Sunday, July 30, 2006
You’re having a nice dinner with your girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband. A member of the opposite sex walks by and you catch them looking. They can’t deny it. You saw the jerk of the head, the raising of the eyebrows, the crane of the neck. They started to answer your question but it tailed off. They are so busted. What to do?
I’ll admit to being occasionally guilty of this. A very attractive woman walks by and catches my eye. Now there are a lot of attractive women out there, but only a few will cause me to risk whiplash. It’s not like I stop and think, “I’m going to crane my neck and take another gander at this woman.” It just happens. Its not that I don’t find who I’m with attractive and it’s not trying to be disrespectful. You know how you squint your eyes in bright light? It’s something like that.
I read somewhere recently that all guys look. I can't remember where I read it, but the quote was, "if you don't catch him looking that just means that he has excellent peripheral vision."
Maybe I come by it naturally. I remember riding in the car with my mom and dad, and when a very attractive woman pulled up next to us my dad whispered, “psst…Brian. Look over there!” My mom caught wind of what we were up to, rolled her eyes, and said, “You guys!”
I’m aware that this behavior is not exactly endearing to the person I’m with, so I snap my head back around and pretend I was just looking for the waitress to refill her iced tea. Yeah, that’s it! But since I don’t date unintelligent women, she is not fooled.
Is this a terrible sin or not? Trying to be fair, I put the shoe on the other foot. If I’m with my girl and a
Most of the women I’ve been involved with are comfortable with this. Terri just laughs when she “catches me”. Maybe she just likes that sheepish look I get on my face. You know the look...that "I've been busted" one.
Terri was telling me about a woman she knows who was absolutely furious when she caught her S.O. looking. She took it as a personal insult and an indication that he was more attracted to this other woman than to her. Maybe, but I don't often think that is the case. If I'm with Alyssa Milano (hey, we can always fantasize, can't we?) and Halle Berry walks by I'm still going to notice. It doesn't mean that I want to dump Alyssa and chase after Halle. If I have a Renoir it doesn't mean I can't admire a Monet!
Ever been caught looking or caught someone else? If so, how did you feel?
Friday, July 28, 2006
I haven't had a chance to read as many blogs as I'd like. But I did have time to stop by......
Margaret notes that eating cauliflower is not the same as eating chips! Lime makes some notes about a men’s head lotion.
Breazy shares some pics from her vacation. Mary Lou shares some pics from her drive across Washington.
Irina reports on the situation in the Middle East. T. Marie reports on her car repair woes.
Snav was doing a happy dance. Colleen was wary of a rather creepy customer.
Denise was using too much mouthwash…at least according to the insurance company. Teresa was getting ready to go camping.
Sally has a touch of the flu. Hope she feels better soon! Jules has a bout of empty nest syndrome.
Dave asks you to choose: is it the A.P. or The Onion? Pearl asks her body some questions.
Caren is a little sad about leaving Mel was not sad at all about getting to see Coldplay!
Anne discusses her relationship with food. Greek Shadow discusses a couple of movies.
Barn Goddess reports that her dog is kinda stinky. Thomai reports on meeting some new people at a breakfast meeting.
Ozzy discusses an eating choice that doesn’t sound very good. Rain discusses her dealings with cashier trainees.
Cootera shares a recipe. John shares his thoughts on marrying again and finding “the one”.
Jennifer is glad to be back in Minnesota. Chicky Babe was glad to finally surrender.
Michael defends James Taylor. Carol offers up cross stitches for sale.
Ellen discusses memories of Holland. Dawn discusses having a cold.
Susan shares some close-up pictures. Jerry shares some comments his pregnant niece has been getting.
Pat writes about Woodstock. Funky Cowboy writes about his weekend.
Sudie Girl discusses revelations about Lance Bass. Walker discusses having a close encounter with a stinky person.
Phoenix is having a contest! Andie is having some issues with her front door.
Trick’s little girl just turned two. Leen saw a little girl in the store that made her day.
Erin talks about books she has read. New Wave Gurly talks about not feeling like blogging.
Sporked Tongue’s mother-in-law worked her over. Trucker Bob got worked over a bit but he is feeling better.
Tara is ordering from a table of one. Lisa is busy, but takes time to write about courage.
Have a wonderful weekend my friends!
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Believe it or not, I'm doing the final lap on the research paper. I have it all typed up and am now in the process of editing and re-checking it. That breeze you feel? The sense of accomplishment!
A lot of my research centered around the idea of building trust. This prompts some ideas for a post that I will write later.
I ended up citing about 30 authors in my paper. I'm told that a doctoral dissertation will usually cite hundreds. I can't hardly wait!
It reminded me of my undergraduate college days....reading for the 100th time Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Ahh the memories. Discussing Maslow at a keg party!
I enrolled for my two classes this fall. They are "Leadership and Diversity" and "Special Education and the Law". It should be interesting!
The kids have been sooooo good the last few days as I've slaved away on my research paper. For the most part they've left me alone and have totally avoided any fights or arguments. I told'em tonight that I was proud of them. We'll have to do something fun this weekend to celebrate.
Summer school is in full swing at my school. We have several dozen kids participating in "Jump Start". They work on math, reading, and science during the morning and are rewarded with a trip to the school pool. The water is cold as hell in that pool but it doesn't seem to bother them!
It was good to see some of my coworkers again. Our security guard saw me and immediately revived his nickname for me from last year....."Ooooh, its STONE COLD!" It could be worse.
Summer school is over the day before teachers report to my school. We have two weeks of professional development before the kids arrive for the coming school year. My summer is pretty much gone and I don't know exactly where it went!
One good thing about the end of summer.....football season isn't far away!
I think I'll take some time after the paper is done to engage in some recreational reading. I have just started Robin Cook's "Marker" Its a good read so far.
I think I could use a mojito....or five.
