Wednesday, December 9, 2009
So, I think to myself (while lying in bed) that I have options here:
1. I could just lie here and think about upcoming events (and how I'm going to deal with them as well) along with other random thoughts that creep in (again, another blog).
2. I could go running in 28 degree weather to run off some energy (how stupid would that be).
3. OR.... I could blog.....
Our concert was really a great success and that is saying a lot considering all that we go through to put it together.
Disclaimer: I don't normally write about school in my blog because that can get me in trouble if I say the wrong thing. But this is a good thing and what is truly on my mind, so here goes....
You see, we have a particular schedule at our school that does not allow for my 7th and 8th grade band students to have a class together during the day. This schedule works well for academic classes and allows teachers to plan together for better student success. I agree with that. It just makes it difficult to keep the band as a whole (and all fine arts) performing at the same high standards as other schools. So we have to hold a Rehearsal every Tuesday Afternoon for an hour so they get time to practice with each other, challenge each other among their sections and just generally mingle with each other (to create an atmosphere of kinship that leads to high school band in the future). Holding these rehearsals is quite a challenge with all of the events that students are involved in at school (especially intelligent and well rounded band students). But many of our students this year have done a really good job of getting to rehearsal each Tuesday. It is also becoming evident that many of our students are choosing to become musicians and focus on band as opposed to athletics ... or just nothing (as is often the case). We are moving toward a "Tipping Point" in our band program.
Malcolm Gladwell describes a moment when some thing or idea becomes popular and well known seemingly over night or all at once. This moment he calls the "Tipping Point". When I read his book it was interesting to see how I have been running band programs in a certain way as to obtain this point when band becomes a really popular and important part of the school environment. Gladwell notes that change happens slowly over time but will climax at a certain unpredictable moment when, without realizing it, people just have to be a part of some thing because it is cool to do so. (He relates it much like a Sickness Epidemic moves across a people group or how a certain shoe becomes popular to wear).
I would take it one step further and realize that this unpredictable moment is ultimately controlled by a Sovereign God who is in control of the whole universe. This relates to me in that He loves His children and wants what is best for me. He has given me talents and intelligence to understand how things work and how I should go about each day to Glorify Him in every decision and action that I make. In learning about "Tipping Points" I learn that Malcolm Gladwell has again proven that we serve a Mysterious God that reveals Himself in a myriad of ways. Some may say that the changes that occur in this process are a result of man having grand ideas and the patience to work the problem out. I say, who gave man those ideas and that patience. I know I don't think of a lot of brilliant things on my own but rather get most of them from the truths found in Scripture as I read them from the Bible. And the patience thing is still working on me after 12 years of teaching band.
No... any success that we have in our band program (like our Concert last night) is because God blessed the efforts and rose up within our students the ability to perform well under pressure. They don't get to practice the music with all of the parts together except every once in a while, yet they performed last night as if they had worked each day as a unit together. That is a blessing from God that I cannot make happen on my own.
How Great is Our God
Sunday, November 22, 2009
1. My doctor told me that I needed to lose weight after discovering that I was at the beginning of the "Morbidly Obese" section of the weight chart.
2. I thought this would be a great motivation to do something that would cause my weight to drop and be more healthy.
3. I've always wanted to run an "official" race with a number on my chest and official time clock at the end. When I see those races on TV I think, "That must feel great to run across the finish line and have accomplished that."
4. I turn 35 on Nov. 25 and figured it was about time I did something like that.
At the end of this summer, a friend told me about a "Couch to 5K" program that let you ease into the long-distance run at a slow pace. It really is a good program that is manageable and not too stressful (and works) if you make the time to run for about 30 minutes a few times a week. There is even an App for iPhone that helps you keep the timing as you run. SHOCK!!! So, I thought about all the reasons from above and started the program in August. Unfortunately, at the same time, I kicked the hearth in our apartment and apparently (according to the X-Ray) broke a small bone in my foot and had to wait 3-4 weeks before really starting the program. And keep up my motivation while beginning to teach school.
So, after some healing I began the program again. You are supposed to run 3 times per week and build up to longer runs as you go. My "days between runs" were actually more like "10 days between runs", but I got them in. (At least the first 4 weeks of it).
