Friday, January 30, 2009

Love is All Around Me?

Have you read William Carlos Williams' (1883-1963) short story, "A Use of Force"? Williams was a medical doctor who specialized in pediatrics in Rutherford, New Jersey and who also maintained a highly successful writing career. In this particular story, he seems to address that hidden facet of human behavior, violence, that lies dormant until the appropriate circumstances bring it out. In brief, during a house visit a doctor feels forced open the mouth of a defiant little girl in order to diagnose diphtheria. Naturally, it is expected that a doctor would do everything in his power to save the patient from further pain and perhaps death; however, he honestly reveals his thoughts during the situation. Since Williams is a doctor and the fictional story is about a doctor's experience, the reader starts thinking that the story is true, which makes it all the more impacting. When the girl stubbornly refuses to open her mouth and physically prevents the examination, the narrator-doctor reveals the following confessional thoughts, " But the worst of it was that I too had got beyond reason. I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to attack her. My face was burning with it." You may wonder, is the doctor a bad person? I think, no, anger is the real culprit.

I'm working my way over to this morning's traffic jam, or tapon as it is commonly called in Puerto Rico. Some people are angry. Some good people are terribly angry. This anger causes them to pull out of the lane, pass on the emergency lane and then enter the lane again a bit further down the road. This impulsively impatient behavior causes other drivers who are suffering from the "I'm late and I'm not going to take it anymore" syndrome, to repeat the offence. Horns blow. Hand's fly heavenward with oxymoronic intention. Road Rage. It's pure and simple. I bought a CD, Road Sage by Sylvia Boorstein, to listen to while driving. It provides mindfulness techniques for drivers, which I have yet to successfully share with my carpool buddy. I'm sure that it is helpful. It's just that the information on breathing and focusing and such, is not what people are drawn to do in congested traffic situations. Besides, if you meditate, you probably already practice mindfulness or another focus technique during traffic jams. If you don't have a practice, it's difficult to learn (or want to learn) while under rage's grip. How can I share this information? At other more peaceful driving times, it's just not a compelling CD listen. Anti-rage instruction or the radio? Hummm...which to choose? I have hit load and play in an attempt to give Silvia a fighting chance only to be assaulted by a chorus of moans and cries, especially from the back seats, "Mommmmm." What can I do?

I may have misrepresented the situation, after all, this is Puerto Rico, La Isla del Encanto. This beautiful island of enchantment has an interesting mix of cultural behaviors. One driver may be enraged but several others are applying eye makeup, adjusting their carefully groomed hair, dialing a phone number... or sending a text message, stopping in the traffic lane to buy a La Hora newspaper, pink or blue cotton candy, avocados, or dripping wet bottled water. Or dropping a passenger off, especially if you are near a school. Or maybe the driver is turning around to talk with the person in the back, or reaching over to the glove compartment and so on. Maybe a motor scooter will speedily drive between and around the slow cars or, conversely, a distressingly sick person will be negotiating a wheelchair between the lanes, pausing at car windows with a lifted paper cup. The point being that it is quite common for the waiting drivers to be highly distracted. Sometimes drivers are patient, beyond patient- it's true- even when the hold up is caused by those who are adapting to the traffic jam as with the preceding attention diverting strategies. At other times, the entire congested beehive bursts open and many suffer the stinging consequences of an accident (fender-bender) and the resulting interminable wait for the police to arrive in order to make an accident report. It makes me think about why we are able to control ourselves under great stress sometimes, while at other times we completely lose it. Anger is the boss. To be or not to be-angry- that is the question. I read a most helpful monk's behavior principle to be practice while on retreat. I think it's helpful during traffic jams or any other type of anger provoking situation. It is: "Do not complete your anger." The way I interpret the meaning of this tenant is that even when you feel angry, at some point you will recognize your state, and that is when you have the opportunity to let go, to not complete or follow through with angry intentions, angry words, angry thoughts. Maybe you could visualize El Yunque (pictured here in free downloads) and see yourself sitting next to the waterfall while enjoying a peaceful picnic.

And if you need to move your mind to another point of attention, why not remember the scene from the movie, Love Actually, where we have to laugh and empathize with this has been rock star singing, "Love is All Around Me." No, that is "Christmas is all around me"...that's's Christmas...the word that is ...I know Christmas is over.

