maeve66: (aqua tea icon)
I did not write that last entry thinking there was an LJ revival going on, and who are you new people? Really?

Okay, I'll plunge.

I am a second generation socialist and a third generation atheist (who nonetheless fucking LOVES Christmas; I can't help it, I was trained that way by my mother and grandmother). My nieces are fourth generation atheists and so far, third generation socialists, which is awesome. I have not reproduced. I made a list a few weeks ago of all the very close to fairly close friends of mine in my general age range who have not reproduced. It was an extensive list. Do I select for them? Dunno. It's not that I am opposed to reproduction or anything -- I adore my nieces endlessly -- just that it's interesting to me that I've never really had that whole biological clock thing and apparently a lot of people I've known since high school or college (or more recently) also have not.

I am a public school teacher -- middle school, English/Language Arts and Social Studies, taught in my district as a "Core" which means two periods with the same set of students, repeat twice more. This is astonishingly (astonishing to me) my nineteenth year teaching. There are many things I love about teaching, but to be honest, I largely decided to do it for the following reasons:

1. I was All-But-Dissertation in American Social and Labor History, dipped my toe into the academic job market waters and thought, oh, fuck this. Public schools are more democratic (small d), are, with public libraries, one of the only ways in which the US has ever aspired to social democracy, are unionized (remember, this was almost twenty years ago, when charters were just beginning, and Scott Walker's Wisconsin was unknown... though there were even then plenty of right-to-work states where a teacher's union didn't mean much).

2. I could get a decent-paying job immediately in most inner-city school districts, without a credential. I was done with living on $7,000 to $13,000 a year, and student loans. I chose Oakland because my sister had moved out here with her then boyfriend while I was in grad school in Missouri. I knew she'd make a family out here, and I wanted to be close to her.

3. I actually love doing all the work assignments I give students. I like projects. I love drawing. I love reading, and writing, to a nearly obsessive degree. I love history. I make models of everything we end up doing (and I also keep the best student models, which leads to improvement pretty much every year as students see these... truly, they don't ever try to copy; they work to surpass).

4. I can memorize a shit ton of names REALLY FAST. I usually know students' names within the first week of school every year (though that's no guarantee I will remember all of them six years later). I usually have about 95 to 100 students a year. (I can get names so quickly that, when I have to lose my prep period in order to cover for another teacher when there is no substitute teacher, I can often pinpoint specific kids immediately during that period, which they react to as if I have arcane powers).

5. I love creating curriculum. I would be great at that as a job, but these days "Teachers on Special Assignment" don't create curriculum, they police other teachers and try to ensure that they are toeing whatever the district line is this year. I would be terrible at that job and would never, ever want to do it.

Okay, that's teaching, more or less. Most years I enjoy the hell out of most of my students. Some of the ones I had way back in the beginning in West Oakland are FB friended to me, and I am glad to still be in touch with them. However, I don't let students friend me until they're out of high school.

What else? I love books. I read, and I also re-read a lot, constantly. I like Goodreads for tracking my reading, though I don't review everything I read, at all. Including re-reading, I basically get through at least 365 books a year. More like 420 or so. Now, granted, I read a lot of genre fiction (historical mysteries, historical fiction, sci fi, fantasy) and YA fiction, not just Marx and Trotsky and Luxemburg and history and biographies and memoirs.

I also love writing, though I think I have slowed down on that. I mean, look at this practically moribund LJ of mine. I've kept some form of journal non-stop since I was 9 years old, and I have all of the volumes except one I lost when I was in college.

Given a choice between dogs and cats, I will pick a cat every time. I've had three as an adult: a deeply loved long-haired white cat (the people at the animal shelter in Columbia, Missouri lied to me and said she was a medium coat, maybe even a short hair, when I got her as a kitten; I had no experience of long-haired cats) I named Rilke. She was intelligent and fierce and loyal to me (a way of saying she pretty much hated everyone else except my mother and grandmother). She lived to 18, and only died a few years ago. I also had a black long-haired cat (that one's on me; I just wasn't paying attention when this needy tiny kitten hooked her claws into me at an adopt-a-pet kiosk outside of Safeway my second year in Oakland.) She was Maya. She was friendly to all. She also was missing one of her fangs, so she drooled one hundred percent of the time. She made it about thirteen or fourteen years. Now I have a young orange marmalade (with color-suppressor gene) cat named Devlin, who is delightful and cuddly and fairly smart -- she has funny tricks like trying to catch cat treats with her paws and washing her face with both paws at once. She has never hissed once in her life after I chose her from a litter of feral rescue kittens that friends were fostering. She has never gotten touchy about belly rubs, ever. She has only barfed about twice in four years. For a while I was documenting her bad habits -- climbing screens, drinking in the sink, pulling ornaments off of trees, chewing flower petals... but they're not really that annoying, now that she's too heavy for the screens. I love my cat.

