Water Water Everywhere…

We spent Saturday at our friend’s 40th b-day party (young pup) at the couple’s rented beach house at Faria Beach just north of Ventura. It’s in the middle of what is known, worldwide really, as the Rincon-a seriously major surfing attraction. But it’s ‘purty’ too. A bit of phlogging…


It’s deceiving because in this picture, while it is tempting to think you’re looking south–you’re really looking east by southeast. It’s a south facing beach as are so many of Ventura County beaches, though not all. The waves on Saturday were lovely with a cool, even chilly, breeze blowing and a little chop in the water.




Now, this is looking west or west by northwest up the Rincon and up Faria beach. Note that the houses here go right up to the water. See those people walking there? About two hours later, the tide rolls in there and there will be no more walking. Unless you’re Jesus.





Now, this isn’t really pretty–to you. This is Richard (left) and Gabriel (right) and together, they are Macho Tacos–and they ROCK. our friends had a taco bar for the b-day party and these were delectable–carnitas (pork), chicken or beef tacos with all the trimmings including homemade salsa and roasted jalapenos. I think my brother Jerry would have been in ecstasy (yes?). Great food.




Once more. For those who missed it the first time. Ahhh. It is just so very beautiful.





So, yesterday–not to be outdone–we headed southeast of here to Silver Strand beach in Oxnard. I’d written a story there about an artist and her pals who have purchased a beautiful cottage on the beach and turned it into a veritable canvas of their own. While I was writing about the place, the owner invited my family and I to come spend a night there–she normally rents it out to beach-goers–and at first, I refused. I told her I didn’t feel right about it and I probably couldn’t afford it anyway. She said, “no, no-you’ll stay for free. Come on. You’ll have a great time.”

And so we did. Along with some good friends of ours, the Fickenschers, we enjoyed 24 hours of beach magic in a three story cottage decorated like a ride at Disneyland–nothing was left out. When the article appears next month, I’ll link it and re-post. I didn’t take too many pics of the inside without people in them–and those people have not given me their permission to “phlog” them, so allow me to share some other images.


The weather did not cooperate on Sunday. It was so windy and chilly that going outside was an act of sheer will-blowing sand rubbing across your face and getting into your eyes…we sat inside and drank wine. The kiteboarders didn’t mind, though. That’s what those are.





How windy was it? Well–that image is of the automatic warning system (think modern day lighthouse) that prevents boats entering the Channel Islands Harbor from running into the jetty that denotes its entry. Underneath that foamy spray is the jetty that you can’t see–and that tower is the electronic warning system tower. At one point, waves got as high as the top of it.




The wind had its upside, though. A clear and gorgeous sunset. This beach is sort of facing south-ish and so while again, it felt like I’m looking ‘north’ when I took this, obviously, it’s more like northwest. A beautiful night.






And of course, the reason for it all. There’s Peanut and her pal running to the beach. The weather was better this morning–no blow outs and temps in the high 60’s this A.M. We sat and sipped coffee while the girls ran out and got in the water, even a bit of boogie boarding.


A short break, but a break nonetheless. It was a grand weekend in a singular and unique cottage. And everyone had fun–what more is there?
Onward, gentles.


A little Inventory

Newly Updated in the Health Category! Knew you’d be interested…:-)

Third day of 15 hours or so. I’m pretty beat in general, but there’s a lull in the reporting tonight as I’ve turned in five stories already this week. It’s also been a tough three days at school. Budget cuts are hitting home and we’re losing a fine and good English teacher. Luckily, she still has a job–but she’ll be doing it at another school in the district. Often-times these past few months, the economic repercussions of a prolonged recession have hit home.

But that’s not the point of this post. Tonight, I put here for posterity another personal inventory. It’s been a while since I’ve done it, but there is much to talk about here and I felt this would be a good time to hammer out the details. The past few months have seen some pretty important milestones in all of our lives here and in my life personally. I’ve listed them below and they’re in no particular order of importance because they’re all linked and all important–to me, anyway. Warning: The following is really not of interest to you unless you know me pretty well. This is not a normal blog post for me, but it was important to me to write it.


