Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In grave danger of growing, or, on being 40, a mom, wife, and grad student, part 2

This is a two-fer. That means that I am writing this blog post AND using it for an assignment that's due today (nevermind that today is almost over.) Get it? A two-fer... as in "two fer the price of one."

Here goes...

We read "IN GRAVE DANGER OF GROWING: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROCESS OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT" (Charles Seashore, Washington, D.C., June, 1975) and I was surprised to find that some of my cohort-mates found it depressing. I, personally, found it validating and freeing in many ways.

This article, which explores the reasons, perils, and pitfalls of folks entering into intensive academic programs (yeah, those are professional development, too), was spot on in many ways for me. First of all, it spoke about the family issue. This is something I ranted about back in June upon completing my first week of grad school (On being almost-40, a mom, wife, and grad student) Now I look back and consider how much that's been ratcheted up by the additions of my full-time job, my eldest back in school, my youngest back in speech, and the impending (damn, how did those sneak up?) holidays. 

In all seriousness, though, it's not just the fact that I'm trying to keep life as normal as possible for my family (O.K., those Saturday classes and every Monday and Wednesday nights are REALLY starting to cut into quality time with my brood), it's the fact that this program has forced not just me to change, but everyone close to me. 
"...these close friends and family are also forced to re-experience some ways that they had become dependent upon the partner turned student, and thus face up to the discombobulating notion that they might have to grow and change, too — all because of that crazy program."
Before I entered this program, there was some talk with friends about my husband having to learn to take over a lot more because I just wouldn't be able to do it anymore. Now, in all honesty, I hadn't thought about that as being a part of a change effort, just as part of a coping method, a temporary coping method. But now I see that this may be a more long-term change, and hooray for that, because I always needed help with the laundry and the dishes! It's not just that, though. My family has had to learn to get along without me for hours and hours, some of those hours long Saturdays when I'm in class. And, I'm happy to report, they are honestly doing just fine. They are happy and healthy and getting to know each other really well, and I am realizing that, yikes, maybe they CAN live without me (sniff.)

I suppose this will be something I go through constantly as my children grow and become more independent. I'm just thinking that I wasn't supposed to go through these feelings while they are the tender ages of 4 and 7. I guess you can't start preparing for the empty nest too early.

But I digress. This article included the Menninger Morale Curve, but, being the tech-head that I am, I found one that fit me a whole lot better online:

I've been to the land of Uninformed Optimism already, had a brief stop in Informed Pessimism, have definitely overstayed Crisis: Checking Out, and feel I am now moving toward Hopeful Realism. (I really hope that this is a straight shot with no detours, but I truly doubt it.) Granted, I'm behind in my papers and have just changed the topic for my thesis project (uh, yeah, I know, it's November) and am paying handsomely for checking out, but I had to live my life, and have fun... right?

Seashore gives his recommendations for what should be provided in a well-designed program:

Informed Consent and Supports for Growth Among the Student's Family and Friends: Well, I think I've had these. I mean, I talked at length with hubby about what this would mean to our family, and we agreed together that it was the right time. I still feel it is the right time. However, I experienced quite a bit of anxiety before the program began not knowing how much work would be involved. I also didn't know how this would affect my family and was hell-bent on making sure it would be as normal as possible for them. I think that more support for "non-traditional" students like myself is needed by folks who are in similar situations. I'm definitely going to look into creating a support group for folks with kids trying to balance this program...

Faculty AwarenessAvailable Support System, and Appreciation and Tolerance for Craziness: (disclaimer: I am not trying to score points here) My program does all of these really well, and that is why we stick with it and make it work, no matter how much we have to do. The faculty are beyond aware, they are even a little psychic, if you ask me, and remain very flexible and understanding. They encourage collaboration, which is the one thing that has saved my ass on more than one occasion. They also do that appreciation and tolerance for craziness thing very well. Now, it could be that they are in the business of education around education. Dunno... all I know is that it's working for me. I love my program, have since Day One, and if I didn't love it, I wouldn't be up 'til all hours doing all this.

Most importantly, Seashore's sixth recommendation for a well-designed program:
Realistic but High Expectations for Professional Competence: Most definitely. I am challenged, but not to the point of frustration. I am growing, but not at an insanely fast pace. I am changing, but it's more like a doable evolution.

