Aug 16, 2019

More Summer Reading Recommendations

We are in the tale end of summer but it's not too late to pick up a good book.  Here are four of my latest reads and my thoughts on them.  You might see something you like!


Becoming by Michelle Obama was an engaging read,  I felt like I really got a sense of who the former first lady was, and also got some fascinating insights into her relationship with Barack Obama.  They are very different personalities, and though I often get told I remind people of the former president, I think in many ways I’m a lot more like Michelle. There were a few parts where the pace dragged but others that were quite compelling.  Her memories of her growing up years and her experience with the presidential campaign and entering the White House were among my favorite sections. I wish that some of my conservative friends would read the book. They’d find themselves hard pressed describe Michelle Obama as anyone other than a good person who loves her country and did her best to make America a better place. That’s something we all strive for.


The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Most of the time the book is better than the movie (or TV series).  This is not one of those times. Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel was the inspiration for the Amazon series of the same title, but the book is different in a lot of ways.  And while it’s not exactly boring, it’s not near as interesting as the first season of the show. (And actually reminds me a lot of the third season of the show, which is not near as compelling.  While I finished Season 1 in just a few days, I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the third season which I began months ago). Dick’s book lacks the urgent plot development of the show. There’s no underground resistance, no mysterious murders, just an underwhelming attempt on the life of a German spy. Viewers of the show will note that some favorites from the show are missing entirely.  There’s no kempetai Inspector and no Obergruppenfuhrer which is a shame because those were two of my favorite story lines. And in the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a book not a series of films. My recommendation is to stick with the season 1 of the show--maybe even Season 2 and skip the book.


Missoula: Rape & the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer.  I picked up this book because of the author more than subject matter.  I have been a long time fan of Krakauer and his books never fail to shake me to my core. Missoula was no exception.  It is a harsh indictment of the rape culture that saturates not just our college campuses but our culture. Like all his books, Missoula made me think hard and challenged my assumptions. I highly recommend the book, with the caveat that, while well paced and easy to read the subject matter is dealt with explicitly.  As a result, it can be upsetting at times. I felt pretty gloomy at points during the reading (it probably didn’t help that I was also watching a couple of episodes a day of The Handmaid’s Tale at the same time). Frankly addressing problem of sexual assault has gotten new traction in this age of #metoo but these kinds of crimes have been happening for a long time.  I personally know of at least two women during my college days who experienced acquaintance rape and chances are you know someone too, whether you realize it or not. My hope and prayer is that this culture will change, and Krakauer’s book is a step in that direction.


Between the World and Me by Na-Tahesi Coates. The late Toni Morrison declared that this is required reading and I have to agree. This book has been on my reading list for a couple of years now, and I finally got to it. It hit hard. For African-American readers there is much to relate to.  For everyone else this slender volume written as an extended letter to Coates’ sun is a vital insight to what it means to grow up black in America. Perhaps one of the most necessary shifts in our national understanding of racism is recognizing it as an institutional systemic problem rooted in power, greed, fear, and desperate clinging to control (Coates describes this as the Dream), rather than, as is commonly understood,  an individual problem rooted in hatred. Most telling is that the police shooting that haunts Coates throughout much of the book is that of Prince Jones. Jones was an admired acquaintance of Coates from Howard University and was shot by a black officer in a case of mistaken identity. The issue is not the racism, or even the skin color of the officer, but rather than the system we all live in that puts a low value on black life. My only quibble with Between the World and Me was it’s pessimism. Still, though Coates does not have religious faith, his book is prophetic and searing.

Jul 7, 2019

Summer Recommendations

Another summer has arrived. It's my favorite season of the year.  I love the warmth (even the heat) and the slower pace of life (at least for us teachers). Here's a couple things that I'm enjoying this summer that you may want to check out yourself.

