Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There's Nothing Under the Tree

Don't worry about us.  Don't call the charity elves to deliver boxes of canned goods and day-old bread.  This year we're not shopping.  The spouse and I had our usual pre-Christmas conversation:

Spouse:  What do you want for Christmas?

Me:  I don't know.  I don't need anything.  What do you want?

Spouse:  I don't know.  Whenever I want something, I just buy it.

Me:  Yeah, me too.

We decided that we weren't buying anything for each other.  I had a similar conversation with my daughter while we were visiting her in Texas at Thanksgiving.  She also said she didn't need more stuff and I told her we didn't need anything either. Today I sent her gift cards for Home Depot since she and her husband are working on installing hard wood flooring throughout their house.  Merry Christmas, Sarah, you can buy yourself big tubs of flooring adhesive for Christmas!

I told  my daughter I wanted more grandchildren for Christmas.  Unfortunately, that factory is closed.  I settled for negotiating to have the girls with us for a longer period next summer.  I did buy the grands a small gift to open, but like the rest of us, they don't need more stuff either. Santa will bring the girls a few toys, but their parents are giving them coupon books for experiences.  They can cash them in for things like a special outing, doing a craft project with Mom, or getting a pass on chores.

I can't think of a single thing that I want badly enough to venture into the malls.  The things I like about Christmas are not the materials things...unless I see something that I want, and then I'll just buy it! 

At the risk of being called a Grinch, one of my peeves is all of the toy drives during Christmas.  I was at the dollar store this week and the cashier was asking each customer if he/she wanted to purchase an item to "support our troops."  There was a huge box at the end of the counter filled with dollar store items that had been purchased.  Really?  Do our troops really want to receive crap from the dollar store?  What is the message we're sending?  "I support you enough to buy you this $1.00 plastic backscratcher."

There's a chain store in this area that collects shoes for foster kids and another that collects pajamas.  While I appreciate that their intent is to help the less fortunate, what are the chances that the right size and style is going to find its way to the right needy kid?  A lot of the collection effort seems to me to be about making it a feel good experience for the donors, not meeting the needs of kids.  Maybe I am a cynic, but if we want to help a needy family, we shouldn't be guessing about what we think they need.  We should give them gift cards to buy exactly what they want and need. 

Oh, bah humbug!   I started writing about how blessed I am to live an abundant life and I have deteriorated to Scrooge-like complaining.  I think I need to put on some Christmas music and get my Christmas spirit back.

Happy Holidays to all of you.     

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Three years after deciding to attend college in Oregon I married the spouse. That one decision changed the course of my life.

One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. London Street, recently wrote about wanting his life to be a movie.  He wanted snappy dialog, memorable settings, and atmosphere. He, of course, is the hero in his movie.  Since I spent yesterday traveling home from Austin, I had lots of time sitting on airplanes and in the terminals for my  mind to wander.  I found myself pondering the turning points in life and wishing that there was a soundtrack that would clue me in when I was about to make a momentous decision.  The music would rise and I would know that I was about to be eaten by a shark or make a life changing decision.

I don't need a soundtrack to decide if I'm having cheerios or mini-wheat's for breakfast, but I can think of numerous times when a music cue would have given me more time to think through an opportunity before making a decision.  Often my first response is to say no.  Usually, with more thought, I can see the opportunities that saying yes can provide.

It's funny to think about the small decisions that can change everything.  After high school I left California for college in Oregon.  I'd never been to Oregon. I'd never even been to northern California.  I decided I wanted to go to school somewhere different.  I chose Eastern Oregon College (now Eastern Oregon University) because they wrote me a nice personal letter.  The college was smaller than my high school.  I didn't decide based on what I wanted to study or my plans for a future career...and I've lived in Oregon ever since.  I'm not saying it was a bad decision, just that I didn't realize the impact it would have.  My whole life changed with one decision.

I made another decision today.  I didn't think about it too much.  Even though there was no soundtrack, I'm pretty sure it will be life changing.  I bought a lottery ticket for the $550 million Powerball lottery. This could be one of those crossroads...cue the music!

Monday, November 19, 2012


This month I have been one of many Facebook users who have been writing a daily post about what we are thankful for.   I've found that the more I focus on the blessings that I have received, the happier I feel about life in general.  As the season turns to long cold and dark days, it would be easy to wallow in gloom and doom...and if Democrats had lost the election, I might really be in mourning!  But I have much to be thankful for.  While I have given a gratitude shout out to some material things (hot tub, chocolate, and diet coke to name a few), it is the people in my  life that are most important to me.  Even though I am somewhat reclusive, family and friends are what kept coming to the forefront as I made my daily post.  All in all I realize how fortunate I am to live in the United States and not want for basic necessities.

