Saturday, January 24, 2009

I had planned to stay pretty much the whole day at the Children's museum today, but Willow uncharacteristically decided to be done only after a couple of hours. We drove home via a route that took us past the hospital where she was born - a detour that she thought was pretty cool. Of course, it also took us past Streetlight records, and she came away with a couple of used dvds. We spent some time at the listening stations too. Willow likes putting on the headphones and pushing buttons, and giving me little mini-reviews of the music she is listening to. She described High on Fire as "catchy", which made me chuckle.

Of course, the new dvds made her reluctant to have any other outdoor adventures this afternoon, so while she watched them, I used the time to whip together a Powerpoint presentation on weathering for next week. Apparently Powerpoint is already considered dinosaur-like, but being a Luddite, I know no better, so I'm still going to use it, dammit!

Speaking of dinosaur-like, last night Willow and I ended up at the local Savers (thrift store) in the company of Leslili Lala and Nebula Girl. We all wandered around in awe of the pickings - especially the dinosaur technology. Willow went for the stuffed animals. I grabbed a Harris tweed jacket. Leslili filled her cart with strange pictures of Jesus and other ephemera. Nebula Girl picked out a long-haired mechanical dog who made distressed, rhythmic mechanical woofing noises. As usual, the objects we didn't buy offered the most amusement.

It was nice to meet Nebula Girl. She's cool. You've gotta love a person who is both a circuit bender and a chemist.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I got in about 4 hours of student teaching time this morning, although truth be told, I didn't actually do any teaching. We all gathered in the library and watched the inauguration instead. This is just as well, because that's what I would have done had I stayed home. It was amazing to see the footage of the reported 2 million people there to see the event, and I actually found Obama's short speech inspiring. I loved his comment about science - a subtle dig at the previous administration's purposeful ignorance of the subject. I hope he can back up his words with some right action.

And oh yes, I was quite happy to see Bush fly away. I'm tossing my shoes in jubilation! Too bad Senator Kennedy had to seize up though.

I like the school too. The library is the hub of a round building, with the classrooms and offices around the periphery. More architects should use circles in their planning. The kids remembered me, of course. There were even three girls wearing their camp sweat-jackets. Good to see.

Now, I'm home. I figured out how to make my old scanner work on my laptop. I'm drinking coffee. I'm wondering where the cds I ordered nearly a month ago are. I've got to leave in a few minutes to go pick up Willow. We have a date with the library today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King day! I'm glad he came, and so very sorry he went.

It's clear and still outside, with the persistent haze still plaguing us. I've been doing little tasks around the apartment today, gearing up for a week of student teaching, night hosting, and other things less necessary but equally interesting. No work tonight in honor of the holiday, but I'll have Willow for a few hours. She'll probably want to watch her library movies because they're due tomorrow. I think I'll see if I can divert her away from the screen - maybe go out for dinner or something. I can't really afford it, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I've been inside most of the day as it is. Time to get out there.

Currently listening to the El Topo soundtrack.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Today was a "spare the air" day, which apparently means that people aren't supposed to have fires in their fireplaces. Not that anybody would want a fire when it's almost summer-like outside, although the whitish haze made it look wintery. Probably isn't doing our lungs much good either.

I took my sweet time deciding on whether or not to go on a hike today, but finally went. Good thing, too. I could feel the knot in my gut loosen as I walked into the hills. I wasn't really thinking of much of anything, just concentrating on my surroundings. My mind cleared as I walked, shedding layers of needless complications, becoming serene. Call it wilderness therapy, if you will, although the nearby hills aren't exactly wilderness. Despite the official air-quality warnings, lots of people hit the trails today. The city below was made indistinct by the all encompassing haze, and the hills beyond seemed almost ghostlike. I tried out some new trails, and found myself at a little pond tucked away beyond the reservoir. I could hear the Chorus frogs chorusing somewhere nearby, and all manner of birds burst from the undergrowth at my approach. Other than that, silence reigned. I had left the crowds of hikers behind on the more popular loop trails. I used the solitude to just let my emotions wash over me, without complicating them with thoughts. That's sometimes harder than I would like it to be. I am, I think, prone to overthinking things; for making excuses and justifications. Sometimes I forget to just *be*. Solo hiking gives me time to just hang out with myself, away from the siren call of the computer and the other mundane obligations of my days. It really has been awhile since I've gone hiking alone. Over the last few years, I've done more hiking than many people do in a lifetime, but that's all been at the head of a line of students. Definitely not solo hiking.

