Monday, March 31, 2008

To all and sundry

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It’s officially been a complete month of blogging. I hope those who frequent this page haven’t felt that it has been “too much.” I worried about that to tell you the truth. I don’t know as if I’ll be able to blog every day after this, but I will try. After a friend of mine had managed to do it for a week, I thought that I would try to do the same thing; only it turned out to be a bit longer…

The only thing I want to share tonight (as it is getting late and I have to be up early) is something a friend of mine said to me tonight:

sundry

I just love the way that word seems to flow off one’s tongue, like a river of melted sound…what an amazing word! My friend used it in a sentence which went something like, “Students like it when their teachers come to stuff like this, to all and sundry.”

As I left the skating rink tonight that word kept bobbing around in my head, like a wasp buzzing against the panes of my thoughts. No matter how hard I tried to push it away, the word just kept coming back to me. I think it’s one of my new favorites.

Well, the hour is late and I must get some sleep. So, without further ado: goodnight my dear friends, to all and sundry.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Only because you asked

Pin It I’ve been asked several times for this, and I put off even looking for it.

However, I found it on accident.

Yes, I used to have long hair.

As I was rummaging about my basement office looking for something entirely different, I stumbled across a box I hadn’t seen for quite some time. I was instantly “sucked in,” looking at a lot of different items in that box. One of these items was a newspaper clipping from when I was in a play called “Gifts of the Magi” at the Woodland Theatre up in Kettle Falls, Washington.

As I was reading over the accompanying article, I found some photos of fellow cast members, but alas, none of yours truly with his hairstyle akin to Fabio’s. It’s strange, I remembered just how much I loved drama growing up and enjoyed being in productions. I don’t have the time to do it now, but it is fun to remember. As I looked at the photos of cast members from other productions, I found myself wondering just where they are now. What paths did they take in their lives? What kind of adult are they now?

I really miss some of those people.

The lady in the photo was a good friend of mine at the time, Kathy Blevins. I haven’t seen or heard from her for several years. We played every role in the play with the exception of the 4 leads. “City Him” and “City Her.” It was a fun production and I loved being in it. I still am haunted by the songs from that play as well…they take me back to another time and place when I think about them.

A time when I used to have long hair…

and liked it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I need to write

Pin It

I went out with a friend tonight.

She and I hadn’t talked for about a year.

She’s writing a book.

How come I’m not writing a book?

I blog.

I’m writing though, right?

But why not a book?

It’s because I’m lazy.

I need to manage my time better.

Will the book write itself?

Probably not.

I need to write.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's out of fear

Pin It It seems that nearly always it is the scary thing makes it hard for us to change…you know, that great, big, unknown thing. Why is this? It’s probably because the thing which is the most comfortable is to always stay where and what we are. The scary “unknown” thing could be much better than what we have now, yet, we often cling to that which is known, strictly out of fear.

I believe that this is it that we allow ourselves to remain in a state of “hereness,” too frightened to leave a familiarity for something which could be far greater. The point is, we’ll never know if it will indeed be better lest we try. So, while the safe thing would be to stay the same (maybe not the most comfortable though) but the safest, that which is unknown could offer us countless opportunities.

Such have been my feelings as of late. I don't know how better to say this other than the way Bilbo Baggins did...he had such a way with words:

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your front door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Moonshadows and missing body parts

Pin It So, exactly what does it mean to be followed by a moonshadow?

You know, I was at work this morning and I had my iPod set to “shuffle” and this song by Cat Stevens came on. As I was listening to the words I found myself hearing the message behind it. It amazed me that this song is all about looking on the bright side when things may go wrong. For those who may not have heard this song before, I will elaborate:

“…if I ever lose my hands
oh, if...
I won’t have to work no more.”


Wow, what a great attitude! I myself would probably have spent more of my time complaining about just how not fair it was that I no longer had the appendages I’ve become accustomed to. Yet, how hard would it be to really look on the bright side?

Now, would I ever want to lose my hands? Absolutely not! However, not having to work for awhile might be nice, yet not being able to blog would be quite the bummer…

“…and if I ever lose my eyes
If my colours all run dry
yes, if I ever lose my eyes
oh if …
I won't have to cry no more.”

Is the prospect of never having to cry again worth losing my eyesight? Hmmm…not a lot of hard though there on that one; plus the fact that I would no longer be able to do photography. Maybe my eyes are just a little bit too important to me.

“…and if I ever lose my legs
I won't moan and I won't beg
oh if I ever lose my legs
oh if...
I won't have to walk no more.”

If I lost my legs I wouldn’t be able to hike anymore, now would I? I would really regret that. Going to the desert for a couple of days is my solace, “my own private Idaho” so to speak. I couldn’t take not being able to go hiking and exploring the places I love…no, the legs definitely have to stay…

“…and if I ever lose my mouth
all my teeth, north and south
yes, if I ever lose my mouth
oh if...
I won't have to talk...”

My mouth? Hmmm…I guess I could do without talking as I know some moderate Sign Language and I could always communicate with Gerb. However, without a mouth this would eliminate lips as well, and that would put kissing out along with talking now wouldn’t it? Also eating, right? Perhaps losing the mouth wouldn’t quite be the thing I needed…

Well Cat, when I really stop to think about it, and though you sound awfully upbeat in your message about losing body parts, I think I’d be much more content to keep what I’ve got…but still, thanks for the killer song…


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Resolutions and Mistakes

Pin It Boy, I’ve made a lot of these in my life.

It seems that I continually make the same mistakes over and over again, and never quite seem to learn my lesson. Sort of like the character, Bruce, in Bill Peet’s book: Big Bad Bruce. Even though there are consequences to this bear’s actions, he just doesn’t learn his lesson.

This is me. But am I doing any better than I was before in my areas of weakness?

