Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Year of the Black Dragon

I'm not an astrologist, but I've been fascinated for a long time with the rich, descriptive nature Chinese astrology.  Its many separately turning dials (yin/yang, five elements, twelve animals) all work together to evoke a wonderfully expressive variety of images to communicate in much greater depth the essence of a thing than I feel like western astrology does. 
Consider the way Chinese astrology is used to forecast the energies for a given year.  Last year was called the year of the White Fur Rabbit (or, more particularly, the Yin Metal Rabbit). It was, astrologically speaking, expected to be one of a series of years with conflicted energies.  This one would look peaceful on the surface, but be full of hidden (unexpected) problems, challenges and trials. These trials were not expected to be of a catastrophic type, overall, but it was not a time to do things on a grand scale because even the smallest of these problems could bring down a great endeavor.

Doesn't that give you a good sense of things?

2012 is the year of the Yang Water Dragon, which is known more descriptively as the Black Dragon.

Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers. They are a symbol of strength and good luck and, as the lone mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac, are considered to be unpredictable, untouchable, mysterious. The Black Dragon is traditionally associated with auspicious new beginnings, so when their image comes up on the calendar it suggests a time to start new ventures and boldly, but thoughtfully, initiate change. People who can pursue their own passionate ambitions while meeting the needs of others are best suited to navigating the energies of Black Dragon times. The image of water calming the Dragon's usually tempestuous nature communicates in a descriptive manner the importance of being mindful of other perspectives and considering to the plight of the less fortunate is a good way to be in tune with the energies around us.

In terms of the year ahead, the Black Dragon does not mark the end of the unsettled period of the last couple of years, but it does indicate the beginning of transition and potentially major change. The relationship of the various cycles in the upcoming year is symbolized by the image of water sitting on top of earth (some use the image of an earthen dam). According to Chinese element theory, earth is the destroyer of water (or, in the image of the dam, it holds it back) and so this relationship indicates a period of conflict. However, the water of the annual cycle is a natural element of the Dragon. Water produces wood, which signifies growth and so, even though things are still in a bit of turmoil, there is plenty of possibility for the year to be a positive one.

Doesn't that sound cool?
Happy New Year!

[Image Credit]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Not Your Mama's Grading System

Today is the last day of the fall semester at my school. Grades are due soon, at which point parents will be able to see where they're students are on the continuum of success in my classes. I thought I'd explain how grading works in my world, because it's very different from the traditional.

My school has adopted a standards-based grading model, which means that students are not given grades strictly as an average of their work on assignments (tests, homework, etc.) over a given term. Rather, teachers define at the start of the class a series of things that students should be able to demonstrate they know or can do by the end of the class. For example, my class has 15 Learning Targets, including the following (they are each meant to be preceded by the phrase, "I can..."):

...Carry on a conversation in the language I’m studying about familiar topics, with appropriate vocabulary.

...Identify and use the numbers from 1-100 in the language I’m studying.

...Use a foreign language dictionary.

Students are then assessed (repeatedly, in lots of ways, over time) on their ability to know or do these things, and their progress is measured on the following scale:

4 – Exemplary, or "I wicked get it!"

3 – Accomplished, or "I get it."

2 – Developing, or "I kinda get it."

1 – Beginning, or "I’m just starting to get it."

Over the course of the year, students work toward being accomplished at the things they set out to do in the classes (I try very hard to communicate that this is not the same as getting a grade). At the end of the year, I evaluate where each student is at on all of them and, together, we make a determination about whether they are prepared to move on to the next level of language. I have come to love this approach for several reasons:

1. The conversations I have with my students are not about getting grades (which, ultimately, mean nothing), but about learning stuff. When I student does a crappy job on an exam, for example, I don't talk to them about the crappy job they did. I ask them what went wrong and, through that discussion, we come to some conclusions about how to do better next time. Maybe they didn't study because they've got a lot going on in their world at home. OK, fine. How can the studying of my material live in harmony with that? What needs to happen at school to support doing that practice? I'm finding that this is far a more effective and meaningful conversation to have than, "You got a C."

