English as a Second Language pitfalls abound

Dangerlandia.
Dangerlandia.

I fell off the journaling and drawing wagon. First, I ran out of paper in my journal. Second, I ran out of drive. Third, I’ve been very busy. Add that all up and you get nada.

This week some kid drama finally got the writerly juices flowing. We have one group of kids formed by two distinct factions. Some kids come from an extended family group where they are loved and generally accompanied to all classes by an adult. Other kids are free roamers that live nearby. These free range kids are less well supervised and rougher around the edges but they have their own cohesiveness. They look after each other. All of the kids are kids and prone to testing limits. All of them are mixtures of devils and angels. They are each unique individuals.

My neighbor April and I consult regularly on the topics I teach and the group dynamics. April knows all the children and is fully fluent in the language and the culture.  She’s a mother and wife. I could not succeed without April guarding my back and propping me up. She’s never in class but always knows what’s happening. It’s nice that she’s neutral. Kind of like the school principal.

This week a spat between factions may or may not have happened. One member of one group texted me to complain about treatment by the other group. According to the texter faces were made and bad names were tossed around. This all happened in a bit of a melee when my attention was in one place and the kids had swarmed around the yard. Vikki (my usual enforcer) was absent this day. The kids were pushing the limits. Sawdust was thrown. There was yelling. There was running. Mostly everyone was smiling. I stopped the sawdust throwing when I wouldn’t let them in the bathroom to clean up. They complained of being itchy and I said, not my problem. You want to roll in the dirt you’ve got to like being dirty. Anyway, that all passed. The kids were only mildly chagrined. We ate cake and fruit and everyone went home.

The next say I got the text saying the more well off group had started the fight and that they were teasing the other kids because they never brought food to share. Now the texter is a known manipulator. She conned me into taking her cousin to the beach and then tried to develop a successful cover story for the cousin when they returned. The cover was blown. Perhaps the suntan, sand, and dampness were giveaways? Ten year old kids can be quite inventive but hiding widespread evidence is hard. Everyone (but me) got in deep doodoo over that one. Despite this I was concerned with the underlying element of truth that was obvious. The ‘richer’ kids were lording their slightly better circumstances over the poorer kids. I had seen it myself in the condescension in class.  One group always has pencils and paper. They leave home with supplies because someone is taking care of them. The other group I provide with pencils and paper. Nobody reminds them to bring their supplies. Having grown up under this type of kid on kid oppression it made my stomach churn.

Rather than dig deeply into the he said/she said I assured the complainant that I heard her and told her not to worry. I told her the food wasn’t important or her responsibility. Meanwhile I forwarded the texts to April to confirm that I had read them correctly. Burt and I discussed the situation. We agreed to set some actual rules of behavior and debated the food issue. Burt was for banning food from the kids and I was ambivalent. We also agree only one activity at a time. Chaos had ensue when some kids did origami, some threw sawdust, others went sightseeing on the roof. Everyone would do whatever the activity was together. No more wandering off to amuse themselves.

April and I met up and we were in agreement. One group was lording over the other but we could handle it by teaching and insisting on respect and tolerance. No name calling, no faces, blah, blah, blah, the whole you don’t have to like each other but you have to respect each other speech. Meanwhile April would help the other kids gather together some fruit to bring so they could participate in the very important cultural ritual of sharing food. That issue was quickly put aside when I mentioned that I was teaching ‘I am…’ and I said the kids said. Soy morena, and I said I am latina, and the kids said we are not latinas and I was in the linguistic racial quagmire of identity politics. What was the right thing to do? In that instant it was nice that my pupils are children. They quickly dropped the subject of skin color. So I asked white April and her brown friend. What is the English translation of I am brown. The guy said to use brown. It’s how Mexicans describe themselves. So that’s decided, I think, and head off to teach the next class.

