Thursday, September 29, 2005

Just Ask 

I was tagged by Lu to do this meme and she is awfully difficult to say no to. Rather than fight the power, I submit my answers forthwith!

1. Do you try to look hot when you go to the grocery store just in case someone recognizes you from your blog?

I'd have a hard time looking "hot" if I was getting an Emmy award, clad in a bejeweled tuxedo. No, I don't make any extra effort when I go grocery shopping.

2. Are the photos you post Photoshopped or otherwise altered?
Not all. I considered adding hair but thought better of it.

3. Do you like it when creeps or dorks email you?

I love getting email even from creeps or dorks.

4. Do you lie in your blog?

Would I admit that here? That would kinda defeat the purpose. I don't lie, but I don't always share everything. Writer's privilege and all that.

5. Are you passive-aggressive in your blog?

I'm neither passive nor aggressive or any combination thereof.

6. Do you ever threaten to quit writing so people will tell you not to stop?

I don't think I've ever threatened to quit writing.

7. Are you in therapy? If not, should you be? If so, is it helping?

I probably should be but I'm not. I've been into a lot of "self therapy", reading books and articles, and staring at my navel.

8. Do you delete mean comments? Do you fake nice ones?

Believe it or not, I've never received a mean comment. I've had commenters who disagreed with me, but they always did so in a civilized way.

I've never faked a comment of any kind. Why would I? I already believe I have the best commenters in the blog world.

9. Have you ever rubbed one out while reading a blog? How about after?

Well, there was this one time in blog camp.......

10. If your readers knew you in person, would they like you more or like you less?

That is a difficult question to answer. I have met several of my readers and knew some of them before I started blogging. I guess I'll leave it to them to answer this question if they wish.

11. Do you have a job?

Yes, I write about it often here.

12. If someone offered you a decent salary to blog full-time without restrictions, would you do it?

Maybe not full-time unless you're talking life-changing money, but I'd love to be paid to blog part-time. Thats like getting paid to watch football games, have sex, or drink margaritas.

13. Which blogger do you want to meet in real life?

I've met several bloggers in real life and enjoyed meeting each of them. I've come to the conclusion that bloggers totally rock. I'm going to assert blogger's privilege and name a few that I haven't met that I would enjoy meeting:

Ellen - a fellow educator who has inspired me often during the time I've been reading her.

Veronica - a talented artist, passionate human being who has lived life her way. I've learned much from her.

Thomai - because she is one of a kind. A talented woman who makes me think.

Phoenix - because she is talented, empathetic, and has a big heart.

Vickie - because, well, she's Vickie!

I'm just getting warmed up! So many more. Ok, I must write a post about this. I guess I'd mess up this meme if I put 50 names here, wouldn't I? There are so many of you I'd LOVE to meet.

14. Which bloggers have you made out with?

A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell. I started to give a number here but decided that discretion is the better part of valor.

15. Do you usually act like you have more money or less money than you really have?

I try to act like I have more money but I can't pull it off anymore.

16. Does your family read your blog?

One of my brothers reads it as do both of my ex wives.

17. How old is your blog?

Coming up on two years. Stay tuned for the blogiversary bash!

18. Do you get more than 1000 page views per day? Do you care?

Only in my dreams.

19. Do you have another secret blog in which you write about being depressed, slutty, or a liar?

Yes, but I never talk about lying.

20. Have you ever given another blogger money for his/her writing?

No, but I've read some that deserved it. Give me Bill Gates' fortune and I'll fund a huge stable of talented bloggers.

21. Do you report the money you earn from your blog on your taxes?

Every last penny. Now if only I could earn a penny.

22. Is blogging narcissistic?

Sure it is. Otherwise, all these posts I've written would be Word documents buried on my hard drive.

23. Do you feel guilty when you don't post for a long time?

I don't go without posting for a long time. The only times I've been away for more than a day or two I've asked guest bloggers to fill the void.

24. Do you like John Mayer?

Sure thing.

25. Do you have enemies?

Unless bill collectors get very personal in their work, I don't think I have any.

26. Are you lonely?

Is singing "Hey There Lonely Boy" to yourself a bad sign?

27. Why bother?

I ask myself that all the time. So far I've found a reason every day. The best reasons are snoozing in their beds as I write this.

I won't tag anyone, but if you feel up to doing this one please let me know!


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Midweek Meanderings 

Where has the week gone anyway? It can't possibly be Wednesday already.

I begin the "Principal Aspirant Academy" tomorrow. I'll be gone from my building all day. I was scrambling around today to prepare things for my absence. Being gone takes so much work!

Its COOL outside here this evening. Dare I say that it almost feels chilly? Is this just an autumn tease before the heat returns tomorrow?

Patrick wants me to buy him a Halloween costume now. Why? So that he can wear it around the house for the next four weeks. We'd be lucky if the costume still existed by the time Halloween rolls around. This is the voice of experience speaking here!

My morning today began with a dead battery in my van. Nothing like that *click* *click* *click* sound to start your day. I guess one of the kids (or maybe me!) left a door open and the battery drained during the night. A jump start and I was good to go the rest of the day.

A student had been unmercifully teasing another student. I brought the teaser into my office and had a little chat with him. I asked him if there were any names that other people called him that drove him crazy. "Yeah", he said, "I hate being called Bullfrog". I looked at him quizically. He said, "you know, like the song!" His name is Jeremiah. I asked if he even knew the song and he shook his head. I told him the lyrics and he smiled and said, "I guess thats not so bad, but I don't drink wine."

I spend a ton of time in the part of the building that houses our special education students. Its on the far side of the building from my office but I make multiple trips down there each day to deal with students. My boss came upon me talking to a student outside the classroom down there today, waited for me to finish, pointed to the storage closet door, and said, "Brian, I think I need to put your name above that door and make you an office down here." I think she was only half-joking!

A student told a teacher, "fuck you" and sat in my office. I let him sit there in silence for awhile as I finished a project I was working on. I turned to him and asked, "why did you say that to the teacher?" He said, "I wasn't saying it to her". "Oh yeah? Well, who were you saying it to?" Head down, he said, "I wasn't saying it to anybody. I was just saying it." I said, "let me get this straight. You walk around saying "fuck you" to no one in particular?" He nodded. I wasn't buying it and neither were his parents.

Yet another student got in trouble in class and told me the reason he was being loud and acting up was that the boys around him kept saying, "Kiddie Blues". Thats right, kiddy blues. He didn't know what it meant but it annoyed him greatly. I called in the other guys and they couldn't seem to explain what was up with "kiddie blues". I listened to all the explanations and told them I had a few points to make:
1) to the kid who was so annoyed- I'd hate to see what would happen if someone actually said something really bad to you.
2) to all of them- I don't like it when people make fun of the blues. I happen to like the blues.
3) I have a new song they were all going to be singing if they came back to my office with anymore of this nonsense. My own special song. I call it the "detention blues". Do any of you want to learn it?

They didn't seem interested in my song at all.

I just finished reading "Love and Honor" by Randall Wallace. Set in 18th century Russia, the novel depicts an American soldier sent by Benjamin Franklin to seduce Russian tsarina Catherine the Great, persuading her not to send soldiers to help the British put down the American Revolution. One fascinating historical fact that is liberally used in the novel is that Catherine had a group of ladies who worked for her called "provers". Their job? To seduce the most virile and handsome men in the Russian officer corps, discover the best lovers, and furnish those names to Catherine, who was known to have a voracious sexual appetite. Catherine would bring them in and have her way with them. The provers were supposed to keep her from being disappointed. Bad things happened to men who disappointed Catherine in bed. Geez, no pressure there!

So how is YOUR week going?


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


At my age I've become cynical about a lot of things. Politics? The church? Big time sports? I often view them with the jandiced eye of someone who has read so many stories over the years. These big institutions have let us down time and time again.

