Archive for category Uncategorized
Three years and no postings here at all. To be fair, though, I have posted elsewhere….in places I’d just as soon forget. So maybe a revisiting to this blog? My life has changed in some inexplicable ways, and I should document some of that. Here. Again. I start over.
But my life has changed. In many ways, the changes don’t matter, as everyone’s life changes. These changes have mattered to me however. How I define myself has changed.
Who I am now:
- Substitute High School teacher
Who I was then:
- Nonprofit director
Without question, 2010 has been a hard year. I could dwell on what’s been hard, but there’s not much positive, not much good, in that. Instead, I will reflect on what this hard year as taught me.
- Seeing my daughter happy and healthy and living her life responsibly and smartly reminds me that I have done somethings right in my life.
- Taking photographs of the world around me has taught me that I have a unique vision and I need to continue to develop it.
- Dropping my camera– twice– has taught me to be more careful with the tools I love and need.
- Starting a blog again has taught me that I shouldn’t have stopped blogging. I have missed the consistent writing, the community of bloggers, and this way to work through my thinking (with smart and supportive friends).
- Listening to music has continues to teach me more than I can even begin to explain in a bulleted list.
- Reading through six years’ worth of blog posts reminds me that I am smarter than others give me credit for. In fact, I’m smarter than I typically give myself credit for.
- Making a quilt for my daughter’s Christmas present taught me (again) that I’m a big picture kind of person. Precision work can be hard for me.
- Living in this South Texas culture has taught me (again) what it’s like to belong (or not) in my world. It’s taught me what I want (and what I don’t) in the society/culture where I live.
- Moving into this house has taught me– and this is a hard one– that I can have nice. It’s taught me to be thankful for people in my life.
- This year (and some) has taught me how awfully mean and cruel and deceitful some people can be … but it’s also taught me that I can rise above these negative behaviors and be who I am: not mean and cruel.
- Working with a colleague on Composing with Images Press (CWIP) taught me that we can use our intelligences for social good.
- Knowing the mistakes I have made this year (and others years, to be sure), I can hold my head up and know that I have done my best. Honestly. This year has taught me about forgiveness.
- Working with women in domestic violence shelters taught me that I have compassion and understanding when it comes to people in difficult situations. I have this because I have lived through difficult situations.
- Working with the women in shelters has taught me that there are places in the world where I can give. … and people will gladly receive.
- Reconnecting with someone specific on a social networking site has reminded (retaught) me that I have been deeply loved.
- Learning something new everyday from the many people I’m connected to in online spaces has been a highlight of the year.
- Surviving difficulties I can’t describe here has taught me that I represent myself honestly and accurately.
- Understanding that idealism is still good but can be tempered is a strong lesson from this difficult year.
- Writing on a collaborative blog for a national publication has taught me that working together is good in academia … it’s not always respected or expected, but it’s good.
- The iPad taught me that I love technology. (OK, I already knew this, but still.)
- I have learned that consistent exercise does make me feel better. Winning 3rd place in my age group in a 5K over Easter was kind nice. That taught me to keep going.
- This year has taught me that not everyone wants to receive what I have to offer.
I may add more to this list tomorrow, but for now, this is exhaustive. The year’s been hard, but I have learned from it.
The phrase, “drive that dusty road,” comes from a Springsteen song. The phrase means more to me than that it comes from a great song (“Prove It All Night”); the phrase conjures up specific images of change and renewal, of leaving behind that which doesn’t work and driving toward that which does. Driving that dusty road also means crossing borders, the border between one place and another, one culture and another, one way or another. It means change.
Since 2001, I have had a blog. One blog was on blog-city (I think that was it’s name, but it went out of business). I’ve had blogs on Typepad (became too expensive). I’ve had blogs on WordPress (I keep class blogs there). I have my own domain with WordPress interface. I have had multiple photoblogs. I have had random blogs on Blogger. But I stay with WordPress because of its functionality. That, and I want to write again. And I want folks to read again. I love Twitter and Facebook updates (and the comments), but I miss the extended conversations we had on blogs. So here I go again, starting (or more accurately, continuing) a new blog.
- Netbook (case, mouse)
- iPad (32gb) with accessories
- Two additional 19″ monitors for office (for a total of three)
- Flatbed Scanner
- 320 gb External Harddrive
- Adobe CV4
- Dragon Naturally Speaking
- EndNote X3
- Others..I’ll add them as I think of them
- Flip Videos (5)
- Nikon CoolPix Camera (4)
- Polaroid Camera (built in printer) (1)
- Polaroid Camera (stand alone printer) (1)
- Film for Polaroid (30 packages of 30 pages each)
- Kodak Instamatic Cameras (27 frames) (60)
- Digital Audio Recorders (average) (6)
- Digital Audio Recorder (very good) (1)
- Digital Audio Recorder (high end) (1)
- Cables/ Cords / Wires/ Adapters
- Approx 125, 5″x 8″ journals for writing workshops
As I was driving home from errands yesterday, I took a side trip through a neighborhood I’d never seen. I noted the beautiful stone fences. Carved. Ornate. Colorful. The border fence didn’t look like a fence that would screams, “keep away!” Instead, this fence looked inviting. It was merely decorative, a border. This fence was part of a warm and welcoming neighborhood, I thought. The beautiful stone fence, the soft green grass and bright blue skies (with white puffy clouds!) made me want to stay, to linger in the peace of a sunny afternoon….that peace, without rancor or pain, without noise and distraction. I wanted to stay in this place.
