Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last Day of School

My wife and I have two boys. They are wonderful kids. I probably have learned more by watching and listening to them over the past 10 years. Today was their last day of school and they are very excited. I am very jealous. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could all take three months off in the summer?

My eldest son just completed 5th grade and had a very good 4th quarter report card; one B in math and the rest were A’s. His brother finished 2nd grade with his fourth consecutive quarters of straight A’s! I hope they both can get scholarships so I can retire early!

We have been sending our boys to a private school for the past five years. My wife and I had many discussions about how to educate our children before that first bus ride. We both agreed that home schooling would not work for us. We knew several people that home schooled and the time and energy required was not possible as we both worked outside the home. We had to choose between public or private education. We did not think we could afford the cost of a private education so to avoid the financial strain on our marriage, we chose to send our oldest son to a government school for Kindergarten. We were not aware of any problems until a week or two before the end of the school year. We were called into a parent – teacher conference with our son’s teacher, a school counselor and a school administrator. We were told that our son displayed signs of ADD and they wanted us to see a doctor about prescribing medication before our son started first grade.

We were grateful for a number of reasons; first our pediatrician was not one to prescribe medication without good cause; we also knew a special needs educator that also taught children’s Sunday school at our church. She flat out told us that she worked with kids that had legitimate ADD/ADHD and our son was not like them at all. While we took comfort in this, my wife and I were very angry at a school that seemed so anxious to medicate at such an early age. We wondered if this has anything to do with financial aid the school gets for dispensing medication. Of course we will never know for sure and the thought is not a pleasant one. One can only wonder if some of the social ills are due to a generation of children being medicated . . for of all reasons . . because they are kids . .

Well, we pay a lot of tax dollars for an expensive public school district in South St Louis County that we do not use. We would like the financial relief vouchers would bring. I hope someday there will be an educational revolution in this country. If people want to see real educational reform, simply introduce competition. If we really do not want to leave any kids behind, let all parents have access to the private education that is available to the rich and middle class.
Until then we learn something that the church has taught for 2000 years . . . namely, without sacrifice there can be no blessing. We have sacrificed and now we have received the blessing!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What A Drag It Is Getting Old . . .

Next month I will be 44 years old. . Wow, that is almost halfway to 90 . . . It seems like only a short time ago that I thought people over 30 were old.

There have been many things over the past year that I have both observed and been subjected to, that remind me of my frailty and mortality.

About a year ago I was at work and around mid day I started having these shooting pains in arm and chest. I tried to wish them away but that did not work. So I did what most fools do, I tried to ignore them. As the afternoon went on, these uninvited pains continued. It was then that I made a deal with myself. I said to my co-worker, “if this continues I am going to stop at the ER on the way home to get checked out.”

I drive by six (6) hospitals on my way to work so going to the ER was not really going out of my way. Besides, I knew the moment I told my wife what I was experiencing, she would just make me turn around a go right back to where I should have stopped. Anyway, I left work at 6pm and stopped at a local area hospital. As soon as I told the nurse what I was experiencing, within 5 minutes I was on my back, on a gurney, with an IV and EKG monitor. I guess a middle aged, overweight, middle class white male was a typical candidate for a heart attack. While I was more of a risk taker with my life and health, the hospital ER staff was not taking any chances. The tests came back negative and a couple of hours later I was released to follow up with my own doctor who had me complete a series of stress tests and complete cardio screening before telling me I had to diet and exercise. The mystery pains left and have not returned.

Several months later I had another visit to the ER, but this time it was in the middle of the night. I swear I thought I was dying. . But the check in nurse at the ER was not impressed with the agonizing pain and distress I was in. On the contrary, she told me without a hint of empathy that I was more than likely only passing a kidney stone. She was right. .the scans showed, not one, not two, but three large stones. This got me to an urologist . . . in one year; I had seen two specialists . . . aren’t specialist the type of doctor that old people see? Wait, I am not old. . Well, maybe just a little . . . ok, uncle! Yes, I am getting old. I may share more about kidney stones and my experiences treating and passing them, but be warned; this is not for the squeamish! Yes, my kidney stones and trips to the urologist deserve their own special entry!

Lastly, back around Christmas, I found reading was getting difficult. I would get fatigued from reading so I stopped reading at night for the first time in forty years. My wife suggested I go see an eye doctor. I did. Now I have reading glasses.

So through diet and exercise I have lost over 30 pounds. I eat much better too. I feel better than I have felt for years. But I am still growing old. Next month I will be 44 and no matter what I do or don’t do, I am still going to die someday. But that also is a topic for another time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Greetings & Salutations

Greetings and Salutations from the great state of Missouri! By way of introduction, I will refer to myself as ‘Tom Sawyer’ for four (4) main reasons:

First, I grew up near the shores of the Mississippi River, albeit a hundred feet up on a bluff overlooking the river valley about 30 miles south of Saint Louis. I hope time and opportunity allows me to post numerous stories about the real life adventures I had as a young American growing up and coming of age in rural Missouri.

Second, I really like the story by Mark Twain. I read the book when I was in 6th grade. A year earlier I was assigned the leading role in a school play which was the first and last time of my academic career that I had the spotlight. If we really do get a few minutes of fame, I cannot help but feel I was somehow cheated. Like Tom Sawyer, I was also a ‘rough and tumble’ kid that seemed to be “born for trouble as the sparks fly upward”. Yes, I had much in common with the character from Mr. Clemens fictional story.

Third, I am a fan of the Canadian rock band RUSH. In some ways, I do see myself as a modern day warrior. It is primarily my sense of call to duty and call to ‘arms’ as an American to exercise my freedom of speech while I still can that leads me to participate in a blog. History, if nothing else, has shown us the battle of ideas proceed the battles on fields, in jungles and on the streets. It is my hope the great experiment in representational democracy known as ‘America’ and the rule of constitutional law will last one more generation for my sons to try to preserve. I have treated the 1st amendment with contempt and I am ashamed of that. I have become very lazy as an American with my rights and responsibilities but there is still daylight and I am going to discipline, train and exercise this right as often as I can.

Fourth, I live in a world of information. While I do try to live a transparent life, for the sake of my wife and children, I do wish to maintain a sense of privacy and anonymity. I do hope the people that read this can respect that.

It is perhaps a big ironical that I live in the “Show Me” state since I find the older I get, the more skeptical I become. I hope my skepticism is healthy to allow me the freedom to question what I know and what I believe but since my knowledge is fallible and limited and my faith shaky at best, I only desire the wisdom to bow to only that which I know to be real.

I hope you enjoy these posts. I do not know how often I will be able to post but I do hope to post at least weekly or as often as time permits.