You have GOT to be kidding….

Have you ever had one of those days when everything is so utterly frustrating to the point you “go off” due to the most insignificant inconveniences? That’s what this post is about.

This past Wednesday was that kind of a day for me. (If you’re reading this in the distant future, just imagine that it was the Wednesday that most recently past.) I woke up to the neighbor mowing his lawn at 7:15 in the morning, and, even though it was literally only five minutes before my alarm was scheduled to sound, I wished death on him. My wish was so specific that I even asked the universe to ensure his bloodline always remain barren. (I must have just watched Into The Woods, or something.)

The day only continued to grow in annoyances. After being so audibly nudged awake, I went to use the restroom, per usual. I could feel myself tense up as I saw that the previous person emptied the toilet paper holder and put a new roll vertically on top of it, instead of replacing the roll properly. (This is a common occurrence in my house). I remember gritting my teeth while I was sitting, patiently, to pass a nugget.

The tension grew significantly as I was finishing up washing my hands in the restroom. Tell me, America, why is it so difficult to get the toothpaste out of the tube, onto your toothbrush, and into your mouth without it getting all over the sink? I’ll wait for your explanation. (And, while we are on the topic, why can’t you clean your spittle off the mirror after the toothbrush flicks your pasty mouth water onto it?) Still waiting.

The following items fuel my hate fire for life:

  1. My work computer deciding to self-restart mid data entry.
  2. People who do not cover their mouth when they sneeze/ cough.
  3. People that cover their mouth with their hands instead of the inner side of their elbow.
  4. People that leave their laundry in the washer or dryer well after the cycle has finished.
  5. Drivers that park their car too close to one side of a parking spot.
  6. Drivers in general.
  7. When my gas tank takes more than 11 gallons, even though I have an 11 gallon tank.
  8. Coffee that cools too quickly.
  9. Iced coffee that warms too quickly.
  10. People who interrupt others/ people who talk too much.
  11. Sticky tables.
  12. Clutter.
  13. Backseat drivers that change the song on the radio. (I am a total hypocrite with this one.)
  14. People who take walking selfies.

So, I was taking a walking selfie the other day…

(To be continued…)

One Day At A Time

I have truly been blessed with amazing educators and role models in my life, and I wish that I hadn’t taken my time with them for granted. I now look back and see how much more they could have offered to me growing up, and how much more I could have grown under their guidance and influence. I often think about what one more conversation could have led to with each (or any) of them in terms of where I am now in my life. It’s an amazing thought.

As I continue to make progress with my personal writing goals, I reflect on the words my history teacher shared with me at the beginning of my senior year of high school: “Life can seem overwhelming, but remember you only have to do one day at a time.” She was referring to the high expectations she had for everyone in the class regarding learning the subject material, but I have taken it to mean so much more. I often look back on these words of advice, and I am so happy that I had decided to pay attention in class that day. This is the best advice that I have ever received. (Unless you count that one time a homeless man in North Attleboro, MA told me, “How about it, keep goin’. So inspiring.)

Writing is Hard

Who among us hasn’t ever dreamt of writing or starring in a TV show that is loosely based on the adventures of his or her own life? We are all guilty, and most us never bother to follow through with such a dream because it’s only a “nice thought” and real life “get’s in the way”.

I cannot even count the number of times that I have had been hanging out with close friends and thought to myself, “why aren’t we filming this?” (Probably because no one finds me quite as hilarious as I find myself, for I have an extremely dry and sarcastic sense of humor which I completely acknowledge as an acquired taste.)(Also, it took so much will-power to type “I cannot even” instead of “I can’t even” because I’m so basic.) Back to topic, hindsight is always 20/20, but, also, who honestly knows how to work one of those old school cameras? (I say old school, because I imagine that I couldn’t afford one of the newer, seemingly user-friendly recording devices, so I would have to settle for an archaic piece of equipment that could only be found for cheap at some yard sale, or, even worse, on Craigslist. Actually, since we’re on the topic, you can find some stellar deals and steals on Craigslist… if you’re willing to risk your life. True story, I once heard about this guy who started with a paperclip, or something as minuscule, and eventually traded up for a house. Why can’t that be my life?) Now, some of you out there in the safety of the internet are probably asking, “what about vine?”, or saying, “GoPro’s aren’t that expensive, Shawn.”. Well, here are my thoughts on those areas:

Vine: I WOULD KILL TO BE VINE FAMOUS. My life is kind of a joke right now in terms of relationships and friendships, as it always is. I studied away at a small school in New Haven for undergrad and grad (no, this is not some cheeky attempt at stating that I went to Yale), and I made great, life-long friendships. The problem, however, is that essentially none of them live close enough to me to brainstorm and film Vines when inspiration strikes, and the friends that do live close enough are too serious about life, in a good way, to participate in such an activity.

