Taking Paths Less Traveled

Joyful Hiker. Mother. Teacher. Adventurer.

A Teacher’s Solution to a National Problem

It is day seven of civil unrest as the citizens of the United States mourn the loss of George Floyd. Floyd, murdered in broad daylight by the police officer sworn to serve him, is one more black member of our society that was killed by police under unlawful circumstances. The US has an extensive history of US riots, and only a handful are listed to have extended past a few days.

How much longer will citizens be taking to the streets? What is needed to stop this current flood of uprisings? Is more police brutality our government’s only solution to this problem? What can be done so that every citizen has access to high quality, equitable law enforcement?

Recently emerging from his presidential bunker, Mr. Trump threatened military deployment on cities with continued unrest. Some say the military wouldn’t be deployed unless the riots last for another two weeks. But Mr. Trump’s numerous tweets are calling for states to engage in more forceful acts against protestors to make the unrest stop.

Peaceful protest in Riverside, CA.

Sending the military to patrol US Citizens is an extreme step that should be a last resort. The military hasn’t been deployed since 1992 for the Los Angeles riots calling for justice in the brutal beating of Rodney King. It would be in the best interest of our nation if the federal government would intervene in a more problem-solving fashion.

Teachers are a lot like police officers. Both are expected to serve, educate and protect others. To become a teacher you need to earn a 4-year college degree, and spend an intensive year to obtain a credential. Credentials consists of targeted educational training, supervised teaching in a variety of classrooms, and numerous tests. To maintain teaching credentials, applicants are required to engage in professional development trainings and undergo a series of yearly evaluations and protocols. Teachers are required to teach nationally aligned standards in addition to state standards.

Police officers, holding an even greater responsibility in protecting and serving communities, should be required to meet even more rigorous expectations than teachers.

This undated Department of Justice Community Relations Services Toolkit for Policing offers insight to the complex world of law enforcement protocols. The sections on Officer Hiring and Officer Training indicate that there are no federal standards to which states are required to follow. It seems that every state, and possibly every jurisdiction can have different standards for qualifications to become a figure of authority over others in the form of a Police Officer.

Some departments require mandatory in-service trainings. For example, The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice posted a list of mandatory in-service trainings. The two mandatory trainings are titled “Firearm Recertification” and “Domestic Violence”. None of the courses offered address areas of racism, bias or police brutality.

Research shows stark behavioral differences between officers with a 4-year college degree and officers without a degree. Citing a 2015 study published by Journal of Criminal Justice Education, Christopher Adkins of Eastern Kentucky University Police Studies writes: “Following 120 officers over a 5-year period, the researchers found that individuals with a 4-year degree had a significantly lower rate of citizen complaints than those with some college but no degree.  Officers with degrees also had significantly fewer complaints of rudeness than their peers.”

So, the solution could look something like this:

A rigorous nation-wide standards-based system of requirements that regulates qualifications, maintenance, and consequences for poor performance.

If teachers, armed with chalkboards and glue can jump through these hoops to to teach children, it isn’t a far stretch to ask for similar requirements for police officers, armed with bullets and batons. Of course this idea isn’t going to be popular with those that do not value education, but that is also a systemic problem that needs additional conversation.

Police force recruits need to have a college degree plus a year credentialing while they work with communities to create relationships before they go on patrol. Current officers need to be placed into a program, based on evaluations, to fill in any gaps in their education. A federally standardized education program needs to be developed that includes anti-bias, unconscious bias, and anti-racist training in addition to community-building assignments. New officers should undergo several years of objective evaluations before they are given tenure, when their evaluations could be extended for 3-5 years. All law enforcement personnel could be required to participate in furthering their education in order to stay up to date with best practices in human relations. Incentives in the form of federal funding for cooperative states need to be established on the state or district level. Individual incentives such as a leveled pay scale will encourage further education.

The penalty for officers with substantiated complaints from the public could include removal from patrol duties, requirements to complete additional training, and reinstatement of annual evaluations. Officers need to be assigned to actively work to enhance relationships in the communities they serve. Whistle blower protections need to be considered and evaluators need to be held accountable to avoid favoritism, bias, and corruption.

