Archive for the ‘education’ Category

2014 SIMPLE Conference Day 1

I am at the 2014 SIMPLE conference in Albuquerque, NM this week. SIMPLE stands for Symposium of Integrative Medicine Professionals in the Land of Enchantment.

Let me tell you……these are my kind of people….and then some.

I am surrounded by those who seek to identify evidence based practice among the complementary and integrative therapies and who choose to take the very best of the allopathic (Western medical) model, traditional oriental medicine, traditional Mexican healing, and traditional Native American healing, along with a nice dose of Ayurveda all in an effort to truly heal rather than just manage symptoms. These are not people looking for the next great cholesterol medication. These are people who seek to eliminate the need for most pharmaceutical medications except as a last resort.

These are people with Ph.D. and M.D. behind their name who know there has to be a better way and they are putting together or finding the research that shows us what that better way is. These are some of the most highly trained medical professionals in the country, and I have the privilege of “sitting at their feet” to learn.

Our first day was considered “pre-conference”. I paid extra money to participate in a workshop on herbalism and a community healthcare visioning ritual. The herbalism conference had some very knowledgeable people presenting, and I did learn some things. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel it had the depth of knowledge I craved for the investment.

My greatest take aways from herbalism: 1) In areas where the water has higher concentrations of lithium occurring naturally, the suicide rates are much lower than in areas where the water has much lower levels of lithium. 2) Kava is used to allay violence in tribal cultures. 3) My use of prepackaged herbal teas in their little tea bags is pretty much useless, so I shall be acquiring some of the good stuff and putting it directly in my hot water to steep and float.

Oh, and I simply must get my hands on a sweet neem plant. It has such an interesting aroma.

And now for the highlight of day 1…..

Approximately 20 of us participated in what was called a Community Ritual for Visioning. Most had no idea what they were getting themselves into. I have been to enough of these types of things in this part of the country to know that “ritual” means somebody is going to shake and rattle something and chanting and fire will probably be involved. Some of the other poor souls thought they were going to write some sort of mission statement. I couldn’t help but wonder who in their right mind would pay money to do THAT.

We gathered outside by the hotel pool in a circle of chairs that had a chiminea at one end. The fire was stoked, and the guides for the evening led us in a Shamanic-type ritual. We began by honoring the four directions with a prayer to each. We were then asked to write on a piece of paper something we wished to release that related to our health care practice or to health care in general. I knew about this assignment, but it wasn’t until we were in the midst of the four directions prayer that what I was to release became crystal clear to me. That was a cool moment.

One at a time, we were invited to the fire to kneel and toss our “releases” into the fire to be consumed. Each of us was surrounded by the supporting energies of the five guides shaking their shakers and holding a bowl of tobacco. As our paper burned, we were offered the bowl of tobacco and each of us tossed a bit of the tobacco into the fire to finish our personal “burning” ritual.

After the burning, we lined up to go back inside as it was quite chilly in the New Mexico mountain air and wind. We were each cleansed with smoke from burning sage to remove negative energies and escorted into a dark room to lie down. I honestly don’t know if my mind finally decided to be quiet or if I fell asleep, but I was eventually startled back into reality with a whisper to arise and take the hand of the person beside me. We were instructed to keep our eyes closed and we were led single file while holding hands through the darkness until we reach a place where we were advised to get on hands and knees with shoulders touching.

Soon I felt the strange sensation of someone crawling beneath me through the tunnel that symbolically represented a birth canal. One by one, each ritual participant made the journey through the tunnel. I was next to last, so my journey was much shorter. Once all had completed the “birthing” experience, candles were lit and we were invited to allow our bodies to move freely (dance) to the sound of drums and flute. Most of us were quite shy about this process as it felt akin to being in a charismatic church and being asked to let the Holy Spirit move you. Gradually most began to make some effort to move our bodies with the rhythm of the drums to celebrate our rebirth.

Still sitting in the darkness, we turned to a partner and shared what we had experienced. Although I am open to this process and interested in it, having a “profound” experience to report back to others continues to allude me. I often feel as though I have to stretch a bit to identify something worthy of sharing and therefore feel compelled to apologize for my lack of awe. I shared my “aha” moment by the fire in which the knowledge of what I needed to release became crystal clear. Others were so moved and grateful for the experience of rebirth. I was grateful to be in a warm room and not on my hands and knees anymore.

Lest you think I was put off by this ritual, please know that I would pay my $30 and do it again in a heartbeat. An opportunity to be face to face with a small group of like-minded people in such an intimate space is one I will always pursue. The energy dynamic generated feeds me on a level I cannot adequately explain. It made the stress of being a lone ranger at a large conference so much easier. It gave me a glimpse of the hearts and minds of people from many different healing professions and from different parts of the country. It was yet another attempt to break down my wall in hopes that someday I WILL have that profound experience with the universe that knocks my socks off.