I love sports, but the P.R. pieces I read about athletes and teams sometimes cause me to roll my eyes. Its just entertainment after all. Its not that I don't think there are good people out there. But you can only read about so many sports idols who let down their adoring fans without getting a little jaded.

This story felt different to me. What Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis did last weekend really hit me in the gut. Tears came to my eyes reading this story and seeing a short piece about it on ESPN. What did he do? He met last week with 10 year old Montana Mazurkiewicz who suffered from an inoperable brain tumor. Montana knew he was very close to death when the football coach of his beloved Notre Dame came to his home and sat with him in his living room.

He told Montana about some pranks he played on Joe Montana — whom Montana was named after — while they were roommates at Notre Dame.

“I gave him a chance to hammer me on the Michigan State loss, which he did very well. He reminded me of my son,” said Weis, whose son, Charlie Jr., is 12 years old.

“He told me about his love for Notre Dame football and how he just wanted to make it through this game this week,” Weis said. “He just wanted to be able to live through this game because he knew he wasn’t going to live very much longer.”

As Weis talked to the boy, Cathy Mazurkiewicz rubbed her son’s shoulder trying to ease his pain. Weis said he could tell the boy was trying not to show he was in pain.

His mother told Montana, who had just become paralyzed from the waist down a day earlier because of the tumor, to toss her a football Weis had given him. Montana tried to throw the football, put could barely lift it. So Weis climbed into the reclining chair with him and helped him complete the pass to his mother.

Charlie Weis is a bigtime football coach. He was the offensive coordinator last year for the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots and is the new head coach at America's most fabled college program. He'll make more money this year than most of us will make in our lifetimes. He had a big game coming up that weekend, but he took the time to spend some time with this young man.

Montana was in terrible pain during this meeting but he was trying to be tough for the coach. They talked about football and about life. I cannot imagine what a thrill this must've been for Montana. The head coach of his favorite team sitting in his living room. For that precious moment he was able to smile through the pain.

Montana didn't just want to talk though. He had a suggestion for the coach. Weis asked him if there was anything he could do for him. What did this young boy want? He wanted to call the first play in Saturday's game. Weis agreed. Montana's call? Pass right. Thats all....pass right.

Before he left Montana's house, Weis signed a football for Montana. His inscription?
"Live for today for tomorrow is always another day"

Game day arrived on Saturday. Notre Dame played the University of Washington. Weis shared with his team the story of Montana. I absolutely love his reason why he chose to share this story with his athletes.

Weis said he told the team about the visit. He said it wasn’t a “Win one for the Gipper” speech, because he doesn’t believe in using individuals as inspiration. He just wanted the team to know people like Montana are out there.

“That they represent a lot of people that they don’t even realize they’re representing,” Weis said.

What a powerful lesson for a bunch of college guys. Weis is right. Athletes and other stars sometimes don't truly realize the impact they have on kids. How much they look up to them, scrutinize them, and model themselves after them.

Notre Dame recovered a fumble on its own 1 yard line. Your own one yard is a very dangerous place to throw a pass on the first play. Most teams will try a running play to get a few yards of breathing room. Montana's mom thought the same thing as she watched the game.

“I just closed my eyes. I thought, ‘There’s no way he’s going to be able to make that pass. Not from where they’re at. He’s going to get sacked and Washington’s going to get two points,”’ she said.

But Charlie Weis had made a promise to Montana. He called a pass to the right. A thirteen yard gain to start the game. Notre Dame went on to victory.

Montana never got to see it. He died the day before the game.

Weis called Montana's mother after the game and promised to come visit the family on Sunday with a game ball signed by the entire team. Montana's game ball.

Charlie Weis, what you did meant the world to that boy. Keeping your promise even after he passed away and in difficult circumstances? It showed me what kind of man you are. Notre Dame is lucky to have you as a coach, no matter how many games you win. I salute you as the kind of man I would want one of my children playing for. You thrilled a young man's heart. You comforted his family. You kept your word. You taught your team a lesson far more valuable than how to run a draw play. You taught them something about being men that they'll never learn in a classroom or on a football field.

Montana, rest in peace. You're a legend now.

Pass right.


Monday, September 26, 2005


Its Monday and therefore time for a history post. My posts usually focus on an individual. This time it focuses on a movement.

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

John Lennon's "Imagine"

Remember the communes of the 1960's? Free love? Share and share alike. Everyone contributes for the good of the whole. Children were cared for by the group. Self reliant. No need of the outside world. It didn't begin there.

For all of human history man has looked for a better way to live. In the mid 19th century the transcendentalist movement spawned the utopian movement. Utopians believed that a "perfect society" could be built. Communal living spaces sprung up in places such as Brook Farm, New Harmony, and Oneida sprung up around the nation. Mixing religious ideals, transcedentalism, and socialism, these communities were meant to show the rest of the world a better way. If it worked, it could be applied to larger society.

The utopians were quite revolutionary in mid 19th century America. They rejected traditional notions of private property ownership, capitalism, and building wealth. The focus was on agriculture and industry, and everyone was required to do their share of the work. Writing and the arts were strongly encouraged. Traditional roles of marriage and sexuality were shunned.

The Oneida community(New York) sought to rid its habitants of traditional notions of love, marriage, and sexuality. All men and women belonged to each other. Loving just one person was regarded as "selfish love", something to be avoided. All the male and female members of the community had sex with each other. Sex was noted and kept track of to prevent members from showing "favoritism". Men underwent training by experienced women so that they could learn how to satisfy a woman. Masturbation was forbidden. Children were reared by "experts" to free their mothers to pursue other talents, but parents had regular visits with their kids. Think about that the next time you buy some Oneida silverware!

The Brook Farm community (Massachusetts), founded by Unitarian minister George Ripley focused on agriculture but had limited success due to the sandy soils of the area. Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of "The Scarlett Letter", was its most famous resident, and the commune was visited by famous writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Horace Greeley. Growth of the mind was to be conditioned by hard farm work. They rejected modern civilization and the injustices that were part of modern life. Work hard. Expand your mind and let your intellectual pursuits blossom. Keep outside influences to a minimum. The Brook Farm community did not survive the loss of its main community building in a fire.

New Harmony was founded in southwest Indiana by George Rapp and sold to well known Welsh reformer Robert Owen. New Harmony was a hotbed of intellectual thought. The nation's first kindergarten was founded there and boys and girls were educated equally in the classroom. Everyone would work and share equally. No social divisions or classes, no crime, no injustices was the dream. Over 800 people called New Harmony home. Owen's belief? Mankind was tormented by a "trinity of evils": private property, traditional religion, and conventional marriage. New Harmony collapsed in disagreements among members and failed a few years after its founding.

Utopians believed that society and its institutions were the problem. Free people from those institutions, and men and women could improve their minds while living in peace. It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? So why did these communities fail? Why can't we all share in society's duties and its benefits? Is it necessary to have billionaires like Bill Gates and have others scrounging for food in trash cans? Utopians believed that it wasn't.

The opposing views of the time were held by traditional churches and political parties. They focused on eliminating sin and vices, and extolled the ability of anyone to go as far as their talents could take them. They didn't see the endemic problems with society that utopians saw, or if they did, believed they could be solved by reforming those institutions. In the minds of most people, utopians were hopelessly foolish dreamers. People inherently do what is in their own self interest, and will not be productive if they see those who contribute less receiving the same rewards they do.

Some utopian socialist ideas were put into practice in the 20th century. Karl Marx was influenced by the utopian movement when he wrote "The Communist Manifesto". In communist countries around the world private property was abolished. "From each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs." We know how that all turned out.

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

I think Lennon would've fit right in!

Questions for the class:

Is the dream of the utopians absolutely, truly impossible?

Is it even desirable?

Is the nature of man to always do what is in his/her self interest or is it possible to have a society where people sublimate their own desires for the good of the community?

Fire away!


Saturday, September 24, 2005


Lately I've been wondering:

If Charmin's super rolls of toilet paper really have four times as much as a regular roll.

