Friday, August 05, 2011

It Takes a Village (and not the way Hillary meant)

Recently on the NosillaCast Mac Podcast Host Allison Sheridan was talking about whether the internet is causing us to lose empathy with people because we do not meet them in real life to be able to judge their reactions to what is being said. Allison said her interactions were expanded because she had met people she wouldn't have met before. I would agree with Allison that the internet has broaden the experiences of a Midwest plowboy more than I would have ever imagined but I do wonder what it has done to our sense of community. Way back in the Stone Ages (60's and 70's) when I was growing up on the Plains of South Dakota there wasn't a lot to do. There were about 3 TV Channels (4 if the wind was in the right direction), AM Radio, and the collection of odd and assorted book that graced the back stairs. We didn't run to town all the time for activities very often. Most of the time when we got together with people it was at a function at our local church or sometimes you just went over and visited your neighbor. Basically it was you and the people around you. So everyone learned to set aside their differences and work for the common good. This lesson was driven home to me this winter when my Mom passed away and we were at the funeral home talking about her life for her obituary. Her and my Dad were involved in a number of  activities. National Farmers Organization, American Cancer Society, state and local Weed boards and other groups. It kind of struck me then that  even though people still belong to groups their attentions are more widely dispersed. More things to do, places to go and things to see, on and offline. I think we lose touch of what is going on with the people around us. It's not until something happens (sometimes tragic) that causes us to stop and realize that we don't live isolated lives but are part of a web of inter-connected souls molding and shaping the world around us.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Clean Start to a New Year

Scrubbing of the hallways and commons is the last big thing to do before school starts. That is done so now I can take off a few days for vacation. Nothing special just stay at home and maybe get a few things done, like taking Emily's Senior pictures. That makes me feel a little old, my youngest is going to be a Senior. I can look down these halls and think back to when I started at the school when she was in 5th grade. Not really worrying about going to teachers conferences because everyday was a conference. Being able to see her all the time and embarrassing her in front of her friends and giving her a hug when she needed it. But most of all watching her grow and mature and giving her the advice she would need (if she would listen to me). And like any other parent I wonder if I have done enough to get her ready for the world but I guess I will just have to step back and trust her and trust God that it will all work out. By this time next year I will be scrubbing these floors again, getting her ready to go out on her own and watching a new batch of kids walk down these halls on their way to the world beyond these doors.

Friday, July 01, 2011

One Last Look (A Tribute to my Mom)

The room is ready for it's next occupant. The walls have been patched and the carpet cleaned. But if you close your eyes you can detect something just beyond the realm of senses. Not a ghost but a memory. A series of memories that go beyond these walls and span a life time. Because people are not defined by a place but by the life they have led and the people they have influenced. Presidents and Kings may get their page in a history book but it is the people who go unmentioned that make the world what it is. The woman who taught her kids to look beyond their lives to make the world around them better. Not to seek glory but to seek work because from work comes success and from success comes respect. I then opened my eyes and turn to walk out the door probably never to return but knowing that the life that was lived here will resonate for many years to come.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Winning is everything.........Right?

People who know me know that I don't care much for sports. Why? It doesn't interest me. I won't talk to you about the release of Gnome 2.22 or that KDE 4 is just around the corner so please don't talk to me about last nights score (and if you don't understand what I just said, then welcome to my world). Now does this exclude me from commenting on sports? Nope. How come? Because at the center of sports is what is at the heart of all human endeavors, the need to have something to struggle against, be it real or contrived. How is this struggle measured? By wins and loses. When you win then the struggle is going your way and when you lose it isn't. Does this mean that the losers get nothing. Hardly! There is knowledge to be gained from both experiences.

But to some people having a wall of trophies or your name on a plaque is the only thing that matters. I could go and buy a bunch of trophies and put them on my wall, but they would be meaningless because I didn't struggle to achieve them. And that doesn't mean the losers come away with nothing. I will admit to something that not a lot of people know, but I actually wrestled for 2 years. I also had a perfect record, unblemished by any silly wins. Sure I would have liked to win, but I didn't come away empty handed. I learned how to persevere when things aren't going your way and not give up.

I am not one of those who say that participating is what matters not winning. For the game to be meaningful there has to be a goal to achieve and winning is it. But some people get such tunnel vision that they don't see what else there is to be learned, such as honor, leadership, integrity, duty and responsibility. I am a little suspect of those who are obsessed with winning. Are they really interested in the players and team or are they furthering some personal agenda, such as advancing a coaching career or trying to vicariously re-gain their lost glory days through players on the team.

Sports has it place in the whole scheme of things. If done properly it can be a good experience teaching kids many valuable lessons, but if the thinking gets too lop-sided then it becomes the breeding ground for egos, resentments and self-centered thinking.

