Monday, December 31, 2012

Best o' '12 List

Do people still make New Year's Resolutions? Are they going out of fashion? I think mine is to make more lists, primarily because my boyfriend/co-habitant speaks in "Top 5" or "Top 10" lists and I am a very orderly person. While contemplating my top music lists of last year, my mind started wandering towards the good, the bad, and the ugly of this year. And even though life contains ugly moments, the fact that I'm included makes them just a bit more aesthetically appealing.
Am I right?
Trying to remember 2012 in all its splendor, from January 1 eating pupusas in El Salvador to December 31 sitting on my bum writing this blog entry in my pajamas at high noon, I want to compile some of the memories I have of this past year.

Movies: While I watched damn near 60 movies for October's Horrorthon (57 to be precise but only 50 reviewed), there are two things I can conclude from the movie-watching splendor
1) I quit my job at the right time
2) Targets, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and Rabies were the best movies I watched this year. Here's my full Horrorthon Wrap Up 2012.

Despite all the movies I saw that were released in 2012, there's one that stands out the most to me . . . was it --
a) Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the gorgeous but slow-paced documentary that will change the way you look at sushi for the rest of your life?
b) Prometheus and its ultimate let-down of science fiction fans?
c) The Dark Knight Rises -- the final chapter in the story of my favorite but psychologically scarred superhero?
Um, you were cool 'til you spoke. Bane is NOT supposed to sound like Captain Picard!
d) Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's 8th feature-length revenge movie set against the backdrop of pre-Civil War slavery?
Totally worth a second viewing.
Nope. It was e) The Expendables 2, which featured Jean-Claude Van Damme as the antagonist.
This is the most significant movie of 2012 for me because it sparked a wildfire of JCVD film viewings, among them: JCVD (2008). Although Van Damme's acting career took longer to develop talent than his near-perfect kickboxing career, I've stumbled upon some gems including Double Impact and Replicant, in both of which Van Damme battles himself (no, not in a metaphorical sense). 2013 can only bring more action, more campy plots, and yes -- more Van Damme legs.
More like Van BAMM!
Hot Damme!
Van Damme, thank you, man!
TV: Admittedly I live in the past and have been religiously tuned in to The Incredible Hulk 70's show.
Last night we were watching an episode that featured midget wrestlers and I turned to declare to my boyfriend, "Next pet's name is going to be Bixby." That's right, as in Bill Bixby.
The David Banner that he portrays can do no wrong, is by definition a man's man, is unafraid to make himself open and vulnerable to act as both doctor and patient as he travels from town to town surviving on his wits, wisdom, and unexpected greenman transformations.
We are closing in on the end of the fourth season, arguably the best since season one and definitely the riskiest in Hulky goings-on. I can't deny that I won't feel emotional when it's all over because there is only one possible ending for the Hulk *cue "Sad Man" theme*.

The Walking Dead Season 2. I only just finished watching it on Netflix and I don't have cable. No, I don't want to hear what happens.

Anderson Cooper was given a daytime show that competes with Dr. Phil and Maury. Why? The only time I tuned in, Mr. Cooper and his cute co-host of the day were discussing the Boyfriend Pillow vs. the Girlfriend Pillow. What have you reduced your talents to, Mr. Cooper?!??

Knits: the addition of fingerless gloves into my repertoire. Sometimes the thumb was too big, sometimes they were too snug, but the result of frogging my projects until I got them right was always the same: "They're beautiful!" (say the recipients).

Crochets: The baby blanket and hat I crocheted for expectant friends back in July, shown off in a previous blog entry (it's listed as Project #4).

Travelin': My first trip to the east coast was noteworthy and fun! Among the hundreds of pictures of brick buildings I took, there were some special moments in Times Square:
. . . getting in touch with my spirit animal at the Natural History Mooseum:
. . . paying a visit to Paul Revere on the Freedom Trail in Boston:
. . . and enjoying a cold one at Calamari's Tavern in Connecticut!
Cry: Here I'm going to get a little serious. I definitely endorse the therapeutic benefits of a good cry. Letting oneself go and allowing emotions to embody themselves in tears, if it means feeling better afterwards, is worth it. I think many feel a huge stigma against crying because they either see it as a sign of weakness in others, don't know what to do when others cry in their presence, or both. One of the strongest things a person can do is acknowledge how something is affecting them because let's face it: we've all felt alone at some points in our lives, and if you don't know yourself to know when you're disturbed then how will you know how to get better?

Having said that, perhaps the best cry I had this year was when I spoke with a friend and previous coworker about moving on from WCCHS. I have so much respect for her and as we were exchanging words, and despite my best efforts, I cried. She started crying, too, and it wasn't because we were sad, it was because we both cherished our professional relationship, our friendship, and that the changes and decisions that were happening in our lives were for the best. It was a nostalgic cry, signifying for me the end of the beginning of my teaching career (where I was "fresh meat" for kids to test) and the start of the development of my professional persona as this great teacher I'd always dreamt I'd be. At that point, I had moved past the point of fretting over not covering all the California State Standards before May 1, or losing sleep over individuals who chose not to do their homework. I finally "got it," and moving on was going to be hard, but crying with Rosemary was like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders. I knew that the challenges and camaraderie we experienced together were special and that there would be many more moments like this to come. I no longer was afraid of the future, I was welcoming it.

