Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not in Kansas Anymore

I think that the hardest part of life and growing up is change. We get used to how things were and how we like for things to be that we resist the things that naturally have to happen. And before you know it you are wondering where things went astray or why you didn't get to accomplish a certain task.

And as 2011 comes to a close, it is a great chance to reflect on the upcoming changes for the new year. The changing of the physical calendar is a great segway into changing things emotionally; of letting go of things and people that perhaps you have changed from. At the end of the day, when I really want to know if someone is truly my friend, I ask myself this: If my car broke down at 3 in the morning and I was stranded would I feel comfortable calling this person to come pick me up? Of course there are the hands-down you know they would come and get you folks, for whom you are glad to have in your life. And then there are the good friends that you would still feel bad waking them up, but you know that you can call them for help. And then there are those other people that, not only would you have second thoughts about calling, but that you probably would rather not call because 1) they might actually not even offer to help you and 2) it's so much of a last resort that you would just feel so guilty that it wasnt even worth the phone call and you'd rather ask a stranger. I actually realized one of these situations when I was stuck somewhere and planned on taking the bus and a train and walking to get home. The people that I thought would offer me a ride (on their way) home just said "well, I hope you make it" and a person whom I didn't know all that well said "I'll take you." Well that is when you make the readjustment and you realize that people are just selfish and only looking out for themselves, no matter how good friends you THINK they are. If it's not reciprocated, then there is a problem.

Change means getting out of denial and either putting action to your words or just giving in to the fact that some things are just not going to happen. You are not going to earn that degree if you don't even crack the book open and study for your exam. Better yet, if you haven't registered in 3 years, maybe subconciously, it's not really on your to do list. 2011 was the year to get things done, and I feel like 2012 is the year to see them into fruition. Change means letting go of ideas that were once true, but are now looking pretty false. Change means asking for help, since your way is not working, or just admitting that maybe you were wrong. It also means realizing the change that you hoped to see in someone else may not happen, and you should just accept them or leave them as they are.

No one is perfect. Change is realizing that and truly accepting it. And as everyone makes New Year's Resolutions yet again, change means doing something differently. If you wanted to work out 3 times a week and that lasted all of 2 months, then try plan B of getting a dog and walking the dog. Change is getting the chance to be creative and just doing it.

So, I have a personal vow, to do things differently next year. I'm excited to try things in a different light. The first task I want to accomplish is a continuation of this years': minimalize. Clearing out physical and inanimate objects will leave room for so much more . . . free space, no pun intended. Haha, ok definitely intended. After that, it will be so much easier for the rest to fall into place.

Another personal goal will be announced in a couple of months. I've started a new venture, and I'm really excited about it.

So, yes, we are not in Kansas anymore. We are somewhere else, and we have to change our game plan. And for once, that's A-OK with me.

Photo Credit: http://www.hotrodsbikeworks.com/features/0804_hrbp_route_66_through_kansas/photo_18.html

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Taking Closure back

Closure is not something that is given to you, but rather it's something that you take. I think that recently this was brought to my attention as I was talking about how a particular event made me feel. Some things happened over several months/years/what have you, that made me feel discarded and rejected. And as much as I tried to explain this to the party causing me these feelings, the pleas fell upon deaf ears. Or maybe they were listening, but they just didn't care. And there is the key that I missed.

Sometimes we wait and wait and wait to get closure. We think that if we can get the other person to apologize, or to accept our apology , or when we tell the other person we forgive them, that we can gain closure. But all of those actions require active participation on the other side. And sometimes the story does not end up with a happy ending. Sometimes the other party involved does not care to give you the time of day to explain the situation or to hash things out. And in those situations, the only way to get closure is to take it. Because waiting and waiting is foolish when you know you are waiting indefinitely. At times we think we are waiting for a short period of time, but when that time gets to be too long, it is time to close things up yourself.

I wish that the people that I am talking about knew how I felt, but the truth is that they don't. The truth is that I am done waiting for them to give their page of the story so I can put the chapter away. I just have to write around their parts and leave it as is. But also knowing that that particular chapter of my life is done. The hard part is accepting the fact that sometimes God places people in your life for a single purpose - and when that purpose is fulfilled there was no intent of maintaining those relationships. Some people were your best friends in high school or college and that was their purpose. 10 years later you may not talk to them, and that's ok because they were only in Chapter 1 of your book. By the time you get to Chapter 3, there are different characters. Some people maintain a reoccurring role, while some disappear, and even others leave the story completely and somehow make it back in.

