Thursday, March 31, 2016

My poor NCAA bracket

   No one in the world had a accurately predicted a bracket going into the Sweet Sixteen this year. Let that sink in for a sec.  March Madness has definitely earned it's moniker again this season. Yours truly  failed miserably at picking winners. I started the first round with a potential to score 170 points in my bracket. I ended up with 68.

Of the four teams I picked to make it to the Final Four, only one did so. Oklahoma, thanks to the guard play of Buddy Hield and the briliant coaching of Lon Kruger (KSU alumn!) punched their ticket. I picked KU to win it all, but they fell to Villanova in the Elite 8. Xavier got their hearts ripped out in the second round on a buzzer beater, falling to Wisconsin, and then there's Michigan State. The Spartans are(were) a safe pick in any NCAA tournament. Tom Izzo's team always shows up ready to play and overachieves every year. They've also made four Final Four's in the last seven years. This year? The go down in flames to Middle Tennessee State University in the very first round. It's never a good sign when you lose to a team with a direction as part of their school name in the tournament. My bracket was DOA before the show even started.

Game 1 in the books

   This Tuesday, we had our first soccer match. Alex scored a goal in his game, and thought he just won a world championship. That boy loves soccer, and would probably sleep in his cleats and shin guards if we let him. Like I said before, pre-k soccer is all about cheering for your kid no matter if they score a goal, or pick flowers in the middle of the field while the rest of the kids run around. There's no pressure, and very little rules to boot. I don't know if what we're doing really even constitutes "coaching." It's more just being positive and trying not to laugh out loud at all the funny stuff that goes on in the games.

    James' team had a good first game. I didn't keep score, but if I did, I guess we lost 1-5. During warm ups, the other team was doing group chants and organized running drills on the sidelines, like they were about to be called up to the national team if Clint Dempsey tore a ligament. These kids are 7 and 8, let me remind you.  Either way, I learned what we needed to work on and I'm sure we'll improve. The boys seemed to have fun, and any angry parents disillusioned with my coaching abilities patiently bit their tongues pending the outcome at Thursday's game.


   Jasper is the best dog you could ever ask for. I got him as a college graduation gift to myself 11 years ago. I had wanted a dog badly throughout college, but for one reason or another, it just wasn't the right time. I decided I wanted a lab, and found him from a breeder on a farm in southeast Kansas. I had driven down to check out the pups in the litter and chosen him. I came back at 8 weeks, and he was the only one left who hadn't been picked up. He ran straight to me, and we've been inseparable since.
   Jasper has lived with me through six moves, four different states, another dog and cat, and two kids. He is literally my shadow when I'm at home. I can't leave the room without him following me. My kids love him, and he always let them climb, pinch and drool on him when they were babies without ever letting out even a soft growl. He LOVES anything involving water, and we spend a lot of time swimming at the family lake house down in Oklahoma. He's ridden cross country twice in the back of my truck, and spent the whole time hanging his head out the side of the bed, waiting for me to stop at the next lake or river for a swim.

   Obviously, at 11 years old, he's slowing down. Arthritis and a reconstructed achilles tendon have taken away his ability to run, but he still lumbers along trying to keep up with us. A wise old man, his gray hairs and loud snores give him the character those cute puppies lack. I dread thinking of the day when he'll leave us, and hope we still have at least one more great year or two left. He is the world's best dog. If you don't believe me, I can put you in touch with over a dozen friends and relatives who've told me as much.

Let's go Braves!

