Happy Saint Patrick’s Day?

Faith and begorrah, it is Saint Patty’s Day! A time for revelry and celebration of all those smiling Irish eyes! But is it really?

What exactly is the story behind Saint Patrick’s Day? Well, it is not what you may assume. It didn’t even start in Ireland!


The man we refer to as “Saint Patrick” was born around 370 c.e. in Scotland. His name was Maewyn, the son of a Roman Briton called Calpurnius. As a teenager, Maewyn was captured during a raid and sold into slavery to an Irish landowner.

In Ireland, Maewyn was tasked with being a shepherd. As a young man, he began to have what he referred to as “religious visions”, including one wherein he was shown how to escape his slave master. The plan was effective and Maewyn escaped to, at first Britain, and then to France. In France, he joined and studied in a monestary. Following his education, his visions showed him that the people of Ireland needed him to free them from their bonds of paganism. Yes, he needed to free the Irish from the hold that paganism had on them and bring them to Christianity.

So off he went to Ireland where he changed his name (possibly because he was technically an escaped slave) to Patraic, which means “father of the people” in the Gaelic tongue. With the blessing of the Pope, Maewyn (now Patrick) began his mission of converting the Irish pagans to good, god-fearing Christians.

Symbols And Legends

Celtic Cross With Snakes

It is Patrick who popularized the Shamrock, using the three leaves which constitute one flower to symbolize the holy trinity being three separate entities and yet remaining a whole. Patrick also added the sun, a beloved pagan-Irish symbol to the Christian cross – creating what is today referred to as the “Celtic Cross”.

But what about the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland? Well, that isn’t exactly what happened. The climate of the Emerald Isle is not conducive to a snake habitat. So, the reason there are no snakes native to Ireland is because there were no snakes IN Ireland. The “snakes” referred to in the legend are actually something that Patrick did in fact eradicate…the Irish pagans! St. Patrick is celebrated in the Christian world of today because he literally ended the traditional pagan belief structure of the original Celts. So, needless to say, many modern pagans refuse to celebrate the forced replacement of an ancient belief system with a newer one and, in protest, will wear snake pins on St. Patrick’s Day.

But surely the cute leprechaun is a tried and true traditional Irish symbol, right? Um…nope. Sorry. We actually have two huge corporations to thank for that one. Disney and General Mills. In 1959, Walt Disney released the movie Darby O’Gill And The Little People. The movie was based around a wily Irishman and his battle of wits with leprechauns. It was this movie that brought leprechauns into the consciousness of the Western world.

Then, in 1964, General Mills challenged its product developers to come up with a new and exciting idea using the same basic ingredients as Cheerios. John Holahan was the “lucky” winner by using Cheerios extruded into a different shape and adding chopped up circus peanuts (those orange marshmallow candies that we all remember from our childhood). The cereal was rebranded to include a cute leprechaun as the spokesman and the marshmallows were given “traditional” magical shapes and off it went to cause cavities for generations to come. It was the combination of the popular Disney movie and the Irish-accented Lucky the Leprechaun that launched the little fae creatures into the St. Patrick’s Day mix. Now, yes leprechauns were previously a part of Irish folklore, but they were very minor characters seen as little red tricksters who would pinch you for not wearing a scrap of green clothing. (Yes, leprechauns were originally pictured as red! They only went full green to associate them with the Emerald Isle for export).

Ouch. That hit me right in the childhood!

Parties And Parades Of Today

Now, as for the holiday itself. First of all, it is extremely young in its current form. The first known Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in the mid 17th century in St. Augustine, Florida, which was then under Spanish rule. The first American parade was in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. Only later did the holiday emigrate to Ireland. Before that time, March 17th was treated as a somber, religious day in Ireland, with most businesses including pubs remaining closed as it was the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick. It was embraced by the Irish in its current form because, quite frankly, it was a great money-maker. The Irish were able to draw tourism from and sell an entire holiday to the world…and it continues today!

In The End

Is it good? Is it bad? I suppose that depends on who you ask. An entire nation has embraced the pageantry of St. Patrick’s Day and have exported a day of revelry and fun to the entire world, even if it does water down their own history a bit. It was actually St. Patrick’s Day that helped to overcome the poverty and despair which followed the potato famine! Of course, for those with Pagan beliefs it is definitely not so much a great day. But, then again, you could always clip on a snake lapel pin or brooch and enjoy a green beer at your local pub and a bowl of Lucky Charms. Today, we are all Irish.


I Wish I Still Knew It All

At the time I am writing this, I am 42 years old (for another 2 months). To people my own age, I am 17 years old – even though I grunt when I stand up now. To people 10 years older or younger than myself, I am “still young”. To people at least 15 years younger, I am old. To people at least 15 years older than myself, I am still a baby. That is just how it works. Talking to people significantly older or younger than ourselves is like being a time traveler.

My oldest child, my daughter, turned 16 years old this week. My baby girl, daddy’s girl, the soul whose arrival on the planet changed me from thinking about “me” to thinking about “us”; the bringer of the most intense mixture of joy AND fear that my wife and I had ever experienced. 16 years old.

“Hello old man. My name is Existential Crisis and I will be making you review your entire life today.”

My thoughts have, naturally, drifted to what kind of advice I should be preparing to give her. Now, I have never been a 16 year old girl! So I asked myself what do I wish I had been told as a 16 year old boy. Aside from being a mixture of hormones, bad decisions, abs, and unruly appendages, what do I even remember about being 16 years old? I remember being sure that I had this whole life thing figured out. I remember wondering why all the “old” people seemed so clueless. Whew, I sure do wish I still knew it all!

Courtesy of story-lines.com

But what if you were standing in front of the mirror and 16 year old you was staring back? What if you did have the chance to give that kid some pearls of wisdom that you have discovered as you have met and overcome challenges? What would you say? What would have stuck in your adolescent brain deep enough to overcome the fog created by a newfound freedom to explore the world?

I grew up and turned 16 in a very rural part of North-Central Pennsylvania, United States. My “town” had a grand total of two stop signs, zero traffic lights, and a grand total of around 80 people (most of whom I was related to in one way or another). The year was 1994, but in those days it took about 5 years for any pop culture trend to reach us, so if you grew up in a city it would have felt more like 1989-1990. Until you could not drive, you were limited in friend selection to whoever was within walking distance. No cell phones, no Facebook, no Instagram. The closest you could get to any of those technologies was AOL chat rooms and a MySpace page, assuming you could be online long enough without anyone needing to use the telephone.

Respecting authority was a given because we didn’t want to get in trouble with our parents. If we got into a fight and won, that was the end of it. If we got into a fight and lost, your friends laughed and touched whatever hurt, and that was the end of it. Oh, in case there are young people reading this let me explain. A “fight” was a time when boys would shove each other, try to be the first to get a headlock on their opponent, land a few punches on the nose or eye, say something witty like ‘You had enough yet?’, and then get up and leave with their friends. The only lasting effect was the look of disappointment on our father’s face if we came up on the losing end.

A girl fight, on the other hand, was freaking brutal! They immediately went for handfuls of hair, winging wild punches in the general direction of the head of the other girl, kicking, biting, scratching were all on the table. It was like the early UFC! While boy opponents may be sharing a beer with each other an hour after the fight, girls held onto their ire for…well…I’ll let you know when I see some of it subside. It has only been 27 years.