On the way back, I was so content with just being that I didn't stop to correct a moment of millipede/centipede confusion I overheard. That's usually a hard thing for a naturalist to ignore.

Currently listening to Goblin "Deep Red"
I went and saw Loretta Lynch play at Slim's on Friday night, and wrote about it here. 2009 looks to be a good year for music, at least. Lots of other good bands are coming to town over the next few months.

The upcoming week will be one to remember as well. Bush leaves office, and I imagine him fleeing under a hail of virtual shoes, mentally tossed by people all over the world. Enter Obama! Even if he proves to be less than great, he'll be better than Bush. It's a win-win situation. I, for one, choose to be optimistic.

Friday, January 16, 2009

For the second week back after the holiday break, we had a camp full of well behaved kids, and the nights were easy.

In fact, there was really only one girl who visited. She came into the camp office after bedtime with lots of minor problems. On the first night, it was a stomach ache and a mild case of homesickness. On the last night, it was pain on her leg from an earlier encounter with Stinging Nettle. The first time she came in, I gave her a hot water bottle for her stomach, and distracted her from her homesickness by showing her the photos of camp I'd posted on Flickr over the years (one of the advantages of having my laptop with me in the office). She didn't want to go back to bed afterwards. She just wanted to hang out and talk.

During the week, I heard from other staff members about how she often visited the camp office. Most of the time, her reasons for visiting were minor enough to be considered excuses. She just wanted to hang out and talk with the staff. Over the years, I can remember campers like her. Words like "high-maintenance", and "needy" come to mind, although I'm always willing to listen when kids want to talk. Often, the primary adults in kids' lives don't take the time to really listen. I even had a girl once tell me that I was the only one who really listened to her. It's sad. It's too bad that so many of us are so disconnected. I think I get that way myself when I spend too much time in front of the computer, or in front of any other electronic device for that matter. It's kind of ironic really, because I've been spending a lot of time on Facebook lately, supposedly "connecting". In the end though, nothing we do on the computer is a good substitute for doing it in person. To be fair, the computer does allow us to reach out and make contact with like-minded people around the world, or reconnect with old friends who live far away, so it's not all bad.

I went off on a bit of a tangent there. Sorry. The reason I chose to write about this particular girl this week isn't because I wanted to make a point about electronic alienation. I chose to write about her because, as I was leaving camp this morning, I found out from one of her teachers that she probably does get a lot of good attention from her parents at home. This is because she has cystic fibrosis, and probably won't live much past young adulthood. She doesn't have a real understanding of this yet, and is sheltered from it by her innocence. For me, the news was crushing, and it made me wish that I'd spent more time with her than I did. I hope she lives as much life in the time she has available as others who live out normal lifespans do.

This reminded me of a bad week from nearly five years ago, when a docter told us that Willow might have cystic fibrosis. I remember being terrified, but determined to make sure that she had the best life possible no matter how much time she was destined to have here. If she had turned out to have it, I'm not sure, now that I'm thinking about it again, how much we would have told her. I think it's probably best not to tell a young child that they're not going to live past college age. But then, when do you tell them? It would be like handing out a death sentence. As a parent, I can't imagine being the bearer of that news.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

There is a library near my apartment, and I've been meaning to go check it out for months now. Yesterday, in keeping with my present determination to do things now rather than later, I took Willow over to have a look around. It's a nice little library, with two stories full of stories. We had a look around, I read a book to Willow, and we checked out a stack of books and movies. Willow wanted more, but I set a limit because I knew we'd never have the time to make our way though too big a stack. Besides, I didn't bring any sort of bag to carry them all home in.

Later, I read her How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Before bedtime, she asked where Dr. Seuss was buried. I told her I wasn't sure, but with a little help from the internet I discovered that he'd been cremated, like our friend Sea Turtle who had requested his ashes be scattered out at sea.

This morning, on the way to school, Willow grumbled that she wished Dr. Seuss had a grave so we could go visit him. I told her that the best way to visit him is to read his books, because that's where his mind and heart are. She thought about that for a moment.

