Tuesday’s Alright.

Finished a deadline this evening and had some time left over. This is a rare pleasure, a joy that I will revel in. I make no secret of my love for this time of year. The traditions of it and my glorying in the freshness and wonder of it carry me back to my own childhood and bring me forward to my young daughter. She’s coming to grips with what Santa Claus really is. No longer convinced that he’s an actual physical being, she believes in spirit, in hope and in joy. That’s pretty good, I’d say.

Looks like I gave both the girls thrush. I feel bad–their cases aren’t as extreme as mine–but still, it’s no fun. Neither wants to go to the doc for the meds. Sue’s an old pro–having had the infection many times before–and Shannon’s doesn’t really bother her much. Generally it goes away on its own in 10 days to two weeks. C’est la vie.

Meathead Movers. Sounds great, yes? Met the owners today by phone, writing a profile piece for the paper, and was really taken by their story. My own entrepreneurial proclivities have been manifest here before. I’m a writer and the past 10 years has seen me focus on earning something of a living doing something I love to do, relying on my skills in the marketplace.

That’s what Aaron and Evan Steed did. They started out in high school, bootstrapped themselves up–no venture capitalists, no rich uncles–they started out moving friends’ parents and grew to 200 employees, 32 trucks and have expanded 30 percent in the past year. It’s a great story–about customer service, finding a niche, serving a market, etc. I can’t go on because I’d give away the story before it comes out in the Star. Suffice to say, it is a great story.

Christmas is on its way–though the weather here wouldn’t tell you that. Should be cooling off soon. Keep hope alive, and all. It is time to mosey.

Onward, gentles.

Carry the torch No more.

Times they are a changing. Got a bout of thrush (yeast infection on the tongue) that came about as a result of a number of factors including a cold, etc. It’s on the run, now-but it’s taking another dose of fluconazole to do it and it’s just a pain.

Meanwhile, the Thanksgiving break gave me time to make some important decisions including my decision to resign from my adviser position for the student newspaper, the Stinger. It actually wasn’t a hard decision to make. I’ve been disappointed in the lack of support for student journalism at our school for quite some time–by this I mean that we don’t have any money. None–not just a little, none. Each issue we produce is produced out of advertising and that’s getting harder in these times. On top of that, there is a plentiful lack (as Shakespeare said) of computer technology and no foreseeable ability to upgrade in the near future.

On top of that, the incessant focus on test scores and core classes has decimated the electives we offer at the high school. Where there used to be auto shop, metal-working, electronics, agriculture, wood-shop, family science (Home ec.) and a number of others–we’re down to woodshop, agriculture, ASB, the newspaper and the yearbook. The result is that kids who take the newspaper class don’t necessarily want to be there. For whatever reason, I’ve had a devil of a time recruiting writers with a few notable exceptions.

This, combined with the politics of school and the expectations that are askew has simply caused me to re-evaluate what I’m doing. I’m a writer and these days, I’m a writer first. And I’m a teacher. I can teach writing effectively in the English classes, perhaps more effectively, than I can in the newspaper class. This shouldn’t be, of course-but it is what it is.  So, I’m resigning. I’ll finish out the year and move on.

There’s no promise, though, that the newspaper will carry on. We’ll hope so and we’ll push for it–but the principal has suggested that he will collapse the class. Why? No need for it, of course. It doesn’t affect the API and it can’t be tested, so–why bother, right?

I don’t even have the strength to be sarcastic, honestly.

So, I’m sitting here letting my fluconazole do its work on the thrush and healing…slowly. Simon has been sleeping next to me on the couch, where Scoop once slept. This week, it will be one year since the old boy’s death. I miss him every day, but Simon is a good friend, good companion and I can’t help but think Scoop sent him along.

Meanwhile-no deadlines tonight, a rare night off from deadline pressure and I’ll use it to relax, refresh, update here and count my many blessings.

Onward, gentles. Onward indeed.


Here I Am

I went last night to cover a story about Victory Outreach Church in Oxnard, CA. I wasn’t prepared to  experience what I did. The story I wrote from it is here, and it’s clear enough as far as it goes.

But these people reached out to me in ways I didn’t expect, either. To begin with, before they all left to deliver their Thanksgiving meals to people in need, they gathered together and prayed. Victory Outreach is made up of reformed felons, gang members and criminals. These are people who’ve lost everything, who were living lives that were beneath the societal norm in so many ways–and then gave those lives up, turned around and faced God, faced Christ for the first time.

So, when they gathered to pray, a veritable multicultural array was laid out before me. And Bobby Frescas, the organizer of the group, asked me to say the prayer. I’ve never felt so humbled. I suppose on some level, I shouldn’t have. After all, I was writing about these people and I needed to keep a certain professional distance. But at that moment, I simply removed myself from the story and allowed the real me to come out. I wasn’t a reporter for a few minutes. I was a Believer and a fellow traveler.

I prayed, but it wasn’t much. I mentioned Megan, a friend and fellow church member who inexplicably took her own life last Friday. I asked God to be with her family, my friend Mark and his kids. I gave thanks for meeting these caring, decent and creative people who were reaching out to needy people and taking God’s love directly to them-reaching out, as Bobby said, “to the streets.”

