Monday, September 25, 2017

I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here, or "Summertime Extended"

In the musical Annie, the cute little orphan lands in Daddy Warbucks' mansion and sings a song celebrating how much her life has changed for the better. I feel a little bit like that kid today. I am back at school of all places as I say this, and I am watching a room full of high school juniors taking a practice ACT test, but I also have time while my eyes are on them to do a little blogging.  

In my last post, I shared a little about our "new adventure" into owning a second home in a place where we one day hope to retire. This weekend, we "bunked out" and scooted up North to escape the heat of Saint Louis. As it turns out, Michigan was experiencing its own "extended summer with temps in the upper 80s pushing toward 90. (still cooler than in the Lou!) Friday was a half day of school for us,  and on Thursday night Ed said, "Let's go North tomorrow!" With nothing holding us back and a light day coming up on Monday (another half day) I said, "Okay!"

So we grabbed the dogs and by 12:30 we were in the Subaru headed northward. We arrived by 8pm to find our grandkids in the driveway waiting for us. Well, they didn't really know it was going to be us, their dad kept them in the dark about what he was up to as they went for an evening bike ride, timed to coincide with our arrival. The result was a delight- their faces lit up as they saw us pull in and they yelled, "What are you doing here?!" (to which we answered - "We live here-it's our house!")
What followed was a weekend that went fast and was TONS of fun. The greyhounds were, at first, not quite sure about what to make of this new place, but as you can see they quickly "got adjusted" and found spots to chill out!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Life in Two Time Zones

Have been feeling a bit fragmented during the past month. We took a huge leap and we purchased a home in the town where we hope to eventually retire. All this thinking of slowing down and taking life a bit more easy is highly contagious. It makes me almost yearn for the next few years to pass quickly, which according to my sainted grandmother is "wishing your life away" and a huge no-no! So I am not going to focus on that in this post, but rather on what this choice represents for Ed and I.

Our new house is six hours away from where we presently live and work. It is to be a vacation/holiday house until the time comes when we can move there permanently. I am really excited in that this is the first time we have actually chosen where we want to live.

In our profession, Lutheran teaching, you go where you are "called" to be and that could take you anywhere. Often it is in a direction away from what is familiar or what is near family. So for 40 years of our married life we have done just that. We have lived 35 of those years where we presently are, but it wasn't a place we chose for ourselves. We came here because we were asked to come here, felt it was where we could serve, and we stayed. But we miss the North.

Michigan, with its lakes, beaches, and winter snow,  will always be "home" to us. One of our daughters and her family live in the town where we will be retiring. The new house is a little smaller than our current house. Going to be downsizing and are pretty excited to think about that. It's all a new and somewhat strange way to be thinking about the future while still fully functioning in our current roles and employment.

The new house is in a different time zone both literally and metaphorically speaking. Where we presently live is our life full of schedules, demands, and commitments. Where we will live in the future is a wide open and rather unstructured lifestyle with the freedom to do as we please and to enjoy times with our extended family. I am so grateful that we are at a point where we can do this. It feels like we have "plans" and some direction for our coming years. God-willing there will be many happy times spent in our new home even as we wait to get to live there permanently. One week from today we sign the papers and the adventure of "two time zones" officially begins! Praying that it will be blessed in many new and exciting ways as we transition into it!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Eve - and Lessons from a Kayak

Summer is ending... or more to the point, summer HAS ended for Ed and I. Classes begin this week at our school and last week faculty obligations and meetings kicked into high gear. We are back to a schedule and routine of a teacher. So last night we took a little time and tossed our kayaks onto the roof rack and headed for Creve Coeur Lake for some paddle time.

I can't begin to tell you exactly how paddling a kayak about a small lake will relax you and help you sort things out. Out on the water there is almost always a breeze. We went out at about 5 and the animals along the shores were feeding and drinking. In one cove we counted over 7 egrets and saw a doe and her fawn come down to wade and drink in the shallows. It was so quiet and peaceful. I almost physically felt my anxious thoughts for the week ahead fly off on the breeze. The effort of paddling and moving forward on the water got me thinking of how I move through a school year.

