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

Thanksgiving


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

Five!


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 schools...one 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

Gratitude


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.

Jann

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 buffets....um, 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 home...like 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.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bag of Crap



My Woot! bag of crap, also know as a BOC, was delivered today.  You can read my post about my quest to secure a BOC over on my other blog here.  Today's mystery package was pretty much what was advertised...crap!  The little box cost $3.00 plus $5.00 shipping for a total of $8.00.  The value is not in the actual items that I received, but in the fun I had anticipating the box.  I've been watching the Woot! forum closely to see what other people have received.  Many got electronics such as DVRs.  And a lot of people got things just like mine:

  • 3 Justin & Dave's Would You Rather desktop calendars for 2010

  • 1 Disney Pirates of the Caribbean accesory pouch

  • 1 ATI TV tuner card for computer (no directions or software)

  • 2 High School Musical alarm clocks
I think I'll see if I can figure out how to install the TV tuner in the computer in the back bedroom, but other than that, the rest of the stuff isn't very useful.

I'm reminding myself that it is the journey not the destination that is important.  It's the fun of participating with 2, 997 other people in guessing what might be in our packages.  Now that Santa has left the presents, I'm feeling that Christmas letdown...and there's not much to play with.

Oh, sorry, I forgot...I'm grateful, really grateful!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Harvesting Freeway Bounty

My husband was so excited when he came home from work this evening. “Guess what.” He asks me.


I don’t have a clue.

“You’ll never guess what I found.” He says.

He’s wrong, I have an idea. My husband is a freeway scrounger. He’s always on the lookout for interesting items on the side of the road. One of his schemes is to sell hubcaps on e-Bay. He thinks he could make a fortune!

“If you found a cooler,” I tell him “it doesn’t count unless you also have the lid.”

“I have the lid!” he exclaims and describes in detail how he first saw the blue cooler on the side of the freeway but hadn’t made the decision to pull over and pick it up until, and here he practically chortles with excitement, “there was the lid on the other side of the freeway!” So he slammed on the brakes and backed up to get the cooler and then crosses to the other side of the freeway to recover its lid.

He insisted I come outside to admire the big blue cooler in the back of his pickup.

“There’s no lid” I say.

“Oh wait” he says as he opens the pickup door and pulls out a white cooler top. “I have proof that this is a freeway find.” And he points to skid marks on the lid where it bounced on the pavement.

“And look at this” he declares as he pulls yet another hubcap from the back of the pickup.

I can drive for miles and miles and never see anything interesting, except road kill and those bottles of pee that truckers toss along the side of the road. This is Paul’s second cooler this month. He also found a small red cooler, with lid, that he’s now using to keep his snacks cold when he goes fishing.

I count my blessings. I have a husband with eagle eyes and plenty of coolers. If I ever lose a hubcap, there’s a good chance he’ll have one to spare.

Life is good.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Open to the Good


Over on my other blog last week,  I posted about trivial irritations.  (Click here to read the post.)  Once I started focusing on the things that irritated me it was difficult to stop. I was wallowing in irritation.

Then I remembered the quote posted over there on the right:
"What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life." – Oprah
It’s time to make another list of all of the things that make me happy. In no particular order…
  • My grandchildren
  • The smell of fresh cut grass
  • The wop wop wop brrrrrrrr of rainbird sprinklers
  • Quail in the back yard
  • Summer
  • Swimming pools
  • Freshly pedicured toenails in pink
  • New followers on my blogs
  • Comments on my blog posts
  • Scoring a Bag of Crap on Woot!
  • Sees Candy, especially butterscotch squares
  • Heated leather seats
  • Rain hitting the window when I’m in bed
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hearing from old friends
  • Dexter…yeah, it’s dark, but it’s soooo good!
  • Road trips with a good audio book
  • Road trips with rock and roll
  • Road trips with Broadway musicals
  • Live music
  • A pension that is above US median income…I get paid to not work!!!
  • New cute shoes
  • Lunch out with friends
  • Never using an alarm clock
  • My hot tub
  • A good book
  • Huge white puffy clouds on a bright blue sky
  • A full moon
  • Diet coke
  • Tulips
  • The smell of babies
  • Warm breezes…not wind, gentle warm air washing over me
  • A good haircut
  • A healthy family
  • Finding just the right word when I’m writing
  • Good dance music
  • A comfortable chair
  • Down pillows and a down comforter
  • A reliable car
  • Good credit
  • Compliments
  • Tivo
  • Watching the ocean
  • A fire in the fireplace
  • My dishwasher…how did I ever live without one in the olden days?
  • Slurpees

Throughout the day I expect that I will think of other things that I should have listed.  I had to fight the demons a few times while writing the list…a few irritations popped into my head.   I drove them out with gratitude.  I know the more I focus on what is good in my life, the more I am open to receive it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Megan's Crying Rules


Today Megan, my four year old granddaughter, gave me her rules for when it is appropriate to cry.

