Friday, November 19, 2010

Ssshhh!

Whatever happened to being quiet in a library? I just don't get it. When I was growing up there were 2 places that didn't permit talking, church and the library.  Okay, well at least the Presbyterian denomination didn't condone making noise of any kind.  I think the congregation would have fainted if even a clearing of the throat took place. I know what your are thinking, that denomination isn't known for their exuberance.  I can't speak for other types of churches so I will move on to library etiquette. 


Back in the day talking in a library was just not done.  Even now I break out into a cold sweat if I were to feel a sneeze coming on.   The librarians I grew up with would have "sssshhhhed" you for just whispering let alone talking. I was at the local library a couple of days ago and was astounded at what I heard.  Truly I am not use to that.  What's that you say?  The noise level. It totally had the atmosphere of any other public place. It really didn't even seem like a library because the noise was  so out of place.  The majority of the noise was people noise.  They were actually carrying on conversations just as they would outside or in their own homes. Something else I was shocked to discover was that it wasn't just the younger people who were breaking that unwritten rule.  So there blows the whole Generation XYZ theory that kids are all selfish, spoiled and have no respect for anyone or anything. I encountered people older than me breaking the rule, some of them Grandmas.  I know for a fact that they knew better. 


Not only was loud talking contributing to the noise level but so were someone's heavy fingers on computer keys, speaker phone conversations, moms who didn't remove their crying babies, printers that were making a racket and finally the librarians, forgetting their "quiet voice", while helping others. There totally isn't any respect any longer. The library used to be a place of rest and relaxation. I'm not feeling it!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Balancing Act




Yesterday was progress report day.  One of our kids brought home his progress report and knew he would be in trouble because of what the report showed, no progress. He was in a horrible mood then and woke up in a horrible mood.  


That morning the way he left for school didn't sit well with my husband.  My husband isn't used to seeing the kids off to school.   By the time they are ready to head out the door he is long gone and almost to the office.  He has missed the hugs and the "I love you and have a good day" departures but he has also missed the tears, the frustration and the indifferent attitudes.  I've become pretty good at letting that stuff roll because it is a quick process.  Usually when they decide to get upset it is right before they walk out the door to go to school.  I also do not seem to have a problem with getting drawn into a situation already in existence.  If my husband and son are sorting through things and it begins to get heated I can assist but I've  realized that it has nothing to do with me. It will be okay.  My husband, on the other hand, takes it to heart which changes his mood.  When my son left down in the dumps on that morning he took my husband with him.  I hate seeing that.  My hope is that someday both of them will learn to recognize that they are responsible for how they feel.  Then I hope to realize that I am responsible for how I feel too.


I am the resident Libra and my role is to make certain everyone is in good spirits.   I can't help myself.  I don't like  to see anyone unhappy for any reason.  I also don't like it when there is conflict.  I try to do my part in dispersing the conflict but sometimes that doesn't happen.  Okay, if I really want to be honest there aren't many times that that happens.  


I would like to be brave enough someday to conduct an experiment. What would happen if I handled the conflict differently?  Right now what happens is I begin to feel the situation shift into an unknown area.  I don't necessarily know where its going.  What if I said to myself,"Okay, things are out of control but it doesn't involve me."  If I could just get a handle on being okay with feeling that things  are in a jumble and it's still okay.  To me it isn't appropriate.  I need to validate my own feelings.  I validate everyone else's feelings so why not my own?  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tis the Season

I read an interesting article today in Yoga Journal regarding interactions with family.  Perfect timing because as the holidays approach many of us, including myself,  will be in close proximity to those we call family.  This article suggested that we look at this time together a little differently.  "What can I learn from that person?" is what we need to ask ourselves instead of "Why am I getting so annoyed?"

My first thought was actually more than one thought.  "Are you kidding?  What could I possibly learn from _______.  How about a lesson in what not to do?"  I'm sure we've all been there.  There is the family member that tries to "one-up" the others, the family member who loves to see fault with everything, the family member who is so laid back it's irritating, the family member who just sits back, the family member who forgets there are other members who may not share his/her harsh judgement and you get the point.  For some people they might not have an issue with any of this and for others it is stressful.  So, what do you do? 


 Usually I take  a deep breath and try to melt into the couch, wall, or wherever I happen to be at the time.  I choose to not deal with it. This isn't helpful because the next time  I have to do it all over again.  The article offered up another solution.  Try to find something about the person to celebrate.  By finding the good in someone you become compassionate toward them and then your relationship changes and ultimately you look at all relationships differently.    Whatever you dislike in someone is also present in you. What???  Seriously??I really took the time to think about it and found that it is totally true.  Most of the time I don't reveal these traits but I do have my moments.  Remembering this is key.  


