Sunday, February 18, 2018

My love story - part 5

I knew that I had to have someone to love.

It was weird, I think, that as I fumbled through my teens and high school that I was not so sure that everyone needed the same thing. You know? I had this sense that everyone had a drive to want to be in some relationship. But I was not so sure that they had to have someone to love. I was not sure that some of the people that I was around even knew what they wanted half the time.

Why was it that people were so eager to hook up when they were not ready? I think it is the stigma of our culture. Isn't it a subconscious drive of media and society that we all are miserable unless we have someone hanging off our arms? I know that in high school it seemed as if there was something wrong with you if you didn't have a girl on your side. How many girls are looked at as if there is something wrong if they are not married by 30 or talking about having kids? What is wrong if they aren't? Why is it that guys are picked on if they are not talking of their conquests or how they are giving a good hunt? Why is it not the cool thing if we are looking for content instead of the dust jacket? Where does that come from? Why does it seem that a guy has to have a mindset of "one and done?" Well ,that may be a topic of higher discussion.

All that I knew at the time is that I needed someone to love. I had too much empathy and inner emotional fortitude to not share it with a true life companion. Honestly, there were days it seemed to cause me to ache when the yearning was most intense. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach where it radiated into my chest and thoughts. In the back of my mind though, I knew that I could not just pick anyone or just fall for the first girl who batted an eye. I had to be deliberate. I had to take the time and make progress with not only the guidance of my heart but of my mind too. I had to make sure that neither one had the run of the show. I had seen too many times of that failing and ending in shambles.

It was hard going. It was almost unbearable at times. I found her though. I know that sometimes when I told someone who I was seeing and how serious it was that they took it skeptically. Most had never known me to be in the game much and wondered if I truly had any idea if this was really the one. Him? They would think. That guy who never dated? He had never had a girlfriend and now he is engaged? Well that probably won't last long. . . I have seen it a lot. Many times it came from my own family. But why is that so bad? Why is it that a lack of dating and girlfriends is a sign of misgiving and foreshadowing of failure? I know, it is because a lot of people had to fail in order to know themselves. People have to take a hit or two before they really knew what they wanted. People go into a relationship jaded with what they think loving someone is like as they have seen on TV or movies. Then they find out that is not the type of love they want. They find out that those fairytales are not their fairytale.

Well, I was different. I watched and soul searched. I was thoughtful and was in touch with my feelings. I understood my wants and needs. I understood the type of person that would complement me and enjoy what I had to offer. I hate the whole "they are the other half of me" crap. My wife is not the other half to me. I was not a half of person. I was not broken or incomplete. I was a full person that needed another to share my life with. I needed a person to show what strength of faith was. I needed another person who understood what it was like to be their own person and to enjoy themselves with another who was just as much of their own person.

In short, I need someone to love and to share my life with. It was not going to be just anyone either. I understood that I would spend time looking. I understood that it could have been a long time. . . . maybe never. One thing was certain, I was not going to waste my time going through one girl after another just to fill a "void" that was not there. I was not looking for someone to start living life when I had a life going already. I am sure I would have had a good life without if that was in my cards. That was for other people that didn't understand. I knew that I had to be deliberate and patient. I had to stand my ground and not give in to stigma.

So, here I am about 20 yrs later. I have no regrets and not much to offer others with advice on how to navigate relationships. I have only had one true run. I have no experience to help others. I only really know how to love her. I only know how to be with her. I only looked for one and when I founder her, that was when I knew I could stopped looking and start my journey with her.

I just know that I needed someone to love and I am lucky beyond what I deserve to have found her.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The octopus story

            This is a life story that is a tried and true for my classes. Boy is it well liked. The kids have affectionately called it The Octopus Story. What the point I try to get to is that kids say the darndest things. I also want the kids to know that there should be no shame in calling anything by its proper name. This one is truly a favorite of my students.

            You know how kids when they just first start to talk are hard to understand? You know what I am talking about. You look at the mother because for some reason, the mom is always the universal translator for their own child. Yeah, the mom…. Not the dad. Anyway. This was not true with my son. He articulated words practically perfect since he first started to speak. In fact, I remember his first two syllable word - ‘a-pol.’

            It is funny because I remember giving my son a bath and saying to him what the parts are that we were washing. I would say we are washing the arms and ears and legs and penis…..then I heard my wife yell from the living room ----“Don’t tell him that!” Well, we had a bit of a disagreement as to what to call “it.” I have to say I won. We were calling “it” by its proper name.

            So, One day I was out shopping with my wife and son when he was about two and a half years old or so. My wife was looking at the clothes and you know I love my wife dearly, but man can she spend some time looking at clothes! No, really. That girl and wear you out in a store! I have a problem though - My wife is 5 foot, you see, and when she darts into the racks. . .well, I can’t see her. So, usually I just set up by a rack on the isle and use it as a leaning post. Then I just wait until she pops out down the line and I move to that spot and wait until she pops out for air again. Of course this gives me lots of time to contemplate life and such.

            This day I was standing in the aisle close to a sale rack. A woman cam up to the rack I was leaning against to look at what tidbits were on sale. I thought – if you think I am moving then you got another thing coming. I was watching my son in his stroller. He was really into looking at this stuffed Octopus we had handed him. You know the kind, it was one of those buy this for five bucks and we will donate ninety nine cents to some charity type of thing. They had a whole rack of them as we entered the store. They had a crab and shark and whale and two or three others. They had those cute embroidered inspirational words on them like ‘faith’ and ‘strength’ or something like that. Well when we walked through the door, my son pointed at the rack and practically screamed, “Oct-pus! Oct-Pus! Oct-pus! And…. Of course he got one.

            Well, he was running his hand over this thing and turning it over and over. He was really giving this thing a once over. He turned the octopus over so that the legs were facing up and he was looking at the bottom. He ran his finger over the embroidered word “happiness”.  The material on the bottom was two pieces sewn together with a seam right down the center with the legs spreading out. He ran his finger down the seam once and then paused and did it again. He did this several times. Then, he looked up at me and said,


            “Yes, Son?”

            “Where’s its penis?”

             Yep, that is right. He said penis. Now this was not really a huge surprise to me since that is what we have always called it. That is its name, so we always use the proper names. Why not? It is better than coming up with all the silly stuff like wee wee or digginy or Bob or some such nonsense.

            Anyway, my son was gifted with the ability to pronunciate any word he hears to the point where there is no doubt as to what he said. So, when he asked me this question, there was no doubt what he asked and it was clear as a bell.

            There was one other problem, the woman on the other side of the rack heard him too. And I had no doubt that she was sure of what he said. Out of the peripheral vision, I saw her head snap up and towards me. I did not even have to look to see the expression on her face. Thinking quickly as I could as I felt the heat rising in my face I said back to him,

            “Son, Octopuses don’t like peanuts, Elephants like peanuts.”

            He looked at the stuffed animal contemplating while I just hoped that he heard what I said.

            It seemed like a life time when he finally said, “Octopus don’t like peanuts, Elephants like peanuts.”

            Whew!!! “That’s right son, very good,” I said back as I moved away quickly.

            To this day, I have no doubt that the woman had no questions about what my boy had said. And when I think back, I should have just explained it to him and who cares what that woman would have thought about me as a father. I also think that I gave into being ashamed at being so socially trained to think that the work ‘Penis’ is offensive for some reason. Today, I would probably not bat an eye because I have decided that people can just put their big girl or boy pants on and accept that as parents, we do the best we can. Besides, the word ‘penis’ should not be any more offensive than the word arm or leg or nose……

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My family gives me perspective.

My wife asks me a lot about why I stay with her. I have always given her a boost of confidence and reassured her of how lucky I am to be with her. It is hard though. She struggles with mild depression and body pain that could be rheumatoid(. . . Maybe? ) and other mild but chronic ailments. She looks at what it takes for others to leave their wives and cant believe I am still with her. I have to say though, after visiting with my family, she sees that I am not kidding about being lucky.

My family puts things in perspective. Now I am not going to hang my siblings out to dry and criticize them for their marriages, but it sure does show my wife how much different they are compared to us. She talks and sees a lot of things that they do in their relationships that we honestly have no idea why it is put up with.  But, that is theirs and ours is ours.

In the end, I cannot stress enough how important it is to know yourself deeply. In order to have a successful marriage or any type of relationship, you have to know yourself first. Be deliberate with who you are seeking. Let your mind in on choosing as well as your heart.

I see my brother and sisters with how they have landed in their marriages. It seems to work fine with them but it is not for me. I have picked my wife and I am soooooooo happy with her. She frets a lot about me and how I can "put up" with some of the setbacks and uncontrollable stuff we have been going through. All I have to do and visit or even bring up my brother and sisters and all that comes into perspective. Then she understands . . . at least for a little while. . . .why I am so happy with her.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

As for me - I will stand.

     These words should sound familiar:

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

                   -Declaration of Independence

 And while I am at it – how about these words:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

And an unknown verse of a very well known song –

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

                 -The Star Spangled Banner

And again, even more familiar words – 

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic
for which it stands,
one Nation under God,
with liberty and justice for all.

How do I feel about the whole kneeling thing? Well, let me just start by looking back at the true intentions of our country. We were founded by men and woman that were escaping the entrapments of a King. They wanted to have more freedom to be the people they wanted to be by the simple rights of being a human being. Those truths were self evident that all men are equal. All people have the right to pursue a life, liberty, and happiness.

     Do people have the right to kneel at the base of our flag. Sure. Do they have the right to forego singing our anthem and pledging allegiance to our flag? Absolutely. Do people have the right to burn the flag in protest? Yes.

     Will I do that? Absolutely not.

     We all know that our country is free and we will sing our patriotism from one shore to another. Of course, there are many that will also take freedom to a point where they challenge any and all to just, by God, try and take away their freedom. Is this just a test of what freedom really is or is it just people feeling their licensed defiant inner child? Looking at the news, it is hard to tell.

What I feel is true though, is kneeling before the flag and anthem in order to protest the hate crimes in our society is a sign that you do not agree with the symbolism of what they represent or what they signify. I mean, when I see the our flag, Old Glory, I see a symbol of what it represents. It is not just some stars and stripes that are randomly sewn together. It is a purposely thought out and deliberate symbol.

Here is all the symbolism of our flag:

Stars are a symbol of the heavens and the goals to which humankind aspires; stripes are symbolic of rays of light from the sun. Thirteen stripes represent the original thirteen colonies that declared independence from England; fifty stars symbolize the current 50 United States. White signifies purity and innocence, red signifies valor and bravery; and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

So. . . if you kneel before the flag, you are protesting the perseverance, valor, and justice of what America was founded on? Am I missing your meaning?

How about the Pledge of Allegiance? Is it the fact that our country is a republic that you are disagree with? Maybe the whole liberty and justice for all is the problem.

How about the anthem? You do not feel that it is important to honor those who “provide for the common defense” of the liberty of this nation?

I just don’t see how kneeling before the anthem and flag or refusing to pledge to the ideals of our country makes any sense. They want to declare the injustice of innocent minorities being killed. They want to bring to our attention the increase in violence. They want to get the quickest response and the most bang for their buck. They chose to turn their backs on the symbols of liberty and justice while wanting to receive that very liberty and justice.

It seems too easy to me. Why not start promoting something that will make a difference in our nation. You know because it is our right and it will actually make a difference. How about voting. How about flooding our representatives with letters and phone calls. Our country is a republic. That means we the people are running this gig. Let’s flex our muscle in our voices and how we treat and teach our people to make our country better. It was what it was founded on. It is found all throughout our historic documents. You can see them, words like – liberty, freedom, for all, equal, union, and most important – we. Can you imagine what it would be like for all of those athletes and politicians proclaiming to participate in our government? Can you imagine what it would do for our nation to promote knowing the candidates and making educated votes? Can you imagine people raising their voices to their congressmen instead of the reporter or camera?

I will believe and practice being free in a Republic State. It may not get attention on T.V. or newspapers but that is not my goal. I pledge Allegiance to our flag every morning. I mean what I say. As for me, I will stand. I will pledge. I will sing. I will vote. I will write letters. I will serve in court. I will teach my kids.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Abortion is necessary

Abortion is necessary. It really turns my guts inside out even to say it. I hate abortions and I hate that a human being would even consider it. But, it is necessary because we the general social population have created a culture where it is acceptable and considered a last resort.

I see people going to abortion clinics and hurting or being violent to those who either are getting abortions or performing abortions. I see legislature and politicians that are either supporting abortion or trying to make it illegal. People will force girls to have their babies and condemn them if they don't or condemn them for even being pregnant. Even if a person stops an abortion, what then?

I mean, if you stop a girl from having an abortion- what then? Are you going to help this girl raise their child? Provide assistance? Are you going to council this girl to grow strong and confident in the face of the struggles of being a mom? Maybe a mom with no dad in the picture? What about the father? Are you going to take steps to keep him from getting another girl pregnant? Can you be so short sighted as to feel that it is always the girls fault? Will you make the boy stay with the girl that he does not love and will most likely not care for their own child? Well, in my mind all this stuff that is being done is no worse than putting out an oil well fire by spraying water at the top of the flames. You have to get to the root of the problem.

And that root is Family.

You got it. I can bore you to death with statistics of how likely a girl will get pregnant based on things like poverty, a fatherless home, abuse, single parent household, and on and on. What all of it boils down to is that there needs to be better families and better family values. A household with two parents (a man and a woman - I truly believe) that are faithful to each other who provide love and guidance and nurturing is the only way to change the need for abortions. They need to be mentors and role models everyday and in plain sight of their children. They need to train and teach their kids how important they are. This is for both boys and girls.

The boys need to be taught and shown how to respect women by valuing a girl's mind, emotions, and most importantly - their bodies. They need to see that there are boundaries even in a marriage where  the wife is not property to be done with as the husband chooses. They need to see that if their mom tells their father to back off, the father respects that space their mom wants. This is done out of respect and love for their wives. It needs to be modeled and obvious. Boys need to be taught that they need to learn quickly that sex is not a trophy and that the physical intimacy is a gift and treasure of those they will love fully. They need to be taught that they need to take time to know who they are getting close to.

Girls need to be taught that their bodies are their most precious treasure they possess and that it is not to be just given out willy nilly. They need to know that sex is not a tool to control or hold a man. In the end they will find that sex will never be enough to hold a man to them. It is sad but there are many out there that have learned this the hard way. Girls need to be taught to value themselves and to have a high self esteem. They need to know that they are unique and so special that there are only few men that are worth getting close to and that there is only one the deserves to be intimate with them. They need to be taught how to know when a man truly loves them and will be worth their effort.

But until we have families and family values make a comeback in our society, we will have to have the need for abortions. If a girl does not value their bodies and their uniqueness, they will fall prey to having unwanted pregnancies. If a boy is taught that a woman is a trophy or a conquest they will just live their lives keeping a tally sheet. And this is where we are failing our children and eventually the children they may not want.

I valued my wife when I was dating her. I did not force her or use guilt or manipulation to get her to have sex with me. I did not want her to feel that sex was the only way to keep me around (although she was wondering and worrying) I waited and made sure that she decided it was time. I waited until she truly was ready. That is valuing and respecting her body as being her personal treasure. I also did not rush into it because I valued my body and my right to be intimate. I took a long time to make sure it was what we both wanted. Sound unorthodox, I know, but think of how the world would be different if that kind of behavior became the norm?

I surely do not have all the answers and this concept is very very very complicated. There are hundreds of thousands of abortions happening each year. No really - look it up if you want. To me that is a marker of our society and the value of a person. If a person is valued and values others, they will not only value the unborn children but they will value the idea of having a child or not having a child. Until then, until we really get to the root of the problem, we will be unable to affect the end result. If we, as a society, teach kids and young adults how to value themselves more, we may be able to reduce the need for abortions. They will see the value of having children when they are ready to want them with all their hearts and time.

I bet a lot of other societal ills would go away too. . . but that is a whole other thread of thought, eh?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I am not successful.

I was asked one day if I felt that I was successful and I said, “No.”

And I meant it too.

What a surprise. Most people would say the same thing, I am guessing.

Hell, sometimes just getting up the next day and facing it again is a success. This year I have referred two girls to hospitals for cutting themselves and many would say that is a success in itself. At the time though, I didn’t feel like it was much of a success as they were taken away against their will. People would say that they are getting the help they need. It is funny how teachers feel that way so much.

There are days in my past where I have felt like the biggest loser in the world and that all the work I have put into something turned out to be useless. They day I was fired from my passion of teaching was the most mountainous heap of failure. It has been the worse I have endured yet. Getting a new job in TN and starting over could be considered a success. It might be, but there will always be that idea tucked in the back of my mind that I was not good enough. . .. I was not successful in holding my job. I failed.

Success could be having a strong family but there are days in which I feel like I am failing at my job as a husband and father. There are hard days the test my resolve. My oldest in not letting go of his anger, selfish, and greedy ways. I am a supportive husband. Why is she still struggling with depression and anxiety? My younger boy is so dependent and clingy showing no signs of being independent. I often wonder if he will ever grow to be his own man someday.

Then there is me. I am very talented and can do many things. But I make mistakes and I do fail a lot. Why then, when I can be so good at so many things do I focus on all the stumbles in my life? Why do they stand out in my mind? I will not even think a second about throwing together a drawing or building a table without plans but the day I was fired? Well, it was like I was reliving it all over again. I struggle with my faith. I want closer friends or even more friends but it is hard to put time into a friend when you are a teacher and a father and a husband. . . A lot harder than people realize. There are all those goals I set for myself and they fall to the wayside. What about all those?

You see, these things eat away at us. I would guess that anyone that reads this would be thinking of all those things that they are lacking or failing. It is just human nature, isn’t it?

So, that leaves the question of what is success?

Success is perspective. I can look at all those things I have done and are doing right now and see the failures in them. Or, I can look as all those things I have done and see what is succeeding. If I look at the failures, then I am sure to fail more. If I see the successes, then I will be more likely to succeed more. It is my own perspective unhindered by other outside opinions that is the key. It is what I see that makes all the difference. Don't let others define your success. They don't know how much you started with and how far you have come in your struggles. I think this is where the feeling of failure sneaks in. Success is perspective. It is your perspective alone.

It is hard though. I look at where I have been and what I have done compared to where I hoped to be and it doesn’t seem very successful to me. It is an allusion though. I am doing alright. Not great or outstanding but far from failing. I am doing alright. I bet if you look back and scan your past. . . you probably are too.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Teachers are held to a higher standard without empathy.

We have been told a lot that teachers are held to a higher standard. It is true whether we accept it or not. But, on the other hand, we are people too. We are people that have feelings, lives, families, friendships, and hobbies. We are held to a different standard though and we are unfairly expected to give up some behaviors that are harmless to the average person but frown upon as a teacher.

I will use Alcohol as an example. If you listen to a teacher talk about alcohol, it would be fascinating to hear what they say. Phrases like – “I never buy alcohol in the town I live or teach,” or, “I drive 30 miles to a liquor store,” or, “I never have a beer for dinner, there is too much of a chance that a student or a parent seeing me and telling,” flow freely and often. But why? Why is consuming alcohol deemed an unfavorable behavior for a teacher when it is acceptable for others?

Obviously, everyone knows the answer to that one. It is a behavior that is associated with deviant behavior and lawlessness and a person with no self-control. It is practically a sin and every person that has anything to do with children should be as dry as the desert when it comes to drinking alcohol. It is of the devil!

Well, I disagree. My wife shakes her head at me because I will have a beer for dinner sometimes or I will walk into a liquor store in the town I work to buy a bottle. Sacrilege! Do I have to explain why or if I am right in buying it? No. I don’t have to explain anything. I am a person and a human being and a citizen in this country. I am over 21 and am fully lawfully able to buy alcohol for myself.

And I am bound by the same laws to be responsible with consuming it.

As a teacher, I will add one more caveat to this. I am a role model. I don’t mind and I take that part of my job extremely serious. I feel it is unreasonable to hold a teacher to a standard of not consuming alcohol. It is not right. We are people with more stress than the average person and we need a chance to relax and unwind. We need to be social and be part of our non-school families. On the other hand, we need to model the moderation and behavior of wise consumption of alcohol. Getting inebriated and acting a fool is not good role modeling. Having one brew for a whole dinner and walking out an hour later fully in control of oneself is good to see.

So, when you see a teacher that is out and about, take care to not judge them too harshly. Sometimes it is hard to put your game face on as a teacher. We are people. We have hard lives sometimes just like anyone else. Be empathetic and generous to us with your interaction. We are people and that sometimes is ignored with quick judgment and fast accusations.