Looking up at me, she asked, "well, can we go out on the ocean and look at his mist?"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The moon was absolutely stunning last night. It was rising just as I was leaving for work, an enormous yellow globe crisscrossed with spindly tree branches, and seeming to take up much more of the sky than usual.

As the night wore on, the moon continued its journey across the compromised blackness above, and I watched the color leach away and the illusion of size vanish, leaving a shrunken, bleached orb, cold and alone.

In the morning, I was on hand to witness the mist encircled moon sink in the west.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A strange sense of well-being just washed over me. Outside, the weather is almost Spring-like, and I'm going to take it as an omen. Spring is, after all, a time of rebirth and rejuvenation.

I'm going to go make pizza now. Well-being is even better if it is coupled with pizza.
In a way, online courses are strange. When the term starts, you don't have to get up early and go to a classroom somewhere. You can stay home. The only difference is that you are filled with the vague feeling that perhaps you should be reading a textbook or doing an assignment.

The 4th and last term of my teacher credentialing program started today. I did some online reading and jotted down some ideas for the integrated unit I'm supposed to plan. I also sent off a couple of e-mails in an attempt to start organizing my time and planning for the next few months. I'm going to be student teaching in a fifth grade classroom this time. The teacher is a friend of mine, and we seem to see eye to eye on most things, so it should be a good term. Right now though, sitting at home, I find that none of it is a reality yet. I'm like that with vacations too. None of it seems real until the night before, when all of a sudden it hits me that I'm about to go on a trip or go do something fun and new. Of course, I was like that when my marriage ended too. It didn't seem real at first - not even after I'd moved out. Jen had told me that she wanted a separation, but not a divorce, so I took that to heart and was planning on trying to work through our differences. It wasn't until a couple of weeks after I'd moved out that she dropped the bomb. Not only did she want a divorce, but she was already dating somebody else. This particular moment still stands as the worst single moment I can remember having (with the exception of that Christmas 6 years ago when we thought Willow was going to be born nearly five months early). It was such a shitty moment that I haven't even written about it until now. In fact, I started this post with no intention of writing about it, but it just kind of came out - it just seemed to fit here. That moment still overshadows all of my interactions with her, and probably will for a long time. She has her own problems and resentments too, of course, or it wouldn't have ever come to this, but still... I don't know. It makes my sorrow over the dissolution of our marriage less pure than it might be otherwise, because now it's mixed up with less noble emotions like anger and jealousy. My protective wall has come up and where she is concerned, I've been more or less living behind it. I don't know if she still reads my blog or not, but I haven't read hers since that night in early October. The kids are still sad too. When they're all together, they seem fine, but whenever I spend one on one time with them, the sadness seems to rise to the surface. Just the other day, Sophie was in tears about not getting to see me enough - this inspired me to stay through most of her Brownie meeting with her, which ended up being fun. It kept me away from the house (I still watch the older kids there a couple of times a week), which is good for my state of mind. Nate continues to be more affectionate than he was when we all lived together, and I can tell he's sad. Alex is a little harder to read, being in middle school and all, and I've had less one on one time with him. Willow, like the other kids used to do when they would go to their dad's, is having a hard time with transitions. She tends to be weepy at the beginnings and endings of the weekends I have her, and it's sometimes hard to snap her out of it. My solution has been to spend lots of time cuddling her, and an equal amount of time getting out and doing fun things. She has even discovered e-mail, and spends time e-mailing her mom and friends. We talk a lot too, and it's really cool watching her start to figure out her world. I just wish that her world didn't have to have this trauma in it. Hopefully this will be a year of healing for all of us. Jen too - although I find that I just don't understand her sometimes, and she doesn't understand me. I think that's what got us to where we are today. So much for unconditional love.

Jeez. So much for a lighthearted little post. I guess I needed to get some of that stuff off my chest. It actually made me feel little better too.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another weekend draws to a close. Willow has been having a hard time with transitions ever since I moved out, and this weekend was no exception. She gets moody and weepy from time to time, and I have been trying to avoid these episodes by keeping her busy.

This weekend, thanks to a friend who sent me a free family pass, I took her to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, where we marveled at the view of the bay, pretended to be astronauts in the planetarium, interacted with animals in the biology lab, and tried to stem an avalanche of internal organs from an old life-sized model of a human torso. Willow had fun, which made me have fun - I love seeing her smile and get excited about new things.