Hm. Go look at my interests. They're pretty much all still true. They also serve as an introduction. Bollywood! Bertolt Brecht! Inessa Armand! Alexandra Kollontai! Brighton! Prismacolor pencils! (I'm actually not sure these are all in that list, but they could -- or should -- be).
Well, I did better than last year, and I think the year before, too, at reviving LJ posting over the summer. Tomorrow morning, shiny new seventh graders arrive (I guess they're slightly less shiny than the incoming sixth graders, but still). I was still fiddling around preparing the blank (but labeled at the bottom so that they'll be legible to me, and divided by class periods) name cards for tomorrow when the principal announced that they were locking the building at 5:15, which means I didn't get my copying done, and will have to go in early, early tomorrow. Like maybe by 6:45 AM. Yikes. Which means leaving no later than 6:15, which means getting out of bed by no later than 5:45, and 5:30 would be better. Thus, I should be in bed now... I got absolutely zero sleep last night, as my brain feverishly reviewed possible strategies and 'community building' ideas. We're supposed to do that for the first week, and preferably the first two weeks. No hard curriculum or content. We'll see.

Home projects proceed apace (which means slowly). I have scanned almost 200 old family photos (with something like 1,000 or more left). I have not re-cluttered after de-cluttering. I bought Devlin a cat bed (which I was not entirely sure she would tolerate) and she loves it madly and sleeps in it every night, almost spilling out of it.


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Devlin has loved me being at home, and it is sad to no longer get to be exquisitely lazy with her. On a weekday, at any rate.
maeve66: (me in sixth grade)
Day 30: What nonfiction that you have read recently would you review/recommend?

I don't read a ton of nonfiction -- I used to; I used to read lots of marxist theory and commentary... Marx, Engels, a little Lenin though his prose is boring as shit, Luxemburg, Mandel, Norman Geras, Michael Löwy, etc. But now I tend to read biographies and memoirs and occasional pop sociology like Barbara Ehrenreich, as far as nonfiction. The last few things I read were biographies -- Steve Jobs (which I would only recommend if you want to stoke your fires further about what an asshole he was), Melissa Gilbert (kind of funny, but much less so and much less political than I was hoping for. She didn't get it ghost-written, that's for sure. It would have been better written), and... I think there was someone else... but I am coming up blank. I re-read Will in the World not too long ago. I highly recommend THAT, if you like Shakespeare. It's like a social history of a possible life he could have had, with interesting use of primary sources, and with the use of the plays themselves as primary sources. I really liked it.

Day 31: Why is the idea of "class" so nebulous in the United States -- as opposed to, say, Britain.

American exceptionalism, marxist style. Ugh. This is the worst inheritance of the American ethos. From DeTocqueville on, analysts have noted that Americans believe their own Big Lie, that anyone can rise in status if they work hard enough, and that individualism is not only good, but the best way to be. I think the best analysis of this I've ever read is Mike Davis' Prisoners of the American Dream. I highly recommend that too. And for the British end of the question, E. P. Thompson's brilliant Making of the English Working Class.

Day 32: Who is a teacher you recall fondly -- from middle school? (also, other blog topics, from high school, from college, from grad school)

For middle school, I guess it has to be Ms. Noznick. Pauline Noznick. I'm Facebook friended to her now (she writes a lot about this year's snowy Chicago winter, and posts pictures from the Botanical Gardens). All of which makes it seem like I must have been her teacher's pet and so on. Not so. I drove her fucking crazy and annoyed the shit out of her, and she pissed me off. For some reason she told us about how her great-grandfather (or grandfather?) had fought with the Czarist Whites in the 1920s Russian Civil War. That infuriated me, for a start. I mean, there's no reason for her to talk about this in 1978 except that I must have said something about the Russian Revolution (which it is certainly likely I would have done.) And we used to tussle all the time in class -- she was my Homeroom teacher and my Social Studies teacher, for 7th and 8th grade.

In 7th grade we did European history -- or at least, we did the French Revolution, as I recall, so maybe the great political ideas? Because 8th grade was American History, for sure. But I know we did topical units, like the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Socialism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism (together! In one unit: Marx, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union!) There was this guy who worked for our school district, or was a consultant or something, who would dress up as various historical figures and visit schools and do a spiel in the theater or auditorium. I know he did a Civil War soldier and something else. And he did a Russian Commissar. He came to Nichols to present as a Russian Commissar, and did a speech in a heavy fake Russian accent on the topic "Freedom FROM versus Freedom TO". In 1978 or 1977, as the Cold War raged on. And I sat in the audience, getting angrier and angrier, with Ms. Noznick needling her laser stare down the row at me, warning me to sit tight. But I couldn't. As soon as he asked for questions, I shot up out of my seat and started denouncing his prejudices and bullshit. My whole row was laughing at the entertainment I provided with my politics. Ms. Noznick was mortified. Another time, I corrected her pronunciation of "bourgeois" in class. Her response was those little white patches that can appear, bracketing your nose, and a clipped "... I am the ADULT and YOU are the child..."

