Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Random Radio…

I travel with the rest of my house to the seacoast area of NH on a fairly regular basis. My car radio has two FM bands, so I can have two groups of preset stations on it. One is for my home area, and the other is for when I’m in NH. Sometime in the early summer of this year I was looking for something new to listen to. I wasn’t sure what I really wanted, but I knew that none of the stations I have as presets were offering it. I stumbled upon 93.7 Mike FM by accident, but fell in love with it instantly. It’s just about the only station I listen to when I’m in NH or near Boston. Sadly, they don't reach all the way to where I live in western MA, but they do broadcast online, so I can enjoy them on the couch while I'm laptopping. Praise Jesus for the internet!!

Do you listen to online radio? Do you listen to any radio at all, or is it all about the iPod? Do tell!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What have you done? (Part 2 of 3)

51. Visited Ireland

52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love

--I’ve been married to a woman I love very much for almost 12 years, so even counting all the separate periods of brokenheartedness I’ve had (not that there have been many, mind you), I come nowhere near saying yes to this.

53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them

--No, but what a nice idea! I don’t see all that many people dining alone, though. Certainly, I don’t get to dine alone myself all that often either these days, but I like the idea of this one.

54. Visited Japan

--Not yet, but as a student of Buddhism, this would be a real experience. I’d do it on my way to the Shaolin Temple in the Songshan Mountains of China.

55. Milked a cow

--There is something very special about the feeling of your head resting in the warm spot just between her abdomen and her leg, and feeling her lean into you just a little as you begin to milk her. It’s a very special sort of shared experience.

56. Alphabetized your cds

--I have done it once or twice, but I remember better where each one is at by its place in the pile. Just don’t move the pile!

57. Pretended to be a superhero

--I led a very rich internal life as a child.

58. Sung karaoke

--I’ll dance all day and be goofy in public, but my singing is much more personal to me. Something about karaoke just doesn’t make me feel right.

59. Lounged around in bed all day


60. Posed nude in front of strangers

--I’m not sure anyone needs to see what I’ve got, but I’m not afraid to lay it out there.

61. Gone scuba diving

--I would love to, though!

62. Kissed in the rain

--[again with the coy smile]

63. Played in the mud

--Playing soccer in the rain is some of the most fun I have ever had in my life! You can slide tackle someone and go for 20 yards! Whoo! Righteous!

64. Played in the rain

--See #63, above.

65. Gone to a drive-in theater

--I watched Nightwing (killer bats attack an Indian reservation in New Mexico) when I was 10 years old. NOT the movie to see outdoors, from the top of a VW Combi, at a drive-in with bats flying all around.

66. Visited the Great Wall of China

--I’ll do it on the way to #54

67. Started a business

--Not in the truest sense. I took over my dad’s independent sign business and ran it for 3 years or so. I learned graphic design through that experience, but the erratic paychecks made it tough to continue without making a huge commitment.

68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken

--See #52.

69. Toured ancient sites.

--Pompeii and Herculaneum, Siracusa.

70. Taken a martial arts class

--Helped start the Lohan School of Shaolin.

71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight

--See the following… Orcs and Cheese Doodles

72. Gotten married

…at least once!

73. Been in a movie

--On TV a couple of times, but not on the big screen.

74. Crashed a party

75. Gotten divorced

…only once!

76. Gone without food for 5 days

--Twice. Once because I had the flu in Brazil and couldn’t so much as get out of bed. Once when I had my gallbladder out.

77. Made cookies from scratch

--My wife makes world famous cookies, so I don’t do it anymore.

78. Won first prize in a costume contest

79. Ridden a gondola in Venice

80. Gotten a tattoo

--I’ve never really found anything that was worth having permanently and indelibly scratched into me. I’m not above doing it, though, if the right thing comes along.

81. Gone white water rafting

See #31.

82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”


83. Got flowers for no reason

--Not flowers, no.

84. Performed on stage

--Lots of times. The process of putting on a show is just too damn stressful.

85. Been to Las Vegas

--Visited from 1992-1998. Loved it there! Hell, it’s summer 330 days a year!

86. Recorded music

87. Eaten shark

--Does it taste like chicken?

88. Had a one-night stand

--Was asked to have one once. I practically ran away. Of course, the cold sore on her lip probably had something to do with that.

89. Gone to Thailand

90. Bought a house

--Bought a mortgage. I get the house in 1,000 years.

91. Been in a combat zone

--Only in the area that used to be the Combat Zone in Boston, and that was by mistake.