I was thinking recently about Jack Marshall. He is a man I heard speak of endorsing yourself for efforts you make in your life; not only the successes. He said, “We oftentimes gauge a failure or success by the outcome, not looking at the efforts involved. Efforts, many times, therein is the success…I’ll call them “part acts.” We make resolutions…yet we often feel that we blow them. We fail to see the part acts, our efforts. If we would look at these, we would have greater hope.”

He went on to talk about the times we make resolutions…resolutions to try harder, to do better, to be better. He said we need to acknowledge and endorse our partial acts. If we resolve to lose weight, then if we eat one less chocolate-chip cookie, we are indeed doing better.

A few years ago I was talking to a friend of mine about how I had only gone to the gym for about 20 minutes, did a quick workout, and then left for the rest of the day. I felt terrible because I hadn’t stayed longer. To this she so wisely replied, “Twenty minutes is more than you were doing before, which was nothing, right?

I firmly believe that we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. If everything we want to accomplish does not get done, this is okay. We just need to be doing better than we were before…endorsing ourselves for every effort, not just our successes…

Mother Theresa was asked by a newspaper reporter (when she was going to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian efforts) why she worked so hard with the impoverished…the reporter said that there will never really be an end to poverty and therefore, her work would never really end. To this, Mother Theresa said, “We are not called to be successful in all things; we are called to be faithful in all things.”

As I shut down my computer, my list of things to do today is not yet done, and yet, I am going to bed.
Good job, me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Conferences again

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I stayed late at school tonight; I was trying to get ready for parent conferences and get scores entered…all of that stuff.

A good friend of mine called up and asked if I wanted a maple bar from Macey’s. I was so excited I could hardly breathe. I really needed a maple bar. She was already out in the parking lot with it.

Thanks, secret maple-bar-loving friend. You have no idea how much I needed that!

This is all I have time for blogging tonight…I still have a lot of work ahead of me before I get to go to bed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Time

Pin It Lately I’ve been feeling a bit sparse in my life as for time. I had a few phone calls over the past few days followed up with students or teachers needing to talk about something which may be on their mind…all of these items have demanded their fair share of my limited amounts of time. Each day I seem to find that my “in” box is increasing exponentially in size while the “out” box—the one the world may look at and judge me by—with very few items to show for my day in it.

However, as I look at these two boxes I ask myself, “Are the items in them really all that important?” Well, in reality the answer is yes…they are all things which I need to get done. However, which of these items carry with them the greatest value? Which items are the most important and will be treasured the most later, either by me or others?

When the phone rings and I feel that I have nothing left to offer, I find myself thinking…would I rather have a life where nobody called and I was always left alone, with unlimited amounts of time?

No, I would not.

An old friend of mine once said, “It is better to wear out than to rust out.” As I think of this I find myself grateful for the people who have need of the time which I give…not always can I give as much as I’d like, but it is these defining moments which help to make us who we are. Furthermore, there are others out there who do the exact same thing for me, even when these times may just be the slightest bit inconvenient and their own time may be limited.

So while the “in” box may just keep on giving, I realize that my greatest feeling of accomplishment is when I invest the majority of my time with those who carry the greatest worth.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome to My Life

Pin It Updated 10/4/09 - I've added about 9 new songs into the 'tracklist' below..

Isn’t amazing that the people we meet we often only see one side of them? I remember going to my friends’ houses and their parents were always so much cooler than mine were. And yet, as I look back and think about this, I ask myself: Was that really the case?

I believe it is like this with many of the people we meet every day.

In my own life I have had people tell me that I am an amazing teacher, that I’m incredibly organized, and that I am such a funny person. As I listen to these things I think, Now, just who are you talking about here?

“Well, you’re never down, Teachinfourth. You’re always in a good mood.”

Boy, I’ve got you all faked out.

One thing I have come to realize is that every single one of us has our days. Sometimes some of these days are worse than others. How often have you put on a happy face and just tried to plow through? To make it to the end of the day when you can fall down on your bed and finally breathe out a sigh of relief because it’s finally over? Every single one of us had had our shares of worries, struggles, and heartaches too.

Yet, we try so often not to show others this part of ourselves.

Are there days when I don’t want to get out of bed? Absolutely! We all have these moments in our lives—sometimes more than others may have them. I was watching Sleepless in Seattle a while ago and I found myself really relating to a line Tom Hanks’ character says in the movie, “I’m going get out of bed every morning...breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out.”

I’ve felt like this before, haven’t you?

Sometimes I blast a song in my car…maybe you’re heard of it…Welcome to My Life by Simple Plan. There have been days I’ve cranked this song in my car and sang along with it. There’s something liberating about having a couple of songs like that which make you feel good inside or allow you to scream it all out. I do have several “feel good” songs too…a few songs which always seem to make me feel better when I’m down. Just a few of these songs are:

(By the way, I do not endorse any of the videos listed below (well, other than the last 4), but the songs are good. The first song does have two swear words which I have edited on my mp3, however, on YouTube, this is not the case).

You Get What You Give - The New Radicals
Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve
On A High – Duncan Shiek
Gotta Be – Desree
What are You Waiting For? – Lindsay Lohan
Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears for Fears
Unwritten - Natasha Beddingfield
First Time - Lifehouse
Hold On - Wilson Phillips
Break it Down Again - Tears for Fears
Swing Swing - All American Rejects
Viva La Vida - Coldplay
I Believe - Yolanda Adams
Save it for Later - Splender
Wonderful - Gary Go
This Side – Nickel Creek
The Riddle – Five for Fighting
Not Home Yet – Steven Curtis Chapman
Live Out Loud – Steven Curtis Chapman

But do you know something? When I really stop to think about it, I know what it really is that brings happiness to my life. It comes from the people around me. It is these individuals who see me—imperfections and all—and still love me anyhow. It is the people that I spend my time with—though limited it may be. It comes from the people I serve. Yes, these people are far from perfect, yet, so am I…so it’s a fair exchange, don’t you think?

