The Tenuous Nature of Truth

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May I not sit in judgment. May I be open to hearing and accepting the truth of what I am told. May my decisions be for the good of all concerned. May my work bring peace.” Maisie Dobbs

Truth. Truth is a funny thing. It shouldn’t be. It should just be a given that we can all expect from each other and within ourselves. Truth should be something we all take for granted. But it is not. Truth with our inner self. Truth to each other. Truth from those we elected to serve and lead. Truth.

For weeks I have struggled with what to write. I’ve come to this space numerous times and have written. I’ve deleted each and every one. Too discombobulated. Too lost. To untruthful. Reflecting on where we are as a nation and where I am personally is rather unsettling.  Reflection should help. It usually does. Yet, sometimes when reflection requires truth it can be hard. It can be unsettling. It can require thoughts and actions that are just downright difficult.

I have had some deep and difficult conversations with my kids lately. “You have to go through the mucky swamp to get to the other side,” I say to them. The replies are often, “Why, when you can run around its edge and get there too?” It’s a logical response and question. But does it bring the same results? I don’t know. I’m not that wise to know for sure. But for me, it was years of mucking in that swamp that uncovered the truth that was to set me free. But now I find myself back in the middle of the muck. Personally and in my relationship and role with where our country is.

As a teacher, I’ve had to talk with children and their parents about truth and lies. Truth and lies are a big deal. Sometimes kids, and parents, ask why such a big deal. “It’s just a little lie.” Well that’s when we get to “intent”. What was the intent of that “little lie”? Was it to spare someone pain? Or was it to lessen your own? Was it to bring you some gain? Did it hurt someone? These reflections on intent work to guide us in uncovering the role of truth within ourselves and with assessing our fellow Americans and the “leaders” running our country.

And then there is remorse. A parent once asked why I was so concerned with her child’s lying. It was hard to admit to her that her child’s lack of remorse was a large part of my concern. Remorse hadn’t registered on her radar. It, as well as intent, were always  defining ideas for me when working with a child deep in a lie. They should be guiding beacons when working to uncover lies deep within ourselves as well.

As I listen to the many and ongoing lies from many of our “leaders” I realize that not only do I struggle with their blatant lies, I too struggle with the lies within myself. While their lies  come from a deep place of intention to harm large groups of people who do not have the resources those in power do, my deeply shielded lies harm my own personal well being as well as those I love deeply. How can I expect others to be truthful when I am not truthful with myself?

For several weeks I’ve been home during the days. This is such a new, awkward, and at times uncomfortable feeling. All the years of working so hard, putting my attention, heart and soul into my work has allowed me the perfect cover to be dishonest with myself. Allowed me the cover necessary to not continue the necessary work of uncovering and embracing truth. And here we are, days before a historic election, pondering the notion of truth and the role it plays in all we see, do, and read about.

A few weeks ago my brother asked me, “How are we to know who to believe?” This question is really at the heart of what we are struggling with as a country. How do we know? Some say to read a lot. Well, of course. But it’s more than that. I go back to intent. What is the intent behind the words of the person we are listening to or reading about? Is it to help those less fortunate? A notion that is the foundation and guiding concept in all religions. Or is it to help us continue the lie that this isn’t really all about “me”? What will be best for me? What will allow me the most money? What will allow me the comfort to not bear witness of racist hatred that is blatantly rising in our country? Me. Me. Me. We kid ourselves that the youth, who we’ve termed “the me generation”, is at the heart of selfishness. In reality, it is the many baby boomers who appear to be “the me generation”. And if I’m honest with myself, I too am one. I am worried about Social Security. I am worried about the day my passport won’t allow me free mobility. I am worried about my family’s health care. I am worried about my child being targeted with a hate crime. I am worried about offspring surviving climate change. Me. Me. Me. How will it affect me? The defining question which should lead us to know who to believe is, “How will this affect those less fortunate or those vulnerable to acts of hate?”

So how do we not only demand truth from our “leaders” but truth from within ourselves? It’s hard work. It’s not really all that fun either. But the uncovered reality is said to be worth it. Not only do we need to, we must, do that work for ourselves and for each other. Then we need to speak up against the hate spilling out from our own hearts, from around our country, and across our borders.

