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Mi vida gris

y otros colores

Pollination
emily
quirkies
There's a fine layer of yellow pollen on everything outside. It makes the world look dusty and oddly dull under the bright, bright sun and clear sky; well, not everything, just the stationary objects. It feels like a new photoshop effect, Crisp Mammals.

Indoors looks normal enough. There's a couple of couches, a dog curled up in what was clean laundry, the politically correct world map (proper surface area scale) and the scary-looking shadow that the jade plant projects on the wall. There's also me. I can see my belly protruding a little farther than it did a few months ago. I did a bit of stress eating while I was finishing up my student teaching and portfolio, and then I did some stress eating while I started to face what to do with my future. No nutella was safe. I'm not sure whether I'm done yet.

Right now I'm putting together job applications. Just last week a few positions sprang up in my general vicinity and I'm excited about getting back to teaching. Apprehensive, too. It's all taking longer than I thought it would, gathering transcripts and writing letters. It doesn't help that I feel like my time is never my own. It's an understandable side effect of being unemployed, that everyone assumes I'm free to do whatever they want me to do. For the most part I'm happy to help, I'm healthier when I'm busy. Lately I've been helping my mother look for a new place to live. She's moving to be near my sister and me now that she's retired. So I'm also dealing with the whole box of crazy that my mother inspires.

*deep breath*

I'm supposed to be practicing/ learning mindfulness (I know how contradictory this sentence is). There's a lot about it that resonates with me, intellectually and emotionally. I can see it becoming a powerful ally, or a fundamental muscle. There's a layer of peace that I experience alongside all the anxiety that is closely related to acceptance. I've just never learned to focus that peace inward. Even the thought of it makes me short circuit a little. Acceptance of me? Hmmmmm...
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brown paper packages
cos
quirkies
Because I tend to forget the little things, the happy random moments and comments, I figure I should write some of them down.

In Thursday's ESL class, I had my students listen to a little presentation on St. Patrick's Day to try to explain the green-tinted craziness that was about to take over Boston and its environs. Somehow this led to a discussion on corned beef recipes, and before I knew it one of the ladies offered to bring in her corned beef to Monday's class and someone else said she'd bring rice, and after that it was all a chorus of flan and cake and who knows what else. So now we have ourselves a little party planned. :)

On Friday I had a girl get up out of her seat during Physics class to show me her electronic tuner (for orchestra) and ask me something about it, but then she stopped half way up to me because she got it. She sat back down saying she finally understood how the thing worked, and why tuning instruments worked and she was just beaming. Then someone else said, "Isn't it great when that happens?", and I realized that most of the time I have no clue what's going on in those teenage minds and I have to acknowledge that sometimes they're bored and tuned out but sometimes they're having their own transformative moment and for the most part I'll never know. And it's all fine. It's just my job to give them those opportunities.
Twenty minutes later, as if The Universe felt I needed the lesson reinforced, a girl who spends most of her time with her head on her desk (but looking at me) stopped by on her way out the door to tell me she's thinking she may want to do physics in college and wants to talk about whether she could combine that with chemistry and what kind of jobs she could get. The fact that she's a first generation immigrant from the DR just makes it sweeter, and tied up in string.

changing gears
emily
quirkies
I'm on vacation this week and I don't quite know what to do with myself. It's been a long time since I had something to take a break from *dangles preposition heartlessly*, and I find I need some time to adjust. I've been student teaching at the local high school, which so far means taking over 2 classes, some grading, way too much getting up before 6, and a little wrestling with my sense of self. My brain is trying to reset to my former teacher identity and finding that it doesn't quite fit to reality, sometimes in very literal ways: in my morning commute my hands and feet keep trying to drive a manual transmission which I haven't had for years now. I have to consciously remember to just stay in Drive. I'm also teaching ESL 2 nights a week and doing this seminar-thing at the University a few times a month. The result is a much more demanding schedule than I've been accustomed to and I find that little by little I've actually had a bit more energy. Supply and demand, I guess. At first I mistook the energy for anxiety, but I'm consciously trying to differentiate between them. It's a strange task, I'm developing check lists to go through to see if I'm worrying or just tapping my foot for no reason. Of course the check list can remind me of things I could be worrying about so it's all a tight-rope walk, at best. Itchy tight-rope.

