Penny for your thoughts.

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I have had the opportunity to read many fine blogs by many different people. Their writing to me has been inspirational.  I wish that I could write half as good as they are.  there is nothing life changing in what I write.  For me the process and finished product of what I write is more of a, to borrow a term from the Harry Potter series, a pensieve, a way of getting thoughts out of my head and then relegating them to the forget about file.

It’s been a while so there is a lot, or at least I think so.  If you find anything useful in what I write than bless you.  I honestly don’t think that many people actually read what I write.  That was not meant to encourage anyone to read it, it was more of a sense of what I am feeling these days.

It’s been a difficult year…and the year is not over yet.  I have been wrestling with many issues, demons,  call them whatever you like.  Mainly I have been deeply trying to change who I am.  I don’t particularly like who I am or was not even sure what that is.  In regards to my profession as an educator, I can do better.  It’s been a year like others full of highs and lows.  I’m not sure if it is that I have set my expectations to high of my students or not.  I see the potential in all of them and get frustrated when they do not live up to that potential.  No, that’s not quite right I get frustrated when they don’t try to live up to that potential and give up without even trying.  With this came the realization that I am not inspiring them.  I don’t make that statement to garner any pity for me but rather out of concern for them.  This feeling was reinforced this past week at the Common Grounds conference in Ocean City.  I had the opportunity to hear a personal hero of mine speak, Ron Clark, teacher and motivator supreme.  I was excited to see him and listen to him lecture and would gladly have sat for another hour and half to hear more words of wisdom.  Ron Clark was everything I imagined he would be and more so.  With that came my realization that I am not.

The kind of energy and dedication to what he does and his genuine concern for his students is what I always wanted to have, to be…and sadly I am not.  I’m not trying to beat myself up.  I honestly do care about my kids but I started teaching 30 years too late.  Unlike Mr. Clark, I have always played it safe, have not taken risks and lived up to my own potential. It’s depressing as all hell!

I’d like to say that this was an epiphany for me and that now I will metamorphosis into that beautiful butterfly but I don’t know.   I want to, but I just don’t know.  At 53 and having only become a teacher a few years ago it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  I have all of the pains that come with age and not having taken care of myself.  I know I need to change but I feel like sometime god is playing with me.  After I listened to Mr. Clark and about to head back to the condo of my friend and mentor in my school, I realized I left my lights on and had to get a jump start. Not unusual for me as my car has no warning chimes for when you lave a light on so for about the 36th time I jump started my vehicle.  The lord wasn’t done with me yet though.  I went to the beach to do some thinking about things and thought I had found a happy place, but, as I got up to head back I realized I locked my keys in the car.  Somebody is trying to tel me something, or maybe testing me to see how I would handle a  little more struggle.  I laughed at it.  You have to because crying isn’t going to get it done.  Life goes on and here I am, writing down my thoughts.

Then came yesterday. I had a breakthrough moment with one of my sons.  We both shared some very personal issues in our lives and I’m hoping that that, was a doorway to a new path in our relationship.  Without going in to details for personal reasons at this moment and to protect our privacy a bit, let’s just say that we have a beginning to help each other like we never have before.

Time prohibits me from writing any more at this moment and I don’t know as if I really said anything here but I needed to make the effort.  My friends, I hope you all take the time to be the best you, you can be, and as Ron Clark also says, make sure you have seven things in your life at all times: laughter, family,  adventure,good food, challenge, change, and the quest for knowledge.

Thank you for listening to me as I flagellated myself here.

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Here Comes the Sun.

IMG_5877.JPGIt was 39 degrees outside but with the way the flag was whipping about the flagpole it felt more like 20 outside. I kept asking myself over and over again why am I out in this arctic wind.  Then I look out over the field to our campsite and I see the kids who are here and I know why.

A smile starts to spread across my face as I see my son clowning around in his sleeping bag. It’s daytime but he is wrapped up like a mummy, hopping around getting others to laugh at his antics and take their mind off of the cold.

There are no doubt, issues in our world. I am a 5th grade teacher and I see those struggles everyday with some of the students in my school. It tugs at you because you want to try to help each of them but the reality of is, you can’t.  However we have to try. Why?  Because it is what we as teachers have chosen to do.

I have had an awakening of sorts. It started a few years back as I was given my first teaching assignment. I became a teacher after 20+ years in sales because I love kids and always wanted to be a teacher.  I didn’t miss my calling it just took me a few years to hear it. Anyway, I thought that when I became a teacher it would be like it was all those years ago when I was in elementary school.  I WAS WRONG.

We have all said, I’m sure, how it was different in my day.  Well yeah, it was different and rightly so. The world was a different place. So do we lower our expectations for our kids(I mean our students), No, but we do need to alter our reality. This is where mNy people get tripped up, me included. I’m not saying that webcast a blind eye to what happens in our classroom but rather, keep an open mind. Easier said than done. We are all professionals, but, sometimes it is hard to disassociate what is happening in reality from our imagined ideal.  I know I get caught up in it sometimes and take it personally but deep down I know it wasn’t because of me, I just become the scapegoat for someone’s frustration.  Don’t engage the attitude, rather engage the aptitude. Everyone of these kids we teach has the ability to soar. It is just a matter of finding the motivation to get them to fly. It’s not easy and no one said it would be.

