Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harder than I thought

I don't know if I felt a chuckle form in my stomach or a tear form in my eye this week as teachers began reporting about their summer coming to an end and all the emotions that might come with that. For me this summer dragged on and on like no other I can remember. I've gone through the full range of emotions this summer. It started off on a Wednesday morning at Starbucks in Springfield, IL. I was in Springfield with Theresa, my sister Janie and her husband Rich because my Mom was in the hospital along with my uncle. While chatting in the little outside patio area I got a phone call from U.T. wanting to schedule an interview with me! We scheduled a job interview at United Township for Friday morning at 9 am. I felt like I did an awesome job in my interview. I knew by the lack of phone call the next day that they probably decided to hire someone else--well actually two someone else's because there were two open positions. Sure enough, late in the morning on my birthday I got the call--and I was right. It was like a hit in the gut I've never felt before. I have been to as many interviews as I've had jobs. Up until this interview, I've always gotten the job I've interviewed for. I've tried to figure out how someone right out of college is the best candidate for the job over someone ALSO right out of college in a teacher certification program but also has years of experience in the classroom as a paraprofessional and experience in the private and public sector. It was the beginning of a very long summer.

Theresa and I took a little trip to St. Louis which was the highlight of the summer. It was nice to just get away from it all for a little trip. That trip, which included a stay at my sister and brother-in-laws house, flew by. While on vacation I was checking the teacher jobs sites online and saw a position post for Orion High School. So the first day at Janie and Rich's house I put vacation on hold and printed up my resume, altered my letter of interest to fit the Orion position, print up my letters of recommendations, transcripts, etc and sent it off to Orion from Carterville, IL...all while on vacation.  We returned home from vacation and the summer started to stall as it did before leaving town.

Days and weeks went by and no one called from Orion. Let me tell you, that is a MUCH better outcome than finishing runner up out of 80 applicants. Summer would continue to drag by--with not much action until the end of the summer when that spark of hope would show it's face again.

At the end of July another job opened up that was in Galva, IL. That is the maximum driving distance I think I can do to commute to work. I was called for an interview and had a week to practice for it. This time, I told myself I'm going to do great, am not going to worry or stress about it, and whatever happens--happens. And I truly did go into my interview relaxed, confident, and prepared. During my interview--I NAILED IT! I knew I did a great job and just really thought good news would come from it.

The last weekend in July my sister and her family were in town for the Bix Weekend in Davenport. That Friday I was jamming on guitars in my bedroom with my nephew and his friend who was traveling with him and my daughter Sara. I got a phone call and excused myself taking the call outside where it was quiet. I told no one about my Galva interview except Theresa. I've learned family will not leave you alone until they hear whether you got a job offer or rejection--and those calls I can do without...my family should know when I find out I will tell the whole world immediately...so I kept this news under wraps. Well the phone call was from the Galva principal who said I did an excellent job and said the word "congratulations" 3 times. He did say "well we have you and one more candidate we'd like to meet again with the superintendent"...but I felt really good about this!  He scheduled my interview for first thing Monday morning. I had prayed to God that if God's plan was for me NOT to get the job then please don't let them call me for a second interview. I don't want to get my hopes up again to have them come crashing down. I figured this was a VERY good thing as I had been praying to God for most of the day and evening before to NOT call me for a second interview unless I was hired for the job.

I arrived at Galva Adminstration offices (Galva Elementary School to be more exact) to meet with the principal and superintendent. They told me right away the interview would be much quicker than the last one--they just had a few more questions. This is typical in a final interview. Again, my interview went extremely well and they said they would notify both candidates as soon as early afternoon possibly but certainly before the end of the day. When I didn't get a phone call by early afternoon I knew again--bad news.

Bad news it was--and I've rehashed this over and over again. I've determined that with my background, experience, letters of recommendations, accomplishments etc...that I either screwed something up that I am truly unaware of, or they hired the wrong person. I go back to "God's Plan" a lot and for the life of me I can't see what God's Plan in this is. The only thing I can think of is God was saving me from some car accident some morning or afternoon commuting to or from work. If that is the reason--I can live with it. But I know I'm still kicking myself harder than I've ever done before because I must have done or said something or omitted something that they were looking for to not get hired. Maybe the other person was just better than me--whatever the reason they got the job and I didn't...it is what it is and I accept that.

But this past week has been tough. Seeing teacher friends commentate on their summer ending and returning to school--how some are looking forward to Christmas break already--just has been tough to see. Having a wife as a teacher I hear all the stories of life in 3 schools and the hectic work pace, the fun expectations of new students, rooms, teachers...realizing I've been part of all of this the past 7 years--but not now. It's harder than I thought.

I know sometimes it takes something being taken away for you to truly appreciate it. But I've always appreciated the opportunity to teach. Whether it was as a one on one aide to an Aspergers child, to a paraprofessional in a special education classroom with Kindergarten through 3rd graders, to student teaching in one of the most awesome history classrooms in the world, to substitute teaching at the high school--I've always appreciated the opportunity to teach. But honestly, I want so much more than being a substitute teacher--when things don't really get started for another month or so--and then it isn't my classroom, with my teaching strategies, lesson plans, etc...I realize this is much harder than I thought. I realize exactly what it is I should be doing--pray to God it happens soon, and realize what I am doing now--watching my wife go off to work everyday teaching the subject she loves...reading all the status updates from my teaching friends on their new school days etc...all from the "comfort" of my own home is not comforting at all.  This is much harder than I thought.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Home Is Where The Door Is Open

Happy Birthday to Me!

