Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Messages to Our Daughters

Dear Jesus, Bless this post. This one could be a bit touchy.

Something is stirring in my head and my heart this morning. It is something of great importance. Something that could be met with an Aha! or with banishment by leadership. I will do my best to craft this post with wisdom and grace rather than finger pointing and accusation.

My daughters are weighing heavy on  my heart today. As I continue my read in Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter, I am realizing the many ways in which we continue to allow a subliminal message of less than to be delivered generation after generation to our daughters.

Even more disturbing is the realization that many a proud girl daddy is standing back approving the various practices that perpetuate this message delivery system. At the very least, we stand and watch in silence as it continues year after year after year.

We live in a society that elevates the status of men and their roles above that of women and those who work specifically with women and girls. Rural West Texas may be perpetuating that more than most.

Case in point: Education and Sports as it relates to leadership.

Look at the makeup of your school board. Ours is currently all male. At one time there were two of seven who happened to be female.

Look at the makeup of administration. How many superintendents are male? How many finance officers are male? How many curriculum/special programs personnel are male? How many principals are male? And finally, how many teachers, secretaries, and teaching assistants are male?

We are somewhat more progressive in this area than others. We do have a few females at the top. Yet it is still disturbing to me that so many of our teachers are female while such a significant part of our leadership is male. This perpetuates a stereotype that somehow males are more suited for leadership.

I had an opportunity to take a leadership role several years ago. I didn’t want it. I guess I helped perpetuate the patriarchal ideals. Maybe that’s why there is such an imbalance in leadership. Women just don’t want that level of responsibility and men do.

I’m not buying it.

I think it is more a case of how we stereotype people in those roles. Women in leadership are oftentimes seen as bitchy. Difficult. Emotional. Moody. Vindictive. Condescending.

Is this true?

Does being male somehow exclude a person from possessing these characteristics?

I would suggest that if two candidates were placed side by side with equal qualifications, similar personality traits, and everything else being absolutely the same, even a hiring committee made up entirely of women would choose the male. We are THAT conditioned to submit to male leadership. Unfortunately, I would probably be right there with the rest of that committee choosing a man.

So why is it that we are willing to submit to a man who is difficult, emotional, moody, vindictive, and condescending as acceptable leadership material, but those same perceived characteristics in a woman are grounds for running like hell?

Just ponder that for a bit, will you?

Think some more.

More.

Now take a breath.

Part two of my morning psychosis coming up next right after these words from my goddesses.

The Amazon Princess is about to shoot.

Cowgirl dominates the floor.

Teenage Goddess kicks some three-point butt.

The Tigress force-feeds her opponent a tasty snack.

These are the reasons I write.

These are the four amazing women who deserve so much more than a life in which men are seen as physically, intellectually, and spiritually superior simply because they were born with an external appendage.

Don’t get me wrong. I lOVE men. Men are awesome. I made these amazing beauties with one and I still like him alot. I like him in part because he empowers the women in his life. He is probably one of the best girl-daddy’s on this planet.

But he is a rare find.

Back to how education and sports condition girls and women into feeling like they are somehow less than boys and men.

We have a government mandate called Title IX. I haven’t read its fine print. Some people say it means there has to be equity between what is offered to boys and what is offered to girls when it comes to sports in an educational environment. Seems like everyone you talk to has a different take on it. Talk to a man and it means one thing. Talk to a woman and it means a heckuva lot more.

So yeah. We’ve got equity in sports. Because Uncle Sam says so.

Whatever.

How does equity exist when year after year the athletic program is run by someone whose primary job title involves creating a highly successful boys and mens sports program? I’m not suggesting that those men would consciously do something that would undermine the success of the girls’ program, but how is it humanly possible to avoid putting more energy and influence into the program for which YOU are held accountable to the public than you do towards a program that in some cases gets in the way of YOUR program?

Scheduling classes. Hiring staff. Content area teaching positions.

The eyes of the top dawg can’t help but be first and foremost on HIS boys’ program.

Seriously.

When was the last time a school sports program in rural West Texas was run by the head of girls’ athletics? I would love to have some examples. I’m sure they exist. I’m just not familiar with them.

When in history has the search for a head girls’ coach of any sport involved the intense committee search the likes of which are seen when searching for a football coach?

And why is it that we often see almost double the number of boys coaches than girls coaches?

Bottom line, consciously or unconsciously, we value men and boys more than we do women and girls.

Don’t give me that crap about how special our girls are and how we protect them and keep them safe. Cowgirl can body slam your boy to the ground and make him cry any day of the week. She wants to be treated with respect and given the same opportunities the boys get.

And now I find my blogging time is waning and my rant is calming a bit. My challenge to you is to think  long and hard about the subliminal  messages we send to our girls in all areas of life, especially our sports and education. If you are a girl mama reading this, I know you’ll have some thoughts. If you are a girl daddy, and especially if you are in a position of leadership, I trust you will give significant consideration to and reflect about your decisions and how they perpetuate the second class status we are assigning to our young ladies.

It’s not about religion (although I can hammer that wagon mercilessly). It’s about telling our girls they are somehow less than….not as important….not worth as much money or effort…..

Is that really what you want them to hear?

My Guys in Action

As you may have figured out from other posts, the male species is a bit sparse around our place. So in addition to the claim I’ve staked in Hunky Farmer Boy, there’s a wee bit of a claim staked in another middle-aged male. I should probably introduce him to you. Actually, you met him a couple of weeks ago, but no photos accompanied the introduction, so that one doesn’t really count.