What the definition of a "relationship" is.

What people did in the days before they knew days ahead of time that huricanes were coming.

Why the very people who have no business having children have so many of them.

If anyone ever sung "Dixieland" better than Elvis.

Whether my kids are so amazing because of me or in spite of me.

Why a soft drink from Sonic somehow tastes better than one from anywhere else.

Why I love folding laundry but hate putting it away.

Whether the BBQ ribs from down the street are sent straight from heaven.

Why so many things that are so enjoyable are bad for you.

What Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Karen Carpenter could've accomplished had they not died so young.

If New Orleans will ever be the same again.

What it would be like to have a maid help clean my house!

How B.B. King can play the guitar like that.

Why some songs bring tears to my eyes and I can't explain why.

Why some of the bloggers I read aren't millionaire novelists.

How I've been so lucky to meet so many fantastic people online.

If kids wanting to rub my head is a good or a bad thing.

Why health insurance seems to cover less, have higher deductibles, and still costs more.

If some risks are worth taking.

If I'll ever be financially secure again.

Why we can send a man to the moon but can't make a light bulb that will last for years or a car that gets 100 miles a gallon.

What it feels like to truly accept yourself and be at peace.

Why I'm so jealous every time I see someone with an IPOD!

If this country is ready for an inspirational leader that can bridge the point-scoring, backbiting, pointless labels that characterize politics today.

Why, given the fact that I'm not a big fan of country music, that I've been listening to "The Dance" a lot lately.

Why Patrick likes Halloween better than any other holiday, including Christmas!

Why most of my t-shirts are gray or black.

Thats what I've been wondering. Lately.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Weekend Roundup 9/23-24 

The first weekend of autumn is here. Now all I need is the weather to go with it. I know I’ll be complaining about the cold in the months to come, but right now I’d give anything for a few cool breezes.

Of course, when I want a breath of fresh air, I only have to peruse my favorite blogstops. Wanna see what I mean? Read on!

Trucker Bob bemoans the cost of fuel. Steel Cowboy bemoans the cost of a cracked engine block.

Lu spent some time in the hospital. Chicky Babe spent some time on the other side.

Andie resolves to blog about what she wants to. Phoenix is resolving to stick to her diet.

Monica’s daughter is jealous of a boy she doesn’t want. Bsoholic is jealous of an Ewok.

Lil Bit flirted with some soldiers. Maddy fought with her horse.

T. Marie wonders why she bothered to get out of bed. Chaotic Serenity wonders if she’ll have to do jury duty.

Vickie thinks we should sign a life waiver. E thinks her cable company is full of it.

Buffi doesn’t care much for her father-in-law. Irina doesn’t much care for bums.

Karen is sending in pictures for Boobiethon. (scroll to Yay For Friday!). Sleeping Mommy is commenting on blog etiquette.

Splendid got to see one of her favorite bands. Stationery Queen got most of her Christmas shopping done.

Breazy shares some movie reviews. Thomai shares her desire for honesty.

Colleen is still grieving over her sister’s death. Kyra shares her thoughts about her sister.

Keb outlines what she would do if she won the lottery. Rachel outlines her views of motherhood.

Lime jumps into blogging with her first Half Naked Thursday post. Feisty Girl blogs about the military alphabet.

Teresa is trying to break the “Matthew habit.” Annabel Lee is changing her call signs.

Hillbilly Mom shares some of her odd encounters. Kris shares her favorite “little things”.

Greek Shadow doesn’t understand why some teachers are not using computers for their grades.

Christine discusses her husband’s disorders. Joan discusses her “evil” lawnmower.

DL recalls some things from when she was little. Jennifer recalls her obsession with Bruce Springsteen.

Penny is a busy girl. Kathy has been busy too.

Che ponders the idea of love. Leslie loves her guy like a big pile of dirt.

Susan welcomes her sister to the blogworld. Stephanie would welcome a little time in the hot tub.

Chosha had an adventure making juice. Margaret’s experience teaching junior high school sounds like quite an adventure.

Melanie gives us all the finger. Veronica gives us what makes her different.

Angie remembers her prom date. Scorpy may not remember her drunken evening.

Kathy encourages us to eat at Chili’s to benefit charity. I encourage you to find out more about Inky.

Sally says we are never alone. Mystic Spirit says that part of love is being there.

Restless Angel was mistaken for someone’s mom. Chrissy thinks her mom is mistaken about a few things.
Jack shares concern about his grandparents. Cindra shares hurricane notes from Carol.

Dave has some things he likes. It sounds like Funky Cowboy liked his vacation.

Stephanie got a haircut. Lip Schtick got upset at the choice of INXS’ new front man.

Seshat gives an overview of her experiences with religion. Christine gives her thoughts on the sensitivity of writers.

Pat remembers her hometown. It also happens to be my hometown! Jen will remember her old house.

Fly Girl’s mother-in-law is coming to town. Chuck just wants his Netflix movies to get there quicker.

Janine had a funny moment. Laine had quite a moment. Her husband let her read his letters to his ex-wife.

Darla lets us see the “Harley Guy”. John lets us see what its like to be affected by a hurricane….again.

Joe had a nice dinner and talked about life. Aka Monty had an “oversleeping” moment.

Anne remembers the “paradise years” of college. Sallie remembers that there are lessons to be learned from disasters.

Redneck Diva has a few questions. Lisa has a request to help a soldier.

Love on my favorites here, ok? Spread some good weekend cheer to them.

While you're at it? Have an absolutely marvelous weekend, ok?


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Midweek Meanderings 

I'm writing my midweek post a day late. Yesterday I just had to vent about the warranty thing. I hope no one minds!

I attended a middle school football game earlier this week. You've gotta love middle school football. During the first game I watched from the press box where the air conditioner was running. In the second game I came down and sat in the bleachers with the kids to watch the game. One of the cheerleaders admonished me, "if our Dean doesn't stand during our cheers, how can we get anyone else to?" Ok, point taken.

Did you know that the last widow of a Civil War soldier died only last year? She married an 81 year old veteran of the war when she was 21 years old. After her husband passed away? She married his grandson.

I wanted something for me chapped and sore lips. The name of the product was on the tip of my lips but I couldn't think of the name. Aubree tells me, "Dad, you want Carmex. I'm an expert on lips!"

First its the car and now its my computer monitor. Light gray lines run across my monitor where they didn't this morning. The upper half of my monitor looks like lined paper. Everything is readable but its very annoying. No primal scream. Just a *sigh*.

A bright pink t-shirt worn by a boy in school says, "Don't laugh. This is your girlfriend's shirt."

I've been fussing at the warranty company guy for a couple of days. So far I've got them to add five more rental car days that they will cover. I told him that I still wasn't satisfied about the labor charges and I'd like a few more rental days covered. I'll call him again tomorrow. He's been very polite as I gently chewed on him. I told him that I appreciated what he was doing, but not to be offended if I took the items still in dispute and went to another level.

I appreciate all the comments and advice about what to do about the warranty situation. You folks absolutely rock! I may very well end up doing several of those things.

What I won't be doing is buying another one of these third party warranties. If you see me post on here about being tempted to buy one again? I offer my ass for a big hard kick.

If you read this post about the young man arrested for assaulting a teacher and his mother in the same day, I have an update. Apparently, he went to court and told the judge to, "fuck off". The judge didn't care for that remark and threw him back in lockup. Last I heard he was still there. Eleven years old. *Sigh*

On the good news front, I have been chosen to participate in my district's Principal's Aspirant Academy for this school year. A small cohort is chosen to participate each year. The idea is that you spend lots of time with the upper management of the district. There is a full day of training each month for the rest of the school year, book studies, and some "shadowing" of district leaders. Those who finish the program greatly enhance their chances for promotion within the district. Its an honor to be chosen and I'm very happy I was. My boss bent a few ears and twisted a few arms to help grease my path. I told her that her efforts meant more to me than actually getting in. Her reply? "Brian, you'll be an outstanding principal in the near future and our district needs to groom and promote talent when we find it. I don't want to lose you but you are destined for bigger things." I could've planted one right on her lips but I don't think that would've been appropriate.

