Sinking In

So fellow travelers, one of the things I value highly from being part of a creative community are the moments when one person’s contribution generates another work.  We call it the ripple effect.  Jackie Campbell,  a friend and fellow haiku writer (she posts one almost daily in her thoughtful blog) shared a story with a photo that caught my attention right away.

JackiesDock

Photo courtesy of Jackie Campbell

The image matched a haiku I wrote a few months ago but had not posted  because I had yet to capture an image to match the words.

Tide rises waves come
Hold fast to the shore my friend
Light and love are near

Most of my haikus are created out of the experience embedded in an image I capture, so the visuals usually preceed the words.  This haiku came out of some challenges another friend was experiencing. When I composed it, I sent her a copy on a hand decorated card and kept the original words in my blog drafts waiting to snap the right photo to go with it. Then this morning while wrestling with another post that felt heavy and awkward, I came across Jackie’s candid story and photo. Often when I feel I’ve hit creative quicksand, I will take a break and scroll through my WordPress Reader’s feed or check in on Instagram if only to lift my mood. Most of the time savoring the creativity of others not only raises my spirits, it sparks my own process and I get back into the flow of writing, just as Jackie’s piece gave me the boost I needed today.

Jackie’s honesty about feeling daunted by the process of learning to “get out of manual” mode when using her camera reminded me of how easy it is to doubt our ability to acquire new skills, particularly when technology is a component of the tools we are using. I’ve had my digital slr camera for several years now and there are still settings I have not ventured to experiment with. In fact on my last trip to the Pacific Northwest I chose to leave that camera behind and rely on my phone for photos. With trips planned to two national parks, it was an almost unthinkable choice, one made only because I know I will return to those those parks again in the next few years.

On recent trips I have felt burdened by the bigger camera and noticed most of the photos I like best were ones I captured with my phone. This trip I felt more present in the adventures I had, letting the experience really sink in without the requirement (admittedly self imposed) of capturing it “on film.” There were only a handful of moments when I missed the capabilities of my dslr and the depth of experience I gained by being present without it were well worth the trade off of less impressive shots taken by phone.

20170826_120556.jpgMt Olympus from Hurricane Ridge in Olypmic Natl Park.                                                         One of the moments I missed my dslr and extra lenses.

The fear we have of not creating work that is “good” enough, not getting it “right” comes from self imposed expectations. We just don’t give ourselves the benefit of making mistakes which are after all how we learn to do things better. Our expectations and tendency to compare ourselves to others not only in creative endeavors, but in many, too many, areas of life, fabricate quagmires of doubt. This is why I am grateful for the creative community I am part of.  Encouragement, advice and even an inspirational challenge from time to time (more on that in an upcoming post) are lifelines along a sometimes rocky journey to creative growth and deeper self expression.  We may not always walk side by side, but we are never truly alone. It’s a blessing beyond any measure of perfection.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

Introducing WordPress.com for Google Docs: A New Way Forward for Collaborative Editing

Sharing for fellow wordpress bloggers with the full disclaimer I have not tested it out yet. I do plan to try this in the next week or so. If you have feedback please do post your experience the comments!

The WordPress.com Blog

We are happy to announce WordPress.com for Google Docs, a new add-on that lets you write, edit, and collaborate in Google Docs, then save it as a blog post on any WordPress.com or Jetpack-connected WordPress site. Your images and most formatting will carry over too. No more copy-and-paste headaches!

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To get started, just go to the Google Web Store page and click to install it.

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Joshua Dubois: What the President secretly did at Sandy Hook Elementary School

My definition of a true leader in a crisis

Vox Populi

Below is an excerpt from The President’s Devotional by Joshua Dubois, the former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He’s recounting events that occurred Sunday, December 16, 2012 — two days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members. Dubois had gotten word the day before that the President wanted to meet with the families of the victims:

I left early to help the advance team—the hardworking folks who handle logistics for every event—set things up, and I arrived at the local high school where the meetings and memorial service would take place. We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn’t know how…

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Uncomfortable. Different. Progress.

