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It was forty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper burst upon the scene with radical music in vivid color. What an incredible time to be graduating from high school. The non-war in Vietnam was increasingly exposed in televised media as a brutal, waist-deep-in-the-big-muddy fiasco. Non-college-bound men drafted, sweating in deepjungles, painfully wondering, as planes dropped napalm. Mounds of body-bagged dead stacked on the tarmac, no longer waiting for directions home.
My numbed-out, bummed-out generation retained a desire to survive. Sgt. Pepper helped us believe, imagine, fly away high in the sky above the shambles of promises broken and sucked out dreams.
All sessions at workshop inspiring, filled with useful information and tools to apply now. Tired at the end, writing by pond, sipping crisp white, wanting to fade away; “ah yes, that would be so nice.” Still a month until we head north to Orcas. Only a month! Yes!
Still three weeks with students. Only three weeks to go! Yes! Yes! And staff’s been instructed to exit the grounds by the day after the last day with students. Usually counselors remain onsite at least five days to fulfill extended contract expectations. Methinks we’ll plead, “orders from above” as we slipslide away.
The phone message said call Mandy Willowtree asap. It could only mean one thing; a student or staff member at my school had died, counselors would need to be ready to provide emotional support for everyone in the school community tomorrow morning.
Names that I’m not familiar with. A boy driving with a girl next to him, trying to get a bee out of the car; car swerves into bike lane, strikes another boy on his bicycle, boy on bicycle dies. Dead boy not well liked, dysfunctional family life. Thinks all three are seniors. Graduation is in a week. Shit.
Barely touched the surface of my day. None of them were “mine” and the SMART counselors handled everything very professionally. The kid wasn’t well liked, so few of his peers grieved his loss. Sad.
The driver will be at school tomorrow so we’ll stay alert to ensure he isn’t harassed and blamed. Oh what a nasty business this is. Poor young man, knowing his action caused someone else’s death. Probably hasn’t become real.
Feeling in a weird kind of limbo. I’m mentally and physically suspended between now and a month from now; between being at EHS and moving to Union.
As the school year winds down, the pace for counselors speeds up. Seems everyone has a need only we can fulfill.
Hundreds of schedules for next year have conflicts; classes that are offered only at the same time, meaning another choice must be made. Takes hours to puzzle through, trying to find the combination that includes all required and requested classes.
WASL scores (with potential non-graduating consequences) have yet to arrive. When they do (Monday/Tuesday?) we MUST meet with every child of the 2008 graduating class, who didn’t make the score. Mandates bedamned, some children will be left behind.
Hyena fulfilled her mission. I found my evaluation in a file folder placed in my work mailbox. Where my signature might have been, someone had written; “not available to sign.”
My observations of her nature prove true. Passive aggressive, she chose a “satisfactory” designation of my performance, at the same time she noted “areas needing improvement” within the context of most every summary statement. I have the copy. I’m very tempted to shred it for my own sense of satisfaction.
Why would I value her valuation of me? Hyena, whose essence toward me has been, and remains negative, critical, aggressive.
Yesterday I attended the first staff meeting of Union High School. Psyched-up, I’m bouncing around, generally more effusive than anyone at EHS has seen me in a looooooong time.
After the welcome, staff separated to tour and become familiar with the schools-within-the-school. Very classy place. The theater is state of the art, band and choir rooms excellently appointed, and visual arts rooms set up for business. I’m now the proud owner of a T-shirt and sweatshirt emblazoned with Union’s school emblem.
Today I requested the office in the corner (two nice windows, and enough room to become a happy place).
Creighton and I are “in training.” Every day we each do something in “preparation” for our upcoming vacation on Orcas Island. Sometimes training is frivolous, sometimes practical, sometimes it’s a thinly veiled excuse to do whatever we want to! My contribution today, buying CAO Moontrance cigars to enjoy on the deck, fits into the later category. Creighton had printed out the ferry schedule; practical and necessary.
With no obligations or commitments, I have a sense of freedom simply to take life as it comes. Our neighbors just called. “Air traffic control disaster...stuck in Boston...please take care of kitties!”
Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade morning. Mother nature’s raining on the parade, though the temperature’s moderate with little wind. Shelter of old firs and big leaf maples provided incentive to trim backyard gardens. More training; having fun in dampness!
Inside now, warm and snug after watching “Rags To Riches” sass those male Thoroughbred’s right down to the wire. First filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years.
Watching horse racing is one of my little-known-to-others pleasures. What incredibly gorgeous animals. Bred to be fast (happiest when racing) their spirit and temperament are as important as their strength and training.
Having ignored my email for three days, I’ve completed two hours of spam trashing, forwarding, reading, composing, and generally cleaning out the virtual junk. I love email. It’s quick’n’easy, allows attachment of pictures, photos, etc., with a minimum of expertise. It’s the crap that fills up the shitter that gets to me.
After years of intrusive phone calls, our landline goes directly to a recorder that screens unwanted solicitations. Our names are on the national register indicating we don’t want US Postal Mail solicitations. Shuddering, I can only imagine what would happen if I didn’t have a spam filtering program.
