Well school has started and I have been super busy but tonight I am taking the time to share a special post with you. My last post was about my thoughts on the ALS challenge. This is a follow up to that post. Jennifer is a very intelligent and hard-working former student of mine. Recently she was piked to do the ice bucket challenge but she suffers from lupus. Instead of declining she hose the opportunity to raise awareness of her own. I applaud her effort and asked her permission to share her post here. I knew that she struggled but I was unaware of all that she has had to endure. I think what she is doing is to be commended and it reminds me that there are many people who need and want our support. So if you are one of those that have criticized the ALS challenge, do what Jennifer did and find a cause that you can support and raise awareness for it. We can never have too much awareness for worthy causes.
“First, I have recently been nominated to do the ALS ice bucket challenge and for medical reasons I must decline. Also, when I donate to a charity I don’t do it for gratification or to get noticed so I won’t be posting whether or not I am donating.
Second, I am raising awareness for a cause that is near and dear to my heart. As many of you know, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus in 2008. Since my diagnosis, my life has spiraled out of control at points. Not a single part of my body has been unaffected by Lupus. I have been diagnosed with Stage 4 lupus nephritis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, arthritis, pleurisy, pneumonia, bronchitis, chronic inflammation, silent migraines, and the list goes on. How does lupus affect me? I wake up at 2:30 / 3:00 every morning not by choice. Many of my medications cause sleeplessness. I toss and turn until about 5:30. I struggle to get out of bed. My body is very contorted at this time because of the arthritis. Most times I cannot brush my own hair or teeth. I start to take a shower, but I can only use hot water. If the water is even luke warm, my fingers, toes, and sometimes nose turn blue. Cold water also causes my lungs to hurt. I continue getting dressed when I want to do is go back to sleep. I then make breakfast which often makes me nauseated because I just took all my medications. By 12:00 pm I need to nap because I am too exhausted. I usually don’t wake up until 3:00 pm. I make lunch / dinner and I am asleep by 7:00. This is a typical day when I don’t work. This doesn’t include the back pain from my kidneys. I need to drink water but when I drink water my lungs fill up with liquid. This also doesn’t include the constant migraines or the auras that cause me to go blind.
It is estimated over 5 million people live with this horrible disease everyday. I urge you to go and read more about it at www.lupus.org. There is also a link to donate.”
If you haven’t seen somebody do the ALS ice-bucket challenge you have probably been living under a rock. If you have an active Facebook page like me then you more than likely see 5 -10 a day. This past week not only did I see videos but I witnessed one in person and my son participated in one. I don’t remember any kind of charity event that has really taken off like this one has. But what has prompted me to write about it is the folks that have been criticizing the challenge. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion and I have no problem with someone who genuinely does not want to participate or cannot donate. As far as I’m concerned that is their business and their choice. What I do have a problem with is those that feel the need to criticize anyone and everyone who has chosen to participate. The reasons they give range from wasting water to people being uninformed and simply doing it for attention. I find the last one a little hypocritical since most of the most of those speaking out against the practice also posted a video. If I was challenged I’m not sure I would do it or donate but I certainly have no problem with anyone that does. I see no problem with bringing awareness to a good cause and I think it is awesome that people are trying to have a little fun while doing something good. It has helped to raise more money than they have ever done for ALS research. But the main reason that I think it is a good thing is I have talked to one friend that has had a relative suffer from ALS and I have seen three videos created by ALS patients. Everyone of the ALS patients has said that each time they see an ALS challenge it gives them hope. Each time they see a challenge awareness is raised and hope is given. Each time they see one they have hope that someone is no more sympathetic and can relate a little more. I can only imagine what it would be like to have an incurable disease. If something as simple as pouring a bucket of ice water on someone’s head gives another person hope then that is a small price to pay. Inspirational author Orison Swett Marden said, “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” Sometimes we can’t give much but if we give hope we have given enough.
For the past week I have been seeing Facebook posts about teachers getting their rooms ready, parents sending their kids to school and students leaving for college. It’s one of my favorite times of year. We all see it differently and it brings so many different emotions.
Very young students are still enthusiastic about the first day of school. They love getting those new backpacks and crayons and it’s all so exciting! It is the parents that have difficulty letting the young ones go. As they get older it becomes less cool to be excited about school the zeal turns to dread and you have to tear them away from their X-Box kicking and screaming.
