On Friday I signed and submitted a contract, legally binding me to revising my sex ed book first written in 2003. I’ve known about the possibility of revising for several months now, and have been working on it ever since the editor proposed the idea. Yet, I wasn’t sure I would go through with it until a few days ago. Allowing myself a way out, a changed mind, until the last minute. I’ve been researching, writing, going to writing groups, collecting stories from young people, and thinking about this revision for weeks on end. And I signed the contract.
Yet, I still don’t consider myself a writer.
I wonder what the hell it will take until I feel I can own that label – a writer. A successful book? And if that’s the case, how do I define successful? I mean, I’m revising a book I already wrote at the request of the publisher. They have to consider the book somewhat successful in order to ask me to update it, no? And if the answer is no, then I question their business sense.
See? That’s a book with my name on it.
For some reason, it’s easier to claim the title of Author; maybe it’s because, in my academic life, I’ve “authored” several manuscripts and have the vitae to prove it. Being a writer implies a level of craft and creativity I’m not sure fits me.
What is a writer? What is an author? Who is a writer? Who is an author?
I’ll ponder these questions more as I continue updating my work.
It was spring and time to go home. I walked roads I had never taken to get to a place I had been many times before. One road led me to a tunnel; I didn’t really know what was on the other side, but had an idea. Even if I was wrong, it looked beautiful there, and the tunnel felt safe, with its graffiti and darkness . I came out the other side, slightly confused.
Familiar/unfamiliar territory. Gigantic trees. Children playing in a park I didn’t recognize. Street names weren’t familiar. In the near distance, I saw downtown and made my way toward it.
I crossed the freeway, rush-hour cars honking below, moving with purpose. Mt. Hood in the distance; a clear day in February is rare and cherished.
Mt. Hood and Tillikum Bridge. Not too bad for a rush hour view.
I arrive at familiar territory; Portland starts to look like a city. There’s street art, food carts, and semi-tall buildings. I see an old friend, and we embrace; she has no idea what’s going on in my life, and I don’t know hers: social networking can only fill you in so much. A few hundred steps later, and I see a protest march across my path: “We work, we sweat, for fifteen dollar checks.” Graduate students demanding pay, possibly recognition: I wonder if they’ll get either. They make their way to our mutual destination, and march up the same steps that I planned to use. I sit back. Boos as the door is barred, as the marchers are met by police, not the university president.
I know the building well and use the back entrance, underneath the building, hidden from the sun. I see another friend, and get my second hug of the day. This time, sorrow is expressed for my loss. I run my errands, and take the bus home to another completely different part of the city, this one more familiar.
Looking around my newly-decorated living room, I am appreciative of all the orange. Coupled with the gold and browns, it really looks like autumn in here. The leaves I have tread in from outside on my walks from the bus add to the hominess and seasonal vibe. I used to hate orange – the color of the itchy polyester uniforms we had to wear in high school to signal we had a game that day. I was a proud athlete, but remember feeling insecure because I looked horrible in bright pumpkin (though who among us white kids looked good in it?), and nothing really matched on the bottom. I hated to go to class feeling ugly, but I did all in the name of school pride.
My generalized aversion to orange that arose from seeing it only as a wardrobe color continued for decades, until a few years ago it welcomed me as a fine choice for a publication on Youth Empowerment and Participation in Mental Health Care I was responsible for in my last job. Actually, I wasn’t the one who suggested the palette; instead it was a braver colleague who I admired and had deep affection for who showed a genuine enthusiasm for the color. Her design genius brought forth the beauty of orange.
The publication that changed my mind about orange
Slowly, orange won my favor as I realized how much it could change and adapt in its warmth. I prefer the reddish and more burnt varieties, reminiscent of fire and Gerber daisies. My carpet, a throw pillow from Vietnam depicting a lotus in full bloom (the symbol of enlightenment), and a painting by a friend all show off its strengths in my home. So does the bright stripe hand-woven down the center of a brown Omani area rug that leads into the kitchen. Even a wilting tiger lily on the dining table brightens up the room. I just realized, as I was posting this, that the rich sunset picture of my blog fits the theme. I shall do my best to welcome the season of darkness with the support of orange, welcoming the blues and greens back when the sky and gardens are ready to return again.
