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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Mornin' Destin

Saturday morning, my wife and I and a group of high school seniors hopped from Lansing to Detroit to Memphis to Fort Walton Beach/ Destin Florida. "Hopped" mind you, we did not fly in a plane... we're all exhausted, our shoes are ruined, thighs throbbing, but it was worth it.

As I write this morning, I’m looking at a turquoise and deep blue seascape. A moment ago, I put on a pot of coffee and noticed all of the students are still asleep. We’ve rented this three-story beach house. (I'm up on that third balcony, looking out at the ocean—actually it’s the Gulf of Mexico.) There’s a small pool out back, but so far the kids have preferred the waves and white sand.

In all directions, palm trees sway to the chant of , "Nah-nah... we don't grow up north!" It's true, they are the most significant distinction between this view and Lake Michigan in July. Take away all the buildings, and this could look like “Paradise Island,” but take away the buildings, and we would be in huts [like the castaways on Lost—season finale Wednesday night]… so we'll take the compromises of comfort. The kids especially like that just a few blocks away, beckon all the modern distractions (malls, eateries, water parks, etc.). Today we hit the water park!

Destin has become a traditional destination for our school’s senior trip. We were here this same week last year, too. Even though our students have grown up on a beautiful “fresh water” ocean (Lake Michigan), they always want to spend their Senior Trip someplace “hot” with a beach. Like their favorite beaches in West Michigan, this stretch of the Florida Panhandle is far more “family friendly” (and less “gone wild”) than the more famous beaches stretching from Myrtle to Miami, so it suits our clientele and students well.

Well… I hear stirring below—my cue to go stir up some breakfast.
Update on last night in Destin: In the comments below I mentioned crab hunting each night. Late Tuesday, equipped with nets, the guys caught a dozen donut-sized crabs and appropriately put them in a flat Krispy Kreme box and served them to the unsuspecting girls. Like I said in one of the comments, they're just like a big group of brothers and sisters. Wednesday night we sat around the living room and talked about upcoming graduation practice, which led to some heart-felt remarks and a sense of "this is the end of life as we know it." One student (who until this year may not have spoken in such a moment) thanked his classmates for being true friends and sticking with him through the years. Last night, my youngest daughter (who has missed her mom and dad this week) called and talked to me for 15 mnutes. At the end of the conversation, she said, "Hey, Dad, I've been practicing your favorite song on the piano for when you get home. Can I play it for you now?" and she did right then. It's Debussy's "Clair de Lune," her middle name is Clair (without the e, just like in the title and like the St.Clair River where I spent my summers as a boy). It's been a great trip, and like Julie and I , on Thursday, these kids have something to go home to....


Blogger Julie said...

I am so jealous! That looks absolutely beautiful! I think it is so cool that you guys do this for the Seniors. After all, they just put in a really hard 13yrs of education. Thanks for being such great educators and role models.

God Bless You,

21/5/07 8:53 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Julie B,
You must have just written this--I lost my wireless connection right after the first draft. I just tweaked the layout.
Sr. Trips are a lot of hard work and "fund raising" for Julie and the kids, but it builds team work, and I wish the whole school could see how great our students are on trips like this. Our neighbors just commented over the fence last night as to how good they are. They get along great, stay in small groups or even one big group and enjoy everything in walking distance.
Julie and I wear "mom and dad" hats and shuttle them here and there, grocery shop, cook, keep track, etc. (administration hats are somewhere under the beach towels, but I don't think we'll need 'em. =) Julie is especially gifted at keeping things organized but unstructured and free-flowing. The seniors are having a blast!

21/5/07 9:15 AM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, what a lovely treat for the seniors and for you too, by the sounds of things. I hope they keep an eye out for each other.

Okay, so now I'm officially jealous. I have always wanted to go to Florida. It looks wonderful. Have a fabulous time, and bring us back some sand :-)


21/5/07 7:07 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

That was one long hop. I hope you have well behaved seniors and the trip is worthwhile.

21/5/07 7:07 PM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

Evening, POI: Ah, Florida. You know I live part time in Oklahoma and part time in Florida. School is almost over here in Oklahoma and I am so looking forward to going to Florida for the summer. It will be HOT and HUMID, but I don't care. I'm ready. Wow! You are to be commended for taking on the seniors! Labor of love. I'm sure they appreciate all you do for them. Take care and enjoy the trip.

21/5/07 7:51 PM  
Blogger Julie said...


