Monday, December 29, 2014

Trying to breathe

Without coughing, that is. It's the rib breaker old man cough often with a little gag thrown in at the end for style. It's never ending nature is endearing, however.  Zoe went back to the doctor today for a rash that developed after strep throat... Which can be a bad sign, but it was just an allergic reaction to antibiotics. The doc said that this virus we all have might actually be the flu this year... Figures.  It brings to mind a line in a song by Sam Baker (first new artist I have listened to in a long long time)... The line is "suffering heals all pain"... From "healing angels" ... But my lung expulsions are not quite the same as what happened to Sam - he was on a bus to Machu Picchu and a bomb exploded in the luggage rack above him - he's got some serious damage and a hell of a story... And he didn't start writing songs until after the explosion. He has traumatic brain injury too and it affects his lyrics and rhythm... Though genius emerges in a simplistic Dylan-esque way.  "Broken Fingers" is about the kid in the seat facing him on that bus, who died along with his parents... Might as well listen to angel hair too, if this post has turned into a plug for Sam Baker.

On the flip side, I put in the water line and wire... In a 100 foot trench dug 2-3 feet deep by shovel.  That was a lot of digging. Thankfully, Ashley helped the other day while I coughed.  The waste line will go in the same trench but I didn't get to that today... Next time. Once that is done, heck the place is livable:). Slowly but surely.  

I thought I would be further along by now... 

The trench ended up waist deep...

Monday, December 22, 2014

The longest night

A nod to the solstice and an acceptance of this sickness that has taken the family (and now me) and has turned so many nights into "the longest night". Also not to be mistaken with one of my favorite Billy Joel songs "the longest time". Back on track - the longest night has passed and light once again makes advances back into our lives. I love this cycle of nature on this planet... Thank you giant planetoid that bashed the early earth to smithereens and rocked us 22.5 degrees off our axis... Te quiero a la Luna.  It's a nice reminder that days get dark, but they brighten again. Even when the world seems to end (metaphorically and physically) the sky eventually clears and we emerge into a new world... Similar to the one we knew, but also fundamentally different...challenges and blessings that occur within our lives sometimes, but often extend beyond lifetimes ... This is what comes to mind when the bright moon shines on the shortest night. Beautiful manifestations and reminders of past cataclysms... The only tragedy being not facing them, appreciating them in the dark and cold... Beauty in all things at all times. Christmas time is here again.

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Are paths that narrow?
Do they have to be so carefully stepped?
Does the past change our path?
Or does it just slow our feet?
Forgive and walk forward. 
Or don't.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A bad term comes to a close

This school term that is ending must be one of my worst ones in my career.  I just kind of sucked this year and to make it worse, I am not quite sure why.  Wow, this is humbling.  I don't know what to say.  I feel like I should have this thing dialed in and I quite simply don't.  I can't explain it and that is going to wear on my mind for a bit.

Oh well - yet another lesson to learn.  On the positive side, Jose and Luis came by yesterday and we spent 3 hours catching up.  Luis gave me a Drake CD for christmas :)  Those two kids have now become men and I am so proud of them and grateful that they are in my life.  They think that I worked to help them, but I think that it was reciprocal.  If students like that were not in my life, I think I might have to back out of teaching.  Thanks, amigos.

(45 minutes passes)

Leave it to my daughters to roll back that fog... its just Adia and Esme with me here tonight and we cooked a breakfast dinner while dancing to Thriller... and then to the rest of Michael's greatest hits (with one break for Maroon5's "Ladykiller" ... because its Adias favorite song... she's such a funk kid, I love it).  Feeling much better.  Yep, I failed this term.  Next one will be better.  It is what it is, and I am what I am.  Look around, accept the situation, get up, take a step.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Just a weekend...

