Archive for the ‘Teaching & Learning’ Category

2010: Looking Back So I Can Look Forward

Looking back is not something I typically do. There’s nothing a person can do to change what’s been done, and spending time dwelling on it is pretty much a waste of time.

This year, however, I think it is important for me to look back at the past twelve months so that I can recognize how much has changed and how far I have come, not to mention the many adventures that I experienced this year.

Twenty ten saw me take my first REAL yoga classes.

It was during one of those yogic moments of peaceful reflection that I made the decision to resign my job of 18 years.

That decision and its subsequent public announcement led to an energy shift in my workplace that was nothing short of miraculous. I don’t know who was more relieved, me or my co-workers.

It was the year we decided that maybe building a house at the farm wasn’t the best idea. We realized my in-laws wouldn’t be with us very many more years and that no one else in the family had a desire to live in their house. We couldn’t bear the thought of it sitting empty or being sold. We began to create a vision that involved once again restoring what we had rather than buying brand new.

Twenty ten was the year my sweet man helped move his aging parents to a nursing home. We didn’t realize how quickly our prediction would come to pass.

It was also the year we said “see ya later” to his handsome daddy.  We miss you, Charlie.

I realized this year that keeping forty years worth of mail and magazines is not a good idea.

I learned that while some things aren’t mine to discard, the rest of the family appreciates not having to do as much of it.

This year I figured out that it is possible to simultaneously be mad at my man for something he can’t fix and feel guilty for being mad at him.

I discovered that when meltdowns happen, I don’t really want anyone to fix or analyze the problem. I pretty much just want to be held by my man and allowed to blubber like a moron into total exhaustion.

I also discovered that sorting through 40 years worth of mail can trigger the aforementioned meltdown.

I messaged my dad and told him I’d haunt him in the afterlife if he left all his crap for me to sort through.

Sometimes having an entire week with no massage clients is a blessing to allow one to work on a more important project.

I really need to clean out my crap so my children won’t have to.

This year also saw the ongoing work on my wellness center progress from slightly nicer than trashy (requiring closed doors and plastic sheeting) to something that has become downright adorable.

My massage clientele has grown from about five on January 1, 2010 to about 75 today and from a few sessions a month to multiple sessions a week.

I have a gift. I don’t know what I do differently, and many times I feel very inadequate to help someone, yet people keep telling me I really do make a difference.

2010 was the year I realized how much I need to feel as though I am making a difference.

This year was the first year since 1992 that I have not attended August Staff Development.

I miss my friends.

I don’t miss the beaurocracy and protocol.

Twenty ten was the year I said goodbye to windowless cinderblock and electromagnetic fields.

It’s the year I discovered how amazing it is to give a massage in a thunderstorm.

It’s also the year I learned that the sound of geese flying over head is another sweet background symphony for giving a massage.

This year gave me time to can 100 pounds of apples, oodles of tomatoes, more jalapeños than I will ever need, and even make some apricot jam. I haven’t done that in probably 18 years because I was always back at work by the time the garden was ready.

This year we took our cowgirl to the state horse show, sent her off to horse camp, sent our oldest to Germany for a month, and then moved her to the far corner of New Mexico to go to school.

This year found daughter number two with a drivers license and an appreciation for the freedom even a 12 year old mini-van can bring.

It was the year my baby played on her first club basketball basketball team and decided she could live with an occasional bloody nose.

This was the year I told a man in leadership that I wanted strong female role models in my daughters’ lives.

It has also been the year I’ve had to remind myself that I got what I wished for and that everything else is secondary, even though there is some frustration.

This was the year I gave up on my hybrid car and helped my oldest get her first car.

This was the year I learned to be really really patient with licensing agencies. It took three months, but we finally got my oldest licensed to practice massage therapy in New Mexico without making any state agency enemies. The holdup was one of semantics. Terminology.

It was also the year I was glad my oldest didn’t have a job, because after completely missing Christmas last year due to work and snow, she has been home with us for a whole month. I kinda like having her around.

I hope she never gets a job, but rather finds a way to make a living on her own terms.

