Random Randomness

One week ago tonight, I was drinking good wine in Solvang with my girls enjoying a rare–and quick–night away. It was a grand time and the past week went awfully fast.

For one thing, it was testing week at school–the most spectacularly inefficient waste of taxpayer dollars on the planet. But hey, what do I know?

I’m tired, but mostly because Sue got up at 5:30 this morning so she could attend day 1 of her dietetics conference in Pasadena. She just got home an hour and a half ago after the whole day. She loved it–Aunt Laurie did yeoman’s duty as mom-stand-in and I worked my little tail off. Same again tomorrow, too.


I can only get one or two sentences out at a time because I find that my brain doesn’t feel like doing much. On the whole, I’d rather be at Disneyland. Or Solvang. Or Pismo Beach. Or something like that.

I’m not watching Will and Cate’s wedding tomorrow. No offense to the Royal couple, I just don’t much feel like watching it. But heck,  I do wish the two of them well and hope that they are happy together.

Did you know that the average cheesecake has 380 calories or more per slice? And a slice is pretty small.


I’m just a little sleepy, here. So, short and sweet.


Falling Up

For posterity’s sake, I continue the battle of the bulge. I’ve plateaued between 212 and 214, but I’m working on breaking that with more exercise and leaner-not to say less–eating. Snacking remains the enemy and Easter with a 10-year old in the house means candy. If it doesn’t, you’re robbing your child of a quintessential experience–but it means more willpower for me.

Today, though, is beyond weight loss. Today was  revelation. It’s taken me 10 years to learn what I finally got through my thick skull today and I cannot tell you what it means to me. Words will no doubt fail me as I’m still rather tender on this issue and I know that there is still more to learn, but here it is in a nutshell:

My daughter’s behavior, in large part, depends upon what’s happening around her. This is true, I suppose for all kids. But I’ve also learned that her behavior is dependent upon me and her mom, too. That is, if my body language is expressing tension, doubt, upset, whatever–Peanut picks up on that in ways that I never thought possible. But she resonates fear if I’m afraid and she resonates anger if I’m mad. In fact, if she is upset on her own and I simply diffuse–and then defuse my own emotions, she calms down and gets a grip. As I write this, I know I am not doing it justice.

Suffice to say that yelling at her, threatening her with punishments or any of those things are damn-near ineffective as opposed to calmness and response. If behavior is bad, there has to be response–but it doesn’t have to be bitter. In essence, I think what I’ve found is that my selfish need for things to be “OK” are actually sabotaged by my own unreasonable responses to her behavior. And that was a huge revelation for me. It may not work for you and your family, I don’t know. Can’t say. I know that here, it is the essence of harmony.

Simon has injured his foot–may have done so on our walk this afternoon. The rear pad on his right paw seems a little raw, maybe a little swollen and he’s limping, favoring it. He’s young, he’ll bounce back–but not sure what happened and spent some time looking for foreign matter in there this evening. I didn’t find anything, though I thought I noticed a bit of blood down there, I can’t be sure.

He’s settled into the family so well and he’s such a great addition to our home. I’ve grown to love him so much, though differently than Scoop. I miss Scoop a great deal and felt a keen sense of his loss today as I was in our room near where he used to sleep. He would often be lying there and give out a big sigh when I came in of an afternoon. He’d wag his tail once or twice, wagging not having been his favorite activity, just to let me know he was happy to see me. Toward the end of his life, he was up there quite frequently and I’d see him there. When I came in, he’d get up and want to walk, though I found him growing tired after only a short jaunt around the block.

Simon is definitely fitting in. He has some of the old man’s behaviors, too-but he’s certainly unique. For one thing, he’s a heck of a lot more affectionate than Scoop ever was. For the first year of his life, Scoop did like being petted more, but he never did like to “cuddle” very much and he nearly always slept apart from us and didn’t try to jump on the bed to be near us. Simon would just as soon be under the covers snuggled up next to either Sue or me.

