Thursday, February 25, 2010

I just!!!

I still got work to do to make people happy. I was talking to my Native American coworker, BY, about how to make this situation about the circles better with the Native community and our students. One of the we decided to do was not talk to the students because we don't want to put them in the middle of it. Good call by everyone else. In my stupid exuberance, I started to talk to some of the kids that had written letters and explain my position and try to allay any fears or reservations they might have. Anyways, he says that I should talk to the one of the mothers of our students that is an alumni and an activist in the local Native community. Also to talk to two members of the community that work with the school and our students. 

We get to talking some more and I find out more of what is ruffling feathers in the Native community. Apparently there was a RJ training that happened at a hotel located at the desecrated Shellmound site in Emeryville. Ouch! Also, BY again brought up some lady that the organization said was sundancer, sweat lodge keeper and a leader in the Native community that the local Natives didn't know. This is the lady that he said gave him that Ward Churchill feel (Local Natives here question Churchill's Nativeness I'm making up words here) I was also getting the vibe that why was the RJ organization outsourcing when there is a Native community here doing circles and a relationship hadn't been built here. I think that right now we're under a microscope and everything that is done is being hyperexamined and scrutinized. Then there is the inevitability of the "telephone game" where things get embellished or misconstrued. 

To make things whole again, we gotta have a a sitdown and talk to some people. All I want to do is have restorative justice for my students and the people around me. But we fucked up the execution of the process and pissed off some people that hold the circle really sacred. If I could get to the restorative part without circles I'd do it. I'll do whatever is necessary to get some RJ. Stand on one leg and hop? What you want? But this issue of cultural appropriation and sensitivity is bigger than me and I have to help be a bridge between the local Native community and the RJ organization. Also, we got to make it right for our Native students at the school. I just want to get back to the process of helping students get to that restorative justice place. Circles are a process towards liberation for me and it drives me crazy that everything can't be smoother. This is meta-restorative justice. Our RJ needs some RJ!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Circles now called community dialogue

So on Friday my coworker, LS, ran the staff circle. It was attended by JC, GB, NL, CFG, and me. I have to say that LS did a great job running that circle. She started off reading a poem called Wild Geese and then we did the check in. Along with how we are doing she asked what did we want to be when we were younger. Me...I wanted to be Curly from the 3 Stooges. When I was in elementary school I was Curly Crazy. I would rush home from school to watch the Stooges and I could imitate all of Curly's noises and gesture. "I'm a victim of circumstance!" "Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk" "OH Wise Guy!" 

So the big topic was talking about what was going on with RJ and what were we going to call the circles if we weren't going to call them circles anymore. I conveyed my talk with BY to the staff and how he would be ok if we just called the circles something else. As I've said before, I'm fine with calling it whatever as long as we can do them. We went around discussing how we felt about the change and what was going on at our school. People voiced their displeasure about having to change things. In particular, JC thought it was bullshit that we had to change anything and thought it was lame that we had to use different terminology. CFG commented that her job was tied to restorative justice and in particular with circles as the process to get there. GB understood where BY was coming from and said what I've said before that this is a bellwether of things to come. The Native students that we work with are part of the Native community in this area. We have to make sure that the relationship between the Native Community and us are cool. When the talking piece got back to me, I actually found myself in the ironic position of defending BY and the native students' views. This is something sacred to the students and BY and we need to be sensitive to that, especially considering the history of the US and Native Americans. With the history of genocide and assimilation, we don't need to be viewed as appropriating their culture for our uses. For as much talk as I do about oppression, I don't want to be oppressive. One of the better quotes I've read recently is, "One does not need to denigrate that which is holy to others, in order to emphasise the sanctity of the freedom of speech." (Undskyld Muhammed) from a facebook page apologizing for the Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammed. We want to be restorative, but we're not doing restorative justice when we face a situation where we are being oppressive to others. This discussion lasted two rounds with everyone having their say about the situation. 

After hearing where we were at, we decided to talk about what our new name for the circle process would be. GB really wanted the term "community" in the name and I wanted something like forum or dialogue. LS synthesized our ideas and now the new name is community dialogue. The talking piece we will call the one mic and we will actually have to figure out what we will call our circlekeepers. 

