Thursday, December 31, 2009

Overheard: Vertigo

Vertigo is not the fear of falling. It is the fear of wanting to fall.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Giving

I was standing in line at one of the most frantic toy stores in the world - the one that is always out of what you came to buy, even if you're going in August, even if what you want has nothing to do with Christmas - and I was kicking myself for being there for a couple of reasons:

#1 Rich and I decided that we would make our Christmas gifts this year which we are frantically currently doing. Why, then, were we at the toy store, annoyed, trying to find presents for our son and the nieces and nephews in our family? The excuses ranged from, "Well, kids don't understand the gesture of a handmade gift. They want toys! And it's Christmas, for the love of God! (Yes, go ahead and laugh at the irony.) It takes a level of maturity to understand that 'I love and value you' does not have to mean 'store bought and popular'," to "while noting that consumerism is way out of control in our country and that what we need is not more 'stuff,' we really wanted to give a meaningful, handmade gift to our loved ones because, honestly, we couldn't think of anything good enough to buy. We were being hypocrites by making everyone else's gift but his!"
#2 I hate toy stores, especially at Christmas. They beat the joy right out of gift-giving.
The Advent Conspiracy asks people to shop less and give people something more precious - your time, your attention, your love. Give presence, not presents. I love that idea, but it goes against the West's culture of gift giving - of black Friday and 'finding the best deals', of waking up at four in the morning and standing in line in the cold to get the "perfect" gift. It's easy to poo poo the West for being so materialistic, but at the same time I think that the sentiment is in the right place, even if it is misdirected a little.

Herein lies the dilemma. Giving, something that should be lovely and selfless, becomes stressful and problematic. And that's mostly why we decided to only give handmade gifts this year - to combine the present and the presence. The toy store was out of the item we wanted to buy for Jack. Was it a sign? Maybe. Who's to say what Jack will find under the tree this holiday.
As for the rest of our family, hopefully everyone will love their handmade gifts:









Love, Ginger and Rich
This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic and post responses - all of us together at the same time, even though we are continents apart. (Lovely!) Introducing Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Parade of Lights

My mom owes me twenty bucks.*

During the last afternoon of her visit, we piled in the car to get our ritual town coke** and decided to check out the prices for our community's "Parade of [Christmas] Lights" exhibit. The sign read, "$15 per car Monday-Thursday; $20 on the week ends."

Fully aware that our one-and-a-half year old son, Jack, loves lights we knew we had to go. Evidence: when Jack wakes up he runs to the living room, points to the Christmas tree and says, "chee!" (his word for tree, the sentiment being, "Momma, could we please turn on the lights on the Christmas tree?"), and then he whirls around to the kitchen and says, "nomin?," translated as "snowman?" our other light-up decoration we keep by his seat at the kitchen table. And then there are the lights around our front door, a little strand of red and white that we haphazardly threw up just to say we decorated. At night he sees lights on the other houses in our neighborhood. He points at them and yells, "Oh Wow!" And then there are the normal lights in the house - the fan light, and the bathroom light, and the kitchen light, all the normal lamps and flashlights, etc. that he notices. With delight he exclaims, "Ooooh!" as we illuminate each of them through the course of the evening.

That afternoon Mom said, "Ginger, you have to take Jack to see the Parade of Lights. In fact you might have to leave the Christmas tree up all year! He loves it! I'll leave you the money to go. Just promise me you'll take him!"

She forgot to leave the money, but we were convinced we had to go.

And we went.

We left right as the sun was slumping on the horizon and the sky was that gorgeous deep blue, the color that makes a whimsical impression and then quickly fades to black. I wanted to be sure to be at the front of the line at that moment in order to avoid the crowd. Already lines of cars, bumper to bumper, sat in two lanes full of families who were eager, if not a little impatient, to see the festive spectacle. I remembered to bring snacks and the eclectic "Happy Holy Days"CD my friend Russell for us. All was perfect!

When we got to the entrance, we paid, turned off our headlights as per the sign, and I pulled Jack out of his car seat into my lap so that he could see better. We drove through the maze of lights. There were a million things to see: blinking toy soldiers, a hundred Santas making toys, reindeer attending flight school, angels heralding, elves having snowball fights, deer leaping, squirrels throwing nuts, - a billion, trillion things to look at!

Despite the glowing wonderland around us, Jack was most interested in the floorboard of the car. He squatted on the floor and did his best to be in the way. He found the car's hazard light button which he rhythmically pressed in time to the Happy Holy Days CD. We tried to point and squeal like he does every morning to trick him into being interested, but he fussed and wanted down, and needed to do everything except look at lights. In short, going to the Parade of Lights was a nightmare for our son.

At the end of the trail was a lovely carnival complete with rides, funnel cakes, and pictures with Santa. Jack looked around, blinking, drooling, bored. We even took him on his first carousel ride. His expression remained blank as the horses went up and down and the lights spun around him. One cup of wassail later (Rich and I needed something to make it worth our while), we got back into the car to head home. Our baby had defeated us.

As soon as we pulled into our driveway and drug ourselves out of the car to come inside, Jack saw the piddly lights around the door. For the first time that night and with an expression of complete awe and wonder on his face, he exclaimed, "OH WOW!"

Of course.

* Mom, You don't really owe me $20. You do too much already! :)
** Town cokes are sacred.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Times Remembered

“Remember : Don’t jump off the roof.”

My dad said this to me at the end of our last phone conversation. Actually, he says this every time we part and has done so for years. To my husband he says about me, “Make sure she doesn’t jump off the roof, ok?” This is his way of concluding a conversation. It’s his, “Take care” or “I’ll see you soon” or any other end of an encounter- a complimentary close, a final remark.

“Don’t jump off the roof” is also a literal warning, as in when I was a little girl, I did jump off the roof of my house on his watch, and the impression of that event has left a 30 year old blemish on my dad’s psyche that is only apparent to me, as he delivers that mantra every time he leaves a room that I’m standing in.
-
Postulate A:
Oftentimes memories are simply interpretive imprints that mark beginnings of character definitions.

Example 1: The day one gets braces on his teeth is marked as the beginning of one’s teeth being straightened, and can be defined as the moment one began to hope he might become more attractive someday. The memory of getting one’s braces removed, as follows, is the beginning of learning how to live as one who once had braces and then braces himself for one of two experiences: a.) finding out that braces indeed made people more attracted to him as evidenced by the hoards of other straight-teethed people beating down his door to be near him or b.) realizing that having braces changed nothing except, possibly, his overbite, and now he has to cope with the understanding that there is no such thing as a sure method of becoming more attractive.

Either way, the memories that act as beginnings of life-defining moments have burrowed themselves into the brain; no matter how many times or from how many places they jump, the synapses will never be the same.

So it goes with remembering.
-
“One.. two..three..No, WAIT!” A breath. “Ok. This time I’ll do it. One..two.. three..Not yet!” I was sitting at the top peak of our single story house, my legs dangling off the side. I wanted to get down, but I was forbidden to use the ladder. That was the rule. “Ginger, if I let you come with me onto the roof, you must promise that you won’t climb down the ladder by yourself.”

I promised.

My father was working on the air conditioner and didn’t have time for my wandering spirit or my wayward bladder.

My memory of that moment is very clear. I stared at the ground pretending that the passing of time was my ally – I imagined just how it must feel to jump off, to land, and to be on the ground remembering what it was like to have jumped. “It will seem like I flew down.” I put myself safely on the ground in my mind and in doing so, strengthened my resolve to go ahead and jump. I couldn’t conceive of going back, nor could I imagine asking to climb down the ladder after making such a fool-proof agreement. “Of course, I’ll mind you, Dad. No, I won’t go down the ladder. I promise.”

Clearly, this – the jumping - had to happen. I steeled myself as, for the last time, I whispered, “One… two.. three!”

I jumped.
-
Postulate B
The problem with successful beginnings is that they make a person feel invincible.

Example 2: If a person jumps off the roof of her house as a kid, lands and sits down, thinks, “Ok. That’s that,” and then goes inside the house to resume normalcy, the rest of her life is filled with that expectation – that if one imagines she can do something, isn’t breaking any solid promises, and feels confident that a little leap is worth a result, her life is filled with similar attempts. In a way, it’s like a personal dare: I dare you to kiss that boy. I dare you to go to college. I dare you to get married, to buy a house, to have a baby, to sell away your comfortable situation and start it all over again. I dare you! And after you’ve done it, imagine how relieved you’ll feel!
-
How scary it must be for one to realize how little control he can have over impressionable beginnings. Even more frightening is the realization that one had no idea, until, for example, the day that his daughter jumped off the roof, that that was the beginning of how she would interpret herself: as that girl – the one who would jump off the roof, the one who would find her way around the promises, the one who would extract herself from the uncomfortable circumstance, the one who would consider flying as the first step in the resolution to find normalcy.

This post was written for the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic and post responses - all of us together at the same time even though we are continents apart. (Lovely!) As soon as I get my act together, I'll link everyone here.. :) Until then, you'll notice the others hanging out in the comments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One can't believe impossible things?

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

-Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking Glass

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 things that are true this week:

1. My son is one and a half years old this week.
2. My IB students aced an important and incredibly difficult assessment.
3. This assessment was given all day Friday, Saturday, and today at our district's professional development center.
4. Giving this assessment at the PDC meant I missed two days of work, even though I was working extremely hard.
5. Missing work means that the rest of my students not taking the assessment were complete asshats, which is all the administration at my school sees.
6. The babysitter has strep throat which means I'm going to miss more school to stay home with my kid, thus giving the asshats further excuse to continue their asshattery.
7. I don't care.
8. Tomorrow I have to hire a different babysitter to watch the kid for a couple of hours so that I can attend the funeral of my good friend's 21 year old son who was murdered during a random home invasion.
9. He was shot in the leg and bled out while he was being Careflighted to the hospital.
10. He was a great kid with a bright future and was engaged to be married.
11. I don't understand
12. Tonight I went in to tuck-in my baby boy; he was awake, so I rocked him, and hugged him close. He smiled up at me and my heart was warm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday Night Salon

When was the last time you had a genuine conversation--an experience not of mere self-assertion but of speaking and listening as though you had something both to offer and to receive? Our habits of language define us, but the pace of our lives is such that the simple gestures of listening carefully and speaking prudently are amazingly rare. The Friday Night Salon aims at being an alternative to the urban rush that denies the civilizing graces of community. We begin with good food and drink, then take our places in a circle for discussion about a variety of relevant, substantial topics. It's a welcome way to end the Dallas workweek.

Salon Topics--December 11, 2009

1. Is business a "calling"?

2. The public virtues

3. Is Dallas becoming more intellectual--or less? (I think you could insert your city in place of "Dallas", and also I want to add, "Is it a good thing for a city to become more intellectual?")

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Karmic Collision

I should've known yesterday that my day would be a challenge when on my drive to work a car swerved out of its lane on the highway, perpendicularly crossed two lanes of traffic, drove down a moderately steep but definitely bumpy median towards a gas station, hooked a sharp u-turn- I assume upon the realization of what speeding recklessly into a gas station truly might feel like- into oncoming traffic on the access road, and then stopped abruptly.

In that instant, my mantra turned from a zombie-esque, "coffee. coffee. coffee," to more of a horrified, "Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!"

Apparently, I was not the only one who had a reaction, as several cars had to pull over to steady themselves.. or to stop in case the imminent accident were to require witness reports. I'm not sure which. I do know that if the latter is true, I was certainly one among them since I was weighing whether or not I would be able to: a.)see a car roll 5 times across a median and render aid b.)watch a car drive into the side of a gas station, burst into flames, and then be mentally Ok at having seen that happen c.)watch a car drive headfirst into another car, an all to popular murder/suicide method in this area.

What exactly was my responsibility in a situation like this? What I really wanted to do was keep driving and pretend that nothing happened. But then I'm far too responsible (or weak depending on interpretation) to ever be the girl who drives off to cope with whatever guilty instability witnessing something like that would entail. Luckily for me there were no injuries, only a severe traffic violation. Unfortunately, however, the rest of my day picked up the slack - havoc for whatever karma didn't come around in one specific accident. Five discipline referrals and an injured body later (I fell again at school), I limped my way through my front door, stupidly dedicated to "trying again" tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BeadforLife

I'm in Florida at a conference for work today and was pleasantly surpirsed to see advocates for BeadforLife selling necklaces and bracelets in the lobby of the hotel! Their necklaces and bracelets make excellent gifts, and Christmas time is the perfect occassion to help people in need. Here's What BeadforLife is about:


BeadforLife eradicates extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. Ugandan women turn colorful recycled paper into beautiful beads, and people who care open their hearts,homes and communities to buy and sell the beads.The beads thus become income, food, medicine, school fees and hope. It is a small miracle that enriches us all.




Our beaders and tailors are primarily impoverished women who are hardworking, intelligent, and strong in their desire to improve their lives. They make gorgeous handcrafted paper beads from recycled paper and turn them into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Because the beaders use recycled, colorful paper, the beads help prevent environmental degradation. What was trash becomes beauty, money, food, and hope.
Click here to see how a bead is rolled

Our goal is for our members to be independent of BeadforLife within 27 months by being able to support themselves within the Ugandan economy. To assist members in launching their own small businesses or in creating new revenue streams, we provide entrepreneurial training, facilitate savings accounts, and make business funds available.

I addition to buying and selling the beads, BeadforLife sponsors Community Development projects in health, vocational training for impoverished youth, affordable housing, and business development. These projects are supported with the net profits from the sale of the beads, and support not only beaders, but other impoverished people living in Uganda. See how many people we have touched in our first years.

BeadforLife is guided by the following principles:

Creating businesses and jobs through entrepreneurial development is a more sustainable approach to poverty eradication than providing aid. Rather than becoming dependent on handouts from abroad, members build their skills and long-term capacities through meaningful creative work.

Concerned citizens in resource-abundant countries care about the issues of extreme poverty and are willing to get involved.

Paying the members fair trade prices allows them to meet their daily economic needs. Investing 100% of our net profits in community development projects for impoverished Ugandans allows for a long-term sustainable future.

Working together enriches all of us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

American Gods

Christine introduced me to this book yesterday. More than wanting to read the book, I think the idea is interesting - that the God(s) of yore, whatever name you give him, can't survive in America for all of the demi-gods - money, Internet, reality TV shows, talking heads, patriotism, etc. - that distract us. I'm not feeling especially spiritual at the moment, but I can say that I understand the lightning speed chaos that stems from worshipping such idols. The intriguing thing is we don't even know we're doing it. In some cases, we've snowed ourselves into believing that we can be faithful in the midst of such distractions, and feel, dare I use the word, "righteous" in our justifications that are rooted in distraction.

From Publishers Weekly
Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intr
iguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia.

I don't mean to bash faith or religion, or secularization for that matter. I, for one, can't be on any high horse crusade when it comes to spirituality. No one can be, actually (and ironically).

A few years ago, I audited a class that proposed that the reason people/nations war is because they are afraid of losing their cultural identities, that clinging to one's norms in acts of desperation precipitates violence. This makes me think about our country, the "most powerful nation in the world," and what exactly our "norms" are. Are we being clingy? And if so, for what purpose? And do we really want to protect our brand of godliness?

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's the end of PoMo as we know it..

..and I feel fine.

Ok. So I did it. I posted everyday this month and managed not to die. Some days not dying seemed like a victory - not that dying was truly a possibility; it's just an exaggeration (,Mom,) - that I was so stupidly busy that death seemed like a viable option. No, not "viable" because that means "living," and a living death seems ridiculous, though I do feel like the living dead some days. "Feasible" is a more likely adjective, I think.

Anyway, I wrote three or four "good" posts, "good" meaning "I don't hate them", and the rest were pretty much fluff, thus proving that I really should only blog when I have something to say or am prompted. I already knew that about myself - just like I knew that I only wanted to practice the piano when I felt like it, or like I knew that I wanted to take dance class on my own schedule. I don't think it's unusual to not want to do homework. When requirements and parameters are involved, even the things we enjoy doing become chores. Still, I need something to prod me in the right direction.

If you have any ideas about prodding sites (mind out of the gutter, Christine!), let me know..
:)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I found my brolly!

It's such a silly little proclamation, but I think the memory of it is what matters. A few years ago, I was in London by myself. I had been in Oxford for a teacher training, but returned to London to have some independent time and to make sure that I could travel without a companion, a challenge that forced me to rely on my own intuition. My London friend, Mark, with whom I visited earlier in the week, let me camp out at his house for free while he was away on business. Free was the only way I could make staying work.

