Missing My Puppy

Don’t get me wrong, being a teacher and getting a long break during the summer is great. Being a teacher in an international setting, it is a necessity of life. It is a time for us to recharge our batteries, and travel back to our home countries so we can see our families. I really enjoy this time off for these reasons, but it is not always as easy as it seems. There are a couple of drawbacks. We spend a couple of months every year living out of a suitcase, and leaving behind the lives we have built in those faraway places. Sometimes, there are others that we have left behind that we really start to miss as we continue on our long trips. It is about the time that we are supposed to be getting back to those lives that those people we left behind start to be thought about a lot. In my case, it is my puppy that I miss the most, and can’t wait to see again soon.

We got Zoey in late January of this year, and she is a little bit of a handful. She was a rescue dog who got picked up off the side of the road in Amman when she was tiny. We met her a few months later when they believed that she was about a year old. She was playful and knew how to use that to her advantage. We instantly fell in love with her, and a week later, she was living in our home. Even though she looked like a full grown dog, what we did not know at the time was she had a lot of puppy still in her. She still had a lot of energy that took some time to work out of her, and when we had to go to work, she would have separation anxiety. It caused some moments that made living with her difficult, but that is what it means to have to train a puppy to come to an agreement where we can all be happy with each other.

Zoey had a bunch of stinker moments as well. She knows that she shouldn’t be on the bed, but every morning when she believes that it is time to get up, she will hop on the bed, and try to cuddle with us. It is adorable, but at that same time, I know that I cannot let it continue; otherwise, she will start to think that she can do it whenever she wants. It forces me to get up and get her needs taken care of, even if I have another hour of sleep that I can get that morning.

She is also a little destructive. We are constantly looking for new toys for her that she won’t be able to destroy, and when she does not get her way, she will rip up her blankets, or bed. We even had an incident with a couch, and will have to buy a new one when we move out of our house. This has made Zoey a more expensive dog than we intended.

So, why am I excited to get back to her if she is such a stinker? Despite all of her drawbacks that we have with her, she is still has a charm that draws you to her. We get to go on long walks with her where her infinite curiosity allows me to explore the neighborhood I live in, and her desire to be friends with everybody has introduced me to new people in our neighborhood. We do go out in our backyard from time to time, and I will kick a soccer ball around that she loves to chase after and carry in her mouth, and if she isn’t into that at the time, she still loves to play her own version of keep away in our yard.

Zoey also will calm down eventually, and when she does, she turns into the cuddliest of canines. She will lay down on me while I am watching television, and give me a kiss from time to time to remind me that I am there. She also will pat her paws while she sleeps and when she is having a good dream. And the best part comes when I come home everyday. People who own dogs know what this moment is like. The expression of unconditional love that happens as the dog rushes to greet you is unforgettable. They are all paws and wagging tails as they wish to show you how excited they are that you are back home. No matter how long you are gone for, eight hours or fifteen minutes, they will always greet you in this way. It is that love that can turn a terrible day into a great one.

This is the greeting I am looking forward to when I get back home. I know that she can be a stinker at times, but I am looking forward to seeing Zoey again. It is just an indication that I am ready for summer to wrap up so I can get to a life that I left behind a couple of months ago. It has been great to have this break, and I have enjoyed seeing all of the people I have gotten to revisit with during this time, but I am looking forward to getting back to the folks in my other life, especially my puppy.

The Purge, The Best Thing about Moving

There are many things that you can learn while attending college, but the most important one come when a friend asks you what you are doing the next day. You always tell them you are busy even if you are not. This goes double if you are the proud owner of a truck. The reason for this is because nine times out of ten, that friend of yours is looking for your help to move them. This is never a fun experience, and the only reward you usually get for all of your time spent might be a slice of pizza and a Keystone Light. Never think that they will be around to help you when it is your turn to move because they already played the mental chess game of asking you what you are doing the next day, and where that will lead them.

