Monday, December 26, 2011

The Angels' End of the Year Message

Today in NOTL:  Cold with noonish temps a breezy 37F/3C under cloudy grey skies

Message for the End of the Year

Dear Ones,
After the festivities of your holiday, you experience the angst of the year's ending. You prepare to welcome the new year with joy, but within your heart is the inevitable tallying of the year now closing.

What have you accomplished? What have you failed to do? What dreams have lain untended, what goals unmet? As such thoughts fill your mind, it is easy for you to become morose and regretful.

Beloveds, there is no cause for regret!

Everything in your life serves the great and noble purpose of your growth and development, of your greater appreciation for and alignment to Love. Of necessity, then, even those actions which disappoint you are not mistakes but merely steps along your path to greater wisdom.

As you look back upon the year now ending, it is good to recommit to the goals and dreams you have not yet brought to life. Do not stop at this point, Beloveds, but continue examining your life.

What loving actions have you taken? What efforts have you made to better the world in which you live? How deeply have you cared? What sacrifices have you made for the good of others, and how vigilantly have you regarded yourself through eyes of loving appreciation and
understanding? How well have you loved yourself and others?

Beloveds, remain grounded in love, regarding all things through this benign lens, and you have much indeed to celebrate!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Gift at Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Here is a story from my early teaching days, a story of the tremulous beauty of a child's trust and innocence.  I hope you enjoy it.

It was the late 70s, and I was a young white teacher in a school riddled with problems.  The facilities were poorly maintained, the ‘old guard’ among the faculty were shockingly blase, and the racial tensions among the black, white, and native American students often escalated into serious fights involving many students. 

Having been raised relentlessly democratic by my parents, taught to respect all people and to look out for those on the fringe, the underdogs, I entered my classroom filled with ideals that frankly amused the teacher next door - a man with nearly twenty years experience who prided himself on doing as little work as he could. “Don’t wear yourself out,” he advised me.  “The A students will get make sure they get their A’s, the flunkies will keep on flunking.”  He shrugged. 

His casual dismissal of the students floored me, which only made me part of his routine when I entered the lounge at my planning period.  The last hour planning period was a plum planning time, and the other teachers were all veterans who’d ‘earned’ the perk.  The teacher I replaced had been one of them but since her promotion to the central office had been made after scheduling had been completed, I had inherited her schedule with its prized end-of-day planning period. 

If a school could have a happy hour, the last hour planning period was it.  Little work was done by the vets, who chose to chat and party before going home.  They viewed me as a newbie to be enriched by their perspective , and my neighbour teased me mercilessly for my idealism, working habits, and passion for teaching. “Here comes Porche,” he’d say.  “She’s going to change the world, starting with 110 [my classroom number].   Come sit here and change mine!”  He’d leer teasingly and pat the chair beside him while the others would laugh at my red face.  And so it went.

In the classroom, I devoted myself to teaching not only reading but respect.  I taught ladies and gentlemen, I asked for rather than demanded their participation, I recognized a raised hand with ‘Yes, sir?’ or ‘Yes, ma’am?’  I looked for opportunities to apologize to students, something other teachers seemed never to do.  I was determined to have a classroom in which every student felt affirmed, validated, and free to risk trying - so many had given up long before I met them.  In a school where my students - all too familiar with abuse and violence and disrespect already - were at the mercy of teachers like my neighbour whose casual dismissal and racism went unchallenged by the establishment, it wasn’t easy. 

My dad was a union man who taught me that there were no small jobs, only small minds. The behaviours of other teachers at my school offended me, frankly, when I saw the state of their classrooms.  Trash cans overflowed, with trash paper in corners, in aisles, spilling from the shared desks.  The students, copying the behaviour of their teachers, treated the cleaning staff like servants; I hated seeing the men and women silently pushing the soft mops down the hall, ignored by staff and students. 

Not here, I promised myself.  Not in 110.  All paper went into the trash can and when it filled, I sent a volunteer to empty it into the large can at the end of the hall.  Paper on the floor?   If it was large enough to see, it was large enough to pick up and place in the trash can.  “The cleaner is not your mama and not your servant,” I told the students.  “She’s a working woman and deserves respect.  We show her respect by making her job easier when we can and thanking her for her work on our behalf.”

