Hoops, Books and Alley Ways

“That hoop will bring nothing but drugs and crime.”

I replied, “No disrespect but we already have drugs and crime here.”

Unit 4. Washington DC. Our nation’s capital. We had prostitutes, guns, drugs and crime in our neighborhood. We also had amazing individuals come together to do something about it. We also had people go against the change. But we all well most of us, came together.

Most of all, we did something about it. Read previous blogs to find out.

You know what else we had? A very high illiteracy rate.

Research shows when you don’t have reading literacy or math literacy you most likely will end up in jail. And, guess what? It’s true and that’s why more jails are built. People recognize the power in book literacy and financial literacy.

We need to change the game of education and life. We need to be creative, collaborative, compassionate and chance takers. Most of all, we need to empower one another to be bold and daring.

Don’t ask permission – ask forgiveness.

For approximately 90,000 of DC’s adults, low literacy skills are a barrier to just about everything – completing their education, getting and keeping a decent job, and staying out of poverty (Washington Literacy Center).

If you want to find out more of how to help with illiteracy please click here:

https://www.washlit.org/#:~:text=For%20approximately%2090%2C000%20of%20DC’s,and%20staying%20out%20of%20poverty.

Do We Have to Wear a Mask? A Poem

As told to me by children.

“Do We Have to Wear a Mask?”

“Do we have to wear a mask when we go back to school?”

“The world is filled with germs”.

“Stay home!”

“If we go outside we will die.”

“You can’t see the germs with a magnifying glass!”

“You can’t see it with a microscope or even a telescope either.”

“How will we eat our lunch if we have masks on?! That’s so silly!”

“Do you want to see my mask?”

“I had to put it on when people came too close!”

“Our president is trying to kill us! He told us to drink chemicals.”

“When the germs go away you can come to my house for a playdate!”

“When the germs are gone you can come to my house, too.”

Moment of silence.

“Wait, will the germs ever go away?”

The germs have always been here. Good and bad ones. Like humans.

“You can can wear a mask and stay far away from me!”

“You can’t wear my mask and I can’t wear your mask.”

Moment of silence. 

Yes, we have to wear a mask.

We’re really good at this.

We always caught our coughs and our sneezes in our elbows disguised as capes.

Catch it in your cape don’t let it escape.

We always washed our hands and sang Happy Birthday simultaneously.

Now, we have another accessory of our superhero way of being.

A mask. It goes well with our capes everyone.

What Does Your Happiness Look Like?

Carpe Diem, friends. Recently, my college students wrote about a Ted Talk and also chose an article that casts doubt on it. A student chose one about happiness.

After the presentation I asked them, “What does your happiness look like?” My student from Catalonia asked me what mine looks like and told me that I should have a blog all about life especially social revolutions and happiness. I thought of John Lennon and then it got me thinking about my happiness and the moments when I’m really happy.

So what does my happiness look like? 

I told my students: “Mine looks like a plastic chair, really any chair or even the ground anywhere in the sunshine, lounging with a pile of books at my feet.”

Then I remembered when I visited my hometown after many years, I pulled out a plastic chair and books, sat in the sun and I saw my neighbor Frank.

When he saw me in my sister’s backyard doing that, he smiled and said, “I haven’t seen you since high school! And, you still love that. “It’s true and another fun fact is that I also love-love-love the little things like watching ants and wondering if a raindrop can be smaller than a mouse’s fingertips? Shout out to the poet ee cummings.

Another source where my happiness grows from is the kind of happiness working, growing and learning with children as they remind us of the small things. Each and every single day. They remind me to Live Life to the Fullest. To be in the moment. To remember that it is a process. We are all in a process of becoming. When we think we know, we have no idea.

When I was around 8 years old, my father gave me a book after he got out jail entitled: Live Each Day to the Fullest featured here in the image and that is exactly what I plan on and am doing.

The Art of Saying Goodbye

Would you give your most precious belongings to a stranger?

I’m not sure what you care about but think about it. Think about something you care a lot about and wonder whether or not you would give it away freely or with hesitation. Would you give a stranger your mother’s ring? Would you give your car? Would you give your cellphone?

Now imagine what that may feel like for a family when they arrive to a classroom or school for the first time where their child will be going. 
It’s not easy. Our families need hugs the most. During the day, when our children say they miss their loved ones we often remind our children that no matter what they are always in their hearts. I used to say no matter what they will always be back but a part of me feels like that is a lie. Because I remember when my mother didn’t come back. I remember the day my mother died.

Now I say, no matter what they are always in your heart. No matter what. It’s never really a goodbye. And, a great educator and now friend from Nigeria said, “We meet to part and part to meet.” It’s never really a goodbye. She had a finesse and way of saying goodbye without ever saying bye. In that moment, she spoke to and educated not my head but my heart and spirit. I pay that kind of thing forward. With love+light+hugs.

Lots of them.

