Archive for April, 2007

Grumpy and scared; teaching epiphanies

I’m irritable, frustrated, and feeling scared of this injection. The doctor did talk like I would leap up and be healed. Online sources, reputable ones, seem less convinced, and warn that there will be a few days of increased pain before the steroids kick in for real. I’m scared of the procedure and I’m scared of the aftermath. “Increased pain” can mean anything from achiness to not being able to walk for days more and so I worry I won’t be able to sit up or hobble and I might have to take pain meds. That’s not really all that scary but it makes my heart sink.

Plus a general freakazoidal feeling from constantly battling the thought of OMG AN INJECTION INTO MY SPINE.

Though the affected joint is in mid-back, the main horrible pain is in my tailbone just to the right. I’m so very tired of this pain. It would be refreshing to hurt somewhere ELSE.

Meanwhile, grading in-class group project on “Hungry for a Month” and really enjoying it.

Today’s class rocked! I was so happy and proud of my students. We hit a groove today. Tons of people talked in class. I felt they approached the complicated exercise with confidence. My working at giving them very clear instructions paid off too. The subject was interesting to them. They seemed to “get it” and in their groups wrote busily and with purpose.

I sat there correcting their revised “Works Cited” pages and thinking that every time they have done very well, it’s when I’ve taught well. Every time they’ve seemed confused and unable to do an assignment, it’s because I haven’t taught well. I have hit upon “the groove” at times only because of flexibility and experimentation and listening to them. To the teachers who feel bitter and that their students suck, I would say not that the teacher sucks but that they haven’t figured out the way to teach those students yet and they should experiment with many techniques.

No matter what grades they end up with I have a strong feeling of trust that they learned some useful things. The guy who writes confused blather still does, but it’s more organized confused blather and rather than failing he will make a C+ on the exam. I think we’ll practice this same exercise with different source material two more times. With this magic technique at their fingertips, they’ll be ready for English 1B.

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So I feel like telling a story

In the bath just now I was lying there scrobbling blue stuff into my dandruffy scalp as I thought about relationships and teaching composition. The skills of my students and where I have failed to bring them up to speed; the times that I went out with someone and realized oh fuck it was a bad idea. I realized most of my knowledge of the basics of what I have not but might should have taught, I learned in early high school. My teacher was a hardassed tightlipped reasonably intelligent person. She explained very clearly about grammar, clauses, compound and complex sentences, essay structure; that sort of thing. I had read a lot of it in my parents’ 3-volume set of little grammar books – Elements of Style, Strunk & White, and one other book – but never got it in class. This teacher had a ton of information and conveyed it with maximum efficiency. I enjoyed that! This train of thought led me to consider how I could have done a quick grammar review at the beginning of the semester. Would that have helped? I’m not sure. It might have helped two people and lost me the attention and respect of five others. And frankly I felt that oh for fuck’s sake that’s why I’m telling y’all to go to the writing lab or for tutoring, and to read specific pages in the textbook. So I didn’t! Thus missing a chance to pass on very solid knowledge they are missing and may never get. The comma splices, people! I do it on purpose! I know when not to do it in a formal situation! They don’t!

