Mar 31, 2012

Family Photos

The Leens, Maycocks, and Berglunds, 2012.

It's been a long time since we've had some nice, professional photos taken of Barbara's family, so we were excited to finally sit down for an official family portrait last Sunday in Dayton.  Here's some of the best from that session.
Dad and Mom

The Leens

The Maycocks

Tech Stuff

My iPad on the left, and my laptop.  Photo taken with my smartphone.

I am fully a citizen of the 21st century now.  I've got my laptop and iPod nano (so last decade), but I also now have my iPad and my smartphone.

I've never been early to the tech party.  I'd always taken a perverse pride in having an out-of-fashion basic phone. I wasn't about status, I was about practicality.  The old flip phone (and the still older Nokia before that) got the job done. 

But I'm finding my snazzy new Samsung Galaxy SII gets the job done pretty well too, and does a whole heck of a lot more to boot.

Sometimes I feel like I have more technolgy than I need or know what to do with, and I actively look for ways to make my tech toys more indespensable than they already are.  After all, given what they cost they ought to take over my life, at least to a degree.

The iPad I use mainly for school (which was it's intended purpose).  Evernote is a fantastic web-based note-taking program I use every day.  It has replaced the legal pad I used for years to keep track of my day at school and in so doing, has threatened the ubiquitous clipboard that has been my inseparable companion on the job for years (My students through the years will tell you how important my clipboard was.  One class in Saipan bought me a new one as a gift, another here at CAA developed an ongoing storyline about my obessession with "Clippy" the clipboard.)  Well, now Clippy  may become obsolete.  I still use the clipboard occasionally, but between my iPad and my phone, I find there are days where it never even gets taken out of my bag.

Also on the iPad, I have been using the gorgeous periodic table app with my students. The Renweb iPhone app which I use on my iPad is wonderful for the on-the-go grading and taking attendance.  Beyond my professional life, I use the Ipad mostly to browse Facebook and Twitter and the occasional news site using Flipboard.  I watch streaming movies on Netflix and Skype on the iPad as well. I use the Bible app at church. And The Feller is an expert with the iPad, swiping through the apps with practiced ease.  He has quite a few apps just for his use.  He likes to do electronic jigsaw puzzles and memory games.  He enjoys some animal and Noah's Ark apps as well. His use of the iPad is limited to church (gone are the days of crayons and folded sheets of typing paper, now he has an electronic coloring book where colors are added at the touch of a finger) and travel (he has a number of secular apps which he uses exclusively on plane and car trips--Thomas the Train, Elmo, and Talking Tom among them.

The laptop is still probably the device I use the most.  You can't beat typing on an actual keyboard and a good word processing program for typing.  So I use my laptop for anything that requires typing:  E-mails, documents, entering most grades on Renweb, lesson plans.  In fact I use Evernote on the laptop to prepare my "Dayplan" and then mainly use either the iPad or my phone as a carry-with-me reference.

The iPod I use the least. I just don't have time to listen to music.  When I drive it's NPR (and my old car doesn't have a CD player or the built-in connection for my iPod anyway.)  So that leaves running, long trips, like the drive down to Dayton, and sometimes when I'm grading as about the only time I really listen to music.  I have a backlog of hundreds of songs sitting on iPod that I've collected from friends that I still need to review.

Last, but not least is my phone.  This one is the force to be reckoned with.  Before I was coolly indifferent to my phone.  It was a useful and indeed indispensable tool, but that was all.  But with this phone I feel something almost akin to affection.  It's menus are so familiar and comforting.  The cheerful picture I've put on of Babs and the Feller  welcomes me when ever I awaken it.  Once I swipe into the home screen, I have animated wallpaper of blades of grass waving gently in the electronic breeze against a backdrop of sky that changes in appearance to reflect the time of day--sunrise, blue sky through the day, sunset, and a starry night sky. I have my little rituals. First the weather, then zipping through my e-mail, checking Interference, and then Facebook.  Since I got my phone, I have come to spend a lot more time on Facebook.  I still don't post that often, but I'm always scanning through my news feed. I confess I have become one of those people--I do find myself pulling out my phone for no other reason than to browse.  I love my ringtones--knowing who is calling.  I love how it can do almost anything.  I use the voice command feature all the time,particularly for sending text messages. The GPS and navigational apps have replaced MapQuest for driving directions and I no longer feel a need to get a new camera--it's all right there on my phone.

I may have arrived late to the technology party, but I'm now fully in the swing of things!

