Friday, December 17, 2010


So, right here at St. Attracta, we have a major Christmastide scandal underway.

Apparently, last week, the Spanish teacher was asked by some little darling in the fourth grade if she 'believed in Santa'.

This is the point at which, in a nice Catholic school, one is supposed to smile and say "Of course I do!" But Sra. is a devout apostolic evangelical of some sort, and apparently she went into some considerable detail about how not only did she not believe in Santa, but there is only one person whom one is supposed to show worship to and expect things from, and that Christmas is about Jesus, and that belief in Santa Claus is a form of idolatry.

Now, this gets into some deep theological divides in Christianity, having to do with the veneration of the saints, and toy shopping and such, but that's sort of beside the point. The point is that the fourth graders were traumatized, and they told their parents, and their parents called the principal, and it was all fairly insane for a few days.

So, Sra. was told that while she did not have to lie and say she did believe in Santa Claus, she should not lecture the children on the subject, or say that Santa was bad. Good enough.

Yesterday, my own sixth-graders had Spanish class, and I left to go have a cup of coffee. When I returned, some of the kids were polling one another about wehter they believed in Santa Claus, but since I didn't know about the fourth-grade episode, I thought little of it.

ANYWAY, today the principal shows up, and tells me that apparently one of MY little darlings, last night, at bedtime, turns to her mother and says, "Mom, something happened today, and Sra. said not to tell anyone she said it or we'd be in trouble, but I have to tell you. She said there's no Santa Claus!"

Now, I have to say that my own feeling is that a family in which a sixth-grader believes in Santa is perhaps in need of some sharp talk from a Spanish teacher, but anyway, there were more furious phone calls, and I had to pull kids out of class to give testimony about what was said. (The witness kid I called says they were NOT told to keep the whole thing secret, and that Sra. simply said no when asked if she was a Santa believer.)

Such is life in middle school, such is life at St. Attracta.

I have some more I need to tell you about what's going on, but that will have to wait for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winner's Circle

In more upbeat news, I won NANOWRIMO!

I wrote a 50,000 word, mostly coherent novel, set in the Jewish community of Winchester around 1200, in 29 days--I had thirty, but wrapped up yesterday...and I rock.

I even get a cool little doohickey! (See cool doohickey to the right.)

This was a really good thing for me to do this month. It took my mind off the problems at work, and the meds, and all that, and got me focused and working on something. And it paid off really well. I feel super-accomplished.

I am proud of me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Exit Strategy

It's December on Wednesday, and the new job has pretty much become a disaster.

I didn't want to leave St. Dymphna's. There's a reason I left middle school. I now remember what it was.

Today, my principal had a long talk with my class, and I had a long talk with my principal. And I'm starting to wonder if there is a way out of this before the end of the year.

I had applied to an MFT program, been accepted for the fall, and just didn't go. Because...because money, stuff, new job, whatever.

I'm trying to find out if the application is salvageable, if they can admit me for the spring.

A student loan.

A part-time job.

A way out.

I'm depressed, of course, that's part of it. I'm off the Paxil, on the Zoloft.But how do you treat depression when you spend all day, five days a week, trying to teach kids who don't like you or respect you, and have no qualms about showing it?

It's not exactly the most mental-health-friendly environment, let's put it like that.

I feel like hell. I have to go back tomorrow--thank God tomorrow is Tuesday, my easy day. I still don't know if I can face it. I still don't know if I can get through the day. And the next one. And the next one. So far so good. I haven't cried in front of them yet. Everyone else in the damn school, yes, but my students, no.

I need an exit strategy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Here is the J's Mealy-Mouthed Take On The Assault

Read it and weep.

BTW, as a life-long human-rights activist, the Balabusta cannot but fail to be amused by JVP's wild endorsement of themselves for disrupting Netanyahu's speech in New Orleans. They unfurled a banner, yelled a slogan, and were kicked out by security. I've done that. I was doing that when I wasn't yet a bat mitzvah. Big whoop.

The kind of bravery you'd expect people who beat up middle-aged ladies to congratulate themselves on.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jewish Voice for Whaaaa? Again?

Over at Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers, the irrepressible Grant Patel writes up a recent encounter between the poorly named Jewish Voice for Peace and a local pro-Israel activist who was physically attacked and continues to be attacked in words by JVP.

Here are her words. The Balabusta will add that she has met this lady many times, and that she has also seen JVP's choice of 'nonviolent' friends at a number of demonstrations. Given JVP's inability to notice threatening and violent behavior carried out by those they choose to like, I'm not surprised they also fantasize violence by those they attack.

That's all, folks.

"Jewish Voice for Peace" has issued a press release that I attacked several people attending one of their events with pepper spray. They also go on to make absurd allegations regarding my politics and intentions at the meeting.

This is completely bizarre. I am a DISABLED WOMAN (see the legal notice on my car). I carry pepper spray as my only means to defend myself. It IS true that on the evening of November 14, at a JVP meeting, I needed to defend myself. I was physically attacked.

The JVP meeting at Berkeley Senior Center was advertised to the public. I attended this meeting as an individual and not as a member of any organization, in order to deepen my understanding of their perspective on the Middle East conflict.

Ironically, a stated goal of the meeting was to HONOR activists that had recently PHYSICALLY DISRUPTED a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Perhaps I should have understood that as a warning.

THE ATTACK: Around 20 minutes into the meeting, I tried to photograph a woman speaking in support of Israel. Almost immediately, several JVP members surrounded me and tried to take my camera from me. Then they attacked me. They took hold of my arms and would not let me go. They also pushed their chests into me many times and knocked me against a wall. I yelled at them 20 to 30 times to let go of me. They refused to let go of my wrists and forearms and continued to bang their chests into me. They banged me into the wall over a dozen times. Their faces were red from hatred and exertion. As a result of their violence, my wrists and arms are bruised and I am currently suffering serious pain in my lower back. I am unable to work this afternoon and I must take medication for pain relief.