And now I will either a) go read some fanfic, or b) watch the end of Downton Abbey while crocheting a TARDIS blanket. :D
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finishing up
emily
quirkies
I should be working right now but maybe writing here a bit will get my writing neural pathways warmed up. Maybe I'm just procrastinating. *shrugs*

Tomorrow is the due date for the last project in my last class in the Teaching Certification program. Tomorrow at midnight. \o/ I'm around halfway done right now, I just need that final push. Actually, I also need to hand in the documentation of all the observation hours I've done at the local school, and then I'll be officially signed up for Student Teaching next term. _o/ (partial yay!)

I'm writing on my beautiful brand new little laptop.\\o// My family got together and everyone chipped in for a holiday/ birthday gift (I'm a mac, laptops are expensive). My old one was being held together (with only partial success) by duct tape, it also ran an OS so old that it wasn't capable of opening 21st century pdfs. The new one is like a dream. :D

Fantastic gifts aside, I'm actually mostly looking forward to the holidays. It'll be the first time in 2 years that I spend it with the family (I'll miss my BFF though) and it'll be the first time ever we all spend it at our place with my niece and nephew. They're usually at their mom's for Christmas as she's the only actual Christian among us, but this year we've got them. Bwa-Ha-ha! My sister is planning a wonderfully mixed celebration (latkes, roast pork and tembleque). At the very least it will be delicious.

And now I'm hungry.
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a library with a view
emily
quirkies
I'm sitting in a shiny new public library within frisbee-throwing distance of my old job/ school. I'm waiting for people from my class to discuss a group project. Through no fault of my own, I'm uncharacteristically early and trying not to be antsy/ maudlin about the old job. And... I just chatted with a former student from my first year teaching. If any class has reason to not remember me fondly, it's hers (I had no clue what I was doing) but she was sweet and happily told me about preparing for grad school in chemistry. *is proud*

The more I see of other schools, the more I realize how rare and wonderful that school was as a work environment. There was so much cooperation and a culture of development and improvement and caring. Right now I'm spending a lot of time doing observations at a high school with the traditional lone physics teacher. It's a very different vibe. I may end up doing my practice teaching there with him; it's the most convenient option but I have some reservations. I have to figure out whether it'll be a problem to work with someone with a very different teaching style, or whether I'm just worrying because he reminds me of the Horrible Teacher I worked with that one year. *shudder*

The librarian at the desk behind me has now told the same story 3 times (hopefully to different people) about being shushed by a patron. Perversely, I'm feeling the urge to shush her. :P

It's been so long since I actually sat down just to read fanfic (or anything else for fun) and I'm so tempted! Maybe I'll set up a rewards system for myself and read a little for every few pages of "Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards" I get through.

did i stutter?
emily
quirkies
Should be working on my homework but I can't because I'm too busy being quietly angry/ bemused. I emailed the prof yesterday with some questions about the homework (took me forever to work up the courage because I am silly). My first question was along the lines of "do you mean X, or Y, or something else entirely?" His answer? "Yes".

non-inertial reference frames
emily
quirkies
I am officially back in grad school. Again. I'm just taking the one class I have left in my program but I still feel all entitled to complain about homework and the cost of textbooks and when are they going to finish that construction on campus. I still have the pre-practicum and practicum to do. Not sure how that's going to work or how long it will take, but I am moving forward. Acceleration is a big deal.

My part-time job teaching ESL hasn't started up yet. Apparently the program is no longer being run by the same people and there's less funding. The problem is now the other teacher and I need to do all the administrative stuff (more work, less pay!); the good thing is we may be able to improve things. For example, we may figure out what payroll needs from us so we can get paid regularly (the school district still owes me a paycheck from May). Also, if I rewrite the fliers and ads for the program I can fix both the English and Spanish typos *is a geek*. But the real benefit is that now we're meeting up and working together on a syllabus and we stand a chance of doing a much better job. I guess that's acceleration again.

Change is scary. It's nice to be able to look a little into the future without wincing, but I have to get over my fear of positive expectations. The monsters in my closet are the rainbows and unicorns.

Swiftly tilting planet
emily
quirkies
Last weekend I called my dad to find out how much damage Miss Adler Hurricane Irene had done in his part of the world (thankfully, none). Looks like I'll be getting the same call in a few days.
In the meantime I may get the opportunity to learn what a sump pump is. The fact that the basement needs to be sump-pumped before the storm so much as drizzles, is a bit off-putting.
And now I'm sleepy.
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just a look around
emily
quirkies
It's been forever it seems. So, state of the self partial role call:
  • Aunt. Right now that's one of my primary roles in life. I live with my (step) niece and nephew (50% of the time) who are both teenagers now. There are fewer bedtime stories but more chocolate milk and, I think, more laughter too (though they're embarrassed when I laugh too loudly in public). As a non-parent, I get very little of the door-slamming. And then there are my friends' babies (the boy, my nephew, gets jealous sometimes). Last week my friend's mother asked her how to say "Auntie" in English (from Persian) so she could call me Auntie while I held her grandson. I think my heart grew a size or two. I love my BFF's baby girl fiercely, and I miss her almost as much as I miss seeing her mom become a Mom. I am not a Mom, I'm an aunt.