College freshman are the most extreme. As a high school teacher I have seen it for years. There is the one group that cannot wait to put their high school years far behind them and get started with this new chapter in their life. Some see it as the goal that they have been reaching toward for years. Others see it as the opportunity that their parents never had. A chance to make them proud and at the same time, rise above their current circumstances. Still others just see it as a chance to escape and be on their own and free for the first time in their lives. But not everyone sees it this way. There are those look at college as the wind and waves of a tremendous storm that is about to swallow them. They know the benefits and the opportunities but also recognize that they are leaving their comfort zones, their families and friends. They are leaving high school where many of the decisions were made for them. They realize that this is a time when they will be tested and they will see what they are made of. The beauty is that most of them will conquer that fear and anxiety and rise to new heights that they never imagined and will learn so much about themselves in the process.
That is one of the reasons I love the first day of school. If I could borrow a line from Forrest Gump, “the new school year is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get!” It’s so true. Generally students are the same year after year but individually they are so unique and every student that comes through my door has something different to bring to the table. Some are funny, some are artistic, some are intellectual but many don’t know what they are. Many of them are floundering around trying to find their niche in this world. They may not find it completely in my class but hopefully, together we can take a step toward finding who they are. What I see is that all of them are beautiful and powerful and my job is to help them figure that out. My mind is filled with anticipation about how I can make their life better and how can they change mine. I know that personally I can never really change the world but I have the opportunity to change the world for about 150 students and they in turn can make a difference. I can help them see things they have never seen and they can help me see life from a new perspective. The magic of a new school year and the first day of school is that the possibilities are endless so let’s get it started! Let’s have a great year!
Today I’m not going to write anything except an introduction to a song that most of you have probably never heard but is something that all of us could learn from. The song is Don’t Shoot the Wounded by Chuck Girard
Don’t shoot the wounded, they need us more than ever
They need our love no matter what it is they’ve done
Sometimes we just condemn them,
And don’t take time to hear their story
Don’t shoot the wounded, someday you might be one
It’s easy to love the people who are standing hard and fast
Pressing on to meet that higher calling
But the ones who might be struggling, we tend to judge too harshly
And refuse to try and catch them when they’re falling
We put people into boxes and we draw our hard conclusions
And when they do the things we know they should not do
We sometimes write them off as hopeless
And we throw them to the dogs
Our compassion and forgiveness sometimes seem in short supply
So I say…
We can love them and forgive them
When their sin does not exceed our own
For we too have been down bumpy roads before
But when they commit offenses outside the boundaries we have set
We judge them in a word and we turn them out,
And we close the door
Myself I’ve been forgiven for so many awful things
I’ve been cleansed and washed and bathed so many times
That when I see a brother who has fallen from the way
I just can’t find the license to convict him of his crimes
So I say…
That doesn’t mean we turn our heads when we see a brother sin
And pretend that what he’s doing is all right
But we must help him see his error, we must lead him to repent
Cry with those who cry, but bring their deeds into the light
For it’s the sick that need the doctor,
and it’s the lame that need the crutch
It’s the prodigal who needs the loving hand
For a man who’s in despair, there should be
Kindness from his friends
‘Lest he should forsake the fear of almighty God
And turn away from God and man
So I say…
©1982 Sea of Glass Music/ASCAP
First of all I have a newsflash for all of you. Nobody is perfect! Profound right? Now let me explain why I am stating the obvious. It seems like in this world of imperfect people we somehow expect to find perfect relationships, perfect jobs, perfect families and perfect situations. The closest thing I have had to perfection was a vacation and since I had to pay for that it wasn’t really perfection. Just like two wrongs don’t make a right, two imperfect people cannot make a perfect couple. In the 80s we had The Cosby Show and Family Ties showing us that the perfect couple can have the perfect family and perfect jobs. Even when there was a problem it can be solved in 30 minutes with a perfect solution. Tough problems might take two episodes. I find it very ironic that two of the child actors(Lisa Bonet and Justine Bateman) were going through very real problems while portraying roles in these “perfect” families. The reality is that the perfect job, the perfect spouse, the perfect president or the perfect county doesn’t exist. But you can be happy in imperfection. This is a personal struggle of mine. Without really saying it or consciously thinking it, I was seeking perfection. I have changed jobs several times in my career looking for something better only to find that every job has pros and cons. More importantly I was seeking it in my marriage and the reality was I was letting something beautiful slip away. Instead of seeing and holding onto what I had, I constantly focused on what I didn’t have and what my wife wasn’t doing or providing. How terrible and what a recipe for failure. If we focus on what we don’t have we will be constantly disappointed. John F. Kennedy once said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” I think the same can be said for relationships. Unrealistic expectations and the myth of perfection is destroying many marriages and families. These expectations are also robbing us of our happiness and fulfillment. Life is about choices. It’s about time to choose where your focus will be. As for me, I know she isn’t perfect but I am going to choose to see my wife for what she really is, which is one of the best blessings I have ever received. Thank you Kristen!
