Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pete Delkus was right...this time

The predicted ice storm actually happened this time complete with freezing rain, sleet and ice fog.  The Dallas Fort Worth metroplex has been iced in.  I haven't checked in with weatherman, Pete Delkus, today but he has not worn his suit coat since Thursday afternoon....at least not on the air.  He never took off those cufflinks and rolled up his sleeves so the weather emergency, while dangerous, was apparently not life threatening.
The highways were iced over and many motorists who did not listen to the warnings were trapped in their cars on I35 between Fort Worth and just north of Denton.  Rumor has it that many of these drivers were Oklahoma fans trying to get to the OU/OSU game.  (People....a football game is just not that important!)  The temperatures that night were in the 20's.  Your average Texan is just not prepared for that.  The Texas Department of Transportation is asking everyone to stay off the roads until sometime on Monday.  Of course, all local school districts were closed on Friday and we are wondering about Monday.
My Facebook feed is full of photos and videos of my friends, their children and grandchildren playing on the ice....riding down the local hills in laundry baskets, playing hockey on the streets, sliding down icy driveways on pieces of cardboard.  They are definitely making memories and I am wishing that our boys were home and little again.  We actually have a real sled and saucer sleds but they are in storage and it is not worth the trip to go to get them.  But being the excellent dad that my DH is, he would have gone to dig them out if the kids had been younger and wanted them.
So what did DH and I do during our self-enforced imprisonment?  I sewed (no big surprise there) and he got caught up on the DVR'ed shows that I don't care to watch.  (Boardwalk Empire.....yuck!)  We cooked and we were both glad that I had made that run to WalMart on Wednesday or Thursday for the essentials of life.  But now I know that I misjudged the essentials....bread, chocolate milk, chicken, soup ingredients made the list but I forgot eggs, hamburger, semolina flour and parmesan cheese.  This would have been the perfect time to bake some cookies and make the Christmas ravs but I honestly did not think this weather crisis would happen.  My bad!  The Christmas tree is up and decorated and the house is as festive as it will get...downsizing some this year.
The sun is out this afternoon and the temps are above freezing for the first time in over 3 days.  (Yes, I know my northern friends, 3 days is no big deal to you but this is Texas!  They don't know how to deal with it.  Cowboy boots are for fashion, not function!)  DH has scrapped off the driveway.  I have my fingers crossed that we might venture out to get some dinner tonight.
The temps will fall again tonight and that will cause all of the melting runoffs to refreeze.  And since there are no such things as snowplows in Texas, the streets will just ice over again.  DH's district is made up of many smaller towns and they bus in lots of students.  I don't think he will have school tomorrow but he is optimistic.  AT son's district will probably have school.  DIL will most likely return to work too as I do not expect FWISD to cancel classes. TMPG will be back at daycare.
No matter what the weather conditions are tomorrow...I AM GOING OUT!  Yes, we need eggs and provisions for the week's menus (maybe some more beer) but more importantly, I am in the middle of big applique project and I don't have the right colors in threads!  Let's get those priorities in order!  Clear the way to JoAnn's....I'm coming in!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Those darn weathermen.....

