Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Getting My Summer Solstice On

Summer Solstice 2013 is here. In recent years, it seems to have become quite popular to have some sort of celebration or ritual on the solstices. Some suggest the earth’s energy is uniquely aligned at such times. Others simply mark it as a point of new beginning or transition in their lives. For me, it’s typically either the day of or the day after kiddo #3’s birthday. That means I SHOULD be celebrating in some form or fashion.

…SHOULD be.

I’m not much of one for celebrations, rituals, traditions, or anything remotely similar. There’s really no particular reason other than I’m just really lazy in that department. My kids have grown up highly deprived of the aforementioned experiences. Quite frankly, if it weren’t for their sweet daddy, they’d have no life.

Yes. I know. I rock. Just hand that mother of the year trophy over to me right now.  <sarcasm>

This year, however, I had an opportunity to participate in a real Summer Solstice event. With all of the usual obstacles and excuses removed and a very gracious invitation from the host, I couldn’t say no.

My alarm went off promptly at 5 AM and I was greeted by the usual pre-programmed pot of coffee, minus half enough coffee grounds since I ran out last night. Better make that “greeted by a very weak and nasty pot of pre-programmed coffee”. A quick shower and blow dry of the hair, application of non-toxic sunscreen, attention to clothing and teeth (much appreciated by those in attendance, I’m sure), and I was off for my 20 mile drive to the thriving metropolis of Nazareth, Texas.

We gathered at Casa La Entereza, the unique and beautiful home of Darryl Birkenfeld and JoAnn Starr. “A Labyrinth Retreat on Summer Solstice” began just as the sun attempted to peak through the morning clouds in the eastern sky. We were introduced to the first presenter and led to the labyrinth area. After a brief explanation, we each took a turn stepping into the labyrinth to begin our walk in concentric circles, silently meditating along the way. Upon reaching the center of the labyrinth, we stepped down into the kiva, pausing on each level to experience the power and energy of the seven chakra-aligned rock steps with their embedded crystal energy concentrators. The base of the kiva includes a place to sit where we continued our silent meditation. One at a time we exited the kiva and made our way back around the labyrinth returning to its beginning.

Some people are very good at emptying their minds of all thought and sensing the subtle energies that surface during a time of meditation. Me? Not so much.

My mind did something like this:

“Okay, Girlfriend. Empty your min…wow! Those rocks are sure crunchy sounding!”

“Focus, Angie. Pay attention to what you are feeli……Hey, there’s the Padre!”

“Yoohoo! You are supposed to be meditating. Pretty sure this distraction thing is………I wonder what’s for breakfast?”

I’ll spare you more torture.

Obviously I need a bit more frequent practice at the whole emptying my mind thing. Seriously, though, as I neared the end of the labyrinth two thoughts presented themselves with brilliant clarity.

Humans almost always tend to find some way to explain that which they do not easily understand when they are not comfortable with a simple I don’t know.

……and……

My typical description of the person I used to be is not supportive. I am, rather, an evolving human being, as are all other human beings. We are just at different places in our evolution.

Most probably won’t see the profoundness in such a revelation. That’s okay. It was significant to me, and that’s what the entire process is about.

Our day continued with a delicious home baked breakfast including casserole, salsa, fruit, dip, and some incredible sticky roles along with juice and coffee. A nice lady everyone calls Steve Ann (or something like that) was our cook. It was all I could do to keep my inner piglet from bursting forth and devouring the entire counter full of food. This lady can feed me anytime.

Two morning sessions followed. We divided into groups and took turns enjoying another labyrinth and kiva experience outside and a meditation inside the beautiful casa. The labyrinth activities were directed by Joe Franco of Dimmitt who designed and led their construction. When he indicated we’d be sitting in the kiva in silence for 20 minutes, I thought my brain might explode.

Might.

But it didn’t.

That proved to be the fastest 20 minutes of my life.

On my way out, I chose to walk the labyrinth barefooted. After all, the really good earth energy demands it. While it wasn’t like walking on hot coals (as if I’d know what that was like), it was quite stimulating to the pressure points. That’s New Age lingo for I’m-a-tenderfoot-and-it-was-all-I-could-do-to-tough-it-out-to-the-end. Nevertheless, I kicked some energy meridians into high gear with that trek. That’s New Age lingo for my spine tingled.

Once back inside, Elaine Sullivan led us through a guided meditation. I have some weird hang-up with my three year old self. I always have a hang-up with my three-year old self. Every “find your inner child” meditation I’ve ever done has resulted in that girl showing up. One of these days I’m going to get a shrink to help me find and unpack her baggage. Needless to say, it was an emotional and moving experience for me.

Lunch was next. The menu was a slice of heaven. We were served a delicious Paidom pot roast, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green beans, home grown salad greens, and strawberry-rhubarb pie.