Suspension Bridges...two words written on a post-it note that I stuck to my laptop. A reminder that I want to investigate the concept, believing the metaphor fits my now.
Brother writes of new love, unknown paths, seeking truth, fearful of baggage. Love him. Good spirit. Healing, healer. Carmen, a nice name. Will they fit one another? Only time, the winds, rivers, skies, stars, planets, tides will tell.
Daily we seek a sense of equilibrium, as our one moon sucks and surges the tides of our planet from one end to the other.
Sister/mother/star sun close to solstice.
Every once in a while a person comes into my life at just the right time. Someone who sees me from a fresh perspective, shines his or her light on me, and shapes my regeneration.
Instead of challenging my initial skepticism, you nurtured my trust, invited me to express my creative vision, appreciated my persistence, and encouraged me to reassert myself as a positive person.
Just as I changed through your influence, the high school counseling group was transformed under your leadership; from angry, devalued, disregarded leaders, to an empowered, collaborative group of decision makers.
Already, you are sorely missed.
A day of many tears.
Brave and encouraging, in the teeth of adversity, Sue acknowledged the truth of the rumor. Something in me aches for her loss; our loss. Rug jerked out, after incredible progress.
“I’ve cried all over your shoulder,” Jacie lamented, lifting her lovely child/woman head after an empathic moment of comfort. “Many tears have been shed upon this shoulder, and many shoulders have accepted my tears too.” I confided. She smiled, and recounted the losses she’s endured. I listened, affirmed, validated, and moved her to future thinking; applying to local community college, “even for one class.”
Over cups of warm chicken stew soup, and half sandwiches, Gray and I discussed our impressions of the just completed hyena performance. “If I respected them, and felt respected by them, I’d approach this task with energy.” I reflected. “In my thirty years as an educator,” Gray replied, “I’ve worked with administrators whose style I didn’t prefer. This is the first time I not only don’t like their style, I don’t like them as people. Black hyena’s angry, white one’s mean.”
“Thankfully, you have only one year until retirement,” I smiled, “and I’ll be out of there in two weeks!”
Two weeks seems too long, and too short simultaneously. While I’m tired and ready for the year to end, I also have goodbyes to take, friends to thank, colleagues to appreciate. After twenty-five years at EHS, I feel the undercurrent of loss as a pulse that skips, but not an aching.
I will “go gently.” I may even squeeze out a tear at the end, but mostly I want to laugh, dance, hoot, shout; “hip hip hooray! I’m off to the promised land! Too old for them to kick out! Headed for a brand new day!”
This is already fun.
Serious training now. Two weeks ‘til liftoff. Everything’s tied to the pinpoint geometric timeline placeinspace when we enter the Honda and head north on I-5. Ironing, shopping, eating, drinking, smoking, everything is woven into the texture of preparations.
It works. Except now we are short on small smokes (too much practice!) and the wine continues to be consumed...as it would be anyway. Still, every sip from here until there is “training.”
Our late spring is very nice. Though today's heavy downpour was unexpected, it was followed by clearing skies. Perfect yardwork weather, and even that qualifies as training!
Father’s day, and Dad is at the summit of Willamette Pass in the Oregon Cascades, helping my sister and spouse establish their summer fishing retreat. Must admit to feeling a twinge of resentment as I reflected that Creighton and I had hoped to visit Dad today. Mostly though, I’m thankful he’s still vital and able to participate in the activities he enjoys.
I always want to capitalize “Dad” even though I know it is incorrect. It’s a way to honor him, since I don’t address him as Harvey, or Dr. Low, the capital D signifies my deep love and respect.
It was all I could do this morning to arise, an hour late, and go to work. Foggytired brain, mind swamped, reminding myself to breathe. Is this what it’s like, I wonder, when marathon runners “hit the wall”? Maybe it’s the absence of hormones factored into the end of another grueling year, this one counseling out of a trailer located in what used to be the “senior parking lot.” Shit I’m glad this is close to over. Still, I had good times in the early years when Greg and I were encouraged to develop adolescent emotional IQ. That was fun.
Results from the climate survey (conducted by our Association, and answered voluntarily and anonymously by certificated staff) have arrived. The survey asked a variety of questions about work conditions and provided opportunity for comments, which are especially revealing as they confirm hyena behavior has affected many.
“Assistant principals are not receptive. They dictate.” “Assistant principals are not supportive of teachers and their competence to make decisions. We are often treated like children...” “The atmosphere at EHS has deteriorated tremendously...one of the administrators reprimands the entire staff for a few teachers’ downfalls. As professionals, teachers should NEVER be yelled at.”
Bizarre, surreal send off ceremony today. As each school year ends, we have a potluck to recognize staff members for their years of service, salute retirees, and acknowledge those bound elsewhere.