Mission Impossible Birthday?

Pin It A few years ago, my brother and I decided to put together a video scavenger hunt for our sister's birthday. Of course, her birthday was in September and we had set up all of this a few months later...as you can imagine, it came as a COMPLETE surprise to her.



As I look back on this video, I realize:

#1. How good it really is.
#2. How much better I could do it if I were re-creating it today.
#3. Just how cool my brother and I really are...

Friday, March 21, 2008

I miss the desert

Pin It Yesterday I was listening to a song as I drove, as I did, I felt a sudden longing for the desert, for my place of solace. In order to help satisfy that desire, I decided to read some of the poetry I'd written on a visit I had down there about three years ago...


Wildhorse Butte


Crickets chime in a perfect orchestra
As the stars glimmer overhead in solemn silence
Darkened buttes stand inky black against the luminous sky
As the Milky Way drifts overhead, rich and lazy
The desert whispers its secrets on the breath of a night zephyr
As my prickling ears listen to its unspoken words


Alone

The desert wind calls my name
As the aged sandstone looks onward silently
The stillness of the moment beckons me further
Beyond the well-traveled roads I’ve walked before
I constantly am seeking
Images of a distant past,
Play in the stillness of the moment
Echoes of yet another place of time
Strewn and dusty, yet unbroken
I constantly am listening
Red and amber-colored stone cliffs
Watch me silently as I find myself lost amidst distant and lonely canyons
Sighs from the rocky crags find their way to me
Like abandoned souls caught in the wind
I am alone, and in this I find my solace.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Being nice...

Pin It A few kids in my class have been having some problems with being nice to each other lately...this is the poem I am having them memorize...I just want them to know and understand that we are all different and this is okay.

Kids Who Are Different
Digby Wolfe

Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids who don’t always get A’s,
The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers’,
And noses that go on for days.

Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids they call crazy or dumb,
The kids who don’t fit, with the guts and the grit,
Who dance to a different drum

Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids with the mischievous streak,
for when they have grown, as history’s shown,
It’s their difference that makes them unique.


I always just wonder why we as a people can't just be nice to each other. Is it really asking too much?

CALVIN AND HOBBES © Watterson. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. Reprinted with Permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For you...

Pin It Sometimes life can turn on a dime. We feel that we know what the future will bring and yet, sometimes we are given little surprises...some good and some not so good.

You know who, this one is for you. Never forget that He who calmed the waters and winds is mindful of each one of us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It started last night

Pin It I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone. We were discussing this and that when the subject came up. Why did it? I’m not sure, but we were both feeling very passionate about it to tell you the truth. I was actually surprised that she harbored this secret affinity, as did I.

Maple bars.

Now, before you think to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute here, this is just a blog entry about a donut?” You obviously have never had a maple bar from Macey’s.

After our little discussion I went to bed and when I woke up this morning the first thing on my mind were Macey’s maple bars. I wanted one, but decided against it. I needed to get ready, go to school, and make sure everything was prepared for the day.

6:45

I took care of the usual, ironing out my face, standing in the shower for fifteen minutes and just listening to the morning show on the radio, and then facing the grueling decision of which tie was I going to wear for the day. By the way, can I just say that I’m not enjoying dressing up each day as much as I did before? However, with “Chase’s” little deal, I just can’t miss a day or I must admit defeat…defeat is not an option, it never is.

As I saying though, as I was getting ready it was as if the maple bars across town were whispering my name…calling to me like a distant voice on the winds of destiny.

I ignored them at first.

7:22

I made my lunch and got ready to walk out the door.

7:27

I stared my car and pulled into the street. Traffic wasn’t too bad. I cranked up my iPod. “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman flooded through the car’s speakers and I found myself singing along as I drove to my usual turn to get to work.

…in the rush I hear a voice
that’s telling me it’s time
to take the leap of faith
come on let’s go

I’m diving in, I’m going deep…

The turn came…and the turn went. The voices in the wind were calling and I was listening.

For those of you who claim that a maple bar is only a donut and nothing to get excited about, it is obvious that you’ve never had a maple bar from Macey’s.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Forgetfulness

Pin It Okay, before I go any further I just need to explain that I was feeling a wee bit unprepared today. I thought that the best way I could relate this was to take a crack at creating one of those "demotivational" posters...what do you think?


A few of my personal favorites from Despair are the following. By the way, no copyright infrigement is intended...I know, this is terrible, but I couldn't help but laugh at them because there are so many I could relate to.



















Okay, if you made it this far, chances are you have a smile on your face. I am just wondering...if YOU could create a demotivational poster just what would your word and catchphrase be?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Living out loud

Pin It I met Steven Curtis Chapman a few nights ago. For those of you who do not know who he is, he is a Christian singer/songwriter that I have listened to ever since I was about 15 years old. I feel that he and I have been through a lot together throughout the years. We’ve shared some good times and have built some great memories. However, all of these memories are mine, and not his.

On Friday Steven and I were just hanging out, we were talking and I finally met his family. They were not what I had expected. I thought that this man, the one who’d written so many songs which had moved me throughout the years, was somewhere around perfect, however, after conversing with him I realized that this was not the case at all, in fact, he wasn’t all that different than I was.

You see, I had always looked up to Steven. Wow I’d think, If only I could sing like that or if only my life were more like his...his life is perfect. Well, that night I got a wake up call. His family does argue, they do have problems, and he struggles with some of the same things I do in my life. When I asked him about this he responded with, “There are fights in my own house on given days...there is a point when literally hell sounds the trumpet and Satan releases his demons to come and attack the Chapman family. We pray and we get a lot of others praying...It’s not enough to just pray; you must respond when God’s answer to your prayer...and invest yourself in things that don’t always come easily to you.”

