When I Say, “Jump,” You Say, “How High?”

Roger Hallum Scholarship Fund A while back, one of Gravel Road’s top ten post listed many lessons learned from Roger Hallum, high school drama coach in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s. The response to the post by his former students was heartening and eventually resulted in the creation of a website in his honor to promote the Roger Hallum Scholarship Fund. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Roger Hallum, a most extraordinary teacher.

When I say, “Jump,” you ask “How high?” Those words ring in the ears of Roger Hallum’s students decades after he uttered them. Hallum, Le Mars High School speech and drama coach from 1969-1975 was speaking to a tough crowd–three dozen or more high schoolers who comprised the cast and crew of 1971 fall play, You Can’t Take It with You.

Hallum’s students took his words seriously and jumped as high as they could whenever he asked. In turn, he believed in them and trusted them to do more than they thought they could do. The lives of those students were profoundly impacted by Hallum’s wisdom, humor, and faith in their abilities.

Several months ago, Chris Lindell, ’74 learned that Hallum had died on July 1, 2009. He passed the news along via Facebook, and his former students began to share their favorite memories of him. Funny stories about standing on stage and hearing his voice booming from somewhere in the dark theater. Practical advice useful to this day: “When you’re going to give a speech, never say ‘I’m gonna talk about’ about what you’re gonna talk about.” And regret that “I don’t think I ever saw him after he left and I’ve always wished I’d had.”

Eventually, Hallum’s former students created a scholarship to honor Hallum’s wisdom, humor, and faith in their abilities. Through the Roger Hallum Memorial Scholarship, they hope to pass along his confidence in young people to today’s LCHS graduates.

The scholarship fund is available to Le Mars Community High School graduating seniors who are pursuing a college degree in the creative arts. The fund is administered by the Le Mars Community School District Foundation. Donations are tax deductible and may be sent to the following address:

Le Mars Community School District Foundation – Roger Hallum Fund
940 Lincoln Street SW
Le Mars, IA 51031

More information about the scholarship fund, Hallum’s biography, and a picture gallery can be found at www.hallumscholarship.org. Questions can be directed to Jolene Stratton Philo, ’74 at jolene@hallumscholarship.org or to Chris Lindell, ’74 at chris@hallumscholarship.org.

Former students of Mr. Hallum are invited to leave a tribute or share a favorite memory about him on the tribute page at the Roger Hallum Scholarship website.

Do You Need to Get Your Joy Back?

Get Your Joy Back 1Are you raising a child with special needs? Perhaps struggling a little–or a lot–as your child’s needs mount and your energy and spirits flag? Then Laurie Wallin’s new book, Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family is for you. And so is the book give away contest you’ll learn more about in just a few minutes.

Meet the Author of Get Your Joy Back

Laurie WallinLaurie writes from experience as a mother of four daughters, two of them adopted out of foster care and with significant mental health and behavioral special needs. She’s been a staunch advocate for her daughters with doctors, mental health care practitioners, educators, and at church for more than a decade. But somewhere along the way, the demands of special needs parenting stripped away her joy. Get Your Joy Back is the story of how Laurie lost her joy and found it again.

How You Can Get Your Joy Back

But Get Your Joy Back is more than Laurie’s story. It’s also a book about how you can get your joy back as the parent of a child with special needs. Laurie gently guides readers through a tour of the people who can drain parents of joy–starting with themselves and moving on to their children, spouses, extended families, professionals, the church, the community and even God. She gently encourages parents to forgive those joy drainers (Not that God needs our forgiveness, as Laurie makes perfectly clear. But we need to come to grips with the hard things He allows into our lives and the lives of our children.) and then to regain joy through practical steps and examples from her own life and the lives of other parents. The book is easy to read, not to long (because the author knows parents of kids with special needs don’t have much spare time), and packed with the perfect balance of empathy and motivation to change.

To read the rest of this review and enter the give away contest, visit Gravel Road’s sister site, DifferentDream.com.

Remember the Children

kids stuff

After a three day weekend comprised of a writers’ conference, a wedding, and a high school class reunion–all in different Iowa towns–being back in my own home has rarely looked so good. The future’s looking pretty good too, if what I observed at the different events is any indication.

