smile on my face, I say hell yes. There are always going to be climbs, times throughout the journey where it is just so hard, when you are breathless and ready to collapse. For me, my mind wants to give up right before the crest, but I know if I just hang on, the view will present itself. I reach the top, legs sore, lungs burning, and slow for the descent, the delicious, glorious descent. The descent is why we run, that feeling of being alive, the absolute joy of losing control. It is over soon, and life returns back to normal, maybe a few gentle bumps, some flat open spaces, and a few twists and turns. What I need to remember, while in the midst of a life climb, is that the crest will appear, and the freedom of the downhill only comes after I climb. I worked hard to earn my college degrees, and the feeling of freedom, of joy and accomplishment after receiving that diploma...that is why I brave the hills. Today, jobless, I slowly make my way up another hill. I send out resumes, I search online databases, and I ask for help. I climb. I don't know when the crest will come, but for this one moment, right here and now, I believe I will make it up that hill, maybe with sore legs, but the downhill will be so much fun.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Skinny?

I was called skinny the other day. As someone who has always struggled with weight I wasn't sure whether to be happy or frustrated by a so-called compliment. I finally settled on frustrated. I have lost 20 pounds, but have worked my butt off by running and weight lifting. I have gained muscle mass. I would have rather been called fit, or strong. Weight has always been an issue for me, and I have been sensitive about my lack of, or abundance, for as long as I can remember.

When I was younger I participated in a gymnastics program. I worked on cartwheels, rolls, back bends and front walkovers. I wasn't built like a gymnast, but I had fun. Today in yoga class I remembered how flexible I was and how things have changed. Why did I ever stop, I muse. I know the reason, and today it seems pathetic, but it wasn't to my twelve-year-old self. Someone wondered how I could do gymnastics with my larger thighs. That was all it
took, I quit the next season and I spent the next years battling with body image, overeating and lack of exercise. Today I am 41; I run at least 5 miles a day, and with the recent addition of yoga, have begun to get my former flexibility back. It was just a few words, how could they be so powerful?

Words hurt and affect us in unimaginative ways. But in order for the words to hurt, we must allow them to. And if I am upset or elated by another's comment about my weight, it means that I am allowing another's opinion to become part of me; I become fat or skinny or scrawny or buxom. These are merely labels. When did our culture become so obsessed with the way a body appears? And why is it ok to comment about someone's body? When did the body become a commodity for consumption, the property of the public? Young women are forced to cover up in school, because it "distracts" the boys; mothers who breastfeed in public are shunned or shamed; advertisements with scantily clad women are plastered on park benches. We act as if, as a culture, we have a right to judge the bodies of others, whether the supermodel or the pregnant woman in the check out lane.

Did that person have a right to tell my 6th grade self that her thighs were too large to participate in gymnastics? Is it ok for people to comment on the weight I have lost or gained (I have had it both ways.) After all, both extremes take a lot of hard work. I don't know the answer, just for today I choose to wake up early and run, not because it will make me "skinny," but because I feel alive when I run, I am closer to God, and yes, it affords me the right to eat extra popcorn.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Make lemonade, they say. I think that I am about to disagree. In order to make lemonade one must add sugar, lots of sugar. Sugar rots your teeth. Instead, why not make a new drink altogether? After all, lemonade is over rated. As some may know I have been actively looking for a full time teaching position. One such position had opened in a community of which I was a part, my dream job with supportive people and kids I adore. I have worked part time in this community for three years now, and found out last week that someone with more experience and expertise was hired. Lemons...I could add a bunch of sugar. But does this rejection mean that I have been forcing myself into a world in which I do not fit? Sure, I could continue looking for that elusive position, even widen my search to schools within a two hour commuting time, but if I need to add sugar, why not just have a different drink altogether? If I cannot fit into a community of which I was an active participant, then maybe I am looking in the wrong places. I love to teach. I love working with young adults. I love literature and writing. But does that mean that I would love teaching literature and writing to young adults? There has to be something that I am missing.