Bill Nighy (pronounced as Bill Nye -like the science guy-2007)

Photo from wikipedia

Parents and those with gentle sensibilities be warned, you will encounter Billy Mack's profuse (perhaps eloquent?) stream of swearing in the following YouTube video.

Photo: William Carlos Williams 1926 from linked site.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Award

Hi friends, The Pink Cowboy has given me tremendous praise (and his excellent friendship) along with this cute Scribbler award. Naturally, there are some rules I just might bring over from his post. I get to name five other deserving bloggers who not only are worth reading but also bring their sweet natured yet powerfully potent hearts to all of their creative work. (Yes, I've adapted the criteria but you can select according to the rules below if you want! Also, if someone seemed as if they had too much blogging work to do, I gave them a break)

And the winners are...envelope please...:

The warm natured insightful dancer, Catherine at A Thousand Clapping Hands

The inspirational and clever artist Dianne at Intuitive Painting

My new beautiful sunshine connoisseur friend Marie Isabelle Reed at Cpaphil Vintage Postcards

The dear busy, funny and creative, Natalie at Musings from the Deep

The creative and brilliant dreamer, Mary Ann at Blue Sky Dreaming

Here are the rules I copy/pasted from The Pink Cowboy:

(Sorry if they are a bit bossy....just do your best!)

You must pass along this award to five (5) others who I have found to be thoughtful, creative, and most importantly, entertaining. ;
1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends. 2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to Scholastic-Scribe, which explains The Award.
4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receive
this Prestigious Honor.
5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ouch! What a difference a place makes...

What did I need? A sign?

I fell into a hole yesterday. I'm exaggerating, really, it was just a broken place in the sidewalk but I had a flash of insight, which is why I' m writing about it here. The fall was accompanied by one of those deja vu (familiar and unpleasant) experiences where an event seems to be repeated but the second time it happens, you realize that your reaction is completely different. The first time I fell into a hole occurred after moving into a new house in Puerto Rico when I was ready to return to my morning jogging/walking routine. Early one day, I was following my bliss and turned down a quiet tropical side street.

I noticed a large Victorian house to my right that was set in the middle of a lush green yard filled with slightly overgrown but cultivated plants. (It looked like this photo of a sub-tropical Victorian home in Springfield, Georgia.) My mind, still thinking about the possible residents of this romantic looking early 20th century home, was jarred by the view of a new condominium building project. Reflecting about the possible demolition of the entire area, I was suddenly almost knee deep in a small hole. While the sensation of a burning pain started to shock my system, I realized that the accident happened because someone did not replace a cover. The metal oval cutout, which looked like a miniature manhole cover, was suppose to fit in the sidewalk. It was part of the local water meter system. As I painfully replaced the metal piece over the gaping hole, I became increasingly angry. While limping home, I indignantly, thought of the irresponsible person who left the cover off. "How dare they just leave a trap for someone to fall in! In the states, the water company would be sued or someone would be held accountable for this irresponsible slovenly work." Of course later, I realized that sometimes people who are not employed by the government, take off the water covers to tamper with the meter readings. I also discovered that heavy rain damages the cement and frequently the covers do not fit properly. Consequently, a foot trap could be made even though the water gage seems to be safe and covered.

Another confession, sometimes, when I was younger, I was told that I had my head in the clouds and this was supported by incidental facts. Once while driving on the scenic panoramic route on California's coastal highway 1, I was so captivated and excited by the view that I nearly drove off the cliff! Talk about entering the moment! Yesterday, I fell into a little hole, a broken place in the sidewalk, really, and I did not get injured.
Thinking now, I remember that I had sprained my ankle exactly twice in my life, and I had to be rushed to the emergency room. The first incident happened because I was riding on the butterfly handlebars of a new pink Schwinn bike that my younger brother was steering. (I was twelve.) I was thrilled with the fun loving ride until my foot got caught in the spokes of the front wheel. The second time, was when I was sitting on the wheel cover of the tractor my father was driving and, again, my foot got caught in the wheel. It was a much bigger wheel this time and considerably more frightening! (I was still twelve.) In both incidents, I remember the face of the driver, my brother and my dad, looking pained and guilty. I confess, I felt seriously sorry for myself both times.

Yesterday's incident repeatedly returns to my mind because of my difference in thought. Immediately after falling, I thought, "Watch more carefully, next time. You have to notice where you are placing your foot." (Of course, I didn't feel pain for long this time either.) What am I saying here? First, another story...