I got the call today with a decision I knew had already been made. My Alma mater decided against hiring me for the two open social studies positions created by two retiring teachers. Am I disappointed? Yes. Was I the most qualified? Yes. My answer to that question doesn't change after the hiring process. During the interview do you expect me to say "No I wasn't the most qualified"? In my mind I was the most experienced and most qualified applicant for the positions. I can understand having a difficult time deciding on one position with dozens, if not hundreds of applicants. Two gets to be a bit easier to make sure you get the "best" candidate.  I have hashed things out in my mind rather than express my thoughts publicly. I will say this--things happen for a reason and I think the winner today are the students of Moline High School.

What I will focus on is going home....home is not the home it used to be. You see I was a graduate of United Township High School. I loved that school--I was a Panther. I remember loving it before I was even a student there. My Uncle was a teacher there who was one of the best role models I ever knew. He also loved the Panthers, especially high school basketball. I traveled with him to all the Western Big 6 basketball games, watched every game in The Panther Den, and traveled to Champaign to watch U.T. in the state basketball tournament. In high school, the teachers challenged me and sparked my interest in learning. I have no doubt if more teachers had the passion and excitement for what they taught, there would be fewer schools on the Academic Warning list for not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress. You see the Home I remember in U.T. back in the 80's is not the same place. It is run by totally different people with different goals, ambitions, and motivations. This is not a knock against U.T. It just isn't my home anymore.

What I do know is where home is. Home is where the door is open. Home is where you are wanted. Home is where they know you best. Home is people who know exactly what you can do and how good you can do it. Home is the place that brings out your best. Home is where the door is open...Home is Moline High School.

I remember walking through Washington Elementary School in Moline towards the end of the school year. This was where I worked for 5 years until November of 2009 (before moving into the classroom at Moline High School to begin my preclinical and student teaching phase of my teacher certification program). I remember telling my wife, "Wow the hallways are so narrow" and "The lockers seem so much shorter than I remembered."  I also remember thinking it didn't seem  like it used to. In that short period of time the school had a new principal, several new staff/faculty members and lots of unfamiliar student faces. Home was now Moline High School.

So in all likelihood, I will return home this next school year at Moline High School in one manner or another. I have no doubt the decision to hire me would be a different outcome if the opening was at Home instead of my Alma mater. I will go back Home and do the best job I know how--continuing to build upon the great rapport I've built with the students and faculty of Moline High School. Someday I WILL be a contracted teacher at Moline High School. It became crystal clear to me this week--Home is where the door is open...and Home is Moline High School!--Go Maroons!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A School Year That Felt Like Two

It's hard to believe this school year ends tomorrow. I was telling Theresa this past school year seems like two different school years. What started off as almost a full semester of demonstration teaching (student teaching) finished with over a semester of substitute teaching. I accomplished a great deal this school year. A lifelong dream of becoming a certified teacher was fulfilled this school year. One benefit of being a bit more experienced is knowing what your passion truly is. I see many teachers in the profession who have been there a long time and so many work hard to do a good job. I don't see as many living their passion and with good reason. It's hard to realize your passion as an 18 year old kid. That is what we ask of teachers in most situations. College for those entering the teaching profession is rigid. There is not a lot of room to find yourself exploring different classes (unless you want to spend tens of thousands of extra dollars and a couple extra years of college). And let's face it, most of us use our 20's and even part of our 30's figuring out who we are and what we want to do. I don't care what profession someone goes into, it seems many change jobs once, twice, or several different times within the first 10 years within their vocation.  I realized I wanted to be a teacher a long time before I actually became one. I am not only certain teaching is what I want to do, but believe it is my calling in life--my passion.

So I have a great deal to be thankful for this school year.  As always, I am thankful for the wonderful life I have made with my wife and children. I love them more than words can describe. I am thankful for the sound foundation of character and integrity I was raised with. And I am thankful for a wonderful staff and students at Moline High School who allowed me to attempt to perfect my teaching skills at their school. Without a doubt, I owe a big thank you to a teacher who opened up his room to me this school year--Trent Lamphier. He is a teacher I wish I could have had in high school and a teacher I was blessed to learn from while finalizing my teacher certification program.

I end the school year with a bit of uncertainty. I am not sure where I will be working at next school year or what I will be doing. I know I will be at a high school doing what I love--working with students. I hope I will have the opportunity to live out the passion I have for teaching in my own classroom, with my own students, and with the content I am passionate about. I know God has greater things in store for me than I know. In the past I have realized the numbers game works against any teacher not yet employed as a contracted teacher--there are more teachers not yet employed than there are positions available. But God has greater things in store for me than I know. I am not yet aware of God's plan for me--I trust in him that his plan is grand and one that is just right for me. So wherever I land next school year--I trust it will be just the right fit for me and where I am supposed to be. And I will share my journey to where that road leads right here with the friends and family who mean a great deal to me. 

