Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hunter's Best Friend Went to Kindergarten Today

What do you do when your sister and best friend starts kindergarten?

Go to the park all by yourself and eat cookies!

Even Nana felt a little lost this morning after Megan left for school, so I suggested to Hunter that we go to the park.  We packed a snack and walked the few short blocks to the park.  When we got there Hunter looked around and said "There's nobody here."  It's hard to be the little sister and left behind.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Look Out Kindergarten, Here Comes Megan!

Tomorrow is my granddaughter’s first day of school. Kindergarten is a big step for a little girl. She’s a little scared. So are her mother and I.  Megan is smart and adorable, but every parent and grandparent thinks that about their child…or at least they should.

We all remember school. Even the smart and popular kids must have had moments of doubt. For the rest of us, there was a constant worry about fitting in. None of us want to be the last one chosen for the team or the first one out in a spelling bee. But Megan knows nothing of that yet.

She is apprehensive but not really fearful. She’s shy, timid around new people and new places. She doesn’t know what we know about school. It can be a cruel place. As the adored oldest sister and first grandchild, she has little experience with competition. The center of attention is her birthright. So we worry that we haven’t prepared her for the cutthroat world of kindergarten.

Her wardrobe is ready and she’s got a brand new Hello Kitty backpack and a lunch pail. She will pack a lunch to school now. She’s always eaten meals with an adult. Will she be able to open the milk carton by herself? Have we prepared her for eating lunch alone?

On Saturday I took her to buy school shoes. Nana, Mommy and Megan, three generations bonding over shoe shopping. The pink Chuck Taylors were too big, but very cute. But, she doesn’t know how to tie shoes yet. It’s one more thing that we have neglected to prepare her for as she ventures out in the world.

I don’t remember being so anxiety ridden when my children first went to school. Perhaps because I now know how quickly they grow up, I am holding on to every moment of childhood with my granddaughter.

Parents and grandparents all over the world are struggling with these same feelings. What an amazing level of trust we place in teachers. All our hope for the future we hand over to teachers on the first day of school. Tomorrow morning she walks out her front door and enters the new world of kindergarten.

Nana is picking her up after school. I can’t wait to hear how it went. I will be a nervous wreck all day!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

School Bells Ring and Children Sing, It's Back to Robert Hall Again

In the kitchen of my childhood the musical accompaniment to the morning routine was provided by a shoebox sized plastic radio tuned to a local AM station. We ate breakfast while listening to the morning DJ banter and the ads and jingles of local merchants, then we headed outside for the day. Long lazy summers were spent roaming the neighborhood with our friends. We built dams and caught guppies and frogs in the creek at the bottom of the hill. We explored the storm drains, sometimes crawling through the pipes for blocks to find an opening that we could squeeze out of (Kids don't try this at home, you could die.)  We played kick the can in the circle at the end of the street until dusk when the street lights came on and our mothers finally called us home for the day.

My brother Leigh and I attended summer Catechism (Vacation Bible School for Catholics) with our friends Patty and Cathy Olson, but only on the first day to register and the last day to get the ice cream.   Every morning for two weeks our mother would drop us in front of the church and return four hours later to pick us up. We left as soon as her car turned the corner and came back just before pick up time. She never asked us why we hadn’t colored any pictures of saints or made crucifixes out of popscicle sticks during our time at Catechism. Clever little hoodlums that we were, we could have sung a hymn in Latin or recited memorized paragraphs from the Baltimore Catechism, but she never asked.

Before we had a pool in our backyard, we swam at the Paxton public pool when we could get our parents to drive us there. (It was California, no one walked anywhere and buses were unheard of.) Once a week we went to the library to load up on books. We were free and unsupervised all day. Long, hot summer days spent in shorts and t-shirts. If we wore shoes they were thongs (the plastic footwear not the invasive undergarment).

In late August we started hearing a new jingle on the morning radio.  This link is to a Robert Hall ad in the 50’s or 60’s. You have to listen through the first jingle to get to the back to school song.

School bells ring and children sing

it’s back to Robert Hall again

Mother knows for better clothes

It’s back to Robert Hall again
You’ll save more on clothes for school.

Shop at Robert Hall
…and we knew our summer fun was about over.

Decades after my schooling ended, I’m still disappointed when I see the back to school ads on TV.   I love summer.   Even though I am retired and no longer have to go back to school, that jingle is running around my head and I am not looking forward to short days and cold wind, even though it is still in the 90’s here.   I haven’t floated enough in aqua waters, or eaten enough grilled hamburgers, or had the warm wind caress me as I ride my bike.   If I lived in Hawaii would I miss the crisp fall mornings?   Nope, I’m an endless summer girl and I’m never going back to school.

…although, I do still enjoy a good back to school sale.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nana Wonders What She’s Up To These Days…Retirement isn’t just one long vacation, is it?

