What kind of writer am I?

I wrestle with this topic in my own way, at some point, almost every day.

There is this quest as a philosopher. It is to truly understand and give a proper account of the world, without bias and misinformation. Lose all assumptions and open your mind to really get a fair look at the world, and not just with your eyes. Using your mind to make sense of it all, and then help others along the way.

But you see, there are many different types of philosophers, and this only describes one sort. So I see that we are all different in many ways, yet we are all the same in many others. How we respect and honor one another, it seems so easy and obvious. How do even the highest of moral beings make quick and irrational mistakes?

I want to be an informed and helpful writer. So I analyze every topic I would write about and rule out the prospect, the ideas I have, simply because I feel the inadequacy of properly labeling the “voice” I may have. There are styles, I don’t know what they are all called and I chose to learn more about science, than grammar. I may not be great at math, but I can spell flawlessly. (Most misspelled words you will read of mine, are because I need to trim my fingernails and my fingers keep slipping off the keys, lol right!) It seems as though writing is reserved for those who study English or History. Purpose and passion is where I come in. But where is the value? Maybe inspirational messages for tea companies…

There are these things about writing, the permanence of your word. Yet, the ability to edit and truly have what you really mean, out there, for the world to see. I love the editing process, but I only do quick edits for my own writing… I have to remind myself, the message is important but I need to always read with fresh eyes before publishing.

There are timelines, and timeliness, not the same. Well recorded events and current events, often with the most pressing messages necessary. But accuracy is the key- “How Urgency Can Provoke Misinformation”, a topic I will write about one day, as it is commonly accepted and sometimes correction is less obvious, so you end up with people with the wrong understanding. What happens when they quickly respond according to inaccurate information? We have a responsibility to be accurate. So dig a little deeper when researching something, especially something important.

I have to keep my writing brief and to the point. It’s all I have time for. As a person with a responsibility to my family, there are many tugs on my time. So I have to stop ruling out my ideas, and make time for the important ones.

Rainy Day Blues

It is one of those rainy days here, as I am sure it is in many other parts of the world. When you look outside and see cloudy skies, wet weather, and it is a little chilly, how does it affect your day?

Creativity is sparked in some.

Others enjoy a warm cup to drink and a quiet book.

Many curl up and hide… really.

I like to do stuff. I drive to places I keep meaning to go, and check them out. I hit my to-do list, and actually accomplish some of the items (like write on my blog.. hey hey double whammy… keep on reading and you will see what I mean!)

Refreshing as it is, getting things in your life and home ready for the winter takes extra effort. The enticement is certainly not the actions necessary, even though the completed projects are rewarding.

Today~ I repotted a sad plant. It was on clearance for $3 from a nearby home improvement store. I was worried about this plant. It wasn’t doing horribly, but didn’t look happy enough for an aesthetically motivated house plant buyer to want. I thought to myself, “I sure don’t have any dying house plants right now, maybe I should get one.”

The fate of this very pretty green and yellow leaved plant was not advancing well into the future, unless I did something about it. Whining kids in tow, I searched the soil for bugs, none seemed evident. None of the leaves have been chewed on or spotted, only yellowing and only from the center of clusters, making me think it was either over or under watered, and was outgrowing its current conditions.  I checked the roots, and sure enough, bound in a twist, thick, and suffocating.

So I did what any ordinary garden/plant geek would do, I bought it. The whole way home I thought about two things- it would be great if my 3 year old stopped kicking the seats, I’m trying to freakin drive; and my track record with house plants is terrible, why did I just get one that needed extra help? Balancing this questionable line of reasoning, I sucked it up to the facts- at a mere $3 it would be a great next victim.

This struggling plant sat on my porch for a day or two, just in case those bugs showed up, didn’t want a population to fester without consent. It did eventually come inside and sit on a shelf, with just enough light (according to the little tag). That was 3 weeks ago… Took a little longer to make room in the schedule I guess. It got threatened with being banished to the porch by my other half, if I didn’t repot the silly thing already.