A Buddhist monk, originally from New Zealand, wears a traditional orange robe in his new home in Cambodia.
Today the female students linger, instead of rushing out the door as soon as class is dismissed like they usually do (the men never stay longer than necessary). Then only one remains. She is smaller and quieter than many others, rarely speaking with her friends even after the boys have left. During independent work times, she has tried to teach me Chinese – words and phrases I can no longer remember; I am horrible with learning new languages, making my love for travel somewhat at odds with my talents. I let her know how impressed I am that she is mastering not only three languages, but three different alphabets.
Now she writes a message in Arabic on the board I have just erased. The blue marker she uses has seen better days.
“What does it say?” I ask.
“It is poetry. I write poetry sometimes. I like it.”
“So what is this poem?”
“I am not sure how to say properly.” She struggles to translate the symbols she has written into something I can understand, tracing the writing as she goes.
“I see the sad color in your eyes. I wish it will go away.”
My student looks back at me, seeking approval of her translation. Or her writing. Or something.
“Beautiful. Thank you for sharing what you wrote.”
She smiled, looked down, and left to find her friends.
True, my friend Jenna of Put A Date On It nominated me, but I am happy to have received my first blog award — The Liebster Award! This is an award given to blogs that are new/have fewer than 3000 followers. Frankly, I am happy anyone is reading my blog. Thanks all of you out there who take a part of your day to read my ramblings. It makes me happy to know people are interested in my observations, thoughts, and expressions. Or maybe you just scan through the pictures. That’s OK too.
Here is my shiny award!
Isn’t it purdy?
The rules for the award are:
- Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. (Thank you, Jenna! Thank you for being my friend and making my day with an award.)
- Link back to the blogger who awarded you. — Done!
- Copy & Paste the award to your blog. — Done!
- Nominate 5 blogs to receive the award who have less than 3000 followers. — See below.
- Inform them of their nomination by leaving comment on their blog. — Give me a couple of days, will ya?
- Answer the questions you were given. — See below for the exciting answers to great questions.
A. Put A Date On It – Yes, Jenna nominated me, but this woman is insightful and honest, and raw, and funny. And, she has brought out a side of another friend of mine I never thought existed. It’s wonderful to read about how they are growing together. I respect her willingness to share so much of herself online. Not sure I have the courage to do that (yet?).
B.The Learning Curve — Larry and I knew each other in grad school. We have a lot in common. We are both still nerds and love the intellectual side of education/educational theory, and prefer to focus on its practical applications. We are both data nerds. Only difference is, he actually writes about all this stuff so others can benefit from his thinking. Oh, and he makes musical instruments. What’s not to love about this blog?
C. The Grand Narrative: It’s a great blog about really cool stuff – feminism, sexuality, body image – while living in Korea. Academic nerds unite! See more about this great blog in my answer to Question #1 below.
Jane In Mersin: A funny observant Aussie living as an expat wife in Turkey. She finds humor in the mundane. I love that.
Lil Bastard and Me: One of my best friends. One of the most courageous women you will ever meet. She doesn’t post often, but when she does you will learn what it’s like to live in extreme chronic pain and still somehow find the energy to make others smile. I love her.
My questions to them:
- Where do you want to go next?
- How have you changed in the past two years?
- If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
- Favorite meal?
- Why do you blog?
- What is your favorite post that you have written (please provide the link)?
- What’s your fantasy job?
- If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be (and why)?
- What is your “theme song”?
- What can always make you smile?
My questions and answers:
- Your favorite blog EVER (doesn’t even matter if it’s a biggie)
The Grand Narrative. It takes all my interests and rolls them into one! It’s about feminism, sexuality, pop culture, sexual health – all from a different cultural perspective (Korea). I find it fascinating that a male professor writes it too; I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to meet him while I was living there. I appreciate what he chooses to write about; sexuality education, dating, trafficking, sex work, K-pop, body image – no topic is off limits. It would be neat to be able to do something like this is a country where I am living, but here in Oman? I wouldn’t have much to say. And if I tried to say anything, I might get in trouble.
