Once upon a time…

I skipped my last posting day. No real reason other than the migraine I battled last week—a few days had me in tears. I get migraines a lot and most people don’t believe that they are actual migraines, but I’ve been getting them since I was twelve. They leveled up when I started teaching…teaching is simultaneously my favorite thing to do and a minefield I’m not always the best at wandering through. Every time I get burned out, I decide to stay in the profession because I really can’t think about what else I would do. In six years I’ll hit thirty years of teaching total, in eight I’ll have thirty years in at my current job—but in neither instance will I be ready to retire financially or emotionally.

For so many reason this year, most of them small, I have been toying with the idea of not putting in 40 years of classroom time (which is the first time I’ve had those thoughts in my 20+ years). I haven’t done well with all of this time away from my actual classroom. It has been good for forcing me to realize just how much my students mean to me—even the ones who shudder at my memory or loathe me daily. I can be grating on some nerves because I live happily in a world of metaphor, a higher level of chaos than most teachers, and I bring philosophy & history to the table as much as I can. My approach to literature has become one of alternative interpretations based on years of reading, discussing, rereading, teaching, and formatively assessing students’ understanding of various books. My understanding of books has changed over all these years.

Beowulf is a brilliant man who plays the personal myth, champion, and left hand games to a degree that wins his frienemy, Unferth, from jealous annoyance to solid ally.

Hester Prynne is a rockstar feminist who teaches her daughter strength and compassion. Roger Chillingworth has a true redemptive arc and is more a father to Pearl at the beginning of his life and through his death than her sperm donor ever was. Arthur Dimmesdale is the true villain of the book who spends years setting up his community so they will never believe his ultimate confession and he when does confess it’s without ever truly taking responsibility for his part in Hester’s struggles or taking responsibility for his biological daughter.

Brave New World and 1984 are brilliant yin and yang looks at control through pleasure and deprivation with a heavy emphasis on technology. Both writers are brilliant in seeing where technology is leading us even if the mechanics of their worlds aren’t really comparable to how our tech actually works. And, Ray Bradbury continues to be the voice in the wilderness even if the way technology has dumbed us down isn’t quite how he envisioned it.

Fairy tales still teach us the most important life lessons outside the faith or philosophy our parent lay down as our foundations. Fairy tale imagery has seeped into every corner of our popular culture, looking back and going forward. The journey into adulthood, meeting our special monsters, facing our shadows, embracing new ways of looking at the world & living in it…we owe a great debt to the grandfathers of The Fairy Tale—Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. We owe a great debt to the keepers of folklore—The Grimms, Schönwerth, d’Aulnoy, Lang, and countless others—for bridging the gap between the illiterate and the literate.

That ridiculous green light that Nick puts so much meaning into in his attempts to understand Gatsby is as imaginary as Jay, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan. They were all curating their lives in a way any Facebook or instagram aficionado should aspire to today. And, those parties are genius for Jay’s true work moving guns & alcohol from Canada to New York—everyone’s is focused on spectacle and no one is looking at the docks or empty party supply trucks.

I love teaching these stories and I’m ready for The House of Cadmus via Antigone rather than Oedipus next year. The final chapter in a legacy cursed by the gods via a poisoned wedding gift that start with the founding of Thebes. It’s taken me years to appreciate Ismene’s quiet, desperate strength in the face of Antigone’s determination to not relive the mistakes of her father no matter the cost.

Our current situation is a global reminder for those of us who live small, safe lives that there is always a cost, even if it’s not one we are personally faced with every day. My cost is nearly daily spikes of pain in my brain; others deal with the long term payments of surviving cancer or the ups & downs of marriage or crippling debts. Teaching is a great, daily reminder to me of how much goes on in the lives of my students and colleagues no matter the face they put on when at the high school. The balance is seeing former students who have grown up and become so much more than I could imagine for them. I don’t know most of their struggles when they are in my classes or long after when I run onto them. I just get to be proud of them for persevering and finding some sort of happiness and success.