But there I was, in London roaming around, blissfully lost in thought. It had sprinkled on and off as is the usual London M.O. and I stupidly hadn't remembered to pack an umbrella. When the sprinkling switched to more of a downpour, I ducked into a little shop and found a small black umbrella adorned with silver moths. The moth is my power animal insect, so the brolly - the charming nickname Brits use in lieu of the more vulgar sounding 'umbrella' - was clearly meant for me. I bought it and then hoped it would rain for the rest of my stay.

When I returned home, faced with the arid climate of Texas, I put away the umbrella for the rare rainy day. Unfortunately until today, I hadn't remembered where I stored it.

Every time rain was in the forecast, I went hunting for the brolly. Hours and hours were spent digging for and cussing over and fretting about that little umbrella, the only meaningful souvenir I had bought on that trip. It was more than a thing. It was a reminder of that specific time in my life, that journey. And I had lost it.

Today while I was looking for something in a cabinet, I spotted something silver way, way in the back. As I focused in on the silver, I realized it was a moth! My moth! I began flinging all of the clutter aside and reached for the umbrella.

"I found it! My brolly! Rich! I found it! It's here!!" And I went dancing around the house with it. The celebration went on for an hour, at least (Sorry, Rich). I may sleep with it tonight. I am so glad to have it back.

Like I said, it's silly, silly, silly, silly!

And still, I found my brolly!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Drive Home - The short version

1:00 - Fussy baby. Time to go.
Rationale - Baby will fall asleep on car ride home, will wake up in time for snack.

2:00 - One hour in. Five to go. Baby has napped for 30 minutes. Stop at Dairy Queen in nondescript town for a Blizzard fix.
Rationale: We only treat ourselves to Blizzards on road trips. We more than deserve this one, plus it is an opportunity to get milk for the baby so he'll go back to sleep.

3:00 - Baby not asleep. Break out the snacks.
Rationale: Baby will eat a healthy snack and will go to sleep when full. No fast food for him.

4:00 - Baby not asleep. Momma crawls into the backseat to entertain fussy baby. In 20 miles is a rest area.. no in 40 miles. Still, we will stop no matter what.. unless the baby falls asleep.
Rationale: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has stopped working. We have to do something.

4:40 - Rest area break. Play on playground but "Caution. Watch for Rattlesnakes." We play anyway.
Rationale: Surely rattlesnakes won't be out today.. Surely.. Plus playing will make the baby tired, right?

6:00 - We should stop for dinner, unless baby is asleep. Or unless he is pacified, in which case we will continue with the healthy snacks and will soldier on.
Rationale: There would only be one hour left in the trip. It would be ridiculous to stop for dinner and then wrestle the baby back into the car seat that he REALLY REALLY hates at the moment.

6:30 - We soldiered on. It was a mistake. Traffic is at a standstill because of an accident. We can almost see home. We should take the nearest exit, but we won't.
Rationale: Where the hell does the exit lead? It's better to be safe, even though it will take longer than expected to get home and the baby is STILL not asleep and is cranky from being hungry and tired.

6:45 - Still stopped. On an overpass. SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT. Why didn't we take the goddamn exit? The baby is SCREAMING. I beg husband (who is now the passenger)to do something.
Rationale: Mental breakdown is coming.

7:00 - Same overpass. Same stop. Baby is going to make himself sick with all of the crying. Momma starts crying.
Rationale: All hope is gone. We will never get home. We should've stopped for dinner. We should've taken the exit. Why did we go on this fu*king trip, anyway? In-laws? Why am I even married. Life is ridiculous. And why haven't the police even attempted to direct traffic? This is bullshit.

7:10 - OK. We're calm.
Rationale: At least we're not the ones in the accident.

7:15 - We're moving. Go go go go go.
Rationale: Try not to speed. Or miss any exits.

8:10 - We're home. Make quick and easy dinner. Change baby. Put him to bed. Enjoy glass of wine.Blog this.
Rationale: Phew. This wasn't the worst ride home ever. That was last year. And NaBloPoMo can suck it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Standard

We sat around the table, a blended family, which afforded everyone the opportunity to sit in awkward silence. "Happy Thanksgiving" was trailer to the shortest, most repeated conversation of the day: "Hi, I'm (so-and-so), (so-and-so's)daughter-in-law, (so-and-so's) wife, and this is my son/daughter, (so-and-so). He's (this age). Um.. Nice to meet you, too. Happy Thanksgiving."

Of course there were the standard acknowledgements - "The turkey is so moist!"; "The corn casserole is amazing, and it's just cream cheese, corn, and green chilies? Cool."; "Who made the dressing?"; "What is this, again?" and so forth.

And the standard jokes - "I wonder if we could get away with 'Turkey Treating,' going door to door with a sack for whatever people are willing to drop in.." and, "I wonder how many houses we could walk into and just serve ourselves, where the family members would whisper in the corner about who's cousin/ex/niece we were," and for both, "How many houses could we hit before we got too full?"

I suppose this is the fairly normal Thanksgiving conversation, and I don't mean to make it sound horribly generic. There is a comfort to gathering around a table and sharing a meal as tradition dictates. I love my family, the new members - the idea that really, they're accepting me into their rituals, the ones I am just now learning. But we all secretly admit that we hope something dramatic happens - something that will bond us so that next Thanksgiving, the conversation can start with, "Hi again! Remember last year when (this incredibly dramatic, gossip worthy event) happened? Yeah. That was nuts. So how have you been since then?"

Thank God for football.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, Y'all!
(from the Flatlands)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It is probably inappropriate for me to send what I'm about to say into the blogosphere because it is something so personal, so intimate that no one but the intended recipient should hear it. Unfortunately, because of the nature of our relationship, and because time separates even people who intend to keep in touch, this is the only way I know how to reach out to you.

Listen. I can't say anything to make what you're going through easier. I can't pretend that I understand even a little bit. There is nothing I can say that will be of any comfort or help. In this way I am completely impotent. All I can do is say that you got dealt a shitty hand. What you're going through is inconceivable - a fucking nightmare. It goes against any thinking that the world is in any way good or beautiful or natural, against the things that I taught you were truths, the things that are lovely.

I'm sorry. So sorry.

And I'm here if you need to reach out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Appearances are what they seem

A woman in a brown squaw dress ran by me as I parked the car on my way to a much needed hair appointment. I took a mental snapshot - a Polaroid of something that my brain should have recognized as unusual but that left me, instead, an imprint to consider. The initial negative indicated that the beading on the dress looked awful, fake even, and probably it looked that way because the beading was plastic, not at all authentic. Then came the color: "I know people can be eccentric and all but gah. I mean, sometimes the hair salon is where folks are able to express themselves without judgement, but.. Am I judging? Is she wearing boots? Would boots go with a squaw dress? Surely, they must. Or sandals. Leather, strappy ones. This must be a product of some sort of Abercrombie ad, and shouldn't her hair be braided on each side of her face instead of down and frizzy? Abercrombie loves braids. And oh wait - is that a sucker in her mouth?"

The answer to the last question was yes. This is when I allowed myself the double take and realized that this woman was not a woman after all. She was a kid - a kid in a squaw dress, probably the product of a blue light special rather than an Abercrombie fashion attempt. Her hair was unkept because she had probably played at P.E., a common thing for 4th or 5th graders to do. She wasn't making a fashion statement. She was running an errand for her mom. "Get my purse out of the car," I imagined was the order, or, "Bring mommy her cigarettes." Something like that.

I snorted at the brain frenzy I wasted on that moment - a brutal barrage of thought per millisecond - and went into the salon.

Later, my hair goupy with hair dye, a metal pick in hand for the itchy places, I settled in under the UV dryer with a People Magazine that promised all the juicy details of Elizabeth Smart's ordeal overcome by Mormonism and David Letterman's stoicism in the face of extortion - yes, he had affairs with interns, but he's such a brooding man, a kind, brooding man - and Angelina and Brad's twins at the airport (again). That's when I heard Squaw girl's mom in the next room. I couldn't see her, but the conversation was loud enough that I may as well have been in the same room.

I tried not to listen but I figured that distraction from People Magazine wasn't entirely a bad thing, and depending on what I heard, might even be a good thing.. or a most terrible one, in which case how would I know unless I listened.. Right? So I listened.

The mom was on and on about her Botox touch up. How her personal trainer was overcharging her $10 a session. How she wished her daughter (who was getting her hair done) would just cut off all of her hair, and that if she didn't sit still, the hairdresser would have to cut it all off because she would have to keep evening it out..blah blah blah. People Magazine won.

As I was finishing up with my hairdresser, I caught a glimpse of the mom and her squaw. I thought, "Wow. She looks like every other typical mom. I never would've guessed that a person who was waffling on about personal trainers and Botox would be of average size, wearing typical mom jeans, and sporting a typical mom do. I wouldn't say that she was especially pretty or witty at all.

It was an unexpected realization and I began to giggle at the irony. I mean, who did she think she was with all of that talk? Someone off the cover of People? Katie Holmes in disguise? And what was she teaching her kid?

That's when I saw myself in the mirror - getting my hair dyed and trimmed - my own version of the blue light special - awful, plastic, fake even - not at all authentic.

Everyday is Halloween in America.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Futures up for grabs!

So, we actually did it. We officially signed up for the international job fair in February. Saying it outloud makes it so much more real (as if the credit card statement wasn't real enough!). Real and scary. And exciting and wonderful and how much should I get my hopes up?

Anyway, schools we hope to interview with include ones in Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Aberdeen (Scotland), and Costa Rica. Those are the ones who could potentailly hire a "team" - as in Rich and me together.

Ideally we'd get hired at a United World College, even though I'd have to apply for those jobs separately. Also, I may have a prospect in North London which would be great since I know some folks there and am less intimidated by British culture shock.

It would be smarter financially for us to stay in the US one more year. But then, when were we ever smart?

Onward to February!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Romantic

by Margaret Atwood

Men and their mournful romanticism
that can't get the dishes done – that's freedom,
that broken wineglass
in the cold fireplace.

When women wash underpants, it's a chore.
When men do it, an intriguing affliction.
How plangent, the damp socks flapping on the line,
how lost and single in the orphaning air . . .

She cherishes that sadness,
tells him to lie down in the grass,
closes each of his eyes with a finger,
applies her body like a poultice.

You poor thing, the Australian woman
while he held our baby –
as if I had forced him to do it,
as if I had my high heel in his face.

Still, who's taken in?
Every time?
Us, and our empty hands,
the hands of starving nurses.

It's bullet holes we want to see in their skin,
scars, and the chance to touch them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Record Labels

There is a very heavy moment that happens every year in the second right after a student asks me the most dreaded question they dare: "So, what kind of music do you listen to?" The room usually goes silent, every kid waiting to know if my taste matches theirs, for better or for worse, and what my musical inclinations say about me. In that very moment, judgement hangs in the room in the same way that it hung in the Coliseum when the spectators awaited Caesar's signal - will it be life or death for the poor gladiator English teacher?

I always feel like my answer will color the rest of the year, that either they'll respect me for being like minded, they'll shove me into the "old maid" pile, or they'll shrug me off with a label - emo, techno, bubble gum, navel gazer, screamo - or something like that. "Is the cool teacher really cool?" they'll ask, "or have we been snowed the last few months?"

I know it's silly to assign so much meaning to one question and to care about what the answer says about me. Still, I usually answer vaguely - the ole "I listen to all sorts of music," song and dance. But they know as well as I do, that my usual answer is pretty much a cop out. That's why this year I decided to go with, "Actually, lately I'm really interested in this new radio station that plays mostly indie music from people who record in their own homes. You know, the starving musicians who can't afford a fancy recording studio and who refuse sell out to some corporate label. Yeah. I'm into that."

They bought it! I didn't mention that it's the new NPR music station I'm talking about. They didn't ask, as they were nodding approval and wondering what "indie" means.

(Speaking of snowed..)

But there it is. I survived the question one more year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My time fairy is murdered.

So, it turns out it is surprisingly difficult to write a blog post with a toddler crawling up your leg, crying because you're not paying attention to him RIGHT NOW, with Sesame Street blaring in the background. Add to that a day of high school seniors doing the exact same thing but less endearingly, and what you're left with is a very tired girl whose stress-o-meter points to "OVERLOAD," one tick away from "SHOOT ME."

I realize I've been shitty at this year's NaBloPoMo - as in I've posted- which is good- but I haven't written a whole lot - which, for me, is bad. This is the opposite of what I had hoped would happen. I suppose I thought the magic time fairy would descend upon my world, creating just the right duration for me to calm down from school, be inspired by something, write intelligently about that something, and then have time for things like getting the rest of my ridiculous work load done, making dinner, playing with Jack, bath time, and all the other responsibilities I have, with a few hours left for working out, baking cookies or making sock puppets and homemade glitter, or another some such that perfect moms in a perfect universe do perfectly to make the rest of us feel inadequate.

My time fairy did descend, as requested, but then she did the most disturbing, rude thing one can do to a woman whose stress-o-meter is one tick away from "SHOOT ME." She laughed. In my face. For entire seconds (because who could spare more?). She then flipped me off, turned tail, and flew away.

That's why I had to kill her.

I should tell you that killing time fairies is extremely easy. Turn on one episode of Glee and you'll understand what I mean. TV is the only weapon you'll need..

I wish I could be the type of person who spins plates on poles while doing a back bend and making sandwiches with a smile on my face. But I can't be that girl, no matter how hard I try, (and my smile is usually observed as a grimace). I'm exhausted. Did I mention I have a toddler?

I'll just have to learn to be Ok with writing when I can. Also, I'll have to hope that you'll be patient with me - understanding that I'm trying to visit when I can, that I miss you, and I want to know what's going on in your lives.

In the mean time, I'll try to keep you posted.

Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful for Christine

The folks over at ModCloth are affording me the opportunity via their ModCloth Thank-a-thon contest to write about a person I am thankful for. Please enjoy my extremely sincere attempt:

The Office Supply Store:

“Do you think it’s worth a dollar fifty to make our boss happy?” I asked her. We were standing in front of a depleted end cap at Staples, weighing whether or not a package of multi-expressioned smiley face push pins would be part of our next diabolical plan. A stranger standing next to us, pretending to ignore our conversation, smothered a snort.

School:

FISH. It’s an acronym for something. I have no idea what it stands for other than it’s in a book , one that’s among the favorite self help texts used, supposedly, for breathing life back into stifled, floundering grade school faculties across the country. Campuses, at this very moment, are having staff retreats – playing “get-to-know-you” games that involve answering questions like, “How have you made you students’ day? If you have a story about that, grab a red construction paper fish from the pile,” and “How have you been there for the kids lately? Take a green fish if you have,” or “Take a yellow fish if you’ve played lately.” Think, pair, share; think, pair, share. “Now, everybody, throw your fish.”

Or something like that.

It’s times like these, when I’m sitting in the middle of a faculty FISH exercise, a pile of papers in my inbox needing to be marked, that I’m glad to have my equally cynical cohort, my accomplice extraordinaire, Christine, sitting next to me. Mocking such endeavors in the form of secretly exchanged glances, or the defacement of construction paper fish, or by the planning and executing of diabolical plans – chocked full of jackholery - are the only ways we know how to deal with the overwhelming proof that in our country teachers are not considered intellectuals.

Apparently, we’re FISH.

Choose your attitude:

A black and white printout touting this message is taped on the back of the main office door, so that when one exits the office, she sees the sign. Underneath the message are two faces, the elementary equivalent of theater masks: a happy face and a sad one.

“What’s up with this sign? I would wager that it’s part of the FISH philosophy,” I said to Christine as we walked together out of the office.

“Dude. There are more than two choices aren’t there? I mean what about being mad (zigzag mouth) or surprised (large oval mouth) or indifferent (a line)? Are these two the only options? ”

“We should add the others. Obviously, this sign is lacking.”

It was agreed. With enthusiasm, everyone, including the office staff, riffled through their desk drawers looking for markers, finding any excuse to throw caution to the wind.

“This will be a great joke,” we exclaimed. “It’ll make our boss’s day! She’ll laugh at our ingenuity and praise us for playing! This is our way of FISHing without being intrusive! And she’ll understand that positive change comes from all sorts of places, including sad faces. It will be brilliant!!”

Markers in hand, we set about “correcting” the sign. We added all sorts of facial options, delighting in our creative genius, liberating the masses, hoisting our own petards! We were cheered and revered by all and, after many high fives and giggles, our mission complete, we skipped back to the realities of our lives – down the hall to our respective classrooms.

The Next Day:

The next day the sign had been replaced with a new, clean printout. The glory of our masterpiece had been taken down without the slightest acknowledgement or reprimand, thrown like a dead fish onto a trash heap.

The Office Supply Store:

Christine raised an eyebrow and smirked. “It might not be worth making the boss happy, but a dollar fifty to make us happy? Absolutely, it’s worth it.”

