Saturday, November 29, 2008

Heroes: Special Education Students

I spend most of my days in a school: teaching. My students have a job: learning. I chose my job. They didn't. I'm well suited for my job; they aren't. How tough is that? Each day my students are confronted with their personal shortcomings. Learning is generally hard for them. It's harder for them mostly due to circumstances beyond their control. For the most part Reading, Writing, and Math are areas of difficulty: every day. So what makes these students my heroes?

Their ability to show up. Watching the movie Hard Ball some years ago, I heard a character use that phrase to identify the heroic characteristic of his young players. It stuck. It stuck because I know many students who despite learning disabilities have chosen to show up day after day, to work hard, and to make progress.

These students bring out the best in me. They inspire me to "show up" day after day with my "A" game. They deserve the best teaching I can muster. Learning is difficult for them, but not impossible. They need someone who can be extra-ordinary. They need a "stellar" program, so they can be average. They inspire me to aim high. And I do... because of them: my heroes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Movember... Bovember... Men's Health

I watch others who I admire, and I learn from them. My son and some of his friends participate in something called Movember. It involves growing a mustache in November. I didn't know why. I didn't even know there was a why. Then I Googled... then I learned...

Then I grew... (I started a month ago.)

Here's my after...

Here's my before (after my after)...

Here's the 2008 promo for the Australian Movember... (fun) (Click the TV, then the 2008 promo video cassette.)

Here's the info...

I did it this year just to raise a bit of awareness. Next year... who knows?

Bonus Post:

There are many faces to men's health, mine is one of them. One of my biggest goals for the last five years was to get my blood pressure and cholesterol under control. I had a 3 to 5 times higher than normal risk of heart attack. It was mostly because of gaining a couple of pounds a year... since high school. I graduated 30 plus years ago. I was thin when I graduated (6' tall, 155 lbs). At 222 lbs. I was at least 25 lbs. too heavy. I saw pictures of what five pounds of human fat looks like. I had at least 5 to 7 times that. Ugghh.

I tried to lose control the symptoms, but couldn't do it without drugs. I improved my blood pressure and cholesterol by taking the drugs my doctor recommended, but I didn't give up trying to "fix" the problems via nutrition and exercise.

I began to find success only when I changed my question from, "How can I lose weight?" to "How can I lose fat?" Two years and thirty pounds later, my doctor took me off the drugs, and I now have a life expectancy of over 100! Woo-hoo!

Asking the better questions helped me to find better answers. My fat loss secret?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Six Quirks: A Game of Tag…

I was tagged by a fellow blogger, Miss H~, a Hawkeye living in Montana. The game requires the one tagged to share six personal quirks, and then to tag three others to continue the game. (Electronic quirk freeze tag?) Here are six of mine. (This was surprisingly easy to create. I am fairly quirky!)

1) My youngest daughter tells me that I chuckle. I do have a habit of making private jokes. And I chuckle to myself. (All the world’s a prompt, for my next private joke.)

2) I have eaten almost the same snack and lunch for the last two years: a barbequed skinless, boneless chicken breast, a small bagel, and some grapes. Some call it boring. I call it the backbone of a 25-pound fat loss program. (I vary the type of bagel and grapes.)

3) In my 20’s I learned a neat way to fold my t-shirts: Navy style. 30 years later, I still use this method. My t-shirt drawer is lovely! (My sock drawer ain’t shabby either.)

4) A personal talent is my ability to throw and catch a boomerang. The secret to my success? I bought a book and a ‘rang at a garage sale. I read, I tried, I learned. My personal record is 36 consecutive throws and catches. (I can also build a three-pronged indoor boomerang out of a pizza lid.)

5) I switched careers at the age of 44. I was a computer systems engineer. Now I am a Special Education teacher. I spent 10 years at a junior high before transferring to an elementary school. It took me 27 years to complete a 4-year degree. (’71 to ’76, ’96 to ’98) I got my master’s in two (’98 to ’00). My senior paper was called Paradigm Shift: From System’s Engineer to Special Educator.

6) For several decades, I read the Bible at least once a year. I’ve read the whole Bible more that 20 times, and the New Testament over 36 times (an extra 16). I can recite the names of the 39 Old Testament books quickly, and sing the names of the 27 New Testament books. My favorite book of the Bible is Proverbs: a book of favorite sayings, if you will.

And now… tag you’re it! Joanna, Sacha, and Chase.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving: True Love

A few days ago, on a blog called One Minute Writer, there was a prompt called First Day. The posters were asked to recall something about a first day. I didn’t respond in writing to that prompt, though I considered it.

This morning, as I was waking up, I thought about the Thanksgiving holiday. What I am most grateful for is Leslie, my wife. I am so thankful that I have the prospect of a future that includes such a well-suited companion, friend, and wife.

