Missing May

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Missing May<

I absolutely love this book. This was the third time that I’ve read “Missing May”, but I challenged my students at school to read a book that really touched them in one way or another over winter break, and this book really grabbed my heart and won’t let go.

The first time I read this book was in 2004, shortly after my mother died. From the very beginning of the story, I could relate to Summer and her Uncle Ob, and how they missed May so very much.

Every time you read a book, you bring differnt experiences with you, and sometimes these experiences bring different feelings up to the surface, depending on what’s going on in your life at the time. “Missing May” makes me feel both hopeful and sad. I’m sad at the loss of my mom; there’s so much going on in my life that I never got to share with her. I’m hopeful because I know that we’re never really too far from our loved ones, even though they might no longer be alive. Thank you, Cynthia Rylant! I’m sure I will read this book again and again.

If you’ve ever lost (and missed) someone close to you, I urge you to read “Missing May.”

Thanksgiving Memories

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Thanksgiving Memories

By Wayne Osborn

            This time of year always finds me reflecting on memories of Thanksgivings Past. As I approach my 46th Thanksgiving here on Planet Earth, some memories stand out more than others.

            I remember getting together with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on many turkey days when I was a boy.  The kids would all sit at a card table, and it was a fun to catch up with everyone. I remember the Thanksgiving of 1971, and hearing the news about D.B. Cooper hijacking Northwest Orient Flight 305. As a second grader, I loved reading mystery stories, and this was a real life mystery! Interestingly enough, it still is.

            When I was a teenage boy I had a paper route, and I remember the Thanksgiving paper was the biggest, heaviest paper of the year, due to the huge amount of “toppers”, or advertisements. I dreaded delivering the paper on that day! After I turned 16, I traded in delivering papers for bagging groceries, and I was “safe” from working on Thanksgiving for awhile. These were the days when stores still closed early on Sundays, and were closed on most holidays. However, after the big chain store I worked for (Lucky Stores) sold their Northern Division, all bets were off.  I then worked for an independent grocer who saw a way to make big money by keeping the store open on Thanksgiving. One year I worked from 10 AM to 7 PM.  That day was a mixed bag: we were really busy in the morning, so that part of the day flew by. My lunch was spent eating a Swanson Turkey TV dinner by myself. I was getting depressed because my family was away having a “real” Thanksgiving without me. That afternoon, the store was completely dead by 3 PM, as everyone was safely ensconced in their homes, watching football and eating a festive holiday dinner with their loved ones.  So, my fellow employees and I immersed ourselves in a spirited game of “Turkey Bowling”, using 10 two liter bottles for pins and a frozen turkey as the ball. Now you know what goes on in grocery stores on Thanksgiving afternoon!

            One year my family ate Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital, because that’s where my mom was.  As it turned out, it was the last Thanksgiving we would spend with my mother. The hospital certainly wasn’t my favorite place to be, but at least we were all together as a family.  I remember riding up in the elevator with a gentleman who looked pretty glum, and I didn’t feel very happy myself.  I said “This is a tough place to be, huh?” He looked at me and replied “When you’re sick, it’s the only place to be.” His comment really helped me to put things in perspective. I was thankful that there was a hospital for my mom to be in, even on Thanksgiving.

            Now I’m older, and am employed in a field that provides for a Thanksgiving Holiday.  I have a bigger family now, and so Thanksgiving is celebrated over a two day period.  My family has two big dinners each year; Thursday is spent with my family, and Friday is spent with my wife’s side of the family. I’m blessed to have a job now that allows me those days off every year.  I am grateful to those from many different walks of life who work on Thanksgiving Day, to provide safety and services to members of our society.

            Last year, my wife and I started a new Thanksgiving tradition.  We both ran in the Seattle ½ Marathon.  It’s held each year on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. I’m running in it again this year.  My wife hurt her foot, so she’s going to be a course marshal.  Who knows how long we’ll keep this up, but it’s a nice way to end the Thanksgiving weekend, after gorging ourselves on food during the days leading up to the race.