So how is YOUR week going?
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Writing a research paper is hard, especially when you haven't done it since the older Bush was president.
The title of my paper is, "Teacher Motivation, Morale, and the Principal's Leadership". So far I have five pages typed into my trusty word processor. Pardon me while I click "save" for the 48th time just to be sure. I've spent five pages examining the problem. Now I'll probably spend several times that many identifying solutions. I've cited 16 sources so far and my desk is littered with books and printouts from online journals and databases.
Feeling sorry for me yet? Nah, I didn't think so. I did ask for this, didn't I?
This style of writing is not the kind I have come accustomed to. My professor's words keep ringing in my head: "Remember, I don't care what you think. I care what you can demonstrate and prove from the research." What? You don't what to know what I think? Do you know how hard it is to type page after page and not interject my personal thoughts on the matter? Why is it that because a doctoral student said it twenty years ago in his dissertation it is important and quotable, but if I say it....well, I can just imagine those red marks striking through the sentence. I didn't think to ask if bloggers were an exception to that rule. Somehow I doubt it.
I am somewhat comforted by the thought of some doctoral student ten years from now reading the profound words and research from my dissertation and quoting them. Of course, first there is the matter of getting through the rest of this coursework before I can even begin the dissertation. By my count that is probably twenty research papers away. Did I say I felt comforted?
Maybe this is some karmic justice. I do remember casually tossing out those research paper assignments to my high school students. Their plaintive cries fell on my deaf ears. If any of you students are still reading this now, feel free to laugh. Just don't laugh too loud. You'll mess up my concentration!
Maybe I should start writing a paper on my morale!
Its not that bad. Thats what I keep telling myself anyway. This paper is due Friday. After that I'll only have normal life to contend with for the next month. Just work, relationship, kids, bills, my daily commute, meetings, staff training, and all that good stuff. It sounds like a piece of cake right now.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
As I think about it, almost all of us have power over someone. I supervise people at work and obviously my decisions can have a profound impact on their lives. I have hired and fired people and it is sobering to think of the impact those decisions can have on people's lives. Someone's career can be devastated, their family's finances thrown in turmoil, and those decisions can affect people I don't even know. The way I treat them in the workplace can have a profound impact on their happiness. I have to make decisions that I believe are in the best interest of the school, students, and staff. We all know how difficult it is to work in an environment where you perceive you are being treated unfairly. I have been very fortunate in my career but I know that many others have not.
I do performance evaluations on teachers. They see me sitting in the back of their classroom jotting down notes. They sit across the desk from me and discuss my perception of their strengths and weaknesses. My evaluation will sit in their personnel file forever. It can have a positive or a negative impact on their future prospects. I am duty bound to give the most honest evaluation that I can. This can be difficult when past evaluators have just checked off the boxes, gave them excellent ratings across the board, and shuffled them on. Now you are the bad guy if you point out any weaknesses or deficiencies. This use of power can be a positive force for good if you are able to work with the person to strengthen their teaching methods. Lets face it.....we can all use improvement, can't we?
Almost all of us have power, and its not just in the workplace. Have kids? Then you have almost total power over them. You control what they eat, where they sleep, when they go to bed and wake up, what clothing they wear, and many other details of their lives. This power is an awesome responsibility. You want to exercise that power wisely and responsibly. The very nature of parenting means that you have to say "no" a lot. You turn down countless requests. You veto countless ideas. The things you allow and the things you don't help shape that child. That impact will be there long after you are gone from this planet. Thats enough to keep you awake at nights, isn't it?
Its not just our kids. We have power over those who love us or who depend on us. They have power over us too. They can break our hearts, make us feel bad, destroy our finances, or just make us miserable. How many stories have you heard about someone who has "dumped" their spouse or their boyfriend/girlfriend and left devastation in their wake. Maybe it has happened to you. I know its happened to me. That person had power over you that perhaps you didn't realize. When you allow yourself to care about someone, to allow them to become enmeshed in your life, you have given them power. Maybe you didn't do it consciously but you did. You have some over them as well. There is always a component of power in any relationship. Sometimes it is equal and sometimes one person has more. Sometimes it moves and shifts and the relationship changes. You can feel it happening. It can be very unsettling and sometimes scary.
Many of us my age have parents or grandparents who are quite elderly. That same person who once had such tremendous power over you now depends on you. The power relationship has shifted completely. Its funny isn't it, how life can be so circular?
How we use the power we have says a lot about who we are. We've all seen politicians misuse power that was entrusted to them by the people. We've seen bosses or supervisors who grossly misuse their power for petty and personal purposes. We've seen parents who misuse the power they have over their precious children. We've seen people who misuse the power, granted by trust, in their relationships. Maybe we've even done it ourselves. We've probably done it ourselves. We are only human and the abuse of our power is certainly an area of human frailty.
Feel the power yet?
Friday, July 21, 2006
I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend. Try to think of me sitting in class while you're lolling poolside!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
First it was You Tube. Now its Google Earth. I've been utterly fascinated by playing around with this little program. Its not that I'm bored or don't have important things to do. I just get hooked on something and have a hard time breaking away from it! Just what I need, something else to play with!
Google Earth lets you zoom into house level anywhere on the planet. I've spent several hours just zooming around. Red Square in Moscow? Been there. West Bank? Took a look. The White House? Had to take a glance. (I did notice that they whited out the rooftops in D.C. for security purposes)
Patrick enjoyed it even though I had to explain to him that it didn't work in real time. "Hey dad! Zoom in on our house and then step outside!"
Aubree took note of the fact that there was a Quiznos just a couple of blocks from the White House.
Man, I wish I had this when I was teaching geography and history. Battle of Gettysburg? Lets zoom in and take a look. Fighting in Lebanon? Lets see what the Beirut airport looks like. Normandy Beach? We can see what those cliffs look like. Washington crossing the Delaware? Lets take a look.
