Monday, August 28, 2006

weekend retrospective

Here's what the knitted, ripped, re-knitted, re-ripped and final version of Purple Koigu sock did this past Friday eve.

Yup. I had my customary Friday night gin martini, while knitting and watching old episodes of "The Wire" on tv. Something about knitting, drinking alcohol and watching drug-dealing tv doesn't seem right, does it? Hmmmm...anyway, k3-p3 ribbing isn't too complicated, so I'm managing to make up for all that ripping. I rarely rip things that leave me ambivalent. Oftimes, I just suck it up and knit on. But Koigu cries out to be loved, adored, savored. So frogging it over and over was part of the equation. I'm using my own pattern, more or less now. Yikes. I like ribbed socks. I like purples and blues. I like the #2 needles WAY better than #1's. My wrists and hands thank me.

After the martini came the lentil soup, from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone". Longtime readers know how I love this cookbook beyond all others. I think Deborah Madison rocks the veggie world. Clean simple flavors, everything from scratch, and generally interesting reading.

Beyond that, I am in a work-induced funk today, not due to work itself, but by the fact that I have too much to do, and houseguests coming from LA on Friday. I am not ready to entertain 2 people with toddler in my messy abode right now!!

Off to do some trail running to work off my frustrations. Cricket will appreciate it anyway!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

stash monkey

I cannot get up out of bed this morning. I made the mistake of turning on NPR just as the Ellen Kushner program "Sound and Spirit" was coming on. Now normally, I enjoy this particular program as a background to my other activities. But her theme this week is music inspired by Lord of the Rings - the books, not the movies. So I, Tolkien geek that I am, must hear every second of this show. Can't take a shower. Can't get more coffee. Can't move...must visit Middle Earth one more time. Middle Earth does not invade my thoughts often, these days, though on occasions, hiking the Judd trail, I'm struck by how it could could be Lothlorien, especially in certain lights...

I visited Michelle, of my knit ladies, yesterday, out on the North Shore. The woman lives in Paradise, I tell you. I thought Nuuanu was Paradise, but I'd not calculated the great forest of banana and avocadoes and the seeming 20 steps to the pretty, tranquil beach that figure into her environs. We drank the promised pisco sour, complete with frothy eggwhite on top, and I am sad? proud? to say that I got quite buzzed on just the one, though I guess it was a rather large one. Speaking of rather large, she gave me a wee peek of her yarn stash, and I was duly impressed, and now realize that just because my own stash is creeping into another dresser, it is not a large one, after all.

I think, among other things, today calls for a stash inventory, and a cold, hard look at some of my WIPS, and whether or not they'll be finished. I'm going to frog the Cathay tank, and a couple of other things that have sat on the needles for a well over 2 years now. Then, to line up the things I do, honestly want to complete: Kiri, the Airy Scarf, the handspun pink Clapotis...the purple socks and the felted bag to be aren't worrying me as UFO's yet, they're still too new. But some of these other things have been hanging around for no good reason.

So I'm off to the frog pond, well, as soon as I can leave Middle Earth, anyway.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

how soon they grow up

Baby Cricket

has now become quite a bit bigger. He's housebroken, he's been to Agility, Tracking and will be starting Obedience in a few weeks, he walks somewhat nicely on the leash. He knows the all-important command "Off!" and obeys it most of the time.

He is growing up, as you can see!

Happy Birthday to Giday Going Walkabout, our crazy Cricket.

crawling up onto dry land.

I am better. I decided to just laugh my way through my day, enjoy the students and not take these oh-so-stern-and serious teachers seriously, when it comes to correcting/nagging me. I can serve the students, do my job, enjoy my days and appreciate the instruction I like and admire and just wade on through the rest. It isn't worth it to get up in arms about someone correcting my penmanship. I'm 46 years old, for gods' sake. I've taught dozens of children to read and write, even if I do make my 5's and my M's funny. Move on, anal retentive types!

At the risk of sounding manic-depressive, I am better. I am much, much better. Mercury is headed toward directness, slowly but surely, and I have an Endangered Species Dark Chocolate (chimpanzee) bar. Yum. I have a plane ticket to Washington, DC for a week in October. I have the first season of "Weeds" on dvd. I finished hemming my new blue linen skirt, which has taken me all summer to sew. I have paid my rather large library fine to the Liliha Public Library, and I did some marginally successful training with Cricket this evening. The wool purse is growing, and the purple sock is being knitted, a row at a time on my lunch hours.

