Monthly Archive: January 2009

Stumbling Around the Stage: Reschooling with Musical Theater

“I am way out of my league,” I thought as I walked into the lobby of Jackson’s New Stage Theatre this afternoon to audition for the musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe. This thought was only reinforced as I filled out the bright yellow form that I’d gotten from Chris, the theater’s friendly Education Director.

List previous acting experience (or attach a resume):


What I chose not to mention was that Roomers was my eighth grade play, and that Altimira is the name of my middle school. I decided that listing my title role in Mrs. Hurryup and the Runaway Presents in fourth grade wouldn’t boost my credibility.


Op/Education #2: Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Even though I’ve been writing a lot about personal development recently, I’ll also continue to write about education. One of my goals for this spring is to reflect not only my personal experience with education, but also on the larger system that gave rise to this experience. The Op/Education series will share education-related news and media, as well as a variety of schools and programs, and ask for your opinions about them.

People have recommended that I watch the show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” because of its connection to Reschool Yourself. Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the show:

5th Grader games are played by a single contestant, who attempts to answer ten questions (plus a final bonus question). Content is taken from elementary school textbooks, two from each grade level from first to fifth. Each correct answer increases the amount of money the player banks; a maximum cash prize of US$1,000,000 can be won. Along the way, the player can be assisted by a “classmate”, one of five school-age cast members, in answering the questions. Notably, upon getting an answer incorrect or deciding to prematurely end the game, the contestant must state that they are not smarter than a 5th grader.

The clip above features American Idol competitor and country music artist Kellie Pickler as a contestant on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” What disturbs me most is not that she’s never heard of Budapest. Each of us, although we’d like to think that our particular body of knowledge defines what it means to be intelligent, has blind spots and gaps in our knowledge. Often our ignorance results from lack of exposure or interest, and we develop all kinds of strategies for hiding this ignorance from others (see my post on Impostor’s Syndrome). I don’t think you have to know the capital of Malaysia or Madagascar to be a smart person. It’s more important to know where to find those answers when the need arises, and to feel humbled by not knowing them.


Apartment, Meet Shelf Liner.

Slideshow of our ongoing home improvement process. Click on a picture to see its caption. You can then use the arrow keys to advance the slideshow.

My Twitter/Facebook update on Sunday was, “Today is the day the boy apartment becomes a co-ed apartment. Apartment, I’d like to introduce you to shelf liner and drawer organizers.” It was a big day for the bachelor pad.

I know that in some ways, it would have been ideal if we’d found a brand new place instead of having me move into Darren‘s place. Because it would have been ours from the beginning, we could have avoided my encroaching on his man-tastic lair.

Nonetheless, in most ways it just made sense for me to move into the place he’s had for two years. He’s got a great spot in a four-plex, a big southern house divided into apartments with wood floors and lots of windows. His treesy neighborhood, Belhaven, is known as one of the most beautiful and consistently wins Best of Jackson’s Best Place to Run. Most importantly, right now I just want to have a simple, settled life and am grateful that he has all the basic necessities already in place.


My First Week as a Southern Belle

I’ve been a Jackson resident for a week now. I have a post brewing about all the differences I’ve observed so far between Mississippi, but it has grown so big that I keep putting it off. I’m working on doing more posts in bullets, snippets, or photos, both for your sanity and mine. Here’s a rundown of Week 1 in Jacktown. Even though I spent most of my time this week at home settling in, a lot happened:

•  Splurging at Target to organize Darren’s former bachelor pad. It’s a work in progress, but the place already looks much, much saner. Pictures of the transformation to follow.

•  Finding the best organic foods and green cleaning products that Jackson has to offer. One of the biggest sacrifices I made in moving to Mississippi from the Bay Area is giving up the wealth of healthy food choices, particularly organics. They’re harder to find in Jackson, but they do exist. There’s a local co-op called Rainbow (like my favorite grocery in San Francisco), and the big-box Kroger has a solid selection of organic produce. I can’t describe how elated I felt to put vegetable after organic vegetable into the shopping cart, especially after a southern fried wedding week in New Orleans. Ironically, I felt like a kid in a candy store.


Reschooling Tool #17: Use Tips for a Better Life as Touchstones

Because I devote much of my energy to figuring out how to lead a happier and more fulfilling life, I love lists of advice for doing so. Like the Five Buddhist Precepts, I keep them in the back of my mind and revisit the lists when I feel I’m getting off track. Realistically, I know that I won’t follow all of the advice all of the time, but I can make my best effort.

Here are a couple of lists my radar lately:

1. Tips for a Better Life

Janine Julia Jankovitz, a new Jackson friend of mine and fellow writer, wrote a post listing Nithya Shanti’s 38 Tips for a Better Life. They include 10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants and 29. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.

Janine takes issue with 17. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar, and I do, too. As a lifelong foodie, I refuse to eat any meals like a beggar. (Of course, I’m very grateful for the luxury.)


Reschooling Tool #16: Diffuse Stress with Silly Catch Phrases

As someone with perfectionist tendencies, I’ve often been bothered when things don’t go as I want them to. Whether there’s unexpected traffic slowing me down or I cut myself while chopping vegetables, it’s common for my heart to start beating faster as my irritation rises. If something goes awry, I tend to get flustered; if I make a mistake, I get exasperated with myself.

