Category Archives: Life

Throwback: Graduation Speech 2000

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blueberry Muffin Rant

I was going to write a post that just ranted about life.  About student apathy. About the cruelty of social media. About drivers that run red lights. About how parents abuse their children. I was going to rant about everything. As I made muffins this morning, I was in a sour mood for a number of reasons.

But as the timer went off on the oven and I pulled the muffin tins out, I had to smile as the warm aroma of blueberries and chocolate chip muffins filled the kitchen. I returned to cooking the scrambled eggs wishing everyone could have a Sunday morning breakfast like ours.  My youngest daughter came bouncing into the room, “Is it muffin day?”

“Yes, little one. It is muffin day.”

She curled up on the couch in a blanket, then started to ask me 5 year-old questions.

To be honest, I still want to rant. But I realize that my rant won’t change the unfairness in this world. Or stop somebody from writing a hurtful comment on social media. My rant would not save a child’s life today.

 

Sadly, I know that this post won’t do that either.  But instead of ranting, I choose….

I choose to believe that education is about growing as a person, not a grade.

I choose to read more books instead of looking at a screen.

I choose to listen instead of talk.

I choose to believe in sunsets and sunrises because you can see them from anywhere.

I choose to write poetry, blogs, and stories so that someone reads a message that they need.

I choose to post crazy photos on Instagram.

I choose to tell dad jokes to everyone.

I choose longer hugs and holding hands with my wife.

But most important, I choose to love, no matter how much the world keeps trying to hurt me.

I choose to love.

I choose LOVE.

 

 

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Magic of a Bookstore

Today I got to buy some books from our local bookstore, Prairie Books & Gifts. The store is closing after 43 years. I was awash with emotions as I walked around the store. When I worked downtown, I would spend time in the store. Sometimes reading a book in their reading area. Other times, just wandering the aisles until my lunch break was over.

I wrote a series awhile back about how different life was for me growing up as compared to my children. I started to consider that my kids may never know the joy of a bookstore, especially a local store. (I don’t think that will happen, but you never know…)

There is something magical about a bookstore, about the rows of books. Finding your favorite author’s books, hoping in some small way that there is a new book, or gandering through a genre or subject section. Yes, I always checked the poetry section.

A bookstore is the center of our universe. There are millions of worlds, people, and story lines just waiting for us to discover. And yes, you do sometimes judge a book by its cover. You pick it up from the shelf, slightly bouncing it in your hands trying to get a feel of the weight of the book, both physically and metaphorically. The crinkle of the binding. A quick read of a page. And then you have to decide if you are going to enter that world. The whole process is magical. A bookstore is the center of this universe, and it makes me sad to see our local universe die.

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Welcome to #dadlife

Just a warning, I may be writing this blog for me (life is stressful at the moment)… but I think you might like it.

Welcome to #dadlife.

Welcome to time being a single piece of pie left and 14 people wanting it.

Welcome to money being a battlefield. Bills are tanks that slowly advance but hit you from far away with loud shells that leave holes in your landscape. Making it difficult to outrun the tanks; see they run on continuous tracks.

#dadlife has no filters to make things look better. It is filled with vomit, bags under your eyes, dirty dishes and loads of soiled laundry… so many loads of laundry. #dadlife is filled with frowns, a fading body, and carpet worn thin from the family routine.

Welcome to feeling like your dreams are expired spices in the cupboard. Always in sight, thought of when cooking, but no one likes their scrambled eggs with seasoning. So your dreams sit in the back, stale and out of date.

#dadlife is being last in line at the zoo. Making sure everyone sees the tigers while you answer the questions and making sure that a little one doesn’t wander off. You get the last drops of water and few chips left in the bag.

Welcome to finding strength you didn’t know you had. #dadlife builds your heart and mind, it is crossfit training for every aspect of your life. Every day is a rep for life, building strength to handle your children’s heartaches, while striving to build a home. #dadlife teaches you how to move in 12 different ways. You become limber and agile, being capable of handling different situations at the same time.

#dadlife breaks your heart with joy and then heals it with love as you watch your children shine, on a stage, with a colored pencil, or on the court. Your heart cracks as they express their talents, fulfilling their dreams. The cracks are then healed when they catch your eye with a smile that says thank you.

Welcome to #dadlife. It is like trying to find a treasure with a faded map. You can just make out the directions, but many times you forge your own way. Finding unique coins along the unexplored paths. After awhile you can read the next landmark, make a slight adjustment to stay on track. But soon find that the map is hard to read again. So, you decide which path to take on your own. Finding small treasures along the way.

#dadlife is just a hashtag, but through all the hurdles of this dad’s life, I am happy to share both the sorrow and joy of a life lived.

 

 

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When dad gets sick.

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. We were looking forward to the first weekend where we only had one activity on the calendar. I was going to get grades caught up. Spend time with the family. Watch the Super Bowl. Enjoy the downtime.

It started as a little tickle in my throat when I woke up Friday morning. We had a teacher in-service that day so the morning routine was relaxed. At lunch time we were going to pick up my blood pressure medicine. I got some cold and flu medicine, too. I thought it would be best to nip the scratchy throat situation before it got worse. By the end of the day I told my wife that I was going to get some rest when we got home.

I wasn’t feeling horrible, but I was tired. I thought part of it was the cold and flu medicine. Things turned for the worse. When bedtime arrived my throat was feeling tight and scratchy. I thought I just needed another dose of medicine, a good night’s sleep, and everything would be good in the morning. I was wrong.

We would go to convenient care in the morning. The doctor would talk about the option of draining my uvula if the antibiotics didn’t work because it was so swollen. I had strep throat. But I didn’t know that Friday night. I had one of the worse nights of my life as my throat and uvula worked together to make me feel as if I was choking on something all night. I would drink some ice water and the sensation would go away for a few minutes. I would close my eyes only to be jolted back by the closing of my throat.

I could not find a position that would alleviate the sensation. Your mind starts to panic in the darkness of the night. So many thoughts ran through my head in that darkness. At one point I did panic. My heart raced. I couldn’t stop thinking something was terribly wrong. But I survived. The night passed.

I would spend all day Saturday and part of Sunday in bed. Away from the kids. Away from the routine of my life. I could hear the laughter and conversation at dinner.  My little girls would stick their head in to say they loved me. My wife would fill my water for me. (I drank so much water!)

My sickness reminded me of a few things.

The first is that family is about routine. Now, not in the boring definition, but by what you do everyday. Each member of the family has a role. A family is the whole of all the parts. A family changes over time. Children grow, routines change and adapt to new situations. But the definition of a family is founded in what each person does. That is why I felt so sad as I listened to my family enjoy dinner Saturday night. They laughed. They talked. I missed that. Dinner time is part of our family definition, part of our routine.

The second aspect of life that was reinforced actually came during my struggle Friday night and maybe because I am only a few years away from being 50 and maybe because we have read the poem, “The Road Not Taken,” in class. (I have written about the poem before in the post, “Only Time Will Tell.”) But time doesn’t wait for your dreams. Time doesn’t wait for your happiness. Time doesn’t wait for anything.

Ironic that I wanted Friday night to end quickly, but it didn’t. But the saddest belief we have is that tomorrow will make our dreams come true, that we will be happier tomorrow. I see this in different ways. My seniors believe that they will be happier next year. I live it every time I pass up an opportunity to fulfil my goals. But time will pass no matter what. Time doesn’t care.

The last thing: I hate it when I get sick.

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Let’s be Honest

It is January 22, 2019. Even though almost all the schools around us are closed, we didn’t get a snow day. (It is cold, but the roads are clear and the snow just hasn’t started falling). I have tons of grading to do, some are late assignments because students won’t hand in their work. I just introduced a poetry unit for four sections. This is how I feel today.

This post isn’t exactly about my day though. This post is about the work it takes to stay focused on your goals. Especially when you know negativity is coming your way.

Let’s be honest, it is difficult to stay the course. It takes more than will power. It takes more than hard work. It takes courage. It takes faith. And sometimes it takes a wall to protect yourself.

OK, let’s go back to my day.

Poetry

I am going to guess that many of you reading that word had a negative response… just like my students. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a poet. So, the next couple of weeks are going to be fun for me, to a degree. I will have to fight through the negative reaction almost all of my students will have. But, I think I can use this example to discuss how to withstand those moments in life when you face negative pushback as you reach for your goals.

The first aspect is to have faith. I know that when the poetry unit is over, most of my students will at least appreciate poetry. Even though, right now, they complain, I know what the outcome will be. (In fact even by the end of the period a few students said they enjoyed watching a performance of some of the poems).

Have faith in the end result.

Now the honest part is that sometimes we don’t succeed. We don’t achieve a specific goal. But that doesn’t mean you lose faith. Faith gives you a focus and builds strength to continue to strive toward your goals. That strength feeds your courage. It is going to take courage to face the hurdles while pursuing your dreams. And the toughest hurdle is negativity from the outside world.

That negativity takes on many different forms. Each negative hurdle has to be conquered in different ways. But you have to have the courage to do what it takes to overcome the negativity. Let’s be honest, sometimes we get knocked to the ground by difficult situations. It takes courage to get back up. And faith to get us moving in the right direction.

My final aspect for today is protecting yourself. And the best way to protect yourself is with Love. There are two parts to this idea.

First, love what you do. Sounds simple, but I see too many people, too many students, pursue goals that they don’t love. Love feeds into faith. What you love defines who you are to a degree. If you are pursuing goals that align with what you love, you build faith in the end result. Which then gives you courage to fight for it.  What we fight for keeps fuels our love for that goal and life. Yes, it is all connected.

The second part of Love is a little different. Surround yourself with people who love and care for you. Life is a team sport. For whatever reason, this world is filled with people who would rather see you fail than succeed. People who love you want to see you shine. Their protection is an important part of achieving your goals. Bring them in to your life.

Faith

Courage

Love

And of course,

Poetry.

 

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We are Flowers

A single daisy.

A single flower.

A single person.

Beautiful, even alone.

But add another daisy.

Add another flower.

Add another person.

No daisy is jealous of another.

No flower is envious of another.

No person is worried about another.

Only a single field filled with beauty.

 

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