maeve66: (black and white tea)
Much of this journal is friends-only. Not all of it. If you want to read the stuff I don't feel like my current or former students should be reading, given this age of electronic connectivity, then tell me who you are and why I should add you.

Contents: some politics, of the sane and flexible but still revolutionary marxist variety; more daily babbling; occasional memeage; talk about books and education; random nonsense.









(ETA: due ultimately to various LJ downtime hijinks, I lost all the comments to this introductory post. Feel free to comment to be added.)
I can't stand the annoying non-photo posting on here, so I am going to add the photos once this copies over to LiveJournal.

[personal profile] springheel_jack wrote about still missing his cat Charlie, who was an excellent cat and always looked dignified and like he had a serious mustache. It made me realize I still miss my first cat Rilke very, very much, though she died in 2012. She made it to 18 or 19, which seems long in the land for a cat, but I would have cherished her rack of fragile bones and snaggly hair for longer, happily. She was the first cat who was MINE, not my family's. I got her from the Columbia Humane Society shelter in Missouri when I was in my third year of grad school, at age 26, I think. I was ignorant about what kittens would grow up to be, so the shelter staff deliberately did not warn me that I was picking out a long haired cat. I would never have done that on purpose! I looked at all her litter mates, but the others were boys and had either blue eyes or one blue eye and one green, and I thought that meant they might be deaf... plus, I just have a hankering for female cats, even though on average, the female cats I've known have been less lapcatty and loving than the male. Pickier. More aloof. She was adorable, though, as shown below.


She kept me company through my master's thesis and much bullshitting and beer drinking with fellow grad students, pictured below with my first personal computer, a Mac SE, I think.


And as a youngster in my next grad school apartment, after the excellent cheap house I rented with a friend. Man, I loved that place. The landlord offered to sell it to me for $39K in 1995. That would certainly have been a different life... Oh, well, it probably had a fucked foundation or something.


Then I moved back to Chicago after orals and worked at my old high school half time for a couple of years while finishing my dissertation research and deciding after a couple of interviews and being semi-sorta on the academic job market that what I really wanted to be was a fucking public school teacher, for political, union, and general fun reasons. (It is still true, that whatever gripes I have about teaching and the political pressures on it, it is still fun to create assignments and then to do models along with the students working on theirs, and I get to do art and write and draw and think, for pay... today, we did a Socratic Seminar based on Common's "Letter to the Free", reflecting on the NFL #takeaknee protests of last weekend, Charlottesville, and Black Lives Matter... it was the first Socratic Seminar of the year, and despite hiccups because these kids haven't done them before, it went okay... some interesting stuff. I like my students a lot.) And then I moved to Oakland. Here she is at age ten or so, deliberately in the middle of my Xmas wrapping, because that was always a good time for her. Ah, the joys of curling ribbon.

I still miss my girl. Devlin, my current girl, is a lovely, sweet, gentle cat with boundless affection despite having been a feral kitten. But Rilke was my first.
Class of: 1984

Class size: 780 or so? Starting nearer 1000

Did you know your spouse?: I can exactly quote Village Charm on this: "This is going to knock your socks off, but I am unmarried."

Did you car pool? Um, no. Rode my bike or took public transportation (that is, a bus)

What kind of car did you have? I did not have a car until I was 25 or so. For at least a couple of years during high school we did not have a car at all, which no one could believe.

It's FRIDAY night where are you going? Friday nights... often sleepovers with friends that involved going down to Belmont Avenue in Chicago, or to Wax Trax, or to underage shows, or just hanging out and drinking underage.

What kind of job did you have? I worked at the public library shelving books, and also at Northwestern University, shelving books.

Were you a party animal? Eh, no. I did go to some big parties with what would now be known as hipster students, where live ska was played, there were kegs (one, I remember involved a nighttime chase after a hijacked keg, ending up at an obscure park), etc. And I went to a couple of cast parties (as well as throwing one BY ACCIDENT) including one hosted by John Cusack. I was impressed that he (that is, his liberal parents) had a big poster from the 1982 Nuclear Freeze March in NYC, which I had organized a minivan of student activists to go to, from Evanston, Illinois.

Were you considered a jock? You kid. I DID, after getting bronchitis, pleurisy, and pneumonia all in a row for a few months of senior year, have to take THREE GYM CLASSES A DAY in order to graduate -- one before school, one during, and one after. Fun times.

Were you in choir/band? Oh, so many. Not band. I don't play anything. But I was simultaneously in Chorale, Choir, and Choristers, the latter of which met before school. Also a Madrigal choir and a Gospel Ensemble, briefly, as the only white, only atheist member.

Were you a nerd? I guess? I was definitely one of the arrogant smart kids who butted heads with teachers she didn't respect and only did the work she enjoyed -- which was quite a lot of it.

Did you get suspended? No. I drove the administration crazy and they hated me for loud politics and activism, but they couldn't get me for breaking any rules.

Can you sing the fight/school song? I can. When I TAd for one of the worst right wing assholes at the University of Missouri, in grad school, Haskell Monroe made anyone who was late to his (7 AM) lectures stand up and sing their high school fight song. I was perversely pleased that I would have been able to do that. "ETHS/We will fight for you/For the right to do/Anything for you/We will cheer and we will win the game/We will bring you fame/Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!/Orange and the blue we'll proudly wear/May your banners e'er FLY/Victory comes while we sing/Many trophies we will bring/So fight! Fight! Fight, fight, FIGHT!/We will win the game for Evanston HiiiiiiGH!" Your life is better now. It could only improve if I had sound in this entry. I'm pretty sure there's an 80 year old on YouTube singing it, if you're really curious.

Where did you eat? There were four cafeterias in that giant high school, named by the directions and also with names of I don't know, boring former Superintendents. I ate in South, aka Bacon, aka the Burnout Cafeteria, not that I smoked, or was particularly successful at getting high. Bagged lunches from home.

Where was high school? Evanston, Illinois, "the City Suburb"

What was your school mascot? A Wildkit -- get it? A BABY Wildcat, like Northwestern. If only we'd taken their classy purple and white colors too, instead of pumpkin orange and navy blue.

