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Thursday, May 31, 2007

C-HOUSE 

Today marked the last day of school. This is always something of a combination of happiness, relief, and yes, some sadness. This was particularly relevant in my school today, a school that is closing and combining with another school. Never again will middle school students attend this school under this name and this 8th grade class has the distinction of the last class to ever graduate from this school.

One of my teachers has taught at this school for 34 years. She has taught several generations of students and spent almost her entire career here. As I watched her leave today, stopping and hugging everyone along the way, I wonder about the things she has seen, the changes that have developed in her tenure, what it must feel like to leave an institution you have devoted most of your adult life to serving. She is truly beloved by the kids and the community, and it is difficult for me to imagine her working anywhere else, but she will carry on her career at a different location.

We gathered the 8th graders for their awards/graduation ceremony. There was music and an excellent graduation speaker. But the most powerful moment came when the P.E. teacher and coach, something of the soul of the school, wore a suit and tie onto the stage. Emotion gripped his voice as he talked about the kids, their growth, what potential he saw in them. The school’s mascot is the “colts”, adapted by coach to “C-House”. His voice boomed out across the auditorium.

“WHOSE HOUSE IS THIS?”

“C-HOUSE!”

As he repeated the chant I glanced over and saw the security guard wiping tears from his eyes. I looked to my right and saw one of the coaches standing just out of sight doing the same thing. Parents and kids loudly chanted…..

“C-HOUSE!”

“C-HOUSE!”

They know the doors of C-HOUSE are closing and it will never be the same again.

Not for the generation of parents and grandparents who attended school here.

Not for the community.

Not for the woman who poured 34 years of her life into teaching students here.

Not for the kids who know they are the end of the line here.

The kids walked across the stage at the end, receiving a folder with their diplomas and awards. I stood in the line, shaking every hand, and hugging many. There are always those special kids, the ones who touch your heart. A young black man, almost as big as I am, shook my hand, looked into my eyes, and we embraced. He said softly, “I love ya brotha”, forcing me to push a very big lump back down my throat. The girl who has spent so much time in my office this year, dealing with some very difficult issues embraced my unashamedly and her tears stained my shirt. She whispered, “thank you for everything” and I replied, “Thank you for trusting me.”

I’ll see some of these kids down the line and some I will never see again. That is the nature of the profession, a fact of this professional life I lead. The end of a school year is the closing of yet another chapter of the book. Some chapters are more difficult to close than others and this year will be one of those. I developed close relationships with some staff members I will probably never work with again, and of course students I will never see again.

“WHOSE HOUSE?”

“C-HOUSE!”

The good thing about it is that wherever I am next year I have the chance to start another chapter.

Best wishes to the class of 2007 wherever you are


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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and school is out tomorrow. Can you say….summer vacation!!!? I think I can!

I have been interviewing teacher candidates for the past week. We have interviewed over thirty teachers and more are scheduled. These are teachers for a school I probably I won’t be working at, but I have enjoyed the work of sifting through candidates and making hiring decisions.

A couple of interview tips based on this experience: 1) Don’t talk too much. One person we interviewed took thirty minutes to answer two questions. We bagged the rest of the interview, thanked her for coming, and sent her on her way. 2) Don’t use the adjective “frickin” in the interview. 3) Try and make sure your blouse doesn’t come unbuttoned in the interview. (We still hired her!) 4) Try not to slap the table too much during the interview, messing up the note taking of the interviewers. 5) Don’t say, “the kids will respect me more because I’m only 25 and not like the older teachers”, when your interviewers are all much older than you are. 6) Don’t repeatedly use handouts and say, “I think this will explain it”, instead of just answering the question.

You know what I really enjoy? Offering a first teaching job to someone just out of college. One of the guys practically leaped through the ceiling and ran around shaking hands and high fiving everyone in the room. Ahhh….youthful enthusiasm.

We made tequila lime guava glazed ribs this weekend. I was explaining to Aubree how the alcohol in the tequila cooks off, tenderizing the meat and leaving only a flavor. “So there’s no tequila in the ribs Dad”? Nope. My comedic daughter, referring to a country song said, “Good, that way my clothes won’t fall off!”

By the way…those ribs were really good!

I have another job interview later this week myself with the superintendent. I’ll try and take note of my own interview tips above.

The kid’s mom is here visiting from England. They will spend a week with her starting Friday and they are so excited. I know they will have a good time!

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

In Memory 

It has rained most of the day today, but I took advantage of a break in the showers and drove out to the cemetery this afternoon. Aubree and I visited the graves of my father, grandfather, and sister.

I had not seen my father’s tombstone. I knew it had been there for months, had driven by many times, but had not yet had the desire to go see it. It is a nice engraved headstone like so many others I saw in the sea of beautiful flowers in the cemetery today. I’m not sure why I had resisted going to take a look. Maybe it was the finality that the printed words bring. In any case, I paused and reflected, felt the breeze on my face, and the occasional sprinkle of rain. I made similar pauses at my sister’s and grandfather’s locations, a little said, but also smiling, thinking of warm and funny thoughts about both of them, thinking how each of them were so important to me in their own special way.