Officers that commit murder or other crimes need to go to jail. A comprehensive review of laws regarding police protections and violations needs to be conducted with the intention of removing loop holes that enable unjust acquittals.

Since the riots of 1992, many law enforcement jurisdictions have come a long way in making changes in their communities. Surely a multitude of studies have been conducted that evaluate best practices to follow.

It’s time for a nationwide systemic approach to end police corruption and brutality so all citizens of the United States have access to high quality equitable law enforcement.

Lawmakers need to immediately begin working toward a sustainable and fair solution so that US citizens can find peace knowing that justice will prevail.

Have thoughts, ideas or other points of knowledge that will help bring about a solution? Share them in the comments section.

Demonstrators show solidarity from parked cars in Riverside, CA.

I’ve always held a position of respect and gratitude to our service men and women. Hero’s of the ages defending the ideas and concepts of humanitarianism throughout the world. I might not have always agreed with the orders from politicians that they have been asked to carry out, but I’ve always had faith that they would do everything asked of them with excellence and skill.

It wasn’t until the military became personal to me, however, that I was able to identify why I’ve always been so bothered by the disconnection of those that support the 2nd Amendment in defense of the interpretation that the founding fathers wanted citizens to be able to bear arms in the event that the government became corrupt and the citizens would need to revolt.

What this implies is that these supporters of this interpretation are arming themselves to fight against our military.

That means arming yourselves against my niece, her friends, and thousands of other brave men and women that have given their lives to protect us.

It’s laughable to think any citizen militia could overthrow our military, especially after witnessing the rigors of boot camp and the intense training our Marines and other branches of the military go through long after boot camp. Our military is a well oiled machine made up of the strongest stuff our citizens could offer.

I have confidence in those that have undergone such rigorous training to bear arms to do the right thing in handling weapons such as machine guns, automatic weapons, grenades and bombs.

If you want the right to bear those types of arms then you should join the military so that you have the knowledge and discipline to hold such great responsibility in your hands.

So the next time some one says they are defending our freedom by demanding that you have the right to form a militia against our government, know that you are disrespecting our military and think you are better than them.

You don’t stand a chance against these soldiers and you haven’t earned the right to hold the lives of others in your undisciplined trigger happy hands.

I am proud of our men and women in the armed forces. Thank you for your service.

Semper Fidelis.

The first 6 years after my divorce, my focus was solely on obtaining stability for my children by earning a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential. I put 100% of myself into this goal in an immensely successful way. I graduated with a 3.9GPA, had received scholarships, and began working at a school that ranks at the top of the district.

The next 5 years were dedicated to two goals: 1.) continuing the stability for my children to attend schools that supported their endeavors and 2.) becoming an expert in the craft of teaching.

The first goal has nearly been actualized. My children will be graduating with honors and moving on in their lives being successful contributing adults to our society. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Goal number two, however, is not going quite as planned. I had imagined having my sh** together in the classroom by now. Imagined myself like the teachers that had inspired me to enter the classroom in the first place. Firm, but kind, singing songs with a classroom humming with learning activities. After nearly 6 years of practicing in the classroom I’ve made gains toward creating such an environment, but keep having to cope with curveballs. Between insanely high class size or students that have a combination of learning challenges and behavioral challenges, I haven’t been able to gain my footing in the classroom.

My children’s inevitable flight from the nest presents me with another change in life that has immense possibilities. I’ve always dreamed of traveling, writing, and living a life that is closely connected with nature. Divorcing left me with a wide open future, but one tied to taking care of my children.

The future is wide open. (Cue Tom Petty) And it’s a little scary.

As I have begun to prepare myself for this next season of life I’ve found several inspirational leaders that have shaped my current journey and illuminated paths that make the journey easier. Authors and speakers such as Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Dallas Hartwig, Rachel Hollis, and Stephen Covey are just a few people that have articulated life changing ideas and concepts that lead toward the life that I would like to create.

Brene Brown has encouraged not only to be be vulnerable and brave, but also, in Rising Strong, she highlights how to get up again when you’ve been knocked down in vulnerability. We can’t give up when our attempts toward self actualization are knocked down and we aren’t alone in this struggle.

