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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bedlam Baby 

Due to a very generous invitation from Steph, I was able to attend yesterday's annual bedlam football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma. This annual matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is a huge deal here. You have to live in this state to really understand! The game went down to the final seconds and 2nd ranked Oklahoma eked out a 38-35 victory.

I love going to college football games. I enjoy the spectacle, the atmosphere, the smell of tail-gating parties, the antics of college students, the sea of colors. In Stillwater of course, the color of the day is orange. Tens of thousands of orange clad spectators filled Boone Pickens Stadium. I had so many memories of games attended there in my college days.

The drive took a little over an hour. The air was crisp and cool and the sky was a beautiful blue. I drove through Yale, OK, home of the legendary Jim Thorpe and a not-quite-so-legendary speed trap. I passed a marker noting the exploration of famed writer Washington Irving (Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) who wrote some of the earliest known observations about Oklahoma. I passed familiar sites and felt my pulse quicken as I neared Stillwater. I'm baaaaaackkkkkkk!

Steph and I originally had tickets in the "nosebleed" section...the 80th row. This was also in the visitor's section, where we stood out wearing our O.S.U. garb. Before the game began we were approached by a gentleman who wanted to trade seats. He had family members sitting in our section. His seats were better and we trudged to the other side of the stadium and plunked ourselves down in the middle of the 40th row. One one side of us was a very nice family from my hometown. On the other side? A very drunk, obnoxious guy who reeked of beer and felt compelled to loudly impart his knowledge to all of us around him, laced with a heavy dose of profanity. His wife eventually left and didn't return until the 4th quarter! Steph switched seats at halftime so I would have the pleasure of sitting right next to him.

Mr. Obnoxious couldn't ruin the game though. I thoroughly enjoyed being there and practically inhaled the atmosphere. It was a beautiful fall day, the game was exciting, and I had good company. For those few hours I had no problems, no anxieties, no worries.

I was home and it felt great.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Weekend Roundup 10/29-10/30 

Angel thinks she has low expectations. Didamo is taking applications and has some pretty high expectations.

ChunkyGirl kept getting interrupted at a really bad time. It would be a bad time to mess with Kim. Her husband's balls are safe...she thinks.

Alithea has a few observations to make. Surly's cat probably does too since it never gets writer's block.

Carol is trying to help a friend who is getting ripped off and has made some bad choices. Jen is making peace with her own choices in a beautiful post.

Wild Thrasher's blog was lost but now is found. It looks like Faith has found a job, but does she want it?

FairyGirl is referred to as "nice". No surprise at all there. Some people weren't nice to Vince. They just didn't like her stockings!

Want to know about breastfeeding? Liz can tell you all about it. Want to know what a lie is? Ask Robyn.

Maggie posts about the tragic story of Emmett Till. Janine tells the story of a botched police investigation.

Tara dumped her frump. Jennifer isn't frumping. She's cavorting! Some people have all the fun.

Jack knows how to drive single women crazy. Its driving Kristine crazy that her daughter doesn't want to trick-or-treat.

LoveDonnaz is building an amusement park and planning to watch some scary movies. BOO! Frani isn't planning any new construction but she will be carving pumpkins. I'm sure she'd like Riri's "Garfield" carving.

In this bitter political season Dariana finds a little humor. There isn't anything humorous about this post from Jeni, but it is one of the best pieces of writing I've come across.

Harry was once a neighbor of Yasser Arafat. It would be fun to be Diana's neighbor and watch her get sidetracked.

Snowball's prescription just won't fill itself. Shelli needed a prescription after getting whacked by her 3 year old! Ouch.

Steph got called a "chicken ass chicken" and took a dare. Phyllis is no chicken but she has been under the weather.

SugarMama is ending her relationship. WildScorpy is getting her's back together. Best wishes to both.

Zandria went to London. Maybe she'll run into Big Andy there. He has an interesting take on our erec....er...elections.

Vegas Baby knows how to keep a healthy level of insanity. She could always call IKEA like Pisser did.

John finds political correctness run amok. Ginger finds a movie that just sucked ass.

Becky is finishing a dream vacation. It may not turn out to be dreamy, but Cheri has a hot date.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Stranger 

I was driving to work today and Billy Joel's "The Stranger" came on the radio. Its funny how a song can cause me so much thought. I've heard this song since it was on 8-Track! But today I listened to it with new ears.

Well we all have a face that we hide away forever
And we take them out andShow ourselves when everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on

Faces. We all have faces that we show to different people. Not a single person I work with has any idea who I really am. None of them know about my separation...I never speak of it and I finesse the question about being married. None have any idea of the heartache that still burns quietly inside. They see what I want them to see.

My children see another face. I hide pain, fear, and anger from them. I present them with a strong veneer of stability and calm. I strive to be a constant in their lives no matter what is raging inside me. This is what parents do.

Even with my family and friends I have a mask that I wear. Problems? No problems here. Nothing I can't work through. I don't need any help, thank you very much. Lets talk about Oklahoma football or how the Sox are doing in the series. Lets discuss Aunt Bessie and what she's been up to. Lets talk about the kids and how they're doing. Lets plan a cookout or a dinner. Allow me to help you with that computer problem. When asked how I'm doing I refer to my job and say, "just fine"....whether I really am or not. They can't peek behind that mask.

I try to be as honest as I can here on my blog. I write things here that I've never told my best friend or my family. I share things that I'd been uncomfortable telling anyone about. But even here there is a part of me that I don't allow to be seen.

In my marriage I let the mask fall away. She knew me for exactly what I was...the good and the bad. I liked that. It was something I'd never experienced before. It is difficult to find someone that you can trust with who you really are. Will I ever let it slip totally again? Sometimes I wonder. That takes me to this stanza:

Well we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell
Why were you so surprised that you never saw the stranger
Did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself?

I did, and it was both the most rewarding and most painful experience of my life. I guess my question is.....can you truly have a loving relationship if you don't expose yourself? If you do, you risk so very much. For me I think the answer is obvious. I don't know how to love someone any other way now. At my age and with my experiences, its love me for who I am.

All of me...even whats behind the mask.

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Song and dance 

I thought, I would give Brian and everyone else a little song and dance first thing this morning. What a way to start your day, don't you think? If I knew how to upload graphics I would have chosen an interesting printscreen, for this post. I will leave that up to someone else. Who doesn't love Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody song? One of the longest songs ever produced. Well I give you this years version of political satire on that song. I give you this play on the song BUT it is not the lyrics to the satire.



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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Midweek Musings 

A 7th grade girl approached me on the playground today and asked if she could go inside to visit the school nurse. When I asked why she responded, "well, I'm pregnant and I've been feeling sick to my stomach". She rubbed her belly as if to demonstrate it was for real. I've seen this before and it always makes me ill. She's 13 years old!! How could this happen? (rhetorical question...I know how it happens). I once had a pregnant student in another school of the same age. Her boyfriend? He was 28 years old. She wanted to marry him and her mother was supporting her in the effort. Geez. One of the problems we have to look out for is high school boys picking up 6th-7th grade girlfriends from school. It happens a lot.

There are apparently a number of scenarios under which the presidential election could end up in an electoral tie. If Bush and Kerry each end up with 269 electoral votes the House of Representatives gets to decide the election. The article doesn't dwell on how this works. Each state gets one vote. California gets a vote and so does Alaska. Each states congressional delegation votes among themselves and the winning side gets the state's vote. Now wouldn't that be something to see in action? Political science major coming out in me!

Aubree is absolutely loving drama club. Singing, acting, dancing....she has a very artistic side that is finding itself here. I know that bragging on your child is bad form, but she has some talent! Now if she could only keep her room clean.

Not a surprise that I am looking forward to the movie "Ray". I'm a big Ray Charles fan and have always been inspired by what he overcame to be a star. When you look up the word "soul" in the dictionary, it should have Ray's picture right beside it.

My parents are re-doing their will and have asked me if there is anything specific I want from their home. This is something I just can't force myself to think about. It just feels weird!

Halloween is Patrick's favorite holiday. Yes, I think he likes it even better than Christmas. He loves costumes and dress-up, and of course enjoys getting candy! He's been driving me nuts about it for weeks. He wants to dress in his "Scream" costume. Aubree wants to make herself into a jellybean.

