Triggered to the point of sharing what I thought I would never share.

I never thought I would talk about this publicly – certainly not in a forum where my mom would read it – but the events of the past few weeks (hell, the last couple of years if we are being truly honest) have stirred things up in me that I can no longer effectively compartmentalize and push aside.

Traumatic events that we experience never really go away. They morph into different versions of themselves, at times taking up more headspace, at others reaching out into our current lives in different ways. And certain things, like living in a society that categorically will deny my experience, or if they don’t will blame me for it, have conditioned me to keep quiet. To live with the shame and embarrassment that would be a million times worse if people knew. Or god forbid, I had to publicly defend myself.

But I can’t get these events out of my head anymore.

I grew up in years that could be described exactly like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford articulated. I went to high school in a middle class, white, town where the kids drank too much, and often behaved badly as a result. Some died as a result. Many – most – of the boys I went to school with were outwardly sexist, made terrible jokes about women, were blatantly misogynistic, and would have written things in yearbooks like the current nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.

But the majority of these boys were not rapists.

I am not excusing their behavior or antics, but I am acknowledging that most of them understood our town was small enough that even they could not get away with rape. Or something else – like not being rapists – stopped them from crossing certain lines.

I do however, know a whole bunch of girls who participated in behaviors that they did not want to simply because they did not want to deal with resisting, or being publicly shamed or embarrassed in the moment, or called a tease. Many of them would be slut-shamed after the fact, but that was a lesson harder learned.

In the 80s, we did not have the language to describe behavior that wasn’t okay with us but wasn’t a violent assault. There was an implicit assumption that if you were with someone you knew you could not be violated because you knew them, so you were there of your own volition and so whatever happens you had somehow signed up for, simply by existing in the same space.

At the same time, in my town, a growing number of girls were embracing the idea that if the guys could do whatever they wanted with girls and face no consequences, social or otherwise, then they could too. It was like “I’m going to do it before they claim I did it” resistance to the unfair expectations put on girls. I suppose this contributed to the confusion around consent.

These realities are not mutually exclusive.

These realities were often fueled by rampant underage drinking – one of my best friends and I used to joke that we went to college to chill out from our high school years.

These realities are not fiction simply because I cannot recall all the details.

Reality is as it suggests: real, whether the impact is equitable to all involved or not.

I did not experience sexual violence or get forced to engage in unwanted sexual acts in high school. I was lucky.

I was not this lucky in college.

I attended the University of California at San Diego. I chose this school for a variety of reasons, but a very significant one was the lifestyle I imagined I would lead living in a beautiful place, among beautiful people, partying on the beach and other beautiful places. For a lot of my college career this was in fact accurate.

My sophomore year my roommates and I were living off campus in Del Mar. The four of us decided to go through sorority rush. There were varying degrees of success in this endeavor for us, but it was how we began to experience Greek life to the degree it existed (non-sanctioned, off campus) at UCSD. Two of us ended up in houses, two of us did not. I mention this because it changed how we socialized that year and who with.

This was not a good year for me for a host of reasons. I was depressed, heavy, and lost in many ways – I would end up taking a gap year the following year. I, along with my roommates, was drinking way too much and not taking care of myself in any real way. My entire household had eating disorders of varying degrees and were often in conflict over real and imagined issues between us – stories for an entirely different essay.

The night my luck ran out at UCSD was in the spring (I think – I really cannot remember when this happened, which is why I know that recalling the time something took place has little bearing on the reality that it happened.) I had been hanging out with my downstairs neighbors – completely NON-rapey guys who I am still friends with. I decided at some point to drive from Del Mar to campus with one of them to go the Pub for a party of some kind. We should not have been driving and we flew up Torrey Pines on a scooter. I was enjoying myself in a typically (for that time in my life) irresponsible way – I was not aware that I was living in a society where irresponsibility is only permissible for men. At the campus Pub we continued drinking. My neighbor ended up hooking up with someone and I was talking to a group of TKEs who lived three streets down from me in Del Mar. I asked them for a ride back to Del Mar. They told me I could drive them back in their van. There is no way I should have been driving, but I did. They put me at risk because I was a disposable entity to them. They would have little consequence if I got busted. I suppose they never considered the other possibilities that can arise from drunk driving – but they are allowed these indiscretions even if they kill someone, as long as they don’t die because patriarchy.

When we got back to the house there were several other fraternity brothers there. I have absolutely no idea who was in the house in terms of names or numbers.

I went upstairs to use a bathroom, at which point I was pushed (or pulled – I do not know) into a bedroom. There were two boys in the room. I was disoriented and confused, and didn’t know what to do because I believed I alone had gotten myself into this situation. I remember worrying because one of my roommates was dating a TKE and I was afraid how this would look for her. That is so fucked up.

Suddenly, one of the boys in the room became very sexually aggressive with me. I had no idea what to do (and in not too distant future from that night I remember thinking, ‘why in the fuck would a guy want to be with a girl so intoxicated?’ I suppose I should ask Brock Turner.) I thought, if I just went along with it, it would end.

I remember thinking these things with absolute clarity and without and confusion 28 years later.

I bet some of you don’t believe me, right? Because I was drunk, right? Because I don’t remember the details of the evening?

Let me tell you what I remember- and trust that when I tell you what transpired years later you will really struggle to believe me.

When the boy made it clear that he was not going to stop I began to cry. He was attempting to have sex with me. He was laughing. Someone left the room, also laughing. I knew exactly who this boy on top of me was. I still know who he is. I even knew the girl, Amy, he was dating at the time. It was at this point that I became aware that there was another person in the room who had either just come in or had been there all along, I don’t know. He was one of the guys who was part of the group we referred to as the Persian Mafia. He told the boy on top of me to knock it off and grabbed my hand, not entirely gently. He said would take me out of the house. I remember telling him I was so embarrassed as I tried to gather myself (and my clothes) and I was afraid to leave because I didn’t want anyone to see me. He told me he would turn the lights off and walk me out the back. True to his word, he got me out of the house and walked me most of the way back to my street via the beach.

The next day my roommates were – well, I don’t know really what they were all feeling. I know there was shock, pity, anger. My roommate who was dating a TKE told me there was talk that the brothers were freaked out that I might bring assault charges against them. That seems to pretty clearly indicate that they knew what happened was NOT OKAY. I also am pretty sure there were a few who thought it was no big deal, that I was lying to cover up my embarrassment, or that I was lucky someone so “cool” would have tried it on with me.

Some of you might even think I deserved it because I was so drunk. Perhaps it is time to take a closer look at who gets a pass on their behavior for being drunk – and who does not.

I survived that night. I wasn’t violently raped a la Law & Order SVU, but I was traumatized, and completely ill-prepared to handle the subsequent feelings that would come up around this over the years. What comes up is not usually feelings around the actual assault, but the devaluation of my person simply because I am a woman. Then and now.

One year later I would watch a committee of white men slander, shame and degrade the amazing and brave Anita Hill on national television for speaking truth to power.

This confirmed for me – as sure as these men confirmed Clarence Thomas to the USSC – that coming forward with my story would only bring a shitstorm upon me, so I would never.

Imagine how many other women my age have made the same decision.


In 2009, while I was living in Hong Kong, my friend Camellia convinced me to sign up for the online dating site OKCupid. I did it. One night while sitting in a pub with Camellia and our friend Sue, we got into a discussion about the concept of online dating. Sue said there was just no way that the need to couple could ever be great enough to do it. Camellia was of the other extreme saying that it was really the only way to meet people anymore. I had mixed feelings, and took my phone out to show them the kind of messages that I was getting. Right as I did that, a new message popped up. It was from the boy who had assaulted me in Del Mar in 1990.

I knew his name and face immediately.

I stared at the phone and then showed my friends the message as I told them an abbreviated version of the story I have just recounted here. His message said, “Hey! I can’t believe I just came across your profile because we were at UCSD at the same time and in the same program! We must know some of the same people! I am in Asia regularly as I work for Mountain Hardware and do a lot of work in China. I would love to get together! You have a great smile!”

We were beside ourselves with this set of circumstances. What should I do? OBVIOUSLY I SHOULD BLOCK THE FUCKER AND MOVE ON.

But I was so curious. I recognized him immediately. How could he not recognize me? Did he? I really wanted to know.

I decided to take him up on his cheesy offer and within a week he was in Hong Kong and we met up at a bar next to my office after work. He was exactly the same. A bizarrely freckled, ginger, with more confidence than a man like him should ever have had. As we walked into the bar he stepped aside and then said, “Sorry I had to check out your ass, it’s nice!”