    Having grown up in Kansas, you'd expect that I'd root for one of the local teams around here i.e. the Royals or Cardinals. Although I love baseball, it might be a surprise to learn that I'm not really a fan of either team. As a kid, no one I knew wanted to root for the Royals...they were just.that.bad. I didn't really know any Cardinals fans, and St. Louis was far enough from my hometown that going to games was really out of the question. Thank goodness for TBS.
    I am a die hard Atlanta Braves fan. My dad is from Atlanta, and just like any kid, I grew up rooting for any team that he liked. My grandfather was best friends with a home plate umpire, so I got to hear stories my father told about sitting behind home plate during summer games at Fulton County Stadium and watching the great Eddie Matthews belt homers. In the summer, I'd go back to visit, and my dad would take us to games. Luckily for me, Ted Turner decided to buy the Braves and place them in heavy rotation on his TV station.
   I watched every day and night game in the summer. Back then, the Braves roster was loaded. David Justice, Terry Pendleton, Fred "Crime Dog" Mcgriff, and Ron Gant were household names on my block. Deion Sanders blazed the base paths when he wasn't shutting down receivers in a Falcons uniform, and the pitching, oh man the pitching! The Braves had the best rotation in baseball. Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz stymied batters while Mark Wohlers shut them down in the 9th. They won 14 straight division titles. From 1991 to 2005, they never finished second, and I'm supposed to root for the Royals?
    True, there was only one World Series title (1995), but they made FIVE world series in 9 years! These days, times aren't as grand. Turner sold TBS, and the Braves went off the air in Kansas. The current incarnation of my favorite team is coming off a next-to-last finish in the NL last season. Management sold off the marquee names and imploded the roster to rebuild the team, and our GM just retired. However, the future looks bright. Our farm system is loaded with prospects we traded those marquee names for. We took a cue from Royals GM Dayton Moore ( KC fans, guess which team gave him his start?) and are trying to make a run at the World Series in the next few years. We're on our way back. GO BRAVES!

Soccer season is here!

   Soccer season has arrived. I am assisting with coaching for my four-year old, Alex, and his team. It's a blast. You just encourage them to not kick each other or touch the ball with their hands, and let them have fun. The ball stays on the field an average of 15 seconds before you or another adult have to chase it from the out of bounds area, but it's a small price to pay. Alex has six kids on his team. There are four boys and two girls, and they all seem to get along and enjoy being out there.

   Since I'm coaching James' U8 team solo, I can tell you that the excitement and stress levels are nearly equal. The kids all love being out there, but they ain't the most attentive bunch of boys you'll ever meet. You just encourage them to not kick each other or touch the ball with their hands, and let them have fun. The ball stays on the field an average of 15 seconds before you or another adult have to chase it from the out of bounds area, but it's a small price to pay. See what I did there?

The camping trip

   Over spring break the boys and I went camping with my dad in his new camper. We met back in my hometown in Kansas, and then headed down to Osage Hills State Park outside of Bartlesville, OK. I have to say, it was really nice setting up that camper. I am a tent camper by nature, so simply getting out of the car and making a few simple connections was pretty nice compared to finding a level spot, unfolding the tent, and putting everything together for an hour. Osage Hills is a great park. There are rock bluffs, a lake, waterfalls along a creek. There was also a playground and ball field for the kids to check out.
    We decided to go on a hike to see the waterfalls. It was good exercise for the kids, since we hadn't done much hiking since leaving Montana. Hiking with kids is interesting. You're either being the parent and telling them not to run so they don't trip over a rock or root, or waiting because they found something cool to investigate. It's fun to see them get so excited when they make a new discovery out in nature. The boys wanted to do two things that weekend: play in the water, and make smores. Luckily, the creek wasn't running hard, so they got to wade in the water. They forgot to put their socks in their shoes when they took them off, and when we returned to them, we realized the wind blew the socks into the creek and they had disappeared. They didn't seem to mind, though.

    That evening, we made smores in the camper. It was incredibly windy...way too windy to safely have a campfire. We improvised and used the burners on the stove in the camper. I thought it was lame, but they could have cared less.  Once they got their smores in their hands, nothing else mattered. It's one of the great things about still having small kids. It doesn't take much to impress them right now. Stick you feet in the water and eat a smore, and all is right with the world.