The sublime weekend... the word never meant to me what it actually means.  Unless you are talking about going from a solid to a gas...  To me the word always had a ring of it loneliness?... reverberating through the golden beams of light.  This was by my standards a fantastic weekend.  I threw my hammer in the back of my motorcycle and spent most of Friday evening... long into the dark and very cold putting up the loft at the barn.  My ipad lasted until the very moment I tried to take a picture as I left.  I almost finished the floor.  The drive home was freezing as I had already pretty much frozen there before I left - but it was satisfying.  The next morning Ash went to sell some rabbits and pick up our new billy goat (a little Nigerian Dwarf) while me and the kids made up a pretty cool game and generally lolled about.  Later Ash and I redid fencing and generally took care of farm stuff... which is actually quite fun to do together.  The sun was shining.  We ate a wonderful venison dinner and simply passed out.  Today I found myself at Charlie's farm sitting in the dark with a rifle watching the dawn arrive and the stars pop out one by one.  I saw no deer but I did find owl scat, a perfect dead dry oak tree that I cut up for firewood, and as I walked about.... a small hole in ground that breathed its warm breath in my face.  At home we all tinkered with the animals and the pastures they are in... I watched as my daughter hopped on a horse bareback and rode it up the road while my other two daughters walked goats behind her.  I took the kids back to the farm to pick up the wood I cut and we just had a perfect time... the kids explored and climbed and told stories from clues left behind from animals, Zoe ran after a hawk above trying to get a glimpse of an identifying mark... later telling me about the subtle differences between accipiters and buteos.  Adia dying to dig up a snake.  All 3 super excited over a mouse nest found under a scrap of tin.  We revisited the blowing hole and dug out as much as we could in the warm sprinkling rain.  I hope that Jason and I can dig in and that I could have a nice little cave project here a few miles from the house.  The sinkholes there are amazing... it would be nice to find a cave that goes.  Adia wants to come back tomorrow to dig... that kid... later she pulled her tooth out... another job for her tooth fairy that writes her at insane hours on the nights she looses teeth, regardless of how bad he.. I mean "she" wants to catch up on sleep.  Back home I split the wood that we hauled back and I came in pretty exhausted.  Upon Kathy's and Ash's suggestion I drew the hottest bath I could and the coldest Sam Adams... and just soaked.. while reading some Norse mythology... left in the bathroom from Zoe :)  While in there I realized how sublime this weekend was... perfect days.  Sublime.  However they are tinged with the realization that they are perfect NOW and not to be repeated in the future... I will age and die - my children will grow - the seasons will change and the perfect NOW will be replaced by other perfect NOWs ... but these perfect moments will not come again.  Life is sublime and I mean that in my definition of it... tinged with a bit of nostalgia and lonliness, but no less perfect... like a Cure song....

Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Zoe!

11 years.  Wow.  I still remember driving home from the hospital with you - I couldn't believe that they allowed us to take you home.  I remember being somewhat terrified.  You have grown so well through the years - I wish time would slow a bit, but I am so grateful to see you become that amazing person you are.  Happy Birthday, Kiddo.

I love you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Adia... 3 years

Ten-Ten, diagnosis day for Adia.  Its been 3 years now and Adia is doing great.  Quite a blessing - but I shall never, never, never forget that blood sugar reading that night 3 years ago when the weight of the number crushed me... when I knew life would never be the same again.  I even knew at that moment that there would be blessings from it, but it was the knowledge that we had lost the life we knew that flattened me. 

But life turned out well, it was just not what I thought it would be.

I shall always try to be grateful for this day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fall 2014

Fall approaches and life changes again.  My daughter is growing up.  I find myself like the season - each day shorter than the next.  Amazing things keep happening like a harvest of the soul, but the sheer abundance makes my head swim.  Gain, loss, change.... wash, rinse, repeat.  I fear and welcome winter..

I am a tree at this time of year
no grand oak or frasier fir
a buckeye perhaps
hidden and interesting

and desperate

the night overtakes the day
time is no longer a friend
in the sweltering thinness
I smell winter

the storms that shaped my branches
pruned me and splintered
my soul
may rage again

or may not

and so I race against the waning day
preparing but not quite ready
to face that icy kiss
barren and naked

In painful eternal repeat
I summon my strength
to light up the sky again
and bask in the chilly glow

of a perfect day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Change... my hungry friend.

"Summer has gone and passed, the innocent can never last..." -- Green Day

Headed to our future.... though the present is pretty sweet
Like the seasons, life continues to change, become, and cycle around again.  I am not so much happy for life's changes, I am in a place of trying to appreciate them.  Every change involves a loss and a gain and a move through time... and time just seems to be flying by.  So I am going to try to simply be and appreciate where I am... not looking too far forward or too far back.

