Teaching: A Leap Forward

I nearly jumped outta my skin when a friend told me how lucky I was to have teaching as my “fall back career.” I wished I could’ve traveled through the cell phone to cuss her out in person. She’d caught me off guard, sliding that insult disguised as a compliment into our otherwise friendly, yearly Thanksgiving Day phone call.

I realize George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Those who can’t do, teach,” but I’m beginning to think he was merely jealous of the lifelong passion one derives from doing what one truly loves. Yes, there are people who trudge through jobs they hate, day in and day out just to make ends meet. They are sellouts. Some of them are teachers, but really they could be soullessly doing anything for money. Even writing plays.

Yet, once I resigned from teaching at an Austin public school, I’d finally combined both my passions for teaching and writing as a freelance editor and writer of online educational materials. I wrote Biology lessons, imagining how engaged students would be with the interactive exercises I created. I actually missed being with students, but not asshole administrators.

As fate would have it, I ended my last freelance educational writing contract the first week of December 2014 and didn’t get another until the last week of December 2015. In between time, I taught an evening adult basic education class, which allowed me to do yoga, paint and write in the mornings and interact with students in the evenings.

I loved it. One of the best lessons I learned, I’d actually heard myself telling a student, who thought it was incredulous that I enjoyed teaching math. I told her, “Because I know how to teach math, I will always have a job.”

I must explain that’s not the only reason I enjoy teaching math, but as any adult education instructor will tell you, adult students are mostly motivated to return to school because they are tired of dead-end, minimum-wage jobs with questionable job security and most likely, an openly inhumane supervisor. So, highlighting a clear economic link between understanding math, a subject majority of my students struggle with, and job security, is a good thing.

Later, it hit me: as long as I can teach math, I will always have a job. Eureka! Never had I picked out a specific skill, besides being fabulous at strategic thinking and organization, both of which I attribute to mathematical reasoning, from the myriad of teaching skills, and saw the marketable commodity I’ve honed for 20 years and counting.

Once I became a licensed teacher with a Masters in Education, I thought my career path was set. Long ago, people remained with the same company and/or career throughout their entire professional life. That world began to disappear about 40 years ago and the rise of the Internet and its technological cousins accelerated this transformation.

My career journey traveled a little off the beaten path since I began both teaching and writing as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ve leapt from one international, exotic location to the next, teaching math and science. Never once had I felt I’d fallen backwards. As a matter of fact, I credit my international teaching career for helping out my fall back writing career!

Just to show that the universe continues to conspire with me, I recently had the inspiration to start training parkour, thanks to watching one of my nephews train. That’s a perfect analogy for how I now visualize my career trajectory: leaping, swinging, climbing and flipping from one challenge to the next, using whichever skills I need at the time to meet my personal and professional goals.

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Before I Learned

Before I learned sex positions were named for what’s done to a woman, I knew women weren’t created to be passive recipients.

Before I learned oral sex was sex, I knew it should be reciprocated.

Before I learned most of a man’s fascination with his own penis was the fact he could see it, I knew women had genitalia worthy of attention.

Before I learned some men couldn’t climax while wearing a condom, I still knew I had the right to be protected.

Before I learned some guys thought inserting “just the tip” was an acceptable work around to wearing a condom, I knew the tip was where rogue sperm and STIs hung out.

Here’s some anatomical irony: men boast and compliment one another by stating how big their testicles are; or urge another man to be courageous by suggesting he “grow a pair”; and will even express admiration for an assertive woman by saying she’s really “ballsy”. Yet, testicles are as fragile as an overhyped male ego. On the other hand, vaginas are designed to withstand a pounding. So, shouldn’t it be more complimentary to tell a man he’s a big pussy?

Once upon a time

On an overcrowded bus

From Mombasa to Dar es Salaam

Zoned out

Dead weight

Bouncing around

Exotic African images blurring past

Crudely serenaded by

Blasting Zairian music

Heavy bass

Pulsating hearts

When slowly

Through mental fog

A primal response

To inanimate vibrations

Orgasmic vaginal contractions

Forget horseback riding

Ride a chicken bus instead

Heaven and Hell

Are self-inflicted

 

 

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Star Wars Fine Arts Reception

1 btn trooper & ewok

I wasn’t part of the hoopla of moviegoers for Star Wars, but I jumped on the opportunity to attend a Star Wars fine arts opening. This art gallery swooped up two of the officially-commissioned Star Wars artists for this event and, most important, invited attendees to dress up.  Oh, boy! I shopped at my favorite costume place, Goodwill, in order to hook up my Princess Leia look. I couldn’t find a futuristic-looking white skirt; so I bought a white curtain and wore it upside down.

