Good Times at BUUF

This post is especially geared towards my friends, come and gone, that I’ve met at BUUF, aka, the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Videos I’ve made over the years can be found here.

BUUF at the holidays in 2006.

BUUF summer pics.

History of BUUF in pics.

Laughing your Way to Grace with Connie Green and Richard Tidyman.

Dwight B. Miller Memorial

And all of my content from the last 20 years, including family, friends, teaching and more can be found here. 

I started attending BUUF back in 1984 when I moved to Boone to go to ASU.  It was a small group, mostly old farts, or at my tender age of 30, they seemed old.  Now I am the old fart.  Those were the days when all we had was the Founder’s Home.  At some point, the home was purchased through the kindness and generosity of the founding fathers and members.  Back then, we met in what is now the larger room. We would set up chairs and on a good day, some folks couldn’t see around the corner (where the buffet table is.  If you look close, you can see where the wall was torn down and a different kind of hardwood was inserted in the floor.  Yep, that room was once two or three rooms.

BUUF became my home, where I was accepted and my beliefs were mine and no one wanted to argue or convert me.  It was all about love and social justice.  It was more academic in those days but that is due to the make up of those in power, mostly academics.

I met some wonderful people. I went to a picnic one day after church at Ben and Shirlee Edward’s house.  Shirlee must have liked me because at the next church service, she introduced me to Sally Royce Gaines, her youngest daughter. We fell in love, moved in together, and later, were married, for ten years total, before parting way.  Ben performed the wedding at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis with many UU’s in attendance.  The reception, a pot luck was at the apple barn.  To their credit, even after Sally and I amicably split up, the Edwards always invited me to every holiday meal and gathering.

A side note, at that time in 1984, Sally was the shelter manager for Oasis, the shelter for battered women, which was housed on the second floor of the Founder’s Home.  One year, we even had a garden where the current sanctuary now sits.

Picnics were always fun.  Back then, we’d travel south of Blowing Rock to Pat (???) and Warren Plicta’s house.  Over the years, we’d go to the various parks, Alice and Earl’s home, and many others.

What makes a church a home is not the place, the structure or even the rituals.  It is first and most, the people.  I always felt welcome there.  Most do andeI was a little more outgoing than most, and willing to attend social events, oftentimes alone, and found a group of intelligent, liberal (sometimes opinionated) good hearted people.  I’d say the only folks that had a hard time with us were those rigid in their beliefs and republicans.  I only know of one or two republicans who were able to tolerate the overwhelming vocal liberals.

I have found so many of the services and presentations interesting and many inspiring as well.  Some are boring.  Some times, and I’m not alone here, I’d check to see what was being talked about and who was delivering the talk and then weigh my own feelings.  Other times I’d go no matter what.  I’d go to socialize and support whatever speaker there was, as it is the closest thing I had to a community.  I’d suggest going no matter what if you have the time and energy.

If there was any advice I’d give, continue to make the fellowship welcoming.  People may be looking for inspiration but I think it is more likely people are looking for connection with other loving human beings.  Err on the side of kindness.  Say hi first, get to know them.  Invite them to lunch, even if they are a different age. We do after all, call ourselves inter-generational.

I’ve been in many of your homes, and I appreciated the chance to socialize and share a meal with you all.  In other cases, I was hired as a handyman.  I dropped out of teaching after four years, tried selling insurance and eventually did handyman work to make ends meet.  I hope no one’s house has burned down since.  I am not an expert at anything, but I do know just enough to be dangerous.

I’m grateful that you all tolerated my sharing of joys and concerns and even a few presentations.  My first presentation, and probably the worst was on globalization.  I’ve also done one with Richard Anderson of father’s day.  Connie and I did one on “Laughing your way to Grace”.  Most recently, I presented “Lessons Learned from 27 years of Teaching public school.”  I think it was pretty good.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if I should just pull together half dozen presentations on different topics and become a UU circuit rider.  What do you think?

Despite everything, you have always made me feel welcome.  You were there when we adopted our daughter, Hannah Marie Tidyman, and you were supportive as well when her son, my grandson, Sean Rohnan Tidyman (now Brooks) was born.

I’ve met lots and lots of wonderful people.  Most important are the men in my men’s group, many of which are UU members.  Big thanks to UU for letting us use the space for not only one but now two men’s groups. I’d rank my participation in those groups as some of the worthwhile opportunity to grow and learn from elders and youngsters.

I’ve seen many come and go.  Some move, some die.  I’m moving.  I’ll die later.  If case you missed the headlines, Danielle, the love of my life, who I first met at UU several years ago are moving.  She has a great job lined up, and I retired.  I’ll be holding down the fort, which includes a horse, two cats, two dogs, and chickens.  I’ll find some work, including that of a wedding officiant. There are lakes, and parks so I hope to take up fishing, bike riding, and tooling around on my scooter to learn my way around.  Maybe handyman work again. Hopefully there will be a niche for a liberal minister in the conservative  Hamlen County.    I know they have a democratic organization there, so I’ll check them out.  Hopefully, they do more than meet at Hardee’s for coffee.  But I’m good at that too.

