Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

This weekend I painted a grizzly bear.  The canvas is 23" x 28" and I painted him in acrylics.

This is the first time in all my years of being an "artist" that I have attempted something like this.  The project had been in my mind for some time and I had been planning out the painting so it would evoke a strong presence to the viewer.  One night as I snuggled up in bed, I decided the background had to be an espresso color...nothing else and that the grizzly would take up most of the canvas.  Other than that, I had no idea how the rest of the painting would unfold.  Would he evolve into a multi-colored abstract or would the realist in me take over and create a more realistic rendering?  The uptight, control freak in me took over and a more realistic grizzly bear emerged.

I have to say I was very pleased with the end result, especially considering this was my first time attempting a painting of this sort.   Proud of my work, I sent a photo of the painting from my phone to an amazing artist and asked for his feedback.  As much as I wanted him to say my painting was brilliant, I knew he would give me some honest criticism.   And he did.

He was able to look at my painting through trained eyes and bring to life the issues I was having with the painting but couldn't see clearly because of my motherly pride in my creation.  Each of his assessments was dead on and now I can look at my work more objectively and see where I can improve.

The most important thing he told me was to "practice painting at the end of your arm.  Stand in front of the canvas and with the brush in your hand, extend your arm.  Get NO CLOSER to the painting than that...ever!".  But, but, but, that would mean letting go....giving up the intense control I have over my brush....what if the end result looks like hell?  What if my hand shakes?  What if I can't do it?  Then he told me that I "have a very good core talent...just relax and let it lead you."  Oh God.  Relax??  Let IT lead ME?

My painting is always done at my drafting table.  I have a table top easel that I can prop my work on so I can see it better.  But the canvas is always right there, under my nose, under my control.  Painting at the end of my arm would require me getting out of my comfort zone.  It would require me getting out my big easel that has never really been used because I couldn't get up close and personal with my canvas. It would require me letting go and letting the painting lead...me.  Could I do this?

But, as I valued the opinion of this artist, I knew I needed to follow his instructions.  I knew I needed to drag my easel out of the garage and set it up in my studio.  When I walked into the garage and saw the easel hanging on the wall, out of the way of everything, I felt like a kid in trouble.  I knew what I had to do but I didn't wanna do it.  I reached up and took the easel off the wall and made an audible "ugh" sound.  Dammit.  He was pushing me out of my comfort zone.

I needed it.  I knew I needed it.  But I didn't wanna do it.  But I had to do it.

I brought the easel into the studio, set it up, and put my new canvas on it....ready to be painted "at the end of my arm".  I swear the canvas laughed at me.  It did.  It smirked.

Hah!  I'll show you, I stupidly said to the canvas.  I'll show you that I can get out of my comfort zone and paint at the end of my arm and create something beautiful and meaningful.

So, tomorrow....I will go into my studio after ten hours at an elementary school and get out of my comfort zone in front of an arrogant canvas and paint at the end of my arm and see what happens.  I know that when I have let go in other areas of my life beautiful things emerged.  So I have to trust that beauty will come from this as well.  And I do trust that it will.

So thank you Richard, thank you for your honesty and your direction.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, August 6, 2012

One Lovely Blog Award

1) Thank the blogger that nominated you.

Thanks so much Jen at http://welshjensblog.blogspot.com 

2)  Give seven random facts about yourself.

1.  I want to be a writer, artist, and photographer living in New Mexico.  Is that four in one?

2.  Wine is my favorite beverage.

3.  I love the smell of rain.

4.  Ghost stories creep me out.

5.  I want to protect the wolves and their habitat.

6.  My favorite place to be is in the mountains.

7.  I think Big Bang Theory is a hilarious tv show.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Insalata Caprese - Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Salad

Soul mates...I truly believe that there are those people in the world with whom we have such a bond, such an intense connection that the union is absolute perfection.

I also believe that certain food combinations create culinary soul mates.

Insalata Caprese is a sumptuous pairing of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil which boldly echoes the colors of the Italian flag.  One of my favorite salads for the summer, the flavors meld together beautifully. The full-bodied, warm, red flesh of the tomato...the luscious, creamy texture of the fresh mozzarella....the aromatic basil just plucked from the garden.  Drizzle with a gorgeous Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sprinkle with some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and you find yourself transported to a terrace shaded by a pergola of lemon trees on the tiny island of Capri.

