Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One Year Ends... Another Begins...

"When I started this letter, I didn't have anything to say. Now I am running out of paper, and need to stop." (A quote from my cousin Denny's Christmas newsletter.)

I haven't written much on this blog of late, in part, because I've been waiting for the dust to settle on a few issues close to my heart. Writing is revealing, and sometimes, one must wait to see how things will play out before commenting or reflecting. Musings take time to formulate. ;-)

I suspect, that like my cousin Dennis, I have more to say than I think.

First of all, I'm grateful that the contract dispute has been settled and settled fairly. It really was quite miraculous in the end, with the District bending to public pressure to offer a fair settlement that was readily accepted. (It didn't need to be that hard, but we were/are dealing with a hard woman.)

Second, I'm enjoying the process of obtaining a Preliminary Academic Service Credential (PASC) via the Orange County Department of Education ( OCDE). We meeting a Friday night and a Saturday day monthly for 14 months. I'm in about month four.  Besides the classes, there is outside reading and projects. I aim to live my life in the now, with an eye towards the future. It's too easy to sit and ponder the past. I'm a happier camper when I'm moving forward toward worthwhile goals.

Third, I'm grateful for the Christmas visit of family: my mom, my sister(s), extended family... and my son Joel, and daughter Danielle. Joel lives in British Columbia and has not been "home" in four years. (He is no longer a college student -- masters in hydrology -- and now has more time and money to fund visits home.) Danielle has finished up her latest adventures in leading youth crews in the forest of Oregon, and her work at a vineyard in Northern California. It's been wonderful to have the two adult kids home for 10 days plus. We've not only enjoyed spending time with them, but it's been great to see them enjoying each other as adults. These were golden moments worth waiting for.

Lastly... I'm grateful for some world-shattering news... my world anyways... my son-in-law recently interviewed for a position at a local college... and got an offer. He accepted and this summer, he will move his family... my daughter and four grandchildren to California. They will probably end up living within minutes of me, instead of half a country away.

When I heard the news... we had been waiting to hear since Thanksgiving... I cried. Some longings are so deep, so close to your heart that you don't even entertain them. They represent your deepest longings, hopes, and desires. They are not the must-haves, but the oh-that-would-be-too-wonderfuls. 

Some things break your heart, some things bring healing to your heart. 

As the one year ends, and another begins, I am both grateful and expectant. 

Now, I'm "out of paper."

(Pictures to follow!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Something to think about...

Something to think about... 

(Created in class tonight, trying to learn

Something way better: Malcolm Gladwell: What we can learn from spaghetti sauce!

The key to happiness? Valuing the variability in others.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Too much fret... Let it be easy...

The same day I wrote the poem in my last post, I wrote the one that appears at the bottom of this post. On the way to work I usually listen to Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, California as he preaches his way through the Bible. I used to listen to J. Vernon McGee do the same. They share a lot of Bible verses and personal insights. Sometimes the verses resonate, sometimes the insights. This morning it was a bit of both. 

Chuck was talking about the life of the Apostle Paul. Paul was a man who let God call the shots. Paul was a man who walked by faith. In the end, all that matters, is being true to the call of God.

It's not about the impact, the assessments of others, or knowing your five-year plan. What really matters is knowing the will of God and doing it.

The simplicity of walking with God is summed up in a verse that used to hang in my house 25 years ago. It read, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Children keep it simple. And they are happy a lot of the time. They trust their Father's care and guidance.

Enjoy the poem!

(Pictures today were taken by my cousin Dennis, aka Pastor Dennis who comments often. Thanks Dennis!)

Called of God

God called a man to serve him:
he was on the road to Emmaus.

And along the way... life happened.
And then he was taken.

* * * * *

God called a man to serve Him:
he was a student in high school.

And along the way... life happened.
And still happens.

*  * * * *

And what was that call?
The same to both...
Simple stuff...
"Follow me."

* * * * *

"It's not complicated."
"Keep it simple."

