Thursday, December 30, 2010

Progressives in Western Iowa?

Living in one of the most Republican saturated congressional districts in Iowa, Democrats may feel isolated and under constant scrutiny. Yet we're not alone. In spite of the fact that District 5 keeps electing Steve King, Democrats keep getting elected to county and municipal offices. This proves that we're not only not alone, but that many of our fellow progressives are committed to public service and to our communities- AND that they are trusted and respected by their constituents- our moderate and conservative neighbors.

I'd like to encourage other Democrats to be unashamed of their convictions, undaunted by the potential ridicule of right-wing ideologues in their workplaces and families, and make an effort to connect with one another and network with other progressives in Iowa and the Midwest so that we can remain informed and better organized.

To help us do this, I'd like to recommend three great resources in particular:

If you're like me, you've had people question the validity of your faith because you support Democratic candidates. Sociologist, Pastor, and author, Tony Campolo's latest book, Red Letter Christians proves that Christians not only can, but should consider liberal and progressive political positions in the light of Jesus' teachings, and examples.
Visit the Red Letter Christians Blog at

Opposing gay marriage, abortion, and evolution are NOT the only issues Christians should care about, Campolo addresses these as well as education, poverty, corruption, campaign finance, lobbying, foreign policy, war, gun control, immigration, tax structure and many more. 

Campolo's contention is that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, Republicans and the religious right have miss represented Christianity in the media and politics in the U.S. for decades, their positions are not necessarily always as supported by Scripture as they claim, and if we look at all of the Bible (and contemporary political issues and current events) in the light of Jesus' teaching (the red-letter portions of the Gospels, such as the Sermon on the mount in Matt. 5-6)- we will have a hard time seeing Republican and Tea Party attitudes as being very Christ-like at all. We should look at each issue individually for ourselves rather than assuming that one party or candidate is right on every issue just because we agree with them on one or two issues.

George Lakoff's book, 'Don't think of an elephant' is something that every Democrat needs to read because we need to learn how to communicate our values: 

  • a strong America
  • broad prosperity
  • a better-future
  • effective government
  • mutual responsibility
  • empathy
  • equality
  • accountability.
We have to share our values and start couching every discussion we have about every issue in terms of these values. It's absolutely imperative that we work on counteracting or at least eroding the myths that our friends, families, and neighbors are being barraged with about liberals, Democrats, and progressives. We are not misled, we are not anti-American, anti-family, or anti-God. We are not NAZIs or Socialists as Glenn Beck would have people believe. We earnestly care about our nation, state, communities and families. I believe that if we internalize, personalize and start peppering our conversations with these ideas that Lakoff points out have already been our long shared values- our fellow Western Iowans may gradually become less afraid of us and less prejudiced against us.

Finally, 'You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America' by former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean is an excellent book with lots of ideas for reinvigorating  our grass-roots. Like Campolo and Lakoff, he explains how Democrats have always held values of community and mutual responsibility, as well as equality and empathy. He presents a clear and easy to understand case for how the right wing has mismanaged the economy and abused political power- but have been more organized and deliberate about communicating their supposed values and appealing to the general population- inn spite of the fact that they really only represent a narrow group of interests. Dean isn't some kind of weird radical, his book is incredibly clear, concise, personal, practical and applicable. Those active in party leadership should especially enjoy and find use for this book.

If you're reading this, you could easily order any or all 3 of these books online. They're all reasonably priced.

I hope you'll all find ways to find out who your fellow Democrats are, especially here in Crawford County. get to know each other and support one another. Connect with blogs, facebook, twitter, email, and texting. And remember to make sure you're Republican friends, coworkers, and family members know that you're not only not the enemy, but that you care about Iowa and are intelligent and informed. Share your values sincerely and don't try to argue over specific policies, instead share your perspective on them in a nonjudgmental way, while couching your opinions (which they probably don't share) in the context of your values (which they probably do share).

Happy reading and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

POEM: The color of snow

Some people complain about how the landscape never changes all winter
perhaps they find it anticlimactic after Fall's finale
but I think these are the same people that gripe about Fall's epilogue of beige after the harvest is out and the leaves have been raked
they're the same people who fail to recognize how many different greens there are in the depths of summer,
or how much they change from May to September
But my friend Monet has taught me to see and to savor the colors of snow
he showed me the blues and turquoise, the creams, golds, ambers, lavender and rose
No two months in winter, no two weeks, days or even hours are the same, the rainbow is constantly, quietly, gradually fading in and out,
like waves of hue on one of those fiber optic lamps,  ebbing and flowing washes of light
Some days you feel like you're indoors because there is no line on the horizon, the white of the ground, identical to the sky.
Other days the blue of the sky is is tight and sharp and crisp and refreshing
simultaneously it is never more contrasted to the ground and yet how could so much of such pure, clean blue not be reflected in the snow
In the city it goes from off-white to grays and sooty indigos, leaving some gutters iridescent
By March, plenty of snow in the country will be full of browns and ochers and ash with mud and soup
Some of the most magical mornings are when the freezing fog have left a flocking on the trees
Spruces and pines look like they've been sprayed with paint for sale on the Christmas tree lot
While the branches of elms and oaks seem to have fancy white feathers
I like it when it's not just a visual experience, but an auditory one too
Big FAT flakes visiting the Earth like manna, not falling, but gracing us with their advent,
muffling all sound, silencing the cacophony of everyday life.
What I really like is when it's the frigid cold that silences everything,
but the crunch and the squeak of my feet walking on dry powder compacted into ice.
This Christmas, it came down in heavenly flakes of mica, peeled from the layers of stones in New Jerusalem,
spinning and shimmering as the descend
Amazingly there were drifts and hills of ground diamond powder
it was enough to make you believe in angels and cherubim
and miracles and singing

Friday, December 24, 2010

La Vida Loca

What a rocky road. School has been really busy, so I haven't had a chance to write anything here- but there's sure been plenty going on to write about.