The second most challenging thing was transforming my dreads into Princess Leia buns. Once I made two braids, I curled them into buns, which I pinned with one mighty bobbie pin. 2 Star Wars signHardly anyone else dressed up for the occasion. Yet the quality of the art was amazing.
3 Rob Kaz First, I spoke with Rob Kaz. He was busily painting in acrylic on a flat canvas. He agreed with me that practicing on pressed cardboard, such as cereal boxes, is an excellent way to go. I even told him how I cut up my crappy cardboard paintings to make greeting cards out of them.4 Allison Lefcort Allison Lefcort shared a little of her process, showing us her sketches, which she goes by when making the final masterpiece.5 2 Princess LeiasAnother Princess Leia posed with me. I love that we were both drinking gimlets, thanks to the alcohol sponsor. Of course, I left my card with some of the women who worked with the sponsor. Perhaps one day, they’ll come to my show. Or better yet, sponsor it.
6 blue yoda The vividness of this painting made it look like an aquarium. Of course, the first clue was Yoda standing there.7 action scenes I didn’t want to burden my friend with being my personal photographer, but I had to capture as much art as possible.8 dark lord The exhibit almost made me want to see the movie, but knowing me, I’ll wait for it to come on Netflix.9 light saber Of course, I had to pose with the guy who brought a light saber. He was happy to cooperate.10 dark lords & me I’d rigged up my wrap; so I could cover my head when I wanted and it wouldn’t fall off my shoulders when uncovered. Worked well while posing with the dark lords.11 yoda Here’s my favorite Yoda picture.

12 Japanese Star Wars signI liked this poster since it shows the universality of Star Wars.

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NYE 2015

1 BD dinner This marked the first New Year’s Eve where I attended a birthday party at the start of my celebration. I’d lived in Austin for 6 years, passing the chain seafood restaurant as I fetched myself to and from yoga, never once stopping in until NYE 2015. I enjoyed the small group of poets gathered as much as I enjoyed my entree–coconut popcorn shrimp! 2 Hostess w mostess Hours later, I attended another NYE party, hosted by one of my cousins and former capoeira teacher.3 both hostsOne of his roommates co-hosted the party. He had been teaching his girlfriend to play Go, but I was so excited to see a Go board that I intruded on the lesson. They were both good sports about it.  I’d told my cousin during his birthday party a month ago that I’d wanted to cook one of my homemade lasagnas in their gas oven. Now I’m thinking it should be a lasagna and Go party.
4 Negro Keston & me This was the only police officer either my cousin or I ever want to see at a party.5 the gangI loved hanging out with the “ol’ capoeira gang,” including some new ones who started after I stopped officially training.
6 Liz & me I made sure I took pictures with everyone before the ball dropped.7 Liz & me We were both scared when the photographer got this close to take our picture, but it turned out better than we expected.8 Ed & me9 musiciansThe first live music I heard in 2016 was this makeshift samba percussion group. I promptly shed my decorative jacket and sambaed my heart out.
10 family

An hour earlier, I got this shot from my immediate family, commemorating the east coast celebration–all with sparkling apple cider in hand!