Boom. Yo soy gorda. First sentence of the day at the next class. I am fat. The girl saying this is indeed overweight. The word fat in English has become so laden with political and social implications that I was again, stunned. How to traverse the nuanced world of body image? Even in Mexico, where a zaftig figure is appreciated, there is a point where a person is simply fat. But where is that point? Where is it on a 11 year old girl? A girl that is noticeably less fat than the year before? In the moment I decided to simply translate and be nonchalant. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being overweight. It’s a state of being for most of the US and Mexico. So we moved on. Then I got what’s the difference between being big and being fat? Ahhh…euphemisms for obesity are in the works here too, I thought. I failed to adequately explain this and obfuscated. Feigning a loss of language is helpful in many circumstances. Meanwhile we will continue to encourage an active lifestyle and healthy snacks.

There. What do you think?

IMG_1044
Yamileth y Beto
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Mari

 

 

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Gratitude

Natures beauty
Natures beauty. Grosbeak checking out the flicker twins.

I am grateful. I really am but at 5:30 AM when I read the prompt I thought “Ugh.” Ugh especially for the what are you grateful for about yourself. On the inside. The idea was to draw and write in our journals about our gratitude. It’s good for you they say. I wish I was grateful for waking up at 5:30. I wish I was grateful to wake up at all. Why do I hate waking up to a life I love? What is that about? I hate waking up. The night demons come in after dark I guess.

An hour and a half later I am still in bed. I drew a disintegrating picture of Elvis that I happened to enjoy while still under the covers. Sharpening my pencils in bed is messy. But what’s a few pencil shavings when you have nightly ants? Mimi stepped on my face a few times. I drew and put that gratitude on a side burner.

Burt is cooking breakfast while I write this. Yesterday I translated at art class and worked as Germani’s personal art facilitator. Germani and VIkki and I walked to class together. Gemrani wanted me to hold her hand on the walk and to help her accomplish her artistic goals. We have an unspoken arrangement. I draw in the major lines and she does the painting. I help with color mixing and general studio management. Germani is five. Her age, genius, or both require a free form approach to paint, water, palettes, paper. Things fly, spill, roll away. Some might say it’s a lack of fine motor skills. I think it’s boundless energy. She benefits from a full time assistant.

It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. I get lots of drawing practice. She paints. I have little interest in painting. My rusting drawing skills get worked hard. I have to be quick, decisive, and effective. My drawings need to look like the subject but have space for my master’s style of massive and heavy handed paint. I have made some pencil line masterpieces in this practice. Every one has been subsumed into monochromatic paint exercises. My study of La vaca Lola (a ceramic cow) will never be seen again. It’s great ego workout. Or an exercise in non-attachment. I am very grateful for the opportunity to draw for Germani.

Here’s some other things:

Burt, Olive, Elvis, Mimi

Cheese. Chocolate. Birds. Dad. SaraGay. Bridge. Bridge ladies.

me.

Still purring.
Still purring.
Little air under my wings.
A little air under my wings. Germani drew the pear shape. I filled in the stem. She’s adding the shade. She drew her pear sideways but upright. She likes to work from the side.
My rock or my lifeboat depending on my mood.
My rock or my lifeboat depending on my mood.
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Redoing a redo

REdo
Redo

Above is the redo of a redo from this morning. In color below is the original. In black and gray tones is the redo from last year.  In my mind this morning I was contemplating this project. I remembered the redo from last year and thought, “Oh I’ll draw it. That will be fun.” I found a blank page in my nearly full journal. This piece is mixed in with our trip to Europe in June. Then I scrolled through my phone’s photo album and found the original. Hmmm. This was a lot more complicated than I remembered. Color pencils are not an easy tool to capture delicate color lies. My cartoon style technique would be hard to use in a small space. Simplify is rule one. The upper left square was drawn from the photo. I tried to capture the major forms. The subsequent squares were drawn from square one. Like a game of telephone the information I was using to make the piece degraded the further I got from the original. That was my favorite experience of this drawing. I enjoyed the feeling of losing contact with reality. It felt like embellishing an oral accounting of some event. An event everyone is talking about but nobody was there.

