Columbus visit

So on Friday night, Diane and I drove down to Columbus to visit Joanna, a friend of ours from college (and venerable author of the blog Poetry Without Pity). Joanna was hosting the Haiku Death Match, a poetry slam, at the Kerouac Kafe.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a poetry slam. (Queue David Anderson, former Hiram College English professor, saying in his pseudo British accent, “Heidi… you’re an English major and you don’t like pooooetry.” I was admonished in American Lit class for admitting that I didn’t understand a poem because I wasn’t very good at interpreting poetry.) This was a great slam to attend as a virgin for haiku is short and sweet–just 17 syllables. You might think the short length makes it easy to write haikus. It isn’t actually. Trying summarize a larger idea (for all ideas start off large) into a few short syllables is truly an act of creativity. Especially for someone like me who does not know the definition of brevity when it comes to writing (even my poetry is long-winded). The poets participating in the slam were really creative with their use of this–as Joanna kept reiterating–ancient, sacred art form.

The guy who won was hilarious. He didn’t even try to make his haikus have a real point or say anything deep. Someone compared his haiku to those Jack Handy segments from 1990s Saturday Night Live episodes. I used to love those. It’s easy to get me to giggle.

The “headliner” poet was a man named Logic who was apparently a national legend of haiku. He was quite creative. He especially got me rolling with a set of two haikus which he titled “To the lady in Pennsylvania who claimed she was beat up by Obama supporters who had carved a B on her cheek and really pissed me off.” Of course, the haiku was much shorter, but hey, the title made it all the better. Logic also got the audience charged up right before the death match with a series of “battle haiku.” I think I learned that the spoken word is definitely mightier than the sword!

I got inspired to write some haiku of my own and I promised Joanna that I would write an epic series of haiku in honor of the last half season of Battlestar Galactica. Having watched the first episode on Sunday afternoon, I found my muse, inspired to write the following haikus:

The gods bless poor Dee
Who took her life with a gun
Mourning old Earth’s fate.

Tyrol found his home;
Anders played guitar; Tigh swam;
Past lives remembered.

Happy day, Starbuck!
Hybrid prophecies of doom
Made Leoban run.

Apollo, who are
you? Caught between two worlds–old
and new. Lost your way.

Diane was also inspired on the spot to write two haikus about her “Thelma and Louise” experience in college, where she was pulled over and, I think, nearly arrested for speeding 90mph on a highway and conveniently not seeing the cop car following her with flashing lights for several miles. You’ll have to ask her for the details of that “adventure”–or maybe she’ll grace my blog with the haiku–because I wasn’t there. Louise, in this case, was our friend Michelle. Diane performed her haiku during the open mike portion of the show and I was glad to hear the peels of laughter and claps of pleasure that followed her performance. Great job, Diane! Now you need to write some haiku about the time you got caught in the Flats for underage drinking one hour before your 21st birthday! ;) (I was there for that one!)

Kafe Kerouac was really cool. All the drinks were named after writers. I had a Franz Kafka, which, ironically was a vanilla peppermint espresso. Funny, but when I read The Metamorphesis in high school, it didn’t strike me as very peppermint. Existentialism is hardly a peppermint experience. I instinctively wanted to order the Kurt Vonnegut, but it had raspberry in it, which if a flavor I’m not very fond of. In addition to coffee, KK also sold alcohol. Rock on! I didn’t order any, but it was cool to have both the evils of caffeine and alcohol with which to wash down the poetry.

KK also sold books. So, of course, I ended up buying something–Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs. It was a hardback for only $9.50. I couldn’t resist. I promise not to read the book until the spring, though, since we all know Coupland has a negative effect on me.

After the slam, Joanna and her sister Erin, a celebrity from Joanna’s blog, and Diane and I all went out to dinner at a restaurant called The Blue Danube. Joanna, Erin, and I bored Diane with our discussion of the final Cylon and other Battlestar Galactica plots, and then the conversation shifted to my lack of gay-dar (even in the land of fictional characters). We caught up on what we’ve all been doing lately–details not divulged on our blogs, except Diane who had more details to share because she doesn’t have a blog (*hint, hint*).

