Saturday, December 30, 2006

Welcome to a new year

I know that New Years is traditionally a time of renewing. It is a time of resolving. It is a time of reflection. Allow me to reflect.

This has been a good year overall. There have been some dark days as there are in most years, but in the end it has been a good year.

We bought a house. We moved away from Lexington. Our home sits three blocks from the main intersection of the town, and yet, after 8pm, it is very quiet. I love a small town. We live simplistically. Now, I am not talking about hunting our own food supply, unless you count tracking it down at Kroger and wrangling it to the cashier. We have real heat, real floors, and more than one pizza joint. We have every fastfood place available. We have a few sit down restaurants. We have a couple chinese places too. The wonderful difference is in the ratio of land area to people. In Lexington, the density ratio is 353.5 persons to every square kilometer. In Mt Sterling, that density is 44 person to every square kilometer. That is more room to breath, and more importantly, more room to drive.

We also gained a new granddaughter this year. As my regular blog readers are aware, my daughter had Abigail on December 5th. That is a wonderful thing.

I am now back in college. I am taking classes to get my Associates Degree in Technical Education. This is good for a variety of reason. Several of those are: Higher pay with more education, self improvement is always good, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky is footing the bill.

There are things I could change about the year coming to an end. Most of them are actions and reactions to situations. I could have handled them differently. They are mostly minor things. There was one big thing. Still, changing our past changes us. One writer said, "those who do not learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them." That tells me a couple things. One, I will make mistakes. Two, they are learning opportunities. This year, I have had a few learning opportunities.

I started my 50th year on Earth this year. I turned 49. The next day began my 50th year. I am pretty sure that is a good thing (especially if you consider the alternative.)

Tammy and I are still head over heels in love. I think that means our love is upside down. I am not sure how that is a good thing, but everyone agrees that being head over heels in love is grand. Who am I to argue with the popular consensus? (You don't have to answer that.)

There are things I would have liked to have done. There are places I would have liked to have visited. I would have loved to spend more time with my daughters, and my family. However, we all have our own busy lives to live. We are still a family. We haven't broken down the familial relationship, so, while we may have wanted to see more of each other, we did see enough of each other. I have grown closer to my newest family additions, because they are here. (Some of them have come back and some of them won't leave.) Still, there has never been a day that it affected the love I have for my natural daughters. My wonderful daughters, as you read this, know that I have never loved you more than I love you today, and I have never loved you less than the day you were born. My acquired family, you are as important to me as any of these.

Between work, home, and family, it has been a busy 2006. It has been a good 2006. I can't wait to see what 2007 has to offer. That is just as well, because 2007 will not wait for me to be ready. As my wife likes to say, "bring it."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ahhh, Christmas

My favorite holiday is independence Day. However, Christmas ranks with the tops too. There was a time that I didn't really care for Christmas. I allowed the commercialism of the holiday to cloud the real reason for the season. I was sickened by the stores and the TV ads and the message of Christmas being largely obscured. I now know, that Christmas can be to me what Christmas is supposed to be and still be just a 2 month commercial to others.

I read a very interesting article before Christmas. It was about just that, the commercialism of Christmas. This was part of it:
"There are worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants, and nobody cares for after they are got." That was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1850

In his book "The Battle for Christmas," Stephen Nissenbaum puts that myth to rest by tracing the history of the holiday from colonial New England to the turn of the 20th century.

December was an important month because of it's cold weather. Refrigeration was not available, so December was the time when fresh meat was available in months. But most importantly, December meant beer. By mid-month, whatever grain surplus their hard summer's labor had produced would have been fully fermented and ready to drink.

In the northern Europe of the late middle ages, gangs of young men would engage in "wassailing," a cross between Christmas carolling and home invasion. The gangs would visit wealthy homes, often in disguise, and sing songs that threatened violence if they were not invited in for food and drink. "Here we go a carolling."

But with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, factory owners didn't want their employees wandering off for weeks of drunken merriment. During the 1820s, after a series of particularly raucous holiday seasons in New York, the city's elite began campaigning for a more restrained, domestic Christmas. Central to that campaign was the tradition of purchasing gifts, especially for children.

Nissenbaum states, "Perhaps that's the biggest difference between Christmas present and Christmas past. A holiday that began in ancient times as a debauched escape from everyday chores has become exactly the opposite - a frenzied season full of expectations, obligations and stress."

Merry Christmas.

We gathered, as usual, at Mom and Dad's house. My daughters were all sick and couldn't come. That reduced the number by 11. Still there were over 40 people there. There was food and drink. There was holiday cheer. There was catching up with family. There was a great time. And yes, there were gifts.