So, this wasn't so much of a rant... more like a celebration. See, I really am on my way to Hopeful Realism. Maybe.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Racial Contract and Our Country's First Black President

Last night, I was lucky enough to see Professor Charles Mills of Northwestern speak on his book "The Racial Contract". He started off speaking about how philosophy is the only area of study that doesn't require research; how university presidents love mathematicians and philosophers because mathematicians require only a pencil, a pad of paper, and a wastepaper basket while philosophers don't even need the wastepaper basket. He then spoke of the dearth of folks of color in philosophy; that if there were a convention of Black philosophers, they'd have to travel in separate planes because if one plane went down, and there were several Black philosophers on it, there would be a significant percentage lost. OK, yes, I was expecting a somewhat dry speech on the racial contract, and was pleasantly surprised that it was nothing like that.

So, what is the racial contract, you ask? In all honesty, I'm still wrapping my head around it, but it goes something like this: The racial contract is an unspoken agreement amongst all in society that keeps white folk on top and the rest below. Folks of color are considered "subpersons". All white folk are beneficiaries of this contract, although not all are signatories. Depending on where you stand on this deep, philosophical stuff, this racial contract (along with the sexual contract) takes the place of Rousseau's social contract. 

This morning I read Willie Brown's column ("Willie's World") in the Chron where he espoused on the thrilling of minority workers by the election of Obama. Toward the end, he wrote:
All I can say is, we started out with the promise of 40 acres and a mule. What did we end up with?
A White House.
Well put, but according to Professor Mills, we must stop looking at it that way. To paraphrase, we must stop looking at it like "look how far we've come since Jim Crow". So true. Let's set our sights higher. Let's TRULY KNOW AND BELIEVE that all children, no matter their color, can achieve...

So, how do things change now that our president-elect is a Person of Color? Well, I didn't mention that Zeus Leonardo was there too and I feel that he said it best when he said that now the racial contract has not been voided, but must now be revised. I also agree with the head of my program who said, "It's not the revolution, but it is revolutionary." Amen. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on becoming the next leader of the free world. You have inspired hope in so many, including myself. Thank you.

In your acceptance speech, you asked us to "summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other." I know that you are being asked to do a lot of things, to be a miracle worker. We all need to work hard with you to see the change we are so desperately hoping for. I realize you are one person, but so am I, so is my husband, my brother, my neighbor, my friend. If we all work together, as we did to bring about this historic presidency, we will see change. 

With this in mind, with the hope I feel in my heart, and the belief I have in transformation through hard work and reflection, I pledge to:
  • continue loving, supporting, and nurturing my children- helping them with their homework, teaching them lessons when they need it, reading them bedtime stories- in essence, to be completely involved in their lives.
  • when budget and availability allow, buy locally and/or organically, and always purchase consciously.
  • become a community organizer of sorts, no matter how small the task. 
  • continue to be involved in my eldest son's elementary school.
  • continue to fight for equitable practices in public schools- this means I will continue to question our assessment system, our modes of instruction, and NCLB in general. 
  • complete my Masters in Education in a timely manner so that I can get to the real work of changing our educational system. 
  • work harder than I have before for the children of Richmond, California, so that they, too, will be prepared for the everchanging world we live in.  
I know you have a lot on your plate, but there are some things I think you need to work on sooner rather than later. Please consider:
  • the educational system
  • the healthcare system
  • the economy
  • Darfur, the Congo, Tibet
Again, thank you. I have an amazing amount of faith in you and the American people. As you said on Tuesday night:
"...out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can."
God bless you, President-Elect Obama and God bless the entire world, no exceptions.


Monday, November 3, 2008

I vote for the children...

... because they can't yet.

Standing on the edge

Tonight we are all standing on the edge of we know not what. What we DO know is that it will be historical.

I'm writing this post from that edge, as I stand with all of you. Will we fall into an abyss when we step off into tomorrow, or will we fly? 

I can tell you this. I have hope. I've never had this kind of hope about something that is so un-personal. In truth, it is personal though, isn't it? This affects everything.

I haven't been sleeping well lately. And I think I've been listening to too much NPR. I'm addicted to talk, to that constant flow of information, to that hash, hash, and re-hash that I make so much fun of after football games. I need to hear what everyone has to say. I need to hear it so I can try and figure out what they're thinking. Where is the pulse of America? Who has her or his finger on it? What's it telling us? And is it the true pulse or the one your high school gym teacher told you not to take... you know, when you put your thumb to your wrist and feel a crazy pulse? 

I have a lot of anxiety about tomorrow. I have a lot of anxiety about what will happen after tonight even if what happens is what I want to happen. 

I went in to my children's bedroom tonight to check on them. I looked at them and prayed that what happens tomorrow will be the right thing for them and all of their generation. 

I am posting from the edge. 

Tomorrow, I hope to be flying.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Running the marathon that is my life...

So, it's been a while since I've posted. So much has happened- none of it a surprise. I just overplanned myself, that's all...

I considered calling this post "running the gauntlet that is my life" but then I looked up "running the gauntlet" and found that it was just too gruesome to describe something that has been so enjoyable.