School year 2010-2011 you were one unlike any other!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Circle of Life

I believe we all have a purpose. My purpose in life is to be the best husband in the world for my loving wife, father in the world to my three awesome children, and it has always been my desire to be the teacher all the students of my school want to have. I am accomplishing the husband and father thing very well!  Now it's my turn to be the social studies teacher students go to their counselor trying to get as their teacher. My teaching philosophy is students will learn when interested and excited about the subject and lesson they are studying. I always ask myself "Would I want to be sitting in my classroom tomorrow if I were a 15 year old student taking part in this lesson?" If I wouldn't be, I'll scrap the lesson and plan for something that is going to spark their interest and engage the student to interact with the lesson. Simply put--my classes are fun and kids learn!

My excitement level was off the radar last night when I saw that my Alma mater, United Township High School, in East Moline, IL has an opening for Social Studies next year. I knew with the state budget crisis, new openings are only happening with retirements of current teachers. The closest retirement at Moline is still several few years away. In the back of my mind I knew one of my teachers at U.T. had to be approaching retirement--Herb Ritter.

Mr. Ritter was my sociology teacher at U.T.  He also was a good friend of my uncle who also taught at U.T. from 1966-1979-John Picco. Anyone who knows me and my family, knows I admired my Uncle John as much as anyone else in this world. He was an AWESOME teacher. Beginning his career as an English and German teacher, John was asked to start the psychology class at U.T. He taught the one and only Psychology class and kept teaching German as well. It didn't take but one semester and students were all wanting to take Mr. Picco's Psychology Class. There were more kids turned away than could take the class. The next year he picked up a few more Psychology classes and fewer German classes. Eventually Psychology was all he taught. He was one of U.T.'s most popular teachers. He sparked the students interest and engaged them to a new higher level of thinking. He loved U.T., his students, and the subjects he taught. The reason I majored in Psychology in college was because of my Uncle John.

So why didn't I major in education while at Western in the 80's? It was a dream I very much wanted to fulfill, but I didn't have the confidence I needed in college. Family persuaded me there were more opportunities in other vocations. In my heart, I knew no vocation would provide the passion I had for teaching. It wasn't until I met and married my wife (an Art teacher with the same passion for the subject she teaches as my Uncle John) that I was truly exposed to education at the vocational level. Once in the classroom, I knew this was my destiny--my calling in life.

Now, after finishing a very demanding and challenging teacher certification program, I am finally certified to teach the subjects and grade level I am passionate about. And with an opening at U.T. I can't help but think "THIS IS FINALLY MY DESTINATION!" It is incredibly hard, no impossible, not to get my hopes up. When I was in high school I absolutely loved U.T. I went to every basketball game, football game, wrestling matches, and admired all my teachers. I knew I was going to be one of them someday.

I remembered tonight Mr. Ritter signed my senior yearbook so I went to our memory chest in our bedroom and pulled out my yearbook which I hadn't looked at in years. I knew exactly where Mr. Ritter signed my yearbook. I went to the yearbook and read his entry. "Chuck, It's been a pleasure knowing you and having you in class. You're a very fine student and young man. Turn out just like Uncle John. Best of Luck, Herb Ritter.

I hope in the next few weeks I turn out more like Uncle John than Mr. Ritter ever could have realized. It is an honor I would cherish forever!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Who's Your Favorite President?

Happy Presidents' Day everyone!

In honor of the Presidents who each took a monumental task to serve the country and attempt to make the country a better place in his own way, I am going to talk about a President I currently am reading about on my new Amazon Kindle.

Currently I am reading A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent.

James K. Polk was one of our most unlikely Presidents. After being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Polk eventually became Speaker of the House. Polk left Congress in 1839 to run for Governor of Tennessee. He won election, but lost re-election and lost a second attempt in 1843. 

So we have this Polk guy--a young ambitious man who gained early success in Congress. Then his career curtailed in the state of Tennessee...losing elections for Governor twice after serving in the office. So his chance to win the Presidency look good at this point, right? Who would even think the Presidency would even be on his radar?

Well Radar didn't exist back then but political ambition did. Polk never lost ambition but never intended to serve our nation as President. In the election of 1844 his goal was to become nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democrats. The nominating conventions were nothing like they are today. There were smoke-filled room making deals that often placed candidates not predicted to become president or vice president on the ballot. It took 9 ballots at the convention before Polk was unanimously nominated as the Democrat candidate.  He promised to serve only one term. But boy, did he have a lot on his agenda. Why was he so popular? He was an expansionist. He wanted America to acquire Texas and the Oregon Territory.

So what did Polk accomplish--We can thank Polk for acquiring Texas, California, New Mexico and the Oregon Territory--all in four years. Polk, nicknamed Young Hickory, was a protege of Andrew Jackson. Polk believed the government should take in revenue only to provide the basic constitutional requirements of government. He greatly reduced tariffs. He sought strict constructionists to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today we would probably call Jackson and Polk--conservatives.