You are 100% correct. Our Seniors are great! I don't really know any of them personally, but I see them daily in the hall. They are always polite and kind. Some often go out of the way to be nice to Nick who is often fascinated with the "Big Legs" as he once put it. I remember one time in particular where we were in the office and he was looking for the Tootsie Rolls only to find out they were all gone. He was upset, because this was the first time that had happened one of the senior girls (C.K.) was in the office when it happened. She went to her locker and came to find us just a few minutes later with THREE Tootsie Rolls, just for Nick. He was so happy, and I was just really impressed with her thoughtfulness. That is just one example, but there many. I wish I could tell you how many times the door has been held for me by one of the students, I know the number would be impressive. My point is these are great kids who have had great parents and educators. They will make a difference in our world. I am so happy that God has brought us into this very special family!
Thanks for being a part of it!
Julie B.

21/5/07 10:30 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We've had three picture-perfect days so far. I do think I'll bring some sand back. It's different from our "singing sand," named because it squeaks when you walk on it. (Evidently it is just the right size to make a noise with the "texture" of bare feet.)

Dr. John,
They are good kids...as one of our elementary parents, Julie B, points out above.

Julie B.
(I add the "B" because there are two other Julies here.) Thanks for sharing that story. It's true. We had a cook out tonight and a fish fry. Everyone pitched in with the work and clean up. They're like a big family of brothers and sisters.

21/5/07 11:58 PM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

We get to hear about the more rowdy Spring Break happenings in Florida all the time. Glad to see that that madness isn't for everyone. Looks like a great place to have to go every year.

22/5/07 6:52 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I've been in OK once. It was on my way from KS to TX where we spent a week with my wife's family on South Padre Island. OK is a nice state, but sometimes it's just nice to go to where some palm trees sway. The humidity and temps are great right now. Mid-eighties, nice breeze... just perfect. It is a labor of love, but not in the sense that it's difficult. The hardest work of these trips comes before. By the time the trip comes, they've all earned a vacation. I guess "EARNED" is a key word in our program. We are an excellent smaller school with an accredited program. Our average class size is around 20 (next year's Sr. Class is slightly bigger). Whenever you’re in charge of the well-being of other people's children. It's a true "responsibility," but it's a joy each time we do it. Read "Destin Loco Parentis" from May of 2006.

Haven't seen you for a while. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, we've seen all the sort of news coverage that has made most schools give up on the idea of Sr. Trips. Kids are kids--that's what we love about 'em, but not all kids think it's cool to forget that ideas have consequences. One of the concepts we stress is accountability to each other. "Iron sharpens iron and so a person sharpens his friend"...to paraphrase Proverbs 27:17. When you have friends who feel it's their duty to bring the best out in each other, they too see the folly in the kind of behavior associated with students at the better-known "Spring Break" beaches. I really wish you could all be in the beach house next door to watch these Srs. They're regular normal, fun-loving, laugh-out-loud kids and it's a joy to be with them this week.

22/5/07 9:55 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Walk barefoot in the warm sand with your head held high for me please Tom, just as a symbolic gesture of where my neck will be when this is ordeal of junk is over.

peace always peace first


22/5/07 4:59 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I will do that. I will do that for you tonight. More later... (I'll tell you about it).

22/5/07 5:29 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I thought of what you asked tonight as we walked the beach after dinner at a place called "The Crab Trap," a seafood place by a big wharf. The waves were big enough for the dozen or so surfers there. The sand here is white and fine--like the kind we used to see in hotel lobby ash trays. The sand in West Michigan is stone free but not this fine. The beaches at Port Huron, MI, have fist-sized round stones at the water's edge but sand when you get out to waste-deep water. Anyway... I thought of your request and hope that sometime in this life your pain will subside and you can go to the beach of your choice with your wife.

22/5/07 9:30 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tom, I really admire you and can sense from your post, the love and passion you have for your job, as you work with these young folks. You and your wife are postive role models for those seniors and this experience will have a lasting impact on their lives. You are making a difference in our world... one child at a time. Enjoy the rest of your trip and the Gulf Coast sunsets. Life is good!

22/5/07 9:31 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

At this moment a "tribe" of boys is down on the beach with flash lights catching fiddler crabs. Each night since we arrived, they've brought back several, but tonight they have nets--it's becoming quite the sport. I'm confident that they will rank their evening crab hunts higher than any other activity of the week. =) It's sort of like when your kids like playing with the empty box at Christmas. =) Simple pleasures are the best.
Thank you for your kind words. I hope to have some time to write a new post in the morning.

22/5/07 9:52 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

I think I am officially jealous too. You will come back with a nice tan.

Do you do this sort of thing for other kinds of Seniors? Say those over 65?

You and your wife are to be commended for taking on this responsibility. But I know fun is in it for you too.

22/5/07 11:20 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We're getting plenty of sun, it's true. So far, Most of us have managed not to get burned. Sun block works wonders. =)
Keeping late nights is an adjustment. It's almost midnight. We're all watching a movie in the main room, and only Julie and I look sleepy. Oh, to be young. =)

22/5/07 11:45 PM  

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