multiplication rocks!

I’m good with math. That’s important to note at the beginning.

I can calculate approximate percentages in my head at the snap of a finger. I can add 168+437+12 in 20 seconds. That’s the simple stuff. The more complex things are harder to show off, but I can do it.

numbers icons

I come by this skill honestly. My dad was a mathematics major in college (in case you’re wondering what on earth you can do with a math major, this was 1958 and he ended up with a lifetime career at IBM.)

Still, while I ultimately mastered every math class from grade school to college, it took most of the semester to get it right. I hated math for that reason.

Once I got it, I got it. In grade school, my teachers gave up on me. My dad, fortunately, also had a strong ability to teach and took over. Division frustrated me and word problems, forget it. If there’s one thing I probably still would struggle with from those years, it would be which train got there first and how many apples did they deliver per person. Or whatever.

In high school, my one math teacher – both years – figured out my struggle, was patient and gave me the final grades I deserved. He’d grin and say, “I know you know the answer” when I can guarantee you, I did not. I was frustrated but ultimately his belief in me and patience paid off.

In spite of failing half of the quizzes and tests throughout the semester, I achieved 100% on the finals. If he’d averaged my grades through the semester, I would have barely passed, but he gave me a fairly earned “B+” each time.

In college, my learning experience was the same. However, although I told my professor throughout the semester this was typical and I wasn’t worried, he assumed I’d cheated on the final (again, 100%) and gave me a D- for the course.

Today, my final grade in that course is irrelevant. I achieved the skills and still use them. I USE ALL THOSE SKILLS TODAY.

Why is this worth noting? Because no doubt many students share my learning curve, but in today’s teaching environment don’t get the chance to ultimately succeed. Math matters. Like a cheerleader I’ll say it again: Math Matters!


(Thanks go to a fellow blogger, whose blog http://journey2helpchildrenwithmath.com inspired today’s post.)


Image credit: © Gstudio Group – Fotolia

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bored? maybe. board? no!

You don’t want to play board games with me.

Not because I’m so good. I’m above average with most, but no superstar. You have a decent chance at beating me.

Board game player isolated.Wherein lies the problem. I don’t like getting beat in board games. Really don’t like it. I pout when I lose, so no one else likes it either. But they’re none too thrilled when I win. I can’t help myself. I gloat.

For some reason, success and failure at Parcheesi & Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble & Monopoly, mean way too much to me. This isn’t a side of myself I’m proud of, so I haven’t played a board game in years.

(Last time I did, by the way, I was partnered with my brother in a game of Trivial Pursuit. We won in one round – the first round. Yes, I’m smiling a little too smugly as I recall this.)

Another place you may not want to be seen with me? Hockey games. I get really low-class in my bloodlust at the rink. I want to see people get hurt going after that puck.

So I don’t go to hockey games anymore either, because in that case, I’m actually a little scared of myself.

Where on earth does this behavior come from? I can’t point to anything, especially the hockey. No offense intended to the sport, but any other time I have virtually no interest in it. I don’t know the rules, the strategies, nothing. Get me live at a game, though, and I’m not me.

parcheesi

Okay, the gloat/pout thing could be a bit of perfectionism, and it’s a competitive side of me that doesn’t have much of a chance to show itself elsewhere, since I am definitively non-athletic. Fit, yes, but I can’t throw, hit or catch a ball. I’m not fast. You get it.

Ah, it’s becoming clearer. I’ve been on the bottom when it comes to sports my entire life. With board games, I have a shot (so to speak). Take that, mean girls!

I know, I know, I hear it. My conclusion here should be, “well, best thing is to give up this desire to beat everyone else. Just enjoy the games and the company with it.”

Rather, I find myself thinking, I need to discover something I can almost always win at.

Almost? Always.

I have a little work to do.


Photo Credits: (top) © isuaneye; (bottom) © carballo, (both) DollarPhotoClub.com

jaunty…or, my best gifts given, part two. my best gifts received, always.

Ten years ago my friendship with Mary began, and two years ago it ended when she passed away at the age of 53.

Mary had outlived the odds from the day she was born, when her birth mother was told she wouldn’t make it more than six months. Later, her adoptive parents were told the same thing repeatedly throughout her childhood — and as an adult, Mary heard it so often she stopped telling her husband, Mike.

Mary was one of those people who had hundreds of “best friends.” Selbu Modern - pink & gray tamShe would do whatever she could for any of them, including me. She was gutsy and kind. When she went into the hospital for what turned out to be the last time, Mike asked me to make her a “jaunty beret” because her treatment had caused much of her hair to fall out, and she was self-conscious about it.

I immediately set out to find the right pattern and right yarn — something soft for what I imagined might be sensitive skin — and knit up this little hat here.

Actually, this is the second hat I knit in this pattern. I never took a picture of the first one, which went to Mary. When I asked Mike if she liked it, he said she hadn’t had a chance to try it on. After a short time, I caught on. She was too sick for this to matter the least bit.