Tomorrow the spouse and I are flying to Texas for Thanksgiving.  We spend every Thanksgiving with our grandchildren.   I hope you get to spend time with family and friends this Thanksgiving.  Have a wonderful holiday. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Five Reasons Why I Voted For Obama

I voted last week.  In Oregon we cast our ballots by mail.  We don’t troop through the snow or rain to an empty exhibition building at the fairgrounds or an elementary school gym.  We vote in the comfort of our own homes (which is quite the middle class perspective, isn't it?), slap on a stamp and the fate of our nation is entrusted to the US Postal Service.

I voted for Barack Obama.  I am not one of those voters who thinks Republicans are evil…hell, I’m married to one!  (For the record, the spouse was much more liberal in his youth.)  I think both candidates are good men.  I think they both love this country.  I also think they both want to carry out their vision of what America could be….and here are five reasons why I am voting for Obama: 

1.   When I look at the Democratic Party, I see myself and my community.  Yes, I know there are blacks, and Latinos, and other minorities in the Republican Party, but the driving force is rich, privileged white guys, or embarassing white women. When I watched the Democratic Convention, the participants were representative of the America that I know.  I may be a middle class white person, but the America I know is diverse.  Diversity is strength and the Republican Party doesn’t seem to recognize that.

2.   I don’t think of myself as a one issue voter, but I support women’s issues and that includes protecting a women’s right to make her own decisions about her body.  I am not pro-abortion.  I don’t know any woman who is.  I am pro-choice because I don’t want anyone telling me what I can or cannot do with my body.  It’s a trust issue.  Trust me to make a good decision.  I’m a smart, caring, competent person.  TRUST ME!  Trust my daughter and my granddaughters.

3.   I like how Barack Obama represents the United States.  He is educated, well spoken, and thoughtful.  He doesn’t say stupid stuff.  Even when I might disagree with his position, he delivers the message in a thoughtful, reasoned way.  He represents us well.

4.   I’m not sure where Mitt Romney stands on many issues.  His position seems to change depending on the audience he is talking to.  There was a time, when he was governor of Massachusetts, when he was more moderate.  I could have voted for the moderate Mitt.  I can’t vote for the Mitt who panders to the Tea Party.  He has modified his positions for votes…and I want to vote for the person who stands up for what he believes, even when it might not be the popular position.

5.   Barack Obama inherited an economy in crisis.  It took eight years for Bush to create the economic mess; I’m willing to give Obama the same amount of time to pull us out.  The economy is showing signs of improvement.  Obama saved the automotive industry.  He deserves a second term.
I'm proud to have cast my vote for Barack Obama.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Still Learning in Elementary School

One of the benefits of being a grandmother is the opportunity to spend time in elementary school.  Last Tuesday I had lunch at Pond Springs Elementary School with each of my granddaughters.  I say each because they have lunch at different times and they insisted that I eat with each of them.  It is no easy task for a senior to climb into the middle of those hard bench seats.

I sat across the table from my kindergartner and her classmates all around us kept up a constant chatter of questions and reminders of the many school rules.  I almost humiliated them by getting out of my seat to throw away trash.

"You can't do that," a small voice insisted urgently, "you have to wait until they tell us!"

I even talked during "red star time" and three little faces turned to me, with fingers held to lips and in unison said "shhhh!"

The boy sitting next to me enthusiastically enjoyed blue jello as his first course, opening his mouth wide to show me.

"Look, I'm eating brains!"

He saved his banana for last and couldn't get it open.  He held it out to Ms. Vo, a student intern, for help.

"Do you know how to open a banana like the monkeys do?" she asked him.  She showed him the two ends of the banana and then turned it upside down and squeezed the round end.  She easily pulled down the peel.

"Not that way!" he screamed.  "I don't want it that way."

Ms. Vo calmly told him it was too late.

"It doesn't taste good that way," he insisted...and then he ate the banana.

I was amaze at how much easier it is to open a banana from the non-traditional end.  I guess you're never too old to learn something new in elementary school.

I found the video on You Tube...Enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Final Thoughts on My Weekend at Vashon Island

Our first group photo, moments after meeting at Lavender Hill Farm.  L-R Deb, Sandi, Sally, Linda, me (standing).  Photo by DJan Stewart at DJan-ity  (She took the picture, that's why she's not in the photo!) 

It has been almost a week since I returned home from the weekend retreat on Vashon Island with five bloggers that I  met through their blogs.  When Linda at Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting first suggested the get-together, I was a little leery and I wrote about my fears here.  My qualms were unfounded.  Driving home last Sunday night I had five hours in the car to reflect on the magical weekend.  Prior to meeting at Vashon, the six of us knew each other only through our blogs, yet we recognized each other immediately.  There were no awkward silences in our conversations.   Because we knew each other through our writing, we had an understanding of each other.  We knew each others stories.

