Monday, September 12, 2016

Resurrection

Alright guys. This is big in my world. It might not even be something you understand, but bear with me.

Today, I cleaned up my bench in preparation to do a little metalwork. I haven’t even set it up since I moved to Montana and did very little metalwork before we moved here. I am trying out a jewelry assembly position soon and I wanted to get everything ready. I’m hoping it will get me making my jewelry and sculpture again, too, as I have several projects I wanted to finish. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people say things to the effect of “you should be making jewelry and sculpture!” Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t really know, but there’s something no one knew, something I’ve been battling a long time with metalsmithing. The ghosts.


I was a different person in college. I mean, of course I was still me, but less… Humble? I guess you could say I was na├»ve, idealistic, insensitive, or oblivious. I was kind of an ass hole, and people didn’t call me out on it. Not generally, anyway. I guess the best phrase to describe me at that point in my life was “know-it-all.” I definitely always thought that I was right, and better. I know these issues were rooted in some serious insecurities and this obsession to be perfect and always better and I didn’t hold anyone else to any lower standards. Because of that, I could be cruel. I still sometimes torture myself by thinking of some of the awful things I did or said back then, with and to my metals family. I think of the critiques, where I picked mercilessly upon the work of others and didn’t hold myself back at all with one particular sad soul (you know who he is, metals folks). I thought I would explode with shame when my instructor Becky, who I held on a pedestal, took me aside and finally told me I had to back off. I went to the bathroom and cried instead. I shudder to think how bad it must have been in order for her to pull me aside and have to address it.

I made a lot of great friends in that metals shop, and I lost almost all of them. With many of those friendships, I honestly can’t tell you why, only that it was something I probably did. Some of them I do know why, and it was certainly something I did. I functioned back then on my own set of rules, ones that didn’t have much regard for other people and their feelings. To be honest, I was just so consumed with myself, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to be seen. It seems strange to me now, knowing how I acted, but also needing so much to be liked and approved of. It was pretty contradictory, but I didn’t see it back then. By the time I did, I was too ashamed to try to salvage those friendships. I guess I just sort of faded away, hoping all of it would fade away with me.

There are many ways I have changed and grown over the years, as people tend to do. I know I’m not perfect, I don’t try to be anymore. I do try to keep growing and be a better version of myself, but I’m less concerned with these impossible and ridiculous standards and more focused on love and acceptance. Gone are the days of not giving approval because I couldn’t even satisfy my own standards, but I hang on to the guilt. I’ve never been good at letting go, and that’s something that hasn’t changed, but hopefully will one day, with work. I still remember situations, things that happened, that make me cringe while I’m lying in bed at night, trying to sleep. I think what a fool I was, what a child, and I can still feel myself blush with embarrassment. I try to forgive myself for it, to let it go. Most of the time I’m able to, but whenever I even tried to approach making jewelry and sculpture again, I’d get to my bench and just sink into some awful place I couldn’t navigate my way out of.

The ghosts. That’s what it felt like, like I was haunted by my missteps, by my friendships lost, by my obtuse actions and my resentment of my past self. Creating metalwork used to bring me such joy; it was meditative, relaxing. Over time, it had turned into something painful for me and that was just, well, depressing. Then there was life. Working, kids, housework, it all piled up and I just didn’t do much creative. A collage or drawing, maybe writing here or there, but never my metals. Here I am though. Now. I think I’ve gotten past most of it. Time heals, right? My husband found a job on craigslist that is assembling jewelry pieces, and I think it’s just what I needed to get back into it. I’m doing a trial period, but am hopeful. So, preparation was in order.



Today, I cleaned up my bench, organized things and connected my power strip. I checked my flex shaft (needs cleaned and greased), hooked up my regulator on a 5 year old b-tank and tested for leaks. I filled up my pickle pot, added water to a massive, dried out tub of handy flux and got everything ready to go. It was cathartic, like saying hail marys or our fathers or something. I don’t know, I’m not Catholic, but it felt like a religious experience to me. I hope it is the start of something new and wonderful, something that I can find a lot of joy in again. I think it will be. I know my life is in a period of change and I’m trying to embrace that. I’m trying to find careers that complement each other, time for my beautiful family and to still make us good dinner, and always time for growth, change, and love.


