Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

It’s been a weekend and a half!  Mostly because, if this was a normal weekend, it would be over!  But, it’s not.  It’s Memorial Weekend, so I have an extra day.  It feels like a Saturday and I couldn’t be happier about that!

Most folks would consider me a bit crazy, but I spent 8 hours at work yesterday, and another 4 hours today.  And, while I truly worked hard, it felt so good.  I had the entire building to myself, and I felt like I had this glorious free weekend to do some serious cleaning out and de-cluttering, without a single interruption.  I was thoroughly enjoying the quiet time, the reminiscing and discoveries of mementoes from previous students.  I found a few things that had been hopelessly lost for years, and reveled in my solitude.

As a consequence of my labors, I cleared out two large cupboards, putting many found treasures (left over from previous years teaching second grade) out for my colleagues to rummage through when they return on Tuesday.  I unearthed dozens of books that had been in storage, which are now in baskets on the back table for my current students to paw through and take home a couple good reads for the summer. There are also doodads and trinkets and goofball stuff I’ve been hanging onto, that 5th graders will swoon over when we have our final “auction” in a few days.

I have space in my cupboards, and that is exciting.  I have my teaching posters and content specific materials all organized neatly into huge Ziploc bags and shelves are labeled so I’ll be able to find stuff in August!  I’ve got my orders ready for Print Shop for the beginning of the year.  I’m still a long ways from being ready to walk out of there, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been before at this time of the year. 

Last week a couple of my girls organized the class library, getting books put back into their appropriate genre bins.  This week, I’ll go through those as well, pulling out duplicates and gathering a pile for a friend who is returning to a 5th grade classroom come September. While I’ve always known I’m a book lover, I’ve come to the realization that I’m a book hoarder.  I cling to the old and the new, the amazing and the not-so-great, and I buy more every month! After ten years of this book behavior, storage has become a huge issue.  I have boxes of books in my garage, and boxes of books in my cupboards at school, and thousands of books on the classroom shelves.  It’s time to share the wealth, and time to stop buying . . . maybe!

This weekend gift of time was delightful.  I love the feeling of tidiness, and that I’ve made such strong progress.  Next week I’ll attack the stuffed four drawer file cabinet, and the five file boxes that are crammed with way more teaching materials than any teacher has a right to hang onto. My goal is for the five file boxes to be empty, and the cabinet to be organized. (Trim down those three huge files all labeled “area” for a start J)

Perhaps my enthusiasm comes from the need to be done with this year.  It’s been a difficult one.  They always are, in one way or another, but this one has been especially energy draining. While I truly love my job, and each of the kids, there were a few that were just a bit too demanding, emotionally and mentally.  What the general public doesn’t realize when they complain about lazy teachers and their summer vacations is this. Teachers need a break. It isn’t the teaching that wears teachers out; it’s the impotence to change the circumstances our students live in.  It’s the losing battle over, intentional or not, the values students come in with, the lack of sleep or decent meals, the learned disrespect of others, and the apathetic view of education. 

Hardest of all to handle is the student view of entitlement.  They are entitled to interrupt, ignore anyone they don’t care to listen to, be first, and be excused.  They are entitled to refuse to cooperate, participate, or to contribute.  They are entitled to push others out of the way, bully or call names, and break any rules they chose to. They are entitled to be late on assignments, bringing notes from their parents to excuse them. Not all go to extremes with poor behavior, but many do. Even the best and the brightest, the gifted and talented, those with two parents, a strong work ethic, and bred for politeness, still act entitled. 

I don’t for the life of me know how this post morphed in a direction I never intended it to go, but I’m not going to change it.  I imagine some folks sit down to write and know exactly where they’re headed.  Sometimes I do . . . and, sometimes I don’t!  Regardless, I’ve had a long, hardworking weekend, and by golly, I’m entitled to head to bed with a good book!  Good night!

Friday, May 27, 2011


I entered the freeway and almost immediately came to a near stop.  Dang, I was already perilously late for an appointment I didn't really want; yet the alternative was even worse. Fumbling for my cell, I thought I should call and let them know I’d be late, but then the traffic started moving just fast enough to help me make the wise choice of not making the phone call.