Don’t even get me started about how difficult it is to make new friends as a post-grad adult. (Hint: it is the literal worst thing ever.)

GoPro: (See, Vine.)

I get so distracted and have a variety of loud thoughts all of the time that I cannot stay focused long enough on any one item, and that’s why writing is hard. Well, that, along with finding inspiration and finding your voice. For me, inspiration is Ellen DeGeneres and Mindy Kaling. Both of these strong women represent what it means to be yourself in a world telling you to be anyone else. That is so inspiring. Aside from her humanitarian approach with life, I want to mimic Ellen’s ability to make celebrities do insanely hilarious, out of their comfort zone activities. (Actually, she does this with non-celebrities as well, so, really, no one is safe.) Mindy has a way of seeming self-deprecating, but actually she is being a phenomenal feminist. Conveniently enough, I recently finished reading Ellen’s Seriously… I’m Kidding and Mindy’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), and they both focus more on observational and life experience humor and less on shock value. Why is this a dying genre within comedy?

My voice, I’ve been told (because I just, right now while writing this, asked my best friend), is tenor, warm, familiar, safe… aka slightly feminine, but that’s not what I meant about finding your voice. My writing voice is very candid, like a conversation. (This writing style has definitely led to receiving less than desirable grades on academic papers, so tread lightly.) Like Ellen, I don’t understand the need to use pretentious vocabulary in writing. I want my friends to read what I write and I want everyone to be my friend, so it makes sense for me to write in this candid way. (I have a real sibling complex, I guess.)

Anyway, I am tired of my personal excuses for not writing (and people who don’t put a new roll of toilet paper on the roll holder but just leave it on the old roll, like WHY???), so I am going to, finally, start again. This time, however, I am going into to this with very little expectation. We’ll see how this goes.

Wish me luck!

Pizza is Always the Perfect Choice

Guest post from Matt DiGiovanni. Follow him on twitter!

Last night Liz and I decided pizza was the perfect dinner choice (realistically, pizza is always the perfect choice). Not just any pizza would suffice though; we would be making French Onion Soup and Bacon, Onion, and Pineapple pizzas!

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(Left: French Onion Soup Pizza, Right: Bacon, Onion, and Pineapple Pizza)

Here’s what you’ll need:

French Onion Soup Pizza
½ bag of pizza dough
1-2 Large Vidalia onions, halved and sliced
3-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 tbsp of butter
1 cup beef broth
¾ cup dry red wine
1 tbsp flour, with additional for the dough
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream
1/3 lb Gruyère cheese, shredded

Continue reading

Welcome Back. Let’s Hear It For Pasta.

Our last post left us in a sort of limbo. It was evident that we needed to upgrade and reorganize our vision, and it was clear that this project had the potential to become community-based endeavor. So, without further ado, welcome to the new Edible Opinions!

Pasta is one of those meals that can be so versatile. I could eat it, well, always. So why wouldn’t I come back from a very long hiatus with a pasta post?

Let’s get started.

I tend to treat pasta as a vehicle for other edible wonders, like sauce, cheese, avocado (thanks to my roommate), etc. For this recipe, though, I wanted to bring the focus of a pasta dish back to pasta, so that’s exactly what I did!

What you will need:

1/2 Red Pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 Orange Pepper, thinly sliced
1 Small Onion, thinly sliced
1Tbsp Garlic, crushed
1Tbsp Butter
2Tbsp Olive Oil
I Box Pasta, of your choice

To start, thinly chop onion and peppers.

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Continue reading

Closing the Achievement Gap in Connecticut

The Achievement Gap refers to the difference in educational progress in White students and their Black and Hispanic counterparts as well as socioeconomically troubled students and their well-off counterparts.  According to an article in the CT Mirror published in November of 2013, “… Connecticut has had the worst achievement gap in the nation between its minority students and their peers in learning to read and do math” (Thomas, 2013). A number of organizations, including the Board of Education, are currently working to close this gap (“Connecticut Commission on Children,” 2013).