So it is from that 1994 point of reference that I am trying to advise the 16 year old me.

The Pearls of Wisdom

Relax – Although it seems like everyone around you is miles ahead in terms of planning, they are just as screwed up and scared as you are. The dirty little secret people are supposed to keep quiet is that none of us actually know what we are doing – we are all just making it up as we go and doing the best we can. So that sneaky voice in the back of your head that says you are alone trying to catch up to everyone else is not true. Just relax and breathe.

Innovate Instead Of Assimilate – It is easy to just fall in line with expectations, to assimilate, and to fill your role as a cog in the machine. But it is a trap. Going with the flow and trying to just skate through quietly will never make you feel fulfilled. Dream. There is no such thing as impossible, so if you want to see it – be it.

The Only Constant Is Change – I realize you are tired of flannel. Don’t worry, it won’t last much longer. I realize you are sure that world politics is not worth your time. That will change too, unfortunately. I realize you are convinced that Alicia Silverstone from the Aerosmith video “Crazy” is your soul mate. That will…never change actually so forget I said anything. My point is, if you are unhappy with a situation, change it. It is natural and bending the world around you is actually a very useful skill to develop.

Computers! Who Knew! – Yeah so it turns out computers are not just a passing fad. Pay attention.

Livers Have A Shelf Life – Although it may seem to you right now like there are no consequences to what you are ingesting, there are. You are going to be invited to a lot of parties. And you are going to have a lot of fun at those parties. However, the amount of alcohol and illicit drugs you take in at these parties “might” eventually lead to problems with your liver and kidneys. While it may be fun to party it up at bonfires and pass out in random cornfields, it turns out that your organs are not having nearly as good a time as you are. Maybe, just take it easy on the Aftershock and Bacardi 151.

Above All Else, Be Kind – The world will try its best to turn you grumpy. It will try to snuff out the innocent light that burns inside. The trick is to be kind to those around you. Smile. Be nice and courteous to others, regardless of whether they are initially kind to you. Within the universe, like attracts like. To receive kindness, give kindness.

Seek Love Not Sex – I feel like this is the one least likely to find a foothold. Listen, sex is comparatively easy to find throughout your life. Love, on the other hand, is like finding a unicorn in the forest with your eyes closed. So, stop lying to women in the desperate and obvious attempt to “trick” them into bed. Learn how to form actual relationships instead of just running around like a slave to your genitalia. Just because you can barely focus when talking to a female wearing a bodysuit with jean shorts, or a cap with the ponytail poked out the back, does not mean they are just lands to be conquered. Try actually getting to KNOW a woman.

Step Away From The Aquanet – It turns out that hair doesn’t last forever and what does may become more salt than pepper. I understand you feel it necessary to turn your hair into a shield capable of deflecting hurricane force winds, but calm down with the Aquanet!

Throughout this journey of reflection, I have realized that I really wouldn’t want to change 16 year old me drastically. All of the things he is going to experience are what make me who I am today. And I may not be exactly who I want to be yet, but I am far from who I was. I think that may be the key. To never stop growing, learning, and appreciating life for the journey that it is. I wouldn’t want to know how things play out – what decisions cause joy and what decisions cause pain – because we need to experience both to fully understand our humanity. As spiritual beings, we need to walk through some patches of darkness to fully appreciate the light.

What would you tell 16 year old you? You might want to leave out the part about Bruce Jenner – I wouldn’t have believed it anyway!

Mindful Disappointment

Photo courtesy of drjimtaylor.com

Has everything in your life always gone according to plan? Have you or someone in your life always overcome and exceeded expectations? If so, congratulations, but I’m pretty sure you are not human. We all experience disappointment in our lives. We may be disappointed in ourselves or disappointed in another, but unfortunately disappointment is an emotion common to us all. And it always hurts.

So what can we do? How can we deal with disappointment in a mindful manner? And can we come out the other side stronger than we were? Let’s look into this emotion and our responses to it.

Disappointment: “Unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.”


Disappointment results from a failure to meet expectations. Logically, there would be two ways to avoid disappointment (and you all know how I like to think through an issue logically). We could (1) set low expectations to decrease the chance of failure; or we could (2) expect failure. Well, in this case, I am unwilling to accept either of the logical solutions to the problem of disappointment.

I refuse to lower the expectations I hold for myself or those around me. My motto is- Shoot for the stars and maybe you will land on the moon! I expect a lot from myself and strive to produce the best result, but with the understanding that any improvement is still to be celebrated. If I achieve my goal, great! If I come up short of my goal, but still improve over my starting point, great! Some shortcomings are easier to deal with than others, but it is important to take a step back and realize the gains you made in the attempt.

Similarly, I try not to fall into the trap of expecting failure. With every goal I set, I fully expect to achieve it. To go into an endeavor expecting failure is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect to fail and you definitely will. Large goals, life goals, can be frightening to fight for. If we do not expect to achieve, we may begin to hold back; to pull our punches. We need to be willing to give our all to every attempt at achievement. Does it leave us open for pain if we fall short? Absolutely. But if we are not giving our everything, we will never know the full extent of our ability. Expecting to fail is not an option.

So What CAN We Do?

Mindfully dealing with disappointment in our lives is a four point process I refer to as SPAR.

  1. Stop the bleeding;
  2. Practice gratitude;
  3. Accept the position; and
  4. Reset

1. Stop The Bleeding – the first step after a fall is to secure your feet underneath you. Don’t just keep falling backwards. Stop and see where you landed

2. Practice Gratitude- where you are is where you should be. If you stuck your neck out to take a shot and came up short, be thankful for the opportunity; be thankful for any gain you made.

3. Accept The Position – So what is your new reality after trying and coming up short? Look around, look inside, and do a true self-exploration. Figure out where you landed. This is your reality for the time being. Accept where you are and forgive yourself for being there. Work within the system. Be present.

4. Reset – Set a goal and start again, but from your new starting point. There is no reason that an attempt to better yourself and not fully achieving the goal means you should not try again. As a matter of fact, now that you have bettered your starting point, and you have more experience on your side, achieving your goal may actually be easier. It can be scary! I agree! But settling for less is true failure. Never stop trying to get where you want to be. Imagine that your goal had been a lifelong, loving marriage. But you ended up being divorced after 10 years. Sure you failed to achieve your goal. However, if you never open your heart to another out of repeating the failure, you will remain alone forever. Get back out there! A life lived without love is a life wasted.

Take Away

So the lesson to be learned is that disappointment will come and go throughout life. It is the risk accepted by the brave. It takes guts to keep expectations high and it takes perseverance to expect goals to be met even if not on the first try.

Disappointment is basically the result of belief and hope. When you fall short of a goal after believing in yourself and hoping to attain a goal, disappointment is a natural reaction. But don’t wallow in it. No pity parties for my readers! SPAR! Move on to find what is next.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the character Mathesar in the underrated gem of a movie, Galaxy Quest, “Never give up. Never surrender.” If you see yourself as never being done trying, you never see an experience as a failure and, thus, never feel the deep cut of disappointment.