A special note: To those I hurt, embarrassed, frustrated, I’m so very sorry. Ignorance is no excuse. I should have behaved better, not hurt you. To those who forgave me, who helped me, who stuck by me, thank you. We never grow without those who tend to us. I am forever in your debt.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

All These Measles

You know, I’m just not the type to be able to sit there quietly while people attack me. Well, I guess it’s not me specifically, but still.

Here’s the thing about this vaccine debate. It’s not a debate. It’s an attack campaign. Neither side is logically presenting their evidence and responding point by point. It’s a media fueled slander campaign designed to polarize and make people into attack dogs, setting out to tear apart any parent who has made this stupid, ignorant and obviously non-evidence based decision.

So, the obvious thing I’m going to say here is that this decision is none of those things. Before making a decision on vaccinations, I pored over dozens and dozens of sources from the CDC to the WHO, to all kinds of scientific peer reviewed studies to decide if this was something we shouldn’t do. The default decision was yes, most vaccinations, but after my research, the answer I had was no. There were still only 2 vaccinations I remained willing to even consider: measles and pertussis. However, both of these now only exclusively come in combination injections and because they do, I will not do it.

Here’s something I want everyone to think about, because I think there’s really just one reason all this shit is hitting this giant and glorious fan. Why? If we have freedom of choice, why have individual vaccinations been eliminated, pushing parents who might vaccinate for a couple of major issue viruses to none at all. Why is the media so focused on labeling parents who don’t vaccinate as ignorant and stupid, while making all of the rest of you feel superior and informed? Why is superior and informed the decision to go along with whatever your doctor and government said to do before doing hours of research for yourself? If this is such a serious issue, why didn't the government just come out and make it mandatory to do all of the vaccinations?



I will tell you why. If the government just came out and said, all you unvaccinated are just too dangerous and you have to do it, there would be an uproar. Think constitutional debates and oppressive, Orwelian big brother arguments. BUT, if they could just wait for a few instances to feed the media scripts and turn people against each other, well… Then you would have the people clamoring for the government to take these freedoms and choices away, and voila! All is solved! You will have demanded with passion and fervor and balloons and confetti, like it’s the fucking 4th of July to strip the choice of medical treatment away from us. And what we will be left with is frightening.

Here’s the thing, there is no getting around the fact that vaccines cause adverse reactions in some people. Or the fact that we aren’t trying to figure out what in these people’s bodies make them more susceptible so we can test people before getting vaccinations to know if they will have a reaction. Or the fact that vaccines, the adjuvants in particular have been shown to cause autoimmune disorders, type 1 diabetes, intussuseption, developmental delays, encephalitis, meningitis or a host of other issues. Or the fact that the Freedom of Information Act has made available transcripts from the 80’s of government meetings with discussion of cover-ups and ways to intentionally skew statistics and information in favor of vaccination. And where are the studies examining the differences between the immune systems of vaccinated and unvaccinated children? They don’t exist. What about the rise in disease associated with aluminum consumption that directly corresponds to aluminum being added to vaccines? No attention at all.

Here’s one thing I know. My son has a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease. His father has one of the most severe cases that doctors have seen that arose directly after massive inoculations and large doses of aluminum. I am not willing to risk him being seriously ill his entire life so he won’t get measles. Will two doses of a vaccine cause this same reaction? I can’t be sure, and neither can his doctor. Hell, his doctor didn’t even know what I was talking about when I said aluminum adjuvant! That’s a serious problem! I can’t have an informed discussion with my child’s doctor about vaccines. The other doctors in town will not take patients who won’t consider the entire CDC schedule. How is this the solution to our problem? Provide you with no one informed you can have real discussion with or alienate and attack, is that going to make this all better? Seriously??