One thing I felt zooming around the globe was the sense that the planet isn't all that large in some ways. From outer space neighborhoods in Chicago don't look much different from those in Belgrade, Nairobi, or Cairo. We're all neighbors, sharing this space we call Earth and trying to live out our lives.
Take a trip around the world when you have time. I think you'll enjoy! :)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
I was recently pointed to a website called Good People Stories. People submit articles about someone who has made a difference in their life in a positive way. I like the concept. Maybe I'll submit one of my own!
I have class again this weekend. This will be the last sessions of this particular class. Its all over after this weekend, except for the research paper due the following Friday. The topic of my research? Motivating teachers in low performing schools.
Its been awhile since I've had a bread machine in the house. We have one now and we are having a blast with it. As a matter of fact, I can smell the cinnamon raisin bread baking as I type these words. Yum. We've also used it to make honey wheat bread and dinner rolls. Terri made the dinner rolls and they were devoured in record time.
As I was glancing at the recipes for bread, I saw one for "chocolate zucchini bread". For some reason this didn't cause my mouth to water.
Patrick did have a very good time at camp. He came back with gifts for everyone and a few stories to tell. He did make note of the fact that he had no soda and no TV for a week. He survived!
His camp counselor told me, "things went pretty well with Patrick. Well, there was the farting but it wasn't that big of a deal."
My daughter has developed an interest in the Great Depression. I think it is time to go rent "The Grapes of Wrath".
Aubree still thinks she needs a cell phone. I continue to say no. She also thinks that she needs to wear makeup next year. I'm not seeing that either. She has a beautiful complexion. Why cover it up?
Her argument is the oldest one in the book. "Dad, all my friends have cell phones and wear makeup!" One of her friends has a little sister that is eight years old and has her own cell phone. What possible use could an eight year old have for a cell phone?
I thought you only needed to urinate AFTER you drink beer.
The original version by Dobie Gray. Thats what I'm talkin about!
And when my mind is free
You know your melody can move me
And when I'm feelin' blue
The guitars come through to soothe me
So how is YOUR week going?
Monday, July 17, 2006
I was talking to Aubree today and somehow the conversation turned to a girl in her class. "She's a prep dad", she informed me.
"Well, what exactly is a prep?"
"It is a girl who dresses fancy and thinks she is all that. She's not!"
"So if you dressed up fancy would that make you a prep?"
"No. Its all about thinking you are better than everyone else"
"I see. When I was in school they called those people the socs (pronounced "soashes")."
"Socs? Are you serious? It isn't the old days anymore dad. We call them preps."
"We had names for other people too. The bad kids? They were called hoods. The FFA cowboy types? They were the goatropers. The ones who were good in sports? The jocks. Smart kids were nerds"
"How about kids who weren't any of those things?"
"Well, I was one of those. We didn't really have a name. We were just that big mass of kids that couldn't be identified that easy?
"(Patrick chiming in). The normal ones?"
Yeah, thats it.
I remember it only too well. The cliquish behavior of middle and high school kids.
To be honest I was like a lot of kids. I didn't want to stand out too much. I didn't want to be too different. I didn't want to be noticed. Well, maybe I wanted that cute brunette to notice me, but I was much too shy to do anything about that. I was perfectly content to skate through 7th-8th grade with as little notoriety as possible. I wasn't quite smart enough to be a nerd, not quite athletic enough at that time to be a jock, not enough of a bad boy to be a hood, and not popular enough to be a soc. Some people today have a hard time believing how painfully shy and reticent I was then.
I have a little story that fits in with this in a way. I was amused to hear that my cousin (who lives next door to me in my grandmother's home) is dating a guy named Clay. Clay was a nemesis of mine back in those awkward junior high years. He tripped me when I walked down the hall. One day in basketball practice when the coach wasn't looking he threw a basketball at me from point blank range, hitting me right in the face. I lost it and went after him. I got kicked off the team by the coach who called me a "troublemaker". I was too embarassed and ashamed to tell my parents. So for several days I hid out in the bathroom during practices and then walked out with my former teammates to the parking lot to catch a ride from my mom. Of course mom got wind of it, gave the coach hell, and I was playing again. When I saw Clay from a distance the other day I wondered if he even remembered that. Clay was a "soc" with a mean streak and I was a little nobody. I chuckled to myself as I looked at his scrawny frame across the yard. Just for a moment I thought, "wanna try that again there dude?" I doubt he even remembers it at all, but I won't ever forget it. I wasn't part of his clique and therefore was fair game.
There is a fine line between being part of a clique and just choosing what friends you wish to hang out with. I think it goes to how the group looks at others who are different and the lengths they go to be exclusive. There is power in groups and much to be accomplished when people provide support to each other. It gives you a place to call home. Why do you think gangs are so attractive to some of the kids I work with? Its the ultimate clique. You have people to "watch your back", a group that will stand up for you even if you are wrong. This world can be a difficult place to stand alone in. Those kids will cling to a life raft when it comes floating by, even if it will later drag them to the bottom.
Is this cliquishness something we outgrow? Perhaps to some degree. But all of us who have ever worked in large organizations know that adults can engage in some of the most childish clique behavior. Ever seen it? They are rude and catty to those are outsiders, don't want to join their little group, or exhibit a streak of independent thought. One member of the clique gets angry with someone else and everyone else jumps in After all, they'd do it for you, right?
In my younger adult days we used to hang out with a large group of married couples. There was cliquishness even within the group. Some of the women would bash another behind her back and then smile ever so sweetly when she walked into the room. Sometimes it was more over than that.
You even see it in the blogworld sometimes. People band together and engage in groupthink that would make 7th graders blush. Thankfully, I don't see it very often, but sometimes it might seem like we're living in a S.E. Hinton book. But bloggers are like any other large social group, aren't we? That makes us prone to the behaviors that affect all large groups.