I am a large woman but I am physically frail. As I said, I am disabled.
- I see a pain management physician regularly for chronic back pain. I am unable to move without severe back pain. I have had major surgery on my back. I am unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes without unrelenting back pain and sciatica pain.
- I also have had nine surgeries on my knees which are another main source of pain.
- I have asthma, and I use inhaled steroids daily; the anti-Israel activists’ attack on me exacerbated my asthma and I had to take medicine while at the senior center.
- I also have a serious blood disorder that weakens me. I am currently under treatment by a hematologist/oncologist, and I am on daily chemotherapy.

I am 58 years old. I have a Disabled Person’s license plate for my car. I am physically incapable of overpowering or attacking anybody! The people who attacked me were physically fit and at least 20 years younger than I;

While pleading with the attackers to let me go, I tried to get away but they followed me and kept grabbing my arms. At one point they knocked my camera out of my hand. I bent down to pick it up and tried to walk away. They followed me and continued to grab my arms and shove me into the wall. They isolated me from the rest of the crowd. Because they were beating me up and because I am disabled and could not defend myself otherwise, I sprayed pepper spray into one woman’s face. As soon as I did that, they all backed off from me and let me go.

I resorted to the pepper spray because I feared for my safety and my life!!! I believe that had I not used pepper spray, I would be in the hospital today suffering far more serious injuries. Pepper spray causes extreme discomfort but is unlikely to cause permanent injury. The purpose of pepper spray is to temporarily disable an attacker, to allow time for escape. It worked.

The JVP press release is an outright lie. I cannot and did not attack anyone. I was attacked!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Depression Sucks

Friday was like an nightmare, and it all starts again tomorrow.

I seriously do not know what do. I hate this job. I absolutely hate it. It's like being back in middle school myself.

I spend my weekends crying because I have to go back on Monday.

Zoloft was mailed to me. It's still not here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


National Novel Writer's Month begins on Monday. I plan to do NANOWRIMO, this year!

NANOWRIMO, for those of you who have not encountered it before, is an annual event where, over the thirty days of November, everyone tries to write a first draft of a novel, from soup to nuts. 50,000 word target. Many Internet forums where people post in to ask what kind of siege engines were used in the Bronze Age, and how many times a week it's really OK to feed your kids cereal instead of cooking.

Right now I feel like hell. I'm depressed, work is cruddy, and I'm not feeling really happy all around. I need a distraction. I need a project. I need something to take me out of myself that doesn't require leaving the house. NANO!!

I have three possible NANO projects in mind. YOU, being someone who reads this blog, get to vote on the project! These are the options:

1. A mystery novel set in Renaissance Florence, the sequel to the recently completed one. In this one, Ginevra's sister Anna, the nun, comes to town, and murder, holiday hilarity and multiple sets of young lovers with murky agendas ensue.

2. A mystery novel set in the medieval English Jewish community. Avigai's cousin's daughter is missing, and as she investigates, long-buried secrets from his escape from the 1190 massacre of York's Jews begin to surface.

3. A sprawly, relationship-driven, Bronze Age chick-lit novel about the women in King David's life. Nitzevet, Michal, Avigayil, Batsheva, Tamar, Avishag...the mother, the wives, the daughter...David's life is filled with women with dramatic stories. And very strong voices.

Please put in your vote for one of these options by midnight on Sunday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wouldn't Have Believed It If I Hadn't Seen It

So, today, one of my students dropped a bag of candy on the floor.

It was rather a big bag of candy. He likes to tote lots of it around, even when it is not about to be Halloween. He dropped it. It was an accident. 100 individually wrapped Warheads (little sour things), hit the floor.

I looked up. I said, "Oh, dear, hon, we need to pick those up." I walked toward him.

I saw several kids start to move. I thought, because I am a MORON, "Oh, they'll help."

Then they dived onto the spilled candy, pushing, shoving, screaming, and cramming handfuls into their pockets.

One boy was flat on the floor in front of me, prone, kicking his feet, and protecting his loot with his body.

These are eleven and twelve year olds from middle class families, attending a 'nice' parochial school.

The kindest thing I can say is that they looked like a group of four or five year olds after Dad or Uncle gets fed up and breaks the pinata with a couple of purposeful whacks.

It was far more remiscent of a pack of animals closing in for the kill on the Discovery Channel.

It was, to be honest, disturbing as hell.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm goin' back to school

Had a small realization this last week--teaching is not doing it for me. I was fairly happy working at St. Dymphna High, but I was never able to get a normal complement of classes, and frankly, every other place I've worked as a teacher, I've been sad, stressed, and miserable.

I'm done. I'll see if I can do that MFT program I applied for last year, I'm thinking about law school, but I need to do something else, something you can make a little more money at, and not have to deal with classroom management ALL GODDAMN DAY.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How can you tell?

I'm trying to figure out how you can tell if you're just chemically depressed and going through a transition to a new job, or if you actually have realized that you don't like what you're doing for a living much and should change.

Bumping Along

I'm sad. I'm now also on these alarming Vitamin D pills which I'm supposed to take once a week for eight weeks and then once a month. I told the Balebos not to be surprised if sunlight starts to come out of my ears.

But so far, just sad.

I am STRUGGLING with, well, everything. I feel sad about struggling. I have whined too much at my teacher boards and been told to stop. I'm still sad. And frustrated as hell.

There is nothing, nothing at all, like spending ten minutes calming a class down every SINGLE time, when you know that their not calming down at once with a light ring of the chimes is a moral failing of your own. Do it over. And over. And over. And over. And over.