Right in sync, as often happens, Tom’s piece gives me insights I needed. Perfect followup up to my recent posts.

What Works

I turned down a client today. That’s kinda rare.

He had an interesting project. It would have been a good stream of work for several months. I’ve known the client for years and I know I’d enjoy working with him. But there was a problem.

He’s working for a new company (new to him) who desperately needs to make changes to their marketing. They know that what they have done for the past four years has not worked. “Something,” he told me when he first contacted me, “has to change.” When he ran the numbers by me, it was clear he was right. This is right up my alley – change, growth, all the stuff I love to do and am good at.

But the problem started this morning when we began mapping out strategy to begin. I’d make a suggestion and he’d say “We can’t do that. They don’t…

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Gorillas, rhetorical fences and the anesthetic of blame

Insight, balance, well spoken post on the much discussed events of last week from writer, outdoors adventurer and friend Jennifer Bowman

The Trailhead

Unless you live in a sensory deprivation chamber, you know that a few days ago, a little boy slipped into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, prompting zoo officials to shoot and kill one of the gorillas, a 17-year old male named Harambe, in the enclosure. What ensued in the larger society looked something like this:

And so we braced ourselves for the life cycle of these things: internet rage mob, followed by the rage mob against the rage mob. Shortly thereafter, people would start posting on Facebook about how they are tired of hearing about the gorilla, already, and you would know it was running its course, without any real understanding ever taking place.

But I’m hoping this one is shaping up differently than other internet outrages, like the killing of Cecil the lion. The initial anger against the allegedly negligent mother  who let her kid get into the gorilla enclosure, and…

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Thoughts: Tom the Berserker

A well written piece about a difficult topic from a writer ( and friend) who really knows what he’s speaking about.

Quarry House


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I went into therapy about a decade ago because I felt like I was coming apart. A couple of months after I began, my life really did fall apart.

Regular readers already know my story. I fell into a black place. Depression on steroids. You know, the kind of depression you read about where you feel paralyzed, where you can’t get going, can’t make yourself do things, where you struggle to get going in the morning. Yeah, I was pretty much the poster child. Cue fetal position.

Some people ask me if I have “triggers” for depression, things that send me into a dark place. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that because sometimes you live with something so long that you don’t really think about it. It just is. As I have thought about it, and looked back, I’ve come to realize that it’s not that simple.

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Mourning Comes

So fellow travelers,  I am up and on the road a good half hour earlier than my usual 6:30 am drive into work.

I arrive and enter a dark and silent building, dreading the news which will come, because early morning emergency staff meetings never bring good news.

So far all I know is somewhere in our little village a family wakes to unspeakable grief.

On the way in I watched the moon sink through layers of clouds. It had an odd tinge and no, this was not just imagination. I would have welcomed the serene peaceful Light of the familiar Face in the Sky. Instead a haunting image of a gaping wound squeezed between dark cruel fingers hung ominously over the horizon.

The sun was rising by the time we exited our somber meeting.

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Time to dig deep for words of comfort and healing. Time to hold onto hope, hope somehow we might reach through pain and sorrow to catch other young souls before they too lose heart.

Walk gently on the path my friends , hug those you love a little tighter and longer today.

Riding the Wave

So fellow travelers,  here we are on the beach  staring down this big wave of change in education.

 switchfootposter

Eye witnesses say the first sign of a massive tsunami is “drawback,” a surreal  super low “tide” effect, as the water is pulled far out off shore.  It is often the only warning of the incoming super wave. One sees this in a more benign state when there are big waves at the beach.  Word to the wise, if you find yourself standing on a beach and see drawback,  run for the highest ground you can get to.  For me right now, running is not an option.

Which brings me back to my current vantage point at work.