Its harder these days though. You can't tell the socs and the hoods without a scorecard. Where's my black leather jacket when I need it?
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Terri and I sat around in front of my computer for hours watching and listening to videos. I especially enjoyed the time we spent listening to The Carpenters. Yes, they are sappy and so very 70's, I know. But I'm a sap from way back and not ashamed to admit it, and I came of age in the 70's and I'm not ashamed to admit that either.
There is something about Karen Carpenter's voice that really gets me. I'd say it turns me on, but that isn't quite it. Her voice has a way of reaching and touching something inside me that I can't quite identify. Her voice is just incredible, hitting notes high and low perfectly, but its more than technical quality. There are lots of very good singers, but few can touch me the way she does.
The video I'm sharing is from The Carpenter's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1970. She would've been only twenty years old. This is back from the days when she still played the drums and sang at the same time. Terri points out to me that it is hard to play the drums and sing lead vocals simultaneously. In later years she would step out from behind the drums and focus just on singing.
I love this video. She is beautiful and the song is performed as well as I've ever heard it. Maybe I like it because it is a song of hope, a song of new beginnings, a song about how two people who love each other can face life's struggles together. I play the song, let her voice wash over me, and I smile.
I hope you enjoy.
Can you believe she has been gone for over 23 years? It just doesn't seem possible.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Please keep my youngest brother in your thoughts. After surviving almost a decade worth of repeated layoffs from a major telecom company, he lost his job today. I think if you look hard you can see his job headed overseas. Outsourcing…ain’t it grand?
I did take a short stroll around my favorite blogs. Wanna see what I did?
Colleen reports on a confrontation between her boss and a customer. Jules reports on things that bug her.
Sporked Tongue is taking care of her daughter in the hospital. Vickie is taking care of Mamma B.
Aka Monty has a whole new language going. Thomai has a 15 year old picture to show us. Lovely!
Snav just had to take that call. Erin just had to hit that key…she accidentally deleted her blog.
Trick is ready to go out. Leslie was ready for pay day.
Teresa had a good time at the zoo. I’m sure Caren will have a good time in China.
Barn Goddess got some packing done. Greek Shadow got some car repairs done.
Lime is back from the beach. Margaret is back from visiting Gettysburg.
Annabel Lee wonders how you stop friends from giving unsolicited advice. I wonder how Janine has such a beautiful garden.
Irina shares a very vivid dream. Ellen shares her thoughts on fighting a giant.
Leen compares her marriage to a game of tag. Anne compares herself to an island.
Andie writes about where she sweats. Susan writes about a very special person.
Apple reports on flooding. Sudie Girl reports on her early admiration with Stevie Wonder.
Joan was doing some serious hugging. I was doing some serious laughing when I read Keb’s jokes.
Wanna know what Michelle has in her fridge? Read here. Wanna know more about Isidora Duncan? Read Rain’s post.
John writes about Pontiac, Michigan. Sally writes about some fascinating genealogical research.
Babs has a toy memory. Mary Lou had yogurt in her cereal.
T. Marie has some thoughts on Tom Cruise. It looks like Phoenix has some of the same thoughts.
Splendid has a book recommendation. Lip Schtick has some words for a Hummer driver.
John writes about getting jaded. Shannon writes about being tired of studying.
Walker wonders…why me? I wonder how Karen took such beautiful photos.
Stop by and show'em some love. They deserve it.
Have a wonderful weekend my friends!
Thursday, July 13, 2006
I've been separated from my ex wife for two years now. During that time I've learned a lot. Some things were very painful to learn. I learned to live on my own again, learned how to handle the emotions and pain that raged inside, and learned to look at myself, my shortcomings, and what I needed to do to improve myself. This is a process and I still have a long way to go. The two years has given me the time I need to feel comfortable living with a woman again and giving her my trust.
Like most human beings I'm a mixed bag. I bring some good qualities into this relationship and some that might be characterized as not-so-good. The fact that I'm not perfect doesn't make me unsuitable for a relationship with the right woman.
I have dated and been otherwise involved with some wonderful women over the past two years. Each one of them has taught me things about life and much about myself. For many reasons, these relationships did not mature to the point I am at now with Mystery Girl. I accept much of the blame for that, but not all of it. In some cases I just wasn't ready. In some cases she wasn't. In others there were issues, conflicts, or differences that couldn't be resolved. This is not a reflection on them. Its a reflection on life, love, and all of the things that nurture and sustain a relationship.
So given all that, why Mystery Girl?
I have complete trust in her and it feels reciprocated. Do you know how powerful it is to feel like you are trusted? It is a powerful feeling. It makes you want to deserve it. I know that some of that comes from our long, yet interrupted, history.
There is heat. Lots of heat. The kind of heat that can't be explained easily. Its an "X factor" that goes beyond physical appearances. I can't explain it but I sure do enjoy it.
There is love. The kind that burns with passion yet settles in easy on quiet nights. It is nurturing, not demanding.
She is very accepting. Somehow she got the idea that I am a big flirt. I can't imagine where that came from. But it doesn't bother her a bit. It goes back to that trust and respect thing. She is also tolerant of my other little foibles and I am very grateful for that.
We are good together. We talk easily and freely, respect each other's opinions, and are able to deal with difficult issues without rancor or bitter arguments. I like this a lot. Life is hard enough without having to spend time and energy in needless bickering. She's an excellent listener and not at all judgemental.
She is very good with the kids.....patient, tolerant, and open. She relates well to both of them and they are very fond of her. She doesn't get frustrated easily and she takes the time to listen to them.
She is versatile, enjoying an evening at home as well as nights on the town. I like having balance in my life and so does she.
