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.

 

Advertisements

Planting Trees Is Good For The Soul

When we went to get pumpkins with our children, we decided to visit a nursery. Since we wanted to add trees to our landscape, and they were buy one get on 1/2 off, we purchased eight 5 quart trees. They sat in our backyard, sheltered against the fence for a week, until we figured out exactly where we wanted to plant them.

Since it was raining yesterday, I got to play in the mud! Anyone who thinks they know me, should also know that I love to play in the dirt. Mud is just wet dirt, so I love it too. What a fun project it was. We got to work together and put something natural in the earth that will grow and we can enjoy as long as we live in our home. I must say, my husband and I make a great team (most of the time). He let me master the soil composition ratios, depths, and locations of each tree. While he graciously dug, and did most of the hardest manual labor. I love my ox. Even though he does the brunt of it, I don’t get off easy at all. Oh no way. He expects me lift, dig, haul, and put in whatever I am capable of doing. My physical strength will just never measure up to his, no matter how determined I am.

Working with our hands and bodies is healthy, it provokes a sense of ownership to the work we are performing. Although we were both very sore afterwards, it was immediately rewarding. Now when I look out my kitchen window I see the trees I planted with my husband, and I get to watch them grow everyday.  Did I mention how it was also good for our marriage? We had to work together, cooperation is key in a marriage. We managed to problem solve and think long-term together.

No matter how stressed we can get at times, it is good for the soul to work towards something you can enjoy everyday.

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.

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?

Perfectionism

When reviewing my article “I am a Writer”, I noticed something written at the end. I question you if your writing is perfect.

What does “perfect” mean?

Is there even such a thing?

The point of communication is to, well, communicate. So, if through punctuation and proper enunciation of words the message is delivered… did communication occur? Would this mean that following the written language rules is unnecessary, so long as the efforts result with a clear channel of understanding. Now I could reference all these fancy textbooks I have read, and giving credit to my local College (now University!) for the training and guidance I received while paying tuition and other related expenses of higher education; I will save you the academic rigor and jargon. Quite simply consider:

If a goal of communication is understanding, does it really matter how we get there?

Does “perfect” always have to mean following the rules set forth? Now, we could say the rules are there for a reason, or because they are true. I give credit to the notion that organization functions better than chaos, but that is only when there is a goal to be achieved. Wouldn’t you say chaos can be really fun sometimes, maybe the unpredictability is refreshing.

Here is another quest for you, take notice of the words people could have said but didn’t. As a writer (or reader) do you think you know where something is going but it’s not as expected? Does this make you a better writer, sidestepping the obvious and choosing the unusual presentation of your idea because maybe, just maybe, that is part of the message itself?

Notice the details, are they intentional? I hope my readers don’t view my work as careless or sloppy, quite the contrary… provoking thought is my goal. Read along as we explore. examine. everything.

Next stop: tbd