610. Didn’t Finish ‘Cuz I Didn’t Start

I had a list of things to do today, but I didn’t finish anything on the list because I didn’t start anything on the list. I didn’t start anything else, for that matter.

And here I am making a cursory post of little value containing little thought, exposition, or introspection merely for the sake of making a post.

Tomorrow I shall make a better list, and then do things from that list.

And then write a better post about doing things from that list.

Meanwhile, go read Joel Runyon: Build a Stronger Mindset

TIMEX Expedition Field Watch
It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Can you say the same about yourself?

611. Insulation

The water supply lines in the studio yurt keep freezing, so I keep adding insulation to the outside walls.

Were I going to do it again, I would direct the water lines differently. At least now I have a better idea of how to factor in cold weather when I tackle another plumbing project.

Cutting Styrofoam Insulation Panels
Using a Hand Saw

46. I Didn’t Know… And Now It’s Too Late

I didn’t know. I truly had no idea.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 was my last day as a teacher at XXX Elementary School. I had no idea how difficult, how exceptionally sad, it would be to leave a job I thought I was totally burned out on.

But more significantly, more difficult, and even more surprising: I had no idea what my presence meant to the school. I truly had no inkling of the regard and affection my coworkers had for me.

I am overwhelmed and astonished.

And filled with a profound sorrow which I lack the words to fully express.

I’m wondering if leaving, leaving the school and leaving Hawaii, will be one of the greatest mistakes of my life.

I’ve always considered myself to be at best a mediocre teacher. Sure, I can relate well to particular students, but overall I never thought I was anything special. On the contrary, I’ve always felt inferior, unprofessional, and ineffective compared to most of my colleagues. I just did my little SPED thing and tried, with mixed success, not to be an inconvenience.

I figured my leaving would be little more than a blip on the radar. I’ve seen a few teachers leave over the years: teachers with more seniority, teachers with better credentials, teachers with more professional accomplishments, and teachers who are a lot more “teacher-ly.” Some have retired, some have transferred to other schools, some took admin positions, some moved out of state. There was usually a brief acknowledgement of their service, a card for anyone who was interested to sign, and a cursory lei presentation.

I was hoping to avoid that and simply slip away unnoticed. I expected, at most, if anyone happened to notice, a “we should probably give him a lei or a card or something” polite-but-whatevahs effort from a few people.

That’s not what happened.

What happened went against everything I have ever thought and believed about myself for my entire life, in anything that I have attempted.

Everyone noticed. Everyone. And to all appearances, they all genuinely cared.

Each the morning the students gather in the courtyard for the flag pledge before being released to class. Shortly before the usual flag pledge time I was summoned by intercom to report to the courtyard. When I arrived the principal was there. She called me out to the center of the outdoor stage, and announced to the entire school that I was leaving. She briefly reviewed some of my accomplishments — NASA Explorer School activities, LEGO League coach, etcetera. She talked about how sad she was to see me leave. And then she called for a representative from each grade level to come forward, and one at a time a student or a group of students from grades 1 through 6 came forward and presented me with a lei and a card from the grade level. Then a number of students from various grades came up and presented me with more cards and leis. A group of my students from last year came up, and one of my girls read a speech she had written thanking me for helping her and all the other students. It was far more than I would have expected.

And then I was deluged with a wave of hugs from students — SPED, general ed, all grade levels, kids I know, kids I don’t know. A few younger students were crying because they were expecting to be in my class next year and were already looking forward to it.

Finally the students were released to class, and I figured that was it. And that would have been enough. It would have been far more than I expected.

But it was only the beginning.

One of my fellow SPED teachers rolled a “meal on wheels” into the classroom, a breakfast-brunch she prepared herself, and set up a SPED spread in the classroom for the SPED staff.

Throughout the day, several parents of students I’ve worked with in the past dropped by my room, crying. Genuinely crying. Even though their children were no longer in my class, they were deeply saddened to learn that I was leaving the school. They brought me cards and presents. One parent even brought me lunch.

A group of a dozen grade 6 students — the grade that’s too cool to care — dropped by to hang out in the classroom “talking story” during recess.