- Cat or dog person, and why?
I’m going to go with dog person, though I grew up with both. To me, dogs are usually better companions and I have more fun with them. That said, I am not really in a place in my life where I am able to have a dog because they require a lot of time. My dog, Brody, was my true companion for over 11 years; one of his nicknames was Mr. Needy because he craved constant attention and love. I enjoyed giving it to him, but it did make travelling very difficult and as a result, I ended up putting my wanderlust on hold for that time. Will I ever be in a place where I am able to have a dog again? I want the answer to be both yes and no; at some point I will need to make that decision. Just not yet.
How could you not love this guy? R.I.P., Brody, Mr. Big Head, Mr. Needy, Fat Guy,
- Happiest moment?
I don’t have one defining moment here. I am happiest when I am with friends. We are laughing, talking, enjoying happy hour, perhaps playing a game, singing karaoke, but in general we are just kicking back and loving life in that moment. I can feel how happy everyone is just being together. Sometimes, I step back and think, “This is the best.” And I mean it. Those are the moments I adore. I have the best friends in the world.
Some of my favorite people.
More awesome people and awesome drinks too!
I’ve known this lady a long, long time.
- How did you come back from a low point in your life?
I’m not sure. I think it was just gradual healing. One year, I lost five people in four months. All the people gone were gone too soon; lives taken in surprise, on purpose, through tragedy. I stopped caring about the loss; I was too empty to care, to grieve. I hid from others, stopped crying. I plodded along every day in a daze of nothing and then, slowly, gradually, it became easier to enjoy who and what still existed in my immediate environment.
- Favorite sound?
The sound of the approaching subway in Toronto. I grabbed a drink with a woman I only met once and we discovered our mutual love for the subway system. She leaned in intensely and asked me if I smelled, felt, heard, or saw the subway first. It was one of the best questions I have ever been asked, for I believe that waiting for the subway is a beautiful visceral experience. I think I feel it first, the whoosh of the air pulling into the tunnel. Then I hear it. The smell is always there.
- Your trashy, go-to, in an airport, magazine?
Us. I am at the point where I don’t even know who any of the celebrities are, but I love checking out the fashion stuff and reading movie and TV reviews.
- Worst habit?
I beat myself up a lot for making trivial mistakes, then I let the feeling grow into something bigger than it really is. I try really hard not to judge people, but I am bad at not judging myself. I’m working on changing this habit, but my brain just naturally goes into this mode. It’s hard to stop once I’ve entered the vortex.
- Why do you blog?
To help document my travels (both literal and figurative). I’ve been to nine different countries in the last year. That’s incredible. I love being able to say that and I want to remember all the places and experiences I’ve had. I’m also dealing with a lot of person growth (see, for example, Question 7 above). Typing is far easier than handwriting, and I HATE speaking into recorders, so the computer has been my medium to record my thoughts. Friends and family requested that I share things with them too, so a blog seemed the logical solution. I used to keep a journal in addition to the blog, but that has fallen by the wayside recently. I want to fix that, because I am finding that I am writing differently for my blog than I do when I am writing just for myself (I’m a lot less open here). The other thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t have a consistent writing style. It’s not intentional, but I sort of wish my voice were more consistent. I’d like to develop a writing personality that I am comfortable with. Maybe I will find one someday.
- Favorite artist? (Any medium.)
What are you trying to do, kill me over here? Choose only one? Never! I adore Georgia O’Keefe. And Neil Finn. Both are artistically sensual in ways that make me swoon.
- What can always make you smile?
My partner. Especially when he isn’t trying to make me smile. When he does try, it works too. He’s going to hate reading this, but it’s true. So there. Sitting quietly and taking deep meditative breaths is also effective, but that’s not nearly as fun. The Blues Brothers works, too.