It was 1am when I wrote this. I had found out the day before that I did not get my dream job. I had been crying and could not sleep. I had forgotten the greater purpose, forgotten that God never leads me astray. I had been trying to fit myself into that square hole again. Maybe because of fear, fear that I will continue to struggle financially, fear that  I'll never have enough. And they are valid fears, I have defaulted on student loans and I cannot seem to keep up with my bills on the income I have been earning.  I think that fear has blinded me to a world of possibilities other than that road which seems to be the right choice because others have taken it. If I were not afraid, what would I do? Would I be a writer who teaches or a teacher who writes? A year from now I will return to this post, and say, "ah, that is what the Universe was thinking." Today, not so much. But for that few moments when I sat down at the keyboard and typed, I was no longer the square peg. I think I am going to make a smoothie instead, much healthier.

What next? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Letting Go

Letting go, a very hard thing for me to do, be it letting go of a person, an outcome, money, time, or food. I
tend to keep my fingers shut in a childish way. And some of the things I hold onto are quite silly: my drawer full of milk chocolate after being vegan for a year and half; money that I have in the bank to pay bills; and extra time. I have Clenched Fist Disease. Letting go requires faith, faith that after I pay that huge bill another paycheck will arrive, or if I throw out that milk chocolate, the next time I have a craving I will have the money to go to the store and buy a bar of dark chocolate. It is almost as if parts of me are stuck back in preschool, "mine." We see this in our culture, people amassing huge amounts of wealth and keeping it (think Walmart and its billions in profits paying workers minimum wage). In this area of the country every time there is the threat of a huge storm we run to our local store and stock up, just in case. It is fine to be prepared, but fights have broken out over electronics at Christmas, and road rage (you are in my space, my way) is prevalent. Many of us do not wish to give our well-earned tax dollars to support needy families, and letting someone into the traffic flow is just not done.

Just how does one "let go?" I hear the phrase, "let go and let God" all the time, but easier said than done. Usually I can let go of the harder stuff: the divorce, the damaging fire, or a death in the family. But letting go of the day to day nuisances has me clenching my fists. I do still have a hidden drawer filled with non vegan chocolate, and I do worry that I will mess up that job interview next week and I do have enough money in the bank to pay the cable bill. But what if...what if I after I pay the cable bill my car will need repairs and I won't have enough money to buy food? What if I throw the chocolate away and I cannot transport myself to the store because my car is in for repairs? What if the sky turned green and pigs really did begin to fly and I was forced to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of my life? My fears can be ridiculous, but very very real. When  the fear has taken control I forget every single time that when I have let go of a situation and asked for help, help has come (maybe not in the form that I wished, but nevertheless it always arrives.)

Just last week I received a letter from the IRS telling this seasonally underemployed gal, that she owes $1,700. It was huge, and completely out of my control. I wrote the scenario down on a post it, and tucked it into my God Box. The situation was larger than I could manage. I then asked for help and contacted a tax accountant, and a few days later received an answer. I did do my taxes correctly, but I need to contact one of my reporting agencies. A solution, one that I would never have thought of on my own. By placing the situation in my God Box, I allowed my fists to unclench, I allowed my faith to begin working, reminding me that I am going to be ok no matter what. And if the end result is that I have to pay $1,700, I will make a payment plan. I won't be force to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of my life, while pushing a shopping cart around. Letting go goes against my nature, but when I accomplish this monumental task, amazing results follow. When I let go of my need for a particular job six years ago, I ended up attending Mount Holyoke College, which turned out to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. If I had held on, I would not be where I am today. Today I have an amazing life, a part time summer job I enjoy, a beautiful partner to share my life with, an amazing son and a group of friend I adore. When I can remember that these are the results of letting go, maybe, just maybe I can throw away that milk chocolate and pay my cable bill. If I choose to hold on, well, the consequences are there, just waiting. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back

The phrase derives from an Arab proverb, a cataclysmic event cause by something inconsequential. This saying has also lead to the phrase, "the last straw." Aside from the animal cruelty aspect, which is slightly disturbing, it is great wisdom. So many times we traverse difficult roads, I know I have, deaths, divorce, fire, debt, unemployment, sickness and struggle. While we struggle our friends surround us with love, support and we seem to make it through. There are times however, when something so small, so insignificant that it shouldn't really affect us, happens, that we take a nosedive into oblivion. The straw, that one final straw. I know it holds true for me, I will sail through hard times, with my family at my side, and then the dry cleaners are closed when I really need that shirt for a job interview...or that last check I wrote toppled my checking account into oblivion...that I fall. 

