Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fabulous Fall

One of the two maples next to our driveway.

Finally, the maple trees in front of the house have turned red.  Several years ago, probably ten or more, we had new neighbors move in next door.  The first thing they did was chop down an old maple tree that was smack dab between our two driveways.  I came home from work to a very empty space, and a proud neighbor who shouted over to me, "Looks great, doesn't it?"  I wanted to cry, and I think I did.

The next weekend I went out to a nursery and bought two spindly maple trees and had my husband plant them on either side of our driveway, fully within our own property lines. Surprisingly, we still have a fairly good relationship with those neighbors . . . who have proceeded to chop down every tree on their property!

When I bought the trees, I asked specifically for trees that would turn color early in the fall.  Someone lead me astray and I got a little cranky that first year as I waited, and waited, and waited some more for the gorgeous red that comes so painstakingly slow to those trees.  But, oh boy, when it finally arrived, it was worth the wait.  I love the brilliant red, and have resigned myself to boasting that I have the last trees to turn in our section of town. 

This fall has been nothing short of fabulous.  Two weekends ago, I was fortunate to reunite with the infamous blogging Vashonistas, who all brought cameras and posted amazing photos on their blogs ~ DebDJanSallyJann, and our organizer, Linda.  I think I'm the last one to blog about the reunion!  I wrote about it last year here.  My camera took lousy photos, for some reason, so I am especially enjoying the ones my fellow bloggers posted!

Taking off for Vashon this year, Deb and I wondered if it could possibly surpass our inaugural meeting in 2012.  Spending precious time with Deb, my traveling companion, dear friend and confidant, and co-cook in the kitchen, was an added bonus.  We needn't have worried, as every moment that someone was awake was filled with conversation and laughter.  We ate well, got more exercise than some of us bargained for, and renewed our friendships.  The weather was nearly perfect, and the occasional drizzle didn't slow us down, or dampen our spirits, one bit.

This morning I am blessed with a bit of extra time, as I have a follow up appointment with the dermatologist in a couple hours for my full body check!  Not one I look forward to, as last time I had two biopsies and cancer was discovered on my face.  I neglected to post about that somewhat traumatizing experience, but it's over now, and amazingly, the scar is barely noticeable.  Those surgeons are pretty good!

A later start gave me the luxury of an invigorating walk before breakfast, and although it is still foggy, it was pleasant wearing a sweatshirt.  It was the first walk I've taken since the Vashon weekend, as I ended up with quite a bit of knee pain for most of the week following our hike. For those who knew me before partial knee replacement in 2011, I'm still fighting discomfort and unable to hike as I could prior to surgery.  In fact, I have an appointment with the surgeon later this month to discuss the situation.

I love the vibrant colors of fall.  I love crunching through crisp golden leaves, big harvest moons, and cold, clear days. Walking into work last Friday, I looked over at my favorite maple tree in front of the school and realized there were just a few straggling leaves left.  Just a hint of moisture hovered in the air from my expelled breath and as I burst into the office I exclaimed, "Call me crazy, but I absolutely love fall mornings!"  The secretary looked at me as if I was truly insane, and shook her head, laughing.  Not everyone is an leaf lover, I guess.

Autumn is chock full of some of my favorite things ~ crisp apples, orange pumpkins, and anything made from either of those two food items.  I look forward to the new school year, fresh faced students, the heady scent of a just opened box of crayola crayons.  The days are full of promises, and the nights are beginning to lengthen ~ I anticipate the pleasure of curling up with a good book and a cup of tea in front of the stove.

This year feels like an ending rather than a beginning.  As I readied my classroom, met my students and their parents, began the arduous task of learning new requirements, and planning for upcoming curriculum changes, I found myself at a crossroads.  It's leaving time.  If I stick to my plan, this will be my last "beginning of the year" September. I thought I'd be excited about it.  I thought I couldn't wait for this.  But now, I don't know what to think.

I should be rejoicing. I feel like crying. And it's not just because it seems I always have a week's worth of papers to read, mark, and record.  Surely I would miss this aspect of teaching, wouldn't I?

I suppose.

Just a couple weeks ago we held fall conferences.  I diligently went through the grade book, determined averages, recorded missing assignments, and typed up a half-sheet to give to the parents of each of my 27 students regarding each subject.  At first, I was just planning to do this for my ELL students, as they will be translated into Spanish.  Then, I decided, "What the heck!  I'll just do it for everyone."  While I've always prepared a hand written sort of progress report for parents at conferences, I hadn't typed them up before.  I now think it's a great idea and wish I'd thought of it years ago.

