Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Who do you think you are?

So, this post was inspired by church over the weekend. You can skip the next two paragraphs cause I promise this will go someplace political. Oops. Okay. Yeap. See many of you later. It's been real. Sunday's scripture was Galatians 3:26-28. It says:

  • In Christ, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who are baptized in Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ.
Okay, bear with me. We go to a fairly liberal church. While it wasn't our pastor who preached this week, but a gal who did a great job who is going through seminary, a point she brought up is that is text likely predates Paul's letter to the church at Galatia. It's essentially saying that in choosing to worship Christ, we are all equals.

However, the sermon started simply with the pastor asking each of us to close our eyes and think about how we identify ourselves. What words do we use? I came up with tall, skinny, athletic, husband, father.

As the sermon went on, I realized three things I didn't think of: straight, white, male. This, my friends, is where this becomes a privilege conversation, and an unintentionally themed Pride Month post.

Why didn't I think of any of those three things? Well, because those are the privilege trifecta. Never have I had to worry that my race, gender, or orientation would have a detrimental impact on my station in life. I'm going to work backwards here.

Being male means that historically, my gender has had the "power" as it were. Now, I hope I've never been one to abuse this power, but I know I've been a damn moron at times in my life, so I apologize for my actions, not if people were hurt by them, but rather I apologize for actions that I took that offended people. I should've been better.

This particular categorization shows up in athletics. Picture this: high school basketball game, your kid's team is down. They can play with this team, but they've had a bit of a run in the last, say, five minutes, and the other team clearly has the upper hand. Coach calls timeout. When the players get to the sideline, the coach lays out what's happening technically, then says, "And most importantly, smile! Look like you're having fun out there."

Now, did that coach say that to a team of male or female basketball players. You having a hard time picturing a bunch of sweaty dudes being told to "smile" in the heat of battle? Yeah, me too. In fact, I'm guessing a lot of you would probably have words with the coach after the game if he'd said that to your son's team.

However, we'll yell that from the sidelines of a girls' sporting event. We might even expect the coach to say that. Why? Well, smiling does two things. 1) It helps instill confidence and overall positive feelings and 2) Makes a person more attractive (except for me in pictures, but that's a whole other post...). We don't say that to male athletes. I don't say that to female athletes. I tell the girls to get in there, shoulders back, chin up, and believe they can outplay their opponent.

In my chosen career, the payscales are probably more balanced than most, although I can't say that with certainty and I won't research it THANK YOU VERY MUCH! And while studies are all over the map on the gender pay gap, the reality is that it does exist, and it's something that needs to be fixed.

Next up: White. I'm white. You know why I never think of myself that way? Because white Europeans founded this country and ever since that day, many have decided that we're superior to other skin colors because...? Actually, I don't know. I don't know how you can look at any other person of any other skin color and decide that the thing, the thing that makes you better than them is the color of your flesh that you've worked SO HARD to achieve. Wait. No, actually, you haven't. To quote Lady Gaga, "You were born this way." (I love that song)

History books used in American schools have a very western-centric bias. Seems like people like Copernicus really helped push science forward. Except that was the 16th century. You know what we needed to even start to figure that out? Algebra which was invented in the 9th century by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi in what is now Baghdad. Irrigation, a staple of western, especially American, agriculture, was first used by the Egyptians around 3100 BCE. Did western cultures invent and discover a lot of cool stuff? Yes! What is disproportionate to other parts of the world? NO!

Finally, straight. I am straight. I was terrible to some of the kids in my high school who were either brave enough to be out, or dealing with the pain of staying in the closet at a time when acceptance of LGBTQ+ was not near what it is now, which is terrible. I realize those people may not read this, but I'm deeply sorry for the actions that I took that caused pain. There is no excuse.

One of the refrains you here frequently during Pride Month is, "Why isn't there a straight pride month?" The answer to that, I think, is pretty simple. That's dumb. Being straight has been not only societally acceptable, but even expected, for nearly all of human history. We all know how recent steps toward equality for members of the LGBTQ+ community have been. The first steps. There are many more needed.

Why isn't there straight pride? Because we don't need to walk around declaring who we are. We haven't had to fight to have our love legally recognized and all the benefits that come along with that. While I don't, for a minute, think being LGBTQ+ is a choice, I frankly don't understand what difference it makes. Love as thou wilt. And don't come at me with the bathroom debate. That entire discussion is based on falsehood.

My takeaway from the pastor's sermon on Sunday was that the idea of equality, true equality, dates back to pre-biblical times. It also drives home the idea that Christianity is a faith based on love and loving equally. I've never been perfect, I never will be, but I'm trying to be better everyday. Church just got me thinking the other day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Brutally Honest and Honestly Brutal

Alright y'all. You might remember my "The Audacity of Honesty" post from a couple of months back. Some might've noticed it has gone missing. I did that of my own volition. Both my administrators at my former school (which I will not name here, but y'all know) were getting a lot of people asking about it. They both also said I hadn't done anything wrong, but I didn't want to be one more thing on their plate, so I removed it.