This morning I am at my desk at school trying to wrap up the final tasks leading up to the arrival of new students tomorrow. I will be seeing about 70 per day this term and I am excited to see what the new year holds. What new challenges will they bring to me? What new ideas that I have been concocting will work the best? Will they enjoy the lessons I am planning to launch? Will they get what they need for moving forward in years to come? Lots of things to wonder about.

Teachers get a "new year" twice a year. The one that comes in August/September is just as packed with anticipation and resolutions as the one that comes in January. Happy New Year folks - Keep paddling forward!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Walking at Sunset

Took a lovely stroll after dinner in our nearby park as the sun was sinking low. The park is one of our favorite place to walk and there are lovely paved paths that wind through it, making it a perfect place to go with the greyhounds.

The park tonight was alive with activity. The most noticeable was the groups of kids and parents doing "conditioning" for Little League Football. Now I use the term conditioning with a just a little bit of a grin. The athletes involved were all between the ages of 5-7 years old! So some of them could barely see about the face guard on their tiny helmets. Others were busy doing anything but what the grown-up coaches were barking at them to do. One little guy decided he'd rather do cartwheels than run toward a blocking pad that his dad was holding up as a target. It was hilarious. When they would tumble they would fall into little heaps on the grass and ended up looking like someone ha tossed a jersey on the grass, but then the jersey would wiggle and up would pop a little boy! Funny!

Also in the park were a good number of dog walkers and just plain walkers as well. So there was a lot of tail wagging and sniffing going on. There was a lovely breeze blowing and it was a little hard to believe that it was August based on the temperatures. I found myself making a mental pact with myself not to let the opportunities to walk in the evening slip by once school gets up and going. There is nothing more relaxing than a walk after dinner... even the greys loved it. (Of course, they are presently sacked out on the floor snoozing.) Perfect ending to a perfect day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Thoughts Inspired by Cleaning House (well, really... a File Cabinet)

Worked most of the morning cleaning out a file cabinet. Well, reorganizing it and pitching stuff, that is. It struck me, as I worked, that I actually go into my file cabinet less and less frequently as the years go by. Technology has perhaps changed this more than anything in my teaching life. I don't keep "paper stuff" anymore at the levels that I once did.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of this? Aside from saving a few trees, there are some things to consider as well. Going paperless means you are comfortable shifting your trust in having a tangible copy to whatever computer and storage method you have for keeping a digital copy. We are seeing the downsides of this in the move to digital photos. People have their entire lives and all their memories on their phones! Great until you drop it in the sink... and then all your stories and photos go literally down the drain. So we come up with cloud or backup storage devices for our photos... the electronic equivalent of a file cabinet (or my grandma's shoeboxes in the attic).

Today, I needed to move some files from one digital storage (computer) to another (Lacie drive) and quickly discovered that not all my classroom computers worked with an external drive that just 5 years ago was the go-to device for backing up files. How do we keep pace with this kind of change?

Do I have an answer? Not completely.

I do know that I have found myself watching for cloud storage sites and services, hoping that they will have the means and the stability to give me a place to find things many years down the road. However, and this is ironic, I have found myself actually being very aware of having photos and important documents PRINTED out as well as having digital copies. This is especially true of my photos. I won't print every adorable shot I have taken of the grandkids, but I will print enough of them that my memories of them will be able to be accessible to me wherever I am living in the future. And in the meantime, I enjoy them in their electronic format as well.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Delaying Gratification

When I was a new parent, I remember reading a lot about how to teach a child to delay gratification. Mind you, I was in teacher training at the time, and my daughter Gret got to be a guinea pig for many of the classroom skills I was learning to use. Ed used to laugh at me and state that "she will either end up very smart or hopelessly confused!" I think she's done pretty well as she's now working as a University Vice-President and raising two very lovely girls of her own! (brag moment there, sorry!)

