Hiding the Obvious


December 5, 2022- The winsome, but giddy, girl asked why I was walking away from her and her friend: “Don’t you like us?” I reassured her that they were very much liked, but I didn’t want to be seen as hovering. That satisfied her, though they sought attention in other ways, for the rest of the class, including by trying to hide a cell phone-which she insisted was not there, until it fell on the floor.

Eleven and twelve year olds can be expected to try and hide the obvious. Being recognized, in the midst of the change from child to adolescent, is a comfort-even when everyone concerned knows that the means to that recognition is ludicrous. After I played along, for a bit, with the cell phone ruse, they got more serious and asked for help with an assignment-related problem.

Special needs children, on the other hand, especially those who are in the “Severe and profound” category, are unable to hide anything-especially their non-verbal cues. The only way many can communicate is with their bodies-stiffening up, going dead weight, yelling, trying to run away. They are being very obvious about saying that something in the situation upsets or frightens them. Misreading their cues, or responding with an old-school “Just give him a good old-fashioned swat”, will do one thing: It will widen the chasm even further. It is instructive that a new teacher has relieved an older teacher, who believes in corporal punishment, of her duties-after the older woman lashed out at a special needs child. The child has challenges, but has not, historically, learned from physical or loud verbal chastisement.

The obvious, with me, is that I love others’ children, as if they were my own. So is it best to give them constant, and consistent, guidance and encouragement- placing limits and channeling behaviour, as much as possible. That can best be accomplished by not clinging to past violent methods-but following a much more rigourous path of constant teaching and modeling respectful behaviour-and expecting it be returned in kind.

I choose not to hide the obvious.

There Are Oils for This


November 18, 2022- I got sick, in the process of working in a Special Needs class, the previous two days, most likely a result of going full-speed ahead on other projects, earlier in the week and the ubiquity of sick children, sent to school for any of a number of reasons.

The treatments (self-administered) came hard and heavy. Following the guidance in do Terra’s “Modern Essentials”, a regimen of Oregano Oil in water, a mix of digestive blend and cellular complex blend in another glass of water, Life-long Vitality Supplements, Red Yeast Rice, ProstaStrong and Lutein, separately taken over the course of the day, has helped knock out the Nasty ( bad cold, and definitely not showing up as COVID).

Essential oils, used properly, have enhanced my overall health and have made my early 70s a lot more life-affirming and engaged than might otherwise be the case. There are also the examples of my parents, who did not avoid work because of illness. This was true of them, to a fault, and the same shows up in me. This bout of common cold is one of those 4-or 5-year things, but as always it is a sign telling me to slow down. By the time Tuesday’s flight to DFW is imminent, I fully expect the cold to be done and over with-so the regimen goes on, in the interim- as does a good night’s sleep.

There are essential oils for just about any ailment.

Loving the “Weeds”


November 1, 2022- The tall, curly-haired boy came in the classroom, for the second time today, perhaps in a state of momentary confusion. Schedules are changing, seemingly willy-nilly in some instances, and the Special Needs children are particularly placed in confusing situations. He spent extra time with me, this morning, on his friend’s recommendation. The afternoon time slot was his regular time in the room, but seeing the work would pretty much be the same as earlier, he left to get some Math instruction.

Though our area has been able to find teachers, sometimes only after a brief period of skeletal staffing, there remains a climate of tentativeness. This does seep through to the children, who need to be reassured-by substitutes like me, that their regular teacher IS coming back tomorrow. They have seen far too much disruption, in these past 2 1/2 years. Once they realize that order is being maintained, the anxiety lowers from the roof, and a fair amount of work gets done.

I have long had a special place in my heart for the roughnecks and the hard-to-reach. It usually takes a day or two, sometimes a week, to gain their trust. Sometimes, the hurt is too deep and I don’t get very far along, and external circumstances keep any meaningful relationship at bay.