    This week, I got a text about a good friend from my past. I'd mentioned before that I used to spend time rock climbing in my younger days, and there was a group of us who always climbed together. Steve, was the de facto leader of our group. He was always finding new places and crags for us to climb, and taught us how to set up the ropes to climb safely. Steve moved out to Utah, where he works as a therapist for kids in a wilderness program. It's the perfect job for him, because he gets to help kids in need by taking them to the outdoors and teaching them life and survival skills. It's been far too long since I've seen him, but we keep in touch through phone calls and texts.
    Steve has been bugging our crew about coming out to Colorado to ice climb with him. Ice climbing is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine climbing a frozen waterfall and you'll get the idea. You still use ropes and a harness, but you wear special cleats called crampons on your boots, and use ice "axes" to hack into the ice and climb up.
  One evening, I got a text that really scared me. Steve had been climbing solo out in Colorado and had fallen off a climb.  Luckily, he survived, but was in the hospital and was busted up pretty badly. I received a picture of him in the text, but am not going to post it here. It's just too scary. Steve has no memory of the fall, so from what we can tell, he fell at least 30 feet. He has multple broken bones in his face and nose, and lost a lot of blood. His ice axe damaged his knee when he landed on it, but luckily he won't need surgery. He had a broken leg at his ankle, and had to have it surgically reconstructed. Since he was climbing solo, he had to crawl out of the canyon to find help. He was lucky enough to find some others on a snowmobile that day, and they drove him down the mountain to a waiting ambulance.
    Steve spent 5 days in the hospital. After he got out, we caught up about the event over the phone. He's on the mend, but obviously can't return to work until his leg heals. He won't need any facial surgery as the bones are going to heal on their own. I was so relieved that he survived, and realized just how tough my friend is. I don't know if I would have the strength to crawl out of a canyon after a fall like that. We joked about it, but it made me realize how dangerous climbing can be if you're not careful. I would still go ice climbing with him, but convincing my wife just got a lot harder.


    I finally got the firepit finished! I caved and ended up forsaking the pallet of stone that I thought might work, and bought retaining wall brick instead. There were a few reasons for this. First, I was trying to take rectangular pieces of stone and arrange them into a circle...think about that for a minute. I also had to cut each piece even smaller than before, and when I did this I found out that even after doing so, lining them up still gave me major gaps that I'd have to fill with mortar. However, the most important reason I threw in the towel on the stone was safety. The stone was very porous and soft. It flaked and broke easily. I rule I read when researching the fire pit was to avoid this type of stone, as there was a possibility that it might soak up too much water after a rain. That's a problem if you're heating it up next to a fire, as the water trapped inside the rock rock looks for a way out. If you're not careful, the rock can explode. I had planned to line the whole thing with firebrick to insulate it and avoid a catastrophe, but it just didn't feel right.

     So, like I said, I went down and bought some pavers from Lowe's, hauled them back, and started building. The bricks were shaped so that stacking them around the pit was an easy job, and I didn't have to mix mortar to adhere them to each other. I simply used some concrete adhesive and moved on. It was so much easier. My back hated me the next day, but it was worth it. Plus, my wife was happy, and the kids thought it was pretty cool. If you know anyone looking for a pallet of rectangle-shaped rock, send them my way.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Election year

   This isn't a post where I try to convince you that one potential candidate is the smartest, most qualified, most deserving, and hardest working person for the job. I do my best to avoid the spotlight when it comes to politics. It often seems that those who are the most outspoken about their favorite candidate made up their minds long ago, and tend do the least amount of listening to other's opinions. I try really hard not to be one of those people.
    What I really wanted to say was that this particular election year seems to be the craziest thing I have seen when it comes to choosing a new leader, at least at the national level. I have seen so much anger and negativity coming from the front runners of both major political parties. It has trickled down to their most fervent supporters and stinks up my newsfeed. It makes me wonder. Is this what it takes any more to get people to listen to you? How is this helping our nation? I really hope people start treating each other with more respect. We deserve better than this.

