I’M OLD. I’M NOT DEAD.

IMG_20190817_211014Shared on “Books for Older Readers” FB group today, as if this is something that applies to ALL older readers.
Well, I find this sooooo annoying.
I’m old. I’m not dead.
 
What follows is my reply to that post:
 
Well, my company just published this anthology:
 
ALL of the writers are seniors/older folks, and we had more submissions for this anthology than any other.
 
So, I guess, some seniors/older folks don’t have trouble with expletives.
 
The second experience I have to relate is one for one of my own short stories that I entered into a competition. The judges comments said,
 
“The story about the older couple (she’s 80, he is late 70s) falling in love is just perfect on so many levels. The story had only 1 problem. The woman tells the man she would like to fuck, and no woman her age would use that word.”
 
Gee, I thought, stereotype much? How do they know that no women past 79 would ever say the word fuck? And, frankly, when I am 79, I hope I am still fucking and not “making love.” Yuck.
 
My third comment comes from my years as a writing teacher at the college level.
 
Words are an artificial construct. They were created by humans, all of them. None of them, therefore, have more or less value than any other. We have a whole problem in the world with marginalizing words used by certain groups that we also try to marginalize. And often we do it in the name of civility. “A civilized person wouldn’t use that word.” So, no, I do not agree that certain words are more “civil” or “polite” than others. It depends on context: who is using them and how they are used.
 
My fourth comment is that no one person should be given the reigns to decide what is or isn’t valuable or polite.
I find the referenced blog post to have many many issues that discomfit me as a woman, a feminist, an author, a publisher, a teacher, and a plain old human being.
 
I don’t give time to censorship efforts, no matter how “polite” they may appear to be.

*Thanks to What Sort of Fuckery Is This? author Desiree Harvey for the photo!

NEEDLE FELTING UPDATE

felt bird 6Before I washed the jeans….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I washed them:

felt bird5

I lost some of the detail and half of the beak.

On the body, where the threading is thick, it knotted into the denim better.

I think I will try to repair the missing bits, and maybe iron something over the inside of it, or apply some liquid fusible webbing and see if it continues to hang on.

Not too bad overall. 🙂

 

 

CREATIVE STUDENTS AND WORKING MEMORY

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So interesting and important that I had to repost:

Creative Students  
and  
Working Memory
Barbara Oakley, PhD
Ramón y Cajal Distinguished Scholar
Global Digital Learning
McMaster University, CAN
The educational system can sometimes be tough on us teachers.  We’ve got certain concepts to plant in our students in a set amount of time-we can only hope that what we plant will flourish.  Students themselves, of course, come in all shapes and sizes, both physically and intellectually. Some are quicker, some slower to grasp what we’re presenting.
Willy-nilly, we tend to reward the quicker students-the ones with ready answers in class, or whose keen focus allows them to speedily intuit key ideas from the textbook.
But just who are these quicker students? Quite often, they are students with preternaturally strong working memories. And this, perhaps surprisingly, can pose a problem.

Working memory is a sort of temporary mental workspace that can hold, on average, four chunks of information in four slots.  So, for example, you might remember the four digits of your hotel room number. Or four first names from the group of people you’ve just met.

