Friday, January 29, 2010

Thoughts on Becoming a Recluse

Today I realized that since I returned home from Austin on Tuesday, I hadn’t left the house for three days. I did go outside once to take out the garbage, but that doesn’t really count as leaving the house. I spoke to a few people on the phone,checked my email and Facebook, but I haven’t had any face-to-face human interactions. Since I retired I could easily become a recluse. My husband was out of town on business and I’ve enjoyed the solitude. I’ve especially enjoyed having the toilet seat down for three days! He came home earlier this evening. Just before writing this post I visited the bathroom…and had to put the seat down. Well, at least I won’t have to take the garbage out…that’s his job!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blog Slogging

I did a lot of slogging through blogs this afternoon looking for something interesting to read. There’s a lot of pain, misery, suffering, infertility, cutesy crafts, and Jesus loving blogs out there. It’s a little intimidating…I don’t want to add to the crap pile. If I’m like the average reader, and God knows I’m average, I don’t read past the first post unless the writing intrigues me. I’m feeling the pressure to produce some quality writing….hummmm, I’m not doing too well so far.

I “next blogged” through a whole bunch of happy family blogs. It’s kind of creepy reading intimate details of stranger families. I read the pleas for prayers for “angel babies” and relatives suffering with cancer. There were pages of beautiful babies celebrating every milestone in their first years…I noticed that once they get to the toddler stage the postings aren’t quite as frequent. I feel like I’ve been peeking through the windows at strangers…and this is legal?

If I read about Jesus in the first 25 words I “next blogged” on to something new. It’s not Sunday and I wasn’t ready for a sermon.

I’m still learning the customs and mores of the blog world. I’ve posted a few comments on the blogs I visited. I know that I have enjoyed the few comments that I have received on my blog. I’m never sure if my comments are appropriate. I appreciated when a reader pointed out that I was using a cliché in one of my posts. (Note to self, try to limit the @#$%^ clichés) His comment will help improve my writing. I find myself wanting to point out to a blogger that he should be using “you’re” not “your” or varying his adjectives…but I wonder if these helpful suggestions (from my perspective) would be interpreted as mean criticism. I am a stranger in a foreign land…and darn that’s another cliché.

It’s surprising to me that this blog world has existed for some time and I was oblivious to it until just a few months ago. What else it out there? I think I must lead a sheltered life…and now I’ve opened the curtains and the blog world is peeking in my windows. Creepy, huh?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Treasures in the Attic

When I was a child I loved to read…I still do. Although television had a big impact on me, books also played a part in how I learned to see the world. The Bobbsey twins and Nancy Drew were favorites. In the houses of the books of my youth the attics were always filled with mystery. On rainy days or long summer afternoons, the characters would explore the attic, open an old trunk and find a clue that led to fun and mystery.
I was raised in southern California…we didn’t have many rainy days, attics or basements. I always wanted that attic filled with old trunks and treasures from the past.

I’ve wondered if I hold on to the remainders of family life that clutter up our home because I am creating that scene that I only read about in childhood. My grandchildren live 2,000 miles away…they’re not spending rainy afternoons in my attic, trying on Nana’s old clothes and hats. Nana still doesn’t have an attic or a basement.

I have a hard time getting rid of anything. I can always think of a situation where it would come in handy. As soon as I throw out that adapter to a long-lost piece of electronic equipment, someone will be desperate for just such an adapter.

I love watching those clean-up shows on television…Clean House and Clean Sweep. Instead of encouraging me to clean up, I get reassured that I’m not as bad as those people on TV. I’m always afraid of throwing away something valuable. I blame this on years of watching Antiques Road Show. My rational mind knows that there are no priceless possessions to be unearthed in my clutter. So why do I still have that original Batman charm bracelet from the 1960’s?

Maybe I don’t need an attic full of junk for my granddaughters. In the garage there isn’t Nancy’s blue Metropolitan Nash convertible, but I do have a green MG midget..maybe the granddaughters can drive around with the top down, their hair streaming behind them, and have adventures?

