Struggles Before Success

Over the past few weeks I have noticed a decline in my posts, as I am sure you have. That can be good at time, lol.  One of the biggest differences I noticed when I moved to Mexico from the states, and back, was the time I allotted myself.  I say this often, I notice this “hamster effect” in the United States- meaning I feel this culture of having to do more, do it faster, and do it even more than that first more.  No matter how much I resisted, I cannot shake that effect, I step outside and it surrounds me.  For some reason, I has an invisible shield that allowed me to pull back, create a life that allowed me to find some concessions in time to allow me to think, reflect, and to write.  My blog time grew as I also grew as a person with that newly acquired time allotted.

This sounds bad, right?  Yet, through this struggle and personal battle over time, some more important realizations also occur.  The individual projects and actions I do not regret, except for one thing.  The loss of commitment to each other.  Through so many activities and events during the day, from the first class in the day, to a lunch period here, to a meeting there, to a class meeting over here, to one of my favorite past times, cross country – you see small glimmers of those coming together and earning success as a team or group,  with the secondary level of success as an individual taking a back seat.  The drive to be number one, to be the best in the United States, as well as other countries, is stronger than it has ever been.  What is so bad about that?

To be honest, not much, in degrees.  In my experience, the greatest victories and levels of success achieved have been learning the art of sacrifice and victory when you can look to your left, look to your right, and see those around you that have helped obtain that individual success.  I have struggled the past few days with a mentality that group comes second, individuality comes first at all cost.  Until something tragic occurs, and then group is needed and essential.  As a Media Specialist, advisor, mentor, coach, educator I decided to make a choice, I choose creating a familial, group mentality in all I do, in all I create, advise, mentor, coach, and educate as my mantra because at the end of the day, humbleness, respect, motivation, traditions of eating together, praying together, preparing together, getting right mentality before a big speech, project, meet, class together.  How often do people sit down together and eat, break bread, and enjoy the success and failures of a day?  if there is one thing I do not want to lose, is that aspect of what motivates us, what blesses us, what brings us together and what brings us to the point that respects the ability to do something great.  Just simply to know that possibility remains there, is enough to want to push towards a goal of being successful standing out, and wanting with those that want it to around me.

Call me old school, but I put alot of emphasis in what Cross Country provides, and can for a successful future.  What does that mean?  Life is unpredictable and I see Cross Country as an event that replicates what life can give you when you give it to cross country.  I believe:

You treat practices like life, no difference than a meet or the most important meet in the world – you give it your all, at practice, at meets, you never hold back to do better at that “next meet”, there might not be one.

You never isolate your teammates to go on their own – this means you support them when you are not running, when you are running, you simply show up.  The whole season.  Be it you are the number one runner, the last runner, or a non runner, everyone will have their moment in the sun if you are willing to give a part of that sun to another. As a teammate you are a teammate for the season, every practice, every meet, be it if you are a supporter, a participant, a coach, a manager, an athlete.  Simply being there, you are a part of the team, and nothing every takes that away.

You show up, and this means physically and mentally.  There is a moment where even when a word is not said among anyone, you can FEEL the momentum building as a team prepares for what could be their best moment. THEIR.  Meaning in it together.  Gone are the days of individuals that will not be there because they are not running, if I am on a team, I am on a team whether I am running, whether I am coaching, whether I am running, whether I am timing, whether I am scoring, visibility is everything.  In that process of this physicality, I am sending a message: I am with you thick and thin, and whatever goals you have, we will do together- whatever my role is, whatever my level of success, I am going to do this with you one way or another.  Period.  If someone, even ONE person is missing, are we a a team?  I need to know, to do my best, every single person has my back – is there is shouting for me, is not quiet when it is my turn in the light, is not absent, is not afraid to shy away when adversity rears its head, WE ARE THERE through snow, rain, cold, heat, bad days, good days, through thick and thin.  If not, we are no different than any other library, school, class, Open Mic, Cross Country Team, football team, or friendship.  

Being there through it all, amid a world that demands more more more and a busy schedule, whether in Mexico, in the United States, ANYWHERE, does seem on the way out and antiquated (meaning old school).   Yet, it has opened doors for me I never knew were a part of a house, so to speak, and it has been my salvation to learn to respect each other, learn to respect the process, and learn to respect the growth that happens inside me.  I believe this guides me and allows me to guide others to success, and does not rely on me alone.  Thanks to the personal, academic, athletic, financial, and other struggles, I have learned, despite the setbacks, and those very struggles that push back at this notion of each of us together is more important than one of us in success, yet – if I do not insist on this mantra, I see myself losing a part of who I am.

So I push forward and insist, when you do your own thing, in the light of those that surround you trying to do their thing among all of us, you are losing a part of yourself – you are making a statement saying “You do your thing, and I will do mine” and the team mantra, power of team that comes with individual success, loses a little more of its power.  I simply am not willing to lose any of its power, despite the excuses, plans, aches, pains we all feel, I relish those excuses, plans, aches, and pains when they are set aside to allow room for those that are willing to also set them aside for the sake of another, someone we consider our teammate.  That is true success – from beginning to end, and worth striving for every single day. 

It was a reality when I coached Cross Country at Seaford, and we are easily a standout without winning the top spots in Cross Country, yet plenty of individual growth and awards were achieved simply because we had a family behind us.  I feel the same when I have some amazingly spectacular colleagues and students that push back against those that do not feel the same, that  do not DO the3 same every day, and at the end of the year, month, meet, etc, you always remember those that stood behind you and supported you the whole time.  It motivates you to pick yourself up and be ready for when the next big obstacle occurs, it brings you together, and it lets everyone know you can do the next great thing, and you do not have to do it by yourself, it goes a much longer way than that one event, that one day, that one meet. 