I'm having an easier time going to sleep now but I still wake up fairly often...sometimes several times a night. It seems unrelated to how tired I am. Then I just lay there in the dark and think about "stuff" until I drift back off to sleep. I don't know what the hell to do about it.

I'm currently working on a plan to address bullying in our school. Middle school is a prime age for bullying behavior. Of course I want to target the known bullies, but I also want to do something with those kids who tend to attract bullies. You know the type. I'm looking for materials to help teach these kids how to avoid being a target and what to do if they are. There is research that shows that the "bullyers" and the "bullyees" tend to carry that into adulthood and become abusive to others. I want to do something about it in my small corner of the world.

And how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Way Back When 

I read this post by Didamo and thought I'd try it on for size. Since I'm a little *cough* older than she is, I added a few additional milestones.

35 years ago

1. I was in Mrs. Walkup's third grade class. Mrs. Walkup strolled the class with a paddle in her hand. If you misbehaved she would ask you to stand up and would give a swat right there at your desk.
2. My youngest brother was born. My grandfather snuck me past the nurse's station at the hospital so I could visit him in my mom's room. In those days the mother/child stayed in the hospital for about a week. My dad took us out to eat every night. We were happy to see mom come home but weren't quite ready to give up that yummy diner food just yet!
3. Mike, Chris, Dean, and Roberta were my best friends. We played baseball and rode the neighborhood on our bikes. We also explored the woods near our house and munched on mulberries from the very large tree. We cashed in glass pop bottles to get money for sodas and candy.
4. I contracted the mumps and thought they would never go away.

30 Years Ago

1. My parents were talking about adopting a girl. My mom had four straight boys and wasn't willing to risk #5. A year later my sister Missy would join our family.
2. I went to "Jim King Basketball Camp" that summer. I spent all of my "refreshment money" the first couple of days and went without treats the rest of the week.
3. I slow danced with a girl for the first time. Her name was Laura.
4. I listened to Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album a million times. Bbbbbb..Bennie and the Jets!
5. I played tuba in the school band and had a special cubbyhole in my room built to fit it. My brothers rejoiced in coming in and blowing on it to wake me up. Sometimes it was a race down the stairs to see if I could whack on them before they reached mom's protective clutches.

25 Years Ago

1. I was a senior in high school. I could dunk a basketball with two hands! I was a skinny 6'4" and 165 lbs. I had moppy hair that ran up to the edge of my coach's tolerance. Once I had a cheerleader cut it with scissors in the bleachers so that I would be allowed to play.
2. I was too shy to ask anyone to the prom, but I took someone home! Her name was Debbie and we necked in my dad's Chevy Capri in the parking lot. She later married one of my classmates.
3. I had a monster crush on Diana but could never begin to do anything about it.
4. I drove a 1966 Dodge pickup...light blue. It had a "slant 6" motor with "three on the tree". Sometimes the clutch would overheat and I would have to start it "in gear". Fun stuff.
5. Mr. Hutchings was my favorite teacher. He taught an advanced math class with four seniors in the class. We had a blast. Penny was in that class and had a crush on me, but I just couldn't go there. Her uncle was my former coach, and I asked her to dance at the prom because he asked me to. I saw her years later at a job fair. She is a junior high math teacher.

20 Years Ago

1. I was finishing college after taking some time off to work. My favorite class was "Voting and Elections" taught by Dr. Darcy. He was charismatic and informative. I was riveted during every class.
2. I was managing and playing on a co-ed softball team. The team was a mix of middle-aged professors and younger students. The philosophy department sponsored the team and our jerseys read "Friends of the Forms". I can't remember why. My competitive nature led me to be somewhat annoyed when my outfielders had beer chugging contests during practice! The worst offender was a professor named John. He was a total party animal! There was also the drama of my female married left-fielder and my single male shortstop having a torrid affair. Our team parties were never dull!
3. I was driving a 1978 Ford Fairmont. Only one of the doors worked properly and it wasn't the driver's door. To get in I had to open the back door, reach through, and open the driver's door. Something was always wrong with that car....piece of junk!
4. I was married but highly attracted to a girl named Linda that I worked with. We made out a little at a party once but thats as far as it went. My conscience got the best of me. But man....was she ever hot!

15 Years Ago

1. I was teaching at Checotah High School in eastern Oklahoma and driving a school bus for extra money. Teaching was a lot easier than driving that damn bus. At least in the classroom I could see what was going on.
2. I had no children. My wife and I had gone through fertility testing. Part of that testing involved sticking a long thing swab up my "pee hole". My God, that hurt so bad. I felt totally faint and was told I was as white as a sheet. The problem turned out to be her blocked fallopian tubes.
3. I had two dogs: Zeus and Apollo, aka "The Lads". They followed me everywhere on the farm. They went fishing with me almost every day during the summer.
4. I was really into gardening. I know its not very "manly" but I especially enjoyed growing miniature roses.
5. PBS was one of the two channels I could receive, so I watched it a lot! "Firing Line", "This Old House", "Tony Brown's Journal", "Nova".

10 Years Ago

1. Patrick was a toddler and getting into everything! He was such a cute baby. I had no idea then of the handicaps that would face him later. He was a delayed in a few areas, but still in the "normal" range.
2. I was a middle school vice principal in his first year as an administrator. I didn't know what the hell I was doing half the time! During the first few weeks of school I had a mom come to school to visit with me about her son who was in trouble. She asked if I could paddle him and I told her we didn't do that anymore. She then asked if SHE could paddle him in my office. I couldn't see why not. Pop! Pop! The next sound I heard was keys in the door as my principal nervously opened the door to see if I had gone crazy and started whacking on someone!
3. I bought my first house (not counting a mobile home). It was a 3 bed/2 bath house in a quiet neighborhood. I spent an enormous amount of time on various remodeling projects!

5 Years Ago

1. I was married to Lee and living in Slidell, Louisiana. We purchased a house in a neighborhood called Lake Village. All the street names were lakes. It was a beautiful house and I liked it better than any house I've ever lived in. Mosquitoes were a constant nuisance and you would see the "mosquito abatement trucks" driving down the street and spraying.
2. I was teaching at Picayune Jr. High School (Mississippi) and coaching boys and girls basketball. One of my colleagues kept bringing me samples of his homemade pickles. He quit teaching and began to sell them full time. Check out his website here. They're really, really good!
3. When I was coaching 8th grade girls I would always follow them to the locker room after the game, talk to them awhile, and leave them to change. After one game I walked in, started talking about the game, and a girl named Amanda pulled her jersey and bra right off. I stopped in the middle of a sentence...speechless. No one said a word, just a collective gasp! It took her a few seconds to realize what she'd done and she was so embarassed!
4. Lee and I enjoyed going to the casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They had the coolest childcare facilities and the kids loved going. Occasionally we'd win enough money to pay for dinner and childcare...aaahh!

4 Years Ago

1. It was our last year living in Louisiana. We began a yearlong process of preparing to move to Washington. Both of us were job-hunting. For a lot of personal reasons it was a difficult and trying year.
2. Lee and Aubree would sit at the table for hours eating boiled crawfish. They would eat until their fingers wrinkled. There would be this huge pile of remains that you had to wrap carefully and throw in the garbage. Rotten crawfish---ugh!
3. We would occasionally take the kids down on the bayou for a picnic lunch. It was a lot of fun watching the baby gators swim around but you always had to wonder...where's mom?

3 Years Ago

1. Our big move year. We took our kids plus a friend, two birds, a 26 ft. Budget Rental truck towing a vehicle, and Lee's van and headed across the country. Our house was closing at 9 a.m. and we were packing all night long. In the end we just couldn't fit everything on the truck. The kids went down the street and gave their bikes away. We gave a bed to a neighbor. We left a trampoline and a lawn mower just sitting there for the pleasure of the new owner. We left town on zero hours sleep and finally stopped when both of us were hallucinating from exhaustion!
2. I didn't have a job in Washington when we arrived. While we were still unpacking I got a call from Oakville asking me to interview for a teaching position. I had the job within a week of our arrival!
3. Lee had to go to New York City for a three week training session that summer. I had a one week training session in town. We flew our babysitter from Louisiana up to Washington to help with the kids. Lisa was a 300 lb. Nicaraguan girl and she was sooo funny! She would eat you out of house and home but was great with the kids.
4. We were jam packed. We moved from a 2400 sq. ft. home to an 1100 sq. ft. apartment. Our son Brynden used the china cabinet for his underwear and socks.