The other thing everyone seems to be ignoring is that in the vast majority of cases, measles isn’t that bad. Seriously. I’m aware that some cases can lead to complications, which is why we have medical care and that there are people with compromised immune systems that may get it worse. (I know, that’s terrible, but it’s not enough reason for me. Does that make me selfish? I don’t know, you tell me.) But seriously, the complication rate (mostly ear infection and diarrhea, by the way, although they make it seem like complication means only most severe ones) is supposed to be 30%. The only statistics available are for the worst complications, which are very low. Encephalitis and pneumonia are considered the worst and have hardly shown up at all (4 out of 159 in 2013, 9 out of 118 in 2011, and all of these were pneumonia, no cases of encephalitis and no deaths). Even at its very worst, with 3 to 4 million people being infected every year before the vaccine, the disease resulted on average in 400 – 500 deaths annually. It isn’t much more dangerous than chicken pox, which I and most people I know had as children. My theory is that now that kids are vaccinated against it and it’s not just a “normal” childhood illness, these headlines will be the same when they are adults. “Chicken pox outbreak due to unvaccinated kids!” Almost any illness can be deadly in the worst of cases, which are not even close to the norm, so why have they become so terrifying? Let’s not even get into the flu, which doesn’t generally have everyone shitting their pants. Every season I hear people who are like, “Yeah, I got the flu.” The CDC doesn’t even know how many people die because of the flu each year, but their estimates range (depending upon the year of course) between 1,000 – 14, 000 annually and that vaccine is one of the least effective on the market. Why is there so little focus on this!? Oh I guess it’s harder to point the finger and if they don’t have effective ways of preventing it, they can’t all fear-monger people. I digress…

I guess all I’m really after here is an understanding that goes both ways without blind labeling. You vaccinate your kid? Cool, I bet you have reasons for that. I don’t vaccinate mine? Guess what! I probably also have reasons for that! It doesn’t matter though. We’ll go on polarizing, because that’s what the media is designed to do, pit us against each other for darker motives. The next time you watch the news, pay attention to your body. Are you tense? Do you feel an adrenaline rush when you hear certain stories? Do you find yourself coming away from the TV ready to tear “those people” apart? Then you have very intentionally been made an unwitting tool. Their language and their focus is not accidental. So when you get on Facebook calling all of those unvaccinating people stupid and ignorant and irresponsible, stop thinking of this “group” as some nameless, faceless mob. Put my name in there. Say, “Lauren is stupid, ignorant and uninformed. How dare she? Who does she think she is? Her kid is a weapon and she doesn’t even care about anyone but herself.” If that still rings true, go ahead, keep spreading that anger and hate. That will surely solve all of our problems. If it doesn’t, think about what you’re saying and the energy you’re putting out there and the real people and their real lives that you are directing it at.

I’ve already lost friends because of this, people I’ve known 15 years. If that sort of relationship can be severed by this topic, I don’t know what else to say. All the anger, fear and poison surrounding this topic has made friends into enemies and it really just fucking sucks.

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading some of the documents I have showing negative effects from vaccinations, let me know and I’ll email them to you. In the meantime, check out this website: http://nsnbc.me/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/BSEM-2011.pdf


And know, even if we disagree, I still love you. You are not stupid or ignorant, you are doing the best that you can to make the right decisions for you and your family.


Just because I had to update once I found this video and I know it often helps to hear things from people smarter than me:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What will be said

I have been thinking a lot lately about people. I'm a pretty positive person and I guess I always gave people a little more credit than they deserve. The more that I work with the general public, the less faith I have in most people as far as them being intelligent, responsible, well-meaning and capable. I have begun to understand why it is so hard for me to make friends. Compared to most people I am DIFFERENT. The friends I have found, as I'm sure you have deduced, are also different and I value them so much for this. What can be said though for those that are "different?" I've come to believe it is completely true that most people fear what is different. It's scary, and therefore easily vilified. 


I always thought that those who know me, know what kind of person I am. However, I've recently discovered that I am not immune to any witch hunt. Those who've known you your whole life, even, may easily believe lies about you. It is important to remember here, that family is not chosen and that some of them may belong to that vast sameness that you are not part of. Just because you are different, doesn't mean those you have come from are, too. 