This is exactly the kind of thing that Senate republicans would say is evidence that I was not really assaulted – that if I had been I would never make this kind of subsequent decision. And this is exactly why I know their issue is never about believing women and survivors – it is that they really just do not give a shit.

I was going to see my friend Sue’s band at the Wanch that night and he said he wanted to come. When we got there I told Cam and Sue what was up. It became like a weird psychological experiment. He was more and more awkward out of his element around my friends and he was getting really drunk making him seem even more ridiculous – if that was possible.

When we left it was way past the last ferry and suddenly he was right there coming to get a sampan to the island with us. “You don’t want to come here,” at least three of us told him. He begged to just crash on someone’s couch, we would not even know he was there, he didn’t know how to get back to his hotel. SERIOUSLY? An empty beer bottle could hail a taxi cab in Hong Kong. But there he was. Was he joking? Did he realize yet who I was?

No.

The next day he wanted to hang out again. I had to work. He was going Shenzhen, but would I be free when he got back? REALLY? This was starting to seem like something straight out of a (really bad) movie. “Sure, I am going to the races with Camellia on Wednesday.”

Do you think he showed up? He sure as shit did.

I would not see him again but the story does not end here.

When I returned from an extended stay in India the next year, Camellia began sending me strange and alarmed texts – the ginger had been texting her: “When I met Amanda I was really taken by you…” “I cannot stop thinking about you…” “You are so cute, I am coming to Hong Kong, let’s get together, we don’t have to tell Amanda…”.

This is where I now become the woman scorned right? Whatever.

With about 30 seconds of internet stalking we determined that he was now “engaged” according to his FB profile. I messaged him and asked if he would be okay with me forwarding the texts to his fiancé. He immediately denied that he ever contacted Cam. I read him the texts and told him if he ever contacted either one of us again I would send it all to his fiancé. At this point he began calling and leaving frantic and panicked messages. He had been drunk, he explained. He didn’t know what he was saying, he had a problem.  He knew he had made a terrible mistake (so many ways to interpret that statement, no?)

After the 6th or 7th call I picked up and told him if he called anymore that I would do something drastic – to him. He said, “I just wanted to apologize, I am so happy with my fiancé and I don’t know what I was thinking…”

“What do you want to apologize for?” I asked.

He was confused by this question.

I hung up .

I have never spoken to him again, but I know from basic internet skills that he did get married, had a kid, got a new job with Lululemon (sounds right) and moved to Vancouver. And no, I don’t give two shits if this helps anyone discover who this TKE from UCSD who graduated in 1990 is. I also am quite sure that lots of people in his orbit think he is a perfectly nice guy. He probably is pretty nice if he doesn’t try to have nonconsensual sex with you, or cheat on his fiancé with you.

I remember his disgusting behavior in 1990 regardless of the other details I do not remember. I also totally believe that he legitimately does not comprehend that the woman he met in Hong Kong in 2009 was the sad, confused sophomore he assaulted that night in 1990, because I was nothing to him – then or now. I was a commodity, a convenience, a throw away person.

This was how it was.

That IS how it is.

This is why I know that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth , and how I can understand that Brett Kavanaugh might not remember assaulting her – she didn’t matter to him, he said as much though his angry spittle in his hearing… he did not associate with girls like her.

But that does not mean he did not do it.

In fact I think it lends a lot more validity to the reality that he did.

Reality is as it suggests: real, whether the impact is equitable to all involved or not.

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‘Oh, my, God Becky, look at her butt…’: on judging & mansplaining & other such nonsense

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Student: Are you married? You look like a married person. You got kids? I can see you with like two kids, and you’re the mom making the healthy snacks.
Me: That is depressing. Next thing I know you are going to tell me I look like I have a minivan.
Student: Yes! You do- you’re a soccer mom for sure!
Me:
Student: But that’s not depressing though. You know what’d be depressing is like if you go home and you got cats, and you walk in and they’re like meow meow.

Let’s just get to it: I look a certain kind of way. Although, rest assured “Soccer Mom” is not, and has never been, the intended effect, I can see how I might present that way, especially to my young, female students of color – a demographic for whom I have both an immeasurable appreciation for, and an equally substantial gratitude for having been able to work along side of in a variety of capacities for more than two decades.

Here’s the basics. I am white. I am middle-aged. I am not a flashy human (save for my shoes, which if you have been following my current life trajectory, you might realize have been reprioritized for a minute #hipreplacement). I am not and have never been particularly trendy, whatever that means. I chalk that tendency up to several things: 1) not having unlimited funding to constantly ‘keep up’ with whatever or whomever; 2) being a big, tall, strong kid through the anorexic-heroin chic-body dysmorphic late 70s, 80s, and 90s; 3) a chosen profession where if you have crazy/flashy, or even just a distinctive accessory, you become “that one teacher who always wears that…” (I have never wanted to be trapped by a passing fancy.)

But really, I am just sort of subtle in my aesthetic choices. A former colleague once told me that he saw it as an cool juxtaposition of being a strong woman who took no shit and occupied many traditionally male spaces (social studies teacher and coach) and understood that how I dressed ran counter to expectations in a way that gave both aspects of who I am more gravitas. My grandma (my grandma for chrissakes) once lamented that I was “so conservative” as I was considering buying some new item of some sort on a trip we took to Europe. One of my long-time BFFs and confidantes has described my style (and me) thusly:

Anne Taylor Hippie? Your countenance, demeanor, appearance is classy Californian casual with some sassy blonde thrown in. No one knows you’re a secret hippie Deadhead from Petaluma. It’s as if you’ve come out from your past unscathed… no one would know about your travails, your missteps over the years. You look perfectly pristine and princess-y. You are the least obvious looking Patti Smith I know. You have the intellect, knowledge, and stories of a rock star, but you are chill as fuck to the unknowing masses.

(I like that last part the best, obviously.)

An interesting (euphemism alert) consequence of the reality that we are all more than the sum of the clothes on our backs + the work that we do + the places from which we hail is that I have been categorically chastised and condescended to in professional settings based on an assumption that I am less equipped to do the work I do because of how I look on two very specific occasions. That this happened most recently on Wednesday of last week at my new job, was disappointing, but also clarifying in some important ways for me (in addition to the comments that were posted on my FB page in response to the opening anecdote of this post) that underscore the power of how we look, the words we use, and the ways we understand the interactions that arise from it all.

The first incident occurred in my first year at Berkeley High School on the occasion of me receiving what is likely to this day the worst professional evaluation I have ever received. The evaluator, a VP at the time with definite eyes on a principalship he would never get at BHS, was a sharp dressed, well-educated Latino, who felt that he was vastly more equipped to work with young people of color than anyone, and certainly more than I could ever be – a generic white woman, most recently teaching at a nearby district with a distinctively different demographic, and before that Asia… he actually would later say to me, “How could a person used to dealing with those kinds of students understand the students I was working with at BHS?” [There is SO much to unpack in that statement.]

The thing about this particular evaluation is that when I read it, it seemed completely dissociated from what had been happening in the classroom. I was not even sure how to engage in a conversation around it because I had no understanding of what was being discussed in the evaluation. The immediate result of this was that on subsequent evaluations there would be an additional person in the room. We settled on our school counselor. This would prove to be an even bigger problem because his inability to see actual areas of strength and need for improvement would be further obstructed by the presence of an additional white woman.

The second evaluation was (in my mind) an even stronger class. For whatever reason, that day, those sophomores decided to be active, interested, curious, engaged, cooperative… I mean, frankly, it was bizarre. At the conclusion of the class, the three adults in the room left seemingly on the same page. At the debrief I was shocked. I sat and listened to his assessment and literally had no words. The second set of eyes that had been in the room was also there for the debrief (we had decided via union reps that I would not meet with this VP alone after the previous experience) and where I was stunned to silence she became enraged in spite of her best efforts to remain completely calm. I ended up leaving while the two of them stayed because I had to teach, but I remember distinctly hearing her say, “I cannot believe we were in the same classroom based on what you have written here.”

Long story slightly less long, the struggle for this VP to see that I could possibly bring anything not just of value, but that would not be toxic to my students continued. He said, “You do not understand children of color. You do not connect with them, particularly the young women.” No one I worked with could understand where this was coming from, and the student population that I worked most closely with would certainly contradict this assessment. Eventually, I would end up contacting a lawyer and be assigned a different evaluator.

I never really understood what the issue had been, but it really did seem like the way I presented myself – from how I looked, to how I talked, to how I worked with students – prevented this man from seeing what I was actually doing at the school. While my pseudo-bougieness has become somewhat of a calling card (emphasis on pseudo) I assure you I am in on the joke.

So much about how we look can be deceiving… No?

Last Tuesday, several days into PD for the upcoming school year, a Black Latino teacher I am working with (who ironically also worked for the aforementioned VP at the school he would eventually move to in order to secure a principalship) had an eruption in a team planing meeting. At the time, I felt like I understood the reaction – we were all tired and working to do something collaboratively that the majority of us were unclear about in terms of structure, cadence, and objective. That evening he emailed me saying he thought we should check in the next morning before PD. I said sure, I could make that happen and arrived that morning expecting him to say something along the lines of, “Hey, sorry for the outburst, just wanted to let you know where I was coming from…”

That was not what was awaiting me.

I showed up and we sat down and there began his soliloquy.

Unlike Omarosa, I was not prepared to tape it (though I see that as a mistake now as I try to make sense of it all) and so these are just some of the highlights absent the extremely verbose and rambling context built around his ‘I statements’ (sidebar: this man had just proclaimed the day before that he prided himself on timely and blunt feedback – there was not a single element of bluntness here.) The nutshell version of him talking at me for more than 30 minutes was that he does not like how I am. He circularly addressed how who he is does not allow for people like me, from the ways I conduct myself with others, to how I utilize time, among many other things. Suffice it to say, it was not the apology I thought I would be getting.

“I am at a point in my life where I have to address the things that trigger me. You took a phone call yesterday – I mean I took a call too, but you did not step outside!” (Nor did he, btw.)

“I feel I need to explain to you…” (I did not walk out at this point, but I must be honest, I am sort of done with men explaining things to me – shout out to Solnit and my entire life experience.)

“I am here to work and I want it to be a positive experience for me…” (What in the heck does he think other people are hoping for?)

“I have not always had good experiences working with others and being acknowledged for who I am at previous schools…” (I cannot even.)

“I want to respect your experiences as an educator, but…” (I have more than three times the number of years in the classroom as this man despite his being 5 years older than me, something that had come up earlier, which I think bothers him.)

I leave this as the last one (though it certainly was not the end of his presentation) because it was what really stayed with me. The idea that somehow my experience was less than. This man does not know a thing about me – who I am, what I have done, the work I have participated in, the students I have worked with, the way my classroom operates, but he felt he could speak to all of it.

This was troubling to me as I sat there conscious of my whiteness, which by definition is a privilege, and his being a man of color – no easy task in the world these days. How could I respond without simply negating his perspective (a known consequence of white privilege) but also speak to the clearly misogynistic diatribe I felt was being put on me? I considered all the ways he seemed to be trying to mitigate his speech and thought of a dear colleague from last year who had told me he never gets mad because he cannot – because being a black man removes that option for him in white spaces. I wondered what my new colleague’s actual point was (I am afraid I never got it, in spite of my efforts to do so) before it was lost in an overabundance of explanation and qualification about how who I am is less than simply because of who I am. Would it have been easier to understand if he had just said whatever it was that he meant even if it mean his getting angry?

Ultimately, I could not figure out why he felt so entitled that he could come at me and tell me how it all was. And then it hit me: all of these assumptions he was making were coming from his perception of me, which at this point could really only be based on how I present on the outside. I was stunned. His look is so hugely intentional and cultivated, I wonder if he really thinks that his look is him, in totality. I cannot imagine that is true, or that he believes it is.

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When I eventually had the chance to speak, I told him what I had heard him say, offering him a chance to clarify or correct my understanding – he did neither. I apologized for taking the phone call the previous day and said that while I would never intend to trigger him, I understood that had been the impact of my behavior. Here he began to explain how his experience led him to conclude something (I’m not sure what, I couldn’t keep up with the circles at this point) and I politely interjected and said:

I am not comfortable with your insistence on explaining things to me. I hear you say you want to respect my experience as a teacher- “but”. However, because you feel compelled to explain to me how things are it is clear the “but” is more significant than the respect. Perhaps I can share with you that men explaining things to me is one of my triggers. We are both new teachers here, ostensibly hired for a lot of the same reasons, so let’s agree that we are both bringing a lot to the table, including positive intent.

He said nothing.

I said “I hope you have a super productive and good day!” and walked away. If only walking away from preconceived notions was as easy.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation [Spoiler: Not as planned]

I had some plans this summer. Not a ton of plans, and to be fair the school year had ended in a place that was palpably toxic in very surprising ways, which in turn had an impact on other areas of my life that were not what I would call “ideal”. But still, summer was here and summer is for vacation.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.

The Prelude:

After my return from Peru in January of this year I was feeling well pleased with myself having completed the classic Inca Trail route: four days of ups and downs at fairly substantial elevation on a path largely made of (somewhat) set stones (no judgment, they’ve been in place for centuries, so it beats most modern infrastructure I’ve encountered.) I carried my own pack, and felt good the whole way through, which was an accomplishment because I had been worried going into the trek as I have remarkable osteoarthritis for someone my age (I’m told). This inconvenience has most dramatically manifested in my knees, one of which has but remnants of cartilage remaining, and the other only slightly ahead of the game. For those of you in the know about these things, you know that there is little to be done for this condition: stay active, maintain a healthy weight, etc., etc. There are some questionable experimental options that some people swear by (emerging stem cell therapy, for which I am hopeful but not sold on at this point, synovial fluid injections…) but there is not a “fix,” as it were, save for replacing one’s knees (which both my paternal grandfather and father had done bilaterally.) As an aside, I was also showing osteoarthritis in my hips as of 2013, which was getting a bit annoying by 2016. My right hip has tended to get pretty aggravated when hiking (more so even than my attitude) for the last couple of years.

About seven years ago, I had my first cortisone injection in my left knee (the good one!) following an acute problem that had occurred. My knee had locked in virasna toward the end of a yoga class and I was unable to re-extend the knee, landing me in the emergency room in an incredibly awkward position (literally) with no discernible cause via x-ray or physical exam, and so “on the count of three we’re going to straighten it!” Three ER attendants braced me and straightened the leg in a swift, excruciating maneuver that left me dazed, mobile, and basically pain-free. Weird. MRI imaging returned no explanations, and so I got a cortisone shot and carried on.

Oh, and the shot was magical.

In 2015, I had my second cortisone injection, in both knees this time, and again was overjoyed at the results including how the shot seemed to alleviate knee and hip pain. I was feeling right as rain.

I had cortisone injections in both knees right before going to Peru as well, and again was amazed at the outcome. I was ready!

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IMG_9282The trip was spectacular and I felt fit, strong, and healthy.

Then I came home.

Back at work in an incredibly challenging environment (more – much more – on this at some point) and in the post-holiday malaise, I turned to my yoga practice as I often do. The first couple of classes I attended were more challenging than they should have been. It had only been a few weeks since I practiced and I had not been sitting around doing nothing – in fact had even done some yoga in Peru in addition to the more obvious exertion. It seemed odd, but I pressed on. At MLK weekend in Tahoe, I attended a yoga class and was even more hampered. By the end of January it became clear something was amiss. Mobility in my right hip had become so limited yoga was becoming nearly impossible even with substantial modifications. (Like, I could not sit in sukhasana, for example, let alone any sort of movement that required hip rotation or extension.)

I went to see the orthopedic guy I had been seeing and we landed on the same conclusion: hip flexor strain. I got some therapeutic suggestions and anti-inflammatories. I also went to see a chiropractor who specializes his work around yoga practitioners. He was attentive, informative, and couldn’t do much to alleviate my situation in the end. By President’s Day weekend I had developed a limp that I could not avoid, and was starting to get pretty depressed. Yoga seemed out of the question, and nothing I was doing was helping. I called my orthopedic people in tears. By the way, if you mention to your medical professionals that you “cannot continue to live like this” they jump to attention.

The next thing I know I am having a MRI of the right hip. The MRI shows significant labral damage and what appeared to be a compound femoral acetabular impingement. Great – this is fixable. I got in for an arthrogram and had a cortisone injection. Again, instant magic, which was a welcome sign as I was off to Hong Kong five days later.

The magic lasted eight days.

While suffering in Hong Kong – as much a walking city as San Francisco, and perhaps more due to the island where I stay – I decided to see my physio there because since 2008 there has been nothing Leo could not fix for me. Except this. “This is not your normal kind of issue,” he said. “You are going to need to see an orthopedic specialist, this is something new and different for you.”

Fun fact: You never want to be new and different in a medical practitioner’s office. That is akin to being and “interesting case” and as even one season of House will tell you, it’s never lupus and its never good.

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When I got back from Asia in April, I was feeling worse in every possible way: I was no longer able to walk without pain, much less do yoga or any sort of exercise. This was having remarkably obvious impacts on my mental and physical well-being.

Around this time I went to see a body worker who I think is one of the most intuitive and powerful practitioners I have come across, and we talked for a long time about what was going on – all the various aspects of my life that were culminating at this time and place and the ways they were manifesting physically. She was able to alleviate not only my pain, but also my anxiety.

For about 12 hours.

After a tumultuous experience with my primary care doctor, I found myself back in orthopedics talking to a surgeon. Talk about “not ideal. He laid out my three options from most to least conservative:

  1. A new anti-inflammatory and physical therapy, Pilates also recommended.
  2. Hip arthroscopy. This is a procedure where a surgeon – like the one I was speaking to – go in and ‘clean up’ the joint, perform labral repair if possible, shave down bone spurs/impingements. [Although this is considered the mid-range option in terms of aggressiveness, it has a much longer rehab period than the third option…]
  3. Total joint replacement of the hip.

As the surgeon went over my MRI with me, he showed me what we were working with and told me that as a specialist in arthroscopy I was not a great candidate. It would be super temporary because of my arthritis, and also he showed me that I had actually no cartilage left in the joint so my discomfort was being caused by bone on bone contact.

I left with a new prescription and a PT appointment, because who the fuck gets a hip replacement at 47?

When I went to my first PT appointment in the third week of April, the therapist introduced herself, looked at my x-rays and MRIs and said, “Well, we can work on mobility and mitigating pain, but you need a new hip.”

Okay lady, slow your roll.

I started working with a really good rehab Pilates instructor – who is awesome and tolerated my less than enthusiastic attitude towards Pilates by being unbelievably enthusiastic. It was an interesting contrast to my PT who is even more direct than I am, generally speaking. It was a good balance.

Summer is Coming:

By May, I was seeing about zero improvement in my situation. On top of this I was spiraling into familiar body issues that seemed out of my control – my lifestyle had changed so much and so dramatically that my clothes were not fitting. This shame spiral on top of everything else made things seem even worse. I generally felt better when I saw the PT or had a Pilates session, but the relief was short-lived. My PT was consistent in her position that I needed a new hip and I began talking to her about the process in broad generalities in our sessions. How long would the recovery be – like how big of window did I need? (This depends and since every person is different it is really hard to answer.) Was there any other alternative that she saw? (Silence.) What was the actual procedure like? (There are two approaches, anterior and posterior, the anterior is a much quicker initial recovery and the recommended option for anyone who is eligible for it.) Was this really what I needed to do? (Silence.)

I was referred to a surgeon who would be able to see me for a consult in July.

I booked a trip to Southampton for the last week in June since I had scrapped all my other plans by this time – music festivals were not a possibility in my condition, and I was not doing anything else in my spare time at this point so I felt this was well deserved.

How I Actually Spent My Vacation:

In the days that followed the culmination of my absolutely bonkers school year experience, I was suddenly spending a great deal of time searching orthopedic surgeons and forwarding the information to my step-dad for him to forward on to his connections for vetting. We landed on one that we all agreed on after a fairly exhaustive effort and I got the referral (out of area – OMG) to see this doctor.

On July 10.

No.

I began my summer break by getting up every morning to call to see if the doctor had cancellations and after a couple of days I knew all the women who worked in the department. I was told that the doctor was on call for O.R. duties on Fridays but that there were two morning appointments released on Thursdays that I could try to get in for, with the knowledge that I could get cancelled last-minute. I got booked for Friday June 22.

The appointment did not get cancelled, but all my hope for any alternative to a total joint replacement did. When the doctor looked at my x-rays from 2016 and that morning, and heard my whole story (which I have neglected to mention I was not able to tell without embarrassing sobs for months at this point) it was clear to him that I needed a new hip. I asked if there were any alternatives, it seemed like there should be because I am only 47. (I avoided going full Nancy Kerrigan, but I did want to know why this was the only alternative.)  It turns out, like so many other questions about the specifics of recovery duration and such, there is no definitive answer, although it seems very likely that more than a decade of competitive track and field along with basketball were not necessarily as good for me as we once thought. He asked me what I knew about the procedure. (More than I wanted to.) Then he brought in the “hip” for me to look at. (Heavy fucking metal.)

a00377f03

Oh, and this surgeon, the one we all liked and had moved mountains to see? He did not do the anterior approach. He recommended the surgeon I had originally been slated to see on July 13. It took absolutely no calculating to realize that the timing and necessary recovery for this was looking like I was going to have to wait a year.

No no no no.

He said he would make some calls.

We left. I was in a mood that I am quite sure no one wanted to be around, so we went out to lunch. I like the way my parents think.

By about 3:00pm I was getting ready to start thinking about heading back to SF, and my phone rang. It was the surgeon. In the time since we had left he had figured out a way to use his surgery time to partner with a doctor he very much approved of to do the replacement.

On July 3.

I sat there and realized that I was going to have a major surgery in 11 days. In hindsight, I think for someone like me having absolutely no time to think things like this through is probably a good thing, and trust me, there was going to be no time. Within an hour I had been scheduled for four days worth of pre-op adventures.

By the end of June I had cancelled my vacation, seen more medical professionals than I had in decades, and was preparing for my ‘hip-cation’ in the North Bay. It was really happening.

In at 5:45am on July 3, the surgery prep began. I certainly can’t say I remember much about it except that my body issues were not imaginary because I had gained 15 pounds since January (!!!) and the O.R. nurses were great, the anesthesiologist was funny (I had a spinal not a general – although again, I was elsewhere), and the surgeon came in to tell me how the “universe just really came together to make this whole thing happen.” I guess, but it certainly seemed like he had a pretty big hand in things.

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I was home by 3:30pm that day. With a walker, an elevated toilet seat and enough pain medication to quell a herd of elephants.

It was weird. It felt weird, even though I couldn’t really feel anything save for the sensation that someone may have taken a baseball bat to the exterior of my thigh. But it was done, I was basically mobile, and that was that.

Because I was at home in Petaluma with my parents (and yes of course I brought the cats with me) I was able to do absolutely nothing but recover. Like really, nothing. I guess it was a vacation of sorts. And because I have health insurance (unlike the 30 million and growing number of people under 65 without coverage) this scenario turned into a money-saving bonanza for me (Ms. I Got No Plans For The Foreseeable). That was pretty relaxing too.

I came home, cane, cats and all, to San Francisco on the 24th of July, three weeks to the day from my surgery. It was – is – good to be back. I am moving slower than I would like, and I get tired much quicker than I would like – and don’t even talk to me about the Frankenstein situation that has emerged on the front of my upper leg (a six-inch incision and 22 staples leave a mark), but I am here, not needing pain medicine beyond Tylenol and having no pain in the hip, well, because I no longer actually have a hip that can feel pain.

I had a chance to visit with two of my favorite people from Hong Kong about a week or so ago, former village neighbors, they now live in the UK and have been touring the US for several weeks, and I was telling Vicky about my summer. As I told her the story and I realized everything is going as it should – actually much better even than anyone anticipated, but I still didn’t feel, I don’t know, grounded or settled or something. I said I felt a little guilty for not being beside myself with joy that I have this new hip and consequently have solved my problem, as everyone seems to think I should. She told me not to underestimate the significance of what I had done, and that I was not just having to physically integrate this huge new thing in my body, but I was also going to have to mentally integrate it as well and that our mind-body connections are so strong that our brains do funny things when parts are removed or added… This made the most sense to me of anything I had heard post-operatively. I still think back to her words when I feel apprehensive about all that has gone on.

All of my ‘precautions’ lift, coincidentally – or not – on the first day that I report to a new job. I like this symmetry and I feel really good about starting fresh with work after the very challenging experience that last year ended up being. And in my vanity, the one thing I said I could not do was start a new job with a cane seems like it is going to be an actuality.

White + Feminist = #whitefeminism?

First things first, admissions. I have been both troubled and confused by the idea of white feminism for sometime. Not necessarily semantically in its discrete parts, but conceptually as the compound descriptor. My troubling confusion certainly could be tied to the fact that as a CIS gender, straight, white (confirmed by 23 & Me who are now selling my genetic data), mostly middle class (for what that is worth anymore), woman, who considers herself a feminist, I simply have not been able to see White Feminism as the thing that it is, obliviously wishing that all feminism is good feminism because Feminism.

That obliviousness is embarrassing and uncomfortable to admit. I would rather explain how I actually am aware… but it is becoming clear to me that my Spidey Sense for this sort of thing is really weak.

Admission #2: a big point of discovery around this concept, its meaning, power, marketing, and danger, has come from Instagram. Let’s unpack that, shall we?

I enjoy Instagram quite a bit, and as I moved beyond my friends and family circle, some of the first accounts I began to follow were yogis. Except Instagram yogis are very specific: they are incredibly fit (bordering on dangerously thin in many cases), seemingly of unlimited wealth for travel and attire, and they are all white. Beyond being all white, they really all look almost exactly the same; sinewy, extraordinarily low-body fat, long hair with “beachy waves”, and a lot of Pure Vida mantras, malas, and #inspo. It became pretty clear that these are not actually “yoga” accounts in terms of the actual practice of yoga (don’t misunderstand, they are legend in their ascent to asana) and the ideas behind it, these were more… “lifestyle” accounts, akin to Stuff White People Like. There is a complete overuse of words/expressions like BADASS! GODDESS! LOVE WHAT YOU DO! HAVE IT ALL! SELF-LOVE!

Ugh.

I also started to follow some celebrity accounts (yes, Beyonce) and some activists I like and as it goes in these environs, I would see occasional reposts from friends and others, which would lead me somewhere, and then somewhere else. Of course I have a hefty number of basketball accounts on there, a lot of Oakland Athletics stuff, a good amount of Grateful Dead related things, and OH MY GOD I AM SO WHITE.

After a while, I started unfollowing a lot of the “yoga” accounts (I mean really, they are all the same) and other accounts that didn’t really fall under any category except for the Instagram-derived “Influencer” title (gag.) I started paying more attention to the accounts that promoted ideas and platforms that I have become more and more vested in as we suffer daily under the current shitshow in Washington. Shaun King, Everytown, W. Kamau Bell, the Obamas (obvs), Deray McKesson… I use Twitter for most of my political trolling and news, but I have enjoyed seeing some of these same accounts on Instagram. [As a side note, Ros Gold-Onwude is like the perfect storm of so much of what I love: smart, funny, agent of fashion, athlete, sports commentator, all around awesome.]

Anyhow, fast forward to July 22, 2018. I am sitting in my parents kitchen and I see on Twitter that a young, black woman has been murdered at the MacArthur Bart Station. I say to my mom, “Another young black woman has been killed.” She is in a place where this sort of news is often too much for her. For me, I am compelled to read the details. As a teacher – very recently in the East Bay – these young people are my students. I must know, every time I see these stories… “Is it one of mine?” I also am a daily Bart rider during the school year and this happened in my backyard.

Nia Wilson.

She was, and now is forever, 18. Beautiful. Emergent. A child.

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The regularity with which these sorts of crimes are occurring in this country is staggering and disgusting. (On July 8 I received and email from the principal at my new school, letting the community know about the July 6 murder of one of their young alumni, Milan Ardoin, and her mother, Valinda Scott, in their home in Antioch, this got little to no news coverage, and I definitely did not see a lot of Insta/Twitter action and I was looking.)

In Nia’s case, there was a lot of action on Instagram – in certain circles. I was watching because I do. Eventually I landed on this post from Rachel Cargle (who you should definitely follow.) I was not a follower (at that time) so I am not sure how I got there, but it struck me. I got to thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder if YogaGirl ™ had commented? Nope. (In fairness she has now.) I looked through some of the other “woke” white people I could think of. Not much to see. Then I started looking at who the people were commenting on Rachel’s post. This is particularly interesting because she framed it the prompt as “your favorite” white feminist, which already indicates you are tagging people who you like/look up to/follow/support. This inherently, to me, means if you tagged someone you are saying, “Hey, I like you and I think you have a lot of influence and power and I think you should consider directing it this way.” This does not seem divisive, exclusive, mean-spirited, or bullying to me. But maybe that is just the teacher in me, always trying to lead people to take their own actions…

What eventually transpired from this post was an epic Instagram comment saga the likes of which I have never seen – and was compelled to read (and it was HOURS of reading, seriously.) What emerged most prominently was that the woman behind an account I had followed for a time (but unfollowed because her use of social issues for personal kudos had started to make me really uncomfortable) began to literally lose her shit. Like, completely. I am a little bit afraid to mention this account by name because I am actually quite fearful of her and what I have seen her to do people who disagree with her under her “I take no shit” banner. However, for the sake of clarity I have to say her name, but know that it is with hesitation: Alison Brettschneider. Her 50+ hour tirade of “defending” herself (although initially the comments suggested it wasn’t actually her commenting but an assistant, though semantics were inconsistent enough to lead me to believe she was John Barron-ing us) was the window into what #whitefeminism actually is and the irrefutable damage it inflicts that I needed to see in order to really get a handle on the concept. (If you are interested you can begin the Herculean hike through the comments on Rachel’s post and her subsequent posts – one of which was explicitly providing a space for BIPOC women to share their feelings and Alison reported as hate speech and was temporarily removed by Instagram.)

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Hate speech?

As I read (for nearly three days!) the ongoing posting around this and saw how Brettschneider used tactics like name dropping, tokenizing, doxxing, name calling, and dehumanizing those in disagreement with her while rarely addressing the actual topic at hand (Nia Wilson) I was aghast. Horrified.

And

it

just

kept

on

going.

I thought out loud – this is what it must feel like to be a BIPOC woman every god dammed day.

This is #whitefeminism #whiteexceptionalism, #whitesaviourism, #whitetears, and all the rest. There is no way around it, it is #whitesupremacy.

I had to sit with that for quite some time.

Behind all that generic lifestyle shit overlaid with inspirational quotes and good lighting is the machine of oppression at work. Even if you think it is pretty, that is what is happening.

Am I a #whitefeminist? I desperately want to say no. I do know enough to keep my mouth shut in spaces that are created to give voice to those who have to work for that space rather than rely on the assumption it will be granted. I think I know how to be an ally, but I know that it takes a lot of work and requires hearing a lot of shit no one really wants to hear about the realities we are living in and how different they are for BIPOC people – women most significantly.

The writer Elizabeth Gilbert posted about Nia (I think as a result of Rachel’s post, tbh) and included this in her caption:

I have a friend who has worked for years as photographer for several major New York City newspapers. Long ago, he told me something horribly disturbing. He said that —when it comes to stories about murder —there is a clear racial hierarchy about which stories get put on the front page of the newspaper, and which stories don’t get told at all.  If a white child is murdered, that’s front page news.

If a black child is murdered, that’s not news — unless it’s a REALLY dramatic story. If a white man is murdered, that’s news. If a black man is murdered, that’s not news.
If a white woman is murdered — ABSOLUTELY, that is news.

But when a black woman is murdered? That is the lowest degree of importance, in terms of news. So many times over the years, my friend has taken photos at the murder scenes of black women, only to be EXPLICITLY told by his editors: “This is not news. Nobody cares.”

Long before there was a social movement called #BlackLivesMatter, my friend learned firsthand on the job that Black Lives Do NOT Matter. And that NO life matters less than the life of a black woman.

Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture that we marinate in it at every level.

I eventually had to walk away from these posts because it was becoming way too heavy – and I can walk away from it. Imagine not having that privilege. I have been watching to see which of my friends follow Alison’s account. I think she is dangerous and mean – in spite of good work she does; these are not mutually exclusive concepts. As Rachel points out on her Instagram: Nice does not equal not racist.

Now, there is work to do, in measurable ways as I prepare for my 24th, or is it 25th? year of teaching, and take care of those around me, as well as in ways that are harder to see/measure/regard.

It is a lot.

And it is not optional.

Some really informative and interesting people to follow in addition to Rachel around this topic include:
Layla Saad and Handwritten Revolution and so many more… start looking.

If it goose-steps like a Dictator, and it propagandizes like a Dictator, it is probably a Pussy Grabbing Dictator. [Edited to include Hitler because people need it spelled out that clearly.]

 “He is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” ~ Donald Trump

This morning I read the news. Always a risk these days, and frankly not because of the “fake” news epidemic (I am old enough to know that citing sources is important) but because it is just such bad news, and I am so horrified by what the United States of America is becoming. Please do not misunderstand, I am under no illusion of perceived greatness and I am very aware of the horrors this country has perpetuated upon humanity and the world (slavery-Native American genocide-Chinese Exclusion-Jim Crow-Japanese Internment-McCarthyism-Diem-Iran/Contra-Kuwait-Desert Storm x 2-pretty much every aspect of Latin American exploitation we could muster-Afghanistan-global labor exploitation-regular environmental pillaging-etc-etc-ETC) but it seems like everyday we reach a new, unprecedented low.

One way to avoid the gloom of this reality is not to read the news. Sometimes I have the strength to resist. But then, inevitably, I see some lunatic post somewhere on the Facebook or the Twitter and I am compelled to uncover the source of such obvious horse shit.

And then it begins.

I have been especially interested in how little people care about verifying anything, as long as it supports their narrative. I mean, hey, I like my narrative to be correct as much as the next guy, but I guess I am more concerned about looking like a hypocrite or an ignoramus, so I like to check myself – before I wreck myself.

The lie of the week seems to be this notion that the Clintons (of course!) are the architects of the policy that is separating children from their families at the border. This one is especially disappointing because it is so very easy to fact check. In fact, it takes about 3 seconds to get the entire history of immigration law to pop up in the Google.

Hey Google, let’s review (you can skip this part; sourced from here):

  • The 1990 Immigration Act (104 Stat. 4978) raises legal admissions to 50% above the pre-IRCA level (mainly in the category of employment-based immigrants), eases controls on temporary workers, and limits the government’s power to deport immigrants for ideological reasons. It also expands the scope of aggravated felony to include nonpolitical crimes of violence for which a prison sentence of at least five years was imposed, while eliminating important discretionary relief for certain aggravated felons. The act also abolishes judicial recommendations against deportation, thus terminating the discretion of sentencing judges to grant relief from deportation for criminal offenders.
  • The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994) (VCCLEA) (108 Stat. 1791) gives the US Attorney General the option to bypass deportation proceedings for certain alien aggravated felons, enhances penalties for alien smuggling and reentry after deportation, and increases appropriations for the Border Patrol.
  • The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (1996) (AEDPA) (110 Stat. 1214) adds new crimes to the definition of aggravated felony. AEDPA also establishes the “expedited removal” procedure for arriving noncitizens who border officials suspect of lacking proper entry documents or being engaged in fraud; the procedure is amended later that year by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (see below).
  • The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (1996) (IIRIRA) (110 Stat. 3009) adds new grounds of inadmissibility and deportability, expands the list of crimes constituting an aggravated felony, creates expedited removal procedures, and reduces the scope of judicial review of immigration decisions. The law expands the mandatory detention of immigrants in standard removal proceedings if they have previously been convicted of certain criminal offenses. It also increases the number of Border Patrol agents, introduces new border control measures, reduces government benefits available to immigrants (as did the welfare reform measures enacted the same year), increases penalties for unauthorized immigrants, toughens procedural requirements for asylum seekers and other immigrants, mandates an entry-exit system to monitor both arrivals and departures of immigrants (now US-VISIT), and establishes a pilot program in which employers and social service agencies could check by telephone or electronically to verify the eligibility of immigrants. IIRIRA establishes a statutory framework for subsequent actions by states and localities, known as 287(g) programs, to take on immigration law enforcement roles that had traditionally been exercised solely by federal immigration enforcement agencies.
  • The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (1997) (NACARA) (111 Stat. 2160) provides several avenues for relief from deportation and adjustment of status for qualified Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and nationals of former Soviet-bloc countries.
  • The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (1998) (HRIFA) provides similar benefits to qualified Haitian nationals as did NACARA (see above description).
  • The USA Patriot Act (2001) (115 Stat. 272) broadens the terrorism grounds for excluding aliens from entering the United States and increases monitoring of foreign students.
  • The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (2002) (116 Stat. 543) requires the development of an interoperable electronic data system to be used to share information relevant to alien admissibility and removability. It also requires the implementation of an integrated entry-exit data system: the US-VISIT program is established to implement this system.
  • The Homeland Security Act (2002) (116 Stat. 2135) creates the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 2003, nearly all of the functions of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) — the Department of Justice agency responsible for provision of immigration services, border enforcement, and border inspection— are transferred to DHS and restructured to become three new agencies: US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • The REAL ID Act (2005) (119 Stat. 302) establishes statutory guidelines for removal cases, expands the terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and deportation, includes measures to improve border infrastructure, and requires states to verify an applicant’s legal status before issuing a driver’s license or personal identification card that may be accepted for any federal purpose. (States’ protests persuade Congress to delay implementation of the drivers’ license provisions of the law.) It also bars the use of habeas corpus as a vehicle for challenging removal orders, thus virtually completing the concentration of judicial review in the courts of appeals.
  • Congress enacts the Secure Fence Act (2006) after the Senate fails to adopt immigration reform legislation that had passed the House in 2005. The law mandates the construction of more than 700 miles of double-reinforced fence to be built along the border with Mexico, through the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in areas that experience illegal drug trafficking and illegal immigration. It authorizes more lighting, vehicle barriers, and border checkpoints and requires the installation of more advanced equipment, such as sensors, cameras, satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles, in an attempt to increase control of illegal immigration into the United States.

If you took the time to read that (I didn’t want to either) you see that in fact the only change to immigration law of consequence in 1997 actually extended the protections of certain Latin Americans. And again, I think there are some deplorable, pre-Trump policies on that list – but none of them stipulate the separation of families.

If you want to get to the point without a lot of contemplation, just go to Snopes.com:

There is no federal law that stipulates that children and parents be separated at the border, no matter how families entered the United States. An increase in child detainees separated from parents stemmed directly from a change in enforcement policy repeatedly announced by Sessions in April and May 2018, under which adults (with or without children) are criminally prosecuted for attempting to enter the United States.

Further:

The “zero-tolerance” policy he announced [in May 2018] sees adults who try to cross the border, many planning to seek asylum, being placed in custody and facing criminal prosecution for illegal entry.

As a result, hundreds of minors are now being housed in detention centres, and kept away from their parents.

Over a recent six-week period, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents after illegally crossing the border, figures released on [15 June 2018].

[Attorney General] Sessions said those entering the US irregularly would be criminally prosecuted, a change to a long-standing policy of charging most of those crossing for the first time with a misdemeanour offence.

Still, none of this seems to matter, because the current president has been able to convince a shocking number of people in this country that nothing they read is true – only what he says is true.

This is where I was this morning: bewildered by people’s willingness to believe. In response I posted something on the Facebook suggesting that those of us willing to stand by while our country depends into the current version of madness will be forever complicit in the outcomes. And don’t even get me started on the people who say it is inappropriate to be talking about this stuff in public or in social settings. But on review of my (albeit incomplete) list of dictators identified to highlight Trumpian behavior, I realized it was a perfect opportunity for a little compare and contrast activity.


Kim Jong-un: systematically violated human rights including freedom of thought, expression and religion; freedom from discrimination; freedom of movement

Trump: “America is a nation of true believers, we all salute the same great American flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God.” [Liberty Commencement Speech, 2017] “When somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out!” [Speaking in Alabama, 9-22-17]


Saddam Hussein: instigated numerous conflicts in his lifetime… against… groups who rebelled against his leadership.

Trump: (All quotes verified.)
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Stalin: launched government programs to improve the economy leading to the starvation of nearly 10 million people focused specifically on intellectuals and activists not in favor of his leadership.

Trump: ‘Tricked by the devil.’ They backed Trump. Now, his foreign labor cuts may ruin them. Trump budget calls for major cuts to food stamps, Job Corps education and job-training programs for low-income youths, and housing rental assistance. And it would completely eliminate heating assistance for low-income Americans, legal aid for domestic violence victims and nearly one in five American children live in poverty, the budget cuts also target children. Some studies have shown that nearly half of children will rely on food stamps for at least a short time before they turn 20. Even active-duty military families are sometimes forced to rely on the program.


Mugabe: rose to power via electoral deception and fearmongering -there was even one election where he did not receive any votes in a certain province so he orchestrated the killing of over 20,000 civilians by fabricating stories of rebellion and treason.

Trump: His repeated insistence, without credible evidence, that widespread voter fraud explained how Hillary Clinton received about 2.9 million more votes while he won the presidency in the Electoral College.


Mussolini: developed a cult of one-man leadership that focused media attention and national debate on his own personality and progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power and built a police state.

Trump: Mr. Trump had admitted his consistent attacks on the media were meant to “discredit” journalists so that negative stories about him would not be believed. I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.  (No president has ever pardoned himself, so its legality is a matter of legal debate. But a three-page memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that was written in 1974 — days before President Richard Nixon resigned — says the President cannot pardon himself because “no one may be a judge in his own case.”)