It was a new idea for them.  Like the teachers, they called her by her first name, something which in the South was recognized as a mark of familiarity or low status.  I knew which it was, and I didn’t like it, so I called all the cleaning staff by title and surname.  After all, they called no teacher by his or her first name, so why should we not accord them the same respect?  The cleaners pooh-poohed the formal terms of address, but I was firm: I was setting an example. 

All was not love-light-peace, though.  My students were understandably suspicous, and my own stubborn personality did not allow me to overlook in one what I could address in another.  Nor did it allow me to back away from a confrontation.  Eventually, though, they realized that, firm as I was - and by firm I mean  absolutely unyielding when I felt I was right - I was committed to fair play, equality, and the students  themselves. 

Some of the students got it quickly and became supporters; other students, more beaten by life, were slower to recognize my sincerity.  One student, Robert, had gotten it quickly.  A small boy, he faced some backlash for what other boys viewed as capitulation, but he was undaunted. 

By Christmas, the room was festive with bright colours and sparkles.  The mood was warm and relaxed as we worked our way through Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with a promise to let them watch an authentic version - as opposed to a cartoon version - when we finished.

One day, Robert came in bubbling with excitement. “Guess what, Miss Po’?” he asked.  Beaming, he told me that he was part of a small group of singers who would be performing at the Christmas service at his church.  “We’re going to sing, ‘Children, Go Where I Send Thee,’” he finished proudly. 

I congratulated him and commented that I was not familiar with that particular carol.  “It’s a spiritual,” he corrected me.  “I can sing it for you,” he offered.  I was delighted and accepted gladly, telling the class to quiet down for a holiday treat.

Robert went to the front of the class, calling a few names as he went.  “Y’all come help me sing,” he ordered.  “Y’all go to my church, you know it.”  They demurred, hesitant to have their worlds blend in 110. 

One of my girls got up.  “I’ll sing with you.  C’mon, boy,” she demanded, passing a few slaps to reluctant fellows as she went to the front of the room.  In a moment, I had five black children standing hesitantly beside Robert, who took expert control. 

“Y’all clap with me,” he told the class and began to clap.  Then he began to sing the old song. I caught my breath with the purity of the children’s innocence as they sang, these children who knew far too much about sex and drugs, who had personal experience of violence and racism and inhumanity - yet who sang with a touching hope that hadn’t yet died.

The doorway filled with passers by who stopped to listen, and we all clapped enthusiastically when they finished. “Encore! Encore!” I called, explaining that I wanted them to sing it again.

They did, joined by a few of the students who’d refused earlier.  This time they sang with even greater ease and comfort as they swayed and sang to our clapping, Robert doing a solo that would have done any Gospel singer proud. 

Applauding, I went to the front of the room to shake their hands and thank them. “Aw, Lord, we made Miss Po’ cry!” exclaimed one of the girl singers. 

“I only cry when something is really really REALLY good,” I told her and the beaming singers returned to their seats.  I settled the class - who wanted to spend the hour singing instead of reading - reflecting that I too had been sent, sent to these young people for whom it was safer not to care.     

We got back to Dickens, although I think he played second fiddle after my students had gifted us with their song.  Of all the holidays I celebrated with my students, this shining day was the best: the day my kids opened a door and let me peek into the tender hearts they hid so carefully.

Here is a children's choir singing the same song.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today in NOTL:  Another mild day, with noon temps of 77F/25C, a light breeze outside, and sunny skies. Beautiful!

It's nearly Labour Day.  School is already in session in many areas, and soon to begin here.  I loved teaching, though I dreaded the first day of school as much as any student.  Once I got past the first days of meetings and paperwork, though, I was in my element.

The worst days of school were ALWAYS the days of teacher meetings, when the administrators talked endlessly about the new trends they wanted us to incorporate into our teaching.  Bleech.  Most of the administrators in our community had only a few years of classroom experience; one honest principal, discussing his evaluation of my teaching, shrugged and said, "Let's face it: I can't tell you how to be a better teacher. I only taught three years before I became an assistant principal."  He was still a rookie teacher when he was placed in charge!

