Tuesday, April 28, 2009

motor running

Happens way too fast!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

cipher in the snow

During my teaching days in downtown Cincinnati, I would often read a short, yet true, story to my students.  Many of them had young children, and my hope for my students was that they would be inspired to not just invest in the lives of their own children, but to also invest in the lives of the other children in their neighborhoods.  Here's the story below. 


Cipher in the Snow
A true story by Jean Mizer, a teacher.

It started with tragedy on a biting cold February morning. I was driving behind the Milford Corners bus as I did most snowy mornings on my way to school. The bus veered and stopped short at the hotel, which it had no business doing, and I was annoyed as I had to come to an unexpected stop. The boy lurched out of the bus, reeled, stumbled, and collapsed on the snow bank at the curb. The bus driver and I reached him at the same moment. The boy’s thin, hollow face was white even against the snow.

"He's dead," the driver whispered.

It didn't register for a minute. I glanced quickly at the scared young faces staring down at us from the school bus. "A doctor! Quick! I'll phone from the hotel . . ."

"No use, I tell you, he's dead." The driver looked down at the boy's still form. "He never even said he felt bad," he muttered. "Just tapped me on the shoulder and said, real quiet, 'I'm sorry. I have to get off at the hotel.' That's all. Polite and apologizing like."

At school the giggling, shuffling morning noise quieted as news went down the halls. I passed a huddle of girls. "Who was it? Who dropped dead on the way to school?" I heard one of them half-whisper.

"Don't know his name. Some kid from Milford Corners," was the reply.

It was like that in the faculty room and the principal's office. "I'd appreciate your going out to tell the parents," the principal told me. "They haven't a phone, and anyway, somebody from the school should go there in person. I'll cover your classes."

"Why me?" I asked. "Wouldn't it be better if you did it?"

"I didn't know the boy," the principal admitted levelly. "And in last year's sophomore personalities column I noted that you were listed as his favorite teacher."

I drove through the snow and cold down the bad canyon road to the Evans' place and thought about the boy, Cliff Evans. His favorite teacher! I thought. He hasn't spoken two words to me in two years! I could see him in my mind's eye all right, sitting back there in the last seat in my afternoon literature class. He came in the room by himself and left by himself. "Cliff Evans," I muttered to myself, "a boy who never talked." I thought a minute. "A boy who never smiled. I never saw him smile once."

The big ranch kitchen was clean and warm. I blurted out my news somehow. Mrs. Evans reached blindly toward a chair. "He never said anything about bein' ailing."

His stepfather snorted. "He ain't said nothin' about anything since I moved in here."

Mrs. Evans pushed a pan to the back of the stove and began to untie her apron. "Now hold on," her husband snapped. "I got to have breakfast before I go to town. Nothin' we can do now, anyway. If Cliff hadn't been so dumb, he'd have told us he didn't feel good."

After school I sat in the office and stared blankly at the records spread out before me. I was to read the file and write the obituary for the school paper. The almost bare sheets mocked the effort. Cliff Evans, white, never legally adopted by stepfather, five young half-brothers and sisters. These meager strands of information and the list of "D" grades were all the records had to offer.

Cliff Evans had silently come in the school door in the mornings and gone out the school door in the evenings, and that was all. He had never belonged to a club. He had never played on a team. He had never held an office. As far as I could tell, he had never done one happy, noisy kid thing. He had never been anybody at all.

How do you go about making a boy into a zero? The grade-school records showed me. The first and second grade teachers' annotations read, "Sweet, shy child," "timid but eager." Then the third grade note had opened the attack. Some teacher had written in a good, firm hand, "Cliff won't talk. Uncooperative. Slow learner." The other academic sheep and followed with "dull," "slow-witted," "low I.Q." They became correct. The boy's I.Q score in the ninth grade was listed at 83. But his I.Q. in the third grade had been 106. The score didn't go under 100 until the seventh grade. Even the shy, timid, sweet children have resilience. It takes time to break them.

I stomped to the typewriter and wrote a savage report pointing out what education had done to Cliff Evans. I slapped a copy on the principal's desk and another in the sad, dog-eared file. I banged the typewriter and slammed the file and crashed the door shut, but I didn't feel much better. A little boy kept walking after me, a little boy with a peaked, pale face; a skinny body in faded jeans; and big eyes that had looked and searched for a long time and then had become veiled.