2 Years Ago

1. I was happily ensconced teaching at Oakville. The first few months had been trying, but I had already grown to love the place and those kids. I was still learning how to do the yearbook which gave me great stress. Deadlines!
2. Brynden was beginning high school and Patrick and Aubree were going to school together at a local elementary. We were still living in the apartment and growing tired of apartment life. The best thing about the apartment? The indoor pool and hot tub just across the parking lot. We spent many a night there.
3. I loved going out to Lee's parent's house on the island. Swimming, skiing, walking, and just relaxing. Her parents are such cool people.

1 Year Ago

1. I was happily married with no idea of what was to happen a few short months later. I thought we were just the coolest couple around and so in love. We surprised each other with little gifts and notes. I was optimistic about the future.
2. I was already secretly doing Christmas shoppping. It seems like I start earlier every year.
Have I mentioned before that I love shopping?
3. We lived one block from Patrick and Aubree's school. For the first time they could walk to school instead of riding a bus. I loved that.


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Monday, October 25, 2004

When I Die and When I'm Gone 

I drive past a very old cemetery on the way to work each day. As a child we used to run through this cemetery at night and be so scared! I see row after row of tombstones and think to myself...you'll be there some day. All of us will. Some of us are comforted by religious faith and a belief in an afterlife, while others believe we have to make the most of our time here. Either way, we end up at a place like this or we have our ashes scattered to the winds. Each of those tombstones has a story behind it. Buried beneath them is someone's father or mother, a husband or wife, a son or daughter.

Many of the tombstones simply have a name, date of birth, and the day the person died. Sometimes "loving husband and father" or other such sentiments will be there. Others are even more descriptive. (Check here and here for famous epitaphs.

What would I want on my tombstone? I do kinda like Wyatt Earp's: that nothing's so sacred as honor and nothing's so loyal as love. I also like Robert Frost's: I had A Lover's Quarrel With The World. But mine has to be orginal of course.

But Brian, you say, its morbid to think about things like this! Why would you even think about death? Why talk about your tombstone? What does it matter now? Hopefully I have a lot of good years left in this world. But somehow it seems like pondering your death can lead you to think about how you want to live. And who knows when our gig is up?

Brian Stone (1961-....)
He laughed, he lived, he loved with a passion
Those he loved always knew it and treasured it.
He made this world a better place.
He had no regrets.
If I can live up to that I will have done what I want to do with my life. When my time comes I won't be worrying about how much money I didn't make, what kind of car I drove, how my yard looked, or any of those other things that can seem so important right now. I'll want to be able to know that I made a difference in people's lives. I'll want my family, my wife, my children to know how much I loved them. In death, that love and our memories are all I have to give. I won't be leaving a palatial estate or big trust funds.
So as I live my life, I'd like to live it in a way where I can truly have no regrets. Cue up Ray Charles' Somewhere Over the Rainbow and lay me to rest when my time is here. I will have lived the life I wanted and made a difference in the lives of others.


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Sunday, October 24, 2004

And He's Back 

Here I am after an extended weekend retreat with Marlane. We had a really good time! We spent a couple of days at the farm where we just listened to...the quiet! Occasionally the hoot of an owl would punctuate the quiet darkness. I have a lot of childhood memories of this place and it makes me feel relaxed and secure.

The kids were thrilled to see her. We all packed up and went to Aubree's soccer game and then headed over to Oktoberfest. We munched on German sausages, potato pancakes, and funnel cakes while the kids rode overpriced rides and played overpriced games! It was a very warm afternoon and we were quite tired when we got back to the car. We headed out to Freddies for an outstanding steak dinner. One of the things she noticed was the friendliness level of the wait staff and patrons. We were discussing what movie to see with the waiter and ended up with reviews from people clear across the room. We decided to see Ladder 49. Both of us enjoyed the movie immensely even with the tearjerker ending. Yes, I cried damnit! Sometimes a movie can make you think about the important things in life and this was one of those movies.

She is a great friend and we always have a good time together. This long weekend was no exception!

Thanks so much to my guest bloggers: Steph, Jen, and Morning Angel. I'm going to have to work harder now to measure up to the quality of posts that occurred in my absence. All three of you absolutely, totally rock!

Is tomorrow really Monday? Ugh!

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Bald is Bee-oo-tiful: A Photojournal 

Some are natural and some are not, but they all prove bald is verrrrry sexy!



Yum. Vin Diesel.



Kevin Eubanks. Need I say more?



The sultry Billy Zane.



John M. Jackson. Bald in uniform.



Andre Agassi ~ look at that face. Almost orgasmic!



Patrick Stewart. Oh, my.



Peter Furler. Christians can be hotties, too!



Sean Connery. So the man wears his bathrobe like a second skin. Mmm, legs...



Sinead O'Connor. Oh, wait a minute! That's a chick.



Michael Stipe. One of my personal favorites.



Brian Stone. Another of my personal favorites.



Oh, wait, another one. Brian Stone in his natural habitat - the classroom!


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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Today


Appropriate for today, a post about the World Series. Today begins the 100th Fall Classic between two talented teams full of players with heart. Some observations:

Boston Red Sox:

I feel bad for this guy I respect this guy

Pitching through pain. Curt Schilling has torn the sheath surrounding his achilles tendon and has undergone a one-of-a-kind procedure that actually SEWS his tendon to his skin to hold it in place while he is pitching. The alternative would be to let it free as normal and have the tendon sliding over the bone (which, from personal experience, would actually cause shredding of the tendon and many more complicated problems).

Aside from his dedication to his team, I have great admiration for Curt Schilling for the man that he is. He loves his family, he supports great causes financially and with his time, and is a true patriot.

"The memories you create on a ball field are pretty insignificant things compared to the changes you can make in the life of a person. Those are very lasting."- Curt Schilling

Curt's Pitch for ALS * Shade Foundation * Jimmy Fund *
Curt's letter to America after 9/11

St. Louis Cardinals:

Albert Pujols Jim Edmonds

Albert Pujols Role Model / Personification of the American Dream
Jim Edmonds: Probably the best fielder I've ever seen play in person

Whichever way this series goes, I have to say I'll be happy. It's been a great second season!


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It's all about Brian 

Akira Ichikawa-san, is Brian's Ninja name the source. I could tell you more about it but I would have too ___you the whole Ninja thing you understand. Brian's name in Hawaiian is:Palaina. To see his name or yours translated to hieroglyphics go here There is always Rum and monkey to go for name generators and meme tests.
A poem just for him.
Brian laughs and everything is right.
Reason is: he has a lot of love.
Inside his heart a cat is curled up tight,
A joy no disappointment can remove
Nor darkness chase away, though it be night.




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Friday, October 22, 2004

10 reasons Mr. Stone is so cool 

I thought it would be neat for Brian to come back to some encouraging words. I may be cheesy here, but I don't care! What can you come up with?

1. He puts his heart into everything he is and does.

2. His writing is refreshingly honest and coming to his blog is like coming home. You sit, relax, curl up and spend time with a friend.

3. He is intelligent and good at his profession.

4. He is just a genuinely good guy, always kind and encouraging to others.

5. I marvel at watching him as he struggles and grows during a time when his life was shaken up. How many of us have that kind of strength?

6. He is one amazing and loving parent to his kids. Above all else, they know he loves them.

7. The guy rocks at basketball!

8. He has that wry sense of humor and always always a good story to tell.

9. He makes Oklahoma…just cool.

And finally ~

10. That damn sexylicious bald head! Rub, rub.


Seriously, Brian, you are going to be all right. You have a sensitivity and awareness of the world around you. I admire your optimistic outlook that is tempered by all the things you’ve been through. I am sure the year ahead holds many good things for you and your family. I close with these words by Paul Simon:

And she said losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow


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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Weekend RoundUp 10-22-04 

Since Brian is out this weekend, I was invited to do this on his behalf. I know you guys really look forward to this! So, as a bonus, in addition to highlighting some of HIS favorites, I'm going to highlight a few of mine. Enjoy....

Jen has an admirer.... TJ had a birthday on Tuesday Chooseday... Fish is getting a unique and well deserved chance to be published... Baseball made Dooce do something she normally wouldn't... Sooz pledges to vote...