Spring Break

   It's exciting to hear about other students and teachers spring break plans. I know that Miss Collins is going skiing in Colorado, Mrs. Smith is going to DisneyWorld, and a student of mine is headed to New York City. I am heading to my couch, and couldn't be happier about it. Over the week I plan on spending time with my kids, coaching soccer, and working around the house. I have to get my riding mower up and running as it's been broken since the fall, and the grass is shooting up left and right. Then theres that pesky fire pit I still need to finish...

   My father called and wants me to go camping with him in Oklahoma. He just bought a new camper and has no idea how it works. Before he takes my mother camping for a whole week, he wants me to help him learn minor details like: hooking it up to his vehicle, backing it into a campsite, and connecting water and electricity to it. Sounds like it should be a very interesting camping excursion. I hope spring break treats you well!

Sam's Throne

    This past year, I took my wife to visit one of my favorite camping and rock climbing spots. Sam's Throne is a rock climbing area in the Boston Mountains, about an hour south of Harrison, Arkansas. It's a beautiful place, full of sandstone boulders and cliffs. As a teenager and college student, I spent a lot of time there camping with friends and climbing the hundreds of climbing routes available. After moving away for 10 years, I hadn't gotten the chance to make it back. My wife had also never been to the throne, so it was nice to take her to a place that held lots of great memories for me.

    Sam's throne has a very primitive campground. That means that if you enjoy a hot shower and a flushing toilet, it's probably not your kind of place. There are pit toilets, but no running water. Even that is a major upgrade from my times there. When I first started visiting, you needed a four-wheel drive just to reach the campground area. There were no toilets, and you had to bring all the supplies you needed. It definitely was "roughing it." Still, it's a beautiful place to visit, and you can spend hours exploring the area, even if you don't rock climb. It's only a days drive from Webb City, so check it out. You'll thank me.

March Madness

     The NCAA basketball tournament is underway. I'm excited because I think it's the best event in all of sports. There are other events that are more prestigeous (The World Series) or famous (The Super Bowl), but nothing matches the intensity and excitement of March Madness. Win, and you move on...have a bad game? There's always next year. I also like the fact that the little guy has a chance to prove that he belongs. Every year, some Cinderella team that should have zero chance of winning on paper, pulls of the upset over a big name program.

     I picked the university of Kansas to win it all this season. You could say that I'm being a homer since I'm from Kansas, but remember, I'm not supposed to like them. Having graduated from arch-rival Kansas State, you'll never see me rooting for KU. I just happen to think they are the best team in the tournament. However, that doesn't mean they will win. Defeating six of the best teams in the country in a row is a monumental task. I also picked Michigan State, Xavier, and Oklahoma to join them in the Final Four. We'll see how I do.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sick Kid

I stayed home from school today with the boy. He'd been running a fever all weekend, and my wife had already taken the lion's share of days off this year when it came to watching over a sick child. It also didn't hurt that it happened to be a Monday, so I didn't have to twist my arm that badly to stay home. I went up to school Sunday night to prepare everything so that life could continue on without me. I always get nervous whenever I have a sub taking care of my classes and students. I know things will go okay, but still, you want everything to be perfect.

Alex woke up this morning still having a low fever. He decided he'd watch some Disney movies while I worked on the computer. Astrid did her best to try to make him feel better.

It seemed to work. He actually decided to eat something for the first time in a day in a half. We turned a corner after lunch. It seemed that once he got some food down he really started feeling better!

The Best Cat in the World part 2

    I got a call from wife that weekend, telling me that my son had found "the cat". I spoke with him that evening about it. They had gone to Petsmart to take a look at the cats available for adoption. The nice Petsmart lady said she had the perfect one for them...a black and white female named "Astrid". She curled right up into my son's lap and began to purr. He promptly told his mom, "This cat is special to me."
    We had to wait 2 more weeks to pick Astrid up. She had caught a stomach bug from the different food they had fed her at Petsmart, after being brought there from the Carthage Humane Society. Finally, after a long two weeks, we were able to welcome Astrid home. The worker at the humane society had told me not to expect to see her much during the first week. She told me that she would hide until she became comfortable with her surroundings, and that it might be best to just keep her to one room for the first day or two until she became less skittish.

