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Friday, December 30, 2005

The Sketch


We're pretending it's New Year's Eve tonight. Heading out to dinner with chums, then back here for games. Uno Attack, Pictionary, Buzzword. We've got it covered. We could call it penultimate night or something like that. We spent the afternoon buying books and magazines. Katha Pollitt has a list of good news from 2005. The piece perked me up considerably. And I bought Prep too. And I bought a book called "Opening Sentences of Famous Novels." I'll leave you with one.
'Sons of bitches,' Lituma felt the vomit rising in his throat.
Mario Vargas Llosa

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Score

I bowled a 167 last night, over 2 games. Today I'm surprisingly sore. I've clearly not been using the bowling muscles enough. Luckily, today was a day of languor. I'm crazy about languor, as it turns out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Axilotl

I went into the compound today and graded papers for 3 hours. I guestimate I still have about 10 hours of grading ahead of me, but a dent was made. During a break to eat and email, I ventured into the supply room to grab one of my yogurts from the teacher fridge. I'm very sad to report that inside the fridge was a footlong axilotl in a 13 inch plastic box. He began wiggling away in there probably in response to the sudden light. I felt a wave of disgust and panic and it's been bugging me all day. Please, don't leave an axilotl in a refrigerator. It's not right, I don't care what anyone says.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Geisha


Before seeing the beautiful Geisha movie today I cruised out to corporate book store's coffee shop and finished up that pesky editor chapter that I've been working on for about 6 months. I'm excited to be done with it. Now it's on to methodology and much of that's written already because I wrote about methodology for my qualifying exams. I have the next 3 chapters after that outlined in my head. Kind of. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Right now, I'm sighing with relief. Progress was made. It can be done.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Card

All the stockings are hung by the chimney, etc. Gifts were bought, trees were decorated. The only thing that didn't happen? The holiday cards. I decided to give myself some slack on that one. So here's my card. The run down on the family? We're all good. Husbandman's making a goat cheese souffle today. Teen Daughter will start driving school in 2 weeks. #1 son started sleeping later this year. Never thought that would happen. And I worked for 2 hours yesterday on the diss, and may be finishing chapter one this week. Hoorah. We all enjoyed King Kong yesterday. Right now, the coffee's brewing and we have some gifts to open. Peace to all in 2006. Love 2 U.... l, p, q, r.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Bed

I've been blowing my nose this week, but today the whole body blew a gasket and it hit me that the only place for me was bed. So in bed I've been, watching Topher Grace in one movie, Diane Keaton in another. It's probably my fate to spend the first vacation days in bed. A cellular shutdown may be the only way to slow the pace. And fate's been intervening weirdly in other moments so I know it's lurking nearabout. Examples: I told someone I wanted to make cranberry bread and then someone else gave me a cranberry bread in a jar deal for christmas. And I bought two gift certificates today for friends and then I regretted buying one of them and then the shop called tonight and said that they only ran my credit card once so I was able to tear up one of the gift certificates. Something else happened fatefully, but I can't remember right now. I'll tell you later. Back to the bed I go.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Visit

Yesterday I rushed home from the final day at the compound to get ready for an afternoon party at my house. As soon as I began the pre-party rituals, my mood elevated and I smiled with anticipation. You can't really beat a party. The chums are all at their most wonderful: relaxed, funny, full of good cheer. We got to show off our Seattle kin to our hometown crowd and the mingling of kin and comrade was a rare treat. Our visit with the Western dears is over and we miss them already. The vacation has begun, the house is eerily quiet. What to do? What to do? I love asking that question. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Santas

In keeping with the fantasy that I am on vacation, we designed project runway Santas tonight. My santa is ready for an afterwork soiree. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Pride

I'm pretending I'm done with school even though I have a few days left. I went to a movie tonight and now I'm watching kinfolk make gingerbread houses. Pride and Prejudice? Yes I say.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Songs