James K. Polk is probably a lessor known president to many Americans. In just 4 years, Polk acquired a massive amount of land that proved to be his greatest legacy. Though not perfect (was a slave owner), without Polk and his determination, America may have had the British Empire to our west between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.

I like reading about some of our lessor known presidents.  We all know about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt (both of them), Kennedy, Reagan, and for all their good and bad, the famous guys are famous because America faced crisis during the times of these men.  And we certainly needed each president to step up and save the day. I am not saying each of these were great men, but Greatness found each of them. Relative peace (or wars that are further from America's memory) often excludes presidents from the fame of greatness. Yet, give the presidents their due! Each (yes even the bad ones) served this country in ways very few have. They gave up any private life to make sure this land stayed free. 

So Happy Presidents' Day everyone!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Records Records Everywhere

Is it a Blizzard Dad? Oh those winters of 1977-79. Those were the good old days of winters being like winter. I remember the winter of 1977. I was living in Hampton,  IL as far removed from civilization as a boy just transplanted from the center of the city in Springfield. Living on the bank of the Mississippi River was cool for like a few weeks. After that you realized just how isolated it was. And nothing isolates like a winter storm. But luckily, one weekend in 1977, my Dad was in town staying with us. I remember it snowed like crazy--not the record we all remember, but an incredible amount of snow none the less.

It was a Saturday morning, and like any Saturday morning in January, I had basketball practice at St. Mary's school in East Moline. St. Mary's was a unique school. It sat on the middle of 13th street hill. This hill was incredibly steep, as are most hills that create the Mississippi River valley. My Dad and I, both troopers, headed out to the basketball practice. The roads on Highway 84 were bad enough, but soon enough, we got to the hill.  My dad and his little Mercury Bobcat hatchback, I with my basketball in hand made the turn from 17th Avenue to 13th Street. And we slowly attempted to head up a snow packed hill, the first car to do so since the snow began falling. That little Bobcat's wheels spun and spun, snow flying from under the wheels to reach the hood and windshield of the car. As we traveled at a rate of about 3 feet a minute, I looked over at my dad and said, "Do you think it's a blizzard Dad?" He laughed and laughed, "I think it's worse than a blizzard" he said. My dad, being my dad, could have let me out at the bottom of the hill and walk the half-block up the hill to go to basketball practice. But Dad, either out of the goodness of his heart or because he wanted to see if he could do it--climb his Mt. Everest, (I've made the personal decision Dad did it for both reasons) made the turn and drove all the way to the door of St.Mary's. All along Dad kept saying, "There is no way they are going to have practice today." I kept saying, "But Dad, I won't play in the next game if I am a no show at practice."

We finally reached our destination to find a white 8 1/2" X 11" paper saying "Practice canceled due to Snow." If the lack of snow tracks and cars on the road couldn't confirm this already--that note did. My Dad smiled and said, "Oh well, it was fun getting here." This story would forever be etched in my Dad's memory--one of his happiest memories. When we'd visit, he'd almost always revisit this memory--it was a good one that has been forever stored in my memory.

Winters would continue getting worse and worse. Finally in January 1979 we received "The Big One!" 18.4" of snow from January 11-13. It was a mess! Those old cars with rear wheel drive cars couldn't  maneuver the roads in that snow depth. Cities didn't have as many snow plows as they do today. Cities shut down. We didn't have 800 satellite t.v. channels. We did have about 30 cable channels...but we had board games, cards, music, and the companionship of family. We survived and had fun doing it. School was canceled for 3-4 days because of it. I gained an enthusiasm for winter weather that winter season. I didn't want snow of 2 or 3 inches. I wanted it nice and warm...or blasted with a blizzard. If you have to endure winter-do it big!

This week we had "Blizzard Watches" for 2 days prior to the storm. Lately, storms have been fizzling out before they ever reach their potential severity. Not this one. And I knew it. My enthusiasm for weather has evolved into at home meteorology. There are so many tools to use to track the storms via the internet. The computer models all indicated this was "The Big One!" I think some local weather forecasters had a hard time forecasting that much snow. They may have been overcome with recent storms from the 90s on, that just didn't materialize to the fullest potential. But this storm had all the makings for being big. A huge amount of moisture, a terrific snow to liquid ratio, and a favorable track for blasting the QCs with record snow falls. On Monday morning, I forecast 16-20 inches for the QC area...more specifically said I thought the QC Airport would receive 18.9 inches. We received 18.4" tying exactly the three day winter storm of Jan. 1979. We also set a record of 16.7 inches of snow in a 24 hour period--the most ever. The shoveling would prove brutally difficult but that is a story for another day.

And through it all I kept hearing my voice "Is it a blizzard Dad ?" Irony?? well the Blizzard of 2011 ended on February 2....my Dad's 75th Birthday! Happy Birthday Dad..and the answer to my question has always been--YES!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where were you when?

Where were you when....? Every generation had this moment. For my Grandparents, it was likely the afternoon of December 7, 1941.  For my parents, likely November 22, 1963. For our children, likely September 11, 2001. For me, and those of us from our generation, January 28, 1986.

