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July 23rd, 2011


08:08 am
Not seeing quite as many tumbleweeds as I expected around here.

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June 10th, 2011


02:21 am
Today I brought Asher to my tennish-year Reed reunion, because, hey, I had to bring him somewhere.

While we were there he had me explain two concepts: some schools let people live at them, but only the students, which led him to declare in favor of a preschool that would let him and his parents and his friends and their parents all take up residency, which petition I referred back to his mom as a likely supporter; and college is a school for grownups.

As usual, his interrogation got me trying to reply with a worldview's worth of well-reasoned sociological critique, then laughing my way out for lack of any actual knowledge. There's no therapist better than a three-year-old for asking open-ended questions uncritically until you've got access to your whole complex take on something. He'll say "Why? Why? Why?" until we reach equilibrium at my answering "Yeah, seriously!" On questions of culture, we get there pretty fast, and it's a lucky thing for the kid: when he asked me why putting water on his arms helped cool him off, he wound up looking around at the air all wild-eyed, trying to see substances that his senses aren't built to perceive and which wouldn't stand out anyway because they're just what the perfectly normal world was always made of ALL ALONG -- which might be a bad habit in a mind that panics over the more suspenseful pages of Thomas the Tank Engine stories. On questions accessible to physical science I figure I can help him build some developmentally appropriate self-soothing mechanisms in the forms of logical positivism and 19th-century tech, but I don't plan to go there in the cultural realm: his current most pressing social question is "Why can't I take off my pants and underwear in public", and his parents and I are trying to stop him from answering that one by direct experiment and observation, at least for now.

Then we went and hid in the canyon alone together. We played at relocating snails and trying to catch water striders on the floating leaves of plucked jewelweed. We played for a long time. We took turns distracting each other with delights, so that by the time we walked his little bike up to broad public campus daylight and had him piss in some semi-secluded bushes by the Sports Center it was time to be back on the city bus already.

We raced across campus as quickly as we could, and he bikes at my running speed now, but it still wasn't quick: more delights. Construction equipment! Walls built for writing on in Sharpie! Posts that wiggle in the ground! Grass! Okay, Asher, one more thing, here, I'm texting your mom that we're late, okay: look at this. Oh, you'd rather look at that? Well, oh! Look at that!

People were obstacles and sources of compliments, by turns.

We passed the psych building and Asher asked what it was for. "That's where students at this school go to study how minds work," I told him.

"I already know all about minds," he told me. "I learned about them in preschool. Preschool is a college for kids."

"What did you learn about minds in preschool?"

"We learned to look inside our minds. Here, look inside my mind!"

"I can't. What did you see inside your mind?"

His voice took on a guru's cadence. "A great spinning ball of fire!"

This kid is having a particular style of life. If you ask what I'm doing these days, I won't mention it because it's been a constant for almost four years, but I ought to tell you: helping give a particular kid a particular style of life.

We didn't talk much with anyone else, though, so nobody asked. I'm reprieved until tomorrow.

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January 31st, 2011


12:08 pm
At the sensitivity training where they made us all say what about us was "different" in the "probably hard to work with unless you are comfortable with this difference" sense that we'll be encountering so frequently with the people we serve, almost everybody in the room said something like "I love music" or "I have great kids" or -- I'm not kidding -- "I'm proud to be me", which struck me as an impressive defensive reticence in people who were, oh, you know, recent immigrants from Nigeria, or stone deaf, or illiterate and just out of high school, or obviously furious at the world.

I took a look at my trainer's nose-ring and chin hairs and large weight, I listened a little to the language she used, and I took a calculated risk:

"What's different about me is that I live in a community where everybody who isn't gay, lesbian, queer, asexual or transgender is really, really used to being surrounded by people who are. When I go to work at places where standard gender roles are expected, where there are specific ways that people of different genders are supposed to relate, I get really uncomfortable, I get really worried that I'm not going to know how to talk or dress or move around; I don't think I'm going to get along with anybody. It usually turns out to be fine, but, oh man, I go in pretty bristly."

This was almost the truth, it was part of the truth, it was close enough to the meaning of the actual truth that I felt a whole lot better about going to work when one of the workers from my site came up afterward and was like "you and everybody are just going to love each other."

What it also was, though, was a code word. It meant "I belong to this organization's management class."

***
Oh, I should mention: this post was originally an email response to glowing_fish 's email about feeling the need to prove membership in a club in order to get employment in order to have membership in a club. Thank you, MNH, for getting me into a topic and voice I enjoy enough to disseminate.

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September 23rd, 2010


12:42 pm - I love wearing my underwear on the outside
Damn, I may be taking this stretch pants thing too far. It's weird enough that ending my job and my relationship with Martin in the same month has got me wanting to wear skirts, voluminous or mini, every single day. Putting leggings on underneath was supposed to be a concession to my customary, pants-wearing self, the one I'm still carrying around under this bizarrely comfortable femme garb, the one that's not going to refrain from putting her feet a meter apart on the table no matter what she's wearing.

It was not supposed to be The Next Step.