I have been known to try and "one up" others, convert others to my way of thinking, procrastinate and openly judge others.  I'm sure some people are just as stressed out when I'm in the room.   If you don't find this kind of communion in your own life then you aren't looking hard enough.  Trust me.  After reflecting, I could probably complete a book based solely on things I do that I condemn others for doing.   


There is a lesson(s) to learn in every relationship if you just dig a little deeper.  You will thank yourself for it later.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Don't Worry Till it Comes



                                     

Since reading several books by Eckhart Tolle and Gary Zukav  I have tried to take what they have said to heart.  I have changed my life, more specifically my outlook on life and what is important to me.  I used to be a big worrier.  I worried not only about the past, present and future of my own life but worried about everyone else's life as well.  If they did not think they had a problem well then I'm sure I could find something. I wouldn't disclose it  but instead would carry it around with me.


  On top of the worry rested perfectionism.  An ulcer was the physical result of the self-created stress. Daily I was reminded of the physicality of it all not only because my stomach hurt but I was always so tired. At the time I didn't see those things as being related. I hated living that way but didn't recognize I could do something about it.  I could never eat a normal diet.  Quite frankly I didn't know what to eat so I didn't eat much.  Now I certainly don't have that problem and perhaps have overshot the mark. Back then I was young and I made the choice to rest the world on my shoulders and it was literally eating me up inside.


Since that period of time I have slowly graduated to taking life a little less seriously.  Even in situations that could be, and usually are, perceived as tumultuous,  I have had moments of not thinking about whatever it is.  I got pretty good at releasing the obsessive thought and replacing it with focusing on the present, directing my attention on whatever I was engaged in at the time.  In my adult years I have had a lot of practice.   Recently my pattern of thought started shifting back.


Yesterday afternoon I  missed a phone call and the person had to leave a message.  The message was simply," This is Gloria at Northside.  I need for you to give me a call back."  Northside is a hospital that I went to last week for my annual mammogram.  The drill is after several days they call you back with the results.   Normally if they do not reach a patient they leave this message "Your mammogram came back normal.  See you in a year."  The message she left for me just told me to call back.  That was a little unnerving. Two years ago I had a recalled mammogram, which is a very technical way of saying they needed a better picture.  That mammogram came back normal.


Before my mind went to the "C" word I decided to take a couple of breaths. Instead I focused on my drive home.  I looked ahead at the road, the trees, the sky,  and then my thoughts drifted down to  my body.  How did my body feel against the seat?  How does the steering wheel feel in my hands?  Does the seatbelt seem too constricting across my chest?  My chest.  Will everything be okay?  What will they find?  At that moment I realized my foot felt a little light on the accelerator.  I looked down at the speedometer and sure enough I wasn't even traveling the speed limit.  It even took me a minute to realize where I was on the drive home.  Scary!  I made myself refocus.


I know this will probably not end up being breast cancer but in the event that it does I have made my mind up that I cannot waste my energy on that kind of negative brain activity. I'm going to do my best to push the toxic thoughts away and fill up that space with the present.  I'll deal with things as they come or at least I'll try.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Love Fall!!

For me there is nothing like the heart of fall. I love being in the middle of it.  Here in Georgia fall doesn't last long enough for me.  Right now, in this brief period of time, is when I take the time to reflect and make changes.  Sometimes it means starting over. I like to take the time to see what is working in my life and what isn't.  I also look at what can I do something about and what doesn't need as much of my attention. This helps me grow.  It's kind of like weeding the garden.  Every once in a while things get overgrown, or out of control.  All I have to do is take the time to take a look.  What is weighing me down?  What have I been putting off?  Have I paid enough attention to my spiritual life, my husband, my kids, my pets, my family and friends?  Do I need to make some changes?  Do some relationships need work and do other relationships not require so much work?  Am I focusing on the right things? What is really important?  Some really deep questions but really only one question really needs to be asked and then everything else will fall into place.  Am I doing things from a place of love, happiness and joy?  If I am not then maybe I no longer need to be doing it.  I wish I could apply this to the laundry, cleaning up dog messes, kids messes, my messes, ... 

Monday, November 1, 2010

We Cannot Wait For Education!