I hate to admit that I get most of my news from Yahoo these days.  I just don't seem to read the newspaper like I have in the past and it's easy to flip through the local news on TV in favor of something that is clogging up the DVR.  But DH is a news junkie.  He reads the newspaper daily .... yes, every section. ( He also does all of the crossword puzzles and other brain stimulating activities found in the daily paper.)  And he likes the local news....especially the local weather reporters.  I'm not sure what his attraction to the weather is....he is not a frustrated meteorologist.  I think he is entertained by their prophet of doom persona.
His current favorite weather broadcaster is Pete Delkus.  Pete usually wears a very nice suit and tie but you can always tell when there is a potential weather emergency.  Once Pete takes off his jacket and rolls up his sleeves, you know that it's time to pay attention to the upcoming weather.  (He never takes off the tie.  If that ever happens on the air, we can be sure that the end of the world is at hand.)
The week before Thanksgiving, Pete and the other weather forecasters definitely had their jackets off as they warned us about the pending ice storm.  Local people were panicked about getting out of town for the holiday week.  DH and I were worried about making it to Dallas for the JFK 50th Anniversary Event.  Most of the local school districts were off the entire week before Thanksgiving but the ones that were in session Monday and Tuesday were filled with teachers  keeping their fingers crossed that school would not be cancelled on Monday....who wants to have the kids for one day before Thanksgiving?  They are crazy enough without the addition of one more day off.
 I'm certain that you can predict what happened...it rained but there was not one bit of ice in the area.  Pete claimed that we missed the disaster by one or two degrees but I think that the weatherpersons just wanted to see how crazy the metroplex could get.
It has now been 10 days since this last weather emergency and Pete is warning us that another winter weather event is on the way.  (I haven't seen the weather today so I am not sure if Pete's jacket is off or on.)  They say that the temperature will drop all night and through tomorrow.  The rain will begin tomorrow at 6 p.m ...how they know the exact time is beyond me.  The temperature will continue to drop and we should have a winter weather advisory on Friday morning with possible significant ice accumulation.  The bad weather will continue through the weekend.
So what does this mean to me?  When we first moved to Kansas in 1982, DH and I laughed when the weather forecasters came on with the blizzard warnings.  They would actually advise people to go to the grocery store to stock up on essentials.  Intrigued, I had to go to the store to see what the locals considered essentials.  Every cart contained milk, bread, chips, beer and in many cases, diapers.  Most of the time, these weather forecasters were just as wrong Pete and his buddies were last week.  We ignored these blizzard warnings and went on with our lives.  But in the winter of 1986-87, I knew it was time to leave Kansas because I actually started going to the store to stock up when the weather advisories were announced....could not risk running out of bread, milk, chips and beer.  (No diapers in our cart....the boys were out of diapers and no Depends for us yet.)
And so, what did I do today when faced with an impending weather crisis?  I went to WalMart to stock up.  But my cart did not have the Kansas essentials....it contained chicken, soup, ingredients for tortilla soup and chocolate milk.  (Chocolate milk?  But of course....I need it for my hot cocoa and Bailey's Irish Cream.) Once again...no diapers.  And we have beer on hand.
So now we wait....will Pete and the other prophets of doom be right or will one or two degrees make all the difference?  DH is wondering if he will have school on Friday.  I'm worried that my Friday sew day with the Sewing Sisters will be cancelled.  Friends are posting photos on Facebook of empty grocery shelves. We have postponed our planned next stop on the Beermuda Triangle trail until January.  Will Book Club be able to meet Sunday night? Where is that ice scraper anyway?
I think it's time to leave Texas.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus is a toddler sensation

The Most Perfect Grandson in the World (TMPGW)'s current favorite sing-a-long is The Wheels on the Bus.  He knows all the verses and the motions and has now started to make his own additions, such as the clouds on the bus (but I don't know what the clouds "do" all through the town).  He lines up his duplo blocks, the ones with wheels, in a bus formation and puts his duplo people on before he informs us that this is THE bus.  Everyone who loves him sings The Wheels on the Bus endlessly.
I thought he was the only one with this fascination.
I discovered today at the Y that apparently this snappy tune is a toddler sensation.  Our Y has several TV monitors mounted on the wall for easy viewing from the treadmills.  If you would rather, you can watch from the screen on your treadmill.  They have preselected channels on the wall mounted TV's...CNN, ESPN, FoxNews, HGTV and one or two others that rotate so that walkers can watch The Price is Right.  The final monitor is a closed circuit feed from the Y nursery where the young parents can leave their children while they work out.  I don't pay too much attention to the Nursery Cam...I'm usually trying to guess if the yuppie couple will decide to Love It or List It.  (Today's was especially annoying.)  I happened to glance at the Nursery Cam and just had to give it my full attention when I noticed two toddler girls arranging all of the chairs in a straight line.  Now this took a lot of determination because some other children were actually sitting in the chairs that these junior engineers needed for their project.  But they persevered and finally had everything arranged to their satisfaction.  They then rounded up other toddlers and their toys to sit in the chairs. (These girls are definitely leaders!)  One of the day care workers had been watching them and when they were finally all set, she got up and started singing The Wheels on the Bus.  (I could tell from the motions....the Y TV's are all on mute with close captioning...except for the Nursery Cam.)  This group was singing merrily along and doing all of the motions when another toddler ran up to the day care worker and insisted that she was not doing the wheels motion correctly. Foot stomping and all!  He was right....she was doing more of train motion with her arms circling at her side instead of rolling her hands in front of her.  (Hey....I know my TWOTB!)  He was absolutely irate!  And she was holding her ground, too.  He finally convinced her to see the light and the song continued on.  And on.  And on.  Until finally, like the rest of us adults, the day care worker had her fill of  TWOTB and wandered away to check on the crying infant in the swing.  The toddlers continued on for a while longer and finally, they were finished, too. 
Now why share this with you on my retirement blog?  I thought it was just TMPGW who had a fascination with this song.  How wrong I was!  And how many kindergarten library lessons could have been saved by a rousing version of The Wheels on the Bus?  I don't need that information any more but on the off chance that I manage to find myself trapped with a number of preschoolers and toddlers, you know what we'll be doing.  If you are there, plan on giving up your chair without a fight.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not a runner