"Walk with Me."
"Let it be easy."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I once was lost... okay... more than once...

Hello everybody! It seems like a while since I've posted. Things are calming down (except for the end-of-the-quarter flurry of activity). 

My front yard
The contract settlement is a relief to many in the district, and for sure at my school site. With that unsought "project" behind me... I've turned my thoughts and energies to other activities, including... I read another book: My life in dog years by Gary Paulsen.

In his book, Gary tells of some of the dogs who have made a lasting impression upon him. The book is dedicated to Cookie, a dog who saved Gary's life after he fell through the ice and sank. Gary acknowledges that all the accomplishments of his last 18 years are a direct result of Cookie's rescue. 

My front yard view: a park
A good reader often makes connections between a book and their own life. I sat at my desk I thought of my own "life savers," especially my wife Leslie, who  "saved" me from living in the past, from being alone, and helped launch my new career as a teacher. I am in her debt and in the debt of the One who brought us together. (We saved each other.)

The poem:

In a time of grave danger...

A dog saved a man
who then lived many years.
After 18 years... the man still remembers the dog who saved him... and gave him... 18 years... and counting.
Thanks dog.

God saved a man
who then  lived many years.
After 40 years... the man still remembers the God who saved him... and the people God used...

Thanks God.
Thanks people.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Miracles Happen

St. Patrick's - damaged by the "cold"

It is often said, “God moves in mysterious ways…”

What astounds me and fills me with awe is that God moves.  An old time prophet put it this way,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,declares the LORD.
 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It appears that a settlement has been reached between the teachers and district where I work. We’ve done negotiations, letter writing, speech making, protesting, campaigning for candidates, and some of us got together last week for group prayer.

St. Patrick's Rose
In Jesus’ day, he prayed, and once God answered with a voice from heaven. “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.”

The state passed a new budget, another local district got results from “fact finding.” Lots of variables changed… it thundered? Yes.

Or was it simply that God moved?

All I know is that once what seemed to be impossible has come to pass: a fair settlement “magically” appeared. Or was it miraculous?

Personally, I’m going with miraculous. And I’m grateful to God… and to those He chose to use in mysterious ways to bring about this miracle.

What do you hear… thunder or the voice of God?

Bird of Paradise

Happy Thursday! (And Friday!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Allured to the Vista Point...

Joshua Tree National Park

Not content with the view from below,
I snapped a picture and made the ascent.

The trek long.
The path always upward.

The view?


Ample reward
for the allured.

(A truism I enjoy is this, "Show me someone who is bored, and I'll show you someone who lacks meaningful challenges.")

These days I've got my challenges: some imposed, some chosen. I'll endure the imposed ones, but I aim to enjoy the chosen ones. Some paths are chosen for you, some you get to chose. Regardless, the path is generally upwards with occasional vista points, and at the end... triumph.

Keep climbing!

(I wrote Allured last Friday in response to a photo over here. The picture on this post was of rock climber at Joshua Tree.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Normalcy anyone?

Well, things are getting back to the new normal. Life is full of changes, and most of mine are work related. The majority of them are normal kind of changes: new co-worker, new schedule, missing team members... that sort of thing.

The ill-wind of spiteful negotiating continues, and although my kite-in-the-wind metaphor for the year helps some; I'm still blown about at times.

There are still lots of good things happening at work though: great co-workers, student growth, reasonable parents, and lots of laughs. Much of the sanity at work is a credit to my boss/principal: Kim. She's one of the main reasons I transferred to this campus, and that decision pays dividends daily. 

Those of you who follow my other blog know that I've devoted some time to seeking clarity and fairness in the contract negotiations. That's gone pretty well... it's up to the voters now... and time will tell if the families of the district want change and can make it happen by electing a change-prone school board. 

In the mean time, I play my part... and live my life.

A good Christmas looms with a planned visit from my son who lives in Canada. Woo-hoo!

I've also started a new credential program: Preliminary Administrative Services Credential (PASC). That's going very well, and that will be a new topic on this blog.

