Pirates & Treasure

I can't help but find it truly amazing how one class of teenagers can make me feel like all my energy, compassion, and creativity is wasted and viewed as meaningless and imaginary. Why do I care so much?! Seriously, it would be so much easier if I felt detached. They aren't my children, but I was sad and I carried home a heavy heart. 

Dwelling on those temporary feelings and not at all thinking about all the fulfilling experiences I have as a teacher.... Shame on me! The craziest thing is that this hurt came from only one of my five classes. In my first class of the day, a young man pulled me over to him because my lesson triggered a feeling of missing his entire family in Mexico. His parents left everyone behind to give him a better life and he misses them. I drew him into a safe space. He broke down in tears to me. His vulnerability and honest self-reflection is a reason to teach. Fast forward an hour... and I felt like a worthless piece of crap!

This morning I woke up with a sharper perspective... My hurt isn't completely gone, it's just not at the center of my mental state. It is Saturday morning and I am home with my own kids. I have a passion for making an impact on children; it's hard and some times it's too much to bear. Planting and sowing the seeds of change.... Oy Vey!

Today, I woke up and looked at the big picture and my biggest treasures were beside me: my own children! In reality and in metaphor, we made Treasure Chests together!


Tyler Durden's universal truth

I am sorry to be the bearer of the truth, but...

"You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."

    - written by Chuck Palahniuk and said by his literary character Tyler Durden in Fight Club,1996

I see this oration as an aphorism which makes me feel that I am part of one world and we are universally small and need to be together. I am not a pessimist, I am an optimist and a realist. 

Our world is full of people who's pain is real, but it is not unique because we are all the same and we all struggle. There is always someone who knows your pain. They even feel your pain. 

I feel it and I can no longer watch the news. 

We are all tiny humans who deal with that unity in different ways. Some people are self-important. We compete and that's imperative. But our competition should be the biggest inside of us. To be the best version of we, of you and me... Us human beings are insignificant unless we help others!  

There are many right ways to be a unifying force of nature, but so many people are too busy making divisions. They do that because being one with world is scary and they are just not there yet.

If my quote and my words offend you and on the surface you think I am telling you that you suck, that's not the because I am speaking the truth. Let's evolve together and have meaningful conversations which other people have had before. Let's accept that we are not unique and come together.  - Nancella aka Nancy Ribak Altadonna, SorryBusyTakeCare 

So... back to the quote... my inspiration for this blog came from a blog published in The Guardian (Dec. 2017) by Sam Jordison, a co-director of Galley Beggar Press and the co-editor of the Crap Towns series of books. You can follow him @samjordison #tylerdurden #generationsnowflake #notmypresident #theguardian #yourenotspecial but #ifeelyourpain #f4f #sorrybusytakecare

Writer Hannibal Bateman interpreted the speech of Tyler Durden: "We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war … our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off." My inspiration came from a blog published in The Guardian (Dec. 2017) by Sam Jordison, a co-director of Galley Beggar Press and the co-editor of the Crap Towns series of books. You can follow him @samjordison 

#tylerdurden #generationsnowflake #notmypresident #theguardian #yourenotspecial but #ifeelyourpain #f4f #sorrybusytakecare     Visit www.sorrybusytakecare.com for more thoughts from me: Nancella


Auto Bio of High Points until 2009

As early as 5th grade, I became captain of the honor guard of Patrols in my hometown of San Antonio Texas. In middle school & high school I competed in the National Forensic League; I experienced triumph & defeat in tournament standard impromptu speech, extemporaneous, Lincoln Douglas, & cross-examination debate. My fund of knowledge contains fond memories of leadership in school-wide organizations.

Between high school and college, I spent a year in Israel learning and living on kibbutz where I gained a global perspective. I came back and attended the University of Texas at Austin. I’m proud of my extracurricular achievments there; I was the Senior Music Director, Program Manager, and deejayed host of a popular radio at 100% student-run station, KVRX. In the year 2000, the Austin Chronicle awarded me “Best Evening Radio Host of Austin” based on a local annual poll. Additionally, I was esteemed by serving Texas as a Governor’s Fellow which meant that I was 1 of 50 of the “Texas Best” in the year 2000. 