My Favorite Photos

I thought I would share a couple of my favorite photos and the stories behind them. Actually it's the same story just continued from one to the other. Some of you may know the background but for the others I'll tell the story. I started working at school in July of 2004. One of the first people I became familiar with was the secretary. She had a daughter that was a senior that year. A few days before Christmas the daughter was killed in a car accident. To honor her memory, the FCCLA (that's use to be called the Future Homemakers of America for us old timers) which she was a member of, dedicated and decorated a tree and the staff had a ceremony and planted it the Friday before graduation. I was on duty the day of graduation and decided to take my camera along to take a few pictures. As the ceremony was nearing the end, they announced that the seniors and the girl's family were going outside to release balloons in remembrance of her. As they said that, two words popped into my head "THE TREE". So I went racing down the hall like a mad man, pulling the camera out of my carrying case as I am running. I get out the door, take a couple of breathes to steady myself and line up the shot.

This photo is one of the special cards I have done. I made it up for and gave it to the Class of 2006. The next fall the girl's bother started Junior High. The one thing I always noticed was that the junior high kids sat by the doors and that there was a progression of the classes with the seniors sitting closest to the kitchen. That fall as I was walking through the commons in the morning, the brother was one of the first kids there, just like his sister. As I looked at him I could imagine his sister looking up from the other end and thinking a big sisterly thought like "Don't worry little brother, you'll get here someday". I took the picture from where she always sat and the story served as the inspiration for the verse except that I decided to do it from the viewpoint of some timeless being that has been observing us for years. That was when I came up with the idea for S.U.E (Some Unknown Entity). I try to use this perspective when taking pictures and writing to get me out what I know and see and to think about things differently.

Some of the reasons I like my job

I like to walk the halls at night. Because in the brilliantly illuminated reality of the day you see what you're suppose to see and hear what you're suppose to hear, but it is at night that life gives up it's secrets. The dreams emerge from the shadows and if you listen closely you hear the echoes of whispered hopes and dreams. A lot of life has taken place within these walls, the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, waiting to be discovered for those willing to look. That is how I see myself sometimes, as a caretaker and chronicler of these memories perhaps the last one to see them before they fade from existence.

After I put this picture up here and looked at it I realize that it is a metaphor for life. It always seems so simple, just go towards the light but we are afraid of the things along our path, waiting in the shadows to jump out at us. We would rather stay where we feel safe and soon we lose sight of our goal. That is another reason I like this job is being around the kids. They haven't developed the same amount of fears as I have and are willing to take the chances necessary to reach their goals. It's not always the students getting the education.

I know this seems contradictory, first I see hope in the shadows then fear, but really it's not. Fear is just hope unrecognized.

Welcome to the Mysteries of My Mind

Hello and welcome to my blog. I am always saying that I should write down some of things that I think about while I am pushing the broom around, so here I go. I will also use this to show off some of the photos I take and the special pics that I do. Hopefully some of you will share your ideas and thoughts here.

I'll start with this photo I took 2 years ago. Yes that is a Cabbage Patch doll head on a pole. Actually it is a microphone stand. When the music department did their performance of "Moby Dick", I had this cool idea to take photos using the spot light to create shadows behind the people. Before I wasted people's time experimenting, I thought I would do a test shot. Miss Johnson had these doll heads laying around that were suppose to be shrunken heads, so I thought "This looks like a human head but how do I hold this up?". That's when I saw the mic stand and jammed the head on and ran in the gym with it. As it turned out there wasn't time to take the shots but I always hang on to all my photos, even the mistakes and test shots. I have the screen savers on my computers randomly display all my pictures and I have had a few people ask "Why did you take a shot of that?". There is always a method to my madness and I'll try to share some of that here along with the stories behind my favorite ones. Thank you for your time.

Friday, February 24, 2006

His logic tree doesn't branch

Being the custodian in the same school that the my kids go to means that sometimes I have to deal with parental problems and professional problems at the same time. Case in point, when I went to switch shifts with the other custodian last week, he told me Eric had a problem down in the boys locker room. Seems he was cold so he was trying to warm himself by using the hand dryer. He must have hit it kind of hard because it started to smoke and they could see some flames in there. Well come to find out it seems that someone had thrown a few coins in there and when Eric hit it the machine it knocked the coins into the heating elements, so Eric was off the hook. But I had to explain to him that it is a hand dryer and not a body warmer. This highlights the problems that we have had trying to raise him. He is always cold in the wintertime and trying to warm himself. We have already had a talk with him about using the stove to warm up, he could burn himself or start a fire, etc. Now most people would take this little conversation and apply it to the hand warmer and go "Well if it is wrong to use a stove to warm myself, maybe the hand dryer isn't a good idea either." The problem is that Eric's Logic tree doesn't branch. He doesn't make that connection. This is why we get frustrated sometimes because we don't know if we have thought of every possibility of what not to do. I also think it explains the increasing number of gray hairs popping out of my skull.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Finding my tree stump