I was a little frustrated the day of that I had not finished the program, but, I had set a goal (and paid $20 for the entry) so we were going to go running on Nov. 21.
The morning was early but really great with Lissa being so supportive and getting up with me and planning ahead for the boys to be woken up on the first Saturday of Thanksgiving Break. We drove toward Richardson and were doing great until I took the Dallas North Tollway instead of waiting until the North Central Expressway. Ten minutes later, we were $1 (in change) poorer from the two toll booths we HAD to go through and back on the The George Bush Turnpike for another 5 miles to get to the right "Expressway" and found our way to the place of the race. We had no idea where the festivities would begin, but soon found the arch of balloons and heard the noise of the crowd. The pre-race was interesting as the kids got to bounce in a bounce house and I had all of the anticipation of "what have I gotten myself into".
I read somewhere that your first race you should begin at the back of the pack so as not to be run over by the more "experienced" racers. So, I started near the back and walked right up to the starting line so I could save as much energy for the actual timed portion of the race. I saw Lissa and the boys there and jumped across the starting line only to be told to "STOP" because the camera was messing up and she was not videoing my start. In hindsight, that's pretty funny.
So, I took off running (well more of a jog that was surprisingly faster than alot of people). I had decided I would try to run for 5 minute intervals and walk for 1-2 minute intervals alternating. I made the first 5 minute, but after that it was whatever I could muster up the strength to do depending on whether it was up hill or down hill. The website noted that the course was "flat with an occasional incline". It was not the Texas Hill Country, but it definitely was not flat. I walked most of the uphills and jogged the downhills. That seemed easier at the time.
The other runners were quite nice and considerate as we went along. I didn't feel bad when older people passed me by. I figured they had actually done this before and was kind of glad they were there still doing this sort of thing. And, I knew that if worst came to worse I could pass them easily. One lady did inspire me a few times when as I was just walking and she would trot past me. I would think, "Uh-uhh" and begin to jog again. (I did beat her to the finish line.) I learned that when you are by yourself you should wear your iPod to keep your brain distracted as you run. That may have helped me shave 3-4 minutes off my time in the end if I would have done it, but then I couldn't have "soaked up the experience" as I was able to do without it.
I planned ahead and jogged the entire last 1/4 of a mile or so so that I could come across the line running. It really was lots of fun to come across with the crowd cheering on. That's the part that makes me want to do it again, actually. Also, I saw a picture of a friend coming across the finish line of a marathon that he had run. I thought at the time what a great feeling and sense of accomplishment that must have been for him. I by no means think that my little 5K compares to his marathon, except that this same friend told me that his first race was also a 5K. I don't really think I'll end up at a marathon some day, but you never know.
Today I got an email with a picture of myself going across the finish line. I also found out that I finished 42 out of 46 in my age class and 454 overall with a time of 41:10. This is just the beginning I know. I am already looking for the next one that I can run.
If there is a moral to this it is that you should set goals and follow through. Even if you aren't able to finish all the parts, do what you can and enjoy the challenge. For my 35th birthday I ran my first 5K race and lost a little weight along the way.
But there is still a long way to go......
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Band Auditions are a very interesting experience in which a band student (of course, it could also be a vocalist or string player, but then it wouldn't be a "band" audition would it?) puts themself up against a number of other students who play the same instrument in a search to see who is the better player. The best players are rewarded with a spot (or chair) in a band that will, on a given day, rehearse for 8 or so hours and then perform a concert for doting parents and friends. In the end, it may seem trivial and not much of a prize, but many a day has been ruined or celebrated based on the results of mere minutes of instrumental playing. (Don't get me started on my own experiences growing up in the "band world". I'm still bitter about some of those auditions). But I digress....
There are two sides to this audition process.
