A Knock on the Door

Belatedly posting “old” “news” … 

February 11, 2021

On a frigid dark evening in February, there’s a knock on the door I use during winter. “Come in,” I shout out. But the knocking continues as my little dog Pinto keeps barking. Then I remember. I need to unlock the door. It’s my daughter bearing a gift – a key to the house she’s just bought so we can live together as a family in what we all hope will be a safer and friendlier neighborhood.

An old saying comes to mind afterwards, “opportunity only knocks once.” Still, I wonder if moving is the wisest decision even though there are many things I can no longer do by myself, like heavy lifting.

Sunrise – February 5, 2021

I’ve lived in my little old house for almost 10 years – since October 17, 2011. It’s been a haven of sorts that I retired to, finally alone, after a long and difficult journey. Being here has given me a chance to begin the process of life reflection during a stage of life Erik Erikson characterized as “integrity vs, despair.”

I am grateful for the many opportunities life has brought my way. Sometimes I did open the door when they knocked, and sometimes not. In retrospect, I am grateful overall for the choices I made. Often, the choices to open a door brought daunting challenges, but those were the ones that presented the most interesting chances to grow and to learn.

February 22, 2021

A small part of what I learned has been posted on this blog which celebrated its 7th anniversary on February 11, 2021. I actually began blogging with a partner in 2013, but that partnership ended when I wrote a draft article she wouldn’t approve for “our” blog. After the third rewrite of the draft, “In Honor of Caregivers,” I decided to create a space a lot like my little house, where I could decide how to create and cultivate my own gardens both in reality and metaphorically.

It’s interesting to look back at my old blog posts and see how much I have both changed and become more of myself in the process. It’s also fascinating to see which posts have been viewed most over the years.

Every year, the post that has continued to be viewed most often (now more than 2,600 times) is one I wrote in March of 2015, “When You Think of Health What Comes to Mind?

Carol A. Hand – Community-University Partnership – 2007

This morning as I greeted a bright but frigid morning, I found myself thinking of one of my many culture-bridging experiences. I was wondering why it is so difficult for us to listen to each other and find our common ground.

Maybe it was one specific job interview years ago that made this so apparent to me. In my younger years, I would often get calls begging me to take on a new project – Indian education, child welfare, or addiction prevention to name a few. I remember reluctantly agreeing to consider working on a federally-funded project to prevent chemical dependency in selected tribes. There was only one other Native American person on the research team, and he wanted to interview me to make sure I was “Indian enough.” He asked me about the research I was planning to conduct on Indian child welfare. When I explained that I was interested in learning how Ojibwe people defined effective and ineffective parenting and the systems and interventions they would recommend to address situations they saw as ineffective, my interviewer became impatient and agitated. …

The second most viewed post (more than 1,800 times) is “Context Matters When Teaching Diversity.”

Photo Credit: Diversity Tree

One of my dear blogging friends, Nicki Attfield [who deleted her blog a while ago], asked a thought-provoking question in a recent post – “Can men be feminist?” Her discussion reminded me of a similar question I was asked years ago, and my experiences teaching courses in diversity at two very different universities.

More than two decades ago, I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at a university conference for social work students, practitioners, and educators. The question I was asked to address forced me to think critically about my past experiences and observations. “Can non-Native practitioners be effective with Native American clients?” At that point in my thinking, it was tempting to take the easy route and simply list the reasons why the answer was “No.” But the need to be honest and respectful made me go deeper. Ultimately the answer was really quite simple. Ethnicity and overcoming adversity in one’s life doesn’t necessarily make one more empathetic or a skilled deep listener. What matters most is someone with a kind heart who is willing to do the work to understand the world through another’s eyes. To listen deeply, to see not only the struggles but also the strengths, and to help clients see their strengths, connect to supportive resources, and develop necessary confidence and skills to be able to discover their own answers. To help clients discover they have worth and their own answer to the question – What is the best you can imagine for yourself in the future? …

The third post in line at more than 1,700 views is “The Fool’s Prayer” posted January 3, 2014 (and reblogged on January 13, 2020).