I could guess how many times he had been chosen last to play sides in a game, how many whispered child conversations had excluded him, how many times he hadn't been asked. I could see and hear the faces that said over and over, "You're nothing, Cliff Evans."

A child is a believing creature. Cliff undoubtedly believed them. Suddenly it seemed clear to me: When finally there was nothing left at all for Cliff Evans, he collapsed on a snow bank and went away. The doctor might list "heart failure" as the cause of death, but that wouldn't change my mind.

We couldn't find ten students in the school who had known Cliff well enough to attend the funeral as his friends. So the student body officers and a committee from the junior class went as a group to the church, being politely sad. I attended the services with them, and sat through it with a lump of cold lead in my chest and a big resolve growing through me.

I've never forgotten Cliff Evans nor that resolve. He has been my challenge year after year, class after class. I look for veiled eyes or bodies scrounged into a seat in an alien world. "Look, kids," I say silently. "I may not do anything else for you this year, but not one of you is going to come out of here as a nobody. I'll work or fight to the bitter end doing battle with society and the school board, but I won't have one of you coming out of there thinking himself a zero."

Most of the time -- not always, but most of the time -- I've succeeded.

Jean Mizer


Friday, April 17, 2009

beholding reality (and trying to deconstruct it)

I come from a long line of packrats.  My mother is currently one, and she inherited the gene/learned behavior (nature and nurture) from her mother. The theory is sound: my mothers side, being of northern Irish descent and packing up all of their stuff, first moved to Pennsylvania and then later to Kentucky and finally Ohio.  They left nothing behind. 

Somewhere in all the "packing up all owned/unowned stuff" and moving, a genetic mutation occurred in the Riley-Frye-Kilgore line (Mom's side), which made it difficult to throw anything away, ... regardless of its worth and/or use.  This genetic mutation, when compounded by generations of learned behavior passed down through the family of "pack-ratting," led to a very messy garage in Delhi, Cincinnati (see below).  

It should be noted that this inherited gene/behavior often dies out when the "inflicted" party mates with a person who does not carry the infliction. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me as I married a Jordanian named Jennifer, who also descends from a long line of packrats (Arab strand), the evidence of such I've witnessed in her mother's house.  (No offense, Laila)

Behold my reality:

(Note the exercise ball lodged between two boxes ...  that a person would quite literally need to climb over a slab door, a mountain bike, and a motorcycle to reach, ...  and wonder no more about the status of my ripped abs)

The task for tomorrow is to do the impossible.  I will once again attempt to break this cycle, to hold back the rising tide of junk flooding my reality.

The goal:

To be the biggest donor at the up-coming Free Garage Sale in Price Hill.

Wish me luck.  If you don't hear from me in a while, I've died attempting to reach the peak of  a worthy mountain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

first pair of docs

He'll need to grow into them...

Monday, April 13, 2009

hope nope

Saturday, April 11, 2009

plastic wagons, chocolate rabbits, and the Son of God

I had an interesting juxtaposition of experiences yesterday.

Jen and I met at Target to put together an Easter Basket for Ethan.  We walked around the (very crowded for a 3:00 on Friday) store for close to an hour among other Easter Basket shoppers, looking for different things to put in a blue and yellow plastic wagon.  My thinking was to stay away from candy as Ethan had already been dumped on at school, and he will be getting Easter Baskets from two grandmothers (Tata and Meemaw) and yet another from his auntie.  The task was to fill the wagon with little toys, stickers, crayons, coloring pencils, pop-sickle sticks and glue, books, videos, Big-Boy blocks (Legos for ages 4+ that Ethan is certain that he's ready for), coloring books, Sponge Bob fruit-snacks, cereal bars, squirt guns, and, of course, a rabbit made out of solid milk chocolate.

"Mission Possible." We were successful. It cost me 60 bucks. My hunch is that Target jacked the prices for these paper and plastic products made in China just in time for Easter.  Supply and demand.

Flash ahead 4 hours.