I referred to him as the red-headed uncle. I actually think there’s more gray and white than there is red. He’s the one I blame for sucking us into the money pit of all hobbies known as showing horses. He would be my brother.

Oh, and he wears starched Wranglers.

That seems to be of some significant importance out here on the big ol’ Internet.

HFB is just glad his Wranglers get washed occasionally.

Red-Headed Uncle gets starch. I don’t do his jeans, in case you were wondering.

As fate would have it, this Texas A&M animal science lovin’ former county extension agent aggie has in recent years acquired a position with a local rural electric utility. HFB has been working for an electric utility for what is creeping up on 30 years.

Coincidence? I think not.

It must be my addicting electrifying personality that draws them into the business. Oh wait….HFB was in the business before I showed up on the radar, so never mind that last epiphany.

Neither one of them are licensed to teach in the state of Texas, which is too bad, because by all accounts, these two yahoos are pretty good at it.

Every year, several organizations work together to put on the Progressive Farmer Farm Safety Day. They bring in all kinds of experts and demonstrations and presentations and cool t-shirts and fire trucks and…and…and….

My kids have always loved it.

And every year one of these good lookin’ men gets suckered into taking their fire-shooting, weinnie-zapping (as in Oscar Meyer in case you were wondering), wah-wah-sounding electrical toys to wow and terrify helpless little elementary children. Of course I am sure it is just pure torture for a couple of little boys grown men to have to put on a zappo-powwie show for a captive audience of munchkin flavored ooo’s and aaahhh’s.

Pure torture. No fun at all. <wink-nudge>

This year the little boogers are in a heap o’ trouble. Both of my boys men got suckered into standing up in front of a class of munchkins. Both ends of the school building are subject to electrificution. (Is that a word? It is now!)

And as expected, HFB gets rave reviews. Red-Headed-Uncle had to sit through one of HFB’s performances. Apparently HFB is so dang good, he’s inspiring the competition. I can see it now…new reality TV series called “Family Power Line Wars”.

Hmm…maybe we’ll work on that title a bit more.

And since my boys men need to have their images splattered on my now world famous blog, I had to get a shot or two.

Red Headed Uncle is showing off what happens when lightning zaps one of the utility company poles….and what might happen to a munchkin that decides to play out in the middle of a storm. Check out his little power line village on the right side of the picture. Isn’t it cute?

Women, notice the shiny cowboy boots.  All together now…..”Ooooooo…..Aaaaaahhhhh!”

Wait a minute! Is that a bare spot I see on that back of that boy’s head? Nah. Couldn’t be. Must just be a weird reflection of some kind.

Hunky Farmer Boy has a long standing reputation as a pyromaniac electrical entertainer. Nothing like a few thousand volts to captivate munchkin attention. Hey maybe that’s what all our teachers need to help maintain classroom focus on learning!

Geez, he’s hot! (I’m pathetic. I know. Deal with it.)

Isn’t his little village just so cute, too? Isn’t HFB just so cute? Mmmmm….think I’ll stare at these pictures for awhile. Lucious ‘Lectric Lips.

Hmm…shirt’s a little big on him. Maybe I should feed him a bit more often.

Weinnie roast anyone?

Brains and Golf and Cops–Incredible Opportunities

In making the decision to move away from the (in)security of employment and a set paycheck, I asked myself exactly what I think I can do to earn a living and continue to pay for the things I desire (or desired and acquired without payment in advance. That would be known as debt, and it is another of my elephants, but I digress.).

I came to the conclusion that I have many talents and many services to offer. The key will be aligning my talents, passions, and services with the appropriate clientèle.  Lots of people have an interest in what I do, yet not all of them see my services as worthy of plopping down their hard-earned cash in order to experience the benefits.

The way I see it, I have a couple of options: 1) Convince them that what I offer is worth their investment of money, or 2) Attract clients who already know the value of what I do. I’m guessing their will be a little bit of both, but I think my time will be better spent if more energy goes toward the second option.

I currently have a wonderfully supportive massage clientèle, which has grown in large part because of a few amazing people who are telling others about me. Word of mouth and testimony are such sweet and delicious advertising. Thanks to some talented local pioneers in the field of massage, lots of people in this area are already convinced of the value of that service. I owe a lot to the ladies who blazed that trail for me.

Some of my other services, however, are a bit more obscure and unfamiliar. Therefore I will be the one to blaze the trail in those areas.

So, this morning, I am doing a bit of trailblazing.

June 28th-30th, I will be teaching a three-day workshop call BrainGym® 101. It is the introductory class in a series, which lead to licensure as a Brain Gym® instructor/practitioner. It is also the foundation course that provides participants with a solid base of knowledge about this easy program of movements that can do so much to improve learning and physical performance tasks, enhance communication and writing skills, improve mental clarity, reduce test anxiety, increase environmental awareness.

BrainGym® is valuable to a wide range of occupations and life circumstances. Education, is of course a given, and many of my previous clients have been teachers. However, it is also a valuable tool for athletes, peace officers and emergency personnel, hobbiests such as golfers seeking to improve their game, parents, care-givers, and anyone else who deals with challenging situations.

BrainGym® works by using a series of 26 movements that vary from lengthening activities to mid-line crossing to energy activating actions. These 26 movements work to calm the body’s stress response, which in turn allows the use of higher brain function.

