Father Damien of Molokai

One character from history, biography, and film has always held my attention: Fr. Joseph Damien de Veuster.

Tell us about a favorite character from film, theater, or literature, with whom you’d like to have a heart-to-heart. What would you talk about?

Source: It Builds Character | The Daily Post

“Damien of Molokai” is a low budget movie about a real life priest who self-exiled himself to a leper colony to care for their souls. Lepersy was 100% deadly when diagnosed back then. To be sent to the island was to receive a death sentence. What’s more? No one could ever return to the mainland.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Damien. I’d love to meet with him and discuss what it was like finally choosing to go to the island and sealing his earthly fate. I’d ask him about experiences paying the sick visits. How horrible was it? How did he manage to encourage people in such a state? I know his stories or wisdom would help me be a better teacher and person in general.

What I’d Like to be Remembered For

It’s a good question, what would I want to be remembered for after I’m gone. As I sat with a yellow pad, a lot of the same old values came out. I listed them. After that, I decided to eliminate the ideals that I liked doing in favor of those that I truly wanted people to remember me by. I came up with 5.

  • Loving Dad: I really want to leave memories with my kids and an impression to the world that I was a loving dad. This is sometimes easier than others but it can be challenging.
  • Effective teacher: A daily/weekly/yearly process and pursuit.
  • Dedicated Blogger.
  • Reader: I need tons of work here. Instead of putting out so much I need a daily practice of taking in what others have written.
  • Loving husband: This is a fun challenge and I hope people remember how much I love my wife.

Welcome to the November 2015 NaBloPoMo writing prompts! As with all NaBlo prompts, Saturday and Sunday are for free writing.

Source: NaBloPoMo November 2015 Prompts | BlogHer

Travel Lightly Down Life’s Road


It’s indescribable how the future changes things.

This week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “indescribable.” Use the actual word in your post or just base your post on something that defies description.

If you’ve ever kept a diary you’ve probably experienced looking back at something you wrote in the past that has changed in meaning. Perhaps you were nervously anticipating an upcoming challenge that turned out being no big deal at all. Or maybe you were sounding your trumpet about an event that now, later in time, seems to have lost it’s sheen.

At 46, I could never explain this and I don’t know why I’m trying to do so to people younger than me. It’s less important to define everything and more important to define those universal themes that have stood the test of time for ones life. Like the photo above I found on Tumblr, we can’t see the track ahead clearly. The forest/city/town that we’ll see down the tracks will likely defy all current description. The best advice I can give as you travel through life is to take it easy and believe all things do change.

A Lifelong Pursuit

Women are the saving grace of humanity. Unfortunately, they are an enigma to us men. We can watch and wait patiently in hopes of gaining understanding. But understanding our lady is a lifelong pursuit.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lazy Learners.” Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t gotten around to? What is it and what’s stopping you from mastering the skill?

Whether it was my first crush in grade school or after the first few months being married, I’ve always wanted to understand women. I love my wife, she takes sych good care of me and our kids. It would seem the things she does along that path make perfect sense but they don’t always. It seems like men are easier to figure out. They have primal motives. Women are different and that intrigues me.

There is a sort of permeating sadness in all the women I have known. It’s as if they carry an extra burden in this life. That sadness makes them beautiful. Sometimes we men will do all we can to reach out and cure their sadness but we are not usually successful. I think the human race relies on that sadness for balance. Greed, hatred, bigotry, racism … these are all sins that cause wars and strife. Women carry a place for the lost of the world in their hearts. This is partially why we find them beautiful. I learn a little more each year I am married. I wait and watch and discover. Understanding a woman takes time and an open mind the likes of which I never imagined before I got married. It makes me better being married to a wonderful woman but I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why. I’ve always wanted to understand women but the closer I get, the further it seems.

The Proper Time to Name a Soulmate

Through the ages there has been this idea that finding your soulmate will solve all your personal problems. It’s a false notion. I married well and my wife is definitely the best I ever had! Thank goodness she stooped to my level and said “I do.” For that I feel qualified to write this today. I’d like to give my take on a soulmate. I certainly feel I have found mine after 13 years of marriage (on 11/9/2015).

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Yin to My Yang.” How do you define the term “soulmate,” and do you believe in the existence of such a person — for you?

imageA soulmate is one who makes you better. You go through your teens and twenties learning who you are. After that I think is the best time to start thinking about a soulmate. People say they know the “one” before then but as for me, it would have been darned near impossible. I et my wife when I was 33 and she was 25. The age difference showed up here and there as a communication block but we aways worked through those times. Now it is almost never a concern.

