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Poetry, toxic cultures, being true, and YOU

20 Feb

The following is sort of an open letter to schools in transition and teachers so tired of constant improvement talk…so tired of it that they nod “yes” in meetings with no intention of contributing.

Thanks, in advance…

Part 1 Poetry
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

Related Poem Content Details

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I loved teaching this poem when I was in the classroom. Hope is always there, deep inside, singing to you even when you’re not listening. Hope is never not there for you. Hope is constant in all of us, regardless of the storm. We hope our day goes well. We hope our kids are well. We hope our family is well. We hope love and happiness warm our cheek. We hope the weather is nice. We hope our team wins. We hope for so many things, and yet, hope never asks anything from us. We never have to feed it, or sacrifice for it, or even thank it. Hope is always there when we need something.
Or, is it want? I think it’s time to have a talk about need vs. want in terms of improving our school. I think it’s time to reconsider each person’s responsibility in terms of contribution. Certainly, none of you “need” to feel the responsibility of school improvement is yours. Yet, I think you’d all agree that students “need” a good education which requires a high level of commitment to best practices. Certainly, not all of you “want” to contribute to school improvement. Yet, you’d all agree the school can’t improve if we’re not all contributing. So? What is this Mr. Lee is talking about?
We know what we “need” and we know what we “want”, yet we can’t seem to come to a collective agreement about actually doing it. What does that mean? Schools are no longer inspected on individual classrooms. We no longer work in private classrooms where we can lock out the bad habits of others around us. Schools are rated as organizations, as singular institutions. So, we cannot afford to behave as if that problem down the hall isn’t our concern. If it’s happening in our school, it’s our concern. We don’t feel a collective purpose right now. This lack of commitment to the stated collective purpose, this teaching in our own private bubbles, and not supporting each other is a mixture for a toxic school culture.
Part 2 Toxic Cultures
How does that work? Try to recall conversations from the last few staff meetings, or even sitting in the staff room, or standing at supervision. Who was the first to say something negative? You or your colleague? Then what was the next contribution? Did you agree and add on, or did you offer something positive or mention what works for you? When someone mentions “these kids”, what is your reaction? Do you agree and add on, or do you offer something positive? When someone mentions classroom discipline, do you mention what works for you or do you blame it on the kids, the supervisor, or administration?
You see, in a toxic culture, each person participating in it is an expert at describing how bad things are, and then deflecting the reasons why on someone or something else. “It’s the owners’ fault, they took anyone…it’s the Admin’s fault, they don’t do anything about it…it’s these kids, they’re spoiled…it’s tv, cell phones, music…” Finally, we all agree that we have described the problem accurately, and we have pinned it on someone or something else. This, my friends, is a toxic culture…and a failure of a conversation.
Part 3 Being True
What is your part in this? Are you participating in it? Are you contributing to a negativity that takes away from what we “want” and from what the students “need”? Do you say one thing to your colleagues and administrators in meetings, and then betray that information later? If so, you are contributing to the toxic culture, and in order for our students to get what they “need”, and for this school and your colleagues to get what they “want”, then you must consider one of two things:
                       1. Change your talk and contribute positively.
                          OR
                       2. Resign, and stop holding the students and your colleagues back.
Yes, I’m serious. If you are unhappy and not changing any of what you’re doing, then what are you doing? There is no “hoping” things get better.
Either WE do it together, or it doesn’t get accomplished. In a healthy school, you cannot hide amongst your colleagues and contribute negatively, or nothing. A school is a collective that is judged as a singular organization. So, if one of us is a poor professional, that affects all of us. Casting blame at others in the building may make you feel better during that conversation, but it does absolutely no good for the school.
What is our collective purpose? Think for a second. What have we talked about? We “need” to move to the next level or we will lose this school. We have looked at what that takes. YOU are directly involved in improving this school. If you’re not, then please find a place where you can contribute. Social Scientist Dan Pink broke down what drives motivation into three needs (none of which are money, by the way). 1. Autonomy-the desire to direct your own life. What could be better? If you’re here and you feel trapped, or so stagnant you can’t change, then you are not autonomous, and you will not be motivated to work. What could be more autonomous than teaching? Yes, we have a curriculum, but you can teach it any way you like. Get creative, be autonomous with it. 2. Mastery-the ability to improve at something that matters every day. Teaching is the ultimate opportunity for mastery. You can learn and teach at the same time every darn day! If you haven’t changed your teaching methodology at all this year, then you aren’t practicing mastery…and, I’d bet you’re as bored as your students are. 3. Purpose-people want to be part of something bigger than them, something that really matters. Honestly, does this need any more explanation? What job has more purpose than teaching? If you don’t feel that way about teaching, you should step back and find what really does matter to you.
If these three don’t apply to you, are you being true to yourself? Are YOU giving yourself what YOU “need”? Are you being true to the students sitting in front of you every day? Are you giving them what they “need”, and what the school “wants”? Are you directing yourself (Autonomy)? Are you improving (Mastery)? Are you contributing to something bigger than yourself (Purpose)? Reread these questions. Go ahead, do it. Think about your answers. Are you being true to yourself, your colleagues, and to your profession, your school?
Part 4 YOU
Well…you made it. As a professional and a human, that’s a lot to think about. It’s good to have and acknowledge hope, but it’s just a pretty song, not an action. Take action! Are you a participant in making the culture toxic, or do you make people think twice when airing negativity or complaining? Rather than adding on to a complaint or deflecting blame, why not hold yourself accountable for a solution? Why not collect others who feel the same and create a solution? This is the very nature of  School Development Plan Teams. Be the solution, or stop getting in the way. It’s not right.
Lastly, YOU. Who are you in all of this? Can you step outside yourself and watch what you’re contributing with a sense of satisfaction? Are you the teacher you wanted to be? What’s holding you back? Are you being true and original? Do yourself a favor. Look in the mirror, look into your eyes, are you being true to you? If you “want” to have a good time teaching, what do you “need” to do?
As always, my door is open. I watch you very closely. It’s my job. Let’s talk.
Peace and love,
Lee
No CFU this time…though feedback is always welcome.

Relapse, Stuckness, or an old dog can learn new tricks!

24 Nov

Abu Dhabi Blog 11-18-2014

Playlist: The Showdown—Carry On Wayward Son (Killer Cover), Michael Franti & Spearhead—I Know I’m Not Alone, Foo Fighters—All My Life, The Rolling Stones–Angie, Rage Against the Machine—Fistful of Steel, Avenged Sevenfold—Hail to the King, Led Zeppelin-Black Dog, Emery—The Party Song, Tool–H, Mos Def–Zimzallabim, The Smashing Pumpkins–Rocket, The Skies We Built–Girls with Accents, Swervedriver—Rave Down, Jeff Buckley—Hallelujah, Quicksand–Unfulfilled, Fugazi–Waiting Room, KXM—Rescue Me, Jane’s Addiction–Stop, Urge Overkill—Sister Havana, Styx—Renegade, Nayked Raygun—Surf Combat, Kool & the Gang—Morning Star, Trey Anastasio—Alive Again, By Line—Happy, Mother Love Bone—Stargazer, Pantera—This Love, The Steepwater Band—Dirty Ol’ Blues, The Jimi Hendrix Experience—Wait Until Tomorrow, Los Lonely Boys—Oye Mamacita, Foo Fighters—Walk, Eric Clapton—Five Long Years, Cage the Elephant—Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, Middle Class Rut—Aunt Betty, System of a Down–Radio/Video, Bonnie Somerville—Winding Road

Don’t want to be an actor pretending on the stage
Don’t want to be a writer with my thoughts out on the page
Don’t want to be a painter ’cause everyone comes to look
Don’t want to be anything where my life’s an open book…

Don’t want to be a farmer working in the sun
Don’t want to be an outlaw always on the run
Don’t want to be a climber reaching for the top
Don’t want to be anything where I don’t know when to stop

WASTE by Trey Anastasio, recorded by Phish

Hey…I mean, Hello. Yes, it has been a while. Ya know…I have notes, poems, ideas, random thoughts. All things I planned to write about for this blog, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have avoided it. I have become fearful of a monster I created. (Monster is a bit over-stating it, I realize.)

Monster Squid at the Fish Market in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Monster Squid at the Fish Market in Negombo, Sri Lanka

You see, I really do enjoy this…this, um…hmmm, what is this? Simply, it’s blogging, but what is it really? That, I believe, is where I got stuck. (In a strange twist, I had a day where I was just draped in melancholy. Don’t know why. Emo music, longing for bangs to hang over one eye, dog-eared volume of Sylvia Plath in my back pocket kinda thing. I was driving and I almost started to cry…no idea why. I just knew it was time to purge…so, I ended up here…Hi!)

“Stuckness.” The first time I came upon this idea was when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Of course, I had been stuck before, but I was a 20 something, pseudo-macho know-it-all, I didn’t realize it could be an actual condition. Pirsig taught me all I needed to know about “stuckness”, but I didn’t use that information to avoid being stuck. In fact, there have been many times throughout my life where I have been stuck, and I thought I had no resource to get unstuck. You know what? I did. I just didn’t step back, and look at my problem. I maintained the blind objectivity of an expert who has no actual expertise. I’m gonna blame that on ego…but we’ll get back to that…maybe.

View from a tuktuk in Sri Lanka. tons of traffic and horns, but nothing stops moving, very fluid.

View from a tuktuk in Sri Lanka. tons of traffic and horns, but nothing stops moving, very fluid.

I have been really stuck, lately. Stuck. (Strange word, huh? Say it…say it out loud, painfully slowly…not easy. The t and ck make it tough. I lost my breath trying it. Did you?). Anyway, Pirsig writes about the mechanic’s relationship with the motorcycle. Most of what can be maintained on a motorcycle is objective. Anyone who can maintain objectivity can read a manual and maintain a motorcycle. However, once something outside the realm of traditional repair, such as a stripped screw, occurs, then objectivity can’t solve the problem. You need innovation, creativity, and to clear your mind of the path you were previously on. Meaning, you cannot charge ahead with the maintenance in the same manner, because you will always arrive at that same “stuck” point, or screw, as it is.

I don't know what this person was getting at, but I don't care. It struck me. It is on the concrete perimeter of the island. Kinda cool.

I don’t know what this person was getting at, but I don’t care. It struck me. It is on the concrete perimeter of the island. Kinda cool.

SO, what the heck is Lee talking about? I’ve been stuck. The blog became a thing. An object. A task. It had a form to it that I felt objective about. I made it that way…in what can be the worst neighborhood in the world…my head. I thought I could just charge ahead and the words would just come; but I had backed off my first person involvement. I was writing as a reader, not as a feel-er. I was writing as “Lee the blogger” (which seems strange to me), rather than Lee, the me. I was editing for the audience before I even got a word on the page. I felt I had to provide a similar path every time. I wasn’t taking the necessary risk of creating something original (a debatable word, I know). Yet again, I know that we change every single minute of every single day, that the me right now is different than the me just then.

This signifies change here in the Dhabi. During the “fall” and “winter” months, camping is perfect. That's Snoopy Island. That bright spot, the Sun rising again. See? Change.

This signifies change here in the Dhabi. During the “fall” and “winter” months, camping is perfect. That’s Snoopy Island. That bright spot, the Sun rising again. See? Change.

Still, I persisted in trying to reproduce substance that came from a former me. All of my talking of being here now, and I’m not being authentic. That’s how I got stuck. I relapsed, I lost my awareness, I went into that autopilot that just says, “the screw isn’t budging, put some locking pliers on that mothe-uh-screwdriver and muscle it!” Then, I stripped the screw…and I’m glad. It has forced me to step back and examine how I got stuck. Does that make sense? Hopefully, it will.

Sitting down to write became harder and harder, because it was less flow and more form. (If you’re into flow, check out Mikhaly Czikszentmihalyi—I had to google for spelling…good stuff, though…especially for teachers). I thought I had lost control over it. What I realized is I was trying too hard to control it. This is a reoccurring pattern in my life. The need to control. I like to know how a thing is going to turn out. Well, not “like”, more like insist. I’ve been trying to let that go, I really have, though I’ve noticed a bit of a relapse in my growth lately.

This is me chairing a School Leadership Team meeting. Yes, they have SLTs, SIPs, PDPs, PD, IB, OHI, SpEd, everything we have. The only thing they don't have is a mascot. So, I dubbed us The Unicorns: Legend is made here!