Here’s the background: I am primarily assigned to work in a 12:1:1 program; its name refers to the ratio of students (12) to instructor (1) and teaching assistant (1).  Ours are the students who are “mainstreamed,”  meaning they attend high school, but have a modified curriculum because of their disabilities (autism, downs syndrome, MS, etc.) I love my job and thoroughly enjoy working with “our kids.”  Every day one of them says or does something that makes us smile because it shows we are helping them navigate life skills they will need once they exit our program. Even though our students do not receive a high school diploma they can and often do walk the stage at graduation  when they “exit” our program. Very, very cool .

Recent scheduling changes have pulled some of our staff out of the modified program several times a day to provide added “push-in” support for resource classes left short handed by deep budget cuts.  In this setting we work with students with diagnosed learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory or visual processing disorders, etc.)   On any given day I may be called to read a test, scribe answers on a worksheet or reteach class notes on any subject taught at the high school.  I don’t mind the changes in my schedule in fact I thrive on the diversity within my day. Teachers are wonderful people to work with because most of them are dedicated and passionate about what they do.

Only that’s not the prevailing atmosphere anymore. Very few educators enjoy their work because they are frustrated by reforms intended to “improve education” which actually prevent them from doing what they do best: teaching our kids.  Not one person pushing these reforms in our state has ever worked professionally in an elementary or secondary school classroom, but still claim to know not only what but also how students should be taught.  Many of the comments posted with my last entry indicate this experience is widespread.  Several people said it framed their recent decisions to either leave the profession or retire early, a trend that is both disheartening and disconcerting.

Educators are trying to push back and raise public awareness, parents are beginning to wake up to the need to get involved.  I lend my support and voice where I can at meetings, in parent conferences and even online, an arena I usually avoid. Still by the time the tide has turned, I will be long gone from the system. As I said in my previous post, I am not used to feeling so ineffective or hopeless.

So I turn to my creative life, the one I live after hours to keep my spirit alive.  The zentangles I create during my down time in the work day, the bits of poetry that rise to my consciousness sparked by a seemingly random moment, the photo walks I take on weekends and days off, these are the surfboards keeping me afloat. But I want to do more than just cling to that surfboard trying to stay afloat as the tsunami roars in. So I come to the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm to hone the skills I need to ride the waves of life. It is a haven of encouragement for experimentation and creative growth, a community built on a foundation of genuine trust where negativity is not tolerated. It has become an essential part of my journey.

Our CGBF mentor Jon Katz once wrote “Encouragement is an ideology, a philosophy. It holds we all hold creative sparks – creativity, ambition, achievement, love. Nobody gets to decide who we are, that is our mission, our sacred tasks....we live in two worlds, the world we seek, the world we have, and we are forever balancing these two….In the creative life, there are always obstacles….money, distractions, obligations, fears. In the spiritual life, reality is always (intruding) on the search for peace and constancy. But the core of it is this – our work, our aspirations are our identity, our voice to the world. They are not things that others can give or take away. Only we can do that.”

I may be riding out a storm in one career, but I am paddling like crazy towards my future.

portlandwavesEdit

Canon Beach, Oregon  July 2014   The beginning of my Left Coast Dreams.

Postscript:  The day after I published this series  I came across these lines which sum up in a way I wasn’t quite able to what I sense has been the “purpose” of recent doubts.

Because I have questions and doubt, I am allowing myself to see and appreciate the shadows. And I choose to accept the reality of the light in the cave that is my reality, not the shadows that try to fool me. That thin line between hope and doubt is the ability to see past the cynicism to find the Truth in the Light.”  posted Feb 15 on the wordpress blog The Dragonfly’s Student

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Under the Big Top

So fellow travelers,  I recently came across this expression:

 

circus monekys

 

It is a translated Polish proverb Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy which is a very intriguing way to say  “It’s not my problem.”

I honestly had never heard it until someone used it as a comment on a social media site but it had a strangely familiar feeling, although I did not know why.  It came up again today, while I was searching for an article on line. This time it was like finally finding the right key; a door in my consciousness clicked open.