This Chair is Just Right

2016. In the words of Sister Souljah: It was the Coldest Winter Ever. It was around Christmas time. And, in the words of the character Goldilocks in The Three Bears, the Chair featured in the image, was and still is just right.

Around this time, I ended a 13 year relationship with someone who I thought was the love of my life. It felt like someone died. I experienced death before. My mom. My god mother. My dad. That kind of pain never goes away.

I was going through it. I was healing and having epiphones and growing stronger mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually: all of me. 

I got a call from my sister. She said, “I have a surprise for you.” I was planning to go home for the holidays and sleep over my sisters. It was awhile since I did that. When I arrived to her house that winter, it was cold outside and inside myself. I was really sad and depleted. I felt empty. I felt cold. And, no one even noticed.

She said, “I was going to wait until Christmas but do you want your surprise now?” We are so similar when it comes to surprises, I thought. I can’t wait either to give someone their surprise or gift. I said, “Yes!” She left to get the surprise. 

She walked back into the room with a painted chair. She had an artist paint a chair for me. It said: “Ms. Jill” and it was soooooo incredible and colorful that I couldn’t speak. It even had a rainbow. A symbol as a promise for me. This meant the world to me. I swallowed. I stared at her table.

I looked more closely at her table and the empty chairs around it. I cried. I noticed that a chair was missing from it. I noticed how the chair she had painted for me was from her table. She had 3 out of 4 chairs left. 

I took a d e e p breath. I was full of gratitude that I have someone like this in my life. We talk about who sits at our tables, who no longer fills the empty chairs and spaces, who breaks our chairs like in that Three Bears Story but what about when a person takes a chair from their own table and gives it away. It is a reminder of who was standing with you all along. Chair or no chair. Table or no table. 

I am full of gratitude. Of light. Of love. Of all of the above. None of these material possessions we can take with us when we pass on from this physical realm. But that kind of thing, most of all, that kind of love lives on even when we die

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The Only Thing We Should Scream Into the World Is Love

It’s true. Yelling or dwelling on something you have no control over is wreckless and at best, pointless. We do not have control over anything really. What we do have control over is how we respond. Start each day asking: “How do I want others to feel?” Then act accordingly.

Love. Scream it. Live it. Be it. Love, love.

Happy Valentines Day! xo With love, lots of it.

Don’t Draw on the Table and Don’t Draw on the Walls

A child said, “Look, she’s drawing on the table!” I noticed she was in fact drawing on the table. I also noticed she was not drawing on the table in a destructive way but she was drawing on the table in a figuring something out kind of way. She drew the colors of the rainbow on one side out of order and on the other in order. 

I looked. I peered over. I knelt down and asked her why. She said, “I’m trying to figure out the pattern of the rainbow. The order of it.” I smiled. I said, “Artists do that. Some need to visually see it and play around with the color. Next time use scraps of paper to experiment with color. I handed her some paper and she started drawing and drawing lines and lines as she sorted out and ordered the colors of the rainbow line by line. All on her own initiative.

After she drew arches and created each part of the rainbow from red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. 

She smiled. She took out tape and hung up her rainbow. 

The process was amazing. I was a fly on the wall for a moment. 

Look at what happens when we simply don’t say “Don’t draw on the table!” Look what happens when we ask higher level thinking questions and wonder with children. Amazing work and “play” happens creatively, constructively coming from the child’s own being. 

Beautiful. In the words of Langston Hughes “It’s beautiful and ugly too.” The process. When we give space, time and a lot of understanding — a lot of magic happens.

Tis the Season: the Jolly and Not So Jolly of Times

The most wonderful time of the year. But is it? I am feeling tension and unlike myself lately. I am missing loved ones who have passed. 105 people die every minute. Nearly 2 every second. Life is precious. So very precious.

When it comes to my feelings, I chalked some of it up to the full moon and it’s power of making waves. In fact, there has been a cataclysm of events making waves. Globally countries are struggling with leadership and death.

Lately, I have been hanging on to hope and resiliency. I stare at a photo of 6 year old Ruby Bridges who endured and triumphed standing as a metaphor and reminder that “what doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger”.  At 6, Ruby Bridges showed a courage that resonates today. I had the opportunity of listening to Ruby Bridges speak in 2015 at the annual NAEYC conference. The kind of courage and poise she personifies and how it connects with us, children, families and educators.

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Holidays are hard for many. For a lot of my own life, holidays were often off for me and awkward. There are empty chairs of those we miss and love. You feel the infinite loss and ache of missing loved ones. It is easier to send a gift and/or photo of smiling faces saying Happy Holidays. It is the thought that counts but what do we do for those who feel alone? How do we help others cope during grief or a sense of loss? What gifts can you give to the broken-hearted?

