From St. Paul’s in Mobile to Christmas in Castle Rock

Christmas in Castle Rock

Christmas in Castle Rock

“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”

I just finished a volunteer project for my church – a website called Christmas in Castle Rock.  My idea was to invite others into the joy and creativity so evident in the Christ’s Episcopal Church community – an invitation particularly meant for people who are new to the Castle Rock area.

I vividly remember how homesick I was my first Christmas here, despite how many times we’d moved before. I loved Snoqualmie, Washington, where we’d lived before. I felt bereft at starting over once again. Meeting people at Christ’s Church helped me start to put fresh roots down here as well.

Creating the site took me back to my spiritual roots, and I found it a happy journey. So, I thought I’d share those.

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A good time for a great cause

October 19 11-3 at Festival Park in Castle Rock, Colorado: The Manasi Project's first annual festival fundraiser to help children get school supplies

October 19 11-3 at Festival Park in Castle Rock, Colorado: The Manasi Project’s first annual festival fundraiser to help children get school supplies

What: Music, food and fun in support of The Manasi Project
When: Sunday, October 19, from 11-3
Where: Festival Park, downtown at 300 Second St. Castle Rock, CO 80104 (Across from Daz Bog between Perry and Wilcox on Second Street)
Why: raise funds for school supplies for the children of Hopkins Village, Belize
How much: brown bag lunches for a suggested donation of $5.00; soft drinks and Krispy Kreme doughnuts available as well
More information: www.manasiproject.org; phone 720.364.6875; email (infoplease…at…manasiproject.org)

I’ve written about my son Nic’s experience with the Young Entrepreneur Academy of Douglas County, a program sponsored by the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. It was transformative. In just 30 weeks, Nic created a not-for-profit to help children all over the world obtain educational supplies. He was mentored by area business leaders and Chamber personnel, which simultaneously strengthened his self confidence (“These successful business people think my idea can work!”) and made him aware of areas he might need to bolster his knowledge (“I really need to get organized.”)

It began with SCUBA

YEA brought an idea Nic had nurtured for a long time to vivid life. For several years, we spent every Thanksgiving in Hopkins Village in south Belize. We live in the very center of the United States, and I grew up on the Gulf Coast, so I miss my warm water and sugar white beaches. When Nic turned ten years old, we took him to a class at Planet SCUBA in Castle Rock and got him certified in SCUBA diving. Rob, whose approach to diving is as close to Zen as I’ve seen, taught us carefully and thoroughly, and we all three did our dives with him at the Blue Hole in New Mexico. (We’ve been on several trips with Rob and Planet SCUBA since, to Mexico, and they are world class. We are so lucky to know them.)

The first trip to Hopkins Village

For our first series of dives, Ryc had already found Hamanasi, in Hopkins Village, and we took Nic there for his first SCUBA trip in 2008. It was – also – transformative. The local divemasters took care of him like he was their own. They joked with him, initiating him into that wonderful brotherhood of men who love being on and in the ocean water. He felt like he belonged.

Floods damage the area

We came back each Thanksgiving for several years. One year, the area had sustained some ruinous flooding. Houses were profoundly damaged. The school had been affected. The roads, basic by nature, were rutted and washed out.

Nic asked about what we could do. The manager of guest services, Karina Martinez, suggested he concentrate on school supplies. Life intervened back here in Colorado, and we were unable to visit for awhile. But he never forgot. He stayed in touch with Karina.

YEA provides a welcome impetus

When Nic decided to sign up for the YEA, he opted for a not-for-profit to help those kids he so vividly remembered. We talked about what to name the organization he wanted to found. We discussed the idea of charity. Nic said that charity sounded nice, yet somehow condescending. He wanted something that emphasized the respect he felt for the people in Hopkins. So, he asked Karina for various ideas in the local Garifuna language, and she suggested Manasi, which means respect.

