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Monday, May 30, 2005

Narration 

I've been struck by many things about the end of my marriage, and one of them is the way we could see the same things so differently. For most of our marriage it felt like we were singing from the same songbook, telling the same story with our own little twists. Once the relationship is over, the stories become told in a different way. The common narrative is gone. That argument that seemed settled long ago? It wasn't really. Those little rough spots that seemed like ancient history? They aren't. Those differences you overcame together? You didn't. Those faults that seemed to be accepted? If they ever were, they aren't anymore. Those special moments and places that you talked about so fondly? They didn't mean that much after all. You thought you were irreplaceable in their heart? Hah. Move over for the next person in line. You're just an ex now.

How can two people share the same life, go to the same places, know the same people, sleep in the same bed, and have the same conversations, see things so very differently? How can two people look back over their time together and tell two stories which seem so diametrically opposed?

I hear people sum up their relationships in tidy little sentences or paragraphs. You know what I'm talking about. "He used to be a nice guy but then he started drinking." "She became a bitch and was paranoid if I even talked to another woman." "He was irresponsible with money so I had to dump him." "She stopped paying attention to me and having sex with me." "He was a nice guy but we just drifted apart." "She was a lousy mother and was lazy." I've used narratives similiar to these myself. People say, "what happened to your marriage?" I have a ready made answer....from my point of view of course. I'm sure Lee does too....from her point of view. Someone said to me recently, "there is your version, my version, and the truth." That ephemeral, hard-to-find truth. Do we even care about the truth? Is it even possible to find it? If you do, does it really even matter in the end? Do we want to acknowledge that our former partner may have a valid point or two? Not usually...it doesn't fit in our carefully constructed narrative.

You see, our narrative version of things is comforting. If it doesn't cast us in the best possible light, it certainly doesn't lend itself to the shades of gray that all relationships are made of. No one is perfect, we all struggle, we all have our faults, and we all make mistakes. In most cases, both people really wanted it to work on some level. Maybe desire and passion faded. Maybe there is someone else. Perhaps the life you had together didn't meet your expectations. Those things are difficult to admit sometimes. Its much easier to spin a narrative of faults and shortcomings.

Incidents you once laughed about together become fodder for tearing the other person down. Things that appeared to be accepted become arrows to be slung. Faults that used to be the subject of teasing morph into unforgiveable sins. Now that you're not sharing the same life narrative anymore, it all becomes fair game. Its regrettable and hurtful.

You won't be spinning your joint narrative to your grandchildren. Both sets of my grandparents were married for more than 50 years. They had stories of how they met, stories of hard times during the Depression, funny stories about things they had done together, places and times that were special to both of them. They could tell those stories together or separately and it all sounded the same. If one started a tale the other one could complete it. They'd forged a life together and made peace with the shortcomings of their partner.

Nikita Khruschev was once the leader of the Soviet Union. His picture hung in every government building, classroom, and many homes. He was feted with tales of glory in the textbooks of schoolchildren. Then he lost his job. All those pictures came down. New textbooks deleted his name entirely from history. People who swore reverence to him either parroted the official line or remained silent. It was like he'd never existed. That narrative was replaced by another one. Its not that events or history had changed. He was still the same person and the events he presided over were already a matter of record. But his eulogy made no mention of his leadership of one of the most powerful nations on Earth.

The end of a relationship is kinda like that. Its not that the past was wiped out...that can't be done. But we see it differently, think about it differently and share it with others differently. Our tale becomes your tale and my tale. Our life becomes your life and my life. Our hearts don't beat together anymore.

The names haven't changed. But the song doesn't remain the same.

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Double Shot 

Lisa must be intent on keeping me busy because she has tagged me with two more memes. I'm going to do them both in one post. Luckily, the subject is books and music....two of my favorite things.

First, the music!

1. Total volume of music files on my computer:

At the present time I have 1502 music files on this computer. Of those, probably 15 are entire albums, so the total number of songs probably is close to 1700. Are there really 1700 songs I like? I guess there must be. Some of the songs I downloaded for family members, but most of them are mine. Just a quick glance reveals 53 Beatles songs and 41 by Eric Clapton.

2. The last CD I bought was:

Ray Charles, Genius Loves Company. The last CD ever produced by the late, great Ray Charles. Its a series of duets including Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Fever, and You Don't Know Me.

3. Song Playing right now:

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, by Elton John. One of my all time favorites.

4. 5 songs that mean alot to me:

Its time to pass it on. Hmmmm. Whose music do I want a peek into?

Steph, because she has an IPOD and good taste in music. She doesn't comment much here anymore, but I know she still reads! So I'll put her to work.
Monica, because I know she listens to REO Speedwagon, but what ELSE does she listen to?
Sleeping Mommy, she has to wake up sometime.

Now for the books:

Total number of books I've owned....
I have owned many thousands of books. Thousands I tell you. Most of them have been lost in moving, periodic housecleaning, etc. Its difficult to lug that many books around when you've moved as often as I have.

Last book I bought..
"The Romanov Prophecy" by Steven Berry. Its a novel about the return of tsarist rule to Russia at some point in the future. I have a lifelong fascination with Russia and will often buy a book just because it is set there.

The last book I read...
Same answer as above. When I buy them they don't stay unread for long! :)

Five books that mean a lot to me...
Tag time again! My hand is getting sore from all this tagging, but its not so sore that I can't find a few more souls to tap:

Kathy, because she is a reader and a deep thinker. I'd be intrigued.
Chaotic, because a tag deserves a tag back.
Stephanie, because I know she is an artist, but what does she read?


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Sunday, May 29, 2005

10 Things 

I've been double tagged by Lisa and Chaotic Serenity to do the "Ten Things You've Never Done" list. Never let it be said that I'm not up to the challenge. Only ten things? There are so many things I haven't done. But here goes:

  1. I've never had sex in the rain and I've always wanted to. There is something about flesh and water...you know what I mean? For that matter, I've never had sex in a hot tub either.
  2. I've never owned a convertible. I don't have any hair to be blown out of shape, so it would be perfect for me now.
  3. I've never had anal sex. I'm not even sure I really want to. But I never say never! :)
  4. I've never had a drink of scotch. When I was young a friend told me that it tasted nasty and that warning has stuck with me all these years.
  5. I've never gone white-water rafting or fly fishing. I'd love to do both.
  6. Even in the worst of times, I've never regretted adopting my two children. Of all the things I've done in my life, I am most proud of that.
  7. I've never spent a night in the hospital if you exclude my birth. I've never been seriously ill enough to miss more than a few days of work.
  8. I've never driven a car while drunk. I have a very good sense of my limits and try to observe them. Last night I had two drinks in fairly rapid succession. Buzz achieved. Then I nursed one more drink and drank a lot of water for the next two hours and no alcohol in the last hour. I was completely sober when I left.
  9. I've never tried to hurt anyone intentionally. Of course, sometimes that happens whether you intend it or not.
  10. I've never been to an N.F.L. football game and I'm a big fan. I'd love to go.
Is there anyone left that hasn't done this meme? Hmmm. This is the fun part where I get to tag someone else. Get ready you three....you're it:

Joan, because she calls me "Teach", is funny as hell, and gives me a hard time. Joan, you're it.

Inky, because she's creative and interesting. I'm sure I'd enjoy her list. Inky darling, you're it.

New Wave Gurly, because I'm curious if there is anything she HASN'T done! :) New Wave Gurly, you are most definitely it.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Weekend Roundup- Memorial Day Weekend Edition 

Ahhhhhh! Its a holiday weekend. The weather is beautiful outside and my brother is getting married today. If I can find a babysitter I'll be singing karaoke with teachers from my school at an end-of-the-year bash tonight. If not? I'll be home and have time to read some blogs. You too? I suggest starting with these:


Monica is installing love. Red wasn’t feeling much love for the bill collector that called her house.

