A math facts pack

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese.  Ching-chong, people.

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese. Ching-chong, people.

When I was teaching, I often found myself struggling with the question of parity for my students.  If I do something for one student, would it only be fair if I did it for all my students?  It left me in the position of providing fewer “extras” and reserving rewards for situations with equal opportunities, because I was often concerned with being fair.

But, some students just need a little extra, and some students will make the most out of these added opportunities.  I can never resist a child who asks for more help in a specific, constructive way.

I’ve been fortunate enough to return to the classroom at the end of this year, working with students with individual needs in math.  One of my students in particular is amazing with visualizing geometry, good at solving procedural problems, and really really really terrible with her basic math facts. So when she looks at me, stops saying “this is hard” and “I’m bad at math” and instead says, “you know, this is the only thing holding me back from doing much better in math class,” I am unable to ignore that plea.

After confirming that she is good with using the resources given to her, and talking with her about using tools to brush up her math facts this summer, she and I picked out the following:

She is self-aware enough to know that regular flash cards have not helped her to learn her times tables, and she doesn’t memorize things visually in that way.  Since she is good at recognizing relationships, we are hoping that the three-corner cards and the math-wheel cards will be different ways to look at the times tables and develop a better sense of numbers that go together.

In addition to the flash cards, I made a book of 150 Mad Minute practice sheets and a tracker for her to track her progress with the times tables.  These will go into the binder she picked out, and she will use the timer to administer her own mad minutes.

Of course, once I get going with these things, I can’t stop myself.  I had to make a cute little backpack to store her math practice toolkit.  It only took about 15 minutes and I had all the materials handy in the house.  (It’s taken me far longer to format this post than to make the backpack.) I also found a few stamps and a few stamp pads that I threw into the pencil case.

The Math Facts Pack goodies - stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

The Math Facts Pack goodies – stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute.  Then again, I'm not a 7th grader, so who knows.

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute. Then again, I’m not a 7th grader, so who knows.

I have high hopes that she becomes a math facts wizard by the end of the summer, and can come back in the fall and be a mentor to 5th graders in the school who may be struggling with their own math facts.

I’m not really doing this for her appreciation, but it’s so little in the scheme of my day, and can be so big in the scheme of her life.  I couldn’t NOT do this when it asks so little of me.  I know this kind of attention isn’t scalable, but not every student needs this.  Other students will need other things, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer them when the opportunities arise.


Yes I did: 18 hours to a baby shower

Have you heard of the Five Love Languages?  They are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving (Giving) Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.  My interpretation of these principles is that you have primary love languages that you “speak” and other love languages that you “hear”, and that they are not necessarily the same.  Christian-roots aside, I believe in the simplicity of this concept—by understanding which languages you and your loved ones speak and hear, you improve communications in your relationships.

For me, I am most comfortable expressing myself with Acts of Service and Giving Gifts 1.  No “diagnostic quiz” taken, just deep introspection over time and many dinner conversations with friends rehashing examples and hypotheticals.

Given those love languages, making handmade gifts is my favorite expression of affection.  It pains me when I don’t have enough of my own time to create personal gifts by hand.

I had grand plans for this weekend’s baby shower – I was going to make a small tag blanket 2, with one knit side and one minky side, and a matching baby hat with ears.  With 18 hours to go (6PM Friday), I was looking at 10 rows of baby hat, AND had just remembered that I volunteered to make a savory finger food.  NOT ENOUGH HOURS LEFT. I resigned myself to purchasing a more substantial gift off the registry, but was going to make a great effort to finish the hat and make some food.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  Finish baby hat & decorate and wrap the present.

One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.

One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.

I really wanted to make the Flour Sack hat from Baby Beanies: Happy Hats to Knit for Little Heads by Amanda Keeys, but I don’t want to buy books of patterns anymore, so I decided to wing it with a basic square hat.  (If this pattern were individual PDF on Ravelry for $3, I would have totally bought it because I’m lazy about knitting trial and error.)

My “pattern” is basically a square hat, with the corners tied off for ears.  Same as book?  I wouldn’t know!

Yarn: Berroco Comfort in Boy Blue.  It’s a washable nylon/acrylic blend that is actually pleasant to knit with and I use it on nearly all my items for kiddos these days.

