Depression

There are many different types of depression and it affects everyone differently. Some of the common symptoms include loss of motivation for things you once enjoyed doing, difficulty sleeping or eating, low energy, poor self-image, and difficulty concentrating. Depression affects people of all ages. Sometimes it is prompted by a drastic change in circumstance. Other times, the cause is unknown. There are genetic tendencies; in other words, it can run in the family. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

 

It is difficult for me to say this, but I have been struggling with a form of depression since this past summer.

 

At first, I didn’t know what was wrong. I was tired. I couldn’t do things like I used to. I didn’t want to write or play video games – two of my favorite hobbies. I was content collapsing on the sofa binge-watching TV show after TV show. Seriously, I watched all seasons of The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield, not to mention a dozen or so movies. It’s crazy.

 

We were renovating our upstairs and we were proud of the work we were doing, but it was so hard to get things done. I used to be able to paint a whole room on my own in a day, but here it was taking much longer in smaller rooms. It wasn’t adding up.

 

School started and I was back to my regular schedule. Usually by the end of the first week, I know 98% of my students’ names. This year it took me three weeks to know them without hesitation. I missed a handful of days because I just couldn’t get moving in the morning and I felt unsafe to drive.

 

I was also finding it hard to make decisions, whether big or small. I couldn’t choose things. I couldn’t commit. My brain just wasn’t cooperating. My good friend got married and I had to push myself onto the dance floor, and I’m usually the one who has to be reminded to sit and eat.

 

In October, as I was looking back, I realized I was a shell of my former self and it was time to seek help. Even getting to the doctor’s office was a wild chore. I was misled by GPS on one turn and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so I drove around this extra loop for twenty minutes. I was in tears by the time I got there.

 

I have been on medication ever since. The first one helped me reclaim some of my energy but I was so dizzy, it defeated the purpose. The new medicine, I’ve had to wean myself onto very slowly. I’ve had three major concussions in my life and the doctor is trying to ensure I don’t have a similar reaction. It makes sense to take it slow, but I wish it would just work.

 

Each day is random for me. Many days, each hour is random. There are times that talking is a challenge. I have a hard time in groups because of all the interactions that take place. And concentration of any kind is draining. 

 

What does this mean? My life passion of teaching has been extremely difficult. I’m the teacher who jumps on desks and sings songs and walks around the room. I do 5000 steps just from being on my feet. But this year, I’ve had to sit for most of my lessons. There has been more group-work time for the students. (That’s not a bad thing, actually.) It takes longer for me to grade things. And most unfortunately, I can’t always be there. It breaks my heart that my students aren’t getting the absolute best of me, but they’re getting the best of what I’m currently capable of.

 

I spend every off minute I can recuperating. I’ve asked for help where I can and I pace myself the rest of the time. With any luck, as the medicine does its thing, I’ll be more and more my old self.

 

On the one hand, I’m lucky because I don’t have the worst of the emotional symptoms of depression. Most of my feelings are due to knowing that I’m not able to do more right now. And I don’t know how to accept that. Everyone has been patient with me and I’m grateful for that. There are times where I just need to sit in silence and let my brain calm down and relax.

 

 

Photo by Mike Dennler on Unsplash.com

I feel like I am a smaller version of myself trying to pilot the full-size version of me. Think how exhausting that would be if each action, like moving your arm, required concentrated effort to move while also being several times its normal size. That’s about how it has felt. Every action is a chore. Draining. Difficult. Every day is like climbing a mountain in fog.

 

I’m mostly in cheerier spirits and I try to focus on happiness and on the things I have been able to do. I try to keep up with my awful puns, even if I can’t say them in the moment. I try to keep with my usual routines and that means getting out of the house for more than just work.

 

They say it’s one day at a time. I often feel like it’s one hour at a time. I push through where I can, I rest when I must, I do what I can, and I have to let the rest go. I’m glad I sought help when I did. Things would have gotten so much worse if I hadn’t. I’ve always tried to be the trooper and fight through, but sometimes we just need help. For me, this was one of those times.

 

And with all this going on, my mom suddenly, unexpectedly passed away one month ago. I don’t even know how to handle that on top of everything else. Some days it feels more real than others, that she is gone and I can never talk to her again or do lunch or go to a show. Other days it feels like I just haven’t called her recently. It is a strange pain. But I have her kitty with me everyday, a gentle reminder of how much love she had for the world around her.