If you could go back and do it over? I liked high school a lot, actually, though I was more arrogant then than I am now. I was a crazy manic socialist activist, and that was fun.

Do you still talk to the person you went to prom with? I could not even imagine going to Prom. Bizarroworld.

Are you planning on going to the next reunion? Good god, no, never.

Are you still in contact with people from high school? Yeah, actually, probably more people from high school than I am from college.

Did you skip school? I skipped a LOT of high school. A LOT. I had my parents' signatures down cold, good enough that I could have kited many a check. Make-up work was easy, there were no draconic policies about some maximum number of absences you could have, etc.

Do you know where your high school sweetheart is? Facebook for the win -- we had a traumatic break up and he hated me for years (like, cross the street to avoid me hate) but we got back in touch several years ago and are now quite close friends who chat a lot and often watch shows simultaneously on our devices and text during them -- Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, The Get Down... and movies.

What was your favorite subject? I always loved my French classes, even though two of the teachers were absolute asses. And I loved my history classes, especially Freshman Humanities with a teacher I adored and crushed on who became a real friend and who gave me a graduation card with my favorite Marx quote on it "Philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it." He called himself a Marxist of the heart and I puzzled over that a long time before realizing it meant liberal. Oh, and my US History AP class was excellent, too. I got to make a Document Based Question on the Haymarket Martyrs, among other things.

Do you still have your High School ring? I got one of those Jostyns rings, with an amethyst, even though I was firmly chastized by a fellow Red Diaper Baby for how trite and bourgie that was. Jerk. But then I lost it somewhere within a year.

Do you still have your year-books? I do have my yearbooks, though I never look at them. The only interesting bit is a focus piece on me as a Freshman, reading Against the Current, which profiled me as a socialist. Lest that seem lefty of the yearbook staff, the next page had a profile of a friend of mine as a knife collector.
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.
maeve66: (aqua tea icon)
I haven't decided to delete my LJ yet, though everything is archived over here (bar photos, I guess... sigh, until I started posting from DW... I actually haven't checked that. I could, I suppose. Have two windows open and go entry to entry -- from fucking 2003, oh, my christ, that's a long time ago.

But anyway, add me on Dreamwidth. Emigrate (or at least copy yourself/your journal) to DW. People talk about Wordpress and other platforms... but none of them seem to have the same potential for community. Obviously, not that that community's potential has been fulfilled of late. But still.
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: (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).
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.
1. Do you like blue cheese?

Um. I love cheese like it's the best thing in the entire world, but there are a lot of cheeses I prefer to blue.

2. Have you ever smoked?

I smoked briefly when I was about 25, I think? In Columbia, Missouri during grad school, when a drunken roommate alerted me to how well it went with going to shitkicking country dive bars, misdressed (him in sockless topsiders and a polo shirt and khaki shorts, the complete preppie who looked a good deal like Gregory Peck). Smoking makes you dizzy, did you know that? It's like twice the drunk for half the money! But I didn't keep it up.

3. Do you own a gun?

Wtf. No.

4. What is your favorite flavor?

This is an impossible question. I agree with [personal profile] mistersmearcase about grapefruit, but also blood orange... and... hm... lemon... pomegranate... er, all things tangy?

5. Do you get nervous before doctor visits?

Yes, because I am fat and that is a fucking sin in doctor land, even if they're not absolute bastards about it.

6. What do you think of hot dogs?

I haven't liked a hot dog since I was a kid and we had regular dinners of hot dog and butter bean casseroles. They were okay for ball games. Generally do not like.

7. Favourite Christmas movie?

I love It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. The latter is so fucking Midwestern.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?

English or Irish breakfast tea... or on a lazy day, loose leaf Assam

9. Do you do push-ups?

Hahahaha. I do go waterwalking. I like water. Especially salt water, like at the Richmond Plunge.

10. What’s your favourite piece of jewelry?

I barely remember ever to wear earrings any more. I have a ring that is a biggish rectangle (1.5 cm x 1 cm?) of cloudy moonstone over (so the jeweler told me) blue paper, in a silver setting. I love it.

11. Favourite hobby?

Reading. Writing.

12. Do you have A.D.D.?

No.

13. What’s the one thing you hate about yourself?

Laziness. I mean, I quite enjoy it, but it does make life harder.

14. Middle name?

Elizabeth

15. Name three thoughts right now?

Less than two weeks left without work, sigh. I love having Ruby and Rosie come over to hang out, play computer games, binge watch TV and sleep over.

16. Name 3 drinks you drink regularly.

tea, fizzy water, diet gingerale (or Coke)

17. Where's the question?

Uh

18. Current hate right now?

FB friends demonizing people who vote for the Greens (like me)

19. Favorite place to be?

armchair in my bay window, Devlin on my lap

20. How do you ring in the New Year?

I have never gotten the point of NYE

21. Where would you like to go?

Montreal, Newcastle, London, Belfast, Dublin

22. Name three people who will complete this?

Yeah, two friends already did it (hi, [personal profile] mistersmearcase and [profile] ironedorchid)

23. Do you own slippers?

Yes. I got a pair for my mom for Xmas, and they were so amazing that I then went and ordered a pair for myself.

24. What colour shirt are you wearing?

Faded red smocked

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?

No.

26. Can you whistle?

No.

27. Favourite colour?

I have always hated this question. I love colors. I give students the challenge of coming up with as many as they can at one point during the poetry unit, and it's fun finding gradations and weird names. Go look at the list in Wikipedia: unbelievable.

28. Would you be a pirate?

In Black Sails it seems like the pirates' accountants have the better job.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower?

I don't

30. Favourite girls name?

Maude or Mairead or Roisin

31. Favourite boys name?

David

32. What’s in your pocket right now?

a barrette

33. Last person that made you laugh?

Rosie made me laugh when she asked if (she was chatting with a friend of mine on FB for a second while I attended to something) she would get me kicked off FB if she cursed. He'd teased her about the Cubs beating the Oakland As, and she was pissed. Me, I couldn't care less about baseball, and I approve of swearing.