Peace and honesty,

Mary

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The Time is Now

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“I’m talking about the safe place we remain in, within the world we were born to. Swimming forever in the confines of our own pond….Today we are stepping outside your pond.”  Maisie Dobbs

For the past year and a half I have been wondering what I can do in my little part of the world to contribute to making the world a little better. I figured teaching tough kids in a tough school counted. And it did count. It was incredibly difficult both physically and emotionally. But it was also incredibly rewarding. I felt like I helped. Now, newly retired, I’m wondering again.

As a believer that things tend to show themselves at the right times, I’m waiting,  patiently waiting for the right thing to show itself while enjoying this much needed rest. Then Kavanaugh came into play. And I realized that with all the evil things going on in our country what stands out the most is the pure cruelty of it all. The cruelty of the president, the most powerful person on our planet, easily mocking a woman who’s been sexually assaulted. Mocking the disabled. Mocking Vietnam Vets who were Prisoners of War. And we laugh. As horrible as it is to hear this man say these things, it’s even more disturbing to watch his crowd laugh. What on Earth has gone so very wrong for this to be the new normal, the new “it’s OK to be cruel”? Bullying is back. And it’s back with a vengeance.

It’s not hard to understand why a child behaves with cruelty. Abusive and/or neglectful environment, trauma, chemical imbalance, poor nutrition, intense poverty … all those things can play  a part into such behaviors from a challenging child. But adults? And so many of them? And so consistently? And so openly? And to applause?

When this administration is done (if it will leave willingly is still to be seen), it is the downright cruelty that it will be remembered for.  Sure its lack of action on climate change will surely be remembered and felt for many lifetimes, its taking over of the lower courts too, as well as its Supreme Court pics. They are all what will surely be remembered. But I believe that it is the war on women and vulnerable peoples that will leave its most lasting impression. Just one case in point is the separation of children who have fled intense violence, locking them up in cages, and then not reuniting them with their families. That is about as low as you can go and as cruel as you can get. This really is no different than what Nazis did during WWII. They demonized a population of people and then took them away. We are doing that again today just as we did to slaves, Japanese Americans during WWII, and Indigenous peoples for over 500 years.

A compassionate society would be up in arms by this but many in ours just shrug and says it’s ok, that it is the way it should be. I find that horrific. Sad. Debilitating really. Sad that something so unimaginable can be carried out so easily. We did this. We are doing this. So how do we stop it? How do we bring compassion and empathy back? How do we get our country back again? Well, there lies one problem. Those are the wrong questions to ask. Because we never really did have that compassionate country we want to remember through out white privileged rose colored glasses. I’m ashamed I have worn those glasses for so long. Since the day the first white man stepped foot on this soil 500 years ago we began the cruel inhumanity that continues today. Taking kids away from their parents isn’t new. We’ve been doing it for 500 years to native peoples around our country. I recently learned that it was still happening in Maine only 50 years ago and probably around the country as well.

So how do we step out of our safe little pond, as Maisie so perfectly described it, and work for compassionate change? Yes, that’s a better question. Well, for one we register to vote and then we vote. We help our family and friends register to vote and then help them vote. (Absentee Ballots are wonderful things. Democrats in power please embrace this!)  And when we vote, we vote for men and women who work for equality for all peoples. We call out our corporate controlled system, both in the GOP and the DNC. And in this year, 2018, it means we do not vote for Republicans, ever. The GOP has been hijacked by the extreme conservative “Christian” right. They do not look like any Christians I know. Even moderate GOP politicians step in line with the Koch held GOP. Do not listen to the hatred coming from the GOP. They have one goal and one goal only and they are well on their way to achieving that goal. And that goal is to enrich themselves with as much money as they can for those at the very top, and keep the rest of us under their shoes fighting over the scraps.

So what will speak to each one of us? I’m anxious to find out and I sure as heck hope it hurries up.

Use your voice. Share your voice. Do not be silenced. Work for equality and justice for all. Peace, love, and solidarity,

Mary

 

Sometimes We Need to Stop and Feel the Feelings

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Overlooking a small bay in Maine

Sunshine rides on space and poetry on sunshine.
Poetry gives birth to sunshine, and sunshine to poetry.

                                                           Thich Nhat Hanh

I just love the sun rays working their way through the clouds above. For some reason they give me a sense of peace, of calm. They are in direct contrast of something we all have and often struggle with, that being something called, “monkey mind”. I first heard that term during a guided meditation I was doing. It is also something that I notice I struggle with a lot lately. Some times more so than others. Monkey mind is when your mind is all over the place. When I sit still and try to be calm and mindful, which I find myself trying to do a lot lately, I realize that this monkey mind is filled with thoughts of fears, anxieties, doubts, regrets. Not a pleasant place to be for any of us. But yet it’s so common for us humans. Being the intelligent humans we are we can summon ways to overcome this monkey mind.

Buddha defined it best when he said; “Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night.” Huh.

Why this now and so much more lately? Time is one. Having time, for the first time in 40 years, to actually stop. Stop and think. Some of you are way more enlightened than I am and have figured positive ways to address this typical human thinking state. Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, forest bathing are a few methods. I’ve dabbled in them all but to be honest haven’t mastered any of them.

Work is an overwhelming undertaking. We are subject to this state of work/mind in order to put dinner on our family’s table and provide a warm, safe roof over their head. Taking time for ourselves often seems unattainable, maybe even frivolous. Now that I have time and see the immediate effects, I ask myself why I denied this need for so long. I am coming to a conclusion that it isn’t frivolous or unattainable. It’s necessary. A must. A can’t live healthy without. Even 10 minutes each morning or evening is immensely powerful, providing immediate relief and sense of much sought after calm. We can all do that. Well, that’s easy for me to say now that I’m not working 50+ hours a week at school and another 50+ raising a family. But we can and we must.

So let me say this….just do it. Find the time. You are worth it. Your family is worth it. While all my monkey thinking and mixed up emotions are far from tamed, these few minutes a day helps…a lot. The other thing that helps a lot is walking outside especially in the woods.

I find myself wondering if these thoughts that seem to be hounding me lately are because I have stopped running on that carousel of work and that I actually have time to think of all the things I’ve been to busy to think about. This can be a godsend or a curse or a combination of both. But one thing is for sure; it certainly is a wake up call. Life is short. We’ve been sadly reminded of this lately.

So stop. Just stop. Take that personal day (And don’t tell what the reason is! It’s personal!). Do something you love to do or need to do. With someone you love or by yourself. You are worth it. You deserve it. And for the sake of our Earth community we all need to begin doing this more often.

Much peace,

Mary

 

When School Starts and You Don’t

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A warm, right out of the oven, Maine wild blueberry popover presented to me for breakfast. A loving surprise that reminds me that everything will be OK.

Several things have converged this summer to make it one in which I struggle to maintain graceful composure. As much as I try to poo poo the effects of retirement, it has become crystal clear that it is taking as large a toll on my feelings as the other things going on.

I recently got an email from a fellow teacher telling me that her beginning of the year dreams have begun. Surprisingly, mine have too. Even though I know I am not returning to the classroom, the shorter days, cooler nights, and sounds of chirping crickets have set into motion the annual “back to school” thoughts and sensations. I remember my very first back to school dream. Starting school the next day teaching kindergarten, I dreamed that I fell asleep at a table during nap time and woke to find all the kids around me wide awake. I awoke in a full sweat. Twenty plus years later,the week before school starts I’m still dreaming of every inconceivable thing that can go wrong. Go figure.

I also notice something else happening. My body is experiencing these feelings as well. Stress, almost fear, anxiety for back to school is what my body is saying even though I’m not going back to school. So the sights, sounds, smells have triggered these annual sensations without any need.

Add the uncomfortable feelings of waking up without a given routine or destination and the beginning of the day leaves me feeling a bit lost. Slowly I’m realizing this is the time of day that needs the most attention. Telling a young friend about this she tuned me onto, Instant Timer, a free meditation app. Of course! Why didn’t that occur to me? I tried the introductory lesson that was ten minutes long and was hooked. Now if I wake up feeling disoriented I sit and plug in. I usually choose the short guided meditations. They calm me. They center me. They feel good, really good.

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Thinking about my friends returning back to school is surprisingly a lonely feeling. It’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgia of wanting to go back to school. But then I remember all it entails and my body clearly tells me no, I need a year to take care of myself and get my health back on track. I want a year to be “still” with Ger, just taking it a day at a time and enjoying the company of my best friend. We all know that raising kids together is incredibly difficult. It can and usually does put an incredible strain on even the healthiest of relationships. But like a roller coaster, if you just hold on tight and scream when you’re ready to dive, you’ll make it intact. Well, here we are, almost 40 years later, a little disheveled from it all, but still holding on.

Have a great year my friends. Whether you’re a parent, a volunteer, or a teacher… I hope this year fills you with hope, exciting experiences, and the laughter of children. I’ll miss being by your side.

Mary

 

 

Cows, Human Kids, and Sleep

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“It might sound eccentric to suggest that the reason an animal is bad-tempered is because it is short of sleep but as sleeping is vital, deprivation will obviously do harm.” The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

Often we try to figure out what may be causing a child to be cranky, irritable, or even struggle with learning. Sometimes the answer is simply a lack of sleep. The woman who wisely gave me the above book for my retirement knows that cows are pretty special. Or she at least knows that I think cows are pretty special so when I read the above line I was happily surprised. Surprised that this little gem of a book discusses the importance of sleep for cows. Well cows are mammals and humans are mammals so maybe the knowledge that calves and children both need sleep shouldn’t be a surprise. Gi, the woman who gave me the book, and I have talked about our kids need for sleep and how important it is to their ability to learn.

Did you know that toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep every day!? Preschoolers need 10-13 hours. Elementary age children need 9-11 hours of sleep every single night and teenagers and adults need 8-10 hours of sleep a night.

A recent study from Harvard stated that sleep deprivation in young children is “tied to cognitive and behavioral problems”. Young children who experience sleep deprivation are also said to have more issues with “attention, emotional control, and peer relationships in mid-childhood”. Well doesn’t that sound like many of our kids!?  Link for full article:   https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/03/study-flags-later-risks-for-sleep-deprived-kids/

Once again cows teach us something important; that the proper amount of sleep is vital for the health and well being of our children. So put the devises down, ban them from bedrooms (and dinner tables), and be sure the kids are getting enough sleep! Of course this goes along with our knowledge that healthy, locally grown, organic food is critical for the nutritional needs of all our children, even during school hours. And that play outside every single day is just as important to our children’s health, well being, and educational success.

So before summer ends go pet a cow, enjoy some local yogurt or cheese, and support a local organic dairy farmer near you!

Mary

The Remembrance of Love Through an Afghan

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When you are the receiver of the last afghan a person shares you realize the deep spiritual meaning of the gift. Our school community lost a friend and teacher last week. She, Laurie, was the maker of the above afghan. Laurie loved to crochet and I don’t think there was a pattern she couldn’t do.  Laurie made this afghan for me in honor of my retirement. I just love it. And now I honor it.

I remember seeing this pattern on the internet back in January and showing it to Laurie, telling her how beautiful I thought it was. “Would you choose different colors?” she asked. I told her no, that I loved the soft tones of the pattern just as it was.  She obviously took note. Because that is what Laurie did, she listened.

I have waited for the news of Laurie’s death to reach social media before I wrote this post. You see Laurie was a private person. And she left this world as she lived it, very privately. All who love her know, understand, and respecte that privacy. So I waited. When news slowly spread shock and grief were what people felt. Of course they did. She was a matriarch at our school. We thought she was healthy and cancer free. But some cancers can have a nasty way of sneaking up on us.

I think about what Laurie would say to us if she could. “Live life to the fullest. Be kind. Make beautiful things with your hands and then give them away to the people you love. Everything will be ok.” So today I sit and reflect on the years of kind words that Laurie has shared with me during my most difficult times. When others didn’t have words, Laurie would pop into my room before others arrived to school and say the perfect words. They were perfect because she had the courage and kindness to just say something.