Why can't the camel just say, "back off?" Because we are not in control, and that is the hard part. I adore control, I love it when things go my way, when I am right, when I get the job I want, the man I want, and the jeans I want fit. I love it when my life, a theatrical event, goes off smoothly, when it calls for a standing ovation. But this is not the way of life, it is messy, complicated and doesn't always go our way. We muddle through the best that we can and hope that when the final straw falls, we have family and friends there to pick us up, give us a box of Puffs Plus, and send us on our way. 

My dog is at the vet right now, under anesthesia. She was clawed by another dog at the dog park. I do not have the money for it, and the other dog's owner can only contribute a portion. Last night I felt that helplessness as I laid awake at 1 am (I never have sleep issues) worried about buying groceries and paying bills, while looking for a job and keep my house in order. The vet bill was the straw, that moment when I lost control over my tightly budgeted life. I couldn't write it off, and it wasn't going away. The only thing left was prayer, and I prayed and fell asleep. It seems so simple this morning, prayer. Please help me juggle life, please help me with this personal straw. I know that I won't be underemployed forever. I know that my degree and all of the hard work I spent attaining that degree will be useful some day. It is just not today, not according to my time frame. Today I need to focus on the simplicity of prayer, not the please help me get what I want prayer, but the help me to go through this with dignity and grace.
God
Help me to travel this path with grace and dignity
Help me to allow you to guide me while I walk.
Help me to slow down and witness the beauty of the moment.
Help me to work with you and not against you.
Help me to love and to allow and to relax into this day.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Give me some space please...

photo credit:http://www.wyophotos.blogspot.comLately I have been noticing something about myself. I need space, physical space, psychic space and emotional space. I don't know if it is because I am one of those highly sensitive folk, but I become physically uncomfortable around loud people, or anyone either in a vehicle or in person, coming too close. I tend to pick up on what others are feeling (tailgaters and their anger) and get easily distracted (clicking of someone typing on a laptop in class). Is this the ramblings of a mad woman? Is it because I am a country girl, and grew up with a big backyard and the woods in which to play? Or maybe it is a personality flaw, that uber sensitivity that allows me to keep others at bay (black flies don't count!). 

I think as a woman, my culture has taught me to be small, to take up as little space as possible. Look at the passengers in a  bus or a train, the men have splayed legs, taking up more space than allotted, and the women usually cross their legs, in effect, making themselves smaller. I have issues with anything or anyone that comes too close, be it a black fly (mean little suckers that dive bomb and attack in Spring) or the man standing behind me in the grocery line.  

Elaine Aron has written many books about the Highly Sensitive Person, approximately 15 -20% of the population who notice subtleties, is very intuitive, is sensitive to pain and to noise, among other things. Here is a list of traits on Elaine's website. When I took the quiz on this site, I came up overwhelmingly highly sensitive. It can be a hindrance (I am scared of car horns for what they do to my nerves!) as well as an asset. I can "read" people's emotions, and that can be very helpful, saving me from many scrapes. 

Personal space is a huge trigger for many people. On her website, Dr. Juith Orloff writes about how to cope with space invasion. "Why can personal space intrusions make our blood boil? Aside from being obnoxious, rude, dangerous, or unhealthy, they violate a primitive instinct that we’re not safe or respected. When we experience such violations, our brains actually react as if we were still back in 50,000 BC. Research shows that personal space disputes such as neighbor feuds about overgrown foliage are evolutionarily prompted responses aimed at guarding resources and ensuring survival." She  has a list of personal space invasions on her website. These include: telemarketers, loud cars, air pollution, tailgaters and graffiti. Knowing these triggers helps us to let them go when they pop up. Why do people get so close? Are we programmed or is it a personal issue?