Have I ever mentioned how fortunate I've been in my career to work for such great people? Every principal I've ever worked with has been absolutely wonderful to me. Each in their own way they have taught me so much. A future post about this is in order.

The kids are already dinging me about Christmas presents. How many shopping days until Christmas anyway?

So how is YOUR week going?


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Unhappy Camper 

Count me as an unsatisfied consumer right now. I feel like I've been through the wringer in trying to get my van repaired for the past several weeks. As you may remember, it broke down the Friday before Labor Day weekend. I just got it back yesterday. The problem you ask? Let me summarize as best I can.

I drive a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. We purchased it during my marriage a little over two years ago and I brought it with me when I moved back to Oklahoma. It had 30,000 miles at the time of purchase and now has 72,000 miles. At the time of purchase we were offered the option of purchasing an extended warranty from a third party warranty company. The cost? $2100.00. The advantage? It would cover everything for the next 5 years/75,000 miles. All engine components. Mechanical breakdowns. Rental car reimbursement. Towing. There would be a one-time $250.00 deductible and then every repair after that would cost $25.00.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My van breaks down. Its the transmission. I have it towed to a local dealership where it sits over the holiday weekend. I secure a rental vehicle. The following Wednesday the dealership calls with the verdict. The transmission is shot, several of the gears are broken. It needs to be replaced. No problem I thought. Thats why I paid for a warranty! I'd never used it before, never had anything done to the van except for routine maintenance.

The warranty company insists on sending out an inspector to check out the van. That takes a couple of days. Tick, tick, I'm still renting another vehicle. The dealership calls me back and gives me the news. Yes, they will replace the transmission, but not with a new one. They insist on using a salvage transmission. I call the warranty company and fuss at them. They say its their right under the contract. I don't have the contract to look at...its with my van at the dealership. Tick, tick, I'm still renting another vehicle at $30.00 a day. It will cost me over $600.00 to put in a new transmission that the warranty company won't cover. I don't have $600.00, and I think I'll be selling the van in the near future. So I tell the dealership to go ahead and install the used transmission.

The warranty company insists on procuring this used transmission themselves. They finally locate one in a far-away state. They then have to ship it to my dealership. This takes a week. Tick, tick, I'm still renting another vehicle. The transmission arrives on Monday. By yesterday afternoon its installed and I'm good to go. I just need to return my rental vehicle and go pick up my van.

Not so fast. The warranty company claims that the dealership charged too much for breakdown and diagnosis of the problem. The dealership says that they used the industry standard book for labor costs in diagnosing a transmission problem. The warranty company says that they don't recognize the book and that they calculate expected costs according to their own standards. The dealer says that he has never had a warranty company not honor labor figures from "the book". The warranty company representative says that it is not their problem if the dealer overcharges me for labor. The bottom line? I'm on the hook for another $150.00.

The contract only covers five days of rental car reimbursement. I had a rental car for seventeen days. At least seven days of that time was my van sitting in the parking lot awaiting a used transmission shipped from far away. A transmission could have been procured locally in one day. My rental vehicle cost? Over $500.00.

As the dust clears, I'm over $900.00 out of pocket for this breakdown and I have a used transmission installed in my van. I purchased this warranty to avoid having huge out-of-pocket costs like this. To have peace of mind. I'm feeling majorly hosed here and feel like the waranty was misrepresented to me at the time of sale. There are pages of fine print in the contract, and I'm scouring them in the next couple of days. I feel ripped off, violated, and somewhat powerless.

I'm usually a get-along and go-along kinda guy. I don't complain to restaurant managers to get free meals if the food or service is subpar. I don't threaten lawsuits when my kids slip and fall on a wet floor in a store. I just roll with punches about minor injustices. In this case, I'm very upset and not exactly sure where to go with it. For the moment, I'm going to put my educator's eye to this legal document and see if my feelings are justified. I don't want money that isn't mine. I'm going to ponder any options I might have.

My belief right now? I think the letter AND the spirit of the warranty have been violated. The whole experience has left a very sour taste in my mouth. I've spent money I cannot afford and I'm in a bind I didn't expect to be in.

Cover your ears while I let out a primal scream.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Questions Anyone? 

I asked for questions to answer and several of you responded. I asked to be challenged, and some of these questions certainly do that. Thanks to all those who submitted questions!

What do you love or enjoy most about your children? Least?

Patrick? I love his sense of humor and his creativity. He has a way of saying the funniest things at the funniest times. My mom was once talking about Adam and Eve at the dinner table. Patrick listened quietly and piped up, "You just left one thing out. The atom is the building block of life!" Patrick can make the most incredible things out of the most common objects. Toilet paper rolls, old bicycle wheels, a ball of yarn, and shoe boxes are the palettes of his own artist's touch. Its amazing. He is also an extremely loving and affectionate child.

What I like least about him is his seeming oblivion to the environment around him. While he is creating his masterpieces he is also making the most terrible messes. The floor to his room is often littered with tiny pieces of cardboard, beads, little pieces of plastic, and cut-up 2-liter pop bottles. He focuses on what he is doing and just doesn't seem interested in the outcome of his actions.

Aubree? Oh my, there are so many things to love. She too is creative, but in a different way. She enjoys drawing and writing. She is so curious about so many things around her. She is witty and bright. She is able to articulate her feelings better than many adults I know. She melts my heart with her smile and her loving nature.

Like least? Well, she is a girl with a temper which can go off just like that. Doesn't get her way? Those biting words come flying out very quickly. She rarely gets in trouble with me for things she does. She gets in trouble for her smart mouth!

Is Lee the mother of your children or were you married before?

I've been married twice. The first time for fourteen years and to Lee for almost eight years. Both of my kids were adopted by me with my first wife.

What made you decide to persue a teaching career?

Other than girls, my two loves as a high school senior were history and basketball. I decided that I would become a teacher and coach. I wavered quite a bit on this decision. I even changed my major to Computer Information Systems during my sophomore year of college. I thought I might be happier in a career that offered more money. But I changed my major back and pursued a teaching certificate.

Does it bug you when you see it reported in the media, that someone committing some heinous act is "...the adopted son of so and so....?" How do you feel about the various movies or books or whatever that portray accounts of adoptions as either heroic or tragic?

Of course it bugs me. My kids are my kids every bit as much as someone else's biological children. Its neither brave, tragic, or heroic. I chose to bring these children into my life. They've been with me since they were tiny infants. I would be horrified and offended to hear anyone refer to them as my "adopted children." They are simply....my children. Just like yours.

What are you going to use as the guide to know when it is time to introduce the female in your life to your children or will you just know it?

I've written about this before and it is one of the questions that vexes me the most. Its a conundrum in some ways. I've thought that I don't want to introduce the kids to someone unless I have a reasonable belief that things will work out between the two of us. But I can't really know if its going to work out until she meets the kids.
At other times I think I can just introduce her as a "friend" an not be so uptight about it. If I don't make a big deal out of it, the kids won't either.
I go back and forth between these two opinions quite a bit.

How is it that you have custody of your children?

When my first wife and I decided to separate and then divorce, this was never really in question. As a matter of fact, she said on the night we decided to split, "of course you'll keep the children." There have never been any custody fights or disputes with her. It was just always something that was assumed. I wanted the kids and she wanted me to have them.

Are you feeling recovered from your marriage and divorce with Lee?

Recovered? I have to really ponder that word. I'm not as disabled by my emotions as I was after we split. I don't know that I'll ever reach a point where I can definitively say, "I'm completely and totally recovered." It still hurts sometimes. Things, places, songs, remind me when I don't want to be reminded. But I'm not angry anymore and it doesn't hurt nearly as bad. Like a big ship changing course, I'm slowly but surely working on re-making my life.

