My daughter's art features an unusual and unexpected element

We were thrilled to find our daughter's piece of abstract art was hanging at the front of her school, in a position of great prestige. 

Then we noticed the top right corner of her piece, which appears to feature two cocktails. 

Anytime an alcoholic beverage appears on the work of a third grader, you have to wonder what is going on at home. 

It should at least give pause. 

But I almost never drink, and Elysha and I don't drink in the home or even at restaurants when our kids are with us. Clara has never seen her parents drinking cocktails. and as far as I can tell, she's ever even seen a cocktail, except she apparently has.

If so, where? And why has she placed them so prominently in her work of art?

The President of the United States relied on scripted empathy

Just in case you missed it, a Washington Post photographer managed to take this picture of the notes that Trump was holding while speaking to the parents of victims and survivors of gun violence in America's schools. 

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Note #5 on the list:

"I hear you."

This is real. It's also terrifying.

Trump must rely on scripted empathy. Apparently a phrase like, "I hear you," was not immediately available to him. The narcissistic, egomaniacal, thin-skinned ignoramus is apparently not capable of expression empathy without the help of a staff member. 

Can you imagine another human being on the planet who would need help empathizing with the survivor of the Parkland shooting or the parent of the Sandy Hook victim?

Americans want greater gun control. Lawmakers do not.

When it comes to gun control, I have good news:

Americans are united.

In the most recent Quinnipiac poll:

97% of Americans support universal background checks.
83% of Americans support a mandatory waiting period on all gun purchases. 
66% of Americans support a ban on assault weapons.

In short, support for greater control has now hit a 10 year high.

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This is also why so many teachers, students, and parents are enraged by the inaction of Congress. When public support for something like universal background checks is nearly 100% and we still don't have universal background checks, we no longer has representative democracy. 

Instead, we have a country run by special interests like the NRA who are paying politicians to behave in a specific way. 

Yesterday, while Stoneman Douglas students watched from the gallery, Florida legislators voted against moving a bill that would ban AR-15 rifles and other guns defined as "assault weapons" and large capacity magazines from committee to the House floor for questions, debate and a vote.

They didn't vote against the ban. They voted against debating and voting on the ban.

Why? They are cowards. They are afraid of a fight. They are afraid to debate gun control in a public forum. They are afraid to be held accountable by the vast majority of American voters who are demanding action. When the next school becomes a killing zone, they don't want to be on the record voting against a ban on the weapon that was used to slaughter students and teachers. 

Better to have students die barricading doors so other students can live.
Better to have teachers surrender their lives while protecting their students from a gunman.
Better to rely on thoughts and prayers than debate, research, expert testimony, and actual legislation.  

That way, they can still collect their blood money from the NRA and maintain their A+ grade.  

Fear not, Florida legislators. Despite your cowardice and inaction, there are plenty of courageous adults leaving for work this morning, ready to protect your students no matter what horror comes through their schoolhouse doors. 

As teachers, we can't remove an assault weapon from the hands of a killer.
We can't impose a universal background check before he purchases his gun.
We can't impose a mandatory waiting period before allowing him to purchase his gun.
We can't close the gun show and terrorist loopholes.

In short, we can't do all the things that the majority of Americans want done.

Instead, we can stand between students and bullets. We can think quickly and act wisely in the face of an attack. We can hide students and barricade doors. We can surrender our own lives in the preservation of student life. We can minimize the slaughter.

While you lack the courage to even debate and vote on gun control measures, we'll be busy protecting our students from the results of your cowardice and inaction.

They couldn't play tic-tac-toe because of bandwidth.

Yes, this is absolutely the worst game of tic-tac-toe every played. The fact that this all happens in front of thousands of people is even more embarrassing. 

But it's also an outstanding demonstration on the nature of bandwidth. 

Every human being has a certain amount of bandwidth available to them at one time. Some people can simply process input in greater quantities than others. 

The amount of input that you process at any one time is the measure of your bandwidth. 

Bandwidth is also context dependent. When I started playing golf, for example, all of my bandwidth was used on striking the ball with the head of the club. It needed to be in order to make contact. As I became a more experienced (but still terrible) golfer, I was able to use less and less bandwidth to hit the ball and began to incorporate other elements of the game into my thinking. Grip. Posture. Wind. Elevation. Contours of the course. 

