Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I get a lot of junk email -- a lot -- I have one email address that I keep just for junk email and another that is quickly becoming overrun by unwanted email.

Usually it is just ads for something - but in the super junk email account, I still get those Nigerian send me money requests, lots of sex bots and other random requests and solicitations.   I generally just delete them all -- it is easy to see from the "preview" what kind of spam it is.  One of the favorite ways to trick people to open is "re:" -- as if you wouldn't remember sending an email to which someone could reply.  I ignore the "re:" emails especially.

However, this one caught my eye.  Best spam email ever from my "ex bf" -- I laughed out loud as I read it.  I have been trying to enjoy the moment as much as possible -- so I share it with you... a little levity in what has become a fairly gloomy blog:

Subject: RE: Break
Reply-To: [bullshit email address]

You really got the guts to break up with me over email, bitch??!?!
Tell you what! I just made a nice compilation of your/our best scenes and put it up for download on [file name - surely a virus or bot of some kind]
Oh and btw: This email just went out to your parents. I bet they didn't know you're into dirty stuff like this.
Your ex bf

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ladybugs, lessons and life

I try to hold what the ladybugs showed me as close to my heart as possible.

I breathe, and I bite my tongue, and I breathe again.

And then, I offer suggestions, and counsel, and sometimes nothing when my loved ones need, yearn for someone, anyone to take care of whatever it is ... big, little, insignificant, important.

Sometimes, I have had to do some serious soul searching to decide, to help or save, to say nothing, to watch and wait until I know for sure that he/she/they cannot manage on their own without my help, without my saving.

I had to suspend the fear of over reaching a bit with my niece, but it was only after sincere thought about it. 

When I was headed to college, I got very little guidance and very little help.  And I survived.
I struggled, stumbled, figured it out.  It was challenging.  Sometimes, I thought, especially in retrospect, it was an unnecessary struggle to get to the answer.

So, I helped ... I let her stumble some, to struggle a bit. I explained the situation more in depth.  I let her try to find the way on her own.  But, I also tried to put myself back in those shoes.  If someone could have helped me over the rough spots that we could anticipate, would I not have truly appreciated one hurdle I didn't have to clear on my own?  So, I did my best not to be over-bearing (not so easy) and offer sound advice.

I wonder, sometimes, if that experience of self sufficiency (and all the other lessons in "take care of yourself") are the reason it is so hard for me to accept help from others.

There is not any bit of this that is easy for me. 

My desire to save is so deeply ingrained.

I look around, and it helps me to understand (and appreciate) my pops all the more.

It is hard, especially when he is acting his old man crazy, to see that his desire to save is so deep that it takes all kinds of out of control turns:  82 years old and rushing out to the farm to work all day (for free).  Only my dad would do that ... and it feels great to him.

If I derived the same kind of pleasure, it might be worth it to me, too.

But I have equal parts pops and moms; and her side doesn't do anything without getting something in return.

So, yes, little ladybugs, there are plenty of folks who don't need "saving," and there are some who would happily accept some advice or help.

I am working at being more conscious of my reactions and decisions -- determined to learn to be the helper, determined to no longer be the savior.  I am hanging up my cape... and this cuts much deeper than all of this (this that has consumed me for the past two years, at least).

But that is another post for another day.

Friday, September 25, 2015

NRU education edition

Heart-breaking yet illuminating piece on how to help adult autistic citizens. It details, in part, some of the needs for research and policy that we simply haven't considered as we warehoused children with autism (or patted them on the head at school until they were 18 as if they would become different by becoming "adults" by age).  It is also heart breaking because it reveals the personal level of dis/connection and responsibility this adult sibling feels for his brother now that his mother has passed.  There is overwhelm and jealousy and rivalry and a sense of helplessness -- I am sure it is true on both sides, they just don't have the means to talk about it.  Like I said, heart breaking.

The Los Angeles Times sat down with two parents to ask them what they want for their children's education.  That is to say, ostensibly that this what this article promises.  Instead, it provides a litany of complaints about the public school system -- many, I am sure well deserved complaints.  However, talking about the air conditioning and/or the adequacy of virtual labs is not necessarily getting at what these parents (and others) want for their children's education.  Neither does bemoaning the broken computers or ballooning class sizes.  These are conditions, not sets of skills or knowledge or preparation or goals.  These are just conditions, materials and deployment of resources.  However disjointed those resources are applied, if the goals are not either transparent or aligned between the district and the parents, it really doesn't matter what materials they have in class.  It certainly doesn't matter if there is air conditioning .... perhaps that would be better fodder for a discussion on climate change.

