maeve66: (Read Motherfucking Books All Damn Day)
Thank fuck. I will be glad to get shed of this year, random occurrence of people dying, racist resurgence in global politics, and all.

I don't enjoy New Years' though. Not my favorite holiday. It feels like there are exhortations to improve oneself everywhere, and that just makes me stubbornly want to do something particularly unsafe and unhealthy and trivial and lazy, so THERE.

On this particular New Years' Eve, I will have my mother over -- we will drink fizzy fruit drinks, as she doesn't drink, and I can do without. We will make some black beans and rice (because I do not care for black-eyed peas, sadly) and eat popcorn while watching some kind of feel good movie. I've been having trouble finding feel good movies recently, if anyone has any suggestions.

I did, however, watch one found after long and arduous internet search -- it was quite cute -- belongs in a double-header with The Commitments, which is one of my favorite movies. This one is called Sing Street and is more or less the same but with a school setting in Dublin, and more obvious 80s music (and fashion) nostalgia. Some of the original music written for it -- which starts out terrible and gets pretty good -- is HILARIOUS, like "The Riddle of the Model".

The heat is on. Even though it is 51 degrees F. out, it feels very cold in my living room, so I gave in and turned on the heat. Music is also on -- I went and turned all 370 Xmas songs off, on iTunes, so I will not hear them as I play more or less random sets.

I have annoying chores to do -- laundry and dishes, mainly. But I hate doing laundry SO FUCKING MUCH. I am going to try to Do All The Laundry tomorrow, at a laundromat, and RQ is going to help me carry it downstairs and back up, because that is a fucking daunting task. Such is my exciting New Year plan.

Oh, PS -- I did just manage to reach my half-sister, Beth, who lives in Florida. She doesn't always answer. She can be out of touch for long, long, long periods of time. She's five years older than me... I must have told the story of how we met Beth, in 1997. My mom gave her up for adoption in 1961. I love her an awful lot. She has a pretty hard life, and has fulfilled our genetic urge to alcoholism. I don't know how RQ and I have evaded that, really. We certainly had the potential.
Why yes, [personal profile] mistersmearcase (still such an excellent LJ name, as good as [profile] oblomova and [profile] wouldprefernot2 and [personal profile] springheel_jack) I am totally copying you, plagiarizing, what you will. Think of it as a) sincere flattery, and b) your entry was kiiiind of like a meme, so it's not outright theft?

Anyway, I was going to write about Christmas anyway. I'm a third generation atheist (and my nieces are fourth generation atheists; I think that's so cool) but I guess -- I mean, duh, I know -- nominally that earlier than three generations back (and in my father's father's case, just two generations back) my forebears were indeed Christians -- and in a few branches, Catholics. But I don't care. They can't have Xmas. Xmas and all its semi pagan holly and mistletoe and yule logs and Christmas trees AND FUCKING COLORED LIGHTS are mine, damn it, and anyone who delights in them.

More embarrassingly though (because I am not embarrassed at all about my love for the shiny, glittery, glaring, neon, and over-the-top colorful brightness of Xmas lights and Xmas ornaments) is the fact that I like Christmas music. Lots and lots of Christmas music, including all the heavily religious classics, and the sentimental syrupy Christian claptrap (like, even "Away in a Manger" and "The Little Drummer Boy").

I have an iPod playlist of 365 Xmas songs, and that's even after pruning it this year of all the versions I'd had on it of 1) Jingle Bells, which I hate; 2) Santa Claus is Coming to Town (ditto); 3) "Frosty the Snowman" (which I LOATHE); and 4) "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (ditto)... I also pruned some of the weird novelty songs Mark gave me, back in the day, like James Brown's Christmas oeuvre, some Pakistani multi-culti Xmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa song, and that annoying Beach Boys one about toys. But that still leaves me with more than ten versions of "Little Drummer Boy". Also, a vast number of Sufjan Stevens Xmas songs, because he has two albums, with something like SEVENTY SONGS. I buy one new Christmas album each year, the way I used to get new ornaments every year, but now I can't get any more because I am at maximum tree coverage, given how many lights I think a tree needs. This year, though, I ended up with three albums -- Maddy Pryor's "A Tapestry of Carols", a Johnny Cash album my friend [profile] john_b_cannon recommended from his (third) far flung Xmas in Saudi Arabia, and the Mary Chapin Carpenter Xmas album. I think my favorite in the last several years is the Christmas album Annie Lennox put out. So, yeah, I love Xmas music. I have lots of friends who HATE it, very, very much, so I play it at home, and sometimes I inflict it on my students, but they like about any soundtrack, really, so that's okay.

