Monday, February 25, 2013

Another Letter of Recommendation

Since I posted son # 2's Eagle Scout recommendation letter here, I thought I would pull out son # 1's and add it. The Eagle Committee Chairwoman told me at the time that it was the best one she'd ever read:

Eagle Scout Recommendation for Ben

When we look around at all the young men that we know, there are always those that stand out.  They are accomplished, talented, wonderful young men.  Everyone is always pointing to them as examples and guiding lights for the other young men around them.

Well, Ben is not one of those fortunate young men.  He has struggled with challenges his entire life.  As a young elementary student he was diagnosed with a learning disability.  He could still not read at the beginning of third grade.  Sheer will, determination, and the help of loving teachers and a (sometimes) patient mother got him through that hardship.  Unfortunately, he also suffered from a profound lack of fine motor skills, which led to extremely bad handwriting and not a lot of success in athletics on the playground. Due to the stigmatism of those years, he had problems with developing friendships.  He always seemed to be the odd one out.  It is a hard thing to feel like you have no one to invite over to your house.  However, he stuck it through those years and kept on going.

As he entered junior high, he continued to struggle.  He was the butt of many classroom jokes and ridicule.  He developed a strong thick skin which was actually contrary to his original loving nature as a child.  He became angry and hard to manage, and it only continued to get worse and worse.  Finally, we as his parents felt that there was something more to this than just teenage angst.  We took him for a professional analysis.

The diagnosis was not good.  Ben suffered from Bipolar disorder and suspected Aspergers.  His world was spiraling out of control.  He experienced bouts of euphoria and very little sleep followed by episodes of depression and suicidal thoughts.  If this wasn’t bad enough, he also suffered from ADD, which was not treatable while he was on the medication for Bipolar.

Amazingly enough, throughout all of these problems, many of which were overwhelming even to his adult parents, Ben continued to try to do his best.  And honestly, sometimes his best is not anywhere near as good as the best that some of those more fortunate young men seem to achieve almost without effort.  However, Ben’s best, although it may be seem a more paltry offering, is truly an effort born of more desire, will, and sheer gumption than anyone will ever know.  Every little success he has ever had has been born of years of failure.  Every C and B has been a triumph over adversity that his teachers do not even begin to understand.

As we look back on our son’s mighty struggles and the few accolades that he has to show for them, we feel that he has truly been an example in our lives of the importance of doing your best, even when it seems like it doesn’t change anything or that it doesn’t make much of a difference.  Ben will never be the star quarterback or the homecoming king.  In fact, sometimes we wonder if he will graduate from high school.  But the one thing that we don’t wonder about is whether or not he is doing the best that he can.  Because we know that in his own quiet, unheralded, uniquely Ben way, he is, and for that, he is a hero and worthy of this Eagle Scout Award in our eyes.

Mom and Dad

Just For Laughs

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Walk and Write

Here is my writing from the walk and write I did during a CUWP session on the BYU campus. Enjoy!
As I sit here looking at this broad expanse of windows, I can't help but think--why? What is so beautiful on the other side that merits such an expansive view? I guess it all depends on where your point of view lies. Directly opposite there is a building that is nondescript and really unremarkable. Here in front there is a lovely courtyard--but nothing too incredible.
But if you let your gaze move upwards, you are suddenly gifted with an amazing view of majestic mountain peaks punctuated by the rather large and conspicuous Y above BYU. This brings back memories of clear mornings as a freshman here when you could suddenly see the mountains again and realize what a beautiful setting this really is.
Where is he going--this young man with guitar in hand, striding purposefully across the campus at 10:30 AM on a Saturday morning? It's a little too early to be going to a rock concert and a little too late for waking your true love from bed with a morning serenade. Perhaps he is heading somewhere as mundane as a Saturday morning guitar session, or perhaps he is on his way to try out for a position in the latest group. His heart is in his throat and pounding as he thinks about this chance, perhaps his last chance, to make it big--or at least as big as you can get here in the sleepy berg of Provo, Utah.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Letters of Recommendation

As a high school teacher, I write a lot of letters of recommendation. Today I had the special privilege to write one for my own son:

February 5, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

Caleb has always been a unique person. He has gone his own way and chosen his own path. Along the journey, he has developed and shown many qualities that I think will both help him in his upcoming adult life and qualify him to become an Eagle Scout.

Caleb has always been a tenderhearted child. He hates to see or hear fighting in his family, so he has always been a peacemaker between his siblings. He has a loving, trusting nature that I have always admired as a mother. He also has a heightened sense of fairness and kindness for the downtrodden and picked on (it may have something to do with his status as the baby in the family). In any case, he is a champion for many rights and causes.

He is a good, loyal, and faithful friend. He has developed some very close friendships in high school, and he and his friends do a lot of things together. Most of them are just normal teenage things such playing video and board games and eating everything in sight. But, they have done some very remarkable things, too. Last year, Caleb and a group of his friends planned, prepared, and worked for a week to put on a Camp Halfblood for the kids in one friend’s neighborhood. The kids had an amazing time, and Caleb and his friends gained valuable experience.

That is not to say he doesn’t have a few traits that drive me crazy. For one thing, he is as stubborn as a rock pile. However, this stubborn streak also makes him willing to keep trying and toiling at things long after many people would have given up and moved on. For example, he has been working on creating his own computer game for years. He’s designed all the backgrounds, characters, and music for it. He’s put it out for comment a few times, and some of the feedback has been less than complimentary. Rather than giving up, he just keeps working on it to make it better.

Caleb is also a bit of a perfectionist. Sometimes he struggles to get things done because the finished product is not quite up to his standards. As we all know, perfectionism can be a blessing and a curse. This is something he has to deal with, and I admire him for the gains he has made (and hopefully will continue to make) in this area.

Caleb is just an ordinary teenage boy. He has areas where he struggles; he is an infamous procrastinator, he occasionally stays up too late; he forgets to do his homework. He is far from being the poster child of ideal behavior. That said, he is a kind, thoughtful, loving son; a sweet and only slightly spoiled brother; a valued and humorous friend; and a motivated student with two years of college under his belt.

As a high school teacher, I write many letters of recommendation. In this case, I can say without reservation that I feel that Caleb has the qualities of and has spent the time and effort necessary to be an Eagle Scout.