Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

What can I say?  I've been busy since school started.  Yes, that same start that seems like not all that long ago.  I really hate the seeming distortion of time as I look forward to good days and dread the coming of the bad ones.  Every year I go back to work kicking and screaming, and then, in what seems not all that much later, it's Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, and then, finally, Christmas with it's vacation that's the longest one during the course of the academic year.  Three weeks after my return, two weeks from today, the second half of the school year will be upon us and I'll be counting DOWN the days till summer vacation.

I had to take advantage of yesterday's temperatures in the 60s so I took the bike out for a short spin just to be able to say that I did on December 22nd!

I'm hoping to see Carl and Megan and the rest of the scooter gang on New Year's Eve!

Merry Christmas!  And a blessed, happy, healthy New Year!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Up, Up, and Away!

I've often compared the scooter to a chair with wings, especially when I've been coming down a mountain road coasting at increasing speed, and wallowing in that exhilarating rush of near buoyancy that such a ride provides.

I was wrong.

I didn't know what "with wings" really meant.

In my mid 50's I'd never had occasion to be in a plane.  I pretended that a fear of heights kept me ground based, but I simply hadn't gone anywhere for which air travel was a necessity.  (I should note that that fear of heights is real, but that's about putting my foot back onto a ladder while getting off a rooftop.)

Last Christmas I was given a gift certificate for an "introductory flight" at the local small airport.  The weeks came and went and for various reason I never got around to redeeming the certificate until a few weekends ago when the weather seemed like it would be ideal, and with the colorful leaves in their prime it just felt like the perfect time to book the flight.

"With wings!"  I was like a little kid on Christmas morning as the plane headed down the runway going faster and faster until I could feel the rise and see the ground getting farther away.  In just a minute, or so it seemed, we were way up there looking down on the valley that I knew so well for so many years.

At least I thought I knew it.  I was certain that once we were in the air I'd recognize every last street and building below us.  I was lost in a heartbeat, enjoying the flight tremendously, but having no clue as to where we were.

The pilot headed straight to my neighborhood and there I could pick out familiar landmarks, until I got out the camera.  I tried taking pictures of recognizable structures and areas, but with the small camera's zoom in tight I had less an idea of what I was seeing in the viewfinder than I did just looking out the windows.  I was reminded of the time Stevie Wonder guest hosted Saturday Night Live and one of the spoof commercials they did was for a camera so intuitive that with it even Stevie could take great pictures.  Stevie might have had me beat if he'd been up in the plane with me.  None of my pictures were the great ones I'd hoped to get.

After circling the neighborhood where I grew up and lived all of my life we headed over the mountains that form the western wall of the valley.  I was totally lost, not recognizing anything at all over which we were flying.  It seemed surreal to see what should have been familiar sights appearing as alien landscapes.  I might as well have been somewhere in another state or another country.  I kept looking this way and then that way trying to grab some perspective that would help make sense of our position, but to little avail.  One I lost sight of the Susquehanna River, the feeling of being absolutely lost was complete.  All I could do then was to look at the horizon and marvel at the beauty of it all whether or not I recognized it.

When we got to Harvey's Lake which was to be the turning point in our flight I finally saw the land below appearing in familiar form as it did on Google Earth, but in amazing reality rather than on my computer screen.  We flew around the lake, and then right over it.  I hadn't expected bodies of water to appear as mirrors from a plane's eye view!  I grinned like a little kid again as I soaked up the sight of everything down below through eyes of wonder, almost as if I were seeing the earth for the very first time.  I suppose in a way, I was.

The ride lasted nearly an hour and went by WAY too fast.  We were heading back to the airfield long before I'd hoped we would and it was with a pronounced feeling of disappointment that I saw the runway looming before us and getting closer by the second.  The touchdown was as perfect as the flight itself

Everybody who knew I was going up was sure to ask me what I thought of the experience when they saw me afterward.  My answer has been the same to every one of them.  If I had the resources I'd go up every weekend just to be flown around to see this gift of our planet from the unique perspective afforded from above it.