Turning 40 and the 80s Dance Partay
The photos really say it all:

It was so great to have so many friends from all different parts of my life there. There were grad school folks, family, old friends (yes! folks who knew me in the 80s), folks I work with, folks I used to work with, neighbors... ALL FRIENDS, of course! We had a great time and DH and I didn't get to bed until 3:30am! (Geez, how long has it been since we've seen 3:30am?)

Do I feel 40? I have no idea what that means, since I haven't ever been 40... I've had to get reading glasses, and sure, I have a few more aches and pains, and yeah, it's STILL tough to get rid of that spare tire around my waist, but so far, so good... Is 40 the new 30? Sure, why not?

Disneyland on my actual 40th birthday...
My whole famn damily was at Disneyland for my 40th bday weekend. In all honesty, our excuse was not my birthday, but Thing 2's successful potty training! Yippee! WARNING: MAMATALK AHEAD. He's still wearing a diaper at nap and at night, but he's a regular potty user and has even attempted to wipe himself after going #2. 

Hey, any excuse for visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. 

The place was all decorated for Halloween and we had a GREAT TIME! Some highlights:
  • The new Toy Story ride is AMAZING. It is completely interactive and well worth the wait. 
  • Definitely get a birthday button if you're there even remotely close to your birthday. It's cool during the parades having the characters wish you a happy birthday. And Mickey Mouse gave me a birthday peck on the cheek!
  • Seeing my kids and my nieces so darned happy is well worth it. That's why we brave the lines, the heat, the junk food (and ensuing constipation), and the creepiness of feeling like you're being controlled, right?
The Nike Women's Marathon
Hey, when your life is a marathon, what's a 26.2 mile jog?

My friend Kristin and I arrived at the starting line around 6:30am, ready to run like girls with 20,000 other women and men (mostly women, as you could guess.) The atmosphere was much like the 3Day, except boiled down to one day with a loooooooong run instead of a looooong walk. There was loud music, lots of bright lights, dignitaries (SF Police and Fire Chiefs- both women), radio announcers, and A LOT of purple and green (Team in Training.) This was a HUGE TnT event, especially since the whole event was a benefit for leukemia/lymphoma. 

I had to take a photo of this woman, who obviously hadn't lost sight of the carrot at the end of the stick:

It was COLD, something we were thankful and ready for. It was EARLY, something we are also used to (we start almost all of our training runs before 6am.) And as for my tackling 26.2 miles, I knew I could handle it physically, I was just worried about the mental game.

We crossed the starting line at about 7:20am with a TON of people. 

Our first couple of miles were at a much slower pace than we are used to, but it was a good thing that we were FORCED to take it easy in the beginning. We ran through the Financial District, along the water, past Pier 39 and through Fisherman's Wharf. There was music along the way, including this gospel choir and a full Scottish band ('scuse the camerawork... I was running like a girl)

The hills were killers, especially the one coming out of Crissy Field and going up through the Presidio. It just never ended. Kristin kept saying, "This is our Spruce"- a long, steep hill in Berkeley that we ran several times during training. Yeah, Spruce x 10. But we made it, and we made it down the hill at the Cliff House, too. Around that time, I realized that Kristin was almost done (she was doing the half marathon) and I was about to be the lone r'alker (run-walker.) When the time did come, I was bummed, really bummed, especially because she peeled off during the uphill in Golden Gate Park, yet another hill that felt like it would never end...

I managed to keep going with our run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute plan, and was pretty consistent with a 12-minute mile pace. At mile 25, I hit a wall, so to speak. My body didn't want to run anymore, but luckily, it didn't want to stop, and why when I was so close. I walked for a mile, then managed to run for the final .2 of a mile (gotta come in running, right?) I was greeted by a bevy of HOT firefighters in tuxedos with platters full of Tiffany boxes. Inside? Possibly the coolest finishers' medal EVAH:
So, I've done my first and ONLY marathon. I can cross it off my bucket list. It was great, but I think I'll do halfs from now on. It's not that I was hurting all the following week. It's not that it was a horrible experience. It's just that the training takes A LOT of time.

Oh, but it was SO worth it...

And now...
I'm sitting here, it's almost noon, and I'm still in my jammies. It's been a great weekend. No school, no other extra-curricular activities. Just me. Basking in the glow of finishing running this gauntlet that is my life.

Coming soon...
The pain that is a Leadership Action Research Project.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I *heart* the 80s.

Really, as soon as this birthday party thing is over, I will get serious again and talk ed-yew-kay-shun... really. But until then, enjoy this photo I found on the web:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Your 80s Primer

For those of you who will be attending my 80s Dance Party and you're not quite sure what to wear or you don't remember the 80s (for whatever reason- I know mine) or you just want a refresher before the actual par-tay, read, and watch, on. 