That’s the other difference, Simon is taken with Sue. Scoop was always “my” dog, but Simon is the family dog. He loves Sue and Peanut and looks to them as often for attention as from me. He is particularly fond of the Mrs. and follows her around the house in her errands and walks with her most mornings.

Things are bad-the economy, gas prices, a feckless and incompetent President, wars brewing all over–but somehow, I’ve managed to be optimistic. Perhaps because love is so present here and because with love comes the tight knit weaving of family. That more than anything compels me just now…


Easter 2011

A bit of phlogging for the Holiest day of the year.

Mission Santa Inez in Solvang, CA

From the cemetery looking at the bell tower. A beautiful spring, Good Friday in Santa Ynez









Looking southeast into the hills around Solvang and Santa Ynez










The church at the Mission from the back. I was on manual and didn't focus as well as I should have.










Close in to the hills. Fog was just lifting over the green hills. Beautiful.









A fine break and a chance to take Peanut and Sue away for a night. Back to it all tomorrow.


Chocolate Horses

Peanut finishes up horse camp tomorrow. We were getting ready for bed tonight and she said, “sometimes, I dream about chocolate horses and chocolate people. They all dance around saying my name and they’re always happy. I love it.” I was so taken with the dream that I can’t get it out of my head. It’s such a happy 10-year old girl dream. And it’s so completely full of the abandonment of reality that, in everyday life, my daughter rarely shows. She’s a lot like her dad that way–a lot of very seriously creative forces on the inside, but sometimes a little overwhelmed by the outside world to let the creativity flow.

My dreams have become prayers and there are a lot of things I like about that. But I also miss the sheer letting go and fantasizing that I did when I was younger. And I did it for a long time–I was in my 20’s and just out of college when it started to become more scarce. I didn’t chase it away on purpose. It’s just that my chocolate horses went out into the pasture and the gate was open. Some of them left.

From time to time, they come back, though. They’re in the form of my dreams for my family and they’re tempered now with my understanding that selfishness is not a good thing. That’s the prayer-part. That’s the part that tells me what I need to know about God. He talks to us, I am convinced. I cannot let go of what I think to be that simple truth. I just don’t think I can understand it all the time.

It’s that open gate that my chocolate horses went out that makes me wonder sometimes. When they left, they left a fertile green and rich pasture and that’s what I can see sometimes-the one God perhaps allows me to see, I don’t know. When the rains come, those horses come back and my dreams become vivid again full of those things that I care about, that I want to have in my life–not just material items, but feelings, places, work and play.

I think the chocolate horses left my childhood self and when they come back, they’ve changed-as I have. I’m not a child, now. I’m an adult and my dreams have necessarily changed.

Still, I don’t think it impossible to recapture some of that childhood wonder. That is, after all, the most important part of being a child–a sense of wonder-and making sure that it doesn’t descend into fear and isolation from the unknown. Wonder can be scary and it can be fun. It can be reckless abandonment and it can also be clear-headed and focused thinking. Sometimes, it’s all those at once and when those things converge, like a beautifully blended wine, they are a synthesis that feeds parts of my soul that I didn’t know needed fed.

It’s irresistible to me that my daughter dreams that dream. It’s so lovely and so perfect and I hope that maybe it’s the beginning of her beginning to understand that God is talking to her, too. All she has to do is listen.



Spring Un-Break

Well I am pleased to announce that I am still successful in the battle of the bulge. Having now lost about 13 or 14 pounds, I can honestly say I feel a little better. I’m not there yet. I need to lose another 13 or so-but I am close. I seem to have plateaued again and that means I have to break out of it somehow, more moving–less eating–something. But, so far, so good. It’s working.

The hiking and walking has been a bit rough on the lower back and the hip. Those are tender areas for me anyway, along with my neck, but while a bit slower after a walk–I seem to be fairly well by morning. I confess that walking up the stairs is like a real production. I work at not making any sounds. Generally speaking, I’m successful. Sometimes, I’ll bring Simon along when I go up the stairs just because he makes enough noise to mask me. You do what you can.

