Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I went to visit my parents to sign some legal paperwork as the executor of their estate. As I drove into the driveway I could see the back of their heads. They were sitting next to each other on the couch that sits in front of the living room window. Dad holds Mom's hand now. When he talks to me when she is out of the room, it is clear he fears losing her.

I need a hobby that is not computer, technology or construction based.  I have no clue what that could be.

I want a motorcycle, an old one and not a Harley... too "mid-life crisis-ish".  I did the red sports car 25 years ago already. 

With the IRS virtually paid off now, I made an appointment for a heart stress test next week. The doctor put me on blood pressure meds.  Is 170/90 bad? Then after that, a sleep study to find out why I fall asleep at the drop of a hat, during sermons, at stop lights and long stretches of freeway for the last 35 years, then an MRI on several of my joints so I can heal up by summer if I need surgeries.  I took out "top of the line" health insurance through my job this year because all my "pre-existing conditions" are now covered.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield is paying for an overhaul on my body this year.  Thank God none of this had to happen while I was self-employed with no health insurance.

I'm reading a novel for the first time in over ten years... and a book of any kind for the first time in over 3 years.

Lately, 8:30pm has been past my bedtime, even on weekends.

After a year an a half as a "guidance counselor" I am convinced that the education system is not about the children (though there are educators in the system who do genuinely care about the students, but it is the only system we have to work within).  In reality, American public education is a government business. It is about politics and power, educators keeping their jobs, and federal and state funding. The bottom line for schools is performance ratings tied to funding. It is about "no dollar left behind".

The current education system has little to do with the reality of over half of my students' lives and futures.  It is a poorly run circus and my job is to hold the one-sized flaming hoop at one predetermined height and figure out a way to coax them to jump, limp or crawl through it, if they can at all.  If they can't we have to find a way to move them out so their performance doesn't "ding" our school's ratings. Education needs not reforming, it needs to be blown up and re-built from the ground up.

I miss self-employment, but I like the people I work with at my job (both my co-workers and my students and parents) and they seem to like me.  But then so did my construction clients. All things being equal, I have no illusions that I'm making any more difference in people's lives by being an academic guidance counselor or a drywaller and painter.  What matters really is my relationship with any of them.  I got more face to face time with my drywall/paint clients and their families than I do with my students and parents at school.  I'm inclined to think drywall and painting has been a more fruitful spiritual career.  God knows. I am where I am. For now...

Lots of other stuff going on, but it boils down to I have the best kids and I'm proud of every one of them, I keep falling more and more in love with my wife and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

And, finally, I started going back to Church at our Mission a few weeks ago.  They decided to start doing Matins again for the Lenten season.  My wife (the choir director) asked if I would come back and help. The Mission has healed from its past. I went back on Zaccheus Sunday after almost a couple years away, and it was good.

Lent is a time for catechumens and penitents to find themselves defined by the mercy of God. This week, chanting the Canon of St. Andrew as a re-engagement and re-orientation to the life of the Church is as humbling an experience as I can imagine. 

It's past my bedtime. 


Mr. Poet said...

Reading is a nice hobby.

What about a Triumph motorcycle?

My mother has a resting heart rate of 30 to 40 beats per minute. I've told her she needs to figure out what God wants her to do with the rest of her life, because He is keeping her alive.

I hated school. I never liked it. A man I know from a church I used to visit quite often asked me if I wanted to help tutor a refugee who is a teenaged boy. I emphatically turned him down and explained it was because of my deep-seated hatred of education. I would not be a good example.

Another refugee girl is blind and was born with only half a brain. The district hired a friend of mine, who is from the same country and legally blind. She would show up and teach the girl all kinds of stuff. The school did not teach the girl much. The other person who was supposed to the teach the girl rarely would show up. When he did, he was almost always late. Some weeks, he only showed up half an hour the entire week. After last year, the district moved the girl to a school where apparently they house special education kids, probably to get their low scores out of the "normal" schools. The district did not renew my friend's contract. The poor girl would sit in her classroom all day, not interacting much with anyone, when my friend could not show up to teach her. She probably will spend most of her childhood like that at school, sitting there and doing nothing, because the district does not want to spend any resources on her.

