AR-15s: An Education

Science. The human brain is not fully developed until the age of twenty-five. Fully developed adults process the world relying heavily on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for good judgement and understanding long-term decisions. Kids under the age of twenty-five  rely heavily on the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The amygdala develops first. This is why my seven and eleven-year-old sons have more emotional outbursts than I do. They just feel hurt and angry in a maelstrom of childhood emotion. Logic has not kicked in yet. It won’t fully until they are twenty-five.
Still, a nineteen-year-old boy, who I wish the media would stop calling a man, legally bought an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. 
My amygdala says, that thing would be awesome to square up some grudges I feel against the legislators who have wronged me and this country by weaponizing our citizenry, and profiting off of the carnage. My prefrontal cortex, however,…

Bringing back an old favorite post in honor of the ice. Pond Hockey.

Pond hockey is a simple game.  Wait for the lake to freeze, find a bunch of guys willing to put on ice hockey skates, buy some Advil and a bunch of extra pucks for all the shots we will miss, and play.  Those of you who have played know what I am talking about.  For those who don't, I am talking about a slip in time that lets you be a kid again.  I am talking about the reality of time travel. 
The excitement surrounding pond hockey begins early in the day, the first time one of us goes out and measures the ice.  Drill in hand we drive the bit into the frozen surface of the lake hoping like children that it won't give too soon, that we will feel at least four inches of resistance before hitting water.  We are dying to send out the text telling everyone that the ice is thick enough to skate, that the game is on. 

Once the news is out, we feel ourselves getting more and more distracted as the day goes on, maybe cutting corners on some task at work or reading a bedtime story a …

Literature After Las Vegas

I try to start each class with a quote. I hang a new one up on the board each morning when I arrive at school. They come from books that have entertained me with page-turning plots and enlightened me with revelations about the human condition, books that have cheered me up, challenged my beliefs, and captured my imagination. Today the quote was from Abraham Verghese’s brilliant novel Cutting for Stone. “We are all fixing what is broken,” it reads. “It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation.”

When I read it to my first period class, a room filled with bright and curious ninth graders, I could not make it through the short quote without my voice breaking. I had to stop and regroup so that I did not simply start bawling right there in front of my students.

When I picked out that quote in June, in preparation for this school year, I saw it as uplifting and positive. I read it as words of hope and progress. We are all actively fixing what is brok…

I Would Take A Knee

I would take a knee. Absolutely and without any question. I want everyone to know that.

First of all, taking a knee is a gesture of respect even while it is a gesture of protest. Taking a knee is what young athletes are taught to do when their coaches speak, as well as when one of their peers is injured on the field of play. They do so out of respect. Kneeling is what people do when they pray, when the circumstances of life demand deep reflection and faith. The circumstances of our world demand both. Eric Reid, the San Francisco 49er who first took a knee beside Kaepernick in 2016 has explained, “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking,” he continues, “our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.” The senseless slaughter of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers is a tragedy. Those taking a knee are simply trying to mark that, to draw attention to it, and to encourage all of us to raise our voices in defense of the…

The Story

Several people have asked me about the trip my family took last winter to Vermont, the trip where my wife got the flu, our car couldn't make it the final two miles to our house so we walked through the  freezing rain in the dark, and I broke my wrist trying to snowboard. It is a good story.

So, if you are looking for a laugh and a little perspective on this Monday morning, give it a read.
It has become an annual tradition for my seniors to end their year by writing and delivering ten-minute commencement speeches. Each year, I write one as well. Here is my speech for 2017.
Most commencement speeches focus on what the speaker has done. It is from the things we do that we gain valuable life lessons, and it is these lessons that are sometimes worth sharing.
I contemplated talking to you about wiping out and breaking my wrist this winter trying to learn how to snowboard as a forty-year-old. I could emphasize the importance of taking risks, I thought, or bouncing back from failures, or how that whole experience only solidified my desire to try new and challenging things. If you never get broken your aren’t risking enough - that sort of thing.
I thought about explaining how my wife and I bought a house in Vermont in October; I could emphasize important lessons about not listening to the advice of those who tell you your dreams are impractical, about how we just took a deep bre…


My face has been known to intimidate my students.  It has made my sons cry on more than one occasion.
“What is the matter?” people ask on days I am feeling just fine, good even.  
Between my eyebrows, there is a furrow which at first glance may suggest deep thought, or mild aggression, or possibly boiling rage.  I have to concentrate to relax it away, and change the message of my face from “tread carefully” to “why, hello there.”  
I don’t smile nearly enough - not at my boys, or my wife, or my parents, and certainly not at strangers or casual acquaintances.  If my face is a book, I am not sure it is one people would be excited to read.  
The book of my face does an admirable job of telling the story during the big moments of life.  When my story is one of exceptional joy, my face will show you that in a moment’s glance - crooked teeth, eyes alight with happiness.  When I am angry or feel I have been wronged, there will be no hiding it.  I lock eyes with my adversary, and bystanders dive …