Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Moving Van's On Its Way To Santa Barbara

We pretty much got Chaya out of her apartment. (Chaya is what I've decided to call my-friend-who-was-recently-widowed on the blog, it's not her name, and she's not Jewish, but it's a play on her real name, and easier than referring to her by long descriptors.)

Luckily, the apartment was teeny, and they did not have a whole lot of furniture. Not so luckily:

1. Chaya is an artist who makes jewelry and things out of found objects primarily. Her husband was a painter and did turntable work, and computer graphics. As a result, they have lots of materials, all of which needed to be relocated.

2. We had about a dozen canvases of various sizes done by Chaya's husband, which needed to be packed with utmost care. (The rest are being stored with his sister.)

3. Chaya had been unable to get any sleep the night before, and was running primarily on nervous energy.

4. Most of her friends couldn't make it until the afternoon, seeing as it was a work day. We began with just me and her mother, and another friend who didn't have to be at work. This young man was working hard, but when it came to moving the furniture, he had as a choice of helpers a woman in her sixties, a woman who is five-feet-two and hadn't had any sleep, or the Balabusta who is a klutz.

Luckily, Chaya began making desperate calls on her cell phone, and a couple of twentyish boys showed up for an hour and a half. One of them was an ex-coworker of hers, and the other was the friend he'd been hanging out with, who had volunteered to come along and help. They schlepped the furniture upstairs, dismantled the TV and stereo pieces and boxed them, and then schlepped those. I commented quietly that God really knew what she was doing when she created men, although we may sometimes doubt it.

After that, we made good progress, and I took off when people began to get off work and arrive to take care of the aftermath. Someone was recruited to take Chaya to Whole Foods and get some nutrition into her.

She's moving in with her sister, who is expecting a baby in October--she's going to take classes at the city college, and help with the baby, and see what she wants to do next. I think it's a good plan. Apparently there's all kinds of mishegoss with the hospital and etc., because her husband did not have insurance. She's hoping to get that cleared up in the next month, before she goes to Santa Barbara herself--she's staying with friends for a while.

It was nice to spend time with her, and to be able to do something to help, even if it wasn't very much. The wake some weeks ago was beautiful, but everyone was still very shaky. I spent a lot of time patting Chaya's sister's (let's call her Drora--another little joke there) bump and hearing about the pregnancy.

Chaya keeps talking about what a wreck she is, but she actually is dealing with everything with amazing strength and grace. Apparently some people have been implying to her that she should be over the breaking-down-crying phase--who these people are, I'm not sure, and I definately don't want to meet them. It hasn't been six weeks yet.

This is just such a stupid, terrible thing to happen.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

409 Lavanda to the rescue!

Well, the ants are back. The ants have been back for a while, but this morning, while leaving a voicemail message for my friend (the friend who recently lost her husband is moving in with her sister, at least I think that's where she's moving, just got the call last night, so we're going to pack her up today) I ended the call with "...and I have a full-scale invasion of ants in this kitchen, but that's not your problem, talk later."

I flipped out and started spraying 409 Lavanda on everything that moved. Now I feel tired and guilty. We have fewer ants, although they're still coming in through the window frame in droves. I cannot get over feeling as though killing all these ants is a terrible thing to do, but it's not as though I can scoop them up on a paper towel and take them outside, the way you can do with spiders. There are gazillions of them. Their survival strategy, as my mother has pointed out, is that there are a gazillion of them, and no matter how many I kill, another gazillion will be on the way. Last year, I opened the bathroom at one point, and a quarter of the floor was COVERED in ants. What to do? (Reach for the Simple Green.) This is what we get for living on the ground floor in a flippin' suburban nature preserve. This would never happen to me in North Beach.

(There's a t-shirt on Cafepress that reads "Urban Jew". I want one.)

Anyway, I've been reading Andrew Greeley's latest Nuala Anne mystery (Irish Crystal), and I have to comment that this would never happen to Nuala Anne McGrail. The ants, I mean. But I'll have to dedicate an entire post to Nuala Anne to explain why. I may just do that. Have you ever been completely addicted to a series of books that just annoyed you, even as you munched them like popcorn? That's me and Father Greeley's Nuala.

