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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

A Monday holiday always throws off my timing. At least I remembered to get the garbage can to the curb last night.

The kids come back tomorrow. I've been cleaning up their rooms, both as a surprise for them and as a way to get rid of broken toys, too-small clothing, and other things we don't need for our upcoming move.

I sat through an daylong symposium today on instructional leadership. The speakers and subject matter were interesting, but a full day of sitting in one seat is hard to take. Still, I did learn quite a bit and acquired some food for thought.

One statistic that was tossed out. A child who has been retained twice for academic reasons only has about a 10% chance of graduating from high school. Retained once? 50% chance.

The symposium was held at Booker T. Washington High School, named one of America's 100 best high schools by Newsweek magazine. It is a spectacular building, just remodeled a few years ago.

My first summer class was cancelled, so I'm due to start my doctoral program on July 7th. This gives me a little bit of an unanticipated break. I'm sure I'll find something to fill the time with. :)

I enjoyed the comments on my previous post. I've already thought of some other songs that would HAVE to be on that list.

No Joan, I didn't get married last weekend, but had we wanted to, we were in the right place. Euereka Springs may rival Las Vegas in the number of wedding chapels. We saw two different wedding parties on the lawn of one of the hotels and several cars with "Just Got Married" painted on them.

Another thing I found odd were restaurants with very limited hours. One restaurant that we intended to visit was only open from 5-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Whats up with that? A tourist town full of people. Nice big restaurant with an enticing menu. Only open eight hours a week?

We also went and saw "The DaVinci Code". I kept telling myself, "they can't put it all in the movie. The book is too complex for that." So I tried to rein in any disappointment from things that were left out. That being said, I did enjoy the movie and found it better than many of the reviews I read. Tom Hanks is a fabulous actor but he didn't fit the Robert Langdon role for me. Audrey Tatou is a babe and not a bad actress either.

I understand from reading Dan Brown's website that he plans on several books with Langdon as the main character. The next one has to do with the Masonic order. Should be interesting reading. He does know how to take historical mystery and theories and spin a yarn.

Did I mention that the kids were coming back tomorrow? I can't wait to see them.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

100 Songs 

I recently finished John Sandford's "Broken Prey", one of a series of detective novels. The main character in all of this series is Lucas Davenport, a Minneapolis police detective. In this latest novel Sandford is given a gift of 100 free song downloads. Interspersed throughout this murder mystery is Davenport's obsession to create a list of the best 100 songs of the rock era. This is what he comes up with at the end of the book.

No artist can be included more than three times. Except for a classical choice #100, all are rock-n-roll classics from the last fifty years. I pored over Davenport's list. Yeah, I like that one. What the hell is that song doing on the list? How could he leave out this one? So I decided to compose a list of my own. No hours of research. No great thought. No country and western. No rap. No jazz. No classical. Follow the rule about three songs maximum per artist. Start typing out what I think of as the great rock songs that would have to be on my 100 list. The essentials. Here goes:

1. "Hey Jude", The Beatles.
2. "Day Tripper", The Beatles.
3. "Hells Bells", AC-DC
4. "Its A Long Way To the Top", AC-DC
5. "Dream On", Aerosmith
6. "Last Child", Aerosmith.
7. "Ramblin Man", Allman Brothers
8. "The Thrill Is Gone", B.B. King
9. "Piano Man", Billy Joel
10. "The Stroke", Billy Squier
11. "She Talks To Angels", Black Crowes
12. "Blowin In The Wind", Bob Dylan
13. "Like A Rolling Stone", Bob Dylan
14. "Her Strut", Bob Seger
15. "The Fire Down Below", Bob Seger
16. "Don't Look Back", Boston
17. "Its So Easy", Buddy Holly
18. "That'll Be The Day", Buddy Holly
19. "The Devil Went Down To Georgia", Charlie Daniels
20. "
I Want You To Want Me
", Cheap Trick
21. "Color My World", Chicago
22. "Love Me Tomorrow", Chicago
23. "Johnny B. Goode", Chuck Berry
24. "Sunshine of Your Love", Cream
25. "My Sacrifice", Creed
26. "Born On The Bayou", Creedence Clearwater Revival
27. "Fortunate Son", Creedence Clearwater Revival
28. "Lodi", Creedence Clearwater Revival
29. "Ground Control to Major Tom", David Bowie
30. "Changes", David Bowie
31. "Smoke On The Water" Deep Purple
32. "Runaway", Del Shannon
33. "Runaround Sue", Dion
34. "Money For Nothing", Dire Straits
35. "Drift Away", Dobie Gray
36. "Dirty Laundry", Don Henley
37. "American Pie", Don McLean
38. "Cover of the Rolling Stone", Dr. Hook
39. "Hotel California", The Eagles
40. "Wasted Time", The Eagles
41. "Life In The Fast Lane", The Eagles
42. "Tiny Dancer", Elton John
43. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", Elton John
44. "Fooled Around And Fell In Love", Elvin Bishop
45. "Jailhouse Rock", Elvis Presley
46. "Suspicious Minds", Elvis Presley
47. "Change The World", Eric Clapton
48. "Rock Me Baby", Eric Clapton
49. "Layla", Eric Clapton
50. "Sweet Dreams", Eurythmics

This is hard!

51. "Dream", Everly Brothers
52. "Go Your Own Way", Fleetwood Mac
53. "Double Vision", Foreigner
54. "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", Frankie Valli
55. "Bad To The Bone", George Thorogood
56. "Radar Love" Golden Earring
57. "These Eyes", Guess Who
58. "No Sugar Tonight", Guess Who
59. "Sweet Child Of Mine", Guns N Roses
60. "Knockin On Heaven's Door", Guns N Roses
61. "Cats In The Cradle", Harry Chapin
62. "Barracuda", Heart
63. "Long Cool Woman", The Hollies
64. "Runnin On Empty", Jackson Browne
65. "Fire And Rain", James Taylor
66. "Steamroller", James Taylor
67. "Great Balls of Fire", Jerry Lee Lewis
68. "Time In A Bottle", Jim Croce
69. "All Along The Watchtower", Jimi Hendrix
70. "Red House", Jimi Hendrix
71. "Aint That America", John Cougar Mellencamp
72. "Imagine", John Lennon
73. "Folsom Prison Blues", Johnny Cash
74. "Stairway To Heaven", Led Zeppelin
75. "Ramble On", Led Zeppelin
76. "Sweet Home Alabama", Lynyrd Skynyrd
77. "Blinded By The Light", Manfred Mann
78. "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad", Meatloaf
79. "Turn The Page", Metallica
80. "Coming To America", Neil Diamond
81. "Old Man", Neil Young
82. "Maybe I'm Amazed", Paul McCartney
83. "Hey You", Pink Floyd
84. "Run Like Hell", Pink Floyd
85. "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", The Platters
86. "Bohemian Rhapsody", Queen
87. "Georgia On My Mind", Ray Charles
88. "Tom Sawyer", Rush
89. "Black Magic Woman", Santana
90. "Rock Me Like A Hurricane", The Scorpions
91. "The Boxer", Simon and Garfunkel
92. "Born To Be Wild", Steppenwolf
93. "Landslide", Stevie Nicks
94. "Come Sail Away", Styx
95. "Roadhouse Blues", The Doors
96. "People Are Strange", The Doors
97. "Won't Get Fooled Again", The Who
98. "Free Fallin", Tom Petty
99. "With Or Without You" U2
100. "Brown Eyed Girl", Van Morrison

101. Wait. I have to stop? You know how many great songs I've left on the editing room floor here? I'm resisting the temptation to go back and change some of them. Maybe later. Or not.