Rational thought hangs out in the neo-cortex of the brain. That’s the big part that covers everything and takes up the most space between your ears. Stress, which can be triggered by anything from new learning to a family crisis to starting a diet, tends to put us into the control of the mid-brain and more of a survival way of thinking. When that happens, we are inclined react without thinking and new learning or performance becomes almost impossible.

So how does that relate to my golf game? Ever have a bad day on the course? The weather is beautiful, but from the first putt you know you are destined to set the record for highest golf score ever? With each subsequent putt, you stress more and more…..and things get worse and worse. With BrainGym® in your bag of tools, you can stop, perform a few of the activities (which by the way require NO equipment) and watch your game switch on like a light. It is total coolness.

Or let’s say you have aging parents and you are concerned about their long term mental clarity (or maybe your own). BrainGym® uses the ages old (appropriate for this illustration, doncha think?) concept of movement to keep brain function more active. If you’d like to understand the physiology behind how this works, kick back and trudge through a book by Carla Hannaford call Smart Moves: Why Learning Isn’t All In Your Head. It’s a bit heavy for me tastes until about Chapter 5. Then it’s just fascinating.

Law enforcement and emergency services are other fields that stand to experience tremendous benefits from my cool mojo called BrainGym®. Qualifying on the range, stress management, mental clarity….all are huge reasons to check into this thing called BrainGym®.

If I still haven’t gotten your attention, ask a question in the comments section and I’ll gladly provide more information. It’s really cool stuff, and very much worth the money. For that matter, if you do choose to invest in the three day workshop, fully participate (it is, after all, a participation workshop), and come away feeling your time has been wasted, I will give you your money back and you can keep the course materials. The only thing you are risking is spending three days in the company of some really cool people snacking on chocolate, cheese, and fresh fruit.

Here’s everything you need to know to get registered.

Have a wonderfully nourishing day.

PS: If you are into any kind of performing arts, Brain Gym is a must have for your tool kit. It can really rock your performance world!

The Strong Life Test: Teacher-Motivator

Yesterday Danielle LaPorte’s new digital book experience, The Firestarter Sessions became available for pre-release purchasing. Since I’m more or less a “spend every penny you’ve got” sorta gal, and since I had just made a small, yet adequate deposit into the massage business bank account, AND since I could justify/rationalize it as a business expense, I decided I NEEDED this book. Actually what I needed was a hefty dose of Danielle, and since she was handing over Chapter 3 with the advanced purchase, I played into her little plot to toy with my impatience.

I worked my way through her fun, engaging, and challenging material….right up to the collection of personality tests. I enjoy these things. I’ve seen a couple of them before, so they didn’t all grab my attention at once. This one, however, did. It’s called the Strong Life test. The questions were pretty straight forward, and it was free, so my criteria were met.

I took the test.

Then I hit the submit button.

Then it told me my fate.

My lead role is………………………………………………

TEACHER??????? Just shoot me now. I’m running away from that, remember?

Maybe my supporting role would be better.

Another drum role, please…………………………………

MOTIVATOR.

Okay, not so bad. I could handle playing the Stephen Covey part.

But still…..am I not about to escape that whole teacher/motivator job?

Yes and no.

Yes, I am escaping the confinement and rigidity of teaching in a formal school setting with all of it’s rules and regulations and state mandates and schedules and testing and politics. And actually, it isn’t the teaching I am escaping. It’s the desk. It’s the lack of teaching. It’s the lack of others really wanting to or having the opportunity to learn what I have to teach. It’s the lack of willingness to give time for learning what I have to teach. It’s the draining, life-sucking energy of the system.

The circumstances are what I am escaping.

No, I will never be able to escape the teacher/motivator in me. My sweet massage clients will attest to that. I rarely give a massage that doesn’t include SOME form of teaching and motivating. The kid that came to ask for my financial help with his dream will attest to that. (Sorry, Dude. If you are at least 2  years younger than me, you now do and always will qualify as a kid. That’s just how I roll.) He didn’t escape until I taught him some of my cool mojo. That sort of info is just too awesome to keep to myself.

What this means is I get to look for new ways to teach and motivate. It means I get to find things I truly love and share them whenever and wherever opportunity presents itself.

A couple of years ago, I went through a course called 48 Days to the Work You Love. There were, of course, lots of values evaluations. One activity included writing my own epitaph. Some have suggested it’s more like a eulogy in length, but it still accurately states how I want to be remembered.

Angie helped people feel great about themselves and develop their talents and abilities. She gave others courage and confidence when they had none to give themselves. She gave them health and hope and the knowledge to change their own lives, and in doing so, she created a legacy of health, wealth, and love for her family.

Hmm….I see a pattern here.

So what do you think? How am I gonna live this dream, this life purpose, without the confines of the public education system?

Personal trainer?

Private tutor?

Blogger/author?

Anything else?

Bookstores, Health Food Stores, & Greenhouses

Everyone has at least one. I happen to have three of which I am aware. It’s my power place. Okay, in my case, PLACES.

It’s that place you can go where the world seems perfect, no harm can come, and time is irrelevant. It is a place that has a Zen-like serenity that nourishes your soul. It’s a place you may enjoy sharing with others. Me? Nah. If I’m going there, I’d rather go alone and just get lost….forever.

It’s that place where, if money were no object in your life, you would either work there for free, or just buy the whole organization. Yesterday, I had the privilege of experiencing all three of my power places.

I would have to say that my all-time favorite power place is a greenhouse in springtime. It’s the closest thing to a tropical rain forest I will likely experience in these parts. I love the foliage, the colors, the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle, and the protected environment that allows in the warming rays of the sun without the annoyance of our infamous winds.

