Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Miner's Treasures

"Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love."  (David McCullough)

Like a coal miner, emerging from the deepest, darkest tunnels at the end of his long shift, I sit at my desk on a Saturday morning and look outside my window, squinting at the outside world as though it was a new, unfamiliar world.

My, my...where have I been for the last three weeks?  Busily at work in the "education mines" at South Medford High School - digging for gold nuggets of knowledge, trying to polish my students' minds into diamonds.  Twenty-seven years of doing this - it must still be a labor of love for me.

So, some observations and thoughts about what it's like to be "in the mines" with me.  The first quarter of the school year just ended, so it's a good time to "catch a breath" and look back and see what I've learned.

  • I've been amazed at how much "newness" I've had to adjust to these first 9 weeks: a new school, a new classroom, new students, new computers, new software programs on the computers, new copy machines, new "neighbors",  a new schedule, new furniture.  It seemed like nothing at work was "old and familiar" or where "it used to be" - not even my wastebaskets!  Each day at school has been a quest, an adventure - that has sometimes left this Horatio Hornblower pooped!
  • A funny irony!  For so long (24 out of 27 years) I've taught in rooms with no windows - I told myself I'd love being in a room with windows galore and a beautiful view to boot.  But more days than not, I find myself shutting the shades to cool my room, or to keep my students focused on what's happening in the room (it's OK for me to daydream every now and then, but not my students).  I guess it takes awhile for this "old miner" to get used to the sunlight again!
  • One of the funnest things about teaching is learning new stuff!  I love tackling new topics, doing research to share with my students, and trying to think of new ways to teach them new things.  In my Contemporary Issues classes, we did a "Great Debate - Liberals vs. Conservatives" - something I hadn't tried in 20 years, that while it wasn't perfect - was fun trying to figure out how to do, and fun listening to what the students argued about.  I'm happy that after a quarter century of doing this job, I still enjoy being "a student" still.
  • Meetings, meetings, meetings!  They are a constant drumbeat in my busy week.  But I've been working hard to not resist them.  To complain about them, resent them, grumble and mope about them is like hitting myself on the head with a rubber mallet (ala Daffy Duck in a Looney Tunes cartoon), and then wondering why I have a headache!  So, I've been using meetings as a good time to work at being present, being positive, and even volunteer to do something extra, every now and then!
And it's humbling to be reminded how much of this job is all about successfully relating to and communicating with people.
  • To truly listen with all of my attention in a moment to an anxious student.
  • To say "Hi" to a student in the hallway, shocked that I remember their name.
  • To stop to laugh with a colleague, or tell them they're doing a good job.
  • To correct without being confrontational; to direct without being disagreeable
  • To tell a student you know they can do better, and then help them do so.
These are all that make teaching a labor of love for me.

So, hi ho, hi ho, it's back to the mines I go.

Hoping to find other "Pearls" in the next quarter...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What A Modern Man Really Needs

"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." (Jef Raskin, developer of the Apple Macintosh)

I love computers.
I hate computers.

I have a college degree.  I've been using computers, for business and pleasure, for over a quarter century now.  So, naturally, I think I know what I'm doing when I'm sitting at my desk here, plinking away on my Dell, or when I'm clicking and whizzing at the speed of light around the Internet.  My computer is my willing servant - delivering the answer to any question I ask at the drop of a Google.  I am a Microsoft maestro.  Call me a "21st Century Man" - I am competent and connected!

But every now and then, out of the blue, when I least expect it...Life reminds me who is really the servant of whom.

Despite the fact that I've asked nothing more of it than I ever have...Even though I've always been kind to it, and gentle, and polite...I've dusted it, and inspected it...Disinfected it, inside and out...Been the perfect, loving caretaker...

My computer freezes.
The download gets lost in the wilds of cyberspace.
The cursor sullenly blinks at me, taunting me with its silence.

And I no longer feel like a "21st Century Man", master of all he surveys.

Instead, as I stare at the screen, I feel more like a lonely, cold Neanderthal, shivering and staring into the flickering fire, wondering what mysterious alchemy - what magic from the gods - created this object in front of me.  And just as Alley Oop would lean over and desperately blow on the flickering flames to keep them alive, I also know only one thing to do to rekindle my Kindle.

Push restart.
Don't ask me why.
Only the gods possess such divine knowledge.

