Change: Happy Autumnal Equinox

Photo by Megan Oteri © All Rights Reserved

Happy Autumnal Equinox.  Change is coming whether we like it or not.  Do you like change?

I am going through many changes myself and I feel uncomfortable with some of the changes.  I am trying to let go of a need to control things and allow the universe to unfold as She wills.  But often, I feel that decisions I make have a direct influence on Her will.  Sometimes we are faced with decisions we have to make.  Often, this is the case. What do I have for breakfast?  Coffee and more coffee or yogurt and fruit.  Simple choices such as these have a direct effect on our health. Little by little they stack up, like tiny rocks placed on each other.

Healthy choices are also essential when it comes to our mental health.  If I had it my way, I would just sit, be silent and refuse to make a choice.  Now that I am a mother, the choices I make have a direct influence in the life of my child.  I am aware of this on such an intense level that I often have anxiety over it.  I have never been one to love making decisions.  Honestly, I hate them.  I freak out over what salad dressing to choose.  I make the waitress list them all and usually go with ranch (I must admit I love the milky creamy ranch that is a bit watery.  Do you know what I am talking about?)

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If you have had the pleasure of eating with me in a restaurant, I often anguish over making a choice. Should I choose something different?  Should I choose what I always order?  What if I don’t like it?  Will it be wasted money?  When I do go out to a restaurant, more often than not, it is Thai food.  There is one dish I am always happy with: Drunken Noodles. I get the Tom Kha soup before my entrée and water as a beverage.  I hardly ever stray from this decision.  I have taken chances and ordered something new, but I often wish for my comfort choice, as I love love love Drunken Noodles.

Am I getting old and stuck in my ways? Yes, I am getting older and am becoming more conservative in my choices.  I tend to make safety decisions and when I do take a risk, I weigh the consequences that will effect my family.

Perhaps I am not as conservative as I think I am.  I am still a free spirit and go with the flow a lot.  But I struggle with change, like most people.  I have gone through many changes in the last decade–marriage, death of a parent (dad), major illness and health decline of a parent (mom), birth of a child, Master’s degree, career change (from teacher to Teaching Artist and Writer), moving to a new state and across the country (from Wyoming to North Carolina), and many other ones.  Though these changes did not happen overnight, they happened nonetheless.

Leaf on a Rock by Megan Oteri © All Rights Reserved

I guess I am welcoming fall for the changes in nature that lie ahead, but moreover, I welcome the changes that are going to happen in my personal life.  I am not sure what these changes are, but I know change happens.

I look to the future with a positive attitude and rely on my support system of family, friends, and health (mind, body, spirit).

I remember hearing a quote when I was teaching about how when you struggle with a  new concept and feel overwhelmed and confused, you are about to turn the corner onto discovery and understanding.

Each choice we make has a ripple effect.  Like rocks placed on top of each other, they all stack up to create a whole.

The photos in this post are from the White Mountains last fall on the Kangamangus Highway in New Hampshire.

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Mr. Roger’s “Garden of Your Mind”

Did you you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?  You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.  It’s good to be curious about many things.  You can think about things and make-believe, all you have to do is think and they’ll grow.

Imagine every person that you see is somewhat different from every other person in the world.  Some can do somethings, some can do others.  Did you ever think about the many things you learned to do?  Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind.  You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.  It’s good to be curios about many things. 

Mr. Rogers fostered creativity, imagination, tolerance, and acceptance.  He truly was magical.

His advice:  All you have to do is think about things and they’ll grow.  That’s true.  The mind grows when it is curious and open.

I love this video.  It makes me think about the make-believe world my sister and I invented when we were kids.  As kids growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, we were brought up on Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.  I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons, but I can’t tell you what cartoons I watched.  In regards to cereal, they were like fruit loops, no mental nutrition, but I remember vividly watching Mr. Rogers tie his shoes, check the mail, talk with neighbors, and look me directly in the eyes and tell me to be curious.

His calm demeanor was comforting and watching him check his closet for his sweater was always a treat.  I enjoyed the train and puppet shows, but what Mr. Rogers did for me, was teach me to grow things in the garden of my mind.  I have a rain forest of thoughts, ideas, and creativity.

I think the biggest problem with education is the multiple choice standardized tests that are sending children a direct message: there are only four possible answers.  I have always thought that choice e should be available — for explore the possibilities.  I get the whole standardized testing thing; I was a teacher for 15 years (teaching public school across the spectrum — special education with students with emotional, physical, and learning disabilities; teaching at a residential treatment center for ages 10 – 17 ; elementary age students; middle school Language Arts and two years substitute teaching).

The most beautiful thing  a teacher gets to experience is when a child lights up from their own curiosity and seeks the answers.  I believe it is in seeking the answer where we find the truth and it is never something that can be broken down to a, b, c, or d.

e for explore…

My son, Benjamin — exploring in the garden of his growing mind.

“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”
Fred Rogers

The most important thing we can teach young growing minds is they be should curious.  I am not saying that teachers are not doing this, but the focus in on the test.  And that is a shame, because real learning happens outside a classroom, when a child wonders and is so curious about something — they ask, seek, find more information about it.  It grows.

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So, I choose e. for explore.  The children of the next generation are inheriting a great many problems that will need imagination, creativity, and innovation to solve these problems.  The one subject that builds critical thinking, imagination, and creativity is Art;  it is getting cut from many public education budgets.  Contact your representatives, local superintendent, and political leaders and write letters demanding it be kept.  Did you know the brain uses 80% of its capabilities when it is involved in the creative process (like creating art)?  Don’t ask Art be kept — demand it.

We want a future of children seeking choice e for explore.

A great book that looks at this is Daniel Pink’s, A Whole New Mind.  The subtitle of the book is Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.  Check it out.

I’ll end this post with some quotes from Mr. Roger’s book, You Are Special.

Often the creative urge, once we express it, brings real relief in whatever form it takes. We have an inner sense that we can make what is into what we feel could and should be.

Imagining something may be the first step in making it happen, but it takes real time and real efforts of real people to learn things, make things, turn thoughts into deeds or visions into inventions.

“Imagination and creativity is the caterpillar and innovation is the butterfly.” – memomuse

Visit the Fred Rogers Center to find out more about this remarkable man and how his message and innovation work is still being used to change the world.

How did Mr. Roger’s inspire you?