Tag Archives: Inquiry

(364) Stay Tuned

Yesterday a friend gave me this awesome shirt:


I decided it was perfect for my musings today. I am typing this as I go, after thinking about the theme a lot, after going to Lakes Park and sitting in my power spot. Here goes…second last post!


Moving toward 2016, I understand my life is going to be more and more about sound. How the world sounds. How I sound. How we sound to each other.

Walking in the park today, I was behind two people who both had ear buds in, yet were talking loudly to each other. They obviously were listening to something, but decided it was important to communicate.  But here was my thought: If we really want to hear each other, we should be cognizant of shutting out other noise. It is like the people who talk on the phone when the television is on. Why?


This year has opened me up to sound. I planned a whole vacation around sound. We heard bluegrass music and blues music and synthesized music and musicians talking about the sounds specific instruments make, the sound of Jim and I singing together in the music booth at the Birthplace of Country Music, the sound of the Flint, the Cumberland, and the French Broad Rivers, the sound of old blues musicians wafting across Dockery Farms, the sound of The City of New Orleans speeding next to Money Road in the Delta. These sounds have stayed with me and I call on them from time to time.

Today as I walked I brushed my hand through all the palm fronds I passed. “How can I duplicate that sound” was my constant question.


Paul Simon had an exhibit on his songwriting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I was unable to get there, so I purchased the exhibit booklet. In it is Simon’s speech when he was inducted into the Rock Hall.  He said:

I thank Sam Phillips for Sun Records, for rockabilly’s Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, whose recording of ‘Mystery Train’ remains my all-time favorite. I spent a career trying to get that sound.

This stood out to me for many reasons. First, because “Mystery Train” is my favorite Elvis tune, mostly because of the way it sounds. And second, because this came late in the book and I had already read Simon’s words over and over again about trying to get to a sound.  The exhibit was called “Words and Music,” but from what I read it was really about sound.

As I stay tuned to the sounds in my life, I am looking to get them into any music I create. My music teacher talked mainly about sound when I told him I wanted to write songs. Silly me — I thought it was about lyrics. Seems that isn’t always the case.

Not sure why I’m just learning that.


A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook:


We are the music we love. I want to do this experiment. Tell me the song that matters most to you, and I will listen for you in it.


Years ago I heard that our DNA, when related to various musical notes, creates a different musical composition for every person. This idea has never left me, and continues to intrigue. Today I found there is a website for it (of course there is) where you can actually send in your DNA information and the type of music you like, and they will create the composition for you. Here is a future birthday present!

If interested, check it out here.

They have created songs for all kinds of things, including this one for whales:


So, yes, sound is in our very DNA.

With sound comes vibration. This is why crystal bowl meditation and bells during ritual services and chanting monks lift us to new dimensions. Sounds and vibrations are our lifeblood. They can heal or poison.


As I finish up this blog, my plan is to stay tuned to the Five Questions in my life. They have truly become a part of me during this journey, and now I cannot imagine living life without seeing it through the lens of the Five Questions. Not writing about it will free me up to be in the moment, to search for the sound in the message, to stay tuned to doing the next right thing. All year long I have been listening, and this message comes to me continually like a drumbeat.


Here (hear).






(313) “But what if it was…”

Up at 5:30 and out to the lanai to pray. The moon is back in its resting crescent shape, bright on the rocker bottom and outlined above. The planets and stars are brilliant today, and I even saw a shooting star.

I was thinking about the day to come: back with my students who behaved horribly in my absence, so much so the assistant principal had to be called in. I have once again had to go to my old standby — Ye Tang Che.  Give up hope. There will never be ground under my feet with these classes. I just exhaust myself hoping for change.

But the other part of giving up hope is to become fearless. I once again prayed for direction to reach my students. And I think I found something. I TRUST I found something. Looking at the moon today, I thought of that word TRUST and how it came to me yesterday while I was writing in my journal after the conference. It felt loaded. Maybe a lot of my exhaustion this year is because I simply haven’t been trusting myself to know what is best for my students, so I have been led astray.


