Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I've got my itinerary and am flying to California on Friday for a week's visit with April, Matt, and Jocelyn. It seems so strange to not get a "ticket" any more. Like there's something missing. The ticket seems to be slipping away as an experience anymore. It used to be somehow comforting to have that thick, official piece of paper in your hand or pocket.

Airline tickets were huge and very official looking in the "old days". I just miss them. Silly me.

I am really looking forward to getting to know my granddaughter Jocelyn on this trip. She's starting to talk and I'm sure it's going to be fun. That's a wonderful age, full of learning and small adventures. I see her bright eyes in pictures and am sad that she's so far away that she and I will not be seeing each other very often.

On the other coast my three grandkids are growing up too, and I feel the same sadness times 3 that I don't get to spend much time with them. Elsa is starting to read at 5 years old, to my delight, because I love reading. I strongly suspect that kids that read early turn into adults that read often and widely. Whenever I hear someone announce that they don't read books or don't like to read, I feel sad for them because they're missing a lot of pleasure and adventure.

I've got a wonderful, tight bond with Elsa and Reagan, who spent their "early years" living close to me. We have great visits whenever I'm able to get to see them. I am worried that I'll never get to know their little brother Avery as well. The two bigger girls are full of enthusiasm to see me and grab most of my attention when I visit, and Avery gets left out because he doesn't push himself forward. He's a cute, mild-mannered, sweet little guy.

The neatest thing with grandkids is watching them become fully-featured characters as they grow. The little personality quirks they have as infants will unfold into the people they're becoming. A quiet child may develop into a very intense adult or a timid adult. A noisy, boisterous child may become a leader or a bully... you just never know when they arrive. But I know that both sets of parents are taking their responsibilities very seriously, and that is a tremendous comfort to me. I know a woman at work whose daughter got into drugs and was "with" a violent drug user in a very bad relationship. That guy "beat up" their three-month old daughter, causing serious injuries and possibly permanent brain damage. I am so thankful that nothing like that is ever going to be a possibility for my grandkids. They are safe and dearly loved.

I love the way Jonah and Stephany aren't tolerating any whining from their kids. A child that knows you don't profit from whining is going to be a much more effective and likeable adult.

I believe that the seeds of what they're going to become are all there when they arrive. But a seed can unfold and bloom as it develops to it's fullest potential or wither and fail to thrive. The key ingredients to producing a top-grade adult that will be able to access all their innate talents and strengths is loving nurture and guidance from firm and devoted parents. Thankfully, I am confident that my grandkids are in good, loving hands. Their parents are completely committed to helping their children develop into strong, well-educated, and confident adults and I'm seeing wonderful results.

Monday, July 12, 2010

We finished working on the new pantry last weekend! It looks great and we're really pleased with it and also with all the space it has for storage. It's going to make it not matter at all that the kitchen's cabinets aren't all that spacious. There's plenty of space for the stand mixer, all the plastic bowls, tons of canned goods, and the cabinet we got to put all the toxic stuff into. Oh, yes, it also holds a new smaller freezer. The huge old freezer way down in the basement is being decomissioned and is going on Craigslist.
The funny part is how I finished remodelling the big section of the back room two years ago and just never got around to the pantry. A lot of tools and supplies just got left in there and we never got the floor put in. It sat for two years, a total mess, with the door on it just closed. I don't know if it was burnout from the other project or just simple procrastination. You'd think that two years is a huge amount of time to leave it unfinished, but it didn't seem that long.
When we finally got moving on it, it took us less than two weeks to finish it up. First, we gave up on the idea of using the rest of the laminate flooring in there. The floor was just way too wavy and unlevel, even in that small space. So we got some stick on tiles and Gary put down some composite board for subflooring. I slapped down the tile, doing my usually great job in record time. After that it was easy. The molding was already pre-painted and stacked against the wall in the basement, and we already had the window purchased. Gary sliced it all up neatly and with no waste (there was barely enough molding) and we put it all in place. Then the window went in and the molding on the outside and inside was caulked and painted!!! Gary brought up some shelves we already had in the basement (we'll deal with the piles of junk in the basement later) and we got some lighter shelves for the light stuff. Voila!!! It's done. I'm stiff and sore and exhausted, but it's done!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Retirement Musings

