Quick To Anger

Many of us are jumping up and shouting that ‘those people’ are what is wrong with America.  I would argue that it is not ‘those people’ it is their attitudes.  Our town is very conservative, very Republican, and very Christian.  Our town is making changes, improvements as it were, to roads, bridges, streetlights and our downtown. Our local leaders are trying to revive and improve our little corner of Oregon. We have several Facebook pages where new ideas are shared with the community.  

 

If you have taken a look at any of these public forums you have seen the barrage of ugly comments left by our neighbors. They are comments that are filled with such anger, hatred and vile language that seems so out of proportion to the idea or statement that spurred them on.  If someone said even the more mild of these hate comments out loud, to my face, I would be fearful for my safety.

 

Somewhere along the way we have lost our respect for one another, a filter of decency, and the ability to control what we say and do.  It seems that we are looking for things to be outraged over, reasons to swear at hard working people, and ways we are being wronged by anyone who crosses our path or looks to change the status quo.

 

Our local government has been implementing road improvements for the past couple of years, and the roads and bridge to our downtown have been under construction for that long. Perhaps it has taken 5 minutes to get through that area rather than the one or two it usually takes… on a really busy day it took ten.  There were road workers helping with traffic during this time. I usually smile and wave because…why not? Those road workers received so much verbal abuse from members of our community. It was sad and they couldn’t wait to get out of our town.

 

The improvements are not perfect, they make it more dangerous rather than less dangerous if you are riding a bike across the bridge and into downtown…but I don’t need to yell or get angry about it. I don’t need to call names or send hateful messages to our city planners. I can write an intelligent, helpful letter offering ways to fix the problem and offer suggestions.

 

We need to step back and think before we jump to anger. Our town is a microcosm of what is happening in our country.  We need to seek to understand what is happening and why it is happening. We need to respect each other before we join the conversation. That is what will make America great again… lack of respect ~ that is what is wrong with America. If you don’t have respect for others, you don’t need to get out, you need to open your mind and better understand the situation.

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Sometimes Dishes Break

Sometimes dishes break… even the ones you love… the ones that you have cherished for years,  saved for special occasions, or something brand new… sometimes they just slip out of your hands, get bumped by someone who was a bit clumsy, or tip because they were teetering on the edge, and before you know it, you are sweeping up the broken bits of something that can not be fixed…

When I was first married I broke a lot of things… my husband would get upset and tell me that I just didn’t care enough about this, that or the other thing… He would get upset with me and I would be hurt or angry and try to defend myself… what a waste of energy… that attitude, that we made mistakes or had accidents because we didn’t care almost cost us each other… we went through a rough patch, developed a new vocabulary to deal with small hurts without letting them get big and and soon it just became our little joke… when something would crash to the floor one of us would say something about not really liking it or not caring about it…  we would pick up the pieces together and move on…

The truth is, some things can get bumped and just in the nick of time they can be caught before they crash to the floor… life is like that… a constant catching as things topple over… a bit of super glue to mend what was not caught soon enough …. and when you really cherish something that has shattered, you can still pick up each piece carefully and create something completely new and even more beautiful… a mosaic

If you don’t use the things that you love, they can never be broken… but they can’t really be enjoyed either… Some of the most beautiful mosaics can be created from things that have been broken… remember that…. And always look for the joy

SEX is Not a Bad Word

“Sex is NOT a bad word”… I shouted this… in my classroom… to 6, 7 and 8 year old students…. everyone froze, but only for a flash.  So, I had to shout it again, with just a bit more volume and conviction.

Moments earlier a concerned child told me that a classmate found a bad word in one of our library corner books. ‘Oh, my!’, I said… and I went to take a look.  Being unable to find the word myself (or the book), I instead, found the finder.  They were not going to talk and would not utter the word found, but they did point to a book that was a class favorite.  It was one of our heaviest hardback books, about 12″ x 18” and over an inch thick… a child’s encyclopedia of animals.  It really is a beautiful book, full of colorful, realistic drawings and photographs of all animals from amoebas to humans… it has tons of interesting facts and quite a few scientific words. My students pour over its pages, showing interesting pictures to friends.  It would not be uncommon for three or four students to be gathered around this book oooooing and aaahing for a whole reading period.  I grabbed the offending book.

A buzz was in the classroom, because everyone knew that our class favorite had a bad word in it, most of them had been shown the word, and the book may be put away behind the teacher’s desk (a veritable black hole of confiscated crap and stacks of books and papers) never to be seen again.

Here is how this went:

“What was the bad word”

“I don’t remember”

“You do, what was it?”