It is no secret that the American public is completely and totally enamored with celebrities. Whether singers, actors or sports figures we place these individuals high on pedestals and although it has been this way for many years I feel like it has gotten even larger with so many celebrity gossip magazines, T.V. shows and websites. And I will agree that some of these celebrities are inspirational and are worthy role models. Some have overcome great odds and have become the best at their jobs. But the biggest problem I see with this type of hero-worship is that we forget the people who really built America. The people who have also worked hard to be the best at their chosen profession and do so without ever having accolades, recognition fame or fortune.
Being in a profession like teaching I see this all the time. I have had the privilege of working with so many great and awesome teachers. Teachers and coaches that have worked hard and spent countless hours becoming the best at what they do. They teach and inspire literally thousands of students in their careers and most of them will never be recognized with much more than a small token when they retire. Many like myself are driven by the fact that they didn’t have the opportunity when they were growing up. Coming from homes where they were the first college graduates in their families. And teachers aren’t the only ones. There are ministers that give hope, law enforcement that provide protection, small business owners that genuinely want to help their customers while making their own living and the list could go on and on. I think about my own students that I have taught. Most of them will never know fame and fortune although I am confident that many of them will become the best in their chosen fields by overcoming great odds and rising from humble beginnings.
Lately I’ve been asking the question, “Is the United States still the greatest country?” There are many arguments against it. But it is these people who continue to do their jobs at a high level and to the best of their ability that will ensure that America will remain great. The foundation of this country is the common people who do ordinary things extremely well. The average joe that sees his job as anything but average and the people who keep pushing forward through difficult times. I encourage you to tell someone you appreciate the job they do today. As a matter of fact anytime you see someone do something that get little or no credit let them know that they inspire you. We may not all be heroes but we can be role models and we can maintain he integrity of this nation and continue to make it great.
Well it’s August 1st which means in 8 days I turn 50. Some people cringe at getting older but my attitude is that I am going to appreciate it and wear it like a badge of honor. I’ve explained in an earlier post about why I feel that it is special. I wrote an earlier blog about ideas to make my year special and I received many good ideas. I appreciate everyone that contributed. Unfortunately I can’t do everything that was suggested. In same cases I just don’t have the time and in others I just don’t have the money but some of them are now on my bucket list. So today I’m going to tell you about what I plan to do in my 50th year and what I have learned as I thought about it.
As I said in my earlier blog post I want my 50th year celebration to be a tribute to my brothers and I want to honor their lives. There is a quote from Henry David Thoreau that I have always loved. He says:
As I thought about what I was going to do this year I did learn a great deal about myself and life. I could fill the year with many grand travel plans and exciting adventures that everyone would be envious of. But if I focused on that it would take away from the little things that happen in my life every day that make it worth living. So yes I will do a few big things along the way but more importantly I am going to pay more attention to the things that happen that make life real and not take them for granted. So here is a partial list of the things I plan to do for my 50th year.
1) Spend more time outdoors. Me and my brothers grew up on a farm. We rode horses, worked cattle, went hunting, worked in the garden and did general farm work. We worked outside and played outside. For the first 18 years of my life being out in nature was part of who I was. I’ve gotten away from that. This year I plan to reclaim that part of my past. I’m going to spend the morning of my birthday watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico while I listen to the waves crash on the shore. I can’t think of too many things that could be better than this.
2) Take a picture of something every day that is meaningful. Some days that will be something with huge significance but most days it will be something small or even mundane. But if we don’t find these small things meaningful we will never enjoy life or understand it.
3) Do something nice for an individual every day and give handwritten notes of encouragement to people every day. After all, it is the people in our lives that really make it worth living.
4) Visit as many places as time and money will allow. That may be Washington D.C. or the Grand Canyon or the Stockyards in Ft. Worth. We never traveled much when we were kids so it is always a huge thing to see something “big” or go some place just to say we have been there. I’ll always remember seeing Bob at the beach and listening to Johnny talk about all the places he got to go with his job. For us the simple experience means a great deal.
5) Rediscover family. Now that I have lost so much of my family it has become more important to me. There is a wedding in October and I am going to go. There is a date set aside every year to visit the old communities in Ft. Hood where my dad and all of his family lived and grew up. I’m going to go. I want to look at every picture and talk to everyone I can about who our family was because I don’t want to lose it. It’s also a part of who I am.
I think that this is a good list. A list that reminds me of what life is and what is important in it. Thank you again for all of the suggestions and thank you for the continued support on my blog.