Jester Logo by Lesley-Lycanthropy, on Deviant ART

… Presentation day was one of nervous anticipation for me. I was excited to share what I thought was an important message with my classmates. But my anxiety grew as I sat through the recitation of nursery rhymes and “Twinkle-twinkle little star.” “Oops,” I thought, “Maybe I made a mistake, but it’s too late now.” When my turn came, I walked to the front of the class and began. I don’t remember how my peers reacted as I recited the poem, probably with exaggerated drama, nor could I see my teacher’s expression. She was seated at her desk behind me. All I remember is from that day forward, my teacher treated me as if I were a leper. The first time I talked to a classmate seated next to me after my performance, the teacher singled me out in front of the class. “You may not need to listen to what I’m talking about, but the rest of the class does. From now on when we are discussing reading, your job is to stand by the side blackboard and draw.” …

The fourth most viewed (at more than 1,500) is “Circle the Wagons – The Natives Are Restless.”

 

Frontier Wagon Circle

Years ago, I went to a national conference on Indian Child Welfare issues. It is typical for me to feel lost in large urban areas and packed hotels. I easily lose my sense of direction in cities and winding hallways. As I was hurrying to make it on time for a workshop I wanted to attend, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a workshop on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE). This wasn’t the one I planned to attend. Because the speaker was just beginning, I didn’t want to appear rude by leaving, so I took a seat in the audience of 50 plus mostly Native American women. As the Euro-American speaker began, she let the audience know that her expertise in this area began when she adopted a child who was born with FAS. At first, she felt overwhelmed, until she remembered her grandmother’s saying, “When times are tough, put your wagons in a circle.” The audience let out a collective gasp, yet the speaker seemed completely unaware of the meaning of the audience’s response. She went on to describe her challenges. Accustomed to ignorance and insensitivity, nonetheless respectful and polite, the audience remained seated and silent during the workshop. They exited quickly at the end, without a word to the presenter. What would be the point of making someone feel bad? …

The one post that had the most views (almost 7,000), though, was written at a crucial moment in time by a friend and guest author, Miriam Schacht (RoteZora), “Open Letter to White People at Standing Rock.” I am sorry to say I lost touch with Miriam shortly after the former U.S. President took office and extinguished hope for a reasonable resolution of the controversy over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Hope has recently been revived according the EARTHJUSTICE, although there is still a lot of uncertainty about the final outcome of this situation and additional challenges as other tribes join the fight against proposed pipelines that would carry the same tar sands oil threatening communities that depend on rivers, lakes, wetlands, and the Great Lakes for safe drinking water along the way.

Open Letter to White People at Standing Rock by Miriam Schacht

I wrote this note while staying at the Two Spirit Nation camp within the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock about a week ago. I originally drove out there to help someone else out, but without the intention of staying, because I take seriously the critiques that suggest that white activists have been taking over the protests. However, I stayed much longer than I intended because it turned out that there was important work to do as a white accomplice–work that addressed precisely the issue of white activists at these camps and these actions. Part of the necessary work of white accomplices is to lessen the burden on people of color. At camp that meant I was asked by Two Spirit folks to give white visitors “allyship 101” or “Two Spirit 101” lectures; this letter is my attempt to keep that work up, and keep taking on some of the burden, even when I’m not at the camp anymore. As requested, I’ve sent hard copies to the folks at camp (there’s barely any internet access there), but I’m also re-posting it here.

Read this, please, with an open heart. If you start feeling defensive, take a moment to reflect on why that is before returning to reading. …

***

Like the decisions I made about blogging, first to give it a try despite the snobbish disparaging view of blogging in academia, and second to create my own blog when my attempt at partnership didn’t work, I have made a choice to leave the little house where I have lived since I arrived in Duluth, Minnesota, and willingly face a new adventure. After almost a year of COVID, I realize life is too short to live in isolation relying almost exclusively on virtual interactions. I don’t want to miss any more chances to be present in the lives of those I love.