I remember the day in December more than a decade ago, when I had a “first day” worth remembering. It was the day that I discovered that Leslie loved me, and that I truly loved her back. The Princess Bride may be a modern day fairy tale, but dreams do come true, and sometimes in life, you even get second chances.

Leslie and I had both been happily married, but both had been widowed. My cousin Buffy caught the wonder of our marriage in a poem called,

A Wedding Prayer

As you start your life together
Through the grace of God, a second chance
For the love and for the laughter
And for the knowing glance.

May your love shine bright forever.
Your two souls entwined in dance.
And your happiness be boundless
Through the grace of God, a second chance.

Happy Thanksgiving. (I have Thursday and Friday off. Woo hoo!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Princess Bride: True Love, part two



Well, aren’t we Biblical today?

Indeed we are. Very Pauline.

Are we doing the Bible today?

No, I have one more Princess Bride quote for you. I might do the Bible on Sundays. We’ll see.

Okay, what’s the Princess Bride quote-of-the-day?

Here it is…

Buttercup: Farm boy, fill these with water - please.
Westley: As you wish.
Grandpa: [voiceover] That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying "As you wish", what he meant was, "I love you." And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.

Wait a minute! We’ve already done this dialogue. Have you lost your mind?

Not at all. But I’ve done a disservice to Buttercup, and I aim to remedy it.

Okay, I’ll play along. What gives?

Well, I pointed out how Westley gives us a manual for showing love to others: the re-spelling love principle.

Yes, I recall it well. You’ve helped make me a better spouse, parent, and friend. I’ve tried it. It works.

Indeed it does work, but in stressing Westley, I underplayed the importance of Buttercup.

Do tell.

Westley may be the initiator, the pursuer, and the mastermind, but all is in vain unless…

Unless what?

Unless the more amazing thing happens.

And what is that?

The day Buttercup realizes she truly loves him back.

Ahh. Good point.

Good point indeed. Without Buttercup’s love, all we have is a recipe for infatuation, unrequited love, or a stalking. Nothing works unless the love is truly mutual. That’s true love. A lot of things can be missing or less than optimal in a relationship, but the mutual love? That’s foundational and essential.

Once again you’ve illuminated me. I’ve seen this pattern, but hadn’t been able to put my finger on it. Some of the most unlikely relationships flourish, and now I suspect it is as you say, they truly love each other.

Buttercup completes the duet. Without her, Westley is singing solo. Both halves are needed for the new whole. I wouldn’t have been accurate in describing True Love if I neglected to share Buttercup’s half.

Hmmm… so in all these relationships I’m seeking to foster, it takes two to tango?

Indeed it does. That’s what the Grandpa was doing: he was wooing, and in the end, my guess is that the grandson, one day will realize…

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Princess Bride: What are our assets?


Back at ya.

So how was the trip to the airport?

I had fun storming the castle.


Thought you’d like that.

So, another nugget for today?

I’ll let you be the judge of that, but yes, I have another couple of lines for your consideration. Here they are…

Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?
Inigo Montoya: Let me 'splain.
Inigo Montoya: No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry' Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape... after I kill Count Rugen.
Westley: That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying.
Fezzik: You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful.
Westley: I've always been a quick healer. What are our liabilities?
Inigo Montoya: There is but one working castle gate, and... and it is guarded by 60 men.
Westley: And our assets?
Inigo Montoya: Your brains, Fezzik's strength, my steel.

Westley: I mean, if we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something.
Inigo Montoya: Where we did we put that wheelbarrow the albino had?
Fezzik: Over the albino, I think.
Westley: Well, why didn't you list that among our assets in the first place?

That’s more than a couple of lines.

I’m feeling generous today, but I’m going to zero in on Westley’s superb problem-solving intellect.

Really? How so?

Well, now here’s a man who’s been mostly dead all day, not really at the top of his game, but he is able to see what others don’t in the midst of a difficult situation.

What does he see?

He sees assets where most people only see incidentals.


Life is difficult. Full of problems. Inigo sum’s up the bigger problems in this tale, but it is Westley who finds a solution. He finds it by digging deep not just into the liabilities – everyone does that – but he digs deeper into what are our assets. The world is full of people who only see the problems. They don’t see the solutions that are hidden amongst the incidentals.

But Westley does?

Precisely. He is the archetypical Creative-Problem-Solver: optimistic yet realistic, panoramic yet detailed, a planner and a doer. He’s special.

So how does that help us?

We look, we learn, and we imitate. Many study those who’ve failed and seek to avoid their mistakes. Westley provides a short-cut: study those who’ve succeeded and imitate them.

An interesting approach, I agree.

And worth trying.