Category Archives: deep thoughts

Lots of stuff going on….

As usual, June is flying by. Between MisCon and 4th of July, it always seems like I’m flying around getting things wrapped up for the end of the school year and then jumping into summer stuff. It’s no different now that I’m working online instead of in a classroom. OTOH, I’m less tired from working online, so that’s a win.

The late spring meant we’ve been dragging on getting the garden running and getting in the wood. But at last, we got the garden finished off in early June and it is happily growing at our friend S’s place in Clatskanie. This past week in Enterprise, we did get two loads of wood hauled, plus horse show stuff…

But there’s so much to blog about and I keep putting it off because, well, who wants to spam the linkage? I’m thinking now that I need to write some things but just not publish them. The alternative is not blogging at all…and I am discovering that I really don’t like that option, either.

So yeah. Time to start writing blog posts and timing them. I will post one soon talking about the two short pieces I have available on preorder right now. I also want to post about politics, because I’m contemplating a few things. I also want to write and post something about a few things I’ve been considering about writing process that has solidified to some extent by now. And then I also want to blog about the horse.

Meanwhile, I’m putting this one up. Hopefully we’ll see a flurry of posting soon.

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Yes All Women….my experiences, good and bad

Warning: can be triggery for incidents of sexual harassment and angst–no gory details. If such things bother you, best not read. I’ll cut this in LJ.

There’s a reason I have my friendly but assertive/aggressive persona in public settings. It’s called growing up female, blond, and big-busted while being a smart, nerdy girl with a lot of self-confidence issues.

The first incident I recall happened in third grade. I had been transferred from my regular school to a nearby school due to overcrowding, and my parents had thought it would be kinder to put me in a different school where a godmother could watch over me. It wasn’t the best choice, in part because it put me in a place where I had to deal with daily bullying by a boy on my walk home. The bullying escalated to physical attack. He routinely slugged me in the gut. Every afternoon. Every walk home. For a week and a half.

One day, I had my umbrella. The boy in question came after me. He was pleasant at school, well-liked, and I really did want to be friendly with him. He led with an innocuous  comment, then followed up with–yes–a punch in the gut. I reacted with a smack/poke in his gut with my umbrella.

I had no further problems with that boy. I learned.

Fast forward through several years of bullying based on being an outsider in yet another school. I developed early, was set up with boys as part of teasing by other girls, dealt with the routine that happened at my junior high of boys snapping my bra, stepping on the back of my shoes, and otherwise being obnoxious jerks. At the same time, I watched Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and enjoyed Ruth Buzzi’s treatment of Arte Johnson as the Dirty Old Man (hitting him over the head with her purse or her umbrella when his propositions got to be too much). I emulated Ruth Buzzi when I got bugged, and things got better.

I learned.

At the same time, my growing breasts also subjected me to a lot of scary harassment in situations outside of school. This was the late 60s-early 70s, and a young girl like me with big breasts and long blond hair really had problems walking the street alone without enduring catcalls, whistles, and other letching behaviors. I learned to ignore being yelled at, because anything further escalated the behaviors into unsafe areas, and I wasn’t at the point where I felt comfortable flipping groups of men off.

Then the really scary thing happened. My parents and I were out fishing in a big reservoir, something we did on a regular basis. I was wearing a peasant blouse my mother had made for me, one I really loved. But it revealed my cleavage and my breasts. Some drunken fishermen saw us. They started driving their boat around ours, letching, hollering, and leering, tossing out beer cans as they circled us. My father yelled at them. They didn’t stop for the longest time, and their wake threatened to swamp our boat. Other fishermen came by, and they went away.

I learned. I also didn’t wear that blouse very much after that. I don’t like wearing peasant blouses any more.

High school was better. I wore short skirts, practiced falling off of 50s-era platform shoes that I’d inherited from my mother, and hung out with a nerdy crowd.

I went to college. More exposure to catcalls and letching. I dated a Libyan guy for a few months, and became known and respected amongst the Libyan men for a.) respecting their faith while being clear about sticking to my faith and b.) not going to bed with any of them. We teased each other, but it was on the level of joking, and we all knew it. In return, I could hang out with the guys and no one, repeat, NO ONE, bothered me on campus. The guys were in the student union at odd hours when some really scary folks would hang out there, and I could sit with them and be safe.

