"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Friday, December 04, 2009

anatomy of a shit-tastic day

1. slept less than 4 (nonconsecutive) hours last night
2. found out i failed my grad school project, so won't be having any more luck with PhD applications
3. there was nothing for breakfast so i ate a block of cheese and stale wheat thins
4. got two new students in the special ed class today, bumping up my class size to 12 (which, for special ed, is kind of a lot for me)
5. my students were CRAZY today (held a total of 7 students for detention, sent 2 out of the classroom)
6. the new students don't know how to add or multiply, and would prefer to ask me about my pets than learn how to find LCDs
7. one of the new students was sent to me for "taking a doo in the teacher's garbage can"
8. cold lasagna for lunch because there was nothing else to pack
9. no swimming after school because it's cold and i think i'm a little worn out already
10. tummy ache
11. it's friday and despite all the horrible work-related things, i'm still not so excited about this weekend

but good things that happened that i should remember:
1. traffic was almost non existent this morning
2. one more hour before i get to go home
3. i got Christopher and Alisha caught up on fractions (from LCDs, to simplifying, they can do it all now!)
4. my advisory class and those kids who make it seem like my class is the only one they come to school for
5. this article about Glenn Beck's "A Christmas Sweater," which i read at lunch and actually laughed out loud
6. only 2 more weeks to go before i can go back to Kentucky!

EDIT: i didn't actually fail the grad school project! hooray! the prof just make a huge error in entering grades onto blackboard. (i aced the project! all because of my editing skillz.)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

here i dreamt i was an architect

spending the majority of your day among people half your age and size is an unnatural way of being. this is why our modern educational system is plagued with problems. Freire and Dewey and others have all touched on it before, but now, after 2 years of public school teaching, i'm beginning to fully understand what they mean.

seriously, think about how often you naturally or willfully come into contact with more than 3 or 4 children at a time. it typically doesn't happen because, except for at school, human children don't travel in packs. (unless, of course, they are "wilding".)

thus, i propose we do away with the education system as we know it, and revive apprenticeship! every adult in America should volunteer to adopt 2-3 children/young adults to mentor and guide into adulthood. this would more evenly distribute the adult-child interactions among the population, reduce crime, increase self-esteem among the younger species, increase general feelings of good-doingness, boost humanity's morale, in addition to solving the problems with education. that's like, a whole flock of birds with one giant boulder!

... and i once dreamt of being the next big Secretary of Education...


Saturday, November 28, 2009


definition: to go or send to the country.

example: I am going to enjoy my winter vacation in rustication. Destination Rustication.

I am homesick for my old Kentucky home...


in other word-related news: my laptop's dictionary just tried to tell me there was no such word as "fustigate." incredulous, i resorted to the internets, which confirmed my suspicion that yes, the word exists, and furthermore, it means "to beat with a club; cudgel."

now with your broadened knowledge of the English lexicon, go forth and wield hefty conversations!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

comfortably numb

at school, the wednesday before thanksgiving, 2 hrs after the kids have all gone home.

typing with one hand, eating a banana with the other.

the teacher next door to me is singing really loud to "Comfortably Numb" while, ostensibly, moving the furniture in his classroom. occasionally, he pauses to whistle the refrains.

Monday, November 23, 2009

a south central thanksgiving

i had my advisory students make "hand-turkeys" and write letters of thanks-giving to loved ones. they turned out really well. my student andrew gave me permission to share what he did:

dear dad,
im thankful for giving me a roof over my head. thank you for making money to leave food on the table and clothes on my back.

dear mom, i'm thankful for all the thing you do for me like doing your best to get us to move for a better life.

dear grandmah cristina,
i'm thankful for opening your doors to me because you know that south central is a bad area.


and other turkeys my students created:

find something to be thankful for,
and give thanks,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

trout fishing in america

(click on img for a higher res version)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

reality bites

theofficeohword:  crabcakes:  Michael: Ok, so dig this. You’re on the street, and one of your gang disses you.Darryl: Oh my goodness.Michael: Yeah. Right. So what do you do to get ‘em to make it right?Darryl: Well, see, um, in the gang world, we use something called fluffy fingers.Michael: What is that?Darryl: That’s when someone really gets in your face, you know you just, start ticklin’ ‘em.Michael: Really?Darryl: Yeah. And he starts tickling you. And pretty soon you laughing and hugging. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten the whole thing. Y’all just go to church together, and get an ice cream cone. Michael: I would have never thought that gangs would be tickling each other.Darryl: Oh, it’s effective.         i’m so glad Michael Scott doesn’t live in south central. i’m pretty sure he’d have been shanked by one of my 6th graders by now.
Ok, so dig this. You’re on the street, and one of your gang disses you.
Oh my goodness.
Yeah. Right. So what do you do to get ‘em to make it right?
Well, see, um, in the gang world, we use something called fluffy fingers.
What is that?
That’s when someone really gets in your face, you know you just, start ticklin’ ‘em.
Yeah. And he starts tickling you. And pretty soon you laughing and hugging. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten the whole thing. Y’all just go to church together, and get an ice cream cone.
I would have never thought that gangs would be tickling each other.
Oh, it’s effective.


i’m so glad Michael Scott doesn’t live in south central. i’m pretty sure he’d have been shanked by one of my 6th graders by now.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

what a wonderful feeling

this week has been terrific. just, really really wonderful. like, i can't help but smile blissfully when i reflect on the week i had, and how i couldn't have dreamed up a better group of students, it's so amazing that real life can be this good and so effortless, sometimes.

finally on friday i can sit here during my lunch break and think about my students and the small community we are building in our class and feel so proud and so energized that this kind of space exists in our school, and that i took part in creating it with my students. i feel that those weeks spent on developing common norms and shared goals for class, discussing respect and learning to talk to one another and listen, all of that is showing in the daily actions of my students. they are more dedicated to learning their math and science than picking fights with each other (for the most part) and know how to self-monitor their own actions and reflect on their decisions.

for example, one day this week i woke up a whole hour later than i usually do and rushed to work to get there on time, but was still 5 minutes late. but i got to my door and saw my students, all 12 of them, waiting in line patiently and saying good morning to one another, and me.

another day this week, i handed back graded papers and the students self-evaluated their performance and practiced math problems at different stations according to their areas of weakness (they also wrote reflections that told me they loved the activity because they felt they were getting better at things they thought were hard). later, when they took the Periodic assessments, the scores were so much better than i thought they'd be, and the students accurately reported to me afterwards that they felt pretty confident about it.

today i handed out candy and thanked my students for such a great week. and i got a little surprise of my own:

my student Christopher was folding paper at the beginning of class, and when i asked him if he was going to use it to store his candy, he replied, "um, kind of."

later, he walked up to my desk and handed it to me, "this is for you, Ms. Lee" and walked back to his desk. i opened it and this is what i found:

i was so delighted! that was the best "treat" imaginable!

lately, all this hard work has totally been worth it. these students are something special.