After my previous post, a friend and creative mentor encouraged me to explore what lies underneath my feelings. What surfaced in our discussion was my frustration with current trends in education. I have composed a full discourse (which I won’t put forth here) on the insanity of holding school districts hostage to poorly thought out Common Core “standards” and performance based pay programs designed to pit colleagues against one another. Withholding state and/or federal funds is only going to create an  unbridgeable gap between impoverished and wealthier districts. Eventually the latter districts will increase their local funding for basic education and cut “expendible” programs ( a trend already begun.) Concerned parents will create booster clubs to keep extra curricular programs running. No such rescue operation will surface in financially struggling areas, some of which used to be solid middle class neighborhoods before the economic down turn of recent years.

OK,  you’ve gotten a taste of the speech.  No apologies, it’s all you need to understand my position.  You see up until recently  my main perspective has been a “Thank goodness my youngest child is graduating from high school this year and I no longer have any kids ‘in the system’  because the system is about to shred every child’s confidence in their ability to learn anything.”  Like the proverb says: Not my circus, not my monkeys.

It’s an easy attitude to adopt.  I am only a few years from having the option to retire if I wish. I can ride out this current storm of ill advised “reform” and simply walk away with a modest benefit package and enough income to take that cross country road trip in search of my monkeys.

nancys monkey

(Fun Monkey photo courtesy of  Nancy Gallimore.  You can read about her monkey adventures here.)

The problem is I have always been that person who gets right into one of the three ring acts to make something happen. When the district cut all transportation funding for field trips, our PTA (of which I was treasurer for seven years) lead the charge in creating a fundraiser to keep those trips in the elementary school program. When one brave mom (now a popular social studies teacher at the high school) took on the challenge to breath new life into a reading partners program which was about to be discontinued because of lagging participation I signed right on as co-chair. When the word got out the Board of Ed was planning to discontinue in school lessons for strings students,  I hauled my then second grade daughter to a meeting and politely but firmly asked the members of the board to please explain to my daughter why she would not be able to take lessons in school next year since at that time private lessons were beyond our budget.  That was eighteen years ago; and even though she and her younger sister eventually had the benefit of private lessons, those in school lessons continue to be part of the orchestra program. Not that I claim this as a personal victory because a lot of parents spoke up at that meeting.

Yes, I am a “Where’s the circus and which way did the monkeys go?”  kind of person.

But suddenly I am discouraged.

I am discouraged and very, very tired.

Working as part of a truly dedicated special education team I have seen programs come and go. I have watched teachers both in special and general education weather trend after trend  from “spiral math” to “inventive spelling” (a program used ten years ago in the elementary schools which produced at least two graduating classes of atrocious spellers including my youngest National Honor Society 9.64 GPA daughter.) But I have never seen anything like this.

I have never seen morale so low nor known so many kids to fall between the cracks even as those gaps in the system are growing faster than teachers can bridge them. So far reforms have managed to produce a wave of students who appear to “just not care.”  What I have discovered in spending time with students in a non academic setting is their attitude actually masks a growing confusion about what they are supposed to be accomplishing. There is a growing disconnect between the content they are taught and information applicable to life outside school.  For example, once students hit the part time work market they rapidly discover test taking is not a skill in high demand, while being able to make change is far more important than calculating sine, cosine or tangent.  And those are the “gen. ed” students.  Kids who fall into the “instructional support” category are falling further and further behind. If it’s this bad in the Northeast, where a far higher percentage of students score well on college entrance exams what on earth is happening in the regions with less than fifty percent graduation rates?

Worse yet are the conversations I have had with student teachers.  An increasing number of them change their degrees programs after finding it impossible to reconcile what they know to be effective teaching methodology with the requirements of ill advised profit driven reforms. Education degrees used to hold a solid thirty percent of college undergraduates and forty percent of graduate degrees.  In 2012 that rate plummeted to less than fifteen percent, the lowest ever in the history of American college education. In five years there will be a staggering teacher shortage.

For the first time in my life I feel like I am looking at a tidal wave too big to out run and too dangerous to dive into. Maybe it’s time I learned to surf.

switchfootposter

 

 

(to be continued)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.