Extend Your Brand – Seriously? – Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I remember as a teenager, I continually felt anguish because I was “different.” I desperately wished I could be like my peers instead of always questioning everything from a critical stance. Blogging 101 is beginning to remind of those adolescent days, although I have been reluctant to write about it because I don’t mean to be disparaging of things that appear to be important to others.

This course has helped me conclude that Voices from the Margins is aptly named. The past two assignments for blogging 101 this week have made me realize the blog I share with a partner is on the margins, although many of the friends in our blogging community share the space on the margins with us. After surveying the “events” and “challenges” sponsored by other blogs in response to an assignment, nothing seemed to fit as a place to highlight work I feel is important. Although it may be appropriate for others in the course to focus on expanding readership, proving one’s uniqueness through promotion and competition, and claiming one’s niche, these aren’t really what our blog claims to be about. Sure, I did find one “event” that focused on prose, but the prompt for the week was “horror.” I don’t write fiction, but interpreted from a different perspective, this prompt could certainly include my past posts about Native American boarding schools and child welfare practices, or cultural contrasts of approaches to hunting and gathering, but it would have been a stretch and may well have been viewed as arrogant or offensive.

But today’s assignment – branding?

branding iron slide

Sources: Definition and Image

I understand that it’s the new fad for universities that are eagerly adopting a corporate model in order to compete more effectively “for students and supplies in the marketplace” (Rex Whisman, n.d., para. 1). But honestly, I can’t ignore the images that came to mind when I hear the word “branding.” As someone who is ever sensitive to colonial hegemony, when I read the assignment for today,

I saw images of branding cattle,

branding

Photo Credit: Cattle Branding

branding 2

Photo Credit: Cattle Brands

branding women who transgress society’s narrow strictures for “proper” behavior,

branding 3

Photo Credit: The Scarlet Letter

and what we still think is an appropriate way to stereotype Native American people.

branding 4

Photo Credit: Washington DC Football Team

I do hope at least some readers can step back and think about what the term “branding” implies from different perspectives and consider whether this is really an appropriate way to think about building supportive networks to exchange ideas and overcome the differences that are used to divide us. Branding is a corporate concept based on successfully overcoming one’s competitors. That’s not my idea of a supportive community. A song by Sweet Honey in the Rock comes to mind as a more accurate way for describing how I envision an ideal blogging community “ We Are – One.”

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“You Need to Remember What Is Really Important”: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I remember rushing up Bascom Hill, a hefty climb, to the Social Science building at UW- Madison. I didn’t want to be late for class. I was the teaching assistant and official note taker for the undergraduate diversity class of 465 students. It was a lovely fall morning and I was feeling a sense of excitement. I had just received news that the grant I wrote with one of my professors had been funded by the National Institute of Health, the top in the pool of applicants. It meant I would be on a fast track to finish my doctorate with a career in academia guaranteed.

uwm

Photo Credit: Bascom Hill, University of Wisconsin – Madison

As I crested the top of the hill, I neared the site of one of the last battles of the Black Hawk War. Just shy of the plaque commemorating the war, a tribal elder appeared dressed in an unlikely outfit – blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked at me with severity and simply said, “You need to remember what is really important.” I didn’t have time to reflect on the message then, but in the decades since it is something I contemplate often, although this isn’t a story I share with others for obvious reasons. The challenge of walking in two worlds, one based on rationality and empirical evidence and the other based on a deeper spiritual awareness are not easily reconciled. It turns out that I didn’t finish my degree based on elder caregiver issues. It would take more than a decade and many experiences later to finally complete a study on Indian child welfare, but that’s another story.

black hawk marker_big

Photo Credit: Dennis McCann, Journal Sentinel 

Today, I was reminded of this unlikely encounter by the last two blogging 101 assignments: “Content Loves Design”, and “Plug in to Social Networks.” Again I am reminded to think more deeply about why I began blogging in the first place and why I have continued. Honestly, I do hope people read my posts and find something of value. And I am grateful for the virtual friendships and community that allow me to see the world from so many different perspectives. Yet I am challenged daily to remember what is really important. It isn’t fame, and it isn’t being acknowledged by awards or having thousands of followers. For me, blogging is about connecting on deeper levels with people who share a commitment to exploring how we can each make the world a better place in our own ways.

