Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dancing Into Retirement

As I update my blog I’m watching the Grammy awards. I love the music. I love hip hop, and the Black Eyed Peas, and Pink and especially Lady Gaga. I can sing along with Beyonce and I wish I knew all the moves to her “Single Ladies” dance. Uh Uh Oh!

I listen to this music on my ipod when I’m cleaning the house. I dance around with abandon…when no one else is home. I sometimes listen to my ipod when I’m shopping and I have to remember to restrain myself from dancing. I’m too old to be cool dancing, but not old enough to be eccentric.

I love the poetry in the lyrics. Can't you hear the pain when Pink sings "Please don't leave me" or the longing in Eminem's "Lose Yourself." It's raw emotion.

There’s so much good music and not enough time to dance. I’m grateful for for the music. Life is good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Literature

I just returned from visiting my grandchildren in Austin. They are growing so quickly. My oldest, Megan, will start kindergarten next September. Her sister, Hunter, aka "The Beast", is two. Yesterday morning they both crawled in bed with me, each with an armful of books. What a great way to start the day: two jammie-clad kids cuddling, sunshine just starting to peek in the window, and a plentiful sufficiency of books. This would be a better story if I could say that Nana was importing the wisdom of classic English literature to a new generation. The reality is that they are enchanted with all things princess and I am an indulgent grandmother.

We read about Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and Jasmine and Belle, and Ariel, who is a mermaid but apparently also a princess. The princesses are always kind to others, polite, friendly and adventurous. While this generation of princesses still looks for Prince Charming, they aren’t bad role models. I’m always quick to point out that the princesses are also intelligent and strong. Not great literature, but a good way to start the day.

Megan cuddled in close, reached up and stroked my cheek and said “I love you, Nana.”

“I love you too.” I replied.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Life is good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Clear Vision

Since retiring and starting to live on a fixed income, I've considered dropping my membership in Costco. The prices are good, but not unique. The selection is limited, but usually of excellent quality. I wind up buying large quantities of good stuff that goes bad before I can finish it. My last trip to Costco I bought a huge box of wipes for cleaning eyeglasses. It's a gigantic box of individually wrapped cleaning tissues that you usually see by the check stand of a convenience store. It's a little bit of heaven. I get a little thrill each time I open one of the little foil packets and clean my glasses. It is a decadent pleasure. One of those little daily moments of delight that I now take the time to enjoy.

When I was a kid my mother saved tin foil. After each use she washed and rinsed it and saved it for another use. We never had kleenex in a box. Why would you buy kleenex when toilet paper worked just as well and was a lot cheaper? We had store brand bread, not Wonder bread...I lusted after that soft white squishy Wonder bread. Early training is difficult to change. I still use paper towels sparingly and have been known to rinse out lightly used zip-lock bags. We usually eat whole grain breads, but occasionally I buy that soft processed bread and have a tuna sandwich. Ohhh, a little moment of bliss.

I do believe that thrift is a virtue. I don’t squander resources, but it has taken me years to get to the point where I can treat myself to very small luxuries without guilt. Like with most things in life, the trick is maintaining balance. I’m not going broke buying lens wipes; the bills are still being paid. I am conscious of the indulgence and I revel in the enjoyment of using a disposable lens wipe. It’s important to have clear vision.

I think I'll go clean my glasses....ahhhh......Life is good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Right Words

Words are important to me. There's such a feeling of satisfaction when I can find exactly the right words to convey my thoughts or feelings. I've enjoyed finding a few blogs with excellent writing. I, of course, compare my pitiful efforts to the blogs I read. I learn a lot reading others and I'm expanding my vocabulary. Here in eastern Oregon we don't use a lot of ten dollar words.

This next week I'm going to visit my granddaughters in Texas. They know how to use language in inventive and evocative ways. Hunter, who is 2, sometimes gets frustrated when she isn't able to adequately express herself with words and will resort to typical toddler behavior and scream. Using language creatively her four year old sister commented, "She's making my ears cranky." Now in our family when a noise, or Hunter, is loud and irritating we say that our ears are cranky. I love language…and the granddaughters!

Life is good.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Turning Point Every Day

My friend , J, and I drove 50 miles yesterday to attend a workshop. The best part of the day was not the presentation, but the chance to talk in the car. We got caught up on each other's families and how we had each spent the holidays. We talked about the challenges facing our schools with the anticipated budget reductions for the coming year, and, not that anyone would ask us, our solutions for all the problems facing our district .

One thing I miss since I retired is the focused discussions with intelligent, dedicated and visionary people. Most of us got into education because we like kids and we want to make a difference in their lives. When I left the classroom to become an administrator I had the same goal. As an administrator I could help change the system to give kids a better educational environment…or so I thought.

J is now a school administrator and deeply involved in school reform. She was a teacher when I was the vice principal at her school. It was fun to rehash memories from my days as a building administrator. We did some good work back in the day. J reminded me that sometimes it is many years later when you realize the impact of an encouraging word, a wrong turn, or a seemingly insignificant incident.