It is okay to cry when:
  • you have a boo boo
  • you miss someone
  • blood is pouring out of you
  • your house is on fire
It should be noted that she doesn't always follow her own rules...crying, for example, when she can't find her shoes or the popsicle is the wrong color.  I wish her life would always be so simple.  At four she knows nothing about broken hearts or broken dreams.

I am so grateful for the time I get to share with my grandchildren.  I want to be there to kiss the boo boos, staunch the flow of blood, and throw water on the fire.  I understand wanting to cry when you miss someone.  I wish I could always be there for her.

Friday, June 11, 2010

They Hatch and Grow Up So Quickly


Last week I wrote about finding a quail’s nest in the bushes outside our bedroom window. We were afraid that we had scared off the mother with our vigorous weed pulling. There were over a dozen tiny eggs in the nest. The mother returned and has been faithfully tending the nest. I checked for information on the internet about the gestation period for quail and found out that it is 24-27 days. Not knowing how long the nest had been there before we found it makes it hard to estimate when we can expect the eggs to hatch.


On Tuesday as I drove down our driveway I spotted a covey of quail under the bushes in the border around the lawn. There were two adults and a lot of tiny cotton ball sized quail running for cover. I was excited to see the little ones, but a little disappointed that I had missed the hatch. I went to check on the nest and was surprised to find the mother quail still sitting on her stash of eggs. 

I just checked the nest again a few minutes ago and our mother quail is patiently tending her eggs. I, on the other hand, am anxious to see the babies hatch.  It is exciting to see our yard teeming with quail
.
Three years ago I was similarly impatient for a birth. My daughter was expecting her second child. My second granddaughter was born on June 19th. I’m going to Texas next week for her third birthday party.

I hope the quail hatch before I leave. Just like grandchildren, they grow up so quickly. I don’t want to miss those early days of their lives.

Life is good.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

People Marry the Person They Love


I have been married to a Republican for almost forty years. I’m not quite sure how that happened. My liberal roots are firmly planted. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and witnessed the turmoil of the civil rights movement through the pages of Life magazine and the nightly news. My family boycotted grapes in support of Cesar Chavez and the farm workers. They voted for Kennedy and Johnson, and didn’t vote for Nixon either for governor of California nor president. I left California to attend college in rural Eastern Oregon in the late 60’s. I was already against the war in Vietnam.


I met my husband in college. He had long hair and wore huarache sandals. He was against the war too. He had a relatively low draft number. When he got his induction notice he was found to be 4-F. After college we entered the Peace Corps. I’m not sure when he became a Republican. I remember him voting for Jimmy Carter, but he says he’s always been a Republican and that was the only time he voted for a Democrat. Most years we cancel out each other’s votes.

On the issues, however, we are more likely to agree than disagree. We both trust women to make decisions about their own bodies. We support stem cell research. And, we believe equality extends to the right to marry for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

My granddaughters, two and four, are the products of a mixed marriage. Their mother, my daughter, is a Democrat and her husband is a Republican. Their children will, I’m sure, be Democrats…if Nana has anything to do with it!

I’ve already taken them on educational field trips to Democratic shrines including the Clinton Presidential Library and the Johnson Presidential Library. When they are older we will go to the Smithsonian and see the Woolworth’s lunch counter or to the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and I will tell them the stories of the fight for equality. I will show them pictures of their grandfather with shoulder length hair at the Vortex Festival   It’s not a proud moment in our personal history. We went there rather than protest the war at the American Legion Convention in Portland, Oregon in 1970.

I visited the grandchildren last month. I had taken them to the Goodwill to purchase things for their dress-up box. They both bought wedding dresses. At home they dressed up in their finery and had a tea party. Hunter, the two year old, stated that she was going to marry her sister.

“No, silly” said Megan “Girls marry boys.”

“Some girls marry girls” said their mother.

“No” insisted Megan “Girls marry boys.”

“No,” said their mother “Girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys. People marry the person they love.”

We didn’t get into the discussion about why marrying your sister wasn’t appropriate.

