Thursday, May 31, 2012


I am angry.

It seems I can't get the ex out of my life, quite yet.

Mufasa. He licked himself raw, due to stress from the divorce. He's better now.
Xena, holding my foot.
It's true we still are connected by our two surviving furry children. We do share custody of the dog, Mufasa, and the ex is entitled to one weekend a month with Mufasa, but I always have the cat, Xena. And that makes me angry, at times. She can be just as demanding for attention as the dog and seems to pick the most inopportune time to demand it, like when I'm writing, reading or grading papers. Yes, I know that is part of a cat's charm, but she has never been like this. She is changing and I'm not used to it. Could it be old age? She's fifteen. Her condition? She has hyperthyroidism and arthritis and therefore all the difficulties that go along with them; diarrhea, excessive thirst, pain. Mufasa is also somewhat demanding at times. He's a little neurotic, so he frightens easily and therefore wants to be comforted. And he's spoiled. Okay, so that's our fault. We weren't ready to be dog dads when we got the first one, Simba, may he rest in peace. (I miss him, terribly.) So, we hired a trainer to help us, and thought we were better prepared for the second one. After all, one's good, so two are better, right? Not necessarily. He's a sweetheart, but not as well-trained as I would like him to be. The tactics we learned with the first one didn't quite work with this one because he is very stubborn. He is also aging, he'll be nine next month and also is not well. He has hypothyroidism which makes his fur fall out and in places he's showing bare skin, so he doesn't have his typical Pomeranian coat.  He is also prone to colitis, so he also has occasional diarrhea. Both animals are somewhat long-haired and have diarrhea issues. And I am alone to take care of them.

And that makes me angry.
Our cake

I am constantly reminded of my connection and past with the ex. Because I am living in what was our house. There are other reminders as well. Our 'illegal' anniversary is May 29. It was our first real date. May 29, 1995. Our 'legal' anniversary was October 18, 2008 when we were legally married. And it seems something happens on May 29 to remind me of the past. Last year he sent me a text, ON THAT DAY, merely to ask how the dogs were. (Both were alive a year ago.) Coincidence? I think not. This year, his driver's license renewal arrived ON THAT DAY. Okay, so that was a coincidence.  AND a well-meaning friend emailed me to say, "I'm thinking of you today. Look at how far you've come in a year." Huh? Why remind me? That wasn't a coincidence. Since I've moved on, please don't drag me backwards.

And all that makes me angry.

I have belabored my financial situation here ad nauseum, so I won't visit it again. While there is never a good time to end a marriage, I am angry for my ex leaving me at this time with the economy in this situation. I realize it won't/can't last forever and my gut feeling is will be better off financially, if not emotionally and psychologically, in the long run without him. But that doesn't change the fact I can't live the single life I would like. Plus, there are repairs and upgrades I would like to make on the house, but can't.

And that makes me angry.

In the almost two years since the ex left, I have met one other man with whom I felt I could have a meaningful relationship. Maybe it was too soon for me to consider something so serious, and the Universe sent him just to show me I am still capable of falling in love with the right man. Maybe he wasn't the right man, exactly. But, I felt he was very close to what I want and need in a husband. As I've posted before, I now have my gold standard. 

But, that doesn't make me angry.

What hurts the most is the number of what I perceived were signals I thought he was sending me. When we met, and it will be a year in June, it was under the auspices of being friends.  When I told him I loved him, he said I had made it very clear I was not looking for a relationship and we could never be anything more than friends. I said I was looking for friends and that I had fallen in love with a friend before.  Whether he was deliberately sending me signals or unaware that he was at all is irrelevant. What is relevant is that there was some miscommunication and something I perceived that could have been deep and meaningful came crashing down. So, we parted ways based on, in my opinion, some misunderstandings.

And that makes me angry.

And afraid of dating again.

At least for now.

Until the anger subsides.

And it will.

In time.

All the anger will. The anger with the ex is much less than what it was at first, but I recognize it's still there, just covered up with a thin layer of compost. Maybe the anger with him is mostly tied up with the economy and therefore, my financial situation. And in having to take care of the 'children' alone. My anger with the other man is tied up with my fear of being hurt again and I am just now realizing it's there, yet directed nowhere and to no one in particular.

They say recognizing the problem is the first step in recovery.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 5/27/12

Here are six sentences from a short story I have been working on, called "goodbye, I love...."  This is very rough.

