Certain Truths

There are a few Truths that I thought, naively here in my Libra-Bubble, we had all agreed upon…

  1. The Sun is the center of our solar system not Earth
  2. The Earth is round
  3. Gravity, while wondrous and magical is not magic
  4. Mass extinction and Climate change are real and happening
    1. and We as a race caused it. If you are not ready to accept responsibility for this mass issue – OK – I hear yah.. so let me put it this way, for our purposes it does not matter who is to blame, us, earth, time .. We can help to slow it down, everyday doing small things.. What do you say?
  5. Our Universe was created by the Big Bang
    1. OK creationists, before your knickers get all twisted, I offer that I believe there is more evidence of the Devine in hard science than in any man made book… Does that help?
  6. War is bad for everyone but Halliburton
  7. bill_of_rights_pg1of1_acALL humans are created equally and deserve to be treated equally before the eyes of the law.
    1. I know I am in grey waters here.. I am not totally sure that everyone believes this, as evidenced by who populates our prisons and who get’s their asses grabbed on the subway. Even if this is not absolute yet, shouldn’t we be working towards this?
    2. Being equal, having provenance over your own body? … I am hedging my bets – Reproductive rights? Anyone?
  8. Freedom of Press, Speech and Expression wether you like what someone has to say or not. Just please don’t insight a riot – Do all the protests Trump has started count?
    1. If I could add an amendment it would be that the Press MUST be impartial and Factual ONLY.. let story tellers, comedians and entertainers do their job, you do yours.
  9. A Right to Privacy – My life, my choices
  10. A Right to pray to whomever you choose and express your beliefs as much as you like as long as they don’t infringe on mine.

Given who was just selected as our president elect, I woke up to find out that these above were not all understood, agreed upon much less absolutes.. If as a nation we cannot agree on the most basic of issues, it’s not a wonder we can’t figure out genderless bathrooms.

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Not a Dys-Ability

I need to rant a little here today…3f4b7446e642eecc10735b7cf43fbae8

As you know I have been doing a lot of thinking, writing and reading on the subject of Dyslexia lately. A list has been made on twitter , News alerts on google, sites bookmarked and I am starting to think about getting re-diagnosed.

All this to say STOP thinking of Dyslexia as a disability. Just cut it out. It is no more a handicap than being left handed makes you the puppet of the devil or redheads turn into vampires when they die. In this culture where being sick is equal to being special, please stop counting Dyslexia among your lazy Susan of options to feel sorry. If I read one more “The Warning Signs” dun dun dun… headline I am going to scream!

Yes, we learn differently. News flash .. everyone learns differently from each other. We are not robots that can all easily fit into the industrialized education system we have made for ourselves. Not all of us fit so nicely in the warehouse model of “school”. It is not the job of “Education” to be a place to stash your kids while you go to work, make the lives of teachers and administrators easy, fit into silent rows of desks or for the love of Peter, expect good results on tests that measure NOTHING.

5009895781_6129f801b0_bCome on people, asking an 8 year of any stripe to sit quietly and still for 8 hours is the real issue here. Those that think this is a good idea are the disabled ones.. How stupid and out of touch with reality do you have to be? I mean really?

Why is it expected for us to conform to your system? We are 1 in 5.. And that is not including all the other learning styles out there.. When did the institution, School, become the god we have to all bow to? Where is the populist revolution I keep hearing about?

Across the street from my apartment is a Success Academy, I here the children chanting daily “Good Morning Miss …, A, B, C,..” and so on, in unison, all neatly lined up in a row against the wall in their uniforms. It makes my skin crawl.. It’s good to teach children to conform and submit to authority early right? Lesson learned at the Success Academy.

There is a huge and widening gap between school and education. Our society is suffering for it. The evidence is in our election choices and the rise of things like racism and isolationism.

Singling out the Dyslexics, spectrum, ADHD, behavioral issued and underserved as the excuse for a broken, ill conceived system is a losing proposition. It’s not the kids or the learning styles that’s the problem.