When I moved to Puerto Rico, my department director patiently listened to my complaints about the rule breaking Puerto Rican population. I am a bit ashamed to admit to it now but it bothered me that people would park their cars everywhere and sometimes even block my car from leaving because of double parking. People would park on the sidewalks and if there was space enough, they would park in the middle lane between parking spaces; worse yet, after the first transgressor, cars would line up there, too, creating a middle lane behind the legally parked vehicles. My director patiently listened to my frustration and explanation about being late to class because I was trapped and say, "Yes, this is a small island." I was supposed to infer that people didn't have a choice but to break the rules. Since then, I've learned that these rule are flexible and subject to interpretation by the drivers. Basically, if you're willing to get a possible but rarely given ticket, it's acceptable to break the law because there is no where to legally park. After all, whose fault is it?

Yesterday, I fell in a hole and I realized my orientation had changed. I no longer took it for granted that people would do their duty and repair what is broken. I accepted that I needed to look out for myself in this life. I know I can't prevent every incident from occurring but I noticed that I have accepted responsibility for my own well being. Before I fell yesterday, I didn't even know that I expected others to look out for me or that I would nurse resentment about other people's shortcomings. I realized that thinking and focusing on someone's behavior (rather than my own) resulted in my victimization. It is only because of being so completely immersed in another culture that I can see my own cultural beliefs about how life is suppose to function. This statement about belief is not to say that everyone in my home culture would think exactly the way I do (or did that is.) Also, I am not saying that the Puerto Rican culture is a behavioral model to emulate. I am just saying that when you are pressured to think about what you take for granted, some valuable insight can be gained.

Now dear Blogger friends, here is Cher before all of her cosmetic improvements (-sorry Cher but it's okay to show your age a little bit) singing the romantic classic, What a Difference a Day Makes, which is the song I kept hearing while drafting this reflection. What does that lyric have to do with what I'm thinking about? Maybe my mind made the simple adjustment I'm recommending to you, just change the word "day" to "place" and I think we almost have a thematic fit. ;-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Inaugral Blessing

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore

And may I also add that I absolutely love reconciliations!

My daughter was attending a National Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC on the exact day of the 2008 elections. We were both adjusting to Hillary Clinton's primary loss but happy that an exceptional candidate was selected by the Democratic party. I was so please that my daughter could be in Washington for that historical election! It was a right of passage for her and for the United States. The weight shifted from a burdened past to a hopeful future. With a friendly conciliatory spirit in mind, let us take a light-hearted look at the WAR classic, "Why can't we be friends," this time as interpreted by the politically incorrect (?) Smash Mouth:

Photo of B & H by Win McNamee/Getty Images *** Local Caption *** Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton. From Google/April 23, 2008.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interview Link to The Pink Cowboy

Hi blogger friends, as you know the interview circuit is still going around. Isn't it fun to find out about each other? The Pink Cowboy has given me the most interesting interview. Cross over from Puerto Rico to Texas and read about his bi-cultural experience!

Vancouver bridge photo courtesy of AP service and yahoo news.

Monday, January 12, 2009

An Interview with Cynthia Pittmann by the Novelist, Elizabeth Wix

On a Sunday afternoon, with the TV blaring "We Were Soldiers" in the background, Elizabeth Wix, author of "The Three Graces" and presiding head of About New York blog had a blogger's conversation with Cynthia...

Elizabeth: While you are in Puerto Rico, what things do you miss about the US mainland? - and vice versa.

Cynthia: The first thought that springs to my mind is freedom to walk. I love Puerto Rico but because it is a Latin society, though influenced by the United States, some gender traditions are hard to break. Why does it communicate that I'm "available" if I walk alone on the streets? When I lived in town, I counted all of the "incidents" I suffered through because of walking alone. On average, one harsh event a month for thirteen months in a row. I decided to be more careful, to change my walking habit if you will. I decided to make myself walk in protected/controlled areas. Don't you miss so many things when you leave some place? I miss Michigan for the soil and earth, and the extroverted straightforward people. I miss California because of the space, freedom to explore and general acceptance of difference. I miss Tennessee because of the way people value books and the "craft of making" out of anything that's handy. When I live in the country in Puerto Rico instead of the city, I miss the coffee house feel of local bakeries, the accessibility to art galleries, historical locations, the beach, and the theatre/music scene. With every positive choice, I have to accept that it is also a turning away from other possible choices. Living in the country now, I have freedom to have animals, garden, and lots of space but I also have to drive into the city every work day and take care of many things. It's like I live a double life; there's the 'country me' and the 'city me'. I'm on vacation now so the 'country me' is showing, I think my posts will change when I return to the chaos.

