10 Things The Simpsons Taught Me – #5

Simpsons Taught Me
Clockwise from top left: Homer, Marge, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Bart, Snowball II and Lisa on THE SIMPSONS on FOX. © and ª2000 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/©2000FOX BROADCASTING CR:FOX

Have Pets

I fell in love Santa’s Little Helper, Snowball II and Snowball when they were introduced into the show. At first it was a little scary considering that Bart could do any manner of things to the animals. Santa’s Little Helper showed up in the very first Simpsons episode. He was the slowest greyhound at the tracks and his owner abandoned him. Bart and Homer were at the the track to earn some money for Christmas presents, but adopted him instead.

With Pets

Over the course of our marriage we have adopted four animals. They each provided us with different blessings and unique challenges. They helped us to have so much joy and we also briefly experienced sorrow with them. Our current rescue is our American Labrador, Shady.


He is the embodiment of love and loyalty. The Simpsons taught me that life is better with pets. I am not sure how anyone lives without a pet. Since growing up, we have always had a cat or dog around the house. I love to walk him every day, besides the rainy and cold days. Shady helps me to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. He loves people much more than I do, in fact, he gets more excited about people coming to our house than about anything else.

Pets have taught me to be more hospitable to strangers and to pause at times and breathe In everything going on. Are pets a lot of work? Yes, of course so, but I think he is worth every minute of my time. Consider going to your local rescue to help out a pet in need. They might teach you a lot about yourself and make you a better human being.

10 Things the Simpson Taught Me – #4

Simpsons Taught Me
Clockwise from top left: Homer, Marge, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Bart, Snowball II and Lisa on THE SIMPSONS on FOX. © and ª2000 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/©2000FOX BROADCASTING CR:FOX

Homer often is seen in Moe’s bar, he is not only loyal, but at parts Moe is even a part of Homer’s personal life. It reminded me of the time I was introduced to the philosopher Martin Buber. He said,

“Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other….

Secretly and bashfully he watches for a YES which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person to another.” 

― Martin Buber, I and Thou

Buber’s philosophy has often made me realize how important it is to remember that when another human being is serving me at a restaurant or cash register to remember to tip them well and acknowledge them.

When I was sixteen years old, I worked in a Potbelly’s in Wichita, KS. It was a massively popular breakfast spot that would pack out its dining area regularly. I was a clumsy bus boy, trying to pay for my gas and insurance on my El Camino. I was not extremely fast at my job, but I tried to be careful. One day, a large group of bikers came to eat in our restaurant after doing a local Toys for Tots run. They were all decked out in leather, patches, and chains. I was intimidated a bit.

I sat a tub full of glasses on a table nearby them and it was not balanced well. The glasses came down breaking around their boots. The broken glass surrounded them. I felt like such an idiot, but they were gracious and allowed me to clean it all up. They even left me a tip that day. I don’t think I will ever forget that. They showed me that they knew what it was like to be human and really saw me.

I try to think of this moment often when I am around other people who do not know me, I want to be the kind of person who would tip when glass was broken all around me. I want others to know I see them and accept them in their humanity.

10 Things The Simpsons Taught Me #1

Simpsons Taught Me
Clockwise from top left: Homer, Marge, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Bart, Snowball II and Lisa on THE SIMPSONS on FOX. © and ª2000 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/©2000FOX BROADCASTING CR:FOX

The Simpsons started on December 17th, 1989. I was in eighth grade and was too grown for cartoons at this point, but I made an exception for this glorious show. I liked the rebellious nature of Bart, but I was clearly much more the Lisa of my family. I was the rule following child who was always trying to do the right thing, mostly. I had a little Bart, but mostly Lisa prevailed.

Lisa was always exactly who she wanted to be. She did not normally care what other people thought. Lisa taught me that it is okay to be weird and different. It took me a long time to actually apply this lesson, but I am glad she helped me understand that it is okay to be different. It is acceptable to not be into what other people are into.

You would think in this day and age, that young people do not experience this, but I see it the same as when I was in school. Kids are wanting to be liked and fit in. The major difference is that nowadays they compare themselves to people on social media, Youtube, and a variety of other outlets. As a kid, I honestly would just compare myself to other people in my school, and a few times people who appeared in sitcoms or movies. I am looking at you here Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) and Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future), probably two of my biggest guys who In thought were cool growing up.

Ir is sad to see my students comparing themselves to so many people, especially to people who are probably using filters to make themselves better. I hope they can find a Lisa to let them know it is okay to be different. I just hope for them to find other people who can let them be themselves.