I know that moving is never a pleasant experience. It is even worse if you are only moving from one storage unit location to another. When that happens, you don’t get the joy of actually putting your new place together and getting to feel what it is like living there. During this experience you are just looking through your stuff that you haven’t seen for awhile, and putting it some place else where you won’t look at it again for another long time. Even though this is the case, there is something to take out of the experience.

The reason we got a storage unit in the first place was because there was a lot of our stuff that we wanted to hold on to, so when we wrapped up living overseas and moved back to the United States, we could have that stuff to start over again. What we didn’t realize was that we would soon forget all of the stuff we packed into that tiny space, and what was not really worth holding on to in the first place. This opportunity of going through that stuff again allowed us to rethink what we were saving. In other words, it was a great time to purge and reduce our possessions down to the think that really held value to us. Too often, when we are living in a space, we collect stuff, and have a belief that this stuff is important because it is what we can see and hold on to on a daily basis. But as soon as you pack that stuff up and move it to a place out of sight, it quickly moves itself out of your mind.

But that’s the thing. If it is out of mind, how important is that thing really for you. This was the standard that we created for ourselves as we went through our storage unit. We had to do this. We went from a 10 by 15 foot unit to a 10 by 10 unit, and not all of our stuff would fit in the new space. So if the item wasn’t unique or special to us, or we would have to buy it again when we moved back, it went into a pile that went to Goodwill. There were some tough decisions made along the way, but in the end, we were able to organize ourselves, and load up the storage unit with just the stuff that was really important to us.

Most people would think that this kind of purge would leave them feeling deflated, like the years of living ends up in a pile on the donation site at a Goodwill store. It can feel that way, but if you are being honest, there is a lot of stuff that we collect over our lifetimes, and we need to purge it from our lives. These stores that collect the stuff that you no longer need know ways to repurpose it. There are plenty of people out there that would love to have that stuff in their lives for a reasonable price as well. and when you look at the clean and clear space that is left behind, you will feel better about your lives because you will no longer have that clutter hanging over your head. So, yes, the two days I spent moving from one storage unit to another, and the various trips I took to Goodwill to purge some of this stuff was exhausting, but in the end, I feel a lot better for having accomplished the task. I feel like I have simplified my life, and what I have now own, I truly appreciate.

I will close the door on my new space as I get ready to move back overseas for another year of teaching, and I am sure I will forget about all of the stuff that I have collected in that space. Who knows, maybe in another seven years, I will have the opportunity to purge again, and bring it down to exactly what I need, but I am not sure if I can simplify it more than I already have. Then again, in seven years, I may wonder why kept all of this stuff and feel the joy of bring it down to an even smaller unit that will be the essence of my life.

Learning about English Learning – The WIDA Institute

Pardon the interruption, but I am going to talk about something that veers down a different path. For those of you who read the usual travel posts, or various poems, or review of board games, this post might not be for you. Many of you might not know this, but I spend a lot of time as an educator. For those of you have your educator license in the United States know that one of the requirements to keep that license is professional development. As an international teacher, this means some time during the summer I have to travel to various parts of the world to take a course that I might find useful in my craft as an educator.

I picked the word ‘might’ for a specific reason. There are many educators out there that will know the meaning of that word choice. Professional development, a lot of the time, is just a moment in your career where you try to develop your ability to remain professional. A lot of the time, it is a rehashing of what you already do, or a way for some retiree to make some extra side money by selling some program that they developed during their teaching career. You have to sit in this program, and nod your head as you try not to get mad that you paid money for this checking of the box that you need in order to renew your license. Rather, you would like to get that professional development that you can bring back to your classroom and use to fill in those gaps within your own instruction.

This brings me to this year’s summertime professional development. I took off to Wisconsin for a week so I could learn everything I could about WIDA, World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment. For those teachers out there, this is probably a program that they are familiar with, and may even implement in their own schools. For everybody else, WIDA is a program used for English language learners to help them in that struggle while they still try to be successful in their content classes. It is usually used for those teachers who run the English language learning programs in their schools, and their purpose is to guide the other teachers as to what they can do in their classrooms to help these students.