What's the most valuable "software" that I'm required to use with every technological marvel designed to make my life easier?


Now where did I leave my goose quill and inkpot?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Time For A Checkup

I've always liked this quote from Proust - the challenge to have "new eyes" as I go through life.  And this quote came to mind this afternoon as I was sitting at my desk, looking out the window at the world.  What do I see?  What "eyes" am I using as I look out?  Do I see "the same old thing", or is there something new to discover? 

So, instead of sitting here trying to think of something to write about, I'll try just writing about what I see - try to exercise a new set of eyes...peer out through a "clean pair of bifocals" and let something new touch me.

I see...
  • A tiny yellow rose gently leans against my window, surrounded by five sibling buds, ready to pop open.  On the window behind them, there are wet drops - perhaps beads of "posey perspiration" as the buds strain to catch up to their "big brother" before they all have to go in for the winter?
  • Elsewhere in the front yard, I see other examples of some plants still lazily lounging and blooming like it's still summer, while others are busily putting on their fall "coats" and getting ready for chillier times.  A pink foxglove and an orange sunflower definitely look "underdressed", shivering in the breeze.  But the trees - maples, alders, oaks, and poplars - look snug and happy in their red and orange and yellow coats.
  • I see green hills in the distance, crowned by gray, fluffy clouds.  But then, right across the middle of the hills, a band of white sunshine flashes and glows for just a few minutes, warming the rocks and trees underneath.  And as I struggle to find the words to describe this, it fades away as the clouds shift and settle into a cozier spot in the sky.
  • As I look at the trees, I see them rustle and sway as the wind sweeps by them.  But it isn't one wind - "the wind".  It seems like each tree and plant has it's own personal wind that plays with it:  the arbor vitae just gently sway with their wind; the wild rose bush shakes and shimmies like a go-go dancer with its wind; the maple laughs and chuckles as its wind playfully tickles it.  And the little crabapple tree in the lawn sadly droops its head for a moment - no breeze buddy to play with - and then a friendly gust sneaks up and says "Boo!" - and the crabapple shakes and giggles for a moment.
The world I see outside seemed so still and quiet when I first began to look at it.  But then I could see it was so full of life.  Was that life always there?  Or did my fertile imagination simply paint a story that pleased it?

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see." (Henry David Thoreau)

I guess it all depends on which eyes you use to look out of:  the eyes of the mind, or the eyes of the heart.  This exercise has shown me there's no question that there is life outside of my window, outside of me, that I rarely stop to look it.  Who's to say that roses don't sweat, or that trees don't wear sweaters, or that clouds like to snuggle, or that the wind loves to tickle and tease the trees, who can laugh and giggle?

I'd say it's time for some "new eyes".  There's a whole big world out there, just waiting to be seen.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Whispers in My Ear

"Being a writer is having angels whisper in your ear - and devils, too."  (Graycie Harmon)

My,'s been awhile since I sat and wrote.  I can probably bluster and shuffle, and come up with all sorts of reasons why:  Been busy, been tired, been sick, ad infinitum.  But I know the real reason why I haven't written.

"...And if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." (Friedrich Nietzsche)

I haven't wanted to "stare into the emptiness".  I don't know much about Nietzsche; seems like kind of a grim guy (but probably not unusual for a Teutonic philosopher!).  But I understand a little of what he said above.  I wanted to use writing as more than just a way to convey information, or to amuse.  I wanted to use it to explore myself - to find a "voice".  But there's something about exploring that the history books never tell you.  Something that I never remember them telling me as I read about Columbus and Cook, Hudson and Hillary, Polo and Peary...Stanley and Shackleton...

Real exploration can be scary stuff!  That is, if you really are trying to "go someplace you've never been".  You can begin by "hugging the shores" and only "going out so far".  But sooner or later, you have to head out into the darkness - not knowing a thing about where you might wind up, or what you might run into once you take that first step.  And sometimes, I think, the biggest deterrent can be the thought of not finding ANYTHING there.

I like to think that I'm always filled with light, and charm, and wit, and stories, and clever turns of phrases galore.  And when those times come, it's as if little angels are whispering in my ear:  tickling my mind and making my fingers dance across the keys. 

