Tag Archives: challenge

Everyday a New Day, School Improvement is Real, or Life is Ordinary; add some Extra.

6 Mar

(No Playlist this month…I’ll reinstate it, if you’re interested  Please enjoy!)

If I could be the leaves, then like jade I would stay evergreen

and Spread my limbs out wide and pull love so close to me

and If I could be the roots, I would dig deep like ancestry

and If I were the fruits, you’d make the sweetest cherry pie from me

and If I could be the night, my moon replace all electric lights

and Magic music would transmit from outer space on satellites
If I myself could be the ocean, you would feel the motion all the time

and If I were the words, then everything that everybody said would rhyme

Michael Franti – What I Be

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right

Oh, it’s taking so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair, I am in repair
John Mayer – In Repair

Through excessive reliance on thinking, reality becomes fragmented.” Eckhart Tolle

So much contradiction in my day today, I don’t know where to start. (Can’tcha tell from the lyrical selections? Hey, it’s been an interesting day. Gotta love that!)

Typical Day in Mista Lee's office.

Typical Day in Mista Lee’s office.

See! PLCs are fun!

See! PLCs are fun!

I am writing on 14 February (that’s how long I’ve been in The Dhabi, I’m inverting dates), Valentine’s Day. I woke up with a sadness. Normally, I spend the day, or night, with my girls. We cook their favorite meals, pick up a few bottles of bubbly (sparkling grape juice) and have a “date night”. I love it. I miss it. I miss them. I love them.

I love the architecture here. This is the pool at the Intercontinental in Chicago. I stayed there with my daughters over winter break for a Christmas shopping trip.

I love the architecture here. This is the pool at the Intercontinental in Chicago. I stayed there with my daughters over winter break for a Christmas shopping trip.

The John Mayer lyrics came to me before I even turned on my music this morning. There were shadows in my room, there was a darkness feeling that lasted too long. I was spending too much time in the corners of my mind (umm, I think I still am)…and I am working really, really hard to set my heart right.

The Michael Franti lyrics fueled a really good walkabout the other day and they stuck with me. He is really adept and pointing out the Whitman-esque beauties in the world that we tend to overlook. I am really grateful for Michael Franti’s music. (Check him out if you haven’t yet, you will love it…no matter who you are.)

So, back to my brief, heavy heart from this morning. I felt some homesick pangs today. I have many, many more good days, than bad, but there are some holidays that get to you when you’re 7700 miles from home. School (work, as some might call it) is awesome. It’s an amazing challenge every-darn stinkin’-day. Our school is seriously improving by leaps and bounds. The teachers are banding together and bringing us up to competitive heights. We have solid lesson plans, learning centers in classrooms, visible behavior management systems, testing strategies, PLCs…yes, the Al Bawadi Unicorns are on the brink of legendary improvement. THAT, is a serious source of joy for me.

Yes! Grade 6...in a line...without their teacher! THAT is amazing!

Yes! Grade 6…in a line…without their teacher! THAT is amazing!

PD Gallery Walk, outside. A luxury when it only rains 5 days a year.

PD Gallery Walk, outside. A luxury when it only rains 5 days a year.

Senior Leadership Team--doin' some strategery.

Senior Leadership Team–doin’ some strategery.

However, there are setbacks…for me, away from school. There are struggles. There are obstacles to growth. You know who puts them there? I do. I find that my resistance to things happening stops me from learning. I rarely ever say “sh*t happens”, but it does. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can resist, put up a fight, complain to anyone who will listen, tell people “should this/shouldn’t that”…but, it still happens, so acknowledge it, have your emotions, but see it for what it is. This is so basic to how we learn.

Not as strange as one might think.

A lesson in adaptation.

Recently, I watched a TEDtalk by Tom Wujec (Build a Tower, Build a Team—see it!) I won’t give it away, because he does a much better job of explaining this phenomenon…you will never get everything right, the first time you try it. Children know this. They build, and play, and make up games, and they don’t always work, but children don’t focus on the failure, they focus on the process…the game…the creation. This is why project based/inquisitive-based learning is so important. Tell them to memorize the right way to do something and they’ll have to succeed at it a number of times before it is perfected. Let them discover their own way to learn it, and it becomes their practice. This should be applied in all arenas of our lives.

Our Current PD Project. Do what we do...better. Use our expertise to help each other raise the bar.

Our Current PD Project. Do what we do…better. Use our expertise to help each other raise the bar.

As adults, we sometimes fail, and we let that failure discourage us. Really, that failure is a way of getting a mistake out of the way. Or, we use something that happened to us to stop us from attempting something. Imagine as a kid, if when you fell off your bike for the first time, you never got on it again. “Hey, well that didn’t work…so much for bikes!” Ever see Adam Sandler’s “Mr. Deeds”? There’s a scene near the end where he reminds a room full of millionaire stockholders that as children, we believed in our dreams and nothing (but growing up) could stop us from believing in them. As adults, though, some of us let “what happened” stop us from getting back on that bike, or from the beliefs we once held. John Mayer also writes, “Is there anyone who ever remembers/changing their mind/from the paint on a sign?” No, belief is stronger than that.