I was living with two other roommates in the St. Charles Apartments in Macomb, IL adjacent to Western Illinois University. One roommate, Jim Fletcher, was in ROTC and had long left for PT training early in the morning. Another roommate, Jeff Yeager and I were still at home getting ready to leave for school. I remember "killing time" watching The Price is Right on CBS. The Price is Right was interrupted for the launching of the Space Shuttle Challenger. It wasn't unusual for this to happen. In the first few years, every space shuttle launch was broadcast on television. Space, The Final Frontier, was truly American. We watched with great amazement how such a feat could occur. Each and every time we were truly amazed once again. This launch was particularly important to broadcast, for the first time an American school teacher would be on board for the space mission. Millions of school children and teachers tuned in to watch the launch. One of their own was making them proud.

It would be the tenth and last mission for Space Shuttle Challenger. Seventy-three seconds into flight, Challenger exploded. First a huge fire ball of explosion, then a magnificent plume of white. We knew something awful just happened. I remember my roommate saying under his breath, "holy shit". I was speechless. I remember the professional way the voice of command center stating, "Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation," reported public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt. "Obviously a major malfunction. We have no downlink." After a pause, Nesbitt said, "We have a report from the Flight Dynamics Officer that the vehicle has exploded."

I walked to school that late morning across the parking lot of Tanner Hall.  I remember the skies were very clear, with a few high clouds. I looked to the sky and thought, "they are out there somewhere." I was heading to Waggoner Hall to my Experimental Psychology class. My professor, Dr. Eric Ward, was a very large and very happy man. He would always greet each student who came in the room by name, "Good Morning, Charles....this is going to be our greatest day ever!" is how he'd greet people as they came in the room. On this particular morning he was solemn. He greeted us telling us today's class would not be required attendance. We were welcome to stay and just chat about what we saw today, heard today, and just deal with the national tragedy on our own terms. No one was going to learn anything in class that day except how people deal with tragic events. Dr. Ward stuck around to take part in the discussion. I remember almost everyone stayed. This was very unusual in college. If a teacher said class was not required, almost everyone left. Dr. Ward was a classy guy. He loved his students and his profession. He realized this was our "Where were you when?" moment. He had his "where were you when?" moment--twenty-three years earlier. And he was now there for our moment when we needed someone with the perspective of experience.

I remember President Ronald Reagan postponing his State of the Union addressed planned for that night. Like Dr. Ward, President Reagan knew this was a moment we'd remember long after it occurred. He spoke so eloquently about the tragic event. He said the seven astronauts, "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." America needed that from our president.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Picking the Super Bowl Contenders

So this is it. Today we will know who will be representing the AFC and the NFC in Super Bowl 45. I never have to wonder what Super Bowl number we are on...it just happens to be how old I am on that day. So how do I pick the Super Bowl contenders?

Curly Lambeau was an employee of the Indian Packing Company. In 1919, Curly solicited funds from his employer for uniforms and equipment. His employer was happy to supply the team with uniforms and equipment on the condition the team be named after the company. The Green Bay Packers were born! And since packers pack and can meat....this is may be a bad scenario for the Packers foe...the Chicago Bears. Armed with a potent offense and defense--look for the Green Bay Packers to Pack their bags for Dallas in Super Bowl 45.

So the NFC is decided...on to the AFC.

Nothing demonstrates the will, determination, the entrepreneurship of America like the Midwestern city, Pittsburgh. It is where the steeler baron Andrew Carnegie decided to call home. This captain of industry was the reason America moved from life in rural America to the cities. The origin of American productivity and business creativity can be traced back to the era Carnegie dominated. Buildings that once stood several stories tall with brick and wood frames, could now soar dozens and dozens of stories in the sky. Skyscrapers were born. In their early days, some people were even afraid to walk by certain buildings for fear they would fall down.  P.T. Barnum actually demonstrated the safety of steel bridges by parading his circus elephants across bridges because people were afraid to travel on the early steel bridges. This innovation, creativity, and unimaginable inventive nature of America was truly demonstrated by Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie also donated all (that was ALL) of his fortune on his death. He left no money behind to his family or children. His philanthropic nature has been imitated by contemporary giants such as Microsoft's Bill Gates.

And so who will win this game? Joe Namath may have guaranteed a Jets win in Super Bowl 3 (sorry I remember this one only in old video) but you cannot be a Jet without some steel components. Jets may be able to fly high in the sky...but not without Steel. And New York City? How much steel sits in New York City? Where would the city that never sleeps be without steel? My prediction in the AFC championship game? Look for the Pittsburgh Steelers to play in their 8th Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

So I decided against the almost everyday breakfast staple of cereal yesterday morning in favor of a couple of fried eggs. It's amazing how something so trivial can provoke a complete discussion of philosophy within my own mind. So this makes me weird, I already knew that. But no weirder than anyone else who starts thinking about things simply from doing a simple act.