If you’ve practiced and created bigger chunks, you might hold four larger numbers in your mental slots. Or parts of a familiar equation, or a musical passage, or a sentence in a new language.
People with strong working memories have the metaphorical equivalent of a steel trap.  “Steel trap” types can load several ideas into mind, holding those ideas in the slots of their working memory as they cogitate-perhaps rapidly rearranging words in a sentence so they come out properly when translated from English into Chinese, or adding the exponents in a complex equation to get a seat-of-the-pants estimate of projected wind speed.
A steel trap working memory helps explain why some students can be so quick to get the right answer-they can hold the disparate pieces of a problem in mind all at one time as they work out the solution.
But not all students have strong working memories.  Some students can load the information in mind, and then, oh shiny, they’re distracted, and part of the information they’ve so painstakingly put into mind falls out of one or more of the slots.
Students with more severe attentional difficulties can have trouble paying attention enough to even get an idea loaded into the slots in the first place.  These “poor working memory” types of students can be the ones who look at you with confusion when you pose a question in class-they lose the thread of the discussion because they can’t hold it easily in mind.
But here’s the interesting part.  As research has shown, these “poor working memory” types of students are often more creative than the steel trap types. Why?  As it turns out, the “loose,” non-steel-trap-like slots of their working memory, which can easily allow ideas and concepts to fall out, provides a covert advantage. When something falls out of working memory, something else goes in.  And that, as it turns out, can be a great source of creativity!
So when we place more of our focus, and our rewards, on the successful students, we can sometimes inadvertently penalize the more creative students.  In other words, the educational pipeline is biased in favor of those with strong working memories.
What to do? Actually, there’s a lot we can do as teachers to encourage creative types with less retentive working memories.
To begin with, a little more mandatory memorization in STEM subjects would be a big help.  Research has shown that “chunking”-developing well-practiced neural patterns that can be easily drawn into working memory, is behind expertise in any subject, whether it’s anatomy or algebra. Well-chunked information takes less neural territory-less working memory. This can be a boon for those whose working memory is already limited. (On a side note, research has shown that the USA’s current “dead last” performance among the 22 tested nations in the OECD seems to be strongly affiliated with the deemphasis on memorization and procedural fluency in mathematics in the previous decades.)
Students with less capable working memories often thrive with mnemonics and visual memory cues. “Old People from Texas Eat Spiders,” for example, is a common mnemonic for the cranial bones.  And memorizing the word “duck” in Spanish can be facilitated by painting a mental image of a duck swimming in a pot (“pato” is Spanish for duck).
Metaphors are the empress of teaching tools for difficult subjects.  The concept of the “limit” in calculus, for example, can first be brought to mind by describing a stalking lizard who creeps closer and closer to its prey, never quite touching it.
And voltage shares many similarities with physical height, or mechanical pressure.  The value of a metaphor, as “neural reuse theory” posits, is that it activates the same neural circuits that will eventually be used to grasp the more complex topic itself.  Rather than dumbing things down, then, a metaphor can more rapidly onboard students onto difficult ideas.
Next time you’re in class, keep a look out, not only for your sharp students, but for the seemingly distracted ones.  If you can, call them out by name (that always gets their attention). Use whatever teaching tools you have to keep their interest.  You’ll be helping some of your most creative students, and simultaneously giving more exciting lectures that benefit all your students.
Lv, K. “The involvement of working memory and inhibition functions in the different phases of insight problem solving.” Memory & Cognition 43, 5 (2015): 709-22; Takeuchi, H, et al. “The association between resting functional connectivity and creativity.” Cerebral Cortex 22, 12 (2012): 2921-2929; White, HA, and P Shah. “Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Personality and Individual Differences 40, 6 (2006): 1121-1131.
Hartman, JR, and EA Nelson. “Automaticity in Computation and Student Success in Introductory Physical Science Courses.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1608.05006  (2016).
Anderson, ML. After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain

. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014.

GODDARD COLLEGE

Hmmmm…

maybe I should call this post the $10,000 mug.

And here it is:

goodard mug1

I call it the $10,000 mug because I went to Goddard for exactly one semester, to major in psychology.

It must, truly, be an excellent program because in only one semester I found out that:

I didn’t want to be a psychologist after all

I did want to write more than anything else

I did want to put my energy into my writing and into Devil’s Party Press.

Goddard is a unique place, after all, they have a choice between college sweatshirts and handmade mugs in their school store. Try and find another college with that diversity of options in its school store.

Goddard emphasizes adding a social justice piece to all of their programs.

It is a weird and funky little campus, for example, when I arrived, very late on a snow-covered and icy evening, I found there was only one little volunteer around to help me find and get into my room.

A wolf bounded through the snow behind the dorms as I carted my belongings back and forth from my car.

Yes, a wolf.

It was huge, scary huge, it looked like a Siberian Husky that had been super-sized and had something not quite right about it. It came crashing through the undergrowth of the woods into the clearing behind the dorm. It paused, and looked at me with a look of pure unfriendliness that dogs never have. It did not seem bothered by the snow. It did not seemed bothered by me, though it clearly was not inviting me to come closer.

I freaking froze.

It waited.

It looked at me.

It waited.

I, without turning, finally, broke the standoff by stepping a foot backward so slowly, and then another, so so very slowly.

On my third backwards step it turned its head and eyes from me, and leapt ahead, back into the woods.

Vermont is weird.

For me, basically a city girl until the last 5 or so years, Vermont is remote.

Parts of it, Montpelier in particular, have built up since I got my MFA in the 1990s, but I still feel that, if you were not born there, choosing to move into Vermont is a definite lifestyle-based decision. In a small state it seems as if huge swaths of it are empty. I am a 100% introvert, but I like to be able to get to a bagel without it becoming a huge trek. Vermont is introvert minus bagel-adjacency. And extroverts? Extroverts need not apply.