This was the year that 85% of my 18 years worth of retirement savings disappeared. In all fairness, it did a lot. It did things that couldn’t have been done if I had continued to work at my former job. It blessed my girls.

This was the year that I finally told my story.

And the year that I released some resentment in exchange for recognizing the gifts.

This year saw me let go of the guilt of “should” and simply enjoy “being”.

I learned that sometimes procrastination simply means the time isn’t yet right.

Twenty ten is the year I learned that there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple of a man named Jesus.

I don’t want to be a Christian.

I want to be  like Jesus.

This year saw my eyes open to the historical origins of the Bible and let go of my blind belief in its divine authorship.

It also saw another major shift in my belief system.

I think I might have been wrong about a few things.

Twenty ten was the year I found some amazing people who are also on a quest for enlightenment and truth: Ronna Detrick, Renae Cobb, Don Rogers, and Chris Ledgerwood to name a few. I am grateful to have made their acquaintance and experienced their encouragement.

It was the year of a broken leg for cowgirl and a broken nose for my mom. Note to both: Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes you get your wish, but with a bit of an inconvenient side effect. Good lesson for me. I wonder if I caught on or if I’ll have to learn that one for myself sometime?

Twenty ten will go down as the year that I took a leap off of a cliff and had to build my wings during the free-fall.

My wings are in place, and now the ascension begins. There’s a pretty good climb ahead, but I have a hunch the view from the top of 2011 is going to be exhilerating.

That’s a big word that means really scary but very much worth it once the mountain is climbed.

Bring it on.

Homebound Technology Potential

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

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

Cowgirl has already missed four days of school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsibility – Opportunity = Burnout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over it. Plain and simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identifying NOTs to Find My AMs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My ego needs lots of stroking.

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly where I am today.

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

I’m lovin’ it!

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?

10 Reasons I Miss Living in the Country

For all it’s downsides, growing up in the country had some strong advantages. Many of them I am only now beginning to fully appreciate…

….Mostly because it is now my children I’d like to isolate in the lonely barrenness that is the middle of nowhere. When I was growing up, it was sheer torture being out there.

Here are my top ten reasons (so far) for wanting to return to the isolated country life:

1) The teenage toilet paper brigade loses interest at about the six mile point. I never had to clean up a TP and shaving cream mess. Of course, I was a social reject and probably wouldn’t have been chosen TP-worthy anyway.

Note to self: Investigate ways to de-popularize my children.

2) Climbing a haystack for exercise and solitude is much cheaper than driving to and paying for yoga classes and a shrink.

3) No one gives a rats behind how many horses, cows, goats, chickens, or other strange and unique critters you choose to keep, nor do they care how they smell. If you can pay the feed bill and stand the smell, you can have the critters.

4) Really bad teenage drivers don’t usually show off their engine revving corner-sliding skills that far out. The teen drivers out there are too busy hauling hay or plowing a field to be very annoying.

5) Baby rattles aren’t necessary. Just find a nice-sized diamondback snake and use his post-mortem remains for infant entertainment. (Actually, I DON’T miss rattlesnakes. Those are one of God’s creatures I can certainly live without.)

6) Being grounded is hardly noticeable. What? Wanna take away my social life? What social life? I live 10 miles from the nearest human my age. Go ahead…make my day.

7) Driving lessons start early…..like about age 6. There is no crunch to squeeze in all of the driver’s ed hours, no worry about finding a road on which to teach driving skills. Just a few fences to dodge and gates to avoid….unless you terrorize your father badly enough early on so that he never puts you on a tractor and barely lets you drive a pickup.

Dear Dad….It was all part of my evil plan to avoid plowing forever.

8. If you choose to ditch church, everyone just figures you had a livestock or mud issue to deal with and they leave you alone about it. God excuses and forgives those kinds of absences.

9) Power outages are never ten minutes long. They are HOURS and sometimes days long. Sucks if you have an entire cow in the freezer or if the temperature is minus 20. Much fun if the kids are all at a friends house and you and hubby are alone with candles, strawberries, and whipped cream.

This assumes of course that your hubby is not the one having to go fix the power outage.