A couple of years later I ended up going out with her son, who was in his freshman year at college. I was going out with his friend Kane in a casual way and realized I could potentially really like him because he was really really nerdy, smart, fun, intellectually competitive in a pleasant way, liked books and science, and good in bed; but he was a bit nuts when it came down to it and was doing things like flying on small airplanes across the border to bring back mass quantities of mescaline and weird designer drugs to R1ce and who also was not “into having a relationship” and so I backed away slowly from Kane after writing a lot of bad poetry and then, at a party, met his friend, who hit on me… well… why not? So I went out with this dude Radeck, who was charmingly starry eyed and into me and seemed smart and liked to talk about physics. What did I know? And he was off at college so I only really dated him like 4 times. He gave me his letter jacket, I wore it, it kind of helped like armor because I was really sick of getting flak for being a slut at that point, so for a couple of months I was known to Have a Boyfriend and people in high school left me alone. It was a nice thought that I would get to college and there might be an exciting romantic affair where I would get up to all sorts of No Good and in my mind there was … I dunno… some wonderland of learning and creativity and collaboration and there would be some mate or mates (I was proclaiming allegiance to Free Love, though momentarily pausing on my quest to sleep with the entire math club) who would be doing Bohemian Things with me. And I liked Radeck’s co-op which was indeed a giant collective of pretentious arty freakish students. Oh, a side note that my first high school boyfriend, way before this, was very fabulous in so many ways. He was nerdy. He was doofusy. He could quote Monty Python at length. He danced the pogo. He lusted after me with white-hot burning passion. He was genius-like in a way that I was not; a mathy, ordered way. Yet he was also capable of great silliness and gave a great massage. All perfect qualities! But we got to a point where at 15 he was droning on about marrying me and in his mind this would happen immediately after high school when he would go work as a shoe salesman at Brillobrook Mall while I had babies and cooked him macaroni casseroles. Hell no. I recall explaining to him that my vision of life included going to big cities, reading a lot, being gay as hell, taking some drugs maybe, and having a million lovers while writing poetry, going to Nicaragua or somewhere to join a revolutionary group, and sure as fuck not having any babies anytime soon because it would interfere with my Life Experiences. He could not deal with this. I am thankful for my fairy godmother or whatever 70s zeitgeist infected my brain early enough to save me from the horrid fate that could have sucked me dry. So you see why I had to ditch him. Also, he was jealous and began to threaten to shoot himself. OUT DEMON OUT – what can I say. It was Texas.

BACK to Radeck the “college boyfriend” who moved home for the summer. Fascinatingly he told me horrible stories about his parents (you will recall that his mom was my English teacher and was a good one) and how they would take him out back and beat him with a two by four. I have forgotten the other details but the 2 x 4 sticks with me; the other things were all standard Texas hick-ass Christian Dare to Discipline things that sounded like horrible child abuse but were considered fairly normal there. And then. Oh dear! There was a terrible Incident where we were having sex or something in the back of his falling-apart orange chevy mustang in a cul-de-sac out back of some under-construction subdivision. And as we gazed romantically up at the stars through the back window and hoped that Odgen (local police officer) would not drive up and shine his flashlight at us to check if I was being raped or not, I remarked something about stars and how they move around and how nifty it would be to sleep outside and watch them rotate all night, and that it would be majestic and one could imagine one was navigating across the ocean with fabulous navigational knowledge. He remarked back something that destroyed our nascent relationship and I don’t remember how he put it but basically it was that the stars twinkle because of interstellar dust. I was like WHAT dude what the fuck? The stars are twinkly-looking because of the atmosphere of the Earth! And he argued back and forth with me citing completely stupid “physics” and total bullshit about “dark matter” saying that he KNEW because he was a physics and astronomy major, until I wanted to spit. Hello asshole, I have not read World and Discover and Scientific American (all the way up to where it gets equationy) and swooned over Carl Sagan and read all the most sciencey science fiction for my whole life so that you could snow me with your ignorant claptrap about relativity and dark matter! No way could he be my soulmate lover and go through life doing cool fantastic things if he was that fucking dumb! The atmosphere, jerkass! Turbulence! In! The!

It was very disappointing and plus I had just had sex with him so it was also embarrassing to think I had had terrible judgement.

