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1.25.2017

Mapping A Future...

There are any number of ways that a young person just beginning his or her adult life can approach the future. I knew in my bones when I turned about fifteen that I had to leave Eastern Oregon. I did just fine in high school--3.5 GPA and played a sport in every season. I took AP courses and I enjoyed learning and the teachers I was fortunate to work with in Pendleton.

But I knew that I had to attend college and earn a degree in order to satisfy myself and achieve my goals. I focused, again, on sports. When I think about my youth, it was always concentrated on two things: sports and the outdoors. When I lived in John Day, I lived to fish and play baseball. By the time I had moved to Pendleton, my passion was playing soccer. 

I applied (and was accepted) to Oregon, WSU, Gonzaga, and Linfield. The last option was the only place where I could realistically play soccer in college, so that is where I went. 

We drove across the state in early August. I had just turned eighteen. My mom and dad helped me set up my room and look for a job in McMinnville, and then soccer started and it was brutal. Mac is hot and humid in August. There were about forty of us trying out for nineteen spots. We practiced twice a day in the sweltering heat, and campus was empty because we all showed up two weeks before the rest of the campus population. 

It was a trying, exhilarating, nerve-wracking time for me, but I worked my ass off and made the team. So began my Linfield journey, and I'm thankful for what I learned at that school every day.

I played soccer and ran track there. I earned my bachelor's degree and met my wife and joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and I made the bulk of my best friends. I still speak with the guys that stood up for me at my wedding at least monthly. We still get together every year, and I miss them all the time.

What I'm saying is that Linfield gave me my life, and I'll always be thankful for that. I have moved on to other places and attended other schools, but I know my formative learning took place in McMinnville.

When students ask me for advice on the future, I tell them to be mindful of their studies, their goals, and their expenses. Oh, yeah...Linfield is a private school and is a bit expensive. I still owe some money on my student loans and I am about to hit forty years of age.

Still, I don't regret any of it, and I will have these loans finished off soon. I think it's important for young people to work backwards from the important goals--family, location, and work--in planning their futures. 

Be mindful of which jobs will satisfy you. Prepare for a family, if that is a goal, and carefully pick where you plan to live. 

We targeted Florida because of everything it has to offer our family. Fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking, golf--this place is Eden, in many respects. We had opportunities in other places, but California and Alaska weren't in the cards. Florida, thankfully, was...

I think it's important to save, plan, prepare, and work. I delivered pizzas, waited tables, transplanted grape vines, coached soccer, taught at an after-school program, and managed a video store in McMinnville. I took a full load of courses and ran track and played soccer. I did it all so that I could have a future with Jeanne and a life in the moment. 

So enjoy your time in school, but look toward the horizon. What kind of life will you have in your thirties? What about your forties? Where will you live, and how will you live? 

Now is the time to pose those questions, and also to take actionable steps toward giving them some answers...

1.03.2017

The Silver Coast

The bell clanged and Ali sprang from the stool like he’d been shot out of a canon. He danced around the periphery of the ring and, even as the trespasser moved in for the kill, it was clear this was a different fighter. Ali peppered the great shadowed face with four piston-quick rights—holy-hell-and-sit-aside-momma shots. The last stunned the bastard, and Ali pounced. The creature covered up and Ali wormed his way underneath, jacking his fist up and up and up and up again, and then one final time, beneath the trespasser’s mitts, rocking him backward with each blow.
And now that hideous face was changing. Fleming squinted in the dim light. He leaned forward and saw, from the corner of his eye, that Scott and Carter were doing the same.
The trespasser threw a roundhouse and Ali ducked it. The great man spun clear and thundered a savage blow to the back of the creature’s head. A shower of black, viscous gelatin spackled the canvas floor, mixing there with Ali’s blood. 
And now Ali roared! His bellow filled the gymnasium, and Fleming felt chills race down his back. Dundee shrieked encouragement from the corner, punching the air like a trader on Wall Street. The trespasser turned and stumbled across the ring, looking for refuge, but Ali stalked him, throwing punch after punch.

Care to read more about Ali's last fight? Try The Silver Coast and Other Stories...

Welcome, 2017!

While 2016 was satisfying for our family on so many fronts, I can't help but get excited about turning the page in 2017. This stems from nothing more than the urge to improve. Working in academia offers educators so many opportunities for renewal. Because of the evolutionary nature of information, progress, technology, and communication (among so many other critical domains), we always have something new and interesting to discuss. Because of the nature of new student groups, new teaching windows, and different teaching modalities, educators can always tweak things or add texts or revise materials. 

I do this for at least one class every year, and I'm excited to say that I am going to completely revise the materials for both American literature and technical writing in 2017. I am going to teach some different writing assignments, use some new technologies (spicy nodes and glogster), and bring some different texts into the fabric of what I'm doing with students. 

I am excited to coach Lyla's soccer team again this spring. After teaching a full night schedule at FSCJ and working Monday-Thursday from 4:30-10:00 p.m. (after looking after Luke all day), it will be a blessing to get back outdoors with the kids this spring. Children are filled with optimism, and I've been blessed to work with so many that are truly coachable. They can take criticism and they try hard, and that's all a coach can ask for...

I'm writing fiction again! I have been asked to contribute a pair of themed short stories in 2017, and I am working on another collection of short stories. What can I say, it's my favorite medium...

I am thrilled to be nearing the end of my work at UCF. I couldn't have picked a better program of study for the work I am doing at FSCJ, and I am very thankful for the help and guidance I've received in the last year in developing my dissertation...

In terms of sports, man...things can only get better. Let's go, Oregon. Let's go, Portland Trailblazers. Let's go, O's and Jags! C'mon, Knights! Let's go, Jumbo Shrimp (yep, that's our minor league team here in Jacksonville)...

I'm going to read more for pleasure this year. I'm going to cook and bake, and I'll have a few rounds in the 70s on the golf course. I'm going to help people when I can, and I'll be sure to ask for help when I need it on my end. This is how we make it--by relying on each other as members of a community.

I resolve to remain politically involved in where I live and how I live. I think now, more than ever, we have a real need to become monitoring citizens in this American democracy, and part of that is speaking out about issues that need to be addressed. The Rogerian compromise is something I see a lot of value in, and I plan to work hard to listen more and strive for compromise where possible.

Be well where you are, and best to you and yours in 2017. Make it a great year--a year of growth and renewal!