The success of students in Connecticut and across the United States is measured through standardized testing. NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, tracks success and improvement through the administering of twelve subject area assessments, including civics, reading, science, math, and language to name a few (“Nations Report Card,” 2014).

CT Ed Reform, an organization aimed to help identify current issues within the Connecticut schooling systems, identifies the greatest factors contributing to the achievement gap as:

a) A lack of accountability throughout our system

b) Not setting high expectations

c) The need for more effective teachers and school leaders

d) Inefficient and opaque ways of funding education

e) Complacency with chronically low-achieving schools

This same organization recognizes that low-income also correlates with subpar academic success (“Connecticut Council for Education,” 2014).

One issue currently being tackled by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) is education reform. The main goal that they hope to realize is to “Provide all young people with the education they need to be productive citizens and contributors to Connecticut’s economic vitality.” Through issue initiatives and policy lobbying, CBIA will work to help close the achievement gap (CBIA Government Affairs, 2014). Noted on the CBIA website, Governor Malloy recently announced the creation of a new state agency called the Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The office will focus on:

a) Improving academic programs and teacher training,

b) Increasing access to early care and education programs, and

c) Providing a comprehensive, collaborative system for delivering improved programs and services to children up to age five and their parents

The State of Connecticut recognizes the achievement gap issue and offers a few resources to struggling school districts—with funding being the greatest contributor. Through Education Cost Sharing, the State of Connecticut provides funding to municipalities to level the “playing field” in regards to the resources that a school may offer to its students between high-income communities and low-income communities.  Information from the State of Connecticut’s List of Statutory Formula Grants, revised in June 2012, includes data that identifies the top five cities and towns during fiscal year 2013-2014 that currently receives the most funding through Education Cost Sharing, and they are:

1) Hartford, $192,781,001

2) Bridgeport, $168,599,571

3) New Haven, $146,351,428

4) Waterbury, $118,012,691

5) New Britain, $76,583,631

Among many other factors, the wealth of the community is the greatest driving force when the State determines the funding allowance via Education Cost Sharing. This funding is guaranteed under law; however, many individuals still find this financial safety net unfair. The five cities and towns that receive the least funding through Education Cost Sharing are:

1) Cornwall, $85,322

2) Warren, $99,777

3) Bridgewater, $137,292

4) Lyme, $145,556

5) Sharon, $145,798

These figures may seem significant, but the report does not go into detail as to the number of students or the demographics benefiting from the Education Cost Sharing.

Currently, the cost of enrollment per pupil in the State of Connecticut is approximately $13,000, which is one of the highest figures in the United States (Busemeyer). It is also worth mentioning that these financial figures do not include the fiscal assistance from the state for Capital Improvements to educational facilities. In conclusion, it is not just about the money. While funding does play a great role in the success of educating the youth of Connecticut, it is only a piece of the puzzle. Qualified and ambitious educators, willing leadership, and informed parents fuel the fire of success. Connecticut needs to address its Achievement Gap in full force.

 

Am I Homophobic?

I begin this quest of a blog with an internal dilemma:

Am I homophobic?

As a gay American male, I am suppose to long for acceptance, tolerance, compassion, blah, blah, blah… But what I am finding lately is that I just want to be left alone. It is a really interesting concept, and I hope that I can find some sort of answer with no level of hypocrisy.

I want to be like everyone else. Not in the sense that I want to “blend in” and be some solid grey matter with zero identity, but I want to live in a society that doesn’t humor ideas of gay marriage, same-sex weddings, same-sex parenting, etc., etc., etc.

To be completely honest, I think the fact that we talk about marriage equity is great, but can’t we leave it as just that? Equity? Why is it that everything in the LGBT community has to be titled with the word “gay”? My marriage one day to another man should be thought as just one word– not some hyphenated phrase to make someone feel more comfortable with acknowledging it. (Not to mention that placing the word “gay” or the phrase “same-sex” makes it unequal. Again.)

Marriage equity has its foundation rooted in the idea that a civil union is not good enough for gay and lesbian couples because of the fact that the rights between couples within a civil union and a couple within a marriage differ greatly. What’s more, civil unions reinforce the idea of “separate but equal“. A civil union is an illusion– it’s all smoke and mirrors.

One must wonder if linguists had such trouble in defining other  words, like swag.

What is marriage? Marriage is a social and legal bond joining two people together. That’s it. Well, legally speaking, it is much more complex than one sentence (i.e., benefits available through the federal government), but we’ll regard the abridged version for ease-of-use purposes. Why are Americans so ignorant when it comes to civil rights issues?

