Monday, November 11, 2013

How we learn

If this blog is about nothing else, it may be about me discovering what I think about how learning happens, and what happens when people learn, and why learning matters, and why learning about oneself (self-awareness) is imperative. 

Sheesh!  The theme of my forties is, "Integrate, integrate, integrate."  That's good stuff.  And I am wanting to challenge myself little baby-step ways.  Sometimes working through the hard stuff of life (conflict, trauma, entrenched patterns in myself) is so overwhelming...I don't know what I need or how to care for myself in the moment well enough to be the person I want to be.  I am blessed to be loved by many people who see me through those moments of dis-integration, or who are happy enough to resume the conversation when I've found my calm again.

Anyway, here's a lovely thought on education from my brother-in-law, who rocks.  It says what I haven't known how to say.

“The purpose of education is to help us clarify to ourselves the ideas we think with; education should make us aware of our convictions and assumptions so that the meaning of our experience becomes less muddy. We don’t think ideas, we think through ideas. Concepts are the tools we use to sort, define and comprehend the meaning of events.”  

Robert Inchausti – “Subversive Orthodoxy”

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Yearly Round

Since 2010, I've been minister of Christian Education and Worship at our church, Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church.  I am still humbled and very thankful for the way this position came to be, and I feel tremendously blessed to be able to fulfill most of the obligations for this 1/4 time position from my home with my husband and children.

I also feel thankful for the times this work allows me to be off on my own for a few hours!

Since my previous paid employment involved ministry with elders, the learning curve in this "new" position has been steep.  I love children, but I have so, so, so very much to learn about ministry with kids and families.  Goodness, I have so very much to learn just about being present with my own to children.

I had a wonderful time creating this squared circle today.  Yesterday was Candlemas or Imbolc, and we will observe it as a church group this coming Wednesday when our Wednesday evening programming starts up again.  Ah...This quiet month of January has been a real gift.

I feel vulnerable putting my drawings out for all to see.  I don't draw often, but I loved decorating and illuminating papers, t-shirts, books, etc. as a young person.  When I find the time it is something I still enjoy.

I guess another thing about me is that I a.d.o.r.e. opportunities to create mandalas of meaning for myself and, with this one, hopefully some in my church family.  The feasts and observances in this wheel are not all observed at church.  Many of them are my own personal feasts, or feasts my family and I have shared with friends.

Since childhood I've had a strong desire to sacramentalize (?) my time.  To dedicate it in intentional ways.  I love the support for doing so that I find in the various communities I'm part of.

Blessings to all as we circle through the year.  If you're a Rudolf Steiner fan, you'll notice that I'm (probably) heavily, but indirectly, influenced by him.  Much of this stuff is just so instinctive, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

a glimpse into my journey toward unschooling

Sunday afternoon a young friend of the family asked me how Henry learns.  In what environment do we "have classes"?  What subjects does he study, and when?  Who teaches him?  These questions used to make me feel sweaty and afraid.  Of course children who attend fairly traditional schools will want to know what goes on in a different type of classroom, i.e. the classroom of life.  Why should I let these kinds of questions bother me?

I've come to see that it's not the question at all, but my personal feelings about breaking with "tradition."  Going into homeschooling--pondering it and such--I felt like a tourist looking on.  I didn't feel its terrain "belonged" to me.

Now I see that as a false perception--not just on my own part, but on anyone's.  Learning is not a foreign land.  It "belongs" to all of us.  Whether we or our children learn in "traditional" classrooms, or in the car on the way to the traditional classroom, we are all learners, all the time.

There's a simple truth, but it's profounder than I can wrap my head around.  Each one of us is responsible for his or her learning.  Parents are responsible for holding the space in which their children learn, and that can mean choosing to send their children to a school.  It can also mean choosing to educate them in other ways.

I now see that my job is not to educate Henry.  Neither is doing so Joel's job.  Together we have experienced that Henry learns what he wants to and is ready to learn.  We, or I'll just speak for myself, I love, repeat:  LOVE facilitating Henry's learning when he is ready to know more about something.  It is a joy to feel and witness his readiness to claim skills and explore subject areas--conventional and otherwise.

It sounds cliche to me at this point, but I can't argue with something so true it has become an aphorism:  life is for learning.  All of life is for learning.  I'm delighted to be a learner now, and delighted to watch my husband, our children, our parents, our neighbors, our wider circle of friends, continue to be learners.

Now.  I guess I was going to say something about unschooling.  I've read some John Holt and liked him.  There are websites.  Dayna Martin, a self-styled unschooling expert, has been my greatest teacher.  While I used to think, Wow!  Have you got the nerve to put yourself out there like that!  I now see her as a caring friend.  That woman has inspired me to let go of fear and enjoy life.  Check her and her resources out.  She has a powerful way of addressing the perceptions that can stand in the way of our living with the kind of joy and purpose most of us (all of us, no?) really want to claim.

She has helped me tremendously in my mothering journey.  That's for sure.  A six on the enneagram, I've got fear d.o.w.n.  What I've needed to work on is trust.  Ah, yes.  I've known that, but giving myself permission to trust rather than be afraid in a culture where parenting and educating are simply fraught with fear-based habits, behaviors, assumptions...why, THAT is another matter.

Be well, dear readers.  I cherish this space for checking in with you and myself.  Also love reading your blogs, whether I subscribe to you or have just "met" you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

self-compassion, anyone?

This topic has come to me from many directions, so that must mean it is one of my main life assignments this semester ;). 

Do you do self-compassion?