I was recently told that a family member told my grandfather that I said I was going to let my son decide if he was a boy or a girl. Now, I can't be sure that this is actually what was said or if it's just what my grandfather heard and you know how the game of telephone goes, but let's assume it's what my grandfather heard. He believed it, without question. So, it is obvious to any of my group of "different" friends who know me that I would never say or do anything of the sort. I am all for breaking gender roles and stereotypes, but I do not believe that gender is a choice, like AT ALL. I think it would be ridiculous to take a boy who obviously identifies as a boy and say, "Son, do you want to be a boy or a girl?" I mean seriously? By that same logic, I do not believe that a boy who identifies as a girl or a girl who identifies as a boy has any more choice in the matter. Gender identity is not, in my opinion, a choice. 

This, however, is not the issue I mean to get to. We can talk all day long about gender identity, roles, stereotypes, but... My point, dear readers, is that people of the "non-different" group, if you will, will find it incredibly easy to believe ridiculous things about you when you are of the "different" group. My grandfather took what he heard and easily accepted it as fact. After all, that Lauren, she's a strange one, that's something she would do right? When you do not fit into the typical, predictable idea of a person, a woman, whatever, most people will believe almost any ridiculous thing about you. All of the "crazy " things that have happened in our history, all of the stories of persecution that seem so horrifying in hindsight, even to your average person I can see now will happen again and again and again ad nauseam. Because most people do not realize how easily they will vilify those who are different, they do so without realizing it and frequently. 

So I now see, I have a lot to fear in this world. I try to share and educate and spread knowledge and questioning, because I see so much value in it and I know that if more people were a little different, then we are all a little safer, a little smarter, a little more capable, understanding, etc.. I am losing faith though. I don't think it's going to work. Our government, education system, media, health care system, food system, all run by corporations, have been working a long time at creating a "normal" about us. They want us to not be different because it's all much easier that way - another brick in the wall if you will. If people don't question anything they are much easier to use and to polarize and to turn against one another.


Like I said, I am losing faith. I used to think that I could help change these things. I could just write and share and if I just kept trying and believing and being positive, that I could help change the world or at least the beliefs or thoughts of those around me (and with the butterfly effect and all, right?) I still believe that if enough people change their way of thinking, we can change things for the better. That's what revolution is, I think. Maybe that's not possible anymore, or maybe it's just America. What do you think? Are we too far gone? Is there any hope? I just don't know.

Now in case you were wondering I didn't say anything about my son being able to choose his gender. OBVIOUSLY. I do remember talking to someone about not wanting to cut his beautiful hair. Babies really don't look like one gender or the other without some serious effort on the clothes and accessories front. I really don't care if someone thinks my son's hair is too long and he "looks like a girl." He is a secure person and I know he always will be, I mean with a name like Maverick, how could he not right? Right?! But seriously, His hair getting a little long is not going to feminize him and I know that. Maybe the non-differents don't, but that's their problem. To them, all I have to say is:







Thursday, January 30, 2014

And who have I become?

To put it simply, Mom.  That term that so many millions of women are.  No longer ourselves, just this thing.  Mom. Caregiver.  An absence of ourselves.  Maybe it's just me who feels this way, I really don't know.  Maybe it's because I'm in the thick of struggling with this new identity.  Maybe it's depression.  Whatever it is, I need to write about it.  I was going to post about a few other topics, but I realize there are things I need to get out and I have no one to talk to.  I have separated myself from everyone I know and love and in my house, I don't really get to be anything other than Mom.  Anyway, this Lauren person has been built.  She's strong, independent, funny, positive, a know-it-all, so sure of herself, and never in any pain.  Well, I can tell you something.  I am not that person anymore.  I don't know who she is.  So I'm going to talk about it...

