The Road to 65, Miles 275-6: Pledge Time


August 29-30, 2015, Prescott- As I told myself on Friday, this weekend was quiet and not overly ambitious, though I did attend a planning meeting for Hope Fest, 2015, on Saturday and did complete two online Red Cross classes, this evening.

Life is good, even with all the friends, and friends and relatives of friends, who have gone on to the spirit realm, this year.  Work was good last week, and I am sure I will get the work I am supposed to get, as the weeks and months roll out.

It’s always worthwhile, to me, to at least give sincere critics a hearing, though being true to oneself is a pre-requisite for living a good life.  As it stands, I am my own harshest critic, and choose to look towards areas in which I might obviate that criticism, by making improvements.

So, here are five pledges:

  1.  I will continue to stand alongside my friends, as they face their struggles.
  2. I will continue to improve on not crowding people.
  3. I will maintain a sense of ownership of my life and of my choices.
  4. I will support, financially, only what I can support without placing a burden on others.
  5. I will refrain from guilt over what I didn’t do for someone else, so long as I have done my level best.

The Road to 65, Mile 274: I Wonder….


August 28, 2015, Prescott- Two things didn’t happen today:  Work, for me, and letting myself get pushed around by a self-appointed overseer of this blog.

K says I’m lazy, for not putting forth “fresh material” on this site, day by day.

I wonder if he blogs.

I wonder how many hairs he will pull out, day by day, as I continue to write my blog, my way. Oh, wait, I blocked and deleted him.

I wonder how many peas can fit in a pod.

“I wonder, wonder  who wrote the Book of Love.”

“I wonder where she will stay-ay, my little runaway.”

I wonder about people I love dearly, who have stopped responding to my occasional messages.

I wonder who were Adam’s parents, since He sent his sons to another country to get married.

I wonder how the Earth cooled enough, for life to get started here in the first place.

I wonder what the songbirds are saying to one another, as their calls vary, in tone and in pitch.

I wonder how much more crap the common people of Syria will take, from those who variously want to use them as fodder, or as bait.

I wonder what’s REALLY in “Nuggets”, now that “chicken” is seldom used in advertising them.

I wonder what my beloved does, when she is not busy helping me extricate myself from mischief.

The Road to 65, Mile 272: Solitude


August 27, 2015, Prescott- I am a work in progress.  A lot of baggage has been tossed aside, over the past three decades, and, more intensively, over the past six years.  Blaming others, capriciousness, confusing silence, and sloppiness in my affairs have largely gone away.  I find taking responsibility, being actively engaged with others and carefully planning things are far more satisfying.

 After finishing a four-day stint as a substitute teacher, in Chino Valley, this afternoon, came home and had a twenty-minute power nap.  Two things happened this evening:  I enjoyed a fairly good Beef Stroganoff dinner, at the Legion Post and I got an upgrade to Windows 10, on my PC.  The meal was a fund-raiser, to expand our deck, so as to make it more of a place to relax.  The upgrade was free, and I’m told that will be for a year, then the hand will be outstretched.  I will see how well Windows 10 performs.

I am in more of a solitary mood right now, finding my own space to be a source of solace.  There have been a few buzzsaws of hostility, all over social media sites, though not directed at me, per se, but towards my Faith, and towards other entities and people towards whom I feel close.  Such is life, and those whose hearts are dark will always try to squash the truth, obfuscate and confuse.  I need a break, of sorts, so as to figure out how to rationally and effectively stand up to such as those.

It will be a quiet weekend, with a fair degree of solitude.  Then, I need to get back to work, at whatever place to which I’m called, and the cycle will continue.  I feel more at peace, having stated my concerns.

The Road to 65, Mile 271: Hostels


August 26, 2015, Prescott- Our city has a small youth hostel, located on a quiet west side street.  I’ve not had reason to go by there, but as I had positive experiences  with youth, and other, hostels, this past June, I would help anyone wanting to visit here, who also enjoys the hostel life, to get reservations.

The hostels in which I stayed, in southeast Alaska, were varied in terms of gender separation vs. “coed” floors.  Juneau had a very strict separation of sleeping facilities.  Sitka gave the adult hostelers a choice.  Ketchikan’s hostelers were all men, so the matter didn’t come up, when I was there. I usually opt for a “coed” bay, when it is permitted, as I don’t have any hidden agenda, and being with mature women, or a strong couple, just seems more normal to me.