For me, Thanksgiving is truly a time to think about how lucky we all are to live in a country that allows us the freedom to worship as we choose, to voice our political opinions in almost any manner that we see fit, and to exercise our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We really are pretty lucky, and we have a lot to be thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.

Rusty

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Rusty

By Wayne  Osborn

 

I remember when you were young

Playful, vibrant

You were so full of energy and life

Curious, exploring

I remember when you jumped off the deck and broke your leg

Hobbling around in a cast, you were so cute

Determined, gutsy

Years went by and you were always there

Loving, affectionate

You got older

We all got older

Last night you curled up on the kitchen floor

Frail, lethargic

I watched you try to stand,
but you collapsed into a furry heap on the floor

Out of breath

Out of life

I felt tears well up in my eyes as I gazed upon you

Just a shadow of your former self

Goodbye, Rusty

Advice to a First Year Teacher

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 Advice to a first year teacher

 

by wayne osborn

 

 

 

                My greatest surprise as a first year teacher was the immense power I had to change the lives of the students and parents whom I interacted with.  I found that as a teacher, I had the ability to make a significant difference.  There were many days where I felt that I had said or done something to make somebody’s life a little better.  Not just the students lives, either.  As a  resource teacher for my first half year of teaching, I had the opportunity to meet with many parents.  I learned quickly that often, parents of special education students are not confident of their child’s abilities.  It’s really no wonder, since the probability is very high that their son or daughter’s grades in a regular education classroom are relatively low.  The school is in essence telling them that their child needs to be “fixed”…there is a learning disability, etc.  I found that by talking candidly with the parents, I could reassure them that their child was going to make better progress academically and socially if they work with me.  Together, we could work to improve their child’s chances for success by focusing on strengths, not weaknesses.  I think that after many  I.E.P. (Individual Educational Plan) meetings, parents left feeling better about their children, if not themselves.  That’s a powerful feeling, one that I rarely experienced in the business world.

 

                In college I learned a lot about how to plan a successful lesson.  I didn’t learn too much about what to do when a student tearfully explains that the reason they didn’t get their homework done is because their electricity has been turned off.   An educational methods course can teach you how to plan instruction, but it can’t teach you how to care.  During my first year of teaching, I have learned that what may seem an insignificant event or interaction could mean the world to a student.  I have learned to see things from a different perspective, to really listen to what students are saying.  I have learned to be flexible, that even the best laid plans are meant to be changed.  Every day that I teach, I realize even more that there’s a lot that I don’t know.  My thirst for learning is far from being quenched. 

 

                My advice for future first year teachers?  Be ready to work very hard.  I can remember many, many twelve hour days.  I still  have twelve hour days!  Have high expectations for yourself, and equally high expectations for your students, but realize that teaching the academic subjects is not the only reason you are there.  Besides teaching your students, you must also be a role model, a counselor, a good listener, a caring person…a friend.  Know that, while some parents tend to focus on their child’s weaknesses, as a teacher you will get a lot more mileage if you can build on your student’s strengths instead.  Seek knowledge and advice from your fellow teachers, for they are a wonderful resource.  Don’t even begin to think you know it all, because you don’t…and it’s okay!  If you really love kids, and you really want to make a positive difference in the world, then this is the job for you.

Stacey’s Cat

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Stacey’s Cat

By Wayne Osborn

 

7:35AM

It’s early on a Friday morning, and I’m standing bleary-eyed in the gymnasium of the elementary school that I teach at. My ears were still ringing from the previous night’s St. Patrick’s festivities, and being surrounded by 250 screaming children who were excitedly watching their teacher’s perform mind-numbing karaoke was sending me on the fast track to a colossal headache.

I had an inkling that things were going to go sideways when Zack greeted me with the tearful news that Stacey’s cat had been ran over and killed the night before. 

“JoJo is dead, Mr. Osborn! Stacey’s cat, he got run over…he died!” Zack peered up at me through tear-stained eyes and I immediately realized the serious tone of his statement.  He was obviously quite upset.

