Kindergarten 10-30-13 – meltdown

I had the same three children to tutor as usual this week, and it was amazing to see the progress. Tutoring kindergartners is like watching plants grow. They just get more and more interesting and amazing every week. I’m grateful that their parents let me borrow them once a week. They all did really well. They don’t have their letters perfectly down yet, but it is almost there. Another week and they will be up to speed.

I chose J second and he leaped for joy when I called him. He celebrated and hooted. It is pretty heartening to have someone get so excited to work with me. It beats apathy, and he still hasn’t gotten the clue that I work with him because he is lagging behind. I hope he never does. Wanting to get tutored makes it easier. He sees it as a special treat. I’d not worked with him last week and it was heartening to see how eager he was to work.

Learning is work, certainly. We have our tutoring sessions in the hallway, just outside of the classroom. There is a little table there, just big enough for two. There are two chairs – one “adult” chair and one “kid” chair. I have recently started to use the “kid” chair because it is lower and that means I don’t have to bend over to see the kids eye-to-eye. I think it is important to be equal heights with them so there is no sense of hierarchy.

While I was working with the first child, S, there was a disturbance from another classroom (also a kindergarten). There was a shriek and then screaming from a child. “I don’t want to go home!” was clearly heard. The shrieks and screams continued. The teacher said “I’m calling the office.” I could hear through the door that the child was the only one screaming. The teacher was not screaming back. Something very bad had happened and she was being sent home, pronto. She was totally against it.

I looked at my student and we discussed this a little. I wondered out loud if I should go and check on things. I wasn’t sure what I could do. I thought if nothing else I could make sure she wasn’t having a fit or being harmed by the teacher. For the fit, I’m trained in basic first aid. For being harmed – nothing stops abuse like a witness. I didn’t think anything untoward was happening from the sounds, but I wouldn’t know until I looked.

I decided to act. I opened the door. The girl was standing near the door facing the class, screaming. The class was facing her, stunned. One blonde-haired boy was holding his hands over his ears. Everything about the scene was the exact opposite of what you should see if you open a classroom door.

I scanned the room and saw the teacher. For a moment I missed her, and I started to worry. She was standing near her desk, and she was on the phone, calling for backup. I asked if everything was ok. Obviously it wasn’t but it seemed the thing to say. This made the little girl turn around and it was like I had hit the reset button. She slowed down her screams a little. It helped. Her face was the red of a sunburn.

The teacher had things under as much control as could be expected at the time and I couldn’t see what else there was for me to do, so I went back to my student. We worked together for a little bit. The teacher then opened the door and had the little girl sit just outside the room while they waited for the office assistant. She propped open the door so she was still connected to the room. The teacher had pointed out to her that we were working in the hallway. The girl sat quietly, completely opposite how she was minutes before.

S and I kept working and I kept an eye on the girl. The assistant from the office came and got her and talked to her about how her behavior was inappropriate. She was headed home.

When I returned my first student I talked to my teacher about what had happened. She knew who I was talking about. She told me that if I met the family I would understand it all. It wasn’t a surprise to her. There are emotion-control issues here. There is some deep disturbance.

I saw my tutoring partner near the end of the scene and she said that she often tutored this girl. She said that she didn’t know her numbers yet. Numbers are usually learned before letters. The concept is easier to grasp. So there is a lot more to this story. When I saw the girl’s teacher later I asked what had happened. The girl had gotten angry and had taken her scissors and cut her own hair.

At least she had cut her own hair, and not someone else’s. At least the scissors are safety ones, so she couldn’t do a lot of harm to someone. Her anger appears to be self-directed, but that is a bad sign.

There is never a dull moment in the life of a kindergarten tutor. I always learn something. Rarely is it this dramatic, thankfully.

I’m grateful that my student was fine, and I’ve never had to deal with this kind of meltdown personally. I’m grateful that the teacher was able to call for backup. I’m grateful that my interrupting the scene seemed to defuse it. The teacher thanked me for looking in. I almost didn’t, because I felt I didn’t know what to do. Turns out, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, even though I didn’t know it.

I’m trying to learn to trust that feeling. It is scary every time. And every time it turns out exactly the way it is supposed to. I’m grateful to God for that lesson.

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Forbidden food

I was at a buffet recently and a Somali Muslim man was asking the staff what foods have pork in them. It started when he was looking at some marinated chicken and it was a little hard to tell what the meat was. The labels aren’t always right at that restaurant either, so it is better to ask. He finally was able to get a cook to come out and tell him what to avoid. Even going vegetarian isn’t safe if you can’t eat pork. This is the South. Vegetables are just a vehicle for pork here.

