Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk is a powerful war epic directed by the mega director Christopher Nolan. In this review I share the good and the bad in my opinion about this highly anticipated film.

Dunkirk (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 46min | Action, Drama, History | 21 July 2017 (USA)

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard

Read the entire text post Dunkirk (2017) at Riley on Film.

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The Clencher

“What to do with my ride of an afternoon?”

The Peanuts movie is out. I heard Snoopy does a mean WWI Flying ace vs the Red Baron. Food courts are nice. Getting a chair massage at the mall while reading could work but maybe not because I have the girls. Fact is, I could do any nuber of things because it’s early dismissal and the teachers go home early today too. Sometimes the ride defines itself as you go along.

In 1997 when I was 27 years old I was offered a job as a 5th grade teacher. It was unexpected because I was only a substitute but they liked that I was bilingual and that I had a Master’s Degree. They grandfathered me in on what is known as an “emergency credential” in California. There was a teacher shortage at the time so if you had a few requirements and you passed fingerprints, you were in like Flynn.

Before I accepted the job that would later become my passion and career, usually it’s reversed for people, they follow their passion and it becomes a career, they took me to the school I would be teaching at. I observed the classes with the Principal and instatly knew this the right job for me.

But there was one clencher. I talked with a teacher, a male, who told me he had a wife and 3 daughters. He said teaching was a great job for raising a family. As I was talking with him, he got a phone call and I oerheard it. He was arranging a meetup with his wife at the local cinema for a matinee … AFTER WORK.

I knew this was the job for me at that moment. Today it continues to  give me the time I need to be with my family and follow my personal dreams alongside teaching.


Writer’s Workshop: Listening Experiment

It’s Thursday! The day I set aside to respond to one of fellow blogger “Mama Kat‘s” writing prompts. Today I chose: #3 “You have one wish…what do you wish for? I wish I could be a better listener. I get so much when I tune in to people and yet I am so on the go all week, I forget to discipline myself to do it. Listening is far superior to taking. Reading, in a similar way, is far superior to writing. I now this and yet I spend the majority of my time talking, as a teacher and also with my family/friends, and far less time listening and really accepting the input of other minds. Every once in awhile I challenge myself to do a “listening experiment.”

Most of us get hoodwinked into believing we must always be speaking, earning, racing, fighting to get ahead. As we buy the lie, we stop receiving knowledge, wisdom, encouragement, and other input from others.

I’ll be challenging myself in the upcoming set of days to focus on receiving input more than sending it out. I call it the listening experiment. So far, every time I have done it and blogged about it, I’ve been radically impacted for the better.

I don’t mind telling you that listening is the hardest thing I can challenge myself to do. I guess I’m afraid I’m wasting tie. Perhaps at my core I truly believe my thoughts are superior to other people. I hate the sound of that. A person like that ends up on an island with a Walkman and no one to talk to. I definitely don’t believe that and yet I act that way by not being a good listener. As I do the experiment, tv doesn’t count as “receiving” or listening, although it does has some value that way, you can’t interrupt it. Listening to my wife and kids does count. Reading others’ words in books and on a computer counts as well. I’m not sure why they are superior to tv, but they are. Active listening includes responses but rarely gives examples from its own life (a big pool of quicksand for me).

Active listening is an ongoing practice.

I think I’ve gotten better at listening but I still have many miles to go to be the type of listener I want to be. So that would be my wish, in response to this wonderful writing prompt. It was a nice reminder of what’s truly valuable to me and what I desire most out of life.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Leaving the Crayons at Work

What a feeling, closing a classroom for the weekend. What’s more? A 3 day weekend! I’m looking forward to reading, taking photos, watching some movies, and planning for my return to the crayon place on Tuesday. Weekends are yet another perk of teaching, I’ve enjoyed having them off work for 17 years.

Announcing a movie blog contest I am participating in : Opinion Battles Year 2 Round One Favourite Quentin Tarantino Character

I asked to be a part of this for my first time and was happily allowed :) More will follow thoughout the year, different movies, different opinions. Darren Lucas, the host, just posted multiple writer’s posts including mine on his website their favorite Tarantino character.

I wrote on Dr. King Schultz, in Django Unchained. You’ll find my opinion at the source link below. If you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino movies, you should read all the clever and great opinions. Oh, and don’t forget to vote! It is after all an “opinion battle.”

Source: Opinion Battles Year 2 Round One Favourite Quentin Tarantino Character | Movie Reviews 101

The Way the Path Is Worn

“Wait on paving the college sidewalk until the students have well-trodden the paths.”

I took my lovely wife Sarah out to dinner at Johnny Carinos. When we entered we saw they had transformed the place from standard “booth and tables” dining to a microbrew tavern. This is an example of going with the flow of your customers.

Every time I went there, the deal was the bar! Wings for a quarter, well drinks $3, you name it, you could get it in the bar. The owner must have been seeing this path being trodden because he gave the people what they want and now it’s a tavern.

My Word of the Year 2016: Peace

Courtyard at the Ayers Mission Viejo

Reading through the #MondayMusings hashtag posts I ran across a blog post regarding a Word of the Year for 2016. The author, a blog friend of mine Corinne Rodrigues, was explaining her word of the year for last year and she offered a link to a worksheet for finding ones own Word of the Year. I thought it sounded cool and since New Years Day is fast approaching, I downloaded the worksheet pdf by Christine Kane and checked it out. I wrote out my responses in my journal and came up with my word of the year:


It is certainly something I have currently but want to be intentional inwardly about it in hopes of increasing the peace of others as well in the new year 2016. It will look like many things different from now but most are personal so I will choose to keep them off my online diary. Have you chosen your word of the year yet?

Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child

Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.

Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance.

