Not Pizza or Potato Chips – Moving Past the Ownership Mentality

heart-shaped-pizza-shape-salami-many-other-ingredients-39233297Curious Monogamous Person (CMP): So your boyfriends share you?

Me: *blinks in confusion* I’m not a pizza.

Later… CMP: So you can date as many people as you want. Why do you only have two partners?

Me: They’re not potato chips.

*Laughter* Remarks about food analogies.

Sorry… I’m hungry.


A friend or business contact who wants to go out to lunch isn’t consenting to *sharing* me when I schedule a meeting with another contact.

My daughters are “mine” and yet I do not own them — they are autonomous grown women.


The idea of *sharing* is a left-over concept for people coming from a type of monogamy mindset that includes *ownership.* I don’t own anybody, and nobody owns me. I have strong devoted relationships of many types (romantic and otherwise), plus I have more casual relationships (romantic and otherwise).

Yes, with the more devoted relationships, there is a mindfulness in nurturing the relationships, coordinating schedules, and so on because we are operating as an extended family unit. We are part of something bigger, but that something does not *own* us.

Note: reaching for the ownership mentality is usually due to insecurity and wanting to have something more solid-feeling in commitment.

It’s also an illusion.

Even with monogamy, it’s not the guarantee people want it to be. I say this while also holding close to my heart my own committed relationships and the hope to have my loved ones close until our final days, and nurture these relationships toward that end… but still, nobody owns anybody here.


Personalization Only for the Privileged?

Credit: United Way of the Columbia-Willamette

Credit: United Way of the Columbia-Willamette

On a panel about nonconformity, the conversation mentioned the need for people to not be cogs in the wheel. Of course I shared what we were doing at my school to help with that.

Two fellow panelists were ready to remind me that schools like ours only worked for the privileged elite.


This is a common perception. Why? Because it is mostly true. Programs perceived to be similar to ours often fail to serve students outside of a particular set of demographics.

So how can I be so sure that our model can work outside of those demographics? Because it already has.

From students in rural communities of 1500, to cities of over 18 million, it has worked. For students who were homeless, or living in a meth house, or in a mansion, or on a boat for months at a time, it has worked. For students who had cancer, who were recovering from trauma, or who were healthy professional athletes with a demanding schedule, it has worked. For students who needed to move slowly through their studies, or those who needed to accelerate learning, it has worked.

The whole point of personalized education is to personalize for each individual student based on the current scenario of that student’s life in that moment. It requires providing levels of support with instructors, coaches, counselors, and other team members there to serve. It also requires tossing out the original rulebook most schools follow.

The school I was at was only one version of the model — just one manifestation of the Personalized Education Philosophy. We served a broad range of students, and the model could be used to serve even more (e.g. create a school in a language other than English).

Okay fine. It could be seen that we we’re different. But my fellow panelist Joyce accurately pointed out, “Yes, we have the positive things that people like you are doing, but that is not the majority trend as of yet in education.”

My response: “So my question is, how do we make it the majority?”

Of course, I couldn’t just leave it at that, especially since we have been actively encouraging partnerships this past year to bring what we do to serve more students. Learning centers, sports academies, and even public schools have integrated what we were doing into their programs. I kept hoping for somebody to create a performing arts academy with us.

I put out this call to the audience: “We’re looking for more Rangers,” I motioned to Joyce, “like you, who will come on board so we can actually make the changes in this country, and the rest of the world – I mean, because why not the rest of the world?”

And why not? As Christa McAuliffe said, “May your future be limited only by your dreams!”

Farewell My Alien Friend

Scott Wallawa Lake w Darrin in backgroundMy first impression of Scott was on my 16th birthday when a bunch of us decided to go to Skate West. Remember that place?

Imagine that: Scott with wheels on his feet. This wall of a guy barreled toward me full speed, yelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY, projecting so much energy that all I could do was grip tightly onto the side wall.

Somehow I ended up his ride home. My car wasn’t big enough to contain that much energy. He opened the glove box, poked around, closed it. Opened the middle console, poked around, closed it. Checked other nooks and crannies, in this sort of happy bouncy curiosity. And then, while the car was still in motion on the road to his house, he threw it from “drive” into “park.” My car obeyed, coming to a sudden stop but not without sounds that made me wonder if it would ever start again. I held onto the steering wheel, breathing, disbelieving… and then turned to Scott to say in a low tone, “do – not – ever – do – that – again.”

