So true it's almost funny

Ancestral Closets

The year is 2020.  There’s a pandemic.  There are protests in the streets of major cities and minor cities for the cessation of brutality of black people at the hands of police.  I have participated some… enough to open my eyes to the callous nature of, what do you call them?  Law enforcement I suppose. First it was the Portland Police, then the Federal “Agents” from a speculation of places:  Homeland Security, ICE, the National Guard,  unknown gun for hire.  Dressed in Camouflage or all black riot gear, unnamed, unidentifiable, they stood in front of the Federal Building, or in front of the police bureau building, or they marched along the side streets and through the little park blocks.  They were heavily armed with – who knows what besides what they threw and shot and swung at us.  We too were masked, and difficult to identify, and we came armed with signs, and chemicals to clear the tear gas from our eyes, and loud shouts chanted in line.  Some of us threw plastic water bottles, some threw left over fireworks.  Some set small fires.  All were angry and all wanted change.  75 days later, no change has come.

I went once downtown.  I was tear gassed, I stared down the men in black and camo.  I yelled at them to just go home, to quit their jobs, not to shoot their mothers.  They didn’t appear to care.  They stayed on.  They kept their jobs and they shot their mothers, and their brothers, and their sisters and their fathers.  They shot us all.

So I went home.  And I stayed home.  I paced like a caged animal.  I wanted to go back.  I did go back during the day once.  I looked around with my son Mariano.  He was ill at ease, but we walked around anyway.  And we took advantage of the chalk bucket that a trans protester had provided because she had been man-handled and arrested by police for chalking the sidewalk.  And now she wanted everyone to get to do it – she was leaning in.  We chalked the sidewalk with “Can you Hear me Now?” and “Black Lives Matter”.  I could feel the tear gas powder in the dry dirt as it wafted up to us walking through.  The remains of the nightly protests.  I could feel the tension in the air and the hard stares of the people occupying the park blocks where we were.  I didn’t belong here.  I was white privilege walking.  I could leave at any time.  I could eat at any time.  I could engage and disengage at will.  I was not in any danger that I didn’t bring on myself.  I was not like the others here.  We went home.

And I stayed home, glued to the live feeds, posting updates and information on Facebook, my mother decided to engage me in conversation about racism – or the lack thereof. And it’s so exhausting to think about, that I want to stop typing right now and lay on the couch and zone out.  I’m not done processing – I will never be done processing.  The depth of racism runs so deeply through my veins, I will never be able to purge it.  It’s swirling in my gut and causing me to retch.  It crawls under my skin and tingles my hair till the hair on my head falls out from the poison.  It’s in my ears, the sound of which is my soothing mother’s voice, the low baritone of my father.  The warm embrace of racism is my father’s strong arms and broad chest that envelope me in safety.  It is the critique of my mother to comb my hair and brush my teeth.  To walk with my head up high and my shoulders back with the pride of privilege – you can be poor, but you don’t have to be dirty.  Dirty.  Dirty.

Black men owned slaves in the south honey.  Some slave owners were kind to their slaves so that when the Emancipation Proclamation happened, and they were granted their freedom, they didn’t want to leave.  The KKK started as a noble group.  The Black Panthers were evil.  I can’t stand abortion, it’s awful.  There was no racism in Oregon when I grew up there.  My dad worked in the shipyards during the time of Vanport.  There was no racism.  The black soldiers could have gone to college after the war too if they chose it.  I don’t know anything about there being red-lining in Portland.  We had a black family in our neighborhood.  If North Portland was where all the blacks had to live – well it was the NICE area of town!  It just makes me sad how everyone is being torn apart.  There was a song I used to think was about you and I – “Sometimes it Feels Like You and Me Against the World” – but I don’t feel that way anymore.  You’re like your brother Dan.