The sixers are having a holiday party on Wednesday afternoon and the teachers must monitor the music they play. I am lucky because I only work in the mornings and I do not make decisions about the parties. I do not attend the parties. I go home. I have been asked to research song lyrics, however. I ask Teen Daughter to do it for me. A quick search of a dozen songs on the sixers' list brings up "Crawling in to bed with me" and "jesus of suburbia is a lie." She asks if these words will bother anyone. I'm not sure, so I pass the lyrics on to the other teachers who will decide. I can not believe I am censoring song lyrics. This is not the identity I desire.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Banshee


The day started off well. Me. The coffee. Next to the window. Then the sixers started pouring in. Droves of them. It's really hard to get much done during the pre-holiday bedlam. The sixers were crazed today and the constant distractions caused me considerable consternation. I tried doing my calm breathing as I waited for attention, lowering my voice to a whisper whenever I spoke, glaring at a few kids with the evil death ray glare, and reviewing the rationale behind our procedures and systems for the 50,000th time. I'm sad to say that I finally blew during second period. One pesky sixer just drove me over the edge. After I decided to take a breath and stop the banshee imitation, we all calmed down. With 20 minutes left of the period, the sixer decided to have mercy on me and he started to write. The other sixers joined in. I sat with a few sixers and actually conferred with them about their stories. We had the radio on and I could hear sixers singing quietly along as they erased and revised. When it was time to go, I wished them well and told them to proceed on their merry way. A sixer packing up her stuff told me, "Hey thanks, this was fun. We should do it more often." I didn't know what to say, so I just smiled, "My pleasure, I enjoyed it too." I felt proud of myself for not ranting, "We should do this more often???? We should be doing it every single day!" I cut my losses and cleaned the desk, preparing the cabin for departure.
foto credit: Menosky. Did you know you could order customized m and m's? You can.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Cranes

I was walking across a parking lot last week when I heard this odd owly kind of hooting sound. A woman near me started jumping around in all directions searching for the sound yelling, They're here! They're here! I got in on the act and began demanding, "What are they? What's here?" I like to know what's going on. The Sand Hill Cranes she told me as we spotted the flock directly overhead. We listened and watched them swirl around while she filled me in on the sand hills and where they like to hang out this wintry time of year.
Today the sixers were off at their special classes and the snow was coming down and I sat at my desk and looked out the window and drank coffee and let the winter air in by opening the window a crack. I grew up in Miami so this season thrills me. They all do. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Bounty

You know that game where you unwrap books and then you steal them from one another? We play that at my TAWL group party every year and I usually do not come home with a good book. That's just how it is. Teen daughter wished me well tonight as I left the house, but reminded me to have low expectations. My strategy tonight was to be ruthless. I stole book after book and in the end I left with an autographed copy of David Bergen's The Time In Between. It just won the Manitoba Book of the Year award. So obviously it's good. The back says it's erotic and hypnotic. Needless to say, more evidence of its goodness. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Strike

We've been reading about Langston Hughes with the sixers. They're very interested in his dallying with communism. I gave them some rudimentary background. About as rudimentary as it gets. One kid said, "I think people who make more money just work harder than other people so they deserve what they have. Poorer people don't work as hard." So today I read a picture book called Si Se Puede to the sixers. They sketched and jotted notes as I read and shared stories that came to mind. The book's based on the janitor's strike in L.A. I haven't been reading too many disruptive books to these sixers because of time concerns. I realized last week that my whole gig is off kilter because of this weird departmentalization set up. I find it very confusing and a wee bit confining. I have more admiration for middle and high school teachers now. I should just go sit in someone's classroom for a week and figure out how to do this. That aside, the book was well received and I'm looking forward to more chatting tomorrow about it. If you know a kid or adult who doesn't know that hard work doesn't correlate with salary, you may want to get this book for them. Mike Rose has a book I want too, called The Mind At Work. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Tree


