Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas! 

It has been a long time since I have posted for a variety of reasons. For anyone still reading I am not only alive, but doing well!  I am in the final lap of my run for a doctorate degree, and if all goes well I should be done by this time next year. What  a ride that has been!

I have had some setbacks, mostly related to nerve problems that have rendered my feet completely numb and often painful.  My doctor is unsure of the cause and the problem persists. I have learned to adapt and live with the discomfort and hope it eases in the coming year.

Longtime readers know that I truly love Christmas. I enjoy the spirit of giving and the hope the season brings. 

My two wonderful kids are now teenagers, 17 and 14, with all the joy and challenges their age brings. I adore both of them and will continue to hope for the unique potential each of them has.

Terri has been a wonderful wife and is so good to me and the kids. They are worthy of her love and I continue to strive to be so as well. 

I'm having the time of my life at work, serving as director of the 9th grade academy of 400 students that I created, and being integrally involved in the budgeting, staffing, and other aspects of running a large urban high school. I love this work, even though it is so full of challenges, is sometimes highly stressful, and consumes much of my energy. 

If Christmas is anything it is a time of hope and a time for peace and forgiveness. I hope you all find happiness and peace during this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 

We made our annual visit to the cemetery today, visiting the graves of my father, grandparents, sister, and uncle. Three generations of my family are buried there. We paused at each one for awhile, and of course the memories flowed.

So what was I thinking this Memorial Day?

I miss them all, what each of them brought to my life. Of course, I miss them all the time, just not today. But today I make the conscious effort to remember them.  I stifled a tear thinking about my sister and how she left us so early. I thought about all the wonderful times I had with my grandparents and my uncle. I pondered my dad and what a wise man he was.

Still, I was gratified that I didn't have to stand there remembering my mother on this Memorial Day. Her recovery from death's door has been quite remarkable and she is getting stronger by the day. 

I don't remember where I read it, and I failed to bookmark it, but I read an article recently about how something of your childhood is lost when you lose your parents. Your parents are the only people on Earth who still see you as that child. Everyone else sees you for what you became, not from how you emerged into this world. I'm 47 years old and my mom still thinks of me as a boy sometimes. I find it alternately irritating and yet comforting. I dread the day I lose it.

I also found myself thinking about a contemporary that passed away a short time ago. I once played a summer league basketball game against Wayman Tisdale. I was a senior and he was a freshman, yet everyone knew this guy was something special, even then. I kept up with his career at the University of Oklahoma and in the N.B.A. After leaving basketball he went back to his first love and had a successful career as a musician. He was a talented guy and from all accounts a very nice man. I didn't know him, but I know people who did and they speak very highly of him. He was several years younger than I am and lost a battle with cancer.  He certainly left a legacy to remember.

Terri, the kids, and I strolled through the cemetery, stopping at familiar names, looking at the sea of flowers. 

I'm glad we take the time to remember. I'm glad that I do.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Ordeal 

*Cough* *Sneeze* It’s a little dusty in here! It has been too long since I posted.


Where to begin?


Much of the past couple of weeks has spent dealing with my mother’s hospitalization. It has been quite a ride.


Two weeks ago my mother called me and a minute into the conversation it was apparent that something wasn’t right. She wasn’t keeping up with the conversation and some of her words were slurred. I became concerned enough that I told her I was coming over to see her.


I found her sitting in her chair with a number of empty Coke cans around her. My mom is diabetic and I haven’t seen her drink regular soda in years. Nonetheless she was guzzling away that night. She told me that she had been to the doctor the day before, been diagnosed with bronchitis, and sent home with cough syrup and an antibiotic. When I suggested that I might run her up to the hospital to get checked out she emphatically refused….”I just went to the doctor yesterday. I’m not going again. I’m fine and just need to rest.” I wasn’t convinced, but my mom is the most strong willed person I know. I told her I would come back the next day.


