Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Europe 2008 is on!

It's agreed. The Wayfarer House family has decided to plan a trip to Europe sometime during the middle months of 2008, and we’ve all committed to start saving money. An account will be created in the next day or so where general monies can be deposited to keep them safe, and Wifeness and I will start doing research on costs and itinerary. At this point, we don’t have a firm decision on where to go, but we will likely end up somewhere on the Mediterranean (South of France/Italy/Spain).

It will be my family’s first trip to Europe since 2005, when my house and AuntieAlex went to England around Thanksgiving break. That trip was wonderful, but there was a lot of driving involved throughout the trip. We were on the road several days for as long as 6 hours, and it was exhausting after a while. This time, I’ve vowed that, while I don’t mind driving to get to where we’re going (I’d love to drive from Paris to Rome, for example), I have no desire to go on extended outings once we’re settled. All I want to do on this trip is sit with my laptop, some books and a sketchbook. I’d love to take my bike, too, but that’s probably too much to hope for. The point is, I want to relax. That’s not to say that I won’t play with my kids or be part of the group when they want to go exploring. That’s relaxing, too. I just want to have plenty of downtime built in (see the previous post for the importance of downtime).

We’ve talked about renting a villa for a week so we can have space for everyone, save some money on food and accommodation. That’d be fun, and probably the most convenient option for this particular trip. Were it just my family, who are experienced travelers, we would do just fine with B&Bs. It’s a very interactive way to travel, and I love feeling like I’m part of someone’s family. Maeve and Caleb’s family, however, is not skilled at the kind of travel we’ll be doing for this trip, so a place to stay that will allow their children more free reign makes the most sense.

I’m really excited about this! I have been missing Europe since we got back from England. I miss France, especially. Maeve and I would be quite happy getting off the plane at Charles de Gaulle and not going more than 20 miles beyond that. She’s always wanted to see Paris, and I could be quite content to spend time there, if that were the only option. Would you like to come? With all of us included, there will be 5 adults, 3 fare-paying children and an infant. Two more, and we qualify for group fares through the airline! It’ll be an experience you’ll treasure for the rest of your life, I promise.

Monday, January 29, 2007

All by myself...

The womenfolk of Wayfarer House were away this weekend. They went to visit Nana and stay overnight. Wifeness does this for me every few months so I can have focused time for graduate school. I can get a lot of work done at night, after the house has gone to bed, but it takes a toll after a while. This time gives me the chance to reset my biorhythms and actually clear my head of the 10,000 chattering monkeys so I can get some real work done.

This got me to thinking about another contradiction about myself. I am a solitary person and greatly value my time alone, but I absolutely love it when the house is full of people. One of the reasons I work late at night (apart from the fact that it’s the only time I have in quantity) is the solitude. The house is quiet and I can get my dose of what a child I know once called “lonely time”. Yet, I don’t feel right if I’m not surrounded by people regularly, either. They don’t have to be people I know. I absolutely love going to the coffee shop downtown to mingle with people, wandering the mall (especially on days like Black Friday) or being in airports. Of course, it’s also really nice to be around people I know and love. I feel a wonderful sense of peace sitting in my classroom when it’s full of students, going out to movies with lots of people and doing New Year’s Eve at our house every year.

Which are you? Are you a lone wolf, or are you sociable? One of the best tests I’ve every taken on this topic is the Jung typology test. It covers more than introversion/extroversion, but it’s fairly accurate for me. If you’d like to take an online version of the test, [click here].

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where does the time go??

Without realizing it, quite a few days have passed since I’ve posted anything. I guess I’ve been busier that I thought I was. Here’s what’s been going on…

—I’ve been thinking a lot about Kizz’ post. I’ve been working on a post about how to make that beginning experience with things somewhat less painful. It’s proven to take longer than I expected to put into words, and I’m nowhere near done with it. It’s old news now, probably, but I’m still feeling compelled to finish it.

—I’ve been shopping for a projector for my classroom. I think I’ve decided on this one.

—I’m doing research on a free web-based system for storing grades and assignments so my students can get access to them. Our school’s website will have this ability eventually, but it’s not ready yet (and shows no indication of being ready any time soon). A short-term fix is what I need. Any suggestions?