In the past few months, I’ve begun to take mishaps in stride, in large part because of a couple of silly, seemingly insignificant jokes between Darren and me. They’ve helped me laugh off any little annoyances before they escalate into frustration. I’d like to share them in case they’re helpful to you, too.

1. “Ohhh Noooo!”

Recently, things that used to upset me have become funny, because they give me the opportunity to use my favorite catch phrase. It’s from the Saturday Night Live parody of Dateline host Keith Morrison, who has a knack for dramatizing — and perhaps even taking pleasure in — the unpleasant events he is reporting. (See Bill Hader’s brilliant impression in the video above.)

Every time I realize that the house is a mess, or I stub my toe for the tenth time in a week, I smile ghoulishly with wide eyes and say, “Ohhh nooo….I’m horrrrified,” in the nasal voice of the impression. It started as a running joke between Darren and me, but I’ve realized how much it actually helps me diffuse tension. I’ve used it dozens of times, and it still makes me laugh.


Stepping Out of the Whirlwind

I took a break from blogging because my sister got married last week in New Orleans, and there was much to do. I just began drafting one big update of everything that has happened in the month of January so far, and it wouldn’t all fit into one post:

* Something Far Finer documentary shoot (coordinating details and shooting the film)

* Preparing to move to Jackson, Mississippi (packing, saying goodbye to everyone)

* Being the Maid of Honor in my little sister‘s wedding

* Settling into a new life in Jackson

It’s crazy how these major events seem to happen all at once. I’ll post a bit about each one this week. For now, I have a few mini-updates:

Life in Jackson

So far, so good. I’m loving it here so far and have been taking it easy for a couple days, ignoring the suitcases overflowing with my clothes so I can recover from my cold and share the hundreds of photos I took at Gill’s wedding. I have a feeling that the south will slow me down and be good for my personal development and sense of community.


Day 1 in Mississippi: A Sign of Good Things to Come

Today is my first day as a resident of Jackson, Mississippi. I woke up to discover a ladybug in the medicine cabinet. I’ve never found a ladybug inside the house before, and as it’s considered good luck in cultures from China to Iran, I decided to take this as a sign of exciting things to come.

When I tell people that my boyfriend lives in Jackson, they normally respond, “Florida?” (No, that’s Jacksonville) or “Wyoming?” (That’s Jackson Hole). When I add that I’m moving here for an indeterminate period of time, they say, “What’s in Mississippi?” Those who live in the San Francisco Bay Area often scrunch up their faces like they’ve just smelled day-old fish. One current student at my high school said, “But there’s nothing there!” This is the general impression that a lot of Californians have of the state with the most obese population for three consecutive years, and that just overtook Texas and New Mexico for having the highest teen pregnancy rate. (We’re number one! We’re number one!)


RSY Follow-Up Article & Blog Highlights

Today’s Sonoma Index-Tribune features a follow-up article to the piece published in September, during the project launch. Emily Charrier-Botts gives an overview of my experience in the classrooms last fall and includes answer to some of the questions that I’ve gotten frequently:

  • Why did you go back to your classrooms, and did you get what you came for?
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • What kind of work do you envision doing in the future?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that achievement has not made me happy,” Dicker said. School was always a place where Dicker excelled.

From elementary school through college, she did everything right. But after stepping out of the education system, she began to wonder if fulfilling every educational expectation had really brought her to where she wanted to be. “I sort of lived the American Dream of education. I did it all really well, I played the game,” Dicker said. “I thought I’d come out on the other side happy and fulfilled and that just wasn’t the case. I wanted to go back (to school) and find out why that happened.”

As Dicker wrapped up her time revisiting her education, she felt she had faced a lot of the personal hang-ups she had held over from her school days. “In school, the idea is to stand out, whether it’s in sports or academics. But learning to compare yourself to others is the best way to set yourself up for disappointment,” she said, adding that “Reschool Yourself” has changed her view on what’s important. “The word achieve has been replaced for me by empowerment.”

Read the full article here.


I’m Goin’ to Jackson

In four hours, I leave for the south, to live there for an indefinite period of time. This fact still hasn’t quite sunk in.

First I head to New Orleans for my baby sister‘s wedding. As the maid of honor, I have to give the toast without too much pitiful blubbering. I’m also organizing the bachelorette party, which will be SO MUCH FUN.

Then…..home. To Jackson, Mississippi. As big a culture shock as this might be, I’m more and more excited about it. I’ll write a full post soon about the differences I’ve already observed between Mississippi and my native California.

I’ll also write about the surreal experience of being filmed for a documentary. With coordinating nearly all the location details and permissions, organizing goodbye meetups with my friends, and planning for the wedding and the move….it has been one of the most energizing and debilitating weeks of my life.

Well, it’s off to bed for a nice nap before the SFO airporter comes. I took a long look at the Golden Gate Bridge as I drove over it today, and the San Francisco skyline across the bay. I surveyed the famous hills and the Victorians lining the streets, side by side. I said goodbye to the endless restaurants and bars, and the people whom I’ve grown close with over the last few years. I’m going to miss the Bay Area and my community here. It’s all I’ve ever known. At the same time, I’m looking forward to having a completely new experience, and I’m ready for it.

In the words of Johnny Cash, “I’m goin’ to Jackson…look out, Jackson town.”