16
Oct
17

Business

I’m back! I lament that I was gone for about a month. I set myself a goal to blog more consistently this year and already failed a little. It was so easy to keep blogging over the summer. Obviously being home all week during the summer vacation gave me tons of time to write and I loved it. It didn’t take long for business to suck up most of my time.

Being back to work is the biggest difference. I always imagine myself being able to balance work and my ambitions to be a real, full time, writer. So far I haven’t realized that dream. Teaching takes far more energy and time than I keep imagining. It is what it is. I love teaching and it is a stable and solid career so I can’t really complain about it. There are other things that are taking up my time.

Soccer with the youngest boys is a lot of time. I’m coaching their under 8 team again this year which means I have to be at the practices and games without fail. I have a great assistant coach, my friend, so he helps a lot and for the first time as a youth coach, I’ve been able to miss a couple practices and was out of town for a game. But still, it is a lot of time with them on the soccer field. It’s all worth it and I love it though. At least the season will end next month.

Coaching Mock Trial has been another demand on my time. I decided to take on the high school Mock Trial team which means I’ve been spending more time at school than I normally would coaching the team and reading through this year’s trial to prepare for the competition. This isn’t going to get any better until we compete in the early spring.

We’ve been trying to sell our home and move which has meant constantly cleaning and vacating the home so people can view it during open houses and such. My father-in-law has been a life saver and cleaned up multiple times but being gone from our own home for hours every Saturday and Sunday has made being productive those days difficult.

Then there are just normal things like date nights and trying to rest when completely out of energy. All in all, this has been a very busy time and sadly, writing and blogging slipped a little. But, re-commitment to the art begins now and I’m looking forward to more posts.

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05
Sep
17

In Exile

My family has a history of kicking people out and pushing people away. I don’t know how far back it goes, but I know that my grandmother on my mother’s side has two sisters, all three of them in their 80s, and they didn’t speak for more than 30 years until recently. No one can even tell me why. I know my paternal grandfather was shunned because he is catholic and married a Lutheran woman. He didn’t go as long as 30 years without speaking to his siblings, but there were some wounds there that didn’t heal. My mother doesn’t speak to either her sister or her brother, neither of them speak to one another. My maternal grandmother is currently speaking with all three of her children, but has gone years without speaking to them and usually was only talking to one. You get the point. People get kicked out of the family.

 

The thing is, I can’t really even explain why it is. There never really seem to be concrete reasons for cutting people out and when you speak to them, they each blame the other and claim the other stopped talking to them. Usually. It actually breaks my heart. I wanted more from a family. When I was little I remember, fondly, holiday dinners at my grandparents’ home with my cousins. I can’t speak for them and tell you whether they enjoyed me, I can only say it was something I loved. Now I’m exiled.

 

More than three years ago, some folks in my family decided that I had done something wrong. No one ever told me what it was that upset them so much. Perhaps getting divorced? Perhaps allowing my mother to say goodbye to my dying father? Maybe something else I cannot even think of. Regardless, I was cut off. No one invited me or informed me about their gathering for Easter. I was hurting and missing my father who died a few months earlier and would have loved the company of my loving family but I was not considered. Then they again got together for my grandfather’s birthday, but again I was excluded. Twice in a month seemed suspicious so I asked. I was either ignored or told it wasn’t intentional. It is difficult to imagine it not being intentional. I am one of five grandkids, have five of the seven great-grandkids. We aren’t a large family. But they forgot me? I slipped deeper into a hole.

 

Hostility and tension continued. I was hurting badly, while needing support from my family that wasn’t there. My relationship with my mother broke again when she called my girlfriend horrible things and refused to even acknowledge that she had. Instead she said it wasn’t her saying those things but “society.” She elected herself messenger for all of society. That was more than two years ago. She messaged on my birthday and instead of telling me to enjoy “our day,” she actually wished me a normal happy birthday. I asked her “where she was at” in an effort to open a dialogue. I explained that I was still hurt and not ready to open myself up fully to a relationship yet but that I was interested in how she felt about me. No response. Nothing since.

