Red Triangle

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Because there is never great sadness in life without absurd silliness, I give this little vignette from my week.

After dropping La Chatte off at the vet's on that morning, I was scheduled for my "wax". Ahem. and eyebrow maintenance. That is actually how it is printed on the appointment slip.

9:30 a.m. Brazilian Wax
10:00 a.m. Eyebrows

The day before, the spa had called to say my regular esthetician was unavailable. Could they offer me an appointment with someone else?

Sure. Why not. There was no way I was missing an appointment again after my little episode this past winter where I'd missed nearly two months and the wax following that hiatus was how-shall-we-say? Bracing. If they started using Brazilian waxing as an interrogation method, we might get a lot more information.

So I show up for my appointment and am met by a small, round, grandmotherly looking woman. She is, it turns out, Russian.

And she does not care about my modesty. Nope. Not at all. Tells me to take off my undies - no attempt to give me a paper thong. She's here to do a job dammit and fiddling around with side to side thong moving only gets in her way.

Instead of being put off, I am comforted by this can-do attitude. I like a woman who has a job to do and is focused on it.

I zone out while she does her thing - and she does a good job. If one can consider themselves an "old hand" at the pubic waxing, I feel entitled. Very thorough.

But here is the moment when I crossed into new territory. We finish. She does the last "post lotion" application and asked me to take a look to make sure I am pleased.
This is, I thought, a type of polite moment - just like when the hair stylist is trying to show me the back side of my hair and I can't really see - but I am going to make noises like I am excited or pleased. You know. Social niceties.

What I didn't expect was the mirror in a place where I said "No thank you" to a mirror when I was pushing Emily out on the day of her birth.

Why hello, Labia. Long time, no see. You look.....Good? Nice? Hair free?

"Oh!", I say. "Looks Great" - as the mirror hangs over my nether region.

She moves the mirror so I can get a new angle. Dear Christ.

"You did a Great Job!", I say with as much enthusiasm I can muster.

I sit up, smiling and nodding and begin to get myself reassembled. She smiles and nods and begins to tidy up.

Perastroyka, bitches.

Au revoir, La Chatte

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When she spotted us, in July of 2006, she knew an easy mark. Since her last owner had abandoned her, she'd been savvy enough to hang out in the same middle class neighborhood. Someone would feed her, she was sure.

Watching us move in, she played it cool. She would watch us from under the tree, a gray smudge in a shadow. She was friendly, but not overly so. She did not approach us to be caressed, nor did she meow to gain our attention. She simply stayed. And Watched. And Waited.

She made her initial move about a week later. We were at the back door and we were in her former home. She walked up and looked at the door. Looked at us. Looked at the door. I opened it and she walked in. Emily picked her up like a sack of potatos and she waited. Didn't fight. Didn't scratch. Didn't Meow. Just waited to be put down, then took off to find a good hiding place under a bed.

She resisted a name. We tried out lots of names. None of them ever fit. She became simply La Chatte over time as our ability to figure out her personality increased. It suited her. La Chatte. The Cat. Our Cat? I think not. She lived with us, but was not a lovey dovey lap cat. She would tolerate some rubbing, some under the chin scratching, but too much and she would stalk away, looking for a quieter room.

The shaves, oh God how she hated the winter shaves....but winter time in Montreal is hard on a cat and a long haired cat who mats makes it doubly hard. Her fur, when wet, would dread up into clumps and spread like wildfire in her fur. This would leave her doubly irritable - hating to be touched where the mats were tied to her skin.

The indignity of the shaves was only second to the appearance of the rabbit. A Rabbit. In the House. In the Bed where she slept. A Lapin meal was booting her out of her rightful place as ruler of the Human Bed. What was a cat to do? Ignore it. Maybe lick the rabbit occasionally when she was sure no human was watching.

The man was her favorite. She was crazy about him. She slept on top of him when she could get away with it, and on his feet when he got wiggly. The woman - meh, shes Ok and cleans the winter litterbox and the child should be avoided at all costs...but the Man. That one was her beloved. Her chosen. They regarded each other from opposite ends of the couch.

