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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year! 

There is something to be said for this concept of a year, the idea of a new period of time to work with every 365 days. It comes along often enough to be meaningful, not so often as to be repetitive, and at a time when we are celebrating another major holiday.

A new year. A new beginning. Another chance. Time for reaffirming what is right. Time for changing what is wrong. Time to glance backward into the past year while looking forward into the next. A time for promises. A time for reflection. A time for resolutions. It is all of these things.

I am very much looking forward to 2008. I know some of what it will bring. I hope for other things. Still others may need to wait until 2009 or beyond.

I don’t really have any resolutions except perhaps this….to be a better person than I was in 2007, to continue to grow and learn, to cherish those around me even more than I already do, to appreciate my good fortune, and to build a better future. Maybe I do have some resolutions after all.

We’ll be home tonight, making our own party, ringing in 2008 with a bang. If I’m lucky I might get drunk dialed by Jules , Monty, or one of my other friends! Who knows…I might even call one of them!

I wish each and every one of you the happiest of New Years. Here’s to 2008!


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Tragedy and Response 

Although you can’t always tell it from this blog, I am something of an avid observer of politics and world events. I was saddened by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the past and possible future prime minister of Pakistan. It is a stark reminder of the harsh world out there, what some are willing to do to someone with a different opinion, and devastating news for a country whose stability has already been rocked. I am saddened for Mrs. Bhutto, her family, her followers, and the nation of Pakistan.

Sadly, many leaders have been victims of assassination over the years. In our own nation we have had four presidents assassinated and many other attempts. Lincoln’s death led to a battle over Reconstruction and the impeachment and near removal of his successor. Kennedy’s assassination was a precursor to the tumultuous era of civil rights protests and anti-war activism. I don’t know what their assassins hoped to accomplish, but the nation moved on and became a better place, albeit many years later. I hope Pakistan can do the same. An entire nation faces some difficult choices. Turn your grief toward positive change or be consumed by bitterness and recrimination?

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand sparked the beginning of World War I, costing over 20 million lives. Events have consequences and people have a choice as to how to react. I hope the people of Pakistan take the consequences into account. Enough people have died.

Many of us have had the personal equivalent of a Bhutto assassination in our own lives. It leaves us at a crossroads, with paths to choose. We can choose to let our grief consume us in anger, leading us to self destruction. A dear friend of mine referred to these types of events as “personal Hiroshimas”. In my own case it was a devastating divorce and the consequences that followed it. In someone else’s it might be a premature death, financial ruin, or some other event that changes your life forever. You can’t turn back the clock, you can’t undo the deed, and you can’t make it all better again. You have a choice….let tragedy define you forever or make positive choices to move ahead. Lash out, turn inward, make our lives better. It is all up to us, isn’t it?

We have those choices. Nations have those choices. Sadly enough, we will never eliminate those who wish to settle disagreements with the barrel of a gun. Neither will we ever be immune to tragedies in our own lives. Personal Hiroshimas. Communities devastated. National tragedies. This is a difficult world we live in. Ultimately, we are defined as a people and as individuals by how we respond.

I pray for the people of Pakistan to find the answers that lead to reconciliation and peace. The other choice is too tragic to think about.


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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas! 


Guess who is awake before anyone else in the house?

Guess who just went and looked at everyone peacefully sleeping?

The coffee is brewing and I await everyone else waking up to join the fun.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!



The lyrics to this song struck me as we enjoyed our Christmas morning.



My Grown Up Christmas List


Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies

Well, I'm all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child
But my heart still can dream

So here's my lifelong wish
My grown up christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
and wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath our tree

Well heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth
(there'd be)

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up christmas list

This is my grown up christmas list

Not a bad list.


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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Thoughts 

A few pre-Christmas thoughts:

I like buying gifts a lot better than I like wrapping them.

Actually, I don’t mind wrapping them as long as they are fairly rectangular. But many things are packaged in those funky plastic enclosures with protrusions sticking out here and empty spaces over there. It makes them frustrating to wrap and it looks like crap no matter what you do. Well, no matter what I do anyway. YOU probably know how to wrap things correctly.

I’m very proud of my sneakiness in hiding various presents before they were wrapped. Some were hidden in the locked basement. That part was easy. But others were hidden elsewhere in the house, in some very creative places. They weren’t found.

At least I THINK they weren’t found. When I was a kid we sometimes found the gifts in my dad’s hiding places.

Other times he hid them so well he forgot about them. Once he found one in March and sheepishly gave it to me.