The initial beliefs about this warm and welcoming environment, however, are misleading. The clouds have dark tinges…maybe not all is perfect in this little hamlet of the world. The shadows linger. A storm is coming. Maybe. The fence is beautiful and probably expensive. Someone spent money constructing this boundary. An expensive decoration or a necessary expenditure? The photograph shows a small fence. In reality, though, the fence stands about 10 feet tall. It’s not easily scalable. Someone didn’t want me (and others) in there.
But the marker of separation really is pretty.
I wonder how often we recognize the “markers of separation” that are pleasing to the sensibilities, that fit into the scene, as literal separators. What else besides pretty fences could fall into this category? (This is where you come in, dear reader(s). Please leave answers to this question below.)
Today I’m off to find separators, pretty (non literal) separators. If I can’t recognize these figurative separators as ways some use to limit access, as ways to keep spaces/people exclusive, then I won’t be able to take them on. Or down.
Note on the image: Taken July 5th, Corpus Christi, TX. I stood back about 30 feet from the fence so I could include the sky and clouds in the picture. In trying to include as many natural elements as I could in the frame, the size of the fence–the focus of the image–was diminished.
From January 10, 2010: Over the past few years, I’ve been intrigued by fences, those things that separate, delineate, alienate, isolate. I want to know why they are there, what (or who) they are protecting, what (or who) they are keeping out (or in) and why. Always why. I take photographs of fences all the time. I’m thinking of a photo essay (book) on fences.
My thoughts today, however, rest on the unseen fence, the invisible (but not) boundary between university faculty and non-faculty. I have crossed over that fence, unlocked the gate, crawled between the barbed wire. I’m on the other side. The inside. Scratched, bruised, and bleeding. But I’m on the inside.
When I think about crossing those fences, or those borders, I think of assimilation. In large measure we think we must lose ourselves (our culture) to be a part of the new place. For example, I have to pretend to be like those on the “inside” of the fence if I’m to fit in, assimilate. If I’m like them– if I don’t stand out– I can stay. If I am who I am, not really like those on the “inside,” I run the risk of being outed, of being banished to the “outside.”
Oddly, being a new faculty member feels just like that. I’m sure that being a student can feel like this. I’m certain that being someplace new can feel this way.
When I lived in Japan, I crossed the literal border between nations. I was in another land with another culture, another language, another way of being. Try as hard as I might to assimilate into that culture, I never could. I would never been subservient enough, petite enough, have dark enough and straight enough hair. I’d never be Japanese enough. Ever. Even if I had desired to lose myself, my name, my heritage, my culture, it wouldn’t have been enough. I would always be the outsider, the guest, even though I was on the (physical) inside.
I wanted to assimilate– for the sake of my marriage– but I wanted to retain what I thought were the best parts of me. At that time, in my mind, assimilation wasn’t possible. There could be no blending of the best. It had to be one way or the other, not both. Eventually, though, I did become a bit of both. Living in Japan had a significant impact on who I became. It had to. Crossing that border and living in a land so different from my own changed the way I looked at the world. It changed the way I look at myself. It still does.
It’s like drinking black coffee. You add a touch of cream to the black coffee. Suddenly, that black coffee isn’t black coffee any longer. It’s a little lighter, a little smoother, a little more tasty (if you like cream in your coffee). You can’t remove the cream, though. The coffee has changed, and it can never go back to how it once was.
Living in South Texas, borders are highly significant– given the close proximity to Mexico. While that literal border is important, my overall concern is different. When we cross the border (or cross the fence), we are not leaving one sphere for another. It’s not that simple, not that black and white. We don’t suddenly change when we cross the line; the change happens slowly. We are bringing the best (and worst) of ourselves into a new space that may or may not be willing to accept our differences. We are blending cultures. One influences the other. One bleeds onto the other. Each culture battles to retain the best of itself, while fighting the domination of the other. The Other. Culture becomes a weapon, a commodity, a tool with which to separate, to alienate, to hurt. It becomes a border, a fence.