 

I share this in case you are going through difficult times. Don’t let yourself suffer. Get help sooner, not later. There is no hero award for making it through without help. And to all those who see me with a little less bounce in my step, this is why. I’m ok. I’m just struggling. To my family and friends, let’s still get together and have some laughs. I will need rest breaks but it’s just how I have to cope right now. To my students, your well-being and education are still my priority. I’m just a little slower but I’ll be ok.


I’m not asking for sympathy, just understanding and patience. There are plenty of people literally fighting for their lives who are in worse situations than this. My heart goes out to those of you dealing with such things. May you find your light and hope in the days ahead.

Mom

Mom…

Obit


July 27, 1945 was the magical day that our mom, Linda, came into this world. She grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts with her sister, Diane, and her mom and Dad. My mom was very close to her dad and to her uncle Lee and her grandmother, Mémère. They were her biggest supporters while she was growing up.

 

My mom did many things, from binding books, to nursing, to studying to be a teacher. Then she met John and the world changed again. Mom and Dad married on September 9, 1967 — that’s 50 years ago — and they moved to Brooklyn, where, a year later, my brother John jr. was born. The family continued to expand and when Lisa was on the way, they found a quaint little house in Levittown, and there they set the roots that would grow to this day.

 

Our lives were fraught with ups and downs, but my mom did everything she could to persevere. I don’t want to focus on the hard times but there are a few key moments that explain the heart of who my mom truly was.

 

I remember, in third grade, I was doing well in school. So well, that the material was too easy for me. Mom worked with the school and was able to get me split into some fourth grade classes ahead of my time. I was enrolled in the Enrichment Program, where I did special projects. In 4th grade, I was very sick and had to have my tonsils removed. Later that year, I broke my arm and in the X-rays, they discovered I had a tumor growing. I needed surgery to have it removed. I’ll never forget the report card that said I had missed 72 and 3/2 Days. Through it all, Mom made sure I had ice cream – even though vanilla tasted like wood – and had tutors coming to the house to make sure I didn’t miss my education. When I went to fifth grade, I still went to my Enrichment classes. I had no idea they had kicked me out because of all my absences in 4th grade. Mom went and fought for me and got me reinstated into the program.

 

In seventh grade, we were all part of the science fair. I had worked with my granddad to create a robot moth, thanks to a remote control car of Kim’s we demolished for parts. Mom and Dad came to see me in action. What I didn’t know at the time was that Mom had had massive periodontal surgery that morning, where they had removed half her teeth. She was in complete and total agony. But she was still there by my side.

 

We all have our faults. We’ve all made mistakes. But through thick and thin, the family and friends who matter to us, stick with us through it all. Mom was there for me in my darkest times, when I felt I had no purpose. And even though we watched her in her darkest hours, she fought for us, always. She put our needs ahead of her own, time and time again.

 

Last May, Kevin proposed to me and this past April we had our wedding. Mom had been through several foot surgeries, a literally broken back, and necrotic hip that needed to be replaced. Yet she was determined to be at our wedding, to walk the aisle with me, and to have our mother-son dance together. As we drew closer to the day, we weren’t sure what she would be able to do. But… She came to our wedding. She walked down the aisle with me and my dad. And she danced with me.

 

Mom and Dad just had their 50th wedding anniversary. I can’t imagine what my dad must be feeling. But I know Mom would want to make sure he eats, and for him to find happiness in the days ahead.

 

Mom loved people and the critters in her life. She would feed the birds, tuppence a bag, and the birds all knew when it was feeding day. The cardinals would shine their red feathers and flutter through the yard. We had dogs, rabbits, teddy bear hamsters and gerbils, turtles, fishes, an accidental ferret, and – of course – the cats. There was Tammy, who had her kittens in the fireplace, and Rocky and Pogo and Shadow. 

 

We all relied on Mom in our times of need. We sought her counsel on everything, from the big decisions to the small. I will miss the silly times we laughed about the word ‘water’ and her saying ‘ferblunjit’. 

 

She would pray to Saint Anthony if she lost anything and to Saint Francis, keeper of animals. I will miss how she always talked to Mémère who used to call me Senator, and to granddad who would always find her a parking spot. Like them watching over her, I know she will always watch over us. She will always be in our hearts, forever and always.

 

Today is a difficult day, but the date is special. It’s a friend’s birthday but also, it’s 11/7/17 — all ones and sevens. Kim was born 11/17/77 all one’s and sevens. Rearrange the digits of today’s date and you get Lisa’s birthday, also all one’s and sevens. And if you add up the ones and sevens in today’s date, you get 17, a one and seven. Clearly, there’s a deep connection. And if we take that sum of 17 and combine those, we get 8 which is the same shape as infinity. Forever will Mom be with us.

