Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Find Comfort Among Those Who Agree With Us

Well, I ended up with 18 students for the Saturday screening of "The Hunger Games".  ((Warning: Spoilers ahead.  Nothing earth-shattering but you ought to know)) It was great! Grey was nice enough to go with me, as was my friend Kristen and my student teacher and her husband.  The kids were good as gold and there were several times during the movie that we looked over at each other to make faces in reaction to one scene or another.

There was much talk afterwards with one of the girls- the other kids scattered. She gave a blow-by-blow comparison that would make Ebert proud.  And yesterday at lunch the buzz was all positive.  It went something like this: We all want to take up archery, Katniss was a little too healthy (it *is* the Hunger Games, after all) and they blazed through Peeta being hurt. Rue was perfectly played.  Cinna was great and Haymitch wasn't quite drunk enough and he didn't even puke once.  There was not as much gory stuff in the movie. For instance, in the book, Katniss shoots one person in the neck. He pulls the arrow out and drowns in his own blood.  Pretty gory; pretty graphic.  The rating is PG-13 though so they had to rein it in a bit.  Also, the love triangle angle isn't as played up as it is in the book, though it is heavily suggested.

It was just a good time.

I came across an article from Jezebel on how some movie-goers were outraged, disappointed or thought that the movie was "ruined" because the actor playing Rue is Black.  So is Thresh and so is Cinna, but this was not such a big deal. Rue is an angel in the book and dies a horrible death.  White readers often conjure up a picture of innocence- wherein the child is then imagined to be White. This unconscious racism led to the "outrage" because the demographic of viewers felt they had "wasted their emotions" on a child who is not blonde haired and blue eyed.  I'm pretty sure that skin tone or follicle variations have fuck-all do to with innocence, purity, vulnerability or the brutality of oppression depicted in book. So I posted the link on my Facebook, like I often do.  I'm just going to post the screen shots of what transpired.  My take is that it was an interesting discussion- veering towards colorblindness. Colorblindness is "the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony."  Color blindness perpetuates racism passively.  The person who is color blind usually believes that they are helping by ignoring race but the opposite is true.  It's very difficult to convince White people of this, by the way.

The sentiment on my post was more or less that I stir things up by talking about racism in my classroom.  I want to listen to stuff like that.  It helps me to think before I speak in my classroom and helps me frame my perspective.  I don't agree that I'm making something out of nothing, but I do at least want to take people's ideas into consideration.  

However, I think it's fair to observe that I was personally attacked. Someone I considered a friend said some pretty hateful things.  Over the last few months, he has had a tendency to jump into things, posting rather vehemently and taking me or others to task for our discussions.  On MY Facebook page. No inbox messages, not seeing me in person over the last six months or so.  Just progressively angry replies and what I have come to think of as trolling on my wall.  I stopped paying attention when he would say things because I assumed he was just trying to get a reaction.  But last night's post was different.  He accused me of "reverse racism" and stereotyping and being a generally hateful person.  Did I mention that he is a White conservative male?  For the first time, I removed someone's comments from my page.  The first I took down as it was a bunch of snarling. The second accused me of censoring him.  How dare I remove those nasty remarks?!

I am really bothered by this.  I am pretty careful about my rhetoric.  Sometimes people post things to my wall that are of interest and sometimes I post things too, but it's more to open dialog (which often happens).  I looked through my postings for the last few weeks.  A re-post of a friends blog, posts about spring break being awesome and some of the friends I've gotten to see lately.  Pictures of animals, the grass, my boyfriend, some bragging about homemade blueberry pancakes (I make some pretty good gluten-free blueberry pancakes if you ever need some) and one post calling the governor  a jerk for skipping out on the Oklahoma state visit by the president.  That one I should not have said.  Instead of saying "The governor is a jerk", I should have said she was behaving like a jerk.  I also jokingly said that I could tolerate a few conservatives.  Taken out of context, it could sound bad.  And a "conservative" friend had it out with me and we came to consensus.  But seriously, that's the worst of it.   I stayed up all night wondering what the hell I did to deserve such vitriol.  Do I hate Oklahomans? Do I blindly hate conservatives? I asked a few people.  My friend Cathy offered her opinion and I like to listen to what she has to say because she has known me for so long.  Grey thought my friend was completely off base, as did a few others who messaged me. 

