Humanity

An Island of Peace and Quiet

“You have to be at peace with the fact that something might happen, and you might not make it through,” says Alexandra de Steiguer, the caretaker for the Oceanic Hotel, in Brian Bolster’s short documentary, "Winter’s Watch." De Steiguer has spent the past 19 winters tending to the 43-acre grounds of the hotel, on Star Island, which sits 10 miles off the coast of New England. In the long, wintry off-season, she is the island’s sole inhabitant. (via)

Reminds me of The Light Between Oceans, the book not the movie (that was terrible) and really makes me want to visit the hotel during the winter months.

Can you imagine what you could do and think up with all that time?

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Friday Thought : A Boy and His Dog

I listened to a great podcast recently, about a Boy and His Dog.

The boy, who had fallen on hard times, was selling his dog - his best friend - for a hundred dollars simply because he needed to eat. Being a writer wasn't paying any bills. Little Jimmy didn't really care, though. He wanted the nice dog, but for a better bargain. So Little Jimmy took advantage of the man and his plight and instead offered $25. The skinny kid sighed, knowing he needed to feed his wife and couldn't afford to feed his dog, and finally accepting $40.

Two weeks later, when a screen writer offered to buy that same dog for $200, Little Jimmy once again took advantage of the situation and refused to sell the dog for anything less than $15,000 AND a speaking role in the man's new and upcoming movie! The man had written the screenplay in four days and sold it for $35,000 dollars, only a few days prior.

The dog was Butkus. The skinny kid, Sylvester Stallone (pictured above). And the movie was Rocky.

Whenever I come to work, I am constantly encouraged and inspired by those of you who have chosen to live a Sylvester Stallone sort of life. You work hard, endure hardships, then rather than sitting in the mess of life, you find solutions. Thank you for being that for me, for your fellow colleagues, and most importantly, for the students who have the privilege of being in your presence.

I promise you, they notice.

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9/6/19 : Friday's Thoughtful Thought

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I don't know if you experience themes in you daily life, I know I do. Often actually. Almost weekly, an idea or truth or topic will somehow align itself perfectly and continually show up randomly throughout my days. Sometimes the themes are large and heavy, like the concepts of justice and humanity. Other times its something simple, like the importance of Hamlet being performed in prison. Other times it is something dark, like the role hate plays in our lives and surrounding society. My favorite "week of themes", though, was the one when Russia continually invaded my space and I was then fortunate enough to learn how three Russian men, at different times, prevented all out war against the US, saving thousands of lives.

This week was another one of those weeks, with the theme being, "You are the sum of the five people you hang out with most." It started with an email from my boss, Mr. Thompson, and ended with an early morning conversation with a fellow colleague, Mr. Truax, when he shared how most all of his teaching accolades can be traced back to his early years and the mentors he surrounded himself with. Between the two bookends, this theme continually crept into my thoughts through podcasts (Your Weird, by The Minimalists), my current morning reading (The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why it Matters, by Priya Parker), conversations with my son about whom he chooses to hang out with, conversations with some of staff about whom they decide to hang out with, and a conversation with my big sister about whom we decide to "let into her arena" (a phrase from Brene Brown and her brilliant Netflix special, A Call to Courage).

I appreciate the concept that we are the sum of the five people we hang out with most, largely because it’s true! Think of students and how the groups they cluster with are greater than the any of the present individuals, how it encourages kids to act and think in ways they may never do on their own (negative and positive). Think about the people we go to when we're tired or scared or hurt and how the advice they give, and the direction they point us toward greatly impacts the kind of people we are and will become. We are, most often, the sum of the five people we hang out with most.

But it isn't just the people that impact us. It's also the stories we surround ourselves with. News stories, the novels and non-fiction we choose to read, the movies and TV programs we binge or watch on a nightly basis, the podcasts we listen to, and the music that entertains us. These also play a crucial role in the summing up of who we are, how we interpret life and the world around, and how we choose to interact with that life and the world around.

This notion, this truth, that we are the sum of what we CHOOSE to surround ourselves with is deeply comforting to me because it means that although we are greatly susceptible to our surroundings, we are also in complete control. WE CAN CHOSE WHO WE LISTEN TO AND THE STORIES WE SURROUND OURSELVES WITH!!!

Who or what kind of stories are you surrounded by? Do they encourage you to sit in the stink and muck of the situation? Or do they sniff once and then move on and toward a solution? Do they feed frustration or hope? Are they healthy? Or are they toxic?

Because we are not water, simply following the path of least resistance, completely characterized by our immediate surroundings. We are human - we’re alive! - and therefore have a choice on how to respond, how to think, and how to ensure we are healthy by purposefully surrounding ourselves with people and ideas and stories that, as Kim Chambers says, "normalize greatness."

Who are your five that make up the sum of who you are? And perhaps more importantly, what are they - and you - making?