I could go on and on, and I probably will in some future post. But you get the picture. :)
Why not? I'm ready and so is she. We were already spending much of our free time together, either in person or talking on the phone. It feels good, it feels natural, and it feels right. We both know there are no guarantees in life, but are committed to making this work.
You only live once. This feels like a "carpe diem" moment. Had we not seized it I think we both would've regretted it immensely. I know I would have.
And Jules? Just for you darlin, another piece of demystification. Mystery Girl does indeed have a name.
Drum roll please........
Her name is Terri. I'm very happy that she is part of our lives.
I'd show you some pictures, but months of physical therapy recovering from my wounds would definitely interfere with my doctorate program.
And so it goes during the very hot month of July in my world.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I'm pondering what to write my term paper about for my class. One of my supervisors (an assistant superintendent) is co-teaching the class and she has to approve the topic. No pressure at all, having someone who can decide your fate evaluate your academic work! :) It has to be on leadership and something that I can use practically in my current job assignment.
The professor in explaining the difference between a master's degree program and a doctorate program: "In a master's program you write a lot of opinion papers. You collect information and give your evaluation and thoughts. In a doctoral program I don't really care what you think. I care what you can demonstrate and prove from research." Got it.
I miss Patrick. This place just isn't the same without him.
Mystery Girl has gone from spending a night, to spending every weekend, to making those long weekends, to making them very long weekends, to well.....living with us. I'm thrilled. The kids enjoy her and obviously I do as well. She brings much to our lives and hope we do to hers as well.
One noticeable difference is that we don't eat out as much. Mystery Girl is an excellent cook She can even cook for a picky eater like me!
I've never done the "live-in" thing before. I know that many out there would believe it to be wrong. I was raised with that belief and I understand where they are coming from. All I can say is that it works for us. Walk a mile in our shoes before ye judge. I'll probably expand on this in a future post.
Patrick, noting Mystery Girl's increasing presence, said, "she had to take her time getting used to having friends like us!"
I've spent a lot more time under kitchen sinks in the past couple of weeks than I'd care to. I installed a garbage disposal in my house and all new drain plumbing in the house that my mom is moving into. Let me say it again...I'm not a plumber, I only play one at home. I can also do without my daughter's teasing comments about "plumber's crack".
I have managed to sneak in some recreational reading in the midst of all this. I enjoyed reading "Never Call Retreat", a Civil War novel with an alternative twist. In this scenario the Union lost the Battle of Gettysburg and a coup is afoot to depose Lincoln. Grant and Lee face off in a crucial battle in Maryland. I won't spoil the ending, but I really enjoyed it.
I'm proudly sponsoring Aka Monty in the blogathon. She is raising money for United Cerebral Palsy, a worthy cause. She might even sing for you if you ask her nicely.
So how is YOUR week going?
Monday, July 10, 2006
Patrick and I made the 1 1/2 hour drive to McAlester, Oklahoma today to deposit him at camp. I really do enjoy driving sometimes, and it was most pleasurable today. The drive down was clear, the skies were blue, and Patrick and I had a rollicking good time in the car. He did get annoyed with me when I had to stop to go to the bathroom. "Dad, I want to hurry up and get to camp!" "Yes son, but I REALLY have to go." (Rushes into McDonald's on turnpike). "Dad, was there in a line in there or what? You took FOREVER!" "Sorry Patrick, I did the best I could. Some things can't be rushed."
We made it there just fine, and I joined the line of parents checking their children into this camp for kids with "special needs". Many of the staff remembered him from last year, remarking on how much he has grown. Patrick met Lance, his "buddy" and camp counselor. He picked out his bunk. He changed into his camp t-shirt. He made SURE that I left spending money on his account. He chatted excitedly with his bunkmate, talking about how they couldn't wait to go swimming. He hugged me goodbye. As I walked out the door I saw him already engaged in a game of checkers with Lance. It will be an experience he'll never forget.
It was a beautiful mosaic of children that I met. You know the names of their "disabilities". Down's Syndrome. Autism. Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Etc. I found myself with a strange desire to stay right there with them. You could feel their excitement and it rubbed off on me quite easily. Swim in the pool. Hike in the woods. Notch up the bow with an arrow or two. Look at the stars at night. I someone envied the camp counselors who would be spending a week with these kids. Challenging? You bet. Rewarding? You know it is.
On the drive back I thought about those unique children sleeping in those cabins in the woods. There probably won't be a pro football star, an astronaut, or a Fortune 500 C.E.O. among any of them. But they have worth and value, every last one of them. We can love them. We can learn from them. We can cherish their uniqueness just as we cherish our own.
It makes you wonder how we define "normality" and "disability". There are things these children probably won't be able to do. There are also a great many things that they will be able to do. Why don't we focus more on that?
Every one of us is capable of making a contribution to ourselves, those we love, our community, and humanity as a whole. Every one. Who knows what those kids in those cabins will be able to contribute? What will we contribute to them?
This is what gets me in trouble on these long drives. I get all existential and thoughtful. In my class we were discussing "modernist" and "post modernist" philosophies. Modern western thought requires logic, uses the scientific method, and looks for patterns and similarities. Post modernism looks at differences, uniqueness, things that may not be repeated in a lab or test. Think about these very unique children. They don't follow the logical, rational path that we think human beings should. They don't always think the same way or use the same thought processes. I chuckled to myself thinking about a camp of "post modernists"!
I solved a few more of the world's problems on the drive home, but thats for another day.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Transactional leadership is what the name implies. It involves transactions of some kind. Rewards and punishments. Get this job done or you're fired. Get this job done and I'll give you a promotion. Do what I want and you'll get my approval, maybe a pat on the back and a "good job!" Mess this up and your evaluation will reflect that. I'm going to send a select few members of my staff to that conference in Hawaii. Those who do things they way I like it will be the ones who go. This is the most common type of leadership, isn't it? Most of the people I've worked for have been transactional leaders in some way or another. Some were quite overt about it, others less so.
