Risk

Bird Droppings December 31, 2010
Risk

How more appropriate to end the year than to look at the idea of risk and what lies ahead. Risk is a driving force of who we are and why we are and what we do. How we take chances and avoid risk are defining pieces of our personality.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” Lou Holtz

I think you could possibly argue numbers but Coach Holtz has a good point. Life is a combination of pieces sort of a tossed salad of sorts thrown together and the end result is what we live with. One thing however that Coach Holtz left out is what makes you respond the way you do. Probably being a football coach and one dimensional limited his views on such things but a whole other realm of ideas could be spent on that concept.

“In my own experience, the period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life. …Through a difficult period, you can learn, you can develop inner strength, determination, and courage to face the problem.” Dalai Lama

We learn as we walk through life by experience how to respond to a given stimulus. We learn how to choose from choices presented. I often use the example of crossing a stream stepping rock to rock, as you step each time you see the stones, some are slick or wet, others covered in moss and slippery when you step on them. You learn to avoid certain situations in order to not fall in the stream. However it may be a warm day and the fall is worth it since a cool dip may be worth the risk of a shorter journey across the stream.
As I sit writing I recall a term from many years ago in my days working in industry, Risk Management. In Risk Management Training an acronym has been used for many years in industry and it could apply in life, the four T’s.

1. Terminate the risk – Do not do it, avoid it, eliminate the risk, you do not need to cross the stream
2. Tolerate the risk – In crossing the stream there is a chance you may get wet you are willing to risk it
3. Treat the risk – Build a bridge across the stream and a mighty storm may wash it away but in one hundred years there have not been any storms recently
4. Transfer the risk – Let someone else cross for you or buy stream crossing insurance A paraphrase of Frank E Bird Jr., Loss Control Management

But unless you actually are involved you may never really know which way to go in terms of which T you will pick.

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” Warren Buffett

Life is about experience and the roads we take it is ours to choose and to make a mistake or succeed with.

“It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

Take the day by the horns as the cowboys among would say and try to do your best, carpe diem, and stride across the stream believe it is summer and you will not succumb to hypothermia if you do fall in and as always especially in these days of increasing violence in the middle east keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Sitting and wondering pondering laundering

Bird Droppings December 30, 2010
Sitting and wondering pondering laundering

So often we take our technology for granted. It has been about five years since our last washing machine decided to die on us. In thirty two years we have had only three washing machines you might say they become a part of the family. We waited on Sears to send a repairman, we need our dryer and washer looked at currently and you now have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. So far we are holding things together but I recall my trips to the laundermat and they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter.
Thinking back to that last repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would had to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our washer but if we choose to get a new one we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty five dollars to tell us our washer is broke. Of course if we buy from Sears essentially we would get a rebate. I need to get my mind off of spending money on washers and dryers.

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throw away society.
In an issue of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly literally tons of debris washes in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The babies parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the babies stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.
It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a clean up campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment. But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Often using each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested for use while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off.
There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)
I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of the church. I look a few lines up to Jung’s words of how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.
Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throw away society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.
One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers – There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true –

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.” Ancient Indian Proverb

I wish we could live this one and remember there will be those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends.
namaste
bird

Example

Bird Droppings December 28, 2010
Example

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

‎”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is th example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

So much research has been done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Develop mentalists have written and been written about numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.
“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.

“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s. Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work.
It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian – lived in every sense of the word – from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a masters program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.
I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.
SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems.
namaste
bird

Naughty or nice

Bird Droppings December 28, 2010
Naughty or Nice

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act or when, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. A few nights back Santa Claus as he does every year visited my house. Coincidently a letter came with a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my grand daughter of course and several grand nieces and a brand new nephew. Several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly, her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home.
Every once in a while I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a profession in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a live here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life.
Occasionally he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day. A favorite story I recall is one from South Africa about thirty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry.
Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa this trip, traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day. When it was time to head home Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so.
Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend in South Africa asking what my father did to his driver. As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember for ever.

