Monthly Archives: July 2013

July Writer Response: Gabe Dellavecchia

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Beth and I have gone through a lot together: a kleptomaniac poltergeist, simultaneous altitude sickness, and enough family drama to write a decade’s worth of telenovelas.

But this was the first time I ever gave her a homework assignment.

When I saw her first panicked post, I thought to myself “Great. I have given her the mental equivalent of a sprained ankle.”

I know change isn’t always fun (they call them growing pains for a reason), but I worried that, instead of giving my friend a chance for professional development and personal reflection, I had managed to upset the delicate balance of spinning chaos that is Beth’s life. It’s like Beth is one of those circus performers with plates spinning on both hands, her head, and her outstretched left foot, and I had come along and tickled her nose. Annoying and potentially disastrous.

But then a miraculous thing happened. As she always does, Beth shook off the shock, grabbed her bootstraps firmly, and hoisted herself back into a standing position, sprained ankle and sprained brain be damned.

By the first deadline, the internet was finally graced with bethbarbush.com, and I could not be more proud. First of all, that Beth managed to make the deadline, but also that her long-coming cyberspace beachhead has been established.

All it took was a few more nights for the bones of her new WordPress site to be stitched together. Even her family health crisis has contributed to the completion of the assignment: with lots of waiting time on her hands, time that could easily be spent fretting, Beth has circumvented some technical difficulties to focus on distilling the essence of her various accomplishments into words.

Because when it comes to Beth, the story at the heart of the matter is really what she is interested in.

As for me?

Well, shortly after writing my chapter assignment, I was lucky enough to land a teaching job for the fall. Suddenly, my own need for an electronic portfolio faded in the face of the logistics of moving from Oregon to Colorado in the next month.

Like Beth, I have made changes to my own assignment to fit my new reality. In one way or another, I have been on the road for about 17 years. My life has been in boxes. In one of those boxes, I had been collecting “important stuff”: ticket stubs, programs, fliers… you know, stuff. I had always intended to compile them into scrapbooks. In the past, I have made elaborate books for the big events: my student exchange trips, my service in the Peace Corps, my time in Japan. But I had never stopped to make a book about the rest of my life… which is the majority of my time. As I was about to toss the program from my graduate school commencement into the box, I decided “This has to stop.”

So, rather than hauling boxes of bits of paper to yet another new home, I sat down, and with the help of old calendars and the internet, pieced together what the hell I have been up to since high school. In many ways, it is the same process that Beth has been going through. Sitting here in our mid-30s and wondering “What is the overall picture here? Are these all pieces from the same puzzle?”

I arranged my bits and pieces into not one, but three, binders. I am now in the process of adding my stories to them: hand-written, in my tiny, close-knit scrawl. I am making my own mark on the books: inscribing the pure memories that are left after all of the extraneous details have long since burned off.

Taking a step back, before plunging ahead to the next chapter.

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Check out the Living Chapters facebook page to follow the growing pains and progress of the evolving online portfolio.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the Body and Kinesthetic chapter.

logic lesson # 2

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I come to the end of this week feeling a little fried like my overloaded Macbook laptop must feel when it freezes up with that spinning rainbow wheely thing demanding that I stop what I am doing and take a break. “TIME OUT please!” it warns me “something is not working properly”.

Well I’ve spent these first few days of July spinning in circles myself dealing with a variety of  faulty operating systems. My mother’s health, our healthcare system and my computer’s external hard drive all failing at the same time was enough to almost send me into my own personal system shutdown. But before this happened, I heeded the spinning wheel’s advice and took some time out.

I am feeling much better now after a relaxing Independence Day. I hid out with The Confidant who provided me with a beautiful backyard, a fire-pit and a sympathetic ear. Our conversations calmed me down and reminded me of a couple common sense logic lessons that I’ve practiced successfully in the past.

Sleep: Trying to do anything with little or no sleep causes meltdowns. Sleeping is not only useful for a clear head in stressful situations but also great for creativity, better health, patience and productivity. (This rule goes for my computer too – it also needs rest from time to time)

Focus: Focusing on one thing at a time is much less overwhelming than taking on everything at once. Looking at challenges one at a time is rational and actually doable.  Oh, and letting go of the things that are out of my control is also a great way to focus and finish the things that actually are in my control. That’s a fun fact to try to stay focused on – give that one a try!