I’m thinking of a series of essays about border crossings and pedagogy. (Moving beyond Pratt’s “Contact Zone.”) What can borders teach us? What do they teach our students? Do we allow them (ourselves and others) access to the other side? Do we let them in? Do we keep ourselves out? Do we have literal gates that keep students away from our institutions? Do we have metaphorical gates? Why? Who do those gates protect?
Note on the image: I took this photograph in 2007. I was driving down a country road outside Fort Worth, Texas. The textures of splintered wood, rusted metal, and sharp barbed wire told me to “stay out!” The pad lock sealed that message. However, it could have been possible to get over that fence. It wouldn/t have been that hard, but the effort of the message, “stay out!” made me not want to try. Scaling the effort wasn’t worth the effort.
I was able to spend her last few hours with her. She was in a lot of pain, but she knew I was there. She went quickly and peacefully. She’ll be so very missed.
Grief comes and goes throughout life, depending on situations and circumstances. Or so I have always believed. Today, however, I wonder if it ever really goes away at all. Maybe it just gets covered up, buried for a time, then it resurfaces, strengthened by collective accumulation.
Today I’m grieving the potential loss of my dog. This morning the vet didn’t think she’d survive the weekend. She has a sudden onset of diabetes, pancreatitis, failing liver and kidney function. She has other problems, he says, but without further testing he won’t know what they are. He doesn’t think it’s time to euthanize her. Not yet. He wants to wait and see if she’ll respond to treatment. So I wait, uncertain about how to proceed, about how to feel, about when to grieve.
That sentence looked silly as I typed it: “I’m grieving the potential loss of my dog.” A dog. My dog is sick and she’s dying. But she’s a dog. Part of me thinks I shouldn’t be so concerned over an animal, that I should have just a little perspective. She’s a dog. But I am concerned, more than I thought I ever could be. In thinking about this dog I love very much, this dog that is now in so much pain, I think about my mother, my mother who died a very painful and tragic death a few years ago. I think about the death of my marriage so long ago. I think about moving away from family and friends within the past six months. I think about my daughter, now grown and living on her own. I think about these life changes in life and how they elicit grief. And I grieve all over again.
In a writing class a few years ago, students were discussing the argument that many people make about poverty, that there really shouldn’t be any … that if people would “get off their lazy asses and get a job and not accept welfare,” then they could support themselves and they wouldn’t be poor. The students stated– with the firm conviction of those who had ever had never been impoverished– that those in poverty could just stop being that way if they really wanted to.
We had a talk about logical fallacies. But what I wanted to do was bring out Hasbros, “The Game of Life” and let them have a turn at spinning the wheel.
This game, though, would be an adult version of the child-centered original, a version where spins didn’t provide options of “going to college,” “buying a home,” or other common opportunities. My version of the game would provide different options: failing out of college, never being able to afford college, not knowing how to enroll in college. It would include career options of fast food worker, day laborer, or domestic. It would include the house burning down (no insurance) or being foreclosed upon (subprime mortgage). It would include being laid off from a job and not being able to find another one (lack of education, lack of mobility). It would include choices between spending your last $2 buying milk for your children or putting gas in the car in order to find a job. It would include bankruptcy (due to catastrophic medical issues). It would include catastrophic medical issues that insurance (if you could afford it) did not cover. My game would include broken families (not just through divorce, but through murder, incarceration, abandonment). My version of the game would not assume “accumulated literacy” to borrow Deborah Brandt’s term, but accumulated brokenness and lack. It would include teen pregnancy and car accidents and no dental care and homelessness. It would include limited choices.
Doesn’t my version of the game sound fun?
Many people have played my version of the game in real life and they don’t think it’s really a game…they also don’t think it’s any fun.
But how do we get traditional college-aged students to understand that life isn’t just what they have experienced? A game such as the one I’ve described? Do we wait and believe that life will catch up with them? Change our own understandings of what life is to reflect what the students believe? (Ah, no.) There really isn’t an answer to that question, and I’m not looking for one here.
As I type this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Long Branch, New Jersey . . . which the cab driver said this morning is one of the most expensive places to live in the country (property taxes, insurance, real estate) . . . in a state that is one of the most corrupt (insert Sopranos joke here, but I don’t think he was joking) . . . that in his $180,000 a year income (his combined with his wife’s), he can only afford a small one-room apartment . . . his kids won’t go to college unless they get other funding . . . he doesn’t have medical insurance as a cab driver . . . but he has lived here all his life and doesn’t see himself moving. Is that a choice? Maybe. A limited choice. His life is one that my students probably could not have understood. This world is so foreign to them.
I count myself fortunate to have grown up as I did (my early life was spent in rented mobile homes…one step up from homelessness), as it’s allowed me to see such a range of human conditions. My students, on the other hand, have not always been able to see beyond what they know. My game of life had one set of choices. The game of life my students often want to play has a very different set of choices. I wonder if there is ever a way to make them connect? Can one group ever really understand the other?