Tuesday, August 31, 2004
A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
I'm going to have go look up "ineffable". Thats quite a mouthful isn't it?
After all, we love our kids, love our parents, and love our friends. Those kinds of love are deep and meaningful. They are warm and embracing. They don't end or die. I would die for my kids. Being deeply cognizant of my own flaws, I love them with everything I have. I want to make my kids happy. I want them to grow and mature taking the best of my qualities and overcoming the worst.
The same thing goes for my family. I love my parents and my brothers. They are all wonderful people, each with their own worth. They have nurtured and loved me even when I haven't always been deserving of it. They've set examples for me even when I didn't know it. They have been there during the darkest moment of my life.
Then there is the love of good friends. I have a friend named Paula that I saw for the first time in quite awhile last night. She is a teacher at my son's school. She's a wonderful woman who was there at the inception of my relationship with Lee. She encouraged me and nurtured me and urged me to follow my heart. When I saw her last night, she ran across the hall and leapt into my arms. In a hallway full of people she hugged me ever so tightly and whispered in my ear, "are you sad about this Brian"? I whispered back, "yes". A tear formed on her cheek and she hugged me even tighter and said, "I'd heard, but I prayed this was something you had wanted". She asked me to drop by at the end of the open house. We caught up on our lives and hugged goodbye. She cupped my face in her hands and said, "My dear sweet Brian. You're such a sweet man, but you still don't really understand women do you"? That Paula always was a smart one. Its good to re-connect with her.
Then of course there is romantic love...the kind where I have most of the problems! I had a conversation with someone about the notion of "unconditional love" recently and she told me that kind of love is usually reserved for a parent and their child. That may be true, but I think I've loved Lee in as close a thing to unconditional love as is possible. I integrated her flaws into our relationship, ignored them, or just learned to deal with them. I loved her wholeheartedly even if my actions didn't always live up to my words. I want to be loved like that..flaws and all. I want someone who will sacrifice and adapt for me and expect the same in return. This isn't a putdown of Lee. I know she loved me and still does. But our definitions of love and toleration are different it seems. I think many couples have difficulty briding that gap.
Is that kind of love something people just "get over"? If you did, was it ever there in the first place? Either you want to be with someone desperately or you don't.
I've written recently that I'm happy, and that is true. I'm finding a real sense of peace as I ponder through all the things that have changed in my life. I've met new friends and got back together with old ones.My career is rejuvenated in a way I could never have expected. I've begun plotting a future..looking down the road as I still see the headlights of the woman I've loved so much in the rear view mirror. Will that light grow dimmer and more distant? Will it speed up and ram me when I least expect it? Or will it just always kinda remain back there..never changing, never imposing, but always out there. Will romantic songs always cause me to smile, sigh, or even cry?
Am I just a hopeless sappy romantic? Or was my cynical student right when he paraphrased Tina Turner and said, "Mr. Stone, whats love got to do with it"? Is what I think of as love just a series of temporary arrangements based on mutual interests? I don't think so. I'd rather die a sappy romantic than live as a cynical dealmaker.
Monday, August 30, 2004
Having been single for exactly a month now, I can only offer a limited perspective. I miss having someone to come home to, talk to, and curl up in bed with every night. I miss that feeling that there is someone who will always be there for you when you've had a bad day. On top of that, I had a great deal of freedom throughout my marriage and so did Lee. Both of us did pretty much what we wanted to do. I never had a feeling of being "shackled", so I'm not feeling that "freedom" thing that many new singles feel. Most of all I miss the feeling of being uniquely valued by someone that you feel the same way about.
The good part? I can buy exactly what I want to when I go grocery shopping. My fridge is full of my kinda food (don't ask!). I can do what I want and see who I want, within the boundaries of child care arrangements. My destiny is entirely my own. Financial decision making doesn't involve any debates.
I'm not a typical single guy in that I have full-time custody of my kids. Hell, I even drive a mini-van!( and no Lee, I'm not complaining!) When I go to school activities or soccer practice I find myself one of the few dads there...and one of the very few single dads. I don't have the "dating freedom" that many of my single contemporaries have. Child care is always an issue. I work full time at a demanding job and I'm often exhausted after working, picking up the kids, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house. Tonight for instance, I have "back to school night" and soccer practice at the same time. Ack! I'm sure this sounds familiar to all you single parents out there.
In some ways I feel like I'm straddling both worlds. I have the freedom to date and pursue friendships and relationships. But I'm also the guy at the soccer field in the baseball cap driving the mini-van. (I told someone the other day that I was a Corvette driver trapped in a mini-van driver's body!) I'm comfortable around married people. I like talking about kids and mortgages. I can discuss comfortably the ins and outs of home repair and maintenance. Of course, the worlds that are open to me as a single guy are intriguing and potentially rewarding as well.
I often ask myself, "Will you ever get married again"? I give myself a different answer every time I ask the question. How do you weigh and balance it all out? How do you get past "commitment phobia"? For now, I'll date, build my life, take care of the rugrats, and see what happens. No hurries, right? If I have anything, I have time.
I came across this little joke. Somehow very appropriate!
Have you ever noticed that married men are always fatter than the single ones? Know why?
The singles open the door of the refrigerator see what's in it and go to bed.
The married ones see what's in bed and go to the refrigerator.
Saturday, August 28, 2004
Erin and Annabel Lee keep the five question thing going while Diana starts her own three-question meme. I've visited Diana's blog even more since she put her picture on top...lovely!
