Irony by Matthew Flynn

“You hear about your boy?”d22

This was the start to countless phone calls between Mark Harris and me. Mark absolutely loved to be “in the know” with regards to what was happening in his friends’ lives. And he especially liked to keep us up to date with each other.

And so it was ironic that one of my friends actually passed the news about Mark on to me. That was always Mark’s job.

Mark was the most popular man I have ever known. This was on display at the hospital last week as countless friends showed up after hearing the news. That waiting area was packed, the halls got congested, and the phones kept vibrating with messages asking if it was true. All for Mark.

As we sat in that hospital room, Erin recounted stories of Mark passing on music to everyone. Just then I realized that Mark did that with everything. He was passionate about so much in life: Erin, fatherhood, music, education, political beliefs, sports, movies. And something I recognized just then was that Mark wanted everyone to see the way he saw, to look through his eyes and listen with his ears. Rarely did I visit his home that he didn’t ask me if I had heard a certain album. If I said no, he was quick to burn that album along with 5 more like it. He wanted me to enjoy what he enjoyed.

And so it was with his multiple groups of friends. He wanted you to love the same people he loved. Look at the group of people at the hospital. Friends from his childhood talking to friends from high school consoling friends from college encouraging friends from the multiple basketball and softball leagues hugging the friends and family of his wonderful wife. I can’t tell you the number of times Mark invited my girls and me to his softball games. I don’t play softball. He wanted me to hang out with the wives and cheer on the team. I came a few times and he even asked me to fill in. (Not a good idea for either of us) But who else invites all of his friends on a tropical vacation to celebrate his wedding anniversary? Mark.

I am a confident man, but it makes me smile to recall the pride I took in Mark Harris asking me to stand up for him in his wedding. Mark had so many friends. I was just happy I knew him. When others tell me how sorry they are for my loss, I feel selfish for thinking that way. I am just one man. So many more are feeling this loss that worrying about my lack of sleep or bouts of tears seems so insignificant.

It’s ironic that even in death, Mark brings us all together again. I don’t know if that’s as ironic as it is beautiful. Watching the students, parents, teachers, and administrators present at Shorewood High School Thursday night was one of the most amazing displays of love I have ever witnessed. I always knew Mark was a great man…I just didn’t know everyone knew about it!!!

I chuckled as kids and teachers talked of a man that was so respected for his intelligence and wit. I wasn’t chuckling because it was in any way untrue. I was chuckling because I saw the early stages of this wit used in a much different capacity. No one talked more smack than Mark. It’s not even close. We played so much basketball. Pick up games were not hard to find and Mark’s height had him second guessed a lot. Minds were changed almost immediately when he coupled incredible ridicule with a dunk in someone’s face. It was that quick wit that had people dumbstruck that had began so sure they could “take” Mark. You couldn’t take him on the basketball court and there was no way of you making him back down in a “debate”. Never have I seen a man his height talk so many people out of messing with him. It was ironic that the shortest man on the court caught the least amount of flack. I was always happy that I was on his side.

And lastly, I can’t help but note the irony of the strongest man, both physically and mentally, I have ever known passing at such an early age. I would have never supposed that Mark could be taken from us so soon. He was Superman in all of our eyes. The only answer I can think of comes from someone else, I believe a student of Mark’s. God must have wanted Mark near Him. I can understand that. I want Mark near me again too.

My mentor by Carla Ramos

My name is Carla Ramos. I was a student of Mr.Harris at Bruce Guadalupe. I must say, that he really did a lot for me. I was a pretty lost teenager, Mr.Harris use to tell me.. “You are not lost! You know where you are
Going but you have to follow the path first.” I remember the long talks he would have with me after school. From being bullied to my home life to surfing the web about what I wanted to be when the time came. I am heart-broken that I never told him what a huge difference he made in my life. He touched my heart in such a special way that I can still hear his voice telling me ” I won’t kick you out of my class because that’s what you want & I won’t give up on you but instead you can come write everything I’m saying on this white board.” He never held anything back! He was so blunt but it was only because he cared! Only in 6th and 7th grade & I had someone who I looked up to, I wanted to make Mr.Harris proud! I hope I did.

