Writing for Good

You know that "trick" where you cover a quarter with a piece of paper and use your pencil to shade over the paper until you have an engraving of the quarter? You start with a blank piece of paper and before you know it, a quarter reveals itself to you in a thicket of smeared graphite.

That's what writing (especially blogging) feels like for me. I say that I like to write/blog, but it feels more like a story or piece is already there, nearly living and breathing; I am a mere instrument that scratches graphite back and forth until its finally revealed.

However, I do not want to understate the feeling of uncovering a piece by equating it to creating a worthless facsimile of US tender. On the contrary, when a piece needs to be written, it needs to be written. It nags at me and impatiently sits at the fore of my brain and the tips of my fingers until it's let out to breathe and live independently.

This is why writing is so much a part of me -- I'm a a slave to it; I am possessed; I have no choice in the matter.

This being the case, I want to do something good with it. Rather than scream meaningless words that will only be carried away in the wind, I want my words to do the moving. I want to find a way to make them move others to tears, move others into action, move others to think critically about themselves, and move others to do good.


Being OK with Silence/ Silence of the Sheep

I wonder if whoever suggested that self betterment includes learning to be at peace with silence was referring to not only silence between people and friends, but within yourself as well.

This thought occurred to me as I laid in my bed last night, reviewing the happenings of my day, weighing pros and cons of upcoming life decisions (some menial, others life-altering), and pretending to have a deep, philosophical conversation about the purpose of life, love, and relationships with an imaginary friend who bore no resemblance to any real person I know.

You know, the usual night routine. Somewhere between flossing and counting sheep.

I wonder if quieting some of my thoughts and worries (i.e., meditation) is better than ruminating to myself/with myself/by myself. Talking to myself can get pretty lonely. If ya'll haven't noticed, I am quite a talker. Unfortunately, talking to someone who isn't right there with you (more so figuratively rather than literally) can get pretty lonely, too. So. Does the answer lie in finding the right someone or in becoming comfortable with sorting out thoughts on my own?

Anyway. Until the final answer reveals itself to me, I shall continue putting my thoughts on paper...er, QWERTY keyboard. You are here for me, Blog. Thanks for that.

Help Wanted: How Do I Create Opportunities for Students Who Need it the Most?

One problem I've been struggling with lately is that I noticed that my students can be divided up into the following student categories:
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Student Type 1: I understand the material and I just got a [91-100%] on the test. I am ignoring you as you talk about ways to get help on the material.

Student Type 2: Agh!!!! I don't get it!!!!! HELP ME! I'M FAILING...AT LIFE! (*Student Type 2 comes in for extra tutoring before school, during lunch, during advisory, and after school; student also proceeds to take advantage of every extra credit opportunity and test corrections; meanwhile, their grade creeps up from a C+, B-, or B+)

Student Type 3: I got an F on this test. I am too far gone to do raise my grade. Also, before school/lunch/after school is my time, not yours.

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Short of advising that I teach my students the material in such a way that they understand it the first time around (I'm working on it!), what can I do for my students who are unmotivated to put in the extra extra work that it takes to catch up and keep up with the material?

Many of these students who struggle from the beginning are already trying to cover more ground due to information gaps (e.g., some students learn how to balance chemical equations in middle school, others do not, yet all are allowed to enroll in high school chemistry). The longer that we press on in chemistry, the further they fall behind; the further they fall behind, the less motivated they are to take advantage of remedial/extra support. This, of course, leads to sinking grades which then leads to less motivation, and... yeah. You see where I'm going with this.

So how can I offer support to the students who need it most in such a way that they do not feel embarrassed to ask for help? How do we show these students that it's not hopeless and that we have not given up on them? How do I, every now and then, close my doors to the students who do come in for tutoring to get the C+ to B- grade boost so that I can give the students who are struggling the most the most a few moments of undivided attention?

I've tried a couple of things. I suggest to all students that they ask each other for help and that I am not the only resource in the classroom for learning science. I've tried having less drop-in tutoring and more invite-only tutoring sessions. I cannot tell if the former is working; as far as the latter, I end up getting a lot of no-shows.

I know that my question is nothing novel -- does anyone have any suggestions for me?


The Perks of Being a 22-Year-Old

I thought I became an adult when I turned the legal age of 18. Then, I thought I became an adult when I turned the wise, non-teenage age of 20. One year later, I was told that I am only now finally an adult for being admitted into bars. Now, I am 22.

Now, at the age of 22, I receive teasing remarks from others about my young age on the daily. Somehow, conversations make their way to my being 22. What's up with that?! For example:
Scenario 1.
Me: "Oh, what a nice kitchen you have!"
Them: "April, have you never been in an apartment of someone over the age of 22?"

Scenario 2.
Me: "Hmm, decaf coffee, I'm not sure that I've ever had that before... I always tend to opt for caffeinated."
Them: "Let me guess, you are still in your college student mode of needing coffee all the time."

Scenario 3.
Me: (Posts on Facebook at 12 AM)
Them: "Staying up late on a school night?! You young'n."

**Answer Key: sc. 1. yes, I have; sc. 2. caffeine is my drug of choice; sc. 3. I don't have to go in to teach until 9:10am, so I can sleep by 1AM, still get 7.5 hours of sleep, and make it to class on time.

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The following list is my defensive knee-jerk reactions to your haterade.

The Perks of Being a 22-Year-Old (5 total)
  • 8 more prime-of-my-life years
  • Only/1 whole year of experience of bar customer etiquette under my belt; I get to hang with the big boys, yet my n00b questions like, "what's a screwdriver?" and "what's the difference between a lager and an ale?" are still excused
  • My every misstep is attributed to my "naiveté" by 23-year-olds and older; my mistakes are viewed as"cute, albeit well-meaning"
  • Any somewhat meaningful observations I make cause others to see me as wise beyond my age (again, of 22)
= = =

Much love to my older friends & readers out there. You know I'm just playin with ya'll and that I take your teasing as a sign of affection. I shall hate on you back. And so it will be. For the rest of my life, probably.


Water, Water, Everywhere

4/23: 10.1 mi (1 hr 40 min)

Took a swig of it at A
Stepped up my game at B to get myself closer to it sooner
I followed it from C-E
Surrounded myself by it at D
--here, the sound of it reminded me of long, hot showers, the kind of showers where I have to feign periodic "taking a shower" noises, like setting down a heavy bottle of shampoo, so that my roommates won't think I fell asleep or died in the shower --
Found a shaky dock called "Watergate"
Felt it start to come down at F
Stopped in for a drink of it at G
Became drenched by it shortly after as it fell harder from the sky
(incidentally, this happened at a street called "Ocean")
It made my shirt cling to me as I perspired at H
It inspired me to write this blog post at I
It's everywhere

Paring Down

what do you do with a life that was made for two?
rearrange furniture to fill voids,
move in the bedroom floor space,
fill the open calendar,
rest in the spacious bed,
know that you'll do something, know that you'll grow into this life,
that doesn't seem to fit at the moment.
you'll become bigger,
and stronger,
you'll live for one:



Faith in God
Bittersweet endings
New beginnings


Love Meets Praise

Some days, a student will say or do something that serves as a reminder to me that they are just kids -- antsy, energetic, social-minded, kids. Other days, a student will say something so profound, wise, and thought-provoking that I can't help but feel a spike of defensiveness when a non-educator friend makes such a heedless remark as "how does it feel to work with a bunch of hormonal kids who think they know everything?"

Today was only my second day on the job, technically, but I also like to think that I've spent a lifetime preparing for this. Teaching, that is.

The subject was chemistry for high school students. I was only in for tutoring, not even teaching, but I was still anxious. I thought of something one of my 9th grade students said to me yesterday:
"I always get nervous when I'm about to try something for the first time, you know? Like, I was nervous to come here to tutoring. And I don't want to do it because I'm nervous. But then I do it anyway because I know it will be better for me in the long run. And when I do it, it's not so bad. I even have fun!" -S
This is one of the reasons I teach: students inspire me every day.

One misconception of after school tutoring is that the kids are there voluntarily, so they are ready to get their study on. One may also think it is necessarily easier to teach in tutoring settings rather than class settings because you're working one-on-one and little to no management is necessary. 'Fact, I was even going in to tutor at a small, high-achieving charter school, so really, nothing to worry about, right?

OK, so maybe I'm projecting; I thought these things. I thought that a couple hours of tutoring in chemistry would be the easiest earned *mumble mumble* dollars of my life!

Instead, I was met by a group of five students, not one. Oh, and none of them wanted to be there, it seemed: they were assigned to "intervention tutoring", as it's called around here, by their principal. Everyone had different information gaps, the task at hand was to annotate pages and pages of CST prep questions, and even though the big test that they are studying for is in about two weeks, students still did not quite understand the difference between an atom and a molecule, covalent and ionic bonds, and nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Hmm...

One and a half hours is a long time to stay after school on a subject that gives you grief for two block periods every other day. The students reminded me of their annoyance by constantly getting up to use the bathroom, grab a drink of water, take a stroll around the classroom, run outside to say hello to a friend, and check their Facebook on their phone. All in the span of an hour and a half.

Miss April in high-school-tutor-mode is a lot more laid-back than Miss April in 8th-grade-science-class-mode. This afternoon, however, I quickly had to toughen up when students started play hitting each other and throwing things across the room. "No, R, you may not touch the teacher's laptop." "Yes, you may use the bathroom -- again -- but hurry back." "Please, stranger, leave the classroom because your friend is in tutoring right now" "A, I know you want help in this, and so does X, so please do not distract him."

Luckily, my teacher prep instilled a lot of quick teacher tricks and reactions in me: Multiple students in our study sess? OK, pair-work time. "I don't have the answer, but I bet you and your partner can figure it out." "I'm not looking for answers right now, so don't worry about it... I'm looking to see how you're thinking". "I'm working over here, but you want to see what's going on? OK, let's do it on the board for everyone." *Look over shoulder to keep an eye on students while simultaneously writing on board* "Does anyone have an extra periodic table for me?" (-me) "No? Oh, that's OK, I'm wearing one on my shirt" (true story). "Somebody read the question to all of us." Blahblahblah...

One thing I like about these students is their confidence to try out wrong answers. Praise the Lord for wrong answers! I much prefer a student toying with a wrong answer than having nothing to work with at all. I also prefer wrong answers to quick, correct answers because only then can we begin to understand their reasoning and misconceptions; if a student spits out a correct answer and learns that they are, indeed, correct from a fellow student, the student does not dwell on why their answer correct. Perhaps they guessed -- it doesn't matter, because they're ready to move on. This does not fly with me. Give me your thorough explanations and wrong answers!

These students seemed to tag-team their attention on the task. Tell me why students will zone out for a good 5-10 minutes and then suddenly check in with something outstanding and brilliant! I am learning to give them their space to take personal mental breaks if that's what it'll to get through the material.

It's so funny trying to describe atoms and molecules -- things already so tiny that they are basically invisible, imaginary, and pure fantasy to brand new chem students -- when you don't even have classroom props to fall back on. It makes me wonder what mental images students conjure up as I try to explain how electrons and protons do their thang.

We took a quick break in our hardcore thinking for a moment during our tutoring session. During this break, one student mused,
"It seems like only smart people understand chemistry. Is that true? If you understand chemistry, does that make you smart? I don't understand it. At least, I don't any more. Man, at the beginning of the year, I totally understood everything! Remember, A? I was even going around helping everyone! That felt so good.

"Why is it that it's hella hard to understand something... and then just when you start to understand it, we do something new?! It's like I'm just always confused! And when something is finally easy, we don't even do it anymore!" -X
We pressed on for a little longer. I could feel that I was losing students, so I had us end at the hour-and-a-half mark rather than pushing through for the scheduled 2 hours. I ended by recapping a topic in chemistry that I knew that they knew, with slight variations on how the material was presented. Students nailed it. Amazingly, they left tutoring with comments like, "are you coming back next week? We understand it when you do it, please come back! I'll tell my friends to come, too!"

I saw so much improvement in their work by the end of our session. They were helping each other out and throwing around chemistry terms like it was nothing. They also dropped a few kind words about me to their parents who were picking 'em up from school and to their chem teacher.

I am elated and completely floored. These students who were giving me grief for the fact that they had to stay after school for a couple of hours while their friends got to go home -- the same students who were texting and picking up their phone in the middle of our lesson -- were gushing about how much the learned today and how they can't wait for me to come back.

Sigh. X is right: to learn is to struggle. Learning is living in confusion. I'm learning how to teach, and if I'm lucky, I'll learn something new every day. For now, I'll just be happy that I'm doing something that I love and, apparently, am pretty decent at it.

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Photo credit: Jane Genovese and Sharon Genovese via Mind Map Art.

Touch Sensitive

"You're smart.
You know about people and you like to think about how people connect with each other.
You know what's right.
You like to create things.
You love your family.
You love me
and I love you." -L


Run Lake Merritt

4/18/11: 7 mi.
I thought I'd post this route because it's a nice 7-miler. Relatively flat with one gradual hill (up Linda) and a peaceful lap around the lake to balance out the traffic noise-filled other half of this route. It's also easy to remember because you stick to main roads.

4/20/11: 6.4 mi.

(2 laps around Lake Merritt)

Don't let anyone lie to you --the lake is not 3.5 mi., it's only 3.2.

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I'm starting to get lazy to map out some of these runs, especially ones that involve laps of the lake. Any suggestions for blog-related ways to log miles? My mom gave me this cute little running journal, but I tend to lose journals. Also, making my mileage public makes me more accountable to tracking my progress because I feel like hot ish by bragging about each accomplishment. Not gunna lie.

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I'm looking to do the following run this Saturday afternoon. Any takers? An even 10 miles, nice and scenic, and not too tough of an incline.


Teacher Job Interviews: My Thoughts

Given that it is interview season for teachers, I find it necessary for my own improvement to reflect upon my most recent interview experience in order to ensure that I continue to have educational, if not positive, interview experiences in the near future.

1. Be in touch with your teaching philosophy.
Prior to your interview, reflect on why you are entering the teaching profession. Show your interviewer that you have an end goal in mind for your students and that you are constantly critiquing and refining your end goal. Knowing why you want to go into teaching takes care of so many different questions that they might throw at you: why do you want to teach for us? what are your strengths? tell us about your classroom culture (code word for classroom management tactics!).

For example, I want to teach because I think it's important for students to feel like they have a place and a purpose in a classroom in order to commit to their education and ultimately pursue higher education -- and I think that I am good at helping students feel this way. So: I want to teach for you because I know that your school culture encourages students to stay in school rather than push students out. My strength is that I try many ways to connect with individual students on academic and non-academic levels. My classroom culture calls for students to be accountable of their actions so that they do not infringe upon the rights of their classmates to an education (I'd actually go into detail here about what these tactics look like on a typical school day).

2. Know what you need from your school.
Do you need a supportive principal? Do you need supplies to run lab experiments? Do you need collaboration amongst colleagues and professional development? Let 'em know! This interview is a two-way street. If you don't like what you hear, this school might not be a good fit for you. Better to find out at the interview than on the first day of school.

3. Do not be overly positive, but be constructive.
We all hate the dreaded "what are your weakest qualities?" interview question. At this particular interview, I was even so lucky to get the "how do you felt you did in the group activity? how did the group activity go?".

While I'm sure interviewers will be turned off by a Negative Nancy, you don't want to be bubbling with shallow compliments either. Be constructive: "this did not go well, because... it could have been better if... in the future..."

What are my weakest qualities? Honestly, I have trouble knowing when it is time to move on in a subject. I sometimes get wrapped up in wanting every student understand how a particular problem is done that I forget to move on and try a different problem for their sake and for that of their classmates'. I am working on improving this about myself by having long-term lesson plans in place so that I know where I want to ultimately guide my students and by when. I also build into my lessons extra time and anticipated student responses and misconceptions.

4. Find ways to talk about things you've tried in the classroom, whether or not these things went well.
I'm talking lessons, classroom management tactics, contacting parents, projects... They know that there is no such thing as a teacher who nails every lesson every time, so don't worry if your student teaching experience is laden with rookie mistakes. Share those mistakes. Tell them what you learned from it. Show them that you are a teacher who is willing to try new activities and lessons and that you are developing strategies to get better and better at introducing new learning structures.

5. In group discussions ("fishbowl" activities), it's not what you say, it's how you say it.
Honestly, if they really wanted to what you have to say about a particular topic, they'd save it for the individual interview. In case you haven't caught on, teaching has taken a turn toward collaboration, so show 'em that you are a team player. Listen to what others have to say. Use others' names (all interviewees typically have name tags). Do not shoot down others' ideas, instead, add on to their ideas. Ask clarifying questions. Synthesize what's been said in the group.

6. Being awesome includes knowing that you are awesome.
For real. Stand tall, smile, greet people and introduce yourself. "Act as if." Trust in yourself.

OK, so maybe these things work and maybe they don't. I figure, you're better off walking into an interview appearing confident in your abilities rather than appearing unsure of your answers or shaky in what you believe in. I would rather get turned down from a job for appearing (or being misunderstood as) over-confident than for appearing timid and wishy washy.

7. Most importantly: remind 'em that you love kids!
And if you don't, honestly, you shouldn't be teaching. Done.

I did not want to sound like a creeper or an overzealous Chuck E. Cheese employee by gushing about how cute kids are, so I look for roundabout ways of telling them that I have only the utmost respect for students and what they bring to the classroom. I tell 'em that as a teacher, I'm there for the students, not for the subject matter. I like science, but I love kids. My respect for my students is what pushes me to be a better teacher; the fact that I am there for them is what pushes me to adapt my curriculum for their benefit.