NOT EASY.  But (to use an odd descriptor)... its good I think.

I am getting ready for school to begin again but this time ... for the 7th time... it will be at a new school.  We finally made the decision to follow our dream and move up to Konnarock.  Financially, it was sort of a move that needed to be made - but in making the decision, we were freed from... indecision.  Sounds funny, but indecision is quite an anchor for me.  Anyway, in making the decision, we have listed our house in Glade, sold our milk cow and calf (we still have Peg of course), I have switched schools to Holston HS in Damascus, and we are working on a barn type structure that will get us through the winter.

On the flip side, as we walk toward the future, we walk away from the past and that's difficult for me.  It was tough to leave Abingdon HS and my students there.  It was a pretty profound 5 years for me there and I learned a lot about who I am and who I am not.  Its tough to leave Glade right as the community and Town Square is stepping into its own... The fact that I am leaving a place that has a green grocer, library, and brewery within walking distance, is a bit hard to stomach.

However, when I lay in the river up on the mountain to wash away the sweat of the day, I know I am......  
headed to where.... heart is.

The following are just some pics from the summer and from building the barn.  I hope to be done with the roof this weekend.  Y'all have a good last bit of summer....

The light at the end of the tunnel... is home. 

Post hole digging.... still hurting from that

Jason and Eric.  Thank you for being in my life

Poles, view 2 
Jason, Eric, Jose, and Luis.  
Almost done - but the ridge cap and trim is not on yet... (well, its on, but I don't have a picture yet:)
This is my first cave map - surprisingly enough it is the product of many hours of work and I am terribly proud of it.  Thank you Jason for teaching me.  A trip description is at the Walker Mountain Grotto blog

Kids in the Salt Trail cave that was mapped above.  Its a fun little cave and right on the Salt Trail

Yep, good stuff.

Friday, April 18, 2014


So... my year of hypocrisy is finally drawing to a close.  The new McGlothlin folks have been chosen and my presentations are done.  I have learned much...and I got to go to Finland.  The overall conclusions I am coming to are kind of subtle and I will try to explain in this trip report.

I was rather proud of the trip - it is usually a bit difficult to get into Helsinki schools, but with my good friend, Google Translate, I was able to track down and email many of the schools in Helsinki and play the numbers game.  Many did not respond, but I think the nicest did email back - and I was able to set up an itinerary.

I got to the Tri-Cities airport at 3pm on a Saturday and due to a little problem in Atlanta I got to Finland at 2am on Monday.  Luckily I had already booked a hotel.... oh, wait... no I didn't.  However, as luck would have it, I found the last person awake in the airport and got the name of a good cheap hotel near the main station in Helsinki.  It turned out perfect....

and it had a killer sauna.... almost as nice as a day at the beach

By 8am on that same Monday, I was in a really cool Steiner School (Waldorf).  I was blown away by the atmosphere of the school - and I got to talk to some rather amazing teachers for quite awhile... an event that replayed itself ad infinitum it seemed throughout the trip.

This is an 8th grade class - the theme was "fitting in and being exact" - this was just after I had listened to a play they had made themselves... the songs are at the end of this post.

I went that evening to have tea with an American teacher in Helsinki - Tim Walker - who keeps a wonderful blog and has a unique perspective on Finnish Education.  Taught by Finland  I walked to his house and had quite a wonderful time with his two kids and wife.  Toward the end, we took his older child to the park ... in the deepening dark and rain... everyone was still out.  No biggie there.  Some good clips of conversations with Tim are at the end.

The next morning I went to the High School of Natural Sciences - Helsingin luonnontiedelukio  - This was in a converted office building... None of the schools there looked like our schools... I guess the "hospital/prison" theme just never caught on....

Above and below are taken during break... they have a 15 minute break between classes... and so therefore they shorten each class by 15 minutes (compared to us)... so yes, they go to school less than us and they outperform us.  And they do not do standardized testing... and they take breaks during the day.... and the teachers are the ones who are trusted with not only creating curriculum, but implementing it.  There is plenty that one cannot compare between US and Finnish schools, its true.... but there is plenty that one can compare.

Then it was to beloved Tölö specialiseringsgymnasium  - this school specialized in arts/music... I think... but it was especially beloved to me because I found Niki - a wonderful teacher there who is partnering up with me to connect our students across the ocean.

