Saturday, December 31, 2011


It seems like whenever the end of a year comes we are forced to read, watch, and listen to endless retrospectives about the preceding year. Sometimes it's hard to believe that a whole year has passed since some events, while others seem like they happened decades ago.

When I started this blog, with the domain name "" over five years ago, I was selling off my comic books, as well as about 50,000 comics purchased from a retiring comic book dealer, and preparing for the adoption of my daughter. At first I saw it as a sustainable way to supplement my income so I could pay for our adoption after I made one huge deal, turning a 200% profit on a short box of Green Lantern comics that I nearly randomly picked up from a customer after a mall comic book show. But one thing I didn't realize was how mind-numbingly boring selling comics can be. Putting stuff up on eBay is the worst kind of drudgery, and the only thing worse than that was shipping day. The comics are all gone now (I have about three long boxes left, and I'll be getting rid of those soon, too) and my daughter has been with us for four and a half years. Life has changed in oh, so many ways. I'm not the same person I was, and reading through the old blog posts shows me just how much.

Now that the albatross (my wife's name for the business) is gone from around my neck, I can focus on a new venture, and one that is most definitely not boring. I'm self-publishing a comic book project called "Solution Squad." It's about math-based superheroes who not only do what superheroes do, but teach mathematical concepts at the same time. Think "Numbers" meets "X-Men Evolution," and you have a pretty good idea of what I'm trying to accomplish, aimed at a middle school audience who could very much use new ways to look at concepts they struggle with.

In the coming months, I hope to launch a Kickstarter project to raise funds for printing and promotion, launch the website with lesson plans for teachers and reproducible activities for students. We'll also have a webcomic, updated as often as I can manage. It's a large undertaking, but I'm confident we will be successful in entertaining and educating young teens, who never seem to have enough reading material appropriate for their age. It promises to be a life-changing experience, and I hope that it is.

For now, though, this blog comes to an end. It's been fun to keep family and friends abreast of our lives, and to expound at length on a variety of subjects. But now it's time to put my energies to where they can best be used.

Be well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Meme

I'm probably about to pull the plug on this blog and domain name, so it's only fitting that I write a little here at the end of the year.

1. What in the 2011 has proved to you that you are a survivor? I'm still employed.

2. Have you ever stayed online for a very long time waiting for someone? Absolutely. My wife, before I met her face-to-face. We met in an online game on AOL and sometimes I would kill hydras for hours while waiting for her to show up.

3. Are REALLY ready for the holidays? Yes.

4. Did you have an imaginary friend as a kid? No.

5. What niche network do you watch the most? HBO. Game of Thrones, The Wire.

6. Have you ever seen the ocean? Yes, several times. I'll be seeing it again on Saturday.

7. Have you ever been hospitalized? Twice, before I started kindergarten. A hernia, followed by complications from the hernia.

8. What do you think of the US Republican candidates for president? They're pandering hypocrites who will say anything to get elected. And just to keep things fair, I think the same about the current president.

9. Could you imagine life without a computer? No way. I use it for everything. Writing, drawing, communication, watching videos, listening to music.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Home Movies

Moviefone has a small slideshow theorizing why we aren't going to the movies as much, these days. I agree with a lot of what they said. The quality of home viewing has improved. The availability of streaming video is convenient. The economy is poor. The quality of many movies has declined.

Almost two years ago, I did the math, and it still holds true. Now that the initial outlay for a Blu-Ray player and HDTV has been made, we can buy a movie on Blu-Ray not even four months after its theater opening, and have all the popcorn, soda, and snacks we want for far less than it costs to go to the movies--even a matinee--without snacks! Even our once-frequent trips to the Tri-Way Drive-In have all but vanished. The gas used to get there and back costs over $10.00 now!

Sure, watching at home isn't the same experience as going to the movies, but I can't say the last several trips have been all that pleasant. I send text messages as much as anyone, but during a movie, I put my phone away. At the last one we saw in the theater, someone in our row had their phone out during the entire movie. Nothing like a bright light in your peripheral vision to help you lose yourself in the story being presented on the screen!

