Why I Want to Start a School

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Mar 22, 2019 in education, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

They say why is more important than how. That it’s important to know. That it will fuel your success. That it is what will keep you going when things are hard. So I will start there. Why do I want to start a school?

For Asher. My son was not thriving in traditional public school. In fact, it was becoming detrimental to him. He was having anxiety, insomnia, headaches, stomachaches. He hated school and felt like he didn’t belong there. He didn’t fit into the system, and the more the system tried to force him into their mold, the more he both felt like a failure and honored his sense that it was the system that was failing and challenged it. His natural tendencies to explore, create, tinker, question, persist, spend time on his interests, play, be physically active, be social, expect mutual respect, take risks, be curious, take responsibility for himself and use common sense were being denied and squelched and punished. This kid would use Alexa to get the answers for his homework because he found it ludicrous to waste his time doing something of which he was capable but had no interest in when he could easily access the information with a number of tools that anyone can use. He saw no point in it. He would rather spend the time learning magic tricks, making slime, sculpting clay, teaching himself new flips or tricks on the trampoline, practicing his ninja moves, playing video games, riding his scooter or bike, curating his collections, watching videos, playing floor hockey with his brother, drawing or learning how to draw new things, cooking, hanging out with friends, building a bridge, designing a miniature house, playing with magnets, doing experiments, taking something apart, using parts to make something new, checking out how lasers work, tending a garden, playing with his pets, making up crazy entertaining stories, playing along the river, swimming, playing games with other kids, building forts….

He is very capable in the world outside school. He is tender and nurturing with younger kids. He can talk intelligently with anyone of any age. He is empathetic and compassionate, charismatic, charming.  He is persistent.  He has a way of going after what he wants and getting it.  He has already run a business in which he made, advertised, and sold a product in our community. When he opened a stand at the local farmer’s market as an outlet for his products, the other vendors treated him with respect, admiration, and encouragement.  He can cook and bake. He can care for pets.  He can also be exasperating!  I love this kid more than anything and he drives me to my wits end at times.  I know he can be frustrating and he has things he needs to learn and ways he needs to grow.  I don’t think he is perfect.  However, all kids are this to varying degrees.  All of us have things to learn and ways to grow.  That’s another reason he needs a school like this.  It will require him to take responsibility for himself.  It will hold him accountable in fair and clear and respectful and real world ways.  When he needs to make different choices he won’t be able to blame it on the system.  He will have to confront himself and have a process for learning and finding different patterns of behavior without being made to feel bad or shameful or attacked.  He will have a path forward.

And for kids like Asher.  He’s not the only kid who so clearly doesn’t fit into the system.  There are kids with anxiety who struggle with being forced to be out of their element constantly.  There are kids who learn differently than schools teach them who feel confused and like they are failures.  There are kids whose talents are never exploited and even discouraged who don’t understand or develop their unique greatness.  There are kids who are shy or quiet and are told they need to be more outspoken or participate more like being quiet is a weakness.  There are natural leaders with great ideas who are told what to do and never asked for their input.  There are kids who are naturally curious, who are bored and find the things they are forced to learn irrelevant.


And for kids unlike Asher who need this school, but for different reasons.  There are kids who seem to do well in the traditional school system.  They like structure.  They want to follow rules and please authority figures and know clearly what to do and how to achieve.  These kids are praised, rewarded, and encouraged in this behavior.  They are held up as the standard of excellence to emulate.  They are promised a bright, successful future.  However, there are at least two reasons why many of these kids would benefit from a school like the one I envision.

First, many kids who find success feel much pressure to continue in this success.  They feel pressure to compete with their successful peers, to not make mistakes or fail at anything, to maintain their successful status and identity, to continually achieve at higher levels, and to follow some artificial path to greatness that often doesn’t lead to happiness and after the years of formal education end is irrelevant.  So much meaningless stress for young people to assume.

Second, this type of educational structure does not translate to real world success.  In fact, it can be quite detrimental.  In order to succeed in a traditional school setting, students must  become adept at blindly following rules, accepting others’ authority to make decisions for them without their input, following a preplanned path, not questioning or thinking critically.  After they have graduated there is no preplanned path set out for them to follow.  They have to decide what they want to do.  They alone are responsible for themselves. They are often out of touch with their true interests because those have not been valued.