No Old-Timey Horns! These are around the hospitals in the Dhabi.

No Old-Timey Horns! These are around the hospitals in the Dhabi. I wonder if the paint on this sign makes people change their mind?

So, what happens? Life happens. Things out of your control slow you down, create problems, create resistance. Sometimes, we focus on those things, and we let them slow us down. (Ego…again.) If you resist what happens in your life then you put yourself at the mercy of it, and you let something, or someone, else determine how you feel. I’m talking about things that happened, not future choices. Of course, we can’t just let go of making good decisions. That could be disastrous.

What’s my advice…for me? Sometimes life presents you with limitations. Like physical distance from loved ones, or impossibly small budgets, or…ya know? I’ll spare you the advice. To each his own, correct?

One of our boys expressing his freedom to choose....incorrectly.

One of our boys expressing his freedom to choose….incorrectly.

Soooo, I wrote everything above this paragraph 14 days ago. Here’s what’s strange. I don’t really like it, but I’m sticking with it. The other strange thing is I saw “Boyhood” today. If I had seen it 14 days ago, the first half of this blog would have been totally different. Well, not totally different, but from a different perspective.

You see, I think the advice I held back was to live each day as it’s own, to stay present, to appreciate what you have in front of you, right now. In fact, that advice is doled out in the movie, as well. Here’s the thing, though…balance. I need to balance my thinking. Yes, today is…well, whatever today is, but chances are, today might not be memorable. It’s a string of todays that really become a life…many non-memorable, though we’ll characterize them as “good”, days. Life really is dominated by good days.

TED Talk The Case for Emotional Hygiene. Please watch this. It’s really good. 

Anyway, as I watched “Boyhood”, I went through it all. I watched as a boy, as a brother, as a boyfriend, as a student, as a son, as a husband, as a father, and as a father away from his children. Needless to say, there were some tough moments. However, I can’t put my finger on any one of them and I just saw the movie today. Why? I know I went through the emotional spectrum watching it, but I can’t recall any certain scene and the emotion it evoked. None were remarkable or extreme, but all were special. There’s that balance.

The need for...

The need for…

...balance

…balance.

I kept watching and waiting for some tragedy to befall the family. My instinct as a parent, and as an avid watcher of films, was to look for the cringe moment when something really bad happened to anyone. Ya know? That urge to protect the kids as they grow. Yes, some bad things happened, but there was so much more life around than the bad things.

So I asked myself…”Hey Lee, I have a question for you?” (Yes, I answered. Yes, I know that’s an issue.) The question is, why was I waiting for something bad to happen? Why did I expect it? Does a story about life require a tragedy in order to be life-like? Has my lifelong study of literature boxed me into formulas? Do we assign the word “tragedy” to life events that really should be called “learning opportunities” or, just “life events”. Really, that’s all they are…events that happen during life. So, change of thought for me. Life is not like in the movies…even the really good ones. So, the next time someone says, “…ugh, my life is like a movie…or soap opera…or bad sitcom…” remember, you’re making it that. It simply isn’t true, unless you let it be.

Love the architecture and the landscape architecture here.

Love the architecture and the landscape architecture here.

Symmetry.

Symmetry.

I know you've seen this before. Sun Tower on your left, Sky Tower on your right.

I know you’ve seen this before. Sun Tower on your left, Sky Tower on your right.

Ok, so, that one question became 4 questions…that I can remember. Do we require tragedy to “begin” the life we’re really looking for? I don’t think so. Certainly, we’ve all had our tragedies. I could list the loss of people and events that were traumatic, but did I require them to grow. No, I didn’t. I don’t.

You see, we have the freedom to start the life we want right now. There’s risk in that. There is fear; self-generated. What’s the alternative, though? Living the life you don’t want? Is that an option? In my past, I didn’t take the emotional risks, or make the changes I needed to make. So, the problems stacked up, and so did the obstacles to happiness. The obstacles I made. However, I wasn’t expecting them. I didn’t feel they were necessary; they were definitely part of the plan. However, problems are not the definitions of your life. You face them, you breathe, you live.

Space to breathe. The Campers of Abu Dhabi ride again.

Space to breathe. The Campers of Abu Dhabi ride again.

That’s the beauty of the film. With a scope of 12 years as the setting, the tragedies and their impact seem to diminish in emotional damage because, frankly, life is too busy and too short to cling to them. Watching these lives as they grow over 12 years creates an emotional balance. Life is bigger than the tough moments; they fade and life gets more…more…more everything.

