Garages on Halloween

Garages on Halloween are a piece of Americana. Taking my kids out last night I saw all kinds of marvelous things in peoples’ garages. Most of them were decorated as haunted houses. One house we walked up to had a dad looking guy in a Jason mask handing out candy. He had implements in there reminiscent of a SAW scene. I must admit, even as a regular dad taking his kids around to trick or treat, that one kind of freaked me out. Overall it was an awesome night. There were not many people out though. I wonder if it had something to do with the recession. How was the Halloween traffic where you are?

Summer 2011 was a Time for Relaxation

Damien RileyThis has been one of my best Summers. We went to San Diego and saw the animals at Sea World do their flips for fish rewards. We took in the wonder of the Museum of Natural History and the Reuben H. Fleet Science museum. It was there we saw the IMAX images from the Hubble telescope. It was life changing. For me it is hard to look at those images and then accept that the mysteries of a god can be understood through a book. For me, that was significant.

We went to a few Orange County beaches: Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Balboa, and Newport. It was tranquil and serene watching my wife and kids laying out getting relaxed and thinking about how good we have it.

I have been able to genuinely relax this Summer, partly because I was focused on the value of that and partly because we had the money and the free time. I have been really pushing my stress levels to the limit and I need this Summer to remind myself that I can be still and foster the molecules in my body to come together and be strong again.

I’ve ordered my blogging job to where I have a schedule again. This will make me more productive. I know the type of writing I need to do and I intend to do it. Remember the value of relaxation before it’s too late. It will eventually hit through high blood pressure or shaky hands or other unwelcome malady. Take time to relax and your body will be strong to move toward your dreams.

You can see OC Beach Trip 2011 photos I‘ve shared in my album.

The Memory of Running

Walking through CVS today I saw this book on display and had to buy it. The title absolutely flowed through me. I have no clue what the plot is about but ever since I picked it up I have wanted to post a memory of my running here on my blog: I have many.

My dad told me in my freshman year of high school that I had to either pick a sport and compete or get a part time job. I see the wisdom in that so much now that I have a son of my own. I weighed around 100 lbs. at 5’8″ so football was out. I suppose I could have been a wrestler like my friend Kevin, he was 5’5″ and about 95 lbs. Before meets he would fast and run in plastic to sweat it off. I wouldn’t have had to do that because I never ate and I was a bag of bones. Literally you could see my ribs. I was healthy, just very gaunt. Thank goodness I finally filled out in college. I’m about 170 now, and needing to lose a spare tire. My how age changes your worries.

But back to the memory of running. I chose running X-country and track instead of getting a job. It was a wise decision. I have 4 years worth of remarkable memories stored away in my mind forever and anon. If you’ve run, you know that running is ethereal … other-worldly. One practice for X-country, we were running a 10 mile workout. Can you imagine that? It was from Mission Viejo to San Juan Capistrano and back again. The coaches ran with us but one took a car halfway and parked it beforehand so he could ride alongside us driving like horses to the destination. I would do those workouts without a thought. It was like riding on my legs. I do my treadmill now all these years later and remember how I was back then … so much endurance. I miss that, but I know it would take far more discipline than I have to get there again. In fact, it might not even be possible anymore. Back to the memory: It was almost prom and I had no date. My mom had been pressuring me like moms do to ask someone ANYONE. based on my slight frame and my somewhat immature disposition back then, I wasn’t the BMOC in the eyes of the girls. Nonetheless, I found myself staring during that workout at a freshman female. She was a friend, I was a senior. I ran up alongside her and after a few words regarding the prom, she agreed to go. I remember running faster than I ever had to finish that 10 miles.

Nothing ever came of the friendship between she and I. We had a great prom night of dancing and walking on the beach with our friends in our formalwear. I’ll leave her name out because too many people have found me through things I’ve posted and I’d rather just keep her mysterious anyway! My wife has seen the prom picture. My mom has it or I would post it. My hair was like a pompadour and her hair was like an exploding lion’s mane. Don’t you love the 80’s?

I have memories of running in so many situations now as a  dad, teacher, blogger. It’s like I wouldn’t feel as much if I hadn’t pushed back then. All I had was what I gave and as long as I did my “personal best” the coaches were happy. Great paradigm for life I think. It certainly is mine. Today was good run for me, I’m back at it after a long time away. The body reacts a little slower when I make it go fast. I think I can get it back up to pace … after a while.

Oh yeah, and I will review the book I mention when I get around to reading it. It probably has nothing to do with this post, but you never know ’til you pop the cover. I got inspired enough, just seeing it on the shelf to write my own post of the same name.

UPDATE: I wrote a song with the same title a little after this post was written. Check it out below:

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.

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”

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!

