Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Hard Time of Year

Greg was a classmate of mine in grad school. He made the classes more fun. We were older than most of the students, we both had our master degrees, but we wanted to change up what and how we were teaching. We sat together, laughing, sharing stories, enjoying the same perspective. When I worried about taking a class in assessment, Greg laughed and told me we'd do the work together. He promised me I'd be fine and we would have another three hours toward our SPED certification.

Now this. Life just doesn't get any harder or sadder.

Teacher's passing leaves void at North

Greg Beggs loved kids.

As a biology teacher for 24 years at Olathe North High School and a football coach much of that time, Beggs’ passion for young people shined through. And that’s the legacy he leaves behind, family and friends said.

Beggs, 56, died Monday from complications involving meningitis and encephalitis. He had been hospitalized since Jan. 24.

“We were hoping this week would be the week they would come up with a diagnosis,” said Sharon Beggs, Greg’s wife. “The doctors knew he had meningitis and encephalitis, but after that they didn’t know the cause of it.”

Beggs appeared to turn a corner last week and even was moved from the intensive care unit at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

An infection Feb. 20 in an intravenous line in his arm caused his fever to spike and landed Beggs back in the ICU.

The faculty and staff at Olathe North were caught off guard Monday by news of Beggs’ passing.

“He was a tough guy, and we knew he was fighting hard, so we just expected that he would come back,” said Scott Calder, who teaches at Olathe North and coached the Eagles sophomore football team with Beggs for several seasons. “That made it hard. There’s just a vacuum at North.”

Beggs loved laughter. He was quick with a joke in the classroom or with the faculty.

“Plain and simple, he was a great guy,” said Josh Carroll, who played for and later coached with Beggs. “He could always put a smile on your face. He was always a guy that, even if you were having a bad day, when you go talk to him it put you in a good mood.”

Beggs taught Carroll’s mother, Toni, when she attended Bishop Ward and later coached Carroll during the Eagles football program’s glory years.

Beggs, who coached primarily offensive line as Olathe North won seven of eight Class 6A football championships beginning in 1996, had Carroll’s younger brother, Jake, in class this year.

Josh Carroll described Beggs as a demanding coach but fair. Bryan McCall, who played at North from 1998 to 2000 and also now coaches the Eagles, agreed.

“He demanded a lot from you, but you respected him for that,” McCall said. “And he was always very complimentary when we did what he wanted. He was one of the favorite coaches on the football team. You knew that he cared about you and he was a great motivator, always trying to get the best out of people.”

The center for the 1973 University of Kansas Liberty Bowl team, Beggs always took a special interest in hard-luck kids, Sharon said.

“He liked the underdog a little bit, not necessarily everybody’s favorite kid. The project kid,” she said. “He always had a special place in his heart for those kids.”

Beggs wasn’t shy about offering paternal advice and taking extra time with those kids he felt needed it most. In that way, he had a tremendous impact.

Beggs probably could identify with those kids as an ornery sort himself.

Viewed by some as gruff and known for the occasional off-color joke, Beggs often could be found adding someone’s face to a picture with Photoshop or some such prank.

“He was ornery on the outside but a teddy bear on the inside,” Sharon said. “He really was just trying to do what’s best for the kids. I hope that’s what people will remember about him.”

Those same characteristics came off as an Eagles football coach. Beggs was famous for having the sophomore team run trick plays or use goofy language for play calls when scrimmaging against the varsity.

“That may not sound like much, but when you’re out there freezing and getting thumped around by a varsity player, little things like that can make it much more enjoyable,” Calder said. “He made football fun for the players, but he also got the kids to play hard.”

Greg and Sharon had three children — Elizabeth, 29, Tim, 27, and Catherine, 25.

Tim played on the Eagles’ first three state championship teams from 1996 to 1998.

Even for Greg, who was never the sentimental sort and didn’t spend much time reminiscing, those three titles were special, which makes sense given his devotion to his family.