10) Edutainment is free. With that many animals, you will not need to go see a movie to laugh until your sides hurt, plus your children will know every part of the mammalian, reptilian, and insect life cycles including specific details for how each critter makes babies.

Have you ever seen rabbits “do it”? ‘Nuff said.

Parental Suprises

Just about the time I think I have probably managed to completely alienate the people I love with my challenges to organized and traditional religion, someone comes along to affirm my writing in some small way. Someone I least expect. Someone like….

My mom.

Saturday was garage sale day at our house. Stuff everywhere. Clothes. Shoes. Appliances. More clothes. And books.

My children had put their cheap little award Bibles in the garage sale. It felt kind of awkward, but I guess they were taking up unnecessary space in their rooms. Yeah…I know. Just sign me up for the Christian mother of the year award. My children wanted to sell their Bibles and I let them try. Feels almost slimy. Guilt. Bleah.

My mom walked up to the book table, picked up one of the Bibles and started searching. All I could think was, “Crap. Here we go.” It was a very unfair thing to think, because my parents have seldom tried to push their views on me by using scripture. I guess I’m just on high alert because my views on religion don’t exactly align with the prevailing spoken thought patterns around here.

I currently lean toward the less than popular belief that maybe this God-breathed, God-inspired, perfectly preserved Bible we have is not what we’ve made it out to be. Maybe….just maybe…..it was never intended to be compiled into THE ultimate and final word of God. That just maybe humans decided to dub it as absolutely perfect and divine so as to control the ignorant, uneducated masses through fear and extortion. Of course to believe such, one has to first decide WHICH divinely inspired Bible is correct. One would also have to believe that the process by which the cannon was chosen was directed entirely by God, and that the many centuries of translation by individual pen was also somehow divinely anointed and controlled by God.

The only problem with this idea is that whole issue of free will. God-controlled the writers, but we all have free will. Hmmm…..

Yeah….not buying it. At least not at this point.

And if I am remembering my information correctly, I believe there were something over 100 individuals (men–which might explain part of the whole male domination thing) in the 1960’s who had a part in the creation of one of the most popular translations to date, the New International Version. Where there was disagreement over translation or what to include, majority opinion ruled. That means over 40 people could actually disagree with what was going into it, yet the 50+ MEN won out. I’m hoping my Bible scholar friends will help me out with this information if I am incorrect. At the very least, you can read what Bible Gateway says about it here.

Not a very popular PUBLIC opinion to hold in these parts.

Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when my MOM picked up the Bible we are offering for sale, opened it and flipped pages, then stopped and handed it to me…

Yet I was stunned when she pointed to John 21:25, which says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

“I think this is sort of what you’ve been talking about,” she said.

Uhm…yeah. Didn’t see that one coming.

Just about the time I think I’ve probably pushed them over the edge with my bull-headed challenges to my faith history….just about the time I think I’m probably up for nomination as the anti-Christ….just about the time I wonder how they could POSSIBLY even come see me without throwing holy water and waving a cross in my direction, my parents do something so cool to acknowledge that it’s okay for me to question, to challenge, to push the edge of tradition.

Excuse me, please. I have something in my eyes. Gotta go grab a tissue.

Portrait of a Cult

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

Dictionary.com defines cult as

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

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

3. the object of such devotion.

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

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

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

Such as….

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

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

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

Am I the only one seeing an irony here?

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

The Pharisees were a cult.

Several other flavors of religion are a cult.

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

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

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

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

Jesus never promoted the organization of groups.

Jesus never promoted the concept of isolationism.

Jesus didn’t come to organize an exclusive club.

Jesus brought a message of freedom, not cultism.

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

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

Born Again: A Journey From Daughter of the Kingdom to Sacred Feminine Goddess, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Someone once said that every single person is doing the very best they can do in any given moment. That goes for the President of the United States all the way down to the kid who just robbed a bank. It’s a rather sobering way to look at life, especially the pivotal moments.

