A New Chapter & An Open Path

Decision

I reached the decision to leave Personalized Education Group, DBA Christa McAuliffe School of Arts & Sciences (CMASAS) – resigning my position in the company I cofounded in 2009.

 

Reflection

From piloting a similar program in 1997-99, to a decade later synthesizing 1000s of pages of doctoral research for initial accreditation, CMASAS initially seemed like a capstone for my career.

A fantastic proof of concept, at the time of its inception it was one of the most personalized accredited schools offering Carnegie Unit standard credits. It also became one of the pioneers paving the way for other personalized learning programs.

One of my favorite moments was reading about a university class in Ireland responding to an article I wrote about my personalized education philosophy.  They liked the idea – it resonated with them – but thought that trying to do all of that at once was “too radical.”  I told several colleagues, “dudes, we’re radical!” and wrote the professor to explain that it can and had been done.

Since then, that philosophy has been refined, and many colleagues in the field have continued to create exciting student-centric programs of various forms and niches. CMASAS will likely continue to grow and morph over time as well.

It wasn’t a capstone after all; it was a chapter.

 

Turn the Page

I am both moving forward and coming back full circle to what started me down this path: nurturing individual voice, choice, and well-being, with education being one of the vehicles. Neurodiversity and trauma healing continue to be top focus areas. Also, recent family events clarified priorities and created a sense of urgency to focus more on the work that Luna and I started a long time ago.

I also realize now that this path is an Open Path… 

 

Open Path

What is a message, skill, or other gift you would like to share with the world? Or perhaps there’s more than one?

Kevin, Cass and I are teaming up to help outside-the-box thinkers present their ideas through seminars, workshops, and online classes. Instructional design, videography, and marketing are part of what Open Path offers, similar to a publishing company but while being respectful of people owning their own intellectual property.

We’re all in this together.

 

Abuse Culture Project

My first Open Path project is with Luna. For years, in fits and starts, Luna and I have been collaborating on how to raise awareness of abuse culture as well as how to promote a culture of compassion, consent, and respect. Now we’re diving in, and many of you have already said you’re with us!

We’re starting with Luna’s research on cults, specifically brainwashing tactics, and how people can heal from such experiences.

Then stay tuned to learn about the next topics and activities, including seminars that will be both face-to-face and live-streamed online. We want to build a community of support for all of us.

 

What More?

Well, part of that might depend on you. Let me know if you have an idea for Open Path, or if you see another area where I can serve.  No pun intended, I’m open to ideas – just so long they align with my values and personal integrity. My LinkedIn profile states my current interests and activities.

And ferrets. Seriously: creating a class on how to be a good ferret owner in collaboration with a veterinarian and a shelter in Washington is literally on my current to do list. Because ferrets.

 

Gratitude

Thank you to everyone who has been there for me through this time, and continues to be there. Several of you wanted me to make a different decision, and yet every single one of you were understanding and remained unwavering in your support. I look forward to… a nap, actually. But then I look forward to where this current path seems to be heading.

 

With love,

~ Tamra

 

The Secret Life of Trees, and Me

I find myself sharing variations of the above information, and here’s why:
 
Saying/thinking “all things are connected” and “I am connected with all that is” is part of how I deal with Complex PTSD.
 
This strategy comes from connecting with nature since I was an itty bitty – since the earliest of memories. I would try to explain to confused adults that the trees communicate, of how the ground beneath and between them “breathes”, and of the energy that I sensed connecting all the things, ALL, including me.
 
In nature, I wasn’t alone, and nature held me. I would sink into a thick gathering of foliage and snuggle in there. Held. And often visited by critters who decided I was safe. Safe. In the moment, safety surrounded me. Unlike elsewhere….
 
Sometimes you will still find me like this! There I will be, out in the middle of nature, snuggled in. Loved ones now jokingly call me Snow White or Disney Princess because of the critters. 
 
Science is catching up. How I experience the world, sensing the connections, and seeing through the eyes of an empath with synesthesia, is no longer just “woo woo.” :p I might still be a freak, but I’m a scientifically documented freak, thank you very much.
 