This is me chairing a School Leadership Team meeting. Yes, they have SLTs, SIPs, PDPs, PD, IB, OHI, SpEd, everything we have. The only thing they don’t have is a mascot. So, I dubbed us The Unicorns: Legend is made here!

Douglas, our mascot. He reads...a lot!

Douglas, our mascot. He reads…a lot!

So, I attribute part of my stuckness to work. Once again, I let it take over. I lost perspective and became a bit too obsessive about it. Here’s the nutshell: at work there have been some pretty large strategic deficits and some policies that were just plain ignored. Well, now that it’s my second year and I know who to talk to about what, my plan was just to fix everything…NOW! Ummm, bad idea. Here’s a system that’s been running for years in this particular manner, by the same people everyday, and my dumbass ego in his second year is going to push for major changes…and push for them immediately. Guess who got the most upset and frustrated? One guess, go ahead…yes, yours truly.

This is my friend Aslam and his son from Sri Lanka. He invited me to dinner for the Eid feast. He lives in small house with 7 other people. The whole house is 4 rooms. The food was amazing!

This is my friend Aslam and his son from Sri Lanka. He invited me to dinner for the Eid feast. He lives in small house with 7 other people. The whole house is 4 rooms. The food was amazing!

This is their kitchen cupboard...and we argue about which wood finish to choose from...hmmm?

This is their kitchen cupboard…and we argue about which wood finish to choose from…hmmm?

The meal, more curry than you can shake coriander at..."Mistah Lee, why you face so wet?"

The meal, more curry than you can shake coriander at…”Mistah Lee, why you face so wet?”

Strangely, I felt some sort of satisfaction out of the pain and stress I was feeling. There was an actual adrenaline rush, as if my ego was saying, “Yes, this pain, this is what work should feel like…give me more, Lee, push harder.” Well, thank the universe (and a little Ekhart Tolle), that I learned about the “pain-body” that can exist in all of us. That part of us that thrives on stress or pain and pushes forward for fleeting intellectual, yet irrational, stimulation. That is the pain-body. Your, or rather, my, ego feeds it so I push harder. For what? It is an endless pursuit. More is a dangerous thing to want. More has no limit. More is a bottomless pit, a fall that never stops.

136

I'm trying to learn to relax like these dudes. Seen on a canal tour in Sri Lanka. We got a little too close and I got nervous. The boat driver (this was not a “captain” kind of boat) told me, “No worry, you no taste good!” Thanks, buddy. Was I relieved or insulted?

I’m trying to learn to relax like these dudes. Seen on a canal tour in Sri Lanka. We got a little too close and I got nervous. The boat driver (this was not a “captain” kind of boat) told me, “No worry, you no taste good!” Thanks, buddy. Was I relieved or insulted?

I feel very fortunate, though. Rather than get angry or really frustrated (well, I did get purty darn frustrated), I have some tools to slow me down. I am learning to assess myself. Why do I feel this way? Why am I grinding my teeth again? Why am I losing sleep again? Why the headaches? Why are people, again, looking at me and drawing smiley faces at me, or making furrowed brow looks? Why?

055

Sunset. Indian Ocean

Sunset. Indian Ocean

You see, in a former state I would pass all that off as just part of life. Stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, telling people to smile when you don’t, a crease so deep between your eyes it looks like your forehead is trying to eat your uni-brow (You know who you are. I’m not the only one.)

Decrease the crease!

Decrease the crease!

I don’t really make those faces in all parts of my life. I make them in my work life. Which is a silly thing to say, life is life. When you separate your lives, you’re being someone, not just being.

I just like this picture. It's my buddy Khaled, who interprets for me doing our typical PD Interpreter dance once again.

I just like this picture. It’s my buddy Khaled, who interprets for me doing our typical PD Interpreter dance once again.

 

I can’t place my finger on it, but I get very intense around my work. I love what I do. Yet, I question that word all the time. I believe loving what you do is important, but are you loving it so much that you start substituting it for you? Do I get consumed with work? Yes. Do I get emotional about work? Yes (Everyone that knows me has seen that.) Am I allowing my work to interfere with my ability to be happy? Or, am I loving it to avoid loving something else?…Maybe, just maybe, I am.

The difference for me, is I’m questioning it now. Formerly, I thought work, or something you love, was supposed to create that ultimate elation and that grinding, yearning, tiresome, dissatisfaction. Strange, huh? (I also believed that great art came from great pain…only. I don’t believe that now…topic for a different day.)

This feels artistic...no pain. Bait fishing boats, Sri Lanka

This feels artistic…no pain. Bait fishing boats, Sri Lanka

Here I am, 20 years into my career, 30+ years into work life, and I’m still looking for balance. I often feel that if I’m not happy in my work day, then I’m not happy. Now, I KNOW that’s not true, yet I allow it. I relapsed into the idea that if I do well at work, then I am doing well as a person. I am accomplishing and succeeding to feel good about me. Rather, I should feel good about me in order to accomplish and succeed. Easily said, commonly taught, not so easy to do…especially, if your habit is the former.

So, I have to get back the the present moment. Tolle says something that I must keep in mind, “The ego could be defined simply in this way: a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment.” A to the men, ya know? I have a habit of letting the possibility, and the beauty, of the moment slip by because I’m too preoccupied with unproductive feelings like frustration and anger. Useless, man, useless.

Fog rolling through the Dhabi. Beautiful, huh?

Fog rolling through the Dhabi. Beautiful, huh?

What’s it all mean? I still struggle. I struggle to achieve something that I can have at any moment: happiness. Which is silly. Happiness is merely a choice. There is nothing or no one in your head that MAKES you feel a certain way. It is your head, your heart, your life. (Really, I’m talking to me.) So, I’m going to keep practicing my attention to the moment, and give myself the understanding that some habits are really hard to break.

Fog pouring through the building next door. It was a balmy 77. Our students wore knit hats and down jackets...those that showed up, of course. The others took a fog day...yes, the whole day.

Fog pouring through the building next door. It was a balmy 77. Our students wore knit hats and down jackets…those that showed up, of course. The others took a fog day…yes, the whole day.

I think what we need to consider about happiness is that it is not fleeting. Really, it’s not an emotion, happiness is a state. There are other emotions that can interrupt or temporarily cloud happiness, but only because we allow it. So, that’s what I’m working on. Allow the clouds into my happiness, but hold on to happiness as a state. It’s my decision, it’s my choice.

In the meantime, I think I just finished the blog I was dreading. Cool! I will take this moment to feel you all in my heart. I feel how I miss you, and how I love you. I am grateful to have that. Imagine its absence…not for too long, though. Think about making happiness your state. (For a really weird take on being grateful, watch any of Louis C.K.’s stand-up shows.)

Family (especially my girlies) and Friends,

My love and gratitude to you,

Lee

Random cool shot of my 'hood.

Random cool shot of my ‘hood.

No plan can be a good plan, Being un-lost, or Open Hearts open hearts.

3 Jun

 

June 1, 2014

Foo Fighters—Watershed, Deftones—Be Quiet and Drive, The White Stripes—Icky Thump, Michael Franti & Spearhead—One Step Closer to You, The Roots Diedre vs Dice, Deftones—Knife Party, The Roots—You Ain’t Fly, The Beastie Boys—Funky Donkey, The Freddy Jones Band—California, Red Hot Chili Peppers—One Hot Minute, Zero 7—In the Waiting Line, Justin Timberlake—Spaceship Coupe, Foo Fighters—Everlong, Soundgarden—The Day I Tried to Live, Incubus—Quicksand, Rush—Freewill, Dave Matthews Band—Ants Marching, The Beastie Boys—Long Burn the Fire, Smashing Pumpkins—Daydream, Marvin Gaye—I’ll be Doggone, Rage Against the Machine—Down Rodeo, Cody ChestnuTT—Magic in a Mortal Minute, Marvin Gaye—Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology Song), Foo Fighters—For All the Cows. Killswitch Engage—For You, Dr. Dre—Forgot About Dre, Tool—46 & 2, Mos Def (as Black Jack Johnson)—Freak Daddy, Rage Against the Machine–Freedom

The Sunset on my first night in Thailand. Also, a great image, thematically. Enjoy the read...please...I hope.

The Sunset on my first night in Thailand. Also, a great image, thematically. Enjoy the read…please…I hope.

Ya know? This blogging thing is kinda hard. So many decisions go into the writing process. I am going to write about my Spring Break for this blog. It was intensely personal, very emotional, and the first time I have ever…gone anywhere…completely…new…and completely…alone. (Physically, I have just paused to catch my breath.)

Even now as my brain sends detailed, and remarkably almost involuntary instructions on which fingers to press which keys, my ego, which I create and recreate everyday and allow to exist, is making me cautious, and making me second guess this choice. I told myself I’d let it out, that I’d release my experience to the world without judgment. I’m trying to see the world as my daughters did when they were so little.

Koh Samui Airport. Mostly outdoor hallways and beautifully integrated into the natural beauty of Thailand's Islands.

Koh Samui Airport. Mostly outdoor hallways and beautifully integrated into the natural beauty of Thailand’s Islands.

I remember their gorgeous almond-shaped eyes, so big and milk chocolate brown, soaking it all in, seeing everything for the first time, or seeing things over and over again and still finding wonder in them. I want that. I want that…back. I want the “yawp” Whitman encourages us to release, the intensity that William Blake said we must feel…to feel…and what did Wordsworth talk about…the spontaneous overflow of feelings? We MUST make time for that. It is not optional! I remember living on the floor with them so I could try to adopt their perspective just to get a glimpse of that wonder. They taught me so much…and still do. (Man, I miss them…words…failing…love)

A latte in the Dhabi airport. I didn't ask for the art...love happens...everywhere.

A latte in The Dhabi airport. I didn’t ask for the art…love happens…everywhere.

Second course in The Dhabi airport...What!? A man needs breakfast!

Second course in The Dhabi airport…What!? A man needs breakfast!

Well, I’ve been through so much change the last two years, I can honestly say, I’ve opened my eyes again, as if for the first time. I haven’t forgotten the days gone by, and I am grateful for the lessons, but I am seeing the new ones without pretense, with curiosity and wonder and possibility, and I am glad to know I have no idea what the future holds.

This guy claims to know what the future holds. Hey!? Is that Frank Pantengeli? Godfather 2?

This guy claims to know what the future holds. Hey!? Is that Frank Pantengeli? Godfather 2?

I was encouraged by many to take a trip on my own. All said it is a unique and growing experience. All were correct. I highly suggest it.

This is a hotel ad in the in flight magazine. Ummm, I think the Universe is speaking to me.

This is a hotel ad in the in flight magazine. Ummm, I think the Universe is speaking to me.

So, I’ve never been to Thailand and the price was SO right, I couldn’t turn it down. Heck, I’ve spent more money in 4 days in Chicago than I did flying, staying, and eating in 9 days in Thailand.

My hotel on Koh PhangAn.

My hotel on Koh PhangAn.

My hotel on Koh Samui. The Punpreeda Hip Resort...fun to say. Try it!

My hotel on Koh Samui. The Punpreeda Hip Resort…fun to say. Try it!

Waterfront, table in the sand, tempura, pad thai, coconut chicken, and a beer...about $7.

Waterfront, table in the sand, tempura, pad thai, coconut chicken, and a beer…about $7.

Pad Thai in a Thai fishing village.

Pad Thai in a Thai fishing village.

Fresh rolled Sushi at an outdoor market...about $5 for that plate...my 1st of 3..or 4...or...

Fresh rolled Sushi at an outdoor market…about $5 for that plate…my 1st of 3..or 4…or…

So I’m there. I’m alone. No schedule, no plans, very little information…just me, the committee in my head, the neighborhood that is my brain, a couple books, and of course, 1000 songs to fill the space. Tell me why I was so anxious? Why do I immediately get a map and start planning? Planning for what? What do I NEED to see? Why do I have to maximize…well, anything? I’m on vacation, I’m alone, and I have 9 days to do…nothing. Sounds ideal, right?

This should have been the only thought in my head. View of infinity pool (with integrated bar and bartender named "Lee", yes! Hmmm?) and beach at The Coast Beach Resort.

This should have been the only thought in my head. View of infinity pool (with integrated bar and bartender named “Lee”, yes! Hmmm?) and beach at The Coast Beach Resort.

