Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘teacher’

Nothing But the Best

SecondBestSecond Best by Charmaine Pauls
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The story is a beautiful work of art that alternates between the first person account of Molly von Aswegen as a teen, and her later life in Johannesburg, South Africa, as told in the third person. The tale takes place between 1981 and 1984 with 17-year-old Molly fighting for her life in an industrial school (similar to reform school), and the foster homes, jobs, and people she encounters once she gets out. The pacing, and timing, between her past, and present, are done seamlessly and to great effect.

Having most every horrible thing possible happen to her before she turns twenty-one, it is not surprising that Molly has little trust in others, and no self regard for herself. There are only two people that stay with her, and whom she trusts. Malcolm (Mal) meets her at school just before he goes off into the army and to fight in Angola. Neill Mckenzie, who owns the Opera Bakery, is the second person who sees something more in Molly than her life circumstances and reputation. Neill sees potential and a passion for baking. The story is reminiscent of the 2015 film Dough (without the comedic elements), which has an old Jewish baker struggling to keep his business alive in London, and the teenage Muslim boy he hires, who is “nothing but trouble”.

All of the character’s in Second Best are played well. Molly and Neill’s families are from different sides of town, and each member comes to life. Molly’s friend and foes at school, Berta, Mr. de Jonge, and Jessica, are like people you may know, or have known. The Opera Bakery’s obnoxious and self-centered patron, Judge William Brooks, who has power, prestige, and a sense of entitlement, can also be found in cities across the world. Realism, with dialogue, character, and action, run rampant throughout the story.

Second Best is a well crafted, insightful, and entertaining story, that takes you into the heart and soul of a young woman finding her way through a hellish childhood, and discovering if anything reminiscent of self-love, respect, and love, is remotely possible.

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From Under Her Feet

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. An interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Adams-AndersonHer life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream home, and she recently quit her teaching job, to spend more time with their three children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, Sybil reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church, and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need, and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: “When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, ‘I have some bad news. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh.  I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day, I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group, and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. They said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out, and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.’ I’d continue, ‘So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

Teacher Warrior Mother Friend

imgresWhen I was a young man (about two hundred years ago), I was lucky enough to discover a martial arts school in my hometown that taught Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. The head teacher (Sensei) was a woman named Professor Jane Carr. The reason I say “lucky” is because I could have innocently become involved with a so-called teacher who had not been well trained, whose only concern was fighting or winning competitions and/or making money. A teacher, who cared more about power, control and prestige then self-control, honor and respect.

Professor Carr was different. She was a teacher, warrior, mother, counselor, non-violent activist and friend all rolled up into one. She expected all her students to work hard to improve themselves in all aspects of their lives, in and out of the dojo (practice hall). She commanded respect, not because of her fighting skills (which are formidable), but because she showed respect for others and would settle for nothing less in herself. Her presence demonstrated and invited those around her to discover their own inner strengths and character. Professor Carr is still teaching (after 55 years), and her daughter is head instructor at the academy. Sensei Carr was recently awarded her 10th degree black belt, making her one of only three people in the American Judo & Jiu-Jitsu Federation to have this degree, and the only woman.

Who’s Who?

An excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire, whoever that is.

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Mistress Toshiba and her adherents were walking back from town when a long-time student of Zen, who had studied with another teacher for fifteen years, passed by.

“Good day Mistress,” the student bowed.

Mistress Toshiba laughed loudly. The student stopped and looked confused.

“Why do you laugh Abbott Toshiba? Was it something I said?” The Mistress laughed again. “Are you laughing at me?” That question made Mistress Toshiba laugh even harder. She fell to her hands and knees with laughter. She was laughing so hard that she began to roll around on the ground.

“I don’t see what’s so funny!” the student exclaimed.

The Abbott was finally able to constrain herself and propped herself up with her hand.

“If you could see yourself, you would be laughing too,” Mistress Toshiba grinned.

The students looked at themselves up and down and didn’t see anything out of place or a cause for ridicule.