Laugh: I have to list this out of obligation after Crying made it as a category, but to be honest I can't think of a single moment of my laughter or another person's laughter that takes the top spot.

Well, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe the time last November where I was working so infrequently that I lost track of the days and I wished my friend Sylvia a "happy Friday" on a Tuesday and she cackled at the fact that I was letting go of my orderly, organized self. Actually we both had a good laugh over that.

Board Game: Conquering my Scrabble fears and scoring several 7-letter words within one game were my best moments.

Family Time: Any time I get to spend with my mother -- cop out, right? If only you knew the vulgar things this woman expels from her mouth:
"Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't? I'm a Mexi-c*nt!"
"We've got to tell those Right-wing conservatives in Washington to get their hands out of our vaginas and their penises out of our mouths!"
"Did I like The Hobbit? Hell no! The movie ended and they barely got to the damn mountain!"

Did I mention I pull a near-perfect impression of my mother?

Like a fine wine, my mother's sound bytes get better and more memorable with age. She's always someone I can confide in about my teaching woes and relate to each phase of my life with funny and poignant anecdotes. She also has the best taste in fashion thanks to me.

Catharsis 2012

October was eye-opening for me. I learned a lot about myself, what I want for my future, and above all I've just started to sort through my confusing/unintelligible feelings. I think I finally feel comfortable addressing the majority of the thoughts, emotions, and occurrences in my life.

First of all, quit my job in downtown Oakland. I admit now I was holding on to the faith that there was a better, more well-structured charter school out there than my previous experience in Richmond. I was hoping that the crazy schedules, the overworked staff, and the underrepresented students would not be seen at this new endeavor I was pursuing, but -- I was wrong, and I'm a person who hates to be wrong! In the four short years that I was teaching at West County Community High School, I enjoyed teaching and bonding with the students and families who all shared a common goal. When I started seeing things fall apart from the inside, I responded to my instincts to flee and accepted the first job I was offered: Envision Academy, one of five Envision charter schools. I believed that my demo lesson was exceptional, my interview was concise, and I came across as a strong candidate and that I would, indeed, be successful. What I did not foresee or ask about was classroom management, the background of the student population I agreed to be teaching, or specific guidelines on how strict I would have to be in the classroom. Most of what I remember are direct quotes from EA teachers for whom I hold a high degree of respect and who did what they could to help me out during episodes of trauma I experienced while there; at least once a week I left the classroom after calling for back-up so I could compose myself, I never left work early but I cried more in those 2 1/2 months than I remember crying during some of the most difficult times in my life. At least during a death in the family, or a bad breakup, you know what has happened is for the best -- but when doing what you love is bringing more emotional damage than repair, it's heart-wrenching to acknowledge that you need to quit.

When it all boils down in my mind, the toughest thing I've had to deal with is this feeling of failure. I quit something that I know I'm good at -- teaching -- because I'd failed to control a classroom that was used to people being mean to them. I tried being mean, I tried acting like I'd seen other teachers and educators yelling and shouting and "putting them in their place," and it just didn't groove with me. What granted me solace was when I was able to peel back the layers of frustration and anger and fantasize about that magical fifth year of teaching I'd sworn I would take off to go back to school.

In the same week I quit my job, even more realizations came to surface other than returning to school: wanting to settle down with my boyfriend, save money, eventually start a family, etc. I know that I appreciate and love my family and the way they raised me, and I know that planning for one of my own would fill me to the brim with pride and happiness. The weekend before Thanksgiving my boyfriend and I were frantically getting everything together for our trip to the east coast to visit his family when I told him how I felt:
Me: "I want to have a baby."
Boyfriend: *hugs* "What, right now?"
Me: *giggles* "No, silly, we've got a cab to catch!"

Such good stuff life is made of. Nevertheless, the holidays were fun but I swear I never want to take another redeye flight again (though I probably will).

Currently I'm working part-time at a tutoring center and my worker-bee brain is taking a break, for better or for worse. I include "for worse" here because I realize I have grown accustomed to working with [un]reasonable deadlines, no budget, and high expectations from myself and my bosses. To be honest I can tutor math in my sleep and if I can make $17/hr doing it, then more power to me, right? This time in my life should just be considered my "hibernation" period because I know I'll find something and I know that a right fit will come when it's time.

I'm still waiting for a letter back from CSU Hayward to see if they've accepted me or not, and I've decided that I'm going to keep my chin up even if I need to wait to re-apply. Life goes on, I love school and learning and I don't think that will change inside of me, ever. I'm waiting to get interviewed as a substitute teacher so I can survey the student population here on the "other side of the tunnel" (as I referred to it when I lived in Berkeley/Oakland), and ensure that the next educator job I take is the right one, despite its imperfections. I feel very fortunate to have worked at WCCHS for four years -- it helped shape me as an educator, my personality as a teacher and leader, and put me in a position where I had to acknowledge my responsibility as a young adult with a college degree in a professional workplace. (I know that sounds cheesy, but when by the time I decided to move on from WCCHS I knew what I wanted out of life and love, and knew that I would get it.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The New Kid

"You have no enthusiasm!"

