Archive for December, 2009

Happy Holidays

To you, your loved ones, and to your friends…


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If you’re like me, you might be headed to your relatives house for the holidays, and many of you might be going to homes where you are the minority. Gasp! You’re actually deaf in a hearing-dominated household.

Here are some tips you can actually consider to pass the time or make this much less of an ordeal.

1. Be prepared. No, this isn’t a Boy Scouts convention. It means to be prepared for everything and anything. You wouldn’t want to be caught off guard. I’ve learned the hard way. Great-grandmother’s coming and you didn’t know? Smile and go with the flow. There’s an impromptu event that no one shared with you? Just do it. Simply be prepared.

2. Have things to do. I think this year is different for me because I don’t have a companion to pass the time with. I’ve always had my ex-wife with me to keep me sane. This year, I’m already screaming for companionship. It does help to have my daughter with me, but when she’s playing with her new Nerf toy or fawning over her aunt, I’m all alone. I’ve resorted to reading one of the books I brought with me (this one being Brisingr), or spending time on the computer. Just last night I had an awesome Skype conversation with a friend.

3. Be patient. I’ve had dinner two nights in a row with my relatives, and unfortunately, both nights, these two relatives were talking the entire time at the dinner table and I had no idea what they were talking about, so I just ate my dinner in silence and made small talk with Leah. Tonight, I gave up and left the table after I ate. Sometimes it pays to be patient, but my patience is wearing thin, especially with two more nights to go before I go back home.

4. Being helpful can go a long way. Instead of brooding in silence in my bedroom, I could do something proactive and help out. Whether it’s helping decorate the house, helping prepare meals, or just making yourself available around the house, the relatives would appreciate it. Even if these moments may go entirely without one word uttered, you’d feel good.

5. Numb the pain. It can be painful to be left alone, to be ignored, to be told “oh, it’s nothing important” when you ask what everyone’s talking about. Believe me, I know. This is speaking from 20+ years of experience. It only got worse when my parents got divorced. This is why for the past few years my ex and I both made a joint-decision to celebrate the holidays in our own home, and make brief trips to visit our immediate families during the holidays. Your family loves you. So, just be there for them and hold onto the pain and find another way to release it later.

6. Be honest and open about your feelings. The same friend I mentioned above isn’t going home for the holidays for the first time ever. She made this decision based on feeling the same way I am feeling right now. It was hard for her to be home and feeling alone. So, what she did was she wrote an email to her family members to explain her reasons why she was not going home for the holidays this year. That email probably made some of her family members well-up with tears or feel guilty for years of pushing aside their deaf relative, but that was a heartfelt, genuine email. I’ve done this before, and none of my family members really liked hearing what I said, but I was honest and open about my feelings. If you are too, it will help the situation, at least on your end.

When all else fails…remember that you’re there for your relatives, and after all, it’s the holiday season!

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Things I learned in high school

Now, instead of what I normally would do, which is bitch about how too many people in my profession buy into wholesome learning; bitch about how high school is slowly turning into an extension of middle school, where rigorous guidelines for … oh, I don’t know, handing in homework, are thrown completely out the door; and proclaim that middle school is the cause of the ills of the educational system, I’m going to have a little more fun.

I remembered that for half of my high school career I was a shy guy who tried to fit, then the last two years of high school I did a complete 180 and found myself in the middle of the fold. And that when I really thought about it, I could name quite a few things I remember from high school.

1. How to type correctly. Blame it on my AP European history course. I was expected to type Every. Single. Assignment. Now, this was way before I even had a laptop, much less a desktop. I had a Brother word processor with a fancy monitor. Call that a digital typewriter. In fact, my father has it now and he still uses it. I typed every single night. Because of this, it’s half the reason that by the end of my college career, I could pump out a 4-page paper in 90 minutes.

2. How to kiss. I remember my first kissing experience with a girl. I’m not talking about a “kissing dare” thing from a summer camp or anything like that. I am talking about a real, romantic kiss. We were on her bed. She had this really cool bedroom, and the lights were dimmed. It was romantic. We had our eyes locked on each other and I was trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything she said in the dimmed room. But what I really remembered is the kiss. It ended too quickly. Both the kiss and the girl. I went to a different high school months later. But what happened that night, I took with me. Oh, I forgot to add, it was already awkward because her mom was in the house too!

3. How to get a black eye. No, I didn’t get into a fight. I got a black eye playing pick-up football. I got myself stuck between the ball and a 6’4″ guy’s elbow. Me: 5’5″ and his elbow several inches above me. Bam. Now I have a misaligned eyebrow because of that black eye.

4. How to stand up for myself. When I was mainstreamed, I was subjected to taunting in the hallways. I would walk past groups of wannabe jocks who would make fun of me. Instead of becoming a gang banger and jumping on anyone who made fun of me, I took heed what my father always told me: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Instead, I learned that these little things in life aren’t worth wasting my breath on. I now know that I’ve made the best out of my experiences. Those guys who made fun of me? I’m pretty sure they’re still stuck at their parent’s house in Boiceville.

5. How cool teachers make your days better. I admit. I was a dork in the classrooms, but on the athletic fields, I removed that label. I made it a precise science to have cool teachers. In fact, I think that’s why I’m a teacher now. All of my cool teachers have been social studies teachers. Mr. Wildermuth and Mrs. McCarthy both made my long seven-classes-a-day worthwhile. I’ve always enjoyed those kind of teachers who nurture the soul. Mr. W and Mrs. McCarthy did that.

6. How to solve the Pythagorean Theorem. A squared plus B squared equals C squared. For some reason, this math phobic person really couldn’t follow algebra but for the life of me, I figured out geometry easily. Even to today, I still recall geometric formulas for areas and volumes in my head.

7. How universal themes exist throughout literature and culture. I don’t think I started to really appreciate literature until college, and even more so, appreciate it much more when I married a bibliophile. Some would gag when they hear which book resonates with me from high school, but A Thousand Acres from my AP English class is still fresh in my mind. Earlier this year, I had a long argument with a friend about why it’s important to read and my argument that so much of what we read and watch comes from the themes, motifs, etc. established in those works fell on the deaf ears (pun intended) of a Twilight fan. Anyway, this is where someone first made that point for me.

8. How NOT to be a dork while driving your first car. I’ll never forget the first day I brought my car to school — which happened to be the last day of school my sophomore year. My parents never knew this story, but I almost got into an accident with three other classmates. I was too excited about having my friends in my first car, and I didn’t properly measure the space between my car and the car stopped in front of me. In the blink of an eye, I smelled burnt rubber and my car had stopped so hard that it stalled. I meekly waved an apology to the woman in front of me and tried to adjust my heart from my stomach. I drove 30 MPH the rest of the way home.

So there you have it. You do learn things in high school.

And yes, I paid attention.

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