Wednesday afternoons are reserved for the weekly faculty meeting. The faculty meeting started out normal enough — boring blah-de-blah stuff. Apparently that first ten minutes was simply filling time until everybody could be there; and so everybody had time to fill their plates. There was an immense buffet spread, both healthy food and cakes and cookies and chips and snacks, the biggest I’ve seen at a faculty meeting, even bigger than during the holiday season. Unexpectedly, after the first ten minutes or so the principal interrupted the standards-based practices lecture to announce that “we’ll return to this later; first, we have a special presentation.” She proceeded to announce, yet again, my departure, and then she narrated a humorous — yes, my principal was cracking jokes — video presentation about things I could possibly do because I am moving to a place where nobody knows me.

Then they played the video which I narrated and helped write and edit from the 2009 NASA Explorer Schools trip to Yellowstone National Park. (Via his cameo appearance in the Yellowstone video, our plastic lizard pal Trippy managed to make an appearance at my departure party.) This was followed by a slideshow of various school activities in which I’d participated during my eight years at the school: NASA events, field trips, camping trips, presentations, and classroom activities.

And then the individual and grade-level presentations began. Every grade level. Office staff. Educational assistants. Custodians. Admin. They made… not bought, made cards and leis. Their students made cards and drawings. They said things I would never have expected, talking about the things they would miss about me, talking about what they felt I had brought to the school and to the students and to them personally, talking about the fun and energy and enthusiasm I had brought to the school. Several were so choked up and emotional they could barely speak. The librarian, tech coordinator, and curriculum coordinator all began crying during their presentation — a presentation that included presenting to me a special LEGO-themed banner they had created that every employee of the school — not just the teachers, but the support staff, the custodians, every employee — had signed.

The curriculum coordinator got her son on the telephone. It was his 20th birthday. He’s away at college now. But he was one of the students in the sixth grade class where I completed my student teaching. He still remembers me. I remember him, too. He was one of those students… well, one of those students they assign the student teachers to work one-on-one with, let’s just say. They put the call on speaker phone. He said a number of students from that class remember me, and still talk about those days from time to time.

Some of the presentations were funny. Some were serious. Some were short. Some were long. All seemed genuine.

And it was all unexpected. It was all overwhelming.

Ultimately I said a few words. I don’t even remember what I said (altho’ I think the entire thing was recorded; maybe I’ll get a copy one day), but one of the Educational Assistants with whom I’ve worked since the beginning assured me that I did not ramble on too long and that I said exactly the right thing. “They liked it that you lost your composure and had such a hard time saying anything,” she said.

Afterward, the EAs, some of whom have been at the school for twenty or more years, said they have never seen the entire school come together for a send-off like this, not for anyone, ever.

Then it was back to… the food, and talking, and more tears and hugs, and… and then I went back to my classroom and finished up some grade reports, and signed a final document with the office secretary (who had tears in her eyes when she brought the final forms to me to me), and then the EAs and I loaded all the leis and cards and leftover snacks and gifts into my car and I locked “my” classroom door for the final time… and I drove home with tears streaming down my face.

Honestly and truly, I had no idea. No idea that so many students would care whether or not I was there tomorrow or next week or next year. Even less idea that it would make any difference one way or another to so many of my colleagues — to nearly all of my colleagues.

And it is very, very difficult for me to accept that I was doing something right. That I have been making a positive impact for the past eight years. That I could possibly be so universally respected and appreciated and liked.

I have spent my life believing myself to be a failure at everything; or at best, to be barely adequate once in a while. Yet now I find out that, apparently, I’ve been doing something right.

But I find out when it’s too late. I’ve sold my house. I’ve submitted my resignation. I’ve packed up my belongings, a moving truck will be showing up in a few days, and I have a house and a car waiting for me in another state thousands of miles away where I don’t know anybody and where I have no job waiting for me.

I was beginning to feel like I was coming to hate working as a teacher. Blindly, I was oblivious to the extent, and I do not think the word is too strong to use, to which I had become loved as a teacher. Me, haole guy from da mainland, loved here in Hawaii.

Would it have made a difference had I known? The unpleasant aspects of the job would have remained – the one out of a hundred parents who are never happy, the incompetent bureaucracy of the department and the district and the complex, the pressure of employee evaluations and school rankings, the unrealistic expectations for student achievement on the latest version of the standardized test, and the sad reality that relative to the cost of living, the teacher salary trend continues to be inversely proportional.