The tricky part is figuring out who are the people worth fighting for and who are the characters that are meant to fade into the background. Anyone that causes you pain or tears and is not a positive addition to your life, is probably someone that was there for a temporary time period. Perhaps they taught you something in the way that they acted or the things that they did. Closure is identifying that your time is too valuable to WASTE with people that do not value you. Sometimes the people we need to be reaching out and talking to are the people that would do the same for us if the roles were reversed.

Everyone can be in your audience, but a select few get to be in the front row (paraphrasing Rev. G. Ross)

Photo credit: http://www.fotosearch.com/BLD060/bld013873/

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interim Post - New Song

I haven't written in a while, so in the meantime here's a song that I like:

"If I Die Young" - The Band Perry

Well, I like the beat and everything. It's a bit morbid, but pretty vocals.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011

There's no real way to describe the events I'm about to tell you about. I will do my best, but unless you were there, and you tried it yourself, you probably won't really understand. Sounding like an exclusive club . . . yes, of Warriors.

Ok I'm going to recount this for you play by play so you can add your own theme songs; wipe black lines under your eye; and get your meanest groan on. In 3 . . .2 . . .1 . . .

"Dude!!! There's like 500 people here!!" We got off the shuttle bus to find hundreds of people surrounding this luscious land, either just having finished the race, about to start, or enjoying the warrior festivities like eating a huge turkey leg without any silverware. We picked up our registration, turned in our waivers - basically giving all rights to sue for injury - away, dropped off our gear, and mentally psyched ourselves up. We were among the marginal group of crazy folk, actually volunteering to run a 3.5 mile obstacle course of shear torture, lol. Well, at least it wasn't hot outside - it was damp and looking like it was about to rain.

My friends and I all lined up near the Start line; well, as near as we could get, with about 100 people in any given wave. And we waited. No one had a watch or cell phone because you knew it would get muddy. You wore just the bare essentials. People had on costumes, crazy decorations on their body, hats, you name it. All in the name of good fun. We're grunting and continuing on like warriors, but little did we know. Grabbed some before pictures and then the countdown began. They counted from a muffled 10 to 3 . . . 2 . . .1 . . . and a loud horn sounded. Everyone pretended to run because there were about 99 people in your way, so you are really at a comfortable walk/jog. We walked/jogged through the dirt as our competitors moved up fast out of our way; and we completed our first obstacle of Muddy Mayhem. Not so bad, we thought. This dash may just be a piece of cake. We continued on to Crusader's Castle, basically a great bottleneck to break up the crowd. It looked like a Castle and fort from back in the hay day.

Not too shabby Warrior Dash, not too shabby. At this point I'm making goals for next year to run more and thinking - I may just do this again. This isn't that bad. What was all the hooplah about? Sheesh. Then we get to this stage in the middle of the woods that we have to crawl under. They called it Blackout. The ends have been covered with black cloth and you can't see, so you are just crawling through dirt and leaves and branches. This is the first really strenuous semi-warrior-like activity. Within a minute we're moving to the next one. Go TEAM!!

And then there was Teetering Traverse. Planks of wood running up and down about 3 feet lay before us. Going up wasn't so bad, but going down was very scary. "Must not fall, Must not fall" is what everyone is repeating to themselves. Obstacle number 4 complete. By now we are seeing how they weed out the fast and the slow. I'm not worried about time though. My only goal was to finish. Running to the next obstacle was tons of fun. We ran through 2 feet of mud, grabbing at shoes and dragging people down. Left and right pre-warriors were falling. When someone fell I tried to get in front of them so I at least knew I wouldn't be in last place (horrible, I know, but you gotta do what you gotta do . . .). I run to Barricade Breakdown and see a series of wooden fences to jump over, followed by barbed wire to crawl under. How bad can this be? I see them do it in movies all the time. Yeah, so these walls were 5 or 6 feet tall, so you really had to push yourselfs up with your arms (I was really impressed with my flexing muscles, lol) then propel your leg over. Yeah, after doing this once or twice it gets real old, real quick. I think we had to do this like 6 times. So your arms and legs are a bit sore and then you must continue running. Yes, run run run, that's all everyone was doing.