—Speaking of websites, I’ve been working on the one for my school. I’m not a true webmaster or anything, but I know a bit of HTML code, and I’m the one with free time at school since I’m not leading a paideia activity. For reasons of security, I won’t offer a link to the site, but those of you who know where I teach are welcome to check it out. It’s coming along

—I’ve been taking time to get out and exercise every day. Mostly, it’s only been walking during the day (something relaxing to help with my SAD), but I’ve been able to use my evenings to do other more rigorous things like riding my bike (I have a road bike on a trainer upstairs in my office) or doing weights (the weight bench is right next to the bike). I even managed to get a 5k run in the other day and not die! I have a triathlon coming up this year—the first one in 14 years—and I really want to do well.

—I’ve been finishing the last bit of book research for my thesis. I get to start writing it this weekend!

—Yesterday, I went on a site visit to this school. Charter schools in Massachusetts are evaluated regularly to see that they are doing what they say they are, and members of other charter schools often accompany members of the Dept. of Education to do observations and interviews. This is the first one I’ve done. It was a great experience! I’m hoping I get to do more.

Looking back, I guess that’s enough to keep me away from my blog, but I’m still disappointed that I let so much time go by without posting. I enjoy blogging, even if no one actually reads my posts or comments. It’s good for my SAD, too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My wife, with the quote of the day...

While passing through the kitchen this evening, Wifeness regarded the shelf by the window and remarked,

"That narcissus is looking nice...

...but then, it already knows that."


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another entry to the Wayfarer House dictionary...

jun·gle [juhng-guhl] verb, -bled, -bling,

1. To move on, over, under or around in a wild and free manner, often in a mass or group. The children jungled their papa as he lay on the floor.

2. To treat (a person) as a piece of playground equipment.

[Origin: 2007; NiNi of Wayfarer House]

—Related forms:
jungle papa/mama, noun. A parent (usually prone and on the floor) that children can climb and play on with abandon. [Adapted from jungle gym.]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How many costuming students...

...can you fit in a faculty bathroom at my school at once—with a strobe light?

Sounds off-the-wall, doesn’t it? Well, this is the kind of thing you’ll ask yourself at my school during Paideia, the 3-week intercession break between our academic semesters. The term Paideia is Greek and means “from many sources”. It’s an apt name because the faculty, staff and community members all get together to offer an amazing variety of activities for the students to explore during this time, very little of which is formally academic but all of which allow the students to practice learning habits and skills they learn in regular classes. Check out some of these amazing offerings!

—A Make a Difference group introduces students to political and social activism. They volunteer at the local survival center and organize informational meetings on issues of importance, like recycling and conservation.

—A group goes around to local elementary schools to work as mentors with little kids.

—Two shows are in the works, one of which tours during this time, visiting area public schools and nursing homes.

—A number of groups do costuming, scene setup and music related to the shows.

—Several groups do physical activities like winter treks and rock climbing. There’s even a boffing group!

—The Mock Trial team meets during this time, preparing for their usual run to the state finals.

—An graphic artist teaches students how to do flash animation.

—Several music groups get to spend time with faculty to practice and perfect their repertoire

—A research trip to Hawaii. Students and teachers organized and raised money, generated a formal curriculum and arranged for presentations upon their return all on their own.

It’s so great to see all these students so actively engaged in things they find fun, but that still teach them something of lasting value. I wish more schools did this.

By the way, the answer to the riddle at the start of the post, according to what I saw, is 7. I never did figure out exactly what it was they were doing in there, but it must have been important because they were all making notes and chatting about it as they exited, strobe light in hand.

An outing with SiSi...

Today was another “home day” and SiSi and I decided to go on an adventure. With Mama and NiNi going off to do some shopping, it seemed a good opportunity to get out of the house and work off some cabin fever (both SiSi and I get a little antsy if we’re homebound for too long). The weather here at Wayfarer House was better than in many parts of New England today: It was only raining, with temps just enough above freezing to keep the roads wet, but not slippery. We decided these were reasonable conditions for an outing on foot, so we donned raincoats, boots and hats and set off to explore.

We talked about this and that on the 20 minute walk downtown. I’m always interested to hear what SiSi likes to discuss. Her world is so fascinating! On the trip down, we covered pre-school, her buddies, being in front when we walk and what to do if you start to cross the street and see a car. Riveting conversation!

Our first stop was the co-op market for the one necessary bit of shopping. SiSi carried the basket while I got the salad and soap. Then, it was off to the coffee shop for something warm, with a brief stop at the bookstore on the way. Not that I have time to read anything I might buy there, but SiSi wanted to spend a little of her money on a sticker. She had three dollars. Stickers cost ¢30. Any guesses on how long it took for the right sticker to be chosen?

