Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feedback, both positive and negative, notable for writer

by Kim Evans for the Herald-Times

It’s hard to believe, but this is my 28th and final column. A year has blown by, and I find myself writing the parting words I knew I’d eventually be searching for.

I am not fond of good-byes; yet, the time has come. In doing so, I’d like to share some notable moments from my past year as a community columnist:

The online poster who threatened to report me to Child Protective Services after reading about me letting my toddler daughter play naked in the yard back in 2001, citing my poor upbringing by a mother who threw peanut shells down a man’s pants.

The gentleman who sent me letters warning against the elusive “I-me-my” syndrome, complete with clippings of my column in which each of these pronouns was circled and counted. I continue to wonder how one is supposed to express one’s opinion in the third person; however, I was flattered that this reader took the time to write and compare me to Bob Hammel, although I never broke his record “I-me-my” word count.

A large number of online comments followed my column about mothers balancing work and family. I was excited that I seemed to touch on a sensitive topic and stir a public conversation.

I gained confidence in writing about the poor public relations on the part of the Bloomington Area Arts Council and their dealing with the funding shortfalls for the Waldron Arts Center.

I thank the BAAC board member who invited me to meet and discuss my ideas for bridge-building, even though I did not accept the invitation. Suddenly, I felt the responsibility of having my opinion published in a public forum.

While the MCCSC budget cuts largely felt too overwhelming for me to tackle, I was able to write about my Bradford Woods memories. There are still columns to be written about the importance of art and music education in public schools.

It was fun to have my column about the long journey through the College Mall ending in a double rainbow linked online to photographs of the rainbow submitted by H-T readers.

My biggest honor came after my graduation address to sixth graders was published, and I discovered my words had inspired individuals to quote excerpts from this column at local life celebration and graduation ceremonies.

This is when I truly felt the power of connecting through the written word.

As I look back, I see a body of work I can be proud of.

This gig has allowed me to develop my writing voice, and for that I am very grateful to Bob Zaltsberg for the opportunity.

I also would like to thank the H-T editors for writing great titles for me on those occasions when I drew blanks.

A big thank you goes out to my writing community at Women Writing for (a) Change, whom often listened to these columns in draft form and continue to celebrate my words.

Also thanks to my Friday night women friends for all their support; and my family, particularly my husband, Trent, for his constant encouragement, and my daughter, Olivia, for her extremely helpful feedback on my drafts.

And finally, I thank the entire Bloomington community for helping this be such a great place to call home.

Farewell for now.

Starting in July, you can find me blogging monthly for the Poplar Grove Muse and here on Cozumel Dreamin.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All encouraged to take advantage of the collective sigh of summer

by Kim Evans for the Herald-Times

By the time this column makes it to print, school will officially be out for summer. I can almost hear the collective sigh as backpacks hit the floor and bare feet touch the grass.

At least, that’s how it was when I was a kid. Now it might be more appropriate to say “when backpacks hit the floor and computer keys start clicking.”

It’s hard not to notice how much technology has shaped how our children spend their free time. Author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods.” He argues that the disconnection between children and nature is unhealthy, leading to behavioral problems and obesity.

I can safely say that I did not suffer from nature deficit disorder as a child. Some of my most rooted experiences occurred in nature when I walked for miles, all by myself, through the neighbor’s yard to the pine tree forest where I’d climb trees before continuing through the fields to play in Stoute’s Creek and the old barn in a field adjacent to Ind. 37. I’d spend hours in the summer on this journey, without a worry. My mother never worried about me; not that she was neglectful, but this was a different era.

Times are so different now. Parents think twice before letting their children camp out in the back yard, much less wander miles from home without supervision. After all, the back yard isn’t considered a secure place anymore, really.

Technology gives us the illusion that the world is much smaller than it used to be, and that means law-abiding citizens feel like they are in closer proximity to those who may do harm to their children. News channels emphasize sensationalistic crimes as they compete for viewer attention. It’s hard not to be fearful and we’re bombarded with bad news day after day. It’s safer to let kids stay inside and play electronic games. Instead of staging a backyard variety show, complete with costumes, choreography and scripts, kids can make videos and post them to YouTube for a worldwide audience to view and comment on. Instead of hiking, kids can visit other planets through Super Mario Galaxy.

The point of this column is not to say “technology: bad; nature: good.” If I had a Macintosh computer with simple video editing software when I was a kid, I would have been making movies, too. A Wii would have lured me away from the outdoors much more often than an electronic round of Pong. My point is to encourage parents to support their children in seeking a balance between the compelling pull of electronics and low-tech outdoor fun.

Bloomington offers so many great outdoor opportunities close to home. Use the extra hour of daylight to rent a canoe at Lake Griffy, go fishing, hike in Brown County or McCormick’s Creek State Park, or discover the waterfall at Lower Cascades Park. If you’re home during the day, turn on the sprinkler when the sun is at its hottest. Make homemade Popsicles by freezing fruit juice in ice cube trays. In the evening, poke holes in the lid of a jar, fill it with grass and catch some lightning bugs with your child to light up their bedroom for a night. Set them free the next morning and do it all over again.

Whatever you do, enjoy your summer. This next school year is going to be an interesting one.