But I've also come to experience times when it's not a little angel whispering in my ear, but a little devil.  Not a big scary, whip cracking, fire-breathing "Balrog" of a devil.  No.  Just a little imp.  Kind of looks like Sleepy or Dopey of "Seven Dwarves" fame.  And what he whispers doesn't tickle my mind.  Instead, he lulls me to sleep.  "Go rest.", he sighs.  "Writing's awfully hard work. You can always do it tomorrow."  "Besides," he yawns, "There's nothing to see here.  Let's go have some ice cream".

The funny thing is that as long as I'm only listening to the imp with half an ear, not really paying attention - he sounds convincing.  But when I manage to hear his weaselly voice, and give him my full attention, only then do I realize what a charlatan he is.

Because when I'm willing to really listen to his silly, somnambulistic spiel; willing to look into the emptiness and not turn away, I'm always offered a clear choice.

Do I want to stay asleep, or do I want to try something new and fresh?
Do I want to stay "safe and secure" in the harbor of my self, or do I want to take a risk?  Step out into the Sargasso Sea within - find myself becalmed for awhile. But then push ahead and be rewarded for the effort?
Do I just want to "think about stuff", or do I want to actually DO something?

And then I know the angel's back, whispering in my ear.  And I answer with a smile, just as one of my favorite explorers, Meriwether Lewis, did so often in his journals.

"We proceeded on."

And look what I stumbled on to...another "pearl"  There's always something new to learn, if I'm willing to look and listen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why Wait? The Gate's Always Open

"The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

It's been a busy week since I last wrote:  days filled with destinations and duties, plans and problems to solve, a seemingly endless internal "To Do" list.  And at the end of each day, I'd think: "I haven't written for awhile.  I should do that".  But just as the sprite who wanted to scribble would whisper in one of my ears, the laggard who just wanted to lay around would groan back in the other:  "You're too tired.  You've worked so hard - take a break.  Besides, you don't have anything to say.  Just wait until you feel inspired."

Just wait until you feel inspired.

And I began to think.  How much time have I spent waiting for Life to happen?  Waiting for an answer?  Waiting for the "right person" to appear?  Waiting for what I wanted to be handed to me by luck or circumstance?  Waiting for what I was suffering through to pass?  Waiting for "the coast to be clear" before I acted?  Waiting for an idea, inspiration, insight to be left on my doorstep by some celestial UPS angel (I wonder if he'd wear brown shorts and drive a step-van too!), labeled "Special Delivery - for Jon Schnorenberg?

Slowly, my thoughts reminded me of a rare pearl of a lesson that I have learned over the years, but often forget.

Prudence has its value.  Practicing patience, letting life's rhythms lead me where they may, can be pleasant and sometimes rewarding.

But waiting did not bring me all those things in my life today that I love dearly.

Love requires action.  Passion requires an advance payment:  the willingness to take a risk.  Only when I was willing to take the first step - to "walk through the gate" into the unknown, towards what I loved - was I ever genuinely rewarded.

That's what I had to do when I moved to southern Oregon to pursue a coaching career.
That's what I had to do when that career ended unhappily, and I struggled to regain my confidence and find a new passion to pursue.

That's what I had to do in order to meet the woman who would become my partner, my best friend, my biggest fan, my soulmate, the love of my my wife, Deborah.  And because of that, the last five years of my life have been my happiest...

That's what I had to do when I began this expedition into the "blogosphere" a month ago.

That's what I had to do tonight to light the inner candle of inspiration.

Like Indiana Jones teetering above the abyss, I had to "close my eyes", stick my foot out, and take the first step - out into the unknown.  And see what I would discover.

"Do or do not...there is no try." (Yoda)

That's a good thing for me to remember.  Life's always showing me the gates, and inviting me in to a new world.  Why not just take the step?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Love Sundays

"Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week." (Joseph Addison)

I love my Sundays, especially one like today.  Sundays are a day full of all kinds of pleasures:

-Sleeping in...rising slowly, stretching lanquidly as I leave the warm bed.
-Savoring a 2nd cup of coffee; drinking it just for the warm, comforting taste - and not because I need to get "revved up" to face a room of teenagers!
-Leafing through a big, fat Sunday newspaper...filled with ads I can nonchalantly discard, on my way to the colorful comics or the Travel section, with its alluring articles on faraway "wonderlands"...
-Spending the morning at Sunday class; having my heart lifted by the beautiful music from our choir, and my mind stretched by a new truth seen in Guy's talk.
-Sunday brunch!  I can't wait to come home and have eggs, bacon, name it...anything but the usual "sensible" weekday fare of granola, oatmeal, and eating "what's good for me".
-Slow, Sweet, Sunny Sunday afternoons...spent doing whatever I want.  Today I spent it working outside in the yards.  I began by feeding plants, trimming flowers, and mowing the lawn.  But then the "Macho Olympics" began:  Dragging out the leaf blower and making a "man-ly" racket, blowing stuff;  playing "lumberjack" (with my wife nervously watching!) and trimming some big branches off trees; visiting the local tool/garden store and buying some dirt and barkdust to spread around  What better way to enjoy a beautiful September afternoon!
And then best of all...quietly sitting on my back porch...and taking it all in...sharing the beauty, with my wife.  And talking, and laughing, and each singing songs to the only audience that would applaud us...
I enjoy Sundays so much, that I never want them to end.  I stay up way too late, like a little kid thinking that if I can just keep my eyes open forever, tomorrow will never come.  But Mondays always come knocking, like a stern English governess.  "All right, Mr. Jonathan - up you go!  Put your work clothes on.  Time to be sensible and quit dilly-dallying!  Tsk, tsk - did you do your homework?  We have serious, adult, working things to do!  No pouting allowed!"
I love my Sundays.  And I'm even learning to accept the "Sunday night governess" that nags me.  I can't enjoy another new weekend until this one ends.  Though I want to hold on greedily to each sweet Sunday moment, I sigh...and smile...and let the evening gently slip away...knowing that I will savor the next weekend's return even more, after wading through a week of work.  All new beginnings require first an ending, even good times and weekends.
So, ala Doc, Happy, and Bashful...but not Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, or Grumpy...
"Hi, Ho, Hi's off to work I go"...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nature's "Reality Show"...

"Some people walk in the rain; others just get wet." (Roger Miller)

It's evening; first day back to school done.  It was a good day; filled with new faces (mostly excited!) and lots and lots of energy. (The first enterprising "21st century Edison" that could figure out how to harness the concentrated energies of 1800+ teenagers, crammed into our 19 acre campus, could probably light several nearby homes - and make a million bucks!)... And it's this energy, that keeps me "young"...

I wanted to try to write something shorter tonight - just so I'll keep writing - even on "school nights"...don't just leave the exploring for those longer, quieter times that the summer was full of, but are now passed...

So, I sat quietly...and listened...and waited...and this is what came...

Raindrops walk across my roof
Sometimes lightly tip-toeing, giggling as they go.
Sometimes boldly bouncing, doing a jig.

Tickling my ears,
Splashing on my soul,
Coolly washing the day's cares away,

Tumbling from sky to branch, from branch to leaf,
A flip and a twist - from leaf to the ground,
A thousand evening gymnasts gently landing,
Making me smile, and my heart applauds.

But in order to enjoy this performance,

To hear the giggling and dance with the drops,
To be dazzled by the daredevil performance,
To let it wash over and refresh me,

One thing only is required
As my price of admission.

Be still.
And let it all fall into a quiet pond.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summer's Simple Treasures

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." (Celia Thaxter)

It's the Sunday night before Labor Day; the last "official" day of summer.  September and the approaching days of autumn - whose chilly mornings nip your nose, and crunchy leaves tickle your toes - seem well on their way.  Women are busy changing purses, shoes, and dresses - "no white after Labor Day", you know.  I've never understood this fashion fiat, and I'm sure if I asked my wife to explain it, she'd just shake her head and laugh at my perpetual lack of fashion sense ("Eddie Bauer" is the only "style chromosome" that God gave me!)

And I'm sure there are youngsters moping and mourning the impending opening of school...(teachers too!)...the end of "freedom"...the return to the regimen...the "horrors of homework" (and having to grade it!)...Shorts and sandals slipped away...sweaters and heavy shoes hauled out...Heavy sighs...