Reading everyone's blogs lately has stirred up my mental juices to post... Now I need to get out and get some pics of So Cal in October!

More to follow...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Busy Month! (More to follow...)

Well, September sure flew by!

School started August 30th, and I've been busy ever since.

Dani at 13,000 feet (and climbing)

Comparatively speaking, I'm still skating. Many of my co-workers have school age children, and their afternoon and evening schedules make mine look semi-retired.

Never-the-less, between extra union meetings, Board Meetings, and getting back into the swing of a "normal" work week, I have been neglecting this blog.

I've even neglected reading many blogs. But... hopefully... I'm back!

So what's new in my life?

The TV series Bones -- My wife and I have watched most of 4 or 5 seasons: dark humor and great character development surrounding a geeky police procedural.

Joel, enjoying BC's waterways

Changes on campus -- more stress on my co-workers: bigger classes, looming pay gouges instead of pay cuts, new computer programs (and glitches), and a new aide for me.

A great week-long visit from my youngest daughter.

And, I started a new credential program: Preliminary Administrative Services Credential (PASC). It meets one Friday/Saturday a month for 14 months. Last weekend was the beginning. I'm lovin' it.

So that's the mini-update from 36,000 feet. I'm a zoom-out, zoom-in kind of guy... perhaps next post I'll zoom in on something from this big picture: the life of Don.

John and Jo -- enjoying each other
Joanna and an armload of twins

Joanna and her girls

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What do you wish for today?

CSUF Arboretum
I came across this question on a blog today: What do you wish today?

I'm always on the lookout for a good question. Here is how she answered the question:

So today I wish for one day during my vacation that folks are happy and ok around me and that I can let go of the stress and just relax...and read...just for one day this week. That would work for me. What do you wish today?

Often, while watching TV in the evening, my wife will get up and ask me, "Want anything while I'm up?"

Who thinks up these blossoms?
My first answer is "World Peace." (No, I'm not an ex-beauty contestant... but that's what I want!)

My second answer is "Whirled Peas." (I'm a smart alec, and I've already used "World Peace.")

My third answer is usually, "Nothing, honey. I'm good." (I'm generally content just watching the TV.)

But this question is different: What do you wish today?

I read a quote lately on another blog that gave me my wish for today:
Hey, What's going on family?

"Pleasure is spread through the earth in stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find."

~William Wordsworth

My wish today: Find me some stray gifts of pleasure and claim them!

Simple pleasures. Simple joys. Simple delights.

My twin grandsons just turned eight months. On a recent visit I watched them flail their arms AND their legs in delight over some "stray gift of pleasure." 

I may not go that far, but they've got the right idea!

How about you? Are you in the hunt today for some stray gift waiting to be claimed by you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Second to the last Sunday of my Summer Vacation!

My summer vacation is almost over, but the NFL pre-season is in full swing, so all things balance out. (I love AT&T's U-verse and the NFL channel.)

CSUF Arboretum: Going places!

It's been a great summer: one of my best ever.

I wrote to a friend today: The coming school year is full of changes and challenges -- and that's different how?

So much of life is about outlook and attitude. It's not always easy to make sense of things, but if you ponder a bit... or a lot... for a long time... sometimes things make sense...

Or you at least can create a mental game plan. I did that today over on my other blog in a post called Adapt and Thrive!

St. Patrick's rose: a beauty!

That post is really a result of a lot of summer-long pondering over issues at work. But many of the conclusions I reached have broader applications.

I end that post with a quote from a friends FaceBook profile:

"Kites rise highest against the wind -- not with it."

Life is full of problems, challenges, disappointments, etc.

A spider enjoys a lacewing lunch at St. Patrick's

There may be an ill wind blowing, but I don't have to be driven along by it. I can be like the kite and rise up.

That's my plan for the coming school year! (I may even decorate my classroom with a kite or two to stay reminded.)

Da Haan's at da Petting Zoo!

Happy Sunday/Monday.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I read a book by Gerald Weinberg... and it was excellent!