I like to write and I probably express myself better on paper than I do in conversation.  Words are important to me.   Several times over the course of the weekend my blogging friends reported  that they appreciated something  I had written in a comment on a blog. There is nothing more validating to me as a writer than to hear that my words made a difference. That we could develop such strong bonds through the Internet is remarkable to me.  We have found a community...a community that provides encouragement, support, and understanding.  This community also has a healthy dose of laughter.

Saturday night after dinner we all settled in comfy chairs in the living room and talked.  Sally asked us "What do you look for in deciding to follow a blog?"  Good writing seemed to be the consensus answer.  We then began to compare notes on which blogs we followed.  In the conversation below all the details and names are changed.

Blogger:  I follow  Depressed Granny.

Me:  Oh, what does she write about?

Blogger:  Well, she lives in a nursing home and she posts pictures of her gerbil.

Me:  I couldn't say anything...I was laughing so hard.  The Internet is a magical place where depressed nursing home residents find a following with pictures of their gerbils.  She probably dresses him up in seasonal costumes...and we drop by every week to see what's new at Sunnyvale Nursing Home.  So, it's not just the good writing that keeps us reading.

What is it that draws us together?  This weekend on Vashon Island it was our willingness to take a risk and share our humanity...there were no pictures of gerbils!

Our last photo, in the living room at Lavender Hill, just before we left for home.  In the front L-R Deb, Linda, DJan.  Standing in the rear L-R Sandi, me, Sally  DJan set the timer on her camera for this shot.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Weekend With The Ax Murderers

At Robinson Point Lighthouse on Vashon Island with L-R Sally, Sandi, Deb, Linda, me (in the back),and DJan

One of the pleasures of writing a blog has been getting to know other bloggers.  Even though I haven't really met them, I feel like I have friends from around the world.  It's a different type of friendship.  We've shared details of our lives large and small, but each of us has been selective.  None of my blog readers knows about my unsightly, hairy mole...oh, wait, did I write about that too?   This weekend I have stepped outside my comfort zone and I am camped out in a delightful farm house on Vashon Island with five other bloggers.  Five strangers who feel like old friends.  If I were Agatha Christie someone would be murdered!

The journey here was the first adventure.  The written directions said it was a 20 minute journey from the airport to the ferry terminal.  We were equipped with printed directions from Map Quest and two iPhones...and still drove around in circles for an hour and a half before joining the mile long line for the ferry. 

We arrived at the house that we jointly rented for the weekend and were immediately charmed by the location.  The house is called Lavender Hill Farm.  I write this from the covered porch overlooking the water.  The scent of lavender wafts up from the field below.  The sun shines brightly and Mount Rainier rises above the trees on the opposite shore.  Conversation buzzes around me as my blogging pals catch up with each other.  It's like we're long-time friends who haven't seen each other for awhile.  

We all agreed to write something on our blogs about this weekend and link to each other.  So check out my friends:
Sally at Retired English Teacher
Linda at Thoughts from a Bag Lady In Waiting
DJan at Eye on the Edge
Deb at Catbird Scout
Sandi at   Flying into the Light

If an ax murderer gets me...question my new friends above!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nana's Changing Spots

I considered saving this little story to publish on October 23, known to chemists the world over as Mole Day.  I have to admit that I'm not exactly sure what a mole is in chem-speak, but ever since she took high school chemistry my daughter has called me on my birthday(10/23) to wish me Happy Mole Day.  So this is a story about moles, but not the chemical kind or the animal kind.

I spent the summers of my youth slathered in baby oil and iodine soaking up the sun in Southern California.  Trying to achieve the perfect California golden girl tan too often resulted in the red lobster look of sunburn.  Back then we didn't worry about UV rays and holes in the ozone.  My misspent youth as a sun goddess has come back to haunt me. 

Spots have spontaneously appeared on my skin.  Months ago I sat in a waiting room and read about the danger signs of skin cancer.  I made a mental note to make an appointment to get those suspicious moles checked...and I never made the phone call.   Finally in a flurry of activity earlier this summer I made appointments to get all body systems checked.  I had blood tests and saw my doctor.  I saw both the optometrist and ophthalmologist.  My eyes have "matured" so now I have new glasses.  One afternoon two weeks ago I made the trek to Pendleton to see the dermatologist.

Dr. Skin (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) has his office in a shabby Victorian house.  The exam rooms are on the second floor, up a narrow staircase with shag carpet.   From the exam table I could see dust bunnies around the edges of the well-worn wood floor.  Dr. Skin checked all my spots and found one on my back that he didn't like.  That one was removed, placed in a jar to be sent to the lab, and I was out the door in less than a half an hour.

I didn't lose any sleep worrying about my irregularly colored mole.  I think deep down that I just don't believe that anything really bad can happen to me.  I'd almost forgotten about the whole experience until the phone rang last week and I heard the assistant from Dr. Skin's office on the line. 