Aside from the lone wolf I saw, Goddard was very accommodating. They served three meals a day in the cafeteria, and they were really delicious. Each meal had a bean and a green available (maybe garbanzos and collard greens at breakfast…. Swiss chard and kidney beans at lunch) in addition to the other foods they cooked. The coffee was amazing, and always available, 24/7. The campus was small, intimate, attractive. The dorm rooms definitely need some polishing for a city girl to feel like they were clean enough, and… scary as hell… the library is in the woods, the woods the wolf is in. You have to walk on a path through the woods, a slightly lighted path, to get to and from the library. Luckily I hate libraries, so I didn’t spend more than one afternoon there. You can drive to the library, but what is more likely to happen is that you will walk there, and if you stay too late… “Hey there little Red Riding Hood, you sure are lookin’ good….”

Goddard is a school that should be on more people’s short list for college. It is really unique, and I think the programs it offers are more than just degree programs; they are really immersions into your chosen field. It was partially that immersion that made me realize that, while I am a super-helpy person in general, I do not want to be on that side of the couch. And it was the seclusion and the remoteness from my life that made me realize that I really want to be in the writing life alone.

I was at Goddard because I was running from that.

And, I still am in some ways.

Taking a job as the local chamber of commerce was another detour from my final destination.

Like a surprise wolf demanding to know my intentions, my writing is less and less kind to me when I ignore it, hence me writing now, at 3 or so in the morning.

I liked the isolation from my life I had at Goddard. It took me a few days to relax into it, but I did. It was lovely to have meals that were healthy and not cooked by me along with coffee at all hours, again, not cooked by me. It was pleasant to be able to carry my laptop through the campus, and lite in different spots as it suited me, to try to write or think. It was annoying that the topic was psychology because I wished it was writing. It was nice to be able, but not forced, to share a meal with someone if I chose to do so. The psychology students were pretty cliquish though, based on what branch they were interested in or how socially just they thought you were. I absolutely am happy to know which pronouns a person likes used about them, i.e. do I refer to you as “she,” or “he,” or perhaps “they?” However, the constant conversation with the youngsters in attendance about whether or not any person at any given time was being racist or ageist, or etc. got to the point where it made conversation a drag, an absolute drag, because there was so much talk about “how” to have the conversation that often the conversation itself never happened. And since we were all basically on the same page: I want to help people and do so with an emphasis on social justice, it seemed counterproductive to me that people kept attacking each other.

And so, when I got back home, I realized fairly quickly that what I wanted was to be a writer. Well fuck, I’m only 54, don’t rush me on figuring things out. I have plenty of time…

I do not.

I went to Goddard on a student loan which I have to pay (am paying) back.

And that is why I call my mug the $10,000 mug.

goddard mug2

It’s a great mug, and an expensive and slow way to figure out I’m running from something that I can’t outrun: writing.

The mug has bees on it: perhaps Goddard is pollinating the minds of its students.

And I think I learned that I might someday like to go on a writing retreat. Just pig out on writing somewhere. It would be nice to do one with Dave too. But no Sophie. Children often inspire writing, but they don’t facilitate it.

I drank all my coffee.

Time to refill my mug.

goddard mug3

 

NEVER SINK, DAMMIT

Never-Sink-Anchor-Infinity-Tattoo-On-Leg

Oh boy, do I need that today.

I wrote a poem called “Never Sink, Dammit” that appears in What Sort of Fuckery Is This?

And it turns out that it is one of my poems of which I am most proud in a book full of wonderful pieces, which happens to be the Devil’s Party Press book of which, to date, I am most proud of, and also most awed by.  The writing in that book as a whole is so moving that I simply can’t wait for people to read it. If I had the money to do so, I’d be droppin’ a copy on every person I walked by, every day. The whole book is a testament to the never-sink-spirit, which, for me, encompasses that life can get pretty damn awful sometimes, but you, Honey, you never sink.

Well, not a hot minute after I began telling the world about What Sort of Fuckery Is This? I discovered that the husband of a co-worker was literally going behind me to question the appropriateness of me even sharing a book with that title. Undermining the announcement…. and why? Of course, this co-worker is someone I am a little wary of anyway because…. one minute she is partnering with you, and then next she’s not, and then she is again. One minute she wants to help, and the next she’s telling everyone why it won’t work behind your back. There is a term for this unpredictable ride… gaslighting.

