In Doing the Watching: I’ve Discovered You Are Extraordinary.

“There’s a container of ordinary that I have lived in for so long.” This is the statement that I wrote on a notepad, ripped it off the top, and tucked it inside my journal. If you know me deeply, on the most intimate and up close and personal level (like “hey Pam, that’s just TMI, stop please.”) you know I am going through ‘something’ right now. It’s BIG and DAUNTING. Heartache. It’s pushing and pulling me in ‘extra’ ordinary ways.

It’s a ‘drama queen’ saga (still trying to let go of those days and that part of myself). This heartbreak is a supreme catalyst moment for me, and it is my present-day-journey. In the process, I have reinvigorated my prayer life, my trust in my Lord (yes, Christ-Jesus), and drawn in closer and in deeper relationship with my truest (and most dear) of friends. Thank you, God, for them. And your Grace. They are, you are, extraordinary.

But here’s my best part:

In this heartache, I have also re-discovered something else: the  ‘minor characters’ in my life story. They matter more to me than ever. Their souls and stories I find myself in terms of endearment with, silently praying for and rejoicing with them.

Their stories

Are

Ones of Hope.

Threads of Love that delicately make up the fabric of my day.

There is the fellow-single mom who is fighting cancer with such dignity and grace, that I want to pour healing oil into every cell of her body. She will be miraculously cured.

There’s the dapper-divorced gentleman (who grieved the loss of his marriage around the same time I grieved mine), who took a HUGE risk, traveled over-sees to meet and now marry the woman of his dreams! I wish I could gift them a hundred years of joy together.

There’s the fellow-instructor who, in many ways, is my instructional mirror: She’s the read-a-holic with her students, as I am the write-aholic! In my mind, we traverse book clubs and writer’s retreats together in our old age!

And, then there is the friend, who frequently finds herself ill, be it with anxiety or much needed surgeries. She is desiring daily to become emotionally and physically stronger. In my heart, I see her already as a picture of fit and healthy. How I’d love to give that snapshot to her someday.

And, there’s the ‘new teacher on the block’! So gifted, talented, conscientious and dedicated she reminds me of why we do this work of teaching: PASSION. She’s ‘capital I’ Inspirational. She is gifting me with a renewed faith in our profession.

And, there’s all the gorgeous young souls, who I pass by in the school hallway, and who sit in my classroom eager (and sometimes not so eager!) to learn, to write, to share. These “minor characters” I adore most. Because, in my daily-struggle, in my “unbeknownst” to them heart-ache, they accept me.

They need not know my pain, my fears, my regrets. They simply accept my smile, my lessons, my feedback on their writing, the strategies I offer. Sometimes we muddle and sometimes we rejoice in harmony. And I accept all they offer too. It’s quite lovely being minor characters in cahoots!

They (meaning all the above) are really not “minor characters”, by any stretch!

I remember a couple years ago, right after my divorce, a powerful “major character” in my life script told me: “People will be watching you in the years to come as you grow.”

I took that to heart back then.

And I have maneuvered through life a bit since then. Still maneuvering!

So, there has been a bit to watch.  It really has been ‘ordinary’, however.

And, little did I know, when those words were spoken over me (be it blessing or curse) I’d ever feel more inspired to be the one “doing” the watching. Discovering the extraordinary. Wanting to be a blessing, rather than the blessed.

Sure, my own story is compelling

(definitely more to me than to anyone else! Thank you, God!).

But Your stories are Hopeful.

Gorgeously Hopeful.

And, at this time, Hope is the place I prefer to stand. Because it’s extraordinary to watch You maneuver through life a bit.  It’s extraordinary to be even a bird’s eye piece of Your life script. I am Your “minor character”!

It’s extraordinary to take my eyes off myself, look up to God for my faith, and then look forward to seeing You. Because I find You extraordinary.

Because ‘minor’ or ‘major’ You are extraordinary.

I Thank God for You.

Blessings and peace,

Pamela Rae.

 

 

 

 

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A “Don’t Quit” Goat Yoga Inspired Poem to Start the School Year!

One week left before the new school year starts! Green leaves will turn to amber and shorts to snow pants! Play to studies. And free time — so seldom it may tighten our chest – will turn to work. But hey! There’s still time to capture one or two more fun and hopefully “out of the box” summer activities!

My daughter and I said a big “YES!” to Goat Yoga! 

Goat Selfie G and Me

For one full hour of yoga, as we rose into downward dog or stretched into extended child poses, we were jumped on and climbed on! Sharp hooves, dug into our skin. Oh! We were cutely bleated at! And treaded over with such bountiful, playful energy that only baby goats, scrambling for treats and new terrain, can bring.

Goat and G wants food

It was sunset on the farm!

The “kids” (what baby goats are called)

were getting one last chance for recess, before being tucked in for the night!

Goats and Gracie 18

But the pictures brought me a new realization: to baby goats, their work IS recess. OR recess IS their work! And I decided to write a “Goat Yoga Don’t Quit” poem, to help me mindfully reset how I think about the school year, and the ‘work’ to come!

Enjoy!

When life gets hard, as it usually will

And your daily chores involve climbing paperwork hills,

When your energy is low and your stress is high,

When you want to head to yoga, to breathe a deep sigh,

But the load is unending — it tightens your chest —

Remember the Kid Goats – they make work look like rest!

 

Life is challenging: with traffic jams and all there is to learn!

Each person is dolled out troubles; everyone gets their turn.

And many a technology glitch comes about —

When you might have planned a lesson better, just don’t pout –

Remember the grassy weeds, that between the rocks grow!

The Goats view this as cud, and the farmer need not mow!

 

Often the 3:05 bell is much nearer than,

It seems to a tired and tense teacher – a busy clan!

Often the Academic seems to have given up,

When she might have read the paper that lifts her up!

And she remembered, too late, the Goats playful go-round,

How that one little bleat is such a energetic sound!

 

Challenge is success when the reward is about

Finding something fun in the Standing Mountain of doubt!

Oh the Kid Goats, jumping up on backs and arms!

Their persistence for frolic and fun — anywhere they are!

