December Mao November 30, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Monthly Mao.
Tags: Art, Humor, Mao, Popular Culture, The Nutcracker
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Planetjan in Pakistan? November 28, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Blogging, Politics.
Tags: Barack Obama, Blogging, Humor, India, Islam, Mumbai, Pakistan, Politics, The Pakistani Spectator, War on Terror
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No sooner had I put up my post “Barack Obama as American Mythology” then I received a request for an interview from Ghazala Khan atThe Pakistani Spectator (TPS). “We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind,” he wrote. Who, me?
I checked out the link to the Pakistani Spectator, which seemed to me to provide relatively mainstream political and entertainment news. There were interviews with several other “notable” bloggers (one was in Bakersfield – a known hotbed of radical activity – and he admitted to drinking copious amounts of alcohol), so I figured no fatwah would be forthcoming. And there was that ad in the sidebar announcing that you CAN lose a pound a day without dieting. It was right next to an on-line poll about what to do with those Talibans. Here are the poll options: Dialogue with Them, Crush Them, Let America Deal with Them, Give Them a Free Hand, Jirgas(?) and Limited Operations, or finally, I am Confused.
I agreed to the interview and Ghazala Khan emailed me the interview questions, which required me to do some hard thinking. Not an easy thing to do when you’re overwhelmed with Parent/Teacher conferences and Thanksgiving looms. But I emailed my responses and woke up the next morning to find that the “Interview with Blogger Jan Marshall” was right below a photo of Barack Obama.
Political news is available through TPS in Urdu, but not entertainment news. So, boo hoo – no Urdu for you. You can read the interview by going to the following link. The Pakistani Spectator. Scroll down through the political news. Us “Notable Bloggers” are relegated to Entertainment under Interviews in the middle column. My interview has since been bumped by more recent interviews, but you can find it if you go to the top of the page and click on Interviews. The Interview archives are organized by the date published. My interview was published Nov. 24th just days before the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
With all of the turmoil in that region in the world, I think all of us can benefit by knowing more about each other.
Yes We Pecan! November 26, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Recipes.
Tags: Dessert, Food, Pecan Pie, Pecan Pie Squares, Recipes, Thanksgiving desserts
My Son – Who Happens to be Gay November 22, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Life, Parenting, Politics.
Tags: Civil Rights, Equality, Family, Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, Gay son, GLBT, Health, Homosexuality, Keith Olbermann, LGBT, Life, Parenting, PFLAG, Proposition 8, Transgender
I have two sons. My younger son, Ian, happens to be gay. I didn’t set out to have a gay son. But then Ian didn’t set out to be gay, and to be honest, it came as a shock to him as well. He was confused about why he felt “different.” And he struggled alone. Even now, I can’t imagine what that was like for him when he was only nine and had a crush on a boy in the fourth grade.
When Ian was 14 and a half, we were sitting in the doctor’s office, and he announced he was gay. We laugh now remembering what happened next. I blurted out, “Oh my god, I hope my parents die soon!” This was because my parents had left their church in the Midwest over the issue of gay unions. My head was spinning. Driving home, I was in a fog. I’ve always had gay friends, but my son? My eyes brimmed with tears. Why me? What I remember most is what my son said next. “Mom, I’m the same person I was before – it’s just that now you know.”
“Please don’t tell Dad,” Ian asked. My response? “That’s like asking me not to tell your father the house is on fire!” So he told his dad who was surprised, but ultimately okay with it. Then he told his older brother who shrugged. “Just don’t expect me to go riding around in one of those gay pride parades.”
Ian felt such a sense of relief to be able to be honest about who he was. This was the same kid who had written “I’m gay” in Sharpie on the back of another boy’s jacket in middle school. Talk about confused self-loathing. It wasn’t easy for him though.
Ian, who’s outgoing and always had lots of friends, thought once he came out, other students at his high school would come out as well. He waited…and waited. There was one other boy who was extremely flamboyant, who Ian wanted nothing to do with. Ian had played Little League baseball and considered himself a jock. His attitude was, “If I want to hang out with a girl, I’ll hang out with a real girl.”
Looking back, I can’t believe how brave my son was. Yes, he took a boy as a date to the prom. He was confident no one would give them a problem as Ian is infinitely likable and has a wicked sense of humor. No one did, but I held my breath. As a parent, I was frightened that someone would lash out at my son, verbally or physically. But being young, Ian was convinced he could change the world – or at least people’s opinions – one at a time. And to his credit, he did and continues to do so.