Anyway, need to go and eat breakfast in my lavender-scented kitchen, and take a shower. Then I need to pick six fifty in change out of my change jar so I can make it to San Rafael and back. BOY am I glad I'm getting paid on Friday!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Tallis Bag Makes Friends

After shul today, I went into the ladies' room, leaving my tallis bag on the table outside. When I came back, it was being examined by a lady who asked where I had gotten it. I told her that it had been a bat mitzvah present from my parents who had bought it at Bob and Bob, uhhhhh...twenty years ago.

It turns out that she has one like it, and bought one for her daughter's bat mitzvah--all from the same Yaffa weaver, apparently. I occasionally run into this lady's work around--some years ago I came face to face with an elderly man wearing a tallis that was obviously a close cousin to mine. "Nice tallis!" he beamed. But it hadn't hit me until that moment that, actually, that it really is, as of Shabbos Korach, going to be TWENTY YEARS. I'm turning thirty-three in a couple weeks.

Korach was, actually, sort of a mistake. My childhood temple calculated the parsha according to my birthday on the Gregorian calender, hence, Korach. If we'd done it according to my Hebrew-calender birthday we would have landed a week later, on Chukkat, which would have allowed me to read about Miriam's death. Much more fertile for a baby Jewish feminist, and honestly, I never did quite get the hang of Korach. All of these "they spoke out against Moses/Aaron/the Brooklyn Dodgers and were promptly struck down by plague/leprosy/mumps" stories have never appealed to me. I don't respect authority for authority's sake. Never have. Probably never will. I had quite the time getting anything out of poor old Korach, and Datan, and Aviram, and On, and all their friends.

My mother seems to feel that the parsha was a terrible mistake that she should somehow have prevented. I try to talk her out of this. Nu, there are worse things than Korach.

Anyway, coming up on twenty years since the bat mitzvah made me think about what I would like to do Jewishly in the COMING twenty years, and what keeps reoccuring to me is that I would like to learn to leyn. I didn't learn when I was a bat mitzvah, and I know there are a lot of people in my area who teach. I'm cautious about getting myself signed up for anything new, given how overwhelmed I feel these days but..maybe one toe at a time?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Plumber of Valor

...Let's just say that his price is above rubies, at least the kind of rubies you can get on the Home Shopping Network. But I don't really care. He came, he dismantled the tangle of pipes under the sink, and he pried out the impacted vegetable matter. Both sinks now drain. I'm going to COOK tonight!

We called Roto-Rooter, at the end. It was a bit tricky, due to our duelling neuroses--I am afraid of landlords, and the fella is unwilling to talk to people. Finally, Monday, I forced the fella to call the landlord and leave a message on his machine, asking if he could recommend a plumber. By this morning we had heard nothing. So I called Roto-Rooter. I'm sure they're more expensive than a lot of local people, but I don't know who the local people are.

San Francisco was so easy--I just called my father, and he recommended someone.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ave Maria, Gee It's Good To See Ya

So this morning, I'm interviewing at a Catholic elementary school, and I'm being told that each class starts with prayer, so, Sister explains, I might want to learn a few Catholic prayers--the Hail Mary, for example.

"Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus," I responded serenely. But truthfully, I think it might be a better idea for us to have an Ave Monitor of the week who will lead the class.

It's a nice school. Low budget, but spending money on the right things, and the classrooms seem very child-friendly. I'll let you guys know how it goes. Earlier, I did FOUR interviews with a nice Catholic high school who hired someone else. Bleah. This one, I should know by the end of the week.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Daughter of the King

All right. Tell me this is not funny. I'll post the picture and links later, when I get to a computer that will let me.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has a gift shop that the Balabusta occasionally browses and drools over. Some of their stuff is either replicas of artifacts in the collection, or adaptations of them.

One collection object which appears in a number of forms in the shop, as necklace, earrings, bracelet, letter opener, etc. is a small seal from the period of the kings. It features a lyre, and is inscribed for "Ma'adana the king's daughter".

Think about it. "Ma'adana". Say it quickly. A lyre. A musical instrument, representing this woman, Ma'adana. The daughter of the king. Perhaps a secular title, but perhaps also a mystical one. Ma'adana, the musical mystic.