They were strangers after all; well, almost. Danny was attracted to Griff’s profile photo on the website with his sensitive eyes, and scruffy, handsome face.  Their online chats had become personal; they both were recently out of relationships, and only looking to expand their social circles and both were adamant on their profiles, NO HOOKUPS.  They had shared details of their breakups: Griff came home to find his husband in bed, not with one, but sandwiched between two men, while Danny and his ex just seemed to drift apart.  Both Griff and Danny had been older emotionally, if not just chronologically, than their partners and both had been the nurturer in the relationship, and both had felt taken for granted, at least at the end.  It seems they understood each other.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I love it when a student has an epiphany during a lesson and that light bulb goes off when they finally get it! Hallelujah, my job is done! Well, for this lesson, anyway.

But, I hate it when I have epiphanies. They're so.....revealing. So deep. So "Dummy, why didn't you realize this before?"

Some of my epiphanies have been spiritual, others have been personal.

Like this latest one.

It's deep...

It's revealing...

I am awesome!

(Did I actually say that?)

So, why haven't I realized this before?

There could be many reasons.

As I've mentioned before, maybe it's guilt over my parents' divorce. But, I think not.

Maybe it was the constant moving my stepfather forced upon us that kept me from learning to form meaningful relationships as a child and therefore not believe in myself.

Maybe it was his overall negative energy permeating the family.

Maybe it was the years of bullying in school that forced me to push aside who I was in order to be who I felt I should be for the bullying to stop.

Maybe it is some deep down internalized homophobia that I never fully processed when I first came out thirty-some years ago. Perhaps I'm just now uncovering it as I am stepping back into the gay community again, a second-coming out, if you will.

Maybe it could be that I am finally coming into my own sense of self after so many years of surrendering myself in the confines of relationships. And I don't know who I truly am.

Maybe I'm going through a gay mid-life crisis.

Or, maybe it's all of the above in varying degrees.

Many people have told me I'm awesome, so why do I have trouble hanging on to this feeling of awesomeness?

Maybe it's because I'm afraid of finding out who I truly am.

Marianne Williamson said in her book, A Return to Love, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"

Maybe that power, for me, is just being, and believing in, myself and knowing that I will survive (cue Gloria Gaynor) this stage in my life and emerge stronger than before.

That's not easy right now.

It's not easy believing in myself right now because teachers, and public school teachers in particular, are under attack. Almost daily we hear of teachers who are not doing their jobs. Students' test scores are falling. And yet the stakes are rising astronomically. The No Child Left Behind Act requires a certain percentage of students be at least proficient in Language Arts and Math each year. And that percentage grows higher every year until it is 100%. There is no room for error, for the child who was ill on the day of the test, for the child who was up all night because of the gang shooting outside her apartment window, for the family who was left homeless because of a fire in their house, for the child who immigrated to this country one year before and now must take the test in grade-level English. If the school doesn't make it's growth target, the teachers are blamed by the media and the politicians, many of whom never taught a day in their life and yet want to tell us how to do our job. And these attacks on my thirty years of experience by these people who think they know what they're talking about do hurt and have left me questioning my teaching ability and my desire to continue in the profession.

It's not easy believing in myself right now because the economy is a mess. I am a single teacher with a mortgage that takes over sixty percent of my paycheck each month. Add rising fuel prices (my commute is sixty-five miles each day), rising food prices, two aging pets, dwindling savings, a shrinking paycheck due to furlough days and that is why I'm not interested in dating now. I don't feel comfortable not being able to contribute to a date.

Last weekend, I came home from a day at a Pride Festival full of pride, but depressed. I was depressed because of money. There were some things I wanted to do with my money. I wanted to support some causes, I wanted to buy a couple of things, I wanted to go out to dinner with my friends. I have come to accept this is my lesson right now. I need to learn to be more prudent with my money. I am truly grateful I have a job, I am grateful I can pay the mortgage and the bills, and I am very grateful I can take care of my cat and dog. I just wish I could have a little more discretionary income at the end of the month. And while every night has its day, some nights are verrrrrry lonnnnnnnng indeed. But, there are still those stars and the moon to guide us through the night. I know this will eventually pass.

It's also not easy believing in myself right now because I'm also venturing out on the new path of published author.  This path is very new, one I had never seriously considered and it came up out of the blue, and I'm not exactly sure where it's leading me as it is bringing up new emotions and things for me to consider. It is exciting, but I'm having difficulty believing it is happening. It's like a dream, one I had never taken seriously before. Do I really want to do it? The Universe has presented me with this great opportunity and I feel I must explore it, and maybe this is part of my awakening to my full awesomeness.

And if I am to spend some time holed up in my house or a Starbucks writing furiously, that will take some time away from socializing. I need to get these characters out of my head and onto paper before I turn into someone with multiple-character disorder and really not know who I truly am. (I have a lesbian character in my head somewhere, and that could really prove interesting!)

If I have all of this going on in my head, heart and life right now, I am not comfortable bringing someone else along for the ride. I want to be more in touch with my awesomeness before I bring someone else into my life.

