Strange Days, Indeed

I forced myself to watch Trump’s Inaugural address today. It was possibly the longest 17 minutes of my life. And (possibly) the first time I had heard Trump use complete sentences. I didn’t believe that much of it was sincere or realistic or coherent; however, it dawned on me that in the midst of this insane historical period, Trump has indeed benefited us in some ways:

* Putting his offending perspective in a place of power has spurred a large percentage of the U.S. populace into action. Many people that were not interested or involved in the governance of our country have been outraged just enough to get them to notice and act. The tremendous turnouts at all the inspiring Women’s Marches around the country and world are the most recent example. Many of the women and men that marched were new ‘marchers.’ This renewed energy in addressing and demanding our civil rights is a refreshing, hopeful sign, despite the cause. It’s already building community where it didn’t exist before.

* Somewhat related is the fact that people’s concern over what Trump will do to our nation has inspired more financial giving to causes. Time magazine reports that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have received almost 80,000 donations since November. Other groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have seen rises in volunteers and donations as citizens bolster their resources against potential anti-Muslim acts by Trump (according to the Atlantic). It’s unfortunate that our apathy or indifference waits until times like these, but it’s also encouraging that there still is a line that can be crossed; a line where we take matters into our own hands and act.

* Trump has made the office of President attainable for most anyone…with money. While it’s scary at the same time, his ascent to power points out the fact that most any (con) man can get there. It’s a call to (mostly white) (mostly male) hucksters to raise their bars. In a recent Miami Herald article, Carl Hiaasen addressed this issue head on. He wrote that “The surprise triumph of the Big Orange Trumpster is very much a story of hope. The message is simple: These days, anybody — absolutely anybody — can become president. You don’t need facts. You don’t need experience. You just need a good act.” (If you have the stomach for it, this is also the link where I watched Trump’s speech)

* Trump continues to be excellent fodder for Saturday Night Live (find their You Tube page and subscribe). We will need to laugh — often and to excess — if we are to survive the next four years. As long as Alec Balwin stays healthy, I plan on using SNL as my drug of choice. Trump may privately have stock in NBC…why else would he continually put his foot in his mouth so that the SNL writers have an easy job?

* Theoretically, Trump is inviting us to be involved in his presidency. Something called “We the People Petitions” are up on the White House website. We can each create a petition on the White House website on an issue that’s important to us. If your petition gets over 100,000 signatures from others concerned about the same issue, then the White House will “respond.” I’m not sure how they will respond or if it will have an affect on anything, but it’s something. The first petition to reach 100,000 signatures had to do with Trump needing to release his tax returns so the American people will know the extent of foreign influence on him due to his financial interests.

I worked hard to come up with those benefits of Trump’s existence in our lives. The costs are a bit easier to see:

* The President is often seen as a role model for our youth and Trump is a terrible role model. He works hard to characterize himself as an egotistical bully. That sort of person doesn’t respect others or listen to others. That’s not the role model we need in office.

* Trump is a foreign relations nightmare. His insistence that the Mexican government will be paying for a wall between us is ridiculous and demeaning, as is his suggestion that we may withdraw from NAFTA (I believe its pros outweigh its cons). He’s not a welcoming presence in the world and most newspapers around the world reacted to his inauguration speech with a defensive shock which included reminding him that he’s the son of an immigrant.

* He acts like facts don’t exist…when they really do. Even since he became President, his staff is already attempting to spread this mis-information virus. They couldn’t even agree with estimated numbers from his inauguration. I loved that Dan Rather spoke up about this, calling on the media and Republicans to defend fact-based news. Rather said

“So here is what I think everyone in the press must do. If you are interviewing a Paul Ryan, a Mitch McConnell, or any other GOP elected official, the first question must be “what will you do to combat the lying from the White House?” If they dodge and weave, keep with the follow ups. And if they refuse to give a satisfactory answer, end the interview.”