There are those who get characterized, still, as “wild weeds”. I remind myself, and any who will listen, that plants called weeds tend to have medicinal value. It is useful to work on the strengths of the child, while curing the flaws. Re-framing people as having Special Gifts makes more sense to me,

Homage and Outrage


September 19, 2022- The world’s longest serving Head of State received a well-deserved send-off, this morning, with all but the most pompous of politicians taking their prescribed places, either in an assigned seat at the funeral service or in the background at home, patiently waiting for their own countries’ memorial services.

That is how homage is done. There is no braying, “Hey, what about me?” It is the life of the deceased that gets honour and attention. In recent days, a paternal aunt, a second cousin and a revered Baha’i elder in Phoenix have gone on to their own places in the spiritual world. Each had people, myself included, who treasured them and focused on their positive attributes. Each had lessons they imparted to anyone who was willing to listen and pay attention.

There are, however, those who subsist on outrage. Their whole being reflects back on all the mistreatment, real and imagined, that occurred in their lives-sometimes clear back in childhood. Life is not guaranteed paradise for anyone. I’ve had my share of misfortune, some of it self-imposed, but in each case, I have been able to listen to voices of reason and overcome any lapse into self-pity. Outrage at my lot is no longer an option. It is a different matter when the well-being of children is at risk.

I spent the day, as it happened, making sure that Special Needs children, in a small class, were maintaining safe practices around self and others. These students, more than others, are also inclined to live in the moment and resist correction. Only a strong dose of encouragement and patience gradually makes a difference in their demeanour. There is the occasional need to stand up for them, against adults who persist in trying to knock down their sense of worth. Thankfully, the team with whom I worked today are just as vigilant in that regard.

I continue to work for the best of the community.

Random Thoughts On The Passing Scene


February 7, 2021- I had a relatively productive day, getting a Special Needs child to do what her lead teacher said was a prodigious amount of work. That the child let me know when she’d had enough, in a nice way, was certainly fair, and she got a break for the last half hour.

The title of today’s post is borrowed from the great Thomas Sowell, with whom I have rarely agreed, but whose tone has always been respectful towards those of other viewpoints and whose diction has always been impeccable. Dr. Sowell’s columns of this ilk would touch on three or four items of general interest. This post will look at three such topics.

I am curious, as to why Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas joined in a ruling that stayed a prior ruling, by a lower court, which would have nullified redistricting maps for Congressional seats, in the State of Alabama. Then again, he ruled earlier, with the majority of the Court, that much of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was antiquated and thus worthy of disposal. It is likely that the good Justice feels he will vote anyway, when the spirit moves, and needs no special fiat from Congress, or any other organization. He’s right in that respect, and it should always have been thus. Reality, though, oftentimes needs a nudge. No one in their right mind is going to tell an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court to shuffle on down the road. As for those among the Joe and Jane Sixpacks of the nation, who happen to be African-American, the facts sometimes tell a different story. We have a long way to go, in the area of bona fide equality between the “races”. Going backwards should never be on the table.

Nina O’Brien, one of the top members of the United States Olympic Skiing Team, suffered a debilitating leg injury, in yesterday’s competition, at the Beijing Games. My parental mode kicked into gear, at this news. The heart hurts when any young person hurts, especially when the person is acting responsibly and in good faith. Active sport always entails a risk, as does any vigourous activity. Nonetheless, and even though this particular Games event is unlikely to turn out to be an American medals blowout, my heart goes out to everyone who has made the effort to keep this a sporting event, and not a High Five for authoritarian excess.

On a more personal note, in planning a combination observational and family/friends visit to the Southeast, from mid-March to mid-April, I came upon an eponymous soul, who is one of the management team at a botanical garden, in southwest Florida. He says he’ll be glad to meet me, and likewise. There are only about a half dozen of us, so this interesting encounter will likely be far more personally affirming than, say, a gathering of the John Smith Association or Mohammad Ali Society, if such entities even exist. That said, my best to everyone named John Smith, or Mohammad Ali.

