The summer gets into full swing

Well, that was a week. Vacation Bible School has passed and as the director, I can only say–thank God. It was indeed a lot of fun and the kids loved it. Perhaps the very best thing that happened was that our church sub-leases our facility to a Korean congregation and they joined us for VBS this year. So we had a nice group of mixed cultures and there was real opportunity to be a Christian community which was rather cool.

As for the VBS company Group Publishing’s Theology, I can only say that if I have a voice in next year’s adoption of a program, it will not be Group. I was wholly disappointed in the emphasis placed on sin, damnation and even physical pain—for a bunch of K-3rd graders. They actually had an exercise where they wanted kids to drive their finger nails into their palms and think about their sins, causing themselves pain. They had another exercise during game-time in which the games leader was supposed to say, “Jesus was crucified and killed on the cross so that you would not have to be.” Now, that may be true—but do we honestly think that this is the very best way to impart the love of God to children? Needless to say, we did a bit of editing in the program. We’re going to scare them into loving God because they’ll be too afraid not to? No–I think it’s time to move away from Group.

The birthday has come and gone. I got a great present–a new house. Yes, we are in escrow on a new home here in Camarillo. However, our house has not sold yet. Smirk not, ye of little faith–I am not so lowly stupid that I have gone half-cocked here. I have worked with my mortgage broker, Mike Hobbes (and he is the very best I can think of in this business), to create bridge financing. No–not a bridge loan per se. Those are too expensive. But we have created a way to work the house on a second mortgage that will provide for payments for both houses through November if needs be. It is not quite July and I am confident my house will move before this fall. However, if it doesn’t, we’ll survive and be OK. And so–this summer that was already busy with Shakespeare Productions, live concerts and VBS preparations, swimming lessons and gymnastics for Peanut, a little travel for the family and some family visiting–will be a summer that we also move. In fact, I think the summer will be busier than the fall—and that is said as the newspaper and yearbook adviser to a high school.

Oy.

Birthday Eve or loads o' links

What a year. Oh–well, a year passed since my last birthday–and that was the big 40, and it was a crappy day. Woke up that morning in Reno, NV headed home from Salmon, ID after cancelling a river-rafting trip disappointing my two best friends and suffering a torn muscle and a kidney stone. What a difference a year makes, indeed.

So, this year–it’s a new house. Risks are being taken, but they are calculated risks. Life is, after all, best lived in the forward gear. So I am.

Band practice tonight for the Live for Life concert. We actually sound halfway decent. It took a little bit to get there, but I think everyone is pulling his weight and if nothing else, we fill up the room with some pretty good songs. The set list for this particular line-up (Edd will play with three different configurations that night) includes all cover songs–and some fun ones. In order that we play them, they are:

Tell me when did things go so wrong by The Smithereens
Banditos by The Refreshments
Just another day by Boingo
Teen Angst by Cracker
Be Yourself by Audioslave

It’s pretty good stuff–and if you’re reading, I hope you’ll come by and support Edd’s cause. He’s had a rough go lately and a little love will help him go a long way—to get a new liver, and a new lease on life.

I promised wine, yet did not deliver. There is wine news however–and that is that one of my favorite wineries, Presdio out of Solvang, Lompoc on the Central Coast–achieved Biodynamic certification. That’s a huge step and it’s something Doug Braun has been shooting for. If you’ve not tried Presidio’s wines–you’re missing out. They’re really excellent.

Nothing much to see here II

VBS, early-waking child (6:00 A.M. or so), real estate offers, discussions, forms to sign, NO WINE, back and forth, Ventura, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks…kids, kids, kids—it is, as they say, a never-ending run. Little did I know that school would end and I would get busier, not relaxed.

The result of this, gentles, is that I am not much in the mood for a post. The one bright spot in the day is that I was wrong about Othello rehearsal. It begins Sunday, not today. And this gives me time to wrap VBS, figure out the real estate deals this week, gather some steam, turn 41–and calm down.

Wine tomorrow…..

God, houses, humanity and a hot day

Well, it’s not Phoenix or Miami, but man it was warm today. And then it wasn’t. It got down to about 69 degrees at 2:00 P.M. here today and then the clouds blew over and the temp went up and it got humid. Weird, eclectic Mid-western day here in So. Cal.

VBS is off to a roaring start. About 42 kids taking part and this includes a really cool addition of 22 children from the church that shares our space, a Korean Christian group. They’re wonderful and a neat addition to our VBS program.

