Skin: The Bag You’re In!

March! Finally!

February is usually a hard month for me and this year was no exception. My body has been upset with me, and expressing it mainly in the form of eczema on my hands. I’m not sure if I’ve written about this here before, but a few things have happened that I’d like to document for my future self, right now in the time of shifting.

First of all, something (two things, actually) happened in my head: I accepted the fact that my eczema is actually just a symptom of a larger, ongoing problem with my gut – an imbalance of gut flora – and I finally decided that living in chronic pain was not a worth the convenience and yumminess of eating the junk food I love. As a person who identifies as a pizza witch, for a long time I resisted any solution that might involve shifting my patterns in a way that would change that. I love pizza, and every time I would read about gut-flora-changing-diets, right on the top of the list of foods to eliminate are gluten and dairy – the very foundation of pizza. But I just couldn’t handle the discomfort of itching, flaking, bleeding eczema anymore. So I decided to change my diet.

I don’t think the dietary changes will be a forever thing. I’ve already eliminated gluten, which has been super hard in a way I’m not sure is sustainable. But it’s only been about 2 weeks, and I know habits take longer than that to form so we’ll see. The most challenging part for me right now is learning that I need to plan my meals out further in advance/think about the timing of cooking and eating more than when I was on the glutenous train. Lots of convenient, cheap food in NYC – pizza, sandwiches, bagels – are, obviously, bread-based. Grabbing something to go isn’t really an option for me in the way that it was before I eliminated gluten. As a result, I’m struggling to eat enough calories to feel full/keep my blood sugar at a consistent level. I know I’ll get better at this with time, but I’m hungry now and it’s frustrating.

I also started seeing an acupuncturist this week! Acupuncture was appealing to me because I’ve seen a lot of doctors over the last few months and years who don’t actually tell me anything new, or address the underlying cause of my symptoms – they just tell me I have eczema (which I already knew) and prescribe me a steroid cream (which I don’t want to become reliant on to manage my symptoms). My acupuncturist and I talked about all my bodyfeels – not just about my eczema, but also my digestive struggles, anxiety, and history with nerve pain. He explained that my symptoms all are related to an imbalance of fire and water – an excess of fire, or deficiency of water, depending on how you want to frame it. It made immediate sense to me because in my natal chart (which shows which planets are in which signs at the time of my birth) contains lots of earth, air, and fire… but no water! I actually don’t have any planets in water signs, which is pretty crazy. I feel like this is probably another blog post so I’m just going to leave it at this and say astrology is a real, useful mirror and I <3 it.

Finally, I went to a witch shop in the East Village with Ash, Saylor, Zoe, and Jiana yesterday. It’s called Enchantments, and they specialize in candle magic. I’m a beginner when it comes to candle magic, but was excited to try something new because yesterday the sun was in Pisces and the moon was full in Virgo (my sign!), which is a very balanced combination of water/creative/emotional/chaos/mystical energy (Pisces) and practical/fertile/grounded/ordered/growing things energy (Virgo) – the perfect kind of day to introduce a new spiritual practice. After school, I went and saw the David Bowie exhibit that just opened at the Brooklyn Museum and was completely blown away (there’s definitely another blog post here!) – it felt like a very creative, spiritual experience and reminder from the universe that the self is something we choose and create every day, and that artists make prolific art. When I got home, I set up my alter and carved my candle and lit it and pulled a really powerful tarot spread that I’ve been thinking about all day. After that I did some drawing and writing – just for me, right now, but I see the seeds of something that I’m excited to share as it grows.

