Independence and Independents

What do ideas like liberty, independence, and freedom mean in the context of our current world? We can make our own choices, but there are certainly limits to what is deemed allowable (laws) and acceptable (norms)- although not always the same things allowed are accepted and vice versa. One very important freedom in the U.S. for example, we can vote. Our independence to vote for a candidate to represent us is confined by who we can “select” within a “two-party” system, which is ironically being tugged by voices outside of either paradigm to sway the political process this 2016 cycle. The independent faction has responded to this tide by an uprising of candidate’s who aren’t even members of the republican nor democratic party, but must run on the party line ticket to even be eligible for nomination.

Is this the best independent’s of this great nation can do? What if there was open primaries and there was no (R) or (D) or (I) next to any names? You would have to <gasp> vote for an actual candidate based on their platform! It’s kind of exciting and new-agey, but would it work?

It has been the norm since my adulthood that there is a polarity in politics. A right and a left, conservative and liberal positions. Either side seeks to own a voice on various issues, each one opposing the other out of necessity for preservation of it’s own validation as a paradigm. Often these issues are considered ethical or moral stances- abortion is a hot one for example. There’s no squishy room in the middle for people who look at each issue on it’s own, and who also don’t assume that being for one thing means your remaining values are automatically prescribed to oppose another based on political party affiliation.

On the liberal ideology we have a large turnout of the working class, or proletariat, an often (though definitely not always) higher-educated middle to lower income group of people who see the massive gap in their political representation and their paycheck. They are taking the country by storm, banding together after the financial crisis of 2008 tore a hole in their savings and future retirement prospects. Housing was largely lost or given up, and the consensus is frustrated. Student loans are a necessary evil for many to escape the likely impoverished community they are otherwise prescribed to, with interest rates higher than auto loans it might make better short-term financial sense to take up a delivery driver job instead of seeking a college degree for their future career training. The very important issue for this group- How does the government take interest in aiding the large financial interest of institutions before taking interest in the actual people who are the real pillars of our government? These are not only alert citizens but also the dominant contributors to the wheel of capitalism, even though seldom directly benefiting from their loyal contribution. Perpetual serfdom.

On the conservative ideology we have two different strategies to pull in a voter base- a prominent religious undertone, and often educationally suppressed group of people. Since there is no understanding of the manipulation on either side, issues that directly affect the lives of this group are of particular interest- like veterans benefits for example since enlistment is a guaranteed income for very low-income young people looking for any way out. There is always of course the wealthy supporters of this group as well. The issues become freedom from government, mostly taxation and regulation of business prospects. This group identifies themselves as those who are financing the governments ambitions to maintain a status quo for all, and they are pissed about it. People need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and figure out how to make their own lives better, without the big government wiping their fannies. This mentality is often from entrepreneurs who struggled to get where they are, but presume others can make the same sacrifices they did and anyone else can do it too. Unless of course you are one of those illegal immigrants, then you better learn to climb great big walls. Success isn’t deserved, it is earned. These are the people who look at the business world and seek to create jobs, even if they are not ideal paying jobs- since the risk of opening the business ought to be rewarded at a higher rate than the reward for merely being employed by the business. Lords who inevitably support our troops, since our troops “protect” their investments. Also, guns. Lots and lots of guns.

Representative government is what we are supposed to have, but is that what is really happening? And if so, representative of who? A group of “united citizens”? See what I did there…

Of course this will light a fire under some of your arses, don’t get upset if I didn’t address your particular position in life, or your viewpoint. If you feel unfairly lumped in a group, that’s the problem we are all facing. Disenfranchised voters- that’s what we are called. It’s a real phenomenon. I can’t tell you how many times a devoted democrat assumed I was one of those enemy republicans because I strive to work for  myself and have ambition to do better than I was given, I must be greedy. Or on the other side, a republican who assumed I was one of those pansy liberals who wants everyone else to pay for my way since I am not angry about immigration and I will proudly declare that ‘humans are humans’. One viewpoint is assuming the other is the opposite on all things and must then be declared an enemy. So there is a very large group of us, right here in the middle of it all, with viewpoints that seems to be invalid because they aren’t entirely one-sided. We are independents with less independence than any other voter.

