Saturday, July 11, 2015

Batteries

I got a new job at my university.

I love it, I really do.

I was asked to be the interim Associate Dean for Student Achievement.

My friend Jesse held this position. In fact, he is the one who brought me from Oklahoma to Washington in the first place, saying he felt for sure that I was a wildcat.

But for family reasons, Jesse and his family moved to Oregon, where he took a position at Oregon State.  I miss my friend. In fact, I think everyone who ever worked for him misses him.

I got a tap on the shoulder from the Dean of Student Success. She's a good mentor. She's outspoken, she's got red hair. Hey, what's not to love? And she placed her faith in me by asking me to do this for a time.

So I guess that makes me her "mini-me".

Really, it's quite interesting work. I head a group of 9 directors who run programs to help students succeed academically.  I'm the idea person, and the one steering the boat. I try to coordinate all of our efforts and make sure we're not working at cross purposes. There are about 75 of us. My job goes a million miles an hour...all the time.

What this means for me is two things. First, that I get to try on the job for size. I've only committed to 6 months to a year. If I dislike it, I can go back to teaching full time. The English department is holding my job and my office, just in case. I have time to learn what to do-and what not to do. It's important to me that they do a nationwide search so they find the best person for this job. It might be me; we'll know soon enough. But sometimes in academe there's this move to just directly hire someone without a larger search, and I don't want that. I want to be interviewed and asked the hard questions and to win or not according to my merits and not by any perceived favoritism. If I end up with this position permanently, it will be because of my own performance and not because some higher-up likes me. I wouldn't want my employees to think that's why I got a job. I seriously couldn't handle that. I resent it when it happens to others and a national search is the right thing to do. Yes, I could lose. But also, I'm still not sure that I want the job. Mostly though, I want to do things right.

There are definitely good things about this. I work with pretty amazing people who are committed to helping others. They have a passion for what they do. They're effective. They're well educated. I couldn't ask or better people.

And there are clear paths for my own actions. I tell people that I really work for the secretaries, since they pretty much tell me what needs to happen and what some of the processes are. I do a lot of writing, of research (YAY) and interacting with others in the university. And these last two weeks, I've been volunteering with our new student orientation. Orientation is a huge deal- we have two offices committed to running it every year. Hundreds of people at the university at all levels are heavily involved in this group effort.

There are only two real drawbacks. First is that this doesn't come with teaching responsibilities. At least until January. I'll miss teaching; it's my true passion in life and something that keeps my soul alive. If I do this on a regular basis, I'll need to be able to teach a couple of classes a year. Of course, the upside is that I don't have to do any grading on the weekends, in the evenings, or at any time. My job usually runs from 7:30 to 5:30 or 6.  That's it. I am refusing (so far) to think about work when I'm not at work.

The second thing is that I'm an introvert who has been called upon to do many, many extrovert activities lately.
I love them, and I love doing them. Sometimes the things my office does can make all the difference in a student's life.

Being an introvert doesn't mean that I hate people or being around people. It just means that I draw energy from being alone and engaging in quiet activities and that being around groups means that I spend that energy. And by the end of the week, I am usually drained.

So you know my last post with all the pictures? Yep, we're out recharging my batteries.

I'm going to tell you something embarrassing right now. You might need to sit down.

When I'm all out of battery power, I become cranky and somewhat irrational. I try to keep that to myself and just deal, but uh, that doesn't work. I even try to just ignore it and pretend that everything is ok with me, even though on the inside I'm just about to stop whatever I'm doing, sit down on the sidewalk, and scream like an overly-stimulated child who has had too much carnival rides and ice cream and who now needs a time out or a nap.  Extroverts do understand this. My husband understands this philosophically.  Eventually, I just need a day to myself, to hide under proverbial blankets and not really talk to anyone. So last night, after a long walk and some dinner, G gently suggested that we not go anywhere this weekend. I have to go to a parent barbecue today, with people attending, and be a dean. He suggested that I go to bed early, sleep late, and read a book today. That we not have adventures, that I take care of myself, and that he just leave me alone too.

It's like turning your phone all the way off. The batteries recharge faster and when it comes back on, it's ready to go.

So today, I'm catching up my blog. I'm going to go for a walk, make some baba ghanoush, and read a book. And by tomorrow, I'll be ready to go. If not, I have an extra day to rest.

See you soon; I'm putting myself into time out.



Catch Up

It's been way too long since I've had time and energy to compose my thoughts. No posted photos, no thoughts on marriage rights, nothing. So, in ten photos or less, I'm going to get us caught up.



I wrapped up the quarter with AMAZING students

My wonderful niece graduated from her 2 year college


She's headed to Eastern Washington University- because Hogwarts doesn't take FAFSA

See the family resemblance?

We enjoyed Walla Walla once again, and all of its beauty


I got into a stupid Facebook argument after posting this picture. But seriously, this is an issue close to my heart
I am proud to be an American right now. I mean, I am always a proud American, but marriage equality came to our country. YES! Some say congratulations to same-sex couples, but I say congratulations to all of us! We're not free until we're all equal. 