I have for years flirted off and on with leaving the classroom. There are myriad reasons for this and it’s best not to go into them here as they’d go on too long and eventually run into a philosophical discussion about education and I don’t want to do that. Suffice to say that I am a rare teacher who both thinks that there is serious need for reform in education, who is not necessarily pro-union –but who loves the craft and is passionate about working in the classroom.

To that end, I’ve stopped flirting with leaving. While I maintain and continue to build my career as a writer, specifically in entrepreneurial journalism (more on that later), I simply don’t want to leave the classroom. Yes, it would be practically foolish to do that and yes, there are obvious reasons why after 20 years, turning my back on it now wouldn’t be wise–but that’s not why I made the decision. I made the decision because I still get joy from teaching–with all of its quirks and problems, with the inane focus on high stakes multiple choice tests, I still believe I have something to offer students by way of sharing my passions for reading, writing and story. That’s why I made the decision to stay.


When I was in high school myself, I put together a portfolio of my writing. Even back then, I was interested in words and in sharing them. I got a job writing articles for our local weekly newspaper in the San Fernando Valley and I even got to do a couple of morning news spots on a Ventura County radio station that is now defunct. I have been a writer since I can remember…

I have to be honest, though, and tell you that for so long I listened to those practical voices–that are occasionally good to heed–but often simply stifle you–and I never really imagined that I’d get as far as I have now as a writer. That changed when I was in my 30’s and I began to simply write for the sake of writing. I stumbled upon a meme that I wanted to write about and I kept at it until I finished. Then I edited it and made the changes. It was an essay called Reading, Writing and Faith and it was bit of an autobiographical jaunt through my early teaching career and how the literature I taught helped me grow into my own faith in Christ. I sold it to Christianity Today and it garnered a lot of attention. It was purchased again and I got paid again by Catholic Digest and then Christianity Today placed it into a book they produced about faith and media.

Since that time, I’ve felt I had a shot at doing this and I began to write for the local paper and other magazines. At this point, I’m as busy a freelance writer as I ever imagined I’d be and I love it. I want to continue it and while it is certainly not going to make me rich, it’s a joy for me that I sometimes have a hard time expressing in words–which would be the definition of irony, yes?


I’ve mentioned the battle of the bulge. So, allow me to update and explain some more. A few months back, I became more acutely aware that I wasn’t sleeping well. In truth, I’d known it for some time–even as far back as the late 90’s, but I was younger then and I assumed it’s because my mind was working overtime or what have you. Well, the long story short version is that it wasn’t my mind. It was my body.

I never was obese, but I had packed on the pounds since Peanut was born and I simply ignored it. I walked every day during that time and sometimes strenuously. I was in good health for the most part and so I just kind of kept my weight between 220 and 230 for that time. My maximum, I believe, was 228 pounds (though it could have been more–at the doc’s office, which is weighing you with your clothes and such, I’d weighed as much as 232).

Sue, who has asthma and other auto-immune issues, sleeps with a cpap machine because of apnea. She had heard me enough to think I might have it to0, so I went through the rigmarole of sleep tests and ear, nose and throat specialists and I was miserable the whole time. I couldn’t sleep, but I couldn’t sleep with the mask on, either and in fact, when I tried at the sleep place, I simply lay there awake until midnight when the tech came in to inform me I hadn’t fallen asleep. I wanted to ask if that was his professional opinion, but I avoided smart-alecky-ness for the most part. I gave up and drove home on a rainy Friday morning before 1:00 A.M.

Sue is a clinical dietitian and while everyone I know and his brother had offered “how to lose weight” advice, Sue’s was powerful and clear–and she’d been telling it to me for years and years–“Eat less, move more.” In other words, stop going on low carb, low fat, silliness because when you lose the weight there–it will come back when you change. I needed to change my behavior, she said. If I didn’t do that, all else would be for naught. So–that’s what I did. The one thing I did cut out nearly completely was the whole “bad snacking” category. I’m an M and M fiend and I had to put that habit away, which is not as hard as it seems. I could much on the little buggers all day long and rarely get tired of them. I replaced that habit, by the way, with hard candy–sometimes sugar free, sometimes not. But because one little sucker candy thingy lasts so long–I don’t eat that many.