I got to thinking of the phrase "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." I think Mark Twain had it better, "put all your eggs in one basket, and watch the basket!!" These phrases have lots of different meanings--I'd suspect the two most important being with money and things you do with your life. There is one lesson I keep teaching and reteaching my own children, especially one lately, that balance is very important thing in one's life. If people refer to them as "unbalanced" they "could" have a problem. But balance is also important in the amount of time and energy you put into all the things in your life. When you start to invest more and more of it into one person or thing it's time to start thinking about putting your eggs in more than one basket.

We humans are VERY good at putting all our eggs in one basket. At times I do it. My family does it, my extended family does it. Do you or someone in your family know of anyone who spends the majority of their attention, time, money, energy on the same someone? How about relatives who do this with the same person but not you? We often think that's because we have "favorites". This may be the case but I think it's deeper than that. We want to put our eggs in one basket--the safe place. And we simply are creatures of habit. We get into a trap of doing the same thing over and over with the same people. I have seen many people engaged in a conversation about person A never bothering to call or visit me, so why should I call or visit them...when they have no problem calling and visiting person B every single day. It's because we've chosen to put all our eggs in one different basket.

As I've "matured" I realize the importance of spreading the eggs out. But there are two baskets that are still fuller than others--my family (meaning my wife and kids) and my extended family (meaning my sister Janie, her husband and their kids) There is someone I know who has more baskets of eggs than anyone I know. This would be my sister Janie. She doesn't have anymore "eggs" to give out, she just chooses to fill many more baskets than I do. She is the first one to make sure when she is "back-in-town" to make it a point to see everyone in the family. Back home, her door is always open to anyone to come visit and she will make you feel welcome the whole time there. She is involved in so many aspects of the business she and her husband operate, and she is involved in each one of her children's lives to a great degree. She has enough time and energy for friends in her life  (and she has many!) She is a great example for me to see what a diversified life looks like.

With that said, I think so many people find it comforting to keep the amount of baskets small--possibly just one basket.  I have more than one basket, but I know the basket I have for my wife and the basket I have for each of my kids is huge in comparison to all the others. And this is true with just about everyone.

Because I have just a few larger baskets of eggs I guess I like the second part of Mark Twain's advise more so-- "watch the basket!!" You watch the basket with love, guidance, compassion, caring, and nurturing. All the baskets you have can never get too big, especially the most important ones, but in a heartbeat, baskets can be destroyed--so watch the baskets and enjoy the time you have putting more eggs into each one.

Oh and the breakfast yesterday was very tasty. I knew eggs were a healthy nutritional food item loaded with good amounts of Vitamin A and Iron, I didn't know they stimulated thought provoking philosophy. Add that to the benefits of the incredible edible egg!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bye bye red and green...and blue

Yesterday we took down our Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations. Our house has virtually no Christmas Red or Christmas Green in it anymore. We do like to decorate our home with decor that reflects the season. Right now the predominate color of the season is Winter Greenery and White Snow. So in our home we still have Winter Greenery and White lights. It is much more country or cabin feeling than one of Christmas in our home. There's always an atmospheric change when old decorations get packed away and new ones get unpacked and displayed in the house. The coziness of Christmas is replaced with the openness of winter. There is a lot less color and much less busyness. I suppose that is what January really is--substantially slower than December--not as colorful and a time to plan for more exciting things down the road.

And we can say goodbye to the color blue--as in Colt Blue. The Colts lost their playoff game yesterday against the New York Jets. I must admit, I thought a win in the playoffs for the Colts was not likely. This year's Colts were banged up, bruised up, and injured beyond hope. The fact they made the playoffs is a testament to the quality of the players not hurt..i.e. Peyton Manning. Now I root for the best teams around in hoping they can defeat the New England Patriots...I'll root mostly for the Steelers (my second favorite team in the AFC) and the Packers. If the Packers go down, I'll root for the Bears.

We have the possibility of a rematch of Super Bowl XX when the Bears beat the Patriots. However, this go -round the Patriots likely would be a huge favorite instead of the underdogs they were in Super Bowl XX.  In the end, I'm rooting for anyone but New England.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Substitute Teaching...jobs...and Ben Franklin

Well it seems like the substitute teaching jobs are rolling in--and by request. It's nice to have teachers approach me to work for them rather than for them to post the job for any sub to pick up. It means they feel comfortable with me in their room and trust the class is in good hands. I know, first hand from some subs Theresa has had, not all subs do a good job. Knowing her class is in good hands means having a stress-free day off if sick or needing the day off for personal business. I'm glad teachers know there class is in good hands when I cover in their absence.

Yesterday was a day in a math classroom. I must admit, this is my second love next to Social Studies. In fact, one of my favorite subjects is Geometry. I would like to teach high school geometry as much as I'd like to teach some of the available social studies courses. I have no doubt at some point in time I will have an additional endorsement to teach high school math. I just need that first teaching job at the high school level before considering that endeavor.

Speaking of jobs, history, and life in America today. The national employment data came out yesterday...and low and behold, the nations jobless problems continue to damper the economy. Little wonder why if you look at words one of our best founding fathers had to say. Good ole Ben Franklin had a lot to say about the topic. We all know Ben Franklin was a man of many talents and interests. It's no wonder Ben Franklin was a man I really admire. Ben Franklin said, "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."