But I decided to take a moment to remember, and celebrate, the many things I've enjoyed this summer.  So what might some of "Summer's simple treasures" be?  As I think back on my days, these are what I remember:
  • Early mornings in the first cup of coffee and my morning paper...gently awakening as the sun rises...what a luxury!
  • Mid-morning walks with our spunky little chihuahua Izzy.  Each day she'd be so EXCITED to go for her walk, that just the SOUND of me putting my socks on would send her into a tizzy!
  • The satisfaction I'd get out of the yardwork I'd do.  Whether it was spreading barkdust, fussing over our roses, or hacking out behemoth bushes to make way for a new palette of posies, I always enjoy the physical labor of making our house, our "home". (I guess I have a "sodbuster gene" too!)
  • Seeing the first shy morning glory poke its head out and greet the day.
  • Savoring all of summer's fresh produce!  All hail to ruby red strawberries; blueberries and plums so sweet they make you sing; cherry tomatoes that go "pop!" in your mouth; cucumbers and onions, that in a salad (with a little vinegar and sugar) make a perfect marriage; and the "royalty" of summer herbs, King Basil and Queen Cilantro!
  • Self-serve frozen yogurt!  (No need for the "little man" cup; Fill 'er up to the brim!)
  • Smelling hamburgers cooking on a BBQ...anywhere within 3 miles!...
  • OK...Gotta get off this food obsession (don't know how I manage to keep my "boyish" figure, but I do!)
  • The unexpected pleasures shared with my wife this summer - unexpected, only because of their simplicity.  Miles and miles of walks taken together: in the pine-scented woods around Lake Tahoe; evening walks in the surf there, holding hands, talking and laughing; along the boardwalk at Redondo Beach; drifting on a catamaran with her on her birthday, with a grin as big as the sun on my face; watching the sunset together at Palos Verdes beach; enjoying the sun and summer breezes found in the quiet summer haven we call our backyard... All of these, and so many more, are the stitches of love that sew us closer together...all so precious, to me...
Just in recounting these few simple pleasures, I'm reminded of how blessed I've been - how lucky a man I am.  There is beauty and joy in my life, and as long as I remember that, it can always "be summer", even after Labor Day (though you won't catch me wearing white!)...

Deborah and I cata-maraning for her birthday on Lake Tahoe
Bon soir! (a little more French I know!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Pssst...A Divine Whisper?"

"Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

It's evening - the end of a very, very busy day - and I'm tired.  It's a warm night, the air sticky and still, so a lazy voice inside of me whines, "It's too hot to write.  Besides, you've got nothing to say.  Let's not think - who wants to work that hard!".  But I'm trying to listen to that other voice, small and gentle - whispering, not whining - that nudges me and says, "C'mon - let's write.  Who knows what we may discover!"... And I'm learning to trust that voice more than the whiner...

My day was full of meetings today.  Wall-to-wall, 7 hours of moving from one room to another, having 60 minutes of information thrown at me in 1/2 the time by well-meaning, but highly stressed and overworked, administrators and teachers, then rush someplace else, and repeat - all so someone, somewhere with a clipboard can say "Check!  We covered that!"  I did my best to stay alert and positive (Wish I could say the same about many colleagues - why is it that teachers are the worst example of students??) but by the end of the day, I was drained.  And I was left wondering, "How was this productive?  How can anyone get anything done, like this?"

But in all of this hubbub, I could see a subtler, more valuable truth... a pearl behind the swirling, churning eddies of my busy day. 

The truth is that that same world that I passed through - loud, noisy, hectic, "Gotta get it done now or else!" - and chafed at, is really the same world I swim in, internally, most of the time.  The only difference is I resent it when "others" are "yakking" at me, telling me "useless things", but I tolerate it when MY mind does the same thing to ME. 

Don't believe me?  Just try noticing how often you're "stuck in a meeting" with yourself - having an interior dialogue - full of "To Do Lists", judgments, Plan A's, Plan B's, whines, complaints, dreams about being on a sandy beach, witty remarks (that really aren't), the same boring conversations, ad nauseum.  And we usually call this "being productive" or "a good day", as we rush to fill the empty spots, finish the unpleasant, and flee to a future peace!

Here's a better idea.  Take a breath.  Slow down.  Find some stillness.

It was only as I dared to sit quietly here - to step out of the rushing waters of my thoughts - that something truly productive happened.  That something higher, richer, more genuine was able to whisper to me - and I was willing to listen.

Be still.  Relax.  Wait to hear something else other than the usual din.

If you do, like me, you might be surprised at the gift that Life has left for you there in the silence.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Haiku, Can You?

"You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you." (Joseph Joubert)

I've always enjoyed writing haiku - the short (3 lines, 17 syllable) Japanese poetry that we all probably learned in 4th grade, and then never practiced since.  I'm not surprised I love it; I have an eye for detail, a love of nature, and find joy in choosing "just the right words".  So, I thought I'd write some tonight...