I know what you are asking now?

What is an English teacher doing getting trained on how to support English language learners?

Well, the short answer is that in the state of Colorado where my license is, I need to have a a certain amount of hours of English language learning in order to renew my license. There are many Colorado teachers are annoyed by having to jump through this hoop in order to renew their license. I get that feeling, but I like to go into these trainings with the idea that there is something that I can get out of it that I can take back to this classroom. It is this positive attitude that makes these professional development moments worth it.

It was pretty easy to go into this training with this attitude though. The conference covered an area that all international teachers should be aware of when working with their students. There are a variety of languages that are brought to my classroom though I can easily forget this fact because everybody is expected to speak English. Though they speak, read, write, and listen to this language in my classroom, they may still struggle with processing and expressing themselves using this language, and might need those extra structures in place to be successful. What I discovered in this training was that the structures that I could implement for my language users could also be used for my regular students, helping to reach those higher level of expression as well.

I am also starting to see why the state of Colorado requires this training as well. Whether you like it or not, the United States is becoming more multilingual every year, and in ways that would surprise many people. I was talking to a person from North Carolina who is working with many students that use Arabic as their first language. I know that Denver has a huge population of Russian immigrants where certain parts of town, that is the major language spoken. Los Angeles has the second largest population of Korean speakers over any other city in the world, except for Seoul. There are Chinese, Hmong, and Ukrainian speakers coming in all the time, and it is the role of the teacher to help these students learn the material. Even walking around Madison where I was getting the training, I heard a variety of languages spoken from the students that were getting some extra credits during the summer. It is no longer the need to know Spanish in order to help the students coming from Latin America, but a variety of tools that can be used to help all students.

I am really glad that I took some time this summer to go to this institute and learn what they had to teach me. It will definitely help my practice when I arrive in Jordan for my second year there, and it introduced me to other conferences that I will want to take in the future. My only regret was that I was the only content teacher in the training, and I wish that there were more of us there rather than just the English Language Learning teachers that I got to work with. I would hope that more content teachers take that leap and take this class. It will not only help their craft, but it will help to bridge that important gap between them and the English Language Learning teachers in their schools. It will create a classroom that everybody can learn in, and not just the ones who are already comfortable with the language.

Wet versus Dry

It is a rare thing when Colorado gets to be in the national spotlight, or even talked about at a level internationally. Usually, when it happens, it is due to some extreme story that does not make this part of the United States look great. There have been many tragic shootings, and fires that have devastated much of the forests in the mountains. But the fire that took place recently outside of Boulder, Colorado might be one of the most tragic that Colorado has encountered. Though only a couple people have ended up missing, over a thousand home burned down, and has changed the lives of all those people who have been displaced.

At the time of this writing, it is still has not been determined how the fire in the middle of a residential area got started. The initial thought that high, strong winds knocked down some power lines has been ruled out, but one thing is sure that if it was an act of nature, an accident, or something more malicious, there is one factor that cannot be denied about why it was so destructive, the dry conditions that Colorado has been experiencing this winter. After talking with people there, I was told about how little moisture they had been getting. There was a heavy rain back in the end of July, and they had a snow that collected an inch during the early days of autumn, but besides that there has been nothing. Colorado is already a desolate looking place during the autumn months, but extend that into winter, and it is only a matter of time that a fire will get started and we will witness the destruction like we last week.