Elizabeth: What three books do you think have influenced you most as a writer and as a person?

Cynthia: I'm not going to choose the best books, or my favorite books or even books that I enjoyed, necessarily. I don't think a book has to fulfill these requirements to be personally influential. I'm looking at myself up-close after having read these three books a long time ago and my focus on life-impact brings my attention to these books. Another selection consideration is that a book does not have to be well written to make an impact because sometimes it's a matter of perfect timing. Consequently, the books that present themselves to my mind at this moment are: The Communication of Innovation; A Cross-Cultural Approach (Everett Rogers and F. Floyd Shoemaker), and At the Bottom of the River (Jamaica Kincaid) and Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg).

The first book is a communication research study on how people change, e.g what makes someone from another country go against custom and accept a water treatment method if they don't believe in the findings of health study research? I read this book from cover to cover. I memorized the research data, and understood two important terms "change agent" and "opinion leader." (A "change agent" is the person who tries to introduce positive change and an "opinion leader" is someone who is from your own community that you trust to judge in situations where you lack expertise. Change agents must rely on opinion leaders in order to help communities.) It was practical research for someone who ponders how to make a difference in the world and it inspired me to continue on to graduate school where I majored in communication. The Jamaica Kincaid book of prose poetry made me decide that my own poetry and prose might be okay even though it didn't always follow traditional models, and helped me to decide that I wanted to continue my English literary education in something that focused on "minority" literature. I discovered that the only way for me to study literature was comparatively, i.e. there is no need to avoid traditional literature. Natalie Goldberg provided me with a private writing technique, which combined meditation practice with writing practice. I needed to learn to write without being concerned about results. This book is organized in short chapters that are built around an autobiographically based story, which often ends up suggesting a writing activity. I use this casual but intense approach to writing because it pushes me on to the next page or the next writing project.

Elizabeth: If you could magically acquire a new skill/characteristic or talent what would it be?

Cynthia: I would love to trust life. I know many people feel a normal confidence in life but I'm talking about a particular kind of trust, more like a complete letting go combined with secure action. Years ago, I had a near-death experience where I felt completely at ease, peaceful and so utterly well (words don't describe the feeling). Since that time, I know that I have a great distance to go before I feel that in ordinary everyday life. I'm not talking about a religious experience, but maybe a spiritual experience. I just knew that all was well. Briefly, I had a car accident. When the car started rolling, I tried to control its spin, but I couldn't because the steering wheel would have broken my arms if I grabbed hold of it. I felt complete terror, more than I'd ever known before or since. Suddenly, I had the thought, "It's out of my hands." (literally and figuratively!) With this realization an incredible peace flooded me. As I watched the rest of the accident unfold, I knew that whatever happened, I would be fine with the outcome. Now that I know complete freedom from anxiety, I yearn for that peace every day of my life.

Elizabeth:You have an afternoon all to yourself -no chores or obligations -How would you spend it?

Cynthia: I think I'll bore others by answering this question. I could invent something but it wouldn't be true. Okay, I would listen to music, do some hatha yoga, light a candle and write. Which is what I do anyway, even if there is no time. I might vary the activities a little because I read so much that I even forgot to mention it. Maybe I should paint, take up photography, or enroll in singing lessons? My blogger friends are starting to inspire me...

Elizabeth: You have $1000 to give away. To whom would you give it?

Cynthia: Another tough thousand dollars is not a lot of money and it's a one time give away, right? When we first moved to Puerto Rico, I was painfully distressed about the homeless people. I tried to do what I could. I got to know one such man, Hector, who was living on the streets near my apartment by the beach. He would ask me for money sometimes, or clothes, or batteries. He started coming to my window and calling "Misse, Misse" at all hours. I told him to wait until I was outside before he made requests. He wanted earphones for a CD player but the player was broken. He couldn't understand that earphones wouldn't make him be able to hear sound. While out for a walk, I saw that he was sitting near the dumpster by the Orchid Palace drinking orange juice and gin/vodka/whisky(?); he hid it from me. He started calling me "jefa" (boss lady) and it started to feel like an overly dependant relationship. I was helping to make his life worse. I felt troubled. Now, I'm trying to help with the stray dog problem here in Puerto Rico. But the animals need so much care, and our environment can only handle so many dogs. Between the injections, neutering, medication for health conditions, it cost so much more than a thousand dollars. And then there is the problem of violence expressed in hate crimes and war...and what about the world hunger problem?