The term comes from the title of a play that was made into a wonderful, and suspenseful movie, Gaslight. I mean Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton… you can’t get much better than that cast. In the film, it is the gas lamps that ultimately help solve the mystery of the film, but they also became a universal signal for trying to make a person doubt his or her own senses, memory, perceptions, etc.

And so that’s what you call it when a person is constantly changing his or her story, and lying about it in an effort to make you look bad, or to make you think you cannot trust your own senses and memory.

Lucky for me, I almost never delete email, and I have a memory like an elephant.

You cannot do a lot in response to gas-lighting. In that way, it’s not much different from sexual harassment. The person doing the gaslighting is what Julie Cameron calls a crazy-maker in her book, The Artist’s Way, and you have to do your best to cope, because you’re never going to 1. get the gaslighter to stop and 2. convince anyone it was happening in the first place. I have been in both situations, sadly, a few times over my working/school life, and the best way I could find to cope with them (gaslighters or sexually inappropriate men) was to move on to a new job and breathe light air again. Both types of harassers just make the whole world so heavy, leaving the job, no matter the personal cost, will save you.

And of course, like probably anyone who reads this blog, I haven’t become independently wealthy yet, so I am stuck. I gotta work.

So, what can I do? What can you do if you’re stuck in a similar work-trap?

Document. Do everything on paper and through email and keep the original copies.

And then, start looking, reassess your finances to see if you can make a move sooner; you gotta go, Baby. The only way to stop the crazy is to leave it behind, twiddling its thumbs at its reflection in a mirror in the dark.

Listen close: as soon as possible, you jump ship. You work out your money, you get your family behind your decision, and you leap.

And yeah, it’ll suck to have to begin again, or map a new direction due to Mr. or Ms. Crazy, but it is better than always feeling unbalanced and insecure working with a person who only knows how to get higher by dropping others down.

So you leap. You’re gonna drop; you’re gonna get wet, you’re gonna be uncomfortable until you can find your ship and right it, but it will be your ship.

And I’ll tell you, like the current, this will pass, and you will survive. Ignore what people say to you or about you; it’s just bad air.

Here’s to you… and your humanity and your sweetness and your spirit that will never sink, dammit.

 

I SUBMITTED!

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INDIVIDUAL ARTIST FELLOWSHIPFiscal Year 2020 Information and Instructions

AAACK! The waiting IS the hardest part. Tom Petty was so smart!

NEEDLE FELTING

felt bird4

I like to do crafty things….

and one of the crafty things I find I have a tiny bit of a talent for is needle felting.

Not the kind of felting where you make a small and tiny animal.

But the kind where you felt into something else.

And so…

I have needle-felted a birdy onto my jeans.

Now… once the jeans are washed, I will let you know if the felting stays put.

If it does….

I think there will be felting on everything!

🙂

HOME SWEET? HOME

Cannery Village.jpg

I hate to be a whiner, but I’m gonna whine.

I live in a “community,” may his Noodliness help me, and the HOA is getting on my last good nerve.

I moved there understanding that we had to be neat and orderly, but, a funny thing happened this last year, we reached enough homes sold that the board was able to be 100% resident staffed. Before that it was understood that we had to be neat and orderly, and I saw nothing wrong with how we looked, but, basically, it was a handshake agreement.

And so, now that we have our own people on the board,  they are making with the fines like crazy, including fines for having a dent in your garage? Having a dent in your garage? WTF? Do garages actually exist that are dent-free?

And so, on this day when I should be writing my poetry, I find my mind wrapped up in worrying about what new fine they will think up to visit upon us all, and wondering if we will ever get to go back to just being a relaxed, but neat-looking, community of people who liked each other.

Have you got an HOA horror story? Can creative people survive in HOAs?

$17.31

hustleI just got a raise… working in the writing center at one of my colleges, I now make $17.31 an hour.

When I was teaching in Los Angeles I used to make $99/hour teaching in El Camino Community College. No kidding. $99/hour.

It’s all relative.

I am thrilled at the raise, I have to say, and I kinda wish I had more hours there….

I kinda wish I had more hours to work on the Chamber of Commerce too.

And, I kinda wish I had more hours to write. I want to submit a poetry collection to the Dogfishhead Poetry Prize. Yep…. poetry and beer-that’s about right for me.