Long term vision.  Is being there, sacrificing your own wants for another?  I have 47 years of life to tell you, it does.  I regret times where I did not sacrifice a personal moment for the time I could have been with others to push them ahead, that is what I have to offer others.  Some choose to buy into that mantra and practice, others do not, but I am stronger every day for those around me that realize they power in many and not just one. I want others to find this realization and escape the “hamster effect” of spinning in circles, when you can be making new circles with those you cherish most.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lessen the Overhead

Coming across a graphic novel by A.J . Dungo titled, In Waves, I couldn’t help but jump back into the turn of events that have consumed so many in the past few months. If you have never come across the brilliant Tom Blake, you need to definitely check him out, as he was a brilliant mind often just attributed to surfing but he represented so much more.  

In my last post, I recounted the inspirational privilege to hear Australian authors, some representing Australia’s first Indigenous graphic novelist. and accounts of a country often misportrayed through historical writing, I was relieved to find that some of the best topics are often not publicized as other topics.

On August 31st, after that first panel on International looks at Australia, and moving into the panel involving Scott Westerfeld – I was quite interested in seeing Mr. Westerfeld again but as a spectator.  Previously, in April 25, 2015, as an advisor of Repentino. and an event known as Authors Among US, we were lucky enough to have Mr. Westerfeld visit our school and have a very interesting talk.  On August 31st, Scott Westerfeld was just as inspirational and comical in looking at the developments that can change graphics and illustrations tied to the art of novel writing.  Hos workshops was a great reunion with someone who had made a huge impact on me and reminded me of where I had come from in Mexico.

As we traveled out of this workshop, one of the most historical events of the day was occurring.  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was present and conducting her interview. We stopped and watched her on the running video as well, and I have to say, she is easily one of the most inspirational individuals we have known in history today.  From fragile struggles in the face of staggering obstacles, she is easily a voice of hope in the middle of so many dark events. She is a triumph.  I recalled individuals on social media truly depicting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader in a negative light, based on her age, and yet, this shows those that are intimidated by the power of woman, and a woman no less that continues to resist giving in to a world of selfishness, vanity, and not being able to be a leader and conforming to be a follower. There is not doubt she is an inspiration on countless levels.

This only is the second segment of the amazing aspects that the Library of Congress brought out, and yet as I return to a blog post that is long overdue, one main thought still sits with me.  

With some major heartbreaking losses that words are not able to express right now, the importance of resisting the consciousness of the clock, not devoting one to a devotion of the dollar but of reserving time to take life, both good and bad, and be able to reflect on it, life is the best lived. There are so many stages of opposition to do this coming back to the states from outside the United States, and one does not realize it until they see a society that values those moments more than the dollar.  

There are people you will be lucky enough to come into contact with that will remind you to never take a day for granted and to remind you what happens when you do this.  Life opens up, becomes less hour to hour to be somewhere, and you learn alot of what makes life really meaningful.  

four

Attending the Woodbridge football game on October 4th, it was amazing to see hundreds upon hundreds of individuals honoring Troy Haynes and the inspiration he passed on every day to others.  Troy no doubt represents what each of us have a choice to do every day, and take life to the fullest, and making sure taking the steps taken will allow time to take in what potential life has for all of us, allow us to fight for the best things in life many take for granted.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words, Pages Books, Life. Repeat.

 “Meet at my place at 5:00 AM.”  “Sure!” Easily said in reply, this was one of those comments that once released, occurs at a time where either action will happen, or the thought of this happening occurs and slips away, often running.  Yet, October 31st, 2019 was National Book Festival Day in Washington D.C., at the Library of Congress, and believe it or not, it is a BIG DEAL.  Turns out Canadian artist Marian Bantjes redesigned the image of the National Book Festival,

IMG_0739and the result was exotic, elaborate and powerful. My first impression was that of a new order of Bloom’s taxonomy, one that can only result from frequent run ins with stories, ultimately books, that can only add to a life rather than complicate one.

As two friends and I made our way across the Bay Bridge and some beautiful scenery we often take for granted living in Delaware and traveling through field, water from the east coast to Washington D.C., we did occasionally drop the memories of last year, the 18th annual Festival last year, we all had personal reasons for this pilgrimage, celebrating all that comes from the written word.

I had been taken in by the story of Tara Westover – in educated, and then shocked to find as if you found a random Starbucks, Ms Westover herself in the hallway being interviewed live on PBS Books in front of the bustling Book Festival crowd. It was a privilege to experience a look into a book so inspiring, recounting her travel from a life that was shared with so many, and now able to share this moment live with a different meaning to so many people.  Yet last year being able to see Amy Tan, Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Madeline Albright, Jason Reynolds, and just a handful of overwhelming events occurring in a while of one day, that energy and enthusiasm, as well as the simple love of what is written that can influence a better future, it was contagious.   A year later, it brought us back with many plans to take in much much more, despite the recordings being available at the Library of Congress, the reality of these dreams and inspirational what could be presentations in the live, it was again contagious. 

As we turned into the parking garage of the New Carrollton metro, (weekends are FREE!  YEAH!) , we waited to bard the metro, and the usual haze that occurs with being so early in the AM, on a vacation weekend, as well as no breakfast – but a bright promise of what the day might hold.

