The Time of the Season *

back to school Mamacita says: Remember those scenes in You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan is talking about how, even at her age, she still loves the time of the season when the leaves are colorful, the weather is divine, and every store has school supplies. And then she’s swept off her feet when Tom Hanks, who doesn’t know Meg loves school supplies, says this:

bouquet of pencils

As adults, we take seasonal indicators/decorations for granted. We like to mark the season with a centerpiece or bouquet or display, but the days when we were struck voiceless by the miraculous representation of a season, in public, and that’s a shame. We expect store windows and school bulletin boards and office tables to remind us of what season it is, and unless it’s our job, we don’t do a lot of thinking about how that tiny trimmed tree or vase of mums or patriotic display or heart-shaped window cling or carved jack-o-lantern got there.

To a small child, these things are part of the miracle of the universe.

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie Nolan knew that summer was over and autumn had officially arrived when she saw the vase of autumn leaves and bittersweet on the librarian’s desk. Francie would look at the display and her heart bittersweetwould ache with happiness and sadness and nostalgia and glowing joy and all the other emotions we don’t usually think small children could possibly feel. Francie didn’t have any labels for her feelings and thoughts; she just looked at the display that represented the shifting of the seasons and loved it.  And it told her that the seasons had changed.

Years later, when Francie was grown up, she returned to that library and that same librarian and mentioned the vases of seasonal flora, and was devastated to learn that the librarian hadn’t even noticed them and thought the janitor must have done that.

As adults, we simply must start paying attention, the way we did when we were children.

To what? To everything. We must pay attention. If we don’t pay attention, things happen and change and we miss it.

Leo Buscaglia’s papa knew. Every night at dinner, the same thing would happen.

Papa, at the head of the table, would push his chair back slightly, a gesture that
signified the end of the eating and suggested that there would be a new activity. He Richard Byers, Phyllis Byers, Jane Goodwinwould pour a small glass of red wine, light up a thin, potent Italian cigar, inhale deeply, exhale, then take stock of his family.

For some reason this always had a slightly unsettling effect on us as we stared
back at Papa, waiting for him to say something. Every so often he would explain why he did this. He told us that if he didn’t take time to look at us, we would soon be grown and he would have missed us.

Peter Banning’s wife Moira knew, too. She tried to explain to her husband:

Peter, Moira Banning, HookYour children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Soon Jack might not even want you to come to his games. We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s so fast, Peter. Just a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.

He may have been a grown-up Peter Pan, but he needed a drastic reminder.  Remember, just a few hours before, he had yelled “Stop acting like a child!” at his son, who replied, “I AM a child!”

As parents, we have the power to make ordinary days extraordinary.  Let’s use that power.  It’s a magic so strong that, done right, it will help create children who are full of light, full enough that they’re better able to drive out the darkness than are the poor children being brought up in families who don’t know the difference between one day and the next, let alone one season and the one following.

Use your super powers for good, parents.  Cultivate the noticing.  Cultivate it in yourselves AND in your children. It’s the time of the season every day.

. . . So I Blocked Her on Facebook

Take A Stand Mamacita says: I had to block someone on Facebook last night. I’ve only ever done that a few times, and it always makes me feel like I’ve failed somehow, even though I tried my best to be nice. Mom used to say that there are some people you can’t BE nice too, and I thought she just wasn’t trying hard enough, but she was right.

I still hate it, though.

Even though this person was a complete and total stranger – someone I’d never even heard of – her opinion of me, and her harsh words, and the awful website she said reminded her of me, made a mark. What if some of what she said was true?

My friends assure me that she was just a crazy person looking for a target, but even so. Being a chosen target isn’t pleasant.

It hurts.

But let me tell you something, stranger-named-Maria, you are wrong and I am right and I’m not backing down just became you happened upon my writing and decided to be offended. Being offended is easy. Defending takes brains, and all you did was attack. I’m sorry you were offended, but. . . . no, wait. I’m not in the least sorry you were offended. I have no control over your fragile sense of what’s offensive and what’s not, but to attack a stranger as you did was uncalled for in any circumstance. So you’re blocked. I understand from friends of friends of friends that you’re furious and are trying to comment via other means but I don’t care.

raspberry tongueTruth be told, I don’t care what you have to say because your words are not well thought out and they are not coherent and your spelling is atrocious and your logic is non-existent and you are a mean person.

So here, from me to you, is my last farewell.

“Bye.”

temper_tantrumHave a nice life. You’re probably going to have an apoplectic stroke at age 28 because of that dreadful temper and lack of vocabulary to express yourself. So be it.

