Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Letter

I saw this on the House of Hsus blog and thought it was a great idea: A blog post in the style of the traditional "update on our family" Christmas letter. So here's mine!

The biggest and most obvious change this year is my new job. Since November I've been an aide in the autism class for this county. I don't usually believe in fate, but I really feel like the stars aligned for me to get this job. I wasn't even looking for a school job anymore, but one just fell into my lap and it was the class I most wanted to be in out of the whole county - and I didn't even realize that until *after* I got the job. Those of you who know me well know that autism is where my heart is, and I really feel like this job is perfect for me at this point in my life. The other aides in the class are wonderful; I really couldn't ask for better coworkers. The kids have some serious problems and we have many bad days, but on good days we get to send some kids home clean and smiling who came in dirty and miserable, and that makes it worth it. (Plus, there's that whole "summer and holidays off" thing. That's pretty awesome too.)

Mama has decided she'd like to maybe start a little home business selling homemade candles, so I bought her some basic supplies. We haven't made any yet, but we probably will during Christmas break. I also would really like to start making jewelry to sell, so I asked for some beads and things for Christmas. Even if these things just stay as a hobby, we love candles and jewelry so having extras around is just fine with us.

Since I was unemployed most of the year, I spent that time playing around and learning. I studied German and I'm getting decent at playing the guitar. I learned some basic watercolor techniques and over the summer I got really interested in world history, mostly from playing Civilization II. I took a bellydance class but I quit halfway through because it was so far to drive. And of course I paid lots and lots of attention to the election - much more than ever before. But my biggest interest was alternative education methods. I spent lots of time reading about Montessori and Waldorf, and then homeschooling, and then unschooling. All of this constant shifting of values and ideals really helped me get a more positive attitude, since I've stopped feeling the pressure to live out some prepackaged life.

As for health, we've been up and down this year. Mama's emphysema has gotten a little worse and she has an oxygen tank, but rarely needs to use it. Otherwise we've been doing pretty well - Mama has only been in the ER once or twice all year (one was a false alarm) and I haven't been at all so far (knock on wood). My PCOS hasn't been acting up too bad, and my blood sugar has even been improving since I started work, probably because work forces me to be careful about eating enough protein at meals since I can't eat at any moment I choose. Oh - I did have a bout of mono in February, which I forgot about. But it wasn't a bad one, and I was unemployed and could get all the rest I needed, so that was fine. I seem to get it every couple of years, but it gets milder each time.

I've been able to do lots of fun stuff with friends this year! In April I went to Arizona and spent a week with Roni and Lyle and another week with Bobbie and Lin, who took me to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Plus I got to see Megan's Law perform, which was pretty rad. Then in the summer Fez was working in America for a month so he and Terry and I all went to Yasumicon (a small anime con) together in Miami - making that two internet friends (Fez and Roni) that I've met in person for the first time in one year. Not bad. And then in September, Terry threw a party (on my birthday, by pure coincidence) and Spiffy came down for that, so I went and stayed with them for a few days. And at the beginning of December I got to be a bridesmaid in Sarah and Dennis's wedding, which was really beautiful. The sad things this year were that Uncle Bill passed away in I think February, and that Spiffy moved back to New Jersey and Val moved to Boston. I miss them a lot, but I know they're happier than they were living here.

Somehow this keeps slipping my mind, but I also had my graduation ceremony from FCCJ in April. I actually got my diploma in August of 2007, but they only have the formal ceremony once a year so I had to wait. It was a nice ceremony and a lot of my friends showed up for it, which was the best part.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't include totally frivolous fun stuff in here! My favorite TV show this year (besides The Simpsons) has been The Venture Bros., which I've been totally in love with all year, especially in the summer when season 3 was coming out. And of course there's always music - this year my favorite stuff has been Genesis (which I got into like a month after telling Lin I hated them, because I am just difficult that way), Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson and David Bowie on the rock front, and George Winston, Libera and Secret Garden on the "new age filthy hippie" front. As for Mama, right now she's totally into watching Miami Vice because she apparently missed the 80s the first time around and is just now discovering them. She was really into 80s music too for awhile, but now she mostly listens to 50s on 5 on Sirius-XM.

We got a new cat at the beginning of the year, named Lady Blue, from a friend who couldn't keep her anymore. She's 14 now and I really don't think we were expecting her to be around this long, but she seems to be doing fine and is really enjoying the easy life of an indoor cat. All of our other animals are doing well too, although Jake had ear mites and got a hematoma that had to be removed. (All these old animals we have, and it's the baby that ends up racking up a big vet bill. Go figure.)

And that just about covers what we've been doing this year! I hope you all have a safe, merry and peaceful Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Festivus, or whatever it is that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy this time of year. Maybe it's vodka. Merry Vodka!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Positive choices

On days when it's really, really hard to get up and go to work (such as *ahem* the Monday after a five-day weekend), it helps to remind myself that having a job, and having this job, is my choice and not a great big have-to.

I'll say: "I chose to have this job. I could quit anytime, but I don't because I wouldn't like the consequences."

Hmm... that still sounds kind of yucky and oppressive. But today, instead, I said this:

"I chose to have this job. I could quit anytime, but I don't because there are too many good reasons to keep it."

Ahhh that feels better! Amazing how that one little rewording makes my chest a little less tight and my mood a little lighter.

Choosing something because there are good reasons to do it feels and sounds a LOT better than choosing something because bad things might happen if you don't choose it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I really, really want to be blogging more than just memes, but lately I've been occupied with trying to find a balance between my work-self and my usual self. It's tricky. So for the time being, here's a survey I got from Sandra Dodd.

The rules:
A) People who have been tagged must[who want to might] write their answers on their blogs & replace any question that they dislike with a new question.

B) Tag 8 people to answer the questions.

1. How many songs are on your iPod?
Something like 370 - it's a 2gig Nano and should hold 400 songs, but since I've been listening to so many 10-minute prog rock songs lately, it fills up quick.

2. What music would you want played at your funeral?
Maybe nothing... I've only been to one funeral that had music, and it ruined that song for me forever because it makes me think of that person's funeral now. If I love a song enough to want it played at my funeral I sure don't want to ruin it for my friends and family.

3. What magazines do you have subscriptions to?
I don't. But I do collect random catalogs, and I've about worn out all the ones I have now. I need to request some new ones.

4. What are your favorite scents?
Vanilla, lavender and vanilla mixed, cinnamon... anything that's relaxing and smells like baking. For some reason I also like the smell of house paint.

5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it?
Assuming I'm supposed to spend ALL of it and not save it or anything... I'd take half and go travel the world visiting friends and following concert tours, and take the other half and build a swanky house

6. What is your theme song?
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Just because.

7. Do you trust easily?
Not at all, but that's probably got to do with living in a small town more than anything. You trust one person, you better trust everybody in town. I'm more trusting on the internet where I'm at least semi-anonymous.