 

After a challenging summer and enduring the same exile from our family, my sister and I seemed closer than ever. I had supported her through things and she had support me. She was getting married in February and wanted me and my kids there. I said I would definitely try. As the day got closer, I had married by then and wanted to make sure my wife and step daughter were included. She made it clear they were not welcome. She would accept me and my children but not my wife and step daughter. That decision was easy, I could not exclude them because of how she felt. She didn’t budge, they were not welcome. None of us went. Since then she has been distant and silent. I asked recently if I “still had a sister.” She said I did. Today I noticed she unfriended me on facebook. Another family member gone.

 

The saddest thing for me is that they all choose not to be a part of my life or let me be a part of theirs. I really wanted to. I really wanted a family to laugh and love with. I really wanted a family for support and encouragement. Now when I’m low, I have to handle it without family. It hurts. It’s left me feeling pretty abandoned and alone at times. I worried a lot that it was me. That I must really be pretty terrible if so few people in my family will associate with me. I’m pretty hurt by it.

 

To compensate I try to look to positives. I’ve connected with second cousins that I only knew briefly in my youth and there are some amazing people in my family! I’ve found loving people who do in fact care about me and want to support me in my need. Besides, my wife’s family is loving and supportive. My in-laws are amazing people who love me like a son and they fill a hole in my heart. I’m very thankful for them and cherish our relationships. It is sad that so many in my family have rejected a relationship with me but to those who welcome and embrace me, I am very grateful. Perhaps Richard Bach is correct when he says, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” Many of the blood bonds are broken, but I’ve found others who offer respect and joy in my life. I love them and offer the same in return.

05
Sep
17

Recipe: Dad Burger Helper

I love to cook. I am the creative type that doesn’t follow recipes and does whatever I think will work. This produces some things that are hardly edible but, it has also made some things that are pretty tasty. One is what my kids call Dad Burger Helper. Here’s how it works:

The ingredients are simple:

1 Lbs Egg Noodles

1 Lbs ground beef

1 package of broccoli and cauliflower

1 jar of tostitos smooth and cheesy dip (could also do queso)

dbh1

Boil water for the noodles and start the ground beef in a skillet. I season the ground beef with garlic salt along the way. When the water boils, cook the noodles. When the beef is cooked, I add the vegetables and  more garlic salt and let the veggies cook.

dbh2

When the noodles are finished cooking, drain them and add the veggies and beef. Stir in the cheese sauce and mix the entire pot until it is distributed evenly around the meal. Dig in!!!

It’s simple but yummy. Super Dad style!

dbh3

22
Aug
17

Just Hold On

Some days, it’s all you can do to hold on.

Some days, there is far too much do, and that means there will be far too much to do tomorrow, and the next day and the next, and you’ll keep telling yourself you’ll catch up when you get a chance, but you know by the time you get a minute that you could use to try to catch up on all the things that didn’t get done, you’ll be far too tired to do them. Just hold on.

Some days, as much as you love your kids, they keep fighting with each other, and they keep yelling, or they don’t get done what you asked them to do a million times, and now there is more for you to do, and even though you get frustrated and yell they still don’t do it, and then you feel bad for yelling, but you can’t think of what else to do. Just hold on.

Some days, you’re fighting with your spouse, and you feel like they just don’t understand, and if they only supported you a little more maybe you could get on top of the situation, but they just add to it because they’re stressed out too, and you don’t feel connected any more, and you can’t remember the last time the two of you spend real time together because it’s nothing but work and kids then kids and work, and so you don’t feel love like you once did, but you also don’t want to start over because who wants to start over, and you don’t think you could do it all alone anyways. Just hold on.

Some days, you have to buy groceries, but you know you have no money in the account, and there are bills due that you don’t have money for, and you keep adding to the credit card, but how long can you do that before there is no more room, and then you have no more options but declare bankruptcy because you simply don’t have enough money, but you won’t have more money then, and you’ll have even worse credit so how will you get anything at that point. Just hold on.

Some days, you just need some sleep, but your body aches and when you try to lay down one of your kids calls you, because they decided they needed something, and can’t consider whether you are able to give more to them at that moment, but you get up anyways wondering if you fell asleep at all, and try to help them deal with whatever minor issue they were having, and now you’re awake again, and you lay there staring up at the ceiling while you wonder when the last time you had a good night’s sleep was. Just hold on.