Chaising Daisy has found a cool email button generator (helps prevent those damn spammers!)... I put one on my site... Charlie went to the Red Sox / Yankees game... Jack speed posts...

I want Shannon to be my friend because IT IS ALL ABOUT BASEBALL, duh... Estephenia educates us on the new international symbol for choking... Last man dancing posted too.. and just to be FAIR AND BALANCED, I'm linking it... Cam loves Bill Simmons, and calls Kerry on the carpet for being a backstabbing fan...

and finally, Mike is a traitor!... (GO POKES)...

Ok, kids, the game is on, so I'm outa here. Enjoy your reading, and have a great weekend!



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More assessing to be done 

I do believe I have a little bit of stage fright here!

OK. So I took Brian’s idea of assessing one’s life skills and decided to think about it for myself. Why not? It's his blog. I really tried to do this objectively without letting my current emotions shadow the big picture. This is a tough exercise!


Caring: To feel and show concern for others. I’ve always thought of myself as a very caring and warm person. I’m usually highly attuned to the emotions of others, almost like being an “emotional barometer” if you will. I would do anything to be there for people, to listen to them and feel their pain. Seeing people treat others with inhumanity or meanness is hard for me. I don’t understand how some people can be so “hard hearted.” I do have my moments, of course, of pure self-centeredness and turning away when I could really help. I give myself an 8.

Common Sense: To use good judgment. Aha! Here is a good one. I have always prided myself on my sturdy common sense. For the most part, I have always had a level head on my shoulders. There are certain areas where I have a profound lack of good judgment, however. I give myself a 7.

Cooperation: To work together toward a common goal or purpose. I’m not always so good with this one. It depends on the context. I am very easy-going in the sense I can get along with just about anybody and I have a way of smoothing conflict between people. I’m a peace keeper. However, I also have an independent and stubborn streak. I don’t like it when people tell me what to do. As a child, I was insistent on getting Happy Meals at McDonald’s and nowhere else! So my mom would go through the drive through, get the Happy Meal, and then take us to where she wanted to eat. I would say the older I get the more I have mellowed in this area – willing to accept and think about alternative points of view. I give myself a 5.

Courage: To act according to one's beliefs despite fear of consequences. This one is a bit touchy. I honestly am not very good about asserting my beliefs or feelings. It is an exercise for me to speak out. I am getting better about this, though, the more I realize I don’t care what people think. I am more the personality type that would influence things behind the scenes and assert myself there. There are definitely some topics, though, that I have no fear whatsoever in letting my opinions be heard (like religion). And I guess if I looked at in another context, I have done some courageous things in my life. Moving myself to Seattle after college graduation. Getting out of relationships that were unhealthy. That kind of stuff. I give myself a 5.

Curiosity: A desire to investigate and seek understanding of one's world. I am really good at this one. I am forever curious about people, about the world around me, about learning anything new. Unless my mind is learning something, I am entirely bored. I am continually researching and looking into finding answers to questions I have. I give myself a 9.

Effort: To do your best. It depends on the situation. If I am bored (like at work) or underutilized I don’t really give it my best effort. If something really excites me, however, there is no stopping me. I would say as a part of my character, though, that I value integrity and I try to be the best person I can. I am continually making an effort to improve myself or the world around me. I give myself a 7.

Flexibility: To be willing to alter plans when necessary. I would like to think I am pretty good at this one, but I’m just not. I would say I am bipolar with my flexibility! Sometimes I can be very flexible and others I am just stubborn. I like to have my routine, to know what plans are ahead of time, etc. I am also pretty easy-going when it comes to changing plans – like deciding where to eat out or taking a spontaneous, unplanned road trip. I have recently thought about changing my blog template and I just…couldn’t…do it. I kept clicking the little preview button and thinking ~ “but it’s not my blog!” I just couldn’t get used to it. Sigh. A miserable 4 on this one.

Friendship: To make and keep a friend through mutual trust and caring. I am very good at friendship once I get past the walls and let someone in. It’s the initial making friends that is the hard part. I’ve been burned so much by this in my life I kind of have a “duck and run” mentality. Protect myself first. I am also admittedly insecure at times about the people I *do* trust. I have always preferred a small group of very close friends as opposed to a larger group of acquaintances. In a friendship, though, I am so there. I am good at listening. I would do just about anything for my friends. I hold and guard closely those confidences that friends make and it means so much when they trust me. I’ll do a 7.

Initiative: To do something because it needs to be done. This is an area of my life that my uncle has been working with me on since 1996! And I have to say I am proud of my improvement since that time. I am getting better at initiating in relationships, even being downright flirty (!) and at being proactive in my personal life. At work, I am incredible at initiating. I am always the one who finds things that need to be fixed and darn it, I find a way to do it! I’ll give myself an 8, just because.

Integrity: To act according to a sense of what’s right and wrong. I would say I have a high level of integrity. I don’t profess to know what is “right” for everyone, but I know what is right for me and I act on it. I try my best to present to people the “whole me” and not to show one face only to betray them with another. Integrity is an integral part of my life. I have done some things I’m not proud of, so it’s an 8.

Organization: To plan, arrange, and implement in an orderly way, to keep things orderly and ready to use. For the most part, I am fairly organized. When it comes to the details, no way. I can be organized at work with my files, but when I come home I can’t STAND to file my bills and papers in an orderly manner! I would rather be spending my time somewhere else. Eh, I’ll give it a 6.

Patience: To wait calmly for someone or something. Horrible at this one. Really horrible. I have a problem with waiting. When I want something, I want it now. If I have an idea, I act on it. I have been known to get steamed just waiting in line at the grocery store. Being impatient is a problem when it comes to relationships ~ which take time ~ or trying to make my life better, whatever it is (work, family, where I live). An abysmal 3 on this one.


Perseverance: To keep at it. If there is one valuable gift my dad instilled in me, it is perseverance. I can endure about everything. I have this uncanny ability to focus and push on through. I remember once in college doing a ropes course and everyone was surprised to see little Jen just scamper up that wall despite her fear. A glowing 9 (if I don’t say so myself!).

Pride: Satisfaction from doing one's best. I don’t really know how to assess myself on this one. Sure, I’m mostly proud of who I am and where I came from. I’m not so proud of the fact that I haven’t pushed my writing as much as I could. I don’t know. A 7.

Problem Solving: To create solutions for difficult situations and everyday problems. I love problem solving. When my mind is munching away looking for solutions. Maybe that’s my problem, I’ve been doing too much thinking! An 8, why not?

Resourcefulness: To respond to challenges and opportunities in innovative and creative ways. I’m OK with this. I’m usually pretty good at coming up with creative solutions to problems. To thinking of new ways to solve whatever is wrong. Let’s try a 6.

Responsibility: To respond when appropriate, to be accountable for one's actions. Oh, dear. I think I was born responsible. Sometimes I think I’m a nerd because of how responsible I can be! I’ve never had a problem with owning up to my mistakes. I remember once when I was in the seventh grade and I was at a family pool party, given the task of watching this little four year-old girl. Well, I guess I decided it would be more fun to start diving off the diving board. The child’s mother screamed and jumped in the pool and I looked with horror to see the little girl underwater, struggling. I still feel guilt over that one, at the thought that she could have died because I wasn’t watching her. That is the kind of experience that makes me want to be as responsible as I can. How about a 7.

Sense of Humor: To laugh and be playful without harming others. I would say I can usually see humor in many things. I’m amazed at how many times I’ve been in a bad mood and someone makes me laugh and it’s like the skies clear. It’s so powerful. I’ll give this one a 7 as well, because sometimes I also take things too seriously.


I’m seriously exhausted from doing this! I don’t think I have the patience of Brian. But my perseverance made me complete it. I think that we are all a composite of our flaws and our strengths and while we may work hard to overcome our weaknesses, those are things that make us interesting and unique.


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Time Out 

My friend Marlane arrives to visit me today from Washington. She will be here through the weekend. I have a variety of fun activities planned for the two of us! We will spend a couple of days at the "family farm" which is currently unoccupied. We'll dine out, travel around the state, and go to Aubree's soccer game.

Marlane was a rock for me this summer when I was going through my preparation to leave. She's been a wonderful friend. I can't wait to see her and spend time with her.

Blogging will be light, if at all. My guest bloggers are welcome to jump in if they like!

