Monthly Archives: September 2011

Big and Tall

My mom said that my dad likes this picture because it makes him look thinner, which made me laugh when she told me.  I was experimenting with forced perspective with the vague intent of making my parents look taller. I don’t remember when I first surpassed my mom in height, but I’m sure it was an occasion of both celebration and mild chagrin on her part.  (I am technically shorter than my dad but often look taller because of my build and penchant for wearing heels.)  They were certainly somewhat crestfallen when it appeared that my brother would not grow much more past his current height of 5’8″, and more than once lamented that all of his weight training in football had stunted his growth.  (My mother’s understanding of heredity seems to have fossilized at Lamarck.)

In my experience, immigrant Asian parents are almost as obsessed with height as they are about grades and college admissions. (Pandering slightly to stereotypes here, forgive me.)  I am quite average compared to the U.S. population, but in the more rarefied circles of Asian-American youth, I am positively Amazonian, in multiple dimensions.  This has…not always been a source of delight to me, and I think has a large part to do with why I will almost certainly never date anyone who is shorter or skinnier than me.  Which rules out many Asians and hipsters, but I’m going to say that I’m really…quite okay with that.  I’ve come to realize over the years that physical compatibility is rather important to me, but I suppose I need to figure out my own sense of space before I let anybody into that figurative and literal space again, and that’s a rather tall order at the moment.


A Home

When I left the house one morning last week, this is what I saw.  I immediately ran back inside to get my camera because the fog effects were too cool not to photograph.  I’m quite happy with where I’m living now.  After living on/near campus, I graduated to a big-girl duplex last year that turned out to be a little less than idyllic.  The former-smoker smell permeated everything I owned, various parts of the house fell to pieces throughout the year, our landlords were mostly unresponsive, and our neighbors had frequent loud and profane arguments.

Now I live in what amounts to a suburb.  The neighborhood kids go to school at the Wonder Bread Factory and sell coupon books for fundraisers.  The parking lot is full of American cars made after 2000, and there are at least 6 grocery stores within five miles.  I commute 14 miles each way to work now, and part of me feels vaguely guilty not living in the community where I work.  But I think being physically away from school has helped me maintain the work-home boundary better, which is also due in no small part to once more having places to go and people to see when I leave work.  I used to think that if I were happy at work, I wouldn’t need anything else, but in fact it is the time I spend with friend or my creative pursuits outside of school that is significantly strengthening my soul.


A busy day

Today after school, I:

  • played “Zip Zap Zop” with the school’s brand-spanking new theater club
  • got my flu shot
  • returned my library books
  • mailed a letter and present to a friend
  • deposited checks at the bank
  • bought groceries
  • visited the yarn store and bought completely impractical hot pink yarn
  • did yoga for 75 minutes
  • had dinner at my parents’ house
  • managed to retrieve every item that I needed to get from home

All with the help of Google calendar and one epically long event description for 3:30-5:30 today.  I don’t know how anyone can live without some sort of planner system, though I know somewhere out there are people who do.  (They’re called Perceptives in Myers-Briggs theory.  I just call them insane.)

But I also paused on my way out of my doctor’s office at a rather abandoned-looking stretch of train tracks that were labeled Ohio Railway Museum.  I was somewhat afraid that I was trespassing, and not really into the whole mildly-cliched industrial decay aesthetic, so I just grabbed a few shots before speeding on to my next mission.  I was going to write something profound and allegorical about how we are surrounded by life unnoticed…but I decided that would be too pretentious.  So I’ll just end with the stats of this shot:

  • Focal Length: 42mm
  • Exposure Time: 1/80
  • F-stop: 7.1
  • Aperture priority
  • Matrix metering
  • Autofocus because I’m lazy



At the Zoo

Lion of a Man

Last weekend I went to the zoo with my friend Vex and her son Malik.  Malik was born premature and spent three months in NICU before finally coming home, and we prayed for them constantly in church those three months.  At his dedication, Adam explained the meaning of his name, Malik Leander.  Malik means “king” and Leander means “lion of a man,” so this child probably has the most epic name since, say, Gilgamesh.  Maybe because our church is small, and we spent so long praying this boy to life, but he really does seem like everyone’s child.  Biased as I am, I have to say I think it would be pretty excellent growing up in a church like Continuum.

