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Changing Education One Post At A Time

As part of my time spent with my good friend RJ, we discussed our spiritual heritage and journeys for a while.  It had been on my mind since walking through the Cathedral Basilica the day before, and is my habit if it is on my mind its probably coming out of my mouth.

My spiritual history is one centered on the Pulpit.  In the Charismatic, Pentecostal traditions we are known for wonderful music and sincere efforts at praise and worship.  The Charismatic movement is more toward “teaching” from the pulpit while the Pentecostal tradition is more toward “preaching.”  Pentecostalism more accurately defines me, so I grew up hearing fiery sermons on hell and holiness that causes one to want to find an altar and repent as quickly as possible.  I think I went forward for salvation nearly every week in many of my teen years.

When you look at architecture, Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are designed with the Pulpit front and center. This is neither good nor bad in my opinion, but it has led to some who fill that space to think more highly of themselves than perhaps they ought.  And it has caused those of us  listening to hold them up higher than they deserve.  Television pastors and evangelists have proven this downside more times than I care to recount.

Catholicism and other “high church” traditions are geared much more toward the Altar.  The pulpit is set off to one side.  Priests give homilies rather than lengthy sermons.  The emphasis, both by tradition and by architecture is centered fully on the Altar.  It is, after all, at the altar where the priest connects the congregation to the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ through the act of Holy Communion.

I have been blessed to be in both traditions at various times, and I find them both spiritually fulfilling.  But it is in the area of Ritual that I find myself moving away from my Pentecostal/Charismatic past and finding a sense of belonging and community within the larger Body of Christ known simply as The Church.

Some within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement attempt this.  They celebrate Advent, observe Lent, and attempt to move Communion away from plastic cups and animal crackers.  But it often still feels like something “stuck on” as an after thought.

There is a “togetherness” that happens in ritual.  And when it is gone, there is separation and “apartness.”

Think of it in terms of the family dinner table.  I grew up in a time when the family generally sat down together around a single table to have dinner.  It was often nearly the same time every evening.  Things stopped.  Phone calls went unanswered.  Discussions took place.  And bonds were formed. The experience was about satisfying the family.

Today I find myself eating in my car more times than I care to accept.  I stay connected to others through texts, emails, and Facebook posts on my phone.  I eat quickly.  I eat in silence.  The experience is about satisfying me.

And this is where my mind goes when I think about ritual in the church. There is a connectedness found within the act itself that lifts up the Church as a sacrifice to God.  Without it, there is a move me if you can attitude that pervades our mindset.

I know this.  Yet I don’t live this.  At least not right now.  But there is a longing in my heart to belong again. To connect again.  To be part of something bigger than myself.

It will come.


And the Walk Continues

Posted by Tim under Personal, Photography

Philadelphia has been a great trip so far.  As with most things in life, it hasn’t been exactly what I planned, but perhaps its better.

I had ever intention of walking through ISTE’s exhibit hall and seeing some friends that hang out in the Blogger Cafe and other places.  But, the best intentions are sometimes just not enough.  Walking.  Exploring.  Photographing.  These are the things of this trip, and they have been great.

Today, Mark Smith and I trekked down nearly a mile to grab breakfast at Sam’s Morning Glory Diner (the Finer Diner).  And…it…was…marvelous!  A little hole-in-the-wall place with the friendliest waiter and some amazingly  good food.  I think when Mark and I are together again at a conference we are going to need to do a morning podcast about where to get the best breakfasts!

18685452564_e7978eb317_zFrom there I took a long, meandering route over to the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul (nearly 2 more miles).  Today I had my tripod and two fully charged batteries ready to tackle the place.  It is gorgeous inside and out.  On the way I stumbled into a little church (I didn’t catch the name) that was being renovated inside.  It was also a beautiful chapel.

So I spent the first half of my day reflecting on the greatness of God and man’s attempt to demonstrate His greatness by offering up the most beautiful edifices as a place of community and worship.  It brought me back to the theology of the altar and the pulpit and how various Christian traditions emphasize one over the other when both are equally important.

The second half of my day was spent with another long-distance DEN friend, Kimberly Wright.  She was brave enough to tag along with me as I went to the East State Penitentiary to scout around and take more pictures.  We had a fabulous lunch at Jack’s Firehouse.  The food was amazing. The service was exceptionally slow, but we were too busy talking and talking and talking to worry about it.

After that, I was just tired.  And it was about to rain.  Big time.  So I came back to the hotel where I believe I will be hibernating for the evening.

Tomorrow is another travel day.  But not before breakfast with more friends….

