Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloweeeeeeeeeeeen Returns

Why did the bacteria cross the playground?

To get to the other slide.

I haven't been into Halloween for years. But when you're teaching 1st Grade, it's like a national holiday. It's almost as big (for some it's bigger) than Christmas or even summer vacation. It's the dressing up, it's the pretending to be someone/thing else. All kids, and some adults, like to dress up. Doing it in public: Even Better!

Last year, our class was studying Caterpillars & Butterflies. Miss P and I talked about it for a long time and finally came up with: Me, Caterpillar and Miss P, Lepidopterist. It was a real kick and the kids are still talking about it. So, this year, we're studying 'health' in a pretty huge-umbrella sort of way. Specifically, we've been studying bacteria and germs and this past week we grew a whole bunch of bacteria in a petri dish. If goobery things made me queasy before, this experiment made me never want to touch the pencil sharpener again.

So, after much talk and 'yes' to this idea and then 'maybe' and then 'no' to that idea... we finally came up with a solution: Me, germ on a microscope slide and Miss P, a microscope. Genius. Or, so we think so far... it'll be interesting to see how it all fares out on the big day.

First, I drew it out:
My intention was to be a big, huge, round, green germ, a cocci to be precise. But, when I showed it to Miss P, she reminded me if I wanted the little hairs (pili: cilia that enable pathogenic bacteria to attach to the body and cause disease) and a rudder/tail (flagellum: a structure used for locomotion), I couldn't be a cocci. I had no intention of trying to figure out how to be a spirilla (a twisting costume?! come on!), so I went with bascilli. That way I could sew little hairs on AND have some long yarn coming down the back of me.
I got myself some used green clothing and started cutting yarn and cutting holes, tying the little hairs in place. The flagellum leaves a bit to be desired...but, since I'll have a long "glass" microscope slide attached to my back, it's all I could do.
With a little bit of here and there, some cardboard, tinfoil and saran wrap a microscope slide was built!
Tomorrow I'll figure out how to actually attach it to me for the Halloween Parade around school grounds. For now, I'm just happy I've got a wacky costume all lined up.

A great bumper sticker:

"Support bacteria; it is the only culture we have left."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I usually let the pollyanna "elated" feeling drive me these days. I feel like i've come a long way in how I react to "upheaval". Think: super silver lining. I owe RK a huge shout out for helping me to find this headspace. I've worked at it by myself for a long time, but him having my back, over and over, really friggin helps.
I've also resorted to tattooing these things onto my body.

The first one was a mantra my mom and dad had been urging on me for years & RK reiterates:

Seeing it in black ink, engraved, on my arm seriously helps.

But, apparently it wasn't enough. On my return from NYC this summer, I walked straight over to the tatoo artist and asked for another.
This past summer in NY, I finally realized that I'd wasted a lot of time wishing for something other than what was right in front of me. It's made my days a lot brighter, the moments a lot stronger.
I think I'm finally getting it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thought Problem
How strange would it be if you met yourself on the street?
How strange if you liked yourself,
took yourself in your arms, married your own self,
propagated by techniques known only to you,
and then populated the world? Replicas of you are everywhere.
Some are Arabs. Some are Jews. Some live in yurts. It is
an abomination, but better that your
sweet and scrupulously neat self
emerges at many points on the earth to watch the horned moon rise
than all those dolts out there,
turning into pillars of salt wherever we look.
If we have to have people, let them be you,
spritzing your geraniums, driving yourself to the haberdashery,
killing your supper with a blowgun.
Yes, only in the forest do you feel at peace,
up in the branches and down in the terrific gorges,
but you've seen through everything else.
You've fled in terror across the frozen lake,
you've found yourself in the sand, the palace,
the prison, the dockside states;
and long ago, on this same planet, you came home
to an empty house, poured a Scotch-and-soda,
and sat in a recliner in the unlit rumpus room,
puzzled at what became of you.

I purposely don't watch the news. I don't have a TV and I don't tune into the radio, other than an infrequent moment in someone's car and NPR is on. I find the news utterly depressing and local news is the absolute worse. But it's hard to block out things that your fellow workers or friends decided they have to share with you: The story about the three teenage boys who were ticked off at another boy who owed them $40... they doused him with alcohol and set him on fire. The girl that's been kidnapped in Oakland, or the elderly woman who's been shot by accident while walking down the street.