On the flip side of that coin is too much rain. I have also been lucky to have spent some time in Oregon during this break as well, and if the main color in Colorado in December was brown, the main color in Oregon has been a bright green. This is not true for the whole state, but I have only been able to see what life is like in Portland, and it has rained most of the time that I have gotten off of the plane until now. It hasn’t been the typical mist in the air kind of rain that Portland usually experiences during the holidays either. There have been significant downpours, and if you travel further west into the higher elevations, this rain has turned into snow. And they are getting a lot of snow too. I-84 and a lot of the mountain passes have been closed due to too much snow falling in a short period of time, and it does not look like it will be stopping anytime soon. In fact, in certain parts of Portland, there have been Flood Watches and Advisories issued through Friday afternoon.

It all comes down to a statement that a lot of people have been saying to others lately, “Odd weather we’ve been having lately.” These statements are not just uttered in Colorado or Oregon either. There have been December tornadoes in Kentucky, severe drought conditions in Jordan, cyclone warnings in Australia, and sunny days in Antartica. Weather is out of balance, and we sit around and comment about how that is odd. There is a simple explanation for this odd behavior, but seem to want to be too polite to actually say it out loud in the random chance that we might offend someone. But these occurrences are going to get stranger, and more frequent unless we acknowledge that there is a problem, and start to do something to correct this problem. We have to admit that climate change is happening, and we not only need to change our habits to try to correct it, but we need to make sure that our laws and economic future also reflect these changes in our behavior. But it all starts by admitting that it is out there. So the next time you talk about the tragedy of nature, or the odd weather that we are experience, let the person know who you are talking to that it is a matter of climate change. They need to hear it, and the only way we will change our ways if we quit being polite about it.

Back to the On-line Grind

I know that the New Year should be greeted with renewed optimism, and excitement for the days ahead. We should be looking at what has come in the past, and how it has allowed us to grow in the future. It is a time of reflection, and adjustment, one that we should look forward to every year.

This was before the advent of Covid-19. The last two year have felt like a decade and it is hard to believe that this world-shattering event hasn’t even reached its second anniversary. We always seem to be able to take a couple of steps forward so we can return to a lifestyle we once knew, but then something else comes into play that reminds us that this pandemic has not ended yet. First, it was the Delta variant over the Summer, and now it is the evil sounding Omicron that is producing numbers the likes of we have never seen since this pandemic began. It has forced us to return to the ways that we were hoping to avoid all along. So 2022 will start with the one thing I have been hoping to avoid all school year, on-line learning.

A recent email from my school stated that when we return to school after the break, we will be going on-line until the 17th. This date may be extended depending on what is happening with the Covid pandemic at the time, and the way it is going, it looks like this is a strong possibility. I know that it is the right thing to do. Schools need to keep their students and staff safe, and we should not be subjected to the chances of people who are not willing to take the necessary precautions to make sure everyone is safe. Schools are also a great breeding ground for the disease. There is not a single a elementary school teacher that can go the whole year without catching some disease from their walking petri-dishes that inhabit their classrooms. And it should not surprise people that high school students can be just as bad. They share food and water bottles without thinking what they are doing and what they are spreading. Many of them complain about having to wear the masks in the first place because it hinders their ability to look good, so it is a constant battle to get them to put them on correctly. With all of these factors, it is no surprising that we are going back on-line, especially as the numbers worldwide spike to more than a million new cases a day.

Still, it is not a great way to start the new year. There are many challenges that come with teaching on-line. Many students are not as engaged in the lessons, and many of them fall further and further behind in their studies. My students this year are significantly behind where they should be because they has spent all of last year on-line, and they are complaining that they are being pushed too hard. It scares me to think what the next generation of people will bring because of this pandemic, and the holes that students are getting in their learning. But the battle must rage on and I need to prepare to push through. I need to make sure that my students get the education that they need to be successful in life and to take the ever increasing challenges that the world will present.

The point being is that if you know any teachers who are going through this, please understand that they are doing their best to give the best education possible. Also remember that students are going through a lot at this time as well, and they need the encouragement to keep moving forward. There are also the parents of these students whose lives have been turned upside down because of this new way of living. They have to give up a lot to make sure that their sons and daughters are being taken care of properly. Give them all the patience that they need as they continue to work their way through this challenging time.