There are some things that Walker hasn’t done. Satisfied Spouse did some things that exhausted her.

New Wave Gurly sees light at the end of the tunnel. Red Head Gal sees 23 days of sobriety.

Ellen’s lawn looks beautiful. So does Vickie’s new blog look.

Shirazi tells the story of Socrates. FTS tells the story of shampooing a woman’s hair and her cell phone going off.

Samantha is celebrating her sister’s engagement. John is celebrating the end of the TV season.

T. Marie went on a trip to Boston. Maddy is taking a trip to her new house.

Rick has a dialogue with Fly Girl. Jazzy wishes she could have more of a dialogue with her husband.

Bec is moving on. Joe is singing up a storm.

Splendid shares some interesting trivia. Stephanie shares her nervousness about lingerie showers.

Chuck speculates on blogger’s need to be seen. Lisa speculates on things she has never done.

The Queen of England came through town and Leslie wasn’t interested. The American Idol winner was announced and Tara wasn’t pleased.

Karen is doing some spring cleaning. Phyllis is getting naked.

Sleeping Mommy has a bellybutton fetish. What happens when two guys have a fetish for pretending to be lesbians? Sara gives the scoop.

Chaotic Serenity took advantage of some drunk cribbage players.

DL writes about trying to rationalize with an irrational person. Tish can’t rationalize the idea of 11 year old girls on birth control.

Poopy provides the code for dealing with teenagers. Caren wants those teenagers to have proper sex education.

Nicole saw butt cheeks at DisneyWorld. You’d see April’s butt cheeks if she pulled down her pants…she’s going commando.

Stacey isn’t Greek, but people think she is. Thomai isn’t happy about people who protest stem cell research.

Annabel Lee hates dating. I hope Faith’s date went better.

Dawn is happy that Carrie won. Cyn thinks Bo should’ve won.

Inky is no longer employed by Wally World. Chosha is an anonymous blogger and she’s ok with that.

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters….or Juno. Maybe Janine can call if she has ghosts in her new house.

Kim finds a blogger that fingered his murderer. Candy Tuft finds a variety of people in cyberspace.

Mary Lou had a dress rehearsal. Cindra had a computer virus.

Puglet has learned a few things. A.J. learned that five years can make a big difference.

Lewis ponders the nature of the hummingbird. Maureen ponders falling in love when she shouldn’t.

Vince made a wish on a rose. Safiyyah wishes guys wouldn’t read her blog and get the wrong idea.

Grace is rearranging things. Jack is too.....on his blog.

Joan is a regular Betty Crocker. Laine is a text junkie.

Shelli finds the perfect container for quarters. Undergraduate finds small blessings.

Whats this? Ask Veda. What does Steph believe? Find out.

DataMonkey has some people that need to be slapped. Jen has a nice fantasy going.

Janet didn't go to the prom. Babs didn't believe her luck this week.

FlyGirl can tell you about truth serum. Katriana can tell you about resolving her financial problems.


Enjoy your weekend my friends. Just do it.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Crushing 

I'm not exactly sure when the word "crush" became a verb, but my daughter and a lot of people use it that way routinely now. To think I've been crushing all these years and didn't know it! Crushes are a fact of life. We've all had them. I've had scores of them in my 43 years of life. I have them now. I'm sure I'll have them in the future.

The first crush I can remember was on Cheryl. We went to school together from kindergarten on. We were in the same class at my tiny elementary school from 1st grade to 4th. She was a beautiful blond girl, always had a smile on her face, and was probably the best student in our class. Three of my friends and I used to walk her home from school every day. I can remember jockying for position with my buddies. Who got to walk closer to her? Who could make her laugh? I was smitten with her well into our junior high school years. I was crushing on Cheryl.

I had a huge crush on my 7th grade English teacher. I didn't even know what a crush was, but I was intoxicated by this woman. Her voice, mannerisms, looks, and the way she moved her hands captivated me in a way I didn't understand at that tender age. When she smiled at me I thought I would melt. When she disapproved of something I did I was devastated. I can remember her standing at my desk, her hand on my shoulder, and the way she smelled. I fantasized about her often. I was crushing on Ms. B.

The crush of my high school years was Diana. Oh yes, Diana. I transferred to this high school my sophomore year and noticed her in the first class of my first day there. Diana was sweet and pretty, friendly to everyone, and had the kind of feminine charisma that grabs me to this day. I made every excuse possible to be in her presence. In our junior year I bought a Valentine's Day pendant for her. The problem was that I didn't know how to give it to her. So what is a shy teenage boy to do? I hung it inside her locker with a small card and avoided her the rest of the day. After school she yelled at me and ran across the parking lot as I was getting into my truck to go home. She thanked me sweetly for the gift and I shrugged my shoulders, mumbling some words about it being nothing really. She stood there looking quizically at me, waiting for me to say something else. I shuffled my feet and smiled weakly. Finally she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and walked away. Thats as far as it went. I haven't seen her since graduation night. I was crushing on Diana.

I've had many crushes as an adult. The thing about most of these crushes is that the object of my lust/desire was unavailable. I was with someone else or she was. She lived far away. Work situations made it impossible. The unavailability seemed to make the crush more compelling in a weird kinda way. Maybe we worked together. Perhaps she was a clerk in the convenience store I stopped at regularly. She could've been a friend of a friend. Maybe it was someone I met online.

Whoever it was, crushes are exhilirating aren't they? Even if you can't do anything about them, that increase in your pulse, that goofy smile you can't seem to wipe away, the way your senses all seem afire....crushes are among life's pleasures. The vast majority of crushes are never anything more than just that...crushes. Some are fleeting, maybe just lasting a few days or weeks. Some last for a long time. Some are more intellectual than physical. Some are purely lustful. Some you'll remember forever. Others will slip into the sands of time. Then maybe something will remind you of it.... a song, a smell, a voice, a car, a thunderstorm.

Then it happens again. You're crushing on someone.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Midweek Meanderings 

Its Wednesday. All is well except for the fact that I forgot to take my garbage to the curb this morning. I hate that!

Aubree had her awards ceremony yesterday. She received her trophy for her science fair project, a good citizenship award, "A" honor roll awards for all four quarters, and the class top student award for English and Math. I'm very proud!

Patrick also received an award for excellence in Social Studies at his awards ceremony today. I'm proud of him as well!

Tomorrow is the last day of school for both kids. Unfortunately, their dad still has a few more weeks of work left. The last day for students at my school is June 9 and my last day before summer vacation falls about a week later.

Patrick will be attending a summer camp for special kids in the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma. There of course will be swimming, fishing, and canoeing available. The thing that excites him the most? Archery. Oh yes, archery. He has loved bows and arrows since he was old enough to talk.

My brother, Kerry, gets married for the first time this weekend. He is 38 years old and is marrying a lovely woman named Karen. Karen has a young child from a previous marriage so Kerry has been getting a fast-track to being a parent. Kerry is a great guy, an accomplished professional in his field, a fanatical University of Oklahoma football fan, and a comic book collector. (his collection numbers in the many thousands). He and his new wife have built a beautiful new home. He plans a bachelor party after the wedding sometime this summer in Las Vegas. The wedding will be held in their new home, will be a small family affair, and be followed by a meal at a local restaurant. Best of luck to the happy couple!

Middle school discipline the past few days:
A trivia item. The first seven years of my teaching career were spent in Checotah, Oklahoma, the home of American Idol finalist Carrie Underwood. I know the family and they are great people.

On the job front: A week and a half had passed since my interview for the principal's job in western Oklahoma. I called the superintendent this morning and he told me they would not be making a final decision until next week. They are interviewing another candidate this Friday. I don't know what to think....there is really nothing I can do other than wait it out. The problem? I hate waiting.