People, do you realize the spiritual importance of this? Madonna is not just an annoying celebrity kabbalist. She's a reincarnated Judean princess annoying celebrity kabbalist. And this is just the past life I've been able to track down. How many times have we been through this already, people? HOW MANY?

Isn't there some ceremony featuring black candles and a shofar that could put a stop to this? I'd chip in for the chickens.


Note: the self-applied title of 'Balabusta' is sometimes highly ironic.

This is the story of my sink:

When we moved in a year ago, I noted that we had one of those small two-basin kitchen sinks. I also noted that water did not appear to go down one of them, and in my usual goopy manner I wondered slightly over this before installing the draining rack over it.

Yesterday, I got seized with a sink-cleaning urge, and took the draining rack off. I began to try and clean the gunky 'drain'. Since my scrubby was not working very well, I went and got some Q-tips.

The Q-tips, I found, pushed straight through a solid layer of gunk in the drain, which had apparently been there for at least a little longer than a year. Much fascinated probing, a lot of baking soda, and two pots of hot water later, I had a draining sink. In celebration, I put the draining rack on the counter.

Then I tried to put a bunch of potato peels down the garbage disposal, and backed up the In-Sink-Erator. No one is perfect.

I have probed the In-Sink-Erator's depths with both salad tongs and my hand, and bought, at my mother's suggestion, an Allen wrench, and tried with that. No go. It just backs up more dirty water into the sink.

We may have to call a plumber tomorrow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Leave No Child Behind (part 2)

One week to go. Two major sources of wrath on behalf of my students:

Source of wrath #2:

I have a student, even more worrisome than Kid X, who I fondly refer to as The Worst Kid Ever. WKE is a sixth grader, and operates at a second grade level. He cannot do the work in an early intermediate ESL class, although he was born and raised in the United States. He is belligerent, recalcitrent, and kinetic. He drives me berserk.

He's also being promoted to the seventh grade, despite having been unable to do any of the work in sixth. During a tense conversation with my principal last week, I pointed out that we his teachers have been trying to get help for him all year. "I know," she sighed. "And his parents don't come to any meetings."

His mom attended two student support meetings despite needing a translator and being rather scared of us, and his father has come out to the school at least once when the WKE was in trouble. He's spoken to me on the phone and in person, and been very pleasant. So basically, this is pure slander. These people want to help their kid. My principal I'm not so sure about.

Anyway, on Friday, I'm speaking to another teacher who's in charge of a program we may put the WKE in next year. He comments that it is unfortunate that the WKE's parents will not allow us to do special ed testing.

This is news to me, but I'm told that my colleague talked to our vice principal, and that's what he was told.

So I chug downstairs to Ms. S, the aforementioned 'teacher of the mentals', who helped me set up the student support conference, and ask her about this. She doesn't know about this.

I chug to the vice principal's office and ask.

During the last parent meeting, when we brought up special ed testing, the mom said that she wondered if that would help, because 'they''d tested her older boy (not the WKE) at one point, and 'they' said he didn't need a special ed program.

That had been interpreted as a parental prohibition. We never asked for permission point-blank.

"Should I follow up on that?" asks the VP.

You bet your behind you should, and I will be sending a Spanish speaker to make sure you do. Aaaaaaaaaaah!

Leave No Child Behind (part 1)

One week to go. Two major sources of wrath on behalf of my students:

Source of wrath #1:

One of my students, fondly known to me as Kid X, is still unclear on whether he is going to graduate from the eighth grade. Or what graduation means. Or what the meaning of 'is' is.

This kid has been the bane of my existence for two years. The family is from El Salvador, and there are Complications with them that I cannot fully sort out. The kid has ADHD, interrupted schooling, and a total lack of ability to grasp complex concepts. Also low impulse control. Also, he is a reflexive liar. Also, just total failure to get what the heck is going on at school. He cannot tell time. His math is at a second grade level. My principal, however, thinks he is bright as a new penny, and that I am an idiot, so getting him help has been, er, tricky. Other teachers of his have tried to help too. No dice.

Anyway, he's always been an enormous behavior problem, but as the end of the year has approached, it has gotten worse and worse. Talking out, talking back, sitting playing instead of trying to do the work, obscenities in Spanish and English. Everything is an argument. He never listens to directions, I don't think he can.