I will be back to visit all the wonderful folks here at BUUF. We have two houses we need to sell, and it looks like I’ll have to rent mine rather than sell.

Wish you the very best and thanks for the memories.






Remembering Robert aka Hercules

John Robert and Richard in aug 1970

I’m asking for help from my siblings on this one.  But I will get the ball rolling.  Today, July 28, 2017 would have been Robert’s 73rd birthday.  Almost exactly ten years older than I am.  And in a few days, my brother John will have a birthday as well on August 2.  I only bring that up because of stories I’ve heard about the two competing on who could give the other the most extraordinary birthday present.  I can only remember one but in involved a call to Robert and said, your and your woman be home at 10:00.  Dress comfortable.  A little after that time, a limousine showed up, with a picnic basket full of delightful food and a bottle of wine, glasses, etc.

We are a family of  story tellers.  And there are some doozies out there.  any one of his siblings could talk for hours, if allowed about the talents that Robert developed over the years, his curiosity, his courage, and love for his family, both siblings as well as his own family, including three of the finest men you would ever find anywhere.  They are grown now,all graduated from college, two are married, and one expecting his second child.  Robert loved, encouraged and supported these boys in all the best ways.

Robert and boys

I don’t know how Robert became so wise so young.  Maybe it was the fact that he was an English major, and along the way, studied philosophy.  Stoic is a term that fits him.  He had every right to be outraged but I never saw him lose it.  I never saw or even heard of a time when he verbally or physically hurt anyone.  Many men resort to intimidation or humiliation, in dealing with others.  Not him, not that I know of.  Despite his strong left leaning beliefs and political views, he never got ugly or berated a right wing peer, of which there were many at the Ohio Veteran’s Home where he spent the last few years of his life.

I lived with him, as did other siblings at various times in our adult lives, and I’ve made my mistakes, sometimes at his expense.  Once giving the okay to monogram bath towels he was buying for everyone for Christmas.  They were great towels but the monogram added a huge cost to the bill, that he was not up for.  Belk’s called and I assumed incorrectly he would want to monogram.  A nice big “T” I suspect.  He got the bill, and I heard in the other room “Jesus Christ!!!  Richard, come here.”  After the initial jolt to his pocketbook, he calmed down, and like so many other times, accepted it, and moved on. The list is long of events that within a short period of time, a temporary crisis was resolved with an attitude of acceptance.

The most obvious example of Robert’s stoicism is his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the years of decline until his early death at age 68.  After his divorce, he lived alone, in an apartment near his office, where he created dynamic resumes.  He would schedule transportation, roll down in his wheelchair, and make his way there.  He would rave about how lucky he was in so many ways, and raved about the public transportation he could access. I remember his words, even in the Ohio Veterans’ Home, he contemplated his fate, half joking, about living out his days under a bridge, but instead, was so fortunate to to live at the VA home.

Even at the VA home, he continued to write resumes for his clients, and served on the board, representing other patients.  He was loved by the care givers, and he showed his appreciation often, even creating a video for you-tube honoring those that took care of the clients. Appreciate, grateful, lucky.  These were all words he used often to describe himself.

I invite my family and Robert’s friends to share your stories, short or long about Robert. I’ll compile them and make sure they are shared with those that loved him. It is important for his children and grandchildren to know what a fine man Robert was. We are who we are thanks to the influence of those that came before. What a gift it may be to more deeply understand the powerful influence that Robert had.




When Friends Die

If you get an inkling to contact a long lost friend, by all means, listen.  Pick up the phone, do an internet search, touch base, and reconnect.  I’ve done that with a few friends and it is incredible what it does to my heart.


I was daydreaming yesterday about people who had a significant impact on my life and of course I thought about Bob. After Bob and Toni  moved to the flat lands, I lost track of him. I planned to find him today and tell him how much I appreciated our friendship back in the 80’s. He passed away a little over two years ago.  I think he suffered some pain in that final phase.  I wish I could have caught up with him before he died.  Besides catching up on all of life, I would have thanked him for all that he taught me.  He would have modestly  made light of it, I’m sure.  But he’d know.  I would have told him told him I loved him like a brother.

I met Bob first when I was taking classes at Appalachian State. He taught Power and Energy. Bob to me was the ultimate Renaissance man. there was no problem he wouldn’t tackle, and would help when needed but would encourage me to do all I could do first. I had an old Mazda pick up truck with a rotary engine that seized up. At his suggestions, I bought an old Ford Courier Pick up and he helped, and in fact, did most of the work, of transferring the engine, including building new motor mounts, and then got the thing running. What to do with the old truck? He taught me how to use a cutting torch. I literally cut the whole truck up and we threw it in the dumpster.
Bob and I became friends that year. I’m not sure how he felt but I felt like I found the big brother I never had. I wanted to learn how to do stuff, and Bob could do stuff. Geez, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do. His generosity was beyond what I had ever experienced. He loved teaching others how to do stuff.  That explains his long career in teaching, and when he wasn’t teaching, he was still teaching.
Bob taught me about spirituality. He taught me about listening to one’s intuition, being open, trusting. I don’t remember his explaining the details about the actual philosophy but he showed it in his daily life. Hard working, embracing challenges, seeing opportunities and hardships as lessons to be learned, love of family, love of life, caring, sharing, giving, non-judgement.
One thing Bob taught me was to listen to my heart. He told me the story of how he met Toni, both walking their dogs on the beach. In no time it seems, they knew and were married. I listen more now, and as a result, my life and relationships are better.