So the next time your stress is close to creating a fit,

Remember the Goat Yoga Creed: your hills are where they sit!

goat up close good pic

And just in case you wanted to read the “original” Don’t Quit poem, here it is:

See the source image

Wishing you a fun and frolicking School Year!

Nutmeg at Goat Yoga

Blessings, peace, and “may your work be more like recess”!

Goat and Me

Pamela Rae

“To Climb or Not To Climb”: Living with Intention and My Messy “YES”.

Choice. To write or not to write. For months, I have chosen the latter: thank you but no thank you, Word Press. I have a mountain of reasons, but mainly, I have found it a chore. One more to add to my grocery list of things to do: childrearing, paying bills, teaching and cleaning. “Writing” – hit delete.

But last week I said “yes” to something: “Yes, I’ll hike Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.” Albeit a hesitant “yes” at first, and filled with fear (False Experience Appearing Real) of FLOPPING. Really, I mostly wanted to go to enjoy the company, mainly. And the expansive view. But from the moment I first saw her blue background summit, I realized completely this view would come with a price: Crag upon steep crag, ridge upon rocky ridge, a sharp burning in my legs, and the heart-out-of-my-chest-pounding-price.

Sweat was inevitable. I knew that. Pacing my breathing, a must. But at one point, the face of the rock, to achieve the next landing, as I was headed 3,000 feet up, was so steep, so smooth, and so fiercely impossible I said out loud, as my hopeful fingers searched for just one tiny crevice to grasp to gain momentum: “I can’t do it.”

And then the voice of my amazing climbing partner, at my back (who always has my back), encouragingly and forcefully said, “You can. Yes, you can.” And then, somehow, there was no other option.

I could.

I found the tiniest sliver of a groove, one that wasn’t there two seconds before; I engaged my biceps, and my willful mind, and pulled. And then I Billy-goat-hopped it all the way up to the next plateau. Ha!
I can do it!

And that’s the moment when my hesitant ‘yes’ moved into the hooray “YES!” A sweaty, messy “YES”! It moved from the circle of stating the intention (“I’ll climb Mount Monadnock”) To living the intention (I am climbing Mount Monadnock) To achieving the intention (I climbed Mount Monadnock! Ha!).

Mt Monadknock with Jaime

In deeper reflection, last fall, I wrote this in my journal:

“Stop thinking about the work. Find the flow. Fuel the flame. Forest fire your life… make messes!  Get dirty, build bridges, or just bake brownies. Whatever you do, find the process, find the love – without worrying about the *WOW* factor. Finalize OR Flop. Either way, something and somebody moved! And it mattered to you!”

Moving and Mattering in the days, weeks, and months to come is my intention – in all my messes, my building, and my baking of brownies (gluten and dairy free btw – still searching and experimenting for the tastiest recipe!).

And mostly in my teaching and my writing.

I hope to say a lot of yesses to Word Press this year.

AND A lot of other “YESSES!”, too.

If I have stalled in the past, it’s okay, cause I am moving again – finding grooves and biceps of strength that were not there just two seconds ago!

With intention. With encouragement. With a messy, sweaty yet emphatic “YES”!

Won’t you join me?

Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae

 

The Shades of Black Movement: “The Inevitable Answer to White Supremacy, The Great Gatsby, and The Power of Now”

“Is it worse to be a ‘cheater’ or a ‘white supremacist’?” I ask my sophomore ELA Eighty. The voices go silent.  The students are trying to figure out the response that their ‘white female’ English teacher might want to hear.  This BIG question is one of the many we are exploring in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The silent student atmosphere is begging for me to deliver

“The Answer”…

Why?

In a world where social and cultural conditioning happens, both, cheating and white supremacy,  are difficult ‘wrongs’ to discuss. My students are predominately non-white. Mainly, immigrant family descendants. They are those who are subjected daily to the present day U.S. Administration’s new immigration policies and viewpoints.

I walk the line by touching this topic today.

Or any day.

Being white (albeit the blonde is from a bottle),  I can not possibly grasp their  experiences with racism. Kindly, no one speaks this to me, but everyone in the classroom knows it.

Mostly, me.

To understand context more, here is The Great Gatsby back story: Tom Buchanan, a major character in the novel, is an elite “old money” white male living in the Roaring Twenties: a time when American millionaires increased by 400%, prohibition was rampant, and the Jazz Age pushed integration into mainstream society – a time when “anything seemed possible” according to F. Scott Fitzgerald. A time when progress bucked tradition. Tom’s “woman in New York”, yes, his mistress, continuously calls during Daisy’s (Tom’s wife) dinner party, creating a stir amongst the guests. To add some salt, Tom has been reading a book: The Rise of the Colored Empires. It’s by “this man named Goddard…it’s all scientific…The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — utterly submerged,” states Tom and he states it “violently”. It’s this supremacist attitude that creates quite a “disgust”  in the inner thinking of the book’s narrator, Nick.

And quite a disgust in the English teacher who teaches the book (um, me).

And it’s this white supremacy attitude that I am questioning them on when I ask poignant question #1 : Which is “worse” according to Nick, in the 1920’s, white supremacy, or cheating on your spouse?

To ease the discomfort, my students and I stop, research the internet on the book “The Rise of the Colored Empires”, and discover that like stark white supremacy, it does exist.

Then, I strategically read to them a carefully researched excerpt from a 2013 article in The Atlantic:

Just-released census estimates say that by approximately 2043, the white majority in the United States will indeed be no longer… For the first time in more than 100 years, white deaths in the U.S. over the past year exceeded white births. At the same time, earlier than predicted, the majority of births were to black, Hispanic, and Asian mothers. William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution told this morning’s New York Times, ‘These new census estimates are an early signal alerting us to the impending decline in the white population that will characterize most of the 21st century.‘”

“Students,” I say, “Here’s poignant question #2. Does this mean, according to the article, there will be more people of color in the U.S. in 2043 than people who look white, like me?”

Again, silence. 

My doe-eyed, beautifully brown-skinned-student-souls stare, again begging me for my interpretation. Perhaps, they don’t want to hurt my feelings about their amazing, powerful dominant genes, or maybe they do NOT fully grasp the concept of their potential, yet.

