#WHATILEARNEDABOUTPOLITICS by Graham Steele

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It is not politicians who will lead the change. The only person who can change our politics is the engaged citizen.  —Graham Steele

Echoes of many, but said by a former politician it is refreshing. Nova Scotian or not, if you are unhappy about provincial GOVERNMENT or baffled by it-, a r-e-a-d of this book is a good idea for a rainy afternoon. Ignoring the never talk religion or politics rule today. (Okay, when have I kept that rule?) Here's a Book review of sorts:

Shared the podium last week in Port Hawkesbury with former NS Finance Minister and Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Graham Steele. Nonsense, fiction and politics—( you can see the connection). I bought the book. All I can say after reading Graham Steele's book this past week is we need a (r)Evolution. But I've said that before. Or what are poets for?

The book gave me some background that was eye opening because we lived mostly in DC during the time frame this book chronicles—the politics in our face were of a different sort. We had an exit route map and survival kit under our bed there for a spell. We lived, at times, in a kind of end of the world movie.

We came back to NS asking what happened—How did this shade of blue become the new orange? 'We' being greenishorangeish types.

Steele is a Rhodes Scholar and the book is, as we'd hope—intelligent. Better yet, he's a great storyteller---the book reads really well, full of great moments. As I flew through the pages, my heart was sinking. It was discouraging to see that the workings of provincial legislature are as dysfunctional as most of us think they are. The behind closed door deals, the decisions made for best re-election chances etc. Everything those as jaded as me (towards institutions) suspect, but here—confirmed.

Kudos to Nimbus for this book. And for Steele's steely courage. The book is candid and Steele doesn't let himself off the hook either or defend the NDP's fall after its slow and steady rise. Nor does he demonize individuals. It's almost like a handbook, a cautionary tale for wannabe provincial politicians.

The bright side is to see how many politicians of all stripes are honest =---and do work hard for their constituents. But, yep, no matter what political leaning you have or don't, if you read this book, you will come away with: the system is so broken. Steele explains his aha moment just before he resigned. He writes:

It struck me then, forcefully, that there was hardly any point who sat in my chair or who was on which side of the house. None of us was dealing with the real issues. There was no fundamental difference between us. We were playing out a political charade where our actions and reaction were dictated by our roles. I looked around the chamber as if I were seeing it for the first time and finally understood the futility of partisan politics.

It's a conclusion many of us reach from the outside not by doing the hard work of running and serving. But here is Steele's strength—instead of saying 'throw up your hands and walk away', he challenges every reader.

It is not politicians who will lead the change. The only person who can change our politics is the engaged citizen.

Take action. Be engaged wherever you can. What every one does can make difference. Just like the words of my dear old Papa. Or in the words my wise mother passed down from my grandmother: "Whenever you are in any kind of trouble, start by scrubbing the floor. "

Yep, I just hear Trace Chapman singing in my ears. Off to re-read the Ivany Report and scrub.

#WatershedMoment? Let's hope so.

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Okay. Seeing as we are in the days of FACE book confessions, here goes. Not a confession. A rant.

I thought long and hard before posting this.

And, really, I'm not trying to sell a book. Not even sure if there are copies available right now. I'm trying to get folks to read this book though. Find the poems. Buy. Give away. I don't care (my publisher might).

How LONG a journey this has been to have this discussion. 35 years ago this book was written, 22 years since its publication. And yes, now the talk is out in the open in a BIG way.

In 1992, many cringed (o survivor literature—confessional, no—no, people—resilience literature) but some progressive profs and teachers and media and friends embraced and saw it as opening for conversation. In This House Are Many Women still has this wonderful underground tribe of readers and I still get letters. I'm grateful especially to Susanne Alexander at Goose Lane who helped me find more courage than I had and Shelly Ambrose ,then at Moringside who produced my reading of them on National radio at that time. Paula Danckert who stayed constant, there for me , as I was writing -as did DDFM, who I'd just met, really. And Gwen Davies who arranged first public reading along with Jane Buss. At the time book stores shelved it in psychology section.