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will some day. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame is a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her.
So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas William Jerrod

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

Many times as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million lets start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Finding a pathway even when one does anot appear

Bird Droppings December 26-27, 2010
Finding a pathway even when one does not appear

The past few days have all run sort of together each an interesting day in its own right be it sitting and watching movies with the family after sharing gifts, eating all day long and then getting ready to head to south Georgia to visit my wife’s family. But still while off from school for the next two weeks I will try and get some writing done, I will mow grass not because it is time to bag and use as mulch for my herb gardens and to even up the yard a bit. We had a good rain several days back and then snow and cold which is still howling outside my writing window even as I sip my hot tea they were joking when the weathermen said a cold front was following the snow of yesterday.
Weather permitting as I walk about looking for branches and rocks before I mow I might find the path where deer evidently come across our back yard tracks etched in the frozen snow. A little over five years ago it was several neighborhood children who would walk across the back of our yard to there houses behind ours in our old house. Something I like far better being in the country side between Atlanta and Athens. I guess cutting through the woods behind our house saved them many foot steps I am sure over the entrance to the cul-de-sac which was several hundred yards further down the road. Now it is wildlife that short cut through our yard. We see daily many deer, owls, numerous kinds of birds, squirrels, an occasional wild turkey and red tailed hawks sharing this corner of the county.
As I went our earlier I was thinking about that deer pathway and how each of us has our own pathway in life often skirting around the back of others and or just beyond view. Maybe that pathway is a short cut maybe it is the easiest route in a difficult situation and often it is simply the most practical.

“By identifying your true motivations and desires, it becomes easier to find direction in life. Now we know where your goals come from. What’s the root beneath your dreams? There is no right or wrong answers, just ideas at the core of you. We could probably analyze what in your past makes you want to become the things you put on your list. We could analyze how close you are to being all of the things you’ve listed. It’s not important. What matters is that now you know what it is you’re aspiring to become.” Skye Thomas, Tomorrow’s Edge, Finding Direction

Could it be so simple making a list of goals, or building a set of actions and plans which could be a road map of sorts for where we want to go. When I first went to college nearly forty plus years ago I was aspiring to be a biology teacher. I did not teach biology till about seven years ago when I was officially certified to teach the subject. There were many shifts and changes along the way as I walked my own path. Several years ago my oldest son took courses and was certified in GPS and would use it to mark tortoise nests and beetle infestations as part of his science projects in college. As technology advances now each photo I take on my camera is GPS stamped and you can tell where that image is from. I find it amazing that we can tell where you are within a few feet any where on the globe with such accuracy. On my cell phone I have a navigation application to guide me wherever I program a location and I can drive the car listening to the voice from my phone and go right there. I have found that new road construction often is not on the navigation system but usually it is only off for a few miles or so and then it relocates and I can hopefully avoid stopping for directions with my male ego intact. But in life sometimes more is needed than what technology provides.

“Synchronicities are not flukes or random events. They’re intentional reflections of our intuition working with the perfect order of all things in the unseen world. It’s why fish swim upstream, birds fly south and bears hibernate. Everything in nature intuitively gravitates toward what best serves its growth, and that includes the human race. The only difference is that we have the choice to follow our intuition or not.” Sonia Choquette, Trust Your Vibes, Finding Direction

A little new age thinking never hurts to start a morning. I do like this thought, often we choose intuitively to go in life a certain direction it may not be a quick choice but one over a period of time. In regards to myself the decision to return to teaching after nearly thirty years was not quickly made it came in series of events that culminated in a job at a local high school nearly ten years ago. As I think back even that specific job nearly fell through four times and on the fifth time it finally worked out. I often wonder why this school as I was not hired at six other schools since officially I was not certified. Why did this particular principal hire me and want me to work literally hiring me five times finally getting approval as a long term substitute for a teacher who had a nervous breakdown. Amazingly enough as I look at my pathway perhaps it was not to be working with him as he was transferred a year later. I will say this after six plus years we are still good friends and communicate often.

“Being committed to some goal in your life – a sense of having a mission, a purpose, even a calling – is a very motivating, very comforting thing. Some people’s mission steps up to greet them; others have to hunt theirs down.” Sam Baker

After class the other day a teacher raised a question. “Are you where in life you are supposed to be?” Several of the teachers surrounding me thought for a minute and weren’t sure and then to me. For nearly twenty four years as I searched I couldn’t answer that question. That day it is easy, I am exactly where I need to be and am suppose to be.

“Do the things you love to do and are passionate about, then you’ll have few regrets. Conspicuous success or public acknowledgement for these things may or may not come, but it won’t trouble you much either way because you’ll be happily enjoying yourself.” Sam Baker

The word passion seems to pop up a lot for me. Are we passionate about what we are doing? Are we passionate about our direction in life? I do believe it is true if you are passionate about what you are doing there will be few regrets. I learned that from the principal who hired me nearly ten years ago as he was always passionate about what he was doing.