Back to the ENT guy who, though friendly and nice, just didn’t jibe with me. There was no connection and I felt like he wasn’t listening to me–that some nights I sleep great, others I don’t and that I don’t always have apnea, etc. Meantime, I contacted my dentist who is a friend of mine and he brought me in and fitted me for snoreguard. That was the first change. Follow the link so I don’t have to explain it.

I started wearing that nightly and it made a huge impact. Sue says that sometimes, I’ll still be a bit noisy, but I no longer gasp and out and out snoring is reserved for nights when I have had too much salt 0r, on the rare occasion that I imbibe too much.

In conversation with my family physician, however, who is also a friend, he told me that there really is only one cure, if one exists, for sleep apnea and that’s weight loss. That’s when I got serious about the whole thing.

No diets, though, as I’ve explained before. No pre-packaged foods or any of that. I got basic and I got simple: I counted calories and I moved more. I worked out on the Internet using those BMI calculators and such how many calories I needed a day to sustain my weight and then, how much to lose. The basics were easy because for someone my size, weight loss was 2000 calories a day or less. I upped the ante by doing more cardio–twice to three times a week, an arduous 4-5 mile hike and all the other days a 2-3 mile hike. No real days off, at least none planned. I walk 6-7 days a week, rain or shine (living in Coastal California aids that commitment).

Well, the latest weigh in is telling. I weigh 207 pounds now, down from 228 at my max–and from the time I planned to lose weight, I’m down 17 pounds from around 225 or so. These things combined with the snoreguard and a more careful approach to dinnertime which means eating proper portions and limiting my alcohol intake, particularly before bedtime, has led to sleeping so well, I don’t remember the last time I was able to sleep like that. Last night is a good example. I went to bed at 11:00 P.M. and the next thing I knew, it was 2:00 A.M. I got up, did a little biz, and headed back to bed. The next thing I knew–5:30 and I dozed and lazed until 6:00 when I got up feeling refreshed and good.

I am having trouble with my feet–the walking had exacerbated some heel spurs and plantar fascitis. The pain is bad enough sometimes that walking without a limp is impossible and I will have to do something about it. But I wouldn’t trade it for the weight, I can tell you that. I’ll take my painful feet and my newer, thinner me, thanks.

My back doesn’t give me much trouble though longer hikes and walks do tend to tighten it up. My neck is more or less improved, though again, it tightens up on occasion. I’m just feeling a lot better about where I am now than where I was a year ago. I’m happy about it.


There are many other things in my life–the most important of which are my girls and our lives together, along with the dogs, of course. I miss Scoop fiercely, but as I write this, Simon is laying with his head against my hip, snoozing away and being affectionate.

Some things I cannot go into because they don’t have resolution yet and they involve more people who simply don’t want to be written about here. But here’s the thing: I wrote this because what I have proven to myself is that it is really, truly me who gets to choose how I live and what I do. It’s not circumstance, it’s how I respond to circumstance. There are bigger challenges, I know. But what counts is how we respond to those challenges.


Shut up and Sing

Laura Ingraham said that first, I think. Downloaded some live R.E.M. tunes from their concert recording in Dublin. Nearly bought the whole album, but just wanted a smattering, so I got 7 songs. I love the band and always have, but I just could do without the political pontificating. Honestly, even if I agreed with them or vice-versa, I would just rather they played their instruments and shut up. I don’t care what they thought about President Bush and I certainly don’t care what they think about President Obama. I just like the songs and how they play them. They have some really beautiful music and Michael Stipe’s voice is so rich and warm, but egad the politics are so annoying.

The weekend was nice and calm, though I worked throughout. Covered stories Friday, Saturday and today and it’s fine. They weren’t taxing and I got to spend most of my time at home with the family. I did 4 miles yesterday and today with Simon and it’s become so much easier to do that now. I do 4 miles with him in about an hour. It used to take an hour and 15 or 20 minutes, but now-without much effort, I’m done with 4 miles in just over an hour. This morning’s weigh-in was healthier, too. I’m just below 210 lbs. on a good day and the atmospheric pressure is just right and I stand just so on the scale. No-seriously, I think I’ve broken the 210 plateau. There was a plateau at 214-15, too. It took some effort to get through that one, but I did it, so now I’m getting through this one. I’d like to see 200 lbs. err I think myself done.

