Don’t Worry About It

Since I tend to worry a lot, even subliminally and out of my control, I truly appreciate it when a stranger I run across in my life urges me to “not worry about it.” I need to be that way with strangers from my end as well.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

peaceful-warriorIt can be as small as being short a few cents when checking out at a store. “Don’t worry about it” is like music to my ears. I actually had a checker once spot me one dollar when I was short. I told her I’d come back and repay her which I did. When I said thank you the second time, she said those magic words. If I’m nervous at the doctor or dentist, those words are so helpful. If I’m being evaluated at work, they are like a million dollars. To have an evaluator use them is heartening.

Stress is necessary in life. When a runner goes off at the gun, he needs to stress his muscles to win the race. In making a presentation with hopes of landing an account, a salesman must stress himself. Butterflies in the stomach are unavoidable sometimes but when you learn to not worry about it, you get those butterflies “flying in formation” and you can do great things. Would you like more people to tell you to not worry about it? I recommend you start telling others that. That’s my plan. We’ll see what karma can do for my struggle with worry.

My Summer So Far and What Lies Ahead

12754914794_596945a1b6_oLast night my daughter asked everyone at the dinner table to share the best part of their day. Mine was a bit Mercurial, at least you the far off reader may find it so. I was overjoyed yesterday when I was testing pool chemicals and realized my pool was not 30,000 gallons as I had thought for several years. Yep, that’s my high point so far :)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In the Summertime.”

Damien Riley Sarah Beach 2011A Pentair calculator revealed it is 20,000 (17,900 to be exact). I have been using way too many chemicals and diatomaceous earth. This will make it much easier for me to get through the Summer and ironically keep the pool more sparkling. So far my Summer has consisted with redoing our backyard and just plain “maxin and relaxin” by my pool. This is because my wife has been working. Come Thursday, she’s off for two whole weeks so we are planning to head down to Laguna Beach as well as some OC hot spots. We’ll be staying in hotels as well. I am plumb excited.

We’ve done some great trips with the family through the years but I thing this Summer will be record setting. I’m thankful I have a couple days and her paycheck to plan some other activities for her and I. I lost my wallet and then found it but had cancelled my ATM card so hers is our purchasing source currently. I have gratitude I can use her paycheck today and mine when it comes tomorrow to plan some memories for us as a couple as well as for our kids. Below are just a few Summer pics from past years to give you an idea of how large and in charge this High Desert family is over Summer!

Work Your Fingers to The Bone, What do You Get? Bony Fingers!

img_8025_17917711843_oI propose a national holiday called backyard improvement day! We’ve been working our fingers to the bone over here at the Riley house, most specifically, my inlaws have been but my family is helping however we can. The vision is for a retaining wall at the back of our property, done, a pergola, almost done, and a paved stone area with a firepit, also almost done. I’ve been keeping my pool up. It had some really aggravating algae in it after sitting all year. Now that temperatures up to 106 some days here in the high desert, it’s great to have it cleaned and balanced with chemicals.

firepit_18961082246_oThough I look extremely burly and hardworking in this photo, I must give props where they are due: My father in law is doing the mainstay of the work. I’ve even been teased for being the lazy one on the computer but I’ll tell you that is an out and out lie. At any ratem just to get the pool ready for the summer I’ve spent close to $1,000 on various sundries and chemicals for the pool. After a couple months of fighting the pool, can I tell you I’m done? Almost. Actually with pools, you’re never done. You just get smooth spots.

firepit_18799648520_oI had a 6th grade teacher who brought bluegrass instruments and players into class one time. They played a song for us called “Bony Fingers.” That’s where I got the line for the title. If you thik about it, it’s easy t get a bad attitude about physical labor. It can physically hurt. Most the time it’s just uncomfortable. Looking back at the weeks we’ve been working on the backyard, I can tell you it has been quite uncomfortable at times. My wife’s birthday was in May and in lieu of a gift she asked her parents for a new backyard. They rose to the occasion.

wall-cap-and-pergola-progress_18831345222_oThey’ve been great but of course there is a small element of strain with your inlaws in your backyard. If were anyone but them, I might have objected. As it is, it feels like a trip to the lake every weekend, we even jump in the water most every day. When the process is complete it will have been worth all we put into it. My wife will have her wish of a new backyard and I can make me up some roasted marshmallows and hot dogs in the firepit.

