Holding Boundaries, Helping, and Bob Ross Sprouted! [the first six weeks]

Hold Your Boundaries!

The first 6 weeks are done! I spent some time this weekend reflecting on where we’re at right now, as a community, and the biggest challenge I see people grappling with is holding boundaries. What do I mean by that?

What is a boundary?

A boundary is a limit. Knowing your boundaries means that you know the limits of the things that make you comfortable. When you start to feel uncomfortable, anxious, or stressed, in an interaction with another person, they have probably crossed one of your boundaries. I like the suggestions in this article for figuring out where your boundaries are.

What happens when you don’t hold your boundaries?

The most immediate consequence of not holding your boundaries is unhappy, upset, or resentful feelings. The secondary consequence is insecure or frustrating relationships with others. Both lead to the breakdown of trust and feeling of security that are necessary for our community to thrive.

If you don’t set firm boundaries, don’t articulate where your boundaries are, or you let people cross your boundaries without consequence you will probably feel angry, frustrated, or resentful. Resentful is when you let a frustrated or angry feeling build up inside you until you feel ready to burst with it! Recently, I let this happen to me with a person that I love. The result was that my resentment built up and built up and built up until I couldn’t deal with it anymore, and we got into a big fight where we were yelling and screaming at each other on the street. It was awful, and I still feel bad thinking about it.

If you don’t tell people your boundaries, the consequence is that they won’t know that they’re making you uncomfortable and will probably continue to do the thing that is making you uncomfortable! If you tell someone your boundary but don’t reinforce your boundary when they continue to break/push it, the consequence is that you’re sending that person mixed signals about your boundaries – they will probably feel confused about where your boundaries are and continue to break/push them and make you feel uncomfortable and start the cycle all over again.

But I don’t want to be mean!

The number one reason I hear people at school give for not holding boundaries is fear of being mean or upsetting someone. It’s true that sometimes, holding your boundaries can make other people unhappy or even angry.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t articulate your boundaries then you are resigning yourself to being the one who is unhappy or angry. You allow the threat of other people’s feelings to rule your life. You won’t feel safe or secure in your relationships. By not articulating your boundary, you aren’t giving the other person a chance to change the behavior that is upsetting you, but you are guaranteeing that they will continue to do the thing that is making you uncomfortable!

Often, it’s not enough to just set a boundary – you have to hold it. If you tell someone your boundary but don’t reinforce it every time someone pushes or breaks it, you’re sending that person mixed signals about your boundaries. They will probably feel confused about where your boundaries really are (they’re not in your head, after all, and need your feedback to know how you’re feeling) and will continue to break/push them and make you feel uncomfortable and start the cycle all over again.

Setting a boundary is not being mean. Setting a boundary is clarifying what you need to be in relationship with another person. Setting a boundary is showing others how to be kind to your self.

Holding boundaries can look like…

…saying “Stop” or “Stop rule” when someone is doing a thing that makes you uncomfortable, and explaining to them what you need them to stop: “Stop rule on following me, I need some space right now.”

…articulating “if…then…” statements to illustrate where your boundary is, and how you plan on reacting if it is crossed: “If you keep ignoring my stop rule, then I won’t play with you anymore.”

…explaining your boundaries before you start a game so that other players know how you want to play: “Let’s play dodgeball, no headshots allowed.”

Weekly Mosaic

I broke my streak by not posting this on Friday! I am bummed. My mosaic isn’t as detailed as it has been in previous weeks – blogging time got cut short and our energy was very raucous so it was hard for me to focus enough to finish.

Bob Ross Update

He sprouted and made a friend!

Poem of the Week

Just as relevant today as it was last week – thanks Shel!

Pain and Practice

[The writing in this blog post is an excerpt from a Free Write I just did with Iphy, Hannah, and Doug. I will explain the rules of Free Write in another blog post… but not today cause I’m running out of time…]

I can feel the muscles in my hand straining and sore (have I written so much or just put too much pressure on it? There’s a metaphor there). My hand muscles and face muscles are sore as I relearn the feelings of their regular use – my flute embouchure has gone to crap (sorry about the language but it’s true – I used to be able to do 2 octaves of chromatic-scale longtones before I got fatigued and now after just a few notes I hurt).