So, what does this have to do with camping in what feels like the arctic circle?  We do it because we love the kids and I would gladly bravevthe weather or the storm or the tempest to see a kid being who they really are. I am not here to change who the kids are. I am here to alter reality so that they can soar and learn that they are not earthbound to their situations.

 

Listen to the Music

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They often say take time to smell the roses, I say take time to listen to the music. I have written before how things change in the blink of an eye.  Specifically I was referring to my sons and watching them grow up.  My oldest is a freshman in college and I do not see much of him anymore. I am content that he is doing well and that I have done my job and he is able to stand on his own and is walking his own path.

My other son is a sophomore in high school and I wish that I could slow time down.  He is becoming quite a remarkable young man as well.  We need to take the time when we are given the moments to enjoy being with our kids.  Tonight was one of those moments. At about 10:30 Seth came out with his Mac book and insisted I listen to some of his favorite songs that are on his playlist on Spotify. I was tired and wanted to go to bed, but he was so excited to share some of his favorite music that I couldn’t say no.

I’m glad I didn’t, he began playing music of the 70’s, classic rock, some of my favorites.  Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, and The Beatles, to name a few.  Then he played 50’s and 60’s rock and he even played some Frank Sinatra.  That was an homage to my mother who loved Sinatra.  The 45 minutes we spent listening to snipets of music was truly magical for me.

The time spent brought me closer to my son and was time well spent.  Had I gone to bed we would not have had that moment in time that is now etched into my heart and memory.  Something that no one will ever take away from me.  It is indelibly written in my memories.  Seth has a very eclectic taste in music but one thing is certain he has a good heart and a good soul as does his brother.

Take those moments when you get them and don’t take them for granted.  Listen to the music.

Wait for it…

Waiting is the bane of society!  I have heard that patience is a virtue but that is a load of crap.

Waiting wears away at your nerves, wastes time and is a total non-productive use of otherwise good energy. I have been in the hospital waiting to find out results of tests for my sister. The waiting sucks.

Waiting is negative energy. It physically is demanding even more so mentally and in this case it is allowing me to run through a gamut of emotions and scenarios that quite frankly I don’t want to at this time.

So, I decided to use my time waiting to write about how horrible writing is  I don’t know if any good will come of this other than it being a way for me to air my frustrations. Perhaps someone reading this will find succor in the fact that there is someone out there who understands and commiserates with you.

whatever it is you are waiting for I hope it is good news and I hope it comes soon.Dog_Winking_11

 

Fly the Unfriendly Skies – Caveat Emptor.

I’m inclined to write about a recent experience in air travel.  Some people love to get away.  The excitement of boarding that big silver bird and heading to destinations sunny and exciting.  I am not one of those people.  First of all I hate to fly.  The angst that accompanies even booking a trip for me is incredible.  I recently booked a trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  I used those price comparing services to find what I thought was going to be an inexpensive flight.  Holy crap on a cracker was I wrong.

I found a trip through travelovity.  It turns out the flight to Phoenix was with Spirit airlines. After having taken the trip I can only conclude that they call themselves Spirit because they must have been drinking too damn much when they came up with their business philosophy. The airline bills themselves as a no frills airline.  Just a basic fee and that’s it. That’s it indeed. By the time you realize you’ve been screwed over by this philosophy it has cost you more than an arm and a leg. In fairness they do allow you one personal item on the flight with no charge, so long as it is no bigger than a purse or small computer bag.  That’s where it ends.  If you have a carry on item of luggage, you pay.  If you check in bags you pay (more on this in a moment).  You want a particular seat, you pay.  If you want a bottle of water or anything else to eat or drink, you guessed it, you pay.  I’m not talking about reasonable fees.  I could accept reasonable fees.  No, I am talking about price gouging in the most spectacular form I have ever seen. For instance, I mentioned more about the bags and here it is.The website for travelocity and Spirit is confusing to say the least.  If you don’t book your checked in bag at the time of purchase the fee for the bag jumps from 21 dollars to 52 dollars.  If you don’t buy the checked bag prior to check in it then jumps to 100 dollars at the gate.  they tell you it is because they have to adjust for fuel consumption.  Please explain why it would go from 21 to 100 when it is still the same bag.  The prices are similar for a carry on bag.  Next they charge you for seat assignment.  i do understand paying more for first class accommodations or business class but they do not have those classes.  It is a choose your seat and pay for it.  If you want a bit more leg room you pay for it. Seating costs anything from free(they assign your seat) up to 199 extra, and that is not a first class seat, it’s just a little bigger and more leg room.

Food and beverages are extra as I said earlier.  Make sure you either bring your own beverage and snack or a credit card with a good line of credit.  I won’t go over the prices as I’m sure you get the idea by now. Oh and if you don’t print your own boarding pass, you guessed it, they charge you at the counter.  you can pay lower fees if you join their low fare club.  You pay $59 a year to get slightly discounted fees.  Not worth it.

