Monday, June 25, 2012

The Power of One - I AM

I just finished watching the documentary, I AM.  To say that it touched me would be putting it mildly!  Tom Shadyac, the creator of this documentary, shares the wisdom gained when he went in search for the answers to two questions. 1. What is wrong with the world? 2. What can we do about it?

Here is the trailer for the movie.   
  


What resonated with me, almost immediately, was the idea that our hearts give off an electromagnetic charge that is picked up by others around us.  This is the reason why when some people come into our space we begin to feel uneasy or stressed, while others give us feelings of peace and love.  We do this on an unconscious level.  Imagine if we consciously promoted love and cooperation, even in the face of difficulties?  

I would like to challenge my readers to an experiment.  For one week, begin every day with consciously focusing on loving, thankful and cooperative thoughts.  Throughout our day, when we feel stressed, upset, or disappointed, let us re-focus our attention on love, gratitude and cooperation.  At the end of the day, let us count the blessings that came our way.

By the end of the week, return here and share some of what you discovered.  Let us create a wave of Love that will engulf the world!

Namasté!

 
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Controlling the Chaos of Life

Today, I am delighted to have one of my favorite fellow writers, who has been a guest here before, join us.  Please welcome back, Melissa Foster!

Award-winning, bestselling author Melissa Foster is a touchstone for the indie publishing community and a tireless advocate for women. She is the founder of the World Literary Café, Fostering Success, and The Women’s Nest. Melissa writes emotionally-driven contemporary fiction and suspense with passionate characters that remain with the reader long after they’ve read the last words. Melissa is a friend, mentor, brownie connoisseur, and book fiend.

In addition, Melissa is a dynamo of literary energy.  She, like many women today, has her hat in multiple arenas, which is why she is sharing her thoughts on controlling the chaos of life.  Her post is part of her summer blog tour.



As always, Melissa, I am delighted to have you visit!
 
Linda, I am honored to be sharing your blog space today, thank you. 

Lately, I’ve been on a mission to reclaim my life. This probably sounds funny to those who know me, because, I have to admit, I’m very blessed. I adore my life and feel very lucky to have not only a wonderful family, but also a career that I enjoy. As with all things, life can take over. 

A few weeks ago, I was working from 7AM until after midnight on a daily basis. Between working on the World Literary Café, to help other authors promote their work, and preparing a complete site overhaul, running the Women’s Nest, and preparing Fostering Success for its launch, I had little writing time, not to mention family time. It didn’t take long before I had to pull back the reigns in order to simply enjoy my life. I love helping others, but I also love my family, and writing…well, writing is what I crave. 
 
How do they get any work done?
How do they get any work done? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I woke up one morning and realized that I was missing out on my own life. I missed playing with my children, sitting in the sun, reading, writing, and even smaller things, like taking walks and, yes, I have to admit, I even missed going to the grocery store and cleaning my house (I’ll never admit to saying that!). 

For me, every aspect of life offers its own little joy, and when I let my work life take over, even that, something that I enjoy doing, began to feel tinged. 

What can you do when you feel pulled under? Pull back the reigns. We are in control of our lives. We over-extend, spend hours on social media, and define our own lives. It’s within our control to make changes to our lives. A new schedule along with reprioritizing can make all the difference in the world. Your little ray of sunshine can once again appear overhead. 

Don’t let life drag you down. Find your happy spots and polish them up! Let yourself enjoy the things in life that make you smile. Work is important – sure it is – but it has its place.

How do you keep your life in control? 

~*~*~*~*~

Melissa’s site links: 
Find Melissa’s Books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Protecting Our Children

Today, I am pleased to introduce writer, Steena Holmes, to Words from the Heart as promised in an early post this month.  Steena has just released her new book, Finding Emma, the story of how a parent who has lost a child lives with that loss and never gives up hope.

Before you read Steena's post, however, come along with Emma on a scavenger hunt! We're going to the Carnival! 

At each stop along Steena's tour there is a hidden word--something you would find at a fair or carnival. Find the word and enter it at the Scavenger Hunt page on Steena's website -
 (http://www.steenaholmes.com/wow-scavenger-hunt/). 
  