“What intrigues you? What questions about any aspect of life or the universe absolutely enthrall you? There’s your direction! Although we cannot map out our lives in advance, much can be done to make desirable outcomes more likely. Acquiring an exceptional ability is one such outcome.” Sir Bernard Cohen

Recently as I wrote about learning to lead as a progression of growing up and drifted into actually learning how to teach from a young age. I started to think I wonder if my own kids have learned such endeavors in their turn at life. I wonder if my mother and father realized that they through bits and pieces laid out to me they were directing me along a pathway in life.

“Your accomplishments will bring great pride and joy to your closest friends and family, but in the long run it will hurt all of you badly if you’ve done it only for them. You have to do things for the passion in your own heart.” Helen Fielding

I went into the high school over the holiday as I do most holidays to think and plan for the coming days and of course to feed critters. Some days it is just a bit of catch up and recently was an odd one I was cleaning up my school email. In my files I had over four thousand past emails so I was going through and deleting the ones that were not significant. I have a bad habit of saving emails. Working my way through several years of emails I was saving those that were specific about students and critical parent correspondence. I found several emails congratulating me on being named teacher of the year in our area by Sam’s club over five years ago. I still have the blue Wal-mart vest in my closet at school and a letter on the wall a quick reminder. One of my students had sent a letter to Wal-Mart it wasn’t something specific as to what I did but a letter of recommendation from a student and I was honored. As I thought I really did not do anything different for that student. She graduated several years ago and we still keep in touch every few weeks. I basically did as I do each day teach but I do it with passion and what is funny people see that when they are around you.
So what ever you choose whatever pathway you go down do it with passion and truly you will never go wrong. It is funny how holidays affect us. I am working on reading and writing for a research paper and in the news school are trying to cope with how to better educate their students and pass tests. Another topic in the news was dealing with charitable competition during the holidays where instinctively many people try to give more than others, I often ask why just at holidays. I use the term loosely in harms way there are so many meanings. It may be children who are hungry and or abused, adults without work and struggling, many folks who are mentally ill and now on the streets as we found it prudent and fiscally responsible to close mental hospitals, and politically correct there are so many meaning to in harms way. A big one is our service men and women of course around the globe so as every day please dear friends keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Being Patient

Bird Droppings December 23, 24, and 25, 2010
Being patient

It has been a few days and I am not used to having stayed off a computer for so long. An early morning trip to Florida and an early morning trip back along with getting ready for my grand daughters first Christmas Eve family gathering and welcome home took most of the last three days. Of course opening presents around the Christmas tree and taking hundreds of photos doesn’t help my pondering time. I did manage to get out this morning for the sunrise and sit and think meditate a bit before everyone else was up and moving however. It has been a hectic few days for me.
Watching children this time of year and even adults allows you to see various degrees of patience running rampant and or in a total lacking there of. A few days ago I was standing in line at a store where I knew the owner and she was helping a customer with a purchase without even thinking she asked me to help a customer, even though I was a customer as well. Trying to help a young man decide between a bearded dragon and a leopard gecko actually something I knew about as we keep both species. Patience is a virtue many people say they lay claim too yet we seem in life to avoid it when at all possible. We gear our existence to being done now as soon as possible ASAP as we use in internet abbreviations.
So how do we learn to be patient? How do we learn to wait? How do we learn to know when is right and when it is time simply to listen or watch? Often I have a tendency when concerned with myself to want to get on with things yet in dealing with others I can often allow life to jell to come together as it is intended. Perhaps it is in my experiences with dealing with people throughout my life. Although my mother and father were patient people perhaps there is a genetic component to patience. That would definitely make a good topic for a doctorial dissertation. But other times I see patience as an art form one that is perfected as we practice the art. I truly think it is one concept or behavior that is learned and literally acquired over time.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I go out each morning and watch the moon change from full to a smile over the days and to see the stars and wonder at the millions of years of distance between us and billions of years to come to where we are patience is an aspect of nature. I have often used river pebbles in discussion with each pebble as it started as a chip of rock somehow ending in the stream, tumbled and turned until the edges are smoothed and rounded eventually finding its way to your hand. It took time, effort and much patience. On my shelf at school is a wooden bowl containing several pieces of rounded wood? In Africa and in other rain forest areas some of the trees wood is so dense it sinks in the water and chips of wood tumble much like river pebbles and eventually you will find river wood chips rounded and smooth almost polished much like river pebbles. They tend to be an interesting conversation piece and one that comes up daily as students find my bowl of round wood pebbles.
I mentioned a young man in my droppings a few days ago. I met him several month’s ago. He is a high school student at a near by school and is autistic. An aspect of autism often is the ability to obsess over an object or a task and he will sit and do puzzles for hours his mother said often through the night till the puzzle is completed. During his life he has never spoken as he communicates with an Etch a sketch and or hand signs. His mother speaks in code at times using certain words having directions to them. Obsession however is not patience but almost on the opposite spectrum.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

There is thought in patience while in obsessing literally no thought and yet how do we tell them apart?

