Shall We Dance?

The whole world should be Planet Fitness… Check out the no judgement zone   You have to love the slogans. “No critics, One life, One body, One chance , etc.”  You have to love this place.  First of all, for teachers, it is a mecca for purple pens!  Free in a cup as you exit.  I never leave without one.  Second, people do not come in fancy, expensive gym clothes.  This is not the home of Athletica or LuLu Lemontree….No- this is a place where real people come in gray sweats and oversized shirts that look lived in, with letters that are either faded or worn off. The people also come in different shapes and sizes, which is comforting.  The gym has an inviting wooden floor when you enter, it looks like a dance floor, with a wooden pattern that highlights the yellow and purple walls and all the awesome slogans.. This is my kind of gym.

As I do my time on the treadmill, I blunt the awareness of exercising by bringing headphones and watching TV  On weeks when I get to the gym, I am well informed about politics and celebrities.  If I am at the gym, it is either CNN or Love it or Leave it, and I am guessing if the couple will buy a new house or stay.  I wouldn’t give you two cents for this show if I were home, but at the gym it takes my mind off of the effort I am making to walk faster than I usually do and to include an incline in the routine.

That said, the treadmill is a two for one deal.  It’s good for you and you get all the news that’s fit to print, and some that isn’t, while getting exercise  So today I went to the gym with my husband.  At the end of the workout I was feeling proud of myself for having made the time to come.  I didn’t do anything spectacular, but I did burn off a few calories and build some stamina. 

I was ready to leave when I heard it.  “Be my Baby”  Oldies but goodies…so we looked at each other and laughed and we both knew we had to dance.  And, dance we did, in our unmatched sweats, with no judgement!

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Guessing what it would be like to be you, and wishing you the best

Saturday Morning at School

I went to school this morning for our parent meeting.  A counselor is working with our Latino  parents to help them understand  better  how our system works, and to talk about being a family, and how best to support our children.

As I look at the parents, I think what it must be like to….

Be playing catch up in another language to penetrate your child’s world

Experience adolescence with your child when the rug of cultural norms has been pulled out from under you

Sit in a library filled with books in a language you do not understand, but at the same time radiating possibilities and bridges to a brighter future

Carry  the worry and the wear as well as the hope and the faith, all in one package

Float across  the thin veil  separating laughter and tears.

To overcome difficulty……..You are not alone.  If life here were a tightrope act, you would find that you are walking with a very large safety net beneath you..

Take  the first step.  You are here.  You are putting yourself out there, embracing what is, and working towards what could be

Look inside and outside every day…To look at life as  mirrors and doors,  an opportunity to reflect on life, past and present, and a bridge to the opportunities that the future dangles before you

Come here, with your world  getting  bigger, and  mine as well.

Know that your child will always be part of at least two cultures.  Be sure they get and keep the best of both

Say yes to the universe,  and the universe will unfold for you 

Climb a mountain and turn around     You have already seen your reflection in my snow covered hills.  The landslide will not bring you down.  You have already made your peace with it and staked out a new  home.

Welcome!

Haruto’s Last Day

  (Names have been changed to protect the innocent)

“Haruto is leaving Friday, can we have a party for him?  And, Can it be a surprise party?” “I have an idea. After math class, we will bring Haruto to Mr. Finney’s room and tell Haruto that the teacher wants to see him.”   “ Yeah, but then all those other kids will be there and we don’t want to pull them into this.”  “Wait I have a better idea, Elvira will take Haruto to the library and the librarians will…..”  Shh he’s coming.  Let’s not talk about it okay ‘ “Jose overheard us and he is a spy  He will tell him.  He always tells everything.”  I reassure the class that I will talk to Jose and we can pull this off as a surprise.  Haruto Is going back to Japan.  In the short time he has been here, he has touched a lot of hearts. 