So after indulging in some good sleep, great conversation and good food over the holiday, I am ready to focus in and jump back into portfolio creation. In order to also give my computer a proper rest (and buy some time to fix my external hard drive) I revamped Gabe’s schedule for the process and created some new goals for his deadline dates.

First I will focus on all the descriptive writing that needs to be done for all main pages and work themes. (July 10th) Then I will dive into descriptive writing for all sub pages and projects (July 17). This hopefully will give me enough time hack into my hard drives, sift through, edit and organize my images. (July 24) And then finally upload a sampling of images that best represent all the work that I have described. (July 31st) woah… wish me luck!

I was somehow was able to make Gabe’s first deadline this past week and created a url and basic wire frame to build upon. www.bethbarbush.com

Check it out! There is nothing there now but you can watch as I progress and build upon it. Design and functionality is key! Your eyes and feedback on this will be very helpful. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions as I develop the site. I’m gonna need them…especially with editing down those 10,000 images!

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Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Visit the Living Chapters Facebook page for more updates, images and day-to-day activities.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the first chapter Body and Kinesthetic.

logic lesson #1

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It took only a few hours after sending out an SOS to receive more than enough help from all of you. Thanks to everyone who responded with fantastic ideas for online portfolio hosting sites and organizing techniques. I quickly went from having no idea of what to do to having an abundance of ideas. So now I was only left with two questions.

1. Which is the perfect online portfolio hosting site for me?

2. What’s the best way to organize my material and get started?

In a short period of time I fell down the inter-web rabbit hole and got sucked into reading about every kind of hosting site you could imagine and at least 10 different websites on “how to make a stellar online portfolio”. This is what I learned:

Answer for question #1: There is not one perfect online portfolio site.

The best thing to do is use what is both user-friendly for your viewer and what is easiest and most comfortable for YOU (the person creating it)  I thought I needed a specific web-hosting platform to create my unique professional portfolio, but realize that I am already using and learning on a web hosting tool (this blog you are reading is WordPress), why choose a new tool to learn when I am already struggling to learn this one. WordPress it is! I even found a very helpful step by step YouTube video on “How to build a professional portfolio using WordPress” made by a guy named Phil who is a Jerry Garcia fan (if Phil could do this set up in 20 min I am thinking I can manage as well) By the time I am done with this site and a year of blogging on it, I hope to be at least proficient at WordPress.

Answer for question #2: Keep it simple.

Page after page instructed me to pare it down! Less really is more. Just because I did a million random things in the past 10 years – doesn’t mean I need to include all of them (Phew! I had no idea where the heck I had stashed those pictures of me driving a book-mobile dressed up as the Wheels of Wonder Woman nor did I really know if I wanted to share them) I also learned that the simplicity rule – should run throughout the whole portfolio, not just with how much content I include, but also in how I describe all the content. Keeping the simplicity mantra in mind when mining through the archives of long-lost projects will be key!

OK – so my first major decisions are made but I still have Gabe’s strict schedule to stick to. Somehow by the end of this evening I will open a new WordPress page and make some initial organizational decisions. At least I have Philip from YouTube to show me how to do it. Thanks Phil.

So here’s my logic lesson of the day:

Learning 2 new online media platforms (minus) Learning 1 new online media platform      =  Less of a learning curve and a better chance for success! Which is also equivalent to a less stressed and more productive Beth Barbush.

We all don’t need my metaphorical math equations to know that less is more….                it <is> simple logic.

Please join me in this July’s endeavor! Start your own online portfolio.  Here are a few websites to get you started:

7 rules for creating a professional portfolio site:

10 simple steps to create and manage your professional online identity

Phil’s simple guide to using WordPress as an online portfolio tool.

