The Road

hi lj
Yowza, was October of 2009 really my last post here? Facebook and (my old) Twitter account probably had a lot to do with my absence. Communication has changed so much over the years on the Internet. There is an immediate pleasure associated with posting a short status update on Facebook or Twitter and it has apparently quelled my need to update LiveJournal. I struggle with the motivation to keep up a blog regularly. I always have. In the past I've typically let an account on this site lay dormant for a time, get bored or irritated with what I'd written in previous entries, delete it then create a new one. Not this time, not this account.

Where to begin with the latest in my life? Where work is concerned, I've gone from volunteering in a 1st grade class at a local elementary school to working as a state member for the Northwest Washington Reading Corps. Along with 55 or so other members strewn about Whatcom and Skagit counties, we work in Title 1 schools tutoring struggling readers.

My day kicks off before school starts helping some early birds with their homework. Soon after that we (me and my 2 wonderful NWWRC teammates) set up games and drawing materials in the cafeteria and hang out with kids while breakfast happens. Rainy days are the most insane during that time. When school starts I'm off to the primary area to do some 1 on 1 work with kinders. Throughout the day, I do 1 on 1 with 1st graders, group work with kinders and reading/ writing with a 3rd grade group. Lately the day ends after whatever after school program I'm involved with. From beginning to end, the day is long and I'm usually pretty spent. Mostly mentally. On top of the already busy day, I still volunteer for things like the chess club tournament, PTA events, etc. Along with my 2 teammates, we also threw a family literacy event at our school. Organizing that was a boatload of fun but wore me out like a 100 400 mile bike ride. I was really out of it for a few days afterward.

Life is busy, busy, busy. It's unfortunate I haven't been so great at keeping this space updated. So much has happened since October 26th of 2009! Every day is different, bringing new challenges, experiences and insight. Living in a new town, meeting new people. Making new friends and connections. Dates here and there. Exciting and sordid nights out. Subdued nights in.

I can look back on the last 2 years and generally be content in what has transpired.

Onward.

Introducing, Mr B.

hi lj

On my first day last week, I was officially crowned Mr. B, so there ya go. That's what the kids call me :)

This morning was my 2nd day of helping out at the school. I felt so much better this time around about how I was able to assist the kids.

The day starts out with the students reading on their own. They each have a bag of books from which to choose that are at their reading level. There are 4 or 5 students that I assist during this portion of the day and today I saw some real improvement! To see how it positively affected them and their demeanor when they saw their improvement too, is priceless. It's such an incredible feeling to know that I was a little part of that. One little girl in particular speaks nothing but Spanish at home, so when she's at school she has a bit of a time switching back to English mode during school, but today she did very well. I think I'm beginning to get the hang of how to effectively encourage the kids as well. Especially when they get shy and sink into their chair when they don't know a word. Little by little, I'm also learning.

The second activity today (which had me sharpening pencils part of the time) was Miss M., the teacher, reading a book to the class. Afterward, the kids were to recall parts of the story in regards to one of the characters and write down things about them on half of a sort of circle graph. On the other part they were to write down things about themselves. I worked with 2 students on this and was able to keep their attention quite well which was a little difficult for me last week. 1 little guy in particular seems easily distracted but today was much better and I was pleased with how he was more at ease in his interaction with me. A couple of the kids I work with are on the shy side but I can totally see that they're warming up to me. A lot like how I work, really, when I meet new people :p

I let Miss M. know that I'm able to commit to a full day in class on Mondays and she was rather excited to hear that. Honestly, I don't know how teachers do it! Working with all of these little people who need so much attention and help with something as vital as their education, it's mind boggling. I'm so happy to offer a tiny bit of my time in support of something so important.

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Do Goodn'

hi lj
Thursday was my first day at a local elementary school working with 1st graders. I was very excited about it but had no idea what the experience would be like. Turns out it's both more difficult and more fun than what I could have imagined. On one hand the kids I was placed with were fantastic little people with amazing personalities. Class clowns, shy kids, reserved. The one thing they had in common and in contrast to the rest of the class was an apparent lack of attention span or interest in what the curriculum was. This proved to be extremely challenging for me. I'll cut myself some slack, though, since it is only the first time I've worked with little ones in this capacity. Though my time there was enjoyable, I left feeling more useless than helpful to the students though I've been assured that that is not the case.