The common rooms were in varied states of decor.  Juneau had a spacious area in which to relax, and a sizable adjoining kitchen.  Sitka had two small kitchens, and a very pleasant enclosed veranda, which offered a view of an eagle’s nest, in a spruce tree nearby.  Ketchikan had a small kitchenette, and a TV room, which was modest but comfortable.

Going back to the hostels, for the first time since I stayed in one in San Diego, in 1980, gave me a good chance to make a number of new friends.  I hope that anyone traveling either alone, or with a best friend, will consider this option.  It’s not as “rough” as it sometimes sounds.

The Road to 65, Mile 270: Esperanza


August 25, 2015, Chino Valley- This part of August has often hung heavy on me, both weather-wise and emotionally.  This year, things are a tad different.  I have taken sage advice, from three of the people I trust the most in this world, and have set aside my own apprehension about one of the two most important people in my life.  She will be fine.

Today was the second of four days, working with a varied and somewhat troubled group of youth.  Time was, when I thought I had NO IDEA how to reach out to adolescents, and hung back, accordingly.  The time I spent as a counselor, on the Navajo and Hopi Nations, helped mightily in that regard.  Both the bonds I developed, and the criticism I got from others, worked to help my sense of proactivity, in helping all young folks.  Then, too, raising a child through turbulence smoothed many of my own rough edges.

The past two days have gone well enough, for me, and a fair amount of meaningful work has been accomplished.  Towards the end of the day, a student came in, sat down, and wept, in as private a manner as possible.  This is the human face of the whole immigration imbroglio.  It is too easy for those who “have theirs” to demand:  The Fence; the Military Force; No Dream; No Daylight.  There are those who are struggling, among the people who were born and raised among a long line of “True Americans”.  They are, quite often, being duped by the puppetmasters, who call for whatever it is they sense the public wants.  Demagogues have done this, across the globe and down the centuries, and so it goes.

The Fence will not end the struggles of those who look like me.  The young person who was surrounded by love in our classroom, this afternoon, has more than just immigration with which to contend.  There are the normal day-to-day matters of adolescence, which know no frontiers.  There are the hopes, the trust, and, yes, the dreams, which short-sighted people would squash.  Make no mistake:  This nation is not alone, in keeping up an “Us vs. Them” mentality.  The very nations, from which many new arrivals come, are themselves keepers of a draconian mindset, when it comes to “The Other”.  It is wrong, no matter where it is promulgated.

The young person left class today with some hope, esperanza.  I wish the same for any child or teen, anywhere.  There is so much to be done.

The Road to 65, Mile 269: Honour


August 24, 2015, Chino Valley- I will be working here, in a small Middle School class, from now to Thursday.  Today, a school-wide assembly focused on self-worth and standing up to bullying and intimidation.

I spent some time, in each class, aside from the assembly, getting kids to talk about their individual talents.  Some have “none”- a sublime fallacy.  I must say, though, that when I was their age, I would have said the same thing.  Honouring oneself is a long-term process, but need it be so?

I have a soft place in my heart for teens who feel downtrodden, or beaten down.  This is the time of life when people need special encouragement to stand up for themselves, albeit in a way that is not embarrassing or ostentatious.  There are no uglies in this forest.

The Assembly did a good job of explaining this to the students- and further making the point that a person who follows his or her finer passions, can never be bowled over by the vicissitudes of life.  Several proactive and hard-working teens were shown as examples of how to rise above some very challenging life situations, none of which were of their own making.

One young lady became an archer; another overcame a “lack of talent” in running, and has mastered that skill; a young man, who is very short, became a fine golfer; another young man established several community efforts to help homeless teens.

The students who watched all this, can each overcome their own challenges.  This, as much as anything else, keeps me working in the schools, rather than in retail or in an office, somewhere.  I have a drive, to build honour in yet another rising generation.

UPDATE:  My place, for the foreseeable future, is here in the West.  I spoke with a family member who has his finger on the pulse of things back in Massachusetts.  He reassured me that visiting Mom is a good thing; but it is not necessary for me to move back there, on her behalf.  So, in the interests of being helpful, in the real sense of the word, I stay the course.  I appreciate all the support that various friends and family have offered.  I’ll still visit there, over the holidays, but then it will be right back here to AZ.