My Cathedral pictures can be found here.  Today’s other pictures have been added here.


We Interrupt This Walkabout…

Posted by Tim under Personal

We interrupt this photography walkabout stream of blog posts for the main reason why I even made this trip.

RJ Stangherlin.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.57.20 PMRJ and I met at my first DEN national meeting way back when we were in Silver Spring, Maryland, and 1 Discovery Plaza.  In those days I knew absolutely nothing about technology in the classroom.  I was invited to attend because I had streamed more Discovery Education videos than pretty much any other teacher in the state.  And I’m glad I did.

There is absolutely nothing about our personalities that would immediately tell you that we would become fast friends.  RJ’s vivacious love of life fills the room when she enters.  I usually sit in the corner and people watch.  I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger.  Until I get to know you, you would get much out of me sometimes. She already had over 30 years in the classroom.  I think I had 3.

The 2nd time we were together she walked up to me with a martini in hand and said, laughingly, “I bet you don’t even remember my name do you?”  She had me pegged.  Names have always been a problem for me.  So I just lied and said, “Of course I do!”  But she knew better.

RJ has battled two different types of cancer and a very rare blood disease and came out a winner.  By all accounts she should have been taken from us two or three times over the last few years.  But watching her progress on Facebook showed her continually smiling, telling how good life is, and pointing that thumb up to give the its-all-good signal for the world to see.  (She held it up for me again today in the picture above).

I am at ISTE, but I’m not really at ISTE.  I have not registered for sessions.  I haven’t even used the pass for the Exhibit Hall I was given.  I am in Philly because I promised RJ a cup of coffee on me.  This morning, I got to pay up.

I got to spend about 4 hours with RJ today.  And we shared a fantastic lunch time with another great friend, Danielle Abernathy.  Listening to her laugh, watching her eyes beaming with joy, and sharing our life stories with one another was exactly what I needed.

I cannot even begin to describe the joy that is in my heart today after this visit.  RJ, you are an inspiration to so many.  But you are a very special angel to me.  I love you, my friend. You embody the heart and soul of what it means to be an educator. But more than that, you embody the heart and soul of what it means to be a human being.

It is an honor to be your friend.


Day Two…Wow

Posted by Tim under Personal, Photography

Sunday was my second full day on this walkabout, and what a day it turned out to be!  But then coming to ISTE is like that (even if you aren’t really going to ISTE).

I boarded the bus at Union Station in DC.  This time the Megabus was not overcrowded, so I had an empty seat next to me.  Unlike my first outing, Sunday’s driver was not a big believer in air conditioning.  I don’t do well reading or being jostled about in a moving vehicle unless I am either a) sufficiently cooled down with a constant stream of cold air on my face, or b) asleep.  And, after all, I needed the rest.

I had been to the Megabus stop at 30th Street Station on my last venture through Philly, so I sort of knew my way around.  I got on a train into City Centre, and in two stops I was walking up onto 12th Street around the corner from the Marriott and the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

I had lunch at Reading Terminal Market with my gracious host, Mark Smith, and one of his MACUL Board Members.  Then it was off for a walk.  Since I was meeting a long-time friend, Danielle Abernathy, at JFK Plaza (otherwise known as Love Park because of the Love Statue there), I decided to walk in that general direction.

I discovered the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul, which may be the loveliest Catholic Cathedral I’ve ever been in. And, of course, I did not have my tripod with me, so I snapped a few iPhone shots using the black and white Lenka app and promised myself I would be back!

After a quick pretzel with Danielle, Cheryl Woolwine, Anne Trueger,  and the group Danielle was hosting, I was ready for a break, so I stopped by the hotel and began looking through pictures.

At 5 I was headed to Bare Burger to meet a Facebook friend, Kevin Jarrett.  Facebook, for its foibles, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern Day World.  Until yesterday, Kevin and I had never met.  We got connected on Facebook because we are both educators.  Then, as I followed his posts I realized he loves photography, and he’s dang good at it!  Then, it all got real when I realized he loves trying out new hamburgers wherever he goes.  I recognize a kindred spirit when I see one.  Dinner was great.  The menu was perhaps the most creative I’ve seen in a while, and the Elk Burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon was simply amazing.

After dinner I went out for photos during Magic Hour (that time of 30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after).  I have to say by that time of the day, and nearly 20,000 steps at the time, my heart (and my feet) wasn’t in it.  By the time I got back to the hotel I could barely put one foot in front of the other from the pain.  Going from couch potato to 10 mile walker overnight was not a great move on my part.

