Lessons from School

Today was the official first day of the new school year. Though it wasn’t really a difficult day it seemed it. The challenge was the transition back into the school year from the summer work schedule which is so much more relaxed. I find during the summer months at work I have plenty of time to contemplate, to plan, and to reflect on every choice I need to make. Today, with everyone back and being thrown back into it, suddenly it feels like I am back to no time to think about questions, and problems, and solutions. Suddenly, from one day to the next, it’s back into the hectic high school day.

So I ended this day as I often do – taking a brisk walk in the woods behind my house. And brisk it was – that being one way that I often relieve stress at the end a day – bulling and jamming my way along the trail while my mind spins just as briskly trying to work through all the challenges of the day. I was about two and a half miles in before I realized what I was doing and reminded myself to slow down and take time to actually notice and enjoy my beautiful surroundings. Only seconds after this realization I looked up and there stood a yearling watching me from only about 10 yards away. I stopped and acknowledged her – inviting her to pass. She did not. I could hear what I thought was another deer in the woods nearby and asked the yearling if she were waiting for her friend. She did not respond. I finally decided she was waiting for me to pass, so I continued up the trail, turning briefly to watch her bound off into the trees, white tail bobbing.

There you go, I said to myself. Lesson learned. Slow down and take time to appreciate the world around you. Sometimes you have to get outside of your head to see what’s really important. That was the impetus I needed to shift my thinking and spend the rest of my trek thinking about my day in a different way. I asked myself what went well that day – what did I appreciate?

There were several things that came to mind. First was the student, who last year raced into my office, offering no greeting but instead a steady stream of complaints and an unwillingness to listen. We worked on that a great deal last year. I viewed each visit from him as a learning opportunity. Well, today he came into my room and we worked together and resolved his problem in less than 2 minutes. He went off politely and very pleased with the outcome.

I also appreciated a co-worker’s enthusiasm for his students and the program. Despite wanting to talk about more change on the first day of school, I must acknowledge that his heart is in the right place and I have confidence that his passion will allow him to come up with a great plan.

Thinking about the several people who are new to our school I value how they have been able to step in without hesitation and do an amazing job of helping the school run and serving our students well.

My personal goal for the year is to carry this lesson with me – to take the time each day to get outside of my head and the problems to be resolved and appreciate all that is right with the world.


Some of you may remember that I got a new kitten in the past year and she has been a fine addition to our family.

It was a little touchy in the beginning when the new kitten wanted nothing more than to befriend the elder cat and the elder cat wanted nothing more than to wake up and have the new kitten gone, gone, gone.

However, in only ten months the two felines have come to some understandings and have learned to cohabitate.

the pest

The photo is evidence of progress. Where, early on, Midge (the gray tiger) would pounce on Willow when she was eating so Midge could get at the food and gulp it down, now Willow will stand her ground, and Midge has learned to wait it out. Notice that Willow has even gotten brazen enough to stick her tongue out at Midge.

The two have come to a fine balance of give and take.

Willow, who is somewhere around 14 years old, has never been a hunter. I remember once finding a mouse trapped in the basement window well, so I picked it up and placed it in front of Willow. She showed no interest whatsoever. I figured her natural predatory instincts had been domesticated right out of her. Oh well, I thought, there are always mouse traps.

So, we did set mouse traps to deal with what seemed to be a problem that was out of control – the mice were getting into everything! Since Midge was young and inexperienced, my husband decided to initiate her into the world of hunting and would take the mouse carcasses out on the deck for Midge to ‘play with.’ Well, she did play with them and it wasn’t long before she showed some hunting skills and began bringing mice to the doorstep occasionally.on occasion.

This seemed to spark some enthusiasm from Willow. Or maybe it brought back her ancient predatory memory. Or maybe she’s a life long learner and, much like dogs, you can teach an old cat new tricks!

Midge is still clearly the forerunner in the hunting department, and last week she brought us an unusual gift to show off her hunting prowess.

turkey chick

Yes, I am sorry to say, that is a Turkey chick. I’m sure it was a devastating event for the entire Turkey family when Midge showed up and ended the life of one so young. I feel for the Turkeys, I really do.

And, I have to admit that I thrilled at the idea that Midge’s instincts are alive and well. I am a lover of nature – and I’m a realist. What comes with nature are many lessons, including lessons about life and death. In this world of too much domestication and not enough wild I am pleased that my little cat still has within her the instincts of her species.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want a Jurassic Park kind of existence, but I find it good to know that my little Midge still has the ability to fend for herself.

It makes me feel hopeful to know that there are some creatures who, despite centuries of the survival instinct being bred out of them, are able to hang on to their ancestral truth.

Maybe it gives me hope that the same can be true of human beings. Some days it seems that people have gotten so far away from their ancestry – their culture – their sense of reality and truth about the world – that they are not capable of survival. Where we have come from is so tied to who we are today, as a species, and who we will become tomorrow. In all cultures the natural world has been a tremendous part of all identities, yet we have moved far from it.

Once upon a time people of the world altered their diets and ways of gathering foods to adapt to the environment they were in. Living as one with that environment rather than trying to manipulate it. That seems an instinct toward survival that allowed creatures to live in balance with the natural world, much like Midge’s instincts.

I am hyper aware of our connection to the natural world at this time of year when the seeds I have planted a month ago are producing amazing miracles from the earth and I can ‘fend for myself’ by eating entire meals from what I’ve grown or found in nature. I treasure the growing season. It is a reminder that we can, and should, have an equitable balance between the planet and the creatures living on it. Maybe with equal parts of give and take we can ensure the survival of all species.