I refused a interview at Chatelaine, there was too much I was being asked I did not want to share. Discretion was still a good idea unless a woman wanted to be labelled as "Ex-battered ... or welfare mother or angry feminist." So I was always careful to say that book of poetry was not me, it may be parts of my experience and women I've met and known. I am all the women in this book and none of them. And Yes, I've been to the Moon and back.

Those are still my lines. But you can read between them. How could Bubbly Sheree mother of Mable Murple write soooooo dark? After play by Eastern Front Theatre based on this book, ( directed by Mary Vingoe) a man came up to me and said please stick to Kids stuff.

I am glad I never have. Pluto's Ghost tackles the subject of abuse in a whole other way. As hard as it was to write—I tried to gives voice to a young man, to the wounded who wound. I tried to ask, too, look deeper to where you might find the seeds of violence in our selves, and have you seen the beast inside that is you? And where does one go when there is no where to go? Voices of men and women are needed in this conversation. The victims and the perpetrators.

Blame and shame need to be gone so honesty can emerge.

There was an amazing interview with Anna Marie Tremonte on the current this morning.

Maybe, these recent events will mean this conversation will no longer drop in cones of silence and only among the already converted and like- minded who committes their lives to peace education and mental health issues. I'm so not surprised by these events, though I was sickened and sad and yes, knowing it triggers hard old memories for so many. Now I am hopeful, perhaps, perhaps, there can be a sea shift. As the current asked is this a WATERSHED MOMENT?

Perhaps, and perhaps we might find our best selves confronting the beast

Joy Trippin'

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TRIPPING OVER JOY

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.” 

― HafezI Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy

Thank full Mother of Men #thanksgiving #wildjoy

Just utterin', mutterin' about motherin' otherin' and gradmotherin' & holidays & stuff: 

I used to write a lot about motherhood. I wrote books for children because I had children who inspired those books. I could squeeze a nonsense poem in between the wash and rinse cycles. Stored those poems in my recipe box.

They-those children and maybe those poems—were my raison d'etre. Then came otherhood. It seemed time to stop writing about them—actually they told me as much—and they like to tease me they left me behind in my Mabel Murple La-La land.

I was no long writing for them, either.

You might say I had to generate my own meaning for the first time. I was a mother before I was an adult. That meant I'd never had to question why I had to get up in the morning. There were two boys who needed me, relied on me.

I found being mother of babies and little boys easy. Well, easy in comparison to what came next.  

Families whose children sail easily into adulthood are fortunate indeed, but I know, in truth, most families have their challenges. The snapshot moments we do not put on Facebook. Those are the journeys. 

My sons' teenage years and manhood taught me more about myself than I probably ever wanted to know. They are 33 and 39 now. These men still occupy most of the depth of the chambers of my whole cracked open heart. I am still learning to be the mother of men. They are still my greatest teachers. And now, I am experencing Oma-hood. Again, in such an unconventional way, I want to change that tired phrase, "It's complicated", to "It's simple—my only job is to love. No matter what."

Simple does not equal easy. Who knew there would always be  more room in a heart to love that much? Worry that much. Watch time tick by that fast... I am so very grateful for the all of it. I am. 

Recently, first born son who lives away came home.  My husband caught this moment.  

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And this reminded us of this :  a life time ago. 

That's it. That's what's on my mind this Thanksgiving.  

I got to hug my sons this year, I got to hug them— knowing how many years I could not, knowing my mother is missing her son and will never be able to hold him again, knowing how many parents today are missing their children. OR grandchildren. For any number of reasons.   

Holidays can be so wonderful. They can be so lonely too. I started to post these photos on facebook but realized, I needed to write: 

Hold whoever is closest to you closer. 

If you are alone, and we all are, even in the midst of clatter and clan, hold your precious self closer, go for a walk in a world of spirits and golden leafed Oneness. 

Find your "wild joy."  A turn of  phrase I heard today.  

Be wild joy. Or not. But be....  

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Roominating: Things Change. Doodle. Do.

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Slow down Mabel. 

