Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finding Gratitude in the Parking Lot

Last Friday, on my search for yard sale treasure, I drove past the high school. I have to admit that I may have laughed gleefully out loud when I saw the full parking lot. Teachers are back at school getting ready for students to arrive on Monday morning, and I am blissfully cruising the yard sales. I feel only a sense of relief that I don't have to go back to work. I did sign up to substitute and I already have a few dates booked, but I'm only accepting assignments for content that I enjoy teaching. I feel incredibly grateful that I can chose to work or not. I might have to drive by that parking lot sure felt good!

I am grateful.  Retired life is good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day in the Life

At the park 4/27/11

I'm in Austin, Texas visiting my grandchildren.  There is really no place I would rather be than hanging out with Megan (5) and Hunter (3).  Their parents head off to work in the mornings and I have the kids all to  myself until the work day is over.  This year Megan started kindergarten and her parents insist that she attend, even on days that Nana is in town. Hunter and I hang out at home, reading books, coloring, and watching Dora the Explorer until it is time to walk to school to pick up Megan.

I am starting to adjust to the Texas climate.  When I left Oregon we were looking forward to temperatures above 60.  In Texas we're in the high 80's with humidity.  My hair was actually weeping by the time I pushed the stroller all the way to the elementary school.  Today I remembered to carry a water bottle with me.

Every day we pick up Megan from the blue painted rectangle in the front of the school that corrals the kindergarten students until their parent or designated adult shows up to claim them.  We stop at the park halfway between school and home and Megan and Hunter swing and climb on the play structures and demand that I "Look at me, Nana" or "Push me, Nana."  We always pack a snack.  One of the best parts of going to the park is a bag of crackers and a juice box!

Today we spent about a half an hour at the park before I suggested that it was time to head home.  Hunter climbed into the stroller and Megan skipped along behind us stepping on our shadows and announcing it to Hunter every time she stepped on her head. 

A few blocks from the park I turned to Megan and said "Watch out for the dog poop."  She skipped by the small fresh pile on the sidewalk and we continued up the street to the corner where Hunter declared,  "I want to see the dog poop!"

I pushed the stroller across the street while telling Hunter, "It's back there on the sidewalk.  I didn't want Megan to step in it."  Hunter turned her head and leans over the side of the stroller trying to catch a glimpse of the dog poop.

"I can't see it," she exclaims loudly "I want to see the dog poop.  Go back!  I want to see the dog poop!"

I am an adoring grandmother.  I am usually a pushover for anything these kids ask for, but dog poop?  I was not going back to view dog poop!

So for the next two blocks my darling 3 year old granddaughter is screaming "I want to see the dog poop.  I want to see the dog poop."  She kept up the litany until Nana found another, somewhat dried out, pile of poop.  In my best indulgent Nana voice I told her "Look Hunter, there's another pile of dog poop."  She looked and she was happy.

Just another day in the life of #1 is good.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

End of the Journey

My father-in-law had a heart attack this morning. He was taken to the emergency room and now has been moved to hospice. He is in his 90's and has advanced Alzheimer's. He is conscious, but not really aware. Last night he held his wife's hand and she believed he knew she was there. Today his eyes are open but when asked who she was, he mumbled incoherently. He is on morphine for pain, but they are not performing any other procedures to prolong his life. My mother-in-law was told he would probably die within the week.

The spouse is heading to Portland tomorrow morning with his brother to be with his mother. This is a time of conflicting emotions for the spouse. When we last visited his father together a few months ago, he recognized the spouse. When the spouse visited by himself a few weeks later, his father did not know him. The spouse says he's known his father was gone and that he has had months to get used to the idea that his father would die. But now he is in the final stage of dying and the reality is still difficult to accept, even though the essence of his father has been gone for some time. While he waits for his father to die, he is not mourning the man who clings to life, but the man his father once was. Knowing that his death is a blessing that will release his father from the ravages of Alzheimer’s does not make letting go any easier.

As people around us will celebrate Easter, we will mourn the loss of my father-in-law. Life and death, it’s the natural course of events. Tomorrow the sun will rise and set and life will go on.  I remind myself that without experiencing loss, it is difficult to appreciate the gift of life. Today I appreciate the life of my father-in-law.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Close Call

My daughter, Sarah, planned to buy a new car next year, but then a driver in a SUV rammed into the rear of her little Honda Accord at full speed while she was stopped in traffic.

Right after the accident she emailed me a picture of what was left of her car. The message said “Do not panic. I am okay.” The entire rear section of her car was crumpled. The rear seat was pushed forward and covered with broken glass.

There is much to be grateful for:
  • The car compacted around her, but she was protected, even though the air bags did not deploy. Thank God for crumple zones.

  • The accident happened a half a block from the day care center. Sarah usually picks the kids up on her way home from work. That day my son-in-law picked them up. My grandchildren would have been strapped in to their car seats in the back of the car as the frame crumpled around them and broken glass rained down.

  • Sarah walked away from the accident. She continues to have some physical discomfort as a result of the accident, but she is alive.

Sarah had always wanted a Mini Cooper. She selected the new Mini Cooper Countryman and it was delivered, fresh off the boat, last week…a full year before she had planned to have a new car. It is now equipped with new car seats for the kids.

I am grateful.




Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm Not The Only One

I live in a small, rural town in eastern Oregon.  I live in the Republican stronghold part of Oregon.  I know a few Democrats, a few out of the closet liberals, and several closeted gays.  In a small town, everyone knows your business...even people you've never laid eyes on.  You don't need six degrees to find a connection to anyone in a small town.  Eastern Oregon is a conservative culture.  It  is easy to acquire a reputation, earned or unearned, truth or fiction, that will haunt you for years.  In a small town this collective knowledge can impact your livelihood.  I have great respect for the individuals in my town that work with PFLAG, or immigration reform, or other controversial issues.

When I was working I was careful about sharing my liberal views.  People knew I was a Democrat and for a long time I had a pro-choice bumper sticker, but once I became a school administrator the bumper sticker came off my car.  I didn't write letters to the editor of the local paper.  My career was hurt by advocating for non- English speaking students at a time when the popular stance was to "send those Mexicans back to Mexico."  The popular opinion was that those Mexicans were syphoning off resources that should go to "our" students.  Then I became the Special Education Director and once again I championed a minority acused of syphoning away resources from "our students."  "Our students" were, of course, the middle class regular education kids. 

