Friday, December 31, 2010
After a first brief round of thinking, I decided that this year hasn’t been really bad nor, really exciting. Sometimes, I have been VERY happy to see the year end. I’ve said to myself, “Thank goodness that year is over! Next year, has got to be better!” Sometimes I say, “Wow! What a year! I hope next year is as good!” But, this year was neither. It was not a spike nor a low. This year was more of a flat-line; steady and straight. Now that I have decided this, I start to ask myself all kinds of questions. I am bothered by my lack of emotion for the past year or the upcoming year. The questions start off and I can’t get them to stop: Why am I feeling so indifferent to the end of 2010? Did I just waste a year? Maybe I had a good year? Why don’t I know? What am I judging it against? Am I maturing and just getting better at handling life’s ups and downs? The questions continue and I try to explore my mind for possible answers.
I don’t have all the answers to my questions, but I do have some. I decided that I earned a good, solid, steady year. Like most people, I have had my share of ups and downs. Moreover, it was kind of nice to have a year where my drama (or my family’s) was not the main topic of conversation. This, I should be very thankful for. Like the saying goes, “It could be worse.“
That takes care of the stuff that life throws at you, but what about the positive things that have happened but just were not “crazy good”? I decided to take a different approach to this. Rather than thinking of this year as a 2.0 on the Richter scale, I decided that this was a year about “planting seeds” and getting ready for what 2011 has in store for me. “Planting the seed” is a term I hear quite a bit in teaching. We are always hoping that once a piece of knowledge is introduced to a child, it will be planted in their minds and hopefully grow as they learn more. I like this idea and I am going to use it for myself. Thinking about the events of the past year as “seeds” that will grow to be much more fruitful for 2011, sits well with me and helps me remain positive.
The question I still don’t have an answer to is, “Am I indifferent because I didn’t stretch myself more”? Yes, that one I still need to work through. I really wished I had taken more risks. Once again I have to go back to my “seed theory” and tell myself that this year, I planted seeds for greater things to happen in 2011.
Coincidentally, just as soon as I clarified my thinking, the universe talked back to me. It tells me my thinking is right on track. I found this out after a random check of my email. Right there was my “Thought For The Day” email and here is what it said:
“Maybe this year...walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for
flaws, but potential." -Ellen Goodman
How apropos is that?!
look for the potential, not the flaws
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Ever heard that saying "be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle"? I once knew a fellow and his wife pretty well. The fellow, I knew very well. The wife I had met on several occasions and spent plenty of time with. I've always considered myself a good judge of character and I had her pegged as well suited for my esteemed friend. I was glad to see that he had found the one for him. They went on to start successful careers, buy a nice house in the suburbs, and have a couple of beautiful kids. Things were moving along just as I expected. Everytime I got an update on my buddy he was happy, healthy, successful and climbing life's proverbial ladder.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
I really love him. He is amazing.
Conner, Blitzen, Dancer, Vixen, Comet and Cupid.
Another thing that is amazing is how
we show him how much we love him. We are giving him cookies (with milk) or praying and saying thanks to him. Or even putting Santa decorations up to show him that he inspires us and is a great role model.
Well I would love to tell more about Santa, but I'm just a kid so don't expect that this story is going to be top notch anyway. I hope you love my story.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
As the holiday season is upon us all once again, I find myself trying to look back upon the last year, reflect, and try to come to some logical reasoning for the events and experiences of the past year. My wife and I have just recently (16 months now) returned to live in Australia, to be nearer to her family, as well as raise our own. Life has a certain slower rhythm to its pace here “down under” and we are glad to be here again.
As I am sure many of you would agree, moving house has its unique way of turning your life upside down, things get misplaced, things are broken, and unfortunately items get lost. This is frustrating enough when one moves across town, interstate, or across the country, but let me assure all of you, when one puts their life in a 53’ container, and ships it to a new hemisphere.......well, it’s a whole new ballgame my friends.
Because of the hot housing market here in Australia, we waited almost a full year until we purchased a home. This allowed us time to suss out the important details such as schools, nearby shops, public transport...etc. It also meant that we did not “see” our belongings (except what came aboard the plane) until July of this year. Needless to say, we had our own little Christmas in July, just with familiar gifts. Amazingly, nothing, not a thing, was damaged or broke in the shipment. This was a happy moment.
With the holiday rapidly approaching, we have just in the last week unpacked the last of the boxes labelled “Christmas”. As we reacquainted ourselves with the ornaments, stockings and other trappings from decoration land, I came across our copy of the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, usually I would wait until Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day to watch this classic tale, but being curious and impatient, I slid it into the laptop and watched attentively. After it ended, I began to think....why has this film supplanted all other holiday stalwarts, including, The Grinch, Charlie Brown, and A Christmas Carol as the standard bearer for our viewing pleasure?
As a tale of redemption, it is no better than so-so; the revelation that George Bailey’s world was better off with him in it has none of the social message or the moral urgency of Scrooge’s ghost-bed conversion. The whole angel gets his wings message is at best, silly. And while the actors involved all play their roles quite adeptly, this still does not explain the almost mythic stature the film enjoys. It seems that Christmas, after Christmas, one finds themselves tearing up almost on cue, without knowing why? I suppose one could take the angle that the film is an anti corporate parable. Without George Bailey and the community conscious building and loan, the overbearing Mr. Potter may have well turned Bedford Falls into a soulless company town. But I doubt that people respond to this movie as a protest against takeovers.
I think the movie’s success lies in the toast that George’s brother Harry, momentarily home from the war, raises to George as the townspeople have come to help him out of his money problems. “To my brother George,” he states. “The richest man in town.” Clarence, the angel, adds an unnecessary celestial message about no man being a failure as long as he has friends, in case we don’t get it. But the key moment is the toast, because while it appears to pop up from out of nowhere, it has been building steadily through the picture. Just when George thinks the world has abandoned him.......it shows up to declare its love for him.