Flowers rock!
On August 3rd a post showed up in my blogger window from a blog I follow called Weinberg on Writing. The post began, "If any of you are still out there, you're probably aware that I've been absent because I've been battling (and winning) a thymic carcinoma."

I was still "out there" and sent out an e-mail to Jerry. He was kind enough to respond. Jerry is an author, consultant, and much more. Wikipedia describes him thusly: "Gerald Marvin (Jerry) Weinberg (27 October 1933) is an American computer scientist, author and teacher of the psychology and anthropology of computer software development."

He's kind of a nerd with personality and insight. His blog states his life's purpose as, "Helping smart people be happy." He's made mine happier.

I own three of Jerry's works of non-fiction: An Introduction to General Systems Thinking, Secrets of Consulting, and More Secrets of Consulting. (I used to be a Systems Engineer, and Jerry, through his books, helped me become a better one.)

At CSUF Arboretum

Back in December of 2008 I did a post called "Let kindness rule" that mentioned Jerry, and he posted a comment! (I was elated, after I found out it wasn't a prank. I was suspicious!)

As a result of that post, I began to follow one of Jerry's blogs: Weinberg on Writing. And that brings us to the topic of this post: I read a book.

This time a read a work of fiction by Jerry called "First Stringers."

When I heard about Jerry's bout with cancer, I wrote him an e-mail, and he wrote me back. At the bottom of his e-mail there was a line, "Treat yourself to one of my engaging eNovels...

See free sample chapters at: link."

Buster 1 and Buster 2

I read the free chapters, and then I ordered one of Jerry's novels: "First Stringers: Eyes that cannot see." It was captivating. It was enthralling. It absorbed my attention almost non-stop for 36 hours. Dang. (It's a 614 page e-book.)

I could talk about the book: setting, characters, plot, and themes, but I don't want to give too much away. You can read the free chapters and see what you think.

The sub-theme that I most appreciated? Abilities and Disabilities.

Remember Jerry's main theme is "Helping Smart People Be Happy." Jerry's a smart guy. He knows stuff about stuff. But most of all, he knows that smart people, people who think, people who ponder... yes, even people who blog, need help. We need help in learning how to be happy: Learning how to view our gifts, our world, and our part.

Jerry's novel continues in that vein. He has created robust, smart characters, installed them in the present day Southwest (Four Corner States), and has given them meaningful problems to solve. Against that backdrop Jerry continues his quest to help smart people be happy, this time, as we are carried along with the main characters through a suspenseful plot that twists and turns on its way to a satisfying conclusion.

A double delight!

All this... and there is a sequel!

Happy Sunday.

(And thanks Jerry.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Final Three Weeks of Vacation... Life is good!

I was thinking, Perhaps having a 10 week summer vacation has spoiled me? because as the final three week mark arrived, I felt sad. "Ahh..., only three weeks left!"

Family fun... for the fit!
But I appreciate my 10 week summer break, so am I spoiled or just... blessed?

I count the summer break as a blessing. It's very nice and I'm grateful.

Back in my life in the business world, I was elated when I hit the longevity mark (5 years) that earned me a third week of vacation. Now I sigh, "Oh, my last three weeks."

That's partially where I get my post's title, "Life is good."

If my biggest problem is "only" three weeks of vacation left, then "Life is good."

I'm happy that life ebbs and flows. I've had periods of my life when things were tough, very tough. But things change, sometimes for the better, and once again, life smooths out.

I'll probably face difficult times again. Job said, "As sure as the sparks fly upward, so man is born for trouble."

But for now, I'm grateful for the blessings I'm enjoying.
Happy Hikers! (Jimmy!)

Each day has its highlights and its troubles. Sometimes the mix is far from 50/50. (And I would be unhappy with 50/50... that's a lot of trouble!)
Happy Hikers! (Danny!)

It's been a great summer: one of the best of my life. Here's the chief blessing I'm grateful for:

Five weeks of bonding with grand-kids (and their parents).

