A reflection on a long campaign and where we go from here

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President-Elect Donald J. Trump (left) and Vice President-Elect Gov. Mike Pence in July 2016 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. | Source: Wikimedia

Since the results of the 2016 United States Presidential election have come in, the country has been left in a state of division. This reality hasn’t been so much an issue since the Civil War. We must now bring both sides together and find a place to begin to heal. I imagine this will be even tougher and more complicated to endure than the campaign cycle. If we cannot accomplish healing, we will face problems for quite a long while.

 

No matter what the outcome of a Trump versus Clinton race would have yielded, we were going to see protests and complaining. I think this is multiplied more since the resulting popular vote was for Secretary Clinton, but the electoral vote of states went to Mr. Trump. Those in disagreement with the results should be allowed the right for peaceful protesting; this is there first amendment right, and we see it happening. However, three nights post-election, protests continue, and some are turning into violent riots as they did last evening in Portland, Ore.

In retrospect, neither candidate was the best candidate either party could put forward. I would have much rather seen an election that yielded an upstanding individual such as John Kasich (R) or Bernie Sanders (D/I). I liked each candidate for their straightforward approaches with passions to listen to citizens and promote generosity while working to move our country forward. Those are characteristics we should look for in any candidate; for lack of a better term, good-personism.

In breaking down the results and rhetoric of the past eighteen-or-so-months of campaigns, I was able to break down these important points for what I wanted from a candidate leading our country:

  • Respectful demeanor as a principled-leader
  • Higher education accessible and attainable for all
  • Promote clean energy that stops the problems of climate change
  • Keeping jobs in the United States and providing incentives for companies to stay, but also to locate here
  • A healthcare system that protects each citizen and allows them to get the best care – mental and physical – when and where they need it
  • Equal Rights – based on religion, sexuality, marriage, and race and ethnicity
  • Individual rights for each citizen to know what is best for themselves – in regards to healthcare especially

Does our new leader possess and promote these ideals? Not really – yet, but I have hope. People can change and he has already dramatically changed his demeanor in this transition from candidate to President-Elect.

I’m sure there are other thoughts I need to include here, but for now, these are my ideas. I look forward to a more inclusive, more fair Donald Trump as the President-Elect and the future President. While I greatly disagree with his party’s viewpoints, I know that his success has taken some hard work on his part. I hope he is willing to put in the effort that this position puts him in. Even though I did not support him in his candidacy, I would not be a good citizen if I was to root against him in the infancy of his presidential term. Former Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse once said, “When everybody boosts, everybody wins,” and if we boost and support our new President, and in addition, take an active role in politics, we will win.

The evolution of Jake and computers

“My name is Jake, and I have forsaken traditional computing,” I calmly say.

“Whaaaaaa?” gasps stunned blog readers.

Calm yourselves, dear readers. Let me tell you how this Windows-raised, college-converted Mac geek became a regular user of a Chromebook for (almost) all his computing needs. It’s not a complicated tale, but it’s a sign of the times.

I remember the first computer at my house from my early days. It was upstairs near the attic and it ran Windows 3.1. It took forever to boot up, had this fun game called Minesweeper, and you could print files from something called The Writing and Publishing Center. I found this entire system fascinating, but it was something I might encounter a few times a year when I followed my father up to this humid, less than pleasant tomb of nerd-dom. Thinking back, I guess the computer had no purpose but to help him “keep up with the Joneses,” or to think it was useful for work at home.

By the time I reached third grade, we had similar PCs at school that had this “intranet” thing – yes, intranet. All I knew about it was that teachers could message teachers at other schools and files were sent around the school using this service. Seemed cool, and I wondered if our computer at home did this. I soon learned it did not, but I wouldn’t have to wait long for similar services of the world wide web to slowly trickle through the phone lines to a bulky tower and monitor.

To take a wild guess, by fourth or fifth grade, we had a Windows 95, and later 98 and ME PC at home that Dad set up in the family room. It had internet, and I remember one of my first encounters quite fondly. I really liked the weather around that time, and I thought I wanted to become a meteorologist and do forecasting on television. I’m glad that dream passed, because my dislike for math would have disqualified me once I entered the classrooms in college. Regarding this early memory, I wasn’t the best speller, but I knew I had to click on the internet button on the desktop, and I could type in anything and have it come up on the screen.