What would you add? What would you take away? You can only have 100 songs. Tough decisions must be made!

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Home Again 

I'm back from the ever-so-romantic and ever-so-needed getaway to Eureka Springs. I simply must tell you all about it.

But first I have to show you Aubree's picture from graduation last week. I'm afraid she is looking entirely too grown up.

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Waaaayyyy toooooo grown up. This is what I get when I let her go to her friend's house to prepare for graduation.

But back to my holiday weekend. We left late Saturday morning and arrived in Eureka Springs that afternoon. A lot of Eureka Springs looks the same as the last time I visited about five years ago. One huge difference is all the bikers. Hotels everywhere there advertise as "biker friendly" and there were plenty of bikers to be friendly with. We did get to see some very cool bikes. There were also signs around advertising it as "gay friendly". Once again, not something I remember from past visits.

But the air is still fresh, the scenery still spectacular, and the feeling very relaxed. They don't rent mo-peds there anymore. Bummer. But we did enjoy riding the trolley around and just enjoying all the sights.

I did miss the kids. I do miss the kids. But Mystery Girl did a nice job of trying to keep me distracted.

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We did do other things than just lounge in the jacuzzi. We sampled chocolate caramel fudge from Two Dumb Dames. They may be dumb, but they certainly make some delicious fudge. We had a meal to die for at Gaskins Cabin. The steak I ate there was one of the best I've ever had and Mystery Girl's salmon was purportedly pretty tasty as well.

We certainly got our exercise walking up and down the steep hills of downtown Eureka Springs. There were all kinds of quaint and funky little shops.

There was a problem on day two however. I get up in the morning. I shower. I walk over to my haphazardly carefully packed bag. I remove clothes for the day. One problem. No underwear! Shouldn't be a problem. I'll go commando until we can find a place to purchase underwear. There is no Wal Mart in Eureka Springs. There is no J.C. Penney. There is no Kohls. We finally found a clothing store. Problem solved, right? This little shop specialized in Tommy Bahama clothing. They did however carry boxer shorts. Mystery Girl picks me out a very nice pair. I gulp at the price. Thirty bucks. I've never owned a pair of underwear that cost a fraction of that. Still, while going commando is rather freeing it also left me feeling rather...exposed. So I ante up, walk to a public bathroom, change into my Tommy Bahama boxers and we are good to go again.

I had to tell that. Mystery Girl won't LET me tell her underwear story.

Thats just as well because she lost a couple of bets with me. Never argue with me about the music of Van Morrison and Marshall Tucker Band. Also, never bet that I can't take a picture of you while you sleep. But I digress....

Have you ever noticed that vacations just fly by? It seemed like we had just got settled and comfortable when it was time to pack up and go again. We stopped by downtown one more time and picked up souvenir t-shirts for the kids.

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Home again. Back to work tomorrow. A busy summer looms ahead. But we certainly did enjoy our little time in the Ozarks.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Weekend Roundup- Memorial Day Weekend 

Memorial Day weekend is here. This is a time to remember the sacrifices of those who gave all in service of our country. I honor their service and wish the best to the families who will be remembering loved ones this weekend.

This also marks the beginning of summer. I'm off to the mountains tomorrow. Those of you who are near a computer this weekend will enjoy these posts.

Rachel is a “Hilton Girl”. Sarah’s car has a name.

Margaret is busy with senior boards. Ellen was busy shopping at Costco.

Shannon is happy about the “American Idol” winner. I’d be happy to go on Snav’s cruise!

Lime’s mom had a birthday! Heather had some help from the ex in-laws.

Jules tells about a know-it-all girl. Amerloc talks about pit bulls and coyotes and makes an interesting comparison.

Amanda had a fight with her mom. Kebs’s girl cut her hair for a good cause.

Colleen is providing a good home to a kitty. Laine is awaiting news on her stepson’s sentence.

Carol has some questions about life insurance. Funky Cowboy had no question that the right person won “American Idol”.

Joan was talking to trees. Teresa was gearing up for the Indianapolis 500.

Sally found a very old letter. You won’t find Greek Shadow at school. He’s on summer break!

T. Marie doesn’t think much of funeral protesters. Sounds like Jerry enjoys “Carb Day”.

Chosha reviews “The DaVinci Code”. Cheryl reviews the Country Music Awards.

Hillbilly Mom decided to keep the puppies after all. Jess’ Mom hasn’t decided why her husband puts up with her.

Mary Lou is a very busy girl. So is Irina. She’s off on a secret mission.

Thomai shares about a day on the set. Steph shares her thoughts on Barry Bonds.

Simply Satisfied writes about her morning. Rain writes about famous people who suffered from depression.

The guy Trick has been seeing is checking out his ex again. Jennifer’s son has some difficulty articulating why he wants or needs certain things.

Kyleen was doing some serious home remodeling. Pearl was reminding us to be nice to our keyboards.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend my fellow Americans. I hope everyone is safe in their travels and enjoys time with their families and friends.

Love y'all. Seeya in a few days.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Missing 

The kids left with their mom this evening. I probably won't see them for a week. This leaves me with some mixed feelings.

I'm happy to have a mini-vacation. I'm going to have a blast this weekend. Its been almost a year since the kids have been away from me more than overnight. The house is peaceful and quiet. Soon it will be cleaner than normal. No noises. No arguments. No protests about what is for dinner. Just peace and quiet.

But in many ways I miss them already. I miss the rhythm of our bedtime routine. I miss kissing them goodnight. I miss bantering with them. I miss debating the finer points of superheroes with Patrick. I miss teasing back and forth about music with Aubree. I'll even miss the morning hustle and bustle of getting ready for our day.

This is like empty nest light. Just a taste of it. You don't realize how woven the kids are into everything you do. When I stopped at the grocery store I had to consciously tell myself that I didn't have to get milk and cereal for them on this trip. No need for the jar of maraschino cherries that Aubree loves so much. No need for popcorn for Patrick. I don't hear the ever present sound of Aubree's television coming from her room. Cartoon Network isn't on. Neither is MTV.

How strange it will be to wake up tomorrow morning, get ready for work, and not have to hustle Patrick along so he won't miss his bus. No waiting for Aubree to get done with the shower so that I can hop in. No worries about clothing except for myself. No stuffing lunch money in Patrick's pocket as he darts for the door.

