Off the grid

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I pretty much went off the grid.  I checked email a couple of times on Wednesday, responded to a couple, but by late afternoon, I had settled into my post on the couch to start a few days of doing nothing.  As a family, we watched all 6 of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings movies.  That’s about 18 hours of movies.  There were a couple of The Hobbit movies we hadn’t seen.  And once we’d watched all those, we had to finish out the rest of the story.

Geeky girl and I played games together, and did some crosswords.  Mr. Geeky, sadly, did a little bit of work.  And Geeky Boy did his usual holing up in his room between rounds of coming down to be social–mostly to get food.

I did manage to get a ton of laundry done, and tried to keep the kitchen relatively clean, but I did nothing else.  Today will be a bit of a rough re-entry at first, but recharging by basically being a hermit seems to me a good thing to do once in a while.

There’s three weeks until Winter Break.  There’s quite a bit of work to do during that time, but it also has a lighter feel to it, with celebrations of various kinds interspersed, and everyone knowing that a long break is coming.  Seniors will have submitted all their applications, and many will start to hear from places they applied to early.  There will be disappointment, but also relief as the next chapter starts to become clearer.

I’m trying to decide what to do over Winter break.  We’ve been invited everywhere.  Part of me would like to get away–even further off the grid, if you will–and part of me wants to hole up again with my family.  Breaks in the dead of winter seem like the right thing to do, and disconnecting from the world a bit during them feels somewhat healthy so that we can return refreshed
.  We’re all waiting for the days to get longer and lighter and for the renewal of spring.

On being thankful and waiting for the other shoe to drop

I’m currently sitting on the couch with two dogs snuggled up against me.  They’re very warm. Yes, I’m lucky.  Tomorrow, I get to cook a Thanksgiving meal for my family.  Although I typically enjoy cooking, especially for the holidays, until last year, I never really felt grateful for being able to cook.  This year, not only am I grateful for my physical ability to cook a big meal, but my economic ability to do so.  I’m watching the post election landscape unfold, and I can’t help but think that for those out there who are disadvantaged (in whatever way now defined by this new administration), the rug has been pulled out from under them.  And things have the potential to get much worse.

But nothing specific has happened yet, beyond appointments that we should have expected and some tweets about the media and a broadway show. No laws have been put up for a vote in Congress.  There’s no real action on the ground.  So I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it’s making me anxious.  I feel like I don’t know what to pay attention to.  Business dealings with foreign countries? First amendment violations? A Muslim registry?  I don’t know.  The first one is the only one we have solid evidence for.  And is calling my congresspeople the most effective way to respond? Or should I be protesting? Giving money to the right organizations? All of the above?

There are articles out there about the possibility of us sliding into an authoritarian regime.  Intellectually, I kind of see how that could happen, maybe? But surely, our institutions are strong enough to resist that.  Maybe.  And how do I as a regular citizen shore up those institutions so that they can resist.  I have only one representative who’s “on my side.”  Will the other two cave? It’s hard to know.

Truly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For now, I have to be thankful for what I have.  Family. A comfortable life.  And plenty of food on the table.

When the shoe drops, I’ll get to work.

One year

Black English riding field boots

Over the weekend, I “celebrated” the one year anniversary of being run over by a car.  Most people can’t believe I’m still not recovered.  I’m two surgeries

in, and hopefully, there are no more. It’s one step forward, two steps back.  I was 80% of the way recovered, but my doctor then decided that I would never get past that with my metal still in, so we took it out.  But, now I have to work my way back to where I was. What I really want to be able to do is get into some boots.  I live in boots in the winter.  I may have to buy new ones to achieve this, but this seems like an achievable goal.

As in that post I linked to above, I’m grateful for everything I have now that I didn’t have then.  I can walk without assistance, even if I can’t wear shoes I want to.  I will be able to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year.  If I’m immobile, it will be because I want to be.

If it takes another year to be back to 95 or 98%, I’m good with that.  There are worse things in the world.

It’s not all bad

Today, I came out of my fog a little more.  I spent the day teaching.  I taught 2 8th grade classes as part of their visit to the Upper School. It was fun because I partnered with my Math colleagues.  We both do an activity with polygons and it blends nicely together.  So that was fun.