I assign my students research projects on the homeless, animal abuse, violence and poverty and they come up with the most insightful ideas. Plus, they have the added advantage of youthful hope and willpower to accomplish difficult tasks so I feel I'm helping in some way to inspire positive change through these assignments. Consequently, I think if I had a thousand dollars, I would give it in a scholarship to a student who has the will to study but not the means. Maybe I would call it the "Practice Peace" or the "Pondering Paradox" or the "Will to Change" scholarship. (Okay, I'm free associating with the title but you get the idea.) It won't pay for much but the gesture would let that student know that someone cares if she/he finishes and would notice her/his contributions to our world.

Cynthia: Elizabeth, thank you for your excellent and provocative questions.


Getting to Know You; An Invitation

Elizabeth was interviewed by willow, if you would like to be interviewed by me please leave a comment here. I'll write the questions and email them to you. You post a link to my name and Elizabeth, and then invite others to be interviewed. I enjoyed thinking about these questions and I will try to come up with good questions for you as well!

Logo from Conversation Cafe

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Father's Song

"Hello" Performed by Eddie Villanueva

I just love the way people in Puerto Rico include children in all aspects of life; children are not instructed to be "seen but not heard." They're not kept away from the everyday work world of their parents. When we moved here to Puerto Rico, I was struck by the fact that I frequently saw children at work with their parents. My husband and I even had our children around at the university office, occasionally. When I worked in the States, I had to downplay that I was a mother or else I wouldn't have been taken seriously. I couldn't hide my parental concerns, and so I just tried harder to prove myself. In the video above, PR blogger friend, Passion4blue sings, "Hello" while his baby daughter putters sweet. No impatience. So inclusive. So Puerto Rican.

Back to School with Mr. Smart

A Pep Talk For the
Disappointed Teacher

With everyone here at home returning to school, I've started to think about how people impact each other's lives, particularly those in the teacher's role. I've seen many movies that pay tribute to a special teacher, or read books that explain how this teacher/student relationship influenced them in their lives. Personally, I've been a teacher/professor, tutor, counselor or some type of student advisor for most of my adult life and so I've had the opportunity to observe this situation. I've decided that though the movie teacher (hyped) type does exist in some way, those stories that strike me as the most authentic are the ones that feature real people who give every appearance of being ordinary. I think that it is usually unlikely to find a Jamie Escalante (Edward James Olmos), the physics and math teacher of Stand and Deliver, or an East Harlem violin teacher like Roberta Guaspari (Meryl Streep) of Music of the Heart, or even a more realistic and ambivalent teacher like, Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) of Mr. Holland's Opus. I think the more common situation is that a teacher makes a difference in a person's life (or vice versa) but neither of them quite realize it's significance at the time. Upon reflection, I've noticed that people who have made an impact on my life really didn't notice or know about the "event". Sometimes teachers will never know what a difference they make. Why? We're not prescient fortune tellers (usually?!) so we don't know for sure what will be applied later on in life. Accepting this insight creates a positive kind of faith that our everyday interactions with each other are important.

A Story About An Ordinary Teacher...
Most of the time we think there has to be a special relationship between the teacher and student for a profound impact to be felt but this is not always the case. A teacher can influence a child without it being readily apparent or particularly special to the student at the time the relationship occurs. To illustrate what I mean, let us consider the tweed-jacket-with-patched-elbows-wearing Mr. Grant Smart. He was an English teacher at Huron High school who made a great difference in my life even though I wouldn't say we had a special relationship. As an understated quiet person, he was interesting because he seemed so unpretentious, thoughtful and open to students. He was evenhanded and though I would have liked him to take more time with me, I don't think he was especially interested in my life. He had many students who would demand his attention and sometimes I was shy. Because he was a favorite teacher of a few students that I admired up close but still couldn't call friends, I was brought into his sphere of influence though I remained on the social skirts of this group.