8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
I think all the time, though not always about what I'm actually doing at the time.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
Having to watch the same Wiggles video at work at least twice a week

10. Do you have a good body-image?
Decent enough

12. How do you spend your social networking (Facebook, etc.) time?
Usually doing surveys, that's about all I use it for

13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?
Prog_lolz, an LJ community that pokes fun at prog rock musicians (who the rest of the internets take way too seriously). I love it to death.

14. Why do people still believe in the supernatural?
The same reason people study quantum physics. The universe does a lot of stuff that human brains can't really understand, and humans don't like to not understand things. So we hazard a guess.

15. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?
A horridly cheesy Tony Banks song somebody posted on prog_lolz

16. What’s your favorite item of clothing?
I don't think I have one favorite. Lately I've been liking my dressy clothes more, because I have to dress down for my job. I always want to wear what I can't.

17. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?
Not really. Even with a lot of sugar, they've gotta be the fastest cereal to get soggy ever.

18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?
I doubt I'd even see it, I'm zoned out all the time when I'm just walking around. If I did see it, I'd try and return it.

19. What items could you not go without during the day?
My iPod, food, toilet paper? Rubber gloves and hand sanitizer if I'm at work.

20. What should you be doing right now?
It's a five-day weekend, I can do whatever I want!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. Please feel free to grab soda and snacks, because I will forget to keep offering them to you.
2. When I decorate my childhood Christmas tree I can't help sniffing it occasionally. (It's an ancient artificial tree that my grandparents bought in the 70s. It still gives off some kind of artificial pine smell.)
3. My favorite thing to cook is Thanksgiving dinner.
4. Free time is something I can't get enough of.
5. That's the thing I love most about my job; my coworkers are a lot of fun.
6. Fox news always makes me think to myself, what the heck?
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to chillaxin', tomorrow my plans include grocery shopping and Sunday, I want to go to Target again!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Unitarian heritage?

My dad never talked about religion much. I never saw him go to church, but he once told me it was practically a crime not to go to church on Mother's Day. That left me scratching my head a little, because I always assumed he was agnostic - or more to the point, hadn't really thought about it all that much. He was a practical, down-to-earth kind of guy. But a comment my Baptist mom made about him today caught my attention. She said "Your daddy believed that God was just a Great Spirit or something and Jesus didn't matter."

That sounds eerily close to my beliefs as a Unitarian. If I had to peg my beliefs, I'd call them panentheist with certain habits colored by my Christian upbringing (I still pray in a similar way to how I did as a child, even though I don't fully believe it's necessary, and I celebrate Christian holidays.) As for Jesus, I surely wouldn't say he "didn't matter" - he changed the world completely, that's for damn sure, and was a wonderful role model no matter your faith - but I don't think you're punished if you don't focus your life on him. A panentheist belief system kind of renders the "son of God" question irrelevant, though. If believing in that brings comfort to people, I wholeheartedly support them in that, because that's one of the main functions of religion. It's just not for me. But it sounds like whatever my dad said to my mom that made her decide he thought "Jesus doesn't matter", was probably quite similar to my own beliefs.

My dad has never been a huge part of my life, and I often wonder what sort of things I inherited from his side of the family. I think it's very interesting that despite never once having discussed religion with him, we came out with the same basic beliefs.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Holy blog neglect, Batman!

Yeah, so I haven't posted in two weeks. New job, the election (YAY OBAMA!), and NaNoWriMo (which I may not even finish) have been kicking my ass. Still too tired to blog, but in the meantime, here's a meme.

Bold the things you’ve done. And I've italicized the things I've kind of done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world (I went to Animal Kingdom, which is a Disney park, but that's it.)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (if karaoke counts!)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables (*See below)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run (Maybe. I can't really remember, but I think I did once, as a kid.)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (It doesn't take that much, for me.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (I tried, but they wouldn't let me that day)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (I think I have. Again, I don't really remember.)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

*In high school, I took agriscience and we had to work with a partner to plant vegetables. My partner and I were planting lettuce, and I planted most of a tray and she just planted a few in the corner. I ended up moving away and moving back (long story) and when I came back, only the ones in the corner had grown. Plants do not like me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. Right now, I'm feeling tired, but happy, after a long week of job interviews.
2. Exactly where I am, but with a job is where I want to be.
3. How does one stop getting election junk mail? Does anybody really change their vote because of that crap?
4. Following my intuition keeps me on track.
5. Please don't squeeze the Charmin. Or at least have the decency to buy it dinner first.
6. BSC Snark fills me with joy.
7. And as for the weekend, today I'm looking forward to baking a spice cake and making homemade pumpkin spice iced coffee, tomorrow my plans include going shopping with the rest of my friend's bridal party and Sunday, I want to relax!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday 13

Thirteen Reasons I Want This Teacher's Aide Job

Today I interviewed for an aide job in a class for students with severe disabilities. I've worked with kids with severe disabilities before, but they were gentle. These children are not. If I get this job, I will have to wear steel-toed boots to work because there are very large children who step on people's toes, and I will have to wear rubber gloves all day for the purpose of constant diaper-changing. Neither of these things particularly fazes me, but I worry about whether I am physically capable of restraining a child that is as large as I am.

Any sane person would run screaming from this job, but I never was completely sane :) So, here are my thirteen reasons why I actually want this job.

1. I want to prove to myself that I can handle it.

This would be a stupid reason on its own, but it's true. I've worked with kids who have such a wide variety of needs that I'd really hate to draw a line somewhere and say "No way, these kids are TOO disabled for me, thank you very much" without actually giving it a try. I've dealt with kids who poop their pants and throw chairs, and it honestly wasn't that awful big of a deal. These kids are just bigger and do it more often.

2. I've never regretted any other work in this field.
The first time I was in a special ed room I thought going over the alphabet with seven-year-olds was more than I could handle (in my defense, I was a recovering "gifted" student and fresh out of high school), but I loved it. The first time I worked with a child who had physical disabilities I was worried I couldn't handle changing diapers and giving him a bath, but I loved that job too. So I really feel there is a strong chance I would end up loving this job too. Maybe I am just the kind of crazy person who enjoys this stuff.

3. Despite being in a school, this is way less schoolish than the daycare job I applied for.
The daycare job, which I'm waiting to hear back from, is basically teaching preschool. Hours and hours of forcing two- and three-year-olds to sit perfectly still and color worksheets and write their letters. Seriously, two-year-olds! I already think five is too young for that crap; I really don't want to be forcing babies to do it. Meanwhile, the special ed job is much more like occupational therapy and babysitting mixed together.
The kids don't have to sit in one place unless they're doing some specific task that calls for it, and I'd be mainly working with them on things like communicating their needs. I'd be a facilitator and protector, not a taskmaster. I can dig that.

4. I'd be mainly working with an autistic student.

I've always been really interested in autism - I've read lots of books on the subject, known plenty of people who were labeled as being on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum (which is a big headachey subject I won't go into here), and I just generally know a lot about it. I like the idea of a job that lets me use skills I learned basically by browsing the internet during the years I "should" have been in high school.

5. Vacations!
The classic draw for working in schools. I generally want to smack people who would cite that as a primary reason, because they have no idea what they are doing. But you can't deny that it is a nice benefit.