Needles: size 8 40″ circular, using Magic Loop method

  • CO 60 stitches, divide for Magic Loop.
  • K2P2 ribbing for 10 rows for a foldover brim.
  • Knit in the round for 36 rows (or for the height of the hat to fit the entire head, then extra rows for the length of the ears).
  • Turn inside out and use 3-needle bind-off. Weave in all ends.
  • Turn right side out.
  • Thread needle with yarn, and run thread from side “seam” 8 rows down, to top seam” 8 columns over on both sides. Tie in a square knot to form the ears. Leave ends as bows or trim.

I managed to finish all the decorations at 11:30PM.  Bedtime until the AM and then, savory snack-making.

SATURDAY MORNING: Savory Treats before 9:30AM

Of all the days, Ben & I had to go to a bath showroom today to look at and pick out a bathtub for house renovations Round 3 (definitely for a different post).  With the baby shower at noon, and the showroom opening at 10AM, this meant that all baby shower preparations had to be complete by 9:30AM.

Mac & cheese muffins

You can eat mac & cheese with your hands. Genius!

The momma-to-be does love her mac and cheese, and I really wanted to make these for her shower.  However, I didn’t have cheese in the house, and it was really tempting to shelve this in favor of something where I already had all the ingredients.

I opened my eyes at 7:08AM, still felt like mac & cheese was the right choice, ran to our local grocery and picked up cheese in order to make this happen.  Fork-free mac & cheese, what’s not to love?

I used Food & Wine’s basic technique:  undercooked mac folded into cheese-enhanced white sauce (butter, flour, milk).  I doubled the recipe for 1 pound of pasta and 24 muffins. I substituted 1/2 the amount of mozzarella for the American cheese.  I added seasoned breadcrumbs to the parmigiano reggiano at the base of the “muffins” and also on top of the muffins to make a better crust and to add flecks of green color.  I also baked in the oven at 375-degrees instead of 350 for about 20-25 minutes until the tops were super crispy and the bottoms held together, checking frequently to make sure they didn’t burn (too badly).

I left them out to cool, plated 21 of the 24 muffins, and left 3 to be devoured by Ben at some point during the day.  He claims that they’re even better at room temperature, because of the increased crispiness factor.

Bacon-wrapped apricots

Everything is better when wrapped in bacon. Yes, everything.

This was my original plan – bacon-wrapped apricots with sage.  The prime reason was because I had some sage growing like crazy in the herb garden, we have apricots on hand for snacking, and I had a package of bacon in the fridge.  I scrapped this for the mac & cheese muffins because I wasn’t sure about pregnant women and eating bacon.  (Big Data must think that I’m pregnant with all the searches I do for what pregnant friends of mine can and can’t eat…)

While the mac & cheese was in the oven, I found myself a little idle…and craving some bacon.  So the bacon-wrapped apricots were back on the menu.

Things I learned from the recipe:

  • You really only need 1/3 a slice of bacon for each wrap—the flavor balance is perfect.
  • You don’t need a whole sage leaf.  I cut my leaves up, because I had a few GIANT sage leaves on the plant, and I also didn’t want to completely decimate my sage plant so early in the growing season.  It was plenty sage-y and the flavor complemented the bacon so nicely.
  • Seam-side down means you don’t need toothpicks.  I didn’t believe it, but it worked like magic.
  • YASSSSS…brush lightly with maple syrup.  NOM.

I managed to get both these dishes out by 9:35AM and make us a breakfast with the leftover egg whites and some ham from the fridge.  We were out the door by 10AM, and had picked out a tub by 10:50AM.  (I could have mooned over everything at the bath/kitchen/lighting showroom forever.)  Back in the house by 11:15, and off to the baby shower at noon. Productive morning all around.

Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage.  Eat all of the things!

Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage. Eat all of the things!


Why did I put myself through all this?  It would probably have been fine to pick up a vegetable platter and some dip and just have the registry gift.  In fact, no one notices at a shower whether you actually brought a gift at all, and a late registry gift to the house would have been totally acceptable.  Well, two reasons:

  1. I have a hard time backing off of my commitments.  Once I say I’m going to do something, like “make a savory finger food”, I will MAKE the food unless it is completely impossible, or else I will feel bad about it.
  2. Handmade with love is my best love language.  If I can give you a gift made with my time, that is the best gift that I can give you, whether the time is spent knitting, cooking, or just decorating the box that the gift will arrive in.  I don’t need my recipients to treasure their gifts forever, just to recognize that I care about them.  (Once a gift is given, it’s yours to do what you want with it, as gifts SHOULD be.)