This blog post felt important because I want to acknowledge myself for three distinct but related ways I’m practicing self-love in response to my body’s crisis: changing the foods I choose to fuel my self with, seeking help from someone who sees the whole me, and trusting my mystical witch self to discover new, supportive, healing practices that work for her. February was a hard, hard month for me, but I can feel the tickles of spring in the air all around me, the promises of growth and new life and new cycles and and and…

Return of the Blog: Anxiety as Self-Censorship, Zines, and Art-Making as Self-Care

This is my first blog back after a bit of a hiatus. In fact, it’s my first blog of the new year! I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection the past few weeks and, in particular, thinking about the agreement “share your learning on your blog” – the ways in which I’ve done that successfully, the places my self-doubt is holding me back from sharing, and deschooling the expectation that all the writing I share with the world must be perfect. Today I’d like to start with a (brief) explanation and reflection on my recent digital silence, and then get into some of the work/play/art-making I’ve been doing in the meat-space in the last month. Finally, I’ve got a recommendation for anyone else who’s also thinking about this.

Last time in blog-land: Star Wars recap/general feels outpouring. Since then we saw The Last Jedi (you can check out Doug’s reaction vid here) and I had SO many feelings about it I felt like I needed to process fully before I could write anything. That block took up a huge part of my brain-space, both over break and since. I felt guilt about not modeling consistency in my blogging on top of feeling lowkey anxious about not completing my Star Wars series (I definitely get anxious when I leave things unfinished, though that doesn’t always result in me finishing them…). Part of my writer’s block was my scholar-brain wanting more information (a.k.a. wanting to re-watch the movie) before I talked about my opinions, but part of it was definitely the schooling/deschooling I’m doing around my writing: I feel like I can’t share a writing until it is “finished,” even though I know that no one is judging what I write here and, either way, most writing is never really finished.

Despite all that, I’m not going to write about Star Wars today. Ha!

Recently, I’ve gotten really excited about the idea of zine-making. For those who have never heard of zines (a.k.a. most people) they are, simply, DIY magazines about whatever you want! The content can include original drawing, collages, photographs, poetry, letters, instruction manuals, or unstructured ramblings; they might be produced by one person or by many in collaboration. Zines are a broad and inclusive medium for verbal and visual art-making, defined only by their do-it-yourself aesthetic and cheap production value. And they are SO COOL.

Yesterday, a group of teens and I went to the Barnard Zine Library, where we browsed through a wide variety of awesome zines to get inspiration for our own work. I’m really feeling inspired, which is why I’m definitely not stressing about my “missing” Star Wars blog post; I plan to make a “Feminist’s Guide to Star Wars” zine and produce it before the end of the school year!

(Writing that goal makes me want to immediately erase the sentence/blog post/this entire blog. I am leaving it, and this reflection, up in the hopes that making my thinking public will hold me accountable.)

I’ve also been working on a Deschooling Zine. Some pics!

[pictures will get added when I take them]

I’m not sure which zine I want to work on publishing first, and I’m not worrying about it. Part of my intention with choosing a medium that is by nature super broad is to break the pattern of “this isn’t perfect therefore I must agonize over it instead of sharing it.” Stay tuned.

On a final note, I want to recommend an incredible podcast about deschooling and art-making as self-care from Anthony Galloway (@tonyg) at Heartwood ALC. I always enjoy his appearances on Fare of the Free Child, but this week in particular he talked about not making time for himself to make art because it doesn’t feel “productive” and I wanted to shout with epiphany on the subway – it felt like he finally articulated the thing I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around for weeks! It’s a particularly awesome episode of an awesome podcast and I highly recommend it to all artists (a.k.a. all humans) who are deschooling that part of themselves.

Bonus track: Be an Artist Right Now!

I have a lot of feelings about Star Wars.

It’s Star Wars week! Finally, after months of anticipation, we’re going to see The Last Jedi on Friday and I am beyond excited. Over the last 3-ish weeks we’ve been watching all the Star Wars in canonical order (thanks to the awesome planning of Even aka @chimp) so that we can all be fully caught up/refreshed when we go into Friday’s screening. My feelings (beyond excitement) are mixed: I am worried that it will be terrible; unsure what they’re going to do with Leia’s character after Carrie Fischer’s tragic and unexpected death; hopeful that my theories will be correct; and looking forward to seeing what Rey and Finn and Poe and Kylo Ren – all the great new characters – get up to in this story. I’ve really been enjoying re-watching the movies and, since Friday we finished the original trilogy, I thought I’d write a blog post about all my complicated Star Wars feelings in the hopes of sorting some of them out.

