Sunday, November 27, 2011

Expectations: Epiphany

You know what I love about God? He inhabits my thoughts. He wakes me up, leads me through my thoughts and into a greater revelation about life. I am writing this particular blog simply to record what he laid on my heart early this morning.

A few weeks ago, I had read on a friend-of-a-friend's blog about advice that she would give to a couple getting married. She was given this advice and it has been a life-saver. The earth-shattering advice? Have no expectations.

Wh-what? NO expectations? None? Are you kidding me? And then your my know-it-all heart says, "Yeah. Right. How is that even possible? It's not. And how is that healthy? Shouldn't we have expectations for behavior? How do you know what is good & what can be improved upon if you don't have expectations?"

Spoken like a true educator, right there, Jessica.
But is it spoken like a supportive, respectful, gracious spouse?

Kinda sounds like a big, fat NO to me. Unfortunately for Dan, it's taken me nearly six months to figure this out. During this present season of gratitude (still is Thanksgiving weekend to me; although Advent does start this morning - and perhaps this is why my present epiphany is so special), I recognized that while I may feel grateful for my husband's presence, my words haven't really communicated just how thankful that I am.

It's been a heart-to-heart holiday for us (which is good considering we are two days away from that half-year-of-marriage mark). I had begun recognizing the ugliness of my heart-attitude, but talking with Dan definitely confirmed it. I may think of them as expectations but they are communicated to Dan's heart as short-comings and failures. What a way to boost my husband, huh? What a way to show respect.

I have this very strong desire to be right. I want to justify my case and position until I am blue-in-the-face. I do this with Dan; my parents; God. Last night, I was thinking about it like this:
So, you have no expectations - is this the same as giving grace?
If it's the same as giving grace, then does this mean that God doesn't have expectations of us?
Surely, God has expectations of us. Right? OR, is it different because God is the Creator and therefore is fully justified to have expectations of His creation and we I am not God, and therefore shouldn't be standing in judgement of my fellow created being, my husband?

Honestly, I am not sure how God led me to my morning revelation - but He did - and here it is.

It started thinking of Matthew 7:2, "Judge not; lest in the same way you, too will be judged." I have thought before on this verse and decided that you can often recognize the way that people are judging themselves based on judgements (or opinions since 'judgement is so unpopular of a word) that they cast upon other people.

When we have expectations of another person's behavior, very few times has that other person been informed of the expectations - or - been involved in the creation of these "important" expectations. We are setting ourselves up as the judge, ruler and executioner when we impose expectations upon another.

Last year, I read the works of Paolo Frieire, a Brazilian philosopher (for lack of a better word) and educator. He regarded that man are subjects because they have been created with the ability to create and transform their world/present reality. Animals are objects because they can only act upon their world - not transform or create it. They have the ability to act upon it, but not interact. Their actions may change their world (over time) - but it is not because they consciously thought, planned and deliberately acted thusly.

My expectations objectify my husband. He was not involved of the creation of them. He just knows when he falls short. (And let's really be honest, when he does meet them, I haven't been really good at communicating that. I mean, it was just a benchmark. Ugh. I would hate being married to me.)

Suddenly, I thought about my workplace. We have been doing the same thing to our students. We have ideas and beliefs about their behavior, attitudes and learning development; we create objectives so that their progress can be measured. We have gone to great lengths to communicate expectations TO them. What involvement have they had in the creation of these ideals? Until they are involved, the benchmarks will be unmet; expectations on both parts will be unfulfilled.

We need to allow our fellow men (husbands, students, even children) to be Subjects. This does mean that we will have to give up control; let's be honest, though, the results of my control don't bode well for anyone. They have been created to be creative and transform their world.

My role needs to focus on encouraging them to think critically, to understand their power, and to use it to better their world. When I can do this, I am honoring God in my role. When I don't, I become frustrated, angry, ungrateful - but, I should. I am 'kicking against the goads,' so to speak. God created all of us to act creatively and thoughtfully to transform our reality. When I objectify people, His power & plan have become impotent.