Yeah right. This was 30 minutes after arriving home:

Astrid wasted no time in making herself a new home. The kids loved her instantly.

She helped us unpack our boxes for the new house, and immdediately took a liking to Jasper.

I am so glad we chose her. She has been the best cat in the world. The kids love her to death and my wife finally has another girl in the house. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Best Cat in the World

   I have the best cat in the world. I'm fully confident in that assessment, and this comes from a lifelong dog person.

  We adopted our cat, Astrid, last spring. Actually, it will be our one year anniversary of joining our family next week. I hadn't lived in a house with a cat for nearly twenty years. I was honestly nervous about it. I have always loved dogs and never really considered having another cat, but my kids weren't about to hear that nonsense.

   It all started when we left Montana. My son James began mentioning how much he wanted a cat. He suggested we could get a girl cat since his mom was the only girl in our house. We chuckled and told him maybe someday, once we found a house to buy, we would find that cat.

   First, we landed in Joplin. My wife's company had found her a very nice apartment to rent while she started her new job and waited for me and the kids to join her once the school year wrapped up in Montana. Even though we were used to living in a house, we really liked that apartment. The neighbors were great, the complex had an awesome pool, my kids had a playground outside their door, and most importantly, they had installed tornado shelter in case the weather got crazy. It also allowed me to delay the actuality of owning a cat even longer. "This apartment just isn't big enough for a dog AND a cat, buddy. Once we find a house we'll get that cat, deal?"
  Obviously, it wasn't what James wanted to hear. By this point, he had successfully recruited and indoctrinated his younger brother into weekly inquisitions about adding another member to our family. Still, I have to give him credit. He patiently waited for nearly a year until we finally bought a house and moved out of the apartment. No sooner had we signed the papers for the place and gotten the keys did the questioning really ramp up. " So tomorrow dad, can we go find a cat?"

   We made that poor kid wait another month while we moved our things, boxed and unboxed our belongings,  and settled in. I told him to give me 30 days, and then we'd find her. I underestimated just how much he'd hold me to my word. The countdown had begun. It started when I would wake him up in the morning for school. The first words out his mouth..."Hey dad, 29 days til I get a cat!" Day by day, the number got smaller until we were down to single digits. I would pick him up from school and ask him how his day went,  and the first thing he'd say was " It was great because it's only 9 days until I get a cat." When his grandmother would call to check in, the first thing she'd hear was. "Only 6 more days until we get a cat."

  I really had gotten nervous about this whole cat thing. Not having owned one for so long, I was worried about finding a cat that fit in with us. Luckily, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

(to be continued)


    I'm assuming by this point I'm late to the party as far as blog posts about our recent teacher vs. cops (and firemen) basketball game. From the conversations I've had with my "teammates" about the game, we all seem to have come up with the same conclusion...We had a great time, but boy did we feel it the next day(s).

    If you know me, you know that I was not born to play basketball. Honestly, you could divine that just by looking at a picture of me. I'm five foot nothing and run like I"m walking up an escalator in the wrong direction.  Still, it was a great time playing against those police officers and firemen. Those guys are giants. I commented to Officer Woolverton that he'd probably be the tallest guy on our team if he was playing for us. Webb City should feel lucky to have those guys helping out the town.  We won the game based on our terrific ability to hit 7 and 10 point shots with relative ease. I wonder if those officers moved as slowly as I did the next day.


     This year I've been tasked with coaching soccer for my two kids. James is playing in the U8 league, and Alex is playing with the pre-K kiddos. The great thing about it I hadn't planned on coaching at all! When we signed them up, I was so busy with work that I thought it might be best to let someone else do it. A week later, the league, apparently desperate enough to take anyone who could fog a mirror by breathing on it, came calling. I agreed because I knew that they were short on coaches, and since I actually have soccer coaching experience, I might as well help them out.