Mar 17, 2012

Spring Sprung?

Windows-rolled down weather.  On the way home from church today, March 17, 2012.  Central Ohio is greening up nicely this St. Patricks Day, far ahead of schedule.

I'm actually a bit of weather junkie.  I have not one but two weather apps on my phone that I study religiously throughout each day. The AccuWeather app has a nice, glossy display and cycles between my favorite locations (pity poor Portland, Oregon.  Every time the weather for that area comes up it's a litany of clouds, rain, and chilly temperatures).  But I find AccuWeather tends to overestimate the forecast--predicting temperatures five degrees or more warmer than what actually bears out.   My favorite weather source--because of the wealth of information it provides, and because it is typically very accurate-is Weather Underground.  The website is even better than the app, as it provides extra details like high and low temps around the state, normal temperatures for a given day, record highs and lows, and sunrise and sunset information.

I guess I like following the weather forecast because I love to plan.  There's something soothing and rewarding for me in making a plan--whether it be for the next day, the coming week, or the upcoming summer.I know tomorrow is not promised, that we should not say next year I will do such and such, but if the Lord wills it, I will do such and such.  I know the one-liner about how to make God laugh.  But none of that has taken away the deep pleasure I take in planning, even if more often than not life does not unfold according to that plan. And of course the weather is so important to planning:  Will it be warm enough to take Elijah to the park?  Can I send the kids outside for recess or will I have to take them to gym?  During our years in Saipan, such a meteorological focus was pretty much pointless given that Saipan holds the world record for the least amount of variation in it's temperature.  But here in America following the forecast has become a minor hobby of mine.

Well, right now the weather is not following the plan, and you know what?  I'm okay with that.  For almost a week we have had unseasonably warm weather--in truth, it's not merely unseasonably warm--it's just plain warm!  We are 20 to 25 degrees warmer than the normal temp for this time of the year; in fact, today we broke the record high of 74 degrees set in 1889!  And it appears that there is no change in sight--temps will remain in the 70s, sometimes even creeping into the 80s throughout next week.  I'm not sure how long this wonderful weather will last--ideally it will just continue through the spring without so much as glance backward and take us right into summer!  It makes planning difficult:  Is it still too early to bring out the Adirondack chairs from storage, or if I wait will I find I wasted a good chunk of the spring when I could have been reclining on the patio?  Do I take the fleece liner out of my coat, dig out the warm-weather clothes?  Should we start planning 8th grade car wash fundraisers?  I'm really not sure what is going to happen with this weird and wondrous weather.  Part of me feels certain that winter will not let go without a parting shot, perhaps a freak snowstorm in April or something.

But another part whispers, "Don't worry about it. It's a beautiful day.  Enjoy it."

Morning walk.  I'm not photographer but on days like we've had of late, even an amateur like me can take beautiful  pictures.  The photo above and the following I took this morning while walking Kimo.

The neighborhood

Kimo and I on our normal route

Perfect Reflection
Srping doesn't officially begin until March 21.  Someone apparently forgot to inform the trees.

Mar 10, 2012

Middle School Blues

Orlando Junior Academy in College Park, Florida, where I spent my middle school years.
I think it's a lot easier to be a middle school teacher than it is to be a middle school student.  Sure we teachers have to deal with poor attitudes, bad work habits, and all kinds of disciplinary issues.  But we also have the gift of the Big Picture.   We can see beyond the classroom doors and the middle school drama.   We have our families and friends, our personal interests and pursuits.  But more than the big picture of life before and after 8 to 3, we also see the Big Picture of our students' lives.   We know in away that is hard for them to grasp, that this too shall pass, that life is much bigger and better than it might seem from their viewpoint now.  We can take their anger at us their teachers over the grave injustices of having their cellphone confiscated or their name written down when they "weren't even talking!" We know that they'll get over it, and in the long term might even thank us.  We've seen former students go on to face the wider world and make a life for themselves.

But to be right in middle of middle school, to be in the belly of beast, sitting in the desks, doing the homework (or not), walking the halls just trying to get through the day, with your body juiced on hormones and going haywire, your emotions all over the map, and burdened with the weight of knowing everything and being surrounded by idiots, chief among them the adults you have to deal with.  That's hard.  We adults tend to be dismissive of teen-age angst, but I don't think that's really fair.  Most of us forget that without the Big Picture that can only come with time and experience, middle school blues are very much real.