All things are connected. I am connected. It is a state of being that is neither good nor bad. No judgement here. Even Death simply “is”. Here is where I can take deeper breaths. Feel the ebb and flow of all. And then continue the path I find myself on in this world.
 
Thank you for being here with me. 
 

Could Have Been My Child

rainbow flower“But what am I?” Her eyes were glassy from unshed tears.

“You’re you. And you’re wonderful,” I tried to reassure her, but she saw the worry on my face.

My beautiful daughter: smart, compassionate, kind to all things living and not. Seriously, the kid bonded to pet rocks! And she never did fit in a box.

“There just isn’t a label for you yet,” I said as the letters of the current acronym went through my mind. None of those letters fit.

But she wanted a label. As much as she didn’t fit into boxes, she always wanted them. She would even ask me to create them for her. “Just tell me what to do,” she would say, even as a teenager.  I, however, was the worst parent for that request.

“I’ll help you find your way,” I would usually say. But this time I felt lost on how to do that. She was hurting, and I didn’t know how to help.

“I love you. We all love you.”

The words felt weak. Insufficient. How well would that love armor her against a world full of hate?

That was seven years ago, and my daughter travels the country, living life, lighting up the world the best she can. There’s still no perfect checkbox for her, but she has found a sense of belonging in other ways, and she makes the world a better place.

As I listened to Anderson Cooper recently read each name of those who died in Orlando, my fingernails cut into my clenched hands as I tried to stay as resolved as he was. With each name, I  thought, that could have been my child. I will hear these names. Then I saw the text message of one child to his mother. I had no words. Only emotions in a sea of synesthesia.

My heart turned to my school’s students. So many of our students are targeted – for their culture, or religion, or neurotype, or sexuality, or other reasons.  Each one is precious.  We open our arms to them and their families, and do what is within our power to help them find their way. And love them.  Always love them.

But I find myself wondering what more we could do.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”  ~ Fred Rogers

Connections

No matter who you were talking to – teachers, parents, students – the connections that you have fostered … are really outstanding.

This is one of the things that most stood out to me during the accreditation renewal process. We’re not just a school. We have been called a “chosen family” of eclectic individuals. United in that we’re different. United in compassion. Connected.

And you don’t even have to technically be part of the school. “It starts even before they get here.” Tina, team lead of AdvancedEd noted. They get to talk to friendly voices on the phone, and they get their questions answered, and they get their fears addressed…”

She’s correct. I’ve lost count of how many people I have spoken with on the phone, or even sat down to tea with, just to connect. Now multiply that by how many team members take those calls, and that’s how many lives we have the privilege of touching. It doesn’t even matter if the school itself is the solution, and sometimes other options are recommended. We’re all connected. That connection is honored.

“That’s a critical component on why students are successful in this school.” Tina concluded. “They really are supported individually by multiple people. And that just makes all the difference.”

Yes. Yes it does.

Wait, wait! Before you go…

Wait, wait! Before you go.

I have questions to ask you. Things to say. And things to learn that I can only learn from you. Can we schedule some time together?

Yes, I know that it is already past time. There is no more time. We took time, missed other time, and now you are gone. My heart just doesn’t recognize this yet. 

 

The above is reflective of a conversation I had with my daughter this morning after we learned that a beloved family member had passed from a freak accident, and neither of us could process it.  A few days earlier, many people close to me were reeling from another death in the community from suicide. A few weeks earlier, I was at the memorial of a dear friend who also took his life.

My therapist asked me how I grieve. It’s admittedly an appropriate topic right now.  She helped me see how my process is to shut down my own emotions and to take care of others. My own grief is delayed, perhaps indefinitely. Perhaps this is why my mind is stuck thinking that the separation is temporary, like an extended vacation, and we can get together again later.

Meanwhile, Kevin just left for Cuba for nine days, and since he won’t have cell service, my (obviously rather confused) brain is in full grief mode. Supposedly this is normal, and I just need to figure out how to find a focus for my grief. For the record, I’m annoyed by this feeling and prefer my “abnormal” way much better.

 

Here’s to taking the time when we have it, gratitude for what was, and treasuring what is. 

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