A few friends have seemed startled when I’ve shown up at social events recently. I’ve even gotten comments of surprise that I’ve left the blog long enough to socialize. (Ho, ho, I’ve chuckled. My friends are so charming in their hilarity.) Though I’ve played along, I have felt anxiety about my marginal mothering of late. Husbandman shows up to more kid activities than I do, there’s no denying it. This week, my guilt meter has soared, as I’ve moaned on and on about grading without really rolling up my sleeves and getting the job done. The December days tick by and the house has no holiday d├ęcor. There are no gifts yet either. Feeling guilty about my malaise, I initially and scornfully rejected Husbandman’s offer to get the tree. In my deluded state of mind, the tree buying expedition is a not to be missed standard of functional family interactions; like the families in the Currier and Ives ads, we should venture out together to the tree lot, trading funny little quips and chatter as we search. I don’t know how I fell prey to this, there's really no rational explanation. I eventually saw the light and the error of my ways and accepted Husbandman’s kind offer. The fam sallied forth while I headed over to the compound to record grades. When I returned, an awesome tree stood in the stand, looking extra fine in front of the bay window. I’m almost done with my midterm grading and now I’m ready to take control of tree decorating. Stand back one and all. This is one of my fortes, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Frey


I woke up early, resolved to finish the Frey book so I could go on with my life. That book about addiction is damned addictive. Teen daughter corrected my earlier statement that I was reading the new Frey. I wasn't. I was reading the old Frey. I wish you all would hurry up and read it too so I could venture forth a few queries. Til then, I'll simply muse. And live free of literacy as I get caught up on midterm mania.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Bill

I got a whole snow day today so thanks to all you who were doing the criss cross applesauce last night. As predicted, an unpredicted day off has restored my vim and verve. I didn't grade much, but I just have a weird sense that I'm more on top of things. I'm finally getting on the stick and posting about H.R.550, a bill that would "mandate a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election." Please sign this petition to support the passage of this bill. Tell others to do so as well, if you would be so kind.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Avoidance

The new Frey book is a good one. A million little pieces. I may make some tea and read on the couch. Snow's falling and it's very beautiful outside. The sixers hoped for early dismissal today but I am crossing my fingers for a 2 hour delay tomorrow. There's not too much better in this world than a 2 hour delay. I have papers to grade and midterms to muster and a dissertation that's down in the dumps. But a 2 hour delay could set everything right. A sixer showed me how to cross 2 sets of fingers on both hands while also crossing arms and legs. So please make sure you do this before bed tonight and say delay 3 times. I don't ask for much. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Torture

I’ve heard news reports about torture lately, detailing government level debates and meetings about whether or not we should torture. These news stories have seemed ridiculous to me because, in my mind, everyone must realize that torture is bad. But not everyone realizes that, I realized today, upon reading the disheartening headline: “Most Americans Say Torture Is OK.” I wish those most Americans could get some psychological help. I also wish they could get some information about the unreliability of evidence procured through torture. Torture’s bad and it’s dumb. Don’t do it. Tell everyone you know.
p.s. something's not letting me post a picture.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Nap


I napped this afternoon. A thing I should never do. If I nap, I'm neither fit for man nor beast when I wake up. I'm surly. I write mean emails to people who've been bugging me. I insult the dinner that's being placed before me. I roll my eyes and use inappropriate language when responding to others. I curse the day I was born.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Essentials


NRC was most excellent. I attended sessions on new literacies, blogging and identity, discourse analysis, intertextuality, action research and critical literacy. When not skewering my brain with information, I wandered through Fairchild Gardens photographing the Chihuly installation or I scuttled through Art Basel. Other times, I simply sat with pals eating memorable meals and gazing out at the water. Holiday gift giving may be slim this year because of expenses incurred on this trip. Understandable? I hope so.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Procrastination


I must pack. I must take clothes and put them into a suitcase. Everything in me is resisting this task. I have packed one shirt. The second shirt I want to bring is wrinkled so I've been reading the newspaper and contemplating whether or not it's worthy of ironing. That's going to involve plugging in the iron, setting up the ironing board, moving the iron back and forth. I figured blogging about it might get me out of the packing rut. If this doesn't work, I'm going to have to give myself some tough love and do my drill sergeant voice...Suck it up! Get cracking on the packing! That kind of thing. The trip is going to be fun, but the whole getting there thing feels odious right now. I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Attention