Ya think these dudes are focused on tragedy? I doubt it. They climb over the top of a 76 story building, then slowly work down it hanging by two lines of knotted together rope. Yes, connected by knots. That's trust.

Ya think these dudes are focused on tragedy? I doubt it. They climb over the top of a 76 story building, then slowly work down it hanging by two lines of knotted together rope. Yes, connected by knots. That’s trust.

So the family in the film they just lived. They weren’t extraordinary people, they didn’t fight some Goliath, there were no severe, extreme measures to take in order to survive. They just lived. No typical story arc, none of the stuff I forced my poor English students to remember that every story had…just life. That’s why I think I liked it so much.

So, where’s the balance? Life is long, but made up of moments that are characterized by the choices we make and the labels we attach to them. If we take the tough moments and pick and pull at them like skin on a hangnail, they will get bigger and bleed. We run the risk of making those short bad moments into a life. Then one day, a switch flips and you say, “…life’s too short to hold this or that grudge…” But really, life is long, and you chose to string short bad moments into one long one. I’m choosing to balance my perspective today. I will appreciate the extreme moments as catalysts for growth and change. I will keep in mind that life is long enough to get over anything…as long as I choose to get over it.

AWOD-dhabob=fog. It can be so thick that school is delayed or cancelled. Don't dwell on the fog, appreciate the clarity that follows.

AWOD-dhabob=fog. It can be so thick that school is delayed or cancelled. Don’t dwell on the fog, appreciate the clarity that follows.

Thus the Tolle quote way up at the top. Analyzing a moment over and over again suspends you in that moment, and you lose reality. I bounced the first half of this blog off a friend who is a writer and extremely intelligent. She said, “It’s like you’re not even here!” Six words that stopped me. She was right. All this “now” talk and I was sitting here discussing the past. I felt it, I acknowledge it, and today is a new day. Thanks for the kick! 

Sunrise and Snoopy. (Fujairah, UAE) A new day...everyday. What will you do with it?

Sunrise and Snoopy. (Fujairah, UAE) A new day…everyday. What will you do with it?

Do you know the Serenity Prayer? I do, and I still forget.

We are an impressive work in progress.

Peace and love to you, my friends.

Love, Lee

Speaking of Hygiene-yes, there are sporks here. I am not going to tell you that this boy did not and will not wash his hands. Licked clean and dried on his pants. Eat well, my friends!

Speaking of Hygiene-yes, there are sporks here. I am not going to tell you that this boy did not and will not wash his hands. Licked clean and dried on his pants. Eat well, my friends.

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The End as a New Beginning, Ask an Expert it’s Cheaper, or What Goes Around Keeps Coming Around Until It Doesn’t.

9 Sep

Abu Dhabi Blog 7-13-2014 through 9-9-14

Playlist Tool–Aenima, Red Hot Chili Peppers—Transcending, Smashing Pumpkins—Quiet, Pepper—FKARND, Bob Marley & the Wailers—Buffalo Soldier, Michael Franti & Spearhead—Everybody Ona Move, Michael Franti & Spearhead—Stay Human (All the Freaky People), Cody ChestnuTT—Can We Teach Each Other, Lyrics Born—Callin’ Out, Lupe Fiasco—Kick, Push, Marvin Gaye—Ain’t That Peculiar, The Beatnuts—The Trouble Is…, Rage Against the Machine—Wake Up, The White Stripes—Rag and Bone, Bob Marley—Redemption Song, The Roots—The Next Movement, Golden Era & R.A. The Rugged Man—On the Block, Clutch—Cyborg Bette, 30 Seconds to Mars—Hunter, Novel & Talib Kweli—They Don’t Flow, John Mayer—On the Way Home, Michael Franti & Spearhead—See You in the Light, Colin Hay—I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You, The Steepwater Band—Dance Me a Number, 30 Seconds to Mars R-Evolve

Excuse me, too busy, you’re writing a tragedy
These mess-ups
You bubble-wrap
When you’ve no idea what you’re like

So, let go,Jump in
Oh well, what you waiting for?
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
So, let go,Just get in
Oh, it’s so amazing here
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown

 Frou Frou – Let Go

We cannot selectively numb…”

Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort”

Brene Brown

Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?…To see one’s predicament clearly is a first step toward going beyond it…With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges—the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.”

Eckhart Tolle A New Earth

Gosh! Hello! Wow…so much going on I just…I just don’t know where to start. This journey of life, which I am learning is not separate from me, continues to teach and astound me everyday. As you can see from the quotes above…ok, go back, I know you ignored them. (Hello!? They’re contextually important). So, yes, after looking at the quotes you can see that I have been bouncing around in my head and my heart quite a bit recently. Part of what I’m learning is that I can allow myself to bounce, or I can start and stop it. My brain is me, I am my brain. There is no separate entity. The conversation in your head is you, both voices…you. More than two? Let someone know, please 🙂 .

My Reading Spot. Every home needs one. A work in Progress.

