Telling your Slice of Life Story through visual images

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I finished up my Summer I Reading Graphic Novels class and I must say it was a very enjoyable class.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an upper level elective credit.  This class will be offered again next summer.

My professor, Dr. Laurence E. Musgrove is a great professor.  He also has his own blog, “The Illustrated Professor”, where you can find much of his work.  It is obvious that this English department head has found a talent communicating in images as well as words.

He opened up a whole new genre for me in graphic novels.  Before taking this class I don’t think that I would have looked twice at a graphic novel.  Now, having had to read 4 of them, I can tell you that I will not only look at them twice, I will pick them up often to read.  Graphic Novels, often referred by many as comics, are not children’s books. They are  literary works that include autobiographical works as well as fiction.

What I learned from this genre, that I found rather refreshing, was Dr. Musgrove’s instruction to “slow down.”  He told us, “You have to slow down, look at the images, what are they telling you, then read the text.  As a reader you find your own response to the story.”

I like slowing down.  Don’t you often find yourself in a rush to read a book, to rush past the words onto the next page?  It’s like not only are we living life in the fast lane, we are also racing to finish a book.  Here he told us to enjoy it, slow down and absorb the messages.

Part of the lesson objective was to learn to express ourselves visually.  Less words, more images.  As a final project, we were to create what he termed as a “Slice of Life.”  We were to create a small brief 12 panel visual about something in our lives that we remembered and share the story through our images.  Remember to read left to right.

Here is my “Slice of Life” which is a story from my childhood.  Remember when everybody smoked and it was not just OK, but recommended?

Page 1 of 3

Page 1 of 3

Page 2 of 3

Page 2 of 3

Page 3 of 3

Page 3 of 3

And just in case you were wondering–this was a valuable lesson.  My brother and I grew up as non-smokers.

 

 

Drawing to tell a story and understand the meaning.

Summer I is quickly ending and I’ve spent the month engrossed in comics, or rather Graphic Novels.  In my Reading Graphic Novels class I have learned how to enjoy reading in a different way.

Literary works for most of us are usually text only. As children we were encouraged to draw art but then when ‘real’ learning begins we are steered away from drawing and taught to focus on learning to read and to write the ABC’s so we can master the “art” of the preferred form of reading.  Drawing is for children.

Dr. Laurence Musgrove, my professor, has taken us back to the form of drawing for expression.

In his class we are given reading assignments from 4 graphic novels. Each day we turn in a response based on chapter assignments, but instead of a written response, he has made us draw our response.  It can be challenging to think of ways to express what you take away from the chapter through a picture.

So as we are reading from a true life story about the Palestinians and the conflict with Israel, we have to think about it then draw a visual about what we were thinking about as we read it. This particular story, Palestine by Joe Sacco is quite troubling. I guess I’ve never really thought about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Not until this book. For those that criticize graphic novels and refer to them as just “comic books” I would say, read this book and tell me how funny you think it is.  I venture to say, you’d be changed as well and would start asking your own questions about what is really happening to the refugees—the people that just want to live a normal life like you and I do.

Here are a few of my drawn responses.

Palestinian women wear the hijab...they have a choice but Hamas prefers that they wear it and it's a sign of respect as instructed in the Koran.  But women don't have to wear it, if they don't want to be disrespected.

Palestinian women wear the hijab…they have a choice but Hamas prefers that they wear it and it’s a sign of respect as instructed in the Koran. But women don’t have to wear it, if they DO want to be disrespected.

A young Palestinian girl asks Joe Sacco about his home and his way of living.

A young Palestinian girl asks Joe Sacco about his home and his way of living.

Olive trees were cut down by the Israelis as a form of punishment.  The Palestinians make their living from oil from the olive trees.  Cutting the trees prevents them from being prosperous, and leaves them hungry.

Olive trees were cut down by the Israelis as a form of punishment. The Palestinians make their living from oil from the olive trees. Cutting the trees prevents them from being prosperous, and leaves them hungry.