I wanna go back to high school.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Confession is good for the soul, they say

Today was my Weird Bullying Issues day. Won't go into too many details--just spent half the day with the Vice Principal saying, "What would you advise?" and the other half talking to weeping children who didn't think they'd get caught.

This was at the end of a week that started off very badly, after a Friday that dropped the bottom out of my newly not-on-antidepressants state and left me weeping and shaking all weekend. I came back feeling like hell, and rebuilt a little. I still don't feel great, but I'm OK.

Anyway, toward the end of the day, I caught a kid sitting at another kid's desk, going through it. The desk of the kid who's been complaining that his stuff is going missing, and junk being put into his desk when he's away from it. After I spent five minutes this morning talking about the terrible stuff that would happen to any child caught messing with another kid's desk.

I kind of leaped at him, when I registered what I was seeing and said WHATAREYOUDOING, and he started to say something, and I snapped that he was in SOMUCHTROUBLE and sent him back to his own desk...and then didn't get a chance to talk to him after school because he escaped during dismissal--so I talked to the vice principal again instead.

And I realized something.

I am being weird with the kids because being back in middle school is scaring the bejaysus out of me. The last time I was in middle school was a bad, bad year. Around January, I got a GLOWING review from my principal, and literally a week later, a parent wandered into my classroom at a bad moment, and I had a dust-up with the Education Expert, and suddenly I was persona non grata at that school.

And I am so afraid of it happening again. And when the kids misbehave, my blood runs cold, because if ANY child misbehaves EVER, I figure it's going to be 'don't let the door hit your tush on the way out' again. So I'm trying to get them behave by sheer force of will--and getting angry too easily because I'm SCARED TO DEATH.

And I can't do that. I have to teach the kids. Like they are, not like I want them to be in the future. I have to deal with their stuff now. I have to be real with them and their parents now. And if my best isn't good enough, that will have to be too damn bad. I am working hard, I'm being as sane and consistent and strict as I can manage under the new-school, wacky-talky class conditions, and I'll get better. But I can't scream DOYOUKNOWHOWMUCHTROUBLEYOU'REINMISTER at an eleven-year-old boy because I'm afraid other grownups will blame me if he does something wrong. He will, probably do something wrong. He's eleven. And human.

I will probably do a lot of wrong things too. Because I'm thirty-seven and human. I didn't handle it right today. But I need to stop being so afraid.

Also, I need to get my Vitamin D count up to at least fifty from THIRTEEN. My doctor has spoken.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not feeling so great

Friday was the point at which my post-Paxil calmness plummeted in the face of 28 sixth graders who absolutely refused to shut up.

I cried through a three-day weekend. I went back to school today, and it was lousy, lousy, lousy.

You want to know what the lousiest part was? It was the part where I had to ring the 'attention' signal to get attention in the middle of a transition to math class.Why? Someone's backpack was missing.

So why did they ignore it? Well, it turns out that they HAD to get to math class, because Sister is 'strict'.

I, of course, am chopped liver.

Did I mention it got up to ninety-five degrees by late afternoon?

I have a headache, I want to cry all the time, I am furious with my class, and with myself, and I'm overheated. It's really, really special.

I want to be back at St. Dymphna's.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sixth Grade Is Hard. And I'm In Mourning.

OK. My mother-in-law died today, I found out after school, so this is a day that will live in memory, but before that...

My sixth graders, who I have for English, religion and social studies, are in revolt. I started using the vocabulary book that was given to me by the school, which is rigorous but good.

They can't pass the tests. They do lousy on them. After the third one with too many Fs and no As, I decided, OK, we have to adapt. So I told them, and read them a note saying, that we would keep using the book, but we would do a unit over two weeks instead of one, taking the spelling test one week and the vocabulary the next. We would make flashcards, do word studies, more in-depth stuff. I just came from high school, where even my freshmen would look at a list, sort of shrug, and learn it. So, I tell the kids, we'll do it slow, with more care and more activities, and they WILL get better grades, and they WILL learn more.

And they exploded. Some of what came out of our impromptu class meeting:

There is not enough homework. And the homework is too hard.
Can't we go on doing a vocabulary test every week?
It's my fault for not teaching it right.
I don't make learning fun.
Ms. Fifth Grade gave them donuts for getting As on spelling tests. They need motivation. How come no donuts?
I take too long to give directions.
I don't take long enough giving directions.
They don't like the kid they're sitting next to.
If I gave examples, like about money, or fashion, they'd learn.

Then, they complained that it was the way I grade that made them get bad grades. I take off TWO points for every thing they get wrong. If I only took off one point, they'd get good grades!

I showed them the percentages on the board, and explained that I give two points for each correct answer as well, so this is having no impact on their overall grade.

A couple of them came in to talk after school as well. They're mad at the math teacher too, because he says the highest grade in the group is a C-plus, and if he gave them more time, they'd get better grades, also he canceled the test because the people who weren't ready asked for more time. And everyone is saying that they're going to have bad grades at the progress reports, and they're MAD!!!

I tried to treat their concerns with respect, and a little humor. I felt like running away and never coming back.

And then after this, while I'm brainstorming tech projects with the computer guy, my husband walks in, and I know as soon as I see his face that Tante S. is gone.

I'll feel better after I eat a lot of carbs and get a good night's sleep, and cry some more. But DAMN.

And the grief, the real grief, hasn't quite gotten through yet. And my heart is breaking for my husband, and I don't know what in God's name I can do for him.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Me, Without Paxil

So, I'm off the Paxil, and I'm off the Prozac I took to get off the Paxil, and this is me, typing unmedicated for the first time in about five years.