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the first chapter.

logic and order

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Yesterday I opened up the July chapter sitting with my mother caught hostage in the emergency room of a hospital in Hershey PA.  The emergency had passed the night before, but we had been there for hours and hours stuck between her actually being admitted to the hospital or being able to go home.  As my mother noted many times, July 1 is the day when all new doctors start their residencies and the experienced ones have moved on, so there was nothing logical or orderly about our experience there.  (Word of advice: if you’re going to end up in the emergency room, don’t do it on July 1st) Anyway, To pass the time we read the new challenge and reminisced about all the crazy things I have done, and even laughed a bit about Gabe’s accurate descriptions of our old crappy apartments and weird roommates.

Logic and order was exactly what we were in need of yesterday and it is sometimes just the right remedy in an emergency or chaotic situation.  Reading Gabe’s sobering prescription was a good thing for both of us to focus on in the midst of a very emotional and disorderly experience.  Gabe, has always been able to successfully bring both humor and logic into any situation and scenario no matter how difficult it seems.  I will definitely learn from him this month.

My life has never been void of both positive as well as negative emotional, dramatic, and spontaneous adventures but both logic and order have always been a bit more elusive for me. I have to admit, I was really kind of worried about what I would be thrown into this month and if I would be able to make it happen after operating my entire adult life more on instinct and feeling rather than logic or order.

“How practical!” My mom complimented Gabe’s chapter idea.  Then she quickly followed with “But how the heck are you going to put 10+ years of experiences together in 4 weeks?”

Quickly his logical prescription was giving me a side effect of a mild panic attack. Hmmm… not sure, how am I going to take on one more technology challenge to my plate right now (with the Living Chapters blog and my new work project both vying for my Macbook’s attention). Can I somehow pull together and organize the last 10 years of my creative professional life in such a short period of time? I have always been too busy in the middle of one project to even think about the work or project that I just finished – and now look at me, I have put it off so long that it seems… overwhelming! It kind of amounts to looking at over 20 projects and through at least 10,000 images.  I thought organizing the work in a text only resume alone was hard! Ok time to take my own advice…

…in case of emergency, first – be creative, second – simplify things and of course next – ask for help

Can you help? (please!)

1. As a former photographer, community artist, story collector, and visual junkie. I am looking for a professional portfolio-hosting site that offers something more visually and stylistically appealing than mahara.com. Oh! And maybe something that a non-tech savvy person as myself can handle?  Do you have suggestions?

2. Do you have a personal portfolio that you would like to share that would inspire me? Something with unique design, layout, media etc.

3.  If you know me, have worked with me, or know my work in the past 10 years – could you share a program, story or project that you feel I should highlight? (post here or on Facebook)

Please share your ideas by posting here to the blog, on the LIving Chapters Facebook page or sending me a comment.

Thank you for your ideas!

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the first chapter.

chapter two

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Theme: Logic/Order

For those of you just joining the story now, allow me to catch you up to speed:

After spending her early years in Dillsburg, PA, hanging out in cemeteries and recording lo-fi experimental music on boomboxes, our Protagonist Beth left her bucolic hometown to attend Western Maryland College in the slightly bigger town of Westminster, MD.

Not finding satisfaction there, she transferred to Goucher College in Baltimore, MD where she continued to explore her desire to build abstract sculptures out of wood and mirrors.

What’s that? You thought Beth was a photographer? Well, her switch from sculpture to photography was but one of the first seismic shifts that Ms. Barbush has undertaken to revamp her life.

Because Baltimore wasn’t enough for Miss Beth, in her third year of college, she jetted off to Scotland for a year, where she majored in Chatting In Pubs and Dark Beer Drinking, as well as taking some seriously excellent photos.

In her fourth and final year of college, and continuing the year after graduation, Beth lived in the darkroom. Well, technically, she lived with me in a ramshackle apartment in Charles Village with a Living Ghost and then a Dude Who Lived on Peanut Butter, but for all intents and purposes, Beth didn’t see the sun from the fall of 1998 until the spring of 2000.

Her college education complete, BB burst forth from Baltimore and flew out into the world on many, many adventures. She taught photography for a year in the miniscule Australian town of Jindabyne. She moved to Rhode Island as an AmeriCorps volunteer to do some amazing work with the RISD Museum. She nabbed a job with Art on Purpose and spent five productive years with them documenting all sorts of social change in Baltimore, including publishing a book. She spent multiple summers teaching at the prestigious St. George’s School in Newport, RI, which puts Hogwarts to shame. She ran volunteer photography programs in Cambodia and Tanzania. She took a position with the Maryland Humanities Council, where she has been fostering conversations about controversial topics.