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Missing Oakville 

Knowing that my former students in Oakville, WA would be looking at it, I put up a message to them on the website that I used there for three years. During my teaching years in Oakville this website was a daily stop for all of my students. I have received quite a few emails from the kids.

I have a difficult time describing what my tenure in Oakville meant to me. From a gut emotional level this was the most gratifying job I've had in my life. I've never felt as needed as I felt there. I never connected with kids on such a personal level as I did there. I knew their stories. I knew their histories. I knew their heartaches. They trusted me. Then I had to leave.

I think about those kids almost every day. I wonder how they are doing. I wonder how my colleagues are doing. I picture someone else standing up in my classroom teaching my kids! It saddens me. I'm very much enjoying my new job. But I have a sense of work undone...of something left behind me that nags at me.

I received this email yesterday:

Dear Mr. Stone,

Hi this is Lucinda. I have been meaning to E-mail you for along time but I have been really busy. My mom's cancer is getting worse and she has been in and out of the hospital for a while now. She is talking about moving to Oregon. So how are things going where you are? Do you like your new job? We all miss you so much. Barely anyone likes our new teacher for CWP. Everyone says she is rude and annoying. Oh yeah something that really upsets us is that this year none of us seniors are able to be in the yearbook staff. They have that class during one of our required classes so none of us can be in there to make it they way we like. We wanted to do a cover for Paul but there has been talk about it not happening. Our class is really upset. I will tell nick that you were right. I'm glad that you at least told our class that you were leaving so we had time to say goodbye. We will miss you always. Please E-mail me back

Sincerely, Lucinda

Lucinda, I miss you and your classmates too. You're in my thoughts.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Fighting  

I dealt today with a typical middle school fight. Two boys, usually friends, pushed horseplay too far and one of them ended up with a black eye. I was unable to reach the parent of either one for hours. This made me wonder what would've happened had one been seriously hurt. Shouldn't parents be somewhat available? But I digress...

After things were all calmed down I was chatting with one of the boys. We were talking about making choices, avoiding conflict, and what lessons he could learn. He piped up, "Mr. Stone, did you ever get into a fight when you were in school"? Well, yes of course I did. Fighting is part of growing up for most kids and I was no exception. In spite of being a skinny little shy boy I found myself in a few altercations over the years.

My mom always likes to tell the story of a young Brian getting jumped by two other boys on the way home from school when I was in 3rd grade. My friend Chris came along and jumped right in the middle of things. When I got home my mom asked, "how did Chris do when he started fighting"? I responded, "he was doing just fine when I left". "You left"? she asked incredulously. My answer was, "mom, you don't understand. Chris LIKES to fight. I don't".

Chris was one of my best friends but we occasionally had conflict. One day we had an argument and he shoved me to the ground. I went home humiliated and crying. Then I watched "Popeye" on television. I ran into the kitchen, opened a can of spinach, and ate a big helping right out of the can. (UGH!!!). I ran back outside, found Chris, and proceeded to waylay him. He was shocked when I hit him and knocked him down. Chris turned out to be a state champion wrestler and one of the toughest guys in town. But hey, I had my moment!

Of course there was my best friend, Bob. We had quite a few little fights over the years. He won most of them. Once he was holding me down and asked, "you give up"? I nodded, he let go, and I punched him right between the eyes. All's fair in love and war eh? I remember another fight we had when I told him that his girlfriend looked like a catfish. She did!! But like typical boys our fights never lasted long and were soon forgotten. Often we were playing happily just an hour later. Why is it that boys do that and girls hold grudges forever? I've seen high school girls who hate each other for something that happened in 5th grade. Whats up with that?

In junior high school there was a guy named Roger. This guy was always picking on me...daily, constantly, every single day. He'd shove me as he walked by me in the hall. One day in gym class he walked by and slapped me in the side of the head. I shoved him over a bench and jumped on top of him. The teacher broke it up, took me into his office, listened to my story, and told me "you should've done that sooner. He's a punk. Punks need to be taught a lesson sometimes" He offered to let me have at him some more with boxing gloves on. I politely demurred and so did Roger. It didn't matter...my honor was restored and Roger never messed with me again after that day.

I don't remember having any fights in high school. I was interested in two things...basketball and girls. In that order. When I was a sophomore there was a senior guy named Rick. He liked to tease and mess with me. In Mrs. Hickman's English class one day he "flipped my ear". It hurt like hell and I instinctively responded by stabbing my pencil into his leg. It drew blood. He didn't even flinch. He just looked at me and said, "if you ever do that again you won't have any teeth left in your head". I believed him! We were actually pretty good friends after that. Rick gave me a ride in his truck once and a Barry Manilow 8-Track slid out from under the seat. I picked it up and Rick was mortified! After all, what tough guy wants people to know he listens to Barry Manilow? Very uncool.

My last fight, if you can call it that, occurred when I was about 20 years old. I was a college student out for the night with my wife, her brother, and his wife. Everyone but me was totally toasted. We stopped at a convenience store to get some food. I went into the store and when I came out my brother-in-law was in an argument with some guy in the parking lot. His wife didn't help matters by boldly asserting, "don't mess with my husband. He knows karate". This caused the cowboy in question to throw Ray to the ground and start hammering on him. I tried to pull the guy off and make peace. Very bad idea. Someone whose face I never saw grabbed me from behind, threw me to the ground, grabbed my hair (yes, I once had some!), and started pounding my face into the concrete. It seemed to last forever. My wife tried to help but the guy punched her right in the nose. She went to the car and sat down. I looked up and there must've been 15 people fighting in that parking lot...a regular brawl! We heard the police sirens and the crowd started to scatter. I laid down in the back seat of the car and the two very drunk women were trying to tend my wounds and tell me how sorry they were. Ray got out of the car and tried to drunkenly argue his case with the police. They threw him in jail for the night where he suffered with several broken ribs. I just had a face that looked like raw hamburger meat. I had to go back to classes and my pizza delivery job with a face that looked like I'd been run over.

An old expressions asks, "are you a lover, a fighter, or a race car driver"? Count me in the lovers corner. I'd rather kiss a girl than the concrete any day of the week. And as I told my mom so long ago, "I don't like to fight"!

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Life Skills 

My school system has long adopted a character education program that involves the teaching of "life skills" and the integration of those skills into the curriculum. Everywhere you look in my school you will see these skills posted. They are posted in the office and in every classroom. We ask students to use these skills to improve themselves and become good citizens. I was looking at a bulletin board in the main hallway today and wondered how I measure up in the use of these skills. After all, we are all lifelong learners aren't we? I decided to rate myself 1-10 in these areas:

Caring: To feel and show concern for others. I'm glad we started with this one. I think that almost everyone who knows me thinks of me as a caring person. I've been called a "sap" on more than one occasion. The condition of others tends to weigh on my mind a great deal. Of course, I've some less-than-great decisions out of this caring. But I can't imagine being any other way. I give myself a 9.

Common Sense: To use good judgement. Oh boy. I seem to have a great deal of common sense when other people's problems are in question. But my own? I tend to let my heart get way ahead of my brain. I tend to let desires get ahead of good judgement. Sometimes I'm amazed that someone with my education and temperament can do some of the stupid things I do. I'm a dreamer and a romantic, and my type tends to lack a little in this area. The women in my life could give testament to this. I give myself a 5.

Cooperation: To work together toward a common goal or purpose. Ok, I'm back in my territory here. I've worked collegially with people on so many projects I've lost count. I think a survey of all my past co-workers would reveal that I'm one of the all-time easiest people to work with. I listen to and respect other people's points of view. My general demeanor is to avoid confrontation when possible and to work toward consensus. My rating? An 8.

Courage: To act according to one's beliefs despite fear of consequences. There are times in my life when I wish I'd been more courageous. My tendency to let things slide is not always a good thing! But I also have a strong sense of loyalty and a hatred of injustice which has forced me to stand up for myself or others. If I'm sure that I'm right, I'm difficult to dissuade. I do know this...I'd willingly give my life in a heartbeat for those I love. Its a mixed bag here...I give myself a 7. I wish it was higher.

Curiousity: A desire to investigate and seek understanding of one's world. I'm an inveterate reader...I suck in things and soak them up like a sponge. My interests range from history to science...technology to literature. I always want to know more and understand more. I give myself a 9.