I took the Paxil to get through the horrible time at the first school I taught at, and, as it happens, to get through horrible times at the next two schools I taught at. I never planned to be on it for five years. I never planned to spend nearly that much of my life on antidepressants.

I feel OK.

I'm starting a new year of work. I've done a week and a half with the sixth graders at St. Attracta School, and I think it's going OK--but it's hard, it's always hard, to start off in a new setting. And on a deep, deep level, I am not convinced I can teach successfully, even going into my seventh year of it.

That said, this weekend has been a great success so far. Last night was Niamh's bachelorette party, complete with burlesque dancers, halal barbecue and champagne, and despite my terrible fears about it (the bridal shower was high stress), it went off beautifully, I think. Niamh was lovely, wearing a Statue-of-Liberty-like crown of glow-sticks, and we had a really lovely party.

On family front, stress. The Husband's Tante S., his mom's parter, is in the hospital and the doctors don't think she's coming out. It's hard. The Husband is sad, and stressed. Me too.

I don't feel depressed. I feel different. But I'm going to go on without the Paxil, and I'm going to contact my NP Ob-Gyn to get my Tay-Sachs screening done.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Long, Good Life

On Saturday, I went to a funeral mass for the mother of a friend of my father's. SHe was eighty-nine, born in Manila in 1920. She was just about to get her degree when the Japanese invaded.

A truly remarkable life. I was able to hear much of it when my father the WWII buff and I took her out to lunch a few years ago.

Right before she died, her son and daughter-in-law presented me with one of her many statues of Mary. It now sits in my classroom, and I plan to send them photos of it in its new home with a thank you and condolence letter.

My Classroom is Gorgeous

I am tired.

There are inspiration posters attached to every object in the room, including a sandwich board on the hamster. (OK, not really. I don't have a hamster yet.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Did Feminism Succeed? Or Not?

When you can't tell if feminism succeeded beyond its supporters' wildest dreams, or failed miserably:

I'm putting my classroom together with some help from a young lady who was in my high school freshman class a couple of years ago. She attended the school I'm working at now, K-8. She tells me that she told her best friend, a boy who was in my class, and also went through elementary school with her, to come and help out tomorrow.

In passing, I learn that he broke up with his girlfriend, to whom he had been glued for the past two years. "And he was so upset," Mary Kate continues, "and he really needed someone to talk to, and I was there for him. But I was kinda mad, like he gets a girlfriend and we never got to hang out until they broke up? Like, it's supposed to be bros before hos, sorry about my language, Mrs. Bluejeans."

Sunday, August 08, 2010

It's Ten O'Clock. Do You Know Where Your Grandparents Are?

When I was a little girl, there were some things that I knew about the Japanese. I knew that they were into cherry blossoms and robots, and that their students worked harder in school than Americans, and did complicated math we had never even heard of, for example.

When I got older, I learned that Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat, and that the natural, sea-based, frugal Japanese diet allowed them to have more centenarians than anywhere else on earth, or at least more than most places.

Anyway, as far as I know, the Japanese still like cherry blossoms and technology, the exchange students I see on BART are all skinnier than I, and I'm sure that miso soup is actually very good for you as well as being delicious.

However, it also seems that the number of centenerians in Japan may be, at least in part, due to the apparent tendency of people in Tokyo to lose track of the elderly.

(Cue Ellen deGeneres. "Exercise is good for old people. My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was seventy. She's eighty-two now, and we don't know where the hell she is.")

It all started with Sogen Kato. Mr. Kato was visited by authorities with birthday wishes on what would have been his 111th, but they uncovered instead a story that seems to be wasted on Japan. William Faulkner could have done it justice. Suffice to say that Mr. Kato has probably been dead for about thirty years, and the family never knocked on his bedroom door because he was cranky about being disturbed.

All right, this could happen to any city where there are crazy eccentric families: any city. The problem is that, apparently, they've also misplaced Tokyo's oldest woman. Fusa Furuya was born 113 years ago, and was supposedly living with her daughter, 79. Daughter says they haven't been close in many years, and she thought Mom was living with her brother.

The address she had for her brother is a vacant lot.

Health Minister Akira Nagatsuma is now on a mission to track down all the other Japanese centenarians, and these two weird and high-profile cases seem to have sparked an awareness in Japanese authorities that it may not be enough to assume that elderly people are being taken care of by their families. "Understanding the whereabouts of the elderly and their situation is a very important problem," Nagatsuma told the press.

The mayor of Mrs. Furuya's supposed home district added: "We would like to confirm the security of the elderly from now on by meeting them face to face."

This seems like a good start.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Prop 8 Goes Down

And I have already gotten my first engagement announcement!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Writing Again

I'm sitting down today and writing for the first time in a while...

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Am Trying So Hard To Have Patience With Bad History

Alice Walker is trying my last nerve one more time. You may recall that Alice has popped up in this blog in the past, speculating that Israeli sandals are made with prison labor and exchanging racist blessings with little old ladies.

Well, now she's written an introduction to Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi. I will probably never read this book--I imagine that fairly few people will read this book--but the introduction is so very special that I have to share a few passages with you.

Alice begins with what has become a fairly common theme in her writings about Israelis and Palestinians, the analogy that she draws between her childhood in the racist American South, and the situation of the Palestinians. She continues:

After four hundred years of enslavement followed by over a century of brutal harassment and soul thrashing by white supremacists who had all along wanted only our labor or our land (when we, African or Native American people, possessed land) this internalized self-hatred kept people of color in the United States timid and bowed down with feelings of unworthiness and shame. Like the Palestinians of the last Sixty years, since the coming of European Jews to settle in Palestine after Hitler and the Holocaust in the Thirties and Forties, or like the indigenous people of South Africa (or Africa in general) my people (African, Native American and Poor European) could not fathom, for the longest time, what had hit them. After all, who could imagine it?

