I Wonder if You See How Beautiful you Are?

Carol A. Hand

Some mornings, obligations pile up so the question of how to focus my day is not even an option to consider. Today, I am revisited by a sense of obligation to explain the reasons for writing “Well Met.” Before heading off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning on the day I wrote the post, I tried to catch up on reading many of the blogs I follow. I know I am weeks behind. I fell asleep afterwards floating in gratitude for the gift of being able to glimpse the depth of scholarship, beauty, wisdom, and commitment to a kinder world that is shared by so many people around the globe. When I awoke, I wanted to share my gratitude and reflect back the beauty I see in all of those who follow and visit Voices from the Margins.

In the blogs I read, people may write about their fears and struggles or the disturbing the state of the world today, but what I see beneath the surface is beauty – people who care deeply about oppression, inequality, and suffering. But I’m not sure if you all see how special and beautiful you really are. You’re a beacon of hope and inspiration in a world that so needs your wisdom and light. As Robbie at eloquently wrote in a comment on Well Met,

“I am realizing lately that it is not so much “about” what our blog identity “is”…it is about our spirits :-) it is ” what” we are saying…we have a common core that is sometimes not visible to the human eye…our words + photos capture something that we all feel.. it connects us all..+ that is what I enjoy about blogging over the cyber fence…we live all over the world but somehow we have a spirit that connects us + when we find each other… we are loyal + truthful which is hard to find today :-)”

lake superior sunrise

Photo Credit: Lake Superior Silhouettes – Photographer Jnana Hand

There was a second realization about the beauty and suffering of “ordinary” people that had been on my mind. Amid the never-ending messages of fear and hatred from news media or political emails, there is much that touches my heart with hope. Gardening has provided a rare opportunity for me to connect with some of my neighbors. Three women in particular have spent time sitting in my yard while I puttered – planting, weeding, clearing brush – to share stories about their lives and hopes for the future as they kept me company as I worked. What touched me most deeply was that all three balanced financial, family, and health challenges, yet all represented incredible beauty – gentleness, generosity of spirit, and a commitment to do what they could to make the world a kinder place. Their simple kindness is inspiring. They give to others who are less fortunate even though they have little themselves in the way of material extras. Stories about ordinary people who are loving and kind don’t make the news, but they are the bedrock of what makes life meaningful and bearable. I wanted to say thank you. I am honored to be in the presence of people who, despite society’s disregard, are really quite extraordinary.

As I listen to the stories of hard times my neighbors have lived through and still face, what I see are women who have become kinder and more generous rather than angry and bitter. I doubt that they see their own beauty and how precious their gifts are – how deeply they touch others. I wonder how many in the blogging community see the beauty of spirit that shines through their work. I just wish to say chi miigwetch (Ojibwe thank you) to the bloggers and neighbors who share faith in a better world and who simply do what can be done in different ways to leave a more hopeful legacy for future generations. You are so beautiful

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Honoring A Promise

Carol A. Hand

Yesterday as I was working on my many morning chores, my granddaughter, Ava, was quietly engaged writing a story and drawing. When she was done, she asked me to listen to her story and showed me the artwork that had inspired her to write. “I don’t share my stories with anyone except my teacher, my Mom, and you, Ahma.” I thanked her for sharing her lovely story and asked if she would like me to share it, along with the picture she drew. She was excited. She told me she wrote the story for her Mom because her Mom is special. I promised her I would share her story and let everyone know she wrote it because she loves her Mom.

So we used my digital camera to take a photo of her picture and I typed out her story. She couldn’t wait to share them when her mother came in the afternoon to take her home.

Blue Queen

Photo Credit: Artist – Ava Hand-Johnson

The Blue Queen

by Ava Hand-Johnson

Once upon a time there was a girl. She lived in the jungle. She loved blue. She lived with a blue cat. She was a Queen. She really, really, really, really liked blue. She lived in a cave.

