Friday, January 29, 2010

Coexist XXVIII - In America

In the end it's our ideals, our values that build America, values that allowed us to forge a nation made of of immigrants from every corner of the globe, values that drive our citizens still.

Every day Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor and are generous in spirit.

These aren't Republican values or Democratic values that they're living by, business values or labor values. They're American values.

President Barack Obama

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Words/Poetry of Rumi

We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That's fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace,
close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.
Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd's love filling you.

At night your beloved wanders.
Don't accept consolations.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover's mouth in yours.

You moan, "She left me." "He left me."
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Little Rant

I've been struggling with my job teaching students with special needs this year. My degree,a few decades ago, was in learning disabilities, and I still have a good handle on that. But the emotional needs and behavioral issues I face everyday are wearing me out this year. You can work with a devoted and supportive staff of teachers and administrators and still must face the fact that there is really no effective consequence for plain old bad behavior in our classrooms today. Kids get away with disruption, talking back, and refusal to follow directions or complete work every day of the week. I have three 4th graders this year whose behavior reminds me of the antics of two year olds; tantrums, crying, rage, ripping up papers, throwing things, and inability to be reasoned with. They are all on medications that vary in their effectiveness from day to day. We, as teachers, have very little support from home. The worst punishment they can get is sitting in the principal's office for awhile after school.

This is a quote from a Cleveland Plain Dealer reader that was published a couple weeks ago. He/She says it better than I:

Urban districts have unique needs. The children come to classrooms 2-3 years behind suburban students of similar age. Asking urban teachers to be responsible for a students' total educational success is like asking a dentist to be responsible for a patients total oral hygiene care. A dentist can clean teeth and fill cavities but the patient/parent is responsible to brush their teeth regularly, floss, and eat the right foods. Should a dentist lose his job if a patient has bad teeth? The community needs to step up and until then, it is unfair to ask urban district teachers to shoulder ills and effects of poverty on their own. If a student comes to school exhausted because the parent wasn't there, or if a student isn't on the proper medication for ADHD or bi-polar disorder, how is a teacher's performance to be judged and rewarded/penalized? A teacher can have the best lesson in the world, but if a child is tired or upset because their home life is difficult, they cannot learn to potential.

I think that says it all. I would really like to go back to being a teacher - not a babysitter or a disciplinarian or a substitute parent - someday...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thought for The Day

Sometimes exhausted
with toil and endeavor
I wish I could sleep
forever and ever
but then this reflection
my longing allays
I shall be doing it
one of these days!

Piet Hein

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blogging Followers

I want to thank all my COEXIST "Followers" and all my other readers for your encouragement and support. Many of my readers also have wonderful and diverse blogs. So check some of them out! Scroll down on the right to my followers or my list of Beautiful Bloggers and enjoy!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.

A man who knew how to coexist - and died for it.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Slash of scarlet
bird in a mass of gray twigs
deer, like tree stumps blend
at rest on a cold cotton mattress
bough to toothpick painted
to the edge white to the tip
heavy laden and bowing to their Maker

a robin living on the piece of
startling green by the septic tank
picnic tables smothered and flying creatures
clutter and waltz at the feeders
sunless months our skin
as sallow as the sky
quiescent neighborhoods hibernate
in primitive search of warmth

on the silent journey
flakes continue like fairies lacking restraint
in a freefall to earth
circling down slower than gravity allows
and sometimes a tuft is released
from a branch carried by the cold
across our path in the unchanging
quarter pattern of the Ohio winter

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Wonderland

I love snow and always revel in it, but I honestly cannot remember a winter as beautiful as this one. For a week the snow never stopped. Over 25 inches accumulated here. But the amazing thing was that there was no wind, so every flake stayed right where it landed on its journey from heaven. Unusual creations were formed on every flat surface, and on every tiny twig of each tree and bush. I could not stop taking pictures of the beauty outside every window of my home and I wanted to share some with you - although photographs don't really give you the wonderment of seeing it all around you as it has here since New Year's Day 2010. In the last photograph - those two white bumps are our picnic tables! And in the first and third pictures there are chairs and a grill under those white blobs.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Coexist XXVIII - Respect for Opposing Opinions

I am constantly receiving forwarded emails - you probably do also. Some of them puzzle me and sometimes even upset me because I do not understand the spirit in which they are sent. Many of these emails have a political opinion attached to them and I suppose the sender either assumes that I agree with them, is trying to convince me of their superior understanding of the sad state of this country, or it is just their way of bitching. I find many of them insulting and lacking respect for opposing viewpoints. One recently depicted all those Americans that would identify themselves as liberals as lazy, good-for-nothing, parasites on society. (It actually compared them to a lazy dog that lays around the house all day, takes handouts, and does nothing to support himself or deserve his comfortable life.) When I made a brief response to this I was basically told that I don't know what I believe.