Each entry is an extra ticket to win! Need more clues? Join us at the Carnival Board on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/steenah/summer-carnivals-childhood-memories/) where we will post images of the clues. Join in the fun by leaving your own favorite carnival pics! 

Read about prizes and additional details on The Muffin.(http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2012/06/emmas-scavenger-hunt.html)   



Steena has written, today, about protecting our children without leaving them fearful.  

Our roles as parents is to nurture and protect our children. With three daughters of my own, I tend to be over protective and shelter my children as much as possible. This is not always advantageous. My husband and I have always talked to our children about stranger danger and what they need to do if they were ever approached. 

My youngest daughter has had the unfortunate opportunity to test out what she has been taught, twice. Thankfully, she has always been safe and knew what to do. While as her mom, I was quaking inside and afraid to let her out of my sight both times, I knew it was important not to pass on this fear to her. 
  
So, how to we protect our children while keeping the fear from them?  

Learning to manage our fears is something that we need to learn as adults. It’s not always right to expect our children to be forced to learn an adult lesson, but they need to. Daily, they see images of missing children on posters, milk jug containers and postcards in the mail. The shows they watch are interrupted by Amber alerts that flash across their television screens or on the radio. They learn to grip the hands of an adult when they cross the road, are in the mall or jostled about by the crowds surrounding the clowns handing out balloon animals. 

One of the first things we can do as parents is to admit our own fears to our children and explain how we are dealing with that fear. For my family - we have a ‘safe’ word. They know that anytime an adult approaches them and say they were sent by us - they know to request this ‘safe’ word. We explain to our children why being safe is important and then teach them steps to ensure that safety - like locking the doors, always having their cell phone on - yes, they have a cellphone where our numbers are programed as well as our neighbors and the police.  
   
Sheltering our children is part of our jobs as parents, but, not to the point where it can hinder them. Our world isn’t as safe as we would like. Sometimes, that is hard for us to accept. Just as it’s hard to accept the thousands of children who are taken from their homes on a daily basis. 

My daughter, who is almost eleven years old amazes me. She has taken those experiences that scared her and funneled them into a direction that warms my heart. She wants to become a police officer for the K-9 Unit so that she can help to find children, who don’t know how to protect themselves. 

Thank you for letting me share part of my heart here. Finding Emma is a story that is very close to my heart and I am honored to be partnered with www.mcsc - Missing Children’s Society of Canada - to help reunite families who have been torn apart by child abduction. 


 
Author of the new heart wrenching story "Finding Emma", Steena Holmes is a woman who believes that 'in the end, everything succumbs...to the passions of your heart'. Steena's life revolves around her family, friends and fiction. 

Hash Tag: #FindingEmma

Namasté!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Loving Life!

Reflected Sunset.
Reflected Sunset. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I was asked, "What makes your life poetic?" I was taken back.  Hmmm...what a wonderful question.  As I started pondering, I realized that there were many answers to this question.

As a mature, active, curious, mindful and compassionate person, I find that life is filled with joy, beauty and awe, if we but take the time to experience these wonderful gifts.  Each morning as I rise, I face the East and give thanks for another day.  I know that no matter what, this day is unique and offers me more opportunities to love and be loved.

My children and grandchildren are certainly muses in my life.  They challenge, inspire and bless me in ways they will never know.

My love - Roger - makes my life poetic as well as filled with song.  How wonderful is it to wake every morning to someone who cherishes you, brings you tea, plays music for you to wake to so that your day begins well?  To me, this is the GOOD life!

Add to all this, the joys of family, friends and a world so filled with wonder that it constantly takes my breath away.  I never tire of watching sunrises or sunsets, counting the stars, watching the flowers bloom or sitting with my cat.