That big guy suddenly became very small. “Okay” he said, which came across more as an “eep!”

And we became good friends after that.

We had many adventures. Traveling down the highway with Scott headbanging in the passenger seat always drew attention, and sometimes made staying in the lane a challenge (especially when Bohemian Rhapsody came on). Just so long he didn’t touch the gearshift, all was good.

Scott embodied music. Did you know that Scott enjoyed classical music? When 88.1 would go off the air, he shifted the dial to classics, from Metallica to Mozart. He loved a wide range of genres.

Scott was brilliant. When working on my undergrad degree, I would come over with stacks of research articles to read through. Scott would grab a highlighter and note important information in articles, and we would discuss a wide range of topics – especially in social sciences and world events.

Scott was surrounded by magic. We would play this game where I would think of shapes – simple ones such as a heart or diamond – and he would then tell me what I was seeing. This created a connection that came up at interesting times. For example, I felt a sudden burst of emotion from him and called him on the phone to ask what was wrong. “Oh Tam,” he said, sadly. Then he told me he just learned that his mom was diagnosed with cancer.

I moved away for many years. After returning, my daughters’ first impression of Scott was this bear of a guy lifting me up in the middle of the mall and swinging me around. He was in typical heavy metal gear and I was in a business suit, which made it more funny. He also accidentally scared a little kid in Hot Topic, and the more he tried to put the kid at ease, the worse it was. Scott loved kids and animals.

When catching up, I admit to feeling concern upon learning about the pyrotechnics he was working with. The idea of Scott plus explosives seemed especially dangerous, but if anyone could understand fireworks – especially paired with music — it would be Scott.

Scott was the type of friend who showed up on moving day. Literally. He took a bus all the way from Kennewick to Benton City to help Heather and me load a little moving truck and start a new chapter in our life. When he stepped off the bus in the distance, I knew it was him because of the Tigger bounce in his step. He kept our spirits up with his smile and bounce, quickly loaded the truck, renamed our bird “Charlotte” because she liked him (I still don’t get the logic there, but okay), and helped us unload in the new place.

Scott was there. For many of us, he was there.

Because Scott was love. He loved and was loved by many.

I had been thinking of him last week, trying and failing to get in touch with my old friend. When Eileen created the Tribute group and said to add people, the first person I added was Scott. I was relieved to maybe have a gathering coming up where I could reach him. I didn’t know…. I didn’t know that the tribute group was made because Scott was now gone. That he had chosen to leave this life added to the shock and pain.

I’m still processing, in a very messy way, all these emotions.

I grew up feeling like I had been dropped off by aliens. I was “other” — an anthropologist in the place I was born into. How perfect was it that one of my dearest friends growing up would be nicknamed ALF – Alien LifeForm. I am sad by the loss, but I am so grateful that he was in my life.

Deep Peace to You
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.

Blessed be.




Pictures of Scott


Courtesy of Cin Johnson

Scott Wallawa Lake Horse Trail Ride 527248_110632715737222_632295308_n CBC Graduation w Scott and Jacinta Scott with Birdie

The Confused Ferrets of Education

Elsa is still learning how to be a ferret. Early shelter life impacted her, but she is watching the others and learning.

Sort of.

Sometimes she misses the point.

Today I watch as Ching Shih picks out her favorite food from the mixture and scurries under the bed to her personal stash, storing and eating only the best food. Elsa has been watching this for weeks. Today Elsa decides to “help” Ching Shih by grabbing any bit of food – often the large, least favorite pieces – and adds them to Ching Shih’s stash. She then gets very excited because she did the thing! A ferret thing!

The result is that Ching Shih now has a mix similar to the original.

At first glance, Elsa is doing the same thing as Ching Shih. She just missed an important detail of the behavior, not to mention its whole purpose.

As you might expect, my education geek’s brain instantly draws the comparison to how many schools tried to copy what what the school I co-created was doing, even including several details. They just missed the important ones, and the whole purpose.  The result is that most schools are similar to the original that people are trying to get away from.

Drawing a direct comparison to the above ferret cuteness, we aim to offer the best. Since student needs are very personal, the “best” is also personal. It requires empowering students to have the strongest voice in their education. Nurturing personal agency, and ultimately self-actualization, is at the heart of what we do. It’s the whole purpose.

So next time you see a program that says it’s self-paced but then has due dates, or says it’s personalized but uses only canned curriculum, just remember they are confused ferrets.  They often really think they are doing the thing! They just missed the point.

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