making sense of it all?


Today has been one of those days that I have to scratch my head and wonder why.

WHY would this be happening to us?

WHY would someone so close hurt you so badly?

WHY would they continue to lie when they were given so many chances to come clean? 

WHY did they turn out so different than others from the same place?

So many questions come to the surface that I don’t even know where to start or who to ask, but they HAVE to get answered. I feel sick as I walk through my own home reminded of how the choices they made have now affected me and my family. Even more so I think about my parents and how many times they over extended themselves for their kids, including me, because they love us. Now, as a parent myself, I understand that love, but it doesn’t make watching their heartache any easier. 


It’s a day that grace, anger, love, hate, rage, peace, exhaustion and energy combine in a puddle of unrecognizable colors and textures. 

A punch in the stomach, kick in the balls, slap in the face, or kick to the head don’t do justice to what we really feel, but they’re the terms we often use to describe the indescribable. I guess it’s to not scare people away or because we don’t want to shock someone with our “concerns”, but today I want to be real. So much of what I thought I understood was in basket that was turned upside down ten days ago, and today that basket was shaken to get the little pieces out that were somewhat stuck to the bottom. For some reason those little pieces are what have landed the hardest, hurt the most and will probably stay the longest. It makes me hope that I don’t have a lot of little pieces that will drop on someone else someday.

So I’ll try to sleep for yet another night knowing that this situation is out of our hands, but I don’t know when it will be out of our heads.

Perplexing Christianity

How can members of a former church blatantly ignore someone but say hello to someone else in the group? They even went so far as to hug some of the other people, but not even muster a hello to someone that was very involved in their congregation? Then they even said good bye to one of the ignored’s children as they were walking out right next to them?

These are the kinds of things that make people view Christians as mean, hypocritical and judgmental. If we are truly striving to live as Jesus how can we ignore someone that used to be an integral part of the congregation but left “that” church for a reason. It’s not like they chose to turn their back on their belief system. They simply needed to leave “that” church for a very real and personal reason.

I shouldn’t be surprised because these are the same people that when a painful situation happened; they chose to get one side of the story, and not even ask for the other side. Then turned their backs on the one side AND the person they never heard. Even more shocking to me, is that one of the members of the group doing this ignoring is a “leader” in their congregation. 

I truly hope that this isn’t a behavior that I exhibit to others that are on the same journey as me, OR even more importantly to me ANYONE that I come in contact with. I try to be an example of the grace and love that I have been given over and over again…if I haven’t shown that to you please let me know and I’d love to apologize and start over.

I can’t say that I love this much time off, but I also don’t hate it.

There are some very enjoyable parts of time off; sweat pants and coffee until 10AM, catching up on all the DVRed shows, alot of Angry Birds and Words with Friends, many movies and remembering the year that flew by.

Time off also gives me time to catch my breath, love my wife & family, BUT unfortunately a lot of time to think. I don’t always do well filtering the thoughts that flash through my head. I don’t beat myself up to the edge of depression, but I often don’t spend time thinking about the things I’m doing well or have changed for the better. I have 3 more days of my “winter break” to think, relax and enjoy the people in my life. Then it’s back to the classroom, and the 27 fifth graders that I spend my days with. I’m hoping to change the time that I spend dwelling on the what I could have done, and using it to dwell on the things that I AM doing.

So as I take a moment to think, I hope you take time to think about what you’ve done this year also.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (Taken with instagram at Van Dorin Home)

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (Taken with instagram at Van Dorin Home)

Love, Chances & Parent Teacher Conferences

There are so many things that I enjoy about being an educator that it’s hard for me to even share them at times without becoming emotional. Getting to share my days with kids that have felt alone and neglected, scared and unsuccessful or even abused and abandoned is such an opportunity to live what I believe. Which is that all people deserve love and chances. Whether you’re 10 or 70 you want to know that someone is out there fighting for you, forgiving your mistakes and loving through the process of life.

All that being said, October & March hold a special place in my heart because I get to meet the parents of these kids that I see everyday. Good, bad or otherwise these parents reveal more about their kids then I think they realize. As a parent myself I know that when I talk about my children and my own life, people get a glimpse into why my kids are the “way” they are. I’m not so naive to think that kids follow exactly what their parents want or show, but even in the worse of situations kids take part of the ones that raise them into their own adulthood. As a teacher I may be with them on a daily basis, or over the course of the school year, more than they are. So I take my responsibility very seriously. Yes, I want my students to achieve academically but just as importantly I want them to understand that everyone deserves love and chances.

As I sit for another 8 hours today meeting with parents, I hope they can see that I give their kids love and chances, not just A’s and B’s. 

As today grew closer I realized that I was embarking on an adventure that was truly an unknown for me…a 25 mile bicycle race through the city that I love. Not only was this a race but there were 6 known checkpoints (complete with obstacles) and 1 unknown point. It seemed easy enough until they also revealed that there were certain streets or parts of streets that were off limits, that we could be getting wet during the obstacles, and that we had to redo an obstacle if we lost the bead from the first completion. 

