Sunday, August 28, 2011


Today is Sunday, which is traditionally a day of renewal: the start of a new week.

Chollo cacti: Joshua Tree

Today is the last Sunday before my year with students begins in earnest.

Today, I reviewed my set of personal affirmations. In the midst of them, one stood out:

"I choose to happily embrace uncertainty. I have a God."

New beginnings are full of uncertainties. Some call these worries, concerns, possible challenges, or possible problems. I lump them together under the label of "uncertainty."

As I reviewed my affirmations, my personal beliefs and commitments, this one resonated with my current sense of being: "I choose to happily embrace uncertainty. I have a God."

Chollos: 4' to 7' full grown

The future can be faced with a sense of foreboding OR with calm assurance.

The coming year will have trials and triumphs, but mostly it will have routines, ebbs and flows. I know that, but the trials and ebbs tend to scare me. So what do I do?

I trust in God.

A line from one of my favorite hymns is "All the way, my Savior leads me. What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt his endless mercies, who through life has been my Guide?, by faith, in Him I dwell. For I know WHAT ERE befall me... Jesus doeth all things well."

What can life throw at me that will find God insufficient? (Nothing.)

A fading Chollo flower

"I choose to happily embrace uncertainty. I have a God."

What is certain is that I have a God, and that He has promised, "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you."

One of the names of God is "I am that I am." Some have paraphrased this as "I am becoming all that my people need."

This year I will be in need. There will be times when I am needy. Who will be there for me?

My Heavenly Father. God my Savior. I am that I am.

I read this morning, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Little children have a lot of confidence in their parents. They trust them. They rely upon them. They hold their parents' hand and go forward with assurance.

Today, I choose conversion!

You can look, but don't touch!

"I choose to happily embrace uncertainty. I have a God."

How about you? How will you face the uncertainties before you?

I recommend trusting God. He is faithful. He is able. He is willing to become all we need.

Yeah! (Happy Sunday!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The last week of (my) summer... I can FLY!

Joshua Tree: Fathers' Day
I go back to work this Friday. I'm a teacher, and I've been on Summer Break: ten weeks of productive relaxation and rejuvenation.

It's been a great summer. For the last month, after my daughter moved into her new home just blocks away, I stumbled across a web-site and "friend" who has changed my life! (

With my daughter moving closer, I now have someone to "help" me clean my garage. How does she help? I can show her mementos of our early family life, and she can speak for herself and siblings about getting rid of it, taking it or keeping it.

This exercise of thinning out family memorabilia led me to Google-ing sites that help with organizing your home. It was via that search that I found Although most of her program is found on-line for free, I bought her e-book. It allowed me to take a bit of a crash course through her BabySteps. Being off work, I had more free time to implement her suggestions.

My new Fit on its first road trip!

One of her suggestions is breaking your home into Zones, each getting more attention for one week out of the month. I'm on the last zone this week. As I've worked through my home, together with my wife, we've been able to declutter, clean, and ease into a maintenance mode that brought our home to a new state of affairs: visitor ready!

On Saturday, my sister who lives two blocks away, had planned a "Welcome Back to California" picnic for my daughter and her family, my niece and her family, my nephew and his family, plus the son of a cousin who is joining the Marines. There were supposed to be about 20 of us. The twenty showed up, but so did two unexpected visitors from Iowa: my mom and my sister. As I arrived home from a final grocery store run for the picnic, I was surprised to find my mom and sister in my living room.

It was an unexpected surprise and it added a four generation element to the picnic. My mom had all her children, and most of her grand kids present. Her 90+ year old sister was there too! It was memorable.

Vista: California desert

So was the fact that my home was sparklingly ready for unexpected guests!

Later, at the park, it came to my attention that my two-block-away sister had included an "accommodations available" line to the e-invite she had sent out. All the local family homes were full but mine, and my nephew Kevin and his family of four were planning of staying over, somewhere. Well, after a quick check with the wife, we volunteered. Our house was not in CHAOS (can't have anyone over syndrome). Preparations for Kevin and Company took all of 10 minutes, and that included getting a sleeping bag down out of the garage and warming it in the clothes-dryer as a cozy living-room mattress for his daughters.

It was is great having Jennifer, Kevin, and Joanna back in California. It was very special having my mom and sister Candy surprising us from Iowa. It was a wonderful, wonderful picnic, and it was momentous to have my home ready-for-use on a moment's notice. Thank you FlyLady!

Chollo cactus: Beware!