-Ms. Lee

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ho ho ho!


the weather in LA is changing. it is getting slightly colder every day and now, at the end of October, it finally feels the way it does in early September in Kentucky – like fall!

this makes me excited because Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the way. and without getting too Martha Stewart on you, i admit that the change in seasons makes me excited to do all sorts of crafty things around the house (mostly food-y things).

making apple sauce from fresh apples
pumpkin bread, muffins, and pancakes
acorn squashes!
cranberry sauce from scratch
gourd bouquets (so festive and rustic!)
eating lots of chicken (i'm putting on my winter weight!)

and lastly, and maybe most exciting: screen printing seasonal greeting cards!

every year, my dad goes up to the attic and brings down dozens of boxes of christmas cards (which my mom buys on sale from the year before) and takes over the entire dining room table for weeks writing cards to long ago friends (classmates from college or high school, distant family, old colleagues now retired or moved, the neighbors). this only happens twice a year: at christmas-time and in the spring, when my dad works on filing our family's taxes. it's fascinating and perplexing to watch how devoted my dad is to these two radically different tasks.

sadly, i never picked up my dad's dedication to correspondence. i used to write letters to my friends all the time, but when i finally started using the internet (in college), paper missives became impractical, slow ("snail" mail), and worse, wasteful (the takeover of digital media has been excused, even encouraged, in large part because of recent attention to reducing paper waste. letter-writing and personalized mail is now a lost art among many ppl my age, who view practices such as my dad's as strange).

so, this year, in an attempt to revive the forgotten art of creating beautiful paper mail to send to ppl, i think i will try screen printing greeting cards this year. i love book-binding and frequently do so to make cards for ppl (valentines, for example) but i've never screen printed my own posters or cards. i've been meaning to try it out for some time but never got around to it.

the silk screening process is pretty complicated and requires a lot of materials, but i'm opting for something real basic and easy to do at home. i have tons of left over transparencies from my first year of teaching, and i plan on using those to make my stencils. all i have to do is draw directly on the plastic sheet, and use an Xacto knife to cut it out. most of my prints will be single-color, so it's easier. for those interested, here's a run down of the much more complicated silk screening process, from my favorite DIY site, No Media Kings (i've been endorsing them forever! don't you check out my sidebar?)

as for patterns and design, i'm using these images as inspiration and points of departure:

i love the red pinstripe here:
i like birds on a secular card.
happy holidays! and happy crafting!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

there is only one sky.

listening to music on shuffle, starting with Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams."

madeleine cookies with fresh ginger in herbal tea.

dancing in the living room with the windows open. imagining the next dance party (but wait, it's happening right here.)

French Kicks' "Over The World."

sweat-covered face. and i'm out for more.

i feel like i could run for hours, run until the sun goes down, run until i can come back home and move on to the next step.

come on, i'm ready.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

sherlock you're not

just got off the phone with my aide. apparently, my 6th grade students think i'm pregnant because i haven't returned to school for 3 days. first order of business when i get back: reteaching the science lesson on collecting data and making inferences.

(actual reason: came down with the flu and a pretty nasty sinus infection. the doctor i saw seemed pretty grossed out by the drainage she witnessed in the back of my throat and told me, when i said i almost went into work that day, that if she were my boss, she'd rather i stayed at home than have to look at me. also: her office was decked out with signed photos from celebs, including the likes of owen wilson and the cast of friends. one particularly strange quote from dennis quaid read, "you can examine me anytime, doc!")

Sunday, October 18, 2009

saw Patrick Watson live last night at The Largo. if you ever get the chance, SEE him. the experience was akin to trekking out to the woods at night with a bunch of friends from college to get drunk, then suddenly realizing you're sitting by a campfire in the middle of an ancient forest, watching a band of travelling story-tellers illuminate the night sky by inciting meteors and the phases of the moon and stars, while banging on pots and pans and wailing thru a megaphone.

Monday, October 12, 2009

radical math

a little embarrassed i didn't think of this myself, but so glad i found it, and now, glad to share it with everyone else:

radical math.

this website compiles lessons that incorporate issues of social and economic justice into math and science curricula. for example, i found lessons i plan on using in my math class (most can even be modified for special ed!) which look at the cost of the iraq war and encourage students to develop alternative uses for the billions of federal dollars that may actually benefit their communities. another lesson i looked at invites students to analyze the budgets of smoking teens over time and encourages media literacy and healthy lifestyles.

a pretty great sunday-night find!

p.s. while tagging this post, i realized that i didn't have a "Social Justice" label! i was disappointed. well, situation rectified!

Friday, October 09, 2009


(adj.) of or relating to harmonious proportion (esp. in art).
(n.) a 1980s British pop group fronted by Annie Lennox.

related or not: eurythmia. an irregularity of the heartbeat.

i am currently suffering from the latter.

description of symptoms: butterflies in the chest cavity. a sudden gasping for breath. my heart pounding against the wall of my ribcage like a small animal running against a wall.

there have been a lot of things lately that cause my heart to beat against time. mostly, thinking about next year and what i really want to do and what options are open to me. trying to determine my motivations for acting, and knowing that the next step i take influences a lot of other things (relationships with people, future careers, future living spaces, distance from family, fulfillment of life goals, general happiness of myself and society, etc.) in addition to full awareness of the consequences, knowing that i haven't provided myself enough time to really think things through, to contemplate the different paths, to explore what lies at the end of each choice.

i am a horrible decision-maker. in times like these, i wish some higher power would intervene and throw me in the right direction, whatever results in the greatest positive sum in the end. if higher powers existed, they would be able to decide based on destiny or fate, while i get all confused considering the infinite possibilites. i know i can't be objective, so i get confused considering other people's interests, other people's wants, and then i can't balance others' wants with my own any more. i think about "what could have happened." you know those "choose your own story" books? or the flow charts where you go one way depending on what you answer? i'm the kid that always answers it one way the first time, then goes back 5, 10, 20 times over to explore the other possibilities if one of those choices was a little different. only with life, the option of retracing one's steps is not so simple or possible.

i cannot decide where i want to live and what i want to do. and it is making my heart skip beats.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

race matters

another imperfect grad school ed-related blog post:

At the end of Chapter 10, Provenzo implores teachers to be critical multiculturalists, and question the assumptions about US culture and US schooling. While reading Ch 10, I felt myself taking on the perspective Provenzo advocates, and feeling frustrated and disappointed with what I see.

Throughout the text, Provenzo has outlined the role of schoolng in the domination of minority cultures, in deculturalization, and in perpetuating hegemony or the dominant ideology. On page 220, Provenzo lists a range of methods used by deculturalization programs. I found the following particularly interesting:
-"Use of teachers from dominant group"
-"colonized people are directed, they do not direct themselves."
I found these ideas interesting because they manifest themselves in my observations of my school and in the Teach for America Program. Later in the chapter, when Provenzo discusses race and privilege, and the compensatory education programs of the civil rights movement, I can't help but feel this is a perennial problem in education that won't ever go away. He talks about how the inception of Title I was supposed to extend opportunities and resources to "help disadvantaged children" (248) but that time and data has proven that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not do well in school. Maybe this is because the public schools are "middle-class and upper-class institutions that automatically place the poor at great disadvantage" (248) or that "historically, US schools have contributed to racial inequality and discrimination" (248) rather than integration and equality. When I think about my school faculty and the people who typically apply to Teach for America, Provenzo's point is confirmed: they are usually white, middle or upper class people from more affluent and privileged backgrounds than the children they teach ("teachers and those who plan to become teachers are usually white and middle class" - page 249). What message does this send to our students who are from minority ethnic groups and cultures, when the authority they must answer to and whose rules they must abide are those of another culture? And, if that culture is the one representing the dominant majority class? This sends a hidden message to our students about dominance and subservience. No wonder our students may not necessarily do well or have trouble learning in these school environments, if they feel they are in a constant state of dominance and deculturalization. Worse, when we teach SDAIE strategies or try to integrate the students' cultures into our lessons, it sends the message that not only are their cultures removed and bleached from the classroom, but they are so out of touch with their own culture that now we must teach it to them.