See all the photos at my album in progress on flickr.

There’s something to say for relaxation. But there’s something much more important to say about bony fingers!

This post is in response to Stream of Consciousness Saturday and The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Festivus for the Rest of Us.”

Things I Hope to Accomplish This Summer

the-99cents-store-in-jess-ranch-just-rocks_14252379877_oBloggers love lists. They can be short and sweet or developed as much as one chooses. They are also great for task management. The Summer can be a time for me to “Vege out” and not accomplish anything. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, As Neil Young says, “There’s a lot to learn from wasting time.” Still, it helped for me to sit down in a straight-backed chair and write in my paper journal the things I hope to accomplish this Summer. Sharing them as an online diary is helpful to me and hopefully entertaining if not helpful to someone reading this.

Today I am participating in Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. This is one of her suggested topics for the week.

This summer I hope to accomplish the following things, not in order of importance.

  1. Rest and rebuild. This sounds like the opposite of accomplishment to a workaholic but it isn’t. In fact, the more you stop to sharpen your axe and the better sharpened it is determines how productively you cut trees down. The brain needs rest. Of course it must always stay challenged but there’s a lot to say for stopping and tending to your body and mind over the Summer.
  2. Journal at least weekly about innovative ideas for running my classroom. A few creative, well-placed ideas can improve the learning environment immensely. I am not so much worried about the kids who misbehave in my class as about those who try to do the right thing but are hindered by the kids who make wrong choices. I want the class to be a sanctuary for learning and I need to create and innovate some new ideas to that end. Summer is the perfect wide-open thinking time to do it.
  3. Take my wife out at least weekly. I’ll need to coordinate with my son’s work schedule and plan dinners for the kids when I take Sarah out to the places where she can relax and have a good time. Sometimes when I get so into my routine, I forget to show her how valuable and attractive she is to me. I do not want this to happen over the Summer.
  4. Swim, get sun and Vitamin D. This may seem like part rest and it is but ot is something else as well. The sun grows vitamin D in our bodies. My being in the sun a sensible amount of time, we build our immunity and overall health. Not to mention that I spend so much time and money on the pool, Summer is the time to use it.
  5. Blog once a day or more. My blogging life has stretched and contracted over time. It has stretched again and even gone into hiding at times. I’ve learned it is something I cannot ever quit. It fits me. It’s become a natural tool where I sort out my thoughts and make connections with other bloggers. Like I said, the way I blog has undergone many changes as has my routine. Over the Summer, I plan to blog once a day. I hope to do a WordPress.com Daily Post prompt each day because I find it an effective networking device. In fact, so far the best I have found for the sort of online diary blogger I am. I am also checking out two other days of writing challenges: Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop of Thursdays or another day I choose, and SOCS, Stream of Consciousness Saturday which I have participated in a few times and very much enjoyed. Anything beyond this will just be regular posts I may feel so led to share.
  6. Attend Summer Institute for my teacher’s union at UCLA. I’m scheduled to stay in the dorms there and study website and communications. I’m not overly thrilled about leaving my wife and kids for a week but I feel the training will hugely benefit my teachers union so I’m doing it.
  7. Go to Laguna Beach. I just love this place. Sand and salt water here I come! If I go twice it’s a huge accomplishment.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Dr. Seuss: Quirky is Good

04_seuss37_dI’ve written about many of my heroes on my blog but none of them are quite as special to me as Dr. Seuss. Maybe it’s because he is a proponent of reading or maybe it’s because he is a bit left-of-center. Whatever the reason, I get inspired by Dr. Seuss and inspiration is the most valuable thing when you’re setting a goal for greatness. You are doing that aren’t you? Check out his life:

When Theodor Geisel was a young child, long before he would become Dr. Seuss, he used to mark in books. He had a set of books he had made his own by putting drawings and writings in. This should have been a clear indicator to his parents that one day his books would change the world. I am sure in their wildest dreams they never would have imagined what this young boy would one day do. Letting his imagination run wild was the first thing he did to set his dream in motion. These pictures made him happy. Following what made him happy would eventually make millions happy.

