Archive for September, 2011

Waiting

The school board will have a special session next Thursday, October 6th to decide on the new member.  There are six candidates, including me.  The interview seemed to go well and I was impressed with the collegiality of the group.   These days too many school boards seem dysfunctional and divisive.  This group seems to really like each other and most important have a district that performs well above state scores across all metrics.

I would love to be a part of this but, of course, so would five other people.  I’m on pins and needles.

Song of the Day: 

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Today Is The Day

Today I am being interviewed by the Mukilteo School Board.  I am one of six candidates to fill an opening on the board due to a board member resignation.   This is an appointive position to complete the term for the next two years.

I have always been interested in public education and public education reform.  Now I have a chance to be a part of the system and help a great district get even better.  Our two boys have gone through this system and they are both better for it.  It’s my turn to give back.  And these days with budget cutbacks everywhere it will be challenging to keep providing a quality education while dealing with fewer resources.

I’m nervous as this is my first (job) interview in at least 30 years.  Shoes are shined.  Shirt ironed.  I’ve read the board meeting notes going back 12 months.  I have brushed my teeth and removed the nose and ear hairs.

Here we go.

Song of the Day:

Weekend Shallow: Fall Into Summer

Wow.  It’s gonna be 80 degrees today on September 24th.  Go jump in a lake.

Song of the Day: 

Do As I Say…

South Korea: Our 51st state

Song of the Day:

Sweat Dreams: Be Fit and Smoke

I just read that I’m a fitness regular which means I exercise several times a month.  For my age group (old) I’m one of the 29% considered to be a Fitness Regular. I usually go to the gym every other day and recover in the hot tub on my off days.   My 17-year-old son works out every day.  I think that makes him a Fitness Superstar.  You can find the blurb here.  Is it really a surprise that fitness leads to good health?  That said, I wonder about the people I see on a regular basis at the gym who remain fat.  There are some peeps who look like they’ve gained weight, and I don’t mean muscle.  And then there’s the guy I see smoking after he works out.  I guess the exercise gives him better lung capacity.

Which are you?

So, what’s the lesson here?  I think it simply means that people exercise for different reasons.   Certainly good health is one of them.   Then there are people who do it for vanity; they just want to look good.  They work out in front of a mirror. And there are the reward people.   I know one person who runs and says that each mile means he can have a beer.   I think he puts in at least ten miles a week so he is having plenty of beer to reward himself.   And I guess the guy who is working out and smoking figures the more he exercises the more he can smoke.  He is a fitness flub no matter how much he works out.

Song of The Day

When Did Normal Become Not OK?

My wife asked that question a few years ago when our older son, Nick, was considering where to go to school after high school.   The “problem” he faced was that he only had a 3.61 GPA and scored the national average on his SAT.  He was (and still is) very interested in performing arts and began making videos and films when he was eight years old.  He also sings and plays guitar and has written several songs.

Yet he was not going to get into any of the prestigious four-year universities to pursue his life-long passion for exploring the creative arts.  He simply didn’t get good enough grades or score high enough on the SAT.  Not only that but he hadn’t done any volunteering, worked a job or played a sport.  All bias accounted for here as I tell you he was and is smart, interesting, funny, creative, articulate, curious, independent and confident.  The elite schools would not give him a sniff.  If only he had volunteered to install a water system in Somalia, invented a new language, built a robot or cured a disease while competing in marathons, he might have had a better chance.

Instead he is attending an excellent community college, taking a ton of performing arts, making movies, writing songs and planning to attend an acting conservatory next fall.  He will be fine and he will be successful.  Normal is good.

Here We Go Again

Our younger son, Tom,  is in his senior year and we are going through the college search again.  Tom has a 3.93 GPA (damn that B in freshman weight training) and scored well above the national average on the SAT.  He plays baseball, piano and guitar and is a wonderful singer.  Tom has also written and recorded songs.    By all accounts teachers love having him in class (that was true for Nick as well) and he loves school.