Sasha said...

> I need a hobby that is not computer, technology or construction based. I have no clue what that could be.

Maybe, some sport? I do full contact karate, it's my way to work on myself, and also have some fun.

> a sleep study to find out why I fall asleep at the drop of a hat, ... long stretches of freeway for the last 35 years.

Ouch, that needs attention! Glad you can do it.

What book are you reading? :)

God bless and help you!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Lots of men knit - my favorite hobby. Relieves stress and high blood pressure. Ends up with useful things. May put you to sleep, though.

So glad you are back at church. And that it has healed.

Keith said...

Honda CB550. No crisis, just a cool bike.

Chocolatesa said...

A hobby? Mine's cooking. And looking up recipes, planning menus, learning about food, grocery shopping, etc. Anything to do with food. Try that maybe? I'm thinking of working as a butcher once this office job ends (dunno when that will be though). I'm tired of working an office job. But of course we'll see what happens.

elizabeth said...

lots of good things here. I will be lighting a candle for you for your health. The world (i.e. schools, kids lives) has a lot of sadness in it.... With all of my best wishes for this lent...

Rusmeister said...

Dear Steve,
I'm one of those guys who has "known" you for years, while you don't know me from Adam. I AM the guy in Russia you sent a Study Bible to some years ago.

170 over anything is too high. Seriously. See a doctor immediately, you need to get it down under 150, even just for starters, and to 120-130 as fast as you can. I have problems now because I did not know this.

I've known what you've discovered about schools for years, but people, even Orthodox people, most often pooh-pooh me if I try to say anything.

Some of my not inconsiderable experience is here: http://www.christianforums.com/t6072877/
Though it is not organized neatly into booklet form as it ought to be. I do relate, sympathize and agree. Now I teach privately in Russia, so you can see I put my money where my mouth is.

God bless and have a blessed Lent!
(S shoot me for the tautology! :) )

Anam Cara said...

Your comments about school are why we homeschooled our 4 children and I am now teaching grandchildren at home.

I too have an early bedtime and wish Vespers and the Great Canon began at 5 PM instead of 7.

Will keep your health in prayer along with that of the rest of us old fogies.

Yes, what book are you reading? And what was the last book you read?

Anonymous said...

Have you considered pipe smoking as a hobby. It is very relaxing and goes well with music or a book.

GretchenJoanna said...

I also would like to know what novel you are reading - I feel the need of a novel that fits Lent, so that I have something to balance out the devotional readings - but maybe I will just end up with Father Arseny, which I've wanted to read again...

What you say about the school system is true, and the only encouraging thing is that there are people like you there who see the plight of the students and can be real with them, i.e. love them.

It's a blessing to hear how God through everything, including Lent, is nourishing your soul. Thank you for sharing.

ofgrace said...

A Poet, as the mother of a special needs child, my heart breaks reading your comment. We are fortunate that my daughter is "high functioning" and so they have not despaired of what to do with her at school. She can learn a whole lot. Oh, for more Annie Sullivans in this world!

S-P, keep loving and pursuing Jesus and you will be a blessing wherever the Lord puts you!

DT said...

With blood preasure like that, take up Confession and bungee-jumping. Maranatha! Maranatha!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Adding my prayers and good wishes to those of everyone else who has already posted.

You and your family are often in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

I've been making furnishings for church lately, with leaves and vines and such carved all over them. I like that it's hands on and makes use of my artistic talent.

Anonymous said...

Gardening--sustainable & organic even better. Benefits include nutritious eating, fresh air, sunshine, exercise and even side income.

Stella said...

I was gonna say gardening, too.

I may start raising a few chickens in my backyard this summer.

The other crazy thing I'm considering is taking up the violin at my advanced age. Why the heck not? Besides the arthritis in my hands, but maybe that's not bad enough to stop me yet.

I have nothing against pipe smoking per se, but egads, don't start it while your BP's up where it is now! gak!

No interest in doing more cartooning?

GretchenJoanna said...

I think pipe-smoking has been shown to relieve stress and might lower BP. It goes well with other hobbies, too! My father and grandfather were pipe-smokers and I'm still a little disappointed that none of the younger generation in our family have taken up the pastime. My husband reminds me that I could do it myself if I care that much about it.

