Tuesday, March 19, 2019

60 Second Update on....

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

I'm using this book in my current book study at work. As we explore this book together, I try to sneak looks at my students during poignant moments. I chose this work because I felt my students, in particular, might connect to the central character, Arnold/Junior. They do. I see emotion on their faces even if they're unwilling or unable to speak about it when we discuss the day's selection. Hearing it read by the author adds authenticity, as well.

I know there's been all kinds of stuff about Sherman Alexie. For me, I appreciate and love his work regardless of his personal choices and history. So he's human; he owns his decisions and actions then followed up with appropriate apologies and changes. 

To get back to the book study...

I can't wait to finish, we're almost there, so we can discuss the main topics and ideas, then ask my alternative students if they can love a person's work regardless of that person's choices. 

What would we have done on social media to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Kerouac if given the opportunity? 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding?

This is when I feel so naive, so incredibly sad, and so very angry. Murdering people, including men, women, and children, while they pray, murdering people at all, is beyond my scope. I’m so full of feelings, I have no adequate words. My heart breaks and my thoughts are with all those suffering as a result of this cowardly act.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Fibery Goodness


On the needles...
Hexter 4 Sweater Line Dance by Heidi Kirrmaier 

Unraveling Stripes Stripe Domination by Ellen Silva for the Stripe Domination KAL 
I don’t get very clear stripes but could see them on the inside. It’s been an interesting exercise but I might rip and repurpose these hats. 


On the wheel...

Actually, I finished my Vair fleece and the new fiber, cormo, is barely along.


On the drawing pad...
Look for some new caps and such.


It's a secret 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Work Ethics?

My brilliant friend, Shannon Okay, posted this article today. It sparked many thoughts and feelings from me.


It's called that for a reason. It's not supposed to be joyful all the time and if you think it is, there's something wrong. The article refers to and quotes Elon Musk often. It conveys the message that if you work a 40-hour work week, you're not cutting it. It also points out that he earns an obscene amount of money on the backs of others (see below to learn the truth). The article implies it's his business to push those "others" to work until they drop. Hmmmm..... I teach the works of Dickens and Gaskell from time to time and that message sounds oddly familiar. The big difference is that this is self-imposed endless labor and not the employer, starvation life imposed during early industrialization of the 1800s. 

I got my professional chops in a medical publishing company then with AT&T and the phrase of the time was "Work Smarter, Not Harder." I hold to that philosophy. I was sent to Stephen Covey Time Management seminars and provided with the, then hard copy, planner to implement his theories. I now use my apple products with the same intention: Handle things once, do it now, note it for later to free up your mind, and double dip when possible. I was a publisher, support/corporate trainer, at-home mom/homemaker, and now am a public educator. I have four endorsements in unlikely areas: k-6, Science, English, and Consumer Science.  None of my former professions and my current profession came without those tasks no one wants to do. You JUST DO THEM because it makes the enjoyable part happen and makes you good at what you're doing. It's not supposed to be all fulfilling and joy inspiring, it's supposed to be "okay" and bring home enough money to pay your bills and fund your future.

My dad came to hate his job in corporate oil. He initially liked the social aspect and local travel during early years but any kind of advancement or raise meant a different role. He provided for his family, and that big oil company offered excellent benefits and retirement options. He found his joy in his hobbies. He poured himself into them whether it was bicycle road racing, photography with antique cameras, metal working, wood working, or sharp shooting. That's where he found his joy, not his job. 

My own husband is in much the same position. He served straight out of high school, went to school on the GI Bill, then has served for over 30 years at our local VA Hospital. He's done like dinner, but is too young to retire. He'll get through these last few years because the benefits outweigh the cost. Like my dad, he works for the practical reasons, not the fulfillment. He also, like my dad, realizes he needs to put in the required work but no more, then come home to where he finds joy.

Both of those situations are perfectly okay.

I, however, am a different story. You saw above that I've done a few different things. Some of those were when I was on my own or mostly sole parent to my two daughters. I managed but I always balanced home and work, even if it meant being very frugal. My mom taught piano from our home. I didn't get much of her time as it pretty much all went to her students. When I was a teen, I remember her saying she had over 60 students. That may not seem like a lot to a classroom teacher but remember, these students were one-on-one and had a minimum of 30 minutes of her time each lesson and weekends were devoted to class lessons. She also participated in professional organizations, went to professional conventions, supported her students in competitions and forward into higher education or musical careers. She may have been in the living room but I was forbidden to interrupt and left to my own devices or at my older sisters' mercy. 

I was determined to be a provider and a very present parent. I took that time management training to a new level and made life decisions, not just financial decisions. When my husband, dad to my girls but not their biological father, and I met, I stressed about that balance because I was used to being responsible for getting bills paid for my girls and myself. When the three of us moved into his modest home, I encountered what so many teachers have - reduction in building. Mill Levys and Bonds didn't pass in my district and teachers lost their jobs. It was "last on, first off" and not connected to any performance measures, so I was one of three teachers to leave my building. There were cuts in every school, so there weren't any openings, either. I was so grateful when my husband said, "You're not a single mom anymore. I make plenty of money if we're careful. Your girls are graduating from high school in the couple years, so why don't you just sub for a couple years and try out the schools closer to home?" He was and still is my soulmate, my support, and the love of my life. 

