Tag Archives: CASE

Write Livelihood?

Ah, just like old times: blogging on consecutive days. Seriously, though, after yesterday’s post I’m keen to keep at this question of what sorts of things I can do now—not later, now—that both I and my bank account would find fulfilling.

What I really want to do is spend my days reading, writing, networking and otherwise advocating for CASE. For years I’ve been longing for this to be the focus of my working life, not crammed into the odd margins of evenings and weekends. I want to build CASE into an active clearinghouse and catalyst, bringing people and ideas together to support the cause of Sudbury schooling.

As the executive director, I want to spend hours and hours each week cultivating CASE’s online presence: posting content (and moderating user-generated content), as well as seeking opportunities to comment on external sites. I want to secure funding, brainstorm new forms of collaboration, and pursue additional strategies for marketing the Sudbury model to an ever-growing audience. I want to see more people aware of, talking about, and working together to raise the profile of Sudbury schooling.

Yet the obstacle of startup funding remains. My intention has been to use the savings I accumulated over the past few years to lay the groundwork, put things in place to which I could refer potential donors. However, I’m currently overextended with staffing at Clearview, as well as choir and Zen activities. So there’s one problem. There are also the mysteries of how much infrastructure to create before seeking donors, and where to look for these people.

With my board members and collaborators very busy and geographically dispersed, the rate of CASE’s development remains much slower than I’d like. And my Sudbury colleagues and counterparts are unlikely to become less busy—indeed, one of my main motivations in launching CASE was the realization that Sudbury advocates are typically too busy to attend to all that could (and needs to) be done.

So I understand that CASE may not yet (or even soon) be in a position to support full-time, paid work. In general, the sort of work I find most engaging and worthwhile—passion-driven, world-changing, and all-around empowering—seems rather difficult to find, create, fund, and sustain. Given all this, I need to consider how I might supplement my CASE activities with non-Sudbury jobs that suit my talents, interests, and personality. Continue reading


Filed under My Quest, Sudbury, Writing

Do You Think I’m Asking Too Much?

I’ve explored the wisdom of navigating terra icognita by relying on one’s sense of what’s appealing or compelling at a given moment, and of skipping ahead mentally to one’s preferred life and working backwards until a path’s in sight. Perhaps it’s time to apply those models a little more closely to my own situation.

Recently I’ve begun applying the navigation-by-inclination approach to my current situation, surveying various activities that seem both appealing and capable of generating income. In this post, I’d like to start delving into my personal vision of an ideal work environment and see what that turns up in the way of options.

On the most general level, I know that I crave meaningful work that enables a modest, yet comfortable, lifestyle—in other words, the “mission” and “money” elements of my mantra, leaving aside for now the aspect of “home” (though I will say that paying work I can find not tied to a particular locale would seems to maximize my flexibility).

Speaking of flexibility, I know this is an important quality in whatever work I pursue, along with a great deal of discretion or latitude in setting my agenda and deadlines, plus ample amounts of quiet solitude. Being able to spend time outdoors and travel would be a bonus.

Given all this, as well as things mentioned in recent posts, it would seem my niche lies in nonprofit management, promotion, building, etc.—entrepreneurship with a cause. As I’ve said before, I feel absolutely driven toward work that truly makes a difference, that will leave the world a better place: reducing suffering, cultivating compassion, empowering people.

Yet I wonder how to go about finding this kind of work in a form (or forms) that enable me to cover my basic expenses. The world for which I was prepared and conditioned—one of full-time employment in stable, extended careers—seems long-gone now. This appears especially true for the sort of crusading, windmill-tilting work that calls me, work whose relative tenuousness and low pay isn’t all that new.

So once again, the core question of this blog looms: how do I, a middle-aged man with ancient teaching credentials and modest freelance writing experience, create a life of meaningful, enjoyable and creative work/play, sustaining and sustainable? Continue reading


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Sensing Progress

This past Monday, I enjoyed a second consecutive monthly meeting of the CASE board of directors. And I really mean enjoyed.