#1 son had a big project due today and he worked on it for hours last night. I wanted to go to bed at 10:30 and asked him to get some sleep. In an exasperated voice, he told me to go to bed and to please let him get his work done. I went to bed, feeling that things were not right with the world. This odd feeling reappeared tonight when I got home after working in the classroom compound for a few hours. Both offspring were busy with their own pursuits. I tried to distract them by performing some spirited aerobic dancing accompanied by a series of pestering questions, but they smiled kindly and ignored me for the most part. I'm discomfited by the total lack of attention I'm receiving from the offspring. What about me? Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Warmth


The UN commission on climate change is meeting in Canada this week. Top on the agenda is the development of a plan to extend the Kyoto Protocol past its current “commitment period” which ends in 2012. Guess who doesn’t want to extend the Kyoto Protocol? Guess who thinks working on restricting global emissions should be a voluntary endeavor rather than a legal mandate? Guess who’s the biggest polluter on the planet? Yeah, it’s us, the U.S. Even though, once again, I may not get to feel that warm glow of pride from the knowledge that we’re joining with others to take some small steps to protect the planet, I can anticipate the warmth that will come later from the global warming crises on the way.
Foto Credit of the Komodo Dragon: Joy

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Thanks
















The weekend of thankfulness with the wonderful family has come to an end. Yay team! The haystacks were eaten, the bevvies were bevved, the zoo was reviewed, the movies were viewed, the chatting at the kitchen table was thoroughly chattifying.
The new Harry Potter had me screeching "POTTER" with vim and gusto in the parking lot after the show and Walk the Line has brought us all into a burning ring of fire. Singing Folsom Prison Blues too but I have to interrupt myself to point out to los kiddos that killing a man just to watch him die is totally unacceptable.
Now it's back to work before a jaunt to Miami on Thursday. I'm freaking a bit because all I've bought in terms of xmas gifts so far is a fancy cheese grater that Mitzi recommended. I don't even know who it's for. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Lunchroom

People who work in lunchrooms should be paid a lot of money. I stayed in the lunchroom for 3 lunch periods today, monitoring the famous Mix It Up Day. In that loud space, you never know when someone's going to start slamming a thermos into the table over and over again or throwing half a sandwich at someone nearby. Anything can happen. I say KUDOS to the lunchroom monitors. They were extremely cheerful and helpful even though the whole cafeteria routine was thrown akilter. The school seemed to like Mix It Up. Third lunch was a hard sell, but the first two chatted happily together and answered the ice breaker questions the sixers had written, questions like, "Have you ever been grounded and what for?" and "Would you rather jump out of a plane or walk across hot coals? Explain."
During third lunch, I heard a kid say, "This Mix It Up day is crap."
I told him, "Mix It Up is not crap. And even if it were crap, you shouldn't say it's crap. Now, be honest. You're enjoying Mix It Up, aren't you?"
"It's okay," he replied sullenly.
I didn't want to push my luck, so I took that as an enthusiastic endorsement of the sixers' project and wandered off to discuss the new Potter movie with kids at the next table.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Letter


While I was gone, the sixers performed plays for the little kids about the Mix It Up lunch project. As they worked on their zines and stories this morning, I read to them from a stack of thank you letters written by the smaller kids. When I got to a letter with the words, “Thank you for doing the plays. I can’t wait for Mix It Up at lunch because I do not have any friends,” the sadness of the letter startled me and I’m ashamed to report that I started laughing uproariously. The sixers just shook their heads at me as I tried to pull it together. My whole life I’ve had a problem with laughing at inappropriate moments and I explained this to the sixers. One supported me with the kind words, “It’s nervous laughter. That can happen when you're uncomfortable.”
“Exactly. Thanks for understanding,” I replied, suppressing more chuckles as I looked at the letter again, which was written in rainbow colors. The sixers never quite got back to work after the incident. I had no one to blame but myself of course and I wondered once again if someone like me really belonged in the teaching profession.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Cabs