I called the VISTA in charge of volunteer recruits at the school and had a little chat regarding my experience in the class. She eased my concern about feeling a little useless by telling me that the more I'm there the more I'll get used to how each student ticks and what the best way to help them is. She offered to get together to have a chat about certain skills she's utilized in this field.

Going into this at the school, I was under the impression that I would just be helping a few kids with their reading skills, but really , as an individual coming in as a volunteer on his own time I can help with anything in the class. I'm thrilled by that as I am really excited to be doing this and can certainly use any experience interacting with the wee ones. I'd like to get to know what activities the teacher does in the class and what I could be doing with the few students who need some more one on one support. I've put the offer on the table of coming in for a full day a week and maybe another day for an hour. We'll see how that goes!

Yesterday was Make a Difference Day across the U.S. Whatcom Volunteer Center put forth some hard work that paid off. A breakfast at Bellingham High School was the official kick-off for almost 800 volunteers! I was recruited to help out in Birch Bay State Park. Removing litter from campgrounds as well as a little revegetation work. I was talking with the park ranger for a few minutes while I was doing the litter removal and expressed how disappointing it was to think that a person could just toss a can or yogurt container or whatever else into the park bushes. Like she stated, it really gives one a different impression of parts of humanity and it isn't a great one. Birch Bay is absolutely beautiful and I was happy to have the opportunity to help out for a few hours to help keep it that way.

New Beginning

hi lj

After being laid off of my job of 13 years back in Fresno, I was forced to think about what I wanted to do for work and more than that, what sort of career if any I wanted to pursue. A career? That just wasn't something I ever really thought about. With no educational background and a job that was comfortable and paid the bills, I let myself remain stagnant. I'll be the first to admit that change can sometimes be difficult for me and well, all I can truly say is that I was comfortable in where I was. I'm not a big fan of rocking the boat. Fear of water and all :)

I was fortunate enough to move to Bellingham with a number of really inspiring and amazing individuals in my network of friends. Listening to their experiences as well as a few other friends back home that also work with kids got my mind thinking and I soon began to think about a career in the education field. The idea of helping a little one with various skills in school which would in turn boost their self-esteem is work that I do believe would be rewarding for them as well as for me. More than anything, I want to do work that makes a positive impact on the world around us. In the past, working with children and anything education/ development related was not something I ever saw myself doing, but is something I find myself thoroughly excited about. I really have my friends to thank for that! There's so much positive energy in them, I can't help but be influenced.

Through some great connections with the Washington ReadingCorps program (namely, gishfish) I was able to connect with a few VISTA's at elementary schools here in Bellingham. I've been wanting to volunteer some time in town and gain some experience working with kids and I was able to set myself up with a great opportunity.

I met with a wonderful AmeriCorps VISTA today at a school just a few miles from where I live to go over paperwork and get myself familiar with school grounds. Met a few of the school staff, a couple of students and was told how volunteering with reading tutoring generally worked. It's a pretty small school with about 20 classes and I'll probably be set up with 1st or 3rd grade students.

I start next week so watch this space for updates on how it goes!

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Spin

hi lj

Watching Sex and the City always throws me for a good one.

The show gets a bad rap sometimes. I think mostly by people who haven't actually seen it. It does have the fantasy aspect of spendy fashion and some monied individuals and that helps with it being entertaining, but the meat of the show is truly about heart. Relationships, friendships, work, family, dating, marriage, children. A healthy dose of sex, for sure, but 95% of the time it's dealt with it's in a humorous fashion.

I don't know about anyone else who watches the show, but I can't help reflecting on my own life when watching. Perhaps that's why it was so massively popular and still has a devoted following. There's something in the writing and subject matter that is universal. I had to wonder.....