“I am not going to say it.”

“You can tell me, what was it?”

“It is a bad word, I am not allowed to say it.”

“It is okay to tell the teacher, you can tell me the word. You are not in trouble.”

“My mom said I am not allowed.”

“Okay, let’s find it in the book and you can show me.”

At this point he turns to an easily found page towards the beginning of the book (he had obviously become an expert at finding it from showing the rest of Room One the offending word).  It was the page on protozoans, sponges, or maybe some other basic sea creature and had a beautiful diagram of one such animal, labeled with all of it’s parts… Right there at the bottom of the page was the word, with a line connecting it to a blob inside the organism… SEX cell… There it was.

Okay… here’s what happened next…

“Ah, I see. That is not a bad word. You CAN read me that word.”

“No, I can’t.  My mom said it is a bad word and I am never allowed to say it.”

“But you can show it to everyone in class? Hmmmmm. I think you can read that word to me, because this is a science book in our classroom and I am asking you to read it. You can do that.”

…. we sat in silence for a long time… My student was set on not reading the word, I read it, I explained what that word meant in the book, and finally, in frustration, I shouted out “Sex is not a bad word” – twice… And then “Everybody stop what you are doing and meet me on the rug! Now!”

Quick as a wink, there they all were, staring at me as I held up the offending book.  We had a big discussion about what that word meant in that context… That humans are born to be either the male sex or the female sex, we all have a sex, and also sex is the word we use for how animals reproduce… then we talked more broadly about words and how many words can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how you use them and who you are speaking to. Words like stupid, hate, ugly, pig, rat and more can be used in a good way or a bad way… It was a deep lesson for young children, but our favorite book was back on the shelf and we have not had a ‘bad word’ incident in a while… No shit. 😉

Building An Effective Wall

I just read that the ‘Wall Proposals’ are due on Wednesday.  I had this picture in my mind of people all over the world sitting in little teams contemplating materials and design.  Suddenly I had a flash of a children’s story I read to my first grade class every year: The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas.  From the title you can see that the classic tale is flip flopped and the sweet little wolves are terrorized by this big mean ugly pig.  The wolves like to play games like badminton, hopscotch and croquet … they try to protect themselves by using not straw, sticks and bricks, but iron bars, metal plates, concrete block and a video surveillance system… each time the Big Bad Pig blasts their home to bits with dynamite, sledgehammers, or his ever ready pneumatic drill.  Finally the wolves give up trying to build this fortress against their enemy….

I imagine our wall as their final house, a wall of flowers (or better yet edible plants) swaying delicately in the wind, having a similar effect on boarder dwellers, as the wolves flower house had on the Pig…. as one draws near our wall “they are filled with the fragrant scent of flowers”… their hearts grow and they begin to dance.  At my wall they may pick a strawberry or snack on an apple before shaking hands with the boarder control, who tend the wall, take selfies with the crossers and welcome them to America.

Gone are the people dying in the desert, gone are people dying in storage containers or the backs of overheated trucks and gone are those profiting from human trafficking…

I am sure there are holes in my dream… but if you don’t have the dream nothing can ever change…

Yes, certainly…

I love my job.  Every day is something different, a challenge, and often a joy.  Teaching young children I have the power to make a difference in their lives, the lives of their families, and hopefully an impact on society.  If you have read my blog before you know that I have very strong political opinions… I am a liberal, believer in universal healthcare, pro-choice, anti organized religion, LGBTQ supporting, science believing, spiritual, singing, dancing, mother, wife and teacher.  Most of those things I leave at the door.  I do not bring my politics and  other controversial beliefs into my classroom or impose them on my students.  I just don’t. It wouldn’t be fair or right to do so.

When my students cheered because Trump won the election I said that many people were happy and that I hoped he would be a great president.  I try to promote the idea that all presidents wanted to make our country a better place for us all. We wrote our letters of congratulations to President Trump on November 9th, and mailed them off to Trump Towers… it would have been nice to get some recognition that they were received, but oh well.