A few days after completing my Bachelor’s degree I moved to San Francisco for a job  and I stayed there for almost four years when that Dot Com bubble burst. I then moved to Miami Beach for where I managed public relations and community outreach programs for the largest PR firm in the world. One year later and almost thirteen years ago, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of living in NYC where I continued a professional career as a Community Organizer & Account Executive. I did all of these things alone. No one moved me to these cities of dreams. I did that on my own.

After six years living in New York City I officially ended my nomadic life. It may sound silly that it was a chance encounter with a subway ad which inspired me to apply for the NYC Teaching Fellows program and give back to the city I adore the most. Once again I must have stood out… because of the many that applied and auditioned. I was part of the 3.5% of applicants accepted into the 2009 NYCTF cohort. Since then, I cultivated a passion for educating urban youth. I completed my Master’s degree in 2 years, while facilitating a brand-new career as a full-time middle school special education teacher, meeting and marrying my husband and giving birth to my first of two children. January 2018 will make 13 years in NYC... To Be Continued...


New Rule

New Rule: politicians, media, and/or anyone taking about politics will stop using the word: LIE (n) - "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth." We can just assume politics and lieing are synonymous and move on. We will not waste our energy on lieing and people that lie. It's an assumption. Now we are free to focus on "positive and productive" endeavors..........


They say

Love the skin you're in
Or bolt
Through a crowd where you're stuck
Did you explain
That's not where you were supposed to be
Bad timing
Bad day
Bad week
Bad memories
Bad decisions
Good heart
Good hands
Good mind
Good intentions
Does it matter to you now
Will it matter to you when
You are older
You should know by now
Your soul hasn't walked away
So experienced yet naive
You shouldn't be here

I didn't write this but I feel this


When heroes let you down



Catharsis: Top 5 List - reasons to opt out of politics on Facebook:

Catharsis: Top 5 List - reasons to opt out of politics on Facebook (And be a happier person)

1. It's too easy to post what you think and too hard to unsee what others think (balls of steel and hearts of glass)

2. Two wrongs don't make a right and two rights don't make a wrong (no winning)

3. There's only 2 types of people in this world... (division)

4. I like to keep my friends close (and I don't have enemies to keep closer)

5. Being judgmental helps no one (it hurts people)


Nativism & the American Dream: An origin story

Disclaimer: This blog entry has nothing to do with the president elect, Donald Trump. I wrote this for a former student who asked me to write about my personal immigration experience for a US history assignment she got in college. The timing is merely a coincidence, I assure you!

I've always been fascinated by the stories of my ancestors and was excited when my former student and close friend asked me to lend my voice to this topic. I am happy to share my personal experience as a first generation American on my dad's side and 3rd generation on my mom's side. My father was born in Mexico in 1939 and moved to the USA when he was 9 years old. He and his family officially petitioned for citizenship in 1952, but his immigration story began with his parents 20+ years earlier.

When my grandparents sailed to the US from Poland, they were denied admittance into the port and were told that they didn't have to go home but they would not be allowed into the United States. On their passports, their ethnicity was listed as "Hebrew" because they were of Jewish decent. I'm positive that their religious heritage and undesirable Eastern European ethnicity was the reason why they were put back onto a ship to anywhere but the US. During the 1920's the US government passed a series of immigration policies which legalized racial and ethnic quotas and selectively closed borders to many. Mexico, Canada, and Barbados were my grandparents' viable options and they went to Mexico where they became legal citizens. The Ribakowsky family spent 20 years moving from town to town and my Poppy sold pots and pans door to door until they finally settled just north of the Texas/Mexico border.

