Monday, September 10, 2018

Now September

I am into my third week of school. Teachers hit the ground running, and we haven't had time to stop. The needs are many. It's all hands on deck all the time. I have had three IEP meetings already and another one is scheduled for later this week. Assessments are already underway and will continue through this month. It's like we never left.

I had hoped I wouldn't be back this year. I gave myself permission to think about that possibility after April break. It was the only way I could see myself able to finish the year. Mid-May I took a hard look at my room and started organizing it so I could slowly, discreetly take everything that is personally mine home with me. It worked. On the last day of school I was the first one out of the building. I had all the paperwork done, the room ready for cleaning, and no need to return for anything should that be possible.

Every single day of summer was wonderful. There was literally not a bad day. As I wrote in my last post, the summer started strong and it continued that way right up until the last day, when my son and his family were wrapping up a five-day visit. We even had a chance to get the three cousins together that Sunday.

I had until the last day of July to say I wouldn't return for this school year. A teacher "can't" resign in August, and after that they are required by contract to give 30 days notice.

I met with my financial advisor in late July. I had done the numbers before the meeting and was sure what the score was: it would be better for me to keep working. We would be okay if I got done, but there would be no wiggle room. By working another year I can add more to my retirement and put more money in savings. It also gives us time to better invest Ken's 401K in a diversified portfolio with a better average return, and we won't need to dip into that for at least another year. We will by no means ever being living high. The goal is to feel secure enough with what we have on the books, even if there is an unexpected expense, which we know there will be somewhere along the way.

So I'm back in the classroom. I know I will do what is best for the kids. My struggle is to take care of myself, too. Some mornings the vertigo is back. I start with intention and work to stay present. I am staying later at school to work and hope to get to the point where I don't bring work home in the evenings.

I have claimed weekends as mine and don't plan to do schoolwork. There's still time to go the beach with my daughter and granddaughter. There are planned visits this coming weekend with all the grown children and three grandchildren. These are the people I love and the moments that matter the most. The rest is day-to-day and what needs to get done will get done. We'll see how it goes.

Two grandchildren at the beach ~

The three cousins ~

Monday, July 16, 2018

Saving Time

School ended three weeks ago Friday, and I have been soaking up the days like a sponge. Every day I wake up grateful to have the day to spend as I want.

The first week of my summer vacation I drove to Pittsburgh to see my sister, visiting from Scotland, and a good friend who drove over from eastern Pennsylvania for a visit.

The next week my husband and I met our son and his family at the airport in Boston. They had a lot of luggage as they are moving back to the east coast. Ken and I watched our grandchildren while our son and daughter-in-law started house hunting. We enjoyed two days together, including a July 4 cook-out with friends.

All the while I was aware that my friend Barbara was fighting for her life. In April 2017 she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Over the next 14 months she did everything a person can do to overcome cancer, and she did it with grace and humor and dignity. April this year she underwent a stem cell transplant, which often works when other treatments have failed. It appeared to be successful at first, and then at the end of June the cancer returned. There were complications from the stem cell transplant, and Barbara passed from this world a week ago. She touched so many lives and will be missed by so many that it's impossible to put into words the sadness that we feel.

That time is precious has been the theme this summer. It's not that I expect to live forever. It is that I want to appreciate the time I have. Today I found myself thinking about saving time. I stopped to ask what that means ~ to save time. Is that possible? I don't think it is. I think the answer is to appreciate the moments as they happen, to say yes, to stay present, and to be grateful.

I've turned to sewing to work through my questions and grief. Fabric therapy always helps. The first two projects use pink and yellow and orange ~


There is a pink and green quilt top in the works. I want to get back to making clothes. There's time... as the journey continues.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Do You Say Good-bye?

I sit here devastated at the news of the passing of a friend I never met in person. I got word from a friend via Facebook messenger this evening that a mutual blogging friend has died while neither of us knew she was ill. Apparently she kept the news private. Her name was Karin Bugge aka Altadena Hiker. Her writing was witty and smart and funny. She wrote about her dog Albert and the stray cat she started feeding and accidentally adopted. She painted her house and hiked in the hills and cared about community causes.

A year and a half ago I felt compelled to make Karin a set of cloth napkins. I had inherited several prints in a series called "Silent Cinema." Karin loved movies as much as I do and we traded posts about recommended favorites. I was working on another project with some of the prints and decided I wanted Karin to have some napkins because of the cinema connection. I made them up, emailed her for her address, and sent them off. She was delightfully surprised and sent the nicest note to thank me. I will always be glad I followed through with that impulse....

Last year Karin and I messaged back and forth about traveling across the country. She had mentioned she would like to visit Maine, and I wanted to make sure I was here if she planned a trip. I was headed to San Jose, which is several hours away from Altadena, and I couldn't see a way to connect with her on that trip. Then I considered traveling to that area in February but that didn't materialize. I looked forward to having a reason to travel to that part of California and getting a chance to meet her in person. I regret that we didn't get to talk face to face.

I never got a chance to say hello and I'm not sure how to say good-bye.

I turned to one of my favorite poets and found a poem that feels right for this moment. Karin cared about the world and loved animals and marveled at so many things around her. She artfully shared what she thought was important. She will be missed.

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond
by Mary Oliver

As for life,
I'm humbled,
I'm without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these 
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen -
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.

It suffices, it is all comfort -
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when 
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can't wait to be the hummingbird,
can you? 

Monday, January 8, 2018

A New Year

And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.
 - Rainer Maria Rilka

The holiday break was wonderful, though woefully short. The weather turned brutally cold the weekend of New Year's and just today started to warm up. 

We had a snow day on Thursday, when a storm swept through with a foot of snow and a couple hours of blizzard conditions in the afternoon. Ken got up and went to work before the snow started. Wednesday night I got the call that school would be closed... 

and I reveled in the thought of being home alone all day. There was the gray stillness that precedes a storm, and the house was filled with natural daylight through every window. Coffee in hand, I periodically looked outside for snow. There were sewing projects in progress in two rooms, laundry going downstairs, and preparations for a pie underway in the kitchen. I walked on the treadmill, caught up with people online, worked on organizing last year's photos, and tidied surfaces as I moved through the house.

I wrapped myself in the day, an unexpected opportunity to enjoy all my favorite things at home. 

It may be the last snow day I have at home alone. 

As of today Ken is retired. Officially he is on the rolls until the end of the month, but that's as much a formality with the union as anything. He worked the first week of the new year because of a technicality that will work in his favor. It also gave him a chance to have breakfast and lunch with co-workers to say farewell.

I have known for a year this this day was coming. It wasn't my decision to make but one I have to live with now. I haven't been able to see all that this means for the future, and I had to let go of trying to figure that out. I know I will miss my solitary routines and the days home alone when school is not in session. This is a life-changing event that I have no control over. I haven't written about it and will share few details here about my struggle with this decision over the last year. There have been lots of ins and outs, and there are still some things to put in place. Perhaps as the dust settles I will figure out a way to share how I'm feeling as we go along.

Some months ago I turned to the serenity prayer as I settled into bed for the night. I was reaching for something I could repeat in hopes of soothing my overactive mind so I could get to sleep. I would say all three lines, and then I would repeat the first line again and again, sometimes until I fell asleep ~ God please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. It helps, and a week ago it became obvious to me that my word for 2018 is acceptance. It fits. It showed itself and made itself at home to help me start the year.

Thank you to all of you who have stopped by to check in. It has been good to reconnect. I have missed writing and plan to be more present in the coming weeks.

And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been