Couch Time

Think back a few years, or in some cases a lifetime ago, to the times that you and your partner first got together. Can you still feel that adrenaline rush? What about the flip-flops your stomach took as you sat close or held hands? It all brings smiles to our faces and “aahs” to our mouths. Those were the best of times.

Too often, a few years later the closeness melts as life gets in the way. Like the proverbial “two ships that pass in the night,” couples float apart on the waters of work, child rearing, economic woes, and a hundred other demands. Before long, communications are trimmed to a couple of canned phrases, a peck on the cheek before leaving the house, or falling exhausted into a coma-like sleep.

When brief periods of rest come, each person retires to his and her recliner. A button is pushed on the remote, and both sit in hypnotic states with their thoughts wrapped tightly in their heads. Sometime, one or both silently rise and begin the evening rituals of preparing for bed.

I’ve decided that many of the problems that occur in marriage could be wiped away like the fog on the bathroom mirror with a little couch time. Yep, I say let’s go back to the old days when couples sat together on the couch, close, side-by-side. The man can put his arm around his honey, and she can take his hand and hold it. Maybe she’ll even decide to lay her head upon his chest, right in the position where he can smell the fragrance of her shampoo and feel the tickles of strands of hair across his nose.

An important part of this couch time is talking. Most of us have little time during the day to share thoughts and feelings with the person who should be our best friend. Sitting on the couch and scrunched up naturally leads to conversation. It might begin with nothing more than a “How was your day?” However, that one little question is the spark that ignites some of the most meaningful sharing that couples will ever experience.

It also re-establishes the connection that brought the two people together in the first place. What’s more, that talk time reminds us of the importance of our partners in our lives and how much we depend upon them each and every day.

Couch time also puts life in perspective. The whole world might seem to be going to hell in a hand basket, but when we rediscover our love and devotion to someone, the toughest of times are easier to take. It’s also much easier to take on the tough things in life when someone is standing beside us or “has our backs.”

All of us need a little time with our loves on the couch because our hopes are that the rest of our lives will be spent with those individuals. It’s like an annuity that we set up with our financial planner. Investing a little of ourselves in the relationship brings huge dividends down the road. When the times seem the roughest, we are able to withdraw some of that saved love that we banked through couch time.

Amy and I have been married for almost 37 years. My brother Jim and his wife Brenda celebrate their 40th anniversary in August. Amy and I have had good and bad times; we’ve overcome problems and obstacles that others would have declared are “the last straw.” Our survival is from, first by the grace of a loving God. Then it’s the result of hard work on our parts. As much as anything, we’ve made it through the years by talking to each other. No, we haven’t spent all the years curled up on the couch. Amy has her chair and so do I, although it reclines only when I pull the chain that releases the leg part. Still, we have our times when we sit together and just soak up the love that is offered. It’s a time of appreciation and thanks. Most of all, it’s a time when we reinforce the partnership that was established on the last day of fall in 1974.

I’d like to think that everyone who reads this will find a little couch time with his or her love. However, I’m a realist who knows it “ain’t about to happen.” So, my closing advice is to at least make a connection with the person who means most in life and share some time and feelings. And make sure you share by talking and listening to each other. The rewards are huge, especially when you share a little couch time.

What Other Storms Are Damaging Knox County Schools?

The 2011-2012 school year is fast approaching. Does that seem impossible to anyone other than me? It’s the middle of July, and band camps and football teams are already practicing. School starts in some systems at the end of July and the rest during the first weeks of August. Whatever happened to the days when school opened after Labor Day? Lots of things have happened to make Knox County Schools unidentifiable to lots of us.

The system’s schools have turned, for the most part, from the traditional Three R’s. In their places sits the burning desire for students to score well on standardized tests. However, a child’s learning things that apply to real life situations is of secondary importance. The moronic program No Child Left Behind changed the rules of public education. In place of learning, the stuff of real education, are percentages—of achievement test scores, graduation rates, and overall school performance. Forget the contributing factors such as the value placed on education by parents, the socio-economic characteristics of the surrounding communities, or even the commitment of students to their education and their impact on focused areas. Too many school systems want graduation rates increased, even if it means passing students who haven’t completed work or learned a thing. It’s all about looking good on paper.

Knox County Schools, just like the rest around the country, jump through governmental hoops so that the funding continues to roll in. The funny part is that more and more demands are placed on the schools while less money is being expended to fund them. Instead of demanding that teachers be allowed to teach and that politicians keep their noses out of something about which they have little knowledge, systems and their administrators kowtow to federal government officials and become their lackeys.