Before giving them my opinion, the one they SO desire and deserve,

I wait…

(This is what we English teachers call a “pregnant pause”:

a place to build up suspense for the dramatic comeback.)

Then, I exclaim, “YIPPPPPPEEEEEEEE!” as my hands are up in the air in a ‘stadium-like-wave’ fashion,  I finish with, “It’s about darn TIME we see countless shades of black!”

Some smile. ALL stay quiet.

Then, I lay truth out, in more understandable terms:

 

“No matter what the present-day administration says or does, my beautiful students, white-decline can NOT be stopped. I, being white, have recessive genes. You, being shades of  black, have dominant genes. From biology class last year, we got educated in how the Punnett Square works: dominant genes overtake recessive genes. Darker shades overcome lighter shades. If the stats are correct, in the U.S by 2043, darker will be predominant over lighter.

Although I will be in my seventies, I will gladly live to see it.”

According to Eckhart Tolle, in speaking the above,

I’m in The Power of Now (The book I’ve been ‘into’ lately).

 In this ‘present’ moment, I let years of “resistance go” by saying

“the words”…

The words I have been desiring to publically say for years.

Here’s my English Teacher Poetic Rendition:

There is intensity in Shades of Black.

Heaven knows best: deepening from dusk, then twilight, to darkest of night.

Ah!

Beauty in Pigmentation.

Depth.

Stars adore Depth.

A Unity Bath.

My fellow humans, and readers, we are uncanny beings.

You know, the magic sparks that make color (and often gender) disappear:

Ah! Human Beings falling in love!

In that state, colors truly fade.

Inevitably prejudices do too.

Ah! 2043: Countless Shades of Black.

The Voting Poles.

I see it now.

Biases “fade” out.

Along with fences, deportation, and fear. 

The Shades of Black Movement.

It is exactly how Eckhart Tolle informs us in The Power of Now.  Tolle suggests when opposition presents itself, here’s how we can handle it:

“Feel the mental-emotional energy behind your need to be right and make the other person wrong. That is the energy of the egoic mind… acknowledge it by feeling it as fully as possible. Then one day, in the middle of an argument, you will suddenly realize you have a choice, and you may decide to drop your own reaction… and [let go] of the entire emotional energy field inside you that was fighting for power.”

So, in English teacher fashion,  I write a note to you Tom Buchanan, and all who “fight for power”. I write it in unity for 2043, The Shades of Black Movement:

Dear Mr. “Supremacy”:

Best to release your attachment to your egoic energy. Because “Tick tock” goes the clock… though you continue to fight for supremacy now, time is running out. With an artist’s pen — your “need to be right” will be beautifully blotted out.  Stars adore the night sky, and your “opposition” will be overcome.

And this white female teacher is cheering and educating it on.

                                                                                     Sincerely, Teacher to The 2018 ELA Eighty

 A peaceful protest march in my future?

Maybe not.

An empowering voice in my daily lesson plans?

Definitely yes.

So, I will ask poignant question #1 when I teach The Great Gatsby again next year, and the next, and the next, and the next — till the day I need not ask any longer.

Because one day, my “Yipppppeeee” and stadium-like-wave will no longer be comprehended.

The question will no longer be “poignant”.

Because The Answer will have been delivered. 

Because my students will have the answer.

Because They will be The Answer.

Because they ARE The Answer.

As They Have Always Been “The Answer”.

And That Deserved to Be Said.

Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae,

A “2043 Shades of Black Movement” Member

 

 

To Stomp Out Jealousy, I Write Along Side My Students: STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!

Writing. It’s a constant. I think about it. Read about it. Dream about it. And even when I’m not publicly publishing it, I am all about it. Eighty Sophomore English Language Arts learners (here after phrased as the ELA Eighty) are dependent on me for it. No joke. High school diplomas lay in waiting on account of me doing something about writing — And I am speaking about my ‘writing’. Not theirs.

To inspire My ELA Eighty to craft, I craft, too. If I’m not crafting, why should they be? Simply put: They shouldn’t be. And they are less likely too.  BOTTOM LINE.

“Halt!” my fellow-educator-over-worked-colleagues say, “That’s a hefty expectation considering how much grading I have; what about family; what about ‘me-time’ What about the LAUNDRY!?”

Respectfully, I’m SO with you on these points. To take care of all life’s demands, someone still needs to invent the time machine. The Fall Festival, homemade Shepard’s Pie (the only kind my picky nine-year old eats), writing Teacher SMART goals — were all on the ‘demands list’ this week.

To add to it, Wednesday night I built a Monster Tree!

(inspired from When a Monster Calls for my read aloud session in the school library on Friday afternoon).

Then, Thursday night, after the nine-year old’s Fall Festival,  I read and commented on the ELA Eighty’s Scary Poems (more on that in a moment) —  Oh, distant hills were a’ calling: “Run, sweetheart, RUN!”

Sprinting would have been an option, if it wasn’t for one thing: the Green Eyed Monster named ‘Jealousy’ that intrudes as I watch my students’ crafting experience.

There, I admit it. Jealousy often motivates me to craft. NO! Not envy of  ‘great’ writing, hell, no! — I’m happy drifting towards average — Jealousy over the Process.

As an ELA teacher, nothing excites me more than reading and sharing amazing phrases, like these by Maya Angelou: “Just like moons and like suns/With the certainty of tides/ Just like hopes springing high/Still I’ll rise” (from her poem “Still I Rise”).

Instead, I’m jealous of the “look of writing” that forms on faces engaged in crafting: it’s called ‘flow”.

Also, I’m jealous of the struggle of writing (trust me, I detest struggle), the: “I’m trying to figure out, over a series of hours and days what I really want to say!”

And I’m jealous over the “opportunity of writing”, called: “FORCED OPPORTUNITY!”

You may know it as this experience:  “I really don’t want to, but I have to”. It’s an academic catalyst that sounds like, “I have this assignment to write for Professor Ortega…” It’s that “something is hanging over my head feeling”. Sounds familiar, right? Sounds just like the five loads of laundry waiting for you feeling, right?

Speaking of “flow”, sitting to write has different expressions for different writers.