The following are some snippets from my pen and paper journal from 24 years ago when I was a skinny fourteen year old with a bushy head of hair, big glasses, and high-pitched voice.  Through these entries, I'm taken right back to the feeling of what it was like to sit in the desks my students now inhabit:

First, a little time capsule!

Wednesday, March 9, 1988

We had an election for who WE would have voted for in the primaries last night.  [Al]Gore got 2 [votes], [Jesse] Jackson got 3, and [George H.W.] Bush got 10 (I voted for Bush along with nine others).  Bush won the real primaries here too.  I think it's going to be Bush and Dukakis.  Troy can sing the words to "Paradise" by David Lee Roth.  He does it good too and even sounds like him. . .

A fairly quiet day turns dramatic at recess:

During Study Hall we went outside for recess.  Again I was not on Alpo's team (Hurrah!!).  Neither was Dean because he secretly dislikes being over there ["Alpo" was derivative nickname we had for a student who attended our school for a few months during my 8th grade year].   John also switched over to our team and they took Ricky.  It was a fairly good game.  But Alpo was making us sick.  Every time he made a point he'd make a point or something: "Believe that!" or "How do you feel!"  I burned him bad when I got that touchdown.  But anyway the others started calling him a n-----. . .John said I was on the wrong team [our team was predominantly white, the other predominantly black].  I said "No, I'm not.  The only reason the teams are like that is cause he's prejudiced."  It's true.  Oh brother, what a troublemaker.

One thing that really strikes me about my own middle school experience was the racial tension ever percolating just under the surface at our Central Florida school in the mid to late eighties.  We were already twenty years out from the end of southern segregation and yet it seems like things were much worse when I was in middle school then they are now.  I have many memories of classmates and even teachers and pathfinder leaders making openly racist comments similar to what I described above.  I'll never forget one teacher who proclaimed to us that he didn't like "n-----rs."  And then proceed to explain that not all black people fit that description, only the bad ones.   My memory of that one teacher's comment was that it was awful, but when I read my journal entry about it, I seemed not to be bothered at all.   I guess I comforted myself with the knowledge that I was one of the "good ones."  I tended to take incidences like these in stride, at least on the surface, but I think deep down it was quite upsetting and frightening, especially when talk like this came from authority figures.

Outwardly what appeared to bother me more than racist declarations from my teachers was  "injustices" like this one:

I asked for my Mad magazine back from Tim but he said Mrs. Kovalski had taken it way and I had to ask for it.  So I asked for it and Mrs. Kovalski said someone was looking through it and had taken it.  She also said such magazines were inappropriate. Inappropriate my A!!  Grandma doesn't mind these magazines. . .

This kind of thing happens all the time with my students.  A phone or ipod gets passed around and I end up confiscating it from someone other than the owner.  I can also now relate to my teacher's casual loss of my magazine--the mentality is "Hey, you shouldn't have brought it to school in the first place."  However, I think I sometimes forget that my students view of appropriateness and my own are different.  I have also experienced that justification students feel when they feel their family supports their actions (Though in truth, I don't think grandma would really have been "okay" with Mad magazine had she really looked at it.  And I say that as someone who still doesn't necessarily see it as inappropriate (though who knows what it's like now. . it's been years since I looked at an issue.)

The day ends with a long conversation on the phone with a girl I had a crush on.  By this time the crush was beginning to fade to some degree and morph into more of a friendship (on my end anyway, for her that's all we'd ever been).

Christi called and we talked a LONG time.  It was really interesting though I forgot a lot of what we talked about. . ."

I guess these days these conversations would happen via text message. I imagine it's much harder as a parent today to know what your kids are up to now that you don't have your teen obviously tying up the phone for hours at a time.

The next day, March 10, exactly 24 years ago today, drama with "Alpo" exploded.  We were in P.E. class and:

Then it happened our favorite friend Alpo got sent out of the game for losing his temper so often.  He through his [field hockey] stick at the stage and as he walked by I said, "I guess you're a big man now."  He turned around and attacked me. Then he let me up and as I started up, he jumped me again.  He is crazy, plain stark CRAZY!!  Well he left.  I wasn't bothered much.  Just a little bit shaken.  Talked awhile [with classmates, undoubtedly about what just happened].  I heard him making plans with his slaves [my term for my classmates who sided with him].  Changed [clothes after P.E.  Alpo came into the bathroom  "Sean, I got one thing to say to you.  Don't ever talk to me" and then Supermouth went on to tell me about how he knows I don't like him and everything and how if I say anything he's gonna have to kill me.  That's the biggest piece of horses--- I ever heard.  The whole time I stood there tapping my foot looking at him. . .