People often tell me that I should sell the things that I make, but I don’t craft or cook for money, and I don’t think that I can be motivated to make things for people that I don’t love.  Actually, it’s hard for me to get motivated to do anything that I don’t love.  That’s a growth area for me.

  1. The love languages I “hear” are Quality Time and Acts of Service. Gifts are nice, but only if the giver has thought about the gift and has chosen something meaningful, so effectively an act of service. 

  2. Try to avoid buying from the Taggie company.  They are excessively EVIL about protecting their patent, which basically says that any ribbon sewn in a loop between two pieces of cloth is FROWNED UPON in this ESTABLISHMENT.  Google tells me that not only are you not allowed to sell them, but there may be issues if you even MAKE them.  Who knows if that’s truth or just paranoia, why can’t I make what I want if I’m not selling it?  I will thumb my nose at that, here’s a pattern for a great tag toy for babies from Sew Like My Mom, and here’s a picture of one that I made for my nephew:

    I made this ..."soft toy"... any resemblance to other real toys is purely ... coincidental.  Yesss...coincidental.

    I made this …”soft toy”… any resemblance to other real toys is purely … coincidental. Yesss…coincidental.


I’m worth it.

Roscoe is a LOT lazy.

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Oh wait. That’s Roscoe. He’s a LOT lazy.

Without WP, (or writing in general), I seem to have lost my ability to think.

Because I need to write stuff out to sort stuff out, you’d think I’d be an ideal candidate for regular blogging.  But in this age of carefully curated online branding, I have been mostly afraid to think “aloud” to this amorphous audience.  I mean, after looking over my LiveJournal existence…it’s probably better that that account is gone.

I enjoy reading people’s blog posts where they discover the minutiae that really shape how they view the world.  I love catching up with The Bloggess, and following her struggles as well as her crazy taxidermy collection.  I feel like I can never miss a single installment of my dear friend, K.C. Wise, as she builds her house, her home, and her foundation in (gasp) the suburbs.  I would love to do the same as either of those bloggers, and have that regular release to organize my thoughts in the clutter of my brain.

But I “never have time”, and it “takes too long to write”, and it “isn’t a big deal”, and “I’ll write when I have something important to say.”

If I can look other people in the eye and tell them that they are important, and their thoughts are important, and I am willing to listen to their thoughts and help them work it out, then why are my own thoughts less important to myself?  Who’s going to listen to me if I’m not going to listen to myself?

Bongo Mots once told me she couldn’t go out to dinner with me because she had to go home and “think” about Jenny Dell (a Red Sox sideline reporter who decided to date a player…publicly), meaning that she could not exorcise her thoughts without having a jam sesh with WordPress.

Priorities.  My biggest weakness is that I prioritize others’ needs and my more immediate (less important) needs over things that are more personally sustaining to me.  I put out fires.  I’m good at putting out fires.  I’m still figuring out how to maintain my own fire at the proper temperature and intensity.  (Man, that is a GREAT answer.  Why can’t I answer this question in interviews?  It’s like not having the perfect comeback for bullies until 10 minutes after they’ve gone.)

It’s not like I live a scripted or curated life.  In real life, I am a rough, not-well-thought-out, burst of brilliance and hot mess.  And sloth.

I guess writing is like exercise.  I know it’s good for me.  I mostly like it, when I’m on the bandwagon.  But when I’ve been lounging on the couch for a while, physically and mentally, it’s really hard to get back to it.  There are a million reasons why I can’t.  There are NO reasons why I can’t.

This isn’t even what I got on here to write about, but this’ll do.  I already feel more sorted out.  Missed ya, WP.

Yes I did: reclaimed bookshelf

During the move to my 11th cubicle in a year at my office space (co-working space growing pains), we ended up with this weird corner space that really really needed a bookshelf to organize our crap.

After searching on IKEA and Target and all the usual suspects, I remembered that I had a house that we were busy demolishing and a fairly huge stack of “reclaimed wood,” a.k.a. things in the demolition pile, and a basement workshop full of awesome tools to play with.  Obviously, it would be easier to just build a bookshelf that fits in the space and meets our needs, right?

I mean, this is our basement workshop:

Doesn't this look like a creepy murder room?  Oh wait, it probably was one.

Don’t all the corrugated tin walls look like a creepy murder room?
Oh wait, it probably was one.

Just kidding, that picture was from when we first moved into the house, just after we removed the shower curtain/vapor barrier that was covered with wet moldy carpet remnants and discovered the newts living under them.