A Buddhism Primer

– Part III of World Religion Series –

Photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura

Buddhism comes to us from the enchanted land of India. With its teachings of the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, Buddhism is known as a religion of peace; meditation; and enlightenment. So what is Buddhism based on? Who is the diety depicted in the statues and art of the Buddhist religion? For for those answers and more, lets talk Buddhism.

A History of Buddhism

The historical Buddha was an Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama who lived some 2,600 years ago in an area that today is part of northern India and Nepal. He was born into a warrior clan known as the Shakya, which is why he is often called Shakyamuni, “Sage of the Shakyas” Buddha.

According to legend, shortly after Siddhartha’s birth, a sage prophesied that the child would grow up to be either a great king or a renowned spiritual leader. His father, the king, did everything in his power to ensure that his son and heir would have no reason to pursue religious life, showering him with every privilege and luxury and sheltering him from the harsh realities of the world outside the palace.

The prince married and later had a son, but he became extremely dissatisfied and at the age of 29 ventured beyond the palace walls on a series of carriage rides that would change the course of his life. On the first trip, he saw a sick man; on the second, an old man; and on the third, a corpse. These were his first encounters with the inevitable suffering experienced by all human beings, no matter how highborn, and the knowledge was devastating. Then, on a fourth carriage ride, Siddhartha saw a mendicant spiritual seeker and he had a revelation: there might be a way out of suffering, and the possibility lay in the religious life.

Soon thereafter, Siddhartha left the palace to set out on a religious quest. He studied with two renowned spiritual teachers and then embarked on a journey with 6 companions, meditating and taking up severe ascetic practices, such as prolonged fasting, which nearly killed him.

Ascetic – characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.

Oxford Dictionary

Ultimately, he had another realization: the way out of samsara—the cycle of birth, suffering, and death—lay neither in indulgence nor in extreme physical denial. There was a “middle way” to end suffering, through training the mind. The former prince resolved to meditate under a ficus tree in a town called Bodhgaya, until he discovered the answers he sought. After 49 days, he had a series of insights into the nature of reality, and he became enlightened.

On the 49th day, according to legend, the Buddha entered into a state of concentration so deep and clear he began to see the nature of his mind and that of the universe. During three phases or “watches” of the night, he apprehended how suffering and unhappiness are caused by our actions, and by our clinging to an illusory sense of self. And he understood how to let go of all that.

When the morning star rose in the sky, the man who had been Siddhartha Gotama, the prince of the Shakya tribe, was now the Buddha—the Awakened One.

The Buddha would spend the next 45 years of his life sharing the path of practice that leads to awakening so that others could work to attain the same state of enlightenment—freedom from suffering and from the cycle of birth and death—that he had achieved.

Buddhism’s Earliest Disciples

According to Buddhist tradition, the first people the Buddha taught were five spiritual seekers who had been his companions and who practiced with him the form of extreme self-denial that he himself later abandoned. When they first encountered the Buddha after his enlightenment, in a place called Deer Park in Benares, India, they made a pact to not show him any deference—they considered him a failure who had returned to a life of luxury.

But when they looked closer, the five ascetics realized that the Buddha had become a different caliber of being—noble, wise, and beyond all suffering. The Buddha taught them that the means to awakening wasn’t self-indulgence or self-denial but a path in between—the Middle Way. He then taught them his foundational insights—the 4 Noble Truthsand the Noble Eightfold Path leading to enlightenment. And thus was born the sangha, the first community of followers.

Religious texts tell us that in the earliest days of the monastic community, the Buddha did not ordain women, though this hasn’t been verified. The story goes that between the exhortations of his stepmother, Mahapajapati (and 500 women who accompanied her), and the influence of his disciple Ananda, the Buddha created the first order of Buddhist nuns. Texts known as the Verses of the Elder Monks and Nuns, tell the stories of many of the Buddha’s students, showing the vast variety of people who became his followers and were able to reach enlightenment by practicing the path he taught.

At the age of 80, after 45 years of teaching, the Buddha died, surrounded by a large group of his disciples. That event is known as the parinirvana—a term that refers to the death of someone who has attained nirvana, or enlightenment, during their lifetime and will not be reborn again. They are freed from the cycle of birth and death and all the suffering that entails.

Emissaries took Buddhism to Sri Lanka, Burma, and elsewhere. In the successive centuries, Buddhism spread further into East and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas.

Are There Multiple Buddhas?

There are actually many different Buddhas.

In Buddhist scriptures, legends, and art, we see many buddhas besides the one we probably think of as the Buddha. The term buddha means “awake” or “awakened,” so it can refer to any number of beings that are believed to be fully enlightened, not just the historical Buddha. It can also refer to an archetype or idea of an enlightened being.

That said, scriptures from early Indian Buddhism talk about five buddhas that have existed during the current cosmological era or kalpa—a term that means an aeon, or the period from the origination to the end of the present world. The Buddha we know about, Shakyamuni Buddha, was the fourth of this group. The fifth is known as Maitreya, or the Buddha of the future.

In Theravada Buddhism, the tradition practiced mainly in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, people pay homage to 29 buddhas, most of whom existed during other kalpas, according to the scriptures.

Not every buddha is specifically known to us. One class of enlightened beings is made up of buddhas “on their own” (in Pali and Sanskrit paccekabuddhapratyekabuddha). These beings have achieved awakening without a teacher or guidance, and they don’t teach the path to enlightenment or have followers.

What about the cute, plump, smiling Buddha we all thought we knew and loved? Well, that is actually just a mistake! The depiction is that of Budai, a semi-legendary Chinese monk who may have lived around the 10th century. Considered a deity of contentment and abundance, Budai is also a protector of children and the sick. A collection of Zen stories mentions him briefly as a possible emanation of Maitreya, the buddha of the future, but he has never held the place of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Did simple mispronounciation cause the confusion between Budai and Buddah?

The 4 Noble Truths

The 4 Noble Truths as discovered and taught by Buddha upon his enlightenment are:

  • Life has inevitable suffering.
  • There is a cause to our suffering.
  • There is an end to suffering.
  • The end to suffering is contained in the Eightfold path.

Buddhists see time as an endless cycle of rebirth – suffering – death – rebirth – suffering – death. The only way to break the cycle is to attain enlightenment. And Buddha taught that the Noble Eightfold Path was the road to enlightenment.

The Noble Eightfold Path

Mastery of the Noble Eightfold Path will allow the Buddhist to enter Nirvana and break the cycle of reincarnation. The Buddhist must master:

  • Right View -Truth
  • Right Intention -Freeing the mind of evil
  • Right Speech -Say nothing to hurt others
  • Right Action -Work for the good of others
  • Right Livelihood – Respect life
  • Right Effort – Resist evil
  • Right Concentration – Meditation
  • Right Mindfulness – Controlling thoughts


Buddhism embodies the belief that to know one’s self is the highest form of knowledge, and is in fact the key to peace in an afterlife. There may be many Buddhas, but there is only one path. And at least the Buddha didn’t look like Cartman from South Park!

What The World Needs Now Is TETO, Sweet TETO.

I am sure some of you are confused because you were expecting a new post in the World Religion Series today. But something is weighing heavily on my heart and it just feels like it may be the right time to share. So we will be returning to your regularly scheduled World Religion Series post next time. But first, TETO.

