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Month: May, 2012

It’s halftime of this life…I hope.

As a red-blooded, middle-age guy, I can interpret anything in life as a sports metaphor. Usually, baseball fits best, with curve balls, homers, foul balls, strikes, outs, wins, losses, fellow players, coaches, owners, egos, old and new fields of play…the epidimy of the human condition. However, there’s no halftime in baseball…just a 7th inning stretch.

I feel like my halftime, Lord willing, is here. No actuary, astrologer, or scientist required. Just a hunch. Mid to late 80’s is the guesstimate between my mom and Dad’s bloodlines. This weekend reaffirmed my guess a bit.

We watched our youngest girl graduate from high school yesterday. Her journey so far has been a loving, intelligent, funny, adventuresome, and even relaxed one. Just like her sister, she is brilliant and “dares to be different”, as I have challenged them over the years. Never settle. Never assume that you will be cared for by another. And just enjoy what you do have, instead of the proverbial “grass is always greener on the other side” lifestyle. Strong, independent, thoughtful, and open-minded young ladies are these two. Very, very positive role models too for other kids of divorce…not to mention killer prep for picking their mate someday and making a lifelong marriage work.

Funny thing is…my lifelong love of 17+ years, so far, and I have two very different, little guys who are just beginning their journeys. One is the pleaser and over-achiever (just finished a 300+ page math workbook in 4 days) and the other is a bit more relaxed about such things. Deja vu, all over again. Our second half will be another interesting and adventurous time for all of us. However, we are older parent-players now. Wiser? Maybe so. Experienced? Certainly. In need and living a much simpler life? Absolutely.

Simple living. Much less “stuff”. Fewer bills to pay. Many more simple pleasures. Simple. We camp in Cades Cove (Great Smokey Mtns National Park) as a family for the first time this week. Hiking. Cooking. Reading. Hammock lounging. Just being together.

Our halftime is about over, as we watch our oldest two kids take flight, with full academic scholarships to college in the bank. Who knows where they go from here…but I promise that each will make it interesting. Same for these little guys. Same for the best woman I’ve ever known, loved, and allowed to influence me more than any other, Ginny Lee.

Love. Get outside. Cook. Eat well. Imbibe. Laugh a lot. Cry a little. Just live. It’s just that not-so simple…Lord willing.

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Just a little sick of schoolhouse shenanigans. Welcome, summertime!

How many ways can so many be so wrong, indifferent, or just overwhelmed by the demands of our public education system?  I really wish that I knew. All I do know, for sure, is that I’m sick of the piles of school notes in broken-down folders, the optimistic rhetoric from nice people who think they can influence school budgets, and, most of all, the most ignorant, childless or empty-nester elected officials who think that they know what is best for today’s school children and their families. It wouldn’t hurt to have a rule that says “only current parents of public school-attending children may be involved in school budget preparation, discussion, and passage”.  One week from today, a majority of politicians who have never had children or have been out of the daily school experience will decide the educational fate of 58,000+ children and future adults. A few get it. The majority do not and will be voting purely based on future re-election potential, as opposed to the greater-good. 

It’s about summertime, thank God.  A time to relax, get outside in new and more frequent ways, and just leave the lesson, notes, structure, and wicked politics of education behind. We will keep reading nightly, but we will hike, bike, and explore as only summer allows. Summer is a release. Summer is hot, sweaty, cool, and refreshing…much like school…but better. 

We have our oldest halfway through college (not inc a Masters) now and our next heading there this fall. Two girls. Same university. Two full scholarships.  I’m a very proud Papa. Two boys. Same elementary school. Just beginning their educational journey. We shall see. All four different. All four are each a hoot and we’ll see where they go.

Tomorrow is the last day of school for 2 and we have another graduating from high-school this weekend. Big milestones, but not really a big deal at all over the long-haul. What counts the most in the material world is “what have you done for me lately?”. Too tough a lesson to teach the young, but it’s so true. That’s why attendance and test scores relate now to institutional educator assessments and school funding, promotion, and career advancement. No different in business. It’s just a sad truth of life. Only artists and/or entrepreneurs seem to break that mold, as they starve or eat very well. 

Today’s educational demands are overwhelming, much like the childless buffoons who think they can dictate what’s best for school age kids. Let’s start electing big thinkers, not career politicians, and let’s support the front-line educators and administrators who actually have a real vision for our kids and their families. 

What if real parents worked with real parents to help all kids and their parents?  Just need a little vision. That’s all…just one week away, everyday, and with every local election moving forward. 

Pruning your life a bit is a very good thing.

As my first post details, my church-free life hasn’t exactly been sermon-free. My faith is firmly intact and I get a dose of Preacher Andy or Preacher Sarah’s wisdom on Sunday morn via “Rejoice” on tv. Yes, our church has a weekly 30-minute telecast for like fans of Sundays in pajamas.

Catching up on a couple of sermons on Mothers Day, one of Andy’s metaphors jumped out at me. He told a short story about his pruning of his home’s azalea bushes. His wife didn’t have much confidence in his pruning ability, but the preacher pruned away…yearly over 3 years. Now, those bushes are the right shape and yield bigger blooms than ever. Pruning away excess worked wonders on the plants, as I believe it does for us.