I've never gotten used to people talking through movies, either. I can understand little kids asking questions, but full-grown adults and teenagers? It's grown so widespread that when I show a rare video in my classroom, kids talk aloud more than when there's no video showing. What is it with people? When did it become all right to carry on a conversation in the middle of a movie? And I don't think this is just me being curmudgeonly. It can't be enjoyable for anyone else, either. The theaters even put up funny public service announcements before each movie, telling people not to do it. I used to say something to people who were rude, but then one day, I suddenly realized that I'm not bulletproof. I'm not even bullet-resistant. Theaters now hire more ushers to keep things under control, but you know what? They're not bulletproof, either. I don't blame them for not risking their lives to tell someone to quiet down.

I don't know what the solution is, but I know that our collection of Blu-Ray movies is going to keep growing, and far faster than the amount of half-filled popcorn bags that go into the trash at the movie theaters at the end of a poorly-attended showing of a new film.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A New Hope

No, it's not a Star Wars post. In my world, they never slapped that stupid label on Star Wars. The scrawl starts with. "It is a time of civil war."

The new DC has left me behind. I read Justice League #1 and it looked and sounded like a continuation of Miller and Lee's All Star Batman and Robin, which is not a good thing. Their best hope for retaining me as a reader came with Gail Simone's Batgirl. I was not persuaded. Marvel's editorial policy has perpetuated the view on public schools put forth, ironically, by "Waiting for Superman." I'm not amused and I'm not buying.

So, what is a lifelong comic book reader to buy?

There are still two DC titles I will buy. The first is "Young Justice." Based on the cartoon series of the same name, the story takes place between episodes and provides more background that is consistent with the story being told on television. It's been just great so far, and Sera loves it.
The other DC title, though it is that by publishing rights only, is "Astro City." I understand that it is being released with a new #1 like everything else, and that's just fine with me. I don't
care what number you put on the cover as long as Busiek and Anderson get to keep telling their wonderful stories.

"Invincible," by
Robert Kirkman and drawn by Ryan Ottley, published by Image, remains at the top of my comic book reading list. It's not appropriate for kids, certainly, but this is my personal reading list, not what I could hand to my students. Month in and month out, this is the best superhero book out there. It's got a fair amount of gore, and I've objected to it before, but it's just different somehow when it's in a book that I didn't grow up with. Because of this book, I also buy "Guarding the Globe" and "Super Dinosaur," also written by Kirkman. Super Dinosaur is very cool. It features a supergenius kid and a talking six-foot T-Rex who controls his human-sized robot arms with video game controllers. The best part of this is that Kirkman actually had a suit made that someone can wear, and their human arms fit inside the robotic ones that SD is supposed to have. Brilliant!

"The Bionic Man," from Dynamite, is Kevin Smith's treatment of the "Six Million Dollar Man," my favorite show from when I was a kid. It's unfortunately starting off at graphic novel pace. We're in the second issue and we' just gotten Steve Austin out of the wreckage of his aircraft. We'll see how this one goes.

"Game of Thrones," also from Dynamite, just had a first issue this week, and I picked that up, too. I love the HBO show and the novel, so I have high hopes for this one, too. They're not using actor likenesses, and they're using the character ages from the novel, so this one is going to be different. One advantage they have over the HBO show is an unlimited effects budget. We've already gotten to see White Walkers that are far more impressive than the ones on TV.

I'm really excited for IDW's "Star Trek." I read Gold Key Star Trek comics when I was a kid, and loved them. The later ones by DC and Marvel were just okay. IDW's version of Star Trek comics takes the new continuity created by the JJ Abrams movie and re-tells Original Series stories in the that context, under the supervision of the script writers. The first issue just came out this week, and starts "Where No Man Has Gone Before," with Gary Mitchell getting ESP enhancement. It looks like the pacing is for a three or four part story, which is fine with me.

What might have been the best read of the year for me, though, was the long-awaited release of the New Teen Titans graphic novel, "Games." What a pleasure to read! At times seeming a little bit dated, it was just like stepping back into 1989 to pick up where the "Who is Wonder Girl?" story left off. Marv Wolfman's scripting was never a favorite of mine, but combined with the storytelling power of George Perez and the moral debate over whether or not to kill an enemy, this book shines as a beacon pointing back to "a more civilized age."

Wow, maybe this was about Star Wars, after all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

School Year Update

We are now four weeks into the new school year, and my feelings about my school year have not changed since my last post about it. I have introduced flair into the lives of my little sevvies (7th graders, for those of you who are not middle school teachers) and have grown to love my job again.