The coming week is a busy one filled with story obligations. I got through writing today’s and this weekend’s mostly because I wanted to go into Monday without any writing assignments on my head. I have a number of assignments starting tomorrow on top of the push toward final exams at school and so it’s gotten very busy indeed. That’s a happy thing, though-and it makes me even happier knowing I get to do it.

I think more than anything, I’m looking forward to the week as it is one of possibility and opportunity. Lots of irons in multiple fires and they should begin to…bear fruit…? There’s a mixed metaphor for you. They should be hot soon enough.

The spring and summer have always been about time for me, gentles–it is precious time that I get to spend with the family and with friends and it’s time that I get to work on the things I love to do and care about most. So–I shall leave you with the happy thought that time is upon us.



The week was brutal, more than 5000 words for editors while getting ready to go to the Tri-Counties Journalism Education Association competition today. The TCJEA is run largely by those of us on the Oxnard plain as the president is our own Mark Riley of Pacifica High School-a good friend and a fine teacher. Those of us at the other schools act as a sort of unofficial cabinet with the exception of Channel Islands High School’s John Grennan who, I believe, is the treasurer.
We met at California Lutheran University this morning, my alma mater, for a day of speakers and competition with journalism students from 15 high schools from San Luis Obispo to Simi Valley. So, I ran around a lot monitoring various rooms for competition and hosting the “swap shop” or best practices discussion for the schools-always a good time.

Then, after competition was over, I stuck around to see the dedication of KCLU’s new broadcast facility. I began interviews for this story last night when I spoke the station’s general manager by phone. Then wrapped up today with a quick tour of the facility and-a highlight and treat–I got to meet and say hello to Larry Hagman–you know–-him. He gave me a fist bump, too. I got fist bumped by J.R. Ewing. Pretty cool.

Last night? Up until midnight copy editing one story and writing another. Working tomorrow and Sunday, too. It’s a bit much. But I’ll figure it out somehow. Onward, gentles….


For Scoop

“Yes, my dear,” returned Bob. “I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday.”–Charles Dickens

It wasn’t his grave site. That’s not walking distance, a thing about which I have experienced some consternation. It was the road up which he and I walked many times, our most common walk, lined with old oak trees, brushy sage scrub and large eucalyptus.  It’s the intersection of Mission Road and West Highland Drive in the heights above Camarillo. It was our spot, Scoop’s and mine.

I was there today with Simon, the quiet of a Sunday afternoon and a cool breeze. Simon was quiet only for a few seconds. He doesn’t like to sit still. When Scoop was alive, if I stopped on a walk-he’d stop too and sit down waiting for me to do what was next.

This is just to say-I miss Scoop and while Simon is lying here next to me, as his predecessor used to do-and I’m blessed to have such a great, loving companion, the first one I had is unforgettable. Forever.

Point the car North…

Friday, the fam and I headed north and got up to San Simeon. I write for Broughton Hospitality magazine and one of the fun perks is that occasionally, rather than pay me for the articles, I get a couple of free nights at some of their select hotels. One of them is called The Morgan, named for Julia Morgan who was William R. Hearst’s architect for his “little house on the hill.” The hotel is a beaut, too. Comfy, easy, friendly-right on the beach. This bad photograph is Piedras Blancas lighthouse, just north of Hearst Castle. This little cove is part of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary and it’s one of our favorite haunts. The lighthouse dates back to the 1880’s.




This is the reason folks come to Piedras Blancas (white rocks–their whiteness comes from the birds that…well….live there). These are elephant seals and depending on the time of year, you can see a whole lot of ’em. This time of year is mostly for juveniles and females, thus the relative lying about.  It’s molting season just now, so a lot of fur and pelts are being shed. Smells pretty bad. This shot was taken with a wide open wide angle Pentax lens. As far as the eye can see, there are elephant seals. They mate here, live here and return here from long hunts at sea.



Occasionally, even the juvenile males start testing each other. The fights tend to be nothing more than show, but they can do damage at times. This guy was being bitten by his rival, though we saw no obvious teethmarks afterward. They were vying for position on the beach.