Facebook is a necessary superficial medium to maintain some connection with family and acquaintances, but it has proven to be a profoundly disappointing venue for engaging in substantive dialogue. LinkedIn, focused on connecting on a professional level is likewise not a platform for sharing deeper dialogue. So what would be my purpose for using either of those venues for engaging potential readers?

Looking back at my encounter with the tribal elder who miraculously appeared, I realize that what I have needed to learn at various points in my life has appeared at the time I was able to learn from the message – Sartre’s existentialism, Camus’ absurdism, Kuhn’s scientific revolutions, Bronfrenbrenner’s ecosystems theory, or Freire’s liberatory praxis. The stories I tell are no comparison, but I think they do have meaning for those who find them when the time is right.

I am grateful for the prompts that encouraged me to think more deeply about life on the margins and what really matters. For me, it isn’t fancy fonts or fame. In an age of overwhelming choices, I realize once again how grateful I am for the community that finds what I share worthy of attention although what I have to say is simple and unadorned.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sometimes Silly – Let’s Draw Pictures and Play: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I share this with love for my granddaughter, Ava, in memory of the days we spent playing this summer. Although I most often post serious prose, and claim no talent as an artist or poet, I am willing to be silly on rainy days when we’re stuck inside.

It’s a dark rainy day,
So what can we do?

Let’s draw pictures and play,

Ahma 6

Photo Credit: Artist Ava, Coloring by Ahma – Summer 2014

I’ll draw one of you.

Ahma

Photo Credit: Artist Ava, Coloring by Ahma

And you’ll draw one of me,

Ahma 2

Photo Credit: Artist Ahma, Coloring by Ava

Then we’ll switch and we’ll color.
Oh no – who can that be?

Ahma 5

Photo Credit: A Shared Creation by Ava and Ahma

(In case you’re wondering, Ahma is the name my grandson gave me when he was first learning to speak – before he could pronounce “g” and “r”. It’s the name my grandchildren continue to use. )

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Response to Today’s Daily Prompt – Truth Serum: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

Let me be honest – I’ll take the truth serum and risk being misunderstood. I don’t like daily prompts. I realize many people do and they often share exquisite essays, photos, and poems. For me, they’re a distraction. The stories I write about come from an urgency that won’t let me rest until they are written – the opposite of writer’s block. At times, this is extremely annoying. When I have tasks that need doing like now – a garden to harvest and a yard to get ready for winter – ignoring the pressure to write means I risk a lack of focus for the rest of the day.

It’s true that there are times when writing is difficult for me – the kind of writing that requires accurate details. I have two books in process that require that sort of attention right now. They’re on hold until I have time to immerse myself into the work it will take to interweave historical and contextual details into a storyteller’s voice.

No one made me sign up for blogging 101. It’s a choice I made, hence I am completing this assignment quickly so I can rush outside to get some work done on this cloudy, chilly, blustery day. I don’t mean to be dismissive of my compatriots in this adventure, but I need to care for the gardens that are my most pressing responsibility today, when the time is right.

truth serum

Photo Credit: Geek. com

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating Caring Communities: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

“Transformation of the world implies a dialectic between two actions: denouncing the process of dehumanization and announcing the dream of a new society.” (Freire, 1998, p. 74)

This morning I awoke reflecting about the connections among widgets, community building, and political advocacy. What is the purpose for using widgets skillfully or expanding one’s blogging community? What is the reason behind promoting political candidates on the basis of their support for paid maternity and sick leave? And what do these apparently unconnected realms have in common? Widgets, political advocacy, and community building all rely on neutral technologies. Each can be used as a tool to work toward a vision. But what vision should I use my time to pursue? Which technologies should I try to master?