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Christmas 2015

0 CJ & meOne of my Christmas gifts to myself was a pair of polarized, no-line bifocals. After looking at all the female frames, I wandered over to the male section and found an attractive, cheaper frame, which didn’t have a bunch of fake jewels or girlie bling along the temples. I’d previously worried if I’d walked away with yet another pair of birth control glasses until I saw my younger nephew, the epitome of “in style,” wearing a similar frame when I arrived to their house.
1 slashed luggageAfter surviving “Flintstone Airline,” where one a) is charged either $30/40/60 for the first checked bag, depending on how soon one pays; b) has the option of paying an additional $50 for reclining seat; and c) must pay for every snack or drink besides a free small cup of water–with or without ice, nonetheless; and d) surviving my 18-year-old niece’s driving from the airport home, I then figured out that my luggage had not burst after all.2 slashed luggage Some lowlife airline worker had slashed my luggage from inside the outer pocket and above the zipper. Initially, I only cared that one of my most cherished creature comforts, my night guard, had fallen out. As I transferred my things from the attacked luggage into the nifty second-hand luggage, I discovered an empty purse I’d packed had been stolen. I jumped through the hoops of reporting it online, but those clowns at “Flintstone Airline,” who will never get my money a second time, preceded to tell me a contradicting procedure for tracking down my property.3 washing machine Strangely, I felt worse about the washing machine breaking down. As usual, I’d opened the lid, put in my dirty laundry and the liquid detergent, closed the lid, pushed power and it malfunctioned. I sought help from my niece, then my sister. I remembered something flying out when I’d opened the lid. I saw it on the floor, slid it into a slot and it worked! Well, not in the traditional sense of “worked.” The locking system no longer unlocked. One of my sisters and I took turns, using a putty knife, jimmying the washing machine open–a newfound skill we learned on YouTube.4 limo On the eve of Christmas Eve, my sister and her husband, treated the family to a limo ride to the National Theatre in DC to watch “Motown: The Musical.” 5 limo They had successfully conned all of us into believing that we were taking two cars to the venue.6 limo My brother-in-law had even taken his second bourbon-laced eggnog to go, all the while my mother politely nagged him every step of the way. He juiced us well, stating that the police didn’t write tickets during the Christmas holidays.  A comment that baited me into cautioning him about his logic.7 limo The ten of us fit comfortably with all the grandkids in the middle and the adults at either end.8 limo My sister and her husband sat in the back seat, facing forward.9 limo My parents sat in front of them and my other sister and I sat together in the only rear-facing seat. After all, how often does one get to ride backwards? As much as I enjoyed the comfort of the limo, I wasn’t a big fan of the projected beams of light, primarily because there was always a rifle scope of light projected on my father.10.1 Motown musicalDespite the rainy weather, we arrived at the venue in plenty of time. My nieces and I followed one of the usher’s advice to use the bathroom prior to the show.10 Motown musical I love that my mother took this forbidden picture inside the theatre.  It’s an unexciting shot other than it wasn’t supposed to be taken in the first place. The true excitement was the musical itself, enveloping us within many popular Motown songs with an intertwining narrative in between songs.11 Ben's Chili Bowl Afterwards, we ate at a jewel of a greasy spoon.11.0 Ben's Chili Bowl This restaurant was as much of an example of the American dream as were the intermingled stories behind “Motown: The Musical.”12 Ben's Chili Bowl Toward the end of dinner, the matriarch restaurant owner came out to bus our table. She graciously paused her business as usual to pose for a few pictures with Mom and Dad. 13 Ben's Chili BowlShe posed with my sister and her husband, who are small business owners themselves.14 tequila I sampled the 3-and 7-year tequilas my brother-in-law had picked up while vacationing in Mexico during Thanksgiving. Despite my most persuasive suggestions, he didn’t want to spare a single shot of either tequila for a coconut margarita. Over ice was fine, but not my favorite for such a strong drink outside of medical purposes.16 Xmas eve Here’s the classic calm-before-the-storm shot on Christmas Eve. 18 Xmas MayaMy younger niece was the first of my gift recipients to open her Christmas present from me.
18.1 Xmas Maya Out of all the things I’d stuffed into that gift box, she was most tickled to discover the return of a set of workout clothes she’d forgotten she’d left during her summer visit with me.20 Xmas Renee My sister also received one of her old bathing suits she’d lent me last Christmas.21 Xmas Renee Of course, I gave more than her returned stuff.22 Xmas ReneeThe two tops I’d gifted her looked as if they’d fit.23 Xmas ReneeThen, she finally got to the one gift in the box I’d been looking forward to her seeing.24 Xmas Renee Since she has low visual acuity, she wore her powerfully magnified reading glasses and presumed she understood what the small, colorful package contained. Her guess was a “candy ring pop.”25 Xmas Renee When I whispered in her ear which adult sex toy she held in her hand, she burst out laughing, even my nieces and nephews were briefly torn away from their self-absorbed pursuit of gift-opening. I only captured a fraction of the joy this little surprise package brought her.27 Xmas Mom Purple, the color of royalty and healing, was also the signature color of my mother’s “Red Hatters” women’s group. I wasn’t sure if she realized the reason I gifted her the shirt was because it marked the 150th anniversary of our emancipation from slavery, but at least she liked the color and it was the right size.28 Xmas Mom As she pulled out the other gift, she exclaimed, “This better not be a cookbook!” Well, sometimes you get what you don’t wish for. Yet, she sweetened to the idea of it once she realized one of her own recipes and three of mine where represented.29 Xmas CJ My younger nephew changes so much every year, I can never be sure what size he is, what his tastes are nor his newfound hobbies. Yet, I remembered his sister had looked into buying him a comic book character T-shirt, which helped me at least pick out some reading material.30 Xmas Carl My brother-in-law was the hardest to gift. He doesn’t need anything that’s within my price range; so, I made him a pride box, which represented his business and fraternity. I threw in a shaker, plastic rocks “glass,” and swag bottle opener.33 Xmas Dad I also made my father a pride box. His box had an Air Force theme since he’d served from 1960 to 1981. I threw in two Texas lottery scratch off tickets–neither one was a winner. 34 Xmas Jasmine Continuing my mission to distribute entertaining reading material, I gifted my other niece the most anime-looking comic books I could find among some other random things I’d given her.35 Xmas Carla The potpourri of gifts I gave my other sister consisted of a bottle opener, an entrepreneur’s purse, a “Step It Up” T-shirt, and a comic book.  After all, she’s an artist who enjoys a drink every now and again and wants to run her own business one day.36 Xmas Alec For my other nephew, who regularly makes excuses why he can never make his way to the library, I filled his gift box with reading material: a political magazine, an anthology of African American literary synopses, and comic book.37 Xmas breakfast Three chefs in my family prepared Christmas breakfast: bacon, Dad’s famous hash browns, eggs and toast with molasses.38 Xmas stocking stufferShe couldn’t wait to eat her “stocking stuffer.” (Actually, the cone was in the stocking with a note about where to find the ice cream.)
38.1 Xmas sobrinos The yearly nieces and nephews photo38.2 Xmas Dad & sisters Dad with his daughters38.3 Xmas Mom & sistersHere’s Dad’s attempt to take our picture with Mom’s iPad. Notice my lone dreadlock on the right.38.4 Xmas Mom & sisters My nephew took over the effort to capture Mom with us.39 Mom & Jean I’m so happy I was able to visit some extended family members during this trip “home.” I love this shot in particular since Mom and this cousin grew up together as friends when they had to walk to and from a segregated, single-room elementary school. Look at them now.