And hot rolls with sesame seeds…So much for being wheat free… I had two. Yum doesn’t do them justice.

I wonder if Steve Ann will marry me.

I’m pretty sure my husband would be okay with it.

We enjoyed a bit of after lunch relaxing and visiting with each other. I met some people who are a lot like me in their thinking and ideals. We had some good discussions about subtle energies, the link between emotions and health, and some of our personal stories. It is always comforting to find others whose journeys have led them down a path similar to mine. It certainly helps me feel much less like a total weirdo when I am in the company of others like me.

Our final session was a time of reflection and sharing led by Elaine. The connections with people, the beauty of our space, and the synergy were all so peaceful and comforting. It was a delightful end to a day of recharging and rejuvenation. Lemon bars made by a gracious retired Texas Tech professor of German topped off our day of self-reflection and healing energy.

My left-hemisphere-dominate self found the day to be well worth the time and the short trip. I am exceedingly grateful to Darryl for including me in the retreat. My brain knows it was good for me. For those who are more sensitive to subtle energies (and even those who are not), I highly encourage you to participate in the next Labyrinth Retreat at Casa La Entereza. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you. If you are one who easily senses subtle energies, you will absolutely love it.

Once again to Darryl Birkenfeld, thank you for being such a gracious host and planning a truly unique retreat experience.

See you next time.

Redirected, Day 16

It’s been over two weeks since I got the news I already knew.

It’s been over two weeks since I decided to be the proof of what I say I believe.

It’s been over two weeks since I consumed dairy of any kind, and my only sugar has consisted of extremely small quantities of raw honey.

It’s been no less than five trips to my cool chiropractor dude in Amarillo.

It’s been no less than 20 cucumbers, 30 tomatoes, 25 avocados, a dozen bell peppers, 10 each cantaloupe and onions, 6 heads of garlic, 3 dozen lemons, and at least four heads of broccoli.

My cutting board and I are having an affair. I see more of it than my sweet hubby nowadays.

Oh….and I’ve nurtured 4 batches of home grown sprouts…

My chickens are making wonderfully nourished eggs from all the veggie scraps.

I have learned that not everything that should be good for me is. It seems food has energy, and sometimes my own energy treats otherwise healthy foods as if they are suspicious strangers.

I muscle check every new food I put into my body. I also keep a food diary and have my chiropractor check for any sensitivities. It’s really fun when he expects me to react to something and I don’t.

It’s not nearly as much fun when I want add something and he says no…..or rather my body says no.

There is no grapefruit, cilantro, cumin, or flax on this adventure. There are also no nuts or seeds….except Brazils. For some reason my crazy self is okay with Brazils, but I can’t handle almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, or even sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

It’s sorta complicated.

Why in the world would I go to this much trouble? Because I want to prove that uterine fibroids are a symptom to be addressed, not a nuisance to be yanked out.

And I want to prove that a female body can be nourished back to peak health.

I am cheating a bit, however.

I went to see a naturopath today with my sonograms, blood work, and medical diagnosis in hand. She gave me wonderful things to take with promises of feeling much better soon.

She gave me a prescription for bioidentical progesterone. It seems I have none.  But then I already knew that. So did my husband and children.

She gave me Vitamin D3 drops and Vitamin B6 & B12 drops.

She gave me iodine. (Didn’t know about that one.)

She gave me cabbage in a pill. (Something about extract from cruciferous veggies.)

And she gave me thyroid stuff.

She muscle tested every one of them to determine the dosage. I think muscle testing is so cool.

She told me to stick with the diet and skip all animal protein.

She also nixed any soy. That narrows down the vegan cookbook selections.

She pulled out a little book by Louise Hay called Heal Your Body. I smiled because I already have that book.

She asked if I was familiar with tapping, also known as EFT.

Yes. Yes I am, and we’ll be tapping next time I go to see her.

The good news is this thing appears to be getting smaller.

That makes me happy. I would do a happy dance, but I don’t yet have enough red blood cells to dance without running out of breath.

I will soon, though. I will soon.

The Connectors

Prejudice. Bigotry. Racism.

These are very ugly words. So ugly, in fact, that when my first child was born over 20 years ago, a made myself a promise. As she and her sisters grew, I refused to use race as a descriptor in identifying their friends.

I did not want my children to grow up seeing race as something that separates people. I did not want them to struggle with the same stereotyping ignorance that I have struggled with all my life.

I love watching how this effort has evolved. I also love seeing how my own beliefs and ideals are being pushed and tested in a way that makes me question whether I truly feel the way I say I feel.

It’s a “put your money where your mouth is” sort of push.

It feels as though I am part of a bridge between what once was and what is to become.

My parents witnessed and experienced public school segregation and subsequent integration. They remember a time when skin color and even religion determined the level of opportunity afforded a person. I am proud of the fact that my dad had a good friend from the “wrong side of the tracks” even when that was a bit unusual. He has had many such good friends throughout his life.