“What are you talking about? There’s nothing funny about me.”

“Like I said,” the Abbott replied, brushing the dust off her robe as she stood. “If you could see your SELF, you’d be laughing too.”

At that moment, the passing student realized that she did not know what her SELF was, let alone if there was such a thing. She immediately fell too her knees.

“Dear Master Toshiba, I beg that you take me as your student and allow me to attain wisdom in your community.”

“You are welcome to join us, whoever you are,” the Abbott replied, “but you do not need my permission. Who do you think ‘I’ am anyway?”

More who’s laughing at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Troubling Times

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbAn excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

A student came to study with Master Tarantino Toshiba after a recent separation. She was fed up with relationships and said she was tired of the whole mating game. She’d rather go it alone and find peace of mind through meditation.

“Go back to your ex and give it a little longer,” advised Master Toshiba. “But this time make sure to meditate non-stop while engaged in any conversation or activity with your partner.”

“You’re telling me to leave and return to that selfish, nagging cheater and try again?”

“Yes, but try not to call them names, as that tends to make people feel bad.”

The student thought The Master had misspoken, since she had no idea what her ex was really like, but she trusted her teacher and returned home. After a month of re-kindled arguments and negativity, she returned to her teacher.

“This is not working Master. No matter how hard I try to meditate or have loving thoughts, they continually ignore me, put me down, and tell me what to do. I want to stay here with you and the other nuns to find some peace of mind.”

“If you can’t find peace of mind at home with those you love, you will not find it in a monastery, community, or distant cave.”

“But Liz is insufferable. Aren’t there times when one needs to move on?”

“What’s her name?” The Master asked.

“My partner? You know Liz.”

“Oh yes. I know Liz,” Abbess Tova said. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

“I assumed you knew who I was speaking about.”

“It is best to never assume anything,” replied the Abbess.

“Well, I apologize if I wasn’t clear.”

“No apology needed and it is accepted.” The Master smiled. “In this case, as I said before, there are times when some situations are hopeless and one must move on in order to find freedom.”

More satirical koans, stories, & tales, at Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Let’s Dance

Let’s Dance: Transforming our lives through meditation.
by Lawrence Levy
Tricycle

At a group meditation I led recently, I was discussing the importance of properly preparing for meditation by paying attention to the elements of time, place, and posture. Segyu Rinpoche, Juniper’s founding teacher, was present. At one moment, with a playful look on his face, Rinpoche asked me a question. He wanted to know what I had meant when I mentioned the possibility of placing a flower or a candle in one’s meditation space.

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I understood what he was asking. I was reluctant to share details about my meditation practice, and I knew that Rinpoche believed it was important for me to break that resistance. As he smiled in the background, I took a leap. I described the care I put into my own meditation space—the way I look for just the right flower in my garden, or the perfect orchid at the local market, the attention I pay to making sure the area is clean, and the feeling I experience when I light a candle and imagine it radiating to my family, friends, and others.

I had confessed to my ritual. Later, at the end of the meditation, I said to the group: “You see how Rinpoche was playing with me earlier. It’s like a dance. He prompted, I followed. That’s the dance of meditation, the dance of moving ourselves inwardly.”

Dancing is a beautiful metaphor for the richness of meditation. More than an exercise to focus the mind, it is a transformational journey inward, a means to know ourselves and refine our way of being. It is an art, full of rhythm and beauty, crescendo and quiet. It can be moving, light and joyous. Like removing kinks from a hose, it propels us to overcome our resistances so the best in us can flow.

Sometimes the step onto this dance floor seems like a large one. We don’t want to learn the moves; we’d rather have something quick. We don’t want a relationship with a dance partner; we’d prefer to go it alone. We don’t want to look inside; we want to stay as we are, only freer, happier, and wiser. But freedom, happiness, and wisdom may not arise from merely staying as we are.