I am not giving up on what I believe is right for our country.  I am working in my own way to support the causes I feel most passionate about, to write, and to motivate… but I am also wanting to challenge the ideas of the opposition.  If we don’t continue to challenge them, if we just sit by quietly as health care is lost, people are rounded up, and our education system is decimated we will have no one to blame but ourselves…  But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about what we can do in our own towns and communities to create the world we want to live in and to leave to our children.  Sadly, not everyone is willing to do what is necessary… but in my small sphere of influence, I am working to make it happen.  The things I teach in Room One can be a guideline for making a better society… So, this is the beginning of a series of Room One rules that illustrate some core ideas about how to do just that.  Here is just one of my rules and my thoughts about why it is important:

  1.  If you get out of line you can have your spot back.

For years, teaching young children, I would hear ‘He got out of line, he has to go to the end!, ‘He got out of line and now he is trying to cut me!, or (with a bit of a shove) ‘He is trying to squeeze back in!’… I have heard many teachers tell their students that if they get out of line they would have to go to the end. In fact, I used to say that myself.  It just felt sad and sometimes I would make an exception… But now, in Room One, if you need to get out of line because you forgot to grab your coat, get a drink,  tell someone something, or for no good reason, you just need to say please hold my spot.  When you get back to the line you say, excuse me, may I have my spot back and the person is supposed to say (we practice this), “Yes, certainly.” Even if you forget to ask someone to hold your spot you can get it back… That is the rule.

It is not about eliminating conflict or complaining, it is not about where you stand in line or the reasonableness of why you got out of line… it is about treating other people the way you want to be treated.  If you get out of line for any reason would you like to get your spot back?  If you forgot to grab bananas at the grocery store, you might leave your cart in line and run back to get them… imagine if when you got back someone had shoved your cart aside?  You want to be treated kindly. So, in Room One, everyone gets their spot back. It is polite.  It is the right thing to do.  It makes people happy and it is easy.

How can this apply to the world?  Imagine the on-ramp of your local highway, imagine the line at the bank, post office or market… imagine what is the right thing to do and make that happen… we have moved away from worrying about others’ feelings – political correctness has become a bad word – the pendulum has swung – pushed by some very angry people who would never give you your spot back… Time to push back and show what it feels like to say “Yes, certainly”, and really mean it.

 

 

Check Yourself

Check yourself… I say this in my classroom all the time… and we review what that means… It is my way of reminding certain people without ‘calling out’ any one child.  I teach the kids to ask themselves a list of questions when they hear me sing this out… 1. Am I in the right place? 2. Am I working quietly? 3. Am I bothering anyone? 4. Am I taking care of myself? and 5. Am I using kind words?

As adults, we too need to check ourselves.  Heading into the new year, having survived a tumultuous 2016, we need to remember that the world is changing and it is within our power to shape that change (or even counter it).  We can do that in the words we use, in the things we post and in the comments we leave.  Being part of a different generation is not an excuse for not being willing  to check yourself.   People who insist on holding onto outdated uses of ideas and language, who speak or post hate, who have decided that others’ freedoms take away from their way of life, need to check themselves. For us, for me, here are a few things it means: 1. Am I trying to help or hurt? 2. Am I doing enough? 3. Am I moving forward or looking back? 4. Am I being true to my beliefs? and 5. Am I  open to new opinions and ideas?

This last one is the hardest for many people because it can be threatening.   It requires that you consider the perspective of another,  that you question your own beliefs, and that you pause from defending your own stance to consider a different perspective. As this year unfolds I will challenge myself to do just that… to take a breath and consider… I challenge you to do the same… but even if you can’t get there, please remember to use kind words, that is really what will save us all…

Check yourself

Be The Hope

I love this time of year.  I spent most of my day baking (something I only do the days preceding a family birthday or Christmas).  I made mince pies, and cake for our trifle.  I enjoy the mild panic that happens in the week leading up to Christmas Eve.  I wrote at least three lists only one of which I can find.  I went to the same store three consecutive days, each time thinking I had it all… and I repainted our living room floor.  We still have yet to get a tree… that is tomorrow’s job.  I love the lights, the candles, the food, the drinks and the gatherings that this time of year brings… it also brings the hope of what is to come.

This year was difficult… one of the worst things that could have happened, did… but it is time to be reborn in the new year, to look towards the future… to hope, to dream, to live… Finding ways to make the world, your world, a better place…

Be that hope, be that person who stands up while others stand by, be the voice of reason, the voice of compassion, and the voice of justice… this time of year should remind us all what life should really be about… love, acceptance, caring, giving, and kindness… We open our home to friends and family during this season because  we are all connected to one another and only through nurturing those connections can we make the world a better place… We are all connected, all part of one world family…

I carry with me those I still hold dear.  I choose my jewelry, table cloths, perfume, and clothes to keep those who are not with me close by… I think of my friend, my mother-in-law, and my grandmother… all strong women who continue to give me hope, who spur me on to stand up, speak out, and throw that can of tuna with all my might at any injustice that crosses my path… they also urge me to embrace life with everything I have… that long hard hug that never lets go…  I honor those women by striving to be the hope…