  • Writers diligently working to learn their craft so they can creatively share their faith with a needy world and generations to come.
  • High school classmates, all of us puzzled by how forty years went by in the blink of an eye, who count family their dearest possessions and who are grateful for their blessings.
  • A young bride and groom who put others ahead of themselves by anticipating and meeting their guests’ needs. Even a table of activity packets–bubbles, crayons, and a wedding-themed coloring books–for the children.

Everywhere, it seemed, young adults and older ones were congnizant of not only of their own present needs, but also of the needs of future generations. These adults encourage rather than oppress children who are at their mercy. They count it an honor to explore the world with young ones in their care. Adults whose kindnesses give hope for what is yet to come because they remember the children who will one day own the future.

Why Bonbons and Blog Posts Don’t Matter So Much


The past few weeks have been filled with a buzz of activity at our house. Hiram’s siding the garage and reprising his Man of Steel role in preparation for Dam to Dam in a few weeks. My time’s been divided between correcting proofs for The Caregiver’s Notebook and conducting interviews for a book about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. Throw high school graduation season into the mix and, like I said, things are buzzing around here.

No time for sitting around and eating bon bons.

And hardly time, as has been mentioned in other blog posts this week, for writing new blog posts either. But enough time to contemplate yesterday’s guest post by Maggie Gale over at www.DifferentDream.com, my website for parents of kids with special needs.

Maggie’s post is an amazing story about her daughter Lois.

Lois had a TE/EAF repair shortly after birth, the same anomaly and repair our son had. In her post Maggie describes how Lois remembered and grieved about those early events. Ten years ago, I would have poo-pooed her story, but not anymore. Not after our son was treated for PTSD caused by his early medical experiences.

Kids remember more and further back than we think.

Traumatic memories remain especially vivid and affect our children more than we want to believe. Which is why my days are filled reading books about PTSD ink kids, with interviews of parents who have kids with PTSD, and of experts who treat kids with it.

Even though I’d rather be eating bon bons and writing funny blog posts.

So today, instead of an original and finely crafted post, I’d like to direct you to Maggie Gale’s guest post, Do Kids Experience Grief about Their Special Needs. It’s more disturbing than funny. More heart-wrenching than hilarious. And important enough to the well-being of children to make bonbon and blog posting sacrifices seem as insignificant as they really are.

Photo Credit: John Kasawa at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Too Close for Comfort: British Drama


I’ve been on a BBC drama/Masterpiece Theater kick lately, trying to get my fix of life on the other side of the pond between seasons of Downton Abbey. A friend recommended Doc Martin, a quirky series and lots of fun, though not a costume drama.

Definitely worth watching if you aren’t hooked on it already.

Browsing the DVD shelves at the library, I ran across Lark Rise to Candleford. It is a costume drama set in the late 1800s. Think Little House on the Prairie goes to England. A fun series the whole family can watch. The trailers at the beginning of Lark Rise featured Cranford, another costume drama set in a small town in 1840s England. It is so, so, so good. The downside? Masterpiece Theater made only one series.

Five beautiful episodes that left me wanting more, more, more.

These programs are wonderful, but the appearances of the same actors in various English drama feels too close for comfort…dare I say incestuous?

A strong word, I know, but here’s what I mean.

Eileen Atkins who does a bang up job as spinster sister Deborah Jenkyns in Cranford also plays Ruth Ellingham in Doc Martin. Jim Carter, who Dowton Abbey fans know as Mr. Carson the butler shows up in female-heavy Cranford as the retired Captain Brown.

But that’s just the beginning.

Actress Julia Sawalha is his Cranford daughter, Jessie Brown. But in Lark Rise to Candleford she’s postmistress Dorcas Lane, linchpin of the community who bodice heaves like a true damsel in distress.

Are you with me so far?

Another Cranford to Lark Rise in Candleford crossover is the actor Claudie Blakely. In Cranford she’s Martha the loyal maid, and in Larkrise she’s Emma Timmins, the wise and loving mother of the main character.

But wait. Here’s the real shocker.