"Can you say that again?"

"I don't get what you mean."

"I know this is rude, but can you stop saying 'um' all the time?"

"How was that disrespectful?"

"I don't know how to start that problem."

"You want us to write all that?!"

"What are we supposed to do again?"

The first thing you learn in a teaching credential program is Classroom Management. They will tell you to have the students rehearse the correct way to enter and exit the classroom. They will tell you to make the students do this over and over again until they do it correctly.

There are other things I paid $600/month for them to "teach" me, but having shared that piece of knowledge about Classroom Management, I'm going to bare my soul to you and say that I was way too proud to take this advice to heart for the past four years. Me, take time out of my lessons?!? No freakin' way!

Last week I learned a very important lesson: The students have to rehearse the correct way to enter and exit the room. And you, the teacher, cannot let up until they do it correctly.

I had more of an epiphany today while talking to the school dean during our professional development (PD) time.
"I'm tired," I began, "but I don't feel like I should say so because I'm working at a job -- a career -- that I like, I'm passionate about, and hearing myself say that I'm tired just makes me feel like I want to quit."

"Well," he said (I'm paraphrasing), "if you're tired you can't help but be tired. Maybe it's not a physical tiredness; it could be mental or emotional."

I had an amazing summer, folks. Not only did I complain about being "bored," but after I was done bemoaning the fact that I didn't have any responsibilities (unlike many others to whom I'd like to extend a personal apology for my naiveté), I started enjoying the time off. I'll just knit all day! Watch four documentaries in a row -- is that even a question?! Make me another cocktail! I think I'll spend by the afternoon by the pool, working on my latest project of The Perfect Tan. (FYI: mission accomplished.)

Now that we're on Day 7 of school, I find myself doing the only thing that gives me both infinite gratification and infinite head/heartaches: teaching. I know it sounds mushy but I was deliberating the role of High School Teacher with coworkers and acknowledged the fact that we all do so much more than simply introduce ideas from our content areas to people. I'm not only a math teacher, but I am also your Counselor, your Advocate, your Binder-Organizer, your Cheerleader, your Intervention facilitator (both in the academic and non-academic context), your Favorite Person on some days and the Most Dreaded Person if I call home at dinnertime . . .

Having said all that, being "the new kid" has never felt better for me. I used to dread the idea of moving on to new surroundings, then I welcomed it as a part of the flow of life. Earlier this [calendar] year I recognized that change of scenery was imperative towards my professional growth. Even though at times I felt like my brain was going to slush out of my ears from all the new policies and new names and faces, I knew I wasn't alone because there were new teachers, too, and I luckily would be teaching new students. It's only Day 7 and even though I acknowledge I'm tired, I believe in the school, the system, and the students.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer 2012 Craft-Up

For the past three summers I've been one of those lucky people that can choose to take the summer off. At the end of every summer I hear myself repeat the same pattern: I vow to never do it again, to work 'round the clock, year 'round, and then by the end of the school year I am ready to crap out on my bed and not get out for a month. I hear this, mind you -- I hear herstory repeat itself, repeatedly. Let this be the record that whenever I call someone out on not following through for something they said they'd do, I am creating a double standard and am a lying hypocrite.

What is it that's so draining about the work I do? Don't others endure emotional turmoil in dealing with [people who act like] kids, familial drama, and uncertain employed future? I'm sure there are other things out there I could be forced to do all year round that promise verbal abuse and psychological manipulation than asking me to stay after work for a few hours a couple of days a week to update an online gradebook, or plan classes, or meet with parents. That's stuff I'm more than happy to do, because it's for the children and it's for their future.

But right now I don't wish to discuss children, or their respective futures; that's not what I wanted to discuss in this blog post. I wanted to talk about ME, and MY endeavors, and MY future, and what I can do with my own magnificence.

2012 Summer Craft-a-Thon
WARNING: Obscene amounts of craft jargon follow!

Project #1: Long-term UFO (unfinished object) -- socks from Vogue Knitting magazine
I started these puppies with yarn I'd obtained from Stitches West 2010, and only knit one of the socks. For two years I only had one of these bad boys to show off my sock skills to others. That's the problem with knitting socks, and the only problem as far as I can see --
PROS -- transportable (can take on BART, road trips, etc.), knit up fast, and thousands of patterns are available for free on the whirled-white-web.
CONS -- you gotta make two of 'em, bro.

See what I mean?

Project #2: "Shetland Shorty" -- or, as I prefer to call it, my Boob Warmer. From
My dirty pillows will thank me for YEARS TO COME!
The only caveat about this project -- and, I must admit, about most projects I knit or crochet -- was the gauge. I know I should make a swatch before I proceed with the damn thing, but my ego won't allow it. So I knit BoobWarmer v1.0 and it was too small (cinched at the arms), and had to unravel the whole thing. Luckily the body of the pattern consists mostly of a [k2tog, yo twice] repeat so the only challenging part was making the hem edge around the neck and arms, and the danged 3-needle bindoff that, for some reason, makes total sense in my mind but the message gets lost traveling down to my delicate knit fingers.