He put together a business plan; asked people he respected to serve on his board of directors – including Karina, because having a local contact in each area is integral to his concept;  got his tax id and other paperwork in order, and his not-for-profit was born. Every step took longer than we thought it would.Every step, though, he met new people who offered help, expertise, encouragement and – once he is set up to accept it – money.

And now…we shall see what happens next

Finally, though, his first fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, October 19. Nic is taking his first set of supplies to Belize in November. He is going to try to  make a difference for people who were kind to him when he was so young. The local business people here in Colorado have also made a difference for him by encouraging his dream. Someday, the children he helps may make a difference for someone else. That’s pretty much what life’s about, when life is good, when we share our goodness, when love and respect abound. Manasi.

 

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Speaking…for my friend

I have a friend, Pam Mazanec, who serves on the state board of education here in Colorado. She wrote an inelegantly phrased post on a Facebook group called SPEAK for DCSD about how the U.S. decided to end slavery. SPEAK is decidedly against the current school board here in Douglas County. Pam supports that school board. We’re having a locally lively debate about, among other issues, the high school Advanced Placement US History curriculum, as you may have heard. Our neighboring county, Jefferson, has seen teacher and student walkouts. Pam’s post was intended to support the idea that the US History framework should analyze the factors that make us great and the factors that weaken us as a country.

She said we ended slavery voluntarily, and at great sacrifice – and that we should teach about the nobility of our country’s intrinsic willingness to endure the necessary sacrifice to end a given evil. Her phrasing was understandably objectionable to those whose ancestors had no say in the matter. However, I am increasingly appalled by the way people who disagree with her political views are treating her.

Her casual post has offended the historical scholars (and grammar Nazis) among us. I am not sure why, since she was writing a casual post on a Facebook page that was clearly not meant as an historical treatise. I’ve not seen a single post that says, “Hey, I am having trouble understanding what you mean.” “Not sure what you’re thinking.” “Let’s talk.” But I have seen her thoroughly skewered by a media outlet that disagrees with her politics, and another is now linking with ironic disbelief to the first.

(By the way, if every Facebook post I’ve ever done is going to be subjected to a scholarly review, I am in so.much.trouble. Let’s just say that now. Go find those impulsive posts, or the ones with the magnificent typos, because I’m sure they exist.)

As for Pam, though, I understand what she was trying to say. Because I know her. She is intelligent, educated, compassionate and downright nice. She was calling out the heroism of the people of all classes, races, and walks of life who helped end slavery. She was saying that our country is, at its heart, wonderful. She was saying that, when the chips are down, she believes we do what is right. In this case, ending slavery cost our country as a whole millions of lives – black, white, slave, soldier, Union, Confederate. We persevered, even then, because we do what is right. And I still understand why the way she put it was not well received.

Because, in part, we don’t. We don’t rise to our best selves when we are not inspired to be exceptional. We don’t when all we want to do is sit in the stands and throw verbal popcorn at the people trying to make meaningful change happen. Most of all, we don’t when we are focused on scoring political points and increasing our polarization. So, the question we should each ask ourselves is whether we are on the side of mediocrity and polarization or we are on the side of dialogue, consensus and progress.

Moving apart, refusing to find common ground, belittling and insulting those with whom you disagree, leads to that sobering statement that Martin Niemöller made

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

My friend Pam is being called a moron and an idiot – by other people I consider friends, or at least friendly acquaintances – on social media. Pam is not a moron. She is, however, a conservative. An increasing number of people in social media think that it is fair play – productive, even – to insult and deride conservatives. I am not a conservative. I am somewhere between a moderate and a libertarian. That means I don’t support polarization on either side. At this point, if you’re engaging in the public vitriol, if you are coming for Pam, you are inevitably, eventually, coming for me. You either don’t understand history and consider yourself as someone fighting for the vulnerable – or you do, and you’re a political opportunist. As Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk”? Because, if we can’t, we’re in trouble.

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Who’s censoring whom?

censorship and the jeffco colorado school board protests

It’s easy to say no. What’s difficult? Saying, “Let’s talk about what we each think – and see where we can achieve agreement.”