92. Buried one/both of your parents

--My parents will disappear quietly into the sunset when it is their time. I am not afraid to bury them, but I’ll be surprised if I have to.

93. Been on a cruise ship

--I have no desire to do a cruise, but I would totally get passage to someplace like Europe on a freighter or something. That’s my kind of experience!

94. Spoken more than one language fluently

--With perfect fluency? No. The levels at which I speak the six languages I know range from OK to Very Good, depending on how often I’m called to use them. French and Spanish top the list right now because I teach them. My German “sogt”.

95. Performed in Rocky Horror

96. Raised children

--Working on it, anyway.

97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour

98. Created and named your own constellation of stars

99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country

--I very much want to tour Europe by bike (I’ve done a couple of tours in the US).

100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over

--Moving to Las Vegas was sort of for that reason, but it’s complicated. Someday, perhaps, that story will get told, too.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Countdown to M.Ed. -- 2 courses.

One of them is a research class. Action research. Sounds all superhero-y doesn’t it?

Action research is the kind done to directly affect current practice (in my case, teaching practice), so it’s supposed to have something to do with what I’m doing in my classroom currently. I’m not doing anything relative to my current teaching, though. Instead, I’m doing research on teaching practices in schools and programs that work primarily with foster/adopted children, in preparation to start the Community School. More on that in a later post.

I have things about my current teaching I could explore, but I’ve been so thoroughly disgusted with my teaching this year that examining it objectively would just be too irritating.

I’ll admit it. It was a tough year. Being gone the first two months of the year, then trying to make up for that lost time while still trying to figure out which way is up with graduate school kicking back in and No Child Left Behind rearing its useless, ugly head.

I feel like my students didn’t learn a god. damn. thing.

Worse than that is the nagging, gnawing feeling I have that I didn’t teach them anything. They went through this whole year and got nothing worthwhile from me, and when I look back at why, there is so little that I can honestly say I could have done differently. I don’t have any problem taking responsibility for my teaching, and I’ll own up to the fact that I made decisions that meant my teaching was less inspired because I had other things to do, but it happened the way it had to. I’m not happy with it, though, and I’m carrying a little resentment at having to make decisions that don’t support the part of my life that really nourishes my soul.

Maybe that’s what I should have researched: The effect of real-world bullshit on veteran World Language teachers. I could call my thesis paper “Conneries and Sandeces”*

* The words for “bullshit” in French and Spanish, respectively.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What have you done? (Part 1 of 3)

Wifeness posted to her site a list of 150 life-changing experiences, and bolded those she has done. I enjoy reliving my adventures and this was a fun exercise, so I’m adding it here. I have to do it in segments, though. Here is part 1. The ones I did are in blue

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
--Not when beer is $4 a glass!

02. Swam with wild dolphins
--Does swimming with a wild Miami Dolphin fan count?

03. Climbed a mountain
--I’ve done this lots of times. My reward for reaching the top? Taking a good, long look at the panoramic vista laid out before me, then go find a shady spot to take a nap.

04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
--It was a Porsche, not a Ferrari, and it was wicked!

05. Been inside the Great Pyramid

06. Held a tarantula
--I had one when I was a kid. It was in a jar of formaldehyde. I think it was a present from my dad.

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
--[smiles coyly]

08. Said ‘I love you’ and meant it
--I mean it every single time. Don’t say things you don’t mean. It’s, well, demeaning.

09. Hugged a tree
--It’s really quite nurturing to the soul. I highly recommend it!

10. Bungee jumped
--HELL no!

11. Visited Paris
--Several times and it has been magical every, single time. It is among my favorite places to travel, especially with students.

12. Watched a lightning storm at sea

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
--Isn’t that what all-nighters in college were for? I also used to work the graveyard audit shift. It killed me. I could never get my biorhythms tuned just right.

14. Seen the Northern Lights

15. Gone to a huge sports game
--Does an early game of the World Cup count? (thank you, Wifeness! That was the best birthday present EVAH!)

16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
--No, and was I bitter! The tower was closed when I was in Pisa. I do, however, have some great photos of the duomo, the tower and this Spanish girl being mobbed for her little bag of popcorn by 45,000 pigeons

17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
--I lived on a small farm for part of my childhood. We also grow a paltry amount of produce at Wayfarer House (the count from the garden this year includes several salads worth of lettuce, a handful of cherry-sized tomatoes that SiSi ate as soon as she saw them and 3 cucumbers).

18. Touched an iceberg
--I’d do it, but I’d much prefer to touch a palm tree!

19. Slept under the stars
--I love to do that! I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to take my kids out camping. I have not been since Wifeness and I went desert camping before we had kids, and I miss it.