Parent Activity Night at SIS by Carolyn Curran

Mark pushed PTO to come up with ways to get parents into the building. We talked much about a “MomProm” but couldn’t get that off the ground. It was important to him in his mission to PTO leaders that we reach the community—and he stressed heartily not just “shorewood residential” community but “SIS Community” and it’s many 220 and open-enrollment families. He wanted to take an event closer to these families, but we didn’t quite get to this.

What we did get to was Parent Activity Night, much like the kind the kids experience monthly on Fridays. We had a DJ, played awesome 80s tunes. Mark trotted out those excellent yellow pants, got us into a fierce game of dodgeball in the gym (that man was scary with that ball—he meant business!!!) And then he declared, “to the dance floor for Soul Train,” and lead the way with his groovy moves. It was an excellent evening of fun and laughs and camaraderie.

His leadership, creativity, and approachability made him a dearly missed principal for this PTO volunteer. I’m sure Karen Maierle and Jill Heindl join me in reflecting on the time we worked with him and will miss the energy and ideas he shared. We were just beginning to plan the 8th grade Celebration for our children who will leave SIS 2015 spring, and hopefully we’ll plan an evening in keeping with the thoughts he had time to share with us. My heart is heavy as I think of the shortness of his life and the family that will miss his guidance and humor and love. I never attended a meeting in his office when he didn’t mention Erin and the kids. His family, friends and career shaped his heart.

Marky Mark by Chango

Where to begin? In life you really find out who your friends are when you’re down and out. When I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, Mark was there for me. He was trying to save me from going to a bad place for something very stupid I did when I was younger. Thank god it worked. He even offered to write a check he knew would bounce like a super ball just to save me. “I’ll take the hit” in reference to the overdraft fee as friends were gathered at my house waiting for me so we could start Club 42. That was Mark. Living in Minnesota, It gets lonely without any family here or close friends from back home to hang out with. Mark was one of the rare people who visited me yearly. That chair you always sat in was basically yours because no one, and I mean no one sat in it but you. Thank you for making time for me all these years. I’ll miss you dearly. Signed a truly heartbroken friend. Chongo


Unforgettable by FREEDOM

Yesterday, I woke up with the intention to do better. Today, I woke with the intention to feel better. Tomorrow, if it comes, I will give thanks… for every moment, for every hand, for every heart, for every laugh, and for every jewel.

Thank you so much…

I will give thanks for you in the morning, my dearest friend.

This story is bigger than a degree, larger than a call, and wider than my dream’s reach. This story is about an infinite bond that ties us LIVING creatures together. YOU ARE LIVING. YOU ARE ALIVE. YOU ARE FREE. YOU ARE SMILING a grand smile…

So why am I crying?

Well, everyone can’t see you…

They can’t touch you, they can’t smell you…

We can hear you though. We feel you though…

Mark, I am done crying.

God, I wish I was done crying…

God thank you for sharing such a LIVING LIGHT. Thank you for sending the world an Angel, specifically designed for us!

I love you Mark.

No goodbyes, just goodnight, Warrior.

I will see you in the Morning…


“That’s why darling its incredible, that someone so unforgettable, thinks that I am unforgettable too…”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLofmo8OGD4&list=RDZLofmo8OGD4#t=0

Unbreakable Competitive Spirit by Eric Bobke

Whether it was on the basketball court or the softball field some of my fondest memories will always be of Mark and his intense competitive spirit. He was a gifted athlete as much as he was a great friend, father, husband, and teacher. Sunday afternoons Will never be the same and Saturday mornings playing basketball with Mark will be missed greatly. Mark touched all of us in many different ways but I will always remember him so much for his competitive spirit and fire.