From the visitor’s center looking up the hill Hearst called “La Cuesta Encantada.” He called it a lot of things, actually. The land was in the Hearst family from the 1860’s when his father purchased more than 200,000 acres as cattle ranch land. The family still runs beef cattle on the property and you can enjoy some of their tasty goodness in the visitor’s center as well as package and deliver Hearst beef to your home. We had been before, both Sue and I. But Peanut had never gone and going to Hearst Castle is something of a birthright in California. You have to know about it if you’re going to live here.

This is one of the guest houses, called La Casa del Sol–house of the sun. Churchill stayed here–as did many other luminaries and dignitaries. Hearst was eccentric and kept the property full of interesting people who came to play. Charlie Chaplin was a frequent guest as was Clark Gable, Rudolph Valentino–lots of people.





Just one of the countless gardens that caught my fancy. It was foggy, cloudy and cold the day we were there. We dressed for sun and warm and spent a good deal of the tour shivering. If you forget your coat in the car–you can forget it. You have to ride a bus five miles up a winding path to the house.





This little fellow is in the visitor’s center. It was one of the original private fire trucks that Hearst kept on the premises for good reason. However, the houses are all made out of steel reinforced concrete. Hearst was earthquake retrofitting before earthquake retrofitting was cool. The result was also that the houses themselves won’t burn. The billion dollar art collection, though, is another matter. So-a private fire company.




The Neptune pool. This is perhaps the most iconic image of the castle. It’s still in use, too. 335,000 gallons of water and it was the summer playground for Hearst’s guests. The Hearst family is still very much around and occasionally are allowed to come use the pool. It’s the only thing they can use. Upon his death, Hearst willed the house to the State of California as a museum, which is how it functions today. It is no longer a private residence and is run like any expensive art museum. Employees come to the pool twice a year, too, in the afternoons to swim.



I didn’t get many shots of the main house. This is one of the towers of Casa Grande, as Hearst called it. The house is 70,000 square feet and it’s indescribably beautiful. The works of art and historical artifacts alone are worth the $24 adult price of admission. Hearst was 56 when he started building the place. It’s a heck of a story, really. He began this 28 year project when most men his age were slowing down and retiring. He lived to 88 and though he never really finished the castle, he got to see it in all its grandeur.


And that was our Friday and Saturday. We had a great overnight stay and walked on a cold, but beautiful rocky beach-we went to Hearst Castle-we stayed in a lovely boutique hotel and we swam in the hotel’s semi-indoor (no roof) heated pool. It was a grand weekend. Now, back to work, gentles.



Straightening me out.

Two comments–both on the post below–attempt to set me straight. God knows I can always use more of that.

That said, brother Jerry’s comments, while certainly true to an extent I agree with, don’t sum up my point about demographics. My point about “demographics is destiny” is that in the U.S. more affluent neighborhoods tend to produce better schools and students. Statistically speaking, if you live in an affluent neighborhood, you’re going to go to a better school. There are exceptions of course, but this is by and large the case.

As for Mr. Malloy’s comments, I stand corrected. Apparently the local school district will save 270 k a year, not total. If that is true, then it may be worth it for them to spend the money. Most importantly, Mark points out that the biggest problem is that a company has to be hired by a government agency, in this case a school district, to negotiate better rates on their energy usage charged to them by….another government agency. Apparently, the company that PVSD wants to hire can do just that.

What’s it say about us that govt. agencies charge such differing rates that we have to hire private companies to help negotiate those rates? Oy. That right there defines why I switched to the Libertarian party.

Meanwhile, while typing tonight, I was annoyed by the wedding ring. This is a first. I am now about 210 pounds by my scale and the wedding ring is actually sliding off my finger. Mostly, that’s water weight, I know. But it’s part of the larger whole. I don’t think this has happened since well before Peanut was born. I’ve lost nearly 18 pounds. Feels pretty good, too.

The walking routine is good, but the feet are biting at me. They hurt quite a bit and I’ve got my orthodics going and that helps a bit. However when I walk, it feels fine–it’s afterward that the pain kicks in. If you have suggestions to ease this pain, let me know…

Alright. That’s all for the evening.