Please help me congratulate a new artist on her first published work.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Well Met

Carol A. Hand

Oh little child how will you survive?
You were born with a light in your heart that shone from your eyes.
Ancestors will walk with you to keep you alive.

me 1

With a gift to see beauty in others,
Feel their fears and their pain, you’ll carry a burden words cannot name -
An inheritance from your Ojibwe great grandmothers.

me 4

Born in age with rules already in place
To exploit and control, to oppress and enslave, to extinguish hope
That we could all live lives of grace.

me 2

You lived many places but could never fit in.
Your attempts to escape from the burden and grief were all wasted time
The ancestors spoke – it’s past time to begin.

me 3

They walked beside you and guided the way
As you fumbled and struggled to live with courage and kindness and honor your path.
But it’s changed now with age, it’s a new day.

me 5

You’ve earned time to retreat
To the world of your thoughts, to be guided by dreams sent from the wise ones. Have patience and trust
When people can hear you, you’ll meet.

Note: The greeting well met “is an expression of welcome, and means no more than the modern good to see you. Shakespeare used it for example in As you like it…”

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Carol A. Hand

I am so weary of the negative fear-based pleas that bombard my email daily – hundreds of them in the past weeks. When the DFL* canvasser came to my door last evening, I assured him I would vote even though I was profoundly disappointed by the absence of a positive agenda in any of the messages candidates from either party are proposing. I added that I’m still profoundly disappointed in the outcome of Obama’s version of promised change that won him his first term as president in 2008. An end of war? Health care reform? Homeowner protections from foreclosures? Closing Guantanamo? It is no small accomplishment to sow a sense of hopelessness in a nation

Four critical issues came to mind as I read the newest negative emails this morning, along with the words from a song by Buffy Sainte-Marie, “and what have you done for these ones?” What have you done about human rights abuses and genocide? What have you done to address increasing police brutality and racism? What have you done about growing economic inequality, homelessness, hunger and poverty? What have you done about global climate change? You can tell me inaction is all due to the other party. Have you been willing to campaign on issues that are socially just but politically unpopular? What do you stand for with passion and resolve except for yourself and re-election to a cushy job that enables you to remain isolated from the growing suffering of the people you are theoretically obligated to represent?

chip in

Photo Credit: screen shot one of today’s email appeals (10/23/2014)

You say you want me to chip in $3 or $5 for the most immediate attack from the “evil” opponents. What have you done in the past four or six years to try to bridge differences and define a clear vision of a more hopeful future that is based on common ground? Surely you can come up with more than let’s just keep going the way we are with our foot on the fracked gas. If you can’t, I know hundreds and thousands and millions of people who do have pieces of the answers. But all you ask for is their money… Your actions do show what really matters to you – perpetuating your own privilege and the illusion that you really are a leader who stands for something other than your own self-interest.

Sorry if I sound bitter. After all, my taxes help pay for your salary, health insurance costs and retirement benefits.  All I can really afford to give you on top of that is my own two cents…

twocents

Photo Credit: Two Cents

 

*Democratic-Farm-Labor Party

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It Doesn’t Take A Rocket Scientist…

Carol A. Hand

“Just tell me what to do!” These were dreaded words for me to hear in my roles as a teacher or supervisor. It signaled an internalized belief that only an expert in power could dictate the terms of their life, their work, and their studies. The question implied that the speaker had either been successfully colonized or domesticated, at least superficially, or they were unwilling to take risks to chart their own course – an absence of vision and passion that was deadly. They were willing to wait for someone else, someone smarter, someone with higher “status,” to tell them what to do.

teacher

Photo Credit: Drawing that looks very little like the original internet image

It’s never been easy for me to follow orders, so I am very cautious about giving them. Whether it was in a classroom or a work situation, I have always preferred to explore options through dialogue with the people who were most directly affected by issues and those who had to implement tasks, solutions and innovations. I have often wondered why so many people unquestioningly follow leaders and are unable or unwilling to simply decide for themselves. This inability to recognize one’s own ability to transform at least some parts of one’s environment perpetuates the status quo. We wait for those in power to do what is more effectively done on a local level through face-to-face engagement. Why can’t we decide how to address homelessness or hunger in our own communities? Or end racism and discrimination? Improve schools that don’t teach students what they really need to know? Change hospitals or prisons that don’t help heal people? Or improve social services that don’t even provide effective band aids let alone cures?

Too often, we willingly accept the pronouncements from above that social problems are not due to structural inequalities, they’re due to poor decision making, bad personal choices, deviant people, or deficient cultures.