Is it better to just show up and surprise someone from your past or is it better to call ahead and set up a time (say, lunch)? Warn or surpise?

For me? Generally speaking, I'd love to be surprised. There's a rush that you get from an unexpected surprise visit that I really enjoy! I also like pulling surprises like this. I hope to visit Washington next spring and I'm really considering just dropping by my old school unexpectedly. Just walk in the door and see the reactions on everyone's face!

Where do you find things to blog on every day?

Everywhere you can think of. My job is fertile ground for blog material. My kids are equally good sources. My separation/divorce/relationship issues have certainly made for many a post. Childhood memories. Significant life events. Things in the world around me such as recent posts on Hurrican Katrina. Music. Food. So many posts. So little time!

That was fun. I may do one more round of these if anyone wants to send in more questions.


Monday, September 19, 2005

The Professorial Soldier 

Its time for a history post again!

Ever had one of those moments where you made a decision that affected the rest of your life? Moments that defined you? Moments that changed things forever?

What if that moment not only changed your life but the life of a nation? Perhaps changed the history of the world? Joshua Chamberlain had such a moment. He fought in over 20 Civil War battles, but it is his actions at Gettysburg that have brought him fame.

It was unlikely that Chamberlain would face such a moment. He grew up in the small town of Brewer, Maine. He was known as a serious, soft-spoken, thoughtful young man who had interests in horseback riding, swimming, and sailing. He chose the ministry for a career with a focus as serving as a missionary in a foreign land, enrolled in Bowdoin College, and prepared for his future. He worked to overcome his stuttering problem, learned how to play the violin and bass fiddle, and mastered nine different languages. He attended seminary after his graduation, earning a master's degree, married a minister's daughter named Frances, and decided to pursue life as a scholar. He returned to Bowdoin as a professor of rhetoric and oratory.

The Civil War broke out in 1861 and Chamberlain decided to enlist in the Army instead of teaching overseas. Because of his education he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in Maine's 20th Regiment. Several of his soldiers were former students. Chamberlain's education had exposed him to history, the study of military campaigns, and military theory, but he had no experience at all as a soldier. However, he was well-liked and respected by the soldiers in his regiment and by his superiors for his thoughtfulness and common sense.

The biggest battle of the Civil War would take place in the hills of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had decided to launch an offensive and invade the northern states. After two years of playing defense, he wanted to strike deep into the heart of Union territory. If successful, the Confederacy would be in a strong position to negotiate a permanent division of the country into two separate nations.

The two great armies met in the sleepy college town of Gettysburg. Meade's Union army, 95,000 strong, seized the high ground to the south of the city. Lee's army, numbering 75,000 having marched hundreds of miles, found themselves facing a larger opponent, in better position, and becoming better reinforced by the day. Several of Lee's commanders urged him to not to fight here, to engage the enemy in better circumstances. In a momentous decision, Lee felt like this would have to be where his army made their stand.

The battle began in earnest on July 1, 1863. Fierce artillery barrages rang up and down the hills. Lee sent 15,000 of his finest soldiers in a direct assault on the center of the Union army. "Pickett's charge" would fail and many thousands would lay dead on the battlefield. Hundreds of men would suffer permanent hearing loss from the incredible number of shots fired. Survivors talked of stepping over bodies and walking in blood inches deep.

On Cemetery Ride, on the far left side of the Union's army, Chamberlain's regiment was stationed. His orders? Hold "Little Round Top" at all costs. He and his men became the focal point of a withering Confederate attack. The logic was simple. Defeat Chamberlain and you now flanked the entire Union army. The Confederates could sweep in behind their attackers and have them in a vise. This would force the Union army into a desperate retreat or perhaps even a surrender. There would be no army between Lee and Washington, D.C. A decisive southern victory could lead to the end of the war and the permanent partition of the United States.

After hours of fighting, Chamberlain and his men were wearing down. A big chunk of his regiment was dead or injured. They were almost out of ammunition. The Confederates were charging, re-grouping, and charging again. How much more could they take? Chamberlain himself had already been wounded twice. He wasn't sure they could stand another sustained assault.

So Chamberlain made a decision that would change history. Rather than sit and try to defend his fortified position, he ordered his men to rise and fix their bayonets. They swept down the hill like a "swinging gate", taking the Confederates completely by surprise. They drove their attackers off the hill, saving the flank, and saving the Union itself. Although the battle could best be described as a draw, it was devastating to the Confederacy. Lee had to retreat back into the South and would never be able to launch an offensive again. He could not afford the massive casualties suffered at Gettysburg.

Chamberlain was promoted to general and continued to fight until the end of the war. He received life-threatening injuries and toward the end could barely mount a horse. At Appomattox Court House he was chosen to receive the formal surrender of Lee's army to General Grant.

When the war was over he returned to his native Maine and entered politics. He served four terms as his state's governor, wrote books about his wartime experiences, and lectured at local colleges. He entered the business world and was involved in a series of successful business adventure. He would die in 1914 from complications from an old war wound.

When the war was over, Chamberlain received this letter from a former Confederate soldier:

“Dear Sir: I want to tell you of a little passage in the battle of Round Top, Gettysburg concerning you and me, which I am now glad of. Twice in that fight I had your life in my hands. I got a safe place between two rocks, and drew bead fair and square on you. You were standing in the open behind the center of your line, full exposed. I knew your rank by your uniform and your actions, and I thought it a mighty good thing to put you out of the way. I rested my gun on the rock and took steady aim. I started to pull the trigger, but some queer notion stopped me. Then I got ashamed of my weakness and went through the same motions again. I had you, perfectly certain. But that same queer something shut right down on me. I couldn’t pull the trigger, and gave it up - that is, your life. I am glad of it now, and hope you are.”

Chamberlain wasn't the only one who made a history changing decision on that bloody day.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

In The End 

I suppose I'm at the age where thoughts of my own demise creep into my consciousness sometimes. I don't think its maudlin to realize how frail an existence we live here on this planet. I'm in good health and have no reason to believe that I won't be still flailing away in my little corner of the world thirty years from now.

I, of course, don't want to die for many reasons. I'm scared of death like most people are. I don't think that is cowardice. Its a desire of all living things to try and extend their lives for as long as possible. As a single father I don't want to leave my kids without the only constant they've ever had in their lives. I also feel like I have so much more to accomplish in my career, so much more to do.

I think I began thinking about this from the sight off all the deaths from Hurricane Katrina. A few weeks ago, all of those people were just living their lives as they'd always done. They were going to work, talking to neighbors, chatting with friends on the phone, playing cards in their nursing home, going to school, or playing with their kids in the backyard. Nature's devastating force swept in and ended the lives of thousands. A month ago none of those people thought they would be dead today.

It could happen to any of us at any time on any day. That is a scary thought, but it also gives a sense of peace. Unless I jump off of a bridge, its something I have no control over. My time could come tomorrow, next month, next year, or in forty years. So I think it about it sometimes but I don't worry about it.

I do believe something I haven't talked about very much. I believe all of us are here for a purpose. For thousands of years the question has been asked, "why are we here? What is our purpose?" We don't always understand what that purpose is, but we spend our lives trying to find it, hone it, and live it out. I have a sense that I've at least partially found my purpose but that I haven't fulfilled it. I don't think I've realized my potential. I've floundered, lost my way, and let my weaknesses define me way too often.

I think there are other purposes out there for me. I can see some of them peeking over the horizon, beckoning me forward. Others wait to be discovered. Thats the good thing about life. Its not like a task where you can say, "Ok, thats it. I'm done. I've accomplished it all." You can feel good about your life, but you can always know that there are other challenges to meet or other desires to be fulfilled.

In the end I want to have mattered, to have made a difference, to have found my purpose(s). Toward the end of the movie, "Glory", Denzel Washington's character is gathered with the other soldiers on the night before battle. They all knew that many of them would not make it through the next day. He said, "it doesn't matter what happens tomorrow. We're men now."There is a freedom in that feeling.