This simple dish evokes the very essence of Capri where it became popular over sixty years ago.  The key is to use the freshest of ingredients, bursting with flavor and then allow for those flavors to create that bond, that intense connection that makes the perfect union of soul mates.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Things You May Not Know About Me, Part 1 - Old Stuff

I like old stuff.  My house is old.  Built in the 1950s, it has all the character of a sixty year old home. Even though it has been renovated and updated, it retains its mid-century charm.  The tiny living room is an L-shape.  The fireplace is flanked by brick with a cabinet to the left to hold firewood and bookshelves for my books.  My reading nook is there, nestled in the corner, with an oversize leather chair.  My grandmother's colonial style side table sits next to it.  I can turn to my left and go through glass-paned French doors covered with lace curtains that lead to my studio.

Curled up in my reading chair, I often wonder who else spent time in this corner of the living room. Did they lose themselves in a book here, too?  Maybe there was a rocking chair for soothing crying babies.  Did they have pictures hung on the wall that constantly fell off like mine do?  And who nailed the three brass nails into the mantle, ready to hold Christmas stockings each December?  It is interesting that there are only three.  One for my son, one for my daughter, and one for me.

Hanging on the wall in this little nook is my grandfather's gray fedora.  I remember Papa Peach wearing this straw hat with a striped grosgrain ribbon surrounding the crown.  The $24.00 price tag is still inside. There is a slight brown stain on the brim.  How did it get there?  I wish men wore hats again.  They always looked so distinguished, like a real man.  Are there any real men still out there?

On the bookshelf next to the fireplace is an old fishing reel that was made in France.  A dear friend found this and gave it to me several years ago. It is grimy from years of use or maybe from just sitting around waiting for someone to love it again.  Who fished with it?  Did he, or she, catch a monster fish that made for a great story for years to come?  Or, did this old reel cause the fisherman to lose that monster fish and he took it off his pole and threw it aside, never to be used again?  I'll bet whoever it belonged to he, or she, didn't figure it would end up on my bookshelf years later.

The kitchen, with its hideous linoleum floor, has a shelf that goes around above the cabinets.  It is the perfect place to display my grandmother's prairie green Frankoma pottery.  Every dish reminds me of family dinners that Grandma Peach used to cook.  I remember the bowl she used for the green beans, the dish for the pot roast, and the gravy boat. When I was packing up the pottery, I dropped a lid to a sugar bowl.  As it dropped to the floor, I was crushed, knowing it would shatter.  But no....it just bounced a little, then rolled over.  Not a chip on it.  Made from good ole' Oklahoma clay.  This stuff is as tough as its owners were.  

A few of the kitchen cabinets are glass fronts with ivy etched into the panes.  These cabinets hold my great grandmother's colorful Fiestaware and etched glassware.  I really only remember Maudie in the rest home, but I have loved her Fiestaware.  Food just always tastes better when I use it.  I wonder if she felt that way.  The plates are all scratched from years of use, forks scooping up whatever she had made for dinner.  And years later, they sit in my kitchen, still lovingly used and fiercely protected.

One of my favorite things is a blue and white gingham apron that I remember my grandmother wearing when she would make homemade noodles.  She would roll them out on the counter and let them sit to dry a little bit.  I always tried to sneak a piece of the uncooked noodles lying there tempting me.  Every now and then she'd let me have a piece, but not too often.  She told me I would get worms.  I didn't care.  That dough was soooo good!  My daughter, Caroline, models it here.

Recently, I have indulged in an old love of mine....vintage luggage.  I bought a caramel colored, leather Samsonite suitcase at a garage sale for $13.00 and the following day had a friend give me another Samsonite suitcase that was a little larger and a little darker.  After polishing them up with some Mink oil, they look almost new.  That prompted me to look a little deeper.  When I did, I found a faux crocodile Samsonite suitcase and train case.  They were both in good condition, but did they smell!  Whew!  They smelled old.  Very old.  But I love them.  These things must be about the same age as my house.  It made me think...where have they been?  Maybe to the Grand Canyon, Paris, Lubbock?  Were they packed in a rush to get an expectant mother to the hospital, or in a rush to get home to a dying parent?    Did they sit in a closet, unused, waiting to go on a grand adventure that never took place?  