We were up pretty late, just like our Hiram years, without the obligatory run to Taco Bell. But it felt really good to hang out again with my sisters in the Hiram Experience. We don’t need no stinking sorority to feel solidarity or sisterhood, sucka!

The next morning, we had brunch at a great cafe called First Watch. I had this wonderful strawberry and banana crepe with yogurt and granola sprinkled on top. It was so good I had trouble believing it was really on the healthy portion of the menu. After brunch, we spent a few hours ogling books at an independent book store called The Book Loft. That’s what we Hiram girls do for fun–window shop for books. I didn’t buy anymore books, but I did pick up a “Vineyards of the World” 2009 calendar which was on sale for half price. Hiram girls like a good bargin, too!

All the frigid wintry weather made us crave for a little bit of summer so Joanna took us to the Franklin Conservatory where we thawed out in the rain forest and high dessert displays. We ran quickly through the alpine room as we had more than enough alpine outside.

I took some pictures at the conservatory. Shown below is a funky glass sculpture in the tropical room. I think this is what I look like in my Martian form.

This display was called “Sticky Buns” and was apparently a part a series of artistic uses of furniture with horticulture. Personally, I think this chair would be great to have in your home if you are into acupuncture.

While admiring some Macaws, we noticed this familiar Ohio bird hanging around. I remarked that it was just like an Ohio bird–one particularly known for its appearances in winter time–to know how to take advantage of warm shelter when the climate turns subzero. We Ohioans ain’t stupid! This little guy was taking his own vacation in Florida.

As a side note, I see these guys all the time at the bird feeders in my parents’ wooded backyard and not just in the winter. When you stop to look for them, they are quite in abundance. I guess that’s why they are the state bird.

Aw, look, it’s Di and Joanna by waterfall in the rain forest room. It even looks like there is some sunlight! Are they glowing? See what a little green and warmth can do?

The trip to conservatory was definitely a refreshing break from the snow and cold. It was nice to actually see Columbus from an insider’s view. In that aforementioned software company for which I used to work as a trainer, I did have a month stint at the Franklin County courthouse, training employees with my former boss. But I never really visited downtown Columbus much and I stayed at a hotel in Hilliard during that experience. So it was kind of cool to get a sense of our state’s capital, which seems to be a bit of a happening place (whoddathunk?). Enough time has passed since the bowl game Ohio State–eh-hem, excuse me The Ohio State University, great emphasis on the “The”–lost so I didn’t really encounter any rabid fans on the streets. I guess I’m going to have to make the trip down again sometime. And I don’t mean just for TOSRV.

Speaking of TOSRV, on our way to brunch Saturday morning, I was bombarded with pleasant and painful memories of TOSRV as we passed the Hyatt on Capitol Square where TOSRV begins and ends. As I looked at the snow lining the streets, I reminded myself that in five short months, I’d be starting the mighty TOSRV from that very spot, hopefully in warmth and sunlight, though probably not. Though it was a “tropical” 20 degrees on Saturday, I know that I had no desire to take off for 105 miles to Portsmouth at that particular moment. I told myself that at least I knew the weather in May would be better than it was that moment. I hope.

Well, I know it’s Inauguration Day today. In a few short hours, Barack Obama will become our 44th president and, as you know, I couldn’t be more excited. I plan to listen on the NPR web streaming. I am a little put off at the amount of partying that accompanies these inaugurations. Wasn’t Garfield or someone sworn in hurriedly from his home during a dire moment? I wonder what the founding fathers would say to all this pomp and circumstance. But, oh well, I guess we 21st century folks just enjoy blowing a lot of money on frivolous celebrations… I’m not saying this to put down Obama. I know this sort of circus accompanies all swearing in ceremonies these days. I generally think it’s kind of stupid, but whatever. I’m also the girl who hates on baby and bridal showers, so I guess I really am in no position to comment.

That said, I do recognize the historical implications of this moment. It gives me hope that we’ve moved forward as a society when an African American man has been elected to president. Maybe we’re not as backward as my doom-and-gloom view always screams. Call me Chicken Little. The sky is falling, but maybe this time it’s a good thing.

