Relax

How do I relax? I asked myself this question on Saturday morning. The week was busy. Late nights at work with graduation activities. End of the year paperwork. Then getting my son registered for summer camp and all involved in that.

I was tired, but my mind keeps generating ideas and projects to work on. Even on Saturday at 4:30am. Relaxing has to be an intentional act, or it just won’t happen.

In the morning I went to the Cow’s End a coffee shop near the beach in Los Angeles the place is a cash-only business. This is becoming more and rarer these days. I ordered a large vanilla nut with room for cream and headed upstairs. Once seated, I opened my journal and began to write in between sips of coffee.


Journaling is a great way to detox the mind and realign. After completing my coffee, I headed out to the beach. It is nice to walk along the sand and stare into the ocean, watching the surfers. One new habit is listening to the waves. I took some books back to the library and checked out some new ones. As I hear, I just allow my mind to rest. Later that day, my son and I went to see the Secret Life of Pet’s 2. At night I spent time listening to music and coloring.


My wife and I were scheduled to speak in church on Sunday, so we practiced what we were going to share, and then on Sunday, our sharing went great. It is refreshing to be able to share together, and the minister who introduced us, about made me cry as he shared about my wife and I and the friendship that we shared with him and his wife.


A busy weekend is still a relaxing weekend. Even as I prepare for the week ahead of me, I think to myself, I am looking forward to going to work on Monday.


I feel for me, that busy is my default way to move through the world. It is uncomfortable to sit still. I am not upset about it. I enjoy the activity.


I look forward to Saturday, but I don’t dread Monday’s. I have a lot of stress, but the joy of having pressure is all the beautiful outlets available to me to manage it. Each day brings worries about money, bills, parenting, what I hear on the news about the state of the world, and my own health concerns. Yet each day also brings sunrises, cool breezes, audiobooks, music, relationships, and new experiences. I can’t eliminate the outside world. I can work on my own internal temperature. The world isn’t either or. It is both / and.

$$$

50 Million Dollars. That is the amount of money my ex-boss is accused of stealing from the State Of California. While sitting in my office closing out my day, I noticed a text message from an old co-worker. It read- “

Hey, did you hear about Sean? “ Sean was my ex-boss. I hadn’t heard, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t right. I knew what happened, a quick google search turned up the following article- Charter School Steals Millions from California.

WOW. OMG. As I read the article, and we exchanged texts, I just shook my head. This wasn’t a surprise or a shock at all. About six years ago, Sean recruited me away from my school to be his high school principal for a virtual school he was building. At Starbucks, he laid out his vision, and it was inspiring. I was excited about the work I would be doing. It didn’t take long for the shine to wear off.

Sean was as Seth Godin calls it, “ A carnival barker” He could cast a vision, and get people behind it. Yet the glaring holes soon became apparent.

One of the things that upset me the most is that he cut my salary and gave me more responsibilities. I got a promotion and a salary cut at the same time. He told me the grant for my salary expired. This was a lie. I read the budgets, I read the tax filings, I saw people who didn’t nothing making six figures. I stopped speaking to him. I put my head down and served the students.

One night we got an email that said he had been removed as CEO from the company. He went on to start the organization that defrauded the state.

50 million and 283 million dollars in contracts before the indictment.

I read the full indictment with all of the charges. In the middle of it, I saw a familiar name. When Sean was tossed out of the school, he founded some of the teachers went to work for him. I was the Elementary School Principal. I spent a year apologizing for all the promises Sean broke to parents, and in the second year after his removal, things began to settle down.

One day our CEO came to me and said that one of the teachers had been working for Sean on the side, which was a violation of our policy, and we had to let him go. When I talked to the teacher, he said that Sean was going to make him a Principal. I told him that if he wanted to be a Principal, I would’ve shown him how. I advised him against the move, and now I read his name in the charges.


These crimes are out in the open. Sean didn’t put on a ski mask and rob people, he didn’t break bad and deal meth. He exploited legal loopholes. People in leadership positions signed off on what he was doing. School accounting and finances are very complicated, it is a maze of regulations.