I stopped by Lowe’s to check on a cabinet for the Wellness Center. As if drawn like a moth to a flame, the garden center beckoned me. Apparently they have snubbed their corporate noses at Mother Nature, because it was like an ocean of life, color, and fragrance. Beauty was everywhere. I just strolled along looking at it all, as if time had suddenly decided to extend my lunch break. There are other greenhouses that I like better, yet this one certainly filled the gap since I was already there for other things.

Reality finally kicked in, and I returned to my afternoon obligation, followed by my next power place. I had some time between the end of my workshop and the beginning of my yoga class (a power place in its own right), so I stopped in at the health food store. Yes, it’s another place in which I could stay for hours, spend a fortune, and stay some more. I think it’s the intention of such a place and what it represents that draws me in and keeps ahold of me. Energy is an amazing thing, and there’s just something special about the energy of a health food store.

Yoga class came and went. It was a nice experience: difficult, yet not; relaxing, yet requiring concentration. Since my brain has yet to figure out the concept of “shut up”, even in yoga class, I made plans to visit power place #3 to acquire a book on yoga basics. I am still feeling a bit lost and confused about the concepts, even though I work my way through the moves fairly well. Yep, a book on yoga was definitely needed. Oh darn! <sarcasm> That meant a trip to the bookstore and another dose of calm, peaceful energy. It was simply fabulous, and three great books plus a beautiful magazine found their way into my possession.

Just before heading home, I decided there were a couple more items I wanted to pick up from the grocery store. Hmmm….wally world or that other health food store down the street. Duh! No brainer! For the second time in one day, I cruised the aisles of a health food store. I actually like this place even better. The energy is just a little more flowing. It’s light and spacious, no crowds and very few “people of Walmart“, plus the selection is incredible for our area. Just an all-around nice place to be.

Yesterday really made me think about my life purpose and my potential new career. The recognition of which environments support me and allow me the space to experience peace and joy is a very cool thing. I thought about places I would love to work in each of these fields.

These three remain: bookstores, health food stores, and greenhouses. But the greatest of these is greenhouses. Now how do I roll them into one incredible career? Can we put a bookstore, yoga center, and a health food store here and pay me to hang out? I think I would be very happy with that arrangement.

Vision 2010: Intentions for a New Year

I recently saw a post that suggested the use of intentions for the new year rather than resolutions or goals for the new year. I like that. I tend to believe intentions are a very powerful force. They are not some lofty pie in the sky wish list, but rather something truly…well…intended.

Danielle LaPorte’s blog is one of my favorite motivational resources, so I was intrigued when her intentions list was actually a Stop Doing list. Most of us think about things we should or need to start doing, but how many of us think about the balancing effect of stopping something? And as she pointed out, it isn’t about stopping things like “neglecting yourself” or some other goofy feel good crap. This is serious stuff. Everything needs balance, and if you are adding something to your to do list, you must also remove something from it or feel the wrathful stress of overload.

This got me thinking about my vision for 2010. Just saying the year has such a cool sound to it. I can remember when 2010 was the target date for a 15 year long range technology plan for schools. And now…..it’s here. 2010.

The year that is wrapping up was a pretty good one. I finished massage therapy school, which gives me new options and some movement towards achieving a long held desire to work in the wellness industry. We sent a kid off to face the world on her own. We tackled a renovation project that is my wellness center. I charged up a truckload of money going to some energy medicine workshops in Austin and Phoenix….and I stayed another year in the safety and security of a “guaranteed” paycheck with benefits, even though my passion has long since vacated the premises. That about sums up 2009.

So what exactly is my vision of 2010? Danielle suggested a three-question test that originated with Darwin Smith, CEO of Kimberly-Clark.
1)What are you deeply passionate about?
2)What are you genetically encoded for—what activities do you just feel “made to do”?
3)What makes economic sense—what can you make a living at?

It has taken me 41 years of life to feel as though maybe I have some idea about #1 and #2. I guess a person needs that many life experiences to know what they don’t want so as to figure out what they do want from life. Ironically, I am circling back into the vicinity of my college aspirations. I have done many things since college that were part of my dreams and aspirations. I wanted to be married and have a family. I wanted to have a nice house and nice things. I wanted the mini-van and the suburban to haul my growing family. I wanted sane working hours and a husband whose hours matched mine. I have done and continue to have all of those things with abundant love….well…most days.

I have also done some things that are not quite as fulfilling in order to have that which I really did want. I intended all of these things at a higher level than I intended my post college career aspirations, so I settled on a career that I thought best accommodated what I wanted most. For the most part it has worked well enough. Yet there has been this nagging, a yearning, to navigate back in the direction of my original passions. For the first time, I can see the possibilities of making it happen.