At least she taught about this stuff, though. I can't imagine anyone teaching anything like "The Five Main Points in Marxist Theory" now. I mean, they were simplistic and intended to be damning, like "Point #3 -- Violence is the way, THE ONLY WAY, to create social change." Or "Point #5: Economics is the force that moves history." I wrote essays on both of those, and it was thrilling to get to do so -- to write polemics at age 12. I appreciate her for that, and for being a rigorous teacher. She obviously recalled me fondly for my brain if nothing else, but she was also very pleased to find out I'd become a middle school Social Studies (and Language Arts, ugh) teacher.

Day 33: What's your current favorite sci-fi/sitcom/any genre TV show and why? What's so appealing about it?

I just finished watching Caprica with [profile] johnbcannon. That was enjoyable, as a prequel to Battlestar Galactica. I never got into Buffy, but I very, very much liked Firefly and the movie, Serenity. I was sad Firefly was cancelled. I even enjoyed Star Trek: Enterprise, but I guess I'd enjoy anything in that imaginary universe... Oh! ANY GENRE! I just read the sci-fi part and stopped there... I don't watch current TV on TV, because I don't have any cable. But on Netflix... I really liked the first season of Orange is the New Black -- it, like, gets an A+ on the Bechdel Test. Amazing ensemble acting with mostly women. It is so not exploitative of women-in-prison genres, but also somehow manages not to be a gross white-lady-capitalizes-on-her-prison-experience vehicle, even though it easily could be that. The other women are whole people. And I've never gotten to see so many different women of color with different aspects. One way the show manages this is by giving us parts of flashbacks for EVERYONE's back story. I haven't quite finished re-watching the first season, with my mother, and I should, soon, before the second season starts.

Day 34: What technology that exists now could you not really imagine as a child?

Hm. I don't think I had the slightest inkling of personal computers and the changes they would wreak. I couldn't have imagined email and not handwriting letters. I guess I could have imagined phones with images and small handheld portable phones -- they showed things like that on sci-fi TV shows. I don't know, though. I don't think I was much of a futurist as a kid. I didn't try to imagine what would exist in the future, except for flying cars and space travel.

Day 35: Pro baseball, or pro football?

Pro football -- and even then, really only a few teams interest me, and mostly the Green Bay Packers. But baseball... I just find it yawningly boring. People get very lyrical about baseball, but I cannot.

Day 36: What are the books from your childhood that stay with you?

This is a HUGE topic, depending on how you take it. It would be shorter if I thought of it in terms of picture books, not young adult fiction. I'll try to compromise. Picture books: I Have a Turtle, which was one of those cheap cardboard-backed books you could get in check-out lines. Something like that. It wasn't a Golden Book, though. Smaller format. I learned to read from that. I loved a quiet picture book called The Big Red Barn. And the Frances books -- with Frances the badger? By Russell and Lillian Hoban. I liked those. I loved anything written and/or illustrated by Robert McCloskey, from Make Way for Ducklings to Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine... I always felt a kinship to those books when my family would hit the road for our August car vacation which usually ended up on the East Coast, with Boston and Maine places we went almost every summer. Good Night Moon was an entrancing, calming, soporific book, as it has been for generations at this point. I admired but was not a fan of Harold and the Purple Crayon and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. My great-aunt was an editor at Scholastic, and she sent us a LOT of books, when we were little. She sent a great collection of poems, many by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I remember liking them. Oh, yeah, and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, which I had to look up just now -- I had no idea it was written in 1939. That story was awesome.

Day 37: How do you feel about aging?

Gah. My stepmother always answers this question the same way: "It's better than the alternative." Ha. Yeah. Well, that's true. It is not much fun, though, and seeing what lies ahead of me as I hang out with my mother? Not fun at all. A lack of dexterity, losing control of my hands and small motor skills? UGH. Poor(er) vision and possible diabetic retinopathy, e.g. BLINDNESS? God, even worse. Aphasia? Boo. Worse than that, there's obviously a genetic predilection in at least part of my mother's family for dementia. Fuck me. I don't like aging.

Day 38: Do you think it's possible to maintain your privacy in this networked age?

I can't get worked up about this. Maybe I should, but it just seems like the NSA could, if it wanted to, get whatever info it wanted. Maybe I also don't really feel all that private? I mean, I guess I'd rather not have my employer know various things about me. But, if you know my name and Google it, you will see a pretty comprehensive record of my adult life, and I can't really care.