The Road to 65, Miles 267-8: Tears


August 22-23, 2015, Prescott- I have read a few posts online, and pondered some situations in real time, this rather busy weekend, and have shed very real tears.  Mostly, they come from regarding the genuine kindness shown to suffering, frightened children, or from reading of the very real emotions felt by those who have lost loved ones, so far this year, and there are so many such friends.  My tears come when I am alone, and can focus on things like the pain of other human beings.

Saturday was largely celebratory, in my Prescott circle:  A mesquite flour pancake breakfast reminded me of how we would function, if the stock market crashed and took many people’s jobs, and life savings, with it.  We would learn to forage, and we would have to get along better than many of us have chosen to get along with others.  Mostly, though, my breakfast companion and I enjoyed the delicious repast and talked of a plan she has to start a sustainable community in east Texas, somewhere.

I left her to take her first tour of Arcosanti, and went to an American Legion picnic, where lunch, mercifully, was not served until nearly 1:30 PM.  I had to contrast the atmosphere with the earlier event.  Legion folks tend to welcome one another to sit down, talk and pass the time convivially.  (The mostly upper class folks who attend Slow Food events tend to frown on anyone they don’t know sitting anywhere near their table.  Fortunately, my friend and I had a section of the long table, where we would be far enough away from the well-dressed woman who recoiled in annoyance, as we took our seats.)

Anyway, I got up and danced with a few of the ladies, during the live music portions of the picnic, both before and after the meal.  I am a passable dancer, when it comes to the steps we all learned as teens and young adults.  The easy conversations we had also made the event more worthwhile.

Sunday morning, after the customary Legion breakfast, our area Baha’is gathered, and discussed matters of living and sharing our Faith, and serving the larger community.  As we talked, a heavy downpour, which not everyone had expected, blessed our consultations.  The sky cleared later, long enough for us to get to our after-meeting lunch.  Then, during lunch, there was a second downpour.  I think the spirits cried tears of joy.

My mood right now is pensive, because the whole matter of my mother’s safety, this coming winter, remains unresolved.  It’ll get figured out, soon, and either I will do my filial labour of love, or actually stay in the Southwest, for the bulk of the next twelve to sixteen months.  I am grateful, though, for my varied and widening circle of friends.

The Road to 65, Mile 266: Derailing


August 21, 2015, Prescott- 

I sat and completed Alice Walker’s book of verse,

While, on Wall Street, the kids played, “Let’s Make Bad, Worse.”

I got more pleas for financial aid,

“Yet the udder is dry”,

Cried out the milk maid.

The name of my game right now is “Wait”,

While the derailing train lumbers past my gate.

This little verse popped into my head, with the full knowledge that life is seldom either as grim, or as spiffy, as we tend to project.  I am currently reading “The Book Thief” and “Dragon and Phoenix”, both somewhat emotionally-challenging accounts of hard times, one based in history and the other, in science fantasy.  Both Christian and New Age accounts of what might happen, in the near future, are making the rounds, these days.  My take is, whatever gets thrown at us, the majority of us will be able to handle it, somehow and survive.  We might have to make some fundamental changes in how we do things, with, and to, one another, but we will be okay, as a planet.

The Road to 65, Mile 265: Pesky Testing


August 20, 2015, Chino Valley- I stood outside Mingus Springs Charter School, this morning, and again at lunch recess, and marveled at how sweeping a view there is, in three directions.  Bill Williams Mountain is visible to the north, and Granite Mountain, to the south.  Eastward, the brown hills of the St. Matthews Range are interspersed with the greenery spreading out from the Verde River watershed.   The kids get to see this, four days a week, and, like a child who experienced the green hills and riverbanks of Saugus, MA, some fifty-five to sixty years ago, they probably feel comforted with the scenes, while taking them pretty much for granted.mandatory

My primary task, today, was to oversee another thing that people have come to take for granted, in today’s schools:  Mandatory testing.  This round of tests, for the latest educational fad:  Common Core, is to determine students’ present level of competence, relative to The New Standards.  It’s a pre-test, in other words, and has two parts, reading and math.  There will be a post-test, in April and May, and the two will, of course, be used to determine a student’s progress, and the school’s efficacy.

I’ve seen a lot of arcane material, and circumlocution, in the presentations of some Common Core advocates.  Like any educational flavour-of-the-year, or decade, it has its good points and its drawbacks.  Some claim it is pushing a socialist agenda.  Others see it more as fascism, a brazen move by the Feds to implement mind control.  I wouldn’t go anywhere near that far:  It’s a fad, much like No Child Left Behind, and before that, The First Days of School, and before that, A Nation at Risk.  Core Learning, Discovery Learning, New Math, Character Counts, Responsible Thinking, Immersion Learning- all have had their time in the sun, and some have managed to stick around, here and there, and do a measure of good.

