Thursday, December 10, 2009

Am I a detail oriented person?

     I am getting ready to finish my TBI rehab program. I only have a week left. It is amazing how much I have learned and yet it is the knowledge of what I need to learn that is the most valuable. When I awoke this morning, I remembered the dream I was just having. I had just won 1.3 million dollars in a lottery or contest that had been televised the night before. In my dream, I was in the lobby on my way to school and someone congratulated me. After a moment's hesitation, I remembered why and I started to dance around the lobby with joy. I know, I know, I am so lucky. What should I do? Should I sell my apartment? Should I quit my job? I was aware that I could not live on that money for long but it made the possibilities and prospects for life seem limitless and open and I felt great childlike joy.
     As I prepare to interview someone to be my fifth assistant in two years, many questions come to mind. How do I describe this job accurately? How can I make sure I screen for the necessary skills? What do I need someone else to do, so I can do my job? Yesterday I asked my advisor in the TBI program to help me. I said I needed a detail oriented person and Y said, "You are a detail oriented person. You need someone to help you see the big picture."
     I thought about this a lot. Was I like this before the stroke? before the accident? Always? No, I don't think so. Big picture, I think I was pretty good at. A very limited big picture that barely extended below 96th Street but still not just the details. I was not really detail oriented either. I held onto the details pretty well but maybe not always giving them as much value as I should have. I could remember the date Sachi was to start camp and the date of her return flight from her dad's in Japan but it did not occur to me that they were the same date.
     I always way overprepared for lessons but then I was set with what to do for awhile. Where did I put the materials was often a question? I always had a kid in the class who had eagle eyes and could locate what I needed. I developed systems to compensate for my disorganization. Specific compartments to hold what I had to give out, collect, take home, grade. But usually I ended up with everything in a great big pile. My brain was like a giant bucket full of sand. I could carry a lot and even when I overfilled it, the stuff that spilled off the top was usually (or hopefully) insignificant and minor. I could improvise with all that sand. Sand castles one day, examine the grains under a microscope the next.
     Since my surgery, I have felt that there was a big hole in the bucket. I went back to work and tried to do what I always did which was to just fill up the bucket. No matter how much I put in, it was never enough. It didn't feel full but I didn't know where the sand was going. I would leave work feeling vaguely concerned that I had not done enough and trail sand all the way home. I kept getting back to school the next day and looking into the bucket and realizing that it was empty.
     The reason I feel like I need a detail oriented person to assist me is because that is what I feel I have no control over. If someone could handle that part for me, I could do the big picture which is teach. Maybe I am wrong. I just get the feeling that I am bogged in details because they all seem equally important and slippery and transient.
     I love math and I love children. I know that when I am in a classroom with a group of children, I can figure out what they need to learn and how to make it fun. This is not enough though. Is there someone who can help me?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Multicultural Gingerbread People Sweaters

As I was putting the finishing touches on my favorite Christmas sweaters, I noticed that I was calling them multi-cultural gingerbread cookies as opposed to people of color. You may recall from my previous post that my dad disliked that phrase.

The cookies, like people, are not really different colors. The are shades or hues of the same color.
Wouldn't "People of Shades" sound cool? Picture Samuel L. Jackson or Will Smith in Men in Black.

 Ultimately, Luke Visconti has a good point when he writes "unless the goal is to endlessly argue semantics, it's more useful to use a common phrase to describe people who are commonly thought of as not being white by the white majority in this country."Read More

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


I think I have posted about this before but I just feel the need to say it again. I had a weird dream about a transitioning blond wo/man and it played out in my mind like an epiisode of Criminal Minds. At first I took it for granted that she was a she not a he, but gradually it began to dawn on me, even thugh she was so pretty and feminine... And then awake I think, "All people in my dreams are me...So? I don't see."

When I was young, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, my dad played softball and coached my brothers' baseball teams. An equal opportunity father (sometimes), he made me practice too. It was the seventies and the Feminist Movement was in full swing. I took Aiki-do for self-defense and promised my dad I would not go into a profession pigeonholed for women. I retrieved my mother's bras from the trash, hid them, and then secretly wore them stuffed to pretend I had breasts. I also learned to play ice hockey which was a great thrill. All suited up in the protective equipment, from shin guards to helmet, I realized even when I fell or threw myself in front of another player, it didn't hurt.

Softball practice with my dad was another matter. Things would always start out okay with my dad alternating between throwing at me, Tim, and Matt, but sooner or later the boys were dropped from the rotation because I could not follow the simple command of, "Stop throwing like a girl!" We were not allowed to say, "I'll try," or "I'm trying," in my family because those words automatically meant, "I am leaving myself an opening to fail." I will do it or I will not do it. Those were the choices but no one dared choose the latter. So the ball was fired at me harder and harder, the grimace on Ed's face meaner and meaner, and the words bellowed louder and louder: "STOP F*#@ING THROWING LIKE  GIRL! It only stopped when I began cowering from the ball, jumping out of the way to avoid getting hit, crying tears of defeat, or the sunset prevented any accurate analysis of my technique.

I always wanted to say, "I am a girl, a little girl, a little girl who will never be a professional athlete, so it's okay if I throw like a girl," but that would have been labeled a cop-out. Despite my tiny stature, myopic bespeckled eyes, and complete lack of coordination, I was expected to perform like a man. Not just any man, maybe Dave Winfield. When I started seventh grade in 1974, I got new sneakers. Super Pro Keds, size 1. SIZE 1. That is how small I was. I could still wear some of my Size 6x, 7, and 8 kids clothes. I was the smallest person in my class every years from K to 8. How do I know? We had to line up in size places for every transition. I led the line for graduation in 6th grade and again for 8th grade.