And then, it comes in even closer, though admittedly less severe, to my world, at work: The two little girls who fancy themselves and repeatedly tell another little girl that she's not as good as them. The boy who threatens under his breath to another boy that he'll never be his friend and wishes he would disappear forever.

It breaks my heart, it makes my head heavy and my eyes fill with tears. I wonder why we can't all be good to each other. I wonder why it brings pleasure to one to hurt another. I live in agony over the way we are ruining each other, day after day, with our thoughtless, cruel and downright deadly behaviors towards one another. I don't know what to do about it. Whenever I hear another horrible story, I feel stuck, I question the point of all this and then, I usually cry. Which doesn't help anything, actually. This society we live in, this place that keeps growing huge horns and horrible warts, I don't think can sustain for long in it's never-ending search for fame, money and getting to "the top". How do these people even know where "the top" is?! And don't they see all the people they're walking over to get there?

I know, in my near future, I will find a way to give back that hopefully will settle my heart-hurt just a little bit. Do something in my little corner of the world, that I hope resonates beyond this...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Choices We Make

Whenever a new year of my students meet RK for the first time, they always kinda gasp,
You're married to him?!
i explain, remember when you asked me if i had a 'husband' and i said yes? remember?

This time when he walked in for the first time, Miss P. introduced him as Mr. Molly

It's just that they're seeing it, for real, for the first time. Kids believe what you tell them and then they forget all about it. Not always, and not all stuff, but stuff like your married teacher who just seems like an entity unto herself, trust me, that's forgettable.

It always reminds me of the story my mom told me from when she was a Kindergarten teacher. It was lunch time and mom decided to stay in the classroom and eat her sandwich in peace. One of the kids ran into the classroom to grab a jacket and looked at the teacher with wide eyes,

"You eat, Miss Carey?!"

So, when RK, the real thing you'd only sorta wondered about for a minute or less, the husband, came into our 1st grade room the other day, all heads were turned and there were lots of questions.

Right after the Q & A session, I turned to leave and heard a little taunting session start to burbling up from E. It cracked me up the way he sing-sang,

"you have a crush on him, you have a crush on him"

and pointed at RK. I turned around, and all the other kids thought ooooooohhhh, E. is gonna get it for teasing! (which is a fairly mortal sin at our school) and I said, in my most giddy voice,

"You are so right, E. I really, really do!"

and I put my hand over my heart and swooned to great effect. The rest of the kids lost it and I peeked out at E.'s response and, I swear, he had a fake scowl on his face, his arms crossed over his chest, you could almost hear the 'harrummphh!' in his throat, but with a tiny smile at the edge of his lips.

When we got out to the hallway, the level of modeling that had just gone on struck me pretty hard.

A little later, when RK was setting up the projector for me, M. looked at him but asked me,

"what does he do?"

which prompted me to ask the three girls that were left in the room what they think they'll do when they grow up.
G. answered,

"ah artist

and when D. started in on her answer of,

"ah scientist that... "

G. interrupted her and added,

"but not just any artist. Ah sculptor."

Oh, okay,
D. started up again,

"ah scientist that mixes together acid and (something else weird) and sees what happens

Then I turned to M. who said, in a very calm voice,

"I want to be ah scientist....ah artist... and, I was gonna say spy, but that's boring."

?!" I asked, shocked, "What's boring about being a spy? That's super exciting...I would think you'd love that, M!"

"Nah, she says, then you can't tell anyone what you do."

What a good point.

One of the best moments of that day was having RK stand near me while I wrote on the board and talked to the kids and did what I do as a teacher. Someone outside the teacher world saw it, and it became real.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

OPS was OTH...

or, that's what I'd write if i was very good text-er, or twittered, or felt remotely part of the being-out-there world that exists, but jeeze-louise, Open Studios was off the hook! Crazy busy, good, fun, overwhelming (bring me a thesaurus!).

So blown away was I that, when the first night was over, I got home, sat down on the edge of the tub, put my head in my hands, and cried.

The most common question asked of me: where do you get all this stuff?

