Thursday, February 19, 2009


**Note: This is a little rambling and I apologize if it is not entertaining. These are my thoughts.

Last Thursday was just your ordinary, run of the mill day. The actual date was February 12, 2009. Most likely it was just a regular day and pretty uneventful. For most people I observed it was like any other Thursday.
I got the opportunity to do a lot of observing that day as I traveled through airports on my way to a much needed vacation in Las Vegas.
However, this was no ordinary Thursday to me.
February 12 is not a regular day to me.
It is a day that comes once a year as a reminder of how quickly things can change, and how much things can change, in the blink of an eye.
February 12, 1988 was just like any other day for me. I was your typical small town 7 year old living the dream. I was in second grade and lived in a little town in Northwest Iowa. My days consisted of school, playing outside with friends and spending time with my parents. On this particular day I even had a Cub Scout meeting. My job at the meeting was to provide treats. Since I couldn't take the treats to school my dad was supposed to be dropping them off for me to share.
Well, the treats never came. Not a big deal to a seven year old. Life will go on. My Cub Scout meeting ended and I headed home. Distracted by the group of friends playing outside my house I quickly dumped all of my belongings inside the front door and began to run wild through the neighborhood waiting for mom and dad to come home, very typical of my childhood days.
At this time my dad was employed by the city of Inwood as the city maintenance man and was in charge of making sure everything was running smoothly. He was in charge of the snow removal, water and sewer systems and just about anything that keeps a town physically running.
After playing with friends for a while I was approached by a lady from City Hall. It seems they had been trying to get in touch with my dad for quite a while that day and the last they had heard he was headed to the "lagoon". In my mind the "lagoon" was a restaurant in another town and he was just talking with friends and would be back soon. Little did I know that the lagoon was actually a place where my dad and his partner checked on sewer type things for their jobs.
I told the lady I hadn't seen my dad but would tell my mom she was looking for him when she returned from work.
By the time my mom got home from work there was apparently a lot of action at the lagoon and it wasn't good. Our pastor met my mom and I on the street and informed my mom of the situation. I was too young at the time to totally understand what was happening but from retellings and years of hearing the story I have pieced it all together.
From what I understand now my father and his partner were working at the lagoon. By the way things appear, my dad's partner went into the hole to check on some numbers and was immediately asphyxiated from an unnoticeable gas. My dad realized that something wasn't right and went down to get him and was also asphyxiated. My father's body shut down so quickly that a cut on his head never even had a chance to bleed.
My dad and his partner were found some time later in the day laying at the bottom of the lagoon. This is the day that my life changed in the blink of an eye.
Like I mentioned earlier I was only seven so the complexity of the situation didn't really set in, and wouldn't until I was in my early teens. However, I could tell that what was happening was a big deal and was upsetting my mother.
The loss of a loved one is hard for anyone. Expected or unexpected it is still a traumatic event and not something that most people enjoy.

I can tell you that I am no different. It sucks!! Sorry for the choice of words but it does.

For as many positives that have come out of this horrible situation it is still something that seems to haunt a person on a regular basis. I drive by my dad every time time I go home to visit my mom and step dad.
I leave a quarter on his grave each and every time I visit him. I am not sure why I do but for some reason the quarter is gone every time I go back. I believe he has something to do with where it is going. Whether he is actually taking it or has little pets running up and taking them away.
Not having my dad here to talk to in person is hard. I have forgotten what his voice sounds like and that hurts. I don't have a video to go back to or a recording of his voice to play back.
But that void has been filled, to some extent, with a step dad that has done everything right and has taken me in as his own. For that I am forever grateful.
My first born son bears the name of my father as his middle name, Larry. He knows that Grandpa Larry is up in Heaven with Jesus and that he only needs to look out our front door at night and find "their star".
My wife's father is the man that would eventually take my dad's position for the city. He was also one of the first responders on the day my dad passed away. In such a large world I ended up marrying a girl that cried the day she saw the filled out application sitting on her table. She was afraid of her dad's fate, knowing what had happened to mine. Small world.
This may have gone in about thirty different directions but I don't mind. I didn't know where I was going when I started but I needed to write about my dad.
He was the proudest grandpa in the world.
He was the the happiest he had ever been.
He was just shy of a year sober and loving a new life.
He never hurt a fly, even mowed around the baby bunnies in out field at the park.
He loved his wife, kids and everyone he ever met.
He was my dad.
I miss him.
I want my sons to know him, and I am doing the best I can to show them who he is and was.
We will continue to talk to him and I will continue to try to make him proud.
He is remembered forever by the necklace I wear and his signature on my back.
He is with me always and I can't wait to be with him someday.
Love you Dad.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Soap That Floats!