I am thinking about skills that take muscle practice in part because I was talking to Serena earlier about lifting and how much I miss it. My body still hurts from Wednesday’s game of Shark Tag. Even though the stiffness is kind of a pain (pun possibly intended) I am trying to mentally frame it as something positive: a reminder that the micro-tears I am causing in my muscles with practice will heal stronger and grow my endurance; that ignoring my body does not make me disembodied; that I am more powerful when my being inhabits more than just my head.

Here’s this week’s mosaic!

[click to enlarge]

Whiteboard Mosaic Blog! [first full week]

This summer I discovered a new reflective tool that I love: done column mosaics! They’re exactly what they sound like – you take all the stickies from the “done” column of your Kanban and make them into a mosaic (maybe doodling between them, maybe not, maybe writing reflections between them, maybe not…). I like that it’s a flexible medium for seeing what I’ve accomplished; as a self-reflective human, I’m always interested in what Past Mel was up to, as a Virgo, I hate the redundant work of rewriting things from my Kanban and as a serial-notebook-keeper I don’t like to leave things out of my personal records because then I won’t know that I’ve done them! Done column mosaics have been the answer for me, and so here’s this week’s!

Cookie n00bs – Star Wars Edition

Nancy admires James’ tiny Yodas
n00bs hard at work cutting out cookies!
Xander shows off his marshmallow Storm Troop Cupcake
Xander shows off his marshmallow Storm Trooper Cupcake
Oliver made Chewbacca and Jabba the Hut
Oliver made Chewbacca and Jabba the Hut
Aniyah shows off her creation
Aniyah shows off her (slightly frosting-bloody) creation
Saylor and Yoda!
Saylor and Yoda!

This week we made and decorated Star Wars cookies in cook n00b with Nancy! Initially, Nancy and I were worried that the cookie cutouts wouldn’t look good when they came out of the oven, or that that would be too complicated to decorate. What we forgot to consider is how creative and adaptive all the kids are! We were blown away by the variety of Wookiees, Yodas, Vaders and C-3PO’s (and even a Jabba the Hut cupcake!) – such a good reminder for us grownups that things don’t have to be precisely perfect to be beautiful, creative, and delicious!

Halloween, Procrastination and Pavlova

Even though I was sick, I came in on Halloween and am so glad that I did – everyone’s costumes were so creative!

img_2057Iphy as a Holy Cow

img_2048Sterling as Nightmarionne

img_2049Anakin Skywalker and Kylo Ren play minecraft

img_2050Doug as the poo emoji (Timo wanted to know why he chose the iOS version)

img_2054Saylor as a scary park ghost

img_2055Iphy painted my face and I looked v scary.

My old friend Procrastination is back – as soon as I opt into a challenge it whispers “What if you just made it up tomorrow?” and I respond “Great idea, Procrastination, let’s go grab some coffee and catch up!” And every time I kick it down the road, Natnowrimo gets bigger and scarier. Stories are hard. I’ll work on it this weekend XD

Today we made Pavlova with Nancy and Alex at my first ever cook n00b!

img_2067 img_2068 img_2070 img_2071 img_2072 img_2074

semi-solid cheese fondue and dark chocolate pretzles

This week I learned that you can make cheese fondue without the wine (and it’s still delicious) and that when dark chocolate fondue is bubbling that’s because it’s hot enough to burn your mouth. I learned to watch out for goggles from mischievous players perched on the top of the bookshelf in the library, where the vantage point is perfect for ambushing unsuspecting humans, and that I like playing the goggles game even when I have to put my shoulder to the ground because it’s still not losing, and that it’s okay if I don’t play werewolves on a day when everyone’s energy is feeling overwhelming (in fact, it’s better to stay away because quiet places pop up all around school while a rowdy game of werewolves is happening). I was reminded that sad frustrated humans are still accountable for their actions and that’s more than okay – it’s important. I learned that variables in Python are more flexible than they are in Java and that talking through the architecture of building a game before writing code is much more comprehensible than just starting with the build. I learned that the pen-pineapple-apple-pen song has it’s own wikipedia page. I learned to knit but not yet to perl, to cast on and trust that at the end of all these stitches I will learn to cast off.fondue!soldering lessonsAbby teaches Timo to knitJiana's doodles Sterling was trapped in the magical land beyond the self and needed the power of friendship to release him

Instead of thinking about wanting to wish

I intend to find all the books and resources that are floating around the community about free schooling and play and kanbans and flat hierarchies and quiet revolutions and learning and childhood and pull them together into a library pool with many jumping in points depending on the human who is interested in taking the plunge. I love to recommend books to other curious humans.