I moved on from the Libyan group. I went through a sequence of boyfriends who all wanted me to mend their pants. I went on a date with one guy, pleasant person, excellent date–who then went out and tried to commit suicide afterwards. I was told I needed to talk to him as part of his rehabilitation. He told me he did it because he didn’t feel worthy. Now I wonder what happened to him. Meanwhile, I felt awful because I had done something to him–what, I wasn’t sure, but for some reason it was felt to be my fault.

I dated a man who moved away. He was still young and immature, and his father warned me off of him. It was my first time being seen as a predatory female, and I was confused by it. This same guy came up $1.50 short of having the funds to get a bus ticket to come see me. He didn’t call. He didn’t take my calls. I got an apologetic letter a week later, where he said he’d gone to see a movie instead.

I hooked up with a man who seemed pleasant at first. We shared a living situation called a “quad,” where each of us had separate sleeping and living quarters but shared a kitchen and bathroom. We went to bed. Then the red flags started flying. He got possessive. He got angry when he was told no. He showed me explicitly how he could break into my room using a foot-long Bowie knife.

I learned. I didn’t say no again until I had moved out. He stalked me and my family for two-three years after that, frightening my elderly parents (and Dad had been in WWII in the Italian theater). He moved into an apartment complex behind the coed cooperative house I lived in, got drunk at night, and bellowed my name across the alleyway. He came by the house once, and was chased away by the bigger and more aggressive men of that coop (I had to love the drunken redneck resident guy who, when alerted to the danger by another woman, came staggering up from the basement, bellowing and hollering like Thor). None of the men who chased him off were ever involved with me–they were offended by his harassment of me. He only stopped a couple of years later when he showed up on my doorstep and I informed him that my boyfriend at the time and our attorney were in the apartment behind me. My parents moved to a gated community. I lived in mixed households where the men were people I could trust as allies.

I learned.

There was a rapist in my college neighborhood. I had to go out at night, but I tried to call my boyfriend at the time when I’d leave where I was at (much more difficult in the pre-cell phone era). I didn’t let my boyfriend’s interests defer me from going out independently to do different things. He was working, I was going to school. One night a male fitting the MO of that rapist came out from behind a dumpster and moved toward me. I ran as hard as I could as he chased me. Luckily, I was close to my apartment and made it without a problem.

I learned.

Eventually, I married. I had a son. I learned that sometimes the presence of a child and a spouse didn’t defer the harassment, but the combined outrage of my husband and myself would. My son started going to the same sf conventions I did. We developed a code where I’d let him know if I needed backup.

There are other incidents, other times, but that’s a pretty good summary for what I went through and how I managed it. I’m one of the lucky ones. I learned to be aggressive in the face of harassment, mouthy, and developed a good offense. I also learned to partner up, first with men, and then other women, to keep harassers at bay. Additionally, I developed a radar for the difference between jokey flirtation and creepy stalking, and created my own personal line in the sand for when that happens. My line might not work for other people, either one way or another. I just developed what works for me.

My story really isn’t that different from any other woman’s. Talk to anyone my age, and unless they’ve had an extremely sheltered life, my guess is that they’ve had similar experiences.

I just figured that maybe it is my turn to share.

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It was just another morning in early September. The son was getting ready to catch Tri-Met for his zero period freshman English class at Benson Polytechnic High School. My husband was listening to the news on the radio in the kitchen. I was getting ready to start posting eBay auctions for my jewelry (back when I was living the Portlandia cliche of overeducated stay-at-home working mom, making jewelry and writing stuff to make some money).

Then the husband rushed into the living room. “A plane’s hit the World Trade Center.”


“Probably something small. I want to see it.”

For the record, husband works in aerospace selling jet engine castings and other related parts. This definitely affected his work.

We turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit. My first reaction to seeing it on TV was that it was a simulation, it had to be a simulation, it didn’t look real.