" Yann" she crooned in her singsong accented voice.  "I have the lab results and it is anormal..."

I was frozen to the phone, focused only on the echo of what I heard.  Did she say abnormal?  Abnormal?  Not me!

"It's abnormal?" I finally managed to sputter.

"Yes, it is a normal mole" she says.  OH!  A normal mole, not an abnormal mole.

"Thank you for calling" I say and hang up.

See, nothing bad can happen to me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

But They Look So Cute in Those Dresses

Megan and Hunter at Hat Rock Park, July 2012

I miss my grandchildren.  Last weekend I called to chat with them and to find out if they received the box I sent them.  Hunter’s first question was “When are you coming, Nana?”   This year they will both be in school full-time and that makes it harder to find a good time to visit.  My schedule is wide open, but theirs isn’t.  I’m missing the care-free, unscheduled days of summer already!

I over compensate for not visiting them by shopping for them.  I love buying their frilly dresses and sparkly shoes.  When they were visiting in July we shopped for school shoes.  When I took them home my daughter commented that there was something wrong when her five year old had more shoes than she did.  That comment is not quite the truth.  My daughter also inherited the shoe shopping gene and has her own extensive collection of footwear.

When the first granddaughter was born, I promised my daughter that I wouldn’t be the grandmother who showered the grandchild with tacky gifts.  I opened a 525 account to save for college and I make small monthly contributions.  That, I told my daughter, was how I was going to spend money on the grandchild.

Over the years my resolve has weakened.  I still contribute to the 525 accounts, but I also enjoy shopping for their school clothes, and buying books, and ….well, buying just about anything that I think they will like. 

The grandchildren are responsible for putting their clean laundry away.  The laundry room is on the first floor and their bedrooms on the second.  They each have a small laundry basket that they use to carry the clean, folded laundry upstairs.  Last weekend Hunter was coming down the stairs with her empty basket when her mother told her that there was another load of laundry that needed to go to her room.  Hunter sighed and said “Again?  Tell Nana to stop buying us clothes!”

SIGH!  Out of the mouths of babes…


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everything on the Internet is True

One of the unexpected rewards of starting this blog has been the people that I have met from all over the world.  I say "met" in the cyber sense of the word.  I've gotten to know so many creative, talented, and caring people through their blogs and the comments that they make on my blog.  I've only met one of my new friends in person.  Milt is a follower of my blog and writes a blog of his own.  He lives in the same small town that I do.  Last year I invited him to join a writing group that I belong to and we met face to face at a local used book store.  I think he was as apprehensive as I was...he brought his wife with him and I had my writing group to act as a human shield.  We were all relieved that he wasn't an ax murderer. 

Have you seen the State Farm commercial where the woman claims that "they can't put anything on the Internet that isn't true?"  She is dating a French model who she met on the Internet.  It's pretty funny. 

This fall I am going to spend a weekend with five female friends in a beautiful house on a lavender farm on Vashon Island. I've never actually met these women. I know them only through their blogs, but it feels like they are old friends. I know about their families and the challenges that they have faced. Several of us retired and started our blogs at the same time. We've shared laughs and loss. We seem to have a lot in common and we all write blogs. I'm excited to meet them, but also anxious. All they know about me is what I have chosen to share in my blog. Will I live up to their expectations? Oh, the anxiety!!!

So on an early fall weekend I will drive five hours  to find out if perception lives up to reality. I'm pretty sure that everything on the Internet is true. Bonjour!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is It Still Work When You Do It In Your Pajamas?

I've been retired for several  years now.  I have adjusted to staying up late and sleeping in.  I do my grocery shopping when the rest of the world is at work.  I never go to Costco on the weekend.  When I travel I'm not limited to holidays or summer vacations.  I know how fortunate I am to live a relatively stress-free life.  I can't remember the last time I used the alarm clock.  This blissful existence changed last week when the school superintendent contacted me.

In my pre-retirement life as a school administrator I had great success in securing some big grants for the school district.  Grant writing was like a hobby for me.  Most of the grants were written in my spare time at home, usually while I was watching TV.  Grant writing was fairly stress-free because no one was paying me to do it or counting on the funding to keep a program operating.   If I won a grant it was like winning the lottery...a lucky break.  I got a reputation in the area as the go to person for writing grants. 

When I first retired I tinkered with the idea of freelancing as a grant writer.  I even took on a project with a neighboring school district.  That effort was not funded and I realized that I really didn't want to start a business and market my skills. I like to dabble and pick and choose my projects.

So, last week the superintendent asked for my help in securing grants for a project at our high school.  I went to a meeting and got excited about the concept.  I met with the superintendent and hammered out terms. All of a sudden I was employed .  This past week I actually had to be places at a specific time.  I had to go to meetings.  And last Wednesday I drove 400  miles to hand deliver a grant application to a foundation to meet their submission deadline (really, have they not heard about the Internet?) 

