Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now and Forever

I admit that I am not the best writer. I suppose it depends on my mood. There are often times where I will begin to type a letter, a chapter, a journal entry or a blog and get no further than the second or third line. There are times, however, where something strikes me as thought provoking, and the words crash upon the page like waves pound the shore. Today is one of those days.

I find it interesting that I am constantly wanting things. I want a bigger house. I want more land. I want a fancier car. I want to take fancy vacations and wear fancy clothes while dining at fine restaurants...put simply I want things that I cannot always have and I want them NOW. Interestingly enough, I am certain that many of these things would not make me happy and I only want them because I can't have them.

Friendships however are different. Recently a friend of mine was having some difficulty in school. She is a fantastic teacher. Everyone knows it. Her room is well stocked with a wealth of reading material. There are crayons and markers, pencils and erasers. There are scisssors and glue, construction paper and bins for journals. It is a wonderful classroom environment, yet still the social climate is not the best mixed. It could be the year; it could be the mix of children, lack of parental involvement--the list goes on. What it is absolutely not, is my friend's teaching. I have told her this but she continues to beat herself up. Perhaps the best compliment I could give her is to tell her, if my children attended our school, they would be in her class without hesitation. Now that is truly saying something.

Yet still, my friend Lisa, is uncertain. And so I asked if I could read a book to her class. I knew that they would not understand the message I was sending. But perhaps, a few of them might remember it in years to come. After reading Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, I had each of my students help her students write about what she has given them. A smart brain and marhsmallows were popular answers. Here is the interesting thing. My students were explaining how lucky they were to have Mrs. Collins. I heard comments like, "She makes you feel good," or " "She smiles at me in the morning and that makes me happy." Litte things, that are easy to miss.

And so I did my activity. I did not do it for anything materialistic. I did not do it because I needed it NOW. I did it because I wanted to help a friend. I wanted her to know what an important teacher she is to these chldren and what a special friend she is to me. Maybe I don't need the big house or the fancy car because I got lot of joy helping out a friend and giving her a little break. Isn't that what life is all about? And so maybe I won't dine at the fanciest of restaurants, but you know what, as long as I get joy out of doing things for others...I am always going to be one of the richest people I know--and I don't want that feeling now, I want it forever.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trick and Treat

Tonight I decided to have some fun with my college students. Well from my perspective anyway. Every once in a while I like to start the class off with a bang….this is a classic. Rather than start with the typical handing out of the syllabi, I wait. I sit in the same seats as them. I strike up casual conversation if spoken to. What I do most, however, is listen. I listen to hear what they have to say if anything at all. Usually I hear about what kind of work this class will entail or how they don’t feel like being in class at this time of night.

This evenings class was a little different. I waited. Not one word. I mean zero, zilch… nada. They sat there stoic for fifteen minutes. Finally two students began to coverse, but so quietly that I could not hear a word they were saying? Finally two young women came in and began a conversation. They knew each other and gave a cultural peck on the cheek as a greeting. Before you knew it the words were flowing. One problem, it was in Spanish. But you know what? Something funny happened. Everyone began to talk….I mean everyone. I was so happy. Conversations varied from the cost of the book, to whether or not the professor was good (thank goodness they heard good things.)

Ages varied. Mostly juniors and seniors in college, and dynamic in nature. I was excited. And so it began. I left the room to get a drink of water and came back in, introducing myself as Andrew.


“I am the Professor.”

Jaws dropped.

“Oh my G-d! I thought it was you, but you look to young to be a professor,” stated Laura. (She got an ‘A’ for the day.)

It felt good to say the least. I used this motivational technique to start the class; to have them realize that this class was going to be fun, full of surprises and that most importantly, they need to be on their toes. Walking around during break and thinking about this experience I felt so good. The reason why I am a teacher is for moments like this.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The True Meaning of "Being a Fan"

Amazing as this seems being a huge fan of Boston Sports, I have a little secret. It does not matter. A friend of mine reminded me of that this evening. After the Bruins lost this week I was aggravated. And when the Celtics lost to Orlando, I was distraught. The Red Sox ups and downs tend to make my mood swing side to side...but then I realized something after reading my friend's blog. It does not matter.