One side is that of the student who has worked for months (or in some cases only days) on special music that will be picked over with a fine-toothed comb (or ear) as they perform for 3-5 adults who sit behind a screen and place judgment upon them anonymously. Imagine a combination of a job interview and The Dating Game and you can begin to get the picture. It is tough being the student, but I always say that it is an important step in growing up into maturity as a musician (and often as a person). When he/she enters the room there is a monitor that announces their letter to the judges. What's fun is that the monitor comes up with some word to represent the letter as in: "Letter D as in Delta" or something like that. We used to give them free range to make up their own but then some would say things like: "D for Dummy" or "L for Loser" so we now stick to a phonetic alphabet or musical terms. Then the student plays the required material and either leaves pleasantly or in a huff if things did not go so well.
In the olden days (yes I turn 35 this month) all the students would be in one room and would not only face the judgement of the judges but also the room full of competition. It was gruelling and many a person did not play well when faced with "the eyes" from all around the room. Now students get to be in a room by themself without "the eyes" staring at them. I wonder if it really is the same in the end.
On the other side of the screen are the "judges". They are (most often) band directors, private music teachers and other professional musicians who know what the before mentioned music is supposed to sound like. They are equipped with little more than a pencil and some papers that look a lot like a blank accounting spreadsheet. As the students play they score each performance with a number based on a predetermined standard. Such a standard should already be known before the auditions begin. (If the judge doesn't know what the standard is, they won't be asked back again to judge any time soon. I can tell you that). The process of coming up with all these numbers is kind of boring to explain so I'll spare you the details now. If you truly are curious, I'd be glad to tell you about it in a personal message sometime. But, when it's all said (played) and done we end up with individual orders of letters that represent students who still remain in anonymity to the judges (remember that all the judges have is a bunch of letters to organize). At one point in this we get to put bar code stickers on a page and it seems a lot like elementary school. That's always fun!! Then these are turned in to the contest officials who put them into a computer program to determine the final "chair" order for that section in the bands.
But the real fun for the judges is getting to visit with friends. You see, most normal people don't really understand musicians and all of their oddities. (To this you say DUH!!). So when we get together we speak a different language and laugh at the strangest things. Like this weekend one audition sounded more like a lawn mower than a trumpet or the student that sped up and then suddenly slowed down or the one that ..... (sorry I got caught up in that world for a moment). Anyway, we have a good time behind the screen but we also must remember that the students have worked very hard and it is serious business to place them in the best order possible. This is why there is always more than one of us behind the screen in case one of us goes to sleep and misses something important. (Not that that ever happens when listening to 50 of the same instrument playing the exact same music for 4 - 6 hours. That's NEVER happened to me!). That's also why they provide really great food for the judges in the form of catered lunches and a food cart that travels from room to room providing snacks to keep us energized for optimal listening. Or maybe it's just to bribe us into agreeing to do it again next time. Who can really tell?
So, there is a little taste into the world of band auditions. And the next time you hear someone say they have "Region Band Auditions" next Saturday, you'll have a little insight into what in the world they are talking about.
Of course, now I have to wonder if I should worry about my band friends taking me out for giving away this secret.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
We went with some really great friends of ours that we only get to visit with maybe a few times a year. They are the Muirs. John is a band director and former colleague (and roommate as well) and Shannon is a friend from high school that is such a blessing to Lissa. It's always fun to be with them because there is no pretense. They "get" us like no other people do. And we usually talk music and politics which always is just fun to do.
But I digress ....
We did silly things in the sand like make castles and homes for hermit crabs. Peter's favorite game was to watch me spend lots of effort on building a sand mold of a tower or little turtle figurine and then immediatey say "Ohhhh!" and step on it ala Gonzilla back in the day. (Fortunately they were small molds.) Then I covered my legs in sandy mud and caught some waves in the choppy .... umm .... "sea" at Galveston. It was a PHUNN time had by all.
Then we were able to clean off at the public showers, pack the kids in the car, drive down the Seawall and gawk at the subtle changes that are present since Hurricane Ike a year ago and make our way back to my mother's home in Conroe. It was a great day!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I signed up at 11:00PM last night and began the process of finding friends in which I could follow. I was excited to find people that I know well and are also friends in Facebook. Then there were the really cool people like Marc Driscoll, Matt Chandler and even John Piper himself (Piper seems to usually send encouraging words to his followers). I also started to follow Newt Gingrich (who might be our next president and I could be in on it from the beginning). It all seemed really promising for my getting into a world that I would normally have avoided for months to come when it becomes the only way to communicate in our world. After all, even John McCain is Twitting now..... surely I could do the same.