It's probably an ideal situation for me.  I work my own hours and most of the time I can wear pajamas, except when I have to go to meetings!  The downside if  I am not successful in securing grant funding, is public failure....I'm feeling the pressure!

This evening I attended one of the committee meetings.  The athletic director gave me a grant application for a grant that is a good match for our project.  The catch?  It's due in two days!  We are leaving tomorrow for three days camping in the RV at the Deschutes River.  Good thing I can do my new job anywhere.    I'll get the writing done lounging around camp and when I'm ready to post the application (this foundation has an online application) I will ride my bike to Biggs Junction where there is a McDonalds with Internet.    

I better go get my pajamas on and get started...I've got a job to do!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Three Weeks At Nana Camp

Two little girls and one big ocean.

My grandchildren stayed with me for three weeks this summer, the first time they've visited my house for an extended period.  I loved every minute, even hearing "Nana, Nana, Nana" every two minutes with demands for juice, or a snack, or a play dough carton opened, or one more book read.  My son threatened to record their voices and make it my ring tone.  He knows I respond instantly to their cries.

While they were here our whole world revolved around them and they basked in the attention.  We had a long list of activities we wanted to do with them, but we didn't get to half of them. 

Practice camping and fishing in the backyard.

They camped in the mountains and both caught their first fish, after first practice camping and learning to cast a fishing line in our backyard. 

Hunter's first fish.  What?  You can't see it?  Look in her hand.

Megan's first fish.

They swam in the local pool, in our hot tub, and in the Pacific Ocean. 

The last day of swimming lessons.

We spent a glorious three days in the RV at the Oregon coast. They dug in the sand, touched anemones and starfish, and made smores over a campfire.

On the road in the RV

Hunter made friends with a family of Old Believers
Searching for starfish.

Megan at Newport
Lot's of interesting things on the beach.  Nana is still finding them in the washing machine.
A contrast of cultures

Most of all they enjoyed playing in the backyard, digging in the dirt, and harvesting the garden.

Hunter digging potatoes in the garden with Grandpa Paul.
Where's Hunter?
Oh, there she is!

So many precious moments.  We're still laughing at some of the things they did and said.  Our vocabulary is forever changed.

One day Hunter was cuddling with me as we read a book.  She poked at my neck and said "Nana, you're squishy." 

After a moment she asks "Nana, why do you have lines?" 
I explained that people get lines when they get older.  Later I see her showing her arm to her sister and proudly pointing out lines at her elbow.  "See, Megan, I'm getting older.  See these lines." 

She celebrated her fifth birthday while she was with us.  She's got a lot of years ahead to accumulate lines.

Last night the spouse and I were watching the Olympics.  Matt Lauer and a female news personality were recapping the day's events.  The spouse says "Boy, she sure got squishy."  Yep, our vocabulary is permanently changed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Windshield Wiper Conservation Program and Other Spousal Quirks

Today is the spouse's birthday.  Yesterday we went shopping for his gift.  His custom has been to delay the gift purchasing and then for the next month he buys anything that catches his eye and justifies the purchase because it is his birthday.  He usually manages to acquire several good toys during the birthday spree.  Yesterday was no exception.  He selected a new ipad and, what the hell, I bought one for myself even though it wasn't my birthday. 

The spouse also bought a metal fire pit for the patio.   "I thought the girls would enjoy sitting around the fire and roasting marshmallows," he tells me.  Our grandchildren, ages 5 and 6, are coming to stay with us for three weeks this summer. Nothing says fun to a five year old like sticking long metal forks into a raging fire.  I've been searching yard sales for princess toys, but the spouse is going to woo them with open flames. 

It has been raining for several days.   We took the spouse's pickup to the Tri-Cities.  The picture above resembles my view out the front window.  The spouse is a charter member in the Windshield Wiper Conservation Program, or WWCP.  Even in a downpour he keeps the wipers on the lowest setting.  By the time the wiper finally starts to sweep across the windshield, the entire surface is covered with water. Apparently members of the WWCP believe that there are a limited number of wipes available to a motorist and it is important maintain a high reserve of  PWS (potential wiper swipe).  My car is eight years old.  I have replaced the wipers once.  I am overdue to replace the current wipers.  The spouse takes this as evidence of the superiority of the WWCP method.  If I had been conserving PWS I would probably still have years of usage left in my wipers.  "You let those wipers scrape across a dry windshield and it rips them to shreds," the spouse tells me as we drive blindly down the highway in the rain.  There's still a few more days of rain in our forecast.  Tomorrow I'm going to buy new wipers, but I'm not adopting the WWCP method.   

