Monday, December 31, 2012

My World Record

Those who are easily grossed out should probably leave now.

         A few nights ago I attended a dinner party with some lifelong friends. Post-dinner conversation turned, as it almost always does to past exploits. As is the nature of “exploits” they generally happen in the teenage years and as we (the lifelong friends) were all boys sometimes involve unfortunate occurrences of bodily functions. All the years we were telling the stories, I missed out because I had no good story to tell.


         But all that changed tonight!


         I believe I set a world record!


         (You still have time to leave.)


         For the last week I have suffered a typical seasonal sinus infection. Congestion. Fever. General crappiness. I did everything I could to battle the infection to keep from getting so sick, but it did no good. Daily I was getting sicker and sicker. I took medications. I overdosed on allergy medications. I was doing the nasal rinse. I slept in my recliner to stay upright for maximum drainage.


         Still my breathing was stuffy and my fever increased. And I noticed the nasal rinse was not working – I could not force the water into my nose, no matter how hard I squeezed the bottle. Through the other nostril, it just ran back out as soon as I removed the bottle. There was no “rinsing” going on.


         After a particularly long hot shower tonight, I began to blow my nose to clear out what I could before I did the rinse (I find the rinses more effective after a steamy shower.) I blew out one side: typical results. I began to blow the other side and I felt something move inside but nothing came out. I took a deep breath and blew again. No air, just congestion and a lump gradually moving. Another deep breath. Blow.


         Suddenly a pop!


         (Last warning to leave.)


         On the floor of my tub was the world’s biggest booger! As big around as a quarter with a rough surface, (of course I picked it up to check it out!) it looked like a polymict conglomerate (type of sedimentary stone). I suspect it grew as various boogers joined together over the last few days until they became the massive boogerous boogeri that exploded out of my nose. If this were not the height or cedar-fever-season in Texas, I would have suspected it of being some kind of alien life form trying to drill into my brain through my nose (calling Dr. Who, McCoy, anyone else with alien knowledge).


         For a while, I pondered how I could preserve it until the Guinness folks had a chance to verify it was indeed the world’s largest. If I left it out, it would dry up and get smaller. If I put it in water or alcohol, it would likely dissolve. Not coming up with anything more creative, I finally flicked it down the drain. I could have gotten out of the shower and measured it or taken pictures, but I have never inspected any of my friends embarrassing body functions, they will just have to take my word for it.


         And amazingly, I started to feel better as soon as that infectious alien mass of mucous, blood, and dust cleared out of my breathing passages. Now I just have to make the story sound really good the next time we have dinner together!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

I'm an Introvert and Here's Proof

I have always maintained that I am an introvert, but every time I said that, it was dismissed by any listener. All my friends would cite the many times I lead meetings, the time I have addressed large audiences, and the public roles I have taken over the years.

My friends have confused shyness with introversion.

I am not shy. I am an introvert.

Sophia Dembling: Nine signs that you might be an introvert:

'via Blog this'

I am quite capable of performing in public settings - as an educator, my job demands it. When I have the chance to be alone in private, I grasp it wholeheartedly.

Those public things that I do drain my personal energy. I can do them, they simply take focus and energy. Being alone lets me recharge. I never mourn the nights I spend home alone with just me, a pen and paper or the computer or a book. Likewise, I never regret the times I spend out with my friends, but it rarely carries the same satisfaction I get sitting in my recliner.

I appreciate the article and descriptions from Dembling. Perhaps they will help my friends understand what I mean when I declare myself an introvert.

Monday, December 03, 2012

One Player, Two Teams

         Last season I was dismayed by the collapse of the Indianapolis Colts. I never could quite grasp how a sports “team” could go from championship performance to league’s worst based on the absence of a single player. How any professional team could rely solely on any one player defies anything any professional would do.

         After Peyton Manning’s neck surgery sidelined him, the Colts plunged to depths of football ineptitude that only the Detroit Lions could claim. Since the time Manning arrived, the team stood on his shoulders, to the point that no one on the team believed there was any foundation absent his presence. Even though the remainder of the team succeeded in their position, they were so overshadowed by the attention on Manning they never recognized their own contributions to the team.

         At the end of the season, when the team decided to cut their financial obligations and release Manning, he made a quick transition to Denver. There is a long history between Denver and Indianapolis. The Denver great John Elway, refused to play for the Colts (while they were still in Baltimore) when they drafted him as the #1 pick because he viewed them as a hopeless team. Eventually a deal was secured that sent Elway to Denver where he brought the team to prominence during his years of play.

