Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Observations and Loss of A Great Teacher

I was going to skip today posting something, except today is not an ordinary day. Today we lost a great teacher, coach, friend, and in light of what happened today, I wanted to write about this in a way that everyone can relate to.

I went to high school in Aloha, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. I was not the best of students, in fact, as most boys were, I was more interested in girls, pizza, video games, and other such nocturnal activities of the average teenager. I never did get the best of grades, probably in part because I never REALLY tried. I still have a copy of my grades yet today. Showed them to my kids a few years ago, so that they could find a bit more motivation to succeed where I had not. I spent a large portion of my time listening to all the classic bands....Van Halen, Journey, Rush, ACDC you name it. Played trombone in school. I thought I was good, but maybe not as good as some of the others.

As a senior, my worst subject in school was English, or Language Arts as they call it today. How to write effectively using our native language. I guess I was more prone to algebra and history. As a senior, my thoughts began turning to moving my life into adulthood, so motivation was not as good as it could be, until I took Writing 120. This class was taught by Mrs. May. I cannot remember her first name, but I do remember she was about 4 foot9 and held a stern discontent for many of us who simply didnt care for school. I tried and tried to get good marks in her class, in part because I needed to know that I COULD get better marks, but her class was just very difficult. I remember the term I took the course, my last as a student, and I remember the third day of class we were given our assignment for the term. Write a term paper, so many pages long, typed (yikes-we only had an old 1960 typewriter then!) and double spaced. Due two weeks before graduation. We all have had these kinds of assignments, but the first few weeks I just was not as motivated as I could have been.

I remember the last month of the course I was struggling to get down on paper my thoughts on the book I had used. I forget the book, but I remember it was a World War 2 romance book. I had hoped for something more along the lines of a heros novel relating to the defeat of the German Army, but instead this book was written more for the romantic. I worked and worked and toiled. Finally I had my rough draft, my final rough draft before the final term paper. I thought I was home free, ready to graduate. Right?

About two days before the final paper was due, my dad got a call. It was Mrs. May. I sweated and toiled, but knew my goose was cooked. I was not doing well in the class and the paper was my only hope. After 20 minutes on the phone, my dad called me upstairs, the dreaded 'I am in trouble now' feeling sweeping over me like rain over the road. He explained that Mrs May was concerned that if I didn't get at least a B+ my grade for the course would be in jeopardy. She had asked my dad to look over my draft and see if I could rewrite it. As I handed my dad the paper I knew I was in for a LONG night. All I remember him saying was "This paper is ok, but your ideas are mixed up and you can do better". It took me four hours to rewrite the entire paper and get my ideas working in a way that made the entire paper work. Once my dad read that draft, all he said was "FANTASTIC - Get it retyped!".

It took me most of the night, from about 11 PM to after 3 AM to retype the entire paper double spaced. I handed it in the next day, came home, and collapsed in bed after dinner. I had no idea what kind of conversation Mrs. May had with my dad, but I did know that I had busted my tail in every direction getting that paper done.

As I heard the news today about Coach Ed Thomas, I was reminded of that day, when a teacher, who was one of the hardest teachers in the school, who was not among the most friendly of people, took the time for ME, to teach me in a way I never understood until I had kids of my own. I remember that she took the time to talk about how to be a better person, and how to strive to make everything you do the best it can be. I remember that she called from her home to talk to my parents, and what she said to my dad helped my dad to motivate me in a very positive and personal way. It is a lesson that has stood the test of my life, and to this day I hope that I can give my thanks to her for giving me that little extra. And as for the grade. I got an A+ on the paper and passed her course with a C. To this day I remind myself of that lesson, even with my own kids.

As for Coach Thomas. I never knew Coach Thomas. I didnt grow up here in Iowa. I do know that he was one of the most influential people in Iowa. He motivated all people with his enthusiasm for life. He taught not just athletes but children of all walks to be respectful, to cherish life, to be driven in whatever pursuit makes you happy. His life was cut much too short. For me, Coach Thomas will live on in the example he set for his students, the faculty, and the community of Parkersburg. As I rode my motorcycle today, I remembered the people who motivated me, from Mrs May to Mr Barnes, to some of my dearest friends. I give thanks that each in their own way have contributed to my successes and my wisdom. I thank each of them for their knowledge, understanding, and commitment to helping me grow and prosper in our community. I hope that we all give thanks to those who have given us time taught us nurtured us in some small way. Pray that the family of Coach Thomas can find healing and strength, and pray that the community of Parkersburg will find comfort in the knowledge that Coach Thomas will live on in the students, friends, and family he loved and taught thru his example and his wisdom.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Hot Weather and Attorneys