Post-Christmas Clutter

Standing in line at the grocery store I noticed that most of the magazines this month are featuring articles on clearing out clutter and organizing. Aren't we supposed to wait for spring for that burst of energy to clean out our houses? My house is suffering from post-Christmas clutter. There are still several storage boxes of Christmas decorations stacked in the dining room waiting to make their way out to the garage. I probably would have moved them if there was any floor space left in the garage.

I am not yet a member of the garage as storage facility set. I'm still wedging my car in among the stacks, but everytime I have to squeeze between the boxes to the back door I think, "I've got to get this stuff cleaned out." The reality is that it's too cold to clean in January. My garage is filled with bottles, cans and newspaper that need to be recycled...but our grocery store punishes us by having the can recycling outside in the cold. I can't get pumped up to spend time in sub-freezing weather with all the professional can collectors at the Safeway recycling station.

This morning I straightened up the piles and crushed the cardboard boxes in the garage. All the recycling is now located in one huge mountain of carboard and newspaper. Maybe the sun will come out next week and I'll brave the recycling center?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Under the Eastern Oregon Night Sky

One of my favorite memories as a school administrator had nothing to do with school. With a group of administrators I traveled to Portland to attend a career fair. We spent the day trying to entice teacher applicants, especially special education teachers, to talk to us rather than the urban districts of Beaverton, Portland or Lake Oswego. Not many teachers were interested in starting their careers in a small town in rural eastern Oregon. Our recruiting efforts were not very fruitful, but we had a good day working with each other and finding the humor in our interactions with some interesting characters.

Living in eastern Oregon we were used to the long drive to “the valley.” Meetings with the Oregon Department of Education or educational conferences always took place in the more populated western part of the state. For those of us from the east, it is a 200 mile drive through the Columbia River Gorge to Portland. We usually tried to get there, do our business, and get back in one day. They were long days, but the time went quickly with stimulating conversations in the car about the latest educational trends, budget reductions, or our best guesses on the future directions of our schools.

The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful drive, in the daylight during good weather. In the warmer months you can see wind surfers flying through the air as they jump the river waves and catch the air. If you look carefully on the cliffs you might spot deer or elk or the herd of mountain goats that live in the gorge. But, at the end of a long work day, the gorge is just a long, dark drive home.

After packing up our van with our recruiting materials we headed east in rush hour traffic for the three and a half hour drive home. Somewhere between Biggs and Boardman we pulled the district van to the side of the road in a vast desert area, miles from the nearest artificial light source, and piled out of the van. We stood in a group at the shoulder of the road. It was dark and quiet and the Hale Bopp comet was clearly visible in the eastern sky. The comet had been visible for several weeks, but I had only viewed it from my backyard. In the vast eastern Oregon desert black sky, it was magnificent. We stood by the side of the road and gazed at the night sky. In the silence I felt the majesty of the universe and my own insignificance.

A moment of majesty, shared with intelligent, caring coworkers…at the time I didn’t realize how special that administrative team was. Sometimes you don’t value a gift until it is gone.

A very few times in my career I was blessed to work with the best and the brightest; Educators who worked hard and played hard. We trusted and supported each other. They cared about kids, doing good work, and making a difference.

That night on the edge of the highway I had a sense of the universe in harmony and then, like the comet, it was gone.

So what did I learn from the beauty of that moment under the eastern Oregon night sky? Treasure the moments, they are fleeting and don’t come around that often.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wasteland? I Think Not

I am a child of the 50’s, the golden age of television. I can sing most of the songs from the Mickey Mouse Club, the original show with Karen and Cubby, Annette, and the Big Mooseketeer; not the version with Brittany, Justin and Christina. I spent every Saturday morning of my youth in front of the television with Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Sky King, and Circus Boy. These shows were probably not what they were referring to when they talk about the golden age. I always loved television. I still love television. I admit it’s a guilty pleasure.

I know people who say, usually with superiority, that they never watch TV. Why is not watching TV considered a virtue? Or, if TV is watched, they only admit to Masterpiece Theater and the history channel.