We do this: We gather in rather haphazardly even though we are given a time to arrive. It is more a suggestion than a rule. Close to a predetermined time, we begin the Christmas dinner. There is turkey and ham and various other holiday trimmings brought by families. The food is delicious and the fellowship is even more so. Old memories are rehashed and new memories are created.

After the meal, we all gather in the living room, where, this year, my niece Jenny and her husband Jerome sang as song. Then Jenny sang "Holy Night," with everyone joining in on the final chorus. After that, Mom calls home (her family in Germany) and we all scream 'Merry Christmas' to them. Mom and I sing 'Silent Night' in German. Then we all sing a chorus of it. My oldest sister Barbara reads the Bible story of the birth of Christ. I read whatever I have written for the season (it follows this story) and then I lead us in prayer.

After that, the presents are dispersed by my brother and I, one at a time, with each recipient opening their gift, before the next is given. The little children all wait anxiously to hear their name called. Once all the gifts are given, there is more time to fellowship with family. This year, we were there about 6 hours.

We came home, sat on the couch, and watched 'Miracle on 34th Street' with the family. Tammy and the kids had never seen it. They loved it.

Christmas day, we got up and opened the gifts here at the house. Later that day, we went to my middle daughter's house where 25 or so gathered for dinner and gifts. It was a great time.

Here is what I shared with my family:

My 50th Christmas

I can't recall my first Christmas, although I can see the pictures of it in old albums. Come to think of it, I can't remember a lot of the Christmases I have celebrated. I remember snippets of many of them.

When I do think about them, I don't really remember the presents, with some noteworthy exceptions. I recall the year Kevin got dumbbells as a gift, and Richard said, "dumbbells for a dumbbell." Then when Richard opened his gift, it was dumbbells and sometimes payback is immediate.

I recall there were various wrapping paper wars, with Mom always telling us at the start that there would be no wrapping paper war. But, seriously guys, this year, no wrapping paper war. Seriously.

I recall the year Richard got his car. All that was wrapped was the key and Dad made sure it was the last present given. It was parked in the lot of the church across the street on Old Frankfort Pike.

I remember the year I knew I was getting a wok, and saying as I picked it up, "I wonder wok this is."

I remember how we started growing once Barbara got married and how we haven't stopped yet. Welcome Abigail Kennedy Lewis.

The presents over the years have mostly been forgotten. I can't remember every shirt or pair of pants. I do still have and use the wok. I do still have and use the electric grill. Richard's car is long gone.

There is something that remains to this day, from every one of those celebrations. That something stays, in spite of our differences, in spite of our disagreements, in spite of faulty memories. That something is the reason I have an insurmountable debt. That something is the gift all of you have given to me, every year, year after year. Every year it grows. Every year it gets more valuable. It is more precious than gold. It is more costly than diamonds or rubies.

From my heart, I want to thank you all for marvelous gift of family. Thank you to every brother and every sister. Thank you to every niece and nephew. Thank you to every son and daughter. Thank you to all the grandsons, granddaughters, grandnieces, and grand nephews. Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Mom.

All the good fortune in the world is wasted, without a family with which to share it. You have multiplied my joys and divided my sorrows. Because of you, when I have stood, I have never stood alone.

This 50th Christmas, I welcome you to add another heaping helping to my insurmountable debt.

Merry Christmas to us all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pile-o-pups Posted by Picasa

just a handful still Posted by Picasa

The Christmas Season is full upon us.

Today is the last day with students. The final finals are given. The pizza parties are planned. Presents have been bought. The pressure is off.

This year, I want wiper blades for Christmas. Tammy says she doesn't see that happening. I guess Ill have to break down buy them for myself.

The most fun for me at Christmas is giving gifts. I love that part.

We (the family) gather at the parents house (all 50 of us) for dinner and gift giving. For years , my dad would sit in front of the tree and pass out presents to the kids. One present was given at a time. Each kid would open his or her gift before another present was given. It was a magical time.

Several years ago, dad retired as the dispenser of gifts. My younger (by 4 years) brother and I picked up the job. Dad would be tickled if he thought about two people required to replace him.

Fifty people gather for family fun. There are no arguments. There are no feuds. They range from months old to 90 years old plus. This year my granddaughter will be the newest addition. Abigail will be nearly 3 weeks old on Christmas day.

Today is a mixed emotion day for the students. It is the last day of school until next year. It is finals day. GRC has a block schedule. Three of the five classes are one full credit for ½ of the year. Therefore, three of my classes are taking final exams. The other two are taking midterm tests. The school has spread them out over two days. Three of my classes are taking tests today. Two took tests yesterday.