In the long run, I am an avid fan; I will support the Patriots with or without a Superbowl season. I will bang on the glass for the Bruins even if it is not for the Stanley Cup and I will cheer, "Let's Go Red Sox," during a terrible road trip. What I will not do, is let it become a life altering experience. And here is a myriad of reasons why:
  • Children
  • fires
  • freedom
  • war
  • Holocaust
  • love
  • death
  • natural disasters
  • nature
  • weddings
  • dances
  • beaches
  • warm and fuzzy feelings
  • graduations
  • holidays
  • music
  • friendship
  • love
The list goes on and on. Entertainment has a price. Read the list above. Entertaining things are on that list, but can you put a price on time spent with your family? Can you advocate charging people for friendship? Yes I am a fan of the Celts, Pats, Sox and Bruins. All of them mean something to me. And in the long run, none of them matter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bagels With Jerry

Tuesdays with Morrie, is a wonderful book by Mitch Albom. In essence, it is about a man who is dying from Lou Gherhig's disease, and is passing on his passion for life to his former student whom he made such a remarkable impression on. I read this life changing story years ago and decided, for numerous reasons, to read it again. Perhaps the grandest reason of all, is something my Father-In-Law asks me occasionally. We will be having a discussion, and he will interject...."What would Morrie say?"

Every week Morrie and Mitch meet on Tuesdays to share, discuss, observe, question, reflect. Their conversations are filled with humor and thought provoking messages. Their relationship is that of the Tortoise and the Hare; one speeding along, oblivious to the bumps in the road, part of the "Now Generation" -- the other just taking life as it comes, experienced, pacing himself until the finish line is in sight. They become the closest of friends, despite their differences, philosophies and AGE!

I too have a close friend. And ironically, we meet every Tuesday over bagels and coffee in which we divulge what is happening in our lives, news, and most importantly advice. Some of my greatest lessons have been learned from him. Although my senior, by 35 years, there is no one I trust more (besides my immediate family) when it comes to education, opinions and life altering decisions. I could brag about how he has been a part of my life for some of the most monumental occastions. In fact, he was my mentor for student teaching, guiding me through educational foundations and politics. He assisted me in obtaining my first job, and later helped me obtain an adjunct professorship at a college. He attended my wedding, and was there for my son's brit, and my daughter's baby naming.

He has also seen me at my lowest points where you learn who your true friends are. Morrie was a special man for infinite reasons, and in fact will mean many things to many people. His qualities are highlighted by his willingness to pass on what he had learned. And when he died people knew who he was based on his incredible relationship with Mitch. My mentor, former colleague, and ultimately best friend is still with me. I have entrusted him with some of the most intimate details of my life. I have accepted constructive criticism and taken his advice openly (usually!)

If you ever get the chance to meet Jerry you will know what I mean. He embodies kindness, candor and dedication in everything he does. And who knows, may be someday we will too write a novel........"Bagels With Jerry" sounds like a good start.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Moment

Yesterday was a very busy day. My wife was working and I was handed the laundry list of things that needed to be accomplished; make the casserole for Sunday morning brunch, shop at Trader Joe's, feed the kids dinner, change the sheets....nothing major. In between the errands and simple chores were my loving children who unfortunately had the case of "Needy Naughtiness." I have coined this term and defined it as the times where my children are so needy that when they can't have their way it is followed by arguments between them and eventually me.

I began to think about this more and more. I get up each morning and go to work. I leave by 6:30am at the very latest, and show up anywhere between 4 and 5 on a good day. Many times I don't get home before 9. When I arrive home, it is a rarity to see Kristin, my wife, sitting down on the couch, remote in hand. Most evenings there is a fully cooked meal in the refrigerator and she is in the family room ironing, in the office doing bills, mending clothes, filling out paperwork, folding laundry etc. Of course the aformentioned list is after she has fed and bathed both of our children, helped Joshua with his homework, read to both kids and put them to bed.