While I regret loosing track of Bob, I can’t thank him enough for being there when I so needed a brother, someone to look up to, to talk to, to ask questions, to learn from.

Thanks Bob, where ever you are. Just wanted you to know how much you mean to me. Now, I think, you know. I’ll see you on the other side.When Friends

Stop Monkeying Around

Stop Monkeying Around

Picture 051.jpg

I have a friend named Earl, who in many ways is like a big brother to me.  Our experiences are profoundly different.  It is not just age.  His life has followed a path that I would never nor could ever follow.  He is a cherub of a man, round and bald, but sweet, kind and funny.  He is full of stories from earlier days of hardship, of fighting, of harsh words, of pain, and resilience.  He is a man that has done what he must.  He is also generous.  He writes poetry, will print it out, frame it and give it as gifts.  And he will buy books that he thinks you will like and write sweet encouraging words on the inside cover.  I was the recipient of poetry and books.  Recently, he gave me “The Daily Stoic” 366 Meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living.  I am a fan of Brene Brown.  He is not.  He says everything she says was written down years ago by wise men, thus the book.  

Copy (2) of on the bikert+on+scooter+2

Picture taken before enlightenment.  And After enlightenment.

For every day of the year, there is a quotation and then commentary by the editors.  Here is the quote from July 8th, my birthday.  “Enough of this miserable, whining life.  Stop monkeying around.  Why are you troubled?  What’s so confounding? The one responsible?  Take a good look.  Or just the matter itself?  Then look at that.  There’s nothing else to look at.  And as far as gods go, by now you could try being more straightforward and kind.  It’s the same, whether you’ve examined these things for a hundred years, or only three.”  –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.37

The editors go on to say that “Character,” Joan Didion would write in one of her best essays “ the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life –is the source from which self-respect springs.”  


In my dealings with students in my 27 year long career in education, with people I encounter, there seems to be those that have pain and suffer, and others that have pain and deal with it.  Some even work to derive benefit from from hardship.  There are those that seem confused as to the origin of their pain, and others that accept that where they are today, is a result and consequence of a life of decisions, that put them in the place they are in.  Some make decisions based on what is easy, and pain relieving, while others are willing to tolerate the discomfort and pain for a great good or greater gain.  Consistently, those that have a long range perspective tend to do better, or seem to have an easier life.

I am fortunate to having had some good mentors along the way, and made few choices that damaged me too much.  Oh, sure, some metal in my hip from a car wreck, my fault for not wearing a seat belt.  I would be more financially stable if not for withdrawing money from my retirement too early, and I would be slimmer and fitter if not for the desire for immediate satisfaction of that creamy doughnut washed down with some hot sweet coffee.  Since my mid twenties, I’ve been searching for answers, little by little, unsatisfied with the fantasy that traditional religions provides.  

What mistakes in judgement I’ve made along the way, I attribute to lack of discipline, or laziness at times.  Other mistakes, were well intentioned, and these are often in the area of relationships.  My marriage of ten years was not wasted time, but it was not easy.  Like kayaking down a river with class four rapids, with only class 2 skills, it was rocky to say the least.  But many valuable lessons were learned the hard way.  I can relate to the saying “The man that carries the cat by the tail can learn the lesson no other way.”

For those that seem to be doing things that I find irrational, unproductive, or even destined to make life even more difficult, I try to remind myself “Not my monkey, not my circus.” or “the man that carries the cat by the tail can learn the lesson no other way”, or from my Al Anon days, “I didn’t create it, can’t control it, can’t cure it.” And finally “Bless them, heal me.”  

Who am I with my limited perspective to think I know what someone else should do with their life?  It is not my place to figure it out for someone else.  All the resources are available for most anyone looking to make their life better, or so it seems.  But maybe not.  I’ve not had it as bad as some folks.  I was spared the genetics that lead to addictions, or mental illness.  I was blessed with good schools, and came up in the 70’s when the economy was more rewarding. I escaped the horrors of war, being too young for the draft. A college education was cheap, and I had the benefit of being strong and healthy.

So I ask, what is missing from my perspective?  I’ve open to your insights.

rt n dd after kayaking June 2016


My current challenge: Discipline.


to do listNow that I’m retired, I don’t have to do much.  There are things to do, but I get to choose the time and the speed with which I do things.  This poses a problem.  I am not in the habit of being disciplined, and therefore, have not created habits of behavior that are beneficial on a grand scale.  I know I’m not looking at this clearly because someone outside looking in might say I have good habits.  I don’t drink to excess, don’t smoke, don’t tune out in front of the TV, I stay busy with chores and worthwhile endeavors.  I brush twice a day and floss most days.

