What Matters Most?

PoohLast Sunday a small group gathered in the entry to Leslie Rhett Crosby’s (’83) lovely antebellum home downtown to honor departing Randolph Head of School Byron Hulsey.  As the current Board Chair, I followed the three prior Chairmen in rising to say something about Byron. City Councilman Mark Russell gave Byron a plaque from the City, a football signed by Nick Saban and an Auburn baseball cap. Foster McDonald wrote and read a poem that was the highlight of the night for me. Bob Thurber read a heartfelt letter describing how transformational Byron had been for the school and how much Byron had meant to him personally, it was wonderful, and a little emotional.

Then I stood on my friend Leslie’s graceful stairs and read a quote from A A Milne, a quote that reminded me of Byron and how he approaches his work at the School:

“There are some people who begin the Zoo at the beginning, called WAYIN, and walk as quickly as they can past every cage until they get to the one called WAYOUT, but the nicest people go straight to the animal they love the most, and stay there.” A. A. Milne

Byron acts like this. He and his staff know our kids; really, really knows them. He feels their successes in his heart,  as if they were each his own son or daughter. Likewise, he feels their failures like a cut, like a physical assault to his person. It’s painful for him to expel a kid for cheating, or to learn of a tragedy affecting our large family. He tries not to because he understands that a certain detachment is healthy. But he can’t help it. His genuine attachment to these kids will not allow for that kind of distance. He simply knows what matters most and it’s the kids. That concern is authentic and genuine and cannot be simulated.

What Byron wants for each kid is what we want for our own. He wants them to fail, and then learn. He wants them to be safe and then to get outside of that zone and grow into something they could not have imagined. He wants them to be curious and persistent; resilient, intellectually honest and morally grounded. He wants them to be loved and then to have their expectations for themselves challenged and expanded.

Byron and Jennifer have accomplished each of these and more in their eight years at Randolph and they leave us in a far better place than they found us. I cannot think of any higher praise.

So, as a grateful member of the larger Community of Learners that is now vibrantly growing and expanding at the School, I’ll quote A. A. Milne one more time:

“I wrote somewhere once that the third-rate mind was only happy when it was thinking with the majority, the second-rate mind was only happy when it was thinking with the minority, and the first-rate mind was only happy when it was thinking. A. A. Milne – Macmillan War Pamphlets 1940

Byron is only happy when he’s thinking and learning and growing as a person. I will miss being around that kind of character and will have to work hard to maintain the level of excellence with which Byron simply lives his life.  Thanks for everything Byron, we will follow your success with eagerness and not a little pride that we had your attention for a season.


PS. I was inspired to use A A Milne to tell this story by my daughter Sarah Fowler (’11). She has always told me that Byron reminds her of Christopher Robin’s little bear. He’s a serious guy by any measure but Sarah saw through it even as a child. She understood that under the neat suit and Headmaster’s bearing, there was clearly a loving and lovable, undeniably wise and cuddly bear-y best friend. I cherish that image and her relationship with her School. Byron was a big part of creating that atmosphere and we are all eternally grateful.

Ace Update from Mike Gordon…

So the Ace man has been released from the hospital to his joy. He thought he was going to be in there the rest of his life. He was released Wednesday afternoon about 4:30. A local organization (The Village Outreach) got him a room at the Brooks Motel initially for a week to give him time to gain his strength and review his options that appear to be few right now, but we will see what the Lord has in mind.

If you should find Ace to be on your heart and want to visit him he would enjoy the company even for a short time. Understand that he still has some word salad going on knowing what he wants to see but the wrong words come out. He does understand everything it’s just his communication he struggles with. Pray fully he will continue to improve each day he has up to this point. The Lord has brought Ace along way from the first day he was in the Hospital from not knowing if he would survive the head injury to being up and walking, talking and out of the hospital.


Fyi…. Ace is 60 years old and an army veteran from the early 70’s

Please continue to lift him up in Prayer as the Holy Spirit brings him to your mind.

Another Update on Ace (from my friend Mike Gordon)

The Ace man update……..

Visit with Ace was the best ever yesterday.  He was all smiles and so pleasant to be around.  He communicated well, but still had the word salad when trying to communicate his thoughts yet better than any other time I had been with him.  Don’t know when, but I noticed yesterday that they had removed the staples from his head.  Once again he responded well to hearing music. I played a song (by his wounds) that I had on my phone and he really enjoyed it.  The biggest joy was when I prayed with him before I left this time he joined in…..

I believe the Lord is restoring Ace. Thanks for your prayers please continue lifting The Acer up as the Holy Spirit brings him to your mind.

Cancer Update

It seems so wrong to discuss something as personal as cancer in a place as impersonal as the Internet but you should see what some people put on their blogs!  Anyway, yesterday was good news, more in a string of good news. 16 months after diagnosis, tests still show no evidence of melanoma outside of the eye.  Yesterday I had an Echocardiogram to check for heart damage caused by my chemotherapy, an MRI to check for evidence of melanoma tumors in the liver and a CT of the chest, to check for tumors in the lungs or chest cavity.  They were all clear, showing no problems.