The best thing I did today, though, was teach my Web Design class.  I won a BreakoutEDU kit from an EdCamp last spring.  I had been planning to use it for a while, but hadn’t had time to set something up.  Finally, yesterday, I took the time to put something together.  It took me most of the day.  If you don’t know what BreakoutEdu is, it’s basically like those break out of the room things, but breaking into a box instead.  So there are lots of locks and you have to come up with clues that are the combinations to those locks.

The premise I used was that a bunch of squirrels wanted help with their web site.  They’d gotten something started, but it didn’t really work well.  So the class had to figure out how to fix what was wrong and/or answer some tough web design questions.  I took a picture of the box and sent it to my students this morning:
New photo added to gallery

By lunch, a few students were talking about it.  One student said they thought I’d accidentally sent them an email intended for somebody else.

It was a tough challenge.  I originally allotted half the class period, thinking I’d give them 15-20 more minutes if needed.  They took the whole class period–and needed some hints.  They all want to do it again.  One student told me as I was leaving school that it was one of the best classes she’s ever had at school, and she’s a senior who I know has had some good classroom experiences.  In the pictures below, you have to note how intense many of the students are.  Everyone participated.  Everyone was equally committed to figuring things out.  It was very cool to watch.

So I left school feeling pretty darn good.  What I do for a living really is important and meaningful.


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Challenge completed


I did read every day, but not always for 30 minutes.  Sometimes it was more, but more often, I only managed to squeeze in 15 minutes. I did miss a couple of days–the election, a few days post election where I had to deal with election fallout.I completed one book, and started two others.   .  I will work to finish the books I’ve started, though maybe more slowly than before. Despite not being perfect, the challenge worked well to focus me on something besides just perusing social media.

I’m taking on two challenges for the next 30 days, which I know sounds crazy, but one won’t take much time.  One challenge I’m tackling is financial.  Every day, I’m going to try to find some monthly charge I can get rid of.  I sign up for things all the time that cost $2.99 or $9.99, and even after I stop using them, I forget to cancel.  If I can’t find one to get rid of, I’m going to pay some amount toward a credit card.  I haven’t decided what that amount is, but it won’t be trivial I don’t think.

The other thing I’m going to tackle is going through a cyber security course I’m planning to teach in the spring.  Because this is part of my day job, I’ll tackle this one at work.  I started this this summer and let it slide.  Second semester is not too far away, so there’s some urgency to getting this done.  Plus, I’m kind of excited about it.

I’ll report back in 30 days!

On Being Neutral

I still have much to process about the outcome of this election.  It will be weeks perhaps.  At some point, pressing teaching issues will return and will need to be reflected on. In the meantime, bear with me.

In my role as school administrator, I have had to remain neutral in the aftermath of the election. Among my students and colleagues, it’s no secret where I stand personally, but I have to support those with opposing views and to give them a safe space to express those views.  But I’ve been thinking about what this really means.  And I’ve been thinking about and have lamented the energy it takes to see both sides, to protect both sides, to give space to both sides.  But I think that’s our role as educators.  We have to teach our students to express their points of view in ways that don’t insult those who hold different views.  We have to teach them that someone else’s point of view is their reality, and we can ask questions of it in order to seek understanding, but we cannot deny that that is their reality.  We might be able to find ways to change minds, but we cannot go into a conversation with someone who opposes us with the idea that we’re going to win them over.  If we just say the right thing.  If we just show them how they’re wrong.  What we can hope for is mutual understanding if not mutual agreement.

That being said, I’m struggling this election cycle with something entirely different. A different question.  Does being neutral mean condoning certain behaviors?  Is there a way to be neutral on some things and not on others related to this election?
If I’m neutral, what do I stand for?  So here’s some thoughts on where I’m not neutral, on what I stand for.

Everyone deserves empathy.

I will stand up and speak out when people use racist or sexist slurs, threaten violence against someone for any reason, or denigrate someone for their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other perceived difference from the “norm.”

I will work within the system to move forward on issues I care about: women’s rights, climate change, general civil rights.  I have my representatives at the state and national level on speed dial.

I need to get out of my bubble, physically as well as virtually.  I’m working harder to diversify who I’m in contact with.  That means finding things to participate in outside my usual activities.  I have some ideas that involve things like volunteering and attending different kinds of events.  This is going to take some time.

More than anything, I’m feeling like I need to expect more of myself, and in so doing, expect more of those around me.  I think where I’m standing now is not in neutrality but in tolerance.  Tolerance is not neutral, but it’s not obdurate either.


