Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Sometimes I wonder how it's possible that as new technologies are invented and time passes, really exciting and fresh creativity can still be found. After all, how many new ways can you say anything? Hasn't everything beautiful already been created whether with new tools or old?

This is so sweet to watch. How much can you learn about this person just from the setting, the props, the body language, the song?


Snow Day

So I got my momentum going beautifully on Monday, but then it was interrupted by a Wednesday snow day. Totally threw me off.

Oh well. It was an awesome day. Just long.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

End Of Vacation

I go back to work tomorrow. I guess technically this is my last day of vacation, but practically it's not. This will be a fairly typical Sunday as I try to get some laundry done, try to do one fun family thing (checking out the New Jersey Children's Museum), and otherwise rush to finish a list of things I feel I need to do before I run out of time for the weekend.

This has been a great break. I didn't spend any time on school work for an entire week other than reading an article that I needed to for a committee in which I'm involved. I had family time. I had Me time. I had time to do things I enjoy like consolidating my photos and videos on my computers (not done yet) and I had time to clean house a little.

When I was visiting my grandmother, my pace of life slowed. We did things slowly, deliberately. There was no rushing to complete too many things. She showed me an enormous binder in which she writes almost daily.

I am not good at living an un-routine life. My school year is half way over and I'm already thinking about the summer and already planning how to have both routine and fun so that I don't worry about how to spend my days. I like to do things quickly, packing as much into a day as I can so I feel I'm using my time well.

But I'm a little jealous of the writing time.

I have worked hard much of my life to become less worried as a person. That's what much of my meditation is and was about when I began it. Of course, that's faltered a lot since I became a full-time working mom and no longer live near my meditation teacher. So lately, I worry. I obsess. I have discovered that, even though I'm not naturally tidy, I'm a type A perfectionist. It's not an easy life. I worry that if I don't write, I won't remember the most important moments of ND's development, that memories and ideas will be lost.

And maybe they will. And maybe they won't. But this is no way to live.

As I go back into work tomorrow, I want to remember to be in the present and to release some of this burden on myself. In fact, I remember now that part of why I like to work so hard is that I don't worry as much when I'm so busy.

But there are other ways, too, to ease up. I want to go back to receiving the blessings Hashem has sent instead of grasping so hard with my camera and my pen at every moment, to preserve that moment in time. I want to just be a little more and trust that my way of being is perfect in its imperfection.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Here We Are

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I Didn't Even Need To Wear A Coat!

As you've seen in my previous posts, I was really worried about how to attend the inauguration virtually. I was jealous of those who actually got to just hop a bus and go there, not so much for the excitement of being there, but for the opportunity to be with others who were also excited.

Had I been at home, I probably would have felt very alone.

Had I been at work, I would have missed the whole thing.

Had I gone to a very public place, I would have been alone in a crowd, feeling included but also alone.

No, I needed to be with real friends or with someone whose heart I could read a little bit.

So here I was in Wimberly, TX, visiting my grandmother. It's an intensely conservative place, and much of my family would have nothing to do with the inauguration. To further complicate this emotionally, my grandfather passed away a year ago, and he really would not have liked to see Obama become president.

But on Tuesday, the only people in the house were me, ND and my grandmother.

My grandmother probably has the softest heart of anyone I've ever met. She has such a real and sincere desire to love others and to have hope for the world. So she never wanted to disagree with her husband's politics publicly. At the same time, she is open to listening to someone who is inspiring and kind and can potentially be a brilliant and compassionate leader.

And... she loves me.

So when I told her I wanted to watch the inauguration, she said she wanted to watch it with me.

Now, before she and I sat down together, I got on the Facebook CNN feed and began to watch that way. I absolutely loved it. I could watch so many different things as I pleased -- either CNN's usual way of covering... talking about nothing and showing us stuff -- or just follow the Obamas everywhere they went. I left it on with the camera staring at the church where they were praying for a good half hour as I came and went from the room. Meanwhile, I could see all the people logging on to watch and leaving their brief comments. Total strangers from all over the world watching the same thing on their computers, but with less anonymity than us being in private homes. The funniest comment was when someone wrote he or she was going to "wash that president right out of my hair." I was alone and comfortable, but able to peek into other's minds.

Eventually the internet connection died, but by then we watched on the TV together. And my parents, who were also here for this visit eventually came to join us. (They were staying at my uncle's house.)