So we have hens, the sheep summered here (now back to their friend's the big barn) and we were getting ready—well it started out at least—for a horse and a donkey. I took lessons and had great teachers, but not enough time on the back of a horse for this slow learner. I wasn't ready at all  for that particular horse, not enough time in that saddle and he was BIG (But so sweet). I think I secretly just hoped I would learn once he was here. So we adjusted, slowed down on plans, but then—donkeys! We could still have donkeys! Build a loafing shed!

Well, turns out we are still not ready—enough.

Did I say our first two chicks were roosters? Lucy became Lester and Laverne became Lucky. (Not so much. Stew was delicious.)... Yes, things change. Winter is coming. So is a grandaughter! I said it. Amazing. It has all turned out. Those first few months are so very precious! So it will be Donkey writing. Not donkey riding. For now.

Stay tuned as we mosey along with the dream of our hobby farm. Happy Doodle Do. I doodle. The Deeply Dimpled Frenchman Does. Me, I'll also be here in this room finishing stories and that novel in no time. I signed a contract. So, fewer distractions, I guess.

As for a horse of my own? We said it would mean patience and lessons and saddle time fit into a busy life when we first talked about this. Things do not happen overnight.

ME & THE DDFM wants trails. NOT trials. At least of our own making. Still, we are NOT too old to be trying A BRAND NEW THING. How do you spell H-a-f-l-i-n-g-er??

RIVER JOHN SOS Community Hub Makerspace & more

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RIVER JOHN Support Our SchoolUpdate
(first published in The River John Pioneer)

Those who attended the open house held by the River John Support Our School committee on September 24th know the summer was busy. From painting buildings, circulating petitions, talking with media to the weekly meetings we held to clarifystrategy for our way forward—it was hardly a vacation. The months that follow will be even busier.

The reality? As Rev. Dickson and Linda Thomson-Reid found out when they met with Superintendent Gary Clarke and CCRSB staff in August, we have a lot of work to do. And we will need to show how we can come up with a lot of money. The SOS has until March to create a business case for a re-imagined Community Hub School. This will be presented to the Chignecto Central Regional School Board for consideration in accordance with the Department of Education’s parameters (These criteria were finally established and released in July, two months earlier than anticipated).

After receiving our detailed proposal, the Board can then vote to extend the deadline for closure of River John school, (give us more time to see if our proposal is viable), lift the threat of closure once and for all, or close the school in June. At this juncture, there are still a lot of unanswered questions around the finer points of parameters. We are all inventing the wheel together.

The good news is the CCRSB has reached out to River John, Maitland and Wentworth communities and will be working with us and checking in to see how we are progressing as we head towards that March date. The other encouraging factor is we have a strong working SOS Committee and many interested people with expertise who are supporting our effort to save, support and sustain River John School and grow a strong and vibrant community.

We’ve come up with an acronym to help us define and explain the components of our River John hub.

H.ealth and wellness
U.nity
B.uilding our future

The health and wellness component means space in our School for a community health clinic and an organized, recreation program to increase the use of our gym and generate revenue.

Under the unity umbrella, among other things, we are exploring a River John Continuing Education School/College. This would mean evening, weekend and summer use of the school with a curriculum that would evolve out of the community’s needs and interests and provide outreach opportunity for other established educational institutions in the province. Again, this would generate revenue. A Traditional Crafts and Creative Arts Studio and a Repair and Recycle Workshop are other ideas being researched. Small membership fees to cover costs might be required from those interested in using that space. A few community organizations have expressed an interest in leasing space in the school as well. From starting a Saturday morning flea market to planning more community nights and feasts and festivals, we envision enhancing the wonderful school we have already so the heart of our community becomes the “hub“ of our community whenever possible. All ideas are welcome!

The B_for Building our future is called (for now) “The Scholar Ship.” This is best described as rural discovery/interpretive centre based on River John’s Shipbuilding past, fisheries and agricultural present. A small model of one of the River John’s early ships would be designed and built in what is now the library. In effect, this is a hands-on teaching lab where experiential, traditional and 21st century education is combined. This will provide a learning environment in the school that will meet curriculum outcomes for River John students. Although an ambitious undertaking, this centre will be exciting and beneficial for all children and families on the North shore of Nova Scotia and beyond. This could make River John a tourist destination along the Sunrise Trail. After hours, on weekends and in summer time The Scholar Ship will provide revenue and work opportunities. Already, we have some funding agencies and sources interested.  This brings the conversation back to the bottom line. Money.