But I still see lots of areas that I want to manage better.  So I ask myself this question. What do I need to do on a daily basis that would become a habit, that would make a difference, and satisfy the primary needs for connection, purpose and fun? Stephen Covey suggested asking yourself this question.  “What is one thing you can do on a regular basis that would significantly improve the overall quality of your life?”

key-stretch-04-sitting-hamstring-stretch the more you fill up on healthy food





  1. Cardio and stretch.  I have lower back problems that, if I don’t stretch often, can get problematic.  If I can get that going regularly, then I’ll move on to weight training.
  2. Eat right.  Smaller portions, healthier choices, avoid the sugary and carb snacks that are so seemingly satisfying. Keep the sweets out of the house.
  3. Do something, make something, fix something.  I need a sense of accomplishment.  At the end of the day, I want to be able to look back and say I accomplished something today.Clip Art Illustration of a Boy Mowing the Lawn Right now, that means repairs and tidying up our two properties, getting them ready to sell.  Not sure what that will look like after moving.
  4. Regularly, if not daily, spend time with friends and family. Friendship-old-friends-old-men Even if this means a phone call, if not in person.
  5. Write. I have a need to leave some thoughts behind for my family and friends to remember me by, or maybe even learn something.  I probably won’t get around to writing a book.  But a blog?  With regular entries?  Or my journal.  About all kinds of thoughts?  That is doable.  John Grisham, in an interview on PBS gave advice to would be writers.  “Write a page a day.”  Would be writers that are unwilling to do that, including myself, just aren’t serious about writing.  And there is a journal for ideas that I’m still working on.


What’s on your daily list? What have you done that allows you now to reap a harvest of good results.  What do you need to change, to avoid the consequences of missed opportunities?

How understanding connection changed my teaching, as well as my life.

I’ve heard all my life that it takes a special kind of person to be a good teacher and I believe it is true.  It is not however genetic.  I think excellent teachers are excellent due to their belief system about themselves and the students they teach.

I can speak from experience. I was both a lousy teacher and transformed into a pretty good teacher.  I started teaching in a school in rural North Carolina in 1982.  I had a traditional university preparation to teach what was then called Industrial Arts.  I had basic training on the technology side and how to write a lesson plan, but little if any guidance on understanding students, or people in general.

My focus was teaching technology.  Somehow I thought technology and skills could help these kids dig themselves out of poverty or mediocre lives.  Do you see the judgment coming from me yet?  My upbringing prepared me for giving orders to dutiful, and trembling underlings. I was shocked that not all students did as I told them to do.  After all, I was the teacher.  I did all the things my nuns at parochial school as well as my  alcoholic father and co-dependent mother modeled.  Make demands, without explanation, get angry, humiliate, ridicule and threats.  Of course

I did not make physical threats but threats of sending them to the office or calling the parents.

I hated teaching this way.  I was miserable and many of the kids were miserable.  Most had too much respect to tell me what they really thought of me, and the administration saw no reason for me to try out a new method.  I ended up teaching in another rural school for three more years before finally quitting, unhappy, and feeling frustrated that many of the kids didn’t learn.  I realize in retrospect that it wasn’t the teaching, or the kids that made me miserable.  It was me, myself and I.

After eight years working for myself and working for others, I returned to teaching. I was still in a predominately rural area, with the advantage of being in a college town, so the mix of students was fairly diverse.  I still struggled with classroom management.  To give you an idea the negativity I displayed to some of my students, despite my best efforts, I’ve had two students years later tell me that they hated me, and they knew I hated them too, because that’s how I treated them.  Wow.  What a wake up call.

I developed a passion for teaching, and the content I delivered was both challenging, relevant  and sometimes fun.  I still struggled but things got easy for everyone involved when I learned about “Love and Logic”. It was there that I began to understand the phrase “Kid’s don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Another quote I’ve leaned on, is “People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”  Instead of teaching technology, I started to teach kids.  I started to make the effort to like them, and let them like me back. Teaching became more relationship based, a cooperative effort between me and them.  Love and Logic offers lots of ideas about giving kids choices and consequences, helping them to learn to be more responsible.  And teaching got more fun.  For everyone.  Kids started to understand that I did care and they responded in kind.  Finally, I started hearing the words “You were my favorite teacher because you really cared about me.”

I’m recently retired now but the last five years were the best of the twenty seven years total teaching.  I started risking more and had the freedom to integrate into my curriculum the teaching of concepts that helped me so much.  Brene Brown, TEDtalk speaker and author is a researcher into shame and vulnerability.  Her book changed my life, and my teaching.  At the beginning of each class, I would take a few minutes to talk about concepts they probably heard nowhere else.  Karpman’s Drama Triangle, the emotional bank account, a growth mindset so well spelled out by Carol Dweck. It was however Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” that went the farthest to describe how we develop our own sense of self worth, and how we can help others to do the same.  From that point on, I made it a point to make everyone I was in contact with to know they were appreciated, that their effort, and risk taking was valued, and that they were awesome.  