When you decide to marry someone, you should know that labeling them “soulmate” is not the grand panacea or any marital ailment. I think of the soulmate as the one who can fight fair with you. Yes, there is a lot of fighting in marriage, I don’t care what people may say to contradict me. You choose to be with someone over and over until you die. At the end of your life is when you can look back and rightfully claim someone was your soulmate and not before. It’s a choice not a fairy tale. But, if you find someone who can fight fair with you and loves you enough to learn to fight fair, it can e the most wondrous sharing experience of a lifetime.

How the Face of Poverty Helped me Grow Up

Poverty is something most young people can’t comprehend until they experience it or even just see it. Seeing it transformed me on a trip I took to Mexico at age 18. I was forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “When Childhood Ends.” Write about a defining moment in your life when you were forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That's my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated.
This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That’s my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated. I’ve gone on to get two more degrees and a teaching credential. Every day I seek to help children of all socioeconomic backgrounds as a teacher.

When I was 18, I went with a group of Southern California kids and adult leaders to give food and supplies to an orphanage in Tijuana. I had the opportunity to give a child a bike. The place was actually situated behind a dump. It was regular practice for the kids there to trash pick for food and other items. The leaders gave me a rebuilt bike to give to a boy who they told me had just discovered his parents stabbed and dead in the dump. It was sobering and sad.

I learned a lot on that trip. As an OC brat, I took a lot for granted growing up. That experience really made me grow up in an instant. I saw that security was not granted for everyone as it was for me. Poverty is real. I think all children growing up in the lap of luxury with Disneyland right in her/his backyard should spend time in poverty. It made me thankful for my parents and my family. It made me realize that I was always just a couple paychecks away from being in poverty myself and that I needed to invest in myself in college and savings to ensure a life far from poverty. I also learned that Tijuana poverty is far below any poverty I had seen in Southern California all my short life.

Love Each Other

John Lennon sang, “All you need is love.” Why doesn’t anybody want to hear that anymore? My mom said something similar as I was growing up. It annoyed me then but it’s foundational in my family and work now.

Daily Post Prompt: Do you ever find yourself doing something your parents used to do when you were a kid, despite the fact you hated it back then?

Damien Riley Wife Sarah and Parents Gerry and SusanMy mother would always tell us kids, I’m the oldest of 4, to love each other when we would fight. I remember pushing and even punching in the back seat on road trips. Sometimes my poor devoted dad would have to pull over to make good on his threat to.

I was an ornery kid to be sure. In some ways, I think I deserved a higher level of consequences than they gave me. But at some point, I turned out alright. Now I tell my own kids to love each other and even my “at times brawling” students. I did hate hearing it but now it’s my certified slogan. May it spread.


This post was published first as Love Each Other on Riley Central.

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When in the Valley, Look to the Mountaintop

I would call my second year as a Pizza Hut Manager a valley that I rose to a mountaintop from. I left teaching because I was overwhelmed and the result was a valley I thought I’d never rise above. I control my destiny, I decided where my career would go, twice.

The Daily Post writing prompt: Describe a time when you quickly switched from feeling at the top of the world to sinking all the way down (or vice versa). Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?

Damien Riley Jet Propulsion Lab WrightwoodFrom 2000-2002 I managed the Pizza Hut in Dana Point, California. I had 10 years prior experience there and I was bilingual and highly educated, perhaps beyond necessity. They took me in and made me a manager. The first year was exciting, it was different from teaching and I liked that. The second year was drudgery. I couldn’t make the numbers they set for me and I didn’t have much time off. I felt lower than low. I was living alone and dreading each day walking into the place. I think they could tell as well. After some highly revelatory personal experiences, I knew that teaching was for me so I quite Pizza Hut, started subbing and within months has several interviews. In August of 2002 I was hired as a 5th grade teacher, I was 33.

I think what makes me proud of my valleys is that I looked up at the mountaintop and I didn’t let despair take over. This is an important life skill: When down in the valley, look up at the mountaintop. If you can see it, don’t take your eyes off it as your destiny and you’ll get there. I’ve been a public school teacher now for 16 years. ALL my experiences, especially the valleys make me the great teacher people recognize today.

Definitely Literally and not Figuratively

People have been overusing and hence misusing the word literally for many years now. It’s literally reached a point of no return.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No, Thank You.” If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?

Literally is a word that signifies the opposite of figuratively. If you use a similie, metaphor, idiom or other form of figurative language, you do not mean what you say. For example: I am starving to death. This is a phrase to emphasize ones hunger, not ones nearness to the undertaker. It would be correct to say “literally” if one had gone weeks without food and the literal distinction could be made.

Literally is a word that should only be used as a colorful distinction when a figurative statement is in fact true. People in our world use the word literally incorrectly and too much. It has become an adverb to signify intense degree. Example: I am literally going over there to complain to the manager. Before the grammar books start bending this usage and making it acceptable, I vote we scrap it altogether, for the good of English communication.