Being eager and not taking ten seconds to check my spelling, I typed “weather chanel” into the address bar and tapped the enter key. The next thing I remember is seeing scantily-clad ladies pixelating on the monitor and screaming for mom because I was afraid of the ramifications knowing that I shouldn’t be seeing this stuff. Quickly diving under the desk as mom entered the room, I cried and screamed that I didn’t mean to make those images appear, that “I wanted to see the maps and radars” like they have on TV.

Soon enough, she made the corrections necessary for The Weather Channel’s then-simple website to appear. I wasn’t in trouble, and we were left with a famous tale for the ages at family gatherings. That was our home computer, slowly getting updated and improved until I really needed to have my own by middle school. We frequently had to write papers and print them – always in the standard Times New Roman font, size 12. My first PC passed on to the computer afterlife by the time I was starting high school, so my parents and grandparents purchased me a better machine meant to get me to college by sophomore year.

My senior year of high school, I finally got to see Apple products in action. I got my first iPod (a lime-green iPod Nano) and had an English teacher who used an eMac on his desk. After seeing, learning, and using these tools at home and school, I knew I wanted a Mac when I went to college. Over the course of my college education, I had two MacBooks and then a third one when I started my teaching career. I also got a refurbished iMac from my parents as a college graduation gift. That refurbished iMac is my primary machine to this day and sits on my home office desk for storing photos, archiving my college documents, and eventually putting the Rosetta Stone German software to use (that still sits collecting dust; sorry, Mom).

In my first year of teaching, my school and students received Chromebooks from our corporation. I soon realized they were hand-me-downs and didn’t do everything a new one would do. I eventually forked out $150 on Amazon for a snazzy Asus model, but it soon lost its luster when the keyboard died after an unfortunate incident of a book being dropped on it. By that summer, I found a smaller Dell Chromebook and still use it regularly to this day, even after leaving the education profession, where Chromebooks hold a large market share.

Why have I stuck with these cheap but trusty machines? It’s simple: they’re simple. Much of what I need to do for myself can be done in Chrome using social media sites, Google Drive (G Suite?–is that the name now?), and other cloud-based services. Everything can be synced to my phone using cloud services, and I don’t need to worry about battery. I easily have six to eight hours of battery life on every Chromebook I have used, and I don’t use them to watch much media, but I can stream anything from Spotify or NPR quite easily. The best part: being web-and-cloud focused, there’s no chance of viruses.

The times are changing. Easy is in, and expensive and clunky is out. We all want to be trendy, but more so, I believe we want the most “bang for our buck.” If you, like me, want a laptop that’s affordable and easy to use, try a Chromebook. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Discovering new journeys

Sometimes we find ourselves where we least expect to be. A year ago, I was teaching middle school and trying to find the balance between grading papers and having a life outside of teaching. Twelve months later, I have exited the profession I expected to retire from and am working full-time as a barista for Starbucks. For the most part, I am loving this change of career, but I don’t know if I find myself in the position I would like to be in for a large part of the future.

To do what I do at my current job, you have to have enthusiasm, as well as devote yourself to making each moment right, and that’s something I feel I have strived to do for quite a while. I entered Starbucks after exiting the classroom as a regular customer who was pulled in by the genuine connections that the staff initiated. They never greeted me with anything except smiles and warm welcomes. I felt a sense of purpose there. That was the hook I needed to realize I felt purpose by serving others and making genuine connections with these individuals.

Six months into my current position, I am grateful and appreciative of the connections I get to make with so many fantastic customers, as well as strengthening the team of my fellow partners in my store and other local stores. I have learned a lot about coffee, and it has become more a passion than I could imagine. Tasting coffee and learning more about the origins of different blends, as well as knowing pairings for types of coffees is invigorating. It’s not that I want to feel superior to others about this, but this is not a common knowledge and I like being somewhat of a coffee nerd, so to speak.

As much as I love my current situation, I know there is more, and I want to keep doing more, keep learning more… More than anything else, I want to do something where I help others be able to dream more. Maybe I can do this by pursuing a bigger position with Starbucks, perhaps working my way up to a supervisory position, and maybe one day in management. My manager wants to help me develop into roles where I can do just this. The company certainly presents opportunities for growth and continuous learning.

