Monday, December 31, 2007

Daniel in India

My brother Daniel and his fiance Meena are in India now, visiting her family and shopping for their wedding. He has recently sent an update letter and a couple of the things he has said really intrigue me. One is worth sharing with you.

"There will be poor always." I think somebody famous said that. In India (from my 48 hours of exposure) there appears to be a different mentality of the poor in juxtaposition to the U.S. They are a part of life, as are the wealthy, and they must play their part in this life. There is not the mentality that they should pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make something of themselves, or that god has punished them.

There is something appealing about this mindset. He has found the opposite of what is most objectionable about American attitudes towards poverty. Absolutely, I think it's awful that so many Americans both resourced and under-resourced would agree that poverty is a punishment. And certainly, Daniel is quoting the words of Jesus correctly. I feel a little itchy with this view, though, because it feels a little conflicting with my interpretation of Christ's commandment to love others as myself. I would want to be taught how to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I would not want my place in this life to be one that required charity for survival. It's a difficult tension that I'm not sure how to resolve.

Of course this is just funny:

I have enclosed a few photos (hopefully), the first is of me touching Divinder Mama and Indu auntie's feet. They are my host's as well as my new aunt and uncle. In India you touch the feet as a sign of respect and then you receive a blessing and in some cases money (notice my left hand). I'm in the black so far on this trip because I keep touching everybody's feet, but I think that well is gonna run dry soon.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lonesome Heart Blues

That's right. Yesterday, we had a total of 20 long-haired friends of Jesus packing a grey-toned micro-bus. Then, when we got home from the field trip, my brother Paul and his new fiance, Kimberly joined us for dinner and BINGO. All 20 of us are sleeping at my mom and dad's house these last two nights. I'm a little exhausted emotionally but this opportunity really only comes around once a year, so it's worth a little crabbiness.

It's the unfortunate irony of life that rewards the people who are closest to me with my crabbiness because they are the only people I feel comfortable being fully myself with.

I have struggled with feeling lonely this break between quarters. I hope I used that word right. When I lived on the island, my friend Elaine, who insisted upon correct grammar, answered my question about how she was by saying she was "lonesome." This brought me up short because of her straight-forward honesty and because I don't normally hear the word "lonesome" outside of country and western songs. So, now I'm always self-conscious about how I use the words out of respect for her. For those of you that are wondering, "lonely" is an adverb and is used to describe verbs and other adjectives mostly. Since I was describing a verb - feeling - I think it's correct. "Lonesome" is an adjective and should only be used to describe nouns. In the sentence, "I am lonesome," where the verb is a verb of being (am, is, was, are, etc.) the word is a predicate nominative and is describing the subject of the sentence which is a noun, and so can't be in the adverb form. Do I have this right? Help me out here people.

Regardless of grammar, I'm feeling incomplete and a little sad looking into the future to think I might always feel this way. I can be content with my crafts, my community and my god and I absolutely believe in letting partners fall into my life naturally rather than hunting them down. But that means that there are periods in my life in which it's just me against the world with occasional help from my friends and family who all have partners of their own.

Now is one of those times. I'm not dating anyone and my single girlfriends live far away or have grown away from me. So, right now, there is no one for whom I am their #1 friend and he or she is my #1 friend. It makes me feel lonely even when surrounded by at least 18 people who absolutely love me. I've watched several movies lately (Stranger Than Fiction, Juno, etc.) that make me feel good but also put into words that there IS someone out there who thinks the "sun shines out my asshole" whether I'm cranky or jubilant and I know that person is worth waiting for. But in these times of feeling incomplete - when I have to push myself into participating with my family because family is the most important thing in a partner-less person's life plus I'm going to be distracted from my empty feelings for half an hour while we play Fox and Geese in the lopsided circle that my cousin Jake created in the snow - in these times, I can't wait to meet that person.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

I just finished watching Stranger Than Fiction and the world is a much better place. The music over the credits is still playing as I type this.

I have the same feeling that I had watching Amelie.

Clutching the blanket up to my chin with a grin of delight the entire time and laughing out loud even though I'm here by myself.

It feels a little bit like every event of my life up to this point was designed to contribute to my enjoyment of this movie.

I also had the experience that I've only ever had once before, in which I was entrapped by the opening scenes and stayed entranced throughout. The only other movie that I can remember doing that to me was Vatel with Gerard D├ępardieu.
(I typed "french actor with big nose" in Google to remind myself of the title of that movie and his name came up as the first entry.)

Thank you to every person who ever told me that I would like this movie and who simultaneously refrained from telling me WHY I would like it. Their very deliberateness in NOT telling me was the convincing factor in my watching it. Your obvious delight at the eventual fulfillment I would experience has been validated.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I've been to Jo Ann Fabrics three times today.

I've spent as much money making my Christmas as I would have buying them.

I'm exhausted.

But this shit looks good.

When the glue dries, I'll take some pictures and show you what I've been working on.

I'm sorry that I haven't really caught up with you all on my school break. Break up blues and the therapeutic practice of crafting have taken most of my energy.

I'm feeling good, though. On Thursday night, after 9 hours of creative work at my coffee table in the soft light of the Christmas tree listening to my ever-growing iTunes "Best of Rebecca" playlist, I spent 40 minutes following my yoga DVD before I went to bed.

picture credit
For the first time in my life, I got my heels down to the floor in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog).

