Welcome Back to the Madhouse

We’re all mad here.  (It goes without saying.)

Training and preparation for the new school year is in full swing, and I’m getting used to the getting up early and forcing myself to bed at night, and starting on my “To Read About Math” pile, and trying to find time to blog and make art and poems in the meantime.

Just posted my Art Journal projects for July, and a new post  on the Making Mathemagicians page.  Hope to see you there!

Back to School, and Updates

It’s my last week of vacation, and I’m making it count.

Whoever still thinks teachers still get 3 months of summer vacation is sorely mistaken.  At my school, I get five weeks of summer vacation.  Five weeks to de-compress from teaching 100 kids all year, and hanging around with 600. I love them, but can you imagine taking care of 100 kids a day? You’d need to de-stress, too.

Anyhow, after my five weeks, some of which is spent traveling, and some of which is spent binge-watching shows on Netflix, I get to return to work for professional development. Three weeks of workshops that last longer than my regular school day, before our students return on August 14.

I work at a public charter school, so we have a lot more PD than other schools: about 300 hours a year. When I taught in public school in another state, we were lucky if we got 15 hours a year. The reason we do this is because our children need it. I work with a largely immigrant population: kids who often get the short end of the stick as far as getting an excellent education goes. It is our job to close that opportunity gap for our kids, to make the possibility of going to college real for them.  It’s working.

I am a Math Interventionist. I work with small groups of students struggling with math; students who are in the lowest 20-25% of test scores, but don’t qualify for special services. I take groups throughout the week to work on skills and strategies. I love it.  I call my program “Making Mathemagicians.”

One thing I love is discovering new ways to approach the basic skills necessary to master mathematics. Anyone who knows me well knows I am not a master mathematician (I can handle K-5, which is what I teach), but I wish I was. I am enjoying learning right along with my students, and my goal is to become more proficient in a subject that always flustered me. Being “not a math person” has kept me humble, and allowed me to have empathy for these kids who struggle to understand even the most basic concepts. And, to their credit, I have only a handful of students who have ever said they don’t like math.

I have created a page for my mathematical journey as a teacher here at the Freelance Dilettante, called, appropriately, “Making Mathemagicians .” Other new sections are “Art Journals“, where I invite you to join me on an artistic journey, “Random Writings” (prose, articles, etc.) and “The Intrepid Adventurer“, where (eventually) I will put writings about my travels.

I know it’s a lot, but It keeps me from having eight blogs. Now I only have four, this one, and my three private ones. (Everyone should have a private, locked blog. Then no one can read your diary, even when you die.)

Anyway, I hope you join me on (at least some of) my journeys. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The Struggle Towards Unattachment.

The Buddha said that attachment is the source of all suffering.

I used to think that meant that people should not love people or things, or have feelings, like the image of some naked ascetic on a mountain top. I have come to realize that, at least for me, this “ideal”  is impossible. I love people wholeheartedly; I appreciate beautiful things. I definitely have some feelings, and strong ones.

Perhaps the “ideal” isn’t realistic, and we need to step away from it. To me, “unattachment” is not the same as “detachment” (and I think even some Buddhists will agree with me on this one.) Detachment connotes isolation, not caring, not feeling, not needing anything or anyone, while unattachment connotes something very different: not being attached to outcomes. It’s love without strings attached.

They say “If you love something, set it free.” (Or, if you’re Sting, it’s “someone“) and some people, in their attachment, will say “Oh, they set me free? That means they don’t love me anymore,” when it’s exactly the opposite. When I set someone free, I set them free *because* I love them, they now have the freedom to love me, or not, as they see fit.

To be honest, I royally suck at unattachment. I love people, and I want them to love me back. I want them to like me, and understand me, and think I’m funny, and cool, and smart, and to appreciate how much I love them. I want them to be honest with me. I want them to forgive me when I fuck up, just as I forgive them when they do.

However, I suffer.

I suffer from loneliness. From social anxiety. From feelings of rejection and loss. From thinking that people don’t like me because I’m awkward and weird. From self-hatred and self doubt. All because I am overly attached, not to people, but to what they think of me.

In other words, I’m attached to outcomes.  Instead of just loving people (including myself) regardless, I put all this weight on whether they love me back, or think I’m awesome, or whether they choose to forgive me.