Outside of the company, I wonder about options in communications fields. I love media, writing, and anything digital. I love designing catchy logos, showcasing cool photos, and telling stories. I idolize (just the right amount) individuals like Chris Thile and Ira Glass, each doing things they seemingly love.

Adventures are long. There may be bumps along the roads, and sometimes there may be detours that lead you to new and interesting people, places, and opportunities. I’m excited and intrigued by what lies ahead. Am I hopeful? Certainly. Am I somewhat frightened? A bit of that, too. Am I excited? Yes. There’s a lot to learn and much, much more to come.

Concerned and unsettled

I feel and overwhelming sense of concern and worry tonight. I can’t pinpoint why I feel this way, but it’s something that occasionally happens to me.

Some people–those writers one can stumble across on the internet–say this is a common occurrence, that I shouldn’t feel this way or feel concern for feeling this way.

A bit of sweat on my brow, an uneasy feeling in my mind, and even a shiver down my spine every few moments as I type this out. There is a nervousness in the air of my soul. I want to take a sip of the lukewarm decaf coffee at my side and hope it all goes away.

Nothing changes. I could go lay on the couch or climb under the covers of my bed. Hiding in a closet would be no better. Fetching a tall glass of water or going on a calm evening drive with the windows down won’t do the trick either. That one pill I take each night before bed to calm my nerves and help me be settled day-to-day won’t do the trick either.

I’m not having a full-blown panic or anxiety attack. I feel like it could happen, but it’s not right now. Writing this helps a bit. It helps me settle my painful curiosity that drives this nervousness. It’s a factor depression that I live with. Some days are better than others, and others much worse.

The thing is, I cope and I keep going. I keep going because I know that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow and there is so much more yet to come, so many good things on the horizon. Nothing is perfect and nothing can make me feel complete, at least, not now. Family, friends, pets, job, possessions — each has a place and satisfies in a certain way. Sometimes, there just isn’t a cure-all, a fix, a choice to be made to change the feeling.

It’s been five minutes as I’ve been writing and revising. I feel much better having said these things. The coffee I made so carefully via pour-over in my kitchen stares at me from beside the keyboard. I wanted to drink it tonight and enjoy the taste and just relax. I will try, despite the cold temperature, to still achieve this goal.

For now, I cope. I hope. I dream.

There will still be the shivers of this as I go forward, but I can go forward. That makes all the difference.

ADHD is real.

meme-editIt takes a lot to offend me. I tolerate a lot of things and realize they are insensitive or wrong and just go on about my daily business. This is something I will not let pass by.
 
A meme has been floating around the internet this month, the source being a Facebook page entitled “Adult Humor.” (I can’t be for sure that this page created the meme, but the fact that it has been shared is terrible enough.) I hate the fact that I had to screenshot the meme and attach it to this posting. If you cannot see the image, here is the problem. In front of a white background sits a brown belt, rolled up with the buckle laying to the right. The text on the image, above and below, reads “When I was young, I had ADHD, too… but I suddenly healed when I saw my Dad taking off his belt.”
 
Read this again. Think about this. Let it sink in.
 
You may think it’s funny. You might think about having acted up as a child and a parent or guardian taking corrective action into his or her own hands. To each his own in parenting, but that’s not what I’m here to argue for or against.
 
The problem is anyone who totally agrees with or shares this to agree with it might not understand how terrible the message is, how offensive it is.
 
I still hurt as I read it.
 
ADHD is real. It’s not fake and it’s not something to make fun of. Yes, there are people who claim to suffer from this and do not, and yes, sometimes it is diagnosed when it is not necessarily present. I am not diagnosed, but at times I believe this condition may have affected me. This is not what upsets me.
 
Most of you know that I was a teacher for a couple of years. In my time in the classroom, I worked with middle and high school students. Some of my students were diagnosed and suffered terribly because of ADHD. They worked so very hard to be mindful, to be present, to be still. Sometimes they were, sometimes they were not. I saw pain in students’ eyes, and I read journal entries from freewritng days in my class where students expressed how hard they tried. I worked with students via email at home through extended deadlines, I came in early and stayed late, and I talked to parents, special education teachers, the school counselor, and others countless times to make accommodations that would help each of these students. Some students saw progress, some did not. Medications were adjusted, changed, or stopped. I can not and will not go into further details because of confidentiality.
 
