short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Make Your Desire the Other Person's, Too

The easiest way to make your desire the other person's, too, is to ask questions. Often, a very simple question, asked sincerely and unemotionally, gets another person to see things your way very quickly. The following questions were raised at Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings for my children. They are just a few of the many situations where simple questions, calmly asked, can create an immediate change of heart.

Before the beginning of one IEP meeting that my husband and I feared would produce verbal promises for Noelle's education that the school had no intention of fulfilling or putting into writing -- we had had experience in this area before -- we asked a very simple question, "May we tape this meeting?"

By law, we had the right to tape, so the question was understood as pro forma. We did tape the meeting, but we did not need to. All agreements at that meeting were put into writing and accomplished.

Here is another question that will get an administrator's attention very quickly. When my younger, multiply-handicapped son's high school refused to put reading and other academic goals into his IEP, saying that such goals were inappropriate for Doah, I asked, "May I share with the media the view of school officials that literacy is not an appropriate goal for all children in the public schools?" Very quickly, reading was added to the IEP.

At an even more difficult meeting, when the best program for Doah was at a school that was not conveniently located in our home area, officials arbitrarily and adamantly refused to place him there, clearly because of transportation inconvenience, not for educational reasons. Pressed for time to get Noelle to a medical appointment, I suggested that we had obviously reached an impasse in discussions and that I had to leave but would let the group, without me, choose how to answer my final question. I told them I could be completely flexible: I would accept either option they preferred.

My question? Would they prefer to have a few days to figure out how to place Doah in the most appropriate program (the one we had identified) or to figure out how to present their position in court?

They did not even ask for time to discuss the question. They immediately agreed to the placement we wanted -- which worked out so well that when the teacher was transferred to another school, Doah was transferred with her!

In all cases, our desire quickly became the other person's when we reframed the question. In all three cases, we developed warm, long-term relationships with the administrators involved.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published, copyright 2003.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Make Your Option the Only Possible One

People quickly acquiesce when there are no other options. Getting your own way is usually as simple (and complex) as making your option the only one possible. I have watched two of my own children as middle schoolers do that quite effectively.

Each time we have moved into a new school district the tendency had been to place Noelle in special education because of her paraplegia. However, she preferred to be in regular education and was able to handle the academic work there quite well. When we moved to California from Washington in Noelle's eighth grade year, the school administration's proposal was once again to place her in special education.

When Noelle indicated her preference for regular education, the principal explained that all children who cannot walk had always been placed into special education, and, therefore, she would, too.

"Well, then," Noelle commented, "I wonder how you are going to handle the problem that comes with that placement."

When the principal asked what problem she was talking about, she said, "Clearly, I'm the one who has to go to the classroom every day, and I do not intend to go to that one." She was placed in regular education and was very happy there.

The principal met his match, as well, in her younger, gifted brother Shane, who was in her grade because he had skipped some earlier grades in school. The principal wanted to place Shane in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program. however, Shane looked through the materials and found them unchallenging. He preferred to make his own program through the Independent Study program. Frustrated by Shane's lack of appreciation for the GATE program (and probably feeling the need to have another GATE student in the school program), the principal explained that being in the Independent Study program would bar Shane from school dances and other such activities. Shane replied that he preferred books to social activities and willingly accepted that restriction.

Seeing that his words had no effect, the principal said in a rather frustrated tone, "You don't understand! You have to have a behavior problem to get into the Independent Study program!"

Very calmly and pleasantly, Shane indicated that he would be willing to meet that entrance requirement, saying, "I could develop one if you would like." He was placed in Independent Study and was very happy there.

Noelle made her option. Obviously, no one could physically force her to go to a particular classroom on a daily basis and monitor her to be sure she stayed there all day. The alternatives to her choice were simply too cumbersome, impossible, or undesirable.

Shane also made his option the only choice. Of course, the principal did not want another child with a behavior problem. He could avoid that in only one way -- by meeting Shane's request.