My brother Dan molested me when I was a child.  She knows that.  She was there comforting me while my dad beat the shit out of him with his belt in the other room.  I heard him screaming, my fathers voice like the low growl of an attacking dog.  I sat on the couch and cried while my mother held me.  I have not recovered from that.  Honestly, their response to his betrayal of my trust in him was worse than the betrayal itself. I’m glad he didn’t die.  And.  I have not recovered from either event – the betrayal or the response.  And she says we are the same.  Yes,  I know.  Our personalities are so similar that I swear I can read his mind.  Probably because I spent so much of my childhood trying to see inside his head.  Trying to apologize for tattling.  Trying to make up for that beating that I was responsible for.  Trying to save him from what must have been a difficult journey from there.  Until his callous response to his own son’s suicide threat woke me to some alternate reality.  “He’s just trying to get attention.  We need to let him sit in this alone for a while”.  Crazy because I know my brother’s son was trying to get his dad’s attention – he’d been trying his whole life – but my brother had disengaged his heart from his son.  My nephew would never get the attention he craved from his own father.  And I saw my brother anew for the first time.  And this vision alerted me to a new vision of myself as well.  I would never save my heartless brother.  It had all been for not.  And now I was free.  Unanchored.  Adrift.

Its all the same, you know.  Police Brutality against Blacks, and my Father’s Brutality against my brothers and my brother’s walled up heart.  The silencing of the blacks, and the silencing of both me and my brother. Sitting on the couch listening to my brother scream while my father beat him, and pacing in the other room while my husband verbally attacks my child and now watching from the suburbs what is happening in the city.  I cannot relax complicit.  The child self inside of my body will not let me.  And it comes out as a scream – as a high pitched female dog defending her pup.  Get back or I will fight you.  I don’t want to kill you.  I don’t know if I can kill you.  But I do want to protect my cub, my brother, my daughter, myself.  And I hate you.  I hate that I love you.  I hate that I love you, the racist, the misogynist,  the power hungry, the indifferent to my longing.  I hate that I love you.  But I don’t know how to leave you – my father, my mother, my brother, my husband, my child self.

What I do know is that I have to have time to be alone in my thoughts and with this body who is reeling inside with all of the knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a white woman in America whose ancestors are from South Carolina slave owners, and Oregon settlers who didn’t care about their own privilege over their black neighbors.  Settlers eager to believe the “dangerous black man” and the “free-loading black mother” tropes.  Eager to scape goat the blacks for all the crime and filth and lift themselves above another group of people in order to secure their place in the “middle” class.  You can be poor – but you don’t ever have to be black and for that you can be proud.  What is this new place I find myself?  That the unrested ghosts have been raised from the dead places inside of me to rattle their chains in my head and scream their howls of pain in my ears.  What do I need to do to allow these dead events to rest in peace inside of me – now and forever?

I joined a genealogy group – and I joined a writer’s group.  I have to write myself out of this hysteria.  There are skeletons in the closet of my ancestors I didn’t even know I had in the house that is my mind and body. A closet behind the brick wall of silence built securely by my father, my mother and my religion.  But I see it now.  What will I find when I turn the handle?  What secret does my body hold?  I have to know.


God bless you, Ava… whoever you are

The list of “must have’s” for any serious grad student is long and involved and includes things like: a laptop computer equipped with WiFi capabilities; a cell phone that one can check the internet with and their multiple email addresses – the one for school, the one for work, the one for home, the one they give to the solicitors; another device in case one needs to search the internet and write a paper at the same time; a set of encyclopedias – the older the better, a library full of textbooks they got for too much money and never got their money’s worth and therefore feel they must not part with – maybe ever; two alarm clocks – because who wakes up after only 3 hours of sleep?; a yoga mat (just in case there’s time) and a gym membership (see previous listing) and a slow cooker…

But above all else, every grad student MUST know where the closest internet cafe is located just in case, god forbid, the internet connection at home is less than reliable.

For me, this new home away from home is AVA Roasteria, just down the road from school, where I am currently wrapping up another action packed class by completing my two last assignments of the section which incidentally, absolutely, and without a doubt, NEED the internet to complete!

God bless you, Ava, whoever you are, for opening this bright and shiny cafe for my grad school needs.  The coffee is pretty good and the 80’s easy listening music is working for me tonight.

Revolutionary Thoughts: Animated!!

I have a confession to make.  I am a terrible note taker.  I either take too many notes with too many words, or I just hit the headings and don’t support them with any words that will help me recall what they were about.  I’m horrible at it.  However, I’m pretty good at memorization and conceptualizing things.  So, my habit has been, therefore, to read things multiple times so as to not just get the “gist” of something, but also to memorize the details that seem to stand out the most.