Our Bright, Gifted Students Have Rights, Too!


Mamacita says: I was remembering my first teaching job, which was in a school that used the modular system and gave hope to our bright, gifted students. It was fantastic.  Of course, it’s gone now.

==

My very first teaching job was in a brand-new high school that was set up in a non-traditional way: some of you may remember the “mod” system? No? I feel old.

Twenty-two 20-minute periods, or “mods” a day. A week was 6 days, and most classes met every other day. A regular class was usually two mods; a study period might be any length, from one to four mods; labs were four or five mods, etc. Academic classes were divided into large group/small group, just like college. For example, a student might have English on Days 2, 4, and 6 during mods 9 and 10. Day 1 wasn’t necessarily Monday; it was simply the day after Day 6. Attendance was taken first mod and wasn’t taken again the whole rest of the day. Students had a huge commons area for ‘free time.’ There was a SMOKING AREA on the side of the building, and teachers had duty there! The sense of openness and freedom and personal responsibility was tremendous.

Except for the smoking area, I loved it.

All the kids loved it, except the ones who couldn’t adapt to the freedom. Kids who desperately needed, REQUIRED, a rigid routine, just couldn’t cut it. But for the above-average kid, it was heaven.

Unfortunately, above-average kids weren’t the majority.

The experiment was ruined by those kids who just cut classes every day and hung out in the smoking area or the commons, or who left the open campus at noon and never came back, day after day, or who wandered aimlessly, lost and confused, trying to figure out where they were supposed to go on Day four, Mod seven. Even though they had a schedule in their hand.

Many parents never quite understood the concept either, and objected. Mostly the parents of the kids who never quite understood the concept.

At the time, I really did think I’d died and gone to school-heaven. I envied the students. For someone like me, that kind of ‘schedule’ would have been perfection. For many kids, it WAS perfection. For the first time, a school was actually catering to the bright trustworthy kids.

It didn’t last long, of course.

It lasted only a few years, and then the school board decided to go back to ‘traditional’ scheduling. Unfortunately, the new building had not been designed for anything traditional; it was too open.

So they cut up all that lovely open space into little cubicle classrooms with no windows and turned into a traditional six-period high school.

The building was planned and built for grades 10-12. A few weeks before it was finished, the board decided to send the freshmen there, too. And then they wondered why it was too small from day one.  (The building has recently been remodeled and it’s beautiful now.)

It’s a shame. Even though it was too late for me as a student, for the first time in my life I had been exposed to a concept that catered to the smart kids, the reliable kids, the GOOD kids, the funky kids, the quirky kids, the kids who could be trusted with a little time.

But, as usual, because of the other kind of kids (and their parents) we lost it.

I am thinking as I write this of two famous writers and their philosophies. One is Plutarch, and the other is Mark Twain.

It was Plutarch who said, “Being about to pitch his camp in a likely place, and hearing there was no hay to be had for the cattle, ‘What a life,’ said he, ‘is ours, since we must live according to the convenience of asses!’ ”

And it was Mark Twain who said, “”In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

Of course, Twain also said “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”

I have friends on school boards, so I don’t entirely agree with Twain’s sweeping assessment; after all, it was a school board that decided to use the modular system.  Smart, funky, awesome board, that one.

Aaaaand, it was a school board who decided to take it away.  Boooooo, Twain’s school board.

I’m really glad that in our country, school is for everybody.  You all probably know that originally, school was for academically promising kids only.  High school used to be more complicated and difficult than college is now.  The emphasis was on the word “high.”

“Mom, Dad, I’d like to go on to HIGH school.”  And everyone was either so proud their hearts burst or so puzzled they ran out of duh’s.  Real high school was hard.  As it ought to be.

And please don’t think I am heartless, although I’m sure many of you do. I firmly and thoroughly believe in a good sound remedial program; that’s what I teach now.

I just don’t believe that the remedial and special programs should dictate or slow down the programs for the entire student body.

For just a little while, the bright shining brilliant stars were allowed to sparkle and send their light out into the universe.  Now, our brightest and best are once again trapped under layers of mediocrity, much of which comes from the state in the form of standardization.

Our bright and gifted students are sadly and sorely neglected.  Why are we letting that happen?