Censorship and the Jefferson County student protests

Censor

noun
1. an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.
2. any person who supervises the manners or morality of others.
3. an adverse critic; faultfinder.
 

The quote that started it all

“Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” Julie Williams, Board of Education member, Jefferson County, Colorado
 

Whoever controls the narrative, controls history

“The history of a nation is, unfortunately, too easily written as the history of its dominant class.” Kwame Nkrumah said. He was a socialist, in early 20th century Africa, distressed that the local culture was being destroyed by the British colonialists’ educational efforts – particularly the matter-of-fact assumption that the local culture was not worth maintaining in the face of what the British thought was clearly superior British philosophy. Censorship, in other words, is the enemy of peaceful and progressive multiculturalism. So who, in this case, is being repressive or censorious?

The issue

 This week in Colorado, we have 700 students in JeffCo “rebelling against censorship” by marching out of class. They’ve attracted worldwide attention and support, which is great – except they are not protesting censorship. They’re protesting the recommendation by one person, board member Julie Williams  – who, perhaps, is not blessed with eloquence – that the local school district has the right to review the AP history curriculum. So, the students are “rebelling” by protesting her awkward wording (“I don’t think we should encourage our kids to be little rebels.”) Really? Because I encourage my son to think critically, and that means he will, occasionally-to-frequently in his lifetime, rebel. As I have. As his father has. As anyone has, who is dissatisfied with the status quo. As Julie Williams has, against the College Board.

The entrenched

     The College Board supports the students. Of course they do. They are the central authority, and they are delighted to see students support their viewpoint. It does not hurt that their viewpoint is informed by lessons learned by protesters in the 60s, although “don’t trust anyone under 30” is noticeably absent these days. But the absurdity is that both sides of the political debate support peaceful protest and some level of civil disobedience. Neither supports an excess. Yet the College Board does not support Julie Williams’ peaceful-yet-rebellious suggestion that the local board of education appoint a committee to review the proposed curriculum.

The irony

The College Board does support the dissension the students voice against Ms. Williams. They apparently do not support the concept that a local, elected advocate like Ms. Williams can question their national mandate – not put to any vote, of course – on what students will learn about history. It’s a shame we are letting ourselves become so polarized that agreeing to discuss this substantial curriculum change is viewed as somehow truncating free speech or disrespecting the expertise of the College Board.  So, free speech-wise, some individuals’ dissension is more equal than others’ dissension, and George Orwell is proven right again.
     Ms. Williams is also dissatisfied with the status quo. She is protesting the powerful, national, un-elected monopoly the College Board has on what all U.S. students in advanced placement history courses will learn. Her rebellion, rightly executed within the role she was elected to serve, has been entirely overwhelmed by the public outcry.  The narrative presented by the news outlets inaccurately yet repeatedly portrays this as an attempt by local bigots to impose censorship on our children.  That determined slant is alarming.

Something to ponder

      The students are protesting censorship over what they learn…by supporting the censorship inherent in the idea that no (small) local authority has the right to contest how a (small) national committee decides history is to be taught to all U.S. students.  Ms. Williams has been called a fascist. Perhaps we should redefine fascism as not just “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization” but a “local, belligerent (yet not rebellious, because rebellion is admirable, not problematic) entity or individual who presumes to question the overarching authority of an appointed national board.” Samuel Adams springs to mind.

If you’ve studied history…

      A student movement rebelling by supporting centralized authority on anything is disconcerting, at least to me. (See World War II for how well that turned out for everyone involved.) If we study world history, youth movements that supported centralized national governments were typically not viewed as independent thinkers breaking any kind of new ground. But, perhaps, I am missing something.

My view

     As for the history curriculum, I’ve seen the sample tests. And, as a largely apolitical libertarian, and the parent of a history-loving junior who is going to take this course, I think evaluating the curriculum is a worthwhile endeavor. Incidentally, my son’s history teacher may be the best teacher he has had thus far. I trust his stewardship of this framework. But that does not remove my right to discuss and critique it.