Is this not the proverbial "Teach a man to fish" concept? I cannot agree more with Ben Franklin. Our nation's unemployment laws need to change. I definitely think people laid off work for economic reasons and no fault of their own should have some financial relief while looking for new employment. However, is there not a better way of providing the relief that benefits more than just the worker out of a job? What if we provided a means of acquiring financial relief while at the same time requiring the worker to work.  My idea, which I believe Ben Franklin and all of our other founding fathers (and mothers) would support--allow workers to work at a job they are skilled at and pay them the equivalent of the unemployment benefit they already receive. How would this work? Unemployed workers (those relieved of work due to no fault of their own) would be able to go to an employer and work for them doing a skill they are qualified for. The government would have a voucher system where unemployed workers would take a voucher to an employer and the employer could employ the worker for their services at no cost to the employer.  The vouchers would allow the worker to work for 12 months. Employers would receive incentive tax benefits for paying additional wages in addition to the voucher amount the government provides. There would need to be some safeguard to insure businesses were not firing employees simply to reduce costs and use the voucher system--and this is very possible. This would create an economic boom during hard economic times. Businesses would have increased productivity with reduced labor costs. They could continue making goods and providing services with reduced costs. The costs of goods and services would be competitive in the free market which is the essence of capitalism. As the economy grows, unemployment declines and eventually the unemployment program will be a simple safety net and not a widely used program. Because once the economy is soaring, employment will be every bit as competitive as the goods and services it provides. Employers will be paying more for workers because workers will be in higher demand.

Our nation's unemployment system needs a drastic change. Providing something for nothing insures the odds of getting nothing in return is greater than getting something of similar or greater value. Providing a means of employment in lieu of providing a check accomplishes at least three things: 1. The worker to receive the same benefit check (and possibly more if the employer gives the worker more money in addition to the voucher he/she receives). 2. The worker receives employment and improves job skills, training etc. 3. The worker receives a sense of worth and value as opposed to being perceived as a drain on society.  I think this proposal would be something Ben Franklin would have suggested himself if he were alive today.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Out of my element!

So what does a songwriter or music man do when a cake or cupcakes are needed for a birthday? We'll that's simple, he just watches his creative artistic wife take charge making the cupcakes or cake. She has made some amazing creative baked goods for our kids birthdays, Halloween, etc. So what happens when the birthday is my Wife's? In years past, the answer was some generic cake made by some lady at the closest grocery store who used whatever color icing she had in the tube on her table and wrote "Happy Birthday Theresa" on whatever cake I grabbed already made and frosted in the refrigerated case. But you know, my wife isn't generic and I can do this! So I made cupcakes!  The kitchen, at some moment in time, was hazed in powder sugar smoke. I made fondant icing that I shaped into artist pallets. Fondant is fun to make. Without a good dough hook on an electric mixer--you have to knead the fondant with your hands...FUN STUFF really! I must admit the little pallets turned better than I thought they would. The frosted cupcakes had four different colors with sugar-dusted sprinkles and a little paint brush made out of a tootsie roll...dipped in colored frosting that looked like painted bristles. They turned out pretty cool.  When Christopher walked into the kitchen he was all smiles!

I admit, I used an image from an online search to get the idea of the art cupcakes....and my wife could and would make them even better than the image online. The image online was much better than what I created....but they still turned out pretty good.

Christopher had to go to drum line practice for band tonight and Theresa wanted Red Lobster for dinner. So Theresa opened her present before she and I went to dinner. I gave her a Keurig coffee maker with the individual little K Cup coffees. I got the idea when my brother-in-law Rich got one for Christmas. Everyone seemed to love it when we saw it--particularly Theresa, so I got her it. Theresa had a cupcake before we left for Red Lobster-she said they tasted yummy. She managed to eat one before we could sing "Happy Birthday".

Which leads me to the history lesson for the day. Did you know the phrase "Happy Birthday" did not start appearing on Birthday Cakes until the early 1900s when the, song "Happy Birthday To You" was popularized? And yes, it's true I opted not to include the tradition brought to birthday cakes by the Germans of using lighted candles. However, judging by the lighted eyes on the face of Chris, Shawn, and Theresa, I think the cupcakes were a bright hit!

Tonight is the Twelfth Day of Christmas...The 12 drummers are drumming and by tradition, the Christmas Season officially comes to an end. However, do not fret, the official 2011 Christmas Shopping Season begins in just 323 short days.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pop goes the outlet!

I wake up this morning to give myself a little hair trim (Yes, my hairline enables me to pull this off). I plug in my electric trimmer into the bathroom vanity electrical outlet and "POP" goes the outlet! This was not a total surprise. We have been tripping the ground-fault trip for a couple of days. When the outlet goes, so to goes the light switch. So my day started by running to the hardware store to buy a new ground-fault electrical outlet. I come home and assemble the outlet in a matter of minutes. Each time I turn the circuit back on the outlet trips and no power....hmmm? So after repeated attempts I thought, "maybe it trips when the circuit is started and just needs to be pushed in and reset....and BINGO! That is all that was needed!