Wolf Blitzer Asks Tornado Victim if She Thanks the Lord (my commentary on this viral video)

There are many stages of life between 0 and 80. I have been religious at points in in my life and then not at others. For that reason, I don’t hold it against anyone for believing or not. This atheist inspires me, she takes on something that is not a universal but Christians treat as such. For example: When I hear people spout on and on about how they are blessed, it bothers me. Here’s why:

When someone says they are “blessed” with wealth they imply “God” has shown them preference or favor. On any given street in America you will find folks with horrible maladies like cancer or poverty. If you say one has been blessed, you have to logically believe that another has NOT been blessed. You might think this would make religious folk stop, it doesn’t. It is not “humble” to state one is blessed. I think this rings true whether one is a Christian or not. It’s ok to be thankful but I find this “blessed” language of the Christian subculture to be annoying and arrogant. Christians may disagree with me but I wanted to just get it out. Still, I wanted to get this thought out there. Below is a great video that says all this better than I ever could. The tornado in Oklahoma devastated so many people. This is a close look at one perspective that may not agree with Oklahoma’s religious majority. I greatly admire this young woman being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer. She risks be pigeon-holed for stating she is an atheist and not “blessed.” She has her own mind. I hope that for my kids. She is surprisingly more thoughtful of the other side and it is of her. You hear this in the final line. Your thoughts?

My Online Diary – ‘Getting Hit With Waves’

Finding out we can’t sell our home that we don’t live in as we moved into a rental was a smack with a big wave. It was discovered it had mold, we are now paying big mortgage there and big rent here. My work contract starts Monday so it means going in to a new teaching year with financial stress at home.

I’m as happy with myself as I could be. It seems at 48 I’m finally starting to lose my boyish look, now sporting a grey goatee and a bald head, but I’ve grown fairly used to that. I would say that the “mature” years, aka middle age, seemed to come on like a flash flood. There really isn’t any time to scramble for higher ground.

When I was young I used to spend a lot of time in the ocean at the local beach. As the big sets of waves would plow me down, sometimes I’d lose my footing and go tumbling. It was never enough to drown me though. In like manner, these temporary struggles I’m suffering now will pass. I’m luck I have a very supportive and resourceful wife. Sarah and I have been married since 2002. She understands my struggles and disorders and really bridges the gap when it needs to be done. She’s beautiful too.

To make matters just a bit worse, I’m on the way to the dentist to put a crown on a broken molar tooth. What a way to spend a Saturday before school starts. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing Summer of rest and rejuvenation. It’s just that this set of waves was unexpected. One thing I have learned in my years is that “this too shall pass.” Hopefully my next entry will not be this somber. What goes down must go up again …

Realizing Life is Short: What Will You Leave Behind?

In the past years I have lost my grandfather and I’ve seen some friends lose spouses and other relations: it’s been rough. I know many people reading this can relate with the death of a loved one. I remember my grandfather, and these other people as so vibrant, so a part of life. Now that they are gone it is sobering to realize that I will never see them again. It has gotten me to thinking about what really matters in life.

There are accolades at my work to strive for if one chooses to. You can do what it takes and get a small plaque presented to you etc. Or, you can think about those who have gone ahead of you and what they have left behind that matters. In the entrance to our auditorium at the school where I teach there is a photo case. In that photo-case is a montage picture of the teachers when the school opened in 1985. I was 15 at the time. The teachers in the picture have retro 80’s shirts and most the men have beards. The pattern on the clothes are the kind you just don’t see nowadays. It was a different time but the teachers them were flesh and blood as I am now with my staff. Losing my grandfather got me thinking more about what I will leave behind by way of legacy and less about what I can get out of life while I’m alive. For example, I love my wife so much.

Leaving something behind is my biggest concern. I’ll admit, while writing blog posts I think about how my kids will one day read them. I think about whether to include all my rants when I don’t see as they will offer them any help in life. I think this is a good filter. This mindset also filters out the drama of my work. When I am only concerned with making a contribution, the gossip lines fade in order of importance. I want to leave behind a model of passion for teaching, for blogging, for guitar and piano and the appreciation of many kinds of music. I want people to be encouraged by what I have done and believe they can do even better. When I think of how animated and gregarious my Grandpa was in his 85 years, I get inspired to live fully. If I can encourage even one other person to do that, then I will feel my life was success. That kind of influence is what I hope to leave behind. If you could leave behind just 3 things, what would they be? Here are mine:

1. My best life lessons in a journal (written not online).

2. Lessons of my favorite recipes – Pizza and enchiladas.

3. Guitar lessons to as many people as possible.

The Briar Patch and Flight Simulator Analogy for Kids' Test Prep

This post was first published at my teaching blog. I feel it’s a topic parents and ​some of those not reading over there might be interested in.

The fear and reverence of Common Core is all around. It permeates education. Kids who are gifted and self-starters will likely welcome the opportunity to answer high level thinking questions on a computer screen. They also will not mind the copying, pasting, bulleting, and other technical aspects of the tests. But for the rest, it’s going to come as a shock. Some kids will just give up and type nonsense into the answer boxes. Others will flutter the screens as they learn to select text and not much more. What can we do for these students? I have a suggestion.<!–more–>

Just like flight students work in a simulator to decrease the affect of flying, so we should put kids in a simulated session of the Common Core test. For us here in California it is called the “Smarter Balanced” or SBAC practice test. It’s totally free and akin to the released questions the cde used to offer on their site. Continue reading “The Briar Patch and Flight Simulator Analogy for Kids' Test Prep”