He then went on, “You know, you and I are really not all that different. We both have things we are working on in our lives. The thing is you don’t see those things when you look at me…do you?”

I admitted that I really hadn’t.

“This is live we've been given, Jason.” He said next with a smile, “It’s made be be lived out...so live your life out loud.”

It was at this point my alarm clock sounded, and I was roused from my night’s rest. As I opened my eyes I realized that what I’d just experienced was only a dream, a lucid dream, a dream that did not fade from my memory...it was so realistic that it still is sharp and defined even now, days later.

This experience was a great eye-opener for me to realize that Steven is human, just like us all. The reason I say this is because I think that many of us have a tendency to look at those around us who seem to have “perfect” lives and fail to realize that they have their problems, struggles, weaknesses, and even moments of deep despair.

I feel that I have spent far too much time in my life thinking, “If I were only like what’s-his-no-face, things would be better.” It has been over the last little while that I have realized that this is not really the case. I need to stop comparing myself to others and their seemingly “perfect” lives and instead compare myself to myself. Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Have I done any better? If the answer is yes, good for me; if no, then I need to work a little bit harder. The point is, we all need to live our lives for who we are…not for somebody else.

We all are given life and each of these lives are different, it is my goal to follow Steven’s advice to me and to try to live my life to the fullest...if there does come an occasional day when I feel like staying in bed and doing nothing, this is okayI just won't do it all the time.

I want to live my life the way I want it to be lived...

living it out loud.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

I know...

Pin It
Okay, this is lame.

I know that it is lame.

I just want you to know that I know so that you knew what I know. What is it that that I know you wanted to know? Well, I just want you to know that I know that this is not the greatest piece of cinematographic work ever to be produced…in fact, it doesn’t even come close…believe me, I know. 

How could I not know?

Well, what more could you expect from 4 missionaries, an old, VHS video camera, and one day to shoot? Well, this is exactly what you get when you put all of that together…of course you need to understand that all of the original edits were done by pushing the “pause” button on the camera and the original music was dubbed in from having a stereo next to the camera while we were filming. Doesn’t make for the finest quality of film now does it? Even with a few “modern” edits and dubbings put to the original film, doesn’t make it massively greater either. However, this is something my buddies and I made about ten years ago, and it was a lot of fun at the time for us…I just thought that I would share.
Just remember before going any further that I didn’t force you to push the play button or to sit here and spend 15 minutes of your life watching this, now did I? Just take this into consideration BEFORE you push play…

Wow, that sounds like something you’d read on the “extras” portion of a DVD, doesn’t it?

“The opinions expressed herein are those of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the views of What’s their Bucket Inc. or their affiliates. What’s their Bucket Inc. does not warrant the…blah, blah, blah…”

You get the point.

Now, with all of that out of the way, do you remember how I talked about wanting to be a superhero when I was a kid? Well, I would say that that really helped to bring this short film into existence—that, and wanting to make a movie on my last field day in Missouri. For this, I apologize in advance.

Just remember, I told you it was lame.

And yes, I know.



Friday, March 14, 2008

Bloglessness

Pin It

Well, I wrote two blogs tonight, posted one of them, and then removed it. Neither one seemed to be right…one I wrote seemed awfully preachy while the other was just a little bit too personal. As a result, neither one of them will probably ever make it online. However, this evening I experienced a feeling which I can only say made me smile. Believe it or not, a lot of it came from a song by Jericho Road. There is something about this song which just makes me happy and resolve to be a better person.

That’s all for today.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mentoring

Pin It I wanted to do a post about my experiences with mentoring in the past and what an effect it has had on my life. However, tonight is not the night...it is much to late. So in lieu of a post about it at this time, I'd like to share the poster I created about a year ago for the Safety Net Mentoring Program.

Thought of the Month

Pin It


A part of me wanted to blog tonight, but another other part wanted to finish the standards test and the class newsletter for tomorrow so that I am prepared. As a result of this, I am going to post the “thought of the month” I do for my class. After all, I did spend time writing it, right?

When I was about ten or eleven years old I did something that I shouldn’t have. What’s more, I lied to my parents about it too. When my dad found out he told me, “We’re your parents and we love you. We will always love you, but we don’t have to trust you…trust has to be earned and right now, you’ve lost that trust.” I can still remember the disappointment on my dad’s face and realizing that I had let him down. I hated that feeling. I felt like my dad would never believe in me again and it felt awful—it was like a million snakes were all coiling around in my stomach.

I never thought that I could feel a worse feeling than on that day, that is, until I became a schoolteacher. I’ve been working with kids for a many years now and my experiences with my students are some of my greatest joys and worst sorrows; my students have made me laugh, think, and even cry sometimes. Every student that has walked through my classroom door at the start of the school year has always been given my full trust; I believe in them, no matter what I’ve heard from others about them. We talk about new beginnings the first day of school and growing and blossoming into something maybe better than they already are. We talk about becoming the people we want to be. Yet, even with this, I have had students who have chosen to violate that trust. Some do it in the form of stealing from me or other students, cheating on homework or tests, or just flat-out lying. This hurts the student, but it also hurts me too.

I never realized just how much my actions as a ten year-old affected my dad until I became a grown-up and had students to teach. It seems that every year I have at least one or two students who take the trust that I’ve freely given to them and throw it away, like a worn-out scrap of paper. When I have students who are dishonest with me I feel awful inside. I want to trust them, I want to believe them, but when they take what I’ve given to them and violate it, that trust is gone and who knows when this can be earned back.

So what can a student do who has been dishonest in the past? One who has lost the confidence of those around them? Well, the answer is simple. Stop. Stop what it is that you’re doing, make a course change, and do what you KNOW is right from this time forward. I shudder to think what direction my life could have gone if I hadn’t had people in my growing up who loved me enough to correct me when I was making mistakes or pursuing choices that led to bumpy roads.

