Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday 55 & Da Count-RIP G-man


FRIDAY 55X2  
(Two because sometimes it's necessary)


You are loyalty and kindness personified, a devoted dad, a fabulous cook, an avid fisherman, the kickass host of Friday 55, Mr Knowitall in the best sense, a lover of all things Michigan and Harley Davidson, the glue in any circle of friends, the love who helped his friends smile in the darkest of times.

I was honored by your friendship, blessed by your kindness, cheered by your humor, encouraged by your patience, exhorted by your gentle wisdom. I already miss your laugh and the way you said my nickname.  I'll never forget your smile, your eyes, or your hug.  Rest in peace, ride on in glory. Love, Trini.




DA COUNT
 I cannot believe he is gone.  I am gutted.  We first became acquainted when he began blogging and I commented in a case of mistaken identity.  I thought he was someone else I knew and had finally started a blog.  We emailed back and forth a couple times before I realized I was totally mistaken.  It could have been completely awkward but Galen thought it was hilarious and was so gracious.  We became fast friends....for real.  We had fun trading trivia.  He tried to trip me up on cultural references from his own childhood and was surprised that I could keep up.  He said I was an old soul and he forgot to grow up was why we got along so well in spite of the age difference.  

We talked about how much fun it would be to meet but never much thought it might happen since I had no cause to go to Michigan and he had no cause to come to Pennsylvania.  In 2007 I went to Texas for a wedding and noticed several of the flights had layovers in Detroit.  I thought, "Hey, this could happen!"  Respective work schedules conspired against being able to spend a day or two there but I planned a layover of several hours when Galen and Signgurl said they could manage to get to Metro for a quick visit.  Bonus!  I'd get to meet both of them.  They brought Roxi Moon and Frogger along for the ride.  The four of us had a little party in some area where non-passengers could go and where I wouldn't have to go through security again.  Signgurl had awesome food for us as we all chatted away.  Galen sat there grinning ear to ear the whole time.  When it was time to go he wrapped me up in the biggest hug of my life.  Somewhere there is a picture of that moment but sadly I can't find it.

We shared confidences.  I was honored that he'd trust me with some of his deep hurts.  I was blessed that he helped me bear some of mine.  He certainly helped me endure the year Calypso was sick.  He always wanted to know how my kids were and often talked of his own.  He'd share about his lifelong friends and his concerns for them.  He  didn't describe himself as such but I could tell he was the driving force behind a lot of social activity whether it was among friends, family, or coworkers. He was a big clown but he was also incredibly intelligent.  He was just too humble to toot his own horn though he'd be happy to fart the alphabet for you if you asked. He had purchased a fishing cabin within the last year and since giving up season tickets for U of Michigan had taken great joy in spending weekends there with friends or his son.  He told me a few times that retirement was beginning to look attractive.  I knew he loved his job and worked hard at it.  I also knew he was deserving of some leisure after his own terrifying health scare a couple years ago and a lifetime of hard work.  I anticipated a happy retirement for him spent fishing and riding his Harley.  Sadly, his great big heart gave out at work this week.  What I wouldn't give for it to still beat strong in his chest and to share another hug.

G-man, I am so grateful you were my friend.  Rest in well-earned peace, ride on in glory.  Love you always, Trini.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I'll just be over here getting ready to move to Mackinac Island*

August: My car is totaled while Isaac is driving it and another driver hits him. He is not injured.

September: Diana totals her car.  She is not injured.

October: Calypso is in a minor fender bender with Isaac's car while hers is in the shop getting transmission work done. No injuries.

Early November: Isaac hits a deer with his car.  Deer is a casualty.

Mid-November: Driver in front of me stops short, I rear-end him.  Still waiting for word as to whether or not the car to replace the one totaled in August is...totaled.  Minor sprains and strains.