Shortly after we bought our house we decided that the old apple tree in back had to go. The trunk was half rotted and it would only be a matter of time before it fell down. So we borrowed a chain saw and proceeded to cut it down. All that is except for the last 2 feet or so above the ground. There had been an old tractor tire put around it and that had been filled with dirt that had gotten into the bark. When we tried to cut through that we could tell we were just wrecking the chainsaw blade and quit.

A few weeks later I came home from my former place of employment in a bad mood. The bosses were having another one of those moments when they couldn't find their way out of a bathroom stall with a road map. I was really torqued off and needed someway to vent my frustrations. Then I saw the stump out back. I grabbed my ax and commenced to hack the living crap out of the gravel embedded hold out. As the steel bit into the wood and the chips flew I could feel my anger starting to fade. About an hour later I had the stump chopped down to the ground (remember it was half rotted, I'm not superman after all)!

As I stood there with ragged breath and sweat dripping off of my brow looking at the receiptiant of my triad I felt better. So now when I have some sort of pent up emotion that I need to deal with, I just find some physically demanding job that requires strike something (ice chipping works well too) and let loose. There is something to be said for constructive destruction.

You can't drive by looking in the rear veiw mirror

I'm in a reflective mood today. It's friend's birthday. She would've been 44 today and her daughter and I share the same birthday next month. So I spent some time looking back and thinking about the things that were said, the ones that should've been said and the stuff that can't be taken back. It's good to look back from time to time to remember the good times and learn from the rest. I just have to learn not to spend too much time there otherwise I will miss the opportunities that life is presenting to me now. After all life is made to live facing forward.

I'm a Man

Obviously being a custodian means having certain amount of cleaning to do and most the times that's not such a bad thing. But sometimes I just have to shake my head. Take graffiti,....please! It would be nice if the kids put as much effort into their English assingments, maybe they might be able to raise them upto an F. And it real hasn't changed much in the 25+ years since I've been in school. The usual references to intimate acts and "For a good time call..". The one today was "So and so is a faggot and queer". Most of times when they write that they probably don't mean that he is gay just that he is different from the writer. And what is wrong with that. I know I don't attend all the Men's Club meetings, you know the ones held at the bars, the football fields, the gym and any place men gather but I don't think I'm danger of losing my membership. Quite often it maybe two guys talking about their pick-ups and whose is bigger. After awhile I start to wonder do these guys mean mechanical or biological. I don't think being a man is about what you do or who you do but what comes from inside and as far as that goes it's just not for men only. I consider it more important how you treat one another and how you react in tough situations. Sometimes it takes a little bravery just to admit that he doesn't do the "normal" thing. Vive la difference. Now if you will excuse me I need to climb down off my soap box so I can use it to help my wife do dishes.

Standing Outside the Fire

We call them fools
Who have to dance within the flame
Who chance the sorrow and the shame
That always come with getting burned

But you got to be tough when consumed by desire
'Cause it's not enough just to stand outside the fire

When I listen to Garth Brook's "Standing Outside the Fire" I think of my oldest son Eric. He is 17 years old and a high functioning autistic. He will charge through life like a snow plow and with all the subtley of an atomic bomb. That's the way he is and just have to learn to deal with it sometimes. I guess maybe I am jealous of him. There are times when I wish I was free of the limits that I place on myself. To be able to tell the people around me how I feel and not be self-conscience about giving them the pat on the back that they need and telling the ones who bother me not to do that. To shout out joy at the top of my lungs and have unabashed enthusiasm for something although reality dicates otherwise. My son is not what I wanted him to be and I say to God "Thank you" for having it that way.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Who me? I am just the janitor.

I use to think that web pages and blogs were just self-indulgent flatulence but then when I climbed down off of my high horse and read a few I realized that some of them could be interesting and insightful. So I thought I would put a few of observation here to see if they might be thought provoking or even humorous.

Now about all the janitor comments. For those of you who haven't read my profile I am one of two custodians in a small rural South Dakota high school. Being a small community I am related to about half of the town so I know a lot of the people there. Also pushing around a dust mop isn't exactly rocket science so this gives me opportunities to think about things. So I hope that is what this blog is about, how people react and deal with life. Now if I can just keep those pesky English teachers from correcting this ....