LS ended the dialogue with asking us what got us into doing the work that we are doing and to share a story. Interestingly, GB, LS, and CFG all got into things by first doing prison work. NL had a family history of math teachers so it just seemed genetically fitting. Me? I got into doing this thing while working at an afterschool program. I was running my promotional items business and started doing an afterschool thing because the business was sucking my soul dry. I found that when I was working with the kids I was happy and joyful and I felt my interactions had meaning. The kids were happy to see me, gave me hugs, and I loved what I was doing. Why ever then did I go to teach high school?   

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A shitty day with a good ending

So Tuesday was a shitty day. I was tired and my classes sucked. Student energy was low and so was I. So 3:30 comes around and I am ready to get the fuck outta Dodge. As I'm sitting in the office, I strike up a conversation with BY my Native American coworker. I asked him if his position on RJ circles was set in stone or was there wriggle room. Backstory: He didn't like the way that circles were being done at the school and he had gotten complaints from the Native students as well. As a result, he did not want to participate in circles anymore. Knowing that he had collected letters of complaint from the Native students, I asked to read the letters. All the students described the disrespectful nature of the circles and unhappiness that they weren't being done correctly. I stated that I agreed with the students and that we had stopped doing our weekly CTM circles as a result. Now we were doing voluntary circles more in line with the philosophy of restorative justice.  I said that we needed to talk to the Native students and find out how they felt now that we had changed up the way that we did our circles. Yet, BY still had reservations. 

I probed him more to find out his problems with our circles. I come to find out that he participates frequently in circles and that he was even married in a circle. For him, circles are a religious ceremony and he expects to be smudged and pass the pipe around. I noted to him that I would feel uncomfortable doing that. Also, he was having some problems with our RJ coordinator, CFG. He preferred our previous coordinator and the person that trained us, RA. He felt that she did circles with an appropriate amount of ceremony and solemnity. I agreed with him that RA was a very effective and good circlekeeper and coordinator, but that CFG also had things to offer. I stated that I think the problem was that CFG had some big shoes to fill and that she had come to the school when the program was being very poorly run. CFG's style is vastly different from RA and it wasn't fair to judge her based on RA. I would say that RA's style of circle keeping is more like a conductor while CFG is more like an emcee. Both have their places, but I understood that people preferred the RA's style and experience. I recognized and validated his concerns with CFG, but reiterated my support for her. 

However, I expressed my strong commitment to restorative justice and my belief in it. He agreed with me that RJ was a great thing but he didn't like the way that we were doing circles. I told him that I believed that circles were a means to an end. I used the Buddhist quote of Buddhism being a raft to cross a river but that once you crossed the river you discarded the raft. I also used Bruce Lee's quote from Enter the Dragon, "It is like a finger pointing to the moon, don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory." To me, circles are just a finger pointing to the moon and not the end itself. To me it was just a practice to actuate my values and beliefs. What matters most to me is the effect that circles have on the students and not necessarily circles themselves. I gave him the example of the student BC that we just had a circle with and how he was able to sit still and respectfully for 2 hours. Circles helped to create the environment where he was able to do that. I believe that circles create a space where people can experience true democracy, egalitarianism, right modeling of appropriate behavior and  accountability. I asked him what should we do instead if he believed in RJ but wasn't down with circles. He brought up something that one Native student said, "Why don't we just call it squares?" I said I'll sit in a square, ellipse, oval, or whatever. I asked if we just called it a forum would that be better. He said that if we did that he would feel better about it. 

What was so important was that we can continue with the restorative justice work at the school we just were going to call it something else. Names are important. If calling the same thing something else makes BY happy then I am happy to do it. We can call the talking piece the one mic whatever. Let's just get restored.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BC's circle

On Thursday the 11th, we had another circle for one male African American student, BC. BC is a great kid. Dynamic, positive, loud, with a lot of leadership qualities. However, he lacks a lot of self control and as a result is a disruption to classes and himself. I wanted to have a circle for him because his unwanted and sometimes wanted advances from our girls was going to get him into trouble. His interactions with females are totally inappropriate for a school environment and will get himself thrown out if his behavior doesn't change.

Before the circle happened, BC was experiencing a lot of anxiety. He was feeling that it was going to be a bashing thing and that he was going to yelled at or called out. He was trying what he could to get out of it. Finally, I just talked to to him directly and told him that it was voluntary and that he didn't have to go to it if he didn't want to but I wanted him to. We have a good rapport and so when he was assured by me that it was going to be cool he showed up. AV and JC from staff showed up and UL and MH showed up from the after school. 2 of his friends showed up, QT and MM. Unfortunately, they couldn't stay for the whole thing.