Ugh... I could barely bring myself to read this piece on Broad's latest plan for LAUSD.  I had hoped that he had tired of puppeteering with LAUSD administration and turned his attention to art.  Alas ... he just closed up the Broad Fellows program in order to work on something else.  I just want to say once again that there is no credible evidence that charter schools are better options overall for all students.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Poetry Thursday, change

I was clever, 
so I wanted 
to change 
the world. 
I am wise, 
so I am 
~ Rumi

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

sick as a dog

Apparently, not eating or sleeping well and then hanging out with small children who are getting sick, getting over being sick or just plain sick do not mix well.  Luckily the sickness incubated while I drove because I am not sure how awful that ride would have been.

Day two, and I am sick as a dog - as my dad would say -- and still not eating or sleeping well.

Ah... tomorrow is another day and I have a busy weekend planned, so got to get better NOW.


This is the card I pulled:

You are responsible for your own happiness. 

[me: indeed!]

The back said:
Happiness never comes from outside of you. If you put your happiness in someone else's hands, they can always take it away. Happiness can only come from inside of you and is the result of your love. 
(don Miguel Ruiz 

[me: I feel that!]

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Remembering the Golden Child

My brother, Greg, was the golden child. I like to say he was my mother’s golden child – long anticipated, deeply desired, first child.  But it was more than that.  We can start with his appearance –  blond from birth with gleaming blue eyes and a smile that could dry tears as much as invite you to mischief.  The twinkle in his eye, shot straight from my father’s twinkle, reminded you that his brain was always coming up with something – plans, inventions, and travesuras.    

For Greg, the world was full of possibilities – both because he was golden, but also because he was open to them.  He saw adventure where others saw the mundane, and he saw opportunity where others feared to tread.  I can only imagine him in the super man cape my mother fashioned for him, running around the house, jumping from the couch.  I wasn’t even a twinkle in my father’s eye at that moment.  It was just Greg and the world was his oyster, until there was Chila, and then there was the super hero and a sidekick who wanted to be a super hero. 

I almost didn’t fit into their world, so consumed by their rivalry and closeness.  It’s a jumble, is it that Chila just wanted to keep up with Greg (and maybe pass him), or was it that their siblinghood was so deep it was more than just in their blood as brother and sister, it was in their souls, in their dreams and aspirations.  I wonder, now, if they weren’t always dreaming the same dream, waking to talk over their different interpretations. (I cursed Greg for not blocking the way, for not screaming for her to not go into the light.  I could only imagine him saying, “Chila, you will never believe how cool it is here,” as they skipped off together leaving a tear so big in our universe we struggle daily to keep it together.)

There are pictures of my big brother and me that reveal our early relationship pattern.  One in particular, I think showed how I relied on him and believed in his ability to protect me.  We are on my great uncle’s porch.  Greg, sun kissed and smiling, me, pale and looking off into the distance, with a cousin who I don’t remember.  I am sitting almost touching my brother as if the unknown girl might pinch me, maybe she already had.   

It is not the way I remember myself as a child – I hear stories about me being dreamy and out there, and clingy.  But I remember being the child who walked up to strangers to chat.  I was especially partial to the hobos, as we called them, in the park.  They were friendly and easy to talk to, but I also remember “making friends” with just about anyone who crossed my path – a habit I have continued to indulge sometimes to my more reticent friends chagrin.  But here I was quiet, scared looking, and leaning on my brother, literally sitting in his shadow for both shade from the sun and protection from the unknown.  I don’t remember that day or the circumstances of that picture.  But I know that feeling of knowing my brother would always have my back.

I could count on my brother – but that wasn’t the only basis for our relationship.  He was protective, but not in the way most people think about older brothers.  [Not in the tradition of my family – solving others’ problems or being over protective – my mother went to the prom with her cousin and was escorted to and from by her three older brothers.] Greg, believing so viscerally in the power of risk, always encouraged taking one more step into the unknown.  I could count on him to push me beyond what I thought was possible.  I won’t lie, it was frequently because my going beyond would further his latest plan.   

