Yesterday was my twenty-fourth first day of school, well, not completely. I was with teachers and administrators for meetings and new school year information, but kids will arrive Thursday. I am excited and I am sure the kids are, too..
I have one more day of meeting and a FULL day to work in my classroom and prepare for Thursday’s real first day of school with kids.
As a kid I never gave thought to what teachers did over summer break. I was free. I could sleep late, stay up late, and read what and when I wanted.
I am finishing my twenty-third summer break as a teacher. That first summer, 1999, really wasn’t a break at all. It was spent applying for jobs, and interviews, and finally landing a teaching job in the middle of July.
I remember that interview well, it was more a conversation than an interview. I remember walking out of the principal’s office and seeing the eleven o’clock interviewee waiting and thinking that I had nailed the interview. Actually, we both did. Both of us were hired that year and will still teach at the same school, today.
Now twenty-three year later, I know teachers are busy but I can still do those things I did as a kid. But school is coming and it’s like a lion.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
The end of summer is like the lion, it sleeps and then roars. School begins next week, and I’ve spent summer doing those things I said I’d do when school was out, and I had more time. I’ve also spent time thinking and re-thinking how I am going to approach this year. I took a class, and I taught a class and though it all, I am ready to get back to school next Monday.
Last week, I taught a class. It was a one-day teacher’s camp, and it was optional for all of us – teachers and learners, though only teachers came. The class I taught was titled, Lions and Wildebeest – using Puzzles to Engage 21st Century Learners.
The class was based on a lesson that I taught last spring. It was a Monday lesson before spring break. My science classes had finished a major unit the previous Friday and taken the test. We had five days before spring break with three days of state-mandated testing set for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Experience taught me not much beyond testing would be done that week and I needed a lesson to encourage my students to be curious and full of wonder and be ready for the fourth quarter which would begin the Monday after break.
I began thinking about my baseball trip a couple of months ago in April. Then life set in, as it always does, and I put it off.
When school ended in early June all I had was a dream, but no plans. I had empty dates on the calendar and a dream of visiting all thirty of the baseball cities in my lifetime.
The idea of a summer trip was born with the idea of flying to New York City to see my favorite team, the Houston Astros play in New York City. When I discovered that the schedule had the Astros playing the other New York team, the Mets two days later I decided to make it more than one game, or two, but more. By the time I had finished planning I had seven cities, seven days, seven stadiums, and a total of ten MLB teams.
The venues are Yankee Stadium (NYC), Nationals Park (DC), Citi Field (NYC), Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia), PNC Park (Pittsburgh), Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati), and Progressive Field (Cleveland).
My first step was deciding to fly one way to New York City, rent a car, and drive the remainder of the schedule. Then I booked the flight and then the car and I was on my way. I could find and sketched out an itinerary, Sunday to Sunday.
Hotels and game tickets were next, it was early enough in the season that there are plenty of game tickets available for purchase. After tickets, places to stay, then places I wanted to visit along the way, because in life there is more than just baseball.
Along the way, I decided to visit at least one place in each city and write a long my way.
My first contact was an old friend who I used to work with in the restaurant business before I became a teacher. He and his wife live in the DC area. I texted him after tickets and hotels and yesterday we met for lunch. When he pulled picked me up, we started up right where we had left off some twenty plus years ago when worked with each other.
My second contact was a friend in Ohio for the Reds game in Cincinnati. He and his wife joined us this spring in Florida, and we shared a car when our flights home were cancelled.
Then there were the sights along the way. Each city has something I want to see along the way.
But it was the baseball that was most important.
“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” – Yogi Berra
New York City
My first stop was historic Yankee Stadium. Last week I saw that a friend of mine and his wife were in New York for a vacation, he and I teach together at the same school. So, we met at Gate 4 on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon for Houston Astros vs. the New York Yankees. Neither of us had seen baseball in Yankee Stadium.
It has been quite a long time since I wrote a Tuesday’s Tune post. It isn’t that I haven’t been inspired by music because I have, but it’s been a time issue especially during the school year. It’s the third week of summer break and while I have more time to write, I also have the time for all those things I said I’d do when school was finished for the year, and now I have that time.
It’s Day 18 of summer break, the first real day of summer and I have been slowly carving away, and adding to, my TO DO list.
Our son was married the Saturday before Memorial Day and it was a weekend of family and friend time. It had been a while since I had been to a wedding, and we had a wonderful time celebrating our son and our new daughter-in-law as well her entire family.