Some kids find it hard to believe they are awesome when society, or their own family seems hell bent on convincing them they are not good enough in so many ways.  I would remind them regularly on the importance of our differences, how each person is like a unique puzzle piece, and a critical piece, as important as every other..  I would say, “You are awesome.  Yes, you and I, we all make mistakes. Taking risks is essential to learning. It is part of the process.  We are not perfect.  We are growing, learning. But you are courageous.  And resilient.  And there is no doubt in my mind, that you are  (insert your own word here: god’s, universe, cosmic conscious, all that is, spirit) gift to mankind.”

Some days I would show a youtube video of Keb Mo singing “I’m Amazing”.  Many of my kids, learned the words by heart. We would shout out each sentence back and forth to one another before disappearing into a classroom.   “You’re amazing.  You’re  incredible.  You’re marvelous.  You’re a  dream come true.”  And you are too.


Dad’s been drinking, and by the way, Happy Father’s Day

Iyoungdadmaybe5yearsold read an article in the NY Post by  and here is the link if you want to read it.  It is a lot funnier than what I have to say. Anyone who had an alcoholic or dysfunctional family can relate to part of it.  And isn’t that about everyone?

Being the baby of seven, I wonder if I was oblivious to much of the negative aspects of growing up with an alcoholic dad.  On the other hand, as his disease progressed, and he gave into it, the older kids flew the coop, some still living in the same city, others in other states or even countries. I was there, living at home, til the day he died.


My mom said he struggled his whole adult life with alcohol but when he was younger, he could handle it better. The reason for his self medication?  To numb out? Low self esteem, the burdens of responsibility, unfulfilled creativity.  Who knows? Maybe it was more genetics than anything.  Of his seven kids, four are alcoholics, but unlike him, all are in recovery and have been for many years.

But in those days, AA was about the only place you could go to for help, and he went some of the time.  He tried antabuse.  I wonder which was more difficult.  The struggle to stay sober, or dealing with the internal dialogue of self indictment.

PORTRAIT.jpgdad playing tennis

Mom told me he always drank heavy but he would sweat it off  playing tennis or racket ball.  When he was in his early 40’s, he played tennis on a cooler than usual day, and the sweat and the cold got to him.  He got sick, pneumonia set in, and the doctors said it damaged his heart.  I don’t have any recollection of this, even though I was about 11.  From that point on, it was a downward spiral.


He was not a happy drunk.  He preferred to be by himself and generally, it was a good idea to avoid him when he was drinking.  We learned to walk lightly, talk little, and find other things to do when he was hitting the bottle.  He would try of course.  He would even take individually or maybe two of the kids at a time to go with him to the Wonder Bar.  It was surreal.  Sitting in a bar, at the age of 10, with half dozen other older men, just sitting.  Drinking.  Not much talk going on either.  Just the usually, “Hi Bob, good looking kid you got there.”  Or some nicety the break the silence.  But I knew I was there, watching him drink his poison, and knowing it would not end well.

Surviving in a dysfunctional family takes some coping skills.  Siblings didn’t really talk about what was going on.  It was pretty secretive, other than a couple of phrases. 1. Dad’s hitting the sauce, or 2. Dad’s on the wagon.  And eventually, “Dad fell off the wagon.” For me, surviving meant numbing out, keeping quiet, don’t draw any attention to myself, as there was plenty of drama going around in the family anyway.  Don’t get your hopes up, and wait.  Wait til what.  Wait til I graduate from high school, and then get out?  Those last few years, it was waiting til his physical health took such a toll that he would be released from this earth, and we, our family would be released as well, and could get on with our lives.

His death came as no surprise. He had been in and out of the hospital for a year, more in than out it seemed. The doctors said he was failing and the kids that could, came home to say good bye to him in the hospital.  All but one, who was overseas in the military.  Much to our surprise, he rallied and came home a week or two later.  In that week, he started drinking again, taking on fluids, and by day three, he no longer went upstairs to sleep, or even changed out of his pajamas.  By day seven,  pills were the only solution to ease the pain searing across his chest.  The doctors said there was nothing else they could do.  According to mom, his final prayer, and a rare one at that, was something like “God, I know I’m a bastard but throw me a few crumbs.” And he said it many times before he finally slipped away. Congestive heart failure was the cause of death according to the coroner’s report.  A broken heart is more likely.

He was 47, and died on Ground Hog’s Day in 1971.  Our home at 1494 Clarence Avenue was open to visitors for two days. Folks came over, brought food, told stories, and expressed their condolences.  I was mostly relieved he was gone. I played ping-pong in the basement with a few friends. Yes, it was tragic.  A talented man, creative, funny, responsible to his family in many ways, just couldn’t win the battle. I’m told in his good days, he loved fiercely.  He loved my mom, his kids, and life in general.  But love wasn’t enough.   His genetics, and emotional battle fatigue won out in the end.