That Bits of Knits Chris pushed me over the edge and into a big yarn sale at WEBS online store, where I succumbed to a whole bunch of Noro Kureyon in a rather wild color. This woman is an enabler, and a dangerous one at that! Yikes. I have a little idea that's calling out to me in a soft voice, and I figured I might as well indulge it. Nothing like a depressive funk to provoke self-medication with candy-colored Kureyon, eh? Stay tuned.

The city inspector visited us, and inspected our fence and informed us of our fine, which should be around $60, for work without a permit. This is less than we feared it'd be, so we're slightly mollified.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

weirded out

This is a pix taken by a friend of mine on Maui, up in the hill country near where he lives, in Kula. It is very beautiful up there, reminding me of CA's Napa Valley, or my own Virginia foothills to the Blueridge.

I wasn't going to whine overmuch about work anymore. But today, 2 incidents happened within an hour of each other that so boggled my mind that I had to vent a little wee bit. I've been assessing students for a teacher the past couple o' days, doing a 1:1 interview, testing them in math. I love this sort of thing, and have done a lot of it, in past jobs. I was taking detailed notes on what the kids knew and could do, on an assessment sheet, and the teacher I was working for came up, and out of the blue started correcting the capitalization of my notes. I had assumed the notes were sort of "for teacher eyes only" and so I had taken some of them in incomplete sentences, and hadn't capitalized perfectly. So she's standing over my shoulder fixing my lowercase "d" into a "D" and suggesting that I be more consise and brief in my notetaking, that the assessments were taking too long. Apparently 28 kids in 2 days is too slow. It is not the ONLY thing I do in this class these days. I am also teaching. It just floored me. I honestly couldn't think of anything sassy to say.

This is the same teacher who commented that my curled up posture at my desk (behind the bookshelf) didn't look very professional; what if a parent came by and saw me with my legs propped up against the desk? Mind you, this is at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon; our campus isn't exactly crawling with parents out looking for evidence of professionalism. the past week, I've been called on my handwriting, my posture at the desk, my notetaking, the speed at which I assess children and my punctuation. These are all the sorts of things these teachers hound their students about; work speed, posture, handwriting, proper use of capitals... I wonder how many more little offenses I can commit here? The bizarreness of it all is that it's all coming from peers, not anyone in a position to assess me. As far as I know, with admin, I'm in okay shape.

My reaction to this nonsense has been to laugh it off and to just say "I was taught to do it this way" or "you might want this information eventually" or the very blunt "28 kids in two days is a lot of kids for one person to assess." But it does grind me down, because I've never been hounded like this; not in my teaching life, anyway. It's all sort of adding up to that stinking cloud of negativity that's festering away, right now. I could analyze it, but don't really want to do so in this public forum.

Now, campers, this sloppy writer is going to bed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

rockin' the Klaralunds

I called Confetti and talked about the fence situation with her. Confetti is my old neighbor; she moved out a few months ago, and lives in Makiki now. She had warned me about the contentious next-door neighbor the first week I lived here, and said that there'd been a history of neighborly infighting over driveway and lane parking access, fence issues on the other side and general discord. It seemed we could only live here so long without falling into it...of course Confetti, being as pagan as I am was supportive of my idea to smudge the borders of the property (and beyond) with sage. She said that in the years that she'd lived in the little rental up the hill, that she'd gone around muttering the affirmation "I have good relations with my neighbors, I am in harmony with all my neighbors." Meanwhile, we await the visit of the city inspector, who will calculate our fines and retroactive permit fees. Myke the handyman is coming to shorten the fence and hopefully it will all be water under the bridge soon. I told Ms. Anthropic (the neighbor) about the impending repairs and she started to whine again that she'd never have reported us to the city, had she known that we'd be fined and visited and suchlike. Ho-hum...maybe so, but I'm kinda over it all. Just want it to go away.

In happier news, knit night on Thursday was jolly good fun. We had a photo shoot of the completed Klaralunds, featuring Candsmom, myself and Acornbud rocking the 3 very different colorways of Silk Garden. It is freezing cold in the cafe where we knit, so the Klaralunds are not as outlandish as you'd think for August in Honolulu.