THIS is our basement workshop:

vault basement

This workshop is pretty sexy, no?
The main workbench is an antique surgical table bought off of Craigslist. Totally preserves that “creepy” feeling.

Anyways, I pulled shelves out of our demolition pile in our garage, ones that I had already labeled “not worth saving” and set to work putting together this office bookshelf, armed with a general idea, some measurements from the office, a rough sketch, and an extra set of man hands.

This pile of yucky wood boards from the walls of the attic:

Nail-filled, tar-paper-covered, fairly musty reclaimed wood.

Nail-filled, tar-paper-covered,
fairly musty reclaimed wood.

Took about 5 hours, some elbow grease, a hand sander, and lots of force (some of the 2x3s were warped) to become this:

She is a thing of beauty.  (The bookshelf, not the man-butt.)

She is a thing of beauty.
(The bookshelf, not the man-butt.)

Not all the wood was super-old; we did find this awesome note on one of the 2x3s:


What is a carpter?!

And here is the bookshelf in its rightful space, in action:

Now to actually organize the things in the bookshelf...

Now to actually organize the bookshelf…

What was trash is now treasure again! Here’s to hoping that there are many more reclaimed wood projects in the works.  Maybe I can make the radiator covers in the house out of reclaimed wood this summer.  So ambitious, so many projects, not enough time!

A better version of “myself”

It’s been a while since I’ve gathered my thoughts in blog form, basically because life got busy.  However, all this thought-buildup is spilling over into my work and daily life, so it’s time to pick up the “pen” again and clear my head.

I have been wanting to be a better version of myself, because that is the cliché that all of us who are “leaning in” are looking to do, every day, all the time.  I have been working to be this better version, rededicating myself every once in a while: in the morning when I get up…during the day when I get a spritz of motivation…in the evening, when I look in the mirror and say, tomorrow starts a new life, Rabbit.

Tomorrow Rabbit

From one of my favorite threads on Reddit.

With the difficulty of all this self-improvement work, I’ve arrived at a big question:

Why do I have to change absolutely everything about me in order to be myself?

1. I need to change my diet.

I’m on the same diet roller coaster that many people are on, my struggle is not new, nor is it unique.  I worry about what I eat for a day.  Or more like a minute.  (Usually a minute where I’m not eating anything at the time.)  I go to bed thinking, tomorrow I’ll eat healthier.  I have a fried egg and toast for breakfast.  I curse the egg and toast at the gym, and vow to get a salad for lunch.  I eat office candy to tide me over at 11am.  (I eat office candy because it’s there.)  Lunchtime rolls around, and I inevitably choose the Italian hot-pressed panini over the turkey sandwich with lots of vegetables, forgetting completely about that salad that I had promised myself.  Post-sandwich coma at 2PM, and I need a soda to wake me up.  Or a coffee.  Or a walk for a cupcake.  If I eat the cupcake, it’s definitely important to have a healthy dinner.  Of course, I should have a slice of 6PM pizza that is left over from the office event.  Two slices, the first one was really small.  Well, now I don’t need dinner at all, do I.

So, I started insulin this week.  Now that my cells are better able to process glucose, more of what I eat will get used by my cells, either as energy or stored into fat.  Guess which route is more likely?

2.  I need to change my exercise habits.

I have battled serious gym/exercise phobia ever since Coach Fiset pulled me out of running the Glenbrook Mile in 5th grade because I was way too slow to complete it and no one wanted to wait for me.  I was a varsity athlete in college who basically functioned as marginally agile ballast when no one else would join the team and show up every day.  The accountability factor is truly the biggest motivator that has keeps me moving, and nothing else has ever continuously worked in terms of motivation. (The fact that I have financial help in order to have a trainer and go to Equinox really doesn’t hurt either.)

When I started at Equinox, I was pretty dedicated, and I could get myself to the gym a few extra times a week for spin class, circuit training, and even yoga.  I’ve “run” a half-marathon and I’ve managed to get my 5-mile road race pace from 13:46/mile to 11:12/mile. (Not pretty, but I’ll take the improvement.) However, I’m terrible about tolerating physical exertion—I feel it sapping at my self-worth as I fail at running faster or working harder, especially in group fitness where everyone can see me. I ask myself, if I’m not really a runner (and those times really say “not a runner”), why am I running at all?

