Thursday, March 28, 2019

Two-Fer Thursday

It's been a crazy week here, such that blogging (and writing) took it on the chin.   Here's my link up to article one, You Might Be Part of A Large Family If... if you need a touch of humor for the day. 

The second piece ran and it's more in keeping with Lent, so Struggling on the way to the cross.  The two could not be more different in tone so I debated even linking them on the same post...but life is always both and.   Enjoy. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You MIGHT be able to link up to the article

But I apparently cannot.  I'm not sure why.  I do know, I'm published over at the National Catholic Register. It's called "How to Start a Family Rosary."  If you can link on it, please share. 

Thank you.  I'll be over here penning "How to link up to an article..." once I figure out how.  In the meantime,

Here: National Catholic Register   Go to the Desktop version, and I'm under the bloggers on your right.   Now that I look at it...need a new picture...

Monday, March 18, 2019

100 Ways to Be Salt and Light

Look at the news, go on social media, and it's an automatic recipe for depression, discouragement and rage.  To be salt and light to the world, we have to respond to all the darkness, anger, frustration and pain with kindness, with care, with patience and with humor. It takes 21 days to break a bad habit, and sixty-six to create a new one...which if you put them together, results in 87 days.  However, since we know we're all flawed busy creatures, we've added 13 extra bonus ideas for your pleasure, so you can do more than go around the world, you can help change it for the better. 

So here's  ways to be salt and light to an often tasteless and shaded world. 

100) Smile. 
99) Water a plant.
98) write a letter.
97) read to someone.
96) put on beautiful music.
95) go for a walk in God's cathedral.
94) pray for someone you don't know.
93) call a friend.
92) arrange a date with your spouse or one of your siblings or one of your children.
91) clean a room for someone else.
90) say a family rosary.
89) sing with the radio.
88) Donate clothing.
87) volunteer your time.
86) bake bread or something yummy, bring it in to the office.
85) invite a friend out to lunch.
84) when you see something on the Internet that irritates you, try to see why someone might hold that point of view, or alternatively, offer a constructive alternative perspective that doesn't presume the ignorance or malice of anyone who disagrees. 
83) put fresh flowers on the table.
82) use the good silver.
81) find the funny.  Share it.
80) Learn something new today. (I learned it takes 66 days to create a new habit). 
79) practice something you used to know how to do --in my case, piano.
78) practice something you don't know how to do --in my case, sew.
77) ask someone if they need help with something --hint, not what you just started learning.  --son..driving lessons...
76) strive to compliment rather than critique when someone else is learning. (This is hard for me especially when dealing with driving lessons). 
75) eat dinner together.
74) play games together.  (I got creamed in brawl).
73) watch a movie together.
72) Let yourself not look at a screen --screen free evening, once a week. 
71) plan a date.
70) exercise outside.
69) Do an inventory of your home, for home repairs. Pick one and start.
68) Channel your inner Marie Kondo...clean out a closet.
67) tell stories from your family.
66) plan a trip.
65) collect and give your change once a week to a soup kitchen/homeless person.
64) say "Yes" when someone says, "I need a volunteer."
63) Be ten minutes early.
62) stay afterward to help out.
61) Give hugs often.
60) Laugh easily.
59) Ask questions, find out how people met, their favorite cakes, songs, secret talents.
58) Say please and thank you.
57) Admit when you don't know.
56) Listen.  Really listen.
55) Forgive.  Often. Each time you remember it hurts.
54) light candles
53) go outside at dawn and watch the world wake up
52) go outside at night and stare at the stars.
51) draw on the sidewalk, until you're out of chalk.
50) write a poem.
49) help someone else with their stress.
48) check in on someone who is sick/recovering. 
47) support a local theatre by seeing their production
46) give compliments easily.
45) offer a mass for someone.
44) dance with your children.
43) get rid of a pile.
42) leave a love note for your spouse.
41) call your siblings.
40) clean a yard of sticks/trash
39) Recycle --really recycle for the week
38) Give your spouse a foot massage.
37) visit a museum
36) give money to a street musician, stay and listen.
35) invite friends over to play cards
34) pick fresh fruit, share with neighbors.
33) find some group at your church, go and meet new people.
32) fast.
31) let someone into the lane.
30) pay it forward for someone at the grocery store.
29) tip. 
28) take a day off and spend it at home, making home better.
27) plan a weekend trip to a local farm or museum.
26) try some place new.
25) write a letter to congress.
24) write a letter to the editor.
23) spend an hour studying something you avoided in college/high school --to remind you how hard it is to learn something we don't already love or know.
22) drink only water today, as a reminder of those who thirst.
21) give someone else the parking spot.
20) Share something lovely online.
19) go by the fire department or police department and tell them, "Thank you." before you need them.
18) bring groceries to the pantry.
17) dedicate a day to someone. Don't tell them. Just serve.
16) send a thank you to a teacher or coach, to a mentor who spoke to your heart.
15) resolve to stop entertaining the pains of your past as honored guests, re-injuring the present.
14) spring for ice cream. 
13) take a nap.
12) serve wine with a meal.
11) promote a friend's work/gifts.
10) spend a day never mentioning yourself.
9) do not get in the last word.
8) weed a garden.
7) weed your soul...of unwanted growths.
6) apologize
5) become educated about a problem and how you can help make it better.
4) go to adoration for someone else.
3) pray for the souls in purgatory.
2) speak truth with charity. 
1)  in all things, be kind.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