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” Paul Sweeney

These are questions to answer to ponder this wonderful day as the snow falls for a white Christmas in Georgia. How do we learn patience and how do we teach patience?

“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus

I recall seeing a famous pear brandy with the pear in the bottle. You have to literally grow the fruit inside the bottle attaching to the flower as it grows and changes and the fruit itself grows in the bottle. Patience is a similar task starting as a bud and a flower and growing as we learn to except more and understand more. There is a correlation to thinking and patience or wisdom as St. Augustine states and in that perhaps the difference between patience and obsession. A bright mark as the lead news headline states “the president has continued to emphasize a reduction in troops in Afghanistan” perhaps there is peace if we are patient. However for now on this holiday for so many people please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Trying to find topsoil midst the erosion of soul

Bird Droppings December 22, 2010
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. Out in the garage I have root stock from several medicinal plants I ordered that I need to get into soil soon along with seeds. In a world where family ties are eroding away faster than we can reconnect we find our roots need topsoil.

“Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people. “Alex Haley, from his book, Roots

I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family. After several years of looking I found a copy of the Red Lake Chronicles, a history of the Red Lake Ojibwa reservation, edited by Dr. Kent Nerburn an author I do enjoy reading and whose focus has been Native Indian Spirituality.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. In a discussion with a young man recently talking about a brother in jail again and sister in trouble maybe separating from roots is necessary at times. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. If we go back to talking about society and people and using the analogy I have of plants most plants without roots are parasitic. As I look out at how we have set up our world is this not maybe a good comparison we have set up for parasitism among people.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on as we head into so many various holidays for many.
We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Going up another rung

Bird Droppings December 21, 2010
Go up another rung!

A new week under way and the mountain is nearly climbed as we approach the holidays. I even with my aversion to shopping went out with my wife to brave the masses of the mall over the weekend and finish up the majority of holiday shopping. Perhaps that is why I am recovering over several days getting up late although it could be since we are out from school for nearly a month. I am finishing up my meditation and writing this morning after an evening filled with reading posts from friends to a fellow teacher and family friend whose husband was killed in an automobile accident yesterday. It is a difficult time of year for families to deal with a loss but as I read through hundreds of posts and support from friends literally all over some even returning from holiday vacations to be with their friend in this time of sorrow. Some days I am disappointed in the human spirit but this is not one of those days.

“One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you–suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, ‘Well, I’ll have a go, too.’” Margaret Thatcher

The first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain was in her time the most powerful woman in the world. It is her philosophy of success that she discusses here and is simple, one step, one rung, one at a time to the top. So many folks want to jump from the ground to the top and forget there is so much in between. Seldom do you here negative comments about Prime Minister Thatcher of her time in office and the great dignity and poise she brought at a difficult time in our world’s history.

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles

One of the major ways that we as humans learn is through trial and error. However true success is not repeating the error again and again but doing anew and that is when we are succeeding.

“What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” Benjamin F. Fairless

As I read this note and the four simple rules or ingredients to success I was amazed at the simplicity. First love what you do, and then give it your best, thirdly seize opportunities, and finally teamwork and success can be yours. As I walk through the doors of a school and look at teachers so often you can tell good teachers by who is smiling, a sure sign that they want to be there. For these teachers it is not just a job and they love what they do and do give the job their best. In no other field have I ever seen people seize opportunity such as in teaching. When paper is allocated or budget cuts restrict supplies you learn quickly to be resourceful and work with others it is so much easier to accomplish then working independently.

“Success is that old A B C; ability, breaks, and courage.” Charles Luckman

We acquire ability through learning and effort and taking advantage of breaks that come along and keeping your eyes open and always being ready. Courage is that character aspect of us that is that inner drive that can lead a person upward.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” Colin Powell

As he lead US forces back a few years and then as Secretary of State Colin Powell has simply put it all in order as far as life goes, in order to find success you must prepare do your homework. Then you do the work and get it done and finally learn from your errors, from your mistakes and use them to succeed. As I read this afternoon between cleaning and shopping I found a thought I would like to end with.

“It is more important to be of service than successful.” Robert Kennedy Jr.