“His family was his first consideration at all times,” said Gene Wier, head coach during most of those championships. “It sounds like that’s what everybody should be, but he was very, very proud of his family.”

That too is a big part of Beggs’ legacy — the sense of perspective he imparted to colleagues.

“He made sure that, as serious as football is, you didn’t take it too serious,” Carroll said. “There are always more important things, and the fact his family always came first rubbed off on a lot of guys.”

In other words, Beggs will be greatly missed at Olathe North for a great many reasons.

“It was certainly the news none of us wanted to hear obviously,” Eagles football coach Pete Flood said. “We lost a great friend, a great faculty member, a great teacher and just a great resource in our building at many different levels.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The cold, the snow, the ice, the wind, the wind-chill-index -- downers.

Today my best (and one of my favorite) students was arrested. Why? He attacked another student. Walked up and hit him in the face. The other kid deserved it, honestly. Everyone agreed. So the other kid got a 10 day suspension and a B hearing -- which means he's potentially facing expulsion from school. My kid, because he struck the blow, only got a five day suspension.

Until. My kid's mother showed up. Walked out of the school with her boy. Sat in her car with her kid. They waited until the other kid and his mother left the building, bolted from their car, and the mothers jumped each other. On the school grounds, right outside the front door windows with the student body watching.

When security showed up, my kid and his mother ran to their car and peeled off -- but five blocks later the cops caught up with them and everyone was arrested.

The temperature outside was 15 degrees. The skies were cloudy, overcast, and gray.

My kid, the one I've invested 12 months rescuing, is in jail -- with his mom. He won't be back this year at our school.

The skies got darker. The weather got colder. We need some springtime. Soon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hanging On

Thank goodness Monday was a holiday from school, but on Tuesday I had to figure out how to pack my poor self off to the classroom.

The good news:
1. For an entire workday on Tuesday I managed to smile and tell everyone I was feeling "so much better."
2. During the eight days I was out not one of "my kids" (those on my caseload) got suspended; one came close but her mother came up and visited the school and made promises.
3. My classroom was in really good shape when I came back -- nothing was out of place or missing.
4. My kids were thrilled to have me back.
5. Food tastes awful, I can't eat, and so much be losing some weight.

The bad news:
1. By Wednesday I could no longer keep up the "I'm feeling so much better" facade, and just went back to moaning periodically and looking pathetic.
2. By Wednesday the stomach problems had returned full bore -- and the bathroom doors, down a double long concrete hallway were locked on a periodic basis
3. The temperature hovers at 10 degrees with a -20 degree wind chill index; the power in the school went off over night so the school was unheated this morning.
4. Over half the staff has this congestion / stomach malady.
5. Food tastes awful, I can't eat, and so taking medication is a bitch.

Things have got to improve pretty quickly. I can't keep keeping on at this rate . . .

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Going to the Doctor's

Now Hubby has the creeping crud. We are a houseful of joy. This morning to celebrate Valentine's Day we spread the misery all around. The boys got to go to the groomer and have water sprayed on them -- and added to that insult their beards were whitened and trimmed and generally touched. Hubby took me to the doctor, not my doctor because I couldn't get an immediate appointment with her, but someone in the same clinic. He wouldn't look at me. He just wrote on a pad of paper, listened to my back, went to check the lab work (yes, I have a galloping UTI), and brought back a fist full of scripts. We then went to give all our remaining funds to the pharmacists. We are now back home, in bed, trying to recover from spending an hour out of the house.

Happy Valentine's Day to you, too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


"I think you need to go to the emergency room."

This from Hubby two nights ago as I emerged from a 10 p.m. bath. What? Why?

"You look white."

Well. Thanks for noticing, chocolate cocoa skinned guy. I am white. Have been for the last 35 years of our acquaintanceship.

"Go look in the mirror."

I dutifully trotted back into the bathroom and examined my face in the mirror. Hum. Well, it looked exactly like the face I'd been seeing for the last 61 (nearly 62) years of my life -- except without any makeup. He's seen that face a whole lot.

