Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Crazy That Is #CUE17

The past few weeks have been absolute insanity with the new job.  I am learning a ton, basically via trial by fire.  However, I am thoroughly enjoying my new role as a dean of students, and middle school kids are a lot of fun.  The craziness continued in a different fashion through the CUE Conference in Palm Springs.  Three days of keynotes, sessions, meeting new people and seeing friends are a great way to spend a weekend! 

The insanity started off on the wrong foot on Wednesday night.  Before I could leave town, I had a function at school that required me to stick around for a little while before I could hit the road.  The drive from Las Vegas to Palm Springs is only about 4 hours, so I wasn't too worried about the drive getting me to the hotel late (that's what 5 Hour Energy is for!).  The problem was arriving at my hotel to find out that they had canceled my reservation without telling me!  I had booked my room at the Motel 6 in Palm Springs several months ago, using a credit card that in the time since had expired.  The front desk attendant informed me that they had tried to run my card a few hours prior and it had declined (naturally, it had expired), so they released my room and did not have any left.  No phone call, no email notification, nothing to tune me into the problem.  I was too dumbfounded to be angry at the time.  The chances of a room at nearly midnight in Palm Springs the week of CUE and a major tennis tournament were slim to none.  Luckily, my good friend and CUE-NV partner in crime, Heidi Carr, was awake when I called her to vent my frustrations and offered the extra bed in her room for the next few nights.  All was good, but Motel 6 will be getting a stern telephone call from me after this weekend.

For the most part, I went to a ton of great sessions over the course of the three days.  As a newly appointed administrator, I wanted/needed to get to more administrator-geared sessions, but at the same time, I still wanted to get to some sessions that focused on teaching still.  One such session that I wanted to get to was one on hyperdocs.  I have tried to go to hyperdocs sessions in the past at various functions, but the sessions have not been very good, or in one case, I had to leave in the middle of the session and missed just about everything.  The fifth time was the charm; I got some great ideas and examples on hyperdocs that I am able to use and share.  My friend Heidi Carr and I put together a document of resources from the various sessions that we went to during our time, you can view and peruse what we saw here.

It was pure coincidence that I wore a Rush shirt '
on a day that I met a Canadian legend, I promise!
I also got to see the man, the myth, and the legend George Couros, author of The Innovator's Mindset, keynote day two of the event.  George's keynote hit a lot of the items that he covers in his book, shared his story of growing up in Canada to Greek immigrants, and how what you do makes you what you are.  I also got the chance to meet him after the keynote and speak with him for a brief moment.  However, the highlight was when he came to the CUE Karaoke session on Friday night and I got to talk to him for more of an extended period of time.  Our conversation was more about hockey than it was education, and at one point he even told me that I sounded like I knew more about Canada than he did (I grew up a couple of hours from the border, had CBC in my channel lineup for many years, and pay close attention to hockey, so I do have a bit of knowledge on Canadian culture, history, etc.).  I mentioned to him that I would love to have him come to Las Vegas to do an event with CUE-NV, so I am REALLY hoping that CUE-NV can pull that off!

Hans took this amazing photo of me scurrying up some boulders
as the sun came up!  
One of the greatest highlights of the weekend that was not related to the conference itself was getting to hang out with great people, some of whom I had met before, others I was meeting for the first time.  On Friday morning of the conference, a group of about 25 people met to hike up one of the mountains near the convention center.  Hans Tullman, a great dude that works out of Bakersfield, CA, led the organization and execution of #CUEHike17.  We hiked a total of about 2 miles roundtrip and climbed an elevation of over 600 feet over the course of the hike.  Before it was even finished, we started talking about the hike at CUE in 2018.

By Saturday morning, the brain drain (the good kind) had definitely set in.  I enjoyed a nice breakfast at a place called Pinnochio's (check it out if you're ever in Palm Springs) and went to the convention center to see some of the student projects that were on display and attend one last session.  After the session, I decided that I would hit the road rather than going to the closing keynote (from what I have heard, that was a bad choice; the final keynote was quite amazing, or so I'm told).  I knew the drive home was going to be tedious from the lack of sleep, the pile of messages that piled up on Voxer, the podcasts that updated, and the sheer amount of new things that I learned.  After catching up on Voxer and listening to a podcast, I decided to listen to a couple albums that I hadn't listened to in a while, Stonesour's House of Gold & Bones Part 1 and Audio Secrecy (with the song Zzyzx Road by Stonesour thrown in for good measure) and take in the scenery of the beautiful Mojave Preserve.  A good choice, because the view area between Amboy (on historic Route 66) and Kelso Depot was a great stop off to stretch the legs and snap a few photos.  Had I not been so excited to get home to see my family and it wasn't 90 degrees, I may have gone for a bit of a hike!  Just up the road are the Kelso Dunes; I didn't stop for photos there, but that's another stop I need to do in the near future!

This pano turned out very nicely, showing the amazing rock formations in the middle of the desert. 

I was really tired at this point, don't judge the
look on my face, I really was enjoying the view!