Summer Reads

I do a lot more reading during the summer than I do during the school year.  I picked up a stack of books at the local library, and just as I did when I was kid, I think I've bitten off more than I can chew. It seems doubtful that I'll finish all six books before the end of the summer. But I've finished one so far: The Wall, by John Lanchester. This is the second book I've read by Lanchester (the first was his 2012 novel Capital, which I also loved) and I think I'm officially a fan.  The Wall is the story of a post-climate change world where a wall is all that stands between civilization as we know it and a much vaster ocean inhabited by unspecified Others who are desperate to get over the Wall and to the safety and comfort inside. When I first started the book I wondered what could be possibly interesting about the story of a guy whose only job is to stand guard on the wall for 12 hours a day on the lookout for attacks by the rarely seen Others.  But, amazingly, I found the book to be a page-turner. If you haven't filled out our summer beach reads, add this one to your list.

Summer Songs
"Gotta Live" by Tedashii featuring Jordan Feliz. Apparently this song's been out for over year, but I'm old and slow to catch up with what's out there.  J Carlos brought this positive anthem to my attention early in the summer and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. Check it out here:
 https://youtu.be/ENg_4jVOe3U


Also on my playlist this summer is Switchfoot's latest album Native Tongue, which came out this past spring. I wasn't particular impressed with the early singles, but I finally got around to listening to the whole album early this summer and it's really grown on me.  One of my favorites is "Joy Invincible."  In the first line two lines of the song, you think it's headed down familiar romantic territory "Everything fell to pieces when my eyes met yours--" until the next line takes a hard left turn towards something much deeper--"in that hospital gown. And the dreams we were once dreaming that we held so close seemed impossible now."  Another standout is youth-vespers-at-the-beach-after-a-day-of-surfing sing-a-long ukulele strummer "We're Gonna Be Alright."

Summer Classes
Elijah's ceramics projects. They will be fired this week and then we glaze them on Tuesday
My ceramics projects. How many people know that the sculpture on the bottom left is not an animal but a place?

The boys are taking classes this summer and they love them!  Swimming is Mon-Thursday for thirty minutes right before lunch time.  On Wednesday afternoons Ezra also takes an art class and gymnastics.  Elijah takes archery on Friday afternoons, and on Tuesdays he takes a drawing class and he and I are doing a ceramics class together. 

Summer Movies
Now that I've seen them all, here's the order in which I liked the films: Black Panther was my favorite, followed by A Star is Born, BlackKlansman, Green Book, Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, & Roma.

I'll usually watch a movie or two each week from my Netflix DVD queue.  With my completion of the 17th century costume drama The Favourite I have officially watched all the of the nominees for Best Picture this past spring. And I can say that the Academy got it wrong. Green Book was good, but not that good. If it had been up to me I would probably have chosen Black Panther.  Interestingly, I haven't been to the theater yet this summer though I expect to go before the summer is out.

Summer Shows

Right now I'm semi-binging  The Handmaid's Tale (one episode or so, per day) and am halfway through the second season. It's dark (sometimes literally, some of the shots are in such low light, my computer screen is basically black and I can't tell what's going on), but compelling and thought-provoking.  Earlier this summer I did a true binge-watch and gobbled down the Netflix series "Dead to Me" on a whim in a single almost-all-night marathon.

Summer Tasks
Moss on the roof.  Ugh. It's likely $400 to get this cleaned up. Hopefully not more.

Most of my summer days are devoted to work. Work in the yard, work around the house, and one day a week is devoted to working on preparing for the next school year. The lists of tasks (and expensive headaches--moss on the roof, mysterious leak in the supposedly waterproofed basement, running toilets, a dryer vent that needs cleaning) is long but I'm glad to say I'm making headway. I'm also staying on top of my writing. I finished editing my play Point of Impact and have submitted to two publishers. I will be submitting to Pioneer Drama as well.  It will probably be at least two months before I know if any of them will consider publishing.  Next up, is to finish editing the draft the novel I finished eleven years ago and then work on shopping it around to an agent.