  • After 2 or 3 games, my  two best veterans (each other's best friends) quit, no explanation, by text mind you, just before we were getting on the bus for our first away game.
  • The following Monday, I found out that one of them was in the hospital all weekend. She'd gone to the doctor on Friday, not feeling well and found out she had Type I Diabetes. Certainly not something that has to prevent you from cheering, but in spite of my pleads, they don't want to come back. Never did get en explanation why.
  • They say that everything happens for a reason though, and I've wound up having to do more actual direct, deliberate coaching that I have (at the HS level) for a few years. One of the remaining girls is very heavy-set and not the most socially adroit, but she seems to have been part of an incredible junior high program at her last school because she has a load of good skills and instincts. The one veteran left is a Junior Latina. She's always been one of the quietest girls I've ever known. She doesn't live in town and doesn't have her own car, so she hasn't been able to come to practices (since her ride is one of the two girls who quit). But in some ways this has been good for her because she'd been forced to step up into a leadership role at games. The other two, a Sophomore and another Freshman are INSANELY shy and quiet- no one would ever have thought they'd even go out for cheer. I spent one practice just working on getting these 3 to be LOUDER. Another practice we spent working on being more synchronized. I'm proud to report that not only have they not flopped, they keep getting better each game.
  • Meanwhile, one of the girls who cheered during football season announced she was pregnant. Sigh. I want to be supportive of her, but I have to admit to being disappointed. Teenagers aren't ready to become parents and therefore shouldn't be sexually active. That's it, bottom line, regardless of what you think about it on moral or religious grounds- not to mention emotional, psychological, or social maturation. I had a cheerleader pregnant last year too who at least seemed to be much more humble and somewhat private about it. This girl, is as excited as my kids before Christmas. It's like she's obsessed about it the way people get about a new pet, toy,car, computer, whatever. Whatchya gonna do? I'm trying very hard to be supportive and non-judgmental. Be that as it may, I think we have at least 3, maybe 4 or 5 pregnant students at our school this year, it's getting ridiculous. Someone needs to do something about this. I don't know if it's up to parents, the board, our guidance counselor, principal, teachers, or who.
  • Finally, my little Junior High squad has been chugging along. I have one 7th grader in particular who is a phenomenally hard worker. She has learned a ton, and taught her self more, and she's been more consistent with her grades and attendance than any other middle schooler. She's the only one who's cheered for both football and basketball this year. She never misses a game and will even cheer alone when no one else shows up. 
  • On the other hand, we had an 8th grader this year with lots of difficulties. Her IQ is only in the 50's, she's on medication for Schizophrenia, she has a pretty pronounces speech impediment, and has a lot of trouble with coordination and rhythm. I was proud of her and excited for her because she'd been having so much fun, feeling like she was part of something, and little-by-little, getting better at cheering. The Thursday before Varsity's first pep rally, Junior High had a game. I thought that the JrHi squad was doing well enough and were responsible enough that they could perform unsupervised. I was SO worried about making sure that my quiet/shy/insecure Varsity rookies were prepared for their pep rally that I told the MS squad that they were flying solo. The next morning, schizophrenic 8th grader came to me before school and told me that she couldn't finish out the season because she took a job as a babysitter. Later that morning, her Special Education teacher (also the MS girls' basketball coach) came to me and shared that the 8th grader had thrown a tantrum, cussing a blue streak before the game in the hall. She recommended that I suspend the girl from cheerleading- moot point since she'd already quit earlier that morning. Later that afternoon, another JrHi cheerleader reported to me that the 8th grader's older brother (her legal guardian) had attended the game and perhaps was embarrassed by either her performance or her inappropriate behavior because he made her go home with him before the game was finished and wanted her to quit cheerleading.
  • I am at the same time relieved to not be responsible for her, frustrated with her for her misbehavior (however unable to control it she may be), ashamed of myself for being relieved to not have her awkward physical and social challenges on stage as part of my program anymore and broken hearted for her that life and circumstances have handed her such a raw deal. I cared a great deal for her older sister, who had also been in junior high cheer. The sister would've graduated last year, but had transfered to another district after having had a falling out with their brother. Their mom had been a drug addict (which caused the 8th grader's physical and mental health problems). The older sister attended a school for at risk girls for at least one semester and is now a recovering addict herself. Not sure if she's gotten her GED or is still planning on college or not, but I at least know from facebook that she has serious boyfirend.
  • I know this was hard to follow since I didn't use any names. I don't want any of them or their parents/guardians to ever be offended by anything I write/reveal here about them. I want to protect their identities.  I hope I'm not making myself sound like any kind of big hero, I'm not. I just think it's amazing how fascinating some of these kids and their lives are. I've known dozens of kids with stories just as painful, difficult, heroic and sordid over the last 17 years of coaching. That doesn't make me all that fascinating or heroic, but you can see why I wanted to have a place to write about it. I believe that cheerleading can make a meaningful difference in these kids lives, I do hope that somehow God can use me to help them along the way, at least in some small ways. I'd like to think that just by being a stable, "traditional" adult in their lives, that makes some kind of difference. 
  • As you can see, truth really is stranger than any fiction I could try to come up with. What fiction offers is the ability to write about these crazy, amazing things without worrying about airing a real person's dirty laundry or appearing to cast any kind of judgement on them. But then again, I never have time to write about reality, let alone fictionalize it. You'll notice I'm writing this on Christmas Eve- on vacation from school!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here are a couple of acrylic paintings I did today. 
This is of Dada/Surrealist photographer and artist Man Ray. The Spongebob animators liked him so much they made him one of Mermaid Man's arch villains. I think it turned out to be kind of a mixture of Raymond Burr, José David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rod Serling.

Everyone easily recognizes Psychology pioneer Sigmund Freud. Naturally, a student gave me a hard time about including a cigar, since just the day before I'd disallowed him from drawing a cigarette on his final self portrait. One cool thing about this painting is that I think it looks a little like it's in the style of his grandson, English painter, Lucian Freud.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't kill mockingbirds

"Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird's nest

Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O be joyful
Over the marshes and uplands

Look at songs
Hidden in eggs"

-from Carl Sandburg's 'Cornhusker'

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feliz Navidad

 took the camera to some poinsettias today and unleashed some macro!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Surreal take on a surrealist

Here's a montage I made in Photoshop in the spirit of Surrealist Man Ray. Below are two of his paintings and one of his photos which I used.

Driveway moments

it's not so much that the story on the radio is so fascinating
but the car seat is kinds cozy
and the heater has finally started to work
after the whole drive in

my vehicle is my cocoon
no one telling me anything
no one asking anything from me
no one I need to supervise, or mediate, or negotiate

the morning is still quiet
what if I didn't go in?
out her (in here) the world can not touch me

eventually the gas would run out
someone would knock on my windshield
and ask me what I'm doing out here
if everything is okay

in here there are no bills
no emails
no expectations
no one to disappoint

just a radio
a heater
my radio
the comfy driver's seat

no rich
no poor
no popular or cool
or dumb or disliked

just this little space
these three minutes
the parking space
out in front of work

one last sip, the story's over
inhale deep, and sigh
remove the key, open the door
and face the cold, and face the world, and face the day

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cheer&Dance Stuff for Christmas- Varsity Shop

Cheerleading Uniforms & Dance Uniforms - Varsity Shop

Here's the website to go to for all things Cheer- from pajamas to jewelry to bags and tees, and of course accessories. Even your own poms if you want it so bad.

I'd say if there's something you want for Christmas or your birthday, tell your parents about this site instead of asking me about all the piles of catalogs I get.