Well, it wasn’t easy, at first. That’s not a complaint. That’s my shortcoming. I am not accustomed to not having a plan. On my flight from The Dhabi to Bangkok, I was relaxed and ready to chill until I realized that I only had 45 minutes to make my connecting flight and we left 90 minutes late. Luckily, a few others with the same flight (and a louder customer voice) demanded they make the connecting flight wait. They did. However, we had to run to the gate. In fact, the airline employees throw a sticker on your chest, then tell you to run. So, you do the polite hurry-up walk, and they chase after you, “No Misterrrr, run, run!”

Cities of clouds holding the dreams of skyward gazers everywhere.

Cities of clouds holding the dreams of skyward gazers everywhere.

Taking the advice of others, I had no transportation plans, no overnight stay plans, and no realization that Expedia doesn’t care if the flight you booked won’t get you on the ferry to your destination island until the next day. No worries, though. There were plenty others in the same boat…or not in the same boat? Either way. Apparently, there’s a whole segment of society who really does just throw stuff in a backpack and goes somewhere. I wish I was that cool. I’m not sure the shaved, short-haired, 40-something guy with the roller case (carry-on, mind you), and book bag size back pack fit in with these seemingly happy go-lucky travelers, but the conversations were lively and all were friendly.

Ummm, no one told me the Ferry was clothing optional!

Ummm, no one told me the Ferry was clothing optional!

After a misunderstanding due to pronunciation issues (on both parts), I learned I had about half the day on Koh Samui before the next ferry. I had to fight the itch in my brain that just wanted to force a solution and get to my hotel on Koh PhangAn to settle in? For what? Why did I need to hurry up to slow down? What is it that makes me anxious about something I can do nothing about? There’s one ferry, Lee. Wait for it, and enjoy the time you have…enjoy every minute.

Ferry dock...no Ferry. No Worries...eventually.

Ferry dock…no Ferry. No Worries…eventually.

Isn’t this so true? We say it all the time. “You only have today…live life every minute…every day is a gift, enjoy it…etc.” What did that Lennon guy say? “Life is what happens when your busy making other plans”?

After missing the Ferry, life dealt me this. I'll take it. However, the muzak version of "Dancing on the Ceiling" was a bit unsettling...headphones, take me away!

After missing the Ferry, life dealt me this. I’ll take it. However, the muzak version of “Dancing on the Ceiling” was a bit unsettling…headphones, take me away!

So, I was forced to slow down. I needed to. The pace of my work life hasn’t been that hectic, lately, but the pace of my emotional life has been. You know who’s responsible for that stress? I am. There are many things up in the air for me right now. Most of them I can’t solve in a day. In fact, I can only participate in their resolve, I am not the architect of those solutions.

The view from The View Hotel. Owned by my new friend, Lee. Seriously, that's his name. A former attorney from Tel Aviv, who left to follow his dream. If you have too many beers at the bar, the steps are an insane test. No rails and super steep. He told me I don't look like a Principal. I love when people say that.

The view from The View Hotel. Owned by my new friend, Lee. Seriously, that’s his name. A former attorney from Tel Aviv, who left to follow his dream. If you have too many beers at the bar, the steps are an insane test. No rails and super steep. He told me I don’t look like a Principal. I love when people say that.

Human relationships are complicated. Many of us take our experience and perspectives and believe them to be the same as others. We don’t take into consideration the definitions, the interpretations, the filters, the histories, the current events, that shape our present day attention. At the same time, we can’t wait to speak until we learn all of that. The only thing we can do, is speak from our single perspective, be straightforward about what we want or need, and wait for the reaction. You took action. That’s your step. The reaction, that’s theirs (while at the same time being their action, as well.) Then, you respect that response and how you interact begins to take shape. Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s simple or complicated. I believe the ego makes it complicated. Speak from the heart and not the “I want more” and relationships will be simplified…right?

Peaceful, huh?

Peaceful, huh?

So, it took me two days to shake the “I should be doing something” anxiety. I noticed that the people staying at the hotel were content to sit at the pool, walk to the beach, back to the pool, and repeat all day. Some never leaving the hotel. I liked that…no rush to see this or that, just relax. Again, it took me 2 days to figure that out! I rented a scooter to see the island. A great experience! Ya know, driving on the left side of the road is easy, until you’re turning right into oncoming traffic.

MissTery, but I'm not sure if that's her name...get it? She is SO sweet! She rented me a scooter, sold me gas, and did my laundry...and a HUGE hug at the end of my trip. Not sure why, but I needed it, and she saw that. Open hearts open hearts.

MissTery, but I’m not sure if that’s her name…get it? She is SO sweet! She rented the scooter, sold the gas, and did my laundry…and a HUGE hug at the end of my trip. Not sure why, but I needed it, and she saw that. Open hearts open hearts.

Yes, that's a liquor bottle...and about a dollar's worth of gas. The scooter totaled about $60 for 8 days, including fuel. Most people have a "fuel" stand outside their homes. They run up to help you and won't take tips...so you sneak it in between the bottles.

Yes, that’s a liquor bottle…and about a dollar’s worth of gas. The scooter totaled about $60 for 8 days, including fuel. Most people have a “fuel” stand outside their homes. They run up to help you and won’t take tips…so you sneak it in between the bottles.

MissTery did my laundry for about $3, and folded it tighter than I ever could, and if you know me, I pride myself on folding.

MissTery did my laundry for about $3, and folded it tighter than I ever could, and if you know me, I pride myself on folding.

Koh PhangAn is not very large so the streets have no names (Ok, go ahead, sing the song), which differs from the Dhabi, where streets have 3 names, but no numbers. One can’t really get lost for too long. You can see the coast from the mountain roads and the mountain roads from the coast.

Top o the world, Ma!

Top o the world, Ma!

A random stopping point at the top...deep breath! Yeah...goooooood!

A random stopping point at the top…deep breath! Yeah…goooooood!

There was a time when getting lost seemed like a ridiculous and inconvenient idea. I would grind my teeth, tighten my jaw, snort and huff, and curse myself for being sooooo stupid!…and never once did any of that help. When I got to the Dhabi, I had a few weeks before work started. I kept hearing, “It’s an island, you can’t get lost…” I didn’t understand. I do now. In fact, I spent many hours walking around being geographically lost, but being exactly where I needed to be…not lost at all.

Yes, I'm on the right side of the road...which is the left. Views everywhere.

Yes, I’m on the right side of the road…which is the left. Views everywhere.

As I look back two years or so, I was SO bent on knowing EXACTLY where I was that I could never get lost. The irony, of course, for this slow learner, is I was lost. I lost myself. So much so that I didn’t even know it. I let my ego distract me. There is no freedom in disallowing yourself to get lost. If you always know exactly where you are and are familiar with everything around you, how will you grow? Sure, you can manufacture growth opportunities (reading, meditating, sudoku, Lumosity), but those are challenges you brought on. When was the last time you walked into a place and you knew no one, or truly didn’t know what to do, or didn’t speak the language, or…all of the above. There’s your growth moment. I’m not saying that’s the only way, but it is effective for those of us who prefer(-red) to control our environments.

Any bored linemen out there? Good Luck. The hair on your neck stands up if you stop near these.

Any bored linemen out there? Good Luck. The hair on your neck stands up if you stop near these.

Ummm, why can't I hear the waterfall?...oh, spelling optional...again.

Ummm, why can’t I hear the waterfall?…oh, spelling optional…again.

When that revelation came to me, after the third waterfall I couldn’t find…–“Ummm, sir, no water in waterfall…no rain, no water…”–I decided, I’d get lost everyday. The first two days on the scooter, I’m saying to myself… “Oh, I’ll come back to that…or, I’ll get a picture tomorrow…or, remember where that is…” For what? If it catches your eye today. Go look at it! Stop and smell the roses, right? Don’t plan to come back and have the same experience! It won’t be the same….which brings me to the monastery and the temple…seriously, as I typed that, as my consciousness became aware of what my subconscious was about to reveal, my heart got heavy, thick, my skin warm…I changed…again.

The 3 Characteristics and 10 ethical promises of the Bodhisattva way.

The 3 Characteristics and 10 ethical promises of the Bodhisattva way.

Ok, people! Time out! This is not going well for me. You probably didn’t notice, but I did. I have to get this off my chest. I felt guilty about going on vacation alone so I manufactured a reason to go. “I’ll go find myself. Think things out. Find the happier Lee…of course, this trip must have a purpose, right?” That’s me. I play roles. Within those roles, each of those Lees looks for validation from outside sources…family, colleagues, even complete strangers. What a bizarre concept! We define ourselves secretly, behave a certain way and expect to get a reward for that behavior from the universe…at least I do…er, I did. I am not two people. I am me. Here I am two months later finally coming to terms and accepting that vacation for exactly what it was. Me being me…which is probably why the monastery hit me so hard…look at these.

Greeting Visitors

Greeting Visitors

The Prayer Room. I spent 15-20 minutes in there, completely silent and completely present with a monk and a devotee. SO powerful! I felt like I was being held. I didn't want to leave.

The Prayer Room. I spent 15-20 minutes in there, completely silent and completely present with a monk and a devotee. SO powerful! I felt like I was being held. I didn’t want to leave.

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

From a nearby Chinese temple which the monk from the monastery encouraged me to visit. She is at THE VERY TOP. Her view is...perfect.

From a nearby Chinese temple which the monk from the monastery encouraged me to visit. She is at THE VERY TOP. Her view is…perfect.

Guardians of the Shrine. Sir Shred-a-Lot and Mr. Tambourine...man.

Guardians of the Shrine. Sir Shred-a-Lot and Mr. Tambourine…man.

A prayer room with relief sculptures on the wall.

A prayer room with relief sculptures on the wall.

Something that touched me as I rode the coast.

Something that touched me as I rode the coast.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” 
― Robert M. PirsigZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Ok, ok, it was a scooter, but you get the idea. I do remember bouts of natural thought. Those times when I wasn’t yelling at myself about not thinking enough about my life situations. Moments when I let myself relax, enjoy the present, shut off all filters, and just feel. The most memorable was when I left the monastery for the first time. About 10 minutes up and down and around the winding mountain roads, I just started weeping. I guess I needed to purge. It’s an interesting thing to cry as a man. In company, it is unsettling for those watching. As if it shouldn’t happen. When alone, however, I found it …umm…hmmm…I found it to be…real. Even as I type this, I am re-visiting the moment. The warm wind, the beautiful rich green rolling mountains, the buzz of the scooter, my skin browning in the sun, the Peace I just experienced (and continued to feel) during my impromptu meditation with the monk and a follower…and there I was. Me, alone, ok. Not sad or happy, just alive, feeling fulfilled, tears rolling down my face, accepting it all, no explanation, no justification…a human Being, rather than a human Doing. It felt like a spiritual bath…actually, it was.

You know what? I think that’s enough for now. How about some pictures?

THE hottest soccer field in the world!

THE hottest soccer field in the world!

Squid drying in the sun outside of Choklakum, a fishing village...which you smell long before you get there. Each "tray" has about 100, and there are a 100 trays, at least...smell that!

Squid drying in the sun outside of Choklakum, a fishing village…which you smell long before you get there. Each “tray” has about 100, and there are a 100 trays, at least…smell that!

So!? Some of you have your dog tied up outside!

So!? Some of you have your dog tied up outside!

Steve the Cow. "What!? Move along tourist! Eat more chicken!"

Steve the Cow. “What!? Move along tourist! Eat more chicken!”

These French guys have a good thing going...

These French guys have a good thing going…

Probably not Snoop's boat.

Probably not Snoop’s boat.

Hard to see, but there's an orangutan on the cab of the truck. He catches the coconuts and throws them into the bed of the truck...and, he stares at me until I get scared and leave.

Hard to see, but there’s an orangutan on the cab of the truck. He catches the coconuts and throws them into the bed of the truck…and, he stares at me until I get scared and leave.

Barbecued monk---well, you figure it out.

Barbecued monk—well, you figure it out.

A school. Love seeing schools in other countries. Most are guarded by high walls and fences...think about that.

A school. Love seeing schools in other countries. Most are guarded by high walls and fences…think about that.

Persistence.

Persistence.

Real. Fresh Bananas. Cooked every way possible. SO good! About 2 pounds worth for $1.50.

Real. Fresh Bananas. Cooked every way possible. SO good! About 2 pounds worth for $1.50.

Don't talk.

Don’t talk.