  • Teacher. Today I taught my nephew a little about mathematical notation for series (of numbers). I've had a part-time job for the last year, teaching ESL to adults. It's a free program with free childcare a few nights a week at the local high school. I've been making it up as I go along (the internet is a beautiful thing) but I'm starting to get more organized for this round. I applied for a "real" job teaching science at a new charter school for kids who had dropped out, it would have been perfect for me in many ways but I haven't finished the courses for my License so I didn't get the job. It was the final push I needed to enroll in that blasted course, but the gods of bureaucracy are still fighting me on that. Not sure which way it'll go.

  • Neurochemical mess. I've spent the last 2 days in mild surprise that I've accomplished some stuff. Not surprisingly this time frame coincides with the first days I've been appropriately medicated in months. Have I mentioned that I hate the healthcare system?

  • Fangirl. Just saw the last few eps of Supernatural this week. Hadn't been able to since elanurel died. My sister watched with me. Have succeeded in indoctrinating nephew in the cult of Doctor Who. I lured him in with 11 and now that he's hooked we're working our way through 10. He clings to me when things get scary, it's adorable. Sherlock fandom is still where I'm hiding out. Am repeatedly enthralled with the concept of asexuality. Fiction (art?) has always been about finding resonance with someone else's work and following it 'til it's taught me something new; there's a lot of Sherlock stuff that makes me think what if? I've re-read a few of the AC Doyle books but got distracted by His Dark Materials; am now on book 3 ("borrowed" from niece when she wasn't around and am now embarrassed about asking permission, right now my knitting is serendipitously draped over the book).


  • Tomorrow I'm meeting up with 2 of my former roommates from college. That's probably what brought on the list-making. They're both kind, good people, but I still get the gut reaction to hide.
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    (no subject)
    emily
    quirkies
    Today I watched a week-old baby discover his right ear (he'd found the left a few days ago). The sight left me giggling and besotted and utterly pleased with the universe.

    embarrassment is timeless
    emily
    quirkies
    I didn't realize I could blush this much.
    I just got a facebook friend request from a dude who thinks I groped him at a basketball game when we were 17 - but really it was my evil genius of a so-called BFF who pinched his butt and then stepped away from me gazing innocently into the distance. Only I saw the smirk! I may or may not have had a small crush on the boy. If only in the vague way wherein it took me literally years to even stop to wonder why he didn't seem to mind.
    Oh, Crap! Now there's a FB message too. How can I be this embarrassed? I am an adult, dammit!
    We'd just met up again that week, years after he'd left our school. He somehow managed for a few days to fall in the infinitesimally small group of boys humans who I knew well enough that I'd comfortably talk to, and who didn't know me well enough to see me as the clichéd "girl with glasses who will help you with homework and/or argue with you about the musical merits of grunge and/or help you reach things from the top shelf", you know the kind "the one with the dateable friends". Naturally, after The Incident I never showed my face again. A couple of weeks later I left for college.
    That may sound bitter, but it's not. It's kind of fond. It's the way I am. I run away if I think someone's interested in me so that was a novel feeling of potential potential, thwarted in the most ridiculous of ways (and therefore not my fault). I hate it when my BFF is right.
    Still, would it be weird to write back "I swear it wasn't me"? Probably.

    Funny (weird) Valentine
    cos
    quirkies
    I need to keep my mind off the menstrual cramps and the TeeVee won't let me forget that it's Valentine's Day (I have no proof that the knowledge is exacerbating the pain, none at all). I'm chronically single and not the biggest fan of the holiday but even I have to admit there have been some good ones.