Furthermore, the text discusses the Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board and Swann, and how they made efforts to transform racial attitudes and integrate schools better. It discussed busing as one solution that has proven problematic, because it takes children out of familiar and "safe" environments and neighborhoods, and injects them into "alien" places in the name of integration. "At best, busing has proved to be an imperfect way to overcome past inequalities and discrimination" (247). I strongly disagree with this. Busing is problematic because it is not a solution to underlying problems, such as the fact that segregation exists in society at large, and not necessarily because of past laws, but because of unspoken and unwritten laws. Segregation occurs because of unfair economic distribution, gentrification, urban planning, etc. It is a temporary solution and one only seen in schools, and does not remedy society holistically, but expects schools to fill in those gaps. Furthermore, what does it matter if racially different schoolchildren are being bused into different districts, if the curriculum taught at school is still "White" or lacking in color or cultural heritage to begin with?

It seems there are only problems and no easy solutions.

Friday, September 25, 2009


yesterday, i felt revived. like someone had pulled me up from the bottom of a pool just in time, sucking air hard and deep into my lungs.

i wanted to write, and read beautiful things, i wanted to walk, dance, do a cartwheel on the sidewalk. i wanted to be a better teacher, be a better daughter, give the best hugs, make the best stir fry, and i wanted to create things.

i haven't felt that way in a long time, and it made me cry. tears from sadness or happiness, i don't know b/c it's the same (you cry because you're so happy you feel sad you weren't always like this). i was happy i've been writing again, sad that i hadn't written anything i could be proud of in a long time, eager to keep it up.

i want to collect people's stories. i want to help my 7th graders petition the school for things they care about. i want to find some felt and make finger puppets for my boyfriend's nephew. i want to give someone else a haircut. i want to make a valentine for a long distance friend. i want to pack a picnic and eat it somewhere exciting! i want to swim until i feel exhausted and fall asleep with my hair wet around my face.

i read parts of my blog today because i wanted to remember a certain voice i used to have, a way of thinking about life that i've recently recovered but had previously forgotten. i feel glad that if i disappeared one day, these words and stories would exist somewhere as a memorial, as a reminder.

i want to record ppl reading their stories. i want to start by recording my own.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

savage inequalities

this week in grad school, i read Shame of the Nation by Jonathon Kozol (author of the other famous book on educational inequity, Savage Inequalities) and rewatched Children in America's Schools.

i didn't know how to feel as i was reading about my own teaching experience, unnerved by the truth of what Kozol was writing and the accuracy with which he was depicting the inner city school where i work every day (i kept thinking, "this is my school"); stunned to realize that nothing has changed since these books were first published (Shame was published in 2005, Inequalities in 1991); disgusted that the concerns given so much media attention have still not been resolved or alleviated.

as so many educators and administrators know and ashamedly admit to knowing, the quality and maintenance of a school/district tell a child so much about what we think s/he is worth, what his/her education is worth. my greatest agony as a teacher has been seeing the disfunction and disorganization rampant throughout the school district, and my school's administration, and knowing full well that it trickles down to the students, and wanting so much to do anything i can to protect them from the disorder – making my room as clean and bright as possible, communicating with them as much as i can about any changes to the schedule or school events, keeping detailed records of all my students' emergency contacts in a portable rolodex, being explicit about the purposes of all their classes – lest it be unclear from administration or other teachers why they are required to go to advisory, for example.

that was an interesting story, btw. i had my advisory students, 7th graders, do a free write on what they thought the purpose of advisory is. most of my students answered with something to the effect of "advisory is for students to get to school on time [and not miss their important classes because they woke up late]". one of my students, Andrew, wrote, very astutely, that
"Advisory is a wake up class. When I say wake up class I mean some students sleep late... and without advisory the students will sleep in most of their classes."
alternatively, when i asked my students to write about what they want advisory to be, they respond, uniformly, that they desire activities, games, the time to converse with one another, art, reading, writing, and "fun!" the same student i quoted before wrote,
"This year I want advisory to be fun and exciting,
so exciting it will make students want to come to school."

in a norm-setting activity this week, i probed the same advisory class to discuss the realities at school, the things they see on a daily basis, and the ideals, the dreams they had for our school and our community. the observations they shared were pretty telling, but most striking was this list from my student Marta:
Reality: I see lots of fights.
Ideal: I want to see peace in school.
Reality: I see some walls that have writing on them, tagging, graffiti.
Ideal: I want to see more murals on the walls.

interestingly, in stark contrast to the assumptions of administrators, school officials, and even faculty regarding what students need during a school day (that they need a prolonged "passing period" to get to their core classes on time), what students themselves identify as necessary is stimulation. clearly what the school is offering is not engaging or meaningful enough to motivate them to come on time, and makes students feel as if school is an unsavory task, an unpleasant obligation. what the school is lacking is excitement, beauty, and life.

this year has been interesting so far. it is still too early to tell how my practice as an educator will grow and change in the coming months, but i am steadfastly trying to listen more to my students and give them a chance for voice and self expression. i am giving more time for collaborative conversation in my lessons, and more activities that require my students to argue and justify their claims (even in math!) i am still undecided whether the community i am seeking to build within my four-walled classroom is enough to combat the negative energies outside, and if the insularity only serves to negate the long-lasting lessons i hoped to instill, but the attempt alone has been worth the energy.

oh, and one more thing: my advisory? not a single person has been late since the start of week 3. i'd say that's pretty good already. :-)

-ms. lee

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

a poem

submitted to my comment box in my 6th grade class:

the heart pumps within you. it pumps so that you can breathe, live so that you can love one another. you should always cherish the moments you have with your partner.

good advice. lately, i have been forgetting this much too easily and much too often.

also: i need to remember that i am not too old or jaded to learn.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

portraits of a city

LA can really be breathtaking sometimes.

fight the power

i just got back from a long walk to/from the Culver City Farmer's Market.

while crossing the street on the way there, i saw a cop car turn on its siren and edge thru a line of waiting cars at a busy intersection.

on the way back, i saw what seemed to be the same cop car flash its lights, get in the opposite lane, and speed past the line of cars waiting to turn right.

had it really been the same car? if so, i'd just witnessed two abuses of power, and all for what seemed to be a joy ride power trip around the block.

pretty exciting stuff for a tuesday night.
i got plums! juicy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

teaching updates!

hi all,

sorry for the lack of posts and writing. i'm hoping i can find good reason to write here again, but i'm happy to say my absence is due to the fact that i've been spending my time and energy doing other things.

the most significant thing being that i've started teaching again. i am now nearing the end of week 2. year 2 has gotten off to a good start so far, but i am wary of getting too hopeful and optimistic. i find myself constantly tense in my classes, sensitive to every movement of my students, remembering how small habits could eventually expound into mammoth annoyances (pencil sharpening, bathroom breaks, whispering, and tardies being the biggest red flags in my class so far).

ben came in the day before school started to help me decorate and clean my classroom, and it's actually a clean place where i feel happy coming to work every day, and the kids seem to love it.