On protesting

I get why people have been out in the streets these last few days.  They’re angry and upset. They want to express that more publicly.  They want to feel some solidarity with people.  I understand that.  But I don’t think it’s the right approach.  There’s nothing to protest right now.  There was a legal election. Someone won and someone lost.  Over half the country doesn’t like the person who won.  That would have been true had the other person won.  And maybe the other side would be protesting right now. Who knows.

Protest works when there’s something to protest, when there’s an outcome you’re looking for.  Protest can also raise awareness about something that’s happening that you think isn’t right and that there are steps to be taken once people are aware of the issue.  The Black Lives Matter protests were protesting the inordinate amount of police shootings of unarmed black people.  They asked for investigations, for changes to how police work in black communities, and in a handful of specific incidents, they got some of that.  The Justice Department investigated Ferguson and got some new structures in place so that that police department could move forward.

Trump is not in office yet.  We’re hearing rumors of cabinet picks, of policy plans he has.  But we have nothing to protest yet.  Here’s how you really protest.  Get out in the street before something goes through, so that people not paying attention will.  Pick up the phone and call your legislators.  Don’t write, don’t email, don’t sign an online petition, call.  They can easily ignore written communication.  If you’re on the phone, they have to respond.  Work at the state and local level.  While our weird republican system can be frustrating, you use it against some things.  There’s a lot that happens at the state level that the federal government can’t intervene in.  Look at California.  Look at all the states legalizing marijuana.  Pro choice? Figure out what your state laws are and work on those as a way to shield against coming court decisions or federal laws.  Climate change? Ditto.  California has stricter laws on emissions and water usage.  You can do the same in your state.  And call those people too.

When elections come around at the local and state level, vote in them, campaign for people who share your views on the things you care about (and for the record, no one is going to be with you 100%).  Talk to your neighbors about the candidates you support, meet them on the things you all care about–a safe place for our children, support for those who need help, having a planet to live on.   Work on people who disagree with you in compassionate ways.

I hope all those people in the streets voted, because if they didn’t, then the protests are really a waste.  Because they could have done something proactive and they.  I’m going to assume they did.  Otherwise, it makes me depressed.

Saturday morning thoughts

In a bold move today, I deactivated my Facebook account.  That seems crazy, I know.  And I thought about it a lot while driving for many hours yesterday.  There are a lot of people there that I’ve reconnected with, that enjoy seeing: old high school friends, former professors, college friends, former colleagues, people I’ve met at conferences, etc.  I had begun to use it more frequently over the last year or so, because I liked the variety of connections it offered over say, Twitter.

But the election.  I tried, post election, to engage with my conservative friends and relatives.  I am not one of the people who is saying that the people that voted for Trump are idiots.  I’m not even saying they’re racist and sexist.  Certainly the president-elect has said things that are racist and sexist, as have many of hist supporters.  But not all of them have.  Some of them just voted for him because he was the Republican on the ticket.  Some just wanted something different and he was it.  Many supporters really do have difficult economic situations that haven’t improved over the last 8 years, so they think, “Why not try something different?”  So I tried to find common ground, agreeing with some of my conservative connections on certain things. And I also called out liberals who were being flat out mean.  And I called out conservatives if they made assumptions about things or if they were mean.  And I got a few positive responses.  But I also got met with responses that were basically, “Nananananana.  [Insert talk radio talking point.].”

I’ve been paying attention to elections since 1976.  My preferred candidate has lost plenty of times, and I’ve just shrugged and moved on.  But I cried this time.  I walked into to work with 580 female students, and those who were paying attention and who had supported Clinton (a vast majority) were in tears or were angry or a little of both.  Black, hispanic, asian and muslim students felt particularly vulnerable, and as I write this, many still do.  My heart broke for them. The faculty, too, were distraught.  We had all hoped to be celebrating our first female president, in some ways a culmination of the work we see ourselves doing in a girls’ school.  Instead, we’re mourning.

If almost any of the other Republican candidates had been the winner instead, I’d be disappointed and frustrated, but not devastated.  I’m devastated to think that a man with zero qualifications for being president, and who denigrated in public, on tv, pretty much anyone who was not white, male, Christian, and able-bodied.  I’m honestly worried that he is going to do irreparable harm to our country.  I am trying to hold out hope that he won’t, that his Republican colleagues can rein him in and that we’ll just be dealing with your typical right/far right politician.  Maybe.