The generic process of Blaming the Victim is applied to almost every American problem. The miserable health care of the poor is explained away on the grounds that the victim has poor motivation and lacks health information…. The “multi problem poor,” it is claimed, suffer the psychological effects of impoverishment, the “culture of poverty,” and the deviant value system of the lower classes; consequently, though unwittingly, they cause their own troubles. (William Ryan, pp. 5-6)

I remember serving on a technical review panel to uncover the causes of alarmingly high infant mortality rates for Native Americans in Wisconsin. As the only Native American on the review panel, the only one without a medical background, I read the medical records from a different perspective. Where others quickly detected patterns of poor health decisions and potentially criminal behavior, I saw consequences of the legacy of poverty and colonial oppression. The solutions to address deviance and criminality are to increase surveillance and enforce compliance with professional or legal dictates. As the boundary spanner on the panel, my role was to translate another paradigm. My staff and I developed alternatives – programs that worked to reweave connections to support families and create services that community members found welcoming and culturally appropriate. We needed to convince nonbelievers on the panel that this was really a more effective approach. We needed to convince tribal communities that it was possible to be partners in creating new health service paradigms. And we needed to find funders.

Instead of relying solely on medical records to find underlying causes, we asked tribal staff and community members “What has changed as a result of colonialism?” We listened, observed, and reflected on what we learned and designed a series of projects to respond. If colonialism has disrupted traditional community bonds, diets, governments, spirituality, education, where do we begin? How can we help families so their infants can survive their first year of life?

Our challenge was to walk in two worlds – to reweave traditional community informal supports and re-envision the role of health providers. Our goal was not to change individuals but to work in partnership with each community to rebuild networks of support for families. We created a network of nurses and paraprofessionals with the “dream catcher” as the symbol of our work together. Like the strands of the dream catcher, we would work together to screen out the harmful influences in the lives of children and families and only allow the good influences to come through. With maternal child health nurses, family advocates, and community mentors, we built a network across nine geographically dispersed Algonquin nations, drawing from traditional cultures to create ceremonies that brought people together to share and honor their work.

dream catcher

Photo Credit: Dream Catcher

Our critics were not convinced that this was the best approach. The federal funders for the project wanted to require all of the infant-mortality reduction projects located in poor communities across the country to force participating families and infants to “comply” with medical appointments scheduled in clinics at times that were convenient for healthcare providers. As the federal staff noted at the national meeting in Washington DC, “Those people need to learn how to be more responsible for their own health.” I looked around the room and noticed that the directors and evaluators of the other 35 projects in the room did not appear to be ethnically representative of the communities they were hired to serve. I watched as the majority nodded their approval of this new requirement. I nudged my evaluator, a nationally-renowned child welfare researcher, and whispered in his ear. “I’m sorry if I embarrass you, but I can’t let this pass unopposed.” I stood up and responded. “I’m not sure about the other project directors, but the families I work with are my people. The goal of our project is to help infants survive. We don’t care how families and infants access the services and supports they need, we only care that they do. Let me tell you a story that explains our approach.”

I proceeded to tell the story of a tribal family advocate on her first day of work. She went to a scheduled home visit to check on a newborn. When she pulled into the driveway, the house was quiet. All the curtains were drawn and it looked deserted. Knowing the community, she got out of her car and walked toward the front door. Suddenly, she heard a loud whisper, “Carrie, Carrie, come to the back door. Hurry!” Carrie hurried to the back and walked in. “Duck”, said the mother. “We’re hiding. The health department is coming.” Carrie laughed and replied, “I am the health department.” It makes a difference when communities are able to hire staff that community members trust, people who are welcomed into the homes of community members. As I ended my story, hands went up around the room. All of the project directors had changed their minds. This requirement would have to go.

There were other stories I could have told about the benefits of working in partnership with communities on the projects that affect them. Staff in one community asked elders to make dream catchers for a small honorarium that helped offset their extremely low incomes. Traditional healers blessed the dream catchers and presented them to each new infant. Staff in another community created a women’s crafting circle. The women gathered together to knit, crochet, and sew gifts for infants. As a group, the circle of women presented their gifts to newborns, each holding the new child to welcome him or her into the community. The staff person explained the significance. “By holding the child, each woman creates a promise that she will always be there to watch over the child.”

If we create opportunities and spaces for communities to reweave connections, I’m convinced anything is possible. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. It takes heart and vision.