(Disclaimer: FlyLady's motto is "Your home didn't get dirty overnight, and it won't get cleaned up overnight: BabySteps." My home only got so much better in such a short time because I had the time, energy, and inclination. I still took BabySteps, but I took a lot of them in a fairly short time. End of Disclaimer.)  ;-)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jack of all Trades (with the help of Google)

Household maintenance can be disheartening, especially when things break. And things do break. What you name the feelings that springs from feeling inadequate may vary, but the thought is the same, "This challenge in greater than my assets... and people are watching!"

Self-doubt is a part of life, my life, but I talk to myself: "Hey, failure is a possible outcome, but so is success, or partial success. Finding out what doesn't work just might lead me to what does!"
Joshua Tree (Big Rocks!)

One of my favorite assets is Google and YouTube. My problems aren't unique, and others have solved them. Some of them make videos!

Yesterday I fixed an ice-maker and a washing machine, both times I was aided by Do-it-yourself videos or threads I found after playing around on Google, searching for clues.

The ice-maker clue came when I found out where ice-makers usually freeze up... at the place where the water enters the ice-maker. A well-placed hairdryer for five minutes melted the clog, and presto! (Ice began to flow!)

The washing machine "broke" back in May. I "fixed" it then by by-passing the lid switch; something I learned via a YouTube video. I tried to buy a replacement part in May, but the parts store (Sears) was closed. (Their web site is woefully inadequate. And they agree.)

A Cave Dweller's View of the World

My "fix" broke yesterday, half-way through a the rinse cycle. I searched my browsing history via Google Chrome, and found my way back to some information I had found in May. After a return trip to Sears Parts Store (open only from 10 to 5 Mon. through Sat.), I followed this step-by-step YouTube video and Voila! (Even now I can hear the washing machine purring through a load.)

I feel empowered. Those nasty voices of self-doubt have been silenced! It's amazing what you can do if you start asking the right questions. It's also amazing how much money you can save by learning how to do-it-yourself.

Problem solving skills are learned by solving problems. It turns out... that life is full of problems, so there are endless opportunities to sharpen your skills. Especially when things break.

Bird in Flight (Looking for lunch?)

Next on my fix-it agenda is replacing some light bulbs: in the microwave and in the stove-vent hood. I've found a video to help with the microwave one, and I'm sure that between on-line manuals, etc. I'll conquer the stove-vent hood light.

With a bit of help from Google, I can be a Jack-of-all-trades (and a-master-of-none)! Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer: Week 6 (I might have lost track!)

To say I'm enjoying my summer vacation would be an understatement. This has been one of my best summers ever, and I've had a lot of good summers.

Fathers' Day in Joshua Tree

I just finished my 13th year of teaching, and with teaching, comes a 10 week unpaid vacation. I have a summer saver account, so I cut my 10 month salary 12 ways, that way, I don't have to work during the summers. I've worked only about three summers in the last 13. I still stay busy, but I have very few time constraints during the summer.

Some summers I've traveled quite a bit, which made them special. But this one? I've stayed home. So what puts this summer in the top 5? Family.

A day hike to... a lovely rock pile!

The first two weeks of summer were spent winding down from school, plus giving the house and yards some attention. I like do to what I call "self-inflicted honey-do's."  I also bought a Kindle and I've been doing a lot of reading in the yard. Sweet. (And, I helped my oldest daughter find a home to rent nearby.)

But on July 4th, all that rest and relaxation gave way to some serious summer fun: my daughter and her family arrived to begin a three week stay while they awaited their furniture's arrival from Maryland. Some might flinch at the thought of playing host to a family of six including twin toddlers, but we did the same thing last summer and loved it.

The three weeks flew by. The transition from empty nest to very full nest was helped by lawn chairs. We spent a lot of time in the yard, which supplemented the limited living space I call home.

Picnic among the boulders?

The pace of a young family is very different from that of a middle-aged couple, but Leslie and I embraced the changes joyfully. We are so happy that this summer "trip" won't end with a departure, but a relocation.

Earlier this week, the moving van arrived, and while we babysat, a new home was inaugurated! My sister and her family helped unload boxes. The move-in was accomplished in record time with few if any bumps. Wow.

So my summer seems to be forming into a three phase adventure: prepare for the Haans, host the Haans, and help the Haans adjust to their new home in lovely Fullerton, California.

Self-portrait, with feet.

Me? I got my computer room back: it was a boys' bedroom for most of the summer. So, now I even have time and access to write a blog entry or two.