We liberals have a responsibility to teach our children well.  I’m grateful to the people who have led the fight for equality. In my lifetime we have made great strides in many areas. Now is the time for all of us to support the fight for marriage equity. Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.

I'm entering this post in a contest Blog 4Equality to win a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation sponsored by Freedom To Marry  Click the link for more information.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Little Gifts


We stayed home this memorial weekend. When you’re retired it doesn’t make sense to leave home when the rest of the population is traveling. It’s difficult to be a recluse when on the road with millions of people.

Yesterday we did yard work. Like adventurers slicing our way through the jungle, we pulled the weeds and overgrown branches from the flower bed that is just outside our bedroom window. While we were pulling and chopping the birds made loud comments from the brush where the lawn falls off to the river below. We discovered a small nest under a bush with more than a dozen tiny eggs. The mother was gone, but we were pretty sure that she was the one making such a racket in the bushes at the edge of the lawn. We made a canopy over the nest with the branches that we had cut and moved on to another project. My husband commented that since we had disturbed the nest, the quail would probably abandon it.


This morning I could hear quail babbling in the backyard and I wondered if the mother had returned to the nest. I found her all fluffed up over her eggs. As I moved my finger to take her photo, she flew away. I snapped a quick picture of the eggs and retreated to the house. I won’t be disturbing her nest again. It will be so good to have little ones around the house again!

Life is good.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sarah Can Hear Again

I am a member of the Hermiston Lions. In fact, I am the chair of the Sight and Hearing Committee. The Lions focus in community service is sight and hearing. The majority of the money our club raises goes to community members who need assistance in paying for eyeglasses or hearing aids. With the down turn in the economy we have had an increase in applications for assistance. Just this past week we exhausted our budget for financial assistance until we raise additional funds.


Last week I listened to my answering machine and found a message from a 70+ year old woman, Sarah, who had applied for assistance from the Lion’s Foundation to get hearing aids. The foundation refurbishes donated hearing aids and provides them free-of-charge to candidates who have been referred by a local Lions Club. The local club provides funding for the applicant to get hearing testing and fitting of the aids.

Sarah said “Thank you, thank you so much. I can hear again. Thank you for once again allowing me to be who I am. I can hear again. Thank you.”

I could hear the tears in her voice.

There are some frustrations in administering a charitable fund. I’ve had applicants argue with me because they wanted more money than our club allows. Some applications contain untruthful information. People get angry if we can’t fund their application or if they don’t meet the guidelines for eligibility. I rarely hear back from the people we have helped.

Sarah was an exception. Her message made my day and reminded me that one small action can change a life. I am grateful for the opportunity to help.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eastern Oregon Afternoon Storm



There was a weather alert this afternoon about 5:00 that warned of severe thunderstorms and hail.  We moved the cars into the garage and shop and got everything under cover.  Off to the west we could see a wall of black clouds moving toward us.  Within minutes the rain was pouring down, and just as quickly it was over.  The main part of the storm had missed us and we avoided the "hail the size of quarters" that fell in neighboring communities.  As the storm moved on the black clouds became a backdrop in the eastern sky to a rainbow.  Golden light illuminated the backyard.  It was a moment of natural beauty...  it's easy to be grateful when the storm passes and there's a rainbow!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spring Silences



Our weather is finally turning. Spring is a beautiful time in eastern Oregon, but in Hermiston we get fierce spring winds. Today brought bright sun, vivid blue skies and no wind.  I love a hot day with just enough breeze to keep the bugs off. I ride my bike down the lane to the mailbox and revel in the warm wind floating over my body.


The neighborhood is quiet this time of year. Kids are still in school and their parents are at work. It’s only us retired people puttering around the neighborhood. On my bike I can sneak by the quail and pheasants without disturbing their routine. The neighborhood is serene and I can hear the birds, mostly the annoying magpies, twittering in the trees. The sun is on my back and the balmy breeze washes over me as I pedal around my kingdom. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Life is good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Two-Year Anniversary



Today we celebrated the two year anniversary since my husband’s heart attack. We had a dinner of heart healthy salmon. A heart attack is a big wake up call. It makes you stop and pay attention. My husband was one of those people who never needed to visit a doctor. Other than an occasional cold, he was never ill. He was physically active and weighed the same that he did in high school. He was probably still wearing some of the same clothes! He was about to turn 60 years old and he smoked.