When Theodore got older and graduated college, he decided he wanted to write children’s books. He spent a lot of time and energy making his first book, an ABC book. No one published it. He felt rejected. He did not write another book for four years. This is identical to the experience of another great artist I have written on, Charles Schulz. Neither gave up altogether though. Both rose to great acceptance after a major rejection. I think this is very important for us to note. Have you been rejected at something? How many years will you let pass you by before trying again. While we’re at it, can you imagine how cool it would be to have a copy of that ABC book that got rejected? Something to remember when people reject your work.

In 1936, Dr. Seuss was on a boat to Tudor. He heard the engines “talking to him” in the sounds they made. Standing there at the engine he “heard” the idea for another book attempt. This is probably one of the most quirky stories I have ever heard. That’s why I love it so much. I am like that. I hear my car creak and talk to me, I hear lots of strange sources of inspiration every day. I am also quirky. Are you? Don’t look at it as a bad thing.

The quirky book that was borne out of the engine sounds was And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Now 50 years later it is one of Dr. Seuss’ most favorited book by children all over the world. After that is time in a blender history. Dr. Seuss has published hundreds of books since then, as you likely already know.

Theodor Geisel had a goal: he wanted to write books that were easy to read. As he worked for that goal he brought millions of people happiness and taught millions to read: including me as a young child!

Currently set for release is Horton Hears a Who. A major motion picture created from another Dr. Seuss masterpiece. When millions watch it they will be seeing a product of a quirky writer who had a vision and kept at it. The message of this book is that even the smallest person can make a difference. What a message!!! We all wish he could have given us more. He is a lesson to me to never stop giving. Read one of his books and start making your crazy dream happen!


This post was published first as this online diary entry on Damien at the Speed of Life.

My Ever After is a Healthy I Told You So

imageI’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my kids have a lot of growing to do before we can have real sit down “talks” about life’s and it’s treasures. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking with my kids now but there is sort of a barrier called immaturity that gets in the way sometimes. Either they think they know it all or at least they know better than be. This usually comes with the subject of finances. My youngest, 8, will demand it’s unfair for her to not get dollars for the “claw” machine. Have you encountered these? They were made to destroy dad’s peace. My others have similar gripes they can’t have what they want and my wife and I have to be the bad guys. It really sucks! I think it will be around 5-10 years at least before they get some of the “no” answers we give them. I’m in fairly good health, but my happily ever after would be to enjoy life with my grown up children. Hopefully something doesn’t happen to me before then.

Mark Twain said:

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

I guess you get my point now. My son is exploring girls, driving, work, and even asking questions about credit cards. He’ll be 17 next month. I know I don’t have the best bedside manner but I have to let him know when I think he’s making bad choices at least every day. I’m tired of it. I want to be the nice happy dad who brings peace and encouragement to the room. Instead, I get frustrated trying to get my kids to mature. I’ve got a retirement pending so I’m not worries too much about money, though certainly I am not wealthy. My dream “ever after” is one of health. I want to be physically and mentally healthy to enjoy my wife and kids at retirement or before. And, it would be nice to be coherent and healthy when I say “I told you so.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Happily Ever After.”


This post was published first as this online diary entry on Damien at the Speed of Life.

Whiff of School Cabinets

Damien Riley Music TeachingI’ve been getting a whiff of school cabinets again, that means Summer is almost here. I don’t want to complain, but sometimes I wish I was blessed with other gifts other than creative type stuff and more with compartmentalizing my tasks and getting started on them early, without procrastination. I’ve been doing okay getting all my work done for the end of the year on Wednesday but I am behind on a couple of things. I look at my co-workers and from what I can see, they are better than me at doing things little by little and getting them done before they are due. I sort of have that oogly feeling about the 2-3 things that are hanging over my head right now. Above my own responsibilities, like report cards and end of year filing, I have a group of rambunctious kids who really don’t want to do any work, they are fixated on the end of the year and starting their summer, so there’s that challenge.