Anyways, the gist of the above is that I am presently reflecting on this very vital life/school skill and actually putting some of it into practice in my personal life. As a few of you know, we recently found the "house of our dreams" for retirement in my husband's hometown of St. Joseph, Michigan. We went up this summer with only intent to "start looking" and literally stumbled upon the house that fit ALL our wishlist requirements. So what do you do? Well, you buy it, of course; because when you are ready to retire, you don't want the house that fits you perfectly belonging to someone else! So we did just that. And now, the itch to retire has become a very present and much more obvious reality. One that I will have to learn to control, since at present I am only 62 and not yet eligible for Medicare. However, we will get to use our "house of dreams" in the summers and on holidays for the next few years, and should grace or gainful employment allow us to relocate in advance of our retirement ages, that would be an added blessing. It's really exciting and awesome to think about a place sort of waiting for you. Decisions about the future are never easy, so having the "where" of this figured out makes figuring out the "when" of it a little less stressful.

Now to thinking about school. I am forcing myself to physically work in my classroom this week... since we go back to meetings next week and start classes the week following. I am making myself get up, do my a.m. routine, and everything. Had fun cleaning and puttering in the classroom today and am sitting at my desk there as I write this. How will I teach my students patience and delay of gratification this year. Will they be willing to trust themselves to wait for good results as they work through their writing and thinking with me this term. I have a large bunch of sophomores this year for a change. I love their puppy-like energy and enthusiasm. They are so focused on the "Big thing" (driving) that looms on their horizon in this year of their lives. They make me smile since I can still recall the first time I stepped on an accelerator with my dad beside me in the front seat bravely believing I would not, in fact, kill him! Patience is a virtue... and we can all use more; myself included! Have a great day!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dinosaur ruminations: Can't We Just Exercise Civility?

Manners have apparently become a thing for the dinosaurs. Today and yesterday we were greeted by news stories about the "Mooch", the man who has become the President's new Press Secretary. Over and over again we had to listen to warnings about the vulgarity of his language. He is referred to as having been "unplugged" After wishing someone would put the plug back in, my main thought was, "Where have all the gentlemen gone?" Okay, I know I am dating myself here, but while I may have heard men of my childhood speak an occasional cuss word, I NEVER heard the "f-bomb" come flying out of the mouths of my dad, or any of the men in my immediate family and friends circle. (Of course, back in my day, even high school guys of my age didn't unplug that expletive without facing down a lot of disapproval! The fact that it is now something a man who is supposed to represent the White House to the public can just let fly out of his mouth is appalling to me as a citizen.

So I have to ask, where has simply civility gone? Is it now "okay" (allowable) to say whatever you wish, however you wish, and wherever you wish? Does public disapproval of the "Mooch" mean anything at all? Should we be able to expect the President to hold his staff to a higher standard as they speak to the American people? Wish I had the answers. I know I wish things were different.

Only a Week to Go

This summer flew by! I honestly have no idea where it went. Ended the school year last May on a high note. Ed and I celebrated our 40th and 35th years of teaching. How strange to consider. I recall as a fairly new teacher observing people celebrate such landmark points and thinking, wow! They are so OLD. (Proof that what goes around does truly come around!)

Travels this summer included our trip to Paris, Normandy, and London. Had an awesome time with a smal close-knit group of 7 travelers. Enjoyed every minute of the time there and saw so many amazing things. Felt very safe in spite of all the news to the contrary about terrorism. The resilience of the people in Europe as they cope with the refugee crisis happening globally and do their best to help is inspiring. The wonderful diversity of people in Europe always makes me feel excited to be living in the times I do. We have so many opportunities to learn from others and to experience cultures that my grandparents' generation never did. It's quite amazing when you stop to consider it. This trip we saw some new things, including the British Library, the British Museum, the Churchill War Rooms, the Fountains of Versailles, and the Beaches of Normandy and the American Cemetery there. All of it was unique and wonderful.