I have a job right now and was told today that I needed to sign my contract for next year. A bird in the hand ...well, you know the saying. I signed the contract. Now, if I get a job offer I will have to be asked to be released from that contract. It becomes the district's option whether or not to release me. Signing a contract this early is not the usual practice. Historically, contracts are signed in the fall after negotiations are done during the summer. But my district and an increasing number of others are dealing with teacher shortages by trying to lock in their staff early. If you are a teacher in a hard-to-fill area and want to take another job in July, you are probably out of luck. If the district doesn't provide a release and you try to work somewhere else, you can lose your license.

And so it goes. How is YOUR week going?

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Up On Top 

My quaint little house sits on top of a hill. In my suburban hometown this is as close as you come to privacy. You drive down a residential street, turn right, go a couple of blocks, up a hill, turn left, and you're in my driveway. Very few cars pass by here. There is a huge lot between my house and the abandoned house to my east. To the north is a wooded hilly area. To the south I share a fence with a neighbor at the bottom of my very large backyard. To the west is a grove of trees that partially shields me from neighbors on the next block.

I don't hear cars much but I do hear trains. I love the sound of a train passing through town blowing that long, plaintive whistle. I remember this sound so well as a boy. I used to wonder where the train came from and where it was going. Trains travel their path alone, but they have a firm destination. Their engineer knows where the train is going. There may be obstacles in the path, there may be slowdowns, but the train just keeps chugging toward where it needs to go. Maybe there is a lesson there.

After the kids go to bed, I like to walk out into my front yard. I'm on top of the world up here. Its my sanctuary. Its my hiding place. This is where I started licking my wounds nine months ago. When I arrived here it was in the heat of the summer. I sat in the yard night after night in the darkness looking at the lights and pondering my existence. I still do it quite often. I did it tonight. I poured myself a drink and walked outside in my shorts on this pleasant evening. In the faint distance I can hear cars travelling on Route 66. A radio or television tower flashes a red light in the distance. A gentle breeze blows across my face. I hear a police or ambulance siren and my dog howls along with it.

I don't know how long I'll stay in this house. I could be moving soon....or maybe not. I'll be ready when that time comes. But for the rest of my life I'll remember this little place on the hill. This is where I began again. This is where I began to set the priorities for the rest of my life. This is where I comforted my children after a crushing blow. This is where I confronted the uncomfortable truths. This is where I spent countless hours talking to friends on the phone, trying to sort things through. I've cried buckets of tears here in the quiet and darkness. I've spent more time here examining myself than I have in all previous years combined.

I have a fantasy. Years from now, I'll be happy, settled, and my life will be on track. On a whim, I'll drive up the hill and cruise by this little house. I'll stop, sit in my car for awhile, and a smile and wistful sigh will escape. I'll think back to this time of pain and trials. Somewhere inside there will still be a dull pain but it will be like an old knee injury. You remember how it felt but it works fine now. I'll drive away, go back down the hill, and return to my life.

Remember the scene from the first "Rocky" movie where Sly Stallone works out in the meat locker punching slabs of beef? This place is like that for me. This is where I'm priming myself to go out and live the rest of my life. When I leave here, I'm going to come out swinging.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Frustrating Moments 

Regular readers of this blog know that my son Patrick can do inexplicably maddening things sometimes. Yesterday Patrick and I were watching a show on television and I drifted off to sleep in my recliner. Napping on weekends is actually a very rare thing for me to do. But I dozed off and awoke to the sight of Patrick standing in front of me covered in black.

We had some black spray paint left over from Aubree's science fair project. It was at the back of a shelf on my computer desk and evidently Patrick found it while I was dozing. He decided that he wanted to spray paint his remote controlled car. He also wanted some of his arrows from his bow-and-arrow set to be black as well. He got a lot more black paint on himself than he did on those things.

It took me a few seconds to adjust my sleepy eyes to what I was seeing. Once I realized what he'd done I blew my top. I simply couldn't believe it. There was black paint all over him and all over the hardwood floor. I kept yelling at him, "I just can't believe you did this. I can't believe it." I put him in the tub and it took quite awhile to get him and the tub cleaned out. I was furious. I don't often lose my temper over things like this and it doesn't feel very good when I do. I said some things I shouldn't have said. An hour later I was feeling guilty, Patrick and the floor were clean, and things were moving back toward normalcy.

It used to bother Lee that I didn't blow up like this when he did similiar things during our marriage. The thing was that when she blew up I felt like I needed to remain calm. She couldn't believe I wasn't demonstrating more outrage. I felt it sometimes but also focused my energies toward calming her down rather than expressing my own irritation.

Now it is just me. This is, I believe, only the third time I've lost my temper with him in the past nine months. I don't physically touch him during these episodes. But I do storm around tossing out some pretty strong language. I hate that so much. Even when I'm doing it, I'm telling myself, "this is not you. Calm down." The guilt that follows? Its a killer.

I'm glad I didn't know the full extent of things when I was angry. A couple of hours later I went to pick up Aubree from her friend's house. When I returned I saw big black spray paint markings on the vinyl siding to the left of my front door. It looked like some gang graffiti ghetto house. I went to Patrick's room to talk to him about this and saw more paint on his wall. Argh! But the anger had passed and I was back to the practical. Today some solvent and SOS pads cleaned off the front of the house and some KILZ covered up the markings on the white walls of his room.

As for Patrick? After I calmed down I sentenced him to a no-TV, no games day cleaning up his room and doing other chores. He complied grudgingly today without complaint. I know that he is impulsive...he is hyper impulsive. He just doesn't think these things through. He thinks it and he does it. I know this. It doesn't mean its not frustrating sometimes. Most of the time I handle it calmly. But sometimes my anger gets the best of me. I spend the rest of the day pondering how I could've handled it differently.

This is classically Patrick. Later in the evening he walked up and said, "Dad, can I get a hug?" Guilty-feeling dad says, "sure Patrick. Get over here!" He walks over hugs me and says, "please forgive me for what I am about to do." Then he farted, burst into laughter, and started singing, "For those about to fart, we salute you."

At least I've got him well trained on classic rock.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Reunion 

Next month relatives from my mother's side of our family will descend here for a family reunion. My grandmother is my last surviving grandparent and she is very much looking forward to this. I'm looking forward to it as well. I haven't seen most of these people in many years.

My grandmother's brother, Jack, was an infantry soldier in World War II. His best friend was killed in combat, and when the war was over he went to Tennessee to visit his friend's family. While there he met LeMoyne, his friend's sister, married her, and began to raise a family in the hills of Tennesse. They had three children and many grandchildren.

In the summer of 1976 my family drove to Tennessee in my dad's shiny new 1976 Dodge van. I had never met any of this side of my family before. For a kid raised in the burbs this was a look at a different style of life. They lived miles outside a small Tennessee town. They had horses. The forests and mountain lakes were spectacular. We spent a week cavorting with our cousins, riding horses, swimming, attending a "singing" at a small country church. I was 15 years old and initially unhappy about being forced to go along. After all, I had friends to play with and basketball games I wanted to play. Go visit relatives? *Yawn*

I had the time of my life. The kids were a little younger than I was. Amy and Bridget were about 11 years old. Amy had an obvious crush on me. I carried her on my shoulders the entire week it seemed. I had never ridden a horse before and quickly learned to love it. My brother and I took off riding up into the hills one afternoon. We discovered that his horse would go wherever mine went and at the same speed. We rode to the top of a very large hill, turned around, and I spurred my horse at a full gallop down the hill. His horse followed at full speed. I turned around and saw him visibly bouncing up and down in the saddle and gasping, "Brian, stop, slow down!" I wasn't always a good big brother. I rode on even faster. I was saddened to leave at the end of our week there.