Effort: To do your best. Umm..this one is hard. What are we talking about here? In my job I give it my all. I work hard and hate the feeling of something not being done right. I feel guilty when I don't. But in other areas I tend to pick and choose. Is it something I'm motivated about? I'm all over that. Other more difficult tasks? Sometimes I just skate by. That is regrettable and I wish I could more consistent. Patrick wears me out sometimes and I wish I gave more effort to helping him grow. My effort there is mixed and is something I want to change. Give me a project to complete and a deadline? I'll work day and night. I worked almost solidly for two straight days to get a PowerPoint presentation ready for a funeral of one of my students last year. Once again, a mixed bag and a grade of 6.

Flexibility: To be willing to alter plans when necessary. You can't do what I do for a living and not be flexible. The ground is constantly shifting underneath my feet. I think that this goes to the "cooperation" discussed above. But I do have this stubborn streak that can get in the way sometimes. Looks like a 7 to me.

Friendship: To make and keep a friend through mutual trust and caring. I can't be too great here. How many friends do I really have? There is my family and that small circle that I love. There are acquaintances. But there are few friends. I either let people all the way in or I keep them the hell out. I've got the caring part but that mutual trust thing is so hard for me. If you trust someone you can get burned. I wish so much that I was better in this area but I can't rate myself better than a 5.

Initiative: To do something because it needs to be done. Ok, that sound you hear is me shifting in my seat uncomfortably. At work? I grab the bull by the horns and get things done. In my personal life? I let things slide that need to be done. I had projects at my house in Washington that I let slide way too long. I'm a procrastinator who seems to need deadlines. Left on my own it will always be, "I'll take care of that later". Damnit, my rating is another 5.

Integrity: To act according to a sense of whats right and wrong. I think I do have strong ideas about right and wrong. Most of the time I act on those ideas. Some of them may not be "traditional", but they are what I believe in. Toss in a few failings here and there and give me a 7.

Organization: To plan, arrange, and implement in an orderly way, to keep things orderly and ready to use. My desk is usually a mess but my computer files are neat and orderly. I can tell you where things are most of the time, but you wouldn't know it by looking at my room or my office. No better than a 6.5 here.

Patience: To wait calmly for someone or something. Generally, I'm pretty good here. Of course there are those slow people at the supermarket and those maddening drivers! If it is something that I really want, you may occasionally detect signs of impatience. But overall? I'm willing to wait. Gimme an 8.

Perseverance: To keep at it. My answer would be closely related to the earlier one on effort. If its something I'm excited about I will keep at it till the bitter end. If I'm not? I'm the one slipping out the side door. When I was trying to network my home computers with four different operating systems I stayed up ...literally all night. I just couldn't stop. A lot of this also has to do with knowledge and competence. If I know that I can do it I'm willing to put forth the effort. If I'm unsure, I'm likely to bag it. I'll take a 6.

Pride: Satisfaction from doing one's best. Oh yeah, I've got a lot of pride...probably more than I really want to admit. I get a great deal of internal satisfaction out of doing something right. When I do a good job at work, I'm proud. When I do something right with the kids I get that "proud parent" feeling. When I got my wife a gift she didn't expect and was thrilled with I was immensely proud of myself. I'll take a 9.

Problem Solving: To create solutions for difficult situations and everyday problems. Sigh. I've had to deal recently with what is one of the most difficult things a person can face...the loss of someone you truly love. My record in dealing with that is decidedly mixed. Sometimes I think I'm doing well and other times I feel utter despair. Day to day problems? A mixed record. Once again, better in my professional life than in my personal one. My rating? A 7.

Resourcefulness: To respond to challenges and opportunities in innovative and creative ways. When my back is against the wall I usually manage to come up with ways to solve the problem. I can be very creative and non-traditional in my thinking when I need to be. I'll take an 8 here.

Responsibility: To respond when appropriate, to be accountable for one's actions. Some of my creditors would probably tell you that I haven't always been responsible. A combination of circumstances, judgement, and personal failings have led me to not be the greatest manager of money in the world. I should write a longer post on this sometime. However, I adopted my two children and have never wavered in my dedication to parent them. I'm also highly responsible in my work. That raises my score from the paltry to a still unimpressive 6.

Sense of Humor: To laugh and be playful without harming others. I have a dry, sardonic sense of humor that most people tend to respond to. I may not be the life of the party but I can usually make people laugh. I also have no problem in laughing at myself. I fell down while playing 4-square at lunch and all the kids laughed. I don't think any of them laughed any harder than I did. I even offered to re-enact it and asked them to give me a "diving score". I'll take a 9 here.

I can celebrate my strengths and resolve to strenghten my weaknesses. Thats what life is about isn't it? The constant striving to do better....to be a better person. Adversity can be such a great teacher. Perhaps I should let it teach me now.

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Race Matters 

At work today I read Didamo's comment in a previous post about racism being one of her pet peeves. Shortly afterward I went outside to do lunch duty. I stood there on a beautiful autumn day watching kids of various races enjoy their lunch break. It made me think to a time long ago.

The Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of schools in the landmark "Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education" decision in 1954. Word must've travelled slowly, because my hometown of Sapulpa, Oklahoma still had segregated schools when I entered elementary school in 1967. One interesting thing was that my first grade teacher was a black woman. This little shy first grader loved Mrs. Foshee. She was engaging, kind, and creative. Of course I was too young to be aware of the fact that her children could not have attended my school.

Most black people in my town lived in an area commonly known as "The Hill". If you travelled to the end of town on the north side and went up...a hill, you would find our black residents. All of the town's black children attended "Booker T. Washington School". I didn't really know any black people as a young child. I knew they were there. I saw them in town. I was curious about them. I heard various stories and legends about black people and how they lived. Many of my relatives were at least mildly racist by today's standards...some of them more than mildly. I knew what the "N" word was and I also knew I wasn't supposed to say it.

Desegregation began in 1970 when I entered 4th grade. It began with high school students. Black kids came down from "The Hill" and enrolled in the local high school. Many teeth were gnashed. There were stories of "riots" and fights between students. I remember a flood of my classmates being picked up early from school out of fear that this violence would spread to my school, six blocks away. We of course just didn't understand.

Overcrowding in my elementary school led the school system to create an "annex" a few blocks away. It was housed in an old Catholic school building. There was one class of each grade in the school. in 1972 I entered 6th grade in Ms. Newton's class. This was to be the year that elementary-age black children would enter one of the six elementary schools in town. A few days after school started my class had a new student.

His name was Kerry Joe. He was the only black student in my class. He was also the only black student in the entire school. He sat down at his desk that August morning and cried almost all day. I didn't understand why. We looked at each other with puzzlement. Why was he crying? Its just school! The enormity of it all was beyond all of us. Kerry Joe cried some the next day too...and the next. I remember a boy named Joe asking at recess, "do all black kids cry all the time"? I didn't know the answer.

Kerry Joe eventually stopped crying. When he did, he started fighting. He must've been in half a dozen fights during those first couple of months at school. He won all of them. Why was he so angry? I went from feeling sorry for him to feeling scared of him. He appeared sullen and angry much of the time. I was a shy, quiet kid. I liked to read. I didn't want to fight him or anyone else, so I steered clear of Kerry Joe. I barely spoke to him at all that year. I did make the basketball team that year and played against mixed-race teams from the various city schools.

The next year I attended junior high school as a 7th grader. Now there wasn't just one black kid in my school. There were a lot of them. I struck up a friendship with a black kid named Benny. Benny was just funny as hell. I hadn't really ever met anyone like him. The way he walked and talked, his sense of humor, the way he laughed, and insights into his world just fascinated me. We used to be able to go off-campus for lunch. Those unfortunate students who didn't get across the street quickly enough often had to wait the entire lunch period in line. One day Benny got his food just as we heard the bell ring across the street. He ate his hamburger on the run, but still had a fresh, hot bag of french fries. He squirted some ketchup on them as we went into the building and stuck them in his jacket pocket as we entered class. Just as class began I heard Benny saying "ahhhh, ouchh" as he pulled the bag of fries from his pocket. They were so hot they were burning him through his jacket. Ketchupy fries spilled onto the classroom floor and the teacher was not the least bit amused!

I developed other friendships with some of my black schoolmates through basketball. We laughed and joked together. We played together. But there was always this barrier. We didn't socialize together. We didn't see each other much on weekends. Even when I played in junior college there was a definite social separation. There was a coexistence but we often occupied separate worlds.