Making fire with sticks

Okay. Paint my face red and call me an ass… It turns out that tonight was one of the best, most emotional nights I’ve had in a long, long time. I’ve reconnected a part of my past and I felt as though I were a Hiram College student again, for just an instant, with some of my favorite former professors praising me — Joyce Dyer, David Anderson, Jon Moody, and Dave Fratus (though Fratus couldnt remember my name and said to Diane, “Is your little friend here?” which was supposed to mean me… and I told you in the last entry that “Di & Hei” were inseparable at times during our senior year!)

Let me just say that I no longer care that it is an essay I wrote ten years ago… It gave me the ticket to see some people I have not seen and laughed with in what seems like forever. I saw Joanna and Marnie and Shannon, my Martian comrade (she was the other, younger Martian on campus).

I inhaled a breath of fresh air today that was almost more spiritual than all the churches I’ve attended in the last several months. Wow. Hiram was the place where the Martian was born. And now I remember why. The support group I had there made me blossom into the person I always wanted to be. Going back there like that stirred a fire in my veins, reminding me that I’m still alive and I’m not done yet with my life.

I am so emotional right now all I can give you is cliches. Needless to say, it was a good night. And I think my mom finally saw the payoff for all those college bills — why that place was so important to me. A few months ago, my dad left a box at my house that was supposed to contain the last of the stuff I left with them. In it, I found a cards from my parents to each other for birthdays and anniversaries and pictures my brother had drawn and some cards I’d given them. I also found a stack of bills from Hiram. On them, my mom’s handwriting meticulously accounted all the money, checking off the amounts that would be covered by loans or grants to find out the actual amount I owed. When I looked at those, I realized all the time my mom had put into making sure my college was paid for, that I didn’t get behind on payment, and keeping track of the loans I would get. Meanwhile, I lived almost carefree in college, without a worry.

I thought of those bills tonight and I remembered that I should thank my mom for making sure my education financing was handled, and that I could still attend — for the entire four years — the college of my choice and the only place in which, I feel, I could have excelled. Thanks, Mom. Now I know that it’s not only Dad’s butt I need to kiss in payment for my general bad behavior from the ages of 12-18. =) (See why I don’t want to have kids? It takes 15 years for someone to realize all the good you’ve done for them and thank you properly for it. Man, kids are THANKLESS!)

Thank you, editors of Hiram, U.S.A, for giving me the reunion that Alumni Weekend didn’t quite provide adequately.

Thank you, Hiram College faculty, for giving me an education I can be proud of…

Mourning the loss of a favorite professor

This afternoon, I received the most unpleasant news e-mail message from my college’s alumni list. Kathy Feather, one of my favorite professors and my academic advisor for two and a half years, died of brain cancer. According to one of her colleagues who happens to attend my church, I learned that she was diagnosed as having malignant brain tumor in April after she saw a doctor for what she thought was a stroke. This occurred not long after she was appointed dean of the college, a job for which I thought she was perfect when I heard the news earlier this year. A college dean can be the least popular person on campus; however, you just couldn’t hate Kathy Feather. She always seemed to glow with a likable smile and she had boundless energy (befitting of her field of Education).

Kathy was the type of professor you attend a college like Hiram to find. I had her for my First Year Seminar course. At Hiram, First Year Seminar is one of a series of courses freshmen must take to become acquainted with all aspects of life in college — the social, the homework, the self-discovery, the discipline of writing. Not quite as much of a bonding experience as our Colloquium course, which is taken during the first semester, First Year Seminar was still a place of growth because it is the only class in which you are with only other freshmen. Later, as an upperclassman, my friend, Diane, and I served as teaching assistants for Kathy’s First Year Seminar — the same First Year Seminar we both attended.

Throughout my experience as a student in her course, Kathy was very encouraging. After each paper we wrote in class, Kathy took the time to meet with us individually to explain the strengths and weaknesses of our work. I once wrote a very tongue-in-cheek paper that was supposed to be about where I derived my “cultural knowledge” in which I postulated (and successfully proved) that all I learned about how to behave in my culture I learned from watching Star Trek. I knew that this paper was a stretch of the topic, but here I was — a white-bred mid-western girl from the outskirts of Cleveland. I may be mostly Slovak and German, but I was certainly not raised in that culture nor with any knowledge of it. Pop culture was the only awareness of culture I had.