When I run into people who I haven’t seen for awhile, I’m always asked “What are you up to these days?”   It’s a hard question to answer.  The rules of social discourse require that I have a brief one or two sentence reply.  It’s one of those questions like “How are you?” and people expect a simple answer. When I was working the answer was easy. I could respond with the title of my job of the moment. “I’m retired” doesn't really answer the question.  What, exactly, am I up to?

Lately my answer to the question has been “Well, I’ve been traveling quite a bit.” I am filling my calendar with vacations, one after the other. I just decided to go to Texas this weekend to attend my granddaughter's 5th birthday party.  Next week I am going to San Diego for a few days to visit family and attend a wedding (of a cousin who I have never met.) Then I am home for a few days before we leave for a cruise to Alaska. There are a few things on my calendar in September and I need to get back to Texas to see the granddaughters, but then there is nothing…so I’m searching the internet for good deals on travel in October. Because how would I answer the question if I didn’t have a trip planned?

I had what Oprah calls an "aha" moment this morning as I was perusing the rates for condos in Hawaii. I like to travel, but I have to wonder if I’m using travel so I don’t have to think about planning for a life in retirement. Retirement can’t be just about one vacation after another can it?

Real life doesn’t lend itself to easy, two sentence responses. Here’s what I’ve really been up to:

“I got two bags of crap from Woot and now I’m waiting for the next Woot Off.”  It is impossible to explain Woot, Bags of Crap, and Woot Offs in two sentences!  I've had extended conversations with people about Woot and they still don't understand what I'm talking about.  Frankly, it's sometimes difficult for me to understand why I spent so much time trying to get a BOC that included two High School Musical Alarm Clocks and a Marvel action figure.

“Well, I’ve watched every episode of The Real Housewives of New York and New Jersey."   It doesn’t take two sentences to explain this one, but really, even I have a hard time caring about this topic and I watched the shows.

“Lately, I’m all about the blog. I have a worldwide readership of 38 followers!”   This I say with sincerity, pride and enthusiam,  but when I mention the blog to non-bloggers, I am rewarded with a blank stare. Again, more than two sentences are needed.

I’m thinking about writing a novel. Not so much because I believe that I’m the next James Patterson, but because it gives me an easy answer to what I’m up to.

“I’m working on my first novel. It’s a mystery set in a small, rural eastern Oregon town and my main character is a smart, personable retired teacher who blogs.”  How long does it take to write a novel? This response should be good for at least the next year or two. Then I’ll have to start traveling again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nana Adjusts to Retirement

I have a long list of things to accomplish today, but all I feel like doing is writing. The gift and the curse of retirement is the ability to manage my own time. So I filled the sink with soapy water, cleaned off the counter tops and started the dishwasher…and sat down to write. I’ve got all day to get to the things on my list, but inspiration for writing is fleeting.

I have been melancholy today. Over on my other blog I wrote about my oldest granddaughter ‘s birthday and her rapidly approaching first day of school. I am sad not to be with her for her birthday, but for some reason airfare to Austin is ridiculously expensive right now. It is cheaper to go to Hawaii or London than to Austin, Texas. So, I’m home with my list of tasks, none of which is very exciting.

Teachers in Hermiston are getting ready to go back to school. Inservice starts next week and this is the second year that I haven’t had to attend. (I can’t believe that I have been retired for more than a year!) Sunday night after talking to a friend who is still working at the schools, I was relieved that I got to sleep in on Monday instead of attending planning meetings and organizing training. Today, well rested after awakening at a reasonable hour,  I am missing the energy of a new start.

In Walmart I walked right past the displays of school supplies. I love school supplies, but my desk drawers are filled with pencils, pens and sticky notes. I just gathered up a bunch of three ring binders and dumped them in my Goodwill box. But I can’t help but glance at the binder display at Walmart and yearn to buy one. I am tempted by the price of glue to stock up, but then I remember the three bottles I have from a previous urge that I couldn’t resist. It is hard to let go of habits formed by years of back-to-school tradition.

In retirement I bumble around seeking to establish new patterns and new traditions. I don’t think of myself as resistant to change, but that doesn’t mean that change is easy. I can no longer operate on automatic pilot.  I have to think and plan what comes next because that calendar is no longer imposed on me.  I no longer have to wait for Thanksgiving break or Christmas break to take a vacation.  My vacation length is no longer dictated by the number of vacation days or the school calendar.  Now that anything is possible, I find it hard to decide what is preferable. 

This year when teachers and kids head back to the classroom, I’m taking a cruise to Alaska. It’s a little more expensive than glue and binders, but there was a great sale. It satisfies my need to get a good deal and fills the void.