So, what have I learned? SOOOO much! For today, I will be aware of the roles I’m assuming and why I am assuming them. Then, stop it and act from me. I want everything I do to become spiritual practice. What does that mean? I LOVE being a Principal. Now, more-so that I do it without requiring validation. Sure, recognition is nice, but it isn’t necessary, whereas I think I craved it in the past. Now, I just “Be” as a Principal and the life of it is much easier. Sure, I get frustrated. I’m learning to check that and if I see fault in what others do or don’t do, then I look at myself first. What is my part in it? How can I help? The next step…do that in every role…especially as a parent. We internalize so much of what our children are and run the risk of not allowing them to be them. They deserve space, mistakes, conflict, everything that is part of a normal well-rounded human being.

I love you my precious, beautiful daughters. I love you so much. Everyday!

Me. Moving forward. Everyday. Thank you for your love and support!

Me. Moving forward. Everyday. Thank you for your love and support!

Thank you, everyone. So freakin’ much!

Peace and Love,

Lee

(Touch your hand to your heart for me, please.)

 

 

The blogtorial; Self-definition; and the Monk with Sweaty Palms

11 Apr

This blog has been written and deleted and edited and written and edited and deleted. (It was not written in one sitting as I like to do, so to you chronology people, Let It Go…it’s a blog…and it’s a bit long. No quiz this month.) Needless to say, I was “stuck”. But as Robert Pirsig wrote,

“If your mind is truly, profoundly stuck, then it might be much better off than when it was loaded with ideas”

― Robert M. PirsigZen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Songs that influenced this work–Michael Franti & Spearhead-Thank you, Deftones-Around the Fur, The Smiths-What She Said, Middle Class Rut-Aunt Betty, Jack Johnson-Staple It Together, John Mayer-Dear Marie, Wax-Rosana, Killswitch Engage-Daylight Dies, The Beastie Boys-Nonstop Disco Powerpack, Clutch-The Wolfman Kindly Requests, Mother Love Bone-Stargazer, Cody ChestnuTT-Everybody’s Brother, Michael Franti & Spearhead-Everyone Deserves Music, Nine Inch Nails-Down In It, The Steepwater Band-Back to the Bottle, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell-Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Rage Against the Machine-Killing in the Name, Smashing Pumpkins-Day Dream, Dave Matthews Band-#34, Tool-Message to Harry Manback, Ice Cube-Integration, Red Hot Chilipeppers-Pea, Deftones-Lifter, Soundgarden-Pretty Noose, The Sword-To Take the Black, The White Stripes-St. Andrew, Smashing Pumpkins-Crush, Ice Cube-When Will They Shoot, Quicksand-Transparent, Freddy Jones Band-Into the Wind, Cody ChestnuTT Enough of Nothing, Freddy Jones Band-She Said, Freddy Jones Band-Wonder, Taking Back Sunday-Set Phasers to Stun, The Smiths-Hand in Glove, Crash Kings-All Along, Marvin Gaye-Inner City Blues, The White Stripes-Conquest, Tool-Third Eye, Dave Matthews Band-Dancing Nancies, Incubus-Consequence, 30 Seconds to Mars-R-Evolve, Michael Franti & Spearhead-Listener Supported, Black Label society-Destruction Overdrive, Michael Franti & Spearhead-Love, Why did you go away

Hi!…um…How are you? This is a bit awkward, huh? We haven’t shared this space in a while. Truthfully, this space is changing. We all are. I’ve been thinking about this blog, and this place (The Dhabi), and you, and writing, and school, and friends, and family, and children, and growth, and fear, and love, and loss…hey, it’s been a long time. I think a lot.

To be totally honest, I’ve been sitting at this computer for hours, full of those thoughts, and full of hesitation…and this is as far as I’ve traveled. How much should one reveal? What is my purpose with this blog? Am I filling a role or am I being me, the true me, without ego, without pretense, without speaking words I think you’d want to hear. See, I want to relate the real me. I can’t do that if I label myself as any one of me societal roles. In terms of the blog, I just want to be Lee. I want to write from that perspective, Lee–human being.  Sounds easy…nu-uh.

Also, I’d like to entertain, show you the sights, share some of my thoughts and the miracles that occur in everyday life. They do ya know…(sidebar—have you seen “Into the Wild”? No? Wow, see it! I’ve seen it a few times and I cry at the strangest times. Tonight, I turned it on right at the section about gaining wisdom, about getting out of your comfort zone, about how anyone can learn from anyone…and I do everyday. That, my friends, is the kind of everyday miracle I am talking about.) I am getting comfortable here, so I need to stretch it a bit.

Remember “The Real World” on MTV? Is it still on? Anyway, the opening intro said it was a show about how strangers are forced together and what happens when people stop being polite and start being real…or something like that. Well, we were raised to be real polite, in fact, to be polite-r than most (yes, I make up words…what, is this your first blog?). Another sidebar—my father is asleep in my guest room right now. Love that he’s returned to the Middle East after almost 40 years. I love having him here. Your relationship as a child changes without notice until major life changes create separation or some kind of defined change. We’ve had a few. Since the loss of my younger brother in 2008, this has been a big change for both of us. I am his namesake, and his only son, and I live 7500 miles away…not easy, even for a tough guy like him. He arrived the day before his 77th birthday…wanna see?

Dad and I on his 77th in front of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. To think, He's almost twice the age of this country--still looks good, too! Just ask him ;)

Dad and me on his 77th in front of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. To think, He’s almost twice the age of this country–still looks good, too! Just ask him 😉

Dad's birthday meal with Aziz and Ahmed at a swanky Emirati restaurant in the Dubai Mall. Great food and great company!

Dad’s birthday meal with Aziz and Ahmed at a swanky Emirati restaurant in the Dubai Mall. Great food and great company! They give you cologne and essential oils to freshen up at the end of the meal. I smell Oud!

So, back to the real world. Work has become interesting. I LOVE what I do, and I am lucky to work with some really hardworking people…but Dorothy, we ain’t in Kansas, anymore (American colloquialism for my international reader). Life just works at a different speed here. The reform we told we were taking part in is a bit different than described. In fact, it’s way more challenging. In my interview, I asked if they had “turnaround” schools…I like a school with a strong heart that is looking for a change. Well, I got one. The people and the kids are great. They want the change, but “this is how we always do it” has prevailed for so long that the options don’t appear. The bottom line is, schools are people. Parents want what ‘s best, kids want to learn, teachers want to share their art, and administrators…well, that’s our mission, to make all that happen. All I have to do is keep those things in mind, everyday, through the discipline, the illnesses of staff and students, the 752 accountability measures (give or take a hundred), the standardized testing, and now, through the language barrier…with your students, with your teachers, with your admin team, with your parents, and with the community. Ever seen Arabic!? At least with French or Spanish, you can guess…nu-uh, not happening here. You know what, though? I freakin’ love it!

This is "the yard" before the storm, uh school day. I stand in front of this everyday. So much potential in this space. One has to see the possibilities, the opportunities for growth; lives change here, everyday. So cool!

This is “the yard” before the storm, uh, school day. I stand in front of this everyday. So much potential in this space. One has to see the possibilities, the opportunities for growth; lives change here, everyday. So cool!

So, yes, I’ve had to have some hard conversations with fellow admins, teachers, and superiors. All challenging, all uncomfortable, all growth experiences. They are teaching me, everyday. For that, I am grateful.

We are required to do a minimum number of hours of Professional Development every week. This year the accountability police are on it. Our school is out in the sticks, uh dunes, and there is a belief that “central office” never checks on the schools “off island” (out of the city)…that’s us. We’re so off island that the sign to our school is under a sand drift. ( I wanted to say it has Jed Clampett pickin’ a banjo and sayin’ “atta way”, but that reference might be too narrow.) Thus, many believe we won’t get visited. Well, the #2 man in charge showed up the second week of school and made the whole place nervous. Now, there is a new number 1, a female (YES, Sistahs makin’ waves!) and she has vowed to visit all the schools. So, I stress…grinding teeth, headaches, you know, stress. Here’s why: We are a special community and our culture is not the same as the culture in the city, yet the expectations are the same. So, that is the challenge. Meet the city numbers with rural kids on a scale set without consideration of our statistical past. Sound familiar? Yep, it happens here, too.

So, that’s all boring to most of you. I’m a total EduNerd, and I love that stuff. However, I am WAAAY behind, so let’s look at some pictures! K? MmmmmK!

Green Day Assembly. Look at the little dudes dressed as fruit! The don't eat it, but they love the costumes.

Green Day Assembly. Look at the little dudes dressed as fruit! They don’t eat it, but they love the costumes. I sometimes carry grapes around at lunch and offer them to the boys. They give me the “Gas Face”! 3rd Bass fans, ya feel me?

Overhead of boys assembling for “Green Day”. No, not the band, the day! It’s a celebration of eating healthy and staying active. Apparently, we were supposed to wear green that day. The two little ones in the foreground didn’t get the memo and had to sit out…yeah, there was no memo. There never is. We don’t have a school calendar. I hear other schools do. It’s on my to-do list.

For when you're driving through a vacuum in space.

For when you’re driving through a vacuum in space.

One might call this “overkill”. Not here, more lights, more better!

The boys love sharing their culture. Prior to the picture they parted and made me sit with them. Imagine 900 Dennis the Menaces...in Kandooras.

The boys love sharing their culture. Prior to the picture they parted and made me sit with them. Imagine 900 Dennis the Menaces…in Kandooras.

This is me hanging with the boys watching a rehearsal. Here’s an idea…let’s give them swords and heavy iron toy guns. The kids in the distance are following one boy who is chanting, from memory, for about 10 minutes. Impressive.

An amazing camping location about 2 hours from Abu Dhabi, in Fujeirah. That's Snoopy (Island) taking a nap.

An amazing camping location about 2 hours from Abu Dhabi, in Fujeirah. That’s Snoopy (Island) taking a nap.

The campsite before everyone showed up. Add about 12 more people and 8 countries of origin. Lots of charades and trivial pursuit and health food and juice and water.  Kinda.

The campsite before everyone showed up. Add about 12 more people and 8 countries of origin. Lots of charades and trivial pursuit and health food and juice and water. Kinda.

There are signs everywhere. It took me years to recognize and accept them. I've always preached love, but I had a hard time with deserving it. I do. So, do you. The signs are there if your heart is open.

There are signs everywhere. It took me years to recognize and accept them. I’ve always preached love, but I had a hard time with deserving it. I do. So, do you. The signs are there if your heart is open.

Signs. We are just visiting.

Signs. We are just visiting.

These are pathways the water takes to get back to the ocean.

These are pathways the water takes to get back to the ocean.

I love this picture. See the established pathways? That is how your brain works. On this particular day, the majority of the water will run down the larger, more established pathways. Your brain does that with problem solving and other decision making tasks. It gets accustomed to thinking through something the same way, over and over. However, these pathways don’t have to be permanent. In fact, I’m quite sure after high tide these pathways will change. So? Well, this is what we do in education. Students come in with established thought pathways and it is our job to help them explore other pathways of thought. If we continue to think the same way and use the same shortcuts, then we neglect creativity. Look at all the potential for other thought processes here. Our children need options for thought, not shortcuts to answers. The world requires creative minds.

If Smoke-flavored bacon is made over a campfire and infused with smoke, is it then double-smoked and twice as good? Yes, yes it is. Bacon good.

If Smoke-flavored bacon is made over a campfire and infused with smoke, is it then double-smoked and twice as good? Yes, yes it is. Bacon good.

 

The hairpin turn at the Yas Marina F1 track (they call it a "circuit" here). On Tuesdays you can run, walk, or bike it. Google it, it's cool

The hairpin turn at the Yas Marina F1 track (they call it a “circuit” here). On Tuesdays you can run, walk, or bike it. Google it, it’s cool

 

Crepuscular rays. Cool.

Crepuscular rays. Cool.

Spelling optional here.

Spelling optional here.

This is a rather morbid traffic safety demonstration presented by the students. Of course, they all cheer the crazy driver and the crash. I'm not sure this program is effective. Google traffic accidents in the UAE. Gruesome.

This is a rather morbid traffic safety demonstration presented by the students. Of course, they all cheer the crazy driver and the crash. I’m not sure this program is effective. Google traffic accidents in the UAE. Gruesome.

This is one of the most impressive graphic organizers I've ever seen. Plus, if you've ever heard my lecture on Emily Dickinson, then you know I LOVE concentric circles! What? You've never heard my lecture on Emily Dickinson!? Spice up your life, my friend!