In the huge, circular, concrete slab courtyard we sweltered on the terraced steps, as feeble tokens were awarded with muted fanfare. The two retirees, isolated and distant, weren’t provided opportunity to say their goodbyes. Though staff was encouraged to toast them, no one did (though we might have, given adequate forewarning).
When black hyena screeched her oddly perverse birthday song (to “honor” a secretary) the dazed, disbelieving crowd dispersed.
With every ending there’s a flicker of hope that things will be better, conditions will improve, light will shine down upon the ravaged ruins, bringing renewal.
Still, we are who we are, where we are, when we are, with others around us, fixed in space, place, and time.
Lessons learned: C = Control I = Influence A = Accept
What I have control over? Me.
What I might influence? The world around me.
And how might I do that? Through my own behavior.
What if I have no control, and influence doesn’t bring the desired result? Accept, often it takes a long time.
Grey and Pat came for wine on the deck last night. It was the first time the four of us have socialized together and was very successful. The yard knocked them out. Although I generally see all the unfinished projects, I know through the eyes of a first time viewer, it is quite stunning.
I’m afraid we may have served up a bit too much of the good stuff, but it was fun to get to know one another better. Grey and I have been colleagues twenty-five years, and we’re determined to maintain our friendship through work changes and retirement.
She’s alienated the rich ones now. They envisioned a free’n’easy life for her; no hassles, everything paid for, only need to shower, feed the cat and dog, watch TV, and circulate! Bedroom, bathroom, tiny kitchen, living room, chicken wired patio, all freshly appointed, with crisp blossoms in clean vases.
Cool as cucumbers with collective teeth clenched, they barely acknowledged me when we/she arrived hours after they’d expected. Untidy trucks lumbered into view burdened with four times more stuff than she’d have space for. Ten months later the mess her obsessive compulsive spinning creates has them bug eyed in dismay.
Waiting: for the bell to ring, for the hour that announces, “time for wine!” Waiting for the moment it’s safe to pack a suitcase. Waiting for the last day to be over, the last week to end, another year to be completed. Ready to leave behind. Ready to race forward. Waiting to begin.
Wanting the old to pass faster, the new to start sooner. Knowing each now moves simultaneously away from and toward.
Urging words to emerge. Hoping internal muses will inspire that I might reach deep inside and write of life’s nasty apples; half eaten, half digested, bellied up.
Walking through the empty spaces between portables, I noticed the faded lines and barely distinguishable names of students long since matriculated. Once this space had been the “senior” parking lot. Students paid to have their names spray painted on parking spots (guaranteeing easy access to classes) and the proceeds went towards their graduation party.
Such a sad lot of trailers now; a dismal place to educate young people. Soon they’ll be hauled away, and a parking lot will return. After packing and loading the truck, I dropped off my keys at the main office with very little sense of sadness.
As one of four counselors representing our colleagues, I met with the superintendent today. Our purpose was to support Sue, a leader we want to keep. Though I’d not met him before, the superintendent offered his hand with a warm smile, addressing me by name. He listened to us thoughtfully, and we left encouraged.
Now I’m attending the board of directors meeting. My purpose is to support the counseling group who will present our program to the board. But no one’s here? What’s up? Ahhh, the presentation’s
the regular meeting. Oh well, I’m heading home for wine with friends.
When Lee told me the two people hired last year by the Council, are moving on, a pulse of pain coursed through me. My vision of where I’d be today, was vanquished by the Council. I’d garnered valuable internships, and was right for one of those jobs. But, the powers prevailing at the Council didn’t even grant me an interview. The ache I endured left me wrung out, bitter.
Opening a beautiful, new school is my vision today. To complete my career with colleagues I trust and value, who grant me equal respect; that’s my idea of a nice ending.
Union is so impressive. Shopping for vacation supplies in east county, we decided to drop in and have a look about. Creighton was awe struck, saying it seemed more like a community college campus than a high school. And that’s the idea. Even the workers expressed pride in their craftsmanship.
After exploring the Visual and Performing Arts school (my new home) we visited the student center where I was able to introduce Creighton to some of my colleagues. Again, he was struck by the universal excitement we all exude about the space, and our good fortune to create it’s culture.
C stayed up watching videos, volume full blast, smoking gars, drinking until after midnight. When he came to bed he was rowdy, boisterous, and I was trying to sleep. Finally I told him to go to the guest room, which he did, returning quietly to bed in the early morning hours.
Up earlier, I rousted him out for “le petit dejeuner” at 10:00. Within a half hour he found reason to criticize me, and puffed off in righteous indignation. It’s himself he despises, making it difficult for him to care for anyone. No wonder I hardly feel anything anymore.
Driving, while C slept soundly beside me, I remembered the very first time I’d visited the San Juan Islands, in 1959. I was 10 years old. My parents had left a day early to establish camp at San Juan County Park. Brother Mike and I traveled the next day with our grandparents. Memories of that drive, and how to weave a short story of it had me entertained for hours.
An early arrival, smooth unpacking and setting up the cabin, followed by a lovely dinner with E & S at their Orcas home, was completed with a lovely cabin #1 sunset.
The Tip Jar