Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bilbo's Next Journey

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I just found out about an hour ago that I am going to need to move out of my mothers house and I confess I have some really strong mixed emotions about the situation and how the whole matter went down. I am not going to go into any details because it's a family matter and will only say I was caught off guard.... Over the next couple of weeks I am going to need to quickly work through the various angles regarding my new living situation and I am both excited for the new possibilities and dread the prospect of moving at this time of the year. It's not going to be easy with my work schedule and all the various things involved in any moving situation. I was really hoping for things to settle down this fall but it now looks like my life is going to be very hectic for the next six weeks or so. Fortunately I don't have alot of stuff to move but on the other hand I really don't have any bedroom furniture since I was using my mom's for the past four years. I may have to sleep on my camping pads for awhile......And....then there is the emotional angle to all of this. For the past four years I have felt somewhat like an orphan since I was living in my mom's house and I have come to realize that I have a great need in my life at this time to create some space and have a place I can call my own.....which is something I have never really had in my life....I don't know how this is all going to go down because things are somewhat complicated by the fact that I have two sons who have expressed a desire to live me, under the right living situation which is complicated by their school situation, and my girlfriend Lynn who I still need to work some things out with.....At this point, it is critical that I take one day at a time and put to practice many of the things I have learned about dealing with stress, anxiety, and the flood of emotions that are triggered by such turn of events in life. It will be a challenge no doubt but with new challenges come new possibilities and I think I am up for the challenge, this time.....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ponderings, paradoxes, and the past

I have done a bit of reminiscencing the last couple of days about the past while thinking about Julie Bogart's question "can you choose your beliefs" and reading about L'abri over at the Pomoxian
discussion group. At one time I had my heart set on becoming a L'abri worker and eventual staff member but that dream came to a screeching halt when L'abri's founder Francis Schaeffer was diagnosed with cancer. It was a painful time in my life emotionally on several fronts and I do sometimes wonder what "might" have happened if I had chosen a different path at a number of points along the way in the early 1980's. Generally, I don't think too much about the past but at the moment it seems to be on my mind. I also sometimes ponder how much control I really have regarding the choices I often make. I admit I fluctuate back and forth....because..... I can't really live with the implications that we have no choice yet it seems very clear, to "me", that there are so many variables, that are not in my control, that influence my choices which implies I may not be in control of what I believe and do as I think I might. Bottom's a quandry.....a mystery....and....a paradox...and.....that's what makes life interesting and makes faith, as defined as hope, a prerequisite for daily living...because when we lose hope in ourselves, our future, God as we understand God, than despair is bound to follow. And, I can't help thinking that so many people in this world have lost hope and the loss of hope breeds desperation and is the trigger to many of our problems in the world. I am not blaming the folks who have lost hope in the world because loss of hope ought to be seen as a human tradegy....but...unfortunately, so many individuals and world leaders don't seem to understand the plight of those who have lost hope thus they cannot empathize and thus often take advantage or blame the people who need our help the most.......Although we may choose to not think about the past most of the time, our past, is always with us. We may not acknowledge it, like it, or even give it the time of the day but it lives in our soul.....and.....we can never change the past which is why we should never ponder too deeply or too long about those aspects of our past life we wish we could forget.....but....ponder and reminiscence we must from time to time and think about what could of, wish would of, orwonder why life didn't turn out the way it did. It turned out the way it did because of who we were at a particular time in our lives and the variables that were out of our control manifested their own destiny which most of us will never understand in this life, or perhaps even in the next.....Life goes on, choices must be made, and unexpected variables will always come into play. That is the nature of life and their doesn't appear to be a damn thing we can do about the life that is given to the best you can with the gifts, talents, and wisdom you possess.....hope and pray....and eat and be merry.....for someday.....we all will return to the matter who we or poor....

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tearing it up: The week in review

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I just finished my second week of teaching. I was a bit conerned earlier in the week because several of my classes were a bit more lively than I am accustomed to. Generally, the students are somewhat subdued in the first couple of weeks but that was not the case this year. They came out of the gates yipping and yapping...but....I have since put the clamps on the potential problem with the implementation of my new seating chart. Most teachers assign seating charts the first couple of days but I wait for a couple of weeks until I get to know the kids and the potential challenges. Than I make my seating and break up all the little cliques and place the kids who might be a potential problem in strategic locations in my room. It generally works pretty well since I have written less than two referals a year for the past five years which ain't too bad considering the nature of the high school beast......The rest of the week had it's ups and downs.... On the up side...I have been tearing it up on my workout regiment. I am now working out about an hour and a half a day, five days a week. I have currently abandoned the gym for the foothills outside of town where I either hike or ride my mountain bike. It's been a real challenge during the week because I do my work outs in the extreme heat but the benefits more than make up for the pain I go through while sweating like a pig as I ride and hike up and down the foothills outside of town. I am gradually building up quite a tolerance to the heat and the physical pain of a good workout. I have also lost about ten pounds over the last four weeks and feel better than I have in years. I don't know how long I am going to be able to ride this wave but I am on top of things right now and am going to try to keep it up as long as I can...on the down side of things....I was caught off guard at the end of the week regarding several personal relationship matters and my living situation which I would prefer to not go into...but...Let's just say I was emotionally flooded for about thirty six hours to the point that the red alert button was on. I still don't handle these unexpected situations all that well even though they generally work out better than I always imagine. And, it is so frustrating because more often than not there is so little I can really do especially when others are involved. I have learned over the years that I cannot think my way through the problems and just laying around worrying or complaining about the situation doesn't help either. Maybe I just need to get on my bike and ride for a couple of hours when the shit hits the fan.....anyway......the temporary crisis mode is now over and life is back to normal which is the way I like it but I better not get too comfortable because it's only a matter of time until the merry go round starts again.....which....I guess is just the way the world turns.......