     Last week, I headed to the first coaching meeting of the season. When I got there, I anxiously began examining the rosters laid out on the table to find out if I was coaching my oldest, or my youngest. The nice lady behind the desk handed me the roster for Alex's team. "Good" I thought, "Pre-K soccer is easy enough."
   "Oh, and here's the other one" she said, promptly handing me James' roster with my name attached squarely at the top.


"Yes, It looks like you'll be coaching both teams this year. I hope that's okay."

   She caught me right on the spot. "Oh sure, no problem. I can handle it." Wait a minute. Where where these words coming from? They sounded like my voice, but I didn't understand why they were coming out of my mouth. goes nothing. I haven't coached soccer in 5 years. I previously coached high school girls JV soccer, and I figure if I can get a bunch of 15 year old girls to follow my directions, I can get four and seven year-olds to do the same. If you're bored and have nothing better to do, I know a guy who could use a hand.


     I have got to do a better job of making these slice of life blog posts. I have fallen behind, but I will get caught up! My apologies to everyone for this. I think in our minds, we get so busy with things that we forget to stop and just evaluate how things are going in our lives, which is definitely the point of this blog. I have never been much for writing, or thought of myself as a writer, but I am actually enjoying it. Now all I need to do is put fingers to keyboard.

   So far this month of March is flying by. We have one week left of school until spring break, and I think everyone is looking forward to it. It's the reason I don't like countdowns. Many teachers and students actively count down the weeks or days until a major event like spring break. To me, I think it just makes the wait seem longer. I often wonder if the powers that be schedule our breaks at the exact point when they think, "Okay, if we don't give these guys a break, they're going to lose their minds." It feels that way sometimes, but I also think that we play it up in our heads because we know it's coming. This is another reason I don't do countdowns. I just prefer to put keep chugging along at breakneck speed and be spit out at the end of the ride. School really is like a big amusement park sometimes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Here comes Spring!

    It seems like everything organic woke up in the last week, no? It will be interesting to see what transpires within the next week with all the rain we'll be getting. I have a love/hate relationship with Spring. It's easily my favorite season. The days get longer, everything turns green, and the temperatures are perfect once spring arrives. However, Springtime also means the return of my worst enemy. Allergies.

     Just the sight of those buds popping open on the trees outside the school makes the back of my throat start itching. I imagine within the next three weeks, I'll be watching my kids play outside and enjoying a cup of coffee to go along with my IV drip of Allegra.

    I'll be coaching soccer this spring for the first time in five years. This time, It won't be high school girls soccer, but something far more terrifying. I'll be coaching my son's U8 soccer team, and assisting with my youngest son's pre-k team. I'm looking forward to teaching these guys the basics of soccer: passing, throw-ins, corner kicks, and how to avoid picking weeds or pretending to be ninjas when the ball is on the other side of the field. Hopefully they'll be able to hear me through my breathing mask and I'll be able to make it through an entire game without wanting to jump in the pond next to the fields to wash the pollen off me.


Monday, March 7, 2016


  If you ask me, Valentine's Day is pretty silly. Simply picking one random day to do something nice for someone you love, or spend money on someone to show you love them seems pretty contrived. Instead of doing the traditional Valentine's Day flowers or chocolate, my wife and I decided that we'd invest in building a backyard stone fire pit. Now that I'm 35, married, and have a couple kids, who needs fancy dinners or spa treatments?

   So what do I decide to do? The usual, of course. Not buy a metal fire pit from Lowes or Home Depot, no way, that's boring. Do I just go buy some concrete blocks? That's way too easy. Next thing I know, I'm hoisting a few thousand pounds of rocks I found on Craigslist into the back of my truck. After that, I'm off to buy 650 pounds of concrete to pour a foundation to put said rocks upon. You can almost hear my Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor growl coming out of your computer speakers, can't you?