And most importantly, do what you can to bring this pandemic to an end. Avoid large gatherings, wear your mask, and most importantly get vaccinated. They are small things, but if we pull together as a world society we will defeat this ugly beast, and return to a world that is better for everybody involved.

Thank you, and have a Happy New Year.

Celebrating Fifty Years

There are always those milestone years that we reach that bring everybody together to celebrate that milestone. They come pretty quick when we are younger: the first time we hit double digit, when we become a teenager, when we turn sixteen and are able to drive, when we turn eighteen and legally become an adult, and when we turn twenty-one and can drink at bars. When we are these ages, we get excited about the days and we look forward to the moments that make it memorable, whether that is a birthday cake, a set of car keys, a new ID, or a collection of empty shot glasses paid for by our friends.

As we get older these milestone years come less and less and eventually they only come every ten years. At first, it is still fun to hold these celebrations, and we try to return to our younger days to prove that we are still young. We quickly learn that time is not working in our favor at this time, and we cannot return to those old ways, and we must think of new ways that we can celebrate the passing of time in our lives. For some people it is the rush to spend the money that we have collected over the years, but most of these outrageous purchases end up being dismissed as a display of our mid-life crises. Others of us create a challenge that reflects the age we are turning while making it obtainable at the same time. It is that step towards a new beginning that shows the world that we are still able to be a factor in our remaining years. It is a show of strength and endurance that reflects the struggles we have been through with our time on Earth.

My brother is hitting one of those milestones today. He is turning a half of a century old, and there will be all of the trappings of such a milestone. There will be a party where friends from all over the world will gather together to celebrate. They will share drink and food, and people will celebrate his fifty years. There will only be one thing missing from this equation, my brother. He will be close by and we will all be sitting on his driveway to wave at him every once in awhile as he makes his occasional presence, but for the most part, we will be celebrating without him. He will be trying to achieve a milestone of his own, fifty miles on his fiftieth birthday.

This will be quite the achievement, and a commend him for making this attempt. He started early this morning on his first five mile loop that will send him back to the front of his house about once every hour. At that time, he will drop off a group of people who ran with him to pick up another group to do another five miles. This way he gets to spend a lot of time with his friends and family on his birthday while trying to prove something to everybody that will not leave him with a weird purchase, or send him to hospital for the poor choices he made. And after he is all finished all of his loved ones will be there to celebrate not only the achievement, but the fact that he has turned one year older. I hope that in a couple of years, I, too, can accomplish something as meaningful as this, but in the meantime, I wish him the best of luck on his ordeal, and I will be there to cheer him on as he finish his epic task.

Teaching to the Test

I am now one of those people who is over the age of thirty and living in their parents’ basement. This is not because I am a jobless bum, but rather because I am in-between jobs and in the process of moving from one country to another. My stuff is sprawled over the basement as I sort through what I should take and what I should leave behind. I have to make predictions about what my life will be like in the new country that I am moving to, and what I will need for clothes and for entertainment. Most of this is old habit as I have learned much from past experiences about how to stay informed about my sports teams, and watch their important games, what television shows I can access, how many books and new music will keep me engaged until I can make my way back to the United States, and most importantly how I can engage with my new fellow colleagues. I am excited about the change, and nervous, but not as nervous as I was when I made my first leap to a different country six years ago. The whole reason I don’t feel the same kind of fear of what I was getting into during that first time is because I have lived through it before, and I know a little bit of what I should be expecting. I am prepared. There is something about being prepared and how that helps to reduce stress in your life.