I don't have anything to say here about Obama right now. Instead I just loved to be part of our country at that moment... part of a movement... part of a feeling... connected to millions and millions of others.

That's all I wanted. And a hopeful leader and some new technology made it possible.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Listening In

It took me two planes yesterday to get from home to my grandmother's airport in Austin, TX. When I got off the second plane I saw I had 3 messages on my cell. phone.

The first was Emarcy calling to say she couldn't get very close to where the action was happening because there were so many people already there on the Capitol Mall, that she was standing close to the Washington Monument.

The second was the sound of Obama speaking from the podium somewhere.

The third was the sound of people -- many people -- singing "This Land Is Your Land."

It was that last call that put me over the top. I was walking in the airport past strangers, and I was suddenly united with them, whether they knew or liked it or not, in wanting to take our country back.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

In-auguration or Out

In an hour and 20 minutes ND and I are heading for the airport to visit my grandmother and parents, but I want to take a minute to talk about yesterday.

My awesome friend Emarcy about whom I have so often blogged, came over at 4 AM on Friday night with her husband. They, and a bunch of others who stayed in NY for the night, are heading for the inauguration in DC.

A part of me has been deliriously jealous. I'm not sure what I'd actually do if I went, but I often feel as though I'm missing out on whatever fun things the whole rest of the world must be doing without me. I've always felt this way as my whole life I have spent 99% of my Saturday nights at home. Even a trip to a Starbucks or bookstore feels like a giddy guilty pleasure. Part of this is that I never really know what's going on. Part is that keeping Kosher and Shabbat cuts down on an enormous number of opportunities, part of it is that I'm sometimes shy in crowds and of course now, part of it is that I'm a mom.

On the other hand, I'm pretty darn cool. I do cool crafts sometimes. My Saturday nights are usually devoted to writing, I'm playing music again and biking with my daughter (when it warms up again) and there are many other things about me that I like because of the fact that I like how I'm living.

So instead of being bummed that I'm not going to the inauguration, I think it's cool that I have a cool friend who is doing it.

(Either way, I'm on vacation now, no matter what I'm doing! Thursday U. took off work too and we had a date!!!)

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Friday, January 09, 2009

The Greater Irresponsibility

I obsess enough when it's about me. Will it be worse or better with my daughter?

2 nights ago ND began to show some congestion at night and needed help blowing her nose. (She thinks it's hysterical when she does this, by the way.) Yesterday I asked her teachers if she sounded congested or had a drippy nose. They said no, but I could see she had stuff on her face and that her voice sounded different.

She fell asleep on the way home and didn't wake up until about 9:30 PM when she woke up and wanted to party with us until about 11 as I was cooking. She was very congested, clammy and a little grumpy. She even tried to hit me a few times.

I wrote to my supervisor and assistant that I might not make it in today. But still got up bright and early, showered and dressed. ND didn't wake up easily at 7:00 and I began to weigh my options.

If I wake her up and take her to school:
she may get worse.
she may infect other kids at school.
I may have to pick her up later in the day anyway.

If I stay home with her:
I will not be able to go to work, even if she is fine after all.

It's Friday. It shouldn't matter that much whether I go in or not. Fridays go by fast and, in fact, end at 1:30 instead of 3:30. The plans are fairly simple for today though I still have to tell them to my assistant when she gets to school.

But so much weight comes from the usual worry about what people think... or simply that I have one more day on my record of not coming to school. Our school makes a point of not providing a limited number of sick days with the assumption that, if we can be there, we will be, and that often there are times when it's not possible.

I'm grateful for the policy because, at least in theory, it really understands that things go wrong sometimes and that teachers, especially those who are also parents, need that flexibility.

And yet when my supervisor says on the phone, "Well, I'm glad it's Friday," I feel this disapproval that I shouldn't be putting my mother role first and should instead be pushing this little unhealthy two-year old body through the day and, in fact, should make her tough it out.

I know that was never her intention, but somehow I haven't completely convinced my heart to understand it too.

I have an Israeli friend who was out for 3 1/2 days this week on doctor's orders. This is a friend who really compliments me when I take off time that I need and put the right values first. (As another friend said, the only place in my life in which I am truly indispensable is in the family.) Her taking that time, and her attitude, reassures me that OF COURSE I'm doing the right thing. I'd like to to reassure others that same way.