It’s not that I don’t care or that I don’t want to put effort into relationships, or to right wrongs (because I’m wrong as often as I’m right), but what can I do about it, other than be me and take steps to be better? I can’t make people think I’m amazing or to fall in love with me platonically, or forgive my awkwardness. So, why act as if my life depends on it?

All I can do is try. It’s damned hard. When you love someone, it’s natural to want that love returned. But honestly, do you want coerced love, or do you want it given freely? In the future, I will continue to love, but I am renouncing the expectation that you will love me in return. (Although I hope you will, because this detachment thing is hard.)

I set you free.

 

The Drive to Create

For a long time now, I have been bemoaning my lack of inspiration, my creative blockages, and my growing desperation that my soul was lost forever, shriveled into a tiny walnut-shell of its former succulent self.

Last summer, I traveled to Peru, and while it was incredible (I took 3,000 pictures) it did not kickstart my creativity in the ways I had hoped. (Probably because I spent most of the rest of my vacation in bed with excruciating back spasms.) During my work year, I also struggle with any creativity outside of the range of developing lessons (a very different kind of creative process, but creative nonetheless.) Academic creativity, while satisfying, is a cerebral kind of expression, and rarely does it fully  feed the needs of heart and spirit that writing or making art provide.

Everyone has the need to create. Whether it’s cooking, or art, or designing games, or forming opinions in a blog, or programming, or painting giant canvases, we are the sum of creation, and we are born to express ourselves in many ways, large and small. For me, I have always enjoyed expressing myself in a variety of ways ( Hence, the title “freelance dilettante.”) I am the worst dancer in the world –I always say I have three left feet– yet I have taken classes or workshops in ballet, modern dance, folk dance, Middle Eastern dance, African dance and have even attempted a little salsa, not to mention Zumba and aerobics. I suck, but it’s fun, and it feels good to move your body. I don’t consider myself an artist, but I took it in high school, and have since produced paintings, collages, mixed-media works, some handicrafts (Sadly, I get distracted and don’t finish most of them) and all kinds of projects. I especially love decoupage. My home looks like the place bottles of Mod Podge go to die.

Of course, I have always been a writer. Ever since I was four, and wrote “The E,” I loved writing stories (although some were flat-out plagiarism) and, later, poetry (that came at around the age of ten. It was bad.) Even through years of inspiration desert, I still wrote: ritual, curriculum, and posts. From Yahoogroups to Livejournal to Facebook, I wrote out my thoughts, hopes, frustrations, and dreams.  I will likely continue to do so, because writing is the way awkward, self-conscious people with social anxiety make connections with others. With Poetas Sin Fronteras, I am throwing myself out into the world again, with the hopes of making some writing happen, and once again opening my soul creatively through the written/spoken word.

I have fear. I am not afraid, per se, of jumping in to PSF, but I have a feeling that I need to have a creative cushion, something to inspire the flow, and give more (sub)texture to the work I have ahead of me. So, my friend L. and I have decided, with some other women, to work on therapeutic art journaling. It is amazing. Mixed media, decoupage, color, words. Perfect for the heart of an art dilettante like myself. I have begun my journal, but I am vacationing with my friend, far from my crowded and cluttered art closet, which is soon to be even more cluttered (thanks, Amazon.) I have plans, though, and I am fired up. I feel as if being able to add color and texture to my page will help give added emphasis to my words, and push them to outshine the background. I can’t wait to explore my Self, my dreams, my values, and more, through a variety of media. My imagination is bursting with ideas, and right behind the images, are words, germinating, gestating, and waiting to be born.

The drive has always been within me. I just need, right now, to put it into gear.

Words and art have always been therapeutic for me. I am truly looking forward to the marriage of both to lift me from this place of inertia and emotional drought. The internal life, when we set it free, is colorful, textured, intertwined, passionate, and juicy. I have longed to feel this again for a long time. It’s time is now.

Under Construction

I am so excited to introduce my new website, an extension of my original WordPress blog. Stay tuned for new blog posts, and information on my exciting new project, Poetas Sin Fronteras (Poets Without Borders) San Jose!

I certainly hope I can inspire myself to do a little less Facebooking and a LOT more blogging (and some Tweeting, and some Instagramming, and some Facebooking.)

This project (PSF) is in conjunction with Kasa de Franko, a fun online Spanish school (He also teaches in person, for locals). Frank is my Spanish teacher, and my dear friend, and we are two birds of a feather, which, to be honest, is a little frightening. Check out his blog/site at kasadefranko.com or on @KDFSpanish on Facebook. You’ll see why he and I are friends. Gotta love his “One Minute Spanish Lesson” videos!!