After something hot to drink and a shared bagel, we headed to the bead store. The rest of her money went into a necklace, the beads for which she chose, ordered and assembled herself. When all was said and done, she had a nice necklace and 3 pennies left. Not bad! She’ll do great on The Price is Right someday.

We took the long road back home, so we could walk through the “train park”. It’s called that because there is a small wooden train that kids can play on there. We had fun running there, but didn’t play long. The wet and cold were starting to seep into our bones, and it was getting to be time for lunch. Our outing ended with us sitting under a blanket on the couch, watching Monsters, Inc.

I’m reflecting on all this because it is I’ve been wanting to do with my kids since they were born, yet it’s only been recently that this has been possible. When they were babies, it was difficult for me to interact with them in any way where I felt involved. Mostly, I just sort of sat there. I changed diapers, sure, and I was good at getting them to sleep, but there wasn’t a lot of give-and-take. The interchange that I really needed to feel like I was contributing was missing. Now, I can have conversations with my older daughter. We can share experiences and talk about them later. We can explore and question and joke together. We can DO things!

I’m looking forward to the time when I can do this with NiNi, too. She has such a unique view of the world. I love her energy! She’s a lot like me and I think that, once we reach the point of being able to interact on that level, we’ll have a lot to share. It’ll be nice to be fully involved in the lives of both my girls. I may regret saying this when they become teenagers, but the thought of it right now is very nice.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Today is Chili's birthday! Go on over [HERE] and wish her something good.

Best wishes, honey! I love you!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Today is Sunday.

It’s a “home day” (what my girls call a day when one does not have to go somewhere right off). It’s also a day that we do a number of chores around the house. Here’s a list of what’s on tap for today:

—NiNi (3 yrs old) gets to dust, help water the plants, clean up her “kitchen” (she has a small kid-sized kitchen that sits in the corner of the main one), help put away her laundry and help make her bed.

—SiSi (5 yrs old) gets to vacuum, clean up her “craft area” (this is a repository for half-finished projects, and foreshadows an unhealthy behaviour in adulthood), help put away her laundry and help make her bed.

—Mama primarily gets to supervise NiNi and work in the kitchen and the kids’ bedroom.

—Papa primarily gets to supervise SiSi, start the laundry train and work in the living and dining rooms.

Please note the wording of the paragraphs above. They read “gets to”. We’ve been trying to instill a positive attitude in our kids about chores by considering them privileges and the effect has been decidedly encouraging. They don’t jump for joy at the thought of doing these things, to be sure, but neither do they run from the room sniveling when it comes time to do them. A middle ground where they will actively participate in the routine is perfectly acceptable at this point. Hopefully, it’ll make our lives easier in the short term while setting the stage for a matter-of-fact understanding of housekeeping that will serve them very well as they grow up.

We also have a couple of special tasks on today’s list:

—Get the holiday decorations down and put away in the attic. (The wise men have gone home already!)
—Finish changing light bulbs. (Why is it that, when one goes, 5 go??)
—Flush the furnaces. (This gets done every week during the winter)
—Put the coffee table back under the stairs (It’s a big coffee table in a small living room)

If all goes well, most of this will be done by naptime. I’ll reward myself today with a nice, long workout session on the weight bench in my office. I’ll need to work off the incredibly delicious scone I had for breakfast that Wifeness made. She makes kickass scones!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

To my students...

Well, it’s official. You may now breathe a sigh of relief. It’s over. You’ve either earned credit or you haven’t. If you have, I’ll be excited to see you in three weeks for beginning of the spring semester. If you haven’t, I’ll be excited to see you around in the halls, and again next fall for a repeat my class.

If you did not earn credit in my class, it is my hope that you’ll spend some time thinking about why this happened. It would not do, after all, to go through the same class a second time and end up with the same result. Consider these questions: Did you spend time every day with the material for the class? Did you do your practice work when, and how, you needed to? Did you ask questions, so you could understand what you were doing? Did you make an effort to contribute to what was going on in the classroom? All these are things that teachers consider essential for students to do if they’re to be successful, and it is no different for me. I may not ask you to consider my class as the primary focus of your life, but I will absolutely expect that you can demonstrate these routines as part of your work.

Please understand that the choice to succeed is yours. The choice to learn is yours, too. I am here to help you in any way I can to accomplish your goals, and I am willing to go as far as you are to do so. I want you to be successful!

