Monday, August 30, 2010

Something to Love: David Byrne and Brian Eno

I made a new discovery this weekend (with the help of A, a partner-in-crime): David Byrne and Brian Eno's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. It's a beautiful album. Byrne describes it as "folk-electronic-gospel" music. Eno writes of gospel music: "As a foreigner in New York . . . I was surprised by how little attention Americans gave to their own great indigenous music. It was even slightly uncool, as though the endorsement of gospel necessarily implied support of its associated religious framework. . . . I began to see gospel music as conveying the act of surrender more than the act of worship . . ."

"Out of the Darkness": Suicide Prevention

About eight years ago, one of my best friends lost her father to suicide. This is one of the most tragic events I've seen in my life. My friend has written about her experiences, and she has always been open about her experiences--her sadness and her hope (and everything in between). In short, I think my friend is really strong.

She brings to my attention the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their Out of the Darkness community walks. My friend, Melissa, will be walking on September 16, in Omaha. She is trying to raise $250, and, so far, she has met over half of her goal! You can click here to donate, safely and securely, online.

To find a local walk, you can click here.

For those of us in Tulsa, the local walk is October 16; I'm thinking it would be a good idea to join in!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Even More About My New Job

As the 7th graders did yet another routine of getting out of the classroom and entering back in quietly and with respect, I spoke to them in the hallway. I told them to consider the doorway as a type of transitional space whereby they can focus on their scholarly attitude.

Then one kid said, "[So-and-so] said he would fart on me if I wasn't quiet.
So-and-So replies: "I did."

I tried holding back a laugh (just like I did when another student was talking about how preying mantis females cannibalize their mates, which made the entire class laugh), and So-and-So says, "You're trying too hard not to laugh."

It was true. I can't help but think these kids are so funny . . . mainly because I've, on more than one occasion, threatened to fart for the greater good. And how can one not like creative forms of peer influence?

More About My New Job

I have been wanting to write about what it's like (for me) teaching at the Islamic school. I have felt immersed in a new culture, and I'm starting to get my sea legs, so to speak, floating around in this new environment.

There is a dress code at school, both for students and teachers. Teachers wear long pants or skirts (without slits) and loose-fitting, long-sleeved tops. In total, clothing should cover necklines, wrists, and ankles. Non-Muslim women do not have to wear a hijab, the scarf that covers women's hair.

I don't think I need to rehash any debate regarding the efficacy or morality of dress codes for women--those debates are complicated and differ from culture to culture. From my experience (and this has been true since before I started working at this school), I believe some women who cover do so beautifully. There are a range of styles women develop, and since I'm someone enamored with fabrics, I really love seeing the different colors and textures my coworkers incorporate into their wardrobe.

It makes me want to wear a hijab and to make tunics and pants. (Instead I usually wear dress pants and a sweater over a shirt.) Clothing is really interesting; in my experience it's always been thought of as a way to express your individuality. In high school my (English!) teacher asked how we were so different and unique when we were all wearing jeans and a t-shirt. We were stumped.

Sometimes as I venture out in the world in my long sleeves in this Oklahoma summer, I feel self-conscious. And sometimes I feel self-righteous because I feel different. Sometimes when I walk into school with my Western clothes, I feel self-conscious. And sometimes I feel dumb, unfashionable, and like I'm trying too hard. It's all so interesting to me. I don't really know what my style is (other than it is Broke Girl Fashioning) . . . and I want my own style and I want it to fit anywhere.

And that just may be my central issue--I want to be myself and I want to fit anywhere.

In the classroom, boys sit on one side of the room and girls sit on the other side. Splitting the class into groups has meant for me, so far, keeping the gender segregation. During breakfast duty one morning, a group of fifth graders were all sitting at the same table. I didn't know what to do, so I went over and asked them if next time they could sit with the girls on one side of the cafeteria, and the boys on the other. I felt heartbroken because they were just talking to each other. I don't think I could expect them to have the same response that I would have when I was kid growing up in my predominately white, Western, Christian culture . . . but I still wondered what message I was sending by enforcing the gender segregation.