I topped off the evening by inviting myself to follow the ritual guides to a very late supper. Since I intruded on their space, I tried to keep silent and just listen to their stories. I felt a little bit guilty, as if I had crashed their private party, but I was hungry and didn’t want to eat alone. One gentleman had donned a long hooded black cape and appeared as though he were a warlock or a character out of Harry Potter. I wasn’t quite sure whether to be totally creeped out of admire his courage to be such an individual. I opted for admiration and amusement. It is definitely an experience I won’t forget. I later discovered that he was an M.D., as was the lead guide of the ritual. I’m not sure why I was caught off guard by that fact, unless I just never expected a doctor to be a Shaman.

As for what I chose to release, we shall see in the coming weeks how that works out for me. I released fear, doubt, and self-deprecation as they relate to my nursing practice. They went up in smoke. I will never cease to be keenly aware of the knowledge I do not have, but it is time for me to embrace what I do possess and to walk in some level of confidence with that knowledge while feeling confident that I can always ask for help with that which I do not know.

Oh, and I also “burned up” standard hospital food in hopes that someday a clear liquid diet will consist of healing bone broth instead of red jello, Sprite, and Gatorade.

And on that note, I poured my exhausted body into bed and slept like a rock. So ended SIMPLE Conference 2014 Day 1.

What Would Jesus Say?

Yesterday I posted the following video on my Facebook page:

My comment that accompanied this video said simply, “Good message. Worth the watch, even if your stance is “worth the wait”.” Worth the Wait is a curriculum us Bible Belters use to terrorize our children into keeping their venereal diseases and their penises to themselves until they are married. It does have some merit. Probably not a bad program all in all, once you get past the fear tactics. It really does present some good information.

One of my high school classmates, who has recently discovered religion, proceeded to start preaching about the video I posted. His comments were, “Nothing good about this video… it facilitates the idea that living outside of the will of God is appropriate and acceptable, for Him it is neither. Mark 9:42. If you really wanted to save planned parenthood…get a husband and wife back to church and into the will of God. Teach your children. Quit allowing the school systems, television, and radio…videos and others to mandate the upbringing they should be receiving at home. “Good Message” = God Message.”

Personally, I love how the religious zealots can make my points about religion without me saying a word. They tend to make themselves (and thus religion) look ridiculous with very little effort on my part.

However, my blog gives me opportunity to pick his preaching apart one little piece at a time.

First, I must confess. As a teen I would have been holding one of those signs. Now before you jump to the conclusion that I had loose morals, let me clarify. I would have been the one holding the sign that says, “My friends have sex.”

Because they did. Some of them, anyway.

And as for the argument that getting husband and wife back to church and into the will of God…teach your children…etc., let me say that my parents rocked on this one. We were there every Sunday twice a day, and every Wednesday. I was at every youth group activity. I went to at least one church camp every summer. I even chose a Christian college and sent in my application as soon as they would take it. I was pretty much convinced that sex outside of marriage (along with drinking, smoking, etc.) was a one-way ticket to hell. Plus I was scared to death of getting pregnant.

And then I met him.

He was so handsome. His kiss was intoxicating. He made my heart race when I was in his presence. He pushed my boundaries to the edge. I was captivated. I was a tease. I wanted him and I wanted him to want me.

And then I turned 18.

And having educated myself on a variety of “things” related to the female reproductive system, I made a decision that I wanted him worse than I wanted to please God or my parents. I wanted him worse than I feared the fires of hell.

I got lucky. Because we were both “informed” about the facts, I made it all the way to my college graduation without getting pregnant. My post graduation (from that Christian college) Christmas present was an engagement ring, and my New Year’s present was a pink stick. Our April wedding was moved to January 14th, and the following September, my beautiful baby girl arrived on this planet into the loving arms of her new parents.

Four beautiful princesses later, there is NOTHING I would change. I am still intoxicated by his kiss, and he is still gives me butterflies. He still pushes my boundaries, and I am still a tease.

So, Preacher Boy, your argument fails. My parents did everything right. For that matter, I think his parents probably did a pretty good job, too, yet I’m pretty sure there is at least one of the signs in the video he could have held as a young adult.

Flinging God and Bible verses around as justification to ignore the facts of life is nothing more than shoving your head up your arse and ignoring reality.

Religion aside, the point of the message is Planned Parenthood takes a very small amount of the overall federal budget as compared to the bucketloads of cash thrown at corporations in the form of corporate welfare. If the so-called leaders of our country want to make effective reforms, there’s a good place to start.

With that said, I personally think many government services should be relegated to the private sector for financial support. Those who believe in the importance of planned parenthood should signify so by hitting the Donate Now button on their website. My neighbor who thinks PP has ruined America shouldn’t be required to support it. Same thing with NPR, and to some extent poverty welfare.

…Which brings me around to the early morning shower thought that triggered my need to respond publicly to the mini sermon I received over the posting of this video.

What would Jesus’ response be to this video message?

I mean, after all, we are supposedly Christians around here, so it would seem appropriate that we turn to none other than Jesus himself for guidance on this thing.

Would Jesus pick up the nearest scroll and begin pounding it on the lecturn as he proclaimed the evils of modern day school systems, television, radio, and the internet?

Would he point a finger at the teens holding those signs and say, “You kids need to stop having sex and get right with God!”