My Philosophy of Teaching

I began work as a teacher in 1990.  My first job in the classroom, I taught in New York City.  I believed then, as I do now, that all education is in fact, special education, because all teaching at its core, is not about assessment or data or test scores or economic outcomes, but about reaching the heart of a student, and enkindling in the heart, a curiosity about something in the world.

It doesn't matter the subject, so it isn't about STEM or the arts or any other collection of disciplines one might decide to be the most important at the moment. Teaching is about connecting with the students, and that's measured one student at a time, despite attempts by school systems, governments, and those who profit from assessments of all kinds, to assert otherwise.  The goal of teaching is to reach beyond the test.  We don't remember the teachers who taught to the test, we remember the teachers who helped us love/understand/and in some cases, survive/endure  the subject beyond the test.

A school can have the finest technology, and indeed, many have access to more information than ever before, but it is the teacher that reveals to the students, how to use that data, how to rearrange it, make it their own, and compose new knowledge. A teacher is not a sage on a stage, but a teacher is also not a checker of boxes, to make sure each student can check off each of the boxes.  A teacher is someone who conveys not merely knowledge, though that's certainly part of it, but a desire for knowledge.  The goal of teaching, in any subject, is to inspire desire to know more, by experiment, by creativity, by collaborative work, by humor, by projects, by papers, by film, by experts, by pouring out into the classroom and all of the planning, every gift a teacher has to reveal the more of a subject, beyond what is assessed. 

Twenty-three years, I'd been away from teaching, and upon returning, even at a lessened capacity, in the three years I've worked, I know this truth still holds, because it was always truth.  What unlocked Helen Keller from the darkness wasn't data, but relationship.  What gets a student from not reading, to discovering a world of stories at her fingertips, is when she puts down the phone, and picks up a book because the teacher's given her reason to trust her, that this voice she's about to discover, is one that she should know. 

I don't have the lingo of the modern educator, because I often find modern language seeks to cloak information, to hide what it does not like, and the first rule of being educated, is to seek truth. Just so,  the first rule of being an educator, is to profess truth with everything you've got.  Knowledge must be true, or else it is simply fancy, folly and fashion, --popular opinion or trending at best.  Science cannot be science if the laws of science are not constant, as understood by those who study such things.  Likewise, math cannot be math, if the formulas change not because they've been disproven, but because someone decides they're unpleasant.   So also, even in the softer fields like literature, good stories reveal something of the human condition, touch something of the heart and the mind with truth. As seekers of knowledge, whatever the discipline, we are all grasping at what we know of reality, and testing as it were, whether what we know, is universal, and with that understanding, conveying it in a unique way as illustrates our own singular gifts for communication and creating connections.

I tell students whenever we're talking about the purpose of a story, a good story is never just what happened, but why it happened, because a good writer isn't interested in merely entertaining, but in revealing something they consider to be vital and eternal.  The extent to which the story strikes a cord in the heart of the reader, reveals both the quality of the writer and the sensitivity of the reader to the message beneath the plot.  Good stories, great stories, resonate and echo across time. 

