Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bend, Oregon Vacation for the Girls

June 29, 2013

The girls went with their dad to Bend, Oregon for his family vacation for the second year in a row.  Bill is planning to retire in Bend with his wife Laurie in a few years, so he's introducing the area to the girls and to his step-daughters, Kim, Liz, and Morgan.  Morgan wasn't able to join them in Bend this summer, since she's studying abroad in Germany, and Nicholas stayed home this year to help care for his Grammy.  The girls, however, had a good time shopping, hiking, and rafting on the lake with they were there.  I love that they get a chance to bond with Kim and Liz, who are grown and leading busy lives in San Diego and Phoenix, respectively.  This brings them all together once a year to reconnect.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

End of the Year Robotics Party

June 26, 2013

Nicholas got to attend the end of the year robotics party today.  There was basketball, swimming, food, and friends.  I just love this group of people and the way they not only work together, but genuinely have fun together.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Talented Daughter

June 10, 2013

I continue to be amazed by the talent Danielle has in art.  She was bored over the weekend, so she did a little 'doodling' to kill time. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Worth It? Absolutely!

June 5, 2013

Hundreds of hours of of planning. Thousands of papers graded. Countless discussions and student interactions with 175+ students. A multitude of phone calls and emails over the course of the year. One heart-felt, handwritten thank you note from one of those students at the end of the year=totally worth it. I can't tell you how much it made my day. No one can tell me that ONE person can't make a difference, because that kid made a difference to ME!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Commencement Address, From the Sidelines

June 4, 2013

Like many hundreds of thousands of people across the country, I will be sitting in attendance at a high school graduation this evening. I will be listening to words of wisdom and acknowledging the amazing achievements of young scholars, the future leaders of tomorrow, in this annual rite of passage. From the sidelines, I’d like to add my own little bit of advice to the graduating class.

Tonight is a momentous occasion, as you well know. Whether you are being recognized for feats of academic prowess above and beyond your classmates, or whether you struggled and sweated out each (barely) passing grade, this is an achievement worthy of note. It is worthy of pride. Some of you saw your path early on and doggedly pursued excellence, and some of you made mistakes or overcame significant obstacles to bring you to this milestone. Either way, you can hold your head high and revel in where you are at this moment.

However, I have always contended that the graduation ceremony is not as much about you as you might like to think. That diploma that you will get to hold in your hand? That’s all about you. But the ceremony? No, the ceremony is a collective effort, and a collective acknowledgment. No man succeeds on his own, just as no man fails on his own. Each student who crosses that proverbial finish line is aided, assisted, cheered on, challenged, and at times even dragged by supporters. This is your opportunity to publically give thanks to those who were instrumental in guiding you along the path that got you here tonight.

So this, then, is my advice: take this opportunity. In this all-about-me society, step back and look at the bigger picture, where you can see and acknowledge all of those people who are holding you up there, or have held you up. It is no sign of weakness to admit that you’ve been given help; rather it is a sign of maturity to be able to view yourself and your achievements in a larger context. You are a part of a whole—an important part, but a part, none the less. This moment of your graduation is a rite of passage for you, but also for all of those who have touched your life or impacted you significantly as you made your way here tonight.

Thank your parents, who have nurtured and supported you for these past several years. You may not have always agreed with them; they might not always have agreed with you, but this ceremony tonight is about them as much as it is about you. They have sacrificed and loved and fretted and worried alongside you more than you could ever know. And your grandparents, your step-mom or your step-dad, your aunts and uncles, your brothers and sisters? They’ve been there with you every step of the way, rooting for you and cheering you on. (Okay, so maybe your brother hasn’t said he was proud of you, and your sister might not have said lately that she looks up to you, but he is, and she does. Brother and sister subtext can be a little deep sometimes; you’ve gotta look really closely.)

Your biological family isn’t the only group of people who figuratively stand behind you as you sit up on that commencement stage this evening. You have a host of teachers behind you, from pre-school all the way through this year’s government teacher, who have had a hand in your success this night. They may have taught you to read, they may have taught you algebraic equations. They may have taught you scientific properties, or they may have taught you how to write a research paper. They may have taught you about the causes and effects of World War I, or they might have taught you how to balance a checkbook. More importantly, though, they might have helped you gain confidence, or determination, or might have challenged you in a way you hadn’t been challenged before. They might have helped you not to just know facts, but to think about the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’—to ponder the bigger questions. They might have shown you that you are not merely a statistic on a STAR test to them; they might have shown you compassion. They might have reached out in a way that spoke to you, that showed you they care. If you have one of those teachers, or two, or ten—acknowledge their influence. Thank them. This night is about them, too. They cried and worried and cheered alongside you, probably more than you know.

Many of you sitting up in the stands have been involved in sports, both on campus and off. Those coaches weren’t just teaching you how to run a football play, or how to hit a baseball, or how to throw a discus. Those coaches weren’t teaching you karate or dance or water polo. Those coaches were teaching respect, teamwork, discipline, and work ethic. These are the characteristics that translate into any field, anywhere. These are the invaluable traits that will make you invaluable in your respective professions as you move out into the rest of your life. It is possible that you will never kick a soccer ball for the rest of your life once you leave the playing field of your high school, but you’d better believe that those other traits will follow you wherever you go from here on out. Thank your coaches. This night is also about them.

Tonight, as you sit up in the stands, also know that this night is about your principal, your vice principal, your counselor, and your staff secretaries, food services folks and grounds keepers. These are often the unsung heroes who make your school the place where you were able to mature into the young men and women you are, on the verge of stepping out into the world you will one day run. It takes incredible energy and effort to run all of the behind-the-scenes operations that are the foundation of your education. It takes caring individuals with great attention to detail to support you all in the work you have done to get here. It might not be something you think about every day, but that’s because it gets done so you don’t have to think about it. Your schedules are built, your buildings are cleaned, your progress is watched, your curriculum is updated, and your books are purchased so that when you come to school, you just have to worry about doing your job. This night also belongs to all of those people who have set the scene behind the scenes to make sure you have all that you need here to succeed. Thank them.

This night is also about the friends who have supported you through the best parts and the worst parts of high school. It is also about your church families, your social workers, and your family friends. It is about your neighbors, and it is about your employers. It is, in short, about community. You are there, and those accolades belong to you. But each of you has a wealth of support behind you that deserves to be recognized. Even those of you who have had difficult relationships with family members or teachers you feel didn’t support you, or those of you who have had a somewhat rocky road with enforcers of a dress code or tardy policy you disagreed with—yes, even those challenging relationships helped put you where you are right now. You persevered; you became stronger through those challenges. People will fail you in the future—not ‘may fail you’, not ‘could fail you’—they WILL fail you in the future. The person who fails you may even be yourself. We are fallible. This may be hard to remember, sitting in the stands on this momentous occasion, but we are fallible. But what you have learned, through experiences you’ve had thus far, is that if you are failed by someone, even if that someone is yourself, it is not final. It is not fatal. You have all had those experiences in some way or another, and yet, you are still here. You have still made it to this moment. Why? Because you are part of a larger whole, and if one fails you, there are ten more still behind you. Look for those people, and thank them. This is about them too, tonight.

No man succeeds alone, and no man fails alone. Be proud of your achievements, and look to the bright future ahead of you. But never forget to look around you and acknowledge those who are standing with you. You are not alone, and sharing in our collective successes is one of the most rewarding things we can do. You’re going to continue to need some of those folks in the future, and they’re going to need you, too. Be sure to let them know you know they’re there. And every once in awhile, especially on a night like tonight, say thank you.