electricpaladin: (Default)
I've been meaning for a while to write about my first week at school, and now - taking a break between grading Period 3's first week quizzes, diagnostics, exit slips, and daily catalysts and Period 2's - seems like as good a time as any.

I am having the time of my fucking life.

I teach five sections of 7th grade life sciences a day: Period 1, Period 2, Period 3, Period 4, and Period 6. My lunch is beteween 4 and 5, and 5 is my prep, which is a pretty pleasing arrangement. I usually roll into work around 7:30 AM. My commute takes between half an hour and fourty five minutes, depending on the traffic, and I have my podcasts to keep me occupied. I occasionally feel guilty about the driving, but I'm currently considering it an important slice of "me time" before I begin my day. Besides, public transit would take me three times as long and cost about as much. Carpooling would be virtuous, but there goes the "me." Anyway, I arrive, I make my photocopies, I arrange the classroom, and then the kids arrive.

They're a rough bunch. A lot of them are clearly grappling with some serious issues. I can already see signs of learned helplessness, serious anger issues, and the hypervigilance that Abby tells me characterizes trauma. I'm not seeing things: this part of Oakland is one of the most violent, and Oakland itself is one of the most violent cities in America. Gangs are a huge issue. I'm under instructions to report any kid I see wearing baggy pants and exposed boxers, oversized white t-shirts, or a marked preference for certain colors. Scrawling the wrong symbols on their notebooks is also a big deal.

But they're also kids. They're snotty and loveable. They want to assert themselves, but they also want structure and limits to help them grow. They might grumble when I tell them the rules, and they definitely test my rules, my dedication to my rules, and my patience, but they want me to pass their tests.

And I love life science. The science of living things has always fascinted me, and at the middle school level, I get to focus on the fun stuff.

Grad school is also surprisingly nice. I had expected to find my classes pretty useless, but I'm finding them remarkably interesting so far and looking forward to next week, when classes start again after the furlough. Stupid furlough.

The long and the short of it is that I'm loving my job. I feel fulfilled and empowered and like I'm doing something worthwhile in the world. I'll keep you all posted on how it all goes.

electricpaladin: (Corey Doctorow)
I have a request.

At the top of the page on my writing blog, the Burning Zeppelin Experience, I have an image of the Hindenburg, well, burning. It's an old-fashioned, silvery photograph, and think it's very attractive and fits the style of the blog perfectly (in that it's a picture of a burning zeppelin, not in the sense that it's going down in flames).

However, because of the way Blogger handles images, there's a gap on the right side, where the image comes through as narrower than the material below it (the blog content and the sidebar). It's minor, but it galls me. I feel like fixing it would be one of those little touches of professionalism that could help set the Burning Zeppelin Experience above the rest. The trouble is, the only way I could fix it would be to either make the image shorter (which I think would cause Blogger to display it as wider, to keep it the same relative size) or somehow widen it. I can't cut the image any further without cropping off parts of the photograph that I like, and I don't know how to widen it.

If anyone wants to take a shot at resizing the image, please comment here and I'll email the file you. The options I see are to either stretch the image or add bars of color to either side (a bold black? A neutral silver that fades into the silvery color of the old photograph? I don't know).

To see what it looks like now, go to http://burningzeppelinexperience.blogspot.com.

Thanks in advance.
electricpaladin: (Corey Doctorow)
So, remember that me as a writer blog I tried to start a few months ago?

It's back. As in, updated every weekday, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Some entries will be short - a confession or congratulation, depending on whether or not I've met my wordcount for the day - and others will be longer musings on the art of writing. I'm maintaining a blogroll of other blogs about writing and other bloggy things I find interesting, and I might review books on writing, books that are nifty, cool writerly websites, and so on.

If you're at all interested in following me as a writer, reading my thoughts on writing, and otherwise being involved with the website I'm going to put on my business cards and hand out at GenCon next year (assuming I get to go), check out http://burningzeppelinexperience.blogspot.com/.

As a favor, I could also use links, subscriptions, and mentions to anyone else you know of who might find such a thing interesting...
electricpaladin: (Default)
I used to be able to look at a beautiful sunset without thinking that some day, I'll see a beautiful sunset, and it will be my last beautiful sunset.

I'm writing that to get it out of my system. I'm writing that so that in a year, when whatever it is I've got going on is dealt with, I can read it and laugh. But I'm also writing it because it's going on. And it sucks.

A little background. I was an anxious kid. I had a period of real bad anxiety when I was in third, fourth grade. I was terrified of dying. Not the pain or decrepitude of age - of being dead. Of being not. It used to keep me up at night and drive me to distraction during the day. Eventually, it went away. I met this orthodox rabbi, and I thought to myself "I'd like faith like that." And I asked God for faith like that, and eventually the fear went away.

It wasn't that I had a clear image of the afterlife or anything. It was that I had a firm conviction that I am more than flesh, there is something in me that is eternal, and besides, dwelling on death is dumb. That conviction carried me through 16 years.

Then, about a month ago, it went away.

I don't know what happened? Well, I do know - I lost my job, went into debt, and started seeing my money problems poison everything else around me. And suddenly, I was afraid of being dead again.

Since then, it's come and gone. Sometimes it's more or less ok: a little twinge of fear that passes, and nothing at all when I'm working hard or having fun. Sometimes it's bad: weeping, clutching, terrified panic attack bad. These days it's better more often than it's worse, but it hasn't been really gone since it started. I have three main approaches. Three main approaches that work, anyway. I'm leaving out dose up on food or internet, since they don't really achieve much.

Approach 1: The Abby Approach

This approach focuses on something Abby helps me remember: this isn't real. This is my brain playing tricks on me.

You see, when I say I was an anxious kid, that's a little facetious. Actually, I am an anxious guy. Until recently, that anxiety has gotten in the way of everything. I won't go into it know, but if you know me, you know how many things I've screwed up thanks to a neverending cycle of fear -> inaction -> failure -> fear.

A lot of things have gotten better recently. The job search I recently ended (more on that later)? Definitely the best, tightest, most disciplined job search I've ever suffered. The job I'm doing now? Not something the old Mark could have handled. That freelance contract I just completed my first draft for? Not something I could have handled, either. Ok, maybe that last one I could have handled. I did have four months.

Anyway, I've always been anxious, so it's not surprising that now I'm having anxiety attacks. The Abby Approach is: reduce the feeling to its physical components, remember that emotional sensations are really just physical sensations, don't dwell on the ideas behind the fear, they're just your brain playing tricks on you. All this is nothing more than a trick of brain chemistry. And it will pass. And when I have a little more money, I'll see a counselor. And a psychiatrist.

One of the nice things about this idea, which has occurred to me several times, in several ways, is that maybe I've finally beaten my anxiety on every other front, and this - raw, guts-to-water fear of death - is its last holdout. You know, now that my anxiety can't induce raw, relationships-to-crap fear or rejection or raw, prospects-to-water fear of failure it's retreated to something I can't actually do something about.

For now. I'll get you, fucker.

Approach 2: The Landmark Approach

This one comes from a personal growth class Abby and I took. One of the distinctions they teach is "peace doesn't come from having no problems (that's death), it comes from the perception that something is wrong. Therefore, giving up the idea that something is wrong will give you peace."

Sometimes, it works. I focus on the reality of my life. Nothing is wrong. It's not like I'm dying at the moment, or anything. Life is pretty good right now. I have nothing to fear.

Approach 3

And the last, trying to recapture some of what I used to have. An inner certainty that I am more than flesh, that something in me will last forever, that dwelling on death is a stupid thing to do.

I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

. . .

Also, I have a job!

I'm working for Birdcage Press. We make educational books and card games for kids, on topics like art, dinosaurs, art, animals, and art. But, mostly art. Anyway, what am I doing for this company? I'm their internet marketing expert.

But Mark, I hear you say, what the fuck do you know about internet marketing?

Not a hell of a lot.

Birdcage Press is in need of someone who can work cheap and grow with the job, and nobody works cheaper and has more growing to do than someone who doesn't, technically, know anything about the job.

It's a little anxiety-making, but my coworkers are supportive (to the point of my boss buying a bunch of books for me to read on the topic of the job they hired me for) and the environment is funky. I mean, while the way I put it above seems dire, consider it this way: I'm being paid to be smart, young, have cool ideas, and learn fast. All of which I have, am, and do. What's not to like?
electricpaladin: (Hobbes)
Last night was the most vicious case of insomnia I've ever had. I was barely even sleepy. I don't know if I actually lay awake all night, or if my mind was so busy I just think I was awake. I know I slept twice, because I remember two dreams, one about fighting evil green snot-worms in the basement of my old home in Brooklyn and the other of continually forgetting what drinks I wanted to buy for [profile] homais and I, as we played pool in a bar. Actually, it was a rather nice bar, for a bar, except the bartender was increasingly frustrated with my inability to actually order something already.

Anyway, unless I have fatal familial insomnia, this should end soon. Tonight, the plan is sleepy tea, a long walk before bed, and Melatonin. Lots and lots of yummy, yummy Melatonin.

I don't, by the way, have fatal familial insomnia. In addition to the fact that that would be just stupid, I don't actually have the symptoms. Fatal familial insomnia is characterized by progressive insomnia that begins as twitching and muscle aches and progresses towards a total inability to sleep (followed by madness and death), not a sudden attack of really bad insomnia. With FFI, I'd already be suffering from anxiety attacks and random irrational phobias by now. Also, FFI runs in families (hence the "familial") and has something like a 50% rate of occurring if even one parent has the dormant gene. So, I'd know if I had it, because I'd know someone who died of it. And it almost never strikes before the late thirties and has an average onset age of 49.

Why do I know all this? Well, when you've got insomnia (probably brought on by stress) and you tend to imagine that you have horrible diseases (but only when you're stressed), what else are you supposed to do at four in the morning (when you're awake, because you're stressed) but google insomnia and get thoroughly freaked out by what you find?

Fatal familial insomnia! Ack!

Now if only I knew exactly why I was stressed, I'd be one step ahead.

I haven't posted in a while, so life update: I'm temping at a place called Ebrary in Palo Alto. The pay isn't too hot, but the place is criminally convenient for me, and they're hiring a combined marketing and finance department assistant, which, if I play my cards right (and don't die of fatal familial insomnia) could be me. Ebrary provides a service that makes online libraries available to laboratories, schools, other libraries, and so on. I'm data-entering, but I find the business interesting. Better yet, if hired into the marketing department, I'd be working in the core of the business (which is quite unlike my position at Ernst & Young), meaning there would be more possibilities for advancement.

The only problem is that they just began looking for someone a little while ago, and don't plan to name a name until June. So, if I do, in fact, move to San Francisco in August, I probably won't be able to accept the position if they offer it to me. Fortunately, I should know by June if I'm going to be moving in August.

Frankly, even if I do move, I'd be tempted to accept an as-yet-imaginary offer. Ebrary's office is spitting distance from the Caltrain station, after all, and it would be really convenient for Wednesdays, when i plan to be teaching at Etz Chayim even if I move, and for NoM meetings on Tuesdays.

What else is new? Well, the work I'm doing right now is largely data entry, which is so monotonous that I can actually listen to my ipod while I work. Specifically, I can listen to podcasts! Oh, podcasts. Wow. Podcasts are awesome.

At this point, I am listening to:

The Bear's Grove: Sam Chupp, the developer of one of my favorite White Wolf games - Changeling, the Dreaming - talking about game design, roleplaying, myth, fantasy, and all sorts of other neatness. He also does interviews and tells us all about the solo game he runs his wife. Anyway, probably my favorite so far.

Dragon's Landing: This gaming podcast doesn't really have a theme, other than tabletop. But it's cool. Their Frugal Gamer segment has great free online resources, and they sing nifty Irish drinking songs!

Gamer: the Podcasting: Sadly deceased (I feel so betrayed), but I plan on listening to all the back episodes, because they're just that awesome. They claim to be about LARPing, but most of what they have to say applies to all kinds of gaming.

The Savage Lovecast: Because Dan Savage is my sex guru.

Subknit: A combinating BDSM and knitting podcast.

Wormwood: This is a modern fantasy radioplay, after the fashion of the old 50s radioplays. It's modern, but with a retro twist, and actually sent chills running up my spin in the office. In broad daylight. On a Tuesday.

I have also recently added All Games Considered and Sons of Kryos, but I haven't actually listened yet, so I'll get back to you all on their quality.

Not an awful lot else going on. Abby and I are running Grace, using the Buffy: the Vampire Slayer system and (sort of) setting. The game is off to a rocky start, but we're not giving up just yet. Grace is a former vampire brought back to human life (a la some person from Angel, which I have never watched seriously). I'm mostly reading Mage: the Awakening, which is so far impressing me, though nothing will ever unseat Mage: the Ascensio as my favorite game. To my intense joy, the games are different enough that I can happily play both of them without feeling like I'm wasting my time or money.

Anyway, that's all I have time for now. Take care, all.
electricpaladin: (Hobbes)
Today was one of those days at class that reminds me why I'm doing this.

So, with my fourth graders, we've been talking about the Book of Kings (who were mostly sociopathic power-hungry maniacs), the tradition of prophesy and speaking truth to power, and the ways of speaking truth to power available to us in the modern world. Today was the culmination of those lessons. With some guidance from me, the kids made signs, picked a few chants...

And marched around the block, protesting the unfair and unjust policies of King Rehoboam, Solomon's son.

It was awesome. The second class loved it so much, they walked around the block twice. I had to repeatedly stop two kids from chanting "vote democratic!" and "Rehoboam's not as bad as Cheney!" and one kid worried that protesting ancient dead kinds wasn't 'cool' enough for him (as he explained often, he is 'in a band'), but other than that, the lesson went off without a hitch.

Not only was today one of those days when I felt the rush and the thrill, the fire of the moment - it was one of those days that drilled home the point "I am good at this."

I think I really am.

In other news, I've decided to go ahead with the writing blog project. I've taken [livejournal.com profile] homais's advice to use Blogger to start my writer's blog (and I'll be begging his help creating rss feeds and customizing it, and such). The updates will be based on my experiences and development as a writer, and there will be accessible content in the form of some of my stories.

I am soliciting all sorts of advice on blogging. I need a style - a blogging voice that somehow expresses my narrative voice - and most importantly, I need a name. A name that reflects my style without being lame.

A name that isn't dumb. On the internet.
electricpaladin: (Default)
I am infected with the creeping death. Despite the icon, it is a creeping rot of the throat and lungs, not a creeping rot of the belly. Imagine the little face coughing instead of vomiting. The disease struck on Sunday (after an ill-advised Saturday bike ride in the rain). I stayed home from work yesterday and left half-way through today.

Now that I'm out of school, I find that I have no idea how to decide whether or not I'm well enough for work. At school, it was easy. Firstly, I could always just go to my first class of the day and wait and see. Secondly, classes are a lot more forgiving. It's easier to make up the missing work in class and scramble to get the notes than it is to somehow produce the $80 I would have made working at Kepler's. In fact, the latter is impossible. So, I'm always left wondering.

Take this disease, for example (really, please, take it). I could work, if I wanted to. I just don't want to. My throat and chest and everything ache, I'm coughing fairly frequently in fits of two to four to a lot, and when I do it hurts.

So, I'm home with the creeping crud of doom. Wish me luck.


Oct. 8th, 2005 09:14 pm
electricpaladin: (Default)
Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading the livejournal of the proud owner of five jobs. Now, this isn't too impressive, unless you did your math and knew that, until about fourty-five minutes ago, I was the less proud owner of only four jobs. The fifth came through just now, a job at the local Borders.

Now, Borders isn't that much to be proud of. It doesn't pay that well, for one thing, though it offers health insurance and a pretty sweet employee discount. Also, as a work-friend of Abby's said: 'Borders, how could you not get hired there!" No, what I'm proud of is that this fifth job is all it will take to get Abby and myself out of her parents' house. Whithin a week or two, we will be living in our own place, with our own furniture.

In other words, I can unpack already. I can get moving with my year here on the West Coast, applying to HUC, working at my (five!) jobs, making friends and connections. Living.

Basically, good news, good news, yay, yay, congrats, congrats.

Also, I have no regrets about joining the Evil Empire. There is humanity to be found even in the depths of the Borders experience, sparks of divinity to be redeemed from even corporate life, and I will find them. And also have an apartment.
electricpaladin: (Holy Knight)
Today was Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish new year and the first day of the Days of Awe or High Holy Days, or whatever you want to call them. I went to services with Abby's family, and it was nice.

What it wasn't, though, was terribly profound. I can't decide whether to be troubled by this. On the one hand, I like profound experiences, religious and otherwise. On the other, when I think back on it, every other profound Rosh HaShannah has been profound in a distinctly bad way. They have all been new years in which I resolved to make some improvement or get out of some bad situation. Right now, I'm not in any bad situations, and while I know I have many flaws and failings, there are none that I have a burning, immediate desire to correct.

I suppose despite the various situations of my life - the lack of a job, my parents continued griping (more on that later), my various mistakes - I am actually content.

Of course, a lot of these situations aren't as bad as they could be. Take the lack of a job, for example. I do have three great jobs teaching religious and hebrew school. They are all fulfilling and fun, and who cares if they don't pay enough? I'm doing what I want to do with my life, and that's better than what a lot of people can say, and better than what I could have said last year. And, in addition to all that rather ephemeral optimisim, I have a job offer. A stationary and chatchke store called Papyrus is offering me 15 hours a week on betwen $9 and $10 an hour. It's not enough to get us out of Abby's parents' house, but it's a start.

The promised (threatened?) aside to my parents is this: I think I have finally found out the center of my mother's gripe. She doesn't think I'm asking for advice often enough. She's upset because she thinks I don't understand that she and my father are the only people in the world with my best interests at heart. She thinks there is something deeply wrong with what I'm doing with my life right now.

I guess she's right about a few things. I haven't gone to my parents for advice as often as I should. In my defense, my project was to get out of the house, and all my parents seemed to be able to talk about when I brought it up was how impossible this project was. Who wants that kind of advice? I had decided I was going to do it, and so I tried, and I succeeded!

Also, it's hard to go for advice to a couple of people who have spent years making themselves hard to talk to about problems, but I can't tell them that. Honestly, it's not that I'm afraid of causing a fight. The fights mean so much less from across a continent. It just doesn't seem fair to say something like that in a context where I know it will be misunderstood. If I could get my parents into family therapy or something, then maybe I'd be able to say it. In the meantime... ah, whatever. I'm out of that house, and as much as I love my parents, I don't think I'm living there again. Things might get better and things might get worse, but I'm going to keep myself safe. I don't know where their doubts and anxieties end and I begin when I'm living there, and that scares me too much for me to allow it.

That's all there is about my parents. What else have I promised to write about?

The kids! That's right, the kids. My Sunday morning class is billed at twenty-two kids, but considering absences, it's usually more like sixteen or eighteen. They're sixth graders, roughly evenly split between boys and girls, with a really exciting mix of personalities and backgrounds. A lot of them are "half Jewish" - though, as I tell them repeatedly, in my classroom they're Jewish, and that's all that counts - and the other half ranges from spanish to scottish. One of the girls looks middle-eastern, but she could be spanish, or just mizrahi.

They are really great kids. I have my share of troublemakers and eccentrics, from the boys who are so entertained by my difficulty with their names (it's only been three classes, give me a break!) that they keep lying during attendance to the girl who puts on such a bored, disaffected personality that I'm really afraid she's going to grow up and become a hipster, but they are all really just spirited. They ask good questions, and they don't resist my efforts to make the material exciting. Their misbehavior isn't even that bad; they have a hard time staying on task and sometimes it takes a while to get them quiet, but by and large there isn't any blatent disrespect and, as far as I can tell, there isn't any bullying at all.

I've only met the Wednesday kids once, and I haven't met the Saturday kids at all, but I'll post about them at some point.

So, in short, my life is better than I think, I have great jobs and good prospects, and perhaps that's the most profound thing about this Rosh HaShannah.

Also, when the haftorah and torah were being read in Hebrew, I could sort of half keep up with what it meant, which was awesome.

L'shanna tova.
electricpaladin: (Holy Knight)
It's been a while since a proper entry, and I haven't really got the energy to give you one right now. Here, then, is the quick, impressionist version of the past few weeks:

The job search continues with many good leads and no definite offers, yet. Hope springs eternal. Patience does not.

All my current games continue to be great fun. In local gaming news, I may soon have the opportunity to play in a game of HeroQuest, a sort of highly flexible mythic fantasy with incredibly well-researched and fully-realized cultures and religions. I'm looking forwards to it.

My jobs are incredible. Aside from a brief incident where being offset by the wedding-spawned long weekend caused me to MISS A CLASS (insert self-flagellative grumbling), I feel I've been doing a good job. The experience is a positive one for the kids, and for myself. Also, I am being offered another teaching position, bringing my number of classes up to three per week and my weekly income from Jewish education jobs to about two hundred dollars.

The rest of the income has yet to materialize. See the first bit.

I have begun watching Serenity. This is... a good show. I like it immensely. That's all I can really say right now, but more will be forthcoming once I've watched more of the show and, well, slept.

And finally, I went to my first Renaissance Faire with Abby today. She was stunning in a blue-bodice and a purplish skirt. I was... nondescript in my front-tie shirt, black pants, and sandals. I may make assembling a proper Ren Faire garb a project, once I've got the money for it. I had a fun time. Abby acquired a cloak, we both bought matching love-knot coin necklaces, and much strange food was consumed by all. Again, if the mood strikes me, I might write a little more about the experience later. Also, If you really want to know, you could check Abby's journal. She writes about these things sometimes, too.

This entry ended up being longer than I thought it would be, which is just fine. The promised proper entry, complete with organization, will show up at some as-yet-determined point.
electricpaladin: (Holy Robot)
Maybe if I complain, I'll feel better, and maybe then I'll be able to focus on writing a lesson plan for Sunday (I've only got an hour and ten minutes left to plan... how hard can it be? It takes the kids half an hour to do anything), or filling out some of these job applications I've got sitting in an ominous papery pile on my left.

Let's see. Abby and I, as I'm sure most of you know, are still in her parents' house, because I lost that job. It was a great job, and I didn't do anything to loose it. It just turned out that it really was too good to be true. Basically, there was a miscommunication between the rabbi and the educator, the upshot of which was that the educator went and hired someone for the job the rabbi had offered me.

So it goes, I guess, but now I'm trapped in Abby's house, with my parents increasingly breathing down my neck to go home. Their latest angle is that they are concerned that I don't want to be a rabbi anymore, which they insist would be fine by them (probably would, too), because apparantly working retail to support myself while also teaching a Sunday School class and being involved in a local synagogues in as many capacities as they will let me is not enough for HUC. Or so my parents say. HUC has been called and will weigh in with its opinion at some point. I'm too tired and anxious to even be properly angry at them. It's presumptous as hell for them to tell me how to get into a school neither of them has ever had anything to do with. It's hard maintaining my convictions while I'm tired, cramped, and miserable, hard enough without them insinuating that I don't want to be a rabbi anymore.

And retail. I spent a fair chunk of yesterday at the local mall, collecting job applications, which wouldn't have been so bad - I got out of the house, for example, which is an improvement on most days - if it weren't first for the fact that looking for jobs in retail feels like admitting defeat, and second, that I managed to get lost on my way back to Abby's house and spent two and a half hours wandering around fucking Palo Alto, in the dark, about as lost as I've ever been.

I know it's rediculous and elitist of me, but it does feel like a defeat. All my life, whenever I've done something for money, it's been something useful. I've taught, I've tutored, I've worked camps... it's all been in the service of my ambitions. This is the first time I've ever had to do something for money. OK, not the first time; the first time was last year, first semester, when I washed pots in Stevenson, but that time I wasn't crammed into a house that couldn't fit me with my increasingly stir-crazy girlfriend (not to mention my increasingly stir-crazy self) and my parents breathing down my neck practically calling me a failure who has abandoned his dreams.

I almost got properly angry, there. Not quite.

The fact is, working retail will be useful. For me. It's going to teach me firstly about how real people live, secondly about what it means to manage my own money and my own affairs, and thirdly it's going to keep me here and the hell away from my parents' house, which is a victory in and of itself. Frankly, my parents are going to have to either shut up and deal with this, or I'm going to stop answering their calls, because I am not obligated to put up with this.

But in the meantime, I'm sitting here in Abby's house, still feeling every minute of my meaningless two and a half hour trek (did I mention that my parents actually called to yell at me at the same time that I was lost? Cute), with more stress than I care to think about resting in my shoulders and making the backs of my hands itch from typing, with a mostly-unwritten lesson plan in the next window and a pile of untouched job applications sitting next to me.

In better news... I've got another possible teaching position, if Congregation Etz Chayim ever calls back, and... I've started reading the first book of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It's good, if slow, and I can't work out if the main character is actually stupid or just a bit of a ditz. The various games I'm running Abby remain pretty much the only fun thing in my life.

Oh, the kids at my Sunday job are great. You know, hyped up and nutty, but not bad kids at all, but I'm not going to write about them now. In my current mood, I couldn't possibly do them justice.

Moving Out

Aug. 15th, 2005 05:57 pm
electricpaladin: (Holy Robot)
For those of you who haven't heard the good news, I'm moving out. Not permanently, not really. It'll take many years for me to fully extricate myself and my belongings from my parents's house. Still, I am moving out of my home to a place owned (or at least rented) by me, paid for by my own money. I am moving out, which means sorting throug my belongings, which means coming to a very notable conclusion.

I own an absurd number of books.

It's kind of ridiculous. Going through just the books in the boxes in my closet and the contents of my main shelf has produced a largeish pile on the floor outside my door of books I am getting rid of, a slightly larger, much more orderly pile of books slated for transit to California (including my not-inconsiderable gaming collection), and pretty much the entire surface area of my bed, to a depth of about a foot and a half. That isn't counting about two thirds of the content of the smaller, over-door bookshelf, which I decided contained mostly books I'm not going to get rid of and was too much of a pain in the ass to get to, anyway. They range from the aforementioned roleplaying books - about ten Mage: the Ascension books, a similar number of Exalted books, a single, lonely and never used book for roleplaying in the Star Trek universe, Little Fears, and the GURPS supplement Illuminati University - to an uncountable number of softcover and hardcover science fiction and fantasy novels and anthologies, to about a score of more traditionally respectable fiction, with a considerable amount of non-fiction, mostly old college textbooks of various sorts, thrown in.

Getting rid of books has always been hard for me. It doesn't make any sense. For some of the books, I understand. There are books I remember enjoying a great deal that I might want to read again one day. There are books I enjoyed and won't read again, but don't want to throw away out of some sense of comraderie. There are children's books I would honestly like my own children to read one day. There are books here I have had since I was a kid that I know I will not and do not want to read again, books that will be obsolete by the time I am in the business of making and raising children of my own. There are books of no discernable value, but when I move towards the pile of books slated for sale, donation, and elimination, I find myself hesitating. This is a book, a part of my says, and worthy of keeping.

I can't keep them all, but I want to. It even bothers me to get rid of two of my three copies of Abraham Joseph Heschel's The Sabbath. Two of three! It's crazy.

Actually, crazy would be not getting rid of them. I can't afford to keep this many books. I need to be somewhat mobile for the next few years of my life to work. First to California, then to Jerusalem, then to God and the HUC admissions committee know where. Everything important has to be taken with me, and everything I might need has to be easily accessible.