Finally, a week or two ago I demanded to know exactly what was going on with his potty-mouthed, sassing-me self. He averted his eyes, mumbled, and chewed on a book first, but finally explained to me that he was worried about passing eighth grade and going to high school.

Now, at this school, no one gets kept back. Our principal hates retentions. They're passing everyone on this year, including another student of mine who, at the age of eleven, cannot get past L when writing the alphabet. So Kid X is going on to the ninth grade. Even if the principal were more relaxed on retention, he's turning fifteen this month. They won't keep him in middle school. No matter what.

But there are requirements for graduating 'on stage', with pomp and circumstance. Students must do community service, and an eighth grade project. And they must end the eighth grade with at least a certain, not very high, GPA. Kid X's is way below that. Cannot be made up at this point.

So I say, as gently as I can, that he's passed all of the other requirements to walk on stage, but that the grades will be a big issue. He explains that he's trying to bring his grades up, and that he spoke to the vice principal, and the VP told him to bring up all his grades, because he 'only needs one'.

I asked what that meant, and he seized a piece of paper, and began to show me. Let's say that Kid X has a 0.X GPA. He needs a 1.X to graduate, so he just needs to "add one". That's the 1 before the decimal point, you see.

Yeah. The kid's ready for high school all right.

Ahhhh, crud.

So I asked our counselor to talk to him, and she did. And when the official list of 'nonpromotes' came out, the principal met with them all to explain their status. I figured we'd be OK enough.

Yesterday, I am telling all the eighth graders their sponsor teachers for the last day of school. (They gather in groups and get taught to march for graduation and the like.) I tell Kid X he will be in the group that meets with Ms. S in the library. (This is our special ed coordinator. She's taking care of the nonpromotes next week--yet another thankless task, but whatever.)

"Who's Ms. S?" he asks. "I want to be with Mrs. F."

"Everyone has a group they've been assigned to," I say. "Ms. S. is a teacher in the Academic Center. She's nice."

"She's the teacher for the mentals!" screams Achmed, next to Kid X.

Thank you, Achmed.

"I think I'm going to be with Mrs. F," says Kid X. "I'm going to go and ask her now."

"Not now," I say.

"Am I going to graduate?" he asks.

Ah, crud.

"Didn't you talk to Mrs. Principal about that?" I ask.

He kind of shrugs.

"I think you need to talk to her about this," I say.

"You find out," he says, imperiously, "and tell me on Monday."

If Ms. S is the 'teacher for the mentals', I suspect I will soon be joining her class roster.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Two Weeks to Go

This was a horrible week at work. Kids are completely, hideously, out of control. I suspended two from my classes on Friday. They won't do any work, they run in screaming for me to punish small wrongs they've done each other, and it lasts all day.

Wednesday I went to another interview for the job I really want. Will hear the middle of next week.

Thursday night was the memorial gathering for my friend's husband. She had put up his paintings, and hundreds of those origami cranes. It was beautiful. The fella and I got to see her sister, who is also a friend, and is expecting--she's looking lovely. It was all pretty, and very sad. And we got home quite late.

Yesterday I had, in an unfortunate moment of helium hand, offered to help break down the school museum. We had a ton of help, though, and the PTA bought me a slushy. Not too bad.

I'm going nuts right now. It's only two weeks to go, and a lot of the last week is half days and picnics and the like. But it seems like FOREVER. I'm sleeping a lot. I'm not sure if this is the effect of the Paxil, or if it's just that I'm depressed, and no amount of Paxil is going to drown out the effects of that. Pretty bad, though. Friday night I lay down at 9 PM. Got up at seven or so. Came home from the break-down, and lay down for a nap at 2, got up at EIGHT that evening. (The fella reports that he just came in from time to time, checked that I was still breathing, and let me be.) Got up, had dinner, watched some TV with the fella, and then decided around eleven thirty that I was tired and would go to bed. Got up this morning at seven-thirty.

I'm trying to take everything slow and easy. It's hot now--that's not helping--and I'm late with some paperwork--not helping--and I don't know if I'm actually going to be able to clear my credential--not helping. But I'm going to get through, and get my money for the summer, and then we'll see.

Maybe I should go to law school. You think? If I became a public defender, I'd probably run into a bunch of my current kids a few years down the road.