There is a new comedy on television called The Grinder. It stars Rob Lowe as a former television star from a legal show called The Grinder. He was The Grinder in the show –a lawyer who did all kinds of dramatic and risky things, as only lawyers on television can do. Now that he has retired from show business, he has decided to hang out in the law firm owned by his brother and father.

In one episode, every time The Grinder came up with a plan for winning some case, his brother Stewart (played by Fred Savage) would tell him it was impossible. “But what if it wasn’t,” was The Grinder’s reply every time.

Stewart: We can’t do that. 

Grinder: But what if we could?

Stewart: That isn’t the way to do that. 

Grinder: But what if it was?

You get the idea.


As I sat on the lanai today, enjoying the moon and thinking about trust, I saw this fluttery purplish-pink image ripple out of the moon and disappear. I blinked, thinking it was just my eyes playing tricks on me.

But what if it wasn’t?

AngelMoon-Vintage-Pink-GraphicsFairy2I’ve decided to trust myself on this one, much like The Grinder always trusts himself. I think I saw an angel. That is what it reminded me of. I think this angel was heading out to do her angel deeds and forgot to turn off her inner light that makes her visible.

People might say angels don’t exist.

Others would say there is no way I saw one.

But what if I did?

(297) Darkness Speaks

This morning began in darkness. At 5:20 I awoke after over 9 hours of sleep and slipped out on to the lanai. There I was greeted by the brilliance of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars.

I thought about the surrounding darkness. My need for the woods. The poems I encountered this week that had to do with darkness and trees and finding our place in the world. And on being enough.

I thought of my ungrounded feeling and how much I longed to be like Sandra Bullock at the end of the movie Gravity when she finally gets to earth. How heavy her body must have felt. How utterly animalistic it must have felt to breathe in the musty dark soil.

I don’t feel tethered to the earth right now. I feel spacy and floating.

Then I remembered my study of When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. She says:

We long to have some reliable, comfortable ground under our feet, but we’ve tried a thousand ways to hide and a thousand ways to tie up all the loose ends, and the ground just keeps moving under us…We’re all addicted to hope — hope that the doubt and mystery will go away….Hope and fear come from the feeling that we lack something…We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope and hope robs us of the present moment…Hopelessness is the basic ground…Begin the journey without hope of getting ground under your feet. Begin with hopelessness.  (pgs. 40-43)

The above describes me completely. In reading just a few short pages, I felt relief. I have been hoping for something different to happen. What I need is to give up that hope. What I need to do is stay in the present moment. Discern what is obvious. I can count several ways I have NOT done that the last few weeks in an effort to appease hope.

Once again, I say NO MORE.

Ye Tang Che.  Utter hopelessness. Complete exhaustion.


I did a lot more writing in my journal, with a clearer head and in an effort to discern my direction, given everything I know.  One of the questions I asked myself was What is my most believed thought?

Several answers came:

I believe in meeting students where they are.

I believe in project-based learning.

I believe in having language come alive — we need more of that.

I believe the social aspects need more emphasis in middle school — it is a constant battle to have the students act with any level of civility.

I believe in success for every student based on where they start, not on a pre-conceived measure for all.

This led me to spontaneously writing a vision for my classroom:

In this classroom we do not race to a finish line. We walk, trot, run together. We assist those who need it. We do not make others feel inadequate or unsafe. We form a team with the express purpose to learn together — not the same things exactly — but growing in knowledge based on our own minds. We can all create. We can all contribute. Every piece is needed and is valued.

This comes as a response to many conversations I have had with colleagues, and from things I’ve heard in meetings.  Over and over we hear about documenting progress on the standards and about the learning targets for each grade level. Yet, I mostly teach kids that are NOT at grade level. How do I suddenly measure them on middle grade level when they may only be an elementary level? This disconnect is happening in a very real ways with dire consequences. Kids are failing. Teachers feel pushed.