The twins turned eight months while they were here. This was the first time I'd seen them. I wasn't there (Illinois in November) when they were born.

Abby and Rachel are having birthdays in August: I won't be there for the fun. (They're now in Maryland.)

I could be sad and depressed about all that I've missed and will miss in watching these children and their parents mature. But I choose not to.

Mimosa blossom on the trail.
Instead I choose to be grateful for the five weeks we had together: 24/7. That's a huge chunk of time that many grandparents never get to have. But I did, and I savored it.

 Hopefully, there will be more time... all in due time.

I think that's been the biggest lesson I've learned this summer: "All in due time."

Projects, relationships, and even problems have a pace. It's a wise man/woman who can adjust to the pace gracefully.

We all have projects, relationships, and problems that weave through the tapestry of our lives. Some are quickly resolved, some... not so much.

If we learn to adjust to the pace (fast or slow), life becomes much easier to navigate and even enjoy.

Looking up... See the red-tailed hawk?

I'm enjoying my summer. I hope you are too!

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday: Summer Part Two begins...

One advantage of teaching in the public schools is summer vacation. (This is only true if you budget for them, and you don't have to work. Otherwise it's a disadvantage.)

Summer vacation for me runs from June 18th to August 30th... some kind of sweet retreat.

Part 1 of  "My Summer Vacation"  was playing host to my oldest daughter, Joanna, and her family. They left last Saturday after a five week stay.

On a day hike!

"Five weeks!" you say. "Ouch."

I say, "Five weeks! Awesome!"

My wife and I went to lunch today, and I was asked by a waitress we know how my summer was going. I said, "Great!" and then told this story to illustrate it...

Joanna and her husband John planned a short (4 hour or so) day trip to a local park and small zoo. Irvine Park is the oldest regional park in California. It boasts among other things a small kiddie train, a small lake with paddle boats, ancient oaks and elms, plus the zoo.

I was invited to tag along, so I did. After the 30 minute drive, we arrived. The twins were sleeping so I volunteered to stay in the mini-van while Joanna, John, Abby (7), and Rachel (4) rode the train. They left the van running, the A/C on, and Grand-pa Don in charge of the sleeping twin boys (7 months).

The boys soon awakened, and I spent the next hour entertaining them with smiles, noises, songs, and empty water bottles. You might say, "How boring!" But I say, "Golden moments to treasure."

New sun glasses for the girls!

The rest of our visit to the park included the zoo and a picnic. Both events contained many golden moments. Some men may have been bored to tears. I was almost moved to tears as I recounted to the waitress one small part of the day.


Because I'm that guy.

Fun on the Slip 'n Slide!

I enjoyed raising my own kids, and now to have the opportunity to get to know them again as grown-ups with their own spouses and families is indeed.... priceless.

That was Part 1 of my summer. Now I'm making to-do lists and getting things to-done. I'm enjoying that too, but I do miss the Haan family bustle.

I mowed the backyard yesterday, and I missed my two helpers who would rake the grass into haystacks and play in the piles.  Abby and Rachel are enroute to their new home in Maryland, but the memories of their visit linger...

Good times. Good times.

The Trip to Maryland Begins!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday the 11th of July

Time for a weekly update?

Life at Camp Evans Summer Resort is chugging along. My oldest daughter and her clan continue to keep us entertained. I have a new appreciation for anyone who has raised twins. The first two years (pre-language and pre-potty training) are killer. The twins turned 8 months on the 15th of July.

My days are filled with tea parties and catch with the 7 and 4 year-olds; plus, holding or entertaining the twin boys (or which ever one is fussing the most). It's all good.

My cousin sent me a link about a virtuoso violinist who played a free concert (incognito) at a DC train station during rush hour. He was mostly ignored.

One moral of that story is that some of the greatest moments available to us go unnoticed and unappreciated. I'm attempting to buck that trend... treasuring the days (now weeks) of quality time with family: daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren, and wife.

If we miss the golden moments... we'll miss the best that life has to offer.