The more experience a person has with a task, the better the chance of processing more input. 

I see this in new teachers all the time. While they are focused on delivering their lesson, they often fail to notice student behaviors that are as clear as day to me (and will hopefully one day will be to them). Once they become more confident and proficient in delivering content to students, more of their bandwidth will be freed up for other processes. 

As a storyteller, I am often changing and manipulating aspects of my story onstage. I can punch up the humor in a story if an audience is responding well or circle back on a part of the story that seemed to require more attention. I oftentimes find new and better endings to stories while performing. A memory will suddenly occur to me. A new collection of sentences will enter my mind. A divergent path to the conclusion will reveal itself to me in the process of telling the story and I'll manage to execute some verbal gymnastics in order to get there.

Twice in my life Elysha has accused me of holding back a great ending to a story in order to surprise her onstage. But neither time was it true. I simply realized onstage that there was a better, smarter place to end.     

But for my storytelling students, I would never advise this course of action. I tell them to take the stage with a plan and stick to it. I have the benefit of greater bandwidth onstage.

  • I'm never nervous.
  • I've performed hundreds of times in front of audiences of all sizes and in theaters, bars, libraries, auditoriums, bookstores, churches, and synagogues of all sizes and types.  
  • I've crafted and told more than 120 stories in my seven year storytelling career. I have a familiarity and facility with stories that my students do not. 

I have a large amount of bandwidth available to me onstage. 

The two women in the video surely understand how to play tic-tac-toe better than they demonstrated that night. But their bandwidth was restricted by the other conditions of the game.

  • Shoot baskets in order to put down an X or an O.
  • Run.
  • Play on a board hundreds of times larger than your typical board. 
  • Perform in front of thousands of people. 

They were processing so much new information that a task as simple as tic-tac-toe became challenging for them.

Bandwidth must be considered by teachers at all times. It's why students might be able to complete all the required operations of a long division problem (division, multiplication, and  subtraction) and might even be able to explain the process of ling division to you, but when it comes time to actually complete a problem, they fall apart. 

It's bandwidth. Independently, these operations are not taxing on the student's mind, but put them all together in a complex system and simple errors quickly emerge.

This is why we must practice. We practice so that our minds can gain facility with a process such that bandwidth is no longer an issue. For some students blessed with greater bandwidth, this might mean far fewer practice problems. For students with reduced bandwidth, it might mean many more. 

Meet Antony Borges: American hero and a boy who has done more to curb gun violence in America than all of Congress.

Here is 15 year-old Anthony Borges, who was shot five times while protecting 20 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students by holding a classroom door shut to prevent shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz from entering.

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Anthony Borges has done more to protect students from gun violence than every single member of Congress plus the President combined. While lawmakers in Washington offer their thoughts and prayers and accept millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the NRA, Anthony Borges placed his body between a killer carrying an assault weapon and his fellow students. 

While Congress refuses to even allow the CDC to study gun violence in America or move forward on their bipartisan agreement on banning bump stocks or close the gun show and terrorist loopholes, Anthony Borges turned his body into a human shield and saved lives.  

Anthony Borges is a hero. Our legislators in Congress and the President are cowards. Tools. Money-grabbing instruments of the National Rifle Association. 

Anthony Borges's Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, accepted $3.3 million dollars from the NRA last year and took to the Senate floor shortly after the shooting to explain who the assault weapon that pumped five bullets into Anthony Borges's body is not the problem. 

There is a GoFundMe account set up on behalf of Borges to support his long and difficult road to recovery. Both of his legs were shot, left upper thigh bone was shattered, and one bullet went through his back. As of this writing, Americans have donated 76,000 on Borges's behalf. 

Perhaps Marco Rubio should consider donating some of that $3.3 million dollars in NRA blood money to Borges. At the very least he could help an American who has actually done something to curb gun violence in America while he and his colleagues hunker down and hope this all goes away once again. 

I don't think it will go away this time. At least I hope not. The classmates of Anthony Borges, some of whom are alive today because of Anthony, are angry, and they are taking their case to the cowards in Washington. 

I will be standing with them. As a teacher in a public school who might one day be required to make the same sacrifice as Anthony Borges, the very least I should expect from lawmakers in Washington is debate. Deliberation. Research. Statistical studies. Expert testimony.

Legislation, goddamn it. Do something or go home. 