Niki standing on the stage of the auditorium that was carved out of granite... visible in the walls at the back.

Finally to Gymnasiet Lärkan - this was another Swedish speaking school - turns out that 3 of the 4 schools I went to were Swedish speaking - the Swedes said that happened because they were more friendly than the Finns:)  - the country has 2 major languages - the street signs have both Swedish and Finnish names.  I spent a lot of time that day talking to the principal, teachers, students, and even a parent who was the school board president.  It summed up my trip perfectly.  Details below.

Here is the short short version of what I learned:

Structurally, the school system is different than what we have here.  And being a social welfare state, many things are very different....  However, I asked each teacher I met - "what do you value most about being a teacher in Finland?"  and the answer was unequivocally "FREEDOM".  They were free to be teachers.  They were the professionals - they decided what was needed in their school and were trusted to create the environment necessary.

This is odd for an American to realize that a (*gasp!*) Socialist state has a level of Freedom that I almost cannot comprehend.

They have not fallen in to the pit of standardized high stakes testing death that we have here.  In fact, oddly enough, there is no word in Finnish for "Accountability".  This seems bizarre and I asked a few principals "well how then do you know when a teacher is not performing?"  Their answer was essentially "everyone knows how various teachers are performing.. word gets out"  It seemed rather odd to me, but it was also explained that by having the lack of pressure, then each teacher is allowed to develop... to fail at times... and then of course, to succeed.

You (anyone) can go into Finnish schools and FEEL the difference... the pressure is not there... teachers have tea with each other on break and talk about life and education and connect.... It makes it possible to work together as a coherent unit for the benefit of the school and students.  I explained that I pretty much don't have time to pee during the day, let alone talk to any of my colleagues in a meaningful way.  They shook their heads:)

In summary, the teaching was no better than what goes on here, the students are no more amazing... granted, by the HS level, the students there are the ones who have chosen an academic path... so that is a big difference. However, the PISA results (international test of 65 countries - Finland=top 5 and US=high 30s) are taken from the 9th grade - still in compulsory time... which is exactly the same sampling of students that we have here.  The schools were smaller.  But really the difference was in the FEEL of the school.  It was a feeling of FREEDOM and TRUST...

Now, what the hell am I going to do with that?  At one time when my ego was really out of control, I thought I would bring a road map to success back with me.  I don't think that anymore.  I really don't know what I am going to do.  Perhaps its not for me to do anything.  I have been given a vision of possibility that I cannot unsee.  And it affected me profoundly.  But its subtle.  Right now and perhaps for the rest of my life, I am going to concentrate on the things I can do.... I can focus on connecting with the amazing teachers in my own school (wherever that might be) and helping to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning.  I am officially going to no longer give a $h1t about standardized testing because we are harmed more by it than the pathetic data is worth.  And in general I am going to try to fade to the background and live a more balanced life.  There you go.

Admittedly, my pictures suck and there is not a single one with me in it:)  But I did record many hours of conversation.... Below is a link to the files.  These were added with some crazy html stuff - and they run off of quicktime, so in case your computer does not play them - you can access them here.  You should see the quicktime player - but if you don't, be sure to allow quicktime to run on this site.  Below are clips of conversations - most are pretty short, but a few of the music ones are long.

These first clips are about school structure - kind of nuts and bolts stuff.

This one is a bit funny (or sad - if you are from Washington County and you are offended by having to clock in)

 The rest of these are in general the essence of what I learned in Finland....  The good stuff.

And here are a few music clips - the first one is taken from the Steiner school and is long - but its quite wonderful...

This last Chili Peppers tune was recorded in a school there ... in class:)   The Chilis have always been special to me - since my favorite U-19 soccer team was named "The Red Hot Chili Peppers" back in 1991:)  Seemed like a nice universal circle of life thing.

Y'all have a good day.

PS - Other reasons I like Finland...

Trails everywhere - and exposed granite... you can travel real trails throughout the city all the way to the Arctic Circle 

Bikes.... Love, Love, Love the bikes....

This is the main train/tram/bus station....

This is just a bit pretty - I was wandering through the city...