Arriving at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, (if you are there, is is impossible to notice the resemblance to inside mobile art to the cover of the National Book Festival of 2019 ), we need before contemplating getting into any semblance of a line for entrance, finding a way to fuel up with breakfast – and finding that location as Compass Coffee.  You never forget a place that when you walk in, all your senses are brought alive.  While not a coffee drinker, the strength of the coffee invited you in without hesitation.  With acquiring a collection of Chai tea (amazing amazing rich taste),

peaches and oatmeal Kolache, coffee, taking in the feel of morning awakening, we were back at it.

Lines, despite wrapping around the corner, begin shortly, and we were in obtaining the hallowed schedule of the day and iconic poster, and one of our colleagues headed to get in an early line for the 11:30 session for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We all felt it would be the main attraction of the day – and we headed to the floor exhibits to gather materials, resources, materials, etc. to be used later in our own library and for future events. It was thrilling to see all the booths, one for every state that represented authors from every state in the U.S., (it was great, anyone can take a map and get a stamp visiting every state and then a prize at the end of the passport stops, I love this about the National Book Festival) –

and with what seemed all the booths to ourselves so early, we moved onto our first session, The View From Country- Australia’s Aboroginal Writers Jeanine Leane, Brenton McKenna, and Kim Scott.  I was definitely drawn to the international scene and panel and this drew my attention after having taught AP Literature taking on a new country as a focus and having Australia as a part of that overall unit focus – memories of what the film the Rabbit Proof Fence meant to me when I had witnessed it the first time, and I had alot of background interest coming into this panel.

Some of the largest takeaways were being able, willing, and patient enough to realize how much larger the world is than us as a society, community, and as neighbors and respecting that fact.  In addition, the fact that a country’s history is not necessarily the whole history is the history of a country without research and attention – and overall, from the perspective of a graphic novel, novels, and poetry, this was a moving experience full of an awareness of others,  in may various ways, belief, history, the written word, as well as culture that helps defines so many aspects of us as citizens of the world.  This was almost too good of a start to the first workshop.  The books each represented were all added to my to-be-read list.

Despite having a calvacade of event that have interrupted my want to post more frequent blogs, and having a summer of hurdles and contemplation, there is no better way to return to so much to celebrate in the past months starting back with The National Book Festival.  Stay tuned for a glimpse of a second/post look into this amazing day. The second session we will begin the next post with concerns our session on graphic novels and pop culture.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Trio of Hope

Maintenance swooped in and before you knew it, a simple wall that served as slideaway divider for courses in literature, science, mathematics, robotics, advisement, Critical Thinking and much more revealed to become a ballroom proportion of celebration.  2019’s Math & Science and Classic Upward Bound adapted, grew, and learned how to meet the ever changing needed of a world often insensitive to populations of need. 

Not enough can be said of an institution that houses a program that reins in students that would easily be lost to the opportunities of promise and potential and present these as possibility (say that 5 times fast).  Individuals that will go on to become actuaries, medical pioneers in cures for cancer, doctors, civil rights activists, legislators, medical emergency and program staff, educators, and a legion more of changing the future individuals are motivated, accelerated, and prepared for a future that initially held no potential for their success. 

Not enough can be said of the efficiency of the maintenance group that day in and day out can make the transformations needed at Del Tech to allow these day to day changes happen for the faculty and students.  When the students see this transformation, they see how an institution like Del Tech at Georgetown reinforces the idea of adapting to a world that changes around them.  Add to this the technical assets of running sound and displays As Mr. Russ Hamel did, and you again have the benefits of what seems to happen at the snap of fingers, and realization sinks in that media specialists such as Mr Russ, who served in the Air Force, used his expertise and patience to display from 6 – 8 projected images at one time during the Classic Upward Bound Awards Ceremony, and do with grace.

Students rose to the challenges of a country that at many turns puts down the element of diversity that hinders this country and forgets the diversity that made this country.  These students represent a huge diversity bank of education and potential, are here to remind the country, give us your all and we will make it all greater.

100 years.JPGI get it, most people see the teaching profession as a summer off, part of the year, with holiday time position that offers so much more vacation and opportunity for freedom of most occupations.  I have found out if you are content to be a teacher, that is great, if you want to be an educator, there are never summers off.  Let me count the summers I have had off, the evenings I have not carried a master plan of tweaking a lesson, a day that went by without wondering how the increasing number of homeless, needy, and dependent future learners would get through this year, while meeting the demands of the state, the spaces of need from the community, and the expectations of my administration, while still meeting the expectations and success rates of their minds?  These facts of personal and mental needs never come close to registering the check boxes that state assessments measure, for most students their success of achieving a lesson, a unit, a semester of information never registers on a state report card; they made it a year with the food, shelter, and transportation they did not have before attending a particular school, which is a 100% success rate not measured on most state assessments nor asked for my the body at large.

I thought this and countless more as I thought about my own course, this summer, Critical Thinking. How do you take the idea of Critical Thinking, in this case presented by Wabi Sabi , and insure that the day to day changes that are occurring after the curriculum was created are still incorporated?  I realized the past institutes of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Community Mapping, the existence of YSA to encourage students to apply for funding and their own paths of seeing projects become reality, and learning how to apply Critical Thinking to discerning fake from real news, fake

a Jake Palenski (@jakepalenske)  workshop from Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Assocation, and making ideas come alive in their own community – add all those together like scrapple and you have a tool kit that shows how education is invigorating, exciting, and not just for an adult world, but for our world, every belief, every culture, every race, every interest area.  I realized realized students will see the amount of diversity and combining /intertwining.complexity that a lesson involved, seeing educators pull their experiences from 10 years ago to 10 days ago to, as well as using something as simple as Powerpoint to something as diverse as Trello, they get it. 