I'm sure you've heard people complain about the school system:  how it spends so much money on those kids who don't speak English or on those special needs kids that a regular kid can't get any help. Have you heard them in the beauty shop complaining about how their son, nephew, cousin is a genius but he can't get any specialized instruction because the school spends all its money on those other kids?   Now that I'm retired I can say BULLSHIT! 

Where do people get off believing that their children are more entitled than other children to free public education?

Public education is like running a race.  All the kids are aiming for the same finish line.  Each state has established its own finish line and the hurdles that all kids need to jump to complete the race.  The job of educators is to get kids to the finish line.  Not all kids start the race at the same place.  Some kids leap ahead and some lag behind.  I know it's popular to chant that "All kids can learn" and "All kids can meet high expectations,"  but the truth is that there are some kids who will never learn algebra, hell, some kids will never learn to recognize numbers.  All kids can learn, but not all kids learn the same way or at the same rate.  Just like in a race, we help the participants along the way. We've got education aid centers set up along the race path. Any kid who need the educational equivalent of gatoraide should get it and move along to the finsih line.  Some kids reach the finish line early and we cheer and clap for them at special assemblies that honor the golden children.   But there are other classmates to those students who are struggling to be toilet trained, or to master basic arithmetic facts, or to learn to read.  Those kids run at a slower pace and need help over the hurdles.  Our obligation is to help everyone to the finish line. 

Face it, some kids need more help than others.  Public education isn't about giving the same thing to every kid, its about helping ALL kids reach the state established finish line.  Some kids get more help than others because some kids need more help.

I used to feel like a lone ranger, out of touch with many in my community.  Since I've started to speak my mind and publish it on my blog, I've had surprising responses from friends and acquaintences.  Perhaps the silent majority is really the liberals in eastern Oregon?

So, this week I'm grateful for the insight that blogging has brought me.  I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nana's Arms Are Wide Open

I've written several times about my belief that the Universe provides us with learning experiences. The Universe doesn't give up on us when we don't learn a lesson, but provides additional opportunities to reach enlightenment.

Funny how the universe can provide just what you need...even when you don't realize you are looking for it. Today I heard an old Creed song on the radio in my car. For some reason it stuck with me all day. I think it was a message I needed to hear.

"If I had just one wish
Only one demand
I hope he's not like me
I hope he understands
That he can take this life
And hold it by the hand
And he can greet the world
With arms wide open..."

Isn't that a great way to live your life...with arms wide open.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Crossing the Atlantic

Ile de France

In May of 1955 I made my first and only transatlantic crossing on an ocean liner. I was four years old and I sailed on the Ile de France from England to America with my mother, two year old brother, and my Auntie Pam to join my father and uncle in California.

Although the Second World War had ended in 1945, England still suffered the deprivations of war. One relic I have of my life in England is my ration book.  It is hard to believe that food, especially fruit, was still rationed ten years after the war had ended. My parents wanted a better life and decided to immigrate to the United States. Like many before us, we boarded a ship to sail to America. I remember little of the journey but a vague recollection that the ship smelled of porridge and fresh paint.

Built by the French Line in 1927, the Ile de France was sold for scrap in 1959. But the ship had one last moment of glory. It was used as a floating prop in the 1960 disaster film, The Last Voyage and was partially sunk.

The luxurious ocean cruiser that ended its days by being sunk in a movie became a major character in the story of our immigration voyage told at family gatherings. That was my only cruising experience for over fifty years.

In 2008 I retired from public education. Now when students head back to school in the fall, I take a vacation. This past September my husband and I took a cruise on the Norwegian Line to Alaska. Although I remember little of my first voyage, I imagine it was quite different from a vacation cruise. One story my mother told of our journey was that we weren’t allowed to sit in certain deck chairs because they were reserved for other passengers.

When my mother died I kept an old leather suitcase embossed with her initials. The suitcase has a hang tag from the Ile de France. Although I arrived in the United States by boat, my family’s story isn’t different from other immigrants. We came looking for a better life. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if we remained in England, but it is an impossible question to answer. It is enough to be grateful for the opportunities that this country has provided for me and my family. 

Life is good.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Flood and a Miracle

The weather is dreary; it's been raining for several days.  The snow is gone and the river in our backyard is over flowing its banks.  The park on the opposite side of the river from our house is flooded.  But even in the cold and damp of winter there is reason to celebrate. 

On Monday the spouse went to the cardiologist for his regular appointment.  Ever since his heart attack, he has visited the cardiologist every six months. The doctor says his EKG shows no evidence that he has ever had a heart attack.  The doctor said that if he didn't  know that the spouse had had a heart attack, he wouldn't be able to tell from the tests.  His test results are not those of a person who has had a heart attack!  Two and a half years since his heart attack and he has made a complete recovery.  He doesn't have to return to the cardiologist for another year.

I am grateful for the doctors and the modern technology that kept my husband alive.  And, I am especially grateful for the miracle that has allowed him to make a complete recovery.

Life is good!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No Compromises

The spouse is out of town on business.  He doesn't travel often, so when he does it's like a little vacation for me.  I enjoy the perks of living single.  I sleep in the middle of the bed and never wake up freezing because all the covers have been pulled to the other side of the bed.  I am the goddess of the TV remote control and never have to linger on ESPN or those wildlife and fishing shows.  My meals are exactly what I want to eat, when I want to eat them.  Best of all...the toilet seat will remain down all week! 

I am grateful for the little breaks in our routine, but I will be just as grateful to have him home Thursday night.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Letting Go

For a long time I thought that the hardest thing I ever had to do was to walk away from my daughter.  She was 15 and heading off for a year as an exchange student in Spain.  We had spent a great week enjoying the sites in New York City before meeting at the airport with the group of students going to Spain.  My flight heading back to Oregon left from another terminal an hour before her flight left.  I still don’t know how I found the strength to turn and walk away from my child knowing that it was the last time I would see her for a year.  Intellectually I knew that I had to let her go, but the mother part of me wanted to hold her safe and near.

Several years later I had to walk away from her brother. Over a long weekend my son went through a battery of tests and evaluations and it was determined that he needed residential treatment for his substance abuse problem.   The day after Thanksgiving my husband and I drove him 150 miles to a residential drug treatment center.  I walked away and left him there knowing that it was the only real hope for a future that he had, but the mother part of me still wanted to hold him safe and near.