So today is Friday.  Students breeze into my room and start setting the stage for Haruto’s arrival  The table is covered with food and lemonade   Haruto  has the gift of getting along with everyone, so the reception is enthusiastic.  When he enters the room, students turn on the lights and start singing.  He is shy, he looks at the floor with a smile, that the floor cannot return.  His classmates do.  He hands me a beautiful card, that he wrote himself and I am having one of those aww I am going to miss you moments,  He attended my evening book club as well as my class  He was a member of the self-named dragon squad; Haruto and two other boys who became a team.  They were a little bit “us against the world,” but filled with positive energy.  Every week I heard about Naruto, a favorite read.  John won’t be able to open his locker without Haruto to do the combination for the two of them…. And Elvira won’t have anyone to eat lunch with. They are overcome by their loss, when I open my email.

I was thinking about how every person brings something to the group and in leaving takes something away.  A class is a very delicate balance, a chemistry project of sorts. or an old recipe passed on by word of mouth.  You can never be quite sure about the ingredients and it never comes out the same way twice .  Today Haruto left and he takes with him his anchor into calm and his simple smile that says “content.” Back to that email …..there will be a new student starting in that same class on Monday.  He is from Sweeden. He is an unopened package, a surprise for the class  Should I tell them that the leprechauns turned Haruto into Sven? 

As the wheel turns, a new student, with his own new gifts, will become part of the family Monday.

When I left this afternoon I thought that Haruto was getting his final goodbye from the skies in the form or roaring thunder and lightening storm.  The lightening was saying I am taking your picture for the class to preserve this day  The thunder was applauding his work   But then, strangest of all, came the frozen rain ice crystals pelting the ground like a cap gun.  It was just at that moment that I had flung open the school door to make a run for my car.  I didn’t realize it was this bad until I stepped out. 

I thought, wow, this is crazy!  How much worse would it be if, in the middle of this storm, I had to

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  • Get to the hospital to deliver a baby
  • Take outdoor wedding pictures
  • Chase my dog down the street
  • Push a baby home from the park in a stroller
  • Catch a plane for Japan…. Maybe you should stay here Haruto

The Dance wasn’t Irish

I wrote this just as our blog was starting when I got a surprise phone call Then, I got all caught up in the Irishness of the month of March,and I am just now getting around to posting about my special phone call.

Christmas Cards are a way of life.  They are a traditional way of maintaining and stoking the embers of long term connections.  Sometimes we have friends we love but life throws us into the orbit of busy and before we know it, a few years slip away, and then a few more.  This was even more true in the era before Facebook, emails, and affordable long distance phone calls.

So this Christmas I sent a few cards to friends on my mind from the more distant past, like when I worked at the Kuwaiti Embassy Cultural Section years ago.  My blast from the past phone call came this morning.  We reminisced as I watched the snow fall.   She was my very grown up friend in my early years in DC  She was married and had a house, with furniture that matched in the suburbs.  She knew how to cook and best of all she knew how to dance.

  My friend taught Ukranian dance to young people in her community.  They were slated to dance in the bicentennial parade, July 4 1976.  One of her dancers got sick the night before and couldn’t dance.  The dances were in patterns and one person missing was a problem.  So, late the night before, I got the call  “Colleen, I am going to need you to dance”  “  “You mean Ukranian folkdance?”  “Yes”  “Okay when is the performance?”  “Tomorrow , it’s for the bicentennial parade”  “But Luba, it’s tomorrow and I don’t know anything.”  “You’ll be fine.  Can you come over tonight and let me teach you?”   So I arrived  around 10 P.M.  went to bed at 2 A.M. after being trained by my master teacher.  The next day I dressed in traditional Ukranian clothes and braided my hair with ribbons and flowers.  I placed the flower tiara in my hair and set out to dance down  Constitution Avenue.  My parents turned on the TV in Florida .  My mother suddenly shouts out to my dad in the next room  “John, Colleen’s on TV.”  “What? Where? “  “Right there.. on the left”  “That’s not Colleen, those are Ukranians, what are you talkling about?”  Thanks, Dad!  You missed my 15 seconds of fame…… I relived it all this morning talking to Luba.

Could Yoga be Irish?