This I think is what the picture is truly about. The subtle and casual surprise of friendship. It is easy from time to time to go along clouded by the suspicion that we are alone in this world. Then, every once and a while, we are proved wrong. Friends appear at our door, an invitation arrives in the mail, and we are saved. This reversal of emotion is as blindsiding as it is moving, especially at this time of the year when the deserting light can leave us alone in the dark. Suddenly all seems right, suddenly, it’s a wonderful life.
Going back through the picture, with the exception of Mr. Potter, nobody acts remotely poorly to another at any time. They do what friends are supposed to do, which outwardly, is not all that much. Most noted writers have tried unsuccessfully to define friendship because, unlike romantic love, the emotion is basically undemonstrative; it is hallmarked by the things we do not do—betray, belittle, be harsh. When it does manifest itself, we usually do not see it coming, which is where friendship gets its power—from the slow, cordial, dance of ordinary life.
A parallel can be drawn in relation to George Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte” each item in the painting seems to have an existence independent and outside of the whole picture, which eventually they will compose. We gasp at the picture, not because we do not expect it, but because, while expecting it, we somehow cannot believe it. So hard it is to trust our dreams of life being whole and beautiful that we focus on the particles, as paltry, and wintry as they are. When life seems to come together from time to time, we find ourselves under the same spell, we knew it could happen, but somehow we cannot understand how it did. Call it the suspension of belief.
For those of you reading this back in the USA, the past few months have been about troublesome things; unemployment, a turbulent economy, political teeth gnashing, the threat of terrorism. But most of us live in bits of small talk about nothing much, the accumulation of which, when well intended, staves off the cold.
So there’s our George, standing by the piano with his family while his friends close ranks around him, and Harry breaks through the crowd to say a few words. Gets us every time.
merry christmas from australia!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Infused with a love of learning instilled by her school-teacher mother, Mother Dear, as she was called by her children and grandchildren, was determined to see her kids succeed academically where her own academic career was thwarted.
She finished high school and even managed to finish her first year at Mary Allen College, the local Negro college in nearby Crockett. But when her dad fell ill, she left school to work to help the family. She then met and married Tally Fletcher and soon gave birth to what would be the first of eight children (one died in infancy). Never a stranger to hard work, she did what was necessary, working alongside her husband as a sharecropper in addition to tending their own land. She took on domestic work in town with area white folks and even took in ironing. When the local hospital was built, she worked there until her retirement.
“No one owes you anything,” she’d tell her children. “You have to work hard to get what you want.”
What she wanted was a different life for her children. All of her work required grueling physical labor, subject to the whims of nature or the demands of those more powerful. She knew that higher education was the key to a better life.
Her children now say they didn’t realize that not doing well in school was even an option. As they made their way through W.R. Banks High School, the high school for the colored children of Grapeland, watchful eyes reported to their parents. Mother Dear and Daddy were well known to the teachers and well respected. The same high expectations set at home, were enforced by vigilant educators at school.
Argell, Floydia, Tally (Bob), Franklin (Val), Bennie, Gerald, and Wardaleen grew up in this strict but loving home under the watchful eye of both parents, but it is Mrs. Jewel who seems to have had the greatest impression on their schooling.
“My momma always talked about going to college,” recalls Floydia Fletcher Phillips. I grew up thinking that you go to college—it is just what you do.
Argell, the oldest, left for Prairie View A & M and Floydia quickly followed him. For a few years, there were as many as three Fletcher kids in college at the same time. Even then, the financial burden must have been tremendous.
“I honestly don’t know how she did it,” says Floydia. “I know she and daddy worked more than one job to help pay for it, but if it was a burden, she never said a word.”
As the older children graduated with their degrees, they used the paychecks from their new professional jobs to help offset costs for younger siblings.
Not all of the kids initially heeded the prodding of Mrs. Jewel. Val, worried about the added expense for Mother Dear if he joined his siblings in college immediately after graduating from high school, joined the military. Part of any money he earned, was sent to help his siblings in school. After three years in the Army, he used his GI Bill to join his sister Bennie, and brother Bob at Paul Quinn College, then in Waco. He had promised his mother that he would enroll in college immediately after leaving the service, and true to his word, after his discharge in June, he enrolled that August.
Bob delayed school as well, moving to Kansas City to live with Mrs. Jewel’s brother and work. When he returned after some time away, Mother Dear said, “You know you are going to school, right?”
Mrs. Jewel’s influence extended well beyond her own children. The Fletcher house was the gathering place for many of the neighboring children. Those children were also privy to her admonitions about the importance of education. As her children would return to school each fall, they would recruit cousins to accompany them and enroll.
Mrs. Jewel “Mother Dear” Tryon lived a long and fruitful life. She died in 2007 having seen every single one of her children graduate from college (and quite a few grandchildren as well). A few of her children also earned advanced degrees.
In rural east Texas, some thought it was silly to invest money in schooling when there was so much work to be done in the fields, but she pressed on, encouraging everyone in her path to reach higher.
The beauty of education is that it doesn’t just impact the recipient. It filters down the family tree to the children and the children of the graduate. Jewell Fletcher’s prescient persistence meant that her grandchildren would all go to college as well.
Her willingness to work two or three jobs to send her own children means that many of her descendants won’t have to struggle in the same way. For that, they are grateful.
no one owes you anything
Monday, December 20, 2010
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn't your father or mother or wife,
Whose judgment upon you must pass;
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one starring back from the glass.
He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest.
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed the most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.
Dale Wimbrow (c) 1934
get what you want in your struggle for self