Yet, the Universe may have other plans for me. The Universe may send a man into my life and he may just be the catalyst to fully awaken me to my awesomeness. After all, I believe things happen for a reason at the time they're supposed to happen.

Maybe, once I put all these pieces of the puzzle that is me together I won't know what to do with myself with all that awesomeness.

Maybe that's the point.

Maybe I need to just BE.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ice Cream

I enjoy ice cream. There are so many ways to enjoy it. And so many flavors. When I first began exploring the various ways to enjoy it as an adult, I enjoyed so much ice cream, I eventually began to feel guilty about overdoing it. Maybe I chose a flavor too hastily, without giving it full thought. So, I ended up not enjoying it that much, and as is very common with overeating, I felt guilty about it. And empty. And eventually, shame. But, I kept telling myself, "The next time would be different!" But it wasn't. And so I backed off a while, thinking it might be different sharing ice cream with someone I loved and cared about.

My first boyfriend liked it, too. But, he was very traditional. He only liked it in certain ways and limited flavors, like vanilla. He had no real taste for exotic flavors or locations. Sometimes, I would suggest a new flavor or perhaps a topping, and he'd say he'd already tried it, and it didn't agree with him then, so it wouldn't agree with him now. He liked his ice cream tried and true, what he was already comfortable with. With him, I learned to think a lot about different ice cream flavors and toppings and places to get it.

My ex-husband also enjoyed it. And while he may have wanted to try new flavors and toppings, my experience from my prior boyfriend taught me otherwise. So, I wasn't too willing to try anything new. And, perhaps I had given up too soon. Perhaps there were other issues. But, I soon gave up on ice cream, it no longer appealed to me as much.

Perhaps this is my opportunity to learn to enjoy ice cream again, in all its varieties, before settling on one special flavor. My problem is, I've been on a diet for so long, how do I avoid behaving like a glutton again, going back to berating myself for having so much meaningless ice cream? Yes, the past is the past and I should just learn from it and move on. After all, the past is to serve as lessons for the present and therefore the future. But, it's harder to do when your self-image is tied up with the past.

They say time heals all wounds. It's true, except for the self-inflicted ones. They take some reconditioning in addition to some extra time. Or maybe it just takes the right flavor at the right moment.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I have always had a fondness for dolphins, other marine mammals, and orcas in particular. On the two school trips to Catalina I have chaperoned, I got to see wild dolphins.

I have also written about my spirit guides, my totems of Bear and Ferret and a little of what they represent to and for me. During another meditative state where we were focusing on gratitude and being grateful for what we have, my house came up for me. Yes, the mortgage is a drain on my paycheck leaving me with very little at the end of the month for fun and pleasure, i.e., dating, seeing movies, etc.,  but I am grateful I have a place for me, my dog, and my cat to sleep at night. It was during this meditation when I met another of my totems; Dolphin. He actually swam right through my living room in the meditation, suddenly appearing out of nowhere, a blatant sign he was meant to appear to me.

Dolphins are very intelligent creatures, and represent a number of traits. They exist between two worlds, Air and Water. In modern astrology the Air Signs; Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, represent the Head, or Logic. The Water Signs; Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, represent the Heart, or Emotion. Many psychologists and dream experts also believe Air symbolism represents the Intellect or Logic and Water is symbolic of our Emotions. Dolphin's appearance is to remind me to remain balanced between the two. Not a very easy thing for me to do as I have said in the past.

Dolphins are also very social. They form large family groups and are tight knit. They protect one another as well as work and play together in their family groups, perhaps a message to me to begin forming such groups, outside of work since I am already part of a very supportive work community. I have a wonderful group of writer friends who offer support and advice, but they don't live locally. I do have a great group of friends who have helped me through the divorce and recent heartbreak, but only one of them is a gay man. And anyway, none are very local.

Dolphins are hard working. They hunt together as a unit and they are also extremely playful. They have been seen jumping and spinning and doing many other tricks in the water, seemingly for no other reason than to amuse themselves. As I move through this new stage in my life, I am to focus on Dolphin's message of balancing work and play.

Dolphin may have one other message for me. They are one of the few other mammals known to have sex without the drive to procreate. They have sex for the fun of just having sex. I still have issues around that, so I guess I'll be focusing on those.

While this school year is ending and teaching eats up a lot of my time, even after school lets out for the day, I will make every effort next year to balance my time better between work/home and family/writing/play and recreation. I will make more of an effort to build a community of gay male friends who preferably live locally, but I must still live within my means so I will still have to limit my socializing. And while I am going through this overall transformation, with the other personal changes I'm working on, I don't feel it fair to drag that one special guy through it without first warning him.  But, it will be his choice to stay or go.