40 CJ's green bandMy nephew received his green band for successfully testing to the next level in parkour.  Since he’s visiting me for a week this summer, I’m going to take a few parkour classes myself, so I can be ready for a single class with him.  The way I see it, I may be half way to 90, but as long as I can go at my own pace and no one’s kicking at my head, this cannot be worse than capoeira. As a matter of fact, as a little girl who loved to climb trees and play on the monkey bars, I would’ve loved parkour as a child…if girls had been allowed.

41 banana pancakesBanana pancakes for my last breakfast while visiting with my family–what a delicious send off!

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Ch. 24: Celebrate!

Day 6

How appropriate the last painting in this series shows the twins celebrating their newly heightened enlightenment. I feel the same way since I’ve learned a tremendous amount about painting and I’m ecstatic to have completed just in the nick of time–the weather turned very windy and cold the next day after I put the last dabs of paint onto this canvas.

This scene takes place atop Mt. Bonnell, the highest point in Austin, which isn’t really all that high at 775 feet above sea level. Yet the twins return to Austin in more elevated spirits than they left for a “happily ever after for now” (HEAFN) kind of ending. I’m not actually looking to write a sequel although I’d love to use some of the main characters, minus the title fantasy characters, my beloved Infinity and Negativa.

All 24

I scarcely captured all 24 canvases in this shot. The chandelier features prominently, signaling the series is done. Now comes the next learning curve for me: researching the most cost-effective way to scan all of them for the book. Additionally, I’m going to dust off the manuscript (since it’s all electronic, I’m really being figurative here) and revise it before starting the self-publishing process.

I’m entering the new year with two part-time jobs. It’ll be exciting to see which one offers me a full-time contract first. I’ve maximized my creative time while working a part-time job in 2015. Now, I’ll need to maximize my money with a full-time job in order to bring  The Adventures of Infinity & Negativa to life.

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Ch. 23: Out of the Box

Day 6For the fifth week in a row, I completed another canvas. Not only is this the penultimate painting, but it has been the least time-consuming to prep and paint. Quite convenient, given the fact that my schedule was “off” due to a few novel activities. Normally, the best way for me to complete a project of this magnitude is to do a little every day. What great timing this canvas arose during a rather hectic week in my life when other things had to take precedent.