20. Changed a baby’s diaper
--Enough to change a landfill. Have I mentioned that NiNi is out of them, as of about 3 weeks ago? Gods be praised! Of course Buffy and Harold just brought a new baby into the house, so the number of children in diapers still equals two, but at least they’re not MY children.

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
--No, but unlike #10, above, I think I would enjoy this.

22. Watched a meteor shower
--During an event covered under #13, above. It involved, as coincidence would have it, libation covered under #23, below.

23. Gotten drunk on champagne
--I have never been drunk. No, really. I never have. I have felt the buzz from alcohol, but nothing more than that. You see, I have this curious relationship with spirits. I get drowsy very quickly and lose my taste for it when I begin to have too much. I think it’s somehow related to the mechanism that leaves me intolerant of most drugs (including Sudafed and cough syrup).

24. Given more than you can afford to charity
--If anything, we don’t give enough to formal charity, but we work hard to give in different ways to different people, according to what we have in quantity. Charity should not always be monetary.

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope.
--UncleBubba had one when we lived in Las Vegas. The moon looked bigger, but not stunningly so. I decided it wasn’t worth the money to buy one.

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
--There’s a great story about this from my time as a phone canvasser for the League of Conservation Voters. It involves me and Shirley, an inadvertent punch of her speakerphone button and, at top volume and just as a generous supporter of the organization has answered her phone, the theme to The Muppet Show. I couldn’t help it, and worse, I could NOT stop!!

27. Had a food fight
--Michelle’s parents are probably still finding chocolate chip cookie batter in their kitchen from that day 21 years ago!

28. Bet on a winning horse
--My karma does not allow me to win often when I gamble.

29. Asked out a stranger
--Not a complete stranger, but I did once get the nerve to ask a girl out who was staying for several weeks at the hotel where I was working. Summed up in the event covered under #22, above.

30. Had a snowball fight
--It’s all fun and games until someone (usually me) loses an eye.

31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly could
--While negotiating whitewater on the St. Croix river. You have to scream like that at the end. It’s a law. Plus, it feels really good!

32. Held a lamb
--Not on the farm where I grew up, though. We didn’t raise sheep. We did raise goats, though, and there are a couple of times when I would sit in the early morning by the wood stove with a newborn kid in my lap. They smell pungent, but not unpleasant.

33. Seen a total eclipse
--Well, not directly, of course! That would be silly! You’d burn your eyes out and go blind! Or is that that other thing you're not supposed to do...?

34. Ridden a roller coaster
--One time. Never again. See #10, above.

35. Hit a home run
--Two. Including a grand slam, no less!

36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
--I could deny this, but I have way too many students as witnesses to confirm it. “Uh, Wayfarer, you need to stop that and NEVER DO IT AGAIN.”

37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
--I do this regularly for shorter periods of time (my kids tell me to “talk in your regular voice, please!”), but the only time I can think about that was for that long was during a trip last year to England. It was to practice. I was surprised how hard it was to do for all day!

38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
--I can honestly say I feel this way far more often than I do not. I am blessed to be living a life of my choosing, in keeping with my karma, that brings me incalculable contentment and stimulation.

39. Had two hard drives for your computer
--At work, yes. I don’t need two at home. I just don’t need that much space.

40. Visited all 50 states.
--If we interpret “visit” to mean getting out of the car and spending at least 3 hours walking around, the number is 22. I have driven through 33, to date.

41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
--Thank the universe, no. I’m a sympathetic vomiter.

42. Had amazing friends
--Had?? Have!!

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
It’s how I learned the lambada!

44. Watched wild whales

45. Stolen a sign
--If you know me from college, do NOT comment on this one!

46. Backpacked in Europe
--Fred and I went from Rome to Paris over the course of a month.

47. Taken a road-trip
--Armstrong, Ontario or BUST! (it ended up bust, but the actual adventure more than made up for it)

48. Gone rock climbing
--Red Rock, NV; St. George, UT. Look, Ma! No ropes!

49. Midnight walk on the beach
--Adrianna and I walked on the cape one night during spring break. Don’t get the wrong idea, here. It was totally platonic.

50. Gone sky diving
--Again, HELL no!

Installment two coming soon!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Finally, some room to breathe!