Well, I need to start transforming the transforming myself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Life as a Book Report: The Help

I recently finished The Help, by Kathryn Thornton. I watched the movie prior to reading the book. Unlike other books, the movie is better. This story is so powerfully told visually. The written word provides a good read, but not the rich, visual context that the movie can provide - and does so well. 

When I thought about how this book related to my life, I felt at a loss. However, I am a bit like Skeeter, the main character - the uncoventional white girl, who went to college to get an education not a husband; who notices life and thinks deeply about it; who is go against the grain, even at the cost of all she's known; who, in spite of questioning & thinking deeply, doesn't quite understand the cost.

Like Skeeter, I really wanted to get an "MRS" degree from my baccalaureate degree experience, but didn't stand a realistic chance of attaining this. Unlike Skeeter, who had career direction - desiring to be a "real journalist," I didn't - really. By the grace of God, I've attained positions that fit my skills & interests in ways that honor Him & serve others. Like Skeeter, I love thinking, observing, learning and questioning. Like Skeeter, I find people fascinating; I get irritated by injustices that I observe; I love writing. Like Skeeter, I am naive...idealistic..."innocently ignorant." Like Skeeter, I have made choices that were not 'popular.'

When I first joined MAEOPP, I heard the term "white privilege." The term was new to me - and hard for me to imagine the term describing reality. I didn't know that people still experienced prejudiced judgements or were concerned of being discriminated against - in Iowa - simply because of their skin color. To me, those things happened in the past.

Again, it may sound naive, but watching and reading The Help really helped me understand this concept and its effect. To put it simply, for Skeeter to write this book she had to endure being the outcast of Jackson's society. In itself, this would be hard when it's all you've ever known. We would call her brave. But, for 'the help' who told their stories, the penalty was much, much higher. They could lose their jobs and face closed doors when they tried to get a new one (because it's one tight group in Jackson); their husbands could lose jobs; they could be beaten, raped, or killed. White privilege provided a cushion for Skeeter that her suffering was really just a discomfort. The women whose stories were being told had no such cushion - and really, didn't even have law on their side.

If for no other reason than to have your eyes opened, read the book - or watch the movie. It's a lesson we (I) needed to see.

Life As a Book Report: Grapes of Wrath

I finished Grapes of Wrath a couple of months ago, but haven't yet sat down and given you my review.

I had never read the 'Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck. In high school, we read 'Of Mice and Men' and in middle school, I had read 'The Red Pony.' Honestly, I knew very little about the 'Grapes of Wrath' - other than it was an acclaimed, and 'dangerous' book. ('Dangerous' as people have tried to have the book banned.)

When we were driving "Route 66" during our 'Honey Ride' to Tucson, I became very interested in reading the book. As our guide along what used to be "Route 66," we used a book that highlighted stops along the way from Chicago to California. Reading that book, I learned about the 'Okies.' Realizing, for the first time, that this was a derogatory term given to the native Oklahomans' mass exodus toward the 'promised land' of California during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression.  During our PBS phase this summer, we watched a documentary about the Dust Bowl. Fascinating.

I loved this book. Everyone needs to read it. In fact, I would love to teach a course on "Ag Literacy, Literally" - examining how literature about agriculture, farmers, and farm-life, influences our view. How does it color our beliefs and understanding? Is it more powerful than reality?

First of all, while I knew about the Dust Bowl, I had very little knowledge about the effects of the Dust Bowl on people. Grapes of Wrath highlights the life of the Joad family. The Joad family homesteaded the land that they farmed. For those who are 'Far & Away' fans - they would have been part of the Boomer-Sooners who raced to scoop up 160 acres the government granted to new settlers. Oklahoma was prairie ground. The first few years of cropping the ground yielded abundance because centuries of grassland had built up the organic matter, resulting in rich soil. However, the cropping methods, carelessness and over-zealousness of farmers and investors soon depleted the minerals.

