May 4, 2021- I spent the day with a group of people who ask nothing of me, other than that I help them learn, in as clear a manner as I can muster. They only want respect. They don’t pester me for money. They don’t demand political fealty. They don’t seek to blame others for their personal blunders. When wrongly accused, they speak up-honestly and, again, respectfully. They are a group of fourth-graders, with whom I have spent a fair amount of time, this academic year. When I arrived, a minute late, due to the luck of the draw with red lights, I was greeted with cheers, and a productive day with sentence building, graphing and the seven continents, ensued. These are not quiet, complacent people. They learn in small groups, embrace knowledge with relish and hold the teacher accountable for anything that is not presented clearly at first blush. Again, they do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect. They are not children of privilege-most families live rather simply and the children know Medicaid, recycled clothing and free/reduced-fee school meals, all too well. I have two other groups of people, who ask nothing of me except respect and learning assistance, with whom to meet, before heading back to the family among whom I grew up and learned what matters most in life. No begging hands, no loud political rants, no whining about being cheated- just showing respect and being respected.
February 6, 2021-
There are many people still in my life, and several causes that seek attention. I gather that this is true of just about everyone. The question then arises: Is there a point at which being oneself and prioritizing one cause, or group of people, over another constitutes dereliction of duty?
Being an empath, I feel other people’s energy very strongly. That doesn’t explain the underlying reasons for that energy. Only the person feeling it can divulge those. I feel it even more so, when the energy is collective. So, to all those who have expressed the view that a person ought commit to one organization, activity or community, I say godspeed. I will help each organization as alignment allows. My own energy focus allows for a modicum of time spent in virtual meetings- knowing that, as with any human endeavour, there are those who would be on Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, 24/7-and again, godspeed to them. My greater energy, though, is spent away from the computer.
For the time being, that is, for the next two weeks, my priority is helping a couple of schools in dealing with COVID-related staff shortages. Some time will be spent on Red Cross classes, and with a small, but spirited, group of college students who are earnestly planning sustainability activities. There is also the 50% chance that jury duty will transpire, towards the end of this month.
Dereliction of duty is clearly defined, when it comes to parenting, supervision of children in a school setting or service in the public realm. It is less clear, when it comes to the matters of those generally self-sustaining adults who are suffering emotionally or spiritually. This gray area is also on my mind and in my heart, and occupies some of my time, on a case by case basis. Thankfully, most such people are appreciative of any time and energy that others give, as it at least validates that their situation is important to someone.
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.
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!
November 9, 2020-
I sat here at my combination laptop table/gratitude altar, during the second of three Zoom meetings, this evening, and marveled at how my week’s schedule has evolved. Four work assignments have presented themselves- today being a short three-hour session with intermediate schoolers, whose classmates in the hybrid set-up will be my charges, tomorrow.
Thursday will be an early start day, with small groups of reading enrichment students, at the primary level. Friday, I will be with a class of first graders. Earlier this season, my plan for the end of this week was to head up to Painted Desert/Petrified Forest. Then came a second wave of COVID-19 which, while not dissuading me from the journey, did create a teacher shortage. Thus, my personal time is a weekend affair. Whether I head up that way, for a shorter time, will be determined later in the week.
There are many blessings that come in the guise of trouble. For me, being with children of any age is high on that list. COVID is the trouble and they are the blessings. Being able to visit friends in Sedona on Friday evening, then go no further than Homolovi State Park on Saturday, and being back for my weekly devotional on Sunday, would be a perfect weekend alternative.
Wednesday is Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day and the auspicious 11/11. The blessings of a midweek holiday come not only in the respect shown us as military veterans or in the free or discounted meals, but in the awareness that something I did, as part of a larger effort, made a big difference.
I am feeling blessed to live among people who can see the forest for the trees, and don’t altogether get rattled. If there is illness, momentary discomfort or a bit of inconvenience, there is a roadmap to getting past those things, and more of us are aware of this, than not.
The last few weeks of being a sixty-something are shaping up to be ever more filled with bounties.
September 30, 2020, Dallas-
Today would have been Penny’s sixty-sixth birthday. There was no extended warranty to her lease on life, so it’s been ten years since she was here to celebrate.
I have done something of service, either directly to the Baha’i Faith or to the community- at- large, each year since her passing. This year, the ongoing relief project, for the victims of the three hurricanes that have hit southern Louisiana, has found me in Dallas- with the bonus of being able to spend time with my son and daughter-in-law, if only for a day-this coming Saturday.
While it is an honour to be asked to stay on, past October 7, I have promises to keep in the Prescott area and I think balance is very important. The Red Cross can have more of my time, after the close of 2020, but for now, I will finish out my substitute teaching and the community work that also makes a difference.
September 23, 2020-.