Investors in education see how English, Trig, Financial Education, Calculus, programming, Science, Biology, Foreign Language, and MORE all come together to create a better tomorrow and force that recognition of how diverse languages, cultures, beliefs, talents, and interests, that form neighborhoods, THAT makes America great, THAT makes American America, and always the lead for potential.  This starts from the recognition of the maintenance that allow this to happen, the supervisors to directors to find funding for these possibilities to occur, to the administrators that oversee the way to let the public know what is happening, back to the parents and students that buy into never ceasing to use their summer to grow, and grow in several directions. Being represented by

lisa blunt rochester.PNG

Photo Courtesy of Del Tech Photography

U.S. Delaware Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester and Diaz Bonville, Kent/Sussex County Outreach Coordinator – is a huge step in showing how all can be invested. Having the support of Dr. Annie Norman and emphasizing the role of literacy during this program, even more exciting.

In the next several posts through out the next few months, you will also see highlights of various approaches to how education is presented in a way that resembles real life, conquering problems that exist and finding ways to solve them.  In Critical Thinking, we asked students using the skills they were given from C.R.A.A.P (and there is alot of that out there) to discern using research skills, Fake Real.JPGwhat is fake, what is real, and DO NOT rely on adults for that knowledge, rely on their             creativity .  Then moving forward using the skills of evaluating their immediate communities, map their communities to inventory their community’s assets and needs for human, environmental, and animal services.  Then moving into the students towards brainstorming solutions to those problems and needs not services by their community, what could students do?  In these steps the students were exposed to at least 4 different strategies developed from individuals from the U.K., Texas, Africa, and more locations and learned that scaffolding their learning is not a deficiency, but an asset when recognized. They learned that Math, Science, Language, English and technology all have a place to change the world for the better.  The realized the Trio of strength comes from individuals working together to smash the paradigms so many place on education, those that to base educations results on a neat little checklist or box, and walk away satisfied.  

It is up to past, current, and future generations to change the paths of how education evolves, is measured, and is given for the most productivity for our immediate communities.  It is a pleasure to devote a year round application on education for that aim, and the Upward Bound Program has so many layers of education pushing on educational information received from all year long, it is no wonder we see students accepting full four year opportunities after leaving this program.  Education is a Trio of collaboration and it begins with each one of us to change that archaic ideal of what education is.  And have fun as it is happening.slide.JPG

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Ode to Sisters’ Road Tripping Through Life.

Every year, my sisters would take a yearly road trip and yes, they never ceased to cause havoc along the way that would create memories of hilarity for years, and I mean YEARS, after.

One of the most difficult trips that my sisters Tracy, Melanie, Pam, Joni, Lisa, and her daughter Ericka would make would be supporting her fight with cancer.  Day in and day out, staying up for hours, rotating work shifts, and on the road all hours of the night, morning and afternoon making the treks to insure Lisa was not alone, ever.

When I was able to travel to Pennsylvania to visit Lisa, I was go glad to be able to receive and give family hugs like we used to when I was younger.  I never realized how grateful I were for my sisters until I was reunited with them. and see how they cared for Lisa, and you were able to see the selflessness they contained.  Many times previous my sisters continued to include Mom on their road trips and surprise her over and over. 

Road TripMiles never mattered, time and work were shifted aside and they made these visits happen as as a group.  Thank you my sisters for the sacrifices you made for Lisa and for our family over and over. 

Love you and love your selfless heart.  Many can take lessons on what is most important and what sacrifices needs to be made for their family, and thanks to you, you keep the spirit and heart of our family, as taught us by other Dad, alive every day, as well as those within our family like Harry R and Lisa.  Thank you.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Adamant.

ad·a·mant
/ˈadəmənt/
 
adjective
  1. refusing to be persuaded or to change one’s mind.
    “he is adamant that he is not going to resign”
    synonyms: unshakeable, immovable, inflexible, unwavering, uncompromising, resolute, resolved, determined, firm, rigid, steadfast;

    In my case, I have to say the definition of adamant is my sister Lisa Copney.  The one image is my sister Lisa, wearing a shirt with the words “beautiful” walking down the boardwalk of Ocean City causing all kinds of hilarity with everyone she came int ouch with.  That is the key about Lisa, she was always adamant about making sure everyone she came into contact with as many people as she possibly could, and no one would ever forget her infectious friendliness.

    I have to say I can recall hardly any one individual as unshakeable in her faith and beliefs as Lisa. When Lisa stood her ground, and stand her ground she would, there was about a .05 % chance at best you would gain any ground on moving her, I would say physically and hypothetically.

    What everyone knew about Lisa was that that her imposing frame matched the size of her heart.  She would be able to force, convince, and /or push you into something if she sensed you wanted, felt, or were unsure of moving forward with something on your mind.  There was not turning back on any sense of decisiveness, it was forward progress alone and no other possibility.

    As an unwavering pillar of strength, you realized that Lisa was the permanent foundation a family needed to regain the confidence in any steps in life you were unsure about.  Yes, this could sometimes take the form of stubbornness (not often seen in any family! 🙂 ), and sometimes being obstinate, but you never had to guess where her commitments were, she made it obvious to anyone that knew her, and that was her strength;  nothing could restrain her from her beliefs, be it her fight with such an unfair opponent as cancer, the daily challenges of life itself, and fighting the loneliness she felt with the absence of her husband Larry – she moved forward and provided a pillar of strength for her family and all those she considered her family.

