Sunday, October 18, 2015

Please Welcome Special Guest Jean Martinez

Good Days, Bad Days: Growing Up with Mental Illness
By Jean Martinez

Long before I was seventeen I learned my mother’s first choice would be a Vodka straight...

My mother was German, English and Welsh, a Protestant and a Republican. She was an Ohioan, born in the year 1915 before women in this country had the right to vote ratified. My father was first generation Mexican-American, a Catholic, and a Democrat born in Kansas; his birth year was 1924. I was raised in the Coachella Valley among my father’s family.     

Under the shared roof of my family home, I was an eye and ear-witness to a constant plethora of viewpoints. I found this to be simultaneously stimulating, stressful, and a certain comfort. Often the polarized discussions and deliberations yielded only to daylight when sleep muffled any cognitive clarity to persist in debate. Growing up I found it to be as close an invitation to a Socratic environment as I have ever since encountered.

Both my parents worked when the social norm was that a woman would stay home exclusively and raise “the children.” That was the expectation and to do otherwise set a woman up for unkind criticism. My mother was a nurse while my father was a sheet metal journeyman. My mother had a high school education and trained for her nursing license at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. My father had about a third grade education and understandably found reading very difficult. I remember he would bring home the design plans for what he had to build during the week and my mother would carefully go over the reading so he could memorize all of it to do his job. My father was a very capable man and he was able to demonstrate his expertise in the field, but I know he regularly went to extraordinary lengths to maintain his own personal level of excellence.
High School was a very dark time for me. I say that easily now because now there is a distance of time well over forty years. My mother drank socially as many did and do today. She also drank privately. We did not know then that mental health illnesses could be masked by attempts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Every day I did not know what I would find when I came home from school. My mother’s mental illness was like a storm. It might start off soft like a light rain and finish in a torrent with the echoes of thunder and lightning cracking the sky in unpredictable bursts.

On those days I would tell my father how I found her. His face would fill with sorrow. “Have patience; she is having a bad day,” he would say. “Everyone has good days and everyone has bad days.”

Finally one afternoon I came home and she was gone. She had left a note saying she had gone to pick flowers with her sister Marce. This was ominous since my Aunt Marce had lived in Ohio and died long ago. I left to look for mom and found her wandering in a desert lot a few blocks from our home and I persuaded her to come home with me. I say persuaded because that day she was not exactly sure who I was.

My father agreed we needed help for her; he understood and accepted she was not safe. Still, this was a difficult decision for him because the stigma of mental illness was and is nearly insurmountable for some families to get past to seek help.

Some might find it remarkable, but I did well in school; I could be my personal best there. Perhaps the assignments provided respite. I read a lot and wrote; those two things helped me sort things out then and now. Most importantly I did not feel bound by the turns in my mother’s life. I believed my life was very much my own. I never saw her experience as something that predicted how my life would be and I could just love her...however I found her.

Jean Martinez is a retired Respiratory Therapist who received an Associate of Science degree from College of the Desert. She is active in the City of Coachella’s My Brother’s Keeper, Interfaith Alliance, Ad-hoc Committee for a New Library, and CVHS Parents as Partners. She is a member of the Coachella Valley Mexican American Pioneers, Herman Granados American Legion Auxiliary chairing Girls State, parishioner at Our Lady of Soledad, participant in Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica (COFEM) at Bobby Duke, Family Involvement Action Team (FIAT) for Cahuilla Desert Academy, and she LOVES, LOVES to read. She reads non-fiction most of the time.

Jean Martinez (left) with "Food for Thought" bookclub friends.

Jean’s Current Reads: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Our Kids and Bowling Alone, both by Robert D. Putnam, and Hope Dies Last by Studs Terkel—a favorite author.

Jean's Recommended Reads: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by linguist Daniel L. Everett, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow, and Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King and Germinal by Emile Zola.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Please Welcome Special Guest Dr. Margaret Long

Art Is Life
Frida Art Deco by Andrea Zaragoza
Advanced Placement Art Instructor Dr. Margaret Long comments on the joys and challenges of teaching Advanced Placement Art, the Art Deco Movement, and the latest exhibits at CVHS’s Gallery 97:

On Teaching Advanced Placement Art:
Picasso once said, “Art is the lie that makes us realize the truth.” There is a wonderful truth in artistic expression. AP Studio Art brings artistic expression to the max.  Students are required to reach into the deepest recesses of their imagination to expose themselves to the world. Teaching AP Art has been the most rewarding—and the most difficult job—I have ever done. Each day is a new experience for both students and teacher.  Art is where the world is revealed to the seeker.