We saw the Tennesse relatives about six years later at the last family reunion I can remember here. I was 21 years old and Amy was a buxom 16. She still wanted me to carry her on my shoulders as we swam and splashed in my grandfather's swimming hole. My wife was not the least bit amused. I tried to tell her it was just family but she was pretty skeptical. I've only seen them for one evening since then.

My grandmother's sister, Winnie, stayed in her native California and married a man named Don. They had a daughter and a couple of grandchildren (Steve and Christy) as well. One summer they came to Oklahoma and stayed for a couple of weeks. Steve was the epitome of California coolness. The girls in my neighborhood were dazzled by his tan, long hair, and general cool. The kids had never seen a firefly before and we spent hours running around in the field collecting them. We were scheduled to go to church camp and it was decided that Steve would go with us. The camp had a rule that specified no tank-tops or shirts that promoted alcohol. There wasn't a single shirt in Steve's suitcase that met that code. He had to get a bunch of new shirts in order to be able to go along.

We had a fantastic time. Winnie passed away but Don still made regular trips here to visit my grandparents. Don was one of the funniest guys I've ever met. He was a genuinely kind and caring man and we all thought he was the greatest. He knew Walt Disney as a young man and worked at Disneyland during the construction stages and the first few years of its existence. He became a teacher and spent his professional life working with troubled kids. During our trip to California two years ago we had an opportunity to see him and that side of the family again. It was so funny. Steve, Christy, and I seemed to pick up where we left off as kids. Steve seemed to remember everything about the summer he spent here almost 30 years ago. I was glad we went.....Don passed away not long after.

Those carefree summers with the Tennessee and California cousins were a lifetime ago. We're all adults now with kids, mortgages, divorces, and responsibilities. The patriarchs and matriarchs of our families are mostly gone now. We're the new generation. We haven't kept in touch with each other like our grandparents and parents did. Is everyone just too busy now?

Maybe Steve and I can go catch some fireflies. Maybe Amy will let me carry her on my shoulders again (ok, maybe not :)) In any case, I'm looking forward to seeing them all.

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Weekend Roundup 5/20-5/21 

Its the weekend and its hotter than hell here today. That doesn't stop me from highlighting posts from some of the best bloggers around. Since I went to see Star Wars tonight I'll say it Yoda-style. Posts you should click.

CandyTuft couldn’t think of what to write about. Dawn writes about a sibling feud.

Annabel was in a bad mood. Stephanie was a little sore after having her tonsils removed.

Babs has a question about children’s party etiquette. Dave had a question about what happens when you put a CD through a shredder. The answer is here.

Sally is thinking about Julie. Chaotic Serenity is thinking about a very good friend.

DataMonkey makes his case for corporal punishment. Anne makes her case for gay people being able to adopt children.

Rachel writes something for you. Vickie writes of friendships that inspire.

Monica’s teenage son wants to enlist in the military. Vegas Baby is enlisting herself in a well deserved vacation.

Karen identifies some of her favorite movies. Jennifer could list some of hers…..if she actually liked going to the theater to watch them.

Shirazi looks into an offer to get paid for blogging. Scorpy is looking to find some island songs.

Satisfied Spouse finds a successful recipe for sex. FlyGirl finds that a shower head is good for more than one thing.

Sara isn’t getting enough sleep. I don’t know how much Thomai is sleeping, but she is working hard and loving it.

Rob had some interesting conversations while waiting to see the new Star Wars flick.

April shares some of her favorite phrases. Red shares a banana pudding recipe.

The Funky Cowboy wants to save the moose. Snowball wanted to take a picture of her bruise but thought better of it.

Maddy has the grammar police after her blog. Jack may have family members reading his soon.

New Wave Gurly was feeling overwhelmed. Lewis was feeling inspired at “creativity rock..”

Walker’s doctor got up close and personal. Faith’s phone did the same thing but in a different way.

RedHead Gal celebrates sobriety. Andie celebrates starting her own company.

Feisty Girl found someone meditating in the strangest place. Carol found herself celebrating her son’s birthday.

Restless Angel has been in a bit of a funk. Jen has been in one too for awhile, but she is back and blogging.

Lisa has felt guilty for more than 20 years over this. Linda doesn’t feel guilty over this picture.

Joe shares a song that he wrote recently. Jazzy shares a tribute to her “rock”.

Mystic Spirit wonders what you think about “The Number”. Kathy doesn’t have to wonder if her college student is back…there are signs.

Roselle has been restless. Tara has been sore…from swinging.

Ginger pays a tribute to Mrs. G. Bec pays tribute to power tools.

Stacey wants to go see Paul McCartney…but not at those prices. Chuck wants to go see Star Wars this weekend…but can’t.

Splendid has some questions. Have any answers? Kim has a new kangaroo pouch.

Ellen plans on doing some snuggling this weekend. Cyn probably will too with her new mattress.

Cindra has been having a pity party. Hope she feels better now. T. Marie has a crush on her landlord.

Sallie shares how to maintain your insanity. Shelli shares some of her recent stress.

Mary Lou has memories of the Mount St. Helens eruption. I wonder if Wanda erupted when someone messed with her computer.

Edge enjoyed watching a former lover squirm. I squirmed reading this post from Laine.

Steph was having some doubts about her blog. Tish was having some thoughts about Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Darla’s husband lost his temper. John’s new family member has a new kennel.

Frani has been on the road a lot. Gladys has been looking back at her life.

Inky is glad that “The Creep” quit. Janine is glad that the queen is coming to Canada.

Susan just took the biggest test of her life. Joan just took a trip to Safeway. Don’t ask her if she wants the discount.

Sleeping Mommy find out more than she wanted to about “pocket rockets.” A.J. found out that putting on mascara is still an adventure.

Aka Monty dumps the “New Hot Guy”. You’d be crazy to dump Sue, even if she is a geek.

Enjoy and spread the comment love to these fine writers. Have a great weekend and may be the Force be with you. Always.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Try It On 

I took Aubree shopping for a new swimsuit this evening at our local Wal Mart. We loaded up our cart with dog food, milk, orange juice, and a few other essentials. Then we we headed into no-mans land....the girls clothing section. You must understand that the only thing I know about women's swimwear is how to admire it on a lovely woman.

We looked through the rack of girls swimsuits. The first question to be settled? One or two piece. I voted for the one piece. She wanted a two piece. I relented. She picked out a yellow two piece suit with an animal pattern......size 6 slim. I looked at the suit skeptically and said, "perhaps you should try this on." She said, "Dad, I know what size I wear. I can hold this up and see that it fits." We finished our shopping and headed home.

As soon as we arrived at our house she ran back to her room to try on the new suit. She came back out and said, "Umm dad, this doesn't fit right. The bottom feels funny." I can imagine that it would. It looked like half of her tiny rear end was sticking out of it. Sigh. Find the receipt and head back. Wait in line at the service desk. Aubree accused me of flirting with the girl at the service desk, but you know how kids are.

We head back to the swimsuit section again. We get a size 7 and head to the dressing room. Same result. We got a size 8 and it was baggy but had the same issue. The thing was the style of the suit. Aubree said, "I don't like my butt hanging out and feeling like I'm getting a wedgy when I walk." Back to the drawing board. We went back and got the same pattern and color in the......one piece suit. She tried it on and it fit perfectly at a size 7. On to the service desk. Chat with nice girl and complete the exchange.

Aubree could tell I was slightly annoyed at all this. As we were walking to the car she said, "I should have listened to you and tried it on the first time." I nodded in agreement and told her, "I'll let you in on a secret. I don't try on a lot of the clothes I buy either. But I've been roughly the same size for more than 20 years. You are still growing. What fits you now may not fit you in a couple of months."

We got home and she hugged me and said, "Dad, you spoil me. It must be because you appreciate my beauty." Yes, she's a charmer that girl of mine is.