This is one of the most impressive graphic organizers I’ve ever seen. Plus, if you’ve ever heard my lecture on Emily Dickinson, then you know I LOVE concentric circles! What? You’ve never heard my lecture on Emily Dickinson!? Spice up your life, my friend!

 

Movie Night at Sky Tower. A laptop and a projector (or, "data show") and Troy. Who's dreamier? Bana or Pitt? (No feet comments, please. I rarely trip over them...any more.)

Movie Night at Sky Tower. A laptop and a projector (or, “data show”) and Troy. Who’s dreamier? Bana or Pitt? (No feet comments, please. I rarely trip over them…anymore.)

 

Waves of clouds over the city.

Waves of clouds over the city.

Insanely gaudy lighting fixtures--YES! Cincinnati Fashion--not so much.

Insanely gaudy lighting fixtures–YES! Cincinnati Fashion–not so much.

I was invited to join a monthly pot luck dinner club. Last month was comfort food. This is my baked Eggplant Parmesan.

I was invited to join a monthly pot luck dinner club. Last month was comfort food. This is my baked Eggplant Parmesan.

So, the dinner club reminded me of the roles we play. While I am very proud to be an administrator or a father or a son or someone who cooks, none of these roles define me. I’ve been struggling with that lately. Who am I? How do I define me? This topic confuses many of us. What I’ve learned is I should not spend time creating conceptual definitions of who I am. How can one person carry all that around everywhere? These definitions get in the way of “me”, of self. They get in the way of being present. I spent many years not being present; trying to keep up with who I thought you wanted to talk to. A maddening practice. All of those titles are egoic. I’m trying to get away from those loaded definitions and just be…just be. So, it’s ok to not know. The hard part is remembering to clear away those titles and let me be present for every encounter. Confusion is a gathering of thoughts that aren’t your own. I find it interesting that many of Confucius’ aphorisms are about simplicity, and oneness…not confusing, at all. (All from Eggplant Parm–hey, I’m hungry.)

Uh, who doesn't want to hang out here?

Uh, who doesn’t want to hang out here?

I wonder what they sell? (Also, Houston Oilers fans, ever wondered what happened to Billy Johnson? Here's his store.)

I wonder what they sell? (Also, Houston Oilers fans, ever wondered what happened to Billy Johnson? Here’s his store.)

A really pregnant camel...for 12 months! "Get it out! Get it out, now!"

A really pregnant camel…for 12 months! “Get it out! Get it out, now!”

This just came to me during a seminar. Doctoral thesis idea.

This just came to me during a seminar. Doctoral thesis idea. (yes, my handwriting stinks–get over it.)

So, this graphic just kinda came to me. I believe this is what we do to gifted kids in schools. They are particularly under-served during the middle years. First, we have to agree on what “gifted” means. I am not getting into that with you…right now. The idea is in its infancy; I’m just not ready to develop the whole thing, yet.

His brother's place, One Kind of Burger, didn't so well. Nearby is Hot Burger. HIS brother's place, Cold Burger, did not fare well, either.

His brother’s place, One Kind of Burger, didn’t do well. Nearby is Hot Burger. HIS brother’s place, Cold Burger, did not fare well, either. (That’s Salon, not a Saloon–there are Saloons for Men every 50 meters here.)

See the Wonka-vator? It goes up a whole two stories! Don't be surprised.

See the Wonka-vator? It goes up a whole two stories! Don’t be surprised.

This is a Gorilla made entirely from wire hangars. I think I know why he's angry.

This is a Gorilla made entirely from wire hangers. I think I know why he’s angry. (Enter your “Mommie Dearest” line here…)

On your left is THE Mark C. Thompson, guru, business consultant to some dudes named Jobs, Gates, Branson...to name a few. The other guy? Photobomb.

On your left is THE Mark C. Thompson, guru, business consultant to some dudes named Jobs, Gates, Branson…to name a few. The other guy? Photobomb.

So, yes, I met him. It was an amazing evening. I floated all the way home. It is no secret I love what these guys do. I read Dan Pink, Dan Gilbert, the Heaths, Spencer Johnson, Jon Gordon, Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Rob Bell, all of them. I like what they do, and I’d love to do it one day. I am not ready. I have the desire, but not the experience or readiness, yet.

The Monk with Sweaty Palms

Kasan, a Zen teacher and monk, was to officiate at a funeral of a famous nobleman. As he stood there waiting for the governor of the province and other lords and ladies to arrive, he noticed that the palms of his hands were sweaty.

The next day he called his disciples together and confessed he was not yet ready to be a true teacher. He explained to them that he still lacked the sameness of bearing before all human beings, whether beggar or king. 

He was still unable to look through social roles and conceptual identities and see the sameness of being in every human. He then left and become the pupil of another master. The returned to his former disciples eight years later, enlightened.

– A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

I am a pupil.

The pupil at wonder.

The pupil at wonder.

Thank you for sticking it out to the end. As I said hours ago when you started reading this, I was stuck for a while. I thought that meant I couldn’t think. Rather, “stuckness” is a good thing. It is a singular focus and requires action.

So, I have spent a lot of time searching…for many things. What a mistake. When you search for love, do you find it? When you search for happiness, do you find it? When you search for yourself, do you find it? No, at least, not for me. All of these things come when you’re ready. When you are you, not a role, not a title, not a job, not a state of mind. I will be trying to strip away those things that are ego-created and ego-craved, and just be me. You see, we are not our ego. We are under it, or beyond it, but we have to step back and see ourselves…new to me. Thank you for giving me that.

Peace and love to you all,

Lee

Take a Watauqua with me, Unfortunate is the new inspiration for change, or Any kind of Yankee in Sheikh Zayed’s Majlis

29 Jan

Playlist–Beastie Boys-Groove Holmes, Jane’s Addiction-Strays, Gin Blossoms-Mrs. Rita, Soundgarden-Eyelid’s Mouth, Third-Eye Blind-Semi-Charmed Life, The Police-Message in a Bottle, Bill Withers-Grandma’s Hands, Michael Franti & Spearhead-East to the West, The Skies We Built-Girls with Accents, Fuel-Mary Pretends, Talib Kweli-On My Way, Jack Johnson-Never Know, System of a Down-Highway Song, The The-August & September, Otis Clay-Since I’ve Been Loving You, Quicksand-Dine Alone, Deftones-Rx Queen

The playlist is actually in reverse order…and quite diverse. Try emptying your i-Whatever and re-sync-ing…you get a cool new mix. (Older readers please disregard, or call a whippersnapper)

My shadow’s
Shedding skin, and
I’ve been picking
Scabs again.
I’m down,
Digging through,
My old muscles,
Looking for a clue.
I’ve been crawling on my belly,
Clearing out what could’ve been.
I’ve been wallowing in my own confused,
And insecure delusions;
For a piece to cross me over,
Or a word to guide me in.
I wanna feel the changes coming down.
I wanna know what I’ve been hiding in!
My shadow!
Change is coming through my shadow.
My shadow’s shedding skin…Tool 46 & 2

Watauqua—a somewhat philosophical, and oft times meandering, discussion with one’s self while walking great distances. Not to be confused with Chatauqua, which, again, might be philosophical. See Robert Pirsig—word made up by me! Lee…’cause I’ll do that! That’s how I roll! Dangerously makin’ up words! Yeah!

Metamorphosis, evolution, enlightenment…call it what you like, change is everywhere, it is inevitable, and sorry to say, YOU are not in control of it. For years, I thought I was. The only real change I am in charge of, is mine. If you want to influence change, you can. If you want to help people change, you can. If you want to join in a change, you can. If you want to impose change…you are in for a rough one. There is a hard road there. Impose, fight, yell, scream, push, and muscle a change and then come to the realization that you may have changed nothing you planned on changing, but yourself. You see, it’s better to embrace and embody, and em-something else (for stylistic repetition points), change if you really want to make change. (Not the dollars and sense kind, smart—).

Anyhoo, here I am in this massive change place. The country is 42 years old. I am older than it! That’s cray cray (ask a younger person), and there is so much changing here that you can literally see it happening…everywhere!

I recently posted some pics from our campsite. At about 4:30am and going until about noon, 777s fly in full of people about every 20 minutes. The volume of people coming here is staggering. Those coming here for work already have a job, and most of them are here to help with come kind of change.

A serene scene upon waking up and peering out of my tent. A "wow" moment.

A serene scene upon waking up and peering out of my tent. A “wow” moment.

You know what? Before I forget…the next time you see something intricate or beautiful or unique or awesome (the non-Jeff Spiccoli version of the word), stop, look at it and just say “Wow”. Don’t name it, don’t be an expert, don’t smartphone google it, just look at it and say “Wow!” You’ll be glad you did. Or, you’ll hate it. Who knows…until you try.

The tide is out and these little fellas are racing for their lives.

The tide is out and these little fellas are racing for their lives.

Yes, I'm sappy. Love is a beautiful thing. This little left turn maker showed me.

Yes, I’m sappy. Love is a beautiful thing. This little left turn maker showed me.

Fascinating.

Fascinating.

Again, what’s the point? I don’t know. I do know this. I have learned so much over the last year and a half, and I can’t explain what life has taught me since I’ve been in Dhabi (dropping the “the”…yeah Facebook! You feel me!–ummm, again for the less social media experienced, it’s not THE Facebook.)

So, come on a walk with me for a look at change…as I see it. Those of you considering major life changes like moving 7700 miles away to work in education when there are jobs down the street, stay-tuned…I’ll explain why you’re about to embark on the craziest, coolest journey you’ve ever imagined (Gee, I hope it’s that good, anyway.)

Before we begin, take off those Birkenstocks! It ain’t that kind of walk! We’re in the concrete jungle today. Also, you’ll notice that I don’t take pictures of people. I wish I could, I came upon these three Pakistani guys all standing in the Pakistani squat (google it-amazing balance and flexibility), and they were stoic with rich dark skin and jet black hair and beards, and this look of content on their faces. It was touching, but no picture. Most people here are modest, and will oblige, but these are my neighbors, not people on exhibit, so I feel strange…though, maybe one day. As for taking pictures of the amazing colors of women and their clothes, and their varying levels of cover…nu-uh, not happenin’…I like my freedom, and publishing pictures of strangers who are women…yeah, illegal. There are thousand of expat women of all exotic kinds, but not worth the risk. The city is very metropolitan, colorful, and beautiful…let’s look.

Here is the building, and the surrounding structures on the island where I live. I’m told the island was natural, but I walk the “coast of it almost everyday, and most of it is framed by gigantic concrete blocks placed perfectly together, forming a ring around the island. The blocks are a perfect path for walking or running, however, they are joined by big Wendell Davis career-ending seams, so one must watch where one is going. (Like that reference Bears fans!? Da Bearssss!)

Sky Tower!  My home.

Sky Tower! My home.

View from the "coast" of Reem Island.

View from the “coast” of Reem Island. My building is the tallest on the left. The Gate Towers is next door, very cool.

View across canal to Maryah Island. Apparently, they didn't dig the channel deep enough. That wall of black is the bank and you can see the water left on the bottom.

View across canal to Maryah Island. Apparently, they didn’t dig the channel deep enough. That wall of black is the bank and you can see the water left on the bottom.

The Cleveland Clinc. A beautiful building. Google it.

The Cleveland Clinc. A beautiful building. Google it.

So, I thought these were millions of water drops, but they were too big. Bent over and snapped a pic...cat paws! Freaked!

So, I thought these were millions of water drops, but they were too big. Bent over and snapped a pic…cat paws! Freaked!

Here are some examples of the old and the new, and just how quickly the change is happening here.

Typical.Old Middle Eastern meets new Middle Eastern.

Typical.Old Middle Eastern meets new Middle Eastern.

This ornate old building is next to...

This ornate old building is near …

...this shiny green glass and chrome beast.

…this shiny green glass and chrome beast.

Bad perspective on my part. The beige building is half a block closer to me. The small base and wider upper structure is typical of old school Middle Eastern.

Bad perspective on my part. The beige building is half a block closer to me. The small base and wider upper structure is typical of old school Middle Eastern.

It's a house...really. I need a better camera (that's not a phone) to show you the engraving. Machine probably, but not cheap!

It’s a house…really. I need a better camera (that’s not a phone) to show you the engraving. Machine probably, but not cheap!

All cell phone shops. A mile of them. Funny names...007, M5, Prince, Princess, Unity, Boss, King, Super, Deluxe, Best, and of course, Phone Phone Store.