So much conflict. So much negativity. So much divisiveness. So much self-righteous anger. This entire world feels like it is on the verge of a complete and total humanitarian collapse. For an empath; for a person who wants nothing but the best for themselves and for everyone around them; it is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining. Enough is enough. We need to stop trying to dictate the way others should believe, behave and feel and replace it with a big scoop of TETO.

Um…What are you talking about?

TETO has been ringing in my ears for weeks. TETO means To Each Their Own. As a metaphysics/spirituality writer, it is my job to explain very difficult concepts in easy to understand terms within an 800-1200 word format. I believe very strongly in the message I convey within each article, or I would not choose that topic for an article. As a result, I can come off as a bit preachy. That is not my intent at all, but it happens. However, in this instance, preachy is exactly what I am shooting for.

Do you know what makes for the best societies; the best leaders; the best friendships; the best families; and the best individuals? Listening. Not giving speeches, not being quiet while we wait for our turn to speak. Just listening. Introspection is a matter of listening to yourself. All other human interaction needs to begin with us listening to the other person – regardless of whether or not we agree with what they are saying. We have a God(ess)-given right to our opinion. And so does everyone else on the planet. It is not our responsibility to convince anyone to change their opinion on anything. TO EACH THEIR OWN. Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they wish.

But What If They Are Incorrect?

I am not suggesting that we not discuss our beliefs and opinions with each other. Quite the opposite. I propose we all feel free to discuss anything and everything! But it should be done without fear of judgments! For instance, my readers may have noticed that I have very strong opinions regarding organized religions. But I have many friends who are strong believers in particular religions. I have family members in various levels of religious organizations. I have a brother who is a Baptist preacher! I respect their beliefs and opinions and they respect mine. Sure sometimes our opinions clash, but so what. That is when it becomes important to step back and invoke TETO.

So This Is All About Religion?

No. TETO needs to be our first line of defense against judgment in every aspect of our lives. From political beliefs; sexuality; racial beliefs; all the way down to pineapple on pizza. Those are all brain judgments. I think we need to drop all of that crap and move on to soul judgments. I decide friendships based on one criteria and one criteria only (as crass as it might be). People either go into the grouping of Asshole or the grouping of Non-Asshole. Non-Assholes become friends; Assholes are left to their own devices. It is not my place in the universe to try to “fix” the Assholes. It is a decision based on how my soul reacts to your soul. It has nothing to do with any superficial characteristic. We are all allowed to have our own opinions. I try to keep mine to myself unless asked. And I respect that yours may be different. That is fine. To Each Their Own! How boring would life be if we were all the same!

Homogeny Would Suck!

The totality of our experience, knowledge and beliefs make up how others react to our soul. That is why we are each so different. And that should be celebrated, not lamented. It is the differences between each of us that make meeting people so exciting, not the similarities. It is the points of disagreement that make for a fun and lively debate or discussion. If we all thought the exact same way, had the same experiences, believed the same things, life would be insanely boring! Homogeny is not a goal. Homogeny is the enemy of growth. We should never accept something as an absolute. The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.

Homogeny is the enemy of growth.

We as individuals, as a society and as a human race grow through disparity. Life, much like science, is never “settled”. Scientific hypotheses, theories and even laws are not above question. Everything should be tested from time to time to ensure our understand holds true. Just as the theory of a flat earth was accepted for the majority of human history, just because something is widely believed does not make it accurate.

Seek Conversation Over Conversion.

I am a Gen X heterosexual male born, raised and living in a rural portion of Pennsylvania. I have homosexual and bisexual friends, both male and female. And I simply could not care less about who they choose to mate with. Because they are my friend, they have already been placed in the Non-Asshole group and that is all that matters to me. I have a heterosexual daughter who participates in the LGBTQ Club at her high school because she firmly believes that the LGBTQ community should have equal rights and treatment. When I find myself not understanding a viewpoint being expressed by the LGBTQ community due to my limited experience, I research the topic and discuss it with individuals more experienced in that community than I am. Not because I have formed an opinion and want to convince them to think the same way, but because I seek to fully understand everything that I possibly can. I seek conversation about topics to exchange information, not to convert other individuals to share MY opinions. That may be why I am not so great at “winning” an argument. Just ask my wife! I do not need for people to agree with me. As long as I am comfortable that I understand the topic, I am happy to debate from the side of my opinion as an academic exercise, but I derive no joy from changing your opinion. If you can support an opinion opposite of mine, then we are simply looking at the same picture from different angles. And that is great! TETO!

Are There Exceptions?

Like any belief, TETO does have its exceptions in my life. Well, just two actually.

  • Never hurt a child. Ever.
  • Protect your family

I will not have an open and honest discussion about causing harm to a child in any manner. If someone believes they have the right to cause harm to a child, the only pure and innocent creatures on this side of eternity, they have forfeited their access to TETO and can expect to find in me an unrelenting and endless desire to punish them with the fury of a thousand suns for as long as they continue to breath the precious oxygen of this planet.

There is also no TETO to be found with threatening or harming a member of my family. As a husband and father, I have made the solemn vow to myself that I would never allow man-made harm to come to my wife or children, if I am physically present. If you hold the opinion that you are somehow entitled to take the belongings or the sense of security from my family member, you will find that all you are entitled to is hoping for police presence to stop the onslaught. No mercy, no TETO, will be given to anyone who threatens the safety and wellbeing of my family. I would give anyone the shirt off of my back should they ask for it, but only MY shirt.

What About Political Divisions?

Politics is such a hotbed of anger and ire right now. I find it completely unacceptable and shameful that the people of the United States are allowing a man-made construct to destroy peace and happiness within the lives of so many. I am a registered voter and as such I hold my own opinions regarding proper leadership for the United States that I want to see. However, sometimes I vote on the winning side; sometimes I vote on the losing side; and sometimes I do not vote at all because I cannot agree with the policies of any candidate. But I never riot; or loot; or injure people in response to something as fleeting as a political vote. What is disheartening is watching the strife and hatred shown by some toward elected leaders and those who voted for or against them. Where is TETO when it comes to allowing people to live their lives as they see fit? As my grandmother used to say, “Mind your own plate. If you spend the entire meal time watching what others are eating, you will starve yourself.” There is deep division in the Country right now on seemingly every subject. It is possible that we have governed ourselves into a corner. What if we all just sought conversation instead of conversion? What if we all just let TETO be the ruling principle? What if we all stopped shouting and started listening? What might we learn! What might we teach! What might we foster!


Stop being mean to each other and just go with TETO. We are all souls having a temporary human experience, not humans temporarily having a soulful experience. Search for souls that you find beautiful. Search for conversations that you find enlightening. Search for experiences that you find exciting. Explore and find your own path to happiness. The ways are innumerable and infinite. Let others find their own path even if it is not the same as you. Mind your own plate and TETO!

Thank you for letting me get that out. On 4/19/21 we will be returning to our normally scheduled World Religion Series.

Something Wiccan This Way Comes – Part 2 of 2

-Part II(B) of World Religion Series-

via wiccanspells.info

If you have yet to read Part 1 of Something Wiccan This Way Comes, you can access that post by clicking here. Part 1 discusses the history of Wicca as a religion, as well as explains the major yearly Sabbats.