My Reading Spot. Every home needs one. A work in Progress.

Pre-Meditation..yes, the walls are still bare...as I said, a work in progress.

Pre-Meditation..yes, the walls are still bare…as I said, a work in progress.

So, this time of year is always tough for me. I go through separation anxiety when school is out. I miss the students, the teachers, the work, the PD…all of it. I’ve been particularly anxious the last few weeks. Not sleeping, grinding my teeth, headaches, bouncing knees, sadness…all of it. It is particularly hard here because most of our students left around June 19, the rest a week later. So, it’s the slowest grind of an end to the year, EVER!

My office wall. I let the kids decompress by coloring. It also helps me track who's been in. If you have more than 3 pictures, there may be a problem. Oh...some PD stuff, too.

My office wall. I let the kids decompress by coloring. It also helps me track who’s been in. If you have more than 3 pictures, there may be a problem. Oh…some PD stuff, too.

I’m still working on being authentic…all the time. It’s not easy. For years, my internal conversation was going on while I was talking and deciding. I was constantly editing my words to make solutions as easy as possible—even, and especially, if it made more work for me. (By the way, if you do that too, I gently suggest you stop. It is a recipe for resentment and anger at yourself.) What I have realized is when you do that, you don’t give the other person the credit and respect they deserve. We hold our tongues sometimes thinking we are protecting others, or just thinking for them, all the while robbing them of an authentic conversation and learning experience.

Small bites are better. More flavor, more appreciation, better chewing.

Small bites are better. More flavor, more appreciation, better chewing.

A phrase has been haunting me lately, so I’m going to release it and see where it goes. Wanna come along? Really? Thank you, I’m glad…the phrase changes around for me, inverts, makes me furrow my brow, is sometimes declarative, sometime interrogative, sometimes exclamatory…always cautionary in tone. So, I’m having a hard time deciding which form to present it, so we’ll play with it a bit. Here it is…incompletely…

The price of being your own expert.

Or, what is the price of being your own expert? Or, Can you afford to be your own expert? Or, Being your own expert can be tragically expensive. Or, well, I think you get it. The more I toss this around, the more I see its applications. Whether it be physical, intellectual, or spiritual, seeking an expert costs much less than the possible price you might pay trying to be your own expert. Think about the dieters and everyday gym-goers who work hard, on their own, and never get the results they are looking for, or possibly, get injured. Wouldn’t some expert advice be helpful? Think about the frustration of learning Calculus without someone to interpret. What about the struggles in your own head and heart? The incessant questions and internal discussions that seem to repeat without solutions, or strategies for handling them. Or, ever try to tile a bathroom for the first time? In all of these cases, there are experts. Previously, I was my own expert in all things. When I finally slunk out of that ego-created mire, I was very near breakdown…actually, I was there. Not because I couldn’t believe what had happened, but because I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know, how much I had avoided living, how much I cut myself out of, how afraid of not knowing I was, how much I needed…and how much everyone else had to offer…if I had just been open to it.

Less this...

Less this…

...more this.

…more this.

I was preaching love, togetherness, understanding, giving…all of it. BUT, I wasn’t participating, authentically. I wasn’t giving all of me; and that robbed me of some genuine, authentic, opportunities. (Cue the Frou Frou song above, and Watch the Brene Brown TED talk on Vulnerability…she has a moment in her research where she realizes, she can’t get authentic results, she can’t live the complete life she is looking for because she’s too busy trying to control it as an experiment. Life is no experiment, it is here, today, now. Don’t study it, BE it.). This reminds me of Carlos Castaneda’s books, which were a gift to me from an amazing friend when I graduated many years ago. Castaneda wants to learn the the way of the Shaman, see the visions, experience all of it. The shaman tells him to go away. You either Live it, or you’ll never understand it. In other words, to understand the Shaman, you have to live as the Shaman. (By the way, I was way too immature to get Castaneda back then. I just thought they were “cool”. Little did I know, I could have learned from them a long time ago. Thank you, Doc Coffey)

Created all on its own.

Created all on its own.

I’m not going into word origins and roots; I’m sure you see how being an expert requires experience. Anything else, and you’re an observer, a reviewer; a commentator.

However, I think we have to be cautious with the word “expert”. I believe an expert, in all of the scenarios above, is someone on a journey. I don’t think expertise is a goal or the final level or an end point. It is a level of a certain mastery, but the expert is still traveling, still growing, still learning, adding to that body of expert-ness.

Here’s the hardest part about all of this. Now, when people come to my office and ask a question or need an explanation, I have to take a breath, and sometime say three words I thought would disappear from my lexicon as an adult. “I don’t know.” In fact, I have never said it more in my life than I have in the last year. Aside from the language difficulties, I am in a new school, with new practices, and a totally different culture. I mean school culture, not arts and customs culture. Things just run differently here…and sometimes they don’t run, at all. In the West we spend a lot of time learning strategic planning and communication flow. They have that here, as well. But it’s quite different. A strategic plan was created 5 years ago…for the whole country. So, how does a school of 900 boys in an old-fashioned small town fit into that strategy? It doesn’t. That’s my job. How do we do that? I don’t know…yet. (Yes, I read Carol Dweck.)