Late morning the day of the heart attack Paul loaded up his boat and headed off to fish in the Columbia River, a short two miles from our house. Alone in the boat on the river, he started to feel ill. He thought he had indigestion and he drank a soda to settle his stomach. When he didn’t feel any better, he headed back to shore and loaded up the boat to drive home. Two blocks from the boat ramp he blacked out behind the wheel of the pickup and drove into a utility pole. He knocked out power to an apartment complex and the loud bang brought a crowd of people to his assistance. Someone called 9-1-1 and a bystander found his cell phone and called me.

I could hear the sirens in the background of the phone call. The caller told me he had been in an accident but was conscious, was dripping with sweat, and was being taken to the local hospital.

I found out the details later. The police were the first official responders and they thought he had been drinking. The police officer kept asking him “How much have you had to drink?” and not accepting that he had not been drinking. There were two unopened bottles of beer in his cooler, along with another can of soda and bottled water.

When the paramedics arrived at the scene they knew right away that it was a heart attack. They wasted no time in getting him to the hospital. I beat them to the hospital by a few minutes. His EKG was transmitted to a cardiologist at the regional trauma center. He received the miracle clot busting drug and was loaded back on the ambulance for the 30 minute drive to the regional center. The ambulance driver told me to meet them at the hospital but not to try and keep up with them. “We’ll be driving with lights,” he told me. It was only much later that I realized he meant the flashing ambulance lights.

I got to the second hospital as they were running with him on a gurney down the hall to the operating room. The surgeon stopped at the door to the operating room and told us to say our good-bys.

Paul received two stents. He was conscious during the procedure and told me later that it was immediate relief when the blockage was finally cleared. The pain stopped immediately.

It seems strange to say, but the best thing that happened to him that day was that he ran into a utility pole. If he had stayed out on the river, he might not have made it to shore alive. If he had driven home he would have crawled into bed to take a nap and I would have found him dead. Hitting the pole assured that got the professional attention that he needed to live. The paramedics immediately recognized the signs of a heart attack and got him where he needed to be. Although it was late afternoon on a Saturday, the cardiologist happened to be in the hospital when the call from our local hospital came in. He stayed and waited for the ambulance to arrive. They got to the operating room within the golden hour.

We have much to be grateful for. Two years later Paul has made a complete recovery. He quit smoking and has made significant changes to his diet. We rarely eat red meat anymore. He’s not as good as he should be about exercising, but we definitely are living a healthier lifestyle.

We have much to be grateful for, but time tends to dull the memories and we forget some of those lessons that were learned the hard way. It’s good to celebrate these anniversaries and remember how close we came to a different ending.

Life is good and we are grateful.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Story Where Everyone Hates Nana


I’ve written frequently in my blog about my granddaughters. Being their Nana is one of the joys of my life. I’ve written about the cute things that they say and our adventures when I visit them in Austin, Texas. I just returned from my latest visit where I attended the wedding of my son-in-law’s sister.


The granddaughters were the flower girls in their aunt’s wedding. They had beautiful dresses and wreaths of flowers in their long blond hair. They were picture perfect. They each carried a basket of petals down the long aisle and only remembered to throw them when they reached the alter.

My job at the wedding was flower girl wrangler. I managed to get them bathed and to the church on time and keep them clean and out of the baptismal font before the start of the ceremony. (Although later we wondered if we should have let Hunter take a dip to drive the demons out.) From my seat in the fourth row I watched them walk slowly down the aisle and whispered to them as they passed me “Throw the flowers, throw the flowers!”

At the reception they roamed with a small pack of children and I watched to make sure they didn’t get too wild. We enjoyed the buffet and they managed to finish the meal, complete with beverage, without a spill. They had been remarkably well-behaved throughout the event, but we knew not to push our luck. We had decided to take the children home after dinner, and after a long exciting day, get them to bed at their regular bedtime. Nana would stay with the kids and their parents could enjoy the drinks and dancing at the reception with their friends and family.

Implementation of the plan was going just fine until the girls realized that Mommy wasn’t with us in the car. Daddy, who hadn’t made even one visit to the open bar so he could drive us home, was in the driver’s seat, but Nana was sitting in Mommy’ s place. As we left the parking lot the wails started.

“I want my mommy!”

“I want my mom…mom….mom…eeeee!”

Calm explanations by Daddy and Nana were having no effect. It was obviously all Nana’s fault that Mommy was absent. Soon a new chant filled the car.

“I hate Nana.”

I hate Nana; I want my mom…mom…eeee.”

Two high pitched, wailing voices chanted the whole way home, “I hate Nannn……nnnnnna!”

At the house Hunter threw herself on the floor screaming for her mother. Picture a red-faced cherub in a pool of ivory organza with tears streaming down her face. Her sister kept up the chorus wailing “I hate Nana.”