Time Magazine answered the question: Why is so uncomfortable to be close to strangers? "Evolution seems to have programmed this discomfort via a brain structure called the amygdalae, a pair of almond-shaped brain regions deep within each temporal lobe that control fear and the processing of emotion. It's your amygdalae that keeps you from getting so close to another person that he could easily reach out, gouge an eye, and then drag your woman off by her hair." So we can blame it all on our ancestors, something we, as humans, excel at.

So I am a highly sensitive person that has a highly developed amygdalae. No one will be gouging my eyes out anytime soon, just please, if you see me driving, cute little blue shoe-sized car, don't honk. I am off to the woods.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya, In Memorium

I wrote this in 2007, to my hero, Maya Angelou (4/4/28 - 5/28/14).

AN ANSWER TO MAYA ANGELOU

What could a mere poet be
who speaks of rivers
and rocks and trees?
To a young girl
who might not believe
she is sturdy, whole and free.
What if this poet told her
“Give birth again
To the dream.”
So this girl would know
how to touch the stars
when they appeared too far to reach.
If this poet rose,
and danced and sang
and prayed.
Would that young girl
see that she could
rock the world with her whispers,
unafraid?
To that dear poet
who pulled herself from beneath
and said to this young girl
it was all right to believe.
To that rock
that river
that tree –
it is with tenderness and love
that I take root and grow,
to be happy
to be joyous
to be free.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Writing Life

I was doing so well, writing everyday, at least a few lines...but then...but then. It only takes one day to put a kink into a nicely forming habit, and I know it takes 28 days to form a habit, I had been writing everyday for two months, been practicing my oboe everyday for four months. But that day arrives, that day when the outer world trumps the inner. The day when you just want to go to bed or eat more dinner, or watch mindless tv, and that healthy habit is put on the endangered list. For me, I cannot skip a day, because one day becomes two, and three and soon I am no longer (insert habit here). Is this a unique trait, or something we all do, once we jump off the train, we cannot get back on without really trying hard (aka running after a speeding train). This month, Runner's World Magazine is sponsoring a Streak, run at least one mile per day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. I will try it, after all I know that once I have the momentum, I will keep it up. Is there wiggle room though? I know from past experiences that when I don't practice my oboe or run, I lose the momentum. But when does the habit become an obsession, or an addiction? It probably has something to do with balance, and balance is concept I haven't quite mastered. I am an all or nothing gal.
The word balance originated in 1250 - 1300, Old French, meaning a pair of metal dishes (a balance). In order to balance one must have equal weight in each of the metal dishes. But how does one balance an entire life. There are many aspects, physical, spiritual, emotional and there are only 24 hours in a day, minus 8 for sleeping. This is all just a ruse however, I could sit here and write about balancing my life, having healthy habits in healthy proportions, but really, how long does it take to write a haiku? I am making excuses for my lapse. Excuses, which have taken longer to compile than it would have taken to pick up my daily writing habit again. So here we are, today I am back on the seesaw, and I will write a poem:
the wind is balanced,
the skies, the shore, the ocean tides
an ebb and flow
as if words, once spoken
could return and I
could float gently down
the river with open arms. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Am I a Republicanophobe?

I am scared to write this post. First I am afraid to admit that I am prejudiced. But more importantly I am afraid that you, the reader, might be a Republican, and Republicans scare me. Why? Because, like other people who are prejudiced, I have an all or nothing mentality. Now is when you might get angry with me. But please don't yell, I am attempting to come to the root of my prejudice and abolish it. This morning, on Facebook, someone told me not to go all "right-wing" on him. It was, to me, a staunch tree-hugging, animal rights supporting, pro-choice, educated woman, an insult.

