0

Take Care Of You

This past weekend was exhausting, but so much fun; I decided to head to Iowa City, IA for the APO Section 21 Conference, hosted by the University of Iowa. I had offered to do my theatre workshop, or do one on a different topic. The conference coordinator sent me a list of topics, and the very first one was self-care at service projects, so I decided to switch gears for once and present a workshop session about a completely new subject to me.

At first, I was going to just tell my own stories and strategies. Then, I thought about just turning it into a session where the participants shared their own experiences.

And then, it came to me.

Well, after having lunch on Friday afternoon on the way to the conference, with my friend Brooke, in Muscatine. Brooke is also a Ph.D. candidate in theatre. She does a lot with applied theatre, and I’ve been to several of her workshops at past ATHE conferences. So, I decided to take my experiences, infuse them with applied theatre techniques (with thanks to Brooke, Augusto Boal, and Viola Spolin) and see what would happen.

AKA, true “Jacob style.” (a term I coined back in 2009 in Israel.)

I had 25 participants, according to the sign-in sheet, representing all 4 chapters with members at the conference (Iowa, Iowa State, Coe, and Drake) and I quickly looked over the sheet, taking note of names of people in the room. I started off by nervously introducing myself, then went into a group warm-up to “Sax” by Fleur East, one of my favorite warm-up songs of all time. Then, I started off with some classic misdirection, announcing that I would be talking about self care, but first, tell you about this awesome service project I did as an undergrad. Which led me to:

Scenario 1: Oh, God.

I called for a volunteer from the audience, and got someone from Iowa State to join me in the front of the room. We shook hands, and then I said, “Nice to meet you, [real name of person]. How about I call you Valerie?” which got a lot of laughs. She acquiesced and sat down in the chair next to me. I reintroduced myself to the group as “Craig,” and then broke down the service project to the group: it was Halloween, 10 years ago, before Uber and Lyft existed. “Valerie” and I (“Craig”) handed out business cards to students the day before Halloween with the phone number of a local church (which I called “Sacred Heart”), and instructions to call on Halloween night between the hours of 7 PM and 2 AM, if you were drunk or felt unsafe, and a car would be dispatched to take you safely wherever in town you needed to go, for free. “Valerie” and I were excited to be volunteering as dispatchers on the switchboard.

I set the scene: 6 PM, October 31st, a Friday, the meeting room of Sacred Heart Church, and immediately thrust the two of us into character. I said that Father O’Malley just stood up, and is now asking everyone to stand in a circle, join hands, and pray to Jesus Christ for the safety of our drivers and passengers. As “Craig,” I told “Valerie” that maybe we should leave, because this is strange; not only did I introduce “Craig” as a Jewish student, but also one who didn’t really believe in God, and just felt like getting up and leaving. I asked “Valerie” what she thought, and she said that she’d probably join the circle, but if I didn’t want to, I could just go to the bathroom and come back in a few minutes, and so I did that. I rejoined “Valerie,” thanking her for helping me deal with the situation, ending the scenario.

After a round of applause, I polled the audience on the situation, how “Valerie” handled it, and if she did a good job. There was a general consensus that she did. Several students responded with their own examples; one, who was raised Catholic but is no longer religious, had that same exact experience, and said that “no one even noticed [she] was gone for 5 minutes.” Someone else offered her experience working on mission trips with diverse groups of volunteers with varying relationships with religion. I asked the group what we could learn from this scenario, and the responses I got were: take care of yourself, take care of your brothers, be true to yourself, trust your feelings, and don’t feel pressured to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Which led to:

Scenario 2: Fingers Pointing Every Which Way

This example was a little trickier, but I gave a pretty extreme example just to set the scene. I became “Michael,” and I invited up a volunteer from Iowa, who I dubbed “Sam,” the “president of the [fictional] chapter.” As “Michael,” I called “Sam” to have a one-on-one about yesterday’s service project, which was gardening at an elementary school. At first, I just described what happened, but then I went full-on: it was too hot, I got sweaty, my clothes got dirty, it was boring, I hate lifting heavy things. Then, I went on to say that I asked “Suzanne” for some water, and she just said “grab that shovel and start digging,” and that it was like slave labor, and our Service VP, “Kris” shouldn’t plan projects like this anymore because I can’t do them. As “Sam,” my volunteer responded well to my exceedingly outlandish claims, and even put a twist (and an excellent one) on it, by revealing that he was there too, and it was not that hot outside, nor was it that difficult of a task. “Sam” then went on to politely explain that I should sign up for different events in the future that don’t involve physical labor or being outside, like sorting cans at the food pantry, and that it wasn’t his fault, nor “Suzanne,” nor “Kris,” that all these miserable things happened to me. Problem solved, end of scenario.