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Graduation Day

Today was graduation day at HHS.  I didn't attend the ceremony, but happened to drive by the high school on my way into town and saw the students and their families taking photos and visiting on the lawn at the high school.  The students who attended HHS when I was an administrator there have long since graduated, but this graduating class has several students from my days as special education director.  It's another reminder that time is marching forward and nothing stays the same. 

When I worked at the high school, graduation was the biggest event of the year.  Thousands of people attended.  There was always lots of drama leading up to the ceremony as students struggled to complete graduation requirements.   There were usually two or three parents in the principal's office demanding that exceptions be made so their child could participate in the ceremony even though he or she had not completed all the requirements. 

The administrative team worked hard to maintain the dignity of the ceremony and give every student his or her moment in the spotlight.  Very little was left to chance.  The graduates were well rehearsed and we were on the lookout for disruptive tricks.  There was always someone who tried to sneak in beach balls to toss around during the ceremony, an air horn to blast when a friend received a diploma, or giant balloons to float above them.  The invited guests were sometimes worse than the students and we confiscated air horns and balloons at the door.  At rehearsal our students were assured that they would be escorted out of the ceremony if they participated in any of these disruptive antics.  They were allowed cans of silly string and beach balls, but they could only pull them out after the last student received a diploma and the class was presented to the audience.  Our students understood that graduation was important to the thousands of friends and family members who had gathered to watch, and every student deserved to be the sole center of attention for those few seconds when their name was announced and they marched across the stage to accept a handshake and their diploma.  But every year the students planned something just to keep us on our toes. 

My first year at the high school the principal walked me through the graduation preparations and explained why everything was so carefully choreographed.   One year the ceremony was just about to start when the principal looked at the stage from the back of the room and realized that there were no diplomas on the stage.  Three thousand friends and family watched as a student hurried up to the dais and deposited a cardboard box on the table.  Not a fatal error, but every year after that the checklist had "Diplomas on the stage" listed to remind us.

One tradition that students have carried out for years is giving the board chair, who hands out the diplomas, a token when receiving their diplomas.  The checklist got a new addition "Container for tokens" after the year that students chose to give the board chair marbles.  After the first twenty-five students had handed off their marbles, the board chair had full pockets and marbles were rolling off the table.  Each class tries to come up with something original to hand over.  The year our first graduating class of the newly remodeled school graduated, they handed over nails to represent the two years they studied while construction was in progress.  One year it was condoms...I don't know what that was supposed to represent!

It's an exciting time for students.  I enjoyed seeing their smiling faces as they left the high school with their diplomas, their bright gowns blowing around them in the wind.  Their future is wide open.  Congratulations to the class of 2012.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

There's Probably An Interesting Story Here...

The spouse and I went to a funeral a few months ago in a small Oregon town outside of Portland.  We  saw this sign in the window of a store as we walked to the church located  in the rear of a storefront on the main street of town.  Don't you wish we knew the story behind the sign?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back to the Grind

Venice, like no place else in the world!

I’ve taken a month off from the grueling work of blogging.  The trouble with not blogging for a month is that it is so difficult to figure out where to start now that I’m ready to write again.  Perhaps it’s best to just jump into the fray and see where I wind up…
Duomo in Milan

In April I made my first trip to Italy.  I met my daughter, who was working in Milan for two weeks, and took advantage of her company-paid hotel room.  I was surprised that I was nervous about the trip.  I’ve traveled quite a bit both with the spouse and by myself.  I think I was uneasy about not speaking Italian.  I was quite pleased with myself when I arrived at the hotel after taking the bus and then a short taxi ride from the airport (“The taxis are so expensive, take the bus, Mom.”)  After a quick change of clothes we headed out to see the Duomo, and a pickpocket got my wallet with all my credit cards and money…a lot of money.  Less than two hours in Italy and I was broke!

I spent a few hours angry and preoccupied, but then I forced myself to recognize that I shouldn’t let one unfortunate experience ruin a wonderful trip.  I called the spouse and had him cancel my credit cards.  My daughter loaned me money and a credit card, with only a few snide comments about my fitness to travel alone.

It was a wonderful trip.  I stood alone in a dim museum with the sculpture that Michelangelo was working on when he died, and viewed Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper in the former dining hall of an ancient monastery.  I marveled at Venice, which looks exactly like every picture you’ve ever seen of it, but in person is hard to believe that it really exists.  We cruised Lake Como, but never caught a glimpse of George Clooney.  Best of all I spent two weeks with my daughter.
Sarah at Murano Glass Factory

While I was exploring  Italy  spring arrived in Hermiston.  The tulips were still blooming when I returned.   Both the spouse and I have spent a lot of time working in the yard.  The spouse has planted a big garden.  I expected a duplicate of last year’s a few tomatoes and peppers and a couple of cucumbers, but we’ve got a small truck garden complete with drip irrigation and tomatoes residing in rows of white tenting.  We harvested our first crop last week.  Every meal in our house now comes with radish garnish!  
Radishes in my garden, that are now washed and trimmed in a tupperware container in my refrigerator.

