Day Zero

“The night ends, and the day, it begins.”

I was talking to my students this week about words that are often confused, by them, in their writing. When we got to fewer vs. less they were confused.

Me: So, use fewer when you can quantify it, and less when you can’t. For example, you have fewer calories, because you can count calories. But you have less fat, because you can’t count fat.

Student A: I count fat all the time.

Me: How do you count fat?

Student A: Like 30 grams.

Me: So you count grams.

Student A: Yeah. So.

Me: A gram is a unit of measurement, quite like a calorie, that you can count, specifically because you can’t count things like fat. You have to count something else that can actually be counted.

Student A: Oh…

Approximately 5 minutes later, we were all good, and Student A finally nodded, assured that fat wasn’t something that could be counted without the aid of quantifiable units of measurement. I suddenly felt like a math teacher instead of an English teacher, then things were all well with the world once more. Continue reading “Day Zero”

Fear Of The Thing Itself

fear“No one is absolutely fearless. Many of us have simply learned to be good at facing our fears.” ~Theodicus

I fear that moment before someone says something I don’t want to hear. I can usually see it coming a mile away, by the expression on their faces, by the furrowed eyebrows, the subtle downturn of the lips, and then by their lead-in. “I hate to be the one to have to tell you this…” You know, that moment when you haven’t yet heard the negative but your disposition is no longer sunny because you know it’s coming. In that moment, every single time, I wish I could pause time and fast forward to the process of dealing with the news instead of having to hear it escape their lips.

I fear the dark, the pitch black dark that completely swallows me whole so I can’t even see a fraction of a millimeter in front of my own face. When there’s no light for miles around, or at least it seems that way. I remain sane through it only because I close my eyes and imagine there is a muted glow on the other side. I pretend the pitch black darkness is by choice and not because it was forced upon me instead. It makes it a little more tolerable, but we can’t truly trick our bodies to accept what we know isn’t true, not for long stretches of time anyway. Or can we? I wish we could.

I fear rejection — rejection of me, rejection of my work, or rejection of others who are close to me. When people honestly have a problem with me for whatever reason, or they dislike something I’ve spent a lot of time working on, or they dislike my family, it makes me want to scream, to holler, to lash out. But I don’t because somewhere deep down inside that fear controls me more than I’d like to admit. I would rather someone feel negatively about me but never say anything about it, to put on that fake face, but one that I believe, and go through life oblivious of their feelings than to have to face that rejection head on. And I know it makes me a weak person, and I’m trying to change it, but that’s how it stands right now. Continue reading “Fear Of The Thing Itself”

A Father’s Freedom

Father-ChildA colleague asked me today if I lost my freedom when I became a father. I told him, “Yes, but I knew what I was getting into,” but both parts of that statement were false. Having kids didn’t destroy my freedom. In fact, it helped me revitalize myself. And I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. None at all.

Here’s what I knew going into parenthood:

  1. I wanted to spend time with my kids. Real time, like playing games and reading with them.
  2. I wanted to be on the same page with my wife when it came to discipline and enrichment.
  3. Kids go through stages, and I wanted to be prepared for each stage.
  4. Kids like animation, so I would probably be watching a fair bit of animation with them.
  5. I would be a role model for my kids, so I would have to be extremely careful in what I did and said

That’s it. That’s all I knew when we decided we wanted to be parents, and as I look through each of them I see shades of things that have happened over the course of these past 8+ years, but things don’t always happen the way we think they will. Kids are individuals, and no two are alike, so I’ve had to get to know my children. To find out what things they will copy and what things they won’t. To figure out how their minds work in order to absorb information. To learn how to head things off before they begin by being aware of what’s going on with them at all times.

And I’ve realized so much about myself in the process. I used to think I was so patient, that it was some innate talent I had, my superpower if you will. But when my daughter won’t stop repeating a line from one of her TV shows, or when she doesn’t pick up her skirt from the floor even though I’ve told her a million times, I find myself ready to blow my lid. All of that so-called patience just flies out the window and I need to go somewhere and control my emotions. It’s helped me to work hard on being truly patient instead of just saying I am.

I’ve also realized that planning means absolutely nothing when it comes to kids. Continue reading “A Father’s Freedom”

Favorite Mistake

“Did you know when you go it’s the perfect ending to the bad day I’ve gotten used to spending? When you go all I know is you’re my favorite mistake.” -Sheryl Crow

deletebuttonI’ve made enough mistakes in my life to choke a horse. If you could lay them end to end they would be longer than a reclining Statue of Liberty. Sometimes I made so many mistakes in a row that I honestly couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I would get so frustrated from making so many mistakes that I would be careless and make more mistakes. Some of my mistakes have been huge ones, and others have been relatively inconsequential, but every single one of them has been preventable. In fact, that’s in the very definition of the word…

mistake: an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.

I particularly like that part about insufficient knowledge because it doesn’t mean that smart people don’t make mistakes. Even smart people are smart in certain areas and not so much in others. For example, Albert Einstein, pretty smart… in theories and mathematical equations. Put him on the street in Harlem and see how many mistakes he makes. See what kind of trouble he gets into because he doesn’t understand the lingo, the nature of the streets.

Some of my mistakes have fit into this paradigm very nicely and neatly, like the time I got on the wrong subway in Boston. I know the subway like the back of my hand, but the subway I’m familiar with is the Philly one, and Boston’s is just different enough, and the area just different enough, that I got lost for a good hour before finding my stop. Another time I made the mistake of asking a woman when she was due, and… she wasn’t pregnant. I call it foot-in-mouth disease, but that’s another mistake I created because I didn’t know. Continue reading “Favorite Mistake”

Identifying the Cow

cowMy youngest daughter has Down syndrome, and she struggles with identifying words, so after consulting with her teacher, and with her speech therapist, and after reading the developmental books, my wife decided to come up with activities geared towards helping her recognize and repeat simple words she should know by now. It’s amazing to me how much she does know, actually, so this afternoon I ran through the exercise with her to see her level.

The sheet is all about animals. In fact, my wife laminated it for sustainability (and she can use it as a placemat too if needed), and made move able cards to place over top of the sheet as well. On the sheet are photographs of six animals. There’s a dog, a cat, a duck, a pig, a horse, and of course the infamous cow. My job was to point to the animal’s picture and Maddie would tell me which animal it was. She identified all of them this way except for the cow. She called it a dog, refusing to accept it’s true name, which had me truly baffled.

So I tried a different tactic. I asked her what noise did that animal make, and she said “moo,” so it was clear she realized it wasn’t a dog. But why was she saying dog? So I went back after she said “moo” and asked her again the name of the animal. This time she promptly said cow. Perhaps it was just that triggering of the animal sound that made the difference. Cows do indeed say “moo.”

Then we moved on to the back of the cards that held the spelled out names of each animal, something that has long been her Achilles heel. She can generally recognize the individual letters but placing them together in words confuses her. That’s why she spent the better part of five minutes arguing with me that the one that said “cat” was in fact the one that said “cow.” She saw the “c” and didn’t look any further, which became frustrating for her and for me. Continue reading “Identifying the Cow”