Friday, November 29, 2013

Fooducation

Our family has begun exploring how best to attend to our nutritional needs.  Through a great deal of research (which seems only to be in its first phase), we are uncovering a ton of information that is causing us to question the nutritional quality of the food, or “food-like substances,” we have been purchasing and consuming for the last four decades.

One result of our self-education process is that we have decided to raise and harvest as much of our own food as we can.  This is proving to be very rewarding, on multiple levels.

We have also determined to more intentionally share with our children (even though they’re grown) and our grandchildren the thinking and skills that underlie being able to grow, find, and harvest food with some actual nutritional substance to it.

Last Wednesday, we and our daughters’ families joined together in processing 50 (yep, 50), chickens which were purchased some nine weeks ago and have been nurtured for that blessed event.  It was most rewarding to participate together in that ritual of real food preparation with 10 family members involved (the three-year old is not quite ready for participation in that process yet).

Why? (you may be asking)

Here are some of the drivers behind our decisions:
  • We want/need food with real nutritional “punch” to it.
  • We want/need food that has been raised free of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modifications, and a steady infusion of antibiotics.
  • We want/need animal protein that has been raised on natural forage, in as near a free-range setting as we can provide.
  • We want/need for our children and grandchildren to understand and embrace the knowledge, skills, and traditions of raising and harvesting their own sustenance.
  • We want/need to honor the sacredness of the reality that humans can only live (and live healthily) when robust plants and/or animals die in the provision of our sustenance.
  • We want/need for the living organisms that provide our sustenance to also live, grow, and die in the healthiest and most respectfully provided environments possible. 

 We continue to learn about others of like mind who are accomplishing these same kinds of goals – in urban settings, in suburban settings, and in rural settings.  It seems that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

BeyondMeasure

On this day of Thanksgiving, we reflect on the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.

Of all the people on this planet, I cannot imagine one more blessed than I.

Notable among those blessings:
  • A loving wife (who appears inclined to stick with me to the end).
  •  A healthy, loving, and happy family (that seems to enjoy my company).
  • Enough – food, shelter, safety, love, money.
  • Work that has meaning.
  •   A Creator that has gifted me with the things mentioned above, and the health of mind, body, and spirit to attend substantively to each.

 I’ve not much in the way of riches, but wealth I have beyond measure.

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

If I take those words attributed to Jesus (Luke 12:48) to heart, then I’ve got quite a lot of work ahead of me.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Compassionate&Responsible

Three times each year at the school I currently serve (Guthrie CSD in Guthrie, Texas), the staff and students hit the pause button and engage in collective and focused learning, together (PreK-grade 12).  For the last couple of years we have focused the learning at those embedded professional development days on the Guthrie Graduate Profile (GGP). 

The GGP is the manifestation of the intention of our community and school to educate the "whole" child.  In effect, we have chosen  to go beyond the teaching of knowledge and skills in academic areas only, and begun to purposely teach our children ways of thinking and ways of behaving

The five dimensions of the GGP are shown below:
  • Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers
  • Effective Communicators
  • Persons of Strong Character
  • Productive and Valuable Team Members
  • Compassionate and Responsible Citizens

On November 26, 2013, we engaged in another of those team learning sessions.  The focus of the day was on the dimension of "Compassionate and Responsible Citizens."  The big chunks of learning for the day were centered around three learning prompts:
  1. Discussions around the learning we gleaned from the Lessons from Malaki, which details the challenges of a nine year old boy competing on Britain's Got Talent.
  2. A presentation from guest speaker Woody Gilliland, Chief Executive Officer of the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, an organization that exists ONLY to serve fellow humans in need. 
  3. Dialogue generated from viewing the video about Matthew Jeffers and his letter to the Baltimore Ravens. 
Students are put in cross-aged table teams for the cooperative learning (older students are charged with "taking care" of the younger ones in the process).  



A couple of the major takeaways for our "team" during that day of learning:
  • "To whom much is given, much is required."
  • "The only disability in life is a bad attitude." (Matthew Jeffers)
A most excellent day of learning! (And, accomplished without a single multiple choice test).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

StandardizedLife?


We humans seem to try to ensure a smooth and risk-free life by managing uncertainty.  The rationale is that if we can "standardize" life, we can make it more predictable, less turbulent, more certain.  The externally imposed application of standardization is to "regulate."

  • We regulate speed limits on our highways (yet MANY don’t abide by them, cops included). 
  • We regulate our food supply to ensure it’s safety (yet much recent research indicates we may be poisoning ourselves with overly processed and/or genetically modified foods). 
  • We regulate the way we should all look at work or at school (yet even those environments with the strictest dress codes are chock full of variance).  
  • We regulate what and how much children should learn in our schools (yet the disparities seem overwhelming and intractable).  
  • I am told that the Affordable Care Act consists of 55,000+ pages of statutory language and administrative regulations, to ensure a well-regulated healthcare delivery system for our populace (time will tell, but please forgive my skepticism).  
I have become more and more aware of how standardization tends to homogenize and dilute - our behaviors, our thinking, our opportunities, our freedom, life's outcomes.  