Otherwise in Xmas news, about five minutes before midnight tonight, I finished wrapping my presents for this year. Very few of them were locally purchased. Almost all of them involved me giving money to that evil behemoth, Amazon. Four came from Palestine via Germany -- four kaffiyehs made in a factory on the West Bank, with different patterns (two were the Ur traditional black-and-white, and red-and-white) named after different towns, like Hebron and Ramallah. Here, I'll list presents (I am pretty sure my sister would never dream of reading LJ anymore).

*for my dad: a hardback of the most recent entry in a British mystery series he likes a lot, whose author he has hung out with in Brighton

*for my stepmother (by request): a velour tracksuit -- and my mom got her one, too. She was pining for at least one velour tracksuit. I want photos.

*for my uncle: a trial subscription to The Economist... he's hard to get anything for. A Starbucks and a Panera card would probably have been better, but I like to imagine him reading that magazine before he starts wheeling and dealing in online trading... which is, for him, basically gambling, I think. He's a retired accountant.

*for my cousins and aunt in Milwaukee: See's Candy

All of the above were sent on their way Midwestward by the internet, whether via Amazon or not

*for my brother-in-law: the black-and-white kaffiyeh

*for my sister: the red-and-white kaffiyeh

*for Ruby, my 15 year old niece: a weekly planner (which turned out to be half the size I was expecting, so THAT sucked); a desk calendar that's kitschy and retro; two large sketchbooks; two pairs of earbuds and a travel case; a khaki-and-olive kaffiyeh; smelly candles and candle holders and a lighter

*for Rosie, my twelve year old niece who will turn thirteen on Christmas day, a wall calendar of vintage cats; a denim and chambray blue kaffiyeh; smelly candles and candle holders and a lighter; two large sketchbooks; two pairs of earbuds and a travel case... and as her separate birthday gift... first, a small present wrapped in Bollywood paper (which is a taste I successfully inculcated in her) of a set of five hella cute guitar picks... and then a fucking acoustic guitar. Dunno how good the quality is, but my mom is going to show her some stuff and then we'll look at YouTube videos, and if she likes it enough, my mom and I will split the cost of actual lessons.

*for my mom: a wall calendar of vintage animal posters; no kaffiyeh, but if she wants one (by the way, thanks, [personal profile] springheel_jack, you gave me the idea) I'll manage it... also, an audiobook of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, the first volume of the Baroque Cycle, and a subscription to Entertainment Weekly, which she generally "borrows" from me, though I end up reading about two pages of each issue. I figured I ought to cut out the middleman.

To be honest, I like getting, wrapping, and giving presents much more than I like getting them.

I want to put some photos in here, but it's a pain in the ass; I have to get them off my phone first, and then hosted by Photobucket, before I can put them in the entry. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. Now that I am DONE WRAPPING everything... except Rosie's guitar picks, which are supposed to arrive tomorrow.
maeve66: (FI hammer and sickle)
I don't even know what to say on LiveJournal anymore. I miss how it was. Facebook is so ubiquitous and easy, but it doesn't build community at all. It just keeps you in touch (at different levels) with people you once knew, people you've just met, far-flung family members, and somewhat random political 'friends'... as well as those you feel you know well from the internet, specifically, from LJ.

My mother, who once tried LJ for a hot minute, but who cannot really remember well enough to form new habits any more, was shocked that my last entry was in something like August, before school started. Me too.

What should I round up, as an end of 2016 post? One of about... TWO. Oh, god, two posts.

Here's one random thing. I still miss [profile] wouldprefernot2 deeply. I was telling my fifteen year old niece about Livejournal, and trying to show her how the network of people could often be narrowed down to a few people who then ramify, and it led to me telling her about him, who really was the person who started my internet friendship network. And just now I looked back at his memorial LJ, and almost immediately (after I scanned a few of the miserable entries recounting his hideously unexpected and quick vanishing into death) fell into some of the old political and cultural conversations which I miss so much. I'm so glad I know [personal profile] microbie now, who I did not, before his death. I can't remember if I told her (I'm sure I did, or I think so, anyway) what I told my niece yesterday... R. is very into gender politics, and her interest reminded me that for literally the first several months I was reading [profile] wouldprefernot2's Livejournal, I did not know whether the writer was a man or a woman. I had never been in that position, and it was absolutely fascinating to see my own gender biases and shifts at work, as I first saw the writing as by a woman, and then by a man. I kind of really liked it, and was almost disappointed when he finally wrote something that made it clear to me (I have no recollection of what that was) that he was a man. A cis het male, as one might say, today. My fifteen year old niece was four when he died.