While I was totally lost one night I ended up on this path... its not a road for cars... the left side is for walkers, the right side is for bikes.... ah, my kind of city.
And I simply love this one.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jan-Feb 2014

Happy 41st.... 31 years with diabetes.  I am certainly glad that the hat is covering the bald spot. Other than that, all is pretty much going well.

Well the pictures pretty much speak for themselves.  Its been a good start to the new year.  Its been snowy and we've had a lot of snow days... which I totally should have been catching up on school stuff, but I haven't had my mind on school much.  Its been a good family time, a time to return to what matters.  I have been caving with Jason a fair amount and I have really found a new passion.  Surveying caves at a slow, deliberate pace... sometimes in cold water, sometimes in serious discomfort, sometimes in awfully tight spaces, always muddy, sometimes on very slippery slopes, ... is a remarkably peaceful and joyful time.  The heavy stillness underground is just so comforting... when inside the Earth, the "world" just fades into the dark silence.  To make it even more amazing, I get to learn to survey from a true pro and we can spend decades exploring caves within minutes of our home.  The other night we pushed a few hundred feet of amazing virgin passage that was actually 5 minutes from my house.  If you want to see more of that go to Walker Mountain Grotto's blog - the Tunnel.
Just an example of survey data - not mine

Here is the reason for the post.  We finally made the commitment for the DEXCOM.  For those insulin-producers among us, the Dex is a constant glucose monitoring system.  Adia has been riding the roller coaster recently and has been getting low at night - that was the deciding factor.  So nice to be able to see how she is trending and to not have to stick her finger at least once in the middle of the night.  I am generally not one to embrace technology, but this one is a life saver.

Above ground, life continues to amaze me.  The kids are doing great.  Adia is now on the Dexcom and our concept of being a diabetic has changed again... for the better, I think.   Adia seems to love it - though having a sensor on her is not my thing.... but I don't always know best.  Last night she dropped twice... the Dex woke us up when she was 80 and we treated quick and went back to sleep.  The second one was at 6am so not that big a deal.  Its quite a pricey bit of equipment, but I am thinking that it is worth it.  Still in our honeymoon period though.  So reports will follow.

First time - 4 Ahns on a quad lift... it was really pretty sweet.

I took the kids to go ski the other day - and for the first time ever, ALL THE KIDS WERE SKIING ON THEIR OWN.  Wow.  Time goes on and kids do grow up.  The only bad thing is that now that I am almost able to go off on my own at the slope but I might be getting too old to do dumb stuff:)  Actually I can still do dumb stuff, I just can't heal from it anymore:)  We had a big snow and so we also had a bunch of fun around the house - here is a quick video of two of my passions... my kids and caving....

We butchered our steer recently.. and by "we" I mean Ash and I... just us.  It was quite a circle of life thing to have raised a cow, and been close to it, and to recognize its personality... to then end that life.  Everything went perfect, but it was still emotionally difficult.  However, it reinforced my personal philosophy that there is value in being actually connected to what we eat.  I built the hanging room and we butchered it up ourselves at a reasonable pace... even had quite a great cutting party and cookout with Eric H and Lori P and her kids.  It was a great experience - something I never thought possible until we did it.

I continue to learn lessons and to recognize aspects of myself that I never gave light to.  Ashley and I continue to connect in ways I never could have imagined... to discover someone that I thought I knew so well is a true gift (though I haven't figured out if I am referring to Ash or myself - doesn't matter that much, though, the result is the same)  Its quite a lot like caving.  When it seems like one is at the end of a passage, air is felt coming from a very uncomfortable place.  The decision is made to go forward or to back out.... and after some digging and struggling and crushing weight on your chest, you make it through to a place you suspected existed but had no idea how to get there... and then it just keeps going, more amazing and beautiful the deeper you go....

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year

How funny?  I wrote a post last year and never hit publish.  So here is is.  A full year late.  I don't think I was done actually, but here it is.  Parts of it seem like a lifetime ago.