Project #3: "Tappan Zee." I hadn't ever made a top-down cardigan, and I had this awesome wool yarn from WEBS, so I decided to try it out. Also from
I always say that it was more than coincidence that my sister and mother collected buttons, and I knit. Seriously, though, I am very grateful because instead of just being bitter and up to my ears in buttons, I can actually use them for something, and something functional at that! 

The only thing I would change about this pattern is the number of stitches needed to bind off to make the sleeves. They are comfortable, for now, but if I ever wanted to She-Hulk it up there would be problems and something might give (like the stitch tension). But the color is wonderful and can go with lots of stuff and I can't wait to wear it in layers this fall/winter.

Project #4: Baby Blanket (original)
A friend of mine had recently taken up crocheting and watching her hook away gave me inspiration. Also a couple of other friends were expecting, so the stars seemed to align and I wasn't going to ignore them.

The body of the blanket was created using a Crossed Cluster stitch on even rows, which is kind of like a crocheted cable stitch and bobble stitch combined. Odd rows were half-double crochet (instead of the single crochet the pattern called for).

The hat was crocheted in the round, inspired by a pattern in the crochet Stitch 'n' Bitch installment, The Happy Hooker. It's a great book and I constantly refer to it for project and pattern ideas.

Project #4.5: Scrabble sweater swatch (original swatch, not original pattern)
This was an idea I'd been tossing around for the last two and a half years, or as long as I've been playing Scrabble. I still stare at the board trying to mentally move the tiles around to increase my score. Then one day I decided it was time I'd stopped daydreaming aloud to my boyfriend about knitting a Scrabble-inspired sweater and just start the process. Of course, there's still more to be done, like taking measurements, deciding the hem of the sweater, if it will be set-in sleeves, "seamless," or raglan style (my vote is for seamless but things could change). 

The yarn used for the swatch comes from Shine Sport (Pima cotton and Modal). 

Just last night I learned a new stitch from Knitting Daily, and spent about three hours practicing and designing a half-sleeve pullover to knit for the fall.

Project #5: Sewn neck-warmer (original) -- While picking up some scrap fabric from an upcycled shirt I'd bought last year in Albuquerque, I came across a circular strip of fabric I'd cut off from the hem (it was too long) and, using an invisible stitch, created a tubular neck-warmer.
I refuse to call this sucker a scarf.
I really need to toot my own horn here and say that all this was created and worn within the span of a couple of months. On a deeper level, it's gotten me to think about my personal potential as a crafter and reflect on all the growing I've done since I taught myself to knit ten years ago. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it to take the moral high-ground and tell people I'm all about self-betterment, teaching myself to do new things, and trying something different even if it comes out wrong. Answer: it is.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prometheus' Subliminal Messages from the Religious Right

It's been over a week since I watched the summer blockbuster Prometheus in 3D. The film is advertised as a prequel to Alien and is easily seen as such for those familiar with director Ridley Scott's work. I'm a sucker for science fiction flicks, and for summer blockbusters, so this seemed like it would sufficiently satisfy my appetite for allegories of the human condition, as traditional sci-fi so often does.

What I did NOT expect was to encounter strong themes of religious-based faith, Anglo-Saxon imperialism, and the pop culture media-sensationalized fear of travelling. I did not expect to find these subliminal messages from the religious Right.

You should be warned that there are spoilers below. I won't hold it against you if you haven't seen it yet, but I will sit here and subtly shake my finger at you:


The first and most recurring problem I had with the characters in Prometheus was how often the majority of them (scientists, ship folk, and billionaire 1%ers) questioned lead character Elizabeth Shaw's science-based curiosity. She just wanted to know Why -- a question that, if you ask me, not enough people ask and not enough non-scientist folk hold scientists to figuring out -- and got slammed time and again by everyone. Why were there other scientists -- geologists, biologists, and medics, oh my! -- who insisted that her attempts to piece together anthropological origins were "irrelevant" to their current condition. The fact that American politicians neglect to donate money to schools and NASA only supports the idea that being kept ignorant -- and not asking Why -- is the best solution to keeping a nation compliant. We are responsible for our future and we need to start asking Why and demanding answers, or at least the means of exploring the possibilities.

My earliest memory of defending science came about in second or third grade when a team of my friends informed me on the playground that my older sister was weird (like I didn't already know . . . j/k): "She thinks we came from monkeys," they said, "tell her she's wrong."