Late November (today, in fact): On her way back to Georgia from Pennsylvania Diana is at a full stop on the interstate in Virginia in heavy traffic and another car hits her so hard she spins and winds up in the median.  She finds he glasses in the back seat.  Diana is concussed and whip-lashed. 

Dear God thank you thank you thank you from the depths of my heart for protecting my girl from serious injury.  Please, I beg of you though, no more accidents. Every time one of my kids calls me with this information my heart stops and then restarts at levels normally only achieved in cardio classes.  I'm so grateful no one has been seriously injured or worse.  I'm also feeling quite emotionally whip-lashed by it all.  Surely, you understand what this sort of thing does to a mama's heart.  I know I am a fortunate mama because I get to hug my kids again but ya gotta know it all terrifies me that one day that may not be the case.

Dear Diana, Calypso, and Isaac, I know you think I am silly because I always want to hug you before you leave the house and tell you I love you.  Please indulge me.  This is not frivolous.  I needed to do it before all this crashing began occurring.  Even more so now.

Dear family from North Carolina,  thank you thank you thank you for getting to my girl and taking her someplace where she can rest peacefully and for helping her sort out practical logistics while letting her head rest and heal.

Now someone please remind me how exactly this breathing thing works.....


*Mackinac bans nearly all motor vehicles.  Sounds good to me right now.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Good Hindu

A teacher of the Law asked the Lord, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

What does the Law say?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

You have answered correctly.  Do this and you will live.

But, Lord, who is my neighbor?

The Lord replied, "A woman was having many trials in her life.  She had found a lump in her breast and needed surgery.  Fortunately, it turned out to be benign.  However, just four days after surgery and though the woman also had a daughter who was critically ill, her boss, an elder in a local evangelical church, demanded she come to work on her normally scheduled day off because the office was short-staffed.  She was incredulous but dragged her still weakened self to work because she mistakenly regarded her boss as a "friend."  Shortly after this he fired her and refused to give a reason although the office manager commended her work ethic and skills.

Some time later the woman became frighteningly ill and this time it really was cancer.  She had recently left her congregation though her son and husband stayed there.  She and her family had been involved in that church in many ways for nearly 20 years.  When the pastor learned from the woman's husband that she was ill he told the man he was sorry to hear it.  He never called the woman, never sent a note, never asked the husband to express his concern for the woman he had known.  Later, when the woman visited the church for an event her son was involved in the pastor made demeaning comments from the pulpit about "those people over at the ashram."

Meanwhile, the woman had met a female monk from the ashram.  They exchanged pleasantries only twice.  When the monk learned of the woman's illness she asked if she could have the woman's email address and phone number to keep in touch before and after surgery and treatment.  True to her word, the monk checked in on the woman several times asking how she was doing, if there was anything needed, letting her know she was offering prayers for the woman's well-being.  When the woman said she was feeling sad about the need for being quarantined from human touch during treatment the monk checked on her more often during that period of time to provide encouragement in the loneliness.  When the quarantine was over the monk gave the woman a big, loving hug and rejoiced with the woman over the good report from the doctor."

Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the woman facing trials?

The one who showed loved to the woman.

The Lord said, "Go and do likewise."

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I give thanks for the folks who demonstrated love to me in my time of need, whether I share their theology or not.  I am honored by their friendship and blessed by their kindness.  I can only hope to reciprocate adequately when the opportunities arise.  I will not remain in the presence of those who would demean them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reclaiming My Mat

A little over two years ago, in the wake of losing a job in a very nasty way, I discovered yoga.  One of the messages which helped me heal from that unpleasantness was the message of "letting go of that which no longer serves."  It did not serve me to dwell in anger.  It only kept me from moving forward. 

I also found it very healing to develop a practice in a discipline which teaches its students to honor their bodies meaning that whether I can make the same shapes as the instructor or the folks next to me isn't important.  It's important that I am listening to what my body says is good for it and I am the only one who can know that for sure.  Yoga helped me develop trust in listening to that inner voice.  This was healing in both physical and emotional ways because I had struggled with back problems serious enough to send me to a neurosurgeon many years ago.  I had limped through various forms of rehabilitation only to have certain health care providers suggest that when I complained of pain it indicated an unwillingness to work on my part. 

