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.