Recant Reviling Love

I am going to have to say the appeal of the metaphor for love and rhetoric is quite effective for drawing in the audience. Perhaps it is unprofessional to say about the reflections on my personal life as pertains to Plato’s writings – but then I think the Greeks had an altogether different view of what professionalism might be. Suffice to say, this is the most I have laughed reading for classical rhetoric so far.

Phaedrus’ recounting of Lysias’ speech says lovers without love are better because Love gets exhausted, keeps score of the wrongs over the years, is irrational, jealous limiting and not a friend – a friend would point out flaws but Love does not. So, speaking of professionalism, the case is that sex for pleasure versus love turns out better. I can get on board with this metaphor for rhetoric and writing. It is subjective – there’s not one right way – it’s limiting, there are many ways to communicate, why writing? And it definitely can be exhausting.

However, sex without love also cannot ultimately satisfy and so – recant! Socrates recants after all agreeing with Phaedrus (except that he didn’t argue it well and that Socrates could do it better). The two discourses, he says, were lacking in delicacy: “Would not anyone who was himself of a noble and gentle nature, and who loved or ever had loved a nature like his own, when we tell of the petty causes of lovers’ jealousies, and of their exceeding animosities, and of the injuries which they do to their beloved, have imagined that our ideas of love were taken from some haunt of sailors to which good manners were unknown – he would certainly never have admitted the justice of our censure?” (243 c-d).  Indeed. Bias wrecks the rhetoric, just as love gone wrong wrecks the ways we love ever after. It’s like the misuse of rhetoric has wounded rhetoricians like Plato and Quintilian deeply – and maybe this is why there is so much talk about a rhetorician/orator needed to be morally good.

It feels a lot like the case I make to my students: I know writing has hurt you before, been painful, made you feel dumb or frustrated – but it has it’s uses! There can be good writing experiences! In the love metaphor, just because there was cheating and insults and they kicked you out of the house before you had a place to stay, does not mean that’s going to happen again. As teachers in college we have to address the wounded and make a safe place for students to make all the blunders of new love without criticism.

The Heidelberg Project and Hope

Running on one or two hours of sleep Tuesday morning I was dazedly trying to think what my next course of action would be. Track down some coffee for instance, but uncertain if there was a place to lock up my guitar and gi-normous suitcase. I guessed no, on account of the pack by the bunk of the other tenant. My guitar lay hidden under my blanket, looking like a lump of un-made bed. Jay the manager came in and introduced himself and made sure I was in fact the person who was scheduled to come in last night. He apologized for not being awake to great me, for sleeping through my entry but seems how everything was all good, it was all good! Jay then offered to take me to The Heidelberg project.

“Well, that’s one of the major reasons I came here, so yes, please!” I said.

And so, a little before 8 am I got to see The Heidelberg project in person. It’s only about a month shy since I heard of it in the first place. I was studying abroad in Liverpool and got to work with two amazing individuals, Martha and Guy, on a project that examined local art community art and the interactions. Martha interviewed an art curator in Liverpool; Guy-from-Detroit showed us The Heidelberg Project. The latter actually happened first in the brainstorming section and fueled the inspiration for our project. I interviewed a local playwright and poet, Patrick Graham, who I still remain in contact with and a local film director. It was amazing. It is amazing. The Heidelberg Project was the heartbeat, it was what made us global citizens but also civically minded – or at least that is the effect it had on me. The ways in which we interact with the arts and they with us is insurmountably compelling for me. And getting to do the interviews with creators, in the trenches doing what I really wanted to do, in particular with Patrick – well, it was very memorable and very inspiring.

You can read more about the Heidelberg Project history here (and you should!). Heidelberg round one for me was filled with anxiety, partly in anticipation, partly because Jay is an interesting driver. But not like you’d think – he drives small town style in a big city e.g. slow. It can cause some problems. Also Jay has been in Detroit for less than two years and took us down a one-way street, but that was after. “We” was my roommate, Eva from Germany, who is a librarian, and hostel neighbor Angela, who has lived in that neighborhood since she was nine years old and was able to navigate Jay back on the right path later. Angela will be the first to tell you that her friendship with Jay is a complicated one. Jay says Angela is a bit lonely – so it’s possible she doesn’t like him at all but needs to talk to someone. I don’t think that is the case however. Jay and Angela share the love of The Heidelberg Project in sincerity and were perfect guides to have for my first time.