I kept telling them no, I was experiencing serious pain which was setting me back rather than moving me forward.  I hasten to add I worked with great endurance and perseverance to regain the use of my hand and arm after demolishing it eight years ago.  It ain't a lack of willingness to work...it was not being shown proper form to have the work be effective rather than harmful.  Yoga gave me a sense of proper alignment so I could work in ways which allowed me to increase strength and flexibility while avoiding injury...because I was listening to what my body told me in the process. 

In so doing I was empowered to listen more carefully from day to day and even moment to moment.  I had teachers who explained that just because I could do a certain pose yesterday didn't mean it would happen today.  Conversely, not being able to do something yesterday didn't mean it was beyond reach today.  I needed to greet each time on my mat as a new experience, without attachment or expectation.  This message became critically important when I was diagnosed with cancer less than six months after beginning a yoga practice.  The nature of my health problems created wild swings in my metabolism and energy levels to the extent that it wax impossible to predict how I'd feel on any given day.  It was a crash course in advanced listening.  Sometimes I'd have to stop in the middle of class and just take a rest while others continued working vigorously. I was ok with that.  I was even encouraged when other students said seeing me in a resting pose gave them permission to do the same when they needed it.

Yoga also helped me find a place where I could quiet a restless mind.  My mat became the place for dropping out from between my ears and into mindful movement and meditation.  Yogic philosophy tells us yoga is not just exercise for the body but a union of breath with movement and the body with the spirit.  I found that on my mat.  I shed anger with God and people.  I found a greater ability to listen to the messages  my body was giving me and the still small voice, conscience, God, the universe, whatever you want to call it.  It all came together in union as intended.  It got me through some dark days and helped me increase health both mental and physical.  It made me want to know more and to be able to share it with folks who might want to learn too so I enrolled in the teacher training course.

Teacher training has been at turns, amazing, fulfilling, overwhelming, frustrating, wonderful, inspiring, and infuriating.  Two weekends of it have been downright upsetting.  This past month's training made me want to burn my mat and never get back on it again.  Part of the frustration is due to having to become familiar with styles of yoga which I do not connect to at all, which I find far too physically demanding.  Although the message "honor your body" remains the same, that I even have to take a class in a particular style feels dishonoring and yet I have to find a way to learn the style even as I do not push myself to the point of injury.  It's a challenging balance to find. 

The other aspect, which pushed me over the line recently, was topics which opened up huge trauma triggers for me.  Between the physically demanding style I was learning and the distressing topics I felt as if I were losing the safe space my mat has always been.  It felt as if my mat were being invaded or usurped, as if I no longer had a right to honor my own body and my own spirit by giving it what it needed.  I was wrong, of course, but just like Dorothy had to learn that there's no place like home, I had to be reminded that my mat is MY mat and my practice is MINE.

I am 46 years old.  I've come to yoga late in life and after considerable physical trauma.  I do not need to have a practice which looks like that of an athletic 20-something.  If I do, great.  If I don't, that's great too.  The point is, I have a practice.  It doesn't matter how vigorous or how gentle it is. It matters if I am finding a union of breath and movement, of body, soul, and spirit.  It matters if I derive pleasure from my practice and want to engage in it, not whether I can put a foot behind my head or  do 62 chaturangas in a vigorous Ashtanga class (I can't do either).

The last training weekend I had damn near every trauma trigger tripped.  I was reeling.  I was a gaping, open wound sitting in a corner weeping through a class.  I was broken and depleted and yet asked for more....which has so often been the story of my life.  I was angry because MY mat is not the place for that.  MY mat is where I heal from all of that.  MY mat is my safe place.  I wept because I was afraid I was losing MY mat.  Then I remembered, it's MY mat and no one gets to tell me what My practice on MY mat looks like. 

