Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Break

Currently, I teach. I don't want to do it forever, but one perk is the time off. My spring break started today. I finished grading most of the work; I finished my formative assessments; I made a professional development presentation. I'm on spring break.

I am tired. I don't want to do anything but sit in the sun, sip a fruity drink, and read. I'm tired. I want to turn off my computer. I don't want to hear from or about students. I want to read The 12 Tribes of Hattie. I want to swim in the ocean with my kid. I'm hoping to see a manatee and its calf. {My father-in-law and mother-in-law have seen this grouping for the last few weeks.}

I am excited for my break, and I will see you all in a week.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Running 3

I haven't been out running for two weeks. My new tattoo kept me in for a few days, and then I wasn't feeling great, but tonight I finally went out. The night is lovely, ya'll. Really, really lovely.

I like to run while listening to music, but for the first half of my run/walk, I listened to the sounds of crickets and the wind through the trees. The world has stressed me out recently. You probably know the list--gun violence, the Steubenville rape trial, the 17 million children who are hungry in the United States right now, the sequester. I could go on, but I'm not going to. My point is that running is a good distraction. It reminds me of the good things that exist in the world--mostly non-human things. Like this tree, which is beautiful and my favorite color:

Sometimes it is good to get out. It's good to exert yourself. It's good to turn off the computer, switch off the news. Not so that you can ignore the bad or sad or awful parts of the world, but so that you can come back to these problems with a clear head, a strong body, and the energy to keep fighting against the wrongs in the world. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reading the internet will make you mad...

And the worst part is that so often it is an impotent anger. So we go to Facebook or other social media. And we yell about it in short sentence fragments and paragraphs in which the easiest thing to do is yell our talking points into the ether. I nearly fell into that trap today.

You see, an article I read made me cry. This article--Six-Month-Old Baby Dies from Gunshot Wounds in Chicago. It's about a six-month-old baby who was shot six times. She died today. Her name was Jonylah Watkins. We share a surname, which isn't really surprising. It's a fairly common surname, but my last name matters a great deal to me. When I think about myself, it is what I identify with more than even my first name. And this little baby had that in common with me. And pretty much nothing else. Because she died at six months. I'll be 27 at the end of this month. I've never even broken a bone; she was shot SIX times. She was shot as many times as the months she lived. This is unspeakably horrible, yet we need to speak of it. We need to discuss it. We need to realize that her death is almost as common as the surname I share with her. Thirty-one days after the Newtown shooting, 919 people had died in gun related deaths.

I understand the importance of our Bill of Rights in the United States. I understand that this is a complicated issue. I understand it is unlikely we will discover a simple solution to this problem. But I am angry about the lack of real discussions and solutions. I am angry. I am angry. I am angry. I don't have all of the solutions. These problems are more complex than gun control. Poverty, lack of upward mobility, easy access to guns, these and more contribute to the problems of violence. But simply because the question is complicated doesn't mean we stop looking for answers--that we avoid discussing one of the areas that is definitely contributing to this issue: the access to guns, guns, and more guns.

So instead of yelling the common talking points, let's think about the women, men, and children who are dying every day in this country. Let's try to discuss and find solutions, real solutions that will help our community and country and world be safer and more secure.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Adventuring and Art

Last weekend I went on an adventure. One of my favorite tattoo artists, Mark Hartenberger, was tattooing at the InkLife Tattoo tour and convention in Fort Myers. My sister, brother-in-law, and man-friend (have you noticed the awkward way I avoid saying husband? I don't know why, but I have never really liked that term) drove the interminable distance so that my sister and I could get work done. The drive was made longer by the fact that we were dropping the littlest members of our family off to stay with grandparents because the only thing worse than going to a tattoo convention would be dragging children to a tattoo convention.

We arrived in Fort Myers late in the afternoon on Saturday night, which left enough adventure time for roaming to the beach, acquiring snacks and cards for at the hotel, and eating dinner. I know this sounds like a fairly laid back adventure, and it was, but with my companions laid back adventure is kind of where it's at. These are the best adventuring companions around. It's mostly because they are all hilarious and really smart. I don't want to brag, but I've got some of the best friends around.

We went to the beach where we froze our asses off in the wind. I thought the ospreys were going to drown themselves due to the wind strength, and a sailboat gave up on its sunset cruise.
The wind off the Gulf was cold. I thought I was going to lose toes.
The wind blew the ospreys off course.
For some reason, we decided that walking in the water was warmer.
This could be their album cover.
Lovely sunset.
On Sunday we woke up, ate bagels, wandered in a park for a while, and then the boys left to while away the time. The lovely sis and I waited around for the convention to start. Conventions in general are funny things, but tattoo conventions draw such an interesting assortment of people. It's not the ideal environment for me to get a tattoo, but after waiting nearly five years for Mark to come back to Florida, I wasn't going to miss him. The sister started things off, and damn, she's tough. She spent about five hours in the chair.

This is the outline for the new work.

And this is the new addition. It's not finished yet, but it's pretty incredible. 

My tattoo took somewhere between three and four hours. I added a kestrel to the inner part of my upper arm--on the outer portion, Mark had already done a peacock for me. This won't shock anyone who has had an inner-arm tattoo, but they hurt worse than the outer arm, and due to the limited space in the booth, I had to hold my arm at an odd angle for the duration of the tattoo. But I love my new piece, so all-in-all it was worth it.
This is my finished kestrel.
I can't wait for my arm to heal completely. I love my new piece. And with every new tattoo, I love tattoos more. I carry my art with me. I carry it on my arm, and neck, and back, and leg. I know tattoos aren't for everyone. I know there are jobs where having my arm covered in birds might not be ideal. I know my skin won't always have the elasticity it does now. But goddamn, I love art.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Readers of the World: Unite!

Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and other books, read and answered questions last Thursday for the final Winter with the Writers (WWW) program at Rollins College. Not only is WWW a wonderful program at my alma mater, but Azar Nafisi is an inspiration.

I first read Reading Lolita a year after its publication, which happened to be my senior year in high school. It came as a much needed assurance that my focus on words and stories had a place in this world--a place that did indeed matter. It added to my belief that the action after 9/11 were muddying already murky waters between the USA and its perceptions and actions of and in the Middle East. Nafisi's insistence that stories illustrate and illuminate our reality resonated; her points about the importance of acknowledging the differences between our dreams and reality helped me articulate my growing unease and dissatisfaction in my personal faith. This book affected me greatly. It challenged and comforted me. It moved and shook me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I am teaching Reading Lolita in Tehran to my AP English Language and Composition students. It's odd to return to a book that has meant so much to me and teach it. My students mostly seem to be enjoying the book. They struggle with the novels assigned in conjunction with the book--Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, Pride and Prejudice. But Reading Lolita they love. Nafisi's voice speaks to them. Not like it spoke to me, these are children who have no memory of 9/11. Most of them are not as passionate about language and stories as I am, but it does speak to them. Nafisi has captured a facet of humanity in her book, and my students recognize and respond to it.

At her reading, Nafisi spoke with conviction, articulation, and insight. She discussed the importance of stories. The importance of telling our own stories and participating in our own realities. Reality is written by those who show up; by those who are creating, fighting, story-telling. Her spoken words brought tears to my eyes like her written words had done a decade ago.