Let's see. This year... politically this summer was just a series of fucking horrible shocks and bad news, from Nice to Orlando to Turkey to Brexit to Podemos' loss to bombings in Mecca to Syria. The Spring had been good... I enjoyed how long Bernie persevered, and it felt different to Nader and any previous third-party campaign of, e.g., the Green Party. I'd liked Bernie Sanders since I was a kid, one of the few Congresspeople who didn't disgust me. But it was pretty incredible to have long conversations with the (Mexican-American, late 50s maybe?) head custodian at my school about how he really preferred Bernie and intended to vote for him in the Primary, and hoped he'd get the nomination. But the conventions were both horrible, and the long juggernaut of a campaign and its sickening denouement... fuck. I am not convinced of the need for catastrophism, yet, but I am nervous and constantly unhappy about political prospects. The only thing that gives me hope is that the youth that I see -- even middle schoolers, like the ones I teach, are angry, and possibly open to systemic challenges, to questioning the entire fabric of society. This year, for instance, my middle school, which is in a working class Latin@, Asian, and white suburb in the Bay Area, started its first Gender and Sexuality Alliance (formerly these tended to be called Gay Straight Alliance clubs, but the national group changed its name to reflect more diversity). Same 15 year old niece had helped to start the GSA at her Oakland middle school, in seventh grade. My current seventh-grade niece is active in that same group, now. And the high school niece texted me photos of the walk out that happened at Oakland Tech High School on November 9th, which was the only good thing I saw or heard all day. I want a big tent anti-capitalist political organization, a new one, a non-sectarian one, SO BADLY. I'm glad the Green Party has finally openly adopted anti-capitalist planks to its platform... but I want something young people will be willing to join and experiment with.

Other more domestic news and bits and bobs. My cat Devlin continues delightful and lovely and snuggly -- thank goodness cats need help to regulate their warmth. She's in my arms as I type right now.

The school year... well, it's better than last year because I only have one ridiculous student instead of four mean as well as disruptive students in one class, which I had last year. Whom the counselors, per the principal's direct orders, refused to separate, although every single teacher who had that group, which stayed together all damn day, requested schedule changes for them. This year I have a student who cannot (I mean, like Tourette's level cannot) prevent himself from calling semi-random shit out every few minutes while I am doing direct instruction, who walks around and bothers other students, especially girls, who touches all my shit in the classroom, including expensive stuff like the LCD projector, the document camera, the printer and computer -- utterly nerve wracking because it's clear he wouldn't care in the slightest if these things broke -- as well as just my own pen I write with, my lesson-planning book, anything that I am not literally holding in my hand at the moment. He's not malicious, but he truly doesn't care about "being redirected", or getting calls home, or detentions, or anything. He is Syrian, by the way. Moved here about three years, has great conversational English by this point, and not bad comprehension and writing skills in academic English. Bizarrely, he told me his family was going back to Syria around the time of Ramadan, this Fall and I didn't really believe him. But they did. They left for two months of the school year, and just got back and re-registered him for school last week. His family is Druze, which is a trip. I'd heard the name of the religion before, but have never (until now) known anything about it. I'm glad I asked him before beginning our next unit on Islam this week. I have quite a few Bosnian students, literally all of whose names end in -vic, but I don't think I have any Yemeni students this year. I usually have a few. Mostly I teach Asian-American kids, Mexican-American and Central-American-American kids (Latin@ or Latinx, for convenience, though I don't tend to use those terms at school), and roughly equal numbers (about 10% each?) of Black kids, white kids, and Pacific-Islander-American kids. The latter sometimes approach me to ask for a ruling (no, seriously) about whether they are Asian or not. Umm, politically, sometimes? I see API groups exist? It's up to you? I like my students an awful lot this year.