I was nervous to turn that paper in. Surely, I couldn’t get away with this kind of humorous sarcasm in the serious world of the big Academia. I usually don’t pat myself on the back about my own writing, but I mention it here because I was so zealously proud that in the end Kathy understood that paper in the way I wanted her to. She slapped a big shiny “A” on it, praised my wit, and then asked if she keep the paper as an example to future students. She was supposed to make a copy of it, but I never saw that paper again (sadly because throughout the years I’ve wished I had a copy).

One of the memorable moments of that First Year Seminar course was the “whine and cheese” party. Of course, she and the co-professor brought in cheese and let us all whine, or voice complaints, about whatever it was we were talking about at the time. (My memory fails as to what exactly we were talking about, unfortunately — I just remember the teaching method. Maybe it was about our field experiences?)

As my academic adviser, Kathy was completely helpful when it came to helping me wade my way through my elementary education course requirements. She didn’t bat an eye when I asked her to be my adviser, even though she normally handled students who were pursuing secondary education certification. She was like a college mother — she was there when you needed to talk to someone who wasn’t really your mother.

Diane remembers in an e-mail to me:

…She probably was my favorite out of all of them. I remember sitting on the couch in her office crying while student teaching, and she was so understanding and just let me sit there and cry about how hard it was, saying how many others had sat in that spot and cried to her, too. I also remember another class I took with her – I don’t remember the name off the top of my head, but it was a small group of us, and it was right after lunch, and she always caught me yawning in class and would tease me about it, because she wasn’t boring, it was just the hour of the day. And she always had that smile on her face!

I won’t profess to know Kathy as well as her colleagues, friends, and family. In my relatively short presence in her life, however, she impressed me as one of those people who emanate a warmness, a friendliness, a trust from the very first meeting. Whenever you passed her on campus, she would smile and wave no matter what was going on or who she was talking to. She was very active in the life of the campus both during class and out. She was the professor who always seemed to participate during special campus events, such as serving students breakfast on Campus Day and joining us on soup nights in Dix Dining Hall.

Kathy is one of the professors whose name always pops in my mind when I reflect on my years at Hiram. As I was driving home from work tonight, it occurred to me that my three and a half years as a Elementary Education major were not a waste because, had I not rashly decided to be an elementary school teacher as a freshman, I would never have taken Kathy’s First Year Seminar (since the topic was education and it was generally taken by students wishing to major or get certification in education). If I had never taken this course, I would never have known Kathy.

Not that the whole course of my life should revolve around meeting one person. But I spend a lot of time damning myself with twenty-twenty vision about all the ways I could have used the time better if I’d listened to my heart about majoring in English. I have to give myself a little bit of a break — at 18, I didn’t really know what I wanted. I was still trying to figure out who I was and to become comfortable with who I was. Because I’d been such a social reject in high school, college for me was more about coming out of my nerdy, awkward closet than it was about my education.

Perhaps I needed to run this course, try the teaching thing, to learn that it really wasn’t what I wanted to do. Kathy Feather was the perfect, most understanding person to help me through this transition. The day I came to her — like Diane, crying from a field experience gone wrong — and told her I’d decided to drop the major, she just flashed me one of her smiles and asked me to tell her what happened. At the end of it, she didn’t ridicule me or try to give me a pep talk into not giving up. She told me that she understood and that she was sorry to see me go. I wished that I could keep her as my adviser even as an English major.

The people with whom we cross paths in life help to continuously shape us at certain points in our lives and we never forget them. For me, Kathy Feather one of those really great people at Hiram who helped coax me out of my shell. I know that my experience at Hiram would not have been so vividly colorful if I had never witnessed the energy and enthusiasm with which she taught her courses and mentored her eager students. The loss of her contribution to Hiram College will be painfully felt.

Check out this link from the Record Courier about one of my favorite Hiram College professors. I love the picture they chose for this article because it’s quintessential Kathy Feather!