Life in the balance

crocusthumbIn a perfect world everything would be in balance, lately though it seems the world – my world – has been out of balance. Much of the imbalance comes back to teaching and having a family. In reality, I am no different from anyone else – I have a job and life – everyone does; I just have a blog and I am writing about it. Nevertheless, I do not want to sound like I am whining and if I am, please sound off in the comments section. If you have followed Making the Days Count, you already know I share the lessons I learn from my students often and share what I learn from what I teach. It’s a delicate balance – the balance between school and my blog and between school and home.

Lately school has been winning; I have too much to learn, too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. So, I have not written as much as I would have liked. I am trying to put first things first.

It’s been a tumultuous year for us – we’ve lost two family members in the last year – both on my wife’s side of the family and in the past two weeks B’s family suffered the loss of two close family friends a husband and wife whom B has known her entire life, a virtual second set of parents. The loss has hit her hard and thrown her for a loop. Sadly, no amount of comfort I offer seems to ease the pain. I listen, hug, and stay calm. I cook dinner when I can and help as much as my work schedule allows. Still, I feel as if I come up short in every role – husband, father, teacher, and student.

Even at my age, I am a student as much as I am a teacher – because I am always learning and always asking the question of why? When we stop asking why, we begin asking the question when and it is not up to me when, so I keep asking why and trying to learn as much as I am able.

I am teaching science this year – for the first time ever. It has been a rocky year and I feel for my students, yet despite me, they continue to learn and I continue to grow and learn. Every day is a better day and every day I earn more converts. I made it through science fair with my students and many of them have advanced to the state science fair in early May – I am excited for them. I have been teaching chemistry since late November and the students have come a very long way. We began with basic atomic particles – proton, neutron, and electron and slowly added new concepts – bonding and chemical equations – both of which have stretched my students. Some understand and others are still growing. This week I added rates of reactions and energy – which still stretches my students and with Spring Break four class days a way, they are close to the breaking point.

As I was introducing the concept of exothermic and endothermic reactions, I had the revelation that related to two bedrock principles of science, actually laws – the Law of Conservation of Matter and the Law of Conservation of Energy. The laws explain our world and state simply,

I could see the eyes of my students glaze over and I had that teachable moment when I completely understood what I was teaching and how to teach the content and skill. Eureka!

I had covered balancing chemical equations and introduced the five basic types including combustion reactions of gas + oxygen produces energy + carbon dioxide + water vapor and we were discussing exothermic reactions or chemical reactions which release or produce heat. Combustion is a  perfect example.


CH4  +   2 O2   →  (energy is released) CO2   +  2 H2O

courtesy of Holt, Rinehart,and WInston
image courtesy of Holt, Rinehart,and WInston

Then I shifted to the next topic – endothermic reactions that absorb heat to begin the reaction and introduced the text example of photosynthesis that absorbs light energy and converts carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.


6 CO2   +  6 H2O (energy is absorbed)  →  C6H12O6  + 6 O2

image courtesy of Holt, Rinehart,and WInston

And that’s when the eureka moment occurred. It dawned on me that if these two chemical reactions were in balance, the world would have no worries. However, the world is out of balance, drastically out of balance because we consume more CH4 and other hydrocarbons (CxHx+2) and are producing more CO2 than ever. At the same time, we are reducing our forests and grasslands – vast areas where photosynthesis occurs – and consuming less CO2 and producing less O2. The world is in imbalance, and so am I.

And so, I find myself Sunday afternoon reviewing science and preparing for the week and trying to finish a chore here and there around the house. Last weekend, I raked the leaves and opened up a portion of the yard for spring to occur. There is more to do, there always is. Yesterday, I discovered some crocuses poking up through the dead leaves and could feel my heart yearn for spring. The temperatures were in the sixties yesterday and today they are in the upper thirties. Tonight it will snow but, the snow won’t last long, it will melt quickly. The sun is getting higher in the sky and we are over twelve hours of daylight here. Before I know it we’ll be at thirteen hours, then fourteen, then the solstice will arrive and the process will reverse on our way to fall. In some ways the world is in balance and in others, imbalance.

