Relieve Anxiety with Mindfulness

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Redefining the "Stay-at-Home" Parent

I'd like to talk about my dad for a moment. My memories of him and Mom fuel much of my writing. My dad was very proud of the writer his daughter was becoming. Love you, Dad.

Dad was a computer scientist at Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). He loved his work there but he also liked to play and rest. He was a hard worker but not a workaholic in any way. He lived a balanced life. He was pretty happy. He was an amazing dad.

In his spare time, my dad loved flea markets, garage sales, and later on, selling/trading on the Internet. He did it as a hobby but these days, hobbies like his could become jobs for those who would like to stay home to raise their kids and still make money.

I am thinking of Dad while I write about my son, Daniel, and the way he is approaching parenthood as he and Mariah wait for their first little munchkin to arrive in the world.

Channeling Grandpa
So let's move on to Danny and talk a little about what he's doing as he prepares for a growing family. He is a lot like his grandpa in many ways.

Danny works part time at the local laundromat/car wash. He also refurbishes computers and buys/sells/trades them for other computers (in good shape or in need of repair), car parts, TV's, guitars, whatever.The way he sees it, he can make a little money repairing things for people but he can also trade for something in need of repair that he likes but maybe can't afford, and fix it for his own use.

We have a corner of the living room dedicated to all the computers and computer parts he is working on, and we find ourselves regularly checking the post office for packages with needed parts, etc. We also pick up packages for a friend who has been doing this kind of work for a while and helps Danny learn the ropes.

It's interesting to observe him learn as he goes. As he runs this home business and starts making more money at it, he hopes to phase out of the laundromat/car wash work and work from home full time. A lot of people will call him a stay-at-home dad but I think, with the changing times and changing face of the typical workplace, he should be called a "work from home" dad.

I love this. I remember resenting having to go to work when the kids were little, especially when I could have worked from home, connected to my work computer miles away. The problem then was that my boss thought I wasn't working if I stayed at home, even though she could just check my work computer to see I was connected and on task.

We need to rethink work and raising kids. It's not necessary, these days, in many cases, to drive our cars to and from another place each day to earn a living. By working from home, we could be saving gas, mileage, and time that we can put toward other things.

More importantly, in my mind, is that we would have more time to be good, kind parents and raise kids who care about our planet and its inhabitants, kids who will go out and make positive differences in our often unkind world.

young Daniel with his grandpa at a weekend event
I hope Danny can make this work. I think he can, and I will support him in his endeavors however possible. 




Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Starting a Family -- Then and Now

I've recently received the joyous news that both of my kids and their significant others are expecting babies this year. Wow! And it's gotten me thinking...

I was older when my husband (now ex) and I decided to start a family. Well, we didn't really decide. I forgot my birth control pill one day, after ten+ years of not forgetting, and immediately got pregnant. I was 30 years old. After the first, my son Daniel, I wanted another. The decision made, I again immediately got pregnant. It was meant to be. I had Kelsey, my daughter, 18 months later.

In that day and age, we both had to work to make ends meet, especially after kids. We couldn't afford a babysitter so my husband worked graveyard shift and I worked days. Work, work, work. I did, though, take my kids to see me on the job whenever I could, especially when I loved my work. I wanted them to see their mom doing something meaningful that made her happy.

My kids are doing it differently. They want to be more involved with raising their kids than with work. They want to be more hands on. Kelsey and Jesse both worked at a popular restaurant in Madrid until Kelsey became pregnant. Jesse is now making pretty good money cooking so they decided Kelsey would quit to be home with the baby and he would continue working.

Mariah and Daniel are both working but Mariah holds the job with more hours, more responsibility, and better pay. She loves the work and doesn't want to quit once she has her baby. Daniel has many projects that he runs from home online and he will probably continue part time at the laundromat. They plan to have him be more the stay/work at home parent while she continues the job she loves.

I love the way my kids are thinking about all this. They want to put their babies first without sacrificing what is important to them. You can have it all these days with a little creative thinking and making a concerted effort to not go into debt.

I'd love to hear how other New Mexicans are doing it these days. How are you raising your kids so that you have more time to spend time together and learn from each other?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mariah Finds Her Spirit



Mariah, my son Daniel's fiancee, is an inspiration to me. I have watched her the past few years, as we've settled into our homestead in Moriarty. She and Danny have helped immensely to set up solar and get our utilities going and other things. We have a nice place to live now. After a few years of not worrying about bills, I realized I was running out of my inheritance and announced that we all probably needed to go back to work.