6. I have never felt more qualified for a job in my life.
I am so, so tired of going to job interviews for jobs working with children, where the interviewer does not seem to give a shit that I volunteered with children for several years. They want to know about paid experience only. The principal who interviewed me for this job, though, was genuinely impressed with the work I've done and saw it as valuable experience. It's nice to be respected.

7. Plain curiosity.
Honestly, I just always wanted to know how the classes for kids with more severe disabilities work. Actually that's what got me into the special ed volunteer work in the first place - I just wanted to know how it worked.

8. More experience to add to unschooling discussions.
Occasionally people come around and want to know about kids with special needs, and it's a hard question because often learning doesn't seem to come as freely and easily to them. I'd love to go back into the world of special ed now that I have an unschooling mindset, and see what I can learn about how these kids learn.

9. I like the idea of a job that requires you to dress down because you'll get messy anyway.
The aides were explaining to me that you can't wear nice clothes to this job (I felt really weird in my suit and heels, but it WAS a job interview...), and one of them said "Yeah, I usually wear a lab coat." I don't think I need to point out how awesome that is.

10. I love active, hands-on, moving-around work.
One reason I have always been drawn to teacher-type work is that I hate student-type work, i.e. office work. I am the kind of person who would rather come home achy from working too hard all day, than be forced to sit still all day. I get achy from sitting still anyway. If I'm gonna be sore either way, I'd rather it be from doing something interesting.

11. I might consider adopting a special-needs child one day.
And I want experience with as many different types of special needs as possible, so that I know what I can and cannot handle.

12. Believe it or not, the money.
Let me be clear: The money, by any objective standard, sucks. But compared to the income level I grew up with, and compared to what I could earn at a non-education job (and all my qualifications are education-related, so I'd be stuck flipping burgers or doing entry-level office work), it's quite nice. Especially considering that whole summers off thing.

13. I honestly believe I am "supposed" to have this job, in some sort of cosmic way.
Call it God, intuition, fate, sheer dumb luck, or whatever, but here's what happened: About a month ago I was desperate for jobs and was applying for literally everything I could. Every time a job seemed promising, the people would mysteriously vanish and not call me back to tell me when an interview would be, or whatever. And something in my gut was just saying Wait. My brain, of course, was screaming that my gut was full of crap (pun not intended, but funny) and that I needed a job NOWNOWNOW. But I just felt this peace about not getting one just yet, and every time I looked at job listings that gut instinct kept tugging at me, telling me I was going in the wrong direction. Then, when it finally hit me that I *was* ready, I just happened to look at the school board website and this job had been posted THAT DAY. I applied for it on the next business day and immediately got called back to schedule an interview.

Of course, if I don't actually end up getting the job, that will kind of put a damper on the whole "fate" idea, but my gut is usually right about these things. And my gut is telling me this job is a good idea, even though my brain is screaming that sane people do not take low-paying jobs where they will get bitten and spat at. But my brain has a track record of being wrong about this stuff, so I'm ignoring it for now. It can handle the paperwork later.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Yesterday I wasn't feeling well, so I stayed in bed most of the day watching a Pop-Up Video marathon. In the middle of that I saw this really awesome U2 video for "Lemon":

The pop-ups explained that the video was based on the photography of Edward Muybridge. Today I went and read about him (his life was pretty interesting) and then followed the link from there to bullet time, which is the technique they use in the Matrix when the camera rotates around a person suspended in air. That article mentions the Wachowski brothers were influenced by the original Speed Racer opening, which I'd never seen. so I looked that up:

And then it reminded me my mom used to have a toy from (I think) the 60s, that was like a handheld game but mechanical instead of electronic. After some Googling I found it, the Tomy Motocross:

It's hard to tell there how it works, but basically the brown part is a rotating disc with little raised bumps for the motorcycles. You're the red one, and you have to slide that big red slider on the right up and down to navigate around the other bikes. It was a boring game to me, having grown up on Nintendo, but it must have been really exciting in the 60s. I do remember thinking it was neat that there were handheld games before video games.

And now writing about this is reminding me of the Franklin Wordmaster we used to have when I was a kid. Actually, we still have it, but I don't know if it still works. I have it tucked in a drawer somewhere; maybe later I'll take a picture. It's this handheld thing from maybe 1987 or so, and was mostly designed to be used as an electronic dictionary or spellchecker. But it had some games on it too. I used to spend a long time playing anagrams and hangman on it and making it generate random lottery numbers. It was fun to look up definitions too because they'd scroll by on the screen. I didn't have a Gameboy or a computer when I was a kid, but I had that Wordmaster, so I felt like I did.

Friday, October 10, 2008

But I DO wear Birks and smell of incense!

You are a Hippie

You are a total hippie. While you may not wear birks or smell of incense, you have the soul of a hippie.

You don't trust authority, and you do as you please. You're willing to take a stand, even when what you believe isn't popular.

You like to experiment with ideas, lifestyles, and different subcultures.

You always gravitate toward what's radical and subversive. Normal, mainstream culture doesn't really resonate with you.

Friday Fill-In

1. One of the best concerts/plays/movies I ever saw that I really didn't think I'd like was O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2. A tuna melt is a recipe I recently made that was delicious! (Yeah, we don't do a lot of serious cooking around here.)

3. It's time for me to take a shower, and then make pumpkin bread and warm up apple cider.

4. To hear young girls say they like the way they look is quite refreshing.

5. If I never hear the word toejam again, it'll be too soon.

6. To one side of the curving road was a the hills of Sedona, and on the other was a huge gaping gorge that I thought we were going to fall into because the jeep driver kept going really close to the edge. Mountains are scary when you're used to Florida.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to painting in the Louvre, tomorrow my plans include proposing on a Saturday night and Sunday, I want to laze. (I don't have any specific plans, so you get Queen lyrics instead. You're welcome.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Music, one. Savage beast, zero.

I've been anxious lately. Anxious and edgy and probably defensive and testy. I think there's a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I still haven't found a job and the search is frustrating, involving a lot of shady online application websites, and people who offer you an interview but never tell you when or where to show up, and entry-level jobs that require two years of experience, and sigh.

But it's other stuff too. It's politics - it seems like I'm getting in an argument nearly every other day with someone over politics, and I'm just sick of it. I think it's just hanging in the air right now, with the election so close and the panic over the economy and everything else. I'm not the only person who is edgy. Lots of people are edgy right now, because so many people are convinced, this election, that if their candidate doesn't win the WORLD AS WE KNOW IT WILL COME TO AN END. People on both sides are thinking that way, and it's not making for happy or peaceful times.