Friday, August 11, 2006

Back to Work

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I started work this week after being off for approximately eight weeks. I went into work on Monday morning but didn't actually start teaching until Wednesday. Each year I have somewhat mixed emotions about going back to work. I generally enjoy teaching and I do like being around the kids I teach. The kids I work with most often are great kids and their smiling faces magically provide me with alot of energy that is needed to do my job. So what is their not to like about being a high school teacher?....It's the other stuff, like the fast, pressure packed pace that is imposed on you by "the system". Six fifty minute periods....rush, rush, rush...quickly finish the chapter....take the test...move quickly through the next unit...cover all the material....get through World War I before the end of the semester....etc. etc.....I propose that the system we have created is neither natural or healthy to the human mind, body, or spirit....which.....might help explain why so many students don't like school and so many teachers get burned out by October, which means that most teachers are acting in survival mode for most of the year. Being self aware of the situation is helpful but actually being able to do something about it is another matter because I don't control the bell system, the curriculum, the choice of textbooks, or the various tests I administer. I don't mean to come across as bitter or a whiner. Thank God I have a job and financial security, for the most part......I also don't like the fact that I come home many days just wiped out which is why my blogging activity, excercise, and motivation to do this or that becomes increasingly difficult. As always,I enter the new school year determined to not get so caught up in the frantic pace that surrounds me....and....this year I am more optimistic than the last three years because I don't have any major changes to make on the curriculum front which means I can resort to tweaking this or that. Iv'e got my fingers crossed that I don't get blind sided by some big unexpected stressor. Of course I can't control many of the variables that come our way in life but I do hope and pray that things calm down a bit in the Shire this upcoming school year.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bruce is Back!

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Bruce is back. Earlier this month Bruce Cockburn released his 29 album entitled Life Short Call Now, his first new album in three years. I purchased the album while on vacation and have been listening to it off and on for the past couple of weeks. There are a couple of really nice instrumentals on this C.D., particularly Jerusalem Poker and a catchy tune or two. My two favorite songs are To Fit into my Heart and See you Tomorrow. Cockburn also includes a song about Baghdad which was probably inspired by his trip to Baghdad a couple of years ago. This is not Bruce's best album but I would classify it as a worthy effort. Not bad for singer whose hair is now all white and has been playing and making new music since the 1960's.

Cockburn, admittedly is an acquired taste. Most folks either really like him, yours truly, or they are generally indifferent to his music. I own all 29 C.D.'s, so I guess I would qualify as an obsessive, if not lunatic fringe, groupie, fanatic. When asked why Cockburn's music turns me on my simple answer is that it touches my soul on some subjective, somewhat subconscious level. I think part of the reason I like his music so well is that his music touches and explores so many different aspects of life which IMO reflects a mature and thoughtful musician/artist. Over the years and most often on any particular album you will hear Cockburn sing about relationships, his life, politics, religion/spirituality, and his feelings about the world in general. His wide content range also includes his emotions as well. When Cockburn sings those "who have ears to hear" will hear the sounds of sadness, anger, joy, despair, hope, and frustrations. Cockburn appears to be a well rounded individual in an industry and profession where many people often lose both their sanity and souls.

Cockburn may not be the greatest or most talented musician in the industry but he is an artist who IMO has made the most with the talent he has been many artists can say they have produced 29 albums over four decades?.....Make no mistake about it, Cockburn is the real, we loyal Cockburn fans from all over North America salute our champion and tip our hats or our glasses to one of the greats of the music world. Thanks Bruce for your music and giving us another slice of your soul. You are a blessing and an inspiration to us all......

Friday, August 04, 2006

Life is Bittersweet

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I just got back from my three week vacation to Northern California with my son Wesley. It was a bittersweet vacation. Not complaining mind you. Many hard working folks never get out of the house long enough to enjoy themselves let alone travel as extensively as I have over the years. I had a great time, as I always do, but there was a sense of sadness that settled over me as the trip winded down. Before I desribe what prompted my sadness let me first share what was sweet about the trip.