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Hopefully someone out there (my future self included) finds these tips helpful. Besides these 7 tips, don't forget the usual:
  • Do your research about the school and school district
  • Dress professionally
  • Bring an extra copy of your resume and cover letter
  • Plan to arrive 30 minutes early
  • Learn your interviewers names; use their names
  • Maintain a professional demeanor from the moment you enter their school doors to the moment that you drive off of their lot
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Now, I have a question for y'all... if you happen to run into someone you know on the interviewing panel, to what extent is it appropriate to acknowledge your acquaintance? Do I say hello and ask about the wife and kids or do I pretend not to notice them from across the room?

This is a Love Note

Running in Oakland under the blue-black sky
Pounding pavement, running harder than ever
Venting into the wind about those which affect us most:
Teaching and issues of injustice
Talking politics while huffing and puffing
I pause only to look up into the rain, to feel it on my face
I vaguely consider removing more layers altogether to welcome the falling droplets
But I'm distracted by our intense conversation
And, of course, by the running.
After 30 minutes, you suggest that we call it a night, but I beg,
"Please... just 3 more miles?" And you say yes.

Thanks, Ms. Kwon, for tonight, for being my life coach, for feeding me, for teaching me how to cook, and, finally, for the fact that the day after I shared my blog URL with you, my numbers jumped to 30 hits in a day.

Photo Credit: oopsilon via Panoramio.


Running in a Force Field

4/15/11: 6.3 mi

Until today, I haven't run since Sunday. That's the longest stretch that I've gone without running since I started training. I've been less motivated to run without an end goal in mind (i.e., no running events in the near future). Gotta get back into that rhythm.

Nevertheless, the break got me hurtin' for this run even more -- a craving which was delectably quenched, thankfully.

I'm starting to run on muscle memory, now. My focus points still remain, but I now feel 'em in my body rather than think 'em in my mind. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that my arms and legs are doin' their thang without my brain, I unknowingly picked up my pace from 12 min/mi to 10:30/mi today. I somehow got faster when I wasn't paying attention. Thanks, hills.

I didn't have much time to run today because I had plans right afterwards, but I really wanted to go out by the water even though I knew that would take more time than I could afford.

I love bodies of water. I love the sound of running water. When I was an emo adolescent in high school, my teenage tribulations sometimes drove me to skipping out on whatever whack lesson the teacher was failing at giving (don't tell my students). I would escape to a nearby lake or beach (even cemetery... but that's a story for another time) to be alone with my thoughts. Water was my refuge. Oh, emo girl. Why are you so emo.

The technicalities of running no longer crowd my brain. However, I still do not want daily stresses or weekly dramas to take up any space in my running state of mind either. I used to zap these thoughts away. I didn't let 'em bully me. I quietly evaded them with focused distractions.

Today, I took each outside thought and whooshed it behind me. My ponderings became my propellant: the weightier the worry, the further forward I went. I felt each thought peel off of me and then shoot back behind me. Earlier feelings of powerlessness suddenly became my fodder -- my power.

It was a helluva week. Perhaps I was able to run an extra mile and go at it a little faster because I had a lot to burn off.

This run took me somewhere else, somewhere I'd never been before. Sort of literally, but also figuratively. Metaphysically. I used to greet passerbys on my runs, but I took notice of no one today. I find this somewhat ironic considering how my alertness was at an all-time high, as is necessary for outdoor urban quests. Running through my neighborhoods and trails means I'm constantly dodging and side-stepping un-even pavement, overgrown shrubbery, train tracks, and yes, even poultry. I was on a different plane than those walking around me. No one could touch me. I felt like I was in an electric force field bubble.

So trippy.