Though I failed to "get power" to the outlet three times...I certainly didn't beat Thomas Edison. The "Wizard of Menlo Park" as Edison was common referred as, failed hundreds, if not thousands of times to successfully burn a filament in a light bulb. When explaining the process of developing the electric light bulb Edison explained, "I did not fail 1000 times, I found and proved 1000 ways that do not work." I like that attitude Edison displayed.  I may have struggled a little longer than necessary to power up the outlet and the light switch, in the end I learned those little ground-fault trip buttons need to be pressed after power is restored.

So how did my day progress from that point? I took the boys to the dentist for their teeth cleaning and exam. One boy is cavity free-the other not. We left the dentist and had lunch at the mall and to buy Theresa a present for her birthday tomorrow. While eating lunch, Shawn ate in about 90 seconds and wanted to take off and window shop. Chris and I took more time to eat and in the process had quite a long, positive, and enlightening discussion.

I brought the boys home and continued with a little more shopping. I took Molly to the groomers to get a bath--she got a bit dirty when we were gone on our Christmas Vacation trip. She's now home looking and smelling very nice!

Well 11 Pipers are piping!  Until next time!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Busy day of little chores...and donations!

Welcome to the first workday of 2011! My daughter Sara started her second semester of Sophomore year and Shawn and Chris have one more day before they return to school on Wednesday. I woke up bright and early right after Theresa left for her work day. She had a non-teaching workday. In the old days we called these days "teacher's workshop".  I had to take Shawn into get blood work drawn that was long overdue. He was in and out in no time.  The days when it took an hour just to get the needle near his arm are long over. These days Shawn is the first one lining up to donate blood during blood drives! I was able to replace a couple leaky washers in the bathroom shower head, a recessed lighting fixture cover in the bathroom and a few other little chores around the house today.

Shawn and Chris received a 32 inch flat screen television from Santa for Christmas. Shawn and I took their old (and majorly heavy) 32 inch round screen and LARGE box T.V. to the Salvation Army for a donation. The Salvation Army has been the recipient from the Gillespie household for years. I must admit, the primary reason I started using the Salvation Army is one of convenience. They will come pick up old furniture or appliances that are too big for me to dispose of myself and items too large to fit in the trash can. But now, I take even the smallest of items into the Salvation Army. This is truly an outstanding organization. Many people don't know the Salvation Army is an Evangelical Church. Headquartered in London, England, the Salvation Army has been performing evangelical, social, and charitable work for over 145 years when William and Catherine Booth founded the East London Christian Mission.

We probably know most about the Salvation Army by the Red Kettle Drive and bell ringers at the door of stores during the Christmas shopping season.  But the Salvation Army has also been a significant part of my son Shawn's education. Shawn lives with an autistic spectrum disorder known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder or PDD. The Salvation Army has given Shawn the opportunity to develop occupational skills, improve his social interaction skills, and develop good work habits that are crucial in the workforce. Shawn works a couple hours each afternoon at a Salvation Army retail store and has done a tremendous job. It is a wonderful charitable organization that has provided rehabilitation services to millions of people who need an extra hand of support over the years around the globe.

I hope your first workday of the new year was a welcome back and not a major let down. Remember the positive--the day's sunlight hours are getting longer!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Welcome, Shopping, and the Twelve Days of Christmas!

Welcome to History with Mr. G!

History often ranks one point higher than after school detention for many students. There are many reasons for this but I attempt to break through the stereotype that history simply doesn't matter. We all create history every day we live. History is not boring and history isn't owned by the dead and the famous. WE own history! History is ours to own and to make! This blog is about daily happenings. The only thing history is about is "happenings". History happened--our lives happened...therefore we ARE history.

So how did I make history today?  My wife Theresa and I went shopping! Yes, shopping! I know this time of year is about Rubbermaid containers and storing the Christmas decorations for one more year. My decorations are still up and glowing. I love Christmas! I will put my Christmas decorations away when I am good and ready.  You know, in colonial America, a Christmas wreath was always left up on the front door of each home, and when taken down at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, any edible portions would be consumed with the other foods of the feast. The same held true in the 19th-20th centuries with fruits adorning Christmas Trees. Fresh fruits were hard to come by, and were therefore considered fine and proper gifts and decorations for the tree, wreaths, and home. Again, the tree would be taken down on Twelfth Night, and such fruits, along with nuts and other local produce used, would then be consumed. So those of you who think we have over commercialized Christmas and we've celebrated Christmas a bit too long, consider our forefathers and mothers who celebrated Christmas until the evening of January 5th!

So now the important question!! I know you are all wondering!! What did we buy shopping in the post Christmas shopping malls and stores? Well, my wife wanted to get a bag to carry her iPad in so we bought one of those. We also bought the most important consumable item you can buy this time of year...a 2011 calendar! And we also replenished our food cabinets and refrigerator with new food to eat and get us through the remaining days of the Twelve Days of Christmas!  So my calendar says it is time for Nine Ladies to start dancing! Don't give up Christmas just yet. Remember History reminds us the Christmas celebration has and can continue much longer than those who end it between December 26th and New Years Day!