Summer Pets
Coffee  the cat, our part-time pet

So we have a pretty sweet deal right now.  We have this cat that isn't really ours.  We are pretty sure he belongs to the people who live behind us because we've seen him coming from over there.  He appears to be wearing a flea collar and seems well fed, but for some reason he's just started spending a good chunk of his day hanging around our front porch or back deck.  I'll find him sleeping on a chair in the morning or hanging out on the front porch next to our big family room windows.  He's shown interest in coming inside, but we can't allow that not least because Barbara is allergic to cats.  But the boys love him.  They've named him Coffee and they never miss a chance to sit with him and pet him.  So we have this cat, but no cat food to buy and no vet bills, which is pretty great.  But,  I worry about how long this can last.  What happens when the weather changes?  Are the neighbors really taking care of him? I wish we could just adopt him but since #1) He may actually already belong to someone and #2) Bab's allergies, that's not likely.  He really is a charming cat though and I have to admit I've fallen for him a bit despite not being a "cat person."  For now it's he's a summer pet (like a summer romance) and we'll just have to see what happens when summer ends.

Summer Memories
Boys in the backyard pool

Most important of all are these idyllic summer days that we get to experience only once. Time with my growing boys and lovely wife who only grows lovelier each day. I take it for granted a lot; indeed I find more often than not I'm cranky this summer and I can't imagine why. We are making wonderful memories. Here's one that stands out. A few weekends ago we welcomed the Sabbath on our deck, and as it got dark, the fireflies came out. I have to say I've never seen a firefly display like this one.  The yard and trees were glittering with, maybe thousands of fireflies.  Their lights flickering on and off created a truly magical light show. It reminded me of being in a stadium during a U2 concert watching camera flashes going off all through the stands.  I tried to take a picture but they just don't show up on camera.  You had to be there to see it.  I highly recommend putting on some mosquito repellent and heading out after dark to catch the show.  You'll be glad you did.

The closet approximation I can find to what you'll see in your backyard on any given summer night in Ohio.


We are just over halfway through summer 2019.  I'm going to make it my goal to fully appreciate all that this summer still has to offer.

Dec 31, 2018

The Twelfth Annual Inspirations List: 2018

Almost all of this year's list of heroes emerge from the schoolhouse, a common place for inspiration.  I suppose it's easy to see teachers as inspirational.  Our job is often thankless and underappreciated, but one of the reasons I love this job is that, as Manny Scott said, "even on your worst day you are still someone's best hope."  There are many stories of inspirational teachers--unsung heroes who still get their songs from time to time.

But students can inspire too.  Their heroics may not be as visible to the wider world.  Their exploits are taken for their granted by their classmates, maybe overstated by loving parents, and often noticed only by a caring teacher or coach. I'm willing to bet most of my colleagues have found themselves encouraged and inspired by a student in their class.  For almost every year since I began this annual tradition, at least one of my students have made the list.  It's not about favorites for me (though I know it can be perceived that way, which is why I will never nominate a student while they are still in my class), and it's not even necessarily about someone who I "enjoy teaching" (though I generally do). What inspires me about these kids has nothing to do with their classroom performance or behavior.  My students don't inspire me by getting the best grades, being popular with their peers, or staying out of trouble.  They are not my heroes because of their potential greatness tomorrow, but simply because I aspire to be more like them today.

This year's list features four adults and four young people. Four of my former students, three current or former colleagues, and one person who is employed as an engineer but lives her life like a Teacher of the Year.  For the first time one of my heroes has been nominated posthumously. And for the first time ever, a fourth nominee from the same remarkable family.  There are the Kennedy's, the Bush's, the Paez's and now the Green's: families just packed with amazing individuals. Jordan could have made the 2017 list, but that would have violated my rule about nominating a student while they are in my class. Sister Jasmyn was on the list last year. Grandmother Shirley was on the list in 2016 and mom, Valerie was on the 2015 list.