This is what I love about old stuff.  There is a story there.  It is rare that we actually get to know the story behind the suitcase, or the blue handkerchief, or the old fishing reel.  But there is a story there.  These items belonged to real people, with real lives.  People who made a difference in our world, good or bad.  They existed, they touched these things, loved them, despised them.  But they existed.  They were here.  They left their mark on our world.  Who knows?  Maybe fifty years from now, some aspiring writer will have something of mine in their home, wondering about the previous owner, trying to figure out something about my life based on some old stuff that they found, and loved just as much as I did.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Favorite Things

These are my worn cowboy boots

A few of my favorite things....

* cowboy boots worn so often that they hug your feet perfectly

* the loud squeak, then POP of a screen door slamming in your great-grandmother's house

* the gentle whir of box fan to cool you off in summer

* sitting at my drafting table in my studio creating something completely unique

* curling up with my two teenage kids when they need their mama, because they still do sometimes

* hearing "Manamana...do do do do do, Manamana....do do di do"

* the silence of the early morning when everyone else is still asleep

* nuzzling noses with a horse and inhaling that beautiful smell

* grabbing my camera and heading to New Mexico to explore

* a perfect glass of wine

* trying to be mad at someone but they just make you laugh hysterically instead

* knowing that all is well in your world

* sunflowers in your garden reaching out to the sun each morning

There are so many little things in life that make us happy, make us smile. I keep a journal where I try to fill a page each day with a few of my favorite things, things for which I am grateful, people who make me laugh, words that inspire me.

What makes you happy?  Take a few minutes to think about them, write them down.  The next time you are frustrated or unhappy, go to that list...really take some time to absorb it.  You'll be smiling in no time.  Works for me!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Cave - Writing Exercise

The rhythmic sound of water dripping, echoing through the cave, creating a natural symphony known only to a chosen few.

Frigid air seeps into your skin, searching for your bones.

Gray weathered stone, decorated with limestone deposits create hazards and beauty.

A darkness beyond any black you’ve ever seen.

Complete, eery silence that will haunt you if you let it.

Silently, a bat grazes your shoulder, swiftly disappearing into the black hole.

The sound of footsteps startle you.  The light of a headlamp appears before the person.

"Who the hell are you and why are you in my cave?" 

The Door - Writing Exercise

The old, weathered cabin door swung open.  Its creaky hinges had withstood years of braving snowstorms beating against the door.  Hanging on a hook was a key to the cabin.  The twine from which it hung was scraggly from years of simply hanging.  The key was never used.  There was no need.  No one came here but her.

The window next to the door let in a small amount of light that reflected on the table in front of it.  This is where she kept her camera.  She reached to the right of the door to grab a light jacket.  It was spring in the mountains and there was a chill in the air.  Picking up her camera, she draped it around her neck. 

Before she ever walked out the door, she paused to take in what was before her.  The lushness of her mountain vista always took her breath away.  There was no one around but her.  She stepped through the doorway, onto the ancient porch.  Looking up, she smiled.  There’s nothing like a New Mexico sky, she thought.  From far down in the valley, the scent of pinon wafted up the mountain, ever so slightly, brought up by the gentle wind that sometimes interrupted the stillness.

She decided to sit on the steps for a while.  Bringing her camera to her face, she looked through the viewfinder to see things from a new perspective.  She could zoom in on the hawk sitting on the highest branch surveying the beauty before him.  She could take a closer look at the deer grazing in the forest.  There was a rustling in the distance that she couldn’t identify.  If it sounded large enough, she could retreat into the cabin for safety.  More than likely though, she’d go investigate to see what was there, taking her rifle just in case.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Writing

Image of Vintage Typewriter "Writing Machine no. 2" Fine Art 8x12" Matte Photography Print, Typewriter Keys,

Image by Anna Delores

Last night, I had my first writing class: Getting Started on Your Novel.  Considering that I have been wanting to write for around ten years and have written only three mediocre chapters on a book and less than one hundred blog posts, I decided that it might be time to get a little assistance...professional assistance.  I am also hoping to find that, perhaps, I actually do have the talent to write books that people actually want to read. 