A young man who was one of my students a long time ago is now a pilot.  I often wondered what it was with which he fell in love up there that made him want to earn his wings.  Now I know.

If they made scooters with wings, I'd get one!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buzz in the Valley - 2013

Having had the pleasure of attending Johnstown, PA's annual "Thunder in the Valley" motorcycle rally twice, I was absolutely delighted when I read a few weeks ago on Facebook that a scooter group local to the area was to host a scooter rally there with the dubious moniker, "Buzz in the Valley."  I read about it, and forgot about it, until this past weekend when I was about 20 miles out of Johnstown and saw on Facebook that THAT was the weekend of the "Buzz."  I quickly sent a message to two of my scooter buddies, Carl and Megan who were married the past June at our local group's rally and who were in Johnstown enjoying what their group had to offer.  They told me that the group was out on a ride, but that they were at the campground, so I rushed over to say hello and to see where the Johnstownians host their rally.

I hadn't realized that it was Johnstown's second scooter rally until I saw their banner when I got to the campground and found Carl and Megan, along with Michael and Trish who I'd met for the first time at C&M's wedding.  They didn't go on the group ride because the weather looked miserable, and, indeed, while we were there with them it was raining lightly.  Their loss was our gain, though, because if it had been sunny and warm we'd have missed seeing them entirely.  I'm sure that the other scooterists, Carl's parents included, would have been fun to hang out with too, but we were happy enough getting together for a little while with folks we knew and whose company we were certain we enjoyed.

 Now, it must be noted, with some degree of chagrin, that this was the second scooter rally at which I showed up in a car.  Booooo!  Hisssss!  Because of previously mentioned fears of breaking down or hitting bad weather I'd never venture as far as western Pennsylvania on the Piaggio, but neither would I miss seeing the folks at a rally because of what would be a sense of misplaced pride that alone might have kept me from showing up on four wheels.

I enjoyed the spirit and the sights of the Johnstown "Buzz."  Scooter balloons!

 A Sacred Heart of Jesus sticker on a blue Vespa...

 And a scooter the likes of which I'd never seen.  I'd love one of these for cold commutes!

On Saturday evening I enjoyed one of the primary reasons I'd gone to Somerset County in the first place last weekend - the twenty-fifth anniversary banquet of the Somerset County Community Band with which I played the tuba for the first time in nearly 40 years last summer.  The sounds of a live big band which were provided at the celebration had been sorely missed by yours truly who last had the opportunity to hear real big band jazz many years ago when the local musicians' union of which I was then a part hosted the Count Basie Band for the union's 50th anniversary dinner.

A relaxing Sunday at our host's place where we celebrated his birthday brought the visit out west to a close and it was time to head back to start another work week.

I caught this photo on the way back east.  Oh, to be able to retire someday and travel like this from coast to coast at least once!

When we got back, there was water already boiling on the stove and six live lobsters waiting for me to cook them for supper.  Our friend, Mike, and my sister joined us for a scrumptious seafood feast!  I might have thought to get some pictures of the lobsters, but I was too busy cooking, then eating them.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend at all!

Oh, and as for "buzz."  I've always wondered what it sounds like when I drive past somebody on the scooter.  To me the BV sounds like a full grown motorcycle without all of that obnoxious throttling with the clutch disengaged at a red light, but is it really...

...Just a buzz?

[Update - a week later...  Just found out while reading an article online about stinging insects that VESPA is the genus name for hornets.  BUZZ, indeed!]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

On Top of Things

I wrote yesterday about being in the valley and hardly noticing the mountains that flank the towns and cities along the Susquehanna River because I'm so used to them being there, and today, on a random ride, I ended up atop one of those very peaks near Scranton, able to see clear across the valley to the mountain on the other side.