The son had to leave for school. Did we let him go or not? We shooed him out to the bus stop. High school, and Benson was pretty dang competitive in those days. He needed to go there.

Husband went to work and I kept watching, realizing that eBay wasn’t gonna be appropriate. What on earth had just happened?

Reports of the Pentagon crash. By then I was afraid for the son. Benson is across I-84 from the Bonneville Power Administration headquarters. I could easily see BPA as a related target–I’d worked for a contractor who had represented them in a securities litigation lawsuit (complicated story there–let’s just say I knew a bit about BPA).

I called a friend in Seattle. She turned on her TV just in time to see the first tower fall. We reacted together, then hung up to go about our day.

I was still active in church, so I went to Daily Mass. A lot of us younger folks were in shock. Many of the older folks remembered Pearl Harbor. They comforted us, steadied us. The old guys joked around about whether they could still fit in their uniforms, but their message was clear–live your lives, be watchful, and pray.

The silence from the airport was stunning. No contrails. The only planes in the air were the National Guard F-15s. Our house rabbit at the time, a rather pugnacious Mini Lop buck, took to following me around, to the degree that when I ran outside to watch a F-15 rocket down the Willamette, executing a lovely three (or was it four?) point barrel roll, he was right at my heels.

The day was heart-breakingly clear, beautiful and blue. I went to my hair appointment next to a flag and banner shop. They’d already sold out of flags.

I hung out on Usenet in rec.arts.sf.fandom, as New York members checked in. I hung out on my e-lists, where New York members checked in and people worried about family members around Ground Zero. As days went on, and planes started flying again, I still had a visceral reaction at spotting a jet coming into PDX, turning at just that angle that I had seen when we first turned on the TV. My online sales tanked, first in reaction to the economic crash that followed, then to the suspicion of mailed items that followed the anthrax attacks a month later. I stopped mailing manuscripts because of the anthrax scares and the resistance at the time to unscreened MSs.

Well, we know how things turned out, for the most part.

But I still occasionally get that twinge when I see an airplane turning at just that angle.

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If I’d written half the posts I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks, there’d be a lot of them.  As it were, I’ll half-write them (usually while falling asleep/waking up) and then the topic and brilliant words flee from the brain once I’d find the time to sit down and write.  Aiiee.

Life has settled, somewhat (still lots of unwanted drama and sadness but not as close in to me–murder of an Internet friend’s spouse amongst other sad things).  I am going to be teaching a social studies class (non-Special Ed) this year which has me excited in various ways and trembling in others.  It will be a steep learning curve, for certain.  But I’m hoping it will be a good process.  I get to teach U.S. History and while it appears that the process is fairly much laid out for me, nonetheless I get to work with one of my passions.

It’s only now that I’m realizing the degree of brainburn I’ve gotten from the past few crazy years at work.  The impact has been hard on my creative brain; at this point the wild summer coupled with a heat spell has made even revision writing hard.  But going to GearCon this weekend had the hoped-for effect of stirring up ideas and concepts.  Recovering in other ways will be a challenge.  The stress of the past two years, especially the past year in particular, has left me with a trashed-out GI system.  The slightest upset in either grease or acidic foods has me yarking at the Great Throne and I’d just as soon avoid that.  Hopefully this year ahead will be uneventful and maybe I can get the GI system back into a state of calm.

I’m also finding it hard to pull myself into a state of high energy.  I don’t know if it’s the late summer doldrums, fatigue finally catching up with me, or just a lack of structure.  I do know that I have a lot to do and some changes to make.  All good ones, but it’s a time of challenge.

And with that, I’ll be about my day.  A good day to all, and may your challenges all be productive.

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Happiness catchup and a pleasant weekend–music festivals

So as my last post suggested, I was looking forward to a pleasant weekend camping in the woods.  This was our last music campout in the woods, a pleasant and small gathering in the valley where I grew up, listening to reggae music.  As always, I find it mildly ironic that this sort of gathering is happening there.