My job is wonderful, not least because I get to work with inspiring people like these:

Jordan Green
Tiana Rhodes-Washington
Dalane Crawford II
Lawrence Stewart
Larry Brooks
Lisa Lavalas
Thomas Slocum III
Belvia Jackson

Jordan Green
I'm inspired by his humility
He couldn't be humble if he weren't so talented. It's Jordan's impressive gifts on the basketball court that underscore his remarkable humility on--and off-the court.  There aren't many kids his age who have the maturity and self-awareness to carry themselves with the dignity that Jordan does.  I always knew that Jordan, like many kids his age, loved to play basketball.  What I didn't fully realize was how good he was until I saw him capture the imagination of a gym full of high school students when he himself was a mere 8th grader.  It took only the final ten minutes of the game when he was put in to play to have everyone in the stands chanting his name as if another more well-known Jordan was the one effortlessly sinking three-pointers, commanding the game.  That kind of instant celebrity would have gone to the heads of most kids (and most adults too), but not Jordan.  I'm sure I've bragged about Jordan's spotlight stealing game far more than he has. 

I've often wondered what enables Jordan to stay so humble, and I've concluded that it's a combination of hard work, passion for the game, and true self-confidence.  I don't know what hoop dreams Jordan Green harbors, but whatever they are, I believe he will achieve them.  And when he does, you won't catch Jordan bragging. His accomplishments will say all that needs to be said.

Tiana Rhodes-Washington
I'm inspired by her integrity

Navigating the treacherous world of middle school is no easy task. Tiana managed to do it with quiet grace and wisdom that enabled her to maintain positive relationships with her peers while simultaneously earning the respect of her teachers.  Elected vice-president of her class, she ended up carrying the responsibilities of the office of class president for almost half the year.  She did so without complaining, without throwing her weight around, and without alienating her fellow-classmates.  On more than one occasion Tiana had to make tough decisions--decisions always guided by a deep sense of integrity and fair play.  Throughout the year I admired her courage, patience, and calm spirit.  She managed to side-step the drama that often consumes the social life of many kids her age.  I think part of the reason she was able to do that is that her friends knew what I know too: that Tiana can be trusted.  There is no higher mark one can earn in school--and in life--than that.





Dalane Crawford II
I'm inspired by his independence
Not many people can march to beat of their own drum without throwing other people off their timing.  Dalane managed to strike that remarkable balance, something I've seen few iconoclasts of any age pull off. I've had plenty of students who are determined to do their own thing. Dalane stands apart because he always chose to do his own thing without being rude, disrespectful, or arrogant.  He has a unique way of declining to follow the crowd--a kind of pleasant, unperturbed, and unassuming way of doing what he wants instead of what others think he should.  This quality stood out last fall when he suddenly decided that he was going to run the Buckeye Classic 10K with me and some of the other students. Dalane had shown little interest in athletics up to that point so his decision came as a surprise.  Also surprising was how he truly ran his own race as we trained.  I had lots of advice on how to prepare for the race, but Dalane politely went about his business sometimes doing what I recommended, sometimes not.  By race day, it came as no surprise that Dalane finished first out of our group and shattered the old CAA 10K record.  Of course we were all excited by his performance and were sure that he'd want to keep running.  We all thought he should.  But in the same way that he decided to start running, he decided he was done.  He came, he ran, he conquered, and he was satisfied with that. Our enthusiasm for his new running career was no consequence to him.

I've always struggled with being a people-pleaser, and I don't find myself drawn to most so called "rebels" because they treated other people so poorly.  In Dalane I see someone who doesn't worry about pleasing others, and yet still remains kind, respectful and humble. I want to be like that!

Lawrence Stewart
I'm inspired by his dedication
I didn't fully appreciate how much Stu inspired me until I was sitting at his funeral.  As person after person rose up to testify how Mr. Stewart had impacted their lives, I was inspired to live life the way he did: invested in helping others.  Stu sure helped me a lot.  When I first came to Columbus Adventist Academy, he was the only other male on the staff.  At that point he was already retired, but still teaching math part time at the school.  He took me under his wing like he did countless others in his lifetime. He helped me find my footing as someone new to the school, and provided invaluable counsel.  After he further he retired, he still continued to be a great support, coming in a couple of times a week to tutor my fifth grade math students and volunteering to be a science fair judge.  When his health forced him to retire sill more, I didn't see so much of Stu anymore.  But whenever I did, he always inquired about how things were going at the school, asked about specific students by name.  I could tell he cared--about the school, about the kids, about me.