When people talk to me about difficult decisions, leaving my kids is what I think about.  Part of being a parent is making tough decisions.   The easier decision would have been to not let go, or to not see the drug problem.  Knowing that it was the right thing to do didn’t ease the pain of letting go. The ache was there, but it dulled with the joy of seeing my children grow and prosper.

This past Christmas my entire family flew to California to my brother's house in San Diego to celebrated the holiday.  The last time we were all together for Christmas was four years ago when my mother died a few days before the holiday.  Four generations celebrated Christmas under one roof.  I slept well at night knowing that my children, who are now 30 and 32, were tucked safe and warm in their beds.

The moments together are increasingly rare and treasured. However, these days it is easier to let them go because I know from experience that they will return safely.

I am grateful for family who love me despite my numerous faults and for my children who, even though I've let them go numerous times, occasionally return to the nest.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Plentiful Sufficiency Reaches One Year

I started blogging over at the other blog just over a year ago.  I started Plentiful Sufficiency a few weeks later on January 7, 2010.  So, next Friday I will celebrate the one year anniversary.

I started this blog because other blogs I had seen had a theme.  Since I don't knit or scrapbook, I had a hard time thinking of a theme.  Readers of my blogs know that I am a big fan of Oprah...and she is always harping about journaling and gratitude.  Problem solved, I decided to blog about gratitude.

The title of the blog came from my childhood.  My brothers and I could not leave the dinner table without being excused.  My mother did not like us to say "I'm full."  She would ask us "You've had a plentiful sufficiency?"  In my house plentiful sufficiency meant that one had enough. 

The blog has forced me to think about gratitude, perhaps not as frequently as Oprah would like, but certainly far more frequently than I did previously.  I find it easy to overlook how much I have to be grateful for.  It is easy for me to focus on what I don't have rather than what I do.  I can look with envy at what others have that I don't, but neglect to recognize all that I have been  given.

Several times in the past few months I have considered ending this blog.  I've gotten over the idea that I need to have a theme, and frankly sometimes I've struggled with being grateful.  But, for now, I've decided to continue.  Oprah is right; it is a good idea to focus on gratitude.

I'm grateful to all of you who have read and commented on my postings.  Your encouragement kept me writing.

Happy New Year!  Thank you for sticking with me this year.  I look forward to another year of celebrating all that I have to be grateful for.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Substitute Blessings

Today I was a substitute teacher in Language Arts at the high school.  I had senior and junior classes.  This morning I got to read Tolstoy's, The Long Exile as snow fell quietly outside our classroom window.  This afternoon we're reading Ambrose Bierce's, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

They actually pay me to do this!

Every time I substitute I learn something new.  Prior to the start of my first period class I  googled Tolstoy so I knew more detail about his background.  I never knew that he was influential in the development  of the pacifist doctrine of non-resistance.  He was obsessed with the Sermon on the Mount and saw the command to "turn the other cheek" as justification for nonviolence and nonresistance.  He wrote The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), titled after Luke’s Gospel in the New Testament. Tolstoy's writings were influential to both Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  Who knew?

I hadn't known that Ambrose Bierce disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Mexico.  The mystery was never solved.

I'm pretty lucky to learn something new every day and get paid for it! 

Life is good!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We All Fall Down

Have you seen the new GM commercial, "We All Fall Down?" 

In the spirit of the season I am going to assume that it was created to sincerely thank the government and the tax payers who offered a helping hand, and the GM workers who have brought about the remarkable turnaround at GM.  A more cynical person might think it is a brilliant marketing strategy.  Either way...I love it.  What do you think?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It is snowing outside as I write this. The first flurries of snow were enough to send the spouse out to the garage to put the snow tires on my car. Left to my own devices I would have gone to Les Schwab, but apparently the line for snow tire installation reaches around the block. One of the gifts of retirement is the luxury of not having to go anywhere. I can ignore the snow and stay snug in my living room, except when I need to get to the airport. Tomorrow I have to go to the airport.

The spouse and I are going to Texas for Thanksgiving. Since our first grandchild was born five years ago, we have spent every Thanksgiving with my daughter and her family. Our son decided not to make the trip, so we are cooking a mini-Thanksgiving dinner today so he will still have leftovers to enjoy next week.

So, the snow is falling and the smell of roasting turkey is wafting through the house and I am thankful:

...for a handy spouse who can install my snow tires

...for a son who will take care of the house while we travel (his dad gave him an instructional lecture on how to defrost pipes in case it freezes while we are gone!)

...for the resources to be able to travel

...for seven days with the granddaughters to look forward to.

Editor's update:  I had already pushed the post button when the spouse came into the house and told me the snow tires were on my car and there was one more thing to be grateful for.  Faithful readers will remember the post about the spouse's habit of gleening hubcaps on the freeway.  While installing my snow tires he discovered that one of my hubcaps was broken.  Turns out he had another one in his pile collection of hubcaps.  Now I'll never break him of the habit...or hear the end of it!

Life is good. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunset Years

While I loved getting the extra hour of sleep last weekend, I don't like the darkness coming so early in the afternoon.  On the other hand, if it wasn't getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, I would have missed this beautiful sunset.

On Sunday I went shopping in the Tri-Cities, Washington, about 30 miles north of Hermiston.  I stopped on the freeway on-ramp to snap these photos.  The light was fading fast.  When I first headed south to drive home the entire sky was red and orange with patches of blue close to the horizon.

One of the blessings of living in the rural part of the state is the wide open spaces and the sunsets that span the horizon.  I think I have taken these sights for granted in the past.  Now that I am retired I can take the time to stop and marvel at the beauty.

Life is good!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No Longer a Rat in a Cage

On Friday I was lounging around the house in my pajamas and I got an email from a friend inviting me to lunch. I responded that I was still in pj's, but could meet her by 12:15. She emailed back and told me I'd have to get dressed. With the promise of a restaurant meal and good company, I was motivated to get dressed and drive the mile into town.

Before I retired I ate lunch out several times a week. Now I rarely do. My friends are still working and it is difficult for them to schedule in advance, and it is difficult for me to motivate myself to get out of the house. Usually my lunch dates are limited to a meal at the bowling alley for the twice monthly Lion's Club meetings.

