Archive for the 'family' Category

30
Mar
10

Highly Recommended

A conversation with my wife led to a headsmack/”yeah, huh?” moment this morning.

We have a friend who needed me to write a letter of recommendation as part of her application to a math and science teacher training program. I love it when people ask me to do things like this, because I get a big kick out of pointing out things I see in people that maybe they don’t see in themselves.

For an antisocial sort, I’m actually pretty fond of people. On a personal level. (It’s just the GROUPS I don’t particularly care for, I guess. But anyway.)

I wrote the letter yesterday, and emailed a copy to my friend, who seemed quite happy at what I had written about her. And it makes me feel GOOD to make people feel GOOD about themselves. And that’s what I told my wife.

In a moment of sheer, clouds-parting clarity, she looks sidelong at me (in the mirror… still working out the geometry of that one) and says, “You know… you don’t have to wait for someone to ask for a letter like that, or for someone to be applying for something. You could just write one, if you like doing it so much.”

My first instinct was, “Why would I do that? Who would read it?”

Oh yeah… I could write it and give it to them.

So I think I’ll make it my goal to write one “letter of recommendation” a week. And see what happens.

I like blessing people. I like writing. ZOUNDS! I can do BOTH AT ONCE?!?!?

23
Mar
10

Pilot light going out on your water heater? Try this…

About a week and a half ago, our two-year old Reliance 606 gas water heater started… well… NOT heating water.  Turns out that the pilot light (the small jet of gas that keeps burning so it can light the main burner to heat the water) kept going out.

A quick troll of several appliance message boards (read: gripefests) revealed that this was a common problem.  I emailed someone at the water heater company, and got this from them:

Thank you for contacting help@hotwater.com, it sounds as if the flame arrestor on the water heater is restricted not allowing air to flow through the burner chamber. I am sending you a link to a video which will show you the correct way to clean your water heater’s screen and flame arrestor. Simply click on the following link to view the short video (you will have to push the play button “>” for the video to start).

http://www.hotwater101.com/video/gas-filtercleaning.html

If you are unable to play the video, there is also a PDF you could print out or view on your computer. The PDF contains an illustrated step by step instructions guide for cleaning your water heater’s filter and flame arrestor.

Thank you, Technical Support Department

If I can figure out how to embed the video here, I’ll do it later.  But click the link above and watch it.  It seems to have worked.

10
Feb
10

Fear of FAIL… and Why We Need to Screw Up More Often

I’m inspired by a fantastic piece up over at Ars Technica that I just read.  Matthew Lasar, the author, offers a three-page rogue’s gallery of lesser-known inventors and innovators in telecommunications.  All of them failed to capitalize on their discoveries, usually because they were a few decades ahead of their time.

Here’s the article.  (Clicky Readey)

As a teacher, what strikes me the most about this is the alarming trend in child rearing and education to shield a kid’s purportedly fragile self-esteem from the “crushing” experience of failure.

Parents, fellow teachers, and other responsible, compassionate adults reading this: please hear me.  It is MUCH more important that a child learn how to fail and learn from the failure than it is for them to experience success.  To fail to do so is to produce a person with an inflated ego due to an overestimation of his or her own abilities, and to whom the entire concept of “trial and error” is an alien thing.

Perhaps worse still, you deprive them of the thrill of success that only truly comes after repeated, failing attempts.

So let them bump their heads, skin their knees, fail a school paper or project, or even an entire class.  Then be there to help show them the most important part of the process: how to dust yourself off, clean up the blood, accept the natural consequences of your choices, and ultimately try, try again.

05
Jan
10

Outstanding Essay – Bittersweet Christmas Morning

This comes courtesy of Julian Murdoch (a.k.a. “Rabbit”), member and regular contributor to Gamers With Jobs — a site (and podcast) I frequent since I decided to outgrow the bathroom humor inherent in so many other video gaming communities.

Click and read this.  Now.

Mr. Murdoch has a good ten years on me, but we’re hitting several balls in the same park.  It’s a hard thing when a lifelong hobby and love of mine tends to be equated with immaturity.  It’s refreshing to encounter other “grown-ups” who aren’t just sad man-children that never really left their early twenties behind, but who can still enjoy “childish things” respectably.  Kudos, Rabbit.

15
Oct
09

God to JC: “I’m still here.”

Yesterday found me in a dark depression about my job.

Backing up a bit.  About a week ago, my boss called me in to get my side of the story on something that I did.  Something I did which was stupid.  VERY stupid.  Being the amazing man he is, he turned the situation into a learning experience and promised to help me get things right.  Seeing as how he COULD have just fired me and hired a sane person, I thought this most gracious of him.

Then yesterday, I had what was probably the WORST day yet with my 6th hour class (which is REALLY saying something…   ask me sometime), was already more than a little off-kilter due to sleep deprivation, and was battling a touch of… umm… intestinal difficulties.

And I get an email from my boss saying, enigmatically, that he “wants to see me during my conference.”  Again.  And I get this right at the end of the day.

