Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My First BET-What my Dad Taught Me

Good Morning BET's!

So, obviously there are many many lessons my dad taught me.  His legacy for me though, can be summed up in a few short examples.  He was not your traditional teacher in the sense that he didn't necessarily exhibit a true teaching technique.  He struggled with his patience with lessons like many of us do, especially with younger people.  But his true gift was the example he shared, just by the way he lived his life.

I think my favorite memory of my upbringing concerns an area which all teenagers covet, yet many parents fear, and struggle with greatly.  The drivers license and first car.  While my father was a very successful dentist and had the means to buy his kids a new car when they turned 16, he refrained from this.  Having seven kids, I think this was just good policy.

What was great though, was that while he didn't buy us a new car, he provided a "stable", if you will, of used cars for us to drive.  Being the youngest, when my closest brother left for college, I had my pick of the litter.  Here is that litter:

1.  1978 Chevy Cavalier
2.  1977 Datsun Pickup
3.  1971 Ford F150
4.  Tractor
5.  Horse

Of these, I chose the 1977 Datsun Pickup.  Many of my friends from high school will remember me driving this Canary Yellow,  yes, Canary Yellow, pickup for my entire high school career.  It also got great gas mileage and after touting this to a friend too many times as a rationalization for driving it, he said,  "Wow!  This car MAKES gas!", which I still find funny today.  What was great about this vehicle was that when it started rusting, dad decided to have it painted.  I was very excited at the prospect.  I thought a candy apple red would be nice, or a British racing green.  So one chilly fall Saturday in 1981,  my dad and I headed of  to start the process.  I assumed we were taking the truck to a body shop to have this done.  Instead, we went to Target, bought a Wagner spray painter and a couple gallons of canary yellow house paint.  The fear in me began to grow.

We headed back to the farm and my dad proceeded to tape off the truck so we would have a clean application.  I questioned this fiercely, or as fiercely as I questioned my dad ever.(read: never out loud).  Three hours later, the truck was finished.  A brighter yellow finish than the original, with the texture of semi-course sandpaper.  I didn't complain and actually congratulated my dad on what a great job he did.

I drove that truck for another three or so years until I left home for good.  I wasn't proud to be driving it, but I was grateful to have a car to drive at all.  The lesson here was that, at sixteen, a car is all about utility.  Getting from A to B.  This vehicle was reliable and it served me well.  Would I have preferred a Corvette or a Mustang...sure.  Would I be alive today had I gotten that wish...maybe not.

My dad provided me with exactly what I needed, not necessarily what I wanted.  So when my son Garrison got his license, while the temptation to buy him his own car was there, I looked back on that lesson and made the right choice.  He drove a 1995 Honda Odyssey minivan.  Funny thing though, Garrison actually thought it was okay.  He actually appreciated having something to drive at all.

So the lesson I learned was transferred to my son.  Be grateful for what you have and contentment will will be compulsory.  Thanks dad!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Break Even Teacher's Come In All Shapes and Sizes

Hi again BET's.  This has been on my mind for some time and I wanted to share it with you.  When I say someone is a BET, I don't necessarily mean in strictly a classroom sense.  You may be an engineer or a crossing guard.  You may be traffic cop or an avid bowler.  A BET to me is anyone with a passion for their subject that takes the time to be there for a student of the same. 

To illustrate I offer the video below.  This is Tommy Emmanuel.  He is one of my favorite artists and a world class guitarist.  He is a multimillionaire and doesn't need to sell more records.  At almost all of his concerts, he takes the time while he is in town to greet his many fans.  He not only greets them, more often than not, he takes the time to encourage them and listen to them.  Watch the video below, but don't focus on the guitar playing.  Watch closely what he makes important to him in this exchange.  "What are you working on?"  "Can I take a closer look?"  His stance is not so much what he can show them, but more about what he can do to show them how special they are.  I hope you enjoy this.  He is a true inspiration to me.

What's wrong with America

Happy Easter BET's!

You will notice that my title doesn't have a question mark at the end of the sentence.  That is because I am not asking the question as much as I am stating one of the myriad of possible answers.  Granted, there are many things that are right about America.  We are blessed in so many ways.  We have many comforts that we take for granted that much of the rest of the world does without...but that doesn't mean we are better or on the right track for any long term success as a country.

One of the areas in which I believe we need work is in our view of what is important and what is not.  My "for instance" today will concern the world of fast food workers.