This weekend it was all about friends–old friends and new friends.  We camped near someone we knew from the old political days thirty years ago; while she didn’t clearly remember us (hey, thirty years without contact can be a while) it was still pleasant (we weren’t close).  Plus hey, there was a lot of female and crone energy in our site, which was extremely pleasant.

Normally I try to take some of my stone bead jewelry to this gathering and do low-level barter for fun stuff.  This year, I didn’t do it because…well, lots of crazy life stuff this summer, as my posts made clear.  I didn’t think it was that popular.  Ironically, this year people came looking for it.  Lesson to me–always bring the stones.  Oh well, it is what it is and I will figure it out eventually.

DH and I went out all three nights to watch meteors.  Despite facing southwest instead of northeast (better vision in that direction anyway), we saw lots of meteors, including some spectacular big ones every night.  We provided amusement to folks wandering between their camps and the music because they’d ask what was going on and we’d tell them about the meteors.

I spent a lot of time talking to people about neurodiversity, education, and lots of professional stuff.  Lots of people at this festival in the field in varying ways, so we talked a lot of shop and agonized over how horrible the current state of affairs is for people of all ages at the margins.  I read a couple of very good books, and sketched out some new site additions focusing on neuroscience and neurodiverse teaching options.

Ended up buying a new set of poi (now up to four) and I think I like this new lightweight set of lighted poi.  It has the most programming options available for the lights, though they still switch on without warning (I think they’re going to live in a bag for traveling).  I danced with the new poi and had a lot of fun with them, plus they can be shortened up enough to spin indoors.

But overall, it was just plain nice to hang out in the woods, listen to good music, and enjoy a relaxed, mellow camping vibe.  Unlike all the other big events we’ve done this summer, neither one of us got sick or injured.  No one died just before we left to come to this event.  No big drama of unexpected weather (Um, does that give an indication of just how crazy things have been?  Let’s see.  Red Rocks–weather and nasty irritable bowel flare.  Country Faire–Lori’s death.  Horning’s–DH went into the hospital.  Illinois–my bad fall.  Bam, bam, bam.  Four weeks in a row of craziness).

Nothing like that this go-round.  Just a plain mellow, relaxing time with no drama.  A lovely quiet time of high summer, hot in the sun but comfortable in the trees.

And now home to a massive batch of windfall Gravensteins (they all decided to fall off the tree, half are sunburned so now I need to do sort and salvage).  Then I need to dig garlic.  Two weeks left before I go back to work.  Yikes.  Where did the summer go?

I did not work on the novel or any writing this weekend–it was all about thinking and planning for work and the school year ahead.  But at least I finally feel like I am back on track and ready to go.  Finally.

And a clear sign that I am ready to go back to being productive–the return of the organized to-do lists.  That being said, ’tis time for me to get to it.

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August Happiness Challenge #7

Talking on the phone yesterday to my friend Geri.  I haven’t been able to talk to her for a very long time, and hearing her voice again was marvelous.

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Life and how things change sometimes

I was going to ski today.  But then the DH’s car popped a flat, so I need to stay home and deal with it.  Annoying, because this was the main day I had planned to ski (modified plan, original would have been Tuesday and Thursday) this week.  It doesn’t help that I know the slopes will be crazy because of Spring Break…I’m wishing I was skiing in some respects.  But my attitude is changing because my circumstances are changing, in ski bum life, in writing life, in horse life, in work life, in home life.

Much as I’d like to ski and play on the mountain, the reality is, I’m still dealing with a strained back muscle that doesn’t want to heal quickly.  It is improving and getting better, but it’s taking its own sweet time.  I can still ski and ride horse, for example, but riding horse was painful this winter at times and it’s one factor in my going exclusively Western again.  Skiing has been less painful than riding but I have found myself tiring more quickly and feeling colder–a secondary impact but a real one.  The back issue has meant I’m not spending as much time on leg conditioning, and I’m also using legs more than my core to deal with conditions, so the legs tire more quickly.  And the boot liners are probably packing out a little bit, which contributes to ski control issues.  So I’m working harder and tiring more quickly, because I’m less efficient.

Oh well, it’s just the season.  But other changes mean I also have less time to play on the slopes.

