Monday, December 30, 2013

Nahautl Navidad

The savanna stood vast and stoic as the sun slowly slipped below the horizon,

Stoic, like a bronze Miguel Hidalgo standing straight and tall,

Vast, like the millions of Mexicans remembering and revering their Father for raising fight and feat of the conquistadors de Espana.

El sol: sinking slow and deep into the tierra creates anvil clouds and a sky like a pastel picture of Christmas.

This is the solstice.  This is the solstice of in a un campo de Mexico.  This is the memory of Mexico.

The sound of the solstice is crickets and cuetas and brass booming beyond the vastness-
Celebrations, fiestas, festvities and felizidad-
Posadas y parades-

La Navidad de Mexico

Now for something Nahautl:

Nahautl is la lingua that about 1.5 Nahua natives know; la idioma indigenous to Mexico and Mesoamerica.  It gained prestige when the Michoacan Empire expanded into what is current day Mexico City, became a literary language when the Latin alphabet was introduced and in the 16th and 17th centuries, works including poetry and even codices were written in what was stated as being one of the most well-documented and studied languages of the Americas according to this.  

If it weren't for Nahautl, we might have been stuck handing out brussel sprout bunnies on Easter.
Can you imagine what kind of world we'd be living in if everyone went around claiming they were addicted to brussel sprouts?

I navigate your attention towards Nahautl not because we'd cry without avocados and tomatoes and coyotes (all also derivatives), but because we'd cry if we didn't have a language with which to express ourselves as humans.  That's what we do.  We relish in self expression and the verbal language.  Babies cry and laugh and smile and drop things because they have yet to develop the skills to communicate through the expression of language that the rest of us can comprehend.  Slowly they begin filling their beautifully woven basket of brains with vocabulary they remember from their surrounding environment.  Finally, after about a year or year and a half, they retain and recall an expansive vocabulary of six whole words on average, according to this.

From the moment I stumbled upon teaching English as a second language about one year ago, clouds muddled the clear blue sky but created an image of a long, narrow tunnel with tracks built for the language locomotive.  Although it was pacing upwards of 200 mph, I hopped aboard and held on for dear life because from the moment the clouds muddled into a tunnel of tracks for the language locomotive- from the moment I felt the fresh wind on my face and comb my hair with its teeth, there appeared an illuminating lading leading the way.  It was as much of a light at the end of a tunnel as I needed to recognize an unrecognized rapture of the profession of teaching.

Fascination holds no comparison to "calling" and if everyone is patient, in time, they will find their true name.

Spoken language is truly a fascinating commodity even though it is quite obvious from the very get go if it is English or if it is Greek.  Why is it then that it is so difficult for us to say what we're really thinking?  I mean really really?  What are we thinking about at the same time we're thinking about that elephant in the room?  Then again why is it so easy for us to say and do everything else?  Why do we want to declare everything that makes up the one thing we're really thinking but leave out that one thought?  Fortunately, this social worker knows the answer.  Thank goodness I didn't have to say what I was really thinking...

The last couple of weeks have been spent learning and a lot has been learned.  The incredible thing about traveling to a different country and experiencing a different culture from your own is that proverbs exist in every single language.  Here is another one in ours: there is more than one way to skin a cat.  This means that there are multiple ways of doing a single one thing.  I traveled to Mexico with one of my Oklahoma roommates to take a break from teaching and visit other Okies who relocated to a country who has a history and colonization countries away from ours. 

Mexico is amazing.  It's a country with a history as rich and delicious as its food and I can't wait to return.
Finally, this Christmas granted the gracious gift of Grandpa recounting Ave Maria on the clarinet by Chopin and Bach.
Next up: a new year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holidaze 101

I forgot how hard college was.  I must have blocked it out of my mind.  Or maybe my mind stayed filled with all the stuff I learned from those days, and there wasn't room in my remote memory to even remember.

Q 1: Why hasn't the writer posted since September?

A 1: a. The writer had writers block.
     b. The writer was teaching down the block.
     c. The writer was blocked from the Internet.
     d. The Jolly Green Giant walked down the writer's block.
     e. All of the above.

 What did they used to say?  When in shear doubt, go with C?  Yet E is so tempting and I dreamt about D last night in my dream.  Where did this text anxiety come from??  Blocked that out too, I suppose.

I discovered the secret to time travel.  Become a teacher and time will disappear faster than you can call roll.  Live with a household full and instruct at the University and you may be transported back into your past.

For the past four months, I've been instructing at the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma.  I attended the professional program from 2003-2005 for my bachelors and 2005-2006 for my masters, when it was housed out of Rhyne Hall, a hacienda style, asbestos-filled building on the that used to be Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house back in the day.  It was actually kind of cute and fun to learn in, if you weren't distracted by the thought of your lungs crystallizing.  Then one day, the wife of President Boren, Mrs. Molly Shi, showed up as our key-note speaker at the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society induction.  Once she set foot in our "charming" school, it was only a mere five years later that lectures went from being held in this: being led in this:
To say it was an "experience" to be on the other side of the desk, helping guide 45 juniors through the first of many lectures, would be, well...elementary.  Every week, I prepared a three hour lecture over one and most times two chapters progressing from the principle life stage of human development.  We covered content from the womb to the tomb, analyzing cognitive and physical development as well as social and emotional development. 

How does one keep forty-five minds engaged for three hours while covering content like ethological theory of attachment (an evolved survival technique involving the emotional tie an infant has to its caregiver), Piaget's conservation theory (not until middle childhood does one understand that two different-shaped glasses may hold the same amount of liquid), Erickson's theory of Intimacy vs. Isolation (conflict in early adulthood reflecting thoughts about committing permanently to an intimate partner), fluid intelligence (basically a combination of detecting relationships between visual stimuli and speed of analyzing information), "presbycusis" (old ears) and "presbyopia" (old eyes), and finally,  The Right to Die?

Since it was my very first time teaching at the college level, I just went with my instinct.  I did it by reading the chapters religiously, every week, and then, supplementing the Power Points with things like this:


...and also this:

...other great finds include:

...and finally, for the exams!

Basically, I found even more information.  But the information I found was meant for supplemental entertainment.

I always find it hard to sum up months' worth of time, energy and experience.  But I'll just say this:

Teaching a class for the first time will always be "the most difficult thing I'll have ever done"; nobody likes a know-it-all who isn't open to being open; Pen Pals, poetry and pot lucks are all still a thing, and students and teachers aren't that different.

In conclusion, being a teacher is like being a student- you get all the breaks, but you also get paid. ;)  I think I may have found my "day job."

P.S. I may have found my "night job" too.  If you need your house to look like a cartoon, I'm your gal.

Boyd House- Norman, Oklahoma
Next up? Mexicooooooo!!!!!!!!!!! 
(Stay tuned for a pivotal post card project!)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Wise Old Man Once Said...

Once upon a time, there was a wise old man.  One day, our paths crossed and he told me his story.  He talked about meditation, mental floss and the spiritual and physical aspects of yoga.  These are some things that takes a lifetime to comprehend.  We discussed relinquishing the past and forgetting about the future.  How can one forget about something that has yet to happen??  Instead, focusing on the present tasks at hand is the very purpose of this life.  We are the change.  We are the here.  We are the now.  "It is nice to feel something different."

The next day, the wise old man morphed into another familiar father figure.  This time, he spoke about devastation and atrocity, but most notably community.  If there was a Great Spirit, they had finally met.  Each shared a piece of mind, and in return, they had made their peace.  He had emerged from a natural disaster and was welcomed home in open arms.  "It is nice to feel something normal."

It had only been twenty-four hours since the transformation.  Yet it had been decades of process.

Experiences and perspectives lend to individualistic approaches to life.  However, sharing those experiences with fellow individuals help create a more cohesive and community driven existence.  We do not have to do this alone.  We can be in this together.

We can help each other feel normal, while achieving something different.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Morsel of Food for Thought

Have you ever stopped to think about how fortunate you are?  Just take a moment.  Chances are, if you are reading this, you are ahead of the game.  You are, after all, reading English...on the Internet.  You probably have electricity.  Perhaps you are taking a break at work.  (Congratulations!  You have a job!)  Or maybe you're reading this while drinking fair trade coffee or herbal tea, or an adult beverage, in the comfort of your own home, while children are sleeping (or crawling all over you). 

If you're lucky, you finally have a second to catch your breath and answer emails, make phone calls, research your interests and passions, or watch a video.  Whatever you find yourself engaged with right this moment, take a minute and pause.

Seriously.  Just stop.  Look outside the window.  What do you see?  Close your eyes. Now connect with your senses. Let go of the weight on your shoulders and take a deep breath.  You deserve it.  What the heck, take two.  What do you smell?  What do you hear?

Feel better?  You should!  We live in a world where demands are high and stress collects as quickly as the dust upon the tables at which we set our cutlery day after day.

It is easy at times to feel like we're moving at the pace of a sprinter from Jamaica.  However, even Jamaican sprinters sit down for meals...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Stress Address

I woke up one morning and couldn't find my stress.
It was Tuesday.  It had just rained.
It felt like a Tuesday morning in Africa.  Surely I hadn't left my stress there.  It had been almost five years.
Surely it was bunched up in a ball under my covers, at the foot of my bed, in the time-centered country of the U.S.A.
But I make my bed every day.
And the stress wasn't there.
Maybe I had stuck it between the pages of the dense and didactic text book I diligently and fervently read, for fear of fallacy and failure of 47 minds.  

Until I found my place marked with a better understanding of what my responsibilities were not, and noticed the stress wasn't there.
I opened my fridge.  I can recall times when I used to lose it there.  I closed the door and continued my search.
As I got ready to leave for work, I noticed the weight of my bag was light.
Uh oh.  Had I really forgotten my stress at work?
Had I really left it at school?
I suppose I'll find out, after my ten minute, stress-less bike commute.
And if it's not there, I won't even care...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Complications of Communication

Once upon a time, I was surrounded by changes, until all of the changes made changes feel like no change at all.

It's as if we're speaking a language of similes like smiles turning upside down.  And if we do the 'hokie pokie' and 'turn it upside down' 180 degrees again, that's actually what it's all about.  Smiles.  Miles and miles and miles of smiles, stamped on faces and stamped on tiles upon which we stomp, for miles and miles.

And then, one day, we awake from our revere and recognize, full of  surprise, that we are still healthy and alive.  With friends and family right by our sides.  We are lucky, if not for the first time.  The sun shines.  The birds fly.  Flowers bloom and then they die.  Colors fade.  Nothing remains the same forever, except the word forever.  And ever.  And ever.  And never.  But not ever never.  It must be 'never ever'.  Forever.

If we make believe you are King and I am Queen, then that would change everything.  You see, I forgot what it was like to remember what it was like to fall from the skies and into your arms and out of the blue, fall deeply and madly in love with you.

But then the winds began to blow and the rains began to fall and then the weather changed once again and I remembered the dream where I was not in love with you at all.  At all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Change at a Snail's Pace

Each day is remarkably different than the next, no matter how much our perception is skewed and we are deceived in the thought that the same song is sung, day after day.  Perhaps there is a new verse with the addition of yet another chorus stanza?  Routine is one thing, but time is all the music in the whole, wide, world.

Over the years, it is easier to take note of the drastic changes of our ever evolving existence.  Think about the generations who came before us.  Think about the exponential increase of advances that they have experienced in the mere eighty years which they have lived.  From communicating via hand-written letters, to rooms full of telephone operators and a room full of a single computer, with advances in the audio and television networked-world, ground and air transportation to space travel and infinite information literally fits in the palm of our hands. 