Anything but the silence and the inaction that the NRA buys year after year with their millions of dollars in donations to Republican tools like Marco Rubio.

Brothers in name only

Just because our cats are brothers doesn't mean they are anything alike. 

One cat licks walls and faucets. 

The other one is learning math. One his own. With an abacus. 

Trump's attempts to gaslight Americans again. And again. And again.

Donald Trump spent the day and evening at his Florida resort yesterday attempting to gaslight the American people via Twitter. 

He's clearly a desperate man.

We need to be cautious and not allow this gaslighting to work. 

If you're unfamiliar, gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Trump attempts this constantly by simply, unabashedly, and shamefully stating falsehoods that Americans know are untrue in hopes that the lies will eventually crystallize into fact. 

  • It's why he claimed enormous inauguration day crowds when all evidence proved otherwise. 
  • It's why he repeatedly claims his tax cuts are the biggest in history (not even close). 
  • It's why he claims that immigrants commit more crimes than non-immigrants when this isn't even close to being true.

Say something often enough and uninformed, undiscerning people start to believe it's true. 

Here are yesterday's examples: 

These first tweets blame the Democrats for the DACA problem, even though the problem was directly and specifically caused by Trump's refusal to re-authorize DACA protections to Dreamers. We had a solution, designed by Democrats and effective for years, but Trump removed it, creating this problem that he promised not to create. 

Yes he takes no accountability in hopes that Americans will forget his failure to reauthorize the protections. 

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These next tweets are the sign of a man who does not understand that innocent people don't constantly profess their innocence, particularly while simultaneously disparaging the very organization investigating them.

Trump says, "No collusion" more than anything else these days. He wants those words to sink into our consciousness. He wants us to believe that "The Dirty Dossier" and "Uranium" are actual scandals, when in fact none of them are relevant or meaningful. This is why he doesn't explain anything in detail. He says, "Uranium" in hopes that Americans hear that word and think, "Clinton scandal" when most don't actually understand the situation at all.

Trump has claimed for months that the FBI investigation is a "witch hunt.: Now that Russians are indicted, he cannot claim this anymore. He does not acknowledge that he was wrong. Instead, he has shifted to, "The investigation proves no collusion via these indictments."

I don't know if Trump is guilty of collusion, but he sure as hell sounds like a guy guilty of collusion. 

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Trump expects Americans to believe that a company that does not want to be linked to election tampering is the best source as to whether or not the ads that they accepted millions in Russian rubles to display swayed the election.

He attempts to make the VP of Facebook ads an unbiased, expert source of information. 

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These next two tweets are interesting. Trump (and Trump supporter Michael Goodwin) would have us believe that the indictments against 13 Russians issued last week will be the only indictments forthcoming. Yes, it's true that last week's indictments do not prove collusion. A Trump campaign official was duped by the Russians, but he did not know that he was being manipulated.

But that's one guy. One set of indictments. There could very well be many more indictments to come. Give Mueller time. 

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This last one is just stupid. 

The Russians decided to interfere with the American elections in 2014, particularly in order to prevent Hillary Clinton to become President. They didn't know who the candidates would be, but they established operations and simply waited for the weakest, most easily manipulated, most comprimised pro-Russian candidate to emerge. 

Trump appeared on the scene, the choice became obvious, and the team went to work. 

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Anderson Cooper took on the administration on gaslighting in relation to the Rob Porter scandal. 

I highly recommend both of these commentaries.

My son loves his mother and sister AND NO ONE ELSE.

Elysha Dicks and I took the kids to an evening program at their school last week. While making our way to the gym, we passed some of their work hanging on the walls, including this bit of writing and art from my kindergarten son. 

I looked at the top of the paper. 

"One act of kindness I can do is..."

Notice what Charlie chose as his act of kindness?

"Tell my mom and my sister I love them."

Mom and sister only. What did his teacher think when she saw this?

Charlie's dad must be a real jackass.
That father must be pretty awful for his son not to include him on this assignment.
Does Charlie even have a dad?

Thanks, Charlie. Thanks a lot.

The best birthday gift for a teacher might surprise you

Here's one of the beauties of being a teacher.

Last night I had the opportunity to perform at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston as a part of The Moth's GrandSLAM championship.

It was the 20th GrandSLAM in my storytelling career, and on my birthday no less. 