Time for true confessions…I love it all. While it is socially acceptable to admit to watching 60 Minutes, the evening news, and maybe the finals of American Idol, I’ve been known to watch Dog the Bounty Hunter and MTV’s Made. I TiVo Glee and The Real Housewives…all locations! Yes, I’m shallow.

I’m a child of the 50’s. A lot of what I’ve learned over the years I learned from television. Before the Internet, television opened my eyes to the world. I watched the marches in Selma and bus boycott in Birmingham. I saw a presidential assassin murdered in Dallas, a war rage in Vietnam and a riot destroy Watts. Archie Bunker cleverly opened my eyes to institutional racism. Ed Sullivan let me see entertainment that I never would see in my own neighborhood. I laughed at the Smothers Brothers and learned about censorship and black listing.

Television exposed me to a world outside of my own backyard. I’m still learning about that exotic world outside of my own neighborhood. Perhaps Project Runway doesn’t have the social significance of the television of my youth…but it makes me laugh and where else would I see those characters in Hermiston, Oregon?

I’m grateful for television…except for golf, who wants to watch golf?

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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oprah Tells Me Who I Am Meant To Be

I took a quiz on that claimed it could help me figure out “Who am I meant to be?” According to the article, the quiz is based on personality science that has identified seven “striving styles” or modes of thought and behavior that direct us to seek satisfaction in different ways. Everyone has elements of each of the seven styles, but most people have one that dominates. Sounded like just what I was looking for in my quest to define my role in my retirement. I’ll include a link at the end of this post.

So, I took the quiz and I tried to be truthful…there’s always a part of me that wonders if I’m really able to see myself as I really am. When I read the results, they rang true. According to the quiz my three highest styles are:
Striving to be in control
Striving to be knowledgeable
Striving o be secure

Here's what they had to say, “You are a leader…and approach everything as though you were born to be in charge. Confident, assertive, and decisive, you know what you want and you go after it.” Yep, that sounds like me…when I know what I want I usually can figure out how to get it. But of course, the article also describes the downside to this style as, “you can become confrontational and domineering, sometimes to the point of being dictatorial. Practice letting someone else take charge on occasion.” Yes, definitely describes me.

The quiz results go on to suggest that I can discover my purpose when I take control of my environment. Finding a decision-making role is key. According to the article, I can find satisfaction when I am given the autonomy to do things my own way. Hummm, guess it is all about me!

Okay, food for thought. The quiz reinforces what I know about myself. So whatever I figure out to do in retirement I need to have autonomy. But perhaps as a first step in changing my life in retirement I’ll start practicing letting others take the lead.

Try the quiz yourself at:

Todays learning goal is to figure out how to post links in this blog...I can't seem to get the code right.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Learning Something New

Vacation is over. Students returned to school today, my husband went back to work, and my phone rang at 6:00 a.m. with a request that I substitute at the high school. Some days I tell them I’m not available, but I don’t tell them that my only plan for the day is to watch “The View” at 10:00 and Oprah at 4:00. I tell them “no” just because I can…one of the little pleasures of retirement. This morning I said “yes,” probably because I’m experiencing buyer’s remorse after too much holiday shopping.

I spent the day subbing in a special education classroom. There were no lesson plans and because it was the first day back to school, the kids didn’t have work to do from other classes.

Today my simple pleasure was learning something new. I’m enjoying the process of blogging because it forces me to learn new things. I added widgets to my layout. What a thrill that I now have a map and a scrolling message on my blog page. I found links to these gizmos on

I’m thankful to all those people out in cyberspace who have created the helpful sites that are letting me learn new skills.

My technology skills are limited, so I really feel a sense of accomplishment when I can magically make my words appear in cyberspace. I added a counter and discovered, wonder of wonders, people other than me have visited my blog! Okay, not a hoard of people, but it’s a start.

So what have I learned about what I’m supposed to do in retirement? I need to keep learning new things and continue to consciously enjoy those ah ha moments. It’s like finding my way in a maze. I don’t know which way the path will take me, but each meaningful experience takes me further to the goal…and just like a maze, I can’t see where I’m going! Thank goodness I’m taking the time to enjoy the journey.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

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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