This afternoon I’m going to call a friend who is an elementary principal and see if he has a student or two who need school supplies. Maybe I can still get some school shopping done!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nana Discovers Nose Hair and Other Unsightly Truths

In my thirties and early forties I remember hearing my slightly older friends complain about the aging process. I tucked that information away in the back of my brain and when I one day found myself dripping with sweat when the temperature read 60 degrees, I realized that menopause had hit with a vengeance. My girlfriends and I had laughed about all the signs of menopause: the wiry chin hairs that can’t be seen because our eyesight is failing, the memory lapses, and the mood swings. Menopause was a roller coaster, but I adjusted. I bought a large magnifying mirror with a light and was stunned to see whiskers sprouting all over my face. I got new glasses. I carried my datebook with me everywhere and most days I remembered to check it. My doctor gave me medication for the mood swings. At last I was aging gracefully.

At almost 60 I have passed through menopause. Since I retired there is less for me to remember, so I have a much smaller datebook. I quit taking the medications and now I’ll only cry once in awhile at chick flicks…or when the mother dies in Dumbo. I still have my magnifying mirror and last week I noticed something new. Oh my God…where did those nose hairs come from????

No one had told me about nose hair. I swear that the last time I noticed my nose hair it was appropriately tucked away inside my nose, almost invisible.  All of a sudden in my late 50s some long forgotten gene has switched on and told my nose hairs to turn electric black and grow toward the light at the end of the tunnel.   I subscribe to several women’s magazines and I don’t recall ever reading about grooming nose hairs. At Christmas time the ads in the newspaper fliers market nose hair trimmers as a caring gift for that special man in your life. I thought nose hairs were like prostates, solely a challenge for old men.

I just realized that it’s a good thing that very few people that I know in real life read this blog…I know if we were to meet face to face you’d be staring at my nose.  Right?   I know you would be!   Quit looking!!!  I mean it, stop it now!

Oh no! Am I going to start sprouting hairs out my ears next?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Rule of Five

I am a procrastinator.  I have great admiration for people who plan ahead and get things done early.  I would like to get my work done like that.  In my head I always think that this time I will start early and finish ahead of schedule.  But, that is just not my way.  I think that on some level I must enjoy the "danger" of not meeting a timeline.  Since retirement there's not a lot of danger in the work that I manage to avoid....unless the Health Department starts monitoring the dust bunny levels under our beds.

I have developed strategies to trick myself into getting things done.  (Yeah, I know how dumb that makes me sound , that it is even possible to trick myself!) The trick I use most frequently is the Rule of Five.  I tell myself that I only have to do five things and then I can go back to being non-productive.  Sometimes these are very simple tasks that only take seconds to accomplish and sometimes they take several minutes.  For example, emptying the dishwasher is one task, as is folding the laundry.  I suppose I could count each item folded and quickly get to five, but even I am not that lazy!  For me the hard part is getting started.  Using the Rule of Five I frequently find myself doing more than five tasks.  When that happens, the Multiple of Five Rule kicks in.  The tasks must be completed in groups that are multiples of five.  It is against the rule to stop at 8, you have to continue to 10 or 15, or 20.  (Yeah, I know, now I sound like I have a case of OCD.)

I use the Rule of Five frequently when decluttering or cleaning out my closet.  It forces me to toss out things that I will probably never wear, but might come in handy someday.  My closet is jammed with those "might come in handy" clothes.  They are always my go to items when I need two more items to make five. 

Not long after I retired I was on a mission to declutter the house and I used the Rule of Five.  For a month I tossed five items a day into the Goodwill bag.  For the first week it was relatively easy.  I had days were I applied Multiple of Five and actually got rid of 10 or 15 paperback books a day.  By week three I was having to make some difficult decisions. The final week I was reduced to searching in junk drawers and cursing my studidity at wasting those paperbacks with the Multiple Rule.  It's been over a year since I retired and I've had a chance to redistribute clutter throughout the house.  If only I was motivated to get started...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Delaying Drowning by Treading Water and the Problem With Analogies

Last week I wrote about treading water and several of you made thought provoking comments.  June pointed out to me that I am probably "drifting happily," and Kate and Dan thought that I was not so much treading water as going with the flow.  Several others encouraged me to enjoy the ride of retirement because this freedom may be fleeting. 

Then I found an article on another website called Treading Water Only Delays Drowning.  It's a blog for "personal development for polymaths."  Being a polymath myself, I, of course, read the article.  (Okay, I lied. I had no idea what a polymath is.  I looked it up.  According to Wikipdia it is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.)

The article made some good points.  For example, if you spend much time treading water, eventually you will grow tired and cold and will lose the ability to swim to shore.  You will drown. 

As a teacher I always made use of analogies.  It helps students remember new information if you can tie it in their minds to something that they already understand.  The challenge is in finding the analogy that rings true.  The problem with using treading water as an analogy is that all of the interpretations are valid.  The analogy is too simplistic.  And maybe that's what I've learned from this discussion.

All of our decisions and actions need to be analyzed holistically.  Too often the flow chart of our life doesn't have a Yes/No response but an "It depends."

I do need to spend some time on long-term goals, but I am enjoying the float.  I am not floundering and the water is warm.  I can stand up at any time and walk to shore.  I'll be well-rested and ready to go if an opportunity presents itself.
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