The Cutler Majestic is a spectacular theater that seats 1,200 people, and last night the theater was packed. I was telling stories alongside some of my favorite storytellers from the Boston area and some new storytellers who were spectacular. One particular woman told the story of raising a baby pig that sent my spirits soaring and broke my damn heart. 

It was perfection. A story that I will remember forever.

The host of the evening was the brilliant Bethany Van Delft, who I am always thrilled and honor to share the stage, and the producers of the show were also some of my favorites.

I even adore the sound guy. 

I had many friends in the audience. Folks from Connecticut and locals from my days of living in Massachusetts. Storytellers from the area who I am so proud to now call my friends. Elysha Dicks was sitting beside me. It was a grand night.

I told a story about my love for the New England Patriots, and my choice of the Patriots over a woman. It's a story I love to tell. It always brings me such joy to tell stories from that period of my life just after high school, when I was living with my best friend, struggling to survive. Those were such great days. 

At the end of the night, I was declared the winner of the GrandSLAM. It was my fifth GrandSLAM victory. As several audience members pointed out, I've got as many wins now as Tom Brady. It was sweet. 

A perfect birthday.  

Here was my very first thought when I awoke this morning:

"Linda was so good."

Linda Storms, a woman who first heard me on The Moth Radio Hour years ago then started coming to my storytelling workshops and performing for Speak Up, was also competing in the GrandSLAM last night. She told the last story of the night, and she did so brilliantly. She was vulnerable and eloquent and funny. Her story was perfectly crafted and so honestly told. She could not have been better. She was fantastic. 

That is what I thought first when I awoke today. I thought of Linda, my friend and student, shining on that beautiful stage like the star that she is.

This is the beauty of teaching. You have the opportunity to experience so much joy in the success of those who you have taught, and oftentimes that joy in a student's success can be more important and meaningful than your own. You sit in quiet rooms and teach the skills and strategies to help someone realize their dream, and when you're really lucky, you get to sit back and watch that dream realized right before your eyes. 

Watching Linda on that stage last night was the perfect end to a perfect birthday for me.   

It's time to end the hopes and prayers.

I became a teacher in 1999. This was the same year as the Columbine shooting, so I've spent my entire career in the shadow of gun violence in America's schools. 

Every year I assure my students that they have nothing to fear while at school. I tell them with absolute conviction that I will always make the best decisions in an emergency and always stand between them and danger. As they ask their "What if?" questions during a lockdown drill, I always say the same thing:

"You don't have anything to worry about. I will never let anything bad happen to you. I will always be standing between you and anything that is bad."

Many teachers did that very same thing yesterday in Florida. Some lost their lives doing so. 

I go to work every morning knowing how important my role is in keeping children safe. The parents of my students put their faith in me, just as I put my faith in my children's teachers every day. It's an incredible responsibility that I take very seriously. As unlikely as it may be, I know all too well that someday, I may be forced to keep my promise and stand between my students and danger.

Every teacher in America knows this. We live this everyday. It is the promise that we make to our communities. It's something we think about more often than you could imagine.

When I found a teacher unconscious in the hallway last year, my first thought was that there was a gunman in our school. As I ran to her, my second thought was, "Thank God there are no kids in the school right now." Thankfully, she was fine, but these were my first thoughts. 

This is how all teachers think. Students first. Always students first.   

Now that I have children of my own, this an even harder promise to make. 

This is why I am enraged by the inability and unwillingness of of legislators to do anything despite the fact that there have been 18 school shootings in America this year alone. 

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After a shooting in Las Vegas took the lives of 58 Americans, for example, Congress promised us that they would enact a law banning the sale of bump-stocks, which turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. There was enormous bipartisan agreement on this issue at the time.  

Then the bodies were buried, the memorial were concluded, the flowers wilted, and nothing was done.

I don't have the answers to gun violence in this country, but something must be done. My problem is that nothing is being done. As men, women, and children die in mass shootings throughout our country, in our school and public spaces, the best our legislators have to offer are hopes and prayers.

Nobody wants your hopes and prayers anymore. Stop with your hopes and prayers. They have proven to be as worthless as you have been when it comes to gun violence.

We want action. 