When I picture a Republican, I picture a gun-toting, anti-woman, racist,  homophobe. And people with guns scare me, and sexist, racist homophobes scare me. Therefore, Republicans scare me. And it all really just comes down to fear, fear of the unknown. I have tried to understand Republican economic theory, but I am a child of the 70's and I watched as the trickle down never trickle down. I read about huge corporations paying nothing in taxes and hiding their billions in profits in off-shore accounts. I watch as so-called Christians ignore the poverty stricken in this country, "they should work harder, they are moochers." When I picture a Republican I picture a person, devoid of compassion for those less fortunate. I watch as Republicans vote against the Equal Pay Act, as they cut assistance for needy children, and as they demonize women and teachers. This is what I see, hence my all or nothing mentality. I am no better than a racist, I let fear of the "other" guide my opinions. It comes down to the fear of the unknown. As a woman living in a sheltered community, I do not come in contact with many Republicans.

How can I abolish this extreme prejudice? It all comes down to the "us against them" mentality. If I focus on the differences, how can I begin to find compassion for the other, that person who holds different beliefs than I? After all, the world would be a boring place if we all believed the same things. The first step then, is to find common ground. So, my dear Republican reader, kindly help me out, help me to find common ground. I am a runner, I know, left turn, bear with me. As I runner, I race. When I go to races I run with thousands of other runners. We connect through our mutual similarities. I have no clue what political party my fellow racers belong to, we come for the common joy of running. When I pass a runner on the road, I am kind, I connect, I wave, I move over or slow down, after all it is a fellow runner. Turn right again, what commonalities can I find with my fellow Republicans? If I can find this, I might be able to soften around my opinions, my fears and my Republicanophobia.
From: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/left-vs-right-world/

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Accomplishments

I am pleased to announce that Crescendo Chorus has won the prestigious Alice Parker Award. Two movements of a piece I wrote, along with composer Cheng-Chia Wu, were part of the winning repertoire. Hearing my words sung by a thirty person chorus was enough of an honor, but I am so happy to hear that the chorus has received recognition.
http://worldclassmusic.org/crescendo/About%20Crescendo/chorusamerica_award.htm

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Always Right?

Do I always need to be right? I suppose if I were to answer honestly, yes. However I could say no, I am open to learn from others, to be humble and to grow in new and meaningful ways. But this is true if it is on my terms. I do like to be right. I like that feeling of superiority when I am proven right...see trickle down economics doesn't really work, we are all still floating around in poverty and the Earth is really round, not flat. There is a sort of rush that comes out of winning a good argument, especially if the little people come out on top. But what ends up happening is that I separate myself from others. I am not only refusing to speak to anyone in that other political party, but this person was mean to me and that person cut me off in traffic, so I need to ignore them too. 

Don't get me wrong, I have strong beliefs, and abandoning those beliefs would mean that I abandon certain populations in a time of need. I will remain staunchly vegan as I cannot condone the killing or abuse of animals. I will not support a political candidate that is racist, sexist, or neglects the voiceless in my community. I do not believe that we should be able to walk into Target with an oozie because of the second amendment and I will not stand by while our public education system is taken over by corporations that wish to stuff our children into slots. But I must live surrounded by people who condone the above, for a whatever reason. If I place my energy into judgement, I am perpetuating the problem. I am doing as they do. I am being mean, and I am trying to be right. So what does all of this mean? How can one balance advocacy and activism with humility and acceptance? I think it could become easier if I can let go of my constant need to be right? 

I need to take a look at the  feelings come up when I am wrong. Shame tops the list. I know it is hard to admit I am wrong, because I someplace deep within my twisted psyche I equate mistakes with inadequacy, that somehow if I am wrong I am damaged. This deep - seated belief has served me in the past; I have always strived to earn good grades in school, and I have made sure that I am meticulous in my work. But the "I am right" monster has outlived its purpose and has kept me from forming relationships with people who are different than I. This monster has kept me in a place of continuous judgement. 