(embarrassing realization: the poster looks like it says "Welcome to Ms. Lee's Ass" – which, i assure you, it does not.)

i had the first week of classes planned out, and have been working hard to always plan one week ahead of time (so far it's been working well but i worry about the weight of all my classes and preps once the year really gets going). having a clear and consistent plan for my students from the beginning of the year has already saved me lots of frustration and anxiety, and i'm much happier about teaching my students and my content area as a result of having a quiet and orderly classroom. i've worked really hard this year at establishing classroom norms and fostering community values and collaboration among my students.

students working together to test strategies for building the tallest tower of cups.

as a result, i've had much better success with group projects and even more impressive, having my students self-regulate and resolve their own problems, whether its personal quarrels with classmates, or confusion regarding a class task. i've also established a comment box for the students to drop in notes to me, which so far has helped me understand the needs of my students better, and also given them an outlet to submit ideas.

in short, i'm happy to report that there's less time to spend here, because there's so much to do away from the computer! i'm finally seeing my ideals of democracy and community realized in my own classroom, and i finally feel like i'm doing something good for these students (rather than feeling like i'm damaging my students permanently by being an inexperienced first year teacher, which was the general sentiment i had last year).

more later, but now, some lesson planning.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

a postmodern schooling-related rant (kinda)

i had to write a "blog" post for my grad class and this is what i spat:

These authors seem to be in conversation regarding the interconnectedness of the school and society, and the unique role the school plays as a social institution. Provenzo opens up his chapter discussing the interconnection from a postmodern view. He goes on to explain that a postmodern perspective is one that takes culture and history as a context for changes and phenomena that may occur or be observed. I found his discussion of technology particularly interesting. In page 9 of his introduction, he discusses the importance of seeking new perspectives as our culture and society are redefined. That is, coming to consider those things we once took for granted to the point of being invisible, questioning our most basic assumptions of how things are and whether they need to be this way, and what makes them that way to begin with. His discussion of technology, its advantages and conveniences in our modern age, but also its downfalls, rang particularly strong with me. Take technology as an example of how education has sought to adapt to the changing times, but with, what I believe, are drastic results. In this day and age, students are constantly plugged into something: they surf the web to talk to friends, everyone has a phone that text messages as well as sends photos, they know how to use video technology and post videos to YouTube. Instead of talking to people face to face, or going outside to play games with other children, modern age school children are retreating online to talk to others through virtual mediums, and to play Capture the Flag on shoot-them-up video game simulations. Their hyper-reality translates into a constant need for stimulation and entertainment. Teaching practices have come to mirror this change in our children's interactive patterns: best practices now incorporate multiple learning modes, activities, connections to children's knowledge and experiences (frequently manifested as connections to their virtual realities - online games, movies, etc.). Even the drastically increased use of technology in teaching itself, the move away from low-tech transparencies and overheads to digital projectors, document cameras, Smart Boards reflects the change in the times but also the change in needs of our student populations. As a student in public schools, I never once saw more than a chalkboard or overhead used during instruction, never once played a game to "trick" me into liking math, and never had to have teachers explain mathematic conversions using elaborate metaphors involving superheroes to get me to understand or find interest in the subject. I was learning because I enjoyed the raw subject matter itself, and not the fancy instructional tricks my teacher could pull in a one hour class. But, modern day instruction requires hooks, and activities, and even "collaborative conversation" moments to be effective. When did we have to start teaching children to talk to one another and get along? This begs me to wonder, what elements of society does the school seek to accommodate and incorporate, and which elements does it perpetuate? Is our modern society losing its ability to talk to itself because of technology's fierce advancement and seduction of our youth, or is it because our schools are finding themselves also susceptible to the media and mandates of technology because of society itself? I believe Provenzo echoes my same concern when he writes, "simply stated, problems, conditions, and issues in the larger society tend to be reproduced in the schools" (10). The struggle we face as educators, parents, and citizens, is understanding the interconnection between education and society, and how they reflect and influence one another, for good or bad.

geez, my writing has deteriorated remarkably since becoming a grad student + teacher. sleep deprivation, i see you in my future.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

memories and realizations

my father always came back from his business trips with presents for his kids. he would hide them somewhere in the house and it was up to us to find them. i got from this two things: 1) presents are all about presentation. the buildup of mystery and suspense was what made the presents interesting, not the presents itself. present = 1) a gift, 2) the now. a gift is always about something more than the physical material thing, it was always about the experience. 2) my success in finding things quickly, i decided, was due to my keen observation skills, which incidentally, might not have developed if they were not put to constant use. consequently, as a child, i always believed i would make a great detective, crime scene investigator, or bounty hunter. after writing, those were my dream occupations and the ones i felt best qualified for.

as i reflect on the way my father instilled excitement and mystery into my perception of the world, i decide that, sometime in the future when i become a parent myself, i will do the same for my son or daughter. hiding the box of cereal every morning before the bus ride to school. hiding the presents on christmas eve. hiding the clues that unveil a big family secret (your great-great aunt is german! your great-grandpa is a war hero! your great-aunt speaks to the dead!)

everyday would/should be a search for hidden treasures.

Friday, August 14, 2009

a tale of two cities

i miss the accessible smallness of my hometown, lexington, ky. los angeles is such a sprawling mess of tangled freeways and traffic that i can't make myself enjoy the immensity of the city because the moment i get in a car it's road rage stephanie, and she's no fun to be around.

today, lexington's smallness was most tangibly felt in the form of an exhilirating bike ride. i really miss the bike as a tenable form of transportation. growing up, the bike was an accessory for recreational neighborhood cruising. living in chicago changed that, the bike became a vehicle for daily revolution, a war horse for corking traffic. it is amazing how a city opens up before you when you have two wheels and yr feet to take you anywhere, unbound to the flow of traffic, easily taking yrself off the map and into walkable terrain, cutting between lines and breezing by waiting cars.

as i rode my bike to the ice cream store today, i felt young and vibrant like a kid again. being on the bike felt so good, i couldn't help smiling the whole time, up against traffic, wind in my face, singing "Thunder Road"* the whole way there, and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" the whole way back.

i kept thinking, american history has got it all wrong. independence wasn't born on the wheels of the Model T, nor was it found in the cross-country voyages of bikers on Harley Davidsons. it was this, right here, a girl jumping on a bike and pedaling her way thru bluegrass, independent of petroleum and the help of her parents to deliver her to her destination.

when i get back to LA, i'm finding myself a bike. everything seems better from the saddle of a bike.

and behold! the wonderful glisten of post-biking sweat!

love and stuff,

*"...well the night's busting open, these two lanes'll take us anywhere! we got one last chance to make it real, to trade in these wings on some wheels. climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks..."

quack back, seat back!

ahoy and sorry for the month's absence.

it's been a long journey out of a difficult place and around europe and finally back home again.

home. aah. and the many things that come with home, such as memories, micro revolutions, smells, and self-realizations. in particular the realization that time is fleeting and i'm glad that all the traveling has made me less net-present.

lots of stories to tell. photographic evidence to share. and video!

can't wait.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

lesson from my father #88: Love.