If you're wondering, why I've written this little piece, it's because I needed to sort out of my head, what my philosophy of teaching is and what it is not.  I'd been asked, if I had to choose, would I be a Special Educator or an English Teacher, and to me, it's a both and...because again, all education in my heart, is special education, and even in exclusively special education, I'm going to be teaching through stories, and thus revealing hopefully, something lovely that resonates...and that's the English.

Thus we come to the crux of the matter.  What defines me are my loves, and they're always more than I can count.  I don't have a favorite child. I love them all.  I have many, but that doesn't stop me from fiercely loving each of them with my all.  The same reality exists within my heart when it comes to careers.  I love writing, and I love getting works published.  I love creating new works, and hope to continue to do so for a long time to come. Likewise, I love working with students, hoping to help them learn to love stories, and love writing, and love uncovering the truths whatever writer we're reading, laid in there, knowingly or otherwise, for us to discover.  I love figuring out how students learn, and figuring out tricks to help students learn better, and discerning what we need to do to help a particular student thrive.   I love it all. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Hey, I'm the Register again..

Yes, I'm linking to another piece over at the Register...and this one is for all those who haven't figured out what to do for Lent.  It's an oldie but a goodie from my days at, but sometimes, what you write stands the test of time.  So here are 40 Lenten Resolutions.  I'll be over here, not going on Facebook for from now until Easter except to the extent my blog links up to Facebook and I share pieces that get published. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Over at the Register

So I had all these doubts...but apparently last month I didn't feel so lacking in confidence. I forgot I wrote this piece in February over at the National Catholic Register on not hiding your light. It's a gentle reminder, (if only to me), if you haven't really started your Lent, you can today, and that our God is about our Joy, not our drudgery.

He doesn't want me discouraged, He wants me joyful.   That's a great comfort actually...because it's a call to joy...which is a willed response to reality.   It's not about getting rid of things, it's about being at peace with where you are and why you are wherever it is you are...

On that note, in the interest of peace of mind, I'm taking a break from Facebook for Lent.  I'll still link articles here and share them, but no commentary, no likes, no sharing of other stuff, no status updates, no lingering.   Thank you for understanding.   Happy Lent!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Having So Much More to Give

There are moments when you discover the gifts of others in the midst of doing ordinary things that make one wonder, how did I miss this before now? How is it not obvious to everyone, how luminous this person is?

When a student gives a beautiful response to a question, or writes an amazing paper, or does the opposite of what one expects, (given past behavior), these are the moments that make teaching worth more than the pay of a CEO.  When I look at the teachers of the school where I work, I know they live for that moment, even the ones who pretend to be jaded, for the surprise of a mind awakened, a heart turned, a soul suddenly filled with fire, wanting to take on whatever the future brings. 

More than once while pursuing this career path, I've been asked, "Do I think I could handle it?" and thus it seems, I should answer this serious question.   My thoughts run the gamut from "Of, why not?" but when I'm not being flippant about it, when I look at the reality of what is involved in the day in, day out of teaching, they are to me rather like parenting.

 I know three things:

I will have days when it is hard.
I will have days when it is harder,
and I will have days when I wonder how I could do anything else.

The reality is, like it is for all these teachers, and all these students,  we all have so much more to give, and our zeal and talent and efforts fluctuate with the seasons and needs of our lives.  I want however, the opportunity to try.   I'm sifting through the landscape because I also know, I tend to want to give...and thus for me, the question is should I.  I think that's what this Lent for me is about...getting quieter, listening more, and allowing myself to be uncomfortable with not yet knowing, and searching for the answer to it. 

My initial answer is yes.  I can.  My secondary answer is...I will do what I find I am allowed, and trust that gift, be it what I do now, or something else, is something I can and should do. 

I didn't know I could raise ten children until I had to raise ten children.  Much of my life has been discovering the limits I placed on myself were just that, limits, and that those limits remained until I believed they could be challenged.  My own eldest daughter constantly shows me through her force of will, how much can be accomplished by forging one's own will into a thing of iron. I keep thinking, hers couldn't get stronger...yet it continues to be further forged.