    Add to this second quality the philosophy of being resolute, and you find the sister we found in Lisa that can never be replicated, forgotten, or ignored.  Her resolute nature would take her through some of the most difficult moments in her life, and she brought her family alongside her.  The moments you felt you had nothing left, you would see the fight in Lisa’s eyes, and realize you had much more than you gave yourself credit for to carry on through some of life’s toughest moments. 

    I could never find words to ever say goodbye to my sister Lisa, because I realized, there is no goodbye when you have a sister like her, always championing for you, her strength never wavering in the most difficult of times, so what would be your excuse seeing her fight with such imposing odds?  Despite her own struggles and pain she might be experiencing, her saying I love you were the easiest words in the world, just as saying hello to the stranger on the street, she made it that way.  You could see the piercing strength in Lisa’s eyes and the expectation to rise to any challenge, no excuses, and take on any obstacle that towered over anyone.  Despite Lisa towering over most people, I cannot think of anyone’s heart as large as her stature, when it came right down to the moment of how much she gave of herself to others, be it conversation, encouragement, or the strength to dig in and make the best of so much in life many take for granted. 

    The gifts Lisa continued to give day in and day out, on her best and most difficult days, were the very gifts instilled in each of us as family from day one from my brother Harry Randall and passed down from my Dad Harry. There are few moments in life when you have such a family that carries multiple names, and multiple gifts from the heart, and yet, Lisa managed to provide these, just as so many in our family have done before, on a continual basis.  That I realize, is the true center of love, giving of yourself despite the most difficult moments you have in your life, and realizing that selflessness allows you to move forward in your own life. 

    Lisa lived that philosophy of life every single day, and if we have learned anything from the love that Lisa has given each of us, it is to continue to celebrate life the very way Lisa taught each of us through her love, unshakeable, unwavering and resolute way of standing up for her family, views, and integrity of those she cared for.  Those were so many it is impossible to count, from the pizza delivery boy, to her sisters’ roadtripping adventures, to the family she created in her sons and daughters, grand-daughters and grandsons, and of course brothers.  

    It is not difficult to see the grit and toughness of every member of the Brake family in her eyes and gait, and how she created new family with that trait over the years. She always contained Ethel’s face from the very beginning, and carried her Dad’s get-through-anything determination, passing this on to everyone that found themselves within Lisa’s sphere of contact.  There could be no greater gift than Lisa herself, and knowing someone so strong as Lisa was willing to share these qualities with all those around her, and always end with “I love you” says alot about what is needed in this world.  Lisa always knew that and still does through each of us. 

    The amazing outpouring of condolences, comments and expressions of sympathy I have received from so many individuals that have come so dear to my life, are each a testament to the wealth, as someone with the last name of Brake, had been given from so many in my immediate family.  I am blessed to have so many family and friends that are family to always drop a line of thought when so many difficult times occur, and have my family to thank for allowing me to come into contact with so many people from around the globe.  This has kept me going through the darkest and most challenging of times, and always reminds me of the very gifts Lisa, Harry Randall, Dad and our family as a whole provides for us day in and day out.  There is no greater gift to be asked for.   Thank you for your love Lisa, it lets our light shine continually showing your life in front if each of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Harry’s Trees.

“Is it Harold or Harry.”    Of course.  I get this question, and have received this question, honestly, since I have been in kindergarten.  Maybe longer (laugh).

Despite that question and the fact that Harry rhymes with alot that I also have pulled with me from my name, if you knew anything about my name, then you knew what my Dad, and brother (YES, both named Harry), did for others around them.  Anyone that crossed their path, at the drop of a hat, that needed something, it happened.  That is probably the most important gift one could want to be given.  it has remained with me through every possible catastrophe, good day, bad day, scary day.  It has remained with me with this countless times in meeting hundreds of people I never knew before, in the countries, of Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Canada, and all over the United States. It is everything.

Do you believe in events that are beyond explanation?  I am not sure we are talking something supernatural, but literally, events that, even when you pit them against coincidence, the explanation still falls short.  Some of you know about the Rings Around Us Story, who I tent to keep and reserve and give to individuals when it seems the right time, usually when some pretty dear graduates make that day, then it seems appropriate.

In referring to events you cannot explain, lately, as I always had been a country boy at heart when I roamed the fields behind my house and the farms I grew up beside, sludged through the creeks and collected waterbugs and brought weed after weed home for my Mom thinking they were hand-picked bouquets, I also was an avid reader.  I would hole up in my room and literally tear through pages between the mud and outdoors I brought in daily.  That also was Ia gift I would never realize how it would come back and repay me.

Yet, the last 3-4 months, as crazy and weird as it sounds, messages of my past, and ways to deal with the hardest and craziest of events that have been unfolding, have seemed to appear through the very pages of books, messages and symbols of my past in every other or so book and then, well, tonight.

Whether you realize it or not, there are very few Harry’s and not Harold’s in the world, and unsure if that has anything to do with it, but I tend to grab and relish the books that have the word Harry in them – pretty much just a hobby 🙂

Last year, I asked for books from Barnes & Noble, to help create book wreaths for Christmas, and as bad as I feel of dismembering a book, even a bad one, I know there are often advanced copies of books that are well, still usable for making a good Christmas Book Wreath, and less for reading, and not wasting/throwing away a book (can’t do it).

One book, of course, had the name Harry in it, and OF COURSE I was going to hold onto it and well, you know, check it out since it had my name on it.  A year.  Pretty much.  Give or take a few months.  A year that book faced me every day at school in the library, I looked at it and never, once opened it and checked it out but mentally noted, have to check that out one day.  Summer has come, and after loading 50+ books into the catalog since I became so intertwined with events during the year and then heavy events happened at the end of the year that simply took all my attention away, yesterday, of all days, I began again resolved to approach the postponed duties that I have neglected and try and get back on track, at least attempt.