I love teaching seventh grade. I wish I had known how much I would love it 14 years ago when I started working here. Eighth graders are like little high school wannabes. Something happens over the course of the summer between 7th and 8th grade that turns kids into younger versions of the high school drama queens that I escaped so many years ago. With 7th graders, though, I can still reach them. Some of them have already gone that very ugly transformation, but I can still overcome their negative influence just by standing next to them. It's nice being 6' 4" sometimes.

One of the main differences between 7th and 8th graders for me is their acceptance of my nerdhood. I took down my Detroit Tigers corner back where my desk sits this year, and brought in some of my Batman collection, what remains of it after selling it off to help pay for Sera's adoption. I've made my theme this year, "What Would Batman Do?" That means when a kid sits in his desk for 40 minutes not doing anything and I finally get around to asking why he's not participating, and he responds, "I didn't have a pencil," I simply ask, "What would Batman do?" and he gets up to go get one. I like to add, "Batman wouldn't have waited 40 minutes, either."

One of the tougher things to get used to about teaching 7th grade, though, is dealing with the staggering amount of stuff that they simply don't know. I have to dial back my vocabulary a lot. I can't reference R-rated movies (the innocent parts, mind you) because for the most part, they haven't seen them. It might surprise you, I suppose, how many 8th graders have. But one of the most amazing things to me is that some of these kids don't know anything about 9/11. In social studies this week, they were watching a documentary about it, and kids were coming to me, explaining how amazing this movie was about a plane hitting a tower, and then another one doing the same, and they had no idea of the significance of the event. Then, I realize, they were two or three years old when it happened. Wow.

This is also the first time that many of them have been in school where they move from teacher to teacher every hour of the day. Some of them are a little overwhelmed. I've been trying to get them accustomed to the idea and getting them organized. I don't have to worry about the same content as the other teachers, so I can take the time to get them to the point where they can keep straight everything that they're doing each day. It's rewarding being an important part of kids' lives again, instead of some kind of halfassed academic standard transfer machine.

For the past four weeks, I've been able to do pretty much whatever I've wanted to do in my classroom, and it's been a refreshing change. Monday, however, I have to begin using the cookie-cutter curriculum. I'm not looking forward to it, but my consolation is that on Fridays, I'm doing the fun math that I've been doing all along. It will give me something to look forward to each week, and I hope that's enough.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Well, here we go again with a comic book archer drawn by someone who has obviously never shot a bow. Get ready to say "Ouch," Green Arrow. Your bowstring is about to hit the back of your hand.

Monday, June 06, 2011


We made our annual spring trip to Kalamazoo today. A little later than usual, but it was still a successful trip. You see, living down here in northern Indiana, you can walk into a store and have your choice of just a few sports team options when it comes to licensed merchandise. Typically, for spring stuff, you get to choose from the Cubs, the White Sox, or Notre Dame. You'll get an occasional Purdue or IU item, but for the most part, it's those three. But I'm a Detroit Tigers fan, so despite the fact that I live in their local broadcast market, our cable system doesn't carry their games, and I can't find Tigers merchandise for anything. Oh, sure, I could order it, but where's the fun in that?

Kalamazoo has a special place in my heart. It's the first real city that I ever lived in. It's where I lived when the Tigers won the World Series in 1984. I went to college there. I started my teaching career there. It's essentially where I made the transition from being a teenager fresh from high school to being a man. Every time we make this trip, my mind wanders back to those days. Today, as we were driving along a detoured route, I played Huey Lewis and the News's "Sports," an album I used to play quite a bit back in those days. It's funny how memories can be triggered by music, and those memories were certainly strong.

We were headed to Fanfare first, which meant we had to travel north up Westnedge Avenue. It was closed, and it was funny to think that I didn't even need to see the detour signs to know where I had to go. North on Oakland, east on Kilgore, and there we were, like it was yesterday.
Fanfare was the first comic book store I had ever seen, or even heard of. As I wrote about here, I discovered it when I was a college freshman, and it's still there, 28 years later. We stopped in and picked up a Power Pack book that Sera will love to read, a short comic book drawer box that I can use in my classroom, as well as a used art portfolio and a couple of cheap trade paperbacks, also for my classroom. Then, we were off to find Tigers stuff.