Tickled Pink by Mindy Makinster

Mark was a dad I saw in our school…Stormonth , bringing dinner to his lovely wife, walking through the halls after parent teacher conferences and attending the programs of his sweet children . One day on particular I saw Mark wearing all PINK, holding the Book PINKALICIOUS sporting a beautiful pink “princess” crown and a magic wand. I told him I loved his attire and if you don’t know me…I am a bit obsessed with pink, so I was actually seroious! His day was spent being Lucia’s guest reader. Well, PINKALICIOUS is Lucia’s favorite book…and mine too. The sight of Mark so proudly sporting an outfit like this, brought a warm feeling to my heart. As he left the building…I yelled, “thanks for wearing pink today” He laughed and kept walking, but I wanted to say was…” Everyone deserves to experience a dad like you!” You have touched so many lives, but non are as profound as the three little Harris children you have raised to be such darling children. I feel so lucky to have my “little PINKALICIOUS” at Stormonth. And cooper…an amazing clone of his father. Some day I will greet CeCe with hugs and smiles. But know that my friendship with Erin will be each day. A family I love and care to help. May rest in peace knowing our family is loved by the Stormonth Family. Xxoo Mindy Makinster…otherwise known as the Pink Teacher

Shared Passion for Music Makes Me Late for Class by epacsenur414

I remember walking down the halls of Shorewood High School on my way to class, when Mr. Harris waved me into his office. I thought I had done something wrong, but he just wanted to see what was going on with me lately. I sat in his office chatting with him for a few moments when I heard the bell ring. HWe talked about anything and everything, but most of all; music. A 2-minute chat turned into an hour-long conversation about the progression and hierarchy of music, and the appreciation of all types of music and the joy it brought to us. We opened each other up to music we had never heard before or forgotten about. He pushed me to open my ears back up to 3 Doors Down and U2 as I lead him to bands such as Three Days Grace. Everything from Boston, to The Black Eyed Peas, to 311 and everything in between was involved with the conversation, and I left his office refreshed with a pass to class. From that point on, I knew that it didn’t matter what we talked about, good or bad, I had a friend in him. He was one of the best men I’ve ever met, and I’ll always hold him dear to my heart. My friend, My brother in musical soul, may we see each other again someday and continue that conversation we had years ago.

Amazing Colleague and Friend by Denise Taylor

Mark was an amazing educator. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him while we were at Bruce Guadalupe. Both of my boys also had him for a teacher, but that is not what they remember the most. They remember the times after school when he would come down to the gym to play with them and Laura’s girls. They remember going to a Buck’s game with him and the other teachers.

So many of his students remember specific lessons and the things he said and did to make them feel special. He was an inspiration to so many people. He will always be remembered. He was a true blessing to those whose lives he touched.

The Discipline by Robert Williams

Many Many memories of Mark Harris. Trips to Cleveland to Chicago and Green Bay. Mark was an amazing amazing man, friend and inspiration to me. Mark always knew how to make me laugh, make me step outside my boundaries and introduced me to many many beautiful lifelong friends and memories. Our flag football days are still memories that I cherish to this day. Being his roommate for years I got to experience the great person Mark was daily. You will be missed bro. I will make sure your name and your memory will never ever be forgotten. Love you bro

Hot Hands
Robert Williams

Thank you for letting me photograph your precious family… by Andrea Weiss

I am forever grateful that I have been able to photograph your beautiful family these past few years. I will always remember Mark as a family man. I could immediately see how much he loved you as his wife and your three precious babies. We all know kids can get a bit rambunctious at photo shoots but Mark was always patient and displayed a quiet leadership that I saw your children positively react to. Your family has always been one of my favorites and I’m honored to have witnessed your unconditional love for one another. My heart aches for you but I also know you experienced a love story some can only dream of and for that I am so thankful. I am praying for you, Cooper, Lucia and Cecelia and asking God to surround you in indescribable comfort and love that can only come from Him.

All my love sweet friend. I am here if you need anything.
Andrea Weiss

The Day He Saved My Life   anonymous

When I first entered Shorewood High School everything was a labyrinth. Being a very shy and introverted person it was very isolating to say the least. Freshman year was one of, if not the most traumatic year of my life. Within a few weeks I realized I had no friends. Everyone was growing apart from one another. Widespread apathy. Isolation. It was contradicting to feel so alone in a place full of people. 