I’m looking forward to seeing you all more, and I hope you enjoy the site (currently under construction.) Muchos besos, everyone!

P.S. I am looking for folks who would like to be guest bloggers on The Daily Dilettante (the blog portion of the site.) I am open to poetry, fiction, or articles on nearly any topic, and would love to showcase a wide variety of writers. Let me know if you’d like a free platform for your writing, or art, or photos. All of your work will be properly attributed, and of course, it’s yours, and you retain all rights.

Confessions of A Teenage Fungus

I just peered into the past today.

In my 20s, my then-partner had ten years of my poems tape-bound into a thick volume.
10 years of poems, ranging from 1982-1993. That covers ages 13-24, prime poem-producing years, to be sure. This volume, entitled Confessions of a Teenage Fungus,  contains around 350 poems.

Looking back over this array of writings, in many different styles, with many different influences (Duran Duran, Richard Brautigan, e.e. cummings, The Cure, Sylvia Plath, et cetera…), I can’t help but having a lot of different reactions. Of course, there are many, many cringeworthy moments within (especially in the early years…ouch!) I am sure I could have a brilliant moment (or ten) in the Mortified spotlight with some of those. However, what surprises me, is that not all of this work is actually that bad.

Young me was experimental. Creative. Passionate. Funny. Sexy/Dirty. A little crazy. Uninibited. Unafraid.

Where did she go?

Where is the girl who wrote:

tonight
is like a perverse
fish
that sucks my
toes
when i am sleeping
before kissing
soft thigh insides.
then the fish
noses its way
upwards to
onion ring heaven.

Sometimes I think she was fooled along the way into thinking her way of seeing things was juvenile (in other words, not good enough.) She was lured into the idea that her writing had to have some sort of sophistication that she could never quite capture. So she generally just stopped writing.

I’m not a sophisticated poet. Like most artists, I’m riddled with anxiety and self doubt. I know my poems don’t all suck, but I can never decide which ones suck less than the others. A poem I love one day will seem hopelessly flawed the next. So I keep them all, a resplendent, somewhat awkward and haphazard bouquet. I throw them to you, and they scatter. Enjoy!

A poem from every year, 1982-1993. You can laugh. You’re welcome.

Ode (1982)

I’m a maid in silk brocade
And you’re a pirate bold
You’ve chanced to meet a Spanish fleet
And have taken all its gold.
*
I’m your kin with ebon skin
And you’re a drumming man
To your beat I move my feet
In the pounding tribal dance.
Oh, I’m the one who’s come undone
And you’re the one above
For you’re the man and I’m the fan
And you’re the one I love.

*  I removed one stanza from this poem (“Ode”) because it is racially insensitive to Native Americans, and includes a term I would not use today. I understand “ebon skin” is also problematic for a white girl,  but I only include this poem at all because it is the best example of my poetic skill at thirteen. It shows a decent command of internal rhyme, and I’m proud of that. My other poems show similar skill, but they are all love poems to Adam Ant (who, over the years, could have basically earned a doctorate in cultural appropriation.)– this one is too, but it’s not as obvious as the others.

Matter of Time (1983)*

It’s so quiet outside
No sound, it’s inane
An abstract vision resides in my mind
An unknown soldier calls out my name
A kiss of a movie whisper
Rides on a full wind
And a warm adoration
Is within my head
It calls to me
Fulfilling conscious fantasy
And the sands swirl seductive
On the grassy plateau
As the oceanic, paradoxic
Tidal winds blow
The verses don’t rhyme
The cracks don’t align
Your being’s not mine
It’s just a matter of time
Until you realize
The look in my eyes
Is only for one
My heart is replete
My eyes, wet, persuade
The soldier draws a breath, life’s complete
Beggars whose starving cries persuade
As a fire glows bright
In a heart all alone
And caresses a stranger
A flower full-blown
Crying “nevermore”
Down upon a storm-wreaked shore
And emotion is forgotten
As you call her to you
The pictures psychedelic
On the wall in my room
The verses don’t rhyme
The cracks don’t align
Your being’s not mine
It’s just a matter of time
Until you finally know
The physical show
Is only for you
It’s just a matter of time
It is
Just a matter of time
Until you’re mine.