It seems that attempts to regulate uncertainty do little more than inhibit creativity, innovation, freedom to pursue our own happiness.  

And, I find myself more and more frequently confronted with the reality of how often the regulators seem un-required or unwilling to abide by the standardization they so wish to impose.

Non-standardized life for me, thanks.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

SportsmanshipBanishment

In the news recently was a report that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has begun to ban post-game handshaking between opposing teams, due to a series of after-game altercations.

Incidences of poor sportsmanship occur, and always have.  They are isolated and rare, and always have been.

It is hard for me to accept that all teams, athletes, coaches, and schools should have to bend to the behavior of the most egregious actors.  I've witnessed both good and bad demonstrations of sportsmanship over the years, but have seen far more of the former than the latter.

I am convinced, and have ample evidence to prove, that right-minded and right-hearted coaches have significant impact in teaching young athletes appropriate behavior - before, during, and after contests.

The tragedy in the Kentucky decision is that far more demonstrations of good sportsmanship will now be banned than will incidences of poor sportsmanship.  It seems that a generalized penalty for a whole state full of athletes, coaches, schools, and communities has been applied for the sins of a very few.

In effect, the bad guys win again.

On this very topic, the football team of the school I serve was eliminated from the state football playoffs on Saturday afternoon.  After a hard fought game, one team will move forward (Newcastle H.S.) and one team is assigned to "letting the air out of the ball" for another year (our own Guthrie Jaguars).

Here's the picture I took of that post-game encounter:


Same thing happens after every one of our football games.

I prefer that lesson for our children.

Friday, November 22, 2013

ImprovedServe

In many organizations, a typical knee-jerk reaction to poor service to customers (whether they be buyers, students, vendors, or volunteers) is to try to put a new policy/regulation/rule in place to “fix the problem!”

The “problem” is almost always a failure in the human interaction piece, dysfunctional or nonexistent people skills.  Automating our way out of interacting with customers diminishes both our customers and our employees.

Our customers deserve better, and our employees can do better (if taught/coached/trained/allowed to do so).

Why not invest a little time in developing the troops with regard to improving people skills?  And, why not incentivize (I’m not talking money here, but rather, recognition, praise, affirmation) exceptional instances of service?

Both sides of this human interaction equation benefit from quality service delivery, and no one loses. Really. (Talk about win-win solutions!)

The biggest barrier to taking this approach to service?  We have to be willing to learn to listen to and get to know our customers.


Time to get started…

Thursday, November 21, 2013

MiracleGrow(th)

Back when I was pretending to be a football coach, one of my players (let’s call him Tom) came into my office one morning during our August two-a-day workout sessions.  Tom informed me that he was likely to grow 5-6 inches and gain 10-20 pounds by week’s end.  I immediately began asking questions.

Tom had gone home after the previous day’s workouts, completely depleted.  His mother had mixed several gallons of green liquid and left them on the kitchen table.  Tom assumed his mother had prepared Gatorade to replenish his electrolytes after an exhausting day of practice.  He quickly downed one gallon and was working on a second one when his mom entered the room and began yelling at him.  Her mixture was not Gatorade after all; rather, it was Miracle Grow, which she had prepared for her garden plants.

Tom concluded that if Miracle Grow could work such wonders on plant life, then he could expect commensurate biological dividends from his consumption of the same.

Obviously, Tom didn’t add 5 inches in height nor 15 pounds of body weight (not until after he graduated, of course).

Grow we should (personally and professionally), but it is never the result of magic potions or shortcuts.  Affectatious growth is the result of a deliberate “fitness regimen” which we prescribe for ourselves and engage in with daily discipline.  Of course, we have the option of NOT “growing” ourselves in those dimensions (and many make that choice).


What is not available to us is a magic elixir (such as Tom’s mistaken assertion that Miracle Grow would provide some sort of physiological shortcut to Amazon-ness).  

The old saying of “inch by inch, life’s a cinch” applies to our personal growth.  We get to prescribe the menu, the regimen, the routine, and the growth most assuredly follows.  Or NOT, if that’s what we choose.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BlindSpots

When learning to drive we were taught about the “blind spot” just behind our left shoulder.  It is in this blind spot that other vehicles can be traveling without our knowing it, potentially threatening our safety and well being.

We have similar “blind spots” in our daily work and living.  These not-so-obvious threats to our success, safety and well being exist just outside our easy view.  They represent potential “wrecks" in performance and effectiveness, all of which can be avoided with some due diligence on our part.

How can we check for those blind spots in our lives?  

1)  Just as most of us have developed the driving habit of glancing quickly and frequently back over the left shoulder, we can train ourselves through habit to regularly pause and reflect on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we might do it better.

2)  Rely on trusted others (auxiliary mirrors) to provide us with feedback on what they see us doing, why it appears we’re doing it, and how we might do it better.

Checking our blind spots really boils down to practicing a continuous improvement version of “double vision” - regularly taking a look at ourselves in a 360 sort of way, and asking trusted others for their 360 view of us.


That checking-the-blind-spot process is never done (in driving or in living). 
It requires persistent attention, 
as often as we’re driving down the road, 
as often as we're living life.