... That was as far as we got before we arrived in San Jose. I would like to hear more about Dad's life growing up and learning more about the family, which still remains a mystery. How did he meet Mom? How did he know, when did he know, that he loved her?

My cousin Sam told me his dad, my Uncle Danny, would wait for his mom after class every day at BYU. They were students and didn't have a lot of money, and the popular thing to eat on campus were these 15 cent hamburgers, because they were so cheap. But, they would always sell out really fast, and my Aunt Pearl, Sam's mom, had one of the later classes. So my Uncle Danny would go and save her a place in line. He won her over one 15 cent hamburger at a time.

Uncle Tony, Jocelyn explained at the funeral, met Aunt Evelyn when they both worked for China Airlines. He stood outside the terminal waiting for her every day, with an umbrella so she wouldn't get wet when it rained (and it rains a lot there). He did this for 7 months before she finally agreed to go out with him.

I love these stories about my uncles because it makes me nostalgic for the kind of love that is hard-earned and a long time coming, a dedicated, patient love. Hearing these courtship stories doesn't surprise me at all, knowing the kind of supportive, devoted husbands and fathers my uncles are, but they remind me that romance and love aren't make believe or reserved solely for the movies, that extraordinary deeds are performed by extraordinary gentelemen every day, and that I'm just so lucky to have such men in my life as uncles, as a father. They remind me that love isn't so much about the grand, dramatic gestures, but in the quiet dedication it takes to love someone so powerfully every day – the love it takes to be there every day with an umbrella when it rains, or the 30 cents when you haven't got a dime for yourself – and never lessen or waiver in knowing that you would be happy doing this every day for this person because it brings them happiness. Selfless, constant Love.

...As my dad pulled up to the curb to drop me off as he always does while he goes to look for parking, he tells me, as he always has, that the only thing he wants is "for [me] to be happy." My dad has never been controlling or even overbearingly curious, like my mom. He has been supportive of my decisions without injecting too much of his own opinion. As with my college decision, my decision on which high school to go to, and my career aspirations, so with my love life; Dad was there to offer support, but never judge. He just wants me to be happy.

Even though I'd heard it a million times before, this time I smiled, gripped his hand, and kissed him on the cheek. These last few weeks have been incredibly hard for my family, but, at the same time, it has made me remember we have so much to be grateful for. There is so much beauty, so much life, and so much love in the world, it's hard to remain sad for very long before you're overwhelmed with gratitude.


to all the fathers and the uncles, and especially to my own,
happy father's day.

with so much love,

Friday, June 19, 2009

i wanna be sedated

hello and sorry for the lack of writing. something about June this year has me sedated. i've lost the passion for many things. eating and sleeping included. i haven't cooked anything for myself in weeks. i've been eating sandwiches and hors d'oevres for sustenance. carrots with whatever new dip looks interesting in the grocery aisles. for whatever reason (and i'm about to list possible reasons), i feel sad all the time. sometimes angry. this morning i feel angry (the morning commute is always good reason to feel angry, but this morning, it was because this huge bitch of a bus driver decided to cut me off and delay my arrival to school and then had the audacity to open her window and scream down at me. 71018. i vowed to report her. not like anyone will do anything.)

anyway, in the last month, a variety of things have happened. here, a list:

-my uncle passed away suddenly, and, for the first time, i found myself dealing with a combination of grief and guilt. any pause in activity would cause me to start thinking about it again and devolve into sobbing fits. taking a cue from Huxley, i found tv and the internet were the best opiates.

-wrapped up my year-long commitment to TFA. woo hoo.

-at 2 pm today, i will be pupil-free until august! i'm 99.9% finished with my first year of teaching!

-next monday will be my last day of summer grad school, because wednesday night i'll be in the air on the way to Istanbul.

-for the next month i'll be in France, Italy, and Turkey. (notice the banner change? that's what i feel the next month is going to be, lots of staring out of train windows.)

-leaving tonight for San Fran for my uncle's funeral. i'll see my mom and dad again, which will be good, i think. i need to see my dad and be sure he's doing ok.

-i need human contact. i miss having conversations that end with laughing. i need to be held and told things will be ok, i feel like i've been bearing this huge weight by myself and i'm going to break soon if someone doesn't help me.

-it occurs to me if this is what the working life is like, i don't want much more of it. i was having lunch with a colleague yesterday and i found myself drifting out of the conversation and thinking in a 3rd person way about myself, thinking about how weird it is that my brother must say "my sister is a teacher." when did i go from being just a sister, just a student, just a girl, to being a teacher, a "Ms.", a ma'am? i feel miles removed from where i've been.


the word sedated is totally appropriate for how i feel lately. doing yoga last night was, for the first time, mentally difficult, i couldn't find the energy or motivation to breathe properly. i've just been sitting around, feeling this weight sinking me. i keep thinking, i'm nearly done with this crazy year, i should be celebrating, i should be excited. maybe i'm depressed because i'm finding that's not true.

i want that feeling again, you know? getting really drunkenly happy and dancing around the living room, singing at the top of my lungs, feeling infinite and untouchable and uninhibited.

sorry. i'm sure a list of updates isn't what you come here for. i don't know why i come here any more either.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

on the nature of grief

something about mourning feels compensatory, which only adds to my feelings of grief – i wish i didn't have to make up for anything now that it's too late, but that's always what it comes to. that's, what i think, bereavement is supposed to feel like. like you didn't do all you could. always making up for something.

this is the distinct difference i experience between deaths of "celebrities" and deaths of "ordinary people." celebrities had their whole lives to be celebrated, they had the advantage of fame. when they die, it's published on the front page, given a retrospective at the Oscars, and every person in every corner of the world shrugs their shoulders, moves on. maybe it was someone's favorite childhood actor, but you still have the videos on tape and could buy the anniversary addition dvd if you wanted it. there's footage there, there's documentation, there's always remnants of the lingering past.

ordinary people, no matter how extraordinary and wonderful they are, pass unnoticed. photographs here and there, maybe some traces of video. some footage may have been lost. but there is no video of his life, no documentary we can all watch to remember, to bring him back to life. only fragmented memories, and regrets. no matter how handsome of a man my uncle Tony was, not everyone had the pleasure of knowing him. many people will no longer get the opportunity.