So what does it mean about the writing?  Not a thing.  I'm a big believer in the both and, as opposed to the either/or, and I need writing, whether to focus my thoughts on parenting or anything else. In writing, like parenting, like teaching, like everything, there's always more to give, it's just a question of should we give it, and will we.   We all have so much more to offer than we know. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sunday Musings...Getting Ready for Ash Wednesday

Yesterday, I read an article which irked me, because it took to task people who offer Spiritual advice from a Catholic perspective without having degrees or jobs which back up their offered counsel. I'm not linking to it because I'm only citing my response to the accusation, not to the article's main points itself. I chaffed because professionalism of the faith feels anti-Catholic to me. We specialize in people who aren't experts. Saint Peter was a fisherman. Saint Matthew collected taxes. Mary, the Blessed Mother, was a young unmarried girl. The Catholic Church loves and celebrates rookies with abandon. However, the article struck a nerve because I'd also recently read comments on my own work which called one of my pieces a waste of space. The comment got likes too.
(I know, first rule of the Internet). So I sat there worrying, am I wasting other people's and my own time? I don't have a degree in anything theological. Even worse, I knew I was experiencing false humility. I wanted to justify myself and wanted the credentials at the same time. I wanted to be...but I ain't bonafied.

With all of that kicking in my head, today, I read the news of a friend of mine, (online), who is experiencing great success and joy, an acquaintance of mine, (who I would like to call friend), who likewise participated in a women of faith conference and I felt both happy for them both and after a while, envy. I didn't like that about myself. I should be happy for both. Instead, I felt jealous, like why aren't I in that circle too? Why haven't I arrived as it were...and all the demons were present at once in that moment. I wanted the attention, I wanted the company, I wanted to be recognized....and envied those who have it...who earned it...who deserved it...and who probably, didn't envy anyone else their success. The earlier article resurfaced in my head. I am no expert on God, the Gospel, the Church or life, no more than anyone else. I have no credentials save experience and whatever I've absorbed from reading books and articles and listening to wiser more studied heads than mine over the years, So what business did I have feeling envious? These women did the work, I didn't.
Yuck. That's what I thought of my soul in that moment, laid bare with all its meaner, weaker, crueler, stupider desires. Except I knew one other thing. Spiritual battles will use truth without charity to get us to sin, or charity without truth (Whichever works), just as long as the attacks get us to focus on us and what we want, rather than on the blessings of our lives, the endless gifts, the joys and treasures, pleasures and bounty of our own lives. Sin and love cannot exist in the same space, one or the other will be deprived of the oxygen it needs to survive. How one fights off the erosion of soul the Devil uses to dishearten, and thus destroy us is an act of the will, and a combination of fasting, prayer, alms giving and the sacraments.

So I was reminded in mass, if I wish to grow in gratitude, to grow in joy, to grow in being a woman of faith for the right reasons (out of love of God and not my own glory), I must pray for others. If I want to be a woman of faith, I have to start working on this plank in my eyes, which prevents God from being seen through mine. I know, we're never finished. We've never arrived as long as we're here, on pilgrimage in this wasteland, seeking a home we've always known, but haven't yet reached. However, it would help if I saw better, if I weren't kept from fuller joy by wanting to somehow make the "A team," if I didn't care what team I played on, or whether I got to play at all, if all that mattered was cheering on the whole Church to victory.

Lent beings this Wednesday, and when I thought, what must I give up for not merely the next 40 days, but forever, it's allowing the need to be affirmed, approved, accepted and honored for showing up or doing the work which is required. To be able to recognize always and everywhere, I'm merely a servant, and an ungrateful one at that, doing only what is required. I need to go to Our Lord to listen at His feet, rather than to read off to him my rosary and list of needs. I need to need less to be in front, I need to practice more listening, more silence. I need to go deeper into the desert.

Honestly, I think giving up diet coke and chocolate would be easier for me. When I write these things, they're my attempt to pull out of my own heart, what it is I believe and why. The words are an offering. So I'm not an expert nor am I acquiring said degree credentials. Like everyone else in this life, I'm trying desperately to not be distracted, discouraged or dulled by my own desires to be something less than God aspires.
That's the real rub of it. God's plans are bigger than mine, better than mine, more luminous, happy, joyful, beautiful and glorious than any I can dream. Why wouldn't I want that? Happy Ash Wednesday March 6, 2019.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Over at the Register Today

Trying to write more, and today I discovered I have one over at the Register.  It's always a pleasant surprise.  I wrote this a while back, and sort of channeled a commercial, or at the very least, a salesman, who had a tough sell.   Come Join the Catholic Church.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!