Now, lets dig a little deeper into the ways in which adherents practice Wicca. Because of the nature of Wicca, there is not a “leader” to give weekly sermons. It is very much a simple reverence for the natural order and beauty found in all things, both creative and destructive. It is a religion based on harmony and appreciation for what the universe provides us. Like, when a Wiccan eats a hamburger, they may feel a reverent thankfulness to the cow who gave its life in order to sustain the adherent’s body and provide nutrition.

The goal of a Wiccan is not to earn entry into paradise at the end of this life, as is the case with many other religions, but to realize that paradise has actually been provided in THIS life and to become attuned to its many gifts.

Wiccan circles

Whether you are a part of an established coven of Wiccans or are a sole practitioner, you can be a part of a Circle. A Wiccan Circle  is a loosely bound group of Wiccans and those interested in the religion who meet to discuss issues, questions and resources for Wiccans. Circles do not generally share their individual Book of Shadows, although the books are becoming less and less “secretive” and personal. Wiccan Circles are excellent groups for uninitiated or new Wiccans to learn and make connections.

Wiccan Covens

Covens are a formal and tightly bound group of Wiccans who practice the religion and do spellwork together. The uninitiated are not permitted to attend Coven gatherings. Once formally initiated into a Coven, a Wiccan will gain access to the Coven Book of Shadows or Grimoire. Covens will include somewhat of a pecking order, headed by the High Priest and/or High Priestess. Each Coven has their own requirements for initiation and rules to follow once initiated.

A Coven can consist of as few as 4 members, but the traditionally held number for a full Coven is 13. Finding the right Coven that fits with your desired style of worship, personal beliefs and feelings can be difficult as the requirements for entry are usually quite strict and kept quite secretive. However, a Coven also offers the most tight bond available among Wiccans, often referring to and treating each other as family.

Sole Practitioner

The sole practitioner is by far the most common type of Wiccan worship. These are Wiccans who either decide not to, or for some reason cannot, be associated in a Coven. The sole practitioner may well be a part of a Wiccan Circle, however that is a loose relationship; more akin to business associates than family. Through self-guided study and the freedom which flourishes in the Wicca religion, a sole practitioner may even initiate themselves into Wicca, or they may decide that step is unnecessary. The proliferation of the internet and ease of access to Wiccan and pagan resources, the sole practioner is currently in the golden age of the style. The sole practitioner will keep their own Book of Shadows and tend to be rather loose with their personal spellwork it contains.

Magic vs. Magick

People who practice magic are called magicians. People who practice magick are Wiccans. In order to differentiate the spellwork performed by Wiccans from the illusions and slight-of-hand performed by magicians, Wiccans refer to their practice with the Old English spelling of the word: Magick. Just like everything else in Wicca, this “rule” is fluid and more strictly observed by some than others.

Magick and Spellwork

One of the most recognizable aspects of Wicca is the practice of magick and/or spellwork. Not all Wiccans choose to practice magick, however even something as seemingly benign as a mantra repeated during meditation or an intention focused upon while rubbing a crystal can be considered magick. In the case of those practicing magick, we find one of the only rules which pervade through all of the different offshoots and schools of thought within Wicca: The Wiccan Rede. The Wiccan Rede is a statement and warning wrapped into one. It states:

Bide the Wiccan Law ye must,

in perfect love and perfect trust.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;

An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.

What ye send forth comes back to thee,

so ever mind the Rule of Three.

Follow this with mind and heart.

Merry ye meet and merry ye part.”

The two most important portions of the Rede are “if it harms none, do what you will” and “ever mind the Rule of Three.” The first is meant to express the freedom sought through Magick. Do whatever spell you want…as long as it does not hurt or damage anybody else. The latter invokes the Rule of Three. This is a guiding principle of Wicca. That if you use magick or spellwork to cause pain or destruction to another person, the amount of bad intention you released will be returned to you threefold. It is meant to strongly discourage the use of black magick (spellwork which causes an ill effect in the life of another person).

Within the line “Follow this with mind and heart” is built the concept of intent. This eliminates a craftily worded spell from avoiding the Rule of Three just by playing with verbiage. If the intent of the magick held in the heart and mind of the Wiccan is black, the Rule of Three applies whether the wording of the spell appears positive or not. One must be very cognizant of their state of mind and heart-held intention of the spellwork, lest it cause them negative effects three times worse than that in the spell.

In my opinion, it is this portion of the Wiccan Rede which really describes HOW magick works. It is a form of manifestation. The purpose-filled intention is what the Wiccan is releasing into the universe. The wording of the incantation functions as the mantra to focus the heart and mind on the task at hand and intensify the intention and the items used in the spell symbolize the work and sacrifice the Wiccan is willing to make in order to achieve the requested result.

Magick can be a very powerful draw to individuals interested in Wicca, but also holds the most danger. It is very easy to lose focus on purpose when practicing spellwork. One can end up focused on achieving money, or love, or power, etc. at the expense of the gratefulness and appreciation of natural balance which is at the true heart of Wicca. Much like prayer to other religions, magick should be seen as a communication technique, not as a way to manipulate the cosmos.

Religion Of True Inclusion

A beautiful part of Wicca is how inclusive it is. Because it is such a free, open and individual worship style, there is no distaste or bias against any other religion, race, sexuality, nationality, language, etc. Everyone is a part of nature and, thus, everyone deserves equal love and reverence.

My Personal Wiccan Memories

I spent three years as a sole practioner of Wicca. In researching and writing this two-part post, I was flooded with memories from that time period and they are so powerful that I decided to share some with you readers.

I was a practicing Wiccan from mid 1995-1998. I remember these years as a time of great personal spiritual growth and the time which lit the fire of religious study/questioning that still burns in me today.

1994/1995 were the VERY early days of internet access. My family had one desktop computer centrally located so the whole family could use it. That was you could use it if nobody needed the phone for the next hour because dial-up modems meant that the telephone line could either be used for internet access OR telephone calls, but not both. And smartphones were still many years away. So we would log on and find an AOL chatroom to try to connect with other Wiccans around the world. Search engines were a bit iffy. Google wasn’t founded until 1998, so yes we navigated a world without Google; Wikipedia; Facebook; and Snapchat! Gen Xers UNITE! Books, our main sources of information, were made of paper and came from a library or from a trip to a book store. Many of us fledgling Wiccans found that Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing was a company which published many of the books on Wicca and pagan religions and offered a mail order service!

But as difficult and, at times, confusing as it was, those days also offered me the opportunity to really individualize my worship style. I would spend hours in the wooded areas near my home or up on the mossy mountainsides just walking and basking in the natural beauty and bounty; finding pyrite and other stones for my rock polisher. Or walking through graveyards to gather soil for magick and protection; learning rune meanings; memorizing spells; collecting ceremonial knives; and learning how to interpret tarot readings. On warm nights I could be found climbing out my bedroom widow to sit on the porch roof and watch the moon and stars light up the darkness; contemplating life’s big questions while paying homage to the Godess.

Writing in my own Book of Shadows (which I called my grimoire because, hey, I still had some goth in me) was always something I looked forward to. It was as close to “journaling” as a boy could comfortably get in those days.

In Conclusion

Wicca is the only religion which celebrates individuality, where there is no shame in being human. Where the feminine is celebrated as much as the masculine. Where all other religions are respected. Wiccans believe in a balance to nature. Wicca is a religion of peace. No war has ever been or will ever be fought in the name of Wicca.

