Short Family Visit with Headhunter’s Bowl

Transferring 2021 Christmas presents, 1 May 2022
Transferring 2021 Christmas presents, 1 May 2022

My brother Peter Dickinson visited briefly this afternoon. We enjoyed lunch with friends and family and transferred 2021 Christmas presents that have been waiting for the opportunity. Pete and I also made our every-ten-year swap of the Headhunter‘s Bowl our mother gave us. I think every family has its odd traditions and this is one of ours.

When Pete and I were little kids, our mother (Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson) bought special Christmas present for our father (Wade Dickinson). We were so curious that she said if we could guess what it was without unwrapping the package, we could have it. Because it was such an odd thing, she was sure we could not guess and gave us unlimited questions. Eventually, we did guess that it was a very old wooden headhunter‘s serving bowl from the Solomon Islands. (I remember we had to get out a global atlas and narrow down the location by global quadrants and then ask many questions about what the Solomon Islands were historically famous for.) Ever since we were old enough to have our own homes, Pete and I have been trading our strange bowl back and forth. It is now Pete’s turn to play host.

Note: The San Francisco store where my mother bought the bowl said it was from the Solomon Islands. Its design looks similar to the Kava bowl of Samoa or Fiji.

Transferring Solomon Islands Headhunter's bowl, 1 May 2022
Transferring Solomon Islands Headhunter’s bowl, 1 May 2022

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Pandemic-motivated Weight Loss

Weight loss was a decision that came out of my experience as a Chaplain Intern at Stanford Hospital (September 2021 – February 2022). I worked there during a COVID-19 pandemic surge and as part of my duties, provided family support and decedent care for a number of patients whose comorbidities (including obesity, diabetes, and asthma) seemed to contribute to their early death. I decided to act on my doctor’s long-standing advice and do what I could to reduce my own potential for a similar end.

The most I have ever weighed was 212 pounds, in 2007. Starting in October 2021, I followed my son Paul‘s good example and started using the Noom program for weight loss and wellness. Paul and John are also losing weight and we find that doing so as a family is easier. So far, I have lost over fifty pounds. I have about fifteen to go before I reach the weight that my doctor recommends. I feel better and am enjoying getting new clothes (and having more choices in the smaller sizes). Attending a deathbed may seem like an extreme reason to lose weight but it made a big impression on me.

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TechWomen in Yosemite

TechWomen at Yosemite Falls, CA, 27 Mar 2022

I am proud of my daughter Jessica whose annual Yosemite camping trip for her Palestinian mentees has evolved into a TechWomen tradition. This year, there were enough mentors and mentees for two weekends. I was a driver last weekend, joining about thirty others – many of them camping for the first time. We stopped over in Columbia for lunch on the way to our campsite at Tuttletown. We had a lovely time getting to know each other, figuring out how to raise a tent, singing pop songs, and eating s’mores – and Safa of Libya got to touch a river for the first time ever!

TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program. I have been working with TechWomen since I helped to design it in 2010. Launched in 2011, TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

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Side Garden Upgrade

Katy Dickinson garden, San Jose CA, 23 March 2022

It’s time in the San Francisco Bay Area to start planting our summer vegetables. Since I have some time during GTU‘s Reading Week, I cleared out winter weeds, dug in compost, and added tomatoes, basil, and borage to my planting beds. I left the rhubarb in its wheelbarrow since it seems happy. This year, from Yamagami’s nursery I bought three cherry tomato plants for salads and snacks (Yellow Pear, Sun Sugar Hybrid, and Super Sweet 100), plus three Ace tomatoes for soup. I also upgraded the Guadalupe River bank area next to the planting bed. The big yuccas, huge prickly pear cactus, and an elderberry tree dominate that space. There are also three lavenders (French and English) and two California Sagebrush (Artemisia Californica – from Jessica) continuing from two years ago. I just added four gloriosus “Heart’s Desire” prostrate ceanothus to fill in under and around the cactus. Another ceanothus “Centennial” plus some yarrow (Achillea Little Moonshine, and Red Velvet) will go in the front yard. I mostly add California Native Plants for long-term plantings. I am looking forward to everything growing happily all summer!