I still maintain that Group Publishing is simply not a good fit for a Lutheran church. Their Theology is deeply conservative and while the majority of it is fine, there are some problematic areas that we simply removed. The whole idea of children digging their finger-nails into their palms and creating pain to think about their sins is just weird and a little freakish. The “radio drama” that features the sounds of Christ being nailed to a cross is another we nixed as we didn’t think that one of the first memories our 5 year olds would have about Jesus should give them nightmares. Ah well….

The moving saga continues except a ripe change has taken place. We put an offer in on a house not 2 miles from our own home. It is the best house we have seen yet and we love the large floor plan, the big backyard, the beautiful tile work and gorgeous kitchen. Sue walked in and didn’t even finish a walk-through before she said, “we’re buying it…” Those of you who know us know that here was a switch: I was the one telling Sue to think about it, take some time, let’s not rush. Sue was saying–no, this is the one. I want this house. And so–we’re doing it. We’ll get a little more aggressive with the sale of our own home–and we’ll buy.

Oy.

Tired now. VBS is a taxing thing, emotionally–for me anyway. Physically, it’s very demanding on the station leaders and crew leaders. Most of my physical work is done except for little things–like running out tonight to get a Pinata that we forgot to get–and some Pinata filler. But running it each night, it’s like being a train conductor: My main focus is that each group is running on-time and running smoothly. Mostly that happens.

Meanwhile, Sue and I passed another milestone yesterday which is why I did not post. We reached our 12th anniversary and celebrated by…running VBS. But really, that was fine because we were together with our daughter in our church sharing with other kids and other adults a kind of community and a sense of faith that is simple, child-like and rewarding. It was a lot of fun. I’m not one to get sappy in print, so I’ll just say that marrying Sue was the very best decision I ever made–and the one that has made me what I am today, as happy as I am, as focused as I am. Sue is it.

Othello rehearsals start tomorrow. As the Duke of Venice, I have little to do. I appear in Act I Scene iii and that’s it. The director may put me in the opening dance scene. It’s a big to do with the whole cast at a big party, dancing and such. With the incredible period costumes, it should be quite a dazzling affair.

Have not had any wine for a while and so that will be reflected in the fact that I cannot write about it, yes? I am enjoying a couple of fingers of Johnny Walker Green label as a nightcap. Smoky smooth sipping.

Well, gentles–we advance into Tuesday. Let us go boldly and with joy, yes? Yes.

Fitting Knots

The thunder of a migraine hit earlier today. It is just now retreating against the onslaught of the drug Relpax. I’ve written about this drug before and I consider it nearly a miracle. This little pill digs right in and it ends the head-pain within about an hour. I still have the tingly feeling that accompanies my migranes and I am having trouble focusing as it leaves me quite drowsy (thus the grammatical and spelling problems that I am no doubt missing here), but the headache has retreated and I can actually look at my screen to write this.

Too much today, but all of it good mostly. Had a bit of a get-together and party for our friends the Niebolts up at the park by the church–and then it was off to Newbury Park to continue our search and acquisition mission of a new house. So far, we know we can afford it–but we have to sell our house first. That’s the main deal. So–we shall see. Then quickly home to drop off the Peanut with her aunt. Poor thing has a cold and needed to stay home while Sue and I went up to church to set up for Vacation Bible School.

We’re using the Group Publishing program, but I do not like it. I don’t really like the doctrinal issues that Group pushes as part of their program–they have an event at the end of the program where you’re supposed to have the kids dig their fingernails into their palms as hard as they can and think about their sins–while contemplating Christ’s brutal crucifixion. As a new acquaintance at church said to me tonight, “what better way to teach all the wrong things…” Amen. So, my five year old is supposed to practice some form of self-abuse to emulate Christ? What, are we Opus Dei now? Perhaps we could have the kids whip themselves with reeds while chanting Mea Culpa. Absurd. The whole Group Publishing thing is just absurd…and if I am involved with our VBS again–this will be the last year we use it.

The migrane hit while I was setting up. It had nothing to do with the aforementioned Theological issues. Rather, I was getting a bit stressed by the amount of work we had to do between now and tomorrow evening when VBS starts. The heat of the day and perhaps a little dehydration combined with the stress of the financial issues of moving—well….

But I must keep remembering: I bring much of this on myself.

More of this….Less of that.

Ah yes…Real estate hell. I do it to myself, of course. The wanderlust from which I suffer has infected my wife. The house we live in is fine, comfortable, personally designed and decorated. It’s ours. We can afford and live in it. It is, however, a bit small. It doesn’t hold everything we’d like it to hold. It needs more space–and it could use a bigger yard.