It’s lovely in my classroom just now. A few dedicated students are working… working… so quietly and diligently. I want to claim a little credit for their diligence. At least the few that are here. I feel all smiley from that damn raise. It was $0.70.

I remember that my first full time job I was hired, freshly degreed from college, smelling like promise and dryer sheet, for $10/hour, and, one year later, I received a $0.25/hour raise, and both of my parents were like, “Wow, that degree was totally worth it.”

I have not always liked my jobs, but I have always felt the need to have my jobs, and more rather than less. For ten years in Philly I worked 40 hours a week in the 9-5 thing in non-profits, and an extra 12 hours at night adjuncting. And it’s been a patchwork of adjuncting gigs ever since. I like that I’m mixing it up now with the publishing company, the writing center, and the Chamber, even though the Devil’s Party Press part is unpaid; it’s adding some much-needed variety to my weeks. I just wish I could get an eight-day week. And, at long last, I think this might be the year where the effort finally results in a financial result that will right the boat. We’ve always got a little water in the bottom, Dave and I, but this year, I think we might get dry…. Maybe… possibly….

Which brings me to an odd little encounter I had last week.

I was trying to stay awake in a Starbucks, uploading content to the new Chamber website I made, when a huge, loud, rapacious rainstorm hit. After the initial shock of the onslaught subsided, the storm was pleasing to me. Before the storm showed up pounding on the windows demanding double shots the Starbucks had emptied out a bit, and it was quiet, slightly dim, and the rain seemed to be creating a protective barrier around the building. It was pretty close to the feeling of being curled up watching an old Blondie & Dagwood on TV on a Sunday afternoon with the smell of a roast in the oven. Pretty close. Well, I’m exaggerating; no commercial space could hit that mark. But I was feeling something reminiscent of that snuggled cat sort of feeling of comfortable.

And then they came in. One after the other, with enough space between their entrances that I thought the first was alone.

The first was a man who looked like the guy from the cover of all my brother’s Jethro Tull albums who I always assumed was Jethro Tull. Was he? Is Jethro Tull a guy, or a band name? I never bothered to find out, and I am not about to do so now, but, the guy looked like the Aqua-lung guy, wild-haired, dirty, wet, of course wet, very very wet, and shirtless. And he had a lot of wet hairy shirtless paunch hanging over his pants.

Hmmm….

He sat a few tables away from me, this wild, grungiest, hoariest of men.

And, in my very usual thinky way, this is how my mind went:

I was not prepared for half-naked wet men.

I know men are allowed to take their shirts off in public, but how would HE feel if I stripped half naked?

Hmmm…. he’d probably like it, even with your old droopy boobs.

Well, maybe I’ll just take off the bottom half of my gear then.

Ha! Let him see your nether regions and your saggy pelvis? I don’t think he’d care that it sags. I think he’d egg you on.

Dammit. 

Well, I probably should wrap this up then.

Oh wait, he’s putting a shirt on.

I was about to relax back into my work when the door to the volatile storm was flung open again, and a man who could have only been Jethro Tull’s toady came in. He was thin and tiny, emaciated in every way the Tull was corpulent, and he was probably no more that five foot three, while Tull was six foot or more. Being that he was clearly Tull’s right-hand-man he sat to Tull’s right, shortening the distance between the two and me. I could smell him. He smelled not good, like sweat, and weed, and cigarettes, and low self-esteem. I could see the wet twinkling on his little close-cropped beard. He looked as if he was going to soon freeze in the Starbucks well-functioning air-conditioning, while his master looked as if he never ever felt the cold, and immediately began teasing the small one for not being smart enough to come in half naked.

I packed up to leave because, well, that was all I really wanted to know about the two fellows.

However, I bought this magnet for my fridge (me and my damn magnets) that says, “Kindness. It doesn’t cost a thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.”

True words. True words.

So, as I walked past the men, I turned to the little toady and said, “Hon, they have blowers in the bathrooms. You could probably get pretty dry if you want to try it.”

And the small toady said, “Oh, no thank you. I’m ok.”

And Jethro Tull boomed out, “It never bothers ME to be wet! I was born wet!”

This just may have been the C-C-C-CRAZIEST thing anyone has ever said to me.

But I paused, considered the biology, looked at him, and said, “Well, yes, I guess we all were.”

Happy Monday dear Weirdo who finds this blog interesting~

Kindness. It doesn’t cost a thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere. Thank you for your kindness in reading. Leave me a comment!