Friday, December 13, 2013

My Christmas Wish!

Kim and I dutifully ask our kids for their Christmas list at this time of year, every year.  When the kids were younger, their lists were lengthy, but there has never been anything too extravagant or outlandish.  As they got older, their lists have become noticeably shorter and a lot more predictable: videos, a cd or two, gift cards to their favorite clothing stores (man, had I known, I would have bought stock!).  In fact, not only have their lists become shorter and more predictable, Kim and I had to remind them several times so we could go shopping for them.

And in turn, the kids will ask us what we want.  Hmmm . . .

You know, as I get older, I’m harder to buy for, though much of what I want isn’t in stores.  Probably wouldn’t fit in a stocking.  Not sure if Santa could fit it into his sleigh or get it down the chimney.

So, what do I want?

I’d like continued health as I get older.  I don’t want to worry about routine doctor’s visits and what he/she will find.  I want the glaucoma in my left eye to stop growing, so I don’t have to worry about what I will or won’t be able to see.

My mom turns 99 years old in two weeks.  I’d like to see her get to a hundred or beyond, even if she doesn’t necessarily remember me even after I remind her two or three times in a visit.  Turning a 100 years old would be a really neat gift . . . I think for her, for me, for our family.

My extended family has gone through some tough times lately.  Jared passed away in October.  My sister-in-law is battling an aggressive cancer.  My sister is slowly, painfully ill and had to be hospitalized until . . .  One of my other sisters almost died once a while ago, but survived.  She can’t get around like she once could, though she’s what we would call “a gamer” and does her best.  I’ve gotten closer to her lately and want that relationship to grow.  Not ready yet for that to end.  I’d like for my extended family to have a peaceful lull.  To have peace.  Nothing but joy, laughter at least for a little while.

I want my kids to be happy, to be successful, to enjoy a life they choose.  I want my kids to survive the bumps along the way and for them to know that I love them so very much and that I always will even if I get grouchy now and then, or picky, or pushy.  That I will always support them.  Always love them.  Always.  And that I would do anything and everything I could for them.  And even more if I could.

I want those kids in my school who don’t have much, to have much, to have at least enough.  To not go hungry.  To not worry about what or when they are going to eat or where they will sleep.  To not worry about their mom or dad who are and have been out of work trying to make ends meet.

I want the teachers in my school who are suffering quietly, who are worrying silently, who are battling something terrifying in their lives to have peace, to experience joy, to be embraced by warmth and comfort, by a gentle touch, a knowing nod, and to know that they aren’t alone and don’t have to go it alone.  There are a number of them I know about, and I’m sure, a number of them I don’t know about.

I want my wife and I to grow old together.  To continue to laugh, to experience joy with each other, to know what each of us is thinking without ever having to tell the other.  I want her to know she is my best friend, my very best friend.  Always has been and always will be.

I suppose there is a lot more I could put on my list.  A lot more.  Not sure how Santa will work this list out or fit it all onto his sleigh or down the chimney.  Not sure where my kids will shop for it all.  Not sure if they have enough money in their wallet for it all.  But this is my Christmas Wish.  For me . . . for you . . . for all of us.  Something to hope for.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In Need Of Balance

You know, when I push away from the Thanksgiving table, I know without a doubt I over did it.  Stuffed, and I’m not just talking the turkey, though some would argue I am a turkey.  They might be right.  Probably right.

I think most of us feel like that after a Thanksgiving dinner.  Not the turkey part, but the stuffed part.  Who doesn’t?  Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pie.  Lots of pie!

And then we feel bloated.  More than just full.  Mostly, ready to explode.

In Need Of Balance.

School was canceled for the past two days.  Snow, sleet, ice.  Unsafe for buses and unsafe for young drivers.  Needed to proceed with caution.  Better to be safe.

Nature dumped on us like it does sometimes.  We reacted and created balance.

Of course, a pile of work awaits me upon my return.  Observations, the write ups, the post observation conferences.  Games rescheduled for another day.  Lessons that had been prepared will be taught another day, but then those lessons taught another day, and on, and on.

In Need Of Balance.

Sometimes our words, our actions, perhaps our lack of words and our inactions cause us to be out of Balance.  We tangle with each other, ourselves.  We harm ourselves, perhaps others, knowingly, mostly unknowingly . . . at least I would hope so. 

There is the need to gather ourselves, to find our center, to find the mid-point.  There is the need to find the Balance between action and inaction, to find the Balance between words and silence, to find the Balance between too much and not enough.

Each year, one of our teachers organizes a food drive to feed those families who might not have much to eat.  Kids and teachers contribute hundreds of pounds to feed many who just don’t have.  This year, our social worker put up a tree in the staff workroom and instead of ornaments, had possible items that could be purchased and donated to families who don’t have much or nothing at all.  Within 30 minutes, the tree was stripped clean.  All items taken by staff willing to help contribute.  So, she put more items on the tree, only to find those items taken by willing staff members.. 

Each year, my administrative team delivers poinsettias to each staff member as a way of saying thank you, as a way of saying we appreciate what you do, what you’ve done.  This year, several of my staff members suggested that we give inexpensive gift cards, such as Starbucks, Subway.  They reasoned that then, those staff members who want to can give their cards to our social worker who can then give them to needy families.  Pretty cool idea.

In Need Of Balance.

We can create Balance.  I believe we seek Balance.  We have in our nature to be in Balance.  We know intuitively when we are out of Balance.  We feel it: in our body, in our mind, in our soul.  And I believe it is in our nature to help others create Balance when we recognize those who are close to us are out of Balance.  And, as adults, it is so very important to help our children learn to maintain Balance in their lives, in their souls, and in their minds.  Such a very important lesson to learn.  One of our greatest charges, I think.  Our future, their future, depends upon this.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!



Friday, December 6, 2013

Learning To Drive

I went through it; you went through it; we all went through it.  Equal mix of excitement, fear and trepidation, I suppose.

A whole different feeling for me as I sit shotgun in the passenger seat.  Way different.

Typically, I drive.  I am behind the wheel.  I am in control.  I think I’m a pretty good driver, though I know I scare the living daylights out of my wife, who actually teaches Behind The Wheel.  I tend to go a bit slower than most.  Kim calls it “Driving like an Old Man!”  At least I’ve not gotten a ticket and I have not been in an accident in years.

Our youngest, Emily, is Learning To Drive.  While Kim has taken Emily out on most trips for her to practice, I spend some time in the passenger seat riding shotgun.  There are times when I find myself pushing the imaginary brake.  I know at times I talk too much, maybe distract her a bit too much as I point out things to look for, things to watch for.  Sometimes I nitpick on slowing down or signaling intentions or checking mirrors.  Have to keep a bit more quiet, I think.  I think she’d agree.  I know she’d agree.

I just want her to be careful.  To do well.  To succeed and not get any tickets or get into any accidents.  I guess like any parent.

Learning To Drive.

She really does a good job.  She sits in the seat behind the wheel.  She adjusts the seat.  Checks and changes the mirrors slightly.  She makes sure the wheel is straight before she even starts up the car, admonishing me if I leave it crooked because, “It’s dangerous!”  Yeah, I know.  I get that.  She’s careful.  She thinks ahead.  Observes everything.  And, she really wants to do well.  She doesn’t want to make a mistake.

Learning To Drive.

Just like in life, parents and teachers have to teach our kids.  It isn’t easy sitting shotgun with only the imaginary break to push as our kids take the wheel . . . of the car . . . of life.  We want them to succeed.  We don’t want them to make mistakes.  We don’t want them to have accidents.

And just as they sit in the driver’s seat and take the wheel of the car, at some point, they sit in the driver’s seat and take the wheel of their life.  Scary for a parent, a teacher, a significant other.  Really scary because we so very much want them to succeed.  We so very much don’t want them to make a mistake or get into an accident.

And honestly, I find myself holding my breath a little each time she . . . they . . . sit behind the wheel, each time they wave goodbye, each time . . . 

I watch the clock.  I wonder.  Yes, I worry.  Each time.  Every time.

Learning To Drive.

And just like with a car, our kids need to learn how to navigate the streets of life.  Watching out for this pothole.  Being careful to watch for other drivers . . . other people . . . because we don’t know what they will do.  Making sure they don’t travel too close to the edge.  Somehow helping them navigate down the center, making turns safely, and slowly, and carefully.  Helping them see what lies ahead and to somehow anticipate- ever a hard thing to do, to master.  Just like in a car, we want our kids to succeed and be safe in life.  And it’s never easy when you’re not behind the wheel, when you’re not in control, and with just an imaginary break.  Never easy.  Not easy at all.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Prepare, And The Preparation

The weekend after Thanksgiving is our weekend to decorate the house for Christmas. 

For the past couple of years, Hannah has been in charge of setting up the lights outside.  She does a nice job.  Each year it’s a little different.  Each year is prettier than the last.  When she’s done, all of us chip in and decorate the inside of the house.  Each year pictures get taken down and seasonal pictures take their place.  The tree gets purchased.  Kim puts on the lights and together as a family, we put on the ornaments.  Some old.  Some newer.  Baby ornaments depicting Wil’s, Hannah’s, Emily’s birth or birthday.  A baseball ornament for Wil.  Soccer ornaments for all three kids.  Swimming ornaments for Hannah and Emily.  Wedding and anniversary ornaments.  Lots.  The tree is full.  Full.

Each year, our Golden, Bailey, picks one and eats it.  Yup.  Never fails.  One ornament a year.  Sherlock, before he died, did the same thing.  No clue why.  They just do.

Together, Emily and I put up the Village.  You could say that it’s our thing. 

We set up two tables.  We make sure we have the extension cords.  We place the fake snow down and then open up the trunk and take out the boxes.

We place the houses, and the shops, and the people just so.  They have to be just right.  As if one could step into the scene and take part.  Buy the baked ham or the freshly baked bread.  Can almost smell it.  Perhaps skate on the pond and drink hot chocolate.  Maybe cut down the Christmas trees and sell them along with the seller.  Can almost smell the pine.  Or, help feed the chickens or milk the cow on the little homestead up on the hill outside of town.  The other animals amongst the bales of hay.

Prepare, And The Preparation.

Almost, but not quite ready.

We have the lists of wishes, needs, and “I’d likes”.  Shopping and wrapping and name tags.  Tape.  Lots of tape.  Random bundles and stacks under the tree. 

Prepare, And The Preparation.

Advent is one of my favorite seasons . . . themes.  Its very nature, its meaning, is to Prepare.  To make ready.  To get ready. 

To Prepare our heart.  To get our heart ready.  To get our mind ready.  Each year, at the same time of year, we Prepare.  We make Preparations.

We get to go change what we’ve done.  We get to change how we do things.  How we think.  How we act.  How we treat people . . . ourselves.

We have the opportunity to begin again.  To make things right.  To Prepare, and To Make Preparations.  A great concept and philosophy.  A concept that is truly more realistic than an ideal. 

My question is this: why should we wait until each December to Prepare to do better . . . to think better?  Why wait until each December to make our Preparations?  Shouldn’t we do this each day?  Every day?  And, why Prepare?  Can’t we just do?  Each day . . . every day . . . just do?  And if we stumble and fall, if we make a mistake, we try again . . . and again . . . and again.  Each day . . . every day.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, And Make A Difference!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day After

Black Friday.  Strikes fear in the hearts of many, while joy and jubilation in the hearts of others.  Frankly, I can take it or leave it.  Mostly leave it, I guess.

People racing and running to and through stores seeking and searching for the best bargain.  In the limited driving I did today, horns blared, drivers cut in and cut off other drivers and then they gave each other the single finger salute.

I read a report where shoppers fought each other with tasers.  There were other shoppers literally wrestling each other over something each had wanted.  A news report showed one prominent department store that had actually marked up items that were on sale for less on Veteran’s Day.  Another prominent store didn’t actually have a deal, but sold items for the same price that were for sale at any other time of year. 

Hmmm . . .  So much for “deals”.

I guess what bothers me is that somehow, we’ve lost the meaning of Christmas is about.  We lost what Christmas is about.

Yes, I know there is joy in giving gifts. My wife, Kim, and I take one day and spend it together going over our kids’ lists, and then shop here and there for each other.  We take another day and the four of us, Kim, Hannah, Emily and I go shopping.  It’s fun.  I love our Christmas, the time we spend together, the laughter and the joy.

Yet . . .

Is Christmas really about stress and strain?  Spending sometimes enormous amounts of money on . . . stuff? 

Or is Christmas about something else?

I don’t mean to sound like The Grinch.  Really.  I’m not against eggnog or Mistletoe.  I’m not against buying and giving presents.  I like wrapping them and surprising others with something they had always wanted.  I’m not against caroling.  I love Midnight Mass and candles.  I love the Christmas dinner and time spent with and on family.

I just think it’s gone too secular.  I think it’s somehow gotten a bit greedy.  Maybe a lot greedy.

I wonder if we’ve lost the innocence of it all.  I wonder if the purity is missing.  Sometimes I wonder if we can . . . if we ever will . . . get it back.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Once More Upon A Time

Once More Upon A Time

I’ve written in the past that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.  For me, it beats Christmas only because of the secular issues, not at all because of the religious mystique and belief surrounding it.  But Thanksgiving is really rather simple.

It’s giving thanks!  Really as simple as that.  Giving Thanks!

I don’t know that we do that enough.  We don’t do that to or for ourselves, and I believe we don’t do that enough to and for each other, especially our loved ones, those we work alongside of, those who greet us each day, or say goodbye to us each day.  We don’t say thank you nearly enough.

Those of you who know me and read me often know that I come from a rather poor and humble background.  We didn’t have a lot, but that didn’t stop us from being appreciative of what we did have.

Such as . . .

Love.  Support.  Caring.  Compassion.  Concern.  Laughter.  Each Other.

Food on the table and a place to sleep and clothes to wear.

Such as . . .

Parents and Teachers and Significant Others who took the time and had the patience to teach me right from wrong, good from bad.  Who showed me paths to take and gave me the freedom to let me choose which path to take, even if they knew in advance that it might be a circuitous and convoluted route and not at all easy . . . and that I might fail. 

Such as . . .

People in my life who were there to pick me up with I fell, who gave me strength when I stood, who helped me find hope when I was ready to give up, who helped me find faith when I didn’t have any- not in myself, not in others.

Such as . . .

People in my life who extended themselves and risked a relationship with me.  People who took the time to answer my questions, who sometimes, hopefully infrequently, took the brunt of my misplaced anger, my uncharitable actions or words.  People who were patient with me even though I might not have been patient with them . . . or with myself.

Such as . . .

People who took the time to teach me that I am as important as others around me, and that at times, that there are others who I am so unworthy of standing in their shadow.  People who took the time to show me that my actions, my words, my thoughts matter, have an impact great and small, known and unknown.

Such as . . .

Waking up to see a sunrise and know that I can do it all again . . . or even do it over.  That at night, I can crawl into bed and know that I had tried to do my best, my very best, and sleep peacefully, contentedly, and know with absolute certainty that the sun will rise and a new day will begin and that if I didn’t like the results from the previous day, I can (and must) course-correct and move on, do something differently, say something differently.

So, Once More Upon A Time . . .

With my heart full, with a smile and with all sincerity, I say, Thank You!  That is truly something for you, for each of us, to do.  And, as I always end my writings, something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!