John Strain throws out the subject of casual Fridays. This is a common practice in schools I've worked in and the principal usually hated it but went along for morale's sake. One principal used to swear to me that discipline incidents went way up on Fridays and he was convinced it was because of the teacher's casual dress. The theory is that the teacher didn't command as much respect as they did wearing more "professional" dress.
Brenda identifies some new drugs for women that sound like they could come in handy sometime. Maybe Sugar Mama could use some of them while she deals with the stress of pursuing an M.B.A.
Kim ponders her husband's runny nose while Ginger probably wishes her nose was clogged up after all the cleaning products she's been inhaling.
Jen is "melancholy and moody" while still trying to get over losing her speeding virginity. Riri is having a tough weekend too. Hugs to both of them!
Mike, from Okie Dokie, is not entirely convincing about the delicious flavor of squirrel meat. I did have some squirrel gravy once that wasn't too bad. Steph bemoans the pain-in-the-ass factor of having to wade through a bunch of crappy blogs to find a good one or two.
Braised Lambchop does a little Bush bashing while Joel returns the favor on John Kerry.
VegasBaby had a close call with Homer while my friend Dawn has unexplained pain in her arm. Hopefully it will turn out to be something minor.
I got a little worn out just reading about Leslie's planned walk while Kimberlee is good to the last drop!
Snowball and Faith are both dealing with sick cats. When you're so attached to a family pet its like one of your kids being sick. I'm wishing both a quick recovery!
Ellen is tired of dealing with telemarketers and I can't blame her! Does Canada have a "Do Not Call" list like we do in the U.S.? I get very few of these calls anymore.
Mary Lou found a baby snail while Steph found a very cool gadget to go with her IPOD. I'm not jealous Steph..really!
Tara lets everyone know where she "goes" all day. Claire just got to go to Italy and has posted some lovely pictures!
Rob used to hate synchronized swimming but now seems to have found a reason to love it. My friend Shelli wonders why people don't love her new content manager as much as they did the old one.
Now I can relax. I'm all caught up! I plan on making this a regular weekend feature.
Friday, August 27, 2004
I once again had someone comment on one of my oddities. Although I'm right-handed, I eat left-handed. I do almost everything except write with my left hand. Whats up with that?
Why am I such a mass of contradictions? I don't like cheese, but I love pizza. I wouldn't steal a nickel from Bill Gates' desk, but I download music like a college kid on steroids. In some ways I'm such a straight arrow, but my libido and desires sure don't match up with what people might think. I love sports but never seem to find much time to watch or play them. I tend to like the kind of women that are really bad for me. I love music, but have resisted my entire adult life actually learning to play an instrument. I'm intensely private, but publish my innermost thoughts on the internet for all to see.
Our computer people at school made the mistake of leaving a computer in my office with a sign that said, "work in progress". Fifteen minutes later I'd hooked the computer up, booted it, configured my email account, added a few addresses to my contact list, and put a few meetings on my online calendar. That calendar thing is pretty nifty! I've heard about it but never used it. You can check other people's availability as you try and set up a meeting. Of course, this requires everyone to actually enter things on their calendar! The media center director said, "you didn't have to do all that. Thats what you have us for"!
Teachers continue to filter into the building ahead of their reporting date next week. I really enjoy wandering around, chatting with them, and getting to know them. You may not agree based on your own experiences, but teachers are some of the world's coolest people.
I agree with Tara that the "marketing" aspects of the Olympic coverage take something away from the games. I'm all for sex, but shouldn't it be enough to televise the games and actually focus on the competition, explanations of the various sports, and the athlete's unique stories. You do it well and you won't have to tease the audience with subtle sexuality.
On the subject of the Olympics, the loss of the men's basketball team to Argentina marks a new low. Argentina was simply the better team. They played better defense, shot the ball better, and actually played like a TEAM. Maybe we should stop picking a team of spoiled all stars and pick a group of players that can play hard together...maybe even play a little defense!
One of these days I keep thinking that I might actually get interested in the presidential election. Maybe due to all my personal troubles I've tuned it all out. Usually, I'm a political junkie! I know all the ins and outs of each campaign. This year it feels like I've joined the apathetic masses.
My mom bought me a dinner from Freddie's Steakhouse. Oh man, was that good! Its been years since I've eaten there. Delicious highly seasoned cabbage rolls, tabouli, a couple of barbecued ribs, salad, bread, potatoes, and an incredibly tender T-Bone. This is almost better than sex...almost.
Have a good weekend everyone!
Thursday, August 26, 2004
The office staff was just great. All the ladies greeted me and helped me get keys, office supplies, and a map to the building. My first impression was positive..competent, friendly, people, just the kind you want to have greeting the public. The counselors were gracious and helpful, just like you would expect counselors to be!
There were a few glitches. My new desk hasn't arrived so they put a very small desk in my office so I'd have something to sit at. My telephone also wasn't working..it needed to be programmed by the phone guy. So I settled into my cinder-block office at my small desk with my box of post-its, pens, staplers, and other necessary supplies. The media center director came in and told me she would have a computer for me tomorrow. There was a list of highlighted students along with a note from the principal that she wanted me to meet with each of these kids as they enrolled. They had been suspended at the end of school last year and she wanted someone to get them off on the right track this year. None of them showed up today.
I spent several hours talking with the vice-principal. He's a nice guy....funny, experienced, content just where he's at. We talked about supervision, discipline, lunch periods, lockers, bathrooms, etc...all the things that may seem small but can cause substantial problems if not handled correctly. We did a lot of "school talk"..people we know in the business, funny stories, etc. The rapport was excellent and I'll enjoy working with him.