The Team Option


January 3, 2022- I sit here in my living room, and think that a year ago I was in the company, of first a pack of coyotes, howling and warning me not to go any further east-then amongst a small family of cattle, who let me pass after I spoke to the bull, in a low and steady tone. I was then alone, wandering steadily south and west, through the night-until eventually I reached the highway-and by 9 a.m., the following morning, I was back here in Home Base.

That was one struggle made in solitude. I did not have the same experience today-as I was pitching in with the first day back, at our local middle school. Today, and tomorrow, my charge is a young man with whom I have worked on several occasions before. His inherent, and infectious, blithe spirit is coupled with an intense work ethic-so we got much accomplished today and will do so again tomorrow. Besides, the students collectively are glad that I am here, sharing their morning cold and gradual return to a structured environment-after the two weeks of time off, that brought varying degrees of happiness and cheer.

I also talk with my colleagues, and hear stories with a common thread-Stress, leading to burnout and the departures of many who started the academic year. I could, very easily, jump back in and be on the job more or less fulltime, thus chucking the messages I receive from my spirit guides- and the plans emanating from that counsel. I would then be one finger in the dike. Such false egotism is not the answer to the larger problem, however- and is barely a bandaid, no matter how much the kids and I love one another.

Classroom teaching, especially in the Special Needs classes, must be reworked. High stress situations-with much of the stress caused by Federal and state reporting requirements, and by the egos of those who enforce these mandates, call out for teaching to be accomplished by two certified instructors in EVERY class. There also need to be paraprofessionals, as there are now-but these individuals also deserve both continuous training opportunities and a serious upgrade in pay. Even when, as in this school, the students respond quite respectfully and consistently to a grounded, well-organized learning program, the team approach allows for due attention to be paid to extrapedagogical concerns-like record-keeping for the powers that be, without the least jeopardy to the students’ well-being.

For now, I will help out in certain schools and classrooms, in the months and days when I am called to stay close to Home Base. Enough other people are doing this, around the county, that most classrooms have one form of coverage or another, on most days. The long term, though, calls for a serious reworking of the classroom format.

The True Rewards


February 19, 2021-

So many times, on a job that pans out over several days, there are twists and turns, taking me to as many as five task-sites in the span of a day. That sort of regimen makes the work interesting and impacts several children, in a meaningful way.

Today, I completed four days in a medium-sized elementary school, mostly working with younger special needs students, one-on-one. For the most part, the work involved helping one or two students with routine academic tasks and increasing their sense of well-being. These children appreciated the efforts and were uniformly pleasant people, with whom to work.

Two others, who had been out the first three days, came back today-making for a full classroom. These two students, both mute and somewhat unsettled, somehow were comforted by my presence- and were far more amenable to following my cues and gestures than those of the regular staff.

Silent communication often allows for more bonding -especially when a troubled person senses that another inherently understands his or her essential difficulties. The two students essentially latched onto me, with little spoken communication on my part. Just seeing them focus on following rules, and want to gravitate towards my direction, was a reward equally as meaningful as the achievements of their classmates.

This may well be the last work I do with elementary level behaviorally-challenged students-as the project with which I have agreed to help, for 1 1/2 months, this spring, is primarily a literacy enhancement effort. I appreciate that my presence is valued, by educators and students, and will take their support with me, for the rest of my days. This is the true reward of being in the arena of service to children.

Dreams Not Deferred


May 21, 2020-

After visiting the newly reopened American Legion Post 6 and stopping by Bill’s Pizza for a couple of slices, which I then enjoyed at a park bench, in Courthouse Square, I headed along North Cortez Street, and made note of more places re-opening, this coming weekend.