Just as Spring comes to Montreal, just as the days grow longer and warm enough to be outside to watch the birds and bask in the sun....She gets sick. Suddenly. On a rainy Sunday, her people watch her...thinking that she is awfully quiet..but it IS rainy and she is a mysterious cat. By Monday, the man says something to the woman. There is something wrong, he says. The woman finds vomit next to the rabbit maze, and agrees. Something is wrong. To the Vets in the morning, the woman decrees, for she thinks that La Chatte has been eating things that maybe were no good, poisoned things or dead things. Things that show up in the spring when the snow melts.

La Chatte barely moves when the woman picks her up from her sleeping spot at the feet of the man in the morning. She is responsive...but slow and musters an elusive purr as the woman rubs her body over feeling for injuries and assessing her skin. She protests - weakly - as the woman puts her in the carrier. The rabbit, though, knows something. The rabbit begins to thump - over and over again. Staring at the cat.

At the vet, the woman opens the door and gives her rubs as she describes the symptoms. She tries to purr....but doesn't quite make it. Too much energy. She dies before the end of the day.

And breaks our hearts

Mommy's Dirty Little Secret

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Its a more than a little embarrassing to admit this. I've never been too much of a fan girl in many respects. Sure - funky Asian Horror films, or translated Swedish Vampire stories - Who Doesn't like these?

No - This is somehow much worse.

Much ....dirtier.

Emily caught me about a week ago. ( and no - it wasn't the "adult toys" I move those around once a month to keep from ever having her pull one out and asking "WHATS THIS!" again)

"What are ya doin'", she asked.

"Hmm? what? Oh nothing - sit down and I'll brush your hair."

"Why are you watching that show?"

"Well I wasn't really watching it - it was just on."

"You were watching it. I just saw you. Watching it."

"Oh (nervous laugh) well, I don't know. I think that the guy there reminds me of someone I used to go out with."

"What? Which one? Did you go out with him?"

"Oh, no - honey. No. But he Looks an awful lot like the guy I used to date - even down to the little soul patch on his chin."

"Do you think he's cute?"

"Huh? Ummm." Long Pause "Actually - yes. I do. I find myself strangely attracted to him"

And in this way, my daughter outed my crush on Scott from the Imagination Movers.

Tweens, Teens and Social Cognition

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

(Firstly - thanks to Jennifer who made a comment on the Vygotsky post which made me think about this - and flesh out some of the whys and hows, at least the way I think - which, lets face it, is always some sort of magic carpet ride)

So. You've gotten my base view on Vygotsky and why I think the concept of self talk is important. You've also had a bit of the other theories of Lev - Scaffolding, Zone of Proximal Development... Jennifer asked a question about how this theory may expand to fit high school/teens.

Now really, my Partner-in-PhD-Angst Maija should write this part. Youth culture is her forte and I've been her TA/partner for two very good literature classes. So I am blatantly ripping off some of the ideas she and I have talked about as I cobble together this "response".

Would this work in high school? Would we see a decrease of cliques and bullying behavior if kids were kept in stable groupings - with the first priority being the fluidity of their social interactions? Honestly, I don't know. I also don't think you could plop kids who had been schooled in "traditional" ways into 9-12th grade multiage classrooms and expect this could work. The children for whom this would be beneficial would have to be "grown" with the program, insomuch as they would be socialized to perform in a group learning environment. Most schools now are so Individual achievement oriented that the children who are invested in those systems would be thrown for a huge loop of we took them out of that. I am, and not a shocker here, very much in favor of starting the reforms with our youngest children as these children and families are less resistant to change and the school socialization pattern is less deeply imprinted on their learning behaviors.

Last year, Maija started the Young Adult Lit course talking about the metaphor of Teen as Alien. It remains, I think, an apt description. In addition to increase Learning demands (oh my god - get good grades or you'll never get to university...)you've got the whole physical and emotional changes that are kicking in full delta force. They are HYPER aware of themselves socially....but not in an integrated way. By this I mean, we each have an internal image of ourselves. This sharpened into focus as we transitioned into young adulthood - but it isn't a full picture of who we are. By rights, it CAN'T be, as we don't possess the full prefrontal cortex ability to see beyond the immediate. Our Teen Hurts are Whole Body and Mind Hurts. This means that when adults around us discount our pain, our loves , our thoughts as "not real", it can be intensely insulting and dismissive.

The other thing that intrigued me was the discomfort that I saw in some of the YA Lit students (mostly student teachers) when asking them to authentically remember what it was like to be a Teen themselves. For many, that door was locked and there was no way in hell they were opening it up to be vulnerable again. They'd crossed the line into adult hood and defended that beachhead like it was the last safe haven on earth.