Hitler: [I CANNOT BELIEVE I HAVE TO INCLUDE THIS ONE BECAUSE IT IS SO OBVIOUS IT IS CLICHE] responsible for the deaths of over 17 million people including 6 million Jews forcibly rounded up removed from their homes and families and placed in “camps” to be exterminated.

Trump: Tent cities for immigrant children taken from their parents with no care takers/givers (one border patrol agent can be heard saying: “We have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”) Defending the actions, AG Sessions claims the comparison to Nazis is an exaggeration – because Germans were trying to keep the Jews in -seemingly forgetting that the Nazis initially attempted to expel Jews from Europe with systematic, mass deportations.


We are in trouble. Big trouble. And I have no idea how to not feel overwhelmed, underwater, and like giving up everyday. But this lady didn’t:

p04ksmvs

And these people didn’t.

 

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It is our turn.

 

If you want more inspiration check out this thread of awesome women at protests around the world. 
Also, if you have never read the full story of the 1968 Olympic podium protest, you should definitely read this. #PeterNorman
And if you want to read more about heinous dictators – AKA our president’s inspiration, this is pretty succinct and I borrowed a lot from it.

 

 

 

 

I teach, therefore I am employed in education. Again.

You almost had a job in tech…

Just over a year ago, I took a pretty big chance and walked away from the stability and reliability that a permanent teaching position offers. The pay was/is crap, but the benefits and calendar are reliable, although the day-to-day is always unpredictable (most of us who go into teaching and stay there are a bit addicted to that if you ask me.) Like a growing number of people in San Francisco and the surrounding area, I was getting tired of being poor (relatively) and with two decades of professional experience I realistically thought I was armed with a skill set that would make me valuable in a host of different jobs/careers/opportunities (what are people calling them now?) I looked (accurately, I thought) at the emerging professional pathways (that sounds like something people around here would call them) and considered how my skills matched up:

  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Cultural literacy
  • Leadership experience
  • Creative thinker
  • Organized
  • Detail oriented and goal oriented
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Commitment to excellence
  • Well read
  • Trivia master
  • Some other skills that are hard to explain if you are not down with Bloom’s Taxonomy, but let’s just say I reside at steps 5 and 6 
  • I can recall a movie reference for nearly every life experience that arises
  • Ridiculous memory for sports data (and for most things in general)
  • What-the-fuck-I-have-worked-with-kids-and-their-families-and-public-sector-bureacracy-for-decades-don’t-try-to-tell-me-what-it-means-to-have-a-growth-mindset-and-an-ability-to-pivot-and-assume-positive-intent-the-fact-that-I-am-still-standing-and-working-underscores-those-abilities-to-a-degree-you-cannot-possibly-understand

Seriously, when I read job descriptions I was interested in, I feel like I would be a quality candidate for the majority of them. Apparently this does not always translate. And, it turns out, people don’t really like other people to change – they really like to keep everyone in the compartment that makes sense to them.

“But you’re a teacher…”
“You don’t really have the specific experience we are looking for…”
“Don’t you teach?”
“I’m curious why someone at your point in their career is looking to pivot…”
“This is not really the same as teaching, I mean I know it has the same name, instructional designer, designing instruction, but it is not really designing instruction per say…”
“Is there a reason you do not want to teach anymore?”

The fact is, as my neighbor succinctly expressed, I was looking for a job in tech – but I was not being honest about why. So, why was I? Well, philosophically I am pretty convinced that the problems we are seeing across the “tech industry” have a lot to do with the diminishing role of humanities education, or at least the innate interest and ability to think abstractly. This is not surprising to  people who enjoy thinking, and the general consensus is that “while software developers are skilled engineering solutions, their focus is not asking what problems need to be solved, or asking what the consequences are of solving a problem in a particular way,” and this is having logical consequences that suck [too many examples to note, but Uber, Facebook, Cambridge Analytics, and the general disgustingness of the scene make the point effectively.]

I also firmly believe that we are in a position to do amazing things by merging our technological capabilities with our humanity. In education, agriculture, economic growth and sustainability, the potential is really amazing. Not withstanding, people are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well-trained to do. Call it the revenge of the film, history, and philosophy nerds. I felt hopeful about all of this. And empowered (as somewhat of a film, history, and philosophy nerd.)

Also, I liked the idea of what outsiders hear about working in tech: lots of money, unlimited vacation if you get your work done, lots of money, free gym membership, free gourmet meals, beer bashes, perks, lots of money… Just think for a moment how those kinds of benefits look to a teacher who works 70-hour weeks during the school year, pays for everything they need in their personal and professional lives, and is generally too tired to bother making a single meal all day long. I got emotional considering it. It all seemed so lively, dynamic, and inspiring to be working with people who were super into the work they were doing and brought their best everyday.

Uh, yeah. It is awful…

At a dinner party recently when the Warriors decided to turn it around and actually win the Houston series, I was telling two of my friends (who work in tech) as we stood in their stunningly remodeled home, “God, you know, it was really bad – the whole start-up vibe, it was just… bad. I had no idea.” They both looked at me, only surprised by my surprise. I was unsure who would respond – one definitely does not work at a start up but the other has been bouncing around more than he would like amidst the culture. He spoke, “Uh, yeah. It is awful.” My confusion prompted a more elaborate explanation. “Yeah, they don’t care. About anything. They don’t have to. He didn’t even get paid by his last company – it was ridiculous.” I still don’t understand how this fly-by-night charlatan-esque behavior is okay, but I hold on to my naïveté where I can.

This truth was something I guess I had to arrive at in my own damn time, but it is the truth, no matter how you look at it. The ethos (and ethics) of the start-up culture are a concentrated milieu of the extremes of our American entrepreneurial spirit: ingenuous, aspirational, fantastic – for sure. But cutthroat, greed centered, myopic, and socially Darwinist to Lord of the Flies levels.

It was certainly a departure from public education.

At what cost greatness?

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For me, the cost of my decision was relatively lightweight: the unpredicted outcome that can come with taking a risk, a temporary float in the River of Failure (which is better than some of the other destinations imagined above… but the ego says: ouch.) I left a sure thing that I was unsure I could sustain for the promise of shiny new things. But I did not pay attention to how close the Gate of Ideals is to the Tower of Weak Morals and the sewage pipe of Fakery. One only hopes I climbed out of the River of Failure headed to True Knowledge and not the Hotel Know It All, the Right System Railway station, or other parts unknown in Oblivion or The System.

This past year I saw first hand what it looks like when good intentions are superseded by gross profits and – more importantly – I realized that what I do for a living is not something anyone can just do (contrary to popular belief!) Professional licensure (in any field I would suggest) is important and does make a difference… I would no sooner want a child to work with an unlicensed teacher as I would want to visit an unlicensed doctor or lawyer. I also saw what it looks like when promises made are not kept and the subsequent impact on morale among those to whom the promises were made. I saw how the resilience of these innovators had less to do with resilience and much more to do with insulation from consequence. I saw that fancy semantics (oh-the-grammar-is-so-bad-when-y’all-are-trying-to-be-clever-by-renaming-the-wheel) and slick slide decks do not lead to quality professional products – those outcomes are achieved by professional quality people.

I work in education.

Someone once said that the way we answer the question, “What do you do?” says more about us than most inquiries. An obviously open-ended question, I think most of us would assume (in the US version of Western Culture anyhow) that it is trying to get at how you make money.

“What do you do?”
“I enjoy – ”
“No, but what do you do?”
“Oh, for work…”
“Yes, obviously, what do you do?”

What do you do means, simultaneously, how do you make money, how much money do you make, and how respectable are you. That is one loaded question.

The answers, when you are done being cheeky, generally have a limited range.

“I…”
“I am a…”
“I work in…”

Try those out with a variety of jobs. See how the semantics change and the meaning is altered.

“I teach.” Okay, that works. But “I tech?” “I doctor?” “I engineer?”

“I am a teacher.” More latitude here (although the implications of identity through profession underscore much of the weirdness I am trying to get at here), “I am a doctor,” “I am an engineer,” I am tech?” Scary.

I like, “I work in education,” because I do a whole lot more than just teach (which is a whole lot more than most people do in a lifetime but that is a polemic for another place) and it eliminates the very annoying and widely accepted idea in my field that what I do to earn income is me in my entirety. It is worth noting that most of the jobs in which people who perform them are typically described as being them are the jobs that elicit the most extreme positive and negative reactions – police, firefighters, teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians).