Lifelines.

Lifelines.

Fast Forward through an amazing summer with my girls and friends and family to the beginning of Year Two in Abu Dhabi. The Dhabi! Get your T-shirts. (The Dhabi on the front, Mafee Mushkala on the back.)

004

Home.

004

Home, as well. See Chicago?

162

The North Shore of Chicago. They changed flight pattern while I was away. Now, we get to see this! Cool!

SO! Here we are. A new school year, Mistah Lee is excited and anxious to get started. I love the anticipation and the promise of every new school year. After last year, and the amazing effort of our staff, I came back with super high expectations and an almost PollyAnna-ic (I make up words~deal!) attitude.

They're heee-eeerrrre...

They’re heee-eeerrrre…

To be honest, it seems I forgot how things go here. My pace? Totally irrelevant, and attempting to impose it only leads to frustration. After everything I learned and wrote about last year, I find myself frustrated and going through some of the same emotions as last year. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and our school won’t change in a year. You’d think I would have learned that by now. Not the case.

In my next life, I want to be an architect...or a rock star...or an actor...hey? How many do we get?

In my next life, I want to be an architect…or a rock star…or an actor…hey? How many do we get?

I LOVE turnaround schools…hard cases, tough students, and supporting teachers who have become frustrated. I figured after all the success from last year, we’d just pick right up where we left off. Most of us did, however, we came back to black mold in classrooms, broken doors and windows, 90% of classrooms with no internet, missing teachers, extended vacations by some staff, and 2/3 of our population brand new to our school of 900. Cue inner critical voice: Hey Dummy, this is what you asked for…remember?

Six Hundred new Elementary boys. New buses. They come from cities with NO ADDRESSES. Addresses don't exist here...Hey, where do you live? Me? Over by 'dere...yes, that's real.

Six Hundred new Elementary boys. New buses. They come from cities with NO ADDRESSES. Addresses don’t exist here…Hey, where do you live? Me? Over by ‘dere…yes, that’s real.

Metaphor alert! A school is a sum of its parts. Each part important to the whole...and no matter how many times you dice a habanero and how much you sautee it, that little dude is still very spicey! Make sense? Excellent!

Metaphor alert! A school is a sum of its parts. Each part important to the whole…and no matter how many times you dice a habanero and how much you sautee it, that little dude is still very spicey! Make sense? Excellent!

The lesson for me continues…and I am grateful. Regardless of my new found, yet infrequent, ability to “let go” of things, I still find myself gnashing my teeth, painfully tense through my neck and shoulders, and frequently giving away my piece (peace) of mind. Guess how much good that is doing me. Go ahead, guess…Exactly! None. This is my life. My ability to stay present and grateful is challenged by the choices I make and still I victimize myself through blame and self-anger at situations I cannot control. I heard myself today say, “If they’d just let me take over…” For what? Then what? More stress, less strategy, even less sleep. Slow learner, I know. That’s ok. I will get it when I get it…ya know? Sa?

Night Putting...you know, putting at night.

Night Putting…you know, putting at night.

Let me tell why I love the beginning of a new school year. Everything is fresh. The kids are excited (despite their complaints), the teachers’ hearts are renewed and hopeful, and the opportunity for impact on a community is Brobdingnagian. So, teach smeach, I say. Spend time getting to know the students. Notice every darn one of them. Create the loving and warm classroom and school that burns into their hearts and minds so they have an unforgettable experience. Let’s see each other smile, dance, share, and engage. Sometimes, as adults in schools, we forget the students are watching. We get short with each other when things aren’t going as we expected. They see this. We create the environment. They react to it and absorb it, and become it. There are many things to be frustrated about right now, but we have to hide our discontent from them. Certainly, it’s not in them. It’s in us. When educators get upset it’s because our job is in our hearts. When it isn’t going well, we get down because we care. However, those are adult issues. We don’t have to shield children from emotions. In fact, we shouldn’t. We should be mindful of the source of our frustrations, take inventory of why we’re upset, and take responsibility for it. Yes, it is frustrating to have no ability to copy or print when you’re setting up. Can we control it? Can we change it? If so, how? If not, now what?

Our teachers are resourceful. The "bulletin boards are plywood. Try sticking a tack or staple into that! Some use cardboard and a staple gun, some use mounting board. They are forced to think outside---nope! Not gonna say it. They are resourceful and creative...and amazing.

