My Journey.. Why Me?........Why Not Me!
By: Tony Eller
My life's journey started 63 years ago. My life started to change 16+ years ago when I became clean and sober. I knew I had to find purpose and meaning in my life; if I truly wanted to change. It was a very slow process, but about 13 years ago I discovered I was dyslexic; although not the only reason my life had spiraled out of control! The 100 lb. gorilla had been lifted, after all those years I finally knew why I had struggled and the shame I carried could now be lifted. There was an awful lot of soul-searching with the same questions over and over, again and again, that rattled around in my head. Why me? I wanted to give my existence in life, and more importantly to those I loved and cared so deeply the love they truly deserved. This could NOT happen if I chose to live with the anger, resentment, self-pity, and downright SHAME that alcohol,drugs and dyslexia had caused! But, if I Chose to turn my life around and live with a true purpose the answer became very clear.
Why not me!
My name is Tony Eller, and my real journey, well at least the one that I can remember most of the details to, started slowly March 7,2002. Recovery happens sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. It took me about 3 years into my recovery when I realized what a huge role dyslexia had caused in all areas of my life. My life had become one big lie trying to hide not only the problems that my dyslexia caused, but adding alcohol and drugs was combination that spelled total disaster.
But, First Things First, I will tell you Karen my wife is my rock and we walk side by side together! My first 50 years I had lived a LIE, because my greatest FEAR was that my wife and children would discover just how bad my reading and writing really were, and now add alcohol & drugs to the mix my life began spiraling out of control,and this was just at home!
My school experience from childhood through College was a total nightmare. The phrase "Fake It to You Make It" took on a whole new meaning in my life! I became an actor playing a role, hoping no one would find out that I always felt as if I had to be the dumbest person in the room; not just because of my reading,writing and spelling; but also NOT being able to remember what I had just read, and then NOT being able to articulate my thoughts.
A childhood memory I often think about and replay in my head, were when the smart kids (they had to be smart they could read and I couldn't) would tell me about the books they are reading or had read; “Oh yeah, I read that too!”. I "NEEDED" them to think I was as smart as they were,the shame and embarrassment had taken over. Again Not true, I had not read the book so another lie begins! I didn't actually read my first book from cover to cover until I was 58 years old, “The Furniture Wars: How America Lost a Billion Dollar Industry” by Michael K. Dugan, which was followed shortly after by my second completed read “The Factory Man" by Beth Macy (How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local- and Helped Save an American Town). Please don't misunderstand me I read articles, especially short articles, on all types of subjects. I had picked up numerous books to read over the years, but never read one cover to cover.
Hank was Karen my wife's father, he lived with us after his wife passed away. Hank was one hell of a man, and our son Daniels idol (Daniel has a tattoo of his grandfather on his arm) . Hank was a bookworm, reading sometimes more than one book at a time? I couldn't even begin to comprehend how he could do this in my mind. At the time I really didn't think he was reading all those books. Because of Hank's love of reading. Hank not only bought Hooked on Phonics, but helped teach with Karen's help our children Ashley and Daniel how to read. This is a gift from Hank I will never be able to repay.
I was always so envious of those that talk about the teachers that had helped to make them who they are today. Not me! I only had one, Mrs. Resig, my music teacher that told me I had a good voice, but peer pressure made me abandon the one thing besides sports that I was actually pretty good at. If I could only speak to my younger self, I would have pushed myself to pursue my love of music. Then there was Mr. D, a name I thought I would never forget, a French teacher that embarrassed me so bad in front of the whole class! I actually quit school and stayed at a friend’s house for about 2 months ( 57 days absent from H.S.transcripts). My parents some how got me back into school and I was pushed through the system to graduate high school.
I struggled to the point of just giving up, because I had to read articles or short stories 2 or 3 times, sometimes more, to understand what I had just read. Now if that's not bad enough, often, I couldn't articulate to someone else what I had just read. The words would line up on this shelf in my brain, but the words just wouldn't come out of my mouth.
Now knowing I am dyslexic; I finally had an answer to why I struggled to read and wrote so poorly. At first; I thought that only a few people had found out this late in life. I was WRONG once again,because there are millions of adults that need help that simply don't know or they are just too ashamed to ask for help!
Please Kids never doubt yourself or your potential
that the dyslexic
child is just as intelligent
as the child sitting beside them in
class ...if not more so!
WE dyslexics just happen to learn differently!
I knew I had to make some serious changes to who I am and what I wanted out of my life. I had lived a lie for so long, I knew I had to hold myself accountable before I could even start to become a productive husband, father and a man of integrity, but what did that mean?
I started with the Definition of integrity- adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character, honesty
I also knew I had to make up for a lot a lost time, 50 years! Not only for me, but for my wife Karen and our children Ashley and Daniel, and anyone else I had hurt.