this is the marked difference, and what makes grieving so exhausting and consuming: the feeling of missed opportunity. while with celebrities the state of fame exhausts their human potential and makes it so easily accessible and oversaturated, the real people in our lives are still mysteries, rare opportunities, special occasions. they are people with unique mannerisms, a one-of-a-kind laugh, a smile that could light up the room. they have all the qualities of famous people (charisma, charming good looks, philanthropy, amiability, talents), but their humanity was evident before your eyes, and you are compelled to wonder why it is that they are not famous, but feel so lucky and blessed to be part of such a magnificent secret. and because their lives aren't broadcast ad nauseum, you can never get enough. every moment with them feels like such a gift, and you always want more, always worry about the moment all that will be taken away, missed opportunities making up the bulk of the gap.

i'm now in my 4th day of mourning, and though the crying fits have decreased, the grief has not subsided. when my mind is let to wander, it keeps going back to all the times i saw him, and even more, it lingers on the times i could have seen him, but didn't. pondering the finiteness of life and how if i had only been more aware of life as a space between to brackets – [ ] – would i have spent the intervening time so far away?

when Kurt Vonnegut died, i felt sad. but mostly it was a regret that i could no longer meet him and tell him i loved his books and beg him to autograph one. when my uncle Tony died, i was thrown into what felt like a maelstrom of depression, regretting every summer spent so far away, regretting these months i've been living so close, but just far enough that i didn't visit more regularly. regretting not going to San Francisco when i had the chance to visit him, take him out to dinner, watch him eat and talk and pour his tea, give him a hug and tell him how much i love him and how much i think about him.

this regret is the most painful kind. and so, the nature of my grief.

Friday, June 05, 2009

like a father to me

"you know Uncle Tony loved you, right stef? he loved you so much, and he was so proud of you."

i knew. i started sobbing. i knew, no one had to remind me. i never doubted for a minute that he loved me. i doubted if he knew just how much i loved him.

i loved the way he reminded me so much of my father, how the first time i met him, i knew they had to be brothers, they had the same face almost, but my uncle Tony had a friendlier smile. my dad doesn't smile much, he looks stern until he laughs, and then you know he's happy. my uncle Tony had a warm, honest smile. he didn't have to laugh before i knew i liked him. his smile was enough. quiet and calm happiness exuded from him, and i loved to be around that kind of presence. going to san francisco never meant going to Fisherman's Wharf, or the golden gate bridge. to me, it was always having one dinner with my uncle Tony, sitting near him, studying his every move with almost an obsessive curiosity, fascinated by this little man, a smaller version of my father. i wanted to sit next to him and pour him tea, watch him eat meat off bones, watch him talk to my dad and see them mirror each other's actions, both taking off their glasses to dab at the tears in the corners of their eyes from laughing too hard at the other's joke.

it was always such a pleasure to sit between the two of them and understand, through chemistry and some kind of beautiful, tangible magic, the meaning of family. between the two of them, i could fill in the gaps between the present and the past, imagine a childhood they shared, boyhood fraternity that spanned decades, continents, and many obstacles in between, and understand what my parents meant when they told me and my brother growing up that siblings are the most important people in your life.

when we say our goodbyes at the end of a trip to San Francsico, everyone goes around and gives thanks, love, good health wishes, and hugs to everyone else in the circle. the SF branch of our family lines up and me and my brother would go around the circle and embrace everyone. i always wanted to hug Uncle Tony first. it was important to me to show him in some way how grateful i was for him in my life, but lacking the adequate Mandarin to express my feelings, i had to opt for symbolism instead. even English words are hard to find for the wealth of sentiments and gratitude i have for him and what he meant to me and my father and what i could see as his wealth of presence in our entire family.

and now, especially, i am at a loss for words.

it's difficult learning grief for the first time. it is a complex emotion that you experience in layers. shock at first, almost a stupid ignorance of impending tragedy. when i first heard the news i didn't give it a second thought. it was like someone had just told me the time. i immediately thought "things are going to be fine. he's going to get better and we'll all be back to normal." and then details become apparent, gradually. one phrase leads to others, verb tenses change, suddenly i'm forced into speaking the language of death, phrases such as "the body", "the funeral," "brain dead." "was."

i can't comprehend how such a unique person can just suddenly disappear. will i never see that smile again, except in pictures and memories? will i never get to hug him goodbye again, squeezing his sweater vest with my forearm, watch him laughing with my dad (and will my dad ever laugh like that again?) feeling so selfish and stupid, all these days living so close by but without a visit, without a phone call? suddenly the phrase "visiting family in SF" makes me feel despondent, rather than hopeful and excited. i imagine a house empty of his presence and suddenly it's not a home with family (i can't see my dad there). i think about times when i was so close to where he was, and the last phone call, and how i didn't get to say everything i wanted to say, and how i'd always held it in my heart to tell him that i was thankful for him, that i wanted to make sure i eventually got the words right, but never knew a better way to say it than the first hug goodbye.

and now, just powerlessness. again, words don't feel right for such emotions. it just doesn't seem fair that life should go on as usual, when i feel my world is falling apart.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

my uncle passed away last night. some kind of accident, he was sent to the hospital yesterday morning because his brain was hemorrhaging. he became comatose in the evening and they pulled the plug this morning. i just heard from my uncle Danny. my dad doesn't know, he's heading to San Francisco now, but there will be no body there. it breaks my heart to think about my dad in that moment.

it's hard to understand that such a beautiful life can just suddenly disappear like that. i still can't believe it. on the phone with my cousin last night, the word "funeral" felt so strange and cruel in my mouth. to say "passed away" is strange, i imagine him still in the hospital, imagine a way for him to come back. i feel selfish, when i first got the call from my cousin i didn't even think about going up to SF. i thought things would be fine. things happen so quickly, i feel so terrible and powerless.

mourning is strange, difficult. words are hard to find. eating seems selfish, checking my email or getting on the internet seems trivial. i can't fathom how all of life can just go on with such terrible tragedy. i want everything to stop and honor the gravity of the moment, you know? but it's thursday, and there are classes, children laughing, traffic continues to stop and go. it is so strange, to feel so alone in one's sadness and grief.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

i got it from my momma

sometimes venturing onto the internet can be a torturous experience. so many young girls growing up in america quoting emo lyrics, lamenting lost "love" and compromising their self-esteem, seeking redemption in fleeting romance, and demeaning themselves to ... sound their age? i don't know, has anyone studied it? is there some self-fulfilling prophecy regarding "age-appropriate" white-suburban-teenage-girl internet behavior?

regardless of precedent, i'm becoming concerned. each day, reading anything on the internet inevitably delivers more wincing reminders of the severe lack of self-love and confidence among our digital-age youth. have the kids grown up so saturated by the media that they no longer know how to exist beyond its limited scope, to the point that they can't imagine a self-image beyond those proliferating the 'net? has society's over-abundance of visual imagery taken all the imagination and mystery out of growing up?

these are things to be pondered in more depth at a later time. the real reason that brings me to this medium right now, is what all this makes me realize: that i am insanely grateful for having grown up with strong, independent women in my life. my mother set a solid example of strength and confidence for me as a child, and i grew up thinking anything was possible if i demanded it of myself. these things are important to acknowledge, for future reference. what kind of woman do i want to be for my child, and how will she see me? will she grow up thinking she needs a man to feel worthy for the world, or will she seek to be her best self, and someone who loves her for that?

hm, an unusually ponderous saturday night post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

...at the end of the day, she realized that the time had passed quickly. and though she couldn’t claim to be efficient with the tasks she needed to accomplish in that day, or in the year, she had, nevertheless, managed to spend her time wisely. and so, she crossed one item off her virtual to-do list and began to get ready for bed...