The 80s according to Wikipedia:

VH-1's Top 100 Songs of the 80s (compiled in 2006 when they should have known better)

The Geekier Version: NPR's Top 10 Pop Songs of the 80s (kudos cuz they include videos- try not to clap during the Styx song) (Hey! You may get an outfit idea!) (I WILL MAKE SURE ALL OF YOUR DRINKS ARE PAID FOR IF YOU WEAR A TEAL JUMPSUIT)

The Top 10 Michael Jackson Songs of the 80s (yes, he was so prolific in the 80s, you can actually have a top 10 for him JUST FOR THAT DECADE)

The #1 Song on the Billboard Chart on my 16th birthday (yeah, it was in the 80s): "I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder (who I love, but that is not one of my favorite songs by him) Look up a #1 song for a particular date here.

And, well, watch this video for a lovely fashion show of 80s fashion

... and this one for more fashion but more nostalgia.


"Steeping in the literature..."

Translation: read A LOT and talk about it JUST AS MUCH...

Here's my grad school update:
  • We are deep into the fall semester. Four classes...
  • ...this means we are all really CONFUSED about what is due when...
  • We've started talking thesis... EEEEEEEEK!
  • The term "action research" will be misused over and over again, ad infinitum, to full comic relief, I guarantee it.
  • It's tiring to go to school and work full-time.
So now you know...

Thursday, September 25, 2008


We're gearing up for a friend's Obama-rama party... I have until Saturday to learn this:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MORE on White Privilege cuz it ain't going away...

Just li'l ol' me again, ragin' against the machine. But I'm not alone.

Read on... very edifying (and SCARY and MADDENING...)

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So, how do the women (and men) of Anchorage feel about Palin?

Read all about it... the BIGGEST political rally in Alaska, EVAH!
Big LOVE to my liberal sistahs to the north...

(FYI- I'm baaaaaaaaack.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

The top ten reasons to walk 60 miles in 3 days...

10. You get to camp where you normally wouldn't be allowed to. Taking part in a huge, national foundation-run charity walkathon has its benefits. We camped on Crissy Field, a short walk from Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge. I could unzip my tent and behold the bridge in all its orange glory. Proof:

(The pink tents were our homes for two nights- they are donated to local Girl Scout troops after the event. In 2006 when I did the 3Day in San Diego, our tents were blue... pink is definitely more festive and pink ribbon-esque.)

9. Unlimited Gatorade of all flavors, water, and Uncrustables. Yeah, Uncrustables... have you ever eaten one of these things? 
I love them and have only ever had them on the 3Day. Yum. I am praying my children never get wind of these things, or it will be ALL OVER. But yeah, while you are walking your 14 to 22 miles in one day, there are pit stops every 3 miles or so with snacks and beverages so you're always hydrated... which leads me to...

8. The CLEANEST portapotties on the planet. I do not lie. If you have to use a portapotty, you are DAMN glad it is so clean. On the 3Day, you spend all your, um, potty time in them. In fact, I took photos of my teammates after their first 3Day portapotty experiences. See how impressed by the cleanliness they are?

7. Camp entertainment. Yeah, you read right, camp entertainment. After you've walked almost a marathon, you're ready to just veg out and be entertained, right? So, every night, there's something on the stage. We were big fans of 3Day RockStar, which is a little like American Idol minus Randy, Paula, and Simon, but including the talent, and a different kind of talent at that... The winner was crew member Rob who qualified with his fantastic version of "Piano Man" ("well they're sharing a drink they call Gatorade".) This was followed up the next night with his 3Day version of "Uptown Girl" (apparently, Rob loves Billy Joel) titled "3Day Girl" ("and when she's walkin', she's lookin' so fi-i-ine") 

6. Free Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farm and other cool stuff from sponsors. Yeah, in 2006, one of the sponsors was Motrin and we got FREE MOTRIN... but they've figured out that ibuprofen sucks the electrolytes outta ya and, well, you need those when you're walking from San Francisco to Marin and back... anyway, the sponsors this time were Pepperidge Farm (FREE Milanos in camp), New Balance, Golden Grain (spaghetti dinner on the first night), and La Croix (they do sparkling water.) I won the La Croix raffle on the second night and am looking forward to receiving my cooler full of La Croix products! They also have a tent at camp with foot massagers! Here are our feet getting a much deserved massage:

OK, that last one is just gratuitous... Thanks HOT Sausalito cops! Now that's what I call community support!