Last year (I don't remember if I wrote about this... ah, having checked, I totally did not) was an Evaluation year for me. Once you've taught in this district for eight years or something like that, you only get evaluated every fourth year, and I've been at the school I am at now (I should make a fake name for it... Hamilton Middle School, let's say) for six years, it was my second time to be evaluated. AND, as I was now past my tenth year in the district I had the option of applying for an alternative evaluation, where you design a Teacher Inquiry and meet periodically with the principal to discuss it. So I did that -- observation evals give me quite close to literal PTSD, from shitty experiences at my last middle school in this district, and from the horrific final year of working in Oakland, when the new district imposed principal who came in to shut the school down, took all the teachers who were paid the most as her evaluatees and crushed them (us) where she could. ANYWAY, god, it was so good to do that style of evaluation! I will happily research and analyze stats from standardized tests and write up assignments and discuss student interviews and write up a fucking 15 page report for you ANY DAY OF THE YEAR in preference to meeting with you to discuss my abysmal classroom management practices. And the principal gave me warm fucking fuzzies in response to our discussions, which I haven't gotten from an administrator almost ever. And now I don't have to do it again until... 2019-2020. Thank christ. Or thank Saint ... is it Jude? Who is the one for hopeless causes? This, by the way, is my nineteenth year of teaching. Next year I want to have a party for my twentieth. Also, if I can get affordable insurance, I want to retire in ten years. Only two more evaluations.

Okay... maybe it's not impossible to write LJ entries. Is it really an echo chamber now? Hello, fellow LJers.
God, I am bad. I write every few months. This used to be an important part of my life, writing in LJ. It's frustrating to me. It's not only LiveJournal, either -- I am not writing as frequently in my own journal(s) either (the (s) means that I have a regular paper journal, which I am back to writing in ... volume LXVII, and also an electronic one, on my computer, which I do month-by-month, but have not been writing in much at all).

Right now it is Winter Break, hallelujah. My atheist family celebrates Xmas, with gifts exchanged and Christmas trees and colored lights and Xmas carols. My maternal grandmother LOVED all of Christmas, and my dad believes I carry on her tradition, though my sister is not far behind, really. That grandmother -- the only one of my grandparents I ever knew... she died in June of 2002. This December 22nd, she would have been 100 years old, which is impressive. She's still very real in my mind. She was interesting. Not always very nice. Not very clichédly grandmother-like. She didn't pat cheeks or hug people. She was pretty fucked up emotionally, and had good reason for that -- her older brother, her husband, and one of her two sons all killed themselves.

I never knew any of them -- that is, I must have met her son, my uncle Peter, but I was only two when he shot himself, so it's not like I remember him. I wish I'd known him; he sounded very cool. When he died in his early 20s, he was a grad student in French history, studying with a marxist professor at the University of Wisconsin, Harvey Goldberg. Goldberg was a political historian, old school. I have a digitized audio collection of some of his lectures -- French politics of the 20th century, of the French SP and the Resistance and the genesis of Mai '68, which he lectured about as it was happening. I actually went and saw him lecture in Madison when I was fifteen or so, not at that point even knowing he'd been my uncle's advisor. It was thrilling to hear someone talk to a crowded hall of hundreds and hundreds of students about the failure of the European Left to ally to fight Hitler's rise, with accusations and counter-accusations of "social fascism".

My father met Peter before he met Peter's sister, my mom. They became friends through Civil Rights activism and antiwar activism, and Peter joined the Young Socialist Alliance before my mom did. Peter seems to have been one of those students who never got less than an A, and cared very much about that. My grandmother thought he was perfect, and I imagine there was a lot of pressure around that. He was a good musician. He played the guitar with my mom and they sang and played in the folk movement at cafes in Madison. He played the recorder, too, and was learning the lute. He also acted a bit -- he was the invalid in Molière's The Imaginary Invalid, which led me to read a bunch of Molière in high school, in French. I've only seen about three photos of him as an adult.

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My poor grandmother. He was suicide number three. He'd been depressed on and off, but no one was expecting that. My dad was the one who found him, still breathing, and called the ambulance. My dad was also the one who had to decide to turn off the respirator later that night: my grandmother couldn't deal, and told him to. Just recently -- this past summer, I think -- we were talking about this in Lake Geneva when my mother and I were visiting my dad and Mary, my stepmother. My dad helped my mom remember what her emotional reaction was, back then. My mom is not good at experiencing her emotions. Neither am I, though I think I am more aware of when I am failing to let myself experience them... at least sometimes. Anyway, my dad said (and my mom immediately agreed, viscerally, that this was so) that she had been angry, deeply, deeply angry at Peter.