A few years back Stu passed the CAA uniform sweater he always used to wear on to me.  In a way I wish I still had that sweater, but in another way I'm glad I don't. You see I gave that sweater  away last school year, to one of my students who needed one (coincidentally, it was one of the students on this heroes list).  That's something Stu would have done.

Larry Brooks
I'm inspired by his positive attitude
There are those that praise God with their lips and those who praise God with their lives.  Mr. Brooks does both.  He sees a blessing in everything.  Every situation is a reason to give thanks.  And likewise Mr. Brooks seeks to be a blessing every day.  Every situation is an opportunity to be of service.  Mr. Brooks is uniformly positive, encouraging and helpful.  I thought that maybe now that he's fully in the thick of the struggle, dealing with recalcitrant students on a daily basis, and going through the crucible of fire that every new teacher must suffer, that his positive energy would flag, but so far he perseveres valiantly.  He remains ever ready with an extended hand, a cheerful smile, a ready prayer, and a faithful spirit.  The kids may not always appreciate it, but I see you Mr. Brooks, and one day they will too.


Lisa Lavalas
I'm inspired by her patience and wisdom
She's the only one left now. Of the teachers I began with at Columbus Adventist Academy, all have moved on the other fields of service except Lisa.  She's still running her kindergarten classroom with same patience, love, and dedication that she's had in the past decade I've known her.  Throughout this time Lisa has inspired me by her wise approach to challenging situations and difficult people.  She has a philosophy of education that emphasizes respect, empathy, and kindness.  This serves her well both in and out of the classroom.  She taught my older son in kindergarten four years ago and now my younger son in is in her class.  Both of them have benefited by her loving and logical approach to education and relationships.  And this year, Lisa once again took the helm of our school's massive Christmas program. She's never sought out this leadership role, but she's seen the need and stepped into fill it time and again, and always with insight and patience.  I am blessed to count Lisa Lavalas as a faithful, trustworthy friend and I hope she sticks around at CAA at least as long as I do!

Thomas Slocum III
I'm inspired by his happy spirit
Whether he's personally feeling happy at the moment or not, Thomas always does his best to bring happiness into the lives of others.  This is a conscious decision on his part and his choice to choose joy on a daily basis made each day a little bit better for me and everyone around him.  I always appreciated his heartfelt prayers and his ready smile.  He always accepted reprimands with grace and respect. He was a friend to all.  That kind of attitude is a rarity and a treasure in the fractious world of adolescence. Whenever I'm inclined to get negative, I can think of Thomas and how he would act, and do what he would do.  I trust, that as he experiences the euphoric ups and daunting downs and everything in between in high school, he'll maintain the happy, hopeful spirit that served him so well thus far.

Belvia Jackson
I'm inspired by her cheerful excellence
She's one of those people who does everything well.  With Belvia Jackson excellence is a given, and always delivered with a side of good cheer. I've had the opportunity to work with Belvia through her involvement with children's ministries and Adventurers.  I've also had her daughter as one of my students for three years and had her children on our school sports teams when I was the athletic director, so I've interacted with her as a parent.   Whatever the context, Belvia is dependable, on top of things, perceptive, and consistently pleasant to work with.  She has the unique ability to slip into leadership when needed without being domineering.  She is equally able to act in a supporting role, following instructions to the letter, and staying in step with the program.  Whether leading or supporting, your program is always better with Belvia on the team. There those who bring excellence and there are those who bring a positive spirit.  Belvia Jackson delivers both.  Every single time.

May 5, 2018

Too Fast


The other night I was struck suddenly by that feeling that parents often talk about:  They're growing up so fast!

