Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Central Park Zoo

Had a wonderful wonderful wonderful day. ND and I went to the city to meet U. for lunch, then met our cousin I. in the Central Park Zoo. ND loved the goats the best and laughed hard when I went to feed them. A real giggle! I was squatting down low to touch them and so she could see. One of the goats bleated and showed its teeth so suddenly that I jumped. Poor ND caught on to my fear and turned her little smile down into a heartbreaking frown, but I comforted her before she cried. Then it did it again. And I jumped again, so it was time to move on. She liked the bunnies too.

Had a lovely walk through the park after that down the Literary Walk in "The Mall". Sat and listened to an accordion player and visited the John Lennon tribute in Strawberry Fields before heading home on the bus.

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Great GREEN Gobs Of...

I just want to write about one more bit tonight about two great green things I'm doing.

1. Through the Greening Committee I've gotten involved with a CSA or farm share at my shul. It is fun. Wednesday nights she brings vegetables... whatever is available. Tonight I actually got to meet the farmer who is doing it and stood around chatting with my friends who are also doing it. I get to try out veggies that I might not otherwise, it's inexpensive, and best of all it's organic, supports local business and avoids wasted food miles.

2. I've discovered and am using Freecycle. It's great. You sign up and then can hear about or offer free stuff that others are getting rid of.

I've picked up some used purses (for when I need to look presentable) and a baby wipes warmer that I would never have spent money on. (That lady left some jars of organic baby food for us too.)

I've gotten rid of a changing table, maternity clothes, office chair and I can't remember what else right now.

Sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes people flake out. Also, sometimes they were rude. I posted about an item, linked to a picture of it on Amazon, and someone couldn't figure out how to access the link. When I wrote instructions to him, he wrote back quite abusively because he said he wanted to know what he was getting. So I told him in simple terms without engaging in a fight that I didn't think the item was right for his purposes. He wrote back saying thank you and "G-d bless." Weird.

Also, with the changing table, I accidentally promised it to two people. But someone else wrote to me and said that if anyone else needed a table, she had one too. So I hooked them up. It felt very healing (after I felt so guilty promising to someone and giving to someone else.)

When I gave away the maternity clothes today (they didn't look good on me even when I was pregnant) the guy who picked them up was so nice. It just felt good all around.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And I Lived Happily Ever After

So I'm really happy that Tisha B'Av is over. I did a good job being sad during it and I was pleased the way that in the afternoon the mood started to lift. I was pretty machmir this year and really didn't listen to music at all during the three weeks, so I'm enjoying listening to lots of music like, right now, Losing My Religion. (Raise your hand if you remember that video. Raise it again if you can explain it.)

I love REM.

Anyway, I didn't do great with the fast and ended up drinking some water around 2. When I asked my rabbi before the fast about nursing moms, he said to ask a doctor's opinion. My midwife (who is also frum) was the one who gave me the advice to drink after noon if I needed it. I tried to prove to the world that I didn't need to, but quickly caught on to my own little game and stopped it before I hurt me or ND by denying myself the water.

In any case, remember when I wrote about that valuable Snow White book I lost? I found another copy online for about $12.00 I ordered it but was basically holding my breath before saying anything about it here. It arrived yesterday and IS the same book, but unfortunately missing the beautiful cover. I really can't complain.

I wonder why that other copy is so valuable.

In fact, and this is embarassing, as I searched just now for the image to attach to this blog, I found a bunch of copies even cheaper. Someone's meddling with my mind.

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Tisha B'Av 5767

There was a women's Eichah reading in Teaneck last night. It was so sad and beautiful. I found it was very easy to be moved, partly because I've been feeling emotional lately for a number of reasons. But I think that being a mother makes it more profound for me too. Worrying about my daughter and the things that have happened to family's throughout history is so deeply painful. To read if it in a room of mothers and daughters, even more so.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Teaching Log #2: More Goals and Organizing Books

Stopped by the school today to organize lots of books I've been keeping in storage. I was anxious about going in, but once I was there I had a good time. I didn't really have to talk to anyone.

As I predicted, I found myself getting sucked in to being there. I had the foresight to set an alarm on my cell. phone to go off after I'd been there an hour in order to go pick up ND. By the time it went off, I wanted to stay and finish what I had started, but chose to honor my commitment to go pick up ND. As a result, we were able to go for a nice walk in the woods.

I'm trying to focus on feelings of self-confidence and in clarifying what I want to do and why with my teaching. I think that will be good protection for when I see good things other teachers are doing and I start to feel insecure.

As for other goals... I forgot to add in Teaching Log #1: My Core Beliefs:

6. Utilize rubrics as a way to hold children responsible for their own learning.
7. Utilize more choice in their independent learning.

