Life is a patient teacher

Posted By on January 20, 2020

If I had all the time in the world like Bill Murray in the 1980s hit movie Groundhogs Day, all the things I would do. I morned to myself as I watched his character transform from a self centered ego-manic into a compassionate hero with a multitude of talents from ice sculpting to speaking French with what seemed like an endless number of chances for redos and practice.

What if I too am caught in a daily cycle of monotony? Daily life can be quite repetitive at times with the same activities, expectations, responsibilities, people, etc. What if I lived it as the best version of myself? And if I don’t, there is a lesson to be learned?

What if I have a choice to wake up everyday and have the opportunity to learn and do things I’ve always wanted to learn and do? Not for anyone’s affection or attention but for my own gratification that I’ve strived to live my best life.

As part of my on going efforts to simplify, transform, surrender the things that I no longer want or need to make space for things I want/need. Here is a loft I made with the wood salvaged from the shed I dismantled. 

I’m continuing on my path toward minimalism. I promised myself that I would give away one thing everyday for a year. I started November 2019.

I’ve started yoga again and accomplished a head stand for the first time in my 20+ years of yoga practice. I used to tell myself that “I can’t do that” or “It’s too hard”. Well, I can’t say that anymore. It is challenging, but it really gets easier every time I do a head stand.

I’m learning to read and speak French and Mandarin using Duolingo.com. Je parle souvent avec mon mari mais j’ai toujours peur de parler une autre personne en français.

Chinese steamed pork buns

I started cooking dishes that I’ve always avoided because I thought it was too complicated to make from scratch.

Cheesecake with blackberry swirls

I vowed that every family I see for work, I will be utterly present with them so that they may feel heard and seen just as they are, without judgement or expectation. And that every child that I meet, be welcomed in my heart with acceptance and patience. This includes my family.

I hope that everyday, I will give myself grace, that tomorrow is another day and I have another chance at life if I had not seized today. The learning opportunities that life offers will come back because life is a patient teacher. I just decided to pay attention in class.

To homeschool or not to homeschool?

Posted By on January 20, 2020

At the end of 5th grade, my son was coming home with words no parent would ever want to hear: I hate school.

My husband and I did everything we thought we could do at the time, listen to him vent his frustrations, discuss options, and talk to the teachers. For months, he was angry when he got home, talked of self harm, and begged us daily for us to let him skip school.

Some people asked if something bad was happening at school. The answer is no. He had good friends, his teachers appreciated him and thought of him as a positive contribution to the class as a whole. There was no bullying. Yet, he came home stressed and annoyed. He would worry about homework, his looks, his hair, his performance on tests. We could not reach him or talk to him until he calmed down which sometimes took days, by the time he could problem solve and talk about it, he was going back to school and the cycle continued to the next weekend.

It became clear that the change we were seeking would need to be more drastic. He was crying out for help and we needed to listen. Should we seek counseling? Should we go to our neighborhood school? Private school? Or … homeschool?!

Without missing a beat, my son voted for homeschool. I wasn’t sure if he realized what he was asking for. But then I realized, neither did I.

So in order to give clarity for everyone involved, my husband and I wrote down what we were willing to do, how it would it look and what our expectations of him were. My son agreed to it all with conviction and was ecstatic that it was an option. His only request was to not go to school anymore.

We chose a Waldorf Curriculum. I drew out daily schedule Monday through Friday, then a block schedule for the year. My work had flexibility. My husband quit his job at the bike shop to focus on homeschooling and his major project of finishing construction of a tiny house in our yard. My husband and I agreed to rotate teaching subjects for the month during main lesson (in the morning). He will take most of the classes after ML and I will occasionally take a movement, math or art class.

I feel really fortunate that we were cohesive as parents, and flexible enough in our lives to make this a reality. Our son has been respectful of our time and diligent in his work. Five months in and he still loves homeschooling. The love of learning is back and he looks forward to classes like woodwork, art, and history. Even with subjects he struggles to enjoy like math, he still puts effort in learning and striving. It was the best choice all of us could have made to meet this challenge at this time.

We don’t know how long this is going to last, but we do know that right now, it’s the perfect solution and fit for all of us.

My husband enjoyed teaching so much, he decided to go back to school and finish his Waldorf Teaching credentials.

Me? Prejudice?

Posted By on August 21, 2016

Alex P. Keaton was an anomaly to his parents in Family Ties, while my son was a surprise to me. Instead of suits and ties, my son likes to sport camo and bright orange hats. Instead of the stock market, he likes to look at gun and rifle prices. He reads magazines and books on them. He dreams of hunting. With the passionate controversy over gun control and safety these recent years, I would have much preferred he get into something else. My husband and I are supportive parents and continued to emphasize the importance of safety and responsibility in the midst of his interest.

We signed him up for hunter safety classes, which happened to be at a rifle range in a conservative part of town. As the first day of class approached, I felt my apprehension. I had to admit to myself that after all these months of political drama, racial tensions, and division, I was afraid of who I would encounter there in the parking lot. What kind of people would my son be in class with? Would they be rude to us?

