Saturday, September 17, 2011

Effortless Inspiration and Peace

All of a sudden, my dream has come true: I get to stand up in front of possibly thousands of people and make a difference for both the planet and for those who depend upon its health for survival.

How. Cool. !!
And. Really. Scary.

I haven't always dreamed of public speaking, and though I'm jumping on the opportunity, I'm clearly not free of nervousness around the idea. As many of you know, I'm a language teacher. I'm a stay-at-home mom, a part time tutor, a small business owner. I'm far from a politician, nor someone who has ever felt at ease speaking in front of a room of adults. In fact, the one time that I taught a Spanish class to adults (only 4 of them!), I was SO nervous, focused more on what they might be thinking of me as a teacher than on what I was actually wanting them to learn.

Things have changed a good bit recently, however, and now, all of a sudden, I can't seem to pass up the opportunity to stand on the stage and speak my peace. Initially, when my co-program coordinator proposed the idea, I rejected it immediately, asking rhetorically how I'd ever succeed in overseeing the biggest event I've ever coordinated, while simultaneously dealing with my nervousness surrounding public speaking. A few days later, however, I realized that I'd been wishing for this opportunity all along--now that it was being served up to me, the last thing I need to be doing is turning it down.

So here I sit now, wondering what the heck I'm going to say to all these people in hopes of making a difference somehow.

It's not like I'm telling myself that this is my ONE opportunity to make a name for myself in climate change or anything. And that if I screw it up, I may as well plan on just teaching German for the rest of my life in some hole somewhere. Nope. Definitely not telling myself that.

No pressure or anything.

The moment I found out about this opportunity, I called one of my leadership teachers to share the exciting news. "Wow," she said. "What are you going to say?!" The words rolled off my tongue, and even I was impressed with what came out of my mouth. The same thing happened a few days later while talking with my coach, as well as with the emcee of our event. "I'm so inspired right now, just listening to you tell me your story on the phone," she told me.

So, what the hell is it about the idea of thousands of people that has me completely stopped in moving forward with this speech? Why can't I just sit down and peck out the same thoughts I shared with that one person on the other end of the line, as if it's just one of them?

Totally obvious question, I know. I don't really run in circles with people who feel fearless in front of thousands (or do you?! Is there something I don't know about my audience?!). The true question, however, is this: how can I wrap my mind around the idea that the audience, if I choose to perceive them that way, can be JUST like my coach or my teacher or that compassionate emcee?

Well, it just hit me that all three of those individuals in my life, not to mention many others (thank you, thank you!) will be at this event next Saturday. In fact, if PBS actually comes (as they said they will!) and stays for more than just the senator's speech, then more of you might be my audience than I can even imagine right now! Crazy. Which brings me back to what I'm slowly realizing in this writing process: it's not about the audience, but really about my perception of them, and of myself, that will allow me to feel empowered and excited about both writing and delivering this speech.

And it couldn't hurt to envision the possibility of effortless inspiration and peace.
Thank you, Johanna. What great advice.

So now, now I can get to the heart of the matter. What am I going to say to this one person standing in front of me, in hopes of inspiring action around stopping climate change and creating a more livable future for us all?!

Thank you for being my audience for my pre-speech process. I know this post doesn't really have all that much to do with to our bilingual parenting process, which has always been my intention for writing this blog. But in thinking about the indirect connection, I can say this: because Kaya continues to speak only German with me--and even carry on in German with Geoff sometimes when she's upset!--I have SO much energy now to put towards speech writing and coordinating events in what I hope will one day be my new career! =)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tierbrot Communications

The past week or so, I've been using these plastic animal cookie cutter things to add more smiles to Kaya's sandwiches. Not knowing exactly what I'd even call one of these creations in English, I created the word "Tierbrot", [animal bread] clearly using my most advanced skills of the German language. Honestly, the name doesn't really matter so much (as fun as it is to hear Kaya say), except in regards to the following story about an interaction that took place the other night between Kaya, myself, and Geoff.

We were in the kitchen, soon after Geoff got home from work. Kaya was hungry, and Mama was eager to quell her whiny requests with some food. "Ich will ein Tierbrot," [I want an animal bread] Kaya told me, emphatically. Clearly, I was not going to have any luck convincing her that cucumber might be a better choice. "Tierbrot," she began to insist, in her typical two-and-a-half-year-old way. Sometimes, you just gotta pick your battles--so despite my concerns of "spoiling her dinner" (who the hell coined that phrase, anyway?!), I relented with the Tierbrot and started going through the manufacturing process.

"Welches Tier willst du?" I asked her. [Which animal do you want?]. "Bring mir eins." [Bring me one.]

She excitedly scurried over to her bucket of shapes, carefully picking out the dinosaur. "Ich will dieses," she told me, with confidence. [I want this one.]

So, choosing to avoid the toasting step this time (which apparently lowers the health factor of multi-grain bread!), I throw a piece of bread on the cutting board and line up the dinosaur inside the edges of the bread. It's clearly a fine science, this Tierbrot process.

While I'm busying myself with this arduous task, I hear Kaya behind me sharing her excitement with Geoff. "Mama's making me a...Tierbrot!"

And that's when it hit me. After all these articles about the benefits of bilingualism, I realized that, before my very eyes, I was tuning in to one of the skills that Kaya is mastering by growing up with two primary languages.  By explaining to Geoff in English what was happening with her snack, she was reminding me of this insight that she has regarding others' awareness of comprehension. In other words, it has become a part of Kaya's brain that she needs to make sure that Geoff understands what is happening when she and I are communicating. If we take out the second language here, and put her in a different situation where everyone is communicating in one language, her brain will still function like that--she will still be aware that others may not understand what is going on, and she will attempt to explain it to them so that they can be included and thus, interact with her.

It's fascinating, really.
Maybe only to this part-time stay-at-home-mom-language teacher.

And maybe only because I was giddy that evening, (and this one, too!) excited to have just gotten our Oregon senator to speak at our upcoming climate change event.

Whatever the reason, she's doin' it, and I'm ecstatic! I bet your bi- and multilingual kids are, too, whether it's obvious or not, as the benefits of our bilingual journeys lurk around every corner.