I did just that: tried out many schools until there were just two that I would spend all my time in, and became theater and band mom. I took trips with my daughter for band performances which would include continental and European travel. I was able to be completely supportive to my teens as they encountered difficulties. I wouldn't trade it for any six-figure income!

By the time my youngest graduated, I landed in my current teaching position purely by serendipity. Now, I'm coming to my point. This is my dream job. It feeds my soul. I actually DO look forward to every day I get to be there with my incredible students. Are there bumps? Absolutely. Is there routine, mundane work? Some, although not as much as in previous schools (I think that's a whole post right there). I can truly say I love my work and am fulfilled by it...at 56 years old and after two other professions, experience, and let's not forget to mention a butt-ton of graduate study to be better at my work. It's also important to note that, as a public educator, I could not live independently from my income. It's only due to my husband's job that he doesn't love at all, that we get by and will have enough to retire when the time comes. Although, "retire" isn't in my vocabulary. I'll always do something and, as long as we live here, they'll have to drag me from my school, kicking and screaming.

I'm not sure what Elon Musk, who was quoted so freely in the article which inspired this post, makes. (Switches tabs to Google that....) According to the not always trustworthy interwebs, Mr. Musk's net worth is 20.8 billion, and, to his credit, he receives only $37,000 annual income from his employment at Tesla. Everything I've seen and read about Mr. Musk is positive and focuses on following creativity, taking risks. My gut feeling is the quotes were taken out of context. He has, as I have, worked hard but maintained balance and creative artistry. He now has discovered he, and I, can do what we love and hope to inspire others to find it as well. Work is a fact of life and it's not always, and sometimes never, enjoyable BUT it's okay to demand what you deserve which includes fair wages/salary and balance in your life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Us and Them

I think that's the most damaging phrase today: That people who feel their cause or opinions are the only "right" ones and any differing perspectives are wrong, or evil, or unacceptable. Here in the United States, free speech is supposed to be guaranteed. There was a recent headlining story regarding Nathan Phillips. I have to applaud his poise and intention. From what I can tell, there were two groups at a pro-life rally who were actively verbally attacking each other. It looked like a dangerous explosion waiting to go off. Then Mr. Phillips stepped in, tried to distract them, first with lighthearted conversation, then with traditional song. It worked. Unfortunately, the young men who were pro-life began to mock him. I've seen that often in inexperienced, young people. When we don't understand and are uncomfortable, we laugh at that discomfort. Then it went to the next level. I saw looks of superiority and mania...mob mentality mania, the kind that ends badly, stupidly, and destructively. They felt empowered in their group of many laughing at his soliloquy of tribal drum and song. It's sad there's a large segment of our citizenry who righteously feel their way is the "right" way and haven't an inkling of how to be respectful and teach respectful acceptance to their children, and the strength to voice their opinions without discounting those of others.

Do I agree with the MAGA pro-lifer stance? Not one bit. Do I know anything about the other group shouting at them? Not at all. However, it is their right to peacefully rally and exercise free speech. The key word being peacefully. Do I admire Mr. Phillips strength, calm, and intention? ABSOLUTELY. 

In my last post about cultural appropriation, I mentioned some self-reflection and reading. I haven't understood and am trying to understand. I reread Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and read Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. More recently, I read some of Sherman Alexie's work (which was doubly helpful as I wondered if I might use The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian as a book study) and Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Sherman Alexie has come under a microscope in the last year. He's addressed it and seems to have made amends as appropriate. Does he seem like he's always a stand up guy, flawless and golden? No and that's what makes his writing so poignant and emotional. He writes about the tragedy in his life and his demons. It's one of the reasons why I thought my students would appreciate his young adult book and connect to it. Mr. Alexie presented cultural bias, bigotry, and appropriation in a way I could understand. He didn't hit me over the head with it or try to attack me for the faults of the white people who came before me.  He drew me into his pain and personal experience with his signature raw, bold writing style. You don't have to agree with his past actions in order to weep and get sucked in to his world.

Michelle Obama's writing is completely different. Truly, the style and attitude couldn't be more opposite from Sherman Alexie's. She presents her life in a positive light, always concentrating on love, determination, and persistence of excellence. She blends in the differing treatments, obstacles and outcomes subtly. I hope everyone reads Becoming and gets a little of First Lady Obama's infectious outlook on life.

These books, followed by Abby's (Abby Franquemont) insights, are providing an excellent education of what white privilege and the "us and them" outlook has done to our society. I was blissfully ignorant and because these three individuals, who all come from very different backgrounds, cultures, and outlooks, share of themselves, completely without fear, I feel I'm finally getting it.

History is done and I can't change it. I can't atone for others actions but I can make sure everyone in my world knows We are all 100% and promote "we" to banish "us and them" actively.