I recently called my dad about this and thanked him; I thanked him for how strict he was with me and how he made me earn his trust back. I’ve done much better in my life since that time and when I remember back to when I was a ten year-old boy, I am grateful for someone in my life who didn’t let me get away with something that simply wasn’t right. I am grateful for my dad who taught me through a very hard lesson to always be the kind of person that people can depend on and believe in, no matter what.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring is here

Pin It I love this time of year.

I went out last night to help my old roommate with something, and since his house was so close I decided to run. The weather was perfect…not too hot and not too cold. It filled me with such a sense of invigoration. I felt that I could run forever.

I didn’t though.

Today as I left my job, I went outside. It was like being given a breath of new life. I had been entering grades and writing standard tests for quite some time, and I finally decided that I had been inside for far too long and it was time to get out, to experience life.

As I walked out the door I felt the rays of sun on my face and breathed in a newness; a smile came to my face and I walked to my car with a spring in my step and I was tempted to run… I felt that I could run forever.

Inside my car I turned on some music, as I drove with the moon roof open and the wind blowing in my face, I couldn’t help but laugh. But after all, just who is there who can’t smile with a little Queen blaring in the open air?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I have a plant

Pin It I write this blog because I think somebody needs it.

I have a plant.

I love this plant.

It’s called an Asparagus Fern.

My mom used to own it and I remember it from the time I was just a little boy. When my parents split, I took the plant. I’ve had it for ages. A few years ago my mom told me that I could take the plant out of the pot it was in, and separate the roots. I could then take these parts of the plant and put them into separate pots.

I did this.

The plant began to look sickly and I was afraid it was going to die. For a long time it looked terrible and I wondered if I should throw it out, so I wouldn’t have to watch it wither away.

I didn’t.

I watered it, and kept it in just the right amount of sunlight.

Something amazing happened…it got better. The green returned to its leaves and it started to grow…in both pots. I was thrilled. I now have three plants…two in my house, and one in my classroom.

I think that our lives are an awful lot like this plant. There have been times we’ve been uprooted and “torn apart” so to speak. These are hard times when we just want to give up and toss everything into the trash. But we can’t…we need to keep going. There will be growth again and a feeling of newness, however, it usually takes time.

A few years ago, Amy Grant came out with a song called, “It Takes a Little Time.” My favorite line from this song is:

“It takes a little time sometimes
To get your feet back on the ground
It takes a little time sometimes
To get the titanic turned back around.”

Sometimes we just need to be a little more patient with ourselves.

Life never ceases to amaze me...even with all the strains and adversity, my plant lives.

I love my plant.


It looked like radiator fluid

Pin It ...only with bubbles.

I remember hating all sodas except for Sprite or a root beer when I was growing up. Dr. Pepper made me want to vomit and Coke or Pepsi made my stomach turn. Maybe this was because what we usually had to drink was diet caffeine-free Coke. NOT a pleasant drink. I remember trying regular Pepsi at my cousins’ house once when I was growing up and I couldn’t take the sugary sweetness of the soda…it was just way too much.

I liked root beer.

I dated a girl for awhile when I went to the Y who got me swear off soda and only drink water. We were both runners at the time (not me anymore, though) and I found I had greater endurance when I was not drinking soda.

I came to love water.

Water bottles were in my car, my house, in my classroom, in my backpack. I craved icy-cold water and I will admit that I felt much better when I was drinking a lot of it.

I found a recipe. It was one I had while on a white-water rafting trip last summer. The base for the marinade was Mountain Dew.

The other day I had a craving for this barbecued delight and went out to buy some Mountain Dew. I felt like I was buying beer. I snuck it into my cart and put a few other items over it as I walked around the Springville Wal-Mart…just in case somebody I knew saw that I was buying it. Upon arriving home I used some of it, while the rest sat in my pantry. A few days later I had a screaming migraine and a friend of mine recommended drinking a Mountain Dew. “The caffeine will help knock out your headache.” He’d said.

It looked like radiator fluid, but that is not how it tasted. I remember pouring the contents into a glass with ice. The way it foamed up to the top of the glass with a quiet bubbly sound, the deep amberish-green color of the beverage which had a slight lemony-limeish taste. My friend was right, it did indeed knock out my headache like a heavyweight boxer in a death match. Oh, Mountain Dew, how wonderful you are.

I still have the case in my pantry which I do use occasionally, but only for medicinal purposes…

Mostly.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight Savings: 3, Zimmerman: 0

Pin It Ever had your tail kicked before?

I love the scene in “Rocky” where Sylvester Stallone is training and he runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As I’ve watched this scene I’ve come to the realization that sometimes you’re Rocky…and sometimes you’re the steps. The past two days have been some of those “steps” days.

So, what is it that has taken me out of the ring? Who’s the boxer that’s given me the sucker-punch to the face? Who else could it be? None other than that dreaded day that only comes twice a year. You got it, Daylight Savings.

I hate it.

I know, hate is such a strong word, however, I believe I am justified in using it…after all, with the spring version of this day, we actually lose an hour…a whole hour! And just where does this precious sixty minutes go? Nobody knows…it’s just gone. People try to tell me not to worry and that we’ll get it back in another 6 months, but that is little consolation in the here and now. It’s like that old adage, “A burrito on your plate is worth two in the microwave.”

Well, I woke up yesterday morning—early. Something woke me up. I didn’t know what it was at first. After a few moments I realized that it was my roommate getting ready to leave for the day. I looked to my alarm clock, my trusty old Nokia “brick phone.” I have used this old reliable phone as an alarm clock for several years now since upgrading to something a little less bulky.