I don't like it when other people are divisive, but I really, really don't like the fact that I've become that way. Probably I'm more that way than other people I know. I tend to take politics personally, with a "Republicans want my disabled mother to starve" gut reaction that I developed growing up on welfare in the 90s, when welfare was a hotter issue than it is now. But I've since become that way with other things. My mind just jumps to conclusions too fast. That guy is a conservative Christian, so he must hate everyone who isn't. That car has a yellow ribbon magnet on it, so those people must agree with the war, so they probably hate Muslims. The neighbors have a McCain/Palin sign on their lawn, so they probably hate "tolerate" gay people. My friend said a woman was hot, so he must be a misogynist. And so on. It's like over the years I've developed a "not liberal enough!" label I mentally stamp people with if they don't meet my standards, and then assume they hate me and everyone else in the world who is not exactly the same as they are. I'm not proud of that, but it's an unconscious thing, and in some ways a survival thing, since I'm a member of a lot of non-mainstream groups in a relatively intolerant region. But it's exhausting, and I really would prefer to see people the way I did when I was younger, before I knew anything of politics.

And so today I had all that rolling around my head, and I flipped on the radio and there was "Us and Them" by Pink Floyd. Holy crap I needed that. If anyone wonders why I treat music as practically a religion, this would be a good story to illustrate that, because as soon as the song flooded my ears all the thoughts clicked. This song is about how pointless war is. Both sides are really the same, but everyone thinks the other side is completely different. But in the end everyone is human and has the same kinds of feelings. If everyone would realize that, we'd all be better off. Those are thoughts I have everytime I hear the song, and they're the thoughts I've always had about war.

But this time I kept going. Wait a minute. They're not just talking about official wars. And that's when it clicked, really and truly. People are divisive over wars, but people being divisive is what starts wars in the first place. I'm sitting here professing anti-war beliefs, pacifism and peace and tolerance for other people. And yet I'm having a war inside my mind, clearly marking out my "we" and "you". I'm prejudging people to be prejudiced; I've been a bigot on the grounds that I consider a group to be bigoted. I'm hating people for not hating hate enough. I'm arguing that people who live worlds apart and have wildly different beliefs should be kind to each other, while getting angry at the people I love for differing with me on one or two minor points. It's just as much "us and them" as a war is.

When I was a kid, and a Christian, I always got upset at friends who bragged about following the "rules" of Christianity more closely than I did. I thought they were showoffs who were acting holier-than-thou, as if they thought God liked them more than me because they listened to DC Talk instead of the Spice Girls, and they didn't watch The Simpsons, and they went to church on Sunday and Wednesday, and so on (as if there were anything in the Bible about any of those things). And it took me until today to realize that I've been doing the same kind of smug "I am more moral than you" proselytizing, just with a different rubric of morality. Meanwhile, I've been crapping all over the principles I want to be living by: people come first, friends and family are the most important things, all you need is love, being different isn't a bad thing. I haven't been very true to my own values, or for that matter, to my own religion (for the record, my religion is officially Unitarian-Universalism, not prog rock). There's an affirmation we say at church that begins:

Love is the doctrine of this church,
the quest for truth is its sacrament,
and service is its prayer.

It's rare that Unitarians make an official statement of belief, but when we attempt one, it nearly always includes words like "peace", "love", "tolerance" and "equality". Having chosen this religion because it embodies principles I already believed in, those are words I need to try to keep in mind. Especially since those principles are the ones that made me a liberal in the first place.

I'm glad I was thinking about this stuff, and that I happened to flip on the radio right then, and that song happened to be playing, and I happened to understand the message of it. I'm glad I have music to soothe me and to make me reflect and see my own errors, because I'm too stubborn to listen when other people point them out. And I'm glad I have friends who don't point them out too often.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Time seems to be stretching and contracting in weird ways lately. One reason I started the "daily life" blog is that it helps me keep track of when things actually happened; I remember everything but not when I did it.

On the one hand, time seems to be going too fast. All day today I was convinced it was Monday, then I looked and it's technically Wednesday now and that startled me. And I keep looking at things from a few weeks ago and going "Man, that happened four weeks ago? But it JUST happened!"

On the other hand, it's also going really slow. My birthday feels like it was a month ago, but it was just two weeks. And I looked at the stuff I wrote down that I did yesterday, and thought "I did that yesterday?!" I didn't think I played chess yesterday; it felt like a couple days ago.

I like it when time is slow. I'm right at that quarterlife crisis age, where you're finally, firmly an adult, and you sit back to relax, and then you sit right back up again because you've just realized how fast you got here and how not everyone lives to be 80 like you assume you will. It's scary.

So I like it when things that happened yesterday feel like they were two days ago, and things that happened two weeks ago feel like they were a month ago. Makes me feel like life is longer. Plus, it's fall right now and I like the fall to last as long as possible. The end of fall is right before Christmas, and after Christmas I don't like the winter so much. But October through December is perfect.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New blogs

I want this blog to be my main anchor and be sort of varied, so I made two specialty blogs to keep it uncluttered.

One is Daisy Chains and Laughs, which is just for jotting down what I do each day. I was writing this in a notepad file, but I like the idea of having this stuff backed up somewhere online. Plus, I like reading what other people do each day, so I figured somebody else may enjoy that too.

The other is The Musical Box, which I'm saving specifically for writing about music. (Music posts would quickly overtake this entire blog if I put them here.) I was using last.fm for that, but something about the way the blogging there works bugs me. Plus I want to keep things together on Blogger more, since I have a tendency to strew blogs all across the internet.

Both of those blogs are completely self-indulgent and I offer no promises that they're not totally boring ;)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall is here!

Hooray, it's finally fall! Well, officially that is. Here in Florida it still feels pretty warm, and our leaves basically don't turn until January. But I decided to put up some fall decorations anyway, since it isn't quite time for the Halloween ones yet.

This is our table, which looks a lot nicer when the cat isn't rearranging it to suit his comfort needs. Those are our regular placemats and candles, and I just added a tablecloth I found in the dollar bin at Target.

This is my bedroom window. You can't really see it, but those are jack o' lantern lights. I got them from Target or Walmart, I forget which, a few years ago. And then there's also a string of regular white Christmas lights. The leaf garland I made, out of silk leaves from the dollar bin at Target. I painted them with glitter-glue and then hot glued them to a string of brown yarn.

And that was my uncharacteristic Martha Stewart moment. Revel in it now, because there probably won't be another one for several thousand years.

Oh yeah, and for good measure, here is a fall meme. I got this from Dawn over at By Sun and Candlelight.