34. Best toy as a child?

You know, when all is said and done, I think I liked my Sunshine Family dolls the best. Barbie dolls were fucking annoying. Hippie dolls were great fun.

35. Worst injury?

I haven't really had one.

36. Where would you love to live?

I still miss Chicago (Evanston) and maybe Madison, Wisconsin. But Oakland is nice. I'm terrified about getting priced out, though. Rent is crazier and crazier. And who's ever seen rent GO DOWN once it's gone up? I mean, sometimes house prices drop... but I don't think I've known rent to do that...

37. How many TVs do you have in your house?

One.

38. Who is your loudest friend?

I don't think I have loud friends.

39. How many dogs do you have?

None.

40. Does someone trust you?

I think lots of people do.

41. What's your favorite movie?

I don't know. Reds? Rang de Basanti?

42. What’s your favourite sweet?

German chocolate cake with pecan-caramel icing

43. What’s your favourite sports team?

Still the Green Bay Packers

44. What song do you want played at your funeral?

I have never considered this. "The Internationale", maybe
maeve66: (Nagini)
Okay, that's a stupid title. But whatever. I haven't posted in yonks (= donkeys' years, Brit colloquialism from my early 20s), in ages, in literally months or more than a year, I am not even sure. I could look, but I won't.

My last gift from Winter Break was from my poor father, who gave me (I guess) the illness he caught from a friend while visiting out here for two weeks. My father, my stepmother, my aunt, and my two cousins were all here over Xmas, all staying at my sister's (my dad and stepmother were at my mom's mother-in-law-apartment, where he can smoke his pipe, addict that he is. He can't smoke at my apartment because my landlord made it a non-smoking building a couple of years ago). Anyway, R. had them all*, and was prostrate with exhaustion (I exaggerate, but not by much -- my father and my aunt [ex-wife of my mom's brother who died this Spring... there, I HAVE written less than a year ago, because I wrote about our Wisconsin/Chicago trip this Summer, for his memorial...] and cousins are not hella close, and my father very much wants the familial spotlight to himself.) I love him, but he's immensely emotionally insecure. Which bugs my sister, who hates to have to balance a bazillion emotional needs. I did my best to take up some of the slack with him and my stepmother, but ended vacation with severely swollen lymph nodes on the last weekend, and then a vile flu which I even gave up and went to Kaiser about... this whole past week. It's finally, FINALLY fucking departing, I believe. I don't even want to talk about what missing a week of work will mean. I guess I'll find out Monday.

The first thing which has given me any pleasure in 2016 is a Bollywood movie which I discovered tonight by Googling and Wikipedia-ing around... in fact, I think finally I just looked up Yash Raj releases, tbh. I haven't even finished it, but I am writing about it now, in the beginning of the film. Why? I guess because I haven't seen a Bollywood film I've loved for so very, very long. Dhoom 3 was such a relentless disappointment, especially with Aamir Khan starring and being pompous as fuck (with another of his hella ridiculous attempts to portray someone vaguely Aspergers? Actually, that's slightly unfair, as Shah Rukh Khan has as much blame as Aamir to shoulder, in that regard... but at least SRK's versions are so fucking over the top that you almost don't care (I'm looking at you, My Name is Khan) and with a Chicago setting. They filmed, in fact, right in front of the building one of my above-mentioned cousins lived in, at the time. The film also deeply disappointed my younger niece, whom I have successfully recruited to Bollywood addiction, unlike her older sister, who now only politely tolerates Bollywood, much like she sort of politely tolerates cats (astounding! How could anyone in my family not love cats?). R-the-younger's favorite movie in the world is Dhoom 2, and she loves Aishwarya Rai... (I have to remember to tell her that Aish has a couple of films due out relatively soon; she'll be overjoyed). So this bleaker D3 was a miserable flop for her.

So, to the film I am ENJOYING. It's called Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, and it stars someone I'd never seen until an earlier movie tonight (also quite cute, called Shuddh Desi Romance) -- Sushant Singh Rajput**, and other actors I've never heard of. The rising tide churns big names over so quickly -- actors I like a lot, like Priyanka Chopra and Rani Mukherjee and even Shahid Kapoor are less seen, and names I've never heard of are at the top. The movie is a period mystery thriller, and oh, my god, the production values are so insanely better than the aspirants to that category from the 1980s, 1990s, and even 2000s. It's apparently based on a comic book character, a disappointed academic in Calcutta during WWII who becomes a detective and has adventures. Great background. Lush filming. WWII facing east towards the Japanese and Chinese, from the viewpoint of nationalist Indians. I hope this movie bears out my absolutely caught fascination. I'll report, maybe, later. Thank fuck I am finally even feeling up to watching movies. It was a wretched week.


*Well, I had my mother staying with me, on my living room futon with the Xmas tree. That way, my dad and stepmother could be at her place, etc. It's actually really nice having my mom stay with me, even for two weeks. We would get on each other's nerves after that point, no doubt -- I know that, as we lived together right before I moved out to Cali, and it was fucking hard for us not to grate on each other then. Now she's older, and I am a real adult with a full-time job, so she has less to be resentful about. God, I can't stop dangling my prepositions. I always consider writing those sentences correctly, and then think it out in my head and decide it sounds contrived.

**Oh, these (at least apparently) Indian elite names of actors... it's like in England, where people like Christopher Eccleston complain rightly that Eton boys and Sloane girls get all the acting jobs... Kunal Kapoor (not Shashi's son, who has the same name but is a generation older and unrelated) has made the identical complaint... I recall reading about his pretty ordinary father, possibly a Punjabi carpenter, though I might be remembering that wrong, not long after seeing him in Rang de Basanti, still my favorite Bollywood movie ever. ANYWAY, my point was that Kunal Kapoor was in solidarity with Christopher Eccleston's class-based complaint... but now Kapoor has married into the premier Bollywood acting clan, the Bachchans.
maeve66: (Read Motherfucking Books All Damn Day)
This is a placeholder post, the comments for which are meant to be a place for suggesting three hundred and sixty-five grown-up (or at least not moronic or banal or jejune) topics for blogging. I have two post topics, so I'll put them in the comments. Please, anyone should feel free to contribute. [personal profile] sabotabby's idea was to start actually blogging the topics on January 1st 2013. Ambitious!