How is this freedom?

We are limited by popular acceptance to voting for one of two parties. You have to either mostly agree with one “party” or you can vote against the one who disgusts you the most by propping up their strongest opponent with your vote- see what I did there… If you take the liberty you are allowed to vote for anyone else, there aren’t enough people in your “party” for it to matter. Go ahead and try, see… you “wasted” your vote.

To clarify, we need to discuss why there are necessary limits to our freedoms. It’s pretty easy really, to protect us from impeding on one another’s freedoms. Life, liberty and property- wait not that- pursuit of happiness. There, now that’s better. It’s always better when it’s edited properly to portray the actual political interest. Because if we had a right to property, well, then it couldn’t be taken from us by the powers that be unless we lost it square in a card game. More on that another time.

This didn’t clarify why our voting freedom is limited to an antiquated polarized system. In order to preserve our freedoms, we must exercise them. If we want to remain independents with independence, we must exercise our interest in freedom and take the liberty to vote accordingly. Now if we could just settle on the right candidate together.

 

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!

Today I found the Easter Bunny

I have three very young ladies as a captive audience. Needless to say, this whole parenting in contemporary times has sure taken it’s toll on my soul. Did I mention I hold a B.A. in Philosophy? Yep, and add a few ethics classes, lots of upper division political science courses, don’t forget my minor is in Environmental Studies. I was what you would call an “intentional student”. I didn’t take classes for the sake of taking them, I took them because they were interesting to me and I wanted to understand more about the topic so I could make informed decisions about the world and my life in the years to come.

College is very expensive. Ask my husband- we will be paying for those important classes for years to come.

Today I hopped around my home in the middle of the night, hoping my restless 5 year old wouldn’t wake up and catch the Easter Bunny delivering wonderful sugary delights in corners and nooks of the couch. I decided that five major retailers in my area offered valuable enough wares to enhance our life. Upon checking out the sales clerk asks, “How are you?” Of course I reluctantly offer the courtesy reply, “Good, how are you?” She mumbled some polite response, expected of her on a Saturday night around 7pmish when she would much rather be at Freddy’s with all her friends horking down milkshakes or perhaps perusing the movies with that cute boy she’s had a crush on since 8th grade. I joke about having finally found the Easter Bunny. She doesn’t really understand and neither do I.

I can’t wait to hear them squeal! The “stuff” they get from the Easter Bunny isn’t that much different from what other Easter Bunny’s deliver I am sure. It is difficult to purchase gifts when your inherent nature is to resist a consumer driven society. So here I have to wrestle with offering my children a somewhat normal childhood in relation to their peers so they can understand one another, yet still have a supportive backdrop of how things really “ought to be”. We shouldn’t be teaching our children that life is just about “stuff” But we should show them through our own discipline that there is also room for spontaneity and celebration. So I select an item that each will need, love, and hopefully appreciate. This year I opted for pajamas and sandals (both of which they need), a painting craft, and a bright pink fancy skirt (for the three year old who loves all things girly), and a pair of stretch pants (which my five year old will love the purple color and softness).

The “baby” (now almost 2 years old), is the wildcard. I never know what she would actually want and with two older sisters she has almost everything she could need at her fingertips anyway. I spent time coloring a little mask from the craft store for her to practice colors and pretend she is a cat, she gets a decent variety of sidewalk chalk, and two soft bunnies (which we already had packed in the Easter bin- no purchase necessary). She also got a hefty dividend of the chocolate share this year, hope daddy doesn’t mind the shaft.