Now this:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sweater World Here I Come

After months in the planning, my first sweaters are for sale on Etsy. Now you know why I never call you. Check it out:

Shout out to my peeps:
A.R. I am thinking about you and wishing you a speedy recovery. I love you!
R.F. You have the patience of a saint!

S.E. You are my inspiration. Would I really be making these if I thought you were worried about what other people think? You wore the first one, pumpkin dumpling, cuddle bunny, and you wore it with pride! You fashion plate, trend setter!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Did you miss me?

I am turning 47 on Sunday. I have basically been thinking of that as my age for the last sixth months so nothing new there. What is so bizarre for me is the idea that if live as long as a palm reader told me I would a few weeks ago, early 90's late 80's, I am only half way through my life. I cannot imagine living the same number of years in the future as I have in the past. 47 is a lot of years. What on earth can I do with all that time?

Having a TBI and much less of a sense of time, distorts the day to day hours, but years are different. 25 years since college. I was thinking yesterday that it makes me even sadder now that I reconnected with all those people in the hopes of having friends again, and since then I have not heard from any of them. I reached out (I think) but was not invited to Ridgefield or Ann Arbor or even downtown to lower Manhattan. I know when people have small children that is the central focus of their lives. So I can sort of understand.

I ran into my friend J. yesterday. We had a falling out before my injury. I still love her so much. Her middle son said he remembered me. I probably last saw him at his 3rd or 4th bday and he is 10 now. I gave him a Grant puppet I bought at the memorial and he said he still has it and is still quite a history buff. I told him a story about a lesson I taught in the 4th grade recently.

The lesson was to learn about U.S. coins. In pairs, the students sorted 6 of the most commonly used coins these days based on characteristics of the coins. So, if the rule was silver colored, you would put the nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar on one side and the penny and Sacajawea dollar on the other side. The kids were more creative than I expected. I figured ridged edges and smooth, monuments on back or not, small and large, evenly divisible by ten or not, and more than one group noticed left facing heads and right facing heads. In one group, one partner was truly stumped. I, too, was unable to figure out the rule. On one side was the penny and the half dollar and on the other side the remaining 4 coins. After I gave up, I was stunned to hear the rule was people who were assassinated and people who were not. History buff, I figured, but who thinks that way?

Monday, September 14, 2009

BI Support Group

So Monday I finally made my first meeting of the women's BI support group. The leader has an ABI like me. I learned that unlike a TBI, an ABI is caused by a bleed or a stroke or a vascular "accident." OOPS! I did not mean to rupture that malformity in my brain. Flipping body turns on you even when you're watching.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Doctor is [OUT]

After 2 years, I ended therapy with a super doc. I love her and I never really loved a therapist before. I always thought it was weird that previous therapists thought I should have any feelings for them. I barely thought about them when I was not sitting across from that chair. It would make me uncomfortable when they asked me about my feelings for them or when they got really excited that I had a dream with them in it. I suppose in some ways the therapeutic model is supposed to be a reflection of a person's real relationships and if so, I have made progress.

Why did I stop, you might wonder. I need to focus on changing my actions right now and less on the emotional background which causes certain behaviors. I am also starting intensive cognitive remediation in the Mount Sinai program soon. It comes with emotional support for people with brain injuries too. I think that is a lot to work on for now.

I will miss you, Dr. S.

I look okay though (because how you look is what matters the most, NOT!)

Photo taken of me by Sachi the night of my last session.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


is the documentary chronicling my friend Jason Crigler's recovery from a brain injury, will air Tuesday, July 7 at 10 PM EST. It will be shown on PBS, as part of their POV series. In the New York City area, the POV show is on channel 13.

Jason was the first person I met after my injury who had any idea what I was going through. He had an AVM which is a similar vascular abnormality but with much larger vessels hence a huge bleed. He is an amazing person and just being around him made me feel less alone in the world. He is also really funny and his delivery is so deadpan, you don't expect it. We had dinner at Henry's and when the waitress came over and asked if we had any questions about the menu, Jason said, "Yes, I have a question. Do you serve food here?"

Certain states will show it at different times. KCET Los Angeles and WHYY Philadelphia - Thursday, July 9 at 8:30 PM. WGBH Boston - Sunday, July 12 at 9 PM. To enter your zip code and find out when it will air in your area, go to

He was interviewed on the CBS News

Below is a mixed media piece called
The Bleed I did in the summer of 2007 in a workshop with Roberto Juarez.

Monday, July 6, 2009

All The Crabby Ladies Out There

Well, my daughter's 23rd birthday was last Thursday and we had a lovely dinner at Aqua Grill. She loves raw oysters.

On my 23rd birthday, I was disappointed because I began that time of the month. I had been married for six months and since I wanted a lot of kids we had just started trying. We went out that night to see my sister perform and Sting was in the audience. I was so excited. My sister had mentioned that he was a fan but he was just sitting there like a regular person. I went up to him and told him I was her sister and it was my birthday and so could I get an autograph. Suz told me later he didn't believe I was really her sister.

Two weeks later, Sachi was conceived. Her dad had a business trip during the "most likely to succeed" days so I flew up there with him.

