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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Take This Job and Love It 

Hi everyone! First of all, a huge thanks to my guest bloggers. What a combination of hilarious and informative posts! I may never live down the bean thing! I'm on my niece's laptop at my parents house and all is quiet here. This is the first time I've had the opportunity to be online since I've been here!

The good news is that I have a job! When I arrived here on Monday I had not a single interview set up. I had blizzarded schools with my resume but had not yet heard back from any of them. I had planned to spend the week doing calls and "walk ins" at various schools around the area.

I mentioned in a previous post that my dad is still coaching an amateur basketball team. Through that activity he met an assistant principal at a middle school in Tulsa, OK. He told this gentleman about my situation, he asked for a copy of my resume, and apparently gave it to his principal.

Tuesday morning the principal called and asked me to come in for an interview the next morning. She had read my resume and had an open position that she thought would fit me nicely. I went in for the interview and it went sooooo well! We had an instant rapport and spent a lot of time talking about our kids and people we knew in common in our professional lives. At the end of the interview she said, "Mr. Stone, you entice me. I have one more person that I feel like I should interview, but I should know something in the next few days". I left feeling that the odds of my hiring were very high.

I drove back to my parent's house, and when I arrived I realized that I had left my folder of transcripts, certificates, and references in her office. I drove back over (about 20 minutes) and went back in the building. She was standing in the office holding my folder, and had just called my parent's house. She smiled and said, "I'm glad you needed to come back. What would you say to working at my school"? I quickly accepted and she turned to the custodian and said, "We need to find this man an office". I was thrilled! I didn't have to spend the rest of my week asking for a few minutes of time from harried administrators.

What is the position you ask? I am to be the new Academic Dean at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Tulsa. This is a new position at the school and the principal is quite excited about it. It seems to combine functions of an assistant principal and a school counselor. My duties will include dealing with student discipline, supervision, middle school transition, communication with parents, and offering assistance to kids who are struggling academically. The idea is to have someone to spend more time with kids who are "falling through the cracks". I will be part of a three person administrative team at the school and have substantial input in curriculum and staff training. The principal is a lovely lady and I think I'm going to really enjoy working for her. I am excited to land such a "plum" position.

Thats it.....first interview...job...done! I won't be able to commute from the farm so I will be looking the next couple of days at housing options in the area. Now I go back, do summer school, and prepare to move. Whew!

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Our Teachers at Work? 

This article from the New York Times just kind of caught of my eye. I thought it was, if not interesting and a bit thought provoking, amusing in its own way.

Teachers Rush to Beat Closing Loophole
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS, June 29, (AP) - Thousands of Texas teachers are rushing to retire before a lucrative loophole in Social Security law closes, but there is one catch: They must first spend a day washing windows or scrubbing floors.

Most Texas teachers do not pay into Social Security and instead participate in a state pension fund. But the loophole allows them to receive Social Security benefits if their last day of work before retirement is in a job covered by the federal program.

School districts around the state helped teachers out by hiring them to work janitorial or maintenance jobs for just a day. The loophole closes on Wednesday.

Margie Nancarrow, a junior high school principal, said she wanted to spend at least two more years at her school in a suburb of Dallas, but the benefits were too tempting at a time of soaring costs for health insurance and prescription drugs.

"I'm not wanting to do anything extravagant," said Ms. Nancarrow, 54, who spent her last day before retirement moving furniture. "I just want to live a modest lifestyle and take care of myself and not be a burden on anyone else."

By doing the janitor work, retirees become eligible to receive Social Security spousal benefits equal to one-half of their spouse's monthly Social Security check.

For instance, if a teacher's husband receives $1,000 a month from Social Security, she would get $500 while also receiving a monthly pension check.

The loophole's use has been most extensively documented in Texas, where more than 3,500 retirees have used it since 2002, but there are about 2,300 state and local retirement plans nationwide. Some of those employees could have used the loophole, auditors said.

Congress changed the law in February after auditors estimated that the loophole could cost the Social Security system $450 million. Some argue that school employees are taking advantage of the system.

"The fact that something is technically legal doesn't make it appropriate or ethical," said David John, a research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group. "A teacher is supposedly instilling in my children a sense of responsibility and a sense of worth, and you don't see that when you sneak around a rule and find a cute exception."

Ms. Nancarrow resigned from the Richardson district on June 25, then spent one day as an employee of the Lindale Independent School District, in which she moved furniture in a library so it could be cleaned. She retired on Tuesday.

Under the new law, teachers will have to work their last five years in a job that pays into Social Security to receive their full spousal benefits.

Ms. Nancarrow said retiring early gives her several hundred dollars in additional benefits.

"I'm not hung up on not doing manual labor," Ms. Nancarrow said. "I was just glad that I had the opportunity to get in and get those benefits."

Mike McSwain, Lindale's assistant superintendent for business, said what his school district and a few others in Texas did this summer was perfectly legal.

Ms. Nancarrow, who plans to teach Spanish part time at a private school next year, said she was comfortable with her decisions. "I hate to leave any money on the table," she said.

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Beans, beans, the more you eat the more you tut 

Brian flew back to Los Angeles to particpate in being a human chip in the world largest bowl of beans.
I encouranged Brian to have some adventure in his life, he was all for it. He really got excited about the one week vacation at a Texas Dude Ranch.
What luck what irony, his is a big Mel Brooks fan and one of his all time favorite songs is:
I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy
and you can be my cowgirl
I wanna be a cowboy......One day I'll be dead yo yo
He especially likes the line about looking like a hero-don't we all?!
While diving for prizes he ended up getting his fill of beans. Alls he got was, a stickin 30th Anniversary addition of Blazing saddles DVD.
He had a lot of fun and met some new friends. After the first tut, I kept begging him to do it again and again.
No, he said and tell me to lower my voice. BUT I got a lighter oh come on. NO! he said with a little more authority, deep down he wanted to re-live those college days I just know it.
Brian said he will never look at beans the same way again.

I encourage you to share a bean story or even a bean recipe. I claim today BEAN theme day.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Beloved Young Man 

An extraordinary person and a great example of living life to the fullest.

In honor of Mattie: today, "Be a Peacemaker."


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Your favorite teacher... 

...why was this one your favorite?

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Monday, June 28, 2004

Educator Blogs... 

I was searching the 'net for blogs by teachers, in honor of Brian, and am sorely disappointed. I am sure there are more than I could find, but the majority of those I found are infrequently updated, or closed, due to teachers using their spare time working second jobs.

Sad.

Here's a pretty good one....


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this is an audio post - click to play

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T.H.E.M. 

Have you seen the show: Them- you know them?! Totally Hidden Extreme Magic. A show of several magicians who just screw with people, were talking totally freak people out through magic so much so people are shaking in fear?! Some acts are just plain wrong but fun to watch the reactions of the poor souls.

Brian will be attended a conference today it's an elite course open only by special invite. THEM that's right them- teachers hidden extreme methods. This is a two day intensive course how to teach students through extreme methods.
Brian will learn how to keep a classroom of students attention at all times. The students will master the subject he is teaching through a variety of technique's. Students in his classes will be less likely to miss a day of school. His students be more likely be 4.0 students and enjoy studying. His students will be more likely to be successful later in life.