My niece called the next day and said that she couldn’t get into my mom’s house. The screen doors were locked from the inside and phone calls, banging on the door and windows didn’t rouse her. I quickly drove to her house with a sinking feeling in my stomach. We managed to break into her house and found her laying on the floor next to her bed. She had slipped down and was too weak to get back up. She once again tried to dissuade me from calling a doctor…”just put me back in bed to get some rest..I’ll be fine.” I told her, “not this time mom. I’m calling 911”.


We managed to persuade her to go to the hospital via ambulance and it is a good thing we did. After being checked into the E.R. it was obvious the doctors and nurses were very concerned.


A doctor from India gathered us together and told us, “I’ll do everything I can for your mother, but I’m just a doctor. The rest is up to God.”  He informed us that she had very severe pneumonia and had experienced a heart attack.  She was sent directly to I.C.U.


After we pieced all of our information together we believe she might have had that heart attack five days before hospital admission. She had not eaten during those five days and had spent much of the time sleeping. She was seriously dehydrated and the pneumonia and heart attack had taken their toll as well.


I thought it was very possible we would lose my mother. That in itself was a stunning thought about a woman who hasn’t been in the hospital in forty years. Other than her diabetes she never had any serious medical problems.  You would have to know my mom…a vigorous, strong willed, always-on-top-of-things woman. I know no one else like her.


The next day were informed she was to be intubated. Her breathing was not supplying her body with enough oxygen and her carbon dioxide levels were dangerous. She would remain tubed and heavily sedated for seven days. There were some brief moments when she was awake, but not many. She wasn’t responding to the antibiotics and it seemed her life was hanging in the balance.


On the 8th day they lessened her sedation. I went to work that morning and showed up at the hospital around noon. There was a crowd of nurses standing around my mom’s I.C.U. room staring at her. I asked what was going on and they informed me, “Well, your mom just extubated herself!” She somehow managed to get her hands on that tube and pulled it completely out. I was told this was difficult to do…the tubes have a blown up balloon at the end to keep them from being pulled out accidentally. It is very awkward and painful to pull it out.


Well…that’s my mom.


She said later that she was uncomfortable and was unable to get the attention of any of the nurse, so she, “did something I knew would get their attention.”  They tested her and she was able to tolerate being off the tube. Her pneumonia was now responding to a different antibiotic. The next day she was moved to a regular hospital room. A couple of days after that she was moved to a rehab facility at a nursing home. She’ll be back home by the end of this week.


Truly amazing.


She has no memory of any of the days before being hospitalized. She doesn’t remember me visiting her. She is shocked that she was drinking regular Cokes. She doesn’t remember falling or being transported by ambulance. She doesn’t remember the emergency room…none of it.


There are still some concerns, but she is obviously doing much better. I knew she was improving when she started bossing us around again.


I’m very relieved. I was definitely not ready to lose my mom. Of course, when is someone ever really ready? I’m glad to have her back.


There are silver linings in dark clouds. My brothers and I worked seamlessly together during all of this. We talked constantly by phone and in person at the hospital. We made decisions and each of us took care of different things. We carried things on for mom the way she would want us to.  We took care of my niece, paid her bills, mowed her lawn, etc.  My brothers are such great guys and I am so gratified by the trust we have in each other and how we were able to work together during such a time of crisis.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The "Old" Internet 

I read this article with fascination. Has it really been that long?


I purchased my first personal computer in 1996 for $2700. It was a sleek looking black ACER machine with a 28.8 modem, a 2 gig hard drive, and 128 mb of RAM. It wasn’t the top-of-the-line machine, but it was all I could afford at the time.


The internet was something wild and new back then. I had logged on a few times at work, sharing my office connection with our school library. We had one internet connection and account for the entire building. When I was online, no one else could be, so I used it sparingly. But the experience whetted my appetite. What was this thing they were calling the World Wide Web?


I put my computer together and looked at all of the discs that came with the machine. One of them advertised a free month of internet service for signing up. It was from a company called G.N.N. (Global Network Navigator…or something like that) and it seemed like the best deal. I inserted their disk, plugged my PC into the phone line and dialed in. I was informed that my free month included 40 glorious hours per week of online time.


I reached a screen that gave me three choices…the World Wide Web, chat, or newsgroups. I barely knew what the World Wide Web was. I clicked on “chat” and found myself in a world of chat rooms of every topic known to man. I also had a list of internet sites I had brought home from work and tried some of them out. The pages took several minutes to load, but it was cool when they did.


My next big investment was a 58.8 modem which promised to double my speed. Who could argue with that? Then I paid fifty bucks at an electronics store for a copy of the Netscape browser. Hehe. In those days you paid for your internet by the hour so you had to be efficient. I remember reading articles about how to download email and web pages for offline viewing. I also remember going to get dinner started while waiting for pages to load. I learned how to wire a second line into my house so that I wouldn’t tie up the main line when I was online.


I went through several other trial offers before I hooked up with a local internet provider which promised to, “take the training wheels off of the internet”. I learned to download software and pictures.  I met some friends and began to enjoy the online experience more.


The internet is now such an ubiquitous part of my life that it is hard to remember the old days when you were thrilled when a page loaded in under a minute. The newness of it all…I could send email to someone anywhere in the world and they would get it in a few minutes! I could chat with someone in New York or New Delhi in real time! Voice chats…just like talking on the phone…sort of ! A few years later I downloaded “Stairway to Heaven” from Napster. Oh my! I still have hundreds of songs on my hard drive from those days.


It is fun to look back and reflect on those days when AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy ruled the World Wide Web and “you’ve got mail” caused your heart to race. I’ve got mail! I did Yahoo searches and could not believe that I could find information on seemingly everything. I wasn’t just a guy in a small Oklahoma town. I could connect with the entire world!


I now have internet on demand at home, at work, and even on my cell phone. Who knew?

I haven’t heard the “dong, dong” of a dial up modem in years.  I rarely watch news on TV anymore, choosing to get my information online. I pay almost all of my bills online.  It is truly a different world from 1996. My kids are both very internet savvy.


I remember dialing up as soon as I got home because if you waited too long you were not likely to get online that night. The internet providers had a limited number of modems and you had to stand in line.  Of course, you had to keep in mind the number of hours you had left. I knew people who had internet bills in the hundreds of dollars due to hourly usage! I was always very mindful of how much time I had left.


Ahh..the old school days. Anyone else remember them?



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Too Long! 

Wow….it has been too long since I last posted. Time has just flown by.


Things have been busy the past few weeks. I’ll just have time to write about a couple of them.


Aubree turned 14 years old this month. I know everyone says this about their kids, but where did the time go? It is hard to believe that she is turning into a young woman, complete with all the joys and issues that brings. I think it was really brought home to me awhile back when I took her to the doctor. She had some sort of virus, he examined her, and then asked her, “Have you considered going on birth control?” She blushed and giggled and he said, “I’m not joking. I feel it is my responsibility to bring the issue up with a girl your age. I’ve had pregnant girls in this office younger than you.” She stammered, “but I’m not sexually active. I don’t need birth control!” He nodded and noted that there were other positive aspects to being on the pill as well. As they had this conversation it seemed so surreal. My daughter? Teenager? Birth control? Talking about sex?  Wow.  The upside to the whole incident is that it has led to several conversations between the two of us on the subject.


Then of course there is my other girl, my lovely wife. With school, work, babysitting an infant every other weekend, and other things going on we don’t get a lot of time to ourselves. We partially remedied that for Valentine’s Day, going out for a very nice dinner. We got to eat steak and lobster and enjoy some quiet conversation. Such evenings are important and we need to have more of them!


Then of course there is Patrick. He spends part of each school day working in a veterinarian’s office. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out. Patrick has never been very fond of animals, staying his distance from the family pets we’ve had over the years. But one of the vets has a chicken coop in back of his clinic. Part of Patrick’s job is cleaning the coop, feeding the chickens, and gathering eggs. He LOVES doing it. When school was out because of the ice he worried about those chickens and who was going to take care of them.  He still surprises me sometimes.


