What got this all started
When I moved to Kansas I spoke pidgeon—a fun mix of Hawaiian colloquialisms and English. Where chicken skin means goose bumps. Where makapiapia is sleep in your eye. Not knowing the language of my classmates in an all white, private Lutheran school in Wichita, I chose to be quiet. I reverted into myself not knowing what to say our how to interact. I was probably talking but the thought I remember thoughts most akin to, “What the hell is this? Where am I and how do I get back? Why is everyone staring at me?”
A few years later, in fourth grade, we moved to the Institute of Logopedics, a compound for the deaf, mentally challenged, and physically disabled. Special needs kids. We were there because the institute offered a discount to nursing students—somewhere around $200/month rent. It was nearby Wichita State University where my mom was a student and janitor. Anyhow, at the institute, picture twenty-five horseshoe pods of six brick duplexes with four homes in each. My hodgepodge neighbors and I suffered from all sorts of oddities—from an outsider’s perspective—but we created a compelling community amongst ourselves.
My nearest neighbors who also benefited from the reduced rent had left Iran due to the turmoil of the 80s and the Shaw. They were doctors and nurses with strong families and stronger political beliefs. In fact, the two sets of neighbors didn’t speak to one another but they spoke to me. With one family I would watch Saturday Night Live (“What’s That? It’s Pat!” is still a good reason to never go by my real name) and with the other I would eat traditional Muslim meals on a gorgeous rug in a room with all white walls and no television. We talked about the Muslim religion and I enjoyed hearing about it even at 10 years old. Looking back I am was blessed to sit in the living rooms of these families and see for myself that they could live side by side despite their appreciation or disdain for western values.
The institute also sat in the center of the black ghetto on 21st Street. It was an extremely marginalized and poor community, especially at that time. It’s where I experienced our first attempted break ins. Our car was stolen twice. It was not a safe place at night. I stayed inside and my neighbors would watch as I walked from their door to mine, even though it was only three clicks away.
Looking back, we must of been a motley crue. Wheelchairs, hijabs, flip flops. Actually, by that time I had stopped wearing flip flops in order to fit in, but in my mind I still thought of myself as that carefree kid with sand in my hair and salt on my eyelashes. Still do.
Across 21st Street, opposite the Institute, there was a public library where I stole a book that I still have today. The library would only issue a card with a parent’s signature, but my mom worked at the time the library was open. When I was home, mom was gone and vice versa. Anyhow—I was never able to get a card to check out a book. To this day I think it’s criminal to deny people access to information which is why I’m so grateful for the Internet and public media. I will always financially support free, public media.
Anyhow, I stole a book from that library. It was about sign language. It was the first thing I remember stealing and I have no idea how I did it because it was a big book, I was by myself and I don’t remember owning a book bag.
The reason I stole the book was because I wanted to speak to the deaf kids in my neighborhood. Can you imagine sign language through a book? It was tough! I was never—I mean never—successful at communicating on account of that book. I tried, but I failed.
Had I known of Marshall McLuhan at that point, I would have known that the medium of the message had a lot to do with my ability to learn from it. Could have used YouTube.
Later in high school I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who had a deaf son and who decided to teach sign language as an elective. What a great woman—she taught us about the culture and even took us to the school for the deaf to stay for a weekend so that we could bunk up next to the deaf. What an experience!
My best friend, Steph, took the class with me. The language proved useful in supporting devious teenage behavior. When I was on the basketball court cheering, Steph would be in the stands telling me what time a party started and who was picking up beer and who would give me a ride from the game. We would tell each other when it was time to go from a lame party or what dude was getting on our nerves.
The ability to communicate is so essential to making connections in life—to feeling part of something. From a young age I’ve sought to become an expert in anything that removes barriers to self expression and community.
I love hearing others and I love it when they hear me.
It’s serendipitous that I was born during the time when we transitioned from card catalogs to search engines, from books to websites, from welcome wagons to community managers.
Sometimes I wonder if this is really what I should be doing but then I think about all the life experiences that led up to it and I think there is no better person.
Kind of what days are like these days
On the way home tonight there was a beautiful sunset. The clouds were lit up in gold—they were full and vibrant, right above my head. It was hard to concentrate on them, though, because there was an equally compelling episode of Fresh Air where Terry Gross was interviewing Ira Glass. Even though I wanted to cherish these beautiful moments, I was still rushing home and dodging my way through traffic out of habit. It was a fun, pleasant ride home.
