Something about which I wondered today...

Should I move my political views to a new blog? Check out MisLeading Wisconsin for the latest in Scott Walker's contradictions.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hope springs (or falls?) eternal

The school year has started.  It's always a remarkably special time.  I mean, kids are excited, parents seem excited, as are, of course, we teachers.  It's a little like playing the lottery, and everyone hopes they hit the jackpot with the proper fit for a meaningful experience.  I seem to have done just that. 

My second grade students have been great, lo, these three days.  We've sung some songs (I teach them the ABC's backwards), we've done some reading (I'll be reading the book Mr. Popper's Penguins), and we've learned a bit about each other (both personally and academically).  It's been a lot of fun.  Hopefully, that will keep up...

I've got one set of twins (who, for some reason, their mom decided their hair and clothes should be exactly alike), one set of triplets (each, thankfully, with their own look and style), and about 30% of my students are younger siblings of students I have taught previously.  So, obviously, it will be an entire year of me calling kids by the wrong name (which, to be honest, is pretty much par for the course).

But it will be fun.  It will be exciting. I get a chance to know very well twenty-two children, and they get to know me.  It really is a magical time.  And, although their will be some verrrrry long days, and some verrrry difficult challenges, it's a great way to earn a living.

I'm a verrrrry lucky man.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


In a few hours, Jodi and I will be heading up to Springstead, to stay at our tiny cabin on a beautiful lake.  It seems forever ago that we purchased it, even though it was but last spring.  Since then, so much has happened: we've met new challenges (for better and worse), we've planned more instensely for our future, we've lost loved ones. 

We'll be gone until August.  Not because we're rich, or snooty or anything ('cause we're not), but just because we can.  To be among the pines, and the eagles, and the loons, I mean, we'd be nuts not to be up there as much as possible. Family members have planned trips up to visit, so that should keep us (especialy Jodi) from getting too homesick, and some little projects (including a 3 credit class I'm taking via mail) should keep us occupied for a time (unfortunately...).  But, yeah, we're pretty much gone.  And that's way cool with me.

So that means the rest of the world will be put on hold for a while (no phone or television, or newspapers, or internet access), and we can reconnect with a slower pace, ourselves, and with each other. 

I hope your summer is enjoyable, too.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's JUNE!!!

For those of you who aren't kids or teachers, there is no way to adequately express the joy that it is finally June. Not that I don't love my students, but we're all ready for some new faces, some new challenges. As a teacher, this is the week one crams in all the stuff that you haven't quite gotten to yet--which is a pity because the kids really stopped paying attention once the temperature hit 80 degrees. Fourtunately, the teachers in the next grade at my school are VERY good, and I'm sure they'll fill in the gaps wonderfully when my kids are theirs...

As for me and my wife, we'll be heading up to our tiny cabin (actually more accurately a cottage, but cabin sounds more up-northy) that we just bought last year on Upper Springstead Lake (about a 4 hour, 15 minute drive from here). There, I will push the boundaries of laziness amidst the pines, the loons, and the eagles.

I mean, after all, it is June...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sad News

Terry won't be coming up to the cabin, after all. He died yesterday morning. Rest in peace, cousin.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I went to see Terry.
As I've mentioned earlier, my 51 year old cousin, Terry, the guy I used to spend a couple weeks a summer with, has cancer. About a month ago, I got word that the cancer would claim him in a year or so. He was going to start chemo to ward off what I guess they consider the inevitable, but he had an obstructed bowel, which shortened the life expectancy from one year to, well, one week.

His wife put out word to people to feel free to come visit. So I (and I'm pretty sure a million people he knew from the bar he and his wife run, people he helped in local fundraisers, people who appreciate his easy manner and enjoyable stories) stopped by their house. He wasn't giving up--"There's always hope," he said. But it didn't look promising.

Terry was hooked up to a machine that immediately pumped out any liquid he took in (because the bowel was not doing its job). His twin fifteen-year-old daughters hung out texting/watching tv/whatever on the other side of the living room, his wife filled in visitors onTerry's situation in the nearby kitchen.

And Terry and I talked. About anything and everything. We talked about his pain (he decided to be off his morphine so as to be alert), how relatively at peace he was with the situation ("What are you gonna do?"), we talked about his kids, we talked about my job as a teacher. And, yes, we reminisced about the summers we shared growing up--just hanging out in the village park, me listening to my older cousin spin some bullshit tale about the girls he knew; times I couldn't wait to relive each summer. Honestly, that's kind of what our visit was like, despite the tubes in Terry's nose, or the appearance of Terry's bones seemingly barely covered by his skin, it was me, and it was Terry, and all was right with the world. And when we talked about the tiny cabin on a quiet lake even further up north that my wife, Jodi, and I purchased last year (the sale went through, sadly, about the time Jodi's wonderful mom passed away unexpectedly)--one with pines, and loons, and eagles--Terry was hopeful he'd come up to see it this summer. I said that'd be great.