Maybe it is that I want to believe that everything that has happened in the last sixteen months has some other purpose than the pain involved. That it has taught me something, tempered me, prepared me for some other purpose. Maybe to achieve happiness I need to know what despair feels like. Maybe I've learned how to handle adversity in a way that prepares me for a future challenge. Just maybe.

To use a sports metaphor, I'm at halftime of my life. In sports, halftime is an opportunity to do several things. You look back at the first half, see what has worked for you, and where you've been deficient. But thats not all you do. You create a vision for the second half. Whether you're ahead or behind, you find that vision. You can't anticipate everything that is going to happen out there, but you make adjustments as you can. Then you go back out there and try to win. The last year feels like halftime for me.

At least I'm not hiding in the locker room anymore.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Weekend Roundup 9/16-9/17 

The first breezes of autumn blew across my corner of the world today. It was a beautiful day today, an Indian summer kind of day. Naturally, I had to be working all day!

Its been a busy week for me, and from the looks of things its been quite a week in the blogworld as well. Anyone want to take a leisurely fall stroll through blogland with me?

The Real Me wants to know if cyber relationships can be considered “cheating.” Teresa wants to know who is on your “list” …people you would sleep with, married or not.

Faith celebrates the changes in last 365 days. John is celebrating recovery from the hurricane but is appalled at some of the “big business” aspects of relief. Read both of these posts.

Chrissy shares some pictures from Hurricane Ophelia. “E” shares some things you didn’t know about her and one of them is a lie.

Grace is feeling very good and not listening to her “addictive voice.” Lil Bit is feeling like she has the blahs.

Mary Lou is thinking about earthquakes. Thomai is thinking about the spirit of the people of New Orleans and starting over.

Simply Satisfied reviews an episode of “Survivor”. Stephanie reviews a song list that fits someone she is angry with.

Joan designated someone to notify her blog in the event of her demise. Karen designated her blog as a laughter zone with Friday’s post.

Sally salutes her granddaughter’s courage. Phoenix salutes the legendary Mae West.

Jack ran off a couple of teenagers who were making out in his neighborhood.

Vickie has some wishes for a special person. Monica has a collection of random thoughts.

DL has a new job! Want a meal? So does Dave. Need flowers?

Lewis talks about his guru and taking a vision quest. Sue talks about the poor air quality in her area caused by a bog fire.

Jewels describes the death of a blog. Steel Cowboy describes what he gets from reading his favorite blogs.

Kyra was all dressed up to go and her husband fell asleep, but she didn’t really mind. Had she gone to see the Foo Fighters she could’ve discussed it with Chosha.

Irina discusses how she chooses what to read and the temptation of reading what everyone else is reading. Colleen discusses her life in terms of “sevens.”

Sleeping Mommy’s son is having problems with another kid at school. Margaret’s daughter is packing up and heading to college.

Stacey went to Grapefest and it sounds like she had a blast. Buffi went to Washington, D.C. and it sounds like she had a great time too! I’m jealous.

Breazy describes her body. Veronica describes what it means to be a local.

Chaotic Serenity explains the concept of “orchid letters” and “onion letters.” Greek Shadow explains a few definitions.

Ginger receives an invitation to attend “Trump University”. How long does it learn to say, “You’re fired”? Scorpy needs to receive a visit from Ed McMahon. She’s broke. I know the feeling!

Mercy shares an intriguing picture but doesn’t tell the story behind it. Hillbilly Mom shares a lunchroom story.

Stationery Queen likes to observe from a distance. Janine likes to observe scenery from an airplane.

Fly Girl thinks she’s developing a phone phobia. Pauly could be developing a phobia about thank you notes.

Red Head Gal relapsed over her vacation. I’m glad to see her back. Erin had some ups and downs.

Dawn is going to collect herself some “Boyd Bears.” Curtis is giving Ellen an early birthday present!

Restless Angel shares 43 things she wants to do before she dies. Babs shares her revelation about geeks.

Caren is happy to get her big stash of yarn. Jennifer is always happy when she can do scrapbooking.

Lisa answers some questions and does it well! Kathy puts photos and meaning into “Invictus”.

Anne misses Jimmy Carter and some other things from the 70’s. Rachel misses the “me” that she sees in a portrait.

Cindra says Ophelia is a wishy washy hurricane. T. Marie says that most women secretly like being openly admired by men.

Michelle describes a bad experience from hypnosis. Saffiyah describes a girl named Sarah and the prejudices that changed her life.

Christine’s husband said some terrible things to her son. Splendid has been married to her husband for twenty years. Happy Anniversary!

Sarah describes a hellish experience of trying to see a neurologist. It looks like Nicole is frustrated with the process of buying a new home.

I don’t know if Feisty Girl is having sideways sex (sorry about last week!), but she is cleaning linoleum. If you are having sex, AKA Monty wants you to think about some unaddressed issues.

Amanda has a lot going on in her life. It sounds like Andie has too. Come back and post sometime you two!

Annabel Lee was disappointed with the salary offer from a prospective employer.

Kim’s kids didn’t like hearing songs from “The Partridge Family.” Cyn’s kid probably didn’t like mom complaining about the messiness of the room.

Bsoholic went to the fair. Lisa went to the unemployment line, but not for long!

ChickyBabe shares a conversation with a non-blogger. Darla shares a non-blogger’s answers to her questions.

Muse shares a picture of her backside. Melanie shares pictures of her tattoos.

Joe is howling at the moon. Inky is talking with a local guy who found her blog.

Walker doesn’t see the logic in how some people act. Trucker Bob doesn’t see how you couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the Alaskan Highway.

Lu shares a most excellent driving mix. Seshat shares one of the things she hates.

Stop by, leave some comments, and enjoy some of these superb posts. I enjoyed reading all of them!

I’m still asking for questions for an upcoming question/answer post. Email me a question or two!

Have a marvelous weekend my friends.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Trilogy 

Three events dominated by mind today. Two of them are very sad and one is a cause for celebration. I hope you don't mind if I vent my thoughts on each of them.

A pretty twelve year old girl was brought to me this morning. Her teacher said, "you have to tell him. You just have to." Wordlessly the girl rolled up her sweater sleeves to reveal large red marks across her swollen wrists. Standing the empty hallway I softly asked her, "how did that happen sweetie?" She said, "my momma did it to me." How? "she used an extension cord." Why? "Because I got in trouble at school yesterday. What did you do to get in trouble? "I was chewing gum in class and the teacher wrote it in my notebook." She did this because you were in trouble for chewing gum? "Yes." Her mother also instructed her to wear the long sweater and if anyone asked about the marks to say, "none of your business." I bit back the profanity that sprung to my lips, took her to my office, and asked her some more about it. She grabbed my arm and BEGGED me not to tell anyone else. I told her I had to and it was for her safety. She sobbed and said, "they won't do anything and I'll just be in more trouble." I hated to admit that she might be right. Five kids in the home. She's the oldest. This isn't the first time. Yes, its done to the younger ones too. Single mom.

I don't have to bite anything back here. What the fuck? Yes, I want parents to be supportive of school disciplinary efforts. Take her TV away for the evening. Ground her for the weekend. But how dare you take this beautiful child and scar her with a damn extension cord? The police were called, they did an interview, took their report, and referred it to Human Services. If history is a guide it will probably happen again. I know parents get frustrated with kids and do things they shouldn't do, but this is way beyond the pale. I'm still seething just sitting here thinking about it.