Several friends (some that I did not realize were reading the blog) have asked me how that running/fitness goal is working out for me.  Well........not exactly the way I had planned.  I have given up my Couch to 5K class with the realization that some people are just not born to run.  If I were a gazelle, I would be the chubby, slow one that is doomed to serve as Thanksgiving dinner for the lion family.  Someone has to do it, right?  And I saved the other faster members of my family to run another day. (Positive spin on survival of the fittest!)   So if you happen to ever see me running, I advise you to run in the same direction as I am because there must be something large and carnivorous chasing me....I'll distract it for you.  Just say nice things about me at the memorial service.
I am still working on my fitness...just not running.  I work out at the Y several times a week (alone now that Strength Coach Son has become Engineer Canadian Son) and once a week, I time myself on a 5K on the treadmill.  I am not a coffee drinker unless it is seriously girly coffee and it is pumpkin spice latte and gingerbread latte season.  These hot mugs of deliciousness are loaded with calories so I just cannot let myself enjoy them as often as I would like.  So let's tie that craving to my fitness goals.  If I am able to beat my time in my weekly 5K from the previous week, I treat myself to Seattle's Best on the way home from the Y.  (FYI...the caramel pretzel is not as good as I had hoped...unless you like chunks of soggy pretzels with your coffee.)  I faithfully keep track of my time on the note feature of my phone.
Today was my 5K day.  It's been two weeks since my last timed session and I was fairly certain that I remembered the time to beat.  Picture me walking briskly on the treadmill, silently (I hope silently) singing along with my favorite walking tunes, keeping an eye on the time elapsing.  OH NO....I have slipped behind the goal time (as I remembered  it)...crank up the speed and walk a little faster.  OH NO...my coffee is slipping away....crank up the speed again and find a more peppy tune.  OH NO...this will be the worst time ever...crank up the speed and hold onto the hand rails.....Done.  Hmmm...I'm not sure.  Maybe I did better my time.  I'll look after my cool down.
Finally it is over.  The 5K is completed along with the 5 minute cool down.  I did not collapse but it sure seemed hot in there today.  Check the note feature....OMG...my best time ever.  I dropped almost 2 minutes!!!  And all because I could not remember the time to beat.  (Maybe losing those memory skills is a good thing.)  I can have my girly coffee!!!
 But OH NO...on the downside, I have to beat this new time next week.  I think I'd better enjoy this coffee.  I might be the last one for a long time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