*And the obsession turns to Duran Duran, when I channel Simon Le Bon, and cop his sweet, sweet style.  It’s pretty creepy/stalkerish, I know, but I’m 14. And I obviously own a great dictionary/thesaurus.

A lot of times my poems are lyrical.  I have written lots of songs.

Dancing When the Bomb Drops (1984)

Dancing in the deep gray mist of yesterday
My life flashes before my eyes
Surreal pictures, of rural suburbia
Apathy tinged with sympathy’s lies.
Trying to rid myself of yesterday
I cut the pictures on the dotted lines
We’re dancing in the shadow of the
mushroom cloud
We’re closing our ears to the people’s cries
And someone has dropped the bomb on my life
Is there a reason for this blinding light?
It can’t be love — there’s no such thing, you see
It just couldn’t be, it wouldn’t be right
Dancing when the bomb drops.
Happy with our lives so changed by yesterday
In screaming silence, I reach for more
Nothing but a rather obscure sarcasm
That clings to me, dancing outside my door
(Dying outside my door).
So why forget the solemn joys of yesterday
When tomorrow is a time we’ll never see?
Just delve into my life of anti-reality
And love again as one with me.

The beauty of ’80s songs was that they really didn’t need to make sense or have deep meaning. I was pretty good at that. 🙂

In 1985 I had a short lived (likely because I wasn’t sure it was requited) crush on this boy. The crush was basically due to the fact that he had red hair and his mom washed his clothes in Gain. (It’s an aphrodisiac drug, people!)

Your Hair (1985)

your hair glows like copper wire
like fire, like precious red hair
which it is to me
your eyes are a beautiful golden brown
(like mine)
and long-lashed
and I love your face
because it’s so knowing and
nonchalant
and accepting (well, sort of)
and I love your mouth because
whenever I see it I think of you kissing me
in the men’s bathroom at
OMSI
and I love your freckles, every single one
(especially the one on your lip)
and I love your hands
and the way your ears taste
and the way you hug me and
the way you look at me, smile, and say
“you’re full of shit.”*

* “You’re full of shit” was his standard response to any compliment.

Ironic (1986)*

my tongue is like
a monkey dick
in your ear
(or so you say)
but you
work in a
pickle factory
so, if i were
you,
i wouldn’t talk.

*no real irony was expressed in this poem, but, unlike Alanis Morissette, that was intentional.

Eight Steps (1987)

1. take him
gently
by marionette strings
that pull at
yearing loins
2. look through his
eyes like portholes
3. draw him
angular
to your body
in quiet blue chalk
4. feel every moment:
pounding internal drumbeats
hard against soft
close but not
close enough
5. taste the silent question
then answer in kind
6. let 2 limbs become
one
like slender birch trunks
7. guide hands to dark
hidden
soul corners
8. open the door

Samsara (1988)

dark
a wild Taoma night
nervous
we walked side by side
I slipped my hand into
the pocket of
your Daddycoat.
easy
calm
we moved
past streetlamps
and American Luxurycars.
sitting quiet
I held you and we
talked.
funny, I didn’t realize
we were so
alike.
We live many lives.

Lioness (1989)

for such a vicious fuck
you have a sweet kiss
barely a whisper
then the plunge
you tickle my skin
ten bruise my womb
breathe on my breast
then tear at my hair
if you were a female
you could be a lioness
for all the fire
and tenderness in there.

Barbara Sophia (1990)*

When Barb talks on the phone
she paces the floor
her nylon-clad thighs
whisper secrets.
She laughs into her salad
when I make obscene
gestures with a fork.
She does the
orgasm
and I do
the bedsprings
to get
the neighbors
back
for screwing all night.
Sometimes we go driving
the wheels caress the Tacoma
dark backroads.
music licks our eardrums
and Barb’s red-nailed hands
tap at Simon’s steering wheel.
But tonight
baking muffins
(imitation flavor
with
falsified
blueberries)
I hug her in the kitchen.
“Sadie,” she says,
“I wish you were a man.”

“Barbara Sophia” was the first poem I had published, in the Crosscurrents Review.

I can’t seem to find a poem specifically dated 1991, so here are two poems from 1992.