She is a Cancer just like my sister...and my niece. My sister's daughter was born 3 days before a significant birthday for her mom and this year she will turn fifteen 3 days before a most significant birthday for my sis.

All this just so I could show you the Johnny Depp pillow I just finished making so I could mail it to her at camp. I got her some other stuff but I gave Sachi a Jimmy Fallon pillow when she turned 15 so I figured why not? I read in one of those mother daughter type books that it was healthy for girls to have celebrity crushes because they were "trying out" the feelings or something. For me, it was Scott Baio. No pillow though. Just my dreams.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Moth Away! Sachets now available

As promised if anyone would like to purchase my handmade herbal sachets I made for the Instructables contest, they can be found here:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

En boca cerrada, no entran moscas.

"Whataya tellin' people that for?" my husband asks me frequently. I don't really have an answer. He is protective of me and more private than I am. He also thinks it gives people the wrong idea, the idea that there is some form of intimacy, when I reveal personal information to people I barely know.

I guess I sort of feel like I don't care what they think because stories are not me. Very few people are allowed to reach the inner sanctum and I reckon most of them end up a little sorry that they did.

One of my three water colors from the beautiful island of Providenciales in the Turks And Caicos islands. This one is called Bri Reading.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Back from Vakay...So?

My vacation was great. It was so healing and helpful because I really tried to stay in the moment while I was there. It took me about three days to stop obsessing about work and problems and brain injuries. (The packing was only a tiny bit less hellish aided by little cards I made with items written on them so I could literally move the cards from one side of their pocket holder to the other as soon as the item was packed. Only problem was I forgot to put a couple of items on the cards so... I bought a toothbrush and a paperback novel in JFK. No biggie! Way too many dresses and sweaters. Too hot for either of those.)

Here is some more good news. I read TWO whole books on my trip. That is twice as many books as I have finished in the two years since my surgery. I was very proud of me. The first was the airport purchase: The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. I got into it and felt really spiritual and good. It helped me let go a little. Then I read The Pact by Jodi Picoult which I purchased at the school street fair for a buck. It was a great page turner and I was riveted. So neither was about math or TBI related stuff. I was really on vacation. I stopped having obsessive thoughts of inflicting serious damage on whatever was ailing me and started to just relax.

I watercolored my favorite rusty pier. I photographed my favorite rusty pier (as evidenced above). I pieced together a fabric interpretation of my favorite rusty pier and began embellishing it with found objects. I also taught myself how to crochet round medallions that sort of look like the pictures in the book. I might need some help with that one.

Bri and I snorkeled almost every day. We ate delicious desserts prepared by the same chef we met last year Aaron. Strawberries, whipped cream, and meringue. Heaven! We danced until sweat poured from our bodies and our clothes were soaked. We played ping pong, never breaking our early record of a rally of 33. I guess I picked up some mad skills in that mad house.

I was randomly assigned to the group that has to wait three months for my TBI research group to begin so that kind of sucks. I will work on my art and post more pics soon.

I woke this morning back at home screaming and angry at something in a nightmare.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

At My 25th College Reunion

The days are blurring together. The events, conversations, meals, information, new people, old friends, and living in the same dorm are forming one giant surreal mass in my brain. I don't know who I've met or what I've said. I tried to do way too many things today.
Mechele said the great thing about the 25th reunion is that while at the other reunions you were worried about whether or not you were successful enough, or too fat, or too bald or whatever, but now at the 25th it was much easier because there is always someone who had lost a parent or a child or a breast and those other things didn't seem as important. But in that moment before she finished the sentence as I was identifying with the sentiment she was expressing, I thought she was going to say, "There is always someone fatter or balder or less successful." And it just cracked me up that I would find relief in that, sort of.
I have to admit my classmates have accomplished some amazing stuff and I still feel pretty inadequate, but I did stop thinking about my looks a few years ago and I feel pretty good about my career choice and I am super proud of my daughter and happy in my marriage. Having the brain injury also takes the pressure off me to be smart enough now. Maybe I never was as brilliant but now I am very psyched about each and every working brain cell I have. It feels pretty good just to be here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Good Sportsmanship!

That is the medal I always got in camp when I was a kid. It meant I was a spaz but I did not realize it and blindly followed the rules of whatever game we were playing. Thanks for playing kid! We needed one more on the bench.

I got RUNNER-UP for my hankie!

"In case you were wondering, judges from Singer selected the grand and first prize winners while the runners-up were decided by user votes. Sorry for the delay in the results, Maker Faire prep has overtaken us, but we wanted to make sure these results went out out (just) before the weekend. Thanks again for entering a great Instructable and we hope to see more good stuff from you in the future."