widget

Photo Credit: http://wp-themes.der-prinz.com/clearfocus/

If I dress up a blog with clever, engaging widgets without attending to the content of my posts, what is the purpose? If I work to expand my blogging community and lose my sense of purpose, what’s the point of blogging? In a world beset by so many serious challenges, is the wisest, most compelling focus of advocacy really paid-maternity and sick leave? How does this change corporate hegemony? How can the technological tools of widgets, community-building, and political advocacy be used to further the vision of creating caring communities?

“… it is as necessary to be immersed in existing knowledge as it is to be open and capable of producing something that does not yet exist. (Freire, 1998, p. 35)

My recent excursion into the contemporary world of political advocacy raised many more questions than it answered for me. Yes, I do want to volunteer my skills as a writer to create caring communities, yet I feel out of touch with what motivates people. Expert-driven banking models of working with people are just not my style. Yet these approaches may be more effective for the women who recently attended the event I observed than anything I might suggest. Who am I to critique people who shoulder the challenge of advocating for progressive agendas in today’s political environment? To critique women who show up for an event because they care about issues? Just because I feel a need to focus on root causes and deeper questions doesn’t mean my approach is better or more effective. Yet without a broader and deeper framework, do we really have a way to connect each advocacy step toward a larger goal?

“ … to teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge” (Freire, 1998, p. 30)

One of the speakers mentioned the importance of stories. Each woman in the room had a story to tell about the specific issues that were salient for her, and the reasons why she showed up to make persuasive phone calls to other woman to encourage them to support “progressive” candidates. Although each woman was asked to introduce herself at the beginning, each was limited to one sentence that described who she was and why she was involved in the call-bank event. Then, each participant was given the script she should read when she contacted potential woman voters – a script that was written by the sponsoring agency staff. Yes, there were forms participants could fill out to record the stories they heard from other women, but what about sharing their own stories in the conversations? What about beginning the meeting by giving each woman 10 minutes to write out her story and reasons for showing up for the event? What about asking each woman to share her story as appropriate during her phone conversations? A voice of experience and passion based on her shared connections with the women she called?

“… the educator who is dominated by authoritarian or paternalistic attitudes that suffocate the curiosity of the learner finishes by suffocating his or her own curiosity.” (Freire, 1998. p . 79)

I was merely a respectful observer until I was asked to role play the phone call recipient. There were no willing volunteers so I reluctantly agreed. I wanted the women in the room to be prepared for tough situations, so I played an anti-welfare conservative. The woman role-playing the caller gave me a “thumbs up” as we sparred in our demonstration. The woman near me whispered – “That’s exactly how some of the people I call respond.” But the supervisor for the sponsoring agency felt a need to say that the scenario I portrayed rarely happened. The message I heard was that my skills didn’t fit with the agency’s agenda. Intending only to be helpful, I felt like I was threatening her control of the event’s agenda. All I did was respond to a request with the best of intentions. I used my education and experiences as someone who taught interviewing at a college level to help people deal with anger, rejection, or tough topics.

“The freedom that moves us, that makes us take risks, is being subjugated to a process of standardization of formulas and models in relation to which we are evaluated.” (Freire, 1998, p. 102)

The organizers of the event knew I was only there to observe to see if there was some way I could write about their efforts for the general public. The message I walked away with as people gathered their phones and learned the sophisticated technological system that would keep track of the calls and responses, was perhaps it’s best to explore other volunteer opportunities. There was no room here to dialogue about root causes and larger visions of creating caring communities in partnership with the women who came to make calls and the women who were called. My values and visions didn’t fit with the approaches I witnessed. I do, however, have another possibility for volunteering that I plan to explore. But I’m still not sure about spending stressful time dealing with widgets or the wisdom of continuing to expand a blogging community that already stretches past my ability to read and respond thoughtfully to the many people I follow and admire.