Last night I got to catch up a little with Kristy Vincent, met Beth Still (another Facebook and Twitter friend), and spent time at a regional meetup sponsored by groups like MACUL, ICE, and more.  It was great seeing more DEN friends as well, but by 9 PM I was already dying.  I left the party just as it was cranking up and gingerly made my way back to the room.

Like clockwork, I was awake at 5:30, and here I sit in Starbucks sipping coffee, people watching, and sharing yesterday’s adventure with you.

So far, I am liking this little adventure I’ve set out on. Getting around has been extremely easy in both DC and Philly.  No rental car. No hotel parking. No crazy traffic.  Just wandering.  No agenda to speak of.  Just being present and seeing what is around me.

Today has a mini-agenda.  I’m seeing one of my favorite people in the entire world, and I’m going to the 10th Birthday Bash of the Discovery Educator Network (my favorite PLN in the entire world).  And if that is all that happens today, my heart will be full.

All of my Philadelphia pictures will be here on Flickr.


Day One Is In The Books

Posted by Tim under Personal, Photography

Day one of my Megabus, photography, ISTE, Philly, DC adventure is over.  And the results are a little mixed.

First, the ride on the Megabus wasn’t bad.  I wasn’t prepared for it to be 25 degrees in there, but lesson learned.  I napped on an off throughout the night-long ride and arrived in DC around 9:15 at Union Station.  Immediately, I was looking for breakfast.

19213562642_d022b8825b_zThis why the Internet is such a beautiful thing.  As we got nearer to DC I pulled up my browser and typed in “Where can I get bacon for breakfast near Union Station?”  About the 3rd post down was a question from a father wanting to take his family to a “not very expensive” place to get breakfast after arriving at the station.  Two or three results popped up (on happens to be the restaurant in my hotel, so I’m about to go try it out after I finish this post).  The Dubliner caught my eye.  It is a nice little Irish pub that serves as the restaurant for a local hotel.  The Full Country Breakfast reminded me of my days in England enjoying breakfast at the tea shop in Beck Row.  Wonderful.

After breakfast, I set out to take pictures from the Library of Congress to the Lincoln Memorial.  You know that saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”?  Yeah, that happened.  Rain.  Some drizzle.  Some monsoon that almost grabbed my umbrella out of my hands.

So some of the pictures were taken with my iPhone using a combination of the Lenka black and white app and the 645 Pro app.  Lenka shots were uploaded to Facebook immediately (love this app).  645 Pro shots were transferred to Lightroom and edited slightly since I shoot those in an Uncompressed TIFF mode similar to RAW.  Other pictures were taken with the camera on a tripod while I attempted to cover it up with my umbrella.  Not fun.  Sometimes the rain stopped and I could walk around with camera in hand.  And then, about 5 PM, the rain pretty much quit altogether, and I was able to get a few HDR shots in along the way to experiment.

I got out of the rain for a while at Old Ebbits Grill, and again at a Starbucks down the street.   It was raining hard enough, and long enough, while at Starbucks that I just transferred the pictures I had to Lightroom, did some quick edits, and posted them.

By the time I got back to my hotel (nearly 2 miles from the Lincoln Memorial),  I had walked over 30,000 steps.  That’s 14 miles.  Carrying a nearly 40 pound backpack the entire way.  Needless to say, those last 2 or 3,000 steps were willed out of my knees and arches because I was determined not to take a cab.  Silly me.

Today, I can barely walk.  It will get better, but this morning it is rough.  Thankfully, I have fewer steps to take today.  My Megabus leaves DC for Philly at 8:30.  I should arrive around noon.

You can see the first day of picture adventures on Flickr here.


Megabus Review

Posted by Tim under Personal

imageI rode a Megabus from Philly to NYC and back the last time ISTE was in Philly. It was that ride that kept this trip gnawing in the back of my mind.

As as we approach DC, I have a few things going through my head about the experience so far.

  • There is no terminal for the Megabus. No person to tell you how late it might be. That was an inconvenience when our bus was nearly 45 minutes late.
  • I need to wear layers. The bus is freezing. Even for me!
  • A neck pillow of some sort would have been helpful.
  • I should have ordered tickets sooner and got the front row seat for the additional $5.
  • Overall, the sleeping experience was about what I expected. More like multiple short naps. I think I would have slept better had I not been freezing.
  • Headphones are a must.
  • My phone was at 6% battery when I boarded. The power outlets are lifesavers. (Haven’t tried the wifi).
  • Nearly all seats are general admission. I should have taken more care to get on the bus earlier in order to have more variety.
  •  Megabus needs a Keurig

All in all, this has not been a bad experience (except for the freezing part). There are several families with small children on board. I’m not sure I would want to travel that way, but I understand cheap is cheap, so it is extremely affordable.