Please note, once again, that for Alice, Jews living in what is now Israel before the 1930s simply do not exist, despite the fact that in 1914, say, Jews were 7.6% of the population of Palestine, and in 1922, it was over 11%. Once again, also, for Alice, Jews are 'Europeans'. The thought of proud Sephardi families tracing their lineage in Jerusalem back dozens of generations, or of Jews from North Africa and points farther east made refugees from Arab countries simply does not exist in the hypnotic historical fantasy she's engaging in here.

There you are sitting by your own fire, living peacefully with your family and clan, never having harmed anyone (for the most part), praising and worshiping your own peculiar god. In come a trickle, and then a flood of strangers. First, you feed them, offer them a seat by your fire. Let them admire your little ones. Perhaps you generously teach them how to plant whatever grows around your compound. Perhaps you give them a turkey to keep them from starving in what they persist in calling “the wilderness.” Perhaps you lend them a starter set of goats. Living in the lap of generous nature, speaking generally, there is a certain kind of greed and stinginess that is quite beyond your understanding.

And here comes the next part of the fantasy...the simple, tribal, bucolic life assumed to have happened in Palestine before the nasty (not even Poor) European Jews showed up. I think what Alice is presenting here is loosely based on the Thanksgiving story we were taught as children--if she mentioned teaching the Yahud to plant fish in the corn hills, I could be sure--but it does seem to leave out the complex history of the region, in favor of a sort of general sentimentalized fantasy about simple tribal life.

In contrast to that simple, honorable life, of course, is the 'greed and stinginess' of the European Jew, quite beyond the understanding of the innocent and naive Palestinians. Greedy, greedy Jews. Enough said.

And of course, missing from Alice's patronizing portrayal of happy rural Arabs is any understanding that these simple country folk know what Jews are. They have a long history with them. They've banned them from holy sites of their own faith, for example, and occasionally massacred them. Alice refers a few passages back to "being black and living in the United States under American style apartheid. The daily insults to one’s sense of being human. Not just the separate toilets and water fountains with their blatantly unequal lettering and quality of paint, but the apparent determination of the white population, every moment, at every turn, to remind any person of color, no matter how well spoken or well dressed, or how well educated or in what position of authority in the black community, that they were niggers, objects of ridicule, contempt, and possible violent abuse." Yes. That's what it was like to live as a Jew in the Arab world, Alice.

I'm reminded of a seder where I listened as a man told his daughters about growing up Jewish in Baghdad. "We had good friends who weren't Jewish," he said, "but you had to remember all the time that anything could happen." Then he told a story about walking to school while boys threw stones at him and called him a Jew.

But I digress, I digress from Alice's happy ahistorical history of the European Jewish Conquest of the Palestinian Tribal Lands. Let's look at the next paragraph.

Way back in Europe, though, your “guests” have come up with a plan to assuage their hunger for more: more land, more money, more crops, more food, more things to buy and sell, and drawn maps that have your “territory” on it like a large pie, and they are busy dividing up slices of it. You, sitting by your fire, your little ones clamoring for a bedtime story or another mango, date, olive or fig, are not on the map at all.

At this point, please notice, Hitler, who's been so far presumed to be these folks' reason for being here just vanishes, and the Jews morph into full-fledged European imperialist invaders. Please note, also, that I am not actually sure that mangoes were grown in Mandate Palestine. I could be wrong, and Israel does grow mangoes for export now. And this is a dumb thing to focus on. But I'm not sure about the mangoes.

Coming back to your fire, the strangers smile at you, learn your language, as if respecting it, admire your culture. But you notice they’ve brought strange gadgets that they use to measure things. At first you and your neighbors laugh: these crazy people, you say to each other, why, they would measure even the sky! But soon you do not laugh, because they have measured a road that goes right through your living room. They have destroyed all the villages on one side of yours, already. You did not know, because you couldn’t imagine anyone doing such a thing, and besides, you do not understand their language, though they, many of them now, certainly understand yours. Why should you learn the language of your guests, you think.For a long time it doesn’t make sense to make the effort. And when you begin to understand that your guests are your enemies, it seems horrible to you to try to learn to speak their wicked tongue.

I'm deeply intrigued by the way the whole Israeli War of Independence, especially the part where five peaceful, rustic, innocent Arab nations rolled tanks into the fledgling State of Israel, appears to simply not exist in Alice's narrative.

I'm equally impressed at her portrayal of mid-twentieth-century Palestinians as having, apparently, never seen 'measuring gadgets' before.

But mostly I'm appalled. This woman either knows nothing of the history of this conflict she opines so freely on, or she's lying about it to appeal to a certain audience, and either is shocking. Alice Walker's version of the origins of the Israeli/Palestinian struggle is historically false, bigoted against both Jews and Arabs, and based on a twee, prepackaged narrative of the invasion of indigenous lands. Epic fail.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


For the last few days, I have been moving around cardboard boxes.

A little background here: approximately five years ago, the Balabusta and her then husband-to-be moved into this apartment on the Ohlone Greenway.

Technically, it's a two-bedroom apartment, one bedroom to be used as a computer room/den sort of thing. However, for the past five years, it has been so full of boxes, hastily packed and dragged out of the last house, that it has been usable only as a place for my husband to sit at a desk in the corner, beyond the boxes, and play World of Warcraft.

Anyway, I've been pulling the boxes out, repacking them, and rearranging them, and I'm almost sure that when I'm done, all the storage crap will fit into the big closet in the computer room, and the storage unit downstairs.

We will actually have a second bedroom. It's awesome!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer in Swing--Louisiana Saturday Night

I am finally starting to relax after the Husband and I got back a week ago from visiting his family in Louisiana.