One of the things that most teachers do in the school is called something called a "Do Now." Usually at the beginning of class, it is an activity that they should work on right away without any direct guidance beyond the basic instructions. In the limited time we have in a half-day-for-secular studies program, I'm not sure if I can pull this off, but I'd like to actually combine it with a center model, but very simply.

I'd like it if each month, the children get a blank calendar with birthdays etc.

Each week they'd be responsible for 2-3 Do Nows. (Depending on the week.) One would be a math activity, one would be writing, and the third might vary from reading time to cursive, phonics study or some other possibilities.

The math would mostly be these workbook pages called "Math Boxes" which review old ideas. We rarely have time for these in class. Later I'd like to incorporate games more, but one step at a time.

The writing would be kind of like a writer's workshop, but simpler. I've been wanting to do more science or nature study. So I think we would have 3 writing invitation options and we'd vary the type throughout the year.

Here's an example of what I mean... we simply don't have time to do an in-depth study of weather, but are expected to pay attention to the weather during "calendar time" (a beginning of class math time which I still just don't think we have time for). So for a few weeks we might focus on rain.

One invitation would be something like "Write a poem about the rain," or something similar with other options available.

A second would be "Write five questions you have about rain." Then there would be books available to browse to answer questions.

A third would be to sit and closely observe the rain and to write up observations. If there is no rain that day, right about how the grass responds to not having rain. When last was there rain? etc.

This is a vastly shrunken and modifed idea from the journals written about in Moon Journals, a book I never got around to reading in grad. school that I am now looking through.

My goals (must always remember my goals) are to make journaling a richer experience than just practicing writing skills, to cause children to observe more, and to to study science and/or nature more than we are currently able.

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Play Date

Had a play date today with our friend NB and his mom CB. I was going to use this as an opportunity to post a video I took of them at our last play date, but sadly, I think I accidentally erased it.

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My Power Color

Your Power Color Is Indigo

At Your Highest:

You are on a fast track to success - and others believe in you.

At Your Lowest:

You require a lot of attention and praise.

In Love:

You see people as how you want them to be, not as how they are.

How You're Attractive:

You're dramatic flair makes others see you as mysterious and romantic.

Your Eternal Question:

"Does This Work Into My Future Plans?"

Not sure about the last two things, but it's just a quizzy thing anyway.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Teaching Log #1: My Core Beliefs


That's a word that's been used for me many times. Not just as an adjective, but as a derogatory noun.

I like being an idealist.

Being an idealist has caused me a lot of confusion and heartache because the world is not what it SHOULD be, but I still want to be one.

That's why I'm starting this new sub-blog: Teaching Log. Because through my six years and three schools of teaching, I've lost a lot of my original vision for how I wanted to teach. I've gained lots of skills, but lost enthusiasm and I'd like to have both. I think that that will make me the best teacher I can be.

It's nice to be at this point. Illness and moving into other countries and then across countries beat me down considerably to the point that I became disillusioned. At the time ND was born, I was actually considering leaving mainstream education for good. But since she's been here I feel so much happier. This past year I suddenly found myself enjoying the juggle of teaching and mom-ing. In some ways it helped me take things less seriously and, as a result, made me feel excited about the parts I care about.

When I was earning my teaching degree at Lewis and Clark in Porltand, we had to write out a statement of our core beliefs. I'm curious to find mine and see how it compares to how I feel now, but before I do that, I want to write what they are right now. I often feel pressure to lose sight of these beliefs. Some of them sound crazy to other people, other teachers in fact. But I know they can't be completely off, because I sense them so deeply in my heart, and because people with whom I truly connect - friends, special parents of students etc, - appreciate my beliefs. Some of them get clouded over by the chaos that goes on in normal life, especially in a school. Some of them NEED to be challenged so that I can strengthen or modify them to fit my reality and to help me function amongst my teaching peers.

I feel that by externalizing and refering to them throughout the year, as well as through logging about my progress with them in a public place (this sub-blog), I will be able to meet more of my goals and feel more committed to my belief system.

So without further ado:

I believe that:

1. Children are born with a natural sense of wonder about the world.
2. As children grow, there is an assault on childhood and by their natural sense of wonder, by a world that doesn't value their freshness, creativity and intuition.
3. Children need assistance and support in gaining the skills they need to express their creativity and develop their minds.
4. Likewise, they need support in cultivating and maintaining a natural sensitivity towards others.
5. Children sometimes need quiet and sometimes need noise, sometimes need stillness and sometimes activity in accordance with the natural rythmns of their days, bodies and lives.
6. Children need all the help they can in creating positive feelings about themselves and others.
7. Classrooms should be honored and sacred places... not sacred like a temple, but deeply respected. Adults should not burst into classrooms during work times or talk to each other in a way that ignores or devalues the work taking place in the classrom.
8. Children should be pushed to take responsibility for their learning. This should happen naturally for most.
9. Children should be partners with their teachers and with each other.
10. Teachers should be honest, forthcoming and respectful towards their students.
11. Respect demanded by teachers is false respect.
12. Respect earned by adults is long-lasting and creates an atmosphere of trust in which more learning happens more deeply.
13. Depth is more important than breadth in curriculum.