Is it do-able? Can we keep our school open by creating our HUB model, one the board will approve, encourage and work with us on?  Well, we will try our very best. We will go after and exhaust every source of funding we can find. We will look for donors and partners.  We know there are board members who support River John School and those who believe that some small rural schools must and can stay open.

Our vision is excellent and clear; our ideas are educationally sound and relevant and forward-looking. Our team includes hard working parents stretching themselves beyond their limits, but we need every parent and everyone in the community to care and engage whenever they can, however they can, to make this Hub a reality. To execute we will need fundraising strategy and proof of secured funding--business heads as well as passionate hearts. We will need volunteers. Yes, money, too. Where there’s a bill, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

It feels like we are preparing to audition for the television show the Dragon’s Den in March. Except there is one big difference—we are not entrepreneurs, we are concerned citizens who do not want our children evicted from our village school. We believe bigger is not always better. The other difference is we are not dealing with Dragons. We elected our school board officials and they and school board staff get paid to do the best, the very best they can for our children. They are human beings who, like us, must do their best for our children. The Department of Education’s parameters have made it clear that it is not just money that counts in evaluating any hub school proposal. There are qualitative factors to consider.

We have a good school now and a great plan and we know there are a lot of people interested in helping us make it even better. River John Students Soar!

THREE NEW GOOD THINGS 

 1. Warden Ronnie Baillie provided the support out School committee with significant financial support in its efforts to keep River John Consolidated School open. Not only did he facilitate the council's approval of 35,000 grant to offset the school's current 173,000 operating deficit, he obtained the council's authorization to provide 25,000 toward hiring a co-ordinator's position!

2. A architect with 38 years experience ( a lot of work in schools) is helping us as we re-imagine and re configure the space.

3. Our rural discovery centre idea does not have to be over the top expensive to be state of the art! We have discovery centre educators who are eager to help us. AND... converting our space in the library to a learning lab and interactive educational space, sharing our space in the kitchen and the wood working studio with the community--all of these are ideas  on the cutting edge of education for the future. Another new buzz word is "makerspace". We a creating a makerspace in our library and our school and our village. What we create—place-based learning—will be of benefit to all North Shore families, students in the CCRSB district and will, eventually, attract tourism revenue.

We are open to sponsors! Ideas! Volunteers. Fundraisers. We are Hopeful! 

We hope to make education history in Nova Scotia by becoming a Hub School instead of another small school closing. We'd like to show how small schools with a vibrant community behind them, imagination and a lot of work can and should stay open so students can learn where they live and live where they learn and the whole community realize the benefit. Last night's community presentation available on request.

Place-Based Learning, Place-Based Education

Overview

In place-based education, the community provides the context for learning, student work focuses on community needs and interests, and com- munity members serve as resources and partners in every aspect of teaching and learning. Following in the tradition of progressive education and a pedagogical approach commonly called “experiential learning,” this multidisciplinary learning strategy is rooted in what is local—the unique history, environment, culture, and economy of a particular place. By pairing real world relevance with intellectual rigor, this local focus has the power to engage students academically while promoting genuine citizen- ship and preparing people to live well wherever they choose.

Key Principles

Place-based learning, as defined by the Rural School and Community Trust, is based on the following principles:

  • The school and community actively collaborate to make the local place a good one in which to learn, work, and live.
  • Students do sustained academic work that draws upon and contributes to the place in which they live. They practice new skills and responsibilities, serving as scholars, workers, and citizens in their community.
  • The community supports students and their adult mentors in these new roles. Enthusiasm for place-based education spreads as the learning deepens, steadily involving more students, teachers, administrators, and community participants.
  • Schools mirror the democratic values they seek to instill, arranging their resources so that every child is known well and every child’s participation is needed and wanted, regardless of ability.
  • Decisions about the education of the community’s children are shared, informed by expertise both in and outside school.
  • All participants, including teachers, students, and community members, expect excellent effort from each other and review their joint progress regularly and thoughtfully. Multiple measures and public input enlarge assessments of student performance.