Update 24 March: I decided to go camping with Jessica and the TechWomen in Yosemite this weekend, so I planted the ceanothus Centennial in the side yard, supervised by guardian cats Princess and Ketchup. I am also moving some of garden stones into the side yard where they will be more visible.

Update 28 March: My neighbor Russell gave away some of his extra heirloom tomato starts today – so I added a seventh (and final!) plant to my bed. The little plants are enjoying today’s rain.

Ceanothus Centennial, Katy Dickinson garden, San Jose CA, 24 March 2022
Marvel stripe heirloom tomato, 28 March 2022

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TechWomen Team Kenya Outings

TechWomen Team Kenya brunch, 19 March 2022

TechWomen Team Kenya has enjoyed two outings during which we worked on the team project pitch. We went to NightLife at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences, and we had brunch together in Oakland, hosted by my Co-Mentor Ella Morgulis. Co-Mentor Samantha Raniere made ugali and spinach and an apple pie for brunch. Ella and her husband David made chicken, hamburgers, and salad. I brought Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies! We mentors have taken turns driving the mentees to our outings around the Bay Area. Pitch Day will be on Friday, 25 March 2022.

Launched in 2011, TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

TechWomen Team Kenya, California Academy of Sciences, 17 March 2022

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TechWomen Volunteer Day in the Garden

TechWomen Volunteer Day, St.Stephens-in-the-Fields, San Jose, California, 18 Mar 2022

Today was TechWomen Volunteer Day and twenty-three of us gathered at St. Stephen’s-in-the-Field Episcopal Church – Community Garden in San Jose, California, to work together. We divided into three groups: the Hunters (looking for oak seedlings to pot), the Killers (taking down an oleander hedge), and the Diggers (making an accessible path for elder gardeners). We included technical leaders from the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, some of whom were novices and others who had deep gardening experience, as well as two regular community garden volunteers and four TechWomen mentors. My daughter, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, manages the community garden but she was managing another TechWomen volunteer group today, so I was in charge. It was a fun and productive day!

Launched in 2011, TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

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Privilege, Punishment, and Vision

This semester, I am taking a class at the Graduate Theological Union called “Christian Ethics: Radical Love Embodied” from Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics. One of the texts for this class is Dr. Moe-Lobeda’s own 2013 book, Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation. Chapter 4, “Unmasking Evil that Parades as Good,” has caused me to think deeply on how background social and cultural understandings perpetuate and affirm the way things are, even if those understandings are destructive or evil. The author characterizes this as “‘hegemonic vision’… the constellation of socially constructed perceptions and assumptions about ‘what is,’ ‘what could be,’ and ‘what ought to be’ that maintain the power or privilege of some people over others, and ‘blind’ the former to that privilege” (Moe-Lobeda, 88).

Dr. Matthew Clair, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, uses the word hegemony with regard to U.S. law, but does not use the phrase hegemonic vision in his 2020 book Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court. He presents similar concepts, writing of how racism and classism intersect, “I found that the working class and poor, especially racial minorities, often sought to learn their legal rights, contest their defense lawyer’s expertise, and advocate for themselves in court. Meanwhile, the middle-class people I got to know found themselves in trusting relationships with lawyers and thus were more likely to defer to their lawyers and the court. Privileged people were rewarded for their deference, whereas the disadvantaged were punished for their resistance and demands for justice” (Clair, xv). That is, Dr. Clair reports that the U.S. justice system has a vision of how people should behave that is based in middle-class assumptions and communication patterns. He finds that those who are poor or working class who do not communicate as expected are disproportionately penalized.

The Prison Policy Initiative affirmed what Dr. Clair has written in their “Mass Incarceration: the Whole Pie 2020” in which Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner write, “People in prison and jail are disproportionately poor compared to the overall U.S. population. The criminal justice system punishes poverty… Poverty is not only a predictor of incarceration; it is also frequently the outcome.”

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