So, here we are. We went looking around Newbury Park and we found a house. We put in a bid–we got a counter-offer, it looks pretty good, I need to change one small thing and make a counter-offer in return. And this is where it gets a little nerve-racking.

I have to sell my house, you know. I’m looking to do just that with my pal Lance. But believe it or not, and I found this out the real way, it is right now a buyer’s market. This of course is misleading, because it’s only a buyer’s market if the buyer either has A) sold his/her home already, B) can sell their home quickly or C) have a stable full of money either way. I don’t fall into either category A or C and so I have to fall into B and that is a little uncomfortable.

So–I brought it on myself and I am unhappy about it. Still, the house we are looking to buy is a nice house. It’s really big, really quiet, very cool and in a fine neighborhood. It’s close to great schools, shopping. It’s close to our church, our Conejo Valley friends and still it’s only 10 miles from Camarillo. I don’t look at a house as an investment anymore because I think that’s foolish unless you can afford more than one house. I can’t. So where does that leave me?

Well….

Essentially, it puts me in a position of saying that if I buy this house, I lock up that money forever and while anything is possible, the chances of that house going much above the price I am paying for it are about the same as winning the lottery. It means that I am purchasing a place to live, not necessarily on which to make money. Is that a good idea? No answer, I suppose.

My wife wants to do it–wants the house and wants our daughter to go to those schools up there. It’s a lot of money to pay to do such a thing. However, Sue wants it and I confess, I like it. We have many good friends in the area that would be happy to have us do it–and we’d be happy to be near them. It’s not like we would lose touch with everyone in Camarillo or Ventura.

So, here I am on my blog, of all places, trying to talk myself out of my house and into my new one. Wow. I have to say–it’s going to be an interesting weekend.

Incidentally, Edna Valley Pinot Noir tonight with dinner. Wow! Fruit and light smokiness, kind of an erbaceous, maybe even menthol core. It was really good.

Surprises

There was an apparent attack on the Bluehost site rendering my post last night into so much air-fodder. Nada—zip, nothing made it to the site from my humble prep page here. So–oh well. Let’s start again.

A former student of mine, Ryan Gonzales, has written a book which absolutely pisses me off. He never ran a word of it by me, never let me see it. I did see the cover and I did see that he was working on it. But, hey–who am I to judge? Go see for yourself…here. If you have children and a modem in your house, it would actually be worth a read. The title alone is provocative enough, but I get the sense that if Ryan gets past his own grammatical short-comings, you might learn a thing or two.

In any event, there is big news in the Storer household of late. That big news is simply this…that out of nowhere (OK, not quite nowhere. It had been simmering as a forgotten pot on the back of the stove, marinating and creating a thick, roasted red sauce full of flavor that each day saw us add new ingredients: some meatballs here, some peppers there, a little onion, some garlic–I’m going to stop this now because I’ve run this simile way past metaphor into some unrecognizeable unholy thing…) we decided to make an offer on another house.

About 10 miles and a large, steep grade (the steepest, if not the longest, grade between Los Angeles and San Francisco) from our home in Camarillo is Newbury Park. It’s a happy medium, of sorts, between Camarillo, where we have many fine friends, and Thousand Oaks where we live a good portion of our lives including many friends and church. We do have some friends in Ventura, but again, Newberry is only another 10 freeway miles, so it’s not that far.

So the real question will be–does the owner accept the offer? We should know something either tomorrow or Friday. Between now and then, we are working on getting our house in order and on the market. It’s in great shape after all the many upgrades we’ve done for the past 4 and a half years, but–one can always makes things a little better, no?

I hesitate to say too much more because we don’t really know what will take place with the offer/counter-offer.

A little practice tonight at my friend Mike’s music studio at his beautiful home not too far from here. He has several out-buildings on the property and one of them he has converted into a music room. We practiced for Live For Life II which comes up on July 8th. Please, consider coming to hear some good music–and help support a great cause.

A pretty poor wine tasting last night, though again we are doing these now in a great location with really great food and atmosphere here in town. It’s called Enoteca Toscana and Antonio doesn’t have a website yet. I’ve got to talk to him about that. Anyway, there was a pretty solid Sauvignon Blanc from France–but here again…why am I going to buy SB from France–even though it was priced to move, though not exceptionally well, when I can get such good SB here at home or even from New Zealand for low prices.