It is part of what I have been doing this past week. Every day, my alarm has been waking me up, so I could crawl over to my computer, hop on to Zoom, and participate in a workshop for a class I will teaching for the first time next year, AP Literature and Composition. I knew a little bit about the class from teaching in an AP school for four years, but I had a few questions that I needed answered to make sure that I could give my students the support that they will need. I have been looking at different lessons, and different texts to use in those different lessons. It has taken me back to my college days and all of the literature classes I took back then. I am sitting in a room with like minded people who love to read and talk about what they read, and it has been fun to engage with texts in this way again. But we have also looked at many students’ essays based on the prompts they might encounter on the test, and we have gone over what the College Board will be looking for when they grade them. It reminds me of the drudgery I go through any time I have student plop a completed essay on to my desk and the task I have to go through in order to grade them all and get the feedback to them. Granted, these are the higher end students writing literary analysis and for the most part, they are engaging and well written. Also, most of these essays were written in a time period of only forty minutes, so they do not take that long to grade. But I appreciated the opportunity to look at this final product because it helped me understand where I need to get my students in order to be successful in this class and on this exam.

This gets me to one of the biggest discussions that teachers have when they are assigned to one of these classes with a big exam at the end of it. Should I be teaching to this test or does that do my students a great disservice because I am not preparing them for the more important thing, life? I do believe that this is an important question to examine. If I am being honest, there will be very few of my students who will need to know how to to write a good literary analysis essay in order to be successful in life. There are very few professions that need to know how to do this, so why should I spend so much time nurturing this skill within my students? Wouldn’t the time be better spent exploring the ideas presented in the literature and having my students talk about these issues to become better citizens after they have graduated from high school? Does the test actually measure their ability to do this, and why do a bunch of dead white males hold the keys to this kind of profound thinking?

But then again I look at the reason I love literature so much, and why I want to instill that same kind of love into my students. There is a reason that the most successful people have the ability, desire, and ambition to read a large amount of fiction in common. Every story that they read teaches them the capacity to understand the world from a different person’s point of view. They get to live hundreds of pages in the mind of another person. It is the true definition of empathy, and this ability makes successful people great leaders and amazing innovators. The ability to dig deep into a piece of prose or poetry and analyze it in a way that is profound and purposeful. This may not be a skill that an engineer or a lawyer might need to know, but it is something that a human being needs to know. And though it is important to have a profession in life, it is also important to be able to practice that skill of empathy so you can have those connections in life that are meaningful.

Can I reach that level of understanding by teaching to the test? Normally, I would say no, but I do believe that AP Lit is a different class. It is a skills based class. I will be teaching students how to write effectively, and writing effectively is nothing more than an act of thinking effectively, so essentially what I will be teaching students is how to think effectively, and if they can do that then they will be successful on this test, and this test will allow them to reach that level of understanding that they need with others so they can be empathetic and successful. Why wouldn’t I then teach to the test? It is what I should be teaching anyways.

So as I prepare to take the leap to a new country again, I have been taking some time out of packing and getting the supplies I will need to be comfortable in this new country, I will take a little time to make sure that I am also prepared to teach this class for the first time. It will allow me to get my students to the place where they will need to be in order to be successful not only on the test, but life as well. I now look forward to the new school year with anticipation because it will a great one filled with a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get to it.

Things

I am already thinking about winter. It was one of the chores that I knew I had to do while I was in the United States because I knew that the clothes I had shipped to Jordan from Thailand would only be appropriate during the first couple of months out there, and then I would need some long sleeves, pants, and hats. I had some of that stuff in Thailand because my thought was we would travel to cooler places to get away from the tropical heat, but then, Covid. So I do have a weeks worth of clothes that will allow me survive in those conditions, and they are not for the really cold temperature that Amman can sometimes get to.

So this is why I have been thinking about winter.

Growing up in Colorado, and visiting Oregon often means that I do have these clothes, but I pushed them in some boxes and bags and left them in storage some place in one of these two states, and even then, I am not sure where I left them in those states. It has been a little game of hide and seek so far this summer, rummaging through this box and that one trying to find what I know is out there, and yesterday, I went to my storage unit in Colorado.