They do grow up

We were so blessed tonight to witness the wedding of one of Strength Coach Son's closest friends from his high school swim team to her forever after love.
 SCS has been out of high school for 12 years now and keeping in contact with these long ago friends has been difficult but this young lady has always been special to us. While high school students, this group of friends lead by A would regularly check the weekly menus posted on our refrigerator and tell me when to expect them for dinner.  And it was not unusual to get a phone call from SCS to see if dinner could stretch for just one or two more guests..."We can stop at the store and pick up more lettuce or dessert, Mom.  A & M want to come to dinner."   When SCS went off to LSU for college these kiddos knew how much we missed him and would call to schedule dinner at our house so that we could catch up and so that the house would not seem so empty.  When they went to visit SCS for the weekend, they would be certain to let me know ahead of time so that they could stop and pick up the cookie delivery for the guys at school and even promised that most of the treats would actually arrive at their destination.
When SCS graduated and started his engineering career in Houston, we had an annual reunion at our house on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.  He would cook gumbo and a cornhole/bags tournament would be held in the back yard.  Everyone knew the schedule and no one waited for an invitation...they just showed up...hungry and happy to see each other.  It wasn't a successful evening until someone lit the fire in chiminea and the grown-ups worried about catching the fence on fire.
Today I listen to my younger friends with teen-age children stressing over dating issues and grade point averages and class rankings and college acceptances and homecoming woes and I just want to tell them to STOP!  Enjoy every one of these minutes and dramas and hold them tight.  They will be gone in just a few years...minutes really,,, and you will miss this time so much.  If I could turn back the clock and relive our sons' high school years, I would do it in a minute.  Would I change anything?  Maybe...I might hope the ATS (Athletic Trainer Son) would make a few more friends in high school and hold onto the ones from middle school....I might hope that SCS was able to achieve the goals that he set for himself in swimming...I could skip the sleepless night waiting to see who made it home in time for curfew...I would definitely send someone shoe shopping on his own and I might be a little less strict in some areas.  Did I do some things wrong...of course.  But did our sons turn out to be responsible young men and deserving of our pride and respect...YES.  I like to think that we had some thing to do with that but even if we didn't, I'm glad that they turned out to be the adults that they are.
And I am so glad that their friends think enough of us to invite us to their momentous occasions and that they remember us as fondly as we remember them.  So, my friends with young and adolescent children, enjoy this time and encourage your children to keep in touch with the parents of the friends that they cherish so much.  Those parents love them, too, and want to know what happens to them.  It does take a village....or a group of swim parents...to raise a child.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How are those fitness goals going, Mrs. D?

A little update on my fitness quest...my knee has miraculously stopped giving me problems.  Seriously....overnight.  (I think it heard the threat of a visit to the doctor.) Unfortunately it did not happen before the Rahr 5K and I was not able to join John and Leslye in the walk.  John's goal was to NOT finish last.  He achieved his goal with a personal best time, was not last overall and was not even last in his age group.  So now, I have a new goal...when I do my next (first) 5K, I hope to beat his time.  It was a pretty good time so I may fall short but we will see.
My Couch to 5K class members have zoomed away from me so our compromise is that we stretch together, do our 5 minute warm-up walk and then they take off their way and I plod along on mine.  Skinny Runner Girl is doing really well and Mr. Mom is no longer worrying about his potential injuries so they are pleased with the class.  Am I pleased?  Well, I haven't given up.  Last week during my 24 minute time on the course, I actually ran 6 minutes out of the 24....not consecutively but hey....it was 6 minutes!  Now, my jogging pace is probably slower than most dedicated walkers' walking pace but tell that to my heart!  It definitely feels the difference.
I have been able to convince strength trainer son to join me at the Y twice a week to be my personal trainer.  We narrowly missed a reprimand the first day because non-Y trainers are not allowed on the floor but my skinny 5K "coach" realized that he was family and called off the Y police.  Strength trainer son has been patient with me...for the most part...and my lack of ability to follow directions.  Yesterday though I tested the limits of his endurance.  We were working on dumbbell bench presses (look it up) and I could not get my arms in the right position.  Nevertheless strength trainer son added more weight.  The conversation went like this:
Me:  This is too hard
STS:  Ma, that's why they call them weights!
That makes sense but it doesn't make it any easier!  I cannot say that he enjoys these training sessions but he is humoring me....think of it as couch rent.
On the other 2 or 3 days that I go to the Y alone, I use the weight machines (strength trainer son uses only free weights) and walk on the treadmill. I start at 3.0 mph and go up .1/mph at each new song on my playlist.  And that is when my own personal concert begins!  My ipod is loaded with songs that have a good pace and beat to them...and that I like.  (No sense listening to things I don't like no matter what the pace.)  I lip-synch along with my music (at least I hope I am lip-synching) and try hard not to add the hand motions that I feel the music needs.  So far no one has moved away from my treadmill but I do get some confused looks from the true fitness freaks.  (I think those are caused by those aforementioned hand motions!)  So what are my current favorite "silent sing alongs"?