  Fast forward three weeks. Here I sit, barely able to move. My back is killing me after emptying, pouring, and mixing 650 pounds of concrete the day before. Those Craigslist rocks have moved 25 yards from the bed of my truck next to a hole in the ground that will surely someday be an amazing fire pit. Now that I'm 35, married, and have a couple kids, I could sure use a fancy dinner or a spa treatment right now. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A few of My Favorite Places: Maui

   Maui is one of the eight Hawaiian islands. It's a beautiful place where you can relax on the beach all day, or explore non-stop. The second most populated island, Maui also has plenty of shopping and tourist attractions. If you're looking for one island to see in Hawaii, then Maui has the best of both words. My wife and I spent our honeymoon here, and I would go back tomorrow if I could.

Blackrock at Kaanapali
There are so many options to choose from when vacationing in Maui. Some of my favorites are driving the Hana Highway, visiting Haleakala National Park, and swimming at Kaanapali beach.

     The Hana Highway winds along the coast of Maui for a little over sixty miles. However, be prepared to spend 3-4 hours taking the drive. There are multiple hairpin curves, and 46 one-lane bridges. There are so many incredible sights (waterfalls, black rock beaches, swimming holes) along the route that it would be silly not to take your time and enjoy it.

At the end of the Hana Highway are the seven pools of O'heo Gulch. It's a beautful place where you can swim in the pools and enjoy Hawaii.

At the top of Mt. Haleakala (10,000 ft.) lies Haleakala National Park. The plant life and scenery there is very different from the rest of the island and resembles a landscape similar to the surface of Mars. People drive to the top of the mountain before daylight to witness the amazing sunrises on top of the mountain.

Kaanapali beach is a perfect spot to relax. It has wide sandy beaches and unlimited snorkeling opportunities. Those who prefer to lounge at the beach all day could do much worse than Kaanapali.

A Few of My Favorite Places: Oregon

   Oregon has it all...beaches, mountains, deserts and everything in between. It's defintely one of my favorite places to visit because the weather is so nice and the people are extremely friendly. It's very scenic and if you like city life, then Portland is a great place to visit. It's an extremely commuter friendly city and has great public transportation.

   A few tips about traveling to Oregon: 1) Don't even think about trying to pump your own gas. It's illegal. Oregon is one of a few states that require gas station attendants to pump your gas. The first time someone did it for me I thought he was just being polite and I gave him a tip. The second time, I got lectured for trying to pump my own gas. Once you accept it, it's actually really nice not to have to leave your car. 2) Nearly everyone is doing something recreational, so if the outdoors isn't your thing, you might want to head somewhere else. Nevermind. Go to Oregon, it'll change your perspective on the outdoors. 3) If you have a thick midwestern accent, expect to get some looks. Don't worry though. Oregonians are great people and tourism is a huge part of their economy, so they're somewhat used to it..

Mt. Hood is a dormant volcano, and the largest mountain in Oregon. It dominates the landscape and can easily be seen 50 miles away. This picture was taken at our campground.
Crater Lake National Park was formed thousands of years ago when a volcano called Mt. Mazama collapsed in on itself, forming this massive crater. At 1,946 feet deep, it's the deepest lake in the U.S.

This is Ecola State Park. If you've ever seen the movie "The Goonies," you probably recognize this spot. It's right on the coast and very rainy and windy.

A few of my favorite places: Montana

    One thing I love to do is travel. As a kid, my parents always made it a point to take us on annual vacations. Looking back on it, I am very grateful that I got the chance to explore some amazing places when I was young. I think it's important to travel, especially when you're young. There are so many amazing things to see and people to meet if you take the initiative to go find them.