“I’ll take two packages. Let’s add a card that says ‘See! There are more than two attitude choices!” I said with a fist in the air.

“And we’ll put one package on our boss’s desk when she’s not looking!”

“Yes! And I’ll divide the other one between us as souvenirs.”

And we skipped off to the checkout counter having crafted a new reality, one that involved as many expressions - diabolical glee, perhaps - as we could imagine.

** Thank you, Christine, for being my very dear friend - the one who hears me, goes to bat for me, and is a complete jackhole, no matter what others think, with me. I am thankful for you, always and forever. I love you!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Overheard: Salon

During a break from the titillating stimulation of dead white men like Sir Francis Bacon and Mr. Winston Smith*, a side conversation at the salon:

Him: "So, what's your favorite male, angry dance moment in an 80's movie?"

Me: (inquisitive, befuddled brow, clearly (though I couldn't see myself) since he had to give a patient example)

Him: "For example, mine's Kevin Bacon - when he does that angry gymnastics dance in the warehouse in the movie Footloose."

Her: "Right. And mine is Emilio Estevez's detention dance in The Breakfast Club."

Me: (smiling) You've given this a lot of thought, haven't you. That's why I love you both, dearly. "I'm not sure.."

**Technically Winston Smith isn't dead, but come on! The bullet's coming any day now, right?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Salon!

What do you think?:

1. Should convictions become more or less settled with increasing age?

2. Orwell’s Big Brother—still watching 25 years later: how’s He doing?

3. Is business a “calling”?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jubilation Awry

After a day of begging for money patron gathering for the latest edition of In the Margins (the most amazing magazine in the history of the known YOUniverse and probably beyond), the LitMag navel gazers convene for a time of sharing.

navel gazer 1: We're, like, so excited! Our group got two patrons!!!

navel gazer 2: Yeah. We got $20 from a bakery, AND we got a little something from Golden Chick.

[Navel gazer 2 hands a check to the head navel gazer, a.k.a. their teacher, a.k.a. me.]

head navel gazer: (shocked, with a smudge of disbelief) What? Am I reading this correctly? Is that a 3?

navel gazers 1 and 2: (Nodding, their smiles exploding off of their faces) Can you believe it?

head navel gazer: Oh my gosh! We got a $350.00 patron!!! With the rest of our account, we finally have enough money to publish this semester's magazine!!!

all: (various expressions of gratitude and god praising and glee and jubilation)Wow! Golden Chick is our muse! Our golden, platinum, muse!!!

navel gazer 3: This calls for a group jumping hug!!

all: (run a little too enthusiastically to each other, form a group hug and begin jumping and giggling together. Then there is awkward silence as they realize what they are, in fact, doing. They separate awkwardly)

[a pause in the space/time continuum]

navel gazer 4: Let's promise to never do that again, ok?

all: Ok.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Advent Conspiracy


The story of Christ's birth is a subversive story of an upside-down kingdom. It's a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love that is still changing the world to this day. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling that we somehow missed its purpose.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again by turning our focus back to the birth of Christ? What could happen to your family if this focus was celebrated in loud, bold and totally unexpected ways? What if you could actually trade your season of stress for a season celebration and unbelievable memories with your friends and family? What if all of this could save a life at the same time? It can.

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy
Learn more at www.adventconspiracy.org

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Worrisome

on Predator Drone Missle Attacks, in our own words:

Anticapatory self-defense,
"Virtuless killing"
Cubicle warriors
"Squirters" (the targeted people who run for cover as seen on a computer screen)
Rubble and charred stuff
Extrajudicial killings
"The only game in town"
worryingly seductive war, perceived as "costless"
[not] an honorable way of combat

* all phrases are from "The Predator War: What are the risks of the CIS's covert drone program?" by Jane Mayer. The New Yorker Magazine. October 26, 2009.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rich

Happy birthday, Wratch!!! You're the best husband on the planet!! Thank you for choosing me daily.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Moment

by Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

For Your Information Age

I can see how data and information can be seen as something that can cause the collapse of civilization, lest we forget what happened in Eden, the fruit that was consumed. But also, we've always had to sieve through the information we've been given, and now we have to be much more adept at doing so than ever before. I would assert that the problem is not that society is becoming lazy in their thinking. We're always looking for loopholes to not have to physically work as hard (a problem in itself, as Gandhi pointed out), but in the looking we're exercising the mind. (And, as it happens, a mind at rest is working just as hard, if not harder, than a mind at work because it has to compensate for the inactivity.) So, the problem is not in too much information. The problem is that we have to sift faster than we can manage.

If there is to be Renaissance, then it may be in allowing data to be data, for what it's worth and in recognizing that, like tools, data can be helpful but there should always be a respect for the rudiments - the things that are foundational to everything else: loving, thinking, believing, creating, empathizing, growing gardens, etc.

Civilization cannot end until there is an overwhelming absence of the rudiments. And if only one person recognizes the value in the rudiments, another cannot help but reciprocate - it's human nature.

I still believe that the world is good - data or no, materialism and greed included - because we are horrified by the bad things, and most of us still work at caring for each other, even in the West.

Please, activist friends, remember that people are good.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's not so bad, considering

5:30.
Alarm - coffee.
Parent conference - agenda 1,
Faculty meeting (sigh).
Formal. Observation!
Macbeth - good attempt
Lunch duty (oops, shit).
Macbeth - amazing class!
Macbeth - challenge, anger, defeat.
Last bell,
Parent emails.
Grading, grading, grading, drowning
6:00.

Ft. Hood.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Women's Bean Project

Speaking of Christine, last Christmas, one of the gifts in my goodie bag was some cookie mix from a group called The Women's Bean Project. I peripherally knew about this organization, but decided to do some more investigating when I finally made the cookies. I at least owed it to Christine who always puts so much thought into her gifts. It turns out I'm glad I did my homework, and now I'm eager to support them. In fact, I plan on doing some of my Christmas shopping at their site this year. The cookies were awesome and the cause is fantastic!!
Check it out*:

Their Mission: To change women's lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise.

Their Vision: Women’s Bean Project strives to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty by helping women discover their talents and develop skills by offering job readiness training opportunities.With this stepping stone toward success, the women will be able to support themselves and their families, and create stronger role models for future generations.

Whom They Serve: The women hired at the Bean Project have histories of poverty and unemployment; they lack hope and self-confidence; most do not have a GED or high school diploma; most are single mothers and have been on public assistance; many are recovering from experiences with substance abuse and incarceration.Women find the Bean Project many different ways, but most often are referred by graduates and current program participants.

Parole officers, shelters and other service agencies all refer women to the Bean Project.

What They Do: The Women's Bean Project is a social enterprise that offers a transitional job in gourmet food manufacturing designed to provide immediate income, arrange support services to overcome barriers to employment, and teach the job readiness skills needed to get and keep a job. Program participants come from backgrounds of chronic unemployment and poverty, and the program helps them develop the work and interpersonal skills needed to function independently in the workplace and community.

But the Women's Bean Project does not hire women to make and sell bean products. We make and sell bean products to hire women.

Women produce the goods that are sold nationwide as they develop the work and interpersonal skills needed to function independently and effectively in the workplace and community.

The Women's Bean Project:
* Meets basic needs and removes barriers to employment by paying a wage and facilitating support services
* Offers life skills that enhance a woman's ability to govern her own life
* Arranges services that increase employability such as GED and computer classes
* Provide hands-on training in the fundamental job readiness skills required by entry-level employers

Why They Do It: The tools gained during their stay at the Bean Project empower women to create better lives for themselves, provide their families with hope, and contribute to a stronger community

* As listed on their website

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Self Actualization

My very, very good "you complete me" (sign language circle) friend, Christine, sent me this portrait, supposedly of herself:
Yes, Christine. I do know what you mean..

Monday, November 2, 2009

a small list

things i do not like:
- misguided notions and selfish motives
- popping open tubes of buscuits, especially when "pressing firmly on the seam with the edge of a spoon" is required
- clutter, especially in my home
- being called "sweet" or "average"
- excuses and shoulder shrugs

things i do like:
- twilight, when Jack points to the harvest moon and exclaims, "Ball!"
- starving artists of any genre
- stilletos and sassitude
- a-ha! moments and other such clarities
- pub conversations, especially with new friends

(as inspired by Fussy Ms. Kennedy, via someone called Amanda)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Living Juicy

Today I was digging through the closet in the front room. Ahem. I was panicking because I couldn't find Toddler Jack who was digging through the closet in the front room. When I found him, he was acting like a dog intently burying a bone, only instead of dirt being flung behind him, he was hurling cassette tapes - The Alarm, Motley Crue, New Order and Stevie Nicks - over his shoulder. Instead of a bone, he was burying a box. As I moved closer, I realized that Jack was burying a birthday card box that I received on my twenty-first birthday. Being significantly older than twenty-one now, I had forgotten that I had kept this treasure, and one glimpse of it sent me tripping down memory lane.

The Box Card Occasion:
I had to work the desk in the lobby of Coleman Hall on my 21st birthday. When I got the job, I was glad that I could work at a desk where I might be able to study, especially during the night shifts. But that day I was feeling antsy, as one might when she is pacing back and forth by herself in a silent lobby on her twenty-first birthday, waiting for her shift to be over so she can go hang out with her boyfriend - climb trees, sit in a coffee house, and do other freeing things that college students do with boyfriends when they are twenty-one.. or something like that. My pity party was becoming pretty convincing, and that's when Carol showed up.

My Friend, Carol:
She came with a cupcake - at least I think it was a cupcake, I can't remember. Carol was known for handing out half-eaten chili dogs at Christmas, so it could've been anything really. Was it a snow cone? Anyway, I'm going to remember it as being a _____something better than a chili dog/cupcake/snow cone_____ with a single lit candle in the middle. She sang to me right there in the lobby, a capella; presented the treat; and handed a very surprised twenty-one year old the box card.

Describing the Box Card:
Outside - Checkbook box covered in a thin layer of burlap, tie-dyed, handmade paper designs glued on top. Edges fringed.

Inside - Blue and orange handmade paper background, with the word "HAPPY" cut out of fabric, glued on top of the paper. Glitter confetti and gold, spiraled pipe cleaners loose within, and a scroll also made out of handmade paper.

Bottom - similar to description of outside, except for the little tag that reads "Carpe Diem Cards"

All - Completely made by Carol, except for the checkbook box itself and probably the burlap, though out of all my friends, I would vote Carol to be my "Most Likely To Make Her Own Burlap" friend.

Scroll Inscription:
"Ginger:
May your 21st year of life be filled with bushels of joy-filled juicy moments that just make you want to do the Happy Dance! Today I do the happy dance in your honor, for your life brings much joy and encouragement to mine. Peace, sister! Carol"

13 Years Later:
I sat down on the bed, forgetting for a moment that Jack was throwing cassettes (precious antiques such as Peter Gabriel, Europe, White Lion..) and that I was was supposed to be the enforcer. I allowed myself to remember that time when living was "living juicy" - that is being so full of life, that, like a bursting ripe navel orange, if one were to take a bite out of our lives, creativity and love and all the things that make our spirits abundant, would come gushing forth, dripping down our smiling chins, so much so that others wouldn't be able stop themselves from wanting a slice..

I smiled and looked at my son who was still at work flinging cassettes - U2, AC/DC, Huey Lewis, Heart.. Instead of getting on to him, I picked him up and cuddled him. I apologized for ever burying the box in the first place and explained that he should never bury it either. We should never bury our treasure.

The Message:
Live juicy, folks. Let the succulence of your life drip down your faces. Be creative - create. Work with your hands. Most importantly, love, love, love, LOVE. And to my friends and family, I am doing a happy dance in your honor today, for your lives bring much joy and encouragement to mine.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

PoMo Approaches


I think I should participate in NaBloPoMo again. I could use a kick start. The only problem is finding the time to do it; I'm home for enough time to feed and bathe Jack and then do homework. Then again, doing what I like to do should be a priority, right? Work can wait. Right? RIGHT??

(sigh)
I think I'll try, though.
Let me know if you're participating, too!

Monday, October 26, 2009

You've Been Hit By a Smooth Criminal.

Apparently I am a criminal.

That's how I'm being treated, anyway. My school informed me that the Feds are fingerprinting all teachers, and my turn is tomorrow. Why is this happening, you ask? Well the answer, I think, is very simple. It's that.. (covering mouth as I mumble something incoherent) .. WHO THE HELL KNOWS? As far as I can guess, they are doing a thorough background check on each of the teachers in this country to make sure we aren't pedos or arsonists or borders crossers or something horrifying. I mean you can never tell, right? I have shifty eyes, after all..

So, of course, I immediately protested the idea. I asked questions like, "Why is the current background check not enough?" and, "What percentage of teachers are actually criminals?" and, "If there are so many shady teachers, then who the hell is doing the hiring?" followed by, "Isn't this a statement about society - that they think all teachers are criminals?" and finally, "What happens if I refuse to give up my digits?"

Only one answer was given and only to the last question. The answer was, "Your teaching certificate - the one that you earned, the one that says, "Sure I'll keep getting punched in the gut for a thankless job that no one wants unless they want to do something wussy like help society"; the one that, apparently, is very accessible to pedos - that certificate will be suspended indefinitely."

My next question was (and is) "How is this not against my fundamental rights - that you can fire me because I refuse to be fingerprinted like a criminal?" No. Answer. Just a reminder about what will happen if I don't comply. Did I mention that they're making us pay for it, too? Fortunately (and I'm saying this in the same way a person might smile as he's pouring salt into his own wound), our state is paying for our share..

Fine. So, I'm being fingerprinted tomorrow at 1:50 pm which will be a difficult task for the print taker seeing as my hands have been tied behind my back. I'll be handing a random person a form with my social security number, my drivers licence number, my birth date, my maiden name, my height and weight. Hope they don't lose it in the parking lot on the way to wherever they're going, seeing as pretty much anyone can now steal my identity at the cost of a small gust of wind, or a poorly organized clerk, or another shifty-eyed fellow.

If that weren't bad enough, I also had to declare my ethnicity on a different form, for another "information" gathering agency. This was also mandatory. I clicked the box that said, "Other." Or maybe it said, "Why does that matter/How does that effect my teaching ability?" Actually the box, according to me, said, "It's really none of your business". The drop down menu under that option gently explained that "they" will physically come and check if I choose not to declare. Fine. Again. But I'm not going to make it easy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Overheard: A subtle distinction, and just in time for Halloween!

Presenter: ...and based on all of my research, I've concluded that out of all of the suspects Jack the Ripper was most likely the priest suffering from the delusions of syphilis.

(Applause.)

Any questions?

Student 1: I've heard that Jack the Ripper was a cannibal. Did you find anything about that in your research?

Presenter: Actually, yeah...

Student 2: (Interrupting.) WAIT. WHAT? JACK THE RIPPER WAS MARRIED?!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Art, Woes, and the Reality of Philosophy

I won a contest!

Ok, so I didn't technically win. But I feel pretty badass about the outcome: yesterday in the mail I received a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube. With the doodle decorated art tube came a Sir Real postcard:

101509
Dear Ginger! Hi! I was inspired by the description of your school which sounds like a great place. I hope you're now inspired to set up a real pop art show in your school! Let me know how it goes! Thanks, for contacting me -
Best,
Michael Albert
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few weeks ago my lovely New York friend, Annie - supermom and intellectual extraordinaire - sent me a link to Mr. Albert who is known to send free stuff to teachers and librarians. I contacted him on a whim. Why not? He asked me to tell him about our school. I did, focusing primarily on the really good aspects: the International Baccalaureate Program, the Literary Magazine, and our school traditions. After I finished the email, I felt pretty good about my school. I forgot all about the nonsense that makes it impossible for me to really teach the way I want to. I allowed myself to sit in tranquility for a few seconds, in a space devoid of all of the meaningless paperwork, the overloaded classes (which, by the way, have left me no time for writing), the apathy, the bureaucracy, the disrespect ... and instantly my back is in knots and my stomach is queasy.

But in those seconds, I felt like my job and my being had value.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Michael Albert emailed me to say that the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube was on the way.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elation! I told the ladies on my hall. We started planning where we'd hang the exhibit. We carefully considered the fact that some students would rip down the posters or deface them. We decided to hang them out of reach, pending the size of the posters.

I told my principal and showed her the letter. She's a math person, and responded with, "Hey, I like free stuff," and then asked where I'd like to showcase the exhibit.

I told an art teacher, Mr. Willingham, who spent 20 minutes stuttering over the impossibility/coolness of the idea on the artist's part. He also began thinking of exhibit ideas.

And then..

I told the head of my department.