I remembered that when I was watching The Talk last week.  One of the guests was a woman who was violently opposed to the practice of 'last hired, first fired' when it came to teacher layoffs.  "Why get rid of the most enthusiastic and energetic teachers?" she asked, and that does sound reasonable - until you think about the ramifications.

New teachers are undeniably younger than veterans and probably more energetic and enthusiastic.  Do these make them better teachers though?

Let's move the discussion from the classroom to the hospital.  New doctors are certainly younger and probably more enthusiastic and energetic than doctors with 10 or 20 years experience.  Does that make them better doctors?  Would you want a rookie surgeon operating on you?

As a veteran teacher, I didn't have the starry-eyed enthusiasm I had as a rookie.  Instead, I had the competence and satisfaction of many years of successful teaching.  I was enthusiasm, but I used it differently.

When I was a young teacher, I was more rah-rah in my approach and tried to get the students on board through the power of my own excitement and delight.  Over the years, though, I learned how to generate THEIR enthusiasm not by being rah-rah myself, but by using discussion and activities and the sort of tricks and techniques good teachers learn - by experience and experimentation.

When I was a young teacher, the students' apathy and resistance had me gritting my teeth and promising myself a good cry when I got home.  As an experienced teacher, I used their own apathy and resistance to break through to hope and willingness. 

As an experienced teacher mentoring newbies, I know that 'last hired, first fired' is in the best interests of the students.  Are their apathetic older teachers counting time to retirement?  Certainly, but they are far fewer in number than the Talk's guest would like to indicate.  Youth vs. experience?  I'll take experience every time.  

But school administrators and 'experts' are pushing this idea: "Let's keep the young, enthusiastic teachers and get rid of those fuddy-duddy old teachers who are locked into outdated teaching practices.'   Administrators and education 'experts' certainly know the value of an experienced teacher, so why are they promoting this idea? 

It's not about merit, though they may push that idea.  It's not about excellence, either, or the welfare of the students. 

It's about money.  Although teacher salaries lag behind that of comparable professions, new teachers begin at the bottom of the pay scale.  It's cheaper to employ a force of inexperienced teachers than to attract and retain a force of teachers with years of hard-won classroom expertise. 

Like everyone else, schools are hurting for money.  Where can they economize? The easiest way is to reduce the payroll - fewer teachers and fewer veterans.  And who will suffer?  The children, as always. 

I was very disappointed to see this process promoted on The Talk.  I hope people won't be fooled. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Today in NOTL:  Warm with scant breezes, our high today 81F/27C with rain expected later.

You have to wonder about people.

We enjoyed a lovely visit this week with our friends Stacy and Diana. Good company, lots of laughs, you know how it goes when friends visit.

As the conversation ebbed and flowed, talk turned to movies and Stacy recommended some movie or other to me, which I rejected as one that would make me cry.  She denied that it was a sad movie, but I explained that movies needn't be sad to make me cry.

Which brought up the infamous Big story.  You may have seen the Tom Hanks movie, Big.  My sister loved the movie and urged me to see it.  "It's a comedy," she told me.  "I know how you love comedies."  Trusting her, I watched the movie - and cried from start to finish.  I found it incredibly poignant.

I was right, too.  Just last week, channel surfing, I stopped on a show that looked interesting only to find myself getting verklempt.  "What is this rot?" I thought, checking the online tv guide.  Big!  I knew that movie was sad!

Anyway, I explained all this to Stacy, who shared that she had cried at Toy Story 3. "Kids' movies are the worst,' I agreed, and she warned me not to watch TS3, as it has a sad part. I figured it would; those movies always do.

But Stacy was driven by the memory of that movie.  Knowing I would never watch Toy Story 3, she began recounting the scene in which the toys end up on a conveyor belt to an incinerator and, being moved to their destruction, clasp each other's hands in solidarity.  As soon as she began speaking, I knew what was coming would not be good.  "Stop, stop!" I said.  "Don't tell me or you'll have me in tears!"  I was already tearing up.