Happy Human Rights Day

On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was based on the U.S. and English Bills of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It's framers wanted to include the Four Freedoms mentioned in U.S President Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address; Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want.

U.S. Delegate to the U.N., Eleanor Roosevelt supported the adoption the UDHR as a declaration, rather than as a treaty, because she believed that it would have the same kind of influence on global society as the United States Declaration of Independence had within the United States. Elenor Roosevelt was the Chairman of commission charged with drafting the Declaration. If Mrs. Roosevelt was to the UDHR like John Adams or Ben Franklin were to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, then Canadian Law Professor John Peters Humphrey was it's Thomas Jefferson, who spent his life fighting for human rights around the world.

Here is a simplified version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  from the Human Rights Education Association's website:

Summary of Preamble
The General Assembly recognizes that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, human rights should be protected by the rule of law, friendly relations between nations must be fostered, the peoples of the UN have affirmed their faith in human rights, the dignity and the worth of the human person, the equal rights of men and women and are determined to promote social progress, better standards of life and larger freedom and have promised to promote human rights and a common understanding of these rights.
A summary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
1. Everyone is free and we should all be treated in the same way.
2. Everyone is equal despite differences in skin colour, sex, religion, language for example.
3. Everyone has the right to life and to live in freedom and safety.
4. No one has the right to treat you as a slave nor should you make anyone your slave.
5. No one has the right to hurt you or to torture you.
6. Everyone has the right to be treated equally by the law.
7. The law is the same for everyone, it should be applied in the same way to all.
8. Everyone has the right to ask for legal help when their rights are not respected.
9. No one has the right to imprison you unjustly or expel you from your own country.
10. Everyone has the right to a fair and public trial.
11. Everyone should be considered innocent until guilt is proved.
12. Every one has the right to ask for help if someone tries to harm you, but no-one can enter your home, open your letters or bother you or your family without a good reason.
13. Everyone has the right to travel as they wish.
14. Everyone has the right to go to another country and ask for protection if they are being persecuted or are in danger of being persecuted.
15. Everyone has the right to belong to a country. No one has the right to prevent you from belonging to another country if you wish to.
16. Everyone has the right to marry and have a family.
17. Everyone has the right to own property and possessions.
18. Everyone has the right to practise and observe all aspects of their own religion and change their religion if they want to.
19. Everyone has the right to say what they think and to give and receive information.
20. Everyone has the right to take part in meetings and to join associations in a peaceful way.
21. Everyone has the right to help choose and take part in the government of their country.
22. Everyone has the right to social security and to opportunities to develop their skills.
23. Everyone has the right to work for a fair wage in a safe environment and to join a trade union.
24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.
25. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and medical help if they are ill.
26. Everyone has the right to go to school.
27. Everyone has the right to share in their community's cultural life.
28. Everyone must respect the 'social order' that is necessary for all these rights to be available.
29. Everyone must respect the rights of others, the community and public property.
30. No one has the right to take away any of the rights in this declaration.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Moment of clairity

there is a moment of dusk
that is not dim or dull
instead it is sharp
and clear and rich

the colors are deep
and the world appears
as if in a cameo portrait
with variegated darkness just at the edges

the colors of the hills and roads and sky
have more meaning
than at noon
because they are about to be lost

but, it's only a moment
between the golden hour and the twilight zone
one bright, bold,
optimistic moment

when everything is more real
more real than usual
but, like all moments
it is fleeting

and the curtain falls for another moment
and the house lights go out
the previews are over
the night show is about to begin

be careful not to blink
because when you open your eyes
that bright moment will be over
and you'll wake up in the dark

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lame Congress

GOP says "hey 2 Mill people unemployed because of Bush/Republican policies- screw you, Hey Multi Billionaires, have a tax cut!"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sixth period today I was visiting some with our new mascot while another student drew her.

She's been in foster care until she was 18. She's 19 now and lives with a friend she calls an "aunt." She transfered to Boyer Valley from an urban school in Omaha this year as a Senior. Last week she and her aunt moved to my Charter Oak, where I live, but she's still attending BV. She'd rather play basketball but they aren't allowing her to since she's a 5th year Senior.

She was born 3 months early with her internal organs outside her body. She never knew her Dad and doesn't talk with her biological Mom. She's an aspiring rapper. The youtube video of one of her raps says that she's a guy trapped in a girl's body.

She's not exactly a stellar student, but I know she's got a good heart. Here's how I know.

Part way through 6th hour someone came into my room and announced that "one of your cheerleaders is crying in the bathroom." Right away a Junior girl who had cheered for football season asked if she could go check on her, so I let her go. Word came that a Freshman boy had commented on how the Freshman cheerleader looked fat in her uniform. The Senior Mascot know the boy, asked me if she could go comfort the Freshman girl in the bathroom too. I let her, but instead, she went and calmly but authoritatively summoned the boy from his study hall, admonished him and demanded that he apologize to the girl, which he did.

Hall Duty

Crazy mornings are the best. 
Stress helps you think better; 
lethargy and apathy aren't options
You just get going and keep going

The wind howled all night long
the storm windows rattled
not that I sleep well when my wife is gone anyway.
My alarm didn't go off.

I woke up more than an hour later than usual
I scrambled to get ready
pack lunches for the kids
roust them out of bed to get them going.

I didn't get breakfast
didn't make coffee
reminded everyone to dress warm
and what work to get done when they get home

The car stalled at the corner
I noticed it was low on gas
it stalled again as I pulled up to the pump
I went inside to pay and grab some coffee

I grabbed an egg sandwich and a bottle of gas-line antifreeze
I hurriedly paid for it all
and slammed into the door with the sign that said
please use other door

About a third of the way to school
my cell phone rang
I looked forward to talking to my love
but instead heard my middle daughter in hysterics

Something about snow pants
the wrong snow pants
little sister not listening
put your sister on

listen carefully,
wear the ones in your bag
let your big sister wear the other ones
Ok? Ok. Love you Daddy, love you too

Back to the middle girl
still hysterical
But they don't fit either
and I can't find mine!

I'm already a half hour behind
I'll get to school late
and I have hall duty
I wish I could help you

Can you just calm down
it will be okay
it's just one day
stay inside

And whatever you do,
don't call Grandma
This is not that big a deal
breathe, Honey, just breathe

My cell rings again
this time it is my wife
Excited about your conference?
I hope it goes well

I love to hear her voice
It almost makes it worth missing her
Just call to say good morning?
No, one of the kids called, what's been going on?

No big deal
We got it handled
Everything's okay

I run into school
and head out to the hall
ten minutes later
than I'm sure my principal would've liked

Hall Duty can be tedious
standing in one place
for a half an hour
keeping students from loitering before the bell rings

It's a slow morning
not so many kids
probably all late
because of the cold

I visit with a a few
congenial and calm
playing the role of the
steady and positive adult influence

I read my book of poetry
and look out down the hall
past the lunch room, through the windows out front
and see that the snow has started to fly

Do I sound like him?

