Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Hey, Can We Talk?" Thanks, WCLT, for Doing Just That

On Thursday, April 22, I was the featured speaker at an all-school assembly for WCLT High School (Woden-Crystal Lake-Titonka). The invitation came after several factors fell into alignment:

1) Students from W-CL-T heard me speak about writing Involuntary Joy during a presentation in an English class at Waldorf College.

2) The students were also taking Miss Sara Blaser's Contemporary Issues class at WCLT High School. When Miss Blaser allowed the class to choose a book to read for discussion, they asked for permission to read Involuntary Joy.

3) The class read the book and used its content for discussions about parenting, motherhood, birth defects, raising children with disabilities, working mothers, and more.

4) Meanwhile, Lisa Pleggenkuhle Grummer, who attended the same high school I did, was regularly substituting at WCLT. She read Involuntary Joy at about the same time as the class, and she invited me to lunch in her home for our own time of sharing. In fact, you may have met her in a previous blog.

5) Lisa suggested that Miss Blaser invite me to come speak to WCLT's Contemporary Issues class or even to students in the Biology and Anatomy classes. Lisa even wondered about the possibility of having an all-school assembly.

6) Principal Ken Kasper and Miss Blaser agreed that there were a lot of topics addressed in the book that could be enlightening for all the students, and so, I accepted their kind invitation to present an all-school assembly.

Today's vlog features outtakes from our time together. This high school (approximately 80 students) is a wonderful piece of living Iowa history, for school consolidations will soon end the days of graduating classes numbering less than 100. In fact, the school boards of Woden-Crystal Lake and Titonka recently voted to explore whole grade sharing with neighboring districts, and in coming years, students will no longer fill the halls of this current facility.

I felt honored to be standing in the WCLT gymnasium on Thursday (brightly decorated for prom) and talking to a group of young men and women who know full well that much of life is about adapting to change. Like our family, they have learned that you simply take what life hands you and keep moving forward.

To a student, each young man or young woman was courteous and attentive as I shared our family's story - my story. Clearly, each one–on either an academic or intensely personal level–understood that preparing for adulthood means anticipating unforeseen circumstances, whether fortunate or unfortunate, but not allowing them to make you afraid. Heck, many who stayed after to talk to me personally let me know that their lives have already been filled with challenges met or in the process of being met. And they are doing a great job of growing up to be exactly who they are meant to be.

I recognize it has become cliche' to say that children are our future. But, truly, I trust the young men and young women that I spoke to on Thursday to create a new way of living in our world. It is why I was comfortable sharing intensely personal stories. Perhaps hearing a bit of our family's experiences can better prepare them for whatever else life brings their way. Part of my hope is that they become more comfortable with a world where "normal" is defined broadly enough to include all the abnormal situations encountered by families living with and caring for persons whose lives fall outside of "the norm" - whatever that is.

And, yes, Gretchen, Jamie and Miss Blaser. I will still post the vlog we made about Contemporary Issues class. What a wonderful conversation! Thanks for making this all happen.

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