Just for reference the cannonical order of the movies is:

1……The Phantom Menace (1999)
2……Attack of the Clones (2002)
3……Revenge of the Sith (2005)
3.5….Rogue One (2016)
4……A New Hope (1977)
5……Empire Strikes Back (1980)
6……Return of the Jedi (1983)
7……The Force Awakens (2015)
8……The Last Jedi (2017!!!!!!!)

First of all, the prequel trilogy is terrible – my feelings there are not at all mixed. They’re just really bad, full stop. I must confess that I have a soft spot for The Phantom Menace because I  saw it for the first time when it came out in theaters in 1999 and I was too young to realize that it was so awful. Re-watching it, I feel like parts of it are okay – the podrace scene holds up, and Padme and Qui-Gon are still pretty cool characters – but now that I’m aware of the racist stereotypes that underly a lot of characters, it’s really hard to watch. We talked quite a bit during the screening about the things we found problematic representations of the Gungans and Trade Federation characters in particular – I’m grateful for the conversation, but I wish it was one we didn’t have to have. I found Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith completely unwatchable and skipped them – I’ve never liked those movies and don’t regret it.

Moving on, I was surprised how much I enjoyed re-watching Rogue One. The only time I’d seen it was when we went last year to the premier. I remember being surprised then at the ending – I was expecting a much more Disney-ish conclusion, and obviously that’s not what happened. (Spoiler alert: literally everyone dies.) I thought the story was well-paced throughout the whole movie, the sets and special effects were beautiful, and I liked all the characters and thought they were well-acted (unlike in the prequels…). What I enjoyed the most, though, was watching it in the context of the other movies. We watched A New Hope the next day and it was weird to realize that the Death Star only really exists for a short period of time – weeks? – while it fully functional before Luke blows the whole thing up. It really helps explain why the Empire is so obsessed with building another one after the first was destroyed. Basically they spend all this time building the ultimate weapon, they use its full power once (sorry Alderaan!) and BAM! It’s gone. So, on top of being an enjoyable standalone movie, I really like the fact that it makes the larger story arc of the trilogies make sense by justifying the Empire’s obsession with planet-exploding superships.

We watched A New Hope the day after Rogue One, and it’s so cool how seamlessly those two movies fit together. I saw A New Hope for the first time when I was 8 – I distinctly remember sitting with my godfather on my grandparents’ bed and watching the VHS on their tiny, wonky tv – and every rewatching is just me trying to recapture the magic of that moment. The beginning is slow, and strange after Leia is captured – we know the stakes are high and that something incredible is going to happen (We’re in space! There’s an evil guy in a scary suit! The princess is in trouble!) but we don’t know what yet. A New Hope trusts its audience to stick with it for a while while the story winds up: Luke is pretty whiney when we first encounter him, and we spend a lot of time with C3PO and R2D2 on Tatooine looking for “old Ben,” not sure how all these threads of storylines are going to come back together. It’s definitely worth it in the end – the scene where Luke bows up the Death Star is as awesome today as it was when I was 8. It’s either my second-or-third-favorite Star Wars movie – I’m having a hard time deciding if I like Rogue One more. However, I was struck, watching it, that aside from Leia and Luke’s aunt (Beru, whose name I had to look up) there are no women at all. In fact, even R2D2 is gendered male and he’s a cylindrical robot who communicates in whistles! (Other characters refer to R2 using “he/him” pronouns – we looked it up later an apparently it’s because he has “masculine programming” and excuse my while my eyes are stuck all rolled up inside my head.) Me voicing this realization about R2 resulted in an interesting conversation about gender-nonconforming and non-binary people (as I identify, myself) so that was at least productive and interesting.