I reclaimed my mat by staying off it for two classes.  For one class I sat in the corner just working to find my breath while others worked physically difficult poses.  For another class I stayed home.  When I returned, I went to the class taught in the style that speaks to ME.  I worked in the way MY body told me felt right.  I dropped out of my ears and into my body working a slow, meditative pace which allowed my mind to find the rest it needed.

When I teach I want to remember to empower my students to listen to themselves on their mats.  It will be my job to tell them what they need to know to be safe.  What they do with the rest of my instruction is up to them because it is their practice, not mine.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Overheard in (or regarding) the Library

It's a strange soundtrack to which I work. Outside one door is a beginner clarinetist honking and squeaking through Mary Had a Little Lamb. Outside the other door kindergarteners are learning letter sounds and chanting..t-t-t-t-t-t...Inside the library, the heaters that were just turned on this morning are clanging along.

It's got an interesting beat, a little challenging to dance to. I give it a 47.
 
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5th grader comes into the library and upon checking out tells me he was stressed and ready to pull his hair out deciding on a book.

Me: Friend, just relax. Picking a book should be relaxing.

Him: I get stressed over everything.

Me: Take a deep breath. Just breathe.

Him:
I tried that over 300 times. It doesn't work.

Me: Well, stop breathing. Let me know how that works out for ya.
 
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2nd grade quote of the day:

Him: I wish this was a real library.
Me: It is.
Him: But everyone talks too loud.

I love all the kids but the ones who crave the sanctuary get me every time.

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Oh the self-control I exhibit...When a student commented on the leather jacket draped over my chair I managed not to snarl and say, "It's made from the hide of kids who damage or never return library books."

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Then there's a little game I like to call "values clarification." You're in a school of 700 or so 5-10 yr olds plus staff. You may have 2 or 3 of the following and you may rotate which items you have but you may never have all 4 at the same time: functional plumbing, hand soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. Choose wisely...

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Finally, Isaac came to me asking for $50 to buy a new box of contact lenses.  I asked what happened to his money.  He said he had enough but didn't want to spend it.  Incredulous, I asked how much he brings home a week (from two part time jobs).  He quoted a figure and I countered letting him know I bring home less than half of that.  He said that was impossible.  I pulled out a pay stub.  Then he asked why on earth I still work there.


Friday, October 24, 2014

I Don't Know Where This Post is Going but It Will Get There

Can you believe once upon a time and for several years I posted five times a week? My how times change.  Back on October 12, Hugh Jackman and I shared a birthday and this blog turned 9 years old.  I certainly never imagined I'd be doing this nine years later and although the pace of my output has slowed considerably I don't want to stop completely.  This forum has provided me with people whose friendships have sustained me through some of my darkest days and who have rejoiced with me in great triumphs.  I like to think I have reciprocated that to some folks as well.  I am grateful, so very grateful for the friends who have become like family and the little community we've been able to form.

In other files marked "the times they are a changin'" I offer two examples of educational anachronisms.  This week  in one of my libraries a little boy ran to my desk carrying a book so he could alert me to the "bad word" contained in the title.  The book in question was Dick and Jane: a Christmas Story.  I had to explain that it was a nickname for Richard that has fallen out of favor. 

Later, a fourth grade class came in with their brand new math workbooks for a new curriculum aligned with the mandated Common Core standards.  As a table full of students hunched over their workbooks crunching numbers I happened to notice the two pages contained several word problems using a stamp collection as the main reference point from which to derive information.  Let me repeat that.  A stamp collection.  A fourth grade class.  A poverty-stricken, inner city school.  In the year 2014. Cuz, yo, that's how we roll in da hood.....with our postage stamp collections.  Bitches be all up in my face wantin' a British Guiana 1c magenta. 