It is the BIG wrapped gifts that intrigue the kids. I guess they don’t quite get that good things can sometimes come in small packages.

I saw a couple of things in the store today and thought “_______” would really like that. Maybe I should pick up ONE more thing for him/her. Then I thought….would this upset the “gift balance”, requiring the purchase of yet another gift? Bah.

I think I’ve shopped enough. This is from someone who actually LIKES shopping.

We had some nasty weather last night, a little ice on the ground, a dusting of snow, some howling bitter cold winds. I wondered if perhaps the smattering of snow might linger and give us a white Christmas. But today it was in the 40’s and sunny. Goodbye snow.

I don’t remember all that many white Christmases anyway. I remember cold Christmases. I remember a rainy Christmas. I remember a Christmas with sunny skies and 70 degrees. You live in Oklahoma and you just never know. We almost always get a few snowstorms but rarely at Christmas.

I can live with that.

It will be Christmas Eve in a couple of hours.

Patrick thinks if he stays up until midnight he can open the gift from me marked "Open Dec. 24th". That Patrick never misses a trick.

I hope you all are enjoying time with family and friends and that you all have the merriest of Christmases and savor the message, love, and warmth of the season.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and things are slowly starting to return to normalcy around here.

The number of people without power in this area is down to four digit numbers. Two of my co-workers finally got their power back on yesterday.

Generators are selling briskly now. The questions is….how often would you use it? We don’t have ice storms like this every year or even every ten years.

I still have a broken tree in my front yard. I’m going to have buy, beg, borrow, or steal a chain saw and get it cut up. It is too bad I don’t have a wood burning fireplace!

Do you have all your Christmas shopping done yet? I umm…well…anyway.

How do you know when you are DONE with Christmas shopping? You can always think of ONE more item you’d like to be able to get for your loved ones.

I have been known to overdo it on Christmas. I think did fairly well for the most part this year. Of course, there are those FEW items I still need to pick up.

Susan’s niece Kayla is undergoing surgery tomorrow. Please place this incredibly brave young woman in your thoughts and prayers.

So how is YOUR week going?


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Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Christmas Letter 

I didn't send one out, but if I had it would've read something like this:

Dear Friends and Family,

This time of year always makes one reflect on the events of the past year and on what our friends and family mean to us. Reflection is something we often do not have time for in our busy lives, something that slides to the back burner, simmering and waiting for us to get around to it. Our obligations sometimes seem overwhelming, yet here we are again celebrating the year’s most meaningful holiday and thinking of each other. If Christmas did not exist we would have to invent it, if for nothing else than taking the time to spend time with each other and to take time to communicate with those who are separated from us by time and distance.

What has 2007 meant in my life and the lives of my family? It has certainly been a year of change but also one of increasing stability. I am settled into my new job as the assistant principal of a large urban high school, going off to work each day with a sense of enthusiasm, yet often fatigued by long hours and heavy demands. I am often juggling multiple crises while at the same time working with my staff to improve our collective educational practice. I’ve always been a pretty good multi-tasker and this role has definitely put that assumption to the test. But I really do love it in a way that might be difficult for many to understand. I think I am making a difference and I know this is what I want to be doing. I am also currently halfway through the coursework of my doctoral program. It is hard to believe that I am this far along, the challenge of engaging in high level academic work challenging my mind as perhaps never before. Once again, I am happy in this and feel as though it is improving me in many ways.

The special woman in my life spent this entire year with me and the kids and I am so very grateful for her and what she has meant to us. Terri is the kind of woman that men should aspire to but that many do not. She is thoughtful and kind, a great conversationalist, and she puts up with me, which is not always the easiest of tasks. I probably don’t tell her enough about how much I appreciate everything she has done and for the love she has freely given to all of us, but I do treasure and love her for who she is. I am truly blessed and I don’t forget it for a moment. We have built a solid relationship, one I pray will last a lifetime. I have also enjoyed becoming better acquainted with Terri’s adult sons, both fine young men who are maturing into their adult roles. It isn’t easy growing up and watching them reminds me of that fact. They are both very good to my kids and I think their presence has brought something special to all of our lives.

About those kids…..How did I all of a sudden become the parent of teenagers? I work with them all day and come home to my own at night. Patrick is becoming a young man before my very eyes. I wondered for years what he would be like at this age and now it is here. He is still so charming in his own way, still frustrating in others, still one of the most unique souls I have ever encountered. He’s still working on that “hyperfrequency modulator” that he plans to build some day. You’ve gotta love him. Aubree is also growing up much quicker than I would like, seemingly making a transition from little girl to teenager at breakneck pace. She is a beautiful girl, intelligent and engaging, the apple of my eye, and also frustrating at times with all the drama a 7th grade girl brings to the table. My kids challenge me, sometimes infuriate me, frequently inspire me, and always make me want to be a better person. I can only hope I can do the same for them.

The rest of my family is doing very well. My brothers are all plugging along in their own lives, working hard, raising their children, and doing it all in a way that makes me admire each one of them. Mom is her usual self, raising my niece, finding projects that keep her interest, and doing it all in her own unique way. Age may have mellowed her in some ways, but there is always that ramrod steel in her spine that ensures she will do what she believes to be right and you will always know about it. My nieces and nephews are growing up and it just doesn't seem possible.

And you my friends? There is not space in this letter to acknowledge all of the people who have made a difference in my life this past year. Once again, I have probably failed in communicating with you how much I appreciate you, how much you have meant to me, and how I love you. I hope we are able to do a better job of keeping up with each other, but do not think for a moment that I do not value you and am not grateful for your love, support, and friendship. Some of you I have never met in person, but your love and support has helped sustain me. I know you are out there and I hope you know that I am too.

I was visiting with my grandmother a few days ago, checking on her during the power outages and making sure she was alright. She talked wistfully of her family, of her parents, brothers and sisters, and so many friends long gone. She wondered what she had done to have lived this long and seen this much. There is no answer to that question. All of us are here for an undetermined short visit before our presence disappears into the sands of time. All we can do is to make the most of it. My grandmother has. I hope to. I hope you will too. My friend Karen wrote a post recently that echoed a Beatles song…”All We Need Is Love”. Love for our family and friends. Love for that special someone in our lives. Love for those whose lives we impact on a daily basis. Love for the god we choose to worship. Love for ourselves. The rest of it doesn’t matter much in the end.

It has taken me more than half a lifetime to fully realize this.

To all of you I wish a joyful holiday season and hope that you find comfort in the warmth and love of your family and friends. I am looking forward to the new year and I hope that it brings you challenges that you can savor and rewards that you deserve.

Love,

Brian


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and we are digging out from ice damage.

This is my front yard.

This is my front yard on ice.

That tree has been there for a very long time. It split like a matchstick under the weight of the ice.

There was no school today for me or for the kids. The roads are clear but much of the surrounding area is without power. If you don't have power you can't have school. If trees are blocking the roads everywhere, you can't run school buses. So for now, we are sitting at home.

Terri's son has been visiting and playing one of the kid's new video games. He stayed up until 6:30 this morning playing, took a nap, woke up, ate a slice of pizza and kept on playing. The funny part is that Patrick and Aubree watch him with the intensity of a high action movie. He has a girl he wants to go back and see but the game calls. Girl? Video game? Such a choice!

At least we have power. So many do not and they are in our thoughts and prayers.

I sent out Christmas cards to many on my list. If you would still like to exchange cards, please email me. There is still time!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This picture was in the local newspaper. The house with the truck is directly across the street from me. You can see my gray house to the right of the image. I watched the neighbor clear the branches off this truck, cut them up with a chain saw, and go back in the house. Not two minutes later a loud crash happened. A tree fell in his BACK yard, landing on top of an older Jeep he has parked back there. The guy can't catch a break.

Terri works for a bank and has been off work the past two days. You don't often see banks go down, but this was no ordinary storm.

Hopefully everyone stays safe and secure and we'll all make it through.

I hope your holiday preparations are proceeding apace. Christmas is just around the corner!

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Back on the Grid 

Our power went out yesterday at about 5:00 p.m. and was restored around noon today. We are fortunate. Hundreds of thousands of people in this area are without power as I type these words. The temperatures are not severe, but there are still many risks out there. The danger on the roads is not ice but fallen tree branches and electrical lines. They are everywhere.

We did fine during our power-less stretch. We have a ventless gas wall heater that we have never uninstalled and it came in very handy. Our house stayed fairly warm, we had plenty of candles, my trusty maglite, and I managed to run out and pick up a battery operated radio. The kids still had some juice in their video games and we managed to watch “Braveheart” all the way through on Patrick’s portable DVD player.

Our town looked like something out of a bad scary movie last night. Pitch black darkness. No traffic lights. No streetlights. Nothing.

My neighborhood looks like a war zone. As recently as fifteen minutes ago I heard the sound of another tree branch crashing to the ground. Many trees are still coated with ice. The streets are littered with large branches. A neighbor down the street had a large tree fall on to his front porch. These are not little trees. I’ve seen some HUGE trees laying on roofs, in yards, or on the street. A fairly large cedar tree in my front yard looks like Paul Bunyan took a gigantic axe and split it down the middle. Half of it fell one way and half the other. It is an incredible sight.

We are warm, comfortable, and safe. Hopefully we’ve seen the worst of this and everyone will have their power restored soon.


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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Inclement Weather 


We are in the midst of a winter ice storm, with icy streets and accumulations of ice on trees, power lines, and roofs. Many area school districts have already cancelled classes for tomorrow (although, not my school or that of my kids!). Thousands have been left without power and treacherous conditions can be found throughout the area. So far we are all safe, warm, and sound. This is the first significant winter storm activity of this year. Brrrrr!!!!! I hope everyone is safe and those without power will have it restored shortly.

The kids of course are hoping that school will be closed. No matter that the days have to be made up in the summer. There is something exciting for them about not going to school on a day they would normally have to go. It seems that having ice and not snow would take some of the fun out of it, but I’m not sure that really matters to them.

I might be in a position some day to have to make decisions about whether to close school or not. Administrators are in something of a no-win situation with such unpredictable weather. I remember a superintendent closing school due to ice and snow. By noon the sun was warmly shining and kids were playing in the streets. People in the community were critical of the decision. On the other hand, if you don’t close school and conditions are hazardous, you can be accused of neglecting safety. No doubt….its something of a Catch 22.

But for now? I’m like everyone else, watching TV to see if we will be having students tomorrow.


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and I’m ready for the weekend!

With the high school football season over for a week it is time for basketball. We opened up with wins last night in our first game. Both teams are highly ranked and it should be a fun year of hoops.

Of course, for school administrators basketball season means a lot of nights away from home. I enjoy supporting the kids and watching the games but it makes for a long day when you arrive at work early in the morning and get home after 10:00.

But hey….I have a two week holiday break coming up, so don’t feel too sorry for me!

My previous post cited a stunning example of a parent going down to a child’s level. We had an incident at school this week that was almost that bad. I can’t go into it now, but I was just flabbergasted that an adult could do something like this. Criminal charges might be filed. Common sense, decency, and maturity have already left the house. The whole incident left me with a horrible taste in my mouth.

Back to basketball…one of the girls on our team almost dunked the ball last night. She slammed it and it rattled around and fell in. I hear she has done it in practice. A girl dunking a basketball is something of a rare sight and her very good attempt brought the house down.

The kids have been visiting with their mom a lot this week and having a good time. Aubree got her hair and nails done. Patrick got to go see “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

I still have to do a research paper. Now I just have to gin up the motivation.

So how is YOUR week going?


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Monday, December 03, 2007

Going Overboard 

The case of Megan, a 13 year old girl who committed suicide after being dumped by an online “boyfriend” is a sad and familiar one. They My Space boyfriend turned out to be a creation of another girls’ mother who created the character to find out what Megan was “saying about her daughter”. She created the boy to woo Megan, gain her confidence, and then find out what she was saying. Then the “boyfriend” cruelly dumps Megan who then kills herself.

Where to begin?

I am all for parents being knowledgeable about what is going on in their children’s lives and taking time to help them work through problems at home or school. However, there is such a thing as too much involvement. I think back to a mother of a middle school student I had a few years ago. She was out there in the parking lot every day, talking to her daughter and friends. Her language was indistinguishable from theirs and not in a good way. She got involved in every fuss, squabble, and feud that her daughter was in. She berated her boyfriends when they broke up with her and her girl friends when they were on the outs. It would’ve been funny if it were not so pathetic.

Girls this age will have feuds with their friends. My daughter has had many of them. Her friend is talking behind her back one day, causing her great anger and distress. Two days later the same girl is spending the night at our house, all sins forgiven. Why would a parent want to jump in the middle of that? Even more, why would a parent go to such extraordinary lengths as to create a fictitious online character and then use it to berate and harass a child?

The prosecutor says there is no crime this parent can be charged with. That is a shame. How would she feel if another adult had done this to her child? If she was that upset about what Megan might “have been saying” about her daughter, she could’ve contacted Megan’s parents and discussed the matter like an adult. Parents are the adults, the ones who are supposed to know better, the ones who are supposed to tame adolescent emotions with rationality and reason. We aren’t supposed to join them in going down the rabbit hole of teenage anxiety.

This parent has to live with the results of what her actions helped cause. Hopefully this will be a lesson to others.


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