Teacher Appreciation Week

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Well if you were anywhere around Facebook last week you saw that it was Teacher Appreciation Week.  There were so many posts about influential teachers from elementary school to high school.  For a job that has such “little” rewards there really are incredible perks.  First of all summer.  Do I have to say anything else?  Summer’s are awesome.  Teachers love them more than students I assure you.  Really all holidays are perks.  Whenever kids are out, you are out.  But with the holidays and all the days off there are big time downfalls.  Any teacher will tell you that being at school is way easier than being out of school for a sick day or a personal day.  It is so hard to describe on a piece of paper given to a sub (that might not be read at all) all the tiny intricacies of my daily routine as a teacher.  There is a certain way I set up my classroom, distribute papers, talk to a certain student in a certain way, look out for cheating, and so many other small, minute things that I could fill a book of instructions for just one day.

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What I want to be when I grow up

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and LEAN NOT on your OWN UNDERSTANDING; in all your ways SUBMIT to Him and he will make your paths straight.”   – Proverbs 3:5-6

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One Year Ago: Thanksgiving Continues On

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me.  I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all that live to see such times but that is not for us to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
                                                                               – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

It was the week of Thanksgiving 2013 when I finally went to get a check up on my health.  Over the few months prior I had dropped 25 lbs and developed a few odd symptoms.  One was that I had a major cough for about a month.  The other was a little more grotesque.  At night I was sweating.  Not like I had a bad dream about falling and woke up sweating, but my back was completely soaked every morning.  Not only that, the sweat smelled terrible.  I felt like I was leaking acid through my pores every night. Continue reading

My Rant on Mississippi State and Why Cancer is Not Ranked in the Top 25

First off two facts:

1. Mississippi State is number 1 in the AP Top 25 Football Poll for the first time in history.
2. September was blood cancer awareness month.
Now my rant:

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Seeing Cancer from 10,000 Feet

Perspective is a topic that I often write about, but this blog post is very unique seeing as my perspective right now is looking out a 767 aircraft at 10,000 feet.  I remember my first flight when I was in the eigth grade and how scared I was.  I was terrified at the beginning for the flight.  Lifting off was such a new feeling and experience.  I was traveling with my National Junior Honor Society classmates to visit Washington D.C.  It was such a memorable trip and I will never forget rising above the clouds and seeing the view of Mississippi falling away below as we rose into the air.  I think back to my senior trip flying to Seattle, Washington and soaring above the Rocky Mountains.  What a unique way to look at the peaks and valleys.  I remember flying to Hong Kong during college and how I could not even look outside because I was stuck inbetween a fellow college traveler and a small asian man, who helped me with my Sudoku puzzle as we flew overnight.  Now I am flying with my wife to California for a trip of a lifetime and it is such a unique perspective because cancer is behind us.

Looking back at the individual tasks of cancer is tough.  It feels like a decade ago that the doctors poked and proded to diagnose me.  I still remember the call about my swollen lymph nodes.  I remember the chemo treatments that dragged on for ages.  I remember the outcry of support from friends and family.  I remember the moments where I just broke down from the overwhelming weight of it all.  I remember from the not so distant past, the daily trip to the cancer clinic for raidation treatments.  I can still feel the pain in my esophagus from the torn tissue of radiation therapy.  However, with all the memories, I can see the hope of the future.

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I am your father

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” – Tolkein The Hobbit

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” – Proverbs 3:11-12
“Train a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
“No….I am your father.” – The Empire Strikes Back