When I first started working as a school counselor, in the 1980’s, my job partly entailed supporting the Principal’s pet project:  Score High on CAT (California Achievement Tests).  In the early 2000’s, the heyday of Harry Wong’s “The First Days of School”, there were no fewer than FOUR standardized tests being thrown at the students, in April alone, as part of the build-up to No Child Left Behind.

I was left behind, after that, and fortuitously, as I would spend 2005-11 as Penny’s primary caretaker.  More insidiously, though, I feel the children were, and are, being left behind, as their natural curiosity and sense of self- worth are getting squished by the pell-mell Race to The Top (Oops, that is so 2010!)  Try as the Big Boys and Girls might, they don’t get it.  I had to come down hard on the normally co-operative students, just to get this Assigned Task accomplished.  It’s a money game, and we all know it.  Without the testing, Federal dollars are withheld.  Without the testing, the students would focus on more intensive study of things that actually interest them, and which could be more practical in their lives.

So, how will the trade-off settle? It’ll be another fascinating year, no matter which school(s) in which I find myself.

The Road to 65, Mile 264: Ferry Life


August 19, 2015, Prescott- No, I am not embarking on another far-flung adventure.  Today, I am ruminating about the process of getting from one place to another, by boat.  Ferries have been around since before Egypt or Sumer were kingdoms.  Probably, as soon as a Neanderthal or Peking Man was able to fashion a log large enough to hold one or two other people, he or she would have had the bright idea to charge them a fee, in the currency of the day, in order to get across the river or lake.

My own experience with ferries goes back to 1966, when my parents took us to Martha’s Vineyard for a day.  I remember the salt air and the rather smooth ride from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, across Vineyard Sound.  We visited some Wampanoag people, in Gay Head, on the western end of the island, and being 15, I wandered off for a bit, by myself, to try and meet up with some local kids and hang out to see how life was there, day to day.

Since then, life has taken me across many bodies of water, either by watercraft or by plane.  I’ve tried my hand at rowing, and paddling canoes, with varying degrees of success.  There was one time, when I worked for Villa-Oasis School, now defunct, when one of the students and I slept on opposite ends of the Headmaster’s boat, while at Cholla Bay, in Sonora.  When we woke up, the next morning, the boat had drifted about a half-mile out to sea.  We rowed it back in, but I was never invited to go back to the hacienda.

Large ferry operations, like those in Alaska, Washington State and British Columbia, are staffed by young and old alike, working twelve-hour shifts.  Alaska’s ferry crews are state employees, and no tipping is allowed.  My tendency is to tip, fairly generously, for good service, so this was a new experience.  Then again, the prices of their fare make not needing to tip, a blessing.

Having spent 6 1/2 days aboard a U.S. Navy vessel, last Fall, I wondered how the crew members on various ferries regard their lives.  I listened to people talk back and forth, during the four Alaska Ferry rides, and the trip to and from Victoria, aboard a Washington ferry.  The dining staff and purser’s office folks seem to work the hardest, never seeming to catch a break, with several hundred, and sometimes over a thousand, people to keep fed, and secure.  As with any vessel, the engineering people, in the hottest part of the ship, have the most thankless working conditions; even if they are sitting, they are doing so in a heat capsule.

The sleeping quarters for the Alaska crew, are below decks, under the engine room and car deck, which, for safety reasons, is off-limits to passengers, for most of the journey.  Four scheduled and supervised car deck calls, per day, are allowed the passengers, mostly to check on caged pets which are secured in vehicles, with the windows rolled down for ventilation.  The crew members did tell me it was sometimes hard to sleep, with the dogs barking, off and on.  It’s definitely a life that one would have to choose out of love for people and for the sea.

Many of my fellow passengers chose state rooms as accommodation.  Being me, I rolled out a pad and a sleeping bag, though on top of a cot, so as to not have to get soaked, lest a wave came up over the bow or, as happened a few times, rain water leaked through the canopy.  I have mentioned, in one of the Alaska posts, how a woman sleeping to my left did get an unwelcome bath, from just such rain water.

One of these days, I will be on a ferry again.  I might do the state room experience, or just remain myself, and exult in the canopy of stars.  Either way, the sea and I will remain friends, as will the crew.