It’s mid-August and grad school is done. Well, actually, it’s not done. It’s more like halftime. I’ve got two weeks to get to the locker room, cool off, regroup. Maybe get some orange juice. Then, it’s back out onto the field for one more semester. Going into the locker room, I can say I’m ahead—by a healthy margin. That’s good. Protecting the lead, though, means doing a whole lot of research over the next 3-4 months. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s going to mean a lot of crazybusy and I am very determined to be finished by Christmas. There can be no overtime. My constitution won’t take it. I’ve been doing this for two years while working full time, coaching, being a papa and surviving a more-exciting-than-necessary near death experience (it sounds weird to say that, but it was). I’m tired, and I want the game to be over when the whistle blows.

Hey! That soccer analogy wasn’t so bad!

I have had to let a great many things slide over the last 8 months—certification review, school prep, house work, yard work, paperwork, a partridge in a pear tree... I’m not excited about everything that’s going to be waiting for me during Christmas vacation to catch up on, but I’m just not interested in doing anything that I have to work too hard at during these two weeks I have off. Blog writing, at least, does not qualify as taxing. Truth be told, it’s kind of therapeutic. I’ve always enjoyed being able to get things out of my brain through writing and it’s been tough not to really take the time to do that properly the last little while.

It’s so great to finally have this time! I’ve been reveling since Wednesday (the day I submitted the Review of Literature for my thesis) in being able to do some of the most mundane things. I cooked dinner for the first time in, like, six months. A nice dinner, too, if I do say so myself. Of course, the kids didn’t like the summer squash. Apparently, you just can’t put enough butter on summer squash to make it appealing to the under-5 set. I mowed the lawn before it threatened to overrun the house, and I mowed it at a time that wasn’t the hottest part of the day. I got to rent a movie and actually watch it. The Name of the Rose. A classic of literature by Umberto Eco that was made into a movie in the 80’s. I read the book when I was in high school, but I haven’t seen the film in a long time. Christian Slater is in it and he looks about 12 years old. It has the campy look to it that all movies from the 80’s now do (what does that say for ME??!), but the attention to detail is incredible, and it’s great fodder for the fiction writing I play with. I even got to go disc golfing yesterday. There’s a course about 30 minutes away, and I was able to get in a round while my kids were off with Suzanne. I’m going kayaking on Monday. I got one for my birthday in July, but I’ve only had time to go out briefly once. I have two weeks to go out 3 days a week, and I’m totally looking forward to it.

That’s the extent of my vacation. A lot of people claim that it’s unfair that teachers get their summers off. I try not to get on my soapbox about it, but in the 10 years I’ve been teaching, I have NEVER had more than 3 weeks off from school. I can’t vouch for the rest of the people in my profession, but I, for one, don’t get to just walk away from my job during vacations. I’m always reworking lesson plans, searching for materials, trying to do things better, faster, stronger. I’d much rather do that and have the nine months of teaching go smoothly than I would relax for those few short extra weeks and have the rest of the year be a disorganized pain in the butt. The 10 weeks I was out this past year, for example, made this the most stressful, frenetic school year I have ever had. It absolutely wore me out! I hope never to have to repeat that.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

...and the New Car comes in--with accessories!

After extended research and a short survey of what was available for purchase within our budget, I decided on the following.

Those of you who know what I drove before are undoubtedly scratching your heads in wonderment.

A station wagon? Really??

I'll admit she was not my first choice, but let us review what the requirements were. [Click Here]. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Based on these criteria, I got what I wanted. This car meets ALL of wifeness' requirements (although the ugly factor is, I suppose, a matter of personal preference, she did not say it was too ugly to drive.). It also meets ALL BUT ONE of my own (there was NOTHING out there with a sunroof! What the crap?!?! Who wouldn't want a sunroof??).

She is a decided step down from the 4-Runner, but given the budget constraints and the fact that, frankly, an SUV doesn't meet my driving needs (I drive 70+ highway miles a day during school and no off-road driving), she presents a perfectly good solution. The biggest downside is the POS stereo. I'm grateful for the cassette player because I listen to books on tape a lot, but who doesn't put a CD player in a 2001 model of any car out there?? Come on! Oh, well. Christmas is coming. (hint, hint, Wifeness :] )

Also, please note the birthday present on the top of my new ride. A great big thank you to Wifeness for organizing the funds to pay for it, and to Caleb and Maeve and AuntieAlex for contributing to my sanity! I've been wanting a kayak for a while because our 14' canoe is just too big and bulky to take out alone. This one is much smaller (9'6") and much lighter (39 lbs). It's just perfect for me to take out for an afternoon of flatwater exploration! It's not really a whitewater boat and is not real fast in stronger current, but I don't do much of that stuff. Right now, all I really want is to go find a lake or stretch of quiet water on a river and poke around. In a couple of years, I hope to add to the fleet a longer boat I can use to do overnights and ocean touring. By then, maybe I'll have time.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