We discussed "No Child Left Behind" which will have a big impact on our school. Our middle school is the only one in our area of town that met "Adequate Yearly Progress" and is not on the state's improvement list. Under the law, parents of students in those other schools have the option of transferring their child to a school not on the list...in other words, us! Enrollment will be way up and there might be shifting or hiring of teachers.
I'm going to say something I haven't said in a long time. I'm happy. Really! Yes, I wish things were different. Yes, I still love Lee very much and miss her. But I'm happy in a way that gives me hope for the future. I think I will love this job. I know I love my kids. Maybe I can love someone else. If not, maybe I can be happy anyway. Maybe there is still some gas in the tank. But in any case I'm building a life...a life others would envy.
Maybe, just maybe, I'm not so damn unlucky after all.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
I was introduced to a couple of teachers when I wandered into the building a couple of days ago. One of them asked, "exactly what does an Academic Dean do"? I kinda stumbled around with the answer, and the vice principal did no better. This school has never had someone with my title in the building. The truth is that my job is still being defined. I know I will do discipline. I know I will do supervision. I know there is an expectation that I will be able to work with some of the "at-risk" students and their families. But my exact responsibilities haven't been fully fleshed out yet. The principal told me the other day that she wanted to, "take full advantage of your many talents and experiences" and "I have some big plans for you". Plans? Big plans? I get the feeling that I will be able to help define my own job, and that is very exciting.
I actually like doing discipline...not because I enjoy punishing kids, but because I view office-level discipline as another teaching situation. How can I help this child avoid the kind of behaviors that got him here in the first place. How suportive will the parents be? Does the teacher need to make any subtle changes in how she interacts with this student? Does the student need a behavior plan? At this age, kids who are constantly in trouble in school already have one foot inside our judicial system. Can I keep them from putting down their other foot?
I've had students who were doctors and lawyers. I've taught someone who had a ten year career in the NFL. Many of my former students are teachers themselves. Some are great moms or dads. I've had kids in my office who are serving long prison sentences for murder or robbery. School is a microcosm of society, and I want to make an impact on these kid's lives while someone still can.
If I can do that, it doesn't matter what words are under my job description.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
The very soccer field where Aubree practices was my favorite "parking place" as a teenager. After getting busted by a local deputy sheriff at a local lake (in the buff in a 1978 VW Rabbit!) my girlfriend and I began looking for another place to err..have a little privacy. After all, the friendly deputy growled at me, "boy, I'm gonna have your ass if I catch you at anything like this again". We finally hit on the soccer fields, located in a rural area behind the local Wal Mart. Once you drove out to the 50 yard line and turned out your lights you would be invisible from cars driving down the road.
Tomorrow, I will spend the morning listening to Harry Wong who is kinda the "guru" of classroom management and procedures. All those little things teachers do..name tags, where the rules are placed, what to say on the first day, how to do a seating chart...Harry has it covered. I've heard him before, but at least he's an entertaining speaker.
A new roof is going on the house I'm living in. Thats cool, but I've been listening to the pounding of nails on the roof above my head for several hours now. Grr!
Some of you may not be familiar with how federal law treats the discipline of students on I.E.P.s. The discipline plan for those students is both apart and separate from the regular discipline procedures of the school. Lets say there are two kids..Kid A and Kid B. Kid A is your average middle school neer-do-well, err..student. Kid B is the same but is on an I.E.P. The two go to the bathroom and both light up cigarettes. They are busted by the gym teacher and brought to the office. Kid A gets the auto-penalty for the offense..maybe a 5 day suspension from school. Kid B is a lot more complicated. If he already has a suspension or two, suspending him would be considered a "change of placement" and would be forbidden without parental consent, a meeting of the IEP team, and documentation that his misbehavior is not a result of his "handicapping condition". Talk about hoops to jump through. If this doesn't happen, Kid B gets a slap on the wrist. You, as the parent of Kid A, want to know why the other student received a much lighter punishment than your child. Privacy laws forbid me to even hint at the issue. You call me unfair along with a few other nasty abjectives. I can't say a word! It can get even more hairy in a situation like a fight. Both kids are equally guilty, both have the same number of previous offenses, but the penalties are different. Kid A brings a gun to school? He's out for a year. Kid B? Forty five days.
These laws are often interpreted differently by different states and school districts. Often, schools operate on the opinions of the law firm they hire to represent the school's interests.
I have a son on an IEP. He has behavioral problems and I certainly don't want him excluded from school based on his disability. But as much as possible, I want him treated like any other kid. Some day I would like to see Congress clean up the law in this area and develop standards that allow schools to treat all students fairly.
*cough*, *cough*, the dust from these lawbooks is starting to get to me!
Monday, August 23, 2004
I spent the day at the Fulton Teaching and Learning Academy doing "New Teacher Induction". There was some question as to whether I would have to attend this training required of new teachers. After all, I'm not in the classroom now! But my principal thought there would be some valuable information imparted and she was right. There was quite a lot of material presented on current brain research and learning. I heard that Tulsa hired 500 new teachers this year. I've never worked before in a school district that had 500 teachers period! There were about 150 of us in attendance and almost all of them were much younger than I am and the vast majority were female! At my table of eight there were 7 women, all of them first year teachers, and little ole me!
One of the "New Teacher" attendees was a former student of mine from my early days of teaching. She's now 32 years old and teaching middle school. Talk about feeling your age!! Damn.
I dropped by my new school to visit. The principal and her secretary are the only people in the building who had ever laid eyes on me before today. As I walked through the parking lot a young woman approached me and said, "You must be the new Dean" and introduced herself. Curious, I asked how she knew who I was. She said the description passed to her was "tall, bald, bearded, and distinguished looking" and I fit the description. I guess I can live with that, even though I'd rather have "handsome" thrown in there!