Though I will admit that I'm not thinking about analyzing ancient hieroglyphs when I feel I'm in danger of being eaten by snake-like parasites.
Would it be a little pretentious to call them Face-Huggers?
Regardless of this simple plot device, I shall move on. The second thing I noted worth exploring was the ship's android, David, and his obsession with T. E. Lawrence, made famous not necessarily by his epic autobiographical piece of work, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but by actor Peter O'Toole's portrayal of the British Lt. Colonel in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia.
Now in manga form.
Why would this bother me? The model of an Anglo man leading a group of people with different ethnic, racial, or species background that was extracted from Lawrence of Arabia has been used so often in cinema. The hero who saves a nation does not originate from that nation -- and in cinematic history this "White Savior" is celebrated for arriving (or infiltrating) a population of color and telling them what to do. In the real world, this doesn't necessarily work out. In the real world, you die if you don't do what the natives tell you.
I will admit that moments like this, where David expresses wonderment at looking back at Earth -- though he be of robot descent and therefore void of emotions -- were just simply beautiful.
Case in point, Grizzly Man -- if you haven't seen it, you should, and what I have to say regarding the White Savior syndrome won't alter or "spoil" your genuine reaction to it. In short, the GM was told by Alaskan natives to stay away from the grizzly bears although they were revered in the culture; it was understood both by Alaskan man and "beast" that their different instincts and reasoning makes it impossible for them to live peacefully together. One is always living in fear of the other killing them.

The tricky thing regarding David's condition in Prometheus is, who is he fighting for? Who are the "natives?" Who is his old self that he is repelling and who is his "new" one that his is embracing? As this Psychology Today article points out, the common theme in Lawrence, Avatar, and Dances is that the main character is going native (thereby re-creating himself), then ultimately finds himself in a battle against the army from which he came -- in a way he is battling his old "self." In the beginning, David is clearly hiding information from Theron's character, the billionaire daughter of Peter Weyland who is funding their trip. A case can be made for David either defending the humans in their escape from the planet, or for defending the beings thought to have created us.
Could he be OUR White Savior?
Before I move on to my third point, you might be thinking, Crystal Math, there was so much more that this movie offered -- you're seriously dwelling on some shit that only took up like, five minutes of the movie, dudette. What's your beef, brah?

That's a clown question, bro, but you would be pretty spot on: the first point I made that characters were typically anti-science and the third point I will be making about religion are totally out of the realm of my everyday thought and reality. That's not to say that I'm not informed -- I just didn't grow up going to church and fearing the wrath of God. I have always stood by science, the scientific method, and am naturally curious so it's hard to be empathetic or provide much editorializing on behalf of "non-believers;" however, my third point regarding Elizabeth Shaw's faith in the movie is difficult for me to elaborate on because I am . . . a non-believer. I don't know religion nearly as well as I know and have read up on social justice, race and identity issues within our society in a current and historical perspective. I don't read about the history or conflicts of religion unless you want to talk about overlapping themes of human rights.

I found that Prometheus skirted around the issue of religious-based faith -- we are shown images of a young Elizabeth as she watches what looks like a South-Asian funeral and turns around to ask her father where the dead will go in their faith (she also wants to know if that's where Mummy went). In the movie she is seen wearing a necklace with a cross and refuses to give it up when David tells her it's contaminated, but notes that she doesn't want to give up an icon of her faith. In another scene, he briefly compares her faith of science in finding the origin of our DNA to her faith of religion in a supreme being. I suppose the two can be seen as the same (both are powerful white dudes, one with a beard).
wants to destroy us all
wants us to stop apologizing

Yet another childhood memory I have of religious conformity and lack of critical thought hails from high school when discussing with a friend why she hated The Beatles: "He said they were better than Jesus. Nobody is better than Jesus Christ."

I think the main message at the heart of Prometheus is that we choose to believe what we want to, and conversely, we don't have to believe anything at all because regardless of wherever we originate, at the present we just are and our existence in itself is a remarkable achievement. It's a remarkable conclusion for someone who tends towards curiosity and seeking reasons behind everything. Prometheus proved to be a unique experience for me simply because of its status as a summer blockbuster -- my summer freedom allows me the time and resources to fully explore this film's themes, however vaguely they present themselves. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews from this film and while I wholeheartedly agree that it could have been made better, I recommend that one lower one's expectations of a summer big-budget film and relax. Allow your mind to take note of everything, and feel free to read whatever you wish into the story line. Let the debates begin. I love sensationalized theories found in cinema.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"She couldn't scream as I held her close"

Whatcha been listenin' to?

Recently I've been on a KISS marathon to get pumped up for the August show with Motley Crue. Though I'm not a Crue fan I'll give just about anything a listen. In between composing mental Top Five lists of Most Wicked Guitar Solos or Worst Gene Songs, I'm sprinkling tunes from high school and college into the mix like Liz Phair, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Aimee Mann and her husband Michael Penn, Cowboy Junkies, Pat Benatar, and The Pretenders among others.