I’ll be curious to see if the press answers his challenge. It’s way past time to call Trump on his insistence to invent his own reality. Somebody has to stand up and shout that the emperor has no clothes.

Here’s a visual that may help in fighting fake news. It helped me. Some news is reputable, some is skewed, some just isn’t reputable.

Fight Fake news. Know who is reputable. 

* Trump has surrounded himself (if/when his Cabinet nominations go through) with an out-of-touch, billionaire club that will probably not help him “see” situations more clearly. While the advisory role of the Cabinet is a bit out-dated, picking experienced, fair-minded folks would seem prudent.

* ____________ (I’ve left room here for you to fill in your own “cost of having Trump as President.” Enjoy.)

I wrote the following poem a couple days ago. It gets at the shock and anger I’m feeling these days.

Since November

So this is how history happens —
Complete shock
Unable to take it all in,
I am a witness
To the downfall
Of the United States of America.

One tweet at a time
The dominoes fall
In an unbelievable series
Of unexpected events

That keep hitting me.
That bat just keeps hitting me.
Everyday I wake up to
A bat hitting me in the face
With the reality that
Our country has been
Dumbed down
From the top.

We have been hijacked
By terrorists from within,
Holding sanity hostage,

Holding logic for ransom,
Without a timeline
Without a clue
As to the ramifications
Of a vote
An untruth
A garble of nonsense
Coming from the POTUS
Of a minority sect
Who lounge in their idiocy.

This new America
Guided by a ring leader
Of mis-information
Can’t see the rabbit hole
Or understand the allusion
Or grasp the big picture
Of Mother Earth
Living the Scream painting.

We’ve kicked our own feet
Out from under us.
We’re falling and
It’s a
Long
Way
Down.

———-

P.S. Here are two more gems that fit the topic. First, Taylor Mali performs his latest poem. For me, it speaks to the mood of our time and the way language has been altered/perverted to get around facts and convictions. Also, here’s a classic from John Lennon — “Nobody Told Me” which speaks to the mirrors that are being used these days to present false realities. “Nobody told me there’d be days like these…Strange days, indeed!”

Sharing Our Stories

We are more alike than we are different. And we each have our own story. Our own history or herstory of success, of failure, and all those gray experiences in-between. Life is such an extraordinary mystery that we each live one day at a time. One moment at a time. Everyone, living their important lives, all at the same time.

I love biographies and autobiographies. I enjoy learning about how other (sometimes famous) people maneuvered their way through this lifetime maze. Funerals can also be learning moments; so many times, I am impressed by the story of a person’s life after his or her passing from this life. These aren’t usually objective tellings of the events of a person’s life. We don’t hear about the shortcomings at most funerals, though the occasional biography will include them. And how people handle the difficulties can be the most instructive elements of their lives. History, too, is incomplete, though. “The winners write the history books” as they say. It’s hard to get the actual story of what happened in people’s lives and in the country’s “life.”

These next two story-telling shows attempt to tell an intimate and often honest version of life experience:

Storycorps‘ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.”
It’s also a podcast and the interviews are archived at the Library of Congress in Washington.
In a recent Storycorps interview, Vernon Dahmer’s family recounted his last days fighting for voting rights for Blacks. His statement that “If you don’t vote, you don’t count” was a powerful message that I wish all U.S. citizens would take to heart.

On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.”
There’s a podcast and a mobile app, which I use.
Listening to Krista Tippet interview people reminds me of the importance of the skill of listening. It’s really the Rodney Dangerfield of English class. She affirms what people say, she asks to know more about the off-hand comment, she hears the feeling with which the words are said…she’s a listening pro and that magnifies her interviewing skill. One of my favorite interviews of her is when she interviewed the founder of Storycorps, David Isay; it’s called “Listening as an Act of Love.”