No doubt I will miss my gardens more than some of my neighbors, although others were a gift – Chris, Maddy, Dawn, Shirley, Patty, Judy, Bill, Phil, and Linda and her little dog, Cheeto. They shared their stories and their love of beauty, learning, gardens, dogs, humor, and life. I need to be patient, though. I can’t move until the semester ends in mid-May. There are more lectures to plan, papers to grade, and students to support, so much I need to sort through, give away, or pack, and too much I need to do to get the house and yard ready.

I am so grateful for the years in this little house and for the original blog partner who inspired me to continue blogging on my own. Both opportunities opened up a time and place for deep soul-searching and healing. And I am deeply grateful for the blogging friends who have been part of the journey over the years. Thank you all.

18 thoughts on “A Knock on the Door

Add yours

  1. So love the Erickson reference and found this post reflective and interesting, integrity in action. I hope you like your new house and suspect you will bloom wherever you are planted. The blogging community reminds daily of Hochschild’s, ‘Unexpected Community.” I read it as a young person, and am experiencing it personally now, as an old person. Best to you Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing such thoughtful, lovely comments, Cindy. I am intrigued by the book you mentioned and will have to check it out. It seems you took Hochschild’s message to heart. You have continued to inspire and create a sense of community in the blogosphere with your exquisite photos and kindness to others. Sending my best wishes to you. 💜

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  2. Thank you Carol, for sharing your writing and insights with us. And what a wonderful new start for you (and for your daughter). Wishing you and all your dear ones continued health, happiness and a home full of love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Carol, I think of you often…I want to thank you for all of your inspiring thoughts and comments. Even during times of sorrow. I will never forget you reaching out to me to provide comfort during my daughters passing. I know I still “owe you one!” Currently, I’m at a fork in the road, so I visit your blog, which I just recently discovered, to find inspiration during these painful times.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for all of your insights over the years, Carol, and for helping me to also look deeper into my own choices while appreciating my accomplishments. I wish you the best on this newest adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol, I am so glad you have a new start! By the way, I always allowed students to cite blogs as long as the author was credible. I believe there is much excellent writing here in the blogosphere and there are fewer opportunities for power structures to censure authors. Anyway, I have always found your blog to be a sane place in a crazy world, and look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol, I hope by now you and Pinto have settled in with your daughter and family life is a happy – not just semi-necessary – choice. It’s sort of inspiring: after this year of isolation and families kept apart, you are more connected than before.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol, you have been blessed with this opportunity to share a home with those you love and who have your best interests at heart. Leaving your home of so many years and the friends you have made will not be easy. I look forward to receiving news of your new home when the time is right. You remain always close to my heart, dear friend ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carol: Congrats on your blog anniversary. This year I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary as a blogger! Though like most Canadians I’m not much for pulling out the fanfare (we’ve been trained to be self-effacing as part of our British roots).
    When I began my career as a journalist more than 30 years ago, I determined to remain a freelancer so that I’d have freedom to pursue the stories I felt mattered most. As mainstream media has become concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, and those the hands of the power elites, I think that decision in retrospect was a good one. I’ve always sought to maintain a high standard both in journalistic and literary terms on my blog so as to maintain credibility.
    I would like to learn more about Ericsson’s work. Can you supply a web reference beyond the short quote you linked in this post? Thanks and all the best to you in your new home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. All the best Carol as you shed the outer shell of your old home and into the warm embrace of family. Thanks for the additional readings. Such great perspectives on perplexing topics! Your writing inspires so much further investigation I feel like each post is an invitation down the rabbit hole. Wonderful stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hello, Carol, I hope you are well. What a fantastic surprise, I’m really happy for you all. I bet that even little Pinto is over the Moon.
    Moving house is never easy, the dust of time is disturbed, exposing long-forgotten memories that will pull you from pillar to post. Go for it, grab the Bull by the horns.
    I wish you well.

    Mick.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Carol, I was reading your blog again and its interesting to read about the changes in your life. I wonder how you are? I have a new baby now and can completely relate to you wanting to be with those you love. Sending lots of warmth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Nicci, It is such a gift to hear from you and to learn that you have anew baby and are doing well. Sending gratitude for your years of friendship and inspiration along and my best wishes. 💜

      Like

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