I intend to spend more time in the library here, and find ways of sharing books that I love with other humans who haven’t discovered them yet and discovering books those humans love and share with me.

I intend to be more comfortable sitting in silence with other humans.

I intend to play more games, and let other humans explain the rules to me.

I intend to use the phrase “other humans” more regularly, instead of phrases like “the kids” or “my students” that implicit the age of the humans of whom I am speaking and imply some kind of hierarchical structure.

I intend to do things that scare me and admit to being afraid.

I intend to try many different orientations of my kanban until I find one that fits for me.

I intend to listen more than I explain.

I intend to write every week.

I intend to post even the blog entries that I think are subpar.

I intend to open up with humans of all ages who have welcomed me so generously into their space as a facilitator and I intend to do right by them to the utmost of my ability.

I intend to win Werewolves as a werewolf.

I intend to make music with other humans.

I intend to make music alone.

I intend to figure out a clean up job that works just right for me.

I intend to find non-defensive answers to questions like “but do they actually learn anything?”

I intend to be less guarded.

I intend to make offerings around reading and writing poetry and fantasy football (though I do not necessarily intend those to be the same offering, I do intend to be adaptive).

I intend to use people’s names when I speak to them.

I intend to continue looking forward to coming to ALC in the morning.

I intend to connect with more members of this community.

I intend to wear clothes that are comfortable and don’t inhibit my movement.

I intend to play minecraft.

I intend to doodle more.

I intend to be present.


This is my first blog post and I don’t want to make a bad impression. On the one hand, I am thrilled: as a lifelong journaler (albeit, an erratic one) I have always found joy in reflecting on the inner life of my former self. I am not someone who must be convinced of the value of this reflection — I am an enthusiastic convert to this thoughtful practice. But, in writing, and in writing blogs especially, I struggle with the feeling that there’s a right way to make these first sentences punchy and witty — that I should wait until I’ve mastered my openings before starting on my firsts (an irony that is not lost on me, I promise). Already, I am tempted to erase these sentences and start over. Already, I’ve rearranged them and despaired. Already, I am tempted by more knowledge-gathering before taking the plunge. (It’s funny that while some practices take time to internalize, others are easy – from the instant it was named for me, I cannot help but look for the fingerprints of my Scholar on the notes I’ve been gathering in lieu of beginning my creative endeavors and finding them everywhere.) This has been a rambling, imperfect preamble — I am grateful that here, there is plenty of space for it.

I’ve taken nearly 20 pages of notes in the past four days (and resisting the urge to despair about the lost record Monday’s revelations that I did not write down because I forgot to bring a notebook, though not always succeeding) and reflecting on each page here, though tempting, is not what I will do. My head is swimming with creation myths and organization schema and tools and flat heirarchies and the awareness of formerly-dormant muscles and finite and infinite resources and questions about what it really means to hold power or inhabit an archetype or imprint or trust or make space — it speaks to the pull of the body how easily distracted I can be from all of these things by the twitch of my dry contact lens. Cacti and other hearty succulents hold water in their fleshy leaves for months at a time until there is a deluge of rain and they burst forth in bloom; I’ve never seen the desert but I know it in the space between my ears.

The pages of the notebook I’ve been leaning on are unlined, which is why it was the only unused notebook in my apartment – I am uncomfortable with unlined pages. In the past, I have relied on the gridded moleskine to provide a framework for me to fit my words and doodles into and around, and I imagined that I was unaware of those boundaries while I observed and reflected and supposed. When we learned to multiply double digit numbers in 4th grade we did so on graph paper, and Mr. Immore (who annually demonstrated how to fry a pickle with an electric current, a hat trick for which he was immortally famous at my elementary school) would write the numbers in the boxes to make it easier to keep them straight, to tally them. Today, I copied out Drew’s network fractals onto a blank page in a hand that looks too confident to be my own. Throughout the week, my waving letters meander across the page – the lines are not straight and the layout of the sheets are not deliberately plotted. There are tiny, dense notes where later, my thoughts were amended and expanded. There is more to glom out of my head onto those pages, and this one too, and though they are messy they are dense and also beautiful and I am lucky, today, this week and this year, to be in a space with books and thinkers and the things they attract so, at risk of sounding trite, I will publish this post without editing these last two paragraphs and just count on them to take up space as they are.