"Summer Night"
Green hills brightly glow
Shadows paint the neighborhood
Twilight brings day's end.

"Even Trees Like to Play"
Silently, I wave
Leaves rustle, as kids run beneath
A tree says "Pick me!"

"Izzy's Night Job"
Ears erect, tail stiff
Sharp bark, "What's going on there?"
Chihuahua sentry!

It's good to remember to lend an ear to the poet's voice that lives in all of us. There's much in life that can only be lived, and learned, through the heart and soul. I spend too much time in thought, and miss the beauty whispering to me in the silences.  I keep working to change that, as I get older...

Finally, I had to share this last haiku.  I didn't write it, but it made me laugh!

The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
(Roger McGough)

...Loved it!... Hope the inner poet in you smiled!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tugging As A Team

"Individually, we are a drop.  Together, we are an ocean." (Ryunosuke Satoro)

Today was the first "official" day back to work for the teachers of South Medford.  Though many of us had already been bustling around the building for weeks, like squirrels trying to find our winter nuts, today was the first time we were all together in our new building.

A part of many "first day's back" are "Team Building Activities" (especially if you have a new principal or a very enthusiastic one).  Many times, teachers grumble at these, but I like them!  Probably due to the 20 years I spent coaching basketball during which I would do many of the same things.  This year's "first day back" seemed an especially good time for this kind of thing.  We were opening a new building; we had a rare opportunity to both create a "new culture", and to renew those things we held dear. 

My colleagues, and I, seemed to approach the activities with a surprising level of enthusiasm!  We ran like crazy kids around the school, competing to be the first to finish a scavenger hunt (and managed to learn the layout of the school at the same time - amazing!).  And then we grunted, and groaned, and sweated and strained, and heaved and huffed, and then gloated like victorious gladiators in the Team Tug of War (My team won!  Arrrggggh!)

And, in the end, I walked away with some welcome reminders.

That we ALL will be successful this year, if we're willing to be patient and to work together.  We teachers, are so often "captains in our own little boats".  But if we sail as a fleet of "Horatio Hornblowers", tooting the same tune, we are so much more effective.

That there is no substitute for hard work.  Day after day, week after week - trying to help kids.  But being willing to have a little fun - to laugh and play while toiling - makes it a little bit easier.  I want to look for those "playtimes" more often this year.

And that, every school year... every school day... is a NEW one - even for this "old veteran".  Something new can be learned, if I'll just dare to BE new.  The world that I'm part of is a product of the decisions I make, especially inwardly.  It really is that simple.  It really is my choice.

I'm glad to have stumbled across those "pearls" again today.  But I paid a price for them.  I gloated like a 20 year old after the Tug of War, but I'll be hobbling a bit like the 52 year old that I am tonight! 

"On y va!" (in search of some Ben-Gay)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Take The Road Alone

"One travels more usefully alone, because he reflects more." (Thomas Jefferson)

I was so excited when I began this blog, and even more so after writing my first two entries.  I couldn't wait to share what I had done with family and friends, so I forwarded a link to it to all of my family and friends.  I just knew they would be happy about my fledgling attempts to write - to pursue a passion.  I was certain they would be at least interested in this "peek" into what was going on in my life.  I'm horrible at calling people - but my musings here - and their comments in reply - could be our little fireside chats; our chances to catch up.

And a few people warmly responded... "Keep it up", they said.  "We didn't know you were so thoughtful".  "I'm proud of you."... "You could write the Great American novel!" (not sure about that!)

But the silence from my family was deafening - especially since they usually complain that "You don't keep in touch".  And the one family member who did respond curtly said, "What's the point?  Seems like a lot of words to me."  Not what I had expected.  Not what I had hoped for.  It stung to have a ice-cold glass of indifference poured on my "eager as a puppy" heart.

But I realized a valuable lesson was being offered me - one that I could only learn through both the compliments from some, and the negativity from others.

If I was truly writing out of a genuine love of doing so, I would do so without the need to bask in the approval of some, or be shaken by the disapproval of others.

I would be willing to walk my own road alone.

I asked myself, "What is it that I love?"  Writing for the approval of others?  If I only did that, I'd be quickly disappointed; a meek slave to judges I could never satisfy.  I wouldn't fully explore the gifts and talents that God has given me.  And where is the love in that?