Ever notice how when you're with someone
who has an accent
you can't help
but start to unconsciously mimic their accent

If you catch yourself you try to stop
because you don't want them to think
that you're making fun of them
but you just can't help it

You creep into matching their cadence, meter, and inflection.
I know that lots of times when I see a movie
I come away wanting to talk like Matthew McConaughey
Or Sean Connery or Liam Neeson

Today, for whatever reason
Having read some poems this morning
I want to write like Billy Collins
with quatrain stanzas

Friday, November 19, 2010

Entwurf von Scheiße: some loose ideas

Anne Lamott says that having lots of ideas brewing for a story is like having tons of boxes of ornaments but no tree to hang them on yet. Thats kinda how I feel about this whole new "Wolfmädchen" project.  I don't know if it's tonight's full moon or just that having finally gotten around to post those last to pieces got my juices going, but I'm having a hard time sleeping. So, here are some tree ornaments before before I forget:

  • Sheep in Wolves' clothing
  • Sheep dogs
  • Coyotes
  • No chickens were harmed in the production of this video
  • whats up with a guy who carries around a King James Bible in his backpack but has nothing but Slipknot and Black Veil Brides on his iPod?
  • Alpha dog
  • Chew toy
  • Canis dirus (dirus=abominable)
  • Fox, dog, bitch, mama grizzly

Wolfmädchen; Waking up in Doctor Doolittle-Land

I was so dead to the world tired and achy. I just wanted to sleep forever. And I had the biggest headache of my life. But I couldn't fall  back to sleep  because I kept hearing these voices.

I rolled over on my side to try to make out who was talking and what they were saying. That's when it dawned on me that I was all alone and outdoors. I was so stiff and exhausted I didn't really care. Somehow I still had the costume on. I must've imagined it was my blanket on my bed at home.

It was still dark out, just before dawn, I heard someone talking again and instinctively flinched into a crouch and looked toward the sound- only to come face to face with a terrifying sight. At first all I could make out was fur, and a horrible stench. But I didn't hear any breathing but my own. Maybe it was dead, whatever it was. I gingerly reached out to touch the carcass to make certain it was just some kind of road kill. Instead I felt long, cold teeth, made out of polyurethane.

Whew! It was just my head.

I was relieved as when you go careening off the road into a snowbank in your car in winter but realize that thankfully you didn't hit another car. But I was still on my guard.

"What are you? What are you?" came one of the voices again. This time there was something furry and alive coming toward me. Again I was relieved when it was just a raccoon sniffing at me? Ordinarily you'd expect a 14 year old girl to be wigged out by even small wild vermin, but for some reason, I realized that I didn't have any reason to be afraid.

Unafraid as I was still didn't know who kept talking.

"What is it? What is it?"

"What are you? What are you? Are you a people or a dog? People or a dog?"

"Bugs, bugs," another voice said from a few feet away.

"Mmmm, good. Mmmm, fruit, mmmm, good" said another, I thought from up above.

"Are you a people-dog?" said the raccoon, looking up at me?

"What the hell?!" I said, "Are you- are you talking to me?"

"Who else? Dog-breath people-girl?" said the raccoon.

"Holy shit! This is too much. Somebody must have snuck some LSD into my Powerade at half time.

"Do you understand me, little guy?" I asked my new subsentence.

"Do you have any food?" it asked.

"Uh, no, sorry."

"No food? What good are you?" it snapped back, and started walking away.

"No wait! come back! How can you understand me?"

"Don't mind him. His kind all have one-track minds. Food food food. Not very smart at all." came a dry, superior voice, from above me. I looked up into the ash tree I apparently had fallen asleep under but only saw a crow.

"Excuse me," are you a crow?

"Corbin Corax is the name, and I happen to be a raven," he explained with some offense in his tone, "larger and much smarter than any crow."

"Great, I'm talking to a big black scavenger bird with a superiority complex. I still don't know if I'm cursed or just crazy, but I know I must be both."

"Perhaps, Dog-Girl, perhaps you are indeed a little of both."

"Oh Geez, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Maybe I'm just dreaming. Or maybe somebody really did drug me as a prank or something. I just want to get home and sleep it off and wake up and have life go back to normal."

Then as if on cue, quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Wolfmädchen; Fish Breath

"So, you're a 'werebear?!'"

"You make it sound so dorky," he complained. Obviously I hurt his feelings.

"Well, who ever heard of a werebear? You gotta admit, it lacks that certain goth vibe."

"At least I don't eat people." Ouch, way to hit a girl where it hurts. Time to lighten things up.
"Yeah, how's that diet of berries and walleye treating you?"

"Pffff, I wish there was some walleye around here." I couldn't believe it, instead of dishing back, he got all reflective on me. "Pretty much nothing but crappies and bass around here. What I wouldn't give for some salmon. I wish my parents would get jobs in the Pacific Northwest."

Why is he always so damn serious? "God, no wonder your breath smells like it does."

"Hey at least I don't chase cats."

"Good one Pooh Boy."

"Pooh? Like Winnie the Pooh? I'm 6' 4", 320 pounds and like you, I transform into a hairy beast with massive claws and teeth and you STILL think I'm just 'Mr. Nice Guy,' all sweet and gentle."

I didn't think it would be a good idea to point out that his name was Ben at that moment.

"You'll have to forgive me, if I don't find you intimidating. After all,  I am the bearer of a thousand year old gypsy curse, tormented by demons, libel to get chased down by a mob of villagers with torches and pitch forks any day now."

Wolfmädchen; the concept

As I noted when I started this new blog, writing guru Anne Lamott says that it's important to allow yourself some "shitty first-drafts."

For a long time now I've had these ideas rolling around in my head for a book about a teenage girl werewolf. At first my concept was a cheerleader. But of course the market is glutted with paranormal teen romance gobligook. I was afraid it would be too Buffy-esque.

So then a friend of mine (who happens to be a former mascot) suggested she be a mascot. Could you imagine how funny it would be that no one would ever see her turn into a wolf, because she'd be in a dog suit anyway?

I had started thinking she was like a couple of different cheerleaders I had out in LA. But while they were both funny and pretty, neither had really developed senses of irony. In fact, while they weren't totally innocent, I think they were pretty much guileless.

So then who popped in my mind was a girl who actually came out for mascot this year, but then only did it for one game. She has this kind of conspiratorial, perpetual soliloquy thing about her. A little like in the movie Juno- but not nearly as bitter. Someone with enough sarcasm to be a great narrator, but who is still someone you could identify with, and care about.