My children only know about it through history books.

Unfortunately, my children have witnessed the self-destructive poverty mentality that tends to attach itself to certain ethnic groups in our part of the country. I have seen it as well. In spite of my best efforts to protect my children from connecting behavior to race, to some extent, it has happened anyway.

Therein lies some prejudice that I never intended my children to acquire. In many ways, they have chosen to separate themselves from the behaviors that they find unacceptable. In doing so, their opportunities to experience a variety of cultures has been somewhat limited.

My oldest child has stepped away from this place and out into the world. She is a connector, seeing people for who they are, not who they appear to be. She challenges me and my stated beliefs on a regular basis. She has landed in a place where diversity does not necessarily equal poverty mentality and self-destructive behaviors. It exists as an equal opportunity as does goal-oriented focus and success.

Her new friends have many roots, yet they are all connected. She connects and she helps them to connect with others from all over the world. It is a true melting pot of interdependence and compassion.

This generation, both here in the U.S. and in countries like Egypt, want so much more from their world. They desire peace and cooperation, and many of them know exactly how to make it happen. They have been nurtured to recognize that God is not a divider separating people into categories of worthiness. They do not see skin color, religious beliefs, or sexual preference as qualifiers. They understand that God is within them and will be experienced by others through their compassion, their vision, their passion, and their love for one another.

In a sense, they are collectively…..God. Aya. One.

They are the indigos, the crystals, and the rainbows.

They may very well be the catalysts who usher in an age of true interdependence.

They are The Connectors.

I am glad to be a part of the connection.

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.

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.

Building My Wings On The Way Down

A friend/client messaged me earlier this week asking what I had planned for her personal training session. My response?

“IDK.”

Yep. Twenty four hours prior to her arrival for her personal training session, and I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with her or for her. Now, before you freak about how unprofessional this was, keep in mind I’m doing it for free. She’s my guinea pig for a personal training class I am taking…er…uh…I mean….teaching myself. I’ve sorta been dreading it because I feel so unprepared, and since the instructor is requiring it, yet has refused to prepare us with anything other than “read the book”, I have few options besides “winging” it.

It seems like I am doing a lot of “winging” it lately. I don’t know that I ever feel fully prepared for anything anymore.

I have lots of good information to share, and I know I can lead/guide in lots of situations, yet I am really hesitant to jump into something when I feel inadequate.

Lately, however, it seems as though I need to lose the control freak thing about being fully prepared and just jump. I need to trust that the knowledge and skills I already possess, combined with the ones I am continuing to acquire are sufficient to meet the needs of the people who are choosing to be served by me.

Teachers always have to live through being a dreaded “first-year” teacher. There is always the “newbie” stage at a new job during which time “lost and confused” seem to reign supreme.

And now, I find that after months of talking about what I’d like to do, and after a few attempts to prepare myself to do it, it is time for me to jump off this cliff and build my wings on the way down.

So, Thursday evening, October 7th, you are invited to watch me do some cliff diving. After months of talking about it, I have actually decided to open up my space to all who are interested so that we can begin to explore the benefits of a yoga-type class. I say “yoga-type” because I am no expert in yoga, yet I have lots of good information to share, lots of great feel-good stretches, and oodles of awesome energy exercises. We are going to throw it all together in a big pot of togetherness and see what kind of gentle deliciousness we get.

I trust you will join me if your schedule permits. I also trust you’ll throw me a life jacket if I get in over my head.

It will be fabulous, because my mid-air wing construction projects always are.

Up, up, and away!

Amazing Morning

Fall is here. The calendar says so. My pansy butt goose bumps say so. The cars that park up and down the street in front of the wellness center every Thursday and Friday night say so. The lazy sun who keeps sleeping later and later seems to be saying so, too.

This morning was one of those amazing mornings that could go on forever and I’d be okay with it.

At 6:30 AM, I took my freshly showered, bathrobed body, a cup of coffee and the two maniac, desperate-to-pee canines out back. The fog was rolling in. The full moon glistened through the filmy sheers of mist. There was an energy that begged me to breathe it in deeply, for all is well, even if it isn’t.

At 7:30 AM, I took my rugrats to school and noticed the fog-filtered rising sun-ball to the east, and the slightly smaller, yet every bit as beautiful sculpture of a moon to the west. The air was thick. Damp. Cool. No photo can do it justice. Simply Amazing.

Add to all of that the sound of the THS marching band practicing just across the street from the wellness center, and there is no doubt fall has arrived.

I think it is my favorite time of year. Temps are moderate. Wind is minimal. Moisture occasionally finds us. It is gorgeous.

Yep, this is an amazing morning.

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?