As the three lanes began to pick up speed, I glanced nervously at the clock on the dash, and then remembered it was 10 minutes fast.  I attempted to pay attention to traffic, and rehearsed my questions in my head, willing myself not to forget two that I hadn’t already written down.  I had my knee journal next to me, with about 15 little post-it notes sticking out from various pages.  

I haven’t been to the Salmon Creek office for a couple of years, and was nervous that I wouldn’t remember where to park, or where the office was.  Relying on mostly gut instinct, I turned into the parking garage and looked for a parking space near the elevator.  Grabbing the journal and a novel, I headed toward the elevator, and then decided to take the sky bridge to an area that looked familiar.  Imagine my surprise when I emerged not only in the correct building, but only steps from Rebound offices!  It was my lucky day, and I was ten minutes early to boot.

Fully expecting a long wait at 4:30 in the afternoon, I settled in with my book and tried to ignore the butterflies in my stomach.  After reading about two pages, I unexpectedly heard my name. Entering the exam room, I started to take a seat, but dropped my purse.  I told the nurse I was a little nervous.  She reassured me that the doctor would be happy to answer all my questions, and it was normal to feel as I did. I managed to read a couple more pages between the time she left and the doctor came in, looking as young as ever, though I did notice just a touch of grey at his temples, that I don’t recall seeing a few months ago.  My first thought was that he put it there to make him look a little more aged.  (When I told my husband, he said he probably got the grey hair because of his job!  Somehow, that wasn’t as reassuring as I’d have liked!)

He warmly greeted me then said, “I hear you have a few questions for me.”  So, I unloaded my fears, and questions and he was brutally honest and I thought seriously about walking out, if I could have trusted myself to actually move.

He went and got a model of a knee and showed me what he was going to replace.  While not as invasive as a full knee replacement, the process still involves a couple hunks of metal, with several prongs imbedded into my knee bones.  Not for the faint of heart. But, I politely listened to his answers to my questions, and I gradually became a bit more interested in what was going to happen to me.

I questioned whether I was in enough pain to warrant going through the ordeal of major joint surgery.  This is what the doctor told me.  Some people are in excruciating pain, and choose to have knee replacement.  Others have intermittent pain, and can no longer do the things they like to do that give them pleasure.  Those folks either choose to live with a less than ideal lifestyle, or choose to have a knee replacement so they can return to those former activities.

That’s all I needed to hear.  When faced with living with my knees as they are, and being miserable when I hike, so much so that I’m afraid to go far at all, it suddenly became a no brainer for me. I derive so much pleasure from being in nature, and hiking with my daughters and friends.  I am too young to give that up for the rest of my life, especially if there is a 90% or better chance of success. It came down to what I value in life. I value beauty, God’s creation, natural surroundings, friends and family. 

Altogether, I was mostly reassured. I’ll never be excited about having surgery.  I’m not looking forward to the pain and discomfort or to being unable to drive for six weeks.  But, it’s all temporary. One month from today, I'll have the partial knee replacement. I am trusting it is the right thing for me to do. 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Can

I've been thinking about attitude lately, in particular, my own attitude.  I realized recently that "I can't" are often the first words out of my mouth.  Ironically, I've always thought of myself as a "can do" person.  As in, I can do anything, and by golly, do it pretty darn well, too.  Somewhere along the way, I now find myself making excuses for being unable (translate: unwilling) to do certain activities.

Now, this isn't exactly earthshaking, but it is more than a little disconcerting.  Lately I have said, "I can't go to swim aerobics because my knees hurt." "I can't walk very far because I'm afraid of falling." "I can't get my classroom, (my sewing room, my garage, my files, etc) organized because I don't have enough time."  "I can't eat healthy because I don't want to." And, the biggie is, "I can't lose weight because I don't know how to stop eating."  Which, isn't exactly true, but it is true that my "full meter" doesn't kick in until I'm past full.  I keep overfilling my food tank, and it isn't helping me very much.  Regardless, "I can't . . . " has become my life mantra, and frankly I'm kind of sick of myself!