Jay drove (very, very, appropriately slowly) the perimeter first, as is his tradition, he explained, and then we were able to get out a walk about. The place can sweep you to a modern art state of mind: why a wall of shoes spray painted white? To one of intense anguish emotion, the House of Soul, which was recently burned down by an arsonist but has already had art made into the rubble. The decapitate doll heads placed here and there are somewhat heart wrenching and disturbed. And the clocks. And the dots. A house covered in bright colored dots and clocks everywhere. Clocks painted on old wood or plywood and hung on the trees everywhere. And old stopped clocks hung on the trees everywhere. I was trying to find a pattern in the times but Angela said, “There saying time is important, and time is limited” (stopped clocks) “don’t take it for granted.”

The project is ongoing indefinitely and now has several contributing artists. I am not posting any photos (I didn’t take any photos the first time actually) because the artists ask for it not to be reused for purposes other than education or personal use. Personal use, meaning, you should just go and see for yourself! There is always something new to see, as Jay pointed out, either something new made or something you missed the first time. It’s an open air art museum. It’s a phoenix metaphor for Detroit. It’s art that has made the neighborhood a safer place to be (after the arson they – Tyree Guyton – have had more light(s) installed and security cameras). The place surges with emotion, whether happy, sad, or what does it mean or why that? Or (As is common with modern art) I could do that (but didn’t do that)!

There are a couple rows of rusted car hoods waiting to be made into a creation. There is a designated tree for donations. Jay leaves things there periodically. We congregated there to go back home again. Jay left some old shoes (there are lots of shoes used in the art). And I noticed one of the clocks hanging on a nearby tree, was working. “Well, so it is!” It was about five minutes slow, but operational. Working and Ticking.

Up next, Part 3: Things Aren’t What They Seem

Mis Tareas

Mi Cuarto Día en San Pedro

Estar exacto, puedo decir mi quinto día pero mi primer día viajé y no yo podría ver la ciudad de San Pedro. Entonces, digo mi cuarto día. La primera cosa, en la mañana este es un temblor. Después duermo mas pero creo demasiado porque necesité mas tiempo para comer y vestir. ¡No recuerdo mi ropa íntima sucio en el baño! ¡Soy muy muy avergonzada! Un reloj dice son las nueve y cinco cuando yo llegaba a mi escuela, Casa Rosario. Después mi clase, es la una en punto, yo no nado o usar el cayuco porque el lago tiene las olas. Tomo café en el café de Atitlán. Escribo en mi computadora con mi novio y amigos. Después almuerzo caminé dos horas en las calles de San Pedro porque me gustaría encontrar un café especifico. También me gusta caminar y yo puedo aprender cuando hacer. Es necesario yo podría aprender los calles de San Pedro. Antes yo podría regresar a la casa de mi familia la lluvia comienza. ¡Hay mucho mucho lluvia! Esta bien porque me gustaría pagar un paragua y usar mi español. No puedo negociar pero pago a la treinta y cinco quetzales. Pagué una bebida de fruta la manzana tambien. No puedo decir el tiempo exacto cuando regrasaba pero creo son las seis menos cuarto.