“Is Stacey here today?”

“Yes, he’s here” Zack sobbed.

“Well…he must be pretty upset, huh?”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Then we’ll talk about this in reading class, okay Zack?  We’ll try to cheer Stacey up.  I know he must be really sad.  I can tell you’re sad too.” 

“Okay, Mr. O.  See ya.”  Zack wandered away towards the area where they were dispensing the breakfast, which consisted of a “breakfast pizza” which looked particularly unappetizing, especially this morning. 

I teach a reading group for 90 minutes each morning; Zack and Stacey, besides being neighbors, are both in my reading class. I knew that there would be a discussion of JoJo’s untimely demise at some point that morning.  I naively thought it would be a five-minute conversation.  I was wrong.

8:20AM

The first sign of trouble was Stacey himself.  A slight, likeable third grader, he’s a very sensitive guy anyway.  Today, the tears were flowing fast and furious.  I had heard that he had already been to our counselor’s office that morning, but evidently that hadn’t been enough to stem the waves of raw emotion that were washing over him.  I was sitting at my computer, trying to type up the story test that I was going to have them take during class today.  Stacey walked up to me and I could tell he had been crying quite hard. 

“I heard about your cat, Stacey. I am so sorry.” I stood up and put my arm around him.  He related the story of how his neighbor had found his cat dead in the street last night, how it had been run over by a car. 

“He picked it up out of the street, and then put it in our yard and knocked on our door.  He…he told us that JoJo was dead” Stacey said through broken sobs.  We stood that way for about five minutes, Stacey telling me all about his poor cat, and me trying to reassure him that I knew how he must be feeling, and how sorry I was for his loss.  Meanwhile, the other reading students (mostly 3rd and 4th graders) were gathering around us in silence.  If you’ve ever spent any time around elementary school kids, you know that is quite unusual!  There were looks of care and concern on everyone’s face.  This was high drama at its finest.  I finally decided to have the students start the day by doing a word search that I had created earlier.  I had intended on having them do this at the end of the day, but now seemed like a better time.  Plus, I still needed to finish typing up my story test. 

To be continued…

Painting,primer…and life

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Painting, primer…and life

by wayne osborn

 

            My brother-in-law was schooling me on the finer points of house painting this past summer.  It was late July, and in the sweltering heat of a 94 degree day, the last thing I wanted to hear were the words:

 

        “We’ve got some extra work  to do”.

 

 Primer.

 

            Apparently, the previous owner hadn’t done their homework, and the side of the house was peeling terribly because they hadn’t laid down any:

 

Primer.

 

            Not exactly a four letter word, but on this insanely hot northwestern afternoon, it might as well have been.

 

            “You’ve got to lay down a good foundation of primer if you want this paint job to last.  You don’t want it to peel, like it is right now.  A little extra work right today will save you a lot of extra work and heartbreak in the future.  You’ll be glad you did it.” 

 

            Where had I heard that before? 

 

            It seems that the principles which apply to painting also apply to life…a little hard work in the present will save you a lot of heartbreak in the future.  I’m talking about preparing for living life, in general.  How many kids right out of high school are really looking towards the future? I know that I didn’t.  College, vocational school, or the military are really the primer on the building that is life.  There’s a lot to be said for life experience, too. The school of hard knocks. That’s primer as well. 

 

            When it comes right down to it, we’re all painting our own lives.  Some of us paint fast, some paint slow.  No matter what kind of a painter you are, no matter what color your paint…slow down…take your time…do the job right…and don’t forget the primer.

Out of Gas

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Out of gas (but not out of luck)

 

                                                                                                                                by wayne osborn

 

            Yes, I knew I was low on gas.  The fuel gauge had seemingly been on “E” for a couple of days.

 Later.  I’ll get gas later.

            Driving past the umpteenth gas station I’d seen in the past 24 hours, I thought about turning in and purchasing some petrol.

 Later.  I’ll do it later.