“The place upon which a new rebellion should be built is not the ethics of the market place with its crass insensitivity to the voice of genuine humanity but the ethics of universal human aspiration. The ethics of human solidarity.” (Freire, 1998, p. 116)

community lakeshore dot wnyric dot org

Photo Credit: http://www.lakeshore.wnyric.org/domain/19

In the spirit of strengthening our caring community, please let me know what you think …

Work Cited:

Paulo Freire (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Synchronicity, Connectedness, and Love – A Grandmother’s Promise: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

Synchronicity – “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” (1950s, coined by C. G. Jung)

Events like the shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the declaration of yet more “military action” (a euphemism for ongoing war in the Middle East to control oil and protect U.S. world hegemony) cause me to worry about the future my grandchildren will inherit. I am particularly concerned for my grandson’s safety and future. I witnessed his birth – with the neonatal crisis team on alert to make sure he survived. I made a silent promise to the tiny, blue six-pound infant I held gently in my arms soon after his birth: “I will always be there if you need me, my little one. You are my heart.” By age 11, he was taller than me, and now at 15, even more so.

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Photo Credit: Aadi, Ava, and Ahma (me) – At the Rest Stop in Hurley, Wisconsin – 2010 (photographer, Jnana Hand)

I worry about the future of a handsome young man with a darker complexion in a country that fears difference. Can a gentle young man survive in such a world? I treasure the memories of him as a toddler gazing with wonder at flowers,

aadi and crocus

Photo Credit: Aadi – 2001 (photographer, Carol Hand)

as a little boy laughing as we blew bubbles,

Aadi & bubbles

Photo Credit: Aadi and Ahma – 2003 (photographer, Gary Hand)

or gently and patiently holding his great-grandmother’s hand.

Aadi 7

Photo Credit: Aadi, 2006 (School photographer)

I realize now, though, I can’t always be there to protect him. I can only hold him in my thoughts and my heart every day. I can also do the small things within my modest life to let him know I care, to build a kinder world in my tiny sphere of influence.

How does this relate to blogging and synchronicity? To the topic for blogging 101 today, “to be inspired by the [blogging] community”? I’ll do my best to make the links, although I have often been told that I see connections among too many dimensions: my grandson’s football game, blog posts written by mothers that I happened to read this week, advice from a blogging friend in Vancouver, and the connections to an advocacy organization that resulted from following my blogging friend’s advice.

On Monday afternoon, I sat next to my grandson’s father as we watched the junior varsity team from the better side of town (where my grandson lives) play the team from my neighborhood (the working class side of town). In past years, my grandson was one of the stars on his team, and no wonder when he can block players who are much larger and score 80-yard touchdowns. But this year, his father told me the coach hasn’t given him many opportunities to participate on the field in a game that he loves and has trained so hard to play. To be honest, on one level I’m relieved. The growing attention to the long-term harm caused by football injuries worries me. Still, in the fourth quarter, my grandson intercepted a pass and ran more than 50 yards, artfully weaving around the defensive string opponents to score his one touchdown. But I worried as I observed him engage in what appeared to me to be overly aggressive blocking, something his father also noticed. Is this something he feels he needs to do because of his size? He’s tall, but he still looks so small next to many of the other players. Does he need to look macho these days to be safe from bullying? Are there pressures he needs to release in this way? This is the gentle young man who just a few weeks ago walked by my side through my gardens, asking about the plants and listening thoughtfully to my responses, seemingly reluctant to leave despite my daughter’s urging to hurry up.

I can’t be there to block those who pursue him on the football field to protect him from harm, or classmates or teachers who accuse him of things he has not done. I can’t force his coach to give him more playing time for the game that he loves. Like the mothers who wrote of their challenges, the tension between protecting and encouraging freedom, I find myself searching for a balance. My unwillingness to tell my grandchildren how to live their lives prevents me for doing more than sharing my observations of their strengths and my concerns about their choices. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet.

Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, p. 17)

As I reflected on my conversation with my grandson’s father and my own observations of the game, I was compelled to ask the question: “What can I do to help create a different future for my grandchildren?” The answer came from a phone call last night. It was a call that came in response to something I was inspired to do by a blogging friend from Vancouver, Silvia di Blasio. one of my virtual friends whom I have learned to view as a sister in spirit.

In a comment about one of her recent posts, I responded. “This is an inspiring discussion, Sylvia. I thought you would appreciate knowing that as I read your insights about how important it is to use our skills to improve things, I decided to return a phone call to an advocacy organization to offer my skills as a volunteer writer. I’ll let you know how it works out. Thank you 🙂 .” (September 4, 2014).

I have received two return calls from the organization expressing interest and possibilities for collaboration. During the call last evening, I was invited to attend an “important phone bank event” tonight. My role would be to meet people and observe the event and write about the volunteers and issues of concern. These might be letters to the editors for local papers in the region or stories about the volunteers, their reasons for engagement, and the importance of issues from their perspectives.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am, by nature, and introvert. Attending the meeting is not something I would choose to do on my own. My readers may not know, however, that I question whether this is something I have the skill to do effectively. Really. Yet I owe it to my grandchildren to try. I owe it to the grandson who has trained hard to excel at a game he loves and who had the tenacity to sit on the bench for a season hoping for the call to the field. I owe it to the bloggers who continue to inspire me and rekindle the hope that together we can make a difference even though the task seems so daunting.

Aadi fb 2

Photo Credit: Aadi 2012 (before his got his bight green shoes)

Chi miigwetch (Ojibwe “thank you!”) to all bloggers who are keeping the light of hope burning in the darkness of our time.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

The need to explain how things came to be is part of the ongoing challenge of being different, of being from a high-context culture. Today’s topic for blogging 101 is no exception. Why this name for the blog in the header? Why this photo? And why this blogging partnership?

I’m curious to know how many people have wondered about a blog administered by partners from different states, one who is semi-retired and living in Minnesota, and one who is on a faculty in Tennessee. We are an odd pair – one is “straight” (a funny label) and of Ojibwe and Anglo-American ancestry, and one is gay. Our friendship was forged on the first day we met and firmly cemented during the test of advocating for a student who was targeted by discrimination. Although we were somewhat successful as advocates, allowing the student to successfully finish her degree, our advocacy cost us our standing at the university. I know I would willingly choose to go down fighting for social justice time and time again. I am grateful to the friend who volunteered to take the lead and withstood the ordeal by my side.

Graduation 2008

Photo Credit: Cheryl Bates and Tom Bates – Graduation Day – May 17, 2008

If I remember correctly, it was a snowy day at the end of March 2008 when I went to pick up Dr. Cheryl Bates for our breakfast interview at the campus where I taught. She was one of the candidates interviewing for a tenure-track position, a grueling ordeal that requires interviews with faculty and administrators, a teaching demonstration, and a presentation of one’s research. As I stood at the hotel desk where she stayed during her campus visit, waiting for someone to appear, I saw a lovely young woman approaching. Instantly, I felt her enthusiasm, humility, and gentle spirit. Our breakfast meeting at a favorite local greasy spoon confirmed my initial impressions. We shared stories and laughed, and of course arrived just on time for her meeting with the dean. She was whisked away by the chair of the department to face this new adventure among strangers. I am grateful she accepted the position, although I know the experiences will probably leave deep scars on her gentle spirit.