The first few pages, not so impressive, I mean nothing out of the ordinary what did interest me was the author was also co-writer of Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg, and that is not something you often see in a book that has been left on a shelf for over a year and happens to be an advanced copy of a book you feel many have not heard of.

Yet a few pages on, okay, cool a character named Harry is the main character. Tonight, exhausting myself in lists I have delayed and traveling to get things caught up, come home, crawl into bed at 5ish as my body is simply worn out to match my mind – and compelled to crack open a few pages.

The moment when you begin to see events that existed in your own life, moments of where you lived, moments of conversation you have had in places that resemble so closely to the very pages you are reading – when this happens – a conversation begins between you and those pages that seems to almost be a message from someone reminding you of how you can get through some times that you wonder at the time, how will you ever get through these moments?  Most people who do not read enough will never see a book as anything more than that, pages to climb through to finish with no internal reward except conquering pages.  However, the difference between that experience and the experience of coming across a message that eerily touches with your own experiences, thoughts, and had some kind of touch on you that you can’t shake off, when incantations of your very own past appear between pages you digest – it is hard to define that experience unless you have been there.

I am stuck wondering how the exact same events and situations in some cases, have made their way to me in a book that I truly have never heard of, was given to me to be part of a Christmas wreath, and sat there waiting for a moment when it fit the moments I felt there could be no return from.  Hard questions, yes.  Coincidence, at some point you have to truly ask yourself, is it?

I am eager to see if anyone else is willing to go out and check Jon Cohen’s book, Harry’s Trees, so that we might have a conversation about how some of these events speak to you individually, but more than just a name, I had to put down the book at page 147 when a friend from Mexico sent me an email yesterday, and him writing,

“I KNOW how much you give and give and give to all those around you. You are the best. Your generosity is legend. I always think, Harry takes care of everyone. Who takes care of Harry?”

I know this sounds like bragging about me, but stop. Wrong message,  The point is that generosity that others see I give to others?  I have felt from day one, without thinking, a push to do those things, and that has always been, and still is what has been given to me from my family, my father, my brothers, my sisters, that is what I grew up surrounded by and was always given to pass on, period.  The last question really hit me hard.  That certainly is not a care to me, I mean not high on my priority list except for wanting top make sure I remain free of having to be on meds as I get older (healthy), maintain healthy relationships with my friends (those are the only relationships – (long story) and cling even more to the philosophy of modeling care of others when they are so many people willing to spew hate to others that are different for one of countless reasons.

I never had to have the time to worry about caring for myself, others have done that for me – literally in countries where people never even had a reason to care for me, they did.  This is one single reason why most individuals I see spewing hate at people or places they have never been, truly need to just halt before they say another word.  Until they have experienced one of countless events in a place where they know no one, and those around you help you, then the same care and attention needs to be thought of before spewing hate, but many will never have that thought in their heads, completely sad.  I have had the gift of countless individuals taking care of me without ever asking, and every single time it is a gift that seems to be a result of being named after two people that did the same for countless individuals around them.

When I stumbled across some exact phrases and words individuals had said to me many years ago, literally TO ME, what do you do?  How do you break that down and come to terms with that being just coincidence?  So many of us when it comes to schedules, our days, we are happy with agreeing that “We do not have time” or “When our schedules allow us to do that” and that time will come, 50+ years later when you cannot grab those days back at all, not even one.  If I learned anything from living in another country, it was to disregard the petty excuses and trivial reasons for truly living, and live.  Just live.  And bring others with you.

My challenge to you as we approach a weekend known as 24in48 (24 hours of reading in 48 hours) – whether you are a reader or not- and even if you do not get close to 24 hours of reading in 48 hours, grab one single read that has spoken to you and that might and you have been putting off for awhile, I bet it will surprise you or stir something inside you.  However, just one instance of recalling what is it like to stir up your past through pages, it has the power to move you to even greater things.  I hope there are a few out there willing to pick up Harry’s Trees where we can have a proper discussion on the very things that make and define us as individuals as well.  Alot of food for thought, but isn’t that is what life is all about?  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Light as a butterfly in suggestion, yet heavy as a weight in inspiration.”

Revelations exist around us everywhere. Often I realize this simply by looking at thing differently, and sadly, this is not usually owed to me, to to experiences around me and those around me that open new lenses to see life through.  Today particularly, I am referring someone named Nancy Carmean Fields.

As odd as this sounds, as an English teacher, I was taught literary devices to use and apply to the world around us.  And I did, as well as teaching others to recognize and do the same.  Yet, as I looked at so many individuals that were touched by Mrs. Fields during her memorial today, so much sunk it.  It seemed those literary devices that existed truly were present to be applied in life at any time, not just when you were learning them a specific period in time.

Light as a butterfly in suggestion, yet as heavy as a weight in inspiration.  As I watched the images of nature and a scrolling film showing a lifetime of happiness at Mrs. Field’s service today, it was all there that really was worth learning.  I flashed back to the countless times on initially meeting Mrs. Fields, and it was on the racing course I believe, or it even could have been in  a classroom. The clarity came when you literally felt the presence that Mrs. Fields left with each individual.  Without a word, you would receive a look – a look that peered into your very soul and immediately had you feeling as if an lifetime of encouragement was always there for the taking.  When you talked to Mrs. Fields, you received an onrush of confidence and just enough positivity, that no matter where you were in wanting to do better, or feeling you did not give it your all, you were infused with feeling of possibility, of promise, of another chance being available.  Mrs. Fields never, ever gave up on anyone, whether you had come to know her through an athletic, educational, or by association of another, yet the motivation and trust in you as and individual was always there.