Other websites that share stories and opinions:

Youth Voices

Letters2Trump blog

Letters to the Next President

Soundcloud

The Remembering Site

The Life Stories Project

Biography.com
http://www.biography.com/

Open Library
https://openlibrary.org/help/faq/about#what

Some of my favorite biographies:

Dreams in the Mirror (about e.e. cummings)

Born Standing Up (Steve Martin’s autobiography)

Kiss Me Like a Stranger (Gene Wilder’s autobiography)

The Life and Wisdom of Gwen Frostic

Humans of New York

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to listen more. Reading biographies and autobiographies are one form of listening…listening to another person’s life story. I invite you to listen, too.

Focusing Back on the Cup

Politics is damn distracting — all sparkly, full of itself, and seemingly important. But I’ve decided to treat Politics like my dentist or proctologist — a necessary evil seen infrequently.

Instead, I’m focusing back on the cup with the water in it. You know the one. Sometimes it looks half full, sometimes it looks half empty depending on your perspective on life. I had a Facebook friend challenge me recently to look at my cup. At first, my cup looked empty. Just when I was starting to nod in agreement, I realized the evening light was playing tricks with my eyes. And I was too close to the cup anyway. As I backed up, the water level was right around half way and it dawned on me that my life is at least half full.

I have a steady, though small, regular income; I may be the last person on Earth to get a pension, but as of this writing I still have one. It’s roughly 33% of my previous income as a teacher, but it’s something. And I have numerous opportunities to make more money: Schuler Books gives me money for hanging out there and helping people find books they want; I’m writing an online unit for Youth Voices; and ASPPIRE of Mid-Michigan just asked me to job coach a bit more and teach a Personal Finance class soon. Maybe I can learn something from that Finance class to help me keep some of my savings in the bank. Retirement from teaching has given me time to read, to write, to exercise more often, and to volunteer in various places — all blessing to be sure.

Plus, I have a loving family and wife, I have my health, I live in a safe country without many natural disasters in my area, and my community/city (ELi needs your help) is a very diverse, close group of people. My faith in God also sustains me. Though I’ve struggled with seeing it clearly, God’s presence in my life is a constant reassurance and strength — definitely part of that full part of the cup.

That empty, top-half of the glass does concern me, but I’m trying to see it more for its opportunities. I don’t think we can ignore the half-empty part of the cup. It’s the yin to the cup’s yang; neither could exist without the other. There are the obvious, recent causes of looking at the cup as half empty: our President-elect has no experience to lead us and has surrounded himself with a bunch of like-minded, wealthy, self-absorbed puppets; millions of people voted for this guy; climate change is real and we’re not doing enough to stop it; our country is still incredibly racist and sexist at a deep level; we won’t address poverty in any real way so as to affect educational opportunities for a great many young people in any transformative way; too many people live in fear and lack hope for the future…. It’s overwhelming if you focus on it. I’m acknowledging all of it, but I’ve decided to take the Serenity Prayer approach to it as much as possible.

Here it is if you need a reminder:

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

(prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, 1892-1971)

The things I can’t change just tend to infuriate me if I focus on them; I need to accept them and move on. I’m not saying it’s easy or even possible all the time, but that’s my goal. Other people…can’t change them. Who this country chose as a President…can’t change that. Deep breath. Moving on.

Even harder is having the courage to change the things I can change. Often that means rocking the boat and I’m not very good at that. But it needs to happen. I can call my senators and voice my concerns about Trump’s nominations (Check…did that today regarding DeVos). Not much rocking, but somewhat satisfying. Other, harder things involve digging deeper for courage: getting to know people of different races and cultures; working on improving relationships in my life; seeing a counselor when I need it; listening to people who think differently than I do; volunteering my time in ways that push my skills….

Yes, I see myself as a glass-half-full person. Life is good. I’m so grateful for the life I live. And The glass-is-also-half-empty. My life and the world could both improve greatly. I want to believe I’m learning to know the difference between what I can change and what I can’t…and I’m working to change those things I can.

Choosing Hope in the Midst of Shock and Anger

“Mother, may I take three giant steps forward?” Asked Hillary.

