Neptune Direct

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November 28, 2020, Plano-

Seventy, as I expected, feels no different than sixty, or sixty-five. The day passed with a variety of activities: Joining a global Zoom gathering, hosted by a longtime friend from Phoenix; picking up another pair of dress casual shoes; munching on burger and fries for lunch and a delectable Pho (Vietnamese soup) and spring rolls for dinner; and exploring parts of Grapevine, TX (photos tomorrow), where Aram and Yunhee will live, come the end of January.

It has been a time of both taking stock of how things have changed, as I mentioned yesterday, and of projecting ahead. I have a sense of what I hope to accomplish in 2021 and beyond. Right now, I am focusing mostly on December, and being there for any children and youth who need me, between now and the Christmas/New Year’s Break. I had planned on taking three days off, to mark the fortieth anniversary of Penny and I having met. That would have taken me to a couple of places in New Mexico that are associated with our first encounter.

New Mexico, though, remains closed to people from most states, including Arizona and there are relatively few substitutes working with my employer, so I will be making myself available from December 1-18, straight through. With any interstate road trip over the holidays looking increasingly ludicrous, I will have plenty of time to check out places in other parts of Arizona, as well as relax with friends, during the Break.

Planet Neptune ends its retrograde, relative to Earth, tomorrow. This sort of event exhausts a lot of people, but generally focuses my attention more sharply and lets me sleep more deeply through the night. That will make it a lot easier both to give my attention where it is needed and to plan realistically for the weeks and months ahead.

Decade of Change, Decade of Growing

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November 27, 2020, Plano-

Ten years ago, I was saying goodbye-and in many ways, good riddance, to my Fifties-seemingly a time when I was largely all thumbs, but a time when I extended every ounce of caring and compassion towards keeping a dying woman, the love of my life, alive-until the day she was ready to transition to the Spiritual Realm.

The next day, I became the first of my parents’ children to reach the age of sixty, celebrating that evening, with two pizzas delivered by the nearby Papa John’s, and shared with Aram and four of his friends. Penny was not eating much, by then. A week later, my wife, son and I would be joined by my two brothers and a sister-in-law, more fully marking my 60th, at a fine dining establishment, in downtown Phoenix.

Durant’s is still in business, my three living siblings have each reached the age of sixty, Penny has been one of my Spirit Guides for nearly ten years, and Aram has grown into a level-headed, more focused man, with a wife of his own, and a promising future.

What of me, as the start of my eighth decade of earthly life beckons, in a few short hours? How have I spent this decade? I have faced the demons which taunted me, most of my life. I have learned to focus on my work, in a way that I seldom did while I was struggling as a caretaker. I have taken initiatives in serving my Faith, in ways that my younger, more confused self found daunting. I have traveled some, both domestically and internationally, facing my own foibles and overcoming several of them. I have reached out to more people, in more authentic ways, than I ever did as an awkward, introverted soul.

I have learned to embrace growth. When I wake up tomorrow, it will not feel “terribly strange to be seventy”. There are many miles left ahead.

Threading the Needle

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November 24, 2020, Plano-

I set out, early this morning, for Phoenix, then by air to Dallas and on to this home away from home, just north of the Big D. My son and daughter-in-law live here, and it is the logical place to mark my coming seventieth birthday.

The flight, and its preceding and subsequent drives, went very smoothly. Although it was a full flight, I was masked from the time I left my car in Long-term Parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport until the time I got in Aram’s car at DFW-and I was seated with two young boys on the plane, thus encountering minimal risk (Yes, they, too, wore masks).

This trip flies in the face of the demands of many public health officials, that everyone stay home and meet virtually, over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is one caveat: I will be spending most of the next five days in this apartment. Travelers, like myself, have a responsibility to thread the needle of any departure from our primary homes in a very careful manner.

Thus, I am wearing filtered face masks, sanitizing my hands and keeping the prescribed six-foot distance in public places= as I have been doing since March. Thus, I am avoiding being in a ridiculously crowded indoor space. No, the airport was not so crowded that I could not maintain physical distance.

In a few short days, as indicated above, I will enter my eighth decade on this planet. I intend to continue most, if not all, of my acts of service and, when a modicum of success in counteracting Coronavirusdisease 2019 is reached, to resume planned travels, furhter afield.

For now, I am fotunate to be with my little family.

Small Audience Auditions

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November 23, 2020-

As near-milestones fall, I look for the special bounty that comes with a day, regardless of what lies ahead. Today, my last teaching assignment as a sixty-something was with a couple of sonnet-writing classes and three levels of drama class.

I am not much at writing sonnets, so thankfully, the students were all well along. in their own writing. The Beginning Drama class was studying silhouettes, throughout history, so we had a fine discussion on the appearance of women, and men, through the ages. Most said they are glad to have not been around when full corsets were in vogue. One objected to the very idea of what he called “grotesque exaggeration” of female body parts-such as the Victorian-era depiction of the buttocks, all by way of hyper-couture. I share his disdain; women are given to a variety of types of beauty. Putting one’s body through torture, in order to meet someone else’s expectations, is never an even trade. Ladies, you are just fine, the way you are.

