Monthly Archives: November 2011

Job Loss

I kinda lost my job…


Ok, can you count it as losing a job if it was only an interim job until they found someone else, but then you decided you liked it so you decided you wanted to keep it but then they hired someone else anyway and you didn’t get to keep it?

Yeah, I lost my job.

I thought it was a job I wanted to keep…I was a UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATOR…I had my own secretary…I had a big(ger) paycheck. I was someone’s boss…(actually a couple of someones). I felt pretty important. And I didn’t have to teach math anymore. I was happy about that.

Although I missed the students.

But I was important…I was in authority…I was in a position to facilitate change…I HAD POWER!!!

Not really…but I FELT important.

In higher eduction, when a faculty member moves into administration, it is referred to (not so affectionately) as going over to the “dark side.”

I was fine with that. Call me Jon Vader…I was ready to join with the Emperor to bring order to the galaxy….er, the university…

And it was the Chancellor…not the Emperor…

Some people think that they are the same thing…


I THOUGHT that I was happy on the dark side. I did not choose to return to the light side on my own, like Darth Vader did when he saved Luke at the end of “Return of the Jedi.” I was forcibly sent back to the light side. And I was not happy…

Funny thing though…

After I returned to the faculty, I started NOT missing the headaches of administration…the bureaucracy…the red tape…the “someones” that I was in charge of who didn’t want to follow the rules.

And I started working with those students again…those students that I had been missing…

And I came to a startling realization: being an administrator, a leader, and a teacher are not interchangeable skills. Some people have none of those abilities, some have all of these abilities, and some may only have one or two of them. I love to lead and I love to teach. I do not love to administrate.

I do miss having a larger paycheck…

And I miss having my own secretary…that was cool.

But I missed teaching more.

And it took being forced back from the dark side in order to realize it.

Maybe there’s hope for me after all…

I mean, even Darth Vader turned out to be a good guy in the end.


Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Motivation, Personal Development, Teaching


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Elevator Etiquette

Common sense is dead…

I’m talking about simple, “were you born in a barn, or are you just ignorant?” common sense.

It’s dead.

I see evidence of it every day.

My office is on the 4th floor. While walking the stairs would be a good response to my aversion to exercise, I usually prefer to wait for the elevator.

Common sense dictates that if you are riding in an elevator and the door opens, the people who are waiting to get onto the elevator should step aside to let you out.

But not where I work…oh no…that would make too much sense.

Apparently, the lizard brain occupying the cranium of these neanderthals tells them that if they do not shove their way onto the elevator as quickly as possible, it will somehow leave without them, like some train pulling out of the station as they chase it down the platform.

The thing that apparently does NOT cross their minds is that if they simply step aside and let me (and my fellow travelers) out, they will have plenty of room to stand once they clamber aboard. And, unless they are particularly slow (or lack basic agility), the elevator doors will not close and leave them behind.

In fact, if the doors DO start to close before they have managed to get on, a simple stretch of the arm into the doorway will trigger a sensor that will cause the door to re-open, allowing them the access that they so deeply crave.

This is one of my pet peeves…lack of elevator etiquette.

On the other hand…maybe I am being too harsh.

Maybe I am overlooking one very real possibility…

Maybe these people have never ridden an elevator before.

Maybe they are elevator virgins and they have never had the basic rules of elevator etiquette explained to them.

Maybe their parents were frightened to ride in an elevator so they always took the stairs, dragging their poor children behind them, not realizing that their own phobia was preventing these poor children from learning a very basic, yet necessary skill to survive in society, how to properly board an elevator.

Or maybe they were raised by wolves…

Wolves who push their way onto occupied elevators…

Yeah, that’s probably it…

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Society, Uncategorized


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Reality Check

I had a reality check today…

It was more like a reality “slap upside the head.”

I took my dad to the grocery store. This is something that I do every week. Dad doesn’t drive any longer, and living on a fixed income means that he shops weekly, buying smaller amounts and watching the weekly sale ads for good prices.

It also means that sometimes he wants me to drive him to another store so that he can save 20 cents on a gallon of milk…

This annoys me…

One time, I asked him how much he was going to save on a case of bottled water if I drove him to the other store to buy it.

“A dollar,” he said, somewhat defensively.

Me, being the magnanimous, generous, pompous ass that I can be, pulled out my wallet, handed him a dollar, and said, “There. Now we don’t have to make another stop.”

It was my wife who told me what a pompous ass I had been…

Ok, she didn’t exactly call me that. In fact she didn’t call me that at all. That’s just how I felt after she gently pointed out to me that my dad was trying to be wise with his money, trying to make it stretch through the month.