She maybe never saw the hat at all, or the slippers I included with it. However, I don’t feel anything but gratitude I had a chance to show her my love by knitting this for her, in the off-chance she knew about it.

Last week another Mary in my life died, one month shy of her 41st birthday. It was stunningly sudden. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been entirely surprised, however, for this Mary had lost her eldest son ten years ago to leukemia, and hadn’t been the same since. In many ways she’d moved on beautifully, but her heartache showed itself quietly. It’s possible that pain influenced the way she cared for herself. I don’t know, and it would be wrong for me to assume.

Kims Slippers red rose IIOne day on impulse I gave her a pair of slippers I’d knit from a pattern I designed. She started to cry.

“You don’t know what this means to me,” she said.

They were only slippers, so I really didn’t, but I was touched it meant so much. And oh-so-glad I’d done it. If my one small gesture made even a tiny part of her life better, I only wish I could have done a hundred times more. She was special and deserved to know it.

I’m lucky I have a skill I can use to show my love to others, and far luckier for those I have to receive those gifts. Rest in peace, my friends, your suffering is over. You were a gift and a blessing to me. My life is better because you were in it.

one man’s shame is another man’s glory

Ah, guilty pleasures. If you don’t have one, shame on you.

guilty pleasureFor me, it’s currently the TV show “Jane the Virgin.” I know, I know. That’s why it’s a guilty pleasure. To those of who you feel a need to start talking about PBS when I mention it, phooey. There’s a reason I like it. It’s fun. It’s good. It’s pure escapism.

There are a few songs I’ll blast when need be…well, actually, my apartment has thin walls and bitchy neighbors (including me on occasion), so I don’t really blast the music. It’s just played a wee bit louder than usual.

“Money for Nothing.” Hmmm…maybe not so much to feel guilty about there.

“Sugar Sugar.” A little closer. (Completely irrelevant to this piece, my friend Tom uses this as the ring tone for his wife.)

“It’s Raining Men.”

That’s what I’m talking about. I think that’s as bad as I get, but I’ll stop just in case.

Now there are other things I like that confuse some people as well, but I don’t think of them as guilty pleasures, anything I’m going to hide from the public. I have all seven seasons of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on DVD. When the cable guy came out (on time – what do you know!) he looked at them, looked at me, and said, “well, I used to watch cartoons.”

Again, phooey! Frankly, I don’t get the comparison.

Now some of you have guilty pleasures I don’t want to know about, and thank you for keeping that information to yourself. Others of you are just plain boring. Ice cream is not a guilty pleasure. You may feel guilty about eating it, but that’s not the same thing. There has to be something a little shameful, a little “what the what?” about it.

In some circles, “Jane the Virgin” isn’t going to be a guilty pleasure. In my friends’ elitist little world, it is, so I keep quiet. Yet those snoots have their favorite less-than-esoteric television shows I never give them grief about.

Oh, I’m not going to list them because one man’s shame is another man’s glory. (I just made that up.) Like Jane. The more I think about it, the less guilty I feel. It’s funny. It’s campy. It’s a telenovela.

Wait, I just watched last night’s re-run. It IS a guilty pleasure…but a really good one.

a little less class, a little more kitsch

If we’re lucky our homes will never look precisely decorated, because along the way we’ll accumulate campy pieces of kitsch,  treasured objects that speak to our hearts, and we’ll have to display them.

Ah, FranciscoFor me, it was an ashtray given as a joke by some family member, probably my mom or brother. It had a black plastic base with a hand-painted metal flamenco dancer screwed into the middle. Joke was on them. I loved it.

I don’t smoke, and guests in my home aren’t allowed to either, so instead I loaded it with red cinnamon candy and proudly set it on my coffee table.

No one, but no one, saw the beauty in Francisco the Fleet-Footed Flamenco Dancer that I did. It was frequently suggested I replace him with something a bit, shall we say, classier. I really didn’t see how Francisco fell short. (Okay, I did, but love is kind.)

Then I got a roommate. She was appalled, and went as far as trying to enlist my mother’s help to “get rid of that thing.” Mom warned her it was useless. Thus began a minor battle between my roommate and me.

“People will think it’s okay to smoke,” she’d say.

“That’s why there’s candy in there.” I’d reply.

“The colors aren’t right in this room,” she’d try later, standing in the living room as I walked down the hall.

“It’s so small, it’s an accent piece, it doesn’t matter,” I called back.

I never feared for Francisco’s safety, however, until I came home one day while she was on a business trip. He lay on his side on the coffee table, completely twisted off the base.

“Ooooh NOOOOO!” I cried. She forever denied it, but all the evidence said that woman had hired a damn assassin to do her dirty work while she was away.

I immediately called my friend Bud and asked if he could solder the pieces together. Within hours, Francisco sat upright in his proper place again. But I was resigned to the fact he needed a new home, at best somewhere safer in the apartment.

My kitschy little ashtray went into a box and stayed there for I don’t know how many years. He resurfaced every time I moved, but never made it onto the coffee table again. Eventually he disappeared.