Pittsburgh suffers from a paucity of taxis. I discussed this with the Pittsburgers to try to figure out what could be done. Many of them have considered starting up their own cab companies. Others shared practical strategies for making sure others do not steal your cab. Even the cab drivers acknowledged the problem, telling us, "Teachers, you will not be getting a cab tonight. Face it, teachers."
Come on Burgers, huddle up and let's figure something out here.
Other than the cab debacle and drama, NCTE was much fun, with incredible talks to attend and many old friends to visit and chat with. Next year...Nashville.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Poster


A teacher asked me to check out one of the posters my classes had placed all over the school about Mix It Up day next week. I assumed that the poster would say something horribly inappropriate as I followed the other teacher to view it, but when I got to it, it brought me much mirth and merriment! The sixer had written an advertisement that would make anyone excited about the Mix It Up project:
Mix It UP! Have you ever sat with anyone you dislike? Well on November 22, you will be! You will be sitting with people you don’t ever sit with. So be prepared.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Fugitive


#1 son’s been talking about some guy named Crazy Craterson every day for many months now. Whenever we want #1 to finish some homework or go to bed or find his shoes, he asks us, “Have you heard about Crazy Craterson? He grew up on the streets of Pittsburgh. All alone, except for his dog Waffles.” I asked # 1 for some info about how I might track Crazy Craterson down on the upcoming Pittsburgh trip. #1 just laughed and shook his head, “Crazy’s been hunted down by the C.E.O.’s of companies for years. He’s a fugitive and there’s no way he’ll be showing his face anywhere you’d run into him.” I’m disappointed, but I may ask around anyway.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Pretending


I freak out when I'm preparing a talk. I know I'm going to do it, and everyone else expects it. Before I put my butt in the chair to get the talk worked out, I email everyone on the planet to remind them that I need reassurance. Sometimes I ask for prayers and candle lighting. Any help that is offered, I take. The reassurance and assistance come rolling in as the afternoon wears on, and the talk is slowly shaped into presentability. Later, after the talk, I don't remember the freaking out part. I wish everyone else would forget it too. Let's just pretend.
Foto credit: Emmanuelle's Mom.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Shirt


Judy has been helping me buy clothes for so long that if people remark on my attire they usually say something along the lines of “Nice sweater-shirt-scarf-vest. Did Judy pick it out?” This week at lunch, Judy got a little bossy with the clothes, as she can from time to time, with “You shouldn’t be wearing that white shirt with that sweater. Wear a t-shirt under the sweater.”
As I had been feeling rather dapper that day, I replied, “I like the way this looks.”
She responded matter of factly, “It’s a waste of the white shirt. The white shirt is a stand alone.”
“But I like the look of the white shirt with the sweater.”
“You’re going to sweat and make the arm pits of the white shirt yellow and then it’s useless.”
“Well, I guess I can always buy a new white shirt then.”
But Judy knows that the white shirt was expensive so she commented on its price before advising me one more time to wear the white shirt without the sweater in future. In the clothing department, and in pretty much all others, Judy does not back down. Will I wear the white shirt and the sweater again? I really can’t say. I'm going to have to think about it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Play


Last week I gave the sixers a little talk about my diss. I told them that I’m pretending I’m an editor of an independent press. I named my press, went over the mission statement and talked about the press’s list of publications, all of which focus on social justice themes. Then they started sifting through their writers' notebooks to identify themes for their publications. First period will be creating theme zines and second period will be doing social narrative fiction stories. One second period sixer showed me a notebook entry about Las Vegas he wanted to include in his story. “I know I want the story to be set in Las Vegas, but I don’t have a theme.” We had written down a list of themes from the texts we’d shared last quarter. I pointed to where he had written “class” and said, “That might be good. Or money. Especially if your characters are in Las Vegas.”
He nodded and said with surprise, “That’s not a bad idea, actually.”
Next week they’re writing book proposals and submitting these with self-addressed stamped envelopes, so I can send them book contracts.
One kid asked, “What if you don’t like our proposal?”
He simply grinned back at me when I offered my happy response, “You get to redo it!" I love working in an elementary school. Even the sixers can get into the figured world of the independent press. Listening to my imagined identity, they nod their heads and play along. For now anyway.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Reparations