When does fall begin for you?
I start thinking about it in late August, but to me fall starts right after my birthday (9/17).
But we don't get fall weather till mid-October :(

What is your favorite aspect of fall?
Cooler weather, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the fair

What is your favorite fall memory?
Hmm... I have a lot of memories that happened in fall, but I guess a good fall-specific one is going to the corn maze with the elementary school kids a couple times.
They have a HAYRIDE

What do you like to drink in the fall?
Aside from the same crap I always drink, I looove apple cider. Especially heated up in the crockpot with cinnamon and stuff, yum. And sometimes I will venture out into Halloween Jones Soda if I'm feeling brave.
I also liked Mountain Dew Pitch Black a lot until they discontinued it D:

What's your favorite fall food?
Sweet potatoes, well I like them all year but they taste better in the fall. Squash casserole, pumpkin pie, all the stuff we eat on Thanksgiving basically.
Also Halloween candy, especially those little things that are made of candy corn but they're shaped like pumpkins

What is fall weather like where you live?
It stays pretty warm until mid-October, then cools down pretty crisp.
Well, crisp by Florida standards, which is like 70F in the afternoon

What color is fall?
Red and orange, and kinda brown in November.
I do not know why I associate November specifically with brown, but I do

What does fall smell like?
Pumpkin pie spice, and that smell after it just rained and is kinda chilly

Holiday shopping in fall: yes or no?
Yes, if I have money.
I like to get stuff done early so I'm not rushed

If you could go anywhere in the fall, where would you go?
Somewhere cold enough that I can dress in layers.
I always like "fall clothes" but it doesn't get cold enough here to wear them until winter

What is your favorite fall sport?
Eww, sports.
Does diving into piles of leaves count?

Do you have a favorite fall chore?
Favorite chore? If it was a favorite thing I wouldn't consider it a chore. I guess decorating for Halloween, and Christmas (we decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving).
But that's not a chore, that's fun :p

What is your least favorite thing about fall?
It doesn't cool off fast enough and makes me hate Florida even more than I already do :p

What is your favorite fall holiday?

What's your favorite kind of pie?
Justina and I were talking about this the other day - I think pumpkin and pecan are tied for first in my pie hierarchy.

What was your favorite Halloween costume?
When I was 16 I dressed up as an "alien" with as many bizarre neon colors and glitter and stuff as possible.
I looked like a raver, basically

What's your favorite Halloween candy?
Reese's cups, and those little Tootsie Rolls that are like, fruit flavored

What's your least favorite Halloween candy?
Mary Janes and bubblegum

Which do you prefer, the Farm or the Fair?
Fair!! Though honestly our fairs around here are kinda like going to a farm too, in that there are animals to look at and the whole place reeks of cow poop

Do you have a favorite fall book?
Most books I read are not seasonal.
Though I usually reread the one Babysitters Club mystery about the haunted masquerade around Halloween, because that book is just creepy

How about a favorite fall poem?
I don't pay attention to poetry.
I guess The Raven is good for Halloween :p

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. There is no need to keep wearing clothes that don't fit (literally and metaphorically).

2. Where in the heck did the dog hide her toy, and why does she expect me to find it?

3. Watch the Venture Bros. and eat sunflower seeds is all I managed to do.

4. Prospects for employment are not looking so good.

5. All you need is love is the message.

6. Simplicity and tranquility are things cats are really good at, and it makes me jealous.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to deciding how to spend my birthday money, tomorrow my plans include grocery shopping and Sunday, I want to be lazy!

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Soviet Russia, Train Graffitis You

I love reading about what people do in a day, and I had a particularly interesting day today, so I thought I'd share some of what I did. Well, most of it is more things I talked about and read about, but there were a lot of connections and it was fun, and there were some themes that just kept coming back up over and over.

I was talking to Justina online early this afternoon, and showed her my blog post about playing guitar. She mentioned Guitar Hero and I said that I think playing Guitar Hero actually helped me on the real guitar, because it gets you used to that kind of hand coordination. She agreed and said she's had other friends say that, and then they get used to the real guitar and can't play guitar hero anymore. I mentioned I'd wondered if real guitarists, famous ones like Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen, were good at Guitar Hero and if, say, Michael Jackson is good at DDR. Justina said it'd be neat to get rock stars to play their own songs on Rock Band and imagined a fantasy band with Eddie Van Halen on guitar and Phil Collins on drums and stuff, all playing Rock Band together.

Thinking about famous guitarists made me remember I haven't read Brian May's blog in awhile. (Seriously, a rock star AND an astronomer, and he still takes time to blog! How awesome is that?) There's some great posts on there about the Large Hadron Collider (he even linked to the Large Hadron Rap), and a nice post about slugs and how it's cruel that people kill them just for a pretty garden. There's also a post where some Queen fan in Kharkov, Ukraine had painted some beautiful graffiti of Queen + Paul Rodgers, who played to a crowd of 350,000 there (I can't even comprehend a crowd that size), and then went on to play a show in Moscow. I showed the graffiti to Justina, and I don't remember where the conversation went from there, but we started talking about graffiti we've seen and how some is really beautiful and some is ugly.

Meanwhile I was planning my trip to Terry's house tomorrow and talking about driving six hours and how for me that's still the same state but for Justina (in England) six hours would be driving cross-country. Then we started trying to figure out the relative size of the UK vs. the US, because Justina said from Southampton to the very north of Scotland would be about a 15 hour drive. I know Spiffy drove 14 hours from New Jersey to here last fall, so I figured the UK is about the same length as most of the East Coast without Florida. I went looking for a map online that compared sizes of countries, and couldn't find one, but I did find this cartogram that compares populations of countries. I found out all of Australia has close to the same number of people as Florida. Justina was surprised the UK had so many people compared to the US considering how much bigger the US is, and I pointed out how we have a lot of large states with not many people per square mile. We were talking about how Americans have to keep getting on planes a lot to fly back and forth and see different relatives in different states. Justina said she'd rather spend a week on a train. We started talking about trains and I said I've never been on one, and we mostly get freight trains around here and you're just sitting there watching graffiti go by. So we were talking about graffiti again. Somewhere in there I also said "Americans use subways more, but they're not as nice as English trains I bet", and she laughed and said English trains aren't really that much nicer than subways.

Later Roni signed on and I was talking to both of them, and Roni is learning speech pathology so she was explaining some things about phonetics. I'd seen someone mention today was "El Grito" and I asked Roni if she knew what that was; she knew what the word grito meant (scream, yell or cry) but not what the day was. I looked it up; it's Mexican independence day. We started talking about connotations and how they don't translate well, because she had translated "grito" as scream but in el grito de independencia it means more like cry; the cry of independence. She mentioned how it's easier to learn sounds in other languages if you know about phonetics. I started trying to explain a German umlaut sound and couldn't do it, and she mentioned she had a link for a phonetic font at home so we can all download that and describe things in phonetics.

Later in the afternoon I noticed it was nice outside and not too hot, so Mama and I decided to take our dachshund, Frieda, outside to run around. We walked around with her and the cats for awhile, it was nice. When we came in I watched the Simpsons, and then an MTV Cribs special on VH1 Classic that was all "classic" rock stars. (I don't know how "classic" I'd call Sebastian Bach or Dee Snider, but the point was they're older, I guess.) After that I started looking for my cell phone charger because I wanted to go to bed early and pack in the morning, but I wanted to charge my phone first. Well, it took me AN HOUR to find the charger. I was freaking out thinking I'd have to drive five or six hours by myself without a phone. I finally gave up and sat down, and then remembered I'd been messing with Christmas lights in the area where I keep my charger, because I was putting up some white lights with my fall decorations. I checked the box where I'd put away some lights I wasn't using, and sure enough, my charger had gotten tangled up in them. I don't know HOW I thought of that, but thank god I did. Phone chargers don't work too well when they're buried in the bathroom closet.