These days, if I’m not meeting my trainer, Lauren, I can barely get myself out of bed.  I have been seeing Lauren for over 2 years, and I really hate letting her down. It’s not like I’m hurting her feelings, but hey, I’ve been a teacher, I hate when my students stop trying.  I really haven’t made any weight loss progress in about a year, and I often have trouble even getting out of the house on time to meet her.  Accountability guilt really sucks.  I wasn’t always like this.

3.  I need to change the way I spend and manage my time.

Not only do I need to get to the gym on time, I need to re-imagine how I manage time in general.  I’m a procrastinator, that part is no secret, but I am also plagued by the typical time management afflictions:  one-more-thing-itis, internet addiction, news FOMO, and overcommitment.  I’m not only late to the gym, when I’m left to my own devices, I’m just a bit late to everything.  More like “kinda-less-than-just-exactly-uncomfortably-on-time,” but late is late.  And there’s always some crazy reason.  Snow traffic.  Overloaded trains.  Walking behind double-wide strollers.  Forgetting my jacket/wallet/T pass/ice skates.

I also can’t focus on a single task at work.  Whenever my workflow stops for some reason, like waiting for something to upload, or stopping to compose a tricky email, I get distracted and feel the need to check “my sites”.  After I return from distraction, it’s like, “wait, where was I?” and it takes a few minutes to get back into the workflow.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I’ve tried laying out my clothes the night before. (What if I feel fatter in the morning?)  I’ve tried packing my bags the night before.  (Inevitably, I forget something this way.  Let’s be honest, I forget something anyways.)  I’ve tried setting clocks forward in my car.  I’ve tried making a schedule.  I’ve tried task lists, both analog and digital.  (There are many apps for that.)

I’ve got all the “adult ADD” symptoms, but I won’t go the Adderall route.  I just don’t want to add another medication to my regimen that might make me fatter, because let’s face it, I need all the help I can get in that department already.

4.  I need to change my work habits.

Besides the work ADD and all that goes with it, I have other “wants” in the improvement department.

I want to speak up more.  I want to say “Sorry” less.  More Sheryl Sandberg.  Less “red-stapler” guy.  (BTW, I’m not 100% bought into “Lean In,” the book.  But like Hansel, it’s just so HOT right now.)

I want to dress like a boss more consistently, and not just have a wardrobe that starts out Sheryl Sandberg on Mondays and ends up Mark Zuckerberg on Fridays.

I want to WANT to embrace difficult tasks, and take lead on challenging projects which take me out of my comfort zone.  I want to be comfortable out of my comfort zone.


I get these days (like today) where I feel like it shouldn’t be so much work to “just be myself”.  But hey, I am my traits as much as I am my struggles.  Also—I’m sure that “better me” will have a whole new set of obstacles to face before becoming “better better me.”  After all, what’s living without having something to look forward to or work towards?

Tomorrow starts a new life, Rabbit.  Tomorrow.

Roscoe: a love story for Valentine’s Day

How could you say no to this face?

How could you say no to this sad face?

Roscoe is one of our two Maine Coon shelter mutts.  A big galoot weighing in at about 22 pounds, he is always finding himself in awkward situations, mostly where he thinks that he is a much smaller cat.  He has a little plaintive mew, and he’s not unlike a tiny Mike Tyson (minus the ear-biting).

When we first met ‘Bill’ at the shelter we played with him, but I was unimpressed with his smelly matted yucko fur.  As we were about to put him back in his crate, he decided to go completely limp, and passive-aggressively slide out of Ben’s arms backwards onto the floor.  It was at that moment that a love connection was made, and ‘Roscoe’ was coming home with us.  Because, as the shelter workers said, someone’s got to love the big galoots.

He weighed about 13 pounds when we first got him, and within a few hours, he decided that he loved it here, and made himself quite at home.

Roscoe settles in at home on his first day.

Roscoe settles in at home on his first day.

Over the years, Ben and Roscoe have been quite inseparable.  Roscoe spends many mornings curled up next to Ben in bed.  They constantly hang out on the couch, and if Roscoe wore pants, he would also hang a paw down the front.  They have even shared a Snuggie for two.

Nope, no room for a third in this Snuggie.

Nope, no room for a third in this Snuggie.

But there has been no more definitive proof of Roscoe’s undying love for Ben than last week when Ben went to CA for a conference for an entire week, leaving me to administer the cats’ routine of feedings, insulin shots (for Roscoe), litter boxes, and nightly toothbrushing.