Over the last few years, I have finally tapped into my creative side, dabbling in art, photography, and writing...perfecting none of them.  However, the writing and photography have revealed themselves to be the creative outlets I choose more often than the art.  Is it because I feel more confident with those or do I feel as if I reach a greater audience? 

I have been fighting the feeling that I must choose one mode of expression over the other, but have decided that maybe writing is more suited to me as a career.  The life of a writer appeals to me greatly and the art and photography can find a place alongside the writing.

Rather than be part of the group socializing, I prefer to sit off to the side, observing, listening, and nosing into the lives of those laughing, talking, and living…wondering what their story is. 

Everyone has a story.  Everyone.  Some people don’t even realize they have a story.  Most people don’t care enough to find out someone else’s story.  But they are there…the stories.  The stories that inspire us, infuriate us, break our hearts.  If only we all had the time to really learn about each other…at least those closest to us.  We would find greater connection, understanding, and compassion, all of which are critical to the success of the human race. 

It is the job of a writer to make the time to find those stories, to coax from Arthur the story of finding love in war-ravaged London in 1942.  Maybe the writer will learn of Maggie, who raised her seven brothers and sisters after their parents’ death and how it prepared Maggie for a lifelong career as a teacher. 

I crave connection.  I think most people do, but they don’t realize it.  People connect through stories.  They realize that they are not the only one who has experienced failure, heartbreak, or loss.  They understand that no matter how painful an experience, one can always rise above it.  By seeing themselves in another, they get a deeper understanding of this thing called “life” and just what it means to be here…experiencing “life”. 

When you take the time to delve into the life of another, you find yourself a bit more compassionate about other people.  Arthur, the 93 year-old man who lives three doors down, always sits on his front porch after dinner.  Recently he has been cranky when you and your husband take a stroll down the street.  Through neighborhood gossip, you find out that the love he found in London and who was with him for 70 years, recently passed away and he misses her terribly.  It pains him to see other people in love when he has lost his beloved Maggie.  Before long, old, cantankerous Arthur no longer sits on his front porch as you walk by.  He has found it unbearable to go on another day without her and has joined her…wherever she is.  Together, for seventy years.  How could you possibly go on without the other? 

Our ancestors passed on their culture through stories.  They taught the young ones about those who came before them.  They taught them of the sacrifices, the loss, and the triumph.  They inspired the youth of their people to do good, to contribute, to make life better for those they loved.  And then those young people grew up, had families of their own, and continued the tradition. 

The story. 

Everyone has a story.

I want to find the story. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Village Boy, Kamdesh, Nuristan, Afghanistan 1992

Today I gave my students a writing exercise.  They were to choose a photo out of a pile and write about it.  I decided to try the exercise myself.  The photo below was taken by Steve Curry and published in Outside Magazine.  It is titled, "Village Boy, Kamdesh, Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1992".

He couldn't have been more than twelve years old, but had the furrowed brow of a middle-aged man.  His glassy green eyes were filled with a lifetime of sadness, a lifetime of pain.  A dusty wool Pawkul hat with its cinnamon colored roll sat atop his head, the stubble of a buzz cut peaking out from beneath.  The dirt smudged on his face matched the tattered shirt he wore.

"I'm tired," said his eyes.  "I'm scared.  I'm alone."

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Over the last few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about my life.  There have been tears, laughter, confusion, and clarity.  Just when I think I am making progress, I often feel as if I am right back where I started.  Hours have been spent questioning just about everything...love, purpose, career.  Yet, in the end, little made sense to me.  I knew that there was a great deal I needed to learn, but I didn't feel as if I was actually getting any answers.

Today, while reading "Women Who Run With the Wolves", by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., I thought about how so many of my issues have come from not fully embracing my true self.  The last twenty seven years of my life were spent trapped...by men, by career, by limiting thoughts.  Each day I tried to make and keep everyone else happy, only taking time for myself on rare occasions.  Trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be left me drained.  I looked desperately for meaning and connection, only finding it sporadically.  In return, there has been an ever-present restlessness - that of a caged animal, always pacing, looking for an escape so I could run free and live my life the way I was meant to live it.

