Fade Out

March 24, 2010

Fade out.

Scalp tingles. Pulse quickens. Skin ripples.

Pupils dilate.

Spine stiffens. Muscles constrict.

Fingers clench.

Adrenalin rushes.

Hands strike.

Bone crunches.

Body falls.

Sweat pours.

Fade in.

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Role Models Come in All Sizes

March 6, 2010

I was fully prepared for the accolades I would receive from teaching. I was well on my way towards patting myself on the back and crowing “What a GREAT teacher you are, Nerd!” while blowing smoke up my own backside. Two years of teaching almost behind me, and so far, everything I’ve done has been met with praise and glory and…blah, blah, blah. Enough of that–here’s the reality of working with children — they are great equalizers when it comes to feelings of self-importance.

Nothing deflates an over-sized ego faster than dealing with the untimely death of a child. No, not my own child — I wouldn’t be writing this post with such reckless flippancy. Besides, if it were my 13- year old child who just succumbed to complications from his 6-year battle with leukemia, I’d be on the way to the nearest psych ward, hoping for a voluntary psychiatric hold.

But today, as I write this, there is a family here who is losing their child to the battle. Most likely, right this very minute they are gathering at his bedside, holding his hands, and praying one last time as a cohesive, family unit. Then, his younger sisters will leave as they see their brother alive for the very last time. And this is what is tearing me apart.

I met this family last year, when I was his teacher. Despite weekly chemo treatments, horrible side effects and general feelings of “ick”, he still managed to earn straight As and complete all his work at home. His parents insisted he maintain as “normal” a life as possible — going to school, doing his homework, taking his tests on schedule, etc., etc. His chemo treatments were always scheduled on Friday, so he’d have the weekend to catch up on homework (between bouts of nausea, I bet).  I could tell where he was in his treatments based upon the amount of red fuzz he had on his head — the less hair, the more dosage of chemo he would have in him. But, never, ever, did he lose ground in my class. His parents insisted upon it, and he made it happen.

He moved onto eighth grade this year, so I lost him as a student. But, his little sister took his place at a desk in my 6th grade room this year. And, much like he was, she never lets her brother’s health situation get in the way of her schooling. Every day she comes to class, ready, eager and willing to participate. She eagerly reads out loud, answers questions about grammar, bops up to be the first person to share her writings — everything that happens in my class room, she embraces enthusiastically and with such focus and attention. All the while knowing when she goes home at the end of the day, her parents will be at the hospital, hoping for a miracle for her older brother.

I’ve always known the world needs positive role models. I get so disgusted when I hear that people with questionable morals and values are being idolized in the press and put on pedestals for the world to “ooh” and “aw” over, when all they’ve really done is just figure out a way to act obnoxious and foolish and get away with it.

They aren’t role models to me. The role models — the ones who deserve to be placed on a pedestal, are the ones like the family I’ve met, who are going to be burying their 13-year old son and brother shortly. Through this horrific battle, they have remained close, strong in their faith and stoic in their deeds.

They are my role models. They have taught me more than I could ever teach them. What a great way to keep my ego in check.

Goodbye, Seth.


The Sexiest Men in the World Live in My Area

October 18, 2009

I used to think firemen were the sexiest men on the planet. Well, that was before my area got an NHL team.

I’m often surprised by the lack of positive publicity this sport receives. I’ve written about it on my blog, so I won’t rehash my thoughts here. But, I want to add another element I didn’t mention before:

Hockey players are the sexiest men on the planet. I should probably qualify that with “my” definition of sexy: a man who is strong, brave and tough when needed, but soft, gentle, and caring all the other times. That is not just sexy, that’s intoxicating.

Last summer, when I was involved in my writer’s workshop, I had to write about someone or something in the community that was actively working towards change. I immediately thought of our local NHL team. Why? Because I know the back story of these guys. I know the team captain anonymously sends large sums of money to organizations–just because–and expects no press attention in return. Last year, he gave almost $150,000 of his own money for various causes in and around this area. And, by the way, he also visits sick children in the hospital on a regular basis.

The players make regular stops at schools and libraries to stress the benefits of education (something close to my heart, being a teacher). The team has built a safe playground for children, donating the supplies and man hours. The organization has re-opened one of the local after-school program buildings that had to shut down due to lack of public funds. Everything they do, they do because they want to, not because they are contractually obligated.

And the real tear-jerker…

The NHL’s motto is  “Hockey Fights Cancer”. Last year, one of our local high school hockey players was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Upon hearing this, the team offered the young man a contract — a legit one — to become a “Blue Jacket” for a day. They even paid him a small salary ($1.00) and gave him an official team jersey with his name on the back. Team players would go to his house (or his hospital room) and sit by his side while they watched the other NHL teams play.

Unfortunately, Ryan succumbed to his cancer in May of this year. His last wish? To make it to at least one playoff game before he passed away. The team made sure he got his wish.

Last night’s game was our team’s chance to raise money to fight cancer. The team had this young man’s jersey displayed on the player’s bench, in tribute to his memory. When one of the players scored the first goal of last night’s game, his response to the interviewer went something like this “I just had a feeling I was going to score. I’m not a huge fan of a ‘higher power’, but I think Ryan had something to do with it…” Wow. Talk about a sense of humility and compassion.

So, I apologize to all the sexy, heroic firefighters out there who risk their lives every day to save the lives of others. You are still very much heroes in my eyes. But, in my opinion, you have some pretty stiff competition when it comes to the true definition of  “sexy”.