Pause for applause.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I had brain surgery; be patient with me


You have to check this out.

This woman had brain surgery and made a gorgeous piece of art out of the experience. It's totally worth taking the time to look at the piece and to read her story.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Apple for the teacher

Listening to the radio today, I heard the best suggestion that I've heard since someone told me that marshmallow fluff tasted good with peanut butter.

If you have a school-aged child, instead of giving his or her teacher some cheap-o spa kit from Walgreens or some stinky candle, write a letter of appreciation.

I would add, be specific. If you particularly like that your child's teacher does experiential learning instead of lots of worksheets, say so and cite a particular lesson that your child came home talking about.

My own experience as a teacher has some really ugly moments with parents. Several times I had to respond to parents who wanted to know why their child wasn't getting an A in an Honors class that the parent had waived the child into over her other teacher's objections. "But she works so hard!" I was called into my department chair's office to explain something that a parent had gone over my head to my boss about. 7 times out of 8, it was regarding something that never happened but the parent never thought to doubt their darling child's interpretation. Occasionally, parents would call the principal directly. Have these people never heard of a chain of command? They had to go directly to the big boss without letting me explain myself first? Every evaluation that has every been written about me describes my methods as exemplary and uses phrases like -I swear to God - "We are lucky to have a teacher like Rebecca."

My mother is currently embroiled in strife because the parents of 2 or 3 students have nothing better to do than call the superintendent of the district because they think that 4 movies in a semester of 7th grade social studies is too many. Really? My mom has a bachelors degree in Education, a masters degree in Teaching and Learning and over 30 hours of post-graduate classes in Education. She's raised 4 children and taught junior high for over 10 years. But these parents feel qualified to judge her pedagogical methods as bad? To the person who runs the entire district? Without ever asking her why she felt like those videos were appropriate in the first place?

I taught 150 kids a year. My mother has around 100 kids. That means that 95% or more of parents are at least indifferent to the way we teach. I bet a fair number more than 5% actually like us as teachers. How much better would we feel if that 5% made as much effort as the 5% that don't like us to tell both us and our bosses that their children's lives are better for spending 50 minutes a day in our class.

If you don't have school-aged children, mention this idea to those friends of yours who do. It will make Christmas a more beautiful time for a whole lot of people.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Worthy Profession

So, I'm done with finals. So far, I've gotten a 91% on my Microeconomics exam and a 89% on my Statistics exam. That's before the curve, people.

I'll pause for the cheering to die down.

Props go to my friends, who argue amongst themselves while I wander around the apartment like some kind of caged animal, listening to them and gaining understanding.

I'm an auditory learner.

So, anyway, while we were studying at Jennie's house, we all distracted ourselves playing with her new kitten by shining a laser pointer in front of it and then moving the laser pointer around so the kitten would stalk and pounce on it. Zissou never caught on that the little red pinpoint couldn't be caught (although he did refrain from the pounce when the light fell on the much larger adult cat, Sherman) and we never lost interest in the game, either.

The evening after our last final, Jennie had left Mike's apartment to take the bus up to her house to pick up her luggage, get on the train and fly out to Hawaii. She called me when she stopped in the middle leg of the journey to tell me the following story:

She was sitting on the bus watching two young teenagers who were sitting on benches facing one another. They were friends but one of them had some sort of hand-held game that he was focused on. The other one amused himself by shining a laser pointer all over the gamer without the gamer ever noticing. Apparently, this cracked his shit up. It also cracked Jennie's shit up. She could barely get her description of his obvious delight that his friend never noticed being painted with red light. I loved the story and in an attempt to elongate the joy of hearing the story and knowing a little bit about teenagers, I asked, "And did this go on for like 10 minutes?"

"Twenty! All the way home!"


Jennie knew I'd love this story because earlier that morning, I had told her my own public transportation story. While riding the train downtown to get to our study session, I stood facing a woman in her early twenties sitting on the bench facing the aisle. In the bench behind hers facing forward was a man in his early twenties. He seemed particularly perky for 7:30 in the morning. Pleased with himself, even. As the trip progressed, in was clear that they knew each other. She would lean into him and whisper something. His energetic response would elicit eye rolls yet she continued to lean into him. It became clear that staying over at her house and riding into the Loop on the El together was a new thing that pleased him to no end. Nothing else would explain his total lack of sullenness. As we neared my stop, he caught my eye. Keeping my headphones one, I smiled and looked. He was holding her hand and playing with her verylong nails that had a variety of designs painted all over them. He pointed to one of her nails and when I looked at it, the word, "Steve" was written on it in yellow paint. He then pointed at himself with a giant look of enthusiasm on his face, mouthing the words in an exaggerated way, "That's me!" He then pumped his fists in triumph.

I looked him in the eyes, laughed heartily and got off the train. He laughed more and she rolled her eyes in such a way that belied her own delight at getting to spend time with him.

As Jennie was getting off the bus, the kid accidentally hit her with the laser pointer and apologized profusely. She smiled and said, "Do you do this all day to your teachers?"


I'm not sure why I left teaching in order to end up going back to school.

Regardless, my test seem to indicate that the effort has been worth it.