My father was not born an American citizen but he couldn't be more of a patriot. He got a green card and eventually became a naturalized citizen when he was in high school. His agreement to join the US army came with a promise of citizenship. He and his parents became legally American in San Antonio, Texas where I was born and raised.

My mom is a second generation American and her family moved here from Russia (present day Ukraine) via Germany in the 1880s-1890s. To say the least, they had it rough back in mother Russia! They were escaping the pogroms and anti-Jewish nativism. In fact, my great grandmother was said to have been hid in a barn in Kiev for several years like Anne Frank, but at the end of it, she escaped to the land of opportunity where she had religious freedom and a job in a hat store. The US did not have laws against the Jews or ethic quotas at this point. This was before the Red Scare and before pseudo-scientific notions of racial superiority against Eastern Europeans. The US had not experienced the Great Depression, or World War I and the horrors experienced through the entanglement in Europe. My mom's family's immigration story is fairly simple... imagine... Fiddler on the Roof but with a happy ending in Columbus, Georgia.

Thirty years makes a big difference when it comes to immigration reforms. All of my family that stayed in Europe was murdered in the Holocaust. All properties and records of their existence were erased from the planet. Regardless of the difficulties that my dad's side of the family experienced, they got out just in time. My father's first language was Spanish, but he spoke Yiddish and learned English within a few months of moving to Texas. It's so strange to me that "Hebrew" was listed as his nationality when he arrived. Today that is considered racist and ignorant. But in the 1950's it was acceptable and it was a good reason to Americanize. When my father became a citizen, the judge suggested that they cut off the end of their surname. He didn't have to say why... it was obvious why. My maiden name would have been Ribakowsky; becoming a Ribak was not a big deal considering they had just lost everything in WWII and all they wanted was to be American!  


I'm sorry I f**ked up & I am sorry I can't fix it

"I'm sorry I f**ked up and I am sorry I can't fix it"

I was struck by this message on my feed today... Maybe b/c this is the New Year, a time of reflection for the Jewish people. The Book of Life is wide open... So, I have decided to appreciate my past "mistakes" and release regrets. They all lead me here where I am able to fix the things within my power & as a teacher with the power to lead, I can prevent future regrets by speaking with those souls who just don't know this yet. I am thankful that my wicked youth is now of use. L'shana tova!!


A Vision of Leadership in Public Schools

Reminiscent of Leadership Pathways is this quote by Ernest Hemingway; “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Although this essay assignment was aimed at my last 2 years, I believe that true leadership requires a longer timeline.

As early as 5th grade, I became captain of the honor guard of Patrols. In middle school & high school I competed in the National Forensic League; I experienced triumph & defeat in tournament standard impromptu, extemporaneous, Lincoln Douglas, & cross-examination debate. I have fond memories being leadership in school-wide organizations. At the University of Texas, I was Music Director & Program Manager at the student radio station, KVRX. In 2000, the Austin Chronicle distinguished me as “Best Evening Radio Host of Austin.” Additionally, I served Texas as a Governor’s Fellow. I then moved to San Francisco & later NYC for my professional career as a Community Organizer & Account Executive. After six years in NYC, a subway ad inspired me to become a Teaching Fellow in Cohort 18. Since 2009 I have cultivated a passion for educating urban youth.

In 2012, I founded the Speech and Debate club at AFYW.  Meanwhile, maternity leave spawned a teaching program change that was instrumental to my academic evolution, but ultimately off the path of teacher leadership. With mixed emotions, yet a “stamp of approval” from administration, colleagues, & students, I transferred to UAMA. I am maintaining strong relationships at AFYW. I presented this essay question to my former speech squad. I believe this 11th grader’s words exemplify my community contributions:

You helped us come out of our shells. Showed us how to make our points both verbally AND physically. It improved the writing styles for a lot of people and showed us how to organize our ideas. Nancella, you've done plenty!!! You've shown us how to be speakers & inspire other people with our ideas. You literally coached us to put our ideas into actual words. That's really hard to do!!! And LOL, don't forget our regents prep!! The tricks & stuff you told us about. If that counts... By you just taking the job you did, you made an example of going after what you want. Even if it means a change of environment and required adjustments to it.”