So here goes: In 2010, I will

  1. Build my wellness center business to a level that replaces my current income
  2. Complete the renovations on the wellness center
  3. Carve out space for writing projects
  4. Teach a couple of Brain Gym classes.
  5. Study and become highly proficient at the things in which I have already received training
  6. Spend time daily in some form of exercise, as in take care of ME
  7. Find ways to feed me and my family healthy and delicious foods
  8. Pursue a yoga instructor certification
  9. Pursue a personal trainer certification
  10. Travel some place really cool with my sweet husband
  11. Knock the debt load back by a huge chunk
  12. Knock the “butt/thigh” load back by a huge chunk (see #6 & 7)

In 2010, I will

  1. Stop working 8 hours a day in a windowless concrete cell surrounded by a massive electromagnetic field
  2. Stop sitting on my derriere 8 hours a day.
  3. Stop feeling resentment about events in my past that have proven to be blessings
  4. Stop feeling guilty just because others feel guilty (see #3)
  5. Stop trying to teach people who do not wish to learn
  6. Stop attending over-priced workshops that don’t lead to an accredited certification of some type (unless I really really want the info).
  7. Stop doing my own accounting. I suck at it and I hate it.
  8. Stop trying to market my talents all by myself. See #7. I do and teach what I know. Getting other people to buy in to my gigs are a pain in the tush.
  9. Stop eating crap that tastes good for a second, then leaves me feeling like the stuff that comes out at the end.
  10. Stop piling all of the construction projects on my sweet hubby. I intend to have sufficient profits to hire out the window replacement and maybe even the exterior paint job.
  11. Stop spending all my egg profits on Sonic Happy Hour.

The items on this second list only serve to make me a cranky chunky witchy kind of person. They leave me feeling less than my best and therefore, they must go. I’m thinking 2010 is going to be an amazingly powerful year for this goddess.

How about you? Do you have any STOP signs in your 2010 Vision?

Nature Nurture

One of the cool things I have learned during my BrainGym years has been the power of setting an intention before doing any type of “energy” work. Energy work includes things like massage, BrainGym, yoga, meditation/prayer, etc. During our New Mexico retreat last week, I set an intention to experience clarity regarding my career. It has been over a week since that intention was set, and I am daily seeing ways in which I better understand what is going on, both in my frustrations with the current situation and my desires for change. That clarity is proving invaluable as a tool to keep me from leaping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
 
I recently acquired and worked through a book called Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy. My two word style statement I believe is Natural Powerful–80% of me is natural, defined by nature, seeking nature, being in nature, being nurtured by nature. The other 20% that adds spice and gives me an edge is power. Realizing how truly important nature is in defining who I am and how I roll helps me to identify what’s going on when I start to feel like crap or get unbearably cranky (the genuine me would have used four and five letter words there, but the me that knows my mom will read this chose more politically correct terms–use your imagination).
 
What I realize is that I crave nature. Spring minus wind is my favorite time of year.  Seeing new life emerge from what appears to be a lifeless stick and watching it produce life sustaining energy sources is just freakin’ cool. What’s not cool is spending the most gorgeous part of the day in a flourescent lighted windowless concrete prison cell void of plant life with only a sheetrock wall separating me from an electromagnetic nightmare that is our file server room. That “clarity” does so much to help me figure out how to improve my existing situation and avoid creating a similar situation in any new endeavors I attempt. Hence, setting up a massage studio in a building downtown where all I see is brick, mortar and cars and that only between clients, probably isn’t the best option for escaping the dis-ease I feel toward my current situation.
 
And so, I made a trip to Home Depot and bought two pots of giant marigolds to place on my office desk. I like marigolds. They are bold and bright. Not necessarily my favorite flower, but they speak for me in a sort of “in-your-face-whatcha-gonna-do-about-it” sort of way. There is nothing delicate about how marigolds look. They are my 80% natural-20% powerful. I am trusting they will survive the flourescent world for awhile and in the meantime, help adjust my attitude about my work environment. Maybe I’ll go back to HD and see what else I can find. It will take something tough to survive for a few months in this concrete jungle.
 
All of this clarity and realization got me to thinking about everyone else including our kids and their teachers who spend their days in windowless, natureless worlds. Several years ago (about 40 to be exact) some genius decided that students need to be free from the distractions posed by the outside world. They began to design multi-purpose school buildings as fallout shelters putting children in basement classrooms where neither nuclear bombs, tornadoes, nor a dancing butterfly could disrupt the precious learning environment. Nature in the classroom was relegated to the dark-loving cockroach. Then along came the energy efficiency experts, and they took the rest of our older school buildings with their wall of windows and closed those in to save heating and cooling costs. If it’s victims were lucky, they were spared one or two small tinted windows to allow for some outside viewing.
 
Yet our teachers continue to experience more and more burnout each year and our children are dealing with more learning challenges, attention deficit issues, behavioral abnormalities, and other social problems than ever before. No, I am not suggesting that windowless schools are to blame, but I am suggesting that they have done nothing to improve the situation. Even mental institutions have figured out that their clients are much more compliant when surrounded by trees, grass, flowers, and natural sunlight. Heck Wal-Mart has even figured this out. People spend more money in a store that has an earthy, naturally lit feel. They are willing to risk thousands of dollars repairing hail smashed skylights and the related water damage to accomodate this concept. Oh yeah….God got it, too. He placed his precious creations in a beautiful place called the Garden of Eden. Punishment for wrong-doing was denial of access to the lush garden.
 
What would happen if every classroom was naturized with plants, fish tanks, hamsters, etc? Or better yet, what if the kids who faced the most difficult challenges were placed in a learning environment such as a yurt. Okay, I admit it, I have a new fascination with this type of building. It is essentially a round Mongolian teepee of sorts, yet the insides are supported by a trellis/accordian like support system that creates X’s wherever the eye looks. It has a skylight in the top. What if the yurt classrooms were surrounded by trees, flowers, and gardens that produced food the kids could pick and consume fresh from the plant whenever the urge strikes? No soda and candy machines would be found, but instead an apple tree and some grape vines would grow right outside the classroom door and the kids were encouraged to eat from them. It would be a highly integrative learning paradise.
 