But, first I have to meet someone who catches my eye.

That will happen, in time.

Six Sentence Sunday, 05/20/2012

Six more sentences from Inn of the Four Winds.....

Why did he let that name still get to him? After twelve wonderful years together, it was over because he wanted to live alone, to learn to support himself. Morgan had been in a severe depression before Chris had left, though Morgan had attributed it to his career stalling, his not feeling successful, and a general lack of direction in his life. He didn’t realize what an emotional drain Chris had been and with Chris gone, Morgan began some serious soul searching. His path eventually led him to Alex, or so he believed.  He and Alex were destined to be together. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mom

Mom and me, 4 days old

It's Mother's Day, and several writer friends have commented on their relationships with their mothers, so I thought I'd look at mine.

We never had any 'issues', ours was never a challenging relationship, and mostly because I was too afraid to cause any problems. Sure, we had our disagreements, and one day I was so mad at her, I went and kicked the fence so hard I bruised a bone in my foot.  After limping for a day or two, I remember feeling embarrassed to tell her not only what I did, but mostly why I did it. But, I told her and she took me to the doctor and that was that.

Mom, you taught me it was okay to be angry at someone I love, that it doesn't mean the love fades.

My mother grew up in a time where women had few choices. It was her father's desire she go to college. But, she never did go. It was her desire to be a mother. She married my father almost immediately after finishing high school.  I followed a couple of years later, my brother a few years after that and she was happy caring for her family. But, the happiness soon ended and when she later married my stepfather and gave him a son, again she chose to stay home and take care of her family. And she was happy. She was a 'room mother' at school for the three of us, alternating each year to show her love equally. And while she was very involved in our lives, she gave us the freedom to be ourselves.

Mom, you taught me to follow your dreams in spite of what others may dream for you.

While our life was far from perfect as my stepfather was constantly relocating for better jobs, my mother did all she could to make each house a home. I have very fond memories of the eleven homes I remember. 

Mom, you taught me any house can be a home.

My mom had the courage to end two marriages when she was no longer happy in them. She has become very self-sufficient since divorcing my stepfather in 1994 and I remember her calling me one day, ecstatic that she had assembled a bed for her guest room all by herself! Way to go, mom! Once my youngest brother left home for the Navy, she was tired of being home doing nothing but crocheting, so she got her real estate license and began earning her own money which my stepfather perceived as a threat to his masculinity and sense of control. Plus, they would be paying more taxes. He wanted her to quit. But, she persevered.

Mom, you taught me I am stronger than I realize.

Mom and her mother, Georgia 1981~ I sent that tree as a Christmas gift
We have had a very close relationship. My grandparents would often take little week long trips up and down the California coast in the summer. When we lived near them in Sacramento, I would often house-sit for them. I would call my mother every day and just chat, something we rarely did when I was home. (Mostly then, I was busy with school work and other stuff, plus my stepfather and brothers were usually around.)

Mom, you taught me to stay in touch with those you love.

As with many mothers of gay children, she felt somehow responsible for my being gay, it was somehow her fault. After reassuring her it wasn't, and pointing her in the direction of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), she called the local contact person, as she wanted to understand. We have grown even closer since then. She was distraught at the death of her son-in-law, my first partner; she was very disappointed she couldn't make it to my wedding to my second partner; and she was aching for me when he asked for the divorce. She was also there to pick up the pieces after this last heartache.

Mom, you taught me about unconditional love.

After her second divorce, she bought her own house and made it her home. She gave up real estate several years ago as the hours became too much for her, and she later became a part-time checker at a grocery store.  After suffering a terrible third degree burn on her legs and feet a few years ago, she recuperated nicely and eventually returned to work.

Mom, you taught me how to be a survivor.

Georgia, 2003
Mom, you have taught me many things in life, but most of all, you taught me to be me. I love you.

Six Sentence Sunday 5/13/2012

Here are six more sentences from Inn of the Four Winds, currently in development.

He immediately felt at peace in this room which he had painted a turquoise color, reminiscent of tropical waters. The room itself was empty, save for a small night stand  in one corner of the room with a dock and an iPod, and a small end table in the room's center. Selecting a track from the iPod, he waited for the combination of drums and native flute to fill the room before he took a book of matches from the nightstand and then, turning, he approached the table, where he picked up an abalone shell and a smudging wand. 
Lighting the wand so that it just smoldered, he faced the sunrise peering in through the window and, holding the wand out in front of him, he gave thanks for the new day and repeated the ritual three more times, turning a quarter turn to the right each time. Returning to East, he held the wand up above his head, then lowered it below his waist, and finally brought it to his heart. Laying the still smoldering wand in the shell, he took a pinch of tobacco from a small bowl on the table and sprinkled it directly on the lit end of the wand as an offering of gratitude, then surrendering to the drums and the flute, he sat down in front of the table, took several deep breaths, closed his eyes and his mind to the outside world, and entered his own.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I'm approaching two anniversaries of sorts.