2. It takes away the fights over why, "You got a C." The goals my students are working toward in the class and are clear, and so they are able to make good connections about how my material relates to the big picture. "Have a conversation in French" is clear and understandable. When I tell them to practice reading dialogs out loud, it's not just work. It's work with a purpose that makes sense. When it comes time to look at how well they can do that, we can both refer to the evidence and come to consensus about how well they can do each of the standards. The discussion about advancement or retention is based only on their performance on the 15 standards of my class -- things like attendance, behavior and timeliness of homework are not on that list, and so my students know they won't be used punitively by me. That doesn't mean I don't report on them or that they don't enter the conversations we have about how to do the best they can; what it does is put those things in their rightful place, which is NOT in the gradebook.

3. It allows me an incredible amount of flexibility to help students in individual ways. There is no single way students have to demonstrate a standard. For example, if the goal is to get students to be able to have conversations in French, but they're very shy and don't participate in class, I can sit with them one-on-one in the hallway or in the library or at lunch and, totally informally, add French to our conversations (it's worth mentioning that I spend a lot of time with my students that doesn't take place during my class), over time and without realizing it, they've shown me that they can talk with someone in French, and how well. This is a lot harder to do well without fudging a grade in a traditional system.

4. It makes clear that grading is subjective and that it involves professional judgment. Any teacher will tell you that there is no such thing as a truly objective grading system. We have created countless methods to make them appear objective but, when it comes right down to it, we fudge grades to make them say what we want them to. By bringing the conversation openly to my students (who, it is worth noting, are generally harder on their performance than I am), I take away the mysterious math and convoluted averaging, weighting and coding and own what my impressions are based on what I know the standard to be. I have the benefit of a professional understanding of what the standard contains and I work hard to communicate that clearly and regularly to my students, so when we talk about their readiness to move on I can be forthright about saying, "I have worries about..." and be clear about what I need them to show me they know or can do.

5. It communicates much more comprehensively what students know and can do for the outside world. What does a C communicate about all the myriad things a French student might know? What about "Accomplished" next to the standard, "...Can use a bilingual dictionary." A composite grade means very little in terms of explaining well the performance of students. A standard comes much closer. Colleges, sadly, will be a long time accepting this (which is ironic because it is through their research that the idea of performance-based grading came to be), but it is very useful in evaluating how best to serve students.

This is the first year my school has used this system in all its classes (I piloted it last year, along with a couple of other teachers).  What do you think?  If you were/are a student, would you like it?  Would it be helpful to you as a parent?  How would it change your teaching practice, if you're an educator?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Quick Hit: Good Numbers

Today at my school I gave or received:

42 hugs -- including the complete set from all three triplets, two visiting alumni, three teachers and one parent.

17 high fives -- most notable among which was the two-sided, four-handed option done while passing at full speed in the hallway between classes.

6 handshakes -- with one that felt very similar to this: 

(I'm convinced I'll get it, but it feels like it changes every time :/ ) 

8 expressions of love -- four left on my whiteboard, three given in passing and one note stuck to my computer screen.

I love my where I teach!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Things Tuesday: Diet and Exercise

I'm in the phase of rebuilding the two foundations of my training regimen for triathlon season.  Part of that involves losing some fat, but there's more to it than simply saying, "fat, be gone!" (though wouldn't that be cool!)

Here's where my efforts are focused:

Be mindful of what I eat. Hello, my name is Wayfarer and I am a carb junkie. There. I've admitted it. If I have an addiction of any kind, it's to carbs. I don't drink to any real degree and I don't do drugs, but you can absolutely fill my plate again with pasta (and I'll take some bread to go with that, too, please). It's not always a bad thing, though. When I'm in full training mode, carbohydrates are a necessary energy source. They're the fuel that allows endurance training to take place. When I'm not running, swimming or biking all the time, though, carbs turn from Yoda to Sith lord. I know this intellectually but, in moments of low mental and spiritual fortitude, they are my comfort food and I am less aware of how much of them I eat. The first place I turn when I need to shed fat before I start full on training is to the carbs. I eliminate the extra bits that have crept in over time (the extra half a bagel I somehow started eating again, for example) and steer back toward more whole grains. We all know we're supposed to be eating whole grains, right? Yeah, well, if they tasted like white bread I'd probably eat more of them.