“NO WAY! But your bigoted bully of a step-brother can take one ridiculous step forward…for the win.”

We’ve been playing ‘Mother May I?’ with the mothers of all the characters from Deliverance and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With bizarro Norma Bates from Psycho. With the cast of Bad Moms. With June Cleaver on crack. Mom is out to lunch.

Apparently we do have a third party in this country because he is not Republican in any real way. We have an I party. I stands for “I am fed up with the establishment.” I as in “I don’t think the President of the United States of America needs to respect other people.” The I party is all about ego and change. I’m usually a proponent of change, but this change seems like a step backwards.

The I in this third party doesn’t stand for Independent. What do we call ill-prepared people who lack common sense? That seems to be what he represents. It may rhyme with schmidiot. Yes, I’m angry. I’m angry mostly that many people didn’t vote. They had the opportunity, the right, the responsibility and they let others decide. I’m upset that so many women chose not to support Hillary Clinton. I can’t understand how they couldn’t see she was the best candidate and that it was time to have a woman lead us. I’m not saying she was the perfect candidate, only the better choice.

Here’s a look at the demographics of who voted for which candidate (somehow they produced this video only hours after the polls closed).

In the midst of my anger, however, I know that President Obama is correct in saying that we are Americans first (not Democrats or Republicans){Click here to hear his speech; I heard it live and was impressed that he gave it without notes/teleprompter}. He also exuded confidence that the new president will do what he thinks is best for America. I’m sure it was hard for him to give that speech, but he doesn’t disappoint; he was the epitome of class and respect — an inspiration to and model for us all.

The reality is that many people are fearful of this upcoming presidency. Van Jones called it a “nightmare” for many minorities and the whole outcome a “whitelash” against President Obama’s presidency. Judy, my wife, even said “This is worse than getting cancer (as a breast cancer survivor herself). When you get cancer it just affects you and the people around you. This (cancer/election) affects the whole world in a devastating way.” These are real concerns for about half the country. My hope is that our new president will work at mending and uniting…and that Clinton supporters will meet him halfway.

Over the past couple months, the Men’s group I’m in has been reading and discussing a sermon a week from Dr. Martin Luther King’s book Strength to Love. On Tuesday, we were talking about a sermon entitled “Shattered Dreams” that he wrote in a Georgia jail in the early 1960’s. He offered insights into how we can have hope and faith in the midst of dark times. It was yet another of his sermons that resonates 50 years after he wrote and shared it. He said that…

“the answer lies in our willing acceptance of unwanted and unfortunate circumstances even as we still cling to radiant hope, our acceptance of finite disappointment even as we adhere to infinite hope. This is not the grim, bitter acceptance of the fatalist but the achievement found in Jeremiah’s words, ‘This is a grief, and I must bear it.’…Ask yourself, ‘How may I transform this liability into an asset?’…Our most fruitful course is to stand firm with courageous determination, move forward nonviolently amid obstacles and setbacks, accept disappointments, and cling to hope. Our determined refusal not to be stopped will eventually open the door to fulfillment.”

As hard as it will be to come together, we must work toward that goal. We survived George W and though this may seem 10 times worse, let’s have faith, let’s be our best selves, let’s hope against hope that this is not the end…just an unexpected, challenging stage that we can overcome together.

Keep Working

You may have thought I was going to talk about regret — about how I wish I had kept working…and so you should keep teaching or whatever it is you’re doing.

Not so much.

What I have on my mind these days is how we need to keep working on what’s important to us. I’ve had a nice run being a preschool teacher’s aide on and off for the past few months. Every interaction with a young person makes my soul sing. And I am working a bit at Schuler Books (Eastwood) and it’s quite gratifying to work alongside former students of mine who love books too; I think I’m a closet librarian because I love helping people find what they are looking for in a library/bookstore. Even shelving books alphabetically gives me an odd, wonderful sense of accomplishment.