G and I have been traveling around the state

This is Snoqualmie Falls.  My friend Chris Stinson says that next time we're in the area, she'll take us hiking!

Ever watch Twin Peaks? We went to the cafe.

In the TV show, Kyle Maclachlan has a piece of cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee. And so did I.

We went hiking outside of Leavenworth one day

This is the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. We came across a deer, snake, and a bunch of other wildlife

I've been up early- 5 am- since about January. I go for walks or go to the gym every weekday

The 4th of July weekend took us to Olympia.  We don't have AC and it was over 100 in our town
"When the tide is out, the table is set"


I could live in Olympia.

Yep, just buy a houseboat and live on the water.... 

"Dignity in Labor". I framed the state capitol building in this. 

In Washington, lots of wilderness runs right through town. This photo was taken right by a giant freeway overpass.  This is Tumwater falls

I laugh at this photo all the time. It's a face and it's drinking water... 

Lovely little bed and breakfast

This is the Swantown Inn. Great place to stay, excellent homemade gourmet breakfast. Xeriscaped with a garden in front and lots of recycling.  They even keep bees.  



So that just about catches us up, right?

Except that I got a new job. I'll write about that in the next post.




Saturday, May 30, 2015

Black Lives Matter

I get up most mornings between 5:30 and 6.  I just naturally wake up early.  This is a new thing in the last year, as I've always been something of a night owl.  In any case, I usually get up, make myself a bit of coffee, and head to the gym. My normal routine there is a bit of cardio and then a bit of weight lifting. Then home, breakfast, and off to dive into my work day.  It's a nice routine. Healthy.  Since I'm at the gym early and since I don't really want to talk to humans that time of day, I haven't made many friends. I'm one of the regulars. Me and the old timers do our stuff and go.  There are a couple of bro dudes who continue to swell their pectorals and utter guttural phrases such as "gotta get swole" and "I'm doing two-a-days this week. Gotta get a tiny waist."  There is a younger guy, perhaps in his early twenties, and his buddy and possibly bro dude mentor, in his late 30s to 40s.  For some reason, Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" is the older bro dude's favorite song.  Why do I know that? Because I didn't have my music turned up high enough. They are sort of intimidating at first, due to the dropping of weights and profound advice, but I got used to them. On the other hand, I actively enjoy the morning crew: Pat, who is the only person to talk to me, is retired and is traveling to Germany and Turkey next year; old guy #1, #2, and #3, all of whom do cardio for like a minute, then circulate chatting about agriculture and investments while periodically lifting a weight and scratching. They all have those old Navy style tattoos like "Mom" and the eagle with where they were stationed on their biceps.  There's Seahawks gal who wears head to toe gear every day. She's got style. I have a place too: sleepy sweaty woman who never talks.

There have been recent changes at my gym. New owners, one a personal trainer and the other a former police officer.

I don't like change, not this kind.  I like the old owner; he always says good morning to me and is both peppy and mellow. He sort of sets the vibe in the room to "chill".

Some of the changes are good.  There is more emphasis and space for the personal trainers. There are now books on nutrition and training available. They tried offering daycare, even though that didn't work out.  And there's a push for better equipment and more group fitness classes.

And a problem: There's a free for all board where members can anonymously write whatever is on their minds. I like that, for the most part. I commented on how women feel comfortable working out there. But one week there was a comment about one of the staff members.  That he was hot chocolate.  Another member commented assent. This went on for two weeks. I don't like the idea of objectifying people or commenting on their hotness (or coldness?), and this made me uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure if this were a female they were commenting on, it would have been erased quickly.

And another problem. There are now printed signs everywhere that say "Law Enforcement Lives Matter. We support all law enforcement, all the time".

Please bear with me. I support law enforcement. They are necessary to the functioning of a just society.  They are to protect and serve. I won't go on ad nauseam about this. I will say that my family has a long history of both law enforcement and military service.  Believe me, I get it. I know that there are good ones and bad ones.

What I don't "get", what makes me disagree, what makes me uncomfortable enough to keep me awake at night, is the idea that police are above the law, that they are above accountability and reproach.  That men like Eric Garner can be choked to death with no arrest, with no inquiry, with no justice even though this was recorded and even though if this was done by non-police, it's most likely that two people would be standing trial for murder.

I wish they would change that sign to "We Support All Law Enforcement, except when they abuse their power, because we believe in them so much that we hold them to the highest ethical standards."

Here's what happened yesterday, though. An older guy at the gym, who is there maybe two mornings a week, came in wearing this:


If you don't know what this is, it's a reference to the death of Eric Garner, who was choked by police- on film (warning: graphic video)- and saying "I can't breathe!"  He was not resisting at all and they choked him to death. To death. No charges. Why were they arresting him? Possibly for selling cigarettes. And here is this man, wearing a shirt MOCKING the death of someone at the hands of bullies who have no business being police officers. Bullying others who might think of stepping out of line.  I mean, according to this logic, I could and perhaps should be shot for speeding. Or jaywalking. Or participating in an act of disobedience against an unjust law.  Or selling cigarettes, or being a prostitute, or a drug user. Or being Black.

The shock of this message did take my breath away.