You can imagine then how terrifying the idea of creating a Creative Commons Visual on a lecture or reading might be for me.  I cannot even describe the feeling of anxiety.

There are people who do it though – and they do it remarkably well and I wanted to highlight a couple of lectures I have heard that have been white board animated by a company called RSAnimate.  The lectures by themselves are ones that provide plenty of fodder for thought, but the addition of the animation makes the lecture that much more fantastic.  Enjoy!

I watched Ken Robinson (without the animation) a few years back when I first started my MAT program at George Fox University and the ideas he presents really resonated with me.

Daniel Pink’s lecture on drive was a new one on me recently.  And though the lecture is specifically geared toward motivating employees, I venture to say the same ideas apply to students in education.  What if we put aside one day out of the week – or even the month – where all teachers would be available, and students got to choose to work on something of their choice, either alone or in a group or even as a teacher!!  What might come out of that day??  I love the thought.  I might pitch it to my school.

Now Hear This!!

I downloaded Garage Band on both my iPad and my new MacBook Air to record my first podcast.  It took some figuring out – but not too much.

garageband audio recorder20130325audiobus_garageband

The record feature is very self evident and after choosing the picture of the microphone as my “instrument”, the app took me straight to the recording screen where the standard record, play, stop buttons are prominently displayed.  It took me a minute to figure out I had to turn up the volume on that screen to hear what I recorded.

After recording a bit, I realized I had recorded two tracks over the top of each other- which led me to a different screen that enabled me to add instruments on additional tracks, or delete tracks that weren’t working.


After playing with it a while, I decided that I needed to figure out how to upload this new recording medley to my blog.  I figured out, after some trial and error, that uploading the podcast to YouTube and then uploading that to my blog was what was going to work best because I couldn’t figure out how to upload the podcast directly from garage band to my blog.  According to the Mac Support site, one can also use iTunes and iSounds, but I was not successful using those mediums for the purpose of adding it to my blog.

So there you have it.  I’m pretty excited about figuring out how to use a microphone to record interviews that address historically significant events going on right now.  Personally there is a  push for a more robust Spanish Immersion program in my home school district that I am eager to get involved with.  Perhaps having all the players recorded is one way I can help educate families about the issue so that can make a more informed decision regarding the future of this and other educational programs in our district.

For a more thorough explanation of how to incorporate podcasting into the classroom, checkout Reading Rockets website here.  The page was created in 2008, but the lesson planning is still worth the read even if the technology information is out of date.

What do you Think of That?! Student Engagement at the School Without Walls

This video sums up beautifully how social studies teacher Victoria Tyson at the School Without Walls in Washington, DC engages her students by encouraging them to think deeply and evaluate material in dynamic large and small groups.

Engage Students at all Levels of Learning in Rigorous Work:

  • The Lesson balances teacher-directed instruction and student-centered learning
  • The lesson is accessible to all students at different learning levels
  • The lesson challenges all students at different learning levels

I love the open discourse happening in this classroom video.  When the students are all working in pairs, they have someone they can bounce their ideas off of, or get a life-line from when they are stuck!  And as a pair, they can choose to defend their own thinking or join in the thinking of other pairs.  This fluidity is very interesting to me and seems a powerful way for teacher and students to wrestle with big ideas in history.

Lies My Teacher Told Me – A Review

I have been reading James W. Loewen’s book “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your American History textbook got wrong”.  I’m on chapter 5, “Gone with the Wind”.  It is mostly about the misrepresentation of the nature of slavery in the United States and the other Americas.  Each chapter of the book is incredible.  As this is my first exposure to alternative history reporting, I have taken each chapter a little at a time.  It’s a lot to take in.

This YouTube video speaks about how history text books could be used to spread nationalistic propaganda.  It’s well articulated and has extensive reference slides.  It is an interesting take on what might motivate a textbook industry/body of education to misrepresent historical figures.

In some ways, I’ve always known there were missing pieces to my high school history textbook.  I could read that the stories were incomplete and sometimes contradictory.  But never has the information been so thoroughly spelled out to me before.  And the result has been a whetted appetite for deeper, more first person accounts of our nation’s past.