That's my summer so far. And. I'm. loving. it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Second Week of Summer Vacation

School's out for the summer! (I don'g get tired of the refrain. Sorry if you do. I'm not gloating: I'm just reveling.)

One of my affirmations/guiding principals is: I choose to move forward towards my goals at an easy, sustainable pace.

That's been my summer so far. I also listen to my body: "Take a nap." Sometimes, the best thing for rejuvenating is making some deposits into the sleep bank. I've done a bit of that.

Chollo cactus (Don't touch!)

But one of the best things I've done this summer is: Read for entertainment. I haven't done much of that for a while. Buying a Kindle helped. Being ahead of school assignments has helped too, but I've got some stuff due in two days, so no "reading for fun" for me for a couple of days. Regardless, it's been fun.

"Big" desert blooms

I also bought the NY Times Crossword App for Kindle. I've done three puzzles -- the easy ones. It's fun, engaging, and you get to learn stuff! All part of my summer rejuvenation project. (There, I've named it. Now I can loaf, but pretend that I'm working on a project.) ;-)

Desert bloom (understated)

My biggest project(s)? Build a fence. Welcome my daughter and her family on the 4th of July. (They're moving in two blocks away.) Other than those two projects, everything else is minor.

Self-portrait on a rock (with shoes)
So that's my update for week two. Not much going on... how sweet it is.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beliefs: How is that working for you?

I'm re-reading a book called The Gabriel Method: The Revolutionary Diet-Free Way to Totally Transform Your Body. I read it a year or so ago, and the thoughts have helped me become a better eater: I now tend to eat more nutritious foods. I think that has contributed to my lower blood pressure and some weight loss, despite too much celebratory eating of the "free" food that shows up at work.

Stone-scape at Joshua Tree NP

One theme of the book is cultivating the belief that it is safe to be thin. As I went to bed last night, I rehearsed in my mind some of the Bible verses that give me personal assurance the my Heavenly Father "has my back." I slept very well: the best I've slept since school ended last Friday. Ahhh... thanks, I needed that.

Desert Bloom

Today, I came across this paragraph:

"Beliefs can control our entire reality because they act like reality filters. If we believe something is possible or will happen, we open up a range of possibilities to allow particular realities to occur. On the other hand, if we think that something is difficult or impossible to accomplish, we shut ourselves off from the possibilities, thus almost ensuring that an even will not occur. The harder we think something is to achieve, the harder achieving it will become. As the saying goes, argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours. However, the easier we thing something is to achieve, the easier we make it for ourselves." (Page 26).

Grow where you are planted?

How's your reality these days? Time for a belief check? To what extent do you monitor and upgrade your beliefs? Something to ponder...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

360 Miles in a Day: Joshua Tree Day Trip!

Each year, when possible, my cousin Dennis visits from his home in eastern Washington. He usually spends the weekend at my sister's who lives nearby. This year, there was a family BBQ on Saturday (with campfire sing-along and ukulele!)

Over pina colada's and BBQ, Dennis and I planned our second annual Fathers' Day road trip: Joshua Tree National Park here we come!

Joshua Tree catching some rays!

Dennis and I comprise two of the three living men who share the name of our ancestors. His dad and my dad were brothers: the only offspring of their parents. Our dads' each had two girls and a boy. I followed that pattern, and Dennis has not yet married. So, in my mind, this road-trip, which fell again this year on Fathers' Day, is a celebration and a bit of a tribute to our fathers. Theirs was a relationship full of cuts and barbs: call it sibling rivalry, or slight dysfunction: either one fits. Dennis and I get along much better. We share a fair amount of family history, we were both residents of Anaheim until Dennis' family moved to northern California when he was in junior high. We also shared a set of grandparents, and we have a common faith (Christian).

Matt from BC on a boulder 

With the help of Google maps I gauged and semi-planned our 130 mile (each way) trip. Google estimated a two and a half hour drive to the western edge of the park. (I guessed closer to two.) The park itself is about 45 miles wide. The drive was two hours each way. We left Orange County at 8 am, and returned at 7 pm. By my estimates, that means we spent about 6 or 7 hours in the park, sight seeing, picnicking, and visiting with other park visitors. We also took pictures, each of us having taken up as a hobby, the profession and passion of our grandfather.

A view from a "window"

Besides the sights, we conversed at length over various topics. Both of us talk for a living: he's a minister and I'm a teacher. We also struck up "instant" friendships with Matt, a rock climber from British Columbia, Canada, and an unnamed family (mom and two teenagers) from the Netherlands. The National Parks is generally populated with a kind and out-going visitors!