They’re customer service is not any better.  the agent at the counter was surly and did not smile. The flight was not much better.  We were told at the airport in Baltimore that the flight was delayed because they had an issue with a missing flight attendant.  We sat for 45 minutes until we finally took off.  The flight I booked was to Phoenix as I said.  There was no direct flight to Phoenix so I had to stop in Chicago.  There was no connecting flight so the trip was booked with a delay in Chicago and then boarding another plane.  You’d think that there would not be another baggage fee because it was part of the same itinerary, at least that’s what I thought.  Wrong, I had to pay for the bag again if I wanted to make sure that my luggage and I arrived at the same place.  The flight from Chicago to Phoenix was delayed for a little over an hour because, as it was explained by the captain over the PA system, someone on the last flight pushed the electrical outlet in the lavatory in and they had to have maintenance come in and duct tape the openings closed. Now we only had one working lavatory on the flight.  There was no recompense for the delay, not even a complimentary bottle of water. WHY NOT? Because as the attendant explained to me, the delay was less than two hours!!!

I understand that airlines charge for baggage now a days, that’s not the issue. I also understand the cost of flying even though this trip was booked out more than a month in advance.  What I don’t get is why the price gouging and lack of friendliness.  I checked other flights after I booked the trip.  I was not allowed to cancel.  I would pay a fee to cancel it(no surprise there) and be give a credit voucher for a future flight.  I didn’t want to make this flight.  I could have booked with Southwest for $100 less overall, no hidden fees, complimentary water, light snack and two checked in bags at no charge.  Shame on me for not doing my homework ahead of time.  When I called the airline and explained my reasons for flying and to see if they would let me cancel with no charge all I got were customer service agents who could only parrot back their companies policies.  Not even a supervisor could go off script to answer a simple yes or no question.

Needless to say I will NEVER fly with Spirit again.  I will warn you all to never fly with Spirit.  Friends I have spoken to since this trip have said they have had horrible experiences with them as well. I have not heard one good thing about them.  Their business model I’m guessing is “Fly with us once, there’s enough people out there that we don’t care about repeat loyal customers.”

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Turning Over A New Leaf.

15055866_10211607272444368_2948950984063232210_nThe sky was cerulean and the air held a slight chill as I pulled up in front of my house.  As I stepped out of the car I scanned the street and noticed that the leaves that had been raked into piles neatly in front of many of the houses were gone.  I was glad because quite frankly the pile that was in front of my own house seemed larger than usual.  My son and I had raked them the previous weekend,  Grudgingly he came out to help when I texted him.  He was a good boy, who like most teens his age just wanted to be left alone to chill with his friends.

We spent a couple of hours gathering the foliage up off of the lawn. I, enjoyed the time outdoors doing the leaves,  I’d probably enjoy it more if it weren’t becoming the all consuming event of my weekends in the fall.  I wished that the leaves could all just fall at once and be done with it but that wasn’t how nature worked, dammit!  It was days like this, even while laboring, that I realized just how much this time means to me.  It won’t be long before Seth is out of high school and pursuing his own path.  Aspirations of a military career lay in his future and no doubt he will excel at it.  To know this with confidence you need to kn ow who my son is. Seth is a life scout with the Boy Scouts wand starting to work on his Eagle project.  Seth is also in the NJROTC at school as well as the Civil Air patrol.  I never pushed a military agenda on him but he enjoys it.  He has become an upstanding patriotic citizen with a deep commitment to our country and to helping other people.

I had noticed as I surveyed the neighborhood that there was one pile of freshly raked leaves in front of my neighbor’s yard. Curious, I thought as it was not there this morning prior to the leaves having been swept up.  I walked in the house and there was Seth waiting for me. Unusual in that normally I would not see him til after he was done with his latest campaign on the computer with his friends playing whatever the latest simulation game was. To each his own.

“Hi,” he said. I replied in kind. “I raked Walt’s leaves today.” Walt is our 90-year-old neighbor.

“That’s nice,” I replied casually, “Did Walt ask you to help him out?”

“No, I just went to the shed and got the rake and just started doing them.”  Interesting I though, usually I have to command him to help me with our yard and even then it’s like pulling teeth. “he went to pay me,” he continued, “but I refused the money.”  I stood there looking at him a mixture of stunned confusion at first.  Was the same boy who pockets my change when he gets the chance?  The same boy who figures out ways to finagle a couple of bucks out of me. “Walt said I was a life saver,” he continued, “and then said I was a good boy.”

Walt was wrong.  Seth wasn’t a good boy.  In that instant, that perfect moment in time when everything in the universe comes together for that one instance, I knew that this was no boy in front of me.  My son was a man.  A man who made the choice to do something for someone else.  Words seem inadequate to what I am feeling at this moment.  Pride for his deed. A euphoric mixture of thoughts, emotions and ideas that something somewhere along the way that my wife and I said and have tried to teach him actually made it through to him.

This story is no piece of fiction.  This actually happened.  Yes, he’ll still grudgingly help me when I ask for assistance with something, but, I’m OK with that now.  There is Love here.  more now than there was before but not as much as there will be tomorrow.

Thank You Seth.