Here’s a few Pros interpretations:

Brenda Ueland equates it with “stringing beads in kindergarten — happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another” (from If You Want to Write).

Martha Beck calls it  ‘deep practice’ in her Light into Light course (I took it over a period of four months).

Julia Cameron calls it, “the thrill of chasing anything with words” (from The Right to Write).

Elizabeth Gilbert equates it with, “sneaking off to see your lover and making out with each other like crazy” (from Big Magic).

And An English Teacher’s Interpretation:

I equate it to being a spring chick inside an egg, poking and prodding to get free: pushing through life’s barriers (like Shepard’s Pie, laundry, and SMART goals ) to birth poems, essays, speeches that I never knew I had energy to birth.

 

WIN_20171020_13_39_09_Pro_LI

I finally admit it: There’s MONSTERS in my classroom! (Emojis and hopes of ‘World Peace’, too)

 

So how do I stomp out “flow” jealousy?  When I assign the ELA Eighty writing, I assign it to myself, too. Hell, living with a green-eyed monster is just so non-productive.

So, as I write along side my students,

I trade in Jealousy for Inspiration.

I trade Frustration for Compassion. That feels kinder, happier. Productive.

And this week, my students and I reflected on Author’s Craft: italics for emphasis, repetition for remembrance, and description for visualization — we wove these techniques into our assignment: Write a Scary Poem (it’s October in New England — full swing for Halloween).

And as I mixed in making PEP commentary on their rhyming lines,

 I wrote a poem, too.

 

WIN_20171027_15_34_46_Pro_LI

We practice PEP to offer writing feedback: Praise – Encourage – Praise!

And, it happened! I was ‘alive’!

As I rhymed about my fear of Frankenstein, I was transformed. I became bug-eyed Igor, the evil doctor’s assistant – yes, the funny Mel Brooks version – eyes protruding, hunched over, viewing the electrified creature rising. Too stout to run for distant hills, Igor faints, half out off fear, half out of amazement, as the deceased-parted beast rages.

Image result for igor from frankenstein

Igor, or “I” Gor as he insists on being called, in Mel Brook’s comic version of Frankenstein.

 

 

And transformation also happened for the ELA Eighty, too: visceral fear! Red headed clowns attacked them, bullies in allies beat them, wrinkles withered them,  monsters ripped flesh from their bones, and, the most dreaded of all Cell PHONES alluded them!

They laughed, they cringed, they complained – but they were “chasing words”.

And you know what, there wasn’t a hint of envy in that room.

Because we were all “Making out with an idea”.  Hell, yes!!

You ask, high school diplomas

will be gained

by me crafting

a scary monster moment?

Sounds too simple, right. Maybe it is that simple. Maybe not.

But I risk more than diplomas when I don’t write, as I instruct the ELA Eighty. Because every time I write with the ELA Eighty,  I trade in ‘jealousy’ for ‘inspiration’! And inspiration is SO productive.

And, I certainly trade in finished and folded laundry

for my little “quips of imagery and imagination”!

Rewards do come in different shapes and sizes!

On Tuesday next week, the classroom will be transformed into  “The Scary Café”. The ELA Eighty will arrive, final draft of fearful poems in hand. We will read aloud, open mic style, our monstrous musings.

Anticipatory goose bumps mark my skin as I envision it!

I can’t predict how many will read aloud (this first coffee house reading is all about the ‘choice’). I can’t predict how much fun we will have. But I can certainly say that the ELA Eighty, and their penning ‘professora’ will be productively present.

You know who won’t be?

The Green-Eyed Monster!

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!

Blessings and Peace to you and ALL your Crafting Endeavors,

Pamela Rae

 

Listening to the Landscape of the Heart: What a Single Mom Does With Time Off: UPDATE!

I love to talk but, I am listening more. To others, yes. And mostly to the landscape visions of my heart. Three months ago, I got honest about feeling depleted: not knowing what to do with myself when my vibrant nine year old is off adventuring with her dad. When I attended my 30th high school reunion, I re-found my fifth grade best friend, Jenn. My heart stirred. I wanted to see her again. I wanted to recapture the fun, silly, “class dreamer” that thrived during high school — I wanted to see her (meaning Pamela) again, too.

So, I meditated. I listened. I got clear. And I planned.

I began to envision the things I love most: walking with a friend on the beach, farm fruits and flowers, nostalgic novels, memory making with my parents, and grooving to ELVIS (yup, I said ‘Elvis’).

Then, I pulled out the calendar, projected ahead, set dates, sent text messages, and penciled in the plans on the paper calendar (yup, I said ‘paper calendar’)

This past weekend was the realization of one of those projected “dates”: a morning outing with my friend Jen. Despite a cloudy day, Jen and I planned to eat breakfast, stroll, and reminisce at Front Beach in Rockport, Massachusetts.

It became our time to become chatty-giggly-preteen-girls again! 

 

We spent the morning revisiting over fluffy omelets in Nate’s Cafe, reimagining frolicking fun in a stone tower overlooking the sea, and recreating high school memories in a scenic garden: “We could play cards in the tower overlooking the beach…” I dreamed, “…or we could redesign our Senior Pictures, as they would look today.”

We giggled. And we did it!

This is our mini-senior-picture-photo shoot revised in present day! (circa 1987)

We laughed: “This is what forty-eight year old women do for fun; they  ‘photo shoot’ each other!”

We also deeply appreciate the roses,

the clapboard homes sitting at the shore,

and the open, warm hearts of one another.

Before we said goodbye, we projected our next outing (maybe camping with our significant others: her boyfriend Bruce and my daughter Grace). In our final conversation, Jen sweetly stated, “Pam, you were so cute. You planned this a month ago.  I am so glad you did.”

“It’s how I need to do things,” I stated,  “I have learned. If I want to enjoy my life, the moments I get to re-energize, then, I project out, plan, invite, and show up.”

We embraced. We let go. We now hold on to next time.

As I continue to explore the Landscape of My Heart, I realize that this is what living is really about. Yes, projecting and planning. But mostly, embracing, letting go, and holding on to next time.