I merely note:

1.The humidity is amazing. I got out of the car at 10 at night, and my glasses fogged over.

2. My husband comes by his hoarding tendencies honestly. He and his mother are limited in what they can do by space constraints. My grandmother-in-law has eleven acres. Enough said.

3. My new niece (age four months) is completely adorable.

4. My older niece (age 12) is also pretty cute.

5.My sister-in-law is a brave woman. She drove from Tennessee to Louisiana with a four-month-old, a twelve-year-old, a German shepherd and beagle in the car.

6. After I teased my husband on the flight about how anyone I spend enough time with turns out to be Jewish, my grandfather-in-law informed me on the first morning we were there that the Cherokee are a Lost Tribe.

7. I learned about deer whistles.

8. If I never see another biscuit, it will be too soon.

9.My MIL has adopted a baby woodpecker.

10. Family.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trusting My Own Judgement

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to a barbecue at Mirele and Keyle's place, and I heard the full story of how Mirele left the school that we both worked at for a time (St. Colmcille's, remember them?)

For legal, personal, and general losh-avoiding reasons, I am not going to post the details here. Suffice to say that Mirele was wronged, and I am angry about it. Suffice also to say that someone I knew and disliked while we worked there turned out to be a much more dishonorable person than I would have imagined.

I've been thinking about her a lot, and why I disliked her then, and why I sometimes disregard my own opinions about people. I did this at Walter C. Moonbat High as well, taking people, or trying to, at their own valuation of themselves.

There's a difference between giving someone a chance, and ignoring what you know--either from experience, or on a deep gut level--to be true about them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Strike

Can I tell you all a terrible secret?

I graduated from Mills College in 1995.

In 1990, as some of you may recall, the Mills College board decided to admit men to the Mills undergraduate program, and the women on campus went 'on strike', and managed to force the board to reverse their decision.

When I was at Mills, tales of the strike were still fresh. "There was a revolution," one popular little handbill read, "We showed up, there was childcare, we cleaned up after ourselves, and we won. We won!"

This spring is the 20th anniversary of the strike.

I have been getting Facebook items and such, honoring, nay CANONIZING the strike and the strikers.

"I didn't really understand how important it was back then," one of my college friends comments.

This is my terrible secret: I just don't really care about the Mills College Strike of 1990.

It's not that I don't appreciate it. I think women's colleges are a fine thing. It's not that I disagree with the basic point of the strike in any real way.

I just have never been able to get nearly as starry-eyed as many, hell ALL of my Mills friends about it. It happened. I'm happy Mills is still a women's college. But the strike isn't one of my guiding stories about Woman Power. I really, truly, do not get a warm fuzzy glow just thinking about it.

Something is wrong with me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Than Workforce

Last Tuesday, we had a teacher inservice on revising our ESLRs--boring, irrelevent work, but it has to be done. The woman who came to talk to us about it kept referring to skills our kids would 'take with them to the workforce'. She said it, I don't know, maybe ten times.

A note on Catholic education, and, I would argue, all education: our kids are not just 'workforce'. Our kids will be lovers, spouses, parents, children of aging parents, godparents. They will be next-door neighbors and friends. They will be spiritual seekers, artists, PEOPLE. If we educate them to only be 'workforce', we're cheating them and ourselves.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interview Down

So, the first interview of my annual job hunt is over...went well...we'll see.

It really would be nice if I could just get this one, and not have to shlep all over interviewing until July, which is what sometimes--usually--happens.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Junie B. Jones

Are you acquainted with Junie B. Jones? Junie B. ("the B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all"), currently aged 6, is the star of delightful series of children's books.

She is also #71 on the most-challenged and -banned list the ALA has compiled for 2000-2009.

Junie, you see, is a darling child who tells her adventures in a unique and self-posessed voice. She sometimes misspells words, and she makes an occasional grammatical error. She runs her poor first grade teacher, Mister, "He has another name too. But I just like Mister, and that's all.") into the ground. And she sometimes disobeys her parents. There's an element in town that objects. In a serious damn way. Junie B., as I said, is #71 on the challenged and banned list. She comes in 5 ahead of The Joy of Gay Sex.

Apparently these challenging and banning people can't wait until the kids are in high school to ban Huck Finn, so they'll go after his little, suburban sister.

And don't get me going on the people who've set their sights on preventing their children from reading And Tango Makes Three. Suffice it to say that if you fear your children's purity may be damaged by a story about two male penguins hatching out an egg together, the problem is most definitely with you. Rather than with the penguins.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Which West Virginia Kicks The Ass of the Westboro 'Baptist' 'Church'

I honestly wonder sometimes if Fred Phelps goes around with a battered yellow legal pad covered in ideas that come to him at odd moments for how to be as vile and disgusting as he possibly can. "Children's oncology ward?" his notes must read. "How to get in? Press coverage? Serial killers? Show support for serial killer? How to make sure S.K. not gay?"

Fred's latest thing
was to send his followers to West Virginia to let them know that the death of 29 miners was the wrath of God on the well-known godlessness of West Virginia. They came with signs that said "Thank God For Dead Miners" and "God Hates West Virginia"

They were sent running.

This video is the best thing I have seen in ages. Favorite moments include the man in overalls shouting Bible verses at the Phelpsers, the girl yelling that she loves Catholics, and of course, the victory hoe-down.

Watch it. You'll see what I mean.

(Warning. This was done by a community news station, and the sound is a little variable.)

Back To Work Tomorrow

It's been a great vacation, but I almost feel as though I could use another one. Today is rainy, rainy rainy, and I'm sitting here doing the grading I managed to put off for a week and a half.