I feel like this should, or could, be, at this comparatively late stage in my life, a great moment of awakening. A difficult to deny, observable, convincing proof to myself that I am not incompetent or mediocre at everything I attempt. “Social proof” that I am not a failure.

Yet… that was when I was still a teacher at XXX Elementary School.

But I’m not a teacher at XXX Elementary School anymore. I’m a former teacher. Because I quit. I walked away. I was actually doing something right, I was doing something well, I was doing something that other people liked and appreciated and respected, and I gave it up.

I didn’t see it. I was too dim-witted to notice. I was too overwhelmed by the petty challenges to see the bigger picture. The brighter picture. The better picture.

I didn’t see the value until I threw it all away.

I didn’t know.


Coincidentally, September 9 marks sixteen years to the day since we arrived in Hawaii. 9/9/99 was the auspicious date.


Humid and overly warm weather continues.
Weight: 206 lbs.
Attempted to fill out the Utah teaching application. I found all the documents I needed, transcripts and PRAXIS scores and proof of employment and stuff. But the application process requires fingerprinting and a background check. The background check process takes fourteen weeks to complete if done by mail. Two weeks if you have your prints taken in person. The background check portion is required before an application can be submitted. So actually, I would not have had time to complete the process even if I had started as soon as we had the offer on the house. Prior to that, we weren’t even sure where we would be moving to. Also, it looks like Utah requires a couple of PRAXIS tests that I have not taken, Social Studies and Science. I took a high school science test, but they want an elementary school science test. And apparently PRAXIS has changed the tests, and Utah will only accept tests from the same “series” — that is, if you started with the old tests, you must have completed everything under the old testing program. If you did not, you need to re-take everything under the new testing program. Oh well, at least I found all my transcripts and have everything assembled in a folder. I’ll take care of the fingerprinting when I get to Utah, and submit it all and see what I’m missing. But in the short term, this leaves yet one more thing “undone” on my “to-do” list.

Okay, let’s take a look at my To-Do list:

  • Apply for Utah teaching license – INCOMPLETE! See above
  • Pay bills
  • Assemble cat carrier cage – INCOMPLETE! Carrier damaged in transit. Arranged for return & replacement via Amazon online.
  • Mow lawn
  • Big fire – finish up everything – INCOMPLETE! Cut up the remaining large pieces, but too wet for a fire.
  • Finish tiki room clean-out – INCOMPLETE! – worked on this all freakin’ day today. Buncha “little cluttery stuff” remaining.
    • move computer
    • move printer
    • move “short term” stuff
  • Clean out laundry room – tools – INCOMPLETE! Started, did not finish.
  • Identify / isolate possible water pipe leak – UNKNOWN! I don’t think the pipe is leaking. I think the water bill is up because we’ve been taking two or three showers a day during the excessively hot, humid weather. Plus, the garden hose is leaking, so it’s using twice as much water as usual.
  • Set up new email accounts – DONE!
    • canyon…. @ ….
    • dave @ canyon….
    • dave @ pikey….
  • Finish typing and post “Drifting” story – INCOMPLETE! Didn’t even come close to getting to this!
  • Download podcasts – DONE – to the extent that they’re downloaded to the computer. Now where is my iPod? Or should I put them on the iPad?
  • iPad – set it up and figure it out – INCOMPLETE! Did not get to this.

All in all, a highly unproductive weekend despite working on all kinds of stuff and sweating up a storm.

365. A Year of Failure

352. 9 July 2015 – fly to Portland, Oregon. Drive to Eugene, Oregon

353. 10 July – visit relatives

354. 11 July – visit relatives

355. 12 July – visit relatives

356. 13 July – drive from Eugene, Oregon headed for Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Stop overnight in motel in Spokane, Washington, the halfway point.

357. 14 July – drive from Spokane, Washington to Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Meet up with a friend for dinner.

358. 15 July – Pillar of Darkness Expedition: 1915

359. 16 July – sightseeing (and resting) in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

360. 17 July – drive from Canmore, Alberta to Portland, Oregon. Arrive late at night.

361. 18 July – visit relatives in Portland

362. 19 July – visit relatives in Portland

363. 20 July – visit relatives in Portland

364. 21 July – visit relatives in Portland

365. 22 July 2015 – fly home from Portland.