For example, my writing life is also changing.  I want to be able to publish as many works this year as I did last year (seven, nonfiction and fiction alike).  That’ll be doable, simply because I am writing special education posts for a psychology blog.  Two of those per month, which means a twice-monthly deadline.  A deadline I control, but a deadline nonetheless.

I also have an invite for an anthology, and I am definitely going to do my best to have a story ready.

Then I have something to send to the Angry Robot open reading, but it needs revision to be more competitive.

And then there’s the Netwalk Sequence, which also needs work and much revision.

Plus I want to develop more political writing outlets as well as more professional writing outlets.  Netwalk and the political pieces will play well into each other, and the professional work will also fit together.

IOW, writing stuff is starting to come together but I need to spend more coherent time dealing with it.  This is the week I had slated to do just that…but here I am, Wednesday, and I’ve not really gotten to setting up the structures I need to make things go well.  So I don’t have time to go play on the slopes.  Needs to be done.

Work is also coalescing.  Let’s just say that I am realizing that perhaps we are starting to piece things back together after the drastic economic cuts of two and a half years ago.  It has been horribly traumatic for all involved–students, staff, community–and only now are we perhaps starting to recover in a small, slight way.  Outsiders really don’t get how horribly severe cuts can impact individual schools.  It takes extraordinary leadership to recover and maintain after such cuts…and if it’s not present, then time gets lost.

Furthermore, I’m realizing how I can apply Interpersonal Neurobiology to my particular educational role.  A lot of what I do well involves small group or one-on-one work with highly defended kids who have either poor school behaviors or poor academic behaviors.  Or both.  In middle school, a lot of time needs to go into coaching these kids and that is a labor-intensive job.  It takes hours, days, weeks, and months to build a foundation of trust and turn things around, time I haven’t had.  It’s not something I’ve been able to do a lot of these past two and a half years, not until now.  I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that intensive level of intervention, and four more hours gave me that time back.

And then there is the preretirement preparation here at home for the DH.  It’s getting to be time to simplify and reinvent things…which also takes a lot of thought and work.  Which is also a part of why I’m dropping the English stuff.

Anyway.  That’s a bit of what’s going on.  Lots of change, much for good but it’s all still change nonetheless.  And now I need to get going on daily life during spring break.

Good grief, I could use another week.

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A day of romance

Despite all appearances, I’m more than a bit of a closet romantic.  You couldn’t necessarily tell it from appearances in my thirty-year marriage, nonetheless, we’re both a bit on the romantic side.  Our forms of romance tend to take the shape of the small pieces of everyday life rather than the big, showy stuff.

Case in point, last night.  DH and I started talking about Valentine’s Day.  He asked what I wanted.  My response was “wasn’t that why you gave me that coupon to pick out the chocolate on Saturday?”  He thought a moment, considered some other treats he’d picked up over the weekend, then grinned.

“I’m more on top of it subconsciously than I thought!”

Well, yeah.  That’s what both of us tend to do.  To me, romance is as much about the daily interactions as it is about the Big Showy Stuff.  The Big Showy Stuff is good for movies and books, but in real life?  What counts is the daily stuff, the daily small kindnesses and attentions.  Those moments when we anticipate each other’s thoughts in order to get things done.  That, to me, is as much romance as the Big Gesture.  “Happily ever after” isn’t the big stuff, it’s what you make of the small, everyday stuff.

No, I probably won’t get flowers today.  NBD.

I might, however, buy flowers myself.  Because that’s what we do.  And he likes them as much as I do.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


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I should be practicing mindfulness more frequently these days.  I spent much of last year’s Interpersonal Neurobiology coursework learning about the value of being in the moment, of being mindful of simple, everyday acts.  We even practiced the mediation of mindful walking and I could see its value in my daily work with middle school kids, many of whom need to have that sort of modeling to help them relax and focus.

But, of course, I get sucked into the go-go-go vortex which is the modern middle school life, as well as the modern corporate/business/daily life model.  I’m juggling a number of demanding hobby activities, attempting to get a writing career going, managing my family, as well as an extremely demanding job this year.  Mindfulness went right out the window, except for brief moments when skiing or schooling Mocha.