Would he turn to their parents and say, “This is all your fault! If you would raise your kids with an appropriate amount of God in their lives, they wouldn’t be having sex.”

Or would Jesus turn to the teens in this video and say, “It’s pretty tough being a teen, isn’t it? There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of mixed messages out there. It’s never as simple as just following a rule, is it? Oh, you over there, the blonde. Your name is Samantha, right? You are 18 and already have two kids by two different men. I bet that’s been tough trying to raise them and finish raising yourself. You keep looking for someone to love you for who you are, but you haven’t found him. Maybe I can help make your life a little easier by showing you how things work so you can make better choices. Maybe I can show you a different kind of love. ”

The woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well are the Bible stories that haunt me today.

How often do we pick up “stones”  in the name of religion rather than loving and teaching a better way?

What is that better way?

The bottom line is that for teens, relationships (and in many cases sex) are more appealing than religion. Fear works for some, but not forever. Middle aged adults can shove their heads up their arses and keep them there while they spew their religious crap about getting right with God and pleasing God, but it won’t push religion any higher up the priority pole for teens. In most cases, the desire to feel perceived physical love trumps the desire to obey  an unseen, unheard, unfelt imaginary entity.

And so we educate them. We protect them as best we can. We teach them that sex is a beautiful and incredible thing when with the right partner. We give them information that allows them to make educated choices based not on fear, but on what’s best for them and their future. If  something goes “wrong”, we love them and help them through it, and get them pointed back down the road to success as best we can.

Religion fears education in all forms. Once educated, people can make intelligent decisions and often times that leads them to the realization that religion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They take their checkbooks and their beliefs and walk away.

Hence, the religious right hates programs like Planned Parenthood.

I personally think Jesus would have been standing at the door of PP welcoming people in.

 

Homebound Technology Potential

This past week has been quite a roller coaster of emotion. Daughter #3 (Cowgirl) managed to acquire a broken leg in the first 7th grade basketball game of her season/career last Monday night. Things looked pretty nasty at first, then seemed to be a bit better, then as of Friday when we finally got in to see an orthopedic guy, he decided it wasn’t lined up as well as he likes for a kid.

Instead of being through most of the icky part by the end of the first week, we still have a bone pinning to go this coming Thursday. That has really torqued Mom’s notion that we’d have the worst over and be back in school by today.

Cowgirl has already missed four days of school.

With a bone that isn’t where it needs to be, we have decided she won’t be going back until it is more secure and she has better navigation skills.

Five foot nine-inch toothpicks using toothpicks for stability in hallways full of pre-teens and young teens aren’t  our idea of evolutionary intelligence. Even waiting until after classes have changed, there is the issue of lumps and bumps and currently insurmountable one-inch mountains to navigate.

So now instead of four days of school work to attempt to play catchup, we are looking at 9 days.

As the former technology facilitator for this same school district, (which by the way has some VERY cool technology), I find myself quite frustrated. It would take so little effort (yes, I know, easy for me to say) to broadcast her classes either live via webcam or recorded and uploaded to YouTube. After all, the kid lays here and watches TV all day.

It’s not like anything important is competing for her time.

One of the influencing factors in my departure was a feeling that while having the technology was important, using it and training staff members to use it effectively was a bit lower down the totem pole. And that was what I was being paid to do.

Responsibility – Opportunity = Burnout.

Time was a huge factor. I can’t say I blame the resistance.

These teachers already put in hours beyond what they are paid for, and giving up more unpaid time to learn something that for many is intimidating just isn’t fair.

And so today, here I sit, about to read the novel outloud to my daughter as is happening in her ELA class, attempting to help her with her math, wondering if there’s a stack of science and social studies waiting on me to retrieve (which could be emailed to us as a pdf), while once again she misses the guided instruction and class discussion that really are important for some kids to be successful.

I couldn’t make a difference as an employee. Maybe as a knowledgeable mom with a kid held captive at home unable to access her high tech classroom from her high tech home, I can.

We shall see. I think I need to make an appointment to visit with the new boss.

Books that Changed My Life — BrainGym and Bal-A-Vis-X

Disclaimer: Clicking some of these links will take you to Amazon. If you buy something through the link, I get a small kickback. However, I’m not exaggerating on the “changed my life” part. Just sayin’…..

My life has most certainly been quite a journey thus far. There haven’t been many exotic places or encounters with famous people, yet every twist and turn in the road has revealed some very cool mojo for me. Along the way, I have turned to books for answers to many of the questions that present themselves in my life at various points.

I’m not much of a fiction reader. I got way more of that than I needed in high school and college.

Over it. Plain and simple.

Instead, I read for information. I read for lots of information. I know things about bodies and minds and spirit matters that the average smart person doesn’t know and doesn’t know they doesn’t know. (Yes, I made up that horrible sentence on purpose. Deal with it.)

Summer of 2003 found me  given an “opportunity” <cough-choke> to teach little bitty bodies physical education. It also gave me the opportunity to learn about a couple of very cool teaching techniques that use movement to activate/focus the brain and calm the physical and mental stress response so learning can occur. The two programs were called BrainGym® and Bal-A-Vis-X.