Despite her many accomplishments and the crucial perspectives she brought to a homophobic context, she was quickly relegated to the margins. I remember sitting near her in a meeting while other faculty discussed how to respond to the concerns of the national accrediting body with the lack of content in our program’s curriculum on dealing with the “isms” – folks like Cheryl and me. You know, people who were Native or gay or Black. There are several encounters that helped me understand the magnitude of the every day micro aggressions and outright ignorance she encountered. Imagine having each word you utter be misinterpreted as a sexual innuendo by some of the young female students in your class? The same words out of my mouth would not be interpreted in the same way. And how about the eager candidate who came to interview the next year who sought her out to make a memorable impression in hopes that she would recommend him for the open faculty position? “I’m so interested in your research on transgender issues. I was fascinated when I read an article on the history of dildos.” Cheryl met these challenges and many others with humor, humility and grace.

We stayed in touch as one headed to the northwest, and the other to the southeast. When I began blogging with a different partner in June of 2013, Cheryl followed the blog and would share her insights when we spoke on the phone. My former blogging partner negotiated the technical aspects of setting up our site, and although we agreed to the purpose of posting pieces that challenged the status quo, it became clear over time that we had different perspectives on what that really meant. Although open to feedback and suggestions, I grew weary of hearing that my language was too academic, my titles too long, and my insistence on citing references was pretentious. The final straw was an article I wrote about caregivers that wasn’t “good enough to post on our blog.”  I rewrote it in several versions and none of them sufficed. It was then that I turned to Cheryl and asked if she would read the three drafts and let me know if any of them worked. In the conversation that followed, Cheryl said “I’m still laughing at the second version. It’s so funny and it’s good.”

So, despite my technophobia, I created my own blog to post those pieces my blogging partner didn’t feel were good enough. Unfortunately, this move was interpreted by my original blogging partner as the end of our partnership and friendship. I was deeply saddened by the misinterpretation and loss, but I persevered through the first few months. I am so grateful for the blogging friends who supported me (and my former partner) through the rough transition. When Cheryl told me she was taking a class on writing html code, I was excited and asked her if she would like to partner on the new blog. I made it clear that we were both free to publish what we felt was appropriate, but to me partnership meant the chance to make the blog feel like her home, too. She was the one who figured out how to create the header, Voices from the Margins, that now graces our blog, and how to upload the background picture. It’s a picture that has special significance to her, but that is a story I will leave for her to tell – or not.

cheryl

Photo Credit: Jill, Cheryl’s Faithful Companion – Bull’s Gap, Tennessee

For today’s assignment, I’ll simply say that I believe I can now figure out how to create a header and upload a background picture in the Runo Lite theme thanks to Cheryl. So instead, today I’ll work on overcoming my fear of widgets – maybe removing those that make the site a tad too busy. Someday I might even successfully tackle adding the copyright statement to the margins instead of coping and pasting it on every post. 🙂

(A final note – I would like to thank Skywalker Storyteller for inspiring this post. Miigwetch my sister in spirit.)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections on the Importance of Knowing One’s Purpose: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

“I really HATE that report you’re working on!”

Imagine hearing this this every morning as you walk through the door to do your job. Delivered in a strident nasal tone, this was my supervisor’s greeting and her commentary on my efforts to develop the first-ever report on the demographics and services for elders in the state. Each morning, my response was the same. “I welcome any specific suggestions you have to improve it.” None were ever offered by my supervisor, but fortunately, the director and staff all provided assistance, ideas and support as part of a team effort to write, organize, and illustrate the final product.