Further reading: The Dyslexic Advantage, Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. by Brock L. Eide M.D. M.A.  Fernette F. Eide M.D. (@drseide)

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9P

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FP

To my true mind all of the sounds of the alphabet are arbitrarily assigned symbols that represent those sounds. It’s the arbitrary part that always caused me the most trouble. Someone, somewhere in the 1st millennium BCE – likely an old, mean monk – decided the sound “pah” should look like “P” combining at least three different alphabets. Everyone acquiesced and then POOF several thousand years later I am just supposed to agree? (I can hear an english teacher I had in the 8th grade shaking her head and say, ”dear, dear, Aryn, why do make it so hard?”…)

2015-03-05-04-54-34-pmIn a way Dyslexics are natural born linguistic philosophers. No part of letters or numbers is taken for granted. It is only through conscious repetition that sound and symbol eventually get married. Now, you are saying to yourself, isn’t that true for all kids? Yes, to a degree. The difference is that there is always a lingering skepticism. There is always some air between sound, meaning and symbol. This makes reading forever slow.

“The large brown cow grazes in the green meadow.” You skim, “Lg Brwn Cow Grazes Grn Meadow”. I read “The   large   brown   cow   grazes   in   the   green   meadow”. You will forget that sentence by breakfast tomorrow. I will forever have an impression of Ferdinand with a flower behind his ear grazing in the tall green grasses outside of Madrid not remembering where I read such a lovely sentence but glad nonetheless.

Teachers are the saviors for us Dyslexics. (They can also be our biggest hurdles.. I have heard some pretty terrible stories) Good, well trained, patient, loving teachers are what make the difference. I had three that I can remember clear as day. I’m even friends on Facebook with one of them – shout to you MM! There were others, like my Chemistry teacher in the 10th grade who seeing that I was smart, but totally ill equipped for science, and wanting me to at least learn something in his class, let me write a 20 page paper on the Armenian Genocide just to pass – Thank you Mr. A. (He is Armenian and was lobbying in his off hours to have the genocide recognized officially by the UN)

There were also the countless hours with parents and guardians hovering and helping. My step mother would take dictation and type my papers for me. Into the wee hours of the night my mother would all but write my papers for me. Uncle M. would help me with geometry and my poor dad would try and muster the patience to explain multiplication again for the tenth time – 7s still give me trouble. It always confounded him that I could grasp scale, but multiplying 9×7 was torture. All this and the tutors, it truly takes a village.

My stepmother tells this story, she challenged the then headmaster of The Calhoun School to stay true to her word, that they wanted children of all learning styles. It’s right there in the mission statement still, “At Calhoun, teaching and learning begin with the strengths, needs, questions and diverse life experiences of the individual student.” I can promise you telling my stepmom “no” is not easy. So, that is where I went for eight years. Thank goodness I did. Progressive education saved me.

Most class curriculums, including most progressive formats, are based on the concept that you build up on the lessons before it. This is done linearly. The essential assumption in that concept is that the students must commit the lessons to memory and be fluid with the information. Often we do not get fluid and some simply can’t memorize any more than they could turn themselves purple. Imagine trying to do Algebra when you are still counting on your fingers.

Things like Math and Science are taught with a heavy amount of rote memorization and “it’s true because it is so”. We have already established that, for me, that argument is fruitless. I have always wondered how much easier and fun it would be, not just for the Dyslexics in the room, but all the kids, if curriculums were turned upside down and inside out. Teach the concept, the reasons, the stories and then the facts and figures. Use the numbers and signatures to illustrate the content. This way you would have a population that at least understood the basic principles of physics, even if they cannot do the problems. It should be noted here that 1 in 5 Americans are Dyslexic. Progressive could take on a new gravitas and not just be code for small classes and hands on projects.

I have mentioned this over the years to a number of teacher friends and heard all the lazy reasons why it won’t work. I can tell you that A Brief History of Time and The Tao of Physics are among my favorite books. Smart is not the issue. Different is not lesser. Once culture truly absorbs that, then anything could be possible.

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#Dyslexia #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth #Adulting #Education #LearningDisabled #Neurodiversity

Building Castles

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Castle in the Clouds by KatieRuckerArtwork

 

  • Work Hard.
  • Do what you love.
  • Leave every place and person better than when you found them.
  • We are all in this life together, moving toward the same end.

These are my values. The four pillars that hold everything else up. I assume I get them in part from my parents although they were just among the few who raised me. Countless teamsters, carpenters, wardrobe supervisors, chorus girls, production assistants, Sandra, and Unca Mark make up some of the village that raised me. The patchwork of ethics, values and morals is very … colorful. I certainly learned that people and life are kaleidoscope early.

A friend of mine always jokes that she will never play poker with me, having been taught by a teamster in Boston, it’s probably wise. There was a wealth of perspectives, values and prejudices to choose from to be sure. The 12 step tenant “Take what you like and leave the rest” has definitely been something I used to full effect. Those pillars above are what the spinner of life seems to have left as the remaining absolute truths by which I guide all my actions and build all my castles.