While some friends of mine may be thinking that I could have, should have taught for a few more years, I offer that I’m still teaching and using my abilities daily. I’ve been amazed at how many opportunities pop up. In the coming months, I will be working with ASPPIRE of Mid-Michigan as a job coach. This organization supports adults on the Autism spectrum in social and work situations. I attended a job coach training recently that felt like a perfect reminder of my time as a Special Education teacher, the unit I taught on Careers, and the importance of making learning practical. Utility. How can I use what you are teaching me in my life? Students of all ages care about those things.

Another aspect of my teaching career that’s in full swing is my association with the National Writing Project. I hope to keep working with both the national and local (Red Cedar Writing Project) chapters for years. Recently, I’ve led in-services on Letters to the Next President, 2.0. This program is also focused on authentic audiences for student learning; not only the actual next President, but other students around the country. The rich conversations around issues of importance to students can be rewarding to read. Students care so much more about the message they are sending when the audience is enlarged. I’m on a team of teachers creating curriculum for another national program called Youth Voices where students can communicate and collaborate with teens around the country. We are using a beta site called LRNG that is testing my ‘new learning’ skills just like all the new jobs I’m going through training for. What I’m working on is using my skills and developing more skills in a more flexible manner.

Here’s a blog flashback…

So, I’m still dealing with the joys and frustrations of teaching and continuing to learn and teach. I continue to present at conferences as I have in the past and learn at conferences, too (I plan to go to Atlanta next month for the National Writing Project annual conference). I even am putting books in people’s hands these days, albeit one at a time with family and friends. Finally, I know there is even more important work to do regarding overcoming racial biases and I’m helping organize a men’s retreat at our church on the topic.

Last week, I was awarded the Middle School English Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Council of Teachers of English. I am humbled and excited by the honor. And part of me felt, at first, like I didn’t deserve it since I’m not teaching in a public school right now. I don’t know if I deserved it or not, but I’ve taught 25 years and it was a joy and an honor. And I’m still working…and teaching. And I like it. I hope you are enjoying your journey, too. Peace.

———
Bonus blog entry…..

P.S. Congrats to Bob Dylan for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Dylan singing Mr. Tambourine Man in 1964 (introduced by Pete Seeger)

The amazing Joe Henry’s thoughts from his Facebook page:

“it may be stunning to some, imagining that a songwriter coming out of the folk tradition might receive a nobel prize –and for literature, of all things. but in truth, nothing in our collective culture speaks with more subversive authority than do songs; nothing so scrolls in subtitle to our shadow-life with more illumination; nothing moves as so much weather upon the day, both lifting our sails and powering their aim in ways unseen and essential.

through centuries, and until not so very long ago –within my adult lifetime– songs have stood in fact as our most commonly shared social media: it has been by song that revolutions of every manner are borne aloft and passed wide, that mythologies are ratified not as half- or untruths, but as key and legend to our fading, fraying maps of identity; where love is professed to be both earth and blood to our progress –its mystery given shape and dimension, even as it shifts us wildly upon our axis.

“jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule,” the young man offered, and so we go on: with the treasure of our expanding vision; with gratitude.”
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If you want to borrow my copy of his memoir, Chronicles, email me (akabodian@gmail.com). I also have his complete lyrics if you want to read them; one of my favorite lines from one of his songs is from “Tombstone Blues”…
“…saying ‘The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken.'” On a car ride years ago, Aaron and I played that song over and over to hear that play on words.

Thinking about Bob Dylan isn’t complete with sharing Weird Al’s “Bob” palindrome-play song. Imitation is definitely the highest form of flattery.

Books by and about Bob Dylan

Being an Advocate for Reading

When you love something, you find a way to do it — dancers dance, singers sing, jugglers juggle, writers write, and readers read. I love all of those things, but I make time to read more often than most anything. And I have hundreds of books. I surround myself with books. I’ll admit that there’s a certain comfort in being in the midst of books; safety in the sheer number of stories and information potentially at my fingertips. I feel more alive being within hands-reach of all that thought, feeling, creativity, and knowledge (which may account for my recently getting a job at Schuler Books…Eastwood location!). However, it’s more about the reading than the having.