AW cover

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Cover Page

The report, Aging Wisconsin: The Past Three Years: 1984-1986, was so popular that the first 6,000 copies went quickly. Even during tight budget times, the report went through a second printing and generated hand-written letters from elders thanking us for creating something to make their lives better. My supervisor never liked it, but I now realize she really wasn’t the audience, nor were legislators, administrators, or academics. The report was written to help elders learn about the range of services and supports available to improve their lives. Focusing on task completion is important, yet I also learned an equally important lesson about the value of process from my supervisor, although not the one she probably intended. Any project can be approached from a coercive power-over stance, or from a liberatory joyful stance. The staff and director, often easily divided by petty issues, joined together to produce something that was fun and gave them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

AW nursing home

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Long Term Support

AW transportation

Photo Credit Aging Wisconsin – Transportation

AW caregivers

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Caregiver Support

AW home delivered meals

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Home Delivered Meals

AW housing

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Housing Options

As I look back on this experience, I realize how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to work on this report shortly after graduating from college. I am grateful to the director who believed that I could do it, and the staff who offered their support, assistance, ideas, and encouragement. I am grateful to the elders who penned hand-written thank you notes. And interestingly, I am grateful to the supervisor who kept spurring me on to do the best I could with what seemed like an overwhelming, impossible task at the time. Today, looking at the photos we gathered for the report so many years ago, I am grateful that I didn’t give up trying.

AW fiends 1

AW friends 2

AW volunteer

AW adult daycare

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Community Support

I left that job decades ago, but this memory resurfaced this morning as I reflected on today’s blogging 101 assignment, reviewing the About statement for Voices from the Margins.  The memory and the assignment both remind me that it’s important to be mindful of purpose. Not everyone will like what you do, and that’s as it should be. Knowing that I was hired to serve elders in the state, not the whims of my supervisor, helped me find creative ways to build a team to be successful any way. Clarifying the purpose of the blog helps keep me focused. I have attempted to explain our blog’s purpose. It’s a space that celebrates diversity and welcomes creative efforts to resist status quo critiques. a place to give voice to different “truths.” Like all bloggers, I hope people will read what I write and engage in dialogue, but I also try to speak about what I see as important during these challenging times.

(A final note: I just couldn’t decide which photos to share so I went a bit overboard I fear 🙂 )

Work Cited:

Carol Hand (1988)(Ed.) Aging Wisconsin: The past three years – 1984-1986 progress report on the Wisconsin State Plan on Aging. Madison, WI: Bureau on Aging,  Department of Health and Social Services.

The Price of Rebellion – Runo Lite: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

Although I’m not sorry I refused to learn how to type as a form of rebellion against gender stereotypes, it did cause me a lot of extra work in my early days. You know, the days before personal computers when papers were written by hand on lined paper and then typed on a manual typewriter. I remember the only way I could reorganize the flow of what I wrote was by cutting out each handwritten sentence and continuously rearranging them on my carpeted floor and then taping them together in long streams. I didn’t want to type first. It took too long and too much whiteout. I was grateful for the invention of erasable onionskin paper, but still, my work always looked like I corrected so many typos and over-ran the margins on the right side and the bottom of the page. I did, and then thinned the text and the edges of my paper with strenuous efforts to remove all the evidence. I am grateful for computers, but still fondly remember the feel of writing things in my curious blend of cursive and printing.

typewriiter

Photo Credit: Etsy Market

In response to today’s blogging 101 assignment to preview a variety of themes, I looked at elegant, frilly and flowered. I looked at serious and professional. As someone over 60, I have no need to appear elegant or frilly. I prefer simple, lightweight, and clean. So it made sense for me to stick with my original choice – Runo Lite, a theme that matched my inclinations and quirks. It’s not perfect. I don’t like the near invisibility of embedded links. I wonder if that’s why so few people click out to the sites I spend time to find and embed? I wonder if I can make them more visible by changing the color of the font for embedded text links? (I can’t wait to see if this works!) The other challenge has more to do with my confusion when dealing with technological aspects. Widgets! How many hours I have spent trying to add widgets and get them to show up in the “right” place! Perhaps it’s a function of my theme. Many of the other themes I tested for this exercise automatically moved the content of some of the widgets to the margins where I have tried for hours to place them.