Though the sky looked ominous after church, I had the riding bug and I headed out on the scooter anyway, as usual not knowing where I was heading till I got to the turn that would determine the general area for the rest of the ride.  Once I found myself pointed in that particular direction I had a number of further choices to make that would dictate what would be the overall length of the ride, and I opted for a medium course.

 It was a ride a lot like life itself.  I had some idea of where I was going and knew where I wanted to end up, but I didn't know for certain if all of my turns were the right ones to get me there.   I did encounter about a mile's worth of sprinkles, but kept on going and hoped for the best.  The alternative would have been to pull over and pop up the umbrella I always carry just in case, but in six years I haven't had to do that yet.  Although I didn't necessarily take the most efficient roads to put me where I'd hoped to stop for a while, I did get to my destination at about the time I thought I'd arrive.

I'd commented yesterday that my days were numbered for being out and about on the bike wearing shorts and a tee shirt, and today, already, the proof was in the air.  I opted for long pants today, and a jacket that I took off for the pictures but wore while I was moving.  It was a little warm inside the jacket, but I knew that if I were to have taken it off I'd have been more cold than I was warm, so on it stayed.

On my way into Mass this morning, Father Mike asked me how school was going.  I told him that I wasn't going to answer that question because there was no readily available wood upon which to knock, but I did say that I was going to keep my fingers crossed, and my hands folded, and that he could figure it out from there.  I already have two weeks crossed off on the calendar which I keep behind my desk that shows all of the months till June.  Those two purple bars of Sharpie ink don't look like much, but I'm happy with them being there because I'm officially beyond crying that summer's over and heading full tilt into the rest of the year.  I have a number of great weekends to look forward to between now and Halloween, and as soon as I finish crossing those stepping stones, the first term will be over!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fall Creeps in Insidiously

Sometimes, like today, I go out on the scooter and the whole time I'm riding I keep thinking that somewhere in the back of my mind is something profound just simmering under the surface - something that I'll write here when I get back to the house which will make me smile with a smug satisfaction when I hit the PUBLISH icon and imagine the stellar reactions I'll get for my perspicacious insight and utter brilliance.  To be sure, I enjoy with crystal clarity the illusion of all that even as I try to deny to myself that it isn't going to happen and continue on in my folly, but eventually the time comes to put my fingertips to the keys and admit once again that today wasn't the day.

When I pick my head up and pay attention to what's
around me, it's difficult to miss the mountains that
define the sides of the Wyoming Valley.  Much of
the time, though, I don't really see the mountains
or feel like I  live out most of my life between
their gigantic walls.

The biggest thought to pass through my head as the rest of me passed most delightfully through the almost, but not quite too chilly air, was that those of us who live in old valleys, cut by rivers and broadened by glaciation, often don't see the mountains that define our topography.  I've lived here all my life, literally not more than one-quarter mile from where I sit right now, and for much of the time I spent in growing up I remember wondering why they called this a valley since it didn't look at all what I remembered a valley looking like in my third or fourth grade geography book.

(It was in one of those grades that we used a geography book in which I saw an illustration of the most beautiful pastoral scene that's yet to be surpassed in image or in reality for me.  If I ever come upon that place, if it even exists, I'll sell everything I own and then beg, borrow, and steal to purchase the land which provides that remembered vista.  If there's no money left to build a little house on that spot, I'll pitch a tent there and live out the rest of my days in bliss nonetheless.)

Even on the valley floor the mountains loom in
 the distance, but really seeing them takes more
than the two standard eyes with which each
of us comes equipped.

When I pay attention to where I am and where I'm going around here, however, the mountains are omnipresent and sometimes seem to loom over my entire life - pinning me down not only in physical location, but as fall and then winter approach, in spirit as well.

And that was the end of my "profundity" for the day.  The rest of the time I simply rolled around happy to be out on a beautiful day with temperatures still generously warm enough not to have had to suit up to ride.

It occurred to me as I scootered about, that my days are definitely numbered for riding like this.  Soon enough the jackets will begin to make their appearances and then stick around for the long haul through the middle of next spring.