Just walking around, I recognized several names on tombstones. I guess that happens growing up in a small town. I stopped for a moment at one, a local teacher and my mother’s former walking partner. I stopped at another, a name I didn’t know but who had died at 24 years old. What was her story? I thought about all the stories that could be told from here.

I reflect on the stories of those I loved and those I never knew. My father, the farm boy from the middle of nowhere who raised five children, taught and coached, became a renowned scientist, and loved my mother until his last breath. My sister, such a beautiful girl, a kind hearted soul, who seemed to love everyone, most especially her children. My grandfather, a survivor of the Depression, an ornery and mischievous guy who loved his practical jokes, who worked in aircraft factories during World War II, who loved his slew of grandkids, who made everyone around him laugh.

On Memorial Day we remember their stories, their contributions, what they meant to us as individuals, to their families, to a nation. We remember those who served their country when they were needed and those who served their families and communities. We remember, we tell their stories, we laugh and we smile. We tell their stories, honor their memory, and know that in a sense they are part of life’s continuum that never truly dies.

Happy Memorial Day to all and special thoughts to those who are serving their country overseas.


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Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! 

It has been a very long day and I've just settled in for the evening. Thus, there will not be a weekend roundup posted tonight. I will have a couple of posts coming up this weekend.

I wish you all a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Please be careful if your plans call for travel.

Take care my friends and enjoy the three day weekend!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and there are five school days left. Gotta love it!

We enjoyed seeing “Shrek The Third”. There is something really charming about those Shrek movies. I wouldn’t have minded seeing another karaoke jam session at the end like earlier movies.

This weekend Patrick is hot to see the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. You know its summertime when all these big movies come out at once.

I watched every episode of “24” this season, my first season to watch the show (I did get all the DVD sets so I could catch up!). I didn’t like the ending, with Jack looking over the cliff, seemingly deciding where to jump or not. The ending was too soap opera like and I don’t watch “24” to watch a soap opera. Hopefully they will do better next season!

It is really hard to believe that this school year is almost over. Time really does fly.

Hmmm…..travel on Memorial Day weekend and fight the crowds or stick close to home?

I thought this article about attractive women dating “ugly” men was interesting. How exactly do you define ugly? There must be some truth to it. I’m not exactly a paragon of male attractiveness, but I have dated attractive women. As a matter of fact, a very attractive woman is sitting only a few feet away from me as I type this. Is this a great life or what?

Patrick’s principal took his Special Olympics team to lunch at a local steakhouse. I thought it was a very nice gesture, the first time his group has received attention from the administration. I’m going to send the principal a nice note thanking him.

So how is YOUR week going?


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wat Up? 

Two girls sat in my office staring daggers at each other and barely holding back snarky remarks. Their profanity laced conflict had made its way to my office.

I did what I often do. Work on something on my desk or look at the computer monitor for a couple of minutes before speaking, rather than jumping right in. I pull both of their disciplinary and academic records and glance quickly at them.

Why are they so angry at each other?

“She called me a ho in the chat room.” Chat room? You mean last night at home?

No, this morning. I was in technology and she was in language arts. We were both in the chat room.”

A chat room eh? At school on school computers?

Most popular chat and social sites (MySpace, etc.) are blocked by the school’s web filter. But there is no way the filter can get them all. The site they were chatting on is a Russian web site with a built-in browser chat function. Kids are not supposed to be in chat rooms at all. To do so is a violation of the computer use agreement they all signed early in the year.

So girls, how would I get in this chat room?” Eager to gain favor, they were happy to show me. I logged in and saw all the user names on the right hand side. “Are all of these people our students?” “No, but a lot of them are.” “Do tell!” They took pen and paper and wrote out for me all the real names that go with nicknames such as “Sexy Mama” and “JDawg”.

I logged in as “Big Dawg” and sat there observing. Before long I got a private message…”wat up?” The girls identified who the other student was. “How do I respond where I’ll sound like a kid?” They instructed me. After a minute or so of inane teenage chat I typed, “Oh, by the way. This is Mr. S. I would strongly suggest you log out right now.”

User has left the chat.

My informants tell me who another student is. I pull up her schedule, call her classroom and ask the teacher, “Is J on the computer right now?” Yes. “Tell her that Mr. S. is observing her in the chat room right now and thinks she should log off.” Seconds later…

User has left the chat.

After observing a bit more I typed in the main chat window…”This is Mr. S. I am pulling the school network up and seeing which computers are logged onto this chatroom. If you are one of my students, I strongly suggest you log off now.” I actually can’t see which computers are logged on to the chatroom but the students don’t know that.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

User has left the chat.

Mass exodus. “Lesbian Lover”, “Sexy Ass”, and “Big Dick” are still there, but suddenly no one is chatting. I sit there for a minute and they leave too. I’ve cleared the chatroom! Who said this job is never fun?