In our brief reflection, I told the group that while “Michael” was an extreme case, accessibility is important and not all of us are able to do certain physical tasks, and that’s okay, and while we need to take care of our brothers (for example, if someone gets injured, someone should take that person to get medical care), and as a takeaway, we are all college students who should be able to take care of ourselves in normal everyday situations, and also shouldn’t be so quick to whine, point fingers, and place blame on others. In hindsight, “Michael” was not in a place where he needed actual medical help, and it would not have been feasible or appropriate to take “Michael” home at this point, so “Michael” should have either changed his behavior, or reevaluated the situation. I did a bit more talking than listening at this point, mostly because I wanted to get my point about accessibility across, and that just because someone is struggling does not mean that they are a “Michael.” Someone in the audience pointed out that maybe “Michael” had a personal vendetta against “Sam” or “Kris” or “Suzanne,” or that he might have other emotional/academic issues outside of school. And finally:

Scenario 3: Heavy Metal

At this point, I took my yellow bandana from my wrist, put it on my head, and morphed into “Morton” (I was tired and couldn’t think of a decent sounding male name, sorry), the president of another fictional chapter. I arranged eight seats around me in a circle, and called for an “emergency meeting,” and for 8 people from the audience to come and fill the seats. It ended up being 4 guys and 4 ladies, the latter of whom I greeted with a “good of you to show up, Penelope, thanks for coming.” (again, wtf, Jacob?)

As President “Morton,” I told the group that I got a call from “Doris” from Campus Security. I explained that our chapter earned both service hours and a little extra money by stamping hands and guarding fire exits at campus events. However, “Doris” told me that next week, a much bigger event was occurring, and they wanted us to use metal-detecting wands on people as they came in. I voiced that this might not quite be what our organization is all about, and asked the group what they thought we should do.

“Penelope” spoke up first, saying that she had no problem at all with it, and it could be a new skill for us to learn as a group. I thanked her for her perspective, and then said that, in “my” opinion, this was sort of a risky event because what would happen if someone had a weapon, and how could we know that we weren’t going to get shot? I looked around the circle for an agreeing face, and upon making eye contact with another girl, said “Jennifer, what are your thoughts?” The girl I called “Jennifer” said that she agreed with me, and that this prospect scared her a little, and if we were to decide to do it, she wouldn’t feel safe and didn’t want to do the project. Before we could get too much into details, I took a poll: 4 (including myself) did not want to do it, and the other 5 did. So, I told the group that campus security needed a minimum of 10 committed volunteers, and that we are a very small chapter, with only 15 members total. “Jennifer” suggested calling the other six and asking them, but I revealed that it was a weekend, and some of them had gone to visit their families at home, so we might not be able to reach them right away. Doing some quick math, I told the group that we had potentially eleven people, but that would mean that 5 out of 6 people not currently in the room would need to do the event in order for it to happen, and that “Doris” needed to know right away. So I put it to the group, should we do it, or say “thanks but no thanks?” In response, “Penelope” offered up the perfect solution, pointing out that it’s not fair to make decisions for people who aren’t in the room and don’t have a voice, and since we don’t have the numbers in the room currently, we should politely pass on this opportunity as a group, which solved the problem.

This was probably my favorite scenario, because it got super intense and involved, super quickly. In reflection “Penelope” pointed out that while in real life, she had done that before, it’s not for everyone. “Jennifer” revealed that in real life, she, as her character, would absolutely not do it, and no one would convince her otherwise, so it was not a hard stretch to object in this scenario. We quickly wrapped up the reflection, and the workshop as a whole, by talking about how important group self-care is, that it’s important to take peoples’ needs and feelings into consideration when making big decisions, to let people have a say/talk out big things like this, to not make decisions for people who are not in the room, and to look for the big picture of group safety vis a vis things like volunteering and making money.

With that, I concluded the workshop, thanked all my participants and volunteers, and got a hearty round of applause. I’d definitely want to do this again, and I think that it went off without a hitch; the scenarios were bullet-proof, diverse, and provided the students with a lot to think about.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Advertisements
0

Better Names for Jobs

Today, I was driving past the middle school I always pass when I head into town, and I noticed that the crossing guard’s vest said “traffic whisperer.” As I drove away, I thought to myself, that’s interesting. I wonder what other jobs could be like that…

Hearse driver, or Lyft for stiffs?