This may be part one of a two-part post. We'll all find out at the end of this. It might just be a really long post. Either way, this post is going to catch you, my wonderful readers, up on the last month of my life, with parts about my family as well. It's been about as tough a two months as I've ever faced.

I also want to add that I'm glad it mostly happened to me, and that my wife and family could just be there when I needed them. That's been an unexpected blessing.

Okay, so back to square one. While we were in Toronto (jump back one post to see the adventures, as mundane as they might be, of traveling with a toddler who was a rockstar), I got the call that my uncle had completed suicide. Not a call you ever want to get. Obviously it rocked my, and our, whole world. He'd fought depression for years, but had insisted he'd never carry it to this point. I'd tried, unsuccessfully, a few times over the last couple of years to talk to him, but had always left a voicemail and never heard back. I felt terrible that I'd not tried harder to get ahold of him, but depression's a beast that doesn't afford logic.

Needless to say, that's been unbelievably difficult to deal with. My mom and aunt, Uncle Noble's sisters, have been handling everything with his estate and have been incredible. I know they've barely let us see how much they've gone through, but I'm so grateful for what they've done while going through what I can only imagine is just about hell. I pray daily for their strength in all situations I face.

Here we'll rehash my "Audacity of Honesty" post. As I mentioned, I was looking to find a new teaching gig. I wanted to be closer to my wife and son. I know it's beyond trite to say, "Having a kid changes your everything," but it does. That hour each day I spend in the car is an hour I don't get with my family. I felt the best move was to be honest with both my superintendent and principal. Now, my principal was one of my references, so he obviously knew. I felt, professionally, that I should let me super know as well.

Just before we left for Toronto, it was abundantly clear (oh hindsight...!) that Dorchester was my place to be. I'd thrown quite a few applications out there, and had only one 15-minute phone interview. I'd told both my administrators, and I'm confident this is a direct quote, "You're getting what you wanted, I'm staying! I'm ready to get after it. Fate's telling me I'll be here and I'm re-committed!"

Heh. HA! The... irony?... is really kind of hilarious now. When we got back from Toronto, I reserved my team a spot at the Colorado Buffs team camp. The next day, a Friday, I learned that the new Kindergarten teacher would be the assistant volleyball coach (I typed my initially but changed THAT!). When I approached the superintendent about it, he confirmed that (I saw it on Facebook) and said we needed to meet about it at 3:30. I had NO INKLING about what was coming.

Now, the next part of this can kind of sound like a bitter man, something that was pointed out by the community to administration when I published the original honesty post. I see how people would draw that conclusion. I do. In fact, I'd likely think the same thing. However, I'm going to say that I'm not bitter. I'm not. I don't have time for grudges and bitterness as a general rule. Also, that's something that has a detrimental effect on my mental health. I'm painfully optimistic most of the time. That's a choice.

When school got out that day, I walked do to my super's office like nothing was wrong. I strolled in expecting to lay out the next few years of the volleyball program. He said they'd decided to go a different direction with the volleyball program. I wasn't committed enough to the town (and maybe the school, I don't remember. I just remember thinking that telling me I wasn't committed to the town was ridiculous), as was evidenced by my job search.

First, WHAT?! I mean, he was right, I wasn't committed to the town. That school had kids whose address was in many different towns, and many not from a town at all. I was committed to the kids and everyone in that school. THAT was important to me.

Secondly, what about my teaching job? That's my livelihood and I was panicking about that. No, he said, teaching was safe. The principal was in charge of teacher's jobs, and every eval and walkthrough I'd ever had was positive.

I should add, this decision was made solely by the superintendent. The Activities Director, Principal, and School Board had no role in the decision. While the AD and Principal had been asked for some feedback, the decision was made without them, ultimately.

Did this have something to do with my coaching? The way I interacted with the athletes? I mean, I love coaching, I love volleyball, I want to make sure I wasn't doing something very wrong that no one had bothered to tell me about. Nope, he said, nothing to do with any of that. Just my commitment.

I was livid. I went to the weight room and probably lifted heavier than ever. It didn't make sense. I had no reason to disbelieve him, but it didn't feel right. Nevertheless, it appeared that I'd be working there for quite awhile longer, though in a slightly reduced capacity, so I had to find a way to get over it. It also felt like there was a bit of a "pushing me out" vibe, something reinforced by a couple conversations I had, via text, with other staffers over the subsequent weekend.

Well, back at school on Monday, it seemed like everything was fine. I settled and and thought, okay, this might suck, but started to look on the bright side: More time in the summer, more time in the fall. This can't be all bad.