Works Cited:

William Ryan (1976). Blaming the Victim (revised, updated edition). New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ballad of Suicide

Cheryl A. Bates

I saved a self-destructive friend, escaped from a predatory friend and regretfully,

had to leave a truly kindred “friend” behind.

Bruised, battered, and in need of repair, I escaped from the burdens my kindred friend continuously bared.

Selfishly, I isolate my wounds from those I think don’t care.

While she gives her spirit so generous and loving; masking a secret so deep with despair.

With nothing left for anyone or myself, somehow she always showed me she cared.

I promised her I would return. Just hang on my dear, that day draws near.

She taught me to love and laugh at the simple treasures we shared.

A memory, an escapade, a trip to into the lake.

Dripping and squishing we’d dance on the bank.

A loud crack of the ice, a wide eyed stare, she’d giggle at my inexperienced scare.

Grab the net, a fish to snare; rip goes my pants, she’d fall into fits of hysteria.

Her laughter and care taught me to not take myself so serious.

Polar Bear Plunge, Oshkosh, WI 2012

(Photo credit: Author/ Polar Bear Plunge, Oshkosh, WI 2011)

My car, packed and ready for the trip, slightly earlier than our long ago plan.

One last phone call, I finished grading early, we can share more time and make more fond memories.

She hesitated and said “No, I have it all arranged, you should come as we’d planned.”

So, I agreed, and waited.

 The day before I was to leave,

a ring of a telephone shattered my heart and buckled my knees.

“She gone” I remember the speaker said to me, “She’s really gone.”

The words were like a foggy dream, never did I realize, she’d hidden from me,

a plan of her own.

My heart bleeding; my mind searching for meaning, I drove two days without seeing.

Country western played on the radio, a moment of clarity, that’s one of her favorites.

A moment of relief quickly replaced with disbelief, she’s gone, she’s really gone?

Relief didn’t come until I saw her, body cold and lifeless,

yet, so peaceful.

Gone to what is beyond; her love, her laughter, her mischief, her joyous heart.

Seven-eleven, death is freedom, obtained with one sure fired bullet.

Her despair ended, her spirit freed

to know what peace there can be for a tortured soul.

Horse Creek, Cherokee National Forest, TN

(Photo Credit: Author/ Horse Creek, Cherokee National Forest)

Though I am still broken and my heart still aches,

the darkness around me, slowly lifts toward the dawn.

When I am unsure, her gentle nudges remind me of my strength.

Her presence is around me, whispering to me through the wind in the trees.

I hear her laughter in the bubbling creek, and  I feel happy.

I feel her smiles, imagine her deep blue eyes – I don’t feel so alone.

She knows now what we all seek to know, that which is eternal and free.

So, just hang on, my dear,

I promise I will join you again someday.

Copyright Notice: Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission

from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used,

provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and

carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

No One’s To Blame

Carol A. Hand

I wonder, were your eyes always devoid of light and grace?
I don’t remember seeing past your handsome chiseled face,
Or the golden curls that fell almost to your waist.
Years passed, sometimes so slowly without warmth or desire to embrace.

I used to feel important but now I am alone.
Who can comfort me when my heart feels like a stone?
You seem so lost and trusting – for now I think you’ll do.
I know it won’t be long until I grow tired of you.

Your face is now masked in the pictures that you share
I wonder what feelings and thoughts you hide and will not bare?
I remember clearly your cold stare, eyes without any light
After I helped save you from dying one September night.

I awoke to find a nightmare, I’m a burden you resent
Incapable of anything because of the money I have spent.
I fill my days being busy to escape the growing fear
My life feels so pointless, and I feel my death is near.

Freedom has a price – but I’m willing to pay
For the silence and peace that greets me each day.
You made me feel damaged, ugly and gray,
Yet I really can’t blame you because I decided to stay.

I resent you for your certainty, I’ve followed you so far
Hoping that I could prove to you I really am a star.
But with every passing year I feel a growing dread
Time for me is running out, soon I might be dead.

You maligned me to those who hurt others with glee
The bullies’ compatriot – how could it be
That the one I supported for decades and more
Became a would-be destroyer of the hope that I bore?

There are days I hate the way you care for others more than me
I’m suffering and I’m lonely here but you don’t seem to see.
I know that I embarrass you, it makes me feel such shame.
But I know that I can make it hard for you so you’ll suffer just the same.

I continued to work spinning straw into gold
Despite my deep longing for someone to hold
My work kept me focused on healing the pain
Easing the suffering of others again and again.

I deserve to be treated well, to be seen as an important man
But because you pay all the bills, you treat me badly just because you can
So I’ll make sure to buy whatever I want so you can pay the cost.
I promise you’ll pay dearly for the dignity I’ve lost.

Yet age has a way of leveling the past
Superficial beauty doesn’t usually last.
You mocked my learning and stifled my voice
But I’m free from your envy and what I say is my choice.

I’m grateful to be finally free to travel as I will.
I know the cash I got is pittance, but at least you paid the bill.
I’ll fill my life with other things, masking all my pain.
I’m grateful to be done with you and not see you again.

When I read other’s love stories, I’m not sorry you’re gone
My heart is free to dream and sing its own song.
I hope you fare well as I let go of the past
My future is now in my own hands at last.

Arguments

Photo Credit: Michael Josephson 2012

 

Yet I know we both did our best, imperfect though we are.
I really do wish you well but I’m glad it’s from afar.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

History Matters

Carol A. Hand

As William Blake wrote,

“What is now proved was once only imagined.”

I choose to imagine a future based on the best of the past.

“The forests have never failed the Ojibway. The trees are the glory of the Gitchi Manito. The trees, for as long as they shall stand, will give shelter to the Anishinabe and the Animal Brothers. They are a gift. As long as the Ojibway are beneath, the trees will murmur with contentment. When the Ojibway and the Animal Brothers are gone, the trees will weep and this will be reflected in the sound of the si-si-gwa-d”. My grandmother told me this is so, and her grandmother told her. When the forest weeps, the Anishinabe who listen will look back at the years. In each generation of Ojibway there will be a person who will listen and remember and pass it on to children. Remembering our past and acting accordingly will ensure that we, the Ojibway, will always people the earth. The trees have patience and so they have stood and have seen many generations of Ojibway. Yet will there be more, and yet will they see more” (Ignatia Broker, pp. 32-33).

lac du flambeau www dot distancebetween cities dot net

Photo Credit: Lac du Flambeau Photo Credits: Lac du Flambeau

This is a profoundly different future than the one Columbus envisioned.

“Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass” (Loewen, p. 60).

Taino men and women greeted him with gifts when he landed on the shore of the Caribbean islands. His ruminations were simple.

“They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want” (Zinn, p. 1).

Bartolomé de las Casas wrote about what he witnessed later in Cuba.

“Endless testimonies … prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind to those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians (Zinn, p. 6).

“Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food” (Loewen, p. 62).

columbus-dog-hunts

Photo Credit: Columbus and his men hunted natives with war dogs.”

“What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots” (Zinn, p. 11).

As always, there are choices. We can continue to believe the manufactured myths of heroic characters, or recognize we have a responsibility to be honest about the past. Without grounding in truth, we will be unable to find the way to a future that is based on the best we can imagine, walking beneath trees that murmur with contentment because we recognize that all life is sacred.

tree of peace

Photo Credit: Tree of Peace by Artist John Fadden

Works Cited:

Ignatia Broker (1983). Night Flying Woman: An Ojiway narrative. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press.
James W. Loewen (1995). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. New York, NY: Touchstone.
Howard Zinn (1990). A people’s history of the United States. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Extend Your Brand – Seriously? – Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I remember as a teenager, I continually felt anguish because I was “different.” I desperately wished I could be like my peers instead of always questioning everything from a critical stance. Blogging 101 is beginning to remind of those adolescent days, although I have been reluctant to write about it because I don’t mean to be disparaging of things that appear to be important to others.

This course has helped me conclude that Voices from the Margins is aptly named. The past two assignments for blogging 101 this week have made me realize the blog I share with a partner is on the margins, although many of the friends in our blogging community share the space on the margins with us. After surveying the “events” and “challenges” sponsored by other blogs in response to an assignment, nothing seemed to fit as a place to highlight work I feel is important. Although it may be appropriate for others in the course to focus on expanding readership, proving one’s uniqueness through promotion and competition, and claiming one’s niche, these aren’t really what our blog claims to be about. Sure, I did find one “event” that focused on prose, but the prompt for the week was “horror.” I don’t write fiction, but interpreted from a different perspective, this prompt could certainly include my past posts about Native American boarding schools and child welfare practices, or cultural contrasts of approaches to hunting and gathering, but it would have been a stretch and may well have been viewed as arrogant or offensive.

But today’s assignment - branding?

branding iron slide

Sources: Definition and Image

I understand that it’s the new fad for universities that are eagerly adopting a corporate model in order to compete more effectively “for students and supplies in the marketplace” (Rex Whisman, n.d., para. 1). But honestly, I can’t ignore the images that came to mind when I hear the word “branding.” As someone who is ever sensitive to colonial hegemony, when I read the assignment for today,

I saw images of branding cattle,

branding

Photo Credit: Cattle Branding

branding 2

Photo Credit: Cattle Brands

branding women who transgress society’s narrow strictures for “proper” behavior,

branding 3

Photo Credit: The Scarlet Letter

and what we still think is an appropriate way to stereotype Native American people.

branding 4

Photo Credit: Washington DC Football Team

I do hope at least some readers can step back and think about what the term “branding” implies from different perspectives and consider whether this is really an appropriate way to think about building supportive networks to exchange ideas and overcome the differences that are used to divide us. Branding is a corporate concept based on successfully overcoming one’s competitors. That’s not my idea of a supportive community. A song by Sweet Honey in the Rock comes to mind as a more accurate way for describing how I envision an ideal blogging community “ We Are – One.”

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“You Need to Remember What Is Really Important”: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I remember rushing up Bascom Hill, a hefty climb, to the Social Science building at UW- Madison. I didn’t want to be late for class. I was the teaching assistant and official note taker for the undergraduate diversity class of 635 students. It was a lovely fall morning and I was feeling a sense of excitement. I had just received news that the grant I wrote with one of my professors had been funded by the National Institute of Health, the top in the pool of applicants. It meant I would be on a fast track to finish my doctorate with a career in academia guaranteed.

uwm

Photo Credit: Bascom Hill, University of Wisconsin – Madison

As I crested the top of the hill, I neared the site of one of the last battles of the Black Hawk War. Just shy of the plaque commemorating the war, a tribal elder appeared dressed in an unlikely outfit – blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked at me with severity and simply said, “You need to remember what is really important.” I didn’t have time to reflect on the message then, but in the decades since it is something I contemplate often, although this isn’t a story I share with others for obvious reasons. The challenge of walking in two worlds, one based on rationality and empirical evidence and the other based on a deeper spiritual awareness are not easily reconciled. It turns out that I didn’t finish my degree based on elder caregiver issues. It would take more than a decade and many experiences later to finally complete a study on Indian child welfare, but that’s another story.

black hawk marker_big

Photo Credit: Dennis McCann, Journal Sentinel 

Today, I was reminded of this unlikely encounter by the last two blogging 101 assignments: “Content Loves Design”, and “Plug in to Social Networks.” Again I am reminded to think more deeply about why I began blogging in the first place and why I have continued. Honestly, I do hope people read my posts and find something of value. And I am grateful for the virtual friendships and community that allow me to see the world from so many different perspectives. Yet I am challenged daily to remember what is really important. It isn’t fame, and it isn’t being acknowledged by awards or having thousands of followers. For me, blogging is about connecting on deeper levels with people who share a commitment to exploring how we can each make the world a better place in our own ways.

Facebook is a necessary superficial medium to maintain some connection with family and acquaintances, but it has proven to be a profoundly disappointing venue for engaging in substantive dialogue. LinkedIn, focused on connecting on a professional level is likewise not a platform for sharing deeper dialogue. So what would be my purpose for using either of those venues for engaging potential readers?

Looking back at my encounter with the tribal elder who miraculously appeared, I realize that what I have needed to learn at various points in my life has appeared at the time I was able to learn from the message – Sartre’s existentialism, Camus’ absurdism, Kuhn’s scientific revolutions, Bronfrenbrenner’s ecosystems theory, or Freire’s liberatory praxis. The stories I tell are no comparison, but I think they do have meaning for those who find them when the time is right.

I am grateful for the prompts that encouraged me to think more deeply about life on the margins and what really matters. For me, it isn’t fancy fonts or fame. In an age of overwhelming choices, I realize once again how grateful I am for the community that finds what I share worthy of attention although what I have to say is simple and unadorned.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand, Cheryl Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.