Boathouse owner, or sea shanty?

Bartender, or cocktail therapist?

Dairy farmer, or moo-keeper?

Rabbi, or Jew-keeper? (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Barista, or caffeine puller?

Front-line soldier, or battle croaker?

TSA agent, or metal wizard?

Drummer, or beater?

Pianist, or ivory tickler?

 

1

Garbage Fashion

Some people describe others as the type that could “throw on a trash bag and look like a million dollars.” While I don’t look like a million dollars, that first part is kind of accurate to my recent experience. Let me explain further…

Last week, I took a friend out shopping. We went to H&M, where they were having some sort of crazy Thanksgiving/Christmas/Boxing Day sale. Originally, I was just going to be the ride, but I saw a black coat in my size that looked super warm and comfy, and it was $50 as opposed to its retail price of $80. So I bought it, and dropped another $10 on a matching black and white scarf and two pairs of gloves. When we got home, I realized I didn’t have a hat to wear with it…

Rewind to last month.

I’m walking down the street, and decide, today is the day I’m going to pick up some trash (if it doesn’t look wet, moldy, or gross) and throw it away. I start with some napkins and a scrap of paper, and then, what do I see on the sidewalk in front of me?

A brand-new black winter hat with fleece lining.

I look around for a minute, then shrug my shoulders and pick it up. I shake it, and nothing flies or crawls out, so I guess it’s finders keepers. I throw it into the back of my car and head off.

Fast forward back to the shopping trip. I drop off my friend and head home. As I park my car, I open the back and wonder where that black hat went. Fortunately, it’s still there, in perfect condition, and it matches the new coat/scarf perfectly. It makes my head look oblong if I don’t pull it down enough, but that’s the same with most winter hats.

And that’s how I essentially bought an entire winter ensemble from H&M to go with some garbage I picked up on the street.

0

What’s In My Entourage

Yes, I say what, and not who. You’ll understand by the end of this post.

Hello from Memorial Library, by the way. There’s something about blogging from a desktop that is way more satisfying than a laptop or a phone. I should look into doing this more often.

I usually don’t take too long to get ready to go out. Unless it’s winter, and I need my entourage. Simply put, my entourage is everything that I’d need for the day, and if I’m leaving anytime before noon, I need to make sure I have all of these things with me. Sometimes it requires multiple trips to the car. Most often, I end up not needing the majority of the items, but it’s good knowing that they’re with me, I guess. Here’s the lineup:

Entourage Checklist

  • Wallet
  • Phone
  • Earbuds
  • Keys
  • Sunglasses
  • Backpack (usually the majority of what’s listed below is in the backpack, if it fits)
  • Notebook
  • Journal
  • Hebrew-English dictionary
  • Translation pages
  • Index cards
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Address Labels
  • Scrap paper (to wrap things in)
  • Books for research
  • Books for pleasure reading
  • Books to be finished and swapped
  • Post-it flags
  • Comb
  • Hand cream
  • Tissues
  • Bookmarks
  • Sunscreen (finally removed now that winter has arrived)
  • Change purse
  • Laptop
  • Power cord
  • Phone charger
  • Headphones for laptop
  • Gym bag (usually contains the following items)
    • Shirt
    • Extra shirt
    • Underwear
    • Gym pants
    • Towel
    • Body wash
  • Empty cloth bags for grocery shopping
  • Cloth bag with Latin shoes/extra socks
  • Cloth bag with Standard shoes/extra socks

When I roll, I roll deep.

I might be a pack rat.

 

6

I Think…No, I Know I Have A Problem

Well, so many.

Including never managing to post here at a reasonable hour of the day and resorting to between 11-12, never updating my iPhone/computer OS, and sticking to a good diet.

This post, however, is about my reading and book-acquiring habits.

I, That’s So Jacob, fully admit to being a reading addict and a book hoarder.

Allow me to explain.

First, reading addict. Some people say “oh, I read anything,” but I’ll literally read anything. No genre or era is safe; if it’s in a language I can read, I’ll read it. Sometimes I won’t even take the book out of the store, I’ll read the whole thing, then buy it. My reading addiction got me almost accidentally left behind on a family trip to Canada.