In August 2010, my partner of fifteen years and legally married husband of one year ten months asked me for a divorce. I was shocked by his announcement and deeply hurt and enraged as to the manner in which he asked; via email from the living room to the dining room. Yet, I know I will be better off in the long run and have already made great strides in knowing the path I am taking now is the right one.

In May 2011, I began chatting online with a man who would turn my world upside down. Over the course of the summer of 2011, I fell deeply in love with him. But, due to circumstances I am still unsure of, things did not work out between us and as of Thanksgiving 2011, we have not been in contact. For whatever pain and hurt I may have caused him, I am truly sorry.

I have learned a lot about myself because of him and I will always be very grateful to him and to the Universe for leading him to me for those lessons. I have chronicled my journey past him, and my ex, in previous posts.

This past year has been difficult for me as there was so much in the Man I Met that appealed to me; he was nurturing, gentle, supportive, intelligent and very good looking. He has been constantly in my thoughts, and I began asking myself if I was clinging to a false hope. Would he ever change his mind? But he said that anything beyond a friendship would never be realized, and therefore I felt we needed to go our separate ways in order for me to heal and move forward. But, was I allowing myself to?

I began having those post-break up thoughts (even though we never were more than friends, and because I was in love with him, I had to think of it as a break-up); what if I see him again? what if I run into him? how will I feel?

Recently, I had that opportunity. The partner of a colleague and friend annually rides in the AIDS Lifecycle, a fundraising bicycle ride over 7 days and 500 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. My friend goes along to support his partner and dresses in outlandish costumes, standing by the side of the road encouraging the other riders.  He also produces a film about his experiences on each ride. He entered his latest film, AIDS LIFECYCLE 10 - The Long Road (The Ride According To Viagra Man), in a local film festival and created a Facebook event page for it. As my friend and the Man I Met were both Facebook friends of mine at one point and later befriended each other, I assumed the Man I Met saw the invitation to the Film Festival and might be there as he rode AIDS Lifecycle 10 that year. I decided to attend for three reasons; to get out of the house, to support my friend's film and to gauge my reaction should I encounter the Man I Met. (I had blocked the Man I Met as it became too painful to see him in my Facebook feed.)

Captain Condom, "Safety First!"
I purchased my ticket two weeks in advance, and began to wonder how I might react. I played out various scenes in my head. Would I turn and leave? Would I stand there stoically? Would I break down and cry? Could I hug him hello/goodbye? Did I still love him?

The week prior to this, I had gone to a bar in East Hollywood and had a mild anxiety attack over it and actually considered not going. (See my post "A Neon Penis," 4/30/2012 for details.) Ironically, this time there was no anxiety and I never seriously considered NOT going. I knew I had to. I had to know where I was, what I felt.

Okay, I lied, sort of. There was some anxiety, but not enough to deter me. But, I still kept thinking of how I might react. I surprised myself with how determined I was to go and possibly see him.

Viagra Man, "Keep it up!"
It did seem very strange seeing this film knowing the Man I Met might appear on screen, if only for a flash. The other very eerie part of this is I actually met the Man on the last day of the ride. Seeing the riders arrive at the Veteran's Building in West Los Angeles knowing I would be there a few hours later and that my life would be changing was very surreal. The Man I Met ended up stranded in West Los Angeles with no way home. He posted this on Facebook and after a series of texts, I ended up driving him home and he took me to dinner out of gratitude for rescuing him. It was a beautiful evening, I felt, and left knowing I wanted to see him again, most importantly, first as a friend and then, maybe.... It was the best 'not a real blind date' I've ever had. We saw each other a few more times over the summer, but mostly texted and chatted and exchanged pictures of a non-sexual nature; sunsets, flowers, etc. (See my post, "I Met a Man," 9/25/2011, for the story.)

But, he didn't come see the film. So, I don't know how I might react when/if I see him again. Was I sad? I'm not sure, maybe a little, but I do know, I am strong enough not to let him deter me from going out. And should I ever encounter him, it may be awkward, but I do know I will get through it.

Most importantly, I do know I will move on. In time.

For more information on the AIDS Lifecycle please click on this link.

The movie is a wonderfully touching testimony not only to the ride itself, but also to the people who come together for this inspiring event. It follows the ride, from the beginning in San Francisco with the arrival of the riders themselves and the roadies who support them and keep the ride itself moving, to the final day when the riders arrive in Los Angeles, seven days later. We see the crazy fun filled moments, meant to keep everyone's spirits up, and the poignant, touching moments reminding us why we need the ride in the first place.  We meet several of the riders, from some veterans of more than one ride, to the 'ride virgins' on their maiden trek. Most of all, we see this movie as a labor of love, as a tribute to a successful fundraising event trying to find a cure for HIV/AIDS and to support those who have it.