Every night for quite some time we go through the same struggle in our house.  We put the boys to bed and they won't go to sleep, especially Ezra.  He comes out of his room time and time again, wants the light on so he can color or play in his room, needs a drink of water, complains that he's "scared", wants me to come and rub his back again and again, and repeatedly asks when I'm going to come to "check on" him.  Elijah is a morning person, and like his mother, will typically just drop off to sleep no matter what after eight in the evening.  But Ezra, like me is a night owl, and it's hard for him to go to sleep (just as it's hard for him to get up in the morning).  The constant harassment drives me crazy!  After a long, stimulating day all I want is to sit down and be still and not go to bed too late.  My youngest son has seemed determined to prevent these things from happening.

But the other night, I was rubbing his back for the umpteenth time, and it hit me--they are growing up so fast.  And I wanted to slow time, just a little bit.  I wanted to savor the age and stage they are right now before it passes.  In too short a time, it will be me pushing the boys to spend time with me and not the other way around.  And not just that. . .they simply won't be like they are right now.  They'll be different as they grow and mature.  If I want to fully appreciate the boys as they are, I have to do it now, because what they are right now won't last.

Right then, I decided, as busy and tired as I am, I would stop fighting with Ezra about his not staying in his room and going to sleep.  I decided I will commit fully to rubbing his back rather than giving him two minutes of distracted pats while I try to read a magazine or browse my phone before rushing away to evening chores. 

Since then something remarkable has happened.  I've found that ten to fifteen minutes of complete and total focus on him at bedtime, settles him right down.  After that unrushed time passes, I'm able to quietly tell him I'm going to go out now and he's fine--even if he's still not sleepy.  There's no continuing harassment after that.  I realize now that my rush to get him to stay in bed and "stop  bothering me" just made him  more unsettled and anxious.  Once I gave him my full, unrushed attention, he was at peace.

I got to have my cake and eat it too.  I have special time with Ezra every night where I can fully appreciate him as he is right now at this precious, quickly evaporating age, and I no longer have to deal with constant harassment and interruptions as I'm winding down my own day.

Mar 4, 2018

Respite

Every parent should have a little respite.  A few days where you can rest until you feel like sleeping and sleep until you feel waking.  A few days where you don't have to worry about making meals, handing out snacks, giving baths, picking up and dropping off, tidying and cleaning, mediating disputes and reprimanding bad behavior.  A few days where you can read a bit, watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix series, go out to eat, or to a movie,  and have adult conversations without interruptions (at least from your own kids).  Parenting is a wonderful blessing but sometimes you just need a break.

When I first decided to zip down to Florida for a weekend it was mainly to spend some time with my mom, who normally I see maybe once or twice a year.  Since we live so far from her, I'm trying to increase those times. And so Barbara agreed to let me take a quick trip this past weekend.  It would have been too expensive for us all to travel for such a short time so it was just me. An unexpected blessing of this time was the respite from parenting for a weekend and it's something I recommend every parent take at least once a year.  I honestly think you'll be a better parent for it.

The view from the parking lot of mom's apartment complex. Isn't it gorgeous? Hills in Florida!  Who would have thought?

My mother has recently moved from Ocoee to even further outside of Orlando, to the community of Clermont.  My sister and her family live in nearby Groveland.  This was my first time visiting them in their new community and I have to say I was amazed. I had no idea such a beautiful area existed in central Florida.  I grew up in Florida, often drove north to Gainseville, east to Daytona and New Symrna, southwest to Tampa and even on occasion went south to Miami and the Keys.  But somehow I never traveled due west and discovered Florida's best kept secret--what I call the "Wakanda of Florida" of magical paradise hiding in plain sight.  While almost all of Florida is pancake flat,  Clermont and the surrounding area is a land of rolling hills, stunning, expansive vistas, and a multitude of lakes--so many that it feels like you're near the beach.