I did misspeak earlier - my goals were to 1) Just to finish and 2)Not be the last person. Tunnels of Terror wasn't so bad - basically crawling inside 3ft wide tubes. I did forget about the whole crawling one time and I bumped by head. Luckily it was dark, so I don't think anyone saw. By this time I was on my own - I told my pre-warrior friends to go on without me. I was doing the at-my-own-pace-and-dont-yell-at-me-to-go-faster race. Baby steps people, baby steps, lol. So I'm running and wondering what the next obstacle is when it hits me. Neck-height string was taut between the trees and it was like that scene in Ocean's Eleven with all the lasers and he's trying to grab the jewel in the middle. Remember that? That was an awesome scene. Ok, so I digress; Arachnophobia, as it was called was tricky, but a good time.

As you can see my recounts can get pretty wordy so I'm just briefly touch on Deadweight Drifter, Rio Run, and Slithering Swamp. We ran through the stream with trees and brances and logs in the way, jumping over them to get to our destination. Some trees had like thorns sticking out (ouch, yes it did catch me) so you had to be careful which side to jump on. Plus like I said you had 99, ok, honesty by this time, 20 people breathing down your neck to get out of their way. Then we ran through 4 feet of water to the other side. It was actulaly a nice break and nice way to cool off. Oh, and by run, I mean enjoy the scenery and walk really fast. That of course made the following dirt path all muddy, so you are watching the ground trying not to slip and bust up your ankle like the girl we saw in line when we were dropping off our gear and she was picking up hers. Definitely a helpful remider to be careful.

And then, yes this deserves its very own paragraph. And then you get to the Great Warrior Wall.

It's bringing back bad memories, I might have to write this rather quickly.

So, yes, the Great Warrior Wall. You are running and running, and doing even more running. And you glimpse some barricade out of the corner of your eye, but you really have no idea what it is you are about to do until you reach it. Then you get there. There stands about a 20 ft high wall of wood. There is a rope with a couple of knots in it and pieces of wood sticking out for foot support. Your shoes are muddy from running in all the water and then dirt. I back up and try to pick my spot. I'd like a good spot that I can take my time. I'm also watching to see what other people are doing. That doesn't look so bad, I think to myself. I got this!! Well, I grab on to the rope and realize how slippery everything is. Wow, who thought of doing this with all this mud on your feet? Anyhow, when in Rome, plus I wanted to finish each obstacle. I didn't want to skip any - then I wouldn't really earned my warrior hat. So I grab on again and hoist myself up. After 2 knots I pretty much have to finish or it's a long way down. . I get to the top and am wondering how in the world to get to the other side. You have to swing your leg over and at some point let go of the rope - the only thing between you and the ground. I stayed on top of the barricade for some time trying to figure out which body position would work. If I swung my leg over but didn't have a good grip I could slip. If I let go with my hand and tried to swing my leg over I might miss the footstep. It was a mess. Needless to say there were only two options down - either I fall, or I climb. So I sucked up all the gusto I had that made me sign up for this crazy race in the first place and swung my leg over, holding on for dear life. Then I climbed down. I definitely did a little Rocky jump with the hands in the air when I got to the ground. Of course, there wasn't too much time for celebration as I ran to the next obstacle.

The last leg was a bit of a run or jog/walk depending on who you ask. Then we have a Cargo Climb with a huge rope net. Then we got to jump on top of junkyard cards in Road Rage. We were almost at the finish line and crawled through mud water, under barbed wire and on top of sharp pebbles that hurt your knees and hands.

Finally, I ran and jumped over two fire pits in the Warrior Roast; crossed the finish line; and took a victory picture with my Warrior friends.

That, my friends, is Warrior Dash. I don't know that I'd do it again - not sure it meets my safety standard, but definitely a fun time, and something to cross off my to-do list.

-Warrior Mokah

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Decorating Temporary Spaces

For those of you that rent, you may find these tips helpful.

I love renting. You stay in a place for a year or two, then you move somewhere else. You get a change of scenery, even if you stay in the same city/town. You can try different layouts, and it is somewhat of an art to work with different spaces. The challenge, however, is decorating a place that isn't yours. Depending on your lease, and the agreement you have, you may or may not be able to paint, but let's face it, why paint if you know you are moving soon? Then you just have to paint it back, and from someone who has literally moved over 10 times, the only thing you want to do when you are moving out is get your stuff into the new place and hand in the old key.

So, in my last apartment I discovered these temporary stickers from Linens 'N Things (before they went out of business). They are reusable, as long as you stick them back onto the wax paper they came on, and you can easily move and readjust them. I took them off the old wall, and brought them to my current apartment.