"When I am right I make myself the hero of my own story." A wise man said this the other day. This I can relate to. I need to allow myself to be just another human, stumbling around on this planet we call Earth, making mistakes, and changing our minds, growing and changing, evolving. After all, who wants to admire a hero or heroine who looks reviles the other characters stumbling around the story? A hero can still go out and slay dragons, but hang out with those people who may support dragon advocacy. I am beginning to digress. How does one balance advocacy and humility? Any advice?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spiritual Experimentation 101


I was pondering, as usual, wondering how I could balance turning my life over to God and taking concrete actions to create a life I love. What is my reality and what is it that I wish to happen in my life? Where does God's will fit into all? There are many spiritual paths, some  tell us to picture what we want in life and we will draw those experiences toward us. Some paths have a male God in the all powerful chair, arranging our lives to His suiting. Some speak of karma. How does one deal with the many theories and belief systems? I can read Mike Dooley, The Bible or a book on Twelve Step spirituality. I can visualize or pray. I do believe in a Higher Power and I know that when I allow that HP to guide me, things run smoother. But I also believe that life is what I make of it, if I am positive, I will draw in positive experiences. Judgment plays a role here, I know. 

I guess I am still in the experimentation phase. I know what I don't like, organized religions that preach hate, intolerance and a literal translation of the bible. But as for a clear spiritual path, mine is a bit overgrown. I believe that prayer and meditation work. I believe in a "God." I also believe that what I think or focus on is what I create in my life. Hodge Podge.
I heard someone say that when she follows God's will, life is easy, yet when she doesn't it feels as if there is a clear wall blocking the path. She still takes a sawzall out and attempts to continue, however the sawzall method always ends in disaster. Some people say that if it is God's will it will be easy, and if not, problems will arise. So what does all of this mean? What is the difference between my will and God's will? Was it God's will that prompted me to go to college and earn my Master's degree in teaching? I started out working toward an Associate's in Business, and then opportunities began to fall in my lap, the offer of a large scholarship here, an acceptance letter to a good college there, a part time job subbing here, and a little extra help with bills there.
 
Let's look at this scientifically, as sort of an experiment. In elementary school science class we are taught to follow the scientific method, to come up with a hypothesis, perform an experiment with controls, and form a conclusion. Maybe I can use this process for my questions concerning spirituality. 

Steps in the scientific process:
  • Ask a Question - What is my system of spirituality? Do I even need to have a system?
  • Do Background Research - Read what I can, come up with a list of beliefs and try to piece them together.
  • Construct a Hypothesis - A spiritual hypothesis?
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment - Practice turning my will over and taking it back (I already do that.)
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion - Not there yet.
  • Communicate Your Results
Maybe a hodge podge works, maybe I can turn my life over to God and then meditate. If I change my attitudes, concentrate on the positive, what harm may come? Maybe spiritual matters cannot be put into a neat little system. Only time will tell. After all, I started writing this post a little confused. I am still confused.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Poetry Experience

March has passed. At the beginning of the month I set out to write a poem per day, for the entire month and I was successful. Some days the poems were short and sweet, but toward the end I looked forward to a few minutes with a stack of word cards and a challenge, to write a poem. Not only is my notebook a little heavier, but my soul is a little lighter. Writing each day makes a difference. I am forced out of the day to day mundane details, into a world where anything could happen. And it did. I was transported to chapels in the middle of the woods, fields filled with milkweed and goldenrod, and hotel rooms in foreign countries. For the short time I was writing, I became a writer. And that felt amazing.

It is now April, and Spring is attempting a takeover, with some success. It is National Poetry Month, so maybe, just maybe I can continue the challenge, continue to explore other worlds with words. Here is yesterday's poem, to finish this much needed experiment (experience).

Dancing

Smell the rain,
sweet-scented clouds release
their torrent over hills -
misty vegetation - dandelion
greens. Milkweed pods
and goldenrod release
their fragrant centers.
A community of crickets
nestle into crevices -
And I -
fingers and toes
covered in mud begin
to dance down the aisle -
damp grass swaying in
the breeze -
in Earth's Chapel.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's Eating You?