Wicca can be a very fulfilling and beautiful belief structure. I do find that it is best for introverts because it is so often practiced alone and held secretive. Also, many of the lessons and nature-honoring aspects of Wicca can be, and honestly should be, incorporated into the lives of everyone regardless of their religious stance. I have kept many of the habits and the same thought pattern I developed during my time as a Wiccan and they have served me well in my life. I truly believe that once a person opens themselves to the possibilities and beauty that the Mother universe offers us, they are never quite the same again. You just can’t close that third eye once it is opened. In a way, once a Wiccan, always a Wiccan. Just watch out for those burning stakes, whether they be literal or figurative. Blessed be.

Something Wiccan This Way Comes – Part 1 of 2

– Part II(A) of World Religion Series –

Via wiccanspells.info

What do you picture when I say the word “witch”? Is it an old woman with a pointed hat riding a flying broomstick? A hunched hag with a nose wart stirring a mysterious bubbling cauldron? Old Hollywood certainly did no favors to the image of witchcraft or wiccans by implanting these impressions in us all! But let’s take a look at the truth.

Before we dig in, we should take a quick look at some terminology so we all understand the twists and turns here. “Witchcraft” is an action; something done or performed. “Wicca” is a religion whose adherents are referred to as “Wiccans”. Wiccans may or may not practice witchcraft, however the majority do. “Witch” is the term used for practioners of witchcraft. However “witch” has become synonymous with any Wiccan and, at this point in history, can be used interchangeably with Wiccan without offense. “Witch-cult” is the term given to the practice of witchcraft in antiquity; a large pan-European belief system.

A Brief History Of Wicca As A Religion

Although witches have been a presence since before the Middle Ages (references date back to the 13th century), the religion of Wicca is a relative newcomer to the world scene.

The father of modern Wicca is Gerald Gardner, even though he never called his belief system “Wicca”, preferring to use the “Witchcraft” term. In September 1920, Gardner was initiated into the New Forest Coven in Britain. It was Garder’s belief and claim that the New Forest Coven was a surviving group of original witch-cult members.

Photo of Gerald Gardner – Courtesy of Doreen Valiente Foundation

In 1946, Gardner feared that witchcraft could be a dying practice. So he began his own coven, calling it the Bricket Wood Coven, with another former member of the New Forest Coven, Edith Woodford-Grimes. Gardner and Woodford-Grimes became the High Priest and High Priestess of the Bricket Wood Coven. Gardner implanted in his New tradition a lasting foundation of Wicca, the notion of an equal God and Goddess (this was terrifically unique and intriguing within the patriarchal, male-dominated society of Britain in the 1940s). However, Woodford-Grimes only stayed with the Bricket Wood Coven for 6 years, citing concerns over the publicity that Gardner was attempting to bring to the religion. Prior to Gardnerian Witchcraft, all aspects of witchcraft were practiced in extreme privacy. However, Gardner aimed to change the pact of secrecy of the religion and to gain popular understanding and acceptance. This proved to be a brilliant and well-timed strategy, but it did tend to make some traditionalists very uneasy.

In 1953, Gardner initiated Doreen Valiente into the Bricket Wood Coven and she became the new High Priestess of the coven. With the assistance of Valiente, Gardner wrote the Bricket Wood Coven Book of Shadows during this time. Many of the rituals included in the Book of Shadows came from late Victorian-era occultism, however much of the spiritual content is derived from much older pagan religions, and includes both Hindu and Buddhist influences. Valiente was able to rewrite many of the spells and incantations into poetic verse. The partnership with Valiente was also short lived, as she left the coven due to Gardner’s continued publicity hunt and the new rules and restrictions he began placing on the Bricket Wood Coven and the other covens following Gardnerian Witchcraft.

The distinction of coining the terms “Wicca” and “Wiccan” goes to Charles Cordell in 1954. He used the terms to describe any followers of the Witch-cult traditions, regardless of the faction.

Gardnerian Witchcraft was brought to the United States in the 1960s by a British Airways employee named Raymond Buckland and his wife. The Bucklands were initiated into Witchcraft in Britain by Monique Wilson and, upon their move to the United States, began the Long Island Coven. The Long Island Coven based their practices on the Gardnerian Book Of Shadows. The Bucklands continued to lead the Long Island Coven until 1973, at which time the Bucklands stopped strictly following Gardnerian Witchcraft and formed a new tradition called Saex Wicca which combined Gardnerian Witchcraft with Anglo-Saxon pagan iconography.

In 1971, American Zsuzsanna Budapest fused Wiccan practices with the burgeoning feminist ideals and politics to form Dianic Wicca. This tradition focused exclusively on the Goddess, Diana. Dianic Covens are exclusively female, and many are actually designed specifically for lesbian Wiccans.

Truthfully, there are MANY offshoots and variations within the Wiccan religion. I have only touched on the most historically relevant. As you will see, Wiccan beliefs and coven traditions are as diverse as the stars in the night sky.

What Makes Wicca So Unique?

Wicca is considered an earth-centered modern religion. Adherents worship and appreciate the balance of nature in its own right. Whether looking at the stars on a clear night, the peak of a snow-capped mountain, or the intricate and dainty web of a spider, Wiccans feel the reverence for nature. There is really no distinction made between Mother Earth, the Goddess, and the Wiccan. Nature is a part of them and they are a part of nature, equally. As such, there is not a specified location to congregate. No church; or temple; or center; or other artificial edifice to signify that “Wiccans meet here”. Some Wiccans prefer to meet in a nature setting, some in homes. The earth IS their church.

There is no holy book for the practice of Wicca. No Bible; Torah; or Quran. The closest one may get to a guiding book in Wicca would be the Book of Shadows of the coven (if you are even in a coven).

Wicca involves both a female and a male creator being, the Goddess and the God. As a representation of the balance held dear by Wiccans, both the feminine and masculine are represented in the creators. This may not seem all that groundbreaking to us today, but imagine the heresy of this belief during the male-dominated balance of history! Having a female revered as a creator would have boiled some blood for sure!


The major “holidays” of Wicca are referred to as “Sabbats”. Exact timing of the Sabbats are based upon the solstice and equinoxes, as well as lunar phase. There are 8 Sabbats per year.

  • Yule – Midwinter Solstice. Usually in December. Common practices are giving of gifts; feasting; decorating using sprigs of holly, mistletoe, ivy, yew and pine (known as the “Yule Log”); bringing in and decorating of an evergreen tree. Sound familiar?

  • Imbolc – Candlemas. Falls on February 1st. Marks the earliest rumblings of the forthcoming spring. Commonly used as a time for pledges; rededications; initiations; purification and cleaning.

  • Ostara – Spring Equinox. Marks the vernal equinox. A time when sun and darkness are equal, with sunlight on the rise. Ostara is a time of new beginnings and of life emerging from the grip of winter.

  • Beltane – May Eve. Known as May Day in the modern United States. As in ancient Irish pagan religions, the day is still celebrated by dancing around the maypole. The festival is meant to recognize life in its fullest; the greening of the world; and youthfulness.

  • Litha – Summer Solstice. Falls at the end of June/early July. Marks the day when the sun shines longest that year and festivities begin at sunrise, continuing until sunset. It is also the turning point for when the sun’s power begins to lessen. Litha is, arguably, the most anticipated Sabbat and is the only day during which Stonehenge is closed to public viewing and available only to those celebrating the Sabbat.