During this period of my life I felt physically and emotionally abused at home by my parents. Mostly my father who also abused my mother. There was no one to talk to.
Very rarely were there any visible marks of physical abuse by them but the emotional scars were deeper than any of my peers or teachers could comprehend. It was so easy to hide everything.
Sometimes I would walk into class literally just after fighting with one my parents. On many occasions I would be in class trying desperately to sit and listen but simply couldn’t because my face was still hot and swelled from crying and my skin was stinging from being struck before I arrived. Imagine sitting at your desk listening to your health teacher talk about domestic abuse after your father just had his hand wrapped around your throat screaming in your face.
I fell behind in school often because I was constantly trying to channel this pain in the only way I could which was art. It was all I could ever focus on. Art was my main priority because it was the only thing keeping me alive.
It was not and never will be just a career path.
Doodling in class was the only way to distract. I couldn’t sit still and focus on the teacher. I was too busy trying to maintain life and sanity.
This was the year I almost took my life.
Hopelessness consumed me. But after I survived my suicide attempt I new something was telling me I had to overcome this obstacle. There was a way to cope I just needed to find it.
I remember the day I finally realized enough was enough.
I had stormed out of my father’s car after he hit me and screamed at me for lying about being at a house with my sister and her friends he didn’t want me to be at.
I walked into the administration building and found my sister’s friend who asked me what was wrong. After opening up to her she gave me the strength to finally come forward and tell someone what was going on.
I sat down in Mr. Harris’ office across from his desk. I’ll always remember the deep and sincere stare he had on his face. All of a sudden I felt safe.
I told him everything. He was the first person to know the truth about my life and my pain. At that moment he felt like more of a father figure than anyone else had ever been in my life because I finally felt protected.
After opening up to him the police became involved followed by questioning with my parents. Not to my surprise they told the police and Mr. Harris that I was lying. I had been exaggerating and they were only disciplining me for my own good.
Anyone who has been abused and accused of lying knows how traumatizing it feels to be told none of the pain you experienced happened.
But Mr. Harris always believed me. He was the first person I opened up to and the first person to believe me and give me hope. He was the first person to confront my father. The first person to stand up for me at my side and fight against what was happening. He told me if anything ever happened again to come to him. He helped me escape. After that day it felt like he gave me the power to protect myself. From then on, I always felt like he was there to protect me.
I now understand why he always brought me into his office to check on me and ask about my truancy.
I was at the time a very angry and troubled person and I resented him for making me feel like I was a “bad” kid but I realize now he was watching over me.
He made me feel like I did matter and that I did have the potential to bring something good into this world.
He always encouraged my art- my life source.
He never asked me what I was going to do with art in my life, he just told me to keep it up.
To be honest, when I found out he passed I thought “Wow, I’ve only had bad experiences with him he probably thought I was such a punk ass and was always trying to get me in trouble all the time.”
But then I remembered why he had felt so overbearing at times…because that man truly did care about me. And every single student at Shorewood High School for that matter.
He treated everyone like they were his own. He had the capacity to make anyone feel cared for and loved even when they didn’t have the capacity to love themselves.
I am eternally grateful for Mr. Harris and the strength he gave me that day. I will always remember him as the man who saved my life.

More than an Educator by Kia

Mark was much more than an educator. He was a friend, a role model, and an inspiration to us all. His smile and personality could turn a bad day into a cherished memory. He believed in all of his students and touched us in a way that left a lasting impression.

As a student in Marquette’s Upward Bound program, Mark taught me patience, motivation, and determination. The last time I saw him, he was so happy. He had just married the love of his life and was considering furthering his teaching career. My best friend and I updated him on our lives and he looked at me with that memorable smirk on his face and said “I always knew you would be ok.” I felt so proud to hear him say those words because it meant a lot to me. I remember sitting in his office talking about what I wanted to do for college, and he said, “Don’t take the easy way out. Do what makes you happy.” Those words didn’t have much meaning for me back then because I was so lost, but now, I understand and wish I would have made different choices the first time around.

Mark connected with his students on a personal level and gave his time and advise generously. He is irreplaceable! His spirit will live on in the hearts of all of the lives he has touched. I love you Mark. May you rest in peace.

I’m so glad by wwiderb


I’m so glad I got to see you this year, and meet your lovely family. It had been so many years ago that I had last seen you. It was when you were a little boy playing AAU basketball on the same teams as my son.

You were one of the smaller players on the team, but your heart, drive and will were that of a giant.