Livin’ the dream and livin’ it large!


And We’re Off! Sort Of

Posted by Tim under Personal

It is 11:10 PM. I’m standing on the sidewalk with a couple of dozen others waiting on the Megabus that was scheduled to depart 10 minutes ago.

imageWe we will eventually be on our way, but for now we wait.

My plans for tomorrow in DC may undergo some slight modifications. The weather app shows rain all day. Drizzles I can handle. A deluge will be a different story.

I guess we’ll figure that out like everything else about this trip….on the spur of the moment.


And the Journey Begins Today

Posted by Tim under Personal

At 11 PM tonight I am scheduled to leave the KAT Bus terminal in Knoxville on a Megabus bound for Washington, DC.  For those unfamiliar, the Megabus line is an inexpensive way to get from Point A to Point B.  In this case, it will be an overnight ride of about 10 hours complete with reclining (think airplanes here) seats, power outlets, wifi, and the all-important air conditioning.

I am scheduled to arrive at Union Station in DC around 8:35 on Saturday morning.  If all goes according to plan (what ever does?), I’ll be somewhat rested and ready to begin my all-day hike around the National Mall area.  In the map below, you can see where I arrive marked by that little red pin.  The square next to it with the blue dotted outline is my hotel, The George. (Click the picture to enlarge)

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 8.53.20 AM

The dotted blue lines indicate where I plan to walk.  Everything, of course, is subject to change, but it lays out something like this:

  • Grab some pictures around Union Station (Its beautiful in its own right).
  • Walk toward the Library of Congress behind the Capitol Building and see what presents itself outside and inside.
  • Head around to the opposite side of the Capitol Building to the small fountain area in the front to get some shots back toward the building.
  • Criss Cross from side to side of the National Mall throughout the day so that I can get shots around the various Smithsonians and also the MLK Memorial.  The Memorial is new since the last time I was in DC.
  • My good friend, Heather Hurley, is adamant that I go by Old Ebbit Grill while in DC, so you can see a little detour down past the White House to that red oval on the map.  Pretty sure I’ve been there before.
  • I want to arrive around the Washington Monument by mid- to late-afternoon.  The sun will be going down over behind the Lincoln Memorial later.
  • When Magic Hour begins, I want to be near the Vietnam Wall.
  • As night falls, I plan to get some long exposure shots around the reflecting pool.  I’m thinking these will wind up as Black and White shots when I’m done.
  • When I’m absolutely worn out, I’ll hail a cab (or Uber) back to my hotel to crash for the night.

I’m coming back for another full day of shooting later, so if I miss anything, I think I’ll be ok.  This is picture day, not let’s-look-around-at-everything day.  I’d love to spend some time on my second trip wandering around historic sections of DC.



Posted by Tim under Personal

This weekend I began a “walkabout” of sorts.  A journey.  A trip to satisfy my need for photography and friendship.  A trip in the planning, in one small way or another, for nearly two years.  A week of wandering, photographing, coffee-ing, chatting, and spending some much needed time with old friends.

I know.  It sounds so romantic.  And to me, perhaps, it is.  To others, its just a trip.  I prefer the more romantic interpretation.

Friday night I will board a Megabus in Knoxville, TN, and begin a 10 or 11 hour overnight journey to Washington, DC.  It has been in the back of my head to go back to DC in this manner for nearly two years.  I’ve been twice now, and neither time was I truly ready to find images to capture with my camera.  I look back on this photos now and think, “Why did I post these for everyone to see?”  I hope this trip is different.

I arrive at Union Station in DC on Saturday morning.  My plan is to walk toward the National Mall (about 45 minutes  to an hour away by foot) and spend the day walking the streets and alleys of DC capturing whatever appeals to my eye.  I want to end up near the Vietnam Wall around dusk and capture some of the iconic memorials around sundown.  I’ve got a hotel reservation back up by Union Station, so a quick Uber ride will get me there in time to grab some sleep.

Sunday, I board the Megabus again and head to Philadelphia for ISTE.  Mark Smith via MACUL was kind enough to get me an exhibit hall pass.  I’ll be in Philly Sunday to Wednesday where I will meet up with some old friends, spend time looking over new technology, celebrating the tenth birthday of the DEN, sharing coffee with RJ Stangherlin and Kimberly Wright, and spending time walking some historic paths of Philly for a photo shoot.