I miss Francisco. Everything in my living room now is so…classy. It could use a little lesser art.


Image credit: (shadow image) © adrenalinapura – DollarPhotoClub.com

but I want you to like me

Am I an Ugly American? I certainly recognize it in others.

travel to Europe lrBack before the Euro was in circulation, it could be a challenge for American tourists & business travelers to rid themselves of one nation’s coins before entering another country. You couldn’t trade in coins internationally, and tended to spend them at the border.

My boss and I were traveling from France into Germany, and we stopped at a bar he was convinced few Americans knew about.

“Bonjour,” I said to the bartender, who winked at me as he gestured to us to sit at the bar.

As we paid for our drinks, I started to pull out any French coins I had. We were about to end up with a fair amount of money that would be useless to us.

“Don’t do that,” my boss said in a loud whisper. “They’ll know we’re Americans.”

“So what? We’re Americans,” I replied. “I can’t change that.” He looked furious.

“Trust me,” I went on, matching his stage whisper. “They know we’re Americans. They spotted us the minute we walked in. Right?” I looked to the bartender, who gestured to the crowd behind us. I turned and most were smiling and nodding their heads.

I asked the bartender if it were a problem paying in coins. “We have currency,” I told him, “and we really don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“It’s not a problem,” he said, “Money is money. And tourists, we understand.”

“’L’argent est l’argent’?” I replied. I’d studied French. “Or is it, ‘l’argent c’est l’argent’?”

I wasn’t sure if my grammar was right, but the words were correct.

“Parlez-vous français?” he asked with a grin.

I rattled off a phrase I’d memorized in French saying, basically, I’d studied French for six years but now I’ve forgotten most of it. “Actually,” I continued in English, “I’m having a hard time understanding what people are saying here.”

© canicula - Dollar Photo ClubWe went on to have a conversation I’m sure he’d had a dozen – or a hundred – times before, how it’s one thing to learn a language in a classroom, and another to speak it in a native environment. How Americans who study French have little opportunity to actually practice it anywhere outside the classroom. And so on.

I felt so burdened NOT to be the Ugly American, I was afraid I was becoming one.

My boss was fuming. “They hate Americans,” he told me, again with his not-so-subtle whisper.

“Well, I can’t do anything about that,” I said, not even pretending to whisper, and turned to the bartender. “I hope I’ve been respectful. It’s hard sometimes, not knowing how you’re perceived.”

Immediately I was pretty sure I knew how he perceived my boss. We both seemingly deliberately weren’t looking at him.

“If I didn’t like tourists, all tourists, I’d open a bar somewhere else,” the bartender said, and winked again.

We got up to leave. “Au revoir,” I said.

“A bientôt,” the bartender replied, and moved toward another customer, American, I guessed. A few others seated at tables nodded at us as we walked out, and I smiled at them and nodded back.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” my boss said. “Americans don’t know about this place.”

Sacré bleu! Oh wait, the French don’t actually say that.

Image Credits: (top) Map © Teiteosia – Dreamstime.com Airplane graphic © Paul Herbert – Fotolia.com; (bottom) Eiffel Tower graphic © canicula – DollarPhotoClub.com

toggled togs

Just Between Friends

Monday
Dear Lauren:

Got my new running togs today. I’m going to start practicing for the 10k tomorrow. It’s in three months! I’m so excited! He’s sure to really notice me then!

Love,
Mindy

Tuesday
Dear Mindy:

Not again. Honey, don’t start running unless it’s really what you want to do. He may notice you, but remember what happened to me when I tried to impress a guy by running. Remember? I told him I LOVED IT when in fact I’d never run before, and threw up fifty feet into the run. He noticed me alright, but I never saw him again.

Love,
Lauren

Later Tuesday
Dear Lauren:

I know, I know. But this time I am so sure he’s so right for me. We have so much in common. Like, we both like the James Bond movies with Sean Connery in them. I mean, who else do you know who likes those?

Only thing is I saw him staring at some blonde the other day, so I think I’ll dye my hair blonde. It’ll go better with my new outfit anyway.

Love,
Mindy

Wednesday
Dear Mindy,

If you dye your hair blonde, I’m flying 3,000 miles to dye it back red. And I like Sean Connery just as well as you do. In fact, I introduced you to those movies.

Love,
Lauren

Thursday
Dear Lauren,

Then I won’t dye my hair because if you come out here and he finds out about you & Sean Connery he’s going to like you better!

Love,
Mindy

Saturday
Dear Mindy,

When you’ve actually talked to this man, let me know.

Love,
Lauren

Later Saturday
Dear Lauren,

It’s not like we’ve never talked. Just not much!

Love,
Mindy

Thursday
Dear Lauren,

I just got some new boating togs. I’m sending you a picture showing you why! 🙂

Love,
Mindy

Later Thursday
Dear Karen,

If history is any predictor, you’re about to get some running togs.

Love,
Lauren