Pondering Matt's Passing and More Questions of Afterlife Significance

This morning as I looked over status postings on Facebook, one caught my attention, then lurched my stomach into my throat. The older sister of a high school acquaintance posted that he had passed away during the night. As I understand it, Matt had been battling a very nasty type of cancer, pursuing experimental treatments with determination and a strong will to survive. Apparently it wasn’t enough to keep his physical body functioning any longer.

I’m not sure why things like this get to me. Maybe it’s his proximity to my own age. Maybe it’s the fact that I personally know someone somewhere who is hurting. Maybe it’s my own curiosity and fascination with death and beyond. Or maybe it’s just the fact that even though we weren’t what anyone would consider “buds”, he was at one point a pleasant presence in my life on a daily basis and now he is gone. It sort of weirds me out.

I’ve never been present with a person at the moment they release their grip on life, yet I have talked with those who have been in that position. I recently witnessed a baby chick’s passing. Knowing what I’ve heard others say, and knowing what I saw with that baby chick, I can only suggest that witnessing the departure of a human spirit is every bit as amazing and gripping as witnessing the birth and first breath of a newborn baby.

I have many questions surrounding Spirit and the birth/death transition times. I had previously assumed that the spirit which accompanies a person into this life is his/her own spirit, created just for that person, having never before existed and destined to spend an eternity in heaven or hell. As blind, ignorant religious belief has given way to a wider view of possibilities, the questions in my mind have surfaced in an almost rapid-fire fashion.

At what precise moment does a spirit enter the human body? Does it happen at the moment a sperm connects with an egg? Does it happen once the egg implants in the uterus? Does it happen later in gestation? Does it happen at the moment of the baby’s first breath?

Where does that spirit originate? Does God “create” a new spirit each and every time conception occurs? Is it possible that he doesn’t create new spirits with each new life? Could it be that we all exist eternally in another dimension and when needed or whenever we choose to experience something, we plan a trip to Humanville to hang out for awhile? If so, that means we bring a cast of willing characters with us, some of whom are not nice people in our human lives. What does that do to the concept of judgment, heaven and hell?

What happens to our spirit when we sleep? Does it just go neutral for awhile, or are we like the Avatar of James Cameron’s visionary movie, living two different experiences simultaneously?

And then we arrive back at the whole concept of death. Passing away, as we like to call it in polite company. Traditional Christianity firmly believes the soul goes somewhere to await a judgment day and heaven or hell, though specifics of exactly when and how that process occurs vary widely. There is a story in the Bible of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was in paradise and the rich man was in torment. The rich man wanted God to send Lazarus back to his family to warn them they should be nicer to poor people. God refused citing the futility of the effort. Notice he didn’t say that Lazarus couldn’t go back with a warning, but rather that it wouldn’t do any good. What does that say about the ability of spirits to return to the world of the living?

That brings me to my fascination with the experiences of loved ones after the death has occurred. These occurrances lead me to believe our religious views of death may be a bit…..wrong. My brother-in-law passed away Thanksgiving Day 2001. At some point during the week that followed, my husband got into the suburban, started it up, and found the radio station tuned to my brother-in-law’s favorite. My husband was and remains convinced that it was Alex’s way of letting him know things were cool with him.

An acquaintance relayed the story of the tragic passing of her sister, who had not been living her life quite the way her religious parents thought was necessary to get the fast pass into heaven. There was apparently quite a bit of grief and turmoil over the potential final destination for her soul/spirit. One night, her dad awoke to see his deceased daughter standing at the foot of the bed reassuring him that she was fine. Was this a distraught man’s psychotic episode? I don’t know. I prefer to believe her spirit knew he needed to hear from her one last time, and so she gave him that gift.

A friend of mine experienced the passing of her mother a few months ago. Her mother was a pianist and loved her piano with all her heart. My friend shared the story of a recent night when her dad awoke at 2 AM, got out of bed to get a drink of water in the kitchen, and discovered an owl had flown down the chimney and was sitting on her mom’s beloved piano. Instead of being startled, he calmly opened the appropriate doors and allowed the owl to fly out. Of all the places in that house the owl could have landed, it chose the piano. It is difficult to think it could be anything other than her mom’s calm reassurance that she is okay.

More recently a co-worker (and definitely a friend) shared her story of the passing of her grandmother a few years ago. They had a special bond that involved butterflies. The experience she described as her grandmother departed is only surpassed by the experience she has since had with butterflies. Butterflies land on her now as never before. She knows what it is, even if others choose to believe it is coincidence.

How is it that these things can occur, if not by the spirit of the person who has passed on?

All of these questions and occurances along with many more to numerous to include here flood over me as I think about Matt’s early exit from this human life. All I can say to his family is I send you abundant energies of love and peace, and I trust that when you witness the evidence of his reassurance, you will share your story with others.

Enjoy the other side, Matt.

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