Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New [School] Year's Resolutions:

  1. Stay connected with old friends, new friends, and family.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Sleep.
  4. Waste time mindfully and meaningfully. (i.e., waste time on people and things that make me happy, not on doing nothing because I don't even)
  5. Be on time.
  6. Read. Like actual books.
  7. Watch more anime.
  8. Broaden my collection of toppers with cap and/or butterfly sleeves. (long story)
  9. Talk to everyone in each of my classes at least once.
  10. Take time to reflect and be grateful: instead of focusing on commitments and watching the rest of life pass me by, be an active writer of my personal narrative. The length of my resume is not nearly as important as my health, my happiness, my memories, and most importantly, the people I share them with. And that, my friends, is you :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Finger Painted Black, A Mind Painted Brilliant

With this post, I hereby rechristen "Lisa Malins's AP Lit Blog" as "A Finger Painted Black, A Mind Painted Brilliant."

Here's the story so far:

I was a high-flying, overachieving, university-bound honor student (albeit with a slight handicap— but [lucky me!] even that seemed to be slowly fading into a non-nuisance) planning to follow in my big brother's footsteps to attend UC Davis to study neuroscience.

Then my mom died of a sudden illness, and my wings melted off like Icarus'.

I found myself drowning in my consternation and grief, held under by the weight of my own ambition: I'd signed up to take four AP tests in May, founded and singlehandedly was running a labor-intensive companion course blog, had my duties as president of Anime Club, and committed to playing the lead in Righetti's production of Romeo & Juliet. Even before tragedy struck, it was already too much to bear. My one saving grace was my mom: she was the angel that was always there to give me the tenderest love and support, to cook me special food to follow my doctor's diet (and make it delicious to boot!), and to stop at nothing to make sure I always received the best medical care possible.

But then, with terrible precipitance, she was just... gone. Just like that. We had no warning or time to prepare. Suddenly, the place where there had been music and light was filled with only emptiness, that we dared not even look at lest it swallow us whole.

I was out of school for about three weeks. When I finally forced myself to return, I felt like I hardly knew how to be myself, or even what being "myself" was. I knew I wasn't the same person that I was before. When I looked in the mirror, it bothered me that besides my expression, I looked the same. I was dissonant, and it hurt. I needed to find some way to make my outside match my inside, or I felt I'd tear my own heart out.

I thought about wearing really dark eyeliner all the time, but my mom never liked me wearing eyeliner so I wasn't about to do that. I settled for gray eyeshadow, which I had seldom wore before (I bought it as stage makeup for the fall play, and hadn't touched it since), but from then on wore every day for months.

Still, my outer transformation did not feel complete, because it was only visible when I was wearing makeup. With a clean face, I still looked no different than before. I needed something more permanent. I thought about a tattoo, but wasn't quite comfortable with something that permanent. Was there anything that existed in the middle...?

It finally came to me. My mom and I sometimes liked to wear matching nail polish, especially for special occasions. When she was in the hospital, some of the medicine they gave her prevented the blood from getting to her extremities, giving her a sort of artificially induced frostbite. To match, I went to our shared nail polish box, and painted a single fingernail black.

As promised by the pastor who officiated my mom's memorial service, after a few months the all-consuming shock and grief released me, and I no longer felt the need to darken my gaze with gray eyeshadow anymore. I finally felt free, as if I'd been given permission to be happy again. Grieving is very natural, and it's nothing to be ashamed of, but neither is allowing yourself to move forward and live again. Perhaps most importantly, I know that endless grief and mourning is not the best way to honor my mom; rather, I need to take all the tools and nurturing she's given me and LIVE. Succeed. Dream. Like she always wanted me to. Moving forward does not mean forgetting her or leaving her behind, because she's always right there with me, cheering me on.

That's not to say that I have reverted to the person I was before she passed, because I haven't. I'm still grieving, as I probably will be for the rest of my life. I'm rather quieter and more subdued; I'm a little more cautious and a lot more thoughtful. Although now I carry a certain sadness with me that I did not before, I have this strange feeling that I have become myself. I used to think that whenever a hardship changed me, that I had lost a part of myself or had become warped. But now, I think of it differently. The way I see it now, it's not that a part of you has died, it's that a new part of you has been born. It's like you've shed an outer skin, or that you've molted; and what's left underneath is a truer, purer version of you. I'm not denying my loss in this event, because my loss is tremendous. Rather, I'm recognizing that, like all things, this event contains a balance of good and evil, positive and negative. And furthermore, if you can take an negative and pull from it a positive, no matter how small, you win. If you do that, it can't beat you.

And remember, everything is only temporary. Bad luck can dampen your spirits, but cannot douse your flame. Your vision may be darkened, but your spirit remains untouched.

That's the idea with which I've renamed my blog. It's true, I'm now covered in an invisible veil of sadness, which is why I have chosen to paint a finger black. But ultimately, no one is in charge of my thoughts but me, so I choose to paint my mind brilliant.

I hope you will too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

xkcd poetry win of the day

Hahaha! Get it?? First person to comment with a correct explanation wins!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

OSL community necessities

From the SurveyMonkey thing:

Given what you know about the challenges and opportunities that Open Source Learning presents, what qualities/ ingredients do you think a learning community must possess in order to make the most of it?