Driving into town to meet my friend I started to feel stressed. Since I retired stress is a rare event. I realized that I was stressing about where we would go to lunch. Hermiston has very few dining options. How fortunate am I that the only thing I have to worry about is where to eat lunch!
Over lunch we talked a little about the current state of education and the challenges that our district faces. My friend shared some of her ongoing projects and we brainstormed approaches to some of the barriers to success.  As I frequently have since I retired,  I felt a sense of relief that I no longer have to deal with the bullshit of public education.  I don't have to attend committee meetings, where the outcomes are predetermined, to explore changes to whatever is currently in disfavor by the higher authority.   I don't have to implement the predetermined changes recommended by the committee and pretend that I believe it is the best thing for students.  I don't have to reassure teachers that everything will be okay, when I have serious doubts that it will be.  I don't have to pretend to respect district leaders who have done nothing to earn respect.  I don't have to be a part of the big lie.
My heart aches for my friends who are still trapped in the system. There was a time that I was proud to be a part of the school leadership. I believed that we were all working together in a collaborative effort to improve our schools, to serve our students, to provide the best opportunities for our kids that we could. We respected each others opinions, expected everyone to participate and we worked long and hard to make a difference for kids. We worked in an environment of trust.  I don't see that now, but, almost all of the administrators from the previous administration are gone.  Time will tell if this top down, militaristic approach to school management has really improved outcomes for students. 
I am grateful that I don't have to work in an environment where the expectation is that we pretend that everything is wonderful and we stab each other in the back.   Lyrics from a Smashing Pumpkins song are stuck in my head  "despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage."  I am grateful that this rat is free to worry only about what to eat for dinner!

This post isn't really in the spirit of the theme of this blog.  For that I apologise.  Lately, especially following the recent elections, I'm more angry than grateful.  Perhaps I need a blog just to rant about the things that irritate me.  This blog may have run it's course.  I find myself writing more on my other blog, Benchmark 60.  Is it time to let this one fade away?  What do you think?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Mole Day!

Today is Mole Day and my 60th birthday. What is Mole Day you ask? According to the National Mole Day Foundation Inc., Mole Day is celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m.. Mole Day commemorates Avogadro's Number (6.02 x 10^23), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry. Mole Day was created as a way to foster interest in chemistry. Ever since they took high school chemistry, my children have been wishing me a Happy Mole Day instead of a happy birthday. So Happy Mole Day everyone…has your interested in chemistry been fostered?

I am spending the week in Austin, Texas with my grandchildren, Megan (5)  and Hunter (3). The older I get, the more I realize how quickly time passes. I can see how much Megan and Hunter have grown every time I visit. They aren’t babies anymore. They are small, interactive humans. You can have a conversation with either of them and understand most of what they are talking about.

This morning I found evidence in the bathroom that someone had diarrhea. I asked Hunter, “Do you have diarrhea?”

“No,” she said  shaking her head, “I don’t have diarrhea.”  Then she wandered from room to room, searching saying “Where’s my diarrhea?” I enjoyed that sight for a few minutes before trying to explain to her what diarrhea was. I finally took her into the bathroom and showed her the potty chair.

“See the poop in the potty,” I said “that’s diarrhea.”

“Yes!” she says “There’s MY diarrhea.”

It’s a great way to celebrate turning the big six-oh. Grandchildren keep me in touch with the child I used to be.

Life is good. Happy Mole Day!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nana Has a Writing Revelation

I haven’t had much to write about lately. My reclusive, retired life hasn’t given me much fodder for writing. What I have done is read several books by writers on writing. I enjoy reading about how other writers do it. What inspires them? How often do they write? Where do they write? There’s so much I want to know about how to write.
Advice that is often given is just to write every day. I suppose that’s good advice because sometimes I can find a nugget of worthwhile prose in a page of drivel. Occasionally an idea in my daily jottings turns into a longer piece, but what I have now is several notebooks of random observations and mundane thoughts.

I just finished reading A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life by Nancy Peacock. The author is a writer whose first book was selected by the New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. Prior to publishing her first book, she dreamed of the day she would be published and her life would change. She could give up her day job as a house cleaner and spend her days writing. Then she was published and nothing changed. After the first whirlwind book tour she still had to pay her bills, so she went back to cleaning houses and writing in her spare time. Sometimes she even found copies of the books she had written on the shelves in the houses that she cleaned. She kept writing because she had to.

Since I’ve retired and started writing more, I find myself thinking about writing all the time. I write myself to sleep at night, working out just the right way to phrase a sentence. On my few excursions out of the house I’m thrilled if something out of the ordinary happens or I see something interesting…like the house on the corner of 11th and Hermiston Avenue. It has been painted pepto bismol pink, everything, the door the trim, one giant pepto pink house…what’s up with that? There’s got to be a story there. When I substituted at the high school last week a student asked me “Did you write about us in your blog?” I understand why Nancy Peacock kept writing. I feel the same way. I have to write.

What has been difficult lately has been actually getting the writing out of my head and into the computer. I had an ah-ha moment when I realized that I was reading all the books about writing to delay the actual process of writing. For me it was a new form of procrastination.

So today I am grateful for writing. It helps me process my thoughts and sometimes gives me insight. But most of all, I write because I like to. I write because I have to. I write because I am a writer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Good Day in Retirement

I’ve had a hard time letting go of summer. Last night when I went out to the hot tub I felt the chill in the air and the stars shone brightly in the clear night sky. There was crispness in the air that isn’t there in the summer. Summer has gone.

I had put off getting my writing group back together. Summer is a time for travel, vacations and freedom. I wasn’t going to tie myself to commitments in the summer. But now, school is back in session, darkness falls earlier and earlier, and I’m wearing sweaters. I can’t deny it any longer; Summer has gone.

I sent emails out to the members of my small writing group and to bloggers I had “met” who live in the Hermiston area. We agreed to meet at a local used book store. This morning five of us got together to share our writing . Birgitta and Chris were in the group last spring. Chris had sent me emails during the summer asking when we were going to start meeting again. Birgitta read a short piece describing fall in Hermiston that she had written “to make my children homesick .” She’s been working on including humor in her writing and the group laughed out loud at several of her descriptions…auditory proof that she’d made growth

We met Milt and his wife Robin today for the first time. Milt is a blogger and a follower of my blog. This was my first experience meeting a virtual friend in person. Robin read a poem she had written and Milt read a piece that he had posted earlier in his blog. Milt’s writing was very self-revelatory and touching.

I read my recent piece about overcoming writer’s block and everyone laughed in all the right places.