Like I was saying, I looked at my alarm clock and it read: “early-thirty.” Hmmmmm, that’s odd, why would my roommate be up so early on a Sunday? He didn’t usually get up for another hour or so. I grabbed my cell phone and looked at the display. What? The time was different…it was not-so-early-thirty. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs…the clock on the microwave and the oven both read early-thirty. Hmmmm…something was afoot here.

I was feeling pretty confused as I turned on my laptop, because that one clock in the house was different…whoa, hold the phone, my laptop time was messed up too! I then turned on my iPod and checked the time on it…early-thirty. Okay, who had messed with my computer and cell phone? Was this some elaborate hoax?

Well, suffice it to say that I was totally confused and finally went online and typed in, “current time, Utah.” This is what I got:

UTAH, US — Current local time: Not-so-early:30 AM on Sunday, March 9

Well, to make what might be a more interesting tale somewhat less drawn out, I finally figured out that it was actually not-so-early-thirty and it was getting not-so-earlier by the minute. After jump-starting my muscles, I was finally able to get things rolling and was only behind one hour…the whole day.

Fast forward 10:00—or 11:00—Sunday night, (depending on how you look at it).

I was entering students’ grades when I realized that it was getting late. At about 10:20 I decided that I had better get to bed so I could wake up for work the next day. As I looked at the display on my computer I realized that I’d forgotten to change the time on my kitchen clocks…it was nearly 11:30! I quickly shut down my computer, brushed my teeth, and jumped into bed, willing myself to immediately fall asleep, while the whole time thinking about the fact that it was nearly midnight and I’d be getting up a whole hour earlier than usual…I’d be getting up at 5:00. I looked at my alarm clock several times, it passed midnight. I was in for it.

I probably fell asleep, and I am pretty sure the alarm must’ve gone off later sometime this morning. In fact, I am positive of that fact even though I woke up and just laid there. What time was it anyway? It was so dark and I felt like I’d been steamrolled.

I just laid there.

Finally, I forced myself to get up and get ready, thinking of my students at school waiting for me. Well, by the time I got out of my house it was 8:00—by somebody’s time. I arrived at school about 10 minutes before it started…zero energy. Luckily, my students were completely drained as well and the morning hours were very serene. I wanted to laugh about it, but I have to be honest…I was much too tired to laugh, I thought I’d probably fall down.

It is now 7:00, Daylight Savings Time, and I wanted to rewrite this blog so it sounded funny, but to be honest, I’m too tired. I’m going to bed now.

Daylight Savings: 4, Zimmerman: 0

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I have no speech

Pin It I hung up the phone and shook my head.

I couldn’t believe it.

The conversation that I had had with this particular student’s mom was a bit out of the ordinary. I never thought a conversation like this would’ve happened…at least, I didn’t ever think it would.
But happen it did…

Z: Hello?
P: Hello, Mr. Z. This is Mrs. So-and-So, What’s-his-face’s mom.
Z: Good afternoon, Mrs. So-and-So. What can I do for you today?
P: Well, I needed to ask you a question, Mr. Z.
Z: Sure, what is it?
P: Well, my son, What’s-his-face, wanted me to call you and ask about your hair.

Pause

Z: My hair?
P: Yes, you see, What’s-his-face wants his hair to stick up like yours and the gel we have doesn’t seem to work very well. He was just wondering what kind you used and where you buy it.

Pause

Z: You’re serious?
P: Um, yeah. (In the background: “What kind does he use, Mom?”)
Z: Well, actually I buy it at Albertson’s.
P: Albertson’s? Great, and what’s it called?
Z: It’s called “Spike Glue.”
P: Spike Glue?
Z: Yes.

Pause

(In the background: “What does it look like?”)
P: Mr. Z? What does the container look like? What’s-his-face wants to be sure we can find the right one when we get to the store.
Z: Well…I think the container is kind of a light bluish-green color to tell you the truth. It says “Spike Glue” right on the lid. It also has kind of a yellow packaging around it.
P: Hang on, I need to write this down.

Pause

P: Okay, got it. Thanks. What’s-his-face will be so excited.
Z: Great, hope you are able to pick some up.
P: Oh yes, we’re going to the store right now.
Z: Alright…well, Mrs. So-and-So, you have a great day and I’ll see What’s-his-face back here again at school tomorrow.
(In the background: “How much does he use?”)
P: Um, Mr. Z?
Z: Yeah?
P: How much of the ‘glue’ do you really use? I mean, I don’t want him to use too much. He hasn’t done this before.
(In the background: “Mom! Don’t tell him that.”)
Z: Well, I usually just get some on the tips of my fingers, that’s usually about enough for me.
P: Hang on. I need to write this down. (In the background: “How does he get his hair to stick up?”)

Pause

P: And then how do you get your hair to stand up like you do?
Z: Well, actually, the gel does most of the work…that’s my big secret. You just kind of muss up your hair until it looks right. The stuff holds pretty well.
P: Okay, Um…Well, I think that’s all we needed. Thanks for your help, Mr. Z, we’ll see you later.
Z: Great, glad I could help out What’s-his-face.
P: Oh, so am I. Well…um…goodbye.

In the words of Jerry Seinfield, “I am speechless: I have no speech.”

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Homage to my hero, my friend

Pin It I want to talk about a friend of mine, the kind of person that comes around once in a lifetime. A person who is constantly giving to others and never takes the bows or accolades for what she does. When I started teaching for the Provo School District in 2000, I met Melanie. At this time she was the Art teacher at Sunset View. However, I soon discovered that she was much more than that. Over the years we’ve worked together I’ve seen a woman who is nothing short of incredible.

Melanie’s youngest son was in my class my first year and it didn’t take long before she was volunteering in my classroom whenever she wasn’t teaching a class of her own. She was willing to help edit students’ writing, tutor them in Reading and Math, and would also spend countless hours helping students after school with the presentations they were required to put together. I can remember one such occasion with a boy whom I’ll call “Joey.”