I looked at the world around me and the so-called men of integrity, were destroying our great country. I had to look no further than our educational system in America, our corrupted 2 party system, and the corporations that now control both!
I needed my own definition, and as I learned more and more, I knew I could actually make a difference in our often-cruel world, that now is now based on winners and losers. Right and wrong has been replaced with winner take all. We have become a country that lives in the “GRAY AREA” of the law!
Well here goes.....
For every action there is a reaction
this is what shows a person's character
and for every reaction
there is a time for reflection
it's at this point
" I find the Courage"
to stand up and admit
when I am wrong!
To me “THIS is Integrity"
The more I read, I now realize just how little I will ever know about the world that we live in today. But, I do know the difference between right and wrong! I wake up every morning, and start the day on my knees asking for guidance and direction. I start by asking God to help me to see the plank in my own eye first today. There were times in the past when it always seemed to be someone else's fault, I try my best today to take responsibility for all of my actions. I am not saying I don't mess up, because I still do things that I regret, but I no longer try to hide them. I still have some very bad days that nothing seems to be going right; but I have learned to grow from those type of days. I have days when I now think I can do anything; just to be reminded if I want to be really good at anything in life. It's time to stop if just for a moment ; then time for a reality check, because there will always be daily work and dedication needed to achieve what is now important to me.
There is an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, I call the "False Prophets of Education" the short definition can be either an individual or group that puts "PROFITS, SELF-INTEREST, and SELF-IMPORTANCE BEFORE THE CHILD'S BEST INTEREST!" If we truly want to help all of our children succeed this has got to stop!
I believe that education should be one product in our capitalist society that should not function on profits. I know there is going to be a cost on anything in life we produce for consumption. Education should be a product that works on cost of producing, initial cost of implementing, and the cost to maintain the product. Teachers should also be trained how to teach our children how to READ, and then to allow the student to question what they are reading and are being taught. Our teachers then should be paid a salary equal to a doctor or lawyer. The teacher is far more important than either the doctor or lawyer. WE as a nation have to realize that our teachers are responsible for the future of our nation. The first issue to be addressed should be Literacy for all children! Because when a child can read, I will use quote from a principal that Mary Kuechenmeister the founder of Story Preservation provided me to read to our dyslexic children at the 'Lights Turn Red" in recognition of October Dyslexia Awareness Month for our children. at the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
I Believe in our CHILDREN and I know All is Possible!
A letter from a high school principal to Mary
We are so grateful to be able to access the resources you are building.
We are not unlike so many other schools, where our students are beginning with little to no exposure to the world of literacy. We try to catch them up to grade levels, to teach them to love reading, and more importantly, we want to inspire them to believe they have a future, a great future full of choices. Expanding their knowledge of people and places through language is a huge part of that.
I remember a quote from college days:
"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"
Mary suggested that the quote deserves to be read a second time! I agree.
"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"
Learning to Read is the number one priority in education today! Our educational system in America is broken and simply out of touch ; yes there are exceptions! Testing to the test is the first real issue. Please don’t misunderstand me testing is needed, but not the type of testing being done now. No wonder our children are struggling! These worthless type test dreamed up by the educational publishing industry that has made $750 Billion and counting. These worthless test have no real purpose, but to make unethical profits for the corporations, and their shareholders. The test should be made by and turned over to exceptional teachers like Joshua Katz (Multiple Teacher of the Year Awards!) and other exceptional teachers. The type of test that makes sense to the future of our children. The savings by creating the test in house,could be used on the arts and physical education programs that give the student a sense of real purpose.
In the real world skills such as how to manage money, job training & career choices are essential. The educational system is set up in such away that if the child doesn't go to college they are considered a “FAILURE” or at lease our educational system want our children to feel that way! Yes College is important in certain fields, but today's world has changed and it continues to change as we speak. The schools drove away many very intelligent dyslexics! More and more reports show that a large percentage of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic most without college degrees. There are musicians with formal training will tell you they have to forget what they were taught in many cases to be creative again!
Here are just a few Trail Blazers that have brought attention to learning differences dyslexia and have aided in creating tools for educational success:
David Boulton, who I believe is one of the most informed minds on the subject of literacy in the world, is a learning activist, and both of his children had learning to read issues! David is one of the very few I have been fortunate enough to have met with a real solution and no hidden agenda. David is the Director of Children of the Code http://www.childrenofthecode.org/ and Executive Director of Learning Stewards. I have included a PQ app learning to read1-2-3, Oh did I mention it's FREE to public schools,libraries,students and adults. Free download
Please see the positive results: Principal Hensley is having Magic Ladder embedded in classrooms school wide!
“For those kids who don’t have the print-rich environment and aren’t able to run across those words until they naturally pick them up and naturally figure out the sounds, it’s very explicit and helps them to catch up.”