Robert E. Tidyman, Sr. was not a bastard.  He was the product of the times, his genes and his environment.  He was a soldier in WW2, a musician, a writer, an athlete, a loving husband and devoted father.  Not perfect in any way.  His disease and maybe some errors in judgement restricted him from being the full of life person he might have been.

xmas65I hold no grudge or resentment, though I am sad for all that he missed.  If there is life after death, and I think there is, I want to sit with him and tell him I love him and respect and honor his struggle.  I couldn’t do any better in the same circumstances.  I will listen to him tell his story, and remind him he has plenty of reasons to be proud; proud of himself, and proud of his children and now grandchildren, and oh yes, great grandchildren.  See you on the other said Daddio.

richard and dad on the beach




Making Decisions Based on Self-Worth

A couple of truths, at least from my experience.

  1. We always have choices.  
  2. We will always enjoy the benefits or suffer the consequences of our choices.
  3. Knowing how we make choices, a form of metacognition helps us choose the method by which we choose.
  4. Our life, wherever we are at the moment, is the result of the choices we have made, and the consequences that followed.  We are not victims.  We are the creator of our lives, and while we may have gratitude for others that contributed to the effort, we are, ultimately the only one responsible for our lives and the consequences that occur.

choices by Waitley

There seems to be two extremes to the decisions making progress, and we operate somewhere on the spectrum, depending on the circumstances.

Method 1:  Feel good.  Satisfy physical and emotional desires for the moment, and avoid unpleasantness as much as possible.  Avoid difficult challenges.  There is no philosophy or guiding principles here.  It is primarily pleasure seeking and pain avoidance. It says I want to feel good now, and will deal with the issue later.  It is hanging onto relationships that will hurt us hoping that they will change. It is choosing people into our lives that makes us feel good, or at least, don’t make me feel inferior.   It results sometimes in a victim personality, wondering why life seems to sucks, and how did this happen to me.

This type of person wants to avoid the harsh criticism, takes things personally, and resents others that do well.This is spelled out well in Carol Dwecks book “Mindset”. I believe that the basis of this fixed mindset, that is afraid to embrace challenges, seeks pleasure and avoids pain, is based in self worth.  Brene Brown speaks to self worth.  These behaviors and poor choices are a result of one’s low sense of self worth.  I see it like this.  “I am worthless.  I am not good enough at the things required to succeed in most any area of life.  Therefore, why try.  I’ll only fail miserably and lose what little comforts I have now.  I will avoid risk, hang with people that make me feel good, until they don’t.  Since I have no control of the circumstances, I depend on others for my feelings (by what they say or don’t say). It seems easier to understand people’s behavior by understanding what shame or self doubts they hold.

There doesn’t seem to be an organized societal effort, especially not in our schools that educates people on how this shame thing, self-worth influences our every feeling, decision and ultimately the quality of our lives. If you are lucky enough, or force yourself to hang with effective people, they may steer you into the direction of learning more about this kind of stuff.  But you can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes. You can’t make them drink, and you can’t make a person read or think anything they don’t want to.

Method 2: Do what is right, fair, honest, loving and kind to self and others.  Sometimes this means enduring temporary pain and discomfort to do the right thing, sometimes extremely painful, and will really piss off the people you care about most.  Making sacrifices to go to school, living on the cheap so that down the road, a more satisfying career will produce the opportunities, both financial as well as personally that one desires. It means cutting off from ourselves habits and people that are destructive.  It means saying goodbye to a person that despite all of their good points, ends up being toxic in your life. Even though we may feel like we love or need them, which is temporarily painful but necessary.  Sometimes we must cut off the cancerous limb to save the body. It means eliminating destructive behaviors,  whether is is dietary, drugs, laziness.  

How  we make choices varies from one end of the extreme that thinks, what is easy, what is comfortable, , and by doing so, I will feel better in the moment.  Damn the consequences, I’ll deal with those later.  I wonder if this is the source of procrastination . The other extreme is answered to the question of “what is loving, kind to others and self, authentic, honest and fair?” This second standard is by far much harder, a more challenging path, but when developed as a habit, results in the fruition of good things, like achievement, positive relationships, and a sense of satisfaction of a life well lived.  

Our lives are a culmination of making choices, some easier, some harder than others.  


Carol Dweck would say that a person with growth mindset embraces challenges, accepts mistakes and defeats as a necessary part of learning, accepts criticism for the benefit of learning, and I would add, accepts and encourages others as equally worthwhile human beings, not better, not worse, but maybe in a different place on their journey.  

At the core of the growth mindset is a sense of self-worth.  Not braggadocio, or superior.  It is more like, I’m good enough.  Mistakes and failure do not detract from my sense of worthiness.  I may have made a mistake, but I’m not a mistake.  I may have failed at something  but I am not a failure. If I am a person of worth, then by reasoning, all people are, and they are worthy of kindness and consideration.  They deserve to be treated well, and judge not by their mistakes. We can view others as equally worthy of respect.  


The hard part comes when we watch others, who are operating out of shame, doing destructive things to themselves and to others, and we feel hopeless to do anything for them.  My sister taught me a phrase to use when I was upset with another human beings choices.  “Bless them, heal me.”  I don’t have to fix it, and in Al Anon I learned, “I didn’t create it, can’t cure it and can’t control it.”  I tell myself they are on their path, on their timeline.  My job is to take care of me, be kind, loving but not a rescuer, not a fixer of other people’s problems or relieve them of the consequences of their choices.  That doesn’t make it any easier to watch.