Our teachers are resourceful. The “bulletin boards” are plywood. Try sticking a tack or staple into that! Some use cardboard and a heavy duty staple gun, some use mounting board (all of which they buy out of pocket). They are forced to think outside—nope! Not gonna say it. They are resourceful and creative…and amazing.

By the way…this is for me. I am writing to remind me, that my ego creates negativity when I allow it. In fact, the more I feed it negativity, the more it craves. Negativity is a dangerous addiction. In a previous position I would read an old Native American tale to my teenagers. Yes, a child’s story, but they liked it. It is about the good wolf and the bad wolf that can live inside of us. We can choose what we feed it. It will grow no matter what. So we have to be mindful of what we feed it, always aware that it is hungry. Simple. True.

Non-sequitur alert! Went to my friend Abdulla's wedding. All male, all food and tea and soft drinks...no dancing, no ceremony, no hassle, at all. Eat, talk, leave! Yes! Lamb, tikka, curry, mezza, harees ( a thick chicken/rice dish)...oh, and pasta.

Non-sequitur alert! Went to my friend Abdulla’s wedding. All male, all food and tea and soft drinks…no dancing, no ceremony, no hassle, at all. Eat, talk, leave! Yes! Lamb, tikka, curry, mezza, harees ( a thick chicken/rice dish)…oh, and pasta.

The setting at the wedding.

The setting at the wedding.

What’s my point? Yeah, Lee, what IS my point? Be. Here. Now. Yes, you’ve seen/heard/read this from me before. I have to constantly remind myself of it. Today. Today is pretty amazing. Despite the 6 seriously wailing 5-7 year olds (just today), despite the un-ready school, despite the lack of a common language, despite the many lacks we are dealing with, we have 900 bundles of potential, and, we have each other. Cliche? Maybe, but look at it. Think about it. Look at the power available in all the hearts and minds around us. I am 7700 miles from where I grew up and I have learned that people everywhere need each other. There are struggles everywhere and when we look at each other and share authentically, we connect, we create, we change, and we improve. Today, I will feed my good wolf. I will accept. I will remain vulnerable. I will see the expertise in everyone. I am human, and I am grateful.

The Word according to Bob…

One Love! One Heart!

Let’s get together and feel all right!

Love.

Lee

Flexible, frantic, food, fashion, and men singing Journey into each other’s faces.

8 Oct

Playlist–Jack Johnson “Crying Shame”, Zero 7 “In the Waiting Line”, Wax “We Can’t All Be Heroes”, Cage the Elephant “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, Incubus “When It Comes”, Tool “46 & 2”, Jane’s Addiction “Mountain Song”, Rush “Working Man”, Rage Against the Machine “Bulls on Parade”, Agent Orange “Voices in the Night”, John Mayer “Who Says”

Hi!

Say “Hi” or “Hello” out loud…now…go ahead, no matter where you are, do it. Why the fear? Did you look around, first? Isn’t it strange how very simple things become strange when we spend too much time in our heads? I’m learning this lesson everyday. It’s interesting being in a city where I know NO ONE! I’ve never had that before. It’s a bit freeing, yet a bit foreign (duh, Lee), as well. The beauty of building relationships with no prior knowledge is you get to be you, do your thing, and the only judge is you. Now, many of you might say, “I’ve always lived that way, Lee!” Really? Then ask yourself why it’s so strange to say “hi” out loud to your computer screen. What filter have you developed that automatically edits your behavior? (If you’re still reading and didn’t say it out loud, challenge yourself now…go ahead, you can do it…Hi, Lee…well Hi to you dear family and friends. I send you my love from the future—9 hours ahead—from….THE DHABI!) Sell the brand, people! Only three of you have repeated the words, do it now! THE DHABI…then pay me for my idea. T-shirts soon! They’ll say, “THE DHABI—Hurry up, and wait, you must be patient.”

Enough of the dreck (or Dweck—Carol, read her! “Mindset”, good stuff). SOOOOO, it’s been over a week and I have been busy. My blog notes are too long and totally random, so here we go…

Last blog I hinted about the candy displays here in the Dhabi, at the Hypermarket, remember? There are three huge aisles of sweets and junk food as you walk in, then two aisles of coolers of ice cream and treats on the way out…hmmm?

In the Gulf News last week there was an article about “Lifestyle Diseases” growing to epidemic proportions in the UAE. Mostly, they’re talking about obesity and diabetes. In the schools it’s evident. The kids eat bread and chocolate with Mountain Dew or Juice boxes for breakfast and lunch—yeah, yeah it’s Nutella, but remember Nutella was sued for claiming it has health benefits…SO not true. I was going to show you the teeth, or more like the gums of our students, but those who are reading this and have seen them are thanking me right now for not showing you. I was also going to show you the STICK, yes, the stick some use to clean their teeth…another bad idea. Seriously, 1st graders with rotted baby teeth. Not kidding. GIANT, beautiful almond-shaped, brown eyes, and their poor, awful mouths. Develop a chocolate tooth scrubbing chewing gum and you’ll be rich…(pay me for my idea, too!)

