Friday, December 28, 2012

A New Year of Adventure!

Snow-shoe Bunny?
This is insane! Another year has sped by and a new one is waiting for us to encounter and enjoy. Say goodbye to 2012 and embrace 2013 since it is here and waiting. We, at J & L don't usually agree with new year resolutions since it seems the majority fail to make it two months into the new year, ninety percent if the research is to be believed, but simply think we should try and do the best we can.

What a view!
So as this new year is upon us just take a moment to take in the view of the world before you and take a step forward to meet it with a smile.

Heading Out!

Santa brought the partners of J & L snowshoes on Christmas Day and since neither of us have ever used such snow walking devices we were anxious to try out these new treats.


The trail taken the first day was a 4 mile trek through the San Bernardino Mountains, in the National Forest just south of the small town of Sugarloaf where the partners own a weekend home. The snowfall was not especially deep, a few inches, but gave a good work out in the 18 degree morning and good exposure to wearing snow shoes.

Boldly going where we've never gone before!
This is what a new year is about. To try things you have not before. To experience what you have not experienced before. This is the dividing line between adventurers and coach potatoes. And remember to smile in the sunlight.

Rabbit Tracks in the Snow
There are always new things to find on the pathways of life. Little footprints can lead to new beginnings and isn't that what a new year is about?

Gimme Shelter!

Some may have bigger homes than others but if yours is tiny and warm then don't complain. A house isn't a home and a home isn't a house if love is not there.

Great Exercise!
If you want to make a promise you will exercise everyday then go ahead and do it but don't knock yourself out if you don't. When time arises go out for a walk, smile, laugh, and be with loved ones. This exercise will get you a lot more mileage then giving up on a treadmill with a curse and a frown.

Taking it all in
Again, take in the beauty of the earth and all that you have. That alone will make any new year facing you that much easier to deal with. Open your eyes - look about you- and count your blessings.

Looking over my shoulder
We can not change the past but only the future. Mistakes are over our shoulders but when we look forward with common sense, love, and understanding then that future is ours to make. Have a positive tomorrow or dwell in the past - that is our choice. As always, we at J& L hope you will all make the most of the each day and leave behind that which did not work. Being explorers and researchers we must learn from our pasts - let that be the lesson learned in this new year.

From all of us at J & L we wish all of our friends the greatest New Year you have ever had. We believe that and we know you can too.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

'Tis the season for a great many things:  for family, for friends, for thinking a little less of oneself and little more of others. But amidst the glitter and the bustle, we often spend far too little time remembering the reason we celebrate at this time of year. Now before you think you've predicted where we're going and quit reading, you might be surprised where J and L found a bit of Christmas Cheer hiding this year.

This has been a year of highs and lows for the partnership of J and L. Very high and very low -- and without putting you through the tedium of detail, let us just say the year has at times put our faith to the test and then resurrected it again and again. We've gained more than we've lost and as the end of the year approaches, we grow more reflective.

Which brings me to my message. It is at this time of the year that we gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving not because we particularly like turkey or participate in great harvest festivals any longer, but because we have so many things for which we are grateful. We take the time to remember this and do so with our families. Even when family gatherings are somewhat reminiscent of a B-movie. And we remain together in spirit and rejoin with our families at Christmas to celebrate our Lord's birth, sometimes traveling significant distances.

And this tradition is perhaps the purest form of love we share as a witness to those beyond the Christian community. We gather together at family functions, at work-place parties, at assorted shin-digs. The last hereditary leader of the Blackfoot, Mountain Chief, perhaps said it best when he described Christmas in 1896. "Was it because the cold weather came, we sit around in our lodges and feast and give honor to each other...or is it because this is when the white man's God was given to all people... born to this man and woman, a baby boy."

This season, let that love be your witness for all who enter your home. May strangers, coworkers, friends and family all feel the spirit of love which unites us more at this time of year than at other. We know full well that this date is arbitrary and yet, by choosing to remember Him at this time, we create within ourselves a renewing of the light He brought into this world during the darkest time of the year. This Christmas, slow down, embrace your loved ones and count your blessings. Isn't that what it's all about? Taking time from the busy schedule of life to actually live and to love one another.

So, from both of us at J and L, we wish you have a Very Merry Christmas and a New Year which brings peace and prosperity for all of you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Prepare for the Unexpected

On a recent Sunday afternoon the partners of J & L were heading home from their cabin in Big Bear, a small mountain community about a hundred miles east of Los Angeles, driving north on Highway 18 toward Lucerne Valley when they were surprised by an extremely rare event. Right in the middle of the road less than fifty yards from the Toyota FJ stood a large animal which at first appeared to be a deer but within seconds we realized we were looking at a Bighorn Sheep.

There was not only one Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) but a herd of eight slowly coming off the steep mountain to our right and boldly crossing the two lane black highway. It was amazing as we watched these animals; two must have been well over three hundred pounds, packed with muscle and long thick curling horns, making their way down the steep rocky hillside without any problem.