So, I am at work every day, very much engaged in running Solid Earth and making sure that the new Spring MLS system is everything it needs to be.  I also have been keeping my local board commitments (I am on five local boards) so life is pretty normal. It’s just punctuated by these regular tests which will continue for another 20 months at least.

So, that’s the update, love you all and thanks for the well wishes and prayers.  If you are really really interested in making a difference in the disease, click here to donate.

Update on Ace….


It appears that the hospital removed the catheter today for Ace was wearing his jogging pants. The nurse stated that he had been in a better mood today but that his appetite was not as good as hoped. The doctor has ordered that they give Ace another IV for his skin was drying out due to the lack of water. The nurse stated that his virus appears to be letting up a bit for he was down to two bathroom episodes today. He was averaging around 7 or 8 a day. However he just ate two containers of chocolate ice cream before I arrived.

The nurse also told me that a speech pathologist worked with hm today but Ace denied that one did so. The nurse stated that Ace could vunderstand everything they told him but was still having trouble communicating his thoughts. The nurse also stated that she was unaware of any progress in locating a nursing home to place Ace but stated that it was not unusual to have an homeless person stay in the hospital for months at a time if an alternate place could not be located.  -update though my friend Mike Gordon

Saturday and some quick updates

Saturday Breakfast continues tomorrow at 8AM at First Pres. We serve at 9AM behind First Stop on Stokes Avenue in West Huntsville. Right now, we need tarps a ton of other stuff, see the Supply list at www.villageoutreach.org. The Village has three new board members, all friends of mine recruited to join our little band. I can’t thank you enough Tracy, George and Andrew. The Village is also in need of funds, as is First Stop and almost all other agencies. Money is tight these days and it’s hard to find, still, we know that people have a heart for those with even less than them. Come out tomorrow and join the group, it’s really alot of fun.

Saturday Morning Breakfast – Update

We served breakfast as usual this morning and a couple of things happened that were blog worthy.

We’ve been serving breakfast in the homeless camps for almost three years.  Also, I have had ocular melanoma for almost one year.  Both experiences have been amazing and have informed my life in ways I never could have imagined.  I would not have picked either, given a choice but they both just kind of happened to me, like weather.  But they did happen to me and my life is so very much richer because of the experience.  Seriously. Way richer.

What informed me the most is how other people in my situation have chosen to deal with the challenge. For example:

I have met homeless people who love God more than *almost all* housed people I know.

I have met outreach volunteers who are more Christ-like than *almost all* people I have ever met in church.

I would never have experienced these things were I not lead into the homeless camps, and into cancer.

So my two things I wanted to blog about were these…

First, this morning at homeless breakfast, Larry Sisterman opened the gate for us again at First Stop, for the forth or fifth week in a row.  He’s a really nice guy and he felt we would be too cold outside this morning so, in addition to opening the gate, he invited us to serve breakfast inside!  What a great host!  Larry is a gracious man to the homeless in Huntsville, and to us.  I respect his servants heart and I am so happy that his path had crossed mine.  He shared military war stories with my friend Andrew Dean, an Air Force colonel, and seemed to have a good time.  I love how the walls between us come down easily with the application of love and trust.  I know that some in our little gang (Melissa!) have had problems with one or two people at First Stop over the years but, from my perspective, we agree much more than we disagree; and we can help each other.

Second, my new friend Dusty and his daughter Windsor came to breakfast for the first time.  He’s been to First Pres before, to drop off material he was donating to Village Outreach but I have not gotten to meet him yet.  Dusty’s a picker so he buys and sells stuff all the time.  Recently, he bought a storage locker somewhere and found that it contained stoves, lanterns and hundreds of MRE (meals ready-to-eat), and other disaster supplies.  He donated tons of it to us and we’ve really been able to use it.  So I was really eager to meet him when he told me he was planning on coming to serve breakfast with us.  It was great to meet them, they are both really nice and have worked with the poor before, in Birmingham at a mission and thrift store in Oak Mountain and through their church.  They fit right in to our little gang and said they wanted to become really involved.  That’s really great, can’t wait to get to know them better!


A List of Needs from our Friends at First Stop

Paper Plates
Toilet Paper
Paper Towels
We have an ongoing, yearly blanket drive, gathering blankets for the homeless in our area.

Meal Packs, Hygiene Kits, and Other Needs
for Homeless Individuals

Meal Pack

Pack into a zippered plastic bag:

    • 1 small can of meat (e.g., Vienna sausage, potted meat, beanie weenies, tuna)
    • 1 package of pre-wrapped peanut butter crackers
    • 1 package of pre-wrapped cookies
    • 1 – 6 oz. can or box of juice
    • Napkin or paper towel

  • 1 package of cheese that does not require refrigeration
  • Fruit cup
  • Anything else that would add variety!