JSYK THIS IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR ME TO SAY SO IN CAPS: what the community needs that we didn't have is adequate virtual infrastructure, most importantly a central place (message board or similar) to post time-sensitive notices, help requests, shouts-out, etc., where EVERYONE (yes, 100% participation is important; that means someone needs to accomplish the digital wrangling of email addresses with more success than I had) will be notified (by email, Facebook, text, phone app, or...?) and see it IMMEDIATELY (that means NOT the course blog [sorry Preston, kids don't check it as much as {I think} you think they do]).

I believe the key determining factor of success is teacher endorsement: in APWH, Mr. Greeley facilitated the creation and use of the Google Group and made joining a requirement; however, in AP Lit Comp, Dr. Preston's "hands-off" policy had one of its few backfires by making it impossible to get full membership or even much participation among members. This is one of those situations in which everyone will do a certain thing if "everyone" else is, but no one will do that thing if "no one" else is. Thus, by common use, the inferior environment provided by Facebook eclipsed the environment I attempted to create with the RAM Google Group, so the latter did not succeed.

Also helpful would be more informal/instant virtual meeting places such as chatrooms, [ahem] *active* shoutboxes, or video chatting.

OSL improvements for next year

From the SurveyMonkey thing:

How do you think this course & approach can be improved for next year's students?

I think if there was a fully functional Random Absence Mentoring next year, it would help the students (chronically ill, foreign exchange, and otherwise) immensely.

Here's why Random Absence Mentoring did not fully succeed: this year there was only one person (me) personally invested in the project (there were others [specifically Min Kim] who would occasionally write posts for it, but only at my prompting), so that as soon as I became out of commission, the whole system collapsed. The reason no one else was invested in the project like I was is because writing daily posts has no *apparent* personal benefit (i.e. I know from experience that reporting on class events certainly helps the writer understand the material more fully, but not even AP teenagers are gonna buy into that one); the only situation with obvious benefit is when a student reads a post written by someone else (i.e. on a day when they were absent). In economics terms, the Marginal Social Benefit of writing a post for RAM greatly exceeds the Marginal (individual) Benefit, and therefore the service is underproduced. In economics, this is where the government needs to step in. The only practical way to create the incentive to contribute is to reward students (extra credit, homework passes, 5P41NX points, whatever) for participating in RAM.

If this is something that next year's students want to continue, I'll be very happy to provide tech support, advice, and mentorship in any way I can, so please feel free to ask.

Lisa's OSL bucket list

From the SurveyMonkey thing:

What would you learn/accomplish in Open Source Learning if you had more time?

  • continue refining theory of consciousnes
  • continue refining theses of empathy
  • read more (or all???) of Shakespeare's plays
  • write about theory of consciousness in reference to characters in Shakespare and other literature
  • write a crapton more about the Alignment System because I'm STILL obsessed (guess where I'm starting?? SHAKESPEARE)
  • learn about classic and modern theories of psychology (and history thereof [Freud, Jung, etc]) and compare to my own discoveries/"made-up" theories, to put it derogatorily
  • learn more code
  • learn more Japanese and/or Spanish and/or ???
  • learn to play piano
  • ooh, and maybe guitar
  • annihilate everyone on the Internet who has bad spelling/grammar *cough* I mean nicely point them towards quality OSL English resources
  • create/curate resources for students with illnesses, disabilities, etc., who have difficulty in "regular" school like I've had
  • use the Internet, etc. to connect people with obscure/enigmatic illnesses (like myself) with experts and specialists that can help them
  • ...and just generally use whatever resources available to me to increase personal and universal happiness, wellness, and wisdom in whatever way I can :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

There are good people in the world

I've been avoiding use of my blog to post status updates on principle, but something happened to me today that I think needs to be shared.

Just in case there are readers beyond my little circle of English friends, a little over a month ago my mom passed away from a sudden tragic illness. I was glad to see my elementary school best friend and her mom at the memorial service (my mom always really liked them; I think she was happy they were there, too), and today they invited me to dinner and a movie for a girls' night out. Since I have no sisters, I'm now the only female in the house, so it felt really good to spend time with both of them.

However, when we picked the movie we wanted to see, we didn't know that the heroine's mother dies at the end. Hearing the main character pleading, "Mom, Mom, no!" and watching her bleed... It was too much for me, too soon. All I could see was my own mom. I lost it. I sobbed in the middle of the theater, and didn't care who heard me. My friend's mom crossed over to the seat next to me, and held me for a long time. My grief passed soon enough for me to watch the last few minutes of the movie, but afterwards when she commented about the character's mom, "Well, I didn't see that coming!" I cried, "We didn't see it coming for my mom either!" and it all caught up with me again.

In the middle of my tears I looked up to see that a perfect stranger had approached me, and said, "I just wanted to tell you I'm so sorry for your loss, and it's gonna be okay." I was so touched that someone I don't even know would be so kind to comfort me, just from seeing me cry in a theater. It makes me feel that there really are good people in the world, and there really is a kindred spirit of humanity in us all. Like the love you can give to a mother or a child is the same you can give to a brother or a sister, or a friend, or a stranger you see on the street, and through those expressions of love every single person on this earth is connected. Like Shakespeare said, the more love you give, the more you have, "for both are infinite."

I wish I could find that woman who spoke to me in the theater so I can tell her how much it meant to me, but I guess there's no way I can find her again. My only hope is that if I can show the same kindness to a stranger, or if you can after reading this, maybe that love will find its way back to her, and in the process, to the whole wide world.