The drive was after a long but interesting day at work with fun challenges to overcome in a short amount of time. One especially fun part of the day was a conversation with a social media company who was encouraging us to launch an external system. Won’t get into details but my colleague’s idea astounded me as much as his willingness to trust and share. There were moments where I grumbled over this and that but only because I’m overly dramatic especially when I have more than 2 cups of coffee.
Now I’m up late just waiting on a technical resolution to a big problem which is kind of like waiting for water to boil. Instead of reading the book I started last night (Lit), I stare at my computer and refresh my online help ticket. Refresh, refresh, refresh. Kind of wish they would just consider calling me with questions or updates so I could lay down and read my book instead of finding ways to entertain myself online while obsessively refreshing a page. It’s my choice to refresh, but still.
I also stare at Facebook with another tab open to a NY Times article, “Deluded Individualism” that I read earlier tonight. It was shared by my cousin via Facebook.
All this is more desirable than sleep.
Hard to believe that I started out this day waking up to the TV in my bathroom where the candidate for the Missouri senate was saying ridiculous things about rape, abortion, women, reproduction. How can someone had get so far in life with so little understanding of it?
At work my boss busted me siphoning coffee from the fancy executive machine, which was funny. She was kidding. We had a light conversation after that which was an unexpected, delightful way to start my day on the job.
Once I got home I threw two steaks on the grill—carrying them by hand from the kitchen island to the grill which is absurd now that I think about it. Did blood drip on the ground as I carried the steaks through the house to the backyard?
After that I researched personal finance with my husband, trying to decide what to do with a home that we can afford but that is worth half as much as it was when we bought it in Las Vegas back in 2005. I was mesmerized by the amazing budget services available on our credit card and banking sites. There are pie charts that show how much we’ve spent on travel, gas, insurance, medical. I was pleasantly surprised that massage was automatically categorized as “medical.” My husband wanted to quit early but decided to entertain me by using his incredible estimation skills to aggregate pretty simple numbers found in multiple systems in his head so I didn’t have to add. He almost bailed several times but I kept asking, “C’mon, what else do you have that’s more important to do?” His math skills dazzle me and sped up the process. It would have taken me forever, despite the fancy new tools we discovered.
They restarted the system but that didn’t work.
While sitting here I also realized through Facebook that my friends from Hawaii are all online, which of course makes me miss that place. Still, I like it right here, right now.
When I called the folks at work who are waiting for the fix, I ended up talking to one of them for about 30 minutes. This guy wanted some advice on a position he is applying for, which I hope he gets. I want everyone to get the jobs they want but it doesn’t usually happen that way. The guy said he didn’t really want to get off the phone because I’m so fun to talk to. We could assume that he’s desperate because it’s the middle of the night and we’re both waiting around for future events but I smiled at the compliment anyway, which gets back to the point being made in the NY Times article up above.
This day is so full of life and I don’t want it to end. Either I don’t want it to end or the four cups of coffee I had earlier today won’t let it. It’s probably a combo of the two.
Gloria Steinem’s Interview
Steinem responds to the idea that women are too independent these days—making it tough for them to find men who are smarter, more accomplished. She says a woman who thinks that way, “Still believes that men need to have more money, have more education, be more successful, and weigh more than you. By the time you’re finished with all of these things, it’s a wonder that you even like each other. I mean, you may very well fall in love with somebody who makes less money, who’s younger than you, who weighs less than you.”
She says Swedish prime minister, Olf Palme wrote that gender roles are the deepest cause of violence on earth—they normalize subject and object, dominant and passive, and group judgments in general.
“Men are deprived of their human qualities that are wrongly called feminine, and women are deprived of their human qualities that are wrongly called masculine.” And of the woman who is stuck on finding a man who is more accomplished than her, “She can only go out with or marry a man who is superior to her. The problem there is that she is wanting to be defeated, as opposed to finding a partner. She thinks she’s supposed to be defeated, like the Maid Marian Complex with Robin Hood.”
Steinem says, “I think our moments of happiness really come from a feeling of unity.” And she explains what this means by discussing her occasional fear of a plane crash, where she says, “Well, if I’m holding the hand of the person sitting next to me, then I’m holding everyone’s hand.”
She developed a habit of focusing on the future because of her childhood. She didn’t like it—so she was always thinking about ways to get out of it. It became a habit. She wasted a lot of time she said. She developed a need to feel useful because she was neglected as a child. So she always said, “I can do that for you.” Rather than working on new things, things that had not been done, that she couldn’t do at the time.
Interview Magazine, August 2011, pp. 100-111.