By then I was wide awake, so I got up, took a bath and then listened to music for awhile. I was listening to "Rasputin" by Boney M, which is somewhere in my playlist in the sidebar, and thinking about making a playlist of Russia songs: Rasputin, and "Moskau" by Rammstein, "Back in the U.S.S.R." by The Beatles, and... what else? Then I remembered The Nutcracker, which is all Russian because Tchaikovsky was Russian, but there's also a song called the Russian Dance. So I put on the Nutcracker and listened to that while I packed.

Then I saw something on a blog about making putty or gloop or something, and that reminded me I'd seen Thinking Putty in a ThinkGeek catalog I have and was wondering what it was. So I looked that up, and read about the different properties of dilatant compounds.

I was talking to people on MSN when I was writing this, and I showed Tim the cartogram and told him about the population of Australia being the same as Florida, and he offered his version. I like it.

Also, I looked at Brian May's blog again while writing this, and saw that Richard Wright of Pink Floyd had died. That made me really sad, especially since I've only just become a fan of theirs and (embarassingly) didn't know anything about him yet. But everyone who's been in Pink Floyd is brilliant. RIP, Richard Wright.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting how trains, graffiti, and Russia came up several times today for different reasons. I can't even begin to try and put any of this stuff in subjects; there's geography and statistics and art and science and language and math and everything. And most of that, really, was sparked by talking about guitars and rock music. I guess that's a good example of one interest connecting to everything in the world :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

I was blogsurfing today and found this list, from Very Good Taste. While I definitely don't agree with the author's assertion that everyone "should" try all these foods, I think it's an interesting meme and there are certainly things on here that I'd consider trying.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

(I'm also adding asterisks to what I haven't eaten, but would particularly like to try)

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue*
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi*
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes*
19. Steamed pork buns*
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche*
28. Oysters
29. Baklava (yum!!)
30. Bagna cauda*
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (Clam chowder grosses me out)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (no to the cigar, not the cognac)
37. Clotted cream tea*
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O*
39. Gumbo* (I actually can't remember if I've tried this or not)
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala*
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone (endangered)
54. Paneer*
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle*
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips*
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst*
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain*
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (It is bizarre not to see this written "chitlins")
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong*
80. Bellini (I despise peach)
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (???)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab (Only because they're kept in one piece *shudder*)
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (Despite being a Floridian, still no. Though I will admit the fried gator tail at the fair smells good, at least.)

It was extremely useful that Fez was online while I was doing this, so I could bug him about all the weird Indian/South Asian foods and whether they're good or not. (This was probably mean, since it's Ramadan and the middle of the day in Singapore and the poor dude is hungry. Darn, I guess I won't be winning any "World's Greatest Friend" awards anytime soon. Ah well, I'd probably lose them anyway due to excessive Myspace bulletins and never checking my voicemail.)

I also want to add that I have totally eaten ants, but they weren't whole. They were crushed up in chocolate. See, in a biology class I took a few years ago, the teacher offered us something like 2 points of extra credit if we'd eat these things. (There was some vague educational relevance to this, but I don't remember what it was.) I wanted the points, so I ate a piece. It was actually pretty good, kinda like a Crunch bar. But later I got a job as that particular professor's assistant, and she told me one day about how her students jump through hoops for all these little points even though the total points for the class were so many that two points couldn't possibly affect your final letter grade. I started to laugh at her students' failure to realize this, until it dawned on me that I'd been one of her students. "Hahaha, those dumb- HEY! Wait a second, I ate ants for you! ANTS!!"

Oh well. At least they were chocolate-covered.


I've been learning guitar!!

I know, I know, lots of people do that. But this is a bigger deal than it sounds like. See, when I was twelve I got a clarinet, and a piano AND a keyboard. (My parents were not rich, but they eagerly supported my interest in music, so when I asked for instruments they'd usually scrape up the money somehow.) And I learned both of them pretty quickly: the clarinet through school band classes, and the piano by playing around and picking out songs by ear, then learning chords, then playing with "fake books" (where you play the melody and chords, instead of playing "proper" piano). I felt like there wasn't any instrument I couldn't learn.

Then, when I was 13, I got a guitar.

It wasn't the classical guitar seen here; I got that when I was 17 or 18. No, I was into rock music, and I had to have an electric guitar. So we bought one, and we brought it home, and I picked at it a little and played with the amplifier and tried to make it sound all disorted and grunge-y. And then I tried to learn actual chords, and it made my fingers go numb and they kept hitting the wrong strings and I got all angry and why does this have to be so hard I just want to play Smells Like Teen Spirit dammit!! So I stuffed it in the closet and decided I just couldn't learn string instruments, and felt guilty for asking my mom for something so expensive and then giving it up. I asked for an acoustic years later (I don't know why my mom bought a classical-style one, but it doesn't make much difference to me), hoping it would be easier to learn on that. It wasn't. So I shoved that in the closet too, and now I was wasting two guitars.

If you're keeping score, I'm almost 23 now. That means I've been a guitar owner for nearly ten years without learning to play a single chord or even clumsily pluck a song on one string. As someone whose life pretty much revolves around music, that's pretty embarassing.

But! I figured out what my problem was. I was trying to teach myself guitar. Somehow, I thought guitars were bigger and better than me, and was afraid to play them "wrong" lest they implode or something. I thought this was a big mysterious instrument you had to take serious lessons on - I mean, the piano was just pushing buttons! Guitars had all these scary complicated parts and you can play the same note in a bunch of different places and the music is written in tabs and chords instead of regular sheet music and and and!! So, I was letting it intimidate me. That's a lot of power to give a box of wood with some nylon tied to it.

But now I've decided I want to try again, mostly because of this guy we saw at Yasumicon who just randomly had a guitar and took it up in a tree with him and started playing Led Zeppelin and stuff. I thought, "Dude, I wanna be able to randomly play music wherever I go!" There's no climbing up in a tree with a piano. But this time I just let myself play with the guitar, the way I did when I was learning piano. And you know what? I'm learning a lot faster. I'll just start plucking a melody on one string, and then go "This would be a lot easier to play if I used more than one string; I wouldn't have to move my hand so much". So then I'll figure out how to play it on two strings, then three, then four. And it's fun, and there's no feeling like a failure when I don't do something "right". I still haven't learned chords, but here are the melodies I can play so far:

When Johnny Comes Marching Home/Ants Go Marching
You Are My Sunshine
Scarborough Fair
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/The alphabet song/Baa Baa Black Sheep
The Twelve Days of Christmas
"And I Love Her" by The Beatles (just the basic melody)

And I'm working on these:
Greensleeves/What Child is This
God Save the Queen/My Country 'Tis of Thee/The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen


Friday, September 12, 2008

Reminder to Myself

Dear Self,

Please remember not to sleep until noon. It makes you feel painfully tired and nonfunctional all day and you become cranky and rude and whiny like a toddler who has missed her nap. And you won't be able to nap either, you'll be in zombie-limbo, checking Yahoo and Myspace over. And over. And over. And over. And over.