So am I homophobic for not tolerating words like “gay” or phrases like “same-sex“? I don’t think so. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has an issue, but that’s ignorance. And a story for another day.

Updated Chapter Titles

Hola!

As the book has progressed, I have had to update some of the initial chapter titles. Take a look!

Chapter One: Meeting the Enemy

Chapter Two: Rise to power

Chapter Three: Hurricane Irene

Chapter Four: You’ve Got To Be Kidding- The Characters of Student Government

Chapter Five: I Didn’t Get Any

Chapter Six: Yes, It’s Seriously Been Over Three Years

Chapter Seven: Devil Spawn

Chapter Eight: Old Man Winter

Chapter Nine: Social Media Warfare

Chapter Ten: The Many Faces of Love

Chapter Eleven: Elections and Erections

Chapter Twelve: Rubbing Elbows

Chapter Thirteen: Poop.

Chapter Fourteen: Nana’s Drunk and I’m Out of Here

Chapter Fifteen: I’m Moving Home

 

Happy Tuesday :)

-Shawn

Meeting the Enemy

Hi there, (insert something witty and semi- insulting to the reader):

Here is the first extended look at Chapter One of my book, A Collection of Unfortunate Truths!

Enjoy!

“Debra Palomino is what you’d call an alcoholic. I take that back. Kind of. I met Debra during the 2010- 2011 academic year at our undergraduate institution. We were both a part of the student government organization, and we really thought relatively highly of ourselves, but you’ll hear more about that later.

We all have those friends that have had a negative experience with a certain individual and then they really try to push those negative experiences onto those that will listen. I used to be someone that listened. All growing up I was told that it was respectful to pay attention when someone was talking to you—you know; make him or her feel important. Never again. Debra was one of those individuals that had a bad rap before I had even met her. In fact, I hated her.

You see, a friend of mine (and I use this word very loosely for I am no longer associated with this said person—you could say that there was a falling out of sorts) had an issue with Debra because she was a part of a sorority that had quite the reputation of not being so welcoming. It turns out there was just some insecurities and jealousy involved. But you know how friendships at a young age work; if one friend doesn’t like someone, then the other friend, without question, doesn’t like them either.

It wasn’t until maybe midway through the year that I had even spoken to Debra one on one in a non-professional manner. We had many chats prior to this one, but they were always on a topic related to student government. I was her superior on the Senate, so we had to talk relatively frequently. If I remember correctly she said something a little catty and I thought it was absolutely hilarious, and, against all better judgment, I initiated a conversation revolving around the topic (of which I’m sure was related to how we had a mutual disgust for someone that worked closely with us).

Up to this point, you’re probably assuming that the enemy referenced in the title of this chapter is Debra. You’re wrong. To avoid a lawsuit (and to make sure that I don’t ruin anybody’s future career endeavors), all names have been changed.

The devil spawn that I am referencing is actually someone that I thought was a friend. A friend that should have been willing to aid in my rise to power, not cripple it. But you see, power is an idea that tiny minds just can’t understand. I wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to be a leader that actually worked with his advisors, and one that understood that a leader was only as successful as his followers. But no. This asshole saw what I had, and he wanted to take it from me. ”

I think it really sets the tone for what is to come next. Would you continue reading? Tell me what you think!

-Shawn

An Unintentional Brief Hiatus

After a brief hiatus, I am back! I’m sure many of you were crying over my absence, and by that I definitely mean, of course, no one cried at all. I am far less popular than I think I am.

Anyway…

This week was full of semi-tedious and minuscule tasks: starting a new job, organizing my life, and preparing myself for graduate school. Did you know that it takes approximately two weeks after a trimester begins to receive a reimbursement due to over payment? I never had to over-borrowed as an undergraduate student (mostly because I was fortunate enough to receive a lot of aid, scholarships, grants, and stipends for work), so this is an entirely new world for me. I am a little confused as to why it takes this long, but I am sure there is a completely logical answer — any ideas?

As far as the book goes, the content is done. I am just about ready to move onward to the editing process. Considering I am not a fancy, well-known, established author, I am relying on some friends that have worked semi- professionally in editing, journalism, and teaching to edit my work (most of which was written during the wee hours of the morning or late hours of the evening — depending on how you tell time — so I am sure many edits will be necessary). Rest assured, because you are all so worried and anxious, I will be posting the first chapter in its entirety sometime this week!

Until next time!

-Shawn