I had a private yoga/posture consultation yesterday with one of my ex-coworkers. I showed up at her house wearing enough shaped cloth layers to yield a sort of impenetrable Mary Poppins silhouette; poor kind thing, she went straight to work figuring out how to read my body through the stuff without saying a word. We walked to a park and rolled out her dirtiest mats. I stripped off layer after layer and stood there in hot pink stretch pants with little cotton boy briefs over the top.

She yelled in relief.

They are out now, guys, and I fear they may not go back without a fight. I haven't been able to get myself to change out of this costume yet.

Anyhow, I am ready for my next superhero party. I think I will go as "the wreckage of your dreams"

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July 27th, 2010


02:30 pm
Today in class we read an article about the ten-year US patent on the Mexican mayacoba bean, and my students, bless their full-sized hearts, went all up in arms about the injustice of biopiracy. They independently invented the concept of a non-profit public-domain seed bank! -- if not in so many words. They're not going to try to patent their invention, though. None of them knew what a patent was this morning, and now they've become fierce critics of patent system abuses.

Suddenly the endangered-strain open-pollinated heirloom corn I had them plant in April has become a flock of doves I can release from their sleeves. They were there all along, kids! They're your sudden doves.

I am shocked, I am shocked, I am shocked that these kids care. They might not care tomorrow, but they care right now.

It's a lot of fun leading the easily-lead.

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July 14th, 2010


07:25 am - Role modeling
Here's one good thing I think I've taught my students this year:

When you move out of your mom's place, you don't have to move in with your spouse or spouse-equivalent. You can move in with your housemates. You can sustain this lifestyle choice well into adulthood, as long as you don't mind continuing to be read as young and cheerful. If your housemates are especially wonderful, you don't even ever have to shut up about them. You can bore everyone with domestic details just like married people do.

That's a top-priority message for teenagers who plan never to hit a college dorm! I'll stand by that. I don't mind being a missionary for that church. I wish I'd been converted earlier myself.

All this other stuff I'm supposed to be teaching them ... well, they've still got time, right?

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June 30th, 2010


04:30 pm - I think I may be trying to teach preschool and college simultaneously.
Today I asked seven teenagers to find things in their environment with each of five senses separately, cook and eat one meal, and find two truths and a lie in either of two Onion articles and back their truth claims up from the BBC news site.

The basics, you know.

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June 7th, 2010


01:04 pm - One more chance, job.
I have all these potential summer students all of a sudden, and I'm finding myself respecting them and enjoying our interviews. I'm finding myself motivated to work hard and not waste their time.

All of a sudden I have these three primary subjects I might be teaching through gardening and farm tours: Health, US History and Biology. The Health students will cook for us all and lecture us about food; they'll learn to read an MSDS and warn us about common garden chemicals. The Biology students will get the best botany and genetics and general natural history material I can piece together. The US History students will do mapping and ethnographic interviews; very recent history, says the teacher who'll be accrediting my work with his sign-off, will be just fine.

I'm having these unscheduled conferences with teachers, in which we discuss methods for documenting that my students have done adequate amounts of adequately relevant academic work. They're going well. I'm signed up for a crew leader training all of a sudden; I'll walk in flush with team-building games and beliefs about how to structure group time. I've got a week after school closes in which to rearrange the building to my liking. Hell, I can move the walls if I want to. I can! They move.

I am shockingly confident. I'm not very confident, but it shocks me to feel any confidence at all given that I've been totally unable to do any prep work ever and we're all probably going to starve to death because I didn't apply for lunch money grants.

If this summer isn't horrible maybe I won't write off teaching forever.

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December 27th, 2009


11:50 am - It's not a spoiler if I don't say the title
Here is a trope-worthy plot point I've not seen before -- is it because I haven't read enough modern feminist pulp?

The murderer is: the homophobic housemate who neglects his chores chronically, uses other people's towels, and wants to make a documentary without getting permission from the subjects!

I knew there was something wrong with that guy!

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December 21st, 2009


08:46 am
Shortest days are here and the chickens are still laying.

As of this morning they've adopted a young squirrel. No, that's wrong -- chickens are animals with strong opinions regarding the membership of their social groups. As of this morning they've permitted a young squirrel to squat between their coop's wire roof and slant of corrugated plastic, unharassed, unannounced by alarm calls. When I opened the coop door, it ran in while they all ran out in their usual socially-determined order and pacing. Maybe it's beneath their notice.

I chased the squirrel around the coop and petted it a few times, making affectionate noises, as a means of encouraging it to leave terrified. It avoided my attentions with no more panic than some of the chickens use, apparently judging it optimal to dodge me within a yard of the feeder. I had to pick it up by the tail before it'd head out the open door. As soon as I walked out, it poured itself along the wire and back in.

I splashed a little water at it, but didn't take any stronger measures. New pet? It is a holiday.


Terminology clarification for housemates: I'm still calling the wood-enclosed roosting area the "hen house", the hen house plus its attached, covered lock-up area the "coop", and the large, fenced daytime range the "run". I am aware that your usage differs.

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