            As the friendly lights of the AM/PM faded away in my rear view mirror, a curious thing happened…the truck started to sputter.  Imagine that!  I was losing power quick.  Idling at the next stop light, I noticed that I wasn’t  idling.  Huh, that’s funny.      I started up the truck and began to creep down the road once more, sputtering away.

 “She’s got no power, Captain”. 

            Scotty’s voice reverberated in my ears as a sinking feeling washed over me.  “She’s out of gas, bonehead!”  Scotty’s voice was now customized to suit my predicament.  I scoured the horizon for a good place to pull off the road.  Obviously, I would not be mobile for too much longer.  A block ahead, the soothing image of a yellow “Shell” sign caught my eye.  What were the chances of my making it to the station? 

            The truck died again…I was going to have to rely on my already dwindling momentum to rendezvous with the refueling depot.  “Oh please God, let me make it” flashed continuously through my mind.  My emergency flashers were now on,  I was losing speed fast,  and people were passing me in droves on this busy four lane road.

              As I pulled into the gas station, I hoped that I would have enough power to make it to the pumps.  The truck stopped right in line with the first set of pumps I encountered.  The sign read “Please stop at the forward pump”.  Not this time, pal.  Some guy washing his car’s windows looked at me incredulously as I jumped out of the truck.  My flashers were still on; I shut them off.  I didn’t have to turn off the motor…my unsurpassed procrastination techniques had already taken care of that.  

            What were the odds of running out of gas practically right in front  of a gas station?  As I sheepishly started to pump the precious fuel into my vehicle, I thought about how lucky I had just been.  Sometimes, the  most unbelievable things can  happen.  Another lesson is learned, this time without attending the school of hard knocks.  Action reaps rewards, and inaction can result in painful consequences.  In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:  “…the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

 

             I’m going to go buy a lottery ticket. 

 

 

Don’t Think It…Ink It!

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Want to be a writer?

by wayne osborn

 

            Thousands, perhaps millions of people throughout the world relish the idea of being a writer.  Indeed, there’s something romantic about being your own boss and marching to the beat of your own drum, not to mention the creative aspect involved.  Who wouldn’t want to get paid to create something out of nothing, to be the artist who works with the written word and designs a masterpiece on paper, where previously there was nothing?  What about the adoration of millions of people throughout our global community we call Earth? The chance to touch so many lives in a positive way; that is exciting indeed!  Yes, there are many, many people who share this dream.  There exists an industry unto itself: “how-to” books proliferate       by the score, and writing seminars are found at just about every community college in the land.  With all of these resources available to writers, how come a lot of people who want to become writers don’t ever actually write much?

 

Someday, my dream will come true…

 

            The answer lies in the “tomorrow” syndrome.  Did you ever realize how easy it is to say “I’ll do it later?”  Procrastination is the enemy of production.  Writing is a process (insert quote from famous writer here) that involves lots of sitting on your butt and just doing it.  Let’s examine an activity that requires action in order for results to happen: weight lifting.  There’s lots of books and magazines available on this subject. There’s even a lot of television programs and classes that you can take to become knowledgeable enough to lift weights carefully.  However, it all boils down to this:  you’ve got to LIFT THE WEIGHTS in order for any change to occur!  You can read 2 books a day for a year, but that won’t help your physique any.  Action is necessary for growth.  The same thing applies to writing.  You can read books about it all day long, take as many “how-to” seminars as you want…but if you don’t actually DO IT, you are not a writer.  You may want to be a writer, you may call yourself a writer, but unless you are actively involved in the process of writing, you are not a writer.