I figured that those that I was following would get a message that says that this guy they know was following them and then they would follow me too. Surely that's how this works. After a full day (22 hours in) of following these friends, I have only one follower. But, that one follower is merely my favorite band who are only following me so they can post on my account from their phones while on tour. Me and 22,500 others. Oh, and there were two guys that I don't even know.
Not really what I expected.
I refuse to send any notes to anyone else to say, "Please follow me and make me feel better. Help me become hip and a part of the right group. That will give me a place in the world that I want to be in." If I have to get in this way, then I guess I'm just not supposed to be that cool.
On a positive note: I am looooving my new iPhone. It is the most wonderful invention in the world. I am more organized and much more relaxed about the things that I need to get done. This will truly be the way that people communicate in the near future, and I am glad to be on the upswing of that one.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
So, I missed being the first person in line.
But, I went ahead and staked out my place and, (after some introductions) began to read my book. I got 2 paragraphs read and two teenage guys walk up. One was an Apple Freak and proceded to tell me how they had stayed up all night in anticapation for this wait, about all of his Apple gear, about his online business of buying and celling things (including the iPhone that he had a year ago, but wanted to try out the Blackberry Bold so he sold it and bought another one), and about his wonderful car that he loves so much (older car - "redone") and what all of his friends drive (Beemers, Mercedes and the like) and how he has trouble with the Flower Mound police because of his car. And he won't stop! I pulled out my computer (a Dell) to see if there would happen to be a wireless connection (I don't have the iPhone yet) and he goes off about how he "hates Windows" and Mac is the only true computer. At some point he is showing me (without my asking, mind you) all of the pictures of the things that he has sold on Ebay. Let's just say, I didn't read much of my book in the time that I waited. Oh and his friend was just there to be with him and hang out at 5AM. What a life!!
As I sat there and people joined the line, my friend Sarah got there and joined me allowing a little bit of a buffer from the conversations. About that time I learned that they were going to let those who had preordered ther phone to go in at 7AM and the others would have to wait until 10AM. So, I would be the first to buy the iPhone that day without preordering!! YEA! FIRST IN LINE FOR SOMETHING!!! Then we realized that there weren't that many people in line who had preordered. Surely they would take us in before 10AM and not make us sit in the heat for 3 hours.
Well, they did and at 7:30AM I walked in with hands raised into the air-conditioning and said (as a truly knowledgable iPhone user would say), "I'd like a 32 black".
It felt so good to be hip for just a few seconds.
From this point on, it was pretty anti-climactic as my helper tapped on her computer and set me up with my new iPhone. And after all of the wondering about if and when I would get my new iPhone, I was out of the store by 8:00AM on June 19, 2009... my life forever changed by my ability to search the web, check on traffic and weather, check my bank account, check sports scores, check email and my Facebook (and even make farting noises).... anywhere I happen to find myself at that moment. WOW!! I am in awe.
It was a great memory. And it's a great phone too!!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The other cool part was that we weren't even there when it all happened. We decided (rather quickly in fact) yesterday evening that we would run out to Walmart and take care of some errands before our trip to my sister-in-laws wedding in Longview. So while we are there we hear the big wind and the rain begin. I could tell it was rather violent, so we stayed for a little while in the safety of the Walmart until the rain passed. After it died down, we left and drove home. On our way, a friend from our apartments called to see if we were okay. We said, "Why would we not be?" They then told us that the apartments were hit pretty badly. So we then began to notice all of the trees down and debris laying on the road. On our arrival to apartments, it feels sort of like entering a war zone. (That seems a bit dramatic, but this is the first time we have really had such a thing happen to us. Usually, big storms pass us by to the north or south. This time it came right on top of our world.)