School ended three weeks ago Wednesday and I finished the following day. It has been an interesting two and a quarter years since that last Tuesday’s Tune post – Tuesday’s Tune – Everything’s Not Lost.
The Friday’s weather, the first day of summer break, was sunny, warm, and perfect for watching the birds at the feeders in the backyard. I have placed the feeders so we can see them from the kitchen and sometimes I stop to watch the activity at the feeders. That first Friday afternoon, I looked out to watch for birds and I discovered an unusual bird latched to the tree bark. I stared and realized that it appeared it wasn’t a native bird. I was busy and when I came back later, it had flown off, and didn’t think anything about it the rest of the night.
The next morning, I was putting the trash out when I saw a bird walking in the street, it was the same bird I had seen the day before in our backyard. I bent down to pick up the bird and he climbed on to my finger and I picked him up. I guessed the bird was a pet and it had a purple (mauve) band on its left leg. A neighbor who had been walking his dog stopped to help and neither he nor I knew anyone in our neighborhood who had a pet bird. I placed the bird on a tree branch and took a photo so I could post a “have you lost your bird” post to our neighborhood’s Facebook page. I then headed off to Loaves and Fishes for my regular Saturday morning volunteer shift.
in the street, walking
in the tree
in Fern’s crate
I couldn’t get the bird off my mind, I knew it was some family’s pet, and I felt guilt for not doing more to reunite the bird and its family. So, I turned around when I was almost halfway to Loaves and Fishes so I could retrieve the bird and put him (I was assuming it was a ‘him’) in Fern’s crate until after my shift. Fortunately, Fern and Ivy were (and still are) up north at the lake with my wife and daughter – which is a good thing, because if Fern had been in her yard, the bird wouldn’t have fared well. The bird was where I had left it and it got on my finger right away. I took it inside and placed the it in Fern’s crate, gave it some water, and birdseed, created the “have you lost your bird?” post, and headed off to Loaves and Fishes for my shift.
It’s the third week of self-quarantine and I am as hopeful as I was when I penned my last post, Abundance.
Yes, I AM hopeful. Positive. Confident. Certain.
When I started writing and blogging at Making the days Count almost ten years ago, it was a choice. It was a choice to make my day better every day, even when I failed or fell, or came up short. I chose to look at the ways I could do better. I am still learning.
After I clicked PUBLISH on Abundance, I called upstairs to my wife, B,
“Church at 11,” I made another cup of coffee and went upstairs showered and dressed for church.
It was a bright sunny day. It was a big blue cloudless sky. When I started the car, Coldplay’s song “Everything’s not lost” began to play.
My car’s radio and my iPhone connect and sometimes a song from iTunes begins to play when the car starts. iTunes selects a random song, most of the time I stop the music, that morning I let the song play.
….If you ever feel neglected
If you think all is lost
I’ll be counting up my demons yeah
Hoping everything’s not lost
The church we attend is a short drive and the song, “Everything’s not lost,” was almost over when I parked the car. Chris Martin crooned,
I don’t let it stand in our way
‘Cause my head just hates when I think of
The things that I shouldn’t have done
But life is for living, we all know
And I don’t wanna live it alone
That Sunday’s church service was uplifting, and I left church knowing that everything’s not lost
Since that service on the Ides of March, we’ve been to e-church and we will continue to do so until the COVID19 crisis is over.
My weekly challenge was to remember my favorite song from five years ago and listen to it. I have no idea what I was listening to five years ago but it certainly was not on the top 100 from July 2013. I had an idea, a better idea, and I went back 40 years to when I was 16; the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. That was the summer of all sorts of memories.
This past Sunday afternoon, we drove north. I had a driver for the first hour and the last hour. My daughter O is working on her driving hours and loves driving. It gave me time to go back in time – 40 years – to the summer of ’78. I checked the top 40 from July ’78. I recognized most of the top 10 but my memory took a jolt when I read #14 – Miss You by the Rolling Stones. That song took me back and brought back all sorts of memories and I found my song…. But first… how I got there.
I turned 16 in November ’77, but I couldn’t get my driver’s license I hadn’t completed the required behind the wheel driving training. Instead of taking driver’s ed during the summer, like all of my peers, I had been visiting by dad in England for five weeks. I took the driver’s training during winter break of my sophomore year and was ready to get my license in January of ‘78. January in Houston, Texas is cold, but not nearly as cold as January where I now live – there is no comparison.