Mission accomplished! Now there are new opportunities to build community. I have no doubts that my time as an ICT teacher made me a 100% better educator and leader. Timing and tenaciousness had me land in a community where I am needed! In January I became DOE mentor to History & ICT teachers at UAMA. I was appointed to the Instructional Committee and have been tapped for increased leadership in the coming years. I quickly became an integral member of my new school community. My future role as an administrator is the logical next step.

We live in an Information Age where we efficiently make virtual connections & provide less opportunity for face-to-face communications that which make us human. Social Media holds this generation’s gaze, but I aim to take part in an educational movement that is intertwined with the educational values more prominent in less technological times. Providing platforms for students to stand up & speak out is an investment in our future. Our children need to acquire more self-confidence & executive skills in order to compete in this world. Being an administrator is a vehicle where I may broadcast my vision of quality education. I am confident you’re looking for teachers like me… so here I am, and I’m ready!


Aim high for awareness!

This evening I in-boxed via Facebook to 2 people that did me wrong in high school. These two individuals got away with it. Facebook was the vehicle I used to confront my oppressors. When forgiveness &/or revenge aren't options, aim high for awareness! I'm sure this form of catharsis would not exist without Facebook.

For 22+ years, I wanted to confront these two guys from another high school who disrespected me so badly. As long as it's been, it stings when I think about it. There's a part of me that envisions revenge, and another part that wishes I were able to grant forgiveness, but I have developed acceptance. I'm about to be 40 years old. I do need to forgive those who deserve it, but there are others who just need to be put on notice. 

Thanks to the almighty internet, all of this is possible! I will make peace with some and also release demons by speaking up. Technology means my pen is no longer mightier than a sword, but my keyboard is. After I sent out these inbox confessions, I have to say, I feel a whole lot better! My head is lighter.... My mind is cleaner.... The words are out there… 

Apologies for the part at the end where I insult the guy for still living in the city we grew up in. I wouldn't knock where I grew up. I still love it. That insult is not meant for my readers, just for the losers who robbed my crib. By living away from where I was born and raised, I am no better than you. But when I said it to the perps, it was the most satisfying dis. 

Below please find the message I sent to one of the perpetrators' brothers: 

"Hello XXXXXXX, I am not sure if my name rings a bell. I have no beef with you and you owe me no debt, but I would appreciate it if you would forward this message to your brother, XXXXX XXXXX. He does not accept messages from non-friends on Facebook, but he needs to hear from me! If not for your own soul, please forward this as a gesture of good will. Thanks in advance! 

For perpetrator #2: 
"Hello XXXXXXX XXXXXXX, you might not remember me from high school 20+ years ago, but you probably remember my house which you and your friend XXXXX XXXXXXX looted and burglarized. In 1992, you crashed my house party where you stole my parents checkbook and you both wrote hot checks at XOXOX. Then you got even more greedy and when you knew I was away from home for the night, you came back to burglarize my house. You managed to take much from my family including my mom's wedding china, all of my dad's ties, most of the electronics in our home... you also made off with my entire music collection, our oriental rugs and more.

You must have had a lot of help violating my home! In addition to my material losses, you caused me a great deal of emotional pain. I am writing to you to you to tell you I will never forget the crimes you got away with or the gunshots you /or one of your friends fired in my front yard. Your friend XXXX's dad got you out of jail time, but I am certain he failed you both. You may have been above the law, but you are not above final judgment. The statute of limitations is up in criminal court, but not on your lousy karma. 

I'd like to thank you for being one of the bad memories that propelled me away from Texas 15 years ago. I have done things in CA and NYC that people make movies about. It's very satisfying to me to see you and your buddy XXXXX XXXXX still living in San Antonio. Clearly you never got very far and I think I know why. I hope you remember me now! That is all, you XXXXX XX XXXX!"