Saturday, August 20, 2011

A New Opportunity

As of Wednesday, August 10, I officially started my position as a "Math Fellow" at Denver Public Schools - specifically, Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS) at Montbello.

The Denver Math Fellows are tutors for students at 7 schools in DPS under a program (through Blueprint Schools Network) to turn around low-performing schools. Each student at these 7 schools will have one hour of math tutoring every day for the whole year. I will have the same twelve 6th grade students (2 at a time) every day.

How it Happened

In June, I had an itch to see if I could find any substitute teaching positions in the Denver area to supplement my income while I continue work developing the non-profit Compassion by the Book. I have survived on about $4,000 of savings the past year and worked solely as a volunteer founding and getting CBTB off the ground. However, a series of events (namely a car breakdown) resulted in my savings drying up more quickly than expected in May.

So, as I explored websites for subbing jobs, on the third website (DPS's), I found the Denver Math Fellows program. I applied, attended a screening event, interviewed, participated in a mock tutorial session with a real-life 6th grader, and was notified I would be hired the next day!

What's Next?

My salary and benefits as a DPS employee will help me continue to work on Compassion by the Book. I will be working on CBTB nights and weekends and have already found a renewed focus everytime I get home to expand and develop CBTB. Since I will have greater financial security, I will not have to start fundraising a salary with CBTB prematurely and can continue to focus the majority of my efforts on the textbook fundraising program.

I appreciate all the efforts of my friends and family to help me follow my dreams this last year (especially my parents, who have allowed me to live at home, store thousands of books, and have kept me fed). I am thankful now for this opportunity to touch the lives of young students at DCIS and to continue my efforts with Compassion by the Book.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Mountain

I go to my mountain
when I need to be alone with God.
When I need to leave the world.

I bask in his presence there.
He takes my yoke from me.
I sing, I run, I dance.
I rest in peace.

There I go to be free.
I wish I could be on my mountain all the time.
But I must remember
his presence never leaves me.

I go to cry too.
I connect with myself.
Where I am.
Where I have been.

There is no hiding there.
There is no need.
His love pervades all.
No where can I go that he is not.

I remember what matters there.
I cannot be distracted.
I meet my maker
and die to the world.

Oh that I could live
forever on the mountain.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2 Years with Cynthia

Yesterday marked two years since I asked Cynthia to be my girlfriend. It was the perfect weather to celebrate. We had a record high of 84 degrees on Saturday and yesterday, Sunday, we had snow. It was a wonderful re-creation of our first night as a couple.

We decided to go back where I first asked her out, but before we left, I wanted to share my journal entry from the day following. This is how I recounted the experience.

April 4, 2009 ~7 pm

Jump ahead to last night and early this morning. I went on another date with Cynthia. We were supposed to go to an art gallery of the sister of her friend Ana. That sort of fell through. I met her friend Sid, had Spanish Tortilla (which she cooked at her dorm), and drove out to Golden instead.

Rather crazily, we decided to go on a hike in the snow and in the dark. It was cold, hard to walk (because it was slick), and totally fantastic. We went up to the M because I know it very well. We walked up to the top left corner (on the outside of the fence) and embraced for a very long time. Early on in the embrace (perhaps
"barely" 11 pm) I nervously told her I needed to talk to her sometime. She nudged me on by saying "okay, when?" "I suppose now is as good as any time," I continued.

The snow was fluctuating between light and hard. We were fairly warm there together. Down the hill, where you can see Golden and Denver on a clear night, we were surrounded by a cloud that obscured all but two lights. Until suddenly the clouds would break a little revealing what looked like constellations below. When it was just the two lights I felt like we might have been out at sea suddenly coming into view of a lighthouse. It was quiet except for our voices, the wind, the snow, and the occasional car. Well, I suppose I could hear the highway off in the distance. "Well, okay. I'm pretty nervous," I said.

She said, "I make you nervous?"
"No, I make me nervous. I don't know what I'm doing."
"It's okay, don't be nervous."
"Okay. I really like you and I really like spending time with you."
"I really like you too."

The rest of the dialogue is a little fuzzy. I proceeded to explain that I have no experience in having girlfriends and that was why I was nervous. She reassured me she thought I was doing fine. We talked there a long time. She talked about her experience in relationships... she hasn't had many boyfriends either. After probably a half an hour we started to make our descent. On the way down I explained that that was probably the closest to a DTR that I could do.

"Are you going to ask me?" She said.
I said, "Ummm. Yes." (and I thought, "you dummy, ask her then") "Okay," I continued, "would you be... or would you like to be considered as my girlfriend?"