Sean isn’t the first person I have worked for in my education career who has been indicted on criminal charges. He is the second. About ten years ago, my employers were tried, convicted, and sent to jail for school finance issues.

I will admit. It depressed me a bit, and my inner critic told me that I was a failed educator because I have built the majority of my career working for criminals.

I shook it off. This past week I was able to share about a group of students at their graduation luncheon. I arrived at the school in January and had made it a priority to build relationships with students and create learning experiences for them. I had one tiny habit.

Every day I would stand in the driveway and great every student as they came off the bus. Each day I do that, and I give students a fist bump. By doing that I learned names, built relationships, and was able to share at the luncheon.

Sharing at the luncheon made me feel good again. Deep down I know that prioritizing students is important.

Schools are for children. I know Sean didn’t work directly with kids. When you don’t work directly with kids, all you see are excel spreadsheets and the amount of money the state pays per pupil. If you looked into the eyes of kids and heard their stories, you wouldn’t be trying to cheat the government to pad your pockets.

What a fool believes.

The title of this post comes from a song by the Doobie Brothers. I selected it because I am listening to the song as I type.

I post to this blog every Sunday. During the week, I have five to ten ideas that float around in my head, and one or two make it to paper, then one makes it to the blog. This week I decided I wanted to write some poetry. In addition to writing the poetry, I wanted to challenge myself.

The challenge I came up with was to pick a style of poetry. Pick a poet who wrote in that style, then follow the poet’s structure, but use my own words.

I chose abstract poetry- Here is a definition of abstract poetry– “describe a poem in which the words are selected for their aural quality rather than specifically for their sense or meaning. “

The poet I selected was Edith Sitwell. I chose a section from her 1923 poem Facade. Below is an excerpt from her poem.

The red retriever-haired satyr
Can whine and tease her and flatter,

But Lily O’Grady,
Silly and shady,
In the deep shade is a lazy lady;
Now Pompey’s dead, Homer’s read,
Heliogabalus lost his head,
And shade is on the brightest wing,
And dust forbids the bird to sing.

Next, I broke the poem down by lines and words.

9 lines
Line 1 – 5 words
Line 2- 7 words
Line 3- 3 words
Line 4- 3 words
Line 5- 8 words
Line 6- 5 words.
Line 7- 4 words
Line 8-7 words
Line 9- 7 words.

So I set out to write a nine-line poem with 49 words. Check it out below.

The blue sweater by Heather.

Torn and tattered still held us together.

Yet Johnny Honey.

Stole our money

Him sitting on the roof is not funny.

Now Icarus flew Picasso drew.

Tiberius in statue grew

And flowing tears scald the dark eyes.

And grief joins bitterness steals the prize.

I observed my thinking during this process. I discovered that I was thinking about the word count for each line. By pondering only the word count. I completed the poem. I also found that I don’t have a title for the poem. I am going to leave it untitled. Which also feels better. Leave room for the unknown. Our lives are wide open and incomplete isn’t a bad thing, Incomplete means you have room to fill your space with hope and possibility. So go listen to your favorite music and discover a new poet.

S of C

Right now, I am waiting for my doctor to enter the room. I am thinking to myself, and asking this question “Why is the song My name is Prince running through my head”? I am typing these words on a google doc using my phone. I seem to marvel that I can type a document using only my thumbs.

I have no idea what I am writing about. In addition, really no assertion this week. My blood pressure was a bit high. I have been taking my medicine. So why is it a bit high? Could it be nerves or maybe some liquid? The first question I will ask my doctor when he came in and inquired about it is dos caffeine spike your blood pressure.

I have an hour commute through LA traffic to get to my doctor’s office, and I needed a venti drip from Starbucks to help get me through it. That and the James Comey book on Leadership. So coffee and Hilary’s email server got me through the trip and also calmed my nerves.