Also in the classroom, prayers are said at the beginning and end of class. They are recited in Arabic, and I don't know what the students are saying. Additionally, it is also difficult to read their tone, even though they usually sound uninspired and bored. I like to use those seconds to pay attention to my own beliefs and to center myself--I really like that aspect of the school. There is a word in Arabic, taqwa, that means "God consciousness." I really like this term; I like the sense that there is something about the human experience that sends us thinking about God. And even though I don't subscribe to one organized religion--and the concept of organized religion makes me feel both uneasy and curious--I like being in a place where thinking about spirituality is encouraged.

It's not so easy to be a part of all of these things I'm not sure about. I mean, sometimes it is, but this is probably one of the first times that I've experienced a form of culture shock. And I'm not just an observer, but a participant, which is providing me some new challenges and a whole lot of personal growth! In just this past month, I feel like a new person--it feels, overall, refreshing!

(Thanks for listening to all of this!)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Post Wherein I Review My Recent Library Items

Yes Man, with Jim Carrey and that cute actress who only plays the role of the cute girlfriend: Liked it. I liked the concept, and thought it was a good story.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Didn't really like. Cate Blanchett, whom I normally love, was on my nerves during the movie. And I didn't like the storytelling. But I did love the end where he says that nothing about ourselves is set in stone, and that it's ok to reinvent yourself whenever you want.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee: By Sarah Silverman. This book is hilarious. She's a comedic genius, and this book is so funny.

Lost in Space: By Aimee Mann. Like a lot, but do not love love love. "Invisible Ink" is one of my favorite songs, but I realized I was singing one word incorrectly. And, as usual, I like my version better, so it kind of diminishes the song for me. Bummer.

The Wind: By Warren Zevon. Love. Love love love love love. (I'm a total late-comer to Zevon's music, but I don't hold that against myself.) I love the simplicity--the songs just feel clean and are loaded with emotion. There's even saxophone on one track, and it doesn't make me want to gag (as saxophone is wont to do)--I actually like it.

Blue Record: By Baroness. This came to me by suggestion, and it was a damn fine suggestion. I'm not one to pop in some metal-ly vocals just for fun, so that kind of hinders my love of the album. Yet they are a totally good band--I love the guitar. Love!

Perhaps if I finish something else in my life, I will post more reviews!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Teachin' Ain't Nothin' Wine and Girlfriends Can't Fix

I think I needed yesterday in order to realize how off-base I've been. There's something larger going on here about identity--who I think I am and who I want to be--that is causing me a lot of suffering. And there's no need to continue that. Luckily wine and time with dear Beamy helped erase my own misery.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Overwhelm!

I have had two major sleeping days this week--like 12-hour sleeping days! I've been in way over my head lately, and I've gone to my usual go-to thought patterns for relief: a) why did I ever stop doing what I was doing? [grad school wasn't that bad; I was almost done; maybe I just needed a break . . .] and b) why don't I do anything besides what I am doing? [hairstyling; law school; running away . . .]

Luckily for me, I work at a great school. The principal had some free time this morning, and I was able to tell him that I had been very overwhelmed because I wasn't sure what to teach and I wasn't sure when to teach it. Additionally, some of the 7th graders talk a lot, and I realized in the shower this morning that they are not going to shut up just because it is the right thing to do.


In the 7th grade, we have a drill called "Up and Out" where, when they are too talkative, they get up out of their seats, go into the hall, and come back in the classroom quietly. Today we did "Up and Out" (for the bazillionth time) and they came back in and I reviewed positive classroom behavior. One kid asked (after raising his hand, bless him) why they have to be treated like they are in the army.

And then I couldn't help it; the next think I knew I was all, "Foucault . . . Discipline and Punish . . . research for extra credit." I just feel really stuck about my beliefs regarding school. And I know I'm the type of person whose beliefs need to be in place before I think I can really do anything. When that kid mentioned the comparison between school and the army, I couldn't help but think that line of inquiry should be nurtured! Yet I know Foucault is out of their range of access, at least to some degree. It's hard to operate (now that I think about it) from two bases: one of wanting to nurture learners (however they are, in whatever state they are in) and one of trying to put learners in a particular place. I know I'm sensitive, but school really is a violent proposition!

I just feel stuck, and I feel myself putting so much pressure on myself. The other night I was lying on the futon, and I could see how I was holding myself back from happiness. It was a strange feeling, like observer consciousness combined, still, with my own feelings. It was as if I was whispering about myself right in front of myself: "Look how sad she is, and she doesn't have to be."