Guidance Systems

Sometimes I wonder where we learn to navigate the world. With each of our stories being so incredibly different, how can we know how to proceed through life? Can there be one ‘right’ way? Is there a compass that guides us? I ask myself these questions regularly as I maneuver through this life, as I’m sure many of you do.

I know that I have written about this question many times, and so I went in search of a few of those meandering thoughts from past writing. As I look at my own words I’m searching for what is true.

At sixteen I decided, with little fan fare, that I would become a special educator. I have no idea why I made that decision. It was just there one day and somehow I knew it was the right one. I can’t explain it, like I can’t explain so many things in my life; all I can say is that there are some things you just know are right and you go with them. It’s like there is an inner guidance system we are all given at birth and it pulls you in certain directions at times to keep you on the path you’re intended to be on.

A lot of experiences in my life have made me realize that experiences are the best teachers, and much of what I know now to be true and right for me has to do with a combination of recognizing who I am as a person and how the things I learn work in partnership with that me.

I know how flawed I am deep down inside, that’s why I have always set such high expectations for myself.

There are reminders in my life daily, providing me with opportunities to slow down, look around, see what I’ve never seen before. It is something I work on often, and over time I’ve noticed a second voice that speaks up more often now, reminding me to stay in the moment; to be present in all I do; to take the time to listen and to see.

We can only be disappointed when we have preconceived notions of how something should be.

Often it isn’t making the decision that is the true struggle, but facing the changes you know will come once you’ve made a decision.
It’s also often true that what you fear most about a change never becomes the reality.

By accepting the unexpected you are now free to learn from it. Once we say to ourselves, this has happened for a reason and I trust that reason will be clear to me at some point then we can move forward. Acceptance of one thing opens the self up to accepting other things and can create a clear path to understanding and possibility.

For me, it is these reflections of a life lived that are my compass – the thing that leads me ever onward. What guides you?

Golf and Life

Challenging cart path!

Challenging cart path!

I am a golfer.

By that I mean I play golf.

Lately I’ve been playing golf poorly. By some standards you might even say that my golf game is downright pathetic lately.

Early in the season I was playing better than ever, but in the last few weeks my score has risen while my skills, evidently, have not.

While playing badly this week at the Blackmount Country Club in North Haverill, I came to a realization; golf is a metaphor for life.

From the moment we are born we are faced with a multitude of imposing tasks. Getting enough to eat without the ability to ambulate or communicate with words. . .it’s a challenge I equate with trying to get a tiny ball into a two inch hole from 400 – 500 yards away by smacking it with a club. From there on, the golfer, like the newborn, will face on-going challenges which must be accomplished in order to go further in the game (life).

With much love and support the infant will soon be walking and talking. They continue maneuvering along through trial and error.

With much love and support the golfer will soon know just enough to think they have a decent score, and will begin maneuvering along through cheating.

Life puts obstacles in our way – job losses, illness, unexpected expenses. Golf puts trees, ponds, sand traps, and rock walls in our way.

On the other hand, when good things happen in life they offer hope and help us get through the difficult times – they keep us going. When we hit that perfect shot in golf, it has the same affect on us; we decide the game isn’t so bad and we keep playing.

When I think back to my progression as a golfer I know that I have come a long way. Despite playing poorly recently, I am still playing much, much better than I did even two years ago. I am able to look back with perspective and say, “Ah, this is just a little bump in the road. It too shall pass.”

I have done the same many times in my life – ridden out the hard times and become wiser for it in the end.

A hole in TWO!

A hole in TWO!

Therefore, I believe that once this spell of bad golf is over I’ll be better than ever!

Unexpected Lessons

Sometimes in life the lessons you are taught – or learn accidentally – are not what you would expect. Or maybe the lessons you discover contradict what you were taught. Being aware of that in recent weeks I decided to share some observations.

One example of a contradiction in lessons is ‘Less is More’. REALLY? Since when? I always thought more was better. More money. More time. More presents. More friends. More days in the week. Aren’t these the things we’ve always dreamed of? Maybe, but in some instances less is definitely more. For the past couple of days I have been applying mortar to the foundation of my house to cover up that horrible pink foam insulation. (Seriously, with the technology and materials we have today can’t someone invent a foam insulation that already looks like something attractive?) After applying two coats of mortar mix to the foundation with a trowel, I learned that starting with LESS mortar on your trowel works better than starting with MORE mortar. With more mortar on the trowel the likelihood of it sliding off the trowel onto the ground increases dramatically. So, when mortaring foundations – less IS more.

How about this one – “Slow and steady wins the race.” We all know the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, but does it represent the truth in the real world? In my experience there are times when speed is your friend. Like on a mountain bike. Going over some treacherous rocks and/or roots. If you go too slow and steady you are very likely to stop dead in the trail, fall on your ass, and experience pain.

What about the flip side – Speed is your friend? It may be true when mountain biking (sometimes), but it’s definitely not true when driving a car.

Lately I’ve been Getting my hands dirty quite often. While this is a good thing in that it means I’m really getting into the project at hand (pun intended) I have been reminded that I really don’t like to get dirty. Hands or anything else. I can stand it for about 3 hours and then. . . that’s enough. So this is another idiomatic contradiction. I do love getting involved, but don’t so much love getting all grimed up for the day.

Words. Life. Lessons.

Somethin’ to think about.

last ones standing