Please be sure that all containers can be opened without a can opener,
and be sure to provide a plastic fork or spoon if it will be needed.

Hygiene Kits

Pack into zippered plastic bag:

  • Hand towel
  • Wash Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Nail file or emery board
  • Safety razor
  • 6 Band-aids (flexible fabric and sport-style stay on when wet)

 Small sizes of the consumable products are best.

 Other Needs

  •  Money
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries (all sizes)

What a week…

Had to write about an amazing week.  First on Monday Bill and I had a great trip to New York for Solid Earth to meet with the Manhattan Association of REALTORS.

Then on Thursday Ian Symmonds and the Randolph Phase II Team produced incredible plan for the future of the school.

Then, still on Thursday, a man who’d been an obstacle in the path of one of my projects called me on the phone and asked to come and see me! He was really nice, we talked and I hope, we reached a solution.

Then, still on Thursday, a summary of the Phase II plan was presented at the regular December Randolph Trustee meeting.

Then, on Friday I got my second MRI at Huntsville Medical Mall.  I get MRIs every 90 days for the next three years in an ongoing attempt to catch metastatic uveal melanoma before it spreads.  I should not get scans on Fridays because it takes too long to get the results.

Then on Saturday we went to the Derrick Street homeless camps and served breakfast with: Andrew Bevel, Melissa Hiley, Judy Howard, John Newton and Julie Fowler.  We saw a bunch of old friends and met Pete Bradway’s brother Mike.  I am not sure Huntsville is ready for two Bradways but here they are.  Tonight they are staying at a local motel until we can find a more permanent place for them.  Please pray for Pete and Mike.

Then on Sunday morning we got to go to church, take Pete and Mike to Tenders for lunch.  I got to talk to their Mom on the telephone and pray with her, for them.  Then, while we were home waiting to go pick-up D2 from the airport, I got an email from my doctor about my scan from Friday. He said it was all clear, no changes from the last scan.  That’s a huge deal for me and it makes me feel way better about the survivability of my disease.

Then we picked up D2 from the airport, put up the Christmas tree and made it to 6PM bible study, this week we wrapped up the year with a special fellowship at Mellow Mushroom.  Jesus drank beer I think. I hope he did anyway.

What a week!  I am so blessed!


Jessica Update

Jessica Martin, college rock star from an earlier post, is now back in Huntsville having left Wallace State after one semester. She did well and transferred credits back to Calhoun Community College. Jessica unfortunately became pregnant soon after going off to college with her boyfriend LeAndre and she has moved home to be closer to family.

We know that God is at work in Jessica’s life and that this is His plan for her. Still, I was very disappointed by the news that she had become pregnant. Her journey through school was going to be hard enough without this new responsibility. Strangely to me, Jessica’s friends did not feel this way!

On her FB wall, they wrote messages of congratulations, several of them. They said things like “we always knew you’d make it” and “you always were the smart one!”. It took me a little while to reconcile these comments with what had just happened. Eventually, after talking to Jessica and some other smart people I learned that waiting until she was 19 to start her family was a first for her little community. In their minds, she HAD made it. She had attended college and waited until after school, albeit High School, to have a baby.

So there are lesson for me here. First, we must change expectations if there is to be lasting change. Jessica and her friends must come to expect more from themselves and for themselves than this. Second, when I first heard about the baby I was angry with Jessica. I know now that is wrong, anger is wrong. This is not a problem, it’s a new life that God is bringing into the world and he had plans for this child, and for his mother.

Our job is to love them both, unconditionally, and to try and guide them as best we can. Maybe the boy will graduate college. Maybe LeAndre will stay around and be a good role model. Maybe Jessica can defy the odds and finish at Calhoun. Maybe, maybe maybe. Nothing is certain except the lasting love of God, and with His help, the love we have for each other even in the midst of our challenges.

Featured Education Rock Star: Alberto Aguilar, Universidad Anahuac Mayab

Beto is a high tech guru, writes his own blog (http://betoinmerida.wordpress.com) and is a second semester freshman at Universidad Anahuac Mayab in Merida Mexico.  Our group has helped Beto’s father Ezequiel with Beto’s tuition, but this year we needed to help way less than we expected.

Apparently Beto’s grades were SO GOOD that they gave him a 50% scholarship second semester!  He’s really smart apparently!

So Beto has a great family, his Mom and Dad are GREAT parents and support him and his brothers with a strong Christian home.  They attend Shalom Church in Merida and have started a mission church in nearby Dzitya.  We have helped a little with some construction funds and two work weeks by the Youth from First Pres.  But the Aguilar’s are there every week doing music and giving a message, helping out pastor Lorenzo.

Check out Beto’s blog and follow his progress.  It would be wonderful if you’d give him some encouragement!  Thanks in advance everyone!