Half of me cries inside because summer's over and the bleakness of the darker seasons begins to erase along the edges the best of summer's sweet memories, and yet some other part of me finds joy in seeing a number of maple leaves already taking on their autumn hues.  Anyone who's read what I've written here for a number of years has to have noticed that I tend to be most productive in writing when I'm on a roller coaster of emotion, and then both on the uphill and downhill sides of that first big drop.  I suppose, that's what makes life most interesting because I'll take those emotional highs and even the lows any day over a flat affect that would keep one's scooter on only the straightest and most perfectly maintained roads.  Sometimes it's not knowing what's beyond that next curve that makes all the difference, and sometimes it's best just to stay inside and let the scooter sit idle in its parking space.  The wisdom, I suppose, is in knowing when to ride and when to sit.  I seem to be making the right choice more often these days.  That's progress!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

So, That's How Long Forever Feels

"I'm shutting down my workhorse computer right now and packing it away.  This will be the last mail I send from it till sometime in August.  I hope it feels like forever to me between now and then!"

With those words, 73 days ago, I put to bed the computer on my desk at school after having written them to my friend Mike in Quakertown.  The "then" in that sentence is now, the evening before my return to the classroom to begin my thirty-first year of teaching.  This night before the inevitable return to school has always been an emotion packed affair for me, and no less so this year.  No matter how many times I retire another summer to the honking of the alarm clock at 5:55 to begin the first and then each of the subsequent 179 workdays, it will always be a "rude awakening" to me - the realization that my mission here on this earth isn't finished yet and that more work remains to be done.

It was on Friday that I began the official "wrapping up" of summer vacation in my heart.  I started with the last cup of coffee I'll have on the deck on a weekday that isn't a workday or holiday until next June and the look on my face says it all.  So, maybe I exaggerated the expression a little knowing what it was to represent, but it's not an inaccurate representation of what my heart was feeling.  I know I should be used to that emotion, that I should expect and anticipate it, that it shouldn't give me a kick every time, but it does.  I know I do good work.  I have believed every step of the way that I'm doing pretty much what the Almighty wanted me to do with my life.  Yet, it's still difficult to give up the life of leisure that summer provides and to pick up a fresh piece of chalk with which to make the first few strokes of what will be another mural in my life and in the lives of the kids I will teach.

Though I've been more or less an "empty nester" since my younger daughter headed off to college five summers ago, this was the first summer, with her now at graduate school, in which I was alone all day each summer day when I wasn't away.  Every now and then I imagine what my life might have been like as a contemplative monk and this summer to some degree I experienced the solitude about which I'd often wondered.  I embraced it as I did the simplicity of my days and I fairly wallowed in the freedom of doing just about anything I wanted to do when I wanted to do it without having to consult anybody else's schedule.

It was with much joy, though, that I welcomed my baby back for a few days between the end of her internship and the beginning of her new semester.  We were able to squeeze in the dad and daughter lunch that we've been enjoying together on the last Friday of summer vacation since her last year in high school.  Though we've always talked, there's a bonding that occurs and deepens every year when we go for that lunch that is incomparable to any other time when we're together.  Yesterday we went to Allentown to visit her sister and it was a very nice last Saturday of the summer with both of my girls.

I fell asleep in the recliner with the TV on last night, and when I stirred sometime in the middle of the night I realized that I had slid down and apparently slept with my back in some awkward position for a few hours.  It was a toss-up as to whether I should take the bike or the car to church this morning with my lower back aching as it did, but in the end the bike won out in spite of the temperature being only in the upper fifties.  After all, it would be my last day of the vacation to ride and I was going to be darned if I let a little twinge in my back stop me.

Likewise, after my usual Sunday afternoon nap I took the scooter out for about an hour just for the sake of winding down my last few hours of freedom suitably.  I wanted to pose by the colorful gazebo at which I often take a picture of myself at the beginning or end or at both points of a usual summer vacation, but there were other people at the park and I didn't want to look (any more) odd (than I usually do) by snapping a selfie there.  Here's one of me there from the beginning of the summer, for old time's sake.