I had fallen prey to the control of others.  My life was no longer my own.  It was lived for everyone else.  Slowly, I began to die. Without realizing it, I tried to pacify that yearning for freedom by looking for love, new careers, and reading lots of self-help books...searching outwardly for answers, desperate for knowledge, not understanding fully what was meant when others told me to look within.  But slowly, I have started to do just that.  I have begun to get still and listen.  I am finally taking the time to really acknowledge that which is my truth.

Looking back over the last several years, I can now see that this was a time for me to heal.  It has been difficult, exhausting.  But when the body heals, it takes time.  It taxes the system, requiring you to rest and slow down.  It is the same with the soul.

By honoring the creative spirit inside me and expressing myself through that, I will find that freedom that I so desperately need. I understand now that this has been a time for me to heal, to understand that the cage is now open and that I am strong enough to leave and run wild and free.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's Yo' Dream?

What's yo' dream? Remember that, from "Pretty Woman" with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere?  There was a man who appeared throughout the movie saying, "What's yo' dream?".

So...what's yo' dream?  What's yo' passion?  What's yo' purpose?

I'm sitting here watching an episode of "Oprah's Lifeclass:  The Tour with Bishop T.D. Jakes".  Oprah is talking about our purpose in life.  What is our purpose?  She says that if you open your heart-space, that by the end of her show you'll be on the road to figuring out just what your purpose is.

How many of us go through our lives, clueless, not really knowing why we are even here.  Maybe not even giving it any thought, but simply mulling through, day after day after day, until one day...we die.  Isn't there more?  Shouldn't there be a greater purpose than simply occupying space and contributing to pollution?

Oprah says the real job of our lives is to figure out why we are here and "get about the business of doing that."  She talks about having a stronger life, a more fulfilling life, and a better life.  I think we all want a better life, but most of us haven't the foggiest idea of how to accomplish such a feat.  We don't have a clue as to how to fulfill the highest expression of ourselves.  Most people trudge through their daily lives with one goal:  make it through the day so they can go home and numb themselves with a cold beer and a bad sitcom.  I've been there.  My poison is a glass of wine and an episode of "Big Bang Theory".  But is that all there is?  Is that really what we want to reward ourselves with at the end of a grueling day?  Mind numbing activities?

What would the world look like if we all aspired daily to fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves?  I'm reminded of a conversation I once had where I spoke about how important it is for people to follow their dreams.  The response from the person I was with was that if everyone followed their dreams, who would we have to be plumbers and ditch-diggers (or something like that).  But over the years, I have been amazed by people who LOVE plumbing and ditch-digging.  I personally would rather eat dirt than do those things, but those people have found their calling.  They love what they do, for whatever reason.  I find it hard to imagine anything that could arouse passion in me when discussing plumbing, but those same people who love plumbing might be bored out of their minds as I describe the emotions I feel when a symphony of colors is laid upon a canvas.

Think about the vast amount of humans we have on this planet.  Each of us has our own talents and passions.  Those things that make us come alive.  Even if those things don't meet with societal or parental expectations, they make us, as individuals, authentic.  Completely authentic.  Imagine if we all served this passion.  Is it possible that maybe we'd find ourselves living in a more complete and fulfilled society?  Perhaps there would be less crime and hatred because people would be living in an authentic way?

What if we encouraged this authenticity in ourselves, our children, our leaders?  Can you imagine the changes we might see in people who have lived the lives they were expected to lead?  What if the perfect sorority girl who married the perfect businessman really wanted to be a free-spirited artist instead of the uptight perfect member of the community?  What if the District Attorney had a real passion to build houses instead of practice law?  What if the CEO of that big oil company really just wanted to start a school to help students in need?  What holds them back?  Societal pressures?  Fear?  Freedom?

If we really stop and pay attention, we know if we are following our passion.  Do you feel called to do what you are doing?  Does it feel right when you are there?  Do you feel purpose?

How many of us really pay attention to this?  Do we take the time to stop and listen to those voices within us that are calling, first in a whisper, then louder, and louder....begging us to embrace that which brings us true joy and happiness....that which, if pursued, will reveal our true selves?  Can we learn to stop being what we are not?

Bishop T.D. Jakes says that passion and purpose are partners.  Your passion leads you to your purpose.  What do you feel drawn to?  I can think back to my earliest days....images on the television and in magazines...those of the mountains and the outdoors always captured my attention.  Creative endeavors inspired me.  Words thrilled and excited me.  To this day, I am not excited by images of city life or crowds of people. Exclusive, expensive restaurants are not appealing.   The simpler, more beautiful things in life are what draw me in.  I want to capture them in words and images.