While I figured that she was being overly sensitive on his behalf, I agreed to try to be more understanding and patient during our weekly trips.

When I picked him up today, he said that he wanted to stop at CVS before the grocery store and Walgreens after the grocery store. Milk was on sale at CVS and bottled water was discounted at Walgreens. I mentally gritted my teeth, and said, “ok.”

After we left CVS and headed for the grocery store, I received my reality “slap upside the head.”

“I wanted to thank you,” dad said. “You’ve been much more pleasant the last few times you took me to the store.”

I felt embarrassed. “I’m sorry, dad. I guess I’m just too self-centered sometimes…but I’m working on it.”

I wish that I had some valid reason for needing to save time or gas by driving all over town and making all of these stops. But we live in a small town. As I write this, dad is shopping in the grocery store, and I can see both CVS AND Walgreens from the comfort of my car!

No, the reason for my impatience is because I am self-centered. My human nature wants to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.

I love my dad…I really do.

But I haven’t made a very good effort to show it. And he has noticed.

What about you? Are you struggling to show someone important in your life how valuable they are to you? Do you find yourself short of patience when asked to help? What are you doing to try to overcome your “self-focus?”

Well, here comes my dad…I think I’ll take him to Walgreens.


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I love Thanksgiving…

It’s just about my favorite holiday.

I think everyone should find something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving…unless you’re a turkey.

Thanksgiving might not be as fun for you if you’re a turkey.

But I digress…

I have so much for which to be thankful…

I drive an 11-year old car with 200,000 miles, a broken strut, and a crunched fender from that deer I hit 2 Christmases ago…

But I have a car to drive.

I go to a job that is not always fulfilling, doesn’t pay quite enough to make ends meet without working a second part-time job, and is a 45-minute drive…

But I have a job…and a part time job.

And a car to drive 45 minutes to get to work.

I have a dad that can’t drive anymore, so I have to take him to church, the grocery store, and the pharmacy…

But I still have my dad.

I miss my mom..especially this time of year…

But I still have great memories…

I have a house full of noisy kids who like to argue with each other ALL the time.

But they love ME…I’m thankful for that.

They love each other too.

They just have a different way of showing it.

I have a great wife.

I have great friends.

I have a Savior who died for me.

I have so much to be thankful for…I shouldn’t need a holiday to remind me of that.

But I find myself acting so ungrateful so often. It seems like I can’t be thankful for the things that I have.

You know why? Because other people that seem less worthy seem to have so much more.

How judgmental is that?

I mean, why do I think that they seem less worthy?

Is it because they have mansions and money, but no apparent moral compass?

Is it because their value system doesn’t align with mine?

Is it because they play in the NBA, make millions of dollars, and have 13 kids by 11 different women, none of whom is their wife?

Is it because they earn millions of dollars by making movies and then divorce their wife because they just can’t keep their marriage vows?

When I dwell on these things, it hampers my own ability to be thankful for the incredible blessings that I DO have.

So I will not be judgmental. I will be thankful….

What are YOU thankful for?

Today, I am thankful that I am not a turkey…

At least not THAT kind of turkey. ūüėÄ

Happy Thanksgiving!


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I hate surprises…

I’m one of those people who reads the last chapter of the book to see “whodunit” before I read the book…

I go to to find out how a movie ends before I go see it in the theater.

I found out before ‚ÄúThe Empire Strikes Back‚ÄĚ was released that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker‚Äôs father‚Ķ

I hate surprises.

When I turned 21, my parents and my girlfriend tried to throw me a surprise birthday party. I sensed that it was coming, so I sleuthed out the secret.

It was a party….it was NOT a surprise.

I remember when I was 7 years old; I unwrapped a present under the Christmas tree because I did not want to be surprised on Christmas morning. It wasn’t easy to re-wrap, but I did it. My parents never knew, and I wasn’t surprised. Of course I had to. ACT surprised…that wasn’t easy.

I hate surprises…

Last night, I had insomnia. I woke up at 3:30 and could NOT get back to sleep…so I got up. I surfed the web and did some online work until about 6:00 am. Of course, I was then tired and went to bed, promptly fell asleep, and, you guessed it…I overslept.

My daughter, Kelly, woke me at 7:00 with, “Dad, don’t you have to go to work?” I groaned, scrambled out of bed and raced into the shower…this was going to be a horrible day. It was NOT starting out well. Tired, crabby, and late for work is never a good way to start the day.