I was ever a pawn in his latest escapade, like using me and my neighbor as bait to get the donut truck to stop [yes, we had ice cream trucks, but we also had a donut truck!].  Greg and Ray would place me and Michael (Ray’s little brother and my best friend) on the sidewalk, each with our shiny quarters.  We waved down the truck with the quarters, and Greg and Ray were hiding behind the neighbors hedge.  I never noticed as I carefully picked out my donut that Greg and Ray were climbing onto the back of the truck.  I remember his finger pulled to his lips in a silent SHH and he and Ray sailed off gripping the truck’s bumper.  I am sure they got caught, but I got my donut, and another delicious memory of my brother’s tomfoolery.

There’s another picture, but I remember the circumstances of this one.  Greg, is crouching down and I am sitting on one of his knees.  He has his arm around me.  I look scared (are you sensing a theme?).  We are near the edge of a cliff in Ensenada where we have gone to see the Bufadora.  For the uninitiated, it is a place where the waves crash against the rocks, almost like a geyser, in a pretty regular and yet spectacular way.  I think he wanted to get a picture with the water in the background.  He kept saying, let’s just get a little closer.  Of course, there is no sign of the water behind us, but I remember fearing falling over the edge.  He is smiling in the picture while I look terrified of what might be coming behind us.

It was just mom and dad and me and Greg on that trip – a little consolation prize because Chila had been invited to Hawaii with a friend that summer (and there wasn't a Tim or Angelique yet).  I remember it was a great adventure, and I had all Greg’s attention to myself – it was both a privilege and a menace because it meant I was his only tool in whatever plan popped in his head (not unlike Ethel and Fred being roped into Lucy's map-cap ideas).  I remember the adventure; my mom remembers Greg was in a foul mood because he was in a lot of pain.  Apparently, he had his braces tightened right before we went on the trip.  Really, all I remember is having all of my brother’s attention.  I am guessing I talked the entire time, he probably judiciously ignored most of it knowing I would keep prattling on without need for him to join in.  I vaguely remember a small transistor radio and an ear phone tucked into one ear, probably listening to baseball games as we drove and drove. 

From the tourist experience we headed to my dad’s Tio Ascencio’s farm.  I don’t remember much of that part of the trip – but there is another picture that always makes this other memory come alive for me.  IT is a terrible picture, left in the camera for too long or just not developed for years, it is yellowed and someone’s finger obscured a big part of the picture.   The only other thing you can see is really big pig butts.  The pigs were big and not friendly, and this may be what triggers the memory.  The picture doesn’t show what happened in the least.   

Someone told my brother there were tasty mulberries at the far end of the pig pen.  He wanted those mulberries.  The tree was only accessible from within the pig pen.  No one who was familiar with the pigs was offering to go into the pen to retrieve the mulberries.  Apparently close encounters with pigs was not the type of adventure my brother wanted to experience that weekend.  But since he had an assistant who could be coerced, he devised a plan.  I would walk across the railing of the pig pen to the other side with a little metal coffee cup in one hand.  Once there, I would pick as many mulberries as would fit into the cup and then walk back.  I don’t know how this story turned out because I really only remember flashes.  Now that my brother is gone, we cannot get his version either.  I remember him balancing me up on the rail, holding my hand and explaining the plan.  I vaguely remember the feeling of not being able to really gain my balance on the railing and looking down at the backs of HUGE pigs who were snorting and carrying on beneath me.  I don’t know what I thought would happen if I fell in, but it wasn’t good.  I don’t know if I made it to the other side, if I was able to then carry out the plan and make it back safely with mulberries.  I just remember desperately trying to make the golden child happy and proud of me by being brave. I remember not feeling in the least brave as my brother assured me nothing would happen to me.

So it continued most of my life except that my brother graduated me from pawn or gullible assistant into personhood, sort of.  I remember knowing that my brother was proud of me, that making him proud was important, and that by making him proud I gained respect.  One summer he was home from college, and things were not going well for the golden child.  He had either just flunked out of college, or was headed in that direction.  He was living at home, but avoiding my parents at all costs.  I know it was summer because I wasn’t hounded to bed early with the younger siblings, and my sister was away working at summer camp.  I waited up for my brother every night.  He would roll in long after my parents had gone to bed.  We routinely watched late night reruns of The Twilight Zone, something I probably would not have done alone.  Though it was late, my brother always came in full of energy – he had either just passed by the McDonalds to pick up the Filet-O-Fish that were about to be thrown out or he would make us a feast with the leftovers from the refrigerator.  He was a master at leftovers.  I don’t know what he made, I can’t remember specific concoctions. I just know they smelled and tasted good, and he shared whatever bounty he had.