For the record, I do not post negative things on his Facebook page and never rant on for multiple paragraphs.  I just don't- it's his page and I don't doggedly chase people down and try to make them see my logic because I'm so fucking right.  Because you know what? I'm not always right and that's ok.  I defriended my friend, saying that maybe it was better to be friends in real life only.  I received quite a long and thought-out reply in response, detailing such things as my dissertation giving me tunnel vision and ending with this: 

"Americans, Oklahomans, Conservatives and people who do not like the lack of integrity of our president. I belong to all of these groups, when you belittle those groups, or question their intelligence, class or character, because they hold a different opinion, it offends many people who you call friends. Again, this is only my opinion. I am sure I will re-read this many times, questioning if I have been open-minded. I have done screenshots on many of your posts over the last year or two, and still feel the same, for now anyway. I wish you the best of luck in your teaching, I pray your teaching is never filled with the same hate, which you fight so hard to stop."

I do tend to question people's class and character,  though I do it from my Facebook wall and not by poking my finger in someone's chest.  Ok, maybe I have been to more than a few protests.  And who are these many people?  As far as I know, we know maybe three people in common.  Did they contact him and call a committee meeting to discuss how offended I make them and what can be done to save me? And why the screen shots? In case I run for Congress or something? Will he need them in my murder trial? I have never picked a fight with a group, though I have responded strongly to something or another that a group has perpetuated.  And I've been thinking about it all day long.  Was he just trying to gas-light me? 

"The Gaslight Effect results from a relationship between two people: a gaslighter, who needs to be right in order to preserve his own sense of self and his sense of having power in the world; and a gaslightee, who allows the gaslighter to define her sense of reality because she idealizes him and seeks his approval."  

If this is true, then it ultimately failed. I don't think he did that on purpose.  I know what abusive people are like and generally, they fall into two categories. The first is the oblivious category and the second is the purposeful manipulation category. Both people should be avoided.  The veiled threat of him documenting my Facebook postings, saying how much i offend people, saying how open-minded he hopes he is being and how I offend "many people" I call friend.  The nail though, is in reference to my teaching.  That's where I go "Whoa the fuck up there, Lone Ranger".  I have been teaching for a long time. I have lots of degrees in pedagogy and shit like that.  I am observed on a regular basis and administrators in the district really enjoy visiting my classroom.  My materials are reviewed, my lesson plans are all on the desk at all times and my students exhibit happy behaviors, lack of fear of me and gains in reading.  Oh, and 18 of them came to watch a movie with me last weekend.  

Oh, wait, time out.  Didn't that last line say that I fight hard to stop hatred? 

So I blocked him. 

But let me say this: I don't think he is inherently a bad person.  I just don't. I just don't think he sees me clearly. Or perhaps I don't fit with his world view.  It's ok; I'm just going to let it be. 

You may see me write negative things from time to time.  I get angry with the way we humans behave towards each other, towards children, towards the environment and towards lesser creatures.  We humans, me included.  I am not exempt from bad behavior or a poor attitude from time to time.  I might insult a politician or kick a puppy, you never know.  If 15 years of college have taught me anything, it's that I don't know everything and that I can both make mistakes and learn.  

But I do know a few things.  
1.  I know that I won't stop talking about issues that bother me.  Maybe I can re-frame things to make them more palatable, but I won't not talk about things like inequality, racism, sexism, politics, gun laws, abortion or flying to the moon. 
2. Talking about issues of racism makes me neither a "White guilt" sufferer, nor a "reverse racist". Nor does it give me tunnel vision.  Frankly, my dissertation served to broaden my vision.  
3. Talking about issues of sexuality and sexual politics does not make me a man-hater. 
4. I have a right to be angry. I have a right, on my own social media page, to post and discuss these issues. I have never censored anyone before and often welcome and learn from the spirited dialog. As far as I know, the SPLC has not classified me as a hate group. 
5. I'm actually not that combative. I post things that are hopeful, that are kind, that remind me of people I love and that hopefully encourage others.  I post pictures of flowers.  I work in a helping profession and the things I do can help make a difference, even in a small way.   I like making blueberry pancakes and kissing and taking kids to the movies and the right for all women to make their own reproductive choices. 