Like most apartments, I had boring creme-colored walls. I can't paint (or I don't feel like looking through the fine print to see if I can) but I need my personality to shine through the drabness. So I started playing with these circles in my bathroom. There were different sizes, so I just made a artistic border around the vanity mirror. The picture is a little dim, but it really makes the bathroom pop.

I took these same dots and decided to create a point of interest [for the eye] in my bedroom. I placed dots above the closet space, to add some color to the wall, and I followed the same color motiff by the curtains, to draw your attention. The one trick is to do not overdo it.

I also learned how to powerdrill and drilled in that curtain rod - not an easy feat, I tell you. But I wanted to be able to hang curtains. I know I will end up patching that hole before I leave, but it makes the room feel home-y to have curtains up. I was a little disappointed after hanging the curtains, because it still felt like the wall was missing something, and adding the dots has had a nice effect, but adding a colorful border.

Lastly, I bought some decals (RoomMates Peel & Stick Wall Decals) at A.C. Moore on Friday and I couldn't wait to hang it up. I pretty much copied the suggested layout and put that over my bed, and I love the way it looks. There were additional flowers, but I thought it was a little much, so I decided to add it to the living room, over the couch.

Decals are a great way to spruce up a place and they are so easy and fun to add. There are plenty to choose from, so I definitely suggest using them. And if you can be creative and put them on creative spaces, more power to you.

Lastly, I got a roll of peelable color at A.C. Moore, yup, there was a clearance sale when I stopped by. And I bought this yellow roll. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with it but it looked like something I could work with. I wasted a couple of feet trying to make something artsy, but I decided to just insert a splash of color on the creme-colored area between the closets. I just went with it and starting laying it on the wall (It took two strips, overlapped). And I ended up with this:

Voila! I think it adds a funky fresh face to the wall, and it makes me happy to look at. I could potentially have gotten a lot of rolls and tried to color a small space, but I really think less is more in this case. I like checking out this bloggers page: http://lovinglivingsmall.com/ for additional ideas on small spaces.

So, have fun with it, and if my tips helped you leave me a comment!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Clearing my Head

I love times of renewal. There are two times a year when I feel as though I have the chance to start over. One is New Year's for obvious reasons of physically starting a new year. And the second is the season of Lent. During this somber period of reflection, it's a pivotal time to really take a good look at within and come out a better person. So one of the things I've been "trying" to do for the past couple of months is to minimalize and life a simpler lifestyle.

Minimalizing consists of not only minimizing the amount of material objects one possesses, but also on continuing that effort in other aspects of your life. Really thinking about if you need something or if you just want it. It's a more sustainable way to live, it's very cost effective, and it's a lot less stressful than having a lot of "junk."

Over the years I have noticed people and their stuff. The one question I sometimes ask (sometimes silently) is "Where is all your stuff?" And some people just don't have "stuff" laying around. It's a foreign concept for me. But it makes total sense. You know how much money I could save if I got a smaller apartment? Or if I was able to move more easily and not have to have movers and such? How many times have you NOT moved or NOT gone somewhere because of the hassle of carrying so much weight around. I'm not as drastic as some, but if you are really interested check out the Time Article on the 100 Thing Challenge.

Anyhow, I digress. What I want to accomplish this year, and it's getting a true kickstart over the next 40 (minus 7) days is to clear my life, and by life I mean apartment, and by apartment I mean space, and by space I mean head. Physical clutter and just this attitude of having to hold on to "stuff" is a burden. And to be free of it is an awesome feeling (I hear). I think that physically clearing the clutter and getting rid of the junk will allow for emotional clutter to be cleared. How many times have we not done something because "well I need to clean" or "I need to finish this book before I do that(the book that sits under the pile of other books you haven't read because you were busy looking for a thumbtack in a pile) ." I think part of the mystery of why we continue to have clutter is the fear of not having anything to hide behind. Then there are no excuses as to why we are not doing something. There's ample room, ample time, and ample everything else that we could possibly use to delay the one thing that we actually need to do.

I've got a lot planned that I need to take care of, like 30 books before 30, getting published, writing that which can be published, completing Warrior Dash, and some other personal goals. So I don't have time to waste looking for the same papers all over again, and digging through piles to find a business card. The time is now. Life is too short. So, with the aid of books like Throw Out Fifty Things (Blanke, Springboard Press 2010), blogs, and prayers, I hope to start making moves. "You can't move forward into the future when you're constantly sucked back into the past"(Blanke).

The time is now!!

See you on the flip side!