Went to study hall.  Me, Jonathan, and Todd all went to the library to talk about Alpo in peace.  Unfortunately, he followed us down there.  I thanked Roxie and Enoch for sticking up for me. I never thought I'd see the day Roxie would stick up for me.  I guess now we are fighting a common enemy, ALPO.  Well, anyway we went and whispered about him.  We also talked about the elections and Jimmy Swaggart. Sometimes Arf-Arf Alpo came near our table and listened but he heard nothing.  Once he even went into the books to listen but still we said nothing.  What a faint [??? My handwriting is sometimes illegible]. . .

Nothing else happened of any interest at all except Alpo hit Roxie twice today and called her a f--khead.  Christi called but we didn't talk much. Mostly about Alpo.

I played it cool in the moment when this young man came after me physically and verbally, but I remember that feeling of adrenaline coursing through me, and frankly being quite terrified despite my apparent bravado.  That feeling was not unsual for me in middle school.

Our treatment of the boy we cruelly called "Alpo" is one of the great shames of my class.  He was difficult, this is true and to a large degree he did bring upon himself much of the students' disgust.  He arrived at our school before Christmas, and with his charismatic personality and bad boy persona, was instantly popular.  However he had trouble understanding how to make and keep friends, and quickly fell out of favor with many of my classmates.  By the time he left a few weeks after the entry above, he had alienated every one in the class and was pretty much a pariah.  With hindsight, I see now that he was misunderstood, and we, like most middle schoolers were unforgiving, impatient, and harsh, uninterested in trying to help him find his way.  I am ashamed to say that I rejoiced that my status in the class was upgraded at his expense.   I don't know what happened to him after he left our school; our paths never crossed again.

As I look at my own students I feel that some, at least, are having a better middle school experience than I did, but I think many of them are experiencing the same roller-coaster of emotions that I did.  Some are posssibly having an even worse experience than I did.  My goal is to let my students know that I care, that I believe in them, that they matter.  I don't know if they'll hear me; I don't know that I ever heard my own teachers, but I'm going to keep trying.

I find it rather ironic that I, who have such dreary memories of my middle school years, would end up choosing to spend year after year in 7th and 8th grade.  It doesn't feel the same though, and I guess that's because as an adult, I can see what I couldn't see as a fourteen year old--I can see the future.  I don't think it's possible to be a middle school teacher without being a futurist.  To teach middle school is to live beyond the right now to the bright future that belongs to each child we teach.

Mar 3, 2012

Picking Up Where We Left Off

With Jessica Lee, Veronyka Perez, Britni Gleason, and Riki Unterseher.  February  13, 2012.
Interestingly Britni, Jess, and Riki are all occupational therapists.  Britni finished first and has been working for a  couple years.  Riki finished school last year and is working now, and Lee graduates this year. Vero and I are teachers, of course.

What's the difference between friends and acquaintances?  When you meet up with old friends after a long time--years even--it's like no time has passed at all.  There's no awkwardness, no fishing around for small talk. You pick up right where you left off, and the talk is non-stop because there is so much catching up to do.

That was my experiencing meeting up with some very good friends from our years in Saipan when I was in California last month.  Aaron and Joyce Knowlton taught with us in Saipan more than ten years ago, from 2000 to 2002.   Back then we were young married couples with no kids.  Now we have families, and it was a pleasure to meet their beautiful children.  The Knowlton tribe picked me up at the airport on Sunday, February 12 and took me to a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  After the meal, they took me up to the hotel and came up to my room for a bit where we Skyped with Babs and the Feller.  Our boy was so excited to see the Knowlton kids and they seemed equally fascinated with him.  Spending time with Aaron, Joyce and their kids, it felt as if the intervening years had been mere weeks, and our friendship continued as if a decade had not interrupted it.   I'd really like to bring the whole family out to California next spring, for a proper visit.

With Aaron and Joyce Knowlton and their kids.  Sunday, February 12, 2012.  Aaron is vice principal at Redlands Adventist Academy, while Joyce has left the teaching profession and is now in nursing school.

I first saw Veronyka Perez in the airport in Dallas, Texas.  We were on the same connecting flight to Ontario, and I heard her being paged.  I sent her a Facebook message asking if she was on my flight and then ran into her in the queue to board only minutes later.  We sat together throughout the meetings and with Vero, too, it felt as if I'd seen her only last week--though it had been three years since we last saw her in Florida, not long after Elijah was born, and almost four since she left Saipan.