Understanding Why Some Teachers and Administrators are Inept

Was talking to a friend the other day about bosses. It has me thinking but having had dozens of bosses, here is what I’ve noticed. Some manage our of fear. They do what they can to keep a lid on what they perceive as a train wreck waiting to happen. They are defensive, bossy, controlling, and will resort to threats, shaming and humiliation, not because they don’t like you but because they themselves are holding on by their fingernails, avoiding impending doom. And if you are working for someone like that, I say, don’t let their rainy day spoil your sunny day.

Other bosses, accept, and embrace the fact that the job at hand can best be done though effort, passion, risk taking, and the inevitable messes it creates, but accept that is part of being great and making progress. they acknowledge their own liabilities and others , but emphasize the wondrous, diverse, and unique skills that we all bring. They tolerate things that might not fit their personality, so as to allow the strengths, such as creativity to soar.

So if you are in the unfortunate position of working for someone that seems like a control freak, critical, and threatening, accept that they are on a learning curve, but that doesn’t mean their assessment of you is accurate. Be the awesome creative, incredible person that you are. Everything is temporary anyway. The job. The boss. The hassles. The only thing that matters is loving what you do, making a difference for yourself and the others that are lucky enough to be in your circle of influence.

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I read a great article years ago about how and why teachers leave the profession and why it seems as though the quality of teachers we get is inferior to the teachers we have now.  I’d have to say the same goes for administration.  In a nut shell, back in the day, women had fewer choices of careers.  It was primarily secretaries, nurses, and teachers.  I’m willing to bet that the men in education made their way up the ladder to administration or university level where the pay was better and frustrations less.  I don’t know this but it seems to make sense to me.
Thanks to women’s lib and the ERA, jobs opened up for women that could provide greater finanical as well as personal satisfaction.  So what ype of women were willing to take that level of risk.  And who were the ones less likely to leave teaching?  Prior to that time, with the flood of women willing to teach, and many with husbands that also worked and due to the economy, husbands made more money.  So paying teachers less, and still high quality teachers as they could skim the cream off the top of the teaching candidates.
Se here we have both teachers and administration going into and if they decide to stay, one might wonder why.
Certainly one reason is because they love teaching.  Teaching provides a level of satisfaction in the five areas of well being, as discussed by Martin Seligman in his book “Flourish”.  They satisfy the need for fun, flow, relationships, achievement and purpose.  That is certainly one of the reasons I stayed in teaching despite the lack of financial success.
Do people stay in teaching for other reasons?  Of course.  But why?  If they aren’t getting their needs met, why stay?  For one reason, they believe it is the best they can do.  One might think seriously?  Sometimes a person gets along in life, complicated with children, a need for the money, and taking time off to job hunt, or retrain, or take a lower paying job, despite its potential is not possible.
And finally, there are those, and I might add if there is even one in your school, then it is too many, that dislike teaching but for some reason, it is the only perceived option available.  They don’t know how to do anything else, or what they can do won’t pay enough.
I was certainly in this frame of mind.  In the early years, when I was really, really struggling, I thought my only other option was to leave and start back at the bottom, at minimum wage.  Wouldn’t be able to support my family.  I did eventually leave teaching, but this was before kids, and the wife was working so I could afford to work at minimum wage for a while.  I waited on tables, which I’m really good at.  I did construction, until winter came along and hours were cut.  I tried and failed miserably at selling cars.  Too boring, too much dishonesty.  I tried selling satellite dishes…for four days.  More lying and dishonesty.  Tried selling a commercial collection agencies services in a room full of sales people saying whatever you had to say to get a sale.  Failed.  Sold steel Quonset hut style buildings.  Failed.  One thing I did do was sell insurance and investment products.  If I had been with the right company, with the right product, in the right area, it might have worked.  In fact my boss said in the 20 years he had been doing it, I had more potential than anyone.  Despite the fact that I was starving after four years, the “potential” wasn’t paying the bills. Emotionally, at that time, I did not deal well with the rejection.
So when the opportunity presented itself, I got back into teaching.  Planned to only stay a year. Stayed 20.
So try to make sense out of this one.  I was a pretty marginal teacher at the beginning.  In fact, in any other industry, I’m pretty sure they would have let me go if there were people standing in line wanting the job.  But here’s the thing about teaching.  They no longer skim the cream of the crop.  They take the best they can get, which oftentimes, isn’t all that great.  They have to keep what they have because it’s easier to hope someone will get better than try to find a replacement, and have more of the same problems or even worse.
I was lucky.  They put up with me long enough until I learned enough about my content area and my classroom management skills, that I got pretty good at it.  When I was hired, there were real shop teachers looking for jobs.  Fewer and fewer shop teachers are becoming teachers.  With the opportunities for industrial training and engineering jobs, there are other opportunities with greater rewards available.  Which is back to the same issue of when women started going into other careers.  The grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. When I was hired, we had a small pool of industrial arts and home economics teachers looking for work.  As each one left, they were usually replaced business education major types.  So much for hands on learning.