Brian, does have a busy schedule of various activities which being his Angel I will be looking after him and reporting back to everyone. Next-I will explain how his book signing went with his newest book "Sky's the limit if only in my shower". It's highly acclaimed,a book about motivational and self help -Move over Ron H Hubbard.

In the meantime go ahead and give your words for THEM.

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Flyin Away 

I'm up late doing laundry and packing for my trip tomorrow. I decided to wash the white dress shirt I bought specifically for the trip and arghh!..it stained! I bleached the hell out of it, washed it again, and my fingers are crossed. I'll find out in a little bit if it worked. I had forgotten that my best suit had a small hole in the crotch. Maybe good ole mom could fix it for me. Just in case, I'm bringing along another suit! Otherwise, I think I'm ready to go.

One more round of thanks to my guest bloggers. I appreciate them very much! I'll also be doing a couple of audio posts. If I can sneak on my dad's computer I may even pop on and make a post or a comment here and there.

Time permitting, I'll pop on here once more before I leave tomorrow. If not, have a great week!

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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Lay Tells Newspaper Others Destroyed Enron

Whatever happened to PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY?

Truly, in our business, if an employee steals from us, and continues to, that responsibility sits plum in the lap of the person who is responsible for the bottom line of that location. If they have not done anything to prevent or remedy the situation, that also puts their job on the line. Is that not the basic ideal of management?

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You Don't Have To Call Me "Darlin", "Darlin" 

Staff at a UK opera company have been advised not to use the theatrical greeting "darling" while at work.
The English National Opera confirmed they had issued staff new guidelines on using the term of endearment.

They fear use of the word "darling" could constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.


Whats the world of theater without the "Dahlin" and the obligatory peck on each cheek?

Having spent most of my life in the South, I can't tell you how many times I've been called darlin. Waitresses, coworkers, or just plain acquaintances toss it out there in the same vein as, "hey bud". I'm fairly certain that the huge majority of these women didn't exactly have designs on my body. Is it flirtatious, harassment, a term of endearment, or just a cultural thing? Its a good thing all those southern girls don't work for the British opera company!

I don't normally use the term with women I don't know. But I make fairly regular use of the word "hon". Sometimes it just slips in there without me even thinking about it. I've never had an occasion where anyone took it in a way other than it was intended.

I think sexual harassment in the workplace is a terrible thing for anyone to have to endure. I'm glad that there are laws in place to protect people from unwelcome advances. But I sometimes wonder if we've gone too far in the other direction. Normal male/female interaction, and yes, even light flirtation, are not such terrible things. Its kind of a shame that lawsuits and career damage have to constantly lurk in the background. Do we all really want to spend a big part of our lives working in a neutered work environment where people have to watch what they say constantly? What is the proper balance?

Points to ponder. In the meantime, adieu darlin!

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Friday, June 25, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

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Audio Blogging 

Following John's lead, I created an audioblogger account. This way I can at least make a couple of audio posts during my trip. The bad part is that you have to listen to my voice! Everyone seems to have a slightly different interpretation of what I sound like. I've had people tell me here that they really can't tell I come from the south...maybe they are just being kind. I've also heard the Northwest version of, "you ain't from round these parts are ya"? Judge for yourself, I'll do a short audio post tonight to test it out and then try and phone in a few while I'm gone. I won't test the system's integrity by singing..that would be way too much!

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My two kids at a California beach last summer.

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New diet craze 

Have you heard about the new diet fad sweeping the nation? Lick you way to losing weight.
Yeah, yeah, each lollipop is supposed to have a diet aide to reduce cravings for hunger.

Side Effects: May use four letter words while public speaking. Sleepwalking leading to crimes. Overdose in sucking lollipops will develop frozen face. Lack of proper disposal can lead to being linked as a passenger in specialized cruise. Prolonged use of lollipops will bring on, sick and twisted fascination and purchases with repulsive images on cigarette packages.Who can forget Dean reloaded, chemical unbalance causes oddity in behavior.
Just say NO!.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Guest Blogger Steph :-) I was gonna wait til Brian left, but I thought I may as well just jump right in!

Not offered as a counterpoint, just an opinion...

What concerns me about the "standards and testing" thinking of my President is that so much time in the classroom is dedicated to the testing and it's results, and not nearly enough time is spent on the actual curriculum, and giving these kids the tools they need to advance in the world, much less the next grade.

I think more attention needs to be paid to learning through manipulatives for younger students, and through new ideas for older students. For instance, our 5th graders learn chess. Sure, the majority of them will never play another game once they have left our school, but for at least that one academic year they have learned such things as focus, time management, patience, and also that the first choice is not always the best choice.

Things like THIS - they can take out into the real world. Standardized test scores.. only take you so far.

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No Grades 

Yesterday I spent the afternoon listening to nationally known speaker Alfie Kohn talk about standards, testing, and grading in public schools. Kohn is the author of nine books on education reform and a rather controversial figure in education circles. On the one end of the spectrum you have George W. Bush and the "standards and testing" school of thought which holds that schools, students, and teachers won't perform unless high standards and accountability coerce them into doing it. On the other end you have Kohn and others who argue that a reliance on testing and standards actually undermines learning.

The main thrust of Kohn's three hour lecture yesterday was his case against assigning number or letter grades to students. Kohn says:

Research has found three consistent effects of traditional grades: students think less creatively, they lose interest in what they’re learning, and they try to avoid challenging tasks. Thus, rather than trying to improve techniques for grading, we should be looking for alternatives -- and rather than complaining that too many students are getting A’s, we should be worried that too many students think that getting A’s is the point of school.

His talk was interesting and thought-provoking, but I wonder how realistic he is being. Grades are an ingrained part of society and schools. We use them for everything from honor rolls to athletic eligibility, honor societies, auto insurance discounts, and college admissions. Grades are a time-honored way for parents to be able to easily understand how their kid is doing in school.

I'll come back and write more about this topic after I've thought about it some more. In the meantime I'm back to humming Morning Angel's "Bologna, Bologna"!

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House Guests 

Thanks to those who agreed to guest blog for me during my upcoming absence. As you can see, the mysterious Morning Angel has already made herself right at home and rocked the house! Look for contributions from Shara, Steph, and Vegas Baby as well. I've asked them not to drink all the beer, but you know how that goes!

