Tag Archives: seventh grade

Bible Sunday

Fifteen years ago today, I was teaching seventh grade geography and the counselor walked into the room at the end of second period, she looked upset and out of sorts. After the bell rang and dismissed my second period class, another class entered, the students got to their seats, and the bell rang. Before the third period class began, the counselor read a short prepared statement that changed my day and told us that the course of history for our nation and the world had changed forever. I don’t remember what she read, but she left immediately afterwards and the room felt like the air had been sucked out of it. Somehow, we all made it through that day and over the course of the next few days we learned the true horror of that day.

our flag flies at half-mast today,
our flag flies at half-mast today,

This morning, fifteen years later, 9/11 is a Sunday. This time it is Bible Sunday for our church’s third and eighth graders. Eighth grade is the confirmation and class and O waited excitedly for her Bible. She was born over a year after 9/11 and for her, 9/11 holds only the meaning that we have tried to share with her. She didn’t experience it, nor did she know what the United States was like before 9/11. She only knows what it is like now.

In April 2015, on our way home from Spring Break in Washington, D. C. we stopped at the Flight 93 – 9/11 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We will never forget.

This morning, I watched my sweet daughter O beam with excitement when she received her Bible and she could barely contain herself when she returned to the pew to sit with us for the rest of the service. She fidgeted throughout the sermon and helped me find the closing hymn in the hymnal – “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations.” We sang it as John Wesley instructed congregations in his Instructions for Singing from 1761, we payed attention to #4,

“Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength …

It was a wonderful service and the hymn was a reminder that though much has changed for our nation and the world, our principles continue to survive. May we never forget. Continue reading Bible Sunday

reminders

I have wonderful children and they teach me as much as I teach them, most of the time. Sometimes more. It’s been hectic this week, I’ve been Mr. Mom and Mr. Dad. B’s out of town helping her sister and I have been the only sheriff in town, so to speak. B’s on her way back tonight and we’ll be whole again tomorrow.

Dulles Jr. High Vikings - seventh grade gold - can you find me?
Dulles Jr. High Vikings – seventh grade gold – can you find me?

This afternoon, we were running errands and on our way home. O was talking about her day at school. I don’t know how it came up, but she was explaining what happened in math class. It went something like this……

“Dad, do you give your kids homework passes?” O asked.

“No, I don’t.” I replied. “Why do you ask? Continue reading reminders

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.

vinyl_scott

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

Tuesday’s Tune: “Back on the Chain Gang”

learningtocrawlTuesday, it’s almost over. But, there’s enough time remaining on the clock for a Tuesday’s Tune post.

It’s been a full day. I’ve been pushing my kids at school in history and science. In history, we’re covering the period immediately before the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. In my science class, I tossed six pop cans in a bin of water and asked students to explain why some float and some sink. They’re vexed. I stayed late to work on grading and arrived home long enough to take the trash out before heading off to a scout meeting.

one Coca-Cola can floats, the other sinks, why?
one Coca-Cola can floats, the other sinks, why?

This past weekend heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area Friday afternoon. Friday night is football night, at least for the next five weeks. The rain wasn’t enough to stop W’s football game, but the lightning was and it pushed W’s game from Friday night to Saturday night.

W’s football team was playing a school from my school district and I knew, or had taught, several of the players, when they were in middle school.

I signed up to work the chain gang – the group of men who work the yard markers during the game. I worked the ‘chain gang’ the first home football game of the season – the game we won and it was fun. It’s an interesting perspective being on the sideline during a football game, especially on the visiting team’s side.

my view from the sidelines - the chain gang is up close
my view from the sidelines – the chain gang is up close

There are four of us on the chain gang. One person manages the down marker that also doubles as the line of scrimmage marker – from where the ball snapped and put into play. Two others manage the ‘chain’ two markers linked with a ten-yard chain – the distance needed for a first down. Then, there was me, I ran the clip, or the marker, that would be used if the game officials needed to measure for a first down. My job was to move the clip every time the chain was moved for a first down or change of possession. And, of course watch the game without with rooting for the Tigers. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Back on the Chain Gang”

Connected

It’ has been almost a month since I responded to a Word Press weekly photo challenge. I’ve been doing the photo challenges off and on since Mary from Wilderness of Words introduced me to them. Thank you, Mary.