I heard a couple of things yesterday that made me feel a little better.  First, from Science Friday, a segment about how to positively respond to stress.  First, you have to believe that people can change, that situations can change.  And, that it’s helpful to go out and do something good, perhaps be a part of that change. And second, an episode of Freakonomics about Social Trust and how to build it.  Both episodes are about bridging divides, about not being complacent, about finding constructive ways to move forward.

I had thought that I would do some of that via Facebook, because that’s been my medium for quite a while, but I think that’s the wrong venue.  And I’m still thinking about where I want to put my energy, but I definitely think I need another outlet besides work and I need to feel like I’m making a difference somehow.  My daughter argued that I was, by educating young women to be leaders, and I get that.  But I can’t help but feel that there might be something different I can do.

Let’s talk about shoes and books

English: Shoes in a shop

I have to admit that this election season has been exhausting on many levels.  The daily revelations about the candidates and the vitriol is painful.  I’m trying hard to stay above it, but I’ve also taken a vow to point out absolute falsehood when I see it, and to avoid posting or saying things that aren’t true myself.  Doing that takes a lot of mental energy.

I have shoes on my mind.  As most of you know, about a year ago, I was hit and run over by a car.  I had surgery, tons of physical therapy, but still, I was in pain.  So I had surgery again a few weeks ago to remove the plates and screws that were holding my foot together.  Before this latest surgery, I had managed to get into some good shoes.  I’ve been relying on Clarks and Merrells, mainly.  I had been looking forward to getting into boots.  But, my foot, post new surgery, has regressed a little in terms of its flexibility.  So, I can’t bend it enough to get into boots that don’t have a zipper all the way down.  I have one pair of short boots, actually the ones I was wearing for the initial injury, that work.  I’ve purchased new shoes, all flats, because I can’t wear heels, but I’m starting to get depressed about my lack of shoe options.

The other day I was wearing a dress and I thought, longingly, these cute black wedges would look awesome with this dress.  Sigh. I may, a long time from now, be able to wear a small heel or a wedge.  But maybe not.  And it will likely only be for a special occasion.  Most of the time I don’t care.  But, I’ve had some moments lately . . .

The book/reading challenge was a good thing to start with.  It distracts me from other stuff.  I finished one book and started another one today.  I went with fiction this time, even though I usually avoid fiction. I think reading something completely apart from my real life in the next 48 hours is going to be a nice escape.  It might be something I can keep going after the challenge is over.  So, what are y’all reading or what have you read recently that’s been good, informative, riveting, whatever good means to you.

Oh, and I’ll take shoe recommendations, too.

What I’m Reading

I’m seven days into my challenge, and it’s going relatively well.  Technically, I missed Saturday if you count reading as just reading a book.  But I did read a couple of longer articles, so I’m counting that.  Besides Saturday, I’ve spent at least 1/2 hour everyday reading An Everyone Culture.  I had started this book over the summer and then school started, so I put it down.  I’ve picked it up again for the challenge, and am now about 2/3 through it.  This is one of many business-oriented books I’ve read over the last few months.  I like the ideas in this book so far, but unlike some other books I’ve read, the ideas seem much harder to implement.  The whole concept is a pretty radical departure from business as usual.  And of course that’s the point of the book.  As someone who is constantly developing herself, I like the idea of personal development via a very transparent feedback loop.  But no work place that I’ve ever been a part of has ever been particularly good at giving solid feedback.  It’s generally been part of a standard evaluation process and it’s rarely been ongoing and in the moment the way feedback is described in the book.

I’ve just finished the chapter that asks me to participate in an exercise to help find my developmental edge. I haven’t done this exercise yet, but I want to. I’m not sure where I’ll end up.  I always find it difficult to think about what I need to work on.  It’s not that I don’t think I have things that could be better.  It’s often that I can think of many and figuring out which thing to prioritize presents a challenge.  But I like the idea of having concrete ways of moving forward.

It’s also nice to be progressing on the reading front.  I’ll likely finish this book within a couple of days, and so I’ll start looking for something else to read.  I have a number of half-finished or not started books on my kindle, so I may choose from there.  Or I may go in a completely different direction.  One thing I’m already thinking about is whether I can keep up the reading even as I pursue another challenge. It would be nice to be able to do that.