The Keffiyeh is worn to symbolize national unity of the Palestinian movement.

The Keffiyeh is worn to symbolize national unity of the Palestinian movement.

Tea is a part of the culture.  Over tea the men discuss stories with Joe Sacco.  They tell of the tragedies that they have suffered.

Tea is a part of the culture. Over tea the men discuss stories with Joe Sacco. They tell of the tragedies that they have suffered.

My hope is that you will pick up a graphic novel and give it a chance. There are so many stories to be experienced. With a graphic novel you can read and you can see the images the author wanted to use to express the story in a visual way. There are less words sometimes because the pictures do most of the story telling.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to see things through the eyes of children, slowing ourselves down and using pictures to understand a story.

How One Professor uses Storytelling to Save the Planet, One Student at a Time

A great storyteller can share knowledge and create imagery so vivid that you suddenly comprehend something you never really thought about, that you never knew you wanted to know about, or that you felt you were being forced to understand.

Dr. Dixon

Dr. Michael Dixon, Storyteller and Associate Professor of Biology at Angelo State University

I’ve just completed a journey through biology at the hands of a great storyteller, Dr. Michael Dixon, associate professor of biology. I walked into his class with a closed mind and today I walk away full of knowledge.  The kind of knowledge that changes you in more ways than one. That kind of transformation doesn’t just happen.  It can only come from an educator that teaches from the heart and feels compelled not just to share knowledge but to share it with passion and with the hope that his words can make a difference.

After all, biology is the study of life.

Dr. Dixon holds firm to the statement that science is not there to prove or disprove value judgments. Value judgments are based on our personal beliefs. Those come from within ourselves, our families and are based on what we value.  The knowledge we gain through learning about science can help us think just a little bit deeper about those values.

My semester in biology focused on humans and the environment. The choices we as humans make can affect a whole ecosystem.  I’ve learned how my ecological footprint on Earth is larger than someone who lives in a less developed country.  I’ve learned that I’m taking more than I’m giving back.

I’ve been forced to think about my actions.  While I know I can’t change the whole world, I can change my world.  I can be a better human on this Earth.  I can think twice before I decide if I want to add plastic to my landfill.  I can choose to conserve natural resources such as water and energy.  I can use my voice as a citizen to vote on environmental issues.

SomethinginRain

Excerpt lyric from “Something In the Rain” by Tish Hinojosa

I’ve been shown the impact that we as humans have had on the Earth in everything we do whether it’s in creating our urban environments to building dams to deforestation to industrial farming and even to changing the way we hunt.

I’ve learned how there are no more areas left to farm. We’ve used them all up and in some instances those areas have been lost to erosion. We’ve also gone from farming in order to feed ourselves to farming to make money.  We’ve gone from growing natural food to creating genetically modified foods that will grow larger, last longer and survive being doused with pesticide and that sometimes we’re eating that pesticide because many of us don’t wash our vegetables and fruits.

Fishing nets in our oceans.

I’ve learned how we’re leaning towards moving our hunting for meat to farming the ocean for seafood.  Farming as in breeding fish to grow quicker and larger through cross-breeding and genetic engineering.  We genetically try to make food better as if to outwit nature.  Can that really be safe?  We don’t know yet, we don’t know what those changes will bring about.

And yet, with this dismal view of our future I’ve learned that there is hope.

There is hope in that people like myself can choose alternative methods that help our Earth.

Instead of letting erosion blow away our soils in farmlands, farmers can choose to use low-till or no till.  Instead of using harsh pesticides some farmers are using Integrated Pest Management.  In other words using other insects that will serve to feed off of the pests that eat our crops reducing the use of chemicals in our foods, soil and our water. We can choose to go back to natural ways to grow our crops.

Slowly but surely each of us can make a small difference.