I consider myself to be an advocate for books. Both having them and reading them. I subscribe to the notion that people tend to read if there are good books around. All teachers and students benefit from having some sort of classroom library, all family members benefit from have a family library that morphs as children become teens and then adults. Books just accumulate in this house. They come from friends and family, from book sales, from students, from bookstores, from being found, from libraries, and other more mysterious places over time. When they start piling up on the floor, it’s time to buy a bookshelf or give away a few. When I was teaching, I would horde books so that my classroom library had a bit of everything. I didn’t want students telling me they couldn’t find a book they wanted to read from my room or the library. They needed choices and I was there to provide them.

To some extent, I’m still like that. I’ve given many boxes of books away over the last few months. Some to book sales and some to individuals that I thought would like to read the book. There’s a Little Free Library down the street from me and I have been supplying it with books for months; I really need to put one up in our yard/garden soon. When we were in Seattle this past summer, I was pleasantly surprised to see many Little Free Libraries in the Greenwood neighborhood where Rachel and Robbie live. I wonder if that would work in East Lansing? I’m all about getting books in the hands of readers, that is, you. I hope to catalog all of my books and start my own library…bookstore?…but until then, if you need/want/desire a book, feel free to stop by our house. Find a book you like and it’s yours. No charge. (No book report due on Monday either.) After you read it, give it to a friend.


In recent months, I’ve read (and recommend):

The Alchemist, by Paolo Coela

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Golf and the Spirit (finished after many months of reading it sporadically in the john) by M. Scott Peck

Bouquet of Red Flags, by Taylor Mali

Michigan: Four Seasons, by Bob Rentschler

Currently reading:

Strength to Love (digital version at archive.org), by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Neither Wolf, Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn

What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, Edited by Ellyn Spragins

Social Thinking at Work: A Guidebook for Understanding and Navigating the Social Complexities of the Workplace, by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke

The Yes magazine

Upcoming events:
Saturday, Oct. 1, the East Lansing Public Library re-opens after renovation. Festivities all afternoon.

Sunday, Oct. 2, the 64th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show. 9:30 am. – 5:00 pm at the Lansing Center in Lansing. $5 admission (children 13 and under are free)

Sunday, Oct. 9, the CROPWALK in Lansing. I’ll be walking. Add your support at my page.

Friday, Oct. 21 – Sunday, Oct. 23, the People’s Church Men’s Retreat, Conversations about Race. $100 (includes five meals and lodging) or $75 just for the program on Saturday.

P.S. Hillary Clinton for President!

1 if by land, 2 if by sea, 3 if by both

Pretend you are standing on the balcony of your penthouse suite on the top of a Seattle hotel. It’s a clear day, so you can see the Olympic Mountains to your west, Mt. Rainer to the southeast, and the Cascade Mountains to the east (with Mt. Baker in the northeast corner of your view). To the west and north you see a glimpse of Puget Sound and the waves look to be relatively calm today. It’s hard knowing which direction to explore first.

This dilemma is one of the reasons we keep going back to Seattle (besides the fact that Rachel and Robbie live there). In years past, we have hiked part of Mt. Rainer and poked around the Olympics, so this time we felt the urge to check out the Cascades and Puget Sound. It’s not always clear enough to see these grand creations of God from our penthouse suite, so we have to go to them to make sure they’re real.

A few years ago, Aaron biked throughout the San Juan Islands (in Puget Sound) and enjoyed the views and the natural setting. He suggested we visit the area. Rachel found an Airbnb on a 50 foot sailboat. (scroll through the photos on the link for a look at the boat!) Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the boat could be chartered up the the San Juans. We decided to go for it.

