Monday, July 14, 2014

I Have No Skills

I am amazed at the lack of skills I have. To illustrate that point, let me tell you a story about a shirt.

Last September, I bought a new shirt from Marshalls. It was stylish, yet cheap. A week later I wore that stylish shirt to the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest, a small-town, beer-soaked and sausage-laden good time. When a slightly intoxicated female flung her arms around randomly, catching my shirt with her hand, to both our surprise a button popped off right in the middle.

I clutched my bosom protectively, made it home unmolested and took the shirt off. 

I didn't know how to sew a button on. So I didn't wear the shirt. For 9 months. Same goes for a nice pair of brown cargo shorts I bought. I didn't even know the manufacturers of these items sewed that extra button on in case this very thing happened! I thought it was just decorative.

Yesterday my mom taught me to sew on a button. It was surprisingly easy. Threading the needle, tying the knots, and sewing that button on way better than the manufacturer did gave me immense satisfaction. 

Maybe I'm an extreme case, but I doubt it. We don't make the things we use anymore, and as a result we don't know to fix them. When they break, we throw them away. A few weeks back a buddy of mine crashed on an air mattress, that happened to leak. "Throw it away" he said. Neither of us thought of patching it.

Part of the issue no doubt is that things are made so cheaply now. A $15 dollar shirt loses a button? Oh well, buy another. 

There are a few problems with that mindset. First and foremost, I have find I have very few skills when it comes to making or repairing things, greatly lessening my chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse. It also creates an inordinate amount of waste and junk.

So, I'm determined to learn more skills. Doing things yourself is very satisfying, and ultimately saves money. Being a homeowner on a budget has already forced me to learn a few, but I'm determined to learn more. With the DIY revolution, Pintrest and the Internet I have few excuses. The knowledge is out there. Here's what I want to learn in the next year:
  1. How to sew a button
  2. How to hem and tailor my clothes
  3. How to make cheese
  4. How to weld metal
  5. How to mill my own flour
  6. How to bake my own bread
  7. How to brew my own kombucha
That list will grow, but it's a good start for now.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Coming Home

Crazy how time flies. 10 days without a blog?

I leave for Panama City, Panama in ten days to start a new chapter in my life. I've spent the last week back home in little La Grande, in beautiful Easter Oregon with my parents and old high school buddies.

Coming home after seven years is always nice. Though its been eight years, a lot of the people and places haven't changed. Home remains home. It's nice to have that touchstone.

Some things I love about La Grande in no particular order are:

  1. The summery sage-y smell of petrichor.
    It literally is the essence of summer.
  2. The endless bounty of food in my parent's house.
    Growing up my parents always hosted my friends, and always had a giant store of food on hand. People still just stop by and open the fridge without asking. That would annoy the hell out of me, but they seem to love. In the fridge right now there is: steak and mashed potatoes from last night, bowl of raspberries just picked, tamales and handmade donuts from Farmer's Market just to highlight the edible goodies.
  3. Seeing random people I know.
    I really liked my high school self. High school me was extremely friendly, optimistic, and friends with everybody. While I still try to uphold those qualities, I've found sometimes in life you have to make decisions that upset people. Seemed different back then.
  4. Nell's In-and-Out
    They make these delicious drinks out of soda, cream and who knows what else. They have names like Winnie The Pooh (my favorite) and the Skywalker. While I don't drink pop usually, Nells is my exception. 

Ultimately though, my touchstones are family and friends. I've retained a core group of high school buddies with whom things never really seem to change.

One night we played Risk until the wee hours of the morning, like we used to back in high school. The only difference was we drank wine instead of pop and juice.

The next we went up to Indian Rock which overlooks the whole valley and watched the sun set while roasting marshmallows.

Those little moments are the threads that weave together the good life. I try to savor them every chance I get.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sometimes Nothing is Like You Expect

Even normal seeming days can hold surprises.

Yesterday promised to be a little exciting, because I had scheduled my second ever flight lesson. I did one last summer as well, putting me on pace to get my license somewhere around age 70. 

Flight lessons are prohibitively expensive. Anywhere from $150-$200 for an hour, so I have to wrestle with the side of my brain that says "Don't spend that money!" and listen to the part that says "This is why you have money!" 

Flying is also amazing, aside from take off when I am certain my little plane will wobble itself off the runway into a heap of steel. You can see everything from up there. I counted 8 Cascade peaks. The Willamette Valley suddenly looks like the Willamette Valley does on a map. We scooted over to Silverton in about 10 minutes and even flew right over my house.

Tuesdays are the nights I usually do trivia with a bunch of my co-workers (I've come a long ways in 7 years). But last night my girlfriend had an event planned with her employer's family, and I was expected to come. So off we trekked in the heat, and I was already counting down the polite hour and a half we could spend before leaving to catch the end of trivia (thoughts I now feel guilty about).

When we knocked on the door, instead of being greeted by my girlfriend's employers, it was the parents of a student I taught the last four years.

Because I am slow, I didn't quite grasp what was happening until I saw about 20 of my 8th graders stream out of their garage. A surprise party! 

It was a perfect summer evening, one that reminded me of when I was a kid. We barbecued, had a water fight (I lost), played volleyball and basketball. They even set up one of my top three all time favorite Social Studies movies that I tell them to watch when they are old enough The 300.

I wish I could bond with all my classes like I did with the 8th graders. They will be a special group to me not how well they did in class, but for the kind of people they were. They started the Random Act of Kindness Club, planted the school garden, and turned a broken down bus disaster into the world's greatest kickball game.

As I soaked it all in, I remembered something that I told myself to remember long ago, but somehow always forget. You never know what you might mean to your students. Throughout high school, I had teachers that I absolutely idolized, though they probably never knew it because I was shy and quiet. They were role models in my life, and shaped me to be who I am today. As a teacher, that's part of what you're signing up for.

Teaching every day, there is so much to deal with. Lesson plans, grading, constant emails, and ever increasing focus on state testing. While the kids shuttle in and out of your classroom all day, it's easy to forget that they are people with their own issues and lives, not simply receptacles to shove information into and keep from talking too much. You never know what a kind word or gesture can mean.

Making a difference is not just limited to teachers. We all have people in our lives that look up to us. We can all change someone's day with a smile or genuine compliment. We can all inspire others to greater things. 

That's really an amazing power, if we chose to use it. You might not know what you did mattered. You might not ever know. But it does, and you matter too.