Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Putting it all away...

Stuff.  Got enough?  Want more? I've got some.  I need to get rid of some. I don't want to take it with me. Who wants it?

Really. 13 years of living in this house and I have accumulated so much stuff.  Where the hell did it all come from?  Pictures, posters, postcards, paper, pots, pans, pie plates, pizza stones, pails, pottery, perpetual piles of peripherals and paraphernalia. Good lord. Don't get me started on the rest of the alphabet.

I must pack, I must purge, I must plan to put everying in a new place. Perhaps I am poorly prepared. Probably.

Ok, enough of that.  I am just looking around this house and thinking I am in the final countdown.  Thirteen years this ghost-filled house.  Some good memories, some not. Mostly just memories in general.  I never expected to live so long in this place.  It was supposed to be a starter house.  And I guess, in it way it has been - multiple times.  It's even being repurposed again as the start of my rental properties.  If I manage it right I might be able to make it one of many.  We'll see I guess.

So, for now I'm just taking it all in.  Three more nights under the roof.  72 hours of days left before the new journey beings.  See, I'm starting again.

In the mean time... anyone need a bowflex?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

There's two ways we can do this. Your way or.....

Some people spend their days walking through their lives living every moment within a haze. They get up and shower, shove some food down their throats, run out the door and plod through their work day. Then when the day is done they might grab a drink, head home, toss a Hungryman in the microwave and plop down in front of Angry Housewives before heading to bed and sleeping until they start again the next day.

God that scares the shit out of me. 

Note: If I ever end up that way please kick me in the ass, head, or other various bodily part.

I have seen too many people doing exactly that with their lives, which truly equates to doing "nothing" with their lives.  At least, it's nothing if there is no enjoyment within it.

I have set myself a few rules for my life over the years:

The first is about stressing over things. It's pretty simple: If there is absolutely nothing I can do to affect the outcome of something, then it is of absolutely no use for me to stress over it. All I end up doing is stressing myself for no reason.

The second is probably just as if not even more important:  Enjoy everything you can.

Ok, I know this might sound a little (or a lot) hedonistic, but I don't mean it in the sense that I need to go out and bed everything that moves. Rather, I mean that I want to enjoy everything I do, be it watching a play, reading a book, or even just something as simple as holding someone's hand.

One example of this is cooking. For those of you who truly know me, you know that I have a difficult time sharing my kitchen.  That is, I love sharing the product of my kitchen, but it is difficult for me to be out of it.  My mother was a wonderful cook (I know, everybody says this...) and she was adventurous in what she did. More importantly, she showed me how to work in the kitchen. I watched her prepare meals and I learned by her example. Now when I am in the kitchen I will find myself stopping and thinking of her at some of the oddest of times. Just tonight I was making spaghetti sauce and it brought her back to me. But the point is not about her, but rather the joy I learned from her when I am cooking. To prepare a meal for someone and then have them enjoy it makes my day.

Oh, and then there is driving.  I love to drive.  More importantly, I love to drive with the windows down. (Ok, nobody make jokes about how I love how my hair blows in the breeze....) I do love the feel of the wind. On a dry day I will hang my arm out the window and enjoy the feeling of 60 mph winds with all the glass rolled down.  And on a day of downpours I can enjoy the stinging numbness that comes with the water. And of course the zen moment of truly feeling that you are part of the car.  There is this moment where you know you are part of this 2000 pound machine and it responds to your every whim. Gotta love that. (Somewhere in the background Tim Allen is making grunting noises, I know it.)

If am walking I love to go uphill where I can feel my quads lifting. When I read a book, I try to really put myself into the part of the character to really get what the author was trying to convey (which, admittedly can be a bit awkward when the main charachter is a seventeen year old girl, or a 63 year old grandmother of 19. but still...). When I am exploring a new neighborhood I want to be lost so I can truly find my way home. 

Oh, and speaking of which, I love when my brain is able to complete more of its mental map of a place. There is such a strange geeky rush I get when I suddenly go, "Holy shit, I know exactly where I am now!" in a place that I have rarely ever traveled.