We all had very little sail boat experience. Fortunately, everyone (including Judy, Rachel, Robbie, and Aaron) seemed up for a new adventure. The owner and captain, Mike, also operated a bed and breakfast in the town of La Conner, WA, where the boat was docked. He offered us use of the shower at the bed and breakfast, since the bathroom on the boat looked like something you’d find in a tiny house. Adequate, but dinky (including a make-shift shower). He also offered us the option of laying outside behind the bed and breakfast since we were interested in seeing the Perseid meteor shower. We ended up not taking him up on the shower or the meteor view, but we appreciated the option.

IMG_2152

One of the most enjoyable and relaxing times of the trip was the first night on the boat. Due to Mike’s scheduling issues (he was summoned to do jury duty and couldn’t get out of it), we only had the one night on the boat and it was docked; at first that was disappointing, but it turned out to be a sort-of Mackinac Island-after-the-crowds-leave experience. We found the La Conner Brewery, then chilled on the deck of the boat, playing cards and keeping track of a couple local seals. The “kids” slept on the deck for part of the night, looking for meteors. While we could see many stars, only a few meteors were noticed before they opted for more comfy digs below.

We had also planned to go to Orcas Island and Sucia Island before Mike’s jury duty obligation; We settled for a one day cruise out to Saddlebag Island. It’s a state park and the whole island is small enough that we felt we had explored most of it in a short time (it’s 1/10 the size of Mackinac Island). We hiked every trail we could find and came across no more than 10 people the whole time. The unanticipated “excitement” of this part of the journey was rowing to the island on two skiffs. The combination of unsteady skiffs, only three paddles for two skiffs, and rowing into a current made for a memorable, tricky affair.

Our quick sailboat trip on the Armadillo gave us a satisfying taste of sea life. Sure we would have liked to sail more and explore more islands, but the time on the boat was very memorable and enjoyable.

IMG_2200

Other, AMAZING, highlights of the trip that you can glimpse in the photos, but you really had to be there to appreciate:

* Jason and Jackie’s wedding in Chicago started our trip. Jason is my cousin, Jan’s, son and he works on a top floor of a Chicago skyscraper at an ad agency where he influences which things we will buy. Jackie is a social worker. And despite this difference in occupation, they seem wonderfully matched for each other. The wedding and reception were grand affairs and we were blest to be among the witnesses. Long may they share life together.

* We saw the Tigers lose to the Mariners at Safeco Field. It was the third game of a Mariners sweep that never should have happened. Three close games that the Tigers let slip away. The one we saw started beatifully: 73 glorious degrees, fabulous view of the Seattle skyline, Verlander and Hernandez in fine form, and the whole family together and lovin’ “baseball.” We had donned our Tiger gear and were cheering at all the ‘right’ times, but not too obnoxiously. After Cruz homered off Verlander in the 7th, though, we slowly made our way to the exit…though still watching the game…just from another perspective…which happened to be closer to the folks with the brooms…and made our quick exit after the last pitch. Still fun, but we had nothing to boast about at that point.

* Our Table Mountain hike within close view of Mt. Baker was glorious. Check out the photos on the link or go there and hike it because there’s really no way to fully describe the nature-high, the majestic vistas, the precarious heights on the trail, or the the satisfaction of reaching the tabletop summit. We hiked 600 feet up in 1 1/2 miles, starting from an elevation of 5,100 feet…and then, of course, down those 600 feet. If it doesn’t sound like much of a hike, I think you should try it for yourself; it’s doable, but it took some focused energy and effort. And it was worth every step.

IMG_2265 We hiked to the highest point in this photo

We were fortunate to find another Airbnb in Bellingham for all of us. Though a tad more pricy than the average stay, it was a very welcome, comfortable stop on our Cascade journey (and we definitely need to get back to Bellingham’s hip scene at some point).

The Billings, MT, Airbnb was fantastic. Nice people, several cool dogs, and the bonus of banana bread and coffee.