Balance

    There’s a balance here. Our children should learn about what we’ve historically done well in these United States of ours, so they can replicate and improve upon it.  Some parts of our history are unique and admirable. Our emphasis on the meritocracy, the opportunity presented to individual excellence, is unique in the world, even today.
     There is also, indisputably, value in learning about where we’ve erred to a painful degree…and thus, what we need to change in the future. I don’t find most people are too far apart in what they want to see in the curriculum. Yet, there are those who seize a moment to make a political point…and here we are.

Freedom is…

Real freedom is creative, proactive, and will take me into new territories. I am not free if my freedom is predicated on reacting to my past.

Kenny Loggins
Students, if you are reacting, protesting, rather than making your own path, you are still letting the forces you rail against control you. That’s not rebellion, that’s reaction. Figure out what you want to change and make it happen. It’s the best way to lead your life rather than let someone lead it for you.
Parents, teachers, and other interested bystanders…if you’re publicizing this latest kerfuffle for any reason other than to ensure a dialogue between administrators, teachers, parents, and students regarding the best possible education for our Colorado students, please don’t ever carp about political garbage again, because you have intentionally chosen to be part of that problem, not the solution. We are better than that, all of us.
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A loaf of bread, a smidgen of jam, a little goat’s milk…the good life in Colorado

A loaf of bread, a smidgen of jam, a little goat’s milk…the good life in Colorado

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…”  

M.F.K. FisherThe Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

     I have recently been smitten by the desire to bake bread. (I use a bread machine, so I am no purist – just a lazy baker.) The welcoming smell of the baking bread, the magic when it rises, even the occasional despair when it falls…it all brings out a deeply felt, contented nest-making instinct in me.

     I live in Colorado, however, at altitude – 7,200 feet or so. Therefore, baking of any kind is a challenge. My first loaf could have easily served as a lethal projectile instead of food to nourish body and soul.  It was, simply, a cannonball made of flour. So, I went in search of help.

     This list of handy tips from WikiHow has been invaluable. I’ve added liquid, reduced the amount of flour, reduced the yeast, and added salt. I can now make a reasonably good loaf of white bread, wheat bread, oatmeal bread, and banana bread. (I like substituting our dairy goat’s milk for regular and using maple syrup or honey for water or other liquids, but that’s purely for personal taste. None of it is essential to making a reliably elegant loaf.)

     Over the weekend, my father, who was visiting from Alabama, made huckleberry jam. We could not find any tips about jam in a bread machine at altitude. The only guidance was to drop the temperature so many degrees per 100 feet of altitude, which was unhelpful when working with an automatic bread machine, since one cannot manually adjust its temperature.

     So, after a first less-than-satisfactory batch, here’s what we did. We cycled our jam ingredients through the machine’s jam cycle twice. Even at high altitude, the huckleberry jam thickened into a sweet, sugary and wonderful treat for the tongue. I served it for breakfast with my homemade oatmeal bread during our first snow of the year – Friday, September 12. (That’s early snow, even for whimsical Colorado.)

     Making bread and jam at high altitude in Colorado is a feast for the senses and a challenge for the mind. So, give bread making – and jam making – a try, wherever you are. You’ll be glad. And, check back here for recipes. I plan to publish a few as the autumn progresses.

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A meditation on love, courtesy of Sadhguru

Unconditional love is the only kind of love there is.There is really no such thing as conditional love and unconditional love. It is just that there are conditions and there is love. 

If you talk about love, it has to be unconditional. The moment there is a condition, it just amounts to a transaction. 

Maybe a convenient transaction, a good arrangement. Maybe many of you have made excellent arrangements in life. But that will not fulfill you. That will not transport you to another dimension. It is just convenient. 

Love need not necessarily be convenient ; most of the times it is not. 

~Sadhguru

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