Mi Primer Fin de Semana

El sábado tengo clase porqué no tengo clase el lunes antes porque viajé todo el día. Después yo voy en el cayuco. Yo voy dentro de la casa viejo en el lago de Atitlán. El domingo en la mañana camine´a la oficina de voluntario pero no miro las personas. Entonces caminé al Café atitlán para mi desayuno. Yo tengo desayuno de frutas con papayas, bananos, y sandía. También bebo café americano. Escribí en mi computadora, especifico, escribí correo electrónico a Rising Minds hacer una cita. Después regresando a mi casa. Toco mi guitarra y canto con Pablito. Un desfile ir por mi casa. Elena, Pablito y yo miramos. Son las doce mediodía mi maestra Ester visitar y hablamos por un rato. Después hablé mucho con mi novio usando skype de Café Chuayisina. Después caminé las calles de San Pedro mas. Buscando tienda de Beatríz y hacer una cita para corter mi cabello el próximo día son las cinco y media. Regresando a mi casa vestirme para la iglesia. Yo voy a la iglesia Bethel. Iglesia Bethel es la iglesia de mi familia en San Pedro. La iglesia es muy interesante. Creo ir otra ves en el futuro.

Soul Splits

January 27, 2014 10:52 am PST

I receive an email with subject: CONGRATULATIONS. I don’t know it yet. I’m teaching my second section of English 101 in my second semester of my MA program but my first time as a regular teacher.

I’m using a new online learning software that my partner worked on and works on as part of his phd work. It’s going great. Teaching is going great (I think).

I see the email and suspect what it is but don’t dare hope. They said I would hear back by the 25th of January so when I didn’t I just assumed I didn’t get it. I’m in my History of Language class which I’m nerding out on as one of my earlier discovered loves; the discovery a success out of the failure of my first semester of college ten years ago. I resist opening the email.

When I do I know I received funding to go to my first CCCCs conference without acquiring new debt. High on this I write a scholar/author/teaching on the east coast that I’ve been research-stalking for months. He writes me back. It’s wonderful. Everything is so stinking good that I have the thought that I’d better prepare for the fallout. But I don’t dwell on it.

I’ve come to feel I’ve got to enjoy these spots of time because they will not be permanent or lasting except in inaccurate memory. I’ve come to be a little more accepting of the imperfect and sad and fumbles because they heighten the highs.

And indeed, exciting for my first peer review with the online software I got to class even earlier than usual. I didn’t have a defined backup plan, just ideas and interests to pull from when the peer annotation system completely failed and after fifteen minutes on the phone plus some emails, neither my partner nor his chair who author the software knew why it wasn’t working. It wouldn’t be fixed for my second section either.

I assign something different and am being a bit ‘naughty’ in Professional Development Colloquium or PDC as I try to work on some things for the student and my plan B lesson on my laptop. I get another email.

January 29, 12:37 pm PST

Sometime when I was sleeping perhaps, or excitedly getting ready to teach, or maybe while all of my teaching plans were going wrong, Linda died. Professor Linda Kittell died. And there is nothing I can do. And I cannot cry because I’m in a PDC. And then I cannot cry because I’m in History of Language and I split it two in a way that I know intimately but will not share here because it is a public space and while typos and developing writing are okay to have attached to your professional name, there are things, many things, that I can only say under my penname and remain “hireable”.

I used to split in two on a regular basis. I did it for Linda’s class four years ago, spring semester 2010. I regularly explained this to my professors in detached and clinical terms so I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable and so foolish but also so that they would understand what was happening with me as an older-than-usual, struggling college student. Professors were always extremely support and understanding. But Linda did not just support and understand she had lived experience, a term retaught to me by a wonderful woman and colleague of the TRiO community we share as first-generation college students.

Linda knew splitting in two. She wouldn’t let me off the hook for it. But somehow, was so completely empathetic too. I got a ‘C’ in her class. I didn’t agree with her teaching style though I didn’t really think I deserved better than a ‘C’ either. I didn’t see her much after that. I split in two again. I would think about her a lot and always felt conflicted about her.

She remembered me, but I don’t think she fretted like I did. She had bigger fish to fry. She was writing. But then, she got sick. And then I never saw her until she finished her book of poems. She remembered me, but she didn’t fret. I remember how changed she looked from her battle of cancer. But her laugh, the way she read aloud, it was just like in the classroom. I bought her new book and her old one and she signed them for me. I think I will always feel split in two about Linda. Grieving is a selfish, self-absorbed process so much of the time and I think now is no exception.