How badly did I want to try something new?  How much did I want to explore "my world" and learn something new?  The answer came clearly to me.

I wouldn't wait for others to tell me they liked the road I was on.  I wouldn't wait for companions to join me.

What I truly loved, what I wanted to give myself to, would return the Love to me - if I'd only take the first step towards it.  And in response, it would reward me in ways I could never imagine.

Learning that is a "pearl" worth keeping...

So, the journey continues..."On y va".... with a smile...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

That New School Smell

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning." (Louis L'Amour)

Today has been an exciting (and long!)day. I've been at school, helping with registration - will be here until 8 pm (but I'll at least get some pizza!). Here I am, a veteran of over a quarter century of teaching (26 years to be exact!), and this week I am experiencing many of the same feelings that a beginning teacher would - things you'd think I'd "outgrown".  In many ways, I'm glad I haven't...

This week I'm setting foot in a brand new school building for the first time ever!  Wow!  A new South Medford High School - replacing the Great Depression-era building that has been my "home" in southern Oregon for the last 18 years.  Here I sit; in my room - in awe at how beautiful our new campus is!  I can look out at a sunny August afternoon, and see trees waving in the breeze; brown hills and mountains (dusted with smoke from a forest fire), and green everywhere - what a treat!  In all of my years of teaching, I've only been in a room with windows 3 times!  How did I ever keep a smile on my face spending so much time in "dungeons"?  Don't know!

But along with all the excitement, and all the luxuries of a new school and classroom, comes some anxiety as well.  So much work still needs to be done around here. Classes start in 10 days and my room is still mostly unorganized, undecorated, unconnected technologically. 

"Where will I put everything?  How do I get anything printed?  Where can I eat lunch at? Where can I park my car and not have to walk a 1/2 mile to my room?  When will I get the table they promised me? Will the air-conditioning work?  How am I going to get all of this done?  I just know there's going to be way too many meetings next week!"  Like little gnats buzzing around my head, the worries swirl and whisper...

But then I take a deep breath and remember.  Remember that it will all work out as long as I keep my attention on what I'm doing - not the pesky "gnats".  Instead, watch the breeze outside, and remember to be flexible like the trees it's gently pushing.  Look at the sun on the hills, and remember to keep a smile on my face and a light heart.  See the green trees and grass, and remember that there is goodness in change; freshness in growth.  As I remember to do each of these, I can't help but smile, even though I'm tired.

All good reminders as I begin again:  a new year, a fresh start... rare opportunities that not everyone who's been in the same career for a quarter century get, or take advantage of.  Lucky me!

Those thoughts are definitely "pearls" worth remembering for the rest of the year...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Steps

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” (Lao Tzu)

Me at Dun Aengus on the Aran Islands years ago (1998)
...And so I begin.  I have always wanted to write a blog, if for no other reason than I just like to write.  Writing has always been the one "art" that I've had a passion for.  I can't draw; I sing like a braying mule (just ask my wife!); the only musical instrument I've ever mastered is my MP3 player (I know how to turn it on!), etc.  But I've always had a passion for crafting a thoughtful sentence, paragraph, or article.  Just as I see myself doing now, I spend time carefully choosing words, placing them, honing and shaping them - like a quiet farmer, rocking on a porch, whittling a piece of maple.  But the funny thing is, I've never devoted a lot of time to doing something I loved so much.

Why do we do that?  Spend most of our time, doing so many things other than what we are passionate about?  Finding excuses, reasons why we can't do what we want to?  Good questions!

Which leads me to another reason why I started this blog.  I want to use it to explore - to learn.  We learn through asking questions, and then being open to the answers Life offers.  We learn through being brave enough to try new things, and to share these with others.  We learn through admitting we don't know everything already...

I called this "Looking For Pearls" because I am interested to see what unexpected "lessons" I will learn from doing this.  What types of "gems", of insights, will I stumble across on this journey?   I'll write about whatever's on my mind.  I'm a teacher - lots to reflect on there!  I'm a lover of history, travel, good food, and a laugh.  I'm a incurable romantic, lucky to be married to a beautiful woman (and her impish chihuahua, Izzy!)

So, as I learned to say when I travelled in France,

Me at Mont St. Michel (2004)

"On y va!"... Off we go!