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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Ninety-one years. I’m sorry you didn’t get to celebrate today with those who love you most.

You are terribly missed and frequently thought of. The love you shared with me and all of your beloved family members will never be replaced, but I’ll always remember you for your kind words, thoughtfulness, huge heart and ability to make me forget about my troubles.

Because of you, I better appreciate the little things in life. A tasty meal that I cooked and shared…the smell of fresh-cut grass in the spring…a first snowfall. You taught me to pay attention to the things right in front of me and for that I’m eternally grateful. I’m a better man because of you.

So Happy Birthday, Mom. Know that you’re loved more than ever.

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And So She Goes

My daughter starts her freshman year in college next week. I’ll move her into her residence hall on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., on Saturday.

Major milestone.

No cliche in the world sums up the transition of your first born going off to college. Minds broaden; lives change – both hers and mine, but mainly hers. There is no downside to to the days, months and years to come. She’s prepared, smart, filled with common sense, and ready to make this move. More than ready, in fact.

And as much as I’ve prepared myself for the letting go part, the actual doing so may not come as easy as I intended. But it will come, just as she goes.

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On July 20, 1969, this four-year-old kid from small-town Iowa knew something was up when his Dad came home from work early one morning to watch television.  In fact, with a quick glance down the neighborhood street, I would have noticed lots of cars parked in the driveway – with everyone inside staring at their black and whites.

“Because of what you have done, the Heavens have become a part of man.”

The flight of Apollo 11 served as a rebirth in the United States in many ways. And my four-year-old eyes watched not really knowing what I was seeing, but impressed that my Dad – who ran his own business and worked long arduous hours to keep it going – took time from his morning to watch TV. And we continued to watch for the next three days – whenever the networks fed us NASA’s grainy footage of the astronauts doing their business out in space. The first-ever landing on the Moon. Listening as Neil Armstrong voiced to the world his impressions as he stepped of the lunar module ladder onto the Moon’s surface. The Moon walks. The lift-off from the Moon and the splash landing.

It’s all very surreal, but there are images in my memory banks from 40 years ago and it’s something my kids read about without consideration to the sheer magnitude of what was happening. Six hundred million people on earth watched and read about those three days in the summer of ’69 and we’re still talking about it four decades later.

Without question, it was something else.

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It’s official: My oldest child has graduated from high school. Her commencement address was remarkable (see short clip below). I’ve included a couple photos of her as seen on the Target Center jumbotron talking to 600 of her peers and an audience of 3,000 parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends.

Here’s the introduction and first couple minutes of her remarks (I’m a terrible hand-held camera operator – just FYI).

Here’s the last 1:45 of the speech.

KG JumboTron

The Maple Grove High Graduation Ceremony was broadcast by cable access Channel 12.

KG Jumbotron2

She’s a superstar, what can I say?!

Text of speech:

“Our Crimson Identity,” by Kayla Grothaus

You know, I was looking through the yearbook the other day and suddenly, it felt like I was staring at pages of faces of people I’d never seen before in my life. So I began to think about it and I realized that in my time here at Maple Grove, I have only gotten to know a small group of people. Maybe a couple dozen or so out of the 2 thousand involved in our school community, out of the nearly 600 students who sit here on this floor.

And, I thought, how strange is it, really, that here we are today, celebrating one of the first huge milestones in our lives, together… When some of us haven’t even met yet! I mean, I don’t know who would invite 600 strangers to their grad party!

But as I look out on this room, I realize that we aren’t really strangers. Not at all. Because somehow, it just feels right that today we wear the same clothes – the same cap, the same gown. We bear the same colors: our crimson and gold. It represents a piece of who we’ve been the past few years and who we are right now and who we will be forever. And as much as I would have loved to have gotten to know more of you, the peers I share this wonderful day with, I am content to know that we share one thing in common, one thing that will be unique to us and only us, regardless of where we find ourselves in the coming months and years.

It is our Crimson Identity that unites us. We discovered it three years ago at that homecoming pepfest. And I’m willing to bet that the Class of 2007 might still try to deny it, but we earned that spirit jug. Why? Because in those 45 minutes, we forged the character and began the legacy that is the Class of 2009.