The kids had a pretty good first day of school from all accounts. They are both looking forward to going back tomorrow.
Aubree had her first soccer practice tonight and it was quite enjoyable! She's the only kid on the team that hasn't played before, but you really couldn't tell it. The exception would be the coach's daughter..that little girl kicks like a mule! Aubree is hard on herself. She told me after practice, "the coaches lie. They say good job even when you mess up"! We had a little discussion about the meaning of positive encouragement. Her first game is Sept. 11th (go figure). Go Violets!
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Aubree spent the weekend with my first wife's sister. This is the first time they have seen each other in years. From all accounts they are having a great time. They went shopping yesterday for more school clothes and are headed to the zoo today. I'm not only allowing, but supporting this relationship. Aubree needs all the love and attention she can get right now.
Patrick spent last night at my brother Scott's house. He had a great time. Scott has a real Japanese sword and he let Patrick play with it in the backyard. He also taught him the "Swordsman's Code" which Patrick has been repeating to me. First rule of the code, "never play with the sword around the baby"!
Patrick's teacher made a "home visit" today. I had a pleasant conversation with her and we shared a lot of information. She said, "I guess you know the principal very well." I said, "yes, she's one of my dearest friends" and she replied, "ok, thats kinda scary for me". We shared a good laugh over that.
Aubree starts soccer practice tomorrow. I've been asked to help coach and I probably will. First game in a couple of weeks!
Aubree is doing very well but still has her moments. She told me tonight, "I can't stand it that I lost my moms. I try my hardest to leave this stuff behind but sometimes I just can't. I try so hard to not think about it. My heart is broken in two places. If I ever lose you it'll be completely broken". I told her that she would never lose me..after all, "I..your dad..am the REAL Slim Shady"! That made her laugh uproariously.
I told the kids that I would purchase a bicycle for myself when I get paid at the first of the month. We agreed that we would go on family rides together. They are very excited about this and so am I.
You can deduce that I had no kids on Saturday night. What did I do? Lets just say I had a really good time!
The kids start school tomorrow. I start work...inservice training. I report to my school on Thursday. New office, introductions, learning the computer system...very exciting!
New things, new place, new job, new friends, new beginning. I'm just trying to make the most of it.
Friday, August 20, 2004
I was inspired to do this by looking at a picture taken of me about a year ago. Back then I had a swath of white/gray on an otherwise nicely brown beard. Over the past few months the lighter color has taken charge and sent my natural hair color into full retreat. As I looked in the mirror I felt...old.
I used to laugh at others who used hair dyes to change the color or battle the advancing gray. Why not just be who you are I would ask! I used to give Lee little digs about "better living through modern chemistry".
Now here I am mixing the toothpaste looking stuff with the brown gel with the supplied applicator. I'm brushing it into my beard and mustache. I wait the exactly prescribed five minutes and leapt into the shower thoroughly scrubbing the noxious dye from my face. I jump out of the shower, wipe the steam covered mirror and... the mustache looks nice but there is still a helluva lot of gray. Damnit. I mix up another batch, wait again, shower again and...still a lot of gray. Crap. Once again I'm thoroughly brushing the gel into my beard, being every so careful to cover every little inch. Except for a few tiny gray hairs...success! My beard looks a lot like my hair would look if I had any hair!
So why do it? Why not be satisfied with the cards I've been dealt? I don't want to look older. I am single again after all, and I don't want my available universe of women to be calculating their Medicare benefits. Is this just a middle aged guy thing? Whats next, a convertible?
The bottom line is that I like the new look. I also have a lot of new clothes for work that are less conservative that what I've worn before. Its a new me..yikes!
Thursday, August 19, 2004
We had an emotionally disturbed student named "Chris" that was causing quite a bit of chaos in school. This 7th grader was loud, defiant, profane, and unruly. We met as a staff and decided the proper course of action was to make some changes in Chris' schedule and institute a behavior plan for him with defined consequences and rewards. Because Chris was an I.E.P. student, any such changes required a meeting with a parent and a blizzard of paperwork. I called Chris' mother to attempt to set up a meeting at the nearest possible time.
When I reached mom she told me that coming to a meeting would be difficult for her. His dad coming would be out of the question...he was a truck driver and gone most of the time. She told me that she had infant twins in her house and no one to care for them. I made some congratulatory remark about how cool it must've been for her to have twins. She said, "oh, they're not mine. They're Bob's (her husband). He knocked some woman up while he was on the road. What can you do? Men just fuck around. He brought them back with him last week." She also told me that she didn't have a functioning car. We REALLY needed this meeting so I told her that I would be happy to come pick up her and the twins. She said, "I don't have any car seats". Sigh. I procured a couple of car seats from the motherly types in our building, strapped them in my car, and went out to pick her up. We loaded the babies in the car and I reminded her that diapers and formula might be good things to take along. She didn't have any. I told her we could stop on the way. She didn't have any money. I stopped and bought diapers and formula. How bad did I want this damn meeting anyway?
We got to the school, arranged ourselves in the counselor's office, and began to talk with me feeding one of the infants. I told her about her son's behavioral problems and what we proposed to do to correct them. She said very seriously, "oh, I know why he acts like that. You see, he has three balls! In the male anatomy way of things! Yes, three. One of them has worked its way loose and is traveling toward his heart. Some day it might kill him and it causes him to act up".