I'm going to have a great time in the next week. But I already know I'll be so ready to see them when they return. I do love those little rascals so much.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

I'm here, its Wednesday, and I'm ready for the weekend already!

Aubree graduated from fifth grade tonight. To prepare for her graduation she had to have a new dress, new high heels, a pedicure, a manicure, and hairstyling. I'm pretty sure there are girls graduating from high school who didn't go to all this time and expense! But she did look quite grown up, mature, and beautiful.

I'll post a picture or two when I can find the cable thingy for my digital camera. I wonder what I did with it?

As it stands now, the first classes in my doctoral program will be "Summer Leadership Institute" and "Leadership in the Post Modern World".

Tomorrow begins the week the kids spend with their mother. It is their last day of school and they will be with her for the next seven days. I know they have some travel planned and they are very excited. She has taken each one of them shopping for clothes this week. I know a girl can never have enough clothes, but Aubree's clothing could fill the section of a department store.

I mentioned last week that I was planning a little vacation this weekend with Mystery Girl. We decided to go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It is a quaint little town up in the Ozarks with natural springs and tons of little shops. We've rented a cabin with a jacuzzi for two. Throw in a little champagne, perhaps some rum, and some peace and quiet. I'm sooooo looking forward to it.

The discovery of wads of bribe money in a congressman's freezer gives new meaning to the term "cold hard cash", doesn't it?

Patrick is now the proud new owner of a portable DVD player. I'm sure he'll have a blast with it when we travel.

I'm the proud new owner of a laptop which should prove invaluable in my doctoral classes this summer. Its a convertible laptop which also functions as a tablet. You can write notes directly on the screen with a pen and preserve them as your own handwriting or convert them later to typewritten text. Very nifty. A boy does love his toys.

School is out tomorrow. Can I hear a hallelujah? :)

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Kids Having Kids 

I tell you it just breaks my heart sometimes. I've worked in middle schools for years and there always seems to be at least one pregnancy going at any given time. I've seen as many as five in one year. This is middle school mind you. These are not 18 year old girls. These are girls who are from 12-15 years old.

She sat across from me today, in trouble for skipping math class to just hang out in the hallways. She is fourteen years old and in the 7th grade. She has already been retained once because of academic difficulties. I pull her grades up on the computer and see mostly "F's" for this year. She is likely to be retained once again. I talk to her about going to "credit recovery" this summer, but I'm not sure she can make up the ground.

I talk to her about skipping class and give her a choice. Either agree to go to all of her afternoon classes or go home for the day. She says, "how do you know I just won't lie to you and not go anyway?" I reply, "because I don't think you'd lie to to my face. I think you'd be straight up with me." She nods and says, "Ok Mr. S. I think I want to see if my mom will come pick me up." I hand her the phone and dial the home number on the computer. Someone answers and her face brightens. She coos, "hi baby. Whats going on?" Obviously, this is not her mother. It turns out to be her boyfriend, several years older. He lives in the home with her and her mom. I'm flabbergasted at this. She shrugs and says, "he's been living with us for awhile. My mom likes him."

She tells me about the difficulty she has controlling her anger, the hospitalizations, the medications she used to take until, "we ran out of money and I got pregnant". "Lara" also has a string of suspensions including one for striking a teacher. At first hostile, she begins to relax a bit as we talk. She has an edge to her, a hard edge. She rubs her protruding belly and wonders if it will be a boy or a girl. She talks about trying to earn money "for the baby" this summer. We talk about where she is going to school next year. Perhaps she can get into a local school that is exclusively for pregnant teenagers, offering on-site childcare, nurse and doctor visits, and social services. It seems like her best option.

She asks if she can walk home. I deny the request unless I receive verbal permission from her mother. She says, "Mr. S, you're telling me I can get pregnant but I can't walk home without my mom's permission." "Yes Lara, that is exactly what I'm telling you." She sits in the outer office. From the hallway I look at her and it makes me sad. Her childhood is over. Its been over for quite some time. I wonder about what the future has in store for her. Her mother is only 30 years old. That means she was born to a 16 year old parent herself. Will the baby inside her continue the cycle? The research says it is very likely.

I smile at her and she smiles back. We have something of a rapport. She'll talk openly to me. But how much can I do for her? I wonder how long before the boyfriend takes a hike. I picture her at 18 years old with a preschool child. I cringe at the thought. In all of her conversation about her family I don't hear a single mention of a male. No dad, uncles, or grandfathers ever come into the conversation. The only significant male in her life is the teenaged boyfriend. Damn.

I think of the other Laras I've known. I mourn the loss of their youth and innocence. I think there has to be a way to prevent this from happening. I'll be damned if I know what it is. I think about the Laras of next year. I know they'll be at least one. Other girls will group around them, rubbing their bellies excitedly. Being pregnant in middle school has a certain cachet with the kids. Boys will hover around. They know she's done it at least once and is likely to do it again.

I wonder what the future has in store for her. I think I know, but I don't want to think about it too much.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Life Ahead 

I don't know why, but I love graduations. "Pomp and Circumstance" brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it. I enjoy the ceremony of it all, the sense of pride that you can feel in the graduates and their families, the feeling that something has been achieved.

The graduation I attended Friday night had no graduation speaker. This is not always a bad thing. Many graduation speeches are cliche-ridden wastes of time as everyone assembled waits for it to just be OVER. I don't remember much about the graduation speeches at my various graduations and you probably don't either. But what is important for someone graduating from high school to know? What pearls of wisdom can you give them as they are literally walking out the door into adulthood? I wrote this post last summer about what I would've wanted to say at my own graduation. What could any of us say to this batch of graduates? What honest advice could we give them? I can't resist giving it a shot.

Good evening and congraulations to the class of 2006. I stand before you looking out at you here on your big night and in many ways I'm envious of you. You have what I don't...youth. I have what you don't....experience and wisdom. Well, I have experience anyway. I'm here tonight to congratulate you on your success. Congratulations once again. There are many your age who are not where you are tonight. For whatever reason they chose, or were unable to, complete high school. You did, and you deserve our respect for that.

Now that we've talked about your success, I'm going to spend the rest of our short time together talking about failure. Oooh, I can see the looks on your faces. Here we are on our big night and he wants to talk about failure? "Hey Brian, why don't you give us a VERY short uplifting speech and send us outta here?" Sorry guys, this is my speech! I'm a lot older than you are and that gives me a lot of experience when it comes to failure.

The power of any one of us is limited by nature. We are all frighteningly mortal, physically fragile, prone to mistakes in judgement, and totally fallible. These things guarantee that we will experience failure in life. YOU will experience failure. Some of you already have. You spent your time in sophomore English gazing at that cute blonde girl and you failed the class. Didn't have much fun in summer school, did you? But you didn't let that failure stop you. Being here tonight is proof of that.