Then, I saw this….

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Yeah, throw fake meat in a pita and you have McArabia…Ronald, are we that dumb? Uh…apparently.

Let’s talk about the beauty of the variety of people here…and food. Those of you who know me know I’m a bit of a foodie (which is a stupid phrase, but I’m going with it), and that I worked in restaurants most of my life. There are so many to enjoy here, lets have a look…

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Yeah! So good. About 30 dollars, and yes, I ate it all, and my skin was shiny and radiant for a day. Umi is the restaurant. Not a fancy place, but good food. Also served to me was this…

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How old are you if you remember this type of opener? I remember it well. Also interesting in this picture is the by-line behind the can. Karl-Heinz Ruminegge (the German footballer—soccer, people, soccer) is still in the game. Not playing, but as an executive. A double whammy blast from my past. (Any Chicago Sting fans will remember Karl-Heinz Granitza—google him, I don’t have this kind of time!)

Now, to confuse you….look at the pic below. What floor am I on?

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If you said third floor, you are correct and incorrect. If you can count, you see three. If you need directions to a store, you count Ground, One, Two. Lee is on the Second Floor. Good to know when you’re starving and the info guy says the GIANT food court on the Second Floor and you feel like an idiot because you can’t find it…because it’s really the THIRD!

I went on boat cruise with some edu-types last week. It was fun, but OY!, the shop talk. What’s with us!? Can’t we leave it alone for a few hours…really, we can’t. It’s hard to explain to non-edu-types how much we love our job, even when it seems nearly impossible. Educators love their jobs, we take it personally.  Pics from the cruise…

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That’s our vessel, with Al Reem Island (man-made) in the background. Eventually, I’ll be living there…Insha’Allah…get comfortable with that one…it’s a very pleasant reminder, that all things happen in God’s time. Your watch and calendar, and deadlines? Silly person, those are jsut so you don’t go crazy…and to ensure that sometimes, you do…

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This one is interesting for a couple reasons. The undermount of the bridges are decorated with lights all year. Why? Why not! “We gots the money! Light it up!” Also interesting are the cranes in the background building another island for another sky scraper. It occurred to me today as I almost squashed underfoot some poor Filipino fellow in the Hypermarket, that maybe the reason they all seem to wander is that they are genuinely new here. There’s that many people flocking here, that everyday in the Hypermarket is the first day for about 1000 people…did I mention it’s HUGE?

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Isn’t that beautiful? Sunset, and a million volts of electricity buzzing over your head…ahhh, nature. Interesting to note, we cruised for about two hours and never hit the open sea…not allowed in our little boat. Plenty of newly built marinas to cruise around, though.

Back to food and style

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Tabouleh (like you don’t know that by now), hummus, baba ghanouj (sorry, my family, I can’t spell our name for it.), Marinated in yogurt Lamb with Saffron Rice (kinda—not impressed), and the “Super Deluxe Delicious Fruit Cocktail”, which was awesome…apple, banana, strawberry, watermelon, and avocado…really good.

Now, some fashion…

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Yeah, SOLD OUT. Red Leather Living Room. Cue that special disco funk music, turn on the lava lamp, and chill, baby, just chill…Honestly, it seems to work here…and, oh, this is on sale at the Hypermarket…did I mention, it’s huge? I did. So! It is.

From the files of bat-shit crazy, I had to post this

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Yes, that’s Al Pacino as Phil Spector…even though he looks like A bleached Bill Cosby circa 1974. I keep waiting for him to throw down some pop & lock. If you don’t know that…google it. Then learn it, then thank me later for the compliments you get on the dance floor. (By the way, the movie is terrible. Really bad, really, seriously, bad—go watch it!…isn’t that like smelling sour milk and asking someone else to try it so see for themselves? Strange humans)

More fashion…

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Ummmm, yeah, remember I talked about how a sign about keeping your shorts on in the male sauna and steam room and jacuzzi would be nice…and that I learned that the embarrassing way?  Remember how I didn’t see a sign? Yeah, found it. Didn’t take a picture, but there are these. Complimentary men’s paper spa and locker room shorts. Yes, paper. Um, no, not happening.

More food!

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Fried Naan, and spicey chutney stuffs, Corn Shorba (the soup) with a cornbread dumpling, and Jhinga Biryani cooked in a pot with a sweet potato and VERY spicey crust. So freakin’ good! If I EVER get a kitchen, I’m making it! In the meantime, I ate this tonight…

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Zeee Spiceee Hypermerkeet Cheekin wiss zee Veggie-tubble birrrrrrryani rrrrrice carefully layered in Le Toooperrrr-warrre.

Last fashion pic, then some school stuff.

