Monday, June 30, 2008

Support

I'm on a really steep learning curve right now (steep like Lombard,contact.asp.jpg not steep like Hayes- that's just not steep enough in this case.) I've got several sets of learning going on:
  • how to be a grad student
  • how to fit being a grad student in the life of my family
  • how to get all this damn reading done (which I enjoy- high quality, just HIGH quantity, too) (high like Everest)
  • how to work with my group
Today I had evidence of how supported I am by my group in this learning- that their support not just buoys me but also spurs me on. And, if I've rushed through a reading simply because I didn't have the time to get it in depth, they really help me to grasp what I didn't at first. 

This really is a group effort, really.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

There will be blood...

OK, well, maybe not blood. But there will be suffering to a certain extent. Heck, there already has been suffering. Example: It's after 2pm here and I've been switching between school work and house work (because I'm not willing to suffer through another moment of a messy kitchen.) My kids are still in their jammies and playing LEGOs in their room. OK, maybe that's not suffering, but here are some more examples of things we're all learning to endure right now:
  • the messy house- OK, admittedly, my house has never been neat, but let's just say it's reach a new high (or is that low) in dis-neat-ness. 
  • Mama just isn't fun anymore. Period. For anyone.
  • the resurgence of the 30 minute supper- if it takes longer than 30 minutes, it ain't on the menu; no more lasagna, unless it's Stouffer's. stoufferslasagna.jpg
  • piles o' laundry. Make that the Swiss Alps of laundry. "I know you've worn it the last two days, but all you got on it was a little bit of ice cream."
  • and something my kids are happy about: the use of TV as a study aid. 
Of course, there's my own "suffering". The things I used to enjoy I just can't. I was at a BBQ yesterday with interesting, fun people but every time I engaged in a conversation, my mind wandered to not Hawaii, not any tropical island, not even, dare I say it, KNITTING, but all the school work I had to do. Ugh. 

And I didn't even feel like having a beer.

Now that's suffering.

Friday, June 27, 2008

On being almost-40, a mom, wife, and grad student.

OK, I have to get this off my chest and I promise that will be it (well, maybe.)

I just completed my first week of grad school and the word I would use to describe myself is EXHAUSTED, but ENLIGHTENED.

I am EXHAUSTED because (and this is for all of you out there who are single, or married without kids, who are thinking they can't do grad school because they just don't have the time... five words for you: SHUT UP and MAN UP)...

... I get up at 5:30 to clear my mind through exercise.
... get home and pack lunches, wake up kids, feed them, get them dressed, pack up my ton o' stuff (really, almost a whole ton... stay tuned, I'm going to weigh it one of these days) and my son's stuff, get myself ready, and herd everyone out the door.
... drop off two kids in two different places, park a few blocks from school, and hoof it up the hill to class.
... class, in this case, does not mean sitting in a lecture (that would be easy)- class means work group and whole group discussions around some really deep readings that were done the night before (more on that later)
... leave class, run off to pick up at least one kid.
... get home, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up dinner, do a little laundry, read to at least one kid, put them to bed.
... by 8:30pm, if I'm lucky, sit down... TO READ at least 100 pages in the reader (which is HUGE... oh, the trees, the trees, felled in the name of academia and learning!!!)

I am ENLIGHTENED because...
... I read Paolo Freire for the first time. For those of you who don't know who he is, he wrote "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" which, yeah, is pretty hard to get the first time around. After discussions, I was fired up to read on... it is fascinating stuff that has so much to do with not just education, but also with society at large. 
... I read Howard Gardner, and not just the multiple intelligences stuff. It was about truth, beauty, and goodness in education as well as his 3 E's- excellence, engagement, and ethics.
... I read Neil Postman and considered my gods and the gods of my school district.
... mostly, I feel ENLIGHTENED because I had meaningful and deep discussions with the folks in my cohort. Wow.

I remain thankful for this harrowing, growing situation I've put myself in. Yeah, I'm older than most of the "kids" in the program. Yeah, I have a family to take care of. Yeah, I still have the same school workload that the "kids" have. But, HELL YEAH, this is wonderful and I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Which, hopefully, won't be too soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If Howard Gardner came to my school district...

... what would he think?

In light of what Gardner wrote about the "three E's" (excellence, engagement, and ethics) and the fact that he believes that all schools should focus on all three ("no 'E' left behind"), I think he and I would have a very interesting discussion about what is happening in my district. I believe he would see evidence of all three- but would note that we just aren't there YET, but we are firmly on the road...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yay, Oprah!

OK, before you get too excited, please know that I am NOT writing about Oprah, rather about something she reinvigorated that is important to me and my learning right now: the book club.

I am the type of person who will hear about a book and jump up to read it, only to realize that I read it a while back (yes, I am getting old.) Nothing against re-reading, but why when you can read something new? 

Right now I'm faced with hundreds of pages of educational theory to read every night. It's interesting, but when you are trying to do it at 10:30 after you've fed your family, bathed and read to the kids, and done some laundry, it's a little hard to do more than just get the gist, not to mention trying to look at the reading with different lenses (impossible at 10:30, really- isn't 10:30 the realm of evening news, trashy novels read in the comfort of your bed, or, dare I speak its name... KNITTING?) Because we are discussing our readings in depth with a variety of groupings, I am getting things out of it that I would never have in isolation. It is SO VERY important to read in a group, in fact I am feeling that it is essential to read something with at least one other person to bounce ideas and thoughts off of- this is for all kinds of reading.