    Valentine's Day two years ago was the first time my nephew really let me help him with his homework. I had just moved in to my sister's household at the beginning of the month and he was still very guarded around me. He was in the 5th grade and he had to make a Valentine's mailbox for himself and a card for each person in his class. The table was full of construction paper and markers and cute stickers and one very unhappy kid. He thought the assignment was stupid and he didn't want to do it but it had to be done perfectly. He wanted my sister's help but was afraid she would make things too girly. She was afraid she'd misspell something, so she asked me to join them. I told him I thought the assignment was silly. That shocked him enough to let me help and eventually we had cards that were colorful enough to look good that were not predominantly pink or red. We used tinfoil (very manly) to cover the box and I think we decided to purposefully put some stickers on upside-down. He was pretty happy with the result. It was the begining of a beautiful friendship. &hearts

    Valentine's Day about 11 years ago (damn!) in grad school I shared an office with 6 guys (guess who cleaned out the fridge). Somebody bought a ginormous bag of those heart shaped candies with the little messages on them and there was this unvoiced expectation that I - The Girl - would appreciate this. But they're not chocolate and I have no time for non-chocolate based candies so I pretty much ignored them. Then the one dude I did hang out with and sort of had a crush on started eating them by the handfuls and he carefully picked out every single one with a negative or teasing message and walked them over to my desk individually. He kept at it for about the 3 days that it took him to eat them all. It was ridiculous and made me smile and I ate almost all the ones he gave me.

    There was also that time about 7 years ago when my roommates were pretending they weren't dating each other and insisted the 3 of us go out together. HA! It was ridiculously uncomfortable but the food was really good. Thai food. I am capable of serious tunnel vision when sufficiently inspired.

    That does it. I'm going to raid the fridge for chocolate. Cacao! Yes, I watch Portlandia.

    scent
    emily
    quirkies
    Today I did the last load of laundry that still held the scents of my last visit to Spain. I could still smell my BFF and her luminous baby girl (and their laundry detergent and possibly their cats but not much cigarette smoke). I miss them already but I'm trying to focus on the memories instead of the nostalgia. I planned to frolic in the fresh warm clothes as soon as the drier was done (it's wicked cold right now) but got distracted and ended up baking chocolate macadamia cookies instead. It was my first time making those, in fact yesterday I wouldn't have been able to pick out a macadamia in a nut line up, but the nice neighbor with the snow-moving-machine-thingy (snowblower?) who sometimes kindly clears our driveway mentioned that he liked them and more snow is on its way.
    Why does livejournal's spellcheck object to "macadamia"? Also, why does it object to "livejournal"?
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    mind over heat
    emily
    quirkies
    I just spent n * days in an apartment with no heat in December in New England without even noticing the heat was out. To be fair, I admit I spend most of my time in the parts of the house that I share with the family, but I have been sleeping here. I had noticed the cold but was so effectively distracted by guilt over not having finished insulating the windows that I just suppressed/ forgot the freezing temperatures. If I were a mad genius I'd be working on a guilt-generated perpetual motion machine.
    * for values of n such that 3 < n < 15
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    my sanity gives some warning in her flight
    emily
    quirkies
    I've never understood the allure of mind-altering substances. I can dimly acknowledge that the analgesic effects are desirable and maybe too a bit of distraction, a shift in focus, a little loosening or just a change in scenery, but I can't be bothered to want those things from here. I'm too busy sifting through my perceptions, trying to figure out which ones I can trust. Too busy worrying about maintaining the flow of medications that may someday perform the ultimate alchemy on my brain and render me un-altered. I want the inverse operation. I want my senses to perceive some average fraction of what's really there. I want to react to reality; to be present in it and maybe even participate. I know that reality is unfair and relentless, smelly and painful and full of people who insist on making the same mistakes over and over again, but I can't imagine anything more beautiful. Even when it's ugly, it's the only shared platform, the only state of being in which I don't have to be alone. Sometimes the thought of people squandering their sanity bothers me the same way unnecessary disposable packaging does.

    But I don't even like my reality.Collapse )

    unstable equilibria
    emily
    quirkies
    Hadn't been here in so long that my browser no longer remembers this page. Living the unexamined life!

    I had a fantastic month in Puerto Rico. I stayed at my dad's while my tummy did some mending. The trip was strategically planned to coincide with my BFF's first trip home with her baby. I can now say that I was there for the Wee Lass's first at home bath and for her first dip in the sea. But saying it is nowhere near as cool as actually having been there (which itself is not nearly as cool as the fact that she even exists).

    It's fun watching the BFF be a mom. It's hard to describe her former emotional equilibrium (it's hard to describe her), but there's been a shift that reels in both her dominant tendencies to 1) joyfully give herself completely to other people and to 2) keep herself as independent and logic-bound as possible. It's like her new center of gravity makes both extremes work together. Still, the 2 of us laugh knowing that our schoolmates never would have predicted that the sweet nerd (me) and the beautiful, mad genius that so many people revolved around (her) would be struggling so fiercely to hold onto our sanity and to any hope of ever functioning in society.