Pulling the FJ over safely to the side of the road and putting on the hazard lights, we got out of the vehicle to start snapping photographs. Being prepared with a camera for moments like this is a must and as one explorer to another it was truly an unexpected and exciting sight. Living and exploring Southern California for decades there has always been this certain mystique with these elusive and famous sheep which roam the hinterlands of the dry desert mountains. One of the more famous areas to view these animals, if you actually can, is in the Borrego Desert west of the Salton Sea. It is here where many have reported seeing these great mammals but the chance of really seeing them in the wild is generally pure luck. Many a remote camping trips in the unforgiving deserts and mountains of Southern California have always ended as they had begun: not a sight of these beautiful and rare sheep.

The sure footedness of these animals simply amazed the observers as they bounced up and over boulders and then landed on some ledges only a couple of inches wide (the sheep not the observers). It was a real treat to watch these Big Horn Sheep for minutes and understand that we were being treated to a vision few will ever see in the wild.

If the reader ever sees a person stopped on the side of the road in a wilderness area furiously taking photographs of a mountainside, slow down and take a moment to wonder if that may be a good time to stop and investigate. And, as always, be prepared for the unexpected.

Want to learn more about Bighorn Sheep? Try one of these websites:

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Our Hearts Are Broken"

As the children around the world prepare for Santa's arrival, something wicked arrived in Connecticut. Whatever turns up in the law enforcement investigation, whatever the ultimate reasons beyond what have already surfaced, the results cannot be argued:  the lives of so many families have been tragically and unalterably changed. These families, these children, these teachers, these policemen and other responders will not be able to experience the holiday joy the rest of us feel. Not this year. Perhaps not ever again.

We at J and L avoid the political. There will be no comment about guns, gun control or anything else, but having just written about teaching, it seems timely to mention that we consider education a calling, rather than a job. We know that we are in our positions which call for us not only to educate but to serve in parentis absentia or in loco parentis -- that is, we are charged with keeping our students safe as if we were their parents. But none of us, teachers, parents, or leaders, are prepared for this.

Our hats are off to President Obama who came out shortly after this horrible and tragic incident and spoke to our nation as one from his soul. He was not a politician but simply the leader of the strongest and most powerful nation the world has ever seen and he cried. He was a father, a husband, and one who felt the pain those poor parents will feel during this Christmas season. The gifts purchased that will never be opened by children who are no longer with us. This was a very tough day for America but as always we as a nation we will move on because as history has proven we come together at times like this. Of course that moving on means with large holes in our hearts for the little ones murdered without cause and questions which will never be answered why someone would do this. Perhaps there is no answer.

Count each day precious. Hold your children close. Give them an extra hug tonight. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I Teach

"The whole art of teaching is the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards." -- Anatole France

"Sapere Aude" - Dare to Know -- Horace

As you know from our brief little biographical note which appears on the side of our blog, both J and L have broad and varied backgrounds which include years, yes, as hard as it is to admit, even decades now, in education. Between the two of us this background spans teaching preschool through university, including teaching teachers and serving in administration. What drives two relatively sane individuals to spend a combined total of perhaps fifty years in education, around children of all ages, while raising four children of their own? Well, perhaps we're not as sane as we think we are, or perhaps there is something about the pursuit of knowledge, about research and exploration, and about the ability to share that knowledge with others and the excitement of that pursuit which keeps us going.

And that's why I teach. And it's why we blog. It's why as we begin to think ever more seriously about retiring and face the twilight of our careers in public and private education, that we reach out for further exploration. Oh there have been, and no doubt will continue to be, incredible moments of discovery both in and out of the classroom. The greatest moments have always been when our students begin to look beyond the classroom, beyond the textbook, beyond us, and begin to think and do for themselves. 

I have often told my students that I consider my role to be that of a facilitator. I am preparing them for the real world. That is why any real world experience we can provide our students which helps them in that respect, I believe is truly worthy. Children should be self-reflective, they should have goals, realistic dreams, and the tools they need to achieve those dreams.

Most recently, our students have been honored by several guest speakers who helped bring the real world into the classroom. A lovely young woman, whom I shall refer to as Miss Debbie, recently came to share and "train" our students how to work with elders who are afflicted with Alzheimer's. Service before self is another real-life skill. Dr. Beyer was asked to share his experience in Law Enforcement and answer questions about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And then there was our old pal, Tino, who with three days to go before filming another episode for Tales of the Fronties, came to share his wisdom and experience. His best advice to the students was not to give up on their dreams.

(click above to watch video)

It is moments like these that remind me why I teach. And though J and L will walk out of the classroom one day, we will continue to educate ourselves and share what we discover, our research and exploration with you. Thank you for coming along for the ride -- stick around -- it will only get better!