Dr. Dixon provided us with a thought-provoking quote from Canadian biologist David Suzuki:

I am often asked, ‘What is the most urgent environmental problem confronting us?’ My answer is the human mind.  Where once we understood that we are dependent on and interconnected with the rest of nature, the modern mentality believes that we have escaped this reality. Our big-city lifestyles shatter the sense of interconnectedness and blind us to the consequences of our actions. Our most urgent challenge, therefore, is to rediscover our place in the natural world.

As the world population grows faster than ever before we must learn to re-evaluate how we use our natural resources and how we are going to save what is left.

What are your personal beliefs, your personal values?  Do you care about your place in the world and how you impact the Earth through your actions?  Or are you just interested in taking more than what you give?

On our last day of lecture, Dr. Dixon showed us a video.  I must confess I had seen this video before and it never moved me. Yet, this time, it all made sense.  He told us to think what we wanted about Michael Jackson -LOL- but to focus more about the message it conveys both the negative and the positive as they both can be found in the beginning and in the end.

If after viewing this video, you are not moved and if you don’t “get it” or worse, you think of me when you hear the word “tree hugger,” then I’d suggest enrolling in Dr. Dixon’s class Biology 1411-Man and the Environment.  You’ll definitely “get it” and it will all make sense and like myself the word “tree hugger” will take on a new meaning.  You will also then be one of many students who have had the privilege of listening to a great storyteller and perhaps just maybe you’ll be moved to make a small difference in your life and your world.

EarthSong

Click here to watch the video.

 

Negative Negative Niche

One of the main reasons I decided to pursue a degree “at my age” was due to the fact that I became a displaced worker.  I found myself forced out in the streets to compete for jobs, and my competition had an upper hand, they had a degree.

Up to that point in my life, I had been able to survive without a degree in my specialized career, which had 15 years of experience to shape and make better. However, when my career ended, my specialty was no longer needed, and I was unable to compete and if I had any desire to survive, I had to make myself marketable and in my case, that meant I had to pursue a degree.

In the midst of this, I must confess, that yes, I did find a job.  But the job was not what I termed a “specialty”.  I took great pride in my previous career, in being an expert, of knowing everything there was to know about one thing and now I suddenly found myself a jack-of-all-trades (master-of-none).

In my new current job, I am not an expert at any one thing, but rather, I am able to perform many things and thus make myself valuable to my office because there are very few things (but they do exist) that I can’t do.

So I found it quite interesting today when my biology professor explained interactions within species.  He talked about a term that biologists use when studying biodiversity.  Have I lost you already? Ok, let me back up.

Biodiversity, that’s the study of different variations of species. Kinda like two skunks that look the same (smell the same) but they are not really the same, there is some characteristic that makes them different from each other, so much so, that these two different skunk species, will not breed with each other.  They (the skunks) know they are different.

So back to my original thought.  The term my professor referred to was competition.  It’s labeled as a -/-.   Yes, a negative/negative, because technically nobody wins, or do they?  My interest was piqued!

Some species live in an environment where they can survive but they are competing for survival perhaps for space, food and other resources.  Sometimes that environment can have changes or events, such as dry or moist, warm or cold climates, that affect the species.  Some species, even though they can survive within these extremes, choose to remain in a “specialized” area or “niche” where they can only survive within that niche.  Others he termed as “generalist” that move and adapt within the extremes, and adjust if their environment goes through changes.

His examples of some generalists were pests of sorts—you know, sort of like rats and cockroaches.  But he said, these pests (generalists) will survive simply because they adapt and are not reliant of one specialized area.

competition

So, the point I’m making here is this, I kinda felt like he was talking about my career.  Do I still want to be a specialist and thrive in just one thing? Have my “niche” per say? Or do I want to keep being a generalist, which at times can be a pest for others, but will ultimately assure my survival?

This certainly leaves one wondering, “Which is the better choice?”  I’ve always felt that being specialized gave you (me) the upper hand, where you were the expert, people rely on you and they come to you for expertise, and then you can die happy.   And here comes the dang cockroach, showing that, sometimes you have to adapt in order to survive.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm—DANG COCKROACH!