We're often transactional in the way we deal with friends, lovers, spouses, or our children, aren't we? We have rewards we can pass out and punishments we can mete out. We pass out bribes....money, affection, attention, gifts, or our approval. We can also withold things....allowances, treats, that trip to the movies, or even sex when their actions don't meet with our approval. We use what authority we have over them to get the results we want. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach.
Does it work? Of course it does. All of us respond to rewards and punishments. How many of us pay our taxes out of patriotic duty and concern that our government not be short of our funds? Or do we pay them because the consequences for not doing so are not something we wish to bear? Does Patrick clean up his room because I've inspired him to believe that there is virtue in having a clean room, or does he do it because he wants to avoid the negative consequences? We do many things to avoid punishment, receive rewards, or gain the approval of someone we respect or care about.
Transformational leadership involves inspiring and motivating others to do things because they are the right thing to do or are beneficial to the organization. This leadership involves charisma, the ability to motivate others, and the ability to gain their trust. This is the kind of leadership that produces long lasting change. If you want things to really change you have to exert this kind of leadership. Sure, people will respond to rewards and punishments, but they will fight you every step of the way in subtle ways. They will sabotage what you are trying to accomplish. In my profession teachers can do this easily. They close their doors and do what they want to do. If they don't believe in what you're trying to accomplish, they will put on a show when necesssary, say all the right words, and do things their way. I've done it myself.
Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions to take actions for a higher cause. He had no rewards to pass out and no punishments to dish. People who marched with him did it because he made them believe in a higher purpose and the righteousness of his cause. Military leaders like Robert E. Lee and Eisenhower often did the same. Their soldiers revered them and would march into a hailstorm of bullets for them. Some presidents have exhibited transformational leadership. Think of Lincoln's speeches, Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats", or Kennedy's call to "ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." They called on ordinary people to make sacrifices for a greater cause, a higher purpose. Lincoln sent men to their deaths by the hundreds of thousands, many of them fighting to "preserve the union".
Most of us don't have the charisma of a Kennedy, a King, a Reagan, or a Clinton. I certainly don't. We can still be transformational leaders. We have to be right. We have to be able to demonstrate we are right. We have to be able to convince others to follow our lead. We have to convince them to trust us. We have to lead them to think beyond their own narrow beliefs or interests. It is hard work and much more difficult than dangling rewards or punishments.
I worked for a very transformational leader. She was inspiring just to be around and she made me believe. I worked harder and longer because I believed in what we were doing. She didn't have to reward me. She would call me late at night and say, "Brian, I had this idea.... What do you think?" Her impact on me and my philosophy about schools is profound.
Think about a transformational leader in your life. It could be a parent whose values you still carry with you. Even though they can no longer reward or punish you, they've made you believe in things in a way that affect you to this day. That teacher who inspired you to think beyond your immediate interests and your immediate world. That boss who you would run through a brick wall for. We all know people like this. A religious leader who inspires you to seek a power higher than yourself.
There are those who make us believe. Those who inspire us and motivate us. Who does it for you?
Friday, July 07, 2006
I'll talk more about the course content in coming days. Just one little tidbit here...when discussing "coercive leaders" or dictators, a quote from Winston Churchill caught my eye:
"Dictators ride to and fro on tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry."
Have a wonderful weekend my friends!
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I was thinking about my own summer camp activities as a young boy. My camp experiences can be divided into three areas: church, Boy Scouts, and basketball. Each was unique and had its own memorable experiences. Even all these years later many memories flood back.
This one time at band camp.....Wait, I never went to band camp.
Do you remember what it was like to pack up for camp? You had your little list. For church camp I had to make sure that all my clothing was appropriate. No tank tops. Nothing with alcohol or tobacco mentioned anywhere or even hinted at. No motorcyle shirts. No shorts that were "too short". I remember my cousin Steve coming from California and making a last minute plan to go to church camp with us. Not a single item of clothing he owned fit the bill. For Boy Scout camp it was all about the camping supplies. Don't forget a flashlight and for gosh sakes don't forget the extra batteries. Lots of them. You'll burn the batteries out the first night you are there. Basketball camp? Headband..check. Knee pads...check. Gym shorts....check.
Scout camp was at Camp Garland, located in northeastern Oklahoma. I spent a week there for many summers. Our campsite was the furthest from the center of camp. We had to walk the furthest for meetings, meals, and activities. They said we had the best privacy of all. That didn't stop us from complaining. Our campsite was at the very top of the hill. It was downhill all the way to the swimming pool, the mess hall, the archery range, and the river. Of course that meant it was uphill all the way back.
As a young Scout, my friends and I got the inevitable joy of being the recipient of all manners of pranks and jokes from the older Scouts. Our tent got pulled down on top of us in the middle of the night. We were yanked out of our tent, still entombed in our sleeping bags, and drug around the campfire. We got sent on fake errands. Oh the joy! Of course, some day we would pull similiar pranks. Well, some of them did anyway! ;)
I returned from Camp Garland in 1977, my last year of attending camp. The next week the unthinkable occurred. Three Girl Scouts were raped and murdered at the Camp Scott, just across the road from Camp Garland. A suspect was apprehended after a huge manhunt. We'd never thought about the danger of hundreds of kids camping in the woods. Who could do something like this?
I attended church camp at Falls Creek for several summers as a teenager. Located in the Arbuckle Mountains of southern Oklahoma, Falls Creek was a gorgeous place. The order of the day was Bible study in the morning, recreation in the afternoon, evening services, and the ever-precious free time. Boys and girls went swimming at separate times. They chased us away from the fence when we tried to watch the girls swim. Like many c0-ed camps, it was not uncommon to find a girlfriend for the week of camp, never to see her again after that week. I signed up for the study of Revelations every year I went. It was always packed and I found it fascinating.