I forgot my physical, that was scheduled this past week, but that pesky bells palsy seems to have returned along with an aching pain in my left arm that bugs the tar out of me.


I decided that My name is Prince needed to go, so now I have Rebel Yell by Billy Idol going in my mind. This was by choice, considering all that I read about being able to select and choose what goes through our minds. Better to write and think about Billy Idol than to create catastrophic ideas about my condition. I really want to lay back on the exam table but won’t do it, I also am out of ideas for some sort of twist to bring everything together.

Part of me can hear people saying this article is unreadable and doesn’t have a point, but do we always need to have a point? Can’t I just live in the I don’t know? Yup there it is. I don’t know. I don’t have an assertion or three points or advice to give. Just my phone, google docs, free WiFi, and Billy Idol was running through my head. Guess Rebel Yell is appropriate for an article without a point or assertion. Good news is that the Bells hasn’t returned. The bad news is that my doctor thinks that I may have a pinched nerve. Now I am off to radiology to get some x-rays.

MOM

Dorothy Hatchett was born in Henderson Kentucky in 1929. She was the sixth of eight children. She married Tommie Lucas Thompson when she was 21 years old. They married on her parent’s farm in September. Tommie and Dorothy moved to the suburbs of Chicago to start a family together.

Dorothy had four boys during her lifetime. The fourth was born twenty years after her first born. Her first born passed away from a heart condition when he was two.

I was the fourth boy born to Dorothy. She was my mom. Today on Mother’s Day what I have left of my mom is memories. She passed away twelve years ago.

I believe that my mothers’ experiences on Mother’s Day were ones of joy and of grief. My mom never talked about my brother and her feelings surrounding his loss. Yet I have to know that the first Mothers Day after his death had to be painful. I also know that before he was born my mom had several miscarriages.

On Mother’s Day, it is essential to remember that there are people who experience pain on this day, sorrow for what they lost and sadness for what they long for.

My mom loved me unconditionally. I have great memories, my mom. I recall her picking me up after school when I had band or baseball practice. I always found her in the crowd at my many concerts, and her hugging me on my wedding day.

I also know that I frustrated her. When I got off the bus from my 8th grade Washington Trip, she came up to me to give me a hug. I had been gone for a week. I told her not to hug me because I didn’t want my friends to think I was soft.

That hurt her feelings. Today I know what it is like to send your child out into the world. I cringe now when I think of that moment. If I could have a redo, I would take it and would’ve hugged her when I got off the bus.

I still remember composing her eulogy on a plane flying home to Chicago from Los Angeles. I recall discussing the unconditional love she had for me. No matter how many times I messed up, she still loved me. It didn’t matter what I achieved or didn’t accomplish, I was her baby boy.

I am now married and have a son. Each year I make a point to teach him to honor his mother on this day. The reason is that my wife is my wife, but to him, she is his mom. This morning I had him make my wife breakfast. He made coffee, eggs, and sausages.


We gave her gifts and took her to lunch after church. My wife was happy today.


I am glad that on this day that I can experience all of my emotions in there various forms, and I am thankful for the opportunity to teach my son, and celebrate my wife, and all the other moms in my community.


Mother’s Day is a day of joy for some and grief for others. Neither is better than the other. In life, we learn to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.

The path forged by memories.

John Singleton the filmmaker known for the film Boyz in da Hood died this past week of a stroke at age 51.

As I read the many tributes to him online, it brought back many memories. When the movie came out in 1991, I was a college sophomore attending Northern Illinois University in Dekalb Illinois, Dekalb is known for its barbed wire and corn festival. Also Dan Castenella the voice of Homer Simpson graduated from NIU.

When I saw Boyz in da Hood , South Central Los Angeles was a world away, and all I knew of it were the rap albums by most notably was the album Straight Outta Compton by NWA. In the mid-nineties I came to the national debate tournament at San Diego State University, San Diego is two hours from Los Angeles. Before the competition, Easy E died from aids, myself and other teammates considered driving down to LA from San Diego to try to pay our respects to Easy. Again at the time, all I knew about LA was what I saw on TV- The Rodney King videos, OJ running from the cops, the riots.