We want debate. We want research. We want the funding of studies to find an answer. We want the ridiculous and unconscionable restrictions on the Centers for Disease Control lifted so that they can study gun violence with the full weight of their organization. We want a national registry that tracks gun violence in America and allows for statistical research. We want sensible interpretations of the Second Amendment. We want legislators to stop cowering in fear over the grades they receive from the NRA. We want legislators to stop forgetting their goddamn promises once the bodies of dead children are cold. 

I don't want to hear another member of Congress offer hopes and prayers ever again.

I don't want to hear another member of Congress say that "now is not the time for debate."

I don't want to hear another member of Congress say that guns don't kill people. People kill people. 

What I want to hear is vigorous debate. Expert testimony. Scientific study. Statistical research. Actual legislation. 

I will leave my home this morning with the knowledge that there may come a day when my colleagues and I are required to take action to save the lives of our students. We do this with conviction and purpose. We do his with open hearts and minds. 

If the teachers of America are ready to take that action on a daily basis, and in the case of places like Florida yesterday, are taking that action, risking their lives, and dying in an effort to protect their their students, the very least we can expect is for lawmakers in Washington to find the courage to debate. Discuss. Research. Deliberate. Listen.

And legislate, goddamn it. Become a part of the solution instead of the silent, useless, cowardly mouthpiece of hopes and prayers that you have been for entirely too long.

Do something. Children are dying, and you stand by and do nothing. Find the courage of conviction and take action, or quit. Leave. Go home. Give the job over to a teacher or a parent whose child was in that school yesterday when the shots were being fired.

We know what is at stake.   

Things I Do #10: I don't look at airline pilots

I don’t look at the pilot when boarding a plane. I'm terrified of looking into the cockpit and seeing a pilot who looks like an idiot or resembles someone who I think is an idiot. 

I don't mind shaking the pilot's hand at the end of the flight and looking him or her in the eye. I'm simply avoiding the danger of spotting the pilot prior to takeoff and thinking, "Oh no. The person responsible for flying this aluminum tube looks like that idiot from freshman algebra."

Self care, people. It's important. 

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A reasonable response to anti-vaxxers

There will come a day when our children or our children's children will read about the anti-vaxxer movement and say, "What was wrong with you morons?"

I will say, "In the early twenty-first century, Americans read about a study in a British medical journal that claimed that vaccinations caused autism, and when that study was completely debunked a short time later, they didn't care, because they were ignorant, selfish, and had too much time on their hands. Also, some C and D level celebrities, as well as the President of the United States (also a C-D level celebrity) had taken up the cause because they, too, were stupid, and Americans loved celebrities." 

Until that day, this is a fairly effective response to the anti-vaxxer movement. 

Chuck Todd's litany of vile and shameful events is worth watching

The shame, embarrassment, incompetence, and cruelty that Trump and his White House produces on a daily basis makes is hard to remember all of the horrors of the past year. But it's important to remember every single one of them as Republicans continue to stand alongside this racist, misogynist, authoritarian ignoramus.

For the sake of a economically unsound, deficit exploding transfer of wealth from the working class to the 1% and the hope of cutting entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, Republicans have stood by and supported a vile and incompetent man.  

Meet the Press's Chuck Todd does a fine job reminding us of the atrocities of the past year on Sunday.

It's worth watching.

It reminded me of moments of stupidity and vileness that I had forgotten and re-energized me to click on my 5 Calls app every day and continue to speak out against this President and this administration at every turn. 

Moth StorySLAM: Clara Wants a Sister

This summer I took about 30 young ladies from Miss Porter's School to a Moth StorySLAM in Somerville, MA as part of a weeklong program on writing and storytelling. 

It was kind of a magical night for these young ladies, who came from all over the country and the world to attend this program. As fate would have it, eight of the ten storytellers were women. The host of the show, the brilliant Bethany Van Delft, as well as the producer, Gina James, were also women. 

Such a great opportunity to show these young ladies how women can take and own the stage. 

I told a story that night about the birth of our son, Charlie and the problems that his sister, Clara, posed during the process. 

My wife and kids slow me down. Gloriously so.

I loved this dedication by Joseph J. Rotman.  

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While it may seem like he's throwing some shade at his family, I suspect not. 

2017 was an exceptionally busy time for me. I completed three books (an adult novel, a middle grade novel, and a book of nonfiction), all within a single calendar year, which means I was sitting at the end of my dining room table a lot, pecking away at the keyboard. 