When I became a mother, the me as I have always known myself flew right out the window.  I have been trying to find myself ever since, and all that I have found is Maverick's mom, the family cook and my husband's therapist and assistant.  I basically take care of everyone now, but no one takes care of me.  I guess it didn't occur to anyone that I would need any taking care of.  My body did something amazing.  It still does actually; it feeds my son.  I am in awe of what I was able and still am able to do.  No one else seems to be.  I don't know what I expected to get from my husband after our son was born, and perhaps it was wrong of me to expect anything at all, but I did.  I hoped for some incredible wonder or appreciation at what I have done.  I didn't get it.  He's a wonderful dad, but I'm not his wife anymore.  I don't know how to be; I'm just Mom.  It is important to him that I listen to his thoughts, so I do.  He doesn't like my reactions though, no matter how I try to respond in a way that I think will make him happy.  I listen anyway.  I make sure he's up for school.  I make us food, but I never have the right things around to eat.

Despite what I have done with my body and the appreciation and care I think it deserves because of that, I still seem to be second to the girls on the screen.  The young, firm, naked women free of pubic hair, positioned in suggestive poses that reveal bodies that have not carried children, that have not nourished another human being.  They are ready for the taking.  I am not.  I am MOM.  I need someone to take care of me.  I need someone to make me feel like Lauren again before I can go there.  But that's just frustrating.  It's too much work.  It hurts me profoundly to see my husband choose to look at other women.  I have expressed that before, asked that it not happen, to no avail.  Yet it still seems a surprise to him every time when I react the way that I do.  Somehow, I become the unreasonable one when I act hurt.  I get a sarcastic comment as he slams the door behind him to go to school, and a stab in the heart.  No I love you.

Maybe there is nothing left to love, because I'm just Mom.  Maybe it's because all day long I am simply needed and never wanted.  I hope this will pass, but I want every other mom or soon to be mom to know that if you don't feel quite yourself after your baby is here, you aren't the only one.  You change in ways you never could have guessed, and that's okay.  Your husband may not recognize you.  You may not recognize you, but I do.

You're Mom, and I'm right there with you.  Just imagine me there, stroking your face, taking care of you and telling you everything you need to hear, that no one else will say.  I'll pretend you are here doing the same, and maybe I'll start to feel a little bit better.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Quest for the FemCap: Proof that our system favors pharmaceuticals.

WARNING:  Nothing is off-limits to me in this blog. I may bring up things that you don't really want to hear about.  You may not have any interest in knowing what kind of contraception I use.  If this is the case, stop reading this post now :)

The Femcap:

I have chosen an alternative method of contraception.  After ten years of the pill, I stopped taking it.  I went through the experience of ridding my body of synthetic hormones (whatever isn’t stored long-term) and started tracking my body’s natural cycle.  It was really something to behold.  Then I experienced the wonders of pregnancy and childbirth.  Through all of this, I have come to know my body in new ways and I won’t ever go back to hormonal birth control.  I am thinking more freely and openly than ever before, actually have a libido again (hormonal contraception can seriously dampen that one), and have generally embraced my own body more fully than ever before.  I am loving it!  After much research, I have made the choice to switch to the Femcap, basically THE cervical cap in existence these days.  As a user of the Diva Cup, another of my true loves, this seemed like something I’d be incredibly comfortable with. 

With prescription in hand, I set out to acquire the Femcap, which you pretty much have to order from either their website or get from Planned Parenthood (the closest one to me is about 70 miles away).  So the website does not ask for your insurance information and I happen to know that this is something covered 100% under the Affordable Care Act.  I called my pharmacy insurance provider to inquire as to how I might get the Femcap paid for when ordering through the site.  They told me this was not something I could do, but that they covered the Femcap with $0 copay.  I could just go through the Costco pharmacy or the mail order company.  Well, my friends, this is definitely NOT the case.  Not only does no pharmacy have any idea what I’m talking about, once they actually look into it, they discover they don’t have it and they can’t order it.  So the third time that I called my insurance, and asked once again how I could get this paid for through my plan, and they told me yet again to go through the pharmacies or through “you doctor’s office,” I had really had enough.  To the nice lady on the phone, I relayed that not one single pharmacy, brick and mortar or mail order could provide what I needed.  I told her it was time to get creative and asked what the next step was.  She repeated the same old line and what I could practically hear from every person I spoke to during this whole process was - eesh, why don’t you just go on the pill lady, complete with eye roll…

Listen, I know I’m not traditional in any sense of the word, but there is nothing wrong with me.  The fact that I am choosing a different method of birth control should not mean I have to jump through hoops just to get it.  After running around in circles with the gal on the phone, I finally gave up on her ability to think of anything creative outside of the usual script, so I requested to speak to her supervisor.  The end result is that the supervisor created a “case” where she put in some sort of request to see “IF” my insurance would cover me and reimburse me for the Femcap if I ordered it off of their website or if I drive the 140 mile round trip to acquire one from Planned Parenthood.  I will hear from them in approximately 9 business days.