Yes, life is good...no, let me correct that...Life is GREAT!
Namasté! 

~~~~~~~

I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing’s “The Art of Loving Your Life” Blanket Tour celebrating the release of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore by Barbara Conelli

Barbara Conelli is an internationally published bestselling author, seasoned travel writer specializing in Italy. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world. 

Her latest book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore offers an intimate view into the unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go. 

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore! 

To read Barbara’s post about loving life and view a list of other blogs participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour please visit The Muffin. 


Here is a link to the participating blogs: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2012/05/art-of-loving-your-life-blanket-tour.html

Continue the tour video:
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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Corporatization of America's Schools

education
education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
This week, I learned about a situation that is so frightening to me that I have to share it with all of you. 

A faculty member of the School of Education at UMass Amherst has lost her position after standing up to Pearson, Inc., a corporate giant that creates standardize testing, when she and her students were asked to take part in a pilot for a new testing program for student teachers.  

The basis of this program was that student teachers would no longer be reviewed by the supervising teacher.  Instead, they would be filmed teaching (as a parent, I have all kinds of issues with this!) and their video sent to a person, somewhere, who would review it and make recommendations yea or nay as to the ability of the student teacher.

Are we in OZ?  I thought the man behind the curtain had been found out?  Why are we going backwards instead of forwards??

Barbara Madeloni is a colleague and friend.  She is a wonderful educator, who teaches with compassion, critical thinking and great intelligence.  The following is what appeared on the Opt Out website.


Link from United Opt Out: 

This week United Opt Out National stands in solidarity with the UMass teacher educators and the sixty-seven student teachers at UMass Amherst School of Education who together chose to boycott the Teacher Performance Assessment field test via Pearson. Barbara Madeloni, lecturer at UMass and one of the teacher educators who joined the boycott, has recently been told that her contract will not be renewed. Today we share an interview with Barbara Madeloni as she shares her views on the TPA, Common Core and education activism.

After reading the interview please take action. Our action for the week of June 3, 2012, is to ask everyone to post at the UMass Amherst School of Education Facebook page as each of us shares our individual thoughts about these brave student teachers and teacher educators – who we, at United Opt Out National, view as Liberators in our campaign “Don’t Negotiate.”

We wonder – why would UMass choose to negotiate and compromise a teacher education program with the likes of Pearson?

It appears that UMass signed an agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to participate in the Teachers Performance Assessment Consortium. Did student teachers know that they had signed up to be experiments in a venture which will profit Pearson? Is this even legal? Research studies require informed consent. These students did have the opportunity to choose, but only after pushing the envelope. We wonder, do other student teachers across the country have informed consent in regard to participation in the TPA?

As you can see, our Pearson Boycott, launched on April 29th, 2012, is still going strong and is taking casualties, as seen in the nonrenewal of Barbara Madeloni’s contract. Barbara Madeloni believes in social justice. She believes in educating her students so that they can make informed decisions. Educate the UMass Amherst School of Education so that they wake up and do not become one more cog in the wheel dismantling our public school system and the teaching profession.

We will fight on with Barbara Madeloni and the student teachers who opted out of the Pearson Teacher Performance Assessment. We don’t negotiate with children’s lives. Please go to the UMass School of Education FB page and testify about this misguided experiment in corporate education reform. And now we bring you a powerful interview with Barbara Madeloni, interviewed by Morna McDermott McNulty, an administrator for United Opt Out National. 

~~~~~~~


Do you think if enough university faculty stand up and refuse to be part of TPA and Common Core that we will have the weight to fight this?

Two thoughts about this. The first is that I have been impressed by the number of people out there, university faculty, who when they heard of the students’ resistance and my objections to the TPA responded with something like, ‘I have felt that way too, but I didn’t know I could say anything.’ The efforts to silence dissent about the TPA have been and are remarkable, especially given its ostensible origins with organizations that claim a scholarly focus. So, there are dissenters out there, but we have not yet connected. Education Radio, the NYTimes and now the web resources sharing this information are allowing people to hear their personal doubts echoed in a larger arena. This is critical to building a movement.