         Prior to Manning’s arrival in Denver, the team spent several successful years, but failed to live up to fans’ (or management’s) expectations. In the first season with Manning as quarterback, the team secured the division championship four weeks prior to the end of the season. They reached, at least in regular season, the rank expected of the collective talent.

         A year removed from him, Manning’s former team, the Colts, will also make the playoffs, emerging from the league basement.

The events of this season say much for both teams and Manning himself.

Manning has again proven himself to be one of the most competitive and resilient players in football history. An injury and treatment that would have otherwise sidelined another player acted only as an interruption to his career.

It is no wonder, then, that the Colts struggled without his self-confidence as a guiding force. The team, recognizing that he was truly gone, managed to recognize the strength within themselves. They rallied around a new, highly talented rookie quarterback and believed they could win. They did not win at the level they had in their prime when they dominated the conference, but they did win enough.

The Broncos responded with an extra bit of pep and confidence, following the character of their new quarterback. They reached the playoffs as conference champions and somewhat satisfied their fans expectations.

Weeks remain in the season and the playoffs are far removed, but the initial results show much about the individual impact on a team. The faith in a player, as much as the player’s performance, shifted the psychology of the teams involved. One team clung while another grasped and the results were telling.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


         This afternoon as I finished preparations for the work week, I spend significant time at the paper cutter. Reading the warnings about the danger of the sharp blade reminded me of the years through elementary school when we were expressly forbidden to use the paper cutter unless we had direct permission from the teacher. The ban and the warning seared the image of generations of school children missing fingers.

         That image continues to dominate my mind each time I go to the paper cutter. Using the paper cutter now, I realize they were very careless generations of school children missing fingers! Nevertheless, I focus the entire time I have that blade under my control.

         Just as I can remember the lyrics to almost every top-forty song in my high school and college years, the memory of the warnings of the dangers of paper cutters stuck with me across the years. Those memories bring both mirth and wonder: did I actually believe the teachers when they said I could chop my fingers off? Judging by where I place my hand in relation to the blade, yes, yes I do.

         Regardless of the quality of those 80’s lyrics (the best music EVER) or the honesty in my teacher’s warnings, those memories touch a deep part of my personal identity. Just as my footwear helps define me, the experiences of my childhood and youth also shape my identity. We are blessed to be more encyclopedia than periodical. No matter how we seek to shape the perceptions about us, our core being absorbs every aspect of our experience.

         We cannot control all the events around us, but we can control our response to them. Controlling the response does not mean we are not affected by the event, just that we adapt to it or we let it define us. As an adult, I know there are not generations of schoolchildren missing fingers from paper cutters, but I still keep my hand well-back from the blade while slicing through the stack of paper I have fed into the mechanism. Those years of warnings have built a healthy respect for things with sharp blades; they shaped me. I vigorously dice, chop, and shred while cooking; they did not define me. Experiences cannot be undone, but the can be managed.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

These Boots Were Made For...

         For the first time in a very long time I wore boots to work. I did it because I pulled all my boots out of the closet because I finally found a place that would re-sole boots for a reasonable price - which is a challenge here in Austin. From the instant I put them on, I questioned why I ever wear anything else. These boots are made for me.

         No matter how hard I sometimes try, I cannot escape my roots. Growing up, I wore boots and I have never escaped that country part of my soul. When I am wearing boots, I am at my confident best.

         Some people consider boots to be cumbersome, weighty, uncomfortable footwear. For me, boots are the most natural, comfortable footwear available. The right boots fit me like a glove. I am me at my most when I am wearing boots.

         Perhaps it is the two inches in height I pick up while wearing boots (I do routinely say that boots are my only socially-acceptable excuse for wearing heals). There is a degree of confidence that comes with wearing footwear of such solid leather construction. Whatever there is about boots, you don’t want to challenge me when I am wearing them.

         Ultimately, though, no matter how I try, I cannot change the person I am at my core. I live in the city. I attempt to have a cosmopolitan lifestyle. I converted most of my back yard into a garden so I have a reason to have dirt under my fingernails. The central part of who I am – that person with country at the core – cannot be erased and rewritten. Contrary to what many would encourage, and what I have attempted to do for years, one does not have to change who one is to hold a particular set of values.

         I can still be a cowboy and value social justice. Actually, being a cowboy is quite compatible with social justice if one understands the history behind cowboy culture.

         I can still be a cowboy and be a voice for my students who face disadvantages due to a disability, perceived disability, or social status. Whatever there is about boots, you don’t want to challenge me when I am wearing them.

         I can still be a cowboy and be the gay man that I am. Honestly, boots make my butt look good!

         I can still be a cowboy and do everything that matters to me.

         Whenever I wake up in the morning and slip on my boots, I know these boots were made for me!