The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Tag: sheila path

10/30 – NaBloPoMo09 – MN Fringe Festival

Hey what’s up.  So if I am to finish this blog by midnight, I have to hustle because I have five minutes.

If you live in the Twin Cities, and you have an interest in theater, I hope that you are planning to go to the Fringe Festival.  I am excited about it this year because I am volunteering for 9 shows, which means I’m gonna get 9 free tickets to other shows.  And I love seeing lots of theater, but usually I’m too broke and or lethargic to get up and go.

There was an event tonight featuring 30 of the companies, they had 3 minutes each to convince you to come see their show.  I wish I could have gone, but I had a family obligation.  If you want to see what’s coming up with the Fringe, check out their very informative website:

I especially recommend Bard Fiction, just based on the fact that I know one of the cast members and she’s terrific.  Ok, I’m outie – sorry it’s short and a little babbly – blame it on NaBloPoMo09!


9/30 – NaBloPoMo09 Teaching in America

Howdy. So I have been asked by a Brazilian educator to write about what it’s like to teach high school in the United States.

I’ll try. I don’t think my experience is typical – I have taught Drama in Florida, Drama and Reading in Chicago, Illinois, and Drama, Reading and English in Minnesota. I worked in large schools (2,000 kids or so) for the first 6 years; one year as a substitute. The past 4 years I have worked as the only English teacher in a very small school – with an average of 75 students.

I think that if a student here knows about the different options, he would be able to find a school that suits him. Of course, that depends on where he lives, too. We have something called ‘school choice’ here, which means that if a student doesn’t want to go to their neighborhood school, he can go to another school. Usually there is transportation for those students. A lot of people have widely differing opinions about school choice – some argue that it’s great because it helps students integrate racially and stay away from situations where a poor neighborhood has a correspondingly poor neighborhood school. Others claim it is a way for white parents to send their kids to less integrated schools.  This is a very complicated and controversial topic that perhaps I will research and try to go into in more depth at a later date.

Personally, I think school choice is good if it helps students voice their opinion about their neighborhood school. If the kids get a say (with their parents) about which school they will attend, it’s almost like a vote. Competition to be a better school and attract students seems to help ensure better schools for the kids. And that’s what it should all be about.

There are some people who also think that we should be working to make sure that all high schools are offering the ‘same’ education across the country. This is not happening. Each state has standards that their Board of Education writes up and publishes, but the standards are left to local interpretation. I think this is a double edged sword. I believe strongly in ‘teacher autonomy’ – that a teacher should have the power to make decisions in the classroom for his or her students. But I wish there was some sort of a consensus, too, officially, about what might be ideal.

Now maybe I’m just belying my ignorance here, but I have never seen a national resource for curriculum that could be used at the high school level – at least not for Engish/Language Arts. Instead, it seems that I have worked to interpret the Minnesota standards on my own and implement them into a curriculum. This also leads to me repeating bits and pieces of what I was taught in high school and making up new curriculum myself. I’m fine with doing that, but I would love to be able to check myself against a true standard.

I think a lot of the problem with that is there are a lot of companies that want to write and sell curriculum. If the government put together a really good resource, I suppose they would be limiting free enterprise’s chances to make money.  Again, I think that the needs of the students should be the most important.

Well, I think I introduced some rough ideas about a lot of interrelated topics in this post.  I will try to refine my thinking and continue to write on the topic.  As always, I would love to see this turn into a discussion so if you have any comments or questions, please be sure to post them.  Sheila

8/30 – NaBloPoMo – Emotional Vertigo

I have been a do-gooder all my life.  Always wanting the best, the ideal.  Not materially, but spiritually.  I revel in good deeds, in participating in a successful endeavor that will do no less than change the world.  The next right thing is my mantra.  Joy is being useful, helping people.  I want to do good and seek out the good in others.  I want to be the first to catch a glimpse see it, coerce it out if it’s latent.  Maybe this is why I am a teacher.

Lately, I have been experiencing something strange – a confusion, a dizzying mental drag causing me to sway in my belief in humankind.  It’s as debilitating as the vertigo I used to occasionally suffer, but again, it’s spiritual and emotional.  A doctor once explained vertigo to me as a brain’s confusion between reality and its perception of reality.  If the muscles in my neck are too tense and a breeze caresses them in just the right way, my brain will believe that I am falling although I am simply standing or sitting.

Emotional vertigo, I posit, is the confusion in my brain that arises when my ideals are brushed by even the lightest hushed wind of a disappointing human reality.  When my expectations of something or someone I’ve idealized are met with non-ideal reality, my emotions swoon inside.  My elbows tingle, I mix up words as I try to speak, I weep without direct cause.