10 Things The Simpsons Taught Me #3

Simpsons Taught Me
Clockwise from top left: Homer, Marge, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Bart, Snowball II and Lisa on THE SIMPSONS on FOX. © and ª2000 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/©2000FOX BROADCASTING CR:FOX

The third thing that The Simpsons taught me was to be loyal. If you have watched The Simpsons for any length of time, you will notice that they are always loyal. Homer drinks beers at the same bar in every episode. Marge shops at the same grocery store. Bart torments many of the same people. Yes, you could say that this is because the creators do not want to create places for the characters to be, but I think it goes much deeper.

My wife and I used to frequent the same grocery store every week, while there we developed relationships with people. We would check in with them and see how they were doing, We would trade advice for different situations and get to know each other. There was something to be said for being loyal to this one store. It made it feel like a third place.

Now we go to Wal-Mart, because it closed. It is much different at Wal-Mart, stepping inside it makes me think of any Wal-Mart in America. It is generic. It does not breed loyalty as the staff overturn more than a rotisserie chicken. We go there because we gave in to low prices, to find a place to be loyal too can be expensive.

The Simpsons have stuck with their local establishments, which helps me to remember to go through the hard times with each other. We all need loyal friends, loyalty can not be bought…

10 Things The Simpsons Taught Me – #2

Simpsons Taught Me

The second thing I learned from The Simpsons is to play an instrument. Of course, Lisa strikes again. I think it was pretty clear, people who succeed in life play instruments. Maybe that was not the intended consequence, but I could definitely see that in the people that I was around, Instruments had a way of automatically putting you into a group. Just the simple act of playing an instrument gave people an entry into a select group.

I think a scene in Wayne’s World shows this best. When Wayne enters the guitar shop, you can tell it is a place with certain rules (NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN).

I can say that I started off in 5th grade playing the trumpet and I was super awful. I think that being a part of a group learning something together was fun, but it was pretty hard. Since fifth grade, I have always had a draw towards playing some kind of instrument. I have had a guitar off and on since then. It is challenging and I will probably never play for many people, but it brings me a peace that I can not fully explain.

I know from a young age, my grandma would sit me on a piano bench and play songs, she always encouraged me with various musical instruments. My mom always took me to concerts and gave me a love for music. My stepmom always has performed in choirs and even encouraged me to be in my church’s choir for awhile. I love music and hope it is always part of my life, for enjoyment or wherever else it leads me.

The Empty Chair

green wooden chair on white surface
Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com

Every day rolls on and the imprint of her has nearly left the chair that she sat in every day. All that is left is a few items around the house that people did not realize reminded me of her. She has been gone seven months now.

I could still smell her perfume in her house, when I last visited. Of course, I miss more than just who she was in the last few visits I made. I miss every moment with her. We all do.

This is what happens when someone spends the majority of their life caring for other people above themselves, they leave a gigantic hole.

sky ditch eye hole
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Like a sinkhole, everyone stands around the edge not to get too close. They all talk about the sting of death and share stories of their loved one.

At least we did her celebration of life with a lot of the very people who she left behind. It was a welcome relief to not have to see an endless line of all the people she ever helped.

She would have had one of those funerals with a thousand people. She touched so many lives, that I am not even sure a church in her small hometown could have housed us. This is how it is for the kind of servants that realized that they were nothing, if the did not serve others.

My grandma poured herself out for others so often. She was often exhausted at the end of a day, after making sure that everyone had what they needed. I am remember her leaning back in her recliner and flopping her feet over to my Grandpa in surrender of the day.

He lovingly would rub her feet and help her to begin the shutdown of a day.

She never claimed to be a perfect person, she had her share of struggles, yet this showed whenever she told stories. She often bestowed grace on other people who I would not have.

Her life impacted so many people and I know she is making people laugh in heaven as I write this. She understood who Jesus is and she knew how much she needed his forgiveness. I can only hope to live up this part of her life, to fully know how much I can’t do this life without a dependence on Jesus.

Thinking Music – Part 1- Waiting on the World to Change

I remember that clear, cool September night under the stars, listening to John Mayer perform, “Waiting on the World to Change.” He seemed to know the frustrations and angst in everyone in the crowd.. At the time, Mayer was one of my favorite singers and some of his lyrics were thought provoking and they still hold true today. It is a simple song that holds a lot of great truths.

Mayer sings…

Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

Of course, some of these lyrics are contextual, but I think he grasped in just a few lines how the angst against the perceived powers in control will be better when we are in control. This
“we” is how most younger generations have felt. Sometime in my late 30’s I went from being someone who felt a part raging against this machine, to becoming a cog in the wheel,  “get off my lawn” kind of person.

I am not meaning this politically, but merely in the generational sense, that I did not understand most of the younger adult people that I worked and lived around. In my early adult life, I often chose to serve others and help others over being there and helping my own family. I bought into the lie that you can serve others and everything else will fall into place. I know this not to be true now.