You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon
Call Me Maybe (The Glee version)
Marry You by Bruno Mars
Done by The Band Perry
The Longest Time by Billy Joel
Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice
Telephone by Lady Gaga
Turn on the Radio by Reba McIntire
Stuck Like Glue by Sugarland
Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5

Pretty varied playlist but it works for me.  I try to spend about 30 minutes on the treadmill.

So what's your favorite background workout music?  Are you also guilty of a lip-synch concert on the treadmill?  I need more encouragement, friends.

The next time you see me, you won't notice any change in my appearance (except for looking more and more like my Dad) but I am not giving up on this goal.  Slow and steady wins the race....and a reward of Seattle's Best Pumpkin Pie Latte helps, too.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Small steps have turned in to small hobbles

I thought you all deserved an update on the couch to 5k program I started a couple of weeks ago.  My participation in the class with Mr. Mom (who got new insoles for his shoes and feels to much better and more confident) and Runner Girl (who regularly runs with her father for a couple of miles BEFORE she comes to class) has come to a temporary halt.  I have somehow managed to injure myself.  I don't recall any sharp pains and no, Jeri, I did not fall down but my knee is killing me and has been for over a week now.  It's not my kneecap but rather that fatty muscle on the inside of my right knee.  I have a suspicion that the blood cannot push its way through the fat at the point but Strength Coach Son tells me that is not possible.  I haven't asked Athletic Trainer Son for his advice because I am sure that he would claim  it to be tendonitis.
I pushed through the pain and actually ran for four minutes (not consecutive....but hey, it was four minutes!) on Sunday.  That may not have been the best idea but it isn't any worse so I probably did not do any additional harm.
If I take Tylenol the pain diminishes but Strength Coach Son says that will just prolong the injury and that the body can heal itself quicker if I just live with the discomfort.  Skinny Trainer Girl says to keep walking and ice it 3 or 4 times a day.  Strength Coach Son says that ice is not the way to go and if I am going to ice it, I should just take the Tylenol and know that it will hurt longer.  He recommends heat.
Thinking that possibly my favored choice of footwear might be to blame, I actually laced up my good, supportive walking shoes today instead of slipping on my hot pink flip flops.  That was an emotional hurdle for me!  But apparently it is not the fault of my "ship shops" because it still hurts.
John and I are signed up to do a 5k on Saturday sponsored by our favorite brewery, Rahr and Sons.  We've been signed up for months now and did several of the social, warm-up walks in preparation.  I really wanted to do this event...not running of course...well maybe just a little...but that looks doubtful now.
Friends think I should give in and go to the doctor.  I like my doctor (sort of....my chart claims that I am "chronically non-complient") but I know that she will just order tests which will show nothing but a pulled muscle.  And she will order anti-inflammatory meds which Strength Coach Son will point out to only prolong the problem. 
So here I sit...or limp.  Getting into the car from the driver's side is a challenge but I cannot drive from the passenger seat.  Crawling around on the floor working on the borders of quilt is painful.  I don't sit still very well with no handwork to keep me occupied and curling up in my chair (just cannot sit like a grownup) results in more discomfort.
What is my plan....at the moment, I intend to work through the pain to get the borders on the Hard Rock quilt and then cut the fabric that I will need for my sew day project for tomorrow.  I'll break out the heating pad again tonight and see what tomorrow brings.  If I really want to do the Rahr run, I will defy Strength Coach Son and start on the tylenol tomorrow afternoon and see what Saturday brings. 
And if it still hurts on Monday, I will break down and call the doctor....there...are you happy, Leslye?
Is my couch to 5k class over?  No, just derailed slightly.  This injury cannot last forever and since I have mastered the couch part of the couch to 5k, I am determined to at least make an effort at the running part.  My goal was never to run an entire 5k....I will just need to find another charity run later in the fall and see if I can actually run a portion of it.  Small steps....hobbles....small steps.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mrs D...the rock star!