Our little lion enjoyed several hours of pushing his own stroller, putting on his hat, taking off his hat, and communicating with other tiny humans in their unique and unknowable way.  I enjoyed being surrounded by my two favorite subjects: children and animals.  I also came to the same conclusion as Vex’s advice at the end of the excursion: “Wait to have kids, Jenn.”  As much as I enjoy tiny humans, I am certainly not ready to be completely responsible for the well-being of one.  I am too selfish, too insecure, too unsure of my significance to have someone completely dependent on me, but I’d like to think that I am on my way.

Tagged , , ,

Spectator Sport

I recently read some maudlin little blurb I-can’t-remember-where about wanting to be the person in the photos instead of just someone looking at others’ photos, and my first thought was, “What about being the person who takes the photos?”  Ever since Nikita’s arrival, I have often said to myself, “Hey, I need to go hang out with people/explore places/do things so that I can take pictures!”  (Not, it should be noted, do people, hang out with places, and explore things…)

While my photography bug generally gets me out and about in a healthy way, I’ve also found a curious detachment that comes with being behind the shutter.  As the photographer, I’m neither participant nor spectator…but I am also both.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to set the camera aside and just be there, but having the camera with me also helps me tap into my Sensing function when I am looking for new angles and details.  (I think field–depth, width, angle, framing–is my primary photographic element.)

All of this is to preface my new experiment.  A colleague last year posited that one can only do about 3 things well at a time, 4 if you’re superhuman.  He gave the example of a period in life when his three things were work, school, and fishing; I decided that I wanted my three to be work, church life, and writing.  The first two are coming along quite swimmingly, but I’ve found myself neglecting the third.  What I have done, however, is take a tremendous amount of photos in the last few weeks, and so I thought about using that as a catalyst for my writing.  A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, right?  So my goal is to post a photo with 200 words 5 times a week, for a total of 1000 words a week.  (Or maybe 100 words 10 times a week?)  Part of the reason I don’t post more often is because once I get started writing, I know it will take me a while to finish, so I tend to not start in the first place.  My pictures tend to be of loved ones and places, so there should be plenty of material to reflect on, because of course that is what I do most often in my writing.

Everything is an experiment, so here we go!

The Care and Feeding of Freshmen

A work in progress, and probably applicable to students of all ages:
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition.
  • Collect everything before they leave the room (or you will never see it again) and at least pretend to grade it.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition.
  • Practice and model routines/procedures.
  • Occasionally give completely unqualified praise without bringing up areas for improvement.
  • Whenever a child does something right, make them believe that it was completely their idea even if it was yours.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Phenomenal Women

It’s pretty obvious I am an NF because I have a hard time blogging just about what’s happening in my life without some sort of lengthy emotional reflection, and so it probably seems like I just sit around marinating in my feelings all the time…which is not altogether untrue, but I’m going to try to be better about posting “normal” entries. (This reminds me of a conversation/debate with Blondie about the continuum of conversation topics that should, theoretically exist between emotional vomit and, say, a discussion of one’s bowel movements.)

When I left school on Friday, I needed grown-up time so badly it wasn’t even funny.  Fortunately, my friend Beth’s bridal shower was that night, and the party brought together nearly all of my favorite people in one place.

First, Sarah (on the left), whom I do not see nearly enough now that she lives and works an hour away.  But we are forever bonded by our love of country music, past relationship woes, and vastly inappropriate sense of humor.  (Apparently I am the extreme on that scale, which I rather heartily protest.)  We spent the evening catching up on our respective lives and recounting previous run-ins with the king of Benin and shofar anointings.

Then there’s Laura (in the middle), who will soon be leaving us for the Philippines to give a year.  At first she may appear innocent and sweet, but beneath the surface lies one saucy little miss.  Must be the red hair.