All cell phone shops. A mile of them. Funny names…007, M5, Prince, Princess, Unity, Boss, King, Super, Deluxe, Best, and of course, Phone Phone Store.

So, yes, change doth occur…here, where you are, and in you. I think we all agree it’s a good thing, until it happens to us and “against our will”. A funny phrase. Really, your will wants change, it’s your ego that fears it. Recently, I posted something cool I read from Mastin Kipp, he wrote:

If life is confusing right now, if you feel like you don’t know what’s next, if you feel totally lost – this is a moment to celebrate! It means you are out beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone and that you are GROWING! You are expanding and you are starting to live a new kind of life that requires a new mindset – one of Faith that the future will be better than the past, because you will create it.

Comfort zones. Decide for yourself, are they positive or negative. I’m not interested in an argument about it, but the discussion could be interesting. Here’s an example from my recent life. This is something that would have never happened if I hadn’t moved to a TOTALLY foreign place.

My car broke down about a week ago. (No biggie, just a hose.) HOWEVER, the ONLY freakin’ way to get your car fixed in Dhabi (see how I did that) is to go to the armpit of the zit on the pimple that lives on the wart that formed on the parasite that is leeching life out of the armpit of a camel carcass drying and putrefying in the desert sun. Otherwise known as the industrial city of Mussafah. Now, I’ve been hard on Mussafah in the posts and on The Facebook (for my elders), and the mayor caught wind of it (only Allah knows how, the smell there has a color and it settles on you—ever buy gas station chicken, then walk out and still smell it? Yeah, like that, only NOT CHICKEN!). So, the Mayor asked me to talk nicely about the cultural and exciting things going on in Mussafah, like the Art Hub, an artist residence, instructional complex, and gallery, and the…uh, the, well, the Art Hub is nice. Not even caffeine pushing who–, uh escorts, Starbuck’s has a Mussafah store. There is one thing the Mayor has correct…there are lots of colors. In fact, I have heard those who eat there see many colors coming up from their stomachs shortly after eating…hey, Indian food is great, BUT DO NOT EAT IT if the raw meat is piled on a plate in the window next to an ashtray, a Styrofoam coffee cup, and the dry crusty elbow of one of 15 guys sweating and leaning on the counter in a restaurant the size of a phone booth! Sorry, Mayor, I calls it likes I sees it!

Isaac Hayes with a leaky hose...radiator...keep it clean.

Isaac Hayes with a leaky hose…radiator…keep it clean…old, dead plate, no worries.

SO, one must go there to get a car repaired. It is an industrial city, so that’s the place. In my old life, I would have been pissed, and stompy stompy, and life is unfair, and can you believe what I have to go through…all of that. Why? For what? Does it fix my car? No, it does not.

So, I called the guy I bought my car from (a Jordanian who worked with autistic kids, but needed more money, so he fixes and restores Jaguars—sad statement folks) because he gave me a FREE 6 month warranty on EVERYTHING on the car. (Grand Prize Auto in Mussafah—see him!) He sends a flatbed tow truck. Amir, the Syrian truck owner picks me and Isaac Hayes (that’s the car’s name—it’s triple black and very smooth-duh! What else would you name it? Barry White if it was an SUV) up and I ride to Mussafah with him. We had a nice talk. We both have daughters. We both miss them, and we both wants what’s best for them. All of that in about 50 words each.

It’s interesting to make conversation when you don’t have the same language. You learn very quickly what is essential to your statement. As humans we strive to communicate. As Americans we get frustrated…for no good reason. Everyone wants to communicate, we have no monopoly on language. We are all human, let’s communicate…kumbayah, sing it!…you get me, I know you do. In fact, I fancied myself a patient guy, always, but I think it was for selfish reasons. Now, I’m patient because it’s out of my hands. I don’t control the speed in which the world moves…and I’m glad.

So, Amir delivers me to the armpit of he–, uh Mussafah, but the garage is closed. It’s only 8:30 and nothing in open until 10,… “then maybe we to close by 12 to eat, then to relax, and maybe 3 we open, Insha’Allah…” That’s just the way it goes. Fight it all you want; you can’t impose change (oh yeah, stayin’ topical!).

So, I’m stuck in Mussafah and I have to get to work. I’m about 4 blocks off the main drag, otherwise known as Hellrace 2000, and there is no cab in sight. The road is lined with about 400 day laborers standing in front of various size trucks and heavy machinery. ALL of them in off white or light blue churidar, which are kind of like pajamas; loose fitting pants, and a long shirt over the top, and most in turbans or fez. Me? I’m in my school clothes…suit and tie. It really was a kodak moment (yes, I’m old), but I thought I better not.

This is day laborer street. Snapped in the afternoon, so most of them are working for the day. Imagine dump trucks, hauling trucks, cranes, front loaders, backhoes, bulldozer...all lining the street waiting for work. Add 400-500 men eager to work. Wow moment.

This is day laborer street. Snapped in the afternoon, so most of them are working for the day. Imagine dump trucks, hauling trucks, cranes, front loaders, backhoes, bulldozer…all lining the street waiting for work. Add 400-500 men eager to work. Wow moment.

I find a taxi on the curb of Hellrace 2000 street and he swoops in to pick me up. How he knew I needed a ride out of there…? Must have been psychic. He wasn’t, just Bangladeshi and familiar with what to expect in Mussafah at 8:30…and it isn’t a well-fed white guy in a tie and hair gel. I tell him where I’m going and he gives me the look everyone who says they work in Baniyas gets. The “no, really, WHERE do you WANT to go…” I shrug it off and he hits the gas. He takes one turn and I’m lost. In about 5 minutes I release an audible, “Nooooo waaaayyyyy!?”… “Ah, sawrrry sirrrr?” “Oh, me, sorry. You just showed me an amazing shortcut in and out of Mussafah! Thank you, Privantharumvarnidamjinmum!” “Welcome, sir.”

Now, I don’t want to preach too much, but once again. There is no such thing as luck. You know how I ever first learned about the UAE? In my leaner days I played indoor men’s club volleyball at Indiana University with a guy who played for the UAE team. He was always wearing the colors, so I finally asked him and he explained. I forgot his name…Mohammed, or Zayed, or Khalifa, I’m sure. Anyway, why did I meet him? What about my upbringing rich in cultural experience and practice at rolling an R and making the letters that sound like you’re clearing your throat? Why did I have that? Also, my car? Super minor break down, I meet Amir. Two dads, away from their daughters share a moment. Then, Privantharumvarnidamjinmum (thank you copy and paste) shows me a safer, quicker way which also ties together a few main roads for the map in my head. After school, one of the guys just happens to be going to Mussafah (probably to the Art Hub—NOT! Childish, I know), he walks by my office as I’m discussing it, and says, “Mr. Lee, Mussafah? Now? Yalla!” Let’s go! What timing!!! (Not luck, gifts, order out of what we perceive as chaos…Order…Higher…Power)

Me and Fouzy! He rocks! We work together. He is the kindest gentlest guy. Took me out of his way I contend, he says he was going there anyway.

Me and Fouzy! He rocks! We work together. He is the kindest gentlest guy. Took me out of his way I contend, he says he was going there anyway.

I get there, there and this is what I see.

"Yeah, I thought it was the radiator hose, Samir?" "Sir, no problem, sir. I make sure, just to check no beeg problem. Car ready 20 minutes." Really 40, but who cares. It was a good day...Cue the Ice Cube track!

“Yeah, I thought it was the radiator hose, Samir?” “Sir, no problem, sir. I make sure, just to check no beeg problem. Car ready 20 minutes.” Really 40, but who cares. It was a good day…Cue the Ice Cube track!

Of course, it’s before three and Samir is at nap time, or something, and his more ambitious brother, Other-mir, (not his real name, but funny) assures me they will fix it fast and that he is very angry with his brother for making me come to Mussafah. (No, they don’t live there…no one does…no one with internet, I hope.) I just happen to have my book with me, and I read this…”Through [fear, greed, and desire] you misinterpret every situation, leading to misguided action designed to rid you of fear and satisfy your need for more, a bottomless hole that can never be filled.” (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth)

More is a bottomless hole that can never be filled. As I’m sitting in my suit, on an industrially dusty broken window unit air-conditioner in the afternoon desert sun and the wind of Mussafah adheres to me, and the incessant horns blare, and the trucks kick up more stink dust, I still find peace. What is there to be upset about? What do I need more of that I must have right now? What fear might be causing an anger reflex? Really, isn’t there a “wow” moment even here, in Mussafah, while my car is in pieces, and my mechanic’s brother is whisper screaming at him on the phone? Who am I that this is not acceptable for me? In fact, it is totally acceptable, and that thought is what calms us. Who I am is not my broken car, is not my dirty suit, is not me the administrator, is not me the golfer, is not me the guitar player, is not me the songwriter, is not even me the father. First, I am me, and I choose which of those extensions define me. They all do in parts, but when my ego makes decisions for me based on those extensions, then I have let me go and I’ve let ego take over. Identity is full of meaningless labels. Shoes do not make the man. I want to live my real life, not a conceptualized reality.

What does this have to do with living and working (notice the order) abroad? For me, this move is what it took to jostle me out of a conceptualized reality and into a real life. While there is plenty of glamor and glitz and fakery here, there is even more opportunity to meet cultures head on…no books or movies…smells, tastes, sounds, sights…first hand…real life. This may not be for everyone, but it is working thus far for me.

For those looking to come here and be educators, here are some things to think about…we were told you’re interested in hearing it. So…here goes.

This is NOT an English speaking country. MANY people speak it, but there is NO plan to EVER lose Arabic. Keep that in mind. Chances are, your students, and their parents, will speak very little English. So, screaming “sit down” or “come back” or “be quiet” or “no stab with pencil” or “use a turn signal” will fall on deaf ears. They won’t understand it…and turn signals are just here because they like colored lights…no function.

My School! Love it!

My School! Love it!

Think about your teaching life. What phrases/words do you use most? LEARN THEM IN ARABIC! Also, if you’re not good with names, try harder! Names are a source of pride, as the should be, and “Hey You” will not get respect. Get a technique. Most of our boys have two names because there are 10 others in class with the same first name. You probably told them you’re good in classroom management in the interview. Are you? Really? No, for real? Ok, now try it when NO ONE speaks English…or the names are Said, Saeed, Zayed, Saher, Saqer, Talal, Rashed (not Rasheeed, Rashid), and 5 Mohammeds. Also, do you really do project-based learning? Not once…all the time. That’s the idea here. MAKE YOUR PLANS NOW. Design some projects that can be adapted to any age, and to boys and/or girls. Keep in mind…no pigs, no dogs, and people should be covered. Modesty.

Al Bawadi crew rolls hard for Bus Duty!

Al Bawadi crew rolls hard for Bus Duty!

I don’t want to scare anyone because this is an amazing career choice, but keep in mind what they told you in the interview…the country is 42 years old; we have high schools older than that. They are trying on reform strategies like a wine-soaked bridezilla (with good intention), so your line about “flexibility” and your example that nailed it in the interview…yeah, remember that. Oh, accountability is real here. If you say you can do it, we’ll be expecting to see it. They also told you it’s a very “top-down” society here, and you probably said, “I’m cool with that.” Remember that, too. There are bosses. They are in charge. They are not unreasonable, but very few people, including your colleagues will jump on board your complain-o-train. If you hold on to a bad day or a bad event from the day, learn to let it go. If it can’t be changed, then let it go.

The expat teachers here take very good care of each other here. You can always vent with them…and you will. It’s natural. Remember, at the end of everyday, you came here to teach…and the point of every teaching life is the kids. They are coming to you to help them build an amazing nation. They have the resources and the personnel and they are interested in adding you to that list. How will you treat their children?

I love my EMTs, they all work really hard E-VER-Y-DAY, but everyday, or maybe later that evening as you’re walking through an immaculate and lushly landscaped canal-side park, or on the beach, or just sitting on your balcony as the warm desert air washes over you, you’ll find that bright or funny spot during the day, and you’ll go back tomorrow and do it again…because you love kids, because you love teaching, and because you love what you do for you…and this, here, in Dhabi, is what you do for you.

Love,

Lee

Random advice pic of the day...if your dryer lint has age lines in like a tree...then change it!

Random advice pic of the day…if your dryer lint has age lines in like a tree…then change it!

Back in the (Camel) saddle again, or You can never go home again, or Lessons from Freshman English

6 Jan

Abu Dhabi Blog!

