My Mother the Teacher – a reprise

The following post was written seven years ago while my mother was still alive. We lost her on early Christmas morning a couple of years later. Since two weeks ago was National Teacher Appreciation Week and today being Mother’s Day, this post seemed fitting to revisit.

When one of the boys I was coaching in baseball found out my mother had been his teacher, he said immediately about the sweetest woman I know, “Your mother is mean.” I asked him why he would say that and he said my mother put his desk up front by her desk. Now, if you remember anything about teachers, you know when a teacher does this she is beyond her last straw. I also knew the boy was more animated than others in practice and would not listen very well. When I mentioned this later to my mother, she said, “He was a real pill.”

Teaching is a hard job. It can be very rewarding, but it also can be very thankless. My mother has always been a teacher, whether as a second (or first) grade teacher, as a substitute or as a bible study teacher. She would spend (and still does at age 83) hours preparing her lessons and, in the case of elementary school, grading papers. In her paying job, she probably worked ten to twelve hours days. Some might say, teachers get summer off, but they work a week after school is out and a few weeks before every one comes back. But, when you add up the hours, they can rival most year-round employment jobs.

However, because they are relatively low paid, especially in my state of North Carolina where we are 46th in teacher pay, many work summer jobs as well. Our state is trying to remedy the problem it created with frozen budgets and cutbacks on additional pay for masters degrees. Teachers have been voting with their feet leaving the state and the Moral Monday protests added a large voice to that of teachers to shame the legislators into doing something. They are still arguing over this as of this writing.

Yet, through this process, teachers have not been shown the respect they have earned. Of course, there are some poor teachers. But for the large part, my experience has been with very dedicated professionals. And, they also take the blame for things outside of their control. My mother would tell you that it does take a village to raise and educate a child. A good teacher cannot do the parent’s job. It needs to be a team effort between the teacher, parents, counselors and teacher assistants. Also, volunteers help, in a large way, especially if there is not enough teacher assistants to cover the classes.

But, you may have noticed I used the plural of parents. The dilemma these days is if you looked at the demographics of classrooms, the number of kids with divorced parents would not be insignificant. Further, the number of those kids with only one parent in their relationship would not be inconsequential, especially in high poverty schools. In the volunteer work I do for homeless families, there is a significant percentage of single parent families. Divorced or single parent families make it tougher on the kids.

A couple of years ago, I tutored two fifth graders in math. They were interesting and attentive little girls who asked for help in writing. This blew me away. One had ten people and three generations in her house and the other had seven people. Each had a heavy list of chores beyond the normal 5th grader, so school work was difficult to fit in. The nice part is a school counselor was working with the teachers and parents to help these girls keep up. Since English was their second language, word math problems gave them trouble, as did geometry, but that can give anyone nightmares. We worked through their issues and they passed.

Seeing my mother with my kids and my nieces and nephews, she has the patience of Job. She embodies what teachers are all about. They want to help people and take great pride when the children learn and can apply their learnings to something else. In Finland, teaching is one of their most honored professions. Their brightest aspire to these roles and are given the freedom to teach. They are paid well and Finland routinely ranks high in education achievement.

We should value people like my mother. They make such a huge difference in our kids’ lives. They did in my life, as well. So, big shout outs to Mr. Batten, Ms. Bowden, Ms. Regan, Ms. Shrout, Mr. Brickell and countless others. Thanks for teaching me. And, the biggest thanks go to Mom. You are my first and best teacher. I love you, Mom.

Remember all mothers, even those not with us

When my mother died on Christmas Day in 2016, it left my wife and our siblings without any parents. So, on Mother’s Day, we must remember our mothers in past tense. Yet, they lived and made us who we are.

Our mothers were good people. They were pious and a friend to many. Both were heavily involved in their churches and tended to be the ones who helped organize food when someone passed away or for a monthly picnic. When my mother passed, the minister said she was the one he normally called to do things for the bereaved family. Now, he had to call someone else.