Today I actually did it. I made a crock pot recipe (red beans and rice) for dinner, and after cleaning the kitchen from breakfast and the prep… I looked out side and said to the audience, “I’m finally ready to repot this plant, come on 3 year old, lets get our hands dirty!”

It took a whopping 10 minutes.

Once we repotted it, I did what every ordinary person does, I looked up the plant variety. Wait… I think I did it backward-  turns out it’s going to be OK. Apparently, it’s not toxic for dogs and kids so that’s a relief… that was my first investigation. If they eat the stem of the leaves it offers a significant burning sensation in their mouth, but other than that it is safe. Knowing that I decided to keep it above reach, don’t want the new puppy munching on the green stuff in between meals and getting funky, ya know what I mean?

So on this rainy and wet day I helped Mother Earth with similar efforts;  I helped something struggling to stay alive flourish and grow. My cup is full.

What can you do to make Mother Earth smile on a rainy day?

The only down side, I don’t think the plant and pot match very well… Like my mother would advise, use what you got. Hopefully, it will outgrow the pot and I can do this again sometime!

IDEC 2013 Afterthoughts

I attended the IDEC 2013 (International Democratic Education Conference) http://www.idec2013.org/ specifically to participate in a workshop involving Jefferson County Open School http://www.jeffcoopen.org/. First I must say, the word “Democratic” does not mean the opposite of “Republican”. Of course the word itself has political implications, meaning every individual has a say, and political meaning the organization of people. In this context, however, we are speaking of education. This translates to mean, every person in the educational community has a say, intending to include the student.

I learned a lot about the changes that are taking place in education across the world, there were many attendees from Korea, inklings from Europe, China, and other parts of the US. I am sure there were attendees from other countries that I did not get the pleasure of meeting.

Some countries are on the verge of breaking, or at least trying to break free of oppressive governments, or oppressive ways of life that are taking a stronghold on their culture and future. These educators are working to make changes from within the educational institutions to empower the individual, and create the necessary paradigm shifts within their societies using education as a powerful tool. The northern European countries I encountered seemed as though they are not trying to break free from governmental control of education so much as they are seeking to further perpetuate the individual spirit and enlighten the mind through alternative methods, possibly creating a more self-aware learner. A learner that chooses what they learn and is aware of their interests by having the freedom of pursuit.

The individuals I met from the US were from a variety of different backgrounds. Some were not educators but worked with at-risk youth and this conference helped spur ideas for them to approach alternative methods of reaching out. Many were homeschoolers, or worked with/for organizations knitted to homeschoolers. Many were affiliated with organizations that are involved in education one way or another, but are not schools themselves, and the hybrids always exist.

There were certainly, and always will be the bulls#!%%3rs too. The sellers. The ones who don’t really have a contribution but want to be known, or want to profit from the event. I came across a couple but it was not overwhelming. Thank goodness for that.

I found out about a program in my area called Innovation Labs. The website is www.redefineschool.com, and I poked around a little before writing this. I just might have to get in touch and see what I can do to help the educational community in my school district.

And then there is AERO. The Alternative Education Resource Organization, which can be visited via http://www.educationrevolution.org/. This is a great network of alternative education resources, if you are interested in the alternatives in your area, or perhaps just in your interest it might be worth taking a gander.

In the end I can say there is a lot of movement within the realm of reforming education, and there has been for quite some time. It seems to be the conflict, however, that an alternative system only works for a small group of people. When you have a lot of students to manage, the oversight has to be systematic. And yes, the drawback is the uniformity of education, but the advantage is cohesiveness and coherency. I think what many educators who are involved in Democratic Education are pushing to change is the way we view our understanding of how the system should function.
The afternoon workshop I chose to attend was titled “Intersection of Formal and Informal Education”. There was some controversy as to whether there is even a difference, and the underlying assumption among all the participants (at least it seemed this way) was that an “Informal” education was better or more important in some way. Sometimes these things go unspoken, but are present and unquestioned.