I have been very slow to move all my stuff into my new room.  I guess I’ve felt like it’s not really “mine,” I guess.  Anyway, I’ve had this big box of smoke-scented college textbooks sitting in my front passenger seat for about a month now, which I only recently have been taking in to my classroom, a few at a time.  I doubted whether I should finish doing so… after all, if the administration and school board changed their minds and DID decide to fire me, what would be the point?  I’d just have to box them all up again anyway.  At least this way I have a head-start of sorts.

So I came home, monster headache, feeling like something that fell off a poop-wagon.  My wife immediately sends me to bed, where I stay for an hour.  As I wait for the Tylenol and Sudafed to kick in, I really let God have it:

“What were you thinking bringing us here?  What possible good can I do for THESE kids?  I don’t have it in me to change them.  They are SO far-gone.  What good will it do us if you brought us all this way, away from our home, church, friends, cozy little house, and established job security, only to let me get myself unemployed a few months later?”

Then I told him I didn’t believe what I was saying… but that I could REALLY use a sign.  And soon.

This morning before the bell rang, I got several.  My department head asked me how things were going, and I told him (a bit of) the rotten situation I have been having with my 6th hour kids.  He offered a little advice and encouragement, and then said…

“Well, we’re glad to have you here.  I’ve walked by your room quite a few times, and everything in there seems to be going well.  If there’s anything you need, please ask.”

I somehow kept from crying tears of relief and release then, as I am fighting crying them now.

Another teacher in the department expressed similar sentiments to me, not more than a few minutes later.

I met with my boss, who told me that despite several irate board members asking him about his hiring practices and whether they should “terminate my contract immediately” he, the superintendent, and the assistant superintendent all went to bat for me.  Undeserving me.  Unknown quantity me.  Guy who pulled the idiot move and made them look bad me.

Okay, that did it… I’m crying now.  Getting hard to see to type.

On top of all that, my lab demonstration worked today.  First time, no kinks.

And I found my dinky little green iPod Shuffle I lost about a month back.  Wasn’t even looking for it.

I love how God answers me in ways that even oblivious, idiot me can’t miss.  Exactly when I really need it.

I am baffled sometimes at how one as repeatedly unworthy as me continues to find love, patience, and acceptance from the God of the universe, and those he puts in my life.  I’m glad he does though.

I don’t need to go back to Egypt.  I’m bound for Promised Land.

12
Oct
09

Twilight parenthood

DISCLAIMER:  There are probably no references to vampires in this post.  Besides this one.  Google is not your friend.

Many of my last seven years as a parent have been spent in a state of twilight.  Not entirely lucid, not quite asleep.  I’ve come to regard it as normal, and even to cherish the feeling brought on by days, weeks, or (sometimes) months without an uninterrupted night of sleep.

It starts when they are newborn, especially with your first.  You are getting MAYBE an hour or two of sleep at a stretch, which deprives your brain and body of the good REM sleep that you need.  As a result, you start to go bonkers.  This is a good thing, because if you were entirely aware of the psychological, spiritual, and moral implications of the new arrival of a human life — that you had a hand, so to speak, in creating and bringing into this world — you’d likely go far more deeply and irreparably insane.

Then they get sick.  There will be no rest on the nights when you “sleep” camped out on the recliner with a trash can under one arm, ready to spring to full alertness and catch the vomit at the slightest noise or other cue… most of which are false alarms, but which you can’t afford to ignore.  Or it might be the spiking fevers, the whooping or wheezing of a cough, the sharp cries of pain from newly-cut teeth or the ubiquitous ear infection.

Even when NOTHING’S WRONG you will lose sleep, because the predatory fears of the future do their best hunting at night.  When all seems calm, it’s easiest to remember that the world is a scary, dangerous place… and despite our constant reassurances to the contrary, monsters DO exist.  Twilight hours spent in prayer for our little ones come so often, but never as often as they should.

So, why bring this on yourself?  Why bring on the heartache, backache, and forced insomnia?  And WHY would anyone choose to bring an innocent, defenseless, undeserving human being into a world with such evil and suffering?

I can’t explain it if you haven’t been there too.  Sorry, it’s a little bit of a “red pill, blue pill” thing.

I’ve taken the red pill four times now… and I am eternally grateful for each of them.  Because whether they occurred on my timing or (much more often) not, I am blessed with each nighttime cry I comfort, each diaper I change in a pitch-dark room, each nose I wipe, each bedtime story I read, each sleepless night I undertake.

There will be plenty of time to sleep when they’re grown, and these rooms are quiet and empty.  In the meantime…

… have to go.  She’s crying again.  Where did I put that Tylenol…

10
Oct
09

“Weekend” – JC’s Dictionary

weekend ( \ˈwēk-ˌend\ ) n. — The period of time following each work week, typically spent trying to track down medical care for a sick child.  This holds even more true when (a) one lives in a small town with no weekend clinics of any kind, (b) other individuals in the household, adults included, are also showing signs of illness, (c) incliment weather is a factor, and/or (d) if it is a “long” weekend, due to a holiday or other planned absence from work.  Not to be confused with “free time” or “rest.”




The random musings of a 30-something, West Texas high-school science teacher. Hoo-RAY.
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