Sidenote on Leia: she is the best and I will not hear anyone speak ill of her. She’s quick on her feet, cool under pressure, and always handy with a plan when the people (men) around her have rushed into a rash situation without an extraction plan (*ahem*LUKE*ahem*). Basically it’s a shame that she didn’t become a Jedi like (instead of?) Luke because she’s super strong in the force and also way better at planning things. (Historically, I have strong feelings about the treatment of women in “classic” genre fiction, so this take is probably not surprising.)

Thursday we watched Empire Strikes Back, which has always been my least favorite of the original trilogy, and I think I’ve figured out why: the Han/Leia subplot is super frustrating and nonconsensual. Basically Leia’s like “don’t call me sweetheart/don’t touch me/let’s not go to cloud city I have a really bad feeling about that” and Han is like “it’s fiiiiiiiiiine” and this makes me SO ANGRY. First of all, ignoring someone’s explicit request to stop touching them is never okay, Han (and it doesn’t make you a “scoundrel” *eyeroll*). Second of all, if everyone had just listened to Leia when they got to Cloud City and she was like “seriously I have a bad feeling here,” Lando wouldn’t have been able to betray them, Han wouldn’t have wound up frozen in carbonite and Vader wouldn’t have been able to catch up with them and cut off Luke’s hand. The only reason Luke survives the movie at all is because when he is dangling, one handed, off the bottom of cloud city he mentally calls Leia for help and she’s strong enough in the force that she hears him and has Lando turn the Millennium Falcon around to go rescue him.

Then Friday we watched Return of the Jedi, my absolute favorite Star Wars movie. The villains, in particular, are excellent – Jabba really shows why he’s such a powerful mob boss by seeing right through all of the rescue plans that our heroes concoct. (And Leia shows how awesome she is by strangling him with her own chain the first opportunity she has – there’s a metaphor there for sure.) Vader’s redemption arc is extremely satisfying and the Emperor is an appropriately terrifying puppetmaster. The other thing I love about Return of the Jedi is the worldbuilding – between Endor, Jabba’s lair, and the new Death Star, we get awesome sets, puppets, and costumes in a way that feels really physical and real.

(I’m leaving off Force Awakens for now, because we’re screening it Thursday and I’d like to re-watch before I write about it.)

Writing this has definitely been clarifying. Basically, there are things about Star Wars that are problematic – the lack of non-white, non-male-bodied characters and the racist representation of the ones we get, for (glaringly obvious) starters. On the other hand, Leia is and has always been awesome and is definitely a huge part of why Star Wars spoke to me at such a young age (besides her tolerance of men who do whatever they want, regardless of whether they have her consent – but a lot of women find themselves in that position and I would never blame her for Han’s jerk behavior). The worldbuilding is fantastic – I especially love all the physical props of the old movies (the 2000s CGI was not great; I’m more ambivalent about the newest movie graphics). More than anything, though, I love Star Wars because it opened for me (my past self, sitting on my grandparents’ bed, transfixed; my present, seeking feminist sci-fi and writing this review; my future selves, whoever they are…) the pandora’s box of science-fiction, where anything is possible: ships can be world-destroyers or hunks of junk, princesses can shoot blasters, and the galaxy is strange and ordinary all at once.