ETA: I have corralled what suggestions there have been so far, and added some, and we are 1/10th of the way to 365 topics. Hm. I should probably put this behind a cut. )

12/16/12: now at 75 topics! Twenty more and we'll be a quarter of the way through the year. I hope the contributions keep coming in. S-J, where are you? Also, [profile] slantedeyes65, where are YOU? And everybody else, more please, more!

1/2/13: I will keep trying to add topics, but at this point what I think I am going to do is just dip into this about twice a week, so that I have topics to write on whether or not I am inspired to write in LJ (or DW, whatever). My niece is finally blogging, but she chose Blogger, sigh.
1. What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?

I think I have lavender soap in my tub/shower, but also this gorgeous-smelling blood orange shower gel, which is what I prefer.

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?

No.

3. Is there anything mouldy in your refrigerator?

No. But I just cleaned it out this weekend.

4. Are there any dirty dishes in your sink?

Yes. There shouldn't be, but there definitely are.

5. What would you change about your living room?

It needs a new floor. So does my whole apartment. It has wooden floors (which I prefer enough that I would have a very hard time renting a place that did NOT have hardwood floors...) but I think they're the original ones from the 'teens. Whenever an apartment is vacant, the owner refinishes the floors (and then requires tenants not to wear shoes inside the apartment) or installs that fake wood laminate flooring.

6. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?

No dishwasher.

7. Do you have a can of mushrooms in your pantry?

Eww.

8. White or wheat bread?

White; sourdough or baguette. Or else a good local brand, Vital Vittles, which is whole wheat.

9. What is on top of your refrigerator?

Lord, so much that it will be hard to name. I have ZERO (I mean that literally) counter space in my tiny kitchen. There is a 20 inch by twenty-five inch tiled space next to the 1910s porcelain enamel rectangular drop sink, but the dish drainer is there. Otherwise, nothing. So, on top of the fridge: a huge container of homemade muesli (got used to eating it in Britain; don't like sugar in it, therefore make it myself). Flour, sugar, large nested bowls, cookie cutters, oven mitts, some standing boxes of pasta, some kitchen towels, lots of other stuff I am forgetting.

10. What color is your sofa?

I think the futon cover is wine-red, but it's covered with a more faded wine-reddish fitted flannel sheet because the futon cover is like a relentless and later unyielding magnet for cat hair. The fitted sheet is less so.

11. What color or design is on your shower curtain?

Interlocking blue and brown and green circle-y things. It's not my favorite. My favorite died, and I haven't found a good replacement.

12. How many plants are in your home?

None. I had a jade plant for a while, which is the plant I succeeded at not killing for the longest time.

13. How many candles are in your home?

I don't have decorative candles, really. But I do have really nice smelly ones, which I guess count as that. I probably have eight or so in various states of meltedness. Mostly lemongrass, some cranberry orange.

14. Is your bed made right now?

No.

15. If you have a coffee pot, what color is it?

I have a tea pot. It's blue.

16. Electric or standard can opener?

Standard, which I rarely use because I tend to buy cans which are self opening.

27. Comet or Soft Scrub?

I think I have both, though the Comet is probably more than ten years old.

28. Is your closet organized?

Well... clothes are hanging up and there's nothing but a vacuum cleaner and a box of my dissertation research materials on the floor of my bedroom closet. My hall closet has a lot more stuff in it, but you can walk in and select some of that stuff without injury.

29. What color is the flashlight that you use the most?

I don't have a flashlight, so I use my iPhone, which has one built in, thank fuck.

30. What kinds of things are in your junk drawer?

Only one? Five million pens, little objects like a tiny plastic buddha, a rock that a student glued glitter to and gave me as "Harry Potter's Sorcerer's Stone" my first year of teaching, because I read it aloud to the class, eighteen years ago, printer ink cartridges, my checkbook, pretty cards and envelopes, playing cards, markers, pencil leads, unpaid parking tickets, an extra charger cord, hair barrettes...

31. Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?

Both.

32. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?

No, but I usually do.

33. If you have a garage, is it cluttered?

I don't. Street parking only, which sucks.

34. Curtains or blinds?

Blinds, which are gross and which I leave rolled up.

35. How many pillows do you sleep with?

Two, the top one of which is one of those memory foam ones with a dip to support your neck, and a body pillow.

36. Do you sleep with any lights on at night?

No.

37. How many ceiling fans are in your home?

None. My place was built in the 1910s, and has crazy high ceilings. Sadly it also has almost NO air flow. Every time I cook (in that tiny crap kitchen) the smoke alarm goes off. Every single time.

38. How often do you vacuum?

Almost never.

39. Standard toothbrush or electric?

Standard.

40. What color is your toothbrush?

I don't know. White and some other color. Turquoise?

41. Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?

The apartment building does. I couldn't tell you what it says, if anything. I don't.

42. What is in your oven right now?

Oven racks.

43. Is your microwave clean or dirty?

Clean

44.Is there anything under your bed?

Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, a big plastic storage crate of Xmas ornaments and the tree stand, a cardboard box of Sunshine Family dolls and furniture and accessories, which I got from EBay for playing with my nieces.

45. Chore you hate doing the most?

Laundry.

46. What retro items are in your home?

I have a stereoscope and a collection of stereoscope cards, including a cool set from just after the San Francisco earthquake

47. Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?

The living room has to suffice.

48. If you have a yard, who mows it?

Don't have a yard.

49. Is there anything on your kitchen floor right now?

Cat food bowl, cat water arrangement, selection of plastic bags for shopping, a couple of bottles of wine and gin and tonic water

50. How many mirrors are in your home?

One in the bathroom over the sink, and one on the wall in my bedroom

51. Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home?

It's not exactly hidden, and I have thought of it more as a supplemental savings than emergency money... I have a tin bank shaped like a red call box that came with caramels or something in it, years ago.