Go to bed early and get up at 7 or 8, or maybe 9. You'll have energy and enjoy the day and you won't be a crazy woman snapping at everyone for not understanding your incoherent ramblings.


Friday, September 5, 2008

My playlist

I'm trying to figure out how to get this in the sidebar, but for now I'll just post it here. ETA: Or not, because it doesn't work.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Get these subjects out of my learning!

-Note: I realize this blog is a little hard to read here, so I'm cross-posting it here as well, with the caveat that much of the stuff around that blog doesn't really apply anymore.-

At the beginning of this summer, I took on an odd project. I was beginning to explore the idea of homeschooling and decided to try eclectic homeschooling on myself. I made myself a list of things I "wanted" to know (read: things I thought I "should" know) and a daily schedule in which to study those things. That list is here. I gave myself the timetable of "till the end of August" to "finish" this project.

Midsummer, though, I discovered radical unschooling. With great timing too - right when the Radical Unschoolers' Network was started, and right before Learn Nothing Day. I decided to try unschooling for a week, and never went back to the old schedule. Unschooling is way too much fun. And I kept right on learning, of course, I thought it'd be interesting to look over that "curriculum outline" from the beginning of summer and see if, by coincidence, I'd learned any of the same stuff by unschooling.

Looking over it, I realized I only learned a few of these areas, but I learned SO MUCH MORE about them than I would have on the plan I'd made. And I learned about them in ways that were real and fun and relevant and intertwined with each other. The way I'd been learning before was so shallow and detached, and this is better. Here's some highlights:

Subject: German
Original plan: Daily workbook assignments in a dry textbook designed mostly for travelers. Flash cards. Language software. I learned only very basic words in a very rigid order, without jumping ahead or looping back.
Unschooling: I listened to Rammstein and Kraftwerk and Rosenstolz, looked up the song translations online and listened to the songs again to see what words I now recognized. I noticed different accents among the singers and looked up where they were from to learn about regional differences in pronunciation. I found German versions of David Bowie and Peter Gabriel songs that I could compare back and forth to the English versions. I got excited when I realized I understood the meaning of the Simpsons episode title "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk". I played a game with friends where one person would put a phrase in Babelfish, translate it into German and tell the rest of us, and we'd all try to guess what the original phrase was. (This meant my friends learned some German too, even though they hadn't planned to study it.) I bought a German magnet poetry kit. I watched the film Bach in Auschwitz. A friend noticed my interest and lent me Run Lola Run, which I haven't watched yet, but it's there when I'm ready for it. I watched Youtube videos of Old English and Middle English, which gave me a better understanding of both English and German. And, I still used that language software, but I jumped around and did whatever lessons I was ready for instead of going in a prescribed order. I did these things because they were fun and interesting to me, and they all felt like play.

Subject: Literature (a subject I totally loathed in school)
Original plan: Read classic books off a reading list.
Unschooling: I've learned about Jekyll and Hyde from a show on History International, and from an Arthur cartoon. I learned about Oscar Wilde from the Venture Bros. I read Watership Down because my friends all said they loved it, and I really loved it too. From that one book I learned an enormous amount about various political systems, nature, and the value of different personality types. I also read the first half of A Clockwork Orange because I always wanted to read it (didn't finish because I ran out of renews at the library), from which I learned an uncountable number of things about morality and even picked up a few words of Russian. I played a complicated game involving shuffling through your iPod and pulling lines out of different songs to make a poem, and then trying to interpret what that poem might be about. (It's eerie how often they come together in a way that can make sense!) I've driven myself mad trying to figure out what certain song lyrics are about, and quoted others to express my own feelings. I've written and read tons and tons of blog posts (many of which could easily be called "essays", if you wanted to suck the fun out of them.) I've listened to rock operas straight through and followed their plots with ease, even though I used to refuse any form of fiction that wasn't a 30-minute sitcom or cartoon. I learned about HP Lovecraft through playing Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.

Subject: Social studies and current events. This one is HUGE. I'd say the bulk of my learning right now, if forced into a "traditional" school category, falls here. Which is impressive since I hate, hate, hated social studies in school. Now I find all these things interesting (and of course, most of them ooze nicely over the edges of "social studies" and into other areas, in ways school would probably never allow).
Original plan: Read books about specific topics like Native Americans and the Middle East. Study Islam. Draw maps. Study the Russian Revolution and WWI. Force myself to read three news articles each day (regardless of what they were about or if I truly understood them.) Listen (probably halfheartedly) to some samples of world music from a curriculum CD.
1. I play Civilization II. To do this I have to carefully craft each empire, making meticulous decisions every step of the way about what form of government to use, what improvements will help each city grow, what kinds of military units I need, whether it is wise to go to war (and I've found it rarely is), and which scientific advancements to pursue. I've discovered certain advances developed in a certain order, and wondered why, and looked that up on Wikipedia. For example, the game makes you learn polytheism before monotheism; when I looked this up I learned about the very first religions and how they were polytheistic and why. I played as various different civilizations and learned the names of their major cities and most important leaders. I learned about the differences between despotism, fundamentalism and other forms of government I wouldn't have ever "studied" in a curriculum. I learned about the value of mining, farming and trade.

2. The German music I mentioned above sparked an unexpected interest in Peter Gabriel, who has worked hard to give world music a wider audience. Through his songs I've been exposed to many languages, including little-known African ones like Xhosa and Wolof, and learned about Apartheid and the murder of Steven Biko. Because both Gabriel and my other favorite artist, Queen, performed there I watched the 46664 concert for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, where I learned about Mandela's life, struggles and achievements. I was exposed to African artists like Youssou N'Dour and Geoffrey Oryema through Gabriel's collaborations with them. I went to a music store and looked at African drums. I learned the rough locations of different countries in Africa and read about the controversy surrounding Zimbabwe's elections. Africa was not on my list of "subjects" to cover and never would have been, but I took interest in it all because of very western, English rock music.

3. I read liberal blogs that have gone into deep, thoughtful discussions about privilege and the different prejudices that impact people of various races, classes, genders, religions, and so on. I thought long and hard about my own unconscious prejudices and worked on getting over them. I developed the courage to stand up when someone is being offensive, and the tact to realize when they didn't mean to be offensive, and to explain it in a non-accusatory manner. These are skills no curriculum will ever cover. All I've ever learned in formal classes was how to squabble and make enemies.

4. I've followed the developments of this year's presidential campaign closely, and had long, deep, thought-provoking discussions with friends about the significance of each choice the candidates make. This has included trying to predict how the general public will respond to each new development, and analyzing how the media often puts a biased or misleading spin on information.

5. I've taken an unexpected interest in the History International channel, mostly sparked by Civ II. I've watched, among other things: several episodes of The Naked Archaeologist, shows about Victorian England, a documentary about the Dark Ages, and a show about the city that inspired the story of Jekyll and Hyde. When I was in school, you had to drag me kicking and screaming to a history book. I surely would never have watched a channel with the "history" label for fun.