Joey’s parents were uninvolved with him, and they would never help him with his homework. Melanie stayed after school and helped this boy research rockets, organize his information, write a report, make cue cards, build a model of the rocket, and put together a poster for his presentation. In order to help his parents feel “involved” Melanie sent home the pieces for the poster so his parents could help him glue them to the poster board (which, consequently, they didn’t do…Melanie helped him glue them the morning of his presentation). At Joey’s presentation the next day another parent had commented on the quality of his report. I listened to Joey’s mom who carried on talking about how hard they’d worked on it. Melanie was there but simply smiled and didn’t say a thing about the hours she’d worked with Joey, not his mother. This is how Melanie Bliss is, quietly working in the background and never saying a thing, never taking credit, yet always giving. The spotlight is not where she wants to be…she just wants to help kids.

These items, however, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Melanie Bliss took over the after-school program for Sunset View in 2000. During that time she started to write grants for funding for the program she named, “DragonQuest.” This was an after-school (as well as an off-track) program for students at our low-income school to get homework help, tutoring, and where fun classes were offered they could take part in--opportunities many of these kids would never get. She started off with a musical production of Tom Sawyer. It was this which led to a musical every year thereafter. 

I watched as Melanie rewrote portions of the plays to make them better for elementary-aged students, write new songs for the productions to upbeat, popular tunes, and spend countless hours designing sets and costumes as well as working with the kids. In essence, Melanie Bliss was the after school program. However, she did all of this quietly and never drew attention to herself. She would always focus the spotlight on the kids she loved so much, never on herself.

During ensuing years, Melanie directed 7 more plays, all of which required hundreds of hours to prepare. Many of these hours Melanie worked without pay. For the last three productions, Melanie started something called, “Stories on Stage” where the kids wrote stories, turned them in, and Melanie would rewrite these stories into a play format. The students at Sunset View would then perform these short plays for parents and students alike. Once again, though Melanie would spend at least a hundred hours of personal time creating sets, designing and making costumes, writing the scripts, and working with the kids, many of these were unpaid and unknown to the patrons and employees of the school.

In 2004, Melanie became involved with Provo High’s Ballroom Program. She has worked in fundraising for the kids in that program ever since that time. Melanie has helped put together activities, organized their schedules, taken over the BYU football game concessions so the kids could raise funds for their competitions, gone as support to competitions, and helped in the organization of “Dancing with the Athletes.” All this she has done from the wings, never stepping center stage to take any of the bows she most certainly deserves.

Three years ago, Melanie started a program at Sunset View called, “Swing Pups.” This is a program for elementary-aged students to be taught swing dances by the students of Provo High. When Melanie took another job in the district with more hours - as well as starting her college degree - she kept a hand in Swing Pups. Because of scheduling conflicts at the school, Melanie has since moved the practices for this program to Provo High, and to make sure that the kids can still make it the distance, has set up a carpool between parents to ensure that every child that would like to attend has a way to get there.

I was having lunch with Melanie one day and I asked her why she spent all of this time on activities when her own, personal time was so limited as it was. In essence, this is what Melanie told me:
“When I was a kid my parents would never take me to any extracurricular activities—dance lessons, plays, nothing. It just wasn’t a priority to them, as a result, I didn’t get to do a whole lot. There are kids here at Sunset View who have the same problem I did…their parents won’t drive them to Provo Center Street Theatre or up to the Hale Theatre to try out for a production. However, if I bring these and other programs to the children—at their school—it’s close enough for them to walk. They’ll get the chance to do these things they may not have otherwise been able to do. That’s why I do it; I do it so the kids can be exposed to the arts and have experiences they may not have otherwise had the opportunities to take part in.”

I could go on for pages and pages about Melanie Bliss, and I haven’t even begun to touch on some of the things she has done for countless others. However, just know that Melanie has made a larger impact on students than any certified “teacher” I have ever seen in my life. I have never seen a greater commitment to children, or someone who has given up more of their own, personal time for the students they love.

Why am I writing this? You might ask. The answer is simple enough, I just wanted everyone to know what I know about a very special woman who would never tell anyone about these things herself (and who will kill me if she ever finds out I did this). A person I respect, a woman I admire, my hero, my friend.


If you're interested, here is a short documentary of sorts I put together about the after-school drama program:





Two of my favorite plays from the third year of Stories on Stage:



Friday, March 7, 2008

Another dough day

Pin It

I felt the need.

The dough was in the freezer.

I knew that because I’d put in the freezer­ for a reason.

Frozen dough is so much harder to get to because it is solid.

However, I was determined and didn’t give up.

I love Chunk-A-Poo dough.

It was good.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You know, it’s a little bit funny…

Pin It Today I went up to get my taxes done as well as set up the S-Corp. You’ll never guess what though. As I was sitting there with stacks of receipts and documents I took out my W-2 forms and handed them to Sue, the woman doing my taxes for me. Well, you can imagine my surprise when she said, “Your name is wrong on your W-2 forms.”

“What?” I responded, “What do you mean?.”

Hmmm….

Jerry L. Zimmerman

Strange, this person had my same address, yet, my name is not Jerry.

I looked down the totals inside and knew that it was not merely a typo of my name, this was an entirely different person’s form, sent to my address my mistake. I knew this because, after all, I didn’t make THAT much as a schoolteacher.

In trying to track down my employee number to see about downloading my W-2 from online, I went out to my car to get a pay stub from the reimbursement check the school district had sent me. I had had this check for probably 3 months and had only decided to deposit it this morning into my bank account. As I picked up the stub I noticed the name…you got it, my old buddy Jerry L. Zimmerman.

Well, so now it appears that I have not only opened another person’s mail, I have signed one of their checks and deposited it as well...hello identity fraud.