Working hard is what I do. I work on myself, work on my business, work at my relationships and work to try and make this world a better place. I love working hard.. In fact one of my favorite projects was re-landscaping my father’s property and doing 90% of the labor on my own. That was extremely satisfying. My Grandfather blames our work ethic on being Irish. I’m not sure.. although we are Irish. When everything starts to fall apart, my go to self help mantra is “Get back to work”. It always seems to pull me out of whatever tailspin I was starting.

Seth Godin has a good posting about this : “When you find a trick, a shortcut, a hack that gets you from here to there without a lot of sweat or risk, it’s really quite rewarding. So much so that many successful people are hooked on the trick, always looking for the next one. … There’s a meta-trick that’s far more reliable. One that works over time and doesn’t depend on avoiding being out-tricked: Make great stuff. Satisfy needs. Do the hard work that leads to growth which leads to investment on its own merit. It turns out that the trick-free approach is the best trick of all.” @thisissethsblog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/09/looking-for-the-trick.html)

Lucky for me I have built a business doing what I love to do. My dad has often said, “Do what you love and hire others to do the same.” I’ve always liked that quote. Some people love book keeping. I Know right?!? But it’s true, so why take that position away from them? “Work” is not a chore for me. This is where some people get caught up.

Work does not need to be a chore, but work is work and sometimes it is not fun. If what you have is a J-O-B and you are not doing what you love or even like then get out. There are literally thousands of options of what to be and do.. So go find it. Working hard at something you love is a gift.

The other two are the intent by which I enter every interaction. I am a populist at heart and believe deeply we have an obligation to do better in every way than our parents and ancestors. My husband and I tease our son that as long as he is talking about different things than we did in therapy, we did our job right. Everyday building on what came before us and moving toward a better world and culture, with big and small actions, is ultimately why we are all here.

  • Work Hard.
  • Do what you love.
  • Leave every place and person better than when you found them.
  • We are all in this life together, moving toward the same end.

What are your pillars? How do they manifest in your life?

Diagnosis:

10433075_10152527244942049_7538247378482333601_nIt was 1980. I was just turning 8 years old. I could not read, write or do any arithmetic. No, I was not an orphan or growing up in the developing world … It was the Upper West Side of NYC and my parents are creative entertainment professionals – we had a nice middle class life.

My Montessori school teachers, sweet as they were, missed all the cues and I was very creative in my answers. Fooling them was easy. I would even sit in the “Reading Area” for the free periods and mimic all the other kids reading. I was not reading. I was looking at the pictures and gleaning the stories from the adventurous illustrations of Dick and Jane. Lucky for me there weren’t any math quizzes.

Enter 3rd grade.

This meant a new school and books without pictures. I was screwed.

There was a test called the ERB which was the key to a shiny new school, but the test was opaque. There were no pictures, just a mess of black symbols and a pretty pink slip with lots of bubbles on it. We were instructed to fill in the bubbles with our new #2 pencils. The prompter read some of the questions aloud. “Ms. Chapman please stand up. How do you spell People?” I was stunned. Everyone was looking at me. My palms went clammy. What should I say? .. the truth.. “Miss, I don’t know enough people to be able to spell them for you” and I sat down quickly feeling proud of myself until I saw her frowning face. That was not the answer. She thought I was being obstreperous. What she did not know is, I genuinely did not understand her question, I thought she wanted me to explain people to her. It was such a fancy test after all.

The real truth is I could not have spelled out the letters P-E-O-P-L-E with a gun to my head. I had only just learned to spell “Friday” and was still pretty pumped about it. Why couldn’t she have asked me about that?

My new school was torture. I did not understand the other kids and they did not understand me. My classes were opaque, confusing and frustrating. I kept hearing about my potential, intelligence, verbal skills and precociousness .. but I was failing badly. The adults faces would always go grey and sour when talking about my school performance.. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was wrong with me.

What came next was a wash of testing. My memory of this is like a photo montage in a movie.. There were hearing tests, vision tests, physicals, neurological tests and IQ tests with blocks. My parents did not inform me what all the fuss was about, so I went through thinking that maybe all kids got to do this. You know what?  I am not “retarded” or as we would say in today’s terms “On the spectrum”

A brand new diagnosis had emerged in mainstream called Dyslexia.