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Bologna Bologna 

Here she come down, say "Bologna, Bologna"
Well, shoot 'em down, turn around, come home, honey
Hey!, she gimme love an a Bologna' I feel alright now
Everybody! You got me tossin' turnin' in the night,
Make me feel hungry

I say Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna,
Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna

Well you make me feel hungry, hungry
So Bologna, Bologna
Good Bologna, Bologna
Yeah! Bologna, Bologna
So good! Bologna, Bologna
Oh, yeah! Bologna, Bologna
Come on! Bologna, Bologna

All right, baby! Bologna, Bologna

Say Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna,
Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna

Break 'dis, shake 'dis, Bologna, Bologna
Shot gun, get it done, come on, honey
Don't stop cookin', it tastes so good, Bologna
Hey! Well don't stop now, hey, come on more Bologna,
Well come on,more Bologna

I say Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna,
Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna

Well you make me feel so hungry, hungry
So Bologna, Bologna
Good Bologna, Bologna
Yeah! Bologna, Bologna
So good! Bologna, Bologna
Oh, yeah! Bologna, Bologna
Come on! Bologna, Bologna

All right, baby!More Bologna, Bologna

I say Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna,
Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna

Oo, I love your Bologna, moan, moan, Bologna
Oo, I love your Bologna, moan, moan, Bologna
Oo, I love your Bologna, moan, moan, Bologna
Oo, I love your Bologna, moan, moan, Bologna

I say Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna,
Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna, Bologna

Come on! Bologna, Bologna
Come on! Bologna, Bologna
Come on! Bologna, Bologna

Bologna, Bologna
Bologna, Bologna
Bologna, Bologna
Bologna, Bologna

Links coming soon as, soon as I find a worthy blog.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Using Your Noodle 

Some people may not be familiar with the venerable practice of "noodling"..the act of wading around in the water and sticking your hand into holes in an attempt to pull out a catfish. This noodler met a tragic end. (link via This Is Class Warfare)

TULSA -- Alcohol may have played a role in the death of a man who drowned while noodling in the Arkansas River here.
Firefighters responding to a call about 9:30 p.m. Thursday of two people in the water found the man's body on the riverbank in south Tulsa, fire Capt. Hubert Rouse said.

A second man, who police believe was fishing with the victim, was stopped when he was spotted walking along Riverside Drive to get help, officials said.

The two men were noodling in the river when the victim went under and never resurfaced, police Capt. Paul Fields said


Although I loved fishing I could never get into "noodling". Beside the obvious danger that this story illustrates, there can be other problems with this activity. There might very well be a 20 lb. catfish in that hole. There could also very well be a nasty snake, a broken beer bottle, or any number of other things. No thanks! I'll stick to a rod and reel anytime.

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Guest Blogger? 

I've seen other blogs have a "guest blogger" when the host has to be away for awhile. I leave on Sunday, June 27th on a job hunting trip to Oklahoma and won't return until Friday, July 2nd. I'd like to be able to post updates, but I don't know if I'll even have internet access during the time I'm gone.

For some reason it bothers me that my blog would sit vacant for a week. So I'm issuing an invitation for one or more people to blog in my place here. The subject matter would be totally open to you.

So if you can put up with blogspot and want to rustle around my house here, respond to this post or drop me an email!

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Old Friends 

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I was a middle school assistant principal in my hometown of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. When I was hired I had spent seven years as a teacher in a small rural school, had gone to night school to get my master's degree, and was offered this job opportunity.

At the time I was 31 years old, fairly young for a school administrator. The lady who hired me was named Janet. She had been principal of this school for a number of years already. She hired this fresh-faced young teacher to be her partner in running a school with 650 students and about 45 teachers. I had taken all the college classes but I really didn't know what the hell I was doing. From this beginning, an unlikely friendship and partnership was formed.

Janet is a short, petite, African-American lady from Arkansas who is about five years older than I am. She is brash, opinionated, outspoken, playful, and full of ideas. She is afraid of no one, passionately believes in doing what is best for kids, and is not afraid of shaking things up. I was a quiet, soft-spoken, analytical, cautious, guy who analyzed every decision or question in my own quaintly logical way. She would often walk into my office and have this out-of-left-field idea. She would tell me all about it, cock her head, and say, "Can we do that"?

My first full day on the job, while I was organizing my desk, she walked into my office and closed the door. She sat down on my desk and said, "Stone, get ready. I'm going to share everything with you. I don't believe in keeping my assistant principal in the dark on anything." Boy, did she ever keep that promise.

Our offices were right across the hall from each other. We talked constantly throughout our busy days about anything and everything. I kept her up to date on discipline issues, what the teachers were saying, comments made by parents, as well as the things going on in my personal life. She did the same. Often we would call each other in the evening and talk for hours more.

Everyone else in the building saw the tougher administrator side of Janet. Many of the teachers feared her..she was not a lady to be messed with. But I saw her softer side, the way that she went to bat for kids in trouble, the way that injustice and unfairness troubled her so deeply.

Once a mother came into the office furious. Her daughter had been disciplined by Janet for some infraction. She demanded to see the principal, and announced to everyone, "I'm going to kick her ass". Janet came out and invited her into her office. I mouthed, "call the police"?...and she shook her head. I stood outside her office door with my keys in hand..ready to rush in and save the day. Thirty minutes later the two of them emerged. The mom in question turned, hugged Janet, and said, "thank you so much, I'm glad my daughter is here with you". Janet winked at me and walked back into her office. Truly amazing.

Like morticians, school administrators have their own brand of peculiar humor. We would laugh until we cried about the oddest things. A building level administrator gets pressure from every direction..parents, the superintendent, teachers, school board, the community. She was adept at handling it all and taught me a lot of those skills. A lot of it was handled with humor and you could often hear us cackling behind closed doors.

We had an emotionally disturbed student once that was particularly difficult to handle. He was prone to violent tantrums and often had to be subdued. More than once I held this young man on the ground until he regained control of his emotions. Once, I came into the room and he was being held down by a couple of male teachers. I told them I would take over, got ahold of him, and tried to talk him down. He was very upset and yelled at me, "fuck you, you bald headed bastard"! I heard a small giggle, turned my head and there was Janet. She had her hand over her mouth and was doing her best to keep it under control. I chuckled and replied to the boy, "I resent being called bald headed"! She burst into laughter and so did I. Everyone in the room looked at us like we were crazy. The boy on the floor eventually joined in the laughter and I was able to let him up. She teased me about it for years.

Every Christmas she and I would dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus. I'm 6'4" so Santa is not a great role for me. We collected donations, purchased gifts, and identified our students who were most in need. We'd load them all on a school bus and spend several nights personally delivering them to the kid's homes. We witnessed the squalor and chaos that some of those children had to endure, and it was a humbling and gratifying experience for us both.

When I met Lee, got married, and moved away it was sad to leave my friend and that partnership. We kept in touch, but not as much as we should have. I dropped by to see her when I was in town, and we exchanged an occasional email or phone call.

Janet heard through my parents of my current marital situation and my impending move back to Oklahoma. She called me yesterday and gave me some vintage "Janet"...a little lovin and sympathy combined with some pointed talk about moving on with my life and making the best of things. She is calling several friends in high places to recommend me for a job and offered to do anything she could to help. She also teased me about an old girlfriend that was a mutual friend of hours. Just talking to her again made me feel so much better. I had been embarassed..perhaps ashamed..to call her about all this. Now I wish I'd done it sooner.

Isn't that the definition of a friend? No matter how much time has passed or what the situation, they are there for you when you need them.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Whats In A Name? 

Ever wonder how many of you there are? Now you can know for sure. (link via Steph)

Brian is the #20 most common male name.
0.736% of men in the US are named Brian.
Around 901600 US men are named Brian!
source namestatistics.com

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Saturday, June 19, 2004

My Dad 

With Father's Day approaching, I reflect a little on what my dad has meant to me over all these years. The fact that he is still around is a source of great joy to me.