When we live with purpose and passion, we no longer need others to validate us.  Our expression of our ultimate selves is all the validation we need.  Imagine the fulfillment, the joy, the peace.

So, having said all that.....what's yo' dream?  What's yo' passion?  What's yo' purpose?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Responses to my letter to Dr. Goin

A week ago, I wrote and sent a letter to my superintendent about the issues we face daily as teachers.  To this day, the post has had 88 views.  I've received nothing but positive feedback from teachers and others who have read the post.

Later that same morning, I received a response from Dr. Goin.  I won't publish his letter here because I don't have his permission.  But I feel it is important to say that the letter left me feeling empty and agitated even further.

Day after day, month after month, and year after year, I see teachers losing faith.  They are losing faith in the system, in their schools, and in themselves.  We attend professional development, look for solutions on our own, and ask for help from our colleagues and administrators.  We are at the end of our rope.  Seasoned teachers and new teachers are out of tricks, out of answers.  Nothing seems to work anymore.

Maybe no one has the answer.  Parents don't seem to have the answer.  They just shake their heads and say they don't know what to do with their children.

What has happened?  Are we so overwhelmed in our daily lives that we don't have the time to devote to parenting?  I think that is definitely a factor.  Each day, as I sit until at least 6:00pm working my second job as the afternoon daycare director at our onsite daycare, I see parent after parent coming in, thoroughly worn out.  To be honest, about one fourth of those coming in to pick up children are actually grandparents who thought their job of raising children was done.  These parents/grandparents come dragging in, always happy to see the children, but obviously too tired to go home and spend quality time, help with homework, and make sure the kids get a nutritious meal.

There are those parents who have meeting after meeting about their child.  These meetings are basically a repeat of previous meetings.  The child doesn't do his homework, she is constantly tardy or absent, he sits and does nothing in class all day.  At the end of each meeting the parents shake their heads, completely lost as to what to do.  The teachers, counselors, and administrators give them a tool box full of tools to help them.  That tool box goes home and gets lost or is forgotten, and the problem continues....year after year after year.

Some parents really want to do a good job as a parent but don't have the time or support to be the kind of parent they would like.  They are struggling to keep the lights on and have to work an evening job, so they can't be home to feed their kids or help them with homework.  Some of them didn't have good parenting role models and are simply doing the best they can, which isn't very good.  Then there are those that simply don't care.  Everything is the teacher's fault.  Their child would never do anything wrong at school.  There are elementary kids raising their younger siblings, doing the best they can.  School is the least of their worries.

Are the teachers at fault?  Every teacher I know spends hours at home or after school grading papers, preparing lesson plans, making phone calls home.  Our planning periods get filled with meetings and collaborations on how to help our students achieve.  Many times our lunches are spent in the classroom with students who had to miss their recess due to behavior problems or needed to come in for extra help.  We have duties before or after school and serve on committees.  We spend our days dealing with discipline issues and trying to prepare students for the test...students whose abilities range from that of a first grader to that of a 7th grader.  There isn't a teacher I know who doesn't work his or her ass off to help these kids be successful.

Our educational system is failing.  If it fails, we, as a nation, fail.  Maybe if we would hold our scholars in higher esteem than our athletes and entertainers, we might see success again.  In my opinion, our duty as parents and educators is to prepare our children to be successful, productive members of society.  With that, my hope is that they do so by doing something they love and are passionate about.  The way our schools are being run now, there is very little hope of these kids ever being productive members of society.  They are not getting the skills they need to be successful.  The kids who might have a chance at something in life are the ones now who are getting left behind because they sit in class while the teacher deals with all of the other issues of the day.

I feel that we need a massive overhaul of our schools.  Our kids are very different from the way we were when we grew up.  Their lives are very different.  The world is very different.  So why are we operating from  basically the same system as when I was in elementary school 35-40 years ago?  It doesn't make any sense.

Friday, April 6, 2012

La beauté de plaisir

La beauté de plaisir....

The beauty of pleasure....

The perfection of perfectly steamed asparagus, lightly salted, spring green color as vibrant as the flavor bursting in your mouth as you take your first bite, savoring each delicious moment...