In 1999 I moved to Los Angeles. At the time I was studying theology and teaching speech and debate. My church asked me to move to LA to help out with the singles ministry. I was not being paid by the church to work as a minister, but the church paid my moving expenses, housed me, and gave me some start-up money until I could steady income.

The first year in LA I worked nine different jobs. I got a teaching job my first one was in South Central Los Angeles, it was a small private school. When my car broke down, I would ride the bus to school. I taught first and second-grade students for several years. In those years I was never shot at, never saw a gun battle, the parents were working class mom and dads who paid for private education and wanted the best for their children.

A few weeks ago the rapper Nipsy Hustle was shot and killed in front of his store on Slauson and Crenshaw. The school I worked at for those years was on Slauson, and Crenshaw was two streets down. When I heard of his death, my mind wandered back to some mornings years ago. I would get off the bus, stop at seven eleven, get coffee then walk to school. The school I worked at doesn’t exist anymore in that area.

As I write this, I am wrestling with several concepts that I can’t come to a landing on. A few are in my head. Here is an idea that made it out and onto paper. How do the media, movies, and TV shape my views of places?

What we see and hear from the news, tv, and movies- those events do happen. Those events are tragic and horrible, but they aren’t the only events that are occurring daily.

The school I worked at was run by a mother/daughter team. Two women of color who were entrepreneurs who ran a private school is a success story. One thing I remember now where the number of small businesses in the area, people ran restaurants, and party supply stores, all within walking distance.

The second concept is why do I feel that if I talk about the good things that occur in an area I am diminishing the importance of acknowledging the horror?

Seeing Boyz in the Hood, listening to NWA didn’t make me fear South Central Los Angeles, I know that wasn’t John Singleton’s point when he made the film, and listening to rap music doesn’t make me glorify the violence it depicts.

In 1991, I was a music major, my main goal was to get rich being an entertainer. Today I am a school administrator working with at-risk kids with special needs who have undergone or are undergoing severe trauma a great deal of them live in South Central Los Angeles.

What forces were at play when I sat in the movie theater 28 years ago watching the film for the first time? I can say that there were spiritual forces that were using that movie to prepare me for a career of service. I told a friend today at church that the only reason I am an educator is because of the spiritual influences in my life. Without those influences, I never would’ve become one.

I am learning that the point of showing the darkness is to make a path to the light.

To Spoil or not to Spoil.

Spoil-diminish or destroy the value or quality of.

Avengers Endgame came out this weekend and set box office records. As I type this story, I am excited about the upcoming Game of Thrones episode. One of the stories that caught my eye was the concept of spoilers.

LaSean McCoy a running back with the Buffalo Bills who has over 730,000 twitter followers rocked the internet when he posted tweets about the movie. A man in Hong Kong was beaten up for shouting spoilers at the movie theater, and the cast of the film posted a video requesting the people not spoil the movie.

This phenomenon made me curious. One- Why would a person yell out movie details at a multiplex? Yet why in turn would someone beat someone up for doing it? It isn’t illegal to shout out movie details, but it is against the law to harm a person physically. I wonder what went through the individuals’ mind as they punched the man, did they believe they were acting nobly? Protecting the greater good?

As for LaSean McCoy, some of the comments on his twitter feed were even more disturbing, calling him a scumbag, wishing he would tear his ACL, and one follower also started an online petition calling for the team to cut the player.

Now as for me, I love the Marvel movies. I read comic books as a kid. I love taking my son to the movies, and I enjoy reading the vigorous debate that goes on about the movies when Infinity Wars came out last year, I actually went online and read spoilers. This wasn’t the first time, I frequently read spoilers my favorite shows. Here is the thing, I loved Infinity Wars, and reading the spoiler didn’t diminish the quality of the movie.