My dad was born in 1931 and grew up near Council Hill, Oklahoma. His father was a surveyor, farmer, and amateur scientist who was quite proud of being the first in the area to have electricity in his home. My grandfather was a lover of books and he instilled this in my dad at an early age. He would bring home boxes of used books..science fiction, science texts, history, novels, and literature. Dad talked about reading those books night after night on that Oklahoma farm and dreaming of that big world out there. As a kid, I roamed the storage sheds on the farm and poached books from those old boxes.

He was a prodigous student who graduated from high school at 15 years old and college at 19. He took his math degree and began a series of teaching and coaching jobs at small Oklahoma schools. It was at one of those schools where he met my mom..a feisty red-haired wild-as-a-hare softball pitcher and basketball player. They married, and soon thereafter, little Brian came along. He returned to college and got his master's degree in mathematics on a National Science Foundation scholarship...one of those programs created after the Russian launch of Sputnik. After teaching a few more years with a growing family, he left teaching and entered a relatively new field.

He was hired as a research scientist, a geophyicist, for Seismograph Service Corporation in Tulsa, OK. (a subsidiary of Raytheon, Inc.) His background in geology and physics was limited and his knowledge of the early computers of the time was even more so. But he became a star in the field, writing software that would help revolutionize the way oil was searched for. His software took raw seismic data and "processed" it in a way that allowed drilling to be more precise and with greater chances of success. He became an internationally known figure in his field, and travelled the world dispensing his expertise. He became the holder of numerous patents, writer of countless articles and books. He travelled to London several times a year, Iran, Madagascar, China..wherever the search for oil was happening.

Of course, to his five kids, he was just dad. We knew nothing about geophysics, oil, or science. We knew that dad put his suit and tie on every day and headed off to work. We knew he travelled a lot and we always missed him when he was gone. Sometimes he was gone for weeks or even months at a time. He would write letters, send postcards, and call us. We always knew that when he returned there would be goodies in his suitcase for us.

My dad loved many things: his wife and children, science, basketball, chess, and other people. He is one of the most honest, decent, kindest men I have ever known. When I was in trouble, he was always there.

Dad never knew how to dress casually. He always seemed to have that suit, white shirt, and dress shoes on. Even when he worked in the garage, was repairing the car, or playing basketball with us, I never saw him in a pair of jeans, shorts, or tennis shoes. He dressed impeccably and was very particular about the cut of his suits. Old suits became "lounging around" clothes.

He could occasionally get angry and let out a profanity, but it was usually a mild one of his own making ("hellfire damnation"!). Even when my ever-so-intuitive mom knew one of us was up to no good, Dad always believed the best in us...even when evidence pointed the other way. That is the way he perceives life. He always seems to find the best in people.

I wasn't afraid of my dad in a physical sense. He rarely spanked us, but when he did they were something to remember. When we got in trouble for not having cleaned our rooms clean enough (and sometimes ultra clean wasn't clean enough!) you could often find him helping us out to keep us out of further trouble.

In addition to his important job and family, my dad served his community. He has coached youth sports through a good part of my lifetime and continues until this day. This week alone he is coaching four summer league basketball games. He was a long time member of his local school board. He has been a faithful volunteer for a host of church and community programs.

They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I sure hope that is true. For my brothers and I, Dad sets a helluva high bar. If I can approach being the kind of man he is, my life will have been a success.

When Dad was very ill in the hospital once and it looked like he might not make it, he told me, "I've lived a great life. This farm boy has raised a great family and travelled the world. I've done things I never dreamed of". I don't think I can put it any better than that.

Happy Father's Day Dad. I love you.



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M.A.S.H. 

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm a huge fan of the T.V. series "M.A.S.H.". The show had a fantastic ensemble cast, a compelling story to tell, and priceless humor. Everyone loves Alan Alda as "Hawkeye", but Col. Henry Blake and Col. Potter were favorites of mine. I enjoyed Blake as the goofy, absent-minded colonel who was more intelligent and on top of the things than he let on. Col. Potter was rough on the outside but had a heart of gold. I've seen all of the episodes countless times and I still can't resist watching when I get the chance.

M.A.S.H. was a sitcom with a dark twist. The writers and actors used humor to deal with the awful facts of war and human suffering. It could make you howl with laughter one minute and have you on the verge of tears the next. All of the faces of war were shown: cruelty, compassion, heroism, bravery, barbarity.

All of the characters were so vivid: "Hot Lips" Houlihan, Radar, Klinger and his dresses, B.J., the insufferable Frank Burns, Charles Winchester. You felt like you knew them all.

When the final episode of M.A.S.H. came out, I was working on a golf course in southwestern Oklahoma. We were staying in a trailer and didn't have good television reception. So my friend and I drove to a nearby state lodge and found ourselves alone in a large room with a television and a roaring fire. We ordered to-go meals from the restaurant and settled in to watch the finale, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen",

On the 4th of July, Colonel Potter decided to let several members of the 4077 take the day off for an old fashioned celebration. They went to the beach at Inchon. Inchon was west of Ouijongbu, and most of the fighting was in Kum Song, to the northeast. It was a nice summer day and the beach trip seemed just the thing to break the tension. On the way back to the MASH unit, the bus stopped to pick up some refugees. About a half a mile later; it stopped again, this time to pick up some wounded GIs. "We gotta get this bus into the bushes," one of the GIs said. "There's an enemy patrol coming down the road. Everyone get quiet. Nobody make a sound until they've passed us." The bus was hidden. Inside, everyone grew nervous. Each person sat on the edge of his seat, quietly breathing the tense air; terrified that each breath might be his last. Suddenly, a refugee baby began to wail. "Shhhh," Hawkeye hissed. The child's mother was in despair. She could not quiet the baby. If its sounds attracted the North Koreans, everyone could be killed. Soundlessly, the woman smothered her child.

Pierce's hysterical breakdown was conquered once Sidney forced him to admit that he had actually seen the woman smother her child and not a chicken as Hawkeye's tormented memory had "chosen" to remember it. Repressing the real memory had triggered his collapse. Tentatively, he returned to the 4077. He felt unsure of himself when he got there, worse when he discovered that B.J. had gone home without even saying goodbye. "Is it the war that stinks or just me?" Hawkeye asked Margaret. "My best friend went home without so much as a damn note. Trapper did the same thing."

I fought back tears and ate my meal in an overstuffed chair with the fire crackling behind me. The thought that there would never be a new "M.A.S.H." episode was depressing. But the finale seemed to wrap it all up as well as it could be done.

Yet another one of those inane online quizzes caught my eye (via Qzzzd)

Click here to take the M*A*S*H quiz!


And who are you?

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Friday, June 18, 2004

OOO...klahoma 

Having spent the first 36 years of my life in Oklahoma and the last seven out of the state, I thought I'd peruse and try to re-acquaint myself with my old (and new) stomping grounds. Here are a few things I came up with and some Oklahoma bloggers I ran across:

I mentioned Sonic Drive In in a previous post. I can't tell you how many burgers and cherry limeades I have consumed at Sonic over the years..but its a lot. This post from "Sonic Drive In" gives you a little flavor of the place.

Alfalfa Bill trots out the term "boofing"...the practice of auto mechanics to increase the amount customers have to spend. Courtesy of Bill, there is advice for how to avoid being boofed here. For a moment there I was wondering if it was advice on how to keep from getting "boffed"..advice like that I don't need. I'm going to be boffless for awhile I suspect very soon!