Nonetheless, I decided to stay with Runo Lite despite these challenges. But then, I learned to live with margins that never looked the way I would have liked. It’s the content that matters, right? (I was never graded on my margins in school…)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Circle of Hope and Action: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

Imagine sitting in a circle of people from all across the globe gazing at the same object positioned in the middle (Storm, 1972). Let’s say for the purposes of this exercise, it’s a mountain. Each of us would see something different from our unique vantage points. Alone, none of us would see the whole. We would only be able to get a glimpse of other parts of the mountain by sharing what we see with others and listening to their descriptions. Is there one truth or are there many?

This exercise came to mind when I thought about today’s question for blogging 101, “Who are your dream readers?” In part, they are people who share what they see and listen to what others share in a thoughtful way, engaging in dialogue to discover each other’s truths. Yet, there’s another important dimension that I feel is important. It has to do with action to preserve life and beauty based on what we see.

maui the road to hana

Photo Credit: A Pacific View from the “Road to Hana” – Maui – 1998 (Photographer, Jnana Hand)

Imagine that what some people in the circle see is a mountain that is covered by a forest that can be clear cut for profit, gold beneath the surface to mined, coal to be removed and burned to fuel their machines. Overtime, the mountain that was once was covered by forests, streams and waterfalls, a haven for all types of life, has become, in some places, barren and pock-marked by deep wounds. There are still some places of untouched beauty, but others will never be the same. Is it wise to assume that the places that remain undamaged will be spared? Is this the best future for all of the people who gaze at the mountain, even those who only see what will fill their pockets with gold, a meaningless socially constructed advantage for a moment in time?

As I gaze at the mountain through the vantage points of the people in my blogging community, I see both the beauty and the threat. I also witness the contributions each makes to preserve what is left while using their gifts to end the destruction. Although the task seems impossible for each of us alone, hope is born from knowing the others are part of the resistance. Our work reminds me of the story of the starfish.

There are many versions of the parable, yet all share a similar message. Starfish were stranded along miles and miles of ocean shore when the high tide receded. One person walked the shore, bending down to rescue as many as possible, throwing them back into the water one at a time. A critical commentator walked up to point out how hopeless the task was given the millions of starfish that would surely die. After a moment, the “starfish thrower” bent down to resume his or her efforts, commenting that while the effort seemed futile, it mattered to save the lives that he or she could.

The original story ends with a hopeful message.

Later, after some thoughts on our relationships to other animals and to the universe, the narrator says:
…”On a point of land, I found the star thrower…I spoke once briefly. “I understand,” I said. “Call me another thrower.” Only then I allowed myself to think, He is not alone any longer. After us, there will be others…We were part of the rainbow…Perhaps far outward on the rim of space a genuine star was similarly seized and flung…For a moment, we cast on an infinite beach together beside an unknown hurler of suns… We had lost our way, I thought, but we had kept, some of us, the memory of the perfect circle of compassion from life to death and back to life again – the completion of the rainbow of existence” (Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower, p.181).

Many of my “dream readers” are already part of my blogging family. They are people who are each standing on a shore doing what they can to create beauty and preserve life, while encouraging those on other shores to do the same. I hope the circle continues to grow.

(The other part of today’s blogging 101 challenge was to embed images and media that we have not used before. Because I almost always do so in my posts, I decided not to do so today. Instead, I am challenging myself to use words that can hopefully encourage others to envision their own images. Please let me know if this works.)

(A editorial postscript and thank you to the friends who commented about images. I have added two that took a little work because of my software – converting printed photos into PDFs, and then using WORD and Paint to turn them into photos again. Some of the clarity is lost in the process, but images that are slightly ethereal seem fitting given the fuzzy nature of the past memories they represent.)

maui 1998 horseback

Photo Credit: Another Pacific View – from Haleakalā on Horseback – Maui – 1998 (Photographer, Carol Hand)

Works that inspired these examples:

Loren Eiseley (1969, 1978). The unexpected universe. New York: Times Books.

Hyemeyohsts Storm (1972). Seven arrows. New York: Ballantine Books.

 

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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