4. HOOKERS, and other Walker Stalkers... The folks who cheer you on along the route (who aren't crew and other walkers) are called "Walker Stalkers". Our favorites were the Hookers for Hooters because they were dressed like ladies of the evening and drove around blasting upbeat music. It was fun to holler "HOOKERS!" whenever we saw them, even if we were in Mill Valley (heh, heh, heh.) 

They were just one set of stalkers... there were the two older dudes who showed up at different points on the route to cheer us on... 
the Boob Lady who invited everyone to touch... 

the folks who got up early to cheer us as we left camp on the last day... We couldn't have done it without any of them!

3. Incredible support by the crew... From the food, to crossing guards, to helpful police officers in different cities, to folks who bused our tables, to the medical crew, to the folks who scanned you in, to the sweep van crews... AMAZING. Made me feel like I had a vacation, even though I walked 60 miles in 3 days!

2. Showing off my knitting and knitting publicly. Sorry folks, you knew knitting had to make an appearance somewhere... I knit boob hats and they were very popular! Tons of folks took our pictures, well the tops of our heads. Here's my fave photo of the infamous BOOB HATS which I've titled "Boobs by the Bay":

And some photos of us being crafty at camp:

And the #1 reason to walk 60 miles in 3 days...

Enjoying your friends, making new ones, and being reminded of why we really walk. It was truly wonderful to spend 3 days and 60 miles with my two friends and neighbors, Michelle and Deena. I was so glad to have them join me on this journey. We were able to meet a lot of other fabulous folk, including other Ravelers (Team Unraveled in particular), my fantabulous, beautiful, energetic and incredibly fast walker tentmate Dee Ann, and Pink Beard Barry, who is completing all 14 of the 3Day events this year.

While walking through Golden Gate Park, we came upon a group of women in lawn chairs, cheering us on. I noticed that one of them was covering up the hair she was losing. I asked her if I could hug her (it's my thing to hug survivors and future survivors) and she held me close and said in my ear, "Thank you so much. I'm fighting this thing and I'M GOING TO WIN." In those few words, she boiled it down. 

Thank you. Good luck. I'll see you in 2 years.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The New Me

Dear PLI Journal,
Wow! Can you believe it? It's already August and the summer session is OVER!!!!!!! OMG, I just don't know what to say. I mean, the summer's been great- done a lot of great work about so many things, especially about myself. I feel I've really, really, really grown, not just as a potential school leader, but also as a person. Wow. That's about all I can say.

I am, though, a little worried. I'm worried about going back to work and sliding back into my old self. You know, the one who bottled things up and did little to take action. The one who waited for others to tell her what to do. The one with great ideas who never said anything. Well, forget that! Wait until they meet THE NEW ME! Smarter, stronger, more outspoken, with a who-cares attitude...

Wow. What a makeover.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Dear Mr. Affleck and Mr. Lehane

I think you must have read some of the readings from my grad program. If you didn't, well, then, I was either reading something deeper into your book/movie Gone, Baby, Gone or the readings have done a good job of seeping into my deeper memory.

At the end, I kept making connections to the readings I've done over the last few weeks- to Freire and his idea that the oppressed must save themselves and Fuller and Holloway's study of poor mothers. I thought a lot about how adults make decisions for children who cannot stand up for themselves (Elmore) and how difficult it is to stand for the right thing even though it's against the majority and means a great loss to yourself (Carter's integrity). 

In the end, I am left, really, with no answers. I do, however, see how easily things will come up in my life that remind me of lessons learned since June 20th. And I should heed those lessons.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Important (and boring) Work of Accountability

Sorry, dear reader, for putting you through my thoughts on accountability. You've guessed it... that's what we're working on right now. But it's made me think... accountability is the one thing that school folk see as important, yes, but HELL NO, don't put me on the data team, puh-leeze. Yes, data is considered pretty boring, but it's also faceless and straightforward, impersonal and to the point. You can stick it on a graph. You can't stick a kid on a graph... you can't account for the fact that she didn't have breakfast the morning of the test because she got up late... you can't consider that he's had a head cold for the past couple of days, or that he's suffering from asthma... you can't chart the way he feels about this test you've put in front of him...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Accountability Reciprocity

"The child and the school are accountable to the state for test performance, but the state is not held accountable to the child or his school for providing adequate educational resources."
- Linda Darling-Hammond
So true... NCLB makes children, their families, teachers, school administrators, and school boards accountable for so much and yet what is the government doing to help? We discussed questions we have about NCLB today and mine came from a deep place of anger... there are schools in my district who are in program improvement, have been there for years, far beyond the number of years it takes to be "taken over". Well, NOW WHAT? Those kids are still not getting what they need. This is a DAILY occurrence. We cannot wait until there is a new president. We cannot wait for NCLB to be renewed. WE CANNOT WAIT. The time is now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

No child left behind?