It’s a little bit funny…

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Challenge

Pin It

Do you remember “Chase”? You know, that kid who dressed up in a shirt and tie for the days I had gone home for a family emergency back in October? Well, he made me a little challenge today…

About 9 weeks ago I got a student teacher, Miss Grubbs. As the weeks she spent in my classroom progressed, she began to take over the teaching almost entirely. There were days that I taught for only a few minutes—aside from a few of my reading groups in the afternoons. Well, as my teaching time went down, I sort of got out of the habit of dressing up when I went to school.

Chase noticed.

A few days ago Chase said, “Mr. Z, you used to dress up all the time at school, and now you don’t do it anymore…why not?”

Well, I’d thought about this myself. A part of me was wondering if any of the students would notice…more importantly, if any of them would say anything about the change. After all, how often does someone change something about themselves and we don’t seem to notice or mention it to them? Also, I had to admit, it was much more comfortable wearing jeans and a nice shirt instead of being crammed into a shirt and tie for eight plus hours.

Why had I been dressing that way so long?

Today my class went to listen to a symphony perform. The students, as well as teachers, were required to dress up for the occasion. I have to admit that my class was looking quite dapper in their “best” clothing today. After we’d returned from the symphony we finished the school day but Chase lingered. He walked up to me and said, “Mr. Z, I’m going to dress up every day from now on if you will.”

I looked at this boy. Why was he asking me to do this? There is no dress code at my school other than it has to be modest and reasonably nice. “What do you mean?” I asked, wondering how he’d explain his proposal.

“I will wear a shirt and tie every day for the rest of the school year if you’ll do it too.”

“Really?” I asked. “Are you sure about this, Chase?”

He nodded and extended his hand. “I’m sure.”

I shook his hand to seal the deal. Before he left for home he added, “But Fridays will be dress-down days for both of us, okay?”

“Sure, Chase. Fridays off,” I agreed.

Tomorrow is day one.

Photo update

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Well, just an update from the photo world. I have realized that there is a LOT of work that goes into trying to get something off of the ground. This is one of those times. I found myself spending many hours digging through all of my photos from over the past 7 years and putting them all into one place. As I was going through these files I was reminded of the words I’d heard about amateurs vs. professionals. Amateurs show you everything theyve done, professionals only shows you the best. Sometimes going though photos and trying to decide which your favorites are is like trying to decide which kid is your favorite.

I do have favorites.

The photos I have below are only about one-third of the total photos I have set aside as those “worthy” of showcasing; however, printing these out was a bit on the expensive side. Yet…there was something amazing seeing all of these photos spread out over my kitchen table. As I looked at them I was hit with a thought, “Wow, I’ve taken some pretty good photos!”

I have taken some dandies too...

On Thursday I go in to Hoffman & Company to set up an S-Corp. What is that you ask? I will admit, I had no idea before I talked to one of their representatives about it. An S-Corp is basically a type of business license that can be set up for those people without a storefront.

Yes, that would be me.

I must admit that it is kind of exciting to be doing something like this, however, there is a certain amount of risk…you know, a setting yourself up for failure. I am excited to start this; I can only hope that it will go someplace other than into the ground.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Storms...and He that Calms Them

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Remember when I said that I had a soundtrack to my life?

I do.

I remember when I compiled the varied songs that there were far too many to simply have a one, or even a two-disk compilation. There are just too many songs which have become interwoven into the threads of my experiences. Their words, as well as the emotions they invoke, would also need to be included in that simple “soundtrack” to my life.

I needed more.

I went for a walk tonight, enjoying the crisp, evening air and the empty streets a Sunday night always seems to provide. It was nice to be outside and away from the things in a week which, at times, has been hectic and draining for me. As I was walking on a road overlooking the city, I stopped to gaze at the lights spread out below me…

In this vast panorama which lay before me, I could imagine a veritable trove of people, all with their individual lives and problems, struggles and challenges, joys and accomplishments. As I stood looking out over the city, it seemed so calm, so quiet. Into my mind came the words from a song I’d first heard many years before, as I drank in the calmness all around me, I felt at peace.

The calmer of the storm does look down and He sees us all, and is mindful of everything we experience in our lives. All of our pains, trials, and everything which bombard us each day; I need to remember to take the time to raise my eyes and not concentrate on the waves crashing around me.

My favorite stanza from the song is the following:

“There on the storm I am learning to let go.
The white wave’s high, it’s crashing o’er the deck
And I don’t know where I go.
Where are You Lord? Is my ship going down?
The mast is gone so throw the anchor…
Should I jump and try to swim to land?”

Thank you, Calmer of the Storm.

video

Calmer of the Storm

Down Here

When everything is wrong
The day has passed and nothing’s done
And the whole world seems against me
When I’m rolling in my bed, there’s a storm in my head
I’m afraid of sinking in despair.

Teach me, Lord to have faith
In what You’re bringing me will
Change my life and bring You glory

There on the storm I am learning to let go
Of the will that I so long to control
There may I be in Your arms eternally
I thank you, Lord, You are the calmer of the storm.

You rebuke the wind and the waves
Once again I find I’m amazed by the power of Your will
‘Cause I’m a child of little faith
I feel the wind and forget Your grace
And You say, “Peace, be still.”

Teach me, Lord to have faith
In what You’re bringing me will
Change my life and bring You glory

There on the storm I am learning to let go
Of the will that I so long to control
There may I be in Your arms eternally
I thank you, Lord, You are the calmer of the storm.

Oh when the torment blows
The middle of the sea.
May I never trust, never trust in me.
‘Cause there in Your arms I find
No tragedy.

There on the storm I am learning to let go
The white wave’s high, it’s crashing o’er the deck
And I don’t know where I go
Where are You Lord, is my ship going down?
The mast is gone so throw the anchor
Should I jump and try to swim to land?

There on the storm, teach me God to understand
Of Your will that I just cannot control.
There may I see all Your love protecting me
I thank you Lord, You are the calmer of the storm.

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