Of course late June meant Grandcamp with the five grandkids. This is our 3rd year doing it. All the kids come to town for a week and we go all over exploring and doing things, This summer their ages ranged from 4-15. Ree was finally big enough to tackle the adventures involved with the City Museum, so off we went. I was so impressed with her pluck as she tried everything that someone 4 years old could do. We were blessed with fantastic weather, mild temps and no rain. We also went to the Muny as a gang of 8 and saw The Little Mermaid. It was a great week!

July has been a nice slow month. We splurged on two kayaks and have done some paddling and hiking. I continue to be a bit more active each week as my progress with Weightwatchers has helped me lose 27#s since last April.  In late July we went North for a week spending time in Wisconsin and Michigan.

The biggest news is that we are ending the summer by purchasing a HOUSE! Yes, we already have a house where we have lived for 32 years, but this house is in Michigan where we hope to retire in the next 4-8 years! So, if all goes well, we will own a house there by the end of August! Stay tuned for further developments!

Friday, February 10, 2017

February makes me shiver....

Well toward the middle of February and winter just won't stay and keeps tempting us with days in the high 60s interspersed with days of 20 or lower. Frustrating! Lots of flu-ish and strep-type bugs floating through the halls of school these days.

On a good note, Gretchen is doing well 3 surgeries down the path from where we started. She is now clear for preventative radiation and we believe that her prognosis is very good. It has been a scary three months or so for all of us as we watched her progress so closely.

Jan 20th came and went and it's now been 3 full weeks since our new President was inaugurated. The state of the Nation is very tense and watchful. I don't even think his supporters feel completely safe these days as programs of all sorts are in a state of upheaval. It remains to be seen if he will last - as it seems each day he breaks some rule of order or fails to follow the protocols of good governing. We may not ever have a first lady in the White House as his wife is not amenable to living in it. It makes one feel uneasy much of the time.

Hoping for better things ahead as spring must eventually come.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Odds and Ends and Catching Up!

Well the first term of the 2016-17 school year is just 3 days and exams from being finished and SOOOOOO much has happened since I last wrote!

The last 4 months have flown by...really flown! In that time we have elected a new President. Not going to go all political on here. Let's just say my candidate didn't win. Nuff said.

I have organized my next travel trip with students and we are headed to London and Paris with pop over to Normandy in early June of 2017. Should be a blast! Our school's librarian and her husband are going along so we will all have a splendid time checking on the sites and seeing that part of the world.

We put our vineyard on the market and are hoping to sell it before the end of the year. Time to try new things and free ourselves up on weekends. we did it for 17 years.... and enjoyed it. Ready for new adventures.

Recently we have found ourselves praying a lot for our eldest daughter who was diagnosed with breast cancer in early December. She is having surgery on the 23rd, and the prognosis is very good. We are hopeful a lumpectomy with followup treatment and frequent rechecks will see her into the New Year cancer free. Have to say having the "c" word come up in relationship with your child is a real life-reckoning moment. Don't want to ever have that happen again if I can help it. Thanking God for doctors, health care, regular exams and 3-D mammography which made catching and treating Gret's cancer possible!

Beyond all of the above, I have spent my fall being what I do best, a teacher. Had some great classes to teach this year. Feel myself going slower as I work, and figure that being 61 is all about pacing yourself as you go along. Feel blessed to work with great people and mostly great students. Life is good and I am taking it at a pace I can manage. Will write more in the new year!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

It's a Masterpiece

Sunday night is THE night for any real television in our household and PBS is solely to blame. Their show Masterpiece Theater and Masterpiece Mystery have utterly and completely consumed my viewing time for as long as I can remember.

Tonight is the official "last Sunday night" of summer. I am ready (if wistfully so) for school to begin on Tuesday. But for tonight there is Masterpiece.... oh, and also Chinese takeout because that's the best thing to eat while watching PBS on Sunday night, right?

What's your favorite TV addiction? 'Fess up - you know you want to tell! Have a great fall, dear readers!