The photo challenges have me connected with a different way of sharing how I make the days count, every day. This week’s challenge is connected. The verb “connect” is among the most versatile ones in contemporary usage. We turn to it to describe an emotional click with another person, but also to talk about the status of our (ever-proliferating) gadgets. The word has it’s origins in Latin

con + nectre

which in Latin translates ‘to bind with’ using the word formula

con means with and nectre means to bind, 

word meaning = suffix meaning + root meaning + prefix meaning

Once upon a time, I taught English Language Arts and we studied word parts and word part meanings. Continue reading Connected

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

It was good to talk with you this past Sunday and great to hear your voice. I am glad you got the letter I wrote in Michigan.

I gonna sit right down and right myself a letter....
I gonna sit right down and right myself a letter….

I write a lot about growing up on my blog. I reflect and write how growing up made me who I am, why I do what I do, and why I think the way I think. I have never taken an accounting of the balance on my blog posts between you and dad. If I had to guess at a ratio, it would be mostly dad, about 70 – 30. Abraham Lincoln said it best, or maybe wrote it:

“The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.”

The complete quote is, “There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All these are links in the endless chain stretching from the finite to the infinite.”  From the Lincoln Nobody Knows by Richard M. Current (1958).

But, it really should be 50-50, after all I am a product of the two of you.

Every once in a while I’ll call to thank you for something or to apologize for all of the headaches and heartaches I put you through growing up, especially that period between 13 to 25. I don’t know how you did it considering since that period of time was magnified three-fold and lasted until we all grew up.

Growing up is a process and I continue to grow and mature, even at my age. When I stop learning and growing, it’ll be time.

Thank you for all that you shared with me that shaped me into who I am.

I love to cook because you love to cook. You taught me that it was okay to fail, as long as I learned from it and moved on. Your maxim of no comments until after dinner is good advice for a cook. You taught me to be open to new foods and even though we were young, we all remember Julia Child’s kidney recipe as well as Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, S.O.S. – dad’s recipe from the Marine Corps – and so many other foods and dishes. Continue reading Dear Mom,

40 years ago, today – part 2: Camels in the Night

I had seen a car crashes and crushed cars, but I had never seen a car tossed to the side of the road and left behind destroyed after hitting a camel. I will always remember the drive from Dhahran to Riyadh across the Saudi Arabian desert in the middle of a hot July night with my dad, my new stepmother, and Warren and David, my two brothers. I was thirteen and it was 1975. It was the summer between my seventh and eighth grade. It was my summer vacation, it was our summer vacation, and we were driving across the desert to spend the summer with my dad in Riyadh. When my parents divorced, the divorce agreement gave him forty-five days of summer visitation and monthly visits, which were impossible because we lived in Sugar Land and he lived eight thousand miles away in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When I first learned, I was going to spend the summer in Riyadh with my two brothers, a summer in Saudi Arabia sounded exotic and exciting, but soon the feeling of leaving and leaving my friends, my home, and fun things in our neighborhood made me resent my dad and the trip.

my passport - issued in 1973
my passport – issued in 1973

Our summer vacation had begun normally. School let out and we were able to see our friends and have fun in the neighborhood. However, I knew, really and the three of us knew we would be leaving for at least a month to see my dad in Saudi Arabia. To get ready for our trip we had to get new passports and have our immunizations updated. We had our pictures taken and went to the health department in downtown Houston to have our cholera shot. The shot didn’t hurt, though the hustle and bustle of getting ready made getting ready for a trip I didn’t want to go on even more difficult. We also had to pack and make sure we had the things we needed especially, the medicines I needed and the shots for my asthma and allergies that my mom gave each week. It is hard to remember everything you need, until you need it. Finally, my dad came over to pick us up and fly with us. As glad as I was to see my dad, I knew his arrival meant we were really going and that made me sad. Continue reading 40 years ago, today – part 2: Camels in the Night

40 years ago, today

My parents divorced in 1975. I was in seventh grade and twelve years old. After the divorce, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia, remarried, and started over. My dad had visitation rights each weekend and half the summer – 45 days. The weekends were a moot point – a weekend commute of almost 8,000 miles one-way was not practical. Especially in 1975. My communication with dad was limited: letters took weeks to traverse back and forth with a reply. I have most of the letters saved in a box in the basement. Phone calls were too expensive and the connection was shaky, too.

sugarland_saudi_)map

Forty years later a much has changed, but a weekly commute still is not practical. There is the internet with e-mail, blogs, Skype, and more. Even a phone call is made easier, too.

summer75_before
the four of us – Warren, dad, me, David – taken before the trip in front of the garage