The genius of the Buddha—the Indian prince Siddhartha—and many who followed him was the realization that the mind is not static. It is living, breathing, evolving. Because it is the medium through which we experience our lives, there are immeasurable benefits from refining it, sharpening it, and discovering its potential. Therefore, sometimes we have to push ourselves; we have to learn some steps that might at first feel awkward but soon become second nature.

To do this dance takes two sides. On the one is our own effort to grow and refine our way of being and experience. On the other is a partner—a teacher or guide to show us the steps and keep us moving. This requires teachers who know how to transmit wisdom not as ancient knowledge but as living tradition. It calls for a community of individuals, born out of local culture and united by the idea that the inner journey—the dance through which we learn to live fully and freely—is a deep and beautiful way to engage life.

At stake here is not just our own well-being. We live in a time when our narratives are increasingly about what is broken in our world: how the institutions charged with running it are brokers of self-interest and power; how modern governments work for corporations and the wealthy; how media is in an ever-increasing arms race for control of our preferences.

Look for the root of these problems and we end up at the mind—its greed, fear, and craving. If the mind is the root of the problem, then solving the problem—crafting a humanity in which our leaders are stewards of a peaceful, noble, and just world; in which individuals give full expression to their talents and creativity; and in which each person feels relevant and important to the whole—will only come from a change in mind. For this, we have to do the dance that will move us inwardly.

These ideas are not new. A long time ago the Buddha realized the immeasurable benefits to be gained from refining the mind. He also implored his followers not to turn his teachings into dogma but to have the courage to examine the reality we are in right now and to become the best we can be in it.

Read entire article and more at TRICYCLE.

LGBT Writers In Schools

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LGBT WRITERS IN SCHOOLS connects authors with classrooms via free Skype or in-class visits to discuss the author’s work and LGBT issues. Designed for teachers of high school classes, universities and colleges, and student organizations, the LGBT Writers in Schools program is an opportunity for writers to discuss their work openly with students and to encourage diversity not only in the students’ reading and writing lives, but also in society at large. This initiative will broaden the foundation of experience for students of Literature, Creative Writing, English, and Secondary Education.

OUR GOALS

To bring LGBT writers into high schools, colleges and universities to share their knowledge and experience in order to promote diversity and encourage understanding of the LGBT community.

To enrich the high school, college and university English curriculum by incorporating and teaching LGBT texts in the classroom which will acknowledge LGBT writers’ contributions to literature.

To foster an open environment to discuss LGBT issues and their impact on society and the individual through LGBT texts in a vibrant and moderated classroom atmosphere.

Giving a voice to those who have long been silenced.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The teacher will state which type of author she would like in one of four genres: Adult Fiction, YA Fiction, Poetry and Nonfiction/Memoir. Once the information is gathered from the teacher, we contact an author who would be a good fit. If they request a specific author, we try to contact that author.

WHAT HAPPENS ONCE AN AUTHOR IS CHOSEN FOR THE TEACHER’S CLASS?

Once the author has agreed to do the visit, then an introduction is made between the author and the teacher via LGBT Writers in Schools. After the introduction is made, it is the responsibility of the teacher to work out the specifics of the visit (ie: date of visit, length of visit, in person or via Skype, etc).

WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE VISIT?

Teachers would assign the work of the author and once the class has read it, the author would do a twenty minute (or longer) Skype session with the class. Depending upon what the teacher and author discussed, the session can be as general or as specific as each would like. It is supposed to be fun, lively and educational.

WHY SHOULD I PARTICIPATE?

This is a really exciting venture for Lambda Literary Foundation and for the Gay Straight Educators Alliance. LGBT literature should be represented as one voice among the many in any contemporary curriculum. The way to help counter prejudice and bullying is through educating others and it is vital to support any efforts that would help achieve this goal. Opening up channels of communication definitely begins with understanding and what better way to understand the LGBT community than through literature.

HOW DO I SIGN UP?

Contact Monica Carter (mcarter@lambdaliterary.org), Program Coordinator, LGBT Writers in Schools Program

Lambda Literary Foundation

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