Monday, May 25, 2009


a summer mix from my friend (and yours), Jens Lekman.

i have been blasting this all morning long. it's like an endless dance party on the deck of a cruise ship here in my room. and i'm imagining all the summer dance parties that will no doubt include this song and a plethora of mixed drinks served up in coconut shells. i'm inventing dance moves, babe. have you seen this one? (strikes a ballroom frame, mixes in some tap feet, some salsa hips, ends with a figure skating flourish).

it's the SUMMAH, honey. let's blast this all week long and dance until we can't feel our feet, until this party can't be contained, and the only choice is to move this out into the street so others can see what a goddamned good time we are having. this beat is a virus, baby, and you can't help but catch it.

Jens Lekman, you fiend, you harbinger of smiles and dance crazes, you're brilliant.


(excerpt from) The Summer Never Ends /// I Really Think That We Can Make It Girl /// Nicolette Larsson - Lotta Love /// The Embassy - State 08 /// (excerpt from) New Directions /// Coke Escovedo - I Wouldn't Change A Thing /// Filippo Trecca - La Morte Dell'erminia /// His name is Mikael Carlsson, her name is Alicia Keys /// Lamont Dozier - Blue Sky and Silver Bird /// Cat Stevens - If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out /// Jeff Perry - Love Don't Come No Stronger /// Good News - Australia /// Baby's Gang - America /// American Breed - Always You

Jens samples exhausted music and brings it back to life thru non-sequitur, free range connections. he keeps a blog and interviews comediennes, here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

hard to shake

22 years of prior experience are telling me it should be summer already: it's late May, the weather has been consistently warm and sunny for the last few weeks, kids are playing outside, couples are walking hand in hand down the streets, baby animals are everywhere. and me, i'm itching to wear my summer dresses, put sandals on my feet, eat popsicles, and read all day.

unfortunately, while i'm watching all my friends around the world begin to unwind and slip into that lazy sun-induced ennui known as summer vacation, here in Southern California, the kiddos still have 4 more weeks of school, so here i am, as their math and science teacher, planning the last units of my first year of teaching, taking 5 more weeks of graduate classes, and studying for a certification exam.

but that seems so amazing. 4 weeks! that's all i have left! in a year that has been full of disappointments, extreme frustration, anxiety, hopelessness and downtrodden unshakable depression, the fact that i can say "4 weeks left" seems like a miracle. goodness, i'm so close to being done!!!!

and then it's Istanbul, boyfriend, beaches, Paris, gelato, and lots of all those summer things i want.

bring it on home,

[mp3] "Bring it on Home to Me" by Sam Cooke

Sunday, May 03, 2009

the way we do

i can't help but think that if this were "the wild," baby squirrel would have been eaten by an owl or a fox or a baby raccoon by now.

but, seeing as how this occurred in LA, my argument is invalid. Angelinos are all about preserving unnatural ways of life (we live in the middle of a fecking desert for feck's sake.)



yep, that seems just about right.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


do you ever think you know a song, listen to it for an entire period of your life, put it on playlists or put it on before you go to bed, hum it while walking to work or school or etc., but for years you don't listen to it and it gets buried under new music and podcasts and you feel like you kinda outgrew it. and then one day, you remember something about the lyrics, one haunting phrase ("i need you so much closer"), and then you are compelled to re-excavate it, whereupon you discover what you may have known before but had forgotten, your new circumstances giving you new cause – or perhaps reminding you why – you liked it in the first place.

it's like falling in love all over again.

today, it was this:

the atlantic was born today and i'll tell you how:
the clouds above opened up and let it out.

I was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere
when the water filled every hole.
and thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
making islands where no island should go.
oh no.

those people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.
I thought it less like a lake and more like a moat.
the rhythm of my footsteps crossing flood lands to your door have been silenced forever more.
the distance is quite simply much too far for me to row
it seems farther than ever before
oh no.

I need you so much closer
-Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism"

Thursday, April 30, 2009

the best day, 143 characters at a time

today was probably the best work day i've ever had.

amazing, b/c there were so many things that could have gone wrong (supervisor's visit, day one of my test preparation unit, long work day – 7 to 6, junk food) but it all magically went right...

the day retold in 143-character twits:
  1. today, i *finally* feel like a genuinely competent teacher. this makes me feel ah-maaaazing!
  2. still @ school, waiting for parent conferences to begin. chuckling while reading student essays. oh kids. so cute (sometimes...)
  3. just met my student Niria's mom and baby brother Jonathon, who is the cutest 6 year old w/ a mohawk EVER.
  4. just met Ruby's mom. when i told mom Ruby talks too much, mom drew her hand across her mouth and, with her limited english, told me "TAPE!"
  5. 1 of my students from the very beginning of the yr came to visit me. i heard him excitedly screaming down the hall, "LET'S VISIT MS. LEE!"
  6. the night school teacher just came in. good to put a face to the entity that destroys my desk formation, steals my pens, and never cleans up
  7. i finally got to tell Jose's mom a/b her son's predilection for gum-chomping. still, a pleasure to tell Mom her son is a delight to teach.
  8. well, that's a wrap. it's been fun live-tweeting my Parents' Open House. now to go home and wrap up these grad school finals...

now i'm gonna change out of my suit, fix some dinner, and hopefully write a paper!

excited for a short friday and pilates class, then a busy busy weekend of writing grad school finals.

so much love and excitement,

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


"you cannot live on hope alone,

but without it, life is not worth living."
- Harvey Milk

i have got to give it up for this video:

great graphic design and editing, highlighting excerpts from Harvey Milk's speech "You Cannot Live On Hope Alone" (1978). i got chills just watching it, and an itch to take to the streets and fight for something, fight for everyone's right to love whoever we want.


another speech that will absolutely move you to tears: Dustin Lance Black's Oscar acceptance speech for his original screenplay for the film MILK (2008).

what a senseless world we live in if beautiful people like these must be told they are anything less by our government and corporatized media.

finally: if you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely watch The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (the original documentary on which, i'm assuming, Milk was based, and Hulu has it for free!) i watched this as a sophomore in college, in a gender and sexuality in literature class, and remember crying for hours after, wondering how i'd gone my whole life without knowing about Harvey Milk, and feeling so sad that people like this, brave and beautiful ppl, are taken from us before they can do all the good they can.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

in the no

i hate supervisors, supervision, and surveillance.

if i had super-vision i would use my powers for good, not annoyance or fuckery.