It was another of life’s sublime pleasures, to see a fairly good cross section of our area’s graduating high school seniors, lining up in their vehicles-sedans, trucks, SUVs and Jeeps, preparing for a motorcade through downtown, after which they would go to Pioneer Park, on the north side, for a group celebration. I stayed around and cheered all of the grads, as they drove by my perch on the outside of a long-defunct Chinese restaurant.

This group has been challenged to complete their course of study, in ways not seen since World War II. People of my parents’ generation may well identify, yet at least they got to finish school in their buildings. This spring semester, at all schools, has been an intense swirl of innovation-much of it accomplished on the spur of the moment. The best of it has relied on inquiry and discussion, followed by students coming up with solid new ways to accomplish things that had relied on formula, for far too long.

I had little to do with the achievements of this class of seniors, but I did cheer one young lady, a special needs person, who learned the value of setting personal boundaries and safeguarding herself, without, thankfully, having to undergo trauma. She can now take her place among those pursuing, and realizing, their dreams-hers being to work as a cosmetologist.

May each of these remarkable souls make their mark, not waylaid by any future misfortune-either greater or lesser than the one that interrupted, but did not dismantle, their last year of high school.



March 6, 2020-

I went into work early today, to have a conversation with my supervisor as to her assessment of my work so far.  I had a concern about how well I was being accepted by the close-knot staff, as there have been some expressions of hostility this week.

I need not have worried.  Both my supervisor and co-teacher are more than satisfied with the work I’ve done up to now.  They both want me to stay and finish helping our special needs student-and I will.

The legacy of Penny’s time and energy with me is, primarily, that she helped me get out of my own little world, giving up alcohol straightaway in 1981, being more present and comfortable in the presence of others, than I had been before we met.  It was, arguably, the first time I truly felt accepted by a woman, outside my family, since high school-when I had relatively little trouble getting along with my female schoolmates-even if I didn’t see myself as “dating material”.    Thus, what I viewed as rejection by others had much to do with my self-rejection.

Penny helped me transcend a lot of my self-doubt.  Some of it resurfaced, in the first years after her passing, but gradually, with travel to Europe, Oahu and northwestern North America, I began to recognize that I was not unworthy of acceptance and true friendship, from a wide variety of people.

My tent is huge.  I like people from a number of backgrounds- so whether their musical tastes are Classic Rock, European Classical, Country, Bluegrass, Zydeco, Blues, Jazz, Hip-hop,  Metal, ( but not “Death Metal”), Powwow songs or Folk, I enjoy their gatherings.  Whether someone is a person of size, svelte, or (like me) somewhere in between, it’s everything else about them-their character, primarily, that matters far more.  The same goes for other physical attributes.  Ditto, with political leanings, so long as the individual is not clamouring for the death and destruction of those with opposite leanings, be they conservative or liberal.  I like my friends to leave their silos and, at least occasionally, listen to the opposite point of view with open ears and minds. Everyone has a piece of the Truth.

So, the most influential soul ever to grace my world still has a day-to-day impact on how I view myself.  The spirit tells me to exude love for those around me, as well as for my own self, as life is hard enough for most people.

The Smallest of Things


February 12, 2020-

Sometimes, the smallest of tasks is the most difficult for people to solve.

The most ordinary, quotidian of quarrels can escape resolution.

The most mundane of household tasks can wait for days on end.

A quiet infant can be forgotten in the back seat.

So can a sleeping dog.

We are creatures of our senses.

We think that they need to be constantly


We are creatures of mind.

We think, and overthink.

The Big Picture is often

what we think matters most.

It has its place-

but it is as  nothing,

amounts to  naught,

unless the grunt work is done.

The teeth need brushing,

the shoes, lacing and tying,

the floor needs sweeping

and the car needs a visual-

before the driver leaves it,

and goes inside.

There is good reason

that the Great Teachers

called attention to

care for the least among us.

So it is,

that my task,

most likely until May,

is helping to care

for one Special Needs child.

Life is full of

second, third and fourth chances.