And finally, for all children.  If you dig into why school is the way it is, you find that it’s not because it is the best way for kids to spend their time and grow into successful  members of society.  It actually has grown out of various groups in power attempting to achieve their own ends.  Currently, there is a lot we know about how kids learn best, develop, and thrive.  And much of it is ignored and not applied in school.  In fact, much of what schools do goes directly against this knowledge.  The things we’ve doubled down on like testing and measuring and evaluating everything and setting standards that every child must meet on an arbritrary timeline, and developing more rigorous curriculum that demands more academic achievement out of younger and younger children,  have no data to back them up, no evidence they are leading to good results.  It is exploiting children, abusing educators, and costing taxpayers a lot of money.  Why are we letting politians and businesspeople make these decisions?  There is a different way.  One that is based on scientific research and educational expertise and real life results.  It respects and frees and empowers teachers and allows them to do what they do best.  It respects and frees and empowers children and allows them to do what they do best.  And it respects and frees and empowers parents and allows them to do what they do best.  Why not give it a try?


Never Too Late

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jan 10, 2019 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

I am majorly addicted to Gilmore Girls.  I think my obsession partly stems from feeling like I don’t have much in my own life right now, so I am fascinated and comforted by this sense of community and humanity.  Partly, it’s an escape from trying to figure out hard things in my own life.  Partly because it’s just a really good show.  The characters are quirky and relatable.  Its funny and dramatic and human.  And my biggest obsession within this obsession is Lorelai and Luke.  The chemistry, the tension, the playfulness, the sweetness, the romance, the friendship,  the absurdity, the taking forever to realize and then discovering something so real and true and right.  The connection and belonging to each other that endures through being with other people, being together, being apart, and everything in between, is beautiful.

So being the obsessor that I am, I tried to find out everything I can about the show and the people who made it.  I listened to Lauren Graham’s latest audiobook.  I am a reader, not a listener, but audiobook is the only way to go when it’s delivered by Lauren Graham.  Along with interesting information about her life and Gilmore Girls, she has some general wisdom to dispense.  For instance on not procrastinating with writing.  I’m using her method right now.  And Scott Patterson has a coffee company.  How perfect.  And he writes a blog for it.  And one of his recent posts (link below) was about getting the job on Gilmore Girls.  I appreciated his honesty and candor.  One thing I was surprised about was that he came to acting later in life.  In fact, GG was his first major role and he was already forty when he started it.  This gave me hope.  I am forty.  I feel like my life is over.  Like I wasted my youth and opportunities.  Like it’s too late.  But after forty, Scott Patterson gave us Luke Danes and amazing coffee and original music.  Luke Danes is beautiful.  He is not old or washed up or past his prime or anything but fabulous.  He is a full, vibrant, deep, amazing character. And honestly I can’t imagine anyone else in that role.  Scott Patterson brought Luke Danes to life.

I am just starting to figure out what I might want to do career wise.  And this made me think, maybe I have something to put out into the world that is worthwhile.  Maybe it’s not too late.  Maybe it’s okay to not have everything figured out at 20 and be on a singleminded perfect trajectory to the one thing you should do.  Maybe it’s okay to try different things.  Maybe you learn along the way things you need for what you will do and be later.  Maybe it takes experiences and time to get to certain points and places and become the person you need to be to do what you end up doing.  Maybe it’s hard and seems impossible or unlikely.  Maybe you should try anyway.  Maybe it’s risky and scary, but worth it.  Maybe it will touch and affect people you don’t even know in ways you haven’t considered.  Maybe it will matter.  Maybe there will be people who find value and beauty in it and wonder how it could have come about in exactly this way without you.





Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 15, 2018 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

Sometimes I just feel alone. Alone in my struggles, alone in my dreams, alone in my fears, alone in my desires, alone in my needs and wants and thoughts and experiences and my life. Sometimes I feel powerless. Like it doesn’t matter what I do, nothing is going to change. Sometimes I feel invisible, like no one really sees me or hears my voice or thinks that I matter. Insignificant. Like I could be easily replaced. Sometimes I feel dull and devoid of any creative force. Sometimes I feel incompetent. I have lots of ideas and good intentions, but no ability to carry them out successfully. Sometimes there are too many demands and components and moving parts. Sometimes I’m tired of balancing and delaying and denying and I just want what I want now. Sometimes I just don’t want to do this anymore.


Look at Me

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 15, 2017 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

I’m proud of myself. You know why? First of all, I’m here. There have been at least two periods of a week or longer in the last year in which my brain thought its job was to convince me not to go on. I had to fight with everything inside me to keep going. It was painful, excruciating, agonizing, exhausting. And I made it through somehow.