Meanwhile, I got to have a conversation with my friend Bent Hartvig today. Bent runs a quality coffee and wine shop up in the Conejo Valley and I mean quality. I have never had better coffee than Bent sells–never. Not being a Starbucks fan (you are? you drank the kool-aid on Starbucks?), I’m always looking for the perfect cup. Bent roasts his own beans and does so with the proper care and quality control. It’s truly beautiful stuff. Anyway, he was telling me he is thinking of expanding the business via the Internet. Of course, my two cents is that this is the way to go–and the right idea. But selling via the Internet isn’t just a matter of setting up–and going. It takes the proper marketing, the proper Internet saavy, writing skills, etc. Why am I writing this? Well–I’m putting it out there. If you know the best way to deal with helping Bent crack the Internet for quality coffee and wine sales–you should contact me here. That’s all.

OK–I’m done rambling…>Good night.

Live for Life

Before we begin, I am remiss in not publicizing and announcing the following:

My pal Edd, about whom I’ve written previously, will hold the second “Live for Life” concert at Crossroads Community Church in Camarillo on July 8 at 7 in the evening. I’m playing the bass guitar with Edd in the first set and this is a worthwhile cause. Edd’s going to need a liver transplant fairly soon, and while insurance will cover the surgery, it won’t help him after the operation–so we are raising money to help the family out. Please consider a small donation–or better still, come on down to the show and watch my good friend Edd, a fine musician with lots of talent, and me–a bass guitar hack without much talent–but with a lot of heart. Visit Edd’s site often. It’s another thing to add to worthwhile websites.

The first full day of summer vacation for me and it was spent being, well…rather busy. Since I am running the Vacation Bible School at our church this year, I’m having to get everything set up, lined up, ready to roll and focused. It’s a little un-nerving because you are never certain what is happening and when and right now, for instance, I don’t know how many kids will be attending. I have 1o registrations, but if that’s it, I’ll probably cancel the whole thing. By the same token, 40 kids could show up on Sunday evening next (when we start) and then again, it could be 5. I simply don’t know at this point. And so, I’m nervously trying to figure it all out by setting it all up, running the numbers, etc.

Meanwhile, Peanut started her own sort of VBS at her old pre-school this week. Called JTTA (journey through the arts), the program is sort of like summer camp without the sleep-over–and with a decidedly Biblical perspective, which is cool. She really likes it and it I have to confess that while it is a tried and true old program that focuses on songs like BINGO and JOHN JACOB JINGLE-HEIMER-SCHMITT, and allows the kids to learn dances, sing songs and have fun. Summer is good, yes?

Play rehearsal has not started as of yet, but I believe it begins on June 26th. I will, of course, be there–with bells on ready to “role.” Well….

Out for a wine tasting tomorrow evening and I’ll write it up here.

Happy Father's Day

What a grand kick off to the summer. Friends, family, bbq-ing, great wine, swimming for Peanut–just a whole lot of what summer is supposed to be.

Today, as it is father’s day, Sue let me sleep in until about 8:00 A.M., made breakfast and then she and Peanut gave me some wonderful gifts that I neither expected–nor deserve. But, she went and framed some posters I have that are really beautiful–a couple of old advertising posters from some Santa Barbara County fruit companies and we’ll put them up in our home on the walls. It’s pretty good looking stuff. I shall get some photos and post.

Wine-wise, we have been drinking the Paringa sparkling shiraz that I wrote about previously. This stuff is really tasty and easy to drink. Lower alcohol, which helps immensely and all those really over-the-top Australian shiraz flavors (blackberry, plum, etc) but with the added bubbly and chilled flavors of a good sparkler.

I also opened a bottle of Babcock Black Label Reserve syrah that just exploded onto the wine retail scene when it came out. If you can find some of this, it is so worth it. It’s a Santa Barbara County syrah, so it has all of the fruit forward black plum, dark cherry flavors and a finish that is so amazingly smooth, it just sort of keeps on going.

Well, a busy week starts…though admittedly different from the norm of the classroom. Cheers.

Years that ask questions…years that answer.

15 years down…I don’t know how many to go. I got home today in a state of exhaustion so complete, so wrapped up in the day, the graduates, the moving of classrooms after 6 years in the same room and the utterly weird 90 degree temps (unusual for early summer, late spring here on the coast), that I collapsed. Well, that term is different with a 5 year old in the house, but I did. Peanut wanted to watch The Aristocats because it was just too hot to play outside and so, unusually, I turned the movie on around 3 in the afternoon. I stretched out on the rug next to her and I fell fast asleep. Oh sure, she only let me do that for maybe half an hour, but what a glorious half hour! True unadulterated day-time sleeping. It was lovely.

So, the school year is down in the history books, a great bunch of students have moved on into the real world and I am 15 years into a career that I once thought would go about 5. It’s June 16th of another year, another time and in another age and it’s almost so hard to believe that writing about it is beyond words for me.