Too late.  Having begun the tale, choking back tears, she continued.  Hardly able to speak, she finished the story, clasping her hands as the toys had in the movie.  "No!  Stop stop!" I begged her frantically, dabbing my eyes.

But no.  She was gulping, I was gulping, the tissues were flying.  Across the room, however, I looked up to see both Diana and Deborah convulsing with laughter.  Deb's face was red with suppressed howls and Diana was shamelessly laughing aloud as Stacey and I fought to control our sobs.

Which brings me to my point.  You really have to wonder about folks...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lundi Gras: Bread Pudding!

Today in NOTL:  Cold and clear, with noonish temps of 22F/-5C under sunny blue skies.  Gorgeous day!

I've been having quiet fits here, as I've had trouble getting into the blog lately.  Turns out I was logged in under the Absolute Jeanius blog, argh.  Quite a relief to have that figured out!

So: today is Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras... and my family and friends back home will be partying hard, I'm sure.  Here, not so much.  We'll probably have pancakes tomorrow.  *half-hearted confetti toss*  Let's see....parades, parties, ***king cake***, beads on one hand.....on the other, a pancake.   No contest, imho.

Anyway, if you're not going to a Mardi Gras parade, don't worry.  You can enjoy a little New Orleans right in your own home.  Here's a recipe for traditional bread pudding, the kind Mama used to make.  Note: it's best with French bread, and a great way to use stale bread.

Bread Pudding  
1 loaf stale French bread 
1 cup raisins 
2 cups milk 
3 eggs beaten 
1/2 cup melted butter 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon cinnamon 
1/2 cup brown sugar

Oven 350*F.  Brownie pan (8x8, 9x9 or so) buttered.
1.  Tear the bread into little pieces into a mixing bowl.  Keep some larger bits for the top.
2.  Pour the milk over the bread and let it soak.
3.  Stir the bread, which will break down a bit.  That's ok.
4.  In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients and combine with bread mixture.
5.  Pour into buttered pan and add larger bits to top, pressing into the mixture.  It's ok if the surface isn't completely smooth.  
6.  Bake about 40 minutes or so - top will be browned and set. 
7.  Serve warm or cold with hard sauce, ice cream, whipped cream, etc.

Hard Sauce
Hard sauce is basically a runny frosting, imho.
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (icing sugar) 
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 or 3 Tablespoons liquor, enough to get the consistency you like.

1.  Cream the butter and sugar. 
2.  Add the vanilla and liquor.
Serve over bread pudding.
Rum, whiskey, bourbon, Southern Comfort - all make a lovely delicious sauce.  Mmm.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finally, An Explanation

Today in NOTL:  Cold with occasional flurries and a high of 19F/-7C.  Brr!

Today is Monday, when we normally do our blogtalkradio show, but we're on hiatus.  Too much going on, so we're taking a break.

Yesterday in my reading I came across an interesting article that explains so much for me. Drs.Justin Kruger and David Dunning are psychologists at Cornell University.  In 2000 they won the Nobel Prize for their report, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments."

Basically, their studies demonstrated that not only do unskilled people overestimate their ability, they also fail to realize it when they have failed.  Remember those American Idol rejects who storm from the audition raging that their brilliance was unrecognized?  Case in point.  (Remember Dubya?  Case in point.) Highly skilled people, however, tend to underestimate their ability, probably because the old axiom, 'The more you know, the more you realize how little you know" is true.

The article linked above is a good read.  You can read the report here, if you like scholarly research.  Either way, it makes for some interesting reading. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

Today in Notl:  Cold with a high of 22F/-5C.  The blizzard passed us by, we are expecting about 2 inches/5 cm in all.  Lucked out!

I'm mindful, as I look at the weather today, of how bad it could have been.  Years ago, I went to New Jersey to live with a community of sisters so that I could discern whether their life was for me.  The convent was situated midway up a wooded mountain, while at the foot was the printery where we worked to support the convent and the shrine's mission.  We were located in NW New Jersey, and the winters were ROUGH, particularly for this Southern lass. 