Afterwards, we went and spent some time with Uncle Greg, first at Dark Carnival, home of good books and strange (but equally good) toys, and then at KALX, where Greg DJs on at least 12 different shows (at least it seems that way). Willow got to hang out in the studio (see evidence above) for an hour or so before we decided to hit the road.

On the way home, illuminated by an amazingly large (biggest of the year, sez the news) full moon, we listened to Greg on the radio. The signal decayed as we hurtled southward, and bursts of static and sudden intrusions of other radio stations soon made it hard to hear Greg. The last song played, before the static finally ruled the day, was Conspiracy of Beards' choral take on Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" (at least I think it was Conspiracy of Beards - you never know, there may be another men's chorus exclusively singing Leonard Cohen songs). At any rate, it was a surreal way to experience one of my favorite Cohen songs - a full chorus belting it out, competing with static, freeway noise, and other nearby stations, and eventually losing the battle.

Meanwhile, Willow, unimpressed by such things, had fallen asleep.

I turned to the Stanford radio station, where coincidentally enough, my friend Justin was in the middle of his heavy metal show. I turned down the volume so as not to wake Willow.

Currently listening to: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band "God Bless Our Dead Marines" live 2008.11.01 @ Cinema Passos Manuel

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I've fixed the financial aid problem. It turns out my financial aid adviser was only pretending to be out of the office. That means I should be able to register for classes in a day or so. Just in time too.

Almost time to go get my Thursday night bowl of ice cream.

It's a gray afternoon, and the wind is animating the trees, making the remaining leaves flutter and causing branches to gesture wildly. We're right at the edge of a storm system, but the rain is supposed to pass us by. Pity.

I'm inside with some Earl Grey Tea. There's Portuguese music drifting from the stereo, and Tibetan incense wafting from the bathroom. I actually took a nap earlier, enjoying the lull before the upcoming term starts at the beginning of next week. The term isn't paid for yet though. It seems there's a bit a financial aid snafu that needs to be ironed out first. Somewhere, the wheels of bureaucracy slowly turn, and the relevant information is sent from one entity to another. While these wheels turn, my assigned financial aid adviser is out of the office for the week, and I am left with little recourse but to wait.

I'm hoping this year is better than the last one. To that end, I've been working at changing habits that I think are holding me back. I've got a way to go, but the year is young.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The fog is rolling in. I can see it billowing around the camp lights and turning the outside world opaque. The moon is a vague, whitish patch above. the fog is comforting, like an old blanket, shielding and protecting me from the harsh clarity of the pinpoint stars and the alien blackness. Not that there's anything wrong with the stars and the night sky, but if there were, the fog would allows us to move unseen beneath it.

I've always liked fog. I've always liked the night too. I'm inside though, listening to the rattling of the heater and the out-of-sync tickings of several clocks. That and the music pouring from my computer.

There must always be music pouring from somewhere. It's what makes it all worthwhile. Music and fog. And night. I celebrate it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

This past weekend marked the end of the holiday season for me. Tonight is my first night back to work.

I spent my last holiday weekend watching beer getting brewed (which is interesting even if you, like me, don't actually drink beer), attending a memorial/cabin dedication for Sea Turtle, hanging out with an old friend & meeting her boyfriend, buying music and books, and listening to three actors (including my brother, who actually more a sound designer than an actor) reading stories to a packed room at the Berkeley City Club, and cleaning up around the house (can you say "around the house" if you live in a studio apartment?).

I've got some financial aid issues that need straightening out, but I know where I'm going to be student teaching when the 4th and last term of my teacher credentialing program starts at the beginning of next week. It's going to be a lot of work, done on not enough sleep, but by mid-April it will be behind me.

I'm looking forward to the year ahead.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget"

Cormac McCarthy - The Road

Friday, January 02, 2009

In general, resolutions that involve trying to hit the ground running at the first of the year are somewhat deflated by the fact that the very first day of the year is a damn holiday. I face this year with an improved sense of irony, and a better appreciation for the concept of karma. I also face the year with a somewhat reduced amount of naivety and innocence, as well as some residual anger and tension.

On the bright side, I find that I feel more alive than I have in awhile. Despite evidence to the contrary (blame my dark sense of humor, if you must), I'm an optimist. I just have to learn to pair my optimism with effort. Things turn out even better if I take action.