And yes, it's true. I could've finished the books much sooner if not for Elysha, Clara, and Charlie, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank goodness I didn't finish them sooner, because that would've meant missing out on so much that I love and cherish.

I suspect Rotman felt the same way.

Then again, Rotman is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has written 10 textbooks. This dedication can be found in An Introduction to Algebraic Topology.

He might not be the world's greatest romantic. 

Walking a paper route with a friend taught me an invaluable lesson.

I'm admittedly hyper-focused on productivity. 

"How can I do more in less time?" has been a flashing beacon in my mind for a long, long time. As far back as I can remember.  

Along those same lines has been this question:

"What is the most productive way to spend my time?"

This second question came into focus when I was about twelve years old. My friend, Jeff, had a paper route in his neighborhood, and one day he asked me to walk along with him. I agreed. He delivered the afternoon edition of The Woonsocket Call Monday-Friday plus the Sunday morning edition. We had fun, walking from house to house as he introduced me to the idiosyncrasies of each of his customers. 

  • This old lady gives me one stale Oreo cookie on Friday.
  • This guy answers the door on payday in a robe and slippers.
  • The customers who he had never seen. "They just leave money in an envelope under the mat for me, like they did for the last paper boy."

Back then, paper routes were precious. In order to secure one, you had to purchase it from a retiring paperboy for a considerable amount of money. As I walked with Jeff, I wondered if my paper boy might be retiring soon. Maybe I could be a paper boy and finally have some money in my pocket. 

I walked the paper route with Jeff several times until one day, he and I walked together on Friday. 

Payday.

That was when I saw how much money Jeff made per week. I couldn't believe it. As poor as I was and as much as I wanted to have money in my pocket, a quick calculation in my head determined that this must be the least productive job on the planet. 

The pay was atrocious. It was miniscule. It was not worth his time.  

Not only was the pay pathetic, but taking on the job as paperboy meant committing every afternoon to the job without exception. No after school sports. No visits with friends. Just straight home to deliver the papers. And it didn't matter if it was raining or snowing. It didn't matter if it was 10 degrees or 100 degrees. It didn't matter if you were sick or hurt. A paperboy was outside, delivering papers, every day, no matter what. 

That was the moment I realized that as poor as I may be, some jobs are simply not worth the pay. My time, I came to understand, is exceptionally valuable, and simply having more money than I had before should never be the reason to take a job.  

It was the moment I realized that my time was worth a certain amount of money, and my goal was to find work that balanced the equation between my time and effort and the money and benefits being offered in return. 

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A few months later I would be hired for my first job:

Laborer on a local farm. I hooked and flung bales of hay off tractor trailers. Hung barbed wire. Sunk fence posts. Mucked stalls. Cleared brush. I worked 5-6 hours every Saturday morning and made more money than Jeff made in a week. 

Time is money, I learned at an early age, but only if the money and benefits offered matches the time being given in return. 

Far too often, I watch people take on additional work, new assignments, and side jobs that are simply not worth the time invested. While I understand the inclination to say yes to any additional income, you must keep the big picture in mind:

Time is the most valuable commodity on the planet, and you have just as much of it as the wealthiest people alive. Value your time accordingly. Never waste it away. Find the additional work and side jobs that price your time accordingly. Take the time to find the right fit. Invest in yourself and your skills so you can ultimately earn what you deserve. Demand that your compensation be commensurate with your ability from every employer.   

Admittedly, I still struggle with that last one a bit. 

My kids first paying gig and my first paying gig were very, very different

My first paying gig, as far as I can recall, was in 1991 when I performed as the stripper for a bachelorette party in the crew room of a McDonald's restaurant in Milford, MA. 

I was unexpectedly paid $100 for the unexpectedly humiliating experience.

You can watch me tell that story here:

Since that day, I've worked extensively in the gig economy. 

For more than 20 years, I've worked as a wedding DJ, performing at close to 500 weddings. I've also worked as a minister, marrying more than two dozen couples and performing a handful of baby naming ceremonies. 

Six years ago, Elysha and I launched Speak Up. Since then, we have produced more than 75 storytelling shows and showcases throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

I routinely get paid to tell stories, speak inspirationally, and teach storytelling, public speaking, and writing in venues all over the country. Theaters. Libraries. Universities. Middle and high schools. Corporations. Nonprofits. Bookstores. Churches and synagogues.