Our first stop for Tigers stuff was a flop. While Magi went to Old Navy to find clothes for Sera, Sera and I went to Office Max. I was looking for note cubes and folder. Struck out looking. Bed, Bath, and Beyond, on the other hand, had just the item I was looking for. If you've never used a Tervis Tumbler, you've missed out. They keep stuff cold, and they keep stuff hot. Down here, of course, there were a million tumblers with teams I didn't want, but in Kalamazoo, I found one with my Tigers logo on it. I added a handle and a lid, and now I have the perfect cup from which to drink coffee and iced tea.

We were also successful at finding stuff at Meijer. The Meijer on Westnedge Avenue is where I worked in the summer of 1985. It was a good job. I worked my way up from bagger to cashier, over a summer, and the only reason I left the job was that I couldn't work my schedule around classes at Western. I had a budget for food that summer, and it consisted of a very simple formula: Every day, I would eat four hamburgers and drink a Coke from Hot 'N Now Hamburgers. Back then, (imagine an old man's voice here) they charged $0.39 for everything. $0.39 for a hamburger, $0.39 for a Coke, $0.39 for fries. So, basically for $2.03 (4% sales tax back then), I would eat each day, and that was typically my only meal. Anyway, Meijer had the Tigers stuff I was looking for. I got a pair of sleeping shorts and a new lanyard for work. We passed by the old Hot 'N Now on the way out of town, and it's still closed and not occupied.

On the way home, we stopped in Three Rivers, and the Meijer there had some pens and a luggage tag that will come in handy. So, all in all the trip was successful. It wasn't really about shopping for Tigers stuff. It was about something like baseball, though. It's always good touching base, and for me, Kalamazoo was my second base.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Office Space

I haven't written in my blog very much during this school year, and with good reason. The stuff I would have written about probably would have gotten me fired, and while it might have made a good point about how tenure really doesn't give a teacher a job for life, I didn't really want to put that to the test.

Suffice to say that the turnover in our main office this year is now complete. At the end of last year, we lost our principal, our only assistant principal, and one of our two counselors. We also lost our head custodian to retirement. During the course of the year, our head secretary/office manager retired. And now, with the end of the school year coming, we're losing our other counselor to another school system. The writing, it appears, was on the wall. So now, we go into the 2011-2012 school year with an entirely different administrative/counseling staff than we had a year ago, when our test scores actually improved so much that we jumped up two levels in Indiana Public Law 221's ranking model. It's probably not a coincidence. One staff member (not me) was heard to say, "They've taken what we've built over the past five years and destroyed it in nine months."

I've felt what others have felt, that I have to look over my shoulder. Things have been reported about teachers in our building that are patently untrue as if they were documented fact. When the teachers in question were confronted about it, the source of the information was quickly deduced and confirmed by an independent source. Then, another backstabber was identified through direct quotes. I was also singled out in a most unprofessional way earlier in the year for, heaven forbid, raising my voice.

The curricular changes that we have experienced this year in tandem with teacher accountability models approved by the state haven't helped, either. Let's put it this way: We are supposed to be using these new curriculum materials to support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but the evaluation tool being used to determine our pay is based on the Indiana Academic Standards (IAS), and that will remain the case until 2013-2014. So, we were told to teach to standards that won't be tested for two more years, and to not worry about the IAS that are not included by the new curriculum. I mean, our evaluations will be based up to 50% on test scores yielded from an entirely different set of criteria. It's only our paychecks and our job performance rating. What's to worry about? The textbook series that was adopted last year is so egregious, that it has actually driven innovative teachers to retire. In one meeting last year, a math teacher I greatly respect was told that an activity that he had created, very similar to the one presented in the new text, could not be used and that the textbook material had to be used verbatim, like it was some sort of holy writ. This was his last year, and he could have retired some time ago.

Meanwhile, at mid-year, our new principal made our school part of the 8-Step Process, by which windows of standards are taught and assessed every three weeks. This three week schedule was made without communicating any detail to the staff. Unfortunately, the curriculum we were handed is made up of eight books that take at the minimum, four weeks to complete. The 8-Step Process aligns with Indiana Academic Standards, and the curriculum doesn't. We ended up reteaching one of our 4.5 week units for three more weeks before the high-stakes test, and left out a lot of critical instruction that students needed to move on to high school.

Just a short while ago, I posted how happy I was to be getting free of that curricular nightmare with a new opportunity for next year to teach problem solving. The joy was short lived. The next day, I attended a meeting where I was essentially handed three units of the new curriculum to teach to each semester class. I was warned I might have to teach "one or two" units of it and I agreed to it. That turned into a hard number three in less than 24 hours and was told that I could simply deal with it. When calculated using the suggested timeline for those units, that left 10 days each semester to implement my grand plan to really teach kids math that they could use and would enjoy and remember. That's not in any way what I signed up for.

