Posts Tagged ‘Paula Diaz’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

In high school, my indefatigable math teacher, Mr. Sycz, informed me and the rest of his unsuspecting students that the majority of adult life is spent at work. As such, he wisely advised us to choose our careers carefully. What he failed to mention was that all those hours at work will be spent with other people. Regrettably, there is no way to select our coworkers; the only recourse is to cross your fingers. How fortunate, then, that I love both what I do and the people with whom I work.

I’ve always liked working cooperatively with others, a natural result of growing up with six siblings. At every job I’ve had in my 25 years of RMUILsealwork (Cowgill Printing, McDonald’s, Dimitri’s Restaurant, Mr. Todd’s Cleaners, Royalview Manor, First Community Village, The Courtyard, Country Counter, Dick’s Last Resort, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Grafton Street Pub, Lakeland Community College, Academy at the Lakes, Hillsborough Community College, Harold Washington College, Columbia College, and RMU), I’ve met and worked with fantastic people who’ve helped make any work less tiresome. The same is true here at good ol’ RMU, where I have worked since arriving in Chicago in 2007.

My RMU colleagues are tremendous people, and we know each other incredibly well. Since my coworkers are diligent and dedicated teachers, I am already predisposed to like them and admire their efforts. They are all CLAwonderfully smart, too, of course, each in his or her unique way. Everyone I work with will stop to help a fellow teacher or student. Everyone will devote his or her expertise to our shared purpose: the endlessly worthwhile endeavor of education.

Most importantly, my co-workers at RMU, specifically the CLA members (many of them Turtle writers, too) are generous and thoughtful. What follows is just a small sampling of the everyday—but in no way ordinary—kindnesses my colleagues show to one another.

Paula provides lunch when Fridays involve the dreaded all-day meetings.

If there are cookies next to the coffee pot, they are probably courtesy of Turtle father Michael.

Jenny supplies us all with fresh vegetables from her considerable garden.

Pyle created the “cabinet of wonders,” a repository of free books, Cd’s, and DVD’s to share.

I’d be surprised to find a more sympathetic listener than Ellen.

Cynthia keeps the refrigerator stocked with fancy flavored creams to augment the free coffee.

Pat McNicholas brings homemade fudge every finals week.

Paul jots down the best zingers on his whiteboard to highlight the general goofiness in the CLA suite.

If Peter does anything, you can bet it will be done with “alacrity and aplomb.”

Like any good family, we endure each other’s idiosyncrasies, often turning flaws into perfections of a different kind. Mick tells the same Irish jokes every St. Patrick’s Day, year after year: how excruciatingly wonderful.

When my colleagues aren’t busy conducting research, planning curriculum, teaching classes, grading papers, or attending meetings, we can be found in the CLA office giggling like teenagers. We pretend that we are in a workplace sitcom called “RMU Kiddin’ Me.” We’re all certain the show would be hilarious, of course, which illustrates my good fortune in both terms of my job and my coworkers.

There is nothing quite as delightful as laughing at work, something I enjoy every single day. The funniest line or exchange will be added to Paul’szipper white board. If a joke is too inappropriate, it is designated as “Invisible Whiteboard” material and will remain a joke amongst ourselves.


Paul, “I’ll send you the ZIP file.”

Me, “I can never remember how to unzip things.”

Paul, “Then how do you get dressed in the morning?”

Insert the cutesy sitcom title here.

  By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty.

 I feel I must report what at the time felt like and what now, looking back in retrospect, in all candor, still feels like a very memorable experience.  The memorable part started when I heard someone say “this isn’t hooky.”   Though I remember the phrase, I’m troubled that I’m not sure who said it.  It might have been Michael, it may have been Gerry, then again I might have been the one to say it.  I simply can’t be sure though it wasn’t very long ago that this incident took place–in fact, I believe it may have been yesterday or, at the latest, the day before yesterday which would have been Tuesday .   

The full context for the “this isn’t hooky” statement was not uninteresting.   Michael Stelzer Jocks and I were discussing the Imagepossibility of going to some Hyde Park bookstores on Friday.  Then the question arose whether Gerry Dedera might also wish to prowl about the myriad dusty shelves of Powells  Whereupon Ms. Paula Diaz, our intrepid Dean, inspired leader, and savant of most things worth knowing, just happened to be walking by as our Powells’ discussion was getting into full gear and, overhearing our conversation, reminded Michael that he was supposed to be at school on Friday, and hence the sense that implementing such a plan would clearly constitute an act of hooky.  Q.E.D.—meaning, hooky proved.  Case closed.

Oh contraire.  Not so fast.  Amateur sleuths beware.  First of all, what if we were planning to go to Powell’s after fulfilling school responsibilities Friday?  Then no hooky, wouldn’t you agree?  Thus the hooky charge is rendered moot, nay less than moot.  Second, and here’s where my own signature fruit cake spin starts to play a vital role in this story, and why the occasion remains memorable for me.  An altogether different consideration almost immediately arose in my brain which was this:  Is it really possible in the year 2013, in the month of September a full week after the anniversary of 9/11, for any individual or group of individuals to engage in an act of hooky at any time anywhere at all on this great green globe we call home?


Peter Stern?