I had a yellow legal pad in front of me. I picked it up and sketched a figure of the male anatomy. I drew an arrow from the testicles to the heart, and while keeping a professional face, slyly showed the picture to the counselor sitting next to me. She spewed some of the soft drink she was sipping and kicked me hard under the table. I don't know how I kept from bursting into laughter. I changed a diaper while mom was signing all the paperwork and took her and the little ones home.
Thinking about that today made me giggle. I should write a book.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
1.) If money were no object (clearly it isn't since you teach in Oklahoma).. what other job (besides teaching) would you want
It may sound a little crazy but I'd love to work in the White House. I don't want to be president. I want to be the quiet guy standing offstage at the press conference advising the president. I would want to be in the meetings where important decisions were made. I'm under no illusions about the state of modern politics, but I'd love to be a small part of history.
2.) Have you planned how to react when your kids come to you and say they want to meet their biological parents? (I'm assuming every adopted child goes through that)
My kids have known they were adopted for several years. In Patrick's case, I have a file folder with negatives of his biological mother and half-sister. I also have the court paperwork that indicates who the father is. In Aubree's case, I know the family of her biological mother very well. We just drove by her biological great-grandmother's house today. Aubree has asked several times if she will ever meet her biological parents. I've told her that when she is older, I not only wouldn't stand in her way, I'd help her set up the meeting any way I could. She and I have had several long conversations on the topic. If I were in their place I'd want to do it.
3.) You've written some great baseball posts on my blog. What is your favorite sport? and why? AND who are your favorite teams?
Although I enjoy most sports, I'd have to say basketball was my favorite. I played throughout high school and a short stint at the junior college level. I can't dunk any more but my jump shot is still pretty sweet! Because of my dad I grew up a huge fan of the Boston Celtics. I lived and died with players like Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and so many others. I still follow the Celtics today. I've also developed an attachment to the Dallas Mavericks..I just love the style of ball they play. At the college level I root for my alma mater, O.S.U. I've long been an admirer of Eddie Sutton and his coaching abilities.
When it comes to baseball I grew up a fan of the Kansas City Royals and the Cincinnati Reds. George Brett, Johnny Bench, and Pete Rose were heroes to me and I followed their accomplishments assiduously by reading the box scores. I still keep an eye on those same two teams today. I also got to be something of a Mariner's fan by virtue of living in the Seattle area. They sure as hell shouldn't have let Randy Johnson go.
When it comes to football I have to admit to being a big fan of America's team..the Dallas Cowboys! I remember well the days of Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Golden Richards, Randy White, and so many others. I also follow our two major college teams in Oklahoma. I spent many a Saturday afternoon listening to Sooner's games on the radio, and of course O.S.U. is my alma mater! Go Pokes!
4. ) Personal relationships aside, what is your favorite city, state where you have lived?
I really loved living in Olympia, WA. For an Okie guy like me the opportunity to be at either the beach or the mountains in the matter of a couple of hours was fantastic. I loved scenic beauty and Seattle is the cleanest big city I've ever been to. I enjoyed the ferries, the opportunity to see major concerts and athletic teams, and the beautiful summers.
5.) When you get your I-Pod... what are the first five albums you'll put on it?
Sure Steph, rub the I-Pod thing in again!! I've been jonesing for an I-Pod for what seems like forever. My albums? Five is so few..this is kinda difficult!
1. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
2. The Beatles - Abbey Road
3. Eric Clapton - Unplugged
4. Simon and Garfunkel - Bride Over Troubled Water
5. Tie AC/DC - Back in Black and U2 - Achtung Baby!
Ok, now its time for someone else. If you like, leave me a comment and I'll come up with five questions for YOU to answer!
In the summer of 1994 I was invited to be part of the initial class of the Oklahoma Principals Academy. I was a young, ambitious, vice principal looking to move up, and the academy would be a nice touch on my resume. Several of my administrative colleagues attended with me, we headed to Tahlequah wondering if the seven day program would drag on forever. Instead, it proved to be one of the formative experiences of my professional life. For the first time in my education career the training was not about the latest fad in curriculum, discipline, or grading. It was about us. The entire week focused on learning to take care of yourself personally and professionally. We spent a full day on the ropes course together. We sat for hours discussing how our personal and professional lives interacted with each other. We wondered how Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" fit in with our careers as educators. We talked about time management and the necessity of building in personal time each day. By the end of the week the 30 or so of us felt like brothers and sisters. I still laugh when I think of all these school principals running down the dormitory halls and playing pranks on each other!
They symbol of the academy was the starfish. This was based on the old story of the man and starfish. Those familiar with this story knows that it goes like this:
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
In a sense thats what I do. I find all the starfish that I can and try to help them find hope and a future. As I begin a new school year in my 18th year as an educator, its time to go starfish hunting again.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
This picture was taken when my dad was running for the local school board in the 1970's. This was the formal living room in our house, a place where we spent very little time! I can remember posing for this picture and having to do multiple takes to get it right. One of us was always blinking or moving when the camera clicked.
I of course am the oldest boy holding Samantha, our ever-so-moody cat. The dog in the picture is Shadow. It seems like he was around for my entire childhood. I remember him catching a bird that had been tormenting him. The bird flew too low, hit the tomato plants, and Shadow was on him. He drug that dead bird around for a couple of days like a trophy.