Lo and behold, I found the missing clothes among piles of things that I am not sure what they are anymore. This little game made me realize what has become of my life, and my things as they are strewn across the world. Of course right now I am living out of bags and have to rummage through them every morning to find the things that I need to be a part of society. I have some rare discs and records tucked away in a closet at my parents’ house, and a couple boxes of random stuff at my in-laws’ house. And somewhere, en route, there is a shipping container full of more stuff and things finding its way to my new place in Jordan. I have truly become a man of the world, and like a teenager does in their room, I have left myself wherever I just happen to drop it.

While looking at my stuff, and all of the places where it is, I am constantly thinking about a story I taught a couple of times early in my teaching career by D.H. Lawrence called “Things”. It told the story of a couple who started taking teaching jobs overseas. Of course, they did not want to bring all of their stuff with them, so they put some stuff in storage here, and other things in storage over there. They bought art and mementos along the way, but they did not have a place in their house to display them, so they stored those in other countries. They ended up having places all over the world to hold their stuff for them. I now thing of that story and realize that I am now living it. (I will put a link to the story at the end of the post if you are interested to read for yourself.)

There are a couple of themes that could be looked at while reading this story, but the one that stuck with me and the one that I always return to is how we no longer own our possessions, but instead they start to own us. Part of the lives of these characters was to tend to their things, and I am participating in the same ritual. Some of these things are easy to attend to; whereas, others are going to be a surprise when I return to them years later. I will have forgotten that I have some of these things, and it will be like a return to Christmas when I find them again. But it makes me start to wonder how much of it I really need, and how much of it I can give away.

My wife and I always talk about going to the storage unit every summer and reorganizing it to move to a smaller storage unit, but something always comes up that makes us put that off for another year. Basically, it is easier to maintain my things than to deal with them, but someday I will have to deal with them. Until then, I will just lock the door to the storage unit, push that box in the corner of the room where I found it, and track my shipment over the internet until it arrives, and I will continue to play this game with my things.

“Things” by D.H. Lawrence

The Heat Dome – What’s Not Being Said

I have had many a summer day in the Pacific Northwest where I watched the weather at night and saw some other part of the United States contending with a heat wave, and think that I was lucky to be in the cooler air of this corner of the nation. Yes, it has days where things get hot in Oregon and Washington, but it does not last long and the cooler weather is always right around the corner. That is until this week. It is blistering hot out there. This is the kind of heat that will melt you if you stand out in for too long, and it is not just breaking the heat records out here. It is crushing them. The hottest day in recorded Portland history up to this current heat wave was 107 F, but they have had temperatures hitting 114 F. That is like Arizona heat, and has me spending most of my time inside avoiding getting exposed to any of this extreme weather.

Even though Pacific Northwest is known for its humid climate, it is still nothing like the humidity that is found in tropical climates. Coming from a dry place like Colorado, yes, it is easy to feel the difference, but the air does not hang on to a person like it would in Thailand or Florida. It is still relatively dry, so the real feel of the temperature does not fluctuate much. If it is says that it is that hot, than it is that hot. It gives the heat a completely different feel to it. It feels more like being stuck in an oven rather than swimming through a pot of water ready to boil. You don’t sweat as much, but it still is not fun.

The interesting thing about this unprecedented moment in the history of this part of the country is how it is treated by the media. The best way I can think of to explain their coverage was the way the local weather lady reacted to the forecast on the news last night. She showed the high temperatures for the next day on the screen, and then just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “What can I do about this?” It was funny to watch, but it hinted at the bigger thing that was slapping everybody in the face who was watching it. There is a bigger news story that is going on here, and they have an opportunity to talk about it, but they would rather just shrug their shoulders and walk off screen instead.

One reporter came out and said that this event was a once in a thousand years event even though earlier in the news cast he talked about how the city of Portland had flirted with these temperatures just 13 years earlier. This is another thing that I hear on the news a lot. During recent floods in Colorado, they called the events a once in a hundred years event, and then reported the same thing two years later when it happened again. The cliche does not ring true when they have to repeat them every year. This is not an Orwellian society and I will not forget what you have told me in the past just because you want to change the narrative.