I love her like crazy.....but next time we're trying on the clothes before we leave.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Midweek Meanderings 

Over the hump....its Wednesday! So what's been going on in my world and yours?

I suspended a kid today for profanity. His mom came in to pick him up after school because she had sent a cake with him for a class party of some kind. I explained what he'd done and his suspension and as she got up to leave she said, "Mr. S, would you like a piece of cake?" Sure thing. It was actually quite yummy.

Our school had its talent show today and I participated as part of a singing group of teachers. One of our teachers wrote a school-themed song based on the Marine Corps hymn. It was a lot of fun and I think the kids enjoyed it. One of the kids told me at lunch, "Mr. S, you had some good rhythm going on out there." Thanks!

I've been suffering from a lot of allergies and sinus problems in recent weeks. I haven't lived in Oklahoma in the spring for 8 years and it is hitting me hard. Benadryl and I have become rather close.

Aubree wants a new swimming suit for two swim parties this weekend. Its that time. Last year's swimwear simply won't do.

Patrick and I are gearing up to go see the new Star Wars movie this weekend. "Revenge of the Sith" hits theaters tomorrow night. The early reviews are good and both of us are excited to go see it.

Is there something wrong with the fact that Aubree knows how to do three-way calling and I have no clue? She and her little friends are constantly talking on three-way.

I'm inclined to take the prospective job if it is offered. No offer yet.

If I do end up moving for this new job, I will be within a one hour drive from Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. I know bloggers in all four of those states! I'm going to have to sit down one of these days and figure out how many states and Canadian provinces I know bloggers in. It would be a pretty large number.

I've said it before. Middle school girls may be the most vicious of all human beings. The way they can be manipulative and cruel to each other never fails to amaze me. A girl was quite upset today. A former friend of hers knows that her mom has been married several times. So ex-friend refers to her stepdad as her step-step-step-step-step-dad and repeats the word "step" over and over every time she sees her. She encourages her group of friends to do the same. This is mild compared to some of the things I've seen.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Swats Redux 

My last post made me think of my own experiences with corporal punishment. I know it may be hard to believe, but I certainly had my own experiences at the wrong end of the paddle....the belt...or the switch.

My experiences at school?

My dad rarely touched me, but when he did it was memorable. I remember every single one of them. Most of the incidents involved me doing something that was dangerous to myself or my brothers. The thing with my dad is that I could tell he didn't really enjoy doing it. He always had a sorrowful expression on his face and would usually come by my room and chat an hour or two later to make sure I was ok. You know what hurt worse than that belt of his? That disappointed look on his face. I hated that look. I didn't want to let my dad down.

My mom was much more likely to spank us. She used a belt or a switch picked from the yard. I feared that switch. It was definitely a motivator not to misbehave. You didn't want my mom's wrath coming down on you. But I also remember growing older and getting to the point where it didn't hurt so much anymore. In the later years I'd just pretend like it hurt a lot more than it really did.

I don't feel like that I suffer any permanent scars from my childhood experiences. I wasn't abused or badly mistreated. It was definitely a deterrent to my hidden rebellious tendencies. Fear is not always a bad thing. Many of my friends had parents whose policy was that if you got paddled at school you got a second one at home too. Mine didn't have that philosophy, but I definitely did not want to "get in trouble".

Were there other things that would have deterred my misbehavior? Of course. As I got older my parents stopped using corporal punishment on me completely. They had other tools that were much more effective. Take away my car. Ground me. Don't allow me to go to the school dance. Not allowing my friends to come over. I would've gladly taken a few swats rather than suffer those punishments.

The most stinging part of it all? Not the paddle, the belt, or the switch. The pain subsided quickly and was gone. I wanted their approval....my parents and the teachers. I wanted to thought of as a good kid. I wanted to be loved and acknowledged. Every stroke emphasized to me that I had fallen short of the mark. That is what really hurt the most.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Swats 

One of the things brought up in my recent job interview was that this small school district still uses corporal punishment. I haven't worked for a school that used this in its discipline system for almost 20 years. Its a practice that is banned entirely in many states.

My total administration of corporal punishment consists of two instances during my first year of teaching. A high school junior named Michael was giving me trouble in class. I warned him to stop and eventually walked him down the hall to the principal's office. The principal handed me the paddle and asked Michael to bend over the desk. *Whack* *Whack**Whack* A few weeks later the same thing happened with another boy. After that, I chose the option of having the principal administer the punishment. A few years later our school stopped using paddling as a method of punishment.

Students at that school used to be given the option of taking swats instead of attending their assigned before-school detention. Almost every afternoon you'd see kids lined up outside the vice principal's office, detention slips in hand, ready to take their swats. Some of them would walk out of the office laughing. That little sting of pain was much preferable to coming into school one hour earlier.

I rarely use corporal punishment with my own kids. I asked Aubree on the way home from the job interview when the last time I'd swatted her was. She couldn't remember. I usually just remove privileges from Patrick or take away one of his favorite items for awhile. I haven't formally decided not to spank my kids anymore. I just haven't done it.

Almost all of the larger school districts in Oklahoma have banned corporal punishment for various reasons. The biggest reason? Fear of lawsuits. Swing that paddle and are off by a few inches? You are going to be writing a check to the parents of that child. The principal has a bad day and takes it out on some kid's ass? Look out. There are also philosophical objections to this practice. Various studies have shown that its usefulness in deterring misbehavior is mixed at best. Then there is always this question: If we are trying to teach kids non-violent ways of dealing with life situations, does it make sense to be hitting them?

My youngest brother refused to take a paddling in high school once. He said, "why should a let a grown man haul off and hit me? If he tried that anywhere else I'd deck him." He told my dad, "you can spank me but I'm not letting him touch me." He may have deserved it but I can see his point.

There are not too many weeks that have gone by this year without a parent asking me to paddle their child at school. I explain to them that my district has outlawed this practice. They usually say, "but you have my permission. Just go ahead." I politely decline and point out that they are free to do that at home but that I have to stick with the consequences that our school has chosen to use.

The superintendent told me that it would be up to me if I wanted to continue the use of corporal punishment in the school. I can't say that I'm very comfortable with the whole idea. I must admit that there have been times when I've wished I could've swatted one of those unruly students. But I have to think that there are better ways to discipline kids and deter bad behavior. I suspect that if I end up taking this job that this will be an issue I'll have to confront.

I wonder if Michael still remembers those swats?

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Decision Time 

We are safely back home from our road trip/job interview/grand adventure. The trip ended up taking about six hours each way (Yahoo Maps were off by two hours). A great many bugs died this weekend as a result...the windshield of my van can attest to that.

We ate a quick dinner and drove out about 5:00 Friday evening. By 6:30 we were driving through a major thunderstorm. You know the kind...clapping thunder, very heavy rain, chunks of hail landing on the car. This is not a good start I thought to myself. Aubree slept through the whole thing. Within 30 minutes I'd driven out of the storm and it was clear sailing the rest of the way.

This trip was a geography lesson in itself. We left driving through the rolling green hills of my native northeast Oklahoma. After a couple of hours we were cruising through Oklahoma's section of the Great Plains. From there we drove through a region called "Little Sahara"...a land of shrub grasses, red soil, and some magnificent buttes and mesas. At one point Aubree pointed at one of the landforms and said, "I didn't know we had volcanoes in Oklahoma." It wasn't a volcano but it certainly looked like one. Towns like Fort Supply and Slapout whizzed by as we cruised at 75 mph almost the entire trip. By the time the sun began to set we were in far northwest Oklahoma. The horizon was a spectacular, beautiful pink. I was wishing I'd brought a camera along. It was simply stunning. As I kept driving the last sliver of the sun disappeared from the horizon. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a sunset that was more beautiful.