Monday, December 3, 2012

In the Limelight

From Tales of The Frontier: The Ghosts

Recently J & L were invited once again to visit the set of one of Tino Luciano’s productions of the Tales of the Frontier. In a previous blog article, we introduced Mr. Luciano, the Big Dog himself, and now the sole-proprietor of Law Dog Productions, Film and Television, where we conducted a ‘behind the scenes’ moment for our readers and from the numerous comments we received, the research project seemed to have been a hit. Of course, being the folks we are, if there was a moment to return and report on the latest with the Law Dog crew, we were there.
Though we had been in the company of the cast before,  it was still another breath of fresh air to see something being filmed with a good old-fashioned message where the good guys win even when sometimes those ‘good guys’ have some faults of their own.
Many times in feature films or television series produced by the major studios most patrons have to burrow their heads when body parts fall off from ridiculous and nonsensical ‘zombies’ or aliens who have nothing better to do than travel a zillion light years to suck out the brains of ordinary humans on planet earth. Personally, this writer feels traveling that far would be quite a disappointment when the aliens actually make contact with modern humans and realize there is not that much to suck out. Then again, why are zombies always mad and vengeful? Being brought back to life should make them happy and thankful. That in a nutshell should show how far off the mark the big boys and girls of Hollywood really are.
But I digress. Back to Law Dogs.
The writing was crisp, the actors nothing but professional, the action developed and the overall take-away was one of superb professionalism from Luciano and his crew.
And speaking of the crew, it was like old home week for J & L when we saw Dale Noel, producer, Carole Schreiber, production supervisor, James Fuentez, 1st A.D., Lloyd Noel, horse wrangler (he and Dale also are the owners of the ranch were the shooting took place on this visit), and of course all the rest of the crew affectionately known as Law Dogs and Ladies, and who made us feel right at home.
This time we had the opportunity to step in front of the camera as ‘extras’ for a scene in the latest episode. Both eager and trepidatious about our two seconds in the limelight, we headed for wardrobe where we were met by Garrett Sheeks, the usual gaffer but this day he was wearing two hats that being gaffer and wardrobe guru.
Sheeks looked me over after three maniacal wardrobe changes, Law Dogs (especially Luciano) are sticklers for authentic details, and finally allowed me to leave the wardrobe trailer after I had stood standing in the blazing sun for what seemed like hours. Sheeks, in my humble opinion, is a wardrobe Nazi. Sweating, I smiled weakly due to the sun, and wandered off after being dismissed by Herr Sheeks to sit and wait until my limited acting talents were called for.
Of course, Laureen of J & L managed to have one wardrobe change from the comfort of the air conditioned wardrobe trailer and came out looking beautiful in her finery including a large hat, which took up most of the ranch we were filming at. Stunning all the same. Sheeks stated; “She’s a natural.”

I didn’t like the Fuehrer at that point at all. Just a bit a humor since I believe this young man is very talented, very personable and has a great career ahead of him. All joking aside, he is what a production team needs and that is ‘get it right’ before it goes before the camera.
Then again, me versus my good-looking wife, there would be no choice in saying who is or was a ‘natural’. She got the benefit of a changing room with air conditioning whereas I was barely able to tug on period trousers in the desert heat while balancing on a multi-colored rug in front of a trailer.  Then again, one prefers a woman who smells sweet to a guy who smells likes sweat. But again, I digress.
Back to reality, which is hard, when you’re about to appear on screen. Since  we, as ‘actors,’ have been sworn to ‘secrecy’ and can't tell you the details about the plot, which is a shame because they are incredible. If only we could let out the plots of ‘Ghosts’ or those other episodes of ‘Tales of the Frontier’ then we know they would play anytime on the home televisions or the local neighborhood theatres. That is how good the writing, directing and acting is.You will definitely want to catch the trailers to taste the flavor of what the crew is putting together here.
But, and I am just saying this as a generic person who has no business connection with Law Dog Productions, I will not be surprised to see this small and upcoming production company in the big times very soon.
Director Luciano truly inspires trust and friendship from all those he works with. He has a great sense of humor, a great sense of dedication, and one who will never rest until all the rest of the crew, actors and Production Company, have their chance to settle in for the evening.
In the bank for a withdrawal before the bad guys come.
But before he 'throws his hat' to wrap the night, there is no doubt who is in charge on the set. From wardrobe to set and everything in between, Tino knows what he wants and how to translate that to film. As J and L ambled over to the set, a late 1860s bank, for 'blocking' or as we laypeople would say, 'having the boss tell where to stand and what to do,'  we listened quietly to what we were to do and walked through the scene. Then, as we walked through the scene for second time, one of our fellows suggested a change and Tino, with a smile and firm voice answered, "How 'bout you let me be the director?" No more questions. No more suggestions. We got the message. And, we got the scene right.

We were there for several takes. All the angles, changes, laughs, and the serious work of film-making. It seemed like it took two hours to film three minutes. Quality takes time. And this is quality stuff.
After three visits to the set with Law Dogs, we at J & L have grown to believe these folks  are truly our friends. They share our same beliefs that hard work with strong dedication is the way to success. That if you have a story to tell you must tell it no matter how many people will read or view it. Do not worry about the criticism since the positive accolades will outnumber those of the nay-sayers.
And, finally, if you believe you are doing the right thing, then you must keep at it.
In our opinion, Law Dogs Production stands for what made America the country it is today and no matter the trash Hollywood flushes past the masses there will always be plenty of room for people like Tino Luciano to produce a series about what is good in people and in the country.

It's a family affair.