Teachers aren't supposed to have favorites but we do....we just try not to let the other kids know.  During my last year in the library I got very close to one young lady in particular, Baylee.  I've gotten close to students before and sometimes kept in touch for awhile.  I was always at school so they knew where to find me when they needed me.  Sometimes, John and I became friends with the parents of these former students so they remain a part of our lives.  But when I decided to retire, I knew that keeping in touch with my favorites was going to be difficult.
That's when Skoob, the library mascot started his facebook page.  (If you want to friend Skoob, his whole name is Skoob Binion.  This served two purposes....teachers cannot friend students (not appropriate for them to know when I am going to the brewery) so this was a way for them to stay in touch with "me" and I used it to remind them of things that were going on at school....STARR testing, picture day, field day, etc.
Now that Skoob no longer has adventures at school, I use it to stay in touch with my former "kids".
Baylee and Skoob have messaged back and forth all summer.  Sometimes I wonder if she thinks she is actually talking to Skoob but she is a GT kid so I hope not.  As soon as school started, she began asking me to come to have lunch with her at school.  I was worried that my showing up might damage her "street cred" but she assured me that she has enough of that to withstand anything dorky that I might do.  So today I stopped at Taco Bell (her choice) to pick up her tacos and Dr. Pepper and signed in at the office.  There I was sitting on the couches in the hallway alternating between feeling like I was waiting for my turn with the principal (It was Jeri's fault!  I was just following her!) and like someone's grandmother.  Classes changed and the first lunch kids started rushing (or sauntering...depending on the cool factor) to the cafeteria.  Many of them just gave me that "who is that adult" look and moved on by.  But then here came my babies...."Mrs D!!  What are you doing here?  Are you gonna work here?  Who are you subbing for? I thought you retired!"  Baylee showed up and we joined the throng toward the cafeteria.  There was some debate over where to sit (and with whom) and who to save seats for.  It was so much fun!  I got caught up on the dramas of her life and some insight into middle school.  (The cafeteria is LOUD!)  And I actually got to go outside with them...apparently the first time that first lunch had been quiet enough to be allowed outside....that was quiet?
I caught up with several former students...favorites and not so favorites...was asked to deliver messages to former teachers and got hugs from some that I was sure hated me.  It was a great experience.
It was great for my ego but I may have actually taught them something...that there are adults out there (besides  relatives) that might really care about them and what happens to them after they leave elementary school.  That if you invite these adults to attend something, they might actually show up. I can't wait for Baylee to ask me back.  I also hope that her "street cred" is intact.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Not a fan of "baby steps"