We have to find this ever illusive balance that so many strive for, but I so rarely see. I walk my neighborhood and see plenty of people chasing after money, addictions, and fame. I see the rare person who serves other people or who plays with their children in their yard. This life seems unsustainable to me as one part of a DINK (double income no kids) couple.

I feel because we as a society have, in many ways, given up on this balance, we only find time for people and causes that make us feel like we are making a difference in our opinions. We are so swelled up with news that we only read news from our “trusted sources,” that we do not consider what it means to be a different social class, race, or sexuality.

Where do we start? We have to start with ourselves, becoming the kind of people we want to see in others. I speak this to myself today, as I like to the sideline coach of my life, rarely being the player who acts on the calls of the coach.

Where do we go?

We start making one good choice a day and sticking with it. For me, it has included running a mentoring club for students after school, forming a writing club, having conversations challenging values, but I know the greatest work is in me. Just doing things does not help, until we really work on the biases and judgments we place on others. Social justice is necessary for our society, but we must work on the injustices we hold latent in our hearts as well.


My wife wrote an amazing post about working with students in her new position. It is an amazing view into lives that many of us never consider.

Tattooed Daughter


“Why you doin it that color?”

I heard one of my students ask another.

“I like it that way.” The girl answered immediately and without an ounce of adolescent, self- conscious hesitation.

This seemed to be enough. That’s all she had to say to make the one asking move on to other topics. Her painting evolved into something totally different than everyone else’s, I thought about the gutsiness of this. How so few adults I know can live so unencumbered nevertheless a teenager. How so many of us spend most of our lives giving ourselves permission to say this very thing – because I like it that way.

As she painted, she went on to tell me that the reason I had not seen her before was that she’s just with us for the summer. Her dad lives here and she usually lives with her mom in Chicago during…

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Coffee Log, Day 108

I really loved my friend Gareth’s response to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. Read on and subscribe to his posts.

Livesay Writing


On a dark March evening in 2013, lying beside a sleeping woman with whom I’d been collaboratively ruining two lives – mine and hers – I was strung out, lit up, crying, and inspired as the hot blue TV played the Hokkaido episode of No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain was sipping soup. The soup was prepared with fish sperm. Absurdly removed from my nook in North Carolina, that scene confirmed my decision that – no matter where I was or who I was with in a year – I’d follow up on a lead to teach English in Japan. In 2014, I did just that. All that is to say: Anthony Bourdain helped me save myself.

So it was a little disorienting that he hung himself last night in a French hotel.

I went to lunch at China Chef for the third time today. It was less crowded but…

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Growing up, I always admired my teachers. I was surrounded by education from a young age, as my stepmom went through part of her education and began teaching when I was in my formative years. She taught drama as one of her subjects, but I think it made one of the biggest impacts on me. I have always loved escaping life through theater, not as a way of avoiding life, but to remind myself of the good things in life. Education has brought so much good into my life, this all happened because of my teachers.

It was Ms. Parrish, my 3rd grade teacher at Rex Elementary who constantly encouraged me and helped me memorize my multiplication facts which I still use today (especially when I tutor math). She also taught me that life could be hard, but that I could persevere through it.

Rex Elementary
Rex Elementary in Haysville, KS

It was Mr. Kirkes, who I frustrated to no end in 6th grade at Freeman Middle School, but he hardly ever let it show. This man wrote me up nearly forty times and I was definitely labeled a bad kid then, yet he was still unusually kind. I hate I raised his blood pressure so much.

It was Mr. Engels, who was probably my most gifted teacher who wore a crazy nose and recited Cyrano De Bergeac, which is now known better for the movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin. Mr. Engels would creatively teach language arts and is probably the first person in secondary school to help me enjoy language arts.

It was Mr. Zemanick who helped me after school so many times to raise my grade in his math class. I mean this guy literally had the patience of Job with me. I found out later he became a school counselor which is so fitting.

Campus Colts – Our Mascot

So from this student who no one even thought would finish college, I have a Master’s degree in Education from Elon University and daily try to live up to these titans (and others). I never wake up regretting becoming a teacher. I never wonder how could my life have more purpose or mission. I get up every day and look forward to what “Chad” is in my classroom that will defy odds and make this world a better place.

Remember to appreciate teachers this week. Have your child write out a nice card, send them $5 to a coffee place, donate to Donorschoose or just shoot them an email. We live and breathe on this stuff. We love the kids and our job, but sometimes it gets hard. We need more funding, we need better pay, but to be honest most of us will be there because we have decided it is the only life we can live with.