I'm stressed. You know? I'm just stressed. My father, thank God, is recovering nicely from his health problems, but by mother-in-law's cancer has recurred. I'm job hunting again. My husband has a terrible toothache, and needs to have a tooth pulled. My husband is still unemployed. I feel out of control. There is too much going on, no money, and not enough down time.

But I did finally get some down time, and I'm going to go back to school tomorrow with a vengeance, finish up the year, and find a job where they give me my own classroom. I have an offer of an interview, and some possibilities, and I'm just going to get through all of this.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

QUIT Turns Out To Protest Gay Israeli Films

Several people came up to me as I stood in front of the Roxie Theater on 16th Street with my Israeli flag and asked for clarification--who were we? And why were we there? And who were the other people?

You have to love San Francisco. Here is what was going on...

The Roxie was showing Eyes Wide Open,a film about an Orthodox man in Jerusalem, struggling with his sexuality. This was part of Out In Israel, a month-long celebration of things LGBT, Jewish and Israeli, organized by the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco.

Now, if this had happened a month earlier, the Westboro Baptists might still have been in town, and they could have come and protested the gayness, but instead they had moved on, and the film was being protested by QUIT. That's Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism. No, I did not make that up.

QUIT was there because they hate the State of Israel. They were there with pink banners, complaints about 'pinkwashing', and very creepy signs. My friends and I were there because they were there. We were showing support for films about closeted gay men in Jerusalem by holding Israeli flags, rainbow flags, and signs that were much more delightful and amusing than those held by QUIT.

I was struck, as always, by the passion and intensity of the people I find myself across the lines from at these events. The jumbled tangle of anti-Semitism and vague left-political platitudes, turned into something so irrational, heartless and strange that I can barely make out what these folks think they're doing.

The question I wanted to ask, and didn't get a chance to, was this: "Is there another country on earth, no matter what its human rights record, that you would protest gay films from?"

The answer, of course, is 'no', as one of my fellow flag-wavers said briskly. But it does highlight the unique place Israel holds in the minds of her haters--the only nation on earth with no right to even make films about its LGBT citizens, reviled by these 'activists' far more than nations that, say, just KILL their LGBT citizens.

Strange world. Queer, even, one might say.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I Can See The Hametz At The End of the Pesach Tunnel

Not a bad holiday, overall. My mother and I went to the first-night seder at the JCC, and then friends invited me to their second-night seder, and conveniently, Easter break for St. Dymphna's started on Thursday, so I have been at home, which makes eating for Pesach that much easier. My cholesterol has probably gone up a notch, but otherwise, so far, so good.

Today being Easter Sunday, the Husband has ham, and I bought him some chocolate rabbits to bite the heads off of.

Now, for a delightful Easter moment, I present the photos of the first annual wolf Easter egg hunt from Everything Wolf.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

March Slog

I took Friday off. I NEVER take the day off. I'm still sick. I spent three days in bed, and I'm still sick. I'm sick, I'm miserable, no one will give my husband a job, and I'm depressed.


OK, moaning and ranting over.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Almost Purim, But Not Quite

So, heck, I haven't been blogging for a while. It's almost spring. The ducks are back in the creek near the house, swimming around together. They make me happy, do the ducks. Back in town, busy with the business of being ducks.

So what is the Balabusta's business these days?

I went to the doctor and the OB/gyn lady, and said I wanted to get pregnant this coming year. We chatted, and I got some good advice and lot of reading, and the solemn aside about the risk of Down syndrome going up because I am an 'older mother'.

I sat down with the vice principal, who says that she would like to keep me another year, but it may not be possible to cobble me together another position. So, job hunting again, just as I have for all but one of the last five springs. I am so SICK of job hunting. Plus, the husband is still job hunting, and hearing nothing back. Tired. Broke. Tired of being tired and broke.

Tomorrow is the husband's birthday, and he has asked to go out for Hawaiian food, so Hawaiian food it is. He's a little sick right now, so we will either go tomorrow, or postpone his birthday to next weekend.

Mostly, right now, it's ducks, and the beginning of spring, and dusting off the old resume one more time...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guinea Pig Mitzvah

It's hard to be sure when you're doing the right thing most of the time, especially when you teach. You know, the moments when you are pretty sure you're doing the best thing for the child, and the child is screaming "This stupid class is ruining my life!"? Those moments. But I feel fairly sure that by the guinea pig I did a mitzvah, and that's a good feeling.

The guinea pig entered my life yesterday at about four o'clock, when I wandered into a conversation between Mrs. Trumbeldor and Mr. DiMarco, the dean of discipline. Here is what had happened:

Mr. DiMarco's father-in-law, under the influence of what, we are not sure, decided that it would be a cool idea to get guinea pigs for all of his grandchildren. He has three children who have so far produced offspring, so he bought three guinea pigs, and began to deliver them. I don't know what kind of reception he got at the other homes, but when Mr. DiMarco was shown the guinea pig he was firm (if incorrect). "That's a rat," he said. "We do not have rats in my home."

I should mention that Mr. DiMarco is a bit of a clean freak. You know those little Zen fountains you can get for your office? His runs a 25% bleach solution. His office is jammed with potpourri, essential oils, Febreze, you name it. Not a rodent man. He refused to keep the guinea pig. "Why doesn't it stay at your house?" he asked his father-in-law. "That way the children can play with it when they come over."

"Hell no," said his father-in-law. When I entered the picture, the guinea pig was in the garage at Mr. DiMarco's home, since it was not permitted in the people areas, and he was insisting that he would turn it loose in the hills behind his house.

Mrs. Trumbeldor and I put a stop to that right quick. "Bring it into the school," we said. "We'll find a home for it." Mrs. Trumbeldor had already talked to Perl, who might be willing to take the guinea pig home. I promised that I and the Fella would take the pig for some time if needed. We threatened him with the SPCA if he didn't bring the pig out of the garage and let it stay in the warm house overnight.