Could I have tried harder in her course even while split in two? Is she watching me struggle with theory now and laughing, “I told you so.” Is she cheering me on?  The answer is neither. Why the hell would she care? It’s not that she didn’t care about her students, she just has bigger fish to fry. Baseball to watch and play. Peace and release from pain. Who gives a fuck, about a ‘C’ four years ago?


My eyes burn but I don’t cry. I go about my day. I keep my vaccination appointment for my travel this summer that will fill my MA’s language requirement and in a way that isn’t grade-driven and is soul-filling instead of flattening. I go to my graduate seminar. I split in two. I answer emails about the fiasco technology fail in class this morning alone in my closet-made-office while I eat my leftovers heated up dinner. My eyes burn but I don’t cry.

I go to Dr.Dyson’s speech as planned. I reconnect with very important people to me, that TRiO colleague I mentioned, and another TRiO colleague I haven’t. We talk about my upcoming trip to Guatemala because my arm is sore from all the vaccination shots and the newly mentioned college has some ties in Guatemala. And we talk about community and plans we have and race, class and gender issues and what I am learning about the earmarked ‘working class’ community in the field of English (most of us TRiO folk/alumni are working class and first-generation college students and often categorized ‘low-income’ and ‘high-risk’ for dropping out of college). It’s very fulfilling; it’s very important to me.

Part of the walk home is talking with one of these wonderful women. The other part listening to a podcast so I don’t have to be alone with my thoughts. My eyes burn.

I get home to good news! The technology, the peer annotation software is fixed and working. It’s would be so wonderful. It will be so wonderful.


But first I shut myself in my home office which is chaotic and roomy and me, not like my graduate school closet (right of passage, I understand). I bring out Linda’s books. I take pictures to avoid reading them. I will reread them; they are good poems, but I just can’t. Not just yet.

And I feel compelled to sit down and write this to you now. Because for a long time writing is where I don’t feel split in two; even when I lie to myself or try to talk myself into believing a certain ideology in my writing, or convince someone else that I believe a certain something, or that I’m totally and completely of the academic mind, even all these things, when I write I am whole. When I write I am not split in two. When I write I can cry.

I pretty sure Linda got that.


Marsa’s Still Hanging Out and Shopping Less

“I’m starting to think you live a double life” my partner texts me.

Double life, multiple identities
Double life, multiple identities

This is because my new Fabletics order came in. I got spandex shorts, a hooded shirt with thumb holes, AND a sports bra for $25. They only do that for your first purchase. I am definitely a fan of the online shopping. It is more of a pain to return things, and I wouldn’t recommend the samana bra I bought (the fabric was itchy, and I’m not a busty girl, but I still say it ain’t doing nothing…maybe a smaller size?) which I will have now have to ship back. But this is all just one of my fabulous, possibly ADD side stories that is almost or partly relevant.

I don’t go by Marsa and Carter is my unmarried partner’s last name. But it seemed so appropriate because ‘the shopper’ was a bit embarrassing to me – I’d had delusions of being mostly non-girly on account of not liking malls. So I went with Marsa. (Yes, it has a back story. I will refrain.) But my Shnookums Carter is good with money, unlike me, as my mother and I recently revisited on the phone lately.

So Marsa Carter is my inner shopper AND my inner fiscal conscience. It’s not as bad as you would think.

Despite being largely not as productive with my money as I could have while I worked in my full-time grown up job, I did produce, as it were.

Identities and Education
Identities and Education

And I was nervous about the switch to graduate school income, and indeed I did see about a three month stall in progress on my credit card debt, but I have successfully switched and successfully NOT touched any of my retirement even when I had the opportunity to. That was hard. In my defense I was going to take out just enough to pay off my credit card debt remaining. But I was listening to howstuffworks podcast and they did an episode on money.  Basically, if I’m taking from savings and/or retirement, I’ve screwed up and it’s a double screw up to take from savings.