And Julie (trying to escape my non-telephoto lens).  She is an aspiring teacher, currently subbing, so we traded lots of war stories.  Julie’s unique sense of humor and outrageously contagious laugh is one of the stabilizing forces in my life, so when she spent a year in Tajikistan my world seemed just a little less sunny.

(I just noticed that all three of these amazing ladies (and, indeed) many of my closest friends are in helping professions.  This is most likely neither coincidental nor accidental.)

Finally, there’s Beth, the lady of the hour.  She is the outreach director at our church (another helper, shockingly) and probably an extroverted version of me.  I’ve gotten to know her rather more in the last year or so when I discovered how similar our personalities are, and she’s helped me  feel my feelings without the world ending.  She also shares my love of crafting, books, and nerds, and is dedicated to social justice and community in a way that I admire greatly and wish to emulate.

All my life I have been blessed with a plethora of strong women surrounding me, and that is probably what I missed the most when I was living in Lima.  (And even there God brought me my counterpart to live with then and now!)  Beth looked around at one point and exclaimed, “I can’t believe it’s my turn!”  And I just know that when it’s my turn, these ladies and many others will be there for me.  So to these phenomenal women, I dedicate Maya Angelou’s masterpiece.

Phenomenal Women

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Learning Curve

It has been an exhausting first week, but one in which I have learned a great deal.  The most surprising thing so far has been that, for the most part, my repeating students have been my best leaders, and I confess to having seriously misjudged that at first.  When I was able to look past the initial attitude and give them an opportunity for leadership, I realized their potentially and immediately moved quickly to first neutralize and then win those students over, or at least those with the most extroverted personalities: NM, MB, YW, and Moose, whom I will almost certainly call Mufasa by mistake at some point this year because he is good and enormous and sounds like James Earl Jones.

The notable exception, of course, is KS, and that situation is a fiendishly complex bag of beans.  We got off on the wrong foot because I called her by another student’s name by mistake several times, and my attempts at Love and Logic have been interpreted as “nosiness.”  (Though when she questioned that and I explained that I was only concerned for everyone’s safety in such a large class, she seemed to accept that without much ado.)  As luck would have it, she is in my largest class that has the most other demanding students, and of course it is my third class of the day and I am already well-drained by then as well.  I am wondering whether having a snack might make a difference for them and I me, so I might try that next week.

At the end of the day yesterday, I felt pretty disgusted and frustrated with the week but couldn’t quite pinpoint why until I started debriefing with the other new science teacher, who to my knowledge has never taught in an urban district before.  I realized that I am laboring under the delusion (for that is what it is) that I “should” be an expert at this by now because I’ve taught for a grand total of one year at an inner-city school.  I also feel guilty for not wanting to try harder with certain students and frustrated by the limits of my capacity to care.

I suppose I need to review my conclusions from last week and to accept whatever level of emotional availability I’m at before (but not in lieu of!) taking the necessary steps to increase that availability.  There is the factor of whether or not I want to, of course, and I am asking myself that very question right now.  Another hate-spiral thought that’s creeping up on me is that this year will be no different from last and that I was crazy to think I could change and be more whole.  While there is some truth that history seems to be repeating itself right now, I need to remember several things: 1) that is most likely my flight instinct talking; 2) I am not bound to my past; and 3) the way I view the present shapes how the future will unfold.  (All of these are things we are discussing at Continuum, of course!)  So for now, I am still hanging out at the bottom of the learning curve, which just happens to be where my students are, so maybe that is not such a bad thing after all.

Fun with Skye and the sky

I got my new camera on Friday, and I am absolutely enchanted.  The Olympus I requisitioned from my dad had only one working lens which was a telephoto, so it is quite magical for me to have an angle of view greater than 2 degrees.  (I exaggerate…slightly.)  It is also extremely nice to be able to hold the camera in my natural grip and not worry about mashing the white balance button by accident and having to toggle out of a mess of menus.  I ended up getting a Nikon because it’s the only brand of decent DSLR with which I have spent any significant amount of time, so getting reaccustomed to the layout of the camera body wasn’t too hard.  My high school photography class helped a lot too by laying a foundational understanding of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.