Mother’s Day

For a Sunday night, it’s rather quiet and nice. A good mother’s day with church and then home for a day. Simon and I did 5 mile this afternoon, something of a record for the two of us and he still had energy when we got back. This after a portion of our walk was along an enclosed trail where I allowed him off leash. He ran back and forth to me and away from me I don’t know how many times, so I’m thinking he did more like 6 or 7 miles. Only now is he curled up in a ball next to me on the couch.

For whatever reason, I have not been in an expository mood of late. This is why posts have been shorter and less frequent. Work has been busy, but that’s not really it. I’m focused more on the end of the school year, Peanut’s fourth grade wrap up and a few freelancing gigs along with trying to scare up some new ones.

A few items with which I am dealing include a speeding ticket which I feel came about unfairly and I’m considering taking it to court rather than gong to traffic school and paying it. Yes, I know that the chances of winning such a case are near impossible-but there is a principle involved.  So, we shall see.

Meanwhile-get this: the school district Peanut attends had the brilliant idea to save money by being more energy efficient. Their goal is to save $270,000 total. In order to do this, they’ve hired a firm that will help them learn how to be more efficient. They’ll pay that firm $8,800 a month. For 48 months. That’s $105,600 a year. For 4 years. So, they’re going to pay in excess of $400,000 in order to save $270,000. I just don’t think that requires too much comment except to say–now do you get a glimpse as to why people are so frustrated with public schools? With government? “We have to spend $400,000 to save $270,000.” That’s a bit like saying, “we had to burn the village to save it…” No?

Then again, it does take a village, doesn’t it? Heh.

Meanwhile, still circling the drain in a lower orbit on testing and assessment culture. This is just the icing on the cake. Something has to be done, too. It’s just nuts that things are how they are in schools. Nuts. And vouchers aren’t going to save it–neither is more money. We’ve got to start over from the beginning. There is no way we can continue letting schools be how they are. But there is also no way we can allow students to behave as they do, either.

Well, I’ve got papers to grade and planning to do. Sigh.



Pray for Guidance

It was a surreal moment, I have to admit. Today is the National Day of Prayer and I covered the Camarillo gathering for the newspaper. I know so many of those involved-including a good chunk of the 17 pastors that together organized the event.

So, as I was making the rounds and interviewing folks, I found myself in conversation-and in prayer-with people I know. I know that as a reporter, I have a certain duty to remain objective-and I did that. My story in the paper mentions nothing about my praying with folks. I didn’t have any problem reporting objectively on the event.

I had gone behind the large stage in Constitution Park, where the event was held, to get to the other side without drawing attention to myself. If I’d walked across the lawn in front of the stage, I’d have been drawing attention away from the speakers and I didn’t want to do that. So, back I went. It was there that Pastor Bruce, a man I’ve known for a few years now, saw me and welcomed me in. We stood together while some of the county luminaries prayed with the gathered congregation of some 500 people. It was powerful.

Then, as retired sheriff Bob Brooks finished his public prayer, he came over to where I was standing with Pastor Bruce. Along with Bruce and Bob, there was Audra Strickland, former California Assembly member from this area and Greg Totten, our county District Attorney as well as two other pastors. In a small group, we held hands and prayed to God–with the district attorney, a former California assembly member and the retired sheriff of this county as well as Bruce Zachary, a man I admire very much.

Sometimes, a little prayer goes a long way. But sometimes, a lot of people praying a lot of little prayers…together, goes even farther. I was honored to be there.


10 Years of Fighting

I remember well the sunny morning I left for work in September, 2011. We lived in Ventura and the Peanut was a baby just shy of 6 months old. She was awake when I left and eating breakfast with Sue and I kissed them both and drove off. I had gotten to the bridge over the 101 when Bill Handle announced the towers had been hit.

Now, today, we learn some 10 years later that the mastermind of the whole thing, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed in a firefight with American troops. This is good news, but I have doubts about whether it will change very much in world affairs.

I am writing this more for posterity than anything else. I have no commentary on the matter and I don’t know that any is warranted, to be frank. I’m glad he’s gone. I’m glad that we did what we set out to do–but it cost us an awful lot to get to this point.