And that is the crux of it. Vulnerability. As teens - and later as teachers - we worry about being vulnerable, about showing vulnerability. We assume it is weakness and will be judged as such. Would these worries be the same for kids who had been in the type of "social cognition" first classrooms I imagine?

As the Mom of a "tween", I can attest that this negotiation of roles is a painful thing to watch. I want to protect her...but I know she knows lots of things already. I want to keep her from knowledge of the messiness of life with its sexuality and desire and anger and depression and feelings. I don't want her to know that I - ME, her Mother - am participating in all of those things I don't want her to know about.

So we hide these parts of ourselves to our children at home, or in the classroom, because they make us uneasy. So the circle perpetuates. We are babies. We are Children, not babies. We are Teens and not children. We are Not Teens, we are Adults.

We burn down each bridge we cross so no one else can use it and pretend like we were always here, right now.

It seems like there has to be a better way.

Teacher Thoughts

Monday, April 13, 2009

My brain is full of teacher things.

This is what happens when I am immersed in this reading and research. I revert back to teacher brain, which is not a bad thing - but it means that I am thinking, thinking, thinking - all the time, trying to integrate what I know, what I have seen, what I feel - and all the bits and pieces that don't fit anywhere else. It is why I know that Academia and Research are right for me, this constant whirring in my brain.

Here are random things that have emerged as this flood gate is barely controlled.

I hate lining up. I hate asking children to line up. What an asinine policy. I stopped asking kids to "get in line" about 12 years ago, because really - what was the point? All it did was cause fights between kids as to who was standing where and wasted my time as I waited for people to get into line. As long as we all got to where we were going safely, what the hell difference did it make what formation we took? Every time I see an adult yell at kids to get into a line - or yell at them that they are waiting for a better line, or a quieter line....It makes me want to smack the adult. This isn't how kids respect you - by asking them to do stupid, pointless shit that we all know is stupid and pointless.

Emily had a parent teacher conference last week. She had told Terrance and I that she has remained on her 3's multiplication tables for months because she hasn't gotten 100% three weeks in a row. What? What kind of policy is this?

Terrance is in "charge" of Emily's math homework , and we all know that she knows her multiplication tables. She can write you out her entire thought process and problem solving. She is, however, not FAST at this. She freezes up when she thinks she is under pressure. She sometimes needs manipulatives to help her work through her problem using her tactile senses. It is just who she is.

There we were. Sitting across from the Math teacher. Who was explaining that she wants the kids to be able to simply recite their math facts, so she gives them these timed tests. Which Em sucks at. So I finally asked "What is the pedagogical reason for these tests", to which she finally admitted that there wasn't one. Its just the way that math had been taught before she was there and she adopted the same methods.

Oh My Fucking Head. All this stress, all this worry - for nothing. Who gives a rats ass if my kid needs additional time to finish a test - or needs to write the problem DOWN on paper? This kind of ridiculous repetition of teaching methods that make no sense makes me CRAZY. The idea that we have to prepare kids for some future by inflicting them with pressurized testing is absurd. An educational mentor once said to me "We don't prepare for famine by starving ourselves, Dawn" in countering the argument that we needed to "prepare" our kindergartners for something other than the process oriented curriculum that we fostered at the center.

As we left the meeting and walked to the car, I leaned in and said "It doesn't matter - she's doing fine" to Terrance. He agreed. But really? Do we really need to do this to kids? To parents?

As I once answered a student teacher is a class when he wondered if a little embarrassment might not be good for a child - make them WANT to do better in front of their peers:

"Nobody performs better when they feel unsafe. If we know that children learn best in environments where they can trust the adults, have stable routines and expectations - why would we EVER do anything to a child which would teach them that the adult CAN'T be trusted?

Make your own captions ( and a written answer!)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

As part of the Envisage 365 project, I take LOTS of pictures. I try to take pictures of everything - mundane, funny, interesting, or simply there when I need to take a picture.

5. No - it can never take the place of a parent/child dialog - as this is where we initially gain all of our cultural clues as to How to communicate to another person. Our very survival depends on being competent at communicating with that primary adult. Now, children in child care have to expand or change some of their coping skills in order to be able to communicate with new adults effectively. I don't think this gives an advantage or disadvantage to the child - it simply is what it is and children are really resilient.