In my soft spoken but very firm way I strongly reprimand the two girls for their chatting, remind them that “Big Dick” could very well by a 60 year old pervert, and promise them severe consequences for any repeated violations. I also thank them for helping me with this chat issue.

I send an email to IT to block the site and a reminder to teachers to more closely monitor student internet use, and I’m done for the day.


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Sunday, May 20, 2007

How Sweet The Sound 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me -
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

While perusing movie times yesterday, looking for when we could go see “Shrek the Third”, I came across the listing for “Amazing Grace”. Yes, we still went to see Shrek, but I know that I really want to see this story of British parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who devoted his career to ending Britain’s participation in the very profitable slave trade market. Woven into the film is Wilberforce’s interaction with his pastor, John Newton, whose most famous offering to the world is the song, “Amazing Grace”.

T'was Grace that taught -
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear -
the hour I first believed.

Newton had a special reason to work with Wilberforce to stop the slave ships from running the high seas. You see, Newton spent part of his life working on slave ships and even captained one himself. Over the years he saw how slaves were treated, saw families torn apart, saw his fellow man bought and sold like cattle. Interwoven into Wilberforce’s pursuit of abolition is his pastor’s struggle to come to terms with his past and how through grace he was able to do so.

Through many dangers, toils and snares -
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far -
and Grace will lead us home.

The song Newton wrote about his spiritual journey from slaver to pastor became what is probably Christianity’s most enduring hymn. Newton credits a fervent prayer given on the high seas in the midst of a violent storm as starting his journey toward faith. Could he be someone different? He was his father’s son, a seaman, a merchant, a trafficker in human cargo.

The Lord has promised good to me -
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be -
as long as life endures.

By grace, Newton renounced his past, changed his life and became a huge influence on many people, including and up-and-coming Wilberforce. He couldn’t possibly have known how popular his song would become, how it was sung by American slaves as they toiled in the fields, soldiers as they camped before battle, civil rights protesters as they fought for equality, church-goers as they lifted their hearts to God, or ordinary people as they bury a family member. The song is powerful in its simplicity and in its driving point –no matter who you are or what you’ve done, through God’s grace you can change your life. Newton went from a man who chained children in the bowels of his ship to a moral force that helped change the civilized world. If he could do it, others could too.

When we've been here ten thousand years -
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise -
then when we've first begun.

Newton didn’t write this stanza. It was inserted by Harriett Beecher Stowe in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, the book whose publication did more than any other piece of literature to affect American opinion on the practice of slavery. Stowe’s extra verse became accepted as an integral part of the song.

“Amazing Grace” has been written into almost 1000 arrangements and been performed by countless artists. Terri and I went off on a tangent yesterday and listened to a number of different versions. Our verdict?

Excellent

Judy Collins – sung a capella with beauty and power.

Elvis Presley – authentic, passionate, and powerful rendition.

LeeAnn Rimes – see comments on Collins above.

Good, Not Great

Aaron Neville – great voice, uses it too much to play with this song

Aretha Franklin – similar to Neville

Joan Baez – sung beautifully live, but her prompting of the audience disrupts the flow of the song

George Jones – I don’t like much of his work, but he does an acceptable job with this song.

Vienna Boys Choir – not as well harmonized as you might hope.

Sandi Patty – not as powerful as Collins’ and Rimes’ offerings.

Turn The Song Off…Please

Rod Stewart – should stick to “Maggie May”. It was awful.

Willie Nelson – the song sounds better sung through the mouth and not the nose.

Charlie Daniels – Charlie…you’re not singing “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”.

Ani DiFranco - her voice doesn't seem to able to carry this song.

There were others, but time and space doesn’t allow for a full review. I just wanted to get a feel for how this hymn has endured through the ages.

The movie’s website notes that millions of people are still held in various types of slavery today. Wilberforce, Newton, and other abolitionists on both sides of the ocean may have started this work, but it is not yet complete. It is utterly disgusting that in this day and time, human beings could still be in bondage.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me -
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see
.

We can only hope that some day they will see.


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Friday, May 18, 2007

Weekend Roundup 5/18-5/19 

TGIF everyone and not a moment too soon!


I went to Aubree's choir concert tonight, came home, and settled in for the evening. I also caught up on some of my favorite reads and a few new ones. I hope you enjoy!

Irina’s dad has a fishbone stuck in his throat. Sally had a evening full of music.

Tara is feeling full of grace. Karen is grateful to have a respite from her classes.

Lime is thinking about old friends. Walker is thinking about decisions.

Margaret reports on her Mother’s Day. T. Marie reports on the American Idol contestants.

AirplaneJayne remembers getting in trouble for dipping her toes. Remembrance causes New Wave Gurly’s tears to flow.

Has anyone seen Jules’ bra? Has anyone seen lilacs as pretty as those Ellen saw?

Breazy’s daughter earns a Girl Scout award. John pays a well earned tribute to a good man.

Barn Goddess enjoys a ride on a pretty day. Mary Lou is enjoying having a kitten around.

Patrick discusses what it means to be patriotic. Will discusses how to tell if your church is “faking it”.