The problem here is that I could get the pill anywhere, anytime I want.  The multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry has made sure of that.  Their products are promoted like crazy, and I know the doctors of my past never went over the real short AND long-term effects that hormonal birth control could have on me.  It wasn’t until I began seeing midwives, with a real whole understanding of a woman, that I was ever properly informed of all of my options and given a real choice.  The issue is, while this minority of midwife healthcare providers is dead set on giving real information and options, the powers that be are not.  In fact, the fewer options you have, the better.  Why not just make up our minds for us?  With the disappearance of real options, this is exactly what is happening.  The false myriad of options is limited primarily to: How would you like your hormones? Injected? Consumed? Placed conveniently in your uterus or vagina?  Would you like to pay for name brand or is generic ok?

Please tell me I am not the only one who thinks this is not acceptable.  The idea that doing what is best for my body is the most difficult option when navigating our health care system is completely unacceptable to me.  It is so obvious to me that this system is really only set up for the financial health of the companies that provide our pharmaceuticals and medical devices.


My question is…  What do we do now?  Now that our “health care” system is owned by people who want to make money off of our illness, off of our willingness to fill our bodies with synthetic hormones, what do we do?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Civil Obedience


Unschool

I have decided to start a new blog as a new chapter of my life unfolds itself. It’s an awakening, as my husband would say. I can’t pinpoint an exact time when it started because it’s something that’s been happening gradually. A little here, a little there. I’ve started making different decisions, informing myself about different things and putting little changes into action. I think the culmination of these changes is what happened today.

I watched this video about unschooling:

Then I visited this website: http://zenhabits.net/unschool/ which is a parent’s take on the matter. Something inside of me started to get very excited. The last thing that I looked at before a complete realization occurred, was this website: http://unschooling.com/ which I suppose is the organizational page for the unschooling concept and movement if ever there was one. Something I saw there hit an emotional nerve inside of me:


“I would love some help!” It was a link about consulting. Here it said, “Would a consultant be a valuable aid to you on your unschooling journey? As families on the road to the powerful, vibrant life of self direction, connection, passionate pursuits and life on our own terms, we can often grow quickly or take a much desired leap with a little help from those with enormous experience, wisdom and insight. We support you!”


It’s what I had been looking for all along. I almost cried. I could see it in my head very vividly: Me and my son… Learning together. It was so beautiful. I had been thinking about him going to school and it was troubling to me. I know so much of the experience and curriculum and the whole system of it is just… Wrong. I can’t bear the thought of putting my son through it. I know he is meant for more than that, just as all of us are.


Then I thought back. I thought back to my Junior year in high school. I thought about a moment in my Topics of Algebra class. I was looking down at the floor behind my chair. It was this horrible grey carpet. I drew a big star on it in permanent black marker, felt better and then thought nothing more of it. A few days later, I was confronted by my teacher with a school janitor if memory serves. She pointed down at the star and asked if I knew anything about this vandalism. My mark of beauty in this drab room, where a duller-than-dull class was taught by a less than capable but earnest woman, was just called vandalism. So of course, I said that I didn’t know anything about it. Mrs. Pyle said, “Of course you don’t dear. I knew you didn’t. You are just too bright for something like that.” What did that mean exactly? If you are smart enough, you don’t draw on the carpet? It hadn’t even occurred to me as vandalism. There was no ill will or destructive intention behind my action. Of course none of this was considered by her. She spoke volumes in that small interaction about everything that is wrong with our educational system. Apparently, that carpet was only intended to be grey and dull, just like the class, like school, like life.