My children are actually pretty naughty and can act spoiled, too. I think many people are wondering why I would write this post about the “stuff they get”, and then confess that my kids are bratty sometimes. Of course they are, some will obviously say, look at what you give them! These are often times people who don’t have children of their own but think they might understand something about actually raising a child. Silly people. Or perhaps it is a generation of parents that didn’t have the dilemmas we have now, and were raised with a different sort of depravation and strict values themselves. So discipline is another sort of monster when you are actually encouraged to physically strike your child when they disrespect you, not in 2014 though- that’s a good reason to find the cops at your door. We have to provide this “balanced reward system”. I will be the first to admit- it is difficult to implement. What- with each new phase of childhood creeping in at every milestone, and don’t forget the seasonal changes that provide new opportunities for mischief and want of desire. There is of course our fascination with electronics- or just anything that lights up and makes noise upon our command.

In 2014 American Society you are expected to have an easter egg hunt for your kids, just like you had as a child. Your precious offspring will be youtubed, facebooked, and twittered about all day. It will be fun, you will smile, and they will eat a crapload of candy. Or perhaps you are breaking the rules, maybe you went camping and got rained on all night (if you were in NoCo I will place a bet on it!). Maybe, just maybe, you didn’t do anything. Some little people I know will find a bunny hopping around their yard in the morning, funny how I am a stranger to these kids but can know the Easter Bunny personally and the little ones have no clue what is coming. Certainly my eldest will excitedly report once she arrives home from school on Monday about Oliver and Elliott, how it’s so unfair, and that we must meet this bunny ASAP. I fact, here is the phone, call his mom and schedule a playdate!

Those of you who found the Easter Bunny this year, will quite possibly vow to do it differently next year. We all know the truth… it is likely you will pull out the same Rubbermaid tub from wally world labeled “Easter”, and do it all over again. There will be a year when the surprise is gone, and that will be the first year I am the most glad I found the Easter Bunny all the previous years.

 

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?

Leaders initiate opportunities.

Being a leader means you have to try first.
You initiate.
You can visualize what questions to address in order to be successful with your goal.

Where do leaders get this?
Some are driven by an internal fire to fulfill a quest, or a vision of a better future. That can be simple, as long as you know where you are going and your intentions are positive.
How do leaders do this?
Initiate conversation, open the airwaves with those around you. Most people will be surprised that if this is done cautiously and with respect for your surroundings, there are opportunities screaming your name around every corner. Create a vivid and in-touch community through your dealings.
And please, don’t just facebook status update all the crap you are selling. That is not engaging.

Example please?
Offer to volunteer, it may or may not be needed. Yesterday my offer was taken! I am happy when my local library asked for my help (after I offered of course) with the work of organizing some of the functions I actively participate in. Instead of being a patron, now I am an involved community member. A program I support is enriched through the fruits of my labor, this is better than only voting to increase the tax funding… my time adds value too. I can also bring together a few others who regularly engage in the same functions to see if they want to partner the work, or brainstorm with me, or help in the process of creating the event. I have casually accepted a potential leadership role in my community because of initiation.

Leadership is not waiting for someone else to do it for you.
In August 2011, when the first round of national budget talks fell through, my facebook status originated from frustration with all of the rhetoric from media and lawmakers. It went something like this, “Why do news writers assume it is the governments job to create jobs? Are we not ambitious enough as individuals to find and create our own opportunities?”

As you can imagine, this garnered some back and forth, but my thought is still the same. Regardless of regulations, or other strategies politics has to manipulate society according to the benefit of one party or the other… we have a collective interest to do better for ourselves and the nation as a whole. So get out there and get your skills, and get to work making your work. Don’t sit behind a desk at home, filling out mindless applications for nowhere jobs, you can do so much better than that.

 I am a leader and I am proud of my accomplishments.

So, here I am. Creating my own opportunities. It is not easy to make the first move, take the risk of putting yourself out there. If you do it, the right way for you, it will carry you forward. Not every attempt will be successful, learn from the experience and move forward.

What are you doing to initiate your opportunities??? Please share if you care….