Just this afternoon I revisited The Killers:

The lyrics in the bridge of this song have always sent chills down my spine:
And someone is calling my name
From the back of the restaurant
And someone is playing a game
In the house that I grew up in
And someone will drive her around
Down the same streets that I did
On the same streets that I did 

Although they evoke many bittersweet memories, I'm thankful for them. As human beings I believe we all tend towards reflecting on personal and social growth, and I am no exception (actually I think I tend to over-reflect). I just finished a teaching assignment that lasted four amazing, excruciating, grueling and fantastic years of my life. On the second to the last day of school, as I told my students that I had grown so much as a teacher, and that this school has made me the teacher and person they recognize and look up to, it felt sad to conclude that the only way for me to continue growing is to move on to new things. 

and someone will drive her around/down the same streets that i did

There was a period of about a week where I was wrought with anxiety for saying my good-byes to a solid community and hellos to a new assignment where the only thing that was certain was the grade level and class I would be teaching. But, after all was said and done, and the students are gone, I'm filled with nothing but excitement and anticipation for what is to come.

smile like you mean it

I've got new, updated Algebra 1 resources that I got for FREE at a math conference two years ago. Now I'm prepared with intervention tools and pacing guides to help me along. I've got group-building activities that have accumulated from having a 35-minute Homeroom each day where we talked about our feelings, social issues, and the importance of passing final exams. In short, I feel prepared -- I just hope that feeling continues on August 21.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Is there any GOOD news for women anymore?!??!?

I have just been wanting to scream with exhaustion due to the workload at my day-job and the emotional workload that is building upon reading what might very well be the worldly re-institutionalization of sexism:

1. First thing yesterday I read was this four-page masterpiece (or should I say mistresspiece?) by my new SHEro, Mona Eltahawy. "Why Do They Hate Us?" takes us where Eltahawy convincingly labels as the epicenter of the war on women: the Middle East. There's no argument coming from me; for one, I've never been to the Middle East (I really, really wanted to when I first saw the riot footage but retracted once I heard about all the sexual assaults female protesters had to endure not only from riot police but from male protesters as well), and secondly, I trust Ms. Eltahawy's journalism as a reliable source of information about how women and minorities are being treated, their rights remaining intact (or reporting when they are not). 

A final thought on her article is that I hope "We are more than our headscarves and our hymens" becomes a chant for women alongside with, "Keep your rosaries off of my ovaries."

I had actually seen her as a guest on Democracy Now a few months back during Egypt's turmoil over voting. She had been featured a few times prior, but this interview from last November still brings tears to my eyes that as a protester she had to endure so much police abuse -- and, as a woman, she had to endure such irreversible torture.

2. In trying to keep up with the latest national politics, all I seem to hear about is how [White male] Republican Presidential nominees want in on what I do with my lady-parts. Bills are being passed in Arizona and Kansas granting doctors the right to withhold information about the health of an unborn fetus, and the [mostly dude] news journalists and [predominantly male] talking heads are littering the airways with debate over whether contraceptives should be covered by one's health care, who should pay for it, etc.

Is there ANY good news for women anymore? Well, for one thing, I know what yarn-bombing projects I'm going to endorse myself in this summer:

It's a CLIToria!

3. The latest cover of Newsweek

and its accompanying article, written by a woman, that catches reader's eyes by claiming that "surrender is a feminist dream."

First of all, and most importantly, this is commensurate to exposing working men who like to be dominated (shaming and claiming that they are somehow less of a man), and therefore violating their right to privacy. A more abstract perspective would only conclude that people in places of power have so much of it that they can decide when they are in control or not. Why should it make any difference if a woman happens to be making that call? (Answer: Because it makes for a kinky Newsweek cover. This brings me to my next point.)

Secondly, the objectification of women portrayed in the cover (it makes me feel vulnerable, doesn't it you?) is a far cry from the content of the featured article, which is more like an observation on the growing popularity on topics of successful women getting off on being dominated. 

Though, I never would have imagined the feminist breakthroughs experienced by the release of Secretary would warrant an HBO episode of Girls where a main character fantasized about contracting AIDS as a means of alleviating herself from today's harrowing responsibilities of womanhood. Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in the '02 indie film overcomes personal issues of social anxiety and even though on the surface she appears to be taken control of by her boss (James Spader), in the end she comes out on top. It's a very submissive top, but a "top," nonetheless!

It is the content of the modern shows Shades of Grey and Girls -- not the content of the NW article -- that I feel are misinterpreting a woman's right to determine how she wants to be treated in the privacy of her (or someone else's) bedroom for generalizing the way ALL women want/need to be treated. Regardless of whether or not they think they want it.

4. Weeks back, this article was brought to my attention -- "5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women." I tried discussing it with a coworker today but then I realized that my blind hatred towards men who hate women probably skewed my overall impression of the article. My brain needs to marinate on it a bit more. 

Or, is it really necessary? When, and by what means, are we going to calibrate our perceptions to that of equality for every person?

How has this issue of feminism -- or even this blog entry -- been reduced from global women's issues to bedroom activity (or inactivity)? We are more than our headscarves and hymens and you must remove your rosaries from my ovaries!!!

I'm having an Angry Feminist Day... c'mon, somebody needed to say it!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Good math teachers always find a home."