As always comments are loved. No registration required.
Image credit: http://emotionalclutter.com/

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BBD - The Fall of Man

I've decided to start a series called the Bible Broken Down, or BBD for short. It will really be my thoughts and commentary on things I am learning as I get more involved with studying the Word of God, aka The Bible. Even if you aren't Christian, it may give you summaries of things that we believe, so feel free to peruse. Questions/comments on beliefs/theology are welcome, as long as they are respectful. A strong foundation can withstand any question. And I'll do my best to answer or give my opinion. Just keep in mind that I am no theologian.

Ok, so just an explanation for those who may not be familiar - The Fall of Man refers to that instance where everything just went downhill. You may have heard the story of Adam & Eve: Eve gets tricked by a snake to eat the forbidden apple, shares it with Adam, God finds out and banishes them from the Garden of Eden. From that day forward Man is cursed. It feels like everyone always blames Eve. Adam represents men and Eve represents women, so we've been fighting for ions, lol.

I am recapping a great discussion we had tonight. Above is the abbreviated version that we are used to hearing about Adam and Eve. But let's just look at this a little bit further. Some of what I learned tonight was pretty surprising, because I had never looked at it that deeply.

So God creates the world. He makes light, water, animals, you name it. When you get to Genesis 1:27 (NIV version)

So God created man in his own image

God creates man. He doesn't yet have a name, but we later find out it's Adam, so I will call him Adam. God tells Adam

Genesis 1:29
"I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground - everything that has breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

So Adam has it made. He can eat anything he wants. He's the only human around. Him and God are chillin.' God then made the Garden of Eden and he put Adam there to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:16
And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

The establishment of rules and boundaries. Now where was Eve? This was an interesting question that was asked. Because I guess I assumed that Eve was around when God originally said not to eat the forbidden fruit. But nope, Eve hadn't even been created yet. Eve does not come into existence until Genesis 1:22. Moving right along to the next chapter we are hearing the conversation between the serpent and Eve.

Genesis 3:1-3
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden' ?" The woman said to the serpent "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.' "

Ok, a lot just happened right there. First of all there is no text surrounding how Eve found out the rule about not eating the forbidden fruit (fruit, not necessarily an apple by the way). We almost have to assume that Adam told her because God never said she couldn't touch the fruit. Adam might have added that in - he's like, hey don't eat from that tree, matter of fact, just don't touch it. Sometimes we just want to get our two cents in when we should just leave it be. Next Eve is talking to a serpent, not a snake slithering on the ground. It wasn't strange to her that she was having this conversation so the serpent probably resembled her or something that could comfortably hold a conversation with an upright person.

So then the serpent is trying to trick Eve. See, he's already playing on the fact that she is tempted to taste the forbidden fruit. It's the human instinct - as soon as someone tells you don't touch this or don't do that or don't EAT that, that is exactly what you want to do. Even though they had EVERY other fruit and tree in the world.

Genesis 1:4-7
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened...

The serpent is manipulating what Eve says that God said to make her doubt herself. He may have touched the fruit to show that it didn't kill him and if one part of her statement was false, then probably the other part is as well. He's trying to get her to see the unfairness is not being able to have that knowledge. He is prodding her temptation. She wants to taste the fruit, c'mon who wouldn't want to know what the one thing in the world you are not allowed to have tastes like? And where is Adam? The text says that he was with her. Why did he know stop her from talking to the serpent? Or why, oh why, did he taste the fruit? Because he also wanted to know what this fruit tastes like and he just saw his wife taste it. What's the harm, right? Even though God who has given them everything and directly told him not to. He is going to listen to his wife, who was being tricked by a serpent.

And as soon as Adam eats the fruit they realize that they have done something wrong - this is their eyes opening. The begin to know the difference between good and evil. Before they were living in pure utopia, where they didn't have a care in the world. And so the curse begins. God is furious and he calls for Adam - Where are you? Adam tells Him he was hiding. God asks him if he ate from the tree. And he says

Genesis 3:12
The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Talk about throwing under the bus! Not only does he just put it all on Eve, he blames God too - 'if you hadn't put that woman with me . . .' So if you continue reading the rest of Chapter 3 you will see that God curses the serpent and makes him crawl on his belly (now he is a snake). To the woman he increased pains in childbearing. And to Adam man is cursed to work the land.

Genesis 3:19
"...By the sweat of your brow will you eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; from dust you are and to dust you will return."

(Where we get the expression 'ashes to ashes' that they say at funerals.)