Your memory will forever remain in my heart and mind.

A Lifelong Friend by Ben Sherwood

c98What an honor to call Mark Harris my friend for 35 years. I never would have imagined that a short kid with coke bottle glasses from the city and a goofy looking redhead from the burbs would hook up and share countless memories through four decades. If we weren’t rolling down Hwy 100 cranking ‘I’m Bad’, we could be caught debating philosophy, faith, politics, or the best Bucks and Brewers of the 80s and 90s.

His will and wit were somehow stronger than his physical person, an impressive feat. His intelligence was only matched by his ability to communicate his position to the masses. Sure he could sometimes be overly-critical and stubborn, but he used those traits to drive his competitiveness and defend his friends and family. He was truly a great man, husband, father, brother, professional, and friend.

I regret using distance and obligation as excuses from seeing more of him and his family over the years, but we made the most of grabbing a beer from time to time to crosscheck our progress on answering life’s questions. My son said he didn’t get to know Mr. Harris very well, but I assured him that Mark was a big part of who I am, and I would do my best to pass those traits down to him. Mark touched us all, and we are all better for it!

I am equally grateful that Mark found Erin. Their love is obvious, and he never was shy in telling everyone how “hot” she is, though I knew he truly admired her trust and friendship more than anything. She has unbelievable strength, and their family will thrive with her at the helm.

My condolences go out to all the family and friends that will miss him dearly.

Mark’s memory will live with me forever, and there were so many good ones that I thought I’d list a few that could hopefully bring a smile to those involved or heard Mark tell his version over the years…

FourSquare – No Bobbles
The Curb – Run Mr. Pronto Run
Danelle’s Frisbee Gift – A romantic from day 1
Doug Johansen’s Basement
Running Man Home Game on the Spree
Short hoops at HC and Bastian’s
Mr. K – Fat Dog!
Garbage Day with the Stanza
The Paul Shane Haircut
Hallway before games…”Gonna bust that…”
“You ready to go home?”
Pool in Pond’s Basement
Mr. and Mrs. Burill
Going to Cali with Barb and Steve. Iesha!!
TBS / Chicken Soft Taco
Craps at the State Baseball Tourney
Bottle Rocket fun at the Houle’s
Checkers with Willie
Wolski’s neighbor
Around the World
18 at LakePark
The Shaboo Defense
Gorilla Tactics
Seattle and Vancouver – Rick’s B&B
The Knee Reenactment
Strande’s Basement the night before the wedding…Play it Stu!!
31 – Pig Pen
The Packer Games

Until the next chapter…Love and Prayers,

Mark’s Weekly Words to SIS Families by jaycb

When we got word a couple of years ago of a transition in SIS leadership, as a parent of an SIS student, I was concerned about the district finding someone who would be able to reach kids in a very tough stage of development.

When I first heard Mr. Harris speak, I knew that we had nothing to worry about. A guy with that sense of humor and life experience knew exactly what he was getting into and was a great fit for the job.

Mark reinforced this regularly, as he faithfully wrote a few personal words to parents in most SIS Weekly Bulletins. Although I barely knew him beyond his role as a leader at SIS, I loved the way we learned about his life and devotion to his family through those insightful glimpses. Through his words he made it easier for me as a parent to make that transition from elementary to middle school.

Thank you to Mark’s entire family for supporting him as he gave so many of his waking hours supporting our kids. I am so glad that I had a chance to meet & speak with him and read his answers to the question, “Who is this guy?”

My apologies for the length of this, but I wanted others to be able to see for themselves some highlights from what Mark chose to write to us each week, besides “just the facts” about tardiness, morning drop-offs, and of course many deserved accolades to his staff and our kids.

Principal’s messages in SIS Weekly Bulletin e-mailed to parents

September 12, 2013
Message From Mark Harris:

If you have not met me yet, I will be the guy chasing three little curly-headed kids around the campus. I will be sure to say “hi” when they let me rest.

September 19, 2013

I “interrupted” a lesson … regarding the history of rap and the African influences that are intrinsic to the music. In throwing in my two cents, we started a conversation with a couple students that continued into lunch time. I should also mention that I remain undefeated in pickleball and am willing to take on all comers!