Over the course of the next few blogs, I'll be sprinkling in some of the photos from this road trip. Besides the conversations and the pictures, I also brought home a slight sunburn courtesy of the 95 degree sun we enjoyed. (It's a dry heat and there was a pleasant breeze!) ;-)

Where the trees live!

It was a memorable day set against a memorable landscape: enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On the Second Day of Summer Vacation... Fathers' Day

A view from my patio.
"School's out for the summer!" So goes the rock ballad, and so begins my summer break: 10 weeks of time off without pay. (Good thing I save during the year... so those 10 weeks are really a break, not a worry.)

The school year ended smoothly: final duties were fulfilled, parties happened, goodbyes were said, and I left my classroom well situated for a new beginning in the Fall. And summer began.

What lies before me? Summer plans? (I've got a few, but not much I really have to do. It should be a summer of  doing-because-I-want-to's -- a mix of relaxation, productivity, and fun.

A view from under mini-patio
I'll be watching DVDs with my wife, taking walks with my dog, working in the yard, building a fence, installing two new screen doors (?), AND helping out my daughter and her family who arrive July 3rd. Grandparents R' Us is about to open for business. (And, I'll be reading on my new Kindle!)

This weekend my cousin Dennis is in town. We had a BBQ and sing-along last night, and today we are trekking 130 miles south to Joshua Tree National Park. He's never been, and I know the way!

Today is Fathers' Day. Last year Dennis and I did a shorter day trip on his annual visit from eastern Washington. I think it's a fitting tribute to our fathers. Dennis' dad and my dad were brothers. Both have passed on, but we, their only sons, are "hanging out" today. It wasn't a big, planned tribute. It just is. And I think that our Dads would be glad. I am.

Heidi: my security system!

A liquid amber: with seating for two.
Geranium blossom
Happy Fathers' Day to those of you who provide positive male role models for youth. As a dad and educator, I know of few other higher callings. Fathers should be in the business of youth development: helping our beloved sons and daughters become the people they choose to be.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A new house?

Here are some pictures of a rental: exterior only. This is a temporary post for someone special!

Kalana is checking on dishwasher situation.
No fridge.
No washer/dryer. Hookups are in garage. (May be back door access.)
Floors were redone two years ago. (The tenant is moving out... bought a house of is own.)
She has an appraisal with a schematic, if you're interested.
They are a family owned business with 35 or so properties; well kept up, pride of ownership, even in a property management company.

South side
Front door (nice light)

From driveway to front door (sidewalk)

A/C into living room (hidden by palms)

Along driveway to gate

Looking from garage door (nice driveway)

Over the gate to back yard

Over the gate to back corner

Over the gate (patio 2 years old) no patio roof

Front door has rain guards

South side had planters and gate access

Roof has attic fans (2) for cooling

Front yard (auto sprinklers - front & back)

Front door zoom: tenant is the gardener!

A cute cat! (Bonus pic.)

Yes, the appointment was canceled.

Voice recognition software: A trial with a wedcam microphone.

This blog and entry is being compost using windows seven voice recognition software.

I'm hoping this software will enable all some of my students who has struggled with writing, to create a first draft quality cheeses of writing.

The result may still require editing, but it should enables my students to look smarter on paper. If you also say the considerable amounts of time.

The best part? The software is three! (hits included in windows seven.) New line

A view off the balcony: San Clemente Inn
Now I will edge what I've written. 

This blog entry is being composed using Windows 7 voice recognition software.

I'm hoping this software will enable some of my students, who have struggled with writing, to create  first draft quality pieces of writing.

The results may still require editing, but it should enable my students to look smarter on paper. It should also save considerable amounts of time.

The best part? The software is free! (It's included in Windows 7.)  

Zoom in! A gazebo!
Now I will edit what I've written. 

Now I'll try it again, editing as I go...

This log entry is being composed using windows seven voice recognition software. I am hoping this software will enable some of my students, who have struggled was writing, to create a first draft quality piece of writing. A

The results they still require editing, but should enable listings to look smarter on paper we should also save considerable amounts of time.

And the best part? It is freedom! (it is included in windows seven.)

Shuffle board anyone?
(this is still going to require editing!) 

That's all for now. Voice Recognition is found on the control panel (Speech Recognition). It includes 1/2 hour or so of tutorials, which I listened to. Not a real steep learning curve, but it still takes some patience and practice. I think I'll try it with a hand held microphone next time.