Be mindful of when I eat. School is busy for me. I hit the ground running and, if I don't remind myself to do it, I won't stop to do things like eat, drink or run to the bathroom (I cannot tell you the number of times I ridicule my wife for saying, "I've needed to pee for four hours," but truth be told, I do the exact same thing at school). If I don't take the time to eat around noon, I'm ravenous by 3pm, which makes me much more likely to the aforementioned comfort foods -- especially the kind that come in bags or boxes. I won't eat the apple or banana I brought, and if it requires heating up, the lunch from home takes too much time. Regardless of what I eat at 3pm, I'll still eat supper at 6pm. I'm not one to turn away a meal. I mean, what happens if the zombie apocalypse should occur before the next one comes?

Be mindful of water. I do not drink well in colder weather. When it's cold, I like warm things in my cup, but the problem is that I'm finicky about my warm drinks. I love coffee, but it's not good to drink too much of it (especially with cream and sugar, like I prefer). Tea is for being sick or supremely cold; I don't like drinking it all the time -- it lacks the richness of coffee, for one thing, and it never tastes as good as it smells. All the other warm drinks (hot chocolate, cider, etc.) are yummy, but definitely Sith drinks when consumed in quantity. Warm water is, well, bleh. I don't have a good solution for dealing with this, except to set an alarm to fill my mug every so often with water and drink it right then. I'm open to suggestions about a better way. Don't take it personally if I criticize it, though. It's the finicky thing.

Take time to breathe. Meditation is something that does me a great deal of good. Sometimes it leads to naptime (which is always nice), but even without that bonus just taking a moment to center myself and recharge is helpful both to my ability to be mindful of things I should and resist doing things I shouldn't. I try to build it into my routine every day, but the fall semester at school is very full and it very easily gets dropped from my schedule to accommodate for one obligation or another.

Lighten my schedule. I make the choice to coach soccer in the fall, and I've learned that this carries with it the consequence of pushing my normally full schedule over the line into the zone of brain exploding busy. I accept that for the two and a half months that is the soccer season, and I do a decent job of maintaining good habits during that time. Once the season is over, I need my calendar to have more white space in it. Sometimes, I overestimate the value of that white space and take on projects that I really need to put off or simply let go. This year, I added a lot to my plate early on, including two independent studies, one of which requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I can't in good conscience let those go, but as other things resolve I can choose to leave that time free. Just say no.

Moderate the heavy thinking. Here's the thing: When I'm doing a lot with my brain, I eat. Unlike when I use my body a lot, though, the calories consumed as part of brain exercise do not burn off. I'm a big picture thinker, and I many of my projects require a lot of that for long periods of time. Because I enjoy that kind of thing, it's easy no ignore how much time goes by when I'm doing it. The problem is that it's also easy to ignore that I'm eating while I'm doing it, and that isn't conducive to shedding fat. So, I'm trying to moderate the amount of time I sit down with them and, when the timer goes off, to put them away.

Go for a walk. It's not super rigorous, but walking is an effective way to lose fat and has several advantages this time of year. It's flexible in it can be done in small amounts during the day or in a longer chunk of time. It doesn't require warm up or cool down. It doesn't require special equipment (just dress for the weather). It carries a low risk of injury, which is good if you're just getting into a habit of exercise (it's hard to hurt yourself from walking too much) or if, like me, you haven't set up your bike on its trainer upstairs or fully set your internal clock to get up at 5am to hit the pool or the treadmill.

Keep records. I've done this for training for the past 6 years, and it does a good job of keeping me honest about taking time every day for some form of exercise. I have a log for eating that I use less regularly, but that is also good for helping me watch my diet. Some people really like paper for this because it's more tangible, but I choose to do this on the computer with spreadsheets because I live on my computer. Do what works.

Have a reason. I committed to shedding 25lbs in 90 days, but there's more to it than that. I have other goals that depend upon this, like running triathlons or going on distance cycling trips or doing my first half marathon. To know why I'm losing the fat (that is, this goal in a context with the rest of my life) goes a long way toward seeing it realized.

Congratulate the successes; Revise as necessary. Failures are only failures if the trying stops. Life is rarely about things being done. If I meet my goal (today, for example, it was just to get out for a walk), I'll tell myself I did a good job. If I should make a mistake and fall off the wagon, I just have to think about what went wrong and try it again. Tomorrow's another day, with another chance to do it right if I choose to. I'm choosing to.

Where are your efforts focused right now?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Meditation: Definitions and Implications

Compassion comes from the Latin roots for "suffers" and "with". In today's language, it means a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is suffering in some way, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering.