I was so nervous. This is virgin territory for me. I knew she was interested, but I was nervous because I really don't know what being a boyfriend exactly implies... She said "it means you don't kiss other girls." She went on that we would have a Christ-centered relationship and we would pray for guidance about what this would all be like. Did I ever mention I like this girl? I had been having the exact same desires in the past few weeks as I was thinking about what a relationship should be like. We had made it back to the established path by then. The snow was at its thickest then.

When we made it back to the car, someone drove up from the opposite direction. They were slowing down. ("What the heck," I was thinking). Did the lights flash on or did the cop just come out and start talking to us? I don't remember. He asked if we'd had anything to drink. "No," we both answered. He went into a spiel about underaged drinking. "I'm 22." He continued.

"What are you guys doing?"
"We were hiking."
"At this time of night? In this weather?"

I was a bit sheepish, it was obviously dangerous and foolish. I explained about the flashlight that wouldn't work, that I was in Blue Key and knew the M well, and in general was a blabbering fool. He relaxed his demeanor and explained why this was a bad idea and how if he was from Jeffco instead I'd probably be getting a ticket. He was actually very nice by the end and just warned us to be careful on the way down because visibility was poor and there were many accidents.

Eventually Cynthia and I made it back to Regis where we sat and talked for more than an hour (until past 2 am). I was nervous again. Should I kiss her? I was a chicken. I was open with my fears. We talked about boundaries (and what better time than to discuss this before any barrier is breached). She was holding my hand.

"Is holding hands okay?" she asked me.
"Yes," I chuckled.
"Sex is off limits," she said at some point - which I know that she knew I was on the same level with her.
"I'm okay with kissing, I think," I told her.
"Me too."

She sat in what I thought must be an uncomfortable position the whole time (though she denied any discomfort at all) so that she could rest against my chest. Our hands were intertwined and her's were caressing mine. My heart was thudding hard in my chest. We talked a long time. She looked so pretty and the look she would give me dazzled me. Her mascara was sort of a bit lower than I expected - maybe it ran down just a little bit in the snow. She wore grey sweatpants and a turquoise hoodie. She wore tennis shoes on the hike. Her lower legs were positively soaked in the car. That's why she was cold. But she didn't really even mention anything about cold (even when I asked her).

I walked her to the outside of her dorm. I was chicken or I wasn't ready (probably the latter), so I said goodbye with a tight hug. No kiss yet, but I'm not afraid of when it will happen.

That's good enough for now. I have a girlfriend for the first time ever. My motivations are pure, she is sweet and beautiful, and it is well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Presentation at Regis

Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking in a class at Regis University. The class focuses on a leadership model called the "Social Change Model" developed at UCLA in 1993 and the teachers asked me to share about my experience working on Compassion by the Book (CBTB).

Since I was unfamiliar with the Social Change Model, I met with the teachers to discuss the course content and to ask how they would like me to focus my presentation to best help the students. They asked that I share my experience, struggles, and motivation. Hopefully my presentation demonstrated the values of Compassion by the Book and the process outlined by the Social Change Model.

My presentation is below. Hit the "play" button and after it loads, click on the "More" button to expand the presentation to full screen. Then use the play button to navigate from point-to-point (you can also use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Fresh Start, A Clean Heart

I'm wearing a white shirt. That's symbolic, you know. I just took an epsom salt bath. That's symbolic too.

The symbols might not be too obvious, but I put on my clean white shirt after the bath that helped me sweat out the toxins and I couldn't help but feel like the attire matched my renewed, fresh, pure, and unburdened spirit at that moment.

The toxins are gone and I want this cleansing to symbolize my life, of which, one of the biggest toxins is complacency.

It started as a decision to take a bath because I am going to be sacrificing long showers for the next 40 days for Lent. By the end of my bath, I had decided that a lot of other things need to be cleaned up in my life.

Even though I have told some people that I don't like to use Lent as an excuse to give up things I already should not be doing, I understand that like the New Year, Lent can be a positive change agent. I won't commit to a forever change, but for the next 40 days a cleansing should be a nice step out of complacency.

Here are some areas I am going to clean up starting now:

1) No more TV. What else could I do with that time? How is TV being constructive in my life?
2) No long showers. I know they are relaxing, but not necessary.  I may only save a small amount of water, but my awareness of my consumption increases. I become more grateful for my blessings.
3) No sweets. I need to eat healthier. More fruits when I have a sweet tooth.
4) Spend at least 30 minutes exercising daily.
5) Spend at least 30 minutes of quiet time (away from distractions).