Here's the moment where I hit my head against the wall, and ask myself "why?" - Why and for what purpose did I tell her? Was it for a pat on the back? Was I being informative so that she wouldn't ask questions when a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube showed up in the hallway outside of her room? Was I trying to show her that even though I'm a known rebel in the building with all of my "treat us like we matter," rhetoric and my "I don't want to be fingerprinted like a criminal" campaign - that I still like aspects of my school, enough that I wrote to an artist and he's inspired by us?

Why did I do it?

Her response was this:
I don't see how that's relevant.

My rebuttal:
Um.. Well.. Have you been to my room? Look at the art there. Art shows the human condition as well as any literary piece which is what we're trying to. .

She cut in:
But what are you going to do with it?

Me:
Wha.. um. Nothing, I guess. Display it for the kids..

Again with the cutting in:
I don't see what it has to do with what we're doing. I mean how are you going to have time to have an art show with everything else we do? Give it to the art teachers or something. It's not relevant here.

Dismissed.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
So, I received the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube yesterday. It came with a postcard and a sting. But it also came with the realization that my teaching philosophy is better suited for a different school - one that understands that teaching isn't solely about mechanics and greasing cogs or about money and whistle blowing. It's about something else - character building, for example, and exposing kids to things they don't see everyday thus providing them with opportunities to be more aware of themselves and others. And then there's something even more sacred in my philosophy, something ancient and pure. Education is the young, eager spirit married to experienced, universal wisdom. Their union creates a well rounded person, one who is more prone to understanding and less prone to violence (both in words and in action).

I know, more than ever, that it's time to move on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Supermassive Black Hole - Muse

So the video is Sleestack meets Jabba the Hutt in a cat mask. And, yes, it's disturbing. BUT the music is fun! :) Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Musless Opinionator Reeks

So here are some things to say:

1. I'm studying MLK with my kids at school. And I love him. A lot. There are lots of "universalism's" I would love to share except that I fear that when/if I do, those ideas will be ever so politely shat upon, and yes, one can "shat" politely. Southerners are excellent at it, bless our hearts. So, instead of writing a rant I'll simply say:

*There is no excuse for violence, in word or deed. (And I would argue that words are more violent than bombs, especially reactionary, ignorant (as in without knowledge) ones.)
*There is a universal moral code and it has nothing to do with politic, race, or religion.
*People (including me) need to be more involved in standing up for people who can't or who have no voice.
*I found that I could substitute the word "impoverished" for the word "Negro" in many of King's writings and his message would be even more apt these days, though the minority message is still important.

2. I've been reading a lot: The Book Thief, Ethan Frome, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and now Perfume. The Unbearable Lightness of Being stunned me. My brain can't move forward after reading that book for some reason which may be why I've been at a blog loss. The Book Thief is excellent.. until the very last line. It ruined the book for me. Ethan Frome was interesting in the "longing aspect". Stephanie Meyer is also excellent at teasing the reader with unconsummated relationships. But killing oneself by sledding into a tree? COME. ON. There are better ways, Edith Wharton. There are better ways. Perfume is interesting. I was not at all concerned about the movie, so we'll see if the book stands up. I suppose reading MLK makes everything else seem petty..

3. Rush Limbaugh used to be the devil. Now the devil is Glenn Beck. It's weird how quickly the devil can change forms.

4. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Some are upset by that and/or say he doesn't deserve it. I think we (me included) don't realize how much America (and I mean Americans, not just politicians) has hurt other nations. We're just now realizing how absolutely shitty we've been. Actually, I hope we are beginning to realize how absolutely shitty we've been and I hope we can recover from it..

5. I love U2. Jerry Jones made a stadium (at the expense of too many families who were displaced) that made the greatest band in the world sound bad. That mixed with the fact that those around me asked me to sit down for the show, made it the worst U2 show I've seen. I didn't realize that the etiquette for attending a ROCK show was akin to being pew-bound in the Baptist Church, tapping your toes, listening to the feature vocalist sing, enjoying the music and then wondering whether or not it is appropriate to clap for fear that God , or worse, the congregation, would judge you for being too enthusiastic. Being true to form, I stood the whole time.. in stiletto heels.. just to make a point. Still, the worst U2 concert is better than the best any-other-show I've ever attended.

And on and on and on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

With or Without You

Yep. That's us at the end. :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Overheard at the Dentist

"You know the poor dear couldn't be anymore country if she were holding a skillet and a shot gun.

But she's so nice.

She wouldn't say shit about anyone, even if her mouth were full of it."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm sorry I'm not at my desk.

Until I get back, please enjoy the armadillo cam.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

First Impressions

Walking into a viewing is always very awkward. It is most definitely a private moment, yet it is shared with the rest of the folks in the room, the ones who also would like to personally say their good-byes.

As I walked toward my Gramps's casket last week, I flashed back to Momo, his wife's, viewing. I was eight and very much afraid. I remembered how a few nights before that moment I had tried to comfort my brother in the middle of the night when we both woke up in tears. I had told him that certainly they would find a cure for cancer - in the next few minutes! Scientists worked around the clock for that sort of thing, didn't they? - and Momo would be ok. That might have been my first lesson regarding the fragility of hope. She died that day.

The reality of the circumstances hit me at Momo's viewing. And as I walked towards Gramp's body, I remembered how, on that day, he leaned over her body and held her hands. He kissed her nose and whispered to her. That was his final private moment with her and it may have been the most intimate moment I've ever witnessed. Now he was the one in the casket and I was the one by his side.

I took my Gramps's hand and whispered to him that I remembered how tender he was to Momo and that I hoped he understood how much he was loved - that there was so much of him that I admired, that I wasn't brave enough to kiss him right then but that I wanted to. I whispered that he would always stay with me and that I would protect the memory of him very carefully. "I love you I love you I love you I love you.."

I felt the pressure - the awkwardly felt, yet very private grief - of those next in line.

I took a deep breath and let go.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Overheard: Substitute Report

This is an actual letter from a substitute left to my dear teacher friend who had to be out for a day:

God Help You!
6th Period

This class had some kids (Elroy and Nuisance) that tried to be disruptive. I sprayed Nuisance with insecticide and put him in his proper seat. The insecticide might have affected his brain and/or his work ethic because he did virtually nothing except chew the biggest wad of gum I've ever seen. His mouth was considerably more mammoth than the wad of gum. He finally put his head down on the desk, exhausted... probably from all that chewing. Conclusion: Give Nuisance a wad of gum daily.

Oh no! Nuisance resurrected; wanted to go to the restroom. Did I let him? Well, yes, of course! Anything to help the poor guy... and the rest of us.

** No student was actually sprayed with insecticide (so back the hell off) and all names have been changed (in case that poor, innocent student would actually be embarrassed about his poor behavior at school). And if you think I'm being too mean or cold hearted in this post, then Darlings, it is clear that you've never taught ninth grade. :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another Day at the Coffee House

I had about fifteen minutes before I was due at the sitter's to pick up Jack and resume my role as working mom. Because I allow myself some time to detox - as in to take the toxins out of my body left there by the strain of 150 other parents' kids needing my attention RIGHT NOW - I decided that breathing at the coffee house would be the least I could do. This was, of course,under the condition that I do homework as I breathed.

I ordered my coffee and looked for a seat. The only one available was across from a man who kept trying to catch my attention. You know what it's like - the stare and smirk that begs a person to look him square in the face. I wasn't trying to be unfriendly. And on my off Thursday*, I would've chatted with him. But I just needed to be invisible for fifteen glorious minutes.

I did my best to avoid his gaze. I sat down, took out my Hemingway and a pencil, placed my makeshift bookmark on the table (real bookmarks are too cliche), and tried to look busy. Importantly so.

It didn't work.

"So, it's pretty hot out there," he tried.

I looked up, trying to wipe the annoyance off my brow. "Yeah. It is."

"Did you order a hot drink on such a hot day?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said, "It makes me feel more studious." I lifted my Hemingway to show him that I was working, in hopes that he would get the message.

It didn't work.

"Luckily my favorite drink is cold."

"That must be difficult in the winter," I remarked, trying not to add too much sarcasm in my inflection.

"Nah," he said. "I have a favorite hot drink, too, so it's good."

I looked him square in the eye. He wasn't an unattractive man, and he seemed really friendly. I wondered if he thought he could pick up a girl at a coffee house on a Tuesday afternoon. It seemed an unusual tactic, but then I had been out of that game for quite some time. In fact, I'm not sure I had ever truly played that game. I smirked at the thought of him trying to talk to me. If he knew about me - about the fact that I'm married, that I have a small son, that I'm a work-a-holic, a teacher no less - then he wouldn't be so friendly, would he? Or would he?
We were just talking about drinks, after all. It wasn't like he was soliciting anything else. And by anything else, I mean a product of some sort - Tupperware or a donation to his church's building fund. Maybe the fact was he was simply friendly. But that doesn't exist, does it?

My fifteen minutes were up. I had to go. As I packed my bag, I tried to get his attention to say good-bye, though it felt really awkward. I stared at the side of his face trying to get his attention. He did not look up.

He had gotten the hint.


*when, after school, Rich gives me a huge break by allowing me to grade or read or write or breathe while he takes care of Jack

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Picture Perfectionist

The auditorium was dimly lit except for the occasional bursts from the bulbous, umbrella-like flashes that flanked each of the three predictably blue and black backdrop tarps on the stage. Creeping my way down the aisle among the sea of empty seats, I wondered how it was that I still hated picture day so much. I had, after all, been having my school picture made for the last thirty years or so, minus my four years at college, 'the blissful years' I call them, and I still had not mastered the art of being suitable or even marginally presentable in that one inch by one inch yearbook square.

I think the problem started when I was eight. It was at this impressionable age that I was finally conscious enough of my own reflection to notice that my previous school pictures were ridiculous. I realized in a single moment that all those times my parents opened the white picture envelope to see that year's picture, they weren't giggling at the delight of a picture well taken. They were laughing because my smile was too forced (to the point of painful grimace), or because my curls had not withstood the game of tag at recess, or because the caption of that year's photo, "deer in headlights," would be whispered among the extended family that holiday season.

I realized, when I was eight, that school pictures were just another punchline given at my expense. But that wasn't the horrible part. The horrible part was they were right. I was as un-photogenic as they come.

After having that epiphany, I remember practice posing. The night before picture day I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and practice smiling. I would tell my brow to relax to rid it of the fear lines. I would tell my lips to soften to be more picturesque and less like a taut white line. I would measure the exact amount of gum line that should show, using my finger as a guide, so that the next day I could set my smile as it looked in the mirror when I finally got it right. I would raise my eyebrows and lower them to see what looked distinguished, or happy-go-lucky, or amused. I would pause at each expression, willing myself to remember it so that I could recall it as the mood struck the next day.

Every year I practiced which is probably why my pictures continued to get worse and worse. I think my parents eventually stopped trying to give them away as gifts as the photos became less endearing and more ridiculous. After all, they weren't hoping to offend anyone, including extended family. Plus they didn't want the pictures to be misconstrued as a shortcoming in their parenting skills. They knew they had to purchase a package so as not to devastate me, but they did buy the smallest package so as not to be too wasteful.

These were my thoughts that day in the auditorium. I stepped to the front of the line, a perk of being a teacher, just in time to hear the photographer saying, "No. No! Just stop. Turn your head a little more.. No! (sigh) Look. You have to relax. Let's start over. Stand up."

"Shit," I thought. "Of course I got in this line. It has to be karma of some sort. But what did I do to deserve this repeated torment?"

"Next!" the photographer called.

I stepped forward and took a deep breath, hoping that I wouldn't be as humiliated as the poor soul who went before me.

"Have a seat," the photographer said. "Perfect."

"What?" I thought. "Did he say 'perfect?'" I smiled, allowing myself a second of relief. "I have done this before, you know," I quipped. Maybe this would be the year I would break the cycle. Surely I was due some sort of reprieve after all of these years of aggravation.

"Ok. Now turn your head a bit.. No. Not like that. Just a little.. Your shirt.." he said.

"What?" I asked.

"Your shirt. Pull it down some." I started smoothing out my shirt. "No," he said, "Pull it. It's too.. Just.. It's the collar. It's too close to your neck." I pulled, trying frantically to understand his wild gesticulations.

He eventually gave up and sighed. "Fine. Whatever. Just smile."

My face reverted back to all of those frozen practice moments. I felt the panic creeping out of my pores and into the camera lens. I grinned my most forced smile, cursing the likes of all of those perfect kids - the photogenic ones whose pictures, K-12, still adorn the hallways of their parents' homes.

Click.

Another picture day come and gone.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

"In Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time , Greg Mortenson, and journalist David Oliver Relin, recount the journey that led Mortenson from a failed 1993 attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to successfully establish schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. By replacing guns with pencils, rhetoric with reading, Mortenson combines his unique background with his intimate knowledge of the third-world to promote peace with books, not bombs, and successfully bring education and hope to remote communities in central Asia. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time."

Greg Mortenson will win a Nobel Peace Prize someday.
I say READ THIS BOOK.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Where we are lacking

It occurred to me yesterday as I spoke on the phone to various members of my family, that even though our bodies may be aged 30 or 60 or 75 years and though throughout those years we may have earned titles such as Mrs., dad, and/or spouse, none of us knows what the hell we're doing, especially when confronted with death.

Saying good bye is never on our lists of things to do; it's never an agenda item or something we practice. I suppose that's a good thing, but the result is that we're incredibly bad at it - all those years of life experience and titles mean nothing all of a sudden. Good byes level the playing field. We're all flailing and helpless.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Substance free is (apparently) the choice for me

I'll never be a true writer.

Or maybe I will, but if it happens, it will be during a time when a.) I'm less of a navel gazer and/or b.) when I actually have something worth saying. But either way, it's frustrating. I want to write something significant - of value and substance. I mean if Jenny McCarthy can write about her vagina, a topic that is apparently extremely interesting to many people, so much so that hers is one of the first books pregnant women buy, then why can't I find my voice?

I take it back. I have a voice. Most people define it as "weird" or "unconventional". I guess that's ok. I mean Gonzo style writing is fucking edgy! Definitely unconventional. And you have to use the word 'fucking' when talking about anything involving Hunter S. Thompson. Except for the constant drug use and random blowing up of shit, I'm secretly in love with him. I'd be more than ok with being called a Hunter Thompson kind of weird.

Unfortunately, I'm certain that people call me weird as in Luna Lovegood weird. She's sweet and all, but she sees things that aren't there and she's constantly losing her shoes.

In spite of my Luna Lovegoodness, I had a couple of ideas for writing projects. I refuse to call them novels because that intimidating word immediately blocks any creative wisp that may float across my brow. But I always dream up ideas during times when I've escaped from my life - in the mountains of New Mexico, for example, or alone in a coffee house. When reality hits, I abandon the projects because honestly, who has time to really focus on anything except reality? And I love my reality - my family and friends, for example, and even my job (most days) - but it leaves no time for dreaming, much less writing.

So, I'll never be a writer, especially now that I have expectations about what it is I need to help me find something substantive to say.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Enduring One Aeon Creates Grumpy-gilled Humanoid

It's only Wednesday. The last three days have felt aeonic. Seriously. It's been so slow that I've watched an entire evolution happen. All of a sudden people have grown gills that operate as pollution regulators, and they no longer walk but glide.. or something.

I'm tired.

The first week of school does that to teachers. It doesn't help that my classes are mammoth (as in 32-35 kids per English IV class, except for my Literary Magazine class that kids are dropping in what feels like an effort to actually make more work for the rest of us. I started with 10 kids (a cozy sized staff) and am down to 6. 6 kids to fundraise three thousand dollars; 6 kids to campaign for submissions, judge them, and edit them for publication; 6 kids to design and create a publication worthy of selling. 6 kids to do all of that and more. It's a tall order.)

On top of the extra work loads, today I had students comparing walking through perpetual minefields and explosions to get to school (like Sunshine in Mosul) with being upset because taking today's notes made their hands cramp.

"It's similar. I mean, both are inconveniences. Besides, a bomb could fall on us at any second, so I can totally relate," one said. "This sucks."

"What?" I gasped. "Are you serious? You can't compare the two or possibly understand what it is like to live in a war torn country!"

"Yes I can," he said. "I mean, you never know what could happen, so it's totally the same. You could be walking down the street and get blown up. Besides, it's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."

"Sure, you're entitled to your opinion," I said, "but you're absolutely wrong, and how disrespectful to those who actually have to live through the falling bombs!"

He held his hand up to stop me from talking and then waved it around and said, "Whatever. I'm right and there's nothing you can do to change my mind."

This is the second full day of school.