5 Things (+1 Thing)...

Perhaps out of a desire to move beyond the stress of my paper, I was inspired by Chili’s post to think about the things that make me happy to be alive. Here are just some of the countless things (in no particular order):

1. Summer. Give me summer with all its warmth and sun, its long days and electric nights! I am invigorated, recharged and comforted all at the same time by this time of year. I just spend a lot of time sighing contentedly. It’s the season when I get things done, but when I don’t work too hard. I love to go outside and be active, but I also get to be introspective and read for pleasure (well, most years). I get to go for walks at 10pm without wearing long pants. I can go swimming outdoors! Not that the other seasons don’t have things I like, too, but summer is just so much better, so much more RIGHT. I enjoy spring and all its vibrant energy. Fall is nice, especially because the cozy clothes come out. Winter can just kiss my ass.

2. My time with the Wayfarer Community. More days of the week than not, I get to share space with at least one person (apart, of course, from my lovely wife and my darling daughters) whose presence brings me joy. I love it that there are so many wonderful people in my house all the time, and that they truly feel at home here! I love that they contribute to the peace and sanctity of Wayfarer House by sharing themselves by just being who they are. I love that Community Dinner means a whole lot of friends, food and fellowship. Each one of these people is a blessing of incalculable worth, and I work very hard both to nurture and celebrate them. If you’re a member of the Wayfarer Community, thank you! If you’re not, you totally should be! We’re a hoot!

3. The things I do to be creative. Muppetry, woodworking, writing and DnD are just some of the things that enrich my life. Sadly, of late I have not been able to do any of them because my time is necessarily committed to other endeavors (I need to be done with grad school!!!!) I enjoy being creative. It wakens all of me in a way that is difficult to describe.

4. Travel. Another of the things that have had to be sacrificed of late. In my lifetime, I have been to some of the most beautiful places on this planet, had some of the most exciting experiences and met some of the most interesting and amazing people because I said, “What the hell! I’ve never been there before…” Here are just some of the things I’ve seen and done:
--Swarms of jellyfish in Florida
--4 lanes of 90km/h traffic on a 2-lane Italian country road
--Getting burglarized at knife point while waiting for the bus in Bahia
--Spending the night in Victoria Station, London
--Taking a train through a forest fire in Texas
--The sun setting over the perfectly conical island of Stromboli
--Being babied by Mormon girls while crossing the English channel during a perfect storm
--Playing soccer with Brazilians
--Learning to play bridge from someone who you would totally adopt as your grandma
--Learning to dance the lambada from someone who you would totally NOT consider your grandma
--Sitting at the base of the basilica at Sacré Coeur with throngs of Parisians while eating rotisserie chicken with your students and watching the street vendors scatter like roaches when the light switch is flipped because the local constables are trying to round them up
--Watching real roaches scatter every time I opened the front door to my flat that overlooked the Presidential Palace in Rio de Janeiro--big, mutant, junkie roaches.

What wonderful memories!

5. Teaching. This is sort of explained in #s 3 and 4, above, but it’s more than being creative or sharing experience. It’s also kind of doing right by all the blessings I have been given in my life. It’s a karmic thing, in the way Rama-Kandra explains it in Matrix: Revolutions…

“Karma is a word…A way of saying 'what I am here to do.'

6. The Women of Wayfarer House. I’m a guy and don’t do mushy real well for public consumption, but my wife and daughters touch my heart in ways that continually amaze me. I meditate sometimes about my life before and I recall lots of good memories, but my life is so much more rich and satisfying now that I am with them. They are good karma and I am a better man, a better teacher, a better husband and father, a better lots of things for their presence in my life. To finish Rama-Kandra’s quote:

“I do not resent my karma – I am grateful for it. Grateful for my wonderful wife, for my beautiful daughters*. They are gifts, and so I do what I must do to honour them.”

I cannot hope to honour them as well as they do me, but I consider it a happy challenge to try.

* sic

Saturday, August 5, 2006

I am SOOOO tired!

I have a single paper to finish for this session of graduate school, and it's kicking my ass. I want it to be done, but I'm finding myself dragging it out because I'm just not capable of using my brain any longer. That's all I want to say.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Happy Birthday, Love Dad...

My father sent me a card from Florida and told me to get me one of these for my birthday on him... Thanks, Dad! It was yummy!

And thanks to Alex for providing the wonderful conversation that went along with it. I had a great time!