I don't know when it happened this year, but at one point I just wanted to watch "Office Space." When my brother first introduced me to this movie almost 10 years ago, I remember thinking how lucky I was not to have a job like that. When I watched it again this year, I thought, wow, now I have a job just like that. No one listens. Screwups advance, while people who toe the line and work hard go unrewarded or even punished. The people to whom teachers report contradict themselves and each other with alarming regularity. There's no motivation to work harder, because all it will lead to is the promotion of the administration. Let me put it this way: I've had six principals in my building in 14 years. Many of us feel like we have footprints up our backs. We're just a stepping stone to high school administration. It's made me as cynical as Peter Gibbons and on Friday I was about ready to start cleaning fish on my collaboration reports. I even went so far as to put a
red Swingline stapler in my Amazon wish list to put on my desk next year. It was really frustrating to feel that way about the career that I've loved since the first day in my classroom.

These feelings all came to a head last night. I was at Barnes and Noble with my friends Eric and Rob, and as we were leaving the store, I spotted it.
The Office Space Kit. It comes with a little red Swingline stapler, an Initech coffee cup just like Lumbergh carries around, some flair, and TPS report cover sheets. I thought about it, decided against it, and walked out to the car. As I sat there, I reconsidered it. I could just see myself, thumbing my nose at authority, my private little in-jokes mocking the situation. And then, believe it or not, the words of Yoda came to me: "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny." I started up the car and went home, resolved not to do that.

I'm not going to break. Not now, and not ever. I am going to do what I set out to do next year. I'm going to teach kids how to solve mathematical problems. I will adhere to both the Common Core State Standards and the Indiana Academic Standards, but I'm not following slavishly the poor textbooks with which I've been saddled. I found a little passage that Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett sent me in an email yesterday that opens the door:

Due to the emphasis on the Standards for Mathematical Practice, the cluster design of the standards, the increased depth of the CCSS, and the grade-level content shifts from IAS to CCSS, curriculum planning teams will need to evaluate their current instructional materials. This is true for schools who have already adopted instructional materials, as well as those who will adopt materials aligned to the CCSS. In either case, chapters and lessons may exist that do not meet the full expectation of the CCSS, and others that do not meet the full expectation of the IAS. School corporations will very likely need to exclude certain lessons or chapters in order to focus on what is required of the standards. They will also need to determine which chapters or lessons should be used to teach the required content to ensure coherence in the curriculum. This will likely require teachers to teach out of order from the textbook and only use the lessons needed. It will also likely require teachers to develop gap lessons and to adapt lessons to meet the full expectation of the standards.
Yes, you read that right. If the book doesn't do the job required by the state, we have to pare it and supplement it. And that's just what I plan to do. I'm going to approach this next year with renewed vigor. I'm going to create "gap lessons" like you wouldn't believe. I'm going to Lowe's tomorrow to get a big sheet of bulletin board to mount on my basement wall to organize the lessons around the standards that the awful textbook doesn't hit. And every one of those lessons is going to be my flair. And there's going to be a hell of a lot more than the fifteen minimum pieces of it, let me tell you.

Next year I'm going to express myself, and I'll never, never have a case of the Mondays.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My New Job

I'm still teaching in the same school and hopefully that will never change, but after 14 years of teaching 8th grade math, I'm getting a new job. Beginning next year, I'll be teaching 7th grade math problem solving. What this means is that I'll have my own course pretty much outside of the normal curriculum, focused on solving more complex problems. I took extended coursework in problem solving several years ago, and developed a math laboratory at my former school. I'm looking forward to the challenge of writing a semester's worth of curriculum (the course is taught twice per year) and essentially designing a course from the ground up.

One of the great things I'm planning for this course is for students to go outside. Our school grounds are vastly underutilized and I want to make up for that. We are going to measure buildings, both directly and indirectly, and estimate the cost of painting them. We'll find the height of the flagpole by measuring its shadow and setting up a proportion. We'll measure off the softball field and use the Pythagorean Theorem to find out if second base is in the right place. We'll use the U.S. system. We'll use the metric system. Kids will write about the advantages and disadvantages of each, and it won't be some arbitrary writing exercise. They'll have practical knowledge of both systems to inform their opinions.