Girl on the Piano

“Everybody told me this ‘girl on the piano’ thing was never going to work.” 
― Tori Amos

We are already in the middle of the semester and I’m in the midst of planning my Summer I, II, fall 2014 and spring 2015 classes.  “Slacker” is not an adjective to describe me when it comes to planning my schedule.  I’m only 19 hours away from my degree.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Yes, it’s true.  Spring 2015, I graduate.

I can remember my first semester in 2009, math. At times I didn’t think I’d get through the class.  Especially since I hadn’t completed an algebra equation since 1980.  There have been many doubtful moments and now here I am on the final lap.

This journey has made me realize that it’s never too late to do something you have always wanted to do, no matter your age.  As long as you “want to” you can do it, and it all starts by placing one foot in front of the other.

I look back to 2006, when I became a displaced worker and I was forced back into the workforce to compete for a new career.  I remember how I had my whole identity wrapped up in this one career.  If I’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that you can’t attach your identity to a career.  The world is changing. Technology changes, and for that matter, everything we do is constantly evolving. If you want to keep up, education is your best vehicle.

I look forward to seeing my own evolution after I graduate.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to pursue graduate school. “Never stop learning!” is my new motto. (Oh and if you didn’t know what my old motto was, it was, “It’s never too late!”)

Music Group SprMag12 21Nov11 (TN) Photographer Danny MeyerSpeaking of which, did you know I have always wanted to play the piano?   Yeah, nobody else did either, but I have. When I was a little girl my dad would take us to my grandfather’s house and I remember my step-grandmother had a piano.  It was covered up and nobody was allowed to touch it.  I would just look at it and imagine my fingers on the keys.  I also remember that she gave the piano away to an aunt who kept it outside in the back yard, exposed to all the elements and nobody ever played it.  I’ve never forgotten that piano.  Well, I’m about to put a check mark on “learn to play the piano” for fall 2014 as I enroll in Piano 1122 as my 1 hour elective credit.  Maybe I can play my favorite song, “O Holy Night” for Christmas.  Yeah, definitely, I’ll say it again IT’S NEVER TOO LATE for this girl on the piano.

Spring Meh!

MehMeh.  When was meh added to our English language?  It’s such a strange word and when I first read it on Facebook I wondered if it was an acronym but I couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say and to add more confusion there’s a non-smiley face icon for it too—so realization hit, it’s really a word.  That lead me to look it up and sure enough, it is a word.  Originated in the 1990s says Oxford Dictionary from The Simpsons no less.  I guess I didn’t catch enough of that show or I’d have joined the meh crowd sooner.

As an adjective, meh means unenthusiastic which can well summarize my first few weeks of the spring semester.  It’s not wow or bad it’s meh.  I’d love to be excited and engrossed in some wonderful knowledge but we’re not there yet.  I’m enthusiastically waiting for it.  It’s also not bad either where I’ve gone into panic mode which I’m very enthusiastically happy about.

So as I sit in class this semester and learn about evolutionary changes in our environment due to human population and wonder if there will be enough resources for all my needs during my lifetime and for my children, I also sit in creative writing and learn that the English language continues to also evolve with new words added every year that weren’t around when Shakespeare wrote his sonnets.  Can you imagine Shakespeare including “meh” in his writings:  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and less meh.  Nah, it doesn’t have the right iambic meter and makes it sound so, hmmmm, I don’t know…..so meh?

The Insane Road of Effort to Success

As I look at the calendar, I count about 7 weeks left in the fall semester.  Not that I’m trying to rush it or anything, but maybe a small part of me is.  At the end of any semester I often find that it suddenly goes into this spiral of more difficulty.

Spiral of more difficulty? Yes, and I just wanted to say that I still have not mastered “test taking.”  No matter how hard I try, spending every night and every weekend immersing myself in the material, I still have yet to take an “easy” test.  I don’t think they exist.