It was in that house that I grew up. I learned how to play basketball in the driveway. I played football outside in the yard and upstairs with my brothers. We kept knocking holes in the plaster and covering them with posters. One day, my dad looked behind one of the posters and the gig was up! I sat in that room and read Hardy Boy mysteries. I blew my tuba much to the consternation of everyone else in the house. I shot endless hoops on my nerf goal. I dreamed the dreams that young boys do. I found a Playboy magazine in the neighbor's trash and kept it hidden under my mattress for years. I snuck cigarettes with my friend Johnny in the field across the street. I walked the streets with my lawn mower, offering my labor for $1.00. I sat at the kitchen table many nights and watched excitedly as my dad pulled up, got his briefcase out, and came in for dinner. It was from that house that I first called a girl and asked her out on a date. I parked my first vehicle (a 1966 Dodge pickup) in that driveway. It was there that I left for college with a big chunk of my family to see me off. My grandfather pressed two crisp $100 bills in my pocket and told me he was so proud.
Now as I'm settling here, it makes me think. What memories will my kids have? When they are my age, how will they look back on their childhood? Which of their dreams will have come true and which ones will have been dashed on the shoals of life's rough beaches? My faults and failings can't be blamed on my upbringing. I want my kids to be able to say the same.
Savannah was born just as I was finishing college myself all those years ago. She was a gorgeous baby. I used to enjoy holding her and just watching her. I've watched her mature over the years into a beautiful, gifted, young woman who is mature beyond her years. Her mother left her and her sister alone with her dad several years ago and she was forced to grow up quickly. She became the "woman of the house" and was often the most level-headed voice there I'm sure. I visited with her last month and was taken aback by her poise and determination to make something out of herself in spite of the cards life has dealt her. I could learn a few things from her.
This will be an affair with all of the "ex inlaws". Strangely enough, I don't feel uncomfortable around them. We've managed to maintain a pretty good relationship after the trauma of the divorce and all the moving around I've done. I actually enjoy catching up with them about everything that has happened.
The kids are excited as well. This is part of their family. I'll do everything I can to help them maintain a relationship with my ex's side of things. Its part of who they are, and given the 14 year length of my first marriage, its part of who I am. My "ex" brother-in-law was only about 16 years old when we first met. Now he's a father sending his daughter off to college. I've fought with him, cried with him, argued with him, and been by his side during hard times. But you know what? I love the guy. Maybe I'll remind him of some of those drinking episodes involving Everclear and grape koolaid! Damn, the years have flown by so fast.
Good luck in college Savannah. I have a feeling you'll put all of us to shame.
UPDATE: We had a wonderful time at the party. I caught up with all the ex-inlaws and had a great conversation with my ex brother-in-law. Aubree climbed a rope hanging from a tree. It must've been twenty feet up there. She did it five times because people kept wandering out and wanted to see it for themselves. Savannah tried to replicate the feat but only succeeded in scraping the skin of the top of her feet. Ouch!
Monday, August 16, 2004
I have boxes of stuff that was given to me that I haven't had much of a chance to go through. You know those boxes in your garage that you haven't thrown away because you are sure that you or someone else can use them? Everyone has given me those boxes. Of course the end result is that I have three toasters, two crockpots, and several sets of silverware. Now I'll start my own boxes!
I've mentioned before my dirty little secret of enjoying shopping. That extends to the grocery store as well. I love perusing the aisles and coming across things I haven't seen or noticed before. I hate to admit it, but I'm not a "list shopper". I keep in my head the few things I really need to pick up. I menu-plan by buying meat and then building meals around it. This probably makes me spend more time in the store than I need to as I criss-cross back and forth picking things up. I also like to watch people...the lady meticulously crossing off her shopping list, the old gentleman confused by the milk prices, the young mom trying to keep her kids in tow while she tries to decide what type of cheese to buy.
Its time to start cooking now. I actually like to cook. I'm just not very good at it. Actually, its just that I'm somewhat limited. I'm like a basketball player who only has a few moves. I'm good at the ones I know, but limited otherwise. The kids will tire quickly of my menu of tacos, chilli, gumbo, cornbread, chicken and noodles, etc. I need to expand my repertoire. Maybe I need to start watching Emeril more!
Since this is my hometown I occasionally run into people I know. I saw an old friend from high school yesterday. We walked past each other and both of us stopped and turned around. "Brian"?? "Derek"?? We chatted for awhile and exchanged a few reminisces. One of the girls I dated in high school was working in Wal-Mart. We had a little small talk while I was mentally trying to remember all the stuff I was supposed to pick up. I've seen other people whose faces I recognize but can't put a name on. Did I go to school with them? Work with them?
One of the things that strikes me is the generally friendlier nature of people here...I'd almost forgotten it. I've had several complete strangers strike up friendly conversations with me. A lady at the administration building of the school system complimented on my shirt while we waited for the elevator. This led to a several-minute chat after we landed on the bottom floor...weather, school stuff, etc.
As my stack of unpacked cardboard boxes grows, I'm also unpacking myself mentally. I still talk to Lee regularly and maintain a friendly relationship with her. We discuss the kids, selling the house, and whats going on in our lives. There are still a lot of emotions there....painful yet somehow reassuring. I hope we can maintain that friendly relationship on a level that is comfortable for both of us.
Now about those two electric griddles.....
Saturday, August 14, 2004
I picked up Patrick, Aubree, and Kristen (my 13 year old niece). We did some shopping for bedding, went to Braum's for ice cream, and then headed to the movie theater. Naturally, all three wanted to see a different movie. There was no one movie out of eight that everyone could agree to see. So I put the names of four movies into a bag and we drew one out. We saw "Predator vs. Alien". Its really a little scary for Aubree, but she assured me she could handle it. Of course, she spent half the movie with her head in my chest.
At the very end of the movie a creature escapes from the body of a dead alien and the movie ends abruptly. Patrick and Kristen spent the next 45 minutes arguing what it all meant. They wanted me to settle the dispute, but I stayed out of it!