After that, my grandmother ... I don't know. I think she was close to an emotional autarky. The only people she truly expressed close affection for were her sisters and my mother, her oldest child, and only daughter. She was not affectionate with her youngest child, my uncle Jim, who was still only a teenager, and who had already experienced his father's suicide about eight years earlier. She was closed off and couldn't talk about Peter at all. I didn't even know who he was when I was little. There was a painting of him by her brother-in-law, a painting of a little blond boy with a dark brown background. And one day when I was about three I asked her who the little boy was. She was babysitting me, which she did a lot. She didn't say a word. She just carried me to the bathroom, sat down on the closed toilet seat with me over her lap and spanked me, hard, without ever saying a word. I was so freaked out I never even told my parents about it until years and years later.

She somehow built herself a very independent life in Madison, once we moved to Evanston, Illinois. She biked and walked a lot. She swam and sunbathed. She grew tomatoes on the upstairs back porch of her apartment on Paterson Street. She went to plays. She went to movies. She liked to eat lunch out, on State Street. She took classes in all kinds of things at one of Madison's community colleges or at the Senior Center. She shopped at the Mifflin Street Co-op. Once a year she traveled with her sister Betty, who was an editor at Scholastic Books, in New York City. They went to the Soviet Union, to Germany, to Austria, to Ireland, to England, to Sweden, to Denmark, Mexico... my mom can't remember the other places. I don't remember her going to France or Italy, strangely enough. For years, she voted for the Socialist Workers Party candidate because of Peter, my dad, and mom. Finally she gave it up, I think for Mondale versus Reagan.

She was always miles healthier than anyone else in my family, in terms of habits and diet. She ate yogurt and fruit and one piece of toast every morning for breakfast, and made her own yogurt. She walked miles and had a trail bike. She never smoked, though she drank a lot of cocktails in the 1950s, and liked a beer or two in the evenings. But she had a totally surprising heart attack in her early 70s, while she was visiting us, and made her pretty complete recovery there, living with us in a little front porch off the living room, in our second floor flat. She went home to Madison, more of a health fanatic than ever, and then developed diabetes -- which Betty had, too. And then came the ills of age -- she broke a bone in a fall when she was running to catch a bus, and the recovery was very, very slow. Then she fell in her apartment, and spent a long agonizing hour crawling across the floor to the phone to dial 911. In the hospital they told us she had congestive heart failure, and that was the end of her independence. I stayed with her a while, because I was in grad school and could get the time off. But by Christmas of 1992, she had to move in with my mom in Rogers' Park. She so hated being dependent. Diabetes made her eyesight bad, and she couldn't see well enough to do the embroidery she had used to do, or well enough to follow the endless awful 1980s TV detective shows she would watch on the degenerated A&E channel. It woudl be up really loud, too -- oh, I hated hearing it when I was staying at my mom's. She would shuffle around the apartment muttering to herself about how she should have died, how she wished she'd never had to leave Madison, etc. Every once in a while I would have a loud fight with her, and it would be better for a while. I mean, a dumb fight, about her taking her five million pills, or using her glucometer, or anything, really. It would clear the air, honestly. One thing about the clear periods was that I would ask her about her youth, and she would try to remember things to tell me about.

She was born in Kansas City, Kansas, to a lawyer father and a "Clubwoman" mother -- my grandmother repeated that with pride, and made it clear that her mother was very proud about that, about meeting with other middle class women in KCK. The only detail my grandmother could remember about those duties was that my great-grandmother apparently was on the KCK Film Censors Board, and took my grandmother along with her to vet some Charlie Chaplin films before they were shown publicly. My grandmother had some stories she repeated a lot about her mother -- that her mother did not like children (except for babies too small to talk back), and that she had married my great-grandfather partly because he'd told her (in good faith) that he'd had mumps or something as a child and the doctor had told him he was sterile, as a result. My great-grandmother viewed this as a definite bonus. And then she had six children anyway. Horton, Kay, Betty, Jane (my grandmother), Susan -- who died in a hit-and-run at age 2 -- and Bill.

My grandmother and all her surviving siblings (that is, Kay, Betty, and Bill) all revered their father so much that every single one of them named a son after him, James. So there were four cousins named Jim. I can't get a very clear idea of why he was so amazing, this great-grandfather, but for sure they all loved him a lot. None of them named anyone after their mother, Mary. Pictures of Mary Dobbins show her as a coquettish 1890s woman with a pompadour and tiny waist, to a tired-looking mother with her hair falling out of that pompadour, to an older, sterner looking grey-haired woman in one of those flowered sack-like 1930s dresses.