In my school, there is usually only one mandated conference and then peppered parent/teacher meetings as needed. I have always thought there should be at least three mandated conferences throughout the year and I always try to meet with parents regularly throughout the year. Unfortunately, the business of our culture doesn’t always make that possible.

Anything you can get from the parents about the student is valuable. Unfortunately, sometimes parents get silent in conferences, here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen. Note: Most the time, parents will be hesitant at first to share. They will be skeptical so explain hos information about a child can greatly help you as you teach them in the year.

  1. Give the parent a short questionnaire. Just like the doctor’s office, put in some harmless questions about things you want to know to better serve their child. You should send this home before the conference and ask them to bring it. That way it doesn’t take up valuable conference time.
  2. LISTEN. Many parents respect the teacher as a part of their lives. Some don’t and others are reserving judgement. Use this time to show them respect. Encourage them to talk about their child. Don’t bring up anything. Ask them to share everything they think of about their child. I personally am a very bad listener but I plan to “shut up” and hear the parent before my part of the conference begins. How long to listen? As much as possible.
  3. Thank them profusely for sharing. Even if they only share the minimum, this will convey mutual respect and vulnerability. Don’t be afraid of silence, give them time to answer.

Of course parent conferences should include many things including your feedback on a child’s progress toward goals. You should also give teaching tips for parents if they seem to be open to it. Give feedback but remember the child is comparatively new to you so be more of a listener. In the long term, your ability to teach the child will greatly increase when you listen to parents about their child. Here’s a sample questionnaire you can use or modify to suit your needs (docx) format: Conference Questionnaire

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This Mop in The Backyard Cleans Up

IMG_6588I think it was at my job at Round Table pizza where I first encountered industrial cleaning supplies. I remember getting a yellow heavy duty plastic bucket on wheels and filling it with SCALDING hot water. I got it spilled on me a few times so I can attest to the heat. Some sort of cleaning solution was added and a huge sponge mop was inserted and the fun began. There was a satisfaction in seeing the red tile floor sanitized and dry. Pizza places have a lot of grease coming and going so industrial mops are a must. In the many years that would follow in other jobs, I would use industrial mops quite a bit. I trained a lot of people to use them as well. That’s why I can’t figure out why it took me about 35 years of life to buy one for my home. Continue reading “This Mop in The Backyard Cleans Up”

Soap, Gum, and Doing What You Love

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Keep doing those hobbies, topics, and pet projects that excite you, even if they bring in little or no money. If you’re a writer, write on that stuff you’re most passionate about, despite the popularity “ranking” of the subject matter. Even something as droll as chewing gum has produced rewards in due time.

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I read about Wrigley, the famous gum mogul, tonight on a website. He started selling soap as his main source of income, but kept a secret hobby of making it in the chewing gum market began in his basement. He never thought chewing gum would bring in enough money to be a big business, so he poured himself into the soap as his career. After a time however, the soap didn’t sell as he had hoped. Before long, he would be in chewing gum orbit.

To better market the soap as a novelty, the family started adhering a small package of his tasty gum to each soapbox they sold. After a short time people were buying the soap just to get the gum. You know the rest of the story. Spearmint chewing gum and gum in general is synonymous with his name.

I think the energy in our jobs and in our writing, should not always be spent on what we think will sell, but rather on our pet projects we truly feel invigorated about. We may find, as Wrigley did, that other people like them as well and they may even end up paying us money to continue doing them! Thanks for the life lesson Mr. Wrigley and thank you for Wrigleys chewing gum.

Wrigley’s full history

Kindness Trainings to Prevent Violence in Our Schools

Since I work as a teacher, it’s probably high time I spoke about this topic. It permeates the reality all around us, fiction isn’t worse anymore.

These people who shoot up schools are disenfranchised.

For one reason or another, they weren’t getting their “bucket filled” at school so they took it out on people in a mass shooting. Mostly, these events end with the shooter(s) taking his(their) own life(ves). You can’t ask a bloody corpse how they were hurt and what caused this, so nothing is usually learned.

Training of teachers and public perssonnell all across my state has been stepped up.

We’ve been told strategic ways to reduce the body count but sadly, not how it can be prevented.

Treating people kindly would be a start. I’m not saying those who got shot in the past deserved it but these people are all saying the same thing, they didn’t feel good enough. We should have trainings in kindness. It’s about time.

Online Diary 12.21.2015

I wrapped 3 presentsHere I am at the end of the first Monday of Christmas break and it feels awesome. These are some of the things I’ve been seeing and doing in the time since I left work Friday. I wrote yesterday about how I wrapped 3 presents. My wife was a maniacal animal and she wrapped 28 at my last count. I can’t remember when there were so many gifts in the house. 

UntitledI make sure we always have fresh ground Starbucks coffee on hand. We were getting low so I just bought this new pack. My wife tells me she prefers the way I make coffee to buying it at Starbucks. That’s a huge and kind compliment. When I was 26 I worked as a barista while in grad school. I learned a lot about all the espresso drinks as well as the subtle secrets of brewing great coffee. We use a French Press and a Melitta pour through method usually.

UntitledLast night I ate sardines with cheddar cheese and Ritz crackers. Perrier is so good with snacks like this so I bought a 4 pack and I’ve almost drank all 4 in only 24 hours. Good drink I say! 0 carbs too.


I’m spending a lot of time with my girls. Actually, they are playing and reading and drawing and I just watch in wonder. We’ve seen a couple movies together on Netflix and gone out a few times for some yummy fast food. I haven’t seen a whole lot of my 17 year old son since he’s working a lot but we did watch “Dumb and Dumber to” today before he ran off for work.

UntitledThis is a photo of some of my cord outside. I have been really enjoying making fires all day, into the evening.




Here’s what it looks like burning. It heats up the house so well. Christmas break is going great and Monday has officially rocked!