One day, the snow began coming down and there were blizzard warnings, so the office shut down early.  Two of the nuns remained to close things down with the business manager and I set off on foot back to the convent.

It was perhaps a ten or fifteen-minute walk on a snow-free day, but it was cold so I took the shortcut across a large open field, admiring the view of the shrine and convent.  I made good time at first, but it wasn't long before the snow really began to pick up, increasing dramatically very quickly.

Suddenly, I was enveloped in white.  Being a voracious reader, I had read of blizzards and tales of hapless travelers caught in snows so heavy they couldn't pick their way across their own back yard to the safety of their homes.  I'd read of snows so thick that those out in it couldn't see their hands in front of their faces, and I thought that was a figurative expression intended to mean 'really thick snow.'

Now, however, I realized what all that meant.  As the snow fell around me, it felt as though the very air around me was opaque, as though I were wrapped in cotton batting.  Instantly I lost all sense of direction, not knowing where the convent was, where the office was, where *I* was in the field. 

My feet were like lead; unfamiliar with that amount of snow, I was lifting my feet to clear the snow, carrying a mound of heavy wet snow atop each boot.  Looking down, I couldn't make out my dark boots, though I could feel the snow as it topped them and slid down inside, wetting my already cold feet.  I lifted my hand to see, and indeed, it was as I had read:  I couldn't make out my hand at the end of my arm stretched before me.

I prayed as hard as I had in my life. I knew that the convent was situated in a clearing and that behind it were wooded trails and that the mountain was heavily wooded only a bit beyond the field.  Of course, the nuns knew where I was, so that was comfort.  If I came to trees, I reasoned, I'd try a different direction till I came back to the open. 

Sure enough, I came to trees.  Had I reached the heaviest wooded area up mountain?  I turned and encountered more trees.  I tried again and found open ground so stumbled along.

I say stumbled because I was exhausted.  I was breathing hard from the exertion of lifting so much snow with each step as well as from the effort not to panic.  However, having reached an open spot, I felt that if I continued walking along the open edge, it would lead me to a building - the deserted shrine, the outdoor chapel, the office, or the convent.  At that point, I didn't care which it was; any would offer welcome shelter. 

Finally I encountered short growth - a hedge.  That meant I was near the convent.  Hedges ran along the road up the mountain and lined both the drive to the garage as well as the garage to the visitor parking lot.  If I headed back to the woods, the hedge would guide me back in the other direction toward the convent.  I was hugely relieved!

Stumbling along and sometimes within the hedge, I found my way to the garage, but my knocks and calls got no answer.  No matter, though.  By walking close beside the building, I found my way to the front door and opened it to glad cries.

Instantly I was surrounded by my worried sisters, who took off my coat, scarf, hat and gloves.  They wiped the ice from my lashes and brows, sat me down and removed my shoes.  One flew to my room to get my slippers, another found a towel to dry my cold wet feet, another pressed a cup of hot tea into my hand.

Looking up, I saw that several of them were heavily bundled themselves.  Worrying for my safety, they had determined to search for me themselves. I had been gone over an hour.

When the snow had begun to pick up, the nuns decided to return to the convent.  They'd scanned the mountain but couldn't see me through the snow and surmised I'd already reached the convent. When they got there and realized I hadn't made back, their surprise had turned to concern and then fear as the minutes ticked by. 

As it turned out, that hedge saved me from heading into the wooded gardens behind the convent.  One of the sisters, a Minnesota gal, observed my footprints filling quickly in the snowfall.  Had I not found that hedge and followed it, she told me soberly, I could have been lost for many hours in the acres of woodland gardens. She didn't have to say anything more.  I knew I'd had a fairly close call. 

So as we watch tv and see the reports coming in from around the country, I remember my one-and-only blizzard experience and sip my coffee gratefully. 

Art today is a few of the pendants going to a jewellery party this weekend.  If you are in the GTA or within an hour or two of Niagara and would like to host one of Deb's parties, let us know!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today in Niagara-on-the-Lake:  Cold and cloudy, with a high of 27F/-2C and a few flurries expected.