My mother was a teacher for years. She taught first and second grades and loved her kids. She was a substitute teacher after her children reached a school age, going back full time when it made sense. She also taught Bible Study Fellowship for years, so she was always planning to teach or teaching throughout the week. My mother learned to be a teacher at a small college in north Georgia called Berry College. She met my father there and they were married for almost 55 years before he passed.

My mother-in-law was a constant companion when my father-in-law would sing for the elderly or at hospitals. She ran a thrift store for the church and was a constant volunteer for just about everything. She met my father-in-law in Detroit, when many women traveled north to help the war effort during WWII. They returned to her home in South Carolina to farm and take care of her eldest sister who lived until the age of 99.

Both mothers had Alzheimer’s, the most hateful of diseases. It gradually robs people of their memories and they lose track of who people are, even themselves. They both could hide it well, as many do. As long as you did not ask them who people were, they knew you were on their team. Fortunately, they passed away before the lights went totally out on their memories.

I remember my mother-in-law singing with my father-in-law old 1940s and 50s songs in the back seat of our car as we drove back from a visit to my wife’s sister and her family in New York. It was dark which added to the ambience. I also remember her sitting on her glider chair on her back porch. She would stick one leg out, then switch legs as she glided and chatted.

I remember my mother in many ways. She loved crossword puzzles, as do I, so she was always asking me who certain sports figures were, when she probably already knew and just wanted to converse. She had a wonderful laugh and would do so as she recounted funny stories of youth or what happened recently. Even as her memory faded, she was still the kindest of people a gentle soul.

So, let’s remember our mothers well. They were not perfect, but they were still pretty darn fine.

Melancholy and excitement

This Mother’s Day weekend was very special with the graduation of our youngest child from college. Her two brothers joined us to celebrate this amazing young woman’s achievements. We are experiencing equal parts melancholy and excitement.

Our daughter is a terrific person and we are so proud of the woman she has become. She is smart, funny and helpful. She came into her own in college graduating cum laude with a major and three minors, and getting involved with the climbing team, common ground, and an organic garden effort on campus. She is well read and can write or converse on a multitude of topics – today we discussed the maltreatment of women, the various pandemics, the impact of climate change on viruses and business, etc.

Her mom said the best Mother’s Day gift was having her family there to celebrate our daughter’s graduation and help her move out of her campus apartment. Each member was packing, cleaning, sweeping and/ or transporting boxes, clothes, small appliances and furniture. We earned outlr tiredness.

Our daughter will be working this summer on a research project which will take advantage of her degree and climbing skills. She will be rooming with a couple of former classmates. We are excited for her, but have a healthy dose of melancholy. It is the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.

Saturday in the park

If you are my age or a Chicago (the band) fan, you are thinking of the next line, “I think it was the 4th of July.” It is a beautiful Saturday morning and my daughter and her friend are slowly arising. Hearing your child or children laughing is the greatest sound in the world.

We have always had a home where our children feel comfortable having their friends over. It is a treat to meet your kids’ pals and hear them having fun. It also helps as a parent to know the friends of your children in our imperfect world with greater temptations than we had growing up. This is our safe haven.

My daughter is home from her freshman year of college and we are so proud of the woman she has become. She is interested in stopping injustice to people and the environment. She is well read and active at school and has made the Dean’s List twice. She loves her professors and they offer encouragement. I was sharing with Hugh on his blog that one of her professors applauded her for writing a paper that disagreed with the author’s position, which he said he usually only sees from upperclassmen.

My oldest son moved out a month ago and is rooming with a good friend. They have a tribe of friends that hang out and look out for each other. He has taken on more responsibility and is asking more questions about living on a budget, saving, insurance, etc. He is a fine young man and a good friend, but like many his age is still finding his path forward. Working two jobs 50 – 60 hours a week is wearing him out. We do miss having him here, but are happy for his spreading his wings.