I read about Kristin Neff's book by the same title in Spirituality and Health, my favorite magazine.  This week, I found it at the local library in the 7-day checkout section, so I brought it home.  It is a must-read, I can tell.

I have friends who practice self-compassion, family members who do, a husband who coaches me in it.  I learn from all these people...

I understand what Kristin Neff is saying.  I know my inner need to chuck the absurd notion that life's a competition. 

I never did get "self-esteem," as it was, in my opinion, marketed like a tangible good, a consumer item I could go out and buy, if I followed the right steps to get to the store, or had parents who followed the right parenting style, or something.

What I do get is that I want to give my children the gift of me in a healthy state of mind.  And, believe me, I'm there sometimes.  I am not there, though, when I'm on a self-judging jag.  Oh no, I'm not.

And I'm timid about stepping away from the terra cognita of "you're only as good as the life you lead, the quality of work you put out, the cleanliness of your home or car or fingernails..."

That is enough for now.  The compassionate thing for me to do for myself is to sleep. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thinkin' 'bout stuff

A boisterous late-night HELLO to my dear real and imagined readers!  What a treat it is to read blogs and participate in them.  Facebook is fun 'n all (I really am in an apostrophic mood), but I like the reined-in intimacy that this mode of communication provides.

I am so inspired by the people around me and on the Web who seek to live awake, on purpose, and with joy.

The particular flavor of joy I've been feeling of late is the type that belongs more in the subdued joy category than the crazy, colorful joy category.

I joyfully accept that.  I like neutral colors, too.  And we're in that neutral, Thanksgiving-y joy season.  Reflective joy.

Here are some of my neutral, subdued, reflective joys:  my family, the four of us and our extended family; birthday parties in churches; my-sister's-just-become-an-art-therapist parties (love those!); a gazania plant that continues to open and close in the sun; yellow maple leaves on the windshield of the car across the street and the neighbor boy wearing Anna's hat; Anthony Bourdain; John Taylor Gatto; the Renaissance Soul idea; the fact that I am bearing witness to the people my kids are becoming; sermons delivered by a two-year-old, a four-year-old, and an almost-nine-year-old in an empty church sanctuary this morning; the powerful knowledge that I can; vegan cookbooks and all manner of cookbooks; a row of knitting here and there; preparations for an Advent spiral; a working dishwasher; love, love, love; health; delicious food; fondue, sausage, chicken burritos, green smoothies, roasted nuts, mangoes, sweet potatoes, chocolate chip me!

Amen.  And goodnight!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

daughters, cows and goddesses

Assumption of Mary yesterday.  Sunday night I had the privilege of reading this gorgeous poem while a friend danced at a vesper service in Mary's honor.  What an all-round gorgeous opportunity.

I've celebrated August 15 in an inward sort of way for quite a few years now.  But I don't know why.  I learned about the day from one of my all-time favorite books, Gertrud Mueller Nelson's To Dance with God.

I don't understand and just-plain-can't articulate my relationship with Mary, but I enjoy it.  And I suspect it points me to an even broader goddess/Sophia love.  I need to read this book next.

Yesterday I spoke with my dad on the phone.  He told me about a 24/7 dairy farm he visited in Vermont.  Robots milk the cows.  I find that depressing and disrespectful to the process of lactation.  I have been moving away from cow's milk over the last five months, and see myself continuing in that direction.  Never say never, and everything in moderation and all.  No need for extremism on this end.  Yet it's that subjugation thing at work, even (or especially) at the dairy.  The suppression of female energy, the distortion of male energy, the absence of balance.

None of it is new, and it's not getting me down, really.  But I am captivated by the exploration, by the old women I meet in my dreams, by the intersections of past and future that are as near as a baby girl's soft skin next to a mother's withered hand.

Knowing I'm never alone on this exciting leg of the journey of life is a great consolation.  I'm wondering and noticing things women have wondered and noticed forever.  And change still happens, even as the questions persist.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

on mystery, revolution and the goddess who mothers

Today I had the privilege of hearing Bess Klassen Landis share about her experience being the daughter of a woman who was brutally murdered before the age of 42.  Bess was thirteen at the time.

Stories like that aren't soon forgotten, especially when they are told by individuals who speak from a deep place of peace and surrender, as Bess did.  As I reflect on Bess's story, the songs with which she accompanied it, and the blessing that led into the silence that followed her sharing, my heart is summoned yet again to heed its job and calling:  to be true to the life I've been given, to let my life speak, to take the business of my humanity seriously and lightly at the same time.

I also had the privilege of sitting face-to-face with my mother this morning after Bess's sermon.  We don't go to church together, so I seldom see her on Sundays.  These days, I'm more mindful than ever of the ways I resemble her:  the gifts I bear that are like hers, the gifts I bear that are different from her own, and the genes within me that came from her.  My way of being in the world is both like hers and different from hers.

Ach!  I'm not remembering the truth of what I wanted to say as accurately now, after the fact, as I was when I was thinking these thoughts of profundity three or more hours ago.  Suffice it to say, as a forty-year-old woman, I take the call to live my life more seriously than I did ten and twenty and twenty-five years ago.  Time is fleeting.  It's true.  Now is the time to live intentionally and do the things I want to do.

And playing magnets with a certain adorable girl (after changing her diaper) is first on the to-do list.

Oh!  And the goddess and revolution thoughts:  I was conscious of a mothering presence--the goddess--sitting near me today as I reflected on Bess's words and my own experience of them.  She is ever-near, and I struggle to find the words to describe her salty, grassy, dry and wet greatness.  So that's the mystery, too.  And the revolution?  Well, it's just trying to claim the days as sacred, recognizing that they certainly, certainly are.