My fullest class is eating pizza today. They took their test yesterday. They are rowdy. They are excited. I still have to keep them corralled and somewhat calm, because they will be leaving my class and taking a final in the last block.

All of my classes get to evaluate me today. The evaluation will also cover the principal and the school itself. It will be interesting to see the results. I was surprised recently when a student dropped a bomb on me. I have suspended him. I have given him several detentions. I have nearly flunked him more than once. He has had me for 4 classes in the last three years. He told me that I was his favorite teacher. It is odd to try to figure out how kids think.

But .. After today .. it is thirteen days without students.


Monday, December 18, 2006

I can’t stop the world

There is a fire burning

Burning without control

Its blaze licking and leaping

Seeking new lives to destroy

There is a fire burning

That sears the soul of the possessor

Reducing to nothing any reason

Touching even those not scorched

Relentlessly building

Lashing out in the private darkness

Leaving bruised and battered the victims

This uncontrolled raging within

Fueled by the vessels past

Destroying the fuel it perceives

The weakness within

To purge from others

This far distant cousin to passion

The rage that is never consumed

Demons carrying the fires

Of their own private hell

A light so darkened

It blinds the mind

Denying even the aftermath

Of violence’s eruption

Victims are left with little choice

Become stronger or die weak

Never realizing the fire lives

Hiding deep within

Sometimes never to be uncovered

But always, patiently, awaiting the chance

That one situation

That one circumstance

Leaving bewildered the victim/vessel

Corrupted by the hated flame

The weakness thought purged

I can’t stop the world

That flame

Never materialized outside

Still the fuel inside

Still the weakness

Still the chance

There are days

Control seems only a word

The warmth rises

Reason still prevails

It is not a part of me

This cowardly flame

And still … it tries

I can’t stop the world

I try, a harbor to make

A place where the flame

And the whirlwind

Cannot find a history

I can’t stop the world

No matter my strength

No matter my courage

Still it turns

Still it burns

And yet … still I will try

To stop that world for one

Save one

That saves one

Stop one

That stops one

That flame

Becomes the ember

That ember

Becomes the ash

That ash

Blown away

I can’t stop the world

Perhaps … we can

Ron Simpson

December 18, 2006

Monday Review

Today is review day at school. Finals are to be given (by mandate of GRC) on Tuesday amd Wednesday, alternating the classes. All 5th block classes are to give finals on Wednesday, the day before Christmas break. This is supposed to insure that all students will be here for the last day.

One teacher was even looking for donations to make her students banana splits for doing well this week. WTF ? What happened? When I was in school, you did well because it was just the thing to do. We were raised to excell and exceed expectations. I raise my kids tha same way. However, some of the kids I encounter here have this attitude of 'what are you going to give me to make me do well for you?"

When we started making schools accountable, not by their efforts, but by their results, we killed the education system. We have endorsed the cookie-cutter education agenda. Students have learned that if they do badly, the school suffers. So, not thinking beyond today (like many kids do?) they see this as thier way to revolt. They can't see the far reaching effect of said revolt. Here is a handy phrase for the next generation coming through the new public education program, "Do you want fries with that?"

Anyway, (stepping off my soapbox) my weekend was good but busy. Sunday was a blur. It started at 4am. Then we got out of bed at 6am. We were at Wal-mart for the "Shop with a Cop" charity event. From there we went to Jesse's to pick up bluetooth handsfree earbuds. Then a fill up with gas (ouch) and a fast trip to the house. A short stop and off we go again to Flemingsburg for church.
Return home, and write a latter to the Montgomery County Board Of Education, then head to DollarTree to drop off a monitor for a friend, and then to Lexington for a Board Meeting. After the meeting, Tammy and I went to my daughter's house to drop off Christmas presents and ended up bringing Ian home for the evening.

Ian is nearly three. Tammy went into the store. Ian and I waited in the truck. When I told him she was coming, he said, " Quick, let's hide." I asked him where we were going to hide. "In here," he said. It was so funny. He is a card. He was a blast to have at the house.

Ah, a running weekend.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Slowly .. Ever so slowly .. The weekend approaches

This has been a week that cries for a weekend. Everyone in the house, except me, has been touched by the 'OMG, I am gonna puke' bug. Kyle has been out of school for most of the week. TJ called his school and they begged her to keep him out until he was completely recovered. It seems 35 students in the 5th grade are out with this flu.

The HS freshman principal has lost his mind. He pulled C into his office to tell her he saw her kissing a boy in the cafeteria one morning. However, it turned out to be a morning when she didn't attend school because she was puking as well. The issue has been that she is a white girl and K (who is just a friend) is black. It seems that racism is rampant in the small town HS. I believe it is a regularly scheduled course with a HS credit offered. (Racism 101) We are requesting a meeting to ask why nothing has been done about the several reports that have been made. As of now, the principal is denying ever receiving reports or names. The next meeting will be either recorded by me, or recorded by my lawyer.