For more information on AIDS Lifecycle 10 - The Long Road (The Ride According to Viagra Man) click on this link.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Amendment One

     The passing of Amendment one in North Carolina is indeed a tragic and sad setback for the Marriage Equality movement. I can sympathize with my LGBT brothers and sisters in North Carolina for this loss. I live in California and remember the entire Proposition 8 campaign and it's passing, subsequent court cases. I am very saddened that bigotry and hatred have again raised their ugly heads, but I remain very hopeful for the future.
     In 2009, I answered a call for submissions to a book about teaching in today's diverse classrooms. Below is the essay which was published in the book, One Size Does Not Fit All, Diversity in the Classroom; Randy Howe, editor.

The Election of 2008

I knew the class would be special, but I would not know exactly how special it would be until November of that year.  I walked into that class with high expectations: high expectations for student learning and high expectations for fun; fun in their learning as well as in my teaching.  I had agreed to teach the class, a 4th/5th grade split of all gifted students and had prepared for it over the summer. In the era of No Child Left Behind, these students were indeed being left behind. They were being left behind in meeting their special needs; their need to excel, their need to be challenged, and their need to challenge.  So, I had planned my lessons around differentiating for the specific and distinct needs to push these students further in their academics.
After 26 years of teaching in the same school, about 10 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood, I needed something different. I was burning out. In all those years of teaching I had had gifted students in my classes before, but never more than ten, now I had twenty-six. Twenty-six for the whole day, twenty-six split between two curricula!  The idea was daunting, but stimulating. I had a new direction for my teaching.  Four years prior I had taken on the role of Gifted and Talented Education Coordinator in addition to my duties as a classroom teacher, and I had worked with many of the students in an after school enrichment program the year before when they were 3rd and 4th grade students. So I knew many of them before the school year officially began.
            The class was composed of eight 4th graders and eighteen 5th graders; ten girls and sixteen boys; one African-American female, one Filipino male and twenty-four Hispanic students. I was the only Anglo in the room.  The class was quite homogenous as an entity in itself, yet quite diverse from the classes across the hall, from across the school, from across the country.
The first months of the year were living up to my expectations. Teaching the split was difficult, but we were managing. The fourth graders were independent and resourceful enough to guide each other when I had to focus on the fifth graders, and vice versa.   We were given a scripted Language Arts program which suggests a 5 day pacing plan per reading selection along with the accompanying lessons.  We were breezing through in three.  I added Literature Circles on top of the regular curriculum. The kids rose to the occasion. The class, as a whole, had a wonderful personality. They actually laughed at, and understood, my humor! Some could even respectfully dish it back. We had an excellent rapport. And they were takers. They took everything I had to teach, and ran with it, thirsting for more. 
            But they also gave back. September is Hispanic Heritage Month and it offered me my first glimpse of the deeper work by these capable students.  I supplied them with a list of Hispanic leaders, past and present, included a few historical events, and let them choose what to work on and how to present their work. Gifted students like the option of choice; choice of topic, choice of product.  I was not displeased with the results; a beautiful poster board display of Frida Kahlo’s life and work; a timeline of Cesar Chavez and the struggles and successes he had in his work for the farm workers were two of the projects that stood out.  I saw for the first time, what the effect of good differentiation could be. I received some of their best work in those products.  I was fully prepared for a great academic year, but was not prepared for what was to come.
            November 2008 was a historic election. Not only would the nation elect our first minority president or vice-president, in California we would also be voting on Proposition 8, which would determine whether same-sex couples could legally marry in the state, even though an estimated 18,000 couples already had. My partner of 13 years and I were one of them and were concerned for the fate of our union.
            In the week leading to Election Day, I had taught them about the two-party system and the candidate selection process for both the national and state offices.  We had discussed the historical importance surrounding the election, the first African-American presidential candidate of a major party and the first Republican Ticket with a female Vice-Presidential candidate.  However, to avoid being accused of furthering the “homosexual agenda” I stayed away from Proposition 8.
            Election Day dawned, a beautiful, crisp (for Los Angeles) fall morning. There was an excitement in the air; not only for the students, but the adults sensed that change and hope were on the horizon. I collected the class on the yard, and we walked upstairs into our room. I could hear the Obama-chatter in the line. I thought I heard a couple of whispers surrounding Prop 8.  As we walked to our desks, Marlene, a fifth grader, glanced out the window and exclaimed, “They tagged the house across the street!”
As several other students ran over, I peered through the window and saw “Yes on Obama” and “No on 8” spray painted on their front retaining wall.  The pro-Obama graffiti drew praise, but the Proposition 8 message drew a mixed response. Instead of vandals, I suggested the owners may have done it themselves as no other house had been so tagged. It made sense to the kids. And I wanted to get to the lessons of the day, which included a mock election.