I am now knitting diligently away on the purple socks and alternately, on this little project, in some impulse purchase Cascade. I'm hoping by finishing these little projects, that some sort of great wave of knitting enthusiasm will wash over me again, so I can rise and tackle something more ambitious. Or finish the UFO's laying around.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

good fences make good neighbors or something like that

That's what my dad used to say, anyway.


I just found out that the city of Honolulu requires you to file a permit application for any work at all done on your house or property. I found out because one of my neighbors filed a complaint about some fencing we did, on our property. Apparently, a couple of weeks ago, my contractor moved her property line flag to work in an area and replaced it incorrectly. So instead of talking to us (or the contractor guy) about the issue, she phoned the city and filed a complaint. Niiiiiicce...Now the building inspector wants to come out and meet with us about the fines that will be levied against us for not having all the right permits.

"Ignorance is no excuse" as they say. It's on the city website. Still, if I wasn't constructing an addition, why would I go looking for a permit application?

I won't subject you to all the expletives which have crossed my mind and lips over this issue. I did speak with Neighbor Lady (who was known to be contentious, beforehand) and let her know how very disappointed I was in her Neighborliness. sigh. She offered up a bunch of protests about how many problems our neighborhood has had with people not following city rules and codes. Again, thanks for your Neighborliness, neighbor.

I also won't go into the list of little home improvements requiring hammer, nails, saws and drills that we have had this good-natured, yet ignorant contractor guy do for this property since we've moved here.

I am adding this complaint to my long list of Adventures in Bureaucracy.

Is it my year for Justice? Must do the numerology...waitaminnit! Against my 'should know better' I had this work done during a Mercury Retrograde period.

I really don't know what to say...
Bitch-slapped by the Universe again.

grapple revisited, or No Thought Left Behind

I've probably been whining on and on too much about work. I should probably stop now. Much of the whingeing is all tied up with my feelings and thinking about how I spend my time. So a few clarifying comments, and then I swear I'll stop. Maybe.

*I think high test scores are a good thing, in and of themselves. It's when teachers,(okay, maybe this should read "administrators") in response to pressure to get high test scores, change the curriculum from an interesting, thoughtful one, with children's real learning at the heart and center, to a fast-pased, meaningless, workbook-driven one that causes me to rant. Yeah, yeah, I know that's a run on and on sentence.

*I am troubled, at my job, by the number of workbooks and paper-and-pencil-sit-down-in-your-desk-and-copy-from-the-board activities that are being done with children who cannot read the text they are being asked to write. I think there's a better, more developmentally appropriate way to teach the Hawaii's required standards. The standards are not the problem. It's the instructional delivery.

*I'm frustrated, because I know that change is hard, parental pressure is influenced by media and politics, and that everyone involved, in their heart of hearts, wants to do best for the students. It's agreeing on those, ahem, 'best practices' that is the challenge. I've been up to my eyebrows in the school reform scene for my whole career, first by accident, later by choice. To be teaching in a school that's not embroiled in it, is unsettling, in a way. Especially when they could be so much better, so much smarter about teaching and learning.

*I have neither the desire nor ability to lead a revolution here. I just don't want to lose my revolutionary edge when it comes to my teaching practices. Two years down the line, I don't want to be the one saying "Open your skills workbook to page 239 and do the next 4 pages..."

That's all. But given the state's wacky tenure and seniority system, as well as funding for this job, I don't think I'll even have it for more than this year. I know 50% of the money paying for me is due to expire after this year, and that I can easily be bumped from my position by someone with more seniority in the district, no matter how much my school desires to keep me. There's a certain freedom in that condition, I'm thinking. Not to be tied to a way of thinking, longterm. Not to be tied to fighting a way of thinking, longterm.

There are other things to write about, but I have an early morning work meeting, so I best be going. I just don't think I've been very clear, with you or myself on this matter of workplace dissatisfaction.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Lammas came and went, with a brief little ceremony in my house, acknowledging the season, the harvest and a wish. The knight of disks tarot card (Crowley's Thoth deck) sits on my altar, these days, my constant companion; reminding me that whatever the labor, I am also given the strength to complete it. I was pleased to see this card has a nice harvest-y theme going on, visually, too. It is feeling like late summer around here. Sometimes in Hawaii, I don't get the seasonal feel, but in these days of intense heat and golden light, I can feel August's essential theme, the ripening of fruit, the dying of grasses and bamboo, the moving toward completion.