52. What color are your walls?

White.

53. Which rooms in your house have wallpaper?

None.

54. Do you have a peephole in your front door?

Nope.

55. Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?

You must be kidding.

56. What does your home smell like right now?

It's pretty neutral. None of my candles are lit.

57. Fave candle scent?

See earlier answer.

58. What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?

None

59. Who are in the pictures you display?

I have a display along my very long hallway from old family photos I photocopied back in the day. They were black and white and I blew them up and photocopied them in color, and you can't really tell, under glass. Both sides are represented -- my father's father, who was a handsome young postman in the 1940s, my mother's mother's mother, who was a coquette in the 1890s before she got married, my father's grandmother as a tiny chubby toddler with her two sisters in Chicago in the late 1880s.

60. What color is your favorite bible?

I don't have a Bible. I can't really imagine having a favorite one. My favorite copy of the Communist Manifesto, on the other hand (I think I have three?) is probably the red one, because I bought it with the first money I was paid in my first job, which was cleaning a store downtown, age 13. I was paid in petty cash, and that first week, I took the $23 and went to Kroch's and Brentano's, a local big bookstore, and bought The Communist Manifesto (quite a Cold War edition with an anti-communist introduction I was furious about), 1984, and Animal Farm.

61. Ever been on your roof?

Yes. Our roof is huge and flat and has a sort of rim. I've tried watching Fourth of July fireworks up there, but there are too many tall buildings between this place and the estuary where they shoot off the fireworks.

62. Do you own a stereo?

Nope, all music goes through the computer, but my speakers are quite good.

63. How many TVs do you have?

One, used for Netflix and streaming shows from my computer.

64. How many house phones?

Just a cell phone.

65. Do you have a housekeeper?

I do pay a crew once a month, and if I could afford it, I'd try to do it twice a month.

66. What style do you decorate in?

Boho, more or less, much like my mother and grandmother. Wood and colored fabrics and colorful stuff on the walls. A million books.

67. Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints?

Solids for upholstery, and then patterned pillows. Hippie prints for comforter on the bed. Seriously, it looks a great deal like the comforter I had in 1972, which said "peace, love, joy" and had paisleys and flowers and psychedelic patterns.

68. Is there a smoke detector in your home?

Yes, and a carbon-monoxide alarm.

69. In case of fire, what are the items you would grab if you only could make one quick trip?

Cat, phone, iPad, back-up disk, purse (with wallet, phone, iPad in it)

70. Do you know how to work your electrical box?

Nope

71. What temperature in your home is most comfortable to you?

I try never to turn on the heat during the California winter. I don't usually make it the whole winter through (though last winter was bizarrely warm). I prefer cooler to warmer.

The End
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.


 photo IMG_2333.jpg



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.
... and there's not much time left in which to write one. Ten more free days, then meetings and classroom work begin, and on August 24th, students are back and the 2015-2016 school year begins. For some reason I always have difficulty figuring out exactly how long I've been teaching, maybe because we do the years in that half-and-half way... I began in October of 1998, after the school year had already started, at Lowell Middle School in West Oakland, which no longer exists. There are two schools sharing that site now, a KIPP school ("Knowledge is Power Program" Charter school, with extended school days, extended school years, and extended school/work hours for teachers... not with extended pay, or union representation, mostly) and the West Oakland Middle School... what is their fucking PROBLEM, with that name? James Russell Lowell was a dumb enough name... OBVIOUSLY if you're naming a school in West Oakland, an overwhelmingly African-American (and historically significant black nationalist) neighborhood, after an American poet, Langston Hughes is the poet to choose (there, I'm a poet and I didn't know it). And, equally obviously, the school mascot should be a Black Panther. I mean, DUH.

ANYWAY, I began in October 1998... which means this is my

1998-1999
1999-2000
2000-2001
2001-2002
2002-2003
2003-2004
2004-2005 (left Lowell; left Oakland Unified School District)
2005-2006
2006-2007
2007-2008
2008-2009
2009-2010
2010-2011(left first middle school in new district for second middle school in new district)
2011-2012
2012-2013
2013-2014
2014-2015

eighteenth year of teaching. I don't think I come off as a hoary veteran teacher, secure in my skills and satisfied with my teaching. At least, that's the best spin I can put on the fact that whenever I meet new teachers (at Professional Development trainings, e.g.) they seem extremely surprised that I have been teaching this long. I could, of course, put a very negative spin on that reaction, too. I struggle a lot with impostor syndrome, for damn sure. And this upcoming year is an evaluation year, hallelujah! Oh, glory, glory, glory. Not. We have a (still) new principal, whose first year was sort of her (in her own words) watchful waiting year. Now she feels like she's made the transition from high school to our particular middle school and is ready to put her own ideas into place. I am terrified of being evaluated by her, because a) after my experiences with two (women) principals in specific, I have fucking hella PTSD around classroom observations, and b) she is one of those people whose faces you cannot read AT ALL. She is immensely awkward and I do not get her. On the other hand, she is very intelligent and I do not think she is an evil administrator who lives to carry out district mandates.

Okay. I am trying not to borrow trouble here. This year, I am going to try to pull together a teacher inquiry project and ask for alternative assessment, even though everyone agrees that it is much harder and has very difficult hoop-jumping involved. I still feel like I will hate it less than being observed in my classroom... which, by the way, does not mean that I will not be observed teaching: we all are, frequently, on random walkthroughs which are supposed to produce non-formal written reactions. The principal was in my classroom loads of times last year, but I only got one such non-formal written review. It was depressing, in that she observed kids off task at the back of the class.

Anyway, beginning to organize a teacher inquiry is part of what I need to do over the next week to ten days. I know I want it to be about kids' reading, which is a powerful mystery to me, and which happens to coincide with the PD I went to this summer, the Reading Apprenticeship program. I also want to work in technology in the classroom and how that can affect student reading and writing (since, after last year's Project LEAN-In, I have a full set of chromebooks and a charging cart dedicated to my class alone)... and the practice of Socratic Seminars. It's going to take some doing to craft a concise set of questions and imagine what kinds of data I can collect. I know I want to start with some baseline writing and reading samples and with a self-survey about reading unfamiliar texts, and a reading interest survey.