Dewey Hensley, principal in Frankfort, Kentucky
mlc.learningstewards.org Why is Children of the Code so Important ? https://youtu.be/bVGcvhg0KH0
I have also been in touch with Joshua Katz a High School math teacher from Florida who was “Math Teacher of the Year” twice and a four-time finalist for “Teacher of the Year”. Joshua also wrote a heart felt note to our dyslexic children that attended “Lights Turn Red” 2017 Below is Joshua passionate TedTalk, “Toxic Culture of Education” https://youtu.be/BnC6IABJXOI
On our journey Billy's Quest has been extremely fortunate to be introduced to visionaries such as the extraordinary Mary Kuechenmeister the founder of Story Preservation http://www.storypreservation.org/
I should also mention Prince ea and his eloquent passionate presentation "I Sued The School System" https://youtu.be/dqTTojTija8
I have read books or listened to Audible books, about 12 books last year. I am on track to read no less than 24 this year! It is not just reading, but also questioning the views and answers that are being given. I’ve spent hours and hours, day after day, week after week and now year after year (12 plus and counting) on the internet, almost daily, searching for solutions to our literacy problem both in America and around the world. I have dedicated myself through Billy's Quest, with the help of other dedicated well-informed individuals; to find answers to correct the injustices of a system, where if the child is not selected they are considered, by our educational system own actions either deeming the child disposable, or not worth the investment. I will not say that all charter schools are bad, in fact there are some very good charter schools. But when profits can be made there seems to be nothing that some will not do to game the system
The problem I see is the hidden agenda of many that claim to be an authority on the subject of education. How many Billions of dollars moving into the Trillion of dollars will be wasted with no real results?
According to a study conducted in late April, 2013 by the "U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy."
32 million adults in the U.S. can't read. That's 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, 19 percent of high school students graduate functionally illiterate. 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, Over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level No improvement in the last 10 years!
Talking with David there hasn't been a noticeable improvement in the last 50 years!
Please understand when I suggest books they are not necessarily my views, but give an overview of the problems we are facing.
I would ask you to read The Death and Life of the Great American School System (How testing and choice are undermining education by Diane Ravitch. I purchased copies and I will Happily give you one if you promise to pass onto another person to read.
This book doesn't have solutions to our literacy problem, but it takes a deep look into our broken educational system, revealing a need for change in order to have real solid results!
I would also suggest reading "Making The Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry" by Tim Farley
It made me sick to my stomach, the stress and anxiety our children have had to suffered through! Only to feed the GREED of profits made by the Educational Publishing Industry! They have shown absolutely no concern of the shame and self-doubt instilled on generations of our of children.
I am not a doctor or psychologist and I am not saying that ADHD and related conditions are not real, but ADHD, and other related conditions that these medications are being prescribed has now turned into a business model projected to grow into the Trillions $$$. I would ask every parent that thinks or is told your child needs medication to first read ADHD Nation by Alan Schwarz.
Reading can be done with either your eyes or your ears, or a combination of both. With the help of text to speech, audio books just two examples
Learning Ally https://www.learningally.org/
Cliff Weitzman’s, a fellow dyslexic, Speechify https://getspeechify.com/ .
I also use the dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/e/apps/ I started with the free app, but now I write songs and the upgraded version offers rhyming and I get the word of the day . I have increased my vocabulary and my pronunciations 10 fold, I may have spent $10 total which is one the best investments I have ever made in my life!
I will ask you to read daily.
“Reading daily creates knowledge that when questioned
thoroughly comes wisdom and the truth, but always remember
integrity means admitting if and when you are wrong too!“
"A thirst for knowledge, and the gift of reading are the most important tools we can give our children"
It is said of Billy's Quest
You say You think I DREAM too Big....i know you think too small!
I will close by telling our children you are are not broken, and you are not damaged, you just happen to learn differently!
I know it seems almost unbearable sometimes the system is just not set up for such gifted children!
PLEASE remember you are AMAZING You can achieve your wildest dreams , but it will take hard work and dedication!
I will always be here for you!
It's never too late in life to pursue your passion......
This beat up old guitar; I have had since my late teens had set in a closet for the better part of the last 30 years. I had abused her just as I had abused myself, she was in pretty bad shape, and she was in need of repair. Like most things for the first 50 years of my life I had given up that I could ever improve forgetting it takes daily practice if you ever want to be good at anything in life. Now with my regain belief in myself and my love of music. I know I can carry forward the spirit of amazing songwriter's like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and so many others that wrote about the injustice and the inequality of our fellowman that I know STARTS with our CHILDREN, because those in charge don't want us to know of their misguided plans . I want you to know that something broken can be repaired to make beautiful music again. It can be you, it can be me, or this beat up old guitar.
Dedicated To Our Children........ "Life Can Be So Cruel" (When the child depends on you)