My youngest son will be home at the end of next week completing his junior year. He has changed majors and colleges and is enjoying his eclectic college in the mountains. He is relishing being a scientist and exploring wildlife biology and the environment. He will only be home briefly as he will be interning this summer at a place that takes care of different kinds of wildlife. The college is perfect for him as it is work-study program where all students have to work 15 hours a week. Plus, it attracts eclectic people who I find to be a joy. It is ironic in a state that has passed an anti-transgender and LGBT law, his dorm has unisex bathrooms and showers.

I hope everyone enjoys their Saturday and all mothers have a wonderful Mother’s Day.




To all our sexy mothers

To put your mind at ease, my thoughts are for our wives and single mothers, not for my mother, who I think of differently as a son, although she was quite the looker when younger. As my wife and I drive back from visiting my mother, my wife is singing along with the Divine Ms. M as she takes her turn behind the wheel.

What we and others love about Bette Midler is the range of music and emotions she will take you through from the pious to the profane. As she can be a tad bawdy, it reminded me that my wife and the mothers of our children are like Bette and should never forget that sexy woman they are.

And, it is essential that we husbands and boyfriends should remind them of such. Erika (Erika Kind) and Holly (A Heart Afire) have written posts today about unconditional love, being not only supportive but attentive to the needs of each other. See below for links to each. Being able to see past the shortcomings and see the beauty and sublime. As I write this, my wife and Bette are singing the lyric “Did you ever know that you are my hero?” which seems fitting.

Yet, we should never lose sight of her sensuality and sexuality. It is those things we do throughout the day that really are the beginning of foreplay. The kiss on the back of the neck, the phone call during the day, the touch of a hand or caress of a cheek.  Or, it may be the glimpse of how good she looks in that blouse or pair of jeans. Our friend Erika called them “almost shy gestures” that make a difference.

So, let’s not forget our sexy mothers. And, remember they are the women who look past our shortcomings. Happy Mother’s Day.

Random musings while the birds are chirping

It is nice to arise to the birds chirping on a beautiful Saturday morning. This is one of the benefits of having a couple of bird feeders, although we have had some tall Blackbirds fending away the Cardinals, Finches, etc. In no particular order, here are some random thoughts while the birds chirp.

Happy Mothers Day to all mothers tomorrow. Also for those who lost their mothers, it is melancholy time to reflect. My mother is 83 and is at the early stages of Dementia. We are testing for Alzheimer’s later this month, but she has her moments of confusion and loss for words. Being a teacher, this is harder for her as she has always been quite the wordsmith and communicator. I am going to venture down to see her tomorrow.

The Kindness Blog, which is a compilation of authors works on being kind to one another, has a great post on not trying to be more than you are or to be great, just be a better version of you. If you don’t follow this blog, you should consider it as it will highlight the many good things happening in the world to contrast against the bad. Since I have been taking a Yoga class, this could sum up what they try to teach – be a better version of yourself.

We need more politicians to act like adults, especially when something very childish happens. You may have heard in Texas, the Governor has asked his militia to shadow the national militia as a person with an extreme bent has put on his website that the federal government is doing an exercise in preparation to takeover Texas. Rather than being adult and asking “why would our federal government want to do that?” he gave credence to the craziness and matched its inanity. Several politicians running for President from Texas and beyond, also had varying degrees of reactions that gave some credence to something that is not feasible. One conservative State representative did call the Governor out for wasting time, resources and raising fear. We have enough real problems in the world without having to invent fantasy ones.

I saw a great story on NBC News about two female physics students at UCLA who are riding bicycles across the country to teach interesting physics lessons to middle school girls. At each stop, they show the girls how to build a toy solar powered bike and watch it run. They encourage the girls to follow their dreams, that they can do anything and science is cool. The women met in class as they were outliers in a room of men. I think this is about as cool a summer project as you can find.

So, to sum up, remember your mother, be a better version of yourself, act like an adult to silence fear mongering, and teach children to find and follow their passions.