Mar 14, 2012

A message to my Father


let me take a moment to thank you. For thirty years (twenty-five of which I remember) you have been a role model, a hero and a paradigm of what an upstanding, intelligent, hard-working, patient man and father should be.

From teaching me to ride a bike (speed equals balance, you would say) to taking me out on a summer evening to practice fielding ground balls. Your diligence and patience with me are the things I remember most clearly.

In preschool you would pick me up and take me back to your office. I'd find all your pens and use them to create colorful drawings, wasting precious ink in the process. Yet, you encouraged me to write stories to go along with my drawings. Perhaps you saw, at that early of an age, where my passion would lay...

When I think about all the lessons I've learned from you, both explicit (how to tie a tie, how to iron my pants to maintain a crease) and implicit (watching you interact with Mother and learning how to treat a woman properly), I can't imagine you not being there to not only guide me but also be the end goal on my path.

However, you're not the end goal. As you once told me, it is my job to do better than you, to go farther and achieve more. Lofty aspirations, but not impossible.

I would count it a success to match you but I thank you for instilling in me the drive, determination and the unwillingness to settle.

So, happy birthday. And, again, thank you for everything.

Mar 7, 2012

Paintball or, Battle for Dummies

I went paintballing over the the weekend. It was the activity of choice by one of my cousins for her birthday. She sent out a text message a few days ahead of the event.

"Hey! Finalized Bday plan: this Sunday, we are going paintballing!  They say to wear long sleeves, long pants, stuff you can move in and can get dirty. FYI: getting hit does hurt, but it's all in fun so hopefully we will all be ok! Let me know if you have any questions or concerns, and also that you've received this. Thanks and see you soon!!!"

The calm before the Storm...
When I received the text message, I laughed. The fact that she said getting hit hurts was clue enough about who would be attending this affair.

Some highlights:
- My cousin (the older sister of the birthday girl) saying "Gotcha, bitch!" after shooting an opponent.
-  One of the birthday girl's friends unloading several shots at close range into the facemask and head of an opponent even after he called himself out.
- Me shouting curses at a teammate for taking me out with "friendly fire."
- The birthday girl cowering in a corner, eyes wide behind her facemask, clutching her gun, saying repeatedly "is it okay? Is it okay?"

The aftermath: beaten down and battle-scarred
Suffice to say, we were generally outclassed in terms of equipment, paintballs and fervor for the sport. The photos do a great job of telling our tale. We spent three hours at the place and played two games. Then we went to On the Border for dinner.

I enjoyed the experience even though it was much more intense than the other times I played paintball. I've come to realize that, if I had the time and capital, paintball would be an activity I could really get into. That being said, if I don't play again I'll be okay with that.

Mar 2, 2012

Substitute Stories pt. 2

"Nancy" has been a substitute teacher for three years. "I love the hours, and summers off" she says with a smirk. As a retired teacher, Nancy finds that "subbing," as she calls it, is a great way for her to stay connected to teaching and education. "I can set my own schedule and I don't have to worry about not working if I don't want to" she says.

When she worked as a teacher, Nancy taught freshmen English, both at level and pre-AP. Yet, when she substitutes, she enjoys branching away from her areas of expertise."Subbing can be fun and challenging if you're willing to step outside your comfort zone," she says.

This idea is illustrated best when she tells the story of one of her first substitute jobs. "I signed up for a job subbing in a high school English class" she says. "I figured I knew the material so it would be an easy day." When she got to the school, the administration threw her a curve ball.

"I found out that they [the school] didn't need an English sub, but a math sub," Nancy says chuckling. "I took the job because I didn't feel like driving all the way back home for nothing."

Even though it was a geometry class the morning periods were rough. "The teacher left a worksheet for the class but they didn't understand the information. I ended up having to explain Platonic forms and how to calculate volumes of solid objects with only a few minutes prep between each class" she says.

Luckily, substitute teaching tends to be repetitive. By the afternoon, Nancy knew the information and how best to relay it to her students. "I created a game where the students would get points for their team if they could correctly identify forms and tell me the formula for calculating its volume."

All in all, Nancy appreciated the experience. "Subbing in a class that wasn't in my area of study showed me that it's possible for a sub to step into almost any class room and still be affective" she says.

If nothing else, it demonstrates her versatility. A quality that should be a part of all good Substitute teachers.