 

Her favorite story of all time was Yentl. It is about a Jewish girl who wanted to know about the world around her, not just her one piece of sky, but women were meant to be housewives and deliver children. They weren’t allowed to be educated, or taught to read. But Yentl had a dream and her Papa believed in her and he taught her anyway. And when he died, Yentl pursued her dream, dressed as a man to blend in, and she prayed to her Papa daily. Mom so loved the essence of this story that it was on repeat in her car and has been for ages. 

 

This lives in me as it does all of us. Mom always believed in us despite the odds the world set against us. From this moment on, I will ask: Mama, can you hear me?

 

And so, I leave you with this…

 

https://youtu.be/Rt_jjHAQoJU

 

Piece of Sky (Yentl)

Tell me where

Where is it written

What is it I was meant to be?

That I can’t dare

It all began the day I found

That from my window I could only see

A piece of sky

I stepped outside and looked around

I never dreamed it was so wide

Or even half as high

The time had come

(Papa, can you hear me?)

To try my wings

(Papa, are you near me?)

And even though it seemed at any moment I could fall

I felt the most

(Papa, can you see me?)

Amazing things

(Can you understand me?)

The things you can’t imagine

If you’ve never flown at all

Though it’s safer to stay on the ground

Sometimes where danger lies

There the sweetest of pleasures are found

No matter where I go

There’ll be memories that tug at my sleeve

But there will also be

More to question, yet more to believe

Oh tell me where?

Where is the someone who will turn to look at me?

And want to share

My every sweet-imagined possibility?

The more I live, the more I learn

The more I learn, the more I realize

The less I know

Each step I take 

(Papa, I’ve a voice now!)

Each page I turn 

(Papa, I’ve a choice now!)

Each mile I travel only means

The more I have to go

What’s wrong with wanting more?

If you can fly, then soar!

With all there is, why settle for

Just a piece of sky?

Papa, I can hear you

Papa, I can see you

Papa, I can feel you

 

Papa, watch me fly!


Calculators

There has been a lot going. One of those things has been coding. I have been trying in my spare time to update my science website with new calculators for the students to use in their studies. These calculators are meant to provide a resource that allows them to check answers or even answer randomly-generated questions.

I had created a heat equation calculator last year for my honors class. Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished it before the unit was complete, but this year the students were able to make use of it. I wrote it in C# when I was first getting into a contemporary computer language. Kevin helped me to translate it over using bridge.net to run on my website through JavaScript. Part of me wants to rewrite it in pure JS to apply my coding skills and see where I’ve grown. But I have other pressing things to do.

I created a density calculator too. It’s not the ideal for what I wanted, but it is a start. Put in any two variables into the equation d = m/V and the calculator will find the missing variable. It will also show if the object will float or sink in various materials, and it also shows a prediciton of where the object would float in water. 

These are all part of my normal curriculum, but now I have a page set up where the students can practice. I still need some time to work on the image scale and the layout, but at least the info is there. I’m trying to balance fitting everything on a computer scfreen, but I’m also aware that some students may use their smart phones. I know it is possible to have a stylesheet set up to accommodate media type, but I haven’t delved down that path yet.

I was also able to figure out a factor label calculator, which I hadn’t been able to do in C#. I didn’t create it the way I wanted to… The applet doesn’t “think” through the answer like I was hoping. Instead, I hard-coded a set of possible paths and let it work itself out from there. It works, but it isn’t as easily expandable as I wanted it.

For later this year, I wanted to have that “thinking” model in place for when I get my honors classes up to multi-step calculations. I wanted the applet to be able to generate workable questions and show solutions. I need to master the concepts of breadth-first searches and depth-first searches to see if I can get to the answer. But I need more work with data structures to get there.

The next calculator I need to create is for the Ideal Gas Law. There are three types of questions that can be asked and I want to be able to provide that calculator as another resource for the students.

Lastly, I also created a quiz program, which I dubbed, “The Quizzler”. It currently only has questions for density and phases of matter, but I’m hoping to add to the question libarary through the year and deepen its use. The phases questions are all pre-written, but the density ones include randomized calculations for endless questions. I can use the structure of it later for when we’re into physics and we have a lot of similiar-format equations, like F = m a, W = m g, p = m v, and so on.

So, go on and practice some science!

For most of the links, the calculator is located at the bottom of the page, after the notes.