I already had a scene in my head and saw white males with cowboy hats and a parking lot of pickup trucks with “Make America Great Again” bumper stickers. I saw the ends of guns and rifles pointed at me and at my son who were dark-skinned Asian. Where did that come from? I’ve never had these thoughts in my life. Never had I feared for the physical safety of my child, not like this. What was different now? Was it the constant stream of media coverage on a racist and sexist politician? Was it the countless videos of violence and senseless brutality in a country I thought (hoped) was more civilized? I don’t know for sure, but there I was, looking at myself: the prejudice.

It was no wonder we arrived an hour late the first day. It did not surprise me that we were so late that the range had locked the gates.

“Oh well. I guess we should just forget about it”. I weaseled.

My son laid in bed the rest of the evening in quiet resignation. I paced back and forth. This was my fear. If I continued to live here, nothing in the world (my world) would change. So, I picked up the phone and called the instructor after the lesson was over. I confessed that our truancy/absence was not a reflection of my son’s character but of my own. I asked if he could still be in his class even though attendance was mandatory for all classes. He agreed.

Two weeks of instruction passed. By the last day, I had spoken to several of the dads and granddads of students. I probed them for tips to pass on to my son. I listened to their love of hunting and the outdoors, desire to connect with their children or grandchildren, and respect for nature and animals. We had more in common than I knew. How easily a switch could flip, I pondered. There was nothing to fear and so much to learn.

“Your son is extraordinary.” The instructor commented before we left. I agreed. My son, oblivious to my bout with prejudice, continues to teach me by simply following his passion and receiving others just as they are. What a way to live a truly fearless life. It is the courage to be open that changes the world.

The part of me who loves everyone is still there, I know she is, healing and getting stronger every day. Fear may have gripped me momentarily but love overcame.

Music Just for Joy

Posted By on January 21, 2014

I was working in my room one foggy Saturday afternoon. The children were playing in the living room. I heard them playing with the keyboard, listening to the pre-recorded songs in it’s memory bank. Beethoven’s Fur Elise came on more than once. I love that piece. It played over and over, I didn’t mind at all.
I remember wanting to take piano lessons when I was 15. My mom didn’t want to pay for the lessons so I got a part time job at the grocery store down the street. I paid for a month’s worth of lessons but it didn’t last.

Fur Elise started to sound slower. They must have figured out how to change the tempo, I thought.
When I was 19, I took piano for beginners in college. I loved it. When the music department replaced their full sized keyboards at the end of term, I bought one for $400 so I could practice at home. My brother, who was 11 at the time, incidentally, learned to love the piano as well and learned to play ten times faster. Before long, I could just give him sheet music and he would figure it out. That keyboard brought so much music and light into our tenement life.
Fur Elise was now sounding even slower and occasionally making mistakes followed by a correction here or there. I went outside to investigate. My nine year old was sitting in front of the keyboard, carefully memorizing which keys were pressed on the keyboard tutorial screen and then playing it for himself on the keys. Having no back ground in piano playing at all, he would use his left big toe to mark where his left hand needed to move. The sight was endearing.
 Keyboard
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I like this song.” He said simply.
“Me too.” I said.
What he doesn’t know is that Fur Elise was the first piano piece I had really put my energy into learning since I was 19. Every once in a while, when I would have a piano or keyboard at my disposal, that would be the piece I strive to improve.  I showed him how I remember where my hands go.
Days pass and he continues to get better and better. He can now play the first little movement.
“Would you like me to find you a piano teacher or a piano school, Clayton?”
“Mom, I don’t want to be a professional pianist.”
Of course not. You play because you want to…. because it brings you joy.
I sat down in front of the keyboard when he wasn’t playing with it and started practicing again, Fur Elise, my old friend. I was able to play further than I ever had before. Some parts, the left hand and right hand wanted to do it separately. But that’s okay. To be quite honest, it’s not the most beautiful thing to hear – right now, but it is deeply poignant.
How liberating is it to do something simply because it brings me light and joy. I am in awe of how my children are continually inspiring me. I hope it is mutual.


I found a way

Posted By on September 12, 2013

When I was seven years old, my cousin told me she took ballet and showed me all the cool things she could do. I went to my mother that very day and asked her if I could take ballet too. She told me quite firmly that we didn’t have money for it. And that was that.

I was so confused, why would the world offer itself to my cousin but not to me? I had many dreams as a child that I kept secret in fear that they too would be dashed. Playing the piano or traveling to see different lands, to name a few.

A couple of years later, I discovered on PBS, there were exercise shows. I started watching them and participating, aerobics, jazzercise, yoga, etc. I was interested in health magazines that showed yoga poses and studied them. The next time I saw my cousin, I was able to do the splits and one handed cartwheels.

I learned something really important very young. If there is something I love, I will find a way to it.

In college, I took ballet, piano and I did visit many foreign lands on my own dime. I found a way. (Once, I went to Hawaii with nothing but a bag of gold coins. But that story will be for another time.)

As a mother now, I have more than what I had as a child and the new challenge is how can I raise my children so they appreciate the luxuries that they do have and not take them for granted?

There are a few things I do (and I often share in my workshops through Heart Grown Family), but for today, I’m going to play the piano.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
~ Mary Oliver, Wild Geese