Friday, January 23, 2009

Another great hiking site

I have just discovered a wonderful hiking site that I can't wait to explore further:

As of this posting, there are 27 podcasts, featuring interviews with such trail luminaries as Baltimore Jack, Miss Janet, Wingfoot, PCT- Yo-yoer Scott Williamson, Brian Robinson, and others. Living in the Midwest isolates me somewhat from the long-distance hiking community. And I don't plan to leave this part of the country until at least 2010. So it is nice to hear the voices of many of the people I've met along the way.

Robert T. Butler III does the interviews. I hope he gets a chance to talk to the infamous Billy Goat. It will be hard to do because the ol' 'Goat is always hiking.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One Handsome Lad

Last Saturday Jonny sat for studio portraits at the JcPenney's in Spring Hill Mall. He played for about 20 minutes beforehand and was the most well-behaved toddler ever for the sitting. The photographer didn't earn her keep with him. I was suprised because over the holidays he purposely turned his head away or hid whenever anyone tried to take his photo.

I've downloaded all of the studio shots and posted them on Facebook. They're low-resolution. Send me an e-mail for a link to a site where you can order prints.

Here's a link to the Facebook album with all the photos:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A virtual escape

For years I have written in and read other journal entries at . It is one of my all-time favorite sites.

I recently had fantasy escape meet reality as a hiker posted an entry where he walked the Fox River Trail by my house.

Here is the guestbook entry I left at Slow Walker's page:

"I am an avid trailjournals reader and former thru-hiker (AT 00)(PCT 04) who lives in Elgin. The Fox River Trail goes through my yard. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to chance across your entry. It's a weird mixing of worlds because I religiously check out trailjournals to escape the so-called real world. When I read your Dec. 9 entry the real world and trail worlds collided. Anyhoo... stay warm and happy hiking! "

His profile picture kind of looks like Ernest Hemingway. Fitting, because he lives in Oak Park, IL.
Here is a picture he took of the "castle," literally a stone's throw from my front door!

Here is a link to his journal entry from the day he hiked by my place:
This hiker's experience reinvigorates me and reminds me that beauty and discovery are right outside my door.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Better days

Even though I was sick today...

...and this piles on a ton of work for me to do...

...and the weather is cold, gray, and yucky...

...and most of my plants have died except for the cacti...

...and my place is a mess...,


I've been loving my job lately. The rapport I've developed with my students has made for a mostly smooth running class. I've learned to not let the 1 in 5 who are do-nothing lumps get me down. The graduation rate at EHS is 81 percent. These lumps are to be expected. I asked my third hour class what I could do to be a better teacher. One wise student said to focus less on the students who don't care and more on those who do.

Of course, I will go through the usual protocols with the lumps, including parent phone calls and conferences, and offers to do make up work. But the burden of somehow trying to "connect" with them, to inspire them to "turn it around," is off my shoulders. I checked the student profiles of the lumps when I got back from Christmas break and discovered that the students who are failing my class are failing all of their classes.

It's really hard to fail my class. I accept late work. I give alternative make-up assignments, which, as any good teacher knows, often entails a lot of extra work. I guide them to tutors and provide work packets to help them overcome known deficiencies. This is all I can do. It has been a difficult lesson, but I have to let the lumps go, recognize them for the young adults they are or are becoming. But it is so hard to see young people throwing away their opportunities before my very eyes. This is the hardest part about teaching at a school that does not meet AYP, facing a wall of apathy each day and trying to overcome it with enthusiasm and a desire to share in learning.


but here are some of my New Year's resolutions.

In 2009, I will try to:

-- do more creative writing and journal at least 10 minutes a day.
-- lose 20 pounds and get back to my target weight of 200.
-- take up jogging again.
-- lift weights again.
-- keep exploring my new environs in Chicagoland by foot, train, and bike.
-- definitely not use a credit card. This is a carryover from last year. I haven't actually used one since October.
-- make new friends and keep in better contact with my current friends.
-- attend a church on an at-least semi-regular basis. I'm leaning towards the Unitarian Universalist church because they're the least dogmatic.
-- give up drinking coffee every day. I can't stand the idea of being addicted to anything. My students have noticed my calmer demeanor and encourage me to lay off the caffeine.
-- continue my good sleeping habits, which I think is a huge key to good health.
-- eat out less.
-- do not eat any fast food. (so far, so good). To quote a song I wrote for my punk band, Tallheaded Woody, "Ronald MacClown can go [Blagojevich] himself."
-- play more music and write at least five new songs. So far, I'm almost finished with one new song.
-- play out more at open mic nights in the area. My last time out in November went very well because I practiced my butt off beforehand.
-- embrace calm
-- live simply
-- spend as much quality time with my son as possible
-- enjoy Esther's companionship and don't worry about putting a label on what we have. In Facebook parlance, "It's complicated." But we've been through everything in the past 18 years of dating, marriage, post-marriage, etc., so it's bound to be. I accept that and will not try to run away from nor try to make anything more out of what we have.
-- accept my friends and family for who they are
-- worry less about being understood and strive more to understand

That's about it for now.