So, anytime you see an entry tagged "Wolfmädchen" (Wolf-Girl) it will be one of many scattered, fragmented, unordered little "Entwurf von Scheiße" (shitty first draft).

I want it to be about all that difficult adolescent stuff, change, alienation, angst. But hopefully it will be funny. Just like Lon Chaney Jr's 1941 Wolf Man, I don't want her to be a sociopath (not that there aren't a lot of teenage girl sociopaths out there).

I know it's pretty pretentious to think I'm gonna write the great American novel. These days everybody and their brother wants to write a book. It may be that nothing ever comes of this, I'm pretty scatter-brained (not to mention busy) and I haven't got a lot of self-discipline. But these ideas keep popping into my head, so I thought it was high time that I start writing them down somewhere.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ode to Jasper Johns

Here's a new watercolor painting with a touch of 9/11 in it. I worked it over with a lot of surface techniques so as much as I want it to be like a Jasper Johns, it has plenty of Jackson Pollack in it too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grateful for great girls this season

Over the years plenty of people have told me that I'm either some kind of saint, or certifiably crazy. There is certainly no shortage of egos, drama, tension, silliness, and annoyances. But most of the time it can be very rewarding. I believe God has taught me a lot through it (certainly patience) and I hope and sometimes think that He has used me to help teach and mentor the girls on my squads.

It can be stressful and I have a handful of friends, colleagues and former cheerleaders (including my wife) whom I can vent to when it gets hard- but I usually feel guilty about it because I'm constantly trying to impress on my cheerleaders the importance of being positive and because I don't want the people I'm venting to to conclude that it's a terrible hardship or that I dislike it and would rather get out of it.

So I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to thank God for the kids I have on this year's basketball cheer squads. Three of the four junior high girls are new as are three of the seven high school girls. A lot of coaches of ANY sport might tell you that it's hard to lose a lot of veterans because you have to go back and reteach the fundamentals. They'll often call it a rebuilding year or a growing year.

The thing about rookie cheerleaders is that they tend to be more coachable, more open to teaching and instruction. Girls who have been cheer for a few years start to get fiercely independent. It's good to be able to trust them to know what they're doing, but they can be less open to correction and and more likely to challenge your coaching. Which is okay, that's natural and all part of the process. But it's nice to be doing more actual coaching, and not merely advising or being just a sponsor again. Sure, it can be more work, but that just means more direct and deliberate interaction with kids. This is when teaching happens and when the relationships are established which will offer opportunities for mentoring later on.

So, I want to thank God for Lexis, Jarlin, Cathrine, and Jamie on my MS Squad and for Brittney, Shannon, and Jasmine on my HS Squad. 

Although, I still want to thank Him for those hard working veterans who know what they're doing too. I have no rhythm and can't remember most of our cheers. I'm not a dancer. I coach best when I'm coaching the fundamentals. Cheers and chants are passed down through oral tradition. This year, so far, I've been very blessed with girls that seem to work well together and get along- much less drama than some past years. So, I should also thank God for Renea and Tiffany, Brenda and Kayla- and for Cammey who comes inn to help me teach even though she's not cheering this season.

A wonderful chat with an old friend

A Man Without a CountryA Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always enjoyed Vonnegut's imagination and sense of humor in his novels, but I never knew how much we thought alike politically or philosophically until I read this little gem.

It's not an autobiography by any means and I'm not sure you'd call it a memoir. The blurb from the New York Times reviewer on the back cover says that it is "like sitting down on the couch for a long chat with an old friend." That's probably better than I could explain it.

It's not a big political rant, as the title may suggest. It's about lots of different things, from family to technology to WWII to how some of the nicest, smartest people come from the Midwest.

It's a collection of essays toward the end of the life of one of the funnest, funniest, sharpest, sweetest wits ever to come out of Indiana.

Having finished it, I am grieving, the same way you do when that long, warm conversation with an old, dear friend finally has to end and one of you has to go home and go to bed so you can get up and go to work in the morning. I wish this book didn't have to end.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Good Grief

Second week in November. We've been practicing in preparation of  basketball for a week now already.
This Senior girl comes to me and wants to be on squad. She's already 6 months pregnant.
Why wait until the last season of you Senior year?
I dunno?
Why do you want to cheer?
It'll look better on my college applications.
And my probation officer wants me to do it.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Almost there

I'm not quite sure what else I need. I don't want to go too far, but it hasn't told me that it's finished yet.

What I did on my lunch break

A veritable potpourri of pictures. Very therapeutic.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Day Three

It will be interesting to see where this painting takes me tomorrow. I know that it's not where it needs to be just yet. I know his eyes need to be darker. At least I'm getting some serious layers, range, contrast, and density- these are what a monochromatic painting should demonstrate. Check in tomorrow afternoon to see what happens.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

19 yr old Senior's eligibility ran out

I wrote this to a Senior who cheered for football this year, who hasn't been in school for a week or more.

Hey kid- get well and get back to school.
You were making so much progress in Drawing, I'd hate for you to regress in skills.
I'm really looking forward to having you mascot for me too. You're awesome at encouraging the crowd, I think you'll be a great mascot.
Take some Vitamin C or echinacea or something.
Nasty rumor going around today that you're so despondent about not being able to play basketball that you're thinking about dropping out. I sure hope that's just a rumor. You're way too smart for that. Plus you can't play basketball in college if you don't go to college and you can't go to college if you don't graduate from hs.
You know you can always talk to me about anything. I'm here to listen. I know Ball meant a lot to you. Hang in there.
Lots of love, 
Coach Mal

Unfortunately, the email bounced back-

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Presidential Painting

Here are the first two days' progress on a new watercolor painting I'm doing. The assignment I gave my students is to create a monochromatic portrait, and include a value scale along the side.

I tried to find a fairly serious photo of the President. I wanted to avoid cheesy, overly exuberant, or angry. I think the one I found was pretty somber- although I suspect that my own disappointment in yesterday's mid-terms may  be intruding because he looks particularly melancholy. I was looking at the photo upside down, trying to render it as clinically and visually analytically a manor as I could. It will be interesting to see how this one progresses through the week.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vote for Culver to Get the Job Done

Thanks to state investment under Democrats, Dubuque now is top city in America
DES MOINES – Forbes Magazine came out with their latest rankings on the best small cities to raise a family, and topping the list was Dubuque. They found that it is large enough to have a thriving business environment, yet small enough to not be overcrowded.

Under Governor Chet Culver, the state worked with local leaders and officials at IBM to bring the multi-national technology company to Duqubue. Thanks to the Iowa Values Fund, our successful public-private partnership, we were able to bring 1,300 good-paying, technology jobs.