Rachel Hollis directly speaks to women in both her books, Girl, Go Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing, to illustrate that we aren’t alone in our struggles as women, mothers, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Life is messy, but this is a journey, not a destination, and achieving goals means articulating audacious goals and finding the small steps needed to get there.

Finally, it hasn’t just been these popular best-sellers in the self-help section that are supporting my transformation. Friends and family have been incredibly supportive and inspirational. I’ve found camaraderie in joining hiking clubs and webinars focused on optimal health. My health coach has encouraged me and offered words of wisdom when I stumbled on my journey. The small community on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter bring encouragement and support as well.

My journey is far from over. I haven’t yet reached a level of optimal health that I hope for. There have been hurdles and canyons to cross along the way, but today I am confident that I’ve got what it takes to reach for the stars and achieve my dreams.

What are your dreams? What hurdles do you see in front of you? Do you have a plan in place?

Yesterday I wrote about the seasonal changes and the comforting habits that I have kept, even to my own detriment. Over the years my comfort habits of Autumn changed, driven by the marketing ploys, consumerism and economic gains. My body has always sensed the turning of the season from summer to autumn by the feelings in the air and the shifts of the sun. In the past this meant harvesting the garden, turning the soil, raking and playing in the leaves, and building up the log pile to hunker down the the winter. It meant card games with family and satisfying stews with grandma’s biscuit recipe. Crocheting beside the fire while watching a heart warming Hallmark movie with my family is, happily, one habit I still employ on a regular basis.

As I’ve moved into my career and away from my family I’ve struggled to recreate these scenes, and the artificial substitutes of pumpkin spice lattes and fashionable sweaters and boots attempted to replace the comforts my soul was seeking. Last night while driving with my friend, I remarked how I was looking forward to feel the longer nights of winter’s approach because I always crochet during this time of the year. My friend didn’t had the comforting experiences that I had as a child. She suffers from seasonal depression and dreads the decreased hours of daylight. As I ruminated on the realization that crocheting is something I only do in this season, she expressed her sorrow and desire in creating a happier winter season.

A couple weeks ago, I was selected as a participant in the early release of Dallas Hartwig’s new book “The 4 Season Solution”. Having recently found success an medically formulated food program, I’ve had a complete body transformation. I’ve developed habits around foods that have changed my body’s metabolic structure. I’ve learned how to use the program’s supplied fuelings (small snacks or meals) to consciously select foods to change the way that I’ve thought about food.

Several years ago I was a participant of Hartwig’s coauthored book, It Starts With Food. I embarked on a Whole30 journey with my family and found excellent success. I learned foods that provoked an inflammatory response and chose to exclude them from my diet. But, those 30 days weren’t enough to change my lifestyle, and I found myself quickly slipping back into most of my old habits. I still don’t eat gluten, corn or dairy, but those changes aren’t enough to sustain optimal health.

As I am nearing my weight loss goal and working toward “optimal health” I’ve become terrified of coming off the program. The program is designed with an end in mind. There is a transition plan to take me off the supplied meal replacements and work my way into choosing all my foods from the market. When Dallas asked his followers to preview his new book, I was so excited. He has always provided inspiration to help me change unhealthy habits, brought awareness to the choices I make both with foods and social media consumption. The title alone, The 4 Season Solution resonated strongly with my understanding of life. Several of the people that I’ve found inspirational on my journey towards my optimal self have mentioned life in terms of seasons. Not just the circadian seasons of the earth and sun, but the seasons of age, career and family.

Dallas’s book has been delivered into my hands at a serendipitous time. As I read through his work and internalize his findings, I have a gut feeling that this solution is the one that I’ve innately been working toward. His book has the promise to be the guidebook to incorporating my body’s biological needs with today’s modern technologies and realities. Combining the advances we’ve made as humans with the natural rhythms of the earth speaks directly to my ancestral soul.

Tom’s Bike Trip

Adventures and experiments in two-wheeled travel

Finding Normal

Single parenting in the ADHD Family

Taking Paths Less Traveled

Joyful Hiker. Mother. Teacher. Adventurer.


Thoughts and ramblings of a young adult