For many people the idea of success is a selfish thing, but finding true success is when what you do is affecting others positively. As I think back to so many who are taking time today and yesterday to help with the pain of losing a loved one and so many others pieces of life’s puzzle let us all take heed of our time we have. Today in this coming holiday please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Possibilities

Bird Droppings December 20, 2010
Possibilities

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” Les Brown

I was sitting talking with one of my sons yesterday remembering when I was their age. I should say trying to remember when I was their age that would be more appropriate. It has been a few days since my sons and I have been to lunch with my mother and as they would; they got picking on each other and she always would enjoy the show. My oldest has recently been accepted to graduate school and I recall one of his last semesters he was having some difficulty getting registered because his student loans had been electronically fouled up. I was trying to tell him take each moment as it comes, deal with it and move to next. He was upset and as the day progressed the lesson was learned it seems the wording in the college catalog allowed him a “loop” hole so he could register and get started in school that semester while the paper work of his student loan was over the resolved.

“It is necessary; therefore, it is possible.” G. A. Borghese

Perhaps as I get older I find nothing is impossible when we set our minds to it. Some where along the line I took a picture of my son crossing a stream stepping rock to rock he had fallen in playing several times but even soggy and wet he was still trying to maneuver across, stepping rock to rock. I have used this illustration so many times and even have a picture of the stream hanging in my room at school as he does in his bedroom. So often life is like crossing a stream, a stone at a time and we do fall in quiet a bit. The ones who are successful in life climb right back up soggy and wet and keep going.

“Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you, if you but knew what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have really come to like Emerson over the years almost as if he wrote some lines specifically for me to use those many years ago and they have been sitting and waiting.
I altered slightly Emerson’s words, “If we but know what we are”, and what a powerful statement. We go through life trying to understand where and who we are and many of us spend the better part of a lifetime searching. Some will find themselves at a young age and the rest of us it seems like eternity trying to know.

“Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Dag Hammarskjold

While not a household, Dag Hammarskjöld is the name of the former United Nations Secretary General during some of the world’s craziest times. The Cold War was one of the biggest historical events of our time between Russia and The United States. His statement of waiting till you attain your goal before you stop to measure is so crucial. So many of us when we stop to look and see where we are going become frustrated and slow down or stop completely.

“Of course we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” A.E. Hotchner

Each day at school I post on my door a new quote something to offer a challenge to students, to open doors, to expand wisdom, to stick their neck out, and to go beyond where they are now. Each day many hundreds of people go by my door and some will crane their neck to peek inside the door, some will stop and talk as I sit in my office outside my room between classes at my door. What is that thing, what do you teach, and r whose room is this are my favorites that students come up with. Each day is an effort of trying to open boxes and pry the lids off sealed containers of minds and thoughts.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” Soren Kierkegaard

It has been many years since I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak in Macon Georgia in 1973 when he recognized a small church my brother attended, The Church of the Exceptional, as the National church of the year. That was over thirty five years ago yet his ideas are as relevant today now at this moment as I write this cold morning in Georgia.

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

A possibilitarian is someone who always see possibilities, what an interesting thought in a day and time when so often we are subjected to negative and belittling concepts and ideas. So many students quit long before they ever get a chance to succeed. At this time of year we see many seniors leave high school or at least our school due to graduation tests. They have tried numerous times and while they will have enough credits and may even have been a B student or better can not pass one of the five Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Many will seek enrollment in a small private school that does not adhere to same standards and does not require GHSGT’s and will graduate in May on time only they graduate from that school.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” Song from, The California Special Olympics

Sometime ago I followed UCLA’s basketball program more closely that I do now and on the team was a red haired fellow who just happened to be 6 foot ten inches tall. He becomes a premier professional player and in retirement one of the great commentator’s of sports Mr. Bill Walton. It was only last night that University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team toed the eighty eight game win streak of Coach Wooden and Bill Walton’s team.

“No matter how good you get, there’s always something further out there.” Bill Walton

There is to all lessons more than one aspect, and more than one possibility. It is seeking, understanding and achieving those numerous other possibilities by never simply stopping because you made your initial goal. Now set higher goals achieve more and better grow further and farther, always lifting up continually. I was reading several small pieces this morning as I started writing. We all are givers and takers at one time or another as our lives balance out, try and balance to the giving versus the taking. You will never run out giving, but when you take soon doors will close. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Telling our grand children

Bird Droppings December 19, 2010
Telling our grand children

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be life long. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grand children will be able to hear and see what we have even in our life times.
Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need anymore for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my grand daughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

So in the midst of a holiday season I am wondering what lesson should I first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird