Saturday, October 15, 2011

Creating an issue

I am proud that our first transgender woman received a ticket to the Polish Parliament. I am not proud of the various reactions to that event. Actually, I am pretty much pissed. I've listened to a radio show, about all the "unnaturals" (there was also a gay activist who got elected) who will be in the parliament, and how God's laws are violated and all the typical BS.
Yesterday my Mom read me something from a right-wing rag, which not just commented on the issue, it was creating new ones. The "news" was about how the female PMs will be embarassed and deeply uncomfortable when they bump into the new PM in the parliament bathrooms, as just not so long time ago, she "used to be a husband and a father". First I thought they were quoting some non tolerant female PM who shared fears, but no, they created their own before the parliament even opened its doors to the new set of PMs. They assumed the women will be uncomfortable and will feel bad, not "might".

I hate when narrow minded people project their own narrow minded fears and spitful prejudices on others, assuming we all share them, just they are "brave" to speak about them.

Ignoring parents' food choices

The other day I was doing some shopping in a big construction store, Home Depot-style. By the cashier I was a witness to a very peculiar and, in my view, very telling situation. There was a couple after me with a baby in a stroller. The cashier asked them "Does your baby eat lollipops already?" After they said that no, (the baby was like 6mo old!) they went on saying how much her older brother loves lollipops, so they took one. What did in this situation rub me the wrong way? There was no question "Would you like a lollipop for your child?", no there was no will of a parent taken into consideration. It was assumed, that the children eat lollipops and only the age of a child was questioned. I am assuming if the child was a toddler the woman would pass on the candy straight into the child's hands, without asking the parents for permission. Parents who do not agree to give children candies, junk food and general sweets are weird, stuck up, full of themselves and generally ridiculous.

In a similar situation was my friend some time ago. She's a mother to a 4 yo and she tries to feed the child in a healthy way. When she was out with him one day, her adult neighbor started to share potato chips with him. My friend politely opposed and asked her neighbor to not give anything to her son. The response? "Oh, come on, don't be ridiculous".

There are many situations of that kind, where parents' food choices are trampled over and seen as overreacting. I've heard many times comments of that kind even when the parents said the child had an allergy. "Just a little bit won't harm anyone". Parents who "deny" children sweets (or snacks) are seen as over-zealous crazies, who should be made fun of. I know that often it's especially difficult when it's the grandparents who can't understand and/or respect their children' choices in raising up grandchildren.

The same friend told me also that once, when she was at a family wedding someone was feeding her son with sugar cubes. o_0. What adult in a more or less sane mind would do such a thing?
Food is a very delicate issue, I know that when I have a baby I will face it as well, as I am a believer in a palo-style of eating, so no sweets or processed foods whatsoever, not even "healthy" snacks, granola bars or juices.

I can't stand how people can't respect parents' well thought-out choices concerning their children. I wish they spend all the energy of sticking their noses where they don't belong into reacting and acting when a child is really in danger, in a toxic environment, being abused and hurt. But no... to this people are blind, but have no issue calling sweets-ban a child-abuse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hm... when will they begin asking if he/she kicks?

I am pretty sure we've all seen photos like these, either on some gossip site, on magazine stands or wherever, really:

First of all, I really dislike the term "baby bump", but then, this is another issue. Every time I see or hear this kind of speculations because a woman doesn't have a table flat belly, my blood boils. Because people should learn something about women's biology: only very, very thin women (or serious athletes) have very flat belly. And even in such situation there is a natural round line to the belly's shape. And even then a woman should have the right to breath, release abs muscles or be bloated. And now we can move on to the huge majority of women, when most of them could very well be in at least 3rd month. Heck, if I want I can look 5 month pregnant without bigger problems...

People got used that women have no bellies. We are taught all the time to "suck it in", and if you have some belly around it's commented that this person "looks pregnant". How about... natural?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The sponges that we are

Today I had quite an unusual experience. I had the chance to teach a big group (18-20) group of 4-5 year olds. It's quite a new thing for me and I must admit I was scared like hell. It went pretty ok, the preschool wants me to come back again, so I wasn't too bad. I have the professional experience of teaching teenagers, these tiny little creatures are all new species to me.

This new opportunity sent me for help. I've been researching the internet for songs, activities and general info on how to teach EFL to this age group. One of the most common advice is: songs. Now, I am not a singer, not even in the very amatour understanding... but as my best friend said (a great singer and a mother to a 4yo as well), the kids dont' care and singing is absolutely crucial.

I've realized I know no English children songs. "Old Macdonald's farm" is more or less known, but that's about it... thanks to the internet I have been listening to dozens of traditional nursery and children songs... Many of them I realized I kind of knew or heard somewhere (movies etc.). But funny thing happened... I started to actually listen to the words.
I can't even tell how many of those talk about the very traditional divisions of gender roles, marriage (heterosexual obviously) and social expectations. From the age of an infant we are filled with ready plan for life. We also learn that boys are made of adventure, dirt and snakes and girls of nice things. That it's bad to have fun at school (Mary had a little lamb), that girls want to marry soldiers, and so on.

If we add to it the typical well-wishing aunties asking if we "have a fiance" already before we even reach the first grade, or the typical constant comments on what's proper for a girl or a boy, there is very little surprise in how strong these kind of stereotypes are in each of us. And how much strength it takes to see them... they are invisible for the most part unless you look at them from outside....

Monday, October 10, 2011

a touch of beauty for tonight's evening

An absolute perfection: of voice, esthetics, looks... Adele is so gorgeous and I could listen to her non stop. I don't care if it sounds cheesy, but she does touches some strings inside your heart.

"Boxing for men, robots for boys and Hugh Jackman for women"

Just in case it's not clear, this is a line from a Polish tv ad for a new movie, "Real Steel".

I am not even sure if it requires any comments... too tired to repeat truisms around.

This is such great news. Poland is changing!

Yesterday Poland hold election to the both chambers of Polish Parliament (Sejm and Senat). I am not particularly involved in the political life, especially that I don't really know that much having just returned from the US, but there are some interesting and exciting moments from this day. The first? Right here:

Born as a man, Ms Grodzka, now 57, completed her gender change last year with the help of the Trans-Fuzja organisation focused on gender change.
Topping the Palikot Movement party list in the devoutly Catholic southern city of Krakow - once home to the late Polish-born pope John Paul II - Ms Grodzka was thrilled by Sunday's strong showing at the polls.
"I'm not yet sure if I've been elected, but I'm very happy with the result scored by the Palikot movement," she said at a jubilant election night celebration at Palikot Movement headquarters in Warsaw.
"If I'll be elected in Krakow, I'll be Poland's first transgender woman, and the only transgender MP not only in Poland, but the entire world," she said. "In New Zealand, there was Georgina Beyer, but she is no longer an MP since 2007," Ms Grodzka added.
"Today, Poland is changing. I am the proof along with Robert Biedron, a homosexual and the head of an anti-homophobia campaign who ran for office in Gdynia," a city on Poland's Baltic coast.

Yep. We have a transgender woman and a big out there gay in the Parliament. In the addition to it, a few more unusual and quite out of the mainstream personas... Right in the faces of the tea party mentality PiS and other parties. Finally some anti-clerical, pro social change and openness politicians. We will see how well they do, but I am hopefull :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

This is why I want less and less to do with organized religion. Or maybe with evil people dressed in a religion's cloak

After watching this short video I am just astonished with this young man, that he is still alive, and, I hope, in good health. What he had to go through in the name of religion, in the name of hatred, bigotry and false sense of righteousness is aggrevating. And where is law? How come no one reacted when a child was abused in such terrible way? Multiple times "fell of the stairs" and no one at the hospital informed the police or child services? A child kicked out from home and the parents are not forced to take care of him? Isn't there a requirement on parents to provide basic protection till the child is 18? All of it is so sickening... What mother will say to a gay child "change and I will love you again"???

I wish this boy all good, I hoped he found a place among some good, loving people, who respect and accept him just the way he is.

oh, that kind of lube... still funny :P

via Shakesville:

"The study of the Bible has many rewards. I'm not sure that God intended a lube discount to be among its many riches."—Dallas attorney Andy Siegel, who nonetheless notes that Plano, Texas business owner Charlie Whittington's offer of discounted oil changes in exchange for customers quoting a Bible verse, is legal.

This is NOT what Jewish life is about, even in Poland

I took my Mom to a concert tonight. It was called "Jewish Songs" and somehow I felt obligated to attend, support it... bad idea.

Where to even begin?

If only they just had chosen old, pre-war songs... that would have been sad enough. But no... many of these songs were made recently. A writer creating "klezmer-style" (inspired?) songs as if in the style of the pre-war klezmer writing. I should of course emphasize, that it was what the author thought was in the style of pre-war klezmer writings... The texts by Jacek Cygan (otherwise an ok song writer) were simply stupid. They were infantile, idiotic. It's not just some kind of glamourizing the poor life of pre-war Jewry... it's just so low. It was addressing today's people simplified images about pre-war Jews, filled with Shabes-goys, young maidens "given away" to guys chosen by the family, and other similar.
Should I add that in this mix there was also one "Holocaust" song?
oh, and one of the singer couldn't pronounce "chasiddim" properly and sometimes was singing about "kasiddim". geez...

And of course people loved it... this sentimental love for the memory of murdered Jews, not for the Jews themselves, but for this nostalgia in itself.

There was also so much of a cult (I am not exaggerating) of the "last klezmer of Poland" "maestro" Leopold Kozłowski, that it was almost sickenning. He is indeed the "last klezmer" in terms of the connection with pre-war Poland, as he was born in 1918. But is that such a great complement to be amazing and great if there is no one else to compare to? He is the last, that doesn't mean he's good. There are great, young people who play with the klezmer tradition, mix it with jazz and rock, and are really amazing in it. Why can't they take over and bring some modernity into this swamp? I was so disappointed and depressed. I think I prefer my Judaism on internet than this kind of connection to the Jewish world... I dont' know if there were any other Jewish people present, but I hope not, or at least that wouldn't be their only connection to their Yiddishkeit.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yom Kippur

Tonight starts Yom Kippur and it feels really strange here, where I am now. It is the first time I am so isolated from any kind of Jewish community (other than over the internet). It is hard to remember, it is hard to make it different and meaningful... And it creates a lot of questions for myself: do I even care enough anymore?

Over the past few years I have been changing in my attitude toward religion in general and my own Jewish practice in particular. Coming out as lesbian opened doors to every kind of self-reflection. I was tired of lies, tired of living the way I thought I should have, instead of the way I believed was *my* way. I started to question everything, my motivations, my needs, my beliefs... Religion and devotion didn't stand a chance. I have had very old and strong roots in atheism and very rational, cold approach to religion. For years I tried to suffocate them as to fit in into what I thought I wanted. I really tried hard to be devoted orthodox Jewess, I took the whole package and didn't know there was another way. Now I am happily Jewish without the spirituality, ritual. I am not afraid to admit I feel disgusted with some aspects of our tradition, the same way I feel proud of other ones. Am I part of the modern "supermarket religion"? I pick and choose... except it's not exactly a religion anymore. Tradition? Belonging? Nationality? I don't know. Nationality probably not, as I don't really feel part of any nation. Maybe ethnicity? I guess that would be the best guess. I am still fascinated by the people being part of this rich tradition. The evolution of ideas, the social changes, the good and the bad. I love the craving for goodness, for social equality, struggles to achieve the most just society possible... they called it God and religion, for me it's more of a study in human nature and human socialization.

So what should I do with this day? Join in fast? I won't pray, as I don't think there is anything that listens. I could turn to the original meaning of the word "pray" in Hebrew, lehitpalel, which means self inspection, self-judgment... This is needed for every one, each person trying to live an honest life. We must check ourselves up once in a while... Not out of fear of punishment, but out of this ancient craving to reach goodness. I try to be an honest person, I am learning about my own prejudices, the stereotypes I still believe deep inside me, I don't trust my judgments and try to analyze them for possible biases. But I also know I don't do enough. Learning about today's Nobel Peace Prize reciepients I feel bad, that I dont' do more. Just understanding problems, thinking and learning about them is not enough, it's not a goal in itself, it's the means to reach something else. I try to do my part by educating others... but is it really enough? I hope I planted seads in my students that will help them question their own privilege, sensitize them to the inequality around them...