My crash course introduction pointed me to a few book that literally changed my life. Those who best know me know this is not even the tiniest of exaggerations. The titles are Bal-A-Vis-X : Rhythmic Balance/Auditory/Vision eXercises for Brain and Brain-Body Integration by Bill Hubert, and two others written by Carla Hannaford, PhD entitled Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head and The Dominance Factor: How Knowing Your Dominant Eye, Ear, Brain, Hand, & Foot Can Improve Your Learning. I am convinced these books should be required reading before any educator on any level is allowed to set foot in the classroom. I am also of the opinion The Dominance Factor should be required pre-marital and parenting reading.

These books began my quest to learn more about the brain-body connection.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue advanced training in BrainGym® and Bal-A-Vis-X on someone else’s dime. Both programs are specifically geared toward helping ease the learning process for children, in part by integrating the two hemispheres of the brain through movement. People who tend to be very left-brained get stuck in the details and can’t always see much of the big picture. People who tend to be right-brained sometimes get stuck with the big picture and can’t drill down to the important and necessary details.

Our brain was designed to be used as a whole, not a single dominant half. We are much smarter, nicer, more organized, and more creative people when we have access to our entire brain. For me, the experience of taking the workshops and practicing the exercises with my students had a significant brain-integrating effect. I began for the first time in my life to get glimpses of the big picture in several areas of my personal world.

**The new information and experience changed my perspective on teaching and learning.

**It changed my perspective on parenting, probably saving one of my children from my own ignorance and opening valuable doors of opportunity for her.

**It changed my personality from one of judgmental and absolute to one of greater gentleness and possibility.

**It allowed my spiritual perspectives to shift in ways that are still sorting themselves out. Some question whether this is a good thing. I think it has been a wonderful thing.

I owe a debt of gratitude to those who brought the information contained in these books to light, and to those who helped me acquire the information on a personal and professional level. I now teach these concepts and have integrated them with other learning which continues to evolve me personally.

I would love to share with you some of the amazing possibilities that await a person who has full access to all the potential of their brain. Check out these titles. Who knows? Maybe you’ll experience a life-enhancing shift, too.

Identifying NOTs to Find My AMs

Life takes us on some interesting journeys. Doors open and close. People walk in and walk out. Opportunities sprawl in front of us awaiting our decision to reach out and pluck it’s juicy fruit. Yet sometimes what seems like an opportunity is actually a glimpse at what may not be part of our dream.

I typically prefer to focus on the dream itself, keeping my energies directed at what works for me rather than what doesn’t work for me. However, occasionally, it becomes necessary to look closely at the NOTs in life in order to more fully reveal the AMs.

And often times, the process of experiencing a NOT leaves me with a small treasure that enhances the AMs in amazing ways.

This morning finds me meditating on what I AM, my dreams, my desires, my space of expertise and influence. It’s leaving me with a strong desire to identify out loud some of my NOTs.

Apparently, I am NOT interested in being a fitness-center-type personal trainer. The idea of calculating METS and reps and VO2 Max just annoys the crap out of me. Of course, a good class and good instructor might have been able to send that in a different direction, yet for now, this does not feel as if it is for me.

Dear Amarillo College, enjoy my $300 donation. Be sure to use it to pay that teacher for not teaching his online class at all.

I AM interested in coaching and teaching people basic principals about how their bodies work, what strengthens and weakens the body, as well as how food, stress, and exercise work together to support health and wellness. I am a cheerleader for these people.

I am NOT interested in being tied to a bureaucratic hierarchy that is public education. Too many chiefs, not enough warriors, and way too much rigid scheduling. I’m all for having some structure in my day, but lose structure seems to be more my thing. I like choosing my schedule as I go.

I AM interested in working when I choose to work with whom I choose to work. I am also interested in answering mostly to me and the person with whom I am providing services. That process eliminates a lot of second-guessing, condescending supervisory crap that tends to make me nuts. I am rapidly approaching the point at which I think I’ve made a good decision in choosing to be an entrepreneur.

I am NOT interested in trying to please supervisors by keeping my mouth shut when I see something with which I disagree. I am not thrilled about being bound by chains of command and 47 jillion policies and procedures which have been designed to discourage negative feedback. If compliments required as much hoop-jumping as requesting a review of something that is causing concern, no one would ever get an ataboy.

I AM interested in working with those people who will provide immediate feedback on what is effective and what doesn’t seem to be improving the situation. That just works for me.  And it strokes my ego.

My ego needs lots of stroking.

I am NOT interested in working for someone from whom I have to request permission to get or give professional training. I must admit, it is nice when their dime picks up part of the tab, but that frequently seems to come with a side dish of guilt, some soul-level ownership, and a dose of “you owe me”.

I AM interested in work that allows me to choose what, when, where, and how much training I will receive or provide. Yes, taking this approach means I am likely going to be paying for the training from my own earnings, but in most cases, the earnings out pace the cost of the training in some way.

I am NOT interested in working with people who don’t value what I have to offer. Hmmm…. that pretty much eliminates my children. Except when I offer money. Then they seem to value dear ol’ mom.