Since moving back to the midwest, I most of my travel has been heading back and forth between Kansas (where nearly all of our family lives) and here in Missouri. It's been great to see family on the weekends instead of only seeing them once or twice a year. However, I have been longing for the mountains again, and I miss being able to explore like I did when I lived out west. So, without further adieu, here is one  of my favorite places:

Glacier National Park, Montana:
Hiking with my best friend Ben
Bowman Lake
 I was pretty lucky (spoiled is a better description) to live just a few hours from this wonderful place. I spent quite a bit of time backpacking and exploring here. Glacier is one of the most beautiful and isolated parks in the United States, so It was great to take friends and family there.
My brother in-law above Grinnell Glacier

Every lake in Glacier is gorgeous. I haven't seen them all, but Bowman Lake is my favorite. It's in a very remote and isolated part of the park. It takes about a 2 hour drive on gravel roads just to get to it. You may not see anyone at all once you find it. It's definitely a great spot to rest and enjoy being alive.

This is the famous Grinnell Glacier. Unfortunately it's melting away, and by 2040 scientists predict there will be no glaciers left inside the park. I always take people to this spot when we hike. It's on a spur trail off the Highline trail, which is world-famous in it's own right. The hike is only a quarter mile, but it's straight uphill. It's definitely worth the effort.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mustache Monday

   If you're a guy and ever want to grow a mustache, don't. Just keep living your life and enjoy not sticking out like a sore thumb. Mine survived for two weeks, and it felt like an eternity.

   Last month, 4 of us here at the school decided we'd shave our beards and see who could wear one long enough until we either gave in to the pressures of looking creepy, or our wives issued an ultimatum that we remove it from our faces. Each of the guys put $5 into the contest, and whoever resisted the urge to rejoin 2016 the longest won the money.

The first one out was Mr. Walker, who made it less than 24 hours... Smart man, that Mr. Walker.

    Mr. Manes was next. He'd already announced that he was going right back to his beard, and promptly grew it back within a week. That left me and Mr. Wade as the only members of an exclusive club that no one wanted to join. There's the saying that eventually even the worst styles make a comeback. Bell bottoms, tie dye, and even acid-washed jeans all found their way back into pop culture. Unsurprisingly, The 70's motorcycle cop mustache hasn't. I decided that I was in it for the long haul. I had originally come up with the idea out of boredom, and you can't just back out of your own contest. Before this contest, I hadn't shaved my beard off in 5 years. My kids basically had never seen what I looked like without one, and the fuzzy caterpillar residing on my face was a constant topic in my home.
   The hardest part was having to constantly shave every few days to keep up this awkward, new appearance. I hated having to start back all over again. It also didn't help that kids had noticed I looked like Super Mario and had taken to yelling out "Hey Mario!" when they saw me in the hallway.  Even worse, Mr. Wade showed zero signs of cracking. Every afternoon, while we waited for our kids to get off the bus, he basically reveled in his new look. "I love it" he said. "I might never shave it off!" I lied and bragged about how great I felt, too, and hoped he wouldn't catch on. By Friday of week 2, my spirit was broken.

    The following Monday, exactly two weeks after it all began, I walked into school and Dan Wade's classroom, mustache-free and conscience clear, and placed a 20$ bill in his hand.

Day 1- Here we Go!

I’ll admit that if I was asked to make a top 10 list of favorite hobbies, writing would be noticeably absent. It’s not that I detest writing (I actually enjoy getting my thoughts on paper), it’s just not something I think about doing often. With that said, I plan on giving this Slice of Life idea my best shot. My life is busy enough, but what’s one more obligation...right?  

So, where do I begin? I'm 35 years old and this is the 3rd state that I've taught in.I've moved six times in the past ten years. Luckily, this is the last stop on the tour, so it feels good to finally settle down and enjoy life in Missouri. I grew up in Independence, Kansas, where I met my wife in high school. After college, I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, Atlanta, Georgia, and Great Falls, Montana before I landed here. That's a random grouping of cities and states, for sure, but it was a great ride. I saw a ton of beautiful places and met some incredible people along the way.
Family is a huge part of my life, and it's the reason we moved back to the midwest. My wife Johna, and I have been together since my junior year of high school. We have two incredible boys. James is 7 and loves math. He amazes me every day with new math problems he's figured out all on his own. Alex is 4, and loves anything involving sports. He is convinced that he'll be the next soccer star. He'd be happy wearing his shinguards and cleats every day.