We always have had movies or TV shows that people anticipated seeing. When I was a child, I lined up to see Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. There wasn’t a problem with spoilers back then. Of course movie critics Siskel and Ebert would have never used their platform and access to spoil a movie. In this day and age everyone has a platform, and as Seth Godin says,” the problem with giving everyone a microphone is that they may use it.”

When Endgame came out, I was tempted to go online and read the spoilers. This time I said no.


For me not reading the spoilers became an exercise in patience. I learned a lesson. I saw that by reading a spoiler, I was just looking for an answer. Yet a solution isn’t an experience. Experience is something that you can share with other people. So tomorrow morning when I head to work I look forward to talking about Game of Thrones and the Avengers with other friends who watched it over the weekend. In those discussions, we create connection and bonds, and friendship.

Happy Birthday

This weekend my son turned ten. In the spirit of the event, I will give out my tip on decreasing the stress associated with a kiddie birthday party.

We have had a party pretty much every year. Parties at the park and parties at locations.

Have your party at an event location.
This year we used Pump it Up.
Here is what makes it so easy two months before the party I go the website, pick a party date, time and package. I put down a small deposit, and everything is good to go. They send over online invites, and waivers, my wife handles the invitations.


The week of the party, I call in and order food for the adults — a sandwich platter, pizza, and wings. The menu for the kids comes with the party package; I paid extra for a glow in the dark experience, a balloon drop, pictures, balloons in the food room, and goody bags.


Tuesday before the party I head over to our local grocery store that also has a bakery, I order the cake, all the Marvel characters were sold out, so I went with a ninja turtle theme. I set the pick up for Saturday at 10 am.
On Saturday I head back to the store, pick up the cake, along with pre-

packaged chips, and a fruit and vegetable platter for the adults.


We drive to the party, picking up one friend along the way, and arrive. At the door the party planner greets us, they have a cart, and they take in the cake, platters, chips, and the t-shirts my wife made for all the kids. They have another cart where all the presents and cards go.


The party planner takes us into the arena, they run and jump for a half an hour, do the balloon drop, then go into the glow in the dark stage, run and dance some more for another forty minutes. They turn the lights on, take a group picture, then we head into the food room. The party planners have all the tables set up; they roll out the cake, light the candles, put on some disco lights, my son is seated in a blow-up throne, everyone sings happy birthday. The party planners pass out the pizza and drinks for the kids, the adults go through the line and grab sandwiches. At the end we hand out goodie bags, they party planners bring over a receipt, I sign it and tip them. They bag up the leftovers, put it on a cart, and they load up my car.


This is beautiful. Several reasons- One- safety we have a private arena, the only people in the arena are people that we know. Second- High Engagement and everything is timed. The more kids move, the better, no one is complaining, everyone is running and jumping, they have tables and couches, and free wifi in each arena, so all the adults can sit, relax, and catch up. One of my friends who is a programmer was showing his new app to another friend who is a graphic artist, asking for logo advice. Two friends who are musicians were chatting away, and I caught up on political banter with a mom of one of my son’s close friends who moved a few months ago.


At the end of it all, we hopped in the car, dropped off the friend and headed home where my son opened his presents. All had fun, and my wife and I were encouraged that everyone was happy. If you want a reduced stressed kid birthday experience, I highly recommend finding a kid-friendly activity area that has party rooms.

On frustration

Frustration
“the feeling of being upset or annoyed, mainly because of inability to change or achieve something”

The ability to look up a definition in an instant is something I am thankful for. Upset and annoyed describe to a tee how I felt this week. My health has been a thorn in my side this year. This week I found out I have Bell’s Palsy.


At the beginning of the year when the podiatrist was scraping away at my foot, and I got fitted for a giant boot, I kept myself at peace by meditating, and journaling about gratitude, also by looking at the bright side. When the left side of my face wouldn’t move, and my left eye bugged out on me, My only response was cynism, sarcasm, and spite.


My doctor gave me steroids. I perked up a bit. I get to be on the juice for a week. Maybe I should take up playing baseball again. My doctor and my pharmacist said I would have a lot of energy. I thought to myself, this is nice, I usually get tired in the afternoon, and if I am in a long parent meeting, it will keep me awake. Look for the silver lining, my inner voice told me.