The cure for physical vertigo that has worked for me is to stretch my neck and to ice those muscles.  I am still seeking the cure for ’emotigo’ – I know that the disillusionment will not last.  Reality may not be ideal, but it’s not bad either – somehow to stretch my mental muscles and reset back to reality.  Perhaps vacation will do the trick.

2/30 – NaBloPoMo09

What is it about writing that is so gratifying and so frightening at the same time?  I have been keeping a journal – off and on – since I was about 20.  Alot of my early independent writing was done when I was in high school, in the form of notes that I never passed on to my friends.  I still have a pile of them, and they clearly reveal that I was a teenager in the 1980’s. ‘Like, gag me with a spoon.’ (shudder.)

When I was 20, maybe it was on my birthday, I went to CityCenter with a guy friend who later was my boyfriend for two days before we realized that we were not really interested in each other.  We are still friends, though, through chance meet ups around town and the occasional facebook note.  Cyber friends, I guess.  The journal I bought was bright yellow and blue with repeating prints of an Andy Warhol rendition of cows.  I especially loved that it was unlined.  I filled that journal up completely.

Since then, I have probably started 10 or 12 other journals, and brought them to varying degrees of completion.  I find it interesting how much I have changed in the time since the first journal.  Of course it has been 18 years, but it’s a lot of change, to my way of thinking.

I used to be mortified if anyone read any of my work.  Now I’ve written a (n unpublished…) novel, I have a little website, I make comments on Facebook, and I blog for all the world to see, should they care to take a gander.

I’m not sure that Mortified has the capacity to convey just how shy, trembly, sick I felt if I knew someone’s eyes were scanning my very own words.  I hated it, but of course like any good passion, there was an equally strong flip side.  I desired intensely for people to have read what I had written and to receive the praise I would demurely say that I didn’t deserve.

Hence, despite wanting to crawl into the nearest hole while ‘being read’, I have shared my writing.  I wrote a few little poems for an improv show I was in during high school – I am forever thankful to my improv troupe for their reactions.  Let me set the scene for you:  We knew that we wanted to do a sketch about people in authority taking advantage of their positions – even the smallest amount of authority seems to go to some people’s heads.  I was up late one night writing, and I decided to try writing something for that sketch.  I wrote a series of short poems from different points of view – a judge, a crossing guard, scout leader….I don’t remember the details, really.

What I do remember is bringing in my poems and telling the other cast members that I had written something, but I didn’t want to read it.  They said I must.  Since I didn’t want everyone to hear, we went into the girls dressing room, they kicked out some non cast member who was in there, and they all encouraged me to read the poems aloud.  I did.  I remember that I felt my voice was not even audible, but they heard me, and then they used the poems in the show.

I think that’s when I started to realize that not only did I like writing, but that writing has a power.  There is something about the written word.  There are other forms of communication – speaking, music, video, plays and so on, but the written word, besides being essential to many other forms of communication, stands alone.

Even while everyone decries the internet and advancements in technology, it seems to me that what a lot of the internet consists of is people reading and writing.  Different forms – not a printed book, but reading and writing none the less.  I mean, here I am blogging my little heart out, and here you are reading it, so what does that tell you?

I think the fear of writing comes from an essential fear of being oneself and being rejected.  And once words are down on a page and released into the world, you really can’t take them back.  You can apoligize, you can claim that something was a typo, but it’s still out there.  And in writing.  A solid piece of evidence about how you felt or thought at a particular moment in time.

For most situations, there should really be no fear – how you felt about this or that is probably inconsequential.  But once in a while it’s important, and you have to have the sense to know when that is.  There is only one sentence I have ever written and sent out to someone that I truly regret.

It was when I was in Mexico, thoretically studying Spanish.  I received a call from a friend of mine, and she was insensed because of something my ex-boyfriend had said.  I do not have any memory of what made her upset, but at the time it made me upset, too.  I was so angry about whatever his offense had been, that I wrote him a post card.  All I said on it was, “You are such a f****** pessimist.”  And I sent it.

I’m blushing right now at the memory of that.  How very wrong.  What a rotten thing to get in the mail.  And he really was a nice person – he didn’t deserve that.  But it also illustrates the power of words.  I think it’s just that power that makes writing both gratifying and frightening.  I, for one, am going to keep on writing, even if it scares the hell out of me.

Thanks for reading.  Peace out.  Sheila

NaBloPoMo09 – Away We Go!

NaBloPoMo is exactly what I need right now! So I’m going to do it- 30 blogs in 30 days.

To start off, I have seen three recent movies without talking about any of them. They don’t flow naturally together at all, none the less, I shall discuss each of them in this blog as if they do.  Hope that works for you.