I am the oldest in my family, so I was the first of the kids to get my license and the first child to teach my mom all sorts of lessons she and her sister probably did not teach their parents when they were growing up in the fifties.
When my parents divorced, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia and a year later he and my step-mom moved to London, England. Whatever he had, he took with him or put in storage except for the 1969 blue Volkswagen Beetle. It was stored in the garage. I had my name on it. Or rather, I had put my name on it.
For a 16-year-old boy in 1978, having your driver’s license is cool, having a car a car is even cooler. Once I got my license, I began to drive the ‘blue bug.’ I could drive to work and back and had to ask permission beyond that. The little blue bug had air conditioning, but it didn’t work and the radio had AM only. I had a job and made minimum wage as a busboy and dishwasher at my next-door neighbor’s Italian restaurant. By March, I had scrimped and saved enough money to purchase an in dash 8-track cassette player and FM\AM radio and a couple of speakers for the blue bug. I had barely enough money leftover to buy two 8-track tapes – I picked Van Halen’s debut album and Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. I listened to those constantly.
The blue bug was nothing brag about. Beside the AC not working, there was a hole in the passenger side floorboards caused by battery acid spillage. A friend of my mom’s helped with a fix and the radio and speakers were an improvement. To make up for the lack of AC the blue bug had side windows which could tilt inward and force air into the car. But driving it in the hot Texas spring and summer was pretty uncomfortable and perspiring was the norm. Continue reading Day 29 – Miss You→
It’s Saturday morning and I am Up North for three days – Saturday, Sunday, and part of Monday. I am not counting Friday, because we arrived a little after midnight this morning. We left home Friday afternoon along with thousands of others escaping Chicagoland for one last moment along the lakeshore with family.
It’s an old photo, but it perfectly captures the spirit of the lake.
School is back in session and the routine and structure of a daily schedule has returned. It’s a good thing, but it means less time to write. I’ve been yearning to write, but haven’t, I’ve had other things besides school on my mind.
First thing – Harvey
If you’ve been reading Making the Days Count for a while you may know that I am from the Houston area and all but one of my family members live in the area. I lived in the Houston area for the first part of my life from the early 60s until I moved away in 1987. In all that time, I remember only a couple of tropical storms and one hurricane – Alicia in 1983. Since then, the area has been hit by several large hurricanes and tropical storms. Recently by Hurricane Harvey this past weekend. Fortunately, all of my family are safe and their homes weren’t affected by the flooding. But there were thousands of area residents and many folks who my family members know who were impacted by the flooding.
Last night as I drove north, I talked to my mom and she shared all of the good things that are happening in the Houston area. I’ve read the stories about how the community is coming together to help those affected by the storm. It renews my faith and makes me #HoustonSTRONG. Continue reading Three things for Saturday→
Flashback to 1989, I was younger and living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had roamed west in ’87 away from south Texas – yearning to make it on my own.
Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to
Without wings, without wheels
Summers are for exploring and roaming. I am fortunate to have a profession where I have summers off and time to rest, relax, restore, and explore. Many folks think all teachers do over summer break is play, but that’s not the case most teachers are busy with learning or rethinking ways to be a better teacher. But that’s not what today’s Tuesday’s Tune is about.
It’s is a wonderful world, indeed. When I first heard Sam Cooke croon,
Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
I was watching Animal House with John Belushi and laughing as only a teenager can. I’ve grown up, it’s been almost 40 years since I watched Animal House. I was in high school and dreaming of college, and I didn’t know much about history, or the French I took. I knew everything, or thought I did.
It was the start of my junior year in high school and it was the year which changed my life. Seriously, no kidding.
Fast forward and I am much older, more experienced, and I still don’t know much about history and every day I am reminded of how much I still don’t know, and yet I still yearn to learn more and grow each day – to make every day count.
Yesterday was American Independence Day. It’s the day Americans, like me, take to celebrate our freedom and independence. Many gather to barbecue and watch fireworks, still others, like me and my family, travel to be with family. We are by the lake, where we have celebrated the Fourth of July as a family for as long as I can recall.
Our family tradition began in after B and I married in ‘91, and with exception of a handful of years, I’ve been here on the Fourth ever since. At first, we celebrated with B’s parents and her sisters and their families. Then they moved away and they weren’t able to be here for the holiday and it was just our family and B’s parents. Then life intervened and her dad passed away in June of ‘14, then her mom followed in late ’15. Now it is us and we continue to get travel north and enjoy the lake with our friends we’ve grown to know along the lake.