Connections are important to me. Connections between people. Connections between people and nature. If we had more of both, I believe we'd have a lot fewerproblems in the world. While this blog focuses on connections between kids from different cultures and kids and nature, I'd like to take a little side trip today. It may seem disconnected to you, but stick with me. I hope my comments will help you understand.
How connected are your children or students to their relatives, both dead and living? I ask this question because I believe fully understanding your family's values and beliefs enables you to make choices about continuing or rejecting those beliefs.
I am fortunate to come from a solid foundation. I grew up with my relatives nearby. When I was young, four generations lived on our farm, so I had a sense of family history. I felt loved by my great-grandfather and great grandmother right on down to my aunts and uncles. I learned to live close to the land as I helped feed the animals, bring in the hay, and work the vegetable gardens. I learned independence romping in the woods and fields alone or building forts with my friends. I'm certain I am a naturalist because of this early beginning.
Only later, as a pre-teen, did I start to question the opinions expressed by certain relatives. I heard racial and ethnic slurs uttered on many occasions by some extended relatives. One grandfather thought women should stay home and have babies. He told my parents, "You do not waste money educating women." I didn't always like my extended family or the prejudice that existed. My questioning of that prejudice, and my parents' recognition of it, gave me the courage to grow and reach for something better. Being firmly rooted to my nuclear family and my home gave me the courage to spread my wings and fly half way around the world as an exchange student when I was just 16 years old, even when my grandfather said I belonged at home.
My parents did not want us to repeat my family's history of racism, sexism, antisemitism, etc. (you name an "-ism," it was present in my extended family). They worked hard and raised their daughters to be strong and independent. They pushed us to aim high. Each of us has studied abroad and earned Master's degrees- the first women in our family to do either. Each of us is a strong independent woman because of our parents. Each of us views the world in a more global way than was the norm in our small home town. I am certain I am passionate about race relations and interactions between people because of the blatant prejudices I experienced as a child and my parents' critical responses to it.
The other day, as I walked in my yard photographing my beautiful flowers, all of these ideas flooded my mind. What made that happen you might ask? My strong roots, that's what. I live in the house my maternal grandparents lived in when I was a child. My parents live in my paternal grandparent's house. All around me I see evidence of my grandparents. This home is certainly ours now- we've lived here more than 15 years and made many changes to make it our own. One thing that hasn't changed is some of the gardens and plants. As I walk through my gardens, I see the flowers my grandmother planted all those years ago still blooming. Her snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils still push up through the snow every spring. Each time I see them I think of her and smile. My front garden is a riot of color right now- some of it my grandmother's plants, some of it plants dug from friends' and relatives' gardens over the years. Gardening goes way back in my family. As I walked and photographed each of those flowers yesterday, I thought of the person who gave them to me. And there's the seed of this whole post: connections between the people in my life (some living, some dead) and nature, in the form of the plants they gave me.
For your viewing pleasure... here is a sampling of those flowers and who they're from:
My deceased grandmother's clematis. This is the first time it has bloomed for me.
My grandmother's iris. Yellow was her favorite color.
Peony dug from my uncle's garden. That ant is doing it's job--soon a full bloom!
Lupine my mom grew from seed.
Geranium dug from my great aunt's garden 10 years ago.
Iris from the original plant my mom dug from her grandmother's garden back in the 60's.
I maintain strong connections to the family that nurtures me. I embrace my family’s legacy of living close to the earth- of growing food and flowers and animals-but I reject the legacy of prejudice. I can only choose to embrace or reject something once I have recognized it, considered it, and acted in response to it.
How about you? What is your family legacy? What makes you proud? What do you want to change for your children? How will you make that happen?
Today, I had the most wonderful day that I’ve had in a long time (Professionally speaking. Publishing is a tough business, people). First, I got to see Hovey Clifford, a retired WHOI scientist read Flying Deep to a packed room @woodshole_ocean Science Discovery Center. What a joy this was for me! I was a little concerned when I saw a crowd of preschoolers sitting right down front. (My book is meant for slightly older kids). But Hovey is a natural reader who knows how to engage kids. Also, most of those kids are the children of WHOI employees. They know their ocean stuff! Many of them already own #FlyingDeep. At various points, they called out things related to the pages of the book such as “There’s a shark!” Or “Dumbo Octopus!” And my favorite: “They pee in a bottle!” One child even said the next line of the book before Hovey read it. This is an author’s dream come true.
You’d think my day couldn’t get any better, but you’d be wrong. After I signed books for some kids at the reading and two cases of books for the science center shop, I went to a meeting with 4 WHOI scientists/researchers to talk about a possible book project. The short summary: they told me they’re excited to work with me. (And I’m, you know, mildly excited to work with them. Haha. More like ecstatic!) So, what’s next for me? Lots of reading, researching, and likely emailing with them to nail down exactly what this book should be. I am ridiculously excited to get started. #OceanScience #STEM #STEAM #OceanResearch #ResearchLife
First fiddleheads of the season. #nature
Last night was The Old Rochester Regional School District’s “Night of Jazz,” a concert that features the Junior and High School Jazz Bands and the High School Chorus. Like every show performed by our music departments, this one was fabulous. I’m so thankful that we have a district that values and celebrates music education. Both of my children have benefitted from having outstanding music teachers from Kindergarten on up. Watch for Director Mike Barnicle’s toddler to appear in the last video. He just wanted to be with his dad. I love the way Mr. Barnicle simply scooped him up and kept on directing #parenting. (For those who don’t know, my son @dantecusolito is on the guitar). #supportschoolmusic #livemusic
#RochesterLife: Captain Bonney’s. Gorgeous weather this weekend meant our first trip for ice cream. They reopened a week and a half ago but this was our first trip. Yummy!
I don’t know why, but my parents’ chickens have been laying a lot of double-yolked eggs lately. This is the second and third one we’ve gotten today. (That’s 3 for 3). #farmfresheggs
When it’s your son’s 17th birthday and his dad makes a special trip for cannolis. 😋
Check out this lovely collection of instruments @southcoastlessons in New Bedford, MA. (Swipe for more.) If you don’t already know about all of the cool stuff they offer, you should check them out. (Private lessons, group lessons, free public monthly sessions and so much more). Find them on Facebook for details about upcoming events. #supportlivemusic #livemusic
Today’s nature break. #getoutside #nature.
The weather today was spectacular (65 F, 18C) and sunny. I walked to my favorite frog pond (read: vernal pool) with my friend @alison.noyce and soaked in nature’s orchestra. (Turn on your sound). While I was gone, my daughter cleaned out the porch and then we ate lunch in the porch. In March! The rest of the afternoon was filled with yard work- raking out beds, mulching, etc. Now I’m exhausted. #nature #getoutside
When I’m having a difficult time, getting out in nature always makes me feel better. Some days are harder than others to get myself out there. Sometimes I have to force myself. But I’m always glad when I’ve gone.
This afternoon, I walked along wooded trails, listened to wood frogs clucking in a vernal pool, sat on a bench made by my kids 3 years ago, and watched whitecaps on the lake. All of this put me in a better frame of mind to talk to a group of teachers at “Educator’s Night” at a local indie tonight. #nature #getoutside