Over the years, our "better than you" or "I am too good for this" attitude has created a huge problem in my eyes.  As a society, we have created an environment in which we see the work of fast food employees as less than important or essential.  We complain about how the service is lacking or how the quality is low.  My belief is that we have created this attitude over the years by devaluing the role of the minimum wage employee.

If I went to work everyday to a job in which society has led me to believe is below other professions, I don't know if I would have a great fervor for the quality of my output either.  Thirty years ago, people worked in these jobs as a profession.  There was no shame in it.  You went to work and did the best you could because you believed you were providing something of value.  Today, we look at these positions as only a means to an end, or a job anyone can do.  This is not necessarily the case...at least not in my mind.

I hope that somehow, we, as a country, can value these positions again and bring pride back into the mix.  I hope that we can look at these jobs as an opportunity to provide great service and value, and to make this industry blossom again.

I know a lot of you are probably saying, "But wait.  Would you give it your all for minimum wage?"  I get that.  But maybe if we start by looking at the positions as more important and vital to our economy, we will instill some more pride in the people who thanklessly fill these slots.  They are of vital importance to us economically.  If we can do this, maybe we can take that success and take the next step by paying these workers a more livable wage.  I would love to see us become a country again that thrives on quality and rewards those that make that happen.

If this strikes a chord with you, please share this post.  I would love to get a productive dialog going.  But alas, I must head to McDonalds for my $1 Coke Zero. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Grief Has No Country

Good morning BET's!  Today I just briefly want to reach out to you concerning the South Korean ferry disaster.  Wow, the magnitude of this is something we don't usually see here in the states.  After nearly two days, there are still almost 200 people still missing and death toll has reached 28.

What really prompted me to post this is some news coverage I watched of the survivors and some of the parents.  For those of you that don't know, we lost our oldest boy, Garrison, over five years ago.  He was 19.  The grief and utter despair that we went through was so evident on the faces of the parents who were literally wailing over their children.  I saw their faces and I knew that pain.  There was no language or cultural gap to navigate, I just wanted to be with those people and hug them tight.

So if you have a minute today, say a prayer for those families and just keep them in your thoughts.  We all need each other today.  I am going to Jefferson Elementary again today for "Jogging with Jefferson", and I can tell you now, those kids are in for some serious hugs.  And I may just click my heals...if I can get off the ground.  Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Art of Stooge Labor

Courtesy:  Insomnia Cured Here 2007
Now, before I get started...don't misunderstand the reference.  I am simply stating that, in my case, what I do could be considered such.  With the disclaimer posted, let us proceed.

Good morning BET's!  This morning I got to volunteer at Jefferson Elementary as a floating helper person.  Bren is subbing in the library, so I tagged along as a helper.  For those of you just tuning in, this is the school where I worked as an aide/media person/librarian...er...ish...niner.(thank you Tommy Boy)

I got to see all of those smiling faces that I have missed for the last seventeen odd months and I got enough hugs to catch me up on my hug deficit to about June '13, so still a ways to go.   I got to open doors for the kids as they got out of their cars in front of the school.  I also got to trouble shoot a few Mac tech issues and shelve a bunch of books that I forgot how much I enjoyed, like Amelia Bedelia and Skippyjon Jones.

About fifteen minutes into opening car doors it hit me like a ton of bricks...THIS is my skill set!  Opening car doors, elementary school small talk, hugs and pushing kids on the swings is where I belong!  I'm really good at it!  As this sank in to my innermost place of happy(sorry for the technical jargon), the beauty of this really became clear.  If you really think about it, these tasks require almost no knowledge or training...which is perfect for me!

Think about it.  Let's go down the list.

1.  Opening a car door requires very little skill other than maybe not having vertigo at the time: Check!

2.  Small talk is mostly, "Hey buddy!", or  "Ready for a great day?".  Motivational speakers have this skill so I know I can do it too!   Check!

3.  Hugs.  Good hugs require one thing:  Hugability.  I was recently tested on the Stanz/Verbode Hugability Scale or SVHS as we call it on the streets, and scored a 10, which I think is good...right?  Okay, so I'm fluffy too, which also applies:  Check!

4.  Pushing kids on the swings.  This requires force which relates directly to my fluffiness(See number 3 above):  BIG Check!

So, while this may not be a way I can make a living, it sure breaks up the day nicely.  I have to go eat lunch now, because I get to go back this afternoon.  I think I'll have Mac and Cheese, a fruit cup and a apple juice box. It's gonna taste like happy!