Did I mention conversations? Did I somehow leave out the part where she became interested in audio? Oh yes, from projects with Art on Purpose to Remington Youth Community Radio, Beth started combining audio with her visuals. That includes a documentary project that she did with me in rural Japan…

In between all of this, Beth has squeezed in showings of her artwork in coffee shops, libraries, and honest-to-goodness art galleries, not to mention museums. She ran a program called Porch Art for local kids for many years with nothing more than her creativity and the junk she had accumulated in her basement and closets.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but I’ve had a front-row seat to the flowing river of Beth’s life for almost two decades now, so you’ll have to forgive me some lapses.

“Where can I see all of these amazing projects?” you ask.

Nowhere. That’s the problem.

Here’s where I come in:

Beth was extremely modest in her intro bio, only touching on the surface of her past accomplishments. She, like me, is focused more on the future than on the past. The “Living Chapters” project, by its very nature, is a forward-looking endeavor.

But, as all good storytellers know, sometimes you have to take a few steps back to set the stage before proceeding.

One of my hopes for “Living Chapters” is that, through the combined power of her self-made community, Beth will be positioned in a fantastic place at the end of this year for wherever she may decide to head off next.

Because of the nature of her work, Beth’s accomplishments are not well-served by a paper resume. A portfolio would be better, but with Beth always reaching out to the wider world, a physical portfolio is not practical. For years, I have listened as Beth has lamented her lack of an online presence.

***

So, using my powers of Logic and Order, here’s my challenge to you, Beth: by the end of July, you will have completed an online ePortfolio hosted at the FREE site www.mahara.org

With all of your accomplishments, your professional life can be arranged in any number of ways: chronologically, community vs. fine art, visual vs. audio… The organization is part of the challenge. My only request in this area is that your AmeriCorps service, your major projects with Art on Purpose and Maryland Humanities, your international work (Australia, Cambodia, Tanzania, Japan), your teaching at St. George’s, selected fine art exhibitions, and your community involvement (Porch Art, RYCR, etc) be included in some fashion.

Here is the schedule I am setting up for you:

By July 3rd: Create your account on Mahara. Also, you must post to the “Living Chapters” Facebook page the major divisions of your ePortfolio. It can be the names of the groups you have worked for, the types of projects, whatever you wish. (Divide those topics into four, because you will have a deadline on each of the following Wednesdays to submit ¼ of the ePortfolio to the “Living Chapters” community for review.)

By July 10th: One quarter of the topics (the first of four, two out of eight… however you have divided your professional life) should be loaded onto Mahara and the link posted on the “Living Chapters” Facebook page so that your readers can see what you have done.

By July 17th: Another quarter of the topics should be completed and posted for viewing. (You will have half of a complete ePortfolio!)

By July 24th: The third quarter of the topics should be completed and posted.

By July 31st: The final quarter of your ePortfolio should be uploaded. You will now have a complete ePortfolio to share with whatever future employers or organizations you wish to work with!

I am hoping that the pressure of having the “Living Chapters” community monitoring your progress will help to give you the motivation to complete this project that has been perpetually looming but perpetually being postponed. Also, I am hoping that using an open-source, web-based program will allow your community to give you constructive criticism as you build the ePortfolio, improving the final product.

Also, I just spent a boatload of money on a Master’s Degree. One of my final assignments was making a physical teaching portfolio to bring along to interviews. At the time, it seemed like a burdensome requirement, something that should have been taking the backseat to the more pressing needs of my daily lesson planning. But, after being forced to make it, I am glad I have it. My portfolio is a concise record of my life as a teacher, and it can speak for me when I am not there.

However, my portfolio is merely a physical item and I never had the time to build an electronic version. Therefore, as part of my participation in “Living Chapters” and also to help me on my current job search, I too will be building my ePortfolio and keeping to the deadlines listed above!

Good luck, and we all look forward to finally seeing Beth Barbush properly reflected in cyberspace.

 Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Visit the Living Chapters facebook page for more updates, images and day-to-day activities.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the first chapter.