Some days, you go to work because you have to go to work, but you really don’t like your job, and your boss is not interested in why you’re so tired, or why you didn’t complete the project on time, and he isn’t interested in giving you a raise, and won’t let you leave so you can go pick up your kid from school when she went to the nurses office because she’s sick and threw-up during recess, and callously reminds you that you can quit if you don’t like it, but you really can’t quit. Just hold on.

Some days, your child is struggling in school and is acting up, and the teacher requests a meeting with you, and you really don’t have time to go to school during the day, but you make it happen, and then the teacher tells you that your child is not meeting the standards, and that as his parent, you need to do more at home, and make sure he is completing his homework every night, and also read to him for twenty minutes every night so that his reading level will improve, but you don’t even have twenty minutes to do much of anything, let alone read. Just hold on.

Some days, people in your family want to tell you how well they’re doing, and then when they ask you, and you tell them you’re struggling, they want to ask why you married him or her in the first place, or why you had so many kids, or why didn’t you pursue such-and-such career instead, or why didn’t you invest in such-and-such, when you didn’t need to know what you should have done instead, you only needed someone to be loving and supportive, but now you wish you just lied, or worse, you really resent your own life because of what someone else thinks about it. Just hold on.

Some days, the whole world seems like it is crashing down on top of you, and you don’t think you are going to survive, but if you don’t stay strong, others will suffer, and if you give up it feels like a failure, and you don’t want to be a failure, so you think if you can just hold on a little longer it will get better, but you don’t really see how that will happen, and you know you should have a plan, but really all you can do is try to make it through one day at a time, sometimes, one hour at a time, and you truly do resent your life, and the choices you made, and you should have done better, or worked harder, or waited longer, but you did what you thought was best at the time, and sometimes you flat out made a mistake, but there’s nothing you can do about it now but keep trying. Just hold on.

Just hold on. I don’t know if things will get better, but I know if you don’t hold on, you’ll never know how great things might get.

14
Aug
17

Children are Watching

I had other things I was going to blog about this week but with the events in Virginia this weekend I was reminded of something very basic regarding children. Many of their attitudes are learned. I’ve taught psychology and I feel that there is a very good mix of nature and nurture that help shape a child’s behavior but their opinions and attitudes are often learned. How else would a child decide that a certain political party is better than another? How can a child really decide for themselves whether a particular set of religious beliefs and practices are valuable? They can’t and they don’t. Parents set those things in children through their own practices and opinions. Most children will back the political party of their parents, most will practice the same faith and even back the same sports teams. We learn much from our parents.

That means that young people standing for hate and racism and extremism learned those attitudes. That breaks my heart. It means that at one point there were little boys and girls, innocent, who wanted the same things all little boys and girls want: to play, Mac n cheese, cartoons and coloring books. Their parents instead, chose to fill their innocent minds with hatred. They did their own children a tremendous disservice and in many ways handicapped their lives by teaching them hate. Now these young people will be defined by those attitudes of hate. People will not want to associate with them. It will limit their friends, their job opportunities, their lives.

We don’t think of it sometimes but our children are always watching and always learning. I’ve come a long way in how I react to my children and what I say and do around them but I admit, when I was younger, I would sometimes lose my temper and get angry in front of them. Frustrated with all of life’s pressures I would break and lose my patience with them and I regret it. They were watching. They were learning.

Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to model what I want my children to be. I communicate with them openly and honestly about how I’m feeling and what my thoughts are. I try to foster love, patience, kindness and thoughtfulness. I try to model those attributes as their father. I want them to be good, healthy successful adults so it is necessary to show them how.

Those poor young people in Charlottesville have been taught to hate. I feel for them even while I denounce their hateful message. In some ways, they never had a chance. Our children are watching and learning. They will usually follow in our footsteps no matter where they lead. It is important to lead them to success.

11
Aug
17

Teen Students and Smart Phone Distractions

I was reflecting this week, as school started, on the way young people develop value systems in their lives. We all have a value system whether we are aware of it or not and it helps us to make decisions. Students have value systems that they are completely unaware of, and as I have grown as a teacher, I’ve become more aware of those systems. This year I am going to challenge my students to examine what it is they really value.

Many students (and plenty of adults) will make choices to spend time on something that does not necessarily improve their life or benefit them in the long term. I’m thinking about video games, binge watching Netflix, and any of the many activities that we (myself definitely included) do on a regular basis. None of things are inherently bad. In fact, if we are very busy and very productive, it is often a wonderful way to relax and rest our minds and bodies before leaping back into the busy world. The issue is when we do those things at the expense of other responsibilities and obligations. If we choose to watch TV instead of wash clothes we are expressing that we value one activity over another responsibility. Adults, more often than not, take care of our responsibilities. If we don’t, we often don’t do well.

Teenagers however, can go long neglecting their growing responsibilities. I have many many students put off completing school work. Even more choosing their phone and friends over preparing for a test. Many will use the hour and half class time in my room to socialize or even play with their phones and pretend to work, accomplishing nothing and learning nothing. Those are value decisions. They do not value learning or working towards a higher grade, therefore choose something else. This year I am going to challenge them to examine their values. If they decide, “You know what? I actually don’t value this class or learning. Snapchat is more important,” fine. There is nothing I can do with that but encourage them to alter their values. But our values are expressed in the decisions we make and I am going to try to show students that in my class.

08
Aug
17

5 Things I promise as a Teacher

It’s a new school year and I just finished a decade of teaching. I’ve learned a lot about the profession, students, parents and myself in those ten years. At this point, here are five things I promise as we begin classes on Wednesday.

1) I promise to care. This is a no-brainer for me, but is probably the most important thing a teacher can do. High school students are especially savvy and they can tell if you care or not. Believe me, even if they don’t seem to care, they want their teacher to. After all, how can the students be expected to care if their own teacher doesn’t? They can’t and they won’t. So I promise I will care. I will care about my students’ success, I will care about the subjects I teach, I will care about safety and I will care about the school. I promise I will care.

2) I promise to know my subjects. Another thing high school students can sniff out easily is whether their teacher knows what they’re talking about. Sometimes a teacher gets put in a situation where they are not experts. In that case, I find it best to admit to not knowing everything but trying like hell to make sure you can still competently teach the subject. Again, if the teacher doesn’t even know what they are talking about, how can the students learn? They can’t and they won’t. I promise I will know the subjects I teach.

3) I promise to be fair. I know that is a subjective term, but I still use it. I want all of my students to succeed, and while I admit there are some that really upset me because of their lack of effort or when they waste their time and mine, but I promise that if they put in effort, learn and achieve, I will grade their work and give them the same marks I would any other student. In fact, I’ll probably celebrate with them. I want them all to learn and grow, I will treat them all fairly so that they may do so in my classroom.

4) I promise I will challenge my students. I will ensure that my class pushes the students to grow. We do not grow by doing things that come easily to us. We grow by pushing ourselves to try something more difficult. It causes some stress, yes, but it is necessary for growth. Athletes build more muscle mass by pushing themselves to their physical limits. Athletes stress their bodies and as a result, their bodies get stronger. In a classroom, if a student is going to get stronger, they have to be pushed to their limits. They need to be challenged and stressed in order to grow. It will happen again this year, but I am tired of parents telling me that their child is an A student and they don’t understand why she has a C or a D. The answer is simple. They haven’t been pushed. And in order to grow, they need that stress. Too often parents and students merely want the result they expect; an A. They aren’t interested in the process or growth. I am not interested in the result. I am interested in the process; in growth. I promise I will challenge my students.

5) Lastly, I promise to answer all of their questions honestly. I have fantastic lessons. My goodness, come on the day I’m teaching World War 1 poetry, or the three basic economic systems. Those are fantastic lessons. The only problem is that if a student doesn’t find the subject interesting, if they aren’t curious, they won’t learn. They won’t learn long term at least. They may learn it for the test, but not really learn it the way I would like them to. You know when learning happens best? When they are curious and want to know. So if a student asks a question, about anything, I will answer it as openly and honestly as I can. It may take us off topic, but that’s ok. If they asked the question, they are ready for the answer; they are ready to learn. And my desire for them to learn is greater than my love of my lesson plans. So I promise I will answer their questions.

There are other things of course but these are my top five. Perhaps in another decade I will have an entirely different set of promises. For now, these things I promise for my students, as their teacher. I look forward to our academic journey together this year.