We view our ‘unfolding’ life much in the way we gaze at an ocean vista, taking it in all at once, and then one sentimental section at a time. We then allow the memories to be re-lived like the foamy waves moving onto the shore…one at time. There’s then a gentle joy in placing our hands in that liquid-like dreaming. It makes us want to reach out and embrace again and again and again.

So to my gracious girlhood companion, thank you creating new happy-memory ripples this weekend. Thank you for projecting and planning with me. Thank you for embracing the Landscape of My Heart. I carry you there, forever, and I hold on to our “next time”.

With Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae

 

On Taking Myself “Not So Seriously” and Undoing My Cultural Conditioning

I go “deep” a lot. In this intensity, I ask myself the big questions: “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” “Why did I EAT that!?” Recently, I figured out that my answer is in “cultural conditioning”, a topic I plan to explore all year long with myself and with my grade 10 students.

Forgive me,  but I didn’t even know Cultural Conditioning really existed until three years ago when I first read the memoir Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. In one of their Tuesday Talks, Professor Morrie Schwartz asks Mitch, his former student, and now a high profile sports writer: Why do people need to be number one? What is “wrong with being number two?” With this question, Morrie also completely silences a crowd of basketball fans cheering “We’re number one!”

That is a perfect example of “Undoing Cultural Conditioning”: Asking ourselves, and the crowd, “What if we believe the opposite to what the “standard/norm” states?”

Just “google it” (talk about conditioning!), and here is what will come up: “cultural conditioning is the unconscious process by which we are socialized to adopt the ways of thinking or behaving.” 

No, ‘Undoing Cultural Conditioning’ is not us playing the “Blame Game” for our life gone wrong.

This is the Conditioned BLAME GAME: “it was my co-parent’s (ex-husband’s) fault that we got divorced, my mom’s fault when my Italian temper flairs, and my teachers’ responsibility that my work was more important than goofing off for hours after school, and now as an adult I NEVER have fun.”

Playing into these resentments, anger episodes, and the “all work makes Pam a dull girl” life is just old news. Old News that can be re-vised.

Here’s HOW:

This year, is the year to see how it feels to entertain the OPPOSITE thought, TO TRY TO write a QUESTION in THE OPPOSITE of what society, the church, and even my beloved family have taught me (or conditioned me) to believe.

Then, I will try it on in my mind, and potentially an action, to see if the “new belief” feels better than the Conditioned one.

And IF I get serious, it looks like this (hold onto your chair and hair!):

  1. What if divorce is the beginning of the life we really want to live, instead of the ending of, or evidence of, the failure of a “commitment” we could not keep?
  2. What if Staying Single and Childless means we are adventurers! We love ourselves so much we want to nurture our own soul completely?
  3. What if when we have a temper tantrum, a mean streak episode, a negative thinking pattern, or finger pointing moment it is because we have triggers that are easier to nurture rather that nix? NOT the other person!
  4. OR, what if, when someone is cruel to us, we decide to go soft (and maybe silent for a bit) on them, instead of thinking about a 100 ways to get even? OR, what if I say to them, in the moment of their meanness, after taking a deep breath in and then a long breath out: “You are hurting my feelings, please stop.”? Then ask: “Why are we in this place of hurt?” And LISTEN.
  5. What if, before we go to work each morning, we spend 25 minutes in solitude and in breath. Maybe we add a couple yoga cat stretches — instead of hitting snooze 5 times? NOW, there’s an “Undoing”!
  6. Lastly, What if, what if, we wear “cat ears” to work? Even if we work on Wall Street! Even if it seems not ‘gender appropriate’ —

YIKES! Can we brave the storm of embarrassment?kittenearsNow, I am NOT saying we have to have “National Cat Ear Wearing Day”

(although that would be FUN)

or that we throw out the idea that first degree murder is definitely WRONG.

I am also NOT suggesting that certain ways to safely pound a hammer, confidently boil water, or strategically drive a car get revised either!

World chaos is not the goal.

What I am suggesting, is to take a look at our pain (or our pleasures) and try to figure out if we are living out a pattern because society, our parents, or our teachers placed it there.

And, one way to get there is to become “conscious” (instead of unconscious – as the definition suggested) of our “conditioning”. We can do this by taking time to breathe, stretch, contemplate, and EVEN HAVE FUN more.

Especially if we can get conscious in the moments

where we feel a triggered ‘rush of negative emotion’.

I invite you to ask yourself as we enter into this fall season: “What do I enjoy?” “Why do I say that?” “Why do I do that?” AND YES “Why do I EAT that?” And if your answer is something like, “I don’t really know” or “That’s how my dad did it”, please go to the next level of thought:

which means attempting a degree of intensity that might feel awkward…

…being silent in your breath. Try a full minute to start. Set the stove timer, close your eyes, sit up straight by elongating your spine, and breathe in and breathe out softly. Hold your attention on the breath.

When the timer goes off, STOP. Now. Open your eyes.

Then, whatever you discover, acknowledge it –

be nice to yourself about it –

be compassionate to YOU.

Love yourself no matter what the discovery may be,

even if no discovery happened today, at all.

And then, after this meditation I like to respond by:

  1. Giving myself permission to smile. After all, I made space for important ‘work’ here.
  2. Looking into the eyes of someone I love. Love is the Great Healer.
  3. Going someplace pretty in nature — or at least imagining a delightful spot: nature relieves my need to be so ‘serious”.

This photo initiates all three responses from my soul: Smile. Love. Delight.

sunflowers bridge 2017

I go “deep” a lot. Yet, I am going “light” more, too. Asking BIG questions of my inner self pulls out the need for this kind of self-compassion.

Ultimately, I am undoing my conditioned habits of mind, discovering who I really am, what I really believe and honoring Pamela.

The residual effect: becoming more compassionate of others.

My hope is to Gift my sophomores at least a comprehensive level of why they behave and act in certain ways. And to feel my compassion as they process it along the way.

In the meantime, I am still going to “google it” when I have a question, have Italian temper tantrum moments, and maybe even point a finger (or two).

However, the laughter and love I offer to myself afterwards will encompass my Being…

And hopefully, if you know me, yours too.