So fast forward through the summer where I did manage to have some fun with other people but he remained sort of nominally my boyfriend though I backed off and did a lot of fast talk about my philosophy of being good friends and lord knows whatall else. I continued to sleep with him sometimes (why?! it must have been good sex?) And then in college rather horribly he began seriously dealing acid and took WAY too much acid himself and went completely nuts. I watched him have a bad trip (with Kane, his friend who I had originally been sleeping with) and helped him out of it and put him to bed (And then as you can imagine, had better things to do with Kane, who was hot and flashing me a sort of knowing sardonic smile; the night was young. We ditched our tripping, passed out friend and went off to flounce around town in the beautiful night and then had great sex while on mescaline. Yes, I can feel you reading this and feeling sorry for Radeck for taking up with a sleazeball like me; recall I was only 16 please; though I’m still that way.) So anyway the upshot of it is I had to keep telling Radeck, while he went completely scarily insane over a period of a few months, that I was not his girlfriend anymore to the point where I refused to speak with him and then moved and stopped answering the phone. Meanwhile, 80 other things were going on (including my girlfriend being stabbed with a butcher knife by her other girlfriend) and I fell madly in love. Then was sort of living with this other dude (not the one I was in love with) in my new coop because I felt safe sleeping in his room because I was afraid of Radeck. Then one morning bright and early before class I went to my actual room (out in an annex, isolated) to change clothes and Radeck was there having broken in and waiting for me… insanely… He refused to leave. I fled… And I went inside the main house and called his parents, my former English teacher and her husband. They were both on the phone. I explained briefly, leaving out the drugs and sex, but putting in the part about how Radeck thought he was the Messiah and I was his destined bride, and asked them to come get their son and sort of rescue him if they could. Their response was so amazing. The mom talked for a while about how I was a bright young thing and how disappointing Radeck was and illustrated it with long stories about how disappointing he was when he had had Every Opportunity. The dad just sighed after this diatribe and I can totally hear his voice in my head even now (or… well… earlier, when I was in the bathtub shampooing my hair and also vaguely re-reading “Dragonriders of Pern”, and if you don’t believe I can do all three things at once, a) read pern books b) wash my hair c) reminisce complicatedly, then you’re wrong) as he sighed and said “Well, that’s that. I guess we’re going to have to have him committed.” As if his longstanding suspicion had been confirmed; he had been a good father best he knew how, his son had not turned out well despite his efforts with the 2 x 4 and his wife’s with the difference between complex and compound sentences; now his son had turned out crazy and would have to be committed to a mental institution; the end.

It was so creepy and wrong and I felt sorry for the guy. Through the years in Austin that I continued being scared of Radeck and still today I am sometimes haunted by the way his parents treated him. I know he is the sort of person who might very easily have murdered me, though. That was the last time I went out with anyone who was scary like that. After that I think my “scary” detector was finely tuned.

Then I thought about Raquel some more and why I loved her so much and just pondered it as I rinsed my hair. She was wild and unlimited and uncategorizable! We ran around actually doing all sorts of odd things and art projects and performancey things! She puzzled and scared me in a good way. She was sad and wouldn’t talk about it! She was sort of weird and robotic! She’d look at me in that way that chicks do when they are trying to make you kiss them, until I kissed her – and then she’d look smug. Her vintage hats, her polka dot dresses… She tasted like garlic… Her pensive moody gaze made my heart flop around madly! Her laughter that sounds like crying. Her cruel, snobbish streak and curt impatience reminded me of my grandmother – in a good way. She was everything interesting and outrageous and her art was good; lively, morbid, energetic, not like anyone else’s. When she was in the room, everyone else turned invisible. She read me Georges Bataille in bed and we were partners in crime pouncing on nerdy slightly nebbishy guys and tying them up with our bathrobe sashes! I’ll always love her. This is completely true as of course whump and skarat know very well.

My point was something about teaching and my childhood ideals about love and relationships and how I like them to have both sanity and shared creative expression. Lost it somewhere along the way. (The point, not my ideals.) You do see I hope with some amusement that my criteria for going out with boys has not changed much. I am writing this to Iris because I haven’t written her enough letters lately and because she said my blogging had become dull and less wild, implying that because I have a job or am too influenced by people reading my blog that it’s impossible to say anything juicy. But also to feel better and more myself by writing globs and globs of stuff and a little to show away for xyzzy who will enjoy the parenthetical structures and funny parts. Also for anyone who wants a sort of roadmap of what qualities I tend to like in people and what scares me away. This post might not count for Iris since it’s about the past, but she is good at extrapolation. If only she would start blogging again with some insane stories of being exactly my sort of wild girl in 1969 or whenever it was probably wearing platform gogo boots and a swirly pyschedelic minidress, or so I like to imagine.

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Overheard, in the living room, in a couch cave

Direct quote from the next room where Moomin and his friend Thom have all the couch cushions off and iceberg pillows.

This is our polar realm. The water is 1 billion degrees cold. So stay out of it. This is a polar stingray, an ANTARCTIC stingray. Those old newfangled legends say they can’t live there, BUT THEY CAN. We make the room dark so our customers will know how dark it is in the polar winter.

When it’s one billion degrees cold I cease to worry so much about the stingrays.

The two of them come up with endless nerdy sounding scientific zoo talk. I love overhearing it!

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Playing Talisman


playing talisman
Originally uploaded by Liz.

Dinner at Minnie’s… saw her baby room which is looking excellent. I liked the black crib and light sage-green walls. Moomin had a cool grownup feeling as he played a board game at the table with everyone.