reads the email from the organizer of the contest which ended a week ago. I actually tried to conceal the fact that I already own a clearly superior Bernina sewing machine in my photos. When a packet of needles ended up in the background of a photo, I left it there thinking, a little "SINGER" product placement won't hurt. Ha! This was not in the rules. I was so mad when I got the results of the contest two years ago. This time I know what I am going to do. They are going to send me a little robot tshirt, their cute little mascot and I am going to wrap it around our dartboard and throw darts at it. Eventually, I will hit it too. Many people don't know this but I played darts in a league for about 8 years. That's how I met my husband. I played B division most of the time but The one year I played in the C division, I was the Ladies All Star and I won a plaque. I scored more points (4375) than the other 45 or so women in the division. Of course, in B and A the Ladies All Stars scored well over seven thousand but whatever. The men in B and C who win All-Star usually score over 10,000 points. You see where I am coming from?
Last year as the school year was ending, I asked one of my former students, a lovely girl who came by every day to help me out in the classroom, if she would write a letter on my behalf nominating me for some national teacher award. She did so gladly and even wrote me from camp telling me that her letter won an essay contest. I never heard from those people.
External validation! Why is it so important to me? Where will I truly find it? How is success measured? Here is what is not so high on my list of aspirations: fame, fortune, power. Here is what is: knowledge, wisdom, validation, understanding, comfort, freedom, creativity, and beauty (not personal although it was important until time took over and I realized it was merely a gift or perhaps, a loan from youth).
Yesterday, I decided to let someone else handle a big problem for me in exchange for a large sum of money. I felt relief to turn it over but still fear that I will continue to be misunderstood.
I am out of synch with my environment. I seek harmony!

Oh BTW look for my Moth Away! sachets on sale soon over at
Link to be posted soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

They won't announce the winners...

I'm afraid to write in and ask when they will tell us who won. There was some weird voting shift where the day after the contest I was third then the next day I was first. What? I really don't get it. "The Contest Is Over." No one is asking so I'm not going to be the first. The last time I entered a contest it took like a week and then I didn't even get mentioned. I was crushed. There is so much going on in my life right now that I can't obsess about it. I want to teach math. I want my job.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Waiting, sewing, report card writing

There is no more productive time in my life than report card writing time. I become a tidy homemaker, awesome baker of abundant treats, try out new looks with make-up all in the name of doing anything to avoid writing the reports. Have you noticed what a frequent blogger I have become?

The deadline for the sewing contest was yesterday. My last minute plea for everyone I have ever known to vote seemed to help as friends emerged with an out pouring of support. Having dropped to fifth, by the time I went to bed I was back in first place. Alas, when I awoke I had dropped to third. Now it is up to the judges. Of course I would love to win first place - a new sewing machine. The runner-up prize for the next three is also quite nice - a dressmakers dummy that can be re-sized. The two entries ahead of mine are lovely, a pillow and a fabric wall. I don't know what the judges are looking for but if it innovation then...a pillow? The fabric wall, an excellent idea to partition off part of the house to save energy, could be accomplished with a staple gun and does not really need any sewing. Okay, I am done knocking the entries that beat mine in votes just to make myself feel better.

I have made so many Moth Away! sachets that I think I will sell them on Etsy (link to come soon). I also made a bag for one of my tutoring students' birthdays. She has a much younger sister so I felt like I better make her a bag too. Here are pictures: Younger sister bag side 1:I think they came out quite well, no? Younger sister bag side 2:
Student bag side 1 and 2:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How would you feel?

Let's say you had a job that gave you a great deal of personal satisfaction. A lot of people adored you and told you what a great job you were doing. Then you became disabled with a TBI so you were not as great but still pretty good. But the people in charge said, you can still work here but only a little and in a less important role and nobody you worked with remembered that you used to be good or had anything to offer. They still let you work there and gave you the same amount of money, so I guess you are supposed to feel grateful. But what if you weren't doing it for the money? Not at first, anyway. It was the love and respect and human contact that meant so much to you. Maybe your brain injury left you unlovable, disrespected, and easily avoided. I guess you'd have no choice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sewing Contest!

Mother's Day ICE Hankie - More DIY How To Projects

Vote for me please!

Count Your Blessings!