And so there I was, getting angrier at each passing second that I had all of these things to do and my wife was working....then it dawned on me...."She does this everyday!" She is tired, as I am only I get a break! I get to have a different routine. I remember reading that if woman were actually paid for their roles as mothers and housewifes they would have six figure salaries...I am beginning to see why. I work very hard. I do this because I want my children to go to any school, drive a safe car and to live a particular lifestyle. But none of this would matter if my wife did not hold down the fort as she does.

I buy the occasional flowers for Kristin, and take her to dinner. I tell her I love her, and that her logic is what keeps our family moving in a positive direction. I tell her that she is a wonderful mother...that she is a fantastic wife and a hard worker.

Today is May 10th, 2009....Mother's Day. I bought my wife a vase of fragrant, fresh flowers and made her a compact disc of her favorite songs. Perhaps even more important is the gift of realization that occurred. Rather than shower her with gifts, I am going to shower her with action. Perhaps by doing more around the house she will be able to relax more, enjoy life, and chill... I can't think of a better gift. Happy Mother's Day Kristin! I love you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Slow Down

It may be me, but is everyone in a rush? Perhaps the pressures of work and social obligations have placed me in an environment where the quicker I work, eat and get to sleep the better off I am. And even funnier is the fact it is always someone else’s fault. Despite the reason that I must work and rest to survive, I deem it appropriate to blame it on mitigating circumstances that I am overworked and always in a hurry.
For some reason that I cannot see, I am always moving to quickly. The only time I don’t feel the need for hurrying is in the shower when I first get up. Yet from the moment that my big toe hits the cold tile floor, I am in sprint mode.
Breakfast consists of a cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Drive-Thru too long, no problem, I’ll go inside. Of course I will leave the car running, because it would take too long to insert the keys and turn the ignition.
Increase speed through all of the yellow lights; that way I can get to work that much faster. And when I am at work, what do I do? I rush to get copies made, plans written, meetings set, teach… until lunch. Then, I take the time to run across the street, grab a burger and come back chewing along the way. Sitting down takes too long.
After lunch, I engage in more of the same. Plans, meetings, conferences. What time is it? Wow is it really that late! I’ve got to get home. Rush---through the yellow lights…. about to turn red, no problem, floor it and I will make it through.
Home sweet home. Rest? Enjoy my family time? Why? I need to set the table, assist in the chores: dust, vacuum, help with all of the housework, which my wife does tons of by the way, eat, bathe the kids and read them a story.
Television? Read the paper? Heck no! Why bother? I have work to do. I can clean up from supper, grade papers, call parents and go to sleep. I’ve got to get ready for the next day.
Ready for the weekend? Food shopping, cut the lawn, paint the shutters, clean the gutters, and wash the windows. STOP! What is my son doing singing a song and coloring? Is he taking his time and selecting his colors very carefully? Doesn’t he know if he does not move quickly he won’t finish his picture and be able to play Candyland or Chutes and Ladders? Doesn’t he care? There is not enough time son, get going, you’ll never get it all in before bath time. Where is my daughter? Since when did she start standing up by herself? And those teeth, when did they come in? And did she just say ‘kitty cat?” Where have I been?
Life is too short. We spend so much time saving money for the grand carousel that we forget to go enjoy the ride when we finally get on. Spinning. Our minds are filled with brain algorithms; Where am I? How much time do I have? How many spins until I can get off and get back to the important things?
Wait a second. The important things. Did I just say the important things? The important things are sitting next to me. My children. They are laughing and giggling. My wife. She is taking pictures of all of us…giggling….getting my kids to say, “Daddy has stinky feet,” making them grin from ear to ear. The important things are humming Mother’s Day songs, and coloring outside the lines without rushing. The vital things in life are noticing that your daughter is standing, your son is about to start kindergarten and that your wife is a wonderful mother. These are the significant things. In essence it is important to work…but from observing my children leisure is equally important.
My mentor once told me, “Work to live, but don’t live to work. It took me forty years to realize this. Don’t let that happen to you.” This carousel ride only lasts so long. It would be a shame not to enjoy the ride.