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She was the daughter of Irish immigrants, Catholics who came in the 1850s to Kansas City. Ellen Quirk Dobbins and Michael Dobbins, who worked on the Railroad, and then was a constable in Kansas City, pretty renowned as a local drunk.

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My grandmother said her mother was ashamed of the drunkenness and the Catholicism and abandoned her background as completely as she could. In the photo above, she is the little girl with the pissed off expression, standing, in the top row. She stayed close to a couple of her younger sisters, and to her widowed mother, but there is a broad sea of Catholic Dobbins women who married and reproduced and I only know them through Man, I wish my grandmother was alive to look at with me, and explain connections and tell more stories. I think she would be interested. That's where I started about her. She was interesting, and interested. Her sister Kay wrote my mom some letters about family history in the 1980s, and in the critical way that siblings have, remembered a family story about Jane, that when she was little Jane (my grandmother) complained of "having nothing to do" or being bored. And Kay said she could never imagine being bored, because if nothing else, there was always a book to read. That sounds like such bullshit to me -- my grandmother read all the time. Mostly genre fiction, and especially English cozies like Robert Barnard's books. I cannot ever remember my grandmother being bored or boring. I'm sure Kay wasn't either -- my great-aunt married an artist and a drunk (there are lots of those on every branch of my family tree), divorced him, and moved to Marin to be a public librarian. She retired to Berkeley and began a relationship with a somewhat crazy old sensualist guy named Gil, with Einstein white hair, who exhorted me, at age 13, to read Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards and discuss it with him in correspondence. None of them were boring. All of them were progressive, and atheist. All of them seem quite clear -- to the extent that I knew them -- in my mind, even now.
maeve66: (1969)
Well, I am not really planning to take any pictures today, so that would be an easy topic. However, I'll put up some old family photos that I scanned yesterday instead, some from the Olden Days, some from my babyhood.

First, from my father's family tree -- his father was a postman, and I put up a photo of him a while ago. This is his uncle, also a postman, though he started a few years earlier in an older iteration of the US Postal Uniform.


This is my mother's maternal grandmother, who apparently liked babies very well, but really could not bear kids once they could talk back, and who was not very nice to them.


This is my mother's paternal grandfather, grandmother, teenaged father, and his two sisters, in the late 1920s at some train station. I love pictures of women in cloche hats. The woman in the cloche hat, by the way, was a lesbian and spent a lot of her life with an Venezuelan woman, Tika (Margarita Madrigal, who authored some well-known "Learn Spanish the Easy Way" type textbooks), the daughter of a Kansas City consular official.


And this is World War II, my mother and her father, in New York City. My grandmother and her two sisters all spent WWII in Greenwich Village in New York, which I think cultivated some amount of bohemianism in them all.


This photo explains me a bit, I think.


Me at happy, happy age two or so.


Me at three, next to my grandmother's Volkswagon Beetle


Me, almost four years old, deer in the headlights look because, baby sister.


I kept telling my niece that we all used to wear hippie dresses, but she didn't believe me until I unearthed this photo. There's another one a couple years later when my sister is older when all THREE of us were wearing hippie dresses. But I haven't found it yet.

Day 287: I don't have a (recent) silly picture of me and friends. I'm not sure I have a picture, scanned, that would qualify as that at all, ever.

Day 288: I don't post on Tumblr. If I grudgingly admit that I can substitute Livejournal for that other thing, the last thing I posted on LJ that was NOT part of this meme was about horrible beginning-of-the-year teacher meetings.

What I am doing right now, apart from being so busy with teaching that I do not have time to write daily 365 entries, is being obsessed with Have I already said this? I am sure it is a deep Mormon plot to more easily retroactively convert and baptize all my dead ancestors -- and all your dead ancestors too -- but my god it's useful. And since I don't give a fuck about religion anyway, why should I care if Mormons imagine they've swelled their heavenly host with a parade of dead Millers, Meeks, Dobbinses, Wardingleys, Priests, Forans, Quirks, McCanns, Wilkinsons, Grindles, Dinsmores, Gobles, and so on back.

Notice that essentially my background is English, Scots, and Irish. But mostly English and Irish. They very dedicatedly married each other, going back hundreds of years on all sides. We're not much of an American mixture, really. My sister and I thought there were some Germans somewhere, but it turns out not -- just, my great-grandmother's mother married a German guy after her deadbeat drunk Irish husband either died or was divorced. He died in 1891, and she was having two more kids by the German guy by 1899, so I say it was death, and not divorce. I thought divorce sounded funny for back then in The Olden Days.