The reason I ask this question is that I’m more or less convinced that hooky is an old fashioned, hugely archaic word so tied to an earlier time and place that it no longer has any genuine relevance or meaning to life lived today.  I would say the same thing about a buggy whip or about using a mimeograph machine to duplicate piles of papers for a high or low level meeting even if the low level meeting was peopled by higher ups.  Ditto taking a covered wagon with friends to go through the Cumberland Gap, or to head out from let’s say Akron Ohio with the wife and kids to settle down in Colorado or Idaho or Wyoming.  Instead of the covered wagon, I’d recommend you fly or get a U Haul or take a bus.  And don’t worry about getting caught playing hooky for hooky don’t exist.  Not anymore.

Such is the nature of historical time.  It doesn’t simply pass;  it does much more than this.  It renders old ways of doing things meaningless.  The unique feel, smell, touch, taste, and special meaning of an experience or way of life not only of individuals but of whole communities even of countries simply vanishes.  Artifacts remain.   Historians and anthropologists and archeologists find buried buildings, furniture,  jewelry of all kinds, even diaries and records of business transactions but the feel–the inner spirit of the time–and how exactly people experienced the world is lost forever.

 Thus for hooky to be possible the world would have to take absolutely seriously–as if no other possible mode of behavior made any sense–that attending school and showing up at work every day was mandated by God himself such that not doing those things was a terrible violation of an ancient and sacred order.   Of course this doesn’t mean that every living soul viewed the world this way.  But it does mean that that was the default position for the society overall.  And then playing hooky really meant something.  Hooky was freedom.  Hooky meant escape.  Hooky was a thrilling adventure and you were living dangerously indeed.  And woe to you if you got caught. 

 And today?  Today you simply call in sick or tell your supervisor that your kids are sick.  Better still:  You turn on the tube and hear on the 7:00 a.m. news that the schools are closed due to exceptionally heavy rains and I-94 is flooded so you’re better off staying home and keeping off the highways.  Don’t you think most people would agree it’s awful hard playing hooky in this sort of world?

Still, in closing, to avoid sounding too shrill or foolish or just plain stupid, I should admit to some hyperbole when I state so emphatically that time renders the past utterly meaningless to future generations, for the historians and archeologists I mentioned earlier, especially the extraordinarily gifted members of those professions, do bring to life or try to bring to life the authentic spirit of the age they’re exploring.  Moreover, the law of averages suggests that they must actually succeed from time to time.  And so thanks to generations of historians we do get some sense of what it must have been like riding across the plains of Iowa and Nebraska in an un–air conditioned covered wagon during weeks on end of a dry summer 100 degree heat wave.  And, going back in time, Caesar crossing the Rubicon must have been an extraordinary sight and a mind boggling experience. 

 Yet some small voice keeps telling me that something of these events must get lost in translation.

By Paula Diaz, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

I’ve always found it sad that so many athletic competitions are measured in hundredths of a second—you can get fourth place (which is the same as millionth place at the Olympics) by an over-clipped fingernail or an unshaven hair in swimming. You can miss the team by virtue of a misaligned shoe tread or a loose piece of fabric in running. We don’t look at the beauty of the stroke or the style of the gait; we only care about how long it took to put the thing behind us. These meager measures of time seem to find their ways into our non-Olympic lives—especially when it comes to dealing with our kids. Or at least my kids.

I do a lot of Bikram yoga. The shortest pose in Bikram is held for 10 seconds. I can suffer a lot in 10 seconds of Bikram and walk away. I can suffer a lot in 10 seconds of Bikram and then do it again. I’ve decided that 10 seconds is the shortest period of time that I will recognize.  Bikram teachers have been trained to internalize counts and seconds—you don’t see them looking at a watch or counting off repetitions; they just know it. I’ve decided to naturally understand 10 seconds and use it to define a “moment.”

  • I will give my kids at a moment or two to start getting dressed before I ask them again. And again.
  • Adding a few moments to my breakfast routine to let my daughter put the bread in the toaster is OK.
  • If another parent has to wait a moment while my son swipes the key card at daycare, I won’t feel anxious.

There is that scene in”Pulp Fiction” where Butch and Marcellus have just escaped the dungeon (don’t think too much about it or it will ruin this essay) and Butch is heading back to the hotel to get his girlfriend, Fabienne. She is upset because they fought earlier in the day (about the watch, but don’t think about it) and he is rather undone by the “single weirdest day of [his] entire life.” But, rather than frantically rushing her to get on the bike so they can get away—which she needs to do—he takes, what?, 10 seconds?, to ask her about her pancake breakfast. He gives her a moment of attention and the difficulty between them that wanted to take hold is gone.

I am heading into a long summer home with my kids. He will want to stop every day as we are on our way out and look at the dead wasps on the front steps and tell me that they are dead (as he has done every day for the past week since we sprayed their hive). She will need to pack a bag of crucial supplies each morning—today’s selection: newspaper sale flyer, notebook, flashlight, locked padlock, and 2 carat zircon ring. Every night he will require a kiss but no hug. And then a hug with no kiss.  And finally a kiss and a hug together.  Honoring these moments will add, what?, two or three minutes of being with them to each day that I have with them.

There are no records in parenting (which is way different than birthing). No medals. So why measure, in fractions of seconds, how long it takes each day to raise them? In Bikram, before that 10 second pose, the instructor will remind us to make a decision to be in the pose; to commit all our energy to that moment. I want to be committed to their moment; to their drawn-out and repetitive collection of moments for as many 10 seconds repetitions as I can.