Monday, January 28, 2019

Work Ethics?

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

WORK

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.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Cultural Appropriation

This is a huge

HUGE

HUGE

topic lately.

It's consuming the fiber arts world, along with the headlines. Cultural conflict. I can't speak to everyone or even anyone else but myself. But, here I find myself, in my mid-fifties, feeling about five years old. I look back and realize how sheltered and naive I've been. How much I feel driven to help and support others and yet so uneducated about what that really means.

I have a militant, accusatory "friend." She was a friend, once upon a time. I'm not so sure now. She wears her causes like badges. In my well-intentioned ignorance, I related a time I was clearly discriminated against. At the time, it hurt and was a shock to learn I didn't get noticed because of my color, age, and shape. It didn't matter that my credentials were excellent; I was invisible. I was trying to understand the only way I knew how - to tap into my own experiences and feelings. She attacked me and said I would NEVER understand because I was white. Her response was to further widen the gap, to take out her anger directly on me even though I'd lived my life consciously including everyone, accepting everyone, the best I could. I can't listen to her anymore. 

A couple years later now, I find it ironic that she feels she made the split because I don't post enough pictures on social media, in her opinion, of my oldest. Never mind that she doesn't know if that was my decision, or on the request of my daughter, or the truth which is that I post mostly photos of knitting or cats, trips when they come up, along with a meme or two. My younger daughter lives with me and is my handiest model. Both of my daughters are breathtakingly beautiful, inside and out. I don't see my oldest nearly as often as I'd like and would gladly like to have the occasion to photograph her more. I feel sad for my friend who seems to suffer when she doesn't need to and resists joy in favor of raging against all her "thems." I love her and hope we can be friends again. 

No one likes to be blamed and attacked for the actions of others. I wasn't the only one who felt it when it came up in a discussion group. It just took one person who maliciously struck out at all people who were not BIPoC. I almost left the group altogether. She clearly had deep hurts but, unfortunately, like my friend, was so angry, she widened the gap as she listed case after case of injustice and accused "us" of the results. 

Fortunately, I didn't leave. I took a back seat for a while and did some reading.  I also watched some of the reflective videos of the organizer of that group, Abby Franquemont.

I listened. I finally felt confident enough to comment again. Thankfully, Abby responded and offered some clarification and not someone who instantly condemned and judged. I'm learning. I realize I don't need to try to find my own experience and that I can't because I haven't experienced it. I listen and include. That's what I can do...listen, respect, include.

My task now is to be inclusive as I explore my work in fiber arts.

More on this later...

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Learning to let go

It feels like I've been focusing on others for decades. Even when I was young, I always was concerned more about others than myself. That's not really a good thing. It's really kinda pointless because I can't change anything for or about someone else.

This was really brought home last night. My youngest has moved to Boston to attend Boston University and complete her master's degree. She had an unexpected and rather dramatic housing snafu. My first impulse was to fly out and swoop in, but, luckily in hindsight, I was working. I had students in front of me who depended on me to be their teacher. There were a couple times when I had to control my face as I empathized with my panicked and frustrated daughter. Now, I can see she'll be okay.

Lately, my older daughter has been struggling, as well. She's dealing with some health issues which will require long term intervention. Even though she's only 23, she's facing it head on with bravery. She'll succeed but it won't be easy. There isn't much I can do for her except be there, let her know I support her and will learn whatever I can about her struggle to be an informed, stabilized force for her. I'm just so proud of her for tackling this when many would just ignore it, hoping it would just go away.

As I think about last night, I'm aware that I'm falling into old "worrying about others" habits. I wondered if I bothered my co-workers as I worked out some of my worries by talking with them. Everyone was kind, or tried to joke to lift my spirits, or was sympathetic, but I worried that I was talking too much about myself and my perceived problems. The reality is maybe, MAYBE, they thought I was a bit of a hovering mom (and they'd be right) or they didn't think too much of it and were just talking.

Then my husband let me know just how discouraged he is with his workplace. He works for the government and is considered "an essential employee." His workplace is a depressing place and everyone is having a hard time keeping spirits up. This breaks my heart. My husband has completely supported me even though I'm in a field that doesn't make a livable income and has been "Dad" to my daughters. Of course, this came up last night, too. I mentioned how I would support my husband even if it meant moving or changing our lives. Once again, I caught myself putting others absolutely before myself. It's not that I wouldn't do that for my husband, I would. It's that I basically did a data dump on the things I value for myself. By the end of the conversation, I realized I could support him and still do what's important to me, whether that's staying at my current dream job or applying myself in some other application of my skills.

My focus is shifting. My daughters are 21 and 23 years old and need to manage their difficulty with my support. They know I have their backs, emotionally and in practical ways. My husband needs to know we are a team so hold each other up. One thing is certain, I'm committed to making this next phase in my life one where I can focus on myself and my partner so we can truly enjoy life.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

You Spin Me Right 'Round....


I've been spinning. A lot.
What is it about spinning, whether it's on a wheel or a drop spindle, that is so soothing and balancing? I should ask my sister, who knows more about those things, what she thinks it is. But, I tell ya, that process of moving all four appendages and sitting in front of a spinning wheel is entirely mesmerizing and healing.

First, I spun half a fleece processed into a carded roving. I have always been a very controlled spinner, proud of my fine spinning. Hmmm.... go ahead and read all kinds of Freud into that.
Image result for freud

I decided to spin that fluffy rambouillet long draw (so messy!) and fat. It was fun.



Then I went back to my zen mode of fine. It'll be great to choose a project and then dye it exactly the colors I want. This two-ply is a weight I use a lot for cardigans, hats, and handwear.