The Center for Advancing Sudbury Education has existed for seven years as of this month, which is both a source of pride (that we’ve stuck with it) and embarrassment (that this much time has passed without more to show for it). Obviously I’ve had numerous conversations and email exchanges with my fellow board members over the years: yet strangely, only last month did we begin what I hope becomes a regular habit of meeting once a month to discuss priorities and projects, to assess our progress and readjust as necessary.

Our lack of real-time meetings has been due partly to our being scattered across different states and time zones. Yet with the emergence of free video conferencing technologies, as well as my recent dropping from full-time to part-time Sudbury school staffing, both the ease and the urgency of meeting regularly have significantly increased.

Yes, it was a true joy this week to see long-distance friends and colleagues—from my longest-standing Sudbury cohort (a woman who helped ease my way into this field nearly sixteen years ago), to an Alpine Valley School staffer I worked alongside through my 13.5 years in Colorado, to my newest coworker here at Clearview Sudbury School—gathered in one virtual space. As for productivity, no amount of email or one-on-one conversations could hope to match the synergistic magic of a group of people bouncing ideas off each other in common gatherings.

For me, these past two meetings have been tremendously clarifying and inspiring. Part of what makes CASE often appear to a vast undertaking is the daunting range of potential projects: having had to decide largely on my own what to focus on, what tasks are most useful and pressing at any given time, has tended to make the prospects even more overwhelming. However, even a few hours of talking things over with a group of friends, colleagues, and supporters—as well as seeing what they’ve accomplished between meetings—not only makes this work more manageable, but also inspires me anew to hurl myself into it.

That said, the real work of building CASE is still in the early stages. Continue reading

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No Time for Self-Doubt (?)

I’m embarrassed to admit how close to home this image currently hits. (I also apologize if the F-word offends: I think “La, la, la, la, I’m not listening” would have worked just as well for the red bar, but alas, the cartoonist didn’t consult me.)

When I left my school and choir and friends in Colorado, I went with what seemed like a decent plan: take the several months’ savings I’d accumulated and embark on a quest to realize more of my “money, mission, mate, and home” mantra. Lately, however (as I’ve detailed in such recent posts as “Mildly Manic Mondays,” “Oh, the Things I Don’t Know” and “Four-Month Checkup“), I’ve stumbled into a period of self-doubt—not to mention its evil twin, second-guessing (Should I have given up full-time Sudbury staffing? Should I have left Colorado? What if I’d stayed and pursued my CASE dream there?)

Well, to paraphrase Popeye, I am where I am, still clinging to the belief that for the reasonably mindful person, there’s no such thing as a mistake. (Actually, there’s a good Sudbury post in this: how conventional students learn to avoid, if not fear, mistakes, whereas in Sudbury schools we see them for the excellent teachers they are.) Much of the time, I am able to tell myself (and others) brave things, to open to all aspects of this adventure I’ve given myself. Yet too often, I must confess, fear of The Mistake often makes it difficult for me to think straight.

Of course, this makes me wonder whether all the time I’ve been spending at the local Zen center is having any effect, or if this too is either a long-term process or a waste of time. Shouldn’t I have acquired a little more equanimity by now? Or has my practice actually helped and kept things from seeming even more challenging than they already do? Am I progressing more than I realize?

Stepping out of the worry for a moment, I wonder: What might an honest assessment of my situation reveal?

Financially speaking, over the past four months I have, on average, kept my spending within my minimal budget: at this rate, I could continue not generating income for at least a year and a half. So far, so good, then. (Of course, my current lifestyle is hardly viable, relying as it does on a distinct lack of health insurance or an automobile, let alone savings for the future. But for now, it’ll do—and my record over the past quarter-plus should ease my fears of imminent bankruptcy.)

