Friendshipia and Findhorn

When I was in grade 8 and 9  my social studies teacher spent a great deal of time teaching us about the facts of life, no not those facts of life, the facts of our political system and economic system. She had us tackle difficult moral questions about the death penalty and whether or not Quebec should be a part of Canada. Most of all, she opened my eyes to the flaws in our political and economic system. I felt angry and frustrated that there were so many problems with the systems that were designed, I thought, to make our lives good and happy and free and safe. Suddenly I learned that the people in charge did not always have my best interest at heart. They were not all morally just. They were not all hard working even. I’m not saying that all politicians are or were this way, but she saw senators, un-elected, appointed men and women (but mostly men) who are paid way more than three times what I will ever make, sitting in the senate and playing tic-tac-toe and sleeping. This and other facts had me outraged.

My friends and I passed notes back and forth about how angry we were about this. Yes, not the typical topics for 13 year old girls I know but we were not typical 13 year olds. Then one day we came up with a plan. We decided we would start our own country. We drew plans for what it would look like, who would do what, how we would survive. We called it Friendshipia. Over our years in Junior High and High School we continued to talk about and develop our plans for Friendshipia. We decided that it would not have a monetary system and that it would be completely off the grid. One of our friends even came up with a design for how to get electricity using sunlight and water and salt. I never understood it but other scientists have since come out with similar devices.

Even in to university, I thought about Friendshipia. I even wrote a story in my first year about how we came up with the idea and how we would go about making it a reality. We still talk about it sometimes when we get together and there are times that I want to make it happen but I don’t know if I could make that step.

I know that it’s possible. I’ve seen something similar in reality. When I was living in Scotland a few years ago, my best friend and I watched a TV show about a place called Findhorn in Scotland. We were so excited when we saw it; there in front of us was Friendshipia! Near the end of my two years in Scotland, my friend and I had the amazing experience of staying there for a week. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

The thing that I loved the most about Findhorn was their philosophy of how everything should be done with intention. In other words, you do what you do with a reason, because it helps others, because it helps yourself, because it helps the earth. And people actively keep that in mind as they go about their work in the community. Each morning we woke up and had the option to go to meditation or prayer or exercise or just stay in bed if we wanted. We ate together in a big hall, eating mostly local food prepared by people who lived or were staying in the community. During our week there we also helped out in the community. I worked in the dinning room, helping to clean up after breakfast, washing windows, vacuuming, whatever needed doing. Many hands made light work and it was never more work than we could handle. Before starting we would gather together and talk about what needed doing and take a moment to just breathe and be together thinking about the tasks we were about to do and why. There was often music playing and talking and laughter, making the work go quickly.

Everyone’s work was valued equally and everyone willingly pitched in to help the community be a wonderful place to live. The care that was taken in every task was so apparent. It was visible in the paths decorated with shells and tiles. It was visible in the beautiful gardens everywhere. It was visible in the wonderful food we shared.

I wonder why some work is valued so much more than others. Why is it that daycare workers often make less money than someone who works in a call centre? Why does someone who cooks food for us in a restaurant make so much less than someone working a desk job pushing papers all day?

Lately a lot of the anger and frustration that I felt in grade 8 has been resurfacing. Every day it seems there is another reason to be angry about the blatant corruption in our government, the broken economic system, the underfunded education system. I know that there are better ways to do things, better ways to live.  If my work was valued the same as everyone else’s, if money was not a motivator, would I still be an educator? For sure. I love being a teacher. But I would hope that if all work was valued equally that some of the other issues we face each day would not be there.

What would you do if any job you chose were equally valued?

Dealing with Stress

Like most teachers, especially new teachers, I’ve had my fair share of stress in my life. Although, reading through some of the things that other teachers, especially those in New York and other States have to deal with in their professional lives, makes me realize that in some ways I have it pretty good. At least my job isn’t hinging on how my students do in provincial testing and no one is sending the test results of my class out to the media without backing it up with information about class composition. Yes, in some ways I am extremely lucky.

But even so, stress is a part of my day. Even on very good days, something is bound to go not the way I planned it. Someone is going to share a home story with me that breaks my heart or I’ll feel the pressure of getting things done in the small amount of time that I have so I can get home at a decent time.

Last year and this year I’ve been trying to deal with this stress in different ways. My body doesn’t deal well with stress, my stomach in particular gets very upset. Last year it got to a point where I was sick to my stomach a lot of the time. I tried cutting out dairy. That helped a great deal though I do still have small amounts of cheese and the occasional ice cream, I don’t drink milk any more or even eat yogurt. I make sure to get my calcium through leafy greens and almond milk though.

My stomach's best friend.

But still my stomach wasn’t completely happy. Then someone mentioned eating kéfir and how much it helped them. At that point I was willing to try just about anything. Just around Christmas break, I bought some to try it out. I put a few spoonfuls on my granola in the morning along with my almond milk and berries. The effect was not instant but it only took a couple of days and I could see some very tangible results. I wasn’t feeling sick to my stomach, I wasn’t running off to the bathroom, my stomach wasn’t even filling with butterflies when I got nervous. Before I did the change over from French to English, when I was spending most of my time at school, I said to my husband, “It’s amazing. I know I should be stressed because this is a stressful situation, but my stomach isn’t upset so I don’t feel stressed!”

I tried switching from the very strong kéfir to the less strong, more drinkable stuff that Liberté also sells but it didn’t work as well so I switched back to the kind pictured above. I think that the fact that I increased my water consumption and my exercise has also helped but having seen what happens when I don’t eat it daily, even with more water and exercise, I know that it has helped me enormously.

I’m facing a new source of stress soon. Mrs. W. won’t be teaching with me in the mornings for much longer. I’m concerned about how things will go but I’m hopeful that with some daily kéfir and keeping up with my water and exercise I’ll be able to handle the stress without it affecting my health.

Speaking of health, I’ve also noticed that I’m not getting sick as often (knock on wood). A lot of people around me are getting sick and thus far I’ve managed to stay healthy. Here’s hoping that sticks.

In other non-school related news, I’m an aunt again. My nephew Owen was born this morning. Hopefully I’ll get to meet him in April.

March Break

It’s March Break. 

I realized that I haven’t posted in over a week. We were busy last week with Winter Carnival activities and I was exhausted. After a few days visiting my parents and friends in my home town and a great day today getting the house cleaned (I took down the last of our Christmas decorations today) and some cross-country skiing, I’m feeling a little more relaxed and ready to get back to looking at my school work.

One of my goals for the rest of the week is to get a good start on my report cards. I’d like to get my comments and marks done for all my French classes so I’ll just have my other marks left. I’m also thinking of starting a unit on Mystery books so I’m going to do some work on that unit.

For those of you who are on March Break, enjoy your days. For those still waiting, it’s coming up soon.