 

 

French toast, Flower Crowns, Duolingo Messages, Fire Extinguisher Abby, Dancegiving, Ancillary Justice, and Bob Ross’ New Hair [again]

I didn’t post this on Friday! Last week was a visiting week and my brain was scattered and scrambled by the end of it with so many humans in the space. Luckily Brooklyn developments are looking optimistic…

I’ve been practicing Duolingo pretty consistently and I feel my Spanish starting to come back! I wish that I had not stopped studying it in school as soon as I could because I’m finding that all the words I learned when I was younger are easier to call up than the ones I’m trying to learn now. The hardest part of Duolingo has been keeping my streaks going. (I lost an 8 day one this weekend because I was all wrapped up in Friendsgiving. Sad, but worth it.) The best part is weird sentences, like this one:

Last week they tore out the mums from the conservancy garden and Alex Patz brought us some so we could make flower crowns. I didn’t make one but Abby made me this happy yellow one.

Other things we made on Tuesday: soap and french toast. I would have taken more photos except I didn’t XP

Here’s @abbyo, appropriately labeled.

On Thursday, Sterl’s mom, Taasha the Amazing, donated an incredible Thanksgiving feast. We called it Dancegiving all week after Siena’s hilarious mispronunciation. I did not get any photos, because I was too busy enjoying all the food.

Ash and I are reading one of my favorite books together! He and I were talking about it on Thursday post-Dancegiving feast and he asked me to read it aloud to him because it’s kind of confusing to follow. It’s called Ancillary Justice and I’m really enjoying the reread (possibly the 5th or 6th time I’ve read this book) – I get more out of this novel every time I read it.

And finally, a Bob Ross update:

(he’s actually gotten a little moldy since, but he was looking good last week.)

Return from Philly, Escape from Jury Duty, Heartwood, Leveling Up Tools, and Ryan’s Beard…

I missed monday because I had jury duty which was a bummer but I did not get placed on a jury and I did do my civic duty so that was no big deal (besides being mildly bored for a day when I could have been at school). I also voted Tuesday morning! Very civic week all around.

We went to Philly and Abby’s parent’s house last weekend! It was an awesome trip. I wish I had more photos but I took most of mine on something called “real film” so they are not instantly available – I will post them when I get it developed. Here’s some photos I did take:

I did not include the week number in the title of this post because I’m learning that if a thing I’m doing feels arbitrary, I don’t have to keep doing it for continuity’s sake!!!!! (Knowing this rationally and acting on it are different things. I’ve been in the former state for a while, it’s the latter action that’s hard for my Virgo self…)

It’s good that we’re practicing getting out in the world because we skyped @mjuliacordero and some of the Heartwood crew this week and our teens were so excited/are talking about coordinating a trip to Atlanta now… (You can check out a photo on our instagram.)

I finished two big projects this week! One is the Gameshifting board I’ve been working on with my spawn – it’s taken a while to get all the materials but today we finally had everything we needed. @simoneboss @spino @zoe6 and Demian helped with design and execution and I think it turned out fantastic.

The other project I did this week was impulsive, but incredibly satisfying. Since I first started at ALC (last September) the game room closets have been an explosion of orphaned board game pieces, mixed-up playing cards, magnet tiles, lincoln logs, random dice, marbles, go stones, shredded boxes and more things to horrify a Virgo such as myself. I didn’t go on a field trip yesterday, which is my usual Thursday activity, and so I found myself with a whole day to tackle something new and that something was that chaos closet! I didn’t take a before shot, but here is during/after:

It’s not perfect (I wish I’d had time to label things, and there’s still a basket of all sorts of random cards in there that need to be sorted into their respective games…) but it’s MUCH better than it was and it was so satisfying to see how much more space there was in there when I was done.

Bonus photo: Ryan came back from the park today with flowers in his beard and it was rad…

Last week, this week, Halloween, Wave Hill and the MELICORN

week 7!

Can you all read the writing on my whiteboard mosaics? I’m aware my handwriting is not the clearest and this photo is kind of blurry…

We’re still talking about holding boundaries. Here’s some of my thoughts about it from this week…

Brooklyn Museum Trip 

We went to the Brooklyn Museum yesterday! It’s one of my favorite museums in New York in part because the Visual Archives area. I love how eclectic the collection there is and it’s so cool to see a random collection of lamps next to statues next to tea kettles next to chairs next to ivory carved miniatures…

 

Friday Gratitudes

I’m grateful for trees and the beautiful weather and the blue October sky and patience for working through things and my fellow ALFs and double-field-trip-weeks.