Darkness had descended by the time we entered the Oklahoma Panhandle and began navigating the way to our destination. In my entire life I have never seen a sky that dark before. It was so black and the stars seemed closer and brighter. For the last 100 miles of the trip I couldn't keep my eyes off of the sky. Simply beautiful. We arrived at the small town motel around 11:00 and there was an envelope with my name on it taped to the office door. "Just come by and pay in the morning when you get a chance." Gotta love small towns.

My interview was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Aubree and I arrived and were ushered into the superintendent's office. Aubree hung out on the couch while the superintendent and I talked...curriculum, sports, teachers, money, etc. We were soon joined by the president and vice president of the local school board. They took turns passing my resume around and asking questions. One of them told me, "this isn't the middle of nowhere. Thats just down the road a ways." For three hours we talked and toured the school. Aubree was there for the whole time and occasionally piped up and asked a question. She can be quite the little charmer when she wants to be. At one point she wandered behind the superintendent's desk, looked at his computer, and said, "hey, you have Spongebob Squarepants on your computer!" He blushed sheepishly and said, "yeah I do. Please don't tell anyone..ok?"

We had the most thorough school tour I've ever been on. We looked at every classroom, every supply closet, every locker room, the computer server room...all of it. They were quite proud of the technology they had for such a small school, and from the looks of it they should be. They had 170 magnesium-cased laptops for students. They'd only lost one. A high school girl left on top of her car, drove off, and it fell onto the highway and got ran over by a semi truck. It didn't survive that. They had a brand new gym and library, both very nice.

It was prom night that night. The music room was festooned in Mardi Gras beads for the occasion. In a school this small the prom is for grades 6-12. Imagine that. They were having a steak dinner catered in for the occasion.

The board members took off around noon. The superintendent, his wife, Aubree, and I went to lunch at a cafe in the nearest town. As we were sitting there eating and talking, Aubree piped up and said to the superintendent, "Soooo, how does my dad find out if he gets the job or not?" I felt myself sinking slightly into the booth for a moment, but it didn't last long. He laughed and said, "I'm glad you said that Aubree. We adults aren't always so good at these things. I think that the answer is....well, its probably going to be up to your dad."

We took a tour of the principal's house. It lies a couple of hundred feet from the school. Its a fairly traditional 3bdr/2 bath house with a garage. Its a nice little home. Of course it is surrounded by school personnel on all sides. Your coworkers are also your neighbors. There is absolutely nothing else out there other than those houses and the school. There is a lot of wide open space...a lot. Of course, there is that little matter of rattlesnakes that sometimes make their way into the yards. Our dog would be no problem (answering Aubree's most pressing question). Someone had a little calf in a stock trailer. The calf's mother had been killed by lightning and they were bottle feeding "Baby".

We drove back to the school and got down to brass tacks. He told me that he and the board had narrowed the search from 15 applicants and had offered interviews to three of them. At this point my candidacy was the one they were most serious about. We talked about money and he asked if I was satisfied with the salary that had been discussed. I told him that I felt like I would be worth more to the district than that. He talked about finding some creative ways to sweeten the pot. We discussed division of responsibilities. His job? The budget and supervision of the support personnel (aides, bus drivers, maintenance, etc.). My job? Hiring and supervision of the teachers and everything having to do with kids and instruction.

We talked for some time about Patrick. I told him that one of my hesitancies was a worry that Patrick might not be able to get the level of support that he has here. They are trying to hire a new special education teacher right now. He said, "well Brian, the teachers would all be working for you. You can just tell them what they need to do to help Patrick succeed in the classroom. You can design whatever kind of program you want for him."

The school has a decent curriculum for a place so small. They have football, basketball, gold, track, vocal music, band, Spanish, advanced chemistry, shop, art, etc. The facilities are in very good shape. The teachers I met seemed nice enough.

The superintendent is younger than I am and has less experience. He told me that what he most wanted was a principal who could step in and run the school from Day 1 without a lot of training. He felt like he would have a hard enough time learning his new job without having to train the principal too. He said, "you'd have carte blance to come in and shake things up a little bit if you wanted to. I know that you would bring some ideas here that are probably needed. I wouldn't interfere."

I left with a pretty strong feeling that he is going to offer me the job very soon. He said he wanted his new principal to attend conferences in Dallas and New Orleans this summer and needed to make those arrangements soon. The job would officially start on July 15. Aubree is totally in favor of me taking the job. She really liked it out there. I had to laugh...she and the superintendent were on a first name basis by the time we left. Before she got into the car she walked over, shook his hand, and said, "bye Jim. Thanks for having us."

When we got home she said, "hey Dad, did you hear him mention that the 2nd grade teacher is single. She might be spicy....you know what I mean?" *Wink* I think her radar is on more than mine is.

If the offer comes as expected, I have a big decision to make....a life changing decision.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Road Trip 

Aubree and I head out tomorrow afternoon for the Oklahoma Panhandle. We'll leave as soon as I can get away from work and begin the long trip west. Estimated drive time? About seven hours. My interview will be at 9:00 on Saturday morning followed by lunch in a nearby town.

Snacks? Check. Atlas? Check. Driving directions? Check. Everything packed? I think so. The van is washed and vacuumed and I've checked the oil and vital fluids. I have a reservation after about an hour of trying. (Apparently there is a big motorcycle event in the area on Saturday. Motel rooms were hard to come by)

I've done a lot of thinking in the last couple of days. What are my motivations here? What am I looking for? Why would I even think about doing something like this?

Ten years ago I would've laughed in your face if you even suggested I would consider such a job. I was a rising vice principal in a large school system. My path was laid out ahead of me...principal, assistant superintendent, maybe the superintendency. I was ambitious and wanted to work in the largest school system I could with the highest levels of responsibility. I was going to be the man. Everyone knew it and talked about it. I was being groomed for bigger and bettter things. I was good at what I did and was widely recognized for it. To suggest that I move to a tiny school system out in the boondocks? My ego couldn't have stood it.

My career was on the fast track. I had two small children. I worked almost every weekend to keep up. My kids toddled around my office while I cranked out memos and teacher evaluations. I was reinforced constantly with the idea that I was moving up. But you know what? Something was missing...something inside. Lee came along and tapped something inside me that made me say, "to hell with it. I'll give it all up for this." I got married and my career moved to a slower track. I was just fine with that even if she always wasn't.

I fell in love with the tiny school system I taught at in Washington. I loved the people I worked with and I loved the kids. I enjoyed the intimacy of knowing every kid by name and what his story was. I loved the togetherness and family feeling of the whole place. That was the hardest job to leave....my God, it was hard.

Am I trying to find that again? To recreate it here? I have no doubt that if I stay where I'm at I will eventually be promoted to higher and higher levels of responsibility. But is that what I really want? Is that what is important to me anymore? The single biggest thing about this job that attracts me the most is the idea of being Patrick and Aubree's principal in a small setting. Walking across the street to school with them each day. Being intimately involved with their education in a way that is hard now when I'm so harried and rushed.

There is something else too. This has a smell-the-coffee feel to it. A chance to be at peace. A chance to appreciate the simpler things in life and let my kids do the same. Lonely you say? I'm lonely now my friends...much of the time. Isolated? You can be isolated in the middle of New York City if you allow yourself to be. No Blockbuster around the corner? Netflix here I come. No fast food? I eat way too much of it anyway. No social life? Its not exactly like I'm tearing up the town now.

This doesn't mean that I've decided to take the job if offered. I want to see it for myself. I want to talk to the staff. I want to walk the grounds and drive around the area. I want to talk it over more with my family and friends. I'll discuss it more here. Commenters in the previous post asked about the kids and their role in the decision-making. Aubree is going with me. We'll come back and discuss this as a family...the three of us. I'll lay it all out for them...the good and the bad. They will be allowed to express their thoughts and those thoughts are important to me. This affects them and their lives. They have the right to have a voice. In the end I'll make a decision that I believe is best for the three of us.