Frank A. Clark once said "We find comfort among those who agree with us; growth among those who do not". I agree with him.  But then sometimes there comes a time when  you just gotta pick up your toys and books and go home.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ethical and Right

There are many things that I do not write about, things that I either don't find appropriate, things that I know I would sound condescending about or things that I just don't know about.  I seldom write about politics, except to say that a dentist who has no experience in education beyond attending a school at some point should not be our Superintendent of Education.  That's not a shock. I do write about education and where education and politics collide, I try to say something worthwhile.

I do not write about God or supreme deities, do not draw pictures of prophets and only occasionally light incense or candles. I try not to complain too much about the economy or the fact that it's taking an inordinate amount of time to find an appropriate job at a college or university so that I can do what I do best.

No, the general purpose of my blog is to puzzle through life and try to figure out the best things to do- to reflect and celebrate and to, if possible, light the way for someone else.  I think best behind a keyboard and when I do, I feel that this is my home.  So tonight- after a long day of fun and games- I am sitting here once again with my cat and some breath mints and contemplating the larger issues in life.

I do believe in being ethical and doing the right things.  I try not to pay others to do what I can do myself.  I mow my own lawn and since mine was used and returned to me broken, I borrowed my friend Cathy's electric mower to mow my lawn.  Here is a photo of what the back looked like when I started:

As you can see, it needs a hair cut.  I considered borrowing some livestock to just eat down the grass. It was over 2' high in places and it was wet.  I have a surprising number of friends with livestock- goats and donkeys and a miniature horse, some cows and even a few sheep.

I had already mowed the front and side yards.  I have about half an acre altogether.  If you don't know what an electric mower is like, let me help you out. An electric mower requires a really long extension cord in order to run.  It does not have emissions the way a gas mower does and so there is no environmental pollution to consider on those high-ozone days.

Electric lawnmowers are heinously under-powered.  As in I felt like I was using a hair dryer to unfreeze the city of Detroit in January.  A pair of kitchen scissors might have done a neater job than this.  The lawn was very tall so I had to first pop it up on the back two tires and go over it and then go over it again on all four.  It was tedious work.  This was compounded by the wet grass which got stuck in the mower.  I ended up turning it over to pull out caked on grass every ten feet.  Like I said, tedious.

I passed the time in my own head, listening to old country- Charley Pride, Hank, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn- and contemplating ethics, things that are right and wrong, and what my constraints are when dealing with injustice. As I mowed, I rolled over a lot of purple goosebill and a few dandelions.  I like dandelions.  People don't think of them as pretty or useful, but I do.  I like the bright yellow flowers and the broad green leaves. Something happens when they grow up too- they change into a puff of beauty that floats away on the breeze.  Magic. You could see the potential for the seedlings to take off in the sprout of the flower and later in the reaching yellow flower petals.  But you never see a half yellow, half puffball dandelion.

I think it was a puffball all along.

I have a friend that I've known a long time.  We'll refer to this friend as Dandelion.  It's a good descriptor.  People have ignored or thought of Dandelion as a weed.  Some have tried to pull Dandelion out by the roots.  Fact is though, that I have recently learned- as has this person- that Dandelion is one gender trapped in the physical body of the other.  I have seen signs from early on now that I look back on it. The ambiguous hair styles and manner of dress. The physical androgyny and a quiet war taking place on the inside.  A war that almost killed my Dandelion.  Nobody wants a weed.  Then one day, just like that, Dandelion changed into a puffball. A beautiful one, whole and ready to fly on the wind.  And all was right in the world.  I changed the name in my phone and the pronoun associated with Dandelion's stated gender. I wish I could protect this person from the prejudice and hate of the world.  Dandelion has been like a little brother/sister to me these last few years.  But maybe I am not needed. Life finds a way to bloom in ways I cannot imagine and thrives in even the most harsh climates and needs both sunshine and rain to do so.