Does is differ between girls and boys? Usually - yes. But not in a dramatic cognitive way - by that I mean that it will differ in content the same way that boys and girls solve problems, which does have some socialized gender based tendencies but rests - I think- more in base personality style. Some of this has to do with gender based differences in our brain development, which is another thing that we have no control over or about.

Officially, it isn't a two way dialogue. BUT ( and here is where the basis of my dissertation rests) - I think it IS a way to broadcast information to peers. Both Vygotsky AND Piaget said that it was only cognitive in nature, whereas I posit that it is also social - it HAS to be social. In fact I think it is the way that children assist each other in the difficult and long journey of learning to communicate with a wide variety of people. I think they drop this when they have gained enough skill as communicators and thinkers to be able to do it without this "scaffold" from one another. And Yes, they are documented to do this much, much more when they are with other people - children in particular. When they isolate in lab situations, children don't self talk nearly at all....which is another reason I think that it has an important social function.

Stealing is not cool

Friday, April 03, 2009

A long time ago, when the blog world was young, a girl had an idea for a blog.

The girl decided to sit down one Sunday afternoon and create this blog. She then sent out emails to her blog friends to say "Hey, get a load of this idea...". The blog friends seemed excited and supportive. The girl was pleased, for she enjoyed making others happy with her ideas.

As things like this tend to go, the internet decided that this idea had some kind of merit. That this blog seemed to touch some kind of general truth in the world. The girl was pleased. The girl was flattered. The girl was a bit overwhelmed.

Within four months, the blog had grown exponentially and the notice was growing too. People with important sounding titles called the girl and asked for her content. These people said they were fans of her blog and wanted to put it on a bigger, better known uber blog. The girl, while flattered and a little bit awed, held back. She didn't want to give away her baby and the person with the impressive title wanted her to give it away for free. When it became apparent that the girl and her blog weren't so impressed with the important name of the publication and title as to let someone else absorb her blog, the negotiations stopped and the offer was dropped. The girl saved all these emails detailing how the person was a fan of her blog.

The girl fell into one of her depressions and withdrew into herself. She fell out of touch with the bloggy world in many ways. The Blog(s) she created survived and thrived despite her own condition. She crawled out of her funk long enough to attend a party and meeting of other bloggers like her in the summer of her following year. She woke one morning to find that there was a door hanger on her hotel room. Promoting a Blog with a name very very similar - all but one word similar - to the name of her own blog. She was angry. She was confused and she was hurt.

She got onto the email and wrote a pointed email to the address listed on the door hanger. Within minutes there was a response. It was from the same person from the big name publication who had claimed to be such a fan merely eight months prior. Who further claimed in a print interview to thinking up the idea and name all on her own. Phone calls were made. Angry words exchanged. The girl asserted that her idea had clearly been stolen. The other person disagreed.
The girl hung up on her.

The girl then withdrew into the hotel room for the remainder of the meeting. She was very, very hurt. Old blog friends divided into camps - those who saw the girls point of view that her core idea had been lifted and duplicated and those who did not. The girl withdrew from the blog world even more.

The girl considered legal action. Considered it hard. But she lived in a different country ... and she just didn't have enough money to sustain it. She was back in school full time, after all.

The girl tried hard to keep her playgirl mouth shut. She tried very, very hard.And she did, for a long time. Her blog continued and grew. She continued to receive attention and kudos. She refused any further offers by any entity for any piece of her blog(s) - no matter who. She refused offers to turn her blog into television shows or movie scripts. She protected her blog(s).

She tried hard to forget about the other person and the patently derivative blog. Usually she succeeded. Until an old blog friend, one who had been at that party and seen the situation unfold, an old blog friend who had been unfailing in her support for the girl sent the girl an email announcing the launch of a book by the other person. The friend told the girl "I sent an email saying fuck you and the idea you stole and take me off of your fucking mailing list." Which made the girl smile. Because in any world, day to day or internet, a friend who does that on your behalf is priceless indeed.

And then the girl decided to write this all down as a cautionary tale for the internet. With a reminder that stealing is not cool. No matter how you try to pretend the idea is yours.

The girl still believes that the karma of the internet and larger world will sort this out. Naive perhaps, but the girl has to believe.
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