Happy New Year! But I want to revisit 2012 before I move on. Around this time last year, Scott M came to help out AT2 ( we started up as a real program. It was pretty amazing to actually be becoming what we were heading for... perhaps a theme for the year. However, it wasn't easy - time got pushed to the limit for me and other things began to suffer. I stopped doing much of anything for myself and my family and day to day teaching felt the pinch. Oddly enough I got to be golden teacher boy last year - just as my concept of teaching really began changing - I feel like I am becoming what I am headed for and that is not someone who should win a bunch of traditional teaching awards. Of more significance than all that was that 2012 was the year of the outdoor shower:) I built a solar shower the year before but we plumbed it for hot water this year. Holy cow... I can't believe I went most of my life without realizing how rich life could be... another 2012 theme I think. Cold, snowy, rainy, hot, clear, cloudy, dark, sunny, meteor-showery, windy, calm, thunder-stormy... perhaps we are inside too much, but that few minutes in that hot water tonic actually feeling the weather, has been good for me to say the least. I paid attention to spring more last year. I searched for Morels for the first time and I identified some plants again... basically opened my eyes to nature more than I had in too long. We continued our experiment in trying to homestead a bit - we moved a bunch of garden to around the house (edible landscaping) - started a few new beds - gave up on our main garden earlier than the year before (will do better this next year... hopefully:) - birthed goats, and a cow - sold goats - raised some huge turkeys - milked - and are now starting into rabbits. The experiment started with Jon and Carole is still going on and still really sublime. We bought some land up on the mountain near everything I hold dear - the AT, a great clear river, tons of public land, the Creeper Trail.. and I spent some of the summer reclaiming it - our goal was to build cheap... as in practically indigenous - but we are finding ourselves torn between this little up and coming town and being way out there. For instance, Zoe rode to the library a few days ago by herself - checked out the book she wanted and zoomed back. That is rather sweet. And Glade Spring is really moving in a great direction - focusing on local, sustainable products and artists. So our plans are in limbo. Another theme? The children have grown. I am not sure how to think about this. Zoe is riding horses now and working some at her trainers barn - she reads constantly and has a vocabulary that blows my mind. She is at that twilight of kid-dom.. I just hope it lasts as long as it can - it was just yesterday that I feel like she was just a baby. It just goes by so fast... Adia is a rock star diabetic. I couldn't be happier. Her A1Cs have been mid 7, she never complains ever when it comes to testing or taking shots. She complains about everything else:) but why not complain about diabetes? I am beyond grateful for that... I almost can't feel that hole in my heart every time I pierce her skin. But Adia is way more than a diabetic - she is my risk taker, and she seems to be teaching herself to read rather quickly... she is an artist and list maker... but she draws the lists (christmas list, grocery list, to do lists)- that is just too good. Esme is no longer a baby and now the baby phase of our lives has passed. That is both a relief and a little sad. Es is the one who is, as they used to say, "full of spirit". She's a fighter and a lover. First to swing and the first to notice when someone is hurting. She sees no difference between herself and her sisters - so she is always trying to do what they are doing .. and usually accomplishing it. Loove. Then winter came and sleep went away with the day length. I always thought I knew myself or that I was "already there" or something stupid like that... well the universe has taught (is teaching?) me that I am still becoming what I am heading for... and because I don't really know for certain what I am heading for, its causing me some issues. Perhaps it is just some sort of mid-life thing, but I really feel like my eyes are opening. The problem is that my eyes seem to be opening a bunch at night:) Oh well - I wouldn't trade it for anything... even a good night's sleep. So we are finally at the last day of the year and after I spent the morning organizing stuff (which does not put me in a good place), my mind was a mess and so I went for a 10 mile run. I hadn't done that in a year and a half and I returned feeling much better. The kids and I then went to TN quick to pick up some fireworks and all was well. Then Ash found a chicken dead in the field. I went up to look at it and the back of the head was gone as was the bottom of the legs. I went to check the other chickens... 9 of 17 were mising. It gets better. Charlie - our livestock guardian dog - was going nuts that night and I went out twice to yell at him... something on the order of "CHARLIE!! if you don't shut up.. I'm gonna..." He was at the gate to the field. I almost went to go let him in but then because I am an idiot and it was freezing cold and the 30 feet to the gate seemed like a long way... I just went back inside. While we are searching for chickens...Ashley's mom had gone home quick to feed her cat and then found the cat dead. Ash and I found that cat 17 years ago while on a run... back when Ash ran and I really just went to be polite. It was time for ol Chloe, but the timing was impeccable.