Other things I have done here in the waning days of summer, and then things that I still want to get done:

THINGS I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED

1. Cleaned out both of the big closets in my apartment and threw out seven (at least) huge black garbage bags of junk, as well as giving away eight grocery bags worth of clothes and stuff.

2. Got rid of a bookshelf and two-thirds of the books on it, as well as a total of six other bags of excess books which I have purged. No Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Mandel, Freire, or Kollontai was harmed in this purge. On the other hand, lots of mystery series I now own as ebooks have made their way to a new home in thrift shops.

3. Cleaned and wiped and dusted bookshelves.

4. Cleared and reorganized a strange piece of furniture next to my desk which seems to be made of dark-stained plywood. It came with the apartment, which I got basically furnished, through subletting from a friend of my sister's who moved to NYC and then Spain, seventeen going on eighteen years ago. I've changed out a lot of the furniture over the years (to cheap IKEA stuff, basically) but there are still a lot of the original things, some beautiful pieces of art she painted herself, like my coffee table and a hinged piano bench I use for tools, and some just weird like this drawer/shelf combo. But it's ORGANIZED now, with a section for Hindi study, for art supplies, for envelopes and folders (and, apparently, my cat, who I just disturbed there at the back of the bottom shelf. I had no idea that was one of Devlin's hiding places).

THINGS I STILL WANT AND NEED TO DO

1. Plan teacher inquiry, as stated above

2. Reorganize bulletin board above desk

3. Upload photos from phone and from camera... I am somewhat OCD, so that involves captioning or titling every single photo... I cannot bear them not to have titles

4. Scan more of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of old photos I got this summer

5. Do All Of The Laundry, ugh, probably at a laundromat because I hate going up and down the stairs to the basement, and we only have one washer and one dryer.

6. Clear and reorganize the living room bookshelves, though I already weeded the books.

The sad thing about this is that although *I* know that all of this work has taken place, it doesn't necessarily show up clearly to someone visiting my apartment. Frustrating.

Devlin has abandoned her super sekrit hiding place and is now relaxing between my arms again, as I type.
My mom is hanging out at my house this evening, and I decided to actually cook (because I hate cooking just for myself -- so boring).

I made linguine with clam sauce, as below. It was hella delicious. (Normally I use wine, but I didn't have any, and omitting it... I think I actually liked it better.) Be warned: it was also extremely rich.

Put a huge pot of water on to boil

Dice three large cloves of garlic and one gigantic sweet onion

Cover the bottom of a big frying pan with good olive oil

Sauté the onions first, and when they start to get brown, add the diced garlic

Drain three cans of good chopped clams -- the larger the pieces the better; reserve the liquid

Add a palm-ful (or to taste) oregano and thyme. If you can get fresh, do it (I couldn't and it was still good)

Add the chopped cans, and fry with the onions and garlic for a few minutes, until it sizzles a little

Add about half of the canned clam liquid and about 1/4 cup full cream. Yes, that's what I said.

Stir and mix and let simmer

Add the rest (another 1/4 cream or to taste) and clam liquid.

Put a wooden spoon over the pan so it doesn't boil over (this really works; I had no idea)

As soon as the linguine is done, drain it, add the clam/onion/cream etc. sauce, mix, and sprinkle some shredded parmesan.

A Meme!!!

Feb. 5th, 2015 10:21 pm
From [personal profile] mistersmearcase and [personal profile] villagecharm

Nine things you do every day
1. drink some variety of orange-cut pekoe black tea... English or Irish breakfast tea. With half-and-half.
2. feed, pet, get covered in orange cat hair by my cat Devlin
3. ignore making the bed
4. mess around on the internet -- FB, the Guardian, Wikipedia, Goodreads, YouTube, Ancestry.com
5. doodle
6. wear my glasses from opening my eyes to turning off the light at bedtime
7. read
8. write
9. either teach or think about lessons I want to teach

Eight things that annoy you
1. edubabble spouted by administrators at any level
2. ads -- which since I don't have a functioning TV are these days mostly internet ads and particularly, Facebook ads
3. a new teacher at my site who is creepy and has asinine politics with kneejerk ignorant self-deluding racism* who has for some reason chosen to KEEP TALKING TO ME
4. my own inertia, sometimes
5. laundry, cleaning, dishes
6. the lack of off street parking in my area
7. my utterly terrible, tiny, awful kitchen
8. when books in series are not all available as ebooks, but just some random selection of them


Seven fears/phobias (not sure I have seven... also, hella depressing topic)
1. bad health; specifically the complications that progress with diabetes
2. trying to keep up with fast-moving crowds, e.g. demonstrations, these days
3. dementia, which an uncle has... though his seems to be vascular dementia
4. cockroaches and most chitinous beetles, UGH
5. ants
6. unemployment
7. an impoverished old age

Six songs that you’re addicted to
1. "Beeswing" as performed by either Richard Thompson or Christy Moore
2. "Landslide" as performed by pretty much anyone
3. "Roobaroo" from one of my favorite Bollywood movies Rang de Basanti
4. "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba
5. "50 Thousand Deep" by Blue Scholars
6. Right now, "Highwayman" but not the Phil Ochs (or god forbid the Loreena McKennitt) version adding music to the Alfred Noyes poem, but instead an original song and collaboration between Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson. I do love the Phil Ochs song, though.