Anniversary (1992)

was it five?
five years since
they met in the supermarket
over fresh fruit
before it became
the fashion
for thirteen weeks they met this way
same time each week
pretending it was a coincidence
inspecting the peaches
choosing frozen entrees
reaching for the same head
of lettuce
thirteen weeks
before he kissed her in aisle four:
Campbell’s soup
her eyes locked on Tomato
they began to shop three times a week
and to buy exotic items
they noticed things
he bought eight grain bread
she preferred the cheap stuff
they both liked chunky
they both ate meat
she liked the smooth, square
planes of his face
his strong hands
he liked the way she
filled her clothes
the way her smile worked
-just a second delayed
five years
the wheels of their carts
growing squeaky the bag boys
growing into managers
they changed stores
but she comes back sometimes
remembering
his scratchysoft cheeks
the electricity in his kiwifruit eyes
his laughter like the mane of a lion
heading for the checkout
she detours down aisle four
to pick up some Tomato.

Race Memory (1992)

Deep
In my soul
I carry the memories of my people
The harsh rasp of knuckles on washboard
The clang clang of hammer on spike
The slow roll of earth beneath plow
The easy rocking of mother and child
I feel white skin, burnt under hot sun
Stained with rusty kisses
A race of redheaded Celtic warriors
Of black-haired fairies, moon worshippers,
and saints
In my father’s eyes I see peasants and kings
I hear my great-great
great grandfather’s voice
In the sweet ringing of fiddle and dulcimer
In the rumbling of trains.

Clio (1993)

There are
somewhere in your greenbrown eyes
faint images, wisps of Clio
scents of Egypt and menstrual blood.
Time floats from your hands over my skin,
rough from the Irish sea;
smashed on the rocks
the muse dances,
dances
dances through history into the stories you tell me.
Late at night our skin moves
you over me you inside me and I’m
grasping for you again.
The lights dance over us like the golden eyes
of Egypt
and I’m making love with Pharaoh’s queen.
Somewhere in the distance lies the woman,
under the rough cheek, undr the firm hands
under the amber voice
the muse calls
the anima awakens.
An incarnation ago the animus stood,
bold and dark on the cliffs of the Irish sea.
Then I took my lovers with unleashed fury.
then I dashed them against my body
with the force of a howling gale
with the knowledge of gods.
Now we are trapped by years and distortions
calling out to us from the past;
our bodies free us, together we are whole.
The man the woman what does it matter
within whom the aspects lie…
All that matters is that when I kiss you I
feel the sands of Egypt slide over my skin
I taste your blood on my lips
I feel history devouring me
I love you with the force of the sea.

 

Making it Mine

C9252DBD-3D0E-4FB8-A47B-74698936C293My “new” car is my husband’s old car; it just worked out that way. I now drive the same car as nearly every middle aged Indian man in San José. A gray (or silver) Honda (or Toyota, or BMW), which it makes it nearly impossible to find my car in any parking lot, including the one in my apartment complex.

My old car, which was once new, but is now totaled and sitting in a wrecking yard somewhere, was blue and sparkly and decorated with a variety of lively bumper stickers. My husband hated my car because he couldn’t drive a stick, and because I listen to NPR and he’s a Republican  (who voted for Obama, however, so I will assume he did not vote for Trump, although he didn’t volunteer and I didn’t ask. Either way, he has to listen to my wild liberal rants nearly daily, so I figure that’s penance no matter what.)

I was away this past weekend, and he drove my car because, for some reason, he doesn’t want to drive his bright shiny new one. This has got to stop. I have to fully lay claim on my new car, which I have yet to name. This, I suppose, should be the first step. This car is an old man. He dodders, he doesn’t stand out. He has a hard time getting up enough gusto to merge. He deserves an old man name, like Harold. In fact, I am sitting here trying to think up something better, and I can’t, so I guess that’s it:  Harold.

Even though my car is an old man named Harold, I’m not going to let that stop me from making him MY car. I am programming NPR as station #1. I am putting feminist and peacenik, and other “crazy liberal snowflake” bumper stickers all over his slow, gray ass, and I am pushing that arthritic pedal to the metal until I reach 60 mph, goddammit!

I have already started gathering my bumper sticker collection. In fact, I just got the ones pictured above from an awesome site: PeaceSupplies.org . Peace Supplies is an independent media project out of Tucson, AZ. They provide printing resources to progressive groups, and have a huge selection of stickers, t-shirts, signs, and other fair trade products.   It’s a great place to shop if you like stuff like peace, or justice, or equality, or the Earth. I know I do, and really, everybody should. Even old man-cars like Harold.