When I was born way back in 1986 many things in pop culture had already taken a foothold.  One was The Lord of the Rings trilogy and another was the Star Wars trilogy.  I knew nothing about these things in 1986 mainly because well I was an infant.  I used to love a good story read to me.  And I will always remember the night that dad either got tired of reading the same old stories or decided I was ready for something more and he brought in an old beat up looking book with yellow pages.  He said, “I read this book when I was young and I think you will like it a lot.”  It started like this:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
At that moment I was completely lost in the world of Middle-Earth.  And I would continue to be for the next few months as my father read me this story.  I remember the spiders, Gollum, Beorn, the Trolls, and of course The Battle of Five Armies.  Also the death of two of my favorite characters was the first time a book truly made me cry.  It was around that same time that my father told me about Star Wars.  I remember watching the first movie at our old apartment that we lived in while my parents current house was being built.  Again I was opened to a whole new world of adventure and good vs. evil.  I could feel myself using the Force to move things and I WAS Luke Skywalker and lets me honest, every kid took a stick/light saber and made the noises while we fought enemy Stormtroopers.  The very next night we watched The Empire Strikes Back and the ending was the biggest shock of my life.  I don’t think I have ever freaked out at a movie more than when those famous words were spoken.  We hesitated for a few months before watching Return of the Jedi, solely because my dad told me you saw Darth Vader’s face at the end and I was really not ready for that.  I had nightmares about it.  But these were the days of VHS recordings and our whole trilogy of Star Wars movies were recorded from HBO.  So when we actually did watch Return of the Jedi the recording cut out before I saw Darth’s face.  It took quite a few more years before I did and yeah it wasn’t so bad.
Why do I tell these stories?  Well most everywhere on the interwebs on Sunday there will be Father’s Day posts.  People will change their profile pictures to them and their dads, they will post great stories like the ones I tried to tell well above, and most of all people will eat Sunday lunch or dinner with their dads and then give him a giftcard, tool, or some other item of the manly persuasion.  I can’t be with my dad this year on Father’s Day because I will be at camp with our youth group, out in the middle of nowhere Mississippi, enjoying the fun and festivities that come with summer camp.  
The first thing that I must say about my dad out front is that he is nowhere near perfect.  That might always be the toughest lesson for a kid to learn growing up is that their dad is just like themselves….human.  But thats where I have to stop and say my dad is far from a failure.  He is a hard worker and has always provided for us way beyond the essentials of life.  Because of my dad’s finance savy mind, we were able to take long family trips together every summer and we never missed out on something at school, church, or community because of money.  My dad showed me how to love my family and heritage.  He taught me how throw a baseball, how to drive a lawnmower and weedeater, 
 how to grill the perfect burger, how to play poker, how to swing a golf club, and thats really only getting started.  He also helped to teach me how to give your time at a church, how to use your connections to help others in need, how to lose and win gracefully and with the highest sportsmanship (this is referring to our love of Mississippi State NOT card games, where my dad is an avid cheater:), how to appreciate the smallest of things in life, and how to use your talents for others.  
But one of the greatest gifts that my dad gave me was not in the above list, in fact, it is something that not many sons can say their dad did for them.  My dad showed me that cancer could be beaten.  15 years before I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 2B, my father was diagnosed with the same disease, same stage.  Because of the advancements of research and medicine my dad’s struggle was a lot worse 15 years ago than my struggle this year.  But the point is that when I was diagnosed, I was not afraid of cancer, because I knew it could be beaten.  Also I had faith that God would deliver me from it and if not, I would praise Him anyway.  My dad brought me up to give back and that is why he is running a half-marathon in my honor in January.  And because my dad knows me he is running the Walt Disney World Half-marathon.  So because I want to give back too we are both running as are our famillies.  We run to give back to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and help the next generation of cancer patients realize that dragons can be beaten.
So thanks dad, for teaching me how to love Bluegrass, a furry footed hobbit, Jedi, Bulldogs, family, God, and a good grilled burger.  And thanks dad for beating cancer and for loving me, while I did the same.  Happy Father’s Day.
Journey Strong

Thoughts on becoming a Bulldog…..Officially!

Hail dear old state fight for that victory today.  Hit that line and tote that ball, cross the goal before you fall.  And then we’ll yell, yell, yell, yell, for dear old state we’ll yell like H-E-L-L!  Fight for Mississippi State, win the game today! Go State!

It’s the end of May and of course that is the time that everyone starts to think about graduation.  This is a time where dreams come true for students and teachers alike.  For high school students, we see them leave away from a familiar place that for the most part they can’t wait to get behind them.  For college students, we see new adults finally enter into the real world armed with knowledge, experiences, and hopefully a job.  Tomorrow is the last day that I will have my current seniors in class before graduation.  It is bitter sweet.  I am sad to see this group go, but also very happy to see where they go from here.  Graduation is one of those events that anyone dislikes attending unless he or she is involved.  Graduations are long, the room is usually crowded and hot, there is always a speaker that talks too much, and you are really only there to see one person walk across a stage, which takes a total of 20 seconds.  But this saturday I will attend a graduation.  My graduation.  One that has been literally years in the making.