"If something is eating you, you got to find a way to use it," said the art teacher from the movie  Speak. This got me to thinking about just what is eating me (because something is) and how I can use it. 

So I have been sending out resumes for the career field I chose since February of 2011, and proceeded to spend 120,000$ on the education needed for said career. It is now March of 2014 and, countless resumes and cover letters and "no thank yous" later, I am still searching. Now granted I am not the only one, and English majors are a quarter per dozen (inflation,) and I know that I would have a job if I was, say a Physics major with a minor in biochemistry. I also know that "rejection is God's protection." But I am also tired of not being able to support myself. So that is what is eating me. So how can I use this frustration / anger / uncertainty / apathy that is beginning to eat away at my stomach lining? Create something would appear to be the answer. As a writer my impulse is to grab a pen and create a sonnet, or possibly a haiku. But I also know that mucking around in the bog of complex emotions won't get me far. I have prayed, I have shared, I have knit hats, I have written poems and blog posts. The act of creating is cathartic, but if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If the resulting creation is not shared or read or seen, does it exist? 

Today a motivational speaker / life coach came into school to speak with students in our internship program. He talked about just how much we really don't know about the world and how there is a perfect career path for all of us. He had us break down what we loved about our jobs (the students, their internships) and what we don't want in our workplace. He went on to explain that sometimes we can find meaningful work in the unexpected places. I want to be a teacher, but if I were to break that career down into pieces, I would need work that involves teaching, collaboration, creating and connecting the dots. It would involve working with young people (not too young) and it would be a new adventure everyday. I would have autonomy and creative license, I would use my research skills frequently and I would have opportunities for reading and writing. Now a classroom teacher is one way to go. But maybe I am missing something. Maybe in that space of limbo I am meant to cast a wider net. Maybe the frustration / anger / uncertainty / apathy is lurking for good reason. I don't know. But I know that I don't know and I guess, just for today, that is enough.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Halfway Point: Poem a Day

On the first day of this month I began the ”poem a day” experiment. After all, it is March, cold, slushy, and dreary. I needed a pick me up, an attitude adjustment per se. So I set out to write one poem per day for the entire month, thirty-one days total. I am now halfway through this experiment.

Days one and two, the challenge is on my mind...so I write.

Day four, I forget until 8 pm while I am watching tv. I composed a haiku about the cat with her tail in my face, quickly onto the only paper I had near me, my organizer. The poem sucked, but it took me out of my tv-induced stupor. Maybe it accessed a different part of my brain, not sure. But the process of sitting down, opening my notebook and picking up a pen is therapeutic for me. The brain has to concentrate on the process and in effect it forgets the current worry or anxiety plaguing it. The thoughts  turn from the late student loan payment to writing. Perhaps this is a form of positive reinforcement. I am thinking of my dog now, distracting her with a piece of cheese, long enough to walk by the neighbor’s hairy beast. That is what I do with my brain when I write, here cerebral cortex, look, yummy words, now forget that pesky Sallie Mae.

Last week I went to a reading of young women high school students' work. Before reading, each student’s respective teacher would introduce and let the audience known why each girl enjoyed writing. “Creating something beautiful out of nothing,” was one response, “entering another world,” another. So the question arose: Why do I write? Maybe I write to escape that part of my brain consumed with fear and worry. When I  am engrossed in writing a short story I do not worry about the bills or how I am going to get all of the house clean before the guests arrive. I connect with something that is not ego (most of the time.) Some folks have said that ego is edging god out. Maybe when I write I am connecting to god. Writing for me is part of a spiritual practice.

Day 8, I have nothing to write about. I am covering a math class and see a poster on the wall. I write a horrid little poem, entitled “Polygnomials.” Really it is about polynomials, but I am still clueless. I felt as if I was reaching for words that didn’t feel like coming out to play. But I fulfilled the goal, it was after all a poem, just not a very good one. 