So recap:
God creates the world and then makes man. He puts man in the Garden of Eden and tells him to take care of it, only not to eat from the tree in the middle; everything else was his choosing. God creates woman from man. Man apparently tells Woman about the rule with the tree. Serpent asks Woman if she can't eat anything in the garden. Woman says, "no we can eat everything but from that one tree. " "That one tree? Really? Why is that?" Woman says "if we eat or touch it we will die." Serpent convinces her that that's not the case. Woman eats fruit from tree and gives to Man. Man, knowingly, eats the fruit. God finds out and it's a wrap. Cursed is the serpent, Woman, and finally Man. Man and Woman kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and from reaching the Tree of Life. This is the Fall of Man.

Ultimately it looks like God blames Adam a bit more because he was the one He had directed on eating the fruit. He still holds the serpent and Eve accountable, but from that day forward Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden and never allowed to eat from the tree of life.

There's lots more that could be discussed, but I just wanted to share some of the interesting points we discussed. Hope you enjoyed!

Image taken from http://www.socksoff.co.uk/walls05.html

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Tutor's Dilemma

First of all STANDING OVATION to all the teachers out there!! You guys are shaping our future, and it is definitely not easy.

Easy is an understatement. Here's my story:

I signed up to tutor as a volunteer through my church. You don't really find out too much about the student, just their name and what grade they are in. So we had our first session and I met with him and his mother. We'll call him Daniel. So he's a 13 year old in the 6th grade.

Week One - we reviewed his progress report and looked at the subjects he was having trouble in. I asked that they bring books or homework next time so that I know what types of things he's doing in school.

Week Two - No books or homework. This kid comes empty handed to tutoring. Ok, this is mind boggling to me, because what exactly am I supposed to tutor you in kiddo? So somehow he said he was taking Spanish class, so I started doing basic Spanish with him. We practiced counting to 20 and telling time. This gets a little tricky because I wasn't sure how much he had learned, so I really wanted to help with things he was learning in school, rather than teach him more advanced things.

Around this time I started venting to my friends. I was encouraged to not give up on this little inner-city at risk youth, because I could be the one that helps him. And someone asked me - "What does he want to do when he grows up?" and I had no clue. I guess I hadn't bothered getting to know him and what he wanted to do. Note to self.

Week Three - Still no homework or books. Honestly, at this point I was pretty ticked off. I'm driving out of my way to help this little brat and he doesn't have any homework or books with him. Seriously? So we do some more math that I make up, but I'm not really feeling like I'm helping him because I have no idea if he's even learning this stuff in school. But keeping in mind with what others had suggested I started asking him questions about what he wanted to do when he grew up. Of course - he wants to play basketball (Why is this every little Black boy's dream?? argggg). I asked him what position he plays and he told me center. Well he must have short classmates because he wasn't that tall. So I ask him what else he likes "I don't know" - the all too common line I was soon to hear for weeks.

Week Four - It's a new year. I want to start fresh and put back what happened behind us (I was pretty upset with his mother for not sending him with homework/books/etc). So we meet and he FINALLY has brought some work!! I was holding in my joy and giggles until I saw that he was a handout that the substitute teacher gave out. Oh well, this is what we work on. So it's an assignment about the life cycles of animals and plants. I made him read the page out loud and then we STRUGGLED to answer the questions. Each time he writes down something he puts the pencil down, as if he doesn't know that he needs to finish the WHOLE page. And then he's guessing. You remember in 6th grade how the answers were in the paragraph; you just had to find the sentence that had the question in the form of a phrase. So we go to answer the questions and he's saying words that sound like they would be the answer and looking up at me for confirmation. So I tell him to stop guessing and if he's not sure he should reread the paragraph. So that was a grueling hour. All the while he's giving me this attitude like I don't want to read this; I don't know the answer; I don't want to be here. At some point he says I want to do Spanish and I say well you did not bring any Spanish homework, so we are going to work on what you brought. (My tone here is merely frustration. I was nicer to the kid).

Week Five - We had a week cancelled due to the snow, so this was this past Wednesday. I had told his mother he was not cooperating so nicely, so she decided to sit in on the tutoring session. I know she meant well, but I'm not sure it was the best idea. Firstly we had actual 6th grade homework - math word problems, so for the first time I actually know what he's working on. Secondly, his mom had given me a workbook to work on with Daniel whenever we had spare time. So the word problems are not that difficult, but again I'm not sure how the teacher does it so hopefully I'm not confusing the kid. The problems are as such:

There were thirty airplanes in the sky that day. Four-fifths of them were blue. How many were not blue?