I consider myself to be a good student and I work hard to earn my grades. I would even say that I work harder than most students because getting here was not easy and I’m fulfilling my dream to finally get the degree that was not possible in my youth.

cryAnd as I sit in class during testing sessions, trying to concentrate on the questions and choose the right answers, my minds spins out of control and I question every choice I make.  I try not to rush myself and I slow down my thought process which then, makes me question if my answer is really the right answer, or if I’m overthinking it.  See where I’m going with this? Insanity can take over in an instant.

So how do I fix my insanity?  I stop for a second and I look around the room at all the other students (who are half my age) and then I say to myself, “If they can do this, you know you can too.  You got this.” It’s like being in a room with all my children.  Of course I can do this!  And for the most part, my anxiety ceases and I get through it.  But then when the test is over I feel like I didn’t study enough, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t know ALL the answers.  I can really beat myself up about it and I really shouldn’t.  It’s unnecessary, self-imposed stress.  I laugh about it now, but during the “cycle” I can be quite impossible to be around.

So what’s my point?  My point is this.  Nothing worth having is easy!  If you really desire to fulfill a goal you have to give it your all.  You have to wipe the dirt off your knees when you fall and get back in line to try again and again and again.  And as long as I give it my BEST every time, than no matter what, I haven’t failed, I’ve already succeeded.

Zygote, Teeth, Ethics & Pluripotent

Biology has been a surprising delight.  Imagine if you will, submerging yourself for an hour and fifteen minutes, twice a week, in details about how each part of your body works.  From human’s original cell formation (that’s a zygote) to learning that our teeth dictate that we were not made to be vegetarians, but rather, we are created to eat all forms of food.  Our teeth tell us that.  Who would have thought?

A perfect example of this is a cat–CatThey don’t have the same teeth structure that we do.  They are missing the molars in the back because they can catch food, hang on to it with their large fangs, tear that baby up with their incisors and swallow it—no grinding necessary—ha.

Digestion and Nutrition are where we are currently in our studies.  I have learned so much, and in some cases, more than I need to know, about how food moves through our body and what it does to our body.  I can tell you that this is definitely a much needed course for someone who needs healthier habits.  If my doctor would have explained the detail that this biology course has taught me I may have been more apt to follow her advice and I’ll never look at a potato the same way again.  Perhaps this will inspire me to develop healthier habits because I now know the chemistry behind it, what my body needs or doesn’t need, how we damage our body by what we choose to ingest and how some damage is just irreversible.

I’ve also learned more about Stem Cell research.  How many times have we chosen a side of the ethical argument where embryotic stem cells are used in research?  I’ve learned about iPS (induced pluripotent stem cells)—capable of producing many cells(Pluripotent—try using that in a sentence today-)  We have discovered the ability to create pluripotent cells from adult stem cells so that we may not have to have the embryonic stem cells.  Yet, iPS opens up a whole new set of ethical questions as to how far we will go with the science that is capable of creating human life.  I’m telling you, this subject was so fascinating that I used it as a science paper assignment for my English class.  Through the research process in my English class, I discovered that this science is so new we haven’t even put into place policies for health professionals to follow.  We don’t really have legislative laws that address it either.  As voters we need to educate ourselves on this subject so we can be more informed and help shape legislation on how we can guide the use of this science for ourselves and generations to come.

Let me get off my soap box now – I just want to add that my professor, Dr. Michael Dixon is awesome.  He is passionate about Biology and you can tell by the way he lectures in class.  As I’ve mentioned before, students can learn so much from a passionate professor.  I would recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who has to take BIO 1410.  He’s not an easy professor, so if you are looking for easy, keep on going.  He also loves to remind us that we pay his salary and we’re going to get our money’s worth. He has standards people, NOW THAT is refreshing and pluripotent—capable of producing knowledge cells—

Ready for fall classes

Danny Meyer PhotographerSummer is quickly moving on and I’m looking forward to the fall semester, rather hesitantly I must admit.  My travel abroad in June was probably the BEST form of education that I have experienced, and I doubt that I shall experience that again anytime soon, but I must forge ahead to my goal.