Monday morning, Roscoe didn’t finish his breakfast.  I came home, and by dinner, they hadn’t finished their dinner either.  The rest of the week was fairly similar.  I didn’t know whether to give insulin, or if I was giving insulin incorrectly, or whether I needed to give more insulin. Also, he was pretty much silent all week, which is abnormal given that he’s usually very conversational, especially at mealtime.

In addition to the weird feeding, Roscoe was not in any of his usual haunts—he just stayed most of the week on Ben’s side of the bed.  I’d leave him there in the morning, and find him there in the evening, just huddled in a lump on the bed.

Not only was he being weird, but Riley, our other much more cat-like cat, was basically glued to his side all week.  Most of the time, the two cats pretend to not love each other on a regular basis, with Roscoe spending most of his time bullying Riley.  But they were constantly together like peas and carrots, all week long.  It was so odd that I started to wonder if this was in any way related to the stories of cats that can identify oncoming death.

Monday, sad.  Tuesday, sad.  Thursday, sad.  Friday, still sad.

Monday, sad. Tuesday, sad. Thursday, sad. Friday, still sad.

I started to wonder at what point I might need to take Roscoe to the vet.  I reported all these symptoms to Ben and he seemed unconcerned, so I figured I would take Roscoe to the vet if he was still acting weird at the end of the week.

Ben came home on Saturday night, and Roscoe mewed his greeting, and rolled around on the floor to show his belly.  And ate his dinner.  And cuddled in bed that night.  And ate his breakfast normally the next day.  And basically gave me a scare for nothing—apparently he was just in a deep kitty depression for the week.

So happy together.

So happy together.

Incontrovertible proof that Roscoe and Ben were meant to be.  Cat and hooman.   Together furever.  Happy (early) Valentine’s Day.

hello, old friend

Old diaries, why can't I quit you?

Old journals, why can’t I quit you?

I have an odd habit of picking up my old journals and revisiting really painful pieces of my past—painful both as I experienced them and as I relive them in the present.  I actually find my younger self to be mostly hilarious, but since most people encourage me to let go of my past, I’ve been quelling these compulsions by putting my journals into a bin that I promised myself I would shred.

I have a clear memory from my childhood of my mother shredding her own diaries.  She was probably about my age, maybe a little older, when she did this. When I asked her why she would do such a thing, she said, “I don’t want anyone reading them after I die.”  I think she must have watched The Bridges of Madison County that week.

This week, when I pulled out the bin to finally complete said shredding, I found myself unable to get rid of the journals.  I mean, these are my words, as I experienced them, in their rawest form.  Memories that I had deeply buried came back to me, some hilarious, some nonsensical, and it was like reconnecting with an old friend.

It probably doesn’t help that I was also reunited with my former iTunes library (trapped on an old non-updated computer), and my old photo albums (trapped in our attic in a bin waiting to be digitized) sometime last weekend.  It has spun me into a (non-polar) vortex of nostalgia, and truthfully, I’ve been dying to share my memories, and also what I may have “learned” in the luxury of time and maturity.  But as I learned in college from my roommate’s mom, life is living and learning…but mostly living.

My music library is basically a collection of placeholders that transport me to other moments in time.  Here’s a little story that popped into my head with the resurfacing of a song this morning on my train ride:

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…

Spring 2000, Systems Optimization, and my first foray into classes at Sloan. One of my classmates was a really nice guy, friend of friends. One evening, classwork got particularly friendly (hey, it was college), and then not surprisingly, the rest of the semester was a bit awkward.  He sent me an mp3 of him covering a late-90s pop ballad – beautiful, but also awkward.  Whether it was perceived awkwardness, or awkwardness in reality, I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but back then I responded with my typical reaction, which was to run away and hide hide hide.

At some point in the semester, he sent me an email, saying that I should listen to Beautiful by Joydrop, it’s a good song, I’d like it.  I brushed it off, put the mp3 into the iTunes, er, WinAmp library and listened to it eventually, thinking very little of it.  Until one day, a few years later, when I finally “heard” the lyrics.

I feel contrite every time I hear this song in the rotation…because he was probably telling me that I was a total asshole.  Telling me that I thought I was too good to treat people well.  And I missed it, for years.  My journal tells me that at that time I had no pretense about being beautiful, and thought I wasn’t good enough for anyone, and that I was preoccupied by other things and other people in my life to truly realize anything about anything ever having to do with him.  

Or, maybe this is all overthought, and he just sent me a cool song.  

Funny thing is, when I finally understood these lyrics, I was in the middle of being brushed off by someone else after a few intense dates, and was really tempted to send the song to him in a fit of melodramatic rage—karma is a bitch.