Frighteningly, this year is already head and shoulders above last year. Despite my grumpiness tonight (sick baby in tow), I have some wonderful kids, too. I'll try to focus on them.. after my pity party.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Overheard: Vertigo

Vertigo is not the fear of falling. It is the fear of wanting to fall.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Giving

I was standing in line at one of the most frantic toy stores in the world - the one that is always out of what you came to buy, even if you're going in August, even if what you want has nothing to do with Christmas - and I was kicking myself for being there for a couple of reasons:

#1 Rich and I decided that we would make our Christmas gifts this year which we are frantically currently doing. Why, then, were we at the toy store, annoyed, trying to find presents for our son and the nieces and nephews in our family? The excuses ranged from, "Well, kids don't understand the gesture of a handmade gift. They want toys! And it's Christmas, for the love of God! (Yes, go ahead and laugh at the irony.) It takes a level of maturity to understand that 'I love and value you' does not have to mean 'store bought and popular'," to "while noting that consumerism is way out of control in our country and that what we need is not more 'stuff,' we really wanted to give a meaningful, handmade gift to our loved ones because, honestly, we couldn't think of anything good enough to buy. We were being hypocrites by making everyone else's gift but his!"
#2 I hate toy stores, especially at Christmas. They beat the joy right out of gift-giving.
The Advent Conspiracy asks people to shop less and give people something more precious - your time, your attention, your love. Give presence, not presents. I love that idea, but it goes against the West's culture of gift giving - of black Friday and 'finding the best deals', of waking up at four in the morning and standing in line in the cold to get the "perfect" gift. It's easy to poo poo the West for being so materialistic, but at the same time I think that the sentiment is in the right place, even if it is misdirected a little.

Herein lies the dilemma. Giving, something that should be lovely and selfless, becomes stressful and problematic. And that's mostly why we decided to only give handmade gifts this year - to combine the present and the presence. The toy store was out of the item we wanted to buy for Jack. Was it a sign? Maybe. Who's to say what Jack will find under the tree this holiday.
As for the rest of our family, hopefully everyone will love their handmade gifts:









Love, Ginger and Rich
This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic and post responses - all of us together at the same time, even though we are continents apart. (Lovely!) Introducing Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Parade of Lights

My mom owes me twenty bucks.*

During the last afternoon of her visit, we piled in the car to get our ritual town coke** and decided to check out the prices for our community's "Parade of [Christmas] Lights" exhibit. The sign read, "$15 per car Monday-Thursday; $20 on the week ends."

Fully aware that our one-and-a-half year old son, Jack, loves lights we knew we had to go. Evidence: when Jack wakes up he runs to the living room, points to the Christmas tree and says, "chee!" (his word for tree, the sentiment being, "Momma, could we please turn on the lights on the Christmas tree?"), and then he whirls around to the kitchen and says, "nomin?," translated as "snowman?" our other light-up decoration we keep by his seat at the kitchen table. And then there are the lights around our front door, a little strand of red and white that we haphazardly threw up just to say we decorated. At night he sees lights on the other houses in our neighborhood. He points at them and yells, "Oh Wow!" And then there are the normal lights in the house - the fan light, and the bathroom light, and the kitchen light, all the normal lamps and flashlights, etc. that he notices. With delight he exclaims, "Ooooh!" as we illuminate each of them through the course of the evening.

That afternoon Mom said, "Ginger, you have to take Jack to see the Parade of Lights. In fact you might have to leave the Christmas tree up all year! He loves it! I'll leave you the money to go. Just promise me you'll take him!"

She forgot to leave the money, but we were convinced we had to go.

And we went.

We left right as the sun was slumping on the horizon and the sky was that gorgeous deep blue, the color that makes a whimsical impression and then quickly fades to black. I wanted to be sure to be at the front of the line at that moment in order to avoid the crowd. Already lines of cars, bumper to bumper, sat in two lanes full of families who were eager, if not a little impatient, to see the festive spectacle. I remembered to bring snacks and the eclectic "Happy Holy Days"CD my friend Russell for us. All was perfect!

When we got to the entrance, we paid, turned off our headlights as per the sign, and I pulled Jack out of his car seat into my lap so that he could see better. We drove through the maze of lights. There were a million things to see: blinking toy soldiers, a hundred Santas making toys, reindeer attending flight school, angels heralding, elves having snowball fights, deer leaping, squirrels throwing nuts, - a billion, trillion things to look at!

Despite the glowing wonderland around us, Jack was most interested in the floorboard of the car. He squatted on the floor and did his best to be in the way. He found the car's hazard light button which he rhythmically pressed in time to the Happy Holy Days CD. We tried to point and squeal like he does every morning to trick him into being interested, but he fussed and wanted down, and needed to do everything except look at lights. In short, going to the Parade of Lights was a nightmare for our son.

At the end of the trail was a lovely carnival complete with rides, funnel cakes, and pictures with Santa. Jack looked around, blinking, drooling, bored. We even took him on his first carousel ride. His expression remained blank as the horses went up and down and the lights spun around him. One cup of wassail later (Rich and I needed something to make it worth our while), we got back into the car to head home. Our baby had defeated us.

As soon as we pulled into our driveway and drug ourselves out of the car to come inside, Jack saw the piddly lights around the door. For the first time that night and with an expression of complete awe and wonder on his face, he exclaimed, "OH WOW!"

Of course.

* Mom, You don't really owe me $20. You do too much already! :)
** Town cokes are sacred.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Times Remembered

“Remember : Don’t jump off the roof.”

My dad said this to me at the end of our last phone conversation. Actually, he says this every time we part and has done so for years. To my husband he says about me, “Make sure she doesn’t jump off the roof, ok?” This is his way of concluding a conversation. It’s his, “Take care” or “I’ll see you soon” or any other end of an encounter- a complimentary close, a final remark.

“Don’t jump off the roof” is also a literal warning, as in when I was a little girl, I did jump off the roof of my house on his watch, and the impression of that event has left a 30 year old blemish on my dad’s psyche that is only apparent to me, as he delivers that mantra every time he leaves a room that I’m standing in.
-
Postulate A:
Oftentimes memories are simply interpretive imprints that mark beginnings of character definitions.

Example 1: The day one gets braces on his teeth is marked as the beginning of one’s teeth being straightened, and can be defined as the moment one began to hope he might become more attractive someday. The memory of getting one’s braces removed, as follows, is the beginning of learning how to live as one who once had braces and then braces himself for one of two experiences: a.) finding out that braces indeed made people more attracted to him as evidenced by the hoards of other straight-teethed people beating down his door to be near him or b.) realizing that having braces changed nothing except, possibly, his overbite, and now he has to cope with the understanding that there is no such thing as a sure method of becoming more attractive.

Either way, the memories that act as beginnings of life-defining moments have burrowed themselves into the brain; no matter how many times or from how many places they jump, the synapses will never be the same.

So it goes with remembering.
-
“One.. two..three..No, WAIT!” A breath. “Ok. This time I’ll do it. One..two.. three..Not yet!” I was sitting at the top peak of our single story house, my legs dangling off the side. I wanted to get down, but I was forbidden to use the ladder. That was the rule. “Ginger, if I let you come with me onto the roof, you must promise that you won’t climb down the ladder by yourself.”

I promised.

My father was working on the air conditioner and didn’t have time for my wandering spirit or my wayward bladder.

My memory of that moment is very clear. I stared at the ground pretending that the passing of time was my ally – I imagined just how it must feel to jump off, to land, and to be on the ground remembering what it was like to have jumped. “It will seem like I flew down.” I put myself safely on the ground in my mind and in doing so, strengthened my resolve to go ahead and jump. I couldn’t conceive of going back, nor could I imagine asking to climb down the ladder after making such a fool-proof agreement. “Of course, I’ll mind you, Dad. No, I won’t go down the ladder. I promise.”

Clearly, this – the jumping - had to happen. I steeled myself as, for the last time, I whispered, “One… two.. three!”

I jumped.
-
Postulate B
The problem with successful beginnings is that they make a person feel invincible.

Example 2: If a person jumps off the roof of her house as a kid, lands and sits down, thinks, “Ok. That’s that,” and then goes inside the house to resume normalcy, the rest of her life is filled with that expectation – that if one imagines she can do something, isn’t breaking any solid promises, and feels confident that a little leap is worth a result, her life is filled with similar attempts. In a way, it’s like a personal dare: I dare you to kiss that boy. I dare you to go to college. I dare you to get married, to buy a house, to have a baby, to sell away your comfortable situation and start it all over again. I dare you! And after you’ve done it, imagine how relieved you’ll feel!
-
How scary it must be for one to realize how little control he can have over impressionable beginnings. Even more frightening is the realization that one had no idea, until, for example, the day that his daughter jumped off the roof, that that was the beginning of how she would interpret herself: as that girl – the one who would jump off the roof, the one who would find her way around the promises, the one who would extract herself from the uncomfortable circumstance, the one who would consider flying as the first step in the resolution to find normalcy.

This post was written for the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic and post responses - all of us together at the same time even though we are continents apart. (Lovely!) As soon as I get my act together, I'll link everyone here.. :) Until then, you'll notice the others hanging out in the comments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One can't believe impossible things?

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

-Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking Glass

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 things that are true this week:

1. My son is one and a half years old this week.
2. My IB students aced an important and incredibly difficult assessment.
3. This assessment was given all day Friday, Saturday, and today at our district's professional development center.
4. Giving this assessment at the PDC meant I missed two days of work, even though I was working extremely hard.
5. Missing work means that the rest of my students not taking the assessment were complete asshats, which is all the administration at my school sees.
6. The babysitter has strep throat which means I'm going to miss more school to stay home with my kid, thus giving the asshats further excuse to continue their asshattery.
7. I don't care.
8. Tomorrow I have to hire a different babysitter to watch the kid for a couple of hours so that I can attend the funeral of my good friend's 21 year old son who was murdered during a random home invasion.
9. He was shot in the leg and bled out while he was being Careflighted to the hospital.
10. He was a great kid with a bright future and was engaged to be married.
11. I don't understand
12. Tonight I went in to tuck-in my baby boy; he was awake, so I rocked him, and hugged him close. He smiled up at me and my heart was warm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday Night Salon

When was the last time you had a genuine conversation--an experience not of mere self-assertion but of speaking and listening as though you had something both to offer and to receive? Our habits of language define us, but the pace of our lives is such that the simple gestures of listening carefully and speaking prudently are amazingly rare. The Friday Night Salon aims at being an alternative to the urban rush that denies the civilizing graces of community. We begin with good food and drink, then take our places in a circle for discussion about a variety of relevant, substantial topics. It's a welcome way to end the Dallas workweek.

Salon Topics--December 11, 2009

1. Is business a "calling"?

2. The public virtues

3. Is Dallas becoming more intellectual--or less? (I think you could insert your city in place of "Dallas", and also I want to add, "Is it a good thing for a city to become more intellectual?")

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Karmic Collision

I should've known yesterday that my day would be a challenge when on my drive to work a car swerved out of its lane on the highway, perpendicularly crossed two lanes of traffic, drove down a moderately steep but definitely bumpy median towards a gas station, hooked a sharp u-turn- I assume upon the realization of what speeding recklessly into a gas station truly might feel like- into oncoming traffic on the access road, and then stopped abruptly.

In that instant, my mantra turned from a zombie-esque, "coffee. coffee. coffee," to more of a horrified, "Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!"

Apparently, I was not the only one who had a reaction, as several cars had to pull over to steady themselves.. or to stop in case the imminent accident were to require witness reports. I'm not sure which. I do know that if the latter is true, I was certainly one among them since I was weighing whether or not I would be able to: a.)see a car roll 5 times across a median and render aid b.)watch a car drive into the side of a gas station, burst into flames, and then be mentally Ok at having seen that happen c.)watch a car drive headfirst into another car, an all to popular murder/suicide method in this area.

What exactly was my responsibility in a situation like this? What I really wanted to do was keep driving and pretend that nothing happened. But then I'm far too responsible (or weak depending on interpretation) to ever be the girl who drives off to cope with whatever guilty instability witnessing something like that would entail. Luckily for me there were no injuries, only a severe traffic violation. Unfortunately, however, the rest of my day picked up the slack - havoc for whatever karma didn't come around in one specific accident. Five discipline referrals and an injured body later (I fell again at school), I limped my way through my front door, stupidly dedicated to "trying again" tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BeadforLife

I'm in Florida at a conference for work today and was pleasantly surpirsed to see advocates for BeadforLife selling necklaces and bracelets in the lobby of the hotel! Their necklaces and bracelets make excellent gifts, and Christmas time is the perfect occassion to help people in need. Here's What BeadforLife is about:


BeadforLife eradicates extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. Ugandan women turn colorful recycled paper into beautiful beads, and people who care open their hearts,homes and communities to buy and sell the beads.The beads thus become income, food, medicine, school fees and hope. It is a small miracle that enriches us all.




Our beaders and tailors are primarily impoverished women who are hardworking, intelligent, and strong in their desire to improve their lives. They make gorgeous handcrafted paper beads from recycled paper and turn them into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Because the beaders use recycled, colorful paper, the beads help prevent environmental degradation. What was trash becomes beauty, money, food, and hope.
Click here to see how a bead is rolled

Our goal is for our members to be independent of BeadforLife within 27 months by being able to support themselves within the Ugandan economy. To assist members in launching their own small businesses or in creating new revenue streams, we provide entrepreneurial training, facilitate savings accounts, and make business funds available.

I addition to buying and selling the beads, BeadforLife sponsors Community Development projects in health, vocational training for impoverished youth, affordable housing, and business development. These projects are supported with the net profits from the sale of the beads, and support not only beaders, but other impoverished people living in Uganda. See how many people we have touched in our first years.

BeadforLife is guided by the following principles:

Creating businesses and jobs through entrepreneurial development is a more sustainable approach to poverty eradication than providing aid. Rather than becoming dependent on handouts from abroad, members build their skills and long-term capacities through meaningful creative work.

Concerned citizens in resource-abundant countries care about the issues of extreme poverty and are willing to get involved.

Paying the members fair trade prices allows them to meet their daily economic needs. Investing 100% of our net profits in community development projects for impoverished Ugandans allows for a long-term sustainable future.

Working together enriches all of us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

American Gods

Christine introduced me to this book yesterday. More than wanting to read the book, I think the idea is interesting - that the God(s) of yore, whatever name you give him, can't survive in America for all of the demi-gods - money, Internet, reality TV shows, talking heads, patriotism, etc. - that distract us. I'm not feeling especially spiritual at the moment, but I can say that I understand the lightning speed chaos that stems from worshipping such idols. The intriguing thing is we don't even know we're doing it. In some cases, we've snowed ourselves into believing that we can be faithful in the midst of such distractions, and feel, dare I use the word, "righteous" in our justifications that are rooted in distraction.

From Publishers Weekly
Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intr
iguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia.

I don't mean to bash faith or religion, or secularization for that matter. I, for one, can't be on any high horse crusade when it comes to spirituality. No one can be, actually (and ironically).

A few years ago, I audited a class that proposed that the reason people/nations war is because they are afraid of losing their cultural identities, that clinging to one's norms in acts of desperation precipitates violence. This makes me think about our country, the "most powerful nation in the world," and what exactly our "norms" are. Are we being clingy? And if so, for what purpose? And do we really want to protect our brand of godliness?

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's the end of PoMo as we know it..

..and I feel fine.

Ok. So I did it. I posted everyday this month and managed not to die. Some days not dying seemed like a victory - not that dying was truly a possibility; it's just an exaggeration (,Mom,) - that I was so stupidly busy that death seemed like a viable option. No, not "viable" because that means "living," and a living death seems ridiculous, though I do feel like the living dead some days. "Feasible" is a more likely adjective, I think.

Anyway, I wrote three or four "good" posts, "good" meaning "I don't hate them", and the rest were pretty much fluff, thus proving that I really should only blog when I have something to say or am prompted. I already knew that about myself - just like I knew that I only wanted to practice the piano when I felt like it, or like I knew that I wanted to take dance class on my own schedule. I don't think it's unusual to not want to do homework. When requirements and parameters are involved, even the things we enjoy doing become chores. Still, I need something to prod me in the right direction.

If you have any ideas about prodding sites (mind out of the gutter, Christine!), let me know..
:)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I found my brolly!

It's such a silly little proclamation, but I think the memory of it is what matters. A few years ago, I was in London by myself. I had been in Oxford for a teacher training, but returned to London to have some independent time and to make sure that I could travel without a companion, a challenge that forced me to rely on my own intuition. My London friend, Mark, with whom I visited earlier in the week, let me camp out at his house for free while he was away on business. Free was the only way I could make staying work.