In my Philosophical studies I have come to realize one very important thing about life, and I remind people of this on a regular basis. There is idealism- what things ought to be like, and there is realism- how things are. We can strive for the ideal but the realism sets in when we accept that there are practical limitations.

In the case of education, we have the application of “Democratic” education as the practical limitation. This means for each educator how to facilitate and manage, and oversee, and guide, and mentor a large body of individual needs. Every educator would be spread so thin the quality of their work would necessarily be undermined. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The systems (or un”systematic” systems) that are present and successful in alternative education tend to be of the smaller student:teacher ratio, and of the smaller subset of the population.

One person being interviewed said it all in one word: money.

Until our educational systems are seen as relevant enough to warrant enough of our collective contributions, there will not be enough individualized attention in education. We will have systems in place that are best suited to address the more basic needs of every student, even if the approach is rigorous and boring. As my educator friend said to me, “how does 2 teachers take 80 students on a weeklong backpacking trip?” My answer, now clear to me, “you don’t.. we do”.

That is the key. Education is not something someone else does for us. It is something we all do together, and for each other. Education is not something that happens in a building, or on a chalkboard. I mean, it can happen there too, but real learning comes from everywhere and anywhere. We have to not only open our eyes, but our minds too. We all learn in many different places, of course. I think it is important to recognize when we are learning, and how we are learning so we can strengthen and perpetuate our methods to be most effective.

Don’t Assume Another Intends to Offend

Conflict is inevitable when there are multiple different interests at play.
The best thing we can do is try to look beyond the current persuasion and think kindly of others.

How often does something happen and your first instinct is that the other person sucks. It can be something so trivial as being cut off in line at the store; or a passing comment made by a stranger, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t understand their situation as clearly as you think. There might be some very justifiable explanation for their actions, something you can’t even think of- maybe because your mind is clouded from your own busy day. It could be a bigger deal, like working with an uncooperative neighbor to pay for a fence, something that consumes hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars. Are they really just trying to get the best out of you? Resource sharing is a consistent conflict, we all want to make sure we have enough for our own personal security.

We can’t live our lives taking things so personal, assuming another person intends to offend us. How miserable to think poorly of others on a regular basis. To judge them as if they are judging you poorly. We will never fully understand other humans, only ourselves. It is up to us to assume there is no offense intended, unless of course, they make it clear that is the intent (which is not the topic here).

People get offended easily and it is much easier to blame someone else. Take ownership, be the better person, and try to understand where they are coming from. We have to each reach further than half way across the aisle to cooperate fully, leaving some wiggle room for those who aren’t quite there yet.

Be the example by choosing to see others, and their intentions, positively.

Help Wanted: Better People

After careful deliberation this is what I have come to understand.

The World Needs Better People.

Who is the World?

It’s everyone!

Who is everyone?

It’s you and I.

What is a better person?

It’s you and I choosing better actions.

When?

Now. Oh, and tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives.

Why?

Things can only get better for all of us!

Where?

Everywhere you go.

How?

Consider everything you do. Then try your hardest to make the best choice.

The last time I checked, there is only ONE EARTH for us to live on. International communities are realizing that the only way to function is to maintain some sort of unity. We must all work together. The only way to do this is to consider one another, and those unspoken for, and make the right choices every time we can. We can’t let money override our values. We can’t let those with the biggest voices have the power unless we know in our hearts and minds that they are working and speaking on behalf of the rest of the communities. We can’t be persuaded to view the world in a way that seems unfit just because someone influences us to think that everyone else thinks this way too. This is TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY gone wrong and we will not tolerate it.

We all have brains, use them!
We all have hearts, use them!
We all have strength, use it!

Create the world as it ought to be
This is a goal of my lifelong education.
If I do it, will you?