It doesn't really make much sense, but I'm going to miss fall conferences!  Exhausting as they are to prep for, I love the opportunity to get to know the families of my students, and for them to get to know me.

As I write, I also think about why retirement seemed like such a good idea last spring when David and I talked about it.  We had just lost David's closest and longest friend to brain cancer.  We were numb with grief and the shock of how quickly life can be extinguished. We looked at each other and both agreed that life was too short; and we wanted to make the most of whatever years (months?? days??) we have left. So, we discussed finances and made some decisions.  I was practically giddy with the thought of being "done" with the continual political demands of teaching that have so little to do with teaching.

Right now, I can honestly say the last thing I want to do is retire.  I love my job.  I love the kids, and some of my favorite people are my fellow teachers.  And, I selfishly think about how much I enjoy a steady paycheck, that allows me to live, if not in luxury, at least in comfort. I'm happy with my life as it is, and while I really do want to retire and travel in the near future, I'm not so sure it needs to be this coming June.

I'm not making any definite decisions, yet.  But I am going to enjoy this fabulous fall with every fiber of my being, knowing well that there are no guarantees in how many my future holds. 


  1. It sounds to me like you might be handing back the crayons a little early, Sandi. I was so ready to retire that I could hardly wait. It doesn't seem like that's true for you. Nobody is forcing you to do anything, so I applaud your idea of waiting to see if you still feel the same way this coming spring. And if so, I hope you do stay on! And it's so nice to see you back in the blogosphere! Sending you hugs. :-)

  2. So good to hear from you, Sandi. A teacher like you who still LOVES the job should definitely stay. You really don't sound "used up" yet! However, I must tell you that retirement is pretty great! Your trees are so pretty. I'm seeing white here, so I'll enjoy your red.

  3. Oh, Sandi, so good to see your name! You have had some rough times since your last post.

    In all things, there comes a time to walk away to something else. Retiring from the classroom was the hardest thing I had to do. Even now, when I see school supplies for sale, I feel a pang.

    Keep posting. Susan

  4. It is wonderful to see a post from you Sandi!!
    Your trees are beautiful!

  5. From one who knows - Retirement can be wonderful and it can be sad and lonely also. What I miss the most are the people. I miss someone saying hello to me everyday; I miss sharing stories of the weekend on Monday; I missed doing something meaningful. I do not miss the deadlines, the anxiety, and the everyday traffic. Retirement is a mixed bag and if you do retire, make sure you have some sort of plan on how you want to spend your time. It took me awhile to get into it but once I found my way and started anew, things fell into place. There is a certain joy about staying in bed on a snowy or rainy day.

    I also love the smell of a new box of crayons.

  6. For us teachers, fall is such a time of new beginnings, just as in nature it is a time for endings. I love that fall goes out in a blaze of glory.
    The year I finally retired, I was so ready. I had put it off a year longer than planned so that I could get our finances in better shape. We paid off the mortgage and the car loans, and our share of the new family beach cabin.
    I announced early that last year that it would be my last. I lightened my load a little bit each month as I progressed to leaving in June. I was so ready.
    After retirement, I did miss the intellectual activity, the problem solving, for a while. But I did not miss the politics of education, or the awful responsibility of trying to meat so many needs. It has been eight years now. Retirement is wonderful.
    You will decide for yourself, of course. Only you will know when you are really ready.

  7. Firstly, great trees and lovely colours! Hope you keep well Sandi- I too am thinking of working less hours to have more quality time and freelance writing time- I think every day we can feel differently about the future- so go with the flow-!

  8. Can you do semi-retirement /substitute teaching instead of the big leap to retirement? In a few years time, my husband hopes to work four days a week teaching instead of five, and I continue to work only when the phone rings to come in. Best of both worlds that way without feeling you've said goodbye.
    So good to see you posting again Sandi, and appreciated your recent visit and comment.
    (My parents sold the house where they'd lived for 55 years a while back. You can imagine how established their beautiful garden was and how hard they worked to maintain and enhance it for the sale - heartbreaking for both them and neighbours to find there is now not a stick of it left - all gravel.)

  9. You've done an amazing job of sorting things out here. Sorry we wrecked your knee, but glad you're finally getting help there. If we retire together we could celebrate together with that trip to Italy. Love you.

  10. Teaching is like my dream job. No wonder you do not feel like retiring.


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