Towards these ends, I have the following practical goals for the year. Anything I'm leaving out may be something I'm forgetting right now, may be too much to take on, or may be something I already free proud about doing:

1. Journaling should be a real internal practice for students. It should be an opportunity to engage in the world, not just to practice writing skills.
2. Stick to my plans. I tend to get excited about new ideas or projects and jump to them before I complete old ones.
3. Have ongoing science/nature investigations. Only a few times during the year will I be able to go very deeply with them, but if we have a pet in the classroom, their should always be the potential for more.
4. Our morning meetings should have a variety of activities. Instead of doing weather during the calendar all year, I should do it in depth for a month along with journaling. The morning messages required in my classroom, need not always be letters. They could be poems or other kinds of writing too.
5. Doing something with little preparation is not a failure if it means I can spend more time on something else deeply. If I can always have one part of the day for deep learning, I've done a tremendous thing.

I'm at a loss right now for more. I think I need to sit on this a little and return to it later. But I also know that if I don't go ahead and publish this blog entry now, I may never remember to do it. So stay tuned for possible revisions which I will add in as new posts.

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Silence During The Three Weeks

We've just started the 9 days of the three weeks before Tisha B'Av. Many people - I include myself in this - don't listen to music during this time.

So I don't have the usual background noise to my daily activities. It's striking, especially when I'm at home on days like this just doing daily summer activities. It can either be nerve-wracking or can bring new meaning to everything I do as I'm doing it.

My dad has done this for almost a year while in mourning for his father.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007


I went online to see if I could replace the Snow White book I showed in the last entry.

I found a copy. It's so rare it's worth $ 425!

Why that upsets me:

1. I had a $ 425 book and I didn't even know it?! This is why I don't like having valuable things.
2. This is much bigger... I CAN'T REPLACE IT.

I went downstairs and pulled it out of the garbage to see if I could at least salvage some of the pages. It's really disgusting.

U. reminds me, it's not the monetary loss. It's the sentimental. Oh oh oh.

Thank G-d it's only this. I'm really ok. Just deeply perturbed.

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Water Damage

As I've been saying, I've been struggling with my priorities and with finding time to write. And by finding time to write, I mean on projects I can sell or on one or two personal projects which basically involve anthologizing all my stuff.

Three inspiring things today makes me want to find time again, although I still just don't know how.

Thing 1: Sunday is the day that Aish goes live each week with new articles. One in particular this week got me to thinking.

Thing 2: I started an article awhile ago that I really care about. But before moving forward with it, I wanted to get an old and dear friend's "permission." I'd like to publish it ultimately, but didn't want to invest too much time on it if she's not okay with me writing about her. We spoke today and she cleared it.

Thing 3: Went to our storage room in the basement today to pull out some things for a garage sale through our shul and to find books I can take to my classroom and organize this week. I hadn't realized that we had some serious water damage in one corner of the room. One box was almost totally destroyed. This contained all of my flute and piano music, my vinyl children's records, and a few other picture books. The pictures below of are the two items I'm saddest about losing.

Next to that box was one labeled "creative writing". It hard far less damage, but some mildew ate its way through a few sheets and rusted some staples on old writing. I spent some time going through the pile and of course couldn't bring myself to throw anything away. I really want to archive all of it. I moved it to a new box and separated the moldiest stuff so it won't infect the nicer stuff.

I think my new attitude is that I will try not to force myself nightly to work on these things, but will accept that sometimes I want to write and sometimes I don't. Disciplined writers don't talk that way. They force themselves daily. But I just don't think I can afford that right now time-wise and emotion-wise. I'd rather trust myself to WANT to do it sometimes, and to find away when those times come. As it is, I have two specific writing goals by the end of the summer, and I bet I can meet them. I will get to them after I finish my meditation website which is another major goal.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Standing Ovation

Last night I was working on transfering ND videos from the camera to the computer so that U. can help me edit them together into DVDs for family. I haven't had a chance to do this since I went back to work, so it was utterly amazing to me to see how much she's changed since February. She's the same person, but so much more so. I was so excited in the old videos to hear her making sounds at all. Now she moves her mouth much more like a kid and sounds like she's talking even though she's not saying anything yet.

ND was also getting a kick for awhile out of watching the videos with me. But eventually she got bored, so I let her play in the crib behind me.

