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.
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