We’ll be meeting the first and third Wednesday of every month at 10:30 at the used book store in Hermiston. Drop by if you’re in the area and bring your latest writing to read to us.

Today I had a great retirement day. The local coffee shop gave me a free beverage when I drove through…Cellular One picked up the tab today. I got to celebrate writing with people who, like me, struggle to find just the right word. I met face to face with a person I had met on the internet and he was not an ax murderer.

I guess I don’t feel so bad about summer being over. ..I’ve got writing group to look forward to. Life is good!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remembering Edna

June, over at Aging Gratefully wrote a beautiful post about pets and how they enrich our lives and the heartbreak of their loss.  Like good writing often does, it got me to thinking about the animals who shared our family life.  Thanks June for the memories!

My daughter was in elementary school when we bought her the Siamese cat she named Edna. Edna tolerated the rest of the family, but she was Sarah’s cat.  She was Sarah’s playmate. Dressed in baby clothes and wrapped in a blanket, Sarah would push her around the house in a toy stroller. Her furry head covered in a white lace bonnet, Edna was content to be babied.  Edna sat in Sarah’s lap when watching TV and slept on Sarah’s bed. When Sarah was upset, Edna listened to the litany of complaints about how unfair life was. Edna’s fur absorbed Sarah’s childhood tears. Edna showed her love to Sarah by leaving her gifts of dead mice in her shoes. Sarah learned to never put her feet into her shoes without first checking for surprises.

The years went by and Sarah spent her junior year of high school as an exchange student in Spain. This was before internet access was widely available. We communicated the old fashioned way, writing letters and an occasional expensive trans-Atlantic phone call.  Edna started sleeping at the foot of my bed. I worried about a lot of things that year that my 15 year old daughter studied in Spain, and a big worry was that Edna, who was showing signs of age, would die and I would have to tell my daughter that her pet was dead. I couldn’t imagine telling her in a letter or over the phone and not be able to hold her while she sobbed.

Edna lived on. Sarah returned home for her senior year and Edna moved back to spending the night in Sarah’s room. A year later Sarah left again, this time to attend college. Once again I worried that Edna would die and Sarah wouldn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye. When Sarah came home for vacations, Edna immediately shifted her loyalties to her. For her four years in college, every time Sarah left home, she said goodbye to Edna as if she would never see her again.

But Edna lived on. She was a little slower and her days of mice catching were behind her. On her infrequent trips outside she usually went only as far as the first patch of sunlight on the deck. She wasn’t as active, but she was still a loving family member.

After college graduation Sarah lived at home for a year and Edna settled once again into Sarah’s room. Edna could no longer make the leap from the floor to the bed so Sarah arranged furniture so Edna could climb up on the bed.

And then Sarah went off to work on a small atoll in the Pacific. Her time off from work she spent traveling. She’d been to Hermiston; she wanted to see the rest of the world. She got engaged and we started long distance planning for a June wedding in Hawaii.

One morning we noticed that Edna was having trouble walking and then she couldn’t walk at all. The vet told us she had had a stroke. He treated her with steroids and we nursed her back from the edge…holding her upright so she could use the litter box and feeding her fancy canned food that she could easily eat. She regained the use of her legs and no longer needed our help with the litter box, but she never gave up the fancy cat food. I emailed Sarah daily with medical updates. Edna pulled through and went back to her routine of sleeping in the sunlight.

Sarah came home in the spring for a visit so we could shop for the wedding dress. She came in the door and immediately called for Edna. A week later Sarah was flying back to Johnston Island. Once again she said goodbye as if it was the last time she would see Edna. It was.

Two months later it was obvious that Edna’s health was failing. She was thin and moved awkwardly. It was painful for her when we picked her up. She started having trouble getting to the litter box. Her systems were failing. She had been a member of our family for more than 15 years. It was hard to let her go, but it was the right thing for her. My husband took her on her final journey to the vet and brought the cat carrier home empty. That weekend we flew to Hawaii for the wedding.

Before we left home I struggled with what we would tell Sarah. A friend advised me not to say anything. “What will it matter” he said “if in her mind the cat lives happily on another few weeks?”  We didn't want to cast a shadow over the joy of the wedding.

We didn’t tell Sarah that her cat was dead and during the two weeks of wedding events and family vacation activities we managed to avoid all conversations about pets.

There just never seemed to be a good time to tell Sarah that Edna was gone and the weeks went by. Sarah and her new husband were still living and working on that island in the Pacific. Not long after the wedding their jobs ended and they were moving back to the mainland. We were driving to the airport to pick them up and we still hadn’t told Sarah.

There’s an old joke about a Dumb Guy telling a child about a death. The advice given to Dumb Guy is to break the news gradually. The first day the child is told that the cat is stuck in a tree. The next day the child is told that the firemen are trying to get the cat out of the tree but aren’t being successful. The third day the child is told that the cat is dead. Dumb Guy thinks this is pretty good advice and decides to use this strategy. Dumb Guy tells his child “Grandma’s stuck in a tree.”

It was too late to break the news gradually. We told her in the car driving home from the airport that Edna wasn’t there to greet her when she got home. We all agreed that Edna had a good life. We loved her and she loved us back. Although there is that ache of missing her, there are the memories of that special time in our lives when my children were small and Santa, the tooth fairy, and Edna all left surprises.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tales of the Traveling Teapot

I found the teapot above shoved in the bottom drawer of the dresser in my spare bedroom. My brother stayed with me last week when he passed through this area while riding in Cycle Oregon. Before we drove him back to the Cycle Oregon encampment in Pendleton, I had scanned the back bedroom to make sure he wasn’t leaving me any surprises. I didn’t mount a full-scale search…I underestimated his deviousness.

The teapot belonged to my mother. After her death my brothers and I cleaned out her house. I had heard horror stories from friends about families that were torn apart as siblings fought over dividing their inheritances. My brothers and I were fortunate that my mother had a will and we had a clear understanding of how her “estate” was to be divided. Together we worked to clean out her house. Most of the contents of her home were donated to a local charity. Any items that any of us wanted to keep were placed in a pile and we took turns choosing what we wanted. There wasn’t any bickering or fighting…we mostly chose things that had emotional significance to us not intrinsic value. One by one we chose the things that were most important to us. The copper pot that sat on the hearth of my childhood home now sits in front of my fireplace and a small painting that my mother bought at an art fair hangs on the wall next to the one I bought on the same day.