I think I will start with my favorite, which was Away We Go. I laughed a lot.  At one point, I laughed so hard I thought I might have an asthma attack.  I cried a little too.  Lots of events happen in this movie, but what I liked the best was that they addressed a lot of different women’s experiences with fertility/infertility.  Some of it was just funny, like over the top touchy-feely parenting, but I felt that they balanced that well with more serious situations.

It’s been very difficult for me to articulate why, not being able to have children* myself, I don’t go out and adopt.  I can’t exactly say why, but it doesn’t feel right to me yet.  Maybe I’m still in mourning – but I know I’m not ready to adopt right now.  In the movie, I feel like the couple from Montreal (don’t worry, I’m not ruining the movie for you here) showed exactly why I am hesitant – I am afraid I would feel how they feel. Ok, spoiler alert, I guess, because I’d like to talk about it in more detail.

I have been in her shoes – the woman who does the sexy/melancholy dance – because I have often wanted to ask pregnant women how it feels to get pregnant and have no problems – but I’m sure they couldn’t tell me anyway, and I would probably start to feel envious, which is a complete waste of time.

Anyway, I liked that part of the movie because it’s not a feeling that is talked about – the feeling that no matter how much you try to fill the hole that is left by not having children, nothing will.  You have to live with the hole.  And if you adopt, that’s great, and they are your children fully and completely, but the reality is that if you had wanted a biological child, an adoption is not a replacement of that lost possibility.  It’s probably not fair to the adoptive child to have a parent who is still longing so deeply for a biological child, and that’s why I’m not ready to adopt yet.  I am still in mourning.  I don’t know how long it will take.  It’s definitely better than it used to be – I no longer weep about it on a monthly basis, but the pain and loss is still there.  Seeing someone portrayed in a movie who went ahead and adopted several to ‘make a family out of whatever we can,’ and seeing the possible cracks in that goes a little way toward helping me understand myself, which I appreciate in a movie.

I also liked that the main couple reminded me of myself and my husband in that they are so in love.  And like that couple, we laugh a lot.  And when someone’s grumpy, it’s usually me. 🙂  They have little jokes, they are disappointed by the same things, and so on.  I loved them as a couple, and I love us as a couple.

The second movie that we saw recently was The Proposal.  I don’t have that much to say – it was entertaining and cute, but it’s obvious that compared to Away We Go, the director didn’t seem as confident in the audience being able to grasp the events and interpret them – this is especially evident in the last scene where what’s his name says some mushy-gushy stuff, and the director cuts to shots of random office workers making doe eyes or covering their mouths in surprise.  It was so effin’ silly.  But other than that, the movie was fine, and was enjoyable two times, so far.

The final movie we have seen recently is Transformers II, or whatever the hell it’s called, which was pathetic.  I was the one who wanted to see it – and I was sorry about 10 minutes in.  The cars transforming was neat, but there was no plot to speak of.  Well, there was a plot.  It was a very young and oddly mismatched couple competing to be the last one to say ‘I love you’ to the other.  Meanwhile, aliens attack the world, yadda yadda, the girl says it first because she thinks the boy has died, and only then he can say it back.  Plus shitloads of chase scenes, and some very racially stereotyped robot characters, and a couple of near crotch shots of a couple pretty girls.  I think that sums up the movie, actually.  So so very bad.  And they’ll make a million bucks each.  Oh well. Hollywood, right?

If you only have the chance to see one of these movies, it had better be Away We Go, or you are a fool.  We’ll try not to judge, but why don’t you make it easier by just seeing it.  It’s worth your time.  🙂

*without going medically further than I want to, that is,  Please don’t email me and tell me “there’s always something they can do” – it’s not them, it’s me. 🙂 Plaintive smile. – thanks, Sheila

An Afternoon on the Farm

Two hour van ride, carsick in the back.  My family, actively a family, even during mundane tasks. Not like some families- mine loved to be together.  Playing games and laughing.  Listening to Dad’s jokes.

The only time we got upset was helplessly watching cars pass us in the left lane – admonishing dad, Step on it!  Step on it.  We’d wail like greek mothers upon learning a child was fated to die.The farm was like no place else we visited – even a gentler purgatory than the one we believed in.  Illisium fields, had we ever heard of such a place, we would known we were there . Timeless, detached from space – country road C wound by like a thread back to the rest of the world = a world easily forgotton as a we walked back and forth on the gravel road from the mailbox to the farmouuse – Dad maintains that it had electricity in the end, but that’s not my memory of the place.  Farmhouse.  Still with it’s original tarpaper sides

Looked crooked as though it had been dropped by dorothoy’s tornado.  No ruby slippers, though, I checked.  Just field after field, on Grandpa’s poorly farmed farm.

With nothing to do, mom would say Go Play!  And we would.  Trounce out to what must be the center of a field of hay, my brother and sister and I would use our forearms to press down the grasstalks, forming mazes to crawl through.  We marveled at bugs and flies, stalks that bulged with baby insects frightened and fascinated us.  Our skin grew tan in the unending golden sunshine, and we didn’t run away from anything.

Good morning, Yoga and metaphors.

And a good day to you.

Something I was thinking when I woke up this morning was that metaphors can so often only be explained through the employment of another metaphor.  As I was considering this, I thought of several metaphors which would illustrate what I mean.  This made me laugh.  Laughing reminded me of my yoga practice yesterday with my amazing yoga teacher, Leslie.

We were doing what we always do, but what I do not feel I understand.  We were contemplating awareness.  I had a revelation as we were practicing.  It was like two bars that are supposed to line up end to end were slightly ajar, and they suddenly, but gently slid into place.  I shifted a bit.  Leslie said something about awareness, noticing awareness, I think, and I realized that what she’s talking about has been right in front of me the whole time.  And I can clearly remember myraid times when I have experienced exactly what I experienced in the studio, was aware of my experience, and just didn’t have a name for it.  It feels strange, like seeing a word that I never knew or understood and then suddenly I can read it and know its meaning.

Anyway, I am trying to carry that awareness further into my ‘regular life.’  Ha ha.  I just realized the absurdity of writing that.  But at least I entertain myself.  Of course yoga is part of my regular life – it’s not special, it’s part of the fabric of what I’m doing here.  I find that I can apply principals that we use with our physical bodies to my mental state.  But the key is awareness.  How is it possible that we are awake so much of the time, and yet unaware?  And being unaware is kind of neutral but kind of miserable.

And with that I say, good morning to you.  Sheila

One decent vegan meal to make

Hi.  I just improvised myself the best meal I’ve had in a while, so I thought I’d pause between bites and write down the recipe for all the world to enjoy.  Ha ha.  But at least I will know where the recipe is.

So I was making some lomein noodles, which I have never made before.  I followed the directions for one serving – easy enough, boil for about 8 minutes then rinse in cold water.  I did that, put it in a bowl, splashed on some liquid aminos, (healthy soy sauce) and started to eat.  Let’s say it wasn’t exactly tasty.  Good enough if I was really in a rush or really lazy, but that wasn’t the case today, thankfully. 

I had just been looking through a vegan cookbook earlier and saw notes I had taken on how to make pad thai or pad see yew a few years ago. 

My notes are really poor – in pencil, jottings, really… somewhat suspect.  When I saw that I had written down ‘4 cups of soy sauce’ i realized I’d better not follow along word for word.  But my notes did point me in the right direction.

I put some, maybe 2 tbsp, grapeseed oil in my frying pan, sliced 2 cloves of garlic – I like nice thick slices, like 1/8 inch or a little more, just so I can see the garlic in my food.  I think it looks nice.  So I sauteed the garlic, threw in a rock solid hunk of brown sugar, probably 1 or maybe 2 tbsp., then I did something fairly dumb, *don’t do this – it’s an example of being dumb* I poured vinegar right into the very hot oil – it splattered all over and I almost started a fire.  I pulled the pan off the stove and watched to make sure that I didn’t need my fire extinguisher, wiped off the bottom of the pan, and threw in the cold lomein noodles.  When I replaced the pan, it was fine.

Then I put in some more vinegar, probably 2 tbsp. and some ketchup, another 2 tbsp.  It sounds gross, but it worked.  Then I put in some liquid ginger from the ginger people, probably 1 tbsp., 2 more tbsp of liquid aminos, and stirred.  At this point, it smelled wonderful. 

I’m sure I could have stopped there and been fine, but being a vegan I’m always being told to make sure I get my protein.  So I opened a package of firm tofu, drained off the liquid, and chopped it up a bit and threw it in.  There wasn’t much liquid left, so I added more vinegar, Braggs aminos, and a splash more ketsup.  Stirred it around for a bit, but I wanted something green in there.  All I had was broccoli, which I’m tired of, a green pepper, which I’m saving for roasted vegetables later, and some mescaline mix.  I didn’t know how it would taste, but I thought what the hell, I’m experimenting.  I threw in about 5 handsful of the mescaline mix.  Waited until it was shrively and all the liquid was cooked off, and put it in a bowl.  I wished I had peanuts, but we don’t buy them that often.  There were about 1/4 c of walnuts left in the cupboard, though, so I crushed them a little bit and threw them in.  Viola.  Yum.

In the end, there was too much tofu, about 1/2 a package would have sufficed.  Live and learn.  Luckily we have cold storage.  Good luck if you decide to make this – remember, don’t throw the vinegar into the hot oil.  Sheila

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