Elvis ala Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe
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Who inspires me? Vikki. We should all help the Vikkis of the world.

Vikki quietly at work with everyone else.
Vikki quietly at work with everyone else. She’s third from the left.

Who inspire me? Who is my hero? Important questions that I could not easily answer. I was hung up on the hero as a larger than life example that is doing great deeds for humankind. I was thinking the notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg). Or Oprah. Or Eleanor Roosevelt. I went down that road for a while but I realized I never think about these people. I never look to them for inspiration. Of course I admire them and all they have accomplished but I don’t want to be like them. Frankly it’s my everyday peeps that keep me motivated. Burt, Abril, Ivonne, Peg. Business owners, teachers, mothers, caretakers. People making the best life they can with what they have. The kids I work with motivate me but really, deeply, the person I feel most inspired by is Vikki. Vikki is an example we can all look to for inspiration.

I’v eknown Vikki five years. Here is what I know of the facts of her life: Vikki is 26 years old. She’s married to German and has a 5 year old daughter Germani. German works 6 days a week. Vikki is a mother but also works. She manages our yard and she caretakes for other people. Vikki cleans houses. She takes care of Germani. Their home blew away in hurricane Odile 3 years ago. They move in and out with family here in Pescadero and house sit for people. They have a trailer on their rancho but it is inconvenient for school and work. They have had the same 30 year old Forerunner as long as I have known them. Her mother and father used to live nearby, too, but they returned to the mainland to take care of her grandmother. She has brothers in the US.

Vikki is always eager to work. She is always ready with a smile. She is never embarrassed to take the bags of clothes I bring every year. She spreads the stuff I collect among family and friends. I trust her to get the shoes, purses, and clothing to whomever can use it.

What most impresses me though is not her smile or work ethic or generosity. It’s her leadership. She comes to all our classes and gets down to work. If we are painting she paints. If we dance she dances. If we make hula hoops she makes hula hoops. She leads the girls by example. Vikki is all in. She is 100% committed. If there’s a disruption she helps me settle down the kids. She is unafraid of the unknown. Any idea is a good idea. Want to run a 5k? Sure? Want to learn ‘The Wheels on the Bus?” Yes. Want to sing in public. Yes. Want to learn English. Want to learn guitar. Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m not sure if I’m teaching English for the girls or because I know Vikki wants to learn. She is hungry for the chance to grow and learn. I want to show her everything I know how to do. That’s inspiring. I wish I could speak better Spanish and know her better as a friend. She is always calm and ready. She is my motivation. She is my inspiration.

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Inner Nature

Inner Slug
Inner Slug

When we talk about past lives or spirit animals, do you ever think who was that guy that was crushed under a stone block while building the pyramids? Or who’s spirit guide is an earwig? I’m always hearing about the Cleopatras and panthers, never Marie Antoinette’s chamber maid or the ant she stepped on. When the subject goes there that’s what I always think about. The lowlier and less famous. The you and mes of history or the animal kingdom. Yesterday’s prompt about nature even lead me that way because I was contemplating the nature of humanity versus nature nature. This morning I woke up and was thinking of my inner slug. Maybe it’s my inner sloth. Moving is hard some days. If we’re kind we could say it’s my hibernating grizzly bear. The day’s prompt hadn’t arrived. I’d been in and out of consciousness since my 5:30 AM hot flash. It’s become a regular thing. I fall asleep at 8:00 PM now because I am pretty much up a few hours before dawn riding the hormone train. I am grateful that (so far) I get a solid night of sleep in before I throw off the covers.

So there I was actually thinking of my inner slug. Reveling in my gooiness. The slackness of a formerly firm physique slumping all over the bed. Actually thinking: I am a slug and I like being a slug. I had my phone in my hand. While lying there in my puddle of adipose tissue the prompt came in to think on our inner nature. The universe was talking.