I started off the circle by reminding everyone that this was not to be a reprimanding circle. This was not a circle of blame but one of concern. Then I opened with reading from chapter 33 of the Dao De Jing. This is perhaps one of the most important philosophical passages in my life. This chapter has done a lot to influence my life and I had shared it with BC in summer school.

After that we just did the check in and created a list of agreements. It was important in the agreements/guidelines that we stressed that we were coming from a place of caring and concern. This all went very smoothly like previous circle had. Then my opening question was, "What was something that you liked about BC that brought you here to this circle?" Everyone recounted stories about the energy that he brings to the environment and how much we liked having him as a student. Couching it in this framework I used that to segue into our concerns. His sexual harassment of students, his uncontrolled behavior in class, and his lack of academic effort were all put on the table in what I think was a very gentle way. We actually had 3 rounds of talking about the situation and putting things on the table. BC's dad is in jail. He's a lifer.  BC's been shot. He has a crazy life, but he's still maintained a very positive affect. He's been diagnosed with ADHD.  I really wonder about this. I read that kids of color are sometimes over medicated and I would say that in many (not all) cases that I've seen and experienced. Sometimes teenagers are just full of energy and if you had the lives that many of them do, you'd be a bit crazy too. But regarding the ADHD, BC sat through the entire 2 hours speaking when it was appropriate and calm and still. He wasn't walking all around or anything. If anything AV and I were the ones getting up out of the chair. I said that I see BC having to make some very serious choices soon. This kid in my opinion is either going to be a hero or a zero. His personality doesn't really have a middle ground. He is either going to be a force for good or bad. We all prodded him to bring out his good side. BC brought up his concerns that his mom was sad at his situation and that he kept feeling like he would take 1 step forward and ten steps back. He also recognized the need to push himself. We addressed his sexual harassment of females and I had brought up the idea with him before that he would not want to have any guy talk to his sister or mother the way that he talked to women. We stressed that he needed to treat women like they were his sister or his mother.

After laying out the situation, we talked about the impact of BC's behavior and how it's affected us and left us feeling. This was also on a positive note as we talked about all the things that we liked about him, but everyone seemed to agree that we were tired. It was work having to work with him. The constant shushing and controlling detracted from the education of the others around him.

When we talked about responsibility we really talked about the responsibility that BC has to himself. UL stressed his need for insight and we all stressed the need for discipline. But discipline as a practice not as a punishment. When we talked about needs and what did we need from BC, we mainly talked about the need for self control. He needed to act the way that he was acting in circle in class.

When we got to solutions and what specific things that BC was going to do to make things better he had very vague answers. He said that he was going to take in everything and reflect. He was going to go to afterschool rigor room more and that he was going to stay away from all the girls. We just all laughed at the last thing about the girls because it was totally unreasonable and for him impossible. He needed to exercise control not avoidance. It was at this point that I unfortunately had to leave to take another student to a meeting. I had AV finish it up for me with only UL and MH left.

But before I had left and through our talk I stressed the need for BC to do some practice. I've talked to him about going to a vipassana meditation class after school with me. I've been looking for a place to practice. I'm not a Buddhist, but I'm down with the Buddhist idea of transforming suffering. I've been feeling that I need a community of practitioners that I feel comfortable with, but it's so hard to find a place were I can be cool with the people. I checked out this place online that in between home and work. It was later on that night and was a sitting group for people of color.

When I left the circle to take my other student to a meeting it was 5pm and that meeting lasted about 1hr 15 min. Then I headed over to the meditation group and called up BC to come and meet me. He did but not before I talked to his momma and she tore into me. She got on and started yelling that I needed to tell her beforehand what we were doing (she was right) and that she needed to know what her baby was going to because for all she knew it could be devil worship (which it wasn't). I calmed her down and assured her that everything would be fine and she allowed BC to go. He came and he did a sitting meditation for 1 hr and he never spoke out or got up and moved around. The kid has far more self control than he displays or is given credit for, but he just doesn't practice.