With Blessings and Peace (and a ‘cat eared’ smile),

Pamela Rae

 

 

To ALL Hurricane Rescuers, Responders, Rebuilders: You Are the Eye of the Storm

I had an evil dream on Wednesday night: I witnessed a young African American boy get shot, heartlessly in the back, in the most unsuspecting way. He fell to the ground and lay, helpless on his stomach, face down, and completely still. Although he bled profusely, his heart still pumped strong, sustaining his young potential-filled, innocent life.

After achieving this destruction, the raging, furious killer did not leave the scene. Instead, the killer hovered, trying to ensure that his victim, as well as several other innocent victims on this same scene, were most assuredly deceased. This hovering, relentless murderer had succeeded in stealing the life of all his victims, all except for this one strong child, who lay still, just about to rise, just about to crawl to seek help…

…and the furious killer approaches him again, ready to completely gun him down…

…but then a glimmer of hope appears. It is me. I show up to help him.

In this young man’s bloody gaping wounds, he teeters on being killed head on by this evil force, and when I appear, I appear, NOT as a person, though (remember, this is a dream!), but as a Calm Voice. Not fully as an angel. More of an energy source. A Rescuer.

I whisper in his Ear: “Do not cave in. Stay down. Appear dead. He will leave. Then, rise.”

As I speak this quietly, there is no panic in the survivor. With gratitude, he listens. The destructive force, satisfied, departs. The young man rises, moves to safety, and thankfully survives.

Upon waking, in a state of concern, I decided to process this dream. As, this dream was part of my homework assignment as a Light Writer.

You see, I have been taking a writing course with Martha Beck ( a writer and renowned life coach) called Be the Light, and my assignment was, “after a meditative state (for me it was sleeping and a dream), return to consciousness having received a gift of knowledge.”

My dream was my meditative state.

My “A-HA Moment” was when I became The Rescuer.

The ‘Knowledge Gift’ is:

 as a teacher

I offer a place of refuge, calm, and hope

for my struggling, and often very troubled students.

As a teacher, I am always a Rescuer, a Responder, or a Rebuilder.

Hope is found in my classroom.

That hope is my voice.

That hope is me.

However, Much like the Eye of a Hurricane,

The hope is not a permanent solution.

It’s a RELIEF…

A place to learn, process, and believe that life can and will get better.

And isn’t this true of anyone who comes into our life, offers genuine kindness when we are surrounded by the worst, caught in a tangled mess, that we have fallen victim to?

People who are kind are the EYES of the “Hurricanes of Life”.

They whisper sweet musings, offer a cup of water (or tea with honey), or they may even say something that, many years later, as we lay face down wounded, is whispered back into our memory and saves us.

Or, in the midst of a real hurricane like Harvey or Irma, The EYES may literally be the ones who pick us up from swirling waters and become our heroes, as they lead us to safety. And the ones who show up later to help pick up refuse and rebuild.

So, as the raging Hurricane forces continue their relentless harm, I am sharing with you, my readers, the poem I wrote originally dedicated my students (based on my above dream).

I wrote this poem as a reminder:

together, in the solidarity of helping and learning,

by offering one who is weak our strength,

we can and will overcome all darkness.

I now, on this September 11, 2017, include in the poem’s dedication  ALL literal and metaphorical Hurricane Hope Holders. ALL Rescuers, Responders, Rebuilders of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and those yet to pass us:

Thank you for being the eyes of kindness, strength and care in such fierce times.

You will not cave in.

You are our Pause of Peace. Our Glimmer of Growth. With you at the helm, we will not only rebuild, we will heal.

Here’s OUR Declaration of HOPE (written as a poem): 

The Eye of the Storm — by Pamela Rae

The storm is descending;

Ocean and earth swirling with a ferocity of wind, water, and waste.

Intensified by gripping fear, biting panic, and bitterest of evil…

How is it that Inspiring Seas and Clouds of Clarity become Devastation Demons?

This is the nature of the Hurricane.

 

Then comes the Eye:

An angel’s voice in the midst of the chaos,

Singing a momentary song of solace,

A refuge from tangled intensity.

The Eye is a slice of what is desired:

Meaning in the most un-meaningful;

Relevancy in the ripping irrelevant;

She is the pause of peace.

 

What is the Eye of the Hurricane?

A sign of hope in the midst of destruction.

The glimmer of growth in gashing, gaping wounds.

The calm voice in recklessness of rage.

 

This is the Eye:

Temporary shelter for all who are truly unsheltered.

Harmlessness in hissing horror.

This is also the Eye:

The center of a hurricane.

A portal the heavens open,

As a singular signal of hope.

Just before the worst crushes down and around.

 

Take warning:

In the presence of the Eye do not rummage through the rubble.

Wait.

Breathe.

Watch.

Learn.

 

Although the Eye speaks of peace,

She warns that life will still go haplessly wrong…

Heed her warning.

 

 

Not a permanent presence, the Eye acknowledges:

Pulverizing brings purging. Then peace.

But first,

Trauma will hunger for Healing,

Homes for Rebuilding,

Communities for Renewing.

 

To some, the Eye intensifies anxiety.

 

Do not fear the Eye.

The Eye is not the ferocity.

Though she stands at the storm’s center,

Here is where her power lies:

The raging storm surrounds her.

Yet, she caves not in.

She prevails in what would seem to crush her,

Because she is the energy source in the darkness,

She transforms the rage into rays.

 

Who is this Eye?

I am this Eye.

Because,

I am your teacher.

I overlook your tragedy,

By creating a celestial calm in the worst of your conditions.

I am this Eye,

By soothing corruption through my whispered words of sanctuary.

I am this Eye.

 

As your teacher,

Let me be the Eye of your Hurricane.

Let me stand at your pain’s center,

Offer you a poetic pairing to match your misfortune,

And tell you a tale of others who have gained glory, gorgeousness through despair.

 

I will not cave in.

 

The storm is touching the edge of this earth.

Yet, I am the Eye who longs to look into your eyes.

From darkness of devastation, we will bring light.

Together we will weave whisperings of hope.

We will be the Eye.

 

I am your teacher.