 

You can’t think your way to writing success

 

            Wouldn’t it be great if thinking and wishing about something was enough to make your dreams come true?  That would be nice if you could wish your way to success.  If, instead of dealing with that pile of dirty laundry, you looked at it and wished really hard that it would become clean.  Obviously, not much is going to happen…your clothes will remain dirty.  ACTION is required to clean the clothes.  What about your job?  Let’s say you are on the grounds keeper for a large apartment complex.  It’s time to mow the lawn, but what a gigantic job it is!  How about reading a book about lawn mowing?  It’s really inspirational, full of quotes by famous landscapers and loaded with techniques to keep the grounds looking top notch.  Is that going to accomplish your task?  No…it may be a stepping stone on the way to getting your job done, but in order for the lawn to be mowed, you’ve got to take action!  The same thing applies to writing.  You need to take action in order for anything to be produced.  That is the key word: produced.  You can’t sell something that doesn’t exist!  Just as a recording artist can’t market a CD with nothing on it, a writer needs to get words on the page.

 

            Thing’s don’t just happen. Someone makes them happen.

 

            That’s a great quote!  Writer’s Digest School sends it to every one of their students, with the instructions to put it up on the wall where they’ll see it every day.  Make sure you do the same thing.  Surround yourself with positive affirmations.  Remove distractions, and FOCUS on your goal.  Write things down on a list that you will see every day.  I’ve got my list posted right by my front door.  Writing is something that is definitely on my list.  I’m always working on at least three different articles.

 

“You don’t establish a reputation based upon what you are going to do.”

 

            That’s another great quote that I like to keep circulating around my brain.  You can talk up a storm, and dream to your hearts content about what a great writer you are going to be, but unless you TAKE ACTION and get going, you might never get there.

 

Where does the time go?

 

            Unless you just want to write purely for the fun of it… there’s nothing wrong with that!  In fact, if you don’t get satisfaction out of the writing process, then this probably isn’t the right creative outlet for you.  If you like to write, think you can, but just haven’t got around to it…read on!  You need to develop a different mind set towards your writing.  Think of writing as your job.  If someone were to tell you that you can make an extra $1000 a month by writing part time (a very realistic figure!), would you be willing to devote one and a half hours a day to your “job?”.  Based upon those numbers, that’s over $22 dollars an hour.  Now ask yourself this question: how much time do you spend watching television every day? Probably easily over an hour and a half.  How much money do you get paid to watch TV?  Do you get creative satisfaction from watching TV?  Can you build a respectable career as a freelance TV watcher?  Will you be called upon to be a guest speaker at a television watcher’s convention?  Clearly, we all know that television is the ultimate time waster.  Those familiar with the internet know that, while there’s a wealth of educational resources available on the net,  it’s possible to spend WAY too much time online as well.  The fact is, unless you’re working two or more jobs, or are going to school and working full time, there’s probably some things in your life that you can eliminate to find the time to write.  We all are given the same amount of time each week: 168 hours.  It’s up to us to make sure that we spend it wisely.

 

Think of writing as your job

 

            That’s the mind set that you have to adopt in order to carve out a productive writing career for yourself.  When you have a job, you have to show up for work.  You can’t put it off, do it later, or phone it in.  You need to show up and put in the time in order to get paid; to remain a member of the team; to be productive.  The same concept applies to writing. You need to get things written in order to have something to sell.    No one is going to knock on your door and say “We really want to buy that great book/article/screenplay that you’ve been thinking about.”  Nobody is going to buy a blank page.  You need to “show up for work” on a consistent basis.  Treat your writing as a job.  Establish a schedule for writing, and stick to it. You will find that once you start working on a project, ideas will come to you at the strangest times.  Carry a pen and paper with you.  Things will start to happen once you begin to make them happen. 

 

            Not everybody can be a professional writer. It’s up to you…the ball is in your court.

Clutter

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Clutter

 

by wayne osborn

 

As our lives go on

we accumulate knowledge

and things

 

Throughout our journey

our possessions multiply

taking up space

 

Everywhere I look

something is there

 

Not just furniture…

 

What a pleasant surprise

it would be

to find an empty mailbox

 

A paperless society

Wouldn’t  that be nice?

 

Solving the problem

of clutter

 

Not really…

 

Just checked the email

too many listserves

one hundred twelve

new messages

 

More clutter

 

So many postcards

Too many tee-shirts

Way too many CD’s

All kinds of books

 

 Do I need a bigger desk

 a bigger house

a bigger hard drive?