I'm going to offer several links related to statistics and the death of black men in our country.  Yes, I am going there. Go there with me. Or keep reading and catch them later. Just remember: I don't particularly trust the media but I do trust statistics.

http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/10/young_black_men_21_times_more_likely_to_be_shot_dead_by_police_than_whites.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32740523

http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/02/politics/kristoff-oreilly-police-shooting-numbers-fact-check/

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/12/02/1348891/-Fox-Distorting-the-Stats-on-Police-Killings-of-Black-People-Again#

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/blacks-are-killed-at-a-higher-rate-in-south-carolina-and-the-u-s/

http://www.bustle.com/articles/36096-do-police-shoot-black-men-more-often-statistics-say-yes-absolutely

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/04/08/oreilly-cherry-picks-debunked-statistics-to-dow/203223

I was pretty incensed by this shirt, and by the privileged and arrogant position this person takes. Yes, it's a free country. Yes, he has the right to free speech. But I also have a right to be outraged by someone with the audacity to say that if you break the law at all, you deserve to be murdered. That your life doesn't matter. And that due process of law means that the police are judge, jury, and executioner.  Due process. That's what I demand. Due process for everyone.

But mostly, I'm sad. At the lack of compassion and understanding by both this business and the human being who finds it necessary to wear bigoted clothing. I hope he someday, somehow, feels really ashamed of himself.

And I'm really proud of myself for not getting in his face. But perhaps he needs that. Perhaps he, like so many of us, is just ignorant. And perhaps I would have beat the snot out of him and gone to jail.

Instead, next week, all week, I'm going to wear my own shirt; one I bought a few weeks ago. Because if you need to advertise who you are, then perhaps you need to know who I am as well.



We all matter. Not some of us; all of us. Nobody matters more than anyone else. Black Lives Matter.

I wore this shirt last Friday on campus. I was in the student union making small talk with a group of students. Another person came up and complimented me on my shirt. Then he said "All lives matter."  "Yes," I said, "but today we're talking about Black lives."  "Right on." Yes, white people can have conversations about race. And it's time we did because it's not the job of non-white people to explain this to us. Or convince us. The evidence is all around us, but we've been trained not to see, so I'm making the invisible visible.

Maybe it doesn't matter at all if I wear my shirt. It's not a huge protest. It's not getting in a bigot's face, because that's not going to change his heart. But it's my thing, because I cannot be silent about casual racism and bigotry. The little things are sometimes big things.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Manastash

I'm going to upload a few more photos today of a hike to Manastash. Let me give you a topographical view first.



Manastash is south and east of town, just a few miles. It's not a straight up and down climb, per se, but it is pretty close.  All told, the hike from bottom to top is only about 2.5 miles. The Washington Trails Association says 4 miles out and back, but my fitbit says different. The elevation gain is 1,700 feet. And yeah, my hamstrings will tell you that's about right! The 4-5 miles is really doable for a beginner, but the vertical change is insane and if this is a first hike for you, just go part way.


Here is the view of top from the bottom.  Doesn't look like much.


Here is the view of the bottom from the top.  A little more impressive.  And look at those wildflowers!

Add caption
This is about 1/4 of the way up.


 Looking back from the 1/4 marker.
No, I haven't tilted the camera. That's the vertical change. Husband for scale.

 Nothing to see here, just a bunch of gorgeous wildflowers and their buzzing bees running the world.

 Trees that grow on an angle.



This is after the hard part of climbing, about 3/4 of the way there.

 At the top, looking West towards Seattle. That road leads to Leavenworth through those mountains.

 Looking East towards Kittitas.



And a perfect little cactus flower no bigger than the palm of my hand.



And just because they are enchanting, pictures of the flora decorating our path.





Sunday, May 24, 2015

Vancouver!

This guy!
I know, I know. I've been terrible. Lately I haven't done much writing because I've been holding my breath for things that did not materialize.  So then after that I spent some time just hiding under my bed.

Ok, on top of my bed but under the covers. Sometimes G would join me just to keep me company. He's cool like that.  In fact, he can hide in my blanket fort anytime.

For his birthday this year, I told him we were going on a trip and to not ask me any questions about it.  I planned out a trip to Vancouver, BC. He had never been to Canada except for a brief few hours in his youth. So I stole his passport and picked him up at work on a Friday at noon.

We walked and walked, which won't be a surprise to any readers. We ate scrumptious food and went on a tour of the city. We stayed at the oldest working hotel in Vancouver.

And we enjoyed every moment. We even saw friends from Ellensburg while we were there! It was awesome.

In the words of my husband "This was my favorite birthday ever. So far."

Just wait until next year, buddy.



Statuary

Doesn't she look like a teacher? 
It's like we're sisters!
He does love urban hiking





Hi


Stanley Park

The Aquarium


















This rescue dolphin's name is Helen. 

Beluga Whale
4 D Movie!









I LOVE totem poles





She's called "The Diver"

If you ever get the chance, eat at a place called Salmon and Bannock!



This was the other excellent place to eat- Go Fish. 

Rhodedendrons





Heading home, back to the good old U.S. of A. 

There are my mountains