I’d been wanting to go to one of the two airports that surround my life to shoot the airplanes, and this being Sunday, I trundled over to the OSU Airport to take Nikita for a spin, having never been there before.  I half expected someone to swoop over and tell me to stop taking pictures, but apparently the university airport is not a sufficient national security concern to warrant an orange alert.  Oh wait, neither is Port Columbus.  But tell that to TSA.

It was a pretty slow day at Don Scott, so I only got to see one plane land, but there were some extremely impressive cumulonimbus calvi on the western horizon.

At the first drop of rain, I hustled back inside just in time to avoid being drenched by the excrement of said cumulonimbi.  LPIE and I then went to meet up with my friend Skye at Union in the Short North, where the ratio of people sexually oriented toward me rather than Skye was approximately 99 to 1.  Of course I had to be obnoxious and snap pictures of strangers, but fortunately, Nikita is very quiet and ninja-like.  Unlike the Olympus, which sounds approximately like a guillotine cutting through a pumpkin.

And speaking of ninjas, we realized that the vacant lot behind which we parked is actually home to some extremely plump wooden ninja figures.  Someday I will come back during the day and photograph them in all their rotund glory, but here is an extremely grainy shot of these delightful beings.

I also learned this weekend that I will probably be the worst day-care/pre-school mother of all time.  When I’m apart from Nikita for more than a few hours, I get separation anxiety and immediately upon returning have to rush  to the camera case and make sure she is real and that everything is still intact. [sigh] I really wish I didn’t have allergies so I could expend my considerable nurturing energies on something animate.  But instead I am a teacher, so I can expend my considerable nurturing energies on coaxing my recalcitrant tiny humans to act like something resembling a young adult.  First day with my classes tomorrow…finally!  Still mildly terrified that I will somehow screw up royally, but I think that will disappear when I step into my classroom.

Lean Wit’ It (Rock Wit’ It)

Peter the Polychrone (sounds like a Russian czar…) once described me as being possessed of a “chaotic and well-meaning spirit,” which is one of the truest statements and best compliments I have ever heard.  But the caveat is that the chaos that often swirls around me like snow blown from a drift can very easily trip me up in its tangles.  The burden of being a dominant intuitive is that my freewheeling feelings often butt headfirst into my need (desire?) for order.  (Meaning I have endless fun color-coding my divider tabs that I will completely ignore after about a week.)

The first two days of school have been, by any conventional definition, batshit bonkers.  Yesterday I had anywhere from 25-30 kids tramping in and out of my room built to hold about 20 tiny humans and only a vague idea of what they were supposed to be doing the majority of the day.  Today I took 28 of those students out and about the city for 5.5 hours, 3 destinations, and 1 bus breakdown, all in the name of experiential learning. (Check.)

Yesterday I was a mild basket case, and that was actually the only day this week for which we’d had any sort of concrete advance notice.  This week I was supposed to share responsibility for an elective class that is taught by our technology guru, but since there are a panoply of technical glitches that need to be worked out in the first week of school, that responsibility has devolved almost entirely to me.  But they are also supposed to be working on a project for his elective, and that’s what much of yesterday was spent doing.  I had a hard time feeling invested in teaching the lesson without Guru there even though I did believe it was valuable.  I think I was also running on a low emotional tank in general, which made me anxious about not being able to engage, which made me withdraw more, which made me feel guilty…aaaaand the sneaky hate spiral commences.

Today was better, though.  One, I had gotten to know some of the students more, and vice versa.  Two, I was able to engage the students in a some meaningful discussion about community needs, which contributed to number One.  But most importantly, I made a conscious decision to go with the flow more, permitting myself to feel whatever level of emotional generosity that I was comfortable with, and lo and behold, it came that much more easily.  As always, I am walking the tightrope between chaos and constraint.

Hope to post something more objective about the writing and thinking workshop, but it is getting close to bedtime.  So for now, a preview in pictures…