Now a bit of background… The only reason I was even in this class was because my guidance counselor had recommended it as a brush up on algebra after having taken geometry, so I would have a better transition into the college level algebra class I’d take my senior year. When I think about this now, the whole thing was ludicrous. My guidance counselor had no idea what I really needed, only what most kids in the system did. She had never seen my math abilities and I ended up wasting an entire semester in that class. Well, I shouldn’t say it was wasted. I did catch up on my naps, in between correcting the teacher on the errors she was making when showing the class how to solve a problem. When all was said and done, I finished the class with a 105% and a new sense that bringing beauty into the world in my own way could be a bad thing. This actually was a real pattern in my education. While I learned the lessons taught as part of the curriculum at least long enough to be tested and graded on them, they were often meaningless monotony to me. I inevitably always came away really learning something else entirely.


In the larger realm of the standard school system, I learned just a few major lessons:


1. How to play the system like a child’s board game – School taught me that succeeding is only a matter of finding one formula that works for everything. An unchallenged brain will try to find a way to connect dots that seem impossible to connect. I came out of a lifetime of school knowing how to employ “the formula” to everything from writing English papers to performing science experiments or completing a project or math test. Ingest, memorize/reorganize, regurgitate, and when you are done, dump it to make room for the next task. Voila! I am a testing/writing/knowing wizard with hardly any effort or retention at all.

2. How to supplement lessons myself - I was rarely even remotely challenged as a student, so during class time, I would try to figure out how to do things different ways, backwards even, just to have a little fun. This got me to be quite talented at certain things, I will say.

3. Go along to get along because no one wants to hear it – Developing complex thoughts and arguments about any given subject and voicing them in a class, which might be challenging the material taught, is a big no-no. You are there to learn what they want to teach and then regurgitate it.

Even within our educational system, I obviously managed just fine. This however, was due to a few select people who went beyond the formula, who challenged me to learn outside of a set structure and to gather all I could from every resource I could find. These people essentially kept alive my natural, insatiable hunger to learn. Here, I give credit to:

My mom and dad who supported my natural talents and passions, and always encouraged me to seek out knowledge myself with the myriad of tools, books and people available to me.

My French teacher Dianne Tilford Halligan, who encouraged us as students to learn in so many different ways and from different sources, even beyond our “level” and created and stood firm on many rules to allow us to better ourselves as people. “Jettez le chewing gum dans la poubelle s’il vous plait!” She also knew when to break a rule.  Most important of all, she spoke to me on an adult level, as an equal about all kinds of different things. I still consider her a friend.

My art teacher, Chris Buhrmann, who pushed us to find art everywhere, to have adventures, and to learn skills, but to not always follow the rules.

My College Algebra teacher Janna Snyder, who taught me how to do the math without a graphing calculator, per my request. She also recognized my natural aptitude toward math and encouraged me to help the other students by explaining things in my own way. Learning by teaching is truly valuable, and I won’t soon forget she allowed me such a privilege.

My Biology and Science teacher Heather Stretch, who brought so much passion, fun and humor to the learning environment. She had such a wonderful grasp on the fact that to learn means to play.

My sophomore English teacher Claire Culbertson, who recognized something in me I didn’t even really know was there. She gave me extra readings beyond the “class level,” just because she knew I would like the challenge of them. I wasn’t graded on any of it, and it was in addition to regular class work, but I loved it. I would read a short story she gave me and I would just stay after class to talk to her about it. I learned more from those moments than any of my other English classes.

These were the people in my life who understood that learning was more than just textbooks, assignments and tests. They fed my curiosity and really encouraged me to challenge myself, which guess what… Helps you learn and grow. I consider myself really lucky for having interactions with these people. They were far more valuable than the entirety of the rest of my institutional schooling. Sure, there are other people, teachers and instructors that have taught me things, but it was really mostly instruction. These people I’ve named gave me a framework with which to truly learn. I don’t think most people are so lucky, and I don’t want to rely on this luck for my son’s education. These kinds of experiences will be the entirety of his education and his life. Outside of the system, it is not only possible, it is an inevitability.