At the center of our hurricane, as the storm descends,

We will weave whisperings of hope.

As this is the nature of the Eye,

This is the nature of the teacher.

I am the Eye.

Be the Eye.

 

In the days of repair and renewal ahead, may we continue to pray for the deepest of healing caused by all the literal and metaphorical hurricanes in our hurting world.

And I pray that healing, that rebuilding will truly come.

Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae

American Rapper Nelly Nails It: “It’s Only Just a Dream” as Our Lover Named “Summer” Departs…

It’s true. Shakespeare did say it best, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”. The great bard warns us: realize that you are an actor in a ‘temporary’ life, because your days will come to a conclusion. Take advantage, Shakespeare advises, always give your best performance!

And when it comes to cautionary tales, Nelly nails it too. in his 2010 melancholy “love-lost” song Just a Dream, he reflects “So I traveled back down that road, Will she come back, no one knows, I realize, yeah, it was only just a dream.” Some journeys are transient, Nelly urges, you will wake up, and the good times will be just a memory, so fully enjoy your beloved!

It then occurred to me,

“Isn’t Summer the Lover we all long for?”

And, as she gets ready to depart,

Nelly, you (my dear reader), and me can be sure of one thing:

this 2017 ultimate lover, named Summer,

like Nelly’s long gone ‘shawty’, is not coming back!

So, what’s a warmth-deprived New Englander to do?

Nelly says something in the second stanza of his rap, that picks me up from a potential depression: “Cause I can still feel her in the air, See her pretty face, run my fingers through her hair…”

Thankfully, no one or no thing, Nelly suggests, be it a lover or a warm summer evening, ever leaves us without some lingering, happy memories…

I notice, as Nelly croons, he’s all constricted emotionally inside: “She left me, I’m tied, ‘Cause I knew it just ain’t right.” Clearly, at the moment he sings, he is so sure — she WAS the ONE. And he states, “I blew it.”

In other words, he didn’t appreciate her. So, she left… And I can relate.

Because, in New England, our greatest love affair is with Summer. She IS “our” ONE. We wait for her, nine long chilly months. Whether we appreciate her or not, she always arrives. But, she always leaves…

Through icy-cold sleet and mounds of snow we fantasize of her arrival.

And upon her long awaited knock on our door, oh we know, she is BETTER than the fantasy.

For two months, we then play like small children in a wide open field — the possibilities for adventure seem endless!  And like any good lover, she (or he) shows up well adorned. Our beloved brings flowers. Our beloved brings sweet treats. Our beloved holds us in warm arms and showers us with endless affection. 347363B5-9570-449B-AAAC-33A0D931F3FE

Our beloved is Fun. Delicious. Delightful.

We bask in what Nelly says, “She was (or is) so easy to love.”

But then, our adored Summer does “move on” from us…

Oh, it’s true, Dear Nelly:

“It just ain’t right.”

Why does she need to leave?

We didn’t ride our bikes enough, wade in ocean waters long or deep enough, sleep late enough days — and I know I certainly need to eat a whole bunch more sticky cotton candy, powdery fried dough and refreshing gelato before this shindig passes! Sleepinggracie (2)

Nelly, I understand the internal tug of not wanting my lover, my Summer, to leave me… maybe, if I could give her just a bit more appreciation… then, maybe she would STAY…

Nelly with remorse you state, “Now they’re gone and your wishing you could give them everything.” And I begin wishing the same.

But wait! Right at the height of Nelly’s regret, he does something spectacular!

He begs us, the objects of our lover’s affection, to do something right now, before it is too late, it is the opposite of remorse it is revel:

“If you ever loved somebody put your hands up; if you’ve ever loved somebody put your hands up; if you’ve ever loved somebody put your hands up.”

Nelly cheers and chants it out!

AND right now I PUT MY HANDS UP! I Cheer it out!

Because if summer is my lover, before the inevitable departure, I want to touch her, stare into her eyes, linger on an Adirondack chair with her, and study with her the bees that are busy on all the flowers she has gifted me!Gracie at bridgs (1)

I want to throw a Frisbee with a hyper-active dog, and grab a kayak, take along my best friend, and float fast down a river rapids one last time before we say “goodbye”.FY 8-24-17 (1)

I want her to know: I love her. I appreciate her.

And I will always welcome her back!

I want her to know it now.

Because, Summer hasn’t left me yet!

Shakespeare and Nelly. Both are great philosophers. Essentially, they preach the same thing: life is passing us by. Life is a summer blockbuster film, with buttery popcorn and booming surround sound, visceral while attending, but our awaited experiences will be over before we know it.

And as our Summer comes to her pretty close, I invite you to get quiet (or get raucous if you prefer!), travel down memory lane, revel in the warmth of your sunny memories, and go out and create a couple more.

It is not too late.

Grab your Summer lover, one last time. Stare into that pretty face. Run your fingers through that silky hair. Feel that love-in-the-air moment by taking a deep, long, glorious breath. a place to playjpg

Enjoy the “US” while you have the “us”.

Because before you know it, you will open your eyes and start singing the refrain, with Nelly, and with me, “It was only just a dream.”

Now, stop reading and go throw that Frisbee!

I am wishing you a lovely lingering Summer Dream.

And in case you do get a bit melancholy:

There’s good news: Summer is the lover who will always return 🙂

Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae

My Love Letter to ‘The A.H.S. Class of 1987’ Following Our 30th High School Reunion: The Ties That Bind US

 

There are ties that bind us.  The year 1987.  The acronym A.H.S. The school colors: red and white. And the beauty in eyes, smiles, and personalities that have not been seen in years, but are never forgotten. Here’s my proclamation of love to you all and the ties that forever bind us.

FIRST and FOREMOST, there’s Dave. More handsome (um, and muscular) than ever, who, when he hugs us in his strong welcoming arms he communicates “I love you”. And, best of all he actually says “I love you” out loud, too! With equal strength of conviction. Dave, We love, and appreciate, you too. And, by the way, you deserved to be first for assisting Diane in this AHS Class of 1987 Reunion Effort. (Diane, please keep reading –you really are WICKED most awesomely important — but, this is what we call a writer’s ‘hook’! It is designed to make us all want to read to see if I mention you! So, keep going…)

Then, there’s John. Oh funny ‘Farmer’ John… your sense of humor and wit have not lost their sparkle. Your boyish charm wins our hearts again and again and then, again. That charm was not lost on me! Thank you for the Margarita! And for getting us all on the dance floor.