I AM interested in working with those people for whom my training has the potential to impact in a HUGE way. That would include children with disabilities, adults desperately seeking something outside of the ordinary box, those looking for information to help them take control of their health, people looking for a way to release stress and tension, and service providers who know there is something out there just begging to be revealed to them.

Let’s see. If I enter this information into the trusty ol’ computer, divide by my desire to take a vacation whenever I like, add in a smidgen of creativity, weirdness, and nature, the result is……….

Exactly where I am today.

Thank you, Universe, God, instinct, Spirit, whomever or whatever you are that has led me to this particular place in life.

I’m lovin’ it!

Triple Warmer Volleyball Meltdown

Have you seen it?

I know you’ve seen it. Everyone’s seen it. You see it in peewee leagues. You see it on junior high and high school teams. It even occasionally shows up on college and professional teams.

So what is it?

The infamous and toxic triple warmer meltdown.

Say WHAT?

Yep. An honest to goodness, full-blown, crash-and-burn meltdown on the stage of athletic competition.

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Good kids. Highly talented athletes. Possibly even in the midst of  annihilating another team.

And then they just fall apart.

Totally.

Completely.

Meltdown.

Arses crammed so far up their tushes, extrication would require a Peterbilt tow truck.

No one seems to be able to explain it. The coach appears helpless to stop it. The crowd only seems to make it worse.

What the heck just happened?

It’s all about Energy Systems, Baby, and ours just took a vacation to Abu Dhabi.

There are these very cool rivers of energy in the body. Actually, there are multiple systems of energy, but for our purposes, I’m going to focus on the rivers. If you don’t believe they exist, stop by sometime and I’ll show you in your own body where some of them are and how they affect you.

Most of these rivers of energy, or meridians, have a name that corresponds to an organ system. You may have heard of some of these when listening to an Oriental Medicine guru. They have names like stomach, large intestine, liver, spleen, kidney, heart, and more. Each has a partner and is capable of sharing energy with their partner in a give and take relationship. Occasionally one is a little on the short side or maybe it’s cup runneth over and it has a bit too much energy. When that happens, it affects the body in a variety of ways, none of which are as good as when everything is balanced and running smoothly.

There is one river of energy with a very funny name. It’s the Triple Warmer meridian. My image of triple warmer is of a big brother. It can become quite protective and often times it is the only thing holding the rest of the meridians together when the stress in our lives becomes all-consuming. It’s first source of extra energy happens to be its partner, spleen, which also happens to be associated with the body’s immune system.

Now you are getting the picture.

Too much stress = illness, in part because too much stress = over-charged triple warmer and weakened spleen.

But what does that have to do with athletic performance?

Each of us is wired to respond to stress in a certain way. It has to do with things like left brain/right brain dominance, as well as which hand, eye, ear, and foot we prefer to use in a given situation. When stress kicks in, things start to shut down.

The fight or flight response can kick into high gear.

The muscles down the back of the body tighten up to prepare to run or start swinging punches.

Brain function then moves from the neo-cortex (logic, thinking, organizing, big picture, details) part into the mid-brain whose primary job is to keep us safe.

Not a great place to be hanging out when we need to think clearly, process information, move with grace and athletic prowess, and still be a decent human being.

This is exactly what I see happen in athletic arenas all the time.

I watched it last night as my 12 year old went from smashing volleyballs to shanking things left and right. I saw the moment the shift occurred. The smile left her face. Her shoulders slumped. The energy completely left her body.

Even though she continued to try and make something work, she had given up on her team and she had given up on herself. She felt as though no one had her back. She was simply trying to survive until the torture was over.

Triple warmer was in sixth gear.

Unfortunately while nearly everyone can see what is happening, very few people in the world know how to reverse it and restore balance to an athlete’s system. In some cases, the crowd and the coaches can actually make things worse by putting out energy that is even more stressful and toxic than that produced by the athlete.

Amazing coaches–the legendary ones about whom movies are made–have an incredible talent for calming the triple-warmer stress response. They recognize the meltdown as it begins and have an uncanny ability to halt it and turn things around.

Interestingly enough, anyone can learn how to make the shift happen. Unfortunately most coaches don’t believe they have the time to do what it takes to make stress management a part of their athletic program. As a result, they continue to experience the roller coaster of stress-response performance while some of their most talented athletes struggle to hold things together.

And don’t think for even a second this is limited to athletics.

How often are marriages hanging by a thread because the two parties involved are constantly ready to fight?

How many times are parents defensive when they arrive at school to talk about their child’s issues?

And what child can learn when they arrive in a classroom without their homework only to be thrown into triple warmer hyper-drive by a teacher who unknowingly creates a ton of additional stress?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create champions by simply calming the stress response?

We can.  Stay tuned.

Paranoia Part 2: The Principal's Office

For some reason, it doesn’t seem to matter how benign the circumstances, sitting down in the office of a school  principal gives me a bad case of gastrointestinal distress.

Maybe that’s because most of my life, I’ve been a smidge shy of  being totally innocent.