In talking with Terry last week, she suggested that I simply pay attention to what and why I am eating.  It's not a hard assignment, and I've managed to really think about the what and why when I've eaten the past few days.  I don't know if I've actually ate less, but I do know that I have thought twice before eating some things.  Sort of a minor breakthrough.  I can pay attention!

This afternoon my daughter Kailyn and I are going to go for a walk.  I've been looking forward to her being home this weekend, as I am afraid to walk alone.  It is true that I fall frequently, and I need to be safe, but I also don't need to treat myself as a cripple. I'll take my walking stick, and I believe I can walk for awhile with her.  Then, maybe, I'll feel confident to walk around the block tomorrow.

It always amazes me how God puts the right people in our lives at the right moments.  This week I met up with my cousin, Chris, whom I haven't seen in over 40 years!  We met for dinner with our husbands,   and had a marvelous time looking at old photos she brought, and catching up on our lives since high school.  As we parted, the talk had turned to her husband's hip replacement and my upcoming knee replacement.  Chris said, "I have come to the realization as I age, that I have to keep moving."  A simple statement.  A true statement.  Nothing new.  But, for whatever reason, I heard it.  Today, I'm moving.  I'm going to walk as far as I can, and be glad that I can.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Quilt Happy

Today was one of those rare days.  The kind of day that sweetly unfolds, and wraps you up in love.  We left home early to drive to our oldest "couple friends" in Sherwood. After arriving at their house, Dave and Dave loaded up Jen's sewing machine, fabric and quilting paraphernalia into our van, then she and I took off for Carlton.

For five bucks and the cost of a shared snack, we had the luxury of spending about six hours with five other women, cutting, sewing and pressing our little hearts out.  It was a heavenly day, surrounded by fabrics in a dizzying array of colors, textures and patterns. There were frequent oohs and aahs over someone's shared accomplishment, whether a piece, a block or a completed quilt.  Despite the chatter and breaks for snacks and shopping in the nearby shop, I surprised myself by managing to complete a quilt top for a friend's soon-to-arrive baby.

The shop was situated on the top of a series of rolling hills, and the view of farms and vineyards cascading across the fields was breathtaking.  I wanted to stay there forever. It was soothing to hang out with Jen, catching up on our lives since our last chat a few months ago. It was so good for my soul to hang out with an old friend who loves unconditionally, knows my history and finishes my sentences exactly the way I would have myself.

We topped the day off at a favorite restaurant, laughing over stories of common friends, (the "boys" spent part of their day calling some of their old cronies and planning a day trip in June to reunite) our children's escapades and a collective yearning for retirement. As Dave and I drove home later, we both felt the satisfaction and serenity that accompany time spent with friends that are closer than family.

 There were dozens of important things I perhaps could have or should have been doing today, but I'm glad I made the decision to spend the day quilt happy with an old friend.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Alone Time

 At the moment, I’m reveling in a few short hours of alone time.  It’s so rare, to get a few moments, or hours, to myself.  But, David’s at his bee meeting, and I still have an hour before he should be home. 

The first hour after he left I spent alternating between short eating frenzies and doing a load of laundry and vacuuming up the black dog hair that accumulates overnight.  It wasn’t until I was on my third (or maybe fourth . . . I wasn’t counting!) burst of chomping that I remembered something I read in a book lately about compulsive eating.  As I was literally forcing myself to finish the last few bites of a Costco muffin, which I haven’t even been tempted to eat for probably two years, I thought about why the heck I was eating it in the first place.  It certainly wasn’t due to hunger. It was mostly due to the fact that I was all alone.  It’s sad when I can’t be trusted with myself, as I always head for some type of food that I consider exceedingly unhealthy.  And the scary thing is that I’ve done that as long as I can remember, even when I was a little kid, and had no weight issues at all.