My students are also a reminder of what I learned from my own parents, my childhood, my years as an adult. I’m not who I once was as a teacher and I hope to continue to become better. I’m not who I once was as a person—success, failure, hope, pain, friends, and family have helped with that. Both of my parents taught me how to deal with the pain of different types of migraines; my life didn’t used to allow me to deal with that pain in any other way than to suck it up and get through it the best I can. I know I’m blessed or lucky most of the time. My teacup tempests are small; my life is small which brings its own pain and grace.

At least I have stories. My maternal grandfather was the first storyteller to open my mind, but there have been so many more storytellers over the years. I hope I open some of the minds in my care to the beauty of stories, the strangeness of truth, and the skills to look beyond the words. Gramps laid that part of my foundation even though I didn’t have too many years under his tutelage. Papa, his long-term replacement, taught me how important personal anecdotes are to understanding individuals. I am so lucky to have had multi-generational teachers and the time to look back at what my grandfathers, grandmothers, and parents taught me about people and the world.

Once upon a time Gramps would open his tobacco pouch, tamp down the tobacco in his pipe, light a match, and settle in to tell his stories.

Once upon a time Grandma would open up her door, accept a hug, and show us her fierce determination to live her life on her own terms.

Once upon a time Grams showed us the value of risk by opening up her heart and landing two great loves in one lifetime.

Once upon a time my parents battled the ups and down of marriage, poverty, chronic illness, and faith to show their children loyalty, shades of generosity, and the fruits of determination.

Once upon a time I entered my first classroom and found out how different reality is. My next trick will be surfing the changes Covid-19 has brought to my students, my colleagues, and teaching high school…

Sisterhood is vast

I use this as a hashtag sometimes as a reminder that my faith is based on love in action.

Whether or not I like someone, common courtesy tells me to be polite; treating someone with basic courtesy does not mean I respect them or trust them—it means I see them as human, as worthy of attention as I would like to be. Somewhere along the way, I’ve watched people forget this when they interact. Most of the time there is nothing lost by listening to someone, by shaking their hand (or whatever post-physical distancing equivalents become the norm), by using their chosen pronouns or title. I’ve experienced people who use their faith and/or truth as a weapon. I’ve use truth as a weapon and, thankfully, I learned to change; moments of regret should help us change.

I’m trying to articulate how important it is to embrace a more egalitarian approach to everyday interactions. We will never be equal in a society that values money or education or conventional standards of beauty or…or…or as much as ours does.

Sisterhood is vast.

We have to watch out for each other. We have hold ourselves accountable for what we do, what we leave undone, what we say, and what we leave unsaid. We have to listen to each other. We have to learn from each other.

We have to forgive ourselves.

We have to let go and hold on and accept the innate dissonance of reality.

The sisterhood is always expanding.

#breakthestigma

Today’s title is courtesy of @shethority

I’m only writing tonight because it’s on my calendar to post on my blog. I’m laying in bed with the windows open smelling my neighbor’s fire. Their music and conversation drifts up in a low buzz when I’m lucky. Other times two of the backyards have dueling music or the conversations get loud. My first year in this place I resented all the noise and didn’t handle it well; I can’t remember (other than the one live backyard band until 02:00) why it was worth so much fuss or frustration—that was just before medication. It’s amazing how much working meds help me mentally. When they stop working, it usually takes time to recognize the rising frustrations and interior inconsistencies as results of med failures.

Taking my meds doesn’t automatically relieve me of depression, anxiety, or migraines. Medication helps.

Writing helps me too.

Since I really accepted that I will deal with these things for the rest of my life (even before I accepted the needs for medication for me), I wanted to normalize taking about depression. My parents would have had no idea what to do if I had approached them in high school to talk about what I termed The Fear. People didn’t talk about such things in the late 80’s. It’s not my parents’ fault I felt broken on multiple levels and they weren’t equipped to really acknowledge those kinds of problems. It is important to me now (has been important for the past decade or so) that people become okay talking about mental health, personal diversity, and what it means to be true to ourselves.

If a man want to feel pretty, why should he be mocked or bullied? If a woman wants to feel tough, why should she be ignored or bullied? if someone swings wide in their personal aesthetic, how is it our place to judge them?