My friend Bob went with me one year and became totally smitten with a girl named Cathy. The only problem was that when the week was over, Cathy was living about 200 miles away, in southwestern Oklahoma. They exchanged many letters for the next year. He and I decided to go visit her and supposedly she had a friend for me. You know how that goes. We loaded up in my dad's van and drove across the state. I think Cathy's parents got wind of our plans. She was not allowed to talk on the phone, much less out of the house. Best laid plans and all that.....
Then there was basketball camp. We played basketball from the time we got up until we went to bed at night. I went to the long defunct "Jim King Basketball Camp" for several years. I stayed in the "Jerry West Dormitory". Every year there were always rumors that Jerry West would make a surprise visit. It never happened. I'll tell you something else that never happened. I was never able to make my snack money last all week long. Most of my campmates couldn't either. By Wednesday we were all looking longingly at the refreshment stand, wishing we'd been more frugal.
During one of the scrimmages I threw a pass at a boy named Joey. It was a nice pass, very crisp and very hard. There was just one problem. Joey had his head turned. The ball smacked him in the side of the face at full velocity. I swear you could see basketball lines on the side of his face. Everyone started laughing. This made me start laughing. Joey wasn't seeing the humor in it at all. Joey wanted to fight. The other guys were very encouraging of this idea. A crowd of us went behind the Jerry West Dormitory so that Joey and I could have it out. We rolled around on the ground, throwing mostly fruitless punches at each other for a minute or so. Then we heard a thundering voice....."STOP!" Uh oh. It was one of the coaches. He said, "you boys have way too much energy. I can fix that." Fix it he did. He gave the rest of the camp free time. He lined us up on the court and made us run "suicides" for what seemed like forever. As we lay on the ground gasping for air he said, "you boys wanna go back there and finish this fight?" Neither of us seemed to have an appetite for it. By the next day we were buddies again.
Summer camp......where memories are made. Anyone else have any summer camp stories they'd like to share?
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
My first class begins this weekend, 4:00-9:00 on Friday, 9:00-7:00 Saturday, and 1:00-7:00 on Sunday. Talk about your weekend being shot! Two of these weekends gets you three hours of credit. I'd probably rather be doing this than going to class twice a week for an entire semester. But still.....
For those of you following along at home, there are two textbooks for this class on leadership. "Leadership in Organizations", by Gary Yukl, and "Transformational Leadership" by Bass and Riggio. I'm to have them both read by Friday.
We really enjoyed our Independence Day celebration. Mystery Girl and I took the kids to my brother's house, ate burgers and hot dogs, swam and played, and shot off a lot of fireworks. It was a blast!
My brother has a casino video poker machine in his dining room. Way cool. I love video poker. He has it filled with quarters so you can play away on it. His wife told me, "whatever you do, don't hit the payout key!" I didn't. Patrick came along and wanted to play. He was surprisingly good at poker. Lucky too. He kept two cards and drew a full house. Ding, ding, ding! I turned my back for a moment and heard the clinging sound. He hit the payout key! Quarters were cascading into the large coin slot. Oops.
Unpacking is coming along nicely. The thing that holds us back somewhat is that we are filling up our trash can too quickly. Today was trash day. There are more boxes to unpack. Look out!
Mystery Girl and I went shopping for a friend's wedding gift. We walk into J.C. Penney and voila....a big sale in the men's department! I love shopping for dress shirts, slacks, jackets, and ties. Even more, I love 60% off sales. Some time later we are walking out with a 100% silk cream-colored jacket, a couple of shirts, and a cool new tie. Oh yeah, we did get the wedding gift too!
You know how you thought you had plenty enough closet and shelf space? You don't. At least I don't.
After my runaround with the cable company, I just decided to do it myself. I crawled around under the house for a couple of hours, ran the cable wires, connected it all up, and we now have cable where we need it. I also wrote a letter of complaint to the C.E.O.
I have movies in my future. I've promised to take the kids to see "Superman Returns" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". Should be fun.
We were at the zoo this past weekend and I was amused to see Dippin Dots still being advertised as "the ice cream of the future". It seems like they've been around forever. When is the future going to arrive? I'm just sayin...
So how is YOUR week going?
Sunday, July 02, 2006
One of the favorite movies in my house the last few months has been "National Treasure". Both of the kids enjoy it immensely. What I enjoy is that it has made them curious about the Declaration of Independence. It has sparked several discussions about what the Declaration was and what it meant.
I was an American History teacher for almost twenty years. I've taught colonial America a great many times. I've read the Declaration of Independence from start to finish dozens of times. Every single time I read those words I get a lump in my throat. My voice would sometimes quiver when I read it to my students. Have you read it recently?
In 1776 much of the world was ruled by kings, tyrants, emirs, and despots. The "divine right of kings" was accepted throughout much of the civilized world. Rulers drew their power from God. Those same rulers then decided what freedoms the rest of us were to have. Some rulers had allowed parliaments or councils of nobles to have a voice in the running of the country, but most of the world's peoples lived in a society controlled by very few.
Thomas Jefferson drew from thinkers such as John Locke when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He took the best of Enlightenment thinking and weaved it together into one of the history's most powerful documents. I'm going to excerpt a bit of it here.
We hold these truths to be self evident: That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Self evident? It was revolutionary. Unalienable rights? They can't be taken away. They aren't given by the church or by the king. They come directly from our creator. We're born with them. They can't be taken away by anyone.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, drawing their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The consent of the governed? Kings thought their power came from the heavens? Do you mean to say that rulers draw their power from the people? That people have to give their permission for you to govern them? This is the single most powerful and profound line in the Declaration. Government is not legitimate unless its authority arises from the people it governs. Powerful stuff in 1776. Still powerful today.
This is what Locke called the "social compact". We voluntarily surrender some of our freedom to a legitimate government. A measure of freedom surrendered for a measure of security and stability. Its a tradeoff we make. It is a moving tradeoff as well. We are still negotiating the boundaries of this compact today. How much freedom for what kind of security?
That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Don't like things the way they are? Change it! We don't exist to be loyal subjects of our government. The government exists to serve its people. SERVE ITS PEOPLE. Does this mean that every decision made by government will benefit everyone or make everyone happy? Of course not. What it does mean is that the purpose of government, its raison d'etre, is to enable citizens to live happy and productive lives. Kings and despots would've used these words for toilet paper. Our forefathers used it as the foundation for a new nation.
Yes, I know that many of the same men who wrote and signed the Declaration did not live up to its ideals. Yes, I know that our nation has been in a 230 year struggle to live up to those same ideals. Yes, I know that we struggle today to live up to them. Yes, I know that it means different things to different people.
We will continue to do so just as we do in our own personal lives. There is always the promise, the ideal, the potential, the goal. It is the struggle that defines who we are as human beings and who we are collectively as a nation. Its not enough to live our own lives in pursuit of liberty and happiness. How are we helping our brothers and sisters achieve these goals?
We face the same quandaries in our lives as Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hancock, and all the others did in theirs. Independence, yes. Freedom, yes. Liberty, yes. But what are we going to do with it? Men would die by the thousands on battlefields such as Saratoga, Bemis Heights, Yorktown, Germantown, Kings Mountain, and Ticonderoga just to give us the chance to take the Declaration of Independence and make it more than just words on parchment.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
Traitors one and all, weren' t they? I wonder how it felt to sign your name to a document that could've meant execution, confiscation of property or a long imprisonment. How it felt to scream out to the world, "We want to be free. We can do it better. We have a new way of living with each other. We are willing to risk everything to give it birth." Sacred honor indeed.
When you are enjoying this 4th of July with your family and enjoying your favorite drink, how about lifting a toast to those who gave us this chance? To life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To unalienable rights. To the consent of the governed. To sacred honor.
Happy Independence Day.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
One of the things that has happened in the last decade is a proliferation of state-run websites dealing with "sexual predators" or "sexual offenders." The purpose of these registries is laudable. People with children can look in their community or neighborhood and find out for themselves where a released criminal is living. If there is a guy in my neighborhood who has been convicted of child molestation, I want to know about it. I want to be able to warn my kids and to keep them away from him. If I see him chatting with a child in his yard I'm going to be watching and letting the police know about it. So far so good.
But what exactly is a "sexual predator" or a "sex criminal"? I always took it to mean someone who attempted to have sex with a child, had sex with a child, or forcibly committed a sexual act on anyone. Those are the kind of people we should all be looking out for. I'm surprised to learn that sexual offender registries sweep into their net a lot more people than this.
Lets take a look at Georgia's law. This law forbids those on the state sexual offender registry from living within 1000 feet of a school, church, playground, gymnasium, recreation center, or "any area where children congregate." It also puts the same requirements on where people listed on the registry work. It must be 1000 feet from all those places listed above. But a group of plaintiffs are seeking to overturn the law. Lets look at them for a moment:
Wendy Whitaker.... is on the registry because, at age 17, she had a single consensual act of oral sex with a 15-year-old boy. For this one act, committed ten years ago, the now 26-year-old Ms. Whitaker and her husband have been forced from one home and now will likely be forced from another.
Plaintiff Joseph Linaweaver was 16 when he had a single consensual act of oral sex with a 14-year-old girl.
I must ask.....are these people "sexual predators" or "sex criminals?" Give me a break. The funny thing about the law is that they are there because of the words "oral sex". Had they had sexual intercourse with the same person they would not be subject to the law's requirements. But by committing the crime of sodomy these two individuals with be listed as criminals until the day they die. Forbidden to ever work anywhere near children. Looked at by neighbors as if they were sexual psychopaths. Neighborhood kids running away whenever they drive by. Most houses off limits for them to live in. Most jobs unsuitable for them to work in. Because of sex when they were teenagers?
So let me get this straight. If Wendy had boinked her fifteen year old boyfriend she wouldn't be having any problems. But because she gave him a blow job when she was seventeen years old she is to be branded with a huge scarlett letter the rest of her life? Does anyone really think she is a danger to society? Does anyone think this is justice?
Lets suffice it to say that fair number of people out there would be on the list had they been caught when they were teenagers. More than a fair number. Those registries would be overflowing and the city of Atlanta would look like a ghost town.
The law also provides for a minimum ten year prison sentence for anyone on the list who is "loitering" near a church. So if Wendy goes to church on Sunday morning, stands outside and chats with a friend for awhile, and is busted, she goes to prison for ten years. She would have to be crazy to even GO to church and risk such a penalty. Ever heard of the free exercise clause of the Constitution, dear legislators?
I wish I could say that was just Georgia that did these things. In my hometown there are 56 people listed on the sex offenders registry. One of them I vaguely know. He is a gay man and went to a park known to be a place where gay men pick each other up. He propositioned another guy who turned out to be an undercover police officer. Charged with solicitation, he was convicted and placed on the sex offender registry. No children involved. No coercion. Maybe a stupid thing to do. But is he a dangerous criminal who belongs on the list?
Why would the law treat individuals in the circumstances described above in the same way as a child molestor or a rapist? We have a tendency to enact "zero tolerance" laws whenever we feel threatened. Even read those stories about a 5th grader being suspended from school for an entire year for having a Tylenol in his backpack? He received the same punishment as he would have if he had cocaine in that backpack. Thats insane.
I'll go further. I contend that having people on those sex offender registries who don't belong there is dangerous. When I sift through those 56 names in my hometown I want to see those who are a real threat. If half of them are people like those described above it weakens my ability to focus on those who are truly threatening. I want a list that shows me who is dangerous.
Sometimes the law is an ass. This is one of those times.