As I'm approaching retirement age (still 7 years out from it) I am becoming much more sensitive to the issues surrounding it. It's a huge change in a persons' life, as powerful and changing as becoming a parent is. Nothing is the same after retirement.
Some people barely retire. They have so many other activities going on that they might as well be working. They're still up before dawn and the days are just packed with projects, fun, visiting, volunteering, entertainment, travel, or doing whatever they damn well want to do.
Other people can just sort of subside into a half-life of boredom, isolation and inertia. Having the freedom to do anything they want doesn't energize them and they sink into a morass of self-pity that certainly looks like a deep depression from the outside. To be fair, sometimes financial, health, or other situations can have a strong negative influence that can sap all of the joy out of freedom.
But a lot of the difference is personality. Even with health issues, people with a positive personality will keep moving. You see them out in the world, moving around with a walker and oxygen... but definitely still moving. Nothing keeps them down and they learn to work around any problem so that they can still enjoy being alive.
A couple of days ago a friend retired. Those of us left behind at the office as he drove away to a life where he can do whatever he damn well wants to had a lot of mixed feelings. First was genuine happiness for him. He deserved his freedom and he's leaving in time and with good enough health and finances that he can enjoy (hopefully) many years of retirement. Second was that we will miss him. He has a great personality and is a wise and thoughtful person. He was a pleasure to be around and he's not going to be around every day any more. There's a gap now where he used to be, although it will close up and be filled with the daily activities of office life.
And third, there's just plain jealousy and feeling sorry for myself because I can't fly away into retirement too.
My husband is also considering retirement (he's 64) and we're carefully considering the financial implications of it. It will change both of our lives, especially with him retired while I'm still working. Retirement dates and pensions and financial concerns constrain me to the office for the next seven years.
Today when I climbed up the flight of stairs to my second-floor office the last 5 steps were nearly insurmountable. It was a sense of inertia settling over me, as if I had walked into a force field that was dragging me, almost to a stop. Thankfully, I achieved the top landing, pulled on the door handle and opening the door assisted by the negative inertia I was under the influence of, and by a shift of my own body's inertia as I hit the end of the pull of the door handle, I was able to slingshot myself through the door and into the hallway. I usually feel something like this on Monday mornings, but this was stronger, harder to overcome. It was as if nature was trying to grab me and roll me back down the stairs and out the door instead of letting me walk unimpeded into my place of work.
I know this is a fancy, but it's probably been triggered by the awareness of others around me making the transition. It's like I'm still in the cocoon and they've cracked theirs open and are escaping their self-made definitions of their adult working lives to finally have the freedom they were so eager to abandon as teenagers.
We were so eager to grow up. From a toddler who wants to be a "big kid," all the way through our school years, we pursued "bigness" as if it were the ultimate goal. We wanted to be adults so bad we forgot to fully enjoy childhood. The next thing we knew it was 3a.m. feedings, electric bills, and 10:00 team meetings. Buying groceries over the lunch hour and going to teacher's meetings and dentist appointments for the benefit of our children. Evenings were filled with reading, homework, baths, laundry and bedtimes. I think we had some fun, I remember things like riding an elephant at the zoo, for example, but it was the kind of fun where you were always thinking of the care and benefit of the family first. We spun the cocoon around ourselves, constraining our lives by our responsibilities and expectations of ourselves.
I guess it's time to ask "Who am I, really?" before the cocoon opens and I slip the bonds I've made for myself. What will I do, in the end?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Terminal Life -- by Pam Miller

The man is dying, outside my door
Slowly, inching towards death, with his time slipping away
As he visits his doctors and returns to work bloated
And pallid with fingers like pink sausages,
Skin as fragile as flower petals,
And stories of tests and treatments
And small victories
Each day alive a hard-won gain
He smiles and chats with us,
Doing his work cheerfully, moving slowly
Discounting his ominous terminality and choosing
To live with optimism for each
Small success and promising treatment
And we chat with him and ask polite, conventional questions,
Carefully ignoring the looming future.

Dolly and Kitty - by Pam Miller

I am so happy, this bright, shining day
For Dolly and Kitty are coming to play.
I’m baking fresh cookies and setting out tea
For Kitty and Dolly are visiting me.
I’ve laid the playdresses out on their beds,
And the hats that they both like to wear on their heads.
The birds are all singing, the sky is bright blue,
The roses are heavy and sparkling with dew,
The sweet smell of honeysuckle hangs in the air,
And Dolly and Kitty won’t have a care.
Oh, No! that’s the phone, and now I am sad,
For Kitty’s been naughty and Dolly was bad.
They wouldn’t stop fighting and can’t come to play,
So I sadly start putting the cookies away.

Life and Health... a pinch of salt

What am I willing to do to remain healthy? I guess a lot, because I've been through cancer surgery and having a partial knee replacement to prolong my life. I think I've reached the best part of my life, where I can start to do things I enjoy just because I enjoy them. My responsibilities are fewer now, because my most important work of raising my children is done. They turned out even better than I could have expected, and are both very interesting and successful people. I'm thrilled for them, and I'm really thrilled to have my grandchildren to love. Life around them is chaotic and joyful and I just enjoy it to the hilt. Both kids married very nice people who are devoted to their kids and spouses, so I'm quite relaxed and confident that my grandchildren are in very good hands.

Now occasionally I write poems. I did that in my early 20's too, and I'm not sure why I stopped. Maybe I can find some of the old poems and post them here, plus the new ones too. They're just about my life and the people around me. I like them, but you'll have to judge for yourself. I've been chided for them not being joyful, but I guess that why I like them is because for me they ring true. Maybe in spite of my joyful optimism there's a morose side to my character that comes out in the poems? A mouthful of sugar is too sweet. To make a tasty cake you need sugar, flour, eggs, milk... and a pinch of salt.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why I Like Gray

I was folding clothes on the table with the help of my granddaugher, Elsa. She was about 4 at the time and quite the little pal. We got to the bras and Elsa commented that they were bras. I confirmed that yes, the items we were folding were bras.
"I LIKE gray." she announced, with innocent firm conviction.
That's when I realized that they were all gray. Bras cannot be bleached without losing their elasticity, so the older they get the grayer they get. Beige, fleshtoned, white, and even pastels inevitably become gray, no matter how well you care for them. I've always hung them to dry instead of using the dryer, which prolongs bra life for many years. Soon after this incident I made a trip to the mall to aquire some fresh bras, but it stuck in my mind.
I realized that the gray bras are perfectly servicable veterans of a long and useful career. There is nothing shameful in their grayness and I have continued using them and noting that as time passes they eventually have begun developing defects that have affected their usefullness and precipitated their disposal. The new bras have begun their conversion to gray and are gradually replacing the veterans as they naturally fall apart under use.
The gray bras could have all been pitched and replaced, but somehow it didn't seem like an honest and upright thing for me to do. They had served me well and didn't deserve to be thrown out. Outside of their honorably aquired dinginess, they were perfectly useful and I've let them live out their lives as nature intended.
There's a lesson in here somewhere, if you can only find it.