But there I was, in London roaming around, blissfully lost in thought. It had sprinkled on and off as is the usual London M.O. and I stupidly hadn't remembered to pack an umbrella. When the sprinkling switched to more of a downpour, I ducked into a little shop and found a small black umbrella adorned with silver moths. The moth is my power animal insect, so the brolly - the charming nickname Brits use in lieu of the more vulgar sounding 'umbrella' - was clearly meant for me. I bought it and then hoped it would rain for the rest of my stay.

When I returned home, faced with the arid climate of Texas, I put away the umbrella for the rare rainy day. Unfortunately until today, I hadn't remembered where I stored it.

Every time rain was in the forecast, I went hunting for the brolly. Hours and hours were spent digging for and cussing over and fretting about that little umbrella, the only meaningful souvenir I had bought on that trip. It was more than a thing. It was a reminder of that specific time in my life, that journey. And I had lost it.

Today while I was looking for something in a cabinet, I spotted something silver way, way in the back. As I focused in on the silver, I realized it was a moth! My moth! I began flinging all of the clutter aside and reached for the umbrella.

"I found it! My brolly! Rich! I found it! It's here!!" And I went dancing around the house with it. The celebration went on for an hour, at least (Sorry, Rich). I may sleep with it tonight. I am so glad to have it back.

Like I said, it's silly, silly, silly, silly!

And still, I found my brolly!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Drive Home - The short version

1:00 - Fussy baby. Time to go.
Rationale - Baby will fall asleep on car ride home, will wake up in time for snack.

2:00 - One hour in. Five to go. Baby has napped for 30 minutes. Stop at Dairy Queen in nondescript town for a Blizzard fix.
Rationale: We only treat ourselves to Blizzards on road trips. We more than deserve this one, plus it is an opportunity to get milk for the baby so he'll go back to sleep.

3:00 - Baby not asleep. Break out the snacks.
Rationale: Baby will eat a healthy snack and will go to sleep when full. No fast food for him.

4:00 - Baby not asleep. Momma crawls into the backseat to entertain fussy baby. In 20 miles is a rest area.. no in 40 miles. Still, we will stop no matter what.. unless the baby falls asleep.
Rationale: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has stopped working. We have to do something.

4:40 - Rest area break. Play on playground but "Caution. Watch for Rattlesnakes." We play anyway.
Rationale: Surely rattlesnakes won't be out today.. Surely.. Plus playing will make the baby tired, right?

6:00 - We should stop for dinner, unless baby is asleep. Or unless he is pacified, in which case we will continue with the healthy snacks and will soldier on.
Rationale: There would only be one hour left in the trip. It would be ridiculous to stop for dinner and then wrestle the baby back into the car seat that he REALLY REALLY hates at the moment.

6:30 - We soldiered on. It was a mistake. Traffic is at a standstill because of an accident. We can almost see home. We should take the nearest exit, but we won't.
Rationale: Where the hell does the exit lead? It's better to be safe, even though it will take longer than expected to get home and the baby is STILL not asleep and is cranky from being hungry and tired.

6:45 - Still stopped. On an overpass. SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT. Why didn't we take the goddamn exit? The baby is SCREAMING. I beg husband (who is now the passenger)to do something.
Rationale: Mental breakdown is coming.

7:00 - Same overpass. Same stop. Baby is going to make himself sick with all of the crying. Momma starts crying.
Rationale: All hope is gone. We will never get home. We should've stopped for dinner. We should've taken the exit. Why did we go on this fu*king trip, anyway? In-laws? Why am I even married. Life is ridiculous. And why haven't the police even attempted to direct traffic? This is bullshit.

7:10 - OK. We're calm.
Rationale: At least we're not the ones in the accident.

7:15 - We're moving. Go go go go go.
Rationale: Try not to speed. Or miss any exits.

8:10 - We're home. Make quick and easy dinner. Change baby. Put him to bed. Enjoy glass of wine.Blog this.
Rationale: Phew. This wasn't the worst ride home ever. That was last year. And NaBloPoMo can suck it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Standard

We sat around the table, a blended family, which afforded everyone the opportunity to sit in awkward silence. "Happy Thanksgiving" was trailer to the shortest, most repeated conversation of the day: "Hi, I'm (so-and-so), (so-and-so's)daughter-in-law, (so-and-so's) wife, and this is my son/daughter, (so-and-so). He's (this age). Um.. Nice to meet you, too. Happy Thanksgiving."

Of course there were the standard acknowledgements - "The turkey is so moist!"; "The corn casserole is amazing, and it's just cream cheese, corn, and green chilies? Cool."; "Who made the dressing?"; "What is this, again?" and so forth.

And the standard jokes - "I wonder if we could get away with 'Turkey Treating,' going door to door with a sack for whatever people are willing to drop in.." and, "I wonder how many houses we could walk into and just serve ourselves, where the family members would whisper in the corner about who's cousin/ex/niece we were," and for both, "How many houses could we hit before we got too full?"

I suppose this is the fairly normal Thanksgiving conversation, and I don't mean to make it sound horribly generic. There is a comfort to gathering around a table and sharing a meal as tradition dictates. I love my family, the new members - the idea that really, they're accepting me into their rituals, the ones I am just now learning. But we all secretly admit that we hope something dramatic happens - something that will bond us so that next Thanksgiving, the conversation can start with, "Hi again! Remember last year when (this incredibly dramatic, gossip worthy event) happened? Yeah. That was nuts. So how have you been since then?"

Thank God for football.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It is probably inappropriate for me to send what I'm about to say into the blogosphere because it is something so personal, so intimate that no one but the intended recipient should hear it. Unfortunately, because of the nature of our relationship, and because time separates even people who intend to keep in touch, this is the only way I know how to reach out to you.

Listen. I can't say anything to make what you're going through easier. I can't pretend that I understand even a little bit. There is nothing I can say that will be of any comfort or help. In this way I am completely impotent. All I can do is say that you got dealt a shitty hand. What you're going through is inconceivable - a fucking nightmare. It goes against any thinking that the world is in any way good or beautiful or natural, against the things that I taught you were truths, the things that are lovely.

I'm sorry. So sorry.

And I'm here if you need to reach out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Appearances are what they seem

A woman in a brown squaw dress ran by me as I parked the car on my way to a much needed hair appointment. I took a mental snapshot - a Polaroid of something that my brain should have recognized as unusual but that left me, instead, an imprint to consider. The initial negative indicated that the beading on the dress looked awful, fake even, and probably it looked that way because the beading was plastic, not at all authentic. Then came the color: "I know people can be eccentric and all but gah. I mean, sometimes the hair salon is where folks are able to express themselves without judgement, but.. Am I judging? Is she wearing boots? Would boots go with a squaw dress? Surely, they must. Or sandals. Leather, strappy ones. This must be a product of some sort of Abercrombie ad, and shouldn't her hair be braided on each side of her face instead of down and frizzy? Abercrombie loves braids. And oh wait - is that a sucker in her mouth?"

The answer to the last question was yes. This is when I allowed myself the double take and realized that this woman was not a woman after all. She was a kid - a kid in a squaw dress, probably the product of a blue light special rather than an Abercrombie fashion attempt. Her hair was unkept because she had probably played at P.E., a common thing for 4th or 5th graders to do. She wasn't making a fashion statement. She was running an errand for her mom. "Get my purse out of the car," I imagined was the order, or, "Bring mommy her cigarettes." Something like that.

I snorted at the brain frenzy I wasted on that moment - a brutal barrage of thought per millisecond - and went into the salon.

Later, my hair goupy with hair dye, a metal pick in hand for the itchy places, I settled in under the UV dryer with a People Magazine that promised all the juicy details of Elizabeth Smart's ordeal overcome by Mormonism and David Letterman's stoicism in the face of extortion - yes, he had affairs with interns, but he's such a brooding man, a kind, brooding man - and Angelina and Brad's twins at the airport (again). That's when I heard Squaw girl's mom in the next room. I couldn't see her, but the conversation was loud enough that I may as well have been in the same room.

I tried not to listen but I figured that distraction from People Magazine wasn't entirely a bad thing, and depending on what I heard, might even be a good thing.. or a most terrible one, in which case how would I know unless I listened.. Right? So I listened.

The mom was on and on about her Botox touch up. How her personal trainer was overcharging her $10 a session. How she wished her daughter (who was getting her hair done) would just cut off all of her hair, and that if she didn't sit still, the hairdresser would have to cut it all off because she would have to keep evening it out..blah blah blah. People Magazine won.

As I was finishing up with my hairdresser, I caught a glimpse of the mom and her squaw. I thought, "Wow. She looks like every other typical mom. I never would've guessed that a person who was waffling on about personal trainers and Botox would be of average size, wearing typical mom jeans, and sporting a typical mom do. I wouldn't say that she was especially pretty or witty at all.

It was an unexpected realization and I began to giggle at the irony. I mean, who did she think she was with all of that talk? Someone off the cover of People? Katie Holmes in disguise? And what was she teaching her kid?

That's when I saw myself in the mirror - getting my hair dyed and trimmed - my own version of the blue light special - awful, plastic, fake even - not at all authentic.

Everyday is Halloween in America.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Futures up for grabs!

So, we actually did it. We officially signed up for the international job fair in February. Saying it outloud makes it so much more real (as if the credit card statement wasn't real enough!). Real and scary. And exciting and wonderful and how much should I get my hopes up?

Anyway, schools we hope to interview with include ones in Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Aberdeen (Scotland), and Costa Rica. Those are the ones who could potentailly hire a "team" - as in Rich and me together.

Ideally we'd get hired at a United World College, even though I'd have to apply for those jobs separately. Also, I may have a prospect in North London which would be great since I know some folks there and am less intimidated by British culture shock.

It would be smarter financially for us to stay in the US one more year. But then, when were we ever smart?

Onward to February!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Romantic

by Margaret Atwood

Men and their mournful romanticism
that can't get the dishes done – that's freedom,
that broken wineglass
in the cold fireplace.

When women wash underpants, it's a chore.
When men do it, an intriguing affliction.
How plangent, the damp socks flapping on the line,
how lost and single in the orphaning air . . .

She cherishes that sadness,
tells him to lie down in the grass,
closes each of his eyes with a finger,
applies her body like a poultice.

You poor thing, the Australian woman
while he held our baby –
as if I had forced him to do it,
as if I had my high heel in his face.

Still, who's taken in?
Every time?
Us, and our empty hands,
the hands of starving nurses.

It's bullet holes we want to see in their skin,
scars, and the chance to touch them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Record Labels

There is a very heavy moment that happens every year in the second right after a student asks me the most dreaded question they dare: "So, what kind of music do you listen to?" The room usually goes silent, every kid waiting to know if my taste matches theirs, for better or for worse, and what my musical inclinations say about me. In that very moment, judgement hangs in the room in the same way that it hung in the Coliseum when the spectators awaited Caesar's signal - will it be life or death for the poor gladiator English teacher?

I always feel like my answer will color the rest of the year, that either they'll respect me for being like minded, they'll shove me into the "old maid" pile, or they'll shrug me off with a label - emo, techno, bubble gum, navel gazer, screamo - or something like that. "Is the cool teacher really cool?" they'll ask, "or have we been snowed the last few months?"

I know it's silly to assign so much meaning to one question and to care about what the answer says about me. Still, I usually answer vaguely - the ole "I listen to all sorts of music," song and dance. But they know as well as I do, that my usual answer is pretty much a cop out. That's why this year I decided to go with, "Actually, lately I'm really interested in this new radio station that plays mostly indie music from people who record in their own homes. You know, the starving musicians who can't afford a fancy recording studio and who refuse sell out to some corporate label. Yeah. I'm into that."

They bought it! I didn't mention that it's the new NPR music station I'm talking about. They didn't ask, as they were nodding approval and wondering what "indie" means.

(Speaking of snowed..)

But there it is. I survived the question one more year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My time fairy is murdered.

So, it turns out it is surprisingly difficult to write a blog post with a toddler crawling up your leg, crying because you're not paying attention to him RIGHT NOW, with Sesame Street blaring in the background. Add to that a day of high school seniors doing the exact same thing but less endearingly, and what you're left with is a very tired girl whose stress-o-meter points to "OVERLOAD," one tick away from "SHOOT ME."

I realize I've been shitty at this year's NaBloPoMo - as in I've posted- which is good- but I haven't written a whole lot - which, for me, is bad. This is the opposite of what I had hoped would happen. I suppose I thought the magic time fairy would descend upon my world, creating just the right duration for me to calm down from school, be inspired by something, write intelligently about that something, and then have time for things like getting the rest of my ridiculous work load done, making dinner, playing with Jack, bath time, and all the other responsibilities I have, with a few hours left for working out, baking cookies or making sock puppets and homemade glitter, or another some such that perfect moms in a perfect universe do perfectly to make the rest of us feel inadequate.

My time fairy did descend, as requested, but then she did the most disturbing, rude thing one can do to a woman whose stress-o-meter is one tick away from "SHOOT ME." She laughed. In my face. For entire seconds (because who could spare more?). She then flipped me off, turned tail, and flew away.

That's why I had to kill her.

I should tell you that killing time fairies is extremely easy. Turn on one episode of Glee and you'll understand what I mean. TV is the only weapon you'll need..

I wish I could be the type of person who spins plates on poles while doing a back bend and making sandwiches with a smile on my face. But I can't be that girl, no matter how hard I try, (and my smile is usually observed as a grimace). I'm exhausted. Did I mention I have a toddler?

I'll just have to learn to be Ok with writing when I can. Also, I'll have to hope that you'll be patient with me - understanding that I'm trying to visit when I can, that I miss you, and I want to know what's going on in your lives.

In the mean time, I'll try to keep you posted.

Thanks for your patience.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful for Christine

The folks over at ModCloth are affording me the opportunity via their ModCloth Thank-a-thon contest to write about a person I am thankful for. Please enjoy my extremely sincere attempt:

The Office Supply Store:

“Do you think it’s worth a dollar fifty to make our boss happy?” I asked her. We were standing in front of a depleted end cap at Staples, weighing whether or not a package of multi-expressioned smiley face push pins would be part of our next diabolical plan. A stranger standing next to us, pretending to ignore our conversation, smothered a snort.

School:

FISH. It’s an acronym for something. I have no idea what it stands for other than it’s in a book , one that’s among the favorite self help texts used, supposedly, for breathing life back into stifled, floundering grade school faculties across the country. Campuses, at this very moment, are having staff retreats – playing “get-to-know-you” games that involve answering questions like, “How have you made you students’ day? If you have a story about that, grab a red construction paper fish from the pile,” and “How have you been there for the kids lately? Take a green fish if you have,” or “Take a yellow fish if you’ve played lately.” Think, pair, share; think, pair, share. “Now, everybody, throw your fish.”

Or something like that.

It’s times like these, when I’m sitting in the middle of a faculty FISH exercise, a pile of papers in my inbox needing to be marked, that I’m glad to have my equally cynical cohort, my accomplice extraordinaire, Christine, sitting next to me. Mocking such endeavors in the form of secretly exchanged glances, or the defacement of construction paper fish, or by the planning and executing of diabolical plans – chocked full of jackholery - are the only ways we know how to deal with the overwhelming proof that in our country teachers are not considered intellectuals.

Apparently, we’re FISH.

Choose your attitude:

A black and white printout touting this message is taped on the back of the main office door, so that when one exits the office, she sees the sign. Underneath the message are two faces, the elementary equivalent of theater masks: a happy face and a sad one.

“What’s up with this sign? I would wager that it’s part of the FISH philosophy,” I said to Christine as we walked together out of the office.

“Dude. There are more than two choices aren’t there? I mean what about being mad (zigzag mouth) or surprised (large oval mouth) or indifferent (a line)? Are these two the only options? ”

“We should add the others. Obviously, this sign is lacking.”

It was agreed. With enthusiasm, everyone, including the office staff, riffled through their desk drawers looking for markers, finding any excuse to throw caution to the wind.

“This will be a great joke,” we exclaimed. “It’ll make our boss’s day! She’ll laugh at our ingenuity and praise us for playing! This is our way of FISHing without being intrusive! And she’ll understand that positive change comes from all sorts of places, including sad faces. It will be brilliant!!”

Markers in hand, we set about “correcting” the sign. We added all sorts of facial options, delighting in our creative genius, liberating the masses, hoisting our own petards! We were cheered and revered by all and, after many high fives and giggles, our mission complete, we skipped back to the realities of our lives – down the hall to our respective classrooms.

The Next Day:

The next day the sign had been replaced with a new, clean printout. The glory of our masterpiece had been taken down without the slightest acknowledgement or reprimand, thrown like a dead fish onto a trash heap.

The Office Supply Store:

Christine raised an eyebrow and smirked. “It might not be worth making the boss happy, but a dollar fifty to make us happy? Absolutely, it’s worth it.”