My husband came home from work, one day last week, with a glint in his eye.   He told me that a co-worker suggested going to see "Waiting for Superman." After listening to his brief description he had me hooked.  He knew he would have me hooked though. The movie deals with a subject close to my heart, No Child Left Behind. "Waiting for Superman: is a documentary about the cracks in the public school system, many of which seem to stem from  No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  NCLB was created to make certain public schools educate all kids.  That was and still is it's intention.  My husband knew I would be all over going to see the movie because we are swimming around in the mess right now. 


 In Georgia,  the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), given at the end of the school year,  is used as a measure of accountability, making certain that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is being adhered to.  The schools begin reviewing for the test the moment the school year begins. No, I'm not joking.  My daughter loves to make the announcement every year.  Students in grades 1-8 take this test.  The results help to not only uphold No Child Left Behind (NCLB) but it also ranks the schools and provides funding to those schools who make the "list" of schools passing the test.  Those who do not pass the test fall under a different category, one that parents do not even want to think about. These scores hold the school systems, schools, the teachers and the students accountable.  Funny,  but it's the students who take this week long test and the teachers who have to make certain what they have taught is enough for their students to pass the test.  If a school as a whole does poorly they are penalized.  They will not receive the funding that is given to the schools that pass.  Who is helped by NCLB? Are the students living in suburban middle and upper middle class neighborhoods who happen to be good test takers the only ones being helped? Are the only schools that are helped the "good" schools?  Don't you think it should be the other way around? 


This is the side of NCLB that we do not see unless we are in the middle of it. "Waiting for Superman"  gave viewers a glimpse of this underside.    It was packed full of statistics that are very discouraging.  The movie also made mention of the fact that even in areas where kids are not disadvantaged,  scores on the standardized tests, like Georgia's CRCT, are not the best. Disadvantaged students still remain at the bottom and it doesn't seem there is any hope for them unless there are changes made within the system. 


The CRCT covers a different subject everyday but only certain sections are used for grade placement.  Yes, the results of the CRCT place your child in the next grade, unless they do not pass.  Grade 3 has to pass the reading portion of the test to be promoted to 4th grade.  Students in 5th, 7th and 8th have to pass the reading and math portions of the CRCT in order to advance to the next grade.   If these students do not pass the test,  the classroom grades will be used as the  determining factor as to whether or not a student would be retained or allowed to continue.   There is an opportunity for a retest before school lets out for the summer.  Summer school was offered previously to help these students but due to budget cuts some schools cannot afford to offer it.  In instances like these the teachers are forced to take a week during class time to review and then retest before school ends in May. Each school  and school system is held accountable but is the accountability placed where it needs to be?  "Waiting for Superman" talked about this very thing sighting example after example of why the system is failing the kids.  Too many variables in the accountability aspect of NCLB to even consider it to be helpful.





 The movie does provide alternatives.  One of the suggestion is putting your child in a Charter or Private school.  The movie is of the opinion that would be a better choice because these types of schools are not bound by standardized testing like public schools are.  In a charter or private setting, teachers can teach the way a student needs to learn instead of "teaching to the test."  Also the movie is of the opinion that it is easier to remove an unqualified teacher from a Charter or Private school than it would be to remove a teacher from the public school system.  This may be the case but  I can think of a couple of friends who have their kids enrolled in private schools where there is a teacher or two that, in their eyes, "Needs to go, but no one can get them removed." So, paying extra, $10-12,000 per year does not guarantee "special privileges." In my experience as a parent of elementary and middle school aged children,  attending public school, there have only been 1 or 2 teachers total that I seriously thought were not a good fit.  One of these teachers may have not been as qualified as I would have liked but there were other factors that played into the school year from hell.  It wasn't just the teacher.  So, my children have been taught by many different teachers over their school career and I could only come up with 1  teacher that potentially was not a good one.  That is pretty remarkable. From my point of view the problem is the system not the teachers.


One more thing, aside from having good teacher experiences, that helps parents get a better handle on their child's education is being involved in your school.  "Waiting for Superman" also stresses this point.  I would almost say it is the most important piece of this puzzle.  The system is not going to change anytime soon.  That is just a fact.  Staying in touch with your children's teachers lets them know that you care.  You are sending the message that you care about the teacher, the student, and the school.    Get involved in your school if you are not already.  Also, make certain you are up-to-date on how your child is doing.  Do not just rely on progress reports or report cards.  If your child is not having a positive experience at school you need to know as soon as possible so that you can sift through your options.  Just be an advocate for your children because we cannot wait for Superman :0)

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