I wanted a chance to attach myself to a professional descriptor that suggested power, savvy, ingenuity, wealth, and social currency. I thought working in the start-up culture would bring that, and in some ways it may have. But it also brought with it a sense of being disposable, disingenuous, and necessarily superficial – don’t get attached to ideas they say, always be ready to let go and move on to the next thing. I lost the good parts that come with being a teacher: being respected by people (even if it is only out of habit and not actual), and having a job that did not take two paragraphs to explain. For the record, an EdTech company and an Education + Technology are the same thing no matter how much you want the extra letters to carry extra weight and in both – as in society – the teachers (even if you insist on calling them educators), remain second class personnel: under paid, under appreciated, and under valued. In spite of the fact that in many ways teachers are the most prepared for the dynamic, think on your feet, constantly pivot, nature of the start-up world, their skills are still mistaken as useless, archaic – even quaint – by the private sector.

I was promised too much when I took the chance to jump into what I thought was the tech world. I see that now, and I should have been aware of this. Had I talked to my peers immersed in the start-up industry they would have alerted me to this. I also, as I am prone to do when I have my sights set on something, did not acknowledge the myriad red flags: the immediate reversal of promises; the professional practices I knew were questionable after two decades of experience; a place that normalized inappropriate behavior; the allowances given for having a “fail forward” attitude that really just allows bad practice to perpetuate and grow. I still fully believe in the benefits of technology, and beyond that, the potential for merging it with education. Beyond believing in it, I am committed to it in a variety of ways. But one thing I can say with confidence now is that the successful merger of the two will need to be led by true visionary educators who have willing technologists in tow. It will not be the other way around.

I work in education.

And you need me along with my professional peers, to affect positive change in our field… and probably yours.

Basketball, Officiating, Sports Analysis, and the Journo Block on Twitter 👊

Let’s get a few things out of the way:

I hail from a basketball family. My grandfather was an all-state player in Minnesota who would have played college ball had he not enlisted to serve in WWII (imagine a 6’4″ guy assigned to a sub – but that is a story for another time.) My dad grew up playing hockey (logically: Minnesota) but when he moved to LA his sophomore year, he picked up basketball. He was an all-city player in LA and led his Granada Hills High School team to a really impressive section title over Roosevelt HS, 71-68. He was just that good of an athlete – able to switch sports without missing a beat. He got a full ride to Whitman College where I imagine he would have had a pretty solid career had the late 60s, Vietnam, and other extra-curricular interests not led to the University suggesting he might be better suited elsewhere. Pretty much all of my early memories of alone time with my dad involve watching basketball – either watching him play in his men’s league, or watching the NCAA or the NBA on a crap little television. It was one of the languages we spoke early on – and how I was able to watch the Warriors win their championship way back when – and be conscious of the magnitude of the moment – then and now.

So, of course, growing up, I decided I wanted to be a gymnast.

I should have done a little more observational research because it was clearly not in my tall family future. But I was committed – until the bars could no longer be adjusted enough to accommodate my quickly growing frame. (Starting 7th grade at 5’2″ things seemed plausible. Started 9th grade at 5’9″ so something had to give.)

Basketball it would be.

It was a good choice and basketball would be something that would inform much of my life for the next three decades.

I learned a lot from playing basketball, and while not the most natural talent, I was one of the hardest workers you could find. My coach would still attest to this (shout out to Petaluma High’s Doug Johnson who knew I was the perfect size to be a college guard, but I was convinced at 5’10” I would always be a forward, because teenagers know everything right?) and along with my work ethic was a seriousness with which I approached the game. Everyday I wanted to learn everything there was to learn in order to be better the next day. I was a work horse, there is no other way to describe it. I was (am) still pretty strong for my size and I rebounded like crazy – bumping uglies as Coach Izzo would say, and clearly fouled. A lot. I’ll just say I got very familiar with all of the officials in our league. But they too taught me a ton.

One of my high school English teachers was a Pac-10 ref at the time. We thought this was pretty cool (not as cool as he did, btw, but still.) Mr. R would talk about his side gig all the time and throughout my high school career he was definitely moving up the ranks in big time college officiating. This was when I started learning about how the ref game worked, there was a lot of give and take in order to move up the food chain and this guy was playing it perfectly. We will return to Mr. R presently.

I opted to run track in college – in hindsight not the right choice – but whatever. I stayed connected to basketball in a variety of ways: playing in rec leagues, coaching youth leagues, NCAA pools (I still recall the first time I picked the Final Four – 1990, UNLV, Duke, Arkansas, Georgia Tech – it impressed the heck out of my neighbors, too bad I didn’t get in on a pool that year.)

When I eventually decided to go into education I knew I would coach. I was the Varsity Assistant my first year at Balboa HS in SF where we won the section along with the boys, under their famous Jet Offense (yeah, it was cherry picking: Winters Patterson to Marquette Alexander for the title) Twice is Nice for Balboa was the headline. And it was here that I began to get a better understanding of the nuances of the game, and in particular officiating.

As I progressed through the ranks working up to what would be a 15 year varsity coaching career – girls in the season and boys in the summer (the boy’s coaches that I worked with would coach my girls and I would take their boys in the off-season leagues so that we did not break player contact rules, and I always appreciated that those coaches trusted me enough to do that – not many women get a chance to coach men (HUGE shout out to Becky Hammon and my perennial favorite Coach Pop.) With my growing experience, knowledge and love for the game, my biggest learning curve came when I began officiating. To be fair I was only officiating fall and summer ball, but my goodness – it changed everything. I have always been a pretty savvy conversationalist with officials and definitely was not above trying to charm them from the sidelines. It mostly worked, though I certainly earned some choice techs along the way. However, the summer I started working as an offical was a watershed moment.

My biggest takeaway was that perfection was not achievable, so consistency had to be the goal. I also became painfully aware of how officials can absolutely change a game – not necessarily through “bad” or “unfair” calls, but by inserting themselves too much into the game, by changing the pace of the game to something akin to pain for all involved, or simply by making the game about them.

I say all of this as a very long-winded way to say when a local sports journalist, who I am not sure has ever played or coached or officiated a game (if that matters), blocks me on Twitter (oh! The Horror!) because I make a snarky comment about the officiating assignment for a Warriors game (IT WAS SCOTT FOSTER FOR GOODNESS SAKES!) and suggests that I am some tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, I take serious issue with this.

Scott Foster and Tony Brothers are not good officials and I am defintiely not alone in this opinion. The two of them put far too much of their own ‘flavor’ (for lack of a better term) on a game. To be fair, they are consistent in their inconsistency, but they regularly make games unwatchable for me. And to be clear, I am not talking only about games that my favorite teams play in. I watch all the NBA games that are on tv. I watched all the NCAA games too – and any women’s games that the networks bothered to televise. I would never rarely say a ref cost a team (especially at the pro level) a game. Mr. R did not perform well on the largest stage I ever watched him officiate. Did he cost the Terrapins the game? Unlikely, although as they lost to Duke and I love Garry Williams and the Terps to the moon and back while simultaneously loathing the Blue Devils and their Grayson Allen culture, I would like to say this. But I do not say it because I know the game and I know better. However, I can still say Mr. R sucked that night.

And I can still say Scott Foster sucks on the regular. On Sunday Scott Foster was trending (why Brothers was not after the #TunnelTech is a mystery). Here is a quick peek at fans from across the country commenting on Mr. Foster.

 

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When I did a Twitter search I came across Tim Kawakami’s morning announcement of who would officiate game 4 of the Warriors-Spurs series. I retweeted his post with a comment: “Oh, this explains it. Had I had seen this I would not have rushed home to watch this game and stayed out to enjoy the weather” or something equally inane, and admittedly, not my most clever. (I later deleted it because I am not in the habit of trying offend, even the most sensitive on Twitter, although in hindsight that was dumb of me.) His response was swift.

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Now, I cannot say if Kawakami blocks people for breathing. But I can say I am well aware that these officials did not cost the Warriors the game (#AfternoonKlay). And I am still glad that I subscribe to The Athletic (Kawakami’s new gig) because I have been dying to see Ethan Sherwood Strauss‘ name back in the bylines and I rely on Marcus Thompson for good reporting. I am enjoying Anthony Slater quite a bit too.

What I can say is this: block whoever you want on Twitter – lord knows there’s enough heinous behavior out there to warrant it, And hey! Block me if it pleases you. But do not get it twisted and try to suggest that I am block worthy because I don’t know what I am talking about, or I am some conspiracy theorist. I love talking about basketball with my friends, my colleagues, my former teammates, and my former players – hell, with anyone, really,  who likes to talk about it. And we are allowed to be silly, sad, serious, contentious, outrageous, or whatever we want. I’d expect a journalist to know this.