“My administration has worked hard to bring new jobs and new opportunities to communities large and small all across Iowa, and no place highlights the success of our efforts more than Dubuque,” said Governor Culver. “We brought 1,300 jobs to this community with IBM. And through I-JOBS, we are improving the infrastructure of this community and laying the groundwork for future growth with an $8.1 million investment in 32 projects in Dubuque County. This new ranking confirms that the Culver/Judge Administration is getting the job done.”

The ranking by Forbes is one more top national ranking for the state of Iowa. Thanks to Governor Culver’s leadership, Iowa is now ranked:

1st in children’s health care thanks to our investments in HAWK-I and Medicaid

1st in renewable energy

2nd in fiscal situation

3rd best-run state in America

3rd best employment outlook in the nation

Top financial rating with a AAA bond rating

Iowa is the 6th top state for doing business

Iowa’s economic performance is the 8th in the nation thanks to I-JOBS

8th lowest unemployment in the nation

Des Moines and West Des Moines both rank in top ten best cities to relocate in America by Sperling’s

“When you rank in the top ten, why would you throw out the coach?” said Governor Culver. “Terry Branstad says that our record speaks for itself, and it certainly does. Under the Culver/Judge Administration, we have become one of the top states in America for kids, financial strength, and business. We are working hard to make our state the best in America, and I respectfully ask for your vote today so we can continue to move Iowa forward.”

Paid for by the Chet Culver Committee.

Vote for Campbell

Get out there and vote

Today is Election Day!

Find your polling place here, think about when you'll vote and how you'll get there, and bring along three friends to vote with you:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Every Progressive needs to read this book

Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fascinating. Lakoff is a "cognitive linguist," some of his observations remind me of the symbols and archetypes of Carl Jung. Enlightening.

If there's 3 things I like it's psychology, good writing, and politics. This book has all 3, but don' t let my comment about Carl Jung put you off- this is a breeze to read. Fun and easy.

Lakoff explores the perceptual "frames" or world-views of the left and the right and explains why language is so powerful. He thinks that it is important to be able to articulate your values clearly and speak in terms of positive assertions rather than negative criticisms or reactions.

His basic preface is that there seems to be two basic world-views in America right now, the "Strict-Father Family" model and the "Nurturant-Parents Family" model. At first I thought it correlated with Thomas Hobbes and John Locke- but now I realize that it is much more like the differences between the Puritans and the Quakers. On the right you have the punishing rugged individualism of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," and on the left you have the empathetic, community-orientation of Jim Faye's "Love and Logic."

I really think that this book would be good for both liberals AND conservatives, and even independents. I don't think that he maligns or libels conservatives, if anything, I believe he just clarifies what most Republicans already know about themselves and in many cases already admit about themselves.

What I wish would happen is that other, "casual" conservatives and independents would read this book and have their eyes opened- so that they'd become aware of the broader strategy and the powerful propaganda that the far-right has been using to take advantage of them. But as soon as they find out that it was written by a Berkley professor- I'm sure that their "frame" would kick in and not let them even give it a chance.

I hope you'll give it a chance because, bottom line, he explains why & how they've been winning for the last thirty years and what we progressives need to do to compete more effectively in the marketplace of ideas.

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Pappa Bear; This is the Doghouse

Performing at the town band shell at the culmination of the Homecoming parade.

This is the Doghouse
Big Blue and White
This is the Doghouse
And we know how to fight!
Clockwise, starting with the Mascot; Erin (inside the costume) the Irish red head I had a big crush on, Chris my Freshman roommate who stole a girl from me, Tasha our Captain, Pete who ended up being an elementary principal in Hawaii, Tonya who bought me at the annual "slave auction," Jamie my stunting partner, Jim a misogynistic pervert, Amy, and me with big 80's hair. (I've withheld their last names to protect their privacy.

Go Big Blue!

I attended the little college on the prairie. Concordia Teacher's College was a Missouri-Synod Lutheran school in Seward Nebraska, founded in the 1894. I say "was" because like you can
't go back to Constantinople, because now they call it Istanbul, you can't find CTC because Sophomore year it dropped the "Teacher's" from it's name and became simply "Concordia College, Seward," and upon their centennial was renamed "Concordia University, Nebraska." CU is one of ten Concordias nationwide, from New York, to Selma, and from Portland to Austin. They're Christian colleges that offer liberal arts and business programs, but specialize in preparing professional church workers.

I starded out planning to become a commercial artist (Seward's art department rivals the Chicago Art Institute) . I struggled with whether to go pre-seminary to become a Lutheran pastor, but eventually wound up with a Bachelor's in secondary education with a double major in History and Art.

Mission Statement
Preparing Servant Leaders for Church and World

Alma Mater
Dear old Tow’r that shines above us,
Dear hearts that catch the gleam,
Though miles and years remove us
Of you we’ll always dream.
From Plum to Blue and yonder,
We rise Concordia’s own
To praise as far as we wander
The good that on us shone

Fight Song
On, Concordia, On, Concordia,
Pep that team of yours.
Fight, Concordia, Fight, Concordia,
‘Til we win this game.
Rah! Rah! Rah!
On, Concordia, On Concordia,
Pep that team of yours.
Fight, fellows, fight
And we will win this game

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corporate branding

Made this so I can use it for email signatures

A corollary to yesterday's post about political bedfellows

George W. Bush Bush dumped $848,000 worth of Harken Energy stock back in 1990, two months before the company announced a $23.2 million loss; he was 34 weeks late in filing a form the Securities and Exchange Commission required to record the sale... According to Time Magazine, "...Harken concealed losses by selling most of a subsidiary to an off-the-books entity controlled by company insiders. Bush was on the audit committee, which, at least in theory, approved the deal. It's the same tactic used by Enron—on a massive, more pernicious scale..."
Time reported in the same issue that "Halliburton, while Cheney was CEO, greased the books to boost the firm's flagging fortunes." Creative accounting.

Dennis Kozolowski, Ken Lay, Merrill Lynch, Enron, Andersen, Halliburton, Adelphia, R.J. Reynolds, Tyco, Bristol-Meyers, Global Crossing, the list goes on and on of individuals and corporations involved in abuse and corruption during early part of Bush's FIRST term. It's as if there was no S.E.C. no accountability or transparency or ethics of any kind in business, finance, and government.

The Bush years were a new gilded age or cancer-stage capitalism. A culture of corruption flourished.

Is it any wonder that we're now dealing with the likes of Bernard L. Madoff, Goldman Sacs, Lehman Brothers, the entire mortgage-based-securities, and auto executives flying in on private jets to ask Congress for bailouts?

Obscene greed. Yet Conservative Christians only get worked up about abortion and gay marriage. When I wrote columns scrutinizing John McCain's connection to the "Keating 5" and the S&L bailout scandal of the 1980's and how his role in deregulation of the financial sector may have helped lead to our current meltdown I was raked over the coals as some kind of unpatriotic, America-hating, abortion promoting liberal.