Holding Boundaries, Helping, and Bob Ross Sprouted! [the first six weeks]

Hold Your Boundaries!

The first 6 weeks are done! I spent some time this weekend reflecting on where we’re at right now, as a community, and the biggest challenge I see people grappling with is holding boundaries. What do I mean by that?

What is a boundary?

A boundary is a limit. Knowing your boundaries means that you know the limits of the things that make you comfortable. When you start to feel uncomfortable, anxious, or stressed, in an interaction with another person, they have probably crossed one of your boundaries. I like the suggestions in this article for figuring out where your boundaries are.

What happens when you don’t hold your boundaries?

The most immediate consequence of not holding your boundaries is unhappy, upset, or resentful feelings. The secondary consequence is insecure or frustrating relationships with others. Both lead to the breakdown of trust and feeling of security that are necessary for our community to thrive.

If you don’t set firm boundaries, don’t articulate where your boundaries are, or you let people cross your boundaries without consequence you will probably feel angry, frustrated, or resentful. Resentful is when you let a frustrated or angry feeling build up inside you until you feel ready to burst with it! Recently, I let this happen to me with a person that I love. The result was that my resentment built up and built up and built up until I couldn’t deal with it anymore, and we got into a big fight where we were yelling and screaming at each other on the street. It was awful, and I still feel bad thinking about it.

If you don’t tell people your boundaries, the consequence is that they won’t know that they’re making you uncomfortable and will probably continue to do the thing that is making you uncomfortable! If you tell someone your boundary but don’t reinforce your boundary when they continue to break/push it, the consequence is that you’re sending that person mixed signals about your boundaries – they will probably feel confused about where your boundaries are and continue to break/push them and make you feel uncomfortable and start the cycle all over again.

But I don’t want to be mean!

The number one reason I hear people at school give for not holding boundaries is fear of being mean or upsetting someone. It’s true that sometimes, holding your boundaries can make other people unhappy or even angry.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t articulate your boundaries then you are resigning yourself to being the one who is unhappy or angry. You allow the threat of other people’s feelings to rule your life. You won’t feel safe or secure in your relationships. By not articulating your boundary, you aren’t giving the other person a chance to change the behavior that is upsetting you, but you are guaranteeing that they will continue to do the thing that is making you uncomfortable!

Often, it’s not enough to just set a boundary – you have to hold it. If you tell someone your boundary but don’t reinforce it every time someone pushes or breaks it, you’re sending that person mixed signals about your boundaries. They will probably feel confused about where your boundaries really are (they’re not in your head, after all, and need your feedback to know how you’re feeling) and will continue to break/push them and make you feel uncomfortable and start the cycle all over again.

Setting a boundary is not being mean. Setting a boundary is clarifying what you need to be in relationship with another person. Setting a boundary is showing others how to be kind to your self.

Holding boundaries can look like…

…saying “Stop” or “Stop rule” when someone is doing a thing that makes you uncomfortable, and explaining to them what you need them to stop: “Stop rule on following me, I need some space right now.”

…articulating “if…then…” statements to illustrate where your boundary is, and how you plan on reacting if it is crossed: “If you keep ignoring my stop rule, then I won’t play with you anymore.”

…explaining your boundaries before you start a game so that other players know how you want to play: “Let’s play dodgeball, no headshots allowed.”

Weekly Mosaic

I broke my streak by not posting this on Friday! I am bummed. My mosaic isn’t as detailed as it has been in previous weeks – blogging time got cut short and our energy was very raucous so it was hard for me to focus enough to finish.

Bob Ross Update

He sprouted and made a friend!

Poem of the Week

Just as relevant today as it was last week – thanks Shel!