Mariah found work first. In fact, she found two jobs -- one at a restaurant in Madrid, about an hour away, and the other at a local laundromat. She worked both jobs for a time, amazed everyone with her energy, stayed long enough at the restaurant to have a local artist paint two paintings of her, and then quit both jobs when she got on at a major pet store in Albuquerque. She ended up in a position that seems to be leading her to a lifelong passion -- working with dogs.

What I've learned from Mariah's new job
Mariah has been learning a lot in her new position, which isn't that new any longer but she loves it more each day. She has met and worked with many many doggie breeds and personalities. She has met with many people breeds and personalities as well. She loves them all and handles them with respect and kindness...and a forgiving sense of humor.

I've learned a lot as I've watched her and listened to her funny stories. Being a dog person myself, I know that there is always something new to learn. Buster, my 17-year-old mutt, my lifelong friend, the doggie love of my life, seems to have gained a new leash on life after Mariah started feeding him more wet food.

Image may contain: Mariah Thomas, smiling, dog
Mariah and a favorite client, Cooper
I had always fed my dogs dry food, thinking it was better for their teeth. But after Buster recently started to poop powdery, dry stuff, Mariah realized that he needed more water (he wasn't drinking much from the water bowl) and brought home canned food that she got with her employee discount. In mere days, he was pooping normally again and his energy level was much improved as well.

Buster also has trouble getting around these days, and Mariah showed me how to lift him and carry him outside to do his business. I'm not young but he's not heavy either so it isn't too
hard to carry him outside now and again, although I try to get others to do it for me when I can.

Yes, I've learned much from Mariah. She is an amazing worker and a kind teacher. In the short time she's been at this job, she has already started building a loyal customer base, and she has her favorites that she looks forward to serving. Not many people her age find work they love so soon but she is lucky in that respect. She has a bright bright future ahead of her.

The best news of all
But the best news of all, in terms of Mariah and her happy life, is that she and my son are expecting a baby this fall. Amazing! My star child Kelsey expects her baby in May, Mariah hers in October. Woo hoo! A new grandma twice over! Could it get any better? I feel truly blessed. I shall keep you informed of how it all goes.

In the meantime, go out, New Mexico, and be kind. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

In Honor of Those Who Work Too Hard for Too Little

My last post detailed my horrific return to teaching after years of not teaching. After that incident, I decided to cash in my educational retirement money to make ends meet. But it would take months to process and in the meantime, I still needed to make a little money. Even when the retirement money came in, it wasn't much, so I would need to keep some kind of part-time work. 

I didn't care what kind of work I did. It didn't have to be anything that reflected my level of education or administrative experience. Work is work, I thought. 

One day, I walked into a hotel in Moriarty and asked about front desk positions. I had been a desk clerk before at a hotel in Los Alamos a long long time ago. No, the manager said, they didn't have those positions but they had one "very part-time laundry" opening. It would be weekends, maybe 16-20 hours total. 

That sounded perfect! My son worked at the local laundromat and I knew what kind of work that entailed. I was in pretty good shape. I figured this would be the same.

I figured so very very wrong. 

The first three days on the job I trained with the weekday laundry person. She was one year older than I and in good shape so I felt even better about it. It felt right. She was a great teacher. She also made things look easy. She spoke little English, I spoke little Spanish but we understood each other.

On Friday, the manager asked her if she thought I was ready to do the weekend laundry on my own. "It's going to be pretty slow," the manager said.  

She nodded yes as she worked at the folding table. I felt good. 

It wasn't slow the next day. In fact, the hotel had been slammed the night before and there was a lot to do when I walked in. I immediately started to panic. That's what I do. The ladies who clean rooms were calling others to see if they could come in and help. The manager came in to help until noon. 

I cried a lot that day as I tried to keep up with things. I won't give you the details but I discovered I am not in any way, shape or form, physically able to do hotel laundry on a busy day. I literally couldn't stand the heat, red faced all day, thinking I was going to pass out. And my fingers, after a while of holding onto thin, thin sheet corners, refused to do it much longer. 