Five things you can’t live without
1. my family
2. friends, whether in person or via the internets
3. books
4. tea
5. my cat

Four memories you won’t forget

1. being present and witnessing my older niece's entire birth, and cutting her umbilical cord
2. finding out I had won a French prize my Senior year of high school which meant I would be flying to Paris and taking classes at the Alliance Française and living at a nun-run hostel on the Île St. Louis (and then escaping the classes to go to a revolutionary youth peace camp in Germany with revolutionary marxist youth from all over Europe)
3. meeting a young(er than me, by a good 12 years) Air Force linguist at a bar and deciding to go out with him, despite the many and highly obvious reasons this was fairly ridiculous.
4. coming back from Spring Break to teaching, my fifth year of teaching (2003) and being greeted by the principal, the vice-principal, and four teachers in a row with queries about my arrest at an anti-war sit-in in Richmond, at the Chevron HQ, a photo of which I had not known had featured on the front page of the Oakland Tribune

Three words you can’t go a day without
1. "Turn to page..."
2. "Hey, baby" -- to Devlin, my cat.
3. "ludicrous" possibly not DAILY, but fairly frequently, at school -- it used to make my Oakland students howl, in the early 'aughts. Because, Ludakris

Two things you wish you could do
1. go swimming at the Richmond Natatorium (salt water pool!) more regularly
2. recommit to learning Hindi... and/or FIND A DAMN CLASS in the language. That doesn't cost $5,000

One person you trust:

I trust a lot of people. It's hard to reduce this one to one person. I trust everyone in my family. Hmm. Of non-family people, I trust [profile] amarama



------------

*I am trying to think of an example of this. It was obvious the first time he buttonholed me in my classroom after school, condescending to me because he has a masters in some insanely stupid field of history... oh yeah, the history of the Olympics, and then talking confidingly to me about "these kids, you know, they come from broken homes and drugs and just can't handle higher levels of thought; they're ignorant of any kind of current events and have no capacity to analyze what's going on, and they don't care" -- after which I shot down every fucking word he said and talked about students I'd taught in West Oakland and their extremely on point political understanding. He's kind of been trying to backpedal and I guess curry favor with me since, and I wish he'd stop and just hate me and avoid me.

Yechh.

Feb. 5th, 2015 09:46 pm
What is it about the apartment upstairs? Am I doomed to having to overhear people's private couples fights for my whole life? Ugh. I don't know if it's better or worse that this one doesn't sound like it's alcohol-fueled, as the old ones inevitably were. I should probably have vaguebooked this, sigh.

There, instead, I've posted in LJ, because there's another layer of almost-no-one-who-reads-this-knows-my-address-or-neighbors.

By the way, 2015 sucks so far:

1. My mom fell right before Xmas, which I may have posted about. She is recovering slowly, with a walker. She has a torn shoulder tendon (we think) which is inoperable and possibly won't ever fully be repaired, and a fractured hip, which the ER Xray did not reveal.

2. I fell, myself, a couple of weeks later, twisting my knee, and hobbled around on a cane for ages. Sucked.

3. I missed jury duty by accident last week and emailed the court in a panic, expecting to get a new date ages away. Instead, I got one the next Monday, which was bad timing in terms of school stuff. The original date would have been bad, and maybe worse, because I was scheduled to be administering a computerized test.

4. At least I didn't get picked for a jury, though the other teacher FROM MY SAME SCHOOL who was there on the same day did.

5. The next morning (this past Tuesday) I went downstairs to find my car booted for accumulated tickets, which are like an extra payment on top of my (admittedly insanely cheap) rent BECAUSE THERE IS NO FUCKING PARKING IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD, and plus right after I fell, I got quite a few tickets. The price of releasing the boot pretty much eviscerated the backpay settlement we got for our belatedly settled contract. And also I had to wait for a cop to come remove it because the stupid code didn't work and was therefore two hours late to work.

6. Tonight my battery died and I had to wait for Triple A, and then I had to buy a new car battery.

I am really glad we have a three day weekend. I need it. Although I should probably spend quite a lot of it cleaning my apartment and doing laundry.

-----------

Random better things:

• my cat Devlin is still and always awesome;

•I make very, very good computer slide shows (that is, PowerPoints*), these days using Google Slides;

•I got to riff on Nat Turner and primary source political cartoons today -- as part of my one-a-day Black History Month slideshow of people none of my students have heard of before... the original list of people is pretty much unchanged from when I started this back in February of 2012;

•also a Slides presentation on the importance of agricultural changes and "new rice" in the Song dynasty, that was weirdly fun;

•I have rediscovered the joys of gin and tonics, which I used to occasionally drink in company with my grandmother -- they were her favorite cocktail. I'm using Bombay Sapphire gin, which I've always been intrigued by for the Indian allusion and the blue bottle. I think my grandma's favorite was Tanqueray.




*I know these are outdated, Google Slides or whatever, and that even Prezis are past their sell-by date, but I still haven't mastered Prezis, and I am sure when I do that I will be into them ages and ages past their popularity. And honestly, a Slides presentation is still more effective to introduce readings or mini-lectures than NOT having visuals.
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 Ancestry.com. Man, I wish my grandmother was alive to look at Ancestry.com 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.
It is almost 10:30, and I am not ready to go to bed and concede that my weekend is over. I also haven't eaten dinner, and that is stupid for numerous reasons, actual physical hunger being one of them. (In a follow up to my last entry more than a month ago... I have been able, so far, to continue doing pretty well in tracking and being regular with diabetes stuff, despite school starting. I am especially doing well in eating well at school, and drinking tea there, and not wasting money and pancreatic health on the fast food franchises that infest all school neighborhoods in the US... I have a microwave, a plug in kettle, and a small fridge in my classroom, but until this year, I had not made the best, most consistent use of those things. I am also hella grateful for cheap frozen meals from Trader Joe's, and fruit, and cut up veggies from ditto...).

Anyway... as far as the title of this post... yeah, Sunday Night Blues, amplified by two things -- first, our union's tactics in contract negotiations with the district, see how they suck. The president has pretty much hinted (and it was no surprise given this union local's generally supine approach to the district, with whom they USED to be cozy as hell) that if we do go to impasse and then arbitration and then vote for a strike, it will be long and depressing because the district is headed by Scott Walker wannabes aiming to gut any union, and we'll lose. Great! So the only tactic the union leadership is pushing is a) electoral, as far as getting two new members of the local school board elected who might vote against the superintendent, and b) work to rule until that school board election, although not every site is participating. My middle school site is THE VANGUARD, ahead of any other school including the two high schools. Crazy.

