At our house, like yours, we have a tradition of taking a photo of our kids on the first day of school. We've done it for years as a keepsake to see how they have changed from kindergarten over the years.

Early in their school days, it was fun and cute. As they progressed into middle school and high school, it was like we were asking them to donate a lung or pay taxes. Eye rolls and half-hearted hugs were the norm.

When our oldest son went off to college, there was no way we'd get a "first day" photo. I do think we got one, but there was a tattoo involved. Not what you expect. Our youngest, however, played along.

With their mom away on business for our youngest's first days of freshman and now sophomore years, we decided to have a little fun. While she asked for first day photos, we obliged but in our own sophomoric way. And I include myself in this.

For his freshman photo, I took a real close up photo of his eye and side of his head. This year, I drew a stick figure and sent a photo of that.

There were no real specifications of what the first day of school photo needed to look like, other than be a photo.

Mission accomplished.

Did I get admonished by my wife? Yes. But it was worth it.

'Don't be a lizard'

Younger generations lost out because they never knew the wit and genius of one Lewis Grizzard (rhymes with lard, not lizard). Grizzard was a Southern-born writer, newspaper columnist and humorist. He wrote lines like "It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato" and "You call to a dog and a dog will break its neck to get to you. Dogs just want to please. Call to a cat and its attitude is, 'What's in it for me?'"

Grizzard died in 1994 but left a treasure trove of books titled "Chili Dawgs Always Bark At Night" and "Don't Bend Over In the Garden, Granny. You Know Them Taters Got Eyes."

One of his columns was about him being shy and his grandfather told him not to be a lizard. A lizard? Yep. Lizards always skitter away in fear when something big come along. Folks, especially young people, can act the same way.

So as kids head back to school for their first full week, here are some anti-lizard suggestions:

• Make a new friend. If you're an upperclassman, find a freshman or sophomore that isn't already in your circle, team or club. If you don't have anyone you know in one of your classes, just get to know the person in the desk next to you. Same for lunch. Just saddle up to someone new.

• Join a club. If it's Pep Club, cheer to your heart's content! Key Club? Great! French? Spanish? Chess? Underwater Basket weavers? Just get involved.

• Talk to a teacher or guidance counselor about your future educational plans. They can help steer you in the right direction.

• Get outside your comfort zone. Why not dip your toes into public speaking? Run for a class office. Or go out for a play. What is it that holds you back or that you're afraid of? Figure it out and find out how to conquer your fear?

Being courageous isn't the absence of fear but doing what you're afraid of in spite of that. It could be the first major step you take in the long walk of life.

High school may (or may not) be the best time of your life. But life isn't just from freshman to senior years. Still, you can make high school a springboard for your life. All you have to do is jump but don't skitter away.

Eric Walker is news editor for The Mayfield Messenger. He can be reached at