Anyway, it is completely, completely addictive. You can link up to other people's public genealogies and check where your information overlaps, and that allowed me to (checking documents, too) push back several generations beyond anything I'd imagined possible, at least with the English. Not with the Irish, or the Yorkshire estate workers. Their roots go to about the mid 1700s and stop.

I have a stupid child-borne pathogen of some sort this weekend -- go back to school, get all their germy germs, every year. It has made me cough and sputter and have a miserably sore throat and be unable to go out and about. But at least it hasn't made me unable to sit at a computer. There's that.
maeve66: (1969)
In general, this is a stupid question. The -est part, anyway. But one true answer to this question is my nieces, R. and R. Hanging out with them is always something that makes me happy. I've gotten many chances to spend time with both of them; they've slept over separately and together, we were in Lake Geneva together, I will be babysitting them all day tomorrow and Wednesday, and we'll go school supply shopping, which has always been something I love to do anyway -- office supplies, hell yeah! I can get the stuff on my list for the opening of my own school year, god, there goes more money from savings, sigh.

R. the elder is entering middle school -- sixth grade, here in the US, which is kindergarten plus five, and has kids from age 11 to 12. It's going to be a huge change for her, and I am very curious about what she will think of it all. R. the younger is entering third grade. She gets a little testy when asked to read and write, and it's hard to believe that response is not at least partly in reaction to her older sister's obsession with both of those things. I hope she can learn to let go of that definition-by-opposition thing, and will eventually learn to enjoy reading for its intrinsic pleasures. Meanwhile, she is an intrinsic pleasure in herself. Both Rs are very emotionally sensitive, but R. the younger seems to want to intervene and help others when they're in (emotional) pain. They're both incredible artists for their age, and it's fun to draw with them. R. the elder has had an ongoing fascination with the Middle Ages of late, and loved E. L. Konigsburg's A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver as much as I did (I think I wrote in LJ a long time ago about the fact that Konigsburg's YAF book about Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine taught me everything I needed to know about her historically, and compares favorably to Alison Weir's historical monograph on the subject). She has enjoyed most of Karen Cushman's YA medieval fiction oeuvre also. I love how R. the elder devours books.

R. the younger -- my sister describes her as a sensualist, and I think that is exactly right. She cares how things feel and taste and sound and smell and look, in great immediacy. She thinks about what music she likes, and can explain it. She loves the odors of spices and herbs and flowers and essential oils. She loves touch, and is extremely affectionate and touchy-feely, in a very good way. She likes specific combinations of bright colors -- and of course, she likes the bright colors and glitter of Bollywood. She's very good at games of imagination and plotting, and she can explain how things work -- she's very verbal. Right now she is extremely into Glee despite not getting many of the jokes (thank christ for that). She manages being a younger sister and thus in a frequent state of frustration quite well, I think. She has a lot of patience.

Being with both of them makes me very, very happy indeed.
maeve66: (1969)
"Life's not fair". This used to piss me off as a kid, partly because of the cognitive dissonance -- um, mom, we're socialists, right? So aren't we trying to make it as far as we can? And also, the fact that life's not fair means we shouldn't try to buck that trend? Bah. I think my sister is much better at trying to make things fair, to make things balance, for her daughters, without just lazily saying "life's not fair".
maeve66: (black and white tea)
Day 12 -- What's in my bag, in great detail.

Yeah. I carry a shoulder bag -- the kind that is called a messenger bag, I think? I have had this preference since middle school, and I wish I still had the cheap vinyl one I had then -- it was a cheerful red plastic/vinyl plaid. Unfortunately, these bags are not brilliantly constructed and strong, so they never last as long as I would like.

The ones I have now (I use one until it is on the edge of collapse, and then trade for the other and try to repair the first, then switch again, eventually) I got at Cost Plus, or whatever it's called now. World Market. There was a stand with five different colors and I couldn't decide so I got two. I wish I'd gotten all five. I REALLY wish I'd gotten all five. Here they are:

I do not like purses, generally.

In my bag: keys, wallet, iPod, nice earphones for the iPod and phone hands-free device in a little case, checkbook, with no checks, in a nice interlace-pattern tooled leather holder, lanyard with school ID and school keys, large comb, hair barrette with cloth flower on it, plastic film canister which I put my morning's pills in because I never manage to eat breakfast before leaving for work, and I can't take them until I've eaten, a black mesh bag which contains all the little sundry items like pens and pencils (MANY), eyeglass cleaner and cloths, ibuprofin, lip balm, pencil leads, nail files, etc. You may suspect my motto is 'be prepared'... and finally, my iPad. Occasionally I also try to stuff in my journal, which is bulky and heavy, and a wireless keyboard, which is really an inch or two too long for the bag.