I have tossed one student out of my class for the rest of the semester. That is only 4 days now. He has been a constant thorn. He is one of those students that knows how to dance all over the line and then suddenly withdraw. Tuesday, I wrote him up for 5 violations. Wednesday, I asked that he be removed from my class. Yesterday, I took another one out for a day. It is time some of these student learn the reality of reality.

The problem is the HS. They have no discipline. I talked to the police officer assigned to the school. He concurs. They threaten and never deliver. The students know this and press it to their fullest advantage. They come here with the attitude that they run the show. They will, if we allow it. So, it is a constant battle with some students. Add to that, the HS usually only sends us the students they can't do anything with. That makes sense, take the students you can't control, and send them down the hill to use power tools.

Weekend? Oh weekend? Wherefore art thou, weekend?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Too funny not to pass on

Subject: Bush Bumper Stickers

Bush: End of an Error

That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties anyway

Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First

If You Want a Nation Ruled By Religion, Move to Iran

Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

If You Can Read This, You're Not Our President

Of Course It Hurts: You're Getting Screwed by an elephant!

Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

George Bush: Creating the Terrorists our kids will have to fight

America: One Nation, Under Surveillance

They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

Whose God Do You Kill For?

Cheney/Satan '08

Jail to the Chief

No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?

Bush: God's Way of Proving that "Intelligent Design" Is Full Of Crap

Bad President! No Banana.

We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language

We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

Is It Vietnam Yet?!

Bush Doesn't Care About White People, Either

Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

Impeach Cheney First

When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46 - REALLLY!

Pray For Impeachment

The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?

One Nation Under Clod

2004: Embarrassed 2005: Horrified 2006: Terrified

Bush Never Exhaled

At Least Nixon Resigned

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Every Day

Every day is like a small book
Stacked upon the last
Anxiously awaiting the next

Rarely the same size
As each is filled
With the events of that day

Some days are bursting
Some days are sparse
Some days are sorrow
Some days are joy

Some have ragged covers
And dog-eared pages
From the repeated visits

There are light days
There are dark days
There are days filled with warmth
And days that ice reigns supreme

Some books end early
Neatly sorted and stacked
While others are written
In the wee hours of the night

We hope that each contains
A quantity of laughter and mirth
We hope there is a bucket of happy
For each measured dose of sad

Each day is a journey
From the mortuary of dead days
To the vast unknown lying ahead

Each step writes its footfalls
In the prints across a freshly mopped floor
Trudging the mud of yesterday along the way
Leaving behind the sojourners proof

Some days we want to blot out
Some days we want to hide from reading eyes
But every day a story makes
With each breath accounted for

Eventually, the volumes are stored
And some prominently displayed
They adorn the mantles and walls
Of our memory museums

So.. Write your stories
Write your songs
Compose your poems

As the day draws to a close.

Ron Simpson Jr.
December 9, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Abigail Kennedy Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Some test I took

The test I took was taking too much room and pushing all my side items down to the bottom .. so here are the resutls of the test in simple text form:
Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Work ethic..............63%
Self absorbed...........43%
Conflict seeking........36%
Need to dominate........43%
Change averse...........30%
Peter pan complex.......23%
Physical security.......90%
Physical Fitness........10%
Female cliche...........16%

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Grandkids everywhere

Whew !
My middle daughter, Chasity, had her baby this morning at 12:41 am. Abigail was 6 pounds 1 ounce, and 18 3/4 inches long. She is my second granddaughter and fifth grandkid overall. Congratulations Chris and Chas ...
AND .... We just found out the Sierra is pregnant. They figure her due date in the first week of August. More grand babies on the way.

The week is progressing at the school. There are just 11 school days left in this semester. It is wrap up time. The finals will be given on the 19th and 20th and then it is Christmas break for 8 school days and 2 weekends. Twelve days off. The state schedule is such that all I have to do is take 2 days leave and I can be off the entire 12 days.

Then, January 2nd, it is hit the ground running with about 20 new students and 15 returning students.
More news as it becomes available ...

Monday, December 04, 2006

ahhhh, a weekend

Here it is, Monday morning, 16 lovely degrees, and I am sitting in my chilly classroom. The heater fan is rattling as it tries to warm up this space. Our Maintenance guy, Steve, turned it on, I am sure, when he came up to collect the trash, sometime in the last hour. The noise makes it useless to try to teach, as it rattles above everything. We will work in the shop, where it is colder.

I will update ya on the weekend, later today. It was a good weekend. I spent money, actually.

Scary thought.