Perhaps there is an athlete among all those funny looking hats that didn't have a perfect game. You missed the free throws late in the game with the score tied. You didn't hang on to the football when you had a chance to win the game. That volleyball was floating tantalizingly up there, but you missed the spike. That fastball was right across the plate, but you swung high. You failed on that particular task, that particular night, in that particular circumstance. Perhaps it was different the next time. Maybe it wasn't.

You will fail at many things many times. This doesn't mean that you aren't intelligent, skilled, accomplished, or fatally flawed. It means that you are human and doing what all the rest of us do.

I'm a firm believer that failure is the best teacher. We don't learn a lot from our successes. We learn a ton of things from our failures. Having a failed romance can teach you a great deal about love, relationships, and compatibility. Getting fired from a job can teach you a lot about the world of work, employers, work habits, and communication. Going bankrupt will open your eyes to the realities of managing your money and the pitfalls of debt. Not getting that job will motivate you to evaluate your resume and interview style. Launching a business and having it fail will certainly teach you the harsh realities of competing in the marketplace. Getting unceremoniously dumped by your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend is a bitter pill to swallow, but I guarantee that it will inspire self awareness.

So now you know it. You will fail. Sometimes you will fail miserably. I can't offer you any magic advice to keep you from it. Even if I could, I wouldn't. It isn't that I don't want the best for you in your life. Its that you need to fail sometimes. We all do.

We need to fail so that we can learn and grow. We need to fail so that we can do it better the next time. We need to fail because adversity helps us find strength we didn't know we had. We need to fail because it inspires us to reach out to others. We need to fail because it motivates us to seek greater knowledge. We need to fail because the nectar of success tastes so much better when leavened with the remembrance of failure.

So my young friends, get on out there. Experience what the adult life has to offer. Take your failures and use them to build a better life. Your parents tempered your failures until now. They won't be doing that much longer. Now it is up to you to experience failure......and to achieve success.

Congratulations again to the class of 2006!

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Off Again 

No time for weekend roundup again! I know, I know. This is getting to be a bad habit. It was so much easier when I didn't have a life wasn't so busy.

I went to Mystery Girl's son's high school graduation tonight. I really enjoy graduation ceremonies and enjoyed seeing the kids have their big moment in the sun.

I did have a piece of mail in my mailbox when I arrived home just a little while ago:

Dear Brian,

I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the Graduate College of the University of Oklahoma for the Summer 2006 term.

Here we go!

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Immigration 

I've observed the debate raging in our nation's capital, in coffee shops, on talk radio, across neighbor's fences, and around the water cooler at work. Everyone seems to have an opinion about the flood of illegal immigrants that cross our borders each day.

I'm an opinionated person and usually don't have difficulty deciding where I stand on something. But this immigration debate really has me torn. Its not as simple as the politicians say it is. It isn't just about "following the laws of this nation" or "being a nation of immigrants". Its about our culture, our history, our traditions, our heritage, and our future. What kind of country do we want this to be?

Almost all of us are the ancestors of immigrants. Yes, this is a cliche but it is also true. Some came over on the Mayflower. Others sailed from Asia across the Pacific to work on the railroads that connected this country together. Others arrived at Ellis Island without a dime to their name. Some came in bathtubs and makeshift boats to escape oppression in Cuba. Some waited in line for years to get their chance to come here. And yes, some waded across the Rio Grande in the dead of night.

How torn am I? The TV show "60 Minutes" used to do a segment called "Point- Counterpoint". Here is my version for this issue.

Those illegal immigrants drive down wages. Construction workers, house painters, and farm workers all receive lower wages because immigrants will work for less. Its not fair for them to come here and drive down wages for the rest of us.

Those illegal immigrants crossed hundreds of miles of dangerous territory to pick vegetables, harvest crops, build barns, work in hot, sweaty factories, or do other manual labor. How many of us are honestly willing to pick tomatoes in the hot California sun for $8.00 an hour? What? You'll do it for $20 an hour? Ok. How many of us want to pay triple the price for those tomatoes in our salad?

There are millions of people here illegally. What do our laws mean if we don't enforce them? How can we even think about letting someone stay here who doesn't show basic respect for the laws of our nation? If we do we are rewarding bad behavior and will only get more of it.

Well, they are already here. What do you want to do about it? Call 12 million people criminals, round them all up, institute a national ID card, and throw them all in prison before deporting them? Don't we risk turning our country into a police state to accomplish this?

We should build a huge fence along our southern border that is impenetrable and will keep people out. It will stop illegals from entering the country and possibly prevent terrorist attacks. It only makes sense to have ironclad control of our borders. A nation without enforceable borders is not a sovereign nation. Do you really own your home if anyone can just walk in whenever they want to regardless of the law?

Think...Berlin Wall. Do we really want the a border with a huge, ugly, fence? What does this say about us? The terrorists who killed all those people on 9-11 came here legally. We should focus more on intelligence and law enforcement. Would a fanatical terrorist really give up because of some fence, or would he just find another way in a country with many thousands of miles of land and water borders?

Politicans make it seem like such a simple thing in their 30 second sound bites. This is a complex issue that requires a lot of thought and common sense. I don't have all the answers, but they don't either. I do think we should enforce our borders. I think we should do it without making it a war zone. I think workers should be paid a fair wage, illegal immigrant or not. I think we have to be realistic enough to know that many of the illegal immigrants that are here are not going anywhere unless we have draconian measures that none of us want to see. I think that people who come here to live productive lives should eventually have the chance at citizenship.

Ever been to a citizenship ceremony? It is an eye opener. What we take for granted they celebrate with tears of joy. We should celebrate our immigrant culture which has helped make this country what it is.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

I could've sworn it was only Tuesday. I was so sure that I was ready to put my garbage can at the curb for pickup tomorrow. Oops.

Aubree has a graduation ceremony next week. She is graduating from fifth grade. This is a big deal to the fifth graders involved. She HAD to have a new dress and she hardly ever wears dresses. She HAD to have high heels even though she has never worn high heels. She also wants to get her hair and nails done.

The problem with high heels is that she doesn't know how to walk on them. So she has worn them for a couple of days now so that, "I don't fall flat on my face at graduation." I personally don't see how you girls do it. Those things look very uncomfortable to me.

Only six school days left in this year.

A student was sent to me for being disruptive in class. She told me a tale of how she cursed out the teacher and physically punched the teacher. But her disciplinary referral simply said, "disruptive in class". I talked to the teacher and he laughed and said that she'd just been talking too much. There was no cursing and no hitting. The girl comes in the next morning and asks me, "so, am I suspended?" Nope. "Why not"? The teacher said that you didn't do those things. "But Mr. S., I swear that I cursed him out and hit him." That isn't what he says. "So you're not going to suspend me?" No I'm not. "That isn't fair. I shouldn't get away with this." I laugh and say, "I hope you don't mind if I sit here and enjoy the irony of this situation. This is the polar opposite of what people usually say sitting in your chair." "Mr. S, you're impossible!" "Well, so I've been told." Storms out of office. Priceless.