I went to the bank yesterday to deposit my reimbursement check for my recent sojourn to the NCTM conference in Washington DC. A very successful trip in many ways, BTW. For my 3 night stay at the hotel, I was upgraded to the Presidential Suite at a top hotel because they were overbooked. I paid the previously agreed on rate for a $3000 a night five room suite with Bose surround sound, a fully stocked kitchen, dining room, living room, guest bathroom, personal bathroom with jacuzzi, shower and a sauna that could fit 5 people (I did not partake because the titanium plates in my head do seem to conduct heat better than regular skull bone), dressing room, 3 tvs, and amenities galore.
Standing behind me on line at the bank were a mom and daughter of maybe 8 or 9 years old. The daughter was fascinated by the coin counting machine (the one behind the line had broken down and was being dismantled by an employee so it was open, revealing sorting channels and large bags of coins). Relentless in her pursuit of understanding, she asked her mom many questions in rapid succession about what it was and how it worked. Mom was distracted by her banking needs and had semi-tuned out her daughter's words. A teachable moment like this could not be resisted by the impulsive, altruistic, know-it-all in me and as I had already filled out my forms and had five people in front of me on line. I addressed Jamie directly saying many people have jars of coins that sit around at home getting full. I immediately got mom's attention because although she was not engaged in discussion with her daughter, she was keenly aware of her movements and safety. "Just like us" she said.
"Well, people bring those jars of change in and pour them in the top and the machine counts and sorts the coins. Then you bring the receipt to the teller and they give you the value in paper money. The machine also gives you a chance to guess how much your change is worth and if you are correct within a certain amount, you win a prize."
"What is the prize?" Jamie wanted to know.
"I don't know because I've never won."
Jamie's reply, "I would put in a penny and then guess 1 cent."
"Wow! That's very smart. Your daughter is very smart," I tell mom.
"Yes, when it comes to money, she is very good."
"The problem is you would still have to go to the counter with the piece of paper to get your penny back. You could bring your jar of change and count part of it, then put it in, make your guess, win your prize, and then do it again."
We discussed the many ways of outsmarting the machine and then Jamie asked, "What would happen if you cut a penny in half and put that in?" (The CutCo guy must have been at their house recently."
I explained how the machine sorts out the foreign coins, paper clips, keys, and other stuff that finds its way into people's coin jars and rejects them.
"That's what sometimes makes the machine break down like that one."
Jamie bemoaned the fact that she could not try her experiment to win the prize immediately. I pointed out that there was another machine on the far side of the bank that no one was using. Mom insisted Jamie wait, stay next to her, they would get to it. (I was identifying with the mom, trying to protect her curious daughter, take care of her banking, satisfy her daughter's need to learn.)
Then it was my turn to see the teller. As luck would have it when I finished, Jamie had just arrived at the coin machine and mom was at the teller just feet away. I helped Jamie interpret the directions, watched as she put in a quarter, a penny and then another. She was prompted to guess within $1.99 to win a prize so she carefully typed in $0.27. Mom came over just as Jamie pressed DONE. The machine congratulated her on saving so much, and issued a receipt for 26 cents and her prize.
Mom said, "I guess it lost one of your pennies."
I was already squatting down, as teachers learn to do when talking to smaller people, so I pointed out where the coins that did not make it through came out. The mom and I simultaneously noticed that there was a lot of change already in the slot. A lot!
Mom said, "Wow, I guess we'll split it," to which I replied no way, that her daughter should use it and try again.
Before I started to give her the coins , I couldn't help myself. I had to add a caveat.
"Just remember this day when something bad happens. Some days you are lucky and some days you are unlucky. You have to remember the good days when the bad ones happen."
"It's true," mom agreed. She had earlier accepted my presence, comments, interference, and dialogue as benign, for which I am deeply grateful.
I handed Jamie handful after handful of change and she fed it into the machine. Mom was as excited as we were and had taken over pressing the buttons. When it came time to guess the amount, Jamie said seven dollars. Mom said no way it was more like two dollars but compromised and typed in $3.
Out came the message: "Wow! You sure saved a lot of money. $5.70. Take this receipt to the teller to pick up your money."
No prize for the second round but mom was right, Jamie is very smart when it comes to money. Her daughter's estimate would have won. Jamie looked a little disappointed but I said you still have your receipt for the prize and now even more money. For a 27 cent investment, Jamie got a prize and $6.01 back. I wanted to stay to see what the prize was but I resisted and just said goodbye. The mom thanked me and I left.
The Instructor Strikes Again! ridding the world of misinformation and bringing knowledge to the minds of the curious.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Universe is Reminding Me How Lucky I am

I got into the TBI research program at Mount Sinai so I will get the treatment I need at no cost. The people are excellent and understand TBI. My job will continue to allow me to work there with the flexibility of getting the therapy I need. I can work with great kids and continue to learn and grow. I have parents who tell me that they will do whatever they can to help me because I have made a huge difference and their kids enjoy learning. It is a lot of work to reach all the kids. I feel strongly that no matter what a student needs it is my job to figure it out and help them get it. I am grateful that I understand that kids all need different stuff and juggling those needs is tough but important. The strongest students do not need nor deserve any less than the weaker students. Take each one and find the potential and then nurture that growth. At the end of the year if each student feels great about his or her progress, I have done my job. I have a vision of a school where students learn because they love to learn and teachers teach because they want to facilitate that process.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I think that's my stapler...

In this economy, do I fight for my right to do what I do best or do I allow them to send me to a tiny room where no one will see me and do a pretend job? I feel completely demoralized.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's been seven years since my baby brother died on the same day as one of my best friends from college

This is what I said at his funeral:
I love my brother Tim as I know may of you did. He was a passionate, creative, giving person. I never thought I would have to say goodbye to him so soon. He helped me to learn something very important though. When we were growing up we learned a lot from our parents about expression and words and work and life and laughter and art and literature. But unfortunately I feel we were only really taught one way to deal with the problems and suffering, one expression or feeling to capture the myriad and range of emotions available. That reaction was anger. When the anger became too much we all learned to numb ourselves from pain in one way or another.
Over the years I have struggled against the numbness I felt. There were times when it was much easier to shut myself off from the pain or discomfort some of my brother’s choices left me with. He could be so generous and so giving and then become so overwhelmed by life he was just not there. I felt my heart hardening against whatever I anticipated the future might hold for him. Then recently, in the last year and a half, I began to discover that there were other options. I did not have to feel just anger or nothing. My relationship with Tim in these last 18 months grew to a new level. I let myself love him fully for everything he is and could be. I accepted him and felt protective of him in a way I never had before.
He too loved and felt passionately about life. The last time I saw him he seemed so happy. We had something in common. We had both found a person we could love and let love us and to share our lives with. He had just spent two weeks snorkeling in Puerto Rico with Lauren and he was so in love. He kept saying to me “Who would have thought?” and I had to agree. Who would have thought that the two of us could be so lucky? He really lived.
I want to read something he wrote:
“Down through the depths of inner sanctuary, caught in the vortex of immobile sleep, I dreamt of a place where all men go. I am from that place and I find it unworthy. I am Narmidian, the sailor. I have been around the world in the course of several minutes. With this there seems nothing to hide from, no demons, hells, no fears that creep out in the middle of the night, and in a sense that is the most fearful existence of all. For what is the true purpose of living except to enjoy the moment, and how to enjoy the moment without ruining the future, and if so what other alternative is there? I can see none, for all mysteries fade before the utter truth of simple boring life and no one who desires fantasy wants simple life.”
Because of Tim and Matt and Suzy, I love children. We had some wonderful times together as children. He also had a amazing connection to my daughter Sachi from the time she was born. They seemed to recognize each other from a long time ago. My stories about him and my brother and sister have become part of the fabric of my teaching style, my way of relating to children, my life and I want to say thank you to him for that.
When we were kids there was a huge snowstorm in New York one winter. The schools were closed and Matt and Tim and I went to the park together. Matthew, always the adventurous one, convinced us to jump from the high brick wall separating the different levels of Riverside Park. He said the snow was so deep it would catch us. We sat on the wall and looked down and it seemed much too far. Tears started to run down Tim’s face. Matt said let’s jump and he did landing in a roll and laughing. By then Tim was really crying. I knew I had to jump next or I would lose my nerve. My foot got caught in a vine and I fell head first. Still I landed okay although much harder than I had expected. From down below we egged Tim on, “JUMP! JUMP!” we shouted over his wails. Trembling and sobbing he finally did. And then we all laughed together. Years later I realized that he was the bravest one of all of us because real bravery is to do what you are afraid to do.
I will miss his hugs more than anything. He had a way of holding me that made me feel like I was home. I know I will see him again and I look forward to it.