When the above blanket was presented to me at my retirement party I was sad Laurie wasn’t there to give it to me herself. I missed her presence. I figured it was because she was eating lobster at the coast with visiting family or something we teachers do during summer. I had no idea it was because she was so sick. So now I sit by my pool, with her blanket over my lap, and reflect on my friend. She will be missed. She is missed. There will be times during the next school year that will be difficult for the teachers and staff at school because her presence will be so sorely missed. But Laurie would want us to be strong. To do good work. To keep going and be kind. So to all my friends who worked with Laurie and loved her so, I will pass those sentiments onto you. “Be strong. Be kind. Do good work. Work together. Speak up for the children. It will be OK.” Do it for Laurie.

Safe travels Laurie. You will always be in our hearts.

Mary

Love

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When a dear friend greets you with the above mug full of your favorite margarita and a gorgeous lake in the background, you know it’s going to be a special evening.

Retirement is a funny thing. First comes the exhaustion that precedes the decision to do it. Then comes the relief. Then the disbelief, followed by anxiety, and finally acceptance. Not too different from grief. Which makes sense. Leaving behind a lifetime of work and dedication is not something to take lightly. Yet here I am.

A month ago I was suppose to have a traditional retirement celebration at school. But life happened and I spent the end of the school year in Miami. In my mind and heart the opportunity for such a celebration had passed. But when I arrived home I was told about the offer to have a celebration by a lake, with drinks. That sounded pretty good to me.

What I received was so much more.

Upon arrival I was given the above mug. It was fun, funny, and the contents tasted delicious. The thoughtful wish behind it touched my heart. One by one my friends arrived. All bearing large smiles, some bearing small gifts and/or dinner dishes, others bearing their gift of presence. I was deeply moved. It’s been a warm and humid few days (but I’m not complaining!!) and the cool lake breeze was noticed and enjoyed by all who attended.

We stood by the water enjoying the fresh air, camaraderie, and drinks. We had a delicious dinner that was prepared by many who attended and we had a sharing of gifts. One particular moment that moved me deeply was the sharing of feelings by a friend. Thank you Cathy. I know the time it takes to organize and write our thoughts when they come from our heart. I appreciated your gift immensely.

Then came the rock sharing (or maybe it was the other way around. Margaritas can do that to your memory!) Rock sharing goes way back with Cathy and I. We give them to our kids the first day of every school year. And every year I’m surprised by how much the kids love choosing the “just right” rock for their desk. To have rocks passed to my friends, each wrapped with a quote from my blog (and one from a real school experience:) was the icing on the cake of the sweetest evening I’ve had in a quite some time. “I’m stalking your blog,” she said. I laughed inside. Then each friend read the short quote that was attached to their special rock. Hearing my written words read aloud gave them new meaning. I remembered writing each and every one and the feelings I was processing as I wrote them. But hearing them read aloud gave them a power I never felt I was able to truly give them. I forgot about that power. The power of reading aloud your written words. Cathy, may you continue to give that power to your students. But I know you already do and that is one reason they love you so.

When I came home I climbed into bed like a kid on Christmas morning. Opening each card and gift a second time. Smiling at the silly ones, wiping tears due to ones that spoke of deep friendship. Then I opened the last bag, the bag of rocks. After collecting and sharing rocks every August for the past 9 years this was truly special to me. Now I have my special rocks. While I won’t put them on my desk, they will find a spot in my happy place, my gardens.

I am not good at doing such celebrations. I tend to poo poo them. I don’t know why but I do. Yet here I was, at a home cherishing the love that was shown because a woman felt strongly enough to hold this event for her friend. I will never poo poo such events again. I have now felt the meaning, love, and power behind them. Thank you Jane.

And thank you to all the wonderful women and men I have worked with over the years. Working with the youth of our communities is one of the most important jobs we can do. It is also one of the most rewarding.

Continue your good work my friends. You do good. You mean much. You touch lives. Carry on!

Mary