The grandchildren were given the opportunity to choose a keepsake. My daughter saved items from the china hutch that she had given her grandmother. When I last visited her house I saw that the paper flowers she had made when she visited her grandmother when she was 8 or 9 are now enthroned in her own china hutch. My son salvaged his grandmother’s college papers from the recycle pile and a tie-dyed T-shirt from one of her college events. The writings, that include a story about my brothers and me, now live in a suitcase under the bed in the spare bedroom.  I don’t know that we will ever do anything with them, but I’m glad he saved them.  He still wears the T-shirt. I don’t know what the other grandchildren chose, but the process gave them some closure.

Somehow the teapot got in my pile of stuff. My brother agreed to store a few items for me because I couldn’t carry everything in my suitcase when I flew home. We packed up several boxes to ship to my home in Oregon. I didn’t pack the teapot. I don’t remember it from my childhood. The running joke when we ran across something that we didn't want was to give it to the other sibling and say "Mom wanted you to have this."   I told my brother that Mom definitely wanted him to have the teapot.

We scattered my mother’s ashes at the pier in Oceanside. We didn’t have a memorial service, but we did all go to her favorite restaurant. The grandchildren wore their grandmother’s huge sunglasses and everyone wore an assortment of buttons from her collection of lost causes.

I flew home and several weeks later the boxes arrived. I opened a box that I didn’t remember packing and found the teapot, several pairs of those huge sun glasses, a “Merry Christmas” button and numerous other items that I had tried to abandon at my brother’s house. My nephew had pounded in the side of the teapot to make it fit in the box.

Several months later I visited my brother and took the teapot with me. He found it before I left and hid it back in my luggage. Foiled again! It came home with me. The teapot has now made four trips back and forth from Oregon to California. We’re going there for Christmas this year and I’ll take it with me…and I won’t leave my luggage unattended.

My husband suggested that we don’t take it…and just drive my brother nuts thinking that he can’t find it. He’ll probably read this blog. I haven’t decided on my game plan yet. I’ve got a couple of months to work out the perfect hiding place. 

As challenging as my relationship with my mother was, it is comforting that a silly tradition and good family memories have come out of her death. I'm sure she wanted Leigh to have the teapot.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nana Approaches a Milestone With Oprah

I've never worried about my age.  At 40 I celebrated by skydiving...and I have a video to prove it.  If anyone has a VHS player I'd be happy to show it to you.  For my 50th I purchased a diamond ring with one stone for each decade...that I managed to lose at the Little Rock airport when it went flying off my hand because I was too cheap to resize it after I lost 100 pounds.  So I have slender, more attractive fingers, but no birthday diamonds.  Next month I will reach another benchmark...60!  Although I've been anticipating this major milestone for a year, I have yet to settle on the appropriate way to celebrate.

How do I celebrate 60?  I can't afford that many diamonds.  Jumping out of a plane once was enough for me.  How do I make the big six oh memorable?  In retirement I do whatever I want everyday, so making one day special is a challenge.  The past few weeks I've traveled to Austin to see the grandchildren, to San Diego to see my family, and to Alaska to see the glaciers.

When I first started to blog, I had a list of things that I thought about accomplishing in retirement, including maintaining a blog for several months.  That one I can check off my list because I have regularly posted to my two blogs.  I wanted to take a trip with the grandchildren and we have scheduled a trip to San Diego with all of my family for December. 

The accomplishment that eludes me is seeing Oprah. I have been an Oprah groupie for almost 25 years.  Readers of my blogs know that I'm fond of quoting what I've learned from faithfully watching her show.  I read the books she recommends, well, most of them.  I just couldn't get through A New Earth.  If Costco carries a book she recommends, I'll probably buy it and at least try to get through it.  

Now Oprah is in her final season and the clock is ticking to complete this goal.  I check her website daily for the opportunity to apply for a ticket.  Now that I am no longer working, I have the flexibility to get to Chicago whenever an opportunity presents itself, but so far the ticket window has not been open.  Oprah frequently assures her viewers that the Universe is responsive.  After watching the season opener, I can see that I'm not going to win a ticket by being her biggest fan.  I like Oprah, but I haven't built a school in Africa after being moved by a segment on her show.  I haven't fed the hungry or paid off any one's mortgage.  But I did lose 100 pounds and I am a teacher, both reoccurring themes on Oprah's show.  Well, I had lost 100 pounds but I just went on a cruise and I'm a little heavier now and I've retired...but I do substitute occasionally.

I'm waiting for the Universe and Oprah to respond, but I probably need a back-up plan.  Got any good ideas for celebrating my 60th?  It is a time to celebrate.  I have much to be grateful for in my first 60 years.  I have almost made it to three score and Oprah won't be on the air when I celebrate four score.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nana Notices the Passage of Time

I just returned home from California where I attended my cousin’s wedding.  Actually, the groom, Chris, is my second cousin, the son of my cousin Martin.  I hadn’t seen the groom since he was a little boy, or my cousin Martin for probably 25 years.   I used to babysit Martin.   When I first saw Chris, I thought he was my cousin. He looks so much like his father as I remembered him.   So it was a surprise to see Martin with gray hair and a gray, neatly trimmed beard. He looked dapper in his tuxedo.   In the words of another family member, “he fought his demons.” He found religion and changed his life around.

I also saw my Auntie Pam and Uncle Colin. When we immigrated to the US in 1955, my dad and Uncle Colin made the journey a month before my mother, brother, Auntie Pam and I did. We crossed the Atlantic on the lle de France and cleared customs in New York.  Until we grew up and had families of our own, Auntie Pam and Uncle Colin were our only relatives.  Everyone else was back in England and fifty plus years ago travel was not as accessible as it is today.  Auntie Pam was much as I remembered her, but Uncle Colin is fighting medical problems and is stick thin and wobbly.  I thought that this was perhaps the last time I would see him.

I had carried my memories of my family for so many years without seeing them that I was shocked to see how everyone had aged.  Everyone was so old…still attractive, but so much older than I remembered them.  I see my immediate family on a more regular basis and somehow the march of time escaped my notice.

We are an immigrant family success story.  We came to the U.S. with very little but a willingness to work and contribute to our new homeland.  We have thrived.  The next generation was born in the U.S. and went on to college and careers.  There have been individual challenges, and even some demons to slay, but all in all our family has had opportunities that would not have been available to us in England.

