Thankful, once more and always…

The turkey is roasting and it smells delicious. B and O, my wife and daughter, are still out of town. They’ve loaded the car, but haven’t hit the road, yet.

I’ve alluded to it in the last several posts but haven’t been direct. B’s mother and my mother-in-law, my favorite mother-in-law, I might add, passed away a week ago Monday morning. The funeral was last Saturday. Her wake, funeral, post-funeral gathering was a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman who led an extraordinary life. She leaves behind three children, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and seven grandchildren. We will miss her.

I drove home with W, my son, Sunday afternoon. He slept, I drove thinking about the two days I had to teach my 8th graders.

Instead, I thought of all of the parts of my life for which I have to give thanks.

I am thankful for so much. I am third.

I am thankful for my faith in God, who has sustained me over the last several years as our families have struggled with loss.

I have a wonderful family, a great wife and kids, and a great dog, too. My mom, step-mom, my brothers, my wife’s brother, sister-in-law, her sister, and all of nieces and nephews, who are strong role models for my two children and always make time for them. Continue reading Thankful, once more and always…

Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

My friend Scott sent his guest post to me Monday afternoon; and it’s now Wednesday, not Tuesday. It’s been that kind of week or so. I’ve known Scott since our school opened up in ’01.He teaches health education in the building and is a writer, too. He writes at Life is the Future and is planning to ‘Bite the Bullet’ this coming year. We were talking and writing came up – neither knew the other wrote, it’s interesting how that all works. I knew he loved music and collected vinyl. We got to talking and he agreed to guest post here at Making the Days Count. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do, too. I am thankful for friends like Scott, have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Some of my favorite memories come with a soundtrack. Of course, almost all my memories come with a soundtrack—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

In teaching discussions, and even in life conversations, I make it no secret that music has helped me stay alive this long. Music has been one of my constants in a lifetime of change. It has seen me age, and awkwardly so. It has seen me make bad decisions, and dread repercussion. It has seen me laugh, cry, and scream. It has taken me across the country on the kick of a dream. It has kept me home in the arms of my family.

While writing, I rarely do any stream of consciousness without it. And even then, when the editing grip finally takes hold, I can hear the echo in the embers. It’s in pieces, in manic-depressant fits of stress and relaxation. Like dust motes in the blank stare of a daydream, music can fill space or demand attention. Depending on the mood, music confirms or denies feelings of self-worth, vents of frustration, and outbursts of elation.

Pop music of my childhood combined with the classics from my parents, which led me to being introduced to other styles of music. The alternative music boom of the 80’s and 90’s paved the way for exactly what I needed: the edgy, angsty hooks of punk rock.

I was about 14 when I found punk music. Coming from a fairly normal and fortunate upbringing, punk rock didn’t represent a distaste for life, necessarily, but it hit home as it satisfied a very natural need of adolescence: to question everything. Question the norm, question the rules, question the answers, question existence… question oneself.

A punk song may never change the world, but I could tell you a few that changed me. Which means, by virtue, punk rock does exactly what it sets out to do.

If you’ve been there, you know; people are drawn to punk for many reasons, all unique to each individual. For me, the attitude of the music and lyrics was easy to relate to. But songs with societal meaning registered just as much as the galloping riffs that accompanied those often-indiscernible words. (Good thing for liner notes.) The punk community is one that offends the mainstream with no mercy but all in the demand for tolerance and equity. Racial and class lines be damned.

Identity in school, as in life, remains just as difficult a topic as ever. In my case, not following pre-set expectations made a lot of sense… classifications, stereotypes, cliques all seemed dumb and immature. Counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t a person be interested in a variety of things, and hang out with lots of different people? Funny enough, finding like-minded friends and having that kinship of a social circle is essential in teenage development.

Cue the music. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

I am a teacher. I teach kids history, some kids get it and others, will get it later.

We are studying the period in US History right after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution – the first fifty years from President Washington to President Jackson. On Monday morning when my students sat down in class for the new unit, I challenged them to name as many presidents as they could. I gave them ten minutes.

I had taken the same challenge the week before. I got 42 presidents and had 41 of them in chronological order. Give it a whirl and post your number with your comment.

The average for my students was 11. The high was 34 and the low was two. I do not think the ‘2’ tried, the next low was six, which is about right.

Tuesday was my birthday and I modelled the reading and thinking process with my students.