Here is the official definition:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

The short of it: trouble reading, writing and learning math. Other symptoms include having no sense of direction or time and trouble learning a foreign language. The upside? Creative out of the box thinking.

I often joke that English is not my first language, Dyslexia is, so learning a third like French, chemistry or math is really too much to ask.

Anyway, since it was so new, getting help was not easy or cheap. I was promptly asked to re-do third grade. A huge blow to my confidence and in my mind rendering anyone who ever commented on how smart I was as a liar and moron. What good was being smart? A cascade of tutors and therapists followed. I think at one time I had tutoring three times and therapy once a week. One of my tutors was in this really bad part of town (Chelsea in 1981 was not pretty) and her house smelled like cats.. Another would act books out with me using Smurfs, that if I completed my reading, I would get to keep. (Remind me to tell you the Othello story) I hated going to them, but without them and their infinite patience I would never had made it through school or found my way into Milan Kundera’s beautiful novels.

Eventually I got the hang of it and went on to Bennington College and The American University in Paris. Turns out doing school is building a series of habits, like everything else. Reading is still slow, math is for calculators and my fabulous book keeper.. writing requires drafts and thank god for Siri for everything else.

The biggest advantages Dyslexia gives you are profound coping mechanisms and solutions for everything in daily life. My son said to me the other day, “Mom, you are really good at this adult stuff.” I credit my Dyslexia, at least in part, for that and I am grateful.
#Dyslexia #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth #BenningtonCollege #Adulting #Education #LearningDisabled #Neurodiversity

Existential Morning

 

Finding your authentic self. That is the key to any happiness. Honoring it and being brave enough to live in that space is the ultimate goal. That could look like anything and if you are in that space then there is no comparison to celebrity or the Joneses that matters.

After the milestones and life’s to do list, what do you have left? The parties, birthdays, successful interviews, deaths, divorces, the 4441155157_3d7449b5c7_o-670x496whirlwind of updates and posts.. What are you left with? Trimmings don’t make the meal.

With infinite possibilities for direction and distraction comes infinite confusion, stress and anxiety. For the inner self the world was easier and a better place when it was small. People knew their futures and where they fit or not. Even if they chose to rebel against it, at least they had a boundary to push against.

This is the modern depression. This is the modern quest for self, true self, not a rented self.. The space that you find deep in your heart where you feel like you did before all the noise started pouring in. The “you have to be pretty”, “you have to be strong”, “you have to be rich”.. All those messages, not just from the world, but from your parents molding you in their own image. The self without labels.

Who am I? This existential quest is more acute now than ever. Couched as “your personal brand” can only come from really understanding who you are and why. Although the marketing lingo sounds trite and frivolous, the heart of it is important. If as a culture and species we are to thrive in this brave new noisy world, finding that inner compass is essential. Ownership of your identity and self is essential.

Every book on business development, marketing, and self help… any book written with an eye towards bettering the person reading it in the last ten years, has at least a chapter in this vein. It is clearly a need that is basic and pervasive. This is only going to increase as Millennials begin their searches after a lifetime of being lorded over by helicopter parenting.

I would have to say that since high school these have been the questions I have asked myself:

  • What am I good at?
  • What do I love to do?
  • What is important to me?

Lately I have started ask myself why.

  • Why is producing events so attractive to me?
  • Why do I love production so much?
  • Why is supporting advocacy and equality so important to me?

Unpacking the “Whats” is my current stage of self understanding. I have a pretty good idea of the things I am good at. Some of them are marketable, like my organizational skills, ability to listen and lead a team and some are not like cracking myself up or hanging out.

For a long time I just accepted what is and what was. Maybe it’s a result of being a child of a crazy household, having to just accept the state of things and go from there. It became habit not to look too closely or dig into why things were the way they were because ultimately it did not matter why.

Now, I want to understand how I got here and pull apart the details of why. It’s important to me as my son is getting ready to take flight and I get my life back to understand myself and how I can contribute to the world around me in a meaningful way. Building this new habit and “personal brand” will take some discipline and some courage.

“The authentic self is the soul made visible” Unknown

I am up for it.

 

Related questions that I ponder:

  • Will Millennials ever be able to find themselves having had their helicopter parents in their hair since birth?
  • What are the cultural ramifications of a generation that has no self ownership?
  • What role does religion and God play in the search for self and is the modern absents of those things contribute to the cultural existential crisis?

 

#PersonalBrand #SelfOwnership #Identity