It's a new year, new beginning ... That's symbolism which probably speaks to everyone. It is quite fitting that my new company was established around Rosh Hashana. It is a new beginning for me... and I am terrified where it goes. I don't know if it succeeds, if I can support myself not to even mention my mother. I know nothing, I can only hope. But I won't pray, unless I take it with the humanistic approach: as an expression of personal hopes and wishes... If so, then I pray that my modest actions will join others in creating more equal, just and accepting world around us, one day at a time, one mind at a time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I have learned from watching Polish commercials

Not that they are that different to the American ones... I simply didn't know much about them, as I hardly ever watched any tv in the US. Now I am watching it a lot, mostly thanks to living with my Mom, who loves it and for whom it's the main (only?) source of entertainment.

I also never believed the world of advertisment to be on the frontier of the fight for gender equality or social education... it is though a nice mirror of the social expectations and the lower common ground with which the producers try to connect.


* Children and men have passions and hobbies, women just love to be with their families
* Mothers are the only ones who care for children's health. If men appear in medicine ads, it's as germs spreaders in need of the motherly care and help, along with their children.
* Beer is a male thing, and manhood is all about strength and machismo
* Poles are very prone to cold and flu, as well as digestive issues. They must be also concerned with thier figures (no surprise here). The cholesterol scare is also quite strong on this side of the pond... Miracle margarines and "healthy and safe" pills. *sigh*
* Polish mothers are supposed to be even more obsessed and terrified about every step of their children. The mass of children-oriented pills, candies and drinks that are supposed to pack the kids with immunity support, vitamins, and what not is quite impressive.
* Either the Poles are obsessed with, or are NOT obsessed enough according to the banks, with credits. The number of high-quality, star-packed, and really well-done ads about different kind of credits or saving options is astounding. The cellphone market must also be not saturated yet, another field with really good ads. This is the field in which I can see serious creativity, sense of humor and probably good money in the ads' production. I love the fashion for local cabaret* stars.
* Different kinds of milk snacks and sweets are more common to see in ads than chips or nachos and similar kind of stuff. And most of the ads seem to be done in Germany or other countries with just Polish dubbing...

* Polish "cabaret" (kabaret) is extremely popular, and it's kind of group stand up comedy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

and as usual, the feminists are responsible for everything.

I watched a morning talk show today, which by the way is really surprising to myself. The topic of their casual talk was why women like "bad boys". There was a psychologist, a writer and some other random people talking. One of the argued causes of this kind of behavior was lack of self appreciation and self worth in women. And how can you cure it? By hearing booty calls. I kid you not. One of these women said how great it was when she was in Italy and some guys called her "bella" and how great she felt, and that is needed for women to feel good. But it's impossible because the crazy feminsts cry "sexist!" "abuse!". It was actually a guy who basically said he would not whistle on a woman, and he refused behaving in that way, feeling a bit embarassed, as if he felt guilty for not treating women like a piece of meat!

So basically women to feel good about themselves still need men, and male gaze and sexual interest. I can't get this twisted logic. Having strong self worth is helpful in more situations than just getting into toxic relationships, but seriously, why still this kind of way of building it? And that was from some supposedly educated and sophisticated ladies.

so sad...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Is that a hypocrisy? Or just lack of sensitivity and thinking?

The Voice of Poland is a version of another similar program from the US (it might have a different origin, though). The idea is quite interesting - the judges are choosing singers while sitting with their backs to them, and as such judging their voices only. Great idea, and during a few rounds of the "search" step, there were only great, great vocals. But I had to cringe each time there were comments about the beauty of a singer. Like when someone didn't press the button to choose a particular contestant for his/her team, and after turning and seeing the woman he was complaining loudly what a pity it was because she was so pretty. So many times there were comments about the look, that even the singers tried sometimes to pull the conversation back to their vocal talents. It seems like the program's main idea, turned the attention even more to the looks, as a separate being, acknowledged, shown and flirted with all the time.

I still love the program, and the judges happen to be great musicians. I am looking forward to watching more episodes as teh quality of vocal abilities is amazing. But I hope I won't have to listen to more sexist comments, open flirting (with the contestants visibly uncomfortable at times) and innuendos. There is room for gentle flirting and honest complements about the looks, but without crossing the line.

well, it's been a while...

After a lot of changes, storms, travels and what not, I have decided to get back to my blog.
A short update: I am in Poland, living in my old childhood apartment and trying to find my way around here.

As of yesterday I am running my own, one-person company. I am scared, there is no way around it. I caught a basic English classes job, but very limited and more than part-time. My own company, I hope, will be the thing... I am scared where it goes. I hope to write books, translate them, write educational articles... I want to educate, bring something important, something that will be read. But for now, I am happy to do anything, I need money and I need it now... The shipping costs were more than twice what I thought, and I am running out of savings... But I am trying to be positive. That's all for an update, I hope to keep up with the blog a bit better than in the past :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ok, scratch that, I am NOT going to Chicago

I don't even want to get into all the bureaucracy and immigration issues, the point is, I am not staying in the US and am going back to Poland. It's been just too much anxiety and stress over the past three months, I need a rest.
The positive side is, I've been showered with love, support and genuine gratitude from everyone around me. I have no idea where my life goes from here, but I am quite positive. I am excited about seeing my family and helping my Mom. Three years is really too long... I am fantasizing about my Mom's apartment and how it needs some serious painting and rehab. I will go and visit my brother and see my nephew for the first time. Go vacationing with my best friend... It's not all that bad, right? I have no idea what the work situation will be like, or  what kind of work I am will be able to find, but again, I am quite positive. It's quite amazing how I've grown in self confidence over the past two-three years and am sure it will be fine. I have some savings, even though not that much and a lot of it will go for shipping books. I am sad to leave some awesome stuff behind, on the other hand it's quite cathartic to just get read of all the ballast, and build myself again from scratch. The only things that I want to keep are the best of clothing, electronics and books. Only a few items from the artsy side - ceramic from Israel, old masks found on eBay, a few souvenirs with strong emotional connection. The rest? all going away. Sometimes I feel that other people are more sad about my apartment than I am. I loved working on it, the paint, the murals, the art... But it's not for ever. The process brought as much enjoyment and pleasure as living in it. It wouldn't be as much fun if someone else had done it for me. I still can carry this enjoyment with me. And do something new for other people. Maybe will attack my brother's white walls :D
Maybe it was just the time to move on to the next great adventure (just not that one).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