And the poem from Sachi:
I wanted to write something to say everything I felt.
But nothing sounded right.
Writing this now, I can see no words to describe you.
There are no words, only images in my mind.
Swirls of brilliant color, crazy painted graffiti, moving faster and faster
Powerful images, rushing through walls that can’t take the blows fast enough.
You were magical, fierce, art flowing over the heads of all who knew you
Zooming down New York City streets
Enveloping me in the swirling arms of a bear hug
Melting, pouring, endless movement.
You lived fast, never ceasing to amaze me.
Creativity poured out of you like paint,
Flowing fast and drying onto sidewalks
Oozing out onto the feet of everyone who saw.
Affecting the lives of so many.
And yet, so few of us got to say what we really wanted to say.
You were too quick for us, passing each of us in a flash
One single moment of brilliance
If you don’t say it now, you might never get to.
Well, I didn’t get to say it one last time, but I’ll say it now anyway.
I love you.

To sleep, perchance to dream

I am too afraid of the prospect of taking a medical leave from work. I am afraid I will not get my job back. I am afraid they are only offering it so I never come back. I am afraid that I will never have a regular salary and health insurance again. I am afraid I will miss it. I am afraid I will become even more insignificant than I am now.

My sister says, "Sleep! Jill Bolte Taylor says the brain needs sleep to recover." I am more creative with rest and so if I sleep, I can dream and the possibilities could break through into this world. On the other hand as my title infers, the sleep could bring no relief and the dreams could penetrate the respite with more anxiety of the loss and change.

On a totally unrelated topic, check out my handsome husband back when he was a youngster in his twenties:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

{∞} Touchless Bouyant Infinite hug

My blog reading includes:

My Tough Boy Initiative

She just describes my feelings so well at times so I sent her my new TBI acronym.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The opportunity to write the word


link to article about the neuroscience behind it

I always forget what it means. Maybe it's the shady part.

Sometimes when you lose....

...something, you do not realize it is missing until you need it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What a world! What a world!

I'm melting.

Walking home from conferences where most parents are happy to hear they have a great kid but some are fixated on HONORS MATH.

I stop at the supermarket and hear a father tell his much taller teen-aged son that he is selfish for choosing a $5 box of Fruity Pebbles not on sale, as the box glides by ostentatiously next to generic white bread, generic hot dogs, generic OJ, and generic cheese.

I feel unbearable sorrow. Yes, we all want to do a good job, to be liked, to not be selfish.

Inevitably, some of us fail.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Summary of Previous Four Years

1. I began to teach myself to draw and paint.
2. I took a mixed media workshop in the Berkshires two summers in a row with great success.
3. I traveled to China with a group of teens.
4. I traveled to Japan on a grant from school to visit math classrooms.
5. I began knitting again and started a knitting circle in my home.
6. I went skiing with three girlfriends for a long weekend.
7. I had a best friend who dropped by so often my husband nicknamed her Kramer.
8. I had a stroke which an MRI revealed was from a tumor.
9. I had a craniotomy.
10. I walked every day for 15 minutes building up to a full hour.
11. I entered an invention contest and a postcard contest.
12. I lost both contests but was very proud of my accomplishments.
13. I returned to my job and discovered I had cognitive deficits.
14. My communication skills caused many misunderstandings.
15. My boss died alone on Christmas day.
16. I designed, organized, and helped make a memorial afghan for her.
17. I printed raffle tickets for the afghan and sold them earning over $3000 for a scholarship fund in her name.
18. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, with disabilities in executive functions, working memory, language, timing, and planning.
19. I was demoted at work and asked to move to a smaller room away from all of my colleagues.
20. I was granted the use of an assistant enabling me to continue teaching.
20. My daughter graduated from college and moved back home.
21. My father, Edgardo Vega-Yunque´ died.
22. I rented a studio to handle my father's enormous collection of books and writing.
23. I went to court to handle the estate.
24. I arranged for a memorial funeral for my father.
25. I donated all of his belongings to El Centro for Puerto Rican Studies.
26. Through therapy and rehabilitation, I learned new methods of communication.
27. Friends from work stopped socializing with me.
27. I have renewed some old friendships from college.
28. I spent part of my spring break in the hospital.
29. My art studio was finally completed so I could begin to make art.
30. My landlady told me she cannot tolerate my presence in the studio.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I love clogging!