Anyway, enough of that. A little about this running path:
  • Even though I wanted so badly to run to the water, I took an unexpected turn Northward. It was a nice change of pace to have an expanse of marsh and plant life at my side. The grass was long, overgrown, and golden. It was beautiful. Not the overwhelming kind of beautiful, like a deep blue, dark ocean at night, or billions of stars in a country night sky kind of beautiful. It was a relaxing beautiful, in a muted tones, long grass swaying in the breezy sunlight kind of beautiful.
  • As I continued along, I started getting a little creeped out by the fact that I was surrounded on all sides by such tall shrubbery. Shrubbery tall enough for kidnappers and rapists to hide in. Then I got creeped out more when I found a beat up, abandoned day pack with some old clothes strewn around it peeking out of the long, dry grass. And then I found half of a sign that said "HELP MY G", and I got creeped out more more when I found the other half and it said "IRLFRIEND". Oh, God.
  • Oh well.
  • The Golden Gate Fields became my new goal. How boss would it be if the next time we all go to GGF, I can say "ya'll go 'head, I'll meetchu there"? Yeeyuh.
  • I stopped slightly short of the Fields because I started running into a tangle of traffic, busy intersections, and annoying traffic lights. Boo. Time to go home.
  • On the way back, I hopped onto a fire trail of some sort. I thought I'd be all mad skillz like that. Wrong. This trail turned out to be a loose gravel path. The gravel also turned out to be very large and quite plentiful. All of my energy went from speed and endurance to balance only. If I ran too fast, the gravel would slip from under me. If I pounded too hard, my ankle and the bottoms of my feet hurt from the uneven texture of the ground. Adjust, adjust, adjust...
  • Took a slightly different route to come home. Finding narrow walkways and bike paths, little grassy parks, and fancy, lonely wooden benches that cars and the rest of the world cannot frequent always feels like a win.
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"The Week After" ...PACT

I have all kinds of time on my hands now that PACT is over. I'm also a happier person in general.

I hope I pass.

Anyway, I run solo now, but I've been getting hit up by folks who want to start running and need a running buddy. Least I can do is pay it forward. Plus, I love the company! It gives me an excuse to talk to (or listen to) someone for an hour-ish straight.

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4/7/11: 5.3 mi

I told my roomie that I would meet her at Ikea at the end of this run. I was a little nervous heading out to the shoreline... It was only my second time doing that run and my first time doing it solo. The trail itself seems so secluded and long-winded -- what if I get tired? Or thirsty? Or I need to go to the bathroom? Or... I don't know, it just seemed like such a big commitment to take on by myself.

I puttered around my apartment like I usually do when I'm nervous about something: lather on an extra layer of sun screen, drink more water, use the bathroom, re-tie shoes, change hair tie, walk out of the apartment... make it all the way down the stairs, and then head back up to use the bathroom again...

Finally, I was on my way!

The leg to the track is not so bad any more (that is, as far as first and second miles of a run go). There were a lot of people out on the trail in twos. It was quite romantic, actually. I don't know if the couples were couple couples, but I still think it's romantic for two friends to take a walk along the shore.

Since I needed to be able to find my roomie after the run, I brought my phone along. Since I had my phone, I was able to do this:

The sun was a bit harsh on my eyes as I was running westward at sunset, but once I was on the trail, I couldn't have asked for better running conditions. The sun was (literally) at my side (because I was South bound); the wind was on my back, carrying me along the trail; the misty sea breeze felt and smelled just right. Lovely.

And then there was Emeryville. G'lord, do not get me started with that ish. HELLA stop lights every few steps. HELLA cars and drivers all frantic and confused and frustrated at the curvy streets that do not take you where you want to go. Rush hour traffic. Oh, and of course, I got lost, as I always do in Emeryville.

Anyway. The run ended with a celebratory meal of mashed potatoes, a veggie crepe, and a pile of grey-ish, luke warm Swedish meatballs with coagulated gravy. In addition to never running in Emeryville again, I'm also never ordering meatballs from Ikea again. Just say NO, April! I don't care that it was only $3.99 for 25 meatballs!

4/9/11: 3.7 mi

I've been trying to psych myself up for a run to College Ave. and down it, but as soon as I hit the pavement, my feet tend to take me elsewhere. I finally did it today. Man, did that run kick my butt. It took hella days to get all the way to College Ave. I had to carve and carve away at the street the way that I were ski down a slope (except, obviously, run uphill rather than ski downhill). Uphill, right turn, uphill, right turn, uphill, uphill, uphill... I turned my every whimper into a Tim Taylor grunt. I was determined to make it to College Avenue.

When I finally got there, I was met with relief and a sense of accomplishment... for about 5 seconds. On the 6th second and thereafter, I was met by pedestrians, traffic, shoppers, and Ici customers. Ugh.

So I turned back. So much for that. On the way back, I ran into -- get this -- a chicken. A real, live chicken struttin' along the pavement. It wasn't like, crossing the road or anything (ha), but it was definitely pecking around on the sidewalk. Weird.

I followed Telegraph upwards rather than crossing it. I wanted to pick just the right street to take home. I randomly turned onto Derby and, damn, I'm glad I did. Freakin' gorgeous. Very residential, lots of trees, minimal traffic. Love it.

And that was my run to College Ave.

