Monday, October 31, 2016

12:34 October 31

I'm thankful for our 3rd Halloween in this house, a fun neighborhood, and great neighbors to share it with.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

12:34 October 30

I'm grateful for a restful Sunday with the added bonus of a day off school tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

12:34 October 29

I am thankful for Allison, with whom I navigate this beautiful, hilarious life.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

12:34 October 27

A student whom I like and appreciate a lot had a family member complete a long, successful, rehabilitative prison sentence this week. I'm thankful for a family reunited, and hopeful that our justice system might better bend toward mending and away from retribution.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

12:34 October 26

I spent the whole day with Mom, because I didn't have to work. We picked the Evan and Lauren up from school and let them spend the next hour and a half playing on their newly renovated, re-opened school playground while we waited for Tobin's after-school activity to let out.

The kids' school playground is a wonderful place. Since Tobin's first year at the school, I've watched my kids play on this playground for the better part of five years--really, I've watched them grow up on it. The recent, months-long renovation was a tremendous community effort, led primarily by a small group of parent volunteers who did everything from grant writing to project management.

As I watched the kids play today, I couldn't help but think of who wasn't there: Tobin's friend Leo, who would have been a fifth grader also. Leo died tragically in an accident over the holiday break in December 2013. In the worst moment of their lives, Leo's parents graciously requested memorial donations be made to the school's PTA. Those memorial donations started a fund that would eventually, two and a half years later, grow large enough to underwrite a major renovation of Leo's favorite play area. You can read more about the project here. I'm grateful to be part of a school community like this and thankful for a beautiful day like today, when my kids can run and play in the sunshine with their friends in a place that feels like home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

12:34 October 25

When I got home from work today, the kids were playing in the yard with Mimi, friends from school, and our neighbors. I'm thankful to come home to the sounds of kids enjoying a beautiful day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

12:34 October 24

Today, I'm grateful for parents at the kids' school, who generously volunteer their time and resources.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

12:34 October 23

Nine years ago today, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I think of him a lot, and thought of him for almost all of church this morning and most of my run home after.

I'm thankful for my dad, and miss him a lot. Especially at church, which is often a sad place for me, because so much of music and worship are melded to memories I have of him.

I wish my kids could have known him beyond the stories and memories I can share, but I'm thankful to have happy memories to share.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

12:34 October 22

I thankful for a full, fall Saturday with Mom here: pancakes, soccer, shopping, and football.

Friday, October 21, 2016

12:34 October 21

I'm thankful for a family trip to the Fair, and the chance to celebrate T's art on display there.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

12:34 October 20

I am sitting here at the end of a long, full day, feeling pretty exhausted, because I didn't sleep much last night. Mom arrived earlier today, and she's reading to Lala back in her bedroom. The boys are sitting here near me on the couch, chatting while Tobin draws. I am numbly scrolling through Facebook on my phone, just kinda waiting for everyone to be ready to be tucked in, so I can watch a little baseball or football, then go to bed early.

Then Evan says, sincerely and quietly, "Wow, Tobin, your drawing is so good. You should show it to [our art teacher] Ms. Purple; she'll think it's amazing." And my heart swells with gratitude that, even in my tired, listless state, I was witness to such a tender, kind moment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

12:34 October 19

The leaves are starting to change and fall. I'm thankful for autumn.

Monday, October 17, 2016

12:34 October 17

I started the week today by feeling annoyed. I felt like my weekend slipped away without enough productivity. Our family calendar looked fuller going forward than I felt like I wanted it to be. The Panthers are playing poorly. I stayed up to watch the Cubs (whom I've decided to root for in honor of my best friend's grandfather) lose, making me go to bed late and cranky on Sunday night.

I wasn't well-motivated at school in the morning, then after lunch I got a notification from my Facebook app that I "shared a memory" with Allison today. That happens a lot, and honestly, I flirt with deleting Facebook from my phone pretty frequently because it seems to steal more time than it's worth.

But the reminder was that three years ago today was Allison's final radiation treatment, finishing the third and final phase of her treatments. In the intervening three years, we've grown to love a new house, seen the kids grow to love a wonderful school, made fast friends with new neighbors, and thankfully navigated three years of positive checkups for Allison post-treatment. We have had difficulty and sadness in that intervening time, but none of it has been as all-consuming or terrifying for me as the prospect of Allison's illness.

So today, I am thankful for the normal (sometimes annoying) minutiae of life, and for a slate of minor annoyances that clutter up my mind. And I'm thankful for reminders like today's, that my temporary annoyance is a luxury facilitated by being secure in the bedrock aspects of my family's life.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

12:34 October 15

I'm thankful for a full moon, a cool evening with neighbors, and a backyard fire.

Friday, October 14, 2016

12:34 October 14

Today has been productive and restful, which feels like the best kind of day.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

12:34 October 13

Tobin has studied the Civil War in literature and history the last two years. He was talking with Allison and me last night when I asked him what he thought of the Civil War's justification. He noted that slavery had to be stopped, but then added "I guess, like all wars, it was indescribably sad."

I've thought a lot about that statement today. It's the kind of simple, profound truth that I find myself struggling to express at times. Today, I am thankful for the spirit of Tobin's heart, and hopeful he continues to see the world from such an empathetic perspective.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

12:34 October 12

Unlike Monday, today has been low-key for me: no work, a morning walk and talk with a friend, catching up on emails, and even watching something on my DVR. I'm thankful for a bit of a break in the middle of the week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

12:34 October 11

A situation at work has been causing me some stress. Since I'm a contact point between teachers in my department and the administration at school, I'm often the recipient of complaints.