I just want to be happy and at a peace. If I think that this job will nudge me down that road, I'm there. If not? I enjoy the job I have now and would be happy to continue doing it. Its nice to have options.

(Due to my travelling circumstances the weekend roundup will not be available this weekend. Please check out all the outstanding bloggers on my blogroll. They are enough to keep anyone entertained this weekend. My guest bloggers are always welcome to jump in but I wouldn't expect them to on this late notice.)

Have a great weekend everyone...Ok?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Midweek Meanderings 

Its Wednesday. It really is. The middle of the week is here, I've gotten over the hump, and its time to start thinking about the weekend. More on that in a moment.

Patrick is off to the state Special Olympics meet. He left this morning with his group from school and will return on Friday. I was hoping to be able to go down for a day and watch, but it doesn't look like that is going to be possible. He is sooooo excited. He'll be staying in a college dormitory room and it all seems like such a grand adventure to him. He told me when I dropped him off this morning, "Dad, I'm going to bring you back some ribbons". I'm sure he will.

I've seriously been enjoying using the RSS reader I dowloaded this week. Most of my blogroll has been entered. It alerts me when someone posts something new. It allows me to scan posts without going to the page. I'm loving it. Its made me a more efficient blogreader and will probably make me a more frequent commenter. Good stuff.

A heat wave has descended on us here in the last few days. Temperatures have reached 90 degrees the last two days in a row. I've been a sweaty guy coming back in from lunch duty.

My ever-so-practical mom told us what she wanted for Mother's Day. She wanted her above-ground pool brought out of storage and assembled. We complied and the timing looks perfect now.

One of the tasks to be done when assembling the pool was to level it. If you don't, a lip will form and all the water will run out. To accomplish this my dad brought out his father's old surveying tools. They are still in their original wooden boxes with instructions and are probably 80 years old. Dad taught Patrick how to use them and I stood in various spots in the pool while they surveyed the elevation. A shovel-full of sand here and there and the pool was level.

Last Friday was a rough day at school. I suspended as many kids on that day as I have in some entire weeks. It was just one thing after another. Big things. Little things. Just lots of things. The most severe? A young man telling a school cafeteria worker he was going to, "sock her right in the face." That won't fly with me. A long term suspension was in order.

I've been contacted by a school that I sent a resume to a couple of months ago. They are strongly interested in interviewing me for their vacant principal position. I talked for about 30 minutes on the phone with the superintendent. He told me that he had received a lot of applications but none with the breadth of my experience.

The location of this potential new job? The other side of the state. Isolated. As a matter of fact, there is no town, just a school along the highway. They would provide me a house (3 bdr, 2 bath) across the street from the school for $75.00 a month. Most of the teachers live in teacher housing in the same area. The money is a little better than what I'm making now.

The job is a K-12 principalship. The student/teacher ratio is 7:1. You read that right. There are about 115 kids in the entire school system. There are 17 teachers. I'd be Patrick and Aubree's principal. We'd walk across the street to school each day. Every kid in the entire school is issued a laptop computer to use at school and home.

The pros? Money. Running my own show. Being there with Patrick and Aubree every day. The small class sizes. The "family atmosphere" that schools this small tend to have. The cons? Distance. Isolation. It would definitely be a change of lifestyle. No fast food. Grocery shopping with a list. A simpler way of living.

How isolated you ask? Very near the red star on the map below:


I will probably go interview this weekend and take a look around. Decisions, decisions.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

You Don't Have A Mom 

My precocious ten year old daughter has a best friend in her class at school. She has gone to this little girl's house to spend the night several times. I've gone out, dropped her off, and picked her up. Her friend lives with a grandmother, having been taken away from her parents because of drug issues. They talk on the phone every night. They are buds.

Last week they got the idea that her friend should come stay the night at our house. That way they could play with all of Aubree's toys and her dog. Aubree asked me on Monday if this was ok. They plotted and planned it all week. Oh yes, they were going to have a grand old time.

Thursday night came and Aubree called her friend to make final plans. She took the phone and went to her room to talk. A few minutes later she came out in tears. She said, "my friend can't come over because I don't have a mom." When I asked what she meant she said, "they said she can't stay over because there is no mom in the house. I hate this life. I want to be alone." With that she went back to her room and closed the door and spent the next few minutes trying to call Lee (my ex wife).

After awhile she came out and said that she wanted to talk. She told me that she wanted to tell Lee, "look what you've done to my life. I can't even have friends stay over anymore." We laid down on her bed and talked for almost an hour. I explained to her why someone would be nervous about having their little girl stay over at a home with only a man in the house. (This situation is further complicated because her friend is technically in state custody) . I told her that I would probably be nervous myself in the same situation. Of course, her question was, "so, does this mean I can NEVER have a friend stay over?"

I knew this would come up at some point. Right at the time when she is beginning to become very social and weekend slumber parties are a big part of life, this situation pops up. It won't be the last time either.

If it was Patrick's friend, I'm sure it would be much less of a problem. If Aubree lived with a single mother, it wouldn't be an issue. But our living situation provokes trepidation among parents of other kids. Its understandable. Still, its hard to think of people looking at you as some kind of potential threat to their children. I know its not personal, but its still troubling. Its not going to change. Its just a fact of life in single father land.

Its a sad commentary on society that men have to be looked at as potential predators no matter who they are. I've thought about this from my own point of view as well. Suppose a friend did come over and spend the night. Suppose she made a false accusation. In my profession I'd be toast. No other adult to contradict the story in sight. My career and life would be over. Its also a sad commentary that I'd even have to think this way.

This just adds another thing to Aubree's list of, "why I need a mom again." Sometimes I just want to wave a wand and make it so.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

The Blame Game 

A recent conversation with a friend led to the subject of cheating and how males and females view it differently. We shared our perspectives and I was fascinated by what we came up with.

I've been cheated on before by a girlfriend and a spouse. Several times. On one occasion I found out the same night. I found out about other incidents years later. Some I was sure of but could never prove. I was angry and hurt. I directed this anger and hurt toward my girlfriend/spouse. The guy involved? I didn't even want to know about him. He was just a bit player in this drama. They offered it up to him and he took it. Of course he did. I didn't go searching for him to regain my manly honor. I didn't blame him at all. I blamed her. She was the one that said she loved me and pledged fidelity.....not him. She was responsible for maintaining the integrity of our relationship...not him. He didn't take advantage of her. She did it freely.

I contrast this with how I've seen many women react to infidelity. They are angry at their significant other to be sure. But in many cases it seems like much of their wrath is directed toward the "other woman". She is a "slut, a whore, a bitch"...just choose your perjorative. That woman seduced her man. She threw herself at him. Its her fault. Its like she broke the womanhood code.

I even see it at work. Number of girls who have had fights/slapping matches/verbal confrontations over "she was flirting with my boyfriend" or "she stole my boyfriend" this year? A lot. Number of boys who have fought over girls? Not a single one I can think of. It is sacrilege for a girl to date someone who dated her friend anytime in recent memory. Guys do it all the time. If a girl is interested in a boy, her friends are expected to back off. Guys compete like crazy for the same girl.

Is this because we have a "boys will be boys" attitude about men? After all, we think way too often with that organ betwen our legs. Right? We can't help it...and thats a built-in excuse. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be keepers of virtue. They are supposed to know better. They expect more out of each other than they do from their men. I remember one woman telling me of her errant husband, "I know he didn't really WANT to do it. She just threw herself at him and he was stupid." Ummm. I didn't have the heart to tell her, but if he was with another woman at the Shady Lady Motel, he was there because he wanted to be. We men may think more than we should with our third leg, but we know right from wrong and we know exactly what we are doing.

Am I off base here, or is this something other people see as well? If so, what does it say about us?