 

I want less clutter…

 

Homeless Bill

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Homeless Bill

By Wayne Osborn

 

            Driving home from work in a midnight downpour, I didn’t relish the thought of rising at 7AM for school.  All I wanted to do was to get home, kick off my shoes, and relax on the couch for a few minutes while I ate a late night dinner.  Sleep would be next on the agenda…I couldn’t wait!  The rain was coming down like crazy, and even though I hurried across the apartment’s parking lot, I was soaked when I reached the stairs that sloped downward to my basement apartment.  Rounding the corner to the right as I hit the bottom of the stairs, I noticed something unusual out of the corner of my eye.  It was a body, curled up in front of the short hallway, which led to my door.  My immediate thought was that it was someone I knew; maybe a friend who, finding me not home, decided to take a nap on my doorstep.  Suddenly the body sat straight up!  I took a couple of steps back, and said “Hey, what’s up?”  I could see that it was a man…not a very big guy, probably around 40 years old.

“Is this your house?” he said quietly. 

“Yes”

“Sorry ‘bout sleepin’ out here.  I don’t have nowhere to go.  I’s takin’ the bus down to ‘Lympia, and there’s some guys on that bus who was gonna take my money.  Big dudes.  So I just got off the bus right over there.  Don’t rightly know where I’m at.  I’s over at the church over there, but the guy told me I had ta leave.  So I came over here, just ta get some sleep an get outta the rain.  Sorry.”

It was cold.  It was wet.  The guy was sincere; I could tell.  I just had a feeling that he was telling me the truth.  He wasn’t dressed for the weather at all.  No hat, no gloves, just a light windbreaker.  I had to make a decision.  I sized him up; he didn’t look that big.  If he tried to attack me, I think I could hold my own.  Of course, if he had a weapon…

“You want to come inside?”

“Sure”

I cranked up the heat.  “Sure is cold out there.  You must be freezing.”

“Yeah.  It’s pretty nippy.  I’m used to it, but that don’t make it no easier.”

I offered him a hot drink of tea and he eagerly accepted.  For the next few minutes we engaged in small talk while in the back of my mind I tried to figure out what to do next.  I was hungry, and I figured he must be hungry too.  The clock kept ticking.

“You want something to eat?”

“Sure.”

I popped a frozen dinner in the microwave.  I learned that his name was Bill, he was a veteran, and he was subsiding on $298 a month.  He had no fixed address.  Bill ate the frozen spaghetti entree as if it were the finest cuisine that he’d eaten in a month.  Maybe it was.  I fixed myself a quick bite to eat as well, and sat in my living room eating a simple meal with a complete stranger.  The rain continued to pound on the windows.

I remember a sense of calmness permeating my whole body, and as I looked at him in his flimsy clothes, I felt that I had to do something to help him.  I also knew that 7AM comes mighty early, and it was already quickly approaching 2.  I excused myself and walked over to my bedroom.  Grabbing my bulky ski jacket, ski cap and gloves, I walked back into my living room and bestowed them on my surprise guest.

“Here, Bill, you take these.  I think they’ll fit. They aren’t doing me any good right now. It’s freezing out, man.”

A look of nothing less than total gratitude swept over his face.  I noticed tears welling up in his eyes as he extended his hand to me. 

“Thank you.  Thank you.  I…I don’t know if I can ever repay you.”

“Someday you’ll be able to help someone else out who needs help.  And when you do, you’ll have repaid me.  Don’t worry about it.”

He tried the coat on.   It fit, as did the gloves and the hat.

“C’mon, I’ll give you a ride down to the bus station.”

The last time I saw Bill, I was dropping him off in front of the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Tacoma at 3AM on a cold January morning.  He walked off sporting my nearly new ski jacket, but at least he was warm, dry, and for now, safe. 

It’s hard to tell who benefited more from our paths crossing that night.  Bill came into my life for three short hours, but he helped me understand the depths of compassion that I have for my fellow human beings in peril.  One person can make a difference.  I will never forget that night.

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