Since then, we have grown and matured and learned and for this short while, our lives have become inextricably intertwined. Every time we went to a football game, or a school play, or any of the dances, and every class we’ve attended, or cafeteria lunch we ate, our experience has been shaped by all of us: the people who go to our school, people we may not know.

Obviously, it is this collective us who make up a class with whom we are all quite familiar. But as a senior reflecting and reminiscing on the high school experience, standing on the precipice that is graduation, preparing to enter the adult world, one thing has become very clear: In life, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the crowd, to forget the role we play and contribution we make to the big picture. I’ve realized that high school was never just about me and my friends. No, it was about each of us in line at lunch, or on our feet screaming the battle cry, or in our classes, writing papers and giving those presentations.

For each of us, we reached a point when we asked “What’s it all gonna add up to, anyway?” When we wondered where or how poetry explication is going to have value in our lives. And I realized that, for our teachers, it has never been just about World History or Geometry. They have dedicated themselves to preparing us for the world we are about to step into. Because of them, we are able to comprehend the fact that we aren’t alone in this universe. That there are seven billion people out there who are just as willing and able to work as hard as you and I. But fear not, because our teachers know what it takes to go above and beyond, what it means to really strive for excellence. And I know just as well as I know about sine, cosine, and tangent, that our teachers did everything they could to supply us with the knowledge and skills it will take for us to really go far in life.

Because our teachers…they have been there. They have done that. They have seen students from the class of ’08 and ’07 (and years before) walk this stage. They have shaken hands and given hugs. And, thanks to their efforts – thanks especially for their patience – they have seen former Crimson graduates succeed in college and careers and in life. They are not strangers…they are our mentors. Our logic and rational voices.

And if there was anything I think they would like to impart with us before we leave it is this ancient Greek tradition: E tan e epi tas. For you see, when the Spartan warriors left their homes to fight Xerxes, their women handed them their shields and said: “E tan e epi tas” It means, “Come back with it or on it.” It was a matter of pride and glory, of honor and perseverance. Come back with it or on it. Today, for us, it means to go out into the world with the skills we’ve learned and do the things we can be proud of, then return home and say, “Yes. I gave it my best.” Even if the outcome isn’t all we hoped for, we will have invested ourselves and used the skills and tools we’ve learned. And in doing so, we will return home with the same honor and glory that the Spartans once had. We will uphold that Crimson Identity, and as classmates, as comrades…not strangers…we will pay tribute to the legacy that is the Class of 2009.

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My 18-year-old daughter, a senior at Maple Grove Senior High School, graduates on June 7. In a few weeks, wings will spread and she’ll transition from a child student to an adult preparing for the start of her college experience. Wow. Where did THAT time go?

Several years ago, in her Freshman year, she spoke to a few hundred parents and students at the ninth grade honors banquet. Without a note card, without a stutter, she shared words of friendship and responsibility – words beyond her young years. Words that pushed my heart into my throat and caused my eyes to glaze over in prideful tears.

On June 7 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, she’ll once again speak to the masses. This time several thousand will listen, including the entire graduating class of 600-plus students. Her peers and friends. Her face will be on the jumbo-tron and her words will be transmitted via loudspeakers once used to announce Kevin Garnett as he took the court in a Timberwolves uniform. (Interestingly, “KG” has been one of several nicknames for my daughter through the years.)

I’ve read a draft of her planned remarks – the speech she wrote to be selected as one of two students to share thoughts and parting “best wishes” to her fellow graduates at the commencement exercise.  Without giving it all away, she’ll impart advice that an average 18-year-old isn’t likely to have thought about when setting out on a new path in life.

The phrase “e tan e epi tas” means return with it or on it. It’s a reference to Spartans leaving for battle and the sentiment the warriors’ wives shared with them when they donned their shields in preparation for a march into battle. In a nutshell, “Give it your all and make us proud.”

Before she even steps foot on the stage and utters one syllable, I’ll be proud and my heart will once again be in my throat. Seems some of what we’ve shared with her these past 18 years landed and stuck.

Stay tuned. I plan to post her short speech here next month – maybe I’ll even post the video recording.