And so someone told me. The 27th year of one's existence brings big changes. This equally scares and excites me. For the past four years I've been working with teenaged students while secretly wishing I was working with adults, only to find that what I discovered at my first job (dog kennel attendant at an animal hospital) remains the same: adults suck and animals/young 'uns rule. They will just let you know how they feel without sugar-coating or covering anything up. For the majority of my life I've gotten in trouble for speaking my mind or acting strangely when I feel like I've been living truthfully every moment of my existence. And it's always boggled my mind that others look up to it rather than dare to live it.

Not to say that teenagers are animals... because we all are. I think in a lot of ways adult humans clog up so much of their instincts with etiquette and formalities that sometimes we forget to listen to nature, each other, and even ourselves. What follows is that we forget to be there for each other and we also forget the weight a simple hug or greeting bears when we are in the middle of chaos.

There have been so many occasions in the past, that have seen me fearful of how others will take to my honesty. There's nothing like being afraid of the person you live with -- what will be thrown, what will be said, and what excuses will be made on their behalf from you. It's something that until recently has stirred up overwhelming negative emotions in me; however, the change brought on by Year 27 seems to have brought indifferent feelings in me with regards to those who have made me feel unsafe in my past. Within the last 3 days I've felt completely relaxed and separated from feeling of fear that once consumed my nights and caused me to worry if it would or could ever happen again.

It's important for me to be able to "drop the waterline," as they say, and learn to trust more. This is a huge change for me as I've felt abandoned or even betrayed by those I love in the past. Right now I can't believe how in love I am and the trust, like magic, has come naturally. I want to write more about it but the only word to describe it is Wonderful.
I am in love with my Reality.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

East Coast Escapades

Top 5 things I will miss about the east coast:
5. Lack of Responsibility
Well, it wasn't quite that warm, but the sentiment is the same.
I had a week to tromp around the Big Apple and three other states in New England. It was a week well-deserved and completely void of papers to grade and ABC-gum to pry off of the underside of desks. 

Also, despite the chilly weather, my hands enjoyed the sabbatical from my old-school chalkboard and got moisturized with lotion whenever I gazed at them.

4. New York City -- you need to wear sunglasses at night walking around places like Times Square!

I had such a great time that I couldn't be bothered to think about how sore my feet were, how worn out my legs became from scaling the subway stairs as we commuted from Hoboken, NJ to NYC numerous times. Most noteworthy was the moment when we were trying to find public transportation to Hoboken from NYC. The lady at the bus station uttered only three words to me: "Follow the path."

I looked at her. She looked back at me, eyes uninterested in making further conversation. Her comment begged the question so I asked her, "Are you being metaphoric?" Turns out the New York version BART is the PATH, an underground train that runs with the subways and takes people from the city to New Jersey.

3. Brick buildings -- yes, they are more appealing than one would think.
Newbury Street, Boston
When I was first told about how crazy tourists were for staring at buildings it took me back to my youth growing up in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, "Home of the Redwoods."

At first I categorized brick buildings in the same as redwoods: something totally mundane that, when people just get over it, can enjoy their time. I should have remembered that after being absent from said Redwoods that I, too, fell under the spell of their wonder and beauty. The last time I made it up there was in 2004 and I couldn't stop staring at them and how gracefully they would sway in the wind... But to sum it all up, these buildings oozed with legacy and age and grace that is rare to see.

2. Taking pictures of wicked expensive stuff -- that's right. I'm a crafter and I gotta know what's hot and what's not.

As we strolled around Rockefeller Plaza I became increasingly aware of the fact that we were surrounded by expensive stores: an nth-level Macy's and... SAKS FIFTH AVENUE. I'd heard about this place, as I've heard of many expensive places, only in passing and I badly felt the need to share the same space with a different breed of people who bother to buy something with such a hefty price tag.

My findings included -- $1600 purses, $2500 dresses, and ... a whole floor dedicated to fur garments that I purposely avoided. I didn't even bother looking at the shoes.

I don't think this requires many words... They were steamed then baked with a pile of delicious bread crumbs and a saucerful of butter for each person.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

80's crap = Crystal Math gold

As a part of my 2012 New Years "Revolutions," I'm composing a list of [early] 80's mediocre music to accumulate next time my favourite persyn and I go on an excursion for obscure music. My list so far consists of well known and well-forgotten artists and "artists" of the desired decade. But I'm laying down one major rule:

  • NO, and I repeat NO "best of" bullllllllllshiiiiiiiiiiit. It goes against the purist music snob that's begging to get out. Greatest hits albums are a cop-out and a limitation of what this artist is truly capable of.

Some of them have since reunited, and some of them have since insisted it never happened. Whether we listen to these bands on an LP or mp3, they are:

1. Howard Jones

2. Europe -- ever since "Final Countdown" came on the airplane radio on my way back to California I've been on a kick.

3. The Human League

4. A Flock of Seagulls

5. Adam and the Ants (focus on early punk, technically late 70's)

6. Marshall Crenshaw

7. Plastic Bertrand --> Here's Sonic Youth's cover of "Ca Plane Pour Moi." I don't think he ever had another hit...

8. Missing Persons -- this band was mentioned in a book I read, Less Than Zero, and prompted me to check out all the obscure bands therein.