Why is it embarrassing to have a therapist or psychologist? Why is someone weak for being easily stressed out or showing emotion? Why isn’t it okay to take medication for physical or mental health? Why is it okay to mock someone for being overweight? Why is it okay to judge someone for their socio-economic level?

Birth control isn’t a gateway to promiscuity.

When I first entered an online community in 1999, I came across as a “self-righteous, judgmental b*tch” and I was told that more than once—usually at times when judgement was far from my intentions. In high school, I came across as a “stuck up b*tch” according to friends and acquaintances even though I was just horrifically afraid of people. Teaching taught me early on that not everyone is going to like me and that’s okay. Every year I become more comfortable with the ways I’m not “normal”. I long ago accepted that I’m never going to be conventionally attractive. There’s a price to be paid for being true to myself and accepting the changes that come with success and failure.

In these strange time, more and more people are experiencing the waves of strong emotion, the edges of depression, an increase in anxiety, and a thousand other shades of “broken”. It’s okay. It’s okay to be angry about how life has changed. It’s normal to have times where our own minds become echo chambers or spirals of negativity. We are all human. We all have issues. The best we can do varies by person and by day—how we face these times, what we are willing to learn and do is what matters. Accepting that “normal” is a myth might be the first step in letting go of the rightness of judging others and ourselves.

Working on being our better selves is important. Holding ourselves to impossible standards of beauty or normalcy can trap us in The Fear. What we each need from ourselves and others us varied and it’s okay to embrace that as long as it doesn’t include harming others. One of the most important lessons that is left untaught or unlearned is that truth isn’t a weapon. Truth is important, but like most things it is better when paired with compassion.

  • My rules for life…
    • Be smart
    • Be safe
    • Be kind
    • Be true

Prepare for The Random

Days where I don’t have anything to say are why I stop posting 100% of the time. I’ll have a streak going and then find myself without anything worth saying—it doesn’t stop me offline so it shouldn’t stop me here. Power through and all that Jazz. So, here’s what’s on my mind right now:

  • Got a Grove box yesterday with basics like minty soap and mintier toothpaste.
  • The weather went from wet to low 70’s & it’s beautiful.
  • I feel like I’m actually edging my way out of the total darkness—it’s still a little grim, but I’m alive and that’s a blessing.
  • I miss teaching in the classroom.
  • My tennis shoes are looking at me like, go for a walk. This week’s poor excuse is the street work in front of my house and hills.
  • Reading the Newsflesh series and more romance novels. Glancing through the news for good articles to read and discuss.
  • I have too many boxes to break down and stack up. I just let them collect. This may be some weird packrat pathology tied to my wide streaks of laziness and procrastination. I can feel my goddaughter judging me.
  • I got to the point where I made a ridiculous number of playlists that are all eclectic, but I tend to listen to “Utter Silliness” the most. I had my playlist problem under control for months.
  • I think I’ll go to the six-feet away cocktail hour a block down today. I am really missing my friends and this way I can catch up with a few. Texts just aren’t the same as a table full of people I adore down at The Great Pacific.
  • Love the maps by @alfred_twu on twitter. It’s fascinating to watch the states come together or drift apart.
  • Do some people not think about how much worse this pandemic would be without all the social distancing? I keep thinking about my folks, my friends who are immune-compromised, and I also think about how much I want things “back to normal” already. I just fall into the camp that thinks there will another new normal and no return to the old normal.
  • I’m trying not to obsess too much about the things that freak me out.
  • I have got to renew things soon and finish small projects. I also have to finish a couple of big projects.

I hope this finds you well (especially if you took the time to read this). Most of my posts end up with one to three views which makes it harder to stay motivated. This time around, I just keep reminding myself the only way to get better is to practice. At least my head is a little lighter.

Enjoy the boys; two minutes after this picture they were not so friendly. What is it with cats and their need to be on clean clothes?