The next class, consisting of four people, saw each student present a particular sonnet that had been individually assigned. I have never assessed a dramatic presentation before, but using a clear rubric, the students could not tell that I was a novice. Much depends on intuition and presence. There was some embarassment, on their part, at auditioning to a small audience, yet one pulled self together nicely, infusing a perfect blend of emotion and enunciation. Even reading off a page, a gifted actor can stir deep feelings.

Lastly, the set-builders came in, and showed finesse with carpentry and prop painting. Their work was simple, yet wondrous. I see no “trade deficit”, in the sense of young people taking to crafts and the building professions, despite anecdotes of older contractors bemoaning the lack of ambition among the rising generations.

I value in-person education, and getting in there and working WITH the kids seems to build their self-confidence and drive, more than just reading instructions aloud, and retreating to the isolation of a desk-or an office.

Like Old Home Week

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November 21, 2020-

Saturday Morning Market brings out the best in produce, organic meats and a variety of ready to eat items, from burritos to babaganoush. Then there is the home made ice cream, a pint of which can suffice me for a week.

Some weeks, Farmer’s Market is a spare affair, in terms of how many friends I encounter-besides the vendors. Today, though, I had the good fortune to visit with three or four fellow travelers whom I had not seen in nearly two months. Back in Saugus, we called such as being “like old home week”.

When people of various backgrounds and ideologies can remain civil to one another and converse about matters of mutual interest, without the least bit of rancor, it is always a good day. My friends run the gamut from New Age farmers to a conservative Christian microgreens grower, and all in between. That they are all supportive and solicitous of one another is even sweeter.

This is the real impetus behind my conscious efforts to relate to each person, based on our commonalities, and yes, I do pass over the differences. The former will get us past any challenges. The latter can only raise too many barriers.

It’s good to be in a place of Old Home Week.

Self-Advocacy

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November 17, 2020-

Two of the most odious, misguided phrases in the English language are “Don’t get smart!” and “What are you, a wise guy?” Intelligence and wisdom, viewed as threats to the security of a grown human, say far more about the perceiver than about the perceived.

In all my years in education, the single most admirable group of people I have encountered are those who not only think for themselves, but speak up for themselves and classmates, as well. I don’t mean the loud, braying complainers; rather, those who speak respectfully, but eloquently and with gravitas.

It is nice to see this, when it happens, especially in an educational setting. I have seen children as young as five years of age say “Enough! This is not how things ought to be!” It does my heart good when adults don’t quash such self-advocacy. So it was, that I praised those who made a perfectly sensible request, in the last hour of class, this afternoon.

The most cogent aspect of such early self-advocacy is that there is no slow burn, no festering, unspoken resentment. There is no ennui, no apathy being seeded. There is, instead, the organic rise of a responsible and self-assured generation, which will be more likely to take its place in society, without a perceived need to engage in mayhem.

So it is, that in the rest of my work with students, in the month that I have left of fulltime work, and in the special assignments I will be asked to take on, between January and May, the focus will be on both fostering the thought process and on their self-advocacy- which are both outgrowths of accepting responsibility for one’s well-being.

I say: “Get smart; be wise!”

Leaning In

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November 15, 2020-

What had been planned as a two-day visit to Petrified Forest/Painted Desert was interrupted by work, at the end of last week. Yesterday’s visit to Homol’ovi State Park sufficed, in its place. I have about a month or so left, of being available five days a week for subbing. In the second semester, my officially retired self will cut back to 2-3 days a week, and then because there seem to be so few people willing to take on the work. I am not doing any long term travel anywhere, until this pandemic lightens up enough for people to not feel leery of visitors. Right now, there is a return to Stay-at-Home orders in most neighbouring states-at least for the next two weeks. Thankfully, I can at least fly in and out of Dallas, and visit my little family, next week.

This week, though, I will be maintaining at least three days of work. Today, though I might have lazed the time away, was actually no different. A pallet-dismantling project, the eventual goal of which will be a winter residence for a homeless man, brought about twelve of us together, in a mountain community, south of Prescott. So, for nearly three hours, I busied myself with moving planks and removing nails from those planks.

The most effective way to remove nails from a board is to lean into the effort, thus putting extra pressure on the claw part of the hammer. Using a small piece of wood, as a brace, also speeds things up greatly. Of course, if I were really efficient, I would go out and get a pneumatic nail remover. The exercise was good for my upper body and forearms, though.

Leaning into any endeavour, with attention and perseverance, is the only way to approach a task. I am getting better at this practice, in my late middle age, and certainly feel an increase in satisfaction at each day’s end.

A Long Way From Unlucky

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November 13, 2020, Cottonwood-

Friday the Thirteenth has always had a bad rap, in my book. I can count on one hand the number of even slight misfortunes that have struck on this particular day-regardless of what month it happens.