The beauty of a square of chocolate brought to life after a sip of red wine...who knew the pairing of these two could result in such a triumph for the taste buds?

The intoxicating scent of a gentle rain outside your door, compelling you to stop, quiet yourself, and listen.

This is the beauty of pleasure.

They are simple things in life, simple but beautiful.

How many of us stop to take in the beauty around us?  How many of us absolutely enjoy the day that we've been blessed to experience?  How many of us appreciate every moment we have, truly appreciate it?

Regardless of your beliefs, we have one conscious life to live.   Each day is precious, meant to be enjoyed to the fullest.  We need to slow down and truly experience the joy that each day can bring.  Taste the flavors, see the colors, feel the textures of life.  


Live your life....

Experience your life....

Don't simply exist.....

Find the beauty of pleasure.....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dear Dr. Goin

Dear Dr. Goin,

As the Superintendent of my school district, I felt that you should know the truth about one of your schools.  I speak for myself, but I also speak for those who may or may not have the courage to speak for themselves.   From personal experience, I know the consequences of speaking up.  I know what can happen if you question or challenge what is happening in your school.  I paid dearly for five years after speaking up.  But honestly, at this point, I feel as if I can't afford to not speak up...yet again.

I don't know of any teacher who enters the profession lightly.  We come to teaching because we are called.  We feel a great need to educate the youth, prepare them for a future that is filled with promise.  We work to prepare our students to become productive members of society.

Dr. Goin, we work diligently every day, trying everything in our tool box and the tool boxes of others to help our students succeed.  We spend sleepless nights trying to come up with answers to our daily problems.  We search daily for anything that can make it click for our students...anything that will help them understand.

After fourteen years in this district, I have found that our jobs have become increasingly difficult, less appreciated, and much more stressful.  Besides having to deal with more demands as far as curriculum, we have to deal with a greater range of knowledge.  In my classroom alone I will have students reading on a first grade level all the way to a ninth grade level.  Yet I am supposed to be able to reach each of these students on a level at which they can excel and be challenged.  Then, I am expected to do daily interventions to help those behind catch up and get on level with the rest of the group.

In addition, I am expected to increase the knowledge of my students while dealing with those whose lack of concern for their education leaves my hands tied on a daily basis.  Furthermore, the majority of these students cannot seem to understand or internalize the daily expectations and requirements of school.  They do not do their homework, they do not study for tests, they do not put forth any effort in the classroom, and they do not care about the consequences of their actions.

They realize that, really, there are no real consequences.  They might miss some recess.  Their parents might get called but that doesn't really seem to have an impact on most of them.  Most parents seem to shrug their shoulders and say, "Yeah, I don't know what to do.  He/she has been like this for years."

Your teachers are exhausted.  We are desperate for answers.  We are tired of not being able to teach because we are dealing with discipline issues.   It never occurred to me, that as a teacher, I would be dealing with the issues I deal with on a daily basis.   There is little time to teach because we are dealing with things such as fourth graders wiping their excrement on the bathroom walls - finger painting with it.  Or pulling down their pants in the hallway and just sitting there, with their bare bottoms on the chair.  We didn't know we'd have to deal with students throwing scissors in the classroom or students threatening to burn down the school.  Who knew that apathy among students would be such an issue?

Perhaps we entered the profession naively.  Perhaps we are like ostriches, burying our heads in the sand.  I don't think so.  I know that every teacher I work with at our school works diligently, every day, to teach our students AND deal with the onslaught of issues that we have to deal with every second of every day.

We leave at the end of the day exhausted.  Depleted.  Yet, we come back....each day, with a new attitude, hopeful for a better day.  I don't know of a teacher at my school who doesn't start each day fresh.  We work our tails off, trying to educate a group of young people who, for the most part, couldn't possibly care less about their education.

I can only speak for myself on this next point.  At the end of each day, I feel like a failure.  A complete and total failure.  Dr. Goin, I consider myself a smart woman.  I work very hard to do my job well.  I will try everything possible to educate my students, to make their learning interesting and fun, but worthwhile.  And yet, at the end of each day, I feel completely depleted.  Empty.  Defeated.  I feel as if I have accomplished nothing.  In talking to some of my colleagues, I know they feel the same.

