A Walk in the Park

Our daughters joined me for a walk in the park last evening. Oklahoma summers are really warm this time of year so we wait until the hour before sunset and set off on the trail of one of our favorite parks in town.

It’s a simple thing to do and it costs absolutely nothing, but the gains seem at this moment in my life to be immeasurable. There are certainly the health benefits that are important and I know that, but the conversation and lack of distractions and unplugging of technology while we are on the trail together are exceptional.

We don’t always share deep thoughts or even talk, but the point is we can and we do. We have each other’s undivided attention in a way that I cannot find in most every other area of our lives.

Over the years, a walk in the park has helped us mend some fences, share some funny stories, laugh, sing, talk and listen to each other and the world around us. It reconnects us and it gives our little group a shared path to take and a finish line to help each other reach.

It is truly a walk in the park.

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‘Friendship’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

Baby Frederico sat quietly on the back row nearest the exit. It was his first official day at camp and he was worried. Every other camper in the room seemed to have a thousand friends, and he had not even one.

Camp was not something he had wanted to do, but Mama had insisted on it. “Just try it,” she said. “If you go this one time and don’t enjoy it, you don’t ever have to go again.”

And now, here he was. Alone. Friendless. Homesick. Hungry. Sleepy. Grumpy. “Hey,” he said to himself. “I sound like I’m becoming all those dwarfs in Snow White!”

Before he could stop himself, he laughed…out loud. He was immediately embarrassed and his face turned from green to red in a moment. It was just then that he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“What’s funny?” said an iguana who was just a little taller and darker in color and sitting in the chair to Baby Frederico’s left.

“Oh nothing. Nothing at all. I was just thinking.” Baby Frederico couldn’t believe he had actually laughed out loud. He was embarrassed all over again.

“Anytime someone can think something so funny that it makes him laugh out loud, especially at camp, that’s a good thing. My name’s Rob.”

With that, Baby Frederico suddenly, without a bit of warning and simply because he accidentally laughed out loud, had a friend. Just one friend, that’s all it took. Just one.

Camp might not be so bad after all.

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Hoop Dreams

One of the best characteristics of the small town and school that I grew up in was that it was small, so small that it required most all of us to play every sport and still be in the band and work at the concession stands, take tickets for plays and games, build sets for drama productions and do our part in creating the yearbooks…and show up for class every day.

Because of that experience, I did things that, looking back, I don’t think I would have done otherwise.  At the top of that list was basketball.  I was never very good at it, but I could dribble the ball to our side of the court and pass it when someone better than me needed it. However, shooting that ball into the basket was fraught with all kinds of good and bad possibilities that culminated in my adolescent mind into one foreboding question, “What if you miss?”

Last night, my 9-year old nephew and I decided to shoot hoops until it became too dark to see what we were doing.  We each chose a basketball and took turns shooting and talking.  It was a really good time to reconnect and hear what he’s thinking about, but what really mesmerized me was his desire to just “shoot the ball.”

He never seemed to care at all whether he made a basket or not.  He was more interested in seeing how far he could launch it from someplace around the court.  At one point, he was nearly two courts away and on the other side of my Jeep and looked at me with this grin that said, “Let’s see what happens.”  Though he didn’t even come close to hitting the backboard, much less putting it into the net, on that particular long shot, he was unwavering and did it until he finally tipped the hoop just enough to make it rattle and shake.  There was no one to say, “Don’t do it.  You’ll never make it.  Come back to the court.  Take an easy shot.”

Don’t get me wrong.  He was happy when that ball often hit its mark and would swish through the net with that sweet sound that only a basketball meeting a hoop can make.  But he seemed even happier to just play the game, to see what might happen next.

When the sun finally set and we put everything away and walked home, I couldn’t help but think that I had just learned a lesson…and that 9-year old teachers are nice to have around.

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‘A Chair for My Mother’ – Tuesday’s Look at THIS Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room.

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Today’s great book: A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams (1982, HarperCollins)

About the Author: http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/vera-b-williams

Teacher Resource:  http://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?tid=1264&a=1

Time to Read: 32-pages, a touching family story; we read it before bed

Summary:  from the publisher…”The jar of coins is full. The day has come to buy the chair – the big, fat, comforable, wonderful chair they have been saving for. The chair that will replace the one that was burned up – along with everything else – in the terrible fire.  A book of love and tenderness filled with the affirmation of life.”

Best Quote from the Book:  “When we can’t get a single other coin into the jar, we are going to take out all the money and go and buy a chair.”

Our View:  Written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams and named a Caldecott Honor Book by the American Library Association, A Chair for My Mother has been a longtime favorite of mine and I read it every semester to my college students who are aspiring to become teachers of young children and their families.  The story places itself firmly in the lives of a little girl and her mother and grandmother, deep in the heart of the city, among a close knit group of family and friends that surround them.  Taking care of each other, hard work, saving, financial issues, fire and the loss of a home – each topic weaves itself through the plot and brings to life the courage and dedication of a family to keep going and do great things…together.  

Inspiration Point

inspiration-Point

My wife and I just celebrated 22 married years together. We traveled a few hours to our destination and spent three peaceful days together, just the two of us, talking and dreaming and planning and wondering. Well, mostly it was me who did the wondering. I wondered, emphasis on ‘wonder,’ at how this all came to be. How she ever saw me across this incredibly vast world of people and decided to give me that very first moment of her time. How she decided to stay for the next moment, and the next moment…and the next.

I sat across from her a half dozen times over these past three days and still can’t believe out of all the people around us, she’s with me. Every day, every year, it gets sweeter and stronger and our story grows into one more chapter. I have faith in her and our lives are intertwined in so many ways that I can only vaguely remember me without her.

When I think about all that has to occur in this great big world for just two people to actually meet and then agree to spend the rest of their lives together, I can hardly fathom it.

We begin to write chapter 23 this week…