Basically, I try to understand the moments as they come to me. All you have to do is look at the obvious, and then see the things which most people miss. Look closer. Find the unique experience in everything you do. It might just be the feel of the fabric of your bedsheets just after they have been washed and then put on the bed while still warm. It might be sound of tiny rocks and broken pieces of shell on the beach as the water pushes them back and forth with waves. It might even be the smell of the sap of a Douglas fir that you catch in the air as you are cleaning up your yard after a windy night.  Whatever it is, savor it. Drink up the moments. Live each one instead of simply letting them pass you by. Enjoy the feel of the skin of your loved one's cheek. That's my rule to myself.

Even now I have found myself practicing this rule. I have been enjoying the thoughts that have been going through my head as I write this. Good memories have surfaced and I feel just a bit lighter. Maybe I've got something here. Maybe I'm doing something right.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Work

Today was the first day I did not like my job.  The first day.  Ever.  I thought it was bad enough that this is the first year where my work felt like a "job" instead of where I get to go work with some great kids and get paid for doing it.  But now... today.

I am not happy with this situation.  I have relished the past ten years where I could leave home and know that even though I was at my place of employment I would still enjoy my day. 

I think that's all for the day.  I cannot go into details, so I"ll just have to work at it more.  Perhaps with more effort it will be fun.  It just seems so illogical when I say it that way.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gloria Estefan was right: The rhythm IS going to get you.

I've decided that today's theme will be music.  Don't worry, I don't think it will be a long one.

In 2nd Grade Ms. Rhyum (spelling may have degraded with age) begain a music class at our elementary school  She brought in instruments and started a choir.  I was one of the lucky short people who got to sing with the older kids.  We worked on two part harmony and actually practiced reading music.  Thus began the integration of music and my world.  Since that time the two have rarely been separated.

A short history of music in my life:  Suzuki violin lessons (11 years and I still suck); Elementary music classes and choir; middle school choir with Nan Hindman; musicals at Theatre in the Grove starting around 6th grade; FGHS choir with the incredible Rod Rasmus (the man who truly taught me how to appreciate every new piece of music for what it was, and who always came out saying, "You have GOT to hear this!"); Vocal Jazz Choir with the same man; more musicals at Theatre in the Grove, Pacific University, and FGHS, Choir of the West at PLU; and god knows how many musicals at other places all along the way. 

Anyway, I've always thought life would be more interesting with a musical underscore.  I find that I associate major events in my life with music.  I will almost always find a piece that reflects what is going on in my world, or whenever I think of a major memory I will have a song immediately pop into my head.

When stressed, I sing.  When happy, I sing.  When bored, I sing.  It's kind of in my blood.  Why am I this way?  I don't know.  I'm not arguing, but I know it has annoyed some people in my past.  I have be "corrected" for singing/humming at inappropriate times.  I dont' even notice that I do it.  It's just an innate reaction to the world around me.  Maybe I hear the hum of the universe, and instead of joining it I seek the harmony to it instead.

Anyway, there is little point to this tonight except to say thank you to Chris Rhyum, Nan Hindman, and Rod Rasmus.  I keep your lessons with me in my heart and voice. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

“The times they are a changing…”