Sometimes, it felt (in a good way) like being asked a fairly personal question.
'Cuz the truth is, 'where do you get all this stuff?' is such a general, innocuous question. I prefer to think they're asking, 'who the hell are you?!' but in a really polite, culturally-popular way. Sometimes I answer, 'everywhere you can think of' and, sometimes, I can see it in their eyes, they want more and I answer, 'ha! gads! you wanna see something amazing i just found?!' and I pull out the latest great-find. And, if I think they're really, really into it, well, we usually both end up talking about our good finds over the years.

I started to think about all the people, all the strange, interesting, wacky, wonderful, full-of-it and super humble, curious and cute people, that I've met through Open Studios. And that thought blossomed into how many people I meet or interact with in any given week.... but then I stuck with just this past weekend of Open Studios, and realized that generates a pretty big swath in itself. I had so many conversations with so many people, I talked myself hoarse.

I talked to one woman about 1,000 different things we'd made with all the crazy things we'd found on the street; another guy about how much he loved his typewriter, the way I love mine; I finally met an artist who did the Residency at the dump (something I aspire to in a huge way) and he told me all about the heaven that I've always imagined it to be; I met a couple who had seen my work in my old studio and knew they'd found me when they saw my new work on the walls--"I can see you in your work, I knew we'd found you..."; had a fun back and forth with a guy who I gave cards to and he brought me two old, used books the next day; I had one woman come back for the second time that first night and sit me down, asking me all these "deeply personal" questions she had after looking at my work and my studio (i told her there's not many things that are that personal to me). That was interesting & challenging, in a very important way, to say the least. With that woman, and another wanting to take photos of me alongside the wall of work, it felt like one big, ridiculous, personal validation.

Sure I started off the weekend in tears, but I ended it ready to do it all over again!
Strange maybe, but these are the only pictures I took for the entire three, long, people-filled days.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Open Studios

oh little house in the clouds, how i miss you. not a day goes by without me wishing i could just put down all the stories that are filtering through my day, through my brain... but, in the meantime, i must do this big open studios this weekend and have work filling the walls and brimming with goodness.

if you're in town, stop by for a drink on friday night, or a coffee on saturday morning...
i'm at 2345 harrison street, studio 227 (thats right, just like jackee)

Monday, October 5, 2009


Every once in awhile, you end up doing something you hadn't planned on at all. Not something like going to a party where you don't know anyone, or falling off your bike at a stop sign...but something that sorta comes out of the blue, dangles over your head and at the last minute, you decide to reach up and grab it. This is my studio move. I'd been at my previous studio for about three years. Back then, it was a huge decision to even get a studio and when I did... I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Turns out, once I got a full-time teaching gig, I spent less and less time in the studio and more and more time dreaming about it again. I ended up getting a studio mate, who was one of the first artists I'd truly admired when I moved to SF, and it made the studio a bit more reasonable. But, eventually, it was clear I was never there, he was always there, and it started to seem like it was time for me to pack up my things and give up the ghost. Maybe I wasn't cut out for a studio. But I hung on in the hope.

So, this summer, when a friend called and said a single, tiny studio had become available in her building, I had a think about it, let it dangle overhead and then I leaped. It's tiny, tiny but I thought about how I work and I work tiny, tiny. Even when I had the big, huge studio, I still gathered all my things around me and worked in a one foot circled space. I would make this work. Besides being tiny, there were a few other barriers that I had to overcome to make this a workable space for my overly-aesthetic obsessiveness.
There was a white board in the room that I knew I couldn't live with and would be one of the first things that had to go.
There's a low hanging fluorescent light that I'll never use (i can't stand overhead lighting!) and a huge square fan that was going to prove to be a problem. And then, this big, blue wall. UGH! I knew this little 10x10 space was in for a huge makeover before I could even move in my huge amount of stuff!

On the bright side, the space had super tall ceilings that seemed to go on forever, nice wood floors, a big window that let natural light stream in, my own little door to close behind me and potential, lots and lots of potential. If I couldn't make a 10x10 space work, well, I would insult the very New Yorker in me!

So, I packed up my old studio, which was sad, but liberating:

and moved it all over to the new studio
and i'm finally ALL MOVED IN! just in time...