Friday, May 9, 2014

The Teacher is Always Right and YOU Are Guilty: A Tribute to My Mother

My mother was always on the teacher’s side. What is wrong with that picture?  I felt the compelling need to be innocent until proven guilty.  But the problem is…she knew me all too well.  The guilty look on my face seldom vanished.  There was no need for due process of the law in our house. 

My mother was relieved that I actually graduated from high school. And I went on to pursue undergraduate studies at Texas Tech. But I liked girls more than school.   I preferred adding up bottles of beer consumed to adding up debits and credits in accounting class.  It caught up with me.   Tech sent me a very nicely worded letter in December of 1981 informing me I would not be enrolling in classes on their campus in January of 1982.  I was officially placed on scholastic probation.  (It can be likened to double secret probation.)

My mother was no doubt thrilled that her son was not astute in business calculus and accounting.  I started weighing all kinds of options when the spring semester of 1982 started looming after Christmas.  Going back to Tech was not on the list.  And continuing as a business marketing major was not topping my life goals. What could I do?

My mother asked a key question:  What do you think you are good at?  What areas do you think you excel?  A student that has failed all of his classes the previous semester really does not think he is good at much of anything, but causing his mother grief.  She kept pressing for an answer.  Finally I said:  “I am good at speech and debate.  I like things that are related to communications.”  She proceeded to tell me that I should enroll in school somewhere and major in speech communications.  My immediate reply was: “There are no good paying jobs in that field.”   She proceeded to tell me to pursue a degree in something I liked. The rest would fall into place.  In fact, my mother urged me not to worry about what I would do with the degree.

My mother gave me life changing advice that day.  It was affirming.  It was helpful.   And it helped me realize I was not a total failure.  I sure felt like a failure during that time period.

My mother hooded me in May of 1984, when I received my degree in Speech Communications from Lubbock Christian University.  By some miracle, I graduated with honors.( Actually the miracle has a name. We call her Jan.)  Both my mother and bride to be were  there to see the return on their investment of encouragement. I am grateful beyond words.

My mother later traveled to Abilene to see me receive my master’s degree in 1987.  I think she was pretty proud that day.  I wish now I had told her that her advice on a cold December day in 1981 helped me reach that point in my academic pursuits, but I failed to do that.

My mother was not present in May of 2003 when I received a graduation robe that had doctoral bars on it.  She passed away in 1991. But once again I thought about her timely advice in 1981.  I taught freshman speech at Northwestern Oklahoma State University on a part-time basis to help pay for my expenses associated with what I thought would be my last degree.  I attempted to instill in my students the kind of confidence my mother instilled in me.

My mother would be glad to know I have gone back to school at the ripe old age of 52.  When I finish this degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I will think of her advice still one more time.  In fact, I am thinking about it today.  

 Mother’s Day is Sunday.   And I realize as Mother’s Day approaches, I failed to thank my mother for standing behind me when I felt like a total failure.  And I am confident if I got frustrated with one of my professors today, she would take the teacher’s side.   The guilty look remains. Consequently there is no need for due process of the law.    Don’t fail to thank your mother.  Do it today. You may not have tomorrow. Happy Mother's Day to all of those moms out sharing words of encouragement every single day.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Tribute to Trey Lehman

Some time back I had lunch at Chuy’s in Arlington with my high school classmate, Trey Lehmnan.  Considerable interchange on facebook preceded that day of shared tortillas. I set aside a little extra time that day, because I thought lunch might go a little long….That turned out to be correct.  We finished over three hours later.

 It was not a time to exchange pleasantries and discuss football.  We discussed life.  We caught each other up on mutual friends.   There was extensive discussion about our children. We reflected on our regrets… We agreed that both of us had lived long enough to accumulate a closet full of them.  And then the conversation turned to our faith.

We discussed church.  And then we considered what a life of faith really looks like.  It was not a typical discussion about such matters.  Bear in mind…this is an interchange with Trey Lehman!  But it was rich.  And I walked away a better person three hours later.

Trey was an angel in his own unique way. I know…using the term “angel” and the name “Trey Lehman” in the same sentence appears quite amusing. Trey was an angel with a halo held up by horns.  (Longhorns to be exact.)  As we enjoyed lunch at Chuy’s that day, it became very apparent to me that my high school classmate could teach me a few things about generosity and kindness.  I remembered Trey from high school as a free spirited, fun-loving guy who knew everyone!  But I discovered over lunch that the free spirited teenager grew into a very generous man with a heart as big as Texas.

I am grateful that I have reconnected with a number of classmates over the past 4 or 5 years.  My life has been blessed beyond words. I firmly believe we are a priceless cohort. There are a few true “characters” among us.  Trey was certainly one of them. He will be deeply missed.  And our lives won’t be the same without him.

In my last interchange with Trey a few days before his surgery, we agreed to meet for lunch as soon as he recuperated.  As I reflect on this profound loss this morning, I am going to consider my schedule.  There are seemingly pressing issues crying out for my attention. But right now I really don’t care.  I am going to look at my schedule and try to determine who I really need to connect with most. Life is short.  Life is unpredictable. People are priceless. Friendship is paramount.  To my classmates from the class of Monterey High School in 1980: May we continue to embrace one another in a spirit of love and mutual respect. And may we rejoice those who rejoice and mourn with those that mourn…