I was thinking about how hard it is for him to figure out what is OK for him to eat. There is a language barrier to deal with. There is the fact that he is in an area that isn’t always hip to other cultures. I wonder if he has the same problem I have when I’m trying to get something that doesn’t have peppers in it. I’m allergic to peppers, but no matter how I ask, I still get food with peppers in it. I’ve decided it is just flat out ignorance or indifference. The waiter just doesn’t know what is in all the dishes, or just doesn’t care. He doesn’t think to ask the chef because he doesn’t understand how serious the situation is. Nothing ruins a nice evening out like getting really sick.

If you are asking for religious reasons, do you feel the same way I do, or differently? I’m sad and frustrated when I keep getting served food with peppers even though I was assured it is pepper-free. Sometimes I pick out the offending bits. Sometimes I can’t pick the bits out because they are too small and I have to send the dish back. Sometimes I am just so tired of it all that I send it back anyway to show I’m not kidding.

There are no forbidden foods in mainline Christianity. You can eat anything you want, and many do, to the point that they get to meet their Maker sooner than they planned. So if you are in a predominately Christian area and you ask for no pork or no shellfish, and you get it anyway, do you take it personally? Do you see it as religious discrimination? Do you think they are attacking your faith?

If waiters are insensitive enough to serve something to someone that will make them sick or kill them, they are insensitive enough to serve something to someone that is religiously forbidden. It won’t kill you if you eat pork or shellfish. God won’t strike you down if you accidentally eat a forbidden food. It is the intentional consumption that is the problem. In an ideal world, waiters and chefs would take every food concern seriously. Until then, we have to either assume they are just clueless or we have to eat at home all the time.

Praying in color 10-30-13

praying in color 10-30-13

I asked God, How do I know I’m on the right path? He said – as long as you are seeking me, you are on the right path.

Sometimes I’d like it if the pictures come out awesome. But it isn’t about the pictures. The drawing is a vehicle. It is a way of distracting my mind so I can get to the heart of God. It is kind of like when I take large pills. Sometimes I have a hard time swallowing them, and I’ll wiggle my hand off to the side. I do that to distract myself, so I can think about that instead of the fact that I think I’m going to choke.

Drawing distracts me, so I don’t really think about what I normally think about. It gives my hands something to do. If “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, keeping them busy means that God can get in and work, right?

There is something about drawing that just lets me know that this time isn’t like any other time, and it is time to open myself up. I set an intention and see what happens. Meanwhile, I draw whatever shapes and colors come to me to draw.

Sometimes it is about just showing up. I present myself and I try. I think God is there all the time, but I’m not always ready to receive. I find I have to make a space for God. It isn’t really a space for God, but a space for me to be available to God.

Consecrate

I’m trying something new. I’m trying to set aside every day as a time for God. I don’t mean that I’m trying to set aside a time for God every day. I mean that I’m trying to make the whole day a day for God.

This means that I’m trying to see everything and everyone as a messenger from God. I’m trying to welcome everything and everyone as divinely sent.

This isn’t easy. I forget a lot. And not everything and everyone is that great to meet. Some experiences are downright scary. Some are really boring.

But I’m still doing it. Every day, when I remember, I’m putting a line around the day. I’m standing inside that place, waiting for God. It is like cleaning your house, waiting for a guest to come.

I invite you to this practice. Set aside in your head every morning that today is a sacred day. Set aside the idea that this day is God’s day, and this day is special. It is like going on a retreat every day of your life. This way, everything has a special luster. Everything is a message. Everything has more meaning.

It makes you more alert, more interested. It means that you don’t take anything for granted. It means that you are waiting, lamp lit, for the Bridegroom to come.

Matthew 25:1-13.
(Jesus says) “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Strange advantages of your parents dying early.

There are some strange advantages to no longer having parents when you are an adult. There are some disadvantages, sure, but it isn’t all sad.

They can’t boss you around and tell you who you have to marry, what your wedding is going to be like, and how to raise your kids. You don’t have to hear from them about how you aren’t living up to their expectations. It is your life, to do with what you will.

You have to look out for yourself. Since you can’t move back in when you get fired or divorced, you have to plan ahead and save up. This may sound like a disadvantage but it isn’t. Nothing makes you have to be an adult like actually being on your own. If you are constantly using your parents as an ATM, you aren’t really an adult yet.

They can’t gossip about you and tell all of your embarrassing secrets to your dates and co-workers. Those terrible stories die with them.