This morning we were discussing the story behind the movie, The King's Speech.  The writer had been given permission from Queen Mary, the wife of George VI, to make the movie provided that he waited till after her death.  Little did he know that would occur some 27 years later!  But he was faithful.  I find that more inspiring than the story of the king's stutter, actually.

I was quite pleased that I knew George VI's wife had been the Queen Mum, not having been reared with familial interest in the doings in Buckingham Palace.  George VI took the throne after his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.  Being American, that much I knew, lol.

Talk turned to the romance of Edward and Wallis - the woman for whom a man gave up the crown.  Talk about romance!  Deb noted the difference between him and Prince Charles, who noted he wanted to be Camilla's tampon.  Where has nobility gone??

Channel surfing yesterday, I caught part of Maury, a daytime talk-show.  I had thought that it was a cut above the Springer show, which capitalizes on the lack of class and decorum one finds among some people - the ones who lack proper upbringing, education, and refinement.  However, the few minutes I caught consisted of Maury reading paternity test results.

Apparently a fellow had fathered his lady's two children, despite some confusion as to whether his brother was dad of the younger one.  He ranted a bit about what a slut she was, while embracing his brother.  Apparently he felt it was ok for his brother to be with his lady, just not ok for the lady to say yes.  

Next up was a fellow who'd apparently impregnated a whole gang of women, as they'd said he had to his denial.  His fiancee, undaunted by the prospect of marriage to a man who was so indiscriminate as to have six children by five women, began to rush the stage in a yelling match NOT with the scumbag she'd agreed to marry but with the women he'd used and abused - !

I am appalled by the glorification of coarseness and crass behaviour I see on tv. Saturday Night Live had some black singer last week, and the dancers were just - disgusting.  More disgusting was the way he behaved, some stupid male-supremacy pantomime I suppose.

Why do women and girls tolerate this sort of thing?  I understand lack of self-esteem, but I can't believe women gain esteem from men like the zeroes I've seen on such tv.  *shudder*

Yesterday I spent time making mini-pendant watercolours only to discover I have run out of the pendants for the mini paintings!  Argh.  Back to it today, this time making watercolours for the pendants I HAVE!!!  Will have pics tomorrow!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting Better All the Time...

Today in NOTL:  Sunny with a few clouds and cold, with today's high 22F/-5C.  *shiver*

So it's been a tough couple of weeks with this cold/virus making the rounds; I think some of us have had two bouts of it.  Bleech!  We seem to be peeking out from under though, finally.

It's hard, though, when you're not able to keep up with the work you do b/c you're ill and you're NOT getting that regular paycheck from the 9-5 grind everyone complains about.  We love what we do, but quiet days mean no income.  It's a real tightrope to walk when things get slow as they have each year around this time.

The idea of blocks - that if we're working hard to walk in trust, affirm the good, etc., and NOT seeing prosperity then something is keeping that prosperity from us - is a sticky issue.  The Law of Attraction and the Power of Positive Thinking notwithstanding, a lot of folks who are working those are not getting the results the high-powered sales folks like the Secret teachers are - or anywhere close.  That's ok; after all, you can only sit in one chair or live in one house at a time, eh?  Thoreau would say any more than that is superfluous.

Still, many spiritual workers mention that they *should* be seeing more satisfying results of their spiritual work than they have.  To me, that points to one of the problems right there: they're flowing energy to the lack of satisfying results.  Nevertheless, we can always take some action to increase the good in our lives, so I asked the Angels about it, specifically for my abundant life.

I got an interesting response; basically, they told me to let go the old stuff I was carrying around.  I instantly did a forgiveness check, as forgiveness (or the lack thereof) is a huge block to good.  Instead, they directed me to my former career as teacher and I realized they were right.

I loved teaching.  I loved my classroom, I loved creating activities for my students, I loved my practice as a learning therapist helping kids to read better and improve their grades.  I loved being with other teachers and talking shop.  I loved visiting teacher stores and picking up bright posters for my classroom.