no homo

I wasn't really familiar with this term at all. I don't listen to rap, hip-hop and don't watch tv... I am not familiar with slang, so really had no chance to know how widely it is spread. Recently I had a chance to see parodies and stand-ups making fun of them, and it really bothers me. It is scary a person can't express any kind of feelings, admiration, art-relating comment, anything non gender-profiled without adding "no homo", I am terrified of the message it sends out. I can't imagine to be a gay kid with people using this around you, your friends, your music idols, and so on.

Based on the idea of the author of this blog: I am not racist, but..., whose idea was simple and brilliant - search among the public facebook status entries for this and similar variations of the phrase. It's quite depressing to read it, but also eye opening.
I did something similar, using the phrase "no homo". Here are examples of what I found:

[Ryan]: Dude I wish I could sing like Michael Buble haha (no homo) 

[Juancho]: My neck is super sore(No homo)        (- that one only tells what kind of vigilant mind people have... b/c what's wrong with having a sore neck? in his mind must be "homo" red flag...) 

[Sydney]: Melanie fixed my phone again!!!! She got it where I can touch it now!!!!! I luvvers u melanie!!!! :) (no homo) haa lol :) 

[Jonathan]: Best Moments Of AI .... Missed this guy so much...was such a beast in basketball (no homo) 

[Kristen]: hacked by Mellbobb:) hahaha I love you Cruton (no homo) ahahahahahahaha...ha.........rubber duckies 

[Mike]: Thanks to the family who ALWAYS has my back, Thanks to the friends who commute 2 hours both ways because I'm feeling down, Thanks to my girl who always tells me things will be OK, And thanks to everyone who loves, and accepts me for me. It's hard to be negative with so many positives in my life... LOVE YOU ALL (No homo).   (- this guy already mentioned his got his "girl", but still has to add "no homo". what's wrong with expressing love and gratitude to family and friends?) 

[Anthony]:I LOVEE YOU FACEBOOK....(NO HOMO)     (
- does it mean Facebook is a ... man? or is that some random dude's nickname?)   
[Angelo]: Drew I miss The days going to buffalo wild wings to watch the pens play and me wearing that caps shit... Fun times miss u bro and love u (no homo)
[Siyabonga]: i love yall 2 bits .nyt nd sweet dreams .p.s if u a dude no homo! 
 [Coleen]: Im in love with Amy Lee!! (No homo) ♥
[Mario]: I use music to express how im feeling (no homo) 
[Ian]: I have the best friends in the world. They gave me a surprise birthday party, a house full of balloons, a red, white, and blue cake covered in little babies, a video game, pistachios, and some "juice". I love them. No homo. 
[Wayne]: The sweet things i say are because i'm a sweet person.. No homo.
[Valery]: Shout out to CapriSun're never too old for CapriSun..and you can't be too gangsta for CapriSun..its like blowing bubbles..idc how gangsta you are..bubble blowing will always be homo 
[Michael]: Yo its always one bird dude its 7 of us me and my friends rite 6 of us talking about buying a whole lot of liquor and meat(no homo) for a bbq y the 7th friend said he got da frank buns. Smfh    (- I don't know what's on this guy's mind, but it looks like "buying meat" = "mad buttsex" in his world... ) 
[Daysha]: Inbox me colors and i will tell yhu how i feel bout ,yhu no homo:

I am going to Chicago

I got the job. I am relieved, even if I don't really fell it... I am still anxious and stressed as obviously it's not finished. Now it's about papers and visa, then moving, finding an apt and so on... But, I got the job! I feel like it will be a good thing for me, change, more social options, more life... I think I need to come out of my shell more, and living without a car in this village made it really difficult. I want to go out sometimes, but the logistics make it prohibitive. I will live in the city! Not downtown, obviously, but nowhere near the suburban desert I live in now. There will be cafes, shops, clubs, pubs, artsy stuff, university, cinemas... normal life. I really need it. I wish I could skip the legal/immigration paper work... it's stressful, expensive and time consuming. At least searching for apt is more fun... in theory. But I have no idea how I can choose anything from here... I don't know if I would be as lucky as with the apt in my complex, I don't want to be hoaxed or end up with a year-long lease for a dirty hole with cockroaches. In photos you can make any place look decent. I will check the apartments ratings, maybe that will narrow down the best in my budget. I will have to only sized down, but also pay slightly more than I am paying now, with the salary almost same as now (just a bit less). I could theoretically find an apt or studio for less than now, but even in the photos it was obvious they were bad quality. I want the best quality for what I can afford. I prefer to save the $100 on other things and add it to the rent. This time it should be easier... I have all the most important furniture, kitchen appliances, dishes and so on. I don't have to spend much on the house anymore. I have to be able to continue supporting my mother, I was hoping to raise the amount  I sent her monthly. Maybe I will be able to get something on a side...

In the meantime, I am trying to catch up on blogs, I found some new ones which were interesting but that's for another entry.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

the "sweet" part of bitter-sweet

Today was the last day at school. There is still the official graduation and that's it... I must stay that I am still overwhelmed with all the love I continue to be showered with. I have a history of pretty low self-esteem, on which I've been working through therapy for the past two years. It's only this year really when I started to feel more confident in my professional skills, in being a good teacher. But still I wasn't thinking much of myself, and I knew that my way of dealing with students is not the easiest to be much beloved. I am not the fluffy bunny, I never let whine about other teachers and bad mouth them (unless it's a serious sharing during advisory and constructive discussion on dealing with a problem). I am rather coldish, I don't hug, I don't giggle or squee. I dont' share much of my private life, I am sarcastic and quite strict, I think. I do joke a lot, as I have quite a sense of humor... but I have no problem with being deadly serious, kick out a kid for detention or go hard on someone. And still.. the words I've been hearing from my kids over the past few months, and especially the past few days... they melt even my Polish soul. Some kids would come and hang out in my room for no reason, as if unable to leave and go home... One kids said she was not looking forward to the end of the year, because I wouldn't be there the next one... Even the "cool and tough" kids came to me to share more feelings that they ever did before... I got beautiful, funny or heart breaking words written in my year book autographs booklet. I know I will be coming back to it often, to keep me going, whenever I would feel down or losing my faith in my teaching skills.
I have made custom cards for some of my kids. Snapfish is really cool for that. I chose some quotes on one side, my own photo on front and back, and wrote a personal note to each of the students. I chose to do that for my advanced classes, as I have been with them longer and have had absolutely blast of a year... I also gave each to my freshmen advisees. I seriously care for each and every one of them, even if each of them was at least once a royal pain in the butt :) One kid, who has pathological approach to writing anything, wrote a whole paragraph for me... I still need to decipher parts of his handwriting, but just the length of it made me fly to the sky.

It's really difficult to leave, but if I weren't, would I even found out how much I am liked? I think it's the first time that I feel it, from so many people... colleagues, kids, parents. I try to treasure the moments, store them and learn to believe in myself more.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When I look for job offers, I try to also learn about the place and imagine myself living there. I know that in the end I will probably take the first offer I get, as it's pretty dry... but it's fun to think about it and I think it helps with the anxiety a bit.
I always look for the same things: proximity to the city's center/downtown, craigslist apartment rental prices, to check if I can survive there without a car. I sometimes check the forums on, to get a better feel for the place. I feel like I am learning a lot about America in that way!

I thought that I would write down some interesting things I found out.

Atlanta, GA - great gay community (esp. if I scored the job in gay synagogue), good weather for riding a scooter, walkability livable. Good prices for rental.

Bridgeport, CT -  the town itself kind of strange, a lot of areas that are not safe. Very high rental compared to the salaries and general likability of the town. A lot of the apts didn't look great. bad public transport, so a bit difficult with no car.

Spokane, WA - I think best option - it scored "walker's paradise", the apts are cheap, and the salary is higher than I have now. It's probably quite cold and rainy... but not too bad.

Portland, ME - beautiful area, great for hikes. Long winters with so-so public transport. But the city is pretty small and seems like it would be pretty easy to walk to a lot of places. Rentals not scary, but nothing special.

Las Vegas, NV - desert, in the middle of nowhere. I like desert, but living there might be tough... good for a scooter though. In NW is actually walkable/reachable, with so-so public transport. But the apts are cheap and beautiful! Some half the price I pay now.

Washington, DC - well, it's DC :), great public transport, no need for a car. Apt prices are ridiculously high, and it might be that I woiuld have to either sell my kidney, rent a closet or live with a roommate to survive.

Bay Area, CA - a few different places really, but similar pros and cons. Beautiful, weather, gays, scooter-weather, but high prices for rentals and very far anywhere outside of the small area where I would live.

San Antonio, TX - hot, Texas, far from everywhere, very difficult to survive without a car. Could use a scooter, but still difficult even though the weather helps. The rentals weren't that bad, but nothing special.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

the limbo time of my life

It's been more than a month later, and I still have no job. It is very worrisome. there is only so much time I can wait before I should pack and go back to Poland. This is terrifying, as I have no idea what I would do, and am afraid that a year break would be the kill of my career as an educator in the US. I have to apply for a visa renewal like, now. It's all is really scary and my anxiety levels are through the roof. I upped my meds a bit to get it down a bit.

The best side of it all? The extremely positive feedback I've been getting from my students. It is just so uplifting and warming... I think I've been dealing pretty well with the situation and am a good role model. I try to look at the positives :)

I am really worry about my Mom... I am afraid I won't be able to go and visit my family again this year. It's been three years since I saw any of them... My little nephew is already a year old, and I haven't had a chance to see him yet. It is painful even for me, rather removed and introverted person.

I think I should write here more... I post often links to articles on my FB, but I miss the forum to say more what I think. I gotta spring back up from the dark period I am going through. I've killed half my plants because I simply didn't feel like watering them anymore... I have to throw them away, as now I can see their dried up carcasses around. All the energy I had I seemed to be spending at work to keep up the joyful face and approach my kids with the same energy and attitude as usual. They are not the ones who should be punished for the board's bad politics and decisions.

It's funny that I am not actually scared of the place I will end up in. I am totally fine with almost all the places I could theoretically work. Atlanta, Spokane, Portland (ME), Bridgeport, LA... Each different, but I know I will easily get used to living there. I am pretty easy with that... It's the not knowing that is so nerve-wrecking. I see positive sides of each position, each place... even the return to Poland. But I hate to be in the limbo. The in-between is the most scary to me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Waiting is killing me.

I am supposed to be informed regarding my possible position in Tulsa by tomorrow. It's been really hard to be patient... I have involved so much thinking, hopes, time and energy into this, that I am afraid the possible disappointment would be a blow. It's hard to do anything else, all I do is just a waiting filler, my mind completely preoccupied. They had one more person to be interviewed this weekend, so it is between him and me. I know I shouldn't have put so much energy into this option when I am still not sure about anything... but that's how I work - when an idea pops up in my head, I just dive head in to learn all I an about it, research, dig, gather information. Same about this job - I know more about the rental market there than many pros. I recognize addresses, places ... I've read too many forum entries, opinions, discussions and even local news. It's as if I were already living there...

I try to be calm and patient, but it's so hard!

I've got the power!

According to the lady I spoke with briefly while waiting for a bus, I caused the tornadoes in Oklahoma. How? Somehow it was clear to her, that tornadoes are direct sign of God being angry with what humans are doing down here.  The one thing she called out that humans are doing wrong? Men are marrying men, women are marrying women. Not criminals, drug users, wife beaters... no, it's the gays who have the nerve to live happily in monogamous relationships.

I didn't response to her. Should I have done something? I don't know. Maybe it was cowardice, maybe the dislike for confrontation and causing troubles. I was stunned, I was hurt, but even more I was shocked with her logic. I just can't understand how people can believe in such a low, bitter, vengeful god. God, who is fine with killing innocent people in Oklahoma (or Japan) because there are two gays living happily in NY? I understand that belief doesn't have to be rational... But does it have to go so completely against logic, ethics or common sense? Why would anyone want to belief in such a god?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oklahoma on my mind...

I've been thinking a lot about Tulsa, as that's one of my job opportunities. I have a skype interview today. I've been checking out apartments, reading forums on crime and zeitgeist of Tulsa, and generally imagining myself living there.
I have this interesting personality trait, that I can easily adapt to whatever place I might be living. I take it as it is, and go with it. I focus on the good, and accept it as the reality without much negativity. I discovered it a while ago, and I think that's what helped me survive living in such wide variety of places.

I found that Tulsa has a low crime, living close to the center would be just slightly more expensive than what I have now, the people are extremely nice and polite. As much as there isn't extreme high "culture" activity, there seems to be a lot of nice places to go, hang out (cafes! real ones!), walk around... Cherry Str. seems to be a nice place to live close to.

Of course I could be living a tad farther away in VERY affordable apartments, but then I would have to have a car. I also am dreaming about finally living in a place that I can easily walk to get a nice cup of coffee, find a bookstore, be close to a park or just interesting places to walk around.

There are also other, very important, positives about having a job in a place like Tulsa: the people would really wanted me there. I would feel needed, I would feel I can make a difference. And that's beautiful. I still hope for Gann Academy in Boston, as that's a serious step up in teaching reputation... But there is so many people who also would love to live in Boston, and I am not sure that what I have to offer would be cherished and appreciated as much as in a smaller community.

Friday, April 8, 2011

work ethic and personal integrity

It's been hard to master enthusiasm at work, now that I know I am not coming back. But I notice surprisingly low amount of anger and no desire to get revenge. I am looking forward, considering various options of future employment. But I have a colleague in the same situation as mine and I am more and more disappointed with his reaction. He is full of anger, and tries to get me into this spin as well. He does not only joke, but openly says (even to students!) that he's done with teaching for this year. How can he say that? That kind of attitude is robbing off my employer and my students. I am paid for the job I am doing now, and I working because that's what I was hired to do, not because I hope for the employment next year. It's harder now, and I may joke about "what will they do, fire me?", but it's just joking with me. I still take my work very seriously. The students especially did not deserve getting crappy education because of my private issues.

I have noticed some angry reactions from some of the students. Two of them had similar kind of comments - why the school can't fire the "bad teachers". As much as I may have some personal thoughts as to who should go and who should stay and there is some bitterness on my tongue... (I am not a saint!) I try and keep it to myself. I was very clear to the kids, that there are no "bad teachers" in the school. It was nice to hear they express their affection to me, but that's not the way I want it, I don't want to hear I am "better" than my colleague from a fifteen-year old. They can't appreciate the depth of his knowledge, the traditional upbringing he got and the seriousness of his commitment to his traditions. They like me, b/c I am more "cool". But teaching is not a popularity contest.

On Sunday I have my first interview - over the skype. I am nervous but also confident enough. I more and more feel confident about finding something, now the question is, how good and where...

Friday, April 1, 2011


I talked yesterday with my brother over the gchat. Very short, just to find out he's looking for a job same as I do. Toward the end he mentioned my nephew's first birthday coming... I haven't seen him yet. That's sad enough, especially that I don't know if I will be able to go and visit Poland this summer. All's in the air.

But what saddened me more, is that at the end he causally mentioned, that if I wanted to send a package for the little one, clothing would be best b/c American cotton is better.
I felt angry and sad, that I can't afford it. And even more that he thinks I am so rich I can just like that send packages. I probably could buy a few pieces of clothing, I know how to find them cheaply but in good quality... but the cost of international mail is prohibitive. I can't afford paying around $70 for just the postage. I don't know how to break it to him. I wish I could just send stuff... but that's not that bad, I can deal with that. But the fact that he just assumes I can send stuff, even though I just told him I won't have a job next year... it's just disturbing to me. It's sad. They think America is some kind of paradise. eich...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

visiting old corners

I am not really sure why, but I decided to go back to an old forum I used to be very active in. It's a Polish-Jewish discussion place. I started there over ten years ago, and became good friends with a few people there. One of them is still my best friend. There is some nostalgia in me going back .. I have no idea what I want to accomplish or get.

I knew that getting on a thread on homosexuality in the Torah would be a bad idea. But I had no idea how bad... The comments on how someone is "disgusted" with homosexuals, how they should be banned from adoptions, comparing to pedophilia (yep)... all was there. Even the old argument of "the heterosexuals don't show off with their orientation, why the gays have to". Idiocy. I don't know what I wanted to achieve discussing someone's very strict answer on absolute prohibition of homosexuality in the Torah... nothing works. I was basically told to choose another religion if I don't like that Judaism prohibits it. Progressive Jews were made fun of, and suggested they are not real Jews.

What a catastrophe. I know I am not going back to Poland, for many reasons. But one of the main ones is, that I refuse to live in the closet. I lived enough years with a mask on, lying to myself, others, pretending and trying to fit in. I want to be open at work, to family and friends. I don't want anyone judging my potential ability to be a mother based on whom I love.

To be clear - there were some voices trying to stand for gays... but even these brought an argument, that if they gays could choose they would prefer being straight (as part of an argument that it's not gays' fault, it's biological).

So sad. I guess that's similar to some more right-wing/evangelical places here. Maybe it's good, so I can stop having silly ideas of finding job in Omaha or Louisiana.

All this negativity of the past days, job search, fear, stress, headaches and anxiety get to me. I was really down today, even the kids were noticing. It's hard to keep up.

the most recent idea: get to graduate program with scholarship or something, to keep visa. I have good friends helping me, it's really great.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the so called pro-life folks.

I've just read this article on ThinkProgress. It discusses another campaign directed at the made up "Black genocide" that is supposed to be happening at the moment through abortions. One of the billboards is this:

Just recently I was thinking something very slightly similar. How many talents are wasted, how many Einsteins never discovered, how many talents never get explored. But not because of abortion, but rather what happens with the poor and unwanted that are being born and no one cares after. I wish the "pro-life" people focused more on helping the ones who are around us already, instead of just on fetuses. Some how the "fetus in danger" becomes totally uninteresting another black mouth in line to food stamps, together with his/her mother the butt of racist jokes and continues to live through racist and classist  abuse through legal system. 

This is sick. In what world a cluster of cells has more rights and worth than a human being?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

resumes, cover letters...

I have lost my job a week ago. I am past the grieving time (actually it was pretty short) and am in the organizing and looking forward one. I wasn't exactly fired - simply my contract will not be renewed for the next year because of low enrollment. Which is terrifying for me, especially with the severe anxiety issues that I struggle with. But I do have job for now, and money till August. But no savings. I went through the self-whipping phase of "why did I buy this, why not save!", but there is no sense to dwell in it, nothing productive comes from it.
I realized that I have nothing against moving to a different place. Honestly, there is nothing in Baltimore to keep me here, other than a few people I like. I know it's a great chance to find a nice community with more people like me, more cultural opportunities and so on. So what's the anxiety about? It's all about getting there. The process, the job interviews, insecurities, and the worst: moving. I love my apartment, and the fact that I can afford it - unless I move somewhere like Idaho, I won't be able to afford 2bdroom apartment anymore. The perspective of looking for a new one, being scared of commitment to a wrong place or the necessity of having roommates, freaks me out.
For the first phase, I am sending cv's to San Diego, DC and Boston. I think Boston would be the best, but the school has very high standards in Hebrew and I am afraid they might find me not good enough. But I have a very good friend there, and I loved the city when visited. It's also close to Vermont, where I have more great friends. And there is this... atmosphere I miss in Baltimore.

So yeah, a lot of stress mixed with hope and excitement.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I've just read about a very generous donation from Sandra Bullock to Red Cross, to benefit the Japan relief efforts. I've read also that she contributed to Katrina, 9/11 and Indonesian tsunami catastrophes as well. All the "biggies". I don't want to be cynical, but why I can't hear about such great, big donations made for "Planned Parenthood", educational programs, Heifer, or malaria no more? Why shock causes people to donate? I understand that it is absolutely terrifying that more than hundred thousand of people died within few hours in Japan. But the same number of people die quietly all over the globe from poverty, curable diseases and no access to medical help. There are programs which help the underprivileged to gain education, jobs, become self-reliant, free and strong. This huge $1mln could do so much for empowering programs. It's a piety they are so easily ignored, because the people they help are not in our faces, are ignored by media.

I wish more people would be giving regularly to that kind of organizations.

costumes and masks

Today is Purim, the Jewish holiday of masks, costumes, joy and silliness. In my struggle with unhealthy sensitivity to others' opinions about myself, I've been trying to push myself out there and dress up whenever I can (also for Spirit Week in my school, which will follow), dealing with the constant insecurity and paranoia of others judging me. My low self-esteem mixed with this paranoia, or rather quest for "proving" myself correct in the negative thoughts, has been with me for too long, making it difficult to recognize what is true and what is only a result of my fears and insecurities. I have a constant battle within me between the desire to do something loud for which I would be praised and the scared retreat caused by strong belief that I would never be praised anyway. Two polar opposites... It's either victory or it's the deepest lows of failure. I am working on accepting that being "just ok" or average is not a failure. That I don't have to be the best and far above the "good" to be accepted.

And as silly as it might sound, putting on a costume is a form of a therapy for me. Because of the fear that people might laugh at me, scrutinize my ideas and their application. Yesterday I went out in my self-made costume of Bellatrix LaStrange (it was "heroes and villains" theme), and wasn't trying to look for weird looks or scrutinizing eyes.

Tomorrow I will dress up as well, to work. Same on Tuesday and other days of the week. I will have fun and enjoy it. I will not try to be perfect or the best... But just enjoy it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kenyan and a Pole, two close cousins.

I am quite fascinated how much I have in common with my new Kenyan friend. So much in our past - personal, national - is very similar! Our experiences here, in the US also match, we complain about the same thing, we praise the same things. To me it's just such a beautiful example how all this "race" thing is artificially created to support divisions, oppression and organized religion.

Looking forward to find even more common ground. As well as the new, unknown and different.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Elderly and Driving

Over the weekend I got horrible news: one of my former students was in a very serious accident. He was riding his bike on a dedicated bicycle path, wearing a helmet, when he was run over by a 83-year old turning right without looking. He is in a critical condition, and we still have no idea if he can make it.

I've expressed many times my fear of old drivers. I'm a pedestrian, so it's not difficult for me to stop when needed. Multiple times I had to do it, because an older person driving a car didn't notice me.

I know it's a touchy subject... I understand how difficult it must be to admit one is too old to drive. It takes away personal dignity, self-reliance, freedom. But we need to face the facts: as we age we lose reflexes and our field of vision narrows, not to mention the weakening of the sight and hearing.

We are talking about lives in danger. There are many older people around where I live, with a few retirement houses in my neighborhood. Their tenants as drivers are subject of many jokes... but now there is no joking time when I actually know the victim. He is a young man, absolutely brilliant, bordering on genius in the field of math and science. To think that this brain is unresponsive...

I don't think a full prohibition is needed. But I would love if there was a requirement of tests in order to renew a licence by an elderly person. Let's say once in three years after 65year old (I know that 95% will pass without any problems, but we can catch the few who age faster), and yearly after 70.

Seniors can use public transport, they have good price on the tickets. Because of the new laws there could be more lines opened close to retirement houses.
We are pretty strict against DUI... in a way driving while very old is a similar danger.

Of course I didn't mention the need for more safe bicycle lines, as that's obvious.

Monday, February 21, 2011

the privilege of following your dreams

After I got the camera with one basic lens, I have been spending a lot of time learning about other lenses and their prices. I can't afford any of it now, I hope I will be able to save for a macro in a few months.
I felt a bit of self-pithy for my poor self, that I had to wait so long before buying a decent camera, even though I love photography and have been told to produce quite good photos.
But then... I do have the camera. And before I could play with a pretty good point and shoot. It's hard, I can't get the high-shelf or multiple lenses... But I have it.

I can only imagine how many people in this country (so OMG developed and rich) can't follow their dreams, passions and talents because of their financial situation. There are no photography classes in public schools where kids could borrow a camera to learn. Free art classes with supplies provided. Free sculpture or lithography classes. Free dance classes of many kinds. My mom dropped out of Academy of Arts because she could not afford the supplies (the school was in Poland, for free, but the supplies not provided). My father dropped out from full-time chemistry studies, because of financial situation. He had to go full time work, and was studying weekends for more profitable industry - mining.

It pains me that access to art and self-expression is still a form of privilege. As if the poor had no passions, dreams, talents and visions. We, as a society, assume they are born to work physically, know their place and keep their heads down. We assume the poor cannot be sophisticated, sensitive, visionary, genius, fascinating human beings. The poor are not allowed to worry about arts or higher thinking. That's luxury. They are not supposed to want to live in a nice places, to have access to beauty in many forms. They are forced to live in ugly housings, ugly and dirty neighborhoods, grey and sad schools.

So I will keep on enjoying my new camera, rejoicing with the chance I have to live my passion. And remember how privileged I am to have it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Downtown Baltimore











new camera

I love photography. I love looking through the view finder, the sounds, the images... I love the emotional security that hiding behind a camera offers. I love the passive capturing of reality. I love how an image stays frozen, holding to time and space long gone.
I have a dream that one day I will be able to support myself through photography... I don't find it realistic, but it would be so wonderful.

Last week, after a few years of trying, I got myself my first digital SLR. As usual I feel guilty, as there is so much other things I should rather be saving for... But it was from the tax return, so it was a bit as if I simply never got the money.

I got a canon rebel T2i. For the time being I can afford only one lens, I already want one more macro and one telephoto for better candids.

It's been just a few days and I've taken already a few hundreds photos. The love came back. like a strong wave in my veins. The excitement, the anxiety to catch the flying away moments. The anxiety over my subjects not noticing me taking the photos. Playing with colors, monochromatic images and various options. It was weird that no one was paying attention to me, I felt that I must have been radiating, shining from inside.

the thing about insecurity

Yesterday I've been the second time to the local bi/gay women support group. I think it's a great thing for me and I really need it. I am proud that I made this step as it's a tremendous anxiety causing event. But I went, I talked, I listened, I felt I belonged. I am coming back in two weeks.
Each time I've heard something on what kind of qualities the women liked or disliked I automatically heard this voice in my head "oh-oh... that's me! oh no!". One of the women said how insecurity is a turn off, that she wants the women to be able to do the first step, speak up, be assertive and even a bit aggressive. And I kind of sunk inside, as I'm nothing of that. I almost wanted to negate all I am just to get her approval. But then I started to think: What is the chance we would ever hook up? Yes, she is damn cute, but she is a totally different personality, too confident, to much oxygen-consuming type to my liking. Why do I have to always look for approval? This is hard. I am really proud that I was able to speak up for the introverted types, that it's not so easy to just speak up to people, go out, hang out, do the small talk. I was actually pretty open, which I think is good for me.

But all of that got me also a bit sad, because in a way it just proved to me how difficult it is, for a lesbian, to get with someone. I guess shy guys might feel similar. Among heteros there is accepted patriarchal push for men to be the ones to start, and for women to be shy and playing cold. I hate this, but in a way it's useful. I am working on my shyness, but still it's dreadful to even imagine myself approaching someone I find attractive and chat. It's a nightmare to do it with someone I don't care about romantically, how much more with a potential love object? I am too much in my head, it's difficult.

I try not to be too tough on myself, I know I've made a great progress dealing with my anxiety and insecurities. but there is still so much to do...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Race, prejudice and crime

After a great discussion today in my class on stereotypes, prejudice and racism, I have decided to bring next week materials about racial profiling, inadequate racial arrests, court injustice and so on, as most of my students couldn't believe there is something wrong with the justice system. They indeed believed that there are more Blacks in jails, because Blacks commit more crime.
Well, work to do!
I will post here whatever useful links I find, to have them in one place. 

LAPD Officer: I Can’t Do My Job Without Racially Profiling - COLORLINES
NYPD - Frisking 88% Black and Latino males
Drug sentencing reform
Frisking - video and article
Interview (video) with Michelle Alexander on racist disproportional arrests for drugs
Disparities between marijuana usage and arrests between white and black youth
Racist bias among police
More NYPD racist frisking policy

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What would YOU do to get a job?

I've read yesterday a short article on a sensational DailyMail, linked from HP. Interesting discussion followed. I observed a few different tendencies among the commenters. Some were simply disgusted with the picture of round worms. Some made fun of the stupid Chinese who would eat anything, others made fun of the stupid women who do such things... Some discussed the deeper problems - the unrealistic burden of fitting a particular (thin) expectation and more and more difficult job market, where the employers might pick and choose, forcing people to do very questionable things simply because they have no real choice.
We know already that fat women are paid less, hired less and generally considered lazy, stupid, unskilled, with will power or self-control. The women are already burdened with unrealistic expectations just to be accepted as attractive females, no job interviews in sight yet. Twelve year old girls on diets... what is more disgusting? This or swallowing round warms? It's a difficult choice to make.

I spent couple hours yesterday researching and googling for images to use in my "Body and Sexuality" class. We have been already discussing a bit the problems of assuming overweight people are that way because of not taking care of their health or overeating. I want to discuss more with them on the societies imagery and the extreme pressure for both men and women to obey the, often unrealistic, expectations.

Below is a sample of vintage ads. It's interesting that it was much harder to find the accurate spot, as both too skinny and fat was forbidden...

Of course it's pretty obvious that for both men and women the only incentive to be "slender" is to be accepted and considered attractive by the opposite sex. What is more annoying in the case of women, that it's assumed it's their fault if they lose the interest of their husbands. Both in the ads about weight loss, various cosmetics and home appliances, it's a woman's job to "keep the husband".

And for the end, a very interesting ad... it looks like China is not that far from the Western Culture after all...