And maybe it has something to do with the fact that there have been way too many visits in a principal’s office over my lifetime that have left me attempting to swallow my heart and my stomach out of my throat and back into their correct anatomical positions.

So when #2 gorgeous model birthed of my loins called me on Monday saying I had to go right that second to meet with the high school principal about her dropping a dual credit math class, it was all I could do to remove the vise grip from around my chest. It didn’t help matters when she threw in a spare comment about him having something else to visit with me about.

Crap.

The voices inside my head went something like this:

“What else would he have to visit with me about? Maybe my bad habit of ending a sentence with a preposition? Nope. This new guy’s a math teacher, not an English teacher. Uh-oh. What if he is less than impressed with my blogging about his coaches?”

Double crap.

“I bet that’s it. I bet he wants me to lay off the blogging where his staff is concerned. I bet he didn’t like something I said. I bet…”

“Or maybe that isn’t it at all. Maybe it’s something else. What did I do? Think, Angie. What stupid, well-intentioned act did you undertake that’s got you in the hot seat with someone for whom you don’t even work?”

“Stop it. You don’t really know that there’s anything wrong. Just go take care of the little meeting so your kid can get out of dual credit hell and quit making it into something worse.”

“Yeah, but she said there was something ELSE.”

Meanwhile, I took off walking toward the school (it’s only a block away, and after all, I AM attempting to be a little bit green) carrying 3 dozen eggs to be delivered to a customer who had planned to come by and pick them up during the time that I was now spending in the principal’s office.

I handed off eggs to #2 daughter to deliver. “That’s for making me come over here.”

He very graciously greeted me, invited me into “the office” and proceeded to offer me a chair in front of the desk behind which he was about to be seated.

I hate that position.

It’s so freakin’ intimidating.

And if it freaks me out, how freaked out are parents who haven’t spent 18 years in and out of that office.

He was very nice. Just making sure I understood that she was wanting to  drop the college credit part of the class, which I did, and had in fact encouraged after watching her have a psychotic meltdown the first week of school.

I’ve seen dual credit math induced psychotic meltdowns before.

They aren’t pretty.

It’s really disturbing for a parent to watch a child have an academically self-induced meltdown that can’t be helped with medication or sleep.

So there I was acknowledging that I had in fact attempted to discourage the whole dual credit thing in the first place.

He had kind words for my #2 progeny. He even chuckled a bit about her honesty when he had asked her if she had given it her very best shot and received a response of “probably not.” I think he appreciated her straightforwardness. At least someone does. I find it rather annoying at times.

Especially when she is telling me what she really thinks….about me.

And for the record, at no time during this little meeting did my heart and stomach ever remove themselves from my throat.

When he indicated the conversation was over, I asked him if there was something else he wanted to talk to me about. After all, the kid had said there was. That had been a significant part of my stomach/heart-in-throat syndrome.

He looked at me funny saying, “No. I don’t think so.” And I left.

No grievances filed.

No parents threatening to sue me.

No fear of losing my job because I had ticked off the school board.

No documentation in my permanent record.

I just walked out.

And the voices inside my head said, “You dope. You stressed out over nothing.”

To which I replied, “ANYTIME a principal’s office is involved, I will stress out. It’s never ‘nothing’.”

(Should I be worried that I actually answered the voices inside my head?)

Just thinking about it makes me wonder if I need to go see a cardiologist….

…or just invest in a white jacket and some wall padding.

….or tell the principal to lose the desk and office next time he wants to talk to me about something.

That’s it. Next time I receive a principal summons, I’m going to insist on a neutral meeting place with no furniture.  Maybe then my heart and stomach will stay in their proper anatomical positions.

And that’s all I have to say ’bout that.

Hair-Trigger Paranoia Switch

Yesterday was highly productive. I accomplished nothing other than taking a nice long trip down the road to paranoia. In other words, I wasted my whole day worrying about something that wasn’t even a problem, and in the process, probably created a few that didn’t previously exist.

So how can I say it was highly productive?

Because I now have about two weeks worth of writing material for explaining to the world why I lost my already fragile sanity, its effects and related trauma, and how things could have been different.

The right-brained version of the story is as follows:

My middle girls came home saying the coaches told them no parent could talk to the coaches about anything unless the girls had talked to the coaches about it first. I freaked, thinking an email question I had sent caused this reaction, and immediately wanted to talk to the coaches about it so I could fix it.

That’s what I do…I fix things.

But I couldn’t, because the girls said if I did, they’d be punished. And I typically try my best to follow rules, especially if not doing so could harm my girls. I mean, I won’t even take more Tylenol than the bottle says because I’m afraid I might die if I do.

Now for the gory details…

The email I sent to one of the coaches had gone unanswered for three days. I, being the ultimate gauge of and highly sensitive to everyone else’s feelings, was already becoming slightly paranoid that I had somehow violated the parent-coach boundary that each coach draws for themselves when they arrive at a new place.

I mentioned to #3 daughter that I had emailed the coach about ankle braces yet hadn’t received a reply, to which she responded, “So you’re the reason they gave us that speech today.” And proceeded to explain what the discussion had been and which coach had given it.