And then….

Yesterday I was in a situation with a kid where I needed to be mindful.  I needed to be quiet, centered, and there for the kid.  Without really thinking about it, I took some deep, calming breaths and told myself “I am here.”  And you know what?  It worked.  Maybe not for a long term, but it worked.

Reminder number one.

This morning, I came across this article in the New York Times about mindful eating.  I thought about it.  Decided that today I am going to find moments of mindful action, both in dealing with my writing, my family management stuff, my paperwork, my students, and my colleagues.

Reminder number two.

I’m hoping I don’t need a third reminder.  I have a feeling it might be–erm, uncomfortable.

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The life of introverts

Hello.  My name is Joyce, and I’m an introvert.

Right now I expect about half the folks who’ve known me in adulthood (especially since my late 40s) to go “HUH?  WHA?!  YOU!?”

Um.  Yeah.  I cover it well.  But, like many of my writer tribe, at heart I really am a quiet (but not shy) introvert.  That outgoing, bubbly persona?  Requires equal amounts of time where I just retreat to a corner and don’t deal with anyone other than closest family.  I need my quiet time and one feature of my long commute to work has been the ability to have the time to myself with nothing other than the particular CD that currently reflects my mood.

I don’t even like radio, much less audiobooks.  Occasionally I’ll call someone and talk on the long empty stretches of my drive, but for the most part, I really do prefer just me and the music.

Some of my favorite times at the barn come when it’s just me and Mocha.  I used to chatter to my horses when I was a kid, but now I really don’t talk much to the horse.  For one thing, Mocha’s made it clear she doesn’t care for a lot of monkey chatter–it’s all about the work once the tack’s on, for another, many times I’m still decompressing from work.  That doesn’t mean I don’t mind it when barn rats fill the arena and alleyways…that can be fun, too.  But I really do like those dark, quiet evenings when it’s just me and Mocha.

Same for the slopes.  I like skiing with my DH, but I could never regularly ski with a group of people.  Besides the logistics of managing four or more people in a ski group, I really like skiing quietly, observing the world around me.  I never did replace my Shuffle when it died out because I got back into the world of quiet skiing, and now I really don’t want the sound track.

What got me off on this tangent?  This lovely post over at the Book View Cafe, which also references this Jonathan Rausch essay at the Atlantic.  Both are great reads.

How did I ever turn from introvert to apparent extrovert?  Spending some time in the political organizing trenches as a young adult didn’t hurt, and then working at the process of socializing with others more effectively.  I had the assistance of several extroverted friends who were kind enough to give me tips.  Learning from the lobbying process how to schmooze with people whose interests were nowhere near mine, and how to create a persuasive argument for my position was also a big help.  Learning not to flinch at my own verbal gaffes but push on without dropping a beat was another key.  Learning about mental rehearsals, thinking ahead about what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to, and how I wanted to come off with it was another huge factor.

The other big piece is that I also started to pick my physical image very carefully.  My clothing is often introvert armor, and I’ve learned to pick non-fussy stuff that’s not likely to lead to embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions whilst making me look reasonably good.  I pull this off most of the time.  Sometimes the magic doesn’t work, but hey, that’s what it is.

The final factor was becoming a middle school teacher.  Middle school, more than anything else, requires a strong sense of confidence in yourself to the degree that you are not afraid to make fun of yourself.  Hey, middle schoolers tend to think all adults, especially school staff adults, are stupid at least part of the time.  If you’re too much of a stuffed shirt and can be brought down by the skewers of kids just starting to play with the art of verbal darts, you shouldn’t be working in middle school.  There will be days when it all falls to pieces and that’s part of the flux of middle school, because those days get balanced by the days when everything is wonderful and soaring.  Developmentally appropriate.

After teaching a tough middle school crowd, any adult social function is a piece of cake.  Period.  I might walk away telling myself “Well that was a crash and burn moment,” but after middle school teaching?  I know that things will be better next time.

But I still need my quiet moments.

See you all in the silence.

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