4/10/11: ??? 3 mi-ish? (route in red)

This run was supposed to be on the Berkeley Fire Trails. Brian and I wanted to work on some hills today, and work we did. My gluts were sore for 2 days after this run.

Unfortunately, we never actually found the Fire Trails because there are so many trails up here and very few signs. We did what we could. We followed a shaded dirt trail along Strawberry Creek, gaining height little by little. That was nice. We eventually reached a fork in the road. Left or right? Up or down? Are we ready to go home yet? NO! Up it is!

We ran one hill up and up and up until I was ready to pass out. I'd be interested to find out what lies at the very top of the hill and over on the other side of it, but I'll have to find out another day because I was exhausted mid-climb. We had to turn back.

We took our time coming down because the incline was so steep -- Brian was worried about his knees and I was convinced that with one wrong move, I'd tumble all the way down to Berkeley civilization. No bueno. On this downhill stroll, we spotted a wild turkey. The turkey was quite skinny, especially considering how it was a turkey and all.

The view was spectacular. Reviews on Yelp and all over the Interwebz all talk about how great it is that you can see all of downtown Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, both bridges, and the bay all at once... but you just don't know until you see it. We caught the view around 5:50 pm. So romantical. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, this view is so... panoramic." As if that makes any sense. Turns out the street we were on is called Panoramic Way. Womp womp. It also turns out that Dwight Ave. goes all the up into those hills. Who'da thunk?

Lastly, Brian and I found a secret staircase that unlocks all the secrets of the universe. Awesome.

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Serenity Prayer

Serenity prayer in a smaller nutshell: Accept this, change that, then get over it and move on with life.

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A fine line separates blaming others when things go wrong from doing your best in a given situation and accepting that which is outside of your control.

I have not yet found that line, but I anticipate that it is, indeed, quite fine.

It's also difficult to accept that you are doing your best in a given situation when you expect more of yourself, especially when you expect more of yourself because others are depending on you.

Lastly... (unrelated)...I am in a current state of disequilibrium because the weather is so beautiful, summer is around the corner, yet my mind is in a state of chaos. As usual.

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Paper Clip Extraordinaire

In America, you are regarded as a genius/prodigy/Renaissance man (not even woman) if you are knowledgeable and/or skilled in the following arenas:
  • Jeopardy! and all other academic trivia games
  • world wars and battles
  • classical piano and chess
  • manifestos and books written in Old English, Latin, Ancient Chinese, Ancient Japanese...
  • the French language
  • golf, tennis, and baseball
Really, such a list should instead consist of:
  • the Spanish language
  • current political figures, their stances, and the effects of their decisions
  • guitar and Cranium
  • grassroots movements, human rights violations
  • nutrition, cooking
  • communication skills, social skills
  • religions from around the world
  • number sense
  • handy with tools, resourceful
  • compostables and recyclables
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Yes, I am aware that my list is a product of my public school upbringing and living amongst liberal, hippie intellectuals.


Job Hunt

I've been contacted by a couple teachers and principals whom I've worked with in the past with job offers "effective immediately". Not to toot my own horn, but uh...

I didn't know all of this at the time, but I'm glad that Past April made a point of getting to know many people in many different job positions and fields and keeping in contact with them. I'm glad that Past April tried jobs that she was not sure she'd be any good at or if she was truly interested in pursuing a career in the field. Finally, it is a relief that Past April haphazardly chose the discipline of science in which to teach because, hot damn, there are a lot of open science teacher positions out there.



Cedar Run

4/5/11: 4 mi.

My body hates me.

I thought I'd do a hill today. Today's 'uphill' was about the right amount of difficulty, so I'm happy about that (up Hearst a bit and then up Le Conte). I wandered around North Berkeley for a bit, not really knowing where to go or what to do next. I thought I'd head back down Cedar.

Bad idea.

Always, always run up Cedar. Never down. Always up.

Cedar turned out to be a very loooooong, gradual descent to West Berkeley. I had to cut my run short because my knees were in agony. Lesson learned.


Run Journal

Oakland Running Festival 3/27/11: 13.1 mi
I promise to blog about this experience one day. Soon.

3/29/11: 4 mi.

Beautiful afternoon!

3/30/11: 5 mi

A few thoughts:
  • I did not come to school today because I had to work on my PACT. I did, however, go for a morning run at about the time that students of my school were travelling from wherever they live to school. Awk. I decided to veer North as fast as possible.
  • I love all these tiny, secret parks I keep finding. Oh, Berkeley. You and your people-friendly city planning.
  • I also love finding tiny walk/bikeways inaccessible to cars. Go away, cars, nobody wants to run by you.
  • I am no good at measuring distance anymore since I like to meander about the town, but it's good to know that I'm pretty consistent with my pace. I can run for an hour and be mildly certain that I ran about 5 miles. Beast.

4/3/11: 9 mi (approx 2.5 laps + approx 1 mi. leg)
Gorgeous Sunday. I want to relive this run over and over again.


Time to get serious about hills!


Let's get bizzayy

I ought to be up to no good.

The worst thing that I did today was sleep for 11 hours which led to my morning coffee and noon coffee to be back to back.
And then I stayed in bed for hours and hours and hours and READ.

I am quite ready to stir up some trouble.


Spring 2011 Book Report


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The Box Man by Kobo Abe
...is a very strange book. I finished this book months ago, but I am still trying to process what happened. Something about men who decide to become box men -- men who live on the streets with large boxes pulled over their heads with eyeholes cut out. They live in isolation on the fringe of society. They are spectators. Just when you think you're starting to understand what's going on, the narrator throws you for a loop. I think the narrator was crazy, hallucinating, dreaming, schizophrenic, some kind of murderer, sadist, and -- most importantly -- voyeur.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who was Raised a Girl by John Colapinto
... is a non-fiction (technically categorized "Psychology/Science") about a person who, as a baby, underwent a botched circumcision procedure and lost his penis. Yes, his penis. The doctor was attempting to use a cauterizer instead of a scalpel (or whatever doctors usually use) to do the deed, but instead accidentally burned the penis. The baby's penis eventually fell off.

When the parents found out, they arrived at the idea of raising their child as a girl. To make things more interesting, this baby has an identical twin brother. This fact made the pair of particular interest to the scientific and even feminist community. Doctors and professionals (and society) did all they could to convince this little girl that she was indeed a girl -- therapy sessions, dresses, hormones, the whole shebang - but she just didn't feel right about it. In fact, she got into a lot of fights with boys at school, hated wearing dresses, peed standing up, and deep down felt that something was wrong. She got so depressed and threatened to kill herself if people didn't stop pressuring her to act more lady like.

In the end, "Brenda" -- who was baby "Bruce" -- became "David". Her parents finally came clean with her. He underwent surgery and... well, you read the book. I'll tell you now that he falls in love with a woman and the two of them get married, raise kids, and live happily ever after. It's a heartbreaking story that ends with a tone of hope and forgiveness. It also gets you thinking about the nurture vs. nature argument of gender and sexuality.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell ...is another non-fiction. Gladwell (author of The Dog, Blink, and Outliers, of which I've read the latter two) explores and attempts to explain the phenomenon of epidemics. In its 280 pages of vignettes and collection of research findings, the two most applicable and intriguing ideas that I am left with are: 1) messages must be sticky to spread like an epidemic and 2) messages must be transmitted to pockets, clusters, or communities of people in order for it to spread like an epidemic.

If I were to position myself within the book, I'd be 10% Salesman and 10% Maven (80% unidentified) because I love connecting people and I love sharing tips with friends. I always tend to think of myself as a shy person, but folks tell me that that isn't true. Truth is, I talk and talk and talk... I turn to the person sitting next to me at church, at community events, in airplanes, and in workshops and in classes and strike up conversation. I ask you what you do and what you love to do. I ask you what you hope to do. I think of who I know who can help you get to where you wanna go (in life) and who I know who could benefit from knowing you.

I say 10% of each though and not 100% of each because I tend to have a few very close friends rather than many friends and though I have many acquaintances, I'm not good at maintaining weak ties. I'm also only 10% Maven because I like to share with people what I know, but I don't know all that much. Haha. I don't do my research because I hate researching products and going back and forth between better prices, better deals, etc. etc. I'm in the boring middle of consumer America who will buy something if you tell me it works well and I see that everyone else is using it.

Some life lessons that I will take from the book: I will attend a few small details in my environment such as keeping my space clean, smiling at passerby strangers, and spending an extra minute each morning making a genuine personal connection with a colleague or classmate. Actions as small as these can ripple to larger tides of good deeds and good karma.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
I have been picking up and putting down this book since January. It's an incredibly captivating read once you pass like page 50 and get used to the old time-y writing. It's a historical fiction that takes place in Canada and is story within a story. Atwood draws you into the story until you fall completely in love with the heroine who, by the way, is an alleged murderer.

To be honest, I'm only 273 pages into the story with 192 more pages to go. I can't wait! More to come once I'm done...