Meanwhile, my husband and I found PFLAG ,Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians And Gays. (I should note that at the meetings I attended there were also families with transgender children.) We met so many incredible people at those meetings. People came because they too had family members and friends who were gay. Those who’d been attending for awhile always described being able to acknowledge their child’s sexual orientation as an amazing “journey.” It was painful though when parents who’d just found out their child was gay came to a meeting. Some were still in such a state of shock or denial they couldn’t speak. But the important thing was they showed up. It was the first step on their journey.
There was a Chinese woman who wanted to know if there were herbs that could turn her son, who was in his 30s and a doctor, back to “normal.” There were African Americans whose childhoods were so interwoven with the church, they felt ostracized in their own community. And there were people who’d gotten married because, “I thought if I got married and had a family, it might make IT go away.” They’d come to the conclusion that telling a lie is easy, but living a lie takes a toll on one’s soul.
Eventually, I couldn’t keep The Secret any longer. After a year, I broke down and told my parents their grandson was gay. They were in shock, but they love Ian. Several years later when they were visiting, my father said to Ian, “Someday when you meet the perfect woman…” He caught himself. “I mean man,” he said. Ian was overjoyed as he adores his grandparents.
My son has never been interested in the club scene. “That’s not the way you and dad raised me,” he said with such earnestness, that my heart ached for him. He talks about “when I have a kid.” He has that optimism that comes with youth. It helps that we live in Southern California. Ian is still put off by “girlie” guys and was critical of people who are transgender until he saw the movie Transamerica. He watched it again the other night and said it made him cry. So even he has been on his own journey of understanding.
My son is now 22. He goes to college and he, and his boyfriend of a year, live with us. The other day he asked, “Mom, at what age are you considered a loser if you still live at home with your parents?” I told him with the economy the way it is, this might be as good as it gets. But we’re all okay with that.
I really don’t give much thought to my son being gay anymore. It’s just one part of who he is, but certainly doesn’t define him as a human being. I was disturbed though when he came to me last night and told me how upsetting it was when several young men chanted, “Yes on 8!” when he and his boyfriend walked by. Ian is a peaceful person, and it was all he could do to not say something. And of course, you always think of just the right thing to say afterwards. But hate, even though Ian knows it stems from ignorance, still hurts.
So when my friend TIna, who also has a gay son, emailed this morning that she’s going to attend a peaceful march tonight to protest the passage of “Yes on 8,” I said count me in. She and some of our friends marched last weekend. They sent me pictures of them holding their placards. What impressed me most was that most of those who showed up didn’t have a gay child. They were there because they thought it was the right thing to do. They believe in equal rights for all Americans.
So now it looks like it’s going to be a gay day. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday night. But the stakes are just too high. We’re not talking about one of THOSE people. We’re talking about my son.
One of the most eloquent and impassioned commentaries I’ve seen on this issue is “Keith Olbermann’s Response to Prop. 8.” To view his commentary, please press the following link. Peace.
Falling Down the Rabbit Hole November 16, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Life, Teaching.
Tags: English Language Learners, Holidays, Humor, Life, No Child Left Behind, Teaching, Thanksgiving, Time Management
During the school year, those nearest and dearest to me know that I disappear down the rabbit hole. I have the best of intentions – but isn’t that what the Road to Hell is paved with? Between pushing all that paperwork around (without the benefit of a forklift) and being on-call to perform brain surgery daily (and according to NCLB, isn’t that what teachers are expected to do?), sometimes I’m hard pressed to know what day it is.
As a result, members of my family have abandoned all hope of receiving birthday cards. I don’t know how much a stamp costs anymore. My parents don’t count e-cards as real cards so I’ve been known to call them and have my entire class of third graders shout, “Happy Birthday!” And my parents, who are increasingly hard of hearing, have been known to hang up thinking it’s a prank call. Hey, I tried.
November is the worst month, what with the first report cards due and Parent/Teacher Conferences to schedule (and reschedule) and Thanksgiving. Every year I have my students write a paragraph about what they know about Thanksgiving. Some don’t get past the date. You have to understand that many of my students are not native born and Thanksgiving is an exotic concept when you’re from Korea, Pakistan or Bosnia. Most kids write a grocery list; turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Last year one student wrote that Thanksgiving had something to do with Indians hunting buffalo wings.