After my 3-minute shower, I hurriedly got dressed, stumbled into the living room…

And started screaming…

Did I mention that I hate surprises?

I woke up the rest of the house with my scream…my wife came running, the kids came running…

Or , more accurately, the REST of the kids came running…

Kelly was already there…with a big goofy grin on her face.

“Hi, dad!,” he said.

Kelly is not a he…Kelly is a she…you probably already figured that out…

“He” is my son, Jack.

Jack and Kelsie

Jack and his wife, Kelsie, live in Minnesota…Jack and Kelsie are not supposed to be here until Christmas…Jack and Kelsie drove all night to be here for Thanksgiving…Jack and Kelsie did not tell anyone they were coming.

Jack and Kelsie surprised us.

Guess what?

I love surprises…


Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Family, Uncategorized


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The Joy of Teaching

I’m a teacher.

I love to teach…

I’m a math teacher.

I don’t love to teach math.

I’m good at it, don’t get me wrong. Math is important. I LIKE math…alot…and I like my students…

But I am eager to teach something that will have a greater “long-term impact” on their futures than the quadratic formula…

Every once in awhile, though…every ONCE in awhile, something clicks with one of them that has never clicked before. And that’s exciting…

You see, I teach developmental algebra courses…to college students…those students who didn’t learn algebra when they were in high school. And because they didn’t learn it in high school, they hate it even more when they get to college.

And since they can’t test into the one math class that they need for their major, they have to take my algebra class first.

This makes them unhappy…and they usually take out that unhappiness on me.

But yesterday…

Kaitlyn is a typical college algebra student. She needs one math class for her major, and it is NOT algebra…she’s not happy to be in my class, but she is trying to make the best of it. Her current B- will be enough for her, if she can hold onto it until the end of the semester.

Yesterday, I was teaching them how to multiply polynomials…

You remember polynomials…you may not like them. You may not even remember how to do them…

But you remember them.

Kaitlyn’s eyes were glazing over as I started to teach the FOIL method (you remember that TOO, don’t you?)

As I demonstrated a different way to think about this multiplication method, Kaitlyn’s eyes snapped into focus.

“That’s it?,” she exclaimed loudly. “That makes SO MUCH SENSE!”

My look must have betrayed my puzzlement.

“I never understood that before in high school,” she continued. “None of my teachers ever explained it like that before. I GET it now.”

The words that every teacher loves to hear…

I am not na√Įve enough to think that Kaitlin’s life will be radically altered by the fact that she can now multiply together 2 binomials. She will not change her major and dedicate her life to teaching math because I was able to break through and touch some long dormant math gene lying deep within her psyche.

But I got to experience once again the joy of teaching…the joy that comes from creating an “aha” moment for someone…even someone who isn’t looking to experience it.

Even someone who doesn’t like math…

Have you ever created a learning moment for someone? Even if you’re not a teacher?

It’s a rush, isn’t it?


Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Motivation, Self-discipline, Teaching


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I’m NOT Insecure…I’M NOT!

I have fans…

Not the kinds that blow air around the house…I mean, I have those, too…

But I have actual living, breathing, “Hey, I liked your blog yesterday” fans…

This is exciting to me…

I say this not to brag, but simply to acknowledge that some people have told me they like what I have to say…

When I started writing, I always did it with the hope that someone (anyone!) would find it to be mildly entertaining, occasionally inspirational, and usually funny.

A few people have indicated to me that they have been entertained, inspired, and have even laughed.

So why am I nervous?

With the success, minor though it may be, comes an expectation that I will continue to be entertaining, inspirational, and funny. It’s a 2-way street. Those who enjoy what I write will start to wonder when I will entertain them next…

And after my next post, I will start to wonder if I have entertained them…

It’s not a problem for those people in cyberspace who may be reading from afar…they can choose to comment (or not) and I won’t even realize that (in their minds) I posted a clunker.

But what about those I see on a regular basis?

I have started to receive feedback from my coworkers…

Sometimes, they call me or drop me an email to make a comment about my most recent blog.

But sometimes, they will stop by my office to share their own common experiences as they relate to my most recent blog.

So what happens when I see them in the hallway after my most recent post, and they don’t say anything about how good it was? Or worse: what if they…

Avoid eye contact?


Look at me with pity?

What if I see them looking at me while whispering to another coworker? And then they start laughing?

Because I KNOW that they’re talking about me…



I’m not insecure…

Do you like this post?

If not, pretend that you do…

Smile when you see me in the hallway.

And I’ll make up the rest of the story in my head…


Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Motivation, Personal Development, Writing


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