This is going to be fun!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ultimate Hawkeye

From the Pet Peeves Department:

Given these two images of the cover of Ultimate Hawkeye #1, I'm going to guess that Adam Kubert (left) has never shot a bow, and that Neal Adams (right) has. Kubert's Hawkeye just got a taut bowstring across the back of his hand. Maybe that's why Hawkeye looks so irritated and his arrows are flying off in different directions.

Friday, April 01, 2011

April Fool's Day

I hate April Fool's Day. Reading websites for actual information is virtually impossible today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


::chirp:: ::chirp::

That's the sound my blog has been making for a while now. This school year has me working harder than I ever have in my career. We have, let's see, a new principal, assistant principal, counselor, office manager, and head custodian. We've lost teachers left and right to retirement, and now it's almost a whole new school, and it's been turned upside down. New curriculum, new educational focus, new responsibilities, it all adds up. I'm also teaching a homebound student three nights a week to make extra money.

With the public education nightmare continuing, I've been spending a lot more of my free time (all two hours a day) on my geek interests. I haven't even really had time to participate in baseball discussions on the Detroit Tigers message board I used to visit so often. With all the stuff going on in the world I haven't been able to write about Charlie Sheen, the protests in Madison and Indianapolis, the tsunami in Japan, or anything else. I feel like Jon Stewart coming back from vacation, except I don't have the time to really give these items the attention they deserve. I'd love to write about Young Justice, the new animated series from Cartoon Network, as well as Invincible, my favorite comic book, or even my experiences with Manga Studio, a comic book making program that has allowed me to start inking successfully for the first time in my life.

It would be great to talk about my fantastic family, including my adorable and adoring daughter, who now creates her own comic books. My wife recently transferred to the Elkhart Area Career Center, where she is finally teaching in the culinary arts program, where she should have been years ago.

I should write about my friend KC Ryan, who passed away of cancer not long ago. I've lost another friend who was far too young to die.

There are a lot of things I should write about, but I just don't have the time. The few hours I have to myself are being used to work on a dream project that has a real chance (according to everyone who's looked at it) to be successful and popular enough to make some real money. We'll have to see.

Friday, January 14, 2011

So Far, So Good...

Well, it's a new year and nothing catastrophic has happened to us yet.

That sounds a bit on the negative side, but if you had been in our position for the past 18 months, you would be a bit more understanding. It's been nothing but one disaster after another, financially, healthwise, and otherwise. The one saving grace for Magi and me has been our wonderful daughter, Sera.

It's almost been like having a fever for a year and a half, and just before winter recess (Christmas break to us old folks) the fever broke. I finally sold off the inventory of my comic book business, as well as the bulk of my personal comic book collection.

I worked all summer long, like I usually do, and then with 12 days off between summer school and the beginning of the normal school year, I used the time to prepare to sell comics at Wizard World Chicago, the large comic book convention that used to be the Chicago Comicon. I had part of a large booth, and I brought every box of comics that I have had in my garage for the past five years. Unfortunately, for the first time in over 20 years, the convention was going to start after my school year began. I had to take two personal days during the first week of school, something I never wanted to do, but I had no choice. It was either that, or be out all of the money I had put down for the booth space. So, on the day in question, I loaded a rented U-Haul with 60 boxes of comics weighing about 50 pounds each, and drove to Chicago. I unloaded all 60 boxes of comics and then re-stacked them all like a fortress of boxes at the booth. So, basically I moved 9,000 pounds of comics in about three hours.

After I settled in and the show opened, I was selling comics for $1.00 each, but I soon discovered why business wasn't more brisk. Another dealer was selling at 5 for $1.00 on the very first day. It was pretty much the same stuff I had, so I was forced to lower my prices far sooner than I planned to. I hadn't seen so much as a quarter box at that show for about five years, so this came as quite a shock. I planned to economize as much as possible. I had a discount hotel room that I shared with a couple of friends that cost me $120 total for all three nights. It even included a free continental breakfast, which I took advantage of. I brought canned and boxed food and my own bottled water to eat and drink at the convention so that I wouldn't have to pay $7.00 or something for a sandwich and $3.50 for a bottle of water. The only thing I splurged on was $20 on both Friday and Saturday nights for a nice dinner out with new friends that I made at the show.

