Sunday, March 30, 2014

It Was A Lovely Day

It was a lovely day that started with snow. I cleared out the snow from the driveway and did my customary Sunday morning grocery shopping. Throughout the day I graded papers, responded to e-mails, and prepared for tomorrow's classes. Mack got to play in the snow. The day moved quick. Dinner is in the oven--a loaf of meat from Wegmans. I just spread some barbecue sauce on top and pop it in the oven. Do up a little salad and there you go, dinner for four plus leftovers for lunch tomorrow. We keep it simple over here. The sun is shining famously right now and last night's snow is melting fast. After dinner we'll walk around the block or chase the kids as they ride bikes. I have high hopes for an easy bedtime. I'll probably enjoy a beer when the kids go to sleep. It's great when Sunday is a lovely day.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Angst (A Short Poem)

I like it when my angst returns.
I've never been able to pinpoint the source.
But I know it keeps me alive and on fire.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Small Talk (A Very Short Story)

It's cool that social media stuck around. It gives us something to talk about aside from the weather. There's more to do than gripe about work or trade stories about the daily grind. Plus, it's not like people want to talk about shattered dreams or how capitalism is a drag. So maybe social media is doing us a favor.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Teacher Who Told Me I'd Amount To Something

I don't remember much from third grade. But I remember my teacher encouraging me to read. I don't know exactly how this came to be, but for some reason he purchased a subscription to Reader's Digest for me when I was in his class. Not the most exciting magazine for a child to read, but when issues started arriving at my home, well, I read them. I don't recall much of what I read in elementary school. My best guess is that I was mostly reading about football players and baseball players; I have slight recall of borrowing books about professional athletes from the school library.

I have no idea if Mr. Hartman encouraged my classmates to read in a similar way. I truly don't know if he took special interest in my academic development or if he did this for a lot of students. Either way, he pegged me as a reader and helped develop my interest in reading. It was a nice thing to do, and looking back I understand the significance of being treated as a "smart kid" by a teacher. Although I don't know how he saw me in comparison to my peers, the mere act of having Reader's Digest come to my home, courtesy of my teacher, sent a signal to me that I was a worthy student. It was a way of telling a child that he could amount to something. It was an action of a teacher that made a difference. Mr. Hartman invested in me as a student and a reader. In doing so, he helped me along a path to academic success.

The title for this post is a nod to Biggie Smalls' song "Juicy," which opens with him announcing: "This album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothing..." This reminds us that teachers treat students in dramatically different ways. Biggie celebrates achievement and success despite being doubted and downgraded at an early age. Notice the song includes the lyrics "considered the fool cause I dropped out of high school." A person isn't doomed to failure in life if they don't thrive in school, nor is a person guaranteed success because they did. It's not as though every teacher in my life affirmed my academic identity. I wasn't constantly reinforced in positive ways as a student. I did encounter teachers who doubted me and who didn't respect my academic potential. But overall, I definitely benefited from positive treatment by teachers. When you get as much kindness and support from teachers as I did, it's easy to see yourself as a "good student" and to act accordingly.

This is a picture of my third grade class. I am in the front row, wearing lots of brown, and sporting a Miami Dolphins belt buckle if I'm not mistaken. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, NY, no one is sure why I was a Dolphins fan at the time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Perspective Taking and Conflict Resolution in Everyday Life

The magnificent Stevie Wonder performs a Beatles song with the Obama family and Paul McCartney in the audience.

"Try to see things my way," as the song goes. "Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting," it is said, making the task at hand urgent: We can work it out.

I've always liked this song. It speaks to my idealistic (naive) side in which I am inclined to believe that people with different viewpoints can arrive at a realistic solution. But there are questions to consider: What are factors that inhibit communication between parties with different perspectives? Can contrasting beliefs and views always be reconciled? Aren't there times when impasse is inevitable? Unfortunately, there are times when we come to a dead end. In those cases, no productive solution lies ahead. This can happen in any type of relationship: friendship, romance, marriage, work, politics, etc. Conflicts occur in all corners of life.

"Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong" are words to suggest that one clings to a position, convinced it's the correct one to take. As if to say, I believe I am right, at least right now. If you would just listen to me and take my perspective, we could work things out. We don't have the luxury of time. Let's settle this quarrel or else "our love may soon be gone." The stakes are high, so it's crucial to work it out immediately. But is a compromise in mind? Is it implied that the parties should meet somewhere in the middle? In reality, taking someone else's perspective may not be enough to get to the root of the problem.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sometimes, the Lines of Communication Are Closed

From a piece I wrote some years ago at Everyday Sociology Blog:

"You misread somebody. You fail to catch someone’s drift. You can’t get on the same page. You argue with text messages. You misinterpret nonverbal communication. You take them the wrong way. You incorrectly assume their intentions and motives. Sometimes you are able to clear up your misunderstanding and sustain your interaction. Other times, there’s no use. It seems like every time you talk to this person you hit a snag."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

29 Seconds of a Buffalo Blizzard

This is what our front yard looked like yesterday:

And here is the view from our front door today:

 For the record, I love the Buffalo-Niagara region and I am proud to call it my home. But this is the harshest and longest winter of my life.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Texting With My Wife

Texting with my wife is one of the great pleasures of my life.
We live together so there's plenty of time to talk.
But texting is a space to say different things.
Fun things.
Mess around a bit.
Go with the old XOXO.
Drop in a LOL for good measure.
It feels different than the routine.
There are lots of ways to say I love you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Way Of Thinking About Gossip


Walking In a Winter Wonderland

Also known as Spring Break in Buffalo. A peaceful walk with Mack Schoepflin this morning.

The Things We Hold Onto

Went through some old boxes of memories and started throwing stuff away. It was time to let some shit go. It felt liberating. I did hold onto a few things.

This is a journal entry from October 29, 1994. I had just finished taking a road trip across the country with two friends. I graduated from college earlier in the year, and spent the summer working at a pizzeria on Pine Avenue in my hometown Niagara Falls, NY to earn some money for our trip.

I got a job as a counselor at a residence for at-risk and disadvantaged children soon after writing this entry. By the fall of 1995, I was in graduate school at Stony Brook University when I began working toward my Ph.D. in Sociology.

Fast forward to 2014. I'm 41, married nine years with two kids. Life is good. What they say is true: time flies.