Tolerance comes from the Latin "to bear", and has come to imply a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race or other identifiers differ from one's own. The dictionary also added this phrase: "Freedom from bigotry", which rather fortuitously aids my point in writing about it. I'll come back to that.

Bigotry is defined as the stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own. The term comes from French bigot, and was originally a derogatory term applied to the Normans (who, to the French, were a notably stubborn people in their refusal to espouse the behaviors and attitudes of les fran├žais).

Finally, freedom is used in the definition of tolerance and so it should be included here. Among its several definitions, the word freedom illustrates the power to determine action without restraint.

In reviewing these words and their definitions, let us consider some implications:

Compassion, if we are to practice it, implies that we all -- together and equivalently with others -- experience suffering. We are not separate from or unaffected by suffering, but instead must contend with it in much the same way as everyone else. In other words, all of us are stuck in the same quicksand.

Bigotry, based on its origins as a word, affords us an interesting look back into a history when at least one group of people thought another less than they because of their beliefs. I find it no end of ironic that this word would come from French, whose culture has been vilified by ours for its own views, but my point is that at least part of the quicksand in which we are all mired has its origins in this state of mind. Simply put, we cannot get to the place of being effective at ending suffering (as the second half of the definition of compassion suggests is our desire) if we adhere stubbornly to the belief that others' beliefs are less than ours.

The definition of freedom above supports the statement that, at least as it relates to belief and action toward others, we have the power to choose. The statement in the dictionary, "Freedom from bigotry", can appropriately be interpreted to say that we can choose to cultivate an attitude of acceptance of difference, and that it doesn't matter what kind of difference. The French thought the Normans were stubborn. We Americans think the French are stubborn. The rest of the world thinks Americans are stubborn. The particular flavor of stubborn doesn't really matter. What matters is the view that someone else's flavor is less than our own.

Let's bring this back to compassion and being stuck in the same quicksand. If we accept bigotry to be a negative term and, thus, the behavior it references to be negative, and if we accept that bigotry is something we all wrestle with, and if we accept that we have the freedom to choose different behavior then it seems as though the most effective way to practice compassion would be to do the following:

  • To work to discover that my own views probably come from the same place as everyone else's (that is, they are an amalgam of my experience, my understanding and the particular flavor of the world around me).

  • To free myself from the thought that my own views are better that everyone else's and that everyone else's views are less than my own.

  • To work to relate to others' and their views from a place of sameness, not separateness (I'm in this world with everybody else, not just by myself).

Do you think you would be able to see more clearly the wholeness of people by doing these things? What about the idea of practicing compassion through sameness? What does this idea mean for how we relate to people? Does it matter if the people are strangers or friends? Does it matter if we like them or we don't? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Check-in: Day 11

The last few days have seen no shortage of things to keep me occupied, but I didn't want to lose sight of my goal from before the new year to shed 25 pounds of fat. Here's where we're at:

I have to own that I haven't been terribly regular with any sort of exercise since the clock started. I've been to the gym a few times (mostly to the pool), but I have yet to set my bike up in my office or clear the boxes off my weight bench. I did manage to get up early on Friday to do some work on my core muscles before school started (oh, sweet gods, but I need to do more of that kind of work), but I didn't even hear my alarm yesterday. I have the ability to set a second alarm on my watch, so I'll do that until I've reached the point where my body's internal clock has adjusted to getting up at 5:30 in the morning.

Another part of the equation of weight and fat loss for me involves medication. I've been taking synthetic thyroid hormone to replace what my thyroid is no longer producing and this, I've discovered, has a dramatic effect my appetite, my energy level and how my body processes food. My doctor and I are still tweaking the official dosage, but I think I've discovered that I need more of it in the fall and winter that I do in the spring and summer. I didn't increase my dosage when school started, which might have contributed to why I put on as much weight as I did when I stopped paying attention to what I was eating. This reinforces the importance of being mindful of my diet during the colder months.

I've been better about paying attention to food lately. Fatty's has come and gone, and there is less on my plate now, with more of it being veggies. I'm drinking more water and less coffee. I had dessert last night, but that was a special treat because we were invited to dinner chez Mahk and Lisa (a wonderful and very welcome surprise). Such indulgences are rare for me anyway, but I'll be particularly aware of them now that I have a goal to meet. It always takes a couple of weeks for me to fully bring myself back into line when it comes to food, but I feel like I'm making good progress.