The actor who plays Emma’s husband Robert Timmins on Lark Rise is Brendan Coyle. That’s right! Downton Abbey’s Mr. Bates really is married to another woman! What will Anna, his Downton wife and Lady Mary’s personal maid think when she finds out?

Now you understand why I chose such strong language.

The whole sordid situation almost makes me want to pull the plug on British dramas. But not quite. Because it’s my duty to watch Downton Abbey. And Doc Martin. And Lark Rise. To keep an eye on Mr. Bates. And Ruth Ellingham. And Dorcas Lane.

In case things get too close for comfort, and England calls on me to save the day.

Photo Source

Three Aged Thoughts for Thursday


  1. Winnie the Pooh made his first appearance 90 years ago this month. You can hear his creator, A. A. Milne read the beginning of a Pooh tale at this NPR link.
  2. Florida resident Joe Newman is running for Congress at age 101. Why now? Because, Newman said, when he watched children get off the bus after school he worries about what kind of world we’re leaving for them.
  3. Maria, the last of the Von Trapp children, died at age 99. I wonder what her favorite Sound of Music song was. Mine’s “The Lonely Goatherd.” Yours?

Photo Source

Monkey Business


Today’s post is devoted to monkey business, courtesy of the email marketing service, Mail Chimp. That’s the service I use for a quarterly newsletter at Different Dream, my special needs website. The company held a drawing and pulled our my name as the winner Freddie, their little mascot.

Freddie’s kinda cute, about four inches tall, and he’s made of plastic. He’s also quite versatile, with arms that can be positioned in the picture above and the one below.


And even like this:

Mail Chimp 1

The view from the back isn’t bad, either. Especially if you’re into back packs. And heart-shaped butt tattoos.


The problem with Freddie is that he doesn’t fit in with the Purgeal Vortex theme I’ve been pursuing with a vengeance for the past two months. The massive purge has continued unabated for 7 Saturdays in a row, and my clutter tolerance is at an all time low. So Freddie has to go.

And, since he came to this house via a drawing, I’d like to select his new home in the same way. To enter the drawing, go to Different Dream and sign up for the quarterly newsletter by March 1, 2014. (Scroll down to locate it on the right hand side of the page.) Those who already receive the newsletter can enter by leaving a comment below by March 1, 2014. I’ll email the winner about mailing information and send Freddie in his original box, so he’ll be worth oodles more as a collector’s item in 50 years.

Quite the deal, huh? Who can resist, huh? Don’t everyone head over there at once!

Winners, Every One

everybody wins

The armchair Olympics are in full swing on our little gravel road. We’ve been twirling in the air, slicing down the ski slopes, gliding across the ice, and sliding along the sled runs with nary a turned ankle or bruise. We are loving it.

Except for one teensy-weensy problem.

Every time the three winners mount the podium and receive their medals, while the world is focused on their laudatory accomplishments, my thoughts wander to the athletes who didn’t win. The fourth place bobsledder who was .04 tenths of a second too slow. The skater who fell hard at the beginning of his program, then got up and smiled through the rest of the program, though he had to be in pain. The skicross racer who broke her spine. Even Bob Costa who was felled by pink eye.

Winners, every one.

This mindset could be the product of twenty-five years as an elementary teacher. Twenty-five years of watching the student who got a C on a test work much harder than the one who aced it. Twenty-five years of cheering for third graders who didn’t know their math facts in the fall, but did in the spring, though they would never be the fastest on timed tests. Twenty-five years of marveling at those rare kids who cared more about being kind to their classmates than about being first.

Winners, every one.

Every time the three medal winners in any event mount the podium, I think about the athletes who aren’t there. Those with less natural talent or came from less affluent countries, yet worked harder than whoever won. Those who grew the most. Those who cared more about being kind to other participants instead of being first.

Winners, every one.

The school teacher in me wants them all to receive medals–the Olympic equivalent of an elementary school field day participation ribbon. To be given a momento to carry home and pass on to their children and grandchildren. Or better yet, to leave the festivities with a rock solid, internal assurance of the reality that escapes those who focus only on the podium. The understanding of an undeniable truth. By making it to Sochi, they are forever and for always

Winners, every one.

Photo courtesy of Vlado at www.freedigitalphotos.net