The next generation needed more land to farm in order to turn a profit. Soon, the homesteaders became share-croppers, farming land for absent-owners. Farming and living off the land was all they knew. They were connected to the land. When the droughts came of the late twenties/early thirties, the farmers couldn't pay up. When the winds came, and precious top soil flew thousands of miles away, the tractors came. The land-owners came for their land; replacing tenant-farmers with tractors.  Fliers popped up. These fliers promised paying jobs to those willing to work the fruit & vegetable crops of the West. People contemplated; winds blew more; people decided. They left Oklahoma - Kansas - Texas - by the thousands.

The decision didn't come easily. This life; this land were all they had known. They were connected here - to the land and each other. Families were a unit; neighbors had seen you through it all. There was a deep network of community. Though they had little, their culture was rich. 
They left for a promise - the promise to make a new start - and a new life. If food and jobs are in abundance, then replanting would be easy enough.

I am not going to lay the book out for you. If you know me, you can immediately see why these themes are dear to me. Though I now live in big city in the Southwest, my heart loves rural America. I love the idea of Jeffersonian agrianism - that all should be connected to the land. I love history and policy. I really enjoy learning about the great American (agricultural) experiment.

160 acres - free for the taking. In the Midwest, this allotment of land would have been more than enough (back in the day) for a small farmer. In the arid states, it is not. As stated, over-zealous farmers had little knowledge about caring for this dry land. Utilizing conservation practices started - as a result - of the Dust Bowl. Roosevelt brought folks to the Dust Bowl states to teach these new ideas.

These beginning chapters were not what angered folks to suggest banning Grapes of Wrath. No, the anti-communist movement tried to ban the book based on the suggestion that migrant, agricultural workers needed to organize in order to protect their wages. I am not pro-communism; however, I am pro-person. The living conditions - the hatred - the discrimination - that these Okies endured was apalling. Hope guided them to this 'promised' land; hate met them at the border.

Grapes of Wrath is a fascinating, thought-provoking read. But you don't have to take my word for it! (Right, Lavar?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bear Down Arizona

On November 5, the University of Arizona celebrated Homecoming. Let me tell you what, they do Homecoming well! On campus there is a "mall" (not the shopping kind) - but like a mile-long grass oval.

During home football games, this is where people tailgate - right in the heart of campus. During Homecoming, departments and colleges set up tents all along the mall and people visit different tents. It's like VEISHEA met the State Fair (for all you Iowa Staters out there) - in really, really beautiful weather.

How beautiful was the weather? It was mid 60s and sunny. AH-mazing for AH-rizona (in my opinion). We even came across tickets to the game. Horrible game - but a fun time with friends in "real" football weather. It was even cold enough to warrant hot cocoa at half-time!

This is where I work. Seriously. Second floor people.

See? Norton School of Family & Consumer Sciences. I told you. I wasn't joking.

We may not have fall, but the midwestern universities don't have palm-tree lined avenues leading to their Office of Admissions.

One of the "Southwestern-style" buildings

Old Main - the first and oldest building on campus, now home to the Office of Admissions

The University of Arizona's marching band playing "Bear Down, Arizona" the fight song

That giant paw & awesome Wildcat headband - FREE - at various booths during Homecoming! (and those cute models are our friends' kids)

Nothing says Homecoming like a BUS-TACHE!

One of Dan's judging team members busting out the 'pretzle' as part of the Rodeo Club's "float"

Campus cacti

Our Retailing & Consumer Science club (TREND) put on a UA Fashion Show. This is the "hipster" look.

Pretty sweet view - those are the Catalinas in the background!

Decked out in our red & blue

Go Wildcats! (2 of the cheerleaders are my students, too!)

Fall Comes to Tucson

A couple of weeks ago, the "living in the city" blues hit me pretty hard. I needed out. There's just something about having spent the month of October with 80+ degree weather that made this Midwestern girl crave the time I could wear jeans and a long-sleeve shirt and a jacket.

Solution?  Head up the mountain! The beauty of Tucson is that we are surrounded with four mountain ranges. I contacted my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Steve and we headed up Mount Lemmon - part of the Catalinas.

We hiked around for a couple of hours. Then we went into the village of Summerhaven and had a delicious pizza for lunch. After all that fresh, brisk, mountain air and sunshine, I went into the office and FINISHED. MY. almost. THESIS.

All in all, a pretty successful day.