Being a teacher was never a job for me, it was an integral part of me.  I said 'I'm a teacher' the way other people say 'I am in the Who's Who' or 'I have won two Oscars.'  I was proud to be a teacher and took, my first year, a wonderful woman as a role model, Catherine D.  She was gracious and well-spoken, she never raised her voice, she commanded respect from the students and faculty simply by being the person she was.  To my rookie eyes, she was the consummate professional and I strove to become a consummate professional in my own right.

I think I did.  I kept myself in the classroom - my laughter and sense of fun, my stubborn refusal to back down from the hard aspects of teaching or to tolerate disrespect, my idealism - but I added her gracious manner of dealing with parents and students, refusing to be drawn into anger, comporting myself with the dignity appropriate to a position which placed me of necessity in the role of model to my students.  I am proud of my work in the classroom, proud of my ability to establish rapport and trust with students of all the races in my class.

It's hard to let that go.  When I must introduce myself, I always refer first to the fact that I am a former classroom teacher and second to the fact that I am one of the Angel Ladies.

And the Angels pointed out I was clinging to the past.  I am not a classroom teacher anymore; I do not have a private practice as a learning therapist.

So I thought about that and decided to do a brain dump.  This is a test-taking strategy I used to teach my dyslexic/test-phobic students:  as soon as you get the test paper, use the back of a sheet to write formulas, lists, processes, anything you are afraid you won't remember.  Once you get it onto paper in usable fashion, you are free to answer the actual questions on the test.

In my case, as I make the techniques, tips, and strategies that made me successful in the classroom available to others who can use them, I free up energy for other aspects of my life.

As a learning therapist, I used to create organizers for my students all the time, putting information in a meaningful structure for them or creating a structure they could use to organize information helpfully.  Now that I'm creating art, I decided to use my expertise to create an organizer for artists and crafters who offer a variety of products.  I called it the Art Genie, lol.

I'm working now on a guide to assist people in creative problem-solving, to 'thinking outside the box,' if you will.  Following that will be a creative writing guide to help folks who have a story get it out of their head and onto paper and other guides and ebooks of successful techniques I've used in and out of the classroom over the years.

I'll let you know the results.   No art today, but here's a beautiful shot of the local clock tower in the snow, taken by Tom and posted on the weather website.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Prayer Power

Today in NOTL: Cold and cloudy with light snow, our high today 8F/-7C.  Lotta snow on the ground but clear roads.

Such encouraging news about Congresswoman Giffords this morning - that she opened her eyes, touched her husband's ring when asked.  She is doing so well, after such a devastating injury.   Most people would never have made it to surgery; what makes her situation different?

Yes, we know about her intern's valuable help and the excellent team she had.  We understand how much worse the wound to the head could have been.  Still, though, most people with her injury would not have survived.  What makes her different?

One thing we've heard about this admirable woman, over and over, is that she is a very positive person.  She looks for the good, we are told.  Moreover, she is a person of commitment to the principles of justice and responsibility.  To me, that spells deep spirituality.  I don't know or care about her religious beliefs; we know lots of religious folks who could pass for the antiChrist. 

This woman, Rep. Giffords, is spiritual: she is connected to Love and that connection expresses through  her uplifted outlook and her dedication to not just Democrats but ALL her constituents.  Love doesn't play sides, you see, and neither does she.  Love is strong; so is she.  Her connection to spirit, to Love, is a powerful support to her recovery.

Also, she has people around the world praying for her.  Prayer is powerful, too.  Positive loving energy, focused and directed onto a common goal, has tremendous power.  It changes things in often amazing ways. 

This is one reason the Angel Ladies remember our friends, family, clients, customers, and benefactors in our prayers throughout every day.  I say 'throughout' - on a busy day, we may pray only morning, noon, and night; on slower days, we may pray seven or eight times.  Regardless of the number, though, each time we do, we remember our - let's lump them together as friends. *s*

We pray for your highest, happiest and best.  We pray overall for your highest, happiest and best health, wealth, and life.  We believe that is part of our ministry.  We believe that the prayer technique we use when we do prosperity workshops is one reason people see results.  It's not the only reason, of course - you have to practice the skills and techniques we teach - but it's an important one.

