Monday, August 27, 2012

A dad who happens to be a teacher

So, I return to work this week. Wednesday and Thursday we teachers report to start our year. The kids come through the doors about a week later. So, it's into the breech once more.

This will be my 15th year teaching. Not a single student on my roster has been born before I graduated high school. My first class that I taught would now be 27 or 28 years old.

I encountered a colleague who said that she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom in the summer. I told her that I enjoyed being a stay-at-home dad for eleven of the weeks, but that it got a little old for week twelve. I stand by that comment: I take great pride in my work as a teacher, and it's somewhat tough to be away from that calling from which I take such pride. So, I'll be a little glad to go back to work with 16- and 17-year-olds next week.

But I have had the distinct privilege of being a stay-at-home dad since June 12. It's rewarding. I feel like I better know my children than I did at the summer's start. The three of us have become pretty good at anticipating one another's moves. Today I saw my daughter swim for the first time. A few weeks ago I saw my son swim the length of the pool's deep end by himself. I have taken several long trips with my kids, refereed minor spats on a daily basis, watched Star Wars with them for the first time, and have played the first strategy game with them. I've fed them daily.

It's grueling, though. And I admire the parents who make a year-round commitment to staying at home with their children. Growing up is an uneven process, filled with peaks and valleys. At times those valleys are painful or sad to watch. There is also a great deal of stamina required when one spends their whole day, day after day, with people who are waist high and who are reflections of yourself and others whom you love.

I see how my children, especially my son, are missing the way in which schooling enriches them. It makes it a bit easier to tell them it's time to head back. But it also heartens me that I do for others' children what my children's teachers do for them: challenge, inspire, and elevate them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Anxiety and Church

So I found out the company through which I have my life insurance, Thrivent, is contemplating a decision to begin allowing non-Lutherans membership into its business. Some initial reactions . . . 

  • Really, they only sold to Lutherans? I thought it was just a marketing push rather than a policy. 
  • Seems like a good move for a whole host of reasons business-wise and . . . 
  • spiritually. 
I'm not being the least bit sarcastic. I'm glad that Thrivent will likely do this. I'm unnerved though at the reasons prompting this change. Simply put, I think the company sees a shrinking base of Christians who identify themselves as Lutheran. One blurb in their publication that caught my eye claimed that most Americans believe in God, but the number of those who identify with any particular faith community falls far short of that.

Lutheran theology has offered me so much in understanding God's love, not just in an abstract way but also in a way that allows me to make more sense of my professional and personal life. But I do see why the theology would leave some scratching their heads, wondering what is the point of worship or membership in a church. I fear the day will come when my generation will be closing lots of doors and turning off lots of lights on skeleton congregations and empty churches.

Perhaps my anxiety will motivate me to be more profound in how I share faith with others, something I rarely do.

Well Said

David Brooks wrote a very thoughtful column in today's New York Post. His tone seems such a contrast to the noise we are hearing elsewhere in the news media these days.

Monday, August 20, 2012


My pastor made a Facebook post recently decrying the negative political blurbs he kept seeing on Facebook. He's tired of the negativity of the campaign.

He's right.

But I'm not part of the solution.

A few days ago I set out to write a post where I explained why I still voted Republican despite the fact that I'm a) a public employee, b) a public school teacher, c) moderately tolerant on most social issues, d) a believer in global warming's reality, and e) a suburbanite in Pennsylvania.

Had I done so, that post would have been negative. Insulting? No. I think there's much to admire about each of the men running for president, though there's little to admire about the campaigns by which they hope to win. I don't need to resort to invective or name-calling to clarify my position.

But such a post would have been negative because my core reasons for remaining a Republican are mostly rooted in what I don't want Democrats to do when they are in office. Honestly it's hard for me to tell you the positive Republican vision that compels me to vote for them. I don't know what it really is.

And I don't think I'm alone. I think tens of millions of us will pull a lever in November more out of fear than enthusiasm. The candidates are smart and their advisers shrewd. They know that there is much more to gain from highlighting third rails and gaffes than to take the risk of putting forth an optimistic vision that will likely get picked apart. The cable news outlets and other parts of the news media know they'll get eyeballs fixed on them for reporting the outrageous worst-case scenarios of the slipperiest of the slippery slopes.

So I guess my post will wait until I have something novel to contribute. Until then, I'd just be adding on to the sad pile of cynicism that is the election of 2012.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

So, why am I a Republican?

This will be a brief post . . . sorry for the provocative title.

Ruth Marcus writes a wonderful op-ed in today's Washington Post. It's fairly objective, taking Republicans and Democrats, right and left to task for creating an environment in which dialogue on Medicare (and by extension the federal debt) impossible. I invite you to read it here.

So, why the provocative title for this post (which is about to end). A few nights ago a friend (politely) challenged me to explain why I was still a Republican. Let's face it, much of what characterized me demographically and occupationally would point D - I'm a public school teacher (of Social Studies no less), I live in a state that's more blue than red, I seem to defy stereotypes about what Republicans believe on several social issues.

Marcus writes an essay that comes pretty close to articulating the frustration I have concerning the dialogue in this election. The way I look at an issue like Medicare down the road might offer some perspective on why I still keep my registration with the Rs rather than D. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Today is the anniversary of the event I find more difficult to contemplate, the use of an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The death toll from Fat Man wasn't as high as from Little Boy (Nagasaki's more mountainous terrain diminished the impact of the blast) but many of the circumstances surrounding the bombing seem murkier than Hiroshima. We knew what power the weapon had. The Soviets were three days into their invasion of Japanese held territory in China. And the terms by which we agreed after the Nagasaki bombing were not the unconditional surrender we had been demanding. The Nagasaki bombing is the bombing that makes me question whether either bombing was really necessary.

Monday, August 6, 2012


It's hard for today to pass by without me thinking on the destruction of Hiroshima 67 years ago today. I think I've posted on it before, and my convictions about President Truman's decision to order the dropping of that bomb remain what they were. But as we near seven decades' passing since that event, I wonder about the impact that the complete passing of that generation will have on the human race. On only two occasions were atomic or nuclear weapons used in a combat operation - both by the U.S. to conclude the war in the Pacific. As long as survivors of that blast and their contemporaries remain alive, there is a memory of how horrific that weapon was. When they pass on, is there a chance the human race will forget?

I don't foresee a nuclear holocaust in our future. But I do fear a rogue nation or group destroying a city in an attempt to send a message or to inflict pain on a towering giant. Might my nightmare have a greater chance of coming true when the survivors and their contemporaries are no more?