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My Dad marched to the beat of his own drum. He set his own standards, and while they changed through my childhood years, the bar and his expectations were always higher than I was tall.

rhg-wwiiDad was a product of a rough and tumble father and a mother who only knew how to love and care for others – no matter what. I guess his lack of emotion, his inability to truly display love, only became evident in hindsight – because as a kid, even when he failed to properly parent, I felt loved.

We didn’t spend a lot of time playing ball in the backyard, because Dad owned a small business and put in long hours. So instead, I often biked to Dad’s shop and swept or cleaned the work benches until he was ready to lock up – usually after Mom’s third or fourth phone call. On the way out of the shop door, he’d drop a dime in the pop machine and hand me an Orange Crush Soda for the short ride home.

My best Dad memories, though, involve the after-hours deliveries we’d make on warm summer evenings. Dad sold outdoor equipment and he would drive within a 100-mile radius to deliver a lawn tractor to a good customer. I’d help unload the equipment off the trailer and he would demo the machine, chatting up the new owner while I kicked at the stones eager to head back home.

We’d climb back into the red Dodge van he drove (purchased the year I was born) and he would steer us down Northwest Iowa county blacktops – back to Spencer. At five or six years old, I marveled at how many people knew my Dad as we made these trips together. I’d see a car or truck approaching us and nearly every single time, the driver in the oncoming car would wave – and Dad waved back.

“Who was that?” I’d ask him eagerly.

“I couldn’t quite make out the face,” Dad would say with a grin. Or, he’d say, “I think that was Jim from the hardware store,” or he would make up the names of other people he knew, completely BS-ing me.

Eventually, it dawned on me that we were out in the country and these other drivers were just being friendly, waving as they passed every car they met. But for a few years, at least, I believed Dad was the best-known man in the state of Iowa – or at least our corner of the state. He was my well-connected Dad and I was proud of him.

Dad died on Sunday and he’ll be buried back in my hometown today. We rarely spoke these past couple decades. Distance created distance and days lapsed into years.

But I’ll call upon the best memories I have of him. And if there’s a Heaven, I know my Dad has been greeted by the hundreds who waved at him on those summer evenings when it was just the two of us on the road.

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Elitists feel they have outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or some other distinctive attributes, and therefore their views and ideas must be taken more seriously or carry more weight. In addition, they may assume special privileges and responsibilities and feel they have earned certain rights that others do not or should not have based on their level or position in society.

The proliferation of elitism has been underway since the dawn of human kind. What’s become worse in the past two decades is how many people automatically place themselves into this elitist category with no basis of reason. As populists in society strive toward breaking down the walls and barriers created by the elite (to ensure everyone has the same human rights and opportunities), elites attempt to further widen and deepen their moat protecting their belief that the privileged few have every right to make and enforce the rules.

What’s more, the new elites stem from recent generations of children who grew up expecting life to be handed to them in perfect order – further widening the gap between the haves and have nots. In fact, the common middle class that most of us grew up in, has now latched firmly on to the orbit of the elite.

The hard work our mothers and fathers once performed – the work that made our nation strong – has been tossed out with the bath water in the past 20 years. The yuppies, Gen-Xers and Millenials feel society owes them the vast rewards of life simply for waking up and putting on their socks.

And since elitism endorses the exclusion of large numbers of people from positions of privilege or power, this class in our society is essentially turning its collective head further and further away from its roots – away from the very parents or grandparents who worked two shifts so the family could enjoy a warm home, a reliable car and new shoes as the kids’ feet grew. Today, the 4,000-square-foot homes, Beemers, Audis and Mercedes are not the exception, they are the rule.

I’m sick and I’m tired of 20-somethings and younger walking around with their hands out – like baby birds waiting to be fed and chirping their beaks off until the mother Robin satiates their demands. These kids, our children, are clueless. They lack responsibility, respect and a fundamental concept of what labor is all about.

How are we suppose to begin fixing the recent economic malaise in the United States and globally, when our “most valuable asset,” our best and brightest, are entering the workforce with no concept of what work is all about? The learnings that once came with earning a decent wage for a decent day’s work are gone.

We’ve created the “gimme” culture of elitists and I’ve never been more personally disgusted and disappointed by a mind set than this one.

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