I’m concerned that, he too, might not get into one of the elite schools he desires.

He did not have a job, work at a food bank, write a book or work with third world refugees and, as a result, may have difficulty getting into one of the elite schools.   And he too is interesting, curious, talented,  engaging, smart, confident and independent.  Normal is good.

Normal Is Good

Early on we chose to let our boys be kids.  We felt that strength of character was as important, if not more important,  than strength of grades.   We encouraged them to follow their passions and try a lot of different things and enjoy everything school had to offer.  We talked about being generous and having a loving heart.  That empathy was more important than geometry.  If they wanted to get a job they could, but if not that was okay because we wanted them to enjoy the high school experience as fully as possible and take part in all that was offered.   We set the white lines and worked hard at keeping them happy and safe.  We kept a long trust leash and only had to shorten it a few times.   As a result they have good values, lots of friends, are healthy of mind and body and are interesting young men.  They are comfortable in their own skins and ready to go out into the world.

It’s too bad that normal kids rarely get to attend “elite” schools that prefer super-achievers.  Don’t get me wrong, super-achievers do a lot of good.  But I wonder about them being over-scheduled and becoming grade savants who struggle with the real world.  In the working world I often found that the graduates with average grades were usually better at judgement, curiousity, tenacity, negotiation and relationship building because they had better life skills.

There is a great article in The New York Times entitled: What if the Secret to Success is Failure?  It argues that character is a missing ingredient in our schools curriculum and there is evidence to support the notion that kids with great character tend to do better in college and their careers than those who only have great grades.

I don’t know if either of them will be accepted by one of the big-time schools.  I do know they both would flourish at any school.  And any school would be better having one of our boys enrolled.   I think they are very well-rounded and balanced young men – extraordinary, in a very normal way.

Song of the Day

This song has nothing to do with the post.  She is however an amazing new talent.

War and Peace

Ten years ago today, we were walking through the Sistine Chapel as the planes were crashing into the towers.  I’ve often thought about the contrast between the two events.    As we walked through a revered place of worship, people were being killed in the name of God.

We actually learned of the attacks as we were in a taxi and the radio was blaring while the driver was shouting in Italian.   The only words we could understand were New York City and “explosivo.”  We asked the driver to take us to the nearest hotel.  We hurried into the lobby where the staff was gathered around a small black and white television.  There we saw the smoke rising from the towers and learned what had happened.

We were stunned and horrified.   We returned to our hotel and were glued to CNN as the events unfolded.   We were actually scheduled to leave the next day but all flights to the U.S. were cancelled.  We spent the next four days wandering around Rome, then Florence and finally Munich as we tried to get back to the U.S.   We were zombie-like as our days were spent looking at historical treasures like the statue of David and our nights were spent on CNN.

All we wanted to do was be at home and hug our boys who were being cared for by our parents while we were in Europe.  Finally we got one of the first flights back to the U.S. and made it to Seattle several hours later.   Hugging our boys was never better.

It saddens me to think that our boys have grown up in a country that has been at war during their formative years.   They have both been wanded at airports and think of airport security as routine.  More recently they have also seen the effects of a country in recession.  It has been argued that the terrorists have accomplished exactly what they wanted on 9/11:  draw us into a never-ending war and cause economic hardship.

Much has been made of the notion that if we changed our way of life the terrorists have won.  So, I can be happy that I still live in a democracy.  But I struggle with the divisiveness that exists in Congress and how our country seems paralyzed and uncertain about how to solve its very real problems.

This piece by Jess Walter in The Seattle Times is a must-read to gain a clear perspective on our shared experience and lessons from 9/11. As we reflect on 9/11 and its lessons, it’s worth considering that the biggest learning should be that we are better together than apart.  Let’s come together and get right.

Song of the Day

Of the many wonderful moments following 9/11 this performance has stuck with me over the years.