  • Lammas – Lughnasadh. The first of three harvest festivals. Traditionally celebrated by baking bread in the figure of the God and eating it, meant to symbolize the sanctity and importance of the harvest.

  • Mabon – Autumnal Equinox. Typically falls in September. The second of three harvest festivals. Mabon is a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure blessings during the harsh upcoming winter months.

  • Samhain – Halloween. The third harvest festival. Samhain (pronounced sow-wen), is a night celebration of the lives of the dead; paying respects to passed relatives; elders of faith; and loved ones. In some rituals, the dead are invited to attend the festivities. It is considered a dark festival in which the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is at its thinnest allowing for movement between worlds and easier communication.

The yearly Sabbats equally divide the calendar and are represented by a circle divided into 8 quadrants (picture an empty Trivial Pursuit piece). This circle is called the Wheel Of The Year.

Wheel Of The Year 2021 – Courtesy of barewalls.com

I hope you have enjoyed Part 1 of this Wiccan exploration. Be sure to come back for Part 2 on April 12, 2021. We will be discussing the differences in practicing Wicca in a coven, a circle or as a solitary practitioner; as well as talking spells and magick (not a typo- come back to see why not). Until then my friends, blessed be.

Origins of Christian Easter

– Part I of World Religion Series –

Yesterday was the Christian holiday of Easter. Many people celebrated Easter by coloring hard boiled eggs, searching for candy-filled plastic eggs supposedly hidden by an egg-laying rabbit, had a large family meal anchored by the consumption of ham, and children were given brightly decorated baskets of chocolates. Well, duh. How else would you celebrate the miraculous event of the resurrection of the Savior of all humankind? Perfectly sensible right? Let’s see where these weird customs come from and how they fit into the Christian Easter celebration.

The Name “Easter”.

An ancient Sumerian legend discovered on a tablet dating back to 2500 B.C., may very well be the first “Easter story”. Christianity.com retells this legend as follows. Tammuz was married to a woman named Ishtar (pronounced Easter). When Tammuz died, Ishtar was so stricken with grief that she followed him to the underworld. In the underworld, naked and bowed low, Ishtar was judged, killed and hung up for display. In her absence, the earth lost its fertility; crops ceased to grow and animals stopped reproducing. After Ishtar had been away for 3 days, her assistant sought help from the Gods. One of the Gods went to the underworld and revived Tammuz and Ishtar, giving them the power to return to the earth in the form of sunlight over the following 6 months. At the end of that 6 month period, Tammuz returned to the underworld. Ishtar, again, followed him. They remained in the underworld for the next 6 months, at which time they were rescued by a Water God. Thus was explained the cycle of life (spring and summer) and death (autumn and winter).

The cycles of death and rejuvenated life is a popular theme in most world religions because they highlight the A) Conquering of light over darkness; B) Life conquering death; and C) The purity of virgin birth and sacrifice.

What Is Up With The Bunny?

The “Easter Bunny” is an example of how Christianity spread throughout the world as quickly as it did. Quite frankly, the pagans were told to just wrap their favorite beliefs into the Christian holidays. That way, these pagans could be taught and incorporated into the Christian, or more specifically the Catholic, faith.

The Easter Bunny dates back to 13th century Germany. The Germanic folk, known as Teutons, worshipped pagan gods and goddesses. One goddess was Eostra, the goddess of fertility and spring. The rabbit was associated with Eostra due to its prolific breeding habits.

Now, fastforward to 540 A.D. Pope Gregory sent 40 monks to Briton in order to convert the inhabitants to Catholicism. Per Pope Gregory’s instructions, the missionaries convinced the Anglo-Saxons to combine their ancient celebrations with Christian festivities. The Anglo-Saxons were celebrating Eostra at the time of the March Equinox. Catholics were celebrating Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the March Equinox. So…Easter and Eostra were merged and the rabbit was part of the package deal. So we have the ancient Germans to thank for the Easter Bunny.

Decorating Eggs?

The egg has long been held as a symbol of fertility and rebirth. The Christians took the symbolism and bumped it up a few notches. They saw the egg shell as being symbolic of the empty tomb following Jesus’ resurrection. The Christians of Mesopotamia began to dye the eggs red to symbolize the blood shed by Jesus during the crucifixion. The tradition has grown to dying eggs many different bright colors and some excitement has been added by having children search to find hidden colored eggs.

Why Is Ham The Traditional Protein?

In my opinion, the tradition of eating ham on Easter is the most overlooked rebellious movement of early Christians.

The accepted explanation for the consumption of ham at Easter is one of mere convenience. A pig, plentiful on farms in early Europe, would be slaughtered in the fall. It could be salted and cured throughout the winter months, leading to it being ready to eat at spring time.

However, I actually believe that the consumption of ham on Easter is a much older tradition. Remember that Christ was not Christian. He was Jewish. As were his disciples. Christ was sent to pay the price for the sins of all mankind. He did not become a “savior” until he was crucified, died and was resurrected. Thereafter, his followers would be considered “Christians”.

Jewish law did, and continues to, barr the consumption of “unclean meat”, which specifically includes all pork. No ham, no bacon, no pork rinds, no pork chops…nothing. So when the new Christians were freed from the restrictive laws of Judaism by their savior, I believe they gave the religious bird to the Jewish leadership by making the traditional meal on the day of Christ’s resurrection one of a previously outlawed meat! What a great way to celebrate the freedom of the Christian faith! At the yearly celebration marking Christ’s conquering of death, we eat an “outlaw meat” consumed by of a group of “rebellious troublemakers” who challenged status quo.

It Is Done.

I hope we all have a better understanding of the seemingly odd Easter traditions. As you see, most of the traditions come from early pagan celebrations being combined into the Christian faith. It is this willingness to allow the local traditions into the world of a new religious movement that helped lead to the rapid and nearly worldwide dissemination of Christianity. It was seen as an accepting belief system in a time of darkness and fear.

5 Tips For Teachers Returning To The Classroom

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has not yet completely disappeared from the American landscape, its grip on the population is beginning to wane dramatically. Many areas of life are starting to reopen under enhanced guidelines. One such area is the reintroduction of in-person instruction at public schools across the United States. As we all venture into the “new normal” of life at the tail end of Covid-19, it will continue to be vital that we remain vigilant for signs of re-emerging infection and/or the anxiety that naturally arises at this point with any live person-to-person contact. One profession which is being placed at the spearhead of this strategy is that of public school teachers and administrative personnel. 

Given the fact that so many children have been affected either physically, emotionally or mentally by the pandemic, teachers and the administration will face the gargantuan task of being educators, role models and therapists for their students more than any other time in our history. And all of this will be occurring while they deal with their own anxieties, uncertainties and fears. In order to at least lower the internal strife felt by the brave educators of this Country, I have compiled a list of 5 tips to make the transition back into in-person instruction easier on the school staff and students alike.

1. Communication is key

As with most relationships, the bond formed between a student and a teacher is one built on trust. Children seem to have an inherent ability to see when adults are attempting to feed them bull crap. So don’t. Open and honest communication is the key to everyone in the classroom feeling comfortable, confident and equipped. Teachers should be encouraging rather than reassuring. Leave the “Everything will be fine” and the “There is no reason to be freaked out” talk at home. Be honest with your students, listen to their concerns, express empathy and understanding, and encourage a judgment-free dialog. By listening and honestly communicating, a team approach to education and safety will be much easier to establish.