There is much to be grateful for, and seeing everyone at the wedding reminded me of our history and how much I take for granted.  Time marches on and I haven’t made the time to celebrate with my family. They won’t always be there; I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to see them again and touch my past.

Monday, August 23, 2010

School Shoes

My spouse and I served two years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua.  In so many ways that experience has impacted how we live our lives today.  We went to Nicaragua as a twenty something married couple and we came home a family, forever changed by our experiences.  Our daughter, Sarah, was born while we were there.

We lived in a dusty little town in the north, El Jicaro.  The spouse worked for El Banco National de Nicaragua and I taught English at the local middle school.  Our first week in our new home we met Pedro, a skinny, barefoot kid who lived across the road.  He and his even smaller, skinnier little brother hung around our house hoping to do chores and earn some money.  We usually had something for Pedro to do.  He knew where to buy the best tortillas, or when a cow would be slaughtered, or who had fresh eggs for sale.  Soon his mother was doing our laundry and Pedro was our regular errand boy.  One day we asked him what he was going to do with his money.

"I'm saving up to buy rolters" he told us.

We frantically searched through our Spanish-English dictionary for "rolter."

"What are rolters?" we asked him.

"They are the best," he said "the best shoes. I want shoes for school."

Several weeks later he showed up at our door with a big grin, wearing his usual short pants with the ragged hem and a thread-bare T-shirt, but this time his outfit was accessorized with new shiny black leather-like oxfords.

"Look," he said "look at my Rolters." 

We complemented him excessively on his Rolters.  We had never seen a finer pair of shoes, we told him.  From then on we rarely saw Pedro without his Rolters.  They were his first ever pair of shoes.

I was reminded of Pedro this week when I took my granddaughter to buy shoes.  We went from store to store fighting the crowds of back-to-school shoppers until we found shoes that were the perfect fit.  She wore them out of the store, a big grin on her face, dancing happily.  They are her first ever pair of school shoes; she starts kindergarten tomorrow.

I remembered Pedro and his Rolters and am grateful that my granddaughter will be wearing new shoes to kindergarten.  It's a big step for a little girl.

The pink Chuck Taylors were too big!

But the black strappy ones were just right!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Today my granddaughter turns five.  Five!  It seems like just yesterday we were changing diapers and rocking her to sleep.  She is my first grandchild.  I became Nana when she was born.  I thought that nothing could compare to the love I felt for my two children...and then Megan was born and my heart expanded once again. 

Being Megan's Nana transformed my life.  My vacations shifted from exotic locations to Arkansas and Texas.  (Actually,  for a liberal Oregonian, those states provided plenty of cross-cultural experiences.)  I lived in Oregon, Megan in Arkansas and then Texas.  I managed to visit her every couple of months.  But, she was in my thoughts constantly.  I over-compensated by shopping for her.  I was a regular at Baby Depot, Baby Gap, and any retailer who had a baby department.  I moved from the mystery/thriller section of Barnes and Noble to kid lit.  When I visited I read to her from her extensive library and dressed her in all those cute little outfits that I had sent her.

Megan introduced me to the new generation of cartoons.  (Please don't stone me.  Yes, she watches cartoons)  I never would have learned the words to the Wonder Pets theme song if I wasn't Megan's Nana.

Megan is five today!  In a few weeks she will start school.  As much as I want her to be educated, I'm not ready for her to be in school.  School means that I no longer have 24-7 access to her when I visit.  Her world is expanding and I hate to admit that I'm not ready.  I haven't had enough of the little girl whose family, including  her Nana, was the center of her world.  I'd like to rock her for a little longer, and go on 'ventures during school hours, and sing "Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets we're on our way to help a baby animal and save the day!"  I'm not ready to move on.

I went shopping for things for Megan's birthday package.  This time I looked for school clothes.  She's growing up.  She has outgrown the baby departments.  I miss those little frilly dresses, but thank goodness Macy's has a selection of bedazzled, Hello Kitty fashions.  Nana  is learning to move on.

The future is bright for Megan.  We have much to look forward to.  But when she walks off to school, my arms will still be aching to rock the baby that made me Nana.

Happy birthday Meggie.  Nana loves you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The fly population has exploded in Hermiston this past week.  It can mean only one thing, it is fair week in Umatilla County.  It's a big event in a little town.  There was a parade last Saturday that shut down all major roads including Hwy 395 for over an hour.  Our fairgrounds are located in the center of town, right next to the post office, police and fire departments and the high school.  Anyone trying to use any of these facilities is hard pressed to find parking within a half a mile.

For the Lions Club, the fair is our major fund raising activity.  For years the Lions have had a food booth that sells burgers, fries, corn dogs, and breakfast wraps.  You can recognize a Hermiston Lion by the grease burns; we all have them. 

Today there is a light drizzle and the temperature has dropped considerably.  We are used to working in the booth in 100 degree temperatures...we usually sell a lot of drinks.  We'll be more comfortable in the booth today, but our profits will probably be down as many people will wait for clear weather to come to the fair and those who do come won't be as thirsty.

The Lions built the food booth at the fairgrounds years and years ago.  We limp along with our original equipment, struggling to keep our grill cooking for another year.  This year we store huge chunks of ice in our commercial size refrigerator to help keep the temperature at safe levels.  We all were relieved when we passed the Health Department inspection.  We resist putting money into equipment for the booth because it reduces what we have available for community services.

Proceeds from our fair booth go directly into our club budget for community services.  I am the chair for the Hermiston Lions Sight and Hearing.  We provide assistance to low income residents with vision problems.  We help pay for eye exams and glasses and sight saving surgeries.  Several months ago we ran out of money.  The downturn in our economy has hit our rural area hard.  We've had a dramatic increase in the number of applications for assistance with eye glasses.  We now have a list of qualified people waiting for us to have funds to assist them in purchasing glasses.  Making money at the fair is even more important this year because of the number of people who are counting on us to help them.

Although toiling in the grease and heat of our booth at the fair is unpleasant, we all know that we are working for an important cause.  At some point during fair week just about everyone in town will make a visit to the fair.  It is a summer tradition to come to the fair and catch up with everyone that you haven't seen since the previous year.  It is common knowledge that any fried food consumed at the fair, and there is a wide selection to choose from, does not count in your cholesterol total for the week.