“I’ll take two packages. Let’s add a card that says ‘See! There are more than two attitude choices!” I said with a fist in the air.

“And we’ll put one package on our boss’s desk when she’s not looking!”

“Yes! And I’ll divide the other one between us as souvenirs.”

And we skipped off to the checkout counter having crafted a new reality, one that involved as many expressions - diabolical glee, perhaps - as we could imagine.

** Thank you, Christine, for being my very dear friend - the one who hears me, goes to bat for me, and is a complete jackhole, no matter what others think, with me. I am thankful for you, always and forever. I love you!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Overheard: Salon

During a break from the titillating stimulation of dead white men like Sir Francis Bacon and Mr. Winston Smith*, a side conversation at the salon:

Him: "So, what's your favorite male, angry dance moment in an 80's movie?"

Me: (inquisitive, befuddled brow, clearly (though I couldn't see myself) since he had to give a patient example)

Him: "For example, mine's Kevin Bacon - when he does that angry gymnastics dance in the warehouse in the movie Footloose."

Her: "Right. And mine is Emilio Estevez's detention dance in The Breakfast Club."

Me: (smiling) You've given this a lot of thought, haven't you. That's why I love you both, dearly. "I'm not sure.."

**Technically Winston Smith isn't dead, but come on! The bullet's coming any day now, right?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Salon!

What do you think?:

1. Should convictions become more or less settled with increasing age?

2. Orwell’s Big Brother—still watching 25 years later: how’s He doing?

3. Is business a “calling”?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jubilation Awry

After a day of begging for money patron gathering for the latest edition of In the Margins (the most amazing magazine in the history of the known YOUniverse and probably beyond), the LitMag navel gazers convene for a time of sharing.

navel gazer 1: We're, like, so excited! Our group got two patrons!!!

navel gazer 2: Yeah. We got $20 from a bakery, AND we got a little something from Golden Chick.

[Navel gazer 2 hands a check to the head navel gazer, a.k.a. their teacher, a.k.a. me.]

head navel gazer: (shocked, with a smudge of disbelief) What? Am I reading this correctly? Is that a 3?

navel gazers 1 and 2: (Nodding, their smiles exploding off of their faces) Can you believe it?

head navel gazer: Oh my gosh! We got a $350.00 patron!!! With the rest of our account, we finally have enough money to publish this semester's magazine!!!

all: (various expressions of gratitude and god praising and glee and jubilation)Wow! Golden Chick is our muse! Our golden, platinum, muse!!!

navel gazer 3: This calls for a group jumping hug!!

all: (run a little too enthusiastically to each other, form a group hug and begin jumping and giggling together. Then there is awkward silence as they realize what they are, in fact, doing. They separate awkwardly)

[a pause in the space/time continuum]

navel gazer 4: Let's promise to never do that again, ok?

all: Ok.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Advent Conspiracy


The story of Christ's birth is a subversive story of an upside-down kingdom. It's a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love that is still changing the world to this day. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling that we somehow missed its purpose.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again by turning our focus back to the birth of Christ? What could happen to your family if this focus was celebrated in loud, bold and totally unexpected ways? What if you could actually trade your season of stress for a season celebration and unbelievable memories with your friends and family? What if all of this could save a life at the same time? It can.

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy
Learn more at www.adventconspiracy.org

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Worrisome

on Predator Drone Missle Attacks, in our own words:

Anticapatory self-defense,
"Virtuless killing"
Cubicle warriors
"Squirters" (the targeted people who run for cover as seen on a computer screen)
Rubble and charred stuff
Extrajudicial killings
"The only game in town"
worryingly seductive war, perceived as "costless"
[not] an honorable way of combat

* all phrases are from "The Predator War: What are the risks of the CIS's covert drone program?" by Jane Mayer. The New Yorker Magazine. October 26, 2009.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rich

Happy birthday, Wratch!!! You're the best husband on the planet!! Thank you for choosing me daily.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Moment

by Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

For Your Information Age

I can see how data and information can be seen as something that can cause the collapse of civilization, lest we forget what happened in Eden, the fruit that was consumed. But also, we've always had to sieve through the information we've been given, and now we have to be much more adept at doing so than ever before. I would assert that the problem is not that society is becoming lazy in their thinking. We're always looking for loopholes to not have to physically work as hard (a problem in itself, as Gandhi pointed out), but in the looking we're exercising the mind. (And, as it happens, a mind at rest is working just as hard, if not harder, than a mind at work because it has to compensate for the inactivity.) So, the problem is not in too much information. The problem is that we have to sift faster than we can manage.

If there is to be Renaissance, then it may be in allowing data to be data, for what it's worth and in recognizing that, like tools, data can be helpful but there should always be a respect for the rudiments - the things that are foundational to everything else: loving, thinking, believing, creating, empathizing, growing gardens, etc.

Civilization cannot end until there is an overwhelming absence of the rudiments. And if only one person recognizes the value in the rudiments, another cannot help but reciprocate - it's human nature.

I still believe that the world is good - data or no, materialism and greed included - because we are horrified by the bad things, and most of us still work at caring for each other, even in the West.

Please, activist friends, remember that people are good.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's not so bad, considering

5:30.
Alarm - coffee.
Parent conference - agenda 1,
Faculty meeting (sigh).
Formal. Observation!
Macbeth - good attempt
Lunch duty (oops, shit).
Macbeth - amazing class!
Macbeth - challenge, anger, defeat.
Last bell,
Parent emails.
Grading, grading, grading, drowning
6:00.

Ft. Hood.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Women's Bean Project

Speaking of Christine, last Christmas, one of the gifts in my goodie bag was some cookie mix from a group called The Women's Bean Project. I peripherally knew about this organization, but decided to do some more investigating when I finally made the cookies. I at least owed it to Christine who always puts so much thought into her gifts. It turns out I'm glad I did my homework, and now I'm eager to support them. In fact, I plan on doing some of my Christmas shopping at their site this year. The cookies were awesome and the cause is fantastic!!
Check it out*:

Their Mission: To change women's lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise.

Their Vision: Women’s Bean Project strives to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty by helping women discover their talents and develop skills by offering job readiness training opportunities.With this stepping stone toward success, the women will be able to support themselves and their families, and create stronger role models for future generations.

Whom They Serve: The women hired at the Bean Project have histories of poverty and unemployment; they lack hope and self-confidence; most do not have a GED or high school diploma; most are single mothers and have been on public assistance; many are recovering from experiences with substance abuse and incarceration.Women find the Bean Project many different ways, but most often are referred by graduates and current program participants.

Parole officers, shelters and other service agencies all refer women to the Bean Project.

What They Do: The Women's Bean Project is a social enterprise that offers a transitional job in gourmet food manufacturing designed to provide immediate income, arrange support services to overcome barriers to employment, and teach the job readiness skills needed to get and keep a job. Program participants come from backgrounds of chronic unemployment and poverty, and the program helps them develop the work and interpersonal skills needed to function independently in the workplace and community.

But the Women's Bean Project does not hire women to make and sell bean products. We make and sell bean products to hire women.

Women produce the goods that are sold nationwide as they develop the work and interpersonal skills needed to function independently and effectively in the workplace and community.

The Women's Bean Project:
* Meets basic needs and removes barriers to employment by paying a wage and facilitating support services
* Offers life skills that enhance a woman's ability to govern her own life
* Arranges services that increase employability such as GED and computer classes
* Provide hands-on training in the fundamental job readiness skills required by entry-level employers

Why They Do It: The tools gained during their stay at the Bean Project empower women to create better lives for themselves, provide their families with hope, and contribute to a stronger community

* As listed on their website

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Self Actualization

My very, very good "you complete me" (sign language circle) friend, Christine, sent me this portrait, supposedly of herself:
Yes, Christine. I do know what you mean..

Monday, November 2, 2009

a small list

things i do not like:
- misguided notions and selfish motives
- popping open tubes of buscuits, especially when "pressing firmly on the seam with the edge of a spoon" is required
- clutter, especially in my home
- being called "sweet" or "average"
- excuses and shoulder shrugs

things i do like:
- twilight, when Jack points to the harvest moon and exclaims, "Ball!"
- starving artists of any genre
- stilletos and sassitude
- a-ha! moments and other such clarities
- pub conversations, especially with new friends

(as inspired by Fussy Ms. Kennedy, via someone called Amanda)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Living Juicy

Today I was digging through the closet in the front room. Ahem. I was panicking because I couldn't find Toddler Jack who was digging through the closet in the front room. When I found him, he was acting like a dog intently burying a bone, only instead of dirt being flung behind him, he was hurling cassette tapes - The Alarm, Motley Crue, New Order and Stevie Nicks - over his shoulder. Instead of a bone, he was burying a box. As I moved closer, I realized that Jack was burying a birthday card box that I received on my twenty-first birthday. Being significantly older than twenty-one now, I had forgotten that I had kept this treasure, and one glimpse of it sent me tripping down memory lane.

The Box Card Occasion:
I had to work the desk in the lobby of Coleman Hall on my 21st birthday. When I got the job, I was glad that I could work at a desk where I might be able to study, especially during the night shifts. But that day I was feeling antsy, as one might when she is pacing back and forth by herself in a silent lobby on her twenty-first birthday, waiting for her shift to be over so she can go hang out with her boyfriend - climb trees, sit in a coffee house, and do other freeing things that college students do with boyfriends when they are twenty-one.. or something like that. My pity party was becoming pretty convincing, and that's when Carol showed up.

My Friend, Carol:
She came with a cupcake - at least I think it was a cupcake, I can't remember. Carol was known for handing out half-eaten chili dogs at Christmas, so it could've been anything really. Was it a snow cone? Anyway, I'm going to remember it as being a _____something better than a chili dog/cupcake/snow cone_____ with a single lit candle in the middle. She sang to me right there in the lobby, a capella; presented the treat; and handed a very surprised twenty-one year old the box card.

Describing the Box Card:
Outside - Checkbook box covered in a thin layer of burlap, tie-dyed, handmade paper designs glued on top. Edges fringed.

Inside - Blue and orange handmade paper background, with the word "HAPPY" cut out of fabric, glued on top of the paper. Glitter confetti and gold, spiraled pipe cleaners loose within, and a scroll also made out of handmade paper.

Bottom - similar to description of outside, except for the little tag that reads "Carpe Diem Cards"

All - Completely made by Carol, except for the checkbook box itself and probably the burlap, though out of all my friends, I would vote Carol to be my "Most Likely To Make Her Own Burlap" friend.

Scroll Inscription:
"Ginger:
May your 21st year of life be filled with bushels of joy-filled juicy moments that just make you want to do the Happy Dance! Today I do the happy dance in your honor, for your life brings much joy and encouragement to mine. Peace, sister! Carol"

13 Years Later:
I sat down on the bed, forgetting for a moment that Jack was throwing cassettes (precious antiques such as Peter Gabriel, Europe, White Lion..) and that I was was supposed to be the enforcer. I allowed myself to remember that time when living was "living juicy" - that is being so full of life, that, like a bursting ripe navel orange, if one were to take a bite out of our lives, creativity and love and all the things that make our spirits abundant, would come gushing forth, dripping down our smiling chins, so much so that others wouldn't be able stop themselves from wanting a slice..

I smiled and looked at my son who was still at work flinging cassettes - U2, AC/DC, Huey Lewis, Heart.. Instead of getting on to him, I picked him up and cuddled him. I apologized for ever burying the box in the first place and explained that he should never bury it either. We should never bury our treasure.

The Message:
Live juicy, folks. Let the succulence of your life drip down your faces. Be creative - create. Work with your hands. Most importantly, love, love, love, LOVE. And to my friends and family, I am doing a happy dance in your honor today, for your lives bring much joy and encouragement to mine.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

PoMo Approaches


I think I should participate in NaBloPoMo again. I could use a kick start. The only problem is finding the time to do it; I'm home for enough time to feed and bathe Jack and then do homework. Then again, doing what I like to do should be a priority, right? Work can wait. Right? RIGHT??

(sigh)
I think I'll try, though.
Let me know if you're participating, too!

Monday, October 26, 2009

You've Been Hit By a Smooth Criminal.

Apparently I am a criminal.

That's how I'm being treated, anyway. My school informed me that the Feds are fingerprinting all teachers, and my turn is tomorrow. Why is this happening, you ask? Well the answer, I think, is very simple. It's that.. (covering mouth as I mumble something incoherent) .. WHO THE HELL KNOWS? As far as I can guess, they are doing a thorough background check on each of the teachers in this country to make sure we aren't pedos or arsonists or borders crossers or something horrifying. I mean you can never tell, right? I have shifty eyes, after all..

So, of course, I immediately protested the idea. I asked questions like, "Why is the current background check not enough?" and, "What percentage of teachers are actually criminals?" and, "If there are so many shady teachers, then who the hell is doing the hiring?" followed by, "Isn't this a statement about society - that they think all teachers are criminals?" and finally, "What happens if I refuse to give up my digits?"

Only one answer was given and only to the last question. The answer was, "Your teaching certificate - the one that you earned, the one that says, "Sure I'll keep getting punched in the gut for a thankless job that no one wants unless they want to do something wussy like help society"; the one that, apparently, is very accessible to pedos - that certificate will be suspended indefinitely."

My next question was (and is) "How is this not against my fundamental rights - that you can fire me because I refuse to be fingerprinted like a criminal?" No. Answer. Just a reminder about what will happen if I don't comply. Did I mention that they're making us pay for it, too? Fortunately (and I'm saying this in the same way a person might smile as he's pouring salt into his own wound), our state is paying for our share..

Fine. So, I'm being fingerprinted tomorrow at 1:50 pm which will be a difficult task for the print taker seeing as my hands have been tied behind my back. I'll be handing a random person a form with my social security number, my drivers licence number, my birth date, my maiden name, my height and weight. Hope they don't lose it in the parking lot on the way to wherever they're going, seeing as pretty much anyone can now steal my identity at the cost of a small gust of wind, or a poorly organized clerk, or another shifty-eyed fellow.

If that weren't bad enough, I also had to declare my ethnicity on a different form, for another "information" gathering agency. This was also mandatory. I clicked the box that said, "Other." Or maybe it said, "Why does that matter/How does that effect my teaching ability?" Actually the box, according to me, said, "It's really none of your business". The drop down menu under that option gently explained that "they" will physically come and check if I choose not to declare. Fine. Again. But I'm not going to make it easy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Overheard: A subtle distinction, and just in time for Halloween!

Presenter: ...and based on all of my research, I've concluded that out of all of the suspects Jack the Ripper was most likely the priest suffering from the delusions of syphilis.

(Applause.)

Any questions?

Student 1: I've heard that Jack the Ripper was a cannibal. Did you find anything about that in your research?

Presenter: Actually, yeah...

Student 2: (Interrupting.) WAIT. WHAT? JACK THE RIPPER WAS MARRIED?!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Art, Woes, and the Reality of Philosophy

I won a contest!

Ok, so I didn't technically win. But I feel pretty badass about the outcome: yesterday in the mail I received a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube. With the doodle decorated art tube came a Sir Real postcard:

101509
Dear Ginger! Hi! I was inspired by the description of your school which sounds like a great place. I hope you're now inspired to set up a real pop art show in your school! Let me know how it goes! Thanks, for contacting me -
Best,
Michael Albert
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few weeks ago my lovely New York friend, Annie - supermom and intellectual extraordinaire - sent me a link to Mr. Albert who is known to send free stuff to teachers and librarians. I contacted him on a whim. Why not? He asked me to tell him about our school. I did, focusing primarily on the really good aspects: the International Baccalaureate Program, the Literary Magazine, and our school traditions. After I finished the email, I felt pretty good about my school. I forgot all about the nonsense that makes it impossible for me to really teach the way I want to. I allowed myself to sit in tranquility for a few seconds, in a space devoid of all of the meaningless paperwork, the overloaded classes (which, by the way, have left me no time for writing), the apathy, the bureaucracy, the disrespect ... and instantly my back is in knots and my stomach is queasy.

But in those seconds, I felt like my job and my being had value.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Michael Albert emailed me to say that the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube was on the way.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elation! I told the ladies on my hall. We started planning where we'd hang the exhibit. We carefully considered the fact that some students would rip down the posters or deface them. We decided to hang them out of reach, pending the size of the posters.

I told my principal and showed her the letter. She's a math person, and responded with, "Hey, I like free stuff," and then asked where I'd like to showcase the exhibit.

I told an art teacher, Mr. Willingham, who spent 20 minutes stuttering over the impossibility/coolness of the idea on the artist's part. He also began thinking of exhibit ideas.

And then..