But before we could get on with the work, Juana, a fifth grader never afraid of sharing her opinion, blurted out that it was wrong.
“What was wrong?” I asked, thinking she was still focused on the tagging.
“Not letting two people get married.”
“You should be able to marry who you want,” piped up Rose.
“That’s just sick,” commented one of the boys. “Two people of the same sex together.”
“God says they’re going to hell,” preached Jeremy.
“Don’t give me that!” Juana shot back.
I stood there, amazed at what I was hearing.  I don’t remember being that politically aware in fifth grade, let alone discussing something like gay rights. But back then, we didn’t have something like Prop 8 on the ballot. (Several years later, in 1978, we would have Proposition 6, known as, the Briggs’ Initiative, which would prohibit homosexuals and their supporters from teaching.)
I finally settled the class down and into our mock election, which Obama won 25-1.  The one lone student, a fourth grader, later said he had no idea who was who and just wrote down a name. I seized a teachable moment and pointed out the importance of studying the candidates and issues to know which way to vote. 
Wednesday morning, with the results of the election all over the morning news, I collected the class, they were screaming, “Obama won!” but most were deflated that Proposition 8 passed. I tried to explain that the decision was still too close to call, and we would check in throughout the day. They became sensitive to the dilemma of those couples married before the law was changed.  Juana was even distraught that all those couples might have to get divorced! Rose countermanded that making the couples divorce was unfair as they were married in good faith under the law at the time.  (These are 10 and 11 year olds!!)  I stood, amazed at their insight. The discussion continued in the same vein for nearly a half hour! I could not silence them. Many gifted students have an innate sense of justice.  This election had set them off and they needed to vent. I had no choice, I let them.  Most students were in support of marriage equality, only a few were against it, and a smaller few, including all the fourth graders, were silent. As the day progressed, and I informed my students of the status, they became more and more depressed over the potential outcome.  Orlando, the class jock, ventured his opinion, “I think the ‘No on 8’ people should try again!”  Others echoed his opinion.
Overwhelmed by their sensitivity and inspired by their optimism, as well as Orlando’s suggestion, I did some research on California’s Proposition 22 which voters passed in March of 2000, which also limited marriage to one man and one woman. I brought in the data comparing the results for both propositions: Prop. 22 (March 2000) 61.4% to 38.6% vs. Prop. 8 (Nov. 2008) 52.24% to 47.76%.  I also shared with them that in March 2000 only 37% of the eligible voters actually turned out to vote while in November 2008, 59% of eligible voters actually voted. I asked for their observations. The students were quick to see the difference. The trend was turning. Some students did question the effects of a March or November election in the outcome. We reviewed the differences between the Primary and General Elections, as well as a Presidential Election. They were looking at all the variables.  The students devised a strategy: wait for a general election in a presidential year to get more voters. But do try again.
Barely one week later, we began our Statistics and Graphing unit. Determined to have the students produce something more differentiated, I taught them the difference between an opinion poll and the ever familiar “What is your favorite fill-in-the-blank? poll usually taught in the earlier grades. They were to choose a partner and then select a topic. There were no limits on topic, except that it had to be something on which their respondents could share an opinion. They were to submit their choice of a topic by the end of the hour.  Four of the teams had questions relating back to Proposition 8! They weren’t letting it go! Two teams chose Do you agree with Proposition 8?, one team had a variant, Was Proposition 8 fair?, and perhaps the most interesting- Should the people against Proposition 8 try again? from Orlando and his partner, Gilbert, another jock.
By now I was concerned I would be accused of teaching “the homosexual agenda.”  I asked the class for their attention.  I asked them who assigned their topic. They looked at me strangely.
“Did I assign you your poll topic?”
“No,” many of them answered.
“So, I am not teaching you about same-sex marriage.  Right?”
The understanding laughs and giggles told me I had nothing to worry about.
The summer before this class began I had prepared myself by reviewing differentiation theories and practices. I had planned interesting and different lessons and projects allowing them the choice of topic and product. I had acquired a variety of enrichment activities for those who finished early, thereby avoiding too much down time.  I had organized my plan book so that at times I would be giving direct instruction to one grade level, while the other worked independently.  I had prepared myself to let go of being the “sage on the stage,” knowing there would be questions I might not be able to answer and to let that be okay, that we would discover the answer together. I had prepared for their academic success. What I had not planned on was a level of sophistication, compassion and understanding usually associated with young adults. 
In 26 years of teaching, I also learned some of the best lessons were not in your plan book. They come upon you from out of nowhere, from the moment. And some of the best lessons come from the students themselves and are meant for the teacher.
As the debate over same-sex marriage continues, this discussion in my classroom has led me to feel the future of my marriage and others, (and the future in general)  is in very good hands.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday, 5/06/2012

Here are six more sentences from my sometime forthcoming novel, Inn of the Four Winds.