I am not exactly sure when I accepted the running bug for sure, but when I did, I looked to the coaches to push me, the participants to move me, and then there was always Mrs. Fields.  Even after her son Tim went through the “running system”, the power the Mrs. Fields had to always offer a home on and off the course, it remained.  I thought the coaches, the drills, the Adrenalin, the feeling of goals being met and smashed, would always be the keys to longevity.  After making running on the track and cross country courses, I realized all this time Mrs. Fields and her family had infused so much – family.  That was always present; as an athlete, spectator, coach, educator, and wannabe spectator, I realized whenever I had those good, and bad times, Mrs. Fields was the chief coach that inspired in countless ways I never had realized before.  That is the who Mrs. Fields is, the longevity on the support she was willing to provide, there was and is no expiration date.

Supporting picnic baskets and coolers full of food that provided essentials and staples of energy for athletes (and coaches) on far and near meets and truly being an all around sports Mom was certainly one side of Mrs. Fields.  I will never truly forget literally down to less than a week of leaving for Mexico, the Fields’ family insisting and creating a gathering of some of the most memorable individuals I had been lucky enough to call “family”, ranging from dear friends and former students, family members, all sending me off with a summer picnic/going away bash.  it was unforgettable, as was the infused confidence that Mrs. Fields always had in the wait for anyone that came within  her circle of need.

Add to this the very fact that the very difficult decision to return to the states, after creating a family of so close-knit individuals in Mexico, after six years and knowing inside how internally I was connected with so many individuals that had accepted me, yet part of this decision was easy.  When events began to occur facing me that proximity was necessary for changes happening in my own family, just as the moment of leaving and the Fields’ family was there to initiate a goodbye worthy of royalty, Mrs. Fields was the lifeline that brought me back.  It was her suggestions of a possible opening that enabled me to pursue the possibility of really returning to where I had started, and fitting perfectly into the window of enabling me to see my amazing brother before events would take him from me. Mark this off as coincidence, great timing, but those of you that are well familiar with Mrs. Fields will know that little has to do with coincidence when it comes to an explanation as this. At one time we both were in a different school district, and within months, we found ourselves in a different district, yet in the same.

I was intensely, superbly lucky to have found myself returning under such conditions.  I remember many times within the too short time we worked in the same district proximity, dropping of a simple meal of McDonalds items I had a hunch she liked as a tiny appreciation of thanks, and there she was, STILL supporting and helping me as I was transitioning through a difficult transition back after so long, and doing what she always did, providing her open door, her open arms for the support that she never asked for in return, but gave out as if her style of optimism was available at every corner.  Be it Mexico to the state of Delaware, it is obvious her impact has no boundaries whatsoever, no matter in what capacity she found herself in.

There is one story that is completely worth mentioning and connects with the spirit of promise that Mrs Fields always dealt out. When I first left for Mexico, I left without a vehicle for obvious reasons – going outside the United States into Mexico for the first time, and learning what I would be able to do and not be able to do would take some time for sure.  My vehicle graciously was being stored at the Fields’ residence and after two years, blindingly willing to tune this vehicle to make the drive TO Mexico – I remember coming home and picking it up after two plus years of not driving, and sliding into the Mercury Mountaineer, everything came back.  The piling of Cross Country runners into the back for the ride to Chapel, countless adventures.  Mr. Fields had brought it back to a brand new status mechanically and then some.

This is evident as the drive to Mexico was full of the unknown and little did I know, two other subsequent drives back and forth from Mexico City to Delaware, not one single incident occurred due to the meticulous care Mr. Fields had put into this vehicle.  Even when I returned on the drive back with three dogs and three cats and loaded with items, with gaskets that were just not quite right and firing (occurring in Texas) – I found myself believing the spirit that the Fields’ family easily let me get back in that condition due to the positivity that had been given from the very beginning.  I realized this was not just a gift of the time, effort and skill put into the Mountaineer, but also on that long four day and sometimes very (human lonely, not pet-lonely) drive returning to the states, the Fields’ were with me and all those memories scrolled with me the whole way back.

There are many reasons I decided to hold onto the Mercury Mountaineer, even with faced on selling it in Mexico across the border and purchasing a new vehicle, I just could not.  I cling to the memories that have been created with that Mercury Mountaineer, and from that being the defining vehicle that started my experience in Delaware, to the moment that I was so taken care of by so many, that vehicle is certainly is worth more than any blue book value or trade in on any vehicle. Monetary is there but there is much much more valuable in life.

So yes, I had been asked countless times to call Mrs. Fields, Nancy, countless times.  Maybe due to the fact that she did NOT want to be associated with baking hundreds of cookies for the masses.  However, when I say Mrs. Fields, I think of the Fields’ family as a whole, and that means everything for what the whole family has done and has continued to do for me to this very day. I can still recall the sounds mu my breath often thinking it was at it’s peak and hearing her encouragement, both sometimes yelling for support on the sidelines and at times a calm voice of reason, both Mrs. and Mr. Fields words of encouragement played in my ears, on the course alone, with others, on the drive from Mexico.  Replaying the conversations of admiration for her son and daughters accomplishments over and over, you knew you had someone of grit, substance, and support with every single conversation.