If I cheat on someone I've promised fidelity to, I deserve all the blame and ridicule that can be heaped on me. No woman has ever hit me over the head and drug me off to have a wild affair with her (there is this fantasy but thats another story! :))

Thoughts?

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mom 

I was re-reading my Mother's Day post from last year and was struck by several things. The words ring even truer today than they did then. This time last year I was living 2000 miles away and my mom was someone I talked to on the phone and visited irregularly. Now I'm living less than a mile from her and she is a big part of my life again.

I have to be honest. My mom drives me crazy sometimes. She can be maddeningly dogmatic, stubborn, and opinionated. There are certain subjects I just try to avoid with her. She certainly has her own ideas about how I should run my life from here on out. She's not shy about sharing them either. I may have been gone for awhile, but I haven't lost the fine art of keeping eye contact, nodding my head and uttering "uh huh" when needed, thanking her for giving me something to think about, and going on my way.

I never thought I would need her again like I do now. I'd made my life, married, and moved far away. I kept her up-to-date about the happenings in my life and she kept me up on all the local gossip. I knew who got married, divorced, died, or filed for bankruptcy. I knew which cousin was having marital problems.

I've leaned on her a lot in the last nine months. I drop my kids off at her house every morning and pick them up every afternoon. I eat a fair share of meals there. She babysits when I have a school event or need a night out. She picks up my dry cleaning. She buys me clothes when she finds them on sale. She's been there in every possible way.

This has bothered me some. I'm someone with a lot of pride and ego. I didn't want to need my mom's help at this stage in my life. I'm 43 years old, a grown man, a professional...how can I be relying on my mom like this? I said something to that effect earlier this week, she started to reply, and we were interrupted. A few hours later she dropped some things by my house and we chatted as I stood out by her car. She said, "I want to finish telling you what I started to earlier. We are family, Brian. Families help each other in times of need. I'll always be here for you and there is no shame in that." She then proceeded to remind me of all the things I'd done for her and other family members. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. She said, "you are going through such hard times but you always have a smile and a nice word for everyone." I smiled as she backed out of the driveway. Thats my mom....fiercely loyal to her family and those she loves.

Mom has mellowed over the years. The fiery redheaded mother of my youth has turned into a mellower grandmother. You still don't want to mess with her. Flashes of her temper can still be sighted now and then. She has been patient and kind with my kids. Patrick is a source of great amusement to her and she regales me with tales of his antics at her house.


My mom (circa early 1970's)


Since I moved back, my mom has been a friend, counselor, motivator, advocate, and a sounding board. We talk about politics, food, my job, the kids, dating, and life. We don't always agree....but we talk. She gives me recipes to try out. She teases me. She asks the uncomfortable questions. She won't let me feel sorry for myself. She reminds me of the promise of my youth. She sees the good in me. She sees right through me. She wants the best for me and my children. She loves me in that way that only a mother can.

I've learned to re-appreciate her all over again. She is a country girl with a highly developed sense of what is right and wrong. She is intelligent and intuitive. She has a huge heart. She cares about kids. She is proud of her sons and what they've accomplished in life. She loves my dad and takes care of him. She is also raising my teenage niece and doing an excellent job of it.

I admire her. I love her. She's my mom. I'm very proud of it.

Happy Mother's Day to her and to all the other mothers out there. You make the world go round.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Weekend Roundup 5/6-5/7 

You know what time it is. Its roundup time. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I did. These bloggers rock.

Karen played a prank on a co-worker (scroll down to May 3, “Prank”!) . Katriana wasn’t playing when she cleaned her son’s room.

Kathy told her kids she was a lesbian. Darla is telling the rest of us to entertain her!

Faith went to a family reunion and has the pictures to prove it. Sweety just wanted to fly to NYC, but she had to run the airport security gauntlet first.

Lisa wants to know about the best concert you’ve ever attended. A.J. wants to know what her neighbor’s priorities are.

Chaotic Serenity is on the mend and blogging again! Vince is wading through the financial aid morass.

Shirazi ponders the idea of “truth”. RD ponders some golf etiquette.

Janine was entranced by “Whiskey Echo”. Caren is probably entranced by her new computer.

Red gives us a lesson on “stuff”..what is important and what is not. Sara gives us a lesson on great cybersex.

April recaps her birthday celebration. Edge recaps a time spent in the desert.

Dawn is being a lazy bum. Monica is too busy to be lazy!

Grace had fun at the fair. It sounds like Maddy found a lot of fun in her Wednesday.

Jack writes about the frustrations of blogging. Kim has frustrations of her own.

Sleeping Mommy feeds the evil empire. CandyTuft fed my sense of humor with this post.

Who should you talk about your significant other to? Babs has some thoughts. What should you do on a cold and rainy day? Ask New Wave Gurly.

Annabel isn’t renewing her online dating club membership. Laine isn’t telling her new flame about her blog..she is keeping it secret.

Hungry? Inky has some green eggs and ham. Want some good tunes? Cyn has a list of some of her favorites.

Anne is the keeper of the photographs. Lewis is a keeper of keys….and the stories they bring.

Rockinteach discusses sex in the movies. Joe discusses his test results. (scroll down to May 2, “New Position at Work, Less Stress)

Vickie believes having M.S. has taught her a lot. Chuck believes he is better off without Zoloft.

DataMonkey wants to know who would go on the Jerry Springer show. Stephanie wants to know…if you could be an Olympic champion in any sport, what would you choose?

Joan had Bette Davis eyes. Mimi is going to have punched ovaries.

Carol is an Ebay freak! Sally is not a fruit or a nut.

Cindra reports on cheerleaders that are too sexy for the sideline. Chosha reports on the use of “rock, paper, scissors”.

Splendid needs a boost in her give-a-damn. Tisha’s protective mother instinct didn’t need a boost…it was roaring.

Thomai has some pictures from her film shoot. Bec doesn’t have any pictures, but she does have some scintillating pizza parlor memories.

Satisfied Spouse remembers a teenage neighbor boy who passed away. Tragedy struck a family Maureen knows. So sad.

Ginger classifies the different types of teachers. Flax might classify her mom as….stubborn!

Ellen is finding the good in every day. Maybe FlyGirl can catch some..she’s got the blues.

Okie Doke created a page more popular than his blog. Rachel created a scenario of an affair. Whew!

John is living for powerful moments…so should we all. It wasn’t a good moment for Sallie when her computer crashed.

Andie doesn’t understand bloggers who want “tips”. Dwayne doesn’t understand people who steal Subway stamps.

Love Donnaz promotes Billy Idol’s newest. I’m promoting Teacher Appreciation Week. Please give Erin and other teachers you know a little love.

Shelli might have a longer tongue than the average girl. Scorpy might have a hurt shoulder, but it isn’t going to stop her from playing volleyball.

Sue has been suffering from the flu. Mystic Spirit just wants to feel…..good and bad.

Jennnifer is going to New York City! Maybe she’ll run into Justin.

Steph shares a conversation with her daughter. Undergraduate shared a drive with James Taylor.

Diana needed some birds to go with the bees. Brenda needs the guys in her house to hit the toilet when they pee.

Janet corrected her boyfriend in public. Molly’s friend saw an old love and public and was definitely surprised.

Leslie has the perfect cure for road rage. Restless Angel found the perfect cure for ice cream cravings.

Wanda answers some questions about religion. Grace answered the “if you could be” questions…and so does Vegas Baby!

Maureen tells a tragic story. I can’t pair another story with this one.

Gladys had cake and freak-boy fantasies for dinner. I don’t know if Veda fantasizes about Jet, but she enjoys their music.

Aka Monty didn't have the best Monday. Walker had some good times at the ice plant.

Liz talks about her baby’s first birthday. Christine talks about her name and how she imagines it being used.

There now..wasn't that fun? Spread the comment love where the spirit moves you....if you don't mind. Have a marvelous weekend my friends!

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