Middle school is so much fun with only a week left. Visit your local middle school and find out for yourself!

I've been working like crazy on my portfolio for my Principal's Academy. It involved a lot of writing, basically mapping out your philosophy, values, expectations, and plans for your first year on the job. It was very thought provoking but a helluva lot of work.

Picture the scene. The kids go with their mom Memorial Day weekend. She is visiting from England and is taking them on vacation. There I am with a three day holiday weekend. Mystery girl also has a three day holiday weekend. Is it coming in clearly now? I need a romantic holiday weekend somewhere away from here. I'm open to suggestions.

I know I'll enjoy the time without the day-to-day child care, but history tells me that I'll be missing them like crazy after a few days. I always do.

My latest reading? "Manhunt - The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer". An excellent book if you're into this kind of thing.


Isn't it sad when I pull in to buy gas and I'm relieved that it ONLY costs $2.65 a gallon?

Did I mention that there were only six school days left?

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Paranoia? 

The two teenaged girls stood in my office in a state of distress. They had missed their bus and their mother had no transportation to come and get them. To get home they would have to walk through several miles of crime infested neighborhood. They told me about all the shootings in their neighborhood recently and how dangerous it was. These two children are also classified as mentally retarded, as is their single mother.

My first impulse? Load them up in the car and take them home as I leave work. Drive a few miles, drop them off, and head home to my own children. But you see, I couldn't. Its not that easy anymore. I'm an adult male in an automobile with two young girls. What happens if an accusation is made against me?

I'll tell you what happens. My career is over. Even if eventually exonerated the stench of the accusation would hang over me forever. I would always be "you know, that guy who was accused of.......". So I know that I can't take them home. I can't take the chance of ruining my own career and the lives of my kids. Isn't that a damn shame? I'm an educator who cares about the kids he works with. I'd rather see those little girls walk through a crime-ridden neighborhood than risk my reputation and livelihood? What kind of choice is that?

I wasn't always this way. During my early years as a teacher and administrator I gave rides to kids all the time. Kids who were sick at school and had no telephone to reach their parents. Kids whose parents didn't bother to pick them up after a basketball game. Kids who stayed after school for extra help in reading and math. I used to drive a van, and I remember loading up 3-4 kids on a regular basis and getting them home before I went home myself.

Once I had a student who was a finalist in a major competition for a college scholarship. I was to take her and another student on a 100 mile trip to the contest finals. The other student didn't show up. It was 7:00 a.m. and we had to leave. Did I cancel the trip and risk the scholarship that she really needed out of fear of false accusation? In that case I didn't. I knew her well, knew her family, and didn't believe she would do something like that. But yes, it was a risk, wasn't it?

Last year a young man missed his bus due to a teacher keeping him behind after school. He lived ten miles away and his father had no transportation. I finally consented to give him a ride home. But first I got his father's oral agreement. Then, a fellow administrator spoke separately to the father and also got his agreement. My administrative colleague called me every ten minutes on the drive across town. "Where are you? How close to the house now?" I called him back when I pulled up in the kid's driveway so that he knew precisely when I'd dropped this student off. He then called the father for me to verify that the child was home. Isn't that sad? Has it really come to this?

In my profession one must be very careful. You must avoid the very appearance of any kind of impropriety. If I'm alone with a student I at least keep the door cracked open so that anyone can walk in. I don't block the window to my office so that anyone can look in at any time. And sadly, I don't give rides anymore unless I can find someone to go with me. Am I being paranoid? Perhaps. But I've seen careers and lives destroyed. There are scumbags out there who abuse children. There are also false accusations. I plan on doing the best I can to make sure I am never in the position of being accused of anything wrong.

In the end, two female teachers who carpool together were persuaded to drop those two little girls by their house. That made me feel better.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mother's Day 

It isn't easy, is it? This being a mom thing is a lot tougher than it looks. I know that it is also one of the most rewarding things a woman can do.

My mom was a child herself, eighteen years old when she gave birth to me. Its funny how I didn't realize how young my mom was when I was growing up. She was just "old" to me. When I started kindergarten she was in her early 20's, an age when a lot of people out there are still "finding themselves". My dad was a world traveller in my childhood days, and the bulk of the child-rearing fell to my mom. Like a lot of moms back then she had a well-thumbed copy of Dr. Benjamin Spock's book on how to raise children. She vocally disagreed with his admonition not to spank your children though. I certainly felt her wrath more than once!

I remember being five years old and mom giving birth to one of my brothers. My dad kept us while she was in the hospital with the baby. Within days of her coming home with a newborn he was off to Europe on a two month business trip. My mom, all of 23 years old, was home alone with three children under six years old. It was a brutal winter that year. I remember the snow drifts piling up outside the house. I remember tears of frustration as she tried to deal with a very colicky baby and two other small boys. But she persevered like she always does.

My love for my mom and dad were different. My dad was the steady hand, a role model, a rock in times of crisis. He worked long hours, took trips, but was always there for the big things in life. Mom was there for all the little things. She changed the diapers. She cooked the meals and did the grocery shopping. She made the Koolaid on hot summer days. She made sure we always had clean clothes and took us shopping when our shoes started to wear out. She ran us back and forth from school events, birthday parties, basketball practice, and band concerts. She made sure we had lunch money. She tended us when we were sick and made the doctor's appointments.

When I was dejected after something bad happened at school, she was the one who sensed it and paid a visit to my bedroom later that night. When I struggled emotionally with all those issues a boy has when he is growing up, she was always right there. She was the nurturer, the one who understood when you burst into tears after being mistreated by the basketball coach. She fought for us like a tigress when she felt like we had been wronged. That was my mom and I loved her for it.

I now have something of a partnership with my mom. She helps me so much with the kids. I don't know how I could have the career path I'm on without her. I help her in various ways, filing her taxes, fixing leaky toilets, moving furniture, teaching her how to use email. We discuss what is best for my kids and for my niece that she is raising. She gives me insight gained from raising five children into adulthood. I give her the perspective of someone who understands modern teenagers much better than she does. We've comforted each other over the loss of my dad. It is a partnership that works well.

Sometimes I still need her to be just my mom and to let me unburden my soul to her. She's happy to oblige. I'm almost 45 years old and I still need my mom just like I still needed my dad. I don't always agree with her, but I always feel better after I've talked to her. I know she has the best interests of me and my children at heart, and that is a powerful thing. That is what I always knew about her. She always wanted what was best for me. A pure, unvarnished motherly love.

I know many other moms out there of course. The mother of my kids who will see them in a couple of weeks. My second wife who provided motherly love at a critical time in the development of the kids. My brother's wives whose love for their children radiates from their pores. Mystery Girl, who has raised two boys into young men. The mom who has a son serving in Iraq. The single mom who works two jobs just to make ends meet. The suburban mom who volunteers at the school library. The mom of a son who is fighting a dread disease and refuses to give up. The mother of an autistic boy who loves him unconditionally. The mom of the handicapped son who battles through the daily frustration and is always there for him. The mom who curls up with her kids each evening to read stories to them. The mom thinks about going back to school, but for now devotes herself to raising her kids. The mom of adults who knows that even adults still need their mom sometimes. The mom who thinks she can't take any more but always does. The mom who is struggling in her marriage but does her best to make sure the kids aren't negatively impacted. The mom who wonders if she is doing the right thing and almost always does. The mom who has gone through a difficult divorce but tries to make sure she is still strong for her kids. The mom who sees much of herself in her daughter and is trying to keep her from making the same mistakes.