Now, a week later, his body is functioning a bit better (something his wife said the doctors had termed a "pure miracle"). Thankfully, the lower intestine is doing a little of what it's supposed to be doing, and the timeline for his passing has been pushed backed a while, until, in the absence of any more "pure miracles," the cancer comes to finish the job.

But maybe at least it bought us one more summer. Maybe Terry will make it up to our cabin. Instead of sitting on the village park merry-go-round of our summers as kids, maybe we'll sit around the campfire and he can spin some bullshit tale, only now it'll be about some fish he'll say he caught. And maybe, just maybe, there's another "pure miracle" out there, so we could have some summers after that.

There's always hope.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Cousin Terry

My cousin Terry and I are about 15 months apart in age, and when I was growing up, he was my companion in the summers when I went to up north Wisconsin to stay a week or two with my dad's mom. We'd ride bikes, swim at the community pool. We'd hang out in the neighborhood park thinking we were cool, just talking and staying out until maybe ten o'clock. And even though I knew that he was pretty much full of shit as he'd talk about this girl or that girl, his heart was always big, his desire to share, to connect with me, was always endearing. And when I left for the summer, I couldn't wait to get back up there, to hang out with my cousin, Terry.

Our lives, though, went different ways: Terry bounced from job to job, seemingly snakebit by what I couldn't always discern if they were real or exaggerated health claims--it always seemed he was dying--or get-rich-quick plans or persecution by employers or those around him. I went to college, had some problems, but ended up as a teacher in my home state. We each married above our status, so to speak, to wonderful women who love us, whose every action affirms that everyday.

But Terry and I drifted apart, which I guess was no big surprise. Our interests were different, as were our lives. But when we did see each other, a couple years ago at the funeral of his father, Uncle Dean, and then shortly thereafter, at that of his mother, Aunt Bev, the conversation was comfortable, authentic. We shot the breeze as sincerely and as easily as though we were back in the village park as kids, pretending to be cool. He discussed some serious health problem in low tones, as he had throughout his adult years. I nodded, and knew he was actually going to be okay. And I felt that which I had missed, that easy conversation, that genuine connection. As we parted, the vague agreements to keep in touch, however, never materialized. The only address I had for his Christmas card came back undeliverable, so, regrettably, it was out of sight, out of mind.

My sister called me today. She was talking to Terry's sister, and, it seems that Terry, my cousin who always seemed he was dying, now, sadly, really is. And it is all too real. There's cancer in his bones and in his liver. They go to the hospital on Monday to discuss what steps can be taken. They: his wife, his twin fifteen year old daughters.

So I'm going to give him a call. There's nothing I can say, really. Just as there was nothing to say, really, at the funerals of his parents. And I don't know if there's any reason he'd want to hear from me, but I want to. I don't know what I'm hoping for. I guess maybe I just want that easy carefree conversation as though we were hanging around that park, maybe sitting on the merry-go-round, a warm, comforting summer breeze, watching the sun go down, and knowing it was time to be going home.

I'm just sorry we missed so many summers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Making a Stand and Picking up Garbage

As you can tell, I've entered another post. Although my life was happy even without the updating of this weblog, I needed to make some comments about, well, garbage.

I guess I've got to start with a question: when is a piece of trash not a piece of trash?

My nephew is at Illinois State University and, instead of partaking in the Bacchanalian rituals of Spring Break at some southern beach (as I did years ago), he, and many colleagues, are on Alternative Spring Break, helping people and making a difference in the world. This year they're in Mullens, West Virginia--a small coal town ravaged by floods and a changing and unforgiving economy-- alongside proud Mullens community members, working to clean the debris that has cluttered the town (please check out the link here).

My nephew wrote about litter, wondering if it's from apathy, or maybe laziness. It could be that the litter, the lack of caring for one's surroundings, stems instead from despair. From what I've seen, I've found they have a strong correlation. The simplest caring word or action can sometimes be enough to turn the tide to hope from hopelessness. And the actions by these caring college students (and those in similar programs throughout the country), just may provide that hope.

Along those lines, I've wondered what it is that I can do to make a difference. In my classroom, I promote to my elementary students something I do daily: pick up one piece of trash (of course, I mention it should be dry and not dangerous). One of my students said, "Wow, if everyone in the world did that everyday, I bet we'd run out of trash pretty quick."

I bet he's right. And I bet a cleaner street--or a cleaner school or a cleaner parking lot--could produce a ripple effect: increasing neighborhood pride, better community spirit, fostering an intrinsic feeling of good for doing the right thing--something no one would even ever know you did. And who knows, that could spawn a whole lot of other good things, within a community, and within oneself.

I mean it's just a piece of trash, right? But, really, it's not, you know?