I am grateful for the people who provided those insights and inspirations for me that had an impact on how I led my life. The people who encouraged me before I had faith in my own abilities pushed me down the path to success. I have a responsibility to be a positive influence for others because I never know when my words or actions could be that turning point for someone else. 
Life is good and I am grateful.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Starting The Day Right

Clean crisp sheets, a down comforter, rain drizzling against the window and I have no place I need to be but toasty warm in bed. For years there was always a reason I had to get out of bed.  Now that I am retired and my children are grown, I have given up the alarm clock and most mornings I spend a few moments just enjoying the comfort of a warm bed before starting my day.  There's no rush.  I can get up or not.  For the first time since childhood, I am fully rested.  Retirement is a gift I get to open every day. 

Life is good and I am grateful.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Marsha Stipe School of Positive Reinforcement

I am a graduate of the Marsha Stipe School of Positive Reinforcement. We were a small graduating class, made up of school administrators from the district where I worked prior to retirement. Marsha Stipe was our assistant superintendent, my supervisor, a visionary leader and a mentor.

In a rural school district an administrator occasionally has to travel to attend meetings and for required professional development. In eastern Oregon that means driving long distances. Anyone who has traveled with a group knows the challenges . Just deciding where to stop for a meal requires the negotiating skills of Henry Kissinger. The driver faces the additional burden of five passengers who each will share their knowledge of the best route, when to pass a slow moving truck on a blind curve, or how many miles an hour one can drive over the posted limit... and they usually share these tidbits after the fact.

Marsha’s rule for travel was simple…praise the driver. At first it felt artificial. I felt a little silly saying, “Nice job passing that Bekins moving van.” But, when I was the driver I really liked hearing, “Good parking!” The last time parallel parking was praiseworthy, I was in high school. Marsha explained that driving for a group of coworkers was assuming a risk and we should reward a person for taking on the additional responsibility. If we want people to step up to responsibility we need to let them know they are appreciated. We also want them to drive the next time so we don’t have to.

Marsha also believed in heaping praise on the person who made the dining decision. Getting a group of administrators to move is like herding cats. If no one takes the leadership role, you can spend a lot of time with the “Oh, I don’t care. Wherever you want to go is fine with me” discussion. This conversation continues with “Oh, I don’t like Chinese, Cuban, Italian, etc. etc.” until every possibility has been eliminated. I really did appreciate that someone made a decision and just told me what time to meet in the lobby. And Marsha made sure that the person was commended.

I practiced Marsha’s philosophy when traveling for a family reunion in England. My father’s wife, Elaine, was driving the rental car with my father and his three adult children through rural England, negotiating the roundabouts and back roads to get us to an obscure bed and breakfast. None of us knew where we were going but everyone was quick to point out when Elaine missed an exit. At one point Elaine calmly asked that we give her directions before the turn rather than yelling after passing an exit. I remembered the lessons learned at Marsha Stipe’s School of Positive Reinforcement and started to train my siblings on the benefits of positive reinforcement. Driving in a foreign country is stressful enough without criticism. Giving each of us in the car the responsibility to support the driver made the trip a bonding experience. We were all successful when Elaine was successful...and, she continued to drive us around England!

During my administrative career, long after Marsha Stipe had retired, I continued to follow the teachings of the Marsha Stipe School of Positive Reinforcement. I felt an obligation to carry on the tradition. In the spirit of “each one, teach one,” every time I checked out a district van to drive staff to a workshop I provided my riders with a short seminar and I enjoyed the praise of my exceptional driving skills that they heaped on me during the trip.

When we were small we were praised for every small effort. Contrary to what my granddaughter believes, I don’t think we need loud applause every time we use the big potty, but doesn’t it feel nice to be acknowledged just for doing a job well?

I’m grateful for the people who have taught me life lessons. Marsha Stipe was a great influence in my professional life, but she also taught me to be kinder and grateful for the everyday efforts of my peers and family. We are a team. We are in this life together. We must support and encourage each other in our successes.
So, today’s lesson is to practice telling our family and coworkers when they are doing a good job. It makes for a kinder, more supportive environment. Who doesn’t like to hear that they are appreciated? Life is good...tell someone what you appreciate about them and make the world a better place.

Simple Pleasures

I started the New Year by driving through a blizzard in the Columbia Gorge to spend three rainy days in Seaside Oregon. I relaxed curled up with a blanket on the couch in the toasty warm hotel room. The sea raged just outside the window and rain fell all afternoon. I read, snacked, napped, and watched the Rose Bowl football game on TV. All of this was much more satisfying than a usual weekend at home because the view from the balcony was the churning sea. Occasionally a lone surfer in full wetsuit paddled by and then minutes later would ride a long wave back to the beach. At some point I had a moment of awareness where I realized that I was content.

I’ve been thinking lately about what makes me happy. There are the obvious things like spending time with my granddaughters, but there are also lots of little moments of pleasure that I usually don’t take the time to enjoy or appreciate. Watching the ocean on a stormy day from the warmth of my hotel room on the edge of the ocean was a simple pleasure. I’ve made a resolution this year is to try to consciously recognize and appreciate what makes me happy. I want to bask in the small moments of bliss. Did you see me smiling in the car on the way home? It’s a long, long drive, but I was content. What’s not to love about heated leather seats and NPR on the radio?

Now I’m going to post these ponderings and go sit in the hot tub…ahhh, another moment of bliss, another simple pleasure. Life is good.
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