I love when I read the post of someone who left me a comment and see the wonderful connections to be made through the world of blogging. A typo caused me to write clogging. Yes, Irish dance has helped me to make great friends from many nations. JK! That'd be cool though. Travelin' on the reg! Dancin' on the reg! Stompin' on the reg!

This is from Wendy

I leave you with a favourite list of not only fasting but feasting at Lent (and even my friends of other creeds can appreciate these):

• Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
• Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
• Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
• Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
• Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
• Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
• Fast from anger; feast on patience.
• Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
• Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
• Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
• Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
• Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
• Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
• Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
• Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
• Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
• Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
• Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
• Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
• Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
• Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
• Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
• Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.

May FAST and FEAST be not just for 40 days of Lent, but become a way of life for each of us! Wishing you a beautiful Lenten journey towards Easter!

Grace and Peace,

Thank you Wendy! Today I shall feast!

Dear Mr. President

I wrote a letter to the president today? I know. Me? Political?

I was going to post about the circumstances that are discouraging me from going to my art studio, namely my landlady's nasty comments about the state of chaos which inspires my best work, but my new attitude it to step back and let the bullets land at my feet. I am Neo from the Matrix. I can see, hear, and think in slow motion. I am also one bad-ass motha who don't take no s--t from nobody!
So here is my letter. I am a little embarrassed about it so if you have any criticism, keep it to yourself. I'm not even sure what I would do if I was given the opportunity I proclaim so boldly to want.

Dear President Obama,
You have inspired me to believe in the Democratic process again so I am writing to ask about a policy that affects our nation and me. As a product of the New York City public school system, I was fortunate enough to attend an Ivy League college on scholarship. As a young single mother in my 20’s, my career choices were limited by the exorbitant cost of daycare and my liberal arts BA degree. I became a teacher in a New York City private school. I love my job and I am passionate about education.
My daughter just graduated from Harvard and I was able to afford to save enough to cover about half of her tuition (which was huge for me and made me proud to give since I had attended for free). My plan was that once she graduated and was on her feet, I would use what was left of my investments to finance my own master's degree so that I would qualify to teach in a New York City public school. Well, as you know, thanks to the economy you inherited from the previous administration, my savings are nearly worthless. I am leaving what little is left in the stock and bond markets because I do have faith that your plan will work. Fortunately, my daughter found a job, but it does not pay well enough for her to afford health insurance or housing yet, so she is living with me again.
My question is this: why are experienced teachers excluded from applying for the Teach for America or Teach for New York programs? Under these programs, young college graduates can get free higher education classes in exchange for a commitment to work three years in the nation's most poverty stricken or poorly performing schools. I have twenty years of teaching experience and would be of great service to such students but I am ineligible for the program for the very same reason, I would be of particular help.
I do not know how successful the program is or even how the success is measured. My resources are limited to anecdotal information provided by my daughter's contemporaries. Most found their experiences to be extraordinarily difficult and will probably not remain in the field of education. I, on the other hand, am a career teacher. I am committed to giving every child I meet an awareness of one benefit of being an American and separates us from so many other countries. Education is free and if a child can take full advantage of it, he or she can break the cycle of poverty and improve his or her social standing much like I did.
As I said previously, this is a question very specific to me and I am but one of your constituents. I would like to know why my experience teaching for twenty years prevents me from qualifying to apply for a program that gives free certification in exchange for making a commitment to our nation's neediest schools. I have to add that I teach middle school math and have an outstanding record of inspiring many of the most reluctant learners to go on to earn A's in high school and love math. I am an advocate for women in math and highly gifted math students of both genders (truly one of our country's greatest resources) but also for all children. Despite the fact that I am not a leader or principal, you inspire me to listen more closely to others and this has been a tremendous gift.
So what do you say, Mr. President? Do you think that experienced teachers should be allowed the same opportunity to offer their services in exchange for higher education? I voted for you (after Mrs. Clinton was out of the running, sorry) and I would do it again. Can you explain the reasoning of a policy that imposes a self-defeating limit on an otherwise excellent program?

Thank you for your bravery and vision!

Your loyal citizen,
Aly ....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Help Me!

Everything I say is taken the wrong way. My efforts to clarify are futile and I am accused of being long-winded, befuddled, paranoid, overly sensitive, repetitive, and overly emotional. Why don't I just listen for a change?

The problem is when I asked for clarification, it turned out I was right. How can people tell me in the same breath not to read so much into something while revealing at the same time the giant can of worms under all those calm words? Oh yeah, don't be so paranoid, but there is a SUB-TEXT we have kept from you. Let's not dwell on it!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

As a child, I had a concussion. At 23, while pregnant with my daughter I was in a head collision. The fact that I was not wearing a seatbelt probably saved her life, but my face flew into the seat in front of me. My glasses cut into my nose and cheeks and I had two black eyes. I was clumsy and impulsive as a kid (well as an adult, too). I fell a lot (on the tennis court - staples in the back of the head, on my face going back to bed - ten stiches in my chin, running for a train - bruised face, bloody knee). Two years ago, I had a stroke:

During the angiogram and news that I had a brain tumor, all I could think of was Turks and Caicos. This is an oil pastel/collage of my experience.