Ten hours later, the housekeeping manager told me to go home. She asked if I thought I could do it again the next day. I said I wasn't sure. "Do you think I can do it?"

She said, "Not really but it's up to you."

"Let me sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning," I bravely said. She nodded. 

That was my last day at the hotel. Again, I won't go into detail about why I decided not to go in the next day but night-time leg cramps were part of that decision.

I do feel, though, that every experience is something to learn from and this is what I learned from the amazing women I worked with for that short time -- that marginalized populations do a LOT of hard hard work, contributing to our economy, and they do it for next to nothing. They barely eke out a living for their families. The hard work takes a toll on their health. 

It is shameful and unkind. We're talking about human beings, not political manipulators. We're talking about people who just want to make it to the next day and perhaps build a better life for their kids, just like most of us. 

We're also talking about people who've been punished for crimes committed and don't need to be punished further with low wages for the hard work they do. Seems like we should be doing the opposite. 

What I learned at the hotel is that I need to work, through my writing and my blog, on behalf of those who don't have a voice, those who are the victims of an unfair system. That's going to be a learning experience in itself so I'm gonna get started! I'll let you know how it goes as it goes...

In the meantime, I hope you approach each new day with kindness and peace.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

My brief return to public school


So I thought, when I found that I was going to have to go back to work and a job immediately presented itself, that it was meant to be. I had been blogging about mindfulness in the classroom and suddenly, the opportunity to return to teaching in the public schools, after decades of not, came along.The timing was just too perfect and I'm a sucker for woo woo stuff like fate and destiny and spirit.

I thought I was being called to help kids cope better and learn. I thought I was going to save the world! I was so smart! I was going to create a mindful classroom just by going in and telling everyone to be kind to each other. 

Two days after I started, I began to realize that I was there to learn a lesson of some sort and it wasn't going to be pretty.

And that is indeed what happened. One day, despite trying to build my defenses against such an occurrence, a student got in my face and screamed at me that I couldn't touch him. I don't know what happened. I snapped and started yelling back at him. I did not handle myself well. And another student caught it all on his cell phone!

I cannot tell you how mortified I was. I knew then and there that I would have to quit. I had absolutely no defenses if the parent of that kid decided to do something about my behavior. I had only lasted two weeks, two long long long weeks. Every day of those two weeks had been a lesson in defeat.

Lesson learned?
It's been a little while since I quit and I'm still hurting from the experience, mostly ego-wise. Maybe I'm just not the teacher I thought I was. Now I'm starting to look at it as, what did I learn and where do I go with what I learned? It wasn't until I read comments from Facebook friends on this discussion that I started to understand the message. 

Some friends showed support by commenting on kids these days and the fact that many don't have manners. Parents don't raise their kids to be respectful. That is true to an extent, I think. Some said the school district has problems overall.

Others pointed out that many kids grow up with trauma and tragedy and it is reflected in their behavior. Teachers care about these kids and are there to help them.That is when I felt a little guilt. Why didn't I feel the need to stay in the schools to help these kids? Why wasn't I up to the sacrifice? I care. This was bothering me for days so I thought on it, dreamt on it. 

This is what I came up with -- If I thought that the only way to learn was through our public school system, I would be that teacher who sacrifices her time and money and cries her way home from the classroom each day, hoping the next day won't be so heart breaking. I could see the need for me to be there. 
 
Don't get me wrong. I applaud and support those amazing teachers who do stay in the public schools to make a positive difference. 

But I think we need to drop a system that doesn't work and look at alternatives, and make it about learning, not education, politics, competition, and money. 

I've decided that moving forward for me means that I'm going to be a voice yelling for us to do it differently and kindly. 

I'm going to write my heart out in support of learning and community. The word "test" will never leave these lips unless it's in protest! I will never compare schools and pit them against each other. I will celebrate the unique and creative. I will encourage learning toward a better life.

My success will be measured by how many kids, parents, families, communities, I can influence to learn in healthier, kinder ways. 

I hope you will join me in the discussion that will hopefully lead to positive things in New Mexico communities. Maybe the discussion will lead to action -- the creation of community-designed learning hubs.