He’s really opening up more to relatives, friends, random other new grownups, and even other kids. I’m really glad to see it. Other people might not see the difference but Rook and I do. He will come up spontaneously and say “Want to hear about this book?” and he also will go explore a house or a room. It’s nice to see!

whatever that chocolate stuff on the ice cream was, i want more of it!

I feel suddenly desperate to hang with minnie before there is a baby. But also, can’t wait for the baby. I will maul it and be its auntie! I’ll buy it weird stuff! I will call it “it” as with all babies until it shows signs of sentient being and is less blob-like!

Just now Moomin asked if he and his friend could go next door and play in Nukie’s front yard. Obviously a normal thing for a 7 year old kid to do but I’m trying to convey that it is a huge milestone for him and that such things did not occur to him as possible or desirable.

I hurt a lot and need a nap but also want to work on some things while Moomin is happy and busy with his friend.

Lately I contemplate friendship and love and relationships and I try to sort out where my attention and my emotions are. Very tangled. I like where I’m at in some ways. I really really really like all my lovers and wish I could see more of all of them. For one thing I super love other people and appreciate them and appreciate feeling loved. For another I love to have fun (duh) and to have a zillion exciting flirty lovers who are also fast friends. And yet I still miss what I had or thought we had (me and c.) and I just keep wondering about that, what was that to me and why so rare-feeling and what just happened and why? IN other words, still processing. What is the difference? Why should there be one? Is it a kind of dumb illusion? Was that thing, whatever it is, the problem in the first place and only in my head? What is love? I want to go around asking everyone What is this? What are we? What are we doing? Why? Does it matter? Does it need to be defined? Am I fucking something up? Why am I lying here in bed feeling like this? What is/was going on with me? Oh, hell.

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Weird surfing video

“Riding Giants” v. strange, full of jaw dropping moments of stunning cluelessness, colonialist weirdness, bad metaphors, wondering why the fuck, and yet fascinating, the knowledge in my body what its like to rush down a wave or the uncertainty before you take it or pull back or knowing you’re going to wipe out and can’t do anything about it, just get as much control as you can & point forward before you crash down with the wave on top. So though I ride a 5 or 6 foot wave the videos make my body have intense memories as I see these people on 50 foot waves.

A good day today, moments of exhaustion, but I laid down & then was fine again for a while. Gina came over and we hot tubbed. Moomin took to her amazingly. He explained Captain Underpants to her a bit.

Tonight has been bad with white-hot stabs in the base of my spine so that in the middle of sentences I can’t really talk anymore and have to wrench my mind back to words. So that means crutches tonight. I avoided taking any pain drugs.

In the middle of all this I had an infection of some kind in my finger. It looks to be something right at the edge of my fingernail but it made the whole fingertip swell up. It kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally last night it got to where I couldn’t ignore the pain of typing. So I alternated reading, typing, surfing some blogs, and ice pack on finger. I have an amazing capacity to ignore that sort of thing. This morning finally pus started oozing out from the edge of my fingernail while I was smearing antibiotic ointment on it. And then more and more kept coming out. It was incredibly disgusting! I squeezed a bunch out though I know that’s the wrong thing to do, but it was such a relief to have it less swollen.

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My incredibly tough beautiful vertebral discs

Fantabulous news – my discs are fine. The MRI shows massive swelling in the facet joint between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae and around the two roots of the nerves (forgot their names) that then join to make up the sciatic nerve. The fluid is trapped in the joint because of the swelling. The same thing is true to a much lesser extent on the other side.

The orthopedist said that an injection of cortisone into the joint will make the swelling go down with amazing quickness and within 48-72 hours I will be hopping about good as new and it will be like it never happened and my nerve will function again, undamaged! No more pain, also, no more leg-collapsing! And my career as a ballet dancer, figure skater, and marathon runner can continue!

Unlike if it were actually a torn disc in which case it would be a hideous months-long deal with multiple injections and continuing pain and disability with recovery in a time and galaxy far far away.

It was interesting to see the MRIs. He showed me the normal discs, and the normal joints in which there are some gray blobs that are cartilage and stuff, and then the joint where on the right side there are gray blobs and giant white-hot looking extra bad evil mean yucky blobs that are the fluid and swelling.

It is nice to have a doctor point to a scientific looking chart that has obvious empirical evidence not dependent on some one moving my legs into various positions and waiting for me to say OW and start crying. (As we also did. When I reach OW I tend to try to wrestle the doctor’s hand away while with my other hand grabbing the table white-knuckle style and yelling OW and then I start crying and demand a pause in the body-part-moving around diagnostic thing.)

It is even nicer to know that this may very well be finite! Over! Soon! Not something I have to adapt to for more weeks or months! Fixable!

I wish they could do it right now and I didn’t have to wait a week. Also I wish someone had referred me immediately to this doctor, think of the pain and horribleness I could have avoided!

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Pushing myself to activity

I dealt with yesterday’s bad feelings and frustration by doing extra rounds of physical therapy exercises. I also did countless laps of slow careful walking around the front and back yards. I said I felt bad and Xyzzy entertained me on the phone with very silly stories about kosher and non-kosher swans and amazingly stupid jokes like “what is a specimen?”***

The laps hurt and I couldn’t tell if it was an okay hurt or a bad, going-to-hurt-me-more hurt, but I decided I didn’t care. I think it was successful, because I stayed off the crutches completely all evening! Just now I went to the cafe and walked in a reasonably normal manner, maybe halting and uncertain but not limping too much. At this point my leg muscles are kind of fucked up and I have to think about “how to walk normally”. Ep suggested the warm pool in Polo Alto! I forgot that existed and so now I’m resolving to check that out today!

I can bend slightly but I feel very cautious about that. It hurts sharply if I sit up at too much of an angle or bend over. Squatting and picking stuff up, I still need to hold onto things to get back up (same with standing up from chairs.)

So, progress. I think yesterday’s awful feelings were mostly because I am at a cusp of getting BETTER. I must not freak out if I need the chair in the next few weeks.

Goal, no matter how I feel, get up every half hour and walk around the room without any cane or crutches even if I have to walk slowly and it hurts. Keep conscious of stomach muscles at all times. PHys therapy exercises at least 3 times a day but ideally every 2-3 hours.

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Right on, Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert talking about the advice people gave him not to go to some film festival because he has health problems and basically because his jaw is messed up from surgery:

We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I’m not going to miss my festival.

Awesome, right on!!!

I also like how he talks frankly about his pain and varying ability to walk and sit up.

“Being sick is no fun. But you can have fun while you’re sick. I wouldn’t miss the festival for anything!”

I so agree! Go to your festival, dude!

A nice green mohawk would shut up your critics. Why not, at this point? Haven’t you always wanted to? Come on!

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So frustrated and tired of this

Screw this… I’m going to try to pretend for the rest of tonight that nothing is wrong and operate accordingly. I’m going to walk on this fucking leg and not use the crutches and try to take reasonably normal steps. If it hurts it hurts. At this point everything hurts so what do I have to lose. I’ll keep my stomach muscles straight and I’ll avoid bending over and will keep doing the chair-to-standing transfer carefully.

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A nifty assignment idea

Here’s what I’m assigning my class today:

http://hungryforamonth.blogspot.com/

Assignment:

READ Evan’s blog posts for the month of November. Just the blog posts – you don’t have to read the comments. Most of the blog posts are short.

MARK two passages in the posts (printing out the ones you mark) or in the comments below. Mark one passage that contains an idea you like, find interesting, or agree with. Then mark one passage that you don’t like, disagree with, or find offensive or annoying. Be prepared to talk in class about your reasons for choosing those passages.

I put together about a page’s worth of comments, some praising the experiment and its humility and thoughtfulness, some pointing out that as a society we aren’t doing men a favor by not teaching them to cook, some talking about how the vast majority of the world lives on way less than a dollar a day, some posts talking about how offensive it is to assume that poor people eat ramen and rice every day, or how offensive it is to think you can understand actual hunger and povery by doing an experiment like this.

In class I will have them all go around and explain the passages they marked. Then I’ll ask them to write a short paragraph. Oh the challenge! One sentence that explains the project and refers to it. Indirect citation! Another that lays out what a commenter said. Another that explains a different comment. And then a final sentence for the student to say what he or she thinks.

My thesis advisor was a scary expert on composition teaching and he used to give us these mind-cracking exercises like “summarize this entire horrible literary theory article in one sentence”… He was also big on the “mark a sentence and explain it” technique, which I thought worked very well as a warmup.

This is going to be a good one!!!

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