I took a non-stop flight to Orlando after school on Friday, February 23.  Another hidden gem is Frontier Airlines.  Their base prices for tickets are bargain basement cheap (I  spent $130 for a round trip and prices go lower than that) and their flights are non-stop.  Granted they will nickel and dime you if you let them.  They charge for everything--snacks and drinks, checked and carry on luggage, choosing your seat.  But you don't have to pay these upcharges.  Travel with nothing more than a carry-on the size of laptop bag or purse  and "take whatever" seats are available at boarding (that's actually how they word it on their website as they try pressure you into spending $12 to $20 bucks for the privilege of choosing your seat.  You can click on the big green choose seats button or select the small print "No thanks, I'll take whatever").  Not only do you save money but it is so freeing to walk into the airport with but nothing but a single bag slung over your shoulder, skip the lines at check-in, breeze through security and hop on the plane.

Cruising with my sis and her kids.  I think this was on the way to dinner Sunday night.  Vince was right behind me and Mom was in the way-back. Jim and Dawn's oldest son met us at the restaurant.

Of course the highlight of my visit was the time with family.   I spent hours chatting with my mom and siblings.  We had a nice leisurely Sabbath lunch after church at my sister's lakefront home.  On Sunday my brother Vince and brother-in-law Jim went to see Black Panther, and we closed out the weekend Sunday evening with a wonderful meal, all of us together, at Lily's on the Lake, a beautiful lake shore restaurant. 

At Lily's on the Lake, Sunday night, February 25, 2018

But probably one of the most special moments of the weekend for me was after lunch on Sabbath when Dawn offered to take Vince and I out on the lake in their little skiff. The three of us motored out on to the lake, Dawn at the helm, Vince and I sitting back to back on one of the low wooden benches in the boat, wearing the floppy fisherman's hats Dawn gave us.  It was just one of those times when you just know you're making a memory.  It's not too often the three of us are together--just us three like we were when were kids and we shared a bedroom, my bed on one side, Vince on the other and Dawn in the middle.  But on that little boat in the middle of the lake, the warm sunshine on our backs, the conversation easy and pleasant, it was truly special to be together again.  I don't know if they felt it like I did, but for me those 15 or 20 minutes will always be a very special memory to me.  I didn't bring my phone with me to capture the moment (I was worried about losing it if we capsized) and indeed, as is my bad habit, I didn't take many pictures at all during the weekend.  But I have lots of mental snapshots and I will cherish them.

Before I  knew it, it was Monday morning and time to jet back to Ohio. Mom and Dawn took me to the airport, and a few hours later I was back in the hustle and bustle of ordinary life.  My brief respite from my crazy everyday life was over, but I have wonderful, warm memories of a peaceful weekend with the family I grew up with.  I can't wait to go back this summer, this time with my own family in tow!

Jan 4, 2018

Epilogue

So, I've completed another 30 day writing challenge.  I said I wanted more of a challenge and I got one.  It took me over 60 days to complete and only a few of the days were because I just got tired of writing and decided not to.  Many of these entries stretched my creativity, they demanded discipline and a willingness to keep writing even when I didn't feel like it.  A number of prompts required me to do research and that accounted for many of the "skipped" days.  I might not have been posting daily. . .or even writing words daily.  But writing is about a lot more than writing (or typing) words.  Research, planning, thinking, imagining--all of these are a part of writing.  On balance I'm happy with the 29 prompted entries (I combined two prompts).  Some I like better than others; some are better written, but overall I'm satisfied with the work I've done.

And now. . .what comes next?  Last year I planned to continue writing on a daily basis, and while I didn't meet that goal, I did do a lot more writing than I have in a long time.  Last winter and spring I wrote a reboot of the play Point of Impact and we staged the production at the end of April.  Then this past fall, I wrote a new short story called "Walls" as part of my character building for my role of David in Jasmyn Green's stageplay Lie in the Bed You Make.  You'll recall the character of David makes an appearance in "Finding Home" and in my last prompt of the 30-day writing challenge, "The First Day."  In between the story and the play, I managed to post at least once a month on this blog.