So I’m leaving it. I’ve successfully rolled it into an IRA investment ROTH thingy, that I mostly don’t understand. (Don’t worry, my partner and my credit union financial adviser walked me through it). Also, my credit card debt is down a hundred dollars this month even WITH buying the new yoga clothes.

So yes, my dear partner, I am living a double life. My crappy instincts against what I’ve learned. My debt from mistakes of my past versus my growing competence (I pay my rent). And the yoga clothes help motivate me to DO YOGA and treat the stress from graduate school in a more affordable way, then say, expensive (but nice) pharmaceuticals, and…well really, you can’t put a price on health (even though our society does, all the time).

Marsa Carter is always on the back of my mind. At one point I thought, ‘an outsider might think I’ve got multiple personalities!’ But it’s nothing so painful exciting as that. It’s mostly a personification of my weaknesses and girliness/materialism that I haven’t fully accepted, harnessed by my rampant imagination and daydreaming.

Finally, I haven’t really had time to write regularly because of graduate school. And because I do this thing, where I only want to do things just so, near perfect or perfectly inline with whatever the hell I had in my head. I do this thing with graduate school and money. And it’s no good! We — and by we I suppose I mean Marsa and I? — have to allow for mistakes and flexibility. So here I am actually blogging about my money adventures and woes like I keep telling myself I’m going to. Maybe not as cool or as neat as I thought it would be, but whatever. I did it.

Marsa out!


Defining ‘The Man’ for my professor/readers

The Man: any group that oppresses…

The Man as defined by wikipedia: a slang phrase that may refer to…some authority in a position of power.

Damn the man! The Man as defined by Urban Dictionary: head of “the establishment” put in place to bring us down.

The Man – my favorite breakdown of what it means:


(But I’m not giving up)

Travelling Impact

When I studied abroad summer 2009 with COE it was magical for me. Cliche to say I suppose for it was and I hadn’t read much travel writing yet so I didn’t know I was being cliche. Anyway, COE, like any education-based organization faces budget challenges and I can only assume that that is why they are asking students who studied abroad with them to fill out a survey. It might not be the only reason but, well, anymore you have to fight for legitimacy and data helps.

COE is for low-income, first-generation college students by the way; if they did not exist, studying abroad would not have been a part of getting my undergraduate degree, like I say here (I’m answering the comments part of the survey and may, or may not have gotten a little carried away…):

What was the impact? Okay, I realize that due to this being a survey, the point is to ‘measure’ things. But you can’t. Not really. You can track behavior and influence of others (ripple effect) like your questions are doing above but you can’t measure impact. Everyone had a different experience due to being different individuals. Some people have ‘stewed’ in the memories longer than others. But if you must measure, think of this for impact: not one of us who studied abroad will ever, ever forget it. No one forgets an experience like that even if and when they take it for granted and get to do it often. Also, when you are low-income it is very unlikely indeed that you will take it for granted. I would not have traveled abroad as an undergrad without the COE in Liverpool opportunity. I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t begin to know how to figure out study and travel abroad (there’s a measurement for you – lifelasting travel awareness)and finally, as a low-income student, undergraduate was survival a good majority of the time; studying abroad was something I wanted but was out of my reach. But then it wasn’t. Even if I got to travel with my current partner later, it would not be the same because I would be a dependent of sorts — I wouldn’t have learned and been empowered about traveling on my own, getting lost and finding my way, going alone or coordinating with a group of new people.

I could go on and on, and I do. Frequently. But the point is that studying abroad has intrinsic, immeasurable value. It can, but does not always, teach a person cultural relevancy and understanding in a level of depth that cannot be attained any other way — a sort of ultimate hands-on learning experience. Dr. Pamela Gay, an astronomer and professor among other things, says that, “traveling opens up understanding the sky,” or in other words the universe. Given her field of study, she means this more literally than I do. Nonetheless, the impact of my COE studying abroad experience, was empowerment, cultural depth of understanding, learning from mistakes, working in a group of people from very different cultures and backgrounds than me, and at least a little bit, broadened my understanding of the universe.