    So yeah, once the surgery stopped occupying all my headspace I was forced to admit that I've reached a level of dysfunction that I've always feared but never really let myself consider. My savings ran out a while ago but I didn't wake up and do something about it (except engage ultra-thrift mode). Even before my health issues kicked in I had settled into living on my family's generosity while contributing just enough around the house to keep from feeling like an unbearable burden. Not in a calculated way, just in the way that my good intentions are still evident despite all the self-sabotage and the Marx's Bros. style comedy of errors that follows me around.

    It's not a sustainable way to live. At least not for me now that I've admitted to myself what I'm doing. And every medical bill that arrives is a pointy reminder. So now I'm applying for jobs and fighting with my health insurance and considering applying for government aid if my own efforts aren't enough. But I can't sleep and every time I slip up I end up without my meds. I don't know where I'd be without all the people helping me, and especially the people letting me help them. Speaking of which, my dad announced today he's leaving his wife.

    uninvited
    emily
    quirkies
    It's too late, tonight, to drag the past out, into the lightCollapse )
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    fashioning
    cos
    quirkies
    I just watched my Invincibly Cool Niece head out to her 8th grade graduation. She is wearing a white tux with a turquoise bow-tie to match the turquoise chunks in the ends of her hair. Oh, and white converse. She rocks!

    She goes to a school that caters to homogeneity in ways that set my teeth on edge*. She knows she'll stand out and some people will disapprove**. She even cares. But she'd rather be true to herself and I couldn't be more proud. Not that I think what she wears is so crucial, I guess what I admire is her decision making process. The kid is more than alright. &hearts


    * My favorite example is that the invitations to the elementary school graduation actually said "Parents only, no siblings." I get what they're going for, but the assumptions they're making about what a family looks like and how it functions (and it socio-economic status) are way too exclusive.

    ** Her grandmother came round to accepting the outfit after seeing Sarah Jessica Parker wear a tux in the Sex and the City movie.

    How did June sneak up on me like this?
    emily
    quirkies
    I just stopped flinching every time I have to write 2010. And yet here June is with her pretty flowers, sunny days, lovely thunder storms and bountiful drainage tubes sticking out of my belly.
    A little over a week ago I parted ways with my abdominal mass, all 15 x 15 x 7 cm(^3) of it. Putting me back together again got a little dicey but my surgeon had the foresight to call in an oncologist and a plastic surgeon and they got me all meshed up and sewn (and glued!) back together. I have a pretty impressive 24 cm horizontal scar at former belly-button height. It will be a while before I can recognize it as part of my body, even after I get rid of the drainage tubes.
    I'm not sure what happens next. Medically, there's been talk of medication or radiation therapies to try to prevent a recurrence but I can't find any convincing research on either treatment. Non-medically? I'm nowhere near figuring that out yet. A part of me was hoping that this last surgery would act as a book-end separating some of the ground I've lost since that first surgery from the rest of my life. Letting me regroup (and watch my SPN!) and try to my hand at the living deliberately thing. But it's 3:30 in the morning again and I can't sleep. I thought I was done with my old coursework but got an email yesterday saying I still owed one last paper.
    June, she'll change her tune.
    Some things have changed. As usual, they're the bits where I've let other people into my life. I need to concentrate on those bits. I also need to take my next dose of painkillers.
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    Relief (now with added narcolepsy)
    emily
    quirkies
    Today I got the fabulous news that my Abdominal Tumor of Unusual Size (a-T.O.U.S) is benign. While a large fraction of my looming nameless angst melted away, the anxiety over the surgery and dealing with my parents snuck right into its place. This is what relief feels like in my brain, it's dropping from a generalized state of stress that was keeping me from eating, sleeping and concentrating to a lower level worry about particular things. I can now name the stressors. Woo hoo! It's a ridiculous way to live, I know. There is still genuine, palpable relief. I just don't let myself enjoy it. The sudden change in anxiety had me falling asleep all day, my body kept trying to shut down, relax, reset. I fell deeply asleep for short periods of time, I might have even dreamt. Maybe my dreams were happy.

    Anyway, the tumor is pretty aggressive, it grows quickly and recurrence is common. They'll have to take out wide margins around it to reduce the risk of leaving any behind. The surgeon said I'll have to have some abdominal wall reconstruction including a mesh prosthesis to hold me together. I find the idea both gross and fascinating.

    This time next week I'll be a cyborg. Heh. Surgery is Friday the 28th. What should I do to enjoy my last week of having a belly button and all-natural abdominal wall?
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