Unexpected

griefMamacita says: When we lose an elderly person to death, expected or unexpected, we are sad, but there is the comfort of knowing that person lived a long life, and we hope he/she had a happy, useful, satisfactory life.  When we lose a young person to unexpected, senseless death, we are as much angry as devastated.  How dare a drunk get behind the wheel and destroy such brightness, such potential, such love and caring. . . .  Does the drunk care about what he did?  Do drunk drivers feel remorse?  I can’t see any difference between a drunk behind the wheel and a thug waving a gun at a birthday party; both are potential murderers and neither are functioning with full brain power.  There are no excuses.  Drunk drivers who kill other people are murderers.  My compassion ceases to be when a deliberately drug-impaired person takes the wheel.  No amount of apologizing or tears will ever make up for what a purposely drug-impaired person did to an innocent person and her family and friends.  Ever.  I’m sad.  And I’m angry, really angry.  But mostly I’m just sad.  But angry.  And sad.

1.  Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.  –Irish headstone

2.  In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.  -Robert Ingersoll

3.  When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  –Kahlil Gibran

4.  A human life is a story told by God.  –Hans Christian Anderson

5.  To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.  –Thomas Campbell

6.  We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. –Kenji Miyazawa

7.  While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.  –John Taylor

8.  He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.  –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

9.  Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.  –Rossiter Worthington Raymond

10.  It is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life; ’tis rather an embryo state, a preparation for living; a man is not completely born until he be dead: Why then should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals?  –Benjamin Franklin

11.  Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.  –Author Unknown

12.  For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.  –William Penn

13.  . . . grief makes one hour ten.  –Shakespeare

14.  I never wanted to go away, and the hard part now is the leaving you all. I’m not afraid, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven.  –Louisa May Alcott

15.  Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.  –Shakespeare

16.  Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect.  The wisest know nothing.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

17.  Every evening I turn my worries over to God.  He’s going to be up all night anyway.  –Mary C. Crowley

18.  Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no mattter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love.  It can’t take away our memories either.  In the end, life is stronger than death.  –Unknown

19.  Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.  –Norman Cousins

20. Have the courage to live.  Anyone can die.  –Robert Cody

21.  Even death is not unkind when living love is left behind.  –Unknown

22.  Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying.  Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.  Do it!  I say, Whatever you want to do, do it now!  There are only so many tomorrows.  –Pope Paul VI

23.  The good die young – because they see it’s no use living if you’ve got to be good.  –John Barrymore

24.  Death is not the greatest of evils; it is worse to want to die, and not be able to.  –Sophocles

25.  I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death.  –Robert Fulghum

25.  Death ends a life, not a relationship.  –Robert Benchley

26.  It is a blessing to die for a cause, because you can so easily die for nothing.  –Andrew Young

27.  More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason.  That, my friends, that is true perversion.  –Harvey Milk

28.  Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell and when you get angry, get good and angry.  Try to be alive.  You will be dead soon enough.  –William Saroyan

29.  While I thought I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.  –Leonardo Da Vinci

30.  I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending, that haunts our sleep so much as the fear. . . that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.  –Harold Kushner

31.  The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live.  –Joan Borysenko

32.  Since every death diminishes us a little, we grieve – not so much for the death as for ourselves.  –Lynn Caine

33.  No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  –C.S. Lewis

34.  I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me, but I find I am grateful for having loved them.  The gratitude has finally conquered the loss.  –Rita Mae Brown

35.  Grief can’t be shared.  Everyone carries it alone, his own burden, in his own way.  –Anne Morrow Lindbergh

36.  The caterpillar dies so the butterfly could be born.  And, yet, the caterpillar lives in the butterfly and they are but one.  So, when I die, it will be that I have been transformed from the caterpillar of earth to the butterfly of the universe.  –John Harricharan

37.  It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.  –Epicurus

38.  What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.  –Jewish proverb

39.  I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. –Edna St. Vincent Millay

40.  We miss and need and pine for our dead, but we also are angry at them for having abandoned us.  –Judith Viorst

41.  You don’t really get over it; you get used to it.  –Robert S. Weiss

42.  Memory is more indelible than ink.  –Anita Loos

43.  Preserve your memories.  They’re all that’s left you.  –Paul Simon

44.  How often – will it be for always? – how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss until this moment.” –C.S. Lewis

45.  Sometimes when someone has died we say, “I feel like they’re still here.”  That’s because they are.  –Marianne Williamson

46.  It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.  –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

47.  To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.  –Bertrand Russell

48.  If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.  –Martin Luther King Jr.

49.  All say, How hard it is that we have to die – a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.  –Mark Twain

50.  Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.  –Martin Luther

51.  Dying is a wild night and a new road.  –Emily Dickinson

52.  Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.  –Henry David Thoreau

53.  The final hour when we cease to exist does not itself bring death; it merely of itself completes the death-process.  We reach death at that moment, but we have been a long time on the way.  –Lucius Annaeus Seneca