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Another Sunday... and a Happy 4th!

Twelve years ago, my fiance arrived on a plane from Chicago with my son. She had left Long Island by car to pick him up in Newark, New Jersey. (They were meeting for the 1st time. He was 16.) I had sent my son via airplane to help Leslie drive her car to Champaign, Illinois where she was going to give her car to her future step-daughter. (The car didn't meet California smog requirements, so Leslie decided to give it to Joanna, a student at the University of Illinois.)

Joanna then drove Leslie and Joel to Chicago where they flew to LAX. They arrived July 4th, 1998. That December Leslie and I married. Six months or so later, Joel went away to college. That left Leslie, I, and 11 year-old daughter Danielle to be the new Evans family. Six year later, Danielle left for Florida. She returned a year or so later and lived back at home for about a year before setting off to complete her four year college degree.

Now, all the kids are out and about: Oregon, Maryland, and British Columbia.

Now, it's "just" Leslie and I holding down the home front.

Today, in addition to celebrating the start of a country... I'm celebrating the start of a new life with Leslie: by the grace of God... my second chance. I'm very grateful.

Happy 4th of July!

(Here's some pics of the visiting grand-kids. Oh yeah!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Second Sunday of My Summer!

Woo-hoo! Summer's here.

For me, that includes Summer vacation. As much as I love teaching, I also love the time off... even in gigantic 10 week chunks.

What has made this a great summer so far has been the arrival of my oldest daughter and her family. I had enough time between the students' departure and the family's arrival to take care of most of the preparations for welcoming a family of six into our day-to-day world. The entourage of family includes my daughter, son-in-law, two girls (6 and 4), plus... twin boys (7 months)! Oh, yeah!

The boys, Danny and Jimmy are first time visitors to California and their arrival marked day 20ish of a family road-trip from Illinois to Maryland to California. Yikes!

After the long road trip, the Haan family was ready for some chill time and trying to get the small ones back on some sort of sleeping schedule. My wife and I have enjoyed lots of play-time with the kids, especially enjoying seeing the twins for the first time. Sometimes you think you're seeing double. It's very fun... and double the work. (This is where being a grandparent is a bonus. You can help all you want, but the late nights and crying kids are not really your direct worry.)

I've had to neglect reading everyone's blogs: too much action going on here, and my computer actually lives in the twins "bedroom." I did pen three or four entries over on my other blog, but that was mostly just to free my mind of the information and emotion. Blogging is a lot like journaling, which doctors recommend for relieving stress? Anyway, it's worked for me. I have a few more entries I want to do over there, but I can't totally neglect this blog! (This is my other baby.) ;-)

Hope each of you are enjoying your Summer beginnings, including better weather, more outside time, and a slower pace? (Or two out of three?)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bucket List Bonuses

I don't really have a bucket list. I've pretty much done things I've wanted to as life unfolded.

However, just recently I've had two personal highlights that put a grin on my face just thinking about them:

1) Getting to be the "front man" in a school talent show. The teachers put on a dance. Each grade level (all ladies) had nice choreography. I did the intro and refrain and just free styled. We had a laughing and adoring audience of 400 plus elementary school students. It was hilarious and fun. (Did I mention most of us wore wigs?) Me in a dance number? Bucket-list stuff.

2) Grand-slam with two outs... Today was teachers vs. the 6th grade. We're talking big fish in a very small pond. The first few innings were close, but in around the fourth I came to bat with two outs and bases loaded. The stuff of dreams. No real pressure, but what an opportunity. I took a nice high pitch and sent it within two feet of the center fielder's glove. She missed it, and I trotted the bases. I'd be lying if I didn't say that was a kick in the pants.

A few weeks ago I applied for a job in a neighboring district. I didn't even get an interview, and weeks like the last two, make me glad. What fun! (I'm one lucky guy to work with such a great staff and great kids.)  I'm also glad I love and live by such songs as "I hope you dance." (And... play ball!)

Two more days and this school year is in the history books for me. ;-)