Sweet mother of irrelevancy, if we have to stop a math lesson to explain what the hell a postage stamp is and why on earth someone would have an entire collection of them because the kids are all giving that cocked head, confused puppy look I think we've derailed ourselves a bit here.  Could we perhaps enter the 21st century and provide appropriate examples of things the kids might actually come in contact with so they can grasp how math affects their daily lives?  If you want to introduce stamp collecting as a concept just say so and I will come up with a lesson integrating vocabulary, geography, history, art, technology and even math.  Furthermore, the kids will be on the edges of their seats and learn something that may actually spark their imagination and intellect because it will be cohesive rather than random.  This?  This is just plain stupid.

We've also had all sorts of automotive traumas.  In the last three months each of my three children has had an accident.  Thank God, no one was injured.  That's the most important thing.  The cars have fared less well.  Two were totaled, one sustained minor damage.  Calypso's car has had transmission problem and is back on the shop for more of the same. Mr. Lime's Clampett-mobile style truck had the brakes go and tries to slowly poison the driver with carbon monoxide unless the window is cracked open.  It's now in the shop for a new muffler and brakes.  I'm just wondering which automotive gods I have pissed off and if an offering of motor oil and Turtle Wax will help appease them.  Then again, one could say a Higher Power has had my back since the people I love most have been spared injury.

In happy news, I've been able to teach my series of free community yoga classes as practice of my new skills. Did I mention I was the first among my large class of teacher trainees to have to teach the public?  How about that it was before we'd had the classes on sequencing or providing physical assistance to students?  It was nerve-wracking to prepare for but fun to do once I was there.  My mantra for nerves was, "It ain't cancer.  It's yoga."  Very zen, huh?  I'm sure the ancient gurus chanted that in Sanskrit or Tibetan.  I was so encouraged by the two teachers who came to my classes, as well as my fellow trainees.  And then there were the two ladies who were brand new to yoga and who told me they were hooked immediately because of the message that there is no competition and that they listen to their own bodies whether what they do looks like the teacher or the person on the mat next to them or not.  I was THRILLED that they "got it" and were empowered by that.

So here I am nine years out, working in two urban schools running libraries, working toward being certified as a yoga instructor.  I've been through a child's serious illness, my own serious illness, five surgeries, and more cars than I care to count.  My three children who were in elementary school and junior high when I began this blog are all graduated from high school and on to the next steps of their lives.  One is in Georgia, one in a local institute of higher learning, and one is preparing to go to Haiti next month in preparation for a later 1-3 month internship there.  Mr. Lime is counting the years to retirement and I am embarking on new adventures within new communities of friends.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Flexibility

First, an update on the aftermath of last week's post.

After being told I'd have to do "library on a cart" I spent a considerable amount of time gathering scholarly articles correlating library access to various measures of student achievement so I could fortify my arguments for the students having access to the full library collection, not just the couple hundred books I could fit on a cart and drag around the school.  So as to not overstress the admins I highlighted key passages in the several dozen pages I printed out.  Folks were unswayed though one noted I had come prepared, to which I replied, "I work in a library.  I know how to do research."

However, I am glad to report an acceptable compromise was reached.  Our school is bursting at the seams.  I had to give up some geography in the library to accommodate another class being moved up there.  I was able to convince the principal that library on a cart  is such a piss poor excuse for library service that we cannot justify it.  He offered the suggestion of only having part of the class come to the library at a time since an entire class can no longer fit in the remaining space.  I agreed because the most important thing is that the kids have access to the full collection.  We've already lost librarians and library instruction.  We cannot afford to lose access to the collection.  So a certain degree of flexibility from both the principal and from me has allowed for some semblance of a solution.  It's not optimal or even desirable but it's preferable to library on a cart.

In other news, I spent this weekend of yoga teacher training learning how to safely give hands on assists to deepen stretches....so flexibility can be increased.

Bending one classmate in half.
Asking another classmate to walk all over me.



















I am learning flexibility in all sorts of contexts but I'd  still like to tell the people decimating urban public schools and their libraries to get bent.