So, then begins the being cautious where you walk, the looking around in the rain at what was damaged and what was not, the checking on neighbors to make sure everyone is alright and the checking on my truck to see if I get to claim insurance. (I can't get rid of it yet) And we had those who checked on us to make sure we were okay after they saw our complex on the local news. Glad to know that God has given us such great friends! In the end we find that our world is fine and that God truly did spare us from the worst. It feels that the Isrealites with the blood on the door when the Angel came by (and knocked down chimneys?). We were spared. It serves as a reminder that God still watches over His children. Prasie be the Lord!
The last interesting element is that James and Peter were really kind of freaked out by the whole thing since there was debris all over the area around our apartment. A place that is usually safe for the them to play in. Then we had more storms throughout the night and morning with loud thunder and lightning. (James ended up on the floor of our bedroom during the night and Peter woke up crying after a loud crack.) James' whole world came crashing down it seems and we have talked alot about how God really did take care of us and will keep on taking care of us. Then, it really hit me this morning: If James was freaked out this much and we weren't even there when it happened, what would he be like if we had not needed to go run errands and we were there huddled in the closet of our upstairs apartment not knowing what was actually happening on top of us at that moment?
Again, "Thanks be to God our Father above who watches over His children!!"
Friday, June 5, 2009
But, this got me thinking..... What would that look like?
Would there be a backyard bar-be-que? .....What about a "pool party" mixer for all to come and try them out before they commit? .....Would it do any good to put up signs in the neighborhood as advertisement telling exactly where those interested should go at a particular time to "get more information."
Really makes you think though..........
Thursday, May 28, 2009
In my 11 years of teaching, I have experienced years in which this transition is very crisp and clean on the last day of the school year and then the first day without children. Other years, the two seasons sort of blend together, making it difficult to do either of them well. This time around, it is very much blended together.
Some factors that have made it so difficult to continue until the end of the year are as follows:
- We are still going, even though June starts next week. Come on already!
- We got a break just a few weeks ago (N1H1, Swine Flu, Pig Flu, Pork-Rind Flu or whatever break we want to call it) with beautiful weather. Can't I just stay home and play!
- This has been the by far busiest year of any of the 11 years. Good.....but extremely, excruciatingly busy. It is just time for a break!!
- I am just overwhelmingly tired. Tired of waking up each day. Tired of having to think. Tired of missing my family each day. Tired of stress. And a little tired of people (actually, alot tired of that).
However, in spite of all of this, I will endure as I have each and every year thus far. We will make it to the end of the school year and this summer will be a great time of reflection and of planning to do it again next year...... Go figure!
God has blessed this year through the victories, the mistakes and even the annoyances. I am stronger and wiser than I was a year ago. He will always get the credit for the times that things go well. He always has a purpose for when things do not go so well. And we all annoy sometimes.
In the end, I must remember each and everyday, that I am truly blessed!!
But, I still can't wait for this school year to be over..........
Thursday, May 7, 2009
They are all boy, both of them. This evening, they had some sugar or something and were running around our small apartment in circles, following each other and yelling (and I mean yelling at the top of their voices) AUGHHHHHH!!! as they ran. It was both annoying and wonderful at the same time.
After a long day of work just after having an unexpect break and just a little taste of Summer Break a month early, the last thing I really wanted was noisy children screaming at the top of their voices. However, it was really great how they were interacting with each other. James loves his little brother more than just about anyone right now. Peter idolizes his big brother and wants to be around him whenever he gets a chance. (I know all of you older parents are laughing and saying, Yep, Yep, Yep.... that's what they do. But this is my first time and it is so much fun!)
The best part, though, was when they would be running around and then suddenly run smack into each other at close to full speed. Normally, a 22 month old child would be crying at that point. Not Peter, he just laughed and loved every minute of it. Then he'd get up and go again looking for more. Then, James begins to hide behind things and jump out to scare Peter. Again, normally a small child would be crying soon after falling face first on the floor from fear. But not Peter, he just laughs and gets up for more. They tell me that girls don't get so rowdy when they play, creating a little more quietness around the house. But I wouldn't trade my boys for anything right now. So, Jesse and Amy, I hope the same for you in a few years.
God has truly blessed both me and Lissa with our boys. I just hope I can be a great dad to them their whole lives. Especially, when they get to be big enough and I get old enough that they could beat me up without much effort.