Thomai shares grace. Michael shares his review of “Grand Canyon”.

Aka Monty talks about “The Dangerous Book For Boys”. Jerry talks about meeting some other bloggers.

Incurable Insomniac has a web browsing tip. Joe has been recovering from a hernia operation.

Rain shares a her own celebration of the month of May. Leen shares some observations about her new home.

Okie Lawyer reports on an electric car. Susan reports on her weekend R & R.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is Wednesday and what a beautiful day it was today.

I was saddened to learn of the death of my band director in junior high school, Mr. George Brite. Mr. Brite was a legendary band director in the state of Oklahoma, a member of the Tulsa Philharmonic, and a statewide advocate of music. Even today when I mention to a band director where I went to school the first question I hear is, “did you play for Mr. Brite?” I certainly did. Mr. Brite was a very demanding band director, a taskmaster who insisted on getting it exactly right. I remember going to very early morning sectional rehearsals and him saying, “Brian, we’ll play this song all morning until you get that part right.” Tough, but also a man with a huge heart, he is a legend in this town and state. R.I.P. Mr. Brite. You were a formative experience for many thousands of young people.

Speaking of music, my daughter is now a fan of Johnny Cash. She is pestering me to load her IPOD with some Johnny Cash songs. She loved the song and video “Hurt” which introduced her to some other Cash songs. It goes to show that music crosses many age, race, and class boundaries.

My work assignment for next year is still very much up in the air? Can you say suspense?

I was accused of flirting with the TV reporter who covered an event at my school today. Can you believe anyone would accuse me of something like that?

Ten days until school is out. We’re heading toward single digits!

Patrick to me earlier tonight…”Dad is it true you brought home stuff to make strawberry shortcake?” Yes, it is true. “Pinch me dad. I must be dreaming!”

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Grave Dancing 

I read the news today of Jerry Falwell’s passing. Although I disagreed with Falwell on a great many things, I am sorry for his family’s loss and hope he finds God’s tender mercy as he moves on from this life.

The internet was abuzz in many quarters today with people expressing glee at his death, full of anger, vitriol, and profanity. I’m not going to link to any of these posts. They are easy enough to find. Similar reactions have occurred following deaths of people from across the political spectrum. It even happened when Anna Nicole Smith died. These reactions are typified by admonitions that the person should “burn in hell” or some other such perjorative. Its like they have gained some personal victory from this death.

This puzzles me on a couple of levels. Most of the people dancing on a tombstone that hasn’t been erected yet didn’t know Jerry Falwell or Paul Wellstone in a personal sense. They didn’t beat them up in school, steal their boyfriend or girlfriend, or steal money from them. They didn’t commit mass murder or anything like that. Why are they so gleeful at the death of another? Because they opposed what the person stood for, disagreed with them on religion or politics, found something they said offensive?

This is a nation of broad, diverse viewpoints from religious fundamentalism to secular progressivism, from hard-core libertarianism to social paternalism, from laissez faire capitalism to socialist collectivism. This is part of what makes this country so messy in our politics but it is also part of what makes democracy so vibrant. We are never all going to agree on anything. People are going to say things that offend you. People are going to espouse viewpoints that make your skin crawl. People are going to represent everything that you think is wrong in the world. These things happen when you live in a country where free speech is part of the heritage.

Then that person dies, just like all of us will some day. Mortality stalks us all, no matter what we believe.

Now I don’t believe you should have to soft-soap disagreements with someone just because they have died. You can still think they were wrong, still disagree with what they stood for, still oppose their viewpoints with all the passion in your heart. But I am repulsed by dehumanization of someone simply because you disagreed with them or even if they were a jerk. There is a basic standard of decency, a simple respect for life that should overcome objections to someone’s lifestyle choices or political or religious values. Should we mourn someone we find objectionable? Of course not. That would be hypocritical. Celebrate their death? The person is gone and can’t be hurt by our words. It can only serve to debase us or harm those who are still here.

You might say…what if Bin Laden was killed tomorrow? I certainly wouldn’t mourn his death and the premeditated, willful murder of thousands of innocents is not on the same moral plane as political or religious disagreements. I think I would experience a grim satisfaction that he couldn’t do it again…but gleeful? Its hard to say.

I was sitting here trying to think of someone who died that I personally knew and who I strongly disliked. There must be one but I can’t think of it. How does one respond in such a situation? Death obviously brings out strong emotions from loved ones and admirers? How about detractors?

I think I'd save those shoes for the dance floor and leave the tombstone alone.


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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Educated Eichmanns 

Dear Teacher:
"I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness: Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane."

Haim Ginott, a concentration camp survivor, wrote this letter at the beginning of his book, “Between Parent and Child”. It relates his thoughts about the purpose of education, about how education and knowledge bereft of context, morality, and humanity is not what we want for our children. Nazi Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise was perhaps the most advanced civilization the world had ever seen. Its universities graduated some of the world’s greatest scientists, its theaters showcased some of the world’s great composers and musicians, its military officer corps was classically trained and regarded as among the best in the world. This “educated” society gave rise to one of history’s most vicious and murderous figures and supported him in large numbers. In the midst of all the knowledge, where was the humanity? Educated citizens stood by and allowed a psychopath to take control of their nation.