Since I am a 3rd grade teacher I am always trying to find new ways to 9 year olds excited about school. Lately my own personal interest has been in science. So in 3P we have started to do some hands on experiments. We have gotten wet, poked holes in water bags, built a scale to measure invisible gas and worked with the "Soap That Floats". Ivory.
Maybe you are familiar with this slogan, or maybe it has totally gone unnoticed. There is a bar of soap that claims to float. Not that impressive if you ask me. Who cares if a bar of soap floats? I don't know that it makes any difference to most. However, to a 9 year old, and especially to my 4 year old it is the coolest thing in the world.
The story goes something like this, but there are differing views on how it came to be. Here is the one I use to help the kids. When Ivory soap was being created in the late 1800's it was just your ordinary, run of the mill white soap. Then there was an accident. While mixing the soap ingredients, the mixer was left on while the workers went to lunch. Upon their return they found that the soap had become frothy and bubbly from being over mixed. Well, since the mixture going in was still the same they sent it off to be processed into bars of soap, not knowing that they would float. A month later people wanted more of the magic soap and so goes the story of Ivory Soap.
Whether you believe that the soap floats because it has extra air bubbles in it or not is up to you. I am not going to argue it with a class of kids that just want to know more about it. So we went exploring.
The soap does float. Yippeee. Glorious. Amazing. Floating is cool. Well, probably not that cool to kids that are used to XBOX, PS3 and Hannah Montana.
What else can this Magic Bar of White do?
Can we eat it? I wouldn't, it tastes bad.
Can it be squished? Not really, it breaks into pieces.
Well, what about the bubbles? If they put them in, how do we get them out?
Duh!!! A Microwave. Throw it in the microwave and see what happens.
So I brought in the microwave from the teachers lounge, sorry if your food tastes funny now, and we began to heat up the soap. Incredible. The bubbles couldn't get out any faster and look any cooler doing it. The kids will tell you that the bubbles get to going crazy when they are heated up and need to get out. The final product, as long as you don't roast it, is similar to the snakes that we light on July Fourth. The soap grows and expands in all directions and comes out looking like a tasty treat. I am sure some of them even tried it to just to double check.
To watch this miracle of science was totally shocking to the eyes of a 9 year old and even more so to an unsuspecting 4 year old.
Is this a miracle? Not to me it is not. I have seen things happen that far more unbelievable.
A miracle is an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment. I would say this is true to the 21 sets of eyes that witnessed this. Miracles like this probably don't change lives or make us better people, and then again maybe they do.
Maybe this Miracle Soap will light a fire in a little mind and make them question, think and explore. Maybe the miracle is not the soap working its funky change. It might just be the Soap making a little boy or girl excited to learn and experience life.
Give the "Soap That Floats" a chance. Do it with a kid and see the miracle of science and life happen right before you eyes.
I promise you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In Heaven There is No Cancer!

A while back I wrote about saying "Goodbye" and what it meant to people. I also mentioned that we were getting ready to say this word to two of our friends. Both were battling cancer. Both were in hospice spending time with loved ones, and both were preparing themselves for the greatest "Goodbye" of their lives here with us. I am saddened, relieved, happy, and a whole assortment of words, to report that both Paul and Cheryl have been able to say their final "Goodbye".
I want to share a quick little story about a conversation I had with my sister the night of Paul's Goodbye.
It went something like this.
Michelle called to let me know that Paul had entered into Heaven. She told me that it happened earlier in the evening and that all of his children and his wife were able to be present. She mentioned that they were all doing quite well and that there was a sense of relief knowing that Paul was in a much better place and the pain was gone. I told her I was happy for them all and then asked the question that gave me an unexpected answer. I asked her how Scott, Paul's son and my good friend, was doing. Well, he was doing as good as can be expected but he did make a comment to her that really stuck out. He said, "There is no cancer in Heaven".
Wow. Powerful. Wonderful. Amazing. No more pain. No more fear of the unknown. Now there is running, jumping, fishing and reading stories to little kids. God is good and Paul is now strong and amazing. And likewise for Cheryl. They are both in a place that there is no more cancer. There is no more unknown. There's only love.
Like I said, Scott's words spoke to her and they spoke even more to me. I couldn't get them out of my head. They were with me every time I turned the corner or looked out a window. When things like this stick to me so strongly I have a tendency to write. I sat at work all day and thought and thought about Paul and Scott and their entire family.
And, now today I am sitting here and thinking about Cheryl and her family as well.
As I sat at school I started to just jot things down throughout the day and below is the finished product that I shared with Scott and his family. God Bless.

In Heaven There is No Cancer!

It comes when you least expect it
It slowly creeps right in
There’s no reason for who it chooses
But it tries its best to win
For some it gets caught early
And can be treated and is gone
Yet others aren’t as lucky and
It’s stay is way too long
Age is not a factor
Nor is gender, race or size
For all it really wants to do
Is come and ruin lives
There are those that fight and battle
And are lucky to see another day
Then those that give great effort
But slowly fade away
It may be unforgiving
And brutal to the core
There may not be an answer
For some no earthly cure
But do not be mistaken
Because there is ONE simple answer
God is watching over you and,
In Heaven there is NO Cancer!!