Playlist–Michael Franti & Spearhead-Time to Go Home, Taking Back Sunday-A Decade Under the Influence, Rage Against the Machine-Bulls on Parade, 30 Seconds to Mars-The Fantasy, Billy Joel-Get It Right the First Time, Coheed & Cambria-The Hound (Of Blood and Rank), Tool-Faaip De Oaid, Rush-Limelight, Deftones-Knife, The Smiths-What Difference Does It Make?, Killswitch Engage-Break the Silence, Gary Clark Jr.-Don’t Owe You A Thang, Clutch-Unto the Breach, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell-You’re all I Need Tonight, Dave Matthews solo-Rhyme & Reason, The Police-Spirits in the Material World, Rage Against the Machine, Know Your Enemy, Buddy Guy-Stone Crazy, Michael Franti & Spearhead-Love Invincible, The The-Kingdom of Rain, Bad Brains-Babylon, Cloakroom-Breaking, Red Hot Chili Peppers-Brendan’s Death Song, Michael Franti & Spearhead-I know I’m Not Alone

Pretty cool. Look at the First and last song. Luck? Nope, something bigger. Enjoy!

1–Ummm, Hi. Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m back in the Dhabi after an interesting 3 weeks in the city of my birth. (Yo! MC! Mad love for the 219!) Actually this installment is more about home (and the concept of homes—oh and luck, and love, and loss, and the 5 stories ever written, and maybe some pics of me at work, if you’re really good) than it is about life in the Dhabi…because, really, life here is like life anywhere…anywhere that people break out down ski jackets and huge Irish sweaters, and ask you if “you’re ok in the cold” when it’s 61 degrees out. (Yeah, no kidding. Had that conversation about 15 times today…I’m thinking about you, and praying for you enduring the blizzard around Lake Michigan. Truthfully, I kinda miss it….easy to say, right? There is no “wind chill” here…more like “breezy intemperateness”.) As cliché as it all sounds, life anywhere is relative. My hometown is buried under snow and reeling from freezing temperatures, but it’s not  beyond a typical winter. My current home is experiencing unseasonable lows that my hometown people call Spring. Both peoples are cold, despite a 70 degree difference.

My lovely hometown

This is the ice pack and sand glaciers that form every winter on Lake Michigan--a short walk from my house.

This is the ice pack and sand glaciers that form every winter on Lake Michigan–a short walk from my house.

Actually it drizzled here today…SHUT THE STREETS DOWN! Kidding. Rain– maTarrr Say it…go ahead maTarrrrrrrr….rolling r’s are fun!

2–So, where to begin? I took some philosophy courses as a barefoot goatee-d Chris Cornell wannabe in college, and I once wrote a paper on Heraclitus and the Doctrine of Flux; a partial title for the work he did. In a really compact underdeveloped pistachio shell the idea is that everything is always changing, perceived or not, it is changing…thus, so are we. Often mis-attributed to ‘Clitus (yeah, we’re tight), is this quote, “man can never stand in the same river twice”. (Go ahead my mad-googlers, check away, but know that this river will change once you leave….and so will you, my friends, so will you.) Really, the quote is a rearrangement of what he said, but contextually accurate in terms of his meaning. The MacGuffin here (Hitchcock fans, you feel me) is the Heraclitus quote is kind of an entre to a quote I’ve always had a hard time with: “You can’t go home again” or “you can never go home again”. (The first is a Thomas Wolfe novel—read it.) Cheap Summary—in the novel, George Webber is turned away by his hometown (not gonna give away why) and (kinda) travels world and eventually rediscovers his love for his home. Honestly, there’s not too much of a parallel here, but it’s a good book.

The interesting thing for me is I get to do here what I did at home. The situation isn’t that different. When I tell people where I work, they get the spoiled milk smell face on…then shake their heads as if to say, “awww, I’m sorry.”

The reality, just like it was at home, is we have a talented group of teachers who have been told over and over that their school and their kids just won’t ever become something big. I totally disagree. Totally. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am thankful for the lesson that taught me I could do this. I am thankful for the lesson that let me see this as a change I needed. I am thankful for the lesson that made me step out of the river and re-enter, anew.

Look at these teachers work! Love it!

Rubrics are fun in every language!

Rubrics are fun in every language!

 

 

Khaled and I--doin' the interpreter dance!

Khaled and I–doin’ the interpreter dance!

 

 

Mr. Mohammed and I laying the smack down on the terror of Al Bawadi--Grade 6.

Mr. Mohammed and I laying the smack down on the terror of Al Bawadi–Grade 6.

A & A--I smell Oud!

A & A–I smell Oud!

 

 

So, these are my colleagues. This is my new home. I feel blessed to have two homes, and all the trimmings that go with the concept of “home”. I am also blessed to have stepped in many rivers and been changed by them all…ok, all this talk of flowing and rivers…who needs a break? I’ll be right back.

3—Ok, much better! Ya see, I never really agreed with the quote. I love my hometown. It is a great place to live, and there are great people there. Sure, people get down on it and say really negative things hiding behind fake names and monikers in the newspaper’s online comment section (really, N-D? Require authentication, at least), but Michigan City is truly beautiful and there is opportunity for the creative and the positive. So, I always thought, “…why can’t I go home if I leave?…things will be the same, I’ll find the same people in the same places, and we all will be comfortable, and…well, home…” While all of this is true, it took this life changing experience of moving to the Dhabi for me to really “get” it.

Yes, I went home. Yes, it was really nice…but it’s not the home that you can’t return to, it’s the you that isn’t returning home. Make sense?

All rivers continue to flow…your hometown, your new hometown, and most of all, you. You return home with the knowledge of how things are and you find comfort in your accurate perceptions. However, while your eyes see the same things your brain has added new sets of experiences and thus, the sorting, comparing, and re-filing begins. The simplest thing, like a trip to the grocery store (the exact same grocery store you rode to bouncing around without a car seat or seat belt in the sofa size back seat while you played catch) becomes a new learning experience. Suddenly, you hear yourself… “oh yeah, I forgot about that” (15 types of peanut butter) or “THIS is the tea section? (compared to the tea aisles). Everything is now tainted, or enhanced, depending on your outlook, by the time you spent away…flowing.

4–So, on to luck…in which I no longer believe. I now prefer grateful to lucky. “I am grateful” attributes to a sender, as a gift. Maybe the gift is a result of the work you’ve done; or maybe you believe the gift is from a power higher/larger/more incomprehensible than you. Or maybe the gift is a result of both. Did you see Nick Wallenda walk across the Grand Canyon? You tube, my friends, youtube.

“I am lucky” occurs in a vacuum…and NOTHING occurs in a vacuum (this, I’m not smart enough to prove as the absence of a thing cannot prove the existence of another; but stay with me, please). You see, if you continue to attribute good fortune to luck, then you begin to believe you are a lucky person and you just deserve good things happening to you. Actually, you do deserve good things, but some of us might even get to the point of thinking good things will happen always—without something causing it. Let me warn you, my dear friends….bad idea. I was there. It just ain’t true. Bad things do happen (to anyone)…and there’s always a reason. (There’s a simplistic colloquial phrase for this, but it escapes me.) The hidden side effect of believing you are a “lucky” person is that you don’t attribute the positive things to who you are, and what you’ve done. You float along without belief…no belief in the value of you, and no belief in something greater than you…a very dangerous position, indeed. Dangerous, and lonely.

In grad school, I once had a “Community and the School” class. The whole semester hinged on a group project. Well, I lived over 3 hours and a time zone away from my group. We had to trust the others to do a great job on their portion….yeah right, right? Well, we had no time to rehearse the presentation and I was the anchor. I remember the frustration of watching my group bore the rest of the class. I was upset and frantic, and had to do something! Needless to say I hammed it up and they backed me up in the summary. When it was over, I thought, “well, that was a waste of time, that would never happen in the real world…” and I was happy to get the grade and get out. Of course, I have needed that exact experience more than a few times since. I wasn’t lucky or unlucky to have endured that; it was a gift. I am grateful, not lucky, to have had that experience.

Perception…60 degrees or -10…both cold, for different people… MC or the UAE, schools are shaped by community…hometown or current home, life is for living, not visiting, embrace it… “wax on wax off…paint the fence”, lucky lessons? I think not, Daniel-san. (Miyagi do Karate!)

5–One of my good friends reminds me of this Shakespearean quote all the time, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” And Hamlet, he would know. (If you don’t know the story, go ahead watch the Mel Gibson one, I won’t tell) All things that happen are lessons…opportunities to learn. Our obstacle, of course, is us. When our life is disrupted with…well, life. We have a choice. Do we search for blame and anger and revenge, or do we search for the meaning of it. “Why me?” really isn’t a bad question. It’s the way you answer it that determines your growth. If you always step in camel poop (gotta stay topical), it’s not because you’re doomed or constantly being punished, it might be a lesson to pay more attention to the steps you’re taking.

(picture of camel poop omitted…you get it, right?)

If things are going well and you’re asking “why me”, then look at what you can learn from it. I was in a serious “why me” situation and it brought me here. I had to fight myself to accept that I still had a lot to learn about me, and that I wasn’t lucky or unlucky, but I was fortunate. Believe me, I still struggle with it, daily. I am 7700 miles from my daughters, and my heart is in repair. Imagine the anxiety and panic and fear and doom if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow…that might start to explain the void I feel in missing my daughters. Though what I do with those thoughts are up to me. Think about it, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” Thinking is not the evil, our choice of thoughts is the evil. Go back to the camel poop. Try this you camel poop stepper-inners (oh, you get it, stop being a snob), “…hey this poop on my sandal is a good reminder to watch where I tread; not everything is clean and comfortable and good for me.” Yes, I’ve moved the example to a metaphor, I KNOW you saw it coming.

Sorry, if I wasn’t as humorous as you’d like. One reader told me I am getting too serious, and not as fun. This is me; it’s where I am right now, today. It’s been a strange month since we last shared…extreme ups and downs, and less resolve than I had hoped. Hugs are hard to find when you’re new in town, but all of this is a lesson in itself. (Cool side note; watching the Arab men around my school greet each other on the first day back was very touching, and genuine.)

Also cool is the practice of touching your heart after shaking hands and greeting. I love that! Try it. Touch your heart after you say hello or shake someone’s hand. It will change the greeting for you. Please, try it.

Life has given me many opportunities to absorb lessons I took for granted; suddenly it’s all coming together. Lucky? No, the seeming chaos of the universe organizes our lives and if we flow with it rather than stand and fight the current, then going home again isn’t so tough. In fact, with the right Mindset (read Carol Dweck, beeteedubs) going home (hometown or current home) again is like returning anew.

By the way…aren’t you wondering about the numbers? I’ve never done that before. Yes? You are? Really? Ok, here it is. There are only 5 stories ever written. They are:

  1. Man vs Nature
  2. Man vs. Society
  3. Man vs. Self
  4. Man vs. Supernatural
  5. Man vs Man

Go back…they correspond.

I have always been inspired by the story of the Phoenix. (Geez, that too? Go ahead, google it) I could never understand why it stuck in my head. Why did I need to know it? Why did it occupy so many dreams throughout my life? Luck or coincidence? No way, something way, way effin’ bigger. This Christmas, my dad called me The Phoenix in a card. It is the single greatest thing he has ever said to me. I love you, Dad.

Ugh! I thought I could hold it together for one darn blog!

Peace and Love and Thanks and Happy New Year,

Lee

Giving Thanks, The Blinged-out City, and Making faces in Parking Garages

30 Nov

Playlist: Michael Franti & Spearhead 11:59, John Legend Little Ghetto Boy, Coheed & Cambria Crossing the Frame, Crash Kings Six Foot Tall, Foo Fighters Breakout, The Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime, Bill Withers Lean on Me, Michael Franti & Spearhead Hey Now Now, Coheed & Cambria Radio Bye Bye, Pepper FKARND. Beastie Boys Futterman’s Rule, The Roots Do You Want More?, Deftones The Passenger, Radiohead Exit Music (For a Film), Tool Schism, Buddy Guy Give Me My Coat and Shoes, Jet Take It or Leave it.