We headed back here and the kids are now spending their first night in our new home. There are no beds in here yet so we'll be "camping out" with sleeping bags on the carpet. Somehow with pizza and cable TV we'll manage to survive! The kids were anxious to get moved in and I was ready for them.
Tomorrow will be a day of mowing and moving furniture in. So much to do and so little time!
Friday, August 13, 2004
About fifteen years ago I was in my first marriage and teaching at a small rural school in Oklahoma. My wife was unable to conceive children despite our years of attempting. Batteries of tests revealed that her fallopian tubes were blocked and an expensive surgery was unable to correct the problem...they closed right back up. She desperately wanted to have a child. I was much less sure. I loved kids, enjoyed other people's children, and worked with kids every day in my job. But I also enjoyed the life we had and the freedom that not having kids entailed. We could take spur-of-the-moment trips, go out on a whim, and spend all of our money on ourselves.
She prevailed and we began to consider our options. In vitro fertilization was the hot thing in the field of infertility and we did exhaustive research on the subject. It was very expensive and not fully covered by my insurance. The odds of success were about 1 in 6 and each attempt would cost several thousand dollars. We began to consider adoption but she really wanted an infant and we were told that adopting a healthy infant was difficult...lots of couples wanted the same thing.
Through a step-sibling of hers we learned of a 16 year girl who was pregnant. She already had a two year old child and had been kicked out of her mom's house when this pregnancy was revealed. She had concealed her previous pregnancy all the way to term and her first child was born in the toilet at home. She was living with her sister, didn't want this second child, and was looking for options. We made contact and after many hours of discussion she agreed to give her child to us for adoption.
Since this was a private adoption we hired an attorney, paid all of her medical expenses, and hired an attorney for her as well to make sure that everything would be above-board. I hocked everything I owned, borrowed money on both vehicles, and took out gimmicky loans to pay what would eventually be almost $15,000 in costs. We were there in the hospital the night the child was born and I held him in my arms shortly after birth. We had made a deal...if it was boy I got to name him and if it was a girl, she did. Of course it was a little boy that was born on that rainy spring night. I named him Patrick Aaron Stone and we took him home from the hospital the next day. I was the sponsor of the high school prom that year and since my wife was so tired after two days without sleep, I took him to the prom with me! All the high school girls oooohed and aaaheed over him all night.
Patrick was an adorable baby...very cute and smiley. My previous objections to having children melted quickly. I learned the routines of diapering, making formula, and giving baths. Summertime rolled around shortly, my wife went back to work, and I was tasked with the day-to-day care of a newborn baby boy. I learned all the tricks of the trade the hard way! I strapped him on my back and went fishing. I took him everywhere.
His first year was uneventful. We did begin to notice that he was reaching all of his "milestones" a little later than normal. He didn't walk until he was 16 months old. Other things happened later than they should have.But my God...he was so adorable.
When Patrick turned four I enrolled him in a local public pre-school. They did diagnostic testing and called me in for a meeting. The psychologist, who was a friend of mine, gave me a huge shock. She said, "Brian, I believe Patrick is autistic". I could no longer deny what had been evident before....my son, this kid we had worked so hard for, wasn't a normal child. I took him in for batteries of tests. The doctors, in the end, all did the same thing. They would shrug and say things like..."its too young to tell", "I can't be sure", "there's something going on here that I can't put my finger on".
I mourned the loss of the "ideal son". My son would not be the star of the basketball team. He wouldn't be the king of the prom and marry the banker's daughter. He wouldn't go to college. My wife went into a state of depression. She became distant and withdrawn and I took over more and more of Patrick's care. I bathed him daily, fed him, cleaned up his ever-increasing messes, took him to appointments, and dealt with the school.
About this time, we were approached by a friend of mine. She had been my cub scout leader when I was a child. Her granddaughter had a little girl that was two months old and she wasn't able to handle the situation. She asked if I would be interested in adopting this child. My wife came to life for the first time in months and enthusiastically supported the idea. We took home a little girl, hired another lawyer, and added a second child to our family. We named her Aubree Elizabeth Stone. I traded in my sports car for a minivan.
After several months of excitement my wife fell into depression again. I was doing most of the childcare for both kids. It was difficult considering the demanding job that I had. I had to supervise various school events and often had to be gone in the evening. When I got home, my wife would be totally stressed out. It got to the point where she didn't want to be alone with the children at all.
About a year after Aubree's adoption, my wife..angry and sobbing, told me that she just wasn't "cut out to be a mom". She said that her nerves were shot and that she just couldn't handle it any more. Patrick was too difficult for her to handle. She left, moved into a garage apartment, dated half the guys in town, and left me with a house, all the bills, and two small children. She paid child support sporadically, if at all. She often begged out of the one day a week she was supposed to spend with the kids. Eventually she met a guy from England online, went to visit him, and never returned.
I enlisted the aid of my family and struggled to raise the kids by myself. I fell into my own depression. My life consisted of work, feeding and taking care of kids, sleep...repeat. Then I met Lee, chunked my job, life, and family, and moved away.
Now I sit again in the same boat. Patrick was the main factor in the breakup of both of my marriages. I don't resent him for it. He can't help who he is. I haven't always been the best dad by a long stretch. But I love both of these kids with every fiber of my being.
A few days ago Aubree called me "mom" by mistake and corrected herself. She said, "I might make that mistake sometimes dad". I'm the dad and the mom now. I've got to do it all. I hope I'm up to the challenge and I think I am. These kids need good parenting and I'm all they have.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
My kids are now enrolled in school here. I am friends with both of their principals and many of the teachers. Patrick's counselor is the best I've ever known at her job. They are both excited about their new schools and the opportunity to make new friends. I'm comforted in the knowledge that they are in very good hands.
My new job will begin in a couple of weeks and I'm filled with anticipation. Its been seven years since I've been in school administration and I'm excited about the challenge that lies ahead. I hope to put the things I've learned since my last tour in the office to good use. I'm anxious to meet my colleagues and begin work.
The sense of loss will always be there somewhere I think. A part of me has been torn away and I'm not sure if it will ever totally stop hurting...or even if I want it to. It doesn't hurt like it did a couple of weeks ago. I'm not crying every day..actually I haven't cried at all. I'm focused on the practical necessities of beginning a new life. I've talked to my brothers more in the past week than I have in the past seven years.
For the first time in months I feel a sense of control. That sense of control brings a feeling of peace. This is my life and I can make of it what my talents, abilities, and desires allow. Thats what it is all about, isn't it?
This was taken just a few hours after our arrival. Aubree and Patrick were swimming with my brother Matt and his lovely wife Stephanie. They had a blast!
Patrick somewhere in the mountains near Salt Lake City. We were wearing summer type clothing and it was quite cool. Brrr!
Aubree took this picture of me when we crossed the state line.
Aubree and Wendy during one of our many "pit stops"! Every time we stopped she took Wendy for a little walk.
I won't try and pretend that things are a bed of roses. I still miss Lee and so do the kids. Its a difficult thing for all of us. But we're pulling it all together and building a life here inch by inch.
Its a nice hot Oklahoma afternoon. I'm putting the house together a room at a time. Hopefully, the kids will be able to come stay here tomorrow or the next day. They'll be excited by that. I'd planned to mow the yard today but last night's storms threw off that plan.
There are things happening here that are exciting and give me hope for better days. Now its time to make it all happen!
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
I'll probably move the kids in later this week. It won't be quite ready, but we can "camp out" once all the power tools aren't laying everywhere. They'll be excited about that. They've enjoyed the time at my parent's house but I think they are ready to spend time with me at "their house".
A few vignettes from the last couple of days:
1. My brother Matt and I have been painting, cutting, and installing trim for several days now. He has an air-powered nail gun and I love that gun! Every time I've done jobs like this before I never had the proper power tools. Whack, whack and the trim is in. Man, I love that!!
2. Have I mentioned that I get my cable internet in tomorrow? I am so ready for that!
3. I fought with the telephone company over my phone line. The previous occupant had two phone lines. When they reconnected me they activated the jack in one of the back bedrooms and not the one in the living room which is a different line. They want 100 bucks to fix it. Grr.
4. My dad has agreed to give me his executive desk that has been sitting in storage. Its a beautiful, expensive, solid oak executive type desk that he used at work before he retired. They gave the desk to him when he retired and he has always treasured it. He made me promise to allow him to come visit it sometime.
5. Aubree is still struggling with the loss of Lee. She's made some very emotional statements in recent days. I think it will help her when we are all moved in and things aren't so chaotic.
6. I went last week to get an Oklahoma driver's license. They told me that a driving examiner has to do that and advised me to return this morning between 8-12. I arrived at 9:30 and they told me the examiner was all booked for the morning. Argh! You wouldn't think it would be so difficult.
7. I ate barbecue. Real Oklahoma barbecue. The kind that is slow cooked and smoked. Yum!!!
Hopefully the next time I post it will be from my computer again. Talk to you all soon!!
Saturday, August 07, 2004
I've also filled out a zillion forms for my new job, opened up a new bank account, selected health, dental, and life insurance plans, and worked with local utilities. After the house is set up I need to get school clothes for the kids and myself.
A few tidbits from recent days:
*Aubree turning to me and saying, "Dad, you're a babe magnet" after I had a friendly conversation with a local woman. She was present for the "head rubbing" incident and got a big kick out of it.
*Patrick spending the night at my brother's house last night. My sister-in-law was spoiling him rotten with movies and snacks and my brother Matt let him take a spin in his riding lawn mower. It was hilarious! I can't tell you how gratifying it is to have family members who WANT to spend time with Patrick...who volunteer for it.
*We bought two bad air conditioning units in a row before finally getting a third one that worked. What are the odds of that?
*Wendy, our dog, shook loose from her lease, saw Aubree in my parent's above-ground swimming pool, took a running leap and landed right in the middle of the pool!
I wish had more time to read the blogs of my friends and catch up on everything. But things are moving toward normalcy day by day. We'll get there!
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Our trip was quite the adventure. We had a really great time together. I don't think the kids will want to travel very far for awhile now! I took some pictures and will post later when I have my own computer and internet service. For now, I'm posting on my niece's laptop.
I'm tired and have a zillion things to do. I'll be back and post more tomorrow. Thanks everyone for your good wishes. I'll share more about the trip and how my life is shaping up in the coming days.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Doctors have found the young men miss their computers too much to cope with their compulsory six months in the forces.
"For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock," said Commander-Captain Jyrki Kivela at the military conscription unit.
"Some of (the conscripts) go to the doctor and say they can't stay. Sometimes, the doctors have said they have an Internet addiction," Kivela said.
There are no official figures for the Internet addict dropout rate.
"They get sent home for three years and after that they have to come back and we ask if they are OK ... they will have had time to grow up," Kivela said.
Finland called up 26,500 men in 2003, nine percent of whom were relieved of duty for medical reasons.
However, the Internet drop-outs have not dented national pride in "sisu," a Finnish quality of being tough and resilient.
"We are very proud of our Finnish men. Eight-two percent of all Finnish men manage their whole military service," Kivela said