All day long I must have heard my parents fret over Greg’s future, though I can’t remember them ever sitting him down and talking to him.  I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9.  When we were settled on the couch with our feast, I would replay those words for him.  I am not sure what he thought about it.  I don’t know if he understood that I was just repeating what I had heard, or if he imagined there was some part of it that I understood in my young brain.  To his credit, he always let me have my say, and I learned that my opinions mattered.   At least they mattered to Greg, and he was after all the golden child, so that had to mean something.  

Whatever he thought, imagined or felt, our bond was solidified that summer.  Maybe all he really wanted was for someone to tell him something, anything– to notice his issue and make an effort to help however young, ridiculous or parroted the advice might be.  After those summer nights, I was never just the kid sister. I was always “My sister, Anna,” followed by some signing of my praises.  Let’s not get carried away, I was still the dork who tripped over her own feet, but I was the intelligent dork who said something smart as she fell down.  Loving and supporting me didn't mean I was never on the receiving end of his sharp, sometimes cruel wit.  But no amount of teasing could take away the pure love I knew he had for me.

My surviving siblings might say that I was Greg's favorite -- but they, and many other people, have stories about Greg providing safety and protection, pushing them beyond their comfort zone and making them feel like the center of his universe.  He was the kind of person who lifted the mood when he walked into the room.  He would crack a joke, lighten a tough situation whenever he sensed tension.  But comfort was not his end goal; he loved to push the birdies out of the nest.  Somehow he knew where your line was, and then encouraged you to walk over it.  I never knew how often he had done this for others until he died, and one after one they came over to tell us.  It was his gift, as the golden child turned golden boy and finally golden man, to know how to do this for others.  Maybe that doesn't make me the favorite or special sister.

All I know is that I did feel like the center of his universe, the kid sister who Greg would simultaneously protect and hold up as a shining example to others.  I always knew Greg was proud of me, and he never let an opportunity to tell me how proud he was slip by.  Just a week before he died, I shared a small triumph with my family members via email.  Not five minutes later, I had a reply from my brother telling me how proud he was.  When he died, the floor fell out from underneath me.  I hadn't needed Greg to hold me up for some time, but I knew he was there, always ready to cheer me on and push me forward, proud of me, and believing that I could do anything.  If he is not in the world with me, I have to just believe in myself -- not the easiest task most days.  I feel like I am operating without my safety net - trying to hold myself together for the rest of the family as I hold on to my own hopes and dreams. 

I miss my brother -- I miss him so much - and not just because he was my most ardent cheerleader.  I miss his presence in the world, the calm his existence brought, and the laughter his company inevitably engendered.  I don't know how many times I think something I want to remember to share with him -- to get his take, to hear the joke he'll make, or to try to make him laugh.  Only to remember, there is no more time for sharing those things.

Three years -- it hardly seems possible. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

5:30a starts

Several times a month I get shifts that start at 5:30am.  I used to love these shifts because the early start meant early end, and time for other projects.  Then I learned to hate the early starts because rising at 5 am in order to be coherent by 5:30am is a bear.  The insistent alarm clock forces my eyes open in the dark, dark predawn morning.  I try to calculate, without being fully awake, how much more time I can spend in bed before I have to get up -- how much time will it take to make coffee, get the computers up and running and situate myself in the office?  All I want to do is roll over and go back to sleep.

But since I have been back in Oakland, I am learning to love these early starts again.

I sit in the dark, coffee cup in hand, working -- and then magic happens.

Slowly, the sun peaks out over the hill across from the office where I have been doing my work.

 On this day (the one in the picture, not today) the sun was forceful, loud, making itself known and basking in its own glory.
 It was so beautiful that I stopped working to take these pictures.

But yesterday morning, it was another kind of beautiful (that I just appreciated and didn't photograph):  low clouds and fog hugged the hillside as the sky brightened behind.  It looked like a cool morning had brought a chill to the hill, so it pulled up the foggy blanket to warm up.