Where, then, exactly, does that hand-written one fit in?  Surely by evolutionary standards, our palms are large enough to hold them, too.

So why, then, are we single handedly sabotaging the service that pioneered interpersonal communication?  Generations upon generations put pen to paper to keep in touch.  In this 21st century, letter writing has become a dying art form.  Advances in information technology have done wonders for our society, which is why a movement to increase the circulation of sending letters and letter-writing, could be so successful.  Perhaps it is a matter of sentimental and emotional connection, which suggests the need and desire to communicate this way.  Whatever it is, and whatever your thoughts, write them down and mail them in.  

Snail mail CAN prevail


The other day, I was handed an asinine editorial article about the failing United States Postal Service.  My opinion aside, the author of the article just failed to present a solid argument.  However, as saving the USPS is one of my life pursuits, I couldn't help but write a response:

Mr. Black could be applauded for his attempt of appropriate use of "massive anachronism."  Unfortunately, his applause ends there.  Anyone who has traveled to a lesser developed country has likely experienced a failing mail delivery system.  The United States Postal Service was initially created for a transference of information and like most advances, has evolved to an extremely efficient service.  The USPS has one of the best hand delivered mail and parcel services in the entire world.

Let's take a look at economics and practicality.  Mr. Black states, " the humble penny, [it] is a leftover waste of a bygone era."  His complaints seem to stem from an economic standpoint of contributing to national debt as well as "a horrible business model."  [Save talk of military operations and national debt for another post.]

As a human being in the 21st century, it is important to take advantage of ecologically friendly and  cost minimizing services such as paying bills online, thus reducing paper trails.  Mr. Black, however, has seem to forgotten (or worse, never known), the primary purpose of the US Postal Service: personal correspondence.  It is extremely disheartening and unfortunate to recognize that those of Mr. Black's generation are missing out on such a unique and interpersonal experience, as writing and receiving hand-written parcels.

With today's capabilities and desire for instantaneous communication, interpersonal communication like that of the dying art of the hand-written note, has taken a back seat to instant gratification, even though a long road of patience still lies ahead.

The hand-written letter, unlike computerized communication such as emails and texts and automated operators (think about how it feels to navigate through a computerized tele-operator), evokes emotions and stimulates brain activity which might possibly be boxed up and stored away in an attic, encased in cobwebs, unless otherwise occupied.  Think of the shame future generations would discover, upon uncovering segments of the brain once used for writing. 

Sending and receiving letters through the USPS is not only about thoughtful communication, as it takes time and energy to sit down and correspond with pen and paper and postage, but also encourages the use of artistic expression.   Think about the variety of stamps world-wide, not to mention the choice of stationary and the endless opportunities of creating one's own.  In addition, mailing letters links and unifies cultures in the inaccessible and most remote parts of the wold.  It is still possible that the Internet has still yet to reach these deep crevasses.

The fact of the matter is that the USPS provides jobs for over 8 million people and pulls in nearly $1 trillion annually, to the economy, according to this recent New York Times article.  And although the numbers of annual economic loss do not lie, it is unfortunate that citizens would choose alternative delivery systems to transport their packages, than utilize an over 200 year old reliable method that could clearly use their assistance.  Humans will never stop shipping and receiving items and if a heightened awareness and increased recognition were paid, perhaps so would some of its debt.

Of course, there is always the option of trading one "anachronism" for another, Mr. Black.  According to an article in Time (February 4th, 2013), eliminating the copper penny from US circulation would save the economy $730 million annually, and likely wouldn't compromise the employment of as many citizens.

Broadcasting major, Mr. Black, the invitation is officially extended to join the Norman Pen Pal Club, to experience the tangible and emotion-evoking written letter, help resurrect the ailing Postal Service and trade 46 pennies for a tiny piece of art, creating a colossal stamp on his generation.

Norman Pen Pal Club
1124 W. Comanche Street
Norman, OK  73069
Save vanishing Snail Mail!