Then I found out who they'd hired to replace me. As I understand it (and I'm not going to go back and clear up anything I might misunderstand), the new Kindergarten teacher, who is from town in Central Nebraska and is 22, will the be acting head coach, but her title will be assistant. No way to know about her commitment to the "town". The other assistant has a daughter who PLAYS VOLLEYBALL FOR THE RIVAL HIGH SCHOOL! That throws up a big commitment red flag for me, too. Finally, the woman with the title of head coach has a son who runs cross-country at another high school, so she'll almost definitely miss multiple events during the season. Again... I had proven my commitment for six years. Admittedly, the woman hired as the head coach is a graduate of the high school, but I know as a parent, I'D want to go to my kids' stuff.

So anyway, other little things happened that made it abundantly clear, to me at least, that it was time to seek opportunities elsewhere again. I cast a slightly wider net this time (and we again changed what we were looking for in a new home. Our agent, Melanie, was SOO patient with us!) and found a job quickly. The school where I'll be teaching fourth grade and coaching in the fall is a school that PLAYS AGAINST THE SCHOOL I JUST LEFT in our second competition of the year. The team I coached had won the match the last five years. I expect that to change this year.

So now, I've had to change jobs, I didn't mean to slip that bit about house-hunting in there without preface, but it's in there now, so I let's talk about that. We started looking back in the fall, but we'd spend time and find some okay stuff, but then (usually) I would pump the brakes a bit. Let's wait until this thing (whatever that may be) happens.

Well, on the first day that we scheduled multiple showings, we found the house right off the bat. First one we walked into. It's gorgeous. It's on the east side of Lincoln (making my drive from there to work about the same as it's been the last six years; much shorter than it will be from where we live now). It had only been on the market about four days, so we put in an offer, and they countered with a number that we could live with. They actually gave us a better deal because we signed the contract in May, but aren't closing until September.

At this point, a good part of my days have been spent cleaning, straightening, and packing. That leads to the hardest thing I've probably ever had to do. When Keya and I got married, we both wanted a pet, but a dog was out of the question based on schedules, and I'm not really a cat person, so we settled on a rabbit. He was a ten pound Rex named Thunder. Well, like mentioned earlier, when you have kids, your priorities change.

Thunder had not gotten NEARLY the attention in the last year and a half that he had before Everett. No one's fault, just life. He's neutered, so he probably has at least five years of good life left. On top of that, the giant bunny pen in the living room would NOT help sell the house. We made the incredibly difficult decision to surrender him to the humane society here in Lincoln. Y'all, seriously the hardest thing I've ever made the choice to do. We are both soothed by the fact that we know it was the right move for Thunder.

The overarching theme in this is change. Change can be brutal. I feel like some of these changes are forced on us, but overall, I know it will be good. It will SUCK to move out of this neighborhood, we've got neighbors that we just love and we know we'll see less of them.

There has been some good, though. We inherited my uncle's 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder. Yes, it's a cool car, but it's made cooler by the fact that it was IN 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS! In the scene in the movie where all the cars are leaving the warehouse to confuse the police. It's not in perfect shape right now, as you can see, but I've done a fair bit of work to get it more up to speed, and the body and paint will be in the process the end of June. More pics later.

The picture that you see was taken in my uncle's driveway in Naples, Florida. That car needed to get back to Lincoln. I had three options: Drive down with my truck and trailer (changes there, too) and load it up, fly down and drive it back, or have it shipped. Well, shipping was going to be $1200, so that was out. Financially it didn't make sense to drive a truck and trailer down to load the car up and then drive back getting awful gas mileage over the course of 3200+ miles. We had credit card points. I flew and then drove.

Now, that car DOES NOT HAVE CRUISE CONTROL. So I drove, in two days, from Cape Coral, Florida, where I got to spend some wonderful time with Brian, Heather, and Ryelynn Huffman. God I miss those guys, back to Lincoln. Y'all, there's a muscle on the front of your shin. The best way to work it is driving 26 hours in two days without cruise.

Traffic in Atlanta is the worst. Cape Coral to Nashville should take 12 hours. It took me better than 14. Twenty miles SOUTH of Atlanta, before you're really in the metro, there was a lane of I-75 northbound closed. I think it was closed for about five miles. In that five miles, there were three accidents. At 2:30 in the afternoon, traffic in the Atlanta area added an hour to my trip. 

This car also meant that we had five vehicles. Our garage only has room for four. We traded in the pickup, which we loved, and the hybrid, which we REALLY loved, for a Nissan Armada. So far, we RE-HEALLY love that. 

I wanted to end this on a positive. Yes, the end is here. No, I didn't include everything that's made these last couple months brutal for me. It hasn't changed my outlook. I'm still obnoxiously upbeat, but that's due to a fantastic family, and spectacular friends who've taken time out to make sure I'm okay. I'm letting myself be the recipient of love and concern, something I rarely do. 

I just wanted to let you all in on this. I'd say that this is the reason that I've been more infrequent lately, but that's not the case. I plan to get back to this more regularly and am trying to figure out how to put some podcasting into my future. I'll focus on this first, though.

Thanks, as always, for reading.