For the RJ program to work, the students and staff need to practice and have a practice.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Staff circle

On Monday, we had another staff circle with AV running it. I was excited about this because he was taking the initiative and we were getting more staff buy in on the circles. I mean we all got trained in it and were all behind it so it was good to see that people still believed in the process. I think that people realizing that we had to make it happen collectively for it to work. The process of restorative justice is a commitment. It is a different way of living. This was also a meeting that included all of the teachers on staff. This was the first time to happen since we started rebooting the circles.

AV started with asking questions as to how we would run staff circles and when. A problem that I saw was that everyone was having a say but there was no one taking notes other than me and so no consensus was actually made. We said what we wanted to the answers but we didn't actually make any decisions about them. 

As we moved on, the circle invariably moved to a venting session. It's telling that our circles keep becoming a venting session. Teachers are frustrated. The students are dropping out like flies. This time of the year is always very hard for people. Winter is always a hard time. Christmas heightens the awareness of students' disparity. The sun ain't out. SAD Seasonal affective disorder. LOL! It was around this time that all the craziness was going on last year. Winter is a fucked up quarter.

We also recognized that the staff circle was incomplete without our principal and BY. For RJ to work at our school we need complete buy in and not having BY a part of RJ is a serious problem. 

Probably one of the best things that came out of the circle was our recognition that we have to hang out more as a staff. When our school works best, we are a family. RJ is a way for our family to hang out. Also, it was a way of interacting with a new staff member (NL)  that I rarely interact with. 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Young Men's Restorative Justice Circle

On Thursday, I did my first circle focusing in on one student. This circle was done the way that circles are supposed to be done. It was composed only of guys and was for the one student (IF) that I had written about before. Since one of the problems with circles that we had been having was that we mandated it, this circle was totally voluntary. I asked IF, his brother OG, and his friend SBP if he would participate in a circle and they all said yes though SBP had to drop out the day of because he wasn't feeling well. For the adults, I asked his JC, SDS from the afterschool program, and UL and MH from the afterschool tutoring program.

I started off talking about the purpose of the circle and reminding everyone that they have sat in circle before and to please respect the process. We opened with a rap from UL that set a positive tone and then we did the check-in. From the get go the vibe was really positive. That's the thing when circles are voluntary. People act right because they want to be there. From there we created a set of guidelines that we all wanted to follow. This all flowed very smoothly.

For my first question, I asked everyone why there were here for IF and what did they like about him. I recounted a story about watching him spit a piece and being impressed because he was the only one up there without notes and the poetry was about love and it was pretty deep. Then everyone told a story about him and when the talking piece got to him I had him say something that he liked about himself. Starting off with all these nice things, we then moved to the issues that we were concerned about. But what was great was that this didn't come from a finger-wagging place, but a place of genuine concern and the difference was obvious. His CTM JC started first and everyone in the circle got to say their concerns. When the talking piece got to him he told of some of his recent problems, but it was done very inarticulately and disjointed. A far cry from his spoken word pieces. It was really important to have his brother OG there, because he was able to express his concern for his brother which seemed that he had never directly done before. Guys aren't so great with the communication so that's understandable. OG was also able to tell his brother's business coming from a place of concern and not it be a snitching thing.

After we talked about the issues, we talked about the impact and how IF's recent behavior has affected everyone. This was also a place where we were able to express our concern for him but also let him know the effects that it has had on us. This was powerful, because one of the things with teenage boys and this kid in particular is that they have a hard time seeing how their actions affect others. They are so intently focused on themselves that there is a tunnel vision. It's almost a solipsistic thing.

From there we moved to taking responsibility. Everyone talked about what they felt their responsibilities were to IF and what they would do for him. This was an interesting things to do, because I've never really sat in a circle where we talked about the responsibility component. Reflecting, I see that this really adds to the community and inclusion part of the circle. That everyone takes responsibility for IF and for him to hear that was important. It allows us to build that web of relationships. It helps to break that teenage egocentrism.

Next I asked about what were the needs of the people in the circle. This was interesting, because then it made IF think about what he needed to do for the people around him. Once again, I don't think that he ever thought about this. He's had everyone controlling his life and telling him what to do. In some ways, he's been living in a reactionary mode, as most teenagers do. To hear what people needed from him in a non-forceful punishing way was a departure from most of his adult interactions. I think one of the things that makes restorative justice work is that it is totally different from most people's typical experiences. Plus the restorative version of justice immediately strikes a chord in people's lives that are used to the punitive version. The values of restorative justice are the values that we create in the circle.