One year, he was convinced by a group of seniors to have a poetry class elective. As as a tenth grader, I wasn't allowed to attend. However, often I would sit with the students and participate in the class. When spring fever hit the school, he was willing to conduct his class outside on the grass. We had a portable record player which continuously played John Denver's Sunshine on my Shoulders. I remember his bearded face and his expression, which sort of looked like a pained, "Sunshine on my Shoulders makes me unhappy" statement. He was tired of the repetitious drone, though he endured the song over and over again to our adolescent delight. I was enchanted by the novelty of an outdoor class listening to John Denver under the sun, and it inspired me to write poetry.

One time, I went with my sister and some students to Mr. Smart's little crowded house in the country to pick up some school supplies. A hushed word was passed around by those who knew that Mrs. Smart was suffering from some kind of mental disorder where she spoke incessantly and 'didn't always make sense'. We made our way into the kitchen where Mr. Smart offered us Mr. Snow's Clam Chowder from a can, touting it to be the best clam chowder in the world. We timidly ate a little of the soup with oyster crackers. While eating, I realized that his wife was 'too nervous' to cook or even heat up the soup. She was hovering around the table excitedly trying to assist and he asked her several times to quiet down. Part of her 'problem' (as we talked about it later) was that she collected boxes of random stuff which filled the house. It made the living space exceedingly small. We all tried to be unobtrusive in the tightly packed space and especially polite so that Mr. Smart wouldn't feel embarrassed. At the time, I admired that he took care of her instead of abandoning her to some institutional system. Now I think he needed some support to cope, and maybe some medical help to improve her condition. However, his decision to 'go it alone' was understandable because we didn't really trust psychologists at the time. We left his house in subdued awe knowing that life can bring great personal challenges.

I took an independent study course with Mr. Smart and read John Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath. I received a B+ in an easy A one credit course because I was so despondent about the subject matter, I couldn't get through the material fast enough. (I also read Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men). I tried to understand the character's hopelessness but I didn't like their life perspective. I became determined not to be like those hopeless (or filled with false hope) fictional people when it came to my own life. Though I received a lower grade than I had hoped, I accepted my B+ as the proper compensation for my less than optimum effort-and for this necessary life lesson.

You may remember, To Sir With Love (1967), a teacher-hero movie based on the true story of Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier), which some say is overly fictionalized. In the narrative, a British Guyanese teacher (who really is an engineer) is forced to take a teaching job at a London working class inner city school because of racial prejudice. (You may have to overlook a few scenes that are explicitly gender biased; though it may not bother everyone.) What makes the movie so satisfying is that both the teacher and students finally realize how important he was in their development as self-respecting adults.---And the fact that he joins in the school dance. (How cute is that?)

Bolster Your Spirits :-)

If you are interested and/or a teacher, read Frank McCourt's, Teacher Man for a realistic and often funny look at the teaching life. Also, as an antidote to John Steinbeck's harsh realism, try his Journal of a Novel (1969), which is a daily record of his creation process during the writing of East of Eden. Just picturing him sitting at his carefully made table, 8am-3pm every day, worrying over sharpened pencils, and taking spontaneous walks out in the open air makes me cheer up the disappointed adolescent-Steinbeck-reader who still haunts me.

As a teacher, parent, and shared participant in world life, these thoughts make me realizes that change is sometimes difficult and slow but it can happen-maybe not in movie time but can happen, nonetheless. It's good to make the effort to help and not be so worried about immediate results. After all, we don't measure life wisdom the same way we measure academic test results.

The movie photo is part of a group; more To Sir With Love movie photos can be accessed at the school dance photo stream link I provided within this text.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What a Wonderful World



I see friends shaking hands and saying "how do you do"
they're really saying
"I love you"


Louis Armstrong, the master himself, in a classic performance

Followed by the elegant performance of Rod Stewart

Do you remember the movie, An Affair to Remember? In a nutshell, it's about a great love that is interrupted by a tragic accident. Even if you haven't seen it, you probably remember it referenced in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle, which is also a movie that begins with a loss. Lately, I've been asking myself, why do we have to wait for something painful to happen before we remember how wonderful it is to be alive and to appreciate the people who give us so much?


You know what your problem is?
You want to be in love but you want to be in love in the movies.

Sleepless in Seattle

A story with a happy ending...