I've been trying to remember that these past couple of days, and trying to remember my mindfulness and to stay in the moment and to ask for help and to trust in impermanence . . . and it hasn't been easy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mareah's: Afghans, by Mom

It will not be this hot forever, and soon you will need an afghan to keep you warm on chilly days. And why pick any afghan, when you can have an afghan made by my mom?! My mom's work is, put bluntly, among the best. Please, take a look for yourself!

All afghans are made from acrylic yarn and can be purchased by emailing me.

Peach Baby Blanket
Dimensions: 37" x 26.5"
Price: $110

Circular Baby Blanket
Dimensions: 44" Diameter
Price: $110

Stained Glass Afghan
Dimensions: 59" x 46"
Price: $330

Flowered Afghan
Dimensions: 57" x 54"
Price: $550

Blue Chevron Afghan
Dimensions: 79" x 54"
Price: $550

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stale Bread

I am having to rework some metaphors of myself. This past week has found me overwhelmed by work, relationships, and money. But, luckily, I was able to drink some of that away the other night at a party honoring one of Tulsa's best couples, M and K. M and K are leaving for Nova Scotia today . . . may the road bless them on their new adventure! I'm going to miss my friends.

At the party, K said that's it's true that things get better as soon as you are getting ready to leave. You can hate a place forever, and just as soon as you are ready to say goodbye, you realize how much you love it. I think that is so wise, and I have experienced the same type of thing in my life. Transitions are difficult!

Their leaving, combined with the events from the past two weeks, have helped me realize how temporary everything is and how important it is to not let others (other people, other situations) bring us down.

Sassy, a while back, gave me some cards based off Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements. I post one card by my stairs, and try to change it every few days. The other day the card said, "Say goodbye to sadness and drama." I walked past it and said, "How the hell am I supposed to do that?!" The back of the card gave some advice and said that sadness and drama is based off the cycle of power and control between humans. I had to realize that my sadness and drama related to my financial situation was, in turn, related to how easily I let the structure of capitalism determine my worth.

Yesterday I baked a chicken, and I made a little stuffing with onion, celery, spices, and bread crumbs from a stale hot dog bun and moldy wheat roll (sans the moldy bits). The stuffing was totally good and the chicken was great. I realized that the stale bread really made the stuffing. I was embarrassed to have such old bread in my fridge, but it really came in handy. I was thinking that if those pieces of bread had served their intended purpose, then the stuffing wouldn't have been as tasty. I was thinking that I am like that old bread; it looks like I am made for a particular purpose, but I bet that someday I'll be used for something different, something that can benefit from my time spent unused.

Or I won't be used at all, but will rather serve as a warning to others (this idea is stolen from a New Beau)! I remember thinking a few months back that it would be totally awesome if we heard of more failures in the world. So I am figuring that now is the time I open up about my failures and realize that I am a total dumbass! I am about eight hours away from losing cell phone service, my car needs some repairs, and my gum line has totally receded. Additionally, I've been using Google to try to figure out how many novels I should teach per year to sixth and seventh graders. Also, I have a yeast infection.

And since the heat wave seems to have cracked in Tulsa, all of these parts of myself seem so funny! I realize that I am tired of believing the worst about myself and I am tired of trying to buy into others' vision of who I am, even when they want me to see the good things about myself. I don't know what all of this writing has really been about--I just know that I have been overwhelmed lately, and I am ready to calm down!

"Hold onto the best idea / best idea of who you are." This is line is from one of my new favorite songs, "Fever Dream," by JT and The Clouds (via Sassy).

Friday, August 13, 2010

2-Minute Update

Oh, man, 6th and 7th graders are so cute! Yesterday was the first day of teaching, and I pretty much wanted to curl up in a ball of happiness as I left school. I had them invent their own language, and then we discussed what "language" and "art" are so that we could see if we knew what it meant to study language arts. One sixth grader said, "I think art is a process of creating"; I nearly exploded out of happiness! A student already seeing that art is process and not just a finished product?? That is so wise!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This Just In

Live from my news desk:

*I can't write.
*I have, like, a trillion and a half people who want to date me.
*Luckily, included in that group is one good person who wants to date me.
*Family and friends continue with Courtney Bailout 2010. I don't even know why.
*And how to even speak about gratitude and money? I don't even know.
*I feel like utter ass, just because the ratio of competency to age is so. damn. low.
*Gender segregation exists at my workplace; it's totally fascinating.
*I don't even know the difference between words with Greek roots or Latin roots.
*Ramadan starts tomorrow: to try to fast or not even try to fast?
*I have badassily gotten my previous landlord to face the fact that I need my goddamned security deposit back right now.
*Overall, I just feel off-balance and in over my head with everything. What's a girl to do?!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time for Gentleness!