Well, that wasn’t so hard.  Now I just need to get back in the habit of writing.  It’s good to be back.  I’ll be dropping by your blogs to see what you’ve all been up to.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Where Have You Been, Nana?

I have a lot of good excuses for not posting lately.  Well, maybe they're not good excuses, but they are excuses!

My laptop crashed.  The hard drive had been growling for awhile, but all of a sudden it just stopped working at all.  Fortunately I had purchased an external hard drive just the week before and backed up all my files.  Now if only I knew how to "restore" all those files to the new laptop.

The printer died a few days later.  Like the laptop it just stopped turning on.  The blue light on the scanner glows, but everything else is dead.  I added a laser printer to my cart when I bought the laptop.

Buying the technology was the easy part.  I've spent hours getting software loaded and working.  And after crawling behind the desk to find the Internet connections, I had to dig out the vacuum to corral the dust bunnies that had multiplied since we last had to connect any wires.

No sooner was I back up to speed with technology and my oven decided to put on a light show.  My son walked into the kitchen and said, "Ahh, Mom, there are flames in the oven."  It was a spectacular ending to the oven heating element.  Fortunately the weather has been mild and we've been cooking our meals on the grill.  UPS delivered the new part this morning.

Why is that when one thing breaks, it starts a chain reaction.  Like dominoes falling, one after another, my appliances and tools have been breaking.  I guess it's another reminder that I'm not the only one getting older!

Tomorrow morning I leave for Italy.  It's my first trip there.  I am meeting my daughter who will be working in Milan for the next two weeks.  During the week I'll be on my own to see the sights, but on the weekend we've got plans to visit Venice and Verona.   I'm excited and nervous at the same time.   It's too late to learn Italian, but I'm up for the adventure.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Bonus Day

This is not my pile was not this neat!

I spent this morning cleaning out the clutter.  It's my last opportunity to accomplish something by the end of this month.  I've switched all  my monthly statements to electronic reporting,  purchased a new drive to backup my electronic records, created a new mail sorting station, and produced a reference notebook that holds all our financial, medical, and insurance data.  As hard as I tried it was almost impossible for me to stay on task.  Digging through the accumulated piles I uncovered long lost treasures that demanded to be read. 

You never know what you'll find hidden in the bottom of a mail basket.  I found a note written by my granddaughter last year.  She was just learning how to write, every letter carefully formed to say "I love you Nana"  and signed with her name...first and last, just in case I confused her with some other granddaughter named Megan.  I found numerous greeting cards from various holidays and events.  It's so rare for me to receive personal mail that I can't bring myself to throw away those handwritten cards and notes.  They sit in the mail basket for months, and sometimes years.

After my mother died my brother and I cleaned out her house.  We found every letter we had ever written to her and every greeting card that we had ever sent her.  I probably have more in common with my mother than I like to admit.

Today one of the treasures I refound was a letter that a friend sent me when I retired.  She wrote about the influence I had had on her in our work relationship and how I had made a difference for her and for our students.  I'm keeping that letter and the note from my granddaughter.  They remind me of the power of the written word and that I'm loved. 

Today is an extra day in your year.  It really is a bonus.  Spend some of your windfall time to write a real note, on paper with ink, and send it to an important person in your life.  I bet it will stick around a lot longer than those emails and text messages.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Shortest Month

February is the shortest month, so why should I be surprised that it has gone by so quickly?  We even have a bonus day this year, but March will be here on Thursday. 

At the beginning of the month I was thinking that February would be a good month to start those resolutions that I didn't make at the new year.  I figured that since February is the shortest month, it would be easier to maintain those promises I make to myself.  It's only 29 days...surely I can maintain self control for 29 days.

Apparently not!  I never got around to exercising regularly, drinking more water, avoiding salt, and eating more vegetables. And now February is almost over and I've only got time for a quick resolution.  It's too late to drop 10 pounds or become physically fit.  So, I decided to take the few days left in February and organize my life. 

I started my organizational frenzy with our mail basket.  The original idea of the mail basket was a temporary resting place for the mail when it was brought into the house.  It has become, however, a long-term storage area for any bit of paper that doesn't make it to the trash.  I actually found bank statements from 2010!  Unopened! 

The spouse says, "We really should review those statements to make sure we're not being embezzled."  Note the use of the pronoun "we." 

I decided that if the spouse hadn't reviewed a bank statement in the forty years that we've been married, he probably wasn't going to start now just because I had the urge to get organized.

I actually do review our accounts regularly, but now I do it online.  I almost never write checks, everything is done electronically or with a debit card.  Most of our bills are paid automatically.  Why do I still have all this paper clutter?