In case you thought Oklahoma was a land chockful of bible-thumping do-gooders and dry counties, Dwayne reminds us all that Oklahoma is not immune from pain-in-the-butt problem children!

The Tsa La Gi Ancient Village which recreates the lifestyle of pre-historic Cherokee peoples is still going strong. I haven't been in a long time but it is very fascinating. Tahlequah is the capital of the Cherokee nation since the "Trail of Tears" in the 1830's. Many of the street signs and storefront signs read in both English and Cherokee. Its a beautiful city with the Illinois River running nearby...a place where I spent a chunk of my sunburned youth.

Jessica is in Oklahoma and has good reasons to smile.

I came across some pics of the "world's largest McDonalds" which straddles I-44 in northeast Oklahoma. (via Michael Bates) Been there..done that...chased the kids through it. Its still just a McDonalds.

Michael Del Giornio probably hasn't been on the radio in Tulsa, OK since I was in high school. But it sure as hell seems that way. David Dover probably wasn't playing Tulsa night clubs then either..but you can't tell it by me.

The farm I will end up at one way or the other is still in the same place. The red "X" marks the spot.








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Here Come Those Tears Again 

Last night we discussed our impending breakup with the kids. We both sat down with Aubree, the precocious nine year old, and talked to her first. I tried to lead in with an explanation about some changes that were going to take place. I didn't get halfway through when she interrupted tearfully, "Please don't tell me I have to leave this family". Lee told her, "you're not..I am". Tears streamed down her cheeks as she hugged both of us and searched for answers. She was heartbroken. Lee has meant so much to her and that loss will be felt for a long time. We talked about the practicality of moving, things she could or could not take with her, and what to do with the pets. I printed out a map for her and we talked about where I could find a job. She was coloring that map this morning.

Lee then went downstairs to talk to our oldest by herself and I brought Patrick in to talk about it with Aubree and I. He too shed some tears and wanted to know lots of details. Aubree looked at me tearfully and said, "Dad, will you ever have another girl again"? I said, "do you mean like a wife"? She nodded and I whispered, "do you want me to"? She shook her head and said, "no, they always leave". It just ripped my heart out.

Lee too was extremely sad. She cried and said repeatedly, "I hate this". Tears streamed down her cheeks for most of the evening, and at one point she said, "I wish I was a different person". She loves these kids and I know it was very painful for her.

I went downstairs to talk to Brynden, my stepson who I've never thought of that way. He was sitting in his papa-san chair looking at his computer, a sad expression on his face. I patted him on the shoulder and hugged him, whispering "I'm so sorry". When I started to pull away he pulled me back and held the hug for awhile longer. I've never hugged him like that in the six plus years we've been together. I should have. I told him that if he ever needed anything I would be there for him.

We talked of having a yard sale, disposing of things that I don't want to move and that she doesn't want to keep. I told the kids that they could keep the money from their things that were sold and spend it once we got settled in Oklahoma.

We took the kids to McDonalds and headed out to the park for a picnic. We watched them run and play, and the realization swept over me yet again that our lives were changing forever. There was magic here..love, joy, and happiness. Now it will be gone and something unknown will take its place.


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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Top 10 Good Things About Moving Back to Oklahoma 

In the "Trying To Stay Positive Category", I came up with this list about the good points of my impending move: (apologies to David Letterman)

10. Seasons! We don't have real seasons here in Washington. You have what seems like nine months of rain followed by a few beautiful summer months. Oklahoma has all four seasons: a brutally hot summer, an autumn where the leaves change and fall from the trees, a nice cold winter with ice and snow, and a beautiful, fragrant spring.

9. Outdoor swimming - The aforementioned hot summer makes dipping your toes into a nice cool lake a pleasure.

8. Old friends - I have some old friends that I haven't seen or been in contact with for many years. This will be a chance to renew those acquaintances.

7. Accentuating - my slight southern accent won't stand out in a roomful of people.

6. Bixby corn - I've never tasted corn on the cob anywhere near this good anywhere else.

5. Food - now that my mind is on Bixby corn, other food pops into my head. Barbecue! Chicken Fried Steaks! Tex-Mex! Sonic Drive In! Braums Ice Cream! Stuck in the land of salmon and crabs, these things are rare delicacies for me.

4. The Farm - Understand that I'm not really a country guy. I've lived in the country and enjoyed it. But I know next to nothing about cows, horses, or how to raise a crop. I probably won't be doing much of that out there if that is where I end up. Horses are a distinct possibility..the kids would love that. A four-wheeler would be a lot of fun. Having a dog that can run and play instead of being tethered in the back yard or messing up the house would be cool. We can be out fishing in the pond in five minutes. I may not end up out there this year..but its coming.

3. Lower cost of living - a great many things are cheaper in OK. Property taxes are much lower. Gasoline prices are lower. I did one of those "cost of living calculators" and found that I can maintain a similiar lifestyle there making $13,000 less than I make here. I know its all relative..but still.

2. Career - I have a large number of friends in my field there that will enable me to network and enhance my career. I don't really have that here.

1. Family - Of course, most importantly, there is my family. My parents and three brothers will be nearby. My granny is still around and kicking well into her 80's. Aunts, uncles, and cousins are all close by. They will be there for me during these difficult times.

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What Will They Tell the Children? 

Today is the day we have decided to tell the children about the breakup of our marriage. We had decided to wait until school was out, not wanting the kids to have to deal with this during their last few days of school. I now fear that too many people know, too many conversations are taking place, and that they will pick up whats going on in an offhand way.

This will be the most difficult part of all. I am still dealing with my own grief, but I must find it within myself to talk to the kids about this without falling apart. They did nothing to deserve this. They are running and playing right now, content and happy in their little world. They are thinking about school next year, fun places to go this summer, trips to the park, who they are going to play with today. Now, all their assumptions about their lives are going to be turned upside down. Their little lives will have uncertainty that doesn't exist right now. What words or gestures can comfort them at a time like this?

It will be very difficult to explain because their mom and I still love each other. They have rarely heard us speak a cross word to each other. They still see us hugging, touching, and putting our arms around each other. How do you explain something like this when you don't even fully understand it yourself? How do you keep them from blaming themselves? How do you explain that love isn't always enough? How can you answer questions you don't know the answers to?

I love these kids with all my heart. Doing this to them will perhaps be the most difficult thing I've ever had to do. I can paint them a rosy picture of what the future can be like. But they will feel a sense of loss, a pain, with an impact no one can know.

Damnit.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Birthday Boy 

I am 43 years old today. My last day of work this school year just happened to fall on my birthday. I spent the day saying tearful goodbyes to my friends, colleagues, and students.

We just had some friends over, I opened a few gifts, ate pizza and birthday cake, and did the birthday song. The kids were so sweet, innocent faces with no realization of the change swirling around their lives. Lee was gracious and kind. I was touched by all of their love.

My 43rd birthday brings me a much different world than my 42nd one did. I now sit here and ponder what things will be like at this time next year. Its one of those existential.."what does it all mean"..kind of moments.

Then I receive a birthday note like this from my nine year old daughter, Aubree:




I think that is what it all means.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

My Resignation Letter 

6-14-04


To: Kevin Acuff, Principal – Oakville Middle/High School

From: Brian Stone

Subject: Resignation


Kevin:

It is with deep regret that I must resign my position for the 2004-05 school year. Family circumstances have forced me to move out of state and necessitated this change. I have been privileged to work with you and the other faculty members here during the past three years. This school system is moving in the right direction and exciting things lie ahead. I wish I could remain and be part of that.

Thank you for the opportunity to work with the children of the Oakville School District. I am honored to have had this experience. Please extend my thanks to Mr. Amundsen, the school board, and the entire staff. During my long career in education, I have not worked with a finer group of professionals.

Best wishes for the 2004-05 school year and beyond.


Sincerely,



Brian D. Stone

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Saying Goodbye 

I am preparing to resign from my job today. I put this off all last week. Maybe I was hoping for a miracle..a change of heart. I also just didn't really want to do it. I have a ton of projects started here. I wrote a grant for a new technology class next year that I was to teach. I chair our effective schools improvement committee and have spearheaded the effort to reform this school system. I purchased a lot of new technology and was preparing to develop the school web page for next year. I have close relationships with a large number of kids.

I alerted my principal a week ago that this could be a possibility, so it won't come as a shock there. But no one else here has a clue. All last week colleagues and students were talking to me about "next year". But I, of course, knew that next year I would be far far away.

I don't want to go, but I can't stay. Don't you hate dilemnas like that? I'm quitting a job I love and heading toward an uncertain future. I've been mailing, faxing, and emailing resumes to various schools in Oklahoma. I am hopeful that one of those jobs will work out. I've never had a problem getting a job before and I hope my luck still holds. I fly to Oklahoma at the end of June and will spend a week doing job-hunting "on the ground". Its difficult to search for a job from 2500 miles away.

I also really hate goodbyes...especially those "forever" goodbyes. There are a lot of people here who have meant something to me. It is highly doubtful that I will ever see any of those people again. But this is part of life, is it not? You touch other people's lives, they touch yours, and you move along.

As the man said, "parting is such sweet sorrow".

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New Beginnings 

As I think about making lemonade out of the sour lemons I have right now, I ponder what I'm going to do with my life now. I have loved my wife dearly and still do. But there are things I put on hold because I always put my relationship with her first.

When we met over seven years ago I was an up-and-coming school administrator. I was considered a rising star in my profession, spoke at meetings and conferences on scheduling, curriculum, and technology, and was widely considered to have a bright future. But I was lonely, and this lovely woman came into my life. I quit my job, moved out of state to marry her, and left my old life behind. I took a non-demanding job outside of education and eventually got back into teaching. Even though she encouraged me from time to time, I resisted going back into school administration. That type of job takes up an enormous amount of time and I didn't want to be away from her and the kids. I also didn't want to burden her with having to deal with the kids and house by herself for all those evenings of football games, band concerts, and other activities. I dove back into teaching and have really enjoyed it. I'm a better teacher now than I was in my early years. But the ambition that once burned inside me died somewhere along the way. I was beginning work on my doctorate when we met, and I let that go as well. Once again, too much time involved.

Now that I'm going back home where I have family and friends to support me, I think of reviving that ambition. I enjoy being able to effect building wide change. I enjoy responsibility and decision making. When I was in administration, I missed teaching. Now that I'm teaching again, I miss the challenge of being in charge of a building.

First of all, I'm going to devote myself to my kids. Lee was a good mom to them, but sometimes I let her carry too much of the burden. Now that the burden is mine alone to bear again, I will work hard at becoming a better dad. My kids will need me more than ever, and I'm not going to let them down.

Secondly, I'm going to revive my career and set some goals. I'm not exactly sure what those are going to be yet but I'm not going to drift aimlessly along like I have been. I'm also going to think long and hard about going back for my doctorate.

There are other things I think I'd like to do as well...things I've put on the back burner for awhile. Its been a lifelong dream of mine to learn how to play the piano/keyboard...maybe its time for that. I want to learn HTML. I've dreamed about writing articles for a magazine. I think about writing a book..or two.

My marriage has been wonderful..loving and caring. But within that cocoon I lost sight of myself and what I wanted. I know I wanted to please my wife and make her happy. But what did I want? What were my goals and dreams? What was I doing about them? I believed that love conquered all. You know what? It doesn't.

I'll regret the loss of this marriage forever. I know that the sharp pain will some day be more of a dull ache. I will find the strength to focus and move on. I need to be more of what I once was...a guy who knew what he wanted and pursued it.

Lee told me recently, "you've been hiding for a long time". She is right.

My kids need their dad. I need to be the man I once was.

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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Pomp and Circumstance 

I attended the graduation ceremony at my school today. Nineteen graduates sat on the stage awaiting their diplomas. These are my kids. I've taught them for three years. I've laughed with them, scolded them, corrected them, and loved them.

I sat there and studied each one of them. They are so young and their lives are so full of promise. They are ready to go out and take the world on and make something of themselves.

One of my duties was to produce the "senior video" that was shown during the ceremony. I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to put my personal problems aside to make this something special. I hope I succeeded. Everyone seemed to really like it.

There were several moments when I could feel myself choking up. It is highly unlikely that I will ever see any of these kids again. Several of them came up to me and made promises to come back and see me next year. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I'll be 2500 miles away.

One of the unique things about being a teacher is that you sometimes never know what impact you've had. Doctors can conclude a successful operation and know they've succeeded. A lawyer can win a case. An athlete can win a championship. An engineer can look at a finished bridge. But my work is still one in progress and I may never know the results...as a matter of fact I probably won't.

You never know though. Years ago a handsome, young, well-dressed man approached me on an airline flight. He called me by name, smiled, and said, "you don't know who I am do you"? I had to confess that I did not. He shook my hand, introduced himself, and recognition washed over me. He had been a quiet, studious, young guy that I taught during my early years of teaching. He said, "I just want you to know that I learned a lot from you and not all of it had to do with school". He was a neurosurgeon on the way to a medical conference.

I hope I have left some small mark on these kids. I hope that the time I spent with them will have meaning. I hope they will be successful and I hope their lives will be rich ones.

Please join me in a toast to the class of 2004!

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Big Boys Don't Cry 

Yesterday marked a milestone of sorts. It was the first day in a week that I didn't cry at some point during the day. Its not that I never cry. Its that I don't cry a lot, and hardly ever cry around other people. I may dab a tear or two in the theater during a movie that hits me in a soft spot. But there are people who know me well who have never seen a tear on my face.

I catch myself treating my kids differently when it comes to the crying issue. When my son cries, my reaction is to tell him, "it'll be ok, toughen up, it can't hurt that much, its not that bad". Of course with my daughter I'm picking her up and comforting her.

A female crying is something hard for me to take. How many times have I gone against my better judgement over the years just because I couldn't stand to see a woman cry? I wanna make it all better. I want to fix it.

I'm not ashamed of my tears, I'm sure they will be far from the last ones I will cry this summer. But honestly, it is difficult to over come 40+ years of conditioning and not feel ashamed of myself for being so emotional. Its a double edged sword..cathartic yet embarassing.

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The Sultan of Soul 

Ladies and gentlemen. We take a break from the soap opera tearjerker that is my life to comment on the passing of the legendary Ray Charles.

The legendary US musician Ray Charles, dubbed the "genius of soul" during his acclaimed six-decade career, died on Thursday of liver disease at age 73.

The 13-time Grammy-award winner, famed for his jazz, blues and gospel-influenced tunes, died in his Beverly Hills home, surrounded by his family and friends, publicist Jerry Digney said.


The sound of Ray Charles' voice touches me like few other musicians ever have. There is something about the authenticity, the playfulness, the sense that every note he sings comes from somewhere deep inside. I've told everyone around me that when I die I want Ray's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" played at my funeral.

For me, Ray Charles is the definition of soul. Have you ever heard his rendition of "America the Beautiful"? I played it for my seniors a couple of months ago and you could have heard a pin drop in the room when the song was over. One girl just looked at me and said, "Oh my god, that was beautiful".

Ray was a brilliant and gifted musician who didn't let his handicap stop him from reaching his dreams. He overcame many obstacles to become one of the all time legends. 100 years from now people will still be listening to his music.

Ray Charles died but greatness lives forever. Somewhere in the heavens the music is sweeter tonight.


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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Friends in Low Places 

At times of crisis you often find out who your friends are and who really cares about you. One of the bright spots of the events of the past week has been expressions of support from my friends and family.

You see, I've always been an extremely private person. I have never liked sharing my problems, struggles, or issues with those around me. I grew up believing that a man should be strong, stoic, and self reliant. Asking others for help or advice is just not something I have done much of. I have usually been the guy that other people come to for advice or just to talk. I liked it that way.

I would publicly like to thank my parents here. I haven't cried in front of them (actually on the phone) or asked them for help for many, many years. They have offered help or guidance on occasion, but I took pride in the fact that I didn't need it. When I called them last Friday they were gracious, caring, and concerned. They talked with me through the emotional aspects of my situtation and helped me focus on the practical things that I must do. Thanks Mom and Dad. My parents also sent me words of support coming from my brothers, and that certainly feels good as well. I have communicated with one of my brothers through email, and I'm sure I will talk to them all soon.

Other friends have offered their support, advice and comfort. Some of them are "real-life" friends and many others are people I have met right through this blog. To my blog friends I offer my most profound thanks for every word you have written me, every prayer, and every thought you have sent my way. I've read your comments and emails over and over, and there is a lot of wisdom and love contained in those printed words.

Maybe it has taken a crisis for me to realize something that is basic. Its OK to need people. Its OK to share your thoughts, desires, fears, and problems. I've had several friends turn around advice that I've given them in the past..saying "remember when you told me this"? Now its my turn.

Since I'm moving back to Oklahoma, I'll say it this way:

Thanks Y'all.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Cowboying Up 

My friend Joel is right. At some point I need to "cowboy up", to have resolve, to deal with my current situation.

In some ways I've led a charmed life. I've had good friends, a wonderful and supportive family and a good education. I've never been without a job for more than a couple of weeks since I was 16 years old. I've never spent the night in a hospital, never broken a bone (except for my nose), never been seriously sick, have children that I dearly love, have never been fired from a job, and have no enemies that I know of. If I'm not counting my blessings I deserve a kick in the ass.

At this moment I'm dealing with grief unlike anything I've ever known. Many times I've said the same things to friends that others are saying to me now:

"Move on with your life"
"You might end up better off"
"It can be a new beginning for you"

You know the cliches as well as I do. It was always so easy for me to see other people's problems clearly. Now I need to focus my common sense and life experience on my new situation. I have two precious kids that need their dad to be strong.

I'm focusing a lot on the practical right now. Job searching is never fun, and its sure as hell not easy from thousands of miles away. I've had to update my resume, search for my transcripts, find copies of licenses and certificates, and begin thinking about how exactly I will be moving across the country. I have housing issues to consider. What possessions do I want to move? How do we separate our finances? Do I take the kids pets..if so, which ones? Where will I live?..the farmhouse is the first option but employment opportunities may dictate something else. Where will my kids go to school? Will their special ed program meet my son's needs? how will my daughter deal with the loss of the only real mom she has ever known?

When I focus on these things my grief seems manageable. But then I listen to my little girl planning activities six months away...activities that just won't happen now. I feel myself tearing up and leaving the room quickly. The kids haven't been told yet but they may sense that something is wrong. They have a week of school left and we didn't want to give them this to handle while still at school.

Yesterday was the last day for my seniors. I've taught this group of kids for three years and they are very special to me. I had a small speech in my head that I wanted to give them on our last day together. One of the girls had just gotten married and showed me her wedding pics. I asked the class to listen up and they fell silent, staring at me with the eyes of innocent youth. As I began talking I could feel my voice choking up and one of my girls said, "Mr. Stone, are you ok? You sound so sad"? I said, "no, I'm really not" and walked out into the hall. I was able to clean up myself enough to wish them well and tell them that I would see them at graduation.

In spite of it all I feel myself slowly gaining strength and resolve. There is too much at stake here for me to fail in a pool of pity and grief. Those emotions aren't going anywhere, but a simple fact remains.

Its time to cowboy up.

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do 

I related in this blog recently about the romantic weekend my wife and I had in Leavenworth. What I didn't tell was that the weekend retreat was something of an effort to save our marriage. Now it looks like that has failed.

The biggest issue by far centers around my son. My wife married me when he was six years old and knew that he had special problems. He is mildly autistic (Asperberger's Syndrome), has A.D.H.D., is emotionally immature for his age, makes a lot of messes around the house, and does many inexplicable things. He was a major cause of the breakup of my first marriage and is the major cause of this one as well. This came very suddenly with almost no warning.

She apparently has reached the point where she feels like she just cannot live with him anymore. She says that if it was just she and I, it would be no problem. But the stress of dealing with a difficult child is not what she chooses to bear anymore. Her son will be a junior in high school next year and she prefers living in a situation with peace and calm...without the chaos of kids, messes, laundry, and dishes.

I am, of course, very upset by this. Over six years ago I uprooted my life in Oklahoma, a good job, all my family and friends, and moved to Louisiana to be with her. I then followed her here to Washington, her home state, believing that would bring her happiness and peace. It looks like that didn't work. I've poured all of myself into this relationship and I don't think I'll ever get over it.

I love her very much...she's been the one true love of my life. My heart aches at the thought of not being with her. Even now, she brings a smile to my face when I hear her voice on the phone and my heart skips a beat when I hear her walk in the door. But I can do nothing to stop her from leaving.

This is going to require some changes in my life. I'm here in Washington without a network of family and friends and have two young children to raise by myself. So I plan to move back to Oklahoma this August. I will immediately start looking for work there and make plans to move. My family has a farmhouse on 58 acres that is vacant, and if I can find work in that area I will move there with my kids.

My head is a swirl of emotions right now. I am heartbroken, extremely sad, a little angry, and a lot confused. I feel a sense of failure, anxiety, and uncertainty. I'm now a 43 year old single guy with two young kids, one of which is difficult to manage. I wonder if I'll ever be in another relationship again or even if I want to be in one.

I think it was Thoreau that said, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". Is that what my life is to become? Or will I find something to bring me peace and happiness?