Years ago my family, my husband, children and three kittens, were moving across the United States. The children were with my husband in a moving truck traveling ahead of me when I was in a near fatal car accident. It occurred in the desert about 9:30pm near Needles, California. A drunk driver who was going about 90 miles an hour crashed into the back of my little Geo Metro, and sent my car into a seemingly never-ending roll . When it finally stopped in the middle of a sandy unpopulated desert, my car could not be seen from the road. I want to say right now that I appreciate the stranger named Richard, who reported the accident on his CB radio and who pulled his truck over, walked a good distance across the dark desert landscape to my upside down car, and stayed and talked with me until the emergency help arrived. A stranger waited with me, a stranger stayed next to a car that might have caught fire and blown up. I so appreciate that heroic person. I could never find him to tell him how much gratitude I felt for his human compassion. I appreciate my three sisters who drove and flew from all over the United States to be with me in the Las Vegas hospital. I give thanks for my husband's best friend who also flew to Las Vegas to see if he could help. I'm grateful my husband and children were safe and not in the car with me. Thinking about this incident reminds me that I too, dear blogger friends, appreciate your friendship where real people can connect and communicate with each other across the real world.

How can we remember to appreciate? Maybe movies and books are not only for fantasy. Perhaps they remind us that we are alive in the world...and isn't that wonderful? My wish for all of my blogger friends and everyone everywhere is that we can remember to love.

May we all know what is important, when it is important. May we value life and each other without having to nearly lose them.

What a Wonderful World

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We'll sing in the sunshine, we'll laugh everyday...

Joy vi : to experience great pleasure or delight (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary -1977)

A Tag for anyone and everyone from the artists Sukipoet and Blue Sky Dreaming that is passed on to anyone and everyone who reads OWL blog.

Five-ish (to the point) things I do daily to bring joy into my life. (2 sets of 5=10)

1. Meditate every morning. (& practice yoga)

2. Avoid abrasive people. (Avoid conflict)

3. Read. Blog. Write. Listen.

4. Take care of something. (People, pets, garden...)

5. Confront something that I'm avoiding. (Confront conflict)

6. Make a plan. (& put plan into immediate action...Note below: Joy Inducing Plan #1 and Plan #2)

7. Focus on something beautiful and alive. (Nature, babies, people...)

8. Focus on something beautiful and created. (Music, art, food...)

9. Notice. (Life, others, growth)

10. Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate.

SING ALONG: And now blogger friends, a most corny opportunity to karaoke along with We'll sing in the sunshine, lyrics included.

Plan # 1: Stop being too serious. Plan # 2: Stop making sense. (David Byrne-ism.)

Cringe and laugh along with this Helen Redding Muppet Show selection:
[Note Plan # 1]

What the heck! Watch David Move in the poorly recorded little gem!

[Note Plan # 2)

And finally any blogger who reads OWL blog and/or who needs a joy boost is free to copy and give themselves the Sukipoet Impartial "Puppy Love" Award- okay [confessional tone] I named it...I can't help it; I like words [yes, I know, a healthy rationalization, which I consider to be a necessary joy inducing skill--Bloggers note, (again) this follow on is an advanced level rationalization].
Does anyone have any questions? (David Byrnesque conclusion.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Where I live...a doll's house

Hey, there's a coqui in the bathroom!

Where I live, nature is my closest partner and imposes herself on every aspect of my life. The weather is generally hot. This morning, when I went outside to check, the temperature was 70 degrees (Fahrenheit). I feel cold. No, I'm not exaggerating. Right now, I have on a pair of heavy long pants, a shirt and a long pink sweater; I'm still not warm. My nose is cold, my ears are cold, my toes are cold. No, I am not going to put on a hat or socks! This state of affairs is ridiculous! I'm originally from the north but my body has acclimated so well that I'm most comfortable when the temperature reaches about 80 degrees. But to wear a hat indoors in this weather? I just can't be that foolish, or can I?

Our driveway is lined with nine stately pine trees, one orange tree, one grapefruit tree, one Buddha-bodhi tree, and two other long needle pines. (I need to look up their names.) Their form is clear in my mind because I've just walked down to the gate to collect a bunch of green bananas that the neighbor left there for me. Soon I need to start boiling them or they will turn ripe. I notice that all the pines are so tall that they tower above every other landscape feature here on this tropical mountain side. When we first moved here, these trees were tall but now after 10 years, they reach a height that I can only guess...50 feet? The taller they get, the smaller the house's like living in an artist's study on perspective. We live in the tiny white doll's house tucked in the green landscape.