I am also proud of me because I am taking care of myself. I started doing yoga and my love for it is beyond description. It has benefitted me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And I have stuck with it! Through having substitute instructors, one instructor I loved moving away, breaks due to travel and the rec center being closed for maintenance and sick kids… I’m still showing up and loving it. I also am starting to be active in other ways that feel good. And I have been trying to nourish my body, instead of using food as a coping mechanism. I feel like some real healing and progress is happening.

I am also feeling proud of my persisting in seeking help for my mental health, even when it is challenging and confusing and trial and error and jumping through hoops, and filling out so much paperwork, and telling the same stories over and over to so many people, and going down dead ends, and waiting forever. I’m still trying.


It’s Suicide Prevention Week and I’m Fighting for my Life

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 15, 2017 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

They say the path to strength is through vulnerability.  This is hard.  Why is it so damn hard to talk about?  My brain doesn’t work properly.  I have everything to live for, and yet I keep thinking of dying.  I have no significant reasons to be suffering in my life, and yet anguish is what I feel.  I have so many advantages, luxuries, sources of joy and pleasure; and yet I struggle so much.  It’s not my choices that have brought me here.  It is sure as hell not lack of trying.  It isn’t because of ingratitude.  Something in my brain is not functioning correctly.  If I could fix it I would.

They say ask for help.  How?  I’ve seen therapists, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and kept going back.  I’ve done structured therapy/skills programs with a duration of almost two years.  I’ve done individual therapy and group therapy.  I’ve sought out different providers when it was clear I needed different help.  I’ve used apps on my iPhone, kept mood data charts, tried more than a handful of meds, adjusted doses, changed the time of day I take them, tried different combinations, read blogs, read scholarly articles, read books, adjusted my diet, tried exercise, attempted to be more structured.

I’ve been in crisis and reached out for help and failed to hear any compassion or humanity on the other end of the line, just bureaucracy and logistics, been told I would have to wait days to weeks to months to indefinite amounts of time for an appointment, been led on a wild goose chase, jumping through flaming hoop after hoop.

It’s like telling someone who has broken legs they must walk to the hospital.  Hopelessness, meaninglessness, challenges with communication and social interaction, impairment in executive functioning, lack of energy and motivation to complete even simple tasks.  These are key traits of my experience of being mentally unwell.  And the process of seeking help exploits all of these.  When someone is fighting for her life and uses every shred of her remaining abilities to ask for help, someone should help her.

I want to do something to fix this.


Is this normal?

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 5, 2016 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

My clothes dryer broke this weekend.  Not out of the blue.  Actually it has been declining for a while.  But when it stopped functioning altogether, it was clear there was a problem that we had to address.   And when I say we, I mean my husband cause he’s the one who knows how to troubleshoot and fix modern contraptions.  After he replaced the heating element, it works like new.  It is unbelievable how fast one can do laundry with a properly functioning drying machine.  No, seriously, it’s incredible.  Now I see how ridiculous it was to accept my dryer’s previous performance, to think it was normal, to not expect more, to suppose that I must not be so great at keeping up with the laundry, to spend all weekend trying to catch up and only have a few loads to show for my efforts, to feel inadequate and disorganized as every morning was a scramble to piece together complete, properly fitting, weather appropriate, dress code compliant attire for everyone, to consider spending a day at the laundromat to make some headway.  But, it happened so insidiously.  It was so incremental.  I honestly don’t even know when its performance started slipping.

I feel like mental/emotional/psychological health can be like that.  Sometimes it takes something pretty significantly going wrong to realize that there is a legitimate issue that needs addressed.  Then when things have been righted and are moving in a positive direction, looking back it is crazy to see what you accepted as status quo.  But in the middle of it all, it somehow seems that maybe I just need to try a little harder, life is not all fun and games, maybe I am just not good at life, life is pretty serious business, maybe we are not meant to take it lightly.  And we trudge on, running like a hamster on a wheel, thinking if only we can stick it out, put in more effort, maybe someday things might get better but mostly this is all there is and all we deserve and what we just have to keep doing.

But then things get a whole lot better.  Brighter.  Deeper.  Hopeful.  Meaningful.  Enjoyable.  Attainable.  Joyful. Beautiful. Peaceful. And suddenly it seems ludicrous that you settled for quiet desperation and tried to make a life out of it.  Life is crazy and hard and horrible.  But it is also full of wonderful possibility.  You deserve to see that wonderful possibility and have a chance to embrace and embody it.