I don't mean this to be a metaphor for leaving home and growing up. Honestly, I'm more anxious about being able to do my jobs than I am about the prospect of living elsewhere. Compared to teaching sixth graders, leading teen agers, and performing five hours of office work a day, ballancing a checkbook feels like a piece of cake, despite the fact that I don't really know the first, second, or third thing about checkbooks. What I mean this to be is a brief moment of relaxation between taking everything out of my bookshelf and putting it back in, a stream-of-consciousness rest break, a quiet time to reflect on something I now know to be indisputably true.

I own a lot of books.
electricpaladin: (Holy Robot)
I'm sure there are more important things for me to be doing, but I've been promising a serious post for a long time now, and nothing beats livejournal for rank procrastination.

The past few weeks have been a lot of fun. First, a week in Palo Alto, at [livejournal.com profile] ladypimpernel's house, followed by a week in Chataqua, with [livejournal.com profile] ladypimpernel's family. Both were a lot of fun, with lots of solo gaming and sleeping in and wandering around beautiful Palo Alto and beautiful Chataqua with, you guessed it, [livejournal.com profile] ladypimpernel, which amounts to a whole class of enjoyment in and of itself. I also had a chance to read her the first two chapters of A Knight of the Land, and she has since read the third chapter on her own. It seems that my worst fears have been realized; my father was right, it really is quite good, and while it needs some work, I ought to try to get it published.

The week in Palo Alto also gave me time to pursue jobs for the coming year. California is looking very likely now. I have recieved one offer for a teaching job at one synagogue and another, as yet uncomfirmed (ie. I want to have a final conversation about salary and hours and the rabbi is playing hard to get) job as a part time office worker and "informal educator" (whatever that means) at a different synagogue. Another offer as a youth group leader is pending, and I have the time and the inclination to substitute teach at several synagogues and take another part-time job at a bookstore or a coffee shop or a restaurant or something in that neighborhood.

At the moment, however, things are tense and unhappy. My mother, as she often is when my life is engulfed in some upheaval or another, is on the rampage. She wants me in New York for a variety of reasons, some stated, some not, some legitemate, some not. She thinks it's best, she thinks I can make more, she thinks I'm less vulnerable to being laid off here, she wants a greater measure of control over my life, she's suffering from empty nest angst - whatever it is, it's getting on my nerves. I really don't like this. My parents, even my much-maligned mother, can be very reasonable at times, and dealing with them is the picture of an ego struggling against dissolution. I can't dismiss them out of hand because they're not bad parents, really, just very human in some specific ways that I, with my own baggage, have a hard time dealing with. Because I can't dismiss them, my compassion, relativism, and love of discussion kick in, and I start arguing with them. I need to prove them wrong and have them acknowledge my arguments to feel vindicated, but I often get the impression they aren't playing by the same rules that I am. They were always good at letting me win from time to time when I was growing up, letting me keep the gaming books hidden in the back of the closet, letting me walk the dog for an hour with my brother so I could run him free-form games, letting me think I had gotten one over on them here and there. What happened? Why do they feel the need, all of a sudden, to really, really win?

Or possibly this one is on me. Maybe the stakes are higher, and suddenly I'm the one who wants to win, and they don't know how to deal with it.

I feel pretty adolescent posting all this. Aren't we supposed to have made peace with our parents by now? Made peace or told them to fuck off? I can't seem to do the first, and I don't want to do the second. I had damn well better be in California next year. If I'm here, I'll do what I did last summer, just swallow my self-determination and simmer. It was good for my writing - I produced a three hundred something page novel, and it's apparantly worth pursuing - but it plays hell with everything else.

Further bad news: I have decided that except in the sense that every bad experience is a learning experience, the Bay Area Mitzvah Corps was basically a bust. In an email with one of my fellow coordinators, I have discovered that in the final arithmetic - in her opinion - I basically did a bad job. I can't argue, though I wish I could. I know I shared some good times with the kids and taught them some good lessons, but as a counselor I had a hard time staying engaged and as a coordinator I had a hard time staying on target, though both improved with time. While it's possible that my coworker is being hard on me, I think she's right. I'm going to chalk this one up to experience and move on. Transferring from a counselor or office intern who takes the orders to one of the counselors and coordinators of an entire program, with one third the fate of fourteen teenagers resting squarely on my shoulders, is not easy. I'll have to get good at this, but I'm not going to beat myself up too much. I'll do better next time, but I really wish I'd done better this time.

Enough moping. It turns out that my brother picked up juggling over the winter, which is pretty great. With his help, I've picked up my first trick, adding stealing to my malnourished juggling repetoire. Also, I have a collection of jobs that will let me live in California, if I can ever get ahold of the rabbi, which is exactly what I've been looking for. Even my father admits that it's a distinct possibility that this will work out, though confronting my mother will be tough.