How could we change the destiny of a kid by changing his learning environment to one that nurtures learning through nature? How could we retain our best and brightest teachers by taking them out of the concrete prison cell and placing them in a Garden to teach? Would all problems disappear? Not a chance. Would it be a worthwhile experiment? You bet. Would it cost money? Well duh! Doesn’t everything? However, I bet it would cost a lot less than the majority of our interventions that have failed our most needy students. But we don’t have enough water to support a garden, you argue. We live in a desert. We are in the midst of a drought. Some of the most beautiful and nurturing places on earth are deserts. We can maximize what we have, grow, and produce the best. It is called Xerisaping, and where it is done well, it is gorgeous.
 
Is this possible on a large scale? I don’t know. What I do know is that each of us has the opportunity to improve our space and consequently our attitude towards our work even in small ways. If you are a parent, volunteer to “naturize” your child’s classroom. Work with teachers and administrators to see what they would like to do. If you are a teacher, consider how you can use some classroom budget money to bring the outdoors indoors. Don’t buy plastic plants. That’s not nature. We have enough plastic in our lives without faking nature.
 
And for Pete’s sake (and Tony, Laura, and Jeffrey’s sake), take down those annoyingly distracting laminated math charts, parts of speech posters, and other wall crap with which you have such a freakin’ love affair, and bring in a grow light and a banana tree. Take your kids outside to have class EVERY chance you get. Find the protected outdoor areas where the wind isn’t an issue and green up that space. Plant a campus garden–a real one with veggies, and have enough passion for what you do that you’ll spend a few days each week even during the summer taking care of it so next fall’s students can benefit from it. I know you can think of 200 reasons why it won’t work, but doing so only creates negative energy and wastes time. Think of the 20 reasons it just MIGHT work and do something to heal yourself, heal your kids, and in the process heal the earth.

 

If we all do a bit of nurturing nature in our work space, then nature will return the favor by nurturing us in both our work space and our play space. Hmm….who’da thunk my career clarity intention would lead to this. Nice……

Our "Cool Energy" Gang

Saturday was another 10 hour marathon massage school day. Those days are the ones where ten of us spend all ten hours learning content, learning technique, practicing new skills, receiving massages, and becoming family. You just can’t spend that kind of time together and not do some bonding.

Part of that bonding process was eating lunch at the diner around the corner with one of my classmates. Not so unusual unless you consider that she’s 21 and has more lead in her ears, tongue and lip, than my dad has used in all of his concealed handgun classes combined. There was a time when that would have bothered me. For some reason, it doesn’t now. And while I find it ironically weird that a 21 year old would even CHOOSE to eat lunch with me, it’s really kinda cool.

For that matter, all of my classmates have their own level of cool. I mean, let’s face it. Something has to keep me WANTING to drive 2 1/2 hours round trip to sit for 3 1/2 to 10 hours at a time. Well, okay…I admit it….I sort of like the silence, but what mother of four wouldn’t? Still, it doesn’t matter what kind of mood I am in. Within 30 minutes of arriving at class, I am laughing and cutting up with a bunch of teenagers and just-barely-not-still-teenagers, and feeling great. This has become so apparent, that I used it on my aforementioned young friend when she proclaimed that she had in fact arrived in a rather bitchy mood.

“No worries,” I told her. “You won’t even remember this mood in 30 minutes.” She responded with her best “Oh yes I will—I’m in a bad mood and it isn’t going away.” I laughed. At lunch I asked her what happened to her bad mood. It seems that the be-witched mood had left the building. That admission was of course followed up with a resounding “I told you so.” Yeah….I love that little phrase. Makes me seem so freakin’ smart.

Anyway, the energy in our class is just pretty cool. First, there is the instructor. Bob Saget in miniature version. Definitely looks like Saget. As far as comedy, he can hold his own trying to be a funny man, yet he still maintains professionalism. That’s a tough technique with a room full of 18-22 year olds and a mid-life, career changer who is attempting to relieve her college years.

Then there is the my friend with all the additional holes in her flesh and cartilege to accommodate her cool jewelry. Freakiest thing is when that girl pulls her lip jewelry all the way back through to inside her mouth. <SHUDDER> And yet, that girl’s got your back. She’s full of fire and spunk, and would probably rip someone’s face off in defense of her friends. Good energy.

Wicken Boy (I love calling him that) is quite fascinating. He’s a  brilliant engineering wannabe who decided that the academic  game wasn’t worthy of his time and effort. Betcha he’ll be a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs one of these days. He’s cool.

Mrs. PTL is an adorable little white haired lady who wants to make a difference for older people. When we are around her, I know Jesus is happy, because EVERYTHING she says includes a “Praise the Lord”. She is a crack up, and as my classmates and I know, a well placed PTL can make for a gut-busting belly laugh. THAT’s one reason I keep going back. I am all for belly laughs.

The quiet little farm girl is so quiet that I am embarrassed to admit I don’t know that  much about  her. She keeps to herself alot. She’s not one to divulge much info, but I know she’s got dogs and cats and chickens. In my book that makes her worthy of my highest energy rating. Her energy doesn’t jump out and grab a person. Rather it sneaks up when you don’t expect it and wraps a warm smile in your direction.