My viewpoints have changed drastically over the past 10-15 years and I contend that this change has taken place as my own life has changed, and as I have observed life in my own particular situations at home and at the workplace. In these years I have been exposed to a more extreme diversity of experiences and people than all the years before that. Because I understand that about myself, I also can understand that someone else may have a completely different set of beliefs and opinions than I do based on their own unique life. And I respect their opinions. Those opinions do not anger me. I'm sure they are justified.

There are some conservative views that I may agree with, but when I receive emails with a conservative bent they, almost without fail, are full of name-calling, hatred for those who do not agree and a doomsday mindset about our country. When I see certain conservative talking heads on certain television networks (which I attempt to listen to so that I can hear both sides) I always hear those commentators using their platform to attack other people. They use venomous, hateful and often sarcastic language to make their point(and I change the channel.

One of the things we all treasure about America is freedom of speech, and yes, these folks are using their freedom of speech to attack the president and the opposing political party - but to what end? To me, any fool can get in front of a camera and spout vitriol. How is that helping America? I believe our president should be respected whether he's George Bush or Barack Obama. Snarky emails and rhetoric only serves to divide our nation further. If you think that America is in such a mess - then make it better. Blame and division will certainly not make it better. If you desire the patriotism we had after September 11 then why are you sending emails that portray our country as doomed? I don't get it.

If your political beliefs include Christian morals then why do you vilify those who do not agree with you? Jesus loved the outcast tax collector - He didn't go around preaching about what an awful person he was. In fact, I don't understand at all how Christian principals are being upheld when a politcal party excludes certain Americans from their own pursuit of happiness and rights as equal citizens of this country. WWJD? Anyone with a miniscule knowledge of the bible can use a piece of scripture to prove a point one way or another. The new covenant of love and forgiveness that Jesus brought is what matters.

Personally I don't think America is in any worse shape than it's ever been. We have been through wars, depressions, recessions,energy crises and low morale before. We have crime and poverty and children not graduating from high school just as we always have. And we need to continue to fight these fights. These are all part of an imperfect country in an imperfect world. We all want our individual circumstances to improve for ourselves and our children, but espousing hatred, demonizing our public officials and taking sides will not make it happen.

I wrote this quickly, but I was inspired by an outstanding essay from Newsweek by Theodore B. Olsen. PLEASE read his article HERE.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Quotes on Reading and Writing

Reading a book is like rewriting it for yourself. You bring to a novel anything you've read, all your experiences of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.
Angela Carter

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man; nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; new races build others. But the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on. Still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts, of the hearts of men centuries dead.
Clarence Day

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.
Arthur Plotnik

The pages are blank; but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.
Vladimir Nabokov


Monday, January 4, 2010

More on the Cleveland Museum of Art

My mother is an artist and instilled a love of art in me. So we often enjoy trips to the Cleveland Museum of Art together. Over winter break they had an exhibit of Paul Gauguin and some of his contemporaries. The focus of the exhibit was the story of how these artists were berated for their unconventional style and talent, and so produced their own exhibit of work despite their critics.

Wandering through the art museum with an audio tour is like entering another world to me. It's thoroughly relaxing as the art and the information consume you for those brief hours. Everyone around you looks as though they are completely absorbed in the exhibit (and trying to appear as if they understand it all too, I think!)

My favorite piece turned out to be the one above by Jules Breton, a contemporary of Gauguin's, called "The Shepherd's Star." I thought I'd share it with you. If you live anywhere within driving distance of Cleveland, do yourself a favor and visit the museum. It is beautiful gem in the midst of a belittled city. If you want to read more about the recent renovations click HERE.