In the final thought of this great mess of a post, Abby and I are considering living together next year. While our readiness is dubious, it's not totally out of the question. We'll have been together a year in September, after all. We spent the two weeks before this basically living together, though we left out a lot of real-life necessities like keeping things neat. I don't know if we're ready, and Abby has been asking for advice on her livejournal, so I may as well do the same on mine. Advice welcome.

So, in short, I am in a frustrating and disappointing limbo where every success is hard-bought, and most of them turn out to be failures whithin a day or two, regaurdless of how much I paid for them. I can't seem to please any of the people I love and want to be proud of me. I suppose this is life. I'll work on it.
electricpaladin: (Default)
NFTY BAM Corps is over. Clean-up is progressing nicely, and only one participant remains to be picked up by his parents. A final reflection on my summer will be posted soon.
electricpaladin: (Default)
Back from canoeing trip with kids. Exciting. Head hurts. Lost glasses in water. This is the second time that this sort of thing has happened to me (last time it was sailing in a lake) and I am no longer amused. That was the longest sentence you'll get out of me in a while. That was the second longest.

electricpaladin: (Holy Robot)
So, time for a real journal-style entry.

I am working at the National Federation of Temple Youth's Bay Area Mitzvah Corps (heareafter referred to as BAM Corps). The daily schedule is simple: I wake at the ungodly hour of 7:15 or so, because that's when the kids come into my room to get the breakfast food. While I shower and dress, the kids set up for breakfast and lunch. Then I amble out of my room and make myself a breakfast and pack myself a lunch.

After that, the day becomes a little hectic. Sometimes I go with the kids to their work site, which is interesting because I got assigned the train wreck of a worksite, and the kids there know it. Sometimes I hang around the dorm and coordinate, the word "coordinator" being a part of my title. Sometimes, at least in theory, I run around San Francisco on public transportation running errands, though thankfully that hasn't had to happen just yet.

I had better explain exactly what BAM Corps is. What I have here are fourteen kids between the ages of fifteen and eighteen who have decided to spend their summer volunteering in a variety (3, including the train wreck) of places across San Francisco. Evenings and weekends, they have fun San Francisco programs and Jewish programing, weekdays they work like the little dogs they are.

Of the three worksites, only one of them is really successful in all ways. That one is The Jewish Home for the Aged, where the kids work making scrap-books and generally helping out with the old folks. The second, slightly less optimal site is the Salvation Army. The name (and Catholic background) are not the only problem. Mor importantly, it's in a really sketchy neighborhood, so the staffperson assigned to that site has got to accompany the kids there and back every day, which cuts down on her productivity.

Then there's my site, Hayward Parks and Recreation. First of all, it's not even in San Francisco. The kids have an hour and fifteen minute commute, on Muni (basically subway that sometimes shares the street with cars) and Bart (think Long Island Railroad or any other suburb-urb train). Second of all, it isn't any fun. While the other kids come back with stories about playing with inner city kids and exciting delivering of meals through sketchy neighborhoods, with only overworked and underappreciate volunteers for protection, my kids have... cutting down thorny blueberry vines. And showing off the scratches delivered by said vines, which is, for them, less fun than it would be for me. Thirdly, despite my best efforts, most of the kids (with the exception of one boy who is a little shy and likes the idea of helping out in a way that doesn't demand that he interact with strangers) don't view their work as terribly meaningful. I understand how having a nice parking lot garden full of well-manicured ivy and no ugly, thorny vines is nice for a park, especially a park in a fairly lousy neighborhood, but the good they are achieving is removed from the work they are doing, and I can see how frustrating it is.

Apart from that problem - which we are solving for the next rotation - the program is running well. That, and my continuing struggles with disorganization, are really the only problems we face. For once, I am dealing with almost universally good kids. I mean, there are the good-natured troublemakers, the spoiled girls, the two girls from conservative synagogues who don't really fit in, the offbeat girl who annoys everyone, the nerdy fantasy fan girl who often doesn't interact with anyone but me, and so on, but these are good kids. By and large, they're doing this because they want to make the world a better place. Unlike most of my previous counselor jobs, these kids make it easy to feel like I know what I'm doing. At the counselor part anyway...

I should have known this might happen when I took a job with "coordinator" in the title. There's a lot of internet reasearching, a lot of phone-calling and arranging. A lot of setting goals and fulfilling them. You know; the things I'm bad at. The honest fact, though, is that the only way to solve an abiding problem is to challenge it. And so, I may not do the best job in the world, but I'll do a better job than the last time I had to handle something like this, and the next time I'll do even better, and so on.

That's it for tonight, I think. I'll be back later with some further reflections on my job and what I've seen so far. And, at some point - I won't make any promises when - I will present my life's story.

What can I say? It's a trend I've liked and wanted to contribute to for a long while. New journal, new courage... it's time to put some of my past into words.


electricpaladin: (Default)

June 2012

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