The future of our students is at stake, Dr. Goin.  If something does not change, you will no longer be able to stand before us at Convocation and praise the accomplishments of the students of the Edmond Public School System.  Again, I can only speak for myself and my school.  I know that we are considered the "red-headed step child of the Edmond Public Schools" but I feel that each of our students has value and there has to be an answer.  My hope is that you will take an honest look at the real issues we, as a faculty, are facing at our school.  My hope is that the petty politics that have been a dark presence for many years will take a step back and instead, those people can take a heartfelt look at the needs of the students and what we can do for them.

The teachers at my school work very hard at what they do.  They care very deeply for the children who are in our care during the day.  As our leader, we look to you for answers....

We are waiting.


Kelli Thomas
Fourth Grade Teacher
Orvis Risner Elementary

I Quit.

Do you know how many times a day I wonder what would happen if I just walked out and said two words?  Two words?

I quit.

What if I decided that...

I will no longer put in 150% effort towards students who couldn't possibly care less.

I will no longer lose sleep trying to find a way to reach those who don't want to be reached.

I will no longer try to find fun games to teach those who don't want to learn anything.

I will no longer try to teach self control to those who won't ever use it.

I quit.

I quit trying to get you to turn in your work and not lose your pencil, every single day.

I quit trying to get you to treat your classmates nicely and with respect.

I quit trying to get you to be polite and wait your turn and not blurt out constantly in class.

I quit trying to teach you manners.

I quit trying to teach you any math or reading because you refuse to pay attention.

I quit.

I will no longer be so stressed that it takes me all night just to unwind after a day at school.

I will no longer worry that your test results are going to affect my salary.

I will no longer worry that I'm a failure because YOU refuse to put any effort towards your education.

I will no longer hate the person I become when I am at the end of my rope in the classroom.

I quit.

I will quit being so drained that I can't think straight.

I will quit being so tired that I have no energy left for my family.

I will quit being too exhausted to go into my studio and do what I love....create.

I will quit crying because I can't do anything more.

I quit.

What if.........................?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Here's to the Crazy Ones

Years ago, Apple Computers ran an ad campaign that featured a video called, "Here's to the Crazy Ones".  I've seen this video many times and each time I see it, I am inspired and further assured that I am on the right path with my life.  Below are the words to the video.

Here's to the Crazy Ones

Here's to the crazy ones.
   The misfits.
      The rebels.
         The troublemakers.
            The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. 

About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They invent.

They imagine.

They heal.

They explore.

They create.

They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

From Apple Computers


Each time I see this video or read the words, I get a sense of peace about me, a peace that never came to me growing up.  I always felt out of place, different from everyone else.  And although I realize that most people experience this, not only growing up, but well into their adult lives, I've discovered that my way of thinking parallels the way of thinking attributed to those in the video. 

I'm not sure if this has always been the case for me though.  For most of my life, I was a "rule-follower".  I was the "golden child", always doing the right thing, following the rules, trying to please everyone else.  However, over the last ten years or so, I have realized that this is not the true me.  I have found that the real me balks rules, questions authority, and wants answers to questions that no one wants to answer.  I have found myself becoming more and more verbal against things I find wrong in this world.  I see myself standing up for what I believe is right and what I believe is wrong. 

When I really take a deep look at myself, I realize this is who I have been all along, I just didn't have the courage to actually stand up and say anything.  Rather, I would have my say in the safety of my own head where no one could hear the things I was saying and the things I was questioning. 

So what happened?   Did I suddenly become brave?  Enlightened?  Fed up?  Am I just getting older and getting tired of putting up with all the crap?  Am I becoming wise as I get older?  Is courage to stand up finally surfacing in my life?  It's probably a combination of all three.  Whatever it is, it feels good. 

I feel an inner strength that leads me into my days with a peace and confidence that whatever comes my way I will be able to handle it with grace.  I know that I will be able to stand up for what I believe in, do what is right for me, and have complete faith in all that I do.  And if other people don't like it....so what?  I don't have to please everyone else in the world, just myself. 

Will I change the world?  I already have, just by being here.  We all do.  I don't know how big my impact will be on this world, but I do know that whatever it is, it will be all me.  And that's enough.

(Below is a link to the video if you've never seen it before.)


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