You don’t have to divide your time between them and your children. Older parents and young children require a lot of work. They both are very dependent and at times helpless. You only have so much time and energy and money and it is hard to be in two places at once.

You don’t have to watch a formerly vibrant person decline into helplessness. There is nothing more tragic than seeing your college professor father slowly lose his mind because of Alzheimer’s. There is a certain sadness in seeing your formerly active and independent Mom reduced to spending her days in a hospital bed.

And lastly, it teaches you perspective. It teaches you that there are no guarantees in life. It teaches you that you better get it done now, because there might not be “next year” for that project. It teaches you to choose wisely and not waste your time because you realize how little of it you really have. And, it teaches you to not freak out about a lot of little things, because if you can survive on your own at a young age, then you can make it through anything.

God was with me the whole time my parents were sick. People may say “How come God let them die?” That is the wrong way to think. They died because of their choices. God didn’t kill them – they killed themselves by smoking cigarettes and eating poorly and not exercising. God sent me help and gave me the energy to take care of them and myself during that time. For some people, that experience would separate them from God. For me, it drew me closer. I came to see God as my parent. So ultimately, that too is an advantage. I switched from identifying with weak, temporal, physical parents, to a strong, eternal, spiritual parent.

Sure, I still miss my physical parents. Sure, I wish that they were able to meet my husband. I’d love if they could see how well I’m doing right now. In a way, I know that they can, because I believe in the afterlife. I believe that they are spirit now and know what is going on. I believe that they are connected with all things now and are not limited to their physical bodies. But it still hurts, and I’m still sad. But within that sadness I can see how in some ways I’ve missed a whole lot of other hurt and pain by them dying early.

Anxiety/pain – mental/physical connection

It turns out that a lot of the physical problems I have are caused by anxiety. Well, this isn’t according to regular health manuals. This is from people like Louise Hay and John Sarno. Arthritis in the neck, asthma, back pain – all are caused by anxiety, they say. This sounds a lot like blaming the victim.

I have a pretty strong suspicion that if I suddenly develop an anxiety-free life, I’ll still have asthma and arthritis in my neck and scoliosis. Of course, Louise Hay and her ilk would say my disbelief is what makes it so. It is the opposite of Jesus saying “Your faith has healed you.”

Let’s turn it all around. What if I have anxiety because I have these physical problems? What if being in pain and having a hard time breathing is a cause of anxiety? That seems to make more sense. What if my daily life being affected by my physical limitations is what causes anxiety?

I notice that none of these alternative healers have any suggestions as to how to reduce anxiety so my physical problems go away. This certainly sounds like an easy out for them. Point out how your reader has caused her own problems, and then don’t offer any solution. If they offer solutions that don’t work, then everybody will realize that they don’t know what they are talking about.

I had my own techniques to reduce anxiety when I was in college, but I had to quit. Pot is great for anxiety, but it isn’t something you can do for long. Being illegal is part of the problem. Smoking cigarettes is also relaxing, but it causes other problems that create anxiety, like cancer. Nothing like trying to alleviate anxiety with something that causes more anxiety.

Now I try to write, do yoga, and draw every day. Ideally, I’d make some jewelry too. These things help, but cramming them into my morning only seems to cause more anxiety. Sure, I could get up earlier, but then I’m shorting myself on sleep. Sleep is a critical building block of mental health.

So I think I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing and ignore these people who tell me my physical problems are all in my head but don’t tell me how to work on my mental problems. I certainly believe there is a connection. But perhaps you can fix mental problems by going at them physically. Perhaps my chiropractor adjusting my back and neck is healing me in ways I’ve never expected. Perhaps yoga and water aerobics burn off more than calories.

Weather report

I’m convinced there are only 5 days a year when people are happy about the weather. They are usually in early spring or early fall.

There are plenty of days where the weather is ok, just not perfect, and people don’t even notice. Sometimes the way to be grateful is to notice what it is not.

It is not raining.
It is not raining hard.
It is not flooding.
It is not 100 degrees.
It is not freezing.
There is no tornado
…earthquake
…wildfire
…tsunami
…mudslide
…volcanic eruption

You get the idea.

All in all, the weather isn’t bad. All in all, we are ungrateful wretches most of the time. All in all, we forget to be thankful for the many daily blessings that we are graced with.

“This is the day The Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.”(Psalm 118:24)

This applies to every day. If we fail to notice the beauty and miracle of every day, we will spend our lives miserable. Just getting another day to live is a blessing.