<GULP>

It was the sweet lady head coach whom I consider a good friend. Someone I can sit and talk to for hours on end when the timing is right. But she had changed jobs since we had one of those good talks. She now has a new role in my family’s life, and I wasn’t quite sure yet what her boundary looked like.

And now I couldn’t even contact her to ask her, because MY GIRLS SAID doing so would result in physical punishment and loss of playing time.

Someone explain to me why I would suddenly start listening to my girls and actually abiding by their wishes? That’s never been a real problem for me before.

So rather than go find my friend/coach and ask, “What the crap?….” I just stewed. And nursed some growing resentment. How dare someone tell me I can’t talk to my kids’ teachers?

I couldn’t go talk to her. My kids SWORE life as they knew it would end if I did.

And then the passive aggressive in me kicked in.

And the “encouraging” posts on Facebook to all my educator friends kicked in….you know…the ones that said crap like, “…build communication bridges with parents……not intimidation….” and “….do kids and parents feel safe talking to you or do they perceive you as a threat…”?

What can I say? I’m a positive passive aggressive.

And a bit of a jerk.

And a little more than slightly paranoid.

But my hands were tied, because I THOUGHT I couldn’t go ask my friend what was up even though everything inside of me wanted to march right straight into her classroom and ask, “What the heck?”

So finally, I emailed her. Subject line: Amnesty. I begged for her not to punish my girls for my intrusion into her coaching life, then proceeded to spill my paranoid guts to her.

And I waited.

And I got no response.

Of course it was after lunch when I sent it, but surely she’d had a chance to see it before leaving her classroom, and since she didn’t respond with her characteristic, “…you dork! Of course you can talk to me!”, it could only mean one horrible, terrible thing…..she….wasn’t….speaking…..to…..me!!!!!

After all….it was the new law.

After wallering in this most of the day, shedding some tears of frustration (yes, I even cried over this little incident), making a butt-head of myself on Facebook, and second guessing myself the whole time, I finally noticed her “arrival” on Facebook chat.

I clicked on her name.

Then I closed it.

Then I clicked on it again.

Then I couldn’t think of a way to non-chalantly start a conversation without being one of “THOSE” parents.

Finally I had a brilliant opening line.

Me: “Hey, Girl! How are you? I miss coming to your rescue when you have a technology question.”

Her: “I miss you, too!”

A few other pleasantries.

And then she asked if she was the mean coach being referenced in my conversation on FB.

Crap! I tried to delete that comment before anyone saw it. I had tried not to use the words coach or athletics anywhere in my stuff yesterday, but one of my commenters knew and it slipped.

Then I confessed to my dilema.

And my emotional roller coaster.

And how stupidly paranoid I was being.

And how much time and energy I had wasted worrying, stressing, and being mad over it all.

And I don’t know if she laughed, or felt betrayed that I didn’t trust her.

But she made everything okay.

And she explained the “context” of the conversation with the girls and what her purpose was in insisting the girls talk to her about any team problems before allowing a parent to get involved.

Context is everything.

Hearing it from her was SO different than hearing it through my girls.

And while I confess to being a total complete donkey-butt, it has given me SO MUCH to think about.

…things like how easily the real message can get lost in the details of the process…

….or how quickly we can unintentionally trigger someone’s defensive fight or flight response even when we have the best of intentions…

…and how important it is to me to know that I can communicate freely with the adults that are helping to shape my kids’ lives.

But mostly, I learned that my paranoia switch has a hair trigger, and I really need to get a life.

Myths About Public Education

For 18 years, I juggled being a mom to four amazing girls with being employed in public education. In a large school district, that might not be such a big deal. In a small school district, it can be simultaneously rewarding and exceedingly frustrating.

During that time, I rode that uncomfortable picket-topped fence almost daily.

I had incredible, amazing, life-altering experiences as a teacher, and I had horrible experiences as a teacher (most of which I brought on myself in some way). I had fabulous mommy experiences and I had some really sucky mommy experiences.

Now that I’m off the fence and playing in my own yard, I still experience the frustrating tug of balancing being minimally involved in my kids education with being a protective mama bear.

There were many things I learned along the way both as a parent and as an educator. The most significant to me are the mixed signals sent by public education. Most of the mixed signals are the result of state and federal funding agency mandates handed down to districts who must then show evidence of having met those mandates, most of which were generated as a result of public outcry to politicians.

I call these the myths of public education.

Myth: Parent involvement is critical for your child’s success in education.

Truth: Schools typically prefer parents to show up for open house and similar activities a few times a year, sign a piece of paper saying they were there and thus involved, then get out of the way and leave the school alone.

Explanation: Parents who are involved many times are seen as pushy, over-protective, and prone to cause headaches for the school. An involved parent may see things that could stand a little improvement, and as a result, they create more work and cost the school district money. It’s best to leave them out of things unless absolutely necessary.