The school system is also investing more and more time in professional growth and training days. The majority of teachers agree that the days are less than rewarding and the time would be better spent doing their jobs—TEACHING. However, if those sessions aren’t included, some central office staff members would have no job.

Another strange thing about Knox County Schools is the hiring practices, especially regarding principals and directors. Over the time that Supt. James McIntyre has been at the helm, many new hires have come from places outside Knox County or even the immediate area. Some individuals came to the system from Massachusetts; others have been cultivated from Nashville and Kentucky. Folks wonder why those long distance hires are necessary. These out-of-system people might be effective leaders, but surely the system already employs individuals who are qualified and capable of performing the duties of a principal or another administrative position.

The system’s penchant for moving principals around confounds many of us. In years gone-by, the leader of a school put down roots in the community and became an important individual to all. For those who were good leaders, parents and students identified with the principal and bought in to the direction of the school. Principals were moved when they failed to do a good job.

These days, school level administrators are moved like Methodist ministers. However, a minister is moved to meet the needs of a specific congregation. Principals seem to be shuffled to keep them from developing ties to the community. Is it a power play by the superintendent that keeps communities from developing a united front that proves advantageous for students and teachers?

The bottom line is that school doesn’t have the same appeal that it once did. That’s a sad fact. Public schools will continue to decline until they once again become the focal points of communities. That will happen when systems wise up about the social aspects of a group of people. They might also wake up and realize that education of children includes much more than test scores. I’m thankful that my tenure with Knox County Schools ended a few years ago. If it hadn’t, I might have been replaced for failing to meet percentages. Teaching kids what they needed was more important to me.

Just Let Me Watch the Game

The past weekends were with good baseball, meaning the college world series games aired on ESPN. I enjoy watching those games, as well as a variety of college and professional sports. However, sometimes outside factors make the experience less than satisfactory.

For one, commercials drive me crazy. It’s not only the number of them that air but also the times that they appear. Built-in timeouts cut into the intensity of games. I wonder how upset a coach becomes when his team is launching a comeback or is dealing a deathblow to an opponent, only to have momentum thwarted by a string of commercials.

Equally annoying are the types of commercials that are aired. Really, how many different beer commercials are necessary? If a person refreshes himself with a cool one, he already knows which brand best suits his taste. Then the commercials for the erectile dysfunction burst on screens and show a couple holding hands as they sit side-by-side in bathtubs on a hillside overlooking a panoramic view of the countryside or ocean. Huh? How does that fit with testosterone-driven events like college or professional football?

I also hate it when networks announce a game time and I switch on the set to find a group of men talking. Pre-game stuff should be limited to ten minutes. That gives the old pros and media workers enough air time for recognition. For more time they should endorse one or more of the obnoxious products that are advertised during the game. Besides, too many of these guys are qualified only because they once played the game or worked in sports in some capacity at some stage in their lives. This weekend, one guy who did pre and post-game work on baseball actually played football in college. I’m not sure how that qualified him as an expert.

The thing that makes games least enjoyable is the analysis by commentators. These guys bump their gums about what should have happened or how something should have been done. They second-guess coaches and call out referees and umpires. Sometimes they even “dog” players who make errors on the field. Where do these guys get the idea that what they think trumps the folks who are involved in the contest? Many of them are former coaches who have been fired or retired. If these geniuses are so wonderful, why aren’t they still on the sidelines or in the dugouts? It’s because their times have past. It’s easy to second-guess someone, especially when a guy has nothing invested in the game.

Cute segments drive me nuts as well. Who really wants to spend time watching the mindless rants of a Lou Holtz locker room speech? Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley prate about boxers with their flowery descriptions and not-so-clever analogies. Neither of them could whip a third grader in a playground fight. And I’m over hearing “diaper dandies, PT, and Baby” from a coach who never had much success in the college or professional ranks. The man had a 78-30 record as coach of University of Detroit and a 34-60 record as head coach of the Detroit Pistons. His claim to fame at college was beating Marquette, the 1977 NCAA champions during a 21 game winning streak. Did the guys’ team beat any other opponents of note?

All I want to do is watch a game with as little interference as possible. Yes, that means having announcers who can identify players and call the play-by-play action. That’s all. The best thing they can do is hush and just let me watch the game. Is that too much for a sports fan to ask?