Today the guinea pig and its cage and accessories were brought to Mrs. Trumbeldor's office. Cute little guy, all black with orange streaks, which we thought might appeal to Perl, whose hair is approximately the same colors. But she wasn't sure about keeping it, and the day wore on (and the guinea pig spent about an hour sitting in the lap of our biology teacher, being groomed and petted), and I decided to take matters into my own hands.

"Does anyone want a guinea pig?" I asked in the locker room, as the freshmen girls swarmed around me. "Go see Mrs. Trumbeldor if you might want to adopt a guinea pig."

By four o'clock, the guinea pig was on its way off-campus, in the capable hands of Mushkie.

I learned later that Mr. DiMarco, concerned about the state of the guinea pig's cage had taken it apart, cleaned it with bleach, then lemon juice, put the pig back inside, then burned the gloves and shirt he wore for this operation.'

I hope the pig will be happy at Mushkie's. I certainly think it had a narrow escape when it comes to Mr. DiMarco.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lights Out

So, yesterday the lights at St. Dymphna's abruptly went out for about two hours, due to amazing stormy weather.

I had an 80-minute study hall during that time, during which I fielded complaints from disappointed teenagers who had assumed that the power going out meant they could take the day off. (The Balabusta was also a little disappointed.)

"How can they make us stay here?"

"The heaters are off!"

"Why can't we just go home?"

"Can I call my mom and ask if I can go home?"

"What about lunch?"

"I won't be able to heat up my food!"

"Do you realize that no one who didn't bring lunch is going to get to eat?"

(After the principal assured us that the cafeteria kitchen runs on gas, and hot lunch would be available...)

"Oh, so we have to eat that food that's been rotting in the refrigerator, huh?"

After the complaints died down, there was a period of quiet, and then Yaakov turned to me. "What if the building catches fire?"

I blinked. "We would evacuate the building according to plan."

"And go where?"

"Outside. To the parking lot. Like the plan says."

"In the RAIN?"

Now, it's coming down pretty good at this point. "Yes, in the rain."

"That's stupid!"

"What would you suggest, Yonkie?"

"I'm not leaving the building if it's RAINING."

"OK, Yonkie. You're sixteen, you can choose to stay here and die of smoke inhalation if you so choose. I will be exiting the building and taking your more sensible classmates with me."

"We should go home."

I love teenagers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dark is Rising

Last night, I finally got around to seeing The Seeker, a film adaptation of Susan Cooper's young adult fantasy novel, The Dark is Rising. I am a longtime Cooper fan, and highly recommend the books. The Dark is Rising is part of a series that also includes Over Sea and Under Stone, Greenwitch, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree, based on British folklore and Arthurian legends.

The Seeker is not bad at all. I was worried when I learned the protagonist was now American rather than English, but the movie itself is set in England, and I think the change was made simply to accomodate the star's own accent. I enjoyed it a lot, and can see why it was made now. I imagine that this might be an appealing storyline for Harry Potter fans, and hopefully it got some of them interested in the books.

Some Pros:

1. It looks beautiful. The English countryside is used to good effect. The film is visually very lovely.

2. Since much of the plot revolves around Will, the Seeker, being the seventh son of a seventh son, he has a large and rather interesting family.

3. The Old Ones, the semi-immortal Druidic order Will was born into, are hilarious as a series of odd older English village folk.

4. In the original series, Will's powers manifest when he turns eleven, in the movie this has been rolled forward to fourteen. I think this make the character's behavior and abilities seem far more realistic.

A few quibbles:

1. OK, OK, I get it. He's going through puberty. The telekinetically dancing butter knife between two salt shakers was still a bit over the top, symbolically speaking.

2. The addition of a seductive older girl who's in league with the Dark Rider adds nothing (except to point out the puberty bit), and is so cliched it makes your teeth hurt. It should be illegal for a sinister fantasy bad guy to have a minion with no back story who he addresses contemptuously as 'Witch!'. It should also be illegal for the temptation he offers this minion to be eternal youth--and of course, when she fails to seduce Will, and take the movie's magical McGuffin from him, she is immediately punished by becoming old, and claw-y and un-hot. There is no excuse for this nonsense.

3. The addition of a complex back-story about the mysterious disappearance of a twin brother adds nothing. In the book, the child simply died young, which complicates the plot much less, and adds a touch of real tragedy.

4. Similarly, after one of the Old Ones has apparently died, to his friend's obvious deep sorrow, and their leader solemnly tells Will 'our enemy is merciless', he just sort of pops up again after the final battle. Great. The stakes are so incredibly high, one can actually die fighting for them? Undercuts a good plot point.

Other than that, very good, and extremely creepy in a feel-good, happily ever after way.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Back To School

Back to school, with a new class (taken on from a teacher who is now on maternity leave), and great plans.

Yesterday, we had a staff retreat, and I heard the story of how the Salesian Order first arrived in the United States. (St. Dymphna is a Salesian school). Unlike most religious orders, the Salesians didn't start in the East, their first project in the U.S. was San Francisco's North Beach, where they founded SS Peter and Paul church.

First, of course, they had to get there. Apparently, sometime in the 1890s, a young Italian immigrant wrote to the Salesian order, asking if Salesians would come to America and begin schools here. He received a letter back from the head of the order, letting him know that five Salesians would be arriving in New York shortly--and that he was in charge of getting them to San Francisco. When they arrived, the young man bought train tickets and accompanied the Salesians west, eventually becoming a brother in the order.

Sounds like a Catholic version of "The Frisco Kid", doesn't it?