On the Art Deco Movement:
The first AP project of this school year is about Art Deco. While travelling to San Francisco this summer I came across an Art Deco exhibit. The show included everything Art Deco from photographs, advertising, clothing, inventions, modern appliances, and furniture. The first week of school I gave the Art Deco (c. 1925-1940) assignment to the AP and Advanced/Art II students in Period 6. They were to create an Art Deco Design based upon their research of this period in art. As luck would have it, Mr. Carlin’s neighbor gave him a load of unfinished frames, which he gave to me! The artists then designed their own finished frames to suit their original art.
Artist Andrea Zaragoza

The Art Deco style, adopted by architects and designers around the world, spanned the "Roaring Twenties," the Great Depression of the early 1930s, and the years leading up to the Second World War. It suffered a decline in popularity during the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, when it began to be seen as too gaudy and ostentatious for wartime austerity, after which it quickly fell out of fashion. The first resurgence of interest in Art Deco occurred in the 1960s—coincident with the movement's affect on Pop Art—and then again in the 1980s, in line with growing interest in graphic design. The style appeared in a number of jewelry and fashion ads.
Gallery 97

On Coachella Valley High’s Gallery 97:
Last year Mrs. Perez graciously arranged to dedicate Room 97 near the cafeteria to be an Art Gallery.  You can see the name of the gallery written on the wall: Galleria 97.  We will have a showing of the Art Deco Paintings and ceramics pieces from Mr. Escobedo’s classes, beginning Tuesday, October 6 and ending on Tuesday, October 27. If you would like to see the exhibit you can come to room 87 (the room with the mural) any time, and I will have a Docent take you on a tour of the current Gallery 97 Showing.

Up-Coming Gallery Exhibits:
On Monday, November 2, the art classes will have a one-day showing of their Dia de los Muertos paintings from all my classes, and ceramic works from Mr. Escobedo’s classes.  It is only a one-day showing; so don’t miss this wonderful Day of the Dead exhibit.

Thursday, November 5 through Friday, November 27 we will be showing the Art Techno pieces (c. 1990-2015) created as a response to our modern-day technology.  I think you will enjoy the exciting rendition of Art Techno.

Stencil by Albert Lopez, 2015

Dr. Margaret "Peggy" Long

Monday, October 5, 2015

Please Welcome Special Guest Autumn Carberry

Don’t Regret Missed Opportunities
By Autumn Carberry

As you grow older, mature, and become that productive individual you always hoped you would be, there is one thing that can thwart eternal happiness, regret. 

Regret can weigh in the back of your mind, influence your future, and shade your present. While you are here at CVHS it’s imperative to take every opportunity that comes your way and not hold back.  Too often we are held back by our fear of failure, the unknown, or complacency. Make these years the most memorable possible, move beyond your sphere of influence. Build those relationships, try out for that play, join that club, for high school is only once in a lifetime.

Behind each line on my college application is a memory, a friendship, a moment in time that cannot be recaptured.  

I was never one to sit on the sidelines. My childhood was filled with Girl Scout camping trips, dance classes, and new adventures. This pattern followed me into high school. In eighth grade I tried out for cheerleading at the high school and made the freshmen squad. Over the summer I made friends through our practices and learned the school landscape. That fall I worked on the school newspaper and rubbed elbows with the upperclassmen. I consistently looked for opportunities to evolve, learn, and make friends (if there were cute boys involved that didn’t hurt). 

Over the next four years I tried out for a role in Bye Bye Birdie and tap danced my way across the stage, I ran for ASB and decorated the ballroom for prom, I was NHS president, and became the cheer captain facilitating school sprit on my campus. However, this is not just a laundry list of accomplishments. Behind each line on my college application is a memory, a friendship, a moment in time that cannot be recaptured.  They made my high school experience full, exciting, and unforgettable. Had I not tried something new and moved beyond my comfort zone I may not have had such a positive experience.

Who cares who is looking; you won’t see them in a few years anyway. 

This time is fleeting. As unending as it seems now, it is but a blink in your lifetime. Take the time to make high school unforgettable. I can tell you right now, there is more to high school than who you hung out with or who you dated. What you will remember is the experiences you build for yourself. Let go your preoccupation of embarrassment. Who cares who is looking; you won’t see them in a few years anyway. You could be missing out on something irreplaceable. Don’t regret missed opportunities. Those taken opportunities are what shape you into the adult you become.

Autumn Carberry is a language arts instructor at Coachella Valley High School. Still never one to sit on the sidelines, Mrs. Carberry also teaches Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, is the Freshmen Class Advisor, acts as a Site Representative for her teacher’s association, and along with many, many other responsibilities, is a regular contributor to this blog.