I told my son in law to go. “They’ll be fine.” I said “They’re just tired.” And I crossed my fingers that it was true.

With one uncertain look back at me he left. Two minutes later I turned on a video of Cinderella, changed them into jammies, and fed them a snack. The wailing ceased and they snuggled with me on the couch to watch the movie. I called their parents to report that all was fine.

At 8:30 we were snug in bed reading bedtime stories. Hunter dozed off before we finished the second book. As I cuddled with Megan she said “I love you Nana.” And I resisted the urge to tell her “That’s not what you said earlier!”

That’s the thing about family. We aren’t always kind, but in the end we really do love each other.

I'm grateful for family...even the ones who hate me!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good Reading, Good Writing

I attended a reading by my favorite author, David Sedaris, on Tuesday night. This is the second year that my daughter and I have heard him read in Austin, Texas. We’ve already made plans to attend again next year. It was such an enjoyable evening. He read several selections that were familiar from his books, but he also gave us a preview of his new book which will be published next October.


I especially enjoyed when he read selections from his diary. It gave me a glimpse into where he gets his inspiration for his writing. His ability to see the humor in everyday situations is a gift.

At last year’s performance he read an unfinished piece about airline travel. This year he read the completed story. I will never pass gas on the move again without thinking about “crop dusting.”

The following is a snippet from my favorite Sedaris book. Every time I read it I laugh out loud.

On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned "Lie down," "Shut up," and "Who shit on this carpet?" The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. "Is thems the thoughts of cows?" I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window. "I want me some lamb chop with handles on 'em."

— David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day)
He signed my copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day on Tuesday.

Good writing, good reading…damn life is good!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dancing for Miles and Miles


My hero, Oprah, is on a campaign to stop people from texting and using a cell phone while driving.  I have yet to figure out how the bluetooth works in my five-year-old car and I only know how to text one person, my friend Shawn.  Use of technology while driving isn't going to be a hard habit for me to break.  I'm hoping that Oprah won't get any more ideas for safe driving that would be more difficult for me to comply with.

Living in Eastern Oregon we're used to wide open spaces and nearly empty highways.  I grew up in Southern California and learned to drive in grid-lock.  I know how to dart in and out of traffic.  In Eastern Oregon  we do a lot of driving on long straight nearly empty highways.  It can be tricky in the winter when we have ice and snow, but most months we're driving in a straight line at speeds never seen in Southern California.

Today I drove north to Tri-Cities, Washington to do some shopping.  I was listening to NPR and found myself singing along with a snappy gospel song.  I'm not a regular church goer and gospel is not my usual musical genre, but it was a catchy tune and I couldn't resist.  I flipped the channel to a classic rock station and listened to "Beat It."  I couldn't help myself...I was singing and car dancing.  When they played Neil Young's "Rockin in the Free World,"  I turned the radio way up and sang along. I love those long stretches of open highway, good tunes, and no audience,

I hope Oprah doesn't get anymore safe driving ideas.  There's no way I want to give up car dancing and belting out show tunes.  I'm grateful for music.  Life is good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lions Roar for Easter - Only the Good Friday

I've been participating in the "Only the Good Friday" meme that was started at http://thiseclecticlife.com/only-the-good-friday
Below is my weekly contribution to the optimism virus sweeping the blogosphere.


The Hermiston Lion's Club held an Easter egg hunt last weekend.  For the past eight years the Lions have invited special needs children to hunt eggs in a local park.  I have been a Lion for three years and the Easter egg hunt is my favorite activity. 

The kids are greeted by students dressed as Peter Rabbit, Thumper, and, of course, a lion.  The children each have their pictures taken with Peter.  High school students volunteer to wear the costumes and they do a great job of encouraging the children to participate.  They patiently help the kids to adjust to the unfamiliar giant plush animals.

The Lions "hide" hundreds of eggs across the lawn and the kids find all of them in just a few minutes.  This hunt is designed for special needs students.  There are a limited number of participants and lots of eggs.  Even the child who needs to flap his arms and turn in circles three times before starting to hunt is assured of securing eggs before they are all claimed by other participants. 

One of our members brings a llama and an alpaca for the children to pet.  The kids all marvel over how soft the animals are.  They take turns feeding them and giggle as the alpaca's lips sweep across their palms seeking the offered feed.

It was a cold and windy spring morning in the park, but my heart was warmed watching the smiles on the children's faces. 

I am grateful for community organizations like the Lion's who make our communities good places to live.
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