Here are gifts to give:

  • Gift of Memory: Take a moment to remember and honor the memory of a loved one by a hug, card or phone call. Although there is an empty chair at the table fill it with memories and honor their memory.
  • Gift of hope: We experience both sadness and joy. It’s deeply triggered by the holidays. Show up and offer to help those you care about. From the daily routines to collaging and scrap booking memories.
  • Gift of Love: Be in the moment with those who are still living. Show them you love them. If you are the one feeling sad tell them it is hard but stay hopeful.
  • Gift of friendship: Invite and include those who feel sad even if they may cancel or decline from shopping to having dinner.
  • Gift of Surprise and Spontaneity: Encourage doing something unusual such as a road trip or a flight to visit loved ones still here. Follow through.
  • Give the gift of time: Its about time well spent with those you love so spend it wisely. Spend some time whether over coffee, a movie, a stop by visit or something special to do together
  • Give the gift of food for the soul whether baked goods or a home cooked meal to enjoy together
  • The gift of listening: remember, it’s not not knowing what to say but listening and being there.

Looking for more gift ideas? Visit Sympathy Solutions at:

http://www.sympathysolutions.com/current-newsletter/10-things-you-can-do-for-someone-lost-loved-lone.html

Most of all, ensure to reach out, don’t expect someone who feels alone to reach out to you.

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What’s the Magic Word?

You know how usually when we want children to say please and thank you, we may say something like, “What’s the magic word?”

Well, this open ended question was recently responded with “Abracadabra”. We have been reading stories about magic so this response definitely makes sense. It made me smile.

While thinking deeply, I was super proud of our child in that moment. You know the stories entitled: Abiyoyo, Cinderella and Winnie the Witch? We have been exploring magic. Well in Winnie the Witch, Winnie the Witch says the magical words “Abracadabra!” to turn her cat many different colors and it disappears. And, her spell works. Every. Single. Time. So why wouldn’t my student (when asked the magic word) respond with abracadabra?! haha

The connections, synapses in the brain, schema and all of that building (and literal sense meaning making) shown in that one phrase!

Preschoolers make so many connections way more than in a lifetime. Let’s listen, really listen for it. Here are the facts: The little grey cells making up your mind are mostly neurons. There are 100 billion right now in your head! With over a 1,000 TRILLION connections aka synapse, in your brain, there are more transmission pathways in your head than there are atoms in the universe! Think about this: The number of synapses peaks in early childhood, so the average three year old has ten times as many as the average adult.

Later in the week, as I observed some children “Boiling eggs” while playing family,  I saw a child’s face go perplexed for a moment and he said, “My blood is boiling!” He smiled and said, “You know that means? I’m really angry!” He played with the words as he said it. Then he said, “But it’s not my blood but my eggs are boiling!” Next time I’m angry I’m going to say: my eggs are boiling!!” haha Some tips for observing and engaging with children as they build (and we build and make meaning of our world) reciprocally together.

How to engage with children…

1. Listen

2. Be present

3. Be playful

4. Be yourself…your best self

5. Throw whatever you thought you knew out the window…children have a way of proving theories and what we thought we knew wrong. When we think we know, we have no idea! Remember that.

Hence, why theorists are theorists. They are theories. Theories for a reason, a season and a moment until someone else comes along and proves it wrong.

We evolve and we change. Just like the seasons.

Most of all, just like our children, we learn so much about ourselves. When we listen ; they show and share what they need.

During this process, we also learn what we need for ourselves. That’s where the real magic happens. The biggest gift we give is of ourselves.

P.s. Thank you Lao Tzu and Picasso.

The Story Continues…in Real Life.

I have been working every Sunday but it does not feel like work.
It feels like play.
I feel really good to feel good about that. I would literally do what I do on Sundays for free, really. Last Sunday, I spent my time working with one child and playing. My high of the day was making up stories using the instruments to make sound effects for the stories we made up. I also retold my classics: aka my favorites: Luki and the Rocket Power Shoes and Luki and the Rocket Power Paintbrush. It was his first time listening to it. He asked for them again and again. I thought to myself…why am I in this rush to produce creative works of art when I should enjoy what I already have out there in the universe?
I am literally backed up on creative projects but I reflected on and about my own process. Am I enjoying the process? Am I enjoying myself? Why am I pushing and grinding to produce more and more? I have the stories. I enjoyed the process of creating them. Now let me create an outlet to massively share them using my voice and technology. I remember when a student asked me if I would be on her story podcast that evening she listened to it. Then, I recalled another student asking for one last story before she moved on and went to her new school.
I want to enjoy the stories that I have out. Recently, someone (whom I never met in real life) pushed me and inspired me to push myself even further in my creative process. The message on IG really has me thinking and mulling over a few things. 1. I need to make a youtube channel and 2. I really need to get a podcast together asap and 3. I need to be in the moment and enjoy the process and the re-telling of my stories rather than working on the next new project right away.
By the time of the next blog post, I hope to have one of my visions in the process of becoming. Intuitively, I feel as though I am on the way.
Peace, love and light.
Happy reading and before you know it, I hope to be saying Happy Listening. Real Life. 🙂