New Vistas, New Plateaus

New Vistas, New Plateaus

Even at my somewhat advanced age, I have decided that the best way to keep going is to seek out new vistas and new plateaus as the centerpieces of my daily activity, in spite of any issues of Health and Wealth, and to seek Intellectual pursuits in order to maintain some semblance of awareness  and involvement.. I find that I am still capable of events stirring morsels of excitement within me, some related to my career as an educator, and others generated by my own choice of paths to follow throughout each day’s menu of opportunities.

Numerous examples, for instance, have arisen out of my various school evaluation assignments; the Dexter Elementary School at Ft. Benning, Georgia is what I would have liked the elementary schools of which I was principal, to be. Serendipity (“finding treasure where least expected”) raised its head in a visit to a Cairo school, wrapped in the shadow of The Great Pyramid, that has the most comprehensive and effective special education program I’ve had the good fortune to see in action. This, in spite of little interest or emphasis on special education services throughout the Middle East, but an example of what one person can do in order to initiate “a cause” that brings light into the otherwise dark world of the handicapped. I saw kindergarten children in a Wyoming elementary school using “smiley face” rubrics to evaluate their own work, and to use in establishing their own goals for improvement. Each time one of these examples appeared, I experienced “New Life”, and realized that mentally I’m not yet retired.

Speaking of retirement, a couple of years ago I began to search for the “best place” to live during that next stage, and as a beginning I made a long list of what kinds of things I would like to have available as I begin to experience physical changes and challenges derived from the aging process. Such things as availability of health services, senior citizen transportation, physical therapy, shopping, proximity to a major airport, entertainment, volunteerism, cost of golf, fishing, and so on. As I considered each location, I graded it on this legal page list of desirable qualities; some of the choices were the Prescott, Arizona area, Western Colorado,  Charlotte, NC (where my grandsons live), and of course, my “hometown” of 40 years, Thermopolis, Wyoming.

And Surprise! Remaining where I am proved to be the best choice of all; the major cons of being two hours from an adequate airport, and the two months each year of really cold weather, were easily overcome by numerous other considerations. Among them, no state income tax (it would have cost me an additional minimum of $1000 annually to go to one of these other states), cheap golf (I have my own cart), fishing (I have a lifetime license), a great climate during most of the year (except this year’s summer, which was bad everywhere), a nice home with 22 trees and lots of grass, etc. etc. etc. Of course, we have to chase the damned deer out of the yard; yesterday there were three young bucks lounging in the shade near the boundary fences. I have a membership at one of the local swimming pools for an annual fee of $100 (we have the World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs), another membership at the local rehab center’s health club for $15/month, with free personal trainers. If I need to get something fixed, all the owners of local businesses are former students of mine, and there’s no red tape. The mayor was one of my staff years ago; I once put the current County Clerk into in-school suspension for an altercation during middle school PE. The best auto mechanic in town is also my golf partner.

But one of the highlights, and one which none of the other sites can challenge, is that our town has what has been designated by an independent organization as the “best dinosaur museum in the US”. I happen to be a member of the educational board attached to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, and I look forward to many happy hours of volunteering to do everything from “cleaning” and restoring fossil bones, to organizing docent guides to lead tour groups as the Elderhostel folks and others spend a week or so here.  I mean, who doesn’t love a dinosaur?  We have the rights to three dig sites, one right here in Thermopolis, one near Douglas, Wyoming (from where our 106 ft. long specimen came), and another on the Wyoming-Nebraska border near Lusk, Wyoming. And, I can always go south for the cold months.

Now there’s more excitement. Yesterday, I signed papers to buy a second house here, in anticipation of our thinking of selling our present house in a year or two, and my wife relocating for part of the year to be near the grandkids. I prefer to live in the West, and just visit the East.  One of the elements of this decision has to do with my present battle with peripheral polyneuropathy; I am in the third week of a steroid therapeutic regimen having the purpose of determining how it affects my general health and which among the many side effects may have nasty consequences, if any. I did some investigation of extracts that had been recommended for consideration by a friend, but their benefits do not fit my particular need. If the disease cannot be halted, it could result in a major lack of ambulatory ability, and a one level house would be preferable; my new place is all on one level, and even has well-made ramps in the event that a wheel chair would become necessary. Of course, we hope not, and as a matter of fact I haven’t felt this good since I was in my 50’s—no pain anywhere, lots of stamina, reduction of former health problems. Physical therapy two or three times a week is focusing on helping me to regain my ability for good balance, along with increased strength and flexibility. So far, my golf swing hasn’t improved, but it hasn’t deteriorated either. And I have a house to use for visitors! Assuming that we can effectively deal with this disease, I am scheduled to make a couple of school visits in early March to Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and in late April to Bahrain. I guess I had better get my Arabic language cards out again! I’m also planning a stopover in Troon, Scotland, for a wee bit of golf.

Actually, in a year or so the house may become a vacation rental; I learned recently that there is a market for that even in this little town, due to the fact that it is a tourist destination that people like to sample for more than just a day or two. It depends upon my health situation.

For several years, I was principal of a residential facility for multiple handicapped youngsters to age 21; most of them were labeled as severely emotionally disturbed, and needed lots of support. Our town has a similar facility, but for younger students to age 13 or so, and I have the opportunity to use some of my experience to do some substitute teaching, and maybe lend some other support. Again, this community has lots to offer for me, and similar opportunities would be difficult to replicate elsewhere.

Changing the subject, I recently read an extremely well-written blog by my favorite blogster, providing a comprehensive and articulate commentary about the evil influence of Islamaphobia rearing its ugly head throughout many of our social networks and political decision-making. The blog, “It’s a Halal Life”, can be accessed on wordpress.com; the author is Senior Editor of an Islamic publication which covers a wide variety of topics including finance, health, diet and nutrition, and relationship concerns. I strongly recommend reading this blog in the hope that it can provide a good window into understanding many of the issues surrounding this unfortunate circumstance. Much of what she writes focuses on the lack of knowledge that most of us have about the core of Islam, and are unaware of how its roots are shared with Christianity and Judaism. At its heart, it is not the violent ogre that it is often characterized;  rather, a reading of the Qu’ran will reveal that it is based on a demanding yet forgiving God, and that charity toward others is a major theme throughout. Many people think that one should automatically “be proud of America”; my view is that we are “ lucky to be an American” but I can’t be proud of everything our country represents as long as racisim and intolerance such as this remain in the forefront of political and social action. I am proud that our country has, at least in its founding documents, the mechanisms to address these problems—if only we will.

Always Be Happy!        To Our Life!

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