There were a number of choices as to what to make my "last supper" of the summer vacation.  I chose Antonio's pizza with extra cheese because it's baked right around the corner, and it doesn't require cooking.  It hit the spot, but didn't manage to fill the cavernous pit in my stomach that's there because of what looms over tomorrow morning.  I suppose it's worse for the kids, but honestly I've gotten too old to remember what it was like when I was the one going to sit in one of the little seats to make a fair comparison.

And so, my days of leisure come to a close once again, for the sixth time since I started writing this blog.  My thanks to those of you who've been along with me on this journey since the beginning, and to those of you who stop by now and then just to see if I've cranked out anything worth reading.  Frankly, there are times when what my fingertips produce here is just the cathartic the doctor ordered in terms of my own coming to grips with what I'm feeling and giving it some form of expression, and other times when I reread what came out of me and see how I totally danced around some nebulous emotion that I wanted to share but remained apparently clueless as to how to give it wings.  Regardless, I appreciate the support of my friends here who struggle right along with me in trying to figure out sometimes what I'm thinking.

I'm shutting down my summer vacation of 2013 right now and packing it away.  This will be the last post I write from this side of school until June.  I hope it feels like the blink of an eye to me between now and then!

Monday, August 19, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

In just about a week in this part of the country hundreds of thousands of kids will be returning to school for another academic year chock full of Readin', Writin', and 'Ritmetic, and I have no doubt that many of them will spend at least a little time in the first week either writing or telling or both about, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."  For all the rights and privileges that come with having grown up, I'm not sure sometimes, if given the chance, that I wouldn't turn back the clock and go back to elementary school to be the kid writing that essay instead of the teacher assigning it.

I spent this morning and a good chunk of the afternoon in my classroom starting to prepare for the new subjects I'll be teaching this year, and I barely began to scratch the surface in planning even my first full week with the kids. One of the drawbacks of being an elementary school teacher is that one is expected to be able to teach any subject at any of the elementary grade levels, so reassignment to different subjects and grades happens as often as it doesn't.  I'm starting from the ground up this year with subjects I didn't teach last year.  While I'm excited to be doing what I will be doing, there's a LOT of work that will go into doing my best.  Thus, I'm not sure how often I'll be posting here as the school year gets underway and I'm kept busy doing all the things that make me who I am.

I waited for this summer vacation all last year for many reasons, praying all along that it would be the summer I'd hoped to have for each of the past five years or so.  It seemed that for about that long, every time I'd be coming down the home stretch of the school year something life-changing and terrible would happen to make the summer that I'd hoped to have for relaxing and rejuvenating into one filled with stress, and worry, and too many spilled tears.  I can still remember the excitement I felt as March blossomed over into April and the end of the school term was in sight, and then in late May when I began crossing off the days on the calendar till the end.  And now, in the seeming blink of an eye, the break is over and I'm ready (but only by necessity) to head back.

So, here it is.  How I Spent my Summer Vacation - the most blessed one in a good while...

I remember taking this picture on June 14th, my first full day off and with the smell of school still on me.  There I was at a supermarket when I spied the patio furniture and my butt fainted right into a comfy chair.  I was so geared up for summer vacation then, and when I pressed the shutter button I didn't have much of a care in the world except to pack as much enjoyment into the summer as I could.

It was later that same week, but before I got my summer haircut, that I visited Barley Creek Brewing Company in Stroudsburg, PA.  Everything outside was in bloom.  It was gloriously sunny.  God was in His heaven and I felt as if I was right there with Him.

No summer vacation would be complete without a visit or two to Water St. Brewing Company in Binghamton, NY.  To be honest, I'm not usually crazy about any of their beers, but they keep switching around what they're brewing so I keep trying them out because it's a nice drive and the ambiance is very pleasant.