The Sioux Falls Airbnb was even more well furnished and spacious. We would have liked to explore the area, but we had planned the trip out and back to be a quick one (and it did save us a lot of money over what airfare would have been); we need to re-visit these cool cities again another time.

If you didn’t see the photos earlier, here’s the link to all of them.

Carrying On

There’s so much to do.
There’s so much to see.
Time is an open book
Or the wind or a key.

Sure, I hear you say,
After one leaves one’s work
It’s easy to view
One’s life with a smirk.

But I mean what I say
I’m not being flip.
I retired; it’s not like
I jumped from a sinking ship.

“There’s so much to do”
Is a reference to
All the work, not the play,
That one could do each day.

Garrison has retired,
And Obama leaves soon,
I bet they won’t be found
Lazying around all afternoon.

The retiree feels the enormity
Of options for one’s time.
The myriad possibilities
Are out there…bigtime.

One could write poems that rhyme,
Songs that swing, or
Biographies that inform and enlighten,

Or one could read poems that rhyme,
Songs that swing,
And biographies that enlighten and inform.

You see what I mean?

One could practice the guitar.
And one could play and sing in a bar.
One could learn to play the bassoon
And play in a band or a saloon.

Choice is a two-edged sword
Of black and white.
A gift one looked forward to
But may not fit just right.

Choice and time together
Equal freedom of a sort.
And I hope to use them
As life’s second-half passport.

(It’s amazing what I can do with the Rhyming Dictionary…or maybe amazing isn’t the word)

P.S. Garrison Keillor’s last show on Prairie Home Companion was awesome this past Sunday. If you are up for the
complete show, click here. I suggest going to this link of individual segments of the show, however, which allows you to go right to President Obama’s phone call, one more Catchup commercial, or his last News From Lake Wobegon story.
garrison

Cleaning Out

January 1, 2016
I’ve been getting messages lately that my life is too cluttered. I’m having trouble finding things (more than usual) like my guitar music and my copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends and Ego-Tripping and Other Poems. The piles of stuff are taking over on my desk at home and at school (more than usual). And then there are the direct messages from Judy that I have too many piles around the house. It’s true. I also have (mostly hidden) boxes and bags of assorted stuff both at home and at school; it all seemed important to keep at some point, but the time has come to let it go (at least most of it).

So, I’m making a New Year’s resolution to clean out. I used that Schuler’s Books gift card from a student (thanks Sophia!) and bought the best-selling book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

By page 15, I already felt like I was in therapy with someone trying to push me to do things I wasn’t quite ready to do…but that I felt in my heart to be true. For example, “People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.” Sounds like therapy to me. Here’s another taste of how tricky this endeavor will be: “Unbelievable as it may sound, you only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it. All you need to do is take the time to sit down and examine each item you own, decide whether you want to keep or discard it, and then choose where to put what you keep.”(30) EACH ITEM? Yes, each item. She says to “take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”(41)

On the surface, her plan makes sense. Until I look around and remind myself how many “things” I own.

In a particular order, by the way. I’m to start with clothes, then books, papers, miscellany (komono in Japanese), and then finally things with sentimental value. Reading this book is like hanging out with some overly organized person for which I would usually have no patience. I seem to be able to tolerate her ideas for a couple reasons: I realize I need to “tidy up” and I can shut the book and walk away from time to time.

I haven’t actually started to clean out. And I wonder when I will have the time to go through each item I own. But the important part seems to be to start.

I read The Story of Stuff and watched the videos. My goals always include being more organized. I recycle many times a day. Simplifying makes sense to me. So why haven’t I done it?

January 27, 2016
I started on the journey. I cleaned out the clothes in my drawers and my hanging shirts. It’s a small step, but it felt freeing to get rid of a bunch of stuff. I threw away or gave away more than I would have before reading the book, but I wouldn’t call it a deep clean. I need to keep at it; next step…pants, sweaters, and then summer clothes. It helps that Judy is on board, too. She’s throwing away things left and right.

Must
keep
some
memories…