My life should be dramatically different by this point, but it’s not. After a year of trying, I’m still overweight, at more than 205 pounds. I’m still stuck in a job I dislike. I’m still broke and in debt. I’m still surrounded by clutter. And apparently I can’t count; I’m missing three days somewhere, because I started this blog on 26 July 2014, so a year should have concluded on 25 July this year. Maybe I had a “Lost Weekend” in there somewhere, but if I did, I can’t remember it. Of course, I guess that’s the whole point of a lost weekend, isn’t it?

Lost day. 23 July 2015 – back to work. Long day of “Write Core” training.

Lost day. 24 July 2015 – back at work. Another boring day of “Write Core training. Talked to boss at the end of the day. Gave verbal notice of intent to resign. This is likely premature.

Lost day. 25 July 2015 – A major hurdle remains regarding the selling of the house. My spouse believes it is surmountable. I do not. Or more accurately, I believe that this hurdle, a recalcitrant neighbor who intends to block the mandatory termite fumigation of the property, will delay the closing, resulting in the Buyers backing out of the transaction. Ultimately we can “force” the fumigation, as our house is at imminent risk of major structural damage, but this will require time, money, attorneys, and possibly court, and result in significant delays in time and outlays of cash we do not possess. At the end of the process we will need to re-list the house for sale and, assuming we can find another buyer, go through the entire lengthy, stressful, and expensive process again.

351. Mines! Dead Ahead!

Surveyors came out today to do the land survey.

Neighbor chastised them for trampling bushes he says are on his property.

Surveyors left. Without finishing.

Surveyor supervisor telephoned me and asked me to speak to the neighbor.

Yes, they trampled and cut some bushes. Yes, they did a rather haphazard job of it. And yes, it’s part of what they have to do to do their jobs.

And yes, the survey will <i>help</i> the neighbor, because he is currently in a boundary dispute with another neighbor over a fence that’s being constructed.

Another snag. Another stall. Another obstacle that might very well lead to the failure of this transaction.

I guess I should have been standing out there “sidewalk supervising” to make sure the surveyors didn’t pull out a machete and start hacking away at the bushes. Silly me, I should have assumed that that’s what they would do. Because, you know, I’m paying these guys <i>A THOUSAND DOLLARS</i> so that I can stand out there and tell them what to do.

The first survey company we called wanted the same amount of money, and they expected us to provide them with an official map of the property boundaries. Like, if I <i>had</i> an official surveyed map of the property boundaries, I wouldn’t need a survey, would I?

I hate living here.

I will be Away From Keyboard until… well, actually, I think I’ll either be away or just be returning on the 365th day of this blog.

And what will I have to show for that year? Another year older and deeper in debt. Half a year spent trying to sell the house and failing. A return after an all-too-short summer intersession break to a job that doesn’t pay the bills.

Yay, me.

350. Torpedo Hit Amidships

As is ALWAYS the case with real estate stuff… and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS the case when I am involved in any project… we hit kind of a major snag earlier today. An appraiser came out to the house, representing the lender for the buyers. He took one look at the house and said, “I don’t think the square footage is right.”

Now, we bought the house and had an appraisal done. We’ve refinanced twice over the years to get lower rates, and had an appraisal done each time. The square footage comes from the county tax records. Silly me, never thinking to measure the house myself. Stupid me, assuming that three previous appraisals plus the county tax office would be correct. After all, this is fucking Hawaii, home to the stupidest people on Earth. And apparently I’ve become one of them, because it never occurred to me to question the dimensions.

The appraiser measured the house. I watched him. I helped him hold the tape measure. I verified the measurements with my own tape measure after he left.

The house is over a hundred square feet less than the tax records, and the previous appraisals, indicate. And when the indicated size is only 1,000 square feet, a hundred feet is a lot.

Before he left the appraiser said it’s unlikely the house will appraise for enough to satisfy the lenders.

So now my stress level, which is already so high that I can’t sleep and can’t focus, is ramped up even higher. It’s all the waiting that’s difficult, and all the stupid crap that’s out of my control, that’s in the hands of other people.

We now have to wait to see if the house appraises for enough to justify the loan. We have to wait to see if the buyers back out of the deal because the listed square footage was incorrect. We have to wait for… a bunch of other stuff too, any part of which could sink the deal.

Sadly, I may very well end up stuck here.