We have yoga every Tuesday.  Today I arrived early, an unusual event.   I brought green shamrock cookies, somehow that isn’t the right thing for Yoga, but people ate them and enjoyed them anyway.  To bring the spirit of the month to class, I wore my wildly striped neon two tone green  leggings  with my black and green Irish dance school shirt. People laughed a little when I walked across the room to get my mat and I was fine with that.  We all need a  little more laughter in our lives.

Down dog, orchestra, sun salute, warrior pose, etc, etc.  Yoga terms flying free and I do this all in my crazy March outfit imagining that I am some kind of Celtic heroine, except I don’t really know any of those.   I will never be Brian Boru,  for example

Then mindfulness, created by  focusing on breathing and on the soothing voice of our Yoga instructor, brings me back to the moment  The moment is bathed in sunshine and  blossoming trees.  The corner studio, in a community center no less, is on the top floor with floor to ceiling windows.  So the naturel green from outside is becoming one with the green of our spirits.

A friend gave me a pin that reads ,”I’m Irish and keeping calm is not an option.”  I strive for “calm,” a worthy goal to be sure.  But I know that my passions, anxieties, excitement, and sense of wonder drive me too hard to maintain that calm.  So Yoga is a good new addition to our lives this year.  My husband and I take the class together and yes, it does help with the whole calm thing.  I’m not there yet, but the road to calm is good for me, and I see it down below as I gaze out the window of the Yoga studio.  

The road rises up, through the very windows of our studio, to meet us.  And as it does, cars zip by below, oblivious to the little community above, reflecting on life, movement, and the moment.  We stretch and stretch, hoping to revitalize our bodies and our souls. 

When St. Patrick’s Day goes Spanish

Feliz Dia de San Patricio

This is the poster one of my parents made tonight at our family  book club gathering.  We all made posters featuring books we were lucky to have read.  But one of my parents decided she just wanted to make a poster to take home to celebrate, making note of all she feels lucky about.  She now loves St. Patrick’s Day.  She really made me smile, wearing her green.

This is my 17th year of running a family book club for my students.  I have had different partners over the years.  The current librarians do this with me now, and I love holding our club with them and in the school library.  It makes the school a more inviting place for parents.  You really get to know the families in a much more personal way.  I mean how else could I get my parents in green?

Our snack: Irish breakfast tea and soda bread, as we watched videos of the parade and Irish dancers during our pizza time.  The last of our extended celebrations at school.  I took down my last couple of sparkling shamrocks, and put away my stickers, and green construction paper. 

El Dia de San Patricio is finally going to sleep  Time to turn down the lights…

Time to get some sleep and see if my wee friends at home are behaving themselves or creating more riddles…..

BTW  Here are the answers to yesterday’s riddles  The leprechauns didn’t type on my laptop this time, they just left me pictures to reveal the answers

Picture#1

Picture #2

He left a pipe cleaner pointing to the hole in the center of the donut……..

A bit far fetched, but what can you expect from a leprechaun?

The Next Day

The drawer was open.  Was it possible? Could they actually have come and left something on my laptop?  No! Who ever heard of a high tech leprechaun? But, a few lucky charms were spilled on the table and my laptop was slightly misplaced. Was somebody playing a trick on me? I opened it only to find this

Riddle 1:  Who am I?

You can see through me.

You don’t want to see too much or too little of me

Your life may even be threatened by my presence.

If you chase after me, I will take you to a rainbow..

You see me, you hear me, you cannot control me.

I am a guest you don’t want at your wedding

A friend, who helps you say goodbye

I come and go in my own time

“Go home,” the parade marshall said to me

“Not today, go home!”

“Go away,” the children tell me, we want to play

And so I  hide my tear stained face

“I want to sing with you,” Debbie said

“You won’t stop my parade,” said Barbara

Ireland owes its forty shades of green

To me, my friends

Who am I?

Riddle 2:  Who am I?

I am the part that is missing

I feel empty inside.

I have no future and no past.

I will never be first or last.

All around me is a world so sweet

That the icing on the cake makes me complete

You can only find me for a short time each year.

Then I go back into hiding and disappear.

Who am I?