Peanut is enjoying horse-camp this week, but she’s pretty tired by 1 in the afternoon when it ends. It’s a long day and she really does do a lot. She likes it, but there’s an element to it that’s exhausting when it’s not something you do every day.

Sue is enjoying the week mostly, but she has to work tomorrow and Aunt Laurie will take Peanut to horse camp and pick her up. It’s nice having an Aunt Laurie. Everyone should have one. Even Aunt Laurie needs an Aunt Laurie.

I spent last week really putting in the time as a freelance journalist and this week has been a bit slower. That’s OK, because I am back at school. I confess, though, that I’d like to do more writing. I’ve made some pitches and we’ll see how they go–and the paper has already picked up a little bit again.

Like a lot of folks, I’m watching what’s going on in Washington with trepidation. I recently re-registered as a Libertarian, which is something I should have done long ago. I’m not an extremist in politics and I certainly have read enough Libertarianism to know that even it has its whacko branches. As PJ O’Rourke says–or at least to paraphrase him–yes, we can talk about privatizing sidewalk construction eventually, but let’s start with some more focused items, shall we?

I believe I shall indeed call it a night, gentles.


Good Night, Gentles

The gray clouds portended doom and it was back to the classroom to pick up where we left off today. It was, in ways, a disappointing day. There seemed no end to the frustrations that manifest themselves whether in students doing what they shouldn’t do or just the bureaucracy of what education has become. I don’t know which one to detest more. I don’t mean to be sour.

Yesterday, Sunday, I decided I’d combine my need to get some papers from my classroom with some exercise for the dog and me. I leashed Simon up, strapped on my backpack and packed in a thermos of cold water and away we went. The shortest route to the school is two miles, so I went that way–and came home the longer way, which is nearly 3 miles figuring to get nearly a five mile walk/hike in.

We both enjoyed the sunshine and the exercise and I got the papers I needed and brought them home for grading. Spring break 2011 went out with a whimper, as it deserved to do, and I went back to work with nary a thought other than to have a second cup of coffee this morning to shake out the bugs.

I am burning several fires this evening, so I apologize for the short update version, here. I shall get back into the game on the morrow with posts that matter.

Good night gentles.

Livin’ the Dream

I prophesied this moment. Even mentioned it in last night’s post during which I said that vacation would end and I wouldn’t recognize that I had had one. I’m right, of course. But then-I’m always right. At least on my blog I am.

One of the downsides to being a parent of a child ensconced in the current era’s pop cultural zeitgeist is that the songs she listens to–or used to listen a year ago–still wander around in my brain and latch themselves onto parts of my subconscious. Today, echoing like thunder in my head is Hannah Montana singing, “I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted, I’m living the dream…” and that twangy little Tennessee millionaire’s nasally soprano is either satiric or honest and straightforward, depending, like last night, on my perspective.

The heat was rather more today than it’s been. Not unusual for this time of year, but it rarely lasts. Forecasters say that the fog and cool temps will return Sunday. We’ll see. Anyway, it wasn’t so hot that I couldn’t walk, so I leashed up Simon and headed out for a couple of miles of double-pump up the hill. A good walk, though we worked it a bit too hard and the dog, young and fit though he is, had a tough time cooling down when we got home. I put some ice on his armpits–Scoop used to love that and would lay still while I did it–but Mr. impatient would have none of it. At first, he was bemused but then realized the discomfort and rather than see the systemic attempt to drop his discomfort in the way of heat, he seems to have seen it as just another piece of discomfort–not heat. Not a simple creature, a dog. Oh, I don’t think one should anthropomorphise the canine kingdom, but I’ve learned enough from Cesar to know that they are not simple creatures. That said-they do tend to break things down into focused categories: Food-not food. Aggressive–passive. Hot–cold. That sort of thing.