This past weekend, several totally unrelated human stories crossed my path and, boy, could they use a little pruning consideration. One was a couple with serious health concerns and too much “stuff” to fix and maintain, which takes way too much time away from one another late in life. Another is a single mother with a derelict 25-yr old son that seems to disappoint her daily, while she struggles to pay for all he has in life. Another was simply one of the most dapper businessmen I know. Always impeccably dressed. Very CFO. He seems to live for work. God bless ’em all.

By our own choosing, especially after the financial meltdown of September 2008, we’ve been pruning away more ways than most Gen X’ers could imagine. Letting go of “stuff” was tough in the beginning and just kept getting easier over time. As I tell our kids, “you don’t own stuff. Stuff owns you.”. It’s true. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the rewards of personal and professional success. However, it is amazing how magnified the little pleasures of life become as you age well, experience serious fun and loss, and reset your expectations and priorities. Our pruning over the years has forced our family of 4-6 (expands when our older girls visit) to be literally, physically, and emotionally closer together…much different than that eye-opening moment when we lost our young child once in our “dream home”. Actually, quite the ironic nightmare. Pruning life means less “stuff” to maintain, less acquaintances and stronger friends, and, most of all, more time for positive-energy moments, days, weeks, etc. Less stuff. Less to-do’s. Less paid help for what we cannot do. Less bills. Less time invested in people and places we say are less important than our family, home-life, and whatever really gives us purpose. A Purpose-Driven Life is so much more than a revenue generator for Pastor Rick Warren . It’s a great book to remind one of what he or she vales most.

One can choose to value the accumulation of stuff, under the guise of providing “experiences”. One can choose to house, feed, and enable a derelict son or daughter all the way to foreclosure. One can choose, especially if he or she is the primary bread-winner, to live to work so their family can enjoy him or her someday. But…maybe a little pruning would yield even more life-long fruit. Maybe.

Just like life, stuff will come and go. Good health for you and loved ones will come and go. Irrelevant people will come and go. My tolerance and patience for those who complain about the perils of too much to do, too much stuff to care for, and no time for what they value most are long gone. By the time one reaches middle-age, it’s time to shut up, purge any and all respective pains in the ass, and really enjoy the greatest paycheck known to man…freedom.

Mom. Love her.

Mom.

I started, like billions of boys, as a son. 19 years later, I’m a husband. 6 years and 2 beautiful girls later, I’m an ex-husband. Then, I’m saved by a Saint and made a husband again…plus 2 handsome boys.

Point is that I know Moms. My own. My first love. My lifelong love. I do know Moms.

Mothers Day is almost here. My mom has her sweets and tasty stuff from Mast General Store. All good. Ginny Lee, my much better half, will have her simple turquoise jewelry ensemble from the same store and our little boys will be proud of their gift-giving expertise via Dad.

We should all appreciate mothers. Any mother. I know one 25 year old boy who cannot appreciate his mom. I plan to rock her world a bit this Mothers Day weekend… as best I can.

All moms should remember this Sunday. As I cook and serve dinner for our 3 moms (my love, her mom, and mine) this Sunday, I’m going to think about those derelict sons out there and their moms.

Please, find that mom near you and just do what you know is right.

It’s for the kids….really. Really?

School is almost over. Summer is coming fast I’ll bet that inevitability has very different meanings for very different kids and their parents and guardians.

Growing up in a pretty typical middle-class, 1970’s neighborhood, summer meant that the outdoors was my playground and many of us just bounced between our Murphy Hills pool, bike trails, and the coolest split-foyer and basement rancher homes around. Our parents rarely knew exactly where we were at any given moment…but we were safe and having fun somewhere. But, that was then.

Today, that utopia still exists in upscale, gated, or like communities, I’m sure. Anything less than those enclaves… well… I’m guessing that summer brings the pressure and stress from figuring out affordable care and fun for most kids of most American parents. It’s tough enough to figure out childcare when a child has strep, like we are doing today, let alone an entire summer of care when the only parent or both parents work outside of the home too (Nod to Ann Romney there) for an actual paycheck.

Then, today, the local newspaper headline screamed at me a little…”Longer school year posed”. Quite a pose, indeed. Not exactly a new idea, but still a little disconcerting. Could we really lose our kids summer? Would this be great for parents struggling with filling a summer with safe and affordable care? Is this a real, performance and results-based solution or just another stab at improving outcomes? You got me there. We recently had a local school board and the local Chamber of Commerce combine their energies, influence, and connections to support a credible and inspired vision for improving 58,000+ kids chances for future success. Our country Mayor, who has no children of his own, chose his re-election potential over any vision, even one of his own choosing (follow @JustBeCauseTwit and #MayorShinkage as this story continues), let alone that of an experienced, former #2 of Boston, MA schools who now leads our school system.

We hear worn out cliche’s everyday, since typical politicians campaign everyday for their career of re-election. It will be very refreshing someday to see “vision” , greatly improved performance, job satisfaction, and financial reward “win” for educators, which can have no other outcome than heightened career success potential from the kids AND their families of today and tomorrow! At this point, like our national debt crisis, we should be willing to try ANYTHING for the greater well-being of kids, teachers, other educators, and parents…including electing only active parents to most influential high-office. “Vision” required, please.

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