But my other thought is that we have to resist this whether or not we think we can be successful. As I said above, the demands for silence around the TPA have been nothing short of astounding. Strong and ‘legitimate’ critiques have been ignored as the juggernaut of Stanford, the AACTE and Pearson pushed this assessment through various state departments of education with remarkable speed, the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) falling all over itself with delight each time a new state said they would accelerate its adoption. This is so clearly a part of the larger assault on teaching, on learning, on the public good, and specifically on colleges of teacher education, that we have to stand in front of it to stop it no matter the outcome. We have to bear witness to this undoing of academic freedom within the university, this outsourcing of our work, and this continuation of the construction of teaching as technocratic work. That our professional organizations and so-called leadership are part of this assault should raise more concerns and doubts about them, not about ourselves. It is time we called out those in leadership positions, locally and nationally, who accept the discourses of corporate reformers and have become collaborators in the undoing of our public institutions. My motto is ‘see something, say something’ wherever and from whomever the assault is taking place.

What gave you the courage to refuse to “negotiate?” What inspired your students to fight this as well? 

My conviction that I had to resist and speak out has been growing with my increasing awareness of the danger we are in. I see what is happening in K-12 schools, the profound distortions of teaching and learning, the abuse that is testing and its impact on teachers, students, parents and administrators. I sit in meetings with people who have the power and protections to speak out and stop what is happening, and I listen as they make a choice to side with those in power, determine through a twisted rationality that ‘we need standards’ and ‘there has to be accountability’ and ‘our practices need to be data driven’ all while closing their eyes and ears to the evident human misery these measures are creating. My courage comes from my outrage and my fear. My fear for the future of the greater good is much stronger than my fear for losing my job. I also gain courage from the Education Radio Collective, whose members support me, inspire me and give me a place of safety. As well, the national connections in educator activism, both online and at Occupy DOE have helped me to know that I am part of something bigger, that I am not alone. In some ways, however, it doesn’t feel like courage. It just feels absolutely necessary.

What troubles you the most about TPA and Common Core? What would you replace these with to ensure teacher candidate success? 

My troubles with the TPA and Common Core emerge from a few places. First, we have to be attentive to who is pushing these, to what is their agenda, to the ideologies from which they have emerged or which have grafted themselves on to them. This is especially important, many people are afraid to critique the TPA because Linda Darling- Hammond is attached to it, but if we are attentive to the broader assault on public education by the forces of neo-liberalism, we have to critique Darling-Hammond at the very least for naiveté about these forces when she allows herself and her work to be taken up by them, when she allows the discourses they use to bash teacher education to become part of her rationales. I am both fascinated and not a little horrified by the degree to which educators have refused to address the real issues of power, of commodification, of assault that are attached to the TPA and the Common Core. I spend a lot of time wondering if it is meaningful to parse the difference between complicity and collaboration as teacher educators and their ostensible leaders feed corporate reformers the rope for their own hanging.

One of the key problems with any standardization is that it frequently avoids the most critical question we must ask about education: what is its purpose? But any set of standards includes an implicit purpose. So, my first objections to both the TPA and the Common Core are that I do not see anything in either of them that address what I believe to be the purposes of education: that is education for liberation and participatory democracy. Education is about opening the world to more questions, to deeper uncertainties, to shared and contested meanings, to community engagement, to imagination and action and joy. But the education implied in the TPA and the Common Core is narrow, technocratic, reproducible in the worst sense, devoid of any of the complicated messy realities of lived experience. Both the TPA and the Common Core grow from and reproduce white supremacy. The Common Core does this with its implicit message that knowledge exists outside of the contexts in which we create it; the TPA does this with its implied insistence, evident in its directions and scoring rubrics, that there is a ‘correct’ way to teach which is separate from the human relationships in all their varied forms that emerge in the classroom. The TPA reproduces white supremacy as well with its un-interrogated demands for the teaching of academic language, a frightening development in which an idea that has some origins in the idea of teaching the words of the master in order to dismantle the master’s house, has now become codified as part of the ritual disciplining of the minds of young people. Anyone who says otherwise is denying the reality of the intersections of the common core, of the TPA , of high stakes testing and of corporate control.

What elements are most vital to a successful resistance? Where do we get these resources?

We are our best resource. We need to talk to each other. We need to be public in our objections and our actions. The people in power count on our fear and our silence. See something, say something. Find allies, meet and talk—face to face and on line. I know it sounds simple, but we have to remember and remind ourselves how powerful we are as ourselves united. This will help us be strong in the face of their enormous wealth and the power derived from that wealth. We need to identify our power—and it is within us and our solidarity.