Isn't the aim of reading to understand, after all, and what better way to understand than to get the viewpoint of others?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

G'won, get your label maker out!

I thought that I was going into a program that was about removing labels, or looking beyond them, but instead we have been all about bowing down to the label god (with a small "g") (and stay tuned because this isn't all bad.)

Today we talked about our gods/narratives, the ones that, as Postman put it, "give a sense of continuity and purpose" to our lives. Although we shared these out with only one other person, it made us aware that everyone has them and that we need to be aware of this and try to figure out others' gods so that we can better connect with them. So there's one label- your god(s). (FYI, my god is the god of community.)

Later in the day we put ourselves into groups based on the way we work- North (acting- product-oriented goal-setters), South (caring- support everyone), East (speculating- big idea, creativity, expressiveness), West (paying attention to detail- questions need to be answered before proceeding.) There's another label, but again, this label made us aware of the people in the other groups and forced us to think about how we can work with everyone. (FYI, I'm a North, but if you know me, you already knew that.)

god with a lowercase "g"

We've read Neil Postman, who speaks of one's purpose as "god" (with a lowercase "g") which, of course, has led me to wonder who or what my god is... what drives me to do all the things I do in so many different arenas. I have to say that my god is the god of community. Community can take on so many different forms. My nuclear family, made up of me (the mama), the dada, and the two boys, is a community. It is within the larger community of our extended family. Then we live in a community, and I work in another community. Of course, all of them are interconnected. Most of what I do and have done in the last few years has been for the betterment of the community.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Some...

"The master said: Some can study with you, but not follow the Way with you. Some can follow the Way with you, but not stand firm with you in its principles. And some can stand firm with you in its principles, but not join you in putting them into practice."
- Cong-tzu (Confucius), The Analects

As I've started my 14 month journey, I think it wise to reflect on this quote. I've been saying that my going through this program is a group effort- one that will affect everyone in my life and call on them to give me some kind of support. It is important to remember why I'm putting everyone through this as, at times, I feel it is all about me. 

We read over the syllabus today and I realized, again, the sacrifice that I am making and in the name of what? In worship of what god (with a small "g"- thanks Postman)? And who is this for? Is it really for me... to get a better job? ... to make a difference in someone's life? ... to affect change and see reform through?

And who will come with me?

That, I believe, remains to be seen. Right now, the folks in my small work group are coming with me (and my family is being dragged along.) We'll study together, but may not always agree. We'll discuss and argue. Through it all, I hope, we'll come out of this better individuals and ones who are able to work with anyone in any situation.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Henceforth...


Photo 81
Originally uploaded by trumom
... started training for the Nike Women's Marathon today!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Breast Friends Ravelry Raffle, Part Deux and Cottage Industry in Japan

Jenny Hurth makes bags. Really cool bags. Bags that are so cool they are eco-friendly, too. 
Might I add that Jenny herself is very cool... and I'm not just saying that because she donated a bag for the Ravelry Raffle, I swear...

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting Jenny in her studio and got to check out the goods. (and yes, I bought myself a bag, too.) If you haven't seen her website (www.jennyhurth.com), her bags are made from used vinyl signs and banners that... you guessed it... would otherwise end up in a land fill somewhere. They are PERFECT for knitting bags or beach bags or whenever bags. They come in all different sizes, colors, and designs, depending, of course, on the banners she gets. 

This all got me thinking about my trip to Japan last October. Hubby and I spent a day doing our shopping in Kyoto, in and around the Gion district. The Gion is chock full of small specialty stores as well as HUGE department stores such as Takashimaya (that carry EVERYTHING including ready-made food packages for gifting- the photo shows plastic ones on display; the
 movie shows the liveliness of the lower floor of a typical Japanese department store with the vendors LOUDLY hawking their wares.)
video
But I'm not blogging about big biz. I'm blogging about small biz. We came upon many small
 shops of craftspeople making beautiful handbags out of old kimono fabric, or gorgeous glazed pottery, or specialty rice crackers (senbei.) My favorite was a tiny shop on an alley leading to Kiyomizu-dera. It was seriously tiny with a low ceiling, but it was tidy and well-lit. She was selling all thing clay and Jizo (the bodhisattva who watches over the children who have passed before their parents.) She had Jizo figurines ranging from tiny to large-sized, teacups with Jizo painted on them, charms with him, plates with him. They were beautiful, and simple, and well-priced, and I still regret not buying more. (I did buy this one; I love him so. He's shown in his little sake cup shrine, also purchased from a small shop on an alley in Kyoto.

I wonder how there were so many craftspeople selling their wares in their own spaces. Is there government subsidizing of craft? Is it only traditional crafts that are subsidized, if that is the case? WHY CAN'T WE DO THIS HERE?

I feel very strongly about supporting the crafts, and, in particular, our local craftspeople. I am a big fan of Etsy, but it was so cool to be able to drive one town over and visit Jenny, a REAL craftsperson in her studio. 

They are there. Go out there. Find them. AND BUY STUFF FROM THEM! OK, that's the end of my PSA. Here's the bag Jenny donated for the raffle. I chose one with the GG Bridge since, well, it's local... It's a good sized bag with a zipper pocket inside- perfect for crafty folk and parental units alike. See this recent post for info on how to donate and enter the raffle.