After having dinner with my aunt and uncle at a restaurant called "Quaker Steak and Lube" (yep, that's the name), ... I am watching the movie, The Passion of the Christ, and getting emotionally wrecked. I have viewed the movie before, but for whatever reason, it just really impacted me last night like it never has before. I cried several times, and I'm not one to shed tears over movies. This will sound like "canned-corn," but my heart literally ached during parts of the movie. My chest felt as tight as a drum, and my throat felt as if it had a plastic egg lodged in the back of it. 

Evan Griffin would tell me that this has something to do with "growing spiritually." Evan is usually right.

All said, I had a pretty good friday.

As I write this, though, I'm left wondering:

What does Jesus dying for our sins on the cross and forever changing the world have to do with Easter Baskets?

Really, I'd like to know.  Anyone have answers?

Friday, April 10, 2009

poverty and hope

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.” ~ Anne Lamott

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

what's so racist about (double?) standards

CHICAGO, April 8 (UPI) -- Drug store chain Walgreens has thrown dirt on selling a Chia Obama plant novelty in its stores, deciding to remove the item from its shelves.

"We decided to pull the product because it didn't fit with our corporate image," Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger said in a company statement. "We also didn't want to be subject to any misinterpretation over the product. People could interpret it through a political viewpoint or other viewpoints and we want to avoid that situation."

The product was pulled after a week of testing in Tampa, Fla., and Chicago markets after the Deerfield, Ill., national chain said it received several complaints that the product was offensive, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Walgreens' decision caught Joseph Enterprises, maker of Chia Obama, off-guard.

Company president Joe Pedott says the clay bust is "totally patriotic."

"It's hope, courage and pro-American," he told the Tribune.

The $19.99 Chia Obama, which sprouts foliage where hair would be, is available at several Web sites but Pedott told the Chicago Sun-Times said he's trying to find another national retailer to stock the item. About 200,000 plant kits are shelved in a Chicago war

Is it racist to manufacture and sell this thing, or is it racist to pull it from the shelves?

have you kissed anyone today?

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives. ~ C. S. Lewis

Sunday, April 5, 2009

take me out the the ball-game...

I've been recently reminded that at right about this time, every year, I tend to get a little optimistically excited about the Cincinnati Red-Legs.  But for some reason, ... and I really mean this, ... I feel like this year is different.  

We have a very young team. We actually have, dare I say, "good" pitching for the first time in years.  And best of all, we have no "big-name/big problem" players to tolerate.

I'm going on the record here folks:

The Cincinnati Reds will be contenders!

See you at the ballpark.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

who was Jesus?

It has finally sunk in: I am in my thirties ... all grown up ... no longer staying up all night drinking beer ... no more leaving the bars when the sun is coming up ... no more playing music so loud that neighbors knock on my door ... no more sharing a funny cigarette with friends ... no longer dangerous with my decision-making ... no more living like a rock-star ... no turning back. I couldn't if I wanted to ... and I don't really want to.

How did I arrive at this epiphany, you ask?

I have DVRd (that's the DirecTV version of Tivo) 3 solid hours of high-definition programming for tomorrow night.  Do you think I've recorded some cool movie? Or maybe I've DVRd the UFC's next fight night? Perhaps a marathon night of "The Family Guy?" 


The Discovery Channel is airing 3 television documentaries Sunday night, all telling the story of Jesus' life. Here's the line up of the "Who Was Jesus" series:

8:00   -- a portrait of the early years of Jesus

9:00   -- experts examine the reality of the life and times of Jesus and what prompted him to act

10:00 -- an examination of the tense political climate of the times and the relationship between Jesus, the Jewish leaders and the Roman governors that led to his execution

Three solid hours of viewing pleasure.  Oh, and I'm still considering also recording (starting at 5:00):

Jesus: The Missing History
Unwrapping the Shroud: New Evidence

... but that may be taking it too far, no?  As I sit here and write this blog post, I'm left with the following idea/question floating around in my head:

Jesus Christ, what in the hell has happened to me!?!?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dreams Deferred?

I am reading a book titled "There are no Children Here," which begins with the following by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?"

this makes sense

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Sometimes while at work, I need to call a meeting, ... and I like to believe they are productive, needed, useful, ... and all that good stuff. But what if they're not? What if people hate to come to my meetings? To keep me grounded from now on, and just to be sure that life is OK no matter what happens, I will play this song while prepping.