A shepherd is expected to care for his sheep to the best of his ability, giving his life in their defense if necessary. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. There is a story in 1 Samuel 17 in which David, the boy shepherd, tells King Saul that he killed a lion and a bear while protecting his sheep. Modern day “shepherds” who lead churches also believe it is their duty to protect the sheep (members). If they perceive a lion prowling in their “flock”, it is not only appropriate but expected that they grab a sling shot and take aim. Whether the threat is real or only perceived is irrelevant.

That October evening, a loving and passionate shepherd sensed a threat to his flock of sheep, especially the weak ones. He took aim. The words of his warning to me were his slingshot. The book of “doctrine-that-doesn’t-exist” was his stone. He fired. It was the best decision he could make at that moment.

I was hit, and seriously wounded.

Limping off, I licked my wounds by bitterly sharing with a few others the details of the encounter. At that moment, it was the best I could do.

I made my way home with his book in hand. The irony of someone from THIS church handing me a book that wasn’t the Bible as a means of reprimanding and re-educating me was both fascinating and a bit confusing. It added fuel to my already smoldering campfire of contradictions. After all, this was the faith group who bragged about not having any “how-to” worship book other than the Bible itself.

I read the sections he had marked for me, mostly on the Holy Spirit. It grieved me to think there were people who had so little understanding of this “entity” that I had known about most of my life, yet had just begun to experience. The book described Spirit as something we were promised, yet it really didn’t or couldn’t do anything. Everyone just knew it was there. It didn’t do miracles. It didn’t enable people to speak in tongues (at least not in this day and age). It couldn’t even be credited with Divine coincidence. It was merely a comforter and the only way a person could know of Spirit’s presence was by just accepting that it was there. Somewhere. Because they said so. Doing. Nothing?

Then….what’s the point in having “it”?

Next, I flipped over a chapter or two and found the section on raising hands in worship. Yep. That book had an entire chapter devoted to why it was totally inappropriate and even sinful to raise hands in worship and praise to God. The primary reason, it said, was that doing so would draw attention to oneself like the Pharisee who prayed loudly on the corner with his arms raised. Better instead to be seen humbly as the head-bowed unworthy sinner shrinking meekly into a puddle on the sidewalk.

There was of course the section on instrumental music in worship and how that was sure to be displeasing to God since Galations specifically mentions that we should sing and make melody in our hearts and not in our guitars and pianos. The chapter on the importance of having communion weekly was also in there.

Unbelievable. Someone really had authored a book containing all of the previously unwritten but well known shoulds and should nots that had become the defining characteristics of this group of believers. It really existed. We had a doctrine, and it wasn’t leather bound with a red satin ribbon and gold block letters inscribing HOLY BIBLE.

Book of non-existent-doctrine read.

Detention assignment completed.

Besides feeling arrogantly resentful about “the book”, I had become almost obsessed with 1st Corinthians, especially chapters 11-15. There are some very specific instructions on worship and spiritual gifts in those chapters, and I wanted to know why we could insist that we were to worship EXACTLY like the first century church worshipped….except for these passages. And a few others. And some more over there.

I wanted to know why Paul’s instruction that women should learn in silence was applicable but his instruction to pray in tongues was not.

I wanted to know why some of the spiritual gifts still applied today, yet the “cool” ones had “passed away” and how we knew they had passed away.

I wanted to know why Peter’s commandment to “Repent and be baptized…” was the only way to heaven, yet Jesus’ promise that “…your children will do greater things than these…” could be ignored.

I wanted to understand why instrumental worship music was a cardinal sin, but air conditioning and sound systems were critical components of that same worship.

If things were so plainly black and white, right and wrong, yes and no, heaven and hell, first century or not first century, then why on earth were there so many things that had conveniently “passed away” with the first century church? Why were the most fascinating parts of first century Christianity not available to us? Or did we conveniently choose to ignore them? I was no longer buying the explanations I had always been given and had regurgitated onto others.

The contradictions had become too great. My narrow-minded brain had begun to expand. My vision had begun seeing a much bigger picture than that which had been painted for me by the religious teachers in my life.  My faith was becoming my own, and it didn’t fit inside the old paradigm.

A showdown with my faith heritage was eminent.

Part 3

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