By Helene A. Matheny
My home office looks like many people work there, or at least someone with as many multiple-personalities as Sybil. You will find on my shelves books on various topics in history, weddings ceremony preparation and readings, dog training techniques, art, and science, all cloistered in their own areas. On my desk you will find three sets of business cards, one for teaching, one for the weddings I perform, and another for the private dog training classes I offer in people’s homes. On top of that, I need to have portable materials ready for each of those roles, because they all require mobility, as the main work of all of them is done at ever-changing locations.
Some people collect stamps, or coins or even Precious Moments figures. I have a collection of globes. But the real clue to my life as a Freeway Flyer is my collection of textbooks and related materials that take up no less than three wide shelves in my library at home. And this is a pruned collection. As an adjunct, once a publisher has gotten hold of my name, I tend to end up with countless instructor’s review copies of not only textbooks, but supplementary materials. These include transparencies, CDs and DVDs, test banks, study guides, and atlases.
The disadvantage of this is, sometimes, being the geek that I am, each new copy is like a distracting new toy – ooh maybe I’ll use this one this semester. Ooooh this one has great maps and sidebars and includes excerpts from original documents!!
The advantage of this is that a number of times I was able to actually choose which text I wanted my students to use, and the college ordered the text. In addition, having all these texts also has added color and depth to my topic as I rewrite my lessons each semester. It is always helpful to have varying points of view to keep the subject matter fresh and interesting.
But sometimes the collection can get redundant. How many editions of How Western Civilization Was Built do I really need? Not to mention six sets of transparencies, now obsolete with the coming of flash drives, PowerPoint, Smartboards and projectors linked to the computer?
Unfortunately, I could never just throw out these items. Instead, I giveaway my excesses through freecycle.org, a great recycling site that has groups in almost every major city. Once a member, you can post items you don’t want for people to claim, and request items you are looking for. The founder set this up because he wanted to re-home items that were still usable to some extent rather than seeing it all end up in landfills. I’ve given away more at this point than I’ve gotten, but it’s nice to know that some of those textbooks, study guides and transparencies have gone to students who can use them.
In the end, I like to think that my Freeway Flyer home office is not so much the sign of a fractured personality, but rather that of a very versatile juggler.
About the Freeway Flyer: Helene Goldstein Matheny received a B.A. in history from Rutgers University, an MA in Russian History and Literature from the University of London, and an M.S.Th. degree from The New Seminary, where she was ordained as an Interfaith Minister. She has lived in Russia and England, and traveled throughout Europe, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. Helene has taught most frequently as an adjunct professor of history for the last ten years in New York, New Jersey and Mississippi, in addition to teaching history, comparative religion and astronomy at museums and other learning institutions. She is also an accredited pet dog trainer, writes freelance, and has presided over hundreds of weddings as an Interfaith Celebrant and currently lives in Purvis, MS with her husband, three parrots, a cat and a dog. Her writing also appears on examiner.com, and her blogs about life in the South and interests in science, spirit and history.