Tag Archives: history

The Big Five-0 and Blueberry Muffins

Yesterday was my 50th birthday.

This morning we made blueberry muffins. My second daughter asked how it felt to be half a century old. Children can view the world in a different way. Half a century. Fifty years.

As always, I thought about how many crazy turns I’ve taken on my path. I thought it would be fun to share some fun “Top Five” blog posts over the next five days in celebration of living fifty years. 

To start, this post will be my top five things that I am proud of.

Number Five

Self publishing my poetry and fiction books. I have a few more projects in the works. It is exciting to create work that others enjoy.

Number Four

Creating traditions for my family, like blueberry muffins on Sunday mornings. I’ve read books before bed for over 20 years. Other traditions have faltered, some are new, like deciding on a word for the year. But I think traditions are building blocks for a strong family.

Number Three

Keeping an open heart even as the world and people let me down. Call me foolish, but I believe Love can save us.

Number Two

Staying creative. Writing blog posts, taking photos, writing poetry. I try to listen to the muse when it hits. I’m working on a new short story right now. I have three new poems that are in rough draft form. Being creative keeps my spirit fueled.

Number One

Finding the courage to change the narrative of my family history. 

Tomorrow I’ll share another Top Five post about moments.

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Landmarks

I used the essay, “Dearly Disconnected” by Tim Murphy in class as an example for an anecdote introduction. The heart of the essay deals with Tim’s interest in payphones and the change in our society because of cellphones. Without giving anything away, Tim takes his kids to a payphone that played an important role in his story. It was a landmark in the love story between him and his wife.

Teaching the essay got me thinking about the landmarks we have in our lives, both physical and emotional ones. Both are important in understanding where we are in life, and how we got there. Landmarks can also inspire us to move forward.

Physical landmarks are fun to revisit – to share the stories connected to that place.

Your childhood home

Your high school

The street you cruised

The place where you asked the question…

The photo above use to be a coffee shop. The coffee shop moved to a busier street, but this is where I proposed to my wife. We even had a few wedding pictures taken here. The place has changed. The story hasn’t. The importance of the moment hasn’t. Obviously that moment changed me… proposing to my wife was an emotional landmark. We are all works in progress. We have emotional landmarks that identify moments that impacted who we are today. Some good. Some hurt. Others almost destroyed us.

Many times the physical and emotional landmarks intertwine in our personal stories. The difference is that the physical setting had no real role in the moment. The emotional component is the focus. No matter if the landmark was positive or negative, emotional landmarks are worth visiting. The stories may be more intense, making them hard to share. But it is worth it.

We grow… we may even change to a degree. Our landmarks are there for us to remember, but even more importantly, to share with the people in our lives. To inspire. As a dad, I’ve come to understand the importance of sharing my landmarks with my children. My path is part of theirs. More importantly my landmarks can help them develop into who they become. 

Let’s connect; share a landmark in the comments.

 

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Throwback: Graduation Speech 2000

I was doing some digital cleaning of files on my computer when I discovered my graduation speech for the class of 2000 at Pawnee City. This was my first year teaching. I had a thing about entering the room, making a “Grand Entrance”. This speech took me down memory lane…

 

About 18 years ago you all made a “Grand Entrance” into this world. You wailed, you cried.  Your parents wailed and cried.  Neither of you were sure of what was going to happen.  The future was a closed door.  But together you opened that door and traveled to this moment. This door.  Graduation.  Most people think of this moment as an ending. I ask you to think of it as a chance to make a “Grand Entrance”.

Yes, you are leaving the halls of Pawnee City High.  Leaving those oh so comfortable desks. Parting ways with my oh so efficient pencil sharpener. Never again to sit on the “sharing stool”.  No more watching us teachers lean against the wall. You are done with all the intellectual endeavors.

However, what lies ahead is a world totally different then what you are leaving.  This ceremony is your first step into that world. And your only chance to make that “Grand Entrance”.

Some of you will go on to college (a totally different type of intellectual endeavor), others the arm forces, while some will take on the responsibility of working. You may have an idea of what you are going to do, but deep down you are unsure of what lies ahead.  What is behind this door? I can’t tell you. Your parents can’t tell you.  But don’t be afraid. Open this door with passion. With the lessons we, your parents and teachers, have given you. With your heart and soul, open this door with your own style.

For unlike 18 years ago this “Grand Entrance” is a solo. This is your opportunity to change your world. How you enter this next stage, how you enter through this door, will set the tone for your life.