So there are two ways to do that problem. We know that 1/5 are not blue, so take 30, divide by 5, and you get 6. But there's another way. 30 times 4/5 would be the number of blue planes (24), so then 30-24 is the number that is not blue = 6. Anyhow, this is just an exercise in interpreting the problem into numbers and then doing the math. So I walked Daniel through the problem, always making him write on his paper. So after 3 problems you would think he would kind of get the hang of it. Nope, not really. And at this point I don't know if he really just doesn't get it or is it because he's not trying. Mind you it doesn't help that his mom is there also answering the questions (out loud) and then he repeats what she says. I would silently shake my head at her and then continue to ask him the question. And then she would tell me that he's lazy and I really don't like people talking about their kids right in front of them. So I respectively nod and go back to the kid and say ok let's try this. I will have to talk to her about that on the phone.

Anyhow, he tried so many excuses to not do the work. He asked to go to the bathroom. Normally I would say yes but his mom was there so said "no, you can go when you are finished." I noticed that he did not use the restroom before they left to go home, so it had been just another tactic (Note to self). He was constantly rubbing his eyes and leaning back in his chair like he had better things to do. And then he mumbled to himself, but loud enough for us both hear, "I don't want to be here."

So that's where I am with this kid. I'm not vested. I could stop tutoring him anytime I want, but I really feel like there's a way to get in and then once that happens it will be better?

So I posted on facebook that I needed my teacher-friends' help. Here are some of the tips I got:

  • A couple comments on how you can't tutor someone that doesn't want to be tutored
    True, but little kids/teens need to be guided. They don't know what they need yet, so just because they don't want to do their homework doesn't make it an option. In college you can choose not to do your homework, you're an adult
  • Find out what he's interested in and related the schoolwork to that
    Great idea. So I know he likes basketball and skating. More on that later, I thought of a possible activity
  • Search online for information. Maybe he's afraid of failure. Try books at the library. Also, you could try talking to the teachers
    Great ideas!! So I looked online and found some interesting videos and games that we could play (assuming I can get WiFi on my laptop at the church. Or at least I could suggest the websites to his mother. I probably wouldn't talk with his teacher, since that is really something his mother should do. I was also able to find curriculum of schools in this state (not necessarily his school) and that was very helpful to see what they are learning in other subjects
  • Disguise learning into games
    We are on to something people!!
  • Relate it to rap
    Ok mad respect to the teachers on TeacherTube.com. I found some hilarious stuff on there. And then I saw some videos from School House Rock - do you guys remember that? That was great, so I will definitely be utilizing some videos. As for me and rapping about fractions? Ha! We'll have to see about that.
  • Offering Rewards
    I will consider this but it becomes iffy when I'm buying things. I could give him fake money each time he gets something on his own; then at the end of the school year if he has enough fake money he can have a basketball or something? I think those are only 10 bucks or so. (Although this is a whole different topic on bribing kids to succeed; when does it become hurtful?)
  • Another friend suggested I showed him "Scared Straight," a tv show that used to take juveniles into prisons and basically have the inmates rough them up and scare them.
    I watched a couple of the episodes and well, wayyyyyyyy too much profanity so unless I find a censored version, I won't be able to do that.

So I love that so many people gave me their ideas. I did some more research online and came up with some other options. Tell me what you think - I will be using some of these this next Wed.

  • He doesn't want to do his homework. He wants to play video games and basketball. So how about I pull a reverse psychology Bill Cosby trick and tell him ok, then we won't do homework today. If you want to be a basketball player you have to practice for hours a day. And then take him outside (well I'll watch him from the inside) and have him practice dribbling for an hour with his left hand in the cold. (muhahahahah. Ok sorry, not but really this is an idea).
  • I made a list of jobs that I found online (These are all powerpoint slides I made).

    There are about 5 jobs on the list that you don't need a high school diploma for - because if he doesn't finish 6th grade he won't get into high school. Working at McDonald's or serving tables or driving a taxi cab. Max salary is about $23,000/yr. So then I'm thinking I show him that list. Then show him some cars that he might want to drive when he's older. Lastly I ask him to choose where he wants to live and he can choose the type of dwelling space. The whole point is to show him that he needs to make more money to buy the that he likes, and in order to do that he has to finish 6th grade. If that's not as tangible then I was going to have him furnish his house and go through IKEA ads and stuff so that he could pick out his furniture and decorations. We'd also go through the grocery circulars and maybe that would help him realize how much stuff costs.