My Chinese astrological sign is the snake. A Facebook quiz once said I was a great white shark. I do not deny these aspects of my personality. The old philosophy about human nature that says you’re either a lamb, a shepherd, or a wolf rings true to me. I’ve been told I’m a shepherd. Shepherds mostly tend their flock and protect them from wolves but shepherds also kill the lambs when it’s time to kill. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a wolf. These days a retired wolf.

If I could choose, I would opt to be a grizzly bear or a blue whale. I like the grizzly bear because they sleep half the year, eat as much as they like and still look good, and they only procreate when there are sufficient resources for survival. I like the blue whale because it’s the biggest thing in the history of the world. Imagine that. Bigger than anything else alive in the history of ever. What is your inner animal?

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Connect with Nature

Palms and sky
Palms and sky

Today’s prompt was to connect with nature. Find something inspiring in nature and write about it. Seeing as this is about all I regularly write about it gave a good laugh. Even Burt said, “Where would you begin?”

Twenty years as a regulator with the EPA wasn’t for the money and prestige and fun. The money was a good but it was a thankless job full of conflict and insults. Many people didn’t understand our role. But I stayed because I succeeded in doing many things and I believed in my work. I protected birds from oil pits. I cleaned up aquifers. I saw to it that hazardous waste was safely disposed. I was lucky to know quite a few other competent and committed professionals, too. But those days are behind me and much of the successes I as part of are being undone. Birds will no longer be protected in the oil fields thanks to our current administration. Incidental kills are now legal. I spent an entire year working with a team of colleagues from various agencies to save the tens of millions of birds killed in our oil fields. We achieved real success and were even awarded the EPA’s highest award. All that work down the drain. You might say I’m bitter. You’d be correct.

Meanwhile, here, now, I count birds everyday. I submit my data into an international database. I try to be part of the worldwide effort to protect and improve habitat of our feathered friends. Birds are still earning their keep as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. They are telling us loud and clear about the health of our world and the changes in our climate system. If we can see that we are all inter-related maybe we can start taking action to protect us all. Each little part of our world depends on the rest.

On top of that, I’m trying to subtly influence my little human friends. Trips to the beach can lead to a love of the outdoors and that can lead to a love of nature.

We are all stuck here together. We have no place else to go. And, you know what, it’s a damn lovely home we have.

Algae
Algae and bees
Kids at beach
Kids at beach
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Daily Delights

Reubbing Mimi's belly
Rubbing Mimi’s belly

What are your daily delights? That cup of coffee? A favorite mug? Filling the bird feeders? Think of the things that give you child like glee.

I was never a child-like child. My mother accused me of acting like I was 40 when I was 10. She did not mean it in a good way. Despite my inner curmudgeon there are things I take regular delight it. I love rubbing my cat’s belly. She hates it. Our daily wrestling match so I can steal a .0001 sec rub of that loose abdomen fur, her belly wattle if you will, is a daily hit with me. She bites. I laugh. Am I a bad person? I always pay her back with some ear rubs.

I also like saying hello to Olive the dog when I return home. Olive bounces up and down and I can’t encourage her too much or she’ll jump all over me but I love seeing her happy dance. Elvis always moans like we tortured him so he’s not as much fun to greet.

When I had a home without wheels I had some material belongings that I loved using every day. A special bowl. A well shaped mug. Trailer life isn’t as amenable to aesthetic beauty. I really like my hair things. Those stretchy tubes that keep my hair off my face. I have about 8. Those are comfy and make traveling hair care easier.

The birds on my feeder delight me. Yesterday I delighted myself by building a new feeding station from a cardon cactus log. I suspended it on our fence with a pair of antlers. Snazzy. So now my feeder delights me.