There was only one place that really addressed the bigger issue of what has been going on in the Pacific Northwest during the last few days, and it did not come from an American source. I like to get my news from the BBC because it allows me to see what is going on in America from an outside perspective. They do not always portray us as being that great of a country, and sometimes what we view as being important is pushed further down in their news feed than if it had come from an American source. They were not afraid to talk about what the source of this insane amount of heat is coming from even though they did add the provision that “not all phenomenon can be easily explained scientifically.”

But it has been explained scientifically before. Over fifteen years ago, scientists came out and warned about events like this. They stated that would not only be about the rising heat, but we would see more of these once in a hundred year phenomenon. Droughts would last longer. Storms would be more destructive. Hurricanes would become more frequent. We can no longer continue to ignore what is being said, and we need to come out and say it ourselves every time we are face with this evidence. We need to admit that we have a problem, and we can no longer push it behind us in the hopes that it will somehow fix itself. That is not how this works.

And it just can’t be you that comes out and says what everybody is thinking. It is the media that needs to quit hiding behind the safety of banality and come out and say it as well. It needs to be one of the things that is the among the first that we look at when we look at fixing the problems of the world because it is the world’s problem. We need to be strong. We need to be courageous. We need to be bold.

We just need to come out and say it.

Show Off Those Guns Vaccinated People

No, we are not wearing bandaids because we got boo boos, and most of the time my workout routine does not highlight the definition of my arms, but this was an exciting moment. It was that final step that we needed to take to get back to the lives we wanted to live, and not one where we are stuck indoors all the time. It will make a little bit easier, but it won’t get to that perfect place until the rest of the population does their parts and gets vaccinated as well. Then the masks will be able to come off, the restaurants will open again to full service, and the one I am looking forward to the most, travel will start up again. Everyday, the country inches closer to that goal of herd immunity and I can’t wait until it gets there. As of the writing of this post, Oregon (where I am at right now) has 58.1% of the population vaccinated, Colorado (where I will be next) has 57.4%, and the country of Jordan (the place I will be moving to at the end of the year) is at 21.7%. Those are some exciting numbers. It does not mean that I will get to see that goal of being able to travel around the world freely anytime soon, but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction.

Getting my second shot almost didn’t happen too. I had an appointment scheduled at 11:00 yesterday, and the place I was going to called me up at 9:30. Their refrigerator broke the night before, causing their vaccine supply to be spoiled. At first, I didn’t know what to do, but after getting on the phone and calling a couple of other places, we were able to find one that had the same dose that we needed and we could walk right in. The pharmacy we went to was a little busy, but we were still able to get in and out within a half an hour. It showed me how easy they are making this for everybody, and if people want to get back to life as normal, they need to go in and get their shots. This way the United States government can send more vaccines to other countries. The world will get that herd immunity that is needed to make it safe again, and we can put this pandemic behind us.

I will be honest. The second dose hit me a lot harder than the first dose did. After the first shot, I only had a sore arm which made it hard if I slept on one of my sides, but after taking the second shot, I got a little bit of a chill, and a wicked headache that made sleep hard for one night. It was a little uncomfortable, but it made me realize how terrible it would be if I contracted the real Covid-19 virus. It also lets me know that the vaccine is working. After a restless night’s sleep and a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, I am feeling a lot better, and I know that it will only be one day before I can get back to feeling normal. It is a small price to pay to know that I am safe and that I will not be spreading the disease to other people that I come in contact with.

So there is only one thing left for the rest of the people to do. If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, go out there and get it. Push the numbers up and get to that herd immunity rate. Let’s get the world operating again, and let’s quit hearing these death reports and stories of people stuck indoors. Go get that bandaid and show off your guns proudly, knowing that you have done your part pushing the world to the place where it needs to be.