My closest black friend as an adult was Janet, my former boss. She and I often talked about racial issues and I learned a lot from her. After my first divorce Janet decided that I had sat around without a social life for long enough. She was a member of a sorority and they were holding a Valentine's Day dance. She told me, "you have one week to find a date for this dance and don't even think that you're not going. You can't just sit around your house every weekend." True to her word she fixed me up on a blind date with a teacher from a neighboring school district. In a crowd of several hundred people our table had the only white people. I wasn't crazy about my date, but I had a blast dancing the night away.

I watched the kids playing basketball and four-square today. There were some kids of various races playing these games. But there were also some obvious groupings by race. A large group of Hispanic kids occupied one of the four-square courts. Out of the fifteen boys playing a 3-on-3 "tournament" on one of the goals, only one was not black. Tables in the cafeteria are largely segregated by race.

Most black residents of my town still live on "The Hill". Very few white people live in this part of the city. This is still true in a great many places I have lived. There aren't nearly as many racists around as when I was growing up. Many people I know have softened their ideas on race over the years.

Race still matters a great deal. So many things have changed for the better. So many things have remained the same.

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Friday, October 15, 2004

Weekend Roundup 10-16-04 

Another weekend is upon us. What did I find in the blogworld this week?

Miss Mita doesn't feel appreciated in her job. After reading her post, I can't say that I blame her. Jen finds things in her life that she does appreciate.

Nicole's brother just landed an acting gig. Vince isn't doing any acting that I know of but she is answering some questions.

Kristine's lovely daughter Andrea can sometimes be a "real snot". See what I have to look forward to? It sounds like Ginger's brother could be one too in his younger days. Farting in someone's mouth? Ugh! It sounds like she held her own though.

Dooce has pooped four days in a row and wonders why. If she pooped at one of the toilets that Becky found she would get some unsolicited advice.

Erin is listening to some new music. Okie Doke is trying out Google's new search tool.

Carol's son had a bad experience a car dealership. Melanie had some really bad experiences in the school where she works. Wouldn't it be nice if she could just....teach.

John has a special reason for celebrating Columbus Day. Naomi celebrates her birthday.

Jack remembers this one time...in band camp. (warning..movie reference!). It does make me wonder how the French learned to kiss so well. Thomas has memories as well.

While many people are deciding how to vote, Chunky Girl evaluates the candidates on a slightly different basis. If that doesn't work out, she could always buy a cat. Just ask Faith!

LoveDonnaz has rules for men. Linda wishes there was a rule about sharing too much information.

Dawn has a "Calgon moment". Stop by and give her a hug. Andie doesn't understand why a church wouldn't accept her donation. Neither do I.

beFrank covered a Michael Moore appearance at U.S.C. Maybe he should have covered Didamo's party.

What does Steph's daughter have behind her back? What can Lisa see with her new glasses?

Patty has some cravings. Diana craves the answer to that eternal question..what is the meaning of life?

Kim finds that there are some dreams that you just don't want to be awakened from. Elisabeth dreams of a military that doesn't use CAPITAL LETTERS so often.

Nichole was the "Dancing Queen.". Now I'm humming that silly ABBA song. Frani may not have been dancing, but she did go horseback riding in Brazil!

Claire wonders how to keep your friends close. Mary Lou wonders how to come up with a title for her posts everyday.

Dave reminds us all that depression is an illness. Riri is depressed by what she reads about Romania.

Shelli gets a blast from the past. I had a blast looking at Vegas Baby's cross stitch creations.

Brenda has a prayer. It doesn't sound like too much to ask. I have one too. Let me jump inside the Bored Housewife's fantasy just for a bit. Ok? C'mon. Please?

Janine commits a blogcrime. FeistyGirl hasn't committed a crime but this makes her think about it! Dwayne had a run-in with the law of his own!

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Pet Peeves 

I was talking...or attempting to talk to an irate parent yesterday. In the middle of the conversation she abruptly just hung up on me. I don't know why it bothers me so much but I absolutely hate being hung up on! Perhaps its the feeling of just being dismissed, like you're not even worth saying goodbye to. I can't honestly ever remembering doing this to someone. I waited about 30 minutes, called her back, and said, "We must've been cut off. Let me finish telling you whats going on here at school". The rest of the conversation went by without incident.

Other pet peeves?

It bugs the hell out of me when people aren't ready to pay for their purchases at the grocery store. Awhile back I was standing in line behind a woman who had a large cart of grocery purchases. She waited until every single item had been scanned and THEN broke out her checkboook. I could've written a two page letter in the time it took her to fill out that check.

In my work, one thing that has always bothered me is the parental statement, "my kid never lies". It is all I can do to resist rolling my eyes in an unprofessional way! I actually heard it today. An angry mom told me, "she says that she didn't use profanity in class. That settles it for me because my daughter never lies". I love kids, but most kids will lie when they're in trouble. Most adults will, for that matter. Sometimes I take great guilty pleasure in proving them absolutely wrong. I once caught students stealing from a teacher's purse on videotape and one of them still denied it! I told him, "if you can find that identical twin of yours that is wearing your exact same clothing I won't suspend you." He denied it to the bitter end.

I find people who like to boast about themselves absolutely insufferable. I've known a few people like that. No matter what you say, they've done it before and better than you have! This is especially true of people who constantly find ways to tell you how much money they have! I find humility an attractive quality.

I don't understand people who don't tip when the service is good. Maybe its that I've worked in service industry jobs and understand how much delivery people, waitresses, busboys, etc. depend on tips. My feeling is that if you can afford to go out to eat, you can afford to tip.

On the other hand, bad service or rudeness just drives me nuts. I once rented some movies from Blockbuster after standing in line for quite awhile, got them home, and realized that those plastic security things were still attached. I went back to the store in the pouring rain, went inside, and explained my situation to the girl at the counter. She dismissively told me, "you'll have to go to the back of the line". I went to the back of line and stood there for 15-20 minutes just fuming! When I finally got to the counter, my usually genial demeanor abandoned me. I raised hell about the bad service and rude behavior. She kept sputtering, "I'm sorry sir", but I wasn't placated until I spoke my mind.

Pushy salespeople irritate me as well. I don't mind being approached, but if I say that I'm just browsing I hate being followed around. This is especially true of car salesmen and telemarketers. I understand that they are trying to earn a living, but when I say no I don't want to be harangued about what a terrible mistake I'm making. Its a sure way to turn me off of the sale.

I'm about as laid-back as you can get, but these things bother me. So what bugs you?

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wednesday Writings 

A few tidbits from my life this week:

I've seen mice a couple of times in my house and decided to do something about it. Last night I set three traps. The food was missing from two of the traps, but the third one nailed one little mouse. Aubree wasn't very happy. She said, "dad, mice have feelings too. How would you like a big trap snapping down on your head"?

My new central heat/air unit is in today. We've been without heat on a couple of really chilly nights. Brrrr! I hate being cold in my own house. New windows are next followed by a new backyard fence. This place is slowly taking shape. One of these days I'll have to get a picture of the view from my backyard and post it. My house is located on the highest point in town and I can easily see the water tower from a town 10 miles away. Sometimes at night I will wander out there and just...look. There is something serenely peaceful about looking out over the rolling hills. The trees are mostly green, but are beginning to change to fall colors.

I was highly amused today by the 6th grade basketball team girls at school. They came outside at lunch, took over one of the goals, and ran drills by themselves the entire lunch period. They practiced out-of-bounds plays, offensive plays, and did dribbling drills. They were doing...drills! I've never seen kids do that before on their own time. I was so amused that I extended their lunch period to give them a little more time. The assistant principal, who is their coach, came out for a bit and was obviously pleased. He told me, "I don't care if we ever win a game. I just love coaching this group of girls". Boys would never do this. They might play one-on-one. They might line up and play a game against each other. But drills? No way! One of the problems with coaching boys in this day and time is that they all think they are Michael Jordan. They lack the "coachability" that girls have.

This being a high tech age, Aubree is making her Christmas wish list by using Amazon.com's list feature. She browses, finds what she thinks she wants, and adds it to her list. When I was a kid, we used to do the same thing with the "Sears Wish Book". I would circle the things I wanted, using a "star system" to mark the things I REALLY wanted. Memories of chemistry sets dance in my head!