9. 'Til Tuesday

10. Romeo Void -- I first encountered this band on an 80's compilation from Time Life (my eyes were glued to the tv whenever the infomercial came on and somehow my mom bought my whining pleas, and consequently the CD series)

11. Numbers -- yet another female lead band that fell into obscurity. Brush off the dust and you've got an interesting collection.

12. The Pretenders -- Yeah, everyone knows these guys already. In addition to the Human League, they'll probably be the easiest to find.
13. OMD (Orchestral Manuevers in the Dark)

14. Dugites --> The lead singer reminds me of a Pat Benatar/Jane Weidlin hybrid, though she was from the same era (but Australian). "Waiting" is another good one, but this tune caught my attention as well:

*ok ok ok ONE MORE*
15. Sparks -- forget that the guy has a Hitler mustache! He reminded me of Pee Wee and the video is cute:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Musings Not Bemusings

I feel like the world is my effin' oyster right now. 

Ever since I returned from El Salvador, I see so many options and paths ahead of me. It literally opened up my eyes to the people, the culture, the language of the world. It made me feel closer to those I hold dear to my heart -- or it inspired me to get closer to them. Conversely it's inspired me to let go of the things that have been the source of my hold-ups for the last two years.

Both are going to inspire big changes, but I have so much optimism that I'm hopeful for a future even if it means struggle. At least it'll mean change.

I'm not as offended anymore when people remind me how "young" I am... (I think what bugs me so damn much is that I have no perspective on the matter ... think about it: I don't know what it feels like to be any other age than the ages that I've already experienced, how could I possibly know how relatively "young" I am compared to someone older than me?) ... but it certainly has made me feel that I need to take the time to go the extra mile to represent, protest, oppose and propose the things that I want to see happen in my lifetime. I want to make this semester at school the best ever, and I want to make this summer the best ever, and everything else afterward: The Best __________ Ever!

Exploring another country that is as rich in history as it is in tragedy inspired me to explore my options that lie in my own local community. People that I talk with about my journey seem fascinated and admire me for doing it, but some part of me doesn't understand why. It makes sense to me that one would want to pursue a cause about which they are passionate. I know that there are some hold-ups: money, risks of traveling to a "developing" country, trust, etc.

I had never been more homesick but once I returned to the United States I couldn't stop thinking about returning to the pueblos and learning more about what it meant to be from El Salvador. When I returned from the Twin Cities to protest the Republican National Convention four years ago I was surprised to see that "nothing" changed while I was away; now, returning from another country, I'm witnessing the same thing (I just have more colorful stuff). Only this time around I'm taking more initiative to creating the results I want.


Are you a Dot, a Line, or a Squiggle?

At today's teacher in-service I did a dramatic reading of The Dot and the Line to illustrate the four phases of the Interactive Reading Method which was integrated into the Caluco workshops I did in El Salvador.

  1. Literal Phase -- who/what/where/why/when
  2. Personal/Interpretative Phase -- do you know anyone who feels ...? What would have happened if ...? 
  3. Inferential/Multicultural Phase -- how could have ______ been avoided? Have you or anyone you know ever experienced ...? How might you have reacted if ...?
  4. Creative Phase -- write a story of what happened afterward; draw a picture or character profile of your favorite part; perform a play/monologue/song in the voice of one of the characters.

It was compelling to see the light in my colleague's eyes as the story progressed, and to see who sided with either the dot or the line. Seeing their enthusiasm in guessing what would happen next rejuvenated me and renewed my energy for the classroom tomorrow.

But first I've gotta grade these quizzes... :-P

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I'm happy to say that I'm going to be turning 27. It's pretty special stuff since 27 is a cubed number (3^3 = 27), and Cubic Birthdays are something to make a big deal out of.

Cubic Birthdays are something experienced so rarely; the last time was 19 years ago when I turned 8 (2^3), and won't experience again for another 37 years, "when I'm 64" (4^3), and if I'm lucky enough, 61 years after that will give me 125 (5^3) years.

(Note: Isn't it cool how the difference between each of these cubed numbers is prime?)

I just want to keep this blog entry short and sweet -- this past year at 26 (nothing too special; just a multiple of 13) held so many fun memories, comprised of a few major "firsts:"
  • First year contributing to the Horrorthon blog
  • First trip out of the country to El Salvador
  • First time to the southwest (Albuquerque, NM) -- also my first time traveling alone, with the exception of road trips from the SF Bay Area to Ukiah to visit my parents.
A fun "second:"
  • Second year attending San Francisco's Zombie Prom
And a continuation of other things like Yoga, knitting and my career as an educator. Such great things life is made of, folks.
I was proud of this pina I acquired in Suchitoto.
1 of 2 proms we attended that year -- this was for my school; the second...
... Zombie Prom! It's gonna be hard to top the KISS zombies.
One achievement I'm proud of was supporting the 2011 graduates on their trip to Disneyland and Universal Studios (not JUST 'cause I got to go with them...)
My favorite photo of 2011 -- and it's spectacular coming from my archaic phone. I got the opportunity to participate in the SF Exploratorium's Teacher Institute and got to see this every morning.