There are so many aspects of NCLB that leave children behind... Questions I have:

  • Is the testing culturally relevant?- Honestly, have you looked at some of those passages. They aren't really accessible to kids who live in the inner city, much less new immigrants. 
  • What about other types of assessment?
  • Are we assessing kids on standards that will help them be successful in the 21st century?
  • So I found out today that the written legislation is over 1,000 pages long... so WHO REALLY READ IT BEFORE THEY VOTED ON IT? Bi-partisan, my ass.
I have been on a real roller coaster around NCLB- I've accepted it not-so-reluctantly as a survival technique. I mean, it ain't goin' away, so why fight it. And now, armed with the knowledge I've gained over the past few weeks, I wonder how to fight it... or get around it... or Machiavelli it?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Obama's in my affinity group... Part Deux

Or, as Mark, who is also in my affinity group puts it, simply:


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Happy 90th Birthday, Nelson Mandela (a day belated)

"I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunity... It is an ideal for which I hope to live for. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

These are the words Nelson Mandela spoke in his own defense at his trial for treason in 1964. As we all know, he was sentenced to life imprisonment...

I had never heard this speech before yesterday. I was listening to Talk of the Nation, a show titled "Nelson Mandela's Lessons of Leadership". True to form, my ears perked up at the word "leadership" (yes, I've been duly brainwashed by my program but, I swear, it's a good thing.) I heard different people who have known Mandela at different points in his life attest to his incredible leadership; I heard the perfect model of integrity (a la Stephen Carter.) I've come to acknowledge that true integrity, as defined by Carter, is not so easy:
"Integrity, as I will use the term, requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong." (from Integrity, p. 7)
Many folks think they have integrity, but I believe it really is difficult to attain. Step 1 seems easy enough, but only in some situations. Consider the multitude of difficulties involved with step 2. True integrity requires action. And not covert action (see step 3.)

Mandela definitely has all three. Read the quote above. Right there, in 53 words, he embodied true integrity.

Happy 90th, Mr. Mandela. Thank you for teaching us so much with not just your words, but your actions as well. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why we laugh...

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
- Japanese proverb

Yesterday afternoon my workgroup mate and I had a really good laugh about nothing educational, deep, profound, or sophisticated. We laughed in a way that made our eyes well up with tears and our jaws and stomachs hurt. And it felt really good. Really, really, really good. Apparently we needed it. Or, we were just so tired and strung out on sugar that was all we could do. 

I would recommend you do that in times of stress, but it's not something you can fake. It just has to happen, no matter where you are or what you're doing. But you certainly can't fight it.

We're all fools whether we laugh or not, so we may as well laugh.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants and Reverse ELD Strategies

I am on a constant quest to connect educational technology to every piece that I am learning in this program. I often refer to those of us who are my age or older as "digital immigrants" because we have not grown up with a constant stream of digital media like those who are currently college-aged or younger (they are digital immigrants.) (These, by the way, are not my invention. They belong to Marc Prensky who wrote a really great article titled "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants". Interesting stuff... go read it...) 

Today we discussed the strategies needed to help English Learners access the core curriculum, and my mind starting going to all kinds of different places. Aren't English Learners and Digital Immigrants, in some ways, alike? ELs and DIs are both trying to learn a new language while trying to make sense of things in that new language. ELs often come here with a structure for learning in their brains already, as do DIs. But here's where my mind started to spin: if DIs are the teachers, and DNs are the students, then shouldn't strategies be applied by the students to help teachers along with all things tech? Whoa. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Berkeley Experience

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack 
And you may find yourself in another part of the world 
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile 
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful 
 And you may ask did I get here? 

And you may ask yourself 
How do I work this? 
And you may ask yourself 
Where is that large automobile?  
And you may tell yourself 
This is not my beautiful house! 
And you may tell yourself 
This is not my beautiful wife!
- "Once in a Lifetime", David Byrne/Brian Eno, 1980, Talking Heads

So, I started my day running the oh-so-Berkeleyesque gauntlet: folks striking (AFSCME), people slowing down to show their support, then the tree sitter craziness (check out this Open Letter to the Tree Sitters that I found) to which Thing 1, who is 7, said, "I want to be a tree sitter." Drop him off at camp, go right back through it (this time slowing down myself to honk and show my support for AFSCME.)

Class, lunch, more class, then...

And, then...

I went to the Chancellor's house. Uh-huh. The Chancellor's house. Check it out:
I sat on the back lawn and enjoyed a good beer and fine food, a lovely speech by the Chancellor and a great presentation from two of my cohort members. I chit-chatted with many cool edu-geeks, honored the man who is sending me through grad school (in partnership with my parents), and even exchanged a few words with the Dean of the Graduate School of Education.