Most would consider my writing career a part of the gig economy. When I sell a piece to a magazine or online publication or sell a book to a publisher, it's not like I've been hired by a company in the most traditional sense of the word. I've entered into a temporary employment agreement with a publication that may or may not continue beyond the initial job.

This month I will be paid to perform as a standup comic for the first time. 

But it all started in 1991 in that crew room when I took off most of my clothes and was paid to do so.

This is why I was so damn proud of my kids when they informed Elysha and me that they had  prepared a puppet show for us. In addition to making the puppets out of paper and straws, they also produced tickets for the show. 

"25 cents," Clara said. "Per person," she emphasized. 

Clara and Charlie collected our money at the door and performed hilariously for us, whispering directions to one another and sometimes whipping up forgotten puppets on the fly.

Sadly, they are more artists than business people, because they left their quarters on the table and forgot all about them.

But I didn't. I grabbed those quarters and tucked them away for safe keeping. This was their first gig. The first time they were paid to perform. Perhaps they will not go onto a career onstage as their mother and father have, but maybe they will find their way into the arts someday in some capacity.

Someday down the road, when they can appreciate it more, maybe on the evening of their first professional performance, I will give them back their quarters and remind them of the night they performed for a paid audience for the first time. 

It's a night I will never forget.

Trump can't be banned from Twitter, but then he shouldn't be able to block me, either.

As you may know, the President has blocked me on Twitter. 

Shortly after I fired off three successive tweets at him this summer about his failure to produce his promised tax returns, Trump tweeted some inane nonsense to the world and then blocked three people (likely the three at the top of his feed), including me. 

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I was outraged. I remain outraged. Yes, I can still see his tweets via an alternate account or a variety of browser settings, but I am no longer able access his Twitter feed via my primary Twitter feed, and this means I can no longer tweet at him or respond to him as me.

More egregious, in 2017, then Presidential spokesperson Sean Spicer said that Trump's tweets amount to "official statements from the President." Therefore, I am also being denied access to the President's official statements because he is a thin-skinned, ignorant coward who cannot handle criticism of any kind. 

When you don't clap at his speech, he calls you a traitor, for example.  

In January of 2018, after Trump seemed to be goading North Korea into a nuclear clash via Twitter, an argument was made that Twitter bans users all the time for making similarly threatening and endangering remarks. 

Why not Trump? 

Twitter responded to these inquiries as it has with similar calls to ban Trump from the platform for similarly egregious tweets:

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

Fine, but then this:

If Twitter is concerned about the dissemination of the important information from world leaders and therefore exempts them from any possible ban, then Twitter should also be concerned about the hundreds and perhaps thousands of Americans who Trump has blocked, including me, who have also been denied this "important information."

If you want to argue that world leaders cannot be banned from Twitter because the information they provide is too important to hide, then world leaders should be prevented from blocking citizens from this same important information. 

This would be a fair, logical, and sensible policy that would afford world leaders the benefits that Twitter believes is necessary while also providing some basic rights for the citizenry of the world as well.

Why Twitter has not taken this step baffles me. Are they afraid of our vindictive, man-child President? Do they worry that he might abandon the Twitter platform for Snapchat? Or is the company run by hypocrites who don't give a damn about the dissemination of important information? 

I would really like to know. 

It hurts to ask sometimes.

You've heard the expression, "It never hurts to ask." Right?

I'm here to report that this expression is nonsense. It hurts to ask.

At least some of the time. 

I despise this expression because some of the people who I find most annoying in this world are the ones who ask. Not for your occasional favor. Not for the unlikely rescue. Not for the appropriate request. 

It's the pushy people who annoy me. The nervy folk. The ones who ask for things that shouldn't be asked for. The ones who ask again and again even after being rebuffed the first time. The ones who ask for things that any sane and decent person would never think of requesting. The ones who make requests that cause everyone around them to cringe.

Occasionally an addendum is attached to this terrible expression:

"The worst they can say is no." 

Wrong again. The worst they can say is, "No."

And then they say to themselves: "Damn this person is a pushy, nervy jackass of a human being. Who says something like that. I need to cut this loser out of my life as soon as possible."

That is the worst they can say. Not directly to you, but damaging nonetheless. 

Don't believe the nonsense. It hurts to ask sometimes. It hurts the people who you're asking, and it probably hurts yourself in the process. 

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