My mom. These moms. Your mom. Not all of them fit the mold, but almost all of them love their kids in that special way that warms us to our souls.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful moms out there. You make the world go 'round.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Out of Time 

After working all day, coming home, mowing two lawns, spending some time with my returning Special Olympics star, and running errands with Aubree, I'm too tired and out of time to do the weekend roundup. Hopefully you'll forgive me. :)

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends and be good to those mothers in your life.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fight Club 

I was aghast. Ok, I wasn't really aghast but I was disturbed to read this story about kids taping fights at school and selling the videos on the internet.

The graphic video shows severe beatings that were taped in Arlington neighborhoods and near schools. The DVD, Agg Townz Fights 2, runs for around two hours and shows crowds, men and women, ganging up on innocent victims.

Fights are part of school life in this day and time. I helped break one up just this morning. Come to think of it, I broke one up yesterday morning too. Kids love fights. When I see a group of kids moving en masse in a hurry it almost always means that a fight has broken out. Too many of these fights are not harmless. There is real potential for children being badly hurt or worse. In my desk drawer right now there are two sets of brass knuckles used in fights in my school this year. Do you have any idea how badly those brass knuckles could hurt someone? A stray blow could kill a kid. I've also collected all manner of knives. Next time you tell your child to, "stand up for yourself" or "don't be a punk", try to keep that in mind. I would much rather my child be a "punk" or a "coward" than be in the hospital. Or worse.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. I keep telling parents that today's fights are not like the fights that took place when I was in school. Generally, those fights involved only the two people involved, their fists, and was over with fairly quickly. Maybe it makes me seem old, but in my high school you would've been considered a wimp if you tried to use a weapon during a fight. It also wasn't looked on very kindly to "gang up" on someone. Let the two of them duke it out. A few days later it is all forgotten. I even remember my junior high P.E. teacher passing out boxing gloves to would-be fighters and letting them duke it out under his supervision.

This is not a Sylvester Stallone movie. The good guy doesn't always win. The kid who is "standing up for himself/herself" is just as likely to have the shit beat out of them as they are to "scare away the bullies." I had a student in my school who had been taunted by a group of other boys. One of them ran up behind him and slapped him in the back of the head. Then the "hitter" and his friends ran off laughing down the hall, inviting the boy to follow them into the bathroom. His mom had told him to "stand up" to those boys if they "messed with him." He stood up all right. He walked into that bathroom, was immediately taken to the floor and pummeled by fists while a large crowd of boys kicked him in the head and ribs as he lay pinned on the floor.

This kicking while a kid is on the ground is commonplace. Furthermore, unless you have a video or an adult eyewitness it is really hard to prove. If I can prove that a kid kicked another child in the head while he lay helpless on the ground, that student will not be attending school for a VERY long time and the police will be involved. But the crowd scatters and no one knows who did it or can prove it. I'm not surprised by the kicking in the videos at all. It happens all the time.

Why should we be surprised? Our society glorifies violence in its movies, television shows, and video games. Too many parents teach their children that "being tough", "not being a punk", or "not taking any crap", means assaulting anyone that makes you angry. Its almost always the same kids that fight. In a school of 700 that I worked in last year, perhaps 40-50 kids were involved in fights all year long. What are the other 650 doing that they aren't?

Many school systems and cities are adopting a policy of ticketing kids who fight in schools. Many of the school districts around here have done just that. Get into a fight in school? The police come and write a $200 ticket for disorderly conduct that parents are responsible for paying. This has worked extraordinarily well for tobacco in schools. It is almost a non-issue in the schools I've worked in here. When parents have to pay big bucks if their child brings tobacco to school, they don't bring it. The same approach would hopefully work for fighting. I'd also toss in mandatory counseling on non-violent conflict resolution before the child returns to school from suspension. We need to teach kids to find another way. It is simply too dangerous now to send our children off to school with a "kick their ass if they mess with you" mentality.

Now they don't have to run to watch the fight. They can log on and play it over and over again. I'm glad to see the police and school system in Arlington take a hard line on this. It is not kids being kids any more. Someone is going to die in one of these fights. We'll have a "Columbine moment" and realize that we all need to do more to make schools safe for everyone.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

Its already Wednesday again. I both love and hate how my weeks seem to fly by.

Patrick is off to the state Special Olympics meet. After the obligatory trip to Wal Mart for toiletries and sunscreen, we packed him up and got him ready to go. I didn't think he'd ever get to sleep last night. It certainly wasn't a problem getting him to get up and get dressed this morning either!

I stopped at a convenience store near my school yesterday. A older black gentleman was parked next to me, and when I got out of the car he said something I couldn't quite understand. I looked at him quizically and he said, "are you a lawyer?" . I replied, "no sir, I'm not!". He said, "well, you look like a lawyer." I laughed and said, "I'm not sure if that is good or not!" He laughed back and said, "oh it is. You cut a nice jib." I do?

A girl was sent to my office for being disrespectful to her teacher. She told him, "I don't want to hear from your old ugly self." She objected, saying, "I didn't say old.....I said O. Just O. O ugly self." I chuckled and said, "well that makes it soooooo much better. Did you just say ug instead of ugly too?"

Aubree is staying the night at a friend's house tonight. My mom has an early morning appointment and won't be able to take her to school. So she will stay with her friend and go to school with her in the morning. This creates a very rare occurence. There are no kids in my house tonight. Do you have any idea how quiet it is here with no kids? I don't know what to do with myself. On second thought, I'm sure I'll think of something.

I suspended a student for the rest of the school year(11 days) today for mocking a teacher and using gang signs. I called his mom, explained the situation, answered a few of her questions, and she came and picked him up. One of my co-workers said, "how badly did she cuss you out?". She didn't. She was very nice. Co-worker said, "you're kidding right? She cussed me out every single time I've called her this year. I refuse to call her anymore. She really didn't cuss you out?" Nope. She said, "thats not fair. I'm going to cuss you out myself just to make everything equal." I said, "it must be my native charm and personality." She replied, "now I'm REALLY going to cuss you out!" You have to have a sense of humor to work in schools these days. I love it.

It is Teacher Appreciation Week. Know a teacher? Give them some thanks for the difficult work they do in these challenging times. Hell, give them a hug. I'll take one.

My brother is giving my niece his old car today. It is a Saturn, several years old, bright red, and in good condition. She'll receive the car in about an hour and she has no idea it is coming. Remember your first car? She's going to be thrilled. Of course, she's months away from actually being able to drive it. But still.