My dating life (or, lack of one) has been on my mind a fair amount since being here in Bellingham.* When I got here I decided to really set out and meet single men in the area. And well, not only single men. I suppose just networking in general was something I wanted to focus on. Seeing as how I turned into a hermit the last couple of years in Fresno, I thought it important for me to put myself out there in this small town. Why the need for a change in social behavior?

To be completely honest, because I am average. I believe, though of course I could be wrong, that the average person is an individual looking to find a romantic partner to share lifes experiences with. Eventually settle in body and mind, perhaps have a family. Grow older together.

It's definitely what I hope to have in my future. Sadly, in my recent past I felt like I was never going to find someone to have something serious with. There isn't anything happening currently that suggests it's in my future, but I do hold some hope that it exists somewhere. That hope is something new.

A recent posting by jentwo posed an interesting question: Do you believe in The One or in the idea of soulmates?

I really feel like the idea of The One is false and is perpetuated by popular culture. Music, movies, books. The idea is sweet and fantastical and may move book and movie ticket sales, but I just don't think it very realistic. Is there a guy out there that is meant specifically for me? I don't believe so. Is that a bad thing? Nope. One of my favorite quotes is from Candice Bergen's character in an episode of Sex and the City and is something I thought simple, yet quite profound.

"That's the key to having it all. Stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like."

Wise words, I thought. I won't ever lose that need for foolish romantic interaction and saccharine sweet intimacy, but the part of me that thought I was going to find 'that perfect guy' is a little more realistic. Perfection is not real. Everyone is imperfect. What would be perfection is finding that guy I can find some common ground with, to be on the same page of that cheesy romantic novel with.

*As well as a great many other things, mind you. Work, career, family. Everything, really.

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Oh woe, wooooe is me. Or not.

hi lj

I do love the winter weather and all of the assorted winter related scents in the crispy air.

Yesterday I went to REI and Trader Joes with Javier. He needed a rain/ cold weather jacket and we both needed some groceries. I'm sort of in love with Trader's frozen pizzas. Cha!

REI has long been a favorite place of mine to visit. All of the outdoor goodies inside their buildings enthral the wannabe outdoorsy man in me. I'm familiar enough with the cycling section and did get my Garmin Edge 705 mapping software there but I really, really want to rummage through all of the clothing and camping items they have. I don't think I've been camping in a couple of summers, and before that it had been a few years. I suppose I missed my first chance at going camping since being here. The cold is setting in and really, although I love pitching a tent (hee.... hee hee hee) I'm really not about freezing off my bits and pieces for the sake of enjoying the outdoors since I'm sure quite the opposite would take place right now.

I am, however, going to try my damndest to learn to ski this winter. I'm told it's fairly inexpensive up at Mt. Baker as far as other areas go. Snowboarding and cross country skiing don't really interest me, but who knows, eh? Moving to an area with so many outdoor possibilities within relatively close proximity to where I live seems like the perfect opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. I need to experience more.

Of course, I'll get around to all of that once I stop getting sick. I had the flu a few weeks ago and it seems another bug has invaded this ol' vessel of mine. Sore Throat has been my companion for the last week and as of yesterday, Head Pain has joined in on the party. They weren't invited and I really kind of wish they'd either get drunk and pass out in the alley or find some trick to leave with. Either way, they don't have to go home, but they can't stay here.

Go

hi lj

I ride my bikes here in Bellingham more than I ever did in Fresno. It's a nicer place for such activities, for sure. You can spot a large number of people doing it for recreation, but there are also a lot of people that obviously use their bikes for utility which I find very exciting. Wetter and colder weather is just over the horizon so I'm curious to see who else will be out there with me (foolishly or bravely?) sticking it out and hauling our cold, tired asses up these streets.