I do know this, even when I am out of balance the days count more than ever and if I don’t get moving the day will slip away from me. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day because day is gonna be a great day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one moment, one equation, one new concept connected to an old concept.

When was the last time you had a eureka moment? Please share, thanks.


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17 thoughts on “Life in the balance

    1. thank you – it has been a long year and the school year is coming to a close and I feel as if I am at my peak. I took in your blog and was reminded to try to be the person my dog thinks I am, good advice. I am still trying and I’ll try even harder tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week.

    1. Yes, slowly returning to a balance…… I just finished prepping for period 3 and 4 chemistry classes – they had balanced chemical equations and calculated how much material would be produced or would be needed to produce in a reaction… it’s fun watching them grow. Thanks for stopping by, balance is good. I hope you have a wonderful week. Again, thanks.

  1. There’s been loads of change in my life recently,and I’ve been struggling to keep the balance between overwhelmed and feeling grateful. Especially when i focus too much on something “ending”. But then I was reminded again about the joy of discovery–that continues, thankfully. 🙂
    Hope you and yours are enjoying your weekend!

    1. The weekend went by in a blur and now it’s Monday morning and I am home ill, not homesick, if you know what I mean. Change is part of life and keeping it in balance is difficult. Sometimes the journey or adventure is important; an end is often a new beginning, though an end is difficult to accept when it is not our choice. Keep moving forward and looking ahead and finding adventure where it lies. Have a wonderful week.

  2. So sorry to hear about what your family is going through. Take time to mourn and hopefully time will heal some of the sadness, You all have my condolences. As for all the science stuff here, even though I received a Regents diploma for this subject, I am so glad I’m not taking those classes anymore!

  3. Wow – you lost me – yes my eyes glazed over on that chemistry stuff – but I’m glad you found that Eureka moment to reach your students! How exciting for you (and undoubtedly them).

    And I am sorry that you’ve had some rocks in your road lately. We’ve all been there and experienced those moments when you feel helpless. Just keep being there for your lovely bride, that means more to her than even she probably understands at this point in time. Just knowing there’s a shoulder to grab on to means a lot even if you don’t use the shoulder.

    Hang in there Clay. You’re only one person doing the best he can. That’s all anyone can ask.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. Thanks for the kind words – we all do what we can – today is the funeral and I have wonderful memories of Gus and Norma – they were wonderful people – the kind of people we all aspire to be. They will be missed. Wishing you a happy week and thanks for stopping by.

  4. I’m sorry for the losses that your family is having to come to terms with. Always tough, but when you can’t take the time out to be kind to yourself either, it’s doubly hard. Like Ingrid, I’m going to have to pass on the science. Just looking at the diagrams terrified me!

    1. Thank you Margaret – the service was yesterday and it was nice to get together with family. The last year reminds me of the movie from 90s with Hugh Grant – 3 weddings and a funeral, except that it’s in reverse and there is no wedding in sight at least for my family. I have nephews and a niece of that age, but nothing on the horizon. As for the science, I had my share of eyes glazed over from y students – learning how to balance equations is challenging, but they learned. Enjoy your trip back to France!

  5. Finding that balance seems to always be a challenge. My condolences to you and your family and speaking from experience only time will heal. Two – three years ago we went through a set of similar losses. It seemed to unbalance everything we were doing. Kudos on the science front. I was glazed over just reading that part of the post LOL.

    1. Ingrid – the week flew by for so many reasons. I awake in Fort Wayne and I’m now on Ohio, tonight DC. But first Norma’s funeral- she will be missed and her memories will live on in our hearts and minds. Thank you for your kind thoughts. Enjoy your week and may the sun shine on your back and keep you warm.

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?