Day 39: Why cats?

BECAUSE. Cats are fantastic. I don't get people who say cats are aloof. I've never had a cat that was aloof... towards ME. Towards other people, maybe. Cats are the right size to have in your house. Cats are warm and soothing and a tactile pleasure to touch. Cats don't slobber. Cats don't need to go on walks -- they are perfectly happy to flip a switch in their brain and race around your apartment like a crazed whirlwind. Cats instinctively come sit on or by you if you are feeling sick or blue. Cats (my cats anyway) are basically quiet except for interrogatory meows in a variety of pleasing registers. Cats offer a positive role model for the pleasures of laziness. Cats have interesting personalities and you can see at least some rudimentary thought processes if you stare in their eyes.


Cozy Maya photo IMG_0938.jpg


Devlin owl ears photo IMG_1810.jpg


Devlin owns the ottoman photo IMG_2387.jpg


Maya perky photo IMG_1005.jpg
Here she is, queen of all she surveys, aka taking a bath on my bed:

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And here, terrified by being in a NEW, BIG, unknown scary ROOM (otherwise known as my living room, where I transported her and set her down on my couch.) Everything smells like that other cat. Aghh!

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But a few minutes later... well, maybe she can tolerate that other cat's scent. It's not so bad, as long as there are NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS or NOISES. What, you want me to look at you now? Fine.

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This isn't really an update, it's just a photo from two nights ago, when she voluntarily climbed up to my bed and slept with me.



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[personal profile] sabotabby points out that I should update with pix frequently, before she is no longer a kitten. That is a wise idea. I only have one picture of Rilke as a kitten, though it is adorbs, as the young folk say.
I must like monologuing, mustn't I? I think that writing started being useful venting for me around age 9, which is when I started keeping a journal regularly. This blog is just another outgrowth of that. I don't have to feel particularly inspired, although I slightly shamefacedly admit that these mostly moronic questions are a useful prod towards daily writing, even if I shrug off half of them (or more) because they are TOO stupid.

What makes me really need to write? In a journal, it's often strong feelings, good or bad. It's hard for me to just sit with feelings and experience them; I'd rather either deny them or express them forcefully right away. Negative feelings especially are difficult for me, and sometimes writing is one way to dilute them.

In other news: Devlin is getting more comfortable -- with my bedroom at least. She's exploring and playing, and figured out (finally) how to scramble up to my bed, via the suitcases I laid on their sides at the foot of it. So she slept at the foot of the bed last night, like a normal cat. Maya, however, needs to go to the vet. I realized she wasn't eating, AT ALL, yesterday, and this is about Day 3 of that. Before I thought it was kind of a hunger strike against the kitten, and thought she was nibbling something here and there. But no, last night I realized she actually cannot eat. I gave her a treat, and she clearly WANTED to eat it, but could not. And there's some kind of ... clickety noise in her mouth, and when she scent marked me, it hurt her. So we have an appointment at 11:30, but that's almost three HOURS away, and I've got her in her carrier because I did that before calling, stupidly. So I don't want to let her out because it will be hard to capture her a second time. The first time she was unaware, sort of. Man, she objects to the kitten.
maeve66: (aqua tea icon)
The last thing I baked were Christmas cookies (the rich butter cookie recipe from Joy of Cooking, which are perfect for frosting of various colors, and decorations, etc.) with my nieces.




The full display



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Honestly, unless you've made these, you can't imagine how good they taste, especially with that frosting, which is Jiffy white frosting and various food colorings.



A teapot, what else? We each made and decorated one.



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And finally, my cookie of Rilke



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maeve66: (AQ bikini 1973)
The urban dictionary definition I knew about was the Pokémon (it is weak and only has the teleport power, but is hard to catch) -- because a student gave me that Pokémon card my first or second year of teaching. And my brother-in-law's nephew (I guess he's sort of my nephew?) gave me the actual plastic figurine. It's vaguely catlike, which is cool.

The real meaning of my name is the feminine version of a major Biblical or Torah name -- in that sense it sort of means "mother of multitudes" which is not exactly the case for me. My father chose my name after seeing James Dean and Julie Harris in East of Eden, though he'd liked the name since he met a granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller's with this name, as a kid in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

I like my name a lot, though I briefly (around age 10) went through a spell when I got tired of the jokes made around it. I thought about going to my middle name, Elizabeth, but got stubborn instead and stayed with my own first name.

By the way -- not at all by the way, in fact -- I got a kitten today, pending tomorrow morning's vet appointment. I can't keep her (I think it's a her) if she's got FeLV or FIV. But otherwise, I hope Maya can get used to the idea of another female cat. Kitten. Here's a picture of her:



IMG_1376

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