If you enter with your head down, scared to see what is there, you will miss so many opportunities.  The only view you’ll have is of your shoes. That’s not nice. Unless you spend as much as I do on shoes, then that’s a different story. Of course my wife has curbed my spending a little. But I do have a baby on the way and he or she will have the coolest shoes. Oh, did I just get off the subject?  Sorry seniors, a flash back to AP English!

If you enter looking back from where you came from you’ll never get the chance to be a better person. All you will have to measure your life by is what you did in high school.  Plus, you will probably be knocked down from any obstacles that lie ahead. That’s not nice.

If you enter running just trying to get to the next door, more than likely you’ll end up missing the perfect opportunity for you and smashing your head against the wall.  That’s not nice.

But open this door. Take a second then make your “Grand Entrance.”  A 360-degree spin.  A high swan like leap. Walk through the door with an “It’s all good in the hood” swagger. Whatever kind of entrance you make let the world know who you are and that you are here to live.  You are here to view what is possible, to grasp the best opportunity for your goals.

I welcome you all to the graduation of the class 2000.  Be prepared for a little wailing and a lot of crying. But most of all let us enjoy the “Grand Entrance” of this class into the world.

Seniors you have my permission to go, but this time you don’t have to come back.

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The Dash

I was doing some digital cleaning of my files when I came across the rough draft of an old blog post. Due to job changes, most of my original posts are lost or in rough draft form. This post was not in the usual folder I keep for my writing so I was surprised to find it. It was written December, 1, 2010. I have made some small edits, but decided to post it as is. I hope you enjoy, “The Dash”.


Yesterday my wife and I attended the funeral of a family member on my wife’s side.  We also went to the burial site ceremony. As the preacher talked, I could not help but to gaze at the headstone by my feet.  The person was born in 1905 and died in 1988. Eighty-three years of life. Now; two dates and the dash between (Yes, I know the poem “The Dash”).  I walked around after the services to look at other headstones. Some were so weatherworn that I couldn’t read the names, others had rings interconnected with wedding dates, and newer headstones had no death date.  Waiting for the occupant to die so that the death equation could be filled in:  Birth – Dash – Death.

It has been a hard 2010 for me.  I have had friends move away, coaching positions removed from me, a handful of students who simply do not care but thought it was my fault for their educational experience.

I have had some great moments in 2010.  Coaching a junior high girls basketball team that is simply talented.  Receiving awards and opportunities to speak or present at conferences. Taking seven athletes to state track.  Getting the opportunity to build a home. The continuing experience called Fatherhood.

2010 will be remembered on my headstone as a dash.

A dash.  That’s it.

Life will go on without me when I complete my own death equation.  Steve Jobs discusses this in his Stanford Speech: “…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Pearl Jam also expresses this idea in a simple line from their song “I am Mine”

I know I was born and I know that I’ll die
The in between is mine

But do we?

Do I?

Have I synthesized this information (reading strategy, I know. I am an English teacher)? Have I spent too much time in a bad mood?  Have I spent too much time waiting for tomorrow to be better? Am I where I am needed and wanted?

Are you?

I have been shown this year, in different ways, that life goes on without me. At the funeral service, the message was centered on the idea that our lives are our sermon to the world.  My life, my sermon, will be a dash on a headstone, but I hope it is felt in the hearts of my family and friends.

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We Need Libraries

Last week I read, “School Libraries Are Under Attack,” by Debra Kachel and was saddened by the stats provided in the article, “In 1991, there were 176 certified librarians in Philadelphia Public Schools. Today there are 10.” Debra Kachel provides even more devastating statistics that reveal too many schools are losing their libraries. I couldn’t help but to remember how important libraries were to my intellectual and personal growth.

In college I spent at least one night a week in the library. I miss looking through the microfilm and microfiche files. I used to read the New York Times from the 1800s. I got hooked reading it when I was writing an essay for my History of Psychology class. Even when I wasn’t doing research, the library was the place to study. Trying to study in my dorm room was nearly impossible. But at the library I could take up a whole table with my books, pens, and notebooks. It wasn’t all academic though, maybe it was the environment, or the question, “What are you studying?” when my friends saw me, but some of the deepest conversations with friends happened at the library. I was never kicked out, but I remember a number of times my friends and I would be asked to keep it down. Sometimes the conversation was based on class material, but so many times our talks developed into life questions we were struggling with. It was safe to explore our doubts and fears below the halogen lights and surrounded by shelves of ideas as the outside world became dark..

heartofschoolAs a freshman I was introduced to my favorite book of all time, Catcher in the Rye. I remember walking into the library and asking our librarian ,Bill Fagan, if I could check out the book. He stood behind the counter, looking down on me, and then said, “I think you can handle it.” The librarian is the identity of a library. The article, “School Cuts Have Decimated Librarians”  reinforces this idea,  “She (Bernadette Kearney, a librarian) knows who likes to read graphic novels and who’s a fan of biographies. She tailors her collection to teachers’ projects, and she is forever coming up with reasons – Harry Potter quizzo at lunchtime, anyone? – to make the library not just a place to study, but the heart of the school.” For the next four years I would discuss the next book I should read with Mr. Fagan.  Sometimes he would have a book waiting on the counter for me.  He would do this for everyone that used the library.

Besides helping me achieve my academic goals, to introducing me to a life changing book, a library saved my life.

During my junior high years my friends and I would play Dungeons and Dragons in a conference room at the Converse County Library on Saturdays. We unpacked our dice, decided on the adventure book, updated our character sheets and spent the afternoon being heroes. I don’t think my friends knew that the library was my second home.  That when we were done conquering a dragon and they went home, I would sit and read until the library closed, like I did almost every night.

My house was actually just across the street from the library. I ate breakfast, took out the trash, and would wait for my favorite song to play on the radio so I could record it onto a tape in that house for a year, but I lived at the library. My mother and her boyfriend lived at the house. This post is not about what happened, but to be honest the library was my safe haven.  I don’t remember the ladies who worked there (I am sorry for that), but I was safe there.  They suggested books for me to read, would let me ramble through the aisle, randomly picking a book to read in my favorite chair, which somehow was always open for me. I see my local library fulfilling the same role for others.

On most Saturdays you can find my family at the Hastings Public Library. There are a variety of people on any given Saturday. Kids playing Minecraft on the computers, someone filling out tax forms, another person getting copies, and a group of men, paper in hands, talking about the weather. The library is the heartbeat of a town, of a school, of a society. I don’t like to think about what that future might look like. Neither does Debra Kachel, teacher for the School Library and Information Technologies Program at Mansfield University (qtd. in “School Cuts Have Decimated Librarians”), “We are soon going to have an entire generation of school students who have gone kindergarten through high school and who have not known what a school library is, and have not had access to those resources to learn,” Kachel said. “I find that unconscionable.”

We need libraries, now more than ever.

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Power of a T-Shirt

With the extra time over break I spent time organizing my closet.  While I was working on my t-shirts I realized something… t-shirts are wearable scrapbooks, that bring back powerful moments in our lives.

Senior Year Swim Team

This is the front of my senior swim team shirt.  I was a diver.  I had high expectations my senior year.  I placed ninth at state my junior year, my first year diving.  But, I placed fourteenth, last, my senior year.  My best friend, who was a state champion, tried to console me after prelims (top 10 continue to finals the next day). This provided one of those friendship bonding lines; after I had finally told him what place I finished at he sincerely said, “I don’t know how you feel.”

The next shirt is the shirt from my first head coaching opportunity and represents one of my hardest decision as a father.

Pawnee City Team Shirt

This shirt was worn by every player on the team during warm-ups.  I was blessed to get the chance to be a head coach in my second year of teaching.  Even as I write this, I am flooded by the memories of the two seasons I coached.  Our first win, having a player crack his vertebrae during a homecoming game, running a crazy 2-3-3 defense (8 man) that allowed us to win a game.  But I made the decision to leave Pawnee City for my family and other reasons. I miss those players everyday.

Sometimes change comes from other people’s choices.

Centura Football

After Pawnee City, I was an assistant coach for the Centura football team.  Those eight years were filled with so many moments as a team, and for me as a coach.  A playoff game in freezing weather, a running back doing the spin move to make the touchdown after we had practiced that move that week, to not being apart of the team after eight years.

But there is something about being a head coach that fills or breaks your heart like nothing else.

Centura Track Team

I was again blessed to be a head coach for the Centura track team from 2009 to 2011.  Life has a funny way of presenting hard choices to you.  Again for family I would have to give up the opportunity to be a part a great team.  I miss wearing the fluorescent shirt to practice; it meant a killer practice for the athletes.  I miss building a season, the beauty and tragedy that track presents for athletes…one shot at performing at their best. Like life, the three years as head coach was filled with both heartbreak and incredible success.

But it isn’t all about sports.

Psychology

This shirt is from a year end project a student did for psychology class.  I have t-shirts from concerts, t-shirts of bands, t-shirts that represents all different types of moments from life.  So, what moment of life will you wear today?

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