I have found myself asking for God to help guide me recently. My friend Jarvis is ailing with cancer and suffering through chemotherapy. I have friends who are suffering from this wretched economy and then there was Megan. I’ve been asking God where He is during this time? Where has He been as these people are suffering.

Then yesterday, I met a beauty pageant winner who as a child was homeless and an orphan. Institutionalized and told she was unadoptable, she was saved by a woman who would later adopt her and become her mother, part of her “forever family.” She said her mission, her purpose in life is to mentor and advocate for kids in the foster-care system. She said she still has all the old destructive feelings, she used to light things on fire as a child, a very real manifestation of her desire to destroy whatever was around her. She’s still attracted to the misfits, she said. She just knows now that she can make a difference.

After that interview, I went out to Victory Outreach and as I drove home through the dark farm roads of the Oxnard plain, God was answering my question.

“Here I Am,” He said.


Malthusian Enthusiasm

One has to love Steven Hayward. A researcher and writer, he posts at Powerline regularly and only he could make talking about Malthusianism cool.

I’m just not nearly smart enough to sit here and deconstruct people like Steven Hawking and Achim Steiner (see Hayward’s piece linked above), but I have to confess–every time one of these “smart guys” comes out with a new pronouncement about how dire the population, the climate, the resources, etc. are–I just have to giggle. What do they do–sit around counting the number of oil deposits on the planet? And do they never consider the possibility that oil might actually be continually forming?

Either way, it’s fine, I guess. A society needs alarmists to at least keep us on the ball. I think what’s fascinating for my part is that we’ve given over from competent and serious stewardship of resources, which in the 60’s and 70’s was sorely needed, to a kind of putting the resources on par with human existence, so the delta smelt can be used as a pretext for wiping out farmers across Central California.

I just have to wonder at people who are enthused about putting trees before people and so on. I rather liken this to OWS, which I have really tried to understand, but can’t. The occupy movement seems to be protesting the fact that corporations make profits. They do this, of course, while drinking Starbucks and eating Domino’s pizza, or better still, while some of them stay in luxury hotels paying exorbitant fees to large corporations. At their core, they seem to be a group of entitled misfits who believe it is their right to have what they want without working for it.

But the problem isn’t that corporations make profits. The problem is that government favors certain corporations, bails them out of trouble, gives them sweetheart deals, lowers their taxes and adjusts the playing field accordingly. A free market doesn’t do that. So, here you have the ultimate cacophony: socialists who want government to pay for everything protesting the ways by which that govt. gets money. It makes no logical sense to me. It’s certainly full of pathos, but the logos has gone missing.




The Dreck Cometh

Gentles, I beg for your forgiveness. I have a case of the dreck writ large. Voice is gone, throat is compromised–and here’s a fun thing–my use of nasal inhalers, while effective in keeping the schnoz open at night, have caused oral thrush–tongue burns, white film, whole thing. On meds–will heal. Takes time.

Egad, but it’s no fun and I’m beat. Couldn’t even muster a two-miler today with Simon. Had to take him to the park of shame–this is the open baseball field where I go when I either A) don’t have time to hoof 3 to 5 miles with the boy or B) Feel like crep and can’t even dream about walking that far. Thus was my plight this day.

I will be at school tomorrow–but my lesson plans are decidedly heavy on students working. Got an appt. with the good doc tomorrow. Dentist already put me on clitromazole. You dissolve it on your tongue five times a day. About to take my last dose of the day after I finish up.

Alas, I thought I’d defeated the dreck this year. I was wrong. The dreck knows no bounds–and hits all. It is a monster and proper prevention techniques are not enough, gentles. Beware. Dreck can happen to you too!

Moving On

Between Friday and today, Sunday, I have met 7 deadlines. That’s a whopping number, quite frankly and here’s the best part: It feels pretty natural to me. I enjoyed it, while understanding the work was important if only because, quite simply, if I don’t write it, I don’t get paid. Period.

Peanut has been “growing up.” It makes her mom and I happy and sad. So much about raising a child has been just that. The sleeplessness, the endless battles, the knowing what’s right and trying to convince–and the frustration and even fear when they’re little and cannot talk to you.

I wrote in these pages about two years ago about our decision to adopt a second child. Sue is such a wonderful mother, it has been the blossoming of her, and she has taught me patience and how to be a father. I wasn’t a good one for a lot of Shannon’s infancy, gentles. I readily confess my faults and thank a forgiving God and forgiving wife for teaching me more.

But our trials and tribulations in the process of adopting have been manifold. We have simply been wrecked by a system that is as Byzantine as any maze and as shallow as any childish wit. Sorry for the flowery speech. Our hearts, particularly Sue’s heart, has been broken by this awful, grueling and grinding experience. There is no way to describe what they have done to us. To do so would be to invite retribution and so I won’t do that here.

We’ve made it clear in an e-mail to our social worker that we will withdraw from the adoption process come next month. That’s when a lot of our “licensing” lapses and in order to stay in the process, we have to provide more hours of “continuing education units,” update our CPR and water rescue cards, etc. All of it amounts to nothing, gentles. Nothing. It is indeed a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury…

Who knows? Maybe within the next couple of weeks, something will happen. But I doubt it. It has been nothing but negatives all along. The fact is, we are told daily that there are children who need homes–but it’s a lie. Well, perhaps there are children that need homes–but the system as it is run is designed to prevent us from adopting one of them. I’m broken-hearted about it and I know Sue is more so.

Meanwhile, we’re carrying on. Peanut wanted her room re-designed. When she was five, she wanted it purple and settled with her mom on a kind of lavender. Now, at 10, she wanted blue and so she and her mom spent all day Saturday and some of today re-painting the room. We’ll put in some new carpet before Christmas and, voi la, Peanut will have a new room. She re-arranged the furniture and everything. Simon had to go in and sniff around, give his stamp of approval, before he would jump on the bed with her. But, he did and now the two of them are blissfully sleeping away in the newly designed digs.

Oh-bla-di, gentles.


Just Chill

Cold. For here, anyway. Cold enough that we put a fire in the fireplace this evening. A little pasta, a little Qupe Syrah and Sue’s and Peanut’s homemade–gluten free, I might add–chocolate chip and cashew cookies. Perfect, I’d say.

Worked too hard today. Actually taught in the classroom. It’s been happening more and more, actually. You know, standing and lecturing, pointing, and writing, using the white board and the computer and the arm movements. Keeping teens awake when talking about Washington Irving is rather a task.

I’ve got a few deadlines to meet, but I didn’t today and I took advantage of it by coming home and meeting Peanut after school with Sue. She was in some consternation about a math test she took today. Last night was one of those angst-ridden tween nights. Oh, the drama. Of course, the good news is that she got a 92 percent on the test and while she was hoping for one-hundred, we assured her that getting one wrong was perfectly acceptable. Good kid, this one.

The late fall comes in and it’s been lovely. Cold, very chilly at night, and welcomed. This time of year is always a crap shoot. It could be 90 degrees and windy or, it could be like it is now–chilly night, sunny and cool-ish days. I prefer the latter and right now, it’s what we’ve got. Rain on the way, too. Snow would be nice, of course. But this storm may give it to us in the mountains a bit and if it does, a trip up is warranted.

Well, a bit of writing this evening and some preparation for tomorrow–more teaching, you know…I bid you all a pleasant Tuesday.


Before the Horizon

November, November- a month I can get behind. There’s a lot to November. Thanksgiving, of course. It’s the big month for politicians–lots of voting in November. It’s the run-up to Christmas, too. Doesn’t feel like it yet, though major retailers are wishing it would. But the fact is, it’s November and time to turn our hearts to things Holiday, family and friends, good food and memories. Time to reflect, to pause and be thankful.

Of course, there are some for whom that’s going to come harder this year. Economic woes plague the country. I did a story tonight on a group of apartment investors who were attending a seminar. Yes, thank you, it was dull for the most part. But, Dr. Bill Watkins spoke at length. He’s an economist with the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at my alma mater, California Lutheran University.

He had some doozies. He’s got a thousand dollar bet going (well, he’s broken it into multiple smaller dollar bets) that a country will leave the Eurozone before next year. That’s in a month and that will wreak havoc on the economy. It will cause an economic crisis, Watkins said. “It doesn’t have to cause a crisis, but it will. Milton Friedman said when the Eurozone was created that it would break apart in 15 years,” he said. “That was 14 years ago. He may well be right.”

Watkins went on to say that the Europeans have no mechanism for allowing a country to leave the Eurozone and the cultural clashes combined with the serious economic issues are simply fuel for a fire that has been burning for a while.

He also said that California is “a mess,” as if we didn’t know. “It’s not going to get better soon. If anyone’s looking to make money in real estate, they’d better be in for the long haul–10 years or more. It’s just not going to change.”

He had some interesting ideas about how to make the economy perk up. “Both of them would work, but they’re horribly unpopular,” he said. “One is to open up to immigration. Literally, we need a massive influx of immigrants and we can write the rules any way we want.” Watkins said there’s a bill floating around congress right now that would allow anyone who buys a $500,000 house in the U.S. the right to citizenship. It will never pass, of course-but it’s a start.” Watkins said that the U.S. could look for educated, wealthy people to come to the country. “Doing that would make a demand for housing and it would also have another effect which is that when immigrants come here, they’re far more likely to start businesses than those born here. They’ve already taken a big risk in crossing the ocean and starting over. For immigrants, starting a business is an easy choice.

Watkins’ forecasts have been fairly accurate in certain sectors of the economy. “We’ve been off, too-mainly in GDP predictions and the like. But, we’ve been accurate with the recession, employment and other issues.”

It was a 20 minute talk during which I learned a lot. But primarily, what I learned was that economically-the storms are no longer on the horizon, they’re blocking the horizon. They’re close, getting closer and they will dump rain. The only question left to ask is how much damage will they do before they leave.