Today I wanted to complain myself that people brought their emotion-fed frustrations and concerns to me. I had a moment where I felt weary and powerless and pessimistic about the efficacy of anyone telling me anything about anything, since I have little more than a seat at a decision-making table.

But on my way home, I thought of the people in my life with whom I am comfortable being emotionally honest and vulnerable, and I realized that I have an opportunity to reciprocate and be a good listener and sounding board for other teachers. And really, teachers "teach" content, but are more engaged in full-time human behavior management and encouragement. That's bound to be a tangled road, even in the best of circumstances. And sometimes that road necessitates having an ally and advocate, even if that advocate had limited means to "fix" things.

So today (somewhat reluctantly) I'm thankful to have the trust of many of the people with whom I work. And I'm thankful for the generous hearts and ears in my life to whom I can ask advice, share frustrations, and receive guidance.

Monday, October 10, 2016

12:34 October 10

I'm thankful I started this busy day with an early morning run.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

12:34 October 9

I'm thankful for Allison's homemade pizza, backyard football, and a day mostly free of obligations.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

12:34 October 8

I'm grateful for a rainy Saturday that allowed us to sleep in, because our soccer games were canceled. We were spared power outages and the flood and wind damage many just south and east of us experienced.

Friday, October 07, 2016

12:34 October 7

At 12:34 today, even though I was at work, I was able to be with Allison. She brought Chinese food and ate lunch at school with us. I'm thankful for extra time with Allison during a work day at the end of a long week.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

12:34 October 6

This afternoon, rain is threatening, so I drove the van to the bus stop, which is about a three-minute walk from our house. It wasn't raining when the bus arrived, so the boys opted to walk home while Lauren climbed into the van with me. As I drove past the boys walking down our quiet street, both had their books out and were reading as they walked. Lala, meanwhile, found a bag of library books (I keep meaning to return) in the van and pulled out a book. She stayed in the van reading the book a few minutes after I parked in the car port. I'm grateful for books and our family's love of them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

12:34 October 5

I'm thankful for time to kick a soccer ball and throw a football with T while watching Ev enjoy a soccer practice on the field next to us.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

12:34 October 4

Today felt like I didn't stop from the moment I woke at 5:30 until just now, when I'm sitting down to write this post. This morning, after a bad night's sleep, I felt worried about the day ahead. There was a low point when the kids got home from school: Lauren was yelling because Evan was singing too loud, Evan was crying because Lauren was singing, Evan didn't want to do his homework, Lauren's earbuds kept falling out...and I was trying to make dinner quickly so I could leave for an evening meeting. But I got dinner on the table, Ev and Lala regained their composure, and I made it to my meeting, spending a couple hours with a group of amazing women. I'm thankful for all the parts of a very full day.

Monday, October 03, 2016

12:34 October 3

I have some frustrating stories about public education that I could tell today, but the success was a visit from two young men I taught over a decade ago. They stopped by at the end of my work day, and we reminisced, and I got to hear about the lives that they've made for themselves in the intervening years. I'm thankful for the memories we share, and thankful too for the opportunities schools create for people to connect and support each other.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

12:34 October 2

Today, I'm grateful for blueberry muffins, a morning walk, church, football, and leftovers.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

12:34 October 1

This morning, Lauren played soccer. She scored four solo goals and was in the mix for a couple more. In a word, she was awesome.

At one point, I noticed that she was elbowing her way to the ball when there was a crowd. Later in the game, she and a boy from the other team were hip-checking each other and elbowing one another in the chest away from the ball (almost Charles-Barkley-style). I didn't see who "started it," but they were both going at it.

My instinct was to call out to her to chill and "play nice," but then I found myself thinking about how I would address the same behavior from the boys. And I realized that I would most likely praise their behavior and willingness to play hard. In fact, I've taught them explicitly how to use their hips in soccer and football to keep other players off the ball. I think my instinct to change Lauren's style is because she's a girl.

I'm glad I didn't say anything about it. I did mention later something like "Hey La, I noticed a few elbows being thrown at the game today, did you?"

She smiled and said "Yeah, and it was fun."

As a kid and a young man, I thought embarrassingly little about what it's like to be a girl or a woman. Having a daughter has really challenged me to try to recognize double-standards or assumptions that I and other people have because of a person's gender.

Twitter isn't good for much most of the time, but a couple of years ago, as a result of broader discussions of sexism, the hashtag discussion #YesAllWomen trended. I spent a morning reading it, and I was struck by how little I knew. For instance, after reading about it, I asked some of my women friends if they too always called or texted friends when they got home after an evening out. To a person, they answered "yes," because of the constant threat of violence against women. Realistically, if I called or texted a male friend to say I made it home safely after a concert or something, I would expect to be made fun of. That was only one anecdote among many that revealed to me how unaware I was of women's normal experiences.

I find that I'm especially fretful about Lauren and the world she is boldly navigating. I cringe when people call her dramatic or emotional. I'll bristle if someone calls her "bossy" when she asserts herself. I try not to make the focus of my compliments to her about how "cute" or "pretty" she is, and I try to praise how smart and tough and funny she is. And man is she smart. And tough. And funny.

I'm thankful to have been given a daughter like Lauren, who encourages me to broaden my own ideas about the world. I'm thankful we attend a church with a female head pastor, whom Lauren loves to give flying hugs. I'm thankful that Lauren is growing up in a world where Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice and Serena Williams are the norm. And I'm especially thankful that her most important role model is her mom, who exemplifies the strength and love and principles that I hope and pray Lauren realizes for herself as she grows up.