New job, dating, money concerns . . . all of these things going on right now. I'm planning to be as girly as possible this evening and take some time by myself. I've noticed how fearful I can be and how quickly my emotions change. I am trying to notice them and not get caught up and to take care of myself at all costs. In my most fragile of places, it means that I am insisting on believing that I am a sweet person, a nice person. This is hard for me because it means that I have to let it be ok when my feelings get hurt over things that seem so little. But, one thing about being moody is that I then feel super-empowered shortly after that happens! Hooray emotions, I suppose!

POSTSCRIPT: Good thing it was time for gentleness because now I'm sitting in the library parking lot waiting to be bailed out of my empty gas tank situation! This is exactly what I mean lately--it's like things vacillate from wonderful to annoying over and over all in the span of one day! It's time like these where I wish I had a different set of problems; mine are leaving me feeling totally incompetent and idiotic!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Thank You

This post is connected to the previous post. I just didn't know how to write it then!

I just wanted to say that I think the universe and our lives are more positive, malleable, and wonderful than I ever thought them to be! I have had experience upon experience lately that just reinforces the notion that our lives are what we make them. And I know that I couldn't have made it this far without the help of everyone around me. Especially lately I have felt how much people care about me and how, basically, the whole world wants me to succeed. I have no idea how that success looks, but I feel guided towards it. I am so grateful for everyone's support, and I feel better prepared to help support others. I just feel stronger each day, even when I don't feel very strong. I wish I could express this better! I'm just trying to say that I've been trying hard to see the positive in situations and that I have seen it, and that I know it's there because of the work others do. And I feel happy to help contribute to that same type of energy. Life, you know!

And . . . Employed!

I haven't had the chance to tell everyone in person yet, but I am happy to announce that I finally have a job! Yes, someone has decided to hire me! I will be a 6th and 7th grade language arts teacher at a private K-12 school for Islamic students. I am so excited!

I really look forward to working in the school. Today was our first day of orientation, and it was a lot of fun. Overwhelming, too, but fun. I mean, I have no idea what to even teach (and class starts next week), but it's not like I knew what to teach college freshman the week before I started that, either. I really enjoy the learning environment the staff has created. And I am also loving learning more about Islam. It just feels refreshing to be part of something that is both new and familiar to me!

I just feel so many possibilities opening up--it feels so liberating!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Algae Smell

So these past couple of days have felt really happy (even while, I just realized, I'm ovulating. And ovulation equals depression, folks!)! Yesterday I worked on a teaching presentation, hung out at the lake with my lovely friend and her cute cute cute dog. (Man, I really need a dog!) I went to writing group, which is so inspirational--I can't even begin to say. My dear friend had me over for dinner, and then I did some clothes shopping for my interview today.

I really think my new heels helped in the self-esteem area because today I had a great time during my interview and teaching presentation. Then my darling friend from church came over for tea, and here I am, now, ready to go see sweet Beamy's new place . . . the one she is sharing with a real, live boy! (Of all creatures--a boy!)

Why do I share my schedule? Oh, just to brag about how wonderful life is . . .

Actually in the midst of all this, I am realizing how important it is to remember that the whole world wants me, and everyone else, to succeed. There's something about my self-esteem that is now budding and I'm realizing that in all these connections that I have with people and animals and the world, that everyone is on my side. It's like I have this sense that others see how great I am, but I haven't been seeing it for myself. And now that I see it, there's no time to waste!

Which sounds totally hokey, but it's just true. I have seen this in others--when you can tell that his/her biggest problem is him/herself. I see this better in myself, now.

So earlier today I was dancing in my living room, even while the shades were open. And I've been trying to say thank you as much as possible. And I've been trying to clear my head of myself and to be peaceful in order to see what is truly going on around me.

When I smelled like the lake last night, all algae and green, I felt comforted and reminded of my grandparents' lake, one of my favorite places (thank you, dear lake and grandparents and parents!). I love that what we love will come back to us.