Transparency and accountability, and a whole lot of self-discipline is what America needs now.
Time for Relief, Recovery, and a whole lot of REFORM.

But what do I know? People have labeled me a "liberal" and now I have to wear that label like a scarlet letter.

Cactus Flowers

When in Santa Fe, be sure to visit the Georgia O'Keefe museum. Here's me and my girls

Big oil profits vampire

Editorial Cartoon for the May 31, 2007 Charter Oak-Ute NEWSpaper and Schleswig Leader.

So I'm a little anxious about how much my family vacation is going to cost me- there's still no excuse for the record profits that the oil companies are sucking from us, especially here in the heartland- farmers, truckers, people just driving to work. It is absolutely heinous and I could think of no iconic figure more evil that this one.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Poking around my classroom today, I uncovered this old painting I did in tempera on matte board back in the 1990's. I don't remember if it was a self portrait (obviously no goatee) or based on someone else (maybe John Bulushi). Anyway, I really like it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

God Bless You, Kurt Vonnegut

God Bless You, Mr. RosewaterGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This obviously isn't Vonnegut's most famous novel. I'm not qualifies as a literary critic to say whether it's one of his best. And I've only just started reading it, so I'm not ready to say whether it's my favorite of his yet. But I will say this, it has to be the least subtle. What I mean by that is that is is a scathing satire of class and political and moral hypocrisy in America, and he doesn't hold any punches. Because of that, I am loving it!

Witness this exchange between Senator Lister Rosewater with his daughter-in-law Sylvia, discussing the mental health of his son, Eliot:

"I loved Eliot on sight."
"Isn't there some other word you could use?"
"Than what?"
"Than love."
"What better word is there?"
"It was a perfectly good word- until Eliot got hold of it. It's spoiled for me now. Eliot did to the word love what the Russians did to the word democracy. If Eliot is going to love everybody, no matter what they are, no matter what they do, then those of us who love particular people for particular reasons had better find ourselves a new word." He looked at an oil painting of his deceased wife. "For instance- I loved her more than I love our garbage collector, which makes me guilty of the most unspeakable of modern crimes: Dis-crim-i-nay-tion."

Yeah, if you read and believe anything Jesus said in the New Testament, we are all called to love our neighbor indiscriminately and unconditionally- and as Vonnegut shows through his vagabond billionaire protagonist, Eliot Rosewater, if you genuinely follow Christ's example, people with think you're certifiably insane.

This book is a better satire of Christians and Christianity and how un-Christ like they can be than Monty Python's Life of Brian.

I don't understand why it hasn't been made into a movie yet. Kevin Kline would've mad a great Eliot Rosewood. Tony Shalhoub could be Mushari the lawyer.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Potential Life-Changer

A Game Plan for Life: The Power of MentoringA Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring by John Wooden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many years ago, when I was teaching at Los Angeles Lutheran High, our friend and former Vice Principal had become a family therapist. The psychologists she worked with had developed what they called a "Life Model." One aspect of the life model was a mentoring continuum, having people older than yourself whom you learn from and friends younger than yourself whom you can try to spiritually parent.

I remember thinking that it was a noble ideal, but wasn't sure how I could put it into action. I didn't have a lot of friends above my age range and wasn't sure that I could fit it into my schedule. As a teacher I was sold on trying to disciple young people, but figured I was better off allowing relationships to develop rather than trying to deliberately fabricate them.

Later on this same concept was proposed by the Promise Keeper's movement. I attended a couple of PK conferences with my Principal, who I suspect was seeking to be my mentor- but for whatever reason, we never seemed to "click." PK recommended having older men mentor you and hold you accountable and younger men whom you could challenge and teach as well.

At this time I had a couple of pastors who were older than me and a prestigious painter who'd retired from LALHS before I started teaching there, but I never seemed to manage to become the close confidant with any of them that I imagined being mentored entailed. Meanwhile I felt like I was managing to shepherd and be available for some students, but it seemed like most of them were young women- it didn't seem like I had the same kind of connections with boys. No doubt being a cheerleading coach and Art teacher had some to do with that.

When we moved back to Iowa and left Lutheran High for a public school, I wanted a way to reach the girls I coached and be able to help develop their character since I'd now be in a secular setting. At first I leaned on Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking and eventually discovered Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success.

It didn't occur to me that I hadn't just found material to help me mentor students and athletes, I had myself, found a mentor.

In this book, Coach Wooden explains that mentors can be real people you have meaningful relationships with, like his father, leaders you look up to and who model a great example for you, like his high school coach and principal, people who care for you and try to guide you, like Wooden's college coach at Purdue. But leaders may even be people you don't actually know personally, whom you study and admire, and whom you either try to emulate or who's thinking and ideas shape your own. In Wooden's case, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Theresa. AND, mentors may be peers and loved ones, not just your elders- people who influence you and who you learn from, like a close friend or even a spouse.

The second half of this book was written by seven people for whom Wooden was a mentor. They each write about how he influenced their character, philosophy and lives. Sure there are famous athletes he coached, like Careem Abdul Jabaar, but there are also other coaches he worked with and a teacher who had never really met Wooden- but who had read everything by the Wizard of Westwood until he was asked to contribute to this book.

Last week I attended a conference for college and high school teachers where the key note speaker challenged us to do something positive that would help us build community. He asked us to contact at least 3 people who had contributed positively to our lives and let them know how much we appreciated it.

At first I was stumped. My old Psych Professor had passed away. My old newspaper publisher had passed away. I didn't have an address for my old Education Prof. who was starting a school in Vietnam of something like that. What could I do?

I looked behind me instead of looking ahead of me. I wrote some of my former students who had meant a lot to me. Then, coincidentally, I stumbled across another Ed. Prof. on a professional networking site. Then I found the email address of the first Ed. Prof. Then a google search turned up the new church where one of those old pastors was now serving.

They all replied to my emails by telling me that I'd made their day. One of the students wrote back to tell me how much I had meant to them.

What I realized by reading this book is that mentoring is both simpler/easier/less forced than I had assumed, and at the same time even more profound and important than I realized. It is definitely something we should all be doing, for ourselves, and for others.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

It's a good thing

My wife's concerned that this blog could come back to bite me. She's concerned that some of the people I've written about don't discover it and take offense. I thought I've gone to great lengths not to be TOO judgmental, not to use names, to be clear that what I write here are my opinions and reactions, and especially to not share it with anyone directly involved in my school or local area.

Be this all as it may, it does occur to me that if all you read are my consternation over adolescent melodrama or difficulties, you may come away thinking either than cheerleading is an ugly, difficult thing, or that I don't really like coaching it.