I have loved Mississippi State University since I was able to think.  Some of my first experiences as a child were attending MSU baseball games at Dudy Noble Field.  My first stroller was maroon.  My family drove a large maroon and grey van with a license plate that said, “MSU VAN.”  The only cups that I drink out of at home are MSU stadium cups.  I have one whole stack of maroon t-shirts in my chest of drawers.  I have multiple cowbells.  My dog owns a maroon jersey.  Have I painted a picture yet?

But this love of MSU is way more than this last paragraph.  My grandfather grew up at MSU, where his dad taught in the poultry department.  He lived in Old Main, the large men’s dormitory on campus.  My parents met at MSU at the Cobb Institute of Archeology.  My sister met her husband there, while playing ultimate frisbee.  My family has season football tickets next to our dear friends the Akins, who also go to church with us.   Every year during Super Bulldog Weekend we meet up with our friends the Cliftons, who have been fellow Bulldog fans and friends for years.

MSU was a place where I bonded with my family over football tailgating, basketball victories, bowl game trips, and baseball afternoons.  I have watched seasons of football where we could barely come out with a win.  I have seen years where our basketball team could hardly be stopped.  I have sat through pouring rain just to watch us lose the Egg Bowl.  I have seen us keep that golden Egg only a week before I found out that I had cancer.

The funny part about this story is that I am not a MSU graduate.  I have never taken a class on campus.  I could not tell you where to go if you were a freshman and needed to know where all the chemistry classes were.  But part of that will change Saturday.  I started taking online classes for a Masters in Business in the summer of 2011.  Now in Spring of 2014 I will graduate from the Distance MBA program at MSU with a 4.0 GPA.  I took my capstone class through the midst of chemotherapy treatment.  I cannot tell you how happy I am that this is finally happening.  I am going to sit at graduation just like the rest of the graduates that actually took classes on campus, but I promise you, I will love that moment more.

A few things that I have learned besides finance, management, and marketing from MSU:

1. The rules of football, basketball, and baseball.  Taught by: Joel Yelverton – my dad.  Lessons were learned in the stands or at home watching away games.  He taught me how to look beyond the game and see the intricacies of each sport, developing in me a true love of the game.

2. How to show great sportsmanship.  Taught by: Cheryl Yelverton – my mom.  Lessons were learned while watching my mom take wins with respect and loses with equal dignity.  She has never yelled at an opposing fan and when those Arkansas fans pig sooey in her face, she just walks on by.  That is a good fan.  She congratulates the winners and does not flaunt the victories.

3.  How to always be positive.  Taught by: Terry Akin – my friend.  Lessons were learned during terrible football, basketball, and baseball seasons.  Terry is the son of our friends the Akins, who I mentioned earlier.  He had down syndrome, but that surely never slowed him down.  He was and still is the biggest MSU fan I have ever known.  Every terrible season of football we would look down the row to Terry and he would just make a motion with his hands like shooting a basketball or swinging a bat.  He was saying, “don’t worry we have another sport coming up, this season may be over and done, but just let’s wait and see what’s next.”  We all miss him.

4.  How to keep calm in the midst of a highly intense game.  Taught by:  Griffin Sullivan – my brother.  Lessons were learned during overtime periods.  Griffin joined our family in 2012 when he married my sister Becca.  The Yelvertons are not known for watching a MSU sporting even quietly.  Griffin joined our family and showed us how to remain calm, even when yelling at the television, field, Blue, etc. seems like the only answer.

5.  That MSU is more than sports, it’s family.  Taught by:  Becca Yelverton – my sister.  Lessons were learned watching my sister interact with her friends made during her years at MSU.  Becca graduated from MSU in 2012, but the friends and connections she made there are still going on today.  It was through her college experience that I saw MSU as a place where students grow not only in academics, but also in connecting with the people around you.

6.  How to teach others to love MSU.  Taught by: Carly Yelverton – my wife.  Lessons were learned sharing with Carly the things I am sharing with you.

So basically this has been a love letter to Mississippi State, but it is also a big thought about education.  Here is what I mean:

“Education is not about obscure facts and little test scores.  Education is about the overall effect of years of slow absorption of concepts, philosophies, and approaches to problem solving.  The whole process is so grand, all encompassing that it really can’t be threatened by the occasional late night  no-hitter.”  – George Feeny

So go out there and enjoy life.  Have fun.  And also learn a little bit too.

Journey Strong and Hail State!