Day 15, I take a poetry workshop and am re-energized. I want to write today, I guess that was all I was asking for at the beginning of the month. I want to go through the first 16 poems and scratch out all of the crap poems (as if I am any judge.) But the crap poems serve a purpose, they waved the cheese in front of my nose, they whispered to me, calling me out from the closet, the easy land-into-bed-and-watch-mindless-tv-trap. So tomorrow will be the 17th day, it takes 28 days to change a habit. Can I slip into a habit of daily writing? My soul would benefit. 

Group Poetry

I took a very cool Poetry and Play workshop yesterday, with Lisken Van Pelt Dus, as part of March's Berkshire Women Writers Festival. The following was an exercise we did in the workshop. This poem consisted of six lines. For each line we would receive  word from the person sitting next to us. We then would give a word to our neighbor. The result was an individual poem, but we took it a step further. In a circle each woman would read a line, in order, from one to six. The result, was a group poem. As we had shared words, the poems created through this activity were cohesive. As each of the six lined contains a "gift" word, I consider this to belong to the group.

Blueberries
The streets are crowded
this morning. Angry faces
peer out from store-front
windows. Dogs scavenge for
bones in trash barrels lining
the sidewalks.

Sometimes the future looks
bleak from behind dirt-paned
glass. A little girl scatters
blueberries as she walks,
barefoot in the summer sun.

I can just make out her
calloused heels as she disappears
around the corner, never
to be seen again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Children are not data

     The following is a question I encountered while applying for a teaching position in  Holyoke. Needless to say,  I won't be called for an interview. I am posting my response. And the lack of punctuation is not my error, but theirs. 

       Please tell us three pieces of data that you monitor in order to plan and deliver differentiated instruction. Your answer should include why you believe that these data points are significant  


It saddens me that you ask for me to provide three pieces of data instead of three ways in which I engage my students. Instead of answering your question I will instead answer the following question: How do you engage your students so that they are invested in their education? I know that you will toss my resume out, but I feel that it is more important for my students to leave my classroom with the desire to learn more, as opposed to becoming a piece of data. Don’t get me wrong, I do track the effectiveness of my lessons. But as this is the only glance you will have of me, I would rather share my love of literature and my desire to find literature that speaks to my students as individuals. Literature teaches empathy. It lets us know that we aren’t alone in this world. If students can relate to what they are reading, it might foster a desire to read more. Now I do live in the real world, I know that not all students will read, not all students can read well. Some have to work to make ends meet, others have made it so far without learning. But I have seen students from different backgrounds fully engaged in a discussion while reading Looking For Alaska, by John Green. I watched students who had previously left a book untouched, engrossed in Green’s words. The book was relatable.  Data is not important to me. A student’s ability to connect a book to their own life, to compare and contrast, to think for themselves, these are the things that are important to me.  Each student is unique, each has a learning style, and what is important is that I know my students as individuals, that I connect with them, that I vary my lessons so that I include as many learning styles as I can. I want students to be able to walk out of my classroom and be able to answer larger questions, to think through issues and to argue different viewpoints. That is what I will strive for as a teacher, not whether my data points are significant. So I hope that you find the perfect applicant for this position. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Blue?

I need to write today.
maybe it is because
I bought this purple 
pen, or maybe I wish
to hear the scratch
of ink on paper, the 
"swish" of my hand
trailing across the page.

What would happen if
I changed colors halfway
through this poem?
Would I continue writing?
Or would the words
seem to float off the
page - vanished.

I can't go back - I
could continue in blue
or pick up the purple
pen yet again.
What does it matter?
The poem is still here
on the page.

So many times I just
don't know what to do.
Does it matter? After
all, color is color, the
purple ink reminds
me of Spring - Easter
baskets and Sunday
dresses handmade by mom. 

Blue conjures the ocean
on a sunny day - always
near Provincetown.
In both memories I am 
smiling.
But I need to get it write (right).

If I am to use permanent 
ink, colored no less -
If I am to press the pen
into this blank page -
running my hand along
the smooth sheet,
maybe I can sit back
and enjoy the colors,
the memories evoked
and allow myself the
right to choose
either shade.