Solution: I’ve often wished we could all tuck our feelings deep down inside and simply focus on what’s best for students. Education is supposed to be a service oriented business, not a factory. As a massage therapist, I must listen and respond to my clients needs and wishes if I expect to be paid by them or have their repeat business. Really good school administrators have the ability to separate their personal feelings from the job and TRULY listen to what students and parents have to say. Sometimes outside observers see things that those in the trenches can’t see. I’ve experienced both kinds of administrators–those who really listen regardless of whether they agree with me or not, and those who won’t shut up explaining why they are right long enough to hear my concerns. Service oriented businesses listen to and respond to their customers if they wish to stay in business. A service oriented business would never insist a customer keep quiet or have their children face the consequences of parent involvement.

Myth: Special Education wants to help your special needs child have the best possible and most successful educational experience allowed by law.

Truth: Most schools are concerned with the bottom line….money.

Explanation: You need to know your rights and be prepared to face some opposition if your child’s accommodations are going to be costly. It’s not that they don’t want to help your kid, it’s just that sometimes money doesn’t go as far as they would like, and what doesn’t get spent on your kid can be spent on other things down the line. It also entirely depends on how you approach them. Being nice goes a long way, but sometimes you’ve just gotta put on your big girl panties and do what’s best for your kid. Hopefully it’s a peaceful, easy process. Sometimes it isn’t.

Solution: See the first myth above. Remember, education is not a factory. It’s a service oriented business.

Myth: Highly Qualified equals good teacher.

Truth: Most REALLY good teachers are born, not made.

Explanation: No amount of education and training can prepare a rocket scientist to teach teenagers if he’s not people-oriented in some way. Conversely, while content knowledge is important, a truly talented teacher can effectively teach almost anything, even if it means they study their gluteus maximus off to stay about one chapter ahead of the kids.

Solution: Take the parts of No Child Left Behind that are working and move forward. Throw the rest of that crap out the window. HQ is basically a good thing, yet it needs to make room for recognizing when a school is better off hiring a good teacher rather than a highly qualified teacher.

Myth: Students determine the atmosphere of a school. Some groups are just bad.

Truth: Leadership at the top determines the school climate, and positive energy flows downhill.

Explanation: Kids show up with a wide variety of life experiences. A few arrive from the Leave It To Beaver home, yet most do not. Awe, who am I kidding…the Leave It To Beaver moms are homeschooling these days. Most kids arrive with some sort of stress in their life (more prevalent in some groups than others), which means their energies are probably scrambled and learning will only happen once they believe they are safe.

Solution: That happens when a teacher creates a positive space that allows students to feel safe. THAT happens when teachers arrive at school to a work place that feels safe. I don’t mean full body scans and security cops sort of safe. I mean safe as in the boss respects them and empowers them to do their job. Safe as in things are consistent and predictable and make sense. Safe as in, when the teacher is scrambled and stressed to the point of fight or flight, there is someone who has the ability to help them calm that stress response and reorganize those scrambled energies.

That means the boss shows up with a positive outlook, emitting energy that supports, heals, re-directs, and simply works. It also means the boss encourages and facilitates communication between parents, teachers, and students. Bullying is never allowed, especially between adults and students. Adults are example setters, not mirrors of student behavior. Parent feedback is welcome, even when it is critical.

Parents are the customers; educating their child is the service. Schools would do well to always remember that.

What other myths exist in public education? What are the solutions?

Portrait of a Cult

Say the word cult around here, and immediately thoughts of Jim Jones, David Keresh, and Charles Manson come to mind.

Dictionary.com defines cult as

1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.

3. the object of such devotion.

4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

A search of the internet quickly produces a Checklist of Cult Characteristics, many of which we all expect to see in such a list, yet a few that might make us a bit uncomfortable.

Such as….

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I openly admit to browsing the selection in order to choose the items that are most relevant to my point.

Now think for a moment about our concept of church and/or religion in this country. The Church is often one of the first, most vocal, and most direct critics of cults. We pity the poor souls who fall victim to the cult mentality, who get trapped in a viscous cycle of incorrect beliefs and who put their trust in a particular set of rules in hopes of being saved from the evils of the world.

Am I the only one seeing an irony here?

Every single organized group of people who establish rules for worshiping something or someone are in many ways a cult.

The Pharisees were a cult.

Several other flavors of religion are a cult.

My faith heritage fits WAY more than its share of cult characteristics. It is a cult.

257,000 flavors of Christianity have a majority of the characteristics of a cult. Christianity is the mothership of cult mentality.

I readily admit than many of what I see as cults do much good in the world. However, the point here is to examine the less favorable characteristics of such groups.

Jesus came to set people free from the prison that is cultism. Why else would he give us just two rules? Love the entity that is universal life force, and love each other…unconditionally. Need more specifics? Love those who don’t see the world through your same set of rose colored glasses. Don’t exclude them. Don’t refuse to do business with them.

Jesus never promoted the organization of groups.

Jesus never promoted the concept of isolationism.

Jesus didn’t come to organize an exclusive club.

Jesus brought a message of freedom, not cultism.

Jesus came to deprogram us, not enslave us to an ideology/theology.

What do you think? Is organized religion a group of cults or am I horribly misguided in my thinking?

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