I came home with my Methylprednisolone and Valacyclovir. Ever curious I decided to read about what I was putting into my body. The side effects of prescription medicine put a scare into me whenever I read them.


The fright came reasonably quickly, both drugs listed hallucinations and violent behavior as possible outcomes. I did a quick cost-benefit analysis of the situation, Is the healing of my body worth the risk of hallucinating? I wondered what my hallucinations would take the form of?

Would I be sitting in my office and suddenly a unicorn would manifest itself and begin chatting with me about the latest Avenger’s trailer? If this happened, I figured the best thing to do, would be to meditate, and not directly address the unicorn, definitely not mention it to anyone.


The day went fine. I am not sure if the medicine is working or not. My eye started behaving normally yesterday afternoon, so I have that as a bit of evidence.


On Saturday I found myself very discouraged about the entire situation, so after dropping my son at a birthday party, I headed to Starbucks with my journal and began to write about it.


I began to list all that has gone wrong this year with my health, and I as wrote I started to notice that

As I wrote, I started to look for comfort and think about the things in life that bring me joy. I am happy that Liverpool won, glad that Tiger Woods won the Masters, excited about watching Game of Thrones I enjoy my new phone, apple watch, my purple converse all-stars, my maroon converse all-stars, so yes it has been annoying. I have been angry. I am not stuck. The situations are changing.

My foot, blood sugar levels, and eyes are getting better, I am not hallucinating or being violent, I can look back and see healing. When I looked back at the definition of frustration, I saw that my experiences no longer met the definition. The end of the definition stated that the anger came from an inability to change a situation. Journaling and reflecting helped me to see that yes I did have a list of unfortunate annoying health issues, but it has gotten better.

Flawed but Kind

I was in a crisis workshop this week, and the instructor was discussing the idea of assumptions. I know that I make assumptions frequently. Yet here is what I learned and am attempting to pass on, when you make an assumption, don’t stop with the assumption, add to it discernment and try to move forward in your decision making.


For example, at times when working with children, someone will say “ They are doing what they are doing because they are seeking attention.” Then everyone knods and the assumption is that attention seeking behavior is not to be tolerated.


Yet let me offer another perspective.


Let’s say that you have a person who is at a sports event, they run onto the field naked and have their friends take pictures to put on Instagram, is that attention seeking behavior? Yes


Now let me offer another story, you are at the beach, and someone is pulled into the riptide, they are bouncing up and down, waving their arms, and screaming. Is this attention seeking behavior? Yes, it is. Yet this is attention seeking behavior that is a cry for help.


If you only stopped at ” they are exhibiting attention seeking behavior, then a person in need of help won’t receive it. We behave in order to need meet. Rather than being dismissive, ask what need is trying to be met?

Finding the needs requires more than assumptions, it requires discernment.


Discernment. Discernment is a skill I am attempting to practice more these days with myself and with others. Here is how I am using it on myself. When I am an observer of my behavior, it helps. In my case when I do something I am quick to condemn myself, an example, if I make a budget, and pay all my bills each month, I am upset with myself because I have debt.

The assumption monster says you have an obligation you are bad with money. Yet I switch hats and start to be an observer of my behavior, I put all my bills on a spreadsheet, I paid them, I have a plan to pay down my debt. Discernment says looking to be good or bad with money is a losing battle. The goal is to manage my money. Some days I win, some days I lose, the point is to keep coming back and playing the game. Good or bad isn’t the goal.

Managing my finances, and learning from the mistakes I made in the past and hopefully avoiding them in the future. Discernment allows me to make practical decisions. Assumptions only cause me to get stressed, and stress puts me into a flight, fight, or freeze mode. Assumptions equal tension and stress develops patterns of behavior that aren’t helpful. Yes, we are flawed, but being flawed is not a disqualification for caring for yourself. Be flawed, be kind.