2. Encourage acceptance and planning

Instead of teaching the children to avoid their feelings of anxiety, it is important that educators employ a gradual approach. No one has ever gotten stronger mentally or emotionally by running from their problems. As such, lead by example in accepting the risks posed as real, but explain that there are guidelines in place to protect everyone at the school. No amount of preparation may actually curb all of their anxieties, but at least the caring that you show will go a long way in fostering bravery among your students and fellow staff members alike.

3. Courage should be rewarded

Being brave or courageous is not about avoiding risk, nor is it about recklessly charging head first into a bad situation. Bravery can be defined as “knowing the inherent risks of an action, but doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do”. Whenever you see a student or another staff member performing an action that exemplifies courage or bravery, encourage them by rewarding them. It doesn’t matter if the prize is anything of intrinsic value, just being recognized for overcoming their fear is usually enough to keep an individual engaged in the process.

4. Be calm, honest and caring

This is where leading by example and being a role model can come into play. A gentle and calming presence lends to an atmosphere of gentle calmness. Children will garner their emotional cues largely from your ability to maintain an air of calm throughout the day. The time spent learning virtually has been difficult for students and teachers alike, but students have had the added pressure of being with parents or grandparents who were completely unprepared and ill-equipped to become their teacher by proxy. As such, they will undoubtedly be looking for a calm, familiar in-school experience. The better you are able to handle your own stress and anxiety, the better and more calm the students will be in your presence.

5. Maintain a self-care routine

An often overlooked aspect of being a good role model is the ability to maintain a strong self-care routine. It is impossible to be the caring, ever-present influence your students desire if you are not physically and emotionally healthy. Therefore, do not lower your self-care standards. Adjust the time you go to bed to ensure the proper amount of sleep; eat healthy meals; take an extra break if need be to gather and ground yourself during the day; and remind yourself that everyone is just doing the best that they can under the circumstances presented. Nobody is demanding you be perfect, so do not place that pressure on yourself.

We have all been students before. Try to remember what it was like being a 6, 9, 12 or 14 year old during the initial days of a new school year. For the returning students, coming back to in-person instruction will be quite similar to starting the grade over again…but with the additional stresses of everything appearing unfamiliar. Masks, socially distanced desks, sanitization stations – these are all completely new wrinkles added into their day. As different as it makes our day as educators, we are at least adults with life experiences from which to draw. The students are fully leaning on us to guide them through this new way of experiencing their daily lives.

Within these troublesome times, we will all undoubtedly come up against the very reason we entered the teaching profession: to make a real-world difference in the life of a child. This pandemic can be viewed as an amazing opportunity to fulfill our life’s mission. As educators and school administrators, we have been handed the keys to shape and mold the minds of the future. It should be our pleasure to do so with compassion, understanding, determination and hope.

Frustration Is A Fork In The Road

Attempt #1: “username or password incorrect”. Attempt #2: “username or password incorrect”. Attempt #6: “username or password incorrect. For your safety, access to this account has been blocked. Please contact your Network Administrator.”

Aaaaaah! That is the moment you decide to see just how far you can whip a MacBook Air! Turns out, the answer is about 27 feet if you go with the frisbee-style throw. But now you have a bunch of cleaning up and explaining to do.

Frustration Happens

Ok. We have all been there. Even if you can’t get the word out through the clenched teeth, frustration is a common emotion across all age ranges. It usually comes right before you “lose it”. Frustration lights the fuse on the anger bomb you have been building inside. But is the explosion inevitable? How do different people handle frustration? Where does it come from? Can anything positive come from that blood-boiling feeling of frustration?

The Left Fork

One possibility when you become frustrated is to just give into it. Let the frustration take root and beat the holy hell out of some inanimate object until you feel better. Cathartic as this option is, it is a bit inconvenient for the majority of people. Unless you have immediate access to a scrap pile, boxing gym, or a stockpile of old dishes, you most likely won’t be able to reach a “break” through this way.

And since you are being forced to hold it inside, it will come out as an explosion of anger. Because you are frustrated and feel powerless to do anything about it, your anger is most likely to manifest aimed at the people you care most about. That means your family and close friends get to catch the brunt of your rage and poor attitude. Seem fair? Of course not! But this scenario plays out the world over every day. And, yes, it can lead to irreversible damage.

If only there was a better, more positive way of dealing with frustration, right? Well, lets back up the emotion train and take a look at the other path.

The Right Fork

Have you ever been so frustrated that you broke out laughing? I have! I have been so absolutely and completely screwed and out of ideas that it was literally comical. And I laughed until my sides hurt at my own situation, replaying every dead-end I had tried. Come on, I can’t possibly be the only one to ever have experienced this! I distinctly remember when the realization dawned on me that nothing I had done worked because I was trying to control something that was completely out of my control.

The truth is that much of our frustration is caused by our own expectations. We decide on a goal, we begin working toward achieving that goal, and then a variable changes (or an unforeseen variable pops up) and we scramble to control it; to not allow this roadblock to derail us from our path. But, much to the dismay of many individuals, we do not have the ability to control everything. No matter how much you squirm, struggle or beat your head against the wall, there are some circumstances beyond your control. That is where frustration is born.

And here is where you have a decision to make. Will you: A.) Give up and allow anger, regret and depression to tell you that you failed; or B.) Learn the lesson being taught and approach the problem from a different angle? We all know plenty of people who choose “A”. They are the people who are quickly angered; have a low opinion of themselves; and feel like the deck is constantly stacked against them. But WE need to be the type of people who choose option “B”.

Frustration Can Be Channeled

“Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea.”

-Marley Dias-

A goal achieved without any hardship or obstacles to overcome was a goal set too low. When we are striving toward something in our lives, be it professional or personal, we need to be aware of what is within our control and what is not. Being flexible and creative enough to deal with factors we do not control is the key to avoiding frustration, anger and burnout. Running into a stumbling block is not failure! Being unwilling to stand back up and keep moving is the only failure.

That all sounds good, but it is not easy! We tend to face frustration when we are at our weakest. The exhausted single parent gets frustrated when they learn of their 9 year old’s diorama on Thursday night which is, of course, due Friday. The struggling writer gets their 7th rejection letter and their “Final Notice” electric bill on the same day. Real world frustration. Both are perfectly understandable reasons to slip into anger. However, yelling at the child does not get the diorama done; and throwing the laptop across the room is not going to pay the electric bill. The circumstances are out of control. So, once you are done laughing at the absurdity of the situation, roll your sleeves up and get creative. The diorama may not be the Mona Lisa, but you and your child can get it done with some out of the box thinking. And you may need to pick up a part-time job to pay down some bills while you wait for your writing career to take off, but do not quit writing or submitting.

It is important to remember that the Universe is on our side. Quite frankly, we are all designed to succeed. We all begin in the same position – a defenseless blank slate made of promise. It is our decisions; our ability to see a problem from different angles; and our willingness to lay it all on the line which will determine our ending position. It is all about taking our frustration and using it to drive us forward. Never give up. Reassess, realign, and resume.