It’s Movember, the first Saturday in November. There is a chill in the air and after a couple of days of gentle rain to soak the ground, it looks like the skies will clear and it will be a sunny day. I can only hope.
Last week at the time, I was just waking up. Friday night I watched W play his last football game of the season and then driven north to the cottage for fall cleanup and a couple of last season chores. Saturday morning I was alone. The phone was ringing and I needed to answer it. I must have sounded horrible because my mom asked if I was okay. I was okay, just exhausted and spent. But, it was a good thing, I told her I would call her back and I crawled out of bed. I brushed my teeth, started the coffee, and began the day. I was still sleepy as I looked out onto the lake, shrouded in grey with the windows splattered with rain. It was a dreary day. It was windy, cold, and wet; perfect weather for a day spent in the yard raking and doing fall cleanup. I sipped my coffee and stared out onto the lake. The lake has power, even a grey cloudy rainy day lake. It has the power to relax, the power to heal, and the power to rejuvenate. I needed the lake and the cottage needed me. I called my mom back, sipped my coffee, and gazed out at the lake as we talked.
I made a few more calls before I started my chores – I checked in at home and with my mother-in-law and we talked football, fall leaves, and working in the yard at the cottage. I ribbed her about her favorite teams and she poked back, too. I hung up the phone, made my list, and got started on my chores.
I began with the crawl space. When I had been down below this summer, it had been damp and moist. I spent a couple of days underneath the cottage cleaning, venting, and insulating hauling garbage out and crawling on my hands and knees. I still crawled on my hands and knees, but the space was much drier – mostly due to the shift to cooler drier air, but also due to having all of the vents open. I closed the vents, popped the covers in and climbed out. Less than twenty minutes of work and I had finished the most important job of the trip – with the vents closed, I knew the pipes were safe from freezing for another winter. The next job was working in the yard – cleaning up the wilted lilies, Hostas, and leaves. We have a yard service that takes care of mowing, but they don’t do a fall cleanup. And, even if they did, I don’t think it would suit grandpa. He and grandma used to do it, but can’t anymore so it is my job now, and one day it will be William and Olivia’s job.
At school, my students have been working hard, have too, but just in a different way. We are both learning and growing, because learning never ends and if it did living would end, too. We all have to keep moving, learning, and living – and if we do, it will all stop. We’ve been reading all sorts of literature: The Giver, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy, an Eleanor Roosevelt speech, a song by Michael Jackson – “Man in the Mirror,” another song by John Mayer “Waiting on the World to Change, and many more stories. The central theme was community and up front, we challenged the students to think about the question – can an individual (or individuals) impact a community? As we adults, we know the answer, or at least we should, but twelve year-old adolescents are not as worldly ad experienced as the older generation. As John Mayer croons in “Waiting on the World to Change,”
Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
There is power in adolescence and power in adults, too: as with all things, control and direction are essential. As we read, learned, and navigated our way through the first quarter, I reflected on my own place in the community – in all of my roles. Am I impacting change in the community? Am I impacting others? Is what I am doing helping me help others? Big questions, but another big question loomed – could I, or would I; ask for help when I need it? Many times those first few months of the year I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know which way to turn. I felt guilt that I wasn’t keeping up with my community roles – father, husband, friend, teacher, learner, son, or citizen. None of them.
It was a rainy, cold wet, windy, miserable late October day. The weather was confused; sunny one moment, cloudy the next. As I stared out onto the lake confused, overwhelmed, and indecisive about where to begin my chores, there was a knock at the door. I opened to find my neighbor and my friend offering his help. Earlier in the summer, he had mentioned he could give me a hand and now he was here at my door. I put on a jacket, got some gloves, a rake and we started. He has all the tools anyone could need and with his tools and my rake, we got the yard finished. He ran the shredder, the whipper, and the blower. I raked and piled and his wife jumped in to help, too. She raked and drove the tractor – dumping the yard waste. We were finished in less than half an afternoon. I am grateful and thankful for the help and glad I answered the knock. I sent a before and after photo to B. My friends said I should take all the glory and credit and claim I did it all by myself, but that wouldn’t be true or fair. I couldn’t have done it without help. Sometimes, I need help. I need to ask for help more than I do, but when I do get help, I need to give back. Pay it forward.
That night, we went to dinner together and it was a good time. The food was good, but the company was even better, it made the trip complete. An individual can make a difference, I know it, but last weekend I experienced it.
Sunday morning, I had grand plans of waking early and working, but instead I slept. I needed it. I woke just as the sun was rising. I sipped my coffee and watched the lake feeling its power of the lake. I finished the odd jobs, wrote in the guest book, and was on my way home as the skies cleared and the sun came out. I was over half way home, past Grand Rapids when the sun was setting bringing the day to a close. I got home as W was finishing prepping for his US History test, and O was getting ready to go to bed. Good timing, I got my usual enthusiastic greeting from Ivy and all was good.
Sunday evening until now has been a blur. I stayed late Monday and Tuesday evenings to work, grade, and prepare for class. I would have done the same on Wednesday, but I didn’t feel well and came home midday, shocking B when I opened the front door. Thursday was Halloween and a rainy day, I pulled into the driveway as the rain ended and the trick or treating began. O went as a vampire and came home with a huge bag of candy, just what we needed. But, there is power in the fun of Halloween, just as there is power in the lake to restore and heal. Friday was the last day of the week and the first playoff game away in Southside Chicago. B and O went, W worked the sidelines with the training staff, and I stayed at school to work getting updates on Twitter and texts. The Tigers won and play next week at home. The only real highlight of the week was shaving my goatee Tuesday night getting ready for Movember.
Wednesday at school, I got some odd looks from my students and last year’s students when they realized I had shaved. At the start of class, they all asked why I had shaved and when I explained why, they were full of suggestions for my new ‘do.’ I shaved to change the face of men’s heath and raise awareness of men’s health issues: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. I attempted to get a few of my male colleagues to join me in my hairy journey, but it appears I am a ’lone wolf.’ But, an individual can make an impact, one moustache at a time. It looks to be a fun month as I try to grow a moustache. We’ll see how it goes in more than one way.
In the meantime, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and it is gonna be a great day. It starts with one step, followed by another; one person can make a difference, one step at a time. So, I had better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Today is gonna be a great day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one moustache at a time.
Any suggestions? Mo wise?