Please comment! Let's start this discussion. Wishing you a beautiful and kind New Mexico day. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bringing mindfulness to the classroom

I am enjoying a restful weekend after my first week teaching 6th and 7th grade language arts at Moriarty Middle School. It was a rough week but one that ended on a positive note, I think. Thirty years ago, when I first taught in the public schools, fresh out of college and looking like one of my sophomore students, I would have spent the weekend brooding over their bad behavior.

But now, much older and with a sense of humor seasoned over the years, I find myself excited to find ways to reach my students and inspire them to learn about our fascinating world. I thankfully found a way to see through the bad behavior to the potential, although it is a day-by-day thing -- it fluctuates.

Moriarty skies
I have to remember, when I'm feeling especially sorry for myself on a bad behavior kind of day, that these kids have had a rough school year so far. There has been no continuity or consistency in this classroom, the one I have chosen to lead.

They had a teacher for only a short time and then a few subs before one amazing Wonder Sub came in and established some much needed order. 

I have to be patient with them as well as myself as we all get to know one another.  I have to be mindful, and that is what I'm trying to pass along to them as well -- mindfulness in the classroom. We are all in this together. Let's be kind to each other and help each other learn.

My seventh grade students are friendly and interested in the topics I bring up. I am planning to have them do a school newsletter or blog. I'm giving them a list of topics from which to pick to research and write about for the newsletter. It is a project-based approach. I will guide them and be editor until we appoint a student editor, which might be a little while.

I have two sixth grade writing labs that are pretty much already determined curriculum-wise by other teachers in the department. The students will be creating table presentations at a World's Fair event at the end of the year, I believe. They will research, write and present about a country/region of their choice. I still have to learn the details.

Then I have one sixth grade language arts class. I will be having them write a lot, like my other classes, and they will work on projects as well. They will be researching a hobby or interest they have, looking at how they can turn something they love into a career.

I'm hoping to have guest speakers from the New Mexico community who are making a difference while they follow their dreams, role models who will inspire my students. I want my students to see that it isn't about college or test scores, and it isn't about competition and money. It's about learning toward a better, happier self-image and life. It's about learning toward a healthier planet.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Bullying and Mindfulness

It's no secret that bullying is a problem, not only in school with our kids but also in life in general. People can be pretty mean. I'm sure most of us have been the victim of a bully or have seen bullying happen to others. We study bullying and report its different variations (physical, verbal, mental) and the effects it has on victims, and it seems like the conversation always centers on how to react to bullying. There isn't much talk about how to prevent it in the first place.

According to the Huffington Post (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/franklin-schargel/bullying-what-schools-par_b_4103901.html), schools should do the following, and more, in order to deal with bullying:
  • reduce unsupervised time in the school day
  • better monitor places where bullying happens
  • train teachers to spot and handle incidents
  • encourage all to report bullying when they see it
  • establish a procedure to investigate reports of bullying
These are all well and good but is that really the way we should approach the issue? It seems that it is the responsibility of everyone but the bully to address the problem. Even the victims feel the need to practice avoidance. Why do they have to do that?

I propose that we quit focusing on identifying, reporting, punishment, and the negative and instead look at things from a positive, kind perspective. Let's focus on prevention by teaching our kids, including the bullies, to be more mindful.

According to Edutopia (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-kindness-essential-reduce-bullying-lisa-currie), experiencing kindness in any way changes the brain. It's possible to talk about kindness and show examples of kindness but it really isn't learned unless you feel it.

When you feel kindness, endorphins are released, endorphins that trigger the areas of the brain associated with happiness, social interconnection, and trust. Even the smallest act of kindness can:
  • strengthen your sense of well-being
  • make you more energetic
  • make you feel more optimistic
  • foster empathy
Kindness increases serotonin levels, resulting in, among other things:
  • more effective learning
  • better memory
  • creative thinking
  • better mood
  • greater attention span
We need to shift our focus and our perspective a little when we talk about how to handle bullying. Instead of focusing on the problem and how to get rid of it, let's make it about living a mindful life, one in which we realize that we are all on this planet together and we all struggle. Let's don't raise bullies in the first place.

Teachers, continue to orchestrate a mindful class and help your students learn to be kind to themselves and to each other. We all know there are kids who go home to anger and abuse so maybe schools could also help parents, through workshops, learn to live more mindful lives, too. If we start now, it won't take long for bullying to be a problem of the past.