Anonymous said...

Old Triumphs are pricey, any old Honda CB is a good bet, but honestly, the safety difference between an old bike (I've owned bikes made in the 50's, 70's, 80's and 00's) and a more modern one is staggering. I bought an 05' Triumph a few years ago and finally realized how unsafe even my 80's Honda and Yamaha were. It's like you don;t even have to balance it. Also, do you play music, I seem to remember a post that said you did, if not, taking up an instrument can really burn some time. God bless you.

Stella said...

Gretchen - that would be interesting, if any form of tobacco smoking were shown to lower BP. Let us know if you find any evidence on that. Maybe I'll take it up myself. haha. I would, if I didn't think it might kill me, or that my family would kill me first.

Mimi said...

Good to read your list of updates, prayers indeed.

GretchenJoanna said...

This is the best I can find at this time - http://pipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_Smoking_Health

Evidently people who used to smoke cigarettes and switch to a pipe don't have much reduction in health risk (because they inhale more), but the debate is about the ones who never smoked anything else - they might not have significantly greater risk.

s-p, I can't see that you mentioned being interested in pipe-smoking. What do you think?

Stella said...

A pipe would totally complete his look, with that beard.

Randy said...

My first motorcycle was a 1979 Yamaha 650 twin. I loved that motorcycle. I sold it after buying a Harley-Davidson, but I have great memories of that Yamaha.

I'm reading The Curious Solitude of Anise by Thea Swanson. It's available on Amazon as a Kindle book--not in print yet. Having listened to you for hours over the years, I think you'd like this one.


Margaret said...

I so enjoyed reading this update, thank you! I'm so happy for you especially concerning your church attendance and the Canon of St. Andrew is a blessing! And loving your wife and having great children, and I'm glad you're there for your parents, God bless you for all you do! The sentiments about the school system are true everywhere as far as I can tell, at least in public schools and I'm substitute teaching instead of using my degree in Special Education because of it. It matters who I meet and the relationship I have with them, plus I can pray! May God continue to bless us all through this Lenten Seasoon!

s-p said...

Hi all, thanks for the comments/suggestions.

I already cook (and eat... ;).
I have a good friend (male) who knits. It looks interesting, he's good at it! I LUST for a 70's Yamaha 650 twin (better yet a Norton, but that ain't happening on my budget). A 500-4 is high on the list or a Suzuki 650 single. I'm thinking "Bobber" project. Music? I'm selling off my guitar gear, my hands are too arthritic to play anymore. I do own an antique ceramic pipe I found at a garage sale. I could actually get into pipes (to go with my Scotches). My wife likes to garden. I'm not a yard guy yet. Karate? One of the things I need fixed is my arthritic knee from a 35 year old knee surgery from a karate injury. Maybe Tai-chi. I got meds for my blood pressure and getting a nuclear stress test done on Monday. The results of that will probably determine a lot of my future plans. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers.

David T said...

I'm going to suggest brewing beer as a possible hobby. It quite literally is its own reward!

Thanks for posting your thoughts. Blessings to you in your work, in your family, and in all things.

s-p said...

David T., I actually found an old still at a garage sale a few months ago. The guy selling it looked like he just stepped out of the backwoods of Appalachia, no teeth and all. He gave me some "pro" advice on corn-likker.
I'm thinking MOONSHINE!

David T said...

Woo-hoo! Go for it! I currently have some moonshine in the beer fridge that was given to me by my cousin in Middle TN who "knows a guy who knows a guy." I try to remain alcoholically agnostic and thus don't ask questions about such things.

DebD said...

Yes, computers are such a time sucker, without much personal or spiritual value end in end.

Glad you're getting the medical attention you seem to need (okay, that didn't sound quite right, but you know what I mean.)

I wanted to make a short comment about "making a difference". I don't know how to say this exactly, but please don't get sucked up into the culture of "being important". There are far too many Lucy Ricardo's in this world today. What was it that Fr. Tom Hopko's mother taught him? "Love God, say your prayers, go to church". I think it's pretty good advice.