Then I came home, put Thing 2 in time out for not helping to clean his room, then helped him clean his room, vacuumed, managed dirty clothes, refereed a wrestling match between hubby and Things 1 and 2, kissed the Things good night and tucked them in, and now here I sit.

In the end, sometimes I feel like it's "once in a lifetime", but it's really just "same as it ever was."

Why do people read? Part Deux

A good point that one of my classmates/colleagues made today was about why people read. He said that it was really all about communication, and that for every reader, there is a writer- someone trying to communicate something. Reading is all about attempting to make sense of the world, and the pursuit of truth. It is so much grander than phonics, decoding, comprehension, and Dick and Jane- but those things are part of it, too. 

This program has really re-energized my love of reading. I had really gotten to a point of just listening to books while I knit. Now I love reading, and I think it's because of the social aspect of it. It's like having a book club meeting every day about important and relevant topics. I think that we really need to push that part of reading to engage and encircle our disenfranchised readers who so often are kids and adults of color. 

So, I'm going to say it again... Yay! Oprah!

Why do people read? What type of reading is done in school?

Why do people read? People read for very different reasons, I think that is obvious, but I also feel that those reasons can be boiled down to two things: to get information or to be entertained. And yes, at first it seems that you could split that up between non-fiction reading and fiction reading, but, hey, honestly I know a ton of folks who read non-fiction for entertainment (me among them.) There is a social aspect to this as well that can overlap both of the other aspects. This socio-cultural aspect could be the one thing that could get a reluctant reader to get interested.

What type of reading is done in school? I think that in my district, not enough of the right reading for the right reasons is happening... instead of reading for information or to be entertained, folks are reading because they have to and that, in itself, is a block to the other two. Forget the socio-cultural aspect of it, that just isn't emphasized...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You've got to be taught...

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
- from South Pacific

The day I realized what this song was about, South Pacific stopped being that entertaining war musical/love story and became what it should be considered- a strong commentary on race. Let me back up a little and let you know that I was raised on showtunes. My mom is a HUGE FAN and she LOVES South Pacific, I'm sure partly because it takes place in Hawaii, where my dad is from. She was a nurse, Nellie Forbush, the main character, is a nurse. And hey, the tunes are catchy. 

This song has become, in some ways, a rallying cry to remind me of where all that racism is coming from because, (watch out, here comes another showtune reference) as they sing in Avenue Q (I warned you), "everyone's a little bit racist." Uh, yeah, AT LEAST a little bit. You're not born that way, you're taught to be that way. And I honestly don't think most parents do it intentionally. In some cases, they don't even know they are racist themselves, since racism is so institutionalized in this country.

So here's my quandary. We are raising our kids carefully. We do not use ethnic slurs, we don't tell ethnic jokes, we don't stereotype (please note that we were "taught" biases just like everyone else, we are not perfect, by any means), we are really careful about the TV our kids watch and other media they are exposed to. BUT, let's consider the state of society today. Sure, we can be racial allies in the home, but then we send our kids out into the world and what do they see? Black and brown kids struggling in school because of a lack of cultural understanding. Black and brown adults criminalized/demonized in the media. Etc., etc., etc. This list could go on and on. Now I have to undo the bad lessons my kids are learning out there.

I've already had the "gay" discussion with my 7-year-old. He told me that the kids at school were calling him something bad, but he didn't know what it meant. I asked him what it was, and he said "gay". I told him that people often use that word to mean something bad, but it isn't bad at all. Then he asked me what it meant, and, honestly, I considered telling him what my mom told me when I was young, "It means happy." BUT, because my son is living in a different time, and actually knows folks in the LGBT community, I told him that it's when there are two moms and two dads in a family. He got it, and that was the best I could do for a 7-year-old. 

Basically, I am preparing myself to have more conversations like this as he grows. I just hope that he always asks us when he doesn't understand.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"... and miles to go before I sleep..."


I've got a whole lot of cranial mileage to make around this whole teaching and learning piece, not just tonight, but throughout my career. In some ways it's good to know where you stand on things, but in other ways it hurts to see that the road is long. Really freakin' long.

The other day, my eldest was saying that he is smarter than the youngest. I told him that wasn't necessarily so... he was older and had had more experiences and had more knowledge, but he wasn't necessarily smarter. Then I kicked it up a notch by telling him that I wasn't necessarily smarter than him... I just had more knowledge, BAM! had had more school, BAM! had read more books. BAM! And he STILL looked at me and FLAT OUT denied what I had said, examples and all. 