Vero!  She's teaching at an Adventist school in south Florida.

Monday night I met up with Britni Gleason (now Rampton--she just got hitched last October to Darin Rampton, a really cool, laid-back guy who is the perfect complement to Britni's super-kinetic personality) along with Jessica Lee and Riki Unterseher.  Vero had a gathering with her Union as well, but joined us later in the evening.  We all got together at a Marie Callender's across the street from the hotel and stayed until they were practically stacking up the chairs and vaccuming the floors.  It was so much fun to see these wonderful friends again.   We laughed, shared Saipan memories, and brought each other up to speed on our lives.  It was so nice to know that our friendships had survived the passage of time.

The OTs:  Lee, Britni, and Riki

I'm not sure when I'll see all these wonderful Saipan friends again--hopefully Spring 2013--but whenever I do I'm pretty sure we'll pick up like no time at all has passed.

The Business Trip

The business seminar. A presenter from the Geoscience Research Institute presents  the morning  general session at the By  Design science curriculum training in Ontario, California.  February 13, 2012.

I always thought it would be cool to go on a buisness trip.  I know for true road warriors it probably gets old pretty quick.   The endless succession of airports, the overpriced fast food, the bland hotel rooms, being away from family for so long.  But for me, a teacher whose work typically requires me to stay pretty close to the "office", a trip for buisness reasons is a rare treat indeed.  As principal Babs had her share of trips when we were in Saipan:  recruiting trips to the states, meetings in Guam, conferences in the Philippines.  But except for our annual sojourn to Hawaii at the end of every summer, I always stayed behind.

So I was quite thrilled when I found out I'd been selected as my conference's representative to the By Design Science curriculum training in Ontario, California.  The North American Division is overhauling the science curriculum used by all Seventh-day Adventist Schools in North America, and the conference was designed to introduce us to the new materials and provide us with training in how to use them.  I in turn will be expected to train other teachers in my conference on what I learned.

This was a real business trip complete with airfare and lodging paid for by the division (no buisness class though--it's not that much of a buisness trip) and daily per diem.

On Sunday morning, February 12, Babs and the Feller dropped me off at the airport, and my adventure in business travel began.  It was so nice to travel alone for a change. I used to find flying strangely relaxing.  Not anymore. Usually I am the packhorse, lugging the car seat and three carry-on bags while Babs wrangles our boy.  There's not much relaxing on the plane either, keeping the Feller occupied for several hours on in-flight.  But on this trip, it was like the old days.  I relished zipping through the airport with just my laptop case and rollaboard--no checked bags for me!  Once on the airplane, I whipped through a couple back issues of TIME and Esquire, listened to some tunes on my ipod, and snoozed as the mood struck me.  On my layover in Houston I could wander the airport freely for a few hours, browsing the bookstores and eating a leisurely lunch at a Chilis.  I even enjoyed one of my favorite travel indulgences from pre-parenthood days--a shoe shine.

I arrived in southern California feeling energized and refreshed.  I spent the afternoon with old Saipan friends, Aaron and Joyce Knowlton and their kids, then checked into the Ontario Radisson.  That evening I skyped with the family, and even watched my son in bed via Skype while Babs stepped out for a few minutes to walk the dog.  It was a lot easier than doing it at home--after all, he couldn't ask me to get him a drink of water or take him to the potty.  I closed out the evening ordering up room service and simultaneously watching the Grammy awards on TV and  Dollhouse on Netflix on my Ipad.

Keeping an eye on the Feller with modern miracle of video-conferencing technology.    We forgot to  make arrangements for walking Kimo while I was gone.  In desperation, we decided that I would watch our son on Skype while Babs took Kimo out for a few minutes.  If something happened, I wouldn't be able to rush to his side, but at least I'd be able to call Babs.  Less than ideal, but better than any alternative we could think of.

On Monday, February 13, meetings began in earnest.  8 to 5:30.  After all it wouldn't be a buisness trip if there weren't business meetings.  As business meetings go, it was good stuff.  I'm very excited about the new direction the Adventist church is headed in science education.  The focus is on teaching using the method of inquiry--encouraging teachers to engage students in asking, questions, and conducting experiments to learn, rather than simply reading the book and memorizing terms.   "Every science concept can and should be taught through activity," opined Dan Wyrick, one of the key members of the curriculum development team.  One of the big concerns many of us science teachers had was over the rigorousness of the textbooks--many of us felt that the previous textbook series was rather lightweight.  But I'm finding that while the new textbooks are an improvement,  textbooks are almost incidental to this fresh approach to science education.  I see myself using the books mainly to get ideas for activities, experiments, and problems I can introduce to my class.