The journey to lose 25 pounds of fat is one that will take all of the 90 days I committed to it, but I've done much of what I need to do in these early days to see that goal realized. Over the next week, I'll focus on the habit of daily exercise and in making sure that the end-of-semester grading craziness doesn't distract me from eating right or getting good sleep. I'll check in again next week

Day 1: 204 lbs.
Day 9: 200 lbs. (-4)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Goals: Part 1

Normally at this time of year I take some time to look at the goals I've set out for myself over the past few months. I make adjustments to them, add new goals and, in general, make decisions about what projects I want to undertake and what new paths I want to explore. I'm a little bit behind schedule, what with the events of last week and all, but this presents me with an opportunity to share something I talk about in my classes fairly often, but less so outside of school.

With my students, I spend a lot of time on the topics of setting goals. Very often, it's within the context of doing things like building habits of daily practice and making good choices about time management, but in general I try to impart the value of actively engaging in the process of goal setting while modeling effective ways for people to think about where they are and where they want to be. Over the next few posts, I thought I might do some thinking about this out loud for you. Apart from the entertainment value of reading someone's internal dialog, perhaps seeing the process unfold will be helpful for you if you've ever had trouble seeing your goals realized.

My students are often confused when I talk about the process of setting goals. Many think of it as simple decision making. They think that if they say, "I'm going to be a lawyer," or, "I'm going to get my homework caught up," that this should equate to making it happen. Most of us as grownups know well from experience that this is not the case, but when you don't have that experience it's sort of looks like a magic trick.

"Watch me pull a goal out of my hat!" *TADA*

It's reasonable for them to think that way, especially if the only parts of the process that they actually see are the parts where someone says what the goal is and (if it ever happens) the goal itself. That's what most of us see, and it explains to a large degree why we view goal setting as something designed to produce an end product. It also explains why when we talk about goals, we do so with linear terms like "climb a mountain" or "reach your goals".

Most of us have come to accept that we will very often experience failure when we set goals. We've had to contend with frustration time and time again when we didn't realize what we set out to achieve. We approach the task of setting goals with a healthy dose of cynicism, or we simply quit doing it because we know we'll never be successful at it. We look at people who experience success and think there must be some sort of magic in it, some sort of quality that they possess which we do not.

I would submit that this is not the case. I would further submit that much of the problem lies not with our abilities, but with the way in which we view the task. In looking at goals only as things to be accomplished, we're missing the greatest part of their potential. Sort of like seeing your 4G iPhone as just something to use to make calls to your grandma. It'll do that, sure, but that's not what it's really there for.

Let me propose a thought: What if we consider the act of goal setting as a cyclical process instead of a road to be followed? What if, when we set a goal, we see the goal not as a finished product, but as a moment, an experience that, by its very existence creates another cycle, more goals, more choices?

I developed a way of thinking a few years ago called the Learning Spiral. It looks like this:

The text you see associated with it is has to do with learning, not goal setting, but the underlying idea is the same for both: 

Think of a cyclical process instead of a product to be created.

I put this out there because this paradigm is fundamental to how I approach my thinking this time of year. I think about the spiral to see where I am on it relative to my goals, and I make decisions about how to move forward based on where I am. It takes a little while because I may be at different places on the spiral depending upon which goal I'm thinking about. It's hard for me to explain it without taking a long time to do it so, over the next little while, I'll try to show you what it looks like with a couple of different examples.

If you'd like to follow along with an example of your own, I'll ask you to think about one goal that you'd like to realize. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be a big thing, like deciding on a career. It could be a small thing, like finding a place to put your keys so you don't lose them every day. Whatever you choose, write it down so you can look at it from time to time. You don't have to commit to it right now; commitment comes from an understanding of all that's required to realize it, and you might not have that yet. For now, it's enough that you've made a choice. If I do this right (and understand, please, that I'm not working from a script or a book here), you'll be able to follow my process with your example and end up in the same place. That's the plan, anyway.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Things Learned About What Happens Next

It's been a couple of days, and most of the details of my mother's passing have been attended to. Thank you, everyone, for your expressions of support and love! My family and I very much appreciate every one of you, and it is of great comfort for us to know that you're out there.

I said before that I was learning a lot about this whole thing, and I thought it might be useful to share some of that. Here's what I've learned:

  • The task of informing people takes more effort than one might at first believe, especially if, as in my family, most people are spread to opposite ends of the earth and have no desire to talk to each other. The Digital Age has made finding people a great deal easier, but it still took a full two days before all of my mother's kin were contacted.