After talking about the needs, we moved to solutions. I asked what was he going to specifically do to better this situation. He talked about the things that he needed to do (e.g. talk to people, not hold things in, work harder, get his hours off). What was incredibly amazing and powerful about this was that he had found his voice. He was talking in complete sentences and it made sense. He was no longer mumbling one word answers bouncing from thought to thought. It was also great to hear him say what he wanted to do to make things better instead of him just saying the "right" shit because he wanted to get people off his back. He words rang truer and hopefully they will be. Next we asked if this would be enough for the people in the circle. We all agreed that if IF did what he said he wanted to do that that would be enough.

Finally, I asked if anything was missing or there were any last words. And for the closing, I asked everyone to share how they were feeling at the end of the circle. That was the way that circles are supposed to be run and organized. It was a vastly different experience and all the participants agreed.

The next day I talked to the adult participants and they were all really happy to be a part of the circle and want to do more. JC texted me and said now that he's been through it, he understands the process better. This has got me juiced to do more circles and I've got others that want to participate.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Rebirth of Circle

Since my last post, we've had two staff circles. One on Friday the 22nd and one on the 25th. Since then, I've learned to not schedule circles on Fridays. People are just done with the week and want to get out. Sitting mindfully in circles requires discipline and dedication. The meeting on the Friday was good because there were returning faces, (LS, CFG, and me) and then there were two different people (BS and SDS). NL and JC just had to cut out. I understood. SDS has never sat in a circle before and so it was good to bring him in and have him get acquainted with the process. The circle was really positive and we seemed to make a commitment to have more circles among the staff and also that we needed to have a rebirth of circles. We needed to make the process more organic and less forced....we needed to get staff into circles.

I can tell my Native American coworker, BY, is totally checked out of circles. An interesting problem has occurred. Backstory: BY was saying that the Native kids at our school were offended by the circles and that they didn't want to do them. Circles were sacred to their religion and students' misbehavior and disrespect within the circles were disrespectful to them. BY was obviously also not into them at all. He and some students spoke with other leaders in the local Native community and they came by the school to sit in the circle. CFG is new to the school and was running the circle and found that everyone just shut down. She felt like she got backdoored and the circle police was brought in on her. Then after a staff meeting some of us were sitting around and discussing the state of circles and we decided to scrap the Thursday circles that we had been doing with the kids. The problem was that CFG wasn't there and no one told her about it until Thursday. She had planned to do things with the students and felt backdoored again.

Anyways, after all this had happened is when we started to do staff circles again. I should note that CFG is our new restorative justice site coordinator, so it was kind of fucked up the situations that she has been placed in.

The circle that we had this last Monday was larger and so that was positive. I was able to bring in the 2 tutors and their site coordinator from the afterschool program and AV showed up. This one was again attended by LS, BS, SDS, CFG, NL, JC, and I. The more people that we can get involved in the circles program the better. I want to bring one of the Black male tutors, UL, into the community and culture of the school and he seems open to it. He has developed a rapport with a number of the Black kids and they need a positive role model like he is. He is also interested in sitting in circle with JC and me when we have one with the young black kid, IF, I spoke of before.

So now circles are going to be more organic. My goal is to get the teachers to start leading them. I had left the Monday circle early to go to another meeting and asked AV what he had thought of the remainder of the circle. He said he started getting antsy around when I left and I gathered from what he was saying that he thinks CFG talks too much. CFG does have a tendency to speak at length, so I told AV that he should lead the next circle. He said he didn't want to step on any toes and I said I would talk to CFG. She was down for it so AV is going to lead the next one. That AV is willingly going to step up and lead a circle is great news. He can be real pessimistic and cynical sometimes so to have him wanting to lead a circle is good news. It's funny, we got trained in circles about a year ago but it took us until now for the staff to actually start having staff circles. I think that right there was the essence of why it didn't work. Part of what makes circles effective is that it gives self empowerment to the participants. We as a staff gave our power away to "site coordinators" and left things in their hands. Not that the site coordinators weren't or aren't good people. It just that we had to take responsibility for our community and not just expect some outside power to fix things for us. It doesn't work that way where I work. We have to make things happen ourselves. The site coordinators must help us find our own power.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Growing pains