Then there was the young man who hit a teacher today. He had been in my office awhile earlier for a minor offense. It was the second time I'd dealt with him this year. We talked through the problem and I chatted with his dad on the phone. He agreed to go back and do what he was supposed to do. We shook hands and he smiled. I walked him back to class. Twenty minutes later he was back in my office. He'd struck a teacher, angry because she was blocking the door, he was upset about something else, and didn't want to listen to what she had to say. I investigated and took statements from everyone involved. The teacher filed a report with the police, I suspended him for a very long time, investigated alternative school placement, and called his mother. She came, picked him up, and left. I found out awhile later that the two of them had an altercation in our parking lot. The police were called. He was arrested for assault on his mother. Now he's facing two assault charges in the same day. That sound you hear is a big sigh. Twelve years old. Such a damn waste. I even feel a little guilty. I'd thought about sending him home for the day on his first trip to see me. I gave him another chance and we see how that worked out. But then I know somewhere in my heart that it was a matter of time before something like this would've happened.

Then there is my good news. When I arrived to pick up the kids at my parent's house, my youngest brother and his wife were there. Their news? She found out she was pregnant yesterday with their first child. My brother Matt is 36 years old and will be a father for the first time. He and Stephanie will be superb parents. They both have a lot of passion for life, huge hearts, and a love of kids. Stephanie told me that she hoped it was a boy. She said, "You see how Matt spoils your daughter and his other nieces? He'd never say no to a girl." Hehe. Matt has grown so much over the years and I'm so proud of him. They are both ready for this and I'm just beyond thrilled for them.

My emotions have run the gamut today. There is nothing that reaches down and grabs my soul like talking about children. Some of them have to overcome so much just to survive each day. Others win the parent lottery like my soon-to-be niece or nephew.

Its a helluva world, isn't it?


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Midweek Meanderings 

I'm not sure Wednesday has ever gotten here any quicker. These days have just FLOWN by. My work days just vanish. It seems like I walk in, a big blur happens, and I walk back out.

I've been driving a rental vehicle for almost two weeks while my van is in the shop. It is supposed to be ready tomorrow. I'll be happy to get it back, but I am thoroughly enjoying driving the brand new wheels around. I was driving yesterday morning, feeling totally luxurious, wearing a suit and tie, and listening to N.P.R. All I needed was a Starbucks latte to be a complete yuppie.

My comments have been driving me crazy. I've used HaloScan for almost two years now and its always been an excellent comment service. Lately, my comment link seems to appear and disappear at random. Its here and then it isn't. Many people have emailed me asking what is up with the comments. I've reinstalled the code, posted in the support forum, and read through all the help files. If anyone out there has expertise in this area and wants to look at my code and figure this out, I'd be eternally grateful. Other Blogspot users seem to be using HaloScan without this difficulty.

Aubree brought him her weekly progress report and was horrified. She had a "B" in math. She hates that and said, "it won't be that way for long." She can't stand it.

I talked to my ex-wife last night and found that our former babysitter safely fled Louisiana and is now in Washington, staying with Lee. I was very relieved to hear it. I had been thinking about Lisa(our babysitter) a lot in the last week. I'm glad that she's safe and I enjoyed the chance to chat with her for a few minutes.

I'm getting Patrick a regular sized bed for his room soon. I just can't stand the king sized bed in there anymore. It takes up over 3/4 of the room when its put together. He likes to pull the mattress off the bed and make a "fort". Then I can't even get in the door! Picture this: My dad gave Patrick a bunch of rubber tubing from his oxygen tank. Patrick strings it up and ties it all over the place, hanging blankets from it. Then he pulls the mattress off his bed and you can't even see the floor anywhere in the room.

A bunch of students in the cafeteria today accused a young man of cutting in line. He swore that he had not cut in line. I called him over to me, smiled, and looked him right in the eye. I said, "if you can look me straight in the eye and tell me honestly that you didn't cut, I'll believe you and let you keep your place in line. I know you wouldn't lie to me." Twice he looked me in the eye and started the sentence but couldn't complete it. He laughed, gave me a high five, and walked to the back of the line without another word.

We are under a time crunch to test all of our E.L.L. (English Limited Learners) students and I have pitched in to help the teachers out. I've spent several days calling kids to my office and giving them the oral English test. The better they speak English, the longer the test takes. If they are totally fluent it takes about 30 minutes. Can't speak a word? They are out the door in less than five minutes. Its actually been kinda fun getting to know those kids and to even practice a bit of the college Spanish that I remember.

Patrick went out the door to catch his bus a couple of mornings ago and I realized almost as soon as he shut the door that I had forgotten to give him his lunch money. I snatched money from my wallet ran to the door just to see him climbing on the bus and the door closing. I started to run out the door but then suddenly realized that I was in my underwear! I opened the door partially and tried to yell loud enough to get the driver's attention, but to no avail. I did arrange for him to get his lunch money and didn't have to run across the yard in my underwear to do it!

Aubree has a thing about the female cashiers in Wal Mart. Sometimes she accuses me of flirting with them. Ahem. We stopped yesterday to pick up a few things and after we went through the checkout line she said, "that woman was kinda cute but she's too old for you." I said, "Aubree, she's probably ten years younger than I am!" Her reply? "Dad, you know what I mean." Actually, I'm not sure I do!

Aubree talks on the phone a LOT these days. Every time I turn around she is chatting away to one of her friends. Sometimes she even lets me use the phone.

A commenter several posts ago asked if I'd be willing to answer your questions. After all, I posted questions for everyone else to answer. Its been quite some time since I've done a "questions" post. Maybe its time to do it again. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, email it to me and let me know whether you want it to be anonymous question or want to be credited for it. I'll post the answers in an upcoming post. Subject matter? Completely and totally open. I'll answer every question. If for some reason I don't feel comfortable answering it in a post, I'll respond privately and explain why. Fair enough? Lets have some questions. Challenge me a bit!

I removed the NeoStats country counter from my sidebar, thinking it might somehow have been the cause of my comments problem since it was the only think on my blog I've changed in weeks. If that turns out not to be true, I'll put it back up a day or two. I was actually enjoying seeing the stats. Visitors from 45 different countries in just a couple of weeks? I've gotta write a post about that some day.

So how is YOUR week going?


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fitting In 

I look at the boys sitting in front of me and say, "I don't get it. You two guys got into a fight after school. You've sit here talking to me for fifteen minutes and I STILL haven't heard a good reason why you fought each other. Neither of you insulted the other one's mother, race, religion, or said their sister was ugly. You both called each other "faggots" but you do that all the time. I just don't get it." They sat there looking sheepishly at me and I just stare at them. You learn a lot in this world when you know when not to say anything. Just let the question lay out there for awhile and see if they will fill the silence.

The clean cut one piped up and said, "well, he's a punk and I'm a prep. We just don't like each other very much." The other one nodded his head affirmatively. They both just looked at me as if that explained it all. I summoned up my most exasperated look and said, "you've got to be kidding me. You want to fight someone because he's different from you? You both need to work out more because you've got a lifetime full of fights ahead of you. Are you really so young that you haven't yet realized that it takes all kinds of people to make this world go round?" They both shrugged and tried to explain to me how things were.

I may have acted like I was surprised, but I wasn't of course. For 38 of my 44 years in this life I have been in schools. These divisions have always been there. Kids define themselves as part of a group or several groups. When I ask one kid about another, this is one of the first bits of information I receive. They call them something different now, but these are largely the same groups that existed when I was in school.

School is a social situation and everyone wants to find a way to fit in. The way you fit in is to find a group of people that accept you. If you don't fit in with any of the groups, you adapt so that you can or start a group of your own. This becomes your identity, your home base, and your tribe. You hang out together, you commiserate with each other, and back each other up.

In case you were wondering, I thought I'd let everyone know that many of the same groups you remember in school are carrying on the tradition. Lets review, shall we?
There are many other smaller, less defined groups. Some kids don't really ever find a group they fit into. They get through by finding a friend or two or by going it alone. Remember how it was? It is still largely that way now.

I struggled to define my own group identity when I was in school. I made good grades but wasn't brilliant enough to be a "geek". I wasn't stylish, suave, or physically attractive enough to be a "prep". I was an athlete, but didn't really blossom in that area until high school. Toss in the fact that I was basically very shy, and I often felt like I was on the fringe of several groups, but not totally accepted by any of them.