"I'm fine," I answered as I climbed back into bed where I'd been for the last six days. "Just fine."

"You've called the sub office?" was the only reply.


That day I had ventured forth from my bed back to the classroom but had only lasted through two periods before Hubby had to come retrieve me from school. It was the cold sweats that did me in that day. I was wearing a nice heavy fleece shirt, but I kept having these sweats that left me shivering in my boots.

Friday it had been the "every four hour" bouts of diarrhea that had kept me from going to school. On Monday of last week I thought I was getting a cold. On Tuesday I felt a tightness in my head and I sneezed a lot. On Wednesday, I sounded like I had extremely bad head cold congestion -- in fact I've sounded that way ever since. My nose runs, I cough, then I sneeze. I've coughed until even orange juice hurts going down. My nose is raw. Last night, day 10 -- my teeth hurt because of the congestion still in my head.

Every day a new symptom will appear to add to my misery. The diarrhea came with miserable cramping. It wasn't debilitating -- just two minutes of pain, run to the bathroom, wait four hours for it to hit again. However, when the bathroom is half a mile away, down a long concrete corridor (and frequently the door is locked when you get there), school is pretty much out until you get the tummy under control.

Hubby's crack about the emergency room did not help me overcome this nasty virus. The man believes firmly in the power of positive thinking, that you only need a doctor to pronounce you dead, and emergency rooms are for wimps. If he thought I looked sick enough to go to the hospital, then clearly, I was one sick cookie.

So -- I've been in bed, feeling dreadful, since last Wednesday. Luckily, Wednesday was a snow day for us -- and since I showed up Monday I didn't get docked for that as sick day -- but I'm still home, trying to get well -- and that makes four six days taken -- and actually six days out of school.

This is one evil cold. I wish it would go away. Now.

Friday, February 08, 2008

When Was I Born?

I was born on a Saturday.

My star sign is Gemini.

The season was Spring.

It is 106 days until my next Birthday.

I am 22,540 days old.

I am approximately 540,961 hours old.

I am approximately 1,947,460,903 seconds old.

On my special day in these years, these events occurred:

585 BC - The first known prediction of a solar eclipse was made in Greece.

1787 - The Constitutional convention opened in Philadelphia with George Washington presiding.

1844 - The gasoline engine was patented by Stuart Perry.

1895 - Oscar Wilde, a playwright, poet and novelist, was convicted of a morals charge and sentenced to prison in London.

1925 - John Scopes was indicted for teaching the Darwinian theory in school.

1927 - Ford Motor Company announced that the Model A would replace the Model T.

1935 - Babe Ruth hit his final homerun, his 714th, and set a record that would stand for 39 years.

1935 - Jesse Owens tied the world record for the 100-yard dash. He ran it in 9.4 seconds. He also broke three other world track records.

1961 – The United States was asked by President Kennedy to work toward putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

1968 - The Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, MO was dedicated.

1986 - Approximately 7 million Americans participated in "Hands Across America."

1992 - Jay Leno debuted as the new permanent host of NBC's "Tonight Show."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


We sound like frogs, we feel like crap, our throats are raw. I have no idea how to spell "epizoodie" -- but it's an old-fashioned word that means you have whatever current bug / cold is making the rounds. When I Googled the word, the search engine thought I meant "episode." Well, we are having an episode of the epizoodie in our household.

Darn the luck, it happened on a snow day from school. Or maybe that's a blessing, because Hubby and I holed up in the bed and slept away the morning, brewed some hot tea and ate some left over meatloaf, and then slept away the afternoon.

Awake, we'd moan at each other, shove a dog away from the foot of the bed, and pull the covers up over our chests, trying to get warm and comfortable at the same time. At least after 35 years together, we don't bite each other's heads off when we feel poorly. But this recovery is solitary business, even if we are sharing the same bed space.