I step back now and share something from another profession that I think has parallels here. My friend LuAnn up in Ohio has been a nurse since 1978. She works in the OR at what is considered a high-level alternative healing center. She wrote this on Facebook yesterday:

I had the most amazing day. My open heart patient was an old St. Luke’s Hospital employee.  Just like me…that was my first job. I was hired at 19 & couldn’t wait to move to Cleveland and save the world in 1978. She and I had the same old, starchy, mean nursing supervisor (crisp uniform, cap, sensible shoes, stern face!…I was scared to DEATH of her.) We shared some great stories. She’s 82. So I started thinking. And doing the math. How could it be that we were employed there at the same time…still find it hard to fathom I have been a nurse 37 years. And by the time I retire, I could be in the nursing game 50 years. I’ll be 69. Considering I still think I am 30, 50 years as a nurse really appeals to me. I love my Calling. Why retire?

So enjoyed talking to her. I even pulled up a chair while her family listened and my boss cringed. And TALKED to this lady. We aren’t allowed to linger in the OR. Time is money, stay on schedule, ‘Why were you late to the room’? ‘What is your delay code?’ ‘Who made you late?’…”Be sure to document why you’re late.” Blah, blah, blah.

I am so sick and tired of the dehumanizing in medicine and the treadmill we are on that occasionally I am going to hold things up and TALK to the patient. Today was the day. A f–k it moment. And the conversation was priceless. The kid giving anesthesia (Yes, a KID!) said — “Wow! You’ve been doing this a long time!” Yes, I have, Kid. That’s why nothing makes me panic or freak out. And…as we were walking away from the family taking my patient to the OR…I heard a family member say, “I feel so much better now.”

Isn’t that what this is all about? People taking care of people! I WILL make it to 50 years as a nurse. As long as there are moments like this that serve to sustain. Me. And my patients.

As a teacher, I can relate to this in so many ways. The treadmill feeling. The micromanaging of every aspect of our classroom and our plans and our approach to teaching. The seeing of real live children as data points — numbers on a spreadsheet. “Bring your data” is a common directive for our meetings. It is only when we take a moment to actually look at the ones we teach that it all changes. It all becomes real. It is just sometimes hard to remember to do that.

This dehumanizing effect is everywhere. This week we learned another way that we could have the computer teach our students. It all sounds good at the time. Then I take a step back and think…how does this really build the teacher-student relationship?  How does this build a healthy classroom learning environment? I am not sold on taking kids that are below grade level and putting them on a program that will teach them at grade level.  Yes, this approach is good for some, no doubt. But I know my students. They aren’t ready to teach themselves.

It’s why my profession exists.


After my coffee and journal-writing and all the great reflection, I took a walk in the woods. I was cognizant of the moment I stepped into the darkness, the trees sending me oxygen so I could breathe more deeply. I took a journey off the paved path into the woods, as far as the trail would lead me. I stood there and prayed, the sun filtering through the trees. I continued the paved path and was equally cognizant of when I came out of the darkness. I noticed what I noticed — the hawk high on the branch of a dead tree. The teeny deep purple flowers, one per vine. The clickety song of the Northern Blue Jay here for the winter.

I walked and sat and walked some more. I came home to write this.

I have learned. I have opened my mind.

I have given up hope that anything will change except me.

I am paying attention. Fearlessly.

“I feel so much better now.”

(215) I Have 5 Questions

Yesterday it was reported that a girl who goes to my school was shot three times in her neighborhood. She was sitting with family and friends and someone just walked up and started shooting. She was the only one hit.

She is 12-years-old.

Fortunately, she is doing well and is expected to recover. It does leave some questions:

1. How many children need to get shot before we get serious about the amount of violence in this country?

2. How does a child ever feel safe again after witnessing something like that?

3. Why do we continue to glorify violence?

4. Why do I feel numb?

5. Who’s next?