This cuts to the heart of what we mean when we say we want our children to be “educated”. We want them to know how to read, add, and subtract, but these abilities are without meaning standing by themselves. Do we risk this in our current obsession with standardized test scores? Where and how are we teaching our children about humanity, about our larger purpose, about service to others, about decency? Many parents do, many churches do, and some educational institutions do, but in our schools this can get washed over in the rush to raise those scores a few percentage points.

Schools should be institutions that prepare children to be productive citizens and responsible adults. This includes literacy and numeracy, but it also includes citizenship, the arts, history, and an understanding of humanity. What does it mean to share a free society with others of different backgrounds? What are our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters and what are theirs to us? What does it mean to participate in the civic life of your nation in a meaningful way? What are the lessons that history has taught us? How does a person stay true to their own beliefs and values, their own culture, their own religion, while at the same time working to build a better world with those who do not share some of these values?

Of course, schools cannot answer all these questions or solve all these problems. A child’s attendance in school is but one facet of the experience of growing up. In a sense, all of us are teachers. When kids see a politician lie, cheat, and steal, they learn. When one of my students sees his father slap his mother, she learns. When a teenager sees a popular music star simulate sex onstage with a teenage girl, he learns. When a kid hears a family member use racial slurs and chortle with laughter, she learns. When a child hears the term “Nazi” tossed at anyone with whom someone disagrees, he learns that the term has no real meaning.

When child sees a parent drop a check into the collection plate or send it to the Red Cross, she learns. When a high school student has a teacher that has high expectations of him, he learns. When a kid sees a neighbor rushing to New Orleans to help out, she learns. When a child sees his dad come home after a hard day at work and go out in the rain to vote, he learns. When a student has a teacher that promotes respectful debate, dialogue, and critical thinking in the classroom, she learns.

They will always learn. But what will they learn?

Teach them to read, to write, and to use mathematics. They can’t be successful without these skills.

But teach them more than that.

Teach them to be human. Teach them to be a citizen. Teach them about how to love and respect one another. Teach them to stand up for what is right. Teach them about rights AND responsibilities. Teach them what it means to live, work, and play with people who are different than they are. Teach them what the purposes of knowledge are.

Teach them well.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day! 

To all of you mothers out there I’d like to wish you a most enjoyable Mother’s Day. On behalf of your kids I'd also like to thank you.

Thank you for being there so many times for us.

Thank you for the love you’ve shown us so many times.

Thank you for staying home with us while your childless friends partied.

Thank you for the financial sacrifice you made by choosing to be a mother.

Thank you for loving us the way only you could.

Thank you for the values you taught us.

Thank you for not giving up on us.

Thank you for holding us accountable for our actions but never letting your love skip a beat.

Thank you for caring enough to say “no”.

Thank you for fueling our hopes and dreams.

Thank you for telling us the truth even when it hurts.

Thank you for those life-affirming hugs.

Thank you for working yourself to exhaustion to provide for us.

Thank you for not letting single motherhood stop you from raising well adjusted children.

Thank you for forgiving us.

Thank you for fighting for us when no one else would.

Thank you for not giving up on us.

Thank you for it all.


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Friday, May 11, 2007

Weekend Roundup 5/11-5/12 

Ahhh...it really is Friday, isn't it?


Patrick is home from Special Olympics with a gold medal for the softball throw and a bronze for the 50 meter dash. He also did not spend one dime of his spending money. *Shock!* Of course that means he wants to go to Wal Mart and spend it now. What a guy! I should make him buy another umbrella since he promptly dismantled one when he got home to make one of his "gadgets".

On to the roundup. Enjoy!!

Okie Lawyer is ready for “Sicko”. Vickie is riding the roller coaster.

Irina had a dream. Leslie had some time to watch movies.

Mary Lou has never had a snake. Susan has a desire for summer to be here.

Jules heard the “L” word. Let’s hear it for Lime’s teacher appreciation post.

Sally is back in business. Joan is tired of cooking.

Breazy’s daughter stood up for herself. Redneck Diva’s kids are going with her to Branson.

Barn Goddess is being politically incorrect. Walker probably is too with his thoughts on abortion.

T. Marie’s son’s bicycle was vandalized. Malnurtured Slay’s apartment was being cleaned.

Jack shares his thoughts on gun control. Sudie Girl shares her thoughts on Phil Spector’s women.

Carol writes about household rules from her childhood. Patrick writes about how the government spends money.

Tara notes that too much navel gazing isn’t good for you. Used To Be Me notes some things that really piss her off.

Karen shares a beautiful tulip. Okie Doke shares information about “Rocklahoma”.

Ellen is tired of being tired. John is heading north.

Rain is a certain kind of panties. Chaotic Serenity is getting high speed internet.

Phoenix heard some hurtful words. Restless Angel doesn’t want to hear that she graduated from high school ten years ago.

Erin is glad to be finished with some of her classes. Melessa is glad to be celebrating her graduation.

Chosha shares the perfect gift for the newly divorced woman. Sea Rabbit shares what she has to do to get ready for vacation!

Have a wonderful weekend my friends!


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and it has been raining buckets here. We haven’t had any really bad storms, just a lot of rain.

Fifteen days of school left….not that I’m counting or anything.

We had a national motivational speaker come today to speak to the kids. I’m always impressed when someone can hold the attention of hundreds of middle school kids for an hour, and this guy definitely did. He established his bonafides by showing some of his bullet wounds from his gang banging days, and then proceeded with a very powerful anti-gang, anti-drug, anti-teen pregnancy message. The kids were listening attentively for most of his presentation.

At one point he brought out a poster of a Ku Klux Klan member and held it up for awhile. There were some scattered gasps and boos as he stood there and held the poster aloft. He then asked, “how many black people did the Ku Klux Klan kill last year”? He answered by saying, “few if any”. Then he flipped the poster around to show a picture of a fully decked out gang member and shouted, “this is the Ku Klux Klan of the 21st century. Gangs are killing more black kids than the Klan ever dreamed about.” You could’ve heard a pin drop in the auditorium. Powerful stuff.

He also delivered an angry denunciation of a current rapper’s stance on not calling the police, even if a child molester is harming kids next door.

Patrick is off and away to the state Special Olympics meet. He was so excited this morning he could hardly stand it. Hopefully the rain will let up and he and his classmates will have a great time.

I’ve done a couple of job interviews in the last week. Hopefully something good will come out of them in the next few weeks.

It is quiet with Patrick not in the house, but I do miss the little rascal. Did I say little? Patrick is now taller than all three of my brothers.

Did I mention that there were only fifteen days of school left?

So how is YOUR week going?

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Covenant 

Three states (Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona) now allow couples to choose something called “covenant marriage”. Couples who choose to go this route undergo premarital counseling and agree in advance on conditions that make getting a divorce much more difficult. Except in cases of adultery, abuse, or felony conviction, Louisiana law requires couples to be separated for two years before they can petition the court for a divorce and requires them to undergo counseling to see if the marriage can be saved. The other states provide exception for alcoholism or drug abuse. These covenant marriage laws are intended as an antidote to the “no fault” divorce laws that are common throughout the nation. With a high divorce rate across the land, the legislatures that approved these laws are hoping to stem the tide by offering people an alternative to a regular ole marriage.

First, let’s look at the positive side of these laws. The divorce rate in this country is scandalous. No one can really argue that half of all marriages ending in divorce is a positive thing for the country, for couples, or for the children that these marriages produce. We would all be better off if we did a better job choosing our mates, working on our marriages, and trying to avoid divorce. But easy-to-obtain divorce has become part of the national fabric. Covenant marriage seems to signal a higher degree of commitment. Can covenant marriage legislation make things better?

How about some hypotheticals? Some people might consider the following reasons to ask for a divorce. None would be legal grounds under the covenant marriage laws. Which ones do you think are legitimate? For all of these, the offended spouse has asked for change, requested counseling, and made great effort to change the offending behavior.

  1. Peggy marries Joe and for a few years everything is fine. Then Joe begins to spend more and more time at the casino and a fair portion of the family’s income ends up being spent at the blackjack table. As a consequence they are sometimes unable to meet their financial obligations.
  2. Tom marries Sue and the newlyweds enjoy a honeymoon period. Suddenly Tom becomes much more adamant about his religious beliefs, asks his wife to throw out most of her wardrobe for being too provocative, insists that the family give 25% of their income to the church, and insists that she stop a variety of activities that he now considers to be sinful.
  3. Jack marries Letha who at the time of their marriage weighs 120 lbs and has long, flowing hair. Three years later she weighs 275 lbs and has cut her hair to a “butch” look. No medical condition is present. He now finds her unattractive and tells her so. She resists all entreaties to lose weight.
  4. Joe marries Shirley and they have a rollicking sex life in the early years of their marriage. Shirley becomes totally uninterested in sex and tells Joe she stills loves him but has no intention of having sex with him in the foreseeable future. She states that her libido is just gone.
  5. Jenny marries Rick who is an avid outdoorsman. But once they marry his occasional fishing or hunting trips become almost an everyday event. He is either working, sleeping, fishing, or hunting. He is always polite to her but pays her little attention, focusing all his energy on his outdoor pursuits.
  6. Jo Ann and Thomas are both married in the church they grew up in. Thomas goes on a business trip and becomes enchanted with an Eastern religion, far different from the faith they shared when they were married. He spends much energy trying to convert her and their children into his newfound religion and she is strenuously opposed to it.
  7. John was such a frugal guy when he and Peggy Sue got married. He hits middle age and suddenly becomes an absolutely wild spender. He buys a new Corvette convertible, a Harley Davidson, has plastic surgery on his face, and takes up flying planes. All of his activities are rapidly draining their savings which they had always said would be for retirement. She is afraid that if she doesn’t do something she will have no savings when she retires.

Which of these do you think are legitimate? Answers might be different for different people.

Some of these scenarios would be considered by many to be grounds for divorce. Others might not. None would be readily available under a covenant marriage. Give up your right to a no-fault divorce under these circumstances? Enhanced commitment or preserving your options?

So here’s a question for you. If you are unmarried would you consider converting your marriage to a covenant version? If already married would you convert your existing marriage to a covenant one?


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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dangerous Boys 

Ranked only behind the latest Harry Potter book, The Dangerous Book For Boys has rocketed up Amazon’s top 100 list. The book’s description includes chapters on tying knots, creating water bombs, slingshots, and bows and arrows, fishing, creating tripwires, descriptions of famous battles, making paper airplanes, playing stickball, analyzing fossils, building a go-kart, and even a chapter on how to deal with girls. For good measure there are chapters on history, navigation, and cloud formations. The author states that his book is something of a rebellion against current culture which he views as overprotective and over-coddling of children, and especially boys.

This of course reminds me of my own experience growing up as a boy in the suburbs. I did quite a few dangerous things, some of which remained always unknown to my parents. I swam in the creek near our house, climbed very tall trees, rode my bicycle across busy streets, played tackle football on top of the neighbor’s barn, and engaged in BB gun “wars”, protected by heavily padded clothing. Any one of these activities could have caused great injury, but luckily I managed to avoid the negative consequences that could have resulted from my boyish recklessness. We also played outdoors on summer days from the time we woke up until it was time for bed. There wasn’t much for kids to watch on the three channels of television available, our Atari video game system wasn’t very exciting, and computers were monstrosities that took up large rooms. My main home activity was reading, but that usually happened when it was too dark outside to play any longer.

We poached strawberries and melons from the neighbor’s garden and played games in the nearby woods. We hunted for large pieces of cardboard to slide down the only large hill in town. We walked or rode our bicycles to the nearest lake, a couple of miles outside town, where we fished or swam all day long. We competed to see who would “hang and drop” from the highest tree limb. We played on train trestles and climbed the fence of a local glass plant seeking treasure, imperfect glass items that were thrown away in large dumpsters. We built ramps to jump our bicycles from. We played in the neighbor’s treehouse, choosing to climb out the long branches to enter our “fort” rather than taking the “chicken” way of climbing the ladder. We fashioned a rope swing at the creek, swinging out and dropping into the brown, sometimes fast moving water. We basked in the sun to let our clothing dry so that we wouldn’t get in trouble when we got home. We rode bikes without helmets. We even tried to ride the cows at my grandfather’s farm, something that usually didn’t work out too well.

Looking back, it is a miracle we all survived. We could’ve added a lot of chapters to this guy’s book. We definitely lived and played dangerously.

The book’s title mentions boys, but there were girls who did many of the same things we did. There were girls who played in our rough and tumble football games, rode bikes with us, and climbed trees right beside us. One girl could even out arm-westle many of us, much to our chagrin. As I looked through the book’s activities I noted that my daughter would enjoy many of them. She loves to climb, enjoys Hot Wheels cars, and rides her bicycle with abandon. Girls sometimes like to be “dangerous” too.

Are kids today coddled and overprotected? By the standards of my childhood they certainly are, but society has changed and the way we look at raising kids has changed along with it. We view our role as parents as protecting our kids from every conceivable danger, including those that can come from childhood mischief and recklessness. Perhaps our kids are safer than we were but what are they missing out on as they play their video games and watch MTV from the safety of the living room couch? My kid’s world, growing up now only a few blocks from where I spent my childhood is far different from my own. They don’t know where that creek is. Of course, I would be horrified if they actually found it and swam in it. They don’t know which neighbors will shoo you away from their strawberries and which ones will bring you out a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day. I could tell you who lived in dozens of houses in my neighborhood, but my kids can’t now, and for that matter, neither can I. Our neighbor that let us play in his treehouse and climb the trees in his backyard wouldn’t be able to do so today, fearful of being sued if something happened.

The activities described in the book harken back to those days but the activities aren’t really all that “unsafe”, the author reaching a compromise between today’s standards and the fun activities that many of us remember.

Please excuse me. I think I have a tree to climb.


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Friday, May 04, 2007

Weekend Roundup 5/4/-5/5 

TGIF and I really mean it. I’m ready for the weekend! I think my interview today went well, but time will tell.

I thought I’d sit back and read a few of the outstanding blogs that I so enjoy. Wanna join me?

T. Marie ponders what she finds attractive in the opposite sex. Irina pondered life while listening to music.

Lime has a new toy. Jules has a holiday she can really celebrate.

Thomai knows how she likes her music. Joan knows she has the fever.

Patrick thinks about giving up his planning period. Carol thinks about her luxury wish list.

Walker was feeling a bit lazy. Cheri was wondering why she can’t be more like a guy when it comes to sex.

Okie Lawyer wonders why an elderly lady might have to live in her car. Mary Lou wonders why she ate the whole thing.

Sally thinks about a teacher and a yellow convertible. Barn Goddess thinks she is ready for summer days.

Teresa is taking a holiday from blogging. Rain is having to go to court…only to have the case continued.

Chaotic Serenity hates shopping. Vickie hates it that inappropriate material is sometimes available to kids.

Sea Rabbitt thinks back forty years. Margaret thinks about raising children in the rain and the sun.

Breazy celebrates her wedding anniversary. Tara celebrates being an award winner.

Jenny thinks about how her birthday was different this year. Jack thinks about hoops and growing older.

Phoenix has some advice for men. Redneck Diva has a lovely night.

Ellen enjoyed a good bath. Laine enjoyed visiting her wicked friend.

Snav thinks they should bring back the milkman. Karen thinks she is very proud of her nephew.

Melessa remembers a bad situation and a good friend. Michael remembers an astronaut.

Lisa made a video post. The other Lisa made for a good interviewee.

Mama K Bear was nominated for an award. Okie Doke discusses the nominations for the Oklahoma centennial quarter.

I think I'll put my feet up, talk to Terri, have a drink, and play some music.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.


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Thursday, May 03, 2007

All The News That's Fit To Print 

I heard a radio announcer quoting the publisher of the New York Times stating that he wasn’t sure his newspaper would have a print edition in five years. Newspapers across the country are suffering a decline in sales, some drastically so. As more people get their news from alternative sources, what is the future of printed newspapers?

I was reading the newspaper as soon as I learned to read. When my parents finished the paper I would read the comics…..”Peanuts”, “Hi and Lois”, etc. I sat and watched my parents pass sections of the newspaper back and forth each night, commenting on articles, remarking on who got married or divorced, sometimes engaging in mini-debates. As I grew older and my interests expanded I became an inveterate reader of the newspapers. I scoured the sports section, looking for scores and articles about my favorite teams and players. I read the style section to see what was hot, the classified ads to buy something I wanted, and pored over the crossword puzzle. As a young adult I searched for jobs and read local and national news. The newspaper was a big part of my life, a source of information and entertainment, something to look forward to when it landed with a “thump” on the front porch. I especially looked forward to the Sunday paper, something that I would spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon reading.

But now I reflect the national trend. I don’t read newspapers much at all. I buy one if there is a particular article I’m looking for and I still enjoy glancing through the Sunday paper. But even then much of the news I read is old news. I’ve already read many of those stories online, already checked the box score, or looked over craigslist. That old excitement of sliding the rubber band off the paper just isn’t there anymore. Most of my information comes from web sites of some of those same papers, blogs, and other online sources.

I just can’t get that old feeling anymore. The newspaper just doesn’t play much of a role in my life. Like a long lost lover I might still miss it sometimes but it just doesn’t feel the same.

I think there will be a niche for local papers, covering local issues and keeping an eye on city hall, but the day is growing to a close when you could drive down the street early on a Sunday morning and see a newspaper in everyone’s front yard. The times, they are a changin’.

(Side note: I have an important job interview tomorrow. Wish me luck!)

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and it seems like it has been raining forever.

My school has a lot of large windows and it is somewhat mesmerizing to watch. It made me wish to curl up somewhere with a good book.

One of my hats is presiding over the “suspension review” hearings, something of a quasi-judicial hearing where parents bring their kids to appeal a suspension from school. The dean presents the school’s case, parent and child are given the opportunity to respond, and then a committee of teachers votes whether to uphold, rescind, or modify the suspension. My role is to preside, make sure rules are followed, and announce the committee’s decision. Suspensions tend to rise during this time of the year and these hearings are often emotional. Never a dull moment!

I’m enjoying a few weeks with no school assignments. My classes begin again in early June and will take up part of the summer. I’ll probably be working summer school as well, so this summer will not offer many opportunities for rest and relaxation. Maybe we can squeeze in a week or two somewhere in there.

I read with some amusement of a Washington, D.C. madame’s attempt to “out” her clients so that they would aid in her defense. I was somewhat amused at the high ranking government official who resigned, saying that he only paid the girls $300 + for massages. Three hundred bucks for a massage? If I’m paying $300 I would want….well, I’ll stop there this being a PG rated blog and all. I’m trying to imagine his wife’s reaction as he says, “honey, I was only paying the hot young blonde hundreds of dollars to massage my aching neck in my hotel room.”

Then again, what is the compelling government rationale for criminalizing this behavior between consenting adults? I can understand running the hookers off street corners because of the other crimes such activities can bring to a neighborhood. But I think there is a strong argument to be made that the government intruding on a private transaction like this is dubious. Couldn’t those resources be better spent chasing down burglars, car thieves, and murderers?

Patrick is a week away from competing in the state Special Olympics meet and he is hyped. He’ll be gone three days, stay in a college dormitory, and engage in a lot of fun activities. It is definitely a highlight of the year for him.

There are only twenty school days left this year. People are hyped up and so ready for the year to be over….and that’s just the teachers!

So how is YOUR week going?

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