Yet one’s conditioning is not easily talked down from the ledge, and I do not want to spend through my meager savings or hope that my health and my bicycle will carry me through however many months it takes to right this fiscal ship. More bluntly, this hemorrhage of savings is driving me nuts. There may be no need to panic, but it’s time to get moving.

And that’s where my real concerns lie. I’ve been in Austin four months now, and how much closer am I to my dream of living in a place that feels very much like home, making a decent income doing mostly things I love? More to the point, how avidly have I been working to manifest this dream? Continue reading


Filed under My Quest


Typically on Wednesdays I’ve been reposting old Sudbury content, especially my 2009 posts as a guest blogger for Change.org. This Wednesday I have no business posting at all, as I’ve been in bed for all but about two of the past twenty hours. But I thought, why let illness get in the way of checking in and sharing a few thoughts on my quest to make passion-pursuing sustainable?

Tonight, it occurred to me that, much like a middle-aged celebrity, my life these days is one of reinventing myself. Far more than a mere geographic relocation or career shift—or even the effort to make money doing what I love in a place that feels like home—I am engaged in redefining who I am and what I’m capable of doing.

For example, despite the many times people have said I’m brave for making this leap, I don’t feel very brave at all. On the contrary, I’m often anxious over whether this grand scheme will work, whether I should have leaped at this time and to this place. As you might imagine, the constant novelty and uncertainty is very exhausting. But this gambit requires confidence and boldness, so I must play the part.

I come by my cautiousness honestly. As I’ve probably mentioned before (and will probably repeat), I was not programmed for a life of defying norms and venturing outside the mainstream. In the world where and when I grew up, the idea was to find a career and stick with it. So these past fifteen Sudbury years, and especially now, I’ve not only been taking risks with my financial and material security, but going against my training.

My training, and my nature: while an obstinate, determined streak is absolutely part of who I am, more often than not my drive has met its match in second-guessing and hesitation. This part of me can’t believe I gave up the best job/school I’d ever known, along with the best choir I’d sung in to that point, to chase after a crazy dream of building up CASE, as well as securing more of the “money, mission, mate, and home” mantra I’ve decided is my personal vision of the good life. Continue reading

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Mildly Manic Mondays

To tell the truth, my Mondays aren’t very manic at all.

These days I wake up around 5:30 and head to the Zen center for a couple hours of meditation, chanting and bowing, and cleaning. Often I bike to the grocery store at some point during the day, and in the evenings it’s three hours of rehearsing with the Austin Civic Chorus.

The manic part comes in during the long gaps between these events. Like right now, when I’m staring at a computer screen and wondering both what I’m doing and what I should be doing. Today, I think I should work on organizing my blog entries and drafts, creating a spreadsheet to keep them all straight and get some sense of what topics get the most views (as well as a Word doc of published posts for backup and easier searching).

But is that really the best use of my time? I need to look over my music for tonight’s rehearsal, but again, how much time can I afford to spend on that? Shouldn’t I rather be focusing the bulk of all my waking, working hours on CASE, converting my dreams into reality and generating a steady income?

It would certainly seem smarter to embody my blog’s essence—creating a sustainable life pursuing my passions—than to simply add more verbiage to it. Yet inertia plus distractions is proving a rather formidable combination these days.

Why inertia, though? Isn’t Sudbury schooling the passion of my professional life? Well, yes; it is. At the same time, CASE marks a new, potentially unorthodox effort within this unorthodox movement. I say “potentially” because while some may disagree, I believe an ongoing, consistent focus on collaboration is as natural and logical for us as it is necessary. Yet I also suspect that concerns expressed over the years—concerns that more organized collaboration could have unintended, negative consequences; concerns that have slowed CASE’s progress—still linger in some quarters.