Power of the Positive

I went to a fast-serve lunch with my family recently. While we were there, I pleasantly engaged in conversation with (almost) every person who contacted me. It made our meal more relaxed, and every single person said some version of, “have a nice day”. When you leave, and you reflect on the time you just spent, was it positive? Every person can do this, all the time. We just have to try.

I guess you could say I am an extrovert. Finding a common way to connect with strangers isn’t always difficult, but I have many years of professional experience engaging in conversation with strangers. Until recently I just looked at it as part of my personality.

There is a new incentive at work now.

Part of my mission is to create the world that ought to be.

I have young children and would like for the world to be a better place than it is now. I have an obligation to work towards making it that way, can’t expect everyone else to do it for us. I am a member of society, so as a form of participation I try to coerce others to be more positive and look at things in a way that is beneficial to all. If my “gift” is being able to engage with strangers (aka the public), and perhaps I can influence their way of looking at the world, even if just for a moment, even if just a tiny little eensy weensy bit.

There is a subtle method, though. You can’t just go up to everyone and be like “The world is great and so are you! Let’s all just be great people together!” People will think you are crazy and avoid you, at least people like my husband. He “hates most people”, supposedly, but it’s really that he is just tired of the bs. So he clicks “off” in his brain when it comes to others, reminding me why we are married. I am his buffer to the world. I am the middleman that gets things done efficiently, and with a smile, so he doesn’t have to deal with others.

Best trick- Make them laugh. You have to find some common thread that you can identify with, and turn it on it’s head. Once they laugh, it’s like putty. You can work with it and turn it into something it might not have been without your influence.

There are so many people in the world like my husband. Positive people can take that attitude or mentality or whatever you want to call it and turn it around. We can get inside and make the necessary changes, kind of like little elf helpers. The best part is, they don’t even know you are doing it. It just happens. All it takes is the right comment, at the right time, to influence their thinking in a direction that is beneficial to all.

Can we all identify with one person, one person who needs us to make their day a little better, without them even knowing?

Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado

This topic is a dicey one, eh? Should we line the state coffers now for future rehab programs? Perhaps the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program might need a little review, this was in my 5th and 6th grade public school curriculum.

Interestingly enough, I am not overly concerned about  my children’s future when it comes to this particular law. The negative effects will reveal themselves, if there are any. To be clear, people are already addicted to pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana might be a better choice. Consider it a step in the right direction.

The fear is it will only make drug abuse more common, prevalent, and overwhelming. If we give our kids a good head on their shoulders, hopefully they will make the right choices when they are given the chance. It’s all about creating the kind of leaders the world needs to be a better place.

Regulate the driving laws if you want to make a positive change. Not just for marijuana levels though, for all drugs. All prescriptions that recommend against driving should have some control measures. Should we place a ridiculous fine for driving while under the influence of anything mind altering, we already pick on alcohol like it is poison- oh wait, it is poison.

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege. Don’t forget folks, you can take your kids license away too. We have veto power because we are responsible for their actions until they are adults.

My most concerning worry is my kids (or myself) will be killed in a car accident by someone under the influence of something. This is far more likely, right?

Let’s get some perspective from others on why this is a good or bad move for Colorado.

The Influence of Common Women

For inspiration and support, I often look up to those I respect and know well.
I am fortunate enough to say my mother is among these influential women, but there are so many more.
The best part is I don’t have to share her with that many other people, she is a great resource for strength and encouragement in my life, and she is present. I am grateful and fortunuate.

We don’t have to worship those very successful and spotlighted women, not every day at least.

Common woman can be very influential.

Look around and notice them, they are everywhere.
They are the grease in the wheels of the world.
They are the ones who smile at the deli counter because they are exchanging words with another human.
They are polite, and respectful.
They offer insight from their own precious experiences, they will help you through your harder times.

They understand the world and seek to make it better. They are setting an example every day, every minute, and they know it.

Take a minute to yourself and reflect on your influences.
Who are the common people you look up to and respect?

Why I Chose Philosophy

When entering college (the first time) I was pretty vivacious.