The kid's mom will be here to visit them from England in about two weeks. They haven't seen her since last summer and they are very excited! As I understand it, they will be taking a trip to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourri. I'm sure they will have a blast.

I'm ready for the movie, "The DaVinci Code" to come out, even though I know it can't possibly be as good as the book. Movies are hardly ever as good as the book. I know that a lot of religious groups are very upset about this book and movie. Folks.......its fiction! Its a story! Its not a scholarly work that threatens the world of faith.

Time for me to go do something. Maybe I'll try to cut a jib if I can find one.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Just A Few Questions If You Will 

As far as interviews go it wasn't bad at all. As the attractive young assistant escorted me down the hall she asked if I was nervous. I was able to truthfully tell her I wasn't. This interview would not have a direct effect on my job or my livelihood. Yes, I needed to do well because those interviewers have something I want. They have the key to my continued education.

I sat at a conference table with two other people in the room. The chairman of the department joined us by video feed. The connection on the video feed wasn't instantaneous and I found myself amused by seeing lips move and words come out a second later. They shuffled through my file, tossing questions casually at me. This was not an in-depth interview. They weren't trying to trip me up or make me feel foolish. As far as interview questions go, these were softballs. What were some of the highlights of my career? What would be some of the areas I would be interested in researching? Noting that I was a single father, they wanted to know what kind of support system I had that would enable me to make this kind of commitment. What are some things I admire in school leaders I know? What is my ultimate career objective? I wouldn't say I knocked them out of the park, but I didn't whiff on any either.

They will make their decision in the next week or two. Either I will embark on an ambitious three year program to achieve my doctorate or I won't. As ambivalent as I've been on this for years, I want it badly now. I want this. I can do this. I'm ready for this. I'm ready to plunge myself into the work, the research, the long hours, and the writing. I'm ready to stretch myself, to see what I can do in the scholarly world.

I care a lot less about the title than I do about the knowledge. I care less about the respect it would generate than the challenge of doing something few people ever do. I want to be the best school leader I can possibly be. I have tons of practical experience. Now I need the research and theoretical side to back up what I know is right for kids. I'm a hands-on practical administrator, but I want the best for the kids whose lives I have a chance to impact. I don't just want to be good. I don't want to be average. I want to be among the best. This is a piece of the puzzle that offers me that opportunity.

My mom told me, "this is one thing I wish your dad could've been around to see. He would've been so proud." I know he would mom. I know he will be. Somehow he knows. He's probably cajoling St. Peter to let him make a quick call to the committee.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

She Sings 

Aubree's church choir group put on an excellent performance of "Donkey Tales" last night. The kids were all very cute and the show was very fun and entertaining. Aubree was a little nervous but she performed admirably. I know, I know. Another proud parent tooting their kids horn, right? Check it out for yourself here.

She has a talent, a stage presence. Of course she is only eleven years old and I'm not reading any more into it than that she is enjoying exploring her interests and talents. She wants to be like her idol, Carrie Underwood from American Idol. She loves performing and she absolutely loves to sing. We just did her enrollment for middle school next year. Her electives? Vocal music and drama.

One of the things that is wonderful about being a parent is seeing your child discover their talents and what they enjoy. Sometimes it is not the same things that you enjoy. I was never into singing or drama as a kid and I'm actually learning some things right along with her. It isn't my talent and never will be but I'm enjoying seeing her discover herself.

She may grow up to be a veterinarian, a dentist, a singer, an actress, or a saleswoman. Who is to know at this age? But for now, its a blast to watch her bloom. I just won't be able to help her much in the singing department. :)

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gather Ye Rosebud 

The specter of death seems to be hovering around my small town in recent days. A young man from my hometown was killed in Iraq. A local teacher was diagnosed with the worst form of prostate cancer. My brother’s father-in-law has regressed and is in advanced stages of cancer.

These three lives span generations. Bryan Quinton was 24 years old when he died in Iraq a couple of days ago. He was killed by a bomb in a place where such bombings are commonplace. Just last week he had called his local church on Sunday and spoke to the entire congregation using a loudspeaker. Twenty four years old with a full life ahead of him. When I was Bryan Quinton’s age I was just starting my professional life, just beginning the path my adult life would take me. He’ll never have that chance. He grew up right here where I did. He probably played in the same parks, ate in the same restaurants, hung out in many of the same places. He was probably thinking of coming home, perhaps starting a family, finding his path in life.

Steve is a teacher at the local junior high school. He is 52 years old, grew up in this small town, and came back home to be a teacher and coach. I remember watching him play basketball for the high school team when I was in elementary school. He has been teaching here for 25 years now, an excellent teacher and role model for kids. His parents owned the local ice plant and have deep roots in this community. The word from his mother is that he may have a year left to live. At the age when he could begin thinking about his retirement years he faces a probable losing fight for his life.

My brother’s father-in-law in a gentleman in his 70’s, retired, active in politics and in supporting a local university. Handsome and distinguished, he has been enjoying his grandchildren. Now he struggles with simple tasks and his time appears to be short. Cancer is an equal opportunity killer and it is devastating this man. I know what my sister-in-law and her family are facing and it makes me very sad. Of course he has lived a very rich life, but there is so much more to do.

I know that people die everyday and that this week is probably not all that different from others. I pick up the paper and read that someone died in a car wreck. I don’t recognize the names and I move on to the other news. I scan the obituaries, noting that someone I don’t know lost a long battle with cancer. Soldiers seem to dying in Iraq every time I tune in the news. It is different when you know them or know of them. Over 6500 people die in this nation alone every single day. Just think about it. In this nation alone there are thousands of people alive tonight who won’t be tomorrow night.

You or I might even be among them. We have no way to know when our time is up here. Some people close to me are fighting dreaded diseases and I marvel at their courage. For others we just never know. I didn’t know three months ago that my father only had precious weeks left to live. This life is like a candle flame. We can burn it all the way to the very end or something may come along to blow it out.

I can tell you this. Some candles burn brighter than others, and these three men have burned very brightly in their lives. All three have lived a life of service to others and have left marks that will not be erased. That is the lesson, isn’t it? I drive past an old cemetery every day on the way to work. As I see the tombstones lined up so neatly, I wonder about who they were. They lived lives just like we do. Did they make their mark? Did they really ever truly love someone? Did they live a life of joy or did they get caught up in the bullshit that so many of us do? Did they take risks or were they content to just muddle along? Did they ever feel love’s warm embrace or were they just too caught up in themselves to know it when they saw it?

In the movie “Dead Poets Society” Robin Williams gathered his young charges at the display case, looking at old photos of classes from long ago. He asked his students some of those same questions about the faces in that case. They were young and full of hope in those yellowed pictures. Did they realize the promise of their youth? Then Williams told the boys, “Carpe diem. Seize the day lads. Gather ye rosebud while ye may.”