I wish I could've told my two young charges that the group mentality is something we outgrow. But we really don't, do we? As adults we have a better defined individual identity, but we still group ourselves, and the "us vs them" mentality is hard to overcome. We do it all the time. Our politics today, as never before, is characterized by personal attacks on the "other side". Adults divide themselves along racial lines just like kids do. People buy houses in gated communities to shield themselves from people who aren't like them. Christians vs non-believers. Blue collar vs white collar. Smokers vs non-smokers. Traditionalists vs modernists.

Its not necessarily a bad thing to seek out others who are like you or believe as you do. Indeed, its a very natural thing to do. Its comfortable and its safe. It reaffirms your own virtue. After all, you only have to look around your table at the restaurant, your church group, your travel companions, or the people at your background barbecue to know that you belong somewhere.

The danger? Its the insularity that comes when you surround yourself only with people just like you. Its like living in a cocoon. You aren't challenged. Maybe you like it that way. The two young men in front of me weren't even really looking at each other like human beings. They were just part of the "other group" or the "other side". What they are missing out on is understanding the uniqueness that all of us have to offer the world. They miss out learning that when all is said and done we have so much that should bring us together, but instead we focus so much on our differences that we can't see it.

I watched them today as they began serving their long sentence of detention together. They were sitting together on the "detention bench" after school and they were talking to each other. I wonder if that detention will teach them more than just not to fight at school. For the next couple of weeks they will share the same burden together. Its not unlike the same burdens we all share as adults.

Maybe we could all use a little detention


Monday, September 12, 2005

Sex In The City 

He was a pioneering researcher at a time when sex was something that was never discussed in polite company. It was a taboo subject in newspapers, television, and radio. Sex was something married people did, primarily for procreational purposes, and never talked about. Although sexuality was a driving force of human behavior, most scholars and researchers simply ignored it. His research was controversial, and still is even to this day. His impact on history is widespread and obvious.

His name was Alfred Kinsey and the publication of "Sexual Behavior In the Human Male" sent shockwaves through a nation in 1948. Although there were many flaws in his sample and in his research methodologies, he brought the subject of sex to the attention of a repressed nation. He followed up in 1953 with "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female", once again sending shockwaves across the national consciousness.

Ever watch reruns of "The Honeymooners" or "I Love Lucy"? We never saw Ralph and Alice's bedroom. Sure, you'd hear, "baby you're the greatest", and see a kiss as the credits scrolled. Ricky and Lucy were shown sleeping in separate beds and in industrial strength pajamas. How little Ricky came to be we'll never know. Sex wasn't something that was part of the national discussion. Kinsey changed all that. His research brought into discussion things that had only been whispered about behind closed doors.

To deny the impact of sexuality on history is to deny the obvious. Wars have been fought over sexual attraction. Kings have given up their thrones. A president has been brought to the precipice of impeachment. Millions of marriages have ended over sexual issues. Sex drives human behavior as few other things do.

His exhaustive (over 300 questions) interviews with research subjects over a period of years led him to publish his findings. He engaged in sexual experimentation of his own during this period. His research methods were crude and inaccurate by today's standards, but were shocking for the times (See below a comparison of some of Kinsey's research to a more modern study). To put this in perspective, at the time of Kinsey's report, "sodomy" was a felony in most states and punishable by imprisonment and "Playboy" and "Penthouse" magazines did not yet exist.

Among Kinsey's more shocking findings:

A comparison of Kinsey's work with a 1994 study:



Kinsey (1948) Laumann et al.(1994)

Kinsey (1953) Laumann et al. (1994)

Have masturbated

90% -----63%

62%----- 42%

Have had premarital intercourse

85%---- 74-81%

50% ----45-73%

Have had extramarital intercourse

30-45%--- 26%

26% -----15%

Have had oral sex

59%---- 77-79%

Have had at least one homosexual contact resulting in an orgasm

37%----- 5%

13% ----4%

Have patronized prostitutes

70%---- 15%

I actually tend to believe Kinsey's numbers on masturbation. I have a hard time believing that almost 6/10 of all females have never masturbated. His numbers on pre-marital and extra-marital sex look pretty close to modern data. The big chasm is his conclusions on homosexual experiences and this was explained by the over-inclusion of gay males in his sample. Note the increase in oral sex, which has become more popular in the last 50 years.

Kinsey's report was the forerunner of the sexual revolution in the 1960's. Advocates of "free love" pointed toward his conclusions as evidence that many had the desire but were repressed by society. The women's rights movement used his data as evidence that sex was just another area where women were being repressed by a male-dominated society. A whole lot of people got lucky as a result of a dry research paper full of statistics. Has any one person in history ever been responsible for so many orgasms? (tongue planted firmly in cheek) A thought to ponder!

I'm fascinated by the schizophrenic way we treat sex in today's society. It is glamorized in movies, magazines, and on television. Sex sells products like nothing else does. Right here in conservative Oklahoma I drive by "sex shops" daily. We are presented with a galaxy of gorgeous babes and hunky men. Sexual topics are by far the most searched on the internet. Sexual toys and aids have never been more popular. A variety of magazines and websites cater to every possible whim and fetish. A Google search on the word "sex" reveals 213 MILLION websites. I can go to the beach and see a woman in an off-the-shelf swimsuit unashamedly showing her cleavage and her ass. Sex is literally everywhere you turn. I think this has raised our sexual expectations. A quick hump has been the norm for thousands of years. But when we pay attention to the media out there, it seems like everyone else is having rip-roaring, spine-tingling, wall-thumping sex. What are we missing out on? We want what we think everyone else is getting.

On the other hand, we still treat sex as a taboo topic in many ways. Sex education is schools is a joke. We'd be better off handing out stickers that say, "dont ever have sex" and teaching them more math. We react with surprise that a middle aged American president has a sexual dalliance with a comely intern. People are treated for "sexual addiction". Homosexuality is still hugely controversial and the debate continues to rage about whether it is a choice or something you're born with. How many people out there suffer from major guilt over a sexual issue? Many parents are afraid to openly discuss sex with their kids, fearing that the somehow that discussion will lead them to have sex. Today's kids are more sexually aware than any before them, but a large number lack even a rudimentary understanding of sexuality. Janet Jackson's boob flashes on national television and creates a firestorm. Women who have active sex lives are called "sluts", while men are given a free pass with a smile and a chuckle. Boys will be boys, don't ya know. We are hung up on sex and STILL don't know how to think about it and talk about it. Right here in this blog I am very circumspect about my sexuality. I'll write about almost anything else, but my programming runs too deep to discuss my own feelings about sex in such an "open" place. I either keep it to myself, discuss with trusted friends, or write about it in a more secret place.

We still haven't come to grips with what sex really means. Is it a holy act and only appropriate as part of the sacrament of marriage as many believe? Is it just a physical act with no more spiritual importance than receiving a good massage? Is it something sacred or should you be able to fuck anyone you want without moral repercussions? Am I the only one whose moral and religious upbringing comes into direct conflict with inner thoughts and desires?

Kinsey is reported to have said, "the only unnatural sex act is one you cannot perform." Can you understand how controversial such a statement must've been in the June Cleaver 1950's? Kinsey discussed bestiality with the same impartial tone he used to discuss the missionary position. The sexual materials available at the time mostly focused on self-control. Here's how you do it in a handful of basic positions. Have other ideas? Purge those from your thoughts.

Actress Mae West said, "If Kinsey is right, I have only done what comes naturally, what the average American does secretly, drenching himself in guilt fixations and phobias because of his sense of sinning. I have never felt myself a sinner or committed what I would call a sin."

Kinsey was a flawed man, unsure of his own sexuality, and some of his research methods were not in line with today's standards. But the impact of his writing was undeniably huge. It sparked a transformation in American society that is still going on today.


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