The fire that ignited from my very wonderful high school years at http://www.jeffcoopen.org/ made life a very out of the ordinary experience for me.

By the way, view the about page if you think you understood educational goals before.

After seeing where my love of learning stemmed from, you might see the common struggle in what Open Schoolers refer to as “the real world”. Funny thing is we all had to go through this awkward early 20’s experience where we had to try to be part of the existing social paradigm, and as adults we grow to realize it’s not as important as we thought to be part of this different community. I am finding myself engage with other like-minded individuals, rather than trying to conform to who I thought the rest of the world wanted me to be. I think we are all better off by doing this, but it takes time and reflection.

Coming from modest means I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck in college. I attempted grants and scholarships, but funny thing is we didn’t have grades in high school. No grades = No GPA… applications alone were enough work because of this. I tried to skirt classes by taking others, for example: I didn’t meet the math entrance requirements for College Algebra but didn’t want to waste a $emester on pre-algebra (my mom tutors math) so I took College Algebra based Physics. Not sure why I thought this was a good idea but I passed, even got an ‘A’ my second semester. So then I thought physics was fun and worked towards all the prerequisites to be a physics major. After failing my Calculus based physics course, miserably at that, I figured maybe it wasn’t in the cards. After all, I only kind of liked it and the career prospects were not really going to fulfill my life-long desire to understand the parts of the world I was truly curious about.

Philosophy spoke to me.

I would get up extra early to study philosophy. I was waiting at the door of the coffee shops until they would open so I could get a warm cup of joe and sit in with my next new assignment. Philosophy was always the first book I would pick up to study when I had the time. I would highlight the excerpts because I was unquestionably going to keep this textbook.

Philosophy is not a class, it is a discipline.

People always say to me, “oh, I loved that class.” I find this amusing because it is not just one class you had to take in college. It is the thinking that transformed and created every other discipline. It is what inspired psychology (philosophy of mind), science (hello Aristotle), political science (ever heard of Plato- “The Republic”, perhaps Macciavelli rings a little true in our given political climate), and all others.

Philosophy gives you the tools to critically analyze and truly understand.

We question everything in philosophy. Our biases become apparent through this experience. We can free ourselves from them, or we can back into a corner defending them. In philosophy, the process of setting up your problem to solve must be precise and accurate. There is no b.s. allowed, it is obviously baseless and intentionally confusing.

The stigma isn’t true.

Philosophy majors don’t just care about what the bark on the trees is made out of, please remind my spouse. We are concerned with the nature of this world, hint, hint. We are trying to figure it all out, and we demand rigor and deep analysis. Often we explore things we consider unknowable, yet further examination won’t hurt. We feel gratification when reading the works of a great thinker who came before us and there is an “aha!” moment, we connect with the message. We get it, because it makes sense. This isn’t to say we have to agree whole-heartedly with the view.

We have to defend our reasoning to seasoned professionals, every time.

People think it’s just a bunch of hippies sitting around with nothing better to do, wondering about the world. Not quite. This is a very intense discipline. You won’t succeed with mere fascination. There is application of self, and critical analysis of everything that comes into or out of your mind. Professors of philosophy got as far as they did because they are practiced, and you have to prove to them you understand and can expand. The nature of things examined in philosophy don’t already have a script, and if they do, you aren’t really doing philosophy. You write the new script by doing. Reading is reading, engaging as it is, it is reviewing and trying to comprehend past works.

Career training doesn’t matter to philosophy majors.

Ok, this might sound scary. We aren’t training for a specific career, but we are learning very important things that will carry us forward into the right career. You might work as an advocate, a speechwriter, a poet, or even the person who makes all the cool quotes for a tea company. We all (meaning everyone, not just philosophers) shape the world, and philosophers know it. People often giggle, and wonder why even bother. Philosophy will only make you a better person. The jobs/careers for philosophy majors are plentiful, you just have to know what you are good at.

Philosophers aim to make the world a better place.

This is why I chose philosophy.