Wednesday was Veterans Day and my students learned the meaning of the day and the inspiration behind the poppy symbol.

all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies....
all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies….

Thursday I continued modelling and gave them homework – finish President Washington and we will review Friday in class.

Yesterday was Friday and in class, we were reviewing George Washington’s second term and the Neutrality Act came up. George Washington was an isolationist and believed in the dangers of political factions and parties. Essentially, he was a Federalist believing in the power of a strong centralized government. Alexander Hamilton Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury and architect of our financial system agreed with Washington. On the other side of the argument were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – writers of two of our most important documents – the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, respectively. Jefferson and Madison argued against being neutral and siding with France.

Once again, I used music to make my point and I played “Cabinet Battle #2” from Hamilton: An American Musical.

They got it, I think. “…if you don’t know, now you know. Mr. President.….”

Washington listened and issued the Neutrality Act, Britain removed her troops from American soil, but is didn’t solve the problems of the day. Continue reading Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

toujours marcher le front haut

My mind is in a million places this morning – it has been for last several weeks.

B, my wife, is home with her mother, where she needs to be. Last weekend, we – the kids and I, along with Ivy, traveled up north to do fall cleanup at the cottage. We started yard work Friday afternoon but stopped. It rained all Saturday and I did not want to get wet, so we did our fall cleanup on Sunday morning and afternoon. It felt good to be away and be up north.

We came home Sunday night knowing we had a tough week ahead.

The kids and I have been on our own since last Thursday – over a week – and the week has been hectic – I had parent teacher conferences Thursday evening and all day Friday. O had a recognition breakfast at her school yesterday morning and I was able to go. I am in impressed with her, and her brother. They are great kids and B and I are blessed, though sometimes we don’t realize how blessed we are.

My mind has drifted back to July 2009 off and on for the last several weeks. It was when my dad had moved to hospice. My brothers and I would visit his bedside and talk to him – he was unconscious and Warren, David, and I would talk and tell ‘dad’ stories – funny stories to us, and maybe to him. I think he heard us, but more importantly, it was for us – to remember him for how he lived and how he shaped us.

It’s been over six years since he passed away and over five years since we spread his cremains in norther France.

My mind has been on school and my teaching – I was observed in my class over a week ago – it’s part of the evaluation process and it is highly stressful. I got my feedback Wednesday afternoon and it was good, very good. My principal, my evaluator, gave me some goals to work toward and that is on my mid as well, one of the million or so things on my mind.

I received an e-mail from one of my students yesterday and I discovered it this morning. I read her e-mail and watched the video clip she sent. I laughed. Here is video…..

It was a clip from a song from the play Hamilton. It made my morning and I was already in a reflective mood, so I responded. Here it is what I sent my student. Continue reading toujours marcher le front haut

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treat

I awoke feeling well rested for the first time in a long time, I got a good night’s sleep and if hadn’t been for Ivy – the dog wonder – I would have had an even longer sleep. We are up north for a short weekend of yard cleanup and it is a treat; even working up here is a treat.

Friday afternoon... treat
Friday afternoon… treat

We drove up yesterday and arrived with plenty of time to do a large part of the yard cleanup we had planned, but my helpers were exhausted and I was, too. So, I decided to quit, go out for dinner, and get a good night’s sleep. I thought it was a good call. Not so, the weather played a trick on me. Yesterday was cool and cloudy, but this morning it began to lightly rain, it was dark when Ivy woke me – even though it was a little before seven AM and I could hear the gentle rain on the deck. I let Ivy outside; she sniffed around, came back inside, and snuggled up on the cushion at my feet while I sipped my coffee. Treat.

I don’t like doing yard work in the rain, but that’s what it looks like is gonna happen. Trick.

Who are the guys? trick
Who are the guys? trick

It’s Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve. Continue reading Weekly Photo Challenge: Treat

Admire: I am Third

piccoloLast Saturday, I was at the French Market. It was a beautiful morning, the skies were clear and there was a chill in the air – it’s fall and the temperatures are slowly dropping. The week before had been chilly, too. I was waiting for B, my wife, to meet me and I wandered upon a vendor’s stall – a bookseller, even better a used bookseller. I skimmed the shelves looking for titles I knew, I recognized several from my youth and young adulthood, but my eyes stumbled across I am Third by Gale Sayers and my eyes locked. I picked it from the shelf, leafed through the pages, and read the side notes and endnotes. I remembered reading it when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school though I forget which year, at the time, I believed I had a future as an athlete – a football player.

The book was the basis for the television movie, Brian’s Song. I remember watching it with my dad and I remember crying at the end, I still cry when I think of it.

I read the book several years after the movie appeared on television. The book is better, much better, the book usually is.

verb ad·mire \əd-ˈmī(-ə)r\
: to feel respect or approval for (someone or something)
: to look at (something or someone) with enjoyment

Origin of ADMIRE
Middle French admirer, to marvel at, from Latin admirari, from ad- + mirari to wonder, from mirus astonishing from Merriam-Webster Dictionary @

Our family reached a milestone this past Friday, actually two.

Friday was O’s birthday. She turned 13 at 8:35 AM, but we began celebrating when she woke Friday morning.

Friday was also W’s last high school football game. It was Senior Night. He suited up and was introduced with all of the other seniors running on to the field through the tunnel after being the last senior introduced. Being last sometimes is one of the perks of having a ‘W’ for a last name. He didn’t play a single down, nor did four other seniors, which is disappointing, but in retrospect, W has made his mark in the football program in other ways.

Continue reading Admire: I am Third

Sunday Morning and ideas

Sunday comes after Saturday, and a full week; so it’s no surprise that it’s another Sunday morning. CBS Sunday Morning is on the television in front of me and I can watch with one eye and one listen with one ear. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t because I am easily distracted and drift off and watch with both eyes and listen with both ears, not good for a day with several chores and much schoolwork lying ahead.

But, I watch and listen adjusting the volume up and down as needed, because sometimes I get an idea for a lesson, or maybe even a post. Or, maybe it makes my life a tad bit richer than it was before I switched it on.

a ten dollar bill.....
a ten dollar bill…..

Last week slipped by in a blur of days and activities. The week was four days long due to the Columbus Day holiday and when Friday’s 3 PM dismissal bell rang school was done, but I was not finished. There was more to do with the time than I had, a common problem I encounter.

Tuesday afternoon, I volunteered to play music at the 8th girls’ volleyball game after school. Tuesday was pink out – for Breast Cancer Awareness and the 8th grade girls played in homemade pink jerseys. A week earlier, I had given each of my students a pink pencil in honor of Melinda and her mom who was taken too early in July 2000. The same day I changed the banner of my blog to pink pencils – the odd colored pencils in the banner, represent women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. I enjoyed playing music between games and during timeouts, and so did the girls and their parents. One of the girl’s teams won, the other lost, but it was time well spent. Thursday in class, the girls asked if I would play music for their playoff game that afternoon, so I did. They came up short and their season is finished, but the lessons they learned this season will last a lifetime. Sometimes, what is pressing is not as important as building relationships.

Last week in history class, we finished studying the American Revolution and began our study of the next steps in democracy – for the young nation, it was figuring out what was next. They started with the Articles of Confederation and soon discovered the Articles needed amending and wrote the Constitution. It was messy and each state and each delegate had their own ideas of which direction to move. Several men stepped forward and advanced their ideas – Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Hamilton are the few we remember – here are the rest…. Founding Fathers.

My eight graders were wondering what was in it for them, they wondered,

“Why do we need to learn this?”

Continue reading Sunday Morning and ideas

The Happy Place: A Photo Challenge

It’s Sunday morning. Sunday is usually the last day of the weekend, but this weekend brings a holiday on Monday – Columbus Day. So, our ‘Sunday’ is Monday, and we get an extra day to renew and restore.

Last night, B and I waited up as long as we could but we finally fell asleep when W, our oldest, came home after the high school homecoming dance – his last. Our daughter O, and youngest, started off at a friend’s house across the street, then went to see a movie.

Saturdays are busy for our family, W plays football and is on the field Friday night for the varsity game, but plays Saturday morning in the JV game. O plays softball and her games are on Saturday afternoon. And, there are chores, too stuff that doesn’t get done during the week.

Last night, I ordered pizza – pepperoni, onion, and garlic with extra sauce, in case you wondered. B and I shared it watching baseball (the Cubs) and then, college football trying to stay awake. I knew it would be a late night, late enough to post this response to the Word Press Photo Challenge – Happy Place. But, I couldn’t write struggling for focus and I decided to finish Sunday morning.

I’d been to one of my ‘happy places’ Saturday morning. Sunday, we’ll drive west to another ‘happy place,’ and then spend Monday finishing the weekend together – chores and preparing for the coming week.

I am happy, almost always, in almost any place, I am reasonable flexible person, but there are times when there is comfort in small, simple things. Saturday brought one; Sunday will bring another.

W’s JV football game was at 8:30 Saturday morning, he had to be at school at 6:45 and he was a difficult young man to awaken. It took several trips upstairs before his feet hit the floor and he began to move.

W’s JV team won their game and he played, but that’s another story, for another time. This football season has been a lesson in adversity for W and his senior class.

After the game, I asked B if she wanted to go to the French Market. She smiled and replied, ‘”yes.” I drove and picked the route, choosing a longer but more peaceful tranquil over the more heavily travelled shorter path.

Yesterday morning was a picture perfect early fall morning with crisp cool temperatures and a clear blue endless sky; perfect weather for a Tiger win and a visit to the French Market.

it’s fall and the leaves are turning, soon falling….

I wanted to visit my flower vendor, Ari’s Flowers. I love their flowers and I’ve been posting them often this fall. We had struck up a conversation several weeks ago and I shared that I planned to give all of my students a pink Ticonderoga pencil to honor a former student, Melinda and her late mom and Breast Cancer Awareness month. She mentioned that she was a breast cancer survivor and wanted to for something my students, too. Last week I gave her a package of the pink pencils when I stopped in to buy my anniversary roses and she reminded me to come back this week. Continue reading The Happy Place: A Photo Challenge

Tuesday’s Tune: “Love and Marriage”

Monday was our anniversary. It was our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. It seems like the other day I was waiting for my mom and step-mother on the sidewalk outside the church. They had gotten lost on the way from the hotel to the church. I can’t blame them, it’s easy to get lost on country roads. I still get lost when I go back to Ohio for a short visit and I get off the beaten track.

My brother David and I had been pacing outside the church, waiting. My other sister-in-law, B’s older sister had checked on us and asked what was up. It was the time before cell phones or at least inexpensive cell phones and few folks had one. I had no idea, I explained I thought they were lost. She seemed to accept it and went back inside the church. I can only imagine what was going through B’s head.

They arrived, more than several minutes late – my mom, step-mother, and sister-in-law climbed out of the car and hurried inside. My mom apologized and I smiled a nervous smile and muttered, “You’re off the Christmas card list,” under my breath.

I was kidding, of course. She gets a Christmas card every year and a call Christmas morning to wish her a Merry Christmas. She reminds me she got her Christmas card. And, we laugh.

She also reminds me that if they had arrived on time, the sunbeam, that had illuminated B and I at the precise moment we said our vows, would have missed us. Completely missed us, divine providence.

Much happens in 24 years – kids are born, parents and other family members pass away, there are job changes, career shifts, smiles, laughter, people change and grow, and all sorts of things that make a marriage strong. There are other highs and lows of life along the way.

I have much more grey hair than I did in 1991. Then, it was just coming in, and it’s longer, too. But, I still have my laugh and sense of humor and sarcastic wit, forged by experience and life’s hard lessons. I’ve learned to shovel snow, rake leaves, and be somewhat of a happy handyman that comes with being a homeowner.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one without the other

Frank Sinatra is right, you can’t have one without the other.

Saturday morning I was at the flower market and got a dozen pink roses. They are beautiful, like B. They’ll last the week and then some, if we care them, like a marriage.

It was a busy weekend and time got away from writing, but that’s okay. I had time for the important stuff – family and love. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Love and Marriage”

Bump in the road, moving forward

It’s Saturday morning and it’s quiet. Ivy was excited to see me this morning when I came downstairs. We we sat together outside for a few moments while I sipped my coffee and listened to the world. She followed me in when it was time to begin the day. It’s always quiet Saturday mornings, before the kids awake and move on to their activities.

Sicily-Rome Amereican Cemetery photo courtesy of of
Sicily-Rome Amereican Cemetery photo courtesy of of

Several weeks ago, I alluded to working on a BIG project and handing it in.

from : Quiet Saturday Mornings (9/5) ……. I reached a milestone, too, I finished a big project and I turned it in yesterday afternoon. I got the confirmation this morning. It’s too soon to write about, but I’ll report back when I receive news – keep your fingers crossed for me. Thanks.

Thank you for good wishes. I received the news yesterday morning, and I wasn’t selected. Continue reading Bump in the road, moving forward