What was sweet.......

1. Beating the heat.... While friends and family were scorching, sweating, having second thoughts about global warming, taking cold showers, and generally cursing the weather I was staying cool in the shade. Not that I needed to be in the shade. Northern California, along the coast, never gets hot, and I mean," never", which is one of the reasons I love to hang out there almost every summer. The highest temperature in Eureka the entire time I was in the area was only 68 degrees. That's right, 68 degrees!.....The mornings were so cold you could see your'e breathe.

2. Spending time with my son Wesley....Growing up I never spent much time with my father and he died while I was only in the seventh am determined to spend as much time with my two sons as they will tolerate. Vacation time is important to me because it provides an excellent opportunity to bond with family members which is why I have made it a priority in my life for the past twenty years. While Wesley didn't have as good a time as I did I am very happy that we got to spend this father and son time together. These are precious moments that I am sure will be remembered forever....and.....are one of the foundations for a strong father, son relationship. Teenagers today lack important cultural rituals to initiate them into adulthood/ manhood and I can think of no better way to help our children become adults than spend significant/quality time with our sons and daughters.

3. Quality sleep......During the course of the school year I average about six hours of sleep a night and I am prone to wake up at least two or three times a night. During the course of this vacation I figure I averaged about nine to ten hours of sleep a night.....why the dramatic increase of sleep?....The combination of the weather, lack of distractrions, and daily activities/exercise that promotes good sleep. I don't sleep well in warm weather but I sleep like a baby when the night time temperatures are in the forties and the sun is obstructed by the trees and the fog.....

4. Dramatic improvement in my health.....When I left Bakersfield three weeks ago I was feeling pretty depressed about my health situation. My left knee was really bothering me and I hadn't lost any weight this summer which is something I generally do. Well....this vacation is just what the doctor ordered. My knee feels much better despite the fact that my son and I hiked and rode our mountain bikes about two hours a day....go figure....and....I have lost about two holes in my belt buckle. I feel great....The best I have felt in the last nine months....Now if I can just figure out a way to transfer all this good health momentom over to the stress filled school year....

5. New direction for the future?.....While attending a campfire one night I had a very interesting conversation with a ranger. It turns out he grew up in Bakersfield and taught school for twenty one years. I asked him how he became a ranger and he told me he took only one class at Humbolt State and just applied for seasonal work. Eventually the seasonal work became almost fulltime and that is when he decided to retire from education. I find the idea of becoming an interpretive ranger very appealing and something I think I would be very good at. For years I have pondered how I might get more involved in enviromental causes and have yet to get anything off the ground because I am so busy and I don't find the political angle on the environment very appealing....and.....I strongly believe that the best way to convert people to the stewardship of the planet is to get them out in nature and educate them about the wonderful world God has entrusted to our care....I don't intend to act on this inspiration before my two sons graduate from high school, but maybe in a couple of years I can began pursuing what I need to do to position myself to work in the California State or National Park system part time in the summer until I retire from education....I am inspired.....

What was bitter....

1. Having to juggle it all.....Last year my two sons, my girlfriend, and I all took a three week trip up the Oregon Coast. This year I took three seperate vacations and thus did alot of driving....and....missed the company of us all being together. Just not the same......

2. The end of a season in my life?.....For the past sixteen years I have taken my two sons for at least a two or three week vacation every summer....but....this may be the last summer that either of my sons goes on vacation with me. My son Paul stayed home this summer and his brother Wesley expressed he didn't want to be away from his friends for so long any more....and....both sons said they want to work next summer.....I feel very sad about this and at one point during the trip my eyes swelled up with tears because I realize this may be the last time I spend any significant time with either of my two sons. I have so many wonderful memories of our trips together to Canada, Yellowstone, Colorado, the Oregon Coast, Washington, the Sierra's, and the Redwoods, many, many times.....listening to....... the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series on tape. I will greatly miss our times together, hiking, biking, cooking, and sleeping under the stars in our tents, and just the thought that this probably the end of these special times makes me very, very, sad......

3. Coming back to Bakersfield.....I don't like living in Bakersfield....It's hot, crowded, and very polluted....and....down right depressing at times.....and my vacation time away just reminds me how much I don't like living here.....but....thank God.....I can get away during the summer.....because I don't think I could handle it otherwise.....I start work on Monday.....and start teaching class on Wednesday. Our school district starts two weeks before everyone else in the area because we get one week off at Thanksgiving and three weeks at is a long....long....haul....until as the memories of summer began to fade and I begin to think about another school year it's time to say goodbye, for now, to another great summer sleeping under the stars, hiking, biking, and just living life at the pace God intended. Life is indeed bittersweet..........

Vacation Pics

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Lynn's Family Gathering

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Come and get it!

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The Golden Gate Bridge

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Lighthouse at Cresent City

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The Oregon Coast

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The California Coast

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The Rugged North Coast

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Sunset at Patricks Point

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