Iit was that time of year again. The sun was getting warmer and what little snow we had was no more than a memory. I pulled both of my cars out of the garage so that I could find and clean my garden tools that had been hibernating for the past eight months.

To my surprise everything that was mechanical worked and those that were left were remarkably unbroken. I picked up my shovel, hoe, and rake, and off to the garden I went. The garden looked as though it was asleep. Nothing was growing, not even a weed. Last fall I covered it with a thick coat of leaves and grass-clippings hoping the long winter months would saturate it with natural fertilizers. For the first time in months I stepped on its moist surface ready to turn its soil in order to begin the process of growth.

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Sso it’s been eight months and I am on the scene again! Eight months of sulking and self-pity and now I am ready to play ‘The Game’ – again! I did something that I last did when I was fourteen: I joined the gym.

Actually the gym gave me a three-month trial (maybe they knew) and I graciously (in other words ‘very offendedly’) accepted. I comforted myself with the thought that it is all part of The Plan: new look; new social life and in general, actually, just a life. I have been sitting at home every Friday night for the past eight months, (including New Year’s Eve, when I fell asleep at 17 minutes past eight).

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Mmy wife and I were having a great evening. I actually got out of work early so we could complete some errands in order to prepare for my daughter’s first wedding anniversary.

The night before we studied the wedding disc we were given by my daughter’s friend / photographer in order to build a small wedding album as a gift. It was also a bit of an award for surviving her first year of marriage. The night was going as planned. We purchased the album and had it engraved.

We then went to our local Wal-Mart in order to make prints from the disc we created the night before. Trying to make a decision of which machine to use I was fortunate to be standing next to a person who had a clue as to what to do. He told me I could either use the yellow Kodak machine that would spit out the photos as I chose them or I could have the whole disc copied by using a green machine with a foreign name and pick up the pictures within the hour.

Standing behind the counter was an individual who worked the machine that would print my images. I asked him a few questions in order to not print 118 white images and he assured me all was well. A bit giddy, my wife and I decided to grab some dinner at a new steak restaurant that just opened down the road. The night was going beautifully.

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Iihave always been proud of my students. As a teacher for over a quarter I have watched thousands of talented young men and women work hard to become major contributors of their generation. I guess this is why teachers become teachers.

I also agree there should be specific competencies our students should master before they are promoted to the next stage of their education. But, I do not believe in the governmental policies of today concerning public education. Many believe I am a dinosaur and should retire into the tar pit because of my refusal to sign in on the too many policies of ‘No Child Left Behind.” Maybe they are correct but before I go I have to defend the very reasons why I decided to become a teacher in the first place.

I have never been a fan of standardized tests but realize this is an important part of our public education system in order to make sure all our children have similar competencies when they graduate high school. However, like most bureaucracies, ‘The No Child Left Behind” education reform is getting out of hand and by doing this is losing any of the effectiveness it promised.

For the next few months many of our children will be suffering through these standardized tests calibrating data in order to see if they received a good education. As a teacher I am perpetually checking to see if my students understand what I am trying to teach them. In doing this I clearly understand they are not all the same.

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Aactually, I should say shower. My daughter is having her second child in about a week and my wife and I will be blessed with our first grandson.

We already have the most adorable 4-year old granddaughter on the entire planet but a perfect pair would make our lives almost perfect. I say almost because we first have to survive a baby shower, or as my daughter corrects me, sprinkle that is going to take place very soon. This sounds like an easy task but for the past week, hell I would say the last month, my wife has been planning to create remarkable memories on this day from the food to decorating the house to look like Pixie Hallow.

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Tthere are two major purchases we make in life that change what we are or try to represent. The most expensive of these purchases has to do with our home, some of us do this many times while others, like me, do it once or twice.

The second purchase that defines who we are is the purchase of an automobile. A few weeks ago I bought my third Toyota Tacoma. I really didn’t buy it because I leased it. This is a good thing for me because I don’t put on a lot of miles and after the lease time I never have to pay for going over the mileage limit. Plus it allows me to have a new truck every four years and not have to worry about replacement tires or repairs. While I was waiting for the paperwork to be completed I started to think about all the cars I had in my life.

I also related the cars to what I was during that specific time of my existence. The first car I remember owning was a pale yellow 1961, Ford Fairlane. I actually didn’t own it but took it over from my mother during the latter part of my high school career. It was a great car. It had wide fins and chrome that made it look like a space ship. When I started driving it the car was pristine. After a year it degraded into a beat up old manure box of rusting steel.