Been another minute

March 12, 2020 was the start of a weird time in the lives of me and mine. I went to bed with a killer migraine and woke up late Friday morning (a very rare sick day) to the news that Governor Brown was shutting down schools for a few weeks and that’s turned into a strange new life for many of us. I was aware of Covid-19 as it shut down parts of China, South Korea, and Italy. I watched it creep closer as Wildhorse and Nixyaawii Community School shut down for sterilization. We all watched.

April 13, 2020 began a new round of adjustments. Supplemental material shifted to skill-building for grades and chasing down assignments. Many seniors struggled with the abrupt end to their year and the loss of various rites of passage. The rest of the students have been figuring out how to manage home expectations, a range of very real emotions, and juggling all their online classes. It’s no easier for students than for teachers. We are all figuring out how to make things work, how to keep students practicing & learning new skills so they are ready for next year—not that we know what that will look like. I like to think we will be back in the classroom.

Those who know me know I don’t operate well with too much free time (makes it easier to sympathize with some of my students).

I can’t even count the books I’ve read since March 13—I have been a little surprised at my genre choices. Right now, I am impressed by the eerily prescient work of some speculative fiction authors. The apocalypse has been my jam as a Gen-Xer and sci-fi fan—who doesn’t remember those totally useless nuclear bomb drills (head under the desk) in grade school? The end of the known world was around the corner every year, but it never quite happened. The world was a scary place that got scarier every year and we lived through it all, but not all our friends did. We used dark humor, because we would’ve drowned in tears and fear if we didn’t laugh.

Looking at my Gen-Z students as they watch the world change around them in a syrupy slow speed that feels like being pulled into tomorrow by a superhero speedster, they already understand. Millennials spent the last decade being told they are the reason for society’s failures thanks to avocado toast, board games, and not having the money to buy this or that. Now Gen-Z is being told to suck it up or how easy they have it; every “pass” they are getting is going to come with a high price.

I don’t know. It’s been a minute and I’m trying to stop vomiting my thoughts all over twitter. I have not been keeping up on my writing, so hopefully each post gets better with practice and repetition. Practice what I preach, right?

I hope this finds you all well. I hope this helps me find the focus I lost sometime in the last few years.

Forgive my typos.

Educate me, please

As many of my students will remember, I’m big on bringing up current events, history, and moments of major change to inform our understanding of the fiction and nonfiction we address in various classes. I’ve been adding to my Contemporary Era section which has meant reading quite a bit of news and digging up related, interesting information (not all of which makes it into the Miscellany—my 300+ pages document covering everything I think is important for my students to know in order to be well-rounded, critical thinkers).

The news over the last couple of weeks has prompted this latest revision. I try to keep my bias to minimum and I try to be accurate in how I word my notes so that I can be accurate with the information I give my students and the directions I point them toward for finding additional information.

I’m sure there are some errors in this section of notes (typos and facts), so please feel free to let me know where to look or what you know that I might want to include in this document.

Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read through my Contemporary Era notes. Thank you to anyone who drops me a line on WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, or via email.

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For Sixth Period…

A few years ago, I struggle to articulate the fundamental difference between the concepts of niceness and kindness–they are not straight synonyms. This year, my classes keep coming back to equality and individual freedoms. Both my juniors and my seniors have had multiple discussions discussions about equality, reparations for various groups whose ancestors were poorly treated by the US government, privilege, modern racism and prejudice, and class issues.

Equality is the idea that we should all be given the same rights and responsibilities. This generally falls apart in execution due to all of the factors that keep us from being the same. Equality and sameness are not interchangeable, but the way many people discuss equality makes it seem like they are.


“We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe–some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others–some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.”

Atticus Finch’s closing argument: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (274)


Kurt Vonnegut also discussed equality versus sameness in his 1961 short story “Harrison Bergeron” (which I teach every couple of years). If we can all acknowledge what Lee and Vonnegut were getting at, then I hope we can dial down on the inherent idea that we are owed anything for existing. Even hard work, extreme dedication, and a core of steel cannot guarantee us success in school or in life. Bad thing happen to good people and good thing happen to bad people which pulls me to the story of Job (yes, the one from The Bible).

Do my rights matter more than anyone else’s?

Do my needs matter more than anyone else’s?