Breakfast in bed is pretty delightful but it feels like adult delight. Ny inner kid is ambivalent. Same feeling for chocolate. The inner kid prefers pie.

Lastly, getting into bed at the end of a day always delights me. I love bedtime. My cocoon, my nest, my safe place. I hate waking up and leaving it. I guess that might be why I torture Mimi.

 

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Dream Big, People

Twenty years from now?
Twenty years from now?

Art Journaling is the first thing I do on waking. I don’t even get out of bed. I reach over and grab my phone and check the prompt. I sit and think. I open my journal bag and grab the book and pen and draw a picture. Then I write. Today’s prompt: What is you most outrageous dream? Two things about this prompt caught my attention. There’s some synchronicity out there. Firstly, I woke up from a very odd musical dream where Burt and I as the Gypsy Carpenters were playing a stadium sized gig with a back up band. The odd part was that I was singing on a ladder from back stage. We can analyze that some other time. Secondly, last night at dinner with my dad and Sara Gay we confessed our next big dream. Stage two of dream achievement plan accomplished. The confession came about because they asked if we were planning to get a new cat when Mimi eventually goes. No, we are not. We are planning on burying Mimi and Elvis when the times come and doing something else. More here down below.

So life dreams, the big ones, are hard to quantify. It’s a tricky thing dreaming. I could say I want to visit the moon. I do want to visit the moon. I wish I could be a universe explorer. But that’s not going to happen so I don’t spend much though on it. It’s a waste of energy.  I could also say I wish I was thirty pounds lighter and super-fit. Just not going to happen. There’s all kinds of reasons why but mainly I’d rather not be that kind of person that worries about those kinds of things.  I like to focus on dreams that I might be able to accomplish if I have the intention, resources, interest, and luck. Burt and I had a great conversation about how neither of us like to talk pie in the sky dreams but we are good at achieving things many people won’t dare to try.  The phrase “if wishes were horses” does not apply to us. I hate those conversations about if I was rich, if I was in charge, or if I was blah blah blah. I’m a down to earth. I can solve a puzzle. I have enough resources.

Here’s what I concluded today, for me, about dreams. Find a dream where you have the drive, the itch, the passion. Then look for the skills, resources, and luck you’ll need to achieve it. I don’t want to be a super famous performer. I’m happy as a community musician. I like to help our kids but I don’t want to run a school. I do want to explore the world. I want to drive. I want to speak Spanish. I want to drive the entirety of South America.

Just as the seeds of quitting work and hitting the road took root a few months before we did it eight years ago this South America idea has been sitting in the soil of our hearts and minds for a while. There are logistical problems with our current outfit. Then there are the elderly pets. There are money concerns, too. Safety, health, age…But recently we saw our window. Mimi and Elvis appear on convergent tracks of expiration. Two years at the most for either or both or them. First step towards down scaling the living arrangements: No new pets.

Last the idea saw life outside the gNash. Burt and I dared tell others we hope to drive to South America. Like all bold ideas it was met with questions and fears for our safety but also with support and excitement. It sounds like we are on teh right path.

So I insist, go find that first step to your dreams.

Below are the 5k race results. I was super pleased to see I had managed under 20 minute miles. Maybe that super-fit goal isn’t as far fetched as I thought.

The next adventure?
The next adventure?
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results
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Overexposed

 

The gang's all here.
The gang’s all here.

When there’s blood in the first ten minutes you know you’re on an adventure. Vince is a kid that is kind and solitary. He’s got a ton of energy and he’s curious. He can also be a handful. Like many young boys and most men he doesn’t listen well and he takes action without thought of the consequences. Yesterday he joined our cast of thousands for a trip to the beach. In teh first 4 minutes he was causing a minor disruption. We were still withing sight of his house so I could say, “Vince, decide now if you want to go home or stay with us.” That settled him down nicely. No fear. Just a decision and it was his decision. He knew what I needed. In a car with 7 kids and no seatbelts there is no room for distraction.