Day 13 -- what was this one? My week in great detail? God, also pretty damn dull. Do I even recall it well enough?

Monday -- the weekend seemed too short. I got to work at 7:15 or thereabouts, stopping at Starbucks on the way, because I couldn't deal with making breakfast and getting to work early enough. My lesson plans and the copies I needed were on my front desk, ready to go, and I had time to change the "Whiteboard Configuration" so it was accurate for the day. I taught Math -- problem solving methods -- and then did the first laboratory experiment ever with my science classes -- a "Senses Lab" where there were five stations, three with blindfolds.

At the hearing station, a group of four students plugged into the listening stations and listened to 10 recorded sounds on a CD, writing down what they could identify. Apparently many of them confused a coyote's howl with a woman screaming or moaning. At the tasting station, they put on blindfolds and took one piece out of four different bags, tasting it (eating it, really) and writing down what they thought it was, and whether it was bitter, salt, sweet, or sour. The tastes were: pretzel, bitter chocolate, dill pickle, and skittles (a candy... it's kind of a sour candy, so I think we could have done better on sweet). A couple of kids told me about allergies to chocolate in time, thank god. At the touch station, they were again blindfolded and felt four objects concealed in paper bags -- a golf ball, a pinecone, sandpaper, and cotton balls. At the smelling station, same thing, blindfolds, then coffee, peppermint, garlic, and ... god, what was the fourth smell? Lavender, maybe. And the vision station, which was nonsense, I'm afraid. I had nothing to do with that. It was a little picture with hidden drawings in it, like from a bland children's magazine.

If I'd had time to plan that, I might have wanted some of those optical illusion illustrations -- not only the ones where you misjudge the length of what you're looking at or whatever, but the kind that have hidden pictures in the color backgrounds that you can only see if you unfocus your eyes. Anyway, I'd been terrified about classroom management during this lab, but it went fairly well, at least for the 4th period class. My 5th period science class has 37 students. That was harder. Then, more Math. I stayed at work planning and venting and destressing and making copies and organizing stuff. For a very long time.

Tuesday, same program, with the one science class that hadn't had the lab yet. Notes from the science book with the other two classes. More problem solving with the Math classes.

Wednesday -- our 'minimum day', wherein students' classes are shortened to 32 minutes, and they leave at 12:18. We then get lunch and then have time for common planning meetings. And other, less useful meetings. On this Wednesday, we took down the Senses Lab and set up the next one -- two in one week, god, I hope that's not common! Then we talked about how we were going to grade the labs, and what we should be starting on after the problem solving mini-unit in Math.

Thursday -- again early, but today there was mass computer based testing. That is, for my classes, these tests were Thursday and Friday, for Math. For science, we did the lab we'd set up Wednesday afternoon. This next lab was one on practicing observation skills and measurement of time and motion. We set up physics stands, a ramp, and a stage. For the lab, one student counted off seconds "zero one-thousand, one one-thousand, two one-thousand..." and another let a wooden car start rolling down the ramp the moment he or she heard 'zero'. A third student marked on tape below the rolling car where it got to at 'one', 'two', and 'three' -- or more, depending. Then they measured the intervals in centimeters to try to determine whether the car went faster as it went downhill.

Friday -- finished up the computer-based testing. Discussed what scientists students have already heard of (not many) and talked about scientific facts, laws, and theories. Did some housekeeping stuff related to grading. Stayed late and organized, planned like mad for Monday and Tuesday, made copies.

There. That's pretty damn dull. Did anything NOT teaching related happen this past week? I ate dinner at my sister's on the way home on Thursday, on the spur of the moment. I was so hungry and I knew I'd just stop for fast food, because I couldn't deal with the thought of cooking. But my mom called and offered to feed me their leftover table scraps. Not really. Their leftovers, though, yes. It was good -- something T. cobbled together from his perusal of cooking sites on the internet. Sort of a stir fry: frozen veggies from Trader Joe's, frozen small shrimp, also Trader Joe's, quinoa, garlic and other herbs and spices, some oil, some fresh greens, I think. And soy sauce. My mom described it as comfort food. It was.

God, I think I am caught up, more or less.



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