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 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 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!