This sums up the approach to teaching science the Adventist school system will be pursuing.

  It's virtually guaranteed that if you go to a gathering of Seventh-day Adventists you're going to run into someone you know.  I recognized this woman, Rita Green, from my childhood.  She was a good friend of our family who I remember visiting our home on several occasions when I was a kid.   She wasn't the only familiar face I encountered while in California. I also ran into Linda Fuchs, my supervising teacher during my student teaching stint at Ruth Murdoch Elementary School way back in 1997.  I also met James Martz, who was principal at Ruth Murdoch at the time, Lori Busch, who went to the same elementary school as I did,.  And of course Vero Perez our Saipan colleague was there too.

Of course with this approach to science teaching, we were pretty active ourselves.  The division provided each teacher with a kit full of "science goodies" and each seminar and breakout session we were provided with an opportunity to use items from our kits to conduct simple but powerful experiments and demonstrations.

Seminar attendees (including the Allegheny West Conference education superintendent Yvette Cooper and 5-8  science teacher at Ramah Junior Academy Janvierre Lavender (2nd and 3rd from left) and our principal Brenda Arthurs (seventh from left) help demonstrate the diameter of the sun.  Each golf ball they are holding represents the size of the earth.

Monday night we had dinner with  all the other teachers from our Union, the Columbia Union, which includes schools from West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Ohio.  I was amazed by how many teachers at the conference taught in one room schools.  One teacher-principal I met from Seattle had a grand total of four students in her entire school!  I was reminded that larger schools like Columbus Adventist Academy are still the exception rather than the rule in Adventist Education, and the multi-grade small school remains the backbone of our school system.

  I left the dinner early to meet up with another group of teachers (or former teachers rather, for the most part), a passel of Saipan pals--Britni Gleason Rampton and her husband Darin, Jessica Lee, Riki Unterseher, and Veronyka Perez (who was also attending the conference).  It was hard to believe it had been almost five years since I'd seen Britni, and four years for the others.  It felt like no time at all had passed.

Tuesday, February 14, the meetings continued in the morning and then in the afternoon members of the Geoscience Research Institute took us on a field trip to the San Andreas Fault.  It was a fascinating trip.  What on first glance appeared to be plain old rocks were in fact hidden treasures, each telling their own intriguing  story from millenia ago.  We got to take a closer look at the ongoing struggle to reconcile the Genesis account of creation (and the flood, which I'm coming to believe is almost a seperate point of debate) with prevailing evolutionary theory that is roiling much of Christendom at the moment, and Adventism in particular.  The trip was thought provoking, and left me feeling more certain of my Creator, if maybe a little less certain of exactly how He created.

A field trip stop at site along the San Andreas fault.
This pond has no outside source feeding it.  It sits directly atop the San Andreas  fault and  is fed through a fissure  leading to an underground aquifer.

A monolith near the fault.  The banded appearance of this rock might suggest  a sedimentary rock, but it's actually metamorphic rock and the bands are indicators of the tremendous stress and pressure the rock was under at one time.

By Tuesday night, the novelty of the business trip had worn off.  I was lonely.  It was Valentines Day after all.  The other people in my conference--my principal, the conference suprintendent, and the teacher from Ramah Junior Academy took off for the mall, but I missed the shuttle because I was on the phone.  I eventually took the hotel shuttle over to Ontario Mills, but it was a waste of time.  Virtually everything in the food court was closed for refurbishing and I had to settle from some bland chicken parmesan from Sbarros.  After eating alone on the fringes of the food court, Iandered the mall, searching in vain for something I could take back for my kids in my class and my kid at home.  Malls are depressing places, especially when you are alone.  Eventually went home empty handed and returned to an empty room.  I missed my family.

Wednesday morning, I flew home, my business concluded.  While the buisness trip was exciting for awhile, I'm glad it wasn't any longer. I found the business that matters most to me is the business of being a husband and father, and even with all the added stress, trips in that capacity are the ones I think I enjoy the most.

I've got business trip coming up in April--this one to Washington D.C., for training in the new math curriculum we'll be using--but that's only for a day.