From that, we need to, as you and others are doing, claim our spaces for alternative media—continuously disrupt and expose their discourses. Then we need to make the best use we can of the various communication networks to determine how we can use them to support those who stand out as they take their stands. That support needs to be ongoing and public, not only for the individual, but for the larger community to learn that we can take a stand and there will be people behind us. We need to, as I did with the NYTimes article, cultivate and use resources in the mainstream media—and use them wisely—carefully. At the risk of repeating myself: we have ourselves—and that may be all we have, but throughout history when the people have joined together and put themselves on the line-they win.  

As a fellow university faculty who is facing the same dilemmas as you, I know my job will be at stake but not my integrity. We must coordinate a nationwide effort so they cannot pick us off like snipers on a roof. We must stand in solidarity. How can we access union and other organizations to support this? Is this an academic freedom issue? Civil liberties?

This is absolutely an academic freedom issue. The TPA is a stealth canned curriculum that not only impacts the student teaching seminar, but that reaches back into all of the preceding coursework. I take the academic language issue as one example. This is a contested idea in education, but it is a huge part of the TPA, which demands that students show evidence of teaching academic language in explicit fashion. As someone who understands the ways that power is implicit in epistemologies, this is astonishing to me. But it extends into other areas as well, for example, what does it mean to develop a learning experience for a classroom? The TPA grows from a pretty standard lesson plan formula in which student teachers need to have objectives, attend to standards (which are/will be the common core) and then be able to show that their students meet the objective. This is a very narrow version of teaching and learning. It eliminates teaching and learning that grows from attention to and immersion in uncertainty. It suggests that teaching and learning are linear. It denies how much we do not know and should not pretend to know.

The TPA and its cousin the Common Core represent the incursions into the micro interactions of our democracy, the places we talk, listen, ask questions, wonder, germinate our critiques. These are issues of how we will know ourselves and each other and the world we will create.

I have very little to no faith in the national union leadership, or my own state union leadership. In my own union, we have come to realize that our first battle is within our union. So, we need to do that work but not depend upon it right now. The TPA and Common Core are exquisite moves by the corporate overlords in that they seem so ‘reasonable.’ So, we have to build locally and then connect nationally. Both at the same time. In my case, we are working to get UMass faculty to see this as an academic freedom issue which we can then share nationally. The people in power count on ‘privacy’ and lack of transparency, we need to be very public. And I guess I do not know how to do that without some of us leading the way and even maybe getting taken out. I don’t think there is a safe way to do this right now. But we can do what I am doing right now, and what we are doing together, and this gives the strength we need.

Thank you Barbara Madeloni. Now, everyone, take action.
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Collaborations and Creations

I just finished the latest round of collaborative work with the "Get Sparked" initiative. I have to say, this project is a wonderful means of getting the creative juice flowing.  For those who have not heard of the Spark collaborations, they were started by Amy Souza, who is a freelance writer and editor in Arlington, Virginia. She founded SPARK in 2008. The project began with 20 participants—10 artists and 10 writers—and June 2012 marked the completion of its sixteenth round. Learn more about Spark and Amy, visit a previous post at: http://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/2011/03/challenging-creativity.html

This time round, I participated as both a writer and an artist.  I never thought of myself as an artist, but, I am.  I love to create. Producing a work of art using digital photography has been a joy.

The following are my artistic creations for SPARK 16. I am sharing both the works that didn't make it to the final cut and the final offering.  The process is as much fun as writing! 


 I used an oil painting filter on this photo I took of my grandchildren


Oil painting filter in sepia tone

Oil painting filter on canvas in sepia - this was the final product


First try for a story in which a candle in the window brings about the climax.
I pasted the candle into the photo of the old window.


Second try using one of the filters that uses takes colors in the picture to create an awesome effect

Final creation using paint brush and other filters to create what now looks like a drawing


I invite you to see the actual works at SPARK 16 so that you can see what inspired the photo of the window and what the photo of my grandchildren inspired.

Many thanks to Amy for once again enabling so many artists and writers to create magic together!

Namasté!



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