  • When someone dies and there is any question about the manner of death (even if that person is elderly), an investigation is undertaken to determine factually what happened. A detective is assigned, and the coroner arranges for whatever procedures are necessary. Because coroners are often country government officials, they don't have the facilities to do much more than basic procedures and bodies are often shipped to other places.

  • It often takes a month or more for such an investigation to be concluded.

  • My mother's primary wish was that her body be left to science and medicine, but because of the length of time between her passing and her arrival at a place that could preserve her body under refrigeration, no organ or tissue donation programs would take her. She was also over the weight-to-height limit that most programs have (she was very short, which meant she had to weigh about as much as a ham sandwich), and so she would have been ineligible for that reason, in any case. My parents made a mistake in expecting that all they had to do was call and offer their bodies after the fact. In particular, they erred in relying on such programs to take on the cost of disposing of the bodies. They didn't have a Plan B option, and that made for more stress, not less, in terms of what to do.

  • A forensic donation might have been possible, but there are no programs nearby that would have made such a gift practical. A forensic donation is different than a medical one in that there are almost no qualifiers to participate. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of programs in the country. The nearest one to my folks was in Tennessee. The university would have taken the body, but we would have had to pay to transport it there, which made no financial sense and meant additional costs.

  • Every state has its own laws regarding how bodies must be handled. In Alabama, for instance, a body may not be transported out of state unless it is embalmed.

  • Funeral homes take care of much of the paperwork associated with someone's death, but there is much in the way of detail that they require in order to do that job well. I didn't have much of that when I started making arrangements and it took a while to pull it together.

  • There are several different kinds of services that funeral homes offer. The most basic (the default for my mom) was what is called a Direct Cremation. That is, they'll cremate the body, but not offer their facilities for services or memorials of any kind. This service, at its cheapest, was more than $1,000 (several charged twice that figure). Social Security, by contrast, offers a benefit of around $250 for burial services.

  • Funeral homes are a "money-up-front" business for the most part. This makes sense when you think about it, but it does present certain problems when you consider the following:

  • Funeral homes are usually the ones generating the death certificate.

  • No insurance in the universe will pay out a policy with a death benefit until they receive a death certificate.

  • Funeral homes will not generate a death certificate until the check clears.

  • No matter how well you might deal with the passing of someone close to you, the task of dealing with everything you see above (which, you will note, does not include going through possessions and settling other matters like bills, property or inheritance) is more exhausting than you'll expect. I offered to take care of most of the details on behalf of my father because I could tell he was not mentally in a place that would allow him to do it. I'm glad I did; it was more than enough for *me*.

Now that things are largely taken care of, I can go back to work and actually focus on all that goes into teaching.  I have grades due on Monday and an intercession activity to set up.  The world keeps on turning, after all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some News...

My mom passed away on Saturday at her home in Alabama. She was 63 years old.

I've been in regular contact with my dad since he wrote to tell me and, although he is very sad, he's holding up well and has people to look after him while grieves. I also spoke to my brother, and he seems to be doing ok. He admitted at the time that he didn't exactly know how he was feeling, but I've learned that this is not at all unusual. I'll be in touch with him over the next little while. We're not super close, he and I, but I don't want him to feel like he has to figure it all out on his own.

Our house is processing the news slowly and deliberately. My girls are still awfully young to know how they feel about it, but we're taking the time to have good conversations and they have lots of chosen family to guide them. My wife is doing her usual amazing job of being supportive, even in the midst of working through her own feelings of loss. We went down to Alabama to see my folks for Thanksgiving, and I'm really glad that this happened because my mom got to spend time with us (an all too rare occurrence because of the distance between us), and also particularly because my family got to know her at least a little better before she died. She was a wonderful person.

I'm in a good place, although it'll be a couple of days before I'm able to focus fully on more than this because I've offered to my dad to take on most of the prosaic details of my mom's passing. I'll talk in more specifics later; there's not much to tell about that right now except to say that I'm learning a lot and that there are a surprising number of things to attend to.

There won't be a funeral or any sort of service in Alabama. Mom didn't want anything like that. We're talking about how to most appropriately remember her here at Wayfarer House, though. I'll share what we've decided when the time comes.

In the meantime, hugs (virtual and physical) will be most gratefully accepted.