I told the head of my department.

Here's the moment where I hit my head against the wall, and ask myself "why?" - Why and for what purpose did I tell her? Was it for a pat on the back? Was I being informative so that she wouldn't ask questions when a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube showed up in the hallway outside of her room? Was I trying to show her that even though I'm a known rebel in the building with all of my "treat us like we matter," rhetoric and my "I don't want to be fingerprinted like a criminal" campaign - that I still like aspects of my school, enough that I wrote to an artist and he's inspired by us?

Why did I do it?

Her response was this:
I don't see how that's relevant.

My rebuttal:
Um.. Well.. Have you been to my room? Look at the art there. Art shows the human condition as well as any literary piece which is what we're trying to. .

She cut in:
But what are you going to do with it?

Me:
Wha.. um. Nothing, I guess. Display it for the kids..

Again with the cutting in:
I don't see what it has to do with what we're doing. I mean how are you going to have time to have an art show with everything else we do? Give it to the art teachers or something. It's not relevant here.

Dismissed.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
So, I received the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube yesterday. It came with a postcard and a sting. But it also came with the realization that my teaching philosophy is better suited for a different school - one that understands that teaching isn't solely about mechanics and greasing cogs or about money and whistle blowing. It's about something else - character building, for example, and exposing kids to things they don't see everyday thus providing them with opportunities to be more aware of themselves and others. And then there's something even more sacred in my philosophy, something ancient and pure. Education is the young, eager spirit married to experienced, universal wisdom. Their union creates a well rounded person, one who is more prone to understanding and less prone to violence (both in words and in action).

I know, more than ever, that it's time to move on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Supermassive Black Hole - Muse

So the video is Sleestack meets Jabba the Hutt in a cat mask. And, yes, it's disturbing. BUT the music is fun! :) Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Musless Opinionator Reeks

So here are some things to say:

1. I'm studying MLK with my kids at school. And I love him. A lot. There are lots of "universalism's" I would love to share except that I fear that when/if I do, those ideas will be ever so politely shat upon, and yes, one can "shat" politely. Southerners are excellent at it, bless our hearts. So, instead of writing a rant I'll simply say:

*There is no excuse for violence, in word or deed. (And I would argue that words are more violent than bombs, especially reactionary, ignorant (as in without knowledge) ones.)
*There is a universal moral code and it has nothing to do with politic, race, or religion.
*People (including me) need to be more involved in standing up for people who can't or who have no voice.
*I found that I could substitute the word "impoverished" for the word "Negro" in many of King's writings and his message would be even more apt these days, though the minority message is still important.

2. I've been reading a lot: The Book Thief, Ethan Frome, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and now Perfume. The Unbearable Lightness of Being stunned me. My brain can't move forward after reading that book for some reason which may be why I've been at a blog loss. The Book Thief is excellent.. until the very last line. It ruined the book for me. Ethan Frome was interesting in the "longing aspect". Stephanie Meyer is also excellent at teasing the reader with unconsummated relationships. But killing oneself by sledding into a tree? COME. ON. There are better ways, Edith Wharton. There are better ways. Perfume is interesting. I was not at all concerned about the movie, so we'll see if the book stands up. I suppose reading MLK makes everything else seem petty..

3. Rush Limbaugh used to be the devil. Now the devil is Glenn Beck. It's weird how quickly the devil can change forms.

4. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Some are upset by that and/or say he doesn't deserve it. I think we (me included) don't realize how much America (and I mean Americans, not just politicians) has hurt other nations. We're just now realizing how absolutely shitty we've been. Actually, I hope we are beginning to realize how absolutely shitty we've been and I hope we can recover from it..

5. I love U2. Jerry Jones made a stadium (at the expense of too many families who were displaced) that made the greatest band in the world sound bad. That mixed with the fact that those around me asked me to sit down for the show, made it the worst U2 show I've seen. I didn't realize that the etiquette for attending a ROCK show was akin to being pew-bound in the Baptist Church, tapping your toes, listening to the feature vocalist sing, enjoying the music and then wondering whether or not it is appropriate to clap for fear that God , or worse, the congregation, would judge you for being too enthusiastic. Being true to form, I stood the whole time.. in stiletto heels.. just to make a point. Still, the worst U2 concert is better than the best any-other-show I've ever attended.

And on and on and on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Overheard at the Dentist

"You know the poor dear couldn't be anymore country if she were holding a skillet and a shot gun.

But she's so nice.

She wouldn't say shit about anyone, even if her mouth were full of it."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

First Impressions

Walking into a viewing is always very awkward. It is most definitely a private moment, yet it is shared with the rest of the folks in the room, the ones who also would like to personally say their good-byes.

As I walked toward my Gramps's casket last week, I flashed back to Momo, his wife's, viewing. I was eight and very much afraid. I remembered how a few nights before that moment I had tried to comfort my brother in the middle of the night when we both woke up in tears. I had told him that certainly they would find a cure for cancer - in the next few minutes! Scientists worked around the clock for that sort of thing, didn't they? - and Momo would be ok. That might have been my first lesson regarding the fragility of hope. She died that day.

The reality of the circumstances hit me at Momo's viewing. And as I walked towards Gramp's body, I remembered how, on that day, he leaned over her body and held her hands. He kissed her nose and whispered to her. That was his final private moment with her and it may have been the most intimate moment I've ever witnessed. Now he was the one in the casket and I was the one by his side.

I took my Gramps's hand and whispered to him that I remembered how tender he was to Momo and that I hoped he understood how much he was loved - that there was so much of him that I admired, that I wasn't brave enough to kiss him right then but that I wanted to. I whispered that he would always stay with me and that I would protect the memory of him very carefully. "I love you I love you I love you I love you.."

I felt the pressure - the awkwardly felt, yet very private grief - of those next in line.

I took a deep breath and let go.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Overheard: Substitute Report

This is an actual letter from a substitute left to my dear teacher friend who had to be out for a day:

God Help You!
6th Period

This class had some kids (Elroy and Nuisance) that tried to be disruptive. I sprayed Nuisance with insecticide and put him in his proper seat. The insecticide might have affected his brain and/or his work ethic because he did virtually nothing except chew the biggest wad of gum I've ever seen. His mouth was considerably more mammoth than the wad of gum. He finally put his head down on the desk, exhausted... probably from all that chewing. Conclusion: Give Nuisance a wad of gum daily.

Oh no! Nuisance resurrected; wanted to go to the restroom. Did I let him? Well, yes, of course! Anything to help the poor guy... and the rest of us.

** No student was actually sprayed with insecticide (so back the hell off) and all names have been changed (in case that poor, innocent student would actually be embarrassed about his poor behavior at school). And if you think I'm being too mean or cold hearted in this post, then Darlings, it is clear that you've never taught ninth grade. :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another Day at the Coffee House

I had about fifteen minutes before I was due at the sitter's to pick up Jack and resume my role as working mom. Because I allow myself some time to detox - as in to take the toxins out of my body left there by the strain of 150 other parents' kids needing my attention RIGHT NOW - I decided that breathing at the coffee house would be the least I could do. This was, of course,under the condition that I do homework as I breathed.

I ordered my coffee and looked for a seat. The only one available was across from a man who kept trying to catch my attention. You know what it's like - the stare and smirk that begs a person to look him square in the face. I wasn't trying to be unfriendly. And on my off Thursday*, I would've chatted with him. But I just needed to be invisible for fifteen glorious minutes.

I did my best to avoid his gaze. I sat down, took out my Hemingway and a pencil, placed my makeshift bookmark on the table (real bookmarks are too cliche), and tried to look busy. Importantly so.

It didn't work.

"So, it's pretty hot out there," he tried.

I looked up, trying to wipe the annoyance off my brow. "Yeah. It is."

"Did you order a hot drink on such a hot day?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said, "It makes me feel more studious." I lifted my Hemingway to show him that I was working, in hopes that he would get the message.

It didn't work.

"Luckily my favorite drink is cold."

"That must be difficult in the winter," I remarked, trying not to add too much sarcasm in my inflection.

"Nah," he said. "I have a favorite hot drink, too, so it's good."

I looked him square in the eye. He wasn't an unattractive man, and he seemed really friendly. I wondered if he thought he could pick up a girl at a coffee house on a Tuesday afternoon. It seemed an unusual tactic, but then I had been out of that game for quite some time. In fact, I'm not sure I had ever truly played that game. I smirked at the thought of him trying to talk to me. If he knew about me - about the fact that I'm married, that I have a small son, that I'm a work-a-holic, a teacher no less - then he wouldn't be so friendly, would he? Or would he?
We were just talking about drinks, after all. It wasn't like he was soliciting anything else. And by anything else, I mean a product of some sort - Tupperware or a donation to his church's building fund. Maybe the fact was he was simply friendly. But that doesn't exist, does it?

My fifteen minutes were up. I had to go. As I packed my bag, I tried to get his attention to say good-bye, though it felt really awkward. I stared at the side of his face trying to get his attention. He did not look up.

He had gotten the hint.


*when, after school, Rich gives me a huge break by allowing me to grade or read or write or breathe while he takes care of Jack

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Picture Perfectionist

The auditorium was dimly lit except for the occasional bursts from the bulbous, umbrella-like flashes that flanked each of the three predictably blue and black backdrop tarps on the stage. Creeping my way down the aisle among the sea of empty seats, I wondered how it was that I still hated picture day so much. I had, after all, been having my school picture made for the last thirty years or so, minus my four years at college, 'the blissful years' I call them, and I still had not mastered the art of being suitable or even marginally presentable in that one inch by one inch yearbook square.

I think the problem started when I was eight. It was at this impressionable age that I was finally conscious enough of my own reflection to notice that my previous school pictures were ridiculous. I realized in a single moment that all those times my parents opened the white picture envelope to see that year's picture, they weren't giggling at the delight of a picture well taken. They were laughing because my smile was too forced (to the point of painful grimace), or because my curls had not withstood the game of tag at recess, or because the caption of that year's photo, "deer in headlights," would be whispered among the extended family that holiday season.

I realized, when I was eight, that school pictures were just another punchline given at my expense. But that wasn't the horrible part. The horrible part was they were right. I was as un-photogenic as they come.

After having that epiphany, I remember practice posing. The night before picture day I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and practice smiling. I would tell my brow to relax to rid it of the fear lines. I would tell my lips to soften to be more picturesque and less like a taut white line. I would measure the exact amount of gum line that should show, using my finger as a guide, so that the next day I could set my smile as it looked in the mirror when I finally got it right. I would raise my eyebrows and lower them to see what looked distinguished, or happy-go-lucky, or amused. I would pause at each expression, willing myself to remember it so that I could recall it as the mood struck the next day.

Every year I practiced which is probably why my pictures continued to get worse and worse. I think my parents eventually stopped trying to give them away as gifts as the photos became less endearing and more ridiculous. After all, they weren't hoping to offend anyone, including extended family. Plus they didn't want the pictures to be misconstrued as a shortcoming in their parenting skills. They knew they had to purchase a package so as not to devastate me, but they did buy the smallest package so as not to be too wasteful.

These were my thoughts that day in the auditorium. I stepped to the front of the line, a perk of being a teacher, just in time to hear the photographer saying, "No. No! Just stop. Turn your head a little more.. No! (sigh) Look. You have to relax. Let's start over. Stand up."

"Shit," I thought. "Of course I got in this line. It has to be karma of some sort. But what did I do to deserve this repeated torment?"

"Next!" the photographer called.

I stepped forward and took a deep breath, hoping that I wouldn't be as humiliated as the poor soul who went before me.

"Have a seat," the photographer said. "Perfect."

"What?" I thought. "Did he say 'perfect?'" I smiled, allowing myself a second of relief. "I have done this before, you know," I quipped. Maybe this would be the year I would break the cycle. Surely I was due some sort of reprieve after all of these years of aggravation.

"Ok. Now turn your head a bit.. No. Not like that. Just a little.. Your shirt.." he said.

"What?" I asked.

"Your shirt. Pull it down some." I started smoothing out my shirt. "No," he said, "Pull it. It's too.. Just.. It's the collar. It's too close to your neck." I pulled, trying frantically to understand his wild gesticulations.

He eventually gave up and sighed. "Fine. Whatever. Just smile."

My face reverted back to all of those frozen practice moments. I felt the panic creeping out of my pores and into the camera lens. I grinned my most forced smile, cursing the likes of all of those perfect kids - the photogenic ones whose pictures, K-12, still adorn the hallways of their parents' homes.

Click.

Another picture day come and gone.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

"In Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time , Greg Mortenson, and journalist David Oliver Relin, recount the journey that led Mortenson from a failed 1993 attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to successfully establish schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. By replacing guns with pencils, rhetoric with reading, Mortenson combines his unique background with his intimate knowledge of the third-world to promote peace with books, not bombs, and successfully bring education and hope to remote communities in central Asia. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time."

Greg Mortenson will win a Nobel Peace Prize someday.
I say READ THIS BOOK.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Where we are lacking

It occurred to me yesterday as I spoke on the phone to various members of my family, that even though our bodies may be aged 30 or 60 or 75 years and though throughout those years we may have earned titles such as Mrs., dad, and/or spouse, none of us knows what the hell we're doing, especially when confronted with death.

Saying good bye is never on our lists of things to do; it's never an agenda item or something we practice. I suppose that's a good thing, but the result is that we're incredibly bad at it - all those years of life experience and titles mean nothing all of a sudden. Good byes level the playing field. We're all flailing and helpless.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Substance free is (apparently) the choice for me

I'll never be a true writer.

Or maybe I will, but if it happens, it will be during a time when a.) I'm less of a navel gazer and/or b.) when I actually have something worth saying. But either way, it's frustrating. I want to write something significant - of value and substance. I mean if Jenny McCarthy can write about her vagina, a topic that is apparently extremely interesting to many people, so much so that hers is one of the first books pregnant women buy, then why can't I find my voice?

I take it back. I have a voice. Most people define it as "weird" or "unconventional". I guess that's ok. I mean Gonzo style writing is fucking edgy! Definitely unconventional. And you have to use the word 'fucking' when talking about anything involving Hunter S. Thompson. Except for the constant drug use and random blowing up of shit, I'm secretly in love with him. I'd be more than ok with being called a Hunter Thompson kind of weird.

Unfortunately, I'm certain that people call me weird as in Luna Lovegood weird. She's sweet and all, but she sees things that aren't there and she's constantly losing her shoes.

In spite of my Luna Lovegoodness, I had a couple of ideas for writing projects. I refuse to call them novels because that intimidating word immediately blocks any creative wisp that may float across my brow. But I always dream up ideas during times when I've escaped from my life - in the mountains of New Mexico, for example, or alone in a coffee house. When reality hits, I abandon the projects because honestly, who has time to really focus on anything except reality? And I love my reality - my family and friends, for example, and even my job (most days) - but it leaves no time for dreaming, much less writing.

So, I'll never be a writer, especially now that I have expectations about what it is I need to help me find something substantive to say.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Enduring One Aeon Creates Grumpy-gilled Humanoid

It's only Wednesday. The last three days have felt aeonic. Seriously. It's been so slow that I've watched an entire evolution happen. All of a sudden people have grown gills that operate as pollution regulators, and they no longer walk but glide.. or something.

I'm tired.

The first week of school does that to teachers. It doesn't help that my classes are mammoth (as in 32-35 kids per English IV class, except for my Literary Magazine class that kids are dropping in what feels like an effort to actually make more work for the rest of us. I started with 10 kids (a cozy sized staff) and am down to 6. 6 kids to fundraise three thousand dollars; 6 kids to campaign for submissions, judge them, and edit them for publication; 6 kids to design and create a publication worthy of selling. 6 kids to do all of that and more. It's a tall order.)

On top of the extra work loads, today I had students comparing walking through perpetual minefields and explosions to get to school (like Sunshine in Mosul) with being upset because taking today's notes made their hands cramp.

"It's similar. I mean, both are inconveniences. Besides, a bomb could fall on us at any second, so I can totally relate," one said. "This sucks."

"What?" I gasped. "Are you serious? You can't compare the two or possibly understand what it is like to live in a war torn country!"

"Yes I can," he said. "I mean, you never know what could happen, so it's totally the same. You could be walking down the street and get blown up. Besides, it's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."

"Sure, you're entitled to your opinion," I said, "but you're absolutely wrong, and how disrespectful to those who actually have to live through the falling bombs!"

He held his hand up to stop me from talking and then waved it around and said, "Whatever. I'm right and there's nothing you can do to change my mind."

This is the second full day of school.

Frighteningly, this year is already head and shoulders above last year. Despite my grumpiness tonight (sick baby in tow), I have some wonderful kids, too. I'll try to focus on them.. after my pity party.