The Only Pirate at the Party CROSS YOUR EYES AND
DOT YOUR TEES: A PIRATE’S INTRO
I didn’t learn to read until I was halfway through the first grade. Reading was work—hard work, and not the rewarding kind. For years, I struggled through reading at school, doing so slower and with longer vowels than anyone else. This befuddled my mother. I was a pretty sharp kid in all other aspects of life. I was a math whiz, a science pro, relatively talented with my violin, and I could repeat the facts I learned on Sesame Street from memory. Why couldn’t I read? At the end of second grade, I was still phonetically sounding out basketball, so she took me in for some testing. When the results came back, the doctor pulled my mom aside and told her I had a learning disability referred to as cross dominance. Cross what? I know, you’ve never heard of it before, either. But it’s a real thing. In case you don’t want to google it, I’ll give you the skinny.
Most people have a dominant half. Meaning, information goes in primarily through the dominant eye or ear, processes in the brain, and comes out instructing the dominant side of the body to perform a correlating motor function. For example, when someone sees a soccer ball information processes mostly through the dominant eye, and the brain tells the dominant leg to kick the ball. Oftentimes, people with cross dominance mix up these signals, and use alternating sides of the body instead of a consistently dominant one. Cross dominance also affects the way the brain processes cognitive functions. A normal person reads as follows: the dominant eye sees the word matriculation, information processes mostly on the dominant side of the brain, and the mouth says matriculation. In my case, the left eye sees the word matriculation, it goes into my brain where the signals get passed around and switched up, and it comes out my mouth bran muffin. I don’t know, ask my doctor. Basically, it’s a lot like dyslexia, only completely different. Anyway, with this new knowledge, it was recommended that I undergo eye therapy a few times a week to help my nondominant eye catch up, and maybe teach my brain how to process information in a more organized manner. I was also given a series of exercises to do at home during the week. This included the task of wearing an eye patch over my dominant eye for an hour every day. Oh, the agony!
Wearing the eye patch was awful. Until one day I came across a disposable pirate hat in my closet, and it clicked. I wasn’t a weird girl stuck in an eye patch, I was a pirate stuck in a weird suburban backyard. From that time forward I spent at least an hour every day turning the swing set into a giant pirate ship, where I played Cap’n Davy and made my sister and our friend Mary walk the plank. Arrr! Even after the mandatory eye patch time came to an end, my fascination with the swashbuckling riffraff remained. Pirates rarely shower, have a random and effortlessly cool sense of style, and if you turn a blind eye to all the plundering, they are really just in search of “treasure.” I can relate to all these things. More than anything, though, I have always admired the pirate attitude. Pirates don’t take orders or ask permission. They do what they want. Allow me to clarify. If your mom asks you to do the dishes, DO NOT pull out your pirate attitude. But if someone tells you you’re not good enough, says your dreams are too lofty, or claims there is no room in showbiz for a dancing violinist—well then, by all means, pull out your eye patch, my friend, and take to the high seas. (That’s my way of saying do it anyway.) The reason people said I would never succeed is the very reason I did succeed: because I am different. That’s not to say I’ve tried to stand out, but when given the choice between being a weird kid in an eye patch or a pirate, the answer was easy. I want to say it is still easy, but I can’t lie to you like that. Sometimes being the only pirate is hard. And that’s okay, too.
With the help of Cap’n Davy’s accessory, my reading improved over the years, but I still spell worse than the average bear. Anyone who follows me on social media knows this to be true. My fans are constantly screen-grabbing my spelling errors—it’s a little game they play. Luckily, my trusty spellcheck and an even trustier editor assure me I won’t embarrass myself in the pages you hold now. (My editor asked me to clarify that this refers only to spelling mistakes, and he cannot protect me from any other form of embarrassment in this book.) Po-tay-to, po-tah-to! Shall we get this party started?