Prayer does create and support change.  When we say to a friend, 'I'll say a prayer for you,' we are offering a gift.  When we hold each other in heart as we connect to divine Love, we give each other a gift of priceless value.  Today, we will pray for you.  We hope you will pray for us and our ministry as well. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reading and Readings...

Today in Niagara-on-the-Lake:  Cold, with a high of 29F/-1C under mostly sunny skies although clouds will move in later along with light flurries.

People often ask what is the difference between an Angel Reading and a Tarot Reading.  I like both, actually.  In an Angel Reading, the information comes from the Angels themselves; I'm not really involved other than to listen and repeat or see and interpret (the Angels often work with symbols although we've worked out a symbolic language, if you will, for broad themes that recur in readings).  In a Tarot Reading, the Angels give information but I am involved, too, as I offer the meaning of the card or a particular image that steps forward to be addressed.

Sometimes we want to know things the Angels won't address.  For example, we may want to know the outcome of a particular situation.  The Angels won't go there; I understand from them that by telling us the outcome, we would make choices based on that information and they see that as impacting free will.  We can use the cards, though, to show us how the energies are flowing and gain insight into how things will turn out - provided the folks involved don't shift things through the decisions they make each day. 

I've been doing Year Ahead readings, which I always enjoy.  Taking a look month by month, the cards show the energies that are supporting and blocking us so that we can have a more satisfying year.  For example, say that the energies in February are supportive energies are flowing toward innovation and blocking energies are surrounding harmony.  Recognizing that would alert me to possible interpersonal conflicts, allowing me to handle situations with greater attention to clarity and respect, thus avoiding disharmony to the best of my ability.  I'd also know to pay attention to new ideas and ways of thinking/doing/being in February, recognizing that the flow of energy supported me in embodying new perspectives and perhaps trying new things or implementing changes in my life or work.  Helpful stuff!

Today I am working on the cover for a pdf product I've been developing for a while now.  It's geared toward artists and crafters and that is all I'm going to say till I get it up and available at Etsy and here on the website.  I've been using it and it is GREAT, she said modestly.  *s*  Hey, if it's not good stuff, why would I waste time working on it, eh?  And if it IS good stuff, why would I keep it a secret? 

Memo to self:  Do not be afraid to acknowledge the good things you do and the excellence of the work you do.  *thinking about that*  Hmm.  Anything I don't feel is excellent never makes it to the website or Etsy shop because I wouldn't feel right offering why be shy about saying so?  Lord knows enough stuff makes it to the wastepaperbasket or meets the delete key! 

I guess it's because I've met so many people who promote themselves in ways that make me recoil.  "Look at me!  Look what I can do!" or "Look how much better I am than everyone else!  I'm the authority!  Nobody talk - I'll hold forth!"  That kind of thing makes me take about five steps back on my way to the Exit.  I wouldn't feel comfortable promoting my readings, for example, in that fashion.

My feeling is that while it's true that nobody can do the reading I do, I can't do the reading someone else does.  We are all able to do that which is given to us.  Deb does a wonderful Angel Amulet reading, which is a far cry from the Meet Your Angel reading I do.  I confess that when I was present for one of these, I was blown away.  I felt a moment of "Awwwww, that's GREAT!  Why aren't my MYA readings that good??"  It wasn't till she said later, "I know they're not as good as your MYA readings..." that I realized we were both falling into a major trap:  If I can do it, it mustn't be any good. 

Where do we get those ideas?  I see it all around us - one friend downplays the fabulousness of her cooking while one shrugs off her ability to handle money and another dismisses praise of her fashion sense.  Gotta get over ourselves and recognize that yes, we do some things brilliantly!  Just because I have meltdowns over layout doesn't mean I don't have fabulous brainstorming ability.  I may not be able to sculpt or paint a Walter Campbell-style watercolour, but I can do fabulous Jean-style watercolours.

I visit Etsy sometimes just to look at the garp some people are offering with pride, work I'd have tossed into the garbage can instantly.  But no, they offer it proudly and you know what?  Someone comes along who sees what they do and it sells.  It's all about how we see ourselves and our work.  If we think it's garp, people will see it as such. 

Now to implement the insight!  *gulp*