Next is Gentle-Man. If I were gonna have a crush on a younger guy, he’d definitely fit the bill, but since that is just gross and creepy (and since I’ve got such an amazing hunk already in my corner), we’ll suffice to say that his quiet gentle spirit oozes out tenderness and compassion. He’s a bit older than the rest, and that maturity shows. A proud daddy who wants so much to give his little man the world, he WILL achieve his goals. He’s got focus, passion, and compassion. What an incredible combination of gifts to have and to give.

One of our youngest class members is another quiet one. When he does speak, it’s like one of those flavor changing candies. He has a sort of slow, quiet, and almost discreet flavor until you think about what he said, then the other flavor grabs you by the throat and you realize he’s just plain funny. He’s a really nice guy, but it seems like he’s faced a lot of challenges in his life. I really think there is more to him that meets the eye. Hopefully a few more layers of the onion will come off and we’ll all know him a bit better.

The next three are our party crew. Two girls and a guy. One really has an interest in massage, but she is not the type to kiss up or be owned by anyone for the sake of pleasing them. She’s just real. I really like that genuineness. Super energy. Girl Two is an In-Your-Face-Drama-Queen. She is absolutely hilarious. She can put a look on her face that will give you more info about what she is thinking than a front-page expose’ would give. Her counterpart is a 19 year old guy who is very “Whatever!” in his attitude. Annoyingly indecisive, most likely due to being 19 and male, yet adorably cute about it. He totally cracks us all up.

Yes, the drive is worth it. I really don’t know why God felt compelled to put me in Massage Therapy class at precisely the time he did with precisely the group I am with, but I have a feeling he did it to help me understand what it means to experience really great energy. These people have nothing to give me except that fabulous energy. They are all basically broke college kids and a widow lady. Honestly, I don’t need anything from them except that energy. They make me feel accepted and young again. Hopefully I can be something equally as powerful for them.

What life adventures have allowed you to be surrounded by miraculous mood-changing energy generators?

The TAKS Man is Coming

TAKS testing starts on Tuesday, March 3rd bright and early in the morning. For those of you who aren’t involved in Texas education, TAKS stands for Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. TAKS is the judge, jury, and executioner for students and teachers in the state of Texas.

The past two years have seen a significant increase in the levels of test security. It was pretty comical last year as school testing coordinators half-heartedly joked about going to jail if a student cell phone went off during the test. This year, it has surpassed comical and launched well into insane paranoid psychosis.

We have just received an email clarifying the procedure for handling a testing room maintenance issue during TAKS. If a maintenance issue arises such as a child hurling breakfast all over the desk, the custodian (who has most likely not been properly trained in test security procedures) must be accompanied at all times by a campus administrator who has been properly trained in testing procedures. 

What I want to know is when did achievement testing reach the same level as handling nuclear weapons material?  My co-worker/boss, who is the district’s tech coordinator, has a high-level military security clearance and yet had to go through test security training to be allowed to manage technical issues that might arise during online testing. We had to laugh about that one.

We are all on edge because the state authorities might just pick our district for a monitoring visit. We have had to change out door locks, install classroom doors with windows, butcher paper cover every wall in the classrooms so as to make sure there are no hidden clues in the bulletin board displays, and basically waste a whole lot of time and effort making sure someone doesn’t cheat on a test or divulge top secret classified information about the test. We have to laugh at the insanity of it all, otherwise we would each find ourselves checking into the mental hospital a couple of towns north of here.

 The tax man may be coming on April 15th, but the TAKS man is coming March 3rd and won’t leave the premises for good until May 1st. Now might be a great time to do a little BrainGym. It will not only help calm my nerves about giving this test, it will be good for the kids, too.  Here’s to the gazillion dollar state testing lobby. Thanks a lot, Guys.

Making a Difference

My Number Three child has made a significant contribution to my source of writing material. That is because she is such a gift to me in so many ways. She is wired much differently than her sisters. It’s not wrong or bad. It is just different, and it will most likely prove to serve her in ways that will make her highly successful.

Her uniqueness has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I am a better teacher because of her. I am a more flexible parent because of her. I recognize personality traits in others and am less quick to judge that person because of her. She is a gift not only to me, but to the entire world because of the lessons I have learned from her.

Her life is pretty blessed. She had a  normal baby-hood. No traumas during pregnancy or birth. Everything was pretty much routine. Yet even as a toddler,  her personality was much different than the previous two. She smacked her forehead on the coffee table at 2 1/2, which meant a trip to the emergency room and stitches, but she healed.

At four, we began to notice what the older girls called “the cross-eyed thing”. Every so often her right eye would do its own thing. I took her to an optometrist who diagnosed severe far-sightedness (like +5.0) and amblyopia. That was a difficult experience for my daughter because she was so painfully shy at that time she would not (and I now know she could not) respond to his questions as to which image was better. As a result, he used his magic lenses and a flashlight to focus the image on her retina to his satisfaction.

For the next few years, we did the coke-bottle lenses, then contacts at age six, and later back to glasses. All of these had traumatic effects on her. The prescription reduced some over the years, but was still pretty intense. All this time, as she fought having to wear anything, I would check her vision by having her read road signs. The kid could see close up, far off, and everywhere in between just fine. As a nearsighted person who needs correction to see two feet in front of my face, I had a real problem with this. Why would someone even need correction if they could see as well as she could?

That began my search for another answer. By that time, I had accumulated some BrainGym friends who I knew had contacts in the alternative medicine world. (No, BrainGym doesn’t necessarily equal alternative. It just happened to be my source for information.) They referred me to an optometrist in Denver who was doing some different types of therapies. His name is Dr. Stuart Tessler.