So first I bought a People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.  Then I checked out the Voices of the People’s History of the United States, which is the expanded edition of primary sources referred to in Mr Zinn’s work.  Next I watched the video inspired by People’s History,The People Speak, in which many of the letters and depositions used in Mr Zinn’s work were given life by the voices of first rate actors and actresses.  I highly recommend this video.

Next,  I watched Half the Sky, a video based on the book by the same name which is a documentary about some of the types of oppression that women face all over the globe.  As a woman, this topic is very dear to me.  I only wish there was more discussed about the insidious nature of oppression and subjugation still alive on our own soil, here in the United States of America.  For example,  I vehemently hate pornography and all its objectifying partners.  Freedom of speech should not include freedom to objectify and abuse for a profit.  I’ll save that rant for another blog post.

And then I bought six volumes of Primary Sources on World War I, because I figured, I should have some to check in with when I finally get there in my textbook.  I’m still reading about the Puritans.  One can’t progress very quickly when she’s checking her textbook for accuracy.  (I’m never going to be ready for that HS proficiency exam by December 1st).

Lies my Teacher Told me is a book that makes me mad.  It makes me angry to consider how much silencing has gone on in our beautiful country of potential – our amazing patchwork quilt of customs and cultures.  I still have five chapters to read (I read the last 3 earlier on) before I can review this title fully.  In the meantime, I owe the author a debt of gratitude for opening a can of worms, a window, a pandora’s box of sorts, and the kleenex box because it’s so sad that we can’t learn from our mistakes because we’re too proud and deceitful to admit them to ourselves and to our children.  Thus continues my journey to learn the history of The United States of America – it’s a killer.

Test with a photo

Test wth a photo

Why I study history

I read a history book for the first time this week.  I know it was the first time because it intrigued me, and I don’t recall feeling intrigued before.  The names of the explorers, kings and queens, the countries and ports sounded familiar, but I didn’t recall the details that I had read this last week.  It was as if I had never read it before.

Perhaps it was the manner in which it was written that was different.  But judging from what Loewen says in “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, that is highly unlikely as text books have been recycling the same information for years, and this was a history text book I was reading.  Perhaps it was enticing because I’m reading it side by side with an Atlas, Loewen’s book, and pages upon pages of the world wide web opened up simultaneously as I read.  And perhaps it has intrigued me this week because I happen to be reading about the first European explorers to the Americas, and they came from Spain and Portugal – the very countries I visited last summer for two months with my family.  So I can almost see the ports of departure in my mind.  I heard about the Conquistadors and the fight to regain Spain from the Moors.  The recounting came from the Asturians who still revel in victory to this day.  I bought a cross from this place so I could remember.

And that is just it.

I am the one of my siblings who keeps the trinkets and the articles of clothing and the old letters and photos of the past of my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them.  My parents were both young when their parent’s died, and I have always felt their loss in their stories of family.  I can feel that they have a sense of disconnection, like the threads that hold them to the family quilt were broken and lost before their own threads were fully woven in.  So I hold on desperately to my own family’s heirlooms in order not to suffer this painful fate.  I listen to the stories of their family journeys to America with baited breath.  No matter how many times I hear it – it never gets old.

My great grandfather was a bricklayer, and he made beautiful mantles and fireplaces in some of the most beautiful houses in Portland.  He was from Wales.  He also owned a shop that fixed horse carriages in downtown, which later fixed the first automobiles.  My other great grandfather was from Sweden and he was a farmer and a singer.  It was his voice that brought his family passage accross the Atlantic to the US.  A fact I tell to myself and my son who’s beautiful baritone voice he can be sure is no accident but a gift from his ancestors.

Why did they come here?  Why leave their beautiful homelands with their families to face this unknown place.  And how did they decide to settle in Oregon, of all places?  And what were they hoping for me, who they must have known, would be here one day?  Maybe not me specifically, but for their children’s children generally speaking.  WHat did they think they could gain here, that they couldn’t ensure in Wales, and in Sweden?

This is why I study history.  It’s a selfsh reason I suppose.  But I draw such strength from the stories of my ancestors.  I want to make them proud and give my children a reason to be proud as well.  And somehow I find my place on the timeline of life this way.

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