In this scene, the twins have worked their way “out of the box,” achieving a new plateau of understanding and redefinition. The thing about being out of the box is no box should appear. Plus, in order to show how they changed, I painted them with a glittery acrylic, which doesn’t show up as sparkly in this picture as it does in reality. I stuck with convention and kept their signature colors: purple for Infinity and red for Negativa. For a fleeting moment, I thought about switching their colors, but even when people, ahem, mathematical characters, change radically, there are echoes from their past.

All 23There it is, the chandelier acting like the star of the show! Its appearance unofficially signals I’m near the end of this project. I’ve laid aside the manuscript, except for the opening scenes, for a few months now. As soon as the 24th painting takes its rightful place, I’m combing through the manuscript since 2016 is the year to bring this ebook to life!

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Ch. 22 Painting: Come to Jesus Meeting

Day 7

I took stenciling to a whole new level when I prepped this canvas. In order to scale this properly, I quartered the picture by cropping it and zooming the sections on four different pages. Then I cut out several pieces and reconstructed the “puzzle” on the canvas, omitting things in the shot I didn’t want.  Essentially, I took out most of the ornateness and left the bare minimum details to suggest a church. Even the crucifix came from a different picture.

The most challenging picture to find was two women sitting in this position. I particularly like how Negativa has her back to Christ and Infinity faces him.

I spent about 3 1/2 hours finishing up this painting on Friday just to stay on schedule and under a week. I usually don’t like spending that much time in one setting, doing any creative project with the possible exception of hand sewing.

This canvas represents the shortest scene between the sisters in the whole manuscript. Negativa tells Infinity how she’s disappointed in her. Infinity is happy about that since she doesn’t want to be a new messiah only to be crucified.

All 22

I’m closing in on the end of this painting series; so I’d like to view that encroaching chandelier as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel–versus the impending train wreck.

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Bumper Sticker Life’s Advice

 

1 me w AWR sign

Life Is About Kicking Ass, Not Kissing It. I’ve studied three styles of martial arts just so I could fulfill a childhood dream of being an Amazon, but there’s more than wishful thinking behind my pursuit to be as physically and mentally strong as I can. We women have continued to influence society and evolve.

And I Give Evolution Two Opposable Thumbs Up. The complexity of our hands is only bested by the complexity of our minds, creating things our hands cannot grasp. Yet we are evolving into a better society by pushing against ignorant restraints. In jest, I talk about “primitive feminism”: shouting, kicking and other aggressive forms of argument.

Although A Kick In The Ass Is Still A Step Forward, what a waste of formal education and higher thinking if we only respond to our changing environment with our reptilian brains. When bad things happen, we can either be its victim, its survivor or its conqueror. Rarely do we rise to such occasions without life provoking us into it. We can still advance and emerge into a much better position than we originally imagined as long as the fruits of our own labor enrich us.

So, When Someone Tells You They Got Rich Through Hard Work, Ask: “Whose?” Don’t assume that they worked their own way through anything. They could be among the privilege who merely inherited the spoils of hard work. Only those of us who’ve schemed, dreamed, hustled and bustled can truly boast about our self-made accomplishments. Rule number one to making yourself: break a rule or three!

Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History. What we admire the most in all legendary women are not the female minions who blended into society, but the ones who stirred things up and proved to us, once again, a daring woman’s action was not prevented by the laws of physics. Merely the misogynistic social and religious laws, which sought to keep her in her place. Every time a woman vanquishes a false belief or practice, we should celebrate.

So, Forget Your Troubles And Dance. When you hold your head up high, laugh at yourself and go to bed exhausted from living another passion-driven life, you sleep well and wake up rested to live up to your fullest potential all over again.

 

 

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Ch. 21 Painting: Infinity Pancakes

Day 8Once I put the gooey maple syrup on this tall stack of blueberry pancakes, I craved pancakes!  I used stencils for everything, including the twins. Only challenge was omitting their chairs.  I figure since they are mathematical characters, I could justify having them levitate in a seated position.

In this chapter, Infinity explains how cooking her self-titled “Infinity Pancakes” recipe is simply edible ratios. Negativa only cares about the end result, regardless of the underlying math governing the kitchen chemistry of ingredients.

All 21

I have proudly struggled to get all 21 of these paintings in the shot. Yet moving furniture out of the shot just to get them all in while simultaneously not getting the chandelier in the shot means lying on my back at an angle and holding my breath to minimize shaking the camera. Totally worth it as I near the end of this series.

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