I contacted Dr. Tessler with my concerns. He wanted my daughter to see a behavioral optometrist before he saw her, so as to make sure we had all the basic vision issues assessed and addressed before moving forward. He gave me three possible locations, all of which are an eight hour drive from our house. I asked him who would be best able to work with my Number 3 child. Her differentness had by that time taken the form of frozen terror when faced with a stranger pumping her for the answer to the “which is better, one or two….one, two” question. I wasn’t interested in creating more trauma for her. He didn’t hesitate for even a second. He told us Dr. Marisa Kruger would be the one.  

By this time, Number 3 was approaching eight years old, the third grade, and a beast of a state mandated reading test loomed on her horizon. I wasted no time getting her in to see Dr. Kruger. We even went one step further and took the whole family (minus one). That was probably the best experience Number 3 has ever had. Dr. Kruger was extremely patient with her and managed to draw out the necessary information without throwing her into a total frozen meltdown.

Dr. Kruger did a lot of educating that day. I learned so much about what this child was dealing with. She spoke to me from the voice of having lived a big part of what my child was living. Far sighted children have the ability to force focus their eyes, so it appears they can see clearly. The problem is this creates a tremendous amount of of stress that shows up in other areas of their lives, including behavior and academic success. She identified the activity that caused the most stress for Number 3, and prescribed minimum correction to reduce her stress for that activity. It was a pretty radical reduction in correction.

We rocked along through that school year. My daughter passed her test on the first attempt, but it was kind of close. She scored a 75 on reading and an 85 on math. We went back to Dr. Kruger during the summer after third grade and had a checkup. Adjustments were made as needed and then back to the school routine we went.

Fourth grade proved to be downright scary. It is a major leap in expectations for the students. It sees the addition of the state mandated writing test, and the reading requirements jump quite a bit. After a nerve-racking first six weeks, I requested all sorts of intervention possibilities as a means of opening the door to get my daughter some help if things continued like they had begun.

During the process, I also made contact with Dr. Tessler again. I decided to move forward with seeing what he could offer us. We scheduled, and of all things, he sent us a stress evaluation. One night before the trip to Denver, my daughter and I filled out the assessment. I knew she was experiencing lots of stress. I didn’t realize how much EVERYTHING was stressing her out.

He looked over her questionaire, asked me what my concerns were, and then proceeded to discover what was going on with her visual field. I watched the whole process from the sidelines. What he discovered was a child whose eyes worked, but whose brain wasn’t making sense of most of what was in her visual field. My daughter’s blind spot (everyone has them where the optic nerve attaches to the eye) was twice the normal size on the left eye and almost four times normal on the right side. She was only able to clearly identify what she saw in an area slightly larger than the size of a quarter with each eye. She was essentially functioning with tunnel vision. No wonder she was in a constant state of stress. She literally didn’t know what was about to blind-side her every second of every day of her young life.

He then proceded to identify a series of colors that were supportive for her body. He did this using muscle checking similar to what a chiropractor might use. We had experienced muscle checking in some of my early BrainGym classes, so I was very comfortable and confident with the process.

We left Denver with a very simple setup that included a light and some colored overlays. My daughter had been instructed to spend 20 minutes a day in total darkness with only the colored light on. She was to practice relaxed breathing techniques during that time.

The first session at home was extremely painful and traumatic. She was adamant that she didn’t want to do it. I have learned with her that punishment won’t necessarily get the desired outcome, so I have to offer some pretty significant bribes, which I did in the form of riding horses at her uncle’s house after a certain number of sessions had been completed without fuss. It worked.

The process was never an easy one, because it took away from other things she would rather be doing, however, it got easier, and the results were incredible.

After approximately six months and three different color combinations, her final visual assessment showed that her visual field had returned to something close to normal. Her stress self-assessment revealed a child who had mellowed substantially. She went from mostly 4’s and 5’s on the assessment to 0’s, 1’s, and 2’s. Her quarter-sized visual field opened up to the full limits of the testing apparatus. Her blind spots returned to normal size. Her fourth grade TAKS tests were 85 in reading and 95 in math, and she received “commended” status in math and writing. Her shyness decreased radically, and her response to discipline improved noticeably.

A year later, we are facing the fifth grade tests. Math, science, grammar, and spelling continue to be her strong subjects. Reading is still more challenging. However, she is making choices about her success in reading. When she chooses to be successful, she is. She did not have that ability before.

There are a number of things we continue to do to support my daughter’s vision and reduce her stress. We have a fabulous chiropractic neurologist who does some pretty incredible things for her. We own two horses that she rides frequently. We do our best to find sports activities that allow her to run and jump and experience success.

However, I cannot say enough about the work of Dr. Stuart Tessler and Dr. Marisa Kruger. These two people changed my daughter’s destiny in so many ways. I will continue to stay in contact with them and revisit this healing process as needed.

I highly recommend that educators and parents consider what “else” might be going on with a child who has reading challenges. Think outside the box like we did. Do what you have to do to get your child the help he or she needs. Don’t expect the school to fix things for you. They are limited in what they can do. Too many of the traditional and accepted offerings do not produce adequate results. Push your own envelope and go against the grain if you have to. It is worth spending every last penny you have to see your child turn the page on success.

What successful alternative therapies and providers have you found in your search for health and wellness? Let’s build a resource center within this blog.

Resources:

Dr. Stuart Tessler http://www.fightorflighttherapy.com/

Dr. Marisa Atria Kruger http://www.visiontransformation.net/

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