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I was going to brag about my man, Pratha. He’s the little brown head balancing on the counter there. I say balancing, because if you know people from India, they shake their heads side to side rather than up and down for affirmative/positive reactions. Like I said, I WAS going to brag about how awesome his business is and how great he treats me… I mean, 6 shirts, dry cleaned and pressed for $4.90 cents? Nice! However, Pratha didn’t have my shirts tonight! Damn him!….just kidding. There are dry cleaners every 50 feet, it’s like Starbucks in the states; however, they all have tiny little storefronts. Which leads my super-brilliant mind to deduce that he sends them out, too. Which also makes me wonder, if it’s that cheap for me and the middle man, how much is the poor super-sweaty bloke that actually cleans the clothes making? Not much, I’d say…BUT, enough to leave his country to do it here. Let that float around the noggin for a while. Complain not westerners…life ain’t so bad.

was going to call this next one, Sunrise with Cranes as a not-so funny, dad-joke kinda way play on words, but I couldn’t snap a good one.

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It’s tough to get a good pic in packed traffic, slouching because your head is rubbing the ceiling of your mini-mobile, and doing 85 miles per hour (yes, mom, 85mph…what? Everyone else is doing it! Un-huh! Yes, they are!).

In truth, I am inspired to take a pic every morning. The sun is so large, so orange and beautiful, as it rises above the mangroves each day. Then as you wind through the (man-made) coast, it hovers over Sheik Zayed Mosque (google it! 40,000 capacity, but something tells me from the way people drive here that they stuff about 100k in there), and you have to think…there is beauty everywhere, there is no one man, or group of people, creating this beauty, but it’s there every day, not random, not planned, but there, every day…one just has to be open to it.

One school pic before I go…

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Yeah, made by third graders…un-huh, third graders…no, not their mom and dads, or nannies…third graders. Ask ’em, they’ll tell you. They made them. By the way, there is real glass in some of them…cut to size…and, the day after I took this pic, all of those creepy bald mini babies were staring at me. No pics on that, I didn’t want to capture their souls on my iphone…it has enough issues! Back to iOS 6!

So, Eid al-Adha is coming up next week. (Wikipedia, people! I can’t do everything for you. Discovery learning). It was supposed to start on Monday for schools, but the Sheik just declared Sunday off for everyone, too. Remember, my week starts on Sunday. So, we have 9 days off, and from what I hear, the families stretch it into a full two weeks. Should be interesting as we have a huge push to do continuous assessment of our students and we’re basically out of school for the next two weeks.

Speaking of…I had an interesting Monday. After getting a bit of a run around about where I’ll be living…(Roll your r’s if you haven’t figured that out yet) “Shuuuurrrrrrre, you move in theeees week”, then finding out the condo is full. “No problem, I tell them I turrrrrrrn of water and lights.., they go fast.” Then hearing nothing (with all due respect to Mohammed in housing; he’s going the extra mile, uh kilometer, for me) for two days, I returned to school around 11 to find out I had to presenta= a 90 minute workshop on the new assessment policy at 1:30. “Wh-What!?” Yeah, I was stunned. 55 educators, I’ve been there two weeks, I have to present on a policy I have barely read, with a translator, in two hours…fun! However, it went well, although, my boss told me I needed to smile more or the teachers will think I don’t like them. Hey, if that’s the only criticism, I’m good with it. Actually, this is a very prideful society marked by practiced humility…does that make sense? What I mean is, he told me “good job” twice afterwards, then told our big boss, I did a “great job”…I wasn’t expecting that. Men don’t really do that much.

Which brings up my last point. Men are much more affectionate here. The practice of shaking hands while rubbing noses and an air kiss is commonplace. Men holding hands, commonplace. Men talking into each others eyes, commonplace, and a sign of respect. Don’t confuse it with what I saw at the hotel bar last week…two totally loaded Scandinavians shouting, “Don’shtoop beleeeeevin’, hold on to zha feeeelin…” you know the rest. If you don’t, google Journey, but tell no one.

Interesting that comes up now, though. The cool thing about this new adventure is one has to believe in one’s self. I love what I do. I am here because of that love and dedication of over 20 years of my life to it. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared, that I had doubts about my ability to affect real change. Yes, I’ve done it before, but I felt I knew some people and that would help. I’m learning, that is wasn’t the people I know. It’s the things I’ve learned and held on to that give me the skill and ability to do my job. I didn’t believe that fully, until after that professional development session, and I believe it more and more each day. Many of you have told me that for years, but I wasn’t open to it. I’m open to it today. I’ve had great teachers, in all facets (a non-word, I should use “arenas”) of my life, and I thank you for it…I’m putting it all together and making something original…as I’ve always done, but seeing it that way and being happy with it…believing it…that’s new…cue the music… “Just a small town girl…” (Tell no one I referenced that song twice! They’ll kick me out of the Public Enemy fan club!)

Thanks for reading…really, thank you!

Love,

Lee