I’ve got a lot more rosebud to gather. So did the three men I just wrote about. Bryan never got another just to gather any. The other two may have a little more time. We all start dying the day we are born. It is part of life, as natural as losing our baby teeth. The only option is what to do with the short time we are given.

Pardon me. I have some rosebud that really needs gathering.

Carpe diem my friends.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Weekend Roundup- Cinco de Mayo edition 

TGIF everyone. I love the weekends, busy as they are for me. Sometimes I need to go back to work so I can get some rest.

I took a little stroll around the blogworld and enjoyed myself immensely. I think you will too.

Heather’s kids are in for some new rules this summer. Ellen was in for some soreness after gardening.

Colleen is looking for a home for her kittens. Lime is looking for a reason why two people in her house could break bones in the span of a week.

Margaret is feeling some stress. Teresa was experiencing some firsts last weekend.

Shirazi says there are no friends or foes. Breazy says life is a beach.

Kathy posts a touching tribute to a much-missed girl named Kyra.

Meg had some good, some bad, and some ugly. Trick had a few too many and wonders if she said too much.

Sarah wants you to help name her car. Simply Satisfied wants a tree sap kinda love.

Jules has just the pill for you. Rex has some kind words for a very special friend.

Greek Shadow reports on his principal having a fire drill in the middle of AP exams. Sally reports on a job interview that was more than just an interview.

Pearl discusses the value of small talk. Thomai discusses quitting coffee.

Chaotic Serenity is BACK! Tara is off to the beach.

Veronica shares some thoughts from a friend. SudieGirl discusses Kate Holmes’ prenup.

Karen talks about her pet peeves. Splendid talks about the blogworld being like a bunch of teenagers.

Hillbilly Mom shares the teacher’s rap. Snav shares her difficulty in finding something to write about….and then she writes!

Ginger is having a hard time. Stephanie is searching for an in-vitro-friendly insurance policy.

Aka Monty notices that other bloggers are stealing her topics. Fly Girl notices that the meds aren’t helping her fertility and she is getting off them.

Edge is going camping. Melanie is going to be a real estate agent.

New Wave Gurly has blisters and is open for suggestions. Laine has a morning to remember. (

Michael shares a very sticky situation. Mama K Bear shares some gorgeous Easter portraits.

Anne is a good person no matter what she says. Bear is a birthday dog. Right John?

Have a mahvelous weekend my friends.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Midweek Meanderings 

It can't be, but it is. Its midweek and I have definitely been meandering.

The last few nights have been consumed by those two words that many parents of elementary age children know well.......Science Fair! We have been working steadily for days on Aubree's model of the phases of the moon. Styrofoam balls have been painted. and hung inside cardboard boxes. Black paint has been sprayed and glittery stars dot her solar system. The earth hangs in the middle. I now know WAY more about the phases of the moon that I ever did before or ever intended to.

Sometimes she wants to do it all by herself and shoos me away. Sometimes she flops around like a helpless waif, unable to glue a piece of paper on a box. Eventually, it all works out.

I hadn't been cursed out by a student in quite awhile. That changed today. I am rather philosophical about being called a bast*** and a mother f*****. Her mom was almost speechless when I met with her.

I haven't had to break up a girl fight in awhile either. That changed today as well. I picked up one of the girls and just carried her out of the cafeteria.

In the midst of all that I still found time to meet with a staff member from STARBASE , a science/technology curriculum that we'd like to implement next year. The kids learn physics, build rockets and fly them, and build robots. I think it would be great for our students and fits in very nicely with our curriculum objectives. I was thinking all of that while I was talking to her. But as she displayed a mega-Lego kit with motors and gears I kept thinking about.....Patrick! He would sooooo love to have a kit like that. I told him about it this evening and his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.

The kids, mystery girl, and I are in for a busy weekend. We have two birthday parties to attend on Saturday....one for a niece and another for a nephew. One is at a local amusement park followed by the other at "Party Paradise". It should be a lot of fun!

Aubree sings her big solos this weekend in her church choir's production of "Donkey Tales". She has four separate singing solos along with a main acting part. She tells me that she has the songs down pat but is still working on her speaking line.

Patrick is one week away from leaving for the state Special Olympics meet. He wants to start packing NOW. Two nights in a college dormitory and a trip to the famous Eskimo Joe's restaurant tops the things he is looking forward to.

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Quiet Desperation 

I attended the first of Aubree's church performances yesterday morning. She had the solo and was listed on the church bulletin as the soloist. She performed very well, a beautiful, clear voice coming out of that little body. She belted out her song in a room with hundreds of people and did very well! I was proud of her.

After her performance we listened to the pastor give his sermon. In his discussion of people's burdens and the loads they carry, he made reference to Henry David Thoreau's quote:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

I thought about that off and on the rest of the day. Its a quote I've used before. Its a life I've lived before. Quiet desperation, going about your daily life, smiling at the right times and saying the right things, but hurting inside, being utterly miserable. If Thoreau is right, many of us live life this way. We slog through our days, make money to survive, take care of our kids and our business, but have a lonely pit deep inside, desperate for something else, something more.

So what is it that so many are desperate for? What is it that we want to find but can't seem to obtain? Why the hell are we so quiet about it?

I can see your hands going up. "Love!", shouts the girl in back. "Acceptance!", says the girl in the front row. The guy two aisles back mutters, "peace!" under his breath. An unidentified voice shouts out "adventure". The guy with the long ponytail says, "Dude, its the need to be appreciated!" The studious girl who never says anything smiles and says, "having a meaning and a purpose. Its relevance."

I smile and say, "class, you're all right and yet you are all wrong. We all want everything you just mentioned. Who wouldn't want those things? I don't know about you but I've had each of those things at one time or another. Some for fleeting moments and some for a very long time. But some of the happiest people I know don't have everything you mentioned. They aren't living lifes of quiet desperation. They seem content with life."

What so many are desperate for isn't an emotion or a feeling that we can just go out and find. Kurt Cobain had everything on that list and killed himself anyway. I knew a woman who worked multiple jobs to save money for her kid to go to college. She cashiered, ironed clothes, and cleaned other people's houses. I don't know when she found the time to sleep. But you know what? She was also one of the most contented people I have ever known. She didn't have money, fame, fortune, or a life of ease.

She had the answer that Kurt Cobain did not. She found that peace inside herself that make the other things possible. When we stop searching, stop trying to find happiness in someone else, realize it doesn't exist at the bottom of a bottle, and can't be bought with money, we can lead ourselves away from desperation. That is what has worked for me anyway. I can honestly say that I'm not living a life of quiet desperation any more and I hope I never do again. My dad had that sense of peace until the moment he stopped breathing.

If we can love ourselves, accept ourselves, make peace with our God, and understand that we are much more likely to find our answers in a quiet prayer, practicing yoga or meditation, taking a quiet walk on a warm spring evening, and finding the joy in our children's eyes, we are getting close to the truth. Truth is the passage out of desperation. Then we can give those things we want so desperately and receive them in return.

What do you think of that Henry?

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