Lesson From the Goat Hill Shenanigans

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My childhood was spent in western Massachusetts, in a small rural community located at the base of Mount Greylock. My parents had purchased my grandparents’ home and I celebrated my second-fourteenth birthdays there. We knew most of our neighbors, skipped rocks in the brook on the way to and from school and were told “you can go play in the neighborhood, but be home by the time the streetlights dim.”

Across the street from my house was what everyone referred to as “The Goat Hill” (mainly because it was steep enough to go sliding down on a piece of cardboard in the summer, or a metal saucer in the winter), but the nickname also came about because the owner let her goats graze all over the fenced in part of the hill. The rest of her hillside acreage was left to be natural….leaves building up, wildflowers dotting the landscape ; perfect hiding places for children to play hide-n-seek or have a picnic, looking up from the blanket and guess what forms the clouds reminded them of.

One July afternoon, While careening down the steepest side of the hill, I hit a rock, steered off course and both me and the cardboard ended up in one of my neighbor’s flower beds. Although not knowing her very well, even at the age of nine, I knew the right thing would be to take the time and apologize for flattening her blooms. My two friends scampered away in fear as I picked up my battered piece of cardboard and walked up Mrs. Anderson’s manicured walkway.

Knocking on her front porch door, I practiced what I was going to say to her, figuring if I offered to buy her new plants, she might take it easy on me. After three knocks and what seemed like an eternity of waiting, a small, white-haired woman came to the door and glared down at me through her spectacles.

“Hi ma’m, I live across the road. My name is Debi.”

“Yes, I know who you are child; your Babci (Polish word for grandmother) and I have coffee and conversation while you children are in school. How can I help you?”

“Um, well… ” holding up the cardboard, “I went the wrong way coming down the hill and your flowers are now ruined.”

“I see young lady ,” she said, peering over my head to the area where her flowers had once stood.

“And if you were me, what do you think would be the best way to handle this situation?” Mrs. A’s serious tone and intense eye contact made me feel uncomfortable; I wanted the steps to open up and swallow me.

Was this a trick? Why is she asking me to come up with the consequences? All thoughts of my idea to pay for new plants went out of the noggin and I went completely blank.

Stammering in confusion, I remembered to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go off course and end up in your yard.”

“That’s nice dear, but what are you going to do so this doesn’t happen again to another one of our other neighbors.” As she looked me up and down, I truly felt very small and insignificant.

” I will buy you new flowers and plant them for you.”

” That’s very nice dear, and yes, you can do that for me, but you still haven’t solved the problem of preventing further mishaps with your cardboard shenanigans.”

Oh no, I thought, she called them shenanigans….that did not sound as if I was going to get off easy and her word choice indicated her disapproval. I thought for sure the next thing was a call to my mom.

“Well, I’m waiting dear. Does the cat have your tongue or are you avoiding my question?”

” I guess I should rethink the path I am going to use when sliding down the hill. And I can also talk to the other kids so that we can be safer when playing together. How does that sound?”

After those shenanigans, we changed our route for going down the Goat Hill and no other flowers were sacrificed during our fun. I grew up that day, thanks to Mrs. Anderson treating me like an adult and making me accountable for my actions.

Be sure to treat your sons and daughters with the respect they deserve. If they have the ability to do the task, then they are also able to accept the consequences when something goes unexpectedly. And yes, you may have to guide them in the problem solving process, but don’t let that stop you from helping them learn the life lesson.

Unconditional Love

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This video contains a valuable message about how one’s priorities may change, based on the moments we interact with others, whether they be humans or animals.

As we move from one of the most challenging, bizarre years in modern history, think about how you might have been changed by an individual or animal in this past year.

Have you reflected on what you have, possession-wise?

Have you counted your blessings?

Have you hugged those that are closest and let them know how much they mean to your existence?

Happy New Year Heartstrings and Tailspins readers.

I am grateful to my father’s memory for inspiring me to launch this website last January and am looking forward to expanding my followers and share many more inspirational stories of individuals and animals who have shared their life lessons and unconditional love with me.

Please do leave me a comment and become a follower.

Share this post with others who might appreciate being uplifted by these sorts of exchanges,

And stay tuned for new features and opportunities to connect in other ways as 2021 becomes the date we start writing on our paperwork.

Heartstrings and Tailspins Reviews and Recommendations

Please contact me if you’d like my opinion and feedback on your book / educational product / curriculum / special needs clothing or accessories line / wheelchair friendly accommodations etc.

As a former educator, ranging from Early Literacy to Community College level, my teaching experience has spanned over three decades, both in regular & special needs.

I’ve also had the honor of being a Gifted & Talented Program Coordinator for several school district summer enrichment programs, Diversity Trainer for Girl Scouts USA and the Education Manager for Junior Achievement in New Hampshire.

Use the below email address to connect for pricing information on my reviews:

heartstringsandtailspins@gmail.com

The New Take on Vulnerability

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This archived video segment on Good Morning America gave me a new perspective on the trait of vulnerability that we are dealing with right now.

Although unfamiliar with author Brene Brown or her previous work, her book, “Dare to a Lead” was recommended to me when researching on the topic of vulnerability.

I like Brown’s take on the fact that being vulnerable is a strength (and not a weakness) it is healthy and good to ask for help and admit we might not “know everything”.

In trying to absorb and process the chaos around us, psychologists have described what we are feeling in 2020 as Emotional Exhaustion.