(just saying. this is why i'm ill-suited for the traditional work environment.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

bodily science

there comes a moment in every night, or every day (depending on when you woke up and started working) when you reach yr saturation level. yr body can't take any more and you have to stop what y're doing, get up, move around, turn up some loud music and jump jump jump, trying to escape yr skin and bones, trying to break gravity.

that moment for me is now. it's been 14 hours straight working on this, stopping only to piss, weep, drink, and clear my shower drain. matters of plumbing, both bodily and external. apparently the second most pressing task of the day.

i cleaned my room, moved things around. re-arranged the furniture. got off the bed, where the springs are creaking now (oh you old man). i am now ensconced between a chair, a desk, and a wall, there are tiny pieces of paper and trash confetti'd round, and it's no wonder i can't think, all the pieces fit together and spell out little mosaic messages

reminders of to-do's and grocery lists
dinners with my parents that were set to laughter
post cards stacked up waiting to be scribbled on and sent
flyers for apartments waiting to be visited and dreamt about
a camera with 1 G of phot-oooh's so long ago taken i forget why this array of leaves was so captivating in the first place

and empty bottles of red red wine, from summer days one year ago! how long before i realize that i'm one year older and somehow survived.

i think in some ways days/nights like this remind me i'm an animal. working thru the day, with no sense of the future really, just doing what i can to survive one moment at a time.

what strange sleep-deprived, underfed, chlorine-induced haze is this?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

bold [sic] hate - ha ha

shield yr eyes!

(or keep em peeled! this shit changes real-time, bitches. so you can witness my minute-by-minute struggles with this jackass mother fucker. and warn me of broken links cuz this shit is wired to hit the fan...)

i have been up since 7 am working on this stupid piece of shit for my grad class, the last two hours spent trying to figure out how to format the fucking tables in the rubric section so it's not all bold.

fucking google docs.

nothing like a webquest to make you hate google, the internet, and life.

also: no food, no company, no time. low sleep, dirty hair, and my muscles wanna go for a ruuuuuuunn nn n n na nun.

there was so much else i could have done but instead this. and more.

still one unit plan, one lesson plan, and a fieldwork journal to write.

and i'm wondering about the state of nature and (hu)man. if the birds, cows, monkeys, and fleas all want to kill us, and the pigs now too, i think it's proof my hero was right:

"Your planet's immune system is trying to get rid of you."

fly high, fly straight. into the sun?

Monday, April 20, 2009

serenity now!

i attended a teacher training once where the session facilitator encouraged us to teach our students anger management. she suggested we have our students imagine "black balls of hate" inside us, between our stomachs and our hearts, and squeezing that ball and expelling it with deep breaths.

the problem with this strategy is that it reminds me too much of the episode from Seinfeld where the characters are encouraged to say the phrase "serenity now" to deal with their anger and frustration, but all they end up doing is suppressing it until it explodes violently in eruptive, pressurized catharsis.

when i think about all the teachers who get fired for accidentally hitting kids, or for disorderly public conduct, or for writing extremely critical blogs, i think about all the ways in which these teachers probably weren't receiving the support they needed, and about all the bullshit they were probably told that didn't help them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

comparing urban experiences

a portrait i took on the bike path from Hyde Park to upper downtown.
this photograph always exemplified the entire chicago experience for me: contented solitude in the midst of vastness.

you know, it's funny. my friend asked me the other day why i love chicago so much. and i really didn't have a compelling reason for him, aside from the obvious: public transportation, access to concerts, Millennium Park. beyond that and i'd have to go into a longer history of my interaction with that place.

it's not like Chicago's weather is even that great. when i lived there in the summer of 2006 it was sweltering hot and humid, and i lived without a.c. i sucked it up and refused to pay for such extravagance, knowing that strength and endurance emerge from a furnace. when i spent hours in the hot summer sun at Pitchfork and Lollapalooza that year, i hardly even sweat it (idiomatically speaking, that is). when i think back on it, i don't even recall being uncomfortable with the heat. i wore skirts a lot that summer, cut my hair real short, wore bathing suits under my clothes on the weekends. i sweat a lot but learned to not mind so much.

and it's not like life was easy. i worked two jobs, one at the Field Museum and the other as a field journalist/videographer for an indy news group. it was a 9-5 gig with on-call jobs over the weekends and sporadic meetings in the evenings. i remember hating the desk job at the museum at first, but then learning ways of using the space as a resource and finding my own projects to work on. i was never bored and never felt overworked. in fact, i recall working all day on a net neutrality video on a Saturday, from the 1 o'clock lunch with a co-worker that inspired the need for action, walking home writing a script (/rant) in my head, getting back to the apartment, starting up the camera, and recording/editing until 3 am in the morning, just for fun, because the project meant something to me. there were endless reports and meetings to do at the Field as well, but they were always fascinating and exciting and diverse enough in nature that it never became stifling.

it was the first time i'd ever lived in a big city, too. and i was by myself, without a car, without any friends or family in the city, no knowledge of how public trans worked. i was scared to take buses and trains at night. scared to leave the apartment after sun down. it was the first time i'd lived in an apartment (and in the worst part of town!) it was my first time grocery shopping for myself, the first time cooking (or attempting to) for myself. it was my first time using a gas stove, and i was afraid of gas leaks so never ended up using it. this is how my diet came to consist of mostly cold and raw foods for 3 months of my life. i was practically a live vegan, but i ate a lot of cheese and crackers. it was the first time i was overwhelmed with the possibilities of so many things at once, and i was so completely new to the experience of all of it.

but, that was the year i walked everywhere. and, when i got tired of walking, i found a couple who was willing to lend me a bike for the summer, and i rode along Lake Michigan and explored the city beaches. that was the year i joined Critical Mass and made 1,000 friends at once. that was the year i did yoga after work on the floor of a Maori house exhibit in the museum, and again in Millennium Park on weekend mornings, saluting the sun thru metallic beams. i spent afternoons walking thru art museums or photographing street performers. i read a book a week. i drew! i wrote poetry and listened to music. i danced. i took 30 minute train rides to chinatown to eat mango fried rice from a bamboo bowl. and that was the year i accidentally stranded myself in the worst part of town when the trains stopped running. it was the year i learned to make salsa from scratch and all-natural ingredients, and the year i fell asleep listening to Band of Horses' Funeral almost every night.

it's amazing to me to remember all of this, and there is still so much i could say. and though i have a penchant for reminiscing, this is hardly nostalgia at all, memory imbued with illusion from the passage of time. for though i never ate warm foods, and never had a.c., and was always working and walking and alone, i never felt unhappy, unfull, uncomfortable, or hungry. i was restless for more, but always well-rested, my skin was glowing and i felt young and alive and vibrant.


compare with now: i live with a childhood friend, but we hardly talk. i feel alone most days, even though i have many friends in the city and family nearby as well. i have a car but i'm terrified of driving it. LA traffic scares me and driving with the windows down is no longer considered part of a pleasurable experience. i lament missing good concerts b/c the venues are far away and the shows expensive. i have a fully functional kitchen and though i've gotten good at making fod for myself, i don't enjoy it, and hardly have the appetite for anything i make. still, i feel constantly hungry, go to bed hungry some nights. i don't sleep well, i toss and turn, waking up worrying it's 7 am when it's not even 3:30 am. i watch a lot of tv, hardly ever read, and even though i am always working or preparing to work, i never feel i've accomplished anything.

and LA's weather is fine, but i hardly ever enjoy it.