Where does that leave education now.  Everything I said about teachers applies to administration.  Some good ones there for the right reason, others, not so sure.  Until a career in education provides a higher level of personal satisfaction, and financial benefit, there will be fewer and fewer teachers even applying for the job.  There won’t be a whole lot of cream to skim off the top, so you resort to hiring a warm body and hope for the best. Of those that go into, and love it, they will go where they can do better for themselves financially and otherwise.

Lots of good teachers in NC have taken jobs elsewhere, many just over the boarder, where they can make more money with less hassles, with more autonomy.  You can thank the NC legislature for cultivating the race to the bottom with frozen wages, and lousy management.


There is a phrase I’ve often heard in education.  “We do the best we can with what we have.”  The system is such that what we have to work with, be it the hiring pool, supplies, equipment, leadership is not what it could be and is not what it should be.  And people wonder why our education system seems to lag behind other states and countries.
For my next topic?  Teacher of the year.  And how it really seems they get elected.

Surviving Teaching: Purpose as a motivator

I realized giving a 30 minute talk the other day that there is no way to condense all my my thoughts about teaching in 30 minutes.  But I can try to devote several paragraphs to each concept.  Let’s see how that goes.

This is geared to teachers who are struggling, those considering teaching, and in reality, it applies to any career.

I was miserable teaching.  I enjoyed my college classes learning how to work with wood, metal, plastics, ceramics, drafting, small engines.  I loved learning.  I thought my love of learning would translate into a love of teaching.  Or maybe a love of watching others learn.  But not all students were as excited about learning what I had to teach.  many had other ideas of why they were in my class, and oftentimes it wasn’t to learn. I was miserable.  So were many of the kids.  For a few years.

Why did I stay?  Surely I could have found another job paying as little, and maybe more than I was making.  Why did I, and why do you persevere with anything that is unpleasant?  It could be a relationship, a job, and more.  I think the answer is 1. Hope and 2. Purpose.

As long as we have hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that there is a chance it will all work out in the end, then we stay.  Sometimes we come to the conclusion it is hopeless.  Then we leave.  Break up. Resign.  Who hasn’t poured their heart and soul into a relationship (or a job), only to realize it will never get better.  That necessary ingredient, the salve, the potion, the agreement, the understanding on one person’s part is lacking, and probably will never be there.  Careers are like a relationship in so many ways. Even when you are going through the rough stuff, if there is hope and purpose, you can make it through.  But when there is no longer any hope of achieving your purpose, then it is time to bale. The challenge is knowing when to stay and when to go.

When I started teaching, I really was unqualified.  I had marginal teaching skills, classroom management skills, and the minimal amount of working knowledge of the curriculum. College only gets your foot in the door.  Despite my lack of qualifications,  they hired me.  Either there were so few applicants, but even if there were many, they still offered me the job, so I reminded myself when overwhelmed and convinced of imminent failure, I was the best person for the job.

I have learned that a sense of purpose or meaning is one of the five critical things needed ro a well lived life.  As a good Catholic until age 13, and then as a Jesus freak from the age of 17-20, I absorbed, embraced, and cultivated the belief that “I am here for a reason.”  I didn’t and still don’t know the specifics, but if I accept the notion that I’m here for a purpose, and that everything happens for a reason, or has some benefit, then it changes my perspective.  Instead of being a victim, any event can be reinterpreted as a gift, or an opportunity to learn, grow and prepare for bigger and better things ahead.  Every setback, every failure is an opportunity to assess could can be done differently next time.

The early years of teaching are overwhelming.  There is no way to get around it.  Way too much to learn, to do, and for many, at least me, the constant fear that the administration will see what is clear to me, I’m in way over my head.  The feelings of imminent doom stirred up my anxiety to the point where I went on drugs to control it as well as my depression.  the image of me digging ditches the rest of my life was a regular occurrence. One of the main reasons I stayed was purpose.  I was there not only for my benefit but for the benefit of some others, the students.

I was pretty convinced, that I was there for a reason.  There were a few things I could teach and teach well, and what I didn’t, I could learn.  I told myself “You will get through this. It does get easier. It is worth it. ”

My desperation for help led me to a professional organization of peers.  I found in them a support group and a resource of information.  They agreed that the early years were the hardest.  Some said it took three years before it got easier.  My experience is five years, but I’m a slow learner.

The moral of the story?  Find something that you believe deeply that gives you purpose and meaning.  Accept the fact that is is going to be really challenging but those challenges will teach you what you need to know before it gets easier. You will know when it is time to go on or  when it is time to quit.  Whether you leave to find something new, or someone new, I hope you feel as though you gave it your best shot.

After 27 years of teaching, filled with both mistakes, missteps, growth and at times small victories, I can say, that my purpose was fulfilled.  I learned.  I grew. I am a better person for it.   As for the students I taught.  Some learned. Some grew.  I accept that I didn’t reach them all, but like the little boy that was putting star fish back in the water that were washed ashore by the tide, it mattered to the ones that he did save.