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

Bill Withers – Lean On Me

And don’t let mistakes be so monumental
And don’t let your love be so confidential
And don’t let your mind be so darn judgmental
And please let your heart be more influential
Michael Franti – Hey Now Now

Go back and read those. C’mon, I know you scanned it. Read them…..did you say “Yeah” in agreement to yourself? I was on a walkabout today and these verses hit me VERY hard. Normally, I skip Lean on Me for a more soulful Withers song, but today, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after a really tough conversation from home, the first time in 45 years I have not been with blood family, today I needed someone to lean on. Those who know me well, know I am the post, you lean on me. I am happy to be that, but I forgot that I may need it, too. Life has a way of reminding you of these things. We all need someone to lean on eventually, and I have been very lucky over the past year to have many of you who have held me up. I got a little ahead of myself over the last few weeks. I had a bit too much of a strut, and I was feeling strong. Then, the Thanksgiving holiday hit me right in the gizzard (sorry, too easy, I know). The bottom line is, I miss my family…really, my families. That’s the beauty of growing old; life builds families around you (if you allow it), and those families provide strength when you feel weak.

The recruiters warned us we’d feel homesick, eventually. Well, it’s here. I have denied it, but once again, some things are out of our control, and as Michael Franti says, “And please let your heart be more influential”. You have to allow the feelings to come. I spent years burying them to prove that I’m tough. Sure, my students saw me get emotional when they fought each other, or some other injustice occurred, but I didn’t take time to examine how I felt. I was a raft springing tiny holes, and patching them up desperately so I wouldn’t have to admit that some maintenance was necessary. I’m not sure where else to go with this metaphor other than to say, I am allowing others to help with the holes, and for the first time in a long time, I see that we really do all need to lean on each other once in a while. It’s refreshing and relieving to accept.

Shall I lighten this up a bit? Here’s a sign that 7000+ miles from home, isn’t that far…

Well Driven!? Really?

Well Driven!? Really?

I was behind this truck for 3 consecutive red lights (at the same g-drned, frickin’-frackin-other bad wordin-intersection) in a town called Musaffah. No relation to the Lion King, but definitely the King of something…something horrible. What they’ve done is created industrial cities. So, if you need a mechanic, or a contractor, or heavy machinery, or anything that requires grease, smoke, loud noises, or anything that requires Lava Beaded Industrial soap, you go to an industrial city to get it. The problem is, EVERYONE needs that stuff in a city that is expanding like a waistband after Thanksgiving Dinner (sorry, had to). Abu Dhabi is adding thousands of people a day. You can’t get a visa without a job. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in labor here (’cause ain’t no locals pickin’ up a shovel-trust me) and while the pay and living quarters are abominable by western standards, it’s a better living than some are getting in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. (By the way, the tragedy in the Philippines hit hard here. It was nice to see the relief efforts start almost immediately. This country is rich, but not selfish. I like that.) So, the industrial cities are filled with laborers literally flooding the streets, in cars, trucks, bicycles, on foot…everywhere. It’s also Used Car City, so I HAD to go there. Wanna see my new car? (cue the music, 50 Cent-P.I.M.P.)

Abu Dhabi-20131128-00434

The price was VERY nice, and the guy I bought it from will do all my service and specializes in jaguars. Much love to my main Jordanian, Samir!

Anyway, my place is really coming together nicely, but I’m not prepared to show it just yet. The walls are bare, but I’ll be home soon with an empty suitcase for art. So, no pictures, yet. What? You want a sneak peak? Ok…here.

Don't look at the reflection in the window...ugh, that didn't work.

Don’t look at the reflection in the window…ugh, that didn’t work.

Those who know me, know I’m a floor dweller. I love to be on the floor. So, I’m lovin’ the Majlis set against the window. Great for reading, or, well everything. I have a 10 foot couch, and I’m on the floor most of the time. Go figure.

Work is going well. I’ll be honest, it has taken some adjustment. The language barrier can slow things down. Also, everything here is patriarchal and top-down. Everything. I prefer to empower teachers and stakeholders to get involved and change according to what they need. We’ve had a few conversations like that with the staff. When I asked the Arabic staff about what they “believe” about our students and their potential you’d think I was speaking a foreign language—ahem, well, I kinda was, but I have an interpreter. Here he is…

Umm, I'm sorry Mr. Lee, did you just ask a group of Arabic men about their feelings?

Umm, I’m sorry Mr. Lee, did you just ask a group of Arabic men about their feelings?

LOVE this guy. Sometimes when I talk all feelings-ish to the teachers he looks at me like “…are you sure you want to say that?” Yes, I am. Regardless of the atmosphere, or culture, in order to learn kids have to feel safe. They must feel as if they can open their mouths and say something without being ridiculed or belittled. This will be my struggle here. Our school is 54 male teachers and 3 women. The women are westerners who wear full abaya and shayla (headscarf) and teach first grade. They have their own teachers lounge and they are awesome. We have excellent men teachers, as well, but men are men. We don’t talk feelings, we don’t discuss if we care for the kids, we don’t admit that we are teachers because of the pull in our heart. (Sorry for outing all you guys; it’s ok, they pretty much knew.) So, when I ask them about their feelings and beliefs about the boys, there’s a pause for translation, then the low grumble ensues. That’s how I know that Khaled said what I said. Eventually, our conversation has softened and I think the teachers are ready for change. Here’s me working with a group of them.

PD time is happy time with Mr. Lee!

PD time is happy time with Mr. Lee!

The guy in a tie is from Egypt (we have many Egyptians and Jordanians on staff). The fact that he is there and engaged is a minor triumph.  He’s a bit….um…gruff, yeah, gruff.  I tease him about it and he has no idea what I’m saying.  How many kittens have you hugged today Mr. Sayed? Two, fantastic…why does he anger smile at me?  (I have been holding on to this picture for fear of posting it. That shot of me looks EXACTLY like my brother, and I know a few of your hearts jumped. This will be hard for some. I’m glad you’re thinking about him. I often do).

Ya know how Professional Development is met with a grunt and a sigh in the states? Yeah, well it’s the same here…here’s how they offset that…

If you feed them, they will fake interest...

If you feed them, they will fake interest…

Nice spread, huh?

So, what else would you like to know? Here’s part of my everyday life…

I have to brace my arm against the passenger seat I'm going so fast...gee I hope the rental company doesn't have the internet.

I have to brace my arm against the passenger seat I’m going so fast…gee I hope the rental company doesn’t have the internet.

 

The object in this mirror are larg-uh, they already passed you! Step on it!

The objects in this mirror are larg-uh, they already passed you! Step on it!

It's really not dark, but these mega-buses drown out the sun.

It’s really not dark, but these mega-buses drown out the sun.

The first is the spiral from hell I must take to get in and out of my building. Actually, I’ve made it a game. Can I hold the wheel with my knee while texting and driving fast enough to make the 14 inch wheels on my Aveo squeal? Also, what bizarre face can I make at the oncoming traffic so they can get just a glimpse of something really freaky and change their day a bit? Going down is fun…how many spirals before I brake (is that a Frost poem?) is the game. The next pic is the sign on the sideview mirror in Arabic. It says, “Why are you looking at this, no one else here does, go faster ya tourist!” The third is a bit more grim. I live in an amazing building over looking the coastline and part of the gulf. Further out on the island in a not-so-well kept secret is a work camp, uh, labor housing, um, dorms for working people setting. There must be about 5000 people out there because everyday I am surrounded by these mega-buses packed with workers. Another fun game I play happens on the way to work. At a makeshift bus stop along the highway I take to work there is a place where the workers gather to catch a bus. The traffic whirs by at about 90mph. I honk at them everyday. It took about 4 days before they started waving back at me. Kinda fun. Hey, it’s a 35-45 minute drive to work, and I’m in an AVEO! Ya gotta do somethin’!

You may have heard that Dubai just earned the spot as the host to the 2020 World’s Fair. The first ever for the Middle East. What? You haven’t!? It wasn’t front page news for you? Not every digital traffic sign was converted to a congratulations message? People didn’t take to the streets dancing and shouting about it? You didn’t have a day of school canceled at 10pm the night before an already long weekend? Where have you been!? It’s huge news…in 2020.

Yeah, so we had Thursday off, and we also have Sunday and Monday off for National Day. Now, I love America, and I’m sure you do, too…but, and this may hurt for some, the way they do National Day here makes our 4th of July look like a lame practice run. Here the buildings are adorned in humongous flags, the kids have been wearing the colors of the country for weeks, the cars are decorated in flags, silk screens of the Sheiks, and “I LOVE UAE” hearts, and the lights, OH, the lights. Everything, everywhere is bling-ed out in sparkly lights. You have Google, google it! Here’s a smidgeon of the flavor…

YES, those are toy guns they are throwing into the air! So? Guns are patriotic, right?

YES, those are toy guns they are throwing into the air! Metal toy guns. So? Guns are patriotic, right?

By the way, these aren't even the good ones.

By the way, these aren’t even the good ones.

IMG-20131130-00443

This has been up for a week. It’s a lighting and interior decorating store…a business that thrives on selling its wares through the windows. Interesting.

That light is the WHOLE FRONT OF A HOTEL lit up. "Ummm, front desk, my room is, uh, as bright as the sun! Can you turn them off...no? Uh, ok. Good night."

That light is the WHOLE FRONT OF A HOTEL lit up…from about a mile away. “Ummm, front desk, my room is, uh, as bright as the sun! Can you turn them off…no? Uh, ok. Good night.”

The little projects are just offerings the parents spend money on. I think they think we think the kids made them. Yeah,…a-no. Look at the Majlis set to scale…from a second grader. If he did that, the kid’s a genius, get him to architectural school NOW! He can’t tie his shoes, or aim anywhere near the toilet, or wash his hands for that matter, but he can use an exacto knife and sew. Who am I to judge?

Again, this does not do it justice. So, school will resume on Tuesday (Insha’Allah), and we will have a really short week. The scuttlebutt is that the kids won’t show up until Wednesday as they have gone on mini-vacations, and we’ll only have Wednesday and Thursday next week. That’s cool, as long as we get our PD in! Right, teachers? No limit for better, right? Anyway, I digress, sometimes my love for schools becomes distracting from my point…which I’m not sure I had, anyway.

Here are some random pics for those who wish I’d write less. (and probably aren’t reading anyway…which is cool, no judgment.)

Pretty. Big. Building.

Pretty. Big. Building.

The guy at the bottom of the frame did a well-being check on me. "Uh, yeah, what? No. I'm cool, it's good, wow, huh?"

The guy at the bottom of the frame did a well-being check on me. “Uh, yeah, what? No. I’m cool, it’s good, wow, huh?”

Hmmm, I haven't spent enough on this, I'll paint it...yeah, great idea!

Hmmm, I haven’t spent enough on this, I’ll paint it…yeah, great idea!

Butternut Squash and Saffron Risotto with a bit of goat cheese for added creaminess. They told me it was good, but they're really polite people.

Butternut Squash and Saffron Risotto with a bit of goat cheese for added creaminess. They told me it was good, but they’re really polite people.

The Burj Khalifa. I can’t even explain the size. I took that pic from about 400 yards away. It is amazing. Below it is a huge pond/lake (yes, man-made) that has a Bellagio-esque water show every half hour. The lights on the building sparkle in syc with the music. Very well thought out. The next is the INDOOR, yes, indoor waterfall at the Dubai Mall with the diving men sculptures. There’s something surreal about it. I literally was mesmerized and stood agape at it for about 5 minutes. (Of course, I am still mystified by mulching lawnmowers and their power of re-fertilization, too.) The next is a Rolls-Royce with a custom paint job…I don’t know, if you’re dating Natalie Portman, do you ask her to wear a prettier mask? The last is my contribution to an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner that helped me immensely.

It’s not easy being so far away from you…and it wasn’t easy when I left. We all have our stories here and we all support each other, as well. It’s interesting how the human spirit craves human spirit. To be obvious, we cannot survive in a vacuum. We need each other, and we need to know there is something in the universe watching over us and helping us handle…well, everything. On Thanksgiving, my plan was to cook for myself, sit at home with some fermented grapes, and be sad and glad. Instead, I was lifted up and had an amazing evening. I didn’t orchestrate that, heck I was trying to avoid it…but somehow, somewhere, someone or something, knew exactly what I needed. Life has cautioned, (hell, more like bludgeoned)  me about being the Master. It was a very hard lesson. Knowing everything is a very dangerous and completely foolish position. I am thankful for learning that. I am thankful to have my vulnerability restored. I am thankful for all of you, for my family, and my families. We can live amazing lives if we remain open…open hearts and open minds…open heart and open mind…repeat it to yourself…your words have power.

Love one another, please. Life is too short not to. 

Love,
Lee