So here's the deal. [This is mostly excerpted from a chat with a friend, to whom I was explaining what is going on]

Labor situation: our union, the [redacted] Education Association (so, NEA rather than AFT) has been in negotiations for the past eight or nine months, and we've been without a contract that long. The district is playing Scott Walker hard ball and has utter contempt for us. They offered a 1% raise while districts surrounding us were offering 8% or more. They've inched up to 2.5% or something derisory like that. They have tons of new money that is neither restricted nor one-time only income, but they refuse to spend it on either salaries or smaller class sizes in the lower grades, which was supposedly a California priority.

In reaction, we're "working to rule" at least at my site (I am very curious about at least one of the other middle schools, because they were supposed to vote on this last week) until mid-November, after the (stupid) school board elections. I don't think much of this electoral tactic — why the two board members supported by the union would make THAT much difference, and also, why they would necessarily get elected, despite a big push and precinct walking by the union. This is a pretty conservative community, small, mostly stable working class and lower middle class, with a lot of Christians and a lot of Mormons.

Working to rule means we can only do what is literally in our (expired) contract: we can't work early or late (which ALL of us do); we can't have our rooms open and supervise children during the morning break or over our lunch period (which sucks because I have a group of kids who like to eat there and who are hella nice, from last year and this year); strictly observed, we shouldn't even grade at home or send email to parents or students answering their email at home. I am very nervous about not grading, though generally I am hella up to date on that. Right now I have two weeks' worth of Reading Logs for my three English/Language Arts classes, and one article with "talking to the text" all over it to comment on in depth for those three classes, and one Review & Assess on a short story by Gary Soto, and coming tomorrow, one character trait/character/supporting quote assignment on the same story. The Social Studies grading mostly happens in class, so there's that, at least. There are two more weeks in the first quarter, and we've been told to do our "best guess estimation" on grades.

My friend asked how anyone could "catch me" grading at home, or sending emails at home. I told him that they (the union) cannot. But it undercuts solidarity with my fellow teachers if I grade and post grades for parents to see on Schoolloop when other teachers are not doing it; it divides us. I may decide to grade at home, but not post the grades publically, that is, update Schoolloop (the online grading/email program we use to communicate with students and parents). Literally, grading and planning and emailing students and parents is all unpaid overtime that teachers do at home and after school and before school ALL THE TIME.

But it sucks. It's painful, and it makes my job harder while I'm on the clock.

Here, have a couple of pretty pictures that show how my classroom has progressed since the first bare day.

Bookshelves with classroom library near front door

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New bookshelf for my own teacher stuff, and more posters/decor

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Past extra credit projects from first quarter's Medieval Europe unit

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I can't believe I didn't write anything this summer. It's been kind of... well, at Thursday's bullshit welcome-back-to-forced-blah-blah meeting we had to have "Circle Time", where our entire school site staff sat in a big circle outside in the glaring sun, and used 'speaking objects' to take turns sharing. Our first sharing question was to describe our summer in seven words or less. I said "Family and personal health and Lake Geneva". And that was my summer, folks. That and being enraged about Gaza and Ferguson.

I started the summer with a wretched cold that was almost Whooping Cough... it lasted for weeks and weeks, and involved extreme exhaustion. Also in terms of personal health, I spent the summer trying to deal better with my diabetes. Recording and tracking blood sugar levels, checking off pills and insulin daily, tracking (observing, more, not prescribing or critiquing) meals. It's been very good to do that, and I hope to fuck I can continue now that school is starting.

On the family health front, that really means my mother, who in addition to her COPD, is also dealing with what my sister and I have just learned to describe as Mild Cognitive Impairment, aka dementia-in-waiting. There have been signs and portents for a few years, but incidences have been increasing and finally even my denial (second only to my mother's superior powers in that area) was fractured. One example: we were getting some gas and she offered to pump it, which was nice, but once she finally figured out how to put my card in to pay for it (which failed multiple times) she tried to gas the pump rather than my car, and asked in confusion where she was supposed to put the nozzle. Pretty terrifying.

Thing is, her confusion and her issues with memory are so greatly affected by emotion and depression that it's a little hard to tell what is baseline. When she is upset and dealing with negative emotions, she is much more likely to become confused. And that gas pump episode was after a hell of a week at the beginning of the summer when I'd taken her to three doctors' appointments or tests, and then she'd had a spell of dizziness and falling that took her to the ER -- due, it turned out, to drug interactions. She hadn't told her doctor out here about one drug her doctor in Chicago had her on, and the combination of two of her pills dropped her blood pressure down to extremely dangerous levels. When she started falling and we rushed her to the ER, however, we didn't know that, and her doctor used the very scary word 'stroke'.

So. We're working on getting her to live out here in Oakland full time, and it seems like we've finally mostly won that argument, though she is not yet selling her co-op in Chicago. She has agreed in principle, though. ANYWAY, my main point is that this summer has pretty much been about dealing with all of these things. Even going to Lake Geneva for two weeks was mostly about dealing with stuff for my mom; we went together, and both stayed with my dad and stepmother. Thank fuck that they and my mom are family and friends. I can't imagine estrangement there; what a nightmare that would be. She's doing okay right now, though emotionally fragile with the recognition of this MCI stuff. My sister motivated her signing a contract with a geriatric management company out here that has assistants who do daily home visits and check her pills and get her engaged in the day, which prevents my mom from slipping into sleeping for vast portions of the day due to her chronic depression. This is a good thing, though damn, it costs up the ass.

Otherwise, I feel like I mostly used the summer to do expensive personal chores I couldn't get to during the school year, like a brake job and mundane household purchases (new desk top, new mattress topper, sheets, new external hard drive, etc.) And now it's over. I don't know. My classroom is ready (a giant thank you to my younger niece R., for helping me yesterday, photos below). I am not really thinking about teaching yet, although it starts Monday. But it's a minimum day, whatever. I'll practice their names and seating charts, even though my rosters will probably change in a week or two.

A serene empty classroom:

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My niece R-the-younger:

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