As if to drive home the above point as much as possible, she reached for the sides of the crib and pulled herself up to standing. This is the second time. The first was on Friday, exactly her seven-month birthday. But then her arm kept slipping through the slats. Now she picked herself up smoothly. She was so proud she was yelling to all the world as loud as she could, her eyes sparkling. She even jumped up and down a little making her fall down on her tush and have to try all over again.

(She's trying again right now, but is having trouble. Needs to practice today, I guess.)

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


During the school year, Saturday night is the main (and usually only) time I get any writing done.

Now that I'm trying to write each day, I figure it's OK to have Saturday night off.

As a result, tonight I feel really relaxed. Most nights I feel I have to crunch to get something done before I go to bed and, more importantly, before ND cries and when it is therefore most practical just to go to bed with her rather than nurse and then get up again.

Am I pushing myself too hard? I'm so excited about the Meditation class that I'd rather spend time on that, making a website for it, for example. That's still helping one of my careers.

I'm also excited about some activism I'm doing. Isn't it OK to focus on that instead?

Or is this the anti-writing yetzer hara rearing its ugly head. I'm thinking about famous writers who did all of their writing at night when their day job and children were asleep. Am I like one of them, or do I have more pressing things to attend to first?

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Making The Most Of Time

Over the past few days I noticed myself getting stressed. Not exactly sure about what. I guess I just like using my time well. I was first struggling with how to justify not working. I keep saying there is no excuse for being bored. If I'm bored, that means I need to spend more time on writing.

But that's not always easy. Not just because of writer's block. (See picture above.) But because I'm enjoying relaxing and just being with my daughter. And writing, while something I love, is a lot of work.

In trying to make the most of my summer I set too many writing goals. I'm constantly switching between projects and I don't know that I'm doing great work. I can't do it unless ND's asleep either way, and during that time it's sometimes nice to do other things.

BUT I made a commitment to spend every day (except Friday and Saturday) working on something towards my writing career. Yesterday that meant some internet surfing for publications that might take some older work of mine. Even though I want to settle into just enjoying and relaxing, I think I should be able to hold firm with that commitment.

On another note, still related to writing... apparently a famous person read my last article. Bernie Siegel, MD on it. He said:

we all have scars and wounds
Wear a bandage over your eye and everyone will talk to you about their problems because you now have a visible wound. I shaved my head in 1978 when long hair was in for men and everyone lined up to tell me their troubles because they knew i wasn't all there. Thornton Wilder said it very well in one of his stories when an angel refuses to heal a doctor he explains to the doctor, "Without your wound where would your power be. It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service only the wounded soldier can serve. Draw back!" On the way home the doctor realizes from his patients' reaction to him how valuable and therapeutic his wounds are. There are natives and tourists.


My immediate reaction to that was that a number of weeks or months before I became ill, I said to a friend of mine that I wanted to be a healer. But I said, too, that I didn't think you could be a healer if you hadn't been sick. G-d answered my prayer and headed me on the path towards needing healing in order to heal.

I don't feel much like I'm a healer yet though. I reflect in the blog often of how I feel bad every time I want to tell my story so badly. I think the reason I feel bad is that it comes up for me at times when I should listen, not talk. But still, could it be that the way I'll heal is more through things like my meditation class? What about in other ways? Sometimes people say that I inspire them, but I find myself really doubting the likelihood of that.

On the other hand, when I think of who in my life has inspired me... I guess they've done it just in being who they are. Am I being who I am in a real and strong enough way to help people better their own lives?

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Meditation Class

I did it. I fulfilled a dream tonight.

That sounds huge, doesn't it? It doesn't actually FEEL huge now, but it is a big deal in the long run. Tonight I taught the first of six sessions of a meditation class for children.

And it really felt great.

My class consists of 4 girls going into fourth grade. 3 are previous students of mine, one is a client of one of the other kids' parent. (Got that?)

We did the class in U.'s and my home which meant I put a LOT of time into making the room look just right. The pictures below show A. checking out the new location of the coffee table. She kind of looks like she's levitating, doesn't she?

So here I've been wondering for a long time if a class like this could be possible. And now I've made it happen.

There's something really special about not only doing something you want, but also getting paid for it. I'm not saying that sarcastically. Being paid indicates that someone values your contribution, regardless of how fun it is for you.

On a similar note... regarding my most recent article Letting My Hair Grow Again, a friend wrote to me and said, "I never knew that was why you were keeping your hair short."

Maybe I just am embarassed about hearing praise, but I responded, "It looks cute short too, but no one is going to pay me to write that."

I've been a writer my whole life. It's only within the past five years that I've become a PUBLISHED writer. So part of the point of what I said to my friend is that I have learned something from an economical perspective about doing work that I love. There's a lot that my writing says, and there are some things my writing doesn't say. I don't just write everything in my soul (at least not for money). I write what will appeal to an audience and help me further my career. I would have thought at one time that that was crass, but it's not. It's what makes it possible to continue doing work that I love.

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