I’ve compensated for my issues of time and calendar management over the last 5-6 years with some online programs like Remember the Milk and Google Calendar. When you get into the reminders and features like emailing tasks, they are amazingly helpful. But even using those I get lazy. Sometimes I just think: “If I can just get through today, then I’ll be a success.” But I think we all know it’s not that easy. Then there is the influence of Buddha, and even Jesus, on task management. There is the importance of the center and keeping things sorted within. It important to not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will have enough worries for itself. I can attest they are worse when you procrastinate. Anyway, I think I have good systems in place, I just have gotten a bit lazy and that can be remedied with the new school year.

Today I plan to give my kids a nice break. We’ll do RIP art and music and maybe a science video with a fun worksheet. Depending on the weather, I may even take them out for kickball. Lately it’s been scorching hot. I’ll try and keep them calm while still teaching and also preparing them for 5th grade next year. I’ve given them the best I have all year and it will be bittersweet watching them go to a new teacher next year. I know some will come around and give me a high five next year as they always do. Every year has its own rewards and challenges and this year has had its unique share of both. Looking forward to dismissal Wed but the question is seriously, will I have enough time to get all my work done. After that, I’ll be shell shock, sleeping in and planning for beach trips. Trying to keep that image in mind as I open and close and get whiffs of school cabinets. Same thing year after year.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Smell You Later.”


This post is derived from a regular diary entry on Damien at the Speed of Life.

Damien at the Speed of Life 2015-06-02 08:00:45

Daily post was boring today so I’m doing a diary entry. I switched it down to a short size coffee today. Now I’m irritated because I think I statused that and called it a tall. That was my old size, now it’s short. Get it? lovely confusion courtesy of the geniuses who named Starbucks coffee sizes. At any rate, I don’t need more caffeine than they pour in a short, the smallest size. Pluse it’s way cheaper than a foo foo drink, like a Misto. I’ll still get the occasional Misto but truly I love the black coffee smell and flavor so I am perfect happy as a purist. The cup is kinda cute too, it’s so tiny. I seem to specialize in getting the items that aren’t on the Starbucks menu. The Misto is a Cafe au Lait and the short is their smallest size. They must think me picky. I used to get a Misto, now I get a short. Wait a minute … the snobs that come through here are way worse than that, right?

I’m grinding my teeth again. What do you tell the doctor when you don’t feel you are stressed and yet the cause of what ails you is stress? Anyway, I’m trying to rest my jaw throughout the day. Did you know you don’t have to touch your teeth together except for chewing, swallowing, and one other thing I can’t recall. When you sleep and most of the day your jaw is supposed to be open in your mouth. The things you learn on Wikipedia and Mayo Clinic. I’m the MC for International Week today at my school. The kids perform and I introduce them. My biggest hope is that my kids will behave while I am up there. I’m really excited about it actually. I used to do it every day then I kind of quit. Now they’ve asked me back as one of three hosts throughout the week. It should be cool. 7 more days til Summer break. As Animal the drumming Muppet might say, “Me ready!”


This post was published first as a regular diary entry on Damien at the Speed of Life.

Damien at the Speed of Life 2015-06-01 14:42:28

I’ve been driving my rental for weeks now, a red Mitsubishi Mirage. It was cool like the first 2 days but ever since then I’ve been missing my car. I can’t believe how long it’s taken for State Farm to get my vehicle fixed. I feel like I’ve been driving this slow, luggy, economy car for a year. They tell me maybe Tuesday. God that would be so cool. They say not to covet, I almost covet that little yellow beastie.
With so much left to do here at the end of my school year, my head is usually spinning. I have moments of clarity when I write in my journal or make checklists of tasks to do in my bullet journal. Mostly, I’m getting in what I can between instruction handling student behavior. It’s a tough time. Still, I don’t expect anyone’s sympathy because I am about to have the whole Summer off work. That begins June 10. After today, I only have 9 more days of work left. After that it’s Summer! I think I can I think I can.

One thing I’ve learned is I’m not getting any younger. Summer is my time to renew my thoughts and health. I think everyone needs something like that. If you don’t have it, it would be wise to find a way to relax every day and a little bit here and there in between work. Take a vacation, be overall less affectwed by life. If I ever left teaching, which I have no plans of doing, I would map that out as priority one. The little bickerings and fights between students are the most taxing.


This post was published first as a regular diary entry on Damien at the Speed of Life.