Wednesday I head back to DC via Megabus.  I’ll spend Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday taking more pictures around other sections of the city.  Then, when I’m absolutely worn out, I’ll head back to Union Station Thursday evening and hop on a Megabus for the overnight trip back to Knoxville.

I’m using a combination of Google Maps and an iOS app, Stuck On Earth, to scope out places to go on the 2nd leg of my trip.

All told, the Megabus will cost me $108 for the entire trip.  And, if it works out half as well as I hope, it will be the first of many Megabus adventures that will take me wherever they go for mini-vacations and photo opportunities.

Watch my Facebook and Flickr pages for pictures from the trip.  Watch Facebook and Twitter for Glympse posts of my travel and Swarm check-ins along the way.

And if you have places you think I should look up for photography purposes (or the never ending journey toward great food), leave a comment!

See you on the Walkabout.


Keep Moving Forward

Posted by Tim under Personal

Most of the world knows by now that the plaster ceiling in my home fell about 10 days ago.  A section of plaster, 1″ thick and nearly 14 feet by 20 feet with old ceiling heat wire mesh holding it all together, fell in one big crash.  Furniture was destroyed.  The floor damaged.  And at the same time, we’re very fortunate and thankful that no one was hurt.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 9.24.03 AMThe insurance company jumped in immediately and got someone out to clean up the debris (that’s a story all on its own, but I won’t bore you with it here).  An estimate and check for repairs was in the mail within days.

And so we began the task of finding someone to come in and tear out the remaining plaster in the kitchen and hallway, replace it with Sheetrock, and finish it all prepared to paint.  We looked.  And we looked.  We made calls.  We followed up on Facebook.


So I decided I better rip out the rest of the plaster while I’m calling.  Then I decided I’d better start to put up the new Sheetrock while I’m calling.  My daughter, Alycce, and granddaughter, Malia, came to help out.  I rented a Sheetrock jack, had materials delivered, and we started in.

It brought back memories of doing this while in high school.  As we were building our house in Arkansas, my uncle, Don, and I would climb up on a 2″ x 10″ plank about 2 feet off the ground, hold 12 foot long sheets of Sheetrock against the ceiling with our heads, and hammer nails in.  It didn’t take long for that 16 oz hammer to feel like it belonged to Thor.

Today everything is screwed in.  Much better to hold the Sheetrock, but that drill got awfully heavy really quickly.

Finally, with 1 piece of Sheetrock to go, someone returned a call and is coming out today to give me a quote to finish the job.

Trust me, I did a lousy job.  And I’ll be embarrassed for a professional to see it.  But I had several life lessons operating in my psyche that I learned from my dad and my papaw.  Among them were these:

  • If you’re sitting still, you’re backing up.  My dad taught me this when we were working in my parents’ manufacturing business in Arkansas.  You could never be satisfied with the production line you have today.  Your customers will need something different tomorrow.  If you can’t provide the new, they will stop buying the old.
  • Do something even if its wrong.  My papaw taught me this while we were building our house.  He caught me standing around wondering what to do next (I was 15 or 16 at the time).  He had no time for bystanders.  He needed workers.
  • Always be ready to do it yourself.  Neither of them ever told me this, but they lived it.  They both grew up poor.  Something I’ve never known.  So fixing their own car, building their own house, mowing their own yards, planting their own trees, raising their own cattle, and so much more was just a natural exercise for them.  I grew up in the I’ll-be-there-as-soon-as-this-show-is-over generation.  It took me a long time to learn this lesson.
  • Learning never stops.  My dad taught me this while we were starting their business.  We tried to make what the first customer wanted.  It had 4 ingredients.  Any 3 of them could be combined easily.  When you added the 4th, the whole product turned to mush.  We kept at it until we finally had something the customer could use (2 products with 2 ingredients each…yeah, we cheated just like James T. Kirk).

Its that last one that really hit me during this process.  Like anyone else, I went to YouTube to make sure what I had in my head to do was really what I was supposed to do.  And it was a reminder that education is not about memorizing stuff (although that’s also important).  Its about synthesis, analysis, problem solving, finding mistakes, fixing them through more problem solving.  I could feel the dendrites expanding across the synapses of my brain.


But it was this one simple truth that drove me: Keep moving forward.  I kept working while I waited. Its a work ethic I learned way too late in life.  Hopefully, it will pay off.  It has saved me money, but it has also saved some time by being ahead of the game when the pros get there.

So get out there and do something, even if its wrong.

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