The answer to these questions has been on my heart and mind a lot this week.

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May we all work and play and live like Calvin. And then inspires others to do the same.

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8/30/19 : Friday's Thoughtful Thought

We moved into our new home almost three months ago, and for almost three months I have been putting off two simple tasks: fixing the back door to the house and fixing the bottom shelf in my closet. This last weekend I finally got to them both, and it took me less than 5 minutes to complete the task. Seriously. What was strange, though, was that it wasn't until after they were fixed that I realized just how annoying they truly were. Even now, when I walked near the back door or into my closet, there is a noticeable missing of anxiety that I wasn't even aware was there. With their broken presence gone, I truly do feel a lot better!

I don't know about you, but I tend to do this often. I ignore a simple task that nags at me everyday for little reason other than I just don't want to do it, or because I have other "more pressing things to do." But in reality, taking a literal 5-10 minutes out of my day to fix whatever it is that needs fixing truly relieves me of unneeded anxiety or annoyance, providing more space and patience to deal with the bigger, more pressing things.

Do you have something like this? Have you already noticed a broken or misunderstood teaching procedure? A squeaky or jammed drawer? The grumblings of a possible disruptive student or behavior? Or is there something else either in your classroom or home that, every time you see it, use it, or think about it brings even the slightest discomfort ? If so, make time this weekend to fix it, now, before the year gets into it's groove, and relieve yourself of the little yet constant annoyance that will surely pester you for the rest of the year.

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Ryan Gosling's cereal could make you cry

In 2013, Ryan McHenry created the video series entitled Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal. It was met with much acclaim, catching the attention of Entertainment Online, Huffington Post, even Gosling himself who acknowledged McHenry in a tweet, writing, “I actually love cereal” (via) even though his movie appearances prove otherwise.

Then, in “late 2013, McHenry started experiencing a painful lump in his leg.” He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and discovered that it had spread to his lungs. “He announced the news on his Twitter page”, writing,

"I got told yesterday that I have cancer. I would just like to let you all know I'm staying positive and I'm going to fight it. Fuck Cancer." (via)

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Sadly, it didn’t work.

“After initial signs that McHenry had beaten cancer . . . {it} returned,” and on May 2, 2015 McHenry’s body succumbed to the deadly disease (via).

But not before one last comedic stand.

Two days before his death McHenry tweeted:

“Yesterday was my 10,000th day alive on this Earth and not one of you got me a card or anything..."

On May 5, Ryan Gosling posted this:

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Parkour: “Respect your environment. Respect people.”

“There’s no written code for Parkour, but pretty much every where you find the same principals . . . At some point, even the strongest person freezes on a jump. It teaches you humility and reminds you where you came from.” That’s why no one ever finishes a challenge alone . . . “Parkour was always about community” (pg. 154)

In his book, Natural Born Heroes, Chris McDougall is arguing that mankind can do much more than what we’ve come to believe. Heroes and acts of heroism were once normal, common, and expected. Now, they’re the exception. Largely because we’ve forgotten what our bodies can do. What they were made to do. And why they were made to do them: to live, and to serve.

Parkour, according to McDougall, is a modern day example of what we’ve lost. The real obstacle to Parkour isn’t strength, it’s trust. “I never knew what my body could do,” Shirley Darlington, a Parkour participant and leader of the movement, explains, “so it took a long time to build the confidence to throw my full weight into a movement” . . . “Once I did, it changed everything.”

Her body, her mind, and her sense of belonging.

She now runs a Parkour movement where on any given night, she will email her Parkour group telling them when and where to meet. From there, the city is their gym, their playground, their sanctuary. “You’re always on the edge of fear,” Shirley explained, “because your body senses it can do more than your mind will let it.”

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Cambodia : A home uprooted, a land displaced

photo by goprojectfilms.com

photo by goprojectfilms.com

“Never before have I witnessed the uprooting and displacement of land itself,” Mam said. She wanted to understand where all this sand was going, and how a country—considered one of the most affluent in the world—could destroy someone else's home to build its own. “It is already enough to be removed from one’s land,” Mam said. “It is another thing entirely to have one’s land removed as well” (via).

Decades following the dissolution of the regime, thousands of Cambodian families are experiencing a new wave of displacement. By talking with locals on the island of Koh Sralau, Mam found out that since 2007, the government of Cambodia has granted several private companies concessions to mine the country’s coastal mangrove forests. Each year, millions of metric tons of Cambodian sand are shipped to Singapore to expand that island nation’s landmass; Singapore has imported more than 80 million tons of sand so far. According to Mam, “The people and all the living creatures that depend on these forests for their livelihood are forced to cope with this massive loss.” In addition to displacing those who live and work on that land, Cambodia is also destroying its only natural barrier against erosion, rising sea levels, tsunamis, and hurricanes.

You can read the entire interview here.

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