According to the book, we compulsive eaters eat to hide from something that we don’t want to face.  There could be any number of things I don’t want to face, but the most terrifying one these days is my upcoming knee surgery.  I was almost to the point I was looking forward to it, as I am so blinking tired of the achiness that wakes me every blooming night, not to mention the pain when I stand, or descend steep stairs.  But, then I went to my “knee class” on Tuesday evening and it scared the bejeebers out of me.  I hadn’t known all the gory details before, and now I realize I’m looking at serious, cut me open and saw on my bones, surgery.  Suddenly, I’m not so sure I’m in enough pain to warrant going under the knife.

I only agreed to the surgery originally because I was under the impression that having it done now, before the knees get any worse, would be less invasive and I’d be getting a “resurfacing” of the knee joint and cap, not an all out full replacement.  That, plus the fact that when I checked on insurance, I discovered that it would be covered completely, due to being double covered at the moment.  So, I thought, why not just get it done this summer and get on with life.

Unfortunately, the class I attended was a general one for people getting total knee and hip replacements, and the presenter didn’t know much about the type of surgery I am scheduled for. And, it didn’t help that most of the people there were much older than I am. And, they all had their “coach” with them, and I didn’t even know I needed a coach!  After all, I’m not having a baby!

The presenter passed around some scary looking gigantic metal knees, and talking about needing a walker for a few weeks, and sporting a 10 – 12 inch scar, and a “dressing kit” (all these cute little devices to help you get yourself presentable each day, a “sock helper” among them).  I was thinking, well, I don’t need a sock helper, as I sure as heck won’t be wearing any socks in the summer . . . until he showed us the lovely sock he was talking about, called “TEDS”, an anti-embolism stocking that I would be wearing . . . all the way up over my knee, for six stinking weeks! 24/7 . . . I was ready to make a run for it, literally! He hadn’t even got to the part about needing shots for a few weeks to prevent blood clots.

I was so freaked out that I emailed Leah, my doctor’s scheduling nurse, the next morning, who is not only used to me by now but also responds quickly, bless her heart.  She made me an appointment to sit down and chat with him again about the procedure and hopefully, I’ll be more relaxed about the whole thing. Because, deep down, I think I should do it.  But, I still don’t want to.

The good thing about spending the last hour writing is that I haven’t been eating! Hm-m-m. Perhaps I should write more, and maybe I’d eat less.  It’s possible.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day Traditions

      For the past five years or so (I'd have to actually dig out class photos to be certain) two former students who live in my neighborhood have left me a May basket.  The first year it was sweet, as they were in my class, and I thought it was such a darling thing to do.  The following year, it was a sweet surprise.  Over the past few years, I think about these two girls on May day, and fleetingly wonder, "Will they bring me a May basket today?" But, then I get busy with the day and forget until I hear the doorbell.  When I go to the door, there it is, usually a retired Easter basket (I don't know whose) filled to the brim with whatever happens to be blooming in their yards.

May Day 2011
      This year, I was running some errands, and in fact had gone to the farmer's market downtown to purchase a bouquet for myself.  I arrived home and there was this big pink Easter basket, filled to the brim with gorgeous pink blooms from a flowering cherry or plum, scattered little purple and yellow flowers, and several tulips.  The girls added little foil covered chocolate bees in the basket today and a lovely note.

     This little act of kindness and remembrance does wonders for my soul.  This has been a very long year.  I am weary of the daily battle to reach and teach those who don't want to be reached and taught.  I am weary of behaviors that leave everyone feeling ragged and worn.  I am weary of working my fingers to the bone, my mind to the brink of insanity, and the daily efforts to save the lost, who don't care to be saved.  This May Day, I needed my May basket from two girls who reminded me that I made a difference in their lives.
     Sometimes I need a reminder that the work I am doing is the work I am meant to do, and that there is a reason I am doing it.  It isn't just for a paycheck, or to become well known or famous.  I am doing the work I do because it's what I do best.  It's work that I find stimulating, engaging, challenging, and sometimes frightening.  I begin each day praying that God will help me be the teacher I need to be for each individual student.  I am challenged each day to make that happen.  It isn't easy, but it's never boring! It's what I love.

     When former students take the time to come visit, or ask to volunteer in my classroom, or remember me with a May basket, it reinforces the rightness of what I do. I am shaping the future, one student at a time. As this is just a little scary to think about,  I'll be praying ceaselessly!