     Most of the time, when I hear Bob Dylan I feel the overwhelming urge to take a spork or some other relatively sharp fast food utensil and attempt to remove the accursed anvil, hammer, and stirrup from my inner ear, thus granting myself respite from the caterwauling sound that has emanated from his pie-hole.
     However. Today I think he is right. Just once.
     Twenty years ago I moved to Tacoma intending to be here for four years and then leave to go back to Oregon. 10 Years ago I got divorced and was intending to go back to Oregon. One and half years ago I separated from a long term girlfriend intended to go back to Oregon. One year ago, I foolishly became engaged and was then ran away from by a panicking girl, and what did I intend to do? (Bah, to heck with Oregon, I was going to sell the house and leave the country.) So, have you got the idea that I was ready to leave the state?
     And back in 1997 I bought a house in Fircrest with my ex-wife, then I lived in the same house with the long term girlfriend, and then again with the fleeing fiancĂ©. Too many ghosts. Too many reasons not to stay. Too many years without a strong change to redefine my life.
     Until now. As of today I take a new step forward, and amazingly not towards Oregon. Nope. Northward bound I go, hand in hand with Samantha and the kids. Ok, it's not really very far, only thirty-seven miles. But still, it's out of Tacoma, and into West Seattle. For most people they might say, "That's nothing," but you have to remember this guy was raised in a college/farm town of twelve thousand people. Moving to Tacoma was huge. And now we'll be moving from a town of 179,000 to a city of nearly 620,000. It's a big change. But as time has gone on, I have lost much of my desire to live in a town like the one I grew up in. It still has its charm, true, but I have become more of a city boy than I will often admit. Just don't expect me to give up my boots. Things haven't changed that much.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A question of merit (?)


     It has been ages since I last posted.  And for that I am sorry.  It's not as if there is a line at the door clamoring to see what I have to say, but rather I am sorry that I have let this practice in writing lapse.

     My thoughts lately have been upon my work. Teaching. It has already been an interesting year, as it has been a beginning that I never expected to have to deal with. Third grade.

     But really I have been thinking about teaching, testing, and pay. I was reading an article earlier about how a newspaper in California ranked 6000 teachers within the Los Angeles area from most effective to least effective. This sounds ok at first. I mean, as a parent I like the idea of knowing how effective my child's teacher will be. However, the ranking of the teachers' effectiveness was based off of student performances on a series of standardized tests given over multiple years. I do not feel that this in any way is an effective method of checking teacher effectiveness.
     Working in a school where we have a large amount of transitory students I see a major problem with this style of ranking. Within the past ten years I have had ten classes with an average of twenty-six students, BUT I have had over 350 students. Now, how does that math work out for you? It doesn't seem quite right, does it? You see, here's the problem: During the course of the year I have had an average of about ten students leave my classroom to move elsewhere, and an average of about eleven come in during the course of any given year. With the large amount of military and low-income families in our area, the overall population of the school is very apt to fluctuate constantly, exchanging perhaps over a hundred students over the course of the year.
     Now, where to do these students come from? How much have they learned from their previous teachers? How well were they trained on their basic facts? Do they have parents who support them? What is their family life like? Do they have issues with authority? What is their reading level? Can they even speak English? Really? Do I have to ask these things? Sadly… yes.
     So here's where it gets difficult. These students transfer into and out of my room, often right before major testing time periods. The ones who leave are a reflection of all the work I have put into them up until that time, yet if I am to be graded on my students' state tests, they will not reflect upon my actual work score as they will be recorded on another teachers roles. Inversely, the students who enter my room and then take their tests with my class are NOT a reflection of what I have done over the course of the year, but they would affect how I am perceived if we were to continue with ranking teachers this way. True, they may come from a teacher who was amazing and perhaps even help with my class's overall score, but it still would not be an accurate representation of what I do as a teacher.
     And then there is the issue that 22 states are currently basing teacher pay off of evaluations like this. I know that we are NOT the only city where there is a large turnover of student population. I mean, how would John Q. Public like to have his salary based off of the work of Larry B. Lazy or Sally "I can't get off my ass to do anything except get another HoHo" Jones? It simply would not be accepted. So why do people think that it is an appropriate way to award or penalize teachers with pay raises or decreases?
     (So, I took a pause here. I found myself staring to channel my inner Dread Pirate, but I stopped for a moment and counted fluffy bunnies. But that didn't work, so I blew them away with my musket. I feel better now.)
     I will leave off here, before the stench of bunnies permeates this blog. I believe I have said my peace and can now leave it in your hands to make a choice. You have the right to do that and to be wrong if you choose something that I wouldn't agree with. I have discovered that my typing fingers still work and now I must sleep. But if you feel like debating with me on this one, or you wish to simply ask, "Where is my bunny?" please feel free to leave a comment.