I have a friend who's a pastor. She used to be a high school teacher. She taught at my school along with her husband. Their children are just finishing college now. She coached the Dance/Drill Squad, so we were comrades-in-arms of sorts. We'd commiserate about our stresses and in many ways she was a mentor for me.

While we were both in the thick of it, it seemed like we were supporting and encouraging each other. Both of us tried not to complain about kids to outsiders. But once she'd left teaching for seminary and the ministry, when I'd share about the travails of coaching, she assumed that I must not want to coach anymore.

When I look back at this blog so far, I can imagine how readers might make the same mistake. I really do enjoy coaching and believe that its important work. Like any job, there are things that are stressful about it. I obviously needed a venue for releasing that steam. I will try to balance my complaining with more thanks-giving.

In that vein, I introduced Middle School cheerleaders to Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success last week and it went really well. That Power-Junior came and apologized to the junior high girls (although, more eye witness accounts have come in from people in the stands that corroborates her side of the story- not those of the eighth-grader). I was really proud of her.

The season is winding down. MS Football is over and HS FB has only 2 more games. Time to get in gear on recruiting and/or setting up a tryout date. But right now- GOTTA GET GRADES DONE! It's the last day of the quarter. October is an insanely busy time this year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Responsibility and Compassion

"We are all called to give back. Since there is nothing we can take with us from this life, we should try to leave behind as much as possible- it's a basic and well known truth. Those of us who have been blessed with worldly success have an even greater responsibility to make an impact with our time, talents, and resources; as we are reminded in the Gospels, 'From him to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).'"
~John Wooden, 'A Game Plan for Life,' 2009

Saturday, October 09, 2010


HardballHardball by Sara Paretsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dang this Partesky's good.
Slow in the start. Hard for me to find time to read now that school's been so busy. But once I finally got into it it was absolutely worth it. History, civil rights, racial tensions, political intrigue, Chicago isn't just a back drop- it's practically a character. Best of all this is not just another crime thriller, it's a genuine mystery. It's layered, complicated (but not so complicated that you can't follow it) nuanced, and not just another procedural detective novel, but a book about family, character, values, loyalty, and right and wrong.

V.I. is funny and sarcastic like Robert Parker's Spenser or Evonavich's Plum, Tough as nails and smart like James Patterson's Alex Cross, and feminine and vulnerable as J.A. Jance's Joanna Brady.

I haven't read any of the other books in this series, but this book stands alone. It's a perfect storm of a novel, not just a detective novel. Loved it.

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Purpose Driven Cheerleading

A few years ago an upstart pastor from California, Rick Warren wrote a record breaking book called 'A purpose Driven Life.His preface is that everyone's life has meaning and he believes that both individuals and the Church can find mission and direction in Scriptural principles.In much the same way, Cheerleaders can be vitally important and have an enormous impact for the teams they cheer for, their schools, and their communities. Even at a public school, with the separation of church and state, squads and coaches can emphasize 5 simple purposes, even without tying them to any religion. Although, cheerleaders who's personal faith is important to them can certainly integrate these Cheer purposes with Warren's origional 5 Christian purposes.I think that if cheerleaders keep these 5 in mind, they'll be practicing "intentedness" which is one of the bricks in Coach John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success."Intentedness means being goal-oriented, having a target to strive for.

Purpose 1: Spirit
Lets face it, cheerleading was invented to support sports.It may now be a sport in it's own right, but even with all the all-star squads and competitions, we should never lose sight of our primary function-to cheer on the ball teams. "Fan" is short for "Fanatic." This doesn't mean you worship football or the team. It does mean that you support, cheer for, draw attention to, and encourage the team that's playing.
THAT is Cheerleadings #1 role.

Purpose 2: Community (aka: having unity in common)
If there's anything adolescent psychologists think that teenagers are looking for it's identity, in particular- group identity. A mascot and school colors go a long way to do this. Regardless of race, gender, creed, socio-economic status, grades, cliques...whatever usually separates students, they all belong to one group- your school, and cheerleaders need not only to be a symbol of that group, but should constantly be trying to help kids feel included and valued in that community.Inclusion, not exclusion- As the school secretary listed them in Ferris Bueller; "The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies..." they all should feel like they belong, and it's yourjob to help them feel that way.

If you are fullfilling the negative stereotype of the snobby, preppie, popular- basically either supperior or "clique-y," you're being exclusive instead of inclusive. In other words, you're not making people feel a part of something, you're making them feel even more alienated and unvalued. Cheerleaders are supposed to make people feel valued as part of the team, part of the school, part of the team.

The irony is that if you're being what so many people THINK cheerleaders are like, you're being the antithesis of what a cheerleader is SUPPOSED to be.

I think that building community fulfills America's motto; "E Pluribus Unum; from many, one." Baseball may call itself "America's Pastime," football, basketball and NASCAR may all vie for being the most popular sport, but only cheerleading has the deliberate duty to create a sense of oneness. All other sports may do that, but that's just being on the bandwagon. The cheerleaders are the people offering a hand to get you up onto that wagon.

Purpose 3: Discipline
You can't be an athlete without it. It never ceases to amaze me when cheerleaders are frustrated that football, volleyball and basketball "jocks" don't think of cheerleading as a sport or cheerleaders as athletes, but then the cheerleaders don't want to work very hard during practice.Coach Wooden's Pyramid calls this "Conditioning." Although, it certainly requires more of Wooden's bricks, on the first tier, it takes work-ethic or "industriusness.." On the second tier it takes discipline to develop self control, alertness, and initiative. On the third tier, it takes discipline to develop skill. But it takes personal and squad discipline to develop and maintain friendships, loyalty and cooperation- which help make up the foundation of the Pyramid of success. A discipline is either something you study, like Science, History, or Art. A disciplined scientist uses the scientific method, so does a disciplined historian, for that matter. A discipline may also be a regiment you follow, diet, exercise, physical or mental training. Obviously, faith traditions are disciplined. If one is a "disciple" or a follower of a religion, philosophy or a leader, you follow the teachings, principles or precepts of that tradition.Theoretically, Christians abide by Christ's teaching in the Beatitudes, Buddhist practice Zen, Muslums practice the 5 pillars, etc. etc.Athletes listen to their coach's guidance and the rules or guidelines of their sport and school.Like doctors "practice medicine", practice cheerleading so that you will be qualified to be a practicing cheerleader. It doesn't mean cheerleading is your religion, it means that you're working at being the best cheerleader you can be.

Purpose 4: Service- (I haven't completed writing on the last two purposes)
The legendary King Author had a beautiful motto: "By serving each other we become free."

Purpose 5: Be Contagious
Sounds like a disease, right? I teach my cheerleaders that there is a difference between being just another thermometer and actually being thermostat.