Speaking of the streets, they're a bitch sometimes. (Oh! Now I feel like putting on Stevie Nicks, 'Sometimes It's a Bitch'.... but anyway) I'd been told a few times that relying almost entirely on a bike around here is no small task and I'd be inclined to agree. (A fella at a bus stop once called me Superman as I was cresting a steep road. Gave me a good chuckle.) Fresno was unexciting in terms of the terrain. Flat. Flat, and more flat. Here in Bellingham there isn't anywhere I go that doesn't have some type of incline or rolling street. The street I live on alone has a 15% grade at it's peak. Hauling a weeks worth of groceries and/ or toiletries up it is at once a fun challenge and demoralizing when my stems want to give out.

Currently, my knees are giving me a bit of discomfort from all of the bike time lately so I've put off any long road rides that I'd been planning until they're feeling better. I really miss getting out on a good stretch of pavement and just riding for a few hours by myself. Watching the sun rise on my usual early morning jaunts is a calming experience and a hell of a way to start the day. It's too bad all of the utility riding I do is cutting into my favored hobby, but I hope to get the right balance of each at some point.

The Story So Far. (Or, Bits and Pieces.)

hi lj

It's been what, a few months since my move out here to Bellingham?

The chill is definitely on the way. I rode home after being out for a friends birthday at 3 a.m. the other morning and had forgotten my gloves. Stupid! The digits were numb. (No to mention any skin left without shield from the elements.) The seasons make themselves known here in Bellingham. Fresno more or less slides from summer into winter and vice versa and there isn't much notice of a change in seasons in between.

So many things here are a big change from Fresno but that shouldn't be misread as a complaint. When I decided to finally move out of that town I wanted it to be far enough away that wherever I ended up was nothing like it. Pretty much..... yeah. It's been amazing so far.

Not that there isn't still some more adjustment time needed for me. Still trying to find my way, a place where I feel like I fit. (Seems like that's what my life is, but maybe that isn't too uncommon?) The job search is difficult and there isn't any indication that that will change anytime soon. My living situation, while good, isn't ideal. I'm still partially living out of boxes so I just haven't felt settled and like it's my place.

For about the last week or so I've had a bit of a time dealing with the situation so far coupled with the fact that I miss my family and friends back home. I've met and continue to meet some very worthwhile and wonderful people here, but I left a lot of history with others back in Fresno. Obviously, it's going to take some time to make a place here where memories and experiences are concerned. Patience, patience. It's happening every minute of every day.

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Postcards From Italy

hi lj

Been listening to Gulag Orkestar by Beirut almost non-stop the last couple of days. Especially this song, Postcards From Italy. The old video footage in it is so dreamy with its washed out colors and takes me back to when I was younger and things were simple. At least, from my child mind things were. There was no war, there were no family problems, no worrying about the world economy. I just mindlessly danced a jig in the yard with my neighbor friends and rode my skateboard wildly down the street. Not caring if I slid across asphalt because papa would certainly clean me up and send me happily on my way. Man, back in Los Angeles I used to love to get a plastic shopping bag and pretend it was a parachute and jump off of my grandparents porch. Oh, and the convenience store down the alley had those candy rings I always loved, too. Those really were the days, weren't they?

On the verge of 31 years of age and a move out of state, I've had a lot floating around in my head. Not in a bad way, though. The crossroads I'm at in my life have me looking in 4 different directions but as Beirut would say, "The sunsets are all breathtaking".

Still trying to figure it out

hi lj

I have a total appreciation for watching the sun rise in the sky. I do. But, there are times when you've clearly not had enough sleep and can't appreciate it. That would be this morning.

It's creeping up on 6:45 and I've been up for over 2 hours just laying here. Birds chirping, nice summer breeze, floral scents coming through the window. For heavens sake, I wish I could enjoy it all!

Oh yeah, and my cat has discovered that one of the tall speakers in my livingroom is a great, braaaand new scratching post. I've basically been awake keeping him and his claws away from it. I mean, dude, that's why he has the couch. Ya know? I was planning on throwing it away before I move, so I gave it to him. He can have it. The entertainment system, that's mine, little guy.

This day isn't starting off the greatest, but I do have my Friday morning departure to Washington to look forward to. It'll be pretty sweet to escape this oppressive Fresno heat.

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