I sat down recently to go over my degree plan.  You know, check all the boxes for “required” and “must have” and I’m finding that the list is nicely dwindling down. With a target of 120 semester credit hours (SCH) I am proudly at 75 SCH.  This fall, by some crazy notion, I’ve enrolled for 10 SCH.  Two of my classes will be on-line which we all know, is asking for trouble.  Online classes are not my best friend, but when you are working eight hours a day sometimes that’s the best option for time management.  I expect to be extremely busy this fall and there will be limited time for fun activities.  If I’m MIA you now know why.

My fall classes are as follows:  Human Biology and Lab, English 1302 and International Drug Trafficking.  I chose biology for my science credit only because I totally could not get into Astronomy. (Long story and I’ve already written about it!)  I’m hoping that this alternate choice will prove to be the better choice so that I can then sign up for the second biology class in the spring and place a check mark on my 8 SCH of natural sciences.  I’ve also been putting off English 1302 in hopes that I could CLEP the class.  With a second attempt at CLEP proving to be yet another “no pass,” I am now resigned to taking the class—online. I decided that the English department is just not capable of passing a CLEP in composition because they want you in their class.  How else can I explain the “no pass?” In the end it will probably be better for me because they are going to teach me to be a better writer! Which leads me to question this blog….?

International Drug Trafficking? It’s my elective choice.  Sounds interesting and since it’s online, it will be like I’m lost in a great news story.  This course is taught through our Center for Security Studies.   They have a lot of very interesting classes that range from border and homeland security to cultural competence, intelligence and criminal justice. Who wouldn’t be interested in all those topics?  

Cobblestones and Memories

DSC_1623How can I describe how I felt walking the cobblestone streets in Europe?

DSC_2547Never in my life would I have imagined that at my age (and we won’t say how old that is) I would be a part of a Study Abroad class with fifteen 20-something year-olds and that I would have the time of my life, nor could I have imagined the magnitude of the sites I visited.  I know it’s a cliché, but my single thought was; pictures cannot do this justice.  This refers to the Cathedrals, the Ruins, the Waterfalls, the Villages, the Food and clearly every single place we visited. I’ve been home about a month now, give or take a few days.  Yet the images of Europe remain so clear.

I wish I could add all the photos as vividly as I remember them to this blog, but it’s not even possible.  I haven’t even created my photo album yet much less had any photos printed.  As part of my plan, I purchased sketched image prints of some of the most famous sites, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.  I then had my photo taken in front of each site and I plan on somehow combining my photo with the print sketch as one whole framed piece.  I’d like to create a gallery canvas somehow to place in my office, so that as I look at them, I can be reminded of these great places and the memories can come rippling back.

I am thankful for the memories.  As I look through the photos I am transformed back to each moment and I find myself laughing and smiling.  We had a great time.  Now don’t get me wrong, with that many people in a group there is conflict.  That’s normal.  But it’s also funny to remember the drama and the small things that set you off.  For example, the one student who just could not stay with the group and would run off and was always the last one to return when everyone else was ready to move on.    I can’t forget also the advice given to me to by my young 19 year-old roommate to “embrace my natural side.”  That was in reference to me not fixing my hair.  Can you imagine me just going “all natural?”  Now, those of you that know me, know that I fix my hair. In Texas, “fix” means—shampoo, conditioner, product for smoothing, flat iron and a touch of hair spray.  And on days where there just isn’t enough time for a flat iron—mousse works really well.  There was no embracing of any “natural” to be had in Europe or anywhere.   But alas, I survived and we made it through and in the end we all laughed about it.  Well, I laughed and my roommate just smirked as she embraced her frizzy untamed, unconditioned mane.

In the meantime I sift through approximately 2000 plus photos and try to readjust myself to American culture—the fast life; short on time and full of “things to do.”  Fall is approaching and soon I’ll be back to studying and homework which now, sounds so boring and mundane in comparison to travel abroad with visits to Notre Dame, Palace of Versailles, The
Louvre and St. Chappelle.  I could keep going. 

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