I was thinking about our upcoming wedding. I think that so far we have done a good job.  Our minister is going to do marriage counseling with us.  She preaches up in Tulsa but lives here in Norman.  Her calling is in working with vulnerable populations such as LGBT youth.  She knows that neither Grey nor I make a ton of money and offered us a discount rate.  Grey and I talked about it, and decided that even if we do not do everything we want in the wedding, pastoring is a thankless calling with little enough compensation.  We wouldn't feel right paying less than the very fair donation she asked.  She insisted.  We insisted.  She gave in; we smiled and felt as though we did the right thing.  It's the helping professions that get the financial shaft and we will be damned if we are going to do that.  Grey once seriously considered seminary when picking his profession and that's still something he might do.  I think he would be wonderful.

In any case, there are a lot of issues when dealing with weddings and shit like that.  We needed a ring, and I am not about to purchase a blood diamond from the mines of Botswana or D.R. Congo.  If you don't know what that means, click here.  Since almost every jewelry store in my area had zero idea what a conflict diamond was, we had few options. First, we could reset a diamond that we already had.  Not a problem, but I didn't really want a marquis cut diamond.  Next, we could go with a laboratory-created diamond, which is just like a mined diamond. I like that idea since they are the exact same thing. People just get their undies in a bunch because if we believed that all diamonds are alike, then the price would plummet on them.  And all diamonds really are alike.  Finally, we could find a previously-owned diamond that has been re-set.

In our search, we came across Kay Jewelers at the mall. We had talked to several jewelers by this time and they pretended not to know what the hell a blood diamond was.  The sales associate at Kay was just as clueless, until her colleague set her straight.  The colleague was a young woman with what I think was an Eastern Block accent.  I'm too ignorant of Eastern European languages to be more specific, except that I think it was not a Russian accent. She said that they did not sell ethical diamonds in the store but if we wanted the previously owned rings, then the website was the place to go.

So we did.  And we found just what we were looking for. Nothing gawdy, nothing outside of our budget. But a beautiful and meaningful- and ethical- symbol in white gold.

Other considerations about the wedding include growing some of the flowers, not throwing a bunch of plastic away at the conclusion, not having hydrogenated oils in the wedding cake (thank God for Whole Foods) and using bubbles and birdseed at the conclusion.  Hell, I'm even borrowing shoes and pearls for the event.  We are keeping it small too, just 40 people are being invited. Then after a few weeks, we'll have a reception just for our friends at the house. Oh, and there will be Jelly Bellys.

That's about it. That's what I thought of, more or less, as I mowed the yard. A few hours later, this is what I came up with.  All I can say is that at least it's shorter than it was.

As I methodically plow through the yard and carefully plan a sunny day where we'll meet and make promises in public that we have already made in private, I cannot help but wonder where we will be in a year.  Heck, I wonder where we'll be in four months.  Maybe in a cosmic way, in a way that only God or Buddha can discern, that makes me a dandelion seed too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Game Changer

I'm sure that I've posted before about my kids who serve a "lunch detention" and come with their lunch to read a book in class with me.  Our first book was "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian".  The second one is "The Hunger Games".

I bought 5 tickets for kids to the Hunger Games and planned to do a raffle, ala Effie Trinket, to pick a winner. Each student could enter their name in the drawing once for each time they came to eat lunch.

I was bragging about this on Thursday night on Facebook. The drawing was to be Friday and the kids would meet me at the theater during our two week spring break.  Someone asked why I didn't take the whole class.  I explained that I can't afford to take everyone and that it was alright- I think the kids just liked reading at lunch and hearing me read it to them.

Then someone said "I'll pitch in for some tickets".