It is Monday evening and my wife and I spent an hour signing paperwork to refinance our home. I am always amazed how attorneys react when you exhibit your talents in the real estate community. I am a land surveyor intern, which is about the same as being called the "jack of all trades master o nun". Anyone who has ever spent even one day on a survey crew can attest to that. From automotive mechanic to computer wizard to paralegal to janitor. In our particular case this evening, a small glitch was discovered in the title to our home. Its nothing serious, and in fact should fix itself in the next couple of months. For those that own a home, discovering a "lien" of any type can really un-nerve even the stoutest of folks, but this lien was a bit of a surprise. As it turned out, it was not even filed against me, but rather a renter who lived here under previous ownership. As my wife and I sat in the attorneys office discussing this issue, the attorney looked a little concerned as I recanted several excerpts of the Iowa Code, almost as if he had counted on a brief synopsis and instead found out I DID understand the law.

On to observations. As I stated earlier these will be posted as I see the need to be more self therapeutic. Hopefully some of these ramblings will make sense, but at this point these are more for my own purpose than anything else.

This morning I hopped on the Harley for a short ride into work. The weather, as some might know, is rather hot. I noted some of the birds chirping in the office grounds. Among those are a pair of cardinals, at least one or two blue jays and several other smaller species. I am often struck how it can be almost sinfully hot outside yet these little feathered creatures hardly pay it no mind at all. You have a down jacket on guys - its hot! After spending most of the day toiling over maps and other such legal documents, I left the comfort of the office for my ride home. To my demise, the temperature had gone from about 71 degrees in the morning to a hot 91 degrees. At that temperature I was not very comfortable until I got the bike moving and air flowing around me. To make matters worse, the engine of the bike was getting a bit hot, and my legs could actually feel the heat from the engine searing thru my legs. Fortunately for me, my family purchased a denim jacket for my riding pleasures during the summer to and from work. Full leathers would have turned me into a puddle of melted goo.

I enjoy my bike, but I love my AC!



Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Few Notes To Get Started

Lately I have been rather obsessed or maybe just more attuned to life on my motorcycle. Its the sort of thing that once it gets into your blood, into your heart, you never want to let it go. For some its no matter how old you are, for others maybe just more of a statement of character. For me it has been a bit of a dream getting to this point. I never owned my own motorcycle, but depended on others to supply the ride. My parents never really cared much for motorcycles, but, as a young boy growing up I became rather fascinated by these 2 wheeled machines. That is, until I discovered girls.

I make no promises to any audience here in this blog of my intentions. I am not doing this as any sort of political agenda, nor am I making attempts to post any sort of other religious or moral views. I make this blog as a way for me to see the world as I ride, to make observations and note those things which affect us in a positive way while riding. I also will note any of those not so positive things that I see as a way to balance the scales, to ensure that my observations and notings are balanced and fair. Too often I see opinions take on a sort of poignant demeanor almost to a fault. My blog is more intended to be more self therapeutic.

A bit about me. I was born in St. Joseph, Michigan. My life as a child in Michigan seemed quiet enough until I was taken from my parents by court order in 1971 and placed into foster care, which, as those things go, was not pleasant. After being formally adopted a few years later, I was moved to Arkansas and then on to Oregon, where I finished high school and joined the navy. I married in 1985 to Mary, who has been at my side for the last 24 years. We have two daughters ages 14 and 21. Currently I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa working for the Department of Transportation. I also run a contract business out of my home helping to design residential subdivisions for a local developer. My hobbies include astronomy, music, motorcycles, and racing. I also enjoy cooking, although my wife tends to be the better cook than I.

My motorcycle is a 2004 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. I bought it used, in part because I did not want to come out of the box after many years with a new bike. While it may not be the best motorcycle on the market it runs well and handles OK. For me its a great starter bike if you want to learn the basics of riding and maintaining a larger motorcycle. It is not customized, as many bikes may be. Some folks can afford that, but for me, I cannot imagine putting a custom paint job on a big motorcycle only to see your investment all scraped up from someone running you off the road. If you ever want to see a grown man cry, scrape up a custom bike. I have owned this bike for about a year, and in that year I have been able to observe places and events I would never see in a car. Last fall, as a for instance, it was just as the fall colors were in full bloom. It was a wonderful day for a ride, and off I went. As I was riding along one of the many two lane county routes north of town, I came up on a field recently harvested of corn, and saw 3 large male bald eagles standing "guard" over the field. I had never been that close, and in the three or so seconds I saw them I realized that I could see and experience what no car or truck could ever let me see. Since I bought this bike, I have been on a few organized rides, but mostly ride by myself. Riding alone has advantages and disadvantages, but mostly I need the break. As I ride and continue to ride I will post my observations from time to time, in the hopes that I can take my observations and turn them into a means of reflecting on the ride, life, maybe even drawing some inner wisdom from it all. To that end, comments are welcome, however, please do so respectfully and positively.

Best Regards,