Today was no exception-and I hope this was true for most everyone else. First thing this morning, I received notice of a generous gift from a loved one. At work, I arrived early, got plenty of help in preparing for the day and was able to accomplish all that was listed on the Substitute Plan. The children worked hard, and though they started to flake out, towards day’s end, I was pleased with the overall work day.

I came here, to the commercial hub of eastern Yavapai County, as part of a planned late evening at Synergy Cafe and a quick start to tomorrow’s jaunt to Homolovi Ruins State Park, north of Winslow. After two Zoom calls put me on the dinner hunt a bit late, I set off for Black Bear Diner, five minutes from the motel. Alas, there was no one at the host station-and not only was I being ignored by the staff, but two parties waiting to pay for their meals were also being treated as invisible. I left them with a “Good luck” vibe, and chalked it up to ONE minor irritation. Dinner came a bit late, but Cowboy Club, in Sedona, is fabulous.

Synergy was even more crowded than usual, so the late night did not transpire. I will go back there again, when I have a drum-and thus, something to offer the group. So, I am back at Verde Valley Inn and am quite comfortable for the rest of the night.

Friday the Thirteenth is also said to have feminine energy about it, which is just fine by me!

Rectifying

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November 12, 2020-

In yesterday’s post, I indicated a willingness to go the extra mile, in defending the Constitution from authoritarians, as well as protecting the unborn, those with Additional Needs and the elderly, from assaults by technocrats and hipsters who see the less fortunate as impediments to their portfolios and lifestyles.

There is no daylight, between the goals of nefarious people, who cannot cloak themselves in the garb of the sincere, and the legitimate aspirations of those on the Right or the Left-whose decent members have more in common than they seem to believe.

Ezekiel Emmanuel has indicated a preference for a national program of triage, limiting or eliminating protections for those whose life status does not fit his Cost/Benefit Analysis. Alarmingly, such posturing by a member of the “Academic Elite” would presuppose placing the 77-year-old President-elect in the category of “expendible”. It would do the same to my nonagenarian mother, my remaining paternal aunts and aging relatives-by-marriage, none of whom are expendible, in the views of my cousins, siblings and self. As I said yesterday, Emmanuel is entitled to his views. I am sorry he finds the elderly and disabled to be such nuisances, but it’s up to God to determine someone’s life span, not to a human individual or committee of same.

Donald Trump has indicated, through his Tweets, and his surrogates, that he will be more than glad to rule for another four years, and maybe longer. It is not up to him, or his surrogates, to decide what is best for the American people. If the legitimate vote count somehow boomerangs in his favour, then fine. If not, then it is best that he, and they, step out of the way. I don’t find his antics either humourous or stupid. I do find them dangerous, and like Danton, Robespierre, Hitler and Mussolini before him, he will find that opening a series of Pandora’s Boxes, just because Daddy Fred instilled in him that losing makes a person pathetic, will bring about consequences that are far worse than anything he could imagine.

There is no such thing as “White Nationalism”. In Caucasian Europe, there are over 50 ethnic groups-most of whom have relatives among the White populace of the United States. Also, it is remarkable how many Asians and Latinos are espousing this inane concept. “White” loses any claim to nationhood. “American” is still a noble name for a nation, even as our nation remains a work in progress.

I stand for the Constitution, and the country. The goal is, and always will be, rectifying wrongs done in the name of self-interest.

Vigilance

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November 11, 2020-

Today was Veteran’s Day. I was treated to a nice breakfast at Zeke’s, watched most of the downtown Parade, met for a while, on Zoom, with some friends in a spiritual discussion group and had a light dinner at Raven Cafe.

One of the qualities people most admire in our nation’s military is that they (we) have exercised vigilance, in the performance of our duties. I did, whilst serving in the United States Army, remain watchful in handling the mail, remained alert on guard duty and executed any other duties assigned, with loyalty and honour.

These commmitments translate, for most of us in civilian life, as integrity and trustworthiness. There are certain generalities that still matter greatly to me, and in which I will stay vigilant:

  1. Everyone’s vote should count. I see no evidence that this is not being honoured by those entrusted with the electoral process. I see no evidence that the party whose candidate is leading is circumventing the process-and vigilance will keep it that way.
  2. The rights of every citizen, from the time of physical conception to death by natural causes, should be defended by everyone of conscience. Reports are surfacing that at least one technocrat, who favours a national triage system for medical care, is part of the presidential transition team. His views should remain just that, his views. Widespread abortion and forced euthanasia are not the hallmarks of civilized society, and must never take the place of the rare instances when those practices may be viewed as necessary.
  3. The Constitution must be followed. On December 14, the Electoral College should certify the next president, according to final vote tallies. On January 20, 2021, the person certified as winner should take the oath of office as President, no matter who is upset by this or how many who voted for a losing candidate take umbrage. I have long taken my own pledge as a citizen very seriously. That will not change.