Her love for her family is legendary, and the family that she took in on a daily basis, is a lesson for everyone every single day.  So much like literary devices that ran through my mind today of all the moments she gave to others, proved to me that much around Mrs. Fields existed, BECAUSE of her willingness to sacrifice so much of herself for others. That is a legacy that changes people, families, communities, and the world.  it is absolutely, 100% positively true, All you need is Love.  I am one of a million affected and touched by what sheer kindness, compassion, and motivation can do and get you thrugh with laying aside all selfishness, prejudice, and grudges. That needs to be a testament to what can be as we support each other just as so many countless times – not blinders and guards to hold us back from any of our dreams. That is Mrs. Fields.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Independence.

Independence.

Okay let me just put this out there in the eve of independence.  Life is more than memorizing data to get the higher score.  Yet, why does education insist that scores – grades – make the grade for success? Worse yet, legions of teachers across the nation buy into the system that believes success is certainly determined by the best score, the best rank, the best nod of someone’s head that passes that mark that someone is looking for.  I associate such collaboration the number one reason why we have so many teachers, and not so many EDUCATORS.

Thinking out of the box, critical thinking, what actually is applied outside of the four walls where individuals are initially a foundation of learning.  Luckily, there are even more individuals that but into something more than dittos, more than lectures, but to the doing part.

I say all this as a shout out to some pretty amazing individuals that served me in the capacity of an educator, both as a student and later as colleagues that surrounded me that encouraged me to never, ever, settle for the what the masses are content to settle for in education. Truly, if educators settle for the common idea of what education is, then those educators certainly revert to being teachers, and oh yes, there is such a difference.

In presenting and introducing a Critical Thinking Class this summer, all of a sudden, by matching students with their dreams and what they want to be, and matching them with members of a community in that profession, in two classes (TWO) we have over 36 students that are now examining their immediate communities and discovering needs, solutions, problems, and creative approaches to addressing needs here in our home state.  Two classes and this has happened. 

Two classes and they have discovered what Jane Goodall’s Institute did to change the approach to changing communities around themselves as women.  Two classes and they have discovered elevator pitches that look past what color, race, income level, or position an individual has and to focus on the idea, and presenting ideas in a totally different light.  Two classes and students have discovered the reality of life lessons in job choices, income and rent availability, and having to make tough choices that determine if they make it through one month of a budget line well below the average individual struggling to barely make it week to week.  Two classes and students begin to realize the power to change the communities around them depends on the energy they have to find a way, any way, to make their creative ideas infiltrate the emphasis on scores and tests and find their way to changing their communities amid so much negativity.

After two classes with students who previously have felt suppressed by what they have seen on paper via scores, students are reinvigorated by someone realizing what they can offer society based on their talents, something that will never be able to be gauged by tests, scores, or median lines of achievement.  Students are starting to recognize the abilities that contain and realize the frustration with teachers that refuse to let them bring those very qualities to light and apply them to the lessons they are presented.

It is going to be amazing to see the number of community leaders a small handful of students have communicated with in one summer and the ideas they will present to change so many aspects of our community for the better.  Imagine this happening all year!

Yet it all takes one of the largest gifts many teachers are unable, or prevented from giving students that will allow them to be educators.

Independence.

I relish the instructors that were truly educators to me and allowed me to infuse creativity in every single lesson or approach that was to be given to someone next in your classroom.  These educators and luckily for me, my education at Slippery Rock University, made me feel guilty every minute if I would put my trusty in something that could not be acted upon in the real world.  Major kudos to the teachers who counted the days until the last day of school handed me ditto after ditto,

 

and made me never, ever want to be just a teacher, but an educator.  Certainly I believe in Karma and being lucky enough to have the privilege to become a Media Specialist Librarian, freed even more time to motivate, inspire, and challenge the norm of keeping education among four walls and taking this outside those four walls to really determine if education was happening.

I never cherished three words more than PBL (Project Based Learning) and thanks to over 21 years of being an educator (can you believe it?!) – I learned more than the students I have been lucky enough to share doing versus being complacent.  it has made every difference in the world in the what an education is and who determines who is the learner and what is learned.

A different take on what to be thankful for on the Fourth, certainly to those those who have given their own freedoms and lives to allow so many after them to keep ours. But also to inspire future leaders to reinforce the belief that to truly be free, one needs to apply their freedoms to the world around is.  it is up to educators, and not teachers to inspire that one word for others to change the world around all of us.

Independence.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making Flag and Father’s Day your own.

I was slightly disappointed to not see more about it being Flag Day and a decent amount about it being Father’s Day.  Just a little bit of history is important to help realizations of how these holidays started –

Father’s Day began in 1972 (my birth year!) and I liked this article on this day

Flag Day’s history began in 1885 and can be traced back with this informative site.

In today’s world, there are so many exceptions to holidays, and yes, some individuals grew up without having a father figure – so where does that leave individuals that do not have a bloodline father to celebrate after?

What I have realized is I have been lucky to have many role models I have come across in my life those in my family, and those not that included educators, colleagues, extended family and more.  I have been lucky enough to have a father that worked countless hours for others and sacrificed so much of his own time for me and others.  Yet, I also have been lucky enough to have countless role models in friends, instructors, and more that easily filled that role of father.

When I think of Flag Day, despite the divisions and strange days our country has been through the last few years, there is something very patriotic about role modeling what a father figure should be to others.  Despite each individual situation, there is always room to make the changes you hope to see in future generations.  The role modeling of a father figure we’d want to experience can be received by anyone we come into contact with, from a customer, student, to a colleague, to a friend, to countless encounters that exist.  Making Flag Day and Father’s Day count for everyone we come into contact with goes a long way, and we each can easily make it our own, while living up to the standards we’d want to see in Father’s Day and Flag Day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment