Tag Archives: father

I Love School

This morning my youngest daughter informed that she loved school.

“Dad, I love school!” my daughter randomly exclaimed from the backseat.

“That’s cool,” I replied.

“Dad… Do you want to know why I love school?”

“Yes, little one. Why do you love school?”

“Because I get to do jobs.”

Now, we had been discussing the fact that this week she was music helper. Next week she gets to be “fish helper.”  Other jobs that I am aware of are line leader, lunch helper, and some job that is connected with the activity areas in the classroom.

My daughter is five years old. School is pretty awesome.

What happens?

Where does the joy go for students?

This post is not going to answer that question. It is too big for a simple blog post. But my daughter reminded me that for most students, the start of their school experience is filled with joy. With a love for helping. Filled with anticipation to feed a fish, pass out music sheets, and to enter the doors of their school every morning.

I can’t change the whole landscape of education with a blog… but for grammar today we are using Grammar Rock… at least the students will be humming in the hallways.

Hopefully you will, too.

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Why It Matters

My three oldest children are dealing with tough situations as they try to accomplish their goals. Each of them are faced with obstacles that are out of their control, but stand in their way of fulfilling their dreams. We continue to support them and to encourage them to continue to work hard and be true to themselves. But, it has become such a stressor that my oldest son challenged me the other night at dinner.

“When has following my heart ever paid off for me?”

This challenge was in response to a specific goal he has. Now, I’m not going to discuss the specifics of each of my children’s situations. This post isn’t meant for me to just rant about how unfair things are… It’s going to be an honest post about being a dad during times like this. Times when my kids feel life is unfair. That no matter how hard they work, others have control of their goals. Times when it feels like success will never come.

If you search for “Motivational Video” on Google you will get, “About 382,000,000 results” (just did this search). I have a playlist of about 15 of these videos. They do motivate. The videos emphasize not giving up. The person yells about how success comes after pain, or when you least expect it. Success is right around the corner, if you work hard… In one way I am going to disagree with them.  And by disagreeing with them I am going to answer my son’s question.

First, the motivational videos don’t give a clear picture of success; at least not on a deeper level. Success is not around the corner… and for sure it is hardly ever a straight line! Reaching your goals is more like the path a jack rabbit takes when it is spooked. Right! Left! Hide in some grass, then dart off again!

Reaching a goal is hard (this part the motivational videos and I agree on), in part because of the path you have to take to reach it. Then the most complex aspect of success kicks in…

What you define as success changes as you travel on that path. Left! Right! Hide… change in definition of success… now what?

I have been involved in athletics and education for over 20 years. I have been a part of many athletes’ and students’ journeys.

I’ve seen goals reached in seconds, then taken away before the finish line.

Courtney was a freshman 400 runner for me at Centura. She still holds the school record at 59 seconds. In the prelims of the 400 at state she ran the fastest time to earn lane four in the finals, 59 seconds. But she would not medal. In fact for the finals of the women’s 400, lane four was empty. Courtney had broken a bone in her foot at the 200 mark in her prelim 400. Yes, you read that right. Courtney ran a 59 second 400 with a broken foot. She would return to state to earn a fourth place medal. But a goal was earned and taken away in a single race.

I’ve seen goals take miles and years to reach.

The above snapshot of Variety’s “About” page shows the name of one of their newest online video producers, James Aitken, who is a former student of mine that wanted to attend college in California to study film. He did not get accepted. James went on to the University of Nebraska to do some cool things in the media field. He graduated from UNL in 2014. He started his newest job last May, in California.

Working hard is an aspect of reaching your goals.

Another sprinter, Ryan, worked hard for three years. As a junior he was ranked third in both the 100 and 200. He worked hard for three years! He puked after practice. He strengthened his form. Ryan believed in the process… He won both races at districts to earn a spot at state.

But many times, dreams change as we grow.

The 2018 Miss Nebraska, Jessica Shultis, is another former athlete and student. Jessica placed 10th at the 2019 Miss America contest in September. She is living a dream I don’t think she had as she played basketball and ran track in high school, or as she battled cancer at the age of 19.

Now to address my son’s challenge.

You do have to work hard. That is important.

Success is not a straight line. Enjoy the journey.

Your goals will change. That is OK.

But always follow your heart as you pursue your dreams. In one way, the quality of your life is revealed in how you strive for your goals. You may succeed. You may fail. But if you follow your heart, your life will always be true.

 

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Off to Grandma’s house we go, talking all the way

Life can teach you powerful lessons, if you listen…

The last couple of days life has revealed how important talking and listening is to our relationships. Here are the dots I’ve been given to connect.

  1. Taking my youngest daughter to grandma’s house in the morning.
  2. An assignment in class
  3. Focus on the Family program

Dot 1

For the last two days I have driven my youngest daughter to grandma’s house because her preschool doesn’t start until next week. Grandma’s house is 35 minutes away. For the last two days I have answered questions like:

“Why does the moon move?”

“What is your favorite place to go?”

“What is your favorite stuffed animal?”

It has been a joy talking with my daughter. When she liked an answer, she would say, “Oooooh, I like that, too!”

With six children, we have a busy schedule. It is not often that we get specific time to just talk with a single child.  We do have family time at dinner, or traveling to an event, that allows us to talk. But the specific one-on-one time is rare. Answering questions on the way to grandma’s house has reinforced the importance of finding time for each of my kids.

Dot 2

To start the year I have a small unit for the seniors that focuses on being successful next year at college. They write an email to a professor, they create a resume, stuff like that. The first assignment is to answer some questions about their college and life next year. Questions like:

Where is the Registrar’s office? Who is a contact person?

Who do you contact for safety issues?

Where is your favorite restaurant from campus?

This lead to a lot of conversations, as a class and with a single student as we tried to navigate a college’s website. Through the class period we would also talk about break and Christmas gifts. One moment in class got me thinking about the importance of talking… one student asked me about my New Year’s resolutions. Then another student asked about what Christmas gifts I got.  This was the only class that that type of conversation happened, but it made me feel like someone else cared enough to know something about me. Isn’t that the heart of our life? To know that someone else in this great big world, which at times is so harsh, cares enough to listen to us.

Dot 3

After dropping my daughter off this morning, I listened to Focus on the Family. Jim Daly  interviewed Ron and Deb DeArmond about their book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last. One of the focal points was about communication in marriage. During an answer Deb said that you hear with your ears, but listen with your heart. True communication is not just talking, but listening, processing, and showing you care.

It is a simple picture when you connect the dots: real conversations matter. Real conversations are an act of love.

I think the world needs more talking and listening…

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#Life

Even for me, sometimes too many things happen at once that challenge us. Too many dots show up and it is hard to connect them in a clear meaningful way. Right now I am in that situation. I am hoping that writing this blog post will help me find the connections, while bringing something toward your life to think about.

So here are the dots that have happened over the last few days:

Dot One: Reading poetry by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Blake (to name a few) in English class. Poems like “Sonnet 60,” “To an Athlete Dying Young,” and “The world is too much with us.”

Dot Two: Attending the funeral of a family member on my wife’s side that battled cancer for four years. She was only a year older than I am.

Dot Three: Returning to Centura for a basketball game to connect with past colleagues. I also saw the school’s new academic display that had a section for the Teacher of the Year award, which I received in 2010.

Dot Four: Going through a “first year.” Dealing with all the positive and negative components of that.

Dot Five: Getting a chapbook of poetry ready for submission… actually, dot five is writing in general.

So let’s connect some dots with a quote from Macklemore:

Every dot is connected to this quote in some way. This life is fleeting. We all die. We don’t face that reality. We don’t live like our death is a truth. We have songs, we have graduation speeches, we have posters reminding us of the fact. Expressing the idea that our lives should be lived for something more deep and meaningful… but we watch another YouTube video, or retweet a meme, or spend time talking bad about someone. We simply waste time, waste our days on things that don’t make our life incredible.

See, the second part of the Macklemore’s lyric takes all the dots to a deeper level. What we do with our lives dictates how long it takes to die a second time… Think about that for a second…

Dot One: Reading poetry from the 1800’s.

Dot Two: Family. The love we create by being family.

Dot Three: Being involved in people’s lives.

Dot Four: Being involved in people’s lives. Even when it is tough.

Dot Five: Writing so that my words can be a part of somebody’s life.

When will Shakespeare’s name finally be said for the last time? When will yours? When will my name no longer be said?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that what we do while we are here determines how long we will be remembered.

This isn’t about being famous. This is about facing the truth that we will die. At some point we will no longer see a sunset. We will no longer have a great cup of coffee. Be able to hold hands with the person we love. If we truly lived with the truth of death, our lives would be different. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t work, or that we wouldn’t watch a YouTube video. It means we wouldn’t waste our time and energy on hurting people. We would chase our goals. We would cherish the opportunities we have to learn, to read poetry, to drink a good cup of coffee.

But most importantly, we would love with an open heart. We would love our life and the people we get to share it with. I may never truly make it as a writer or poet (but I will keep trying), but I am a father, a husband, a teacher and a friend. How I live my life in those roles will determine how long it takes to die a second time…

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Enough of…

Christmas tree with title

It was about 2 o’clock this morning.  I was stroking my little girl’s hair, trying to help her fall back to sleep after giving her some medicine. She came home with a fever and scratchy throat. She was sleeping on the couch, so I was sleeping on the floor. She wouldn’t fall asleep alone, even with the Christmas tree lights still on. I was staring at the Christmas tree with two presents underneath when I thought about what it would be like if that was all the presents we placed under the tree.

I thought about how the girls would react on Christmas morning. Their shocked expressions. I thought about what they might say. What would we say? I was tired, alright…  But, as you, faithful readers know, I started to think about something deeper.

The scene in my head faded as I knew that there would be more presents under the tree. I smiled as my daughter shifted and began to breathe deeply, finally falling back to sleep. I also smiled because I was thinking about how my children would smile as they opened their presents. As a family we do reinforce that gifts are one way that people share their love with each other. That no matter what the gift is, it was given in love.

But then my thoughts turned. I gingerly lifted my hand from my daughter’s hair. Waiting to see if she would wake back up. She didn’t. I turned fully to face the Christmas tree. And I reflected on an idea I had been think about for a while now, that the world has enough of…

The world has enough hate.

The world has enough pain.

The world has enough ignorance.

The world has enough broken hearts and broken dreams.

The world has enough apathy.

The world has enough phoniness.

 

What the world needs, and not just for Christmas, is Love.

The world needs more books, more poetry.

The world needs respect.

The world needs more people striving for their dreams, having their heart on fire because they are pursuing their goals.

The world needs more people supporting each other, instead of dragging others down.

The world needs more children to smile, every morning.

 

Maybe it was the tiredness, or the way the lights promised a beautiful moment if only for a while, but I started to cry. I felt overwhelmed by everything. The classroom, a sick child, being a father, of the fear I have every time my children walk out the front door into this world.

But there was already two presents under the tree, there would be more. There would be smiles and joy because every present is a symbol of someone’s love for the recipient.

And then there is this post, these words… they are my gift to you, every time.

 

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No More Muffins

Empty Muffin Pan

For those who read my blog on a regular basis, give me a minute to get to the meaning of the title of this post.

We made muffins this morning. I did forget to buy muffin cups, so we filled the muffin pan without them. And I was short filling one muffin space… I quickly thought it would be fine because my oldest son hasn’t eaten breakfast with us for awhile. He likes to sleep in on Sundays. Then it hit me… next year he wouldn’t be eating with us hardly at all because he would be attending college. No more muffins.

I’m not sure I am ready for such a change. We have built traditions as a family that have defined our everyday life. Yes, I know that my kids are growing. Yes, I know that changes like my son graduating occur, but this is our first graduating child. This change will alter our everyday life. It will change our family.

My son will start down the path of creating his own life, his own traditions. He will face challenges that I hope he can conquer because of the foundations we have created in our family.

I am nervous. I am a little sad to know that a year from now I will not be making muffins for him…

This is a song my oldest son likes. I think it is perfect way to end this post:

 

If you liked this post consider purchasing my book, Blueberry Muffins and Other Thoughts. (Free if you have Kindle Unlimited.)

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Good People in the World

It was 7:20 this morning on the way to preschool when my 5 year-old daughter asked me one of those questions that challenged me on whether I should tell the truth or not…

“Are robbers real?” she ask.

I decided to tell the truth.

“Yes, robbers are real,” I said.

“Do they rob money?” she asked.

“Yes, they rob money,” I said.

“Have you seen a robber?” she asked.

At this point, I decided to say no, even though I have caught shoplifters at various retail stores I worked at while in college.

My daughter was quiet for a few seconds. I wondered where these questions were coming from and I was debating whether I should ask her about them.

“Are police real?” she asked.

“Yes, police are real. There are more of them than there are robbers.”

Again, she was quiet but then asked, “Do robbers rob houses?”

As a dad this question challenged me again. How much truth of this world do I share with her. “No, house can’t be taken. Home is a place we are safe.”

“Robbers are in jail, right?”

“Yes, the police catch them and they are grounded or put in jail.” I explained.

“What happens if the robber says, ‘sorry’?”

They do not teach you how to handle the question stage. I replied that robbers can say that they are sorry, but they still have to stay in jail or be grounded for awhile as punishment.

“Policeman catch robbers? And robbers can say sorry?” she asked.

“Yes, they can. But there are more policemen than robbers,” I started, “there are more good people in the world than bad.”

But something in my heart fell when I said that. I started to have my own questions run through my head. The main question was centered on if what I just said was really true… The guy behind me was tailgating me. The news is nothing but how divided we are and how hateful we are to anyone that has a different view than us. At the store the other night a little boy was being yelled at by his mom and his big sister for every little thing he was doing. My girl’s elementary school had to use security camera footage to deal with a situation this week.

Is there more good people in the world than bad?

We arrived at school, I kissed my daughter on the forehead while telling her to have a good day. And I let her go… I so hope I told her the truth…

 

 

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