Still, while last year might be deemed successful in terms of a couple new pieces of writing, this year it's time to step things up.  I really want to make writing a truly daily discipline. I want to make writing such a consistent and integral part of my daily life that there will  not be a need for another 30 day writing challenge November.  That said, I don't plan on a post a day here on this blog.  I'm still looking to maintain one to four posts a month on  the blog as my standard.  My main focus will be on a new book that I've been wanting to write for. . .well, the last 23 years or so.  I've been talking about it for years and now it's time to do it.  My goal for this year is to work daily on a book about my life-changing ten months as a student missionary on Chuuk.  It's a story that needs to be told and I'm not putting off telling it any longer.

And for all you other would-be authors out there, I challenge you.  Let this be your year too!  Let's do this.

I took this photo overlooking Chuuk Lagoon, I believe in early 1995. Let the adventure begin!




Jan 2, 2018

The First Day

This final work of fiction in my thirty day writing challenge is a call back to my first prompt "Last Sentence" and also references "Finding Home." Feel free to check out these stories for further context!
Photo Credit: Steve at the What Do I Know blog. Great blog by the way.  This guy is nothing if not prolific!

Don't ever let anyone tell you God doesn't have a sense of humor.  He had taken the wheel. Literally.  I mean the steering wheel was gone.  The steering column remained, a blunt stake just inches from my chest.

I had never lost consciousness but in the quietness after the chaos of the crash, it felt like I was just coming around. There was the hiss of steam, the steady sound of something dripping somewhere, the vague creak of twisted metal. The passenger side door had been pushed in so far, my right shoulder now leaned on it. There was the smell of fuel and oil. In a moment of panic I wondered if the car might explode and that motivated me to begin to try to get out.  I wasn't sure how bad my injuries were.  I knew they must be terrible, but I felt only a general achiness and soreness which I chalked up to shock.  I anticipated shooting pain as I began to try extricate myself from the drivers seat, but when I began to move no new pain emerged.

 I unbuckled my seat belt and tried the door. It unlatched but wouldn't open more than an inch or two.  The window was a web of shattered glass still in it's frame. The windshield was gone though, and I determined to climb out that way.  Carefully I climbed up over the wheel-less steering column and the glass covered dashboard and gingerly pulled myself through the windshield.  The only new pain I felt was the sharp sting of broken glass puncturing my hands. A few moments later I was standing among the rocks and weeds of the ravine looking at the crushed remains of my car.  I could not believe I had survived, and indeed was able to stand.  This was the sort of wreck where best case scenario, I would have been trapped inside both legs broken waiting for the Jaws of Life to pry me free.  Instead, I stood apparently unharmed.  I couldn't explain it.  My guardian angel surely must have earned his pay today.

An 18-wheeler thundered by on the highway above me.  The ravine was easily twenty yards deep and while passing cars would surely have seen the broken guardrail they might not have realized that an accident had just happened if they couldn't see my car in the darkened ravine. I shuddered at the realization that if I had been trapped in the car I might have had to wait for quite some time until an alert driver noticed what had happened--or until the wreck exploded into a fiery ball with me inside.  I laughed in amazement. I couldn't help it. I was free!

You don't know happiness until you've inexplicably escaped certain death.  All the things that had caused me anguish before were now nothing.  Lauryn and I were struggling to put a damaged marriage back together.  On the drive I'd begun to doubt we could do it--we had both done so much to break things.  But now? Now all I could think of was getting home to her.  Financial worries, the impending trial, the future--the future!  I had a future! That alone was reason to celebrate.  As I scrabbled up the ravine towards the roadside I rejoiced in the movements of my straining muscles, the firmness in my unbroken bones.  I reveled in the stinging pain in my glass-cut hands and the general soreness all over my body. I was alive and nothing--and everything--mattered!

At last I reached the top of the ravine.  With a twinge of regret I realized that I'd left my phone in the wreck.  So much for calling the police. Or Lauryn.  How I longed to hear her voice! But no matter, I'd flag someone down. If that didn't work, I'd just start walking to the next exit. Anything was possible.
I perched on an undamaged portion of the guardrail to wait for the next car to come along.  Lauryn had given us a second chance.  Now God had given me one too. The autumn air was crisp and clean.  The crumpled wreckage of the car was barely visible in ravine below.  The silver dust of moonlight settled coldly on the night.