Once he finished his morning ritual, Mark stood up, checked the shell to make sure the smudging wand was out, turned off the iPod, and went back down the hall. He entered the master bedroom, tiptoed over to Alex’ side of the bed, and leaned over to kiss his forehead. In a flash, two strong arms reached up, and pulled him down to the bed, mouth meeting mouth in a passionate kiss typical for newlyweds, not necessarily a couple on their way to their third anniversary.
“I’ll see you tonight,” said Alex, his voice still croaky from just waking up.
“I can’t wait,” replied Mark. “You still won’t tell me what you’ve planned?”
“Nope, it’s a surprise,” he said, cupping his strong hand around Mark's crotch.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Thinker

It has been suggested I overthink. My counselor, my meditation group, my friends, and even comments left here on my blog have all said I overthink. And I do. I admit it. I know I do. It seems I can't help myself. And it has gotten me in trouble many times.

So, I began to think about why I overthink. I took a long hard look at myself and this is what I came up with.

My birthday is in early February, which makes me an Aquarian. Aquarius is an Air sign even though we are the Water Bearer. Air sign people are very 'in our heads' and seldom 'in our hearts.' Aquarians are full of ideals, maybe even too idealistic. We like originality and understanding which may explain why I have to understand why people act the way they do. And why the 'dating dance' drives me absolutely insane. Another important part of the astrological chart is the ascendant, or rising sign. This is the sign on the horizon at the moment of birth. Libra, the Balance, is my ascendant, yet another Air sign. (Gemini is the other.) Libra's Air qualities are more like the calm and peaceful air that we breathe, seeking out how to bring tranquility and harmony to the world, not the dynamic jet stream of the Aquarian, seeking to change the world. That double Air combination makes me really stuck in my head sometimes. (If my moon were in Gemini, I'd be a freaking mental hurricane!) 

I have written about my Christian roots before and that I have moved on to a more spiritual plane that makes sense for me. I had a vision once where a bear and a ferret appeared to me in a very peaceful meadow. I don't believe it was a dream as I was not asleep, but in a meditative state. I consulted a Native American elder who felt the Old Medicine was speaking to me, telling me that Bear and Ferret were my two of my Spirit Guides and had lessons for me to learn. Bears hibernate in the winter, knowing instinctively when to find shelter and when to reawaken to the new world in the rebirth of spring. Therefore, Bear People are often introspective, finding our own hibernation in ourselves, reawakening in our own rebirth, having contemplated our own thoughts and emotions. Ferret signifies a quick mind, ever alert to the surrounding world. Ferrets themselves are very cunning escape artists, because they don't like being caged up. They like their independence, a strong Aquarian trait as well. They are also known to steal items they feel they may need in the future, reminding me to take what I need from life to learn from those experiences.

Similar to Western astrology, there is a Native American/First Nation philosophy of looking at people and their general behaviors according to their birth date. Following this philosophy, I was born during the Rest and Cleansing Moon, which also corresponds to element of Air in this system, and in particular the North Wind. North, on the Medicine Wheel, represents Winter, a time of deep sleep but when new growth is taking place out of sight. It is also represented by the color white, representing the white hair of the elders and their wisdom.  I am also connected to the Butterfly Clan which represents transformation, because the butterfly transforms from the caterpillar to the butterfly. As the Air is always changing and shifting, so is the butterfly. As the butterfly flits from one flower to another collecting nectar and pollen, the Butterfly Person flits from one person to another often collecting and exchanging ideas, a sign of a very (over)active mind.

I was born on the tail end of the year of the Rooster in Chinese Astrology. We are also deep-thinkers and can be very analytical and shrewd. Rooster people are very observant in what goes on around us, and we usually don't let things get by us.

So, all this overthinking is just part of my charm, the nature of the beast. No matter how I look at it, I was born this way.

What do I do now? I learn to channel it. I learn to control it. It won't be easy, but it's my lesson. As the Butterfly must learn to stop flitting and just enjoy some nectar, I must learn to stop thinking (at times) and just be.

And when the next man I meet sends me a picture of a beautiful sunset, that's all it will be; a picture of a beautiful sunset he wanted to share.

Not some touching romantic gesture.

Unless he tells me differently.