October 9, 2013
… I was able to spend a couple of hours with each group out at camp. … I was anxious to get home and see my family after a long day, but then I started to think about [teachers staying overnight]. I was going home to see my kiddos and wife, but they were giving up the better part of four straight days with their families to give our seventh graders such a valuable experience.

December 19, 2013
First and foremost, I would like to wish our school community a safe and relaxing holiday season! I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife and little whippersnappers. I have a simple little Persian quote that I used quite a bit at SHS: “The fish cannot see the water.” It means that we often overlook or take for granted things we experience continuously and people in our lives we see all the time. I encourage you to “see the water” during this time you have with your family.

As most of you know, we had our first SIS dance last week Friday. I have to be honest; dances are up there on the short list of why you don’t want to be a principal. In retrospect, I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time. Here are my observations:

The DJ had our kids dancing all night…although my ears are still ringing and I’m upset that my Charlie Pride and Guy Lombardo requests were not honored.

My attempt at teaching your kids how to do a Soul Train line proved to be futile.

January 9, 2014
I hope that you all survived the cold! Unfortunately, my furnace and car battery did not.

January 16, 2014

I will be on jury duty next week Tuesday through Thursday. There will be coverage for the principal’s office each day. If my jury duty history holds true, I should be back by Wednesday. (I have just jinxed myself; I’ll probably be sequestered.)

January 30, 2014

I’m sure you are all on the edge of your seats wondering how jury duty went for me last week. Let me start by saying that if you are a people watcher, jury duty is the place to be. It was interesting to see people from so many different walks of life. On both days, we sat outside the courtroom for 45 minutes waiting to be called in for cases that were eventually settled. I have been released from jury duty for at least four years. Although anticlimactic, it was still a valuable experience in civic duty.

February 6, 2014

Lastly, my wife is going to Denver for the weekend and leaving the kids with me. Pray for me and be ready for local grocers to run out of Hamburger Helper and Chef Boyardee.

February 13, 2014

I’m sure some of you have been waiting for my weekend update of wife out of town leaving kids with Daddy. I had a blast! I should have told you all to invest in local fast food restaurant stock. The time with my kids reinforced for me how fast they are growing up. I thought about you (SIS parents) many times over the weekend, as I’m sure you have felt that you had this little baby in your arms, blinked, and now they are almost heading to high school. Step back and enjoy their presence and their essence, appreciate their perfect imperfections, and celebrate even their littlest accomplishments.

Finally, I had a chance to go to Winter Experience on Tuesday and will be going back today. If you heard any stories about me flying butt-over-teakettle off of the broom-ball rink, please chalk it up as hyperbole. Oh, how kids like to embellish!

February 20, 2014

Finally, I gave a tour last week to a family considering a move to the North Shore and visiting all the area schools. The family is very interested in the performing arts, and a school outside of Shorewood told the family that Shorewood is THE place to be. I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment after seeing many performances over the last few years, including last night’s Band-o-Rama. I was concerned that my little ones (especially 19-month-old Cecilia) would be disinterested to the point we would have to leave early. My kids were in awe of the talent of our kids under the guidance of Mr. Olson and Mr. Terrasi. I owe them a bit of thanks because Cecilia fell asleep by the time we reached Oakland and Kensington, which was music to my ears (pun intended).

February 27, 2014

If you’re a fan of early David Letterman, you should enjoy the following…

From our home office in Omaha, NE, Top Ten (unedited!) quotes overheard at Winter Experience:

10. I learned that there were relatable and friendly all around me.

1. Mr. Harris is the greatest broom ball player in the history of the modern world. I still have flashbacks of the grace with which he would glide across the ice while smashing shots past goalies that moved across the sky with vapor trails.

Okay, maybe I embellished that last one, but I hope these comments help you understand the impact Winter Experience may have had on your child. Thanks again to the staff and parents that gave their time to make it happen.

March 13, 2014

I hope you all got the chance to see Mulan this past weekend. I went with my 4-year-old, Lucia, and we absolutely loved it. Congratulations on a job well done to all involved! It takes the collective effort of the actors onstage, the crew backstage, the faculty directors, and a boatload of supportive parents to put on such a well-done production. The only bad part was that my son Cooper couldn’t go with us because he was sick. He made it through Lucy’s first three reenactments, but lost it when she started to shake her backside like a certain little dragon.