Though I didn't make it to Flander's Field, I did get to see many gorgeous poppies on some of my walks.  I walked a lot this summer.  On the downside of that, last week I bought a cane because my right knee which has been "bad" since my college days and which I have so far refused to have seen by a specialist hurts worse than it has been when I'm on it for a while.  Maybe I'll need to make a scooter mount for the cane someday.

I treated myself to more lunches out this summer than I have in the past number of summers combined, and you know what?  I was worth it!  One of my favorites, only available on Fridays, was take-out pizza from Bakery Delite in Plains, PA.  I savored every morsel knowing that once vacation was over I'd likely not be back there for another Friday lunch until next June rolls around.

And I spent more time making some decent dinners instead of just throwing together leftovers and what-not as I prefer to do when I get in from a long day at school.  Everybody loves my shrimp scampi in the sauce that I created myself from the ground up running on hunches and instincts, and I like serving it and hearing all the "Mmmmm's" that it usually inspires.

Besides feeding myself, I kept up my summer tradition of feeding the birds.  The little guys go at the seed I provide like vultures working over a cow carcass, coming by the dozens and waiting their turns noisily in the nearby pussy willow.  I was happy that there were no blue jays to be seen this year.  While they're beautiful to look at, they're the playground bullies of the bird feeder knocking the littler guys to and fro while they're feeding and their awful squawking is enough to make one want to get out the BB gun.

I found myself in a number of places that I've not been to before.  I've always loved going to new places and thoroughly basked in the glow of experiencing just that a good number of times since the middle of June.  I went to no one, distant, scenic, tourist trap kind of place as a "vacation" as I used to do when the girls were still at home, but was satisfied quite richly in going on bunches of day trips and soaking up novel experiences on each of them.

And I visited a good number of places that I've been to before but like to revisit from time to time.  The Nicholson Viaduct is one such place.  It's a railroad bridge, built 98 years ago, and it's still in service.  The tracks on the bridge are the very ones that run behind my house, just a little over a football field's length away from where I sit on the deck at night and watch the stars twinkle and the planes cross the sky above my head.

I'm a sucker for Krispy Kremes, especially when the "HOT NOW!" sign is lit.  It amazes me how a trip to a simple doughnut shop can raise the spirits sometimes when it's a dreary, icky kind of day inside and out.  It's not only about gobbling up a doughnut and slurping on a hot cup of coffee. It's about standing by the glass between the production line and the gallery and watching the doughnuts moving slowly through the maze of machinery from the mixing bowl through the serving area.  It's kind of like a scooter ride - not so much about the being there as about the getting there.

There was sweet family time too, this summer, one of the highlights being Uncle Slim's annual Christmas in July party on his small front porch.  My uncle is not a success by many of the world's standards.  He lives a humble, simple life, and I am always moved when he expresses his gratefulness to God, and to his family and friends for what he does have.  Though not in all, in some respects I still hope to be more like him if I ever really grow up.

There was family time too in visiting the cemetery.  This was my first summer without my Dad.  Somebody once said about losing a parent something along the lines of, "You don't get over it, you just get used to it."  I suppose I'm getting used to visiting Mom and not seeing Dad there and not having the phone ring to hear Dad's hearty, "Hey!  What you doing?" but I will never, ever get over my Daddy being gone from my life in a physical way.  Oh, he's here just as much as ever when I talk to him throughout the course of a typical day, but how I miss the sound of his voice answering me.

Though not in some ancient part of Mexico, I found some "ruins" right here in the Poconos.  These artifacts are part of the restoration of one of the locks along the Delaware and Hudson Canal which predated but led to the development of the first railroad in the United States.  There's a tie-in to the Nicholson Viaduct picture above; the Delaware and Hudson tracks are the very ones I wrote about upon which the trains run right by me all day long.

I got to do a nice bit of antiquing since the last day of school as well.  Though I don't buy antiques because I'm at a stage in my life where I'm more thinking about getting rid of things rather than accumulating them, I just love visiting antique shops as if they were museums.  There's nothing like a cheerful shriek of, "My Grandma had one of them!" - especially when it comes from my own delighted lips.