Damien at the Speed of Life 2015-05-31 10:19:17

I was so glad to be honored by my teachers union but at the same time I felt for the people who do so much more than I and yet weren’t recognized with this award. I’ve thought about doing things for them, to recognize them then I sort of gave up on that because then after that, who further might be offended when I left them out? I think the dignified thing to do at this point is just accept the award, enjoy it for the amazing thing it is to me, and work hard to do my “superpower” in the union. They said at the awards that everyone in a union has their own. I like that concept. I really like unions and everything about them. I’m proud to be in one and to serve in one. I think every workforce should have its own.

My family and I have a level of financial independence where we can take vacations and eat out quite often … so we do. One place we like to go is Chili’s. The service was terrible the day before last but it’s the food that keeps us coming back. I don’t really blame servers for giving bad service, they have one of the most physical and annoying jobs on the planet. Then again, they chose it and people are always vying for a chance to take their jobs. I’m glad I went to college to be a teacher. My job has enough annoyances of its own. There is honor in any job well done.

Heading into the last couple weeks of school. My kids are squirrelly. I made some changes and the room is lot more controlled but as a whole, they are tired of being tested to death, they just want to play. International week is coming. We are doing a 1/2 dance 1/2 recitation of lines about India. People will probably criticize it because the kids themselves are not singing, which my kids usually are, but I don’t care I am proud of them for getting up there and giving a shout out for India. That’s what International Week is all about. I’ve hammered out more clearly what my blogging goals are. The Summer Break will be a great time to galvanize them for a good strong next run. Blogging is today. Blogging is what you write today. I figured it out, for me anyway. Find the right routines and do them regularly. Don’t be an idiot and post anything that’s going to be searched and bite you in the ass but thinking anything you write will live beyond a day (week max) is arrogant and wastes energy that could be spent living. I’ve also learned the value in organizing my thoughts through a written journal. I’m posting those on my Tumblr daily as well as on Riley Central and Twitter. I love blogging. I started ten years ago at 35. Now at 45 I really think I’m getting a handle on what it is, for me.


This post was published first as on Damien at the Speed of Life.

peaceful warrior mask

I’ve been giving my public face a facelift. I don’t want to be reactionary but rathet calm, loving, and peaceful. I thought of the term “peaceful warrior.” Being a teacher, I am a bit of a control freak. I want to lose that. If there is a way to be aloof and yet lead children effectively, I want that. In dealing with colleagues, the same thing. I want to be the sould people turn to who they know will listen. No reacting, just being. Of course there are likely to be times when I have to take control but I don’t need to “let the real me show.” I can do this better by being an actor playing a role. The peaceful warrior comes to mind again as a visual.

Love, acceptance, peace, listening. These are the words I want to embody. A few times recently I have had a chance to really see myself from a distance. For the most part, I have arrived as an adult. Still, I fail when I lose my temper or peace in the moment. That’s the challenge, finding peace in the moment. The way there is going to vary. The more I practice the peaceful warrior as persona, the more naturally he will come out in me. Emanating. People who do puppet shows know what it means to put on a voice or a character. My voice needs to be the peaceful warrior.

5/27/2015 – Sharing the Gift of Me

What if I have it all? I don’t wanna miss it. What if 89% of the world wanted what I have … right now? Why am I wanting anything more. What if i knew when I walked into a room or if someone clicked onto my website, I was already a winner in their mind. No need to prove it. That might affect some things. What if I knew I was a gift to the world but only when I was rested, positive, healthy, and relaxed? I’d work to be that way every day. I’d buy tools to help me create and innovate my gift so as I share it with others, they are pleased and motivated.

A reader came into my class today and read us “The Quiet Cricket.” It was her gift to the kids. What a metaphor. Would you walk into a foreign place where you had to find your own way around to give the gift of you? She did. My kids’ smiles happened as a result. They get tired of hearing the same voice every day. She broke up that monotony for them. This is it, there is no trial run. I want to live my life expressing thanks to those who share their gift with me and work to offer mine in the most understandable and helpful way possible. One way I give to my family is by finding hidden gems to watch. Tonight I plan to do that, plud everyting else I can to share the gift of me.