March 20, 2014

As I write this, we are beginning our second day of Courage Retreats. Our eighth graders spent all day yesterday together in the gym. They experienced a gambit of emotions from smiles to tears. I have to admit that I experienced those emotions yesterday myself, and it felt…GREAT! If your kids come home and tell you I was crying, tell them I’m having problems with my contact lenses…I have allergies…and I am sensitive to light 😉 Your children were amazing. They participated. They opened up to the experience and left themselves vulnerable in a good way. One lesson learned: I didn’t order enough pizza to quite fill up the kids, but I will make note of that for future retreats.

In 4th grade I took up the viola. Man, was I excited! I was going to be the next…er…I don’t know any famous viola players. I still remember the first song we learned: “The B.A.G. Hustle.” Or rather, the first song the other viola players learned; I had no commitment and was terrible. I would go to concerts and sit in the far back where only my bow could be seen amongst the rest of the players. I would set the viola in my lap and move my bow in the direction I saw the other kids move theirs. Needless to say, my music career stalled in 4th grade.

I mention this because I dropped in on the District Solo and Ensemble Festival last weekend. … To echo the words of the judges, they were amazing! I was blown away by the talent, commitment, and dedication of our students. I was incognito in jeans, a sweatshirt and a funky (but astonishingly stylish) knit cap to allow me to eavesdrop a bit on conversations amongst parents and participants. There was a common theme: they couldn’t get over how talented our students are. I give kudos to all the students who performed and to the parents who have supported their commitment. …

March 27, 2014

To end on a positive note, spring break is upon us! I hope you all enjoy the time with your families, and hopefully (unlike me) you get a chance to do some traveling. My wife (who is a teacher) and my children have a different spring break — so no traveling for us. Don’t feel too badly for me, as I get to spend the week with Cecilia, my eighteen-month-old. She’s a cutie and I am looking forward to some daddy time with her! Enjoy your break and be safe!

April 17, 2014

I just completed my second stint of “Dad at home with the kids” while my wife visits her new baby nephew in Colorado. Time alone with my little ones taught me three important parenting lessons:

Buy action figure toothpaste and kids will volunteer to brush their teeth.
Buy action figure bubble bath and kids will volunteer to take a bath.
If you avoid using the stove, the last-minute “we didn’t make a mess” clean up dash will be much more manageable.

Thanks so much to the SIS PTO for their work in planning Parent Activity Night. If you were unable to make it, you missed a genuinely good time. Dancing and dodgeball dominated the evening. Apparently Shorewood is the home of undercover soul. The only thing that stopped a Soul Train line that would have made Don Cornelius proud was the playing of “Let’s Go Crazy” instead of “September.” Still, the parents tore up the dance floor, the DJ did an amazing job, and those of us with two left feet had great conversations.

Then (actually, first) came dodgeball. A group of six parents led the charge to play, and the group swelled to a gym full of fireballers that would have brought tears to the eyes of Patches O’Houlihan. I’ve been both praised and ridiculed for my overly aggressive performance. In my own defense, who in their right mind would ask the principal to play dodgeball against parents in April after an unforgiving winter with a week of Daddy Daycare on the horizon?

May 1, 2014

Lastly, we are getting ready for the end of the school year. It seems like only yesterday I stood in front of my closet staring at a pair of yellow pants with the TJ Maxx tags still intact contemplating whether or not I could pull them off (figuratively).

As I have gotten older and had children of my own, I have become more emotional. Kids do that to you. I came across a video that brought tears to my eyes. (I should admit that Jimmy Chitwood’s final shot in Hoosiers and Danny Noonan’s putt in Caddyshack bring me to tears, so take that with a grain of salt.) This clip made me think about how often we judge a book by its cover. It speaks of how we often underestimate people. Mostly it speaks of how we all have gifts. It’s six minutes long, and I hope you can find some time to watch it.