Eventually, I went upstairs and into my wife’s office and while sitting on the floor talking with her, I glanced across the hall to the guest room. There was Simon, body sprawled out across the floor with is head underneath the bed. He likes this–cave instinct. In the early morning hours, he’ll jump up on the bed if it’s cold out and he’ll want to get underneath the covers-crawls all the way down by our feet and stays there. As I said–not simple creatures. But not really complex, either.

Well-two stories tomorrow and one is before 8:00 A.M in Simi Valley about 40 minutes from here. That means out the door at 7:00 AM, gentles. On Saturday. Like I said–what vacation?



Radiant blue skies with cotton puffs of clouds, wispy as they traveled via wind east from the ocean, then slightly north. Golden light dappled amid blooming trees, flowers and shrubs, everything breathing, striving and reaching. The cool mornings, nearly cold, slowly melt into warm days, even hot in the full sun, out on the road walking at a clip faster than casual with Simon ahead of me, sniffing out the path, not yet minding instruction enough to be a good dog, but enough to be my good dog.

Perspective is everything. I’m so sore and so very tired that as I sat here with Peanut watching Julie and Julia this evening, I fell asleep by fits and starts. Her day didn’t feel as radiant to her. It was a busy day as her John Adams report was due and she delivered, good soul that she is. She thinks she did well-but she doesn’t know how well.

It was Gold Rush Days at school, too and this morning, the flannel shirt draped on a cotton pullover with jeans and cowboy boots seemed a good idea. By about 11 this morning, I’m guessing she didn’t think it was a good idea anymore. She was nervous last night, didn’t sleep as well as she would have liked and then….well, then today happened.

Delivered her report and then, accidentally, a staple jammed underneath a finger nail-blood and pain and then recess. Except it wasn’t recess, it was Gold Rush days and while her mother and I are fairly certain there was water for the kids somewhere, Peanut didn’t find it.

Dehydration started to set it just around the time a friend of hers told her she didn’t want to play with her anymore. The headache had already been building and then the nausea-then the tears and then the crying. By the time Sue got to school to pick her up at the close of the day, she was being consoled by two parents, friends of ours, who were there for Gold Rush Days, and Sue picked up a sad, sickly, thirsty, cranky 10 year old. She spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch drinking water, eating Goldfish crackers and watching her favorite shows.

She had a bad day. But it got better.

I’ve taken my week off work and worked even harder. The fact is, when you look at it in one way, I lived the dream: I made money this week and I lost weight this week. That should be enough for anyone. And it is.

But I’m also beat, not well rested and I feel like I’ve worked just as hard as I do at school, which in a way I did. I still have a few more stories to do this weekend as well with tomorrow’s morning interviews around 9:30 and then Saturday’s up with the birds and into Simi Valley before 8:00 A.M. Then, it’s paper-grading for the rest of Sunday and into the evening. Monday? Back to school–and vacation never happened.


Building John Adams

Tufts of polyfil, a printed picture of a long-ago painting, Sharpies, scissors, glue and sheets of velvet cloth littered the table. As my pal Shawn and I poured over the materials, we talked of Colonial politics and Revolutionary dogma. We drank clear, cold flavored bubbly water and a spring breeze blew cool through the screen door, tapping at our shoulders reminding us of revolutionary April. April 19, 1775-April 12, 1861-April 14, 1865-April 14,  1912-April 6, 1917–the list goes on to include April of 1945 and so many others. April is spring and new life. April is revolutionary.

So we two sat and worked at assisting my daughter with her puppet. She’d designed it and prepared it, but we took some of the gritty building work, the filling, the cutting and gluing. When we finished, we had a fairly good mock up of John Adams, the second President of the United States and the first vice-president, among so many other things. Peanut is reporting on Mr. Adams’ life for her biography book report. She read the book, she wrote the report-with some editing from mom and dad-and so the puppet was the last piece of the puzzle.

He turned out rather grand–I may post a picture of him if I think to take one tomorrow-and maybe even of Peanut holding him if she lets me.