Then and Now

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Mar 16, 2014 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl


I am able to

be patient, persistent, logical, motivated, engaged, experience positive and negative feelings, productive

relax, focus, keep things in perspective, make note of things I need to work on without becoming obsessed by them and feeling frustrated overwhelmed annoyed defeated and worthless because of them

I feel

calm, peaceful, even, in control, resilient, hopeful, capable, worthy, significant, creative, joy, fun, meaning, like things are ok even if they aren’t perfect or are complex or require hard work

I know this won’t last.  I know I will wake up one day and as suddenly as something switched inside me and brought on this way of being without my input or control, I will be in a funk of anxiety and depression.  The physical feeling I have inside my core of being bolstered and held up and strengthened and able to withstand whatever is happening will be gone.  I will feel pummeled and waif like, as if anything can topple me, flatten me, hold me down.  I will feel hollow and flat and empty.  Unequal to every task.  Unable to focus.  My head will be filled with a jumble of whirling thoughts jumping from one to the next unable to follow one to its end.  Like my brain is one of those chambers with dollar bills being blown violently around and I desperately try to catch the thoughts and pull them in and contain them and even know what they all are, but they are all blowing around in the universe, floating like nebula, unable to be lassoed.  I am overwhelmed by all the possibilities in the world.  I don’t understand anything.  I can’t understand what life means, what anything means.  Everything irritates me.  I find those I care for repugnant and think of how I can disentangle myself from them because none of these relationships are working and I don’t know how to do them.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I am ruining everything.  I need to start over from scratch.  Build my life one element at a time, layer upon layer.  Everything is too complex.  I need simplicity and clarity.  I need everything organized and structured.  All I long for is sleep.  I am exhausted and feel like doing nothing.  Sleep is a sweet escape from the unease.  It is agonizing and debilitating.  I feel desperate.  I feel helpless.  I don’t know how to communicate what is happening inside me.  I don’t even understand it.   Everything I attempt to do will make me feel inside like someone is running their fingernails down a chalkboard.  It feels like my being is stuck in wet cement, weighted down.  Everything is so hard to do.  It takes such concerted effort.  There is no sense of satisfaction with anything I do accomplish.  I am only thinking of what is still to do.  I prefer to be alone.  Being with others is draining and unpleasant.  Being in the moment is difficult.  It seems unlikely that things will ever be different.  I am a failure.  I don’t want to try.  I feel alone and forgotten and worthless.  I will be in a fog.  Sad or hard things that have happened in the past or are happening currently will dominate my thinking.  Everything will seem poignant.

The exact circumstances experienced in these two distinct ways of being elicit completely different feelings, responses, outcomes.

And then I will be impulsive, impatient, feeling that I must take action now, everything must happen now.  I am tired of waiting.  I cannot remain calm and carry on.  I will make things happen.  I will push them even if the outcome is not what I am hoping for.  It is better than nothing happening like it always does in my life.  I’m tired of stagnating and waiting in limbo for all the right stars to align.  I’m weary of being patient, delaying gratification, being cautious.  Throw caution to the wind!  Do something, damn it, anything!  In fact the wilder and less advisable and predictable and safe and responsible and status quo the better.  Do something crazy and unexpected and pointless and fun and thrilling and unthought out and spontaneous.  Live in the moment.  Who cares about what happens next?  Just live for once, and enjoy it.



Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 1, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

It is an exquisitely beautiful day.  Too much beauty to drink it all in.  The kind of day when one should lose track of time and live in the moment.  And that is just what I did.  The world seems bold and vivid and bursting with life and full of possibilities.  This day is a gift to us right now.  I graciously and gratefully accept it!


The Art of Blank Space

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 16, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I have been more mindful about the time I spend with my children lately. It has helped to have the structure that back-to-school routines provide, even though I was sad to see the summer slip away. I find I am better able to enjoy and manage the time with my kids when I have some time for myself. All the stars have aligned to make this happen. The dark haired boy is in third grade, the blondie started kindergarten in the afternoons, and this happens to be when the little red haired girl takes her nap.

Most days I get about three hours of time alone. I am an introvert, and to me this is a precious gift.  I can accomplish practical tasks such as laundry, dishes, cleaning and organizing, phone calls, paperwork, planning ahead.  I can indulge in little things like enjoying a leisurely shower, taking a nap (gasp), or reading.  But most importantly I seize the opportunity to:  Think. Breathe. Be.

Knowing that I will have this time when no one is asking questions, needing me, making demands, depending on me is freeing. Having space for me is an enormous, amazing gift. It keeps me grounded and renews me. I am finding it is healing and restorative and necessary for my well-being.