Not only have I never been part of a bike race; I have never been part of anything with obstacles, unless you count silly camp and P.E. games throughout junior high and high school. These NEVERs left me both excited and a little nervous. As some of you know, I am a fairly competitive person which sometimes leads to a frustration when I don’t compete at a level I am happy with…

With all these thoughts intertwined through my dreams my alarm sounded at 6AM, and I clumsily went downstairs and into the shower with hopes of waking up and getting my mind right. Unfortunately the shower didn’t do that for me, but within 5 minutes of getting to the starting point I realized these thoughts were all for not. The biking community is one that spans ages, beliefs, and interests but is one of the most open and accepting groups I’ve been around. I have heard many stories of RAGBRAI and the fun involved, but this race truly helped me understand why so many people ride across our great state every year…

I took as many pictures as possible as Mike House (my partner) and I rode through Des Moines as hard and fast as we could. He on a Bianci fixie and I on my  Trek hybrid, two very different bikes. Just our difference in size (which was the reason we named our team Fat Man & Little Boy, after the names of atomic bombs) made some people look twice as we blew by them on the streets, but I also think it was the smiles and laughter that we shared as we rode the path that we ride almost every Thursday night with our other friends in Death by Cycle. We weren’t in the same starting group as our boys Joey and Jeremiah, but had a blast catching up with them after the race and hearing their stories of the adventure they created.

Our adventure started with a quick ride from Mullets to Jasper Winery, via the Grey’s Lake Trail. Once there we had to complete Paper Boy, which meant Mike rode his bike and threw papers at me until I caught 3 in a box, fittingly a Fat Tire box w/ New Belgium Brewing Company as the sponsor of this event.

We then headed up the 15th Street to stop at Smokey Row Coffee for a clue the the mystery stop…which happened to be just up Cottage Grove at Woody’s Smoke Shack where Mike enjoyed a quick slide in the slip and slide.

Then our Death by Cycle rides really paid off because we headed down Kingman to Polk, and then to Ingersoll wrapping around to catch Grand Ave and Rasmussen Bike Shop. Here I had to push Mike on a long board for a little human bowling…we got a quick strike and hopped back on our bikes to ride to Greenwood Park.

The hill got me, and my bike wouldn’t downshift, so I wogged (walk/jog) the last little bit of the hill to see our next obstacle. Mike had to jump on my back, grab a make shift polo mallet and jockey me around a circle of cones, which also was an easy obstacle because of our size difference.

We then rode back up the hill to Grand, left at 42nd…and BOMBED Ingersoll. Which is possibly my favorite street to ride down in Des Moines, today I was glad I had a helmet on because I was digging hard. Then we found our way to Locust and rode to the YMCA where Mike jumped into the water to find beach balls that added up to 12…after making quick work of that we ran back outside, got our shoes and socks back on and took off for El Bait Shop. Like any good game show it would a mental challenge, and we had to complete a geometric puzzle…we worked well together and got done fairly quickly.

Our last destination was the starting point, Mullets, where we knew that we had to race the big wheels and head down the giant slip and slide. 

What a GREAT day! It wasn’t only a great day for me personally but for the city of Des Moines. We broke the record for the number of riders the first year of the event, and I genuinely think that the people from New Belgium Brewing were very impressed with us as people. So glad I was a part of this, and it truly will be a day that I remember…

If you didn’t know already, my amazing wife own Flarah’s, a great little place in Beaverdale with delicious sandwiches and eclectic salads. Of course they are also known for the 14 flavors of cheesecakes, Fly Me to Heathrow being my favorite. If you haven’t stopped in, please do so soon and tell us hello.

I took these pictures at an event that I was fortunate enough to help out with for the women’s cooking class. There were about 25 ladies that came to the restaurant that night and whipped together some outstanding culinary creations. It was so fun watching my wife totally in her element. I truly believe that she could have her own cooking show…

You were consistently alive,
You were the king of the line drive,
There was always something about the way you followed through
And in the face of that disease
When the muscles start to squeeze
The life right out of you
When most men shudder at the dread
Here’s this thing you said
‘Bout being the luckiest man on the face of the earth

- Don Chaffer of Waterdeep

My love of baseball, specifically the Yankees, seems to be shared by Don in this song. I could listen to this song daily, and am still waiting to hear them perform it live. Lou Gehrig encompassed so many great character traits that are so far lost in today’s sports world. I would have loved to sit down and talk to Lou about his time in the dugout of old Yankee stadium.

We all have different reasons why we love the windy city. Whether it is the American Girl Store, Niketown, Garrett’s Chicago Mix of caramel & cheese popcorn, or the numerous amazing restaurants Chicago is a great place. All of these things are great, but the people I travel there with are what always keep me going back. If I haven’t been there with you hopefully we can plan a trip sometime soon.

We all have different reasons why we love the windy city. Whether it is the American Girl Store, Niketown, Garrett’s Chicago Mix of caramel & cheese popcorn, or the numerous amazing restaurants Chicago is a great place. All of these things are great, but the people I travel there with are what always keep me going back. If I haven’t been there with you hopefully we can plan a trip sometime soon.