I spent some time in the sun, though not so much as to get too hot 'cause I can't stand the heat generally.  I've found that I'm becoming more like my Dad as time goes on.  He was always content and so patient to sit around just waiting for me, or my Mom, or my Sister to be finished at appointments and such.  I'm finding that I can sit contentedly for a good while more often and longer than I used to, without a book or anything else to keep myself amused, and to be happy simply in being.

My cousin Mike with whom I took a single day's worth of swimming lesson (Note the use of the singular.) way back when we were little kids, and who is a reader here, might be shocked to see this picture of me in a large pool.  To his credit, Mike finished the challenge and learned to swim eventually, while I never did.  Nevertheless I do enjoy getting in the water and frolicking as much as any 55 year old guy can frolic as long as my toes are still within reach of the bottom of the pool.  I got to spend a nice bit of time in the water this past summer!

And I spent some time just relaxing along the side of a lake now and then, participating vicariously in the boating activities of the adventurous and again, just enjoying very much being free from the constraints and requirements of the daily grind at work.  As my free days grew shorter and fewer I was all too aware of the beginning of the school year looming on the horizon, but I was determined not to let such thoughts spoil the moments of leisure that were left.

For most of my career I never gave retirement a serious thought.  In fact, on occasion when I was asked what I'd do if I ever won a huge lottery my answer was always something like, I'd fund the school where I am so we could do more and bigger and better things for the kids, and stay in the classroom.  As the years roll by, though, now and then I find myself longing for the freedom to make each day exactly what I want it to be as the wind blows me and the spirit moves me.  It's not that I'd like to do anything besides teach, but I'm getting a little tired and more disillusioned with where Education as a whole is being led by people who think they know more than they do because they control the purse strings and/or have the power to demand things that make us veterans shake our heads and wonder where their brains are.  As far as actually retiring goes, though, in the words of my favorite poet, "But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."

Many of my summer evenings were spent right here, away from home, in a welcoming living room where watching reruns of NCIS, SVU, and Touched by an Angel were all I needed to be most content.  I am amazed as I age that I am at peace and happy to sit and be, as I noted above, much more than in years past.  I look at today's kids always needing some kind of entertainment going on to keep them amused and although I can remember being that way myself as I was growing up, that feeling is beginning to feel foreign and even somewhat annoying when I see it in the youth with whom I work and interact.

And many of my summer meals were taken right here with this glorious view of the Poconos before me as I nibbled and gobbled one delicious meal after another.  I can look at this picture on the full computer screen, close my eyes, raise my shoulders and still be in the moment in which I took the picture.  I plan to revisit this scene and memory over and over as the weeks crawl by and the school year goes on and one.

I scooted da valley much more this summer than I did last.  No, there were no long, epic journeys, but the usual ones along familiar trails not too far from here.  The ones that raise me up when I'm down, and lift me even higher when I'm up.  I made it to the scooter rally to see Carl and Megan get married, made some new scooter friends there, and I saw the odometer hit 15,000 miles since I dismissed my last class weeks ago.

As always, good things invariably come to an end.  This was the sunset into which I drove as I made my way back from my last summer week away.  I couldn't have ordered a more fitting nor beautiful ending to the summer I so desperately needed and finally got.  To be certain, I am very depressed that it's nearly over, but not so much as to spoil the little bit of it that I have left.

I've enjoyed being back here at the blog, especially over the course of these past few weeks during which I was able to pack in all the relaxation and happiness that I could muster, some to make up for the disappointment I'd felt for the past few years' worth of summers, and some to store up for the long winter nights ahead, literally and figuratively.  It is my intention to maintain some kind of presence here, and not only to moan and groan about the school year.  Wish me well!  And, as I won't hear my Daddy say again till I join him on the other side, "I'll see you in the funny papers."