It was a long four days, as the dealer across the way from me was like a carnival barker. He kept shouting about how they were going out of business after 30 years. It's an old trick, and it was not the truth. He ended up going home with virtually the same number of boxes that he arrived with. He bought stuff left and right from people.

I ended up lowering my prices again and again, until on Sunday, I was literally giving away the unbagged bulk comics that no one wanted. I had rented the U-Haul truck for a one-way trip and Magi and Sera came to pick me up on Sunday. At the end of those four days, I was so happy to see them that I teared up. And the bottom line at the end of the show? I lost $100.

The good news was that on my way out, I met a convention organizer who took an interest in Sera, who was dressed up as Wonder Woman. He was now working to acquire comics for another venture. We struck up a conversation while Magi took her to the restroom, and when I told him I had sold 60 boxes but had at least that much better stuff at home, his eyes lit up. He was interested in buying it all! He told me he'd be there at the end of the week, and I worked nights to get the stuff ready. I went through it in detail, so I'd know what I had and what to ask for. I organized comics all week, and at the end of that week...he didn't show. He had even called and said that he was out of small bills and asked me to go get $40 in twenties for his tolls and he'd bump the check up by $50. Now this guy is well known in the comics world. I'm not a sucker. I knew he was good for it. I stayed up until midnight waiting for him to show up on Friday night, and then he called. His truck was full and he didn't have enough room for it. But he promised he'd be by in a few weeks to get it. Meanwhile, our air conditioner had stopped working and we didn't have the money to fix it. We'd used our mortgage money to get the car fixed and we were in a bind. Medical bills were starting to pile up too and then I had a scare with what doctors thought might be an aneurysm. One $3700 test later, we knew it wasn't, and the doctor suggested that it might be stress related. I said, "Hmm, I think it's possible."

We were getting promises from the guy to come and buy all the comics, but he kept reneging. These promises came and went every week. He said he'd be there, and then he'd have a reason why he couldn't come. A trip to China. A sudden illness. Then the promises were once a month. He'd make an appointment and cancel. I'd return his call because he'd always call when I was in class and couldn't answer. And when I'd return his call, his voice mail would pick up and the mailbox was full. It started getting ugly. So we scrimped and started paying off stuff as fast as we could. Waiting for this guy was looking dimmer and dimmer. Well, he finally showed up in mid-December. He paid far less than what I would have liked for the rest of the comics and tried to pull the "Well, these will sell for only a dollar" stuff on me, but I knew better and said so. I finally got him up to a fair price, almost double what he had intially offered, and breathed a sigh of relief. We were able to at least catch everything up, pay our medical bills, get reimbursed for our flex spending accounts and buy a few Christmas presents for Sera and the rest of our families. I had my first vacation since spring break during the first week of April, and did it feel great! The stress was gone, thank goodness. I still owe Magi's dad and stepmother for the inital outlay for the comic collection, but I can make progress on that during summer school.

Just after we went back to work, Magi got some great news. She got the Culinary Arts instruction job at the career center that she had applied for in October! This is her dream job. I am so happy for her, I can't begin to say. It was a struggle to get the people who interviewed her to see that she was the best candidate that they were likely to see, but after meeting her at the school, they have already learned things that they didn't know about her that show them just how perfect she is for this job.

When I returned to work, I found a fresh perspective on things. I'm not using the nightmare of a textbook that our corporation adopted for math. We are teaching the Indiana standards, like we should have been doing the whole time, and have been released from the cookie cutter recipes of the Connected Math Project. We can use whatever materials we'd like to get the job done, just like we should have been able to do the whole year. Some damage has been done to the kids by forcing that text on them early on, but I'm confident we can target their weaknesses now and vary our instructional strategies beyond fake context that they can't relate to.

I'd really been down on the teacher bashing that's become part of the national conversation for some time. Reviewing some of my blog posts from last year, it was getting ugly. My solution was to stop reading it. I made the mistake today of reading a presentation by state superintendent Tony Bennett, and I slid backward. I only read it because it was embedded in an email. I won't make that mistake again. Instead, I'm working on my comic book project, which will be published shortly. I will at least have an ashcan printed by C2E2 in March, with a full-color, actual comic book done by Wizard World Chicago in August. The next time I go to the convention center in Rosemont, I won't be carrying thousands of pounds of boxes. I will be sitting in a whole different section of the convention floor, carrying the hope for a brighter future for my family and me.

This is going to be fun!