Then someone else.  And someone else and someone else.  I had 2 offers to pay for the whole thing and I started crying.  Part of me wanted to say no, we'd be ok.  But that would be wrong.  My kids will absolutely LOVE going to the movies as a group and seeing the book that we are reading in class!  So I got over it and said yes.  We will get to go on the 24th in Bricktown.  I am so excited and cannot thank my friends enough!

I shot a video of a thank-you picture we were taking.  Very cute.  The kids were so surprised and so excited! This was the highlight of my week and probably of my whole month.  I'm going to send it to our "sponsors".  If you read the book, that would make you smile...

On Friday I also learned that my students made gains of about 20-30% on their benchmark reading scores.  This blew away my principal, who was hoping for 10% or at least some movement.  This doesn't mean my students are passing, just that they have improved.  My kid who ate his library pass on the first day of class passed.  My student who I cannot for the love of God or money get to write more than a few sentences passed.  Several of them earned "exceeded" marks and most are on the edge between "below standard" and "passing" that I am certain we can get a 70% pass rate this year.  Right now the benchmark says that we are at about a 50% rate. These students work hard and know why I do the things I do- to give them a good chance of success through literacy.  I hope so, anyway. I have tried to ingrain it in them since Day 1.

In the not-so-awesome-but-kinda-so department, I taught a geography class for our deceased teacher on Friday as well.  It's during my plan period but the students really need help and stability so I've volunteered to teach it the rest of the year.  I hope it works out that I get to.  The awesome part is teaching geography.  The drawback is teaching it in the building while the demolition crews bang on pipes and raise dust.

As a consequence, Friday night was a total bust. I had multiple asthma attacks and couldn't sleep.  Saturday was rough too and I even had an asthma attack at Grey's sister's birthday party.  I was so embarrassed to have to excuse myself to go take medicine and then I was so shaky that everyone thought I was just nervous.  I was not nervous- Grey's family is full of nice, kind and decent people and the reason I couldn't let go his hand was because I couldn't stop shaking.  I think his mom and dad think I am shy because I didn't say much.  And I'm sure I looked terrible, because I felt terrible.  More asthma attacks and finally some sleep and we went for a long walk on Sunday.  Today here in Tulsa, it's nice and sunny and warm.  I woke up at 3:15 with an asthma attack (sigh) and slept in for a bit.  Then, since Grey works till 6, I did the stuff one normally does to greet the day and then read a book outside in the sunshine.

You know, there is something I almost never talk about.  It's about those feelings one holds deep and dear.  I have a hard time expressing emotions rather than delight, anger or something that is right around arms length.  Grey says the nicest things to me- he is very good whereas I am terrible.  Something in me freezes up and thinks that if I really love someone, and I wish to keep them in my life, I would generally lose them if I opened up and they were able to penetrate that emotional armadillo skin of mine.  It seems that I have lost more of the people I loved or been betrayed or hurt other people too much to have a kind and loving relationship.  And Grey knows this and when I get tongue-tied, he knows that there are things I need time to work out and say.  Something like a time-delay clock.  Fifteen minutes after some declaration of love or a remark about the future, I finally untie the frozen strings from my heart and say what I really want to.

It's even harder to write about, to admit that to all, oh, say 10 of my readers.  I'm supposed to be a writer. I'm supposed to be fucking eloquent.  I'm supposed to be tough and smart and a lone wolf and all of the stupid cliches that go with someone who doesn't know how to accept love.

And how stupid is it that we've been engaged for over a month and I'm just now mentioning it?  And I'm not even going to give any details.

Who is taking her entire class to "The Hunger Games"?  This person!
Give me 15 minutes...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Photos of Late...

Eleanor turned 16 today
Not every one of my family and friends has access or interest in Facebook, so I thought I'd upload a few photos of what life looks like lately... 

Love that face!

Fred Jones Museum of Art

Love this face too!

Not sure if I mentioned this.. I love this guy.. 

Great place to eat

Wichita Mountains

This tree is doing a yoga pose...


Wolaroc creek