Furthermore, once I start a book, I can’t abandon it. Even if it’s a thousand pages, or completely boring, if I’ve gotten more than a page or two into the book, I have to finish it. Some rare cases have included books when I’ve accidentally skipped a chapter/section and not realized it (then I know there’s something wrong with the book…or me), and A Commonwealth of Thieves. It took me a week to read 10 pages without falling asleep mid-sentence. According to my calculations, had I continued reading, it would have taken me about a whole year to read it, upon which point I never looked at the book again. And then again, there was the mistake of picking up Ulysses in high school and feeling like a failure because I had no clue what to make of it, and couldn’t get the first chapter or so.

The last few books I’ve read have been, well…not so great. But not enough to abandon. I have no shame in saying their titles, if only to remind me not to do that again; with so many books and so little time, I need to find out what happens at the ends of the good ones. First, Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. The back cover blurb sounded interesting, but the Ghanaian-British slang made it very confusing as well as the lack of a clear plot. Next came Andorra by Peter Cameron, a book which has nothing to do with the actual nation of Andorra, as it takes place in a coastal Mediterranean town. It also features two characters with the same first and last name (a husband and wife), and too many characters referred to by their common last names. The ending took me by surprise, but it was predictable and honestly at that point I didn’t care anymore. Finally, Red Dust by Ma Jian – a book that has been on my list for years – wound up being as dry as…red dust. After that string of mindless page-skimming, it’s clear that I need to read books I actually care about.

My second confession is to being a book hoarder. I’ve gotten a little better at it actually, I must say; while I still hoard plays/theatre texts (they’re for RESEARCH!) I’ve started to part with some of the books I’ve had around for awhile, and I’m down to a five-shelf bookshelf, two shelves in the bathroom, and two drawers full of mysteries and trade-sized paperbacks. It’s definitely not as bad as it was in Houston. But lately, the book-acquiring bug bit me again. I saw that someone on PaperBackSwap was wishing for a copy of a book in a mystery series that was the next one in series order from where I had left the series, so I actually bought a copy on Amazon mostly for the sole purpose of offering it on PBS (but reading it first, of course).

I also don’t seem to understand the concept of “rewarding myself,” since today I did so preemptively – I promised myself I would work on research for a few hours (which I did end up doing!), in exchange for a trip to a used bookstore where I promptly bought 7 books I likely didn’t need and already have one packaged to send out to a PBS user tomorrow.

Not saying that this addiction is a bad problem, or an expensive one, just one that I can’t seem to break. Will I ever not have the need to read?

2

Some Goals For October

Most of the past week of my life or so has consisted of sleeping (horribly, I might add), staying in bed until the afternoon, feeding myself, thinking about doing work, frantically running around either doing errands or going to dance classes, forgetting to feed myself again, watching YouTube, and going to bed way too late.

While it might seem like the perfect life, it does have its drawbacks, and I need to get.stuff.done.this.month.

So, a goal list is in order.

While I have my thoughts collected here goes my loosely-defined some goals for October.

  1. Read/go through ~4 books a week for research.
  2. Write 3-5 pages a week.
  3. Translate 7 scenes a week (roughly 1 a day; if there is a short one, I can do two in a day)
  4. Go through stuff in my closet/on my desk/in my car.
  5. Read 100-200 pages a day (for pleasure)
  6. Limit: YouTube, Facebook, Words with Friends, Secret Society, constantly checking email, other distractions.
  7. Go to bed by 2 AM.

Come on Jacob, you can do this.

Any encouragement would be appreciated.

4

A Slightly More Than Expected Day

One of the questions asked at tonight’s APO meeting was about the most interesting thing that happened today.

Normally, I don’t find my days that interesting, especially today, which I spent the better half of in bed. Once I got up, however, the following things happened.

  • I put an earring into a drunk man’s ear.
  • I bought a salad for lunch and left it sitting in a bag on the sidewalk.
  • I admitted publicly to doing both of those things.
  • I was sitting outside and writing a check to send in the mail with my Kohl’s bill, and just as I was finishing, a bird pooped on it.
  • I went to Target, and though I bought plenty of other things, the fruit snacks I bought did not make it home.
  • For a block, I drove down the wrong side of the road. Fortunately, there were no cars coming.
  • My right ear hurts like crazy (not the ear canal, but slightly under the ear) and I hope I don’t have an infection or anything.

It’s been quite a rough 24 hours for the world, but hopefully this post will cheer some of you up.