We've been having some problems with our restorative justice program. The circles have become a chore and students are not liking them. I think perhaps that we have been too ambition with the process and that it hasn't been an organic growth. We have foisted restorative justice circles upon students and told them to go be restorative while we ourselves have not embraced the process as a staff. We are telling students to go and do something that we ourselves do not do. Of course it won't work if that's the case. We had a circle among a few staff today after school and that was the first time that I have sat in circle with the staff pretty much since we got our training. I think there was one time that we tried to do that in the staff meeting but that was it. It was refreshing to be in a circle with people that wanted to be there. I think that we need to change ourselves before we can ask students to change. We need to be the leaders that we want them to be. We have to model the behavior that we would like to see from them. I think that a problem with many of the students is that they either have few models of good behavior or a many models of bad behavior. We would like for them to sit calmly, but they are not used to calm.

It was really important for the participating staff to have a forum where they could vent their feelings and concerns and feel heard. We get so busy and caught up in our work that we don't take the time to check in and see how the others are doing. We don't get time to just be with ourselves sometimes. There was a lot of crazy shit that went down yesterday and I found myself scrambling to deal with that and then I worked myself up into a lather.

I would like to see circles no longer be a forced dynamic and instead that we as teachers sit in circles together, but also to just take small groups of kids and work with them in a circle together. The circles were meant to be something that was voluntary and by making them nonvoluntary they lose the essence of what they bring to the table.

We have this one young Black kid that I think in particular would benefit from circles. He just recently had a staff meeting, hasn't been following through with what he said that he was going to do, brought out a knife in the school and started carving up the table, and doesn't seem to get the ramifications of what he has done. His dad isn't a part of his life as much as he should be and the kid gets high way too much. Throw a possible learning disability on top of that and it's a recipe for disaster. To be able to pull this kid aside and talk together with him I think would be the perfect way of implementing circles. It would be smaller and more intimate to just have him and a few of the teachers and his friends to run the circle. That is the space that I think that we could get some good work done.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Setting up a revocable living trust

So having a kid is a big deal. There are all these things that you have to do to take care of them. One of those things is setting up a revocable living trust. I first heard about a revocable living trust from my lesbian financial guru, Suze Orman, so I decided to read more up on it. One of the main reasons that people get trusts is to avoid probate fees when you die. Probate attorneys and judges take 4% of your 1st $100,000, 3% of your 2nd $100,000, and 2% of every $100,000 thereafter just to execute your will. Fuck that. A trust essentially bypasses probate. Probate courts can take from 6 months to 3 years to execute your will, while a trust can be executed as soon as you have the death certificate.

Another good thing with a trust is that they are much harder to contest than a will. I have two half brothers that I have no contact or relationship with and they could contest a will that I made because they are related to me. Wills are public information while trusts are done privately and confidentially. That way there won't be will-chasers sending "information" to Lil B on what to do with the money.

Trusts also allow AL and I to set terms for Lil B to receive his inheritance should anything happen to us. We have it so that he can't receive any money till age 30, has a college degree or some trade school equivalent, and has a stable job more or less depending on the economy. This is an interesting part about a trust and something you can have in place if you know how your child is with money. We also have the exploding turkey scenario about what to do with our estate if an exploding turkey kills AL, Lil B and me. AL is going to give her half to her family while I am going to give my half to Kiva.

Also included in the trust is the advance health care directive that states what we want to have happen if either of us or both should become incapacitated. And finally we have three deep lineup of who would care for Lil B if anything should happen to AL and me. So we have it so that AL's mom is first, her brother is second, and her cousins in Hawaii are third. Why no one from my family...cause they are crazy and bad at handling money.

There's a reason rich people get trusts and I highly recommend it to anyone that has kids. My attorney cost us $1525 to do the whole thing and $100 for amendments. I checked around with other estate planning attorneys and that is a very competitive price.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fatherhood and work

I'd rather stay home and hang out with my child than go to work. I love my child more than my work. He is something/someone that I'd totally rather be with than my students. This is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling relationships I have and will ever have in my life. In the Confucian belief system, this is the most important relationship after ruler and subject. Confucius was such a hierarchical suckup! Sorry had to say it.