"No, Mama, you're smarter than me. Yeah, you are."

Sheesh, it starts early, this construct of smart/knowledge, prove/improve.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Now what?

We "finished" our module on race today. OK, so we've reached the end of that part of the reader, but, honestly, that module will never be finished for any of us. It's been challenging, the talk of white privilege and generally, how messed up our society is. One person brought up that some people come to this program and get to talk about race for a week, but for people of color, it is a conversation that is ongoing. 


So, once again, I'm going to ask you all to consider where you are on the "color line". I'm developing a survey that will place folks on a line and I am hoping that you will help me in this project. When I am done with the survey, I will post a link to it, and it is my hope that you will share it with others. 

Take a stand. Think about things that are painful or make you uncomfortable. Talk about things that make people squirm. Just do it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Crystal Ball

Probably one of the best things this program is doing for us, in my opinion (and, granted, we are only 2 weeks in, and there have been a lot of great things), is assigning us the task of writing and presenting our vision statements- how we believe education should be, our vision of the future.

In considering this, I've had to start with a bit of digital media which inspired me onto this path I'm now trodding: 

Every time I watch this, I cry. I think of the great disservice we do to our students by not preparing them as best we can for the future. I say as best we can because we don't know what the future holds. When I was in school, I wasn't taught to recycle. Or to use a computer. I was taught to never talk to strangers, but I was still allowed to walk home from school alone. My teachers and parents didn't know that we'd run out of space for our garbage and resources for creating more of that garbage, that practically every job would require some technological knowledge, that kids would be solicited online... So it is up to us to consider the past, take a hard look at the future, and fashion the best possible preparedness plan for the children.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

One for the record book...

Picture 6.png
Originally uploaded by trumom
Well, my own record book, actually.

I've managed to raise over $4000 for the fight against breast cancer, and all before the deadline. I'll walk my 60 miles in the beginning of September with my friends (Team BFF- Breast Friends Forever.)

Raising money for a worthy cause has taught me a few things about folks:
  • If you JUST ASK, the worst they can do is say "no". OK, there's much worse, I'm sure, but I haven't come across it. Not even many "no's" really. (Phew!)
  • The hardest part is asking. Once you do it a few times, it gets easier.
  • If it's a truly good cause, and it's already well-known and well-publicized, raising money is pretty easy. (Now, I wonder if I should take my fundraising know-how and pick a more difficult cause to raise for.)
  • It makes it easier on me if I can offer them something. Like a chance at winning something. Something nice... 
If you'd like to help the cause, visit my donation site at:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Obama's in my affinity group.

Our courageous conversations today around race have empowered me, but I want to do more. Right now, I need to work on myself a little more in defining my identity and how that plays out with, especially, the way I raise my children. I want it to be acknowledged that people like me are not either/or. I want biraciality/mixed-raciality to be acknowledged.

My program has (thankfully) created a mixed race affinity group- there are only 3 of us, but at least we are a group. We talked about so many issues around not fitting in with either race, choosing one over the other, our experiences around growing up "not either/or", being asked "What are you?"

We talked about Barack Obama and how he has made a difference in our lives by acknowledging his biraciality through honoring both his African-American and White sides. He is not either/or. We take great pride in the fact that he'd be in our affinity group.

So, how has White privilege, or lack thereof, affected you? If you are White and reading this, you may still not realize that you have special privileges. Think about that. It could be little things like when you go into the drugstore, you can find make-up in your shade of skin tone. Or maybe if you get pulled over, you are sure that it's not because of your race. Just think about it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not either/or

I was asked this morning by the coordinator of my grad program, "So, how do you identify yourself?"

My answer: Chinese. What I should've said was "Today, I feel Chinese." (of course I couldn't really back that up with any reasoning, it's just a gut feeling)

As a biracial individual, I have often felt I had to choose one or the other. I am finding it increasingly more important to carve out my own path and be myself and to build up my biracial identity, because that is who I am and what I come from.

We worked on a poem today titled "I Am From". Here is my start:

I am from casseroles and dim sum

Corn fields and sugar cane

Golden hills with swaths of black

Temporary humidity, more-constant fog

Tradewinds sometimes

I am from the sweet smell of plumeria and sweet peas

Daily rain and weekly thunderstorms

Dairy Queen and Matsumoto’s

A couple of continents’ worth of cicada song

I felt it was so important to include, AND TAKE PRIDE IN, all the places/people/things I am from: Mom's casseroles to Dad's dim sum; the corn fields of Illinois, the sugar cane of Hawai'i, the dried and burnt landscape of Northern California; the cicada of Illinois, Hawai'i, Taiwan, and Japan. 

I am a complex story, as is everyone else...