I guess this is what happens when one is given a car instead of having to pay for it. The inside of the car looked worse than the outside. I remember a time my father had to borrow it to go to the store. I forgot to tell him a 2×4 was holding the seat in place. My father pulled it out and was immediately lying down looking at the ceiling of the car. This would not have been a problem if he wasn’t driving down the road. I am happy to say no one was hurt but for the rest of my life he reminds me of this particular time of my life.

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Mmost people will remember the blizzard of 2005, as being a time of massive amounts of snow, wind, and cold. I will remember this historic moment by being stuck hundreds of miles away from Saturday afternoon until I finally arrived at home at 3:00 am on Tuesday morning.

Okay, so I didn’t have it tough. During the weekend storm my wife and I were vacationing in St. Maartin. Everything was running smooth with the exception of forcing myself to watch television during the week that predicted an historic storm on the east coast. However, these predictions have been made before with the end result being the storm was either too far or near from the coast that the result was a minor storm. This time the predictions were perfect.

So, there we sat, on the Saturday of the storm at the airport in St. Maartin waiting for our plane to arrive from Philadelphia. The airlines told us all was well and on time. Since we arrived a couple of hours earlier we decided to sit and wait at the airport until we were allowed to board. The airport at St. Maartin consisted of one large mall of duty free stores. Since people had nothing to do but wait these stores were quite busy. Also beer is allowed at the airport with many concession stands selling Heineken beer for $1. I assume they did this so the wives and girl-friends of the men waiting at the airport would be allowed to shop. At least it worked for me.

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Iit was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. I was staring through a large sliding glass door at a place I thought I would never visit. Since June of last year my wife and I had been dreaming about our time in paradise as we hadn’t had a vacation of any sort for over six years.

However, this year we promised ourselves that we would put all of the pressures and strains of life aside and visit the beautiful island of St. Maarten. When we arrived at our oceanfront suite the first thing I noticed was the immense sliding glass door that overlooked the Caribbean. It was like looking into a giant post card; a clean, white sand beach, tall palm trees and an ocean of translucent turquoise and indigo in shades that I had never imagined. As I stared at the view a small dark man in a white suit suddenly popped into the foreground and signaled me to open the sliding glass door.

It was as if I had turned a giant valve that allowed all the warm and fragrant perfumes of paradise to flow over me. For a moment I could no nothing except let it all wash over me, spellbound by the seductiveness of the tropic air. The man smiled at my reaction and said something I will remember for the rest of my life. He said: “If you think this is beautiful now you should have seen it before we lost it.”My wife and I did a lot of exploring that week.

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Iidon’t know about anyone else, but I want to go back to a time when all I had to worry about was how to heat my home and feed my family. The other day my wife and I were invited to an engagement party thrown by my daughter’s friends in Medford, just outside of Boston.

It was an afternoon affair because the Patriot’s first play-off game was at 8 p.m. that evening. Things being what they are here in Patriot Nation, I sincerely believe that nothing short of a nuclear holocaust would have stopped the party from being anything other than an afternoon affair. My wife and I were picked up by our friends; a.k.a. future in-laws. This is an interesting story in itself because my wife and Ruth were friends long before my daughter met her future husband.

Some say they had something to do about it. Whatever the case, it’s very clear I have absolutely nothing to say about it. Our conversation, while we were driving to the party, concerned politics and how our nation is going through difficult times. We talked about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, governmental scandals, and how our freedoms are being eroded because of what has become a perpetual war on terror. I don’t know about anyone else, but I want to go back to a time when all I had to worry about was how to heat my home and feed my family.

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Tthere I stood looking up at a white mountain of snow that seemed to reach the sky. The snow was packed tight with pale blue facets in the crevices and the wind whipped a fine spray from the summit like Everest.

I was absolutely awestruck by its size and beauty and I wished like hell it wasn’t in the middle of my driveway!

The day after our first major snowstorm began with me trying to open my garage door. It took about half an hour, in sub zero temperatures, of me chipping away at the ice between the bottom of the door and the pavement that had sealed it shut like cement. When the door finally opened to reveal the spectacular winter vista before me my first thought was how beautiful it all was. It was like that scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s world turns from black and white to color – except in reverse.

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