As many of you know,  I am not renown for my patience. When I decide to do something, I want to do it RIGHT NOW!  And not only that, I expect to be able to complete any new task or skill flawlessly the first time out.  If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Right?
When planning my retirement activities, I decided that improving my general fitness was a necessary goal.  I want to be one of those scrawny, bird-like old ladies, not one of the "doughy" ones.
 John and I "do" 5k's occasionally and especially like to participate in the ones sponsored by Rarh Brewery because there is beer at the finish line.  We get lots of encouragement and congratulations on Facebook but what our "friends" do not realize is that we walk those 5k's....not one single step is remotely close to a jog.  We walk briskly enough to break a sweat but not fast enough that gasping for breath is an issue.  I decided that I would like to change that...I would like to actually run part of the Rahr Oktoberfest 5k coming up at the end of the month.  I even have a goal time in mind.
"Training" for this on my own would be a useless idea because I really don't like to run.  If grizzlies or zombies begin to chase me, we all know how those scenarios will end.  I just don't run.  So, with good intentions, I signed up for the Couch to 5K class at the local Y.  I went out and got new, real running shoes at the local running store to insure a good fit.  (They aren't cute but they are comfy.)  I knew that the class was in danger of not "making" but I went to the first class confident that enough beginning runners would show up and the Y would be so inspired by the desires of these obviously non-runners that the class would be held regardless of enrollment.  My class is led by a perky (and scrawny) woman with a BMI of 0 and includes "Runner Girl" who regularly runs two miles a day and wants to work on her form (wth?), "Mr. Mom" who is seriously concerned about injuries and 1chubby, waddler, Me.  The first day we spent most of the class talking about shoes, clothes and how to tell a real injury from just a twinge.  (This did not reassure "Mr. Mom".)  Then we went out for our first run....the plan was a brisk 5 minute walk, a 2 minute jog and a 5 minute walk.  OK...I can do this.  I walk on the treadmill regularly.  Surely I can slip in a 2 minute jog with no problem....at this rate, I will be running that entire 5k that is held on Thanksgiving Day.  Not so much...I ran all of 90 seconds...that's right...a minute and a half.  Thought I was dieing!  And you do not want to know how long it took me to breathe normally after those endless 90 seconds.  I was appalled! 
I thought about quitting but those two need me to come back if the class is going to continue. (The Y does not seem inspired by just 3 of us.)
 So...today was day two. Same plan 5-2-5.  "Runner girl" wants help with her breathing.  "Mr. Mom" was late but caught up in no time.  And the waddler?  I managed to run for 1 minute and 45 seconds. Now my walking buddy LD (whose ringtone on my phone is "Yell, yeah I like beer) is excited about my "improvement".  Improvement?  At this rate I will be lucky if I can complete a running 5k by my 80th birthday!  I am constantly being told about "baby steps" and I just don't "do" baby steps.  I want to run like the wind and I want to do it right now.....or Saturday which is my next training day. (A 5-3-5 day....how can I run 3 minutes when I cannot run 2 yet?)
So what is the point of today's rambling, blog (other than to entertain you with mental images of my waddling body attempting to run and breathe at the same time)?  I guess I am going to be forced to learn patience at this late date in my life.  I must embrace the concept of baby steps.  Either that, or redefine my goal.  I really don't want to be one of those "doughy" old ladies so I guess I will be learning to be satisfied with baby steps.  You have no idea how much I hate that...almost as much as I hate running!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Medical Miracle


John and I witnessed a medical miracle over the weekend.  Two weeks ago my friend, Sue, received a  liver transplant that was over a year in coming.  When I last saw her in mid-July, she was not in the best of shape.  Her feet and legs had swollen to the point where she could no longer walk.  Some mild seizures had left her with speech similar to that of a stroke victim. She was very quiet and tired easily.
 When we received word that a liver was available, I wanted to rush to the hospital to sit with her husband, Chris, but decided to wait until things had settled down.  On Saturday afternoon, Sue called me.  I had not heard her voice on the phone in months and here she was, calling me to see when I was coming to see her!  John and I drove over to Dallas on Sunday not really knowing what to expect.  What we found was nothing short of a miracle to us....Sue sitting up in bed, drinking a Coke.  The swelling has gone down totally in her legs and she is now walking in the hallway with a walker. She is talking non-stop and that dry, witty sense of humor is back.  We had a terrific visit and she called yesterday to make sure that I was coming back this week.
Many, many prayers were offered for Sue's successful surgery and more are needed to insure a complete recovery but oh....what a miracle this transplant has been!
Many of you do not know Sue but many of you are owners of her works of art.  Sue is a professional machine quilter and we have worked for many years.  If I have made a quilt for you in the past ten years, it was probably quilted by Sue.  There are many excellent professional quilters in the area but none can match Sue when it comes to free motion quilting.  She hasn't been able to work for almost a year now but I can see that, with prayers, hard work and continuing medical miracles, she will be back at her Gammill much sooner than I ever hoped.
She gave me some wise advice on Sunday.  We were discussing what I should do during my retirement and Sue said, "Do what makes you happy.  You never know when you might wake up one morning and not be able to do the one thing that brings you joy."
So if you are so inclined, please take a minute and say a prayer that this amazingly talented and wise woman will recover sufficiently to return to doing the thing that brings her joy. As for me, I intend to follow Sue's advice.

Monday, August 26, 2013

And she never complained

In just a few days, it will be 4 years since we lost my mom, Leta Schwiderski.  At the time of her death, I wanted to deliver a eulogy at her funeral.  The Diocese of Peoria has a "rule" against this type of addition to the liturgy so I was denied the opportunity.  It was probably just as well because I wouldn't have been able to get through it but I have always regretted not sharing my thoughts.  Since this blog is my way of working through things in my life, I'