There’s Gayle. Our World Traveler.  My sweet, kind  girl-next-door lovely childhood neighbor and friend. We admire your adventuresome spirit!  Thank you for, without reservation, greeting me as though you were simply, once again asking if I could “come outside and play”. I enjoyed our outing. Let’s do it again!

And Jenna. Our Glinda the Good Witch. Good you are, and  oh so a little bit ‘bad’ too (which is ‘good’ of course)- which means we like your spicy fun spirit, you are vivaciously alive!  And you brought that home with bold topics, and your badass super hot good looks! Keep it up, sistah!

Speaking of good looks – there’s Dana. Our supermodel. And our super kindness role model. She’s Our Survivor (you Tough Warrior Princess you). There’s a light and love that radiates out of you that my words can not capture, but certainly your outer gorgeousness is beautifully out shined by your inner gorgeousness. Hard to imagine, true. But the whole class will surely testify to this truth.

Then, Jeff and Geoff. Our cool rock-star guitarist; and our spikey haired down-home-boy-next-door-apple-pie redhead. Both gentlemen are good-looking. Both good hearted. Both really always rocking a lifetime of ‘cool hair dos’. Thanks for not letting us down! One bearded (Jeff). One spiked (Geoff). What cool hair-look will you bring in five years? Looking forward to it.

And Jody. Our California Beauty. Who says to us all, “I think of you and wish you well all the time.” And she really means it. And she asks, “How are you?” And she really wants to know. We feel warmth in your presence – your radiant smile is our sunshine. With your sincerity, it’s summer year round. We love summer. Thank you for keeping us warm last night.

And there’s Diane!!!!!

How do we thank Diane?

The planning. The dedication. The follow through to reunite us all. Five Year after Five Damn Year, you always do it, Diane! The slide shows. The food. The ‘unknowable details of a reunion’. Well, Diane you live and breathe the details. And it shows.

You never disappoint. How do we thank Diane?

“THANK YOU, DIANE!!!!” You embody AMAZING.

Oh, and THE epitome of High School Sweet Hearts: Jeanne and Gary. Still holding hands (at the reunion — let it be known that I saw the sincerity of it) 30+ years later. Your 30 year commitment is an experience I will never live (and that really is ok), but it’s one we are all honored to witness. You two are a beautiful couple — in love and looks! Cheers to you both! Stay strong!

Then there’s the Sherwood Sisters. Spritely images of fairy-dust-like pixie prettiness. With smiles that still glow and inspire. Inseparable. Not rivals (as far as we can tell anyway!), but real friends. Fairy tale role models for sisters across the globe. And did I say they are pretty? They are VERY pretty.

And Joanna… We love you.  As the song says, “someone to count on”. And as we missed the ‘1987 group picture’, because we were recounting our lives in our 3 minutes of ‘ladies room’ chat time, I would NOT change the opportunity, or the memory of our ‘catching up’ EVER. Thirty years later, I CAN still count on you. XO and TY!

Then, there’s Brian. Still handsome. Still clean cut. Still a gentleman. Still a dancer. Still so wonderful to talk to. Still a beautiful heart. Your girlfriend is a lucky lady… And you are still so fun! And still so sweet. Keep dancing, Brian! You have both found lovely dance partners.

And there’s Fire-fighter Rick! May I repeat — Fire-fighter Rick. How does any one reunion attendee compete with the valiance in THAT? Um, We don’t. Valiant you are, Rick. You came to me, conversed with me, as though no chasm of years were between us. Still my favorite homeroom buddy, you may save me from the perils of flames any day! Can someone please second my motion?        — “thank you!”

Oh, and Jennifer G. My forever friend. My soulmate. My classwork colleague. We dock our little boats near one another for a short interlude every five years. You step onto my boat for a bit. Then, off you sail, again. You know what? Life’s waters are prettier, deeper, clearer with you occasionally sitting by my side… Pretty. Deep. Clear. My Forever Friend Jen. Keep wandering – it becomes you — but also please ‘stay’. If anyone can figure out how to do that, my artist friend, YOU can.

And then there’s MY sister: Coleen.

Where would my heart be, my breath be, my life be without you?

You are my ‘North-Star-Friend’. If it sucks, I call you. If it’s great, I call you. If it’s mediocre, hello!, there goes your phone!

We are NOT partners in crime.

We are Crime:

We can always find a way to make wrong right. OR right wrong!

Let’s keep at, and keep getting away with it! It’s what Dad would have wanted! I love you. Thick, thin, or sin. AND I’ll stop there! (*wink*)

Then there’s my classmates I do not mention here, but you were there. But Because there is not enough ‘cyber-space’ space to write it here, or was not enough time to visit last night, I acknowledge you too. I appreciate your soul. The glance we gave to each other in our ‘eye-corners’ means so much. Glances hold glimmer, too.

And LAST, but NOT LEAST:

There’s YOU:

Our Classmates who were there in ‘spirit’ but not in ‘body’. Whether you be “ill”, “too distant”, “unavailable” or “passed on (I love you, Brett)”, YOU were there.

Because, as I said, there are ties that bind us…

You know, there’s a Red and White Thread that can not be removed from your soul.

It’s tethered to an A.H.S. Acronym. It’s linked to a number: 1987.

And All these Threads are steeped in the Love of Our Memories.

So whether you came and conquered the dance floor, or were kept away, know that our chord is forever and tightly tied.

Not just by numbers, colors, and acronyms.

Our chords are also of loves, losses, windfalls, sicknesses, or beaming stories of health (and health yet to be – we love you, Rodney).

We are tied.

And be it 5 years from today, or be it tomorrow, our threads will pull us back together again.

Because we are a portion of an A.H.S. tapestry.

And some things just can’t be loosened.

Until then, A.H.S. Class of 1987, I wish you love and light.

With Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae