Looking at life through orange colored glasses…

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Junk Drawer Wars

Junk Drawer Wars

 Everybody has one- a drawer (probably in the kitchen) that houses a combination of useful stuff (scissors, pens, tape, etc.) alongside the random crap (old wine corks, business cards that you MIGHT need someday, concert ticket stubs, etc.), that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away.

Some people have very organized junk drawers.  Complete with sectioned off areas for each item (paper clips here, pencils there), their drawers really do not deserve to have ‘junk’ in their title. Our junk drawer, however, was threatening to take over our house.  The paperclips were joining with the safety pins in solidarity.  The scissors were refusing to cut on the grounds of poor living conditions.  The drawer was overflowing with ,well, what exactly WAS in there?  I decided to find out.

Our junk drawer- the 'before' picture.

I took the drawer over to my dining room table and started making piles by categories such as:

  • Things that have “bands” in the name (rubber bands (including 4 that used to hold bunches of asparagus together), silly bands, and hair bands).

hair bands & silly bands & rubber bands- Oh My!

  • Products that fasten one item to another item (i.e. paper clips, safety pins, staples, binder clips, tape, Velcro).


  • Items that my children use to draw where they are not supposed to (100+ pens & pencils, markers, and crayons).
  • Everything else.

Here’s what falls under everything else:

A sandwich baggie containing a driedel and 8 skittles;

7 paint brushes;

2 bobby pins;

3 hair clips;

2 wood spacers, 4 wooden dowels;

A handful of assorted screws, bolts, brackets, nails, etc.;

3 business cards (one of which I have actually been looking for);

2 chuck E. Cheese tokens;

2 tokens for use at an unknown location;

58 cents in pennies, nickels, and dimes;

1 seatbelt clip for a car seat we no longer own;

2 pencil cushions;

1 eyeglass repair kit, plus 1 arm to a broken pair of glasses (actual glasses MIA);

1 ear plug;

1 toddler cabinet lock (in spite of no longer having any toddlers);

1 nail file;

2 jar openers;

A ‘void’ stamp;

You can't make this stuff up.

An office name tag for the job I left in 2006;

1 calculator;

1 key chain, 1 key to an unknown lock, 1 small lock with keys attached;

1 small plastic pig;

1 Piglet stamp;

4 marbles;

A handful of twist ties;

2 dirty birthday candles;

A piece of a wind chime;

A Wrigley Field opening day Harry Caray memorial pin from 1998;

R.I.P. Harry Caray

5 pairs of scissors;

6 plug protectors (to keep my kids from electrocuting themselves- totally helpful while in the drawer);

1 laser pointer;

4 tubes of lip balm (assorted flavors);

2 pads of post it notes;

1 pedometer (broken);

3 “sun-catcher” crafts completed by my kids but which have clearly not been catching ANY sun;

20 random pieces of plastic (yeah, I have no idea);

Your guess is as good as mine.

1 wedding favor picture frame;

1 memory card from 3 cameras ago that no longer fits in any device we own;

2 white out pens;

1 packet of sleeping pills (note the expiration date)

2 flash drives;

8 (yes, 8) pencil sharpeners;

1 lonely cough drop;

1 golf tee;

1 tape measure;

1 stain remover stick;

A handful of random stickers;

1 tube of glue;

3 Webkinz tags (Perhaps I took their instructions to “Do Not Throw Out This Tag” too seriously?).  My kids haven’t logged onto a Webkinz account in 2 years

2 empty ink cartridges that I was really intending to recycle;

A Weight Watchers point finder from 2000 (the program hasn’t changed since then, right?);

1 tube of ‘After Bite’ itch eraser and;

3 metro ‘Smart Trip’ cards- balances unknown…

Pretty scary, right?  But don’t go calling ‘Hoarders’ quite yet.  You’ll be pleased to hear I threw half of that stuff away.

Our junk drawer- 'After.' Note my handy dandy use of snack size resealable baggies in lieu of a fancy organizer.

And, I relocated other items to different overflowing drawers (that reminds me, I need to go through my arts and craft supplies).  I am now the proud owner of one organized drawer.

So, what’s in your junk drawer?  It couldn’t possibly be worse than mine- or could it?  Inquiring minds want to know!!


I Licked A Wall (sing to the tune of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl.’

Yum, paneling.

Note: Due to some sensory issues, my four-year old has a list of about ten foods that she will eat.  The only “fruit” on the list is freeze-dried apples.  The only “vegetable” on the list is corn.  She will however eat just about any non-food item she can find.  We are currently working with a specialist to help her overcome her Resistant Eater issues.  But in the meantime, I am trying hard to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing.

I Licked A Wall

(sing to the tune of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.”)

I do not like to eat real food, I find it icky.

Mom says I’m food resistant, means more than picky.

I won’t eat those fruit snacks, but I’ll feed them to my toys.

I’ll stick them to the wall when they’re wet and sticky.

Puppy will eat my fruit rope.

Fruit snacks. So versatile.

I ate paper and I liked it.

But I won’t eat a carrot.

I ate paper and I liked it.

I think my friends should try it.

Mommy says it’s wrong, but I think it’s right.

Maybe I’ll try cardboard tonight.

I ate paper and I liked it.

Dad took me too a petting zoo, I saw a donkey.

We saw some goats and camels too, but not a monkey.

Maybe you’ll think it’s gross, but I had to lick the fence.

Daddy, was so upset, he wonders if I‘m dense.

I licked a wall and I liked it.

But I won’t eat a triscuit.

I licked a wall and I liked it.

And I might eat a dog biscuit.

Mommy says it’s wrong, but I think it’s right.

Maybe I’ll lick the floor tonight.

I licked a wall and I liked it.

Pokemon cards they are delish.  Wrapping paper’s my favorite dish. I will not eat a Swedish fish, but I’ll eat the package. It’s  no big deal, it’s just a snack.
I ate paper and I liked it.

But I won’t eat a carrot.

I ate paper and I liked it.

I think my friends should try it.

Mommy says it’s wrong, but I think it’s right.

Maybe I’ll try cardboard tonight.

I ate paper and I liked it.

I liked it.

Don’t Puke (Sing to the tune of ‘Tick Tock’ by Kesha.)

This song is dedicated to my cat Baxter who celebrated his 12th birthday earlier this month…

You wake up in the morning

feeling like King Kitty.

Give a stretch

Get out of bed

and meow ‘aren’t I pretty?”

You lick yourself

you know where

just because you are able

then you head to the kitchen

to sun yourself on the table.

I’m talking ’bout cat hair on my threads,

you’re always trying to lick our heads,

taking up space on our beds,

You look totally enthralled

while swatting at a bug on the wall

then try to cough up a hair ball.

Don’t puke in your food

Don’t puke on the floor

Dude, I’m in no mood

can’t take it anymore.

2 a.m. on the clock

but the puking don’t stop, no

Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow (x2)

Don’t puke in your bowl

Don’t puke on the toys

You’re out of control

Should we switch you to soy?

4 a.m. on the clock

but the puking don’t stop, no

Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow (x2)

It’s been twelve years since the day of your birth,

and around the middle you have plenty of girth.

When the doorbell rings you take off like a rocket

as if you’ve put your paw in an electrical socket.

I’m talking ’bout always wanting to be pet,

getting visibly upset,

every  time we go to the vet.

Mewing till we heed your wish

for a can of tuna fish

you want some tuna fish

Give that cat his fish!

Don’t puke in my bed

Don’t puke on the rug

I’ve begged and I’ve pled

please lose the stomach bug.

6 a.m. on the clock,

but the puking don’t stop, no

Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow (x2)

Don’t puke in your food

Don’t puke on the floor

Dude, I’m in no mood

can’t take it anymore.

2 a.m. on the clock

but the puking don’t stop, no

Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow (x2)

I pet your fur

You start to purr

My heart it melts

Yeah you got me.

You take a nap

Upon my lap

My heart it melts

Yeah you got me.

I pet your fur

You start to purr

My heart it melts

Yeah you got me.

You take a nap

upon my lap

you take a nap nap nap nap nap nap.

My legs fall asleep but you won’t budge.

Don’t puke in your bowl

Don’t puke on the toys

You’re out of control

Should we switch you to soy?

4 a.m. on the clock

but the puking don’t stop, no

Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow (x2)

Don’t puke in my bed

Don’t puke on the rug

I’ve begged and I’ve pled

please lose the stomach bug.

6 a.m. on the clock,

but the puking don’t stop, no

Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow (x2)

Independent Thinking: It’s like Pilates for your brain.

“It’s not our differences that divide us.  It’s our judgments about each other that do.”

                                             -Margaret J. Wheatley*

Like I said in my previous post (though you don’t need to read it to understand this one), the way I think about the world was sparked by my participation in The Appalachian Semester program (a semester long domestic study program for college students at a small private college in Southeastern Kentucky).   So before I get into my world view, there is one more Kentucky story I need to tell you.

It became apparent very quickly, that belonging to a church was a very important part of life in Southeastern Kentucky.  I got asked on several occasions by students who attended the college that I was visiting which church I belonged to back home which inevitably led to a discussion about my being Jewish.  This generally got one of two reactions.

Reaction 1: You mean don’t have electricity or drive cars or anything? (Actually, that’s Amish.  I’m Jewish.)

Reaction 2: But if you’re not a Christian and you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your savior then you can’t go to Heaven.

Reaction 1 usually became Reaction 2 once I explained what Jewish meant.  Reaction 2 was followed by a very enthusiastic invitation to attend whichever church the individual belonged to.  Maybe they were awarded extra points per person ‘saved,’ as some of the college students I met were very concerned about the future of my soul.

Growing up, I had heard that there were people out there who believed that because I was not a Christian, I was doomed to spend eternity in Hell.   I had made the assumption that anyone who thought that, must be coming from a place of hate- you didn’t relegate to Hell people that you love.  Now, here I stood, face to face, with “the people” I had been warned about.  But I didn’t hear hatred in their voices.  I didn’t see hatred in their eyes.  That’s not to say that there aren’t people walking around with hate in their hearts.  It just wasn’t my experience.  In fact, except for one negative interaction with a woman from a group called ‘The Christian Crusaders’ I found that people were genuinely concerned about me and scared for me.  They wanted me to feel the same comfort and security that they felt through their relationship with Christ.  They were coming, at least in part, from a place of love, and in part, I think, a place of fear.

Being able to understand the intent behind their belief system allowed me to remove judgment from my side of the aisle and see them as individuals.  Despite my disagreeing with their religious beliefs, we shared many similarities. These were college students, just like me; active, service- oriented community members.  They worried about their grades, and were trying to figure out what they wanted to be when they “grew up.”   Our commonalities seemed to outweigh our differences.

This experience got me thinking.   How do we know what we truly believe?  If we just take the belief system we were raised with (be it political or religious) and carry it into adulthood without questioning it, is it really our belief system?  I had extremely strong opinions when I was in high school and college and I was pretty vocal about them.  It wasn’t until I took myself out of my comfort zone that I realized that some of those very strong opinions weren’t my opinions at all.  They were my parents’ opinions.  It had never really occurred to me before then to question what my parents had taught me, but beginning that semester in Kentucky, and for years afterwards, as I experienced life for myself I began to realize that I didn’t believe everything my parents believed.

“Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on”

Should people take their belief systems out for a test drive?  If so, how does one go about doing that?   When we are young, we are tested constantly by our peers who try to get us to go against “the establishment.”  Whether through peer pressure, or games of Truth or Dare, kids are constantly pushing each other and themselves to test boundaries and see what they can accomplish.  As an example, sit down and watch snowboarding or BMX biking the next time it is on TV.   These young athletes invent all sorts of moves that seem to defy the laws of physics, and they do it by pushing past previously set boundaries to see what is possible.

As we get into adulthood it seems that we are pushed (by our peers and ourselves) to conform to the establishment, instead of against it.  People who operate outside the “norm” are considered “radicals” or “extremists.”  The OWS protesters are “hippies” and Michelle Bachmann is “crazy.”  In my opinion, people who push the boundaries serve a very important purpose in our society.  They force us to actually think about what we believe.  By sparking dialogue they get us to actually talk about the issues that are important to us.  They make us think about where we stand.  The problem comes in when we don’t take the time to understand why we believe what we think we believe, and how we can better communicate that piece to those who stand across the aisle.

As adults, we have the option of surrounding ourselves with like-minded people.  Instead of   encouraging each other to explore alternative points of view, we rile each other up and feel even more justified in our belief system than before.  We also end up feeling more “right” thereby making the other side completely “wrong” in our minds eye.  That works great for politicians trying to gather support from their base, but it completely disregards the valuable life experiences that we have all had that are at the roots of our belief systems.

If our system of values does, in fact, originate in our childhoods, then it makes perfect sense that our belief systems are different.  We live in an extremely diverse country with many different cultures, religions, and geographic topographies.  Just based on geography alone- whether you were raised in the mountains, near an ocean, or in the desert, changes the things that you value.  Once you throw religion, ethnic background, and socio-economic circumstances into the mix- it’s amazing that any of us have anything in common at all.  We are never all going to believe the same thing.  People have tried throughout history to make us all the same- The Crusades, The Holocaust, the recent genocides in Darfur and around the world.  It has never worked, and it will never work.

My belief in God is fluid.  I believe in something that cannot so easily be defined.  But even if we all believed that we were all created in God’s image that does not mean that God intended for us to all be carbon copies of each other.  If you believe that God created a wide diversity of plants and animals, and widely varying geography, and temporal climates, then why is it so hard to believe that he also purposely created an amazingly diverse population of people with a wide variety of abilities, talents, beliefs, and opinions?

I was born Jewish in New York.  But what if I had been born Muslim in Michigan or Buddhist in China?  In some ways, the initial set of beliefs that we get are random.  We are born at the starting line and given some general rules to live by while we figure the whole thing out for ourselves.  But I don’t believe that we are required or expected to die living by the same exact rules that we start with.  To me, that would mean that we didn’t learn anything along the way.

So how do we put our belief system to the test?  By actually putting ourselves in positions where we have to think about something that is not in our area of expertise.  Here is an example of how I try to test my own boundaries:

A friend of mine is a very active member of her evangelical church.  A few months back she posted on Facebook an audio track of a sermon her clergy member had given during services.  She asked people to listen to it as she felt strongly that there was a very important message about misconceptions that people have about Christians.  I wasn’t sure, being Jewish, that there was a whole lot I could learn from an evangelical preacher, but I decided to give it a listen.  The preacher was saying that there are folks out there who call themselves Christian but perhaps do not act in such a way that personifies true Christian beliefs (for example, people who resort to violence, or who are hypocritical in their actions).  He said that some people might look at those people and generalize about all Christians.   Christians, he said, (and I am summarizing, not quoting) do not want to be represented by the lowest common denominator.  And it was frustrating to him that these were the “Christians” garnering the most media attention.

I thought about this for a while and decided that I agree with him.  I agree so strongly that I’m taking it a step further.  NOBODY wants to be represented by the lowest common denominator.  Whether you are one of the millions of peaceful Muslims being poorly represented by a much smaller group of violent Muslims, or a Jew who does not want to be represented by a small group of ultra-Orthodox who hurl insults at children as they walk to school, we are all individuals who deserve to be judged based on our individual merits and if we are not privy to each other’s individual merits then we should just withhold judgment altogether.   It turns out I did have something to gain by listening to an evangelical preacher after all.

Change is hard and can be scary.  For some people, change only comes as a result of a life altering experience- serious illness or injury, or a great loss, for example.  For most people, I think change is a slow and gradual process brought on by our interactions in the world.  I believe that the greater our interactions and willingness to step outside our little boxes, so grows our capacity for change and our capacity for human understanding.  Perhaps if we approached each other with curiosity instead of with fear and anger, we could find a place where we could have a real conversation.

I think there is a danger in becoming complacent.  On a National level, we have reached a point where we have stopped listening to each other all together.  People seem to want to be heard- they are taking their issues very public- to Facebook, blogs, television, and campaign trails. But despite all the noise we are making, we are not hearing each other very well.

There are personal implications as well.  How many times have we sat at our desk at work, or lay awake at night staring at the ceiling and thought, “I’m in a rut” or “I thought my life would be different than this.”  We might even project our discontent onto other people thinking that our boss, coworkers, spouse, or children are to blame.  Maybe we are feeling that way because we have stopped listening to our own little voice.  We are tired and burnt out and busy doing a hundred different things- many of them things that we maybe don’t want to be doing at all.

So, faithful readers, I am issuing you a challenge- a truth or dare opportunity- if you choose to accept it.  I dare you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new for 30 days.  It can be anything.   Read a newspaper that you find to be biased against your typical point of view and see if you learn anything.  Try a new exercise program.  Visit a house of worship different from your own.  When you start to get that “I’m not so sure about this” feeling, just go with it.  Let your brain actually think about it instead of going straight to that place of anger or resistance.  Try something new for a month and see if it changes your thought process at all.

And just to prove to you that I wouldn’t ask you to do something that I’m not willing to do myself, I have already started.  I have always been curious about the vegetarian lifestyle and have decided to go both vegetarian and dairy free for 30 days.  (Today is day four.)  I want to see if the experience changes the way I think about what I put in my body, or where my food is coming from.  I am already learning (I’m sure you’ll be reading all about it in a future blog) and life is a little more interesting than it was four days ago.

If you decide to take me up on my challenge, I would love to hear about it.  If you think that everything I’ve written is a bunch of malarkey, that’s okay too.  My belief system does not have to be your belief system, nor is it a threat to your belief system.  If you have taken even one thing from what I have written (like I did from the evangelical sermon) then I would encourage you to share this post and get some real conversation rolling.  Thanks for reading!

*Quotation is from Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future Berrett-Koehler Publishers; First Edition (January 9, 2002)

Part 2B: How I ended up following in my parents footsteps and pursuing a career in education, despite having a fool proof plan to go to law school and blah blah blah

This entry is a continuation of two other entries.  If you have not read the other entries, you can find them here:

Stepping Outside the Box

To say that I had stepped outside my comfort zone upon my arrival to the small college in Southeast Kentucky that would be my home for four months would be a gross understatement.  I had come from an urban campus of 5,000 undergraduates- 25% of whom were Jewish and many of whom were from Long Island.  I now found myself on a rural campus of about 800 undergraduates, presumably the only Jew for 200 miles.

My home campus had co-ed dorms and some co-ed bathrooms, 24 hour visitation, and while technically a dry campus, there was plenty of drinking going on behind closed doors.  The college at which the Appalachian Semester Program was based was located in a dry county, with an all female and an all male dorm.  There were strict visitation hours and if someone of the opposite sex was in your room, the door had to remain open and a 60 watt light bulb had to be turned on at all time.  (Under those conditions, I think the only thing turned on was the light bulb, which was probably the point.)

There were 12 of us participating in the Appalachian Semester Program (ASP) that semester from schools throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Mid-West.  Some of us felt more at home than others.  Despite feeling like a fish out of water, I did the best I could to gain as much as I could from this semester long, once in a formal education experience.

And what an experience it was.  Under the tutelage of our trusty professor who doubled as our tour guide, we explored Appalachia (in a 12 passenger van) from corner to corner.  We traveled North to Cincinnati for a conference on Urban Appalachia.  We ventured South to Knoxville, TN and visited the Highlander Center, Great Smokey Mountain National Park, and the TVA Dam.

In Southeastern KY, our group visited a coal mine, a snake handling church, community organizations, farms, schools, and local festivals.  We even crashed (sort of) a family reunion and were welcomed with open arms by our hosts.  I learned to quilt, weave, and log roll.  I even took a clog dancing class.  I could write an entire book covering all of the amazing places we saw, and the fascinating people we met.  It was the ultimate in experiential education.

The experience that had the greatest impact on me was my internship.  We had the choice of several internship sites.  My roommate (a social work major at her regular school) interned with the local social services office and got to accompany social workers on home visits.  Another in my cohort shadowed a mid-wife as she provided prenatal care, and performed home deliveries back in “the hollers.”

The internship that caught my interest (much to my own surprise) was being a classroom helper in a 2-3 grade combined classroom at the local, public elementary school.  We had visited the school one day to hear the father of a girl in that classroom talk about his experience as a coal miner.  In addition to describing his job, he talked about the difference between the unionized and non-unionized coal mines; the importance of health insurance (since so many coal miners have respiratory issues at some point); and getting caught in a mine collapse that he was lucky to be rescued from.  He talked about his hopes for his daughter’s future – that he wanted her to have the choice to go to college and be able to make her own decisions about what she wanted to be when she grew up.

We also spent some time that day interacting with the kids, some of whom came from extremely poor and underprivileged families.  They were a curious, energetic bunch, and couldn’t get enough of the attention that we were dishing out.  Maybe it was their hopeful, innocent faces.  Maybe it was their need for extra resources and hands in the classroom.  I’m not sure what it was, precisely.  All I knew was that despite not really feeling all that drawn to children in the past, and despite having no interest in pursuing a career in education those kids had stolen my heart.  I was where I needed to be.

I still think about those kids (who must now be in their early to mid twenties).  I think about Joe, the little boy who I tutored in math, who was just so grateful for the one on one time.  I think about Heather, one of five siblings who were living in separate foster homes.  A couple in Oklahoma had agreed to adopt all five kids and then, for reasons I am unaware of, backed out at the list minute leaving Heather and her siblings devastated.

I remember one little girl who got sick during the school day and had to lay on a cot in the back of the room because her house had no phone and there was no way to let her parents know she was ill.  I remember a couple of the 2nd and 3rd grade girls becoming Aunts that year, because their 14-year-old sisters had just had babies.  I remember Hannah, the daughter of the coal miner, who wrote me a letter after I’d gone, telling me she had named her puppy after me.

Mostly, I remember their teacher, Linda, who was doing an amazing job (with limited resources) of giving these kids a chance to choose their own destinies.  She told me that many of the kids would never leave the state, or possibly even the county and she wanted them to understand that “Kentucky is not the center of the universe.”  She wanted them to be proud of where they were from, but also be aware of the wonders that the world had to offer.  Linda’s classroom was filled with books that provided her students a window to the world.  She felt strongly that for a child to have a chance to change their circumstances, they needed to see that other options existed.

Linda taught me as much as she taught those kids.  I learned that if Kentucky was not the center of the universe, than neither was New York or DC or even the United States as a whole.  I was also learning that a career in education and a career in justice were more closely linked than I had ever thought- that how a system of education is implemented has the ability to level the playing field, propel kids ahead, or leave them in the dust.

Through the ASP, I was witnessing an America that I had only read about in the newspaper and text books.  I was seeing the impact of poverty on education and geographical access to various kind of resources in Kentucky, but knew that these are issues that are prevalent throughout the U.S.  I was learning that book learning is helpful, but there is no substitute for learning through experience.  I had come into this “domestic study program” after three years of college thinking I had at least some answers but found I really had no answers at all, only questions.

This left me wiser in some ways, but I was in no way closer to deciding what I wanted to do with my life.  I still didn’t want to be a teacher.  Honestly, after spending so much time with those kids, I didn’t think my heart could take the emotional toll of getting so attached to so many children.  But I do understand better now why so many of my friends have become teachers, and have come to truly respect the impact they have on so many young lives.

Before I left Kentucky, I went to talk to the Career Services director at the school I was visiting.  She helped me to isolate the values that I wanted to focus on in my career.  I was originally attracted to a career in the field of justice because I have always felt that people should be held accountable for their actions and behaviors.  What I loved best about my Resident Assistant position back at AU was the one on one counseling I got to do, and planning programs that introduced students to new ideas or made them think outside the box.  And I knew that taking myself out of my own comfort zone had raised my level of awareness, and consciousness about the world around me, even if I had sometimes felt a little uncomfortable in the process.

The Career Services Director told me about her graduate degree in College Student Personnel Services.  She liked working with college students because they were old enough to be able to articulate what they wanted or believed, but they also flexible enough to consider new ideas.  College students are learning about being accountable for their decisions and behavior, and many of them find themselves outside of their comfort zone when they leave home for the first time to pursue their degree. She thought it would be a good fit for me too and encouraged me to look into some programs.

I started my own research and the following fall found myself enrolled in the Higher Education Administration Masters program at Michigan State University, which led to my first professional job as a Residence Hall Director (I could write a book about that experience too), and then six great years as an Academic Adviser.  So I ended up working in education after all – higher education.  I even taught a couple of college classes, though teaching is definitely not my passion.  Ironically, the ultimate teaching job, parenthood, has taken me out of the work force for a little while, but I hope, that once I return I can jump back in to my career in higher education.

My time in Appalachia combined with my Graduate School studies helped me to define the values and belief system by which I choose to live my life. For the three of you out there that want to hear about that belief system, you are in luck!  In Part 3 (the final installment of this blog topic, I promise) find out why we are really not all that different from each other,  why we are all a little like those little Russian nesting dolls, and why grown ups should play more truth and dare.

Part 2A: How I ended up following in my parents footsteps and pursuing a career in education despite my foolproof plan to go to law school and eventually become a judge.



In sitting down to write Part 2 of ‘The Story of how I WAS NOT going to follow in my parents footsteps by pursuing a career in education, and instead go to law school to eventually become a judge’ I realized that this is a longer story than I had originally anticipated.  So, I have divided Part 2 into two parts.  If you have not read Part 1, I would recommend reading that first.

Part 2A- The Journey Begins…

I didn’t last very long at the job at the law library.  The would-be ‘moon colonizer’ turned into a bit of a stalker and I ended up calling a friend or a Public Safety officer to walk me home on more than one occasion.  I had also become a little self-conscious about my “good for carrying babies” hips.  Surely, I had better things to do with my Friday nights.

For example, I had a whole new career path to map out (Okay, so maybe I wasn’t doing that on Friday nights, per say.).  I had come to American University to major in American Studies, in order to pursue a career in the American legal system.  (Just call me your all American girl.)  Now I was second guessing at least one part of that equation.  What to do?

You may not believe me but employers are not fighting over American Studies graduates.  Most of the folks that I know who majored in American Studies became teachers or went on to graduate school (most often law school).  Despite this, I did not want to change my major.  Perhaps to make up for the poor job prospects after graduation, American Studies majors got to take really cool classes.  While my friends were taking Microeconomics, World Politics, and Statistics, I was taking:

  • Contemporary American Culture – Television (my final paper was about ‘The Animaniacs.’)
  • Food & Culture (In this class we sampled everything from bagels and lox to kimchi)
  • American Decades- The 1980’s (One of our assignments was to visit two shopping malls- one geared towards higher income shoppers and one geared towards lower income shoppers and compare and contrast.)

I also took a class called “Southern Traditions”.  We spent part of the class talking about Appalachia (particularly Kentucky, Tennessee, and Western North Carolina) – a region for which I had no first-hand knowledge.  I had never even been to “the South” (I was pretty sure that vacations to Disney World did not count.)  It occurred to me while taking this class that I actually had very little first-hand knowledge of any U.S. region outside the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic where I had grown up.

Between my fairly liberal NY upbringing, and my AU student experience, I thought I had seen just about everything.  My residence hall had a co-ed bathroom on our all girls floor as to not inconvenience overnight guests of the opposite sex , on its best day our “dry” campus was pretty damp, and my constitutional law professor walked into class one day and opened his lecture by saying, “While I was driving into campus today, I was thinking about pornography.”  (He was thinking about it as it relates to freedom of speech, but still.)

There were all kinds of policies governing student behavior on the books at AU, but for the most part, I would say that students preferred to govern themselves (or let anarchy prevail).  Through my RA job I gained insight into the hidden talents of my fellow classmates such as closet “gardening”, chemical explosives, reptile care, misappropriation of University funds, and home improvement (i.e. how to remove ceiling tiles in order to hide various (prohibited) items in the ceiling.).

So while I was not leading a totally sheltered life, I did realize, through my class work, that I had not seen as much as I thought I had.  Some of my friends were studying abroad  as part of their International Studies major.  What I needed was a domestic study program that would let me go beyond the text books and class lectures and really experience another part of America.  But did such a thing exist?

With help from my faculty advisor, I discovered ‘The Appalachian Semester Program’- a domestic study program at a small college in Southeastern Kentucky.  Program participants lived on campus and took classes in sociology, economics, and political science all pertaining to the Appalachian region.  Each student also participated in a local internship, and chose a research topic to pursue while there.  I got permission to use the Appalachian Semester program credits toward graduation and made plans to spend the first semester of my senior year away from everything and everyone I knew.

So what happens when a nice Jewish girl from Long Island, NY finds herself in rural, conservative, Southeastern Kentucky?  Stay tuned for Part 2B and find out how The Appalachian Semester program raised my level of consciousness, expanded my world view,  and (finally) led me to follow in my parents footsteps and pursue a career in the field of education (not to mention learn to quilt, weave, clog dance, and log roll).

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