I look forward to the next CUE event, whether that be a Rock Star, Fall CUE, or if I can't go to another until next springs CUE National in Palm Springs.  In the meantime, I hope to share everything that I learned and learn from others that were there as well and apply it to my role as a dean of students.  Until next time...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Highs & Lows

Life is full of highs, but there are plenty of low points that each person must also deal with throughout their time on this planet.  In the past few days and weeks, I have addressed some pretty amazing highs, but I have also coped with some horrific lows as well.  As excited as I am to reveal a tremendous new chapter in my life, I also feel that it important to address something that carries enough weight that it could potentially save somebody's life.

This is, by far, the hardest thing that I have ever written.  It is also, quite possibly, one of the most honest and revealing things that I have ever written or said.  In writing this, I am not looking for sympathy.  I am hoping that by revealing my personal struggles, I can help others to realize that it is alright to admit that they are struggling and to seek help in those struggles.  If one person reads this and does something to make a positive difference in their life or in the life of others, then I have accomplished what I am setting out to do.  

If you have ever read my blog or met me in person, I exude an appearance of someone that is happy, positive, and looking to make a difference in others' lives.  For the most part, this is an accurate description.  However, there is a darker side of me that I don't let out very often, even to those that are closest to me.  Some things have happened in the past few days that have made me finally realize that I can no longer continue to bottle up my struggles and try to deal with them and hope that I can resolve them on my own. 

I struggle with depression.  Most of the time, I am positive and happy, but I have moments on many days, or even for days at a time, where I do not feel right and I have nothing in the form of reasoning behind why I feel that way.  Triggers for these feelings vary, from times I think about my brother (more on that momentarily) to watching something sad or horrific on the news.  Sometimes, the feelings aren't triggered at all; they just happen.  In the past few days, I realized that I can't continue to go on this way and that I need to seek some help.  

I don't think that this is something that I have always dealt with.  Throughout my life, there have been things that have triggered depression that would happen to anyone.  Breaking up with a girlfriend, getting into a fight with a friend or loved one, losing a loved one, and so many other things have contributed to times of natural depression.  My earliest memory of continuous, unexplained bouts of depression came about around the time my brother passed away in 2010.  Cody had been enlisted in the Army since the fall of 2004, surviving 15 months in Iraq from 2006-2007, then 12 months in Afghanistan in 2008-2009, returning from his tour in December 2009.  During his tour in Afghanistan, he survived an IED attack that left him about 60% deaf in his right ear.   On January 14, 2010, Cody did not report for his morning duty and was found dead in his apartment.  After an autopsy, it was determined that my brother had contracted pneumonia and while sleeping, his lungs filled up with fluid, causing him to stop breathing and eventually succumb to the lack of oxygen.  After his death, I went into a spiral of drinking and eating that was certainly not healthy.  At its worst, I was consuming several beers and whiskey on a near nightly basis.  I was also gaining weight like I never had before.  After about 9 months, I decided it was time for a change.  

I had realized that I had to do something about my weight, so I started attending Weight Watchers meetings.  My leader there not only helped me to start thinking about my food intake and the triggers that cause me to eat, but he also saved me from having to start attending other meetings.  I dramatically cut back on my food intake and drinking nearly ceased.  It eventually led to losing over 60 pounds. However, in the years since, I have gained the weight back, much of which I had attributed to terrible excuses.  I had started to feel better, but I was still having moments here and there of depression, something that I had chalked up to dealing with my brother's death.  

I have never been somebody to talk about my issues.  I am not good about communicating emotions and I also don't like the idea of thrusting emotions and issues on others, not even those that are closest to me, including my wife.  It is a fault for sure.  As much it pains me to admit and will be a shock, I have contemplated taking my life at times.  I have not attempted to, ultimately because I care for my family and friends enough to the point that I couldn't bear to think how it may affect them.  There isn't any excuse for why I have let things build up.  There isn't any excuse for things that I have done or said, or sometimes worse, things that I have not done or said.  I am taking full responsibility for my words and actions and I am seeking professional help.  This week, I went to a therapist and discuss with her many different things that can get to the bottom of why I feel the way that I do at times and to get better.

Now that I have gotten that off of my chest, on to the good news!  Over the past several weeks, I have applied for several administrative positions at schools throughout my district.  Most of them were at high schools, but a couple was at middle schools, and one was an elementary position.  On Wednesday, February 22, I learned that I had been appointed to a new school, where I would serve as one of the deans of students.  I had about 36 hours between learning of my appointment and starting my new position, so it was a hectic 36 hours.  I am very grateful for the past few months at my previous school and I look forward to the new opportunity.  Since my appointment, I have jumped off of the board into the deep end of a pool of lava, learned a ton, met some great people, and I am starting to get to know middle school kids for the first time in my career.

Because the new position will be very demanding, my frequency of posting may suffer for a bit.  Once I get into a routine, I will be sure to continue to share my learning and experiences.

Until next time, please share my story, not to sympathize, but to help somebody come to the realization that it is okay to seek help if you need it.  Thank you.