One difficulty that I'm having is getting used to sleeping alone. I think that is part of the reason I wake up so much at night...a very uncharacteristic thing for me to do. I'm used to having someone there. It is such a strange feeling to be sleeping by myself. I've ended up piling blankets and pillows on the other side of the bed to have something to grab on to.

And how is your week going?

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Handcuffs 

A police officer pulled alongside me tonight and made me laugh . The sight of this officer made me remember a night about nine years ago. Patrick was an ever-so-curious four year old and I was a hard-working middle school vice-principal. It wasn't uncommon for me to go back to work in the evenings, and on occasion I would take Patrick with me. I'd buy him a coke and he would play around my office while I filled out reports or worked on the computer master schedule.

On this particular spring evening I was deep in thought as I punched at my old 486 PC. I was bedeviled by a scheduling problem. Why wouldn't it work? Patrick sat on the floor sipping his Coke. As I stared at the columns of numbers I barely noticed Patrick climbing underneath my rather large desk. Whats the harm, right?

What I had forgotten was my "contraband box" that I kept under the desk. In that box was the forbidden items confiscated over the course of the school year. "Juggs" magazine, "Penthouse" magazines, cigarettes, pagers, lighters, pornographic playing cards, "fart spray", noisemakers, and various other items. As I pondered how to balance out those math sections, Patrick perused the forbidden box right under my feet. What did he find?

He found a set of metal handcuffs and promptly locked one on his little wrist. No big deal...they were toy handcuffs right? I did notice that there was no key to be found. I started the computer whirring with my latest schedule changes and turned my attention to the cuffs. I twisted and turned them....they didn't budge. I found a screwdriver....no luck. For 30 minutes I tried to wrestle those cuffs off his little wrist and only succeeded in making them tighter. Damnit! What to do?

Who better to remove handcuffs than the police? I called the police station and the snickering female dispatcher told me that they would be happy to help. I loaded Patrick in the car, drove away, and heard....another click! He had now handcuffed himself to the door handle. That cuff wouldn't come off either. So as I pulled in front of the police station, I now had to go inside and explain my dilemna. Every cop in the place came out to take a look. All of them were laughing. A few good jokes were cracked about handcuffs and child-rearing. A few of my students who happened to be walking by stopped to check it all out. The ring of handcuff keys was held by a sergeant who was out on patrol. We all stood outside and waited fifteen minutes for him to return. A nice little crowd had gathered by this point and I was pretty red-faced. The sergeant arrived, quickly managed to unlock the cuffs, and we were on our way.

I hadn't taken the small town press and the police scanner into account. They didn't have a name but the local paper had gotten the basic story over the scanner. The storyline began, "somewhere in town there is a very embarassed dad". The article ran for several paragraphs. Still, no one knew it was me, right?

Janet, my boss and friend, had other ideas. In our first faculty meeting in August she passed out photocopies of the article to the entire staff and slyly let them know who the culprit was. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of the teachers reminded me of that incident!

Hey, it could've been worse. It could've been my wife! ;)

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Winners and Losers 

I watched Aubree's soccer team lose yesterday by a score of 6-2. This loss was the closest one they've had this year. The week before the score was 21-1. Aubree came off the field, shook her head, and said, "dad, we suck like a duck". Aubree had one moment worth mentioning. There she was standing in front of the goal. The ball came rolling slowly toward her and the goalie was completely out of position. Just before the ball got there she went to her knees and the ball rolled harmlessly past. Why? She saw a girl from the other team go down injured and remembered the rule that all the players were to kneel while the injured player was being attended to. The part that she forgot was that you did that after the whistle blew! When I asked her about it after the game she reminded me of the rule and said, "its not fair to score anyway when someone is hurt".

There is a story about a basketball coach here in Oklahoma whose team was playing the State School for the Deaf. In the closing seconds of a close game he had his players start walking toward the sidelines as if a time-out had been called. When the players for the deaf school started to do the same his players ran back out, grabbed the ball, and scored, winning the game. When asked how he could do such a terrible thing he replied, "hey, you'd do it too if they'd beaten you three years in a row".

I've been involved with sports my entire life as a player, referee, and a coach. I've been involved with teams that were champions and teams that struggled to win a game....any game. I must admit to having a fierce competitive instinct. I hate to lose! But there is more than one way to lose. I would submit that the above-mentioned coach may have won the game but he lost something more important.

I grew up playing baseball and basketball. Ask me how many games my team won when I was an eight year old right fielder. I don't have a clue. But I do remember the very first time my bat made contact with a pitch in a real game. It was the last game of the year and I had gone the entire season without a hit. I struck out almost every time, although I did get walked once or twice. But that last game? I hit a towering foul ball. It went way up into the lights. My dad celebrated that foul ball as if it were the game winning home run in the World Series. That is what I remember.

You know what else I remember? I remember parents screaming and yelling at their kids in a very denigrating way. I remember a coach calling one of his players a "pussy". I especially remember a local doctor screaming at a scrawny little kid who flubbed a fly ball. The doctor said, "get that kid off the field if he doesn't know how to catch a damned ball". The kid's dad marched to where the doctor sat and asked him if he wanted to repeat those words to someone his own size. The doctor sputtered and sheepishly declined. Of course, that scrawny little guy was me.

I used to referee soccer games when I was a high school/college student. One one bright Saturday morning I refereed a game of 10 year old boys. A kid named "C" was easily the best player on the field. He weaved in and out around his opponents as if they were standing still. The entire time his dad was running up and down the field yelling at him. Among the memorable phrases this father yelled to his son was, "I should put a dress on you". This dad was a local pastor. What will that kid remember.....how many goals he scored, what the score was, or the humiliation suffered from the mouth of his own father? I think I know the answer. When my daughter looks back on her athletic career, I want her to remember her dad encouraging her, believing in her, and supporting her.

The best experience of my coaching career came when I was coaching a 7th grade boys basketball team in Mississippi. My team had some nice little players, but the competition in southern Mississippi was ferocious. I pulled out every coaching trick I knew of, but my little team couldn't match up athletically to the teams on our schedule. But this was a fun group of kids. They worked hard and did all that I asked of them. They high-fived me in the halls of the school every day. Sometimes they would cry after yet another loss. After each game I would collect their uniforms (because I had to wash them myself at home), and walk around the locker room patting them on the back and pointing out some good play they had made during the game..."Hey Bryce, that was nice "3" you hit", "Byron, your defense is really improving", "Steven, that was a great steal you made in the 3rd quarter. That guy didn't know what hit him". The next day they would be back at practice valiantly trying to learn the full court press I spent all year trying to teach. The last game rolled around and the first half went like most first halves went. We were trailing by 10 points at halftime. I was relaxed..it was the last game of the year and I wanted them to have fun. I told them at halftime to fire up "3 pointers" at every opportunity. I played the kids who hadn't gotten as much playing time as the others all year.

A funny thing happened. We started catching up. A kid who hadn't scored all year nailed a "3". My best shooter hit two in a row. The game began to see-saw back and forth. I called time out with 5 seconds left and our team trailing by a single point. With those sweaty adolescents crowded around me I drew a play on the clipboard. A normally quiet kid named Corderis bounced excitedly and told me, "coach, we're gonna win". I wasn't so sure, but we had a chance. Five seconds....one shot. The kids executed the play to perfection and Byron lofted a short jump shot from the corner. Swish! The players ran over and knocked me to the ground and started pounding on my chest. Getting knocked down never felt so good. You would've thought we had won the state championship instead of our only win of the season. We high-fived and hugged all over that locker room. I left that gymnasium smelling like teen sweat, carrying a bag of smelly uniforms and my scorebook, and wiping tears from my eyes.

It wasn't that we "won". That game won't be recorded in any of the annals of sports. It wasn't that I did a great coaching job. That shot could've missed. Its that those kids were winners, no matter what any scoreboard says. They strived, they believed, and they didn't give up. One of the parents wrote me a letter the next week and thanked me for, "making my son believe in himself". It made me cry. I should've been the one thanking her for allowing me to learn from her son and his teammates.

You see boys, I've been on a bit of a losing streak myself. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever end, just like I'm sure you did. I score a basket or two now and then but sometimes it feels like I won't ever quite get over the hump. But like you did, I will persevere and I'll be a winner again. I'll try to believe in myself in the way that I saw you do. Unlike that idiotic doctor or that misguided preacher, you understood what the difference between a winner and a loser really is.

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