I read a few regular blogs. My Google Reader collects them for me and I wait until I have at least 45 minutes to look through my favorites. One is Broken Brain, Brilliant Mind and in this recent post, I saw my life. It was so bizarre because until I hear the words for some experiences, I am not even sure how to articulate it. A year ago, I stayed up all night to pack for spring break and got there with so much strange stuff and some very obvious items lacking.

My new resolution is to be positive! If people want to remain ignorant, they can go suck it. I am not going to make it my job to educate them. I have enough of my own work to do and my own obfuscation to clear up.

Eschew obfuscation and make choices that make me happier! From now on when I get a compliment on my work from the parents of my students, I am going to ask them to put their words in writing and send them to my boss.

I love my students! My favorite part of teaching is the Aha! that follows confusion.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blogging is Narcissistic

Today I left one of the few places I still felt accepted in tears. What the hay? My brain injury support group was discussing the web and social alternatives. I go to the group because I read that I need human contact. I feel alienated because I rarely see friends. At work, I am up on the fifth floor so no one seems to remember that I am there. Or they remember but what they remember is post-injury and it does not seem worth it. Who knows? I am on a new campaign to be me, to be what I'm like, to be like myself, and so I'm having a wonderful time. Ooops! They Might be Giants tangent. My former student Roman comes to visit me. He is awesome! He brings hilarious clips from Conan or Leno for me to watch.

So why did I walk across Central Park from the east side today with tears and snot running down my nose? Fatigue? Hunger? My assistant upon whom I depend a lot these days was out today? Also, last week my request for sensitivity training for my colleagues was denied and I was strongly encouraged not to remind anyone about my injury. So then today when someone requested that maybe my assistant just fill in for them when they have a doctor's appointment, I felt annoyed. Her aid enables me to do my job and still only about 1/2 as well as I used to do it. She is not a luxury or a floater. Whatevs. Dark, dark, dark! Back to the support group...

Facebook, text messaging, etc. were the topics. When blogging came up, I shared that I started mine to keep friends and family up to date on my medical status after my stroke and before my surgery. THE SUPPORT GROUP LEADER said that it seems kind of narcissistic to keep a blog. Like, what makes anyone think someone wants to read what they have to say? I reiterated that my purpose, expectations, etc. and she said so if you are talking to a guy in a bar and he says he blogs, you should walk in the other direction. I said, "Thanks a lot!" and she said but you know what I mean?

Yeah! I am a narcissist! I hope everyone reads my blog! Maybe I will win the Blog of the Year Award! Is there a Blog Pulitzer? Am I on the New York Times best read blog list?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Four is my lucky number so...

... when I read this blog post over at Cornflower Blue Studio asking anyone to play along I decided I would go for it. The fourth photo in my fourth folder is this one
Since Ed died, I have so many pictures I had not seen in a long time. I am scanning them because I guess they are not really mine. I guess I will give them my mom or the subject (in this case my brother Matt). I feel so much love for him right now, just flooding feelings of appreciation and nostalgia and compassion.

He asked me a really interesting question after I tried to explain why I love teaching. I love teaching because I remember what it felt like to be a kid and so I am an advocate for them. I have my own personal reasons for why I loved school.
1. It wasn't home.
2. Nobody yelled at me.
3. Every day was pretty much the same.
4. The rules and consequences were clear.
5. I was good at "appearing to follow the rules."
6. There was food there.
7. If you needed a pencil or tape, it was always where you expected it to be.
8. A big part of the day was spent doing one of my favorite things in the world, reading.
9. The people there wanted me there. Or at least it seemed that way since they asked every day if I was there.

Are these good enough reasons to be a teacher? I don't know.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Have You Ever..........

I saw this at the fluffyknitting blog and thought it looked like a fun thing to play along with!

The things I've done are in bold.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (orchestra, fife and drum corp)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (a red eye from Boston to New York)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb (I wish!)
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (lived in Venice, CA and rode gondola in Vegas)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (indoor)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (class action?)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Rode an elephant (my mom did)

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Yorkie Connection

Twenty years ago in my very first teaching job, I had the best mentor ever. She was a dynamo and she guided me the same way she taught. T. helped me become the teacher I am by setting a great example, letting me make mistakes, and allowing me develop my own style. When a class begins, I still say "Let me see who I can thank for being on the ball?" as I look around a group of students in varying states of readiness. Even though these are sixth graders and those were first graders, everybody wants to be noticed for the positive and they all get ready. I have so much I wish I could tell her. Today I saw a postcard she sent school with her beautiful twin boys and her two Yorkies. She has Yorkies! I can't believe it. I have her address so I think I will write to her. I came home and googled her so for now here is a link to an article about her.

T. and her school for living graciously

Thelma T. Hanawalt's business, called 'Mrs. T-s Tutorials,' offers lessons on manners and academic subjects.
Amazingly, just last year when one of our former first graders Melissa C. became my assistant because of the brain injury, I found a copy of T.'s "Signs of Civility" and hung it on my wall. I really try to be a nice person.

Here is my Yorkie Lily with me at one of my favorite places in the world , discussing my art with the rest of my class.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Holiday Season

I hope your Christmas was better than mine. That year anyway, This year was fun. Check out my sister writing about my best New Year's Eve parties.
NYTimes blog
Coincidentally, they were her faves too. Amazing that they were able to beat out the year we went to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins's party. I brought in the new year playing foosball against Tim Robbins' college roommate. Woo hoo!