Fair gives us a glimpse of America in a simpler time...neighbors showing off the bounty from their gardens, children running wild among the displays and carnival rides, and service clubs raising money to support their projects.  Amid the heat and grease, life really is good.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gleaning the Highways of Oregon

Last month I wrote about the spouse and his uncanny ability to find items of questionable value along the roadway.  We just got home from a 600 mile trip where I got to experience first-hand the excitement and satisfaction of freeway gleaning.  Click here to read the earlier post.

The spouse and I drove from Hermiston to Lincoln City.  On the trip down to the coast Paul pointed out items of interest that he spotted as we drove down the freeway.  He seemed to think that I should be responsible for the right hand side of the roadway.  Once you start looking, it is surprising how many cooler lids and hubcaps you can see.  I am not, however, a very good spotter.  I am easily distracted by more interesting sights...well, actually by almost anything. 

On the trip back to Hermiston I mentioned to the spouse that he needed to actually find a hubcap and pick it up so I could get a picture of him for the blog.  No sooner were the words out of my mouth, he jammed on the brakes. 

"There's one" he shrieked. 

He pulled the pickup over to the side of the road and jumped out of the cab.

"Hold it up so I can take a picture" I yelled at him, "...and don't get hit by a car."

The picture at the top of the page is a hubcap in its natural state at the side of the road...and below is the spouse in action.

Several years ago we went to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.  The spouse didn't find even one tiny diamond.  I guess his powers are strictly limited to highways.  Darn!

We had a fun trip and are richer by one hubcap.  Life is good.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lessons Learned From Parents and Their Children

Several weeks ago I read about Bloggers Unite. It's a website that is attempting to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place by asking member bloggers to write about a particular subject on the same day. I like the idea of millions of voices in the blogosphere united to make a difference. This is my first effort.

For several years I served as Director of Special Education for a large, rural Eastern Oregon school district. I started a parent support group so I could get to know the parents of the children we served and hear about their concerns for their children's educations. I really thought that the parent group would be a bitch fest for parents who were unhappy with the school district. As an administrator I saw the group as a way to get in front of the problems and address parental concerns before they got out of hand.

Regular readers of my other blog know that I have written before of how the universe has a way of presenting us with lessons that we need to learn. Little did I know that the parent group was an opportunity for me to grow in my understanding of people with disabilities.

Special education is a challenging field. There are so many rules and regulations that guide what has to be done, and what can't be done, and what should be done. And, a lot of the stress in the job boils down to money. Although the federal government doesn't provide sufficient resources, federal law requires that appropriate services are provided free of charge. There is a tension between the parents and the group wants resources that the other holds, the other wants to make sure that the resources get to everyone who needs them. The law sees no limit on resources, but in the trenches the reality is that the resources are not unlimited. Every dollar that is spent is a dollar that isn't available to other kids.

So, as director I was immersed in managing the budget and making it stretch. Every day I worried about having sufficient funding to meet all of the real and perceived needs. I lost sight of the human side of my job. The parent group dragged me right back into that reality. The parents shared their hopes and dreams for their children in our meetings. They shared their frustrations and challenges. They learned from each other. And I was provided a window into life with a severely disabled child and I learned empathy.

I am grateful for the lesson that I learned working with special education students and their parents.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This past week I’ve gained several followers on this blog.  I'm always surprised and delighted when someone new finds this blog and likes it enough to follow.  I've "promoted" my other blog.  It's the link that I drop when I leave a comment on other blogs.  I've been more low key with this blog, so those of you who have found me are even more treasured.

Thank you to each of you who has taken the time to read my writing and to make comments. I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know several of you by reading your blogs. I have enjoyed finding others who share my point of view, or worry about the same stuff, or provide some encouragement to keep writing.  I am inspired and frequently awed reading your blogs.

Several of my followers are retired or planning to retire in the very near future. I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who has had a difficult time adjusting to my changed status.

I’ve particularly enjoyed reading the comments and blogs from across the pond. I was born in England and immigrated to the US when I was four and a half. I still have relatives in England. I feel a connection to my motherland. English English, as opposed to American English, sounds right to my ears. The language is the same, but different. 

When I was a kid my mother expected us to clean our plates.  "Think about those starving children in China," she'd say to us when we wouldn't eat some particularly horrid food item (usually an olde English recipe like steak and kidney pie.)  "They would love to have a nice meal like this."   It was hard to be grateful then, and sometimes it is hard now.

Thanks for joining me in my journey to recognize and celebrate the many blessings I have received. I am grateful for your participation in my journey.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

North to Alaska

Summer goes by much too fast.  There are so many opportunities in the summer that it is hard for me to schedule anything because I am afraid that I'll miss something.  So I wind up not scheduling and then rushing around at the last minute, and paying a premium price for tickets, or not doing anything.  Today I got brave and scheduled more than a month in advance.  We're going on a cruise to Alaska in early September.  When everyone in Hermiston goes back to school, I will be enjoying a chocolate fountain and all you can eat, I mean beautiful Alaskan scenery.

We took this same cruise after I retired.  Alaska is beautiful, but it was cold even in July.  I expect it will be even colder in September.  The nice thing about a cruise is that you can stay inside in a warm comfortable lounge area and be served tea and pastries while watching the scenery glide by.  You can do as much or as little as you like.  We napped, and read, and ate, and watched movies, and ate, and went on shore and ate, and attended cooking demonstrations and ate, and watched movies and ate.  Because we were disconnected from our regular lives, no cell phones or computers by choice, we had no responsibilities and no time schedule.  Even though I no longer work, there are still things that have to be done at laundry and cooking dinner and occasionally vacuuming up the big chunks on the floor.  I'm looking forward to a whole week with no responsibilities...but I will be nervous for the next two months about something else coming up that will conflict with our cruise dates.

Prices for cruises in September are very low, although not as low as what is advertised on the internet.  I think there's a little bait and switch going on.  The rates quoted online were not available when I called both Vacations to Go and the cruise line.  They had sold out of the teacher rate and the promotion rate...of course the rooms with balconies were still available.  I learned a lesson when I made our reservation.  I gave in and opted to pay a higher rate for a guaranteed ocean view.  After the sales person had taken all the information I asked if there were any additional discounts available, like for teachers or seniors.  She gave me an additional $50. per person discount.  I will never book again without asking for additional discounts!  Although the total cost was still $200. more than what was listed as the cheapest rate in the promotion online, we'll have at least a porthole view of the ocean.

Life is good.
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