Living in community requires a give-and-take. Sometimes that mean making reparation for the crimes of our government or our ancestors and sometimes it means working to make sure that the playing field of life is a well maintained as possible. Human nature dictates that we will never be equal in practice. What I take from these stories is that why things are the way they are matters less than how I treat others in the here and now.

One More

One who does not

Sleeps life away

Dreams the pages of books

Waits for one who does

One who does keeps going

Gets knocked down, And

Gets up again

Embracing best self bs

One does not want

One has needs

Buddha tells us to leave them

To sit, to breathe, to be

One loves through time

One loves with money

One loves with physical affection

Christ tells us to love all


I’m not sure what inspired me today, but my poetry students have started their big project. For three weeks, they write and write and write. While it’s admittedly cool to see a poem spring forth fully formed and almost perfect, it is not the reality we (writers) face. Today, I got to see one of my students as she worked hard on a poem–ideas, snatches of phrases and images, attempt after attempt to get four perfect lines. When she showed me those four lines, I got chills.

I love teaching people to think, to communicate in different ways–I love seeing the lightbulb go off above their heads.

Not Neurotic

In 1997, as I finished my first school year, I started a page of Notes to Myself–things to consider over the summer and as I planned/taught the next year. I’ve been putting together a collection of everything I think it’s important for my students to know crossing all four years of high school and incorporating information from every class I’ve taught. It’s been through countless formats, broken into separate pieces, brought back together again. Currently, I’m adding notes for The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird. For a long time I called it my English Bible, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea…

I’m over 300 pages of notes on stories, poems, films, television shows, and brief bits of general information about important people (scientists, icons, iconoclasts, and authors). People tend to look at me like I’m crazy when I pull out the binder it’s all housed in (or when I try to show them the 300+ pages on my phone). Some people think having this miscellany of information makes me well-organized (I’m not). Some people think it all makes me OCD (I’m really not).

I am a lover of stories, the things that inspire them, the people that influence them, the times that shape them. I love seeing how things ripple.

At least it’s not a school night

So, my house is a little cute post-WWII boom house. All of my neighbors have more cars than they have driveway for…

Six or seven years ago when my back yard neighbors moved in, they had a Round-Up party that included a live, loud band in their back yard well past one in the morning. It started a steady level of loathing that might have led to me inappropriately shrieking at them from my back yard around midnight a year later. I can totally acknowledge I lost my shit out of sheer frustration and it did no good.

Unfortunately for me, the back yard situation works like an amphitheater which means all the noise drifts up my back hill—I used to think they were loud on purpose, then I figured out the amphitheater factor. Although a few of their guests (who maybe remember the one time I list my shit over five years ago?) get really loud with yips and whoops and what-not.

My current problem is that my migraines have leveled up about the same time their parties are leveling up. I’m sure they are fine people. They clearly have a solid social circle and they like to get together—I can respect that (and the Prozac helps). I don’t think they are horrifyingly obnoxious on purpose 84% of the time (this is growth on my part). I just hate that I have to close my back door (the only one with a screen) and my bedroom windows on nice nights to limit how much I hear. For example, I shut my curtains tonight to limit other people seeing into my bedroom and limit the brightness from the fire they always have going. I love looking out my windows at night. I love being able to feel the breezes and general sounds of the town, but I don’t want any clarity on what my neighbors and their guests talk about. I already hear far more than I want to.

It’s not that late, but I’m tired and my audiobook volume is a little louder than normal. My cats aren’t thrilled because the curtains block their view. My head hurts. And suddenly I’m thinking about how much it’s going to cost to get the tree cut back a bit and where I’m going to magically find the money…adulting isn’t often awesome or something I’ve excelled at recently.

They haven’t changed—thankfully I gained some sanity when I got on a good anti-depressant and was able to easily acknowledge I’m not a factor for them.

I am pretty sure they’ll appreciate me if I can afford to get the tree trimmed, because those leaves are a bit much in the fall and I haven’t felt nearly enough guilt about how many leaves end up in their back yard (which is super passive aggressive and petty).

I want to keep my tree healthy and thriving.

I love my tree.

Sweet dreams, I guess.