Also contributing to CASE’s inertia is the fact that I do not possess the ease of the “average” Sudbury alum at carving out a new niche. Whether by temperament or conditioning, facing a proverbial blank canvas is still fairly daunting for me. Not that I’m afraid to leap (my recent scrambling of life circumstances should easily counter that theory): rather, too often I find myself hesitant or confused instead of plunging boldly into action in areas where I’m inexperienced, where I’m blazing a trail, building something out of nothing.

Glancing over my posts from the past couple Mondays, this also appears to be a day for checking in publicly on the status of my quest. I’m glad that, like CASE, this blogging tactic (and the blog itself) has emerged spontaneously out of my experience, as I continue learning to trust myself in confronting the new and the unknown. I hope that you find reading my words worth your time, and that before long Write Learning’s audience will grow into a widespread, tangible source of support.

For now, I think I’d better get back to work.


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Value Propositioning

Tell me, why are you reading this blog?

Why should anyone?

Very basic questions, these, ones I touched on in my second and sixth posts, in an attempt to justify inflicting one more blog upon an already-saturated Internet in this Too-Much-Information Age. However, those early posts focused on what I want to get out of Write Learning, what I hope to accomplish, not why people who aren’t me might choose to take time out of their days to read my words.

Today, I want to ask a question that’s been lurking about the corners of my mind, one I should have trained a spotlight on weeks ago: When it comes to Write Learning, what’s in it for you?

In terms of my core topics, it’s certainly plausible that if you’re curious about Sudbury schooling or Zen, you might appreciate accounts of my life as a Sudbury veteran and a Zen novice. In particular, if—like me—you seek genuine educational alternatives, you may find CASE‘s efforts to promote the visibility and viability of Sudbury schools to be of some interest.

Speaking as a quasi-published writer, of course I’d also like to believe that the quality of the poems, essays, and stories shared in this blog will make following it worth your while. (Having been complimented and compensated for my writing plenty of times, you might think I’d have grown past relying on positive feedback to sustain me. Yet for now, at least, that level of confidence remains more aspiration than reality.)

I don’t want any of us wasting our time here. There is far too much to be done, important and enjoyable activities, for us to distract ourselves swimming in a sea of silly words. So I suppose what this all comes down to is the following:  my fervent wish to find a nice, healthy overlap between my passions and those of others. In order for me to make a decent living promoting Sudbury and indulging my love of writing, exploring the meaning of my recent moves and assessing my current status and direction—well, as I said, you readers have to be gaining something as well (and not just something, but enough of it).

In order to know what that something might be, I need to know—or at least, reasonably surmise—something about you.

If I’m lucky, you’re the kind of person who appreciates a thoughtful, slightly offbeat perspective. Perhaps you’re someone for whom coloring inside society’s lines and swimming with the cultural mainstream doesn’t quite work. Perhaps, then, you can identify with or relate to this leap I’ve taken: perhaps you can empathize with my going out on a limb to pursue a life of viable creativity, meaningful and sustainable work.

Imagining my prospective audience, I’m reminded of the many times when people, on learning of my recent move, called it a brave step. This leads me to suspect that we all have a need to follow the stories of those who do bold things—especially the ordinarily bold: those daunting yet mundane steps, like changing one’s home or career, that require courage. It might be that many of us wish we were in a position to dramatically alter our own situation, or that we want to study the leaps of others in case we should someday find ourselves poised over a precipice of our own.

This might be an awkward metaphor, but sometimes I see writing and reading as the verbal space where exhibitionism meets voyeurism. Assuming the comparison is relatively accurate, I should have no trouble upholding my end of this exchange. I will keep baring my soul, sharing observations from this often wondrous, frequently nerve-wracking path of creating a sustainable life of choice and meaning.

For your part, to the extent that you’re entertained or enlightened, engaged or inspired by what I post, you can cheer me on in my struggles to make sense of what I’ve done with my life, what I’m doing now, and where I’m headed. If you find yourself getting something out of this, then you’ll have reason enough to keep reading and to support me by commenting and sharing what you read with others.

What do you say? Do we have a deal?


Filed under My Quest