I tried to make amends once, around 2005.  I ended up having to bail on dinner plans, last minute, due to a long-running, over-indulgent post-work outing. Probably confirmed that I am truly an asshole, and I haven’t seen him since.

I keep the song in the library, as well as the mp3 of the cover, to remind me to never have my head that far up my own ass, just in case.

On my sudden “fame”…

Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero of all teenage girls in the 90's.  Photo: IMDB

Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero of all teenage girls in the 90’s. Photo: IMDB

I was totally humbled and honored when my friend and fellow blogger, K.C. Wise, nominated my post on #HowIMetYourRacism for Freshly Pressed…and yesterday it appeared in a jumble of posts and comments and follows that instantly derailed my productivity and introduce me to the larger WordPress community.

Wow.  Thank you.  Thank you!  and you!  and you!

Now, for those who know me personally, I am one who gets star-struck when I see celebrities among us.  Like the time Mark Wahlberg was working out at my gym, and he walked down the stairs, and I thought, “hey, that looks an awful lot like—” and then he said, “Hello”, and all I could say in response was “uh-huh-huh-huh.”  It’s like that.

I realize that being Freshly Pressed does not make me THAT kind of a celebrity, but I am so grateful to have thoughtful comments on my blog, to interact with new people, and to discover and follow more voices in the people who have followed my blog.  Thank you to all who stopped by to read and I hope that you’ll stay to learn more about me or tell me something about yourself.

I hope that my future posts are valuable to discussion as well, but I can’t promise pithy-ness at every turn, since I am fairly entertained by the mundane and shallow that is out there as well.  (There is a Taylor Swift post somewhere in the works, and it’s probably not going to be what you think.)  All this attention on my words makes me think of my favorite movie of all time, Say Anything, starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a GREAT one to Netflix on this snowy day.

I don’t know, I can’t figure it all out tonight sir, I’m going to hang with your daughter. 

Not gonna figure it all out tonight.  Just gonna hang with…you guys.  

Standards-Based Grading: Beyond the Common Core

There’s more of a post here someday about how teaching is project management and how all these teaching skills are transferable and overlooked, but for now, here’s a little about what I USED to do, via Gradeable.

Higher Order Teaching

sbg beyond the core

For most of the month, we’ve been talking about standards-based grading in terms of the Common Core’s set of standards. But the Common Core State Standards are only one set of standards to be graded to. To illustrate another take on standards-based grading, I talked to our customer success manager Sheri. Sheri taught science at a Boston-area charter school and used both Massachusetts standards and school-specific standards.

Below is what Sheri calls a curriculum alignment template (CAT). This is a chart she developed as a roadmap in August before the school year started. Since Sheri’s school used both Massachusetts and school-specific standards, her plan used state standards to orient the lesson and school-specific standards to fine tune her approach. So if the Massachusetts standard was “grocery shopping,” Sheri’s standards would be like buying “milk, eggs, bread” that define grocery shopping.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 10.37.23 AM

If you turn your attention to the CAT, you can…

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#HowIMetYourRacism and the disappointing reality of ignorance

Apparently this passes as OK for primetime TV.  Photo: CBS.

Apparently this passes as OK for primetime TV. Photo: CBS.

What happened, and how I feel about what happened

For those who don’t do entertainment news, or watch TV, here’s the summary.  The sitcom, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM), starring some of my fave actors (including Neil Patrick Harris and Allyson Hannigan), produced an episode as an “homage” to kung-fu movies.  In “yellowface.” With white actors and kimonos and fans and fu manchus.

When I saw the news on this piece, I felt my stomach drop, because I knew, KNEW, that I was going to be disappointed by ignorant people.  I was not disappointed about being disappointed.

Here are my thoughts on this in a jumble:

  • You know, I DO do race jokes.  I do think that they come up in settings that are not offensive.  Jokes can be insight into cultural truths.  And let’s face it, Asian culture can be so funny.  (See this Asian dad.  My own dad is NOT like this at all, but I still think the caricature is accurate and funny.)
  • Yellowface and kung-fu parody is NOT an homage to Asian culture, and it does not inform any real cultural truths.  It’s not humor to write in bit parts about uninformed stereotypes of black/African-American people (yes, both terms, some prefer one or the other) in blackface, and it’s not humor to be just shy of taping some slanty eyes and using a heavy Asian accent when white actors lampoon Asians.  There is definitely more to be said about the Asian portrayal in media in general, but that’s for a different post.
  • The writers of the show did apologize, and I accept that apology on behalf of myself.  No, it’s not possible to always know what you’re doing will be horribly offensive.  It should not ruin you forever.  (Unless you are the former CEO of Lululemon.  As Colbert puts it, “hirarious.“)
  • The media is equally disappointing with their headlines of “racism claims” (thanks CBS News and Entertainment Weekly), and “people up in arms” (thanks CNN). This backlash is not imagined and it’s not overreaction, but thank you for your amazing journalism that is perpetuating this problem.  I’m sorry you’re not sorry.
  • The most disappointing part is that the episode had to be implicitly approved by MANY MANY people before it got made and aired.  This means large numbers of people were aware that this could possibly be really offensive…and still okayed it.  Neil Patrick Harris had to OK it.  Allyson Hannigan had to OK it.  The writers and producers and all other actors thought it was OK.
  • This is most disappointing because it really highlights the pervasiveness of this sentiment that it’s “just a joke.”  Oh hey, btw, my life and my experience has not all been A+ and piano competitions, and my experiences are not “just” a joke.  OK, maybe it has been a bunch of A+’s and piano competitions.  And that’s funny.  But the joke is definitely so much more complex.

Now here’s something that will certainly get me some shit.  I don’t watch HIMYM.  I was going to start, because I got the DVD set as a gift.  I’ve seen a few episodes, and they were funny.  And you know what, since I didn’t find those episodes particularly offensive, I acknowledge that I too am part of the broken system.

I am not perfect, and I say offensive ignorant things.  Usually, they stay with me for years, and I can’t get over how offensive they are and why they ever left my mouth.  I once tried to join a conversation with a Peruvian girl from my MBA class by talking about these great pupusas I had recently eaten.  Which are Salvadorian.  And she looked at me like I was the dumbest piece of crap ever.  What I meant to say was that the restaurant I went to also had Peruvian dishes.  It was way too late to recover from that, so instead I just shut up and melted into the ground.  I remember the incident every single time that she is tagged in friends’ Facebook posts.

But I learn.  And this takes me to the examples of people who are NOT LEARNING.  As a teacher, this infuriates me.

What “non-other” people said

As you may have seen, the website Public Shaming does a lot to highlight the terrible things that are said on Twitter. I’m a little surprised and disappointed that this topic has not hit their radar.  There are positive tweets, and there are people learning from this.  There is much discussion that wasn’t there before (even as of last night at 7PM).

Why am I sharing these negative tweets and opening myself up to flaming attacks?  Because they hurt me.  Personally.  Because people are not learning, they are just accepting that Santa Claus is white.  (Because he just is.  And because I feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean that things have to change.)

A few ground rules that would really help me out:

  1. Please do not flame or engage with these people on Twitter.  It’s not going to help them learn.  They will learn when they’re ready to learn.
  2. Don’t flame me for being personally hurt.  Engage me in conversation to help me learn.

I don’t understand how I am a racist for not thinking that kimonos and kung fu even start to describe my entire culture.  Or, as I tweeted yesterday, culture-S.  We are not one culture.  We are many cultures.  Also…I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Why yes, I cried at home over how mean CBS was.  Mean mean mean!  I’m going to tell my mommy!  Then kung-fu everyone!

Let me grow some balls now, because balls will make me more relevant.

OK, we’re not the MOST oppressed people.  Hey Asians, let’s go out and pick on those who are more oppressed than us!  (Also, jealous much of our “success?”) UPDATED to add:  He’s a burgeoning “comedian”, according to his Twitter profile.  I hope he doesn’t use these jokes.


Actually this is 100% why I don’t watch Big Bang Theory.  Because it’s not smart, and it doesn’t actually say anything about smart people that pushes the envelope of cultural truth.

Nope, not offended by Kill Bill.  Now THAT was an homage.

Um, YES.  We are ALREADY saying that.  Which didn’t stop me from being shocked when I drove up to the drive-thru window of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Thanksgiving day to see all the girls serving coffee with paper feathers and headbands with the Dunkin Donuts logo.  Oh…my…god…justdriveawaywiththecoffee…

That’s the LAST STRAW.  Now you’re making fun of us because we’re short?!?!

Thanks for listening, and hopefully learning.  You don’t need to tiptoe around me with race jokes.  Race jokes and racist jokes are different. Above all things, know your audience.  (And that is definitely a different post for a different day.)