Currently, my man is off being a great white hunter and enjoying some much needed downtime with friends. His travel schedule waxes and wanes, and he has not been on a long trip for a while. So, I am being stretched a bit this week, parenting solo. In the times when I begin to feel the weight of this, I stop and remember how fleeting this all is and how I want to be present and live it, not just try to survive and make it through. So I make a conscious effort to be here now and inhabit the moment and take note of the things that are mine today that I will miss and long for all too soon.

Here are a few of those little things I am trying to fully absorb and enjoy and remember. A blonde headed little boy wearing Batman footie pajamas with a cape. Making up stories about crazy things that could have happened to  lead to the Purell wipes dispenser being completely empty at the Chick-Fil-A playground.  (Which reminds me of the time my preschooler wept as we went through the drive thru, and after establishing the tears were not due to missing out on the playground or not getting a toy, we established that the root of all the emotional upheaval was his desire for a “wipey” from the dispenser by the playground).  The eruption of pure joy on my little boy’s face and the best, infectious giggle as I pushed him “as high as you can” on his glider swing.  And his baby sister swinging beside him in her orange car swing, laughing at him laughing. My older son’s strikingly dark eyes as he declares a staring contest to try to rid me of my hiccups.  I had never heard of this remedy.  How he tells me stories about what happened at school, and talks to me about the little girl he is in love with, and gives me his review of that day’s school lunch.  The ways he tries to be helpful.  How he can’t walk across a room without hurting himself, but carefully he rescues his sister from her crib, carries her downstairs, places her in her high chair, and starts feeding her some yogurt.  The sight of him carrying her, radiating pure love, her clinging to him like a little monkey.  A five year old who delights in gathering wildflowers and making bouquets for his teacher. A sweet baby girl who flits around the room gleefully, takes a break from discovering and playing to give a hug and snuggle with her brothers sprawled on the bean bag, playing video games.  How she cheers and celebrates along with them as they accomplish new things in their games, even though she has no idea what the excitement is about.

It’s interesting how when everything is all crammed together, it looks like chaos.  But, when there’s a little blank space interspersed, the beauty emerges.


On Making the Most of the Moment

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Aug 13, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a thousand times and I’m a parent who thinks this moment, this day, this season, this stage, this age, this child of mine…cradled in my arms, asleep on my shoulder, asking for one more goodnight hug and kiss, wrapped around my legs, shouting for me to watch, singing me a song, picking me flowers, drawing me pictures, writing me notes, dancing gleefully, learning to ride a bike, needing a ride to goalie camp and back every day this week and insisting I stay and watch, demanding I drop everything and push him on his swing, inviting me to play with him, hoping to have a picnic, twirling my hair, wanting only me for comfort, sitting in my lap, snuggled in my bed, eager for me to meet his friends, telling me long stories about his day, sharing her ice cream with me, smiling ear to and reaching out little arms for me when I get her out of bed, making me paintings everyday at preschool, asking for my help on a project, staring at me from the backseat as we drive here and there, demanding and delighting in my attention, sharing our time and space and hearts…..will last forever.

It seems like it will never end sometimes.  When I’m tired or alone or overwhelmed by all this responsibility.  It seems interminable.  Sometimes it seems permanent.  Like we were meant to be together and we will always be as we are now.  And sometimes, as you sort through preschool mementos and attend kindergarten meetings, it seems so fleeting.  It seems so precious.  And you realize the baby you just brought home from the hospital is walking and talking.  The tiny boy who picked out a red tricycle for his second birthday is zooming by on a two wheeler without training wheels.  The bright eyed boy you remember putting on the kindergarten bus is starting third grade.   The summer I anticipated sharing with them with such excitement is over.  And I realize that I have spent many days working, cleaning, cooking, washing, preparing, planning, researching, organizing, and surviving and not so much time playing, watching, listening, holding, cuddling, gazing, singing, reading, and taking it all in.  Caring for young children is a lot of work. It takes a lot of energy, physically, mentally, emotionally.  It is also a joy, a privilege, a gift, a life filled with wonder and amazement and so much love.  And it does not last forever.  So I will embrace it while it’s here.  My life and my heart are full.  It makes me sad to think I take it for granted.  It breaks my heart to imagine it changing.  And yet it does over and over.  And I am surprised over and over.  And I am bewildered over and over.  I love these kids with all my heart, and I will savor who they are and what we share every day.

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