I have been working like crazy on creating a “freshman academy” in our high school for next year. The transition between middle school and high school is where a lot of kids fall between the cracks. I am working on creating an environment that is more personal and will hopefully keep more kids in school.


I am also doing a lot of reading and thinking about my doctoral dissertation. If all goes well I should be able to finish by May, 2010. The next year looks like a pretty busy time in the life of Brian!


I hope all is well in your world!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The lovers cried 

and the poets dreamed.

While watching an inaugural concert over the weekend I took special note of Garth Brooks’ rendition of  “American Pie”.  While I am not a big country music fan, Garth is a good Oklahoma guy and I thought he did a good job with this song as well as “Shout”. He is such a talent. It seems like forever ago when I saw him performing at a honky tonk in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

But I digress….

I’ve always been fascinated by the lyrics to “American Pie”.  I remember a teaching colleague years ago doing a unit on it as poetry. The students really seem to enjoy picking such a familiar song apart. Over the years I’ve come to understand most of the references. Still, it was nice to see it somewhat put together in the video below:

It is something of a wistful look back at the past and full of alliteration.

The winds of change are certainly blowing in our country. I watched the inauguration yesterday as I have for all of my adult life. There is something comforting about the rituals of a nation, the peaceful transfer of power, a celebration of democracy, and a transition to a new leader. The optimism of new beginnings is powerful indeed.

These are difficult times we face right now and like McLean in “American Pie” we can look back at better days (“I went down to the sacred store where I heard the music playing years before”).  But it is also very important not to let that stop us from looking to the future. After all, “but the man there said the music wouldn’t play”.

Of course it wouldn’t. Life is all about changes and transitions.  We have to find new music to play and we are doing that collectively right now.

Lets pray for sweet tunes and good years ahead. Best wishes to our new president.

I want to drive my Chevy to the levy and not find it dry. 


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! 

We chose not to go out for New Year’s Eve, staying home with the kids and babysitting the adorable Aidan so that his parents can have a night on the town. We have some yummy food, the Wii that the kids got for Christmas, and other things to keep us entertained. Speaking of the Wii, I’ve had quite the fun playing some of the games, especially “Aerosmith Guitar Hero”. Frustrated rock star and all that you know! I probably don’t want to know how many times I’ve played “Dream On”, trying to get it just right.


I was thinking about the many things I’ve done on previous New Year’s Eves. For some reason my mind drifts back to a party my parents held on this date when I was probably around eleven years old. They had a houseful of friends, most of them from church, and had a sumptuous buffet going. The kids were relegated to being upstairs, although we occasionally darted down the stairs just to see what was going on.


My dad tried to make sure we didn’t miss out on everything. About once an hour he would come upstairs with a couple of plates full of food and fresh drinks, play with us for awhile, and then go back downstairs and rejoin the party. My younger brothers eventually conked out and my dad came up and said, “come on down for awhile. You’ll want to see this!” A knock came at the front door and a disheveled man was standing there in dirty, tattered clothes, a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He stumbled into the house and with grimy hands and face began going around and greeting the rather astonished guests. I knew instantly of course that the drunken bum was none other than my grandfather. He and my parents had cooked up this little stunt as a prank on the guests. My grampy certainly did his part, relishing the role that he was playing. He was such a card, such a jokester and prankster and this was right up his alley. He walked over to a rather stunned looking woman and slurred, “can I have a bite of your food?” When she didn’t reply he just grabbed a handful and stuffed it in his mouth.  Eventually the gig was up, he went to the bathroom and cleaned up to come out and join the party.


Midnight struck and a small man dressed in robes and a white beard ran through the house being chased by a rather large man dressed only in a rather large diaper. Out with the old and in with the new! There wasn’t any booze at this party but it certainly had some entertainment value!


I went to bed laughing.


A new year always seems to offer new possibilities and new hope. I hope everyone enjoys this evening and finds what they are looking for in 2009!


Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Midweek Meandering- Christmas Eve 

It is late and it is actually Christmas day and not Christmas Eve..but still.

The stockings are full, the meal for tomorrow afternoon is made, the presents are wrapped, and Christmas is here.

I love Christmas...always have. It is special in so many ways.

To all who celebrate it with me...a soulful Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas to all...and to all a good night! :)


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Midweek Meandering 

Its midweek and my car was covered with a layer of ice yesterday. Winter is here. Brrrrr!

I am late getting my Christmas shopping done this year. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do, but just haven’t had the time to make it happen.

There is a fine line between getting nice gifts for your kids and being overindulgent. My kids are doing quite well, have most of the techy things today’s kids crave and lack for very little. I work with kids each day who are just lucky to have a roof over their head.

It is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

I could write about the commercialization of Christmas and it would all be true. However, I’ve been as guilty as anyone. It’s a yearly dilemma!

This story caught my attention because it is an emerging trend in high school administration. The growth of cell phone use, digital cameras, and the internet has been a blessing in so many ways, but has unleashed a host of problems.

Many fights that happen at school come as a result of things that happen online. Someone posts a derogatory MySpace comment and boom…they are fighting each other the next day! Someone threatens someone on MySpace, uses a racial or ethnic slur, or brags about an illegal act.  Someone else posts a video on YouTube of a fight or some other incident. I didn’t  know I’d have to be an online sleuth as part of the job!

Naked pics sent around on cell phones? Been there, dealt with that.  It’s a problem and becoming more of one. The law doesn’t keep up with the technology and this is a perfect example of that. If a kid sends a nude picture of another kid is he/she transmitting child porn? Who should be prosecuted if anyone? What should be done?

By the time it is all sorted out there will be something else we haven’t even thought of yet.

In the linked story above the girls whose pics were being sent around were punished but not the guys who were sending them. I see a problem there. The girls were wrong to take the pics and then to share them. They were also not very smart to believe those pictures wouldn't be shared with others. The guys were wrong for zipping them around school to other people's phones.

Patrick is driving me crazy wanting to take his money and do Christmas shopping. He likes being able to take money he earned and buy gifts.

He could always buy us a new couch to replace the one he has messed up by flopping on it so many times! Any titanium couches out there?

Of course, he isn't the best at keeping secrets. Two examples: "Dad, we got you a gift. I can't tell you what they are, but they are warm and fuzzy and you wear them on your feet"  "Terri, I won't tell you what I got you but you have to light them and they smell really good!"

So how is YOUR week going?


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Midweek Meandering - Thanksgiving Edition 

It is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and all is fine.

This is of course the time of year when we are supposed to reflect on those things we are thankful for. I have so much that a complete list is a challenge.

I have a wonderful wife and kids and a loving, supportive family. They are simply the best. Their love is life’s most precious gift.

I have friends that enhance my life, help me grow, make me think, challenge me, and make me want to be a better person. Many of those will read these words and others will not. Whatever the case, you know who you are and I always wish I could do more to show my gratitude.

I am privileged to work in a job that suits my interests, needs, and abilities. I know that a lot of people are down on teenagers these days, but I work daily with some of the best kids you’ll ever meet. They give me hope for the future, keep me young, challenge my thinking, and warm my soul. There are others that break my heart, challenge my abilities, sometimes discourage me, help me focus, and acknowledge my purpose.

I work with some of the most talented people you’ll ever meet, dedicated to improving the lives of our young people. They inspire me.

My doctoral cohort colleagues are incredible people, dedicated to improving their practice and providing leadership in a system that is starved for it. They stretch me and make me better.

I live in a democratic country made up of free people. Imperfect though it is, there is no place on Earth I’d rather be.

The world is full of problems. Economic times are turning bad and the coming months will be difficult for many. But in times such as these it is all the more important to give thanks for that which we do have.

I have my health and hopefully much more life to live. Fleeting as life is, it is to be savored and celebrated. That is what this day should be.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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