Foto above shows my view on Monday night, when I ventured out to have dinner with two pals. You probably notice that the table seems empty except for my beverage and some reading material. In short, my friends never arrived. Foto below represents compensation for my losses as good pals hosted me to an awesome dinner at Mikado later in the week. Having received reparations, I feel I can move on with my life. (Thanks, D and M!)
Sushi dragon foto credit: Menosky.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Program


The last few nights I’ve gotten into bed at a decent time, but I’ve stayed up late perusing the NCTE program that showed up in my mailbox Monday. The book-sized program contains thousands of descriptions of presentations to be seen at the upcoming convention in Pittsburgh. I try to stop reading after 30 minutes or so, but I can’t put the thing down. My own talk is not yet prepared, but I’ll think about that later. For now, I am going through my days waiting for another night with a glass of wine and the NCTE program. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Toughness

Today was a day for homework to be returned and despite my rant last week about not allowing the completion of homework in class, several sixers tested my resolve. Despite a long rant about the life skill of responsibility, several attempted to sneakily finish it on the sly and turn it in during the period. I had to do some serious lambasting in response to this flagrant chicanery. I love the sixers with all my heart, but the shenanigans must end. And end they will. I'm hoping they will, at any rate. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Puppets


I go to meeting after meeting this week where we try to figure out how to offer electives to the sixers. At the fifth meeting in two days, I finally stop trying to give what I consider reasonable input, and just start nodding at everything and anything, desperate for it all to be over.
Inexplicably, I find myself volunteering to teach puppetry. Everyone is happy. The meeting ends.
When Teen Daughter hears about my elective, she looks up from the computer, "You hate puppets," she reminds me.
"I thought maybe we could make those paperbag puppets like in the Fandango commercials."
I don't need her to say anything. The insanity comes rushing in on me and I scream, "My god what have I done?" I rush to the computer to email my retraction, "I forgot I hate puppets. Sign me up for school newspaper. " I just hope it's not too late.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Calm

There's always a lull at the beginning of the quarter where you can kid yourself into thinking that you'll be able to keep up with it all this time, that you won't let it get so out of hand like it did last quarter, that you have systems in place now that are really going to help, that nothing's going to keep you from making real progress on the dissertation. Of course, the lull is a sham, a delusion. But it's okay to enjoy these few moments of calm before the storm turns into a tornado with each passing week of the new quarter. Calm is good, when and wherever it shows up.
Foto Credit: Carmen's family.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Gum

During our talk about Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement last week, one sixer shared that the sixers are organizing to try to get gum chewing permitted at school. I had noticed quite a lot of gum chewing lately. I’ve asked a few kids to spit out gum, but I think the gum chewing might be keeping them a bit quieter so I’ve been inconsistent with enforcement. After this first sixer piped up, the rest erupted in a barrage of comments about how unfair it was that they couldn’t chew gum. I tried to support them in their social action plans, such as they were, by remarking that I was surprised that teen daughter was not only allowed to chew gum in high school, she was allowed to bring her cd player and could listen to music as she moved from class to class.
One kid yelled out, “You have no idea how many of us are listening to ipods at recess. We just wear our hoods and the supervisors don’t know that we have them with us.” I turned away and began readying the VCR for the Mighty Times video viewing.
Later I told Teen Daughter that I was pleasantly surprised that the kids were sharing their stories with me. “Maybe they trust me,” I wondered.
“They might trust you,” she answered, “Or more likely, they don’t really care what you think.” I had to admit that the latter rings more true at this point. And really, w/e.
p.s. Foto Credit for this pic of happy Samantha as Spider: Menosky