54.  I want to be all used up when I die.  –George Bernard Shaw

55. There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.  The dark background which death supplies brings out the tender colors of life in all their purity.  –George Santayana

56.  Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.  –Italian proverb

57.  Good God! How often are we to die before we go quite off this stage?  In every friend we lose a part of ourself, and the best part.  –Alexander Pope

58.  It hath often been said that it is not death but dying that is terrible.  –Henry Fielding

59.  Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.  –Abraham Lincoln

60.  How frighteningly few are the persons whose death would spoil our appetite and make the world seem empty.  –Eric Hoffer

61.  A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them: Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!  –Oliver Wendell Holmes

62.  Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.  –James Baldwin

63.  Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk.  It is walking toward me, without hurrying.  –Jean Cocteau

64.  Every man goes down to his death bearing in his hands only that which he has given away.  –Persian proverb

65.  I am ready to meet my Maker, but whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.  –Winston Churchill

66.  Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

‘Funeral Blues’ by W.H. Auden

Education: Step Away From the TV

learning, connections Mamacita says:  Sometimes I feel like several different people when I talk or think about education.  Most of me can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone could not want to learn as much as possible, every passing moment.  Some of me can understand how a person can be too exhausted from the labor and stress of a typical day to even think about thinking.  And all of me wonders how people who hate everything about learning can remember to breathe.  Education is too important.  How can a person be too tired to live properly in the universe?

I write about connections all the time.  Once a person of any age – and it can start in infancy – learns that everything in existence and out of it is connected, the learning will never end.  Things like nursery rhymes (which were not intended for small children, but that’s another topic.) connect to adult literature and history and sociology.  Did you really think Humpty Dumpty was an egg?  I’ve had students who didn’t know a single nursery rhyme, which makes me despise their parents, but that’s another topic, too.  (They were not in the top class, by the way.  Or the average class. Far from it.) Connections.

Fairy tales (also never intended for small children) are also a wonderful connection to modern literature, history, and many other topics. (Not the Disney versions – the real ones.) Connections.

As for mythology. . . . well, connecting the dots from mythology to science to literature to music to poetry to everything else will give you great works of art, not just a hen and chicks, when you stop and take a good close look at the picture you’ve made by connecting.  Almost everything in the night sky is named for a mythological character, as are most of NASA’s spaceships and a great deal of scientific vocabulary.  Oh, and a great deal of every other kind of vocabulary, too.  Connections.

I know there are people who care nothing for learning.  They come home from work and sit in front of the TV and cherish their mindless, effortless evenings.  It’s beyond my comprehension.  I’m so sorry for their children – the children who will come to school with no connectable schema – no prior knowledge.  It’s hard to learn anything without something to tie it to.  Shame on these parents.

Educators owe it to the universe to try harder with these poor neglected children, to give them a base on which they can start making the connections necessary to become a learner – an educated person who is curious about the world and never stops trying to find out “why.”

contented cowsPlacid contentment is a good thing only if you’re a cow.

10 Things I Care Absolutely Nothing For

countdown Mamacita says: 10 things I care absolutely nothing for might seem like a negative topic, but it’s actually quite therapeutic. Almost like a purge.

1. The Kardashians. Honestly, if there was never another word or picture of a Kardashian or anything connected to them, it would make no difference whatsoever to me.  Then again, maybe it would be a tremendous relief.  I pay no attention.  They are talentless tarty gits with a good agent.

2.  Other people’s dinner.  Unless you’re having something really off-the-wall, or your guest left a water bottle on the Downton Abbey mantel, it’s just dinner.

3.  Anything Duck Dynasty. Those guys are disgusting.  I do not care overly much about people who are jerks.

4.  Anything even remotely connected to Honey Boo Boo, and especially not if it has anything to do with her mother or her repulsive sisters.  See above.

5.  Bridezillas.  Seriously?  Why would any self-respecting person be interested in marrying a grown person who behaves like this and drops that kind of money on a dress she’ll wear once?  Dump these idiots before it’s too late.

6.  Jennifer Aniston’s bikini body.  Let the woman alone.

7.  Actually, anybody’s bikini body.  Most bodies are not compatible with a bikini, so don’t try to tell me otherwise.  I’ve seen bodies that are NOT beautiful.  If yours is, congratulations – well done.  I still don’t care.

8.  Celebrity pregnancy.  None of my business.

9.  Anything school-related that doesn’t directly benefit the students.  If you want wall art or a company car or a restaurant meal or expensive carpet, buy it yourself.

10.  I can’t offhand think of a #10, but I don’t care.