May 8, 2014

After a brutal winter, this somewhat pleasant (if you like 50s and rain) weather is making our kids squirrely. I ask that you keep having conversations with your children to finish the year as focused as possible. Seventeen years ago today, I took my last college final and got a “D,” the only one I ever received on a report card. It was disappointing that a “D” was the cherry I chose to garnish my education sundae with (even though it was in math, my worst subject). The problem was, I had checked out weeks before the exam and was lucky to get even a “D.” Let’s work together to help our kids finish this year strong and keep an upward trajectory as they transition to 8th grade and high school.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there! My son’s sixth birthday party is tomorrow and my wife’s birthday is on Mother’s Day. I must leave you now to wrap my son Cooper’s Larry Bird jersey and purchase items for my wife that I estimate will be returned to a store in no less than 72 hours.

May 15, 2014

I hope this bulletin finds you afloat, considering the amount of rain we’ve been getting lately. On a personal note, I’m fresh off of celebrating my son Cooper’s sixth birthday yesterday. I got him that gift that all six-year-old boys want: a Larry Bird Celtics jersey. Maybe it is the gift that all 39-year-old dads want their six-year-old sons to have, but if its power of osmosis gives him a lights-out jump shot, it will have been worth it.

May 22, 2014

As I approach Memorial Day weekends, I usually ruminate on the fact that I wasn’t close to my father who passed away 14 years ago at the age of 84. In fact, because of my stubbornness, I didn’t talk to him for the last 10 years of his life. I plan to use my time off to reflect upon him as a person and the struggles he went through as a black man growing up in the South during segregation and the civil rights movement. Doing so will help me to remember the sacrifices those who came before me made to open the doors of opportunity for me and my family.

Be good, be safe, and don’t underestimate the flavor explosion commonly known as the cheddarwurst!

May 29, 2014

Tomorrow is our outing to the Brewers game. I am hoping to be there with my brood. My daughter is having a procedure at Children’s Hospital tomorrow morning, but she is a tough cookie. I assume we will be in attendance watching the Crew take it to the…the…(I can’t even bring myself to say the team’s name).

Have a great weekend. You will find me at the Lake Bluff baseball diamond cheering on two of my three children, trying hard not to end up in the Facebook post of “10 parents that should never attend a youth sporting event because they think their child is heading to the pros by next Tuesday.”

June 5, 2014
As we are approaching the end of the school year, I cannot help but conjure up images of Leon Lett. Who is he, you might ask? Let’s hop in the way-back machine and travel back to Superbowl XXVII. Leon Lett recovered a fumble on the 35-yard line and headed toward the end zone for an easy score. When he got to the 10-yard line, he began to slow down and lost focus on the goal. He made it all about himself and forgot about his teammates. Leon stretched out the ball to show off. Don Bebe chased him down, knocked the ball out of his hands, and cost him a touchdown.

August 29, 2014
I’m sure you feel the same as I do: summer was a blur. It seemed like just yesterday students were finishing their hotdogs and signing yearbooks, and teachers were burning rubber out of the parking lot listening to Alice Cooper.

When I first came to Shorewood, there were plans in place that included closing SIS. Oh, how things have changed. SIS alone registered seventeen new resident students this summer. …

Lastly, please find time to thank our secretaries and custodians when you see them. Because of the summer school and recreation department programming that goes on at SIS over the summer, our staff gets a much later start in preparing for the coming school year. The outro to Benny Hill doesn’t have people moving faster than our secretaries and custodians!

September 11, 2014

I am excited to spend time with SIS families tomorrow at our PTO-sponsored family picnic. My wife Erin, daughters Lucy and Cecilia, and my son Cooper will be joining me at the picnic. Last year’s event was interesting, as most faces there were new to us, but SIS families were very welcoming and friendly. What would really make this event more complete is if more families residing outside of Shorewood join us for an evening of camaraderie.

September 18, 2014
Anyone who knows me knows that I am the worst at buying gifts. Actually, it’s the giving of gifts that I struggle with because I have no patience waiting to give the gifts. I’m pretty sure my kids think Christmas is in November.

October 16, 2014
It’s been a whirlwind week for me, so I apologize that I don’t have much to tell you this week.

These testimonials were originally posted on a memorial website created for Mark.

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