Honey Do Handy Work

During my college days, I spent most of my time in the Appalachian Mountains, traveling home during breaks or for a month in the summer. Home was Kansas, and while I was back, I would travel to the southwestern towns and visit my grandparents and my aunt. My Grandma was always very supportive of my desire to attend college and she would seemingly devise a reason to give me a little cash to help with expenses. What she came up with was her “Honey Do” list — “Honey, can you do…?” It was a list of cleaning projects or chores for which she would pay me. And so, I would clean the garage or fix a window, wash the car, change a lightbulb or hang a picture.

I would have gladly done any of these things for free, but like I said, she knew I was trying to pay my way through college and so she was glad to have a reason to write me a check and help out. As I got older, the projects increased in difficulty and eventually, I found that I had confidence to help others as well.

Over the years, I’ve developed friendships with many people and many of these friendships include a “Honey Do” list. Some sort of informal exchange that allows me the opportunity to visit, to be helpful, to listen and deepen our friendship.

When I started helping people with their projects, I often times took on projects that I’d never done before, learning as I went, learning by paying attention, taking things apart, going to the library, asking questions or reading literature. Today, there is Youtube and DIY sites that will breakdown and explain just about anything you can imagine. These resources are amazing and I use them quite a bit, however, I also know that a successful project includes care in listening, watching and doing that is more directly related to the “Honey” part of the honey do list. It is the part of the project that requires a friendliness with those you are trying to help, trust, understanding so that the project meets their needs. It is also the part of this work that makes these projects fun and why I keep coming back to them.

“Jack” Rabbit Holes — Journeys with Devices

The past few weeks has provided a nice opportunity to work with individuals needing help negotiating their electronic devices.

A younger person might insert some comment about “Old People and Iphones,” but I’m a proud member of AARP and don’t necessarily see age as a barrier to effective learning. What I have found is that wiser individuals tend to recognize and shy away from rabbit holes. I appreciate this wisdom even if I can’t always make use of it myself.

If I’m helpful its because I have spent so much time in rabbit holes that I’m a competent traveler, and able to provide safe passage into and out of the rabbit hole. Taking a solo journey through the rabbit hole can be lonely and frustrating, but traveling a rabbit hole together can be fun and fruitful if you trust your partner.

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Making Movies: Collaborating with UofSC Museum of Education

I started hanging around the Museum of Education about 15 years ago. I originally found my way into the museum because it was a quiet, comfortable, interesting place to spend time, and it was one floor below where I was working as a graduate assistant. I was new to South Carolina and the University and it was easy to assume that the thoughtful and challenging exhibits were representative of the entire campus. After more than 12 years of collaborating with Craig Kridel, former (and retired) director and curator of the museum, I have grown to appreciate how unique this space is.

For most of those twelve years, Craig and I collaborated on a short documentary film that would describe one of the on-going “exhibitions” or intentional spaces of the museum. The process of making the film was also unique in that we spent time each year reaching out to students, faculty, staff, activists, historians, and civil rights leaders; and by reaching out and interviewing these individuals for the film, we simultaneously engaged in the intended use of the space.

The collaboration was very rewarding in that we established a rhythm where we could listen to the interviews, listen to each other, and then make creative decisions together based on listening and trusting the wisdom each of us brought to the project. I watch it now, and think that it moves a bit slowly, but I know that this is more of an essay / video / meditation — something informative, experiential, and experimental. You can learn more about the “The Travelstead Room” here and watch the short as well.