But by Thanksgiving break, my students will be on a first name basis with Squanto and know that three women/girls did all that cooking for the first Thanksgiving, while the men played games. (No snide aside here as my husband does most of the cooking).
Next week my students will take home an adorable turkey made from a tie-dyed coffee filter. They’ll know what a “wattle” is and have written a paragraph about all of the things they’re grateful for that’s stapled to the back. And what about me? The day before Thanksgiving I have my last Parent/Teacher conference scheduled. As I drive home, I can finally start calculating how big a turkey I need to buy. Long lines and over-sized turkeys await. But I’m thankful that my students now know why THEY should be thankful.
December gets worser (Sorry, I slipped into 3rd grade mode when they’re still figuring out those slippery superlatives). As I read about winter festivals throughout the world, my students crank out adorable holiday crafts. Late at night, you’ll find me on-line ordering gifts to be delivered to my family in the Midwest. I do put some thought into this. Should I pay an extra $4 for a computer generated gift card? It’s a far cry from the day when I handmade gifts or at least bought them with my own two hands and packed them. At some point, the ritual of shuffling my gifts along with my feet in the line at UPS lost its allure. So while my students’ parents are oohing and ahhing (or so I’d like to think) as they unwrap those handmade treasures, my own family will have to settle for something that I personally added “to the basket.”
So don’t wait by your mailbox and expect anything from me. From September till the end of June, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.
My Spanish es Muy Malo November 9, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Language, Teaching.
Tags: Education, English Language Learners, Humor, Korean, Spanish, Teaching
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I blame Senorita Cuadrado. She was the fiery dyed redhead from Cuba who was hired to teach Spanish at my middle school. How she ended up in Omaha, Nebraska, I’ll never know. This was post Cuban Missile Crisis and I believe it’s possible Senorita Cuadrado’s mercurial temper had something to do with THAT international incident. What I do remember is one day she poured glue in a boy’s hair, then threw his books out the second story window.
So Is it any wonder that when I got to high school, I opted to study French? Of course, once we moved into conjugating verbs, my love for French was finis. Fast forward two decades to New York City. I’m riding on the subway when I realize I can actually read the ad in Spanish for Preparation H. Okay, I admit that “preparacion para los problemas con hemorroides,” is a no-brainer, but it made me wonder. Could I have possibly retained some Spanish?
Two trips to Mexico later, I’d still only managed to add Cuanto questa? (How much does it cost?) and hormigas (ants) to my vocabulario. And how many times can you slip hormigas into casual conversation?
When I applied for a teaching job in 1997 with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the principal asked if I spoke Spanish. I took a deep breath and said, “La pluma esta encima de la mesa” (the pen is on top of the table) and was hired on the spot. It also helped that I had a pulse (class size reduction had just gone into effect and any warm body would do). I taught a second grade Modified Bilingual class of 20 students, only three whom were native English speakers. My Spanish-speaking aide, who was supposed to work with the 17 Spanish speakers, was a chronic no-show so I was teaching a solas.
My godsend was a new student from Mexico City. Anna Lucia Gonzales was a fluent reader in Spanish, who didn’t hesitate to correct me whenever I made a mistake. Never mind that she was six years old and only came up to my waist. I called her “La Pequena Maestra” (The Little Teacher) and we taught each other. She learned faster than I did, so I was the one who enthusiastically told parents, “Me gusta cerveza!” (I like beer), when what I meant to say was, “Me gusta cerezas!” (I like cherries).
My Spanish is still muy limitado. I like to tell my Spanish-speaking students they better behave because if I have to call home, all I know how to say is, “Su hija/o es un diablita/o!” (Your child is a little devil). This works every time.
For the second year now, I have a cluster of Korean English Language Learners along with my Spanish speakers. My Berlitz English/Korean dictionary arrived from Amazon yesterday and I’m wildly excited. Oh boy, another language I can butcher! But isn’t it really the thought that counts? Hey, I just found out “thought” is sago in Korean (or maybe it’s saenggak). I feel smarter already!
And what about Senorita Cuadrado? I pictured her in charge at Gitmo, so I was shocked when my mother told me she’d recently run into her and she still teaches! My mother mentioned my name Senorita Cuadrado (who’s now a Sra.) swore she remembered me. My mother told her how I’d become a teacher and now wished I was bilingual in Spanish. She said Senorita Cuadrado didn’t miss a beat before snapping back, “That’s what they all say.” My Spanish is still muy malo. I blame Senorita Cuadrado.