These two children very much enjoyed their middle school years. Noelle learned far more in regular education than she would have learned in special education and passed the state exams just fine for regular education students. Shane immensely enjoyed his learning situation. His teacher had been a gifted education teacher in earlier years and was one of the few teachers who did not fear Shane's ability to inhale information and question assumptions. For math, the teacher asked Shane to work with a tutor from the local college because Shane learned too fast for the middle-school teachers to keep up with him. She learned incredible amounts of math that year, in addition to completing most of the high school program in other subjects -- all while being in a "punitive" program rather than the GATE program that, ironically, would have asked far less of him. It was, indeed, a good year.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published, copyright 2003.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

When Someone Kicks You, Still Your Leg

When someone kicks you, kicking back is not always the answer. Sometimes it seems that a nice swift kick, especially in a vulnerable spot, would garner a wonderful feeling. However, holding one's leg back from doing what it wants to do sometimes ends with even better results than any amount of revenge would have brought. In short, don't get mad, and don't get even: get what you want.

In my own life, I have written three doctoral dissertations in order to finally finish one doctoral degree. For one fabricated reason after another, my department chair did not accept the first two. (Rumor told me that he blamed me for his not being hired at the institute where I worked and had told one of the other graduate students that I would finish my degree only over his dead body -- a rumor that appeared to be true at face value although he would not state something like this publicly and I never cared enough to expend the effort to confirm the details. Since I was a slow learner, apparently, it took two dissertations for me to realize that perhaps the rumor was true and at the very least something was wrong.) I could have sued the university, had I had the inclination, money, and energy, and I might have won. I could have taken on the chair in other ways, but I did not. I chose to move on from a painful situation, still the leg that wanted to kick back, make my career through competent work and publication, and wait for serendipity to help with the dissertation and degree issue.

Many people along the way offered to help, and that made me feel validated. The department chair of another department at the same university wrote me a note of encouragement, suggesting that I complete the degree elsewhere and let her know when I could put the initials behind my name; that comment kept me going for years, and I was able eventually to let her know that she could, indeed, use those initials.

Colleagues treated me as if I had "punched" the dissertation ticket, and I have not been held back in my career. In fact, I would not trade my career for any other. For that reason, too, I have not felt the need for revenge. As for the dissertations I wrote, they proved useful in other ways -- another reason for not taking revenge.

The first dissertation topic was quite esoteric. I received a couple of fellowships to conduct the research for it in Siberia during the height of the Cold War, a time when Americans did not go to Siberia, least of all for research. I not only went there, but also I took my oldest daughter, Lizzie, with me. Through the years, the Siberian connection has been of professional and personal value. I have many friends there, have provided much consultation there, and was able to bring a child artist from there to the United States for medical treatment. If I had not worked on that dissertation, none of those connections would have been made. Besides, I made a conference presentation and published an article on the dissertation.

The second dissertation topic was less exciting, but it helped me land a dream job in my specialty, a job that most people get only at the end of their careers but which I got at the beginning of mine. Although my advisor never read the dissertation, it has been published piecemeal as several articles, presented at numerous conferences, and cited in the works of others. That is better than revenge.

The best outcome was that the trajectory of the kick landed me in an extraordinary position much later. I have now completed a third dissertation, this in in Russia, at a university that is better respected than my original university. Had either of the other two dissertations been read and processed, I would not have been eligible to do the later degree. Perhaps thanks to my earlier negative experience, I appreciated all the more the comment that was made by the department chair in Russia at the end of my dissertation pre-defense: "We don't know why you need us, but we feel fortunate that you came to us."


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published, copyright 2003.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2012!

Wishing one and all a blessed 2012, which has dawned bright and sunny here in San Ignatio. Along with it has arrived my first decision of the new year: whether or not to take revenge on Donnie.

As usual, Donnie and I had made plans to welcome in the new year with a mini-party. Some champagne. A few snacks. And Doah.

As usual, I feel asleep and became nigh onto comatose around 10:30. Doah lasted another hour, then toddled off to bed, emerging, according to Donnie, around 12:30 in the morning, like a groundhog on Feb. 2, saw his shadow, and scurried back to the bedroom.

As for me, I never did wake up. Donnie, ever the photographer -- and, in this case, as is typical of our New Year's eve celebrations, the lone celebrant -- took a picture of me zonked out on the couch and pasted it on Facebook. Of course, that brought it a lot of comments!

Now, he is sleeping in after all his heavy partying, and I am wide awake, greeting the sunny day and new year. Doah is dancing about, demanding breakfast, and I am ever so tempted to take a picture of Donnie, zonked out in bed, and paste it on Facebook!

Happy days and interesting decisions, my friends, I wish you in 2012!

(note: image from -- it stunned me; hope you like it)

About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.