Now imagine how this translates and comes across to our children. Not only are they trying to now navigate in a world that never before required them to “quarantine”, stay six feet apart from their classmates and neighbors, wear masks whenever they leave their house and stop participating in live, in-person activities of more than ten people. Add to this that they may also be “remotely learning” or home schooling with parents/family members, instead of attending their familiar brick and mortar school building and being taught by their teachers…and it’s a very different “norm” than what we all knew six months ago.

Families may also be dealing with unemployment, layoffs, having to apply for food assistance and be without the benefits (i.e. health insurance, prescription plan, having to eliminate after school activities and recreational opportunities.

Perhaps your family might have had to curtail visits with grandparents, eliminate birthday parties and visits to the dog park. Your job situation might have requested you to change the dynamics in your family’s environment to handle a parent “working from home”; talk about transitions!

So how does the average adult cope with all of these changes, never mind a child?

Hence the new take on vulnerability. We need to rethink the way we perceive ourselves, realize that as the primary caretaker of our children, we need to take care of ourselves (sort of like “putting on the oxygen mask first before assisting our child”).

How about you?

Your thoughts?

Thinking Outside the Box Can Be Good

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This is a wonderful podcast!

As a brand new teacher in 1982, I was excited about inspiring my students to be the best they could be, help them develop their skills and personalities and mentor them.

As years went by, different administrators told me I needed to “follow the rules set by society”, make sure I graded my students so there was a “normal bell curve” and that they could not all receive A’s and I must be playing favorites.

I responded to them that by individualizing my instructional methods to match their unique learning styles, I empowered my students to reach their full potential. I also helped them strategize their studying techniques and master the skills needed to pass my courses. Then they labeled me a “rebel teacher”, but I was really just an educator that was “thinking outside the box”.

As a parent, I applied that same philosophy: asking “why not?” when situations were not accessible to my daughter, and then brainstormed two or three other options, rather than “accepting the norm”.

In my job situation, I am usually the first one that says, “what if we tried it this way instead?”

I am a fan of trying to find new ideas, welcoming informative sharing like those shared in this week’s session.

Hope you will be inspired!

Learned a new term: “Life Hacks”

www.linkedin.com/pulse/bruce-feiler-mastering-change-transitions-essential-parts-hempel

Although not always mirroring the situations being shared on this informative weekly podcast, I have found myself appreciating the diversity of the topics and guest speakers.

This week I learned a new term “life hacks”. I like the way it feels, being able to give previous ups and downs in my personal and professional life a label!

Thinking back to my life 15 or 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have been able to say I had experienced “life hacks”, because I did not have a knowledge base for what “hacks” were, but now I can accept and agree the term definitely fits!

Having transitioned through those periods in my timeline, and being able to say not only have I survived, but now feel I’m a stronger and more resilient person, I am grateful for those “life hacks”.

Can you relate to this term? Have you experienced them, either personally or professionally?

I’d love to hear about them.

Please comment below.

Defying the Odds

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In 1992, during the weeks before we understood the full implications of our daughter’s medical conditions, we were given “advice” from several professionals who wanted to “save us from the numerous challenges her life would entail”. In each case, they suggested we “explore our options”, which meant think about terminating the pregnancy.

Thankfully, our desire to be parents and persevere, plus my stubborn Polish pride and zodiac Leo “bossy” trait took charge and refused their “advice”. Instead, I requested their expertise to refer us to the specialists that would give us the best way to “beat the odds”. We continue to be eternally grateful for the entire team at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Next month will be Danielle’s 28th birthday. She has brought hope and an opportunity to teach patience, tolerance and creative problem solving to the people who have crossed her path, as shared by her classmates, Girl Scouts and their parents.

As a family we have empowered others through annual guest presentations at the University of New Hampshire, encouraging Girl Scout troops to modify their camping and field trips, challenging school nurses, administrators and teachers to think about fire drills, safety concerns and ADA compliance issues.

Growing up, Danielle had opportunities to model for some charitable causes and an educational textbook publisher, be a delegate for the SBAA conference in Indianapolis, and the Girl Scouts of the Green & White Mountains annual meeting. She was asked to tour a new clothing store to “check out the accessibility features” of the bathrooms and fitting rooms, been interviewed for several local newspapers and been part of the NH Family Voices Network.

We became members of the Spina Bifida Association and connected with other families across America to educate ourselves on the best techniques and strategies to overcome Dani’s physical and neurological challenges. We volunteered as part of Special Olympics, but also found ways to modify typical activities and events so that our daughter could be included.

Our small New Hampshire town and New England region showed their support and willingness to embrace Danielle’s uniqueness to help us overcome barriers and obstacles.

Hearing many inspirational stories like ones shared in the I Am ALS organization are one of the reasons I made the decision to go ahead and fulfill my dream to become a mom so many years ago!

I felt that I could overcome the odds and handle the challenges presented by her medical conditions and special needs.

Let’s continue to defy the odds! Dig down deep and persevere to overcome our daily struggles and challenges.

The Great ‘Lockdown-Liberty’ Giveaway

GIVEAWAY – win outdoor goodies; adventure books, a water bottle, bottle holder & an adventure map. Kids of the Wild’s family prize draw ends 30th July 2020
— Read on kidsofthewild.co.uk/2020/07/08/giveaway-outdoor-family-prize-draw-package/

I’m so impressed by this British Mum turned Blogger’s wonderful family resources!

Wanted to share her giveaway with you.

Enjoy!

Debi