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Sunday, June 06, 2004

A Giant 

Ronald Reagan's death marks the end of an era. I cast my first ever presidential ballot for Reagan in 1980. I was excited to be exercising my right to vote for the first time and I read incessantly about the candidates in that election. In spite of the fact that I disagreed with Reagan on a lot of the issues, I voted for him anyway. There was something about him... a charisma, a command of the audience, that twinkle in his eye that drew me irresistibly to his candidacy. I can remember sitting in the common room of my college dormitory and watching the election returns.

I remember the triumphant return of the hostages from Iran. I remember the Normandy speech that brought me to tears. I remember "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall". I remember a leader that rehabilitated the American presidency from its depths of Watergate despair. Yes, of course, I remember his mistakes and misstatements as well.

Ronald Reagan marked the last of an era where both parties battled passionately for their ideas but didn't let their politics get personal. He was an incurable optimist, a dreamer, and a leader. Agree or disagree with his politics, this was a man for the ages.

Godspeed Gipper.

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High School Photo 

As requested, here is my senior picture from my high school yearbook!


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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Condoms To Go 

Via Kate is this little tidbit about Swedish plans to offer condom delivery:

If you're in Sweden, fret not. Protection is on its way.

Hoping to increase the awareness of contraception and stem the spread of sexually transmitted disease, the Swedish Organization for Sexual Education, or RFSU, said Thursday it plans to deliver condoms by car in a hurry.

Using the name Cho-San Express, the organization will have four cars loaded with condoms patrolling the streets of the capital, Stockholm, along with a pair of vehicles each in Goteborg and Malmoe, Sweden's second and third-biggest cities.

For people in the mood but without any contraception, they can call the express and have a 10-pack of condoms delivered for about $6.66. Ten-packs sell for $6.93 at a state-owned pharmacy.


I used to be a pizza delivery boy but I don't know that I could've delivered condoms.

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Yearbooks 

One of my many roles at work is being the instructor of the annual/journalism class. I work with high school kids to create the yearbook and this is my third year doing it. Mind you, I have no training in journalism whatsoever and had never had anything to do with creating a yearbook when I took the job.

The day before school started three years ago my principal called me and the other new teacher in the school to his office. He said, "one of you needs to do the yearbook class. Who's it going to be"? We both stammered and shuffled and looked at our feet. My colleague has a college degree in English but was a first year teacher and limited computer ability. I was a veteran teacher and administrator with good computer skills. The next day he called me in and said, "you're the guy. Neither of you know what you're doing but you have the experience with kids and the computer skills to get through it". With that, I became the yearbook guy. After six months of work the books came in from the publisher, and yesterday I began passing them out to students.

Its fun to watch kids leafing through the book, commenting on pictures, and asking each other to sign. I probably signed 15 yearbooks today and will do many more in the coming days.

I still have my high school yearbook and its fun to look back on those days. I was skinny as a rail, had a head full of floppy hair, was a little shy, loved sports, had crushes on girls, and parked a 1966 baby blue Dodge pickup in the school parking lot each day. The yearbook immortalizes that time.

Hopefully these kids will be able to look back on their high school years with the same fondness that I still do. The man I am today wandered those hallways with limitless possibilities for the future. Now I'm a middle aged guy who has made my way in the world with brilliant successes and some devastating mistakes.

I wish I could infuse what I've learned over the past 25 years into the heads of these kids. But of course at that age I wouldn't have listened to a guy like me.

Here I am working with the yearbook class:

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Are You an Asshole? 

Via my in-the-moment-negative friend Kim comes a comprehensive list of what constitutes being an asshole:

If you sit in the smoking section and then complain loudly about the smoke...you are an asshole!

If you make plans with your friend or date and then don't show up or even call...you are an asshole!

If you jerk off all over your friends' porno magazine and then give it back with the pages stuck together...you are an asshole!

If you take up two parking spaces for one car...you are an asshole! (unless you have to get your wheelchair out of your car)

If you park in a handicapped space and you are not handicapped...you are an asshole!

If you suddenly stop in the middle of a busy aisle/intersection/hallway and just stand there...you are an asshole!


Judging this list by personal experience, the world is populated with a fair number of assholes.

I can appreciate the driving ones. What is it about being inside an automobile that can make a perfectly normal person be a total jerk?

The other day I went to Wal Mart and was searching for a parking space. The car in front of my literally followed a couple as they walked through the parking lot, waited for them to unlock the truck and load their bags, start the car, and back out. In the meantime I'm uttering every profanity known to mankind.

Grrr....Assholes!

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Troy 

One of the things we did this past weekend was to go see the movie "Troy". .

In ancient Greece, the passion of two of literature’s most notorious lovers, Paris, Prince of Troy (ORLANDO BLOOM) and Helen (DIANE KRUGER), Queen of Sparta, ignites a war that will devastate a civilization. When Paris spirits Helen away from her husband, King Menelaus (BRENDAN GLEESON), it is an insult that cannot be suffered. Familial pride dictates that an affront to Menelaus is an affront to his brother Agamemnon (BRIAN COX), powerful King of the Mycenaeans, who soon unites all the massive tribes of Greece to steal Helen back from Troy in defense of his brother’s honor.

The story of "the face that launched a thousand ships" I have known since I was a child. It is the kind of story that is difficult to project into a two hour movie. It is a sweeping epic with all kinds of sub-plots that don't fit well in the movie format. I am almost always disappointed with this kind of movie.

The makers of the movie certainly took creative license with "Troy". They adhered to the basic outline of the legend. Prince Paris of Troy steals away with the lovely Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. The warring Greek kingdoms unite to avenge this dishonor and lay siege to the impregnable city-state of Troy.

Brad Pitt, while extremely well-built and the cause of gasps from women in the audience, is a little unconvincing as Achilles. He comes across as petulant and immature. Diane Kruger is very alluring as Helen, Brendan Gleeson is particularly convincing as Menelaus, and Eric Bana captured big chunks of the movie in his role as Hector, the warrior prince of Troy.

According to legend, the Trojan War lasted for ten years. The movie makes it seem like it lasted a few days. The Trojan horse was made to appear as if it was built overnight. Menelaus dies in the movie to Hector even though he survives to loot Troy in the legend. No clue is given in the film as to why Achilles is vulnerable in his heel.

Still, I am drawn to both the story and the movie. The thought of a single woman being the primary cause of a war that caused such devastation on both sides is fascinating. As long as you aren't a stickler for detail and can get past Brad Pitt's underwhelming performance you will probably enjoy the movie.

Break out the popcorn!

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ask Away 

Since I'm feeling exceptionally open and in touch with my feelings today, ask me a question...any question you like. I can't really think of anything I wouldn't answer but I guess that possibility exists.

So, ask away. For the next 24 hours I'll respond to any question in this thread openly and honestly!

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Ties To the Past 

The last known widow of a soldier who fought in the U.S. Civil War died yesterday:


MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) -- Alberta Martin, the last widow of a Civil War veteran, died on Memorial Day, ending an unlikely ascent from sharecropper's daughter to the belle of 21st century Confederate history buffs who paraded her across the South. She was 97.

Think about this:

1) The Civil War ended in 1865. This woman who died in 2004 was married to someone who was fighting in a war that ended 137 years ago.
2) If her husband was alive today he would be 158 years old.

In some ways the past is never all that far away from us.

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