Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Eagle Has Landed!

So, we just got the coolest new CF thing ever, and the girls aren't here to enjoy it! It is called an e-Flow. It looks like a little UFO, and it is designed to nebulize medications at a much faster rate. Dave and I played with it last night.

Not to worry... We put regular water in the e-Flow, since neither of us actually has CF and don't need any medicine. However, I have to say that I have a new respect for Dan and Sarah since inhaling nebulized water made me burst into such a coughing fit. Still, we couldn't resist and just had to try it out.
It runs off regular double A batteries. (It also has an AC adapter.) Excitingly, it is small and portable and quick, quick, quick! For those who aren't aware, people with Cystic Fibrosis spend a great deal of time taking breathing treatments and doing chest physiotherapy, just to be able to breathe. The other benefit is that it is almost entirely silent. Yes, that's right! SILENT! When the girls are doing treatments, my eardrums are usually ringing with the blaring of the television over the nebulizer and the vest.
The girls also got a new Smart Vest system last week. It is much smaller and easier to transport than their old system. We are working on getting a smaller 2nd vest, as well. Somehow, the insurance companies have never realized that the girls are not Siamese twins. We have always only had one vest machine, making it impossible for the girls to travel separately. Don't get me wrong, we have muddled through band trips and Italy vacations with the Acapella, but it doesn't work nearly as well for the girls.

Anyway, I'm completely thankful for all the wonderful new technology that has become available for my children. And, I absolutley love the idea of breathing through a little UFO. Beam them up, Scotty!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Magic of Community

This week at school, we read Magic Tree house #27: Thanksgiving on Thursday, by Mary Pope Osborne. The Magic Tree house Series is a wonderful series for children written in the historical fiction genre. In this series, Jack and Annie travel to places of significant historical events and join in the adventure. In Thanksgiving on Thursday, they experienced the first harvest feast with Governor Bradford, Priscilla and Squanto. The book informs children about what it must have been like in Pilgrim times in a fun and imaginative way.

However, Mary Pope Osborne also integrates a character lesson into each of these stories. This is something that I really love about the books. And, it is something that we have moved away from in education: character education. School is as much about helping children to learn how to behave appropriately, while building personal character, as it is about helping them to learn to read, write and calculate math. Some parents would disagree with me, and that is O.K. The parents who disagree are the parents who are doing their job. Sadly, it appears that parents who are spending time on character-building at home are sorely in the minority.

In Thanksgiving on Thursday, Jack and Annie are charged with the mission of finding the magic of community. They learn about the hardships the Pilgrims had to endure, helped prepare traditional foods for dinner, and attend the first Thanksgiving Feast. At the end of the story, Squanto offers the message that the children should learn to "Always be kind to those who feel different and afraid." I'm so hopeful that my students really got the importance of that message.

Being kind to those who feel different and afraid has come relatively easy to me. As a young child, my life was full of feeling different and afraid. Only through developing a spiritual life beginning in my late teens and early twenties did I begin to feel a part of the community of humanity. I started to understand that at some level, everyone feels different and afraid. Maybe alcoholism, drug addiction or poverty is a factor that makes a person feel separate. Maybe a person's sexual orientation, religious preference or intellectual abilities make a person feel different. Sometimes a person's physical appearance, race or health condition might cause a feeling of isolation. Whatever the issue, people seem to run from craving uniqueness to wanting to fit and blend as a part of a whole.

Thanksgiving is indeed upon us, and I am reminded that gratitude is a simple spiritual principle that can change my attitude in a matter of minutes. Making a list of all the things for which I am grateful for in life can make the biggest problems seem minute. Usually, once a week, I make a mental list of all the things I hold in thanksgiving, but I wish I could remember to use the principal whenever I start to feel "different and afraid". Making a gratitude list helps me to remember that I am not really so different after all. I imagine that the things I hold in gratitude are the things that most people hold in gratitude. Becoming aware that the child with horrible behavior in the morning might not have had breakfast, brings me to a place of compassion... Realizing that the teacher obsessed with physical appearances actually has deep-seated insecurity, helps me to be kinder and more patient... Understanding that the irate, irrational parent feels completely powerless and fearful, instills a sense of empathy. Being able to look at people remembering the commonalities, rather than focusing on the differences is something I want, and even a gift that graces me on occasion.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. ~Namaste'~