I was immensely cheered by my commentors last entry. You give me the heart to drag me out of my work-induced funk. I think I am so quick to become "heavy" about my job, when really, I am too new there to be getting this way. It is very easy to see patterns, though, and sense tensions in the workplace, when one is still an outsider. I was even told I "sounded like a mainlander" the other day, when I questioned why a certain rule was still in place if no one saw the need to follow it. When I protested, the teacher explained that she hadn't meant "mainlander" to be an insult; she was just observing that I wasn't taking things at face value. Hey, that's me, question authority, sometimes to my demise...meh.

Mostly, I am having fun in my job. I am getting good feedback from the teachers I'm working with, and even though I think they are waaay too basal textbook-bound, and I really question whether some of the activities they do in class are worthy of their students' time and attention, I'm acutely conscious of the school's point of pride; that they have high test scores. I have never taught in a school which held test performance in high regard. Not surprisingly, I've never taught in a school with very high scores. My schools have been filled with hungry, immigrant, working poor children; I felt acutely the pressure to teach more than phoneme segmentation and penmanship. I struggle, and grasp and try to find the common ground. In the words of my esteemed former professor, Kmt, I grapple with this new place, this role of being observer/participant. It is not a pleasant place to be, in spite of the surface pleasure of working with eager young students. I spend too much time at home, early in the mornings and late evenings, grinding my teeth and composing brilliant arguments that will sway them into teaching workshop-fashion, and giving the poor patient kindergarteners playdough and paints instead of bloody worksheets and homework. Arrrrgh.

This work drama is all mixed up with mourning the loss of all my free time, to sew, to contemplate the 4 walls, to daydream, to piddle around the house in a relaxed fashion.

This afternoon, I went to get my haircut. I love the new stylist, Monique. I used to go to the beauty school, but when I started working this winter, I decided to see a real stylist again. Anyway, this one is as quirky as Lulu the globetrotter, and my sister the renaissance woman. Monique breeds Persian cats, and always asks about my dogs. I took Ella in to see her the other day when I stopped by to make the appointment. It turns out, she knows about half the people who go to my dog park here. She has framed pix of her cats at her station, enormous silvery grey cats with deep blue eyes. Just contemplating the hair makes me sneeze, but clearly, Monique isn't put off by hair...

I leave you with a picture of the ever-present Pali, looking up the hill from the deck.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Here's how the past few mornings have looked, here in Nuuanu, at about 5:45am. Grey, with little blushes on the clouds, the shape of things to come. We've been getting our typical early morning rain, followed by wind and heat throughout the day.

I haven't written much because, well, there's nothing to report. I am working, and that energy of finding my niche in this new school is consuming me right now. When I think of work, I want to rant, and would rather not put into writing my frustrations with this school system, especially since my grip on employment is so tenuous right now. Mostly I am concentrating on the students, and on keeping myself, my opinions and attitudes about classroom practices, community (this small school community, that is, not the greater Hawaii community) values, and the ever-looming spectre of No Child Left Behind, firmly beneath the radar. It's not cool to come into a new job and find fault with every little thing. Even I know that. But this experience is so different from my last 'newly employed' situation, in VA, where I was stunned at the fit between my and the school's philosophy. I do not feel at home in this place, though I know I have things to learn, and things to teach. It is more of a challenge to work in this environment, to weigh what I am going to say, to measure the damage or good that a strongly voiced opinion will do. So I keep it light. The teachers are nice, welcoming. The test scores are very high. The admin wants to do good work. We will proceed.

I am constantly behind on work, housework, and life in general, right now. Today, I took the last Praxis II test, hopefully. I did 4 essays this time, heh, and hopefully did them well enough to pass the exam. I know I addressed each question, though none too articulately. It seems enough to survive just now.

I am about to turn the heel on the Koigu sock, which is the FIRST sock of the pair, not the second. A laughable moment occured, at knit night, this week, as Lilikoi made a rather pointed question about whether the sock was #1 or #2 in the pair, and then when I pretended to be aghast, made a hasty save by saying "I'm accustomed to seeing more progress from you." Heh. Knit night brings me much joy, in these days of running around like a beheaded chicken.

The 5am arising time would go much better if I didn't spend the time gained drinking coffee and gazing at the sky...but that's what keeps me going.