Burt had decided it was time for a beach trip because it was Christmas break and we had an extra car. Also, the water is over heated and the weather is stunning. No joke on the water. Locals are starting to worry. The water is almost 10 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year. Hurricanes love warm water.

When we arrived at the beach I announced two rules. No littering and no going in the water until the adults arrived. We all walked together at a stately pace.  Last year only a few of the kids could swim. This year they all claimed to have the ability. I thought to myself, “This won’t be so bad. Twelve kids and four adults. We can manage.” Mayhem was on that sweet thoughts heels. Within seconds of entering the tepid water with inconsequential waves there was blood. Blood, when it’s gushing down a young person’s face is quite a visceral shock. I feared an accidental elbow to the nose or a tooth for the tooth fairy but it was just a routine bloody nose. I hadn’t thought about bloody noses since I was a kid. They seemed like a regular occurrence on the playground. I never had one. It kind of looked fun. I think I wanted to have one and enjoy the attention.

Vince the Bloody, was an expert. He held his head back and we walked back to my towel. He asked for a tissues to clean his face. He calmly cleaned up and then just lay there quietly. He told me it was a fairly common experience for him and I need not worry. I sat there for a moment and he sent me off to supervise the 11 swimmers. The epitome of manly maturity.

Meanwhile the kids were like atoms in Brownian motion. They expanded to fill the space. The just kept buzzing and bouncing further and further apart. The huge beach was flat and nearly empty and the waves were so small there was no fear effect to contain them. Usually they are afraid of the water and they cling to us.  Yesterday they were swimming and diving and running around liek teh proverbial maniacs. I must have counted to 12 six-hundred times. Every time I counted twelve kids I started over and counted again. Even Burt yelled at me once to try and get them closer together. Tom and Vikki were also standing guard and I could see Vikki counting, too. It’s hard to relax and count kids.

Vince was quickly back in action. Sand activities got some of the mob out of the water. My  still impressive cartwheel skills were in high demand. Soon we were doing yoga and back bends. These kids have zero cartwheeling experience. There is no grass here. None of them have lawns. I tried to explain the mechanics. I nearly became a bloody mess myself as feet flew towards my face. After six or so personal demonstrations I told them I had to stop. I am getting smarter. I’m only a little sore today.

Trips to the beach require snacks. We grouped up and sat in the sand eating tamales, fruit, and chips. The kids surprised me when they almost universally judged the tamales to be too spicy. For a group that takes chili on their watermelon they were kind of wimpy about some peppers in there pork.  As they say, more tamales for me.

Our journaling prompt for today was to draw a picture of ourselves when we felt invisible as a child. I did that but it’s not very inspiring. I felt invisible much of the time. Yesterday I was so visible and in such high demand that I teased the kids I was going to change my name so they couldn’t yell it.

Blood
Blood
Catching a wave Paola style.
Catching a wave Paola style.
7 year old man.
7 year old man.
Daniela and doll drawing
Daniela and doll drawing
Beto wows them all.
Beto wows them all.
Sand works
Sand works
La Yerasca
La Yerasca
Daniela y Vikki
Daniela y Vikki
Anahomi
Anahomi
My car. Okay, dad's car with my group.
My car. Okay, dad’s car with my group.
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Day 4 Art Journal Challenge

Today’s work was to find a selfie from last year and draw it into your journal. I found a selfie I liked that happened to be a wefie but Burt’s presence is minimalized and I like the expression on my face. Bonus: no eyes to draw. Burt thinks he looks like an alien baby in the original. I think he looks like my accompanist.  Further down you can see another pair of selfie and self-portrait. I was so pleased with the first effort I thought I’d try another. I abandoned the effort when my face got all bulbous. Eyes are problematic but I still like the weird feel of the unfinished.

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Rumpus room rehearsal
IMG_0856
2017
me
me
Not as easy as it looks.
Not as easy as it looks.
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