Sometimes, nature is idyllic and other times it provides a shock. Don't worry, the shocks are few and far between, and usually accompanied by severe storm warnings. Mostly, the shocks are mild, really more like tremors... or a surprise. Like this morning, the shower was cold (to me!), and while I was adjusting to the chill, something landed on my shoulder! Scream! Oh, it's okay, just a coqui again! I quickly throw on a towel, exit and call for some backup. No one arrives; they are desensitized to this routine penetrating scream. What is it now? A lizard, a spider, a water bug (cockroach really), bee, flaming red ant? "Could you just get it out of the bathroom?" I'm not really afraid of bugs unless it appears that they are after me, in particular.
Like the other night, a huge flying bug landed on my head and I brushed it off. (Okay, I admit it, I screamed first.) Then I realized the unidentified intruder was on my neck and it disappeared down my collar. Oh! Oh! Oh! I tore off my shirt. Where is it? I ran to the bedroom and threw off the rest of my clothes. Is it stuck to my, no, no. Then I shook my clothes out. It's got to be gone now. Shower just in case. Out of the shower, I shake my clothes again. ( I take several showers a day.) It's okay, Cynthia. Just to be sure, I give the clothes another good reassuring shake...I'm okay...NO! What is that? It's on me? Off with the clothes again!

I feel mildly mental, like Grandma Alice who insisted that little black bugs were crawling on her skin. Indeed after many months, some bugs were found in the cupboard, though probably not the ones she felt. Nevertheless, she was vindicated. And now, dear blogger friends, I confess. I killed it. I don't like to kill bugs or anything else but I did. When it fell upon the ground, I picked up a shoe and I smashed it. I've just learned to accept that the little creatures must live outside so if they can't be safely captured and returned to their proper home, they must die. That proclamation means that the salamanders and other amphibians get a reprieve but the mosquitoes and such are on the hit list. All coquis must be captured! That's the Puerto Rican mascot and should be respected above all other unwelcome household intruders. I'm just glad that they don't stick to me or inhabit firmly shaken clothing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Going Downtown Again

Hi, blogger friends, I'm back with Petula Clark again. Okay. That other Downtown was peppy but this black and white version is cuter! Listen to it for a mood lift. Now, I'm going outside!

Downtown; Temporary Escape from New Year's Resolutions?

Petula Clark Downtown

I'm not funny today...

I'm a little bummed out, dear blogger friends. I've been weaning myself off of incessant blogging for a few days now but today, I think I've hit rock bottom. I can't really say it's the blogging; it's the thinking too much when I'm not blogging. There are many things that need confronted. I'm suffering from New Year's resolution pressure. My problem is that I make resolutions anyway-constantly. One of my resolutions is confronting my procrastination and writing work, which I did but it triggered off profound anxiety. Ugh! So now, I'm telling myself, "Enough. Leave it. Think about it tomorrow, Scarlett."

In an effort to escape my self-imposed resolution quarantine, I went down to the garden with twine. "Those noodle beans need tied up. Look how they're growing!" I made the most unsatisfactory cats-cradle mess with the twine and bamboo poles but it's done. Then poor Charlotte, the bag o' bones dog rescued from the street, her legs are infected and she's losing hair again. I tenderly gave her a sponge bath while she looked at me with eyes that seemed to want to cry. Poor shaking thing. I dabbed povidone-iodine on her wounds and she turned purplish red. Then I gave her a handful of kibble and talked to her while she shivered and nibbled on the food. "That's right honey, eat a little." It's so hard to take on sick animals. I try to be easy and accepting about her difficult situation but sometimes it gets to me. Little Charlotte Bronte, I don't know if she's going to make it. I have to get a new medicine, tomorrow. I guess that's why I didn't become a veterinarian, I get too attached.

I need a you're too bummed out remedy. Who doesn't remember the song, "Downtown"? It's peppy. It's positive an escapist sort of way but who's being picky? It's not practical for me to go downtown- plus, I don't want to- but what about walking around a bit? I think I need a change of scenery. I'm going outside again for a least the thinking will have a physical outlet.

My new impossible to keep resolution: Don't bum people out with your preoccupations. Starting now. Go!

Blogger friends, feel free to advise: What do you do when you're in a mood?