Over the course of the morning, the fog receded quietly and gently; perhaps allowing the hillside the soft wake up that I didn't get.

I was in awe of that beauty -- a privilege I get to view on these early morning starts.

Also, I have the perfect excuse for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon nap.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Poetry Thursday from Rumi's teacher

Instead of resisting to change,
Let life be with you,
not against you.
If you think,
"My life will be
upside down," 
don't worry.
How do you know
down is not better
than upside?

-Shams Tabrizi

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NRU - back to school edition

It's late ... but better late than never, as they say.

PBS was getting into the whole back to school vibe.  They provided two pieces on how to for parents -- how to help with homework (without being a nag or a helicopter parent) and how to get involved in school.  Both pieces that folks with kids in school might find interesting ... especially because they come from "experts" - oh how we love experts! What would we do without them??

More on California state colleges and universities and the decline of transfers.  This article only provides un-analyzed numbers, but the issue is real.  I think I said a while ago that it was not possible for transfers to solve the lack of space for students -- even if we accounted for the out-of-state student funding plan -- we do not have the spaces in higher ed we need.

I am at a loss as to how to adequately address this article about student debt -- it had me fuming at the first paragraph.  Should we really be comparing ITT student debt with all college debt?? This is a real issue, but it needs to be dealt with in a more responsible manner if we are going to find solutions.

One more thing to think about the underprivileged and college success presented through the positives.  These are the kinds of research projects I would like to do .... someday.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembrance & Reinvention

I try not to let 9/11 go by without remembering.

My thoughts always turn to that little fifth grade boy whose dad didn't come home.  Remarkably, he was the only person I knew personally who lost someone in the towers.

I also remember to be grateful that two friends were late to work that day, and so they were in the subway instead of in the building when the first plane hit.  I thank the universe.

I was at a friend's book talk last night, and she was talking about how it is a novel about reinvention.

[Great book, The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell, you should read it, by the way.]

It struck me that 9/11 for me is also about reinvention.  I am not sure if I have said this here before or not, and I am not in the mood to trudge back through the posts to see if I have.  So, bear with me.

When people ask me why I get divorced, sometimes I tell them the truth (if I have enough time to explain).  I got divorced because of 9/11. 

9/11 was my turning point -- it reminded me that life is too short to be unhappy.

It struck me last night, and again this morning, as I wondered what to write today, that I am at a similar turning point in my life.

I stand at a crossroads, with many choices for ways forward.  The only thing certain is that I cannot go backwards or stay in the unhappiness.

So, thank you 9/11, for reminding me that today is also about reinvention.

May all those souls continue to rest in peace and offer us every year the reminder that life is short.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Poetry Thursday

No matter what happens 
Just keep smiling and 
lose yourself in Love.

~ Rumi

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

NRU-lite CA stories

Sonoma, wineries, and water... LA Times thinks they know what is going on there....

Seeing the light about solitary confinement - California prisons appear to be about to do the right thing.

This story presents a CA pol who is trying to be real about climate change - and not worry *too much* about the politics.  Turns out that we cannot just treat the symptoms of global warming without creating more problems. We have to actually acknowledge global warming/climate change's existence and start to counteract the problem at its source.

I support building wildlife overpasses -- it is the only thing we can really do as we won't stop taking over their habitats.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Poetry Thursday

Not knowing, creating success.
I do not seek the young learner, 
the young learner seeks me.
The first consultation is clearly informative.
The second and third muddy the waters,
Confusing, and hence not informative.
Harvest in constancy.
I Ching

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


Is this what we should call a sismance?  Whatever -- I am looking forward to this and hoping it will make me laugh myself right out of my seat like Trainwreck did!

Interesting do/don't for white teachers of students of color -- I say interesting because I am not convinced that color of your skin is the only thing that you need to check as a teacher.  That is a longer story for another piece.  The issues raised here are important -- I only quibble a little with the premise that only *some* teachers need to worry.  I would say for all teachers of low income students and students of color.

This was on my list of things to do this summer -- sadly it never happened, but maybe a winter tour??

Lovely piece on how hard work, and taking that work personally, can bring the kind of change needed in California schools!

Jorge Ramos v Donald Trump -- it started as another great example of The Donald as the autocrat or the dictator, but it seems to have just turned into a battle of personalities.  Where is the journalism?