Anyways, I've been using my sick days and taking Wednesdays off to hang with the lil guy. I'll probably only do it a quarter, but this is time well spent. I don't feel that I am lacking anything when I am hanging out with him. It's pretty fucking cool. It is a heavy duty responsibility to raise a child in today's world. It's not something I take lightly. I see the effects of poor parenting on a daily basis. All my male students that don't have fathers in their lives are royally fucked in the head. I call them ships without rudders. They go where the wind blows.

I want the best for him. The cat, that I still love, has been kicked down a rung. It's pretty fucking sad. But there is an attention pie, and the cat gets the crumbs.

But the work that I'm doing at school, I feel is the best that I've ever done. I feel like I'm getting more historical knowledge and skills across to the kids in an accessible and interesting way than I've ever have. I actually am starting to feel like I'm doing a good service to the kids as opposed to my previous years of teaching. But that work has less meaning to me now. Not that I don't want to have a better and more just world for him. I would just rather spend my time with him than do pretty much anything else.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

My favorite Brazilian song and version

This is my favorite Brazilian song written by my son's namesake Baden Powell. The lyrics are by Vinicius de Moraes. This version by Bebel Gilberto is my favorite version. Bebel's version is happy and sad and sensual all at the same time.

Lyrics to Samba Da Bencao (Samba Of The Blessing) :
(Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)

E melhor ser alegre que ser triste
Alegria e a melhor coisa que existe
E assim como a luz no coracao
Mas pra fazer um samba com beleza
E preciso um bocado de tristeza
Senao nao se faz um samba nao

Fazer samba nao e contar piada
E quem faz samba assim nao e de nada
O bom samba e uma forma de oracao
Porque o samba e a tristeza que balanca
E a tristeza tem sempre uma esperanca
De um dia nao ser mais triste nao

Poe um pouco de amor numa cadencia
E vai ver que ninguem no mundo vence
A beleza que tem um samba nao
Porque o samba nasceu la na Bahia
E se hoje ele e branco na poesia
Ele e negro demais no coracao


Samba Of The Blessing

It's better to be happy than sad
Happiness is the best thing there is
It is like a light in the heart
But to make a samba with beauty
It's needed a bit of sadness
If not the samba can't be made

To make a samba is not like telling a joke
And who makes samba like this is worth nothing
The good samba is a kind of prayer
Because samba is the sadness that sways
And sadness is always hopeful
Of one day not being sad any more

Put a little love in the cadence
And you'll see that in this world nobody wins
The beauty that a samba have
Because samba was born in Bahia
And if today it is white in it's poetry
It is very black in it's heart.
[ Samba Da Bencao (Samba Of The Blessing) Lyrics on ]

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Baby life and living overseas

I am a baby satellite. Everything that the little man wants he gets. Life with a newborn can be a stress. AL and I have shorter tempers (lack of sleep) and we snap at each other more. But at the same time he has brought us closer than ever before, because we are united in our goal of having a good and happy family. My mom is super excited. I've never seen her so excited and gushy. It's kind of weird. I see her now more than I ever have. It's a good and bad thing. It's kind of weird. I hate to say it, but when I hang out with my mom it's work. We can't just hang out and everyone be cool. My mom has to fret about something or be catered to for this and that.

So now I want to put lil B into a house. On two teachers' salaries living in the Bay Area, it's going to be a challenge. But I really want to have a yard for him to play in. I don't want him playing out in the streets. To come up with the money, AL and I have decided to teach abroad. We've always wanted to teach and live abroad and lil B is young enough that it wouldn't be that hard. I want to work in a place where I can learn to speak Spanish fluently. So Eastern Spain, Central or South America would be great. Depending on where we teach, I read that we could save $12,000 on one salary. With both of us teaching that's $24,000 a year. If we up to 4 years we could save $96,000. That's more than enough for a 20% down payment on a house within our price range. Plus I gotta get out of the US. I'm getting tired of this country. The healthcare debate is fuckin ridiculous to me. We have this HUGE military budget and soldiers all over the world, but we are cutting money to education and healthcare. Our priorities are whack! Just because we had lil B our insurance costs have tripled. This just ain't right. So we're probably looking at Fall 2011 to teach abroad. I feel like since I got married I'm really living more and having more adventures. We've traveled around the world, had the little one and will embark on more adventures. Who says that life stops once you have a baby?