You can learn what I have to offer you, you know. It might be new, different and intimidating at times. It might feel like you’re not a natural at it, like others in the class. It might seem as though it’s hard work. None of that matters. What matters is that YOU CAN DO IT. Trust me. Have faith in your abilities. Work to develop the routines you need to make things happen, and the rest will come as it should. Be patient. No one gets to be good at something overnight. You will get there.

As a final word, I hope that you know that your performance in my class has nothing to do with my appreciation of you as a person. I will still smile enthusiastically when I see you in the hall or outside during lunch. I will still be there for you in every way; I will continue to act as your advocate in all things. I will miss having you in my space every day, and I will be very glad when you are back, fresh and ready to succeed. When that day comes, I will be ready.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Are you there, Lurkers?

I've found out that this week is National De-Lurking week. This is the chance for all of us who blog to encourage all of you who read to actually contribute to the posts. Please take this opportunity to make yourself known. If you also blog, I'll return the favor. I'm actually in the process of making it around to all of you whose blogs I read, letting you know that I'm back from hiatus. I'm sorry it took so long.

In other news, the daughter of my girls' caregiver went to my school to "audition" this evening. Her name is Kayley*. She's in the 7th grade now, and not happy at her local public school. She's been the victim of bullying for years now, but she's also just not either challenged or stimulated by what she's learning. Her mom hopes that my school will help her find meaning in school again. I know her to be bright and engaging, and I believe she'd be an excellent match for my school. I stayed late to be with them while they were waiting, and to give Kayley rah-rahs before she went in. Even though I teach there, I'm not allowed to attend "audtions" unless I'm on the committee. I have served on "audition" committees before, though, so I gave her a heads up on what to expect and told her just to relax and enjoy the experience.

For those of you who don't know, my school is a performing arts charter public school. All charter schools are public schools, and as such, don't discriminate in their admissions. We allow anyone who wants to apply to attend. However, we do a number of things as part of the application process to ensure that we get students who will thrive and participate in what we do.

I put the word "auditions" in quotes because it is not a true audition, in the sense the word is often used. It is true that applicants will perform something as part of "audition", but they will also play games, solve problems using creative skills and take part in a question and answer session with a committee of students, alumni and adults in the school. Nothing applicants do for this event is used to determine who can attend. Rather, this process serves two purposes: It is an introduction to the culture and rituals of the school (we do many things very differently from other schools), and it gives students a chance to share something personal of themselves with the committee and other applicants (sharing their talents is something that, as a performing arts school, we encourage students to do a lot). The audition tangibly reinforces for applicants what they'll be doing if they choose to attend. If they leave "audition" thinking, "that was cool!", they will probably do very well. If they have problems with the activities we ask of them, they may be better served not to attend.

Kayley's odds of actually attending my school next year are slim. In any given year, we have openings for students in each of the grades 7-11, but we have had a waiting list for those slots for several years now. Kayley would be going into 8th grade, which has the most applications, but the fewest slots available. It's a lottery system, so anything is possible, but it's more likely that she'll have to apply again for 9th grade. I'm pulling for her. I hope she gets in.

Monday, January 8, 2007

It happens like this every single semester…

Student is completing very little work to credit standard. Teacher reminds Student regularly of this fact, further reinforcing the fact that it is entirely up to Student to do the work at that level, if Student intends to earn credit for the course. Student assures Teacher that all is well, and that things will get done as they should. Teacher, ceding that Student has the right to make his/her own choices, lets this go, but sends out midterms and warnings to Parents notifying them of the situation. Parents do not reply to these notifications. Teacher moves on to put out other fires.

At the end of the semester, Student is informed that (s)he is likely not to earn credit for the class because work is not up to snuff. Student accepts this, but Parents demand to know how it is that Student came to be in this position. Parents contact Administrator, imagining that there must be present some manner of professional negligence on the part of Teacher for such an injustice to have occurred. Teacher must review with Parents and Administrator all the notifications, explain that Student is perfectly aware of the situation and why (s)he is in this rock/hard place. Teacher then waits for Parents to come to the realization that it is, in fact, Student who has caused this situation to come to pass. Teacher hopes that Parents also agree that it is Student who must, therefore, accept responsibility for it.

This is, of course, pure utopian fantasy. Parents will not sit idly by and let Student take the consequences for his/her choices. Parents will create as much noise as possible about this wrong being perpetrated on their child. They will lament that someone has let Student down, and that it is someone’s job (purportedly Teacher’s) to prevent this from happening in the first place. Teacher will politely, tactfully and diplomatically disagree but, in the interest of keeping the peace (and being allowed to attend to the rest of his students), Teacher will agree to a carefully monitored extension, allowing Student to complete the work.

Teacher is really tired of playing this game and would appreciate it if Parents would either take more or less interest in their children’s education. Teacher acknowledges that there are a great many incompetent members of his profession earning paychecks in his field, but would like to make clear that he is not one of these. He further wishes that Parents would recognize where the responsibility for Student’s education rests in school—with Student. “Teachers can teach all day,” he says patiently each time, “but learning comes from the students.” He hopes to spread this gospel to the ends of the universe someday, but for now, Teacher just wants to go correct Papers.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Another example of language evolution...

scrum·ble [skruhm-buhl] verb, -bled, -bling,

1. To misshape, rumple, wrinkle or crush into an unusable (roughly round) state. She scrumbled that wrapper and threw it in the trash.

[Origin: 2006 and earlier; SiSi of Wayfarer House]

—Related forms
scrum·bly, adjective

Saturday, January 6, 2007

¡Muchas Gracias, El Niño!

Today is January 6th. It is, according to the calendar, winter. Winter for most people in New England means that it’s cold, dark and that there is snow on the ground. Here at Wayfarer House, the days are still short, but this is the only thing that matches what all the almanacs say is supposed to be going on now. It’s almost as if we’ve wormholed out into another dimension, an alternate dimension, where the seasons and their indicators are somehow mixed up.

The temperature reached 69ºF (20ºC) today, according to the bank thermometer downtown. It was warm enough to open the windows in the house and let fresh air circulate. It was warm enough that I had to bring the frozen groceries in from the car immediately, lest they melt all over the back of my car.

It was warm enough to go kayaking.

I took my little boat out on the water for about 2 hours in the afternoon, and was treated to the improbable delight of a warm breeze on my face as I glided along the frigid water. It was simply wonderful! I was even blessed with the sight of a full, bright and colorful rainbow before I was hit by an unexpected and intense downpour that caught me still half a mile downstream from the boat landing, forcing me to paddle my arms off against a stiff wind and the river’s current. I reached my car sore, drenched to the bone and reveling in the fact that I was doing all this in January—in wintertime. Glorious!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Shannon's back and I'm glad

There is a girl at my school who came two years ago as a freshman. I never had her in class and I never really spoke to her. I only know her name, Shannon*. Shannon was in trouble a lot when she was here. She would often sneak away from school to go smoke (and worse), and was put before our school’s discipline board several times before the end of her freshman year. She gave every impression of being an angry, bitter child and did not seem to care that a lot of people in my school had a sincere interest in her success.

Even though I had no professional reason for doing so, Shannon was always on my radar. It was like when you hear an obscure name in the news once and, whenever it comes up again, it piques your interest. I wonder what’s going on with suchandso? You never get involved directly in the person’s life, but you find yourself looking for news about her in the paper or on the net.

In Shannon’s case, my interest came partly because of her name. I know someone with her name (which, in real life, is both beautiful and unusual). That small connection kept her in my mind enough that I noticed when she did not come back to my school to start 10th grade. I didn’t pursue it, but I honestly believed that she had dropped out.

Quite unexpectedly, Shannon was back. I first noticed her the week before Christmas break, and it took me a second to recognize her. She no longer had blue hair or dark circles of makeup around her eyes. She was dressed quite demurely in jeans, a sweatshirt and soft leather winter boots. She no longer had that angry edge to her that I had seen before. Naturally, I was curious to know what had happened but, with no genuine cause to do so, all I could appropriately do was wonder quietly to myself.

Yesterday, I actually got to talk to Shannon. She enrolled in a running class in the afternoon that is held at the same time as my soccer class. Since it is too late in the year to play soccer, some of my students have asked if I would take them out for long, brisk walks just so they could be outdoors. Shannon wasn’t able to run yesterday, and the running coach asked me if she could go walking with my group.

She actually spoke to me first. She asked me what I taught at the school, and that started off a discussion about what it was like to speak more than one language. Had I travelled? What was it like in Europe? She had never gone far from home before, but thought it would be fun to travel. We talked as we walked about all sorts of things. I learned that she had left my school to enroll in a traditional public school, but got into real trouble there and left. Then she went to another charter school, but didn’t fit in. She came back to my school because, in her words, “You don’t know how good you have it until you don’t have it anymore.”

I learned a lot about Shannon in the 90 minutes we spent together. At the end of the class, we both agreed that we’d had a good time talking and that we should do it again. I find myself looking forward to that.

Is Shannon a success story? Not yet. She still wrestles with an abysmal home life, trust issues and a very difficult road to graduation from high school. But she’s engaged with her life now. She’s making choices to move forward with it and, probably for the first time in a long while, she sees a future for herself. I’m glad she’s back at my school, and I’m grateful the universe gave me the chance to know her.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Resolving means Doing

I have never found the tradition of New Year’s resolutions to be helpful for me. Somehow, “resolving” to do something never equates to actually doing it. However, I have experienced great success in using that time to plan ahead for things I actually will accomplish. The idea is to set a goal—something I feel I can achieve (even if it means challenging myself), then figure out what I need to do to make it happen. Afterward, I sit down every month or so and pull the plan out, reminding myself of what I wanted to achieve and why, and reviewing things to make sure I’m doing what I need to get there. Sometimes, the goals get met; sometimes, they don’t. When they don’t, I try to document why they didn’t, so I can revise the plan.

Over the last couple of years, I have not been as religious with this routine as I would like and it has left me feeling a little disoriented. I miss not having a set of things to work toward. So much of my mind, body and spirit has been focused on graduate school that I have forgotten to do a lot of things for myself, and reflecting in this way is one of the bigger ones. I am nearly done with graduate school now, and I’ve been reminded that it was a good thing to have these goals in place, and so I am re-establishing the ritual. Over the course of the year, I want to use this space to monitor my progress toward the goals I have set. Having an audience (however small and distant it may be), will help keep my mind on these goals, and actually documenting my progress will do a great job of motivating me to stay on top of the process. I’ll even have something tangible to remind me of what it feels like to achieve something! Who knows? Maybe someone else will find it valuable, too.

The list that follows does not include the minor details, and it is not designed to be complete. I mean, why should it be that I only think about setting goals once a year? I used to make a point of considering additions to the list three times a year: May Day, Labor Day and New Year’s Day. I think I’ll hold to that again. Anyway, here’s what I’d like to achieve at this point, in no particular order.

1. Earn my M.Ed. (I’ve completed all my coursework. I have only a thesis to complete and a portfolio to compile, then it is in the hands of the University)

2. Read three of the books in my library that relate to the Landmark Community School project, so I can…

3. Write out a plan to bring the Landmark Community School to life.

4. Rebuild two habits of a healthy lifestyle that I have neglected for the last several years:
—Making time to be active every day--even if only a 30 minute walk is possible.
—Eating good and healthy food in the right amounts.

5. Reestablish “teapot time” and other rituals of bonding and intimacy with my wife. (more on that in another post)

6. Compete in the Greenfield Triathalon.

7. Explore 6 new places to kayak or canoe.

8. Reconnect with my religious practice by taking time to study, meditate and practice mindful living every day.

9. Write for pleasure regularly during the week (including blogging, letters and fiction)

10. Take SiSi camping overnight, if she’s ready.

11. Make a list of home improvement projects around Wayfarer House that can be done over the summer.

12. Complete to high quality one woodworking project.

13. Take a camera out of its bag twice for fun.

This is a good list for me. I’m going to enjoy seeing each of these accomplished and I happily accept the challenges they present. I’ll keep you posted on how things go.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Staff Sargeant Mac...

I have a student; I’ll give her the blogname Mac. Mac is a junior (11th grade), and has advanced out of my lower level Spanish classes, though she still plays soccer for me in the fall. I don’t see her every day now that soccer is over, but I make a point of chatting with her when we pass in the hall and she comes to hang out in my classroom after school as I’m packing up to go home.

Mac is a member of the Air Force Junior ROTC program. She has every intention of enlisting when she’s finished with high school because she wants what the air force has to offer and because she really enjoys being a part of something she respects. Now, I make no secret of my distaste for military life. I was a navy brat and have no interest in adding to my time served. Even so, I very much support Mac in her decision to do this. She is a good student in a school that sets very high standards; the military is not her only option. This is her dream. It is a good dream, and it is worthy of my encouragement.

I was sitting at the desk in my classroom today surfing the net when Mac walked in, all smiles. She came specifically to show off her new insignia, one she’d just earned over break by completing a rigorous two-week test that challenged her ability to do a lot of things. She and I had talked about this test before, and she was very nervous about it. She wasn’t sure she could do everything they were going to ask of her. This test was a milestone for her: If she completed it, she would be that much closer to college ROTC, a high-paying career and free schooling. Failure would mean training for the test all over again, but also it might mean she couldn't be the capable airman she wanted to be. The insignia meant she’d passed everything, and had been promoted.

To see her today in her dress blues, her new insignia proudly displayed on her lapel, she looked the very picture of pride and confidence. This, from a girl who, only two years ago, would not talk loudly enough in class to be heard from 4 feet away. I stood up, shook her hand and told her that I was incredibly proud of her and that this should serve as a reminder to her, lest she ever forget it, that she is in fact the shizzle.

I have always told my students that I did not care what path they chose for themselves in life. Their lives are their own and no one gets to live their karma but them. I only cared that they worked very hard to choose something—to make a decision for their lives—rather than be subject to the whims of everyone else’s choices. I told them that, as long as they considered everything with a pure heart and tried to understand as best they could the consequences of their choice, they were doing their job. The rest will work itself out as it should.

Mac didn’t make her decision to be a cadet based on what I said, but she is an excellent example of how making “right decisions” for your life leads to a beautiful sense of fulfillment. She is following her karma, and it is an awesome thing to watch.

Congratulations, Mac. I am very proud of you!

Monday, January 1, 2007

What a wonderful ride!

I have been married to my lovely wife for 12 years. They have been wonderful years, and I want the world to know that I am truly blessed to have spent them with her. Our anniversary is really a celebration of the day we decided to share our adventure with everyone. In keeping with that idea, I’d like to take a moment to tell you some of why that adventure has been so much fun.

I’m not effusively romantic, especially in my public writing; you won’t see me gush on about how my wife completes me, how she is beautiful and supportive, how she is an outstanding mother to my daughters and how she makes life worth living. All of these are true, of course, but those who know me know I don’t make a production out of professing my love. It is only important to me that my wife also knows this, and I try to honor her by showing her each and every day how grateful I am that she and I are more than just a married couple--we are best friends.

Our relationship has been defined, almost from the very beginning, as one of friendship. We lived near each other in the early days that we knew each other and we would spend a lot of time in each other’s company talking about life, the things we had in common (we have always had many of the same interests) and the things we’d like to do, see and know. We found out we shared an interest for travel, and we would spend hours trading stories about our journeys and escapades. Indeed, we found we had a lot to share with each other and, even after I moved away, we continued to call and write. She is a great communicator, and I very much looked forward to keeping our conversations going.

The eventual change from friendship to marriage came, in part, because we really enjoyed each other’s company on every level and because we knew how to communicate well with one another. It made sense to us that, if we chose to, we could totally make a more intimate relationship succeed. We sat down like best friends, worked out a plan that would allow us to be together for the long-term, then executed it.

I’ll say honestly that I was more worried about the future than she was. I had been married before, and the pain and uncertainty from that breakup had not faded completely. She reminded me, though, that we had a good friendship, a proven history of happiness, and we had demonstrated that we were willing and able to do what we needed to for a marriage to succeed. I’ll let her tell you if I took a long time to convince, but I came to see the truth of what she was saying eventually.

As our wedding approached, we talked about a statement that we felt really made clear to our guests what we thought about our relationship. It’s written on the special box into which we put special notes, cards and mementos that document and celebrate our marriage. The slogan reads, “We get along so well, we decided to get married.” I think about that statement a lot, because really captures the essence of who we are as a couple. To be sure, we have had our disagreements. We have strained under stress. We have had moments where we drove each other meshuggeneh, but we have always managed to come together and talk it out like best friends. It is that ability that, more than any other thing, has helped us adapt to the challenges we have faced over the last 12 years. It leaves me with the perfect conviction that we could do this forever and really enjoy it.

Our friendship keeps our marriage fresh. Like all best friends, we are motivated to find ways to keep our relationship strong. We look to each other for strength. We find ways to make each other laugh. We defend each other, compliment each other, brag about each other and make each other feel like we are capable of anything--especially when we do it together. We are both proud of the life we have created and, as we lie in bed at the end of the day, we often talk with amazement about how wonderful a ride it has been.

Thank you, Wifeness, for a wonderful ride!