It seems like I just handed diplomas to LHHS graduates, and yet, school begins on Aug. 24. Back to school rituals vary among families, but they include squeezing in a final vacation or time at the pool, trying on “school clothes” to see whether they still fit after that growth spurt, shopping for the latest and greatest gadgets and school supplies, and contemplating schedules that will quickly fill with activities and events. 

Getting ready for school is a wonderful example of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Parents and grandparents will remember that they asked many of the same questions pondered by current students: Who will be my new teacher? Will this year be harder than last year? How many days until vacation? What new students will be at school? Will the cafeteria serve anything new? What should I wear the first day of school? 

There are also trademark sights at each level of school in the first few days of the year. For kindergarten, there is the wager over who is most likely to cry at the schoolhouse door — the child or the parent. The sixth-graders are ecstatic to be the “big kids” who “own the school” (and older siblings warn them to “enjoy it, because it won’t last”). If you are taking your seventh-grader to junior high, do not even think about shooting video of your child heading to the front door (the embarrassment could be traumatic). Do not forget the traffic on Church Road as cars (some with brand new drivers!) heading to the high school and the freshman center resemble a demolition derby. These moments fall squarely within the “this, too, shall pass” category.

If you have a child attending school, I encourage you to work for a positive, supportive and encouraging start of the year. Take extra time to talk with and, more importantly, listen to your child each day, no matter how young or old he is. If you do not yet have school-age kids, or if you are an empty nester, reflect on your personal and family memories of “the beginning of school”.

The “ending” I referenced will be my words and face on this back page of the Advocate — this is my final “Last Word”.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to share with you my thoughts, emotions and reflections. I feel that I have run my course with this column, but I will have more to say and share.  You will likely hear from me via a blog, Twitter, Facebook or some other communication tool.

Our family loves this community, and we are truly blessed that we found our way to Lake Highlands more than 25 years ago. Friends and neighbors have poured into our children and welcomed us into their lives.  We strive to give back to Lake Highlands in ways that we hope maximize our abilities.  For example, I continue to enjoy my service on the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees — I am beginning my fourth term on the Board and will serve until 2012. I am interested in the future of Lake Highlands, especially assisting those who will become the new leadership for our community, neighborhoods, schools and the city. I encourage you to consider how you can give back to the community that provides so much to so many.

I am humbled and honored that the Advocate asked me to write this column. I am stunned that so many of you read my words and share with me your opinions, comments and suggestions. Whether we agree or disagree is not as important as the commitment to work for the best interests of Lake Highlands.

Please indulge my special, public and heartfelt thanks to my family, Paula, Meredith and Oz. They tolerate, support, and encourage me in all my efforts. I am empty without them.

I have closed my columns by saying, “See you at school.” This month I close with four words that I write to our kids at the end of emails and letters, and say as they leave our house — a simple reminder to all of us:  “Be smart. Be safe.”