I have now gone through all the paper in the basket and have a huge pile of bank statements from the past three years to shred.  This morning I visited our two credit unions to get passwords for online access to those accounts.  I'm in the process of switching all our statements to paperless.  Now I'll just have electronic clutter! 

I'm going to spend the February bonus day preparing for the electronic onslaught.  I'm collecting all the web addresses, passwords, and account numbers in a big notebook just in case I'm hit by a truck and the spouse has to start reviewing statements online.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Robbery Update

Two weeks ago we were robbed, and we are still dealing with the after effects.   The thief took more than expensive toys and equipment.  He also robbed us of peace of mind.  It was the spouse's stuff that was stolen, and he's the one who has had to deal with the police and the insurance company.  He's also the one who feels the most violated.  It was his shop that was ransacked.  He's the one who still reaches for something in his workshop, and then realizes that it is gone.  Everyday he discovers more items that are missing.

The spouse's pick-up was stolen in the robbery.  The police found it a few hours after it was reported missing.  It had been abandoned after it was driven over an embankment and into a tree.  All the windows were broken out and it was throughly crunched and trashed.  It's still at the body shop being repaired.

We've upgraded our security and bars have been installed on the shop windows.  There's not much we can do about the sense of violation.

A week ago the spouse was in a local pawn shop and saw one of his stolen backpacks hanging on a display rack.  The spouse was told that it was new merchandise, not pawned.  The local police helped him to recover it from the pawn shop owner.  She was not overly cooperative.  There was no record of how they had acquired it.  There was no question that the pack was our stolen item because it has several unique features.  Apparently this was not the first time that this shop was found with stolen goods.

This morning the city police called to have the spouse come down to view items they had recovered from a suspect.  The spouse came home with two bags full of some of his missing items.  He's still missing a lot of stuff, but he's feeling better knowing that at least there is progress being made and that someone is in jail.

Me?  I'm just glad that we're moving forward and putting this horrible experience behind us...and that bastard is sitting in the Umatilla County Jail!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's the Economy

This past week there has been a lot in the news about the economy.   Just when the media is reporting that our economy is turning around, I'm starting to see the impact of our reckless economic policies. For months I saw the reports on television about the housing crisis, and I heard the monthly unemployment statistics, but in spite of all the reporting, it didn't really hit home for me.  My life wasn't impacted.   It wasn't personal.  It was easy to dismiss the story of the family who didn't pay their mortgage.  I could chalk it up to making bad decisions and over-extending their spending.  They didn't make responsible choices.  As someone who has never been out of work for an extended period of time, it was difficult for me to imagine going months or years without a job offer.  I could rationalize that they're being too choosy or not trying hard enough.  It was easy to stay in my comfort zone, blame the victim, and distance myself from the possibility of economic disaster.

Last week I had an email from a former co-worker.  He is my age, late fifties/early sixties.  We worked together in the Migrant Education/ESL Program in the early days of my educational career.  He's a smart guy with advanced degrees.  I remember that he was a good writer.  He played the guitar and used music in his English as a second language classes.  Although he is a native English speaker, he spoke Spanish fluently.  He has been out of work for several years.  He sent me a note because he was "mourning" his early educational career.  He remembers it as a time where his work was valued and his supervisors were supportive.  He wonders who decided that the work we did, educating migrant children, was not worthwhile or worthy of continued funding.  He has held several teaching positions since that time and then worked in the business sector, but lost his job when a hearing loss impacted his ability to do his job. He has actively searched for work for several years.  Most recently he was searching openings for farm workers, but worries that he does not have the physical stamina to work in the field all day.  Here is someone who has followed all the rules.  He went to college and completed advanced degrees.  He learned a foreign language.  He married and raised a family and contributed to his community.  He can't find a job.

My son-in-law lost his job in October.  He's also followed all the rules.  He has a college degree, not in one of those fluffy liberal arts areas, but in chemistry. He has a solid employment history of challenging positions. Several years ago he accepted his "dream job"and moved his family to Austin, Texas. They bought a house and settled in to raise their family. When his employer was unable to renew government contracts, he was among the staff who were let go.   He is aggressively looking for a job, but has been unsuccessful.

I was in Austin last month to visit my grandchildren. My youngest granddaughter is four and until her father lost his job, she attended a preschool/daycare program. When daddy first lost his job her parents decided to keep her in preschool for half a day to minimize the impact on her schedule. A half day of preschool in Austin is $600.00 a month. After three months out of work they could no longer afford $600.00 a month for preschool.

Monday morning, while her older sister was at school, the two of us went on an adventure.  She wanted to ride the merry-go-round and then go to lunch at McDonald's.   We sat on the plastic furniture by the play structure at McDonald's and my granddaughter said to me, " I really miss my friends at school. I'll never see them again. I really loved my school, Nana." 

The economy has become personal.
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