I was in a group session on Monday evening, in which the question was posed, as to whether it is more crucial to care for oneself or to care for others.
The short answer to the title question is: Both. Actually, anything one does for oneself usually impacts others, and vice versa. This is especially true if one is reflective and maintains a consistent presence, in any given activity.
I have two socially-responsible lines of activity: Substitute teaching, which I did yesterday and Disaster Response, which I will resume tomorrow. A flight to Dallas, via Denver, early tomorrow morning, will begin my second Red Cross deployment, in a month. Two weeks will be spent in “Big D”, purportedly in providing assistance to those still being sheltered after Hurricanes Laura, Sally and Beta. Much of the sheltering happens after the full-on storm has left, and the floods/power outages make life continually unpleasant.
The activities in which I am involved are impacted by my beliefs. ‘Abdu’l-Baha exhorts us: “Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds, among Our faithful servants.” It was ingrained in me, long before I became a Baha’i, to consider the needs of others, in lieu of indulging myself. That has remained, by and large, a guidepost in my life. I would have to , of course, acknowledge critics who say “Wait, you weren’t very nice to ME, not so long ago” or “I remember when …….” The goal, however, remains the same-and none of us walks on water.
So, as with my earlier deployment to Louisiana, by way of Beaumont, the needs of others will be far ahead of my own needs-this being the essence of Disaster Response.
September 14, 2020-
I returned to substitute teaching today, for the first time since COVID burst through the door and took over. Being with eighth grade students has been fairly easy for me, over theyears,and today was no exception. One difference is, though, that Hybrid Scheduling has been adopted. This means, essentially, that students whose family names begin with A-K attend in person classes, on Monday and Wednesday; those whose family names begin with L-Z attend on Tuesday and Thursday. Thus, on any given day, the classroom is, essentially, half full.
Masks were no problem for any of us. I had plenty of training in wearing a mask for twelve hours at a stretch, during my Red Cross deployment for Hurricane Laura. The kids have, in most cases, chosen their own masks, and I wore my Planets and Stars pattern, which got a few compliments. One boy broke a strap on his, and I sent him to the School nurse, to get a replacement. He came back, wearing a rodeo pattern mask, which made his day.
It was also nice to be among a group of educators again. The bantering and discussion of a wide variety of topics, in the Teachers’ Lounge, is something I’ve missed, more than I thought.
Needless to say, this sort of day is likely to be rare, this coming Autumn, if the call to service comes as early as next Tuesday-and I go back out on deployment. That has its own rewards, though, as we’ve seen recently. In any case, even with all that is creating mayhem this year, I am glad to be in a position to help, in more than one way.
June 13, 2020-
This morning, our city said adios, to one of its brightest lights. I only met Brooklyn, a few times, when I substituted in Mile High Middle School (2011 -12) and in Prescott High School (2013-16). There was no mistaking the bouncy, free-spirited, but respectful, studious and reverent presence, who seemed to ever be in the forefront of whatever was going on- whether it was a bit of dancing in the hallway or being one of the first to participate in a class discussion. She loved being a teenager, being part of a large and community-activist family, and being a Christian.
Brooklyn Ashley Mengarelli was equally at home leading a group at her parents’ summer camp, playing with her infant nephew or goofing around with her classmates (doing a puppy imitation, with downturned “paws” and pretending to pant, rings a bell). She had a serious side, though, attending to her school work-and to the mild, but persistent, epilepsy that shadowed her, from the time she was eight. The latter kept her from driving a car. It would eventually take her life. It did not stop her from living that life to the full.
I believe, no, I KNOW that it was her faith that kept Brooklyn going on. There was not a community event, especially Frontier Days, Acker Music Night, and the annual Rodeo, that went without her presence. So, it was also true, was her devotion to the vibrant congregation, of which she was a member. This morning, the city she loved returned that love.
She will shine down on this community that she so loved, and on the young women who took her into their hearts, at the University of Arizona, these past four years. That’s the silver lining to losing our cherished ones. They’re never really gone. See you again, Brookie.
August 22, 2019-
I got in a full-day’s work today, after five months’ hiatus. Of course, there hasn’t been a lot of idleness during that time, but I have missing being around children and youth, on a regular basis, nipping at my consciousness.
Today went very well. The few who wanted to mess around, didn’t meet with much success. I am long past the point where I let mischief get to me. On the other hand, I don’t let it spread. The rules of the day are set by the regular teacher, so the parameters are already in place.
Children and teens know this is how things work, and those with whom I interact are quite relieved that I am not here to be a slacker. Simply put, this brief period of my presence in their lives needs to be of support for their broader plans, hopes and dreams, and of deterrence to the obstacles, both self-induced and put in place by others, that would derail those broader plans.
My goal: To be of maximum support, to each young person who comes into a room where I am working.