It was a good day. A four mile hike with Simon has left me with a wrenched back, however-and a swollen hip. I get this occasionally since 1995 when I first injured my back. Funny thing is, the left hip gets swollen, but it’s the right hip that hurts most. Go figure. The left is puffy and big, a bit painful, though not necessarily to the touch. I’ve had an MRI and an x-ray. Nothing. As usual. But the rest of the day was a new story assignment–a quick one-off with only one interview to do. There was puppet building and lunch with Shawn and big brother Doug and there was dinner with the family and now relaxation. I finished another story in the process of the day and I’ll put the finishing touches on that one tomorrow–along with two more that I’m covering in the morning and afternoon tomorrow.

These little acts are salvation for me. They remind me why I work and remind me that work is not drudgery, but can indeed be an act of real and focused passion. I love writing and reporting and I get to use this week to do that. It doesn’t make up for not being able to spend the week off with Peanut–but it helps.

Meanwhile, I reported yesterday that I was down to 214. Well, that may have been erroneous because today I was at 212. I’ll check it again in the morning, but I think I’m at 212 pounds. That means that I have about 12 pounds to lose and I’m pretty happy about that. I realize that this sounds too much like ego talking. I certainly don’t mean it to. But here I am making seemingly small decisions. I didn’t hire anyone or pay anyone and I’m not on a fad diet or following a craze. I’m eating less, moving more and it’s working–as long as my spine doesn’t collapse totally, I should be alright. I’m working daily as a features and news writer for a medium sized paper-and I’m doing it because nearly 20 years ago, I told myself that my goal was to be a paid writer, a guy who made a living writing stories. I’m not quite ready to quit teaching, I still care about it. But I’m close to doing what I always wanted.

I’m performing small revolutions of my own. They’re not heroic in any way and I understand that. But they are building something. They’re taking away what I didn’t want and replacing it with what I do want.

Viva la Revolucion.



Spring Break 2011

The first day of spring break from school and I was working. No pity, please–I am not in need. I chose to do this and want to do it. Since Peanut and I don’t share spring break this year, I figure if I can’t be off spending money with her, then I’ll make some and spend it on her later. I really wanted the opportunity to go on a short trip with her and Sue and I wanted the chance to see if we could have a little fun together. If I’m sad or upset about anything, it’s that I don’t get to spend some time with her.

So, I was off to Simi Valley today and did some reporting there–wrote another piece that I have all the notes for saved up and I’ve got stories for the rest of the week. Some writing to do tomorrow–reporting on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and before you know it, I’m set. It is working out as I wanted it to. That part makes me happy.

I continue, doggedly, on the weight loss front. Doing fairly well and down to 214. Moving more, eating less–that’s all it amounts to and low and behold it works. Thing is, it’s not fast or dramatic. I think that’s what’s missing for many people who try weight loss and read about the newest fad, or newest diet and try that. Nothing against your low-carb diet–carbs can be a problem, but if you avoid them altogether, what happens when you go back to eating them? I thought about that, being a carb-hound myself–pasta and breads are my weakness. I could eat pizza all week long and be happy about it. But I know that if you really are interested in weight loss, then it isn’t about a diet or a particular food. It’s about eating fewer calories and burning more of them–that’s it. It all boils down to that.

For me, that meant cutting out the snacking for which I’m notorious. Candy, chips, sodas, you name it—I was all over it. I do admit to being tempted as my wife keeps Pringles around the house for Peanut. She likes her Pringles and we allow her to eat them. I like them, too–but they don’t do me any good. Just a lot of extra carb calories. So, I quit eating them–and I quit snacking. First week I did that, I lost 5 pounds without trying.

Next came the exercise increase. Once upon a time, when Scoop was alive, he and I did a great deal of hiking and walking. He was my buddy and he listened well, so it was fun–no trouble. Simon is getting better, but he’s not quite the dog Scoop was for character. Then again, Scoop’s character developed over time and perhaps Simon’s will, too.

I am falling asleep at the keyboard, gentles. I must be off for much needed rest.