Musings on a Monday

I made my great-grandmother’s oatmeal bread today. It was rainy and cold and it looked like we were stuck in the house for the day. It seemed like a good day to bake, especially bread with the rising time and the clean-up. It’s a simple recipe really, like all loaf bread, some oats, some water, honey, butter, yeast and flour. And salt, which I forgot. You put enough Earth Balance on it though and you barely notice it.

Baking the bread got me thinking. I’ve been compelled with some of the blogs I’ve been reading lately. It started with Soulemama and has moved on to blogs like 6512 and growing. These women who are home, raising and schooling their kids, and pretty much creating everything from scratch. Knitting, cooking, sewing, raising chickens and goats. It’s a tempting way of life for me. Quit the politics of teaching and keep the home fires burning. I enjoy the routine of being at home, baking muffins for breakfast, a morning outing, an afternoon nap ( I hope!) and the clean up time in the afternoon before dinner.

What’s funny is I spent part of my childhood on such a homestead. We had sheep, chickens, a vegetable garden, 140 acres, the works. It’s funny how it all circles back. I wonder if the women of our generation are rejecting the idea of having to work outside the home, or at least have some amazing, high profile career and are seeing something valuable in running a home. My career used to be so important to me and now it doesn’t seem as important. Right now, running the home seems more important and providing my family with good food and warm, handknit items seems more vital. Growing a garden and living a simpler, more connected, life. Not acquiring so many things.

Oprah, who I’m not a huge fan of, once said that Americans weren’t living consciously and I think she was right. We were going to those big box stores and buying up crap. Now I don’t want as many crappy clothes or cheap plastic things. I want to grow our own food and buy less of it. I think realistically I don’t really want to run a farm and be isolated in a rural setting. I like my little pseudo urban neighborhood and being able to walk to the park or take the T to Boston. But I’ve always had an issue with lack of follow through. I think if I start something new, like a garden or knitting, I have to be perfect at it. I can’t just do something a little bit. As a result, I lose interest because I’m not as good at it as I want to be. I think this simpler life movement is a little bit different. A garden can be a couple of tomato plants, I don’t need to knit fair isle sweaters but the solid colored hats I like so much. I don’t need to bake artisan bread but my great grandmother’s simple oatmeal bread. But with salt this time. It’s about doing what’s manageable and you can do.

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Thoughts

We’re on February break here. It’s not my favorite vacation, honestly. It’s cold here without even a teaser of Spring because of that cold New England wind.  We have all just battled a wicked stomach bug and are now on to the sniffles. Still, it’s a good time to get things done, like taxes, and start some home improvement projects. We bought this condo last year and I have continued to break every venetian blind that came with it. So unless I really wanted to expose my family’s foibles to the neighbors, it was time for some window treatments. We also need a bigger fridge but that will have to wait. Only one big ticket item every few months around here.

It’s also an ideal time to set some intentions in teaching. This passage from this book I’m reading is especially sticking in my brain:

“Not knowing that thoughts are just thoughts can get us into trouble in virtually every aspect of our lives. Knowing it can help us stay out of the traps our own mind sets for us. This is especially true in parenting. For instance, if you have the thought, “Tom is lazy,” you will easily believe that this is true about Tom, rather than just your opinion. Then, every time you see Tom, you will tend to see him as lazy, and not see all the other aspects of who he is that are blocked or filtered out by your strong opinion, for which you may or may not have much evidence. As a consequence, you may only relate to him in a limited way, and his response to how you treat him may only confirm and reinforce your view.

In reality, you have made Tom lazy in your mind, and are not able to see Tom as Tom, for who he is as a whole being. Instead, you see just the one attribute that you are preoccupied with, which may only be true to a degree, if at all, or may change. And this may make it impossible for you to connect with him in any meaningful way because everything you say or do will be “loaded” in a away that he might feel and feel uncomfortable about, and that you might not even recognize as coming from you.”

Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings; The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

I hope the authors don’t mind me quoting them. I feel like I have a tendency to do develop strong opinions about my students because I work with them so intensely. I develop these opinions about my students and maybe don’t recognize enough that they can change. Especially in middle school, the kids change from day to day. I’d like to try to separate a bit from my opinions about my students and try to really see them. At this time of year, it’s easy to form these strong, often negative, opinions which get reinforced when venting with colleagues. I think the last sentence of the above quote is especially apt. That our strong opinions can make it difficult to connect in a meaningful way because the receiver of our strong opinions will feel uncomfortable but not even be able to name why he or she is feeling that way.

How hard is this though? To separate from our thoughts and opinions about people? Especially because middle school students are constantly trying to aggravate a reaction. But for the rest of this year, I’m going to try. I’m going to try not to form such opinions about my students. To be more open to who they truly are. I think this will refresh my teaching in a way. Make it more positive. It will be my challenge.

Do you have any intentions for your teaching? Or parenting?

Walking Meditation in a Winter Wonderland

I’ve read a bit on walking meditation as I’ve always been a dedicated walker due to being not much of a driver or into “working out”. So this type of meditation always seemed to be one I could see working for me. Sunday, after battles over snowsuits and appropriate winter attire, (No, you cannot wear your yellow hard hat instead of your warm, winter hat in 20 degree weather!) we set out to explore the newly fallen snow. (Finally, snow!) A toddler is a master lesson in walking meditation. Z was totally focused on one step in front of the other in his boots as he explored snow on bushes, climbing curbside mountains, scooping snow up with a wooden spoon. There was little conversation, just quiet. We wandered into the local park and he unburied favorite toys. It was amazing to watch him take in the newness of the familiar world around him. Before I had a kid, I did not look forward to the snow as it made traveling where I wanted to go difficult for me. This year, I was disappointed how long we had to wait for the first snowfall. Without it, winter is just cold and gray and dreary. The whiteness of the snow sparkles everything up. Later that afternoon, after a two-sandwich lunch, he conked out for a long, winter’s nap. After seeing him, I’d like to try a walking meditation myself being mindful of the world through the eyes of a toddler.

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Mindful Moment

This morning was one of those rushed, get out the door type of mornings. Last night I went to a Mindful Schools seminar. The presenter mentioned that when a toddler has a tantrum, often we try to change the feeling. (Wanna cookie?) He suggested acknowledging the feeling and not trying to change it. It totally worked!

This morning Z. (my son) freaked out and was starting to tantrum because the balloon he had gotten the day before had run out of helium and so it wouldn’t float to the ceiling. I asked him if he was sad and if he wanted to feel sad together. He said yes and we sat and felt sad for about 10 seconds and then he said he wanted to go brush his teeth which is what I had been trying to get him to do anyway! It worked really well.

Of course we had another tantrum right before he left because he wanted “bookies”. No idea what that is. This was combined with my husband trying to rush us out the door. Hence, meltdown!