  • The next idea was to pretend he was a high-paid basketball player and give him fake checks for $500,000. Then I tell him that 1/5 of that money goes towards his agent and he gets to keep the rest. Then he makes out a check to the agent. When he forks it over and gets it wrong I show him how even if he's a basketball player people can steal from him if he doesn't know basic math. If he says then he'd do it in his calculator then I whip out the calculator and hand it to him. If he says that he'd hire someone to check the numbers then I would tell him that they would steal from him too and there's no way for him to check it.
  • Lastly I can show him the youtube videos and raps on fractions, although that might not work if I can't get onto the internet at Church. So I don't want to count on that.
  • Additionally, I think there are some things he can do at home that would help, but I don't want to offend his mother. For one, when I was in 6th grade I got to watch tv for an hour and then I had to do my homework. If he's not doing his homework then he should not have privileges such as playing video games, watching tv, or talking on the phone. I don't think his mom can check his homework (which is a downside) but she can at least see that he shows his work.

Ok that's if for now. Let me know what you think I should do for Wednesday. And I'll keep you guys informed of how this goes. Hopefully he will not be a statistic and we can reach him!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Senseless violence

After yesterday's shooting in Tucson, Arizona, aimed at assassinating Congresswoman Gaby Giffords, six people were killed and Giffords is in critical condition after being shot in the brain. Democracy was happening at the time of the shooting, with a community meeting with the Congresswoman and local citizens.

They have a suspect right now, and are investigating.

The only thing I want to say is that the freedom of speech is not only about saying whatever you want, but also having to peacefully listen to others. And this is an example of how someone who doesn't agree with a bill being passed or political views (I presume) took violent measures to make their point. That is not what the 1st amendment is about. That is not what democracy is about.

Condolences to all those affected.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

2011: I dare you to Live

Happy New Year!! It is 2011. For some reason I am super excited to be starting a new year. Why is that? I think it's because of all the new things that the flipping of the calendar entices. That the old year is finally behind us and whatever did not get done can be forgotten and we start over.

Take the plunge. To me, 2011 is about trying more things that you've never tried before; to challenge oneself; to possibly walk across your own personal tightrope, 1000 fee up in the air.

2010 was great and I tried a ton of things from oil painting, to building a bridge, to starting a new job, to putting myself out there on the love front, to letting go of things that were not necessarily beneficial to me and to learning how to say no (You can't do everything and go everywhere).

So I was reading Melanie's blog of things she has learned as she is turning 30 and it was a great list. It reminded me of all the knowledge I had picked up in the last year. The life of a twentysomething is very unique. You still get away with acting young and childish, but at the same time you have not yet reached your full potential and you know it. You know that there is a ton out there awaiting you, you just have to go and get it. Well, there's something umm, let's see, "special" about turning 30. It's not like there will be a drumroll and everyone gasp's saying "wow, she's 30," but there is definitely a HUGEEEEEEEE difference between 29 and 30. So us twentysomethings enjoy the fact that we are still young enough to do what we want before this wretched number. Well I'm not 30 yet, no where near it as far as I am concerned, but it is an ever present reminder that now is the time to get things done, to make moves.

There are a ton of things that I plan on working on this year, some of which I choose to keep blogless. One thing I will share, that has been an ever present theme over the last 2 years is about people. I have trouble moving on from people. A friend of mine reminded me that everyone comes into your life for a reason, and not all of these reasons are permanent. There were people that you met that you were meant to be close to in high school, college, grad school, work, social activities, Church, the gym, etc. And perhaps you had a great relationship with them at the time, but things change and it's ok to not have that same relationship when one of you moves on or has a major life change. It makes logical sense, but for some reason this was a very hard idea for me to grasp. I've been holding on to some things or getting mad about them, when really I should just reflect on the good times, appreciate those, and get on with my life. So I will work on doing that in 2011. I simply do not have the energy to spend keeping up with people who are not thinking about me.

The other major goal is to get back into shape. Mainly it's tackling the dreaded middle expansion region we all face as we get older and our metabolism slows down. I don't think I ever went through the Freshman 15 in college. I think I actually lost weight because I didn't have that much time to eat. But, now is the time to get into the best shape of our lives; before marriage and kids ruin your figure forever, lol. (somewhat dramatizing).

I am excited to start a new year because it is the ritualistic cleaning of the chalkboard and starting with a fresh slate. In 2011 I dare you to Live.

Photo Credit: http://www.colinoproperties.com/images/2008/10/tightrope.jpg