6. I memorized the "Yakko's World" song from Animaniacs, just for fun. I looked up which countries he missed and which ones he named that no longer exist.

7. I visited an anime convention in Miami with some friends. Because it was anime, I was exposed to Japanese culture. Because it was Miami, I was exposed to Latino culture (and had quite a culture shock when I realized almost no one spoke English in the part of town we were staying in!). I shared a hotel room with a friend from India who now lives in Singapore. (That friend is also Muslim, and I took note of how difficult it is to get halal/kosher food when going out to eat.) My friends and I ate lunch in a cafeteria that had flags from many countries on display, and we tried to identify them all. I asked my mom if a particular mall I went to had been there when she lived in Miami, and learned that they didn't have malls in the 70s.

Subject: Practical skills
Original plan: Learn, through specific, carefully planned lessons, how to sew, cook, and take care of a car. Force myself to clean house and exercise on a regular schedule.
Unschooling: I experimented with cooking, joyfully preparing meals without a recipe, while blasting music and dancing and singing and not taking it a bit seriously. I helped my mom with trips to the grocery store. I discovered I could move just two pieces of furniture in my room (out of like seven major ones - it's a big room) to give me optimal space and convenience. I learned how to wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo. I thought long and hard about career choices and where I want to live someday. I applied for jobs. I drove six hours to Miami by myself. I carefully budgeted the last bit of my money so that I can take another trip to south Florida for my birthday. I made a list of things I want to buy when I get a job, and compared their prices from various stores, Ebay, etc. I played DDR and jumped on the trampoline and danced around like a lunatic. I happily fed the cats a few times (usually my mom gets to it first) without being asked - not because it was "a chore" but because they were hungry. I didn't sew or change the oil in the car - the oil doesn't need changing right now and I don't even own a sewing machine. If I ever come up with a project I really need sewing for, I'll learn it then.

And there's plenty more learning I've done this summer! This blog would just drag on forever if I named it all, and it was so natural I can't remember it all anyway But those are some of the biggest, most exciting, most surprising things I learned, things I never expected to take interest in. And comparing it all to how I was learning - well, I don't think I need to point out which way is better :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. When I'm sick I'm a huge, whiny baby who needs constant cartoons and Gatorade and heating pads and a big fluffy blankie.

2. When I take a walk, I think about how sandy the dirt on our road is.

3. Money can't buy happiness but it can buy you a plane ticket to go see people who make you happy.

4. Cotton makes me nice and comfy and leather makes me sweat until I die.

5. The strangest person/character I've had lewd thoughts about was I guess my ex, when we were together. He was pretty strange

6. My favorite color these days is purple because it's sort of dark and mysterious, but still part of the rainbow.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to dancing around my room like an idiot, tomorrow my plans include being a lazy bum and Sunday, I want to continue to be a lazy bum!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Things I Need

I've been feeling something missing in my life the last few weeks. I should preface this with updates on my deschooling and de-food-ing (?) progress. (Long post alert! Of course I always feel everything I write is important, but if you're having a serious tl;dr attack, just skip down to the list of nifty bolded thingies.)

A few months ago I started eating what I want, when I want. Lately, I've been noticing that food never "looks good" the way it used to. I open the fridge or a cabinet hoping to see some forbidden luxury food that will give me a sense of... fulfillment? Indulgence? I don't know, but food doesn't do that for me anymore. It's just food. Which is good, because that's what food is supposed to be: just food! But it also means I have to learn how to actually deal with my emotional needs, especially since I'm also giving up the false approval of school. I never realized how much I based my self-image on the approval of teachers; it's a bit disturbing to think about, really.

So, I guess the first stage (with both food and deschooling) was gorging on freedom, and now I'm in the second stage which is realizing something is still missing, grasping for whatever was filling the space before, and going "huh?" when it isn't there. I realized I was in this stage when I started whining constantly to my friends that I was bored, even when I actually had fun things to do. I think sometimes "I'm lonely and want to have an engaging conversation" and "I need something but I don't know what it is" come out as "I'm bored". Usually with kids who are unschooling, their parents are (or should be) ready at this point to jump in and help them find things they need. I don't have this help; my mom cares, but her world is limited and my knowledge of the great big world out there exceeded hers at least ten years ago. Luckily I have pretty good intrapersonal intelligence (more on this in another post), so I can look inside myself and figure out pretty well what I need. Here's a list of ideas I made, hoping to move into a third stage of going out and finding new things to *actually* fulfill me.

A job. I need a job for income to buy new fun things, and to take classes and go places, and to save money so maybe we can eventually move, and to do the other stuff on this list. I also need a job because it will get me out of the house every day. I'm not 100% sure what I want to do, but I'm thinking something in retail. An office job would pay better but I'd rather have something where I get to stand up and move around and interact with people. There's a few hippie-ish stores around; I'd love to work at one of those but they tend to be very small businesses that don't hire very often. But basically for now I want a simple job so I can take my time deciding what I want to do long-term.

Music lessons. At Yasumicon a few weeks ago I learned a new reason why guitars are a fun instrument to play: they're portable. There was a teenage boy there, maybe 15 or so, who randomly climbed a tree and started playing guitar there. I thought that was so cool - I'd love to be able to just carry music wherever I go. Sure you can do that with a clarinet or flute or something, but it just doesn't have the same "wandering minstrel" feel. Also you can't play Pink Floyd on them. (Well you can, but...) So I want guitar lessons, and maybe piano too. I'd like to get better at that.

A chance to meet creative people. Not that the people I know aren't creative! But I feel like most of my friends are more passionate about visual art or drama, and I need to be around music-lovers. I'm talking about people who practically pee themselves over a good song, like I do. This is one I may have covered; I answered a musician ad on Craigslist for someone who basically wants to gather other weird, artsy people to maybe work on projects or bounce ideas off each other. So that should be good.

Possibly some kind of gaming thingy. That is totally the technical term for it. Seriously though, I have an old Dungeons and Dragons guide laying around and was paging through it and thinking I might like to actually play again. This should be pretty easy to find since a lot of my friends are gamer geeks, I can just ask if they know anybody running a good D&D campaign. (If you're one of my gamer friends and you read this, no I do not want to play Vampire the Masquerade/Requiem/whatever. I like sitting around somebody's apartment rolling dice kind of gaming, not LARPing. Although that weird old west game might be interesting...)

Some kind of spiritual group. Maybe pagan, maybe new age, maybe... I don't know. I'll check into the CUUPS (Unitarian pagans) group at church, maybe.

An art or jewelry making class. Or maybe just some really good, well-illustrated books on the subject.

And that's what I've come up with so far. It feels really good to step back and acknowledge that while my friends are awesome, they cannot be everything I need all the time. Sometimes I'm going to get interested in things none of them care about, and instead of being whiny and resentful I just need to get off my ass and go find people who like what I like. I used to feel like that was somehow disloyal, but really it's a LOT more fair to my friends than expecting them to take interest in whatever strange whim I have at any given time.

Now, if I can just find a job, I can actually afford to get started on the other stuff.