I will finish on this point: words matter. They can help. They can hurt. They are powerful. They are always powerful. Parents and students might see the message this kind of meme spreads, and it can really hurt.
 
If you think this meme or this topic is funny or something you can joke about, I hope you see this and you realize that this is not something to make fun of. I have been out of the classroom for nine months now. It still hurts.
 
Think. Let’s change the intent of this meme and spread a better message.

Not preparing, but still caring and learning

About a month ago, as August was in its infancy and the start of the school year was just around the corner, I realized something was oddly strange. Something was wrong.

I wasn’t upset, but something felt weird inside my mind.

Having been a teacher for almost two years, plus completing a semester of student teaching, and about two years of full-time substitute teaching (spread over four or so years), there was a certain time-frame/state-of-mind ingrained in me.

It’s something all teachers go through. At the start of a school year, there’s an itch to put together the classroom, spruce up the toolkit, and revise the syllabi. For the first time in a few years, I didn’t have any of those responsibilities.

At first, I was really relieved. I was relieved to exit the classroom. I was relieved to pass off the stress of reading 100 different assignments every week and grading those and finding out what interventions were best to help struggling students. Then, about a week into the new school year, while I was working one of my shifts at Starbucks, it hit me.

What am I doing? I need to get my syllabi done. I need to now.

In all reality, I knew that was not true. I knew I had exited the classroom, but something strange was happening in my mind. I felt as if someone was being let down because of my not doing that job anymore.

That wasn’t true either.

If anyone was let down, I suppose it was me. Putting all that time in during college, preparing for my life as a teacher, and then, just a few years later, realizing I didn’t want to do this job. I mean, I loved the job, but the job changed. The rules changed. The ideas changed. The job became a game. I left because I felt the system was against teachers, and that would drive me to not be as effective as I could be.

So, I opened up my Google Docs that I exported from my school account when I departed teaching. I found my syllabi from the last couple of years. I looked over what I was teaching. I didn’t miss that stuff — so much of it being stuff I didn’t want to do. I saw test prep materials (for the state testing), and I saw material that wasn’t interesting.

Maybe it had to do with the content area. I don’t know that middle school was ever where I wanted to teach (content-wise). I loved my students and their creative process, but the content at that age was something I guess I wasn’t passionate about. My passions are in complex composition, rhetoric, and literary analyses that students get to delve into in advanced high school classes.

Today, a month later, I’m attempting to be more mindful and appreciate the place where I find myself. I’m excited for my opportunities in retail, specifically with Starbucks. This company was founded on core values of the human spirit. The human spirit is even in our mission statement: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

I enjoy putting our mission into practice along with learning from my fellow partners at my Starbucks store. I’m not a pro barista yet, but I love learning and working to get there. Perhaps I’ll stay with the company. Perhaps I’ll go after a masters degree and go into social work, counseling or another field related to business. I’ve also considered public administration.

So, this year (if I’m thinking of school years), it may not be so complicated. I have a lot of time for myself. I am not responsible for grading, planning or executing certain lessons, or putting myself into a vulnerable position and preparing students for a test I don’t believe in. I’m learning new things at a job I genuinely enjoy.

Here’s to the opportunities to grow, to dream, to explore and more. I miss the ideas and vision I had as a teacher, and the grand plans I had to help my students be all they could be. Someone else is there now, and I hope those kids are exploring the world and getting instruction that drives them to explore and love books, ideas, stories and writing.

The power of (y)our words

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Those are wise words we could all stand to remember more often. We all mess up from time to time and stick one (or both feet) in our mouths, but we shouldn’t aim for our words, our attitude, our way of living to be so negative and hate-filled.
 
Pause, reflect, and think about how you speak. Are you saying the good things you need to say, or are you letting small criticisms or rude comments take the predominant place in your lexicon?
 
This goes hand-in-hand with another important point. Don’t bash someone while s/he is down. Perhaps you don’t agree with a person, or maybe it’s talking about a person after they have left, or maybe after s/he has passed on. No matter what, if they are in a bad way, don’t go on spreading hate, negativity, or sad things.