And I'd like to add... we were just in anecdotal writing season. Teachers who write a certain number are allowed to take one day off from school to work on it. But after ND's ER day and 1 consecutive sick day with her, plus my being away for a conference FOR THE SCHOOL, I agreed not to take my anecdotal day.

Spending today at home is disappointing, but totally justified, and I accept that part of who I am requires that I obsess about this to you.

(And one last thought as I get off the phone with my assistant... she said to me recently that once I make a decision I should just stick with it. This has been a constant theme in my life. But still, until ND actually wakes up and shows me how she is feeling, I'm not ruling out going in a little late today. I'm still in my nice clothes, after all!)

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Magnetic Poem: Active Being

I tell you, I'm going blog-crazy. Loving it.

Tried to clean off my desk on New Year's Day and got sidetracked by my much neglected Magnetic Poetry.

active being

yesterday's platitude
poisonous attitude
endeavour to follow and question
as this stream embraces
its broken and herculean self


More About Clothes

Remember my quest to go a year without buying new clothes and see what I learned from it? I'm still learning more. Right now I'm reading Where Am I Wearing? It's a very interesting and readable book about a guy's quest to find out who made the clothes he wears. When I told a friend I was about to start reading it, I mentioned the word "sweatshops" and she said, "You know, it's complicated," implying that you can't just boycott clothing production. She was right and this book is helping me learn a lot.

But until I figure out what companies I feel most comfortable supporting and finding how to do so responsibly as a consumer, I still need a new warm hat for the very cold winter we're having. Yesterday I was lamenting not knowing how to just go online and buy something handmade and know I wasn't hurting anyone. Especially with the US economy in such bad shape, I'd like to support a real person who has worked for and needs the cash.

This morning I took a few minutes to sift through and delete some old emails, and found one for my mom with a link to just what I needed. I just ordered a cute hat from a local woman in Portland, OR off Etsy.

And I didn't even have to leave my desk to do it!

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Teaching Log: Rejuvenation

Don't get me wrong. I'm still eager for vacation.

But being done with anecdotals is still getting me excited, not just about my break, but about teaching.

This year I've done some things really really well that I specifically wanted to improve:

-Productive and Interesting Centers for kids to work in when their reading groups are not meeting
-Better reading groups
-Consistently having two separate math groups meet so that more kids' individual needs are being addressed
-Writing newspaper-like newsletters instead of one long dry page

I owe a lot of this to my assistant, but also to some clear goal setting, and the focus that comes with working absolutely full-time with two classes.

I'm already getting ideas for next year. I want to make a checklist of some of the reading and writing skills I sometimes overlook from contractions to "voice", and I want to have a Thursday reflection time. Every Thursday the kids would write a little... 1 sentence at the beginnning of the year... a paragraph by the end... about what they learned or did at school that week. And every time there would be a specific mini-lesson focus that I could then check off my list.

I hope this is manageable rather than overambitious. I think it would keep me on track more with teaching certain ideas, but I tend to get bored by weekly or daily routines, and prefer new opportunities most of the time. I'd have to find a way to make this balance both.

What I still need a lot MORE improvement on...

-Assessment, especially in reading groups
-Self-assessment for kids, like with rubrics
-Asking better questions

In the meantime, I don't mind if my vacation comes.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year

What's more exciting... having a day off for 2009 or the fact that I finished writing anecdotal report cards this week!?

The two came together just on time really. I finished editing some of my assistant's work yesterday and can completely enjoy today. (My vacation doesn't come until mid-January... a week and a half to go.)

December was so hard... so little time to just be... so much time on anecodotals, conferences, and wishing I could be the kind of Mom who makes cookies and buys presents on Channukah, but without the time to do it. (Saved some money that way.)

As long as I'm a full-time teacher and mom, this is how it will be, and I love my work and I love being a mom and I love being busy, but not that busy.

I love that I do now how to put time aside for ND every night now. I love that I've learned that I just can't get work done when it's time to be giving her my full energy. Any time I divide myself, I become tense and useless for both momming and working. U usually hangs out with ND for about an hour each night for me to completely focus on prep work or phone calls, and I love that they get along so well that that's fine. She really doesn't need me for everything the way she once did, and that makes me wonder about my role now as a mom.

I just now heard a little stirring upstairs. I said, "Are you awake, sweethart?" She said "yes," and she's making her way over hear now. So busy! So cute! I hear her dropping something down the stairs.

More blogging in 2009? We'll see. It's one more choice between being with her and doing something else.

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