That first summer, my dad got us for 45 days, the summer of ’75. I think it was more my mom sent us to dad. All three of us, at the same time. I have memories, my passport, getting shots, a few slide pictures from the trip, but not much else. Memories come back in bits and pieces, jogged by an anniversary or a probing conversation with my brothers or mom. Sometimes those conversations are painful and the memories are not there and have been lost. Continue reading 40 years ago, today

It’s a Girl! Throwback Thursday Edition

It snuck up on me, I don’t know how it did, but it did. Today is O’s birthday. She’s 12 and it doesn’t seem possible. I remember the morning we went to the hospital. The delivery was scheduled and B’s parents were here from Ohio to keep an eye on W and help where they could. When we came home with O – she didn’t have an official name, yet – we would decide between two choices: O and Hannah. We stuck with O and I’m glad.

October 23, 2002 - "It's a Girl" fly from the mailbox and leaves litter the ground. It's fall.
October 23, 2002 – “It’s a Girl” fly from the mailbox and leaves litter the ground. It’s fall.

So much has happened between then and now – O’s growing up and is now in sixth grade. Sometimes, she’s sassy, but most of the time she’s my O.

Today’s her birthday; and there will be more birthdays to come. There will be more growing and probably a lot more sass, definitely a lot more sass; but she’ll still be my O, and B’s too, but I write this blog, so she’s mine for now.

Last night we looked through the photos of her first day and we snuggled, laughed, and cried. It was a special day twelve years ago and I captured it with our first digital camera. The photos look grainy but we don’t have similar photos of W – he’s pre-digital and I didn’t think to bring a camera into the delivery room when he was born.

O and I - less than an hour old all swaddled and warm...
O and I – she’s less than an hour old and all swaddled and warm…

Since that first camera, we’ve had five more – including the two we are using now. And, we have loads of photos, more than I can process. I am not including our phones, which happen to have better cameras than that first digital camera from 2002.

O came into the world about 8:35 AM on a Wednesday morning. I had a sub in my classroom and my students were researching in the library. I don’t have a sub this morning, but I’ll share the photo and a memory. Later this morning, my science students will be researching in the library – just twelve years later; my how some things change and some things simply stay the same.

B's parents welcome O - grandpa passed away this summer - we miss him dearly - glad we had the memories of his laugh and the twinkle in his eye...
B’s parents welcome O – grandpa passed away this past summer – we miss him dearly – glad we had the memories of his laugh and the twinkle in his eye…

Tonight, will have dinner and a cake – a delicious Italian Cream Cake. It’s our birthday cake, homemade with real buttermilk and frosted with cream cheese frosting. You can’t beat it. A birthday in our home isn’t the same without it. But for now, I’d better get moving. It’s gonna be a great day. I know it and I can feel it, so I had better jump up, jump in and seize the day. Making the days Count, one day at a time, one memory, and one birthday at a time.

Have you ever come close to forgetting a birthday? Or, let one sneak up on you?

Think PINK – Freedom Rock

I have been to two funerals as a teacher. I do not want to go to another funeral again. Ever.

Both funerals I attended were in my first two years as a teacher. Actually, the first funeral was in the summer of between my first and second years of teaching. It was awful. The second was less than a year later. It was just as awful. I have not been to another funeral since though one of students lost their dad last spring. The teachers were not invited and I wanted to go, but I couldn’t; I had my own family funeral to attend to last spring.

one of my favorite teacher gifts ever. Cherished.
one of my favorite teacher gifts ever. Cherished.

At the time, there were not words in my vocabulary to express the feeling of awfulness I had when I looked into the eyes of my twelve year-old student and told him and her that I was sorry that their mother had passed away. I think I fumbled with some words like “I am so sorry for your loss.” Or maybe I said, “I have been praying for you and your family, please let me know what I can do to help you.” No matter what I said, it didn’t take away the pain of losing their mother. Or the uncertainty of what the future held for them. Those kids – Melinda and Jeremiah – are now in their twenties and out of college and have jobs like me. Occasionally, I get to visit the high school and I ran into Melinda on my way in one time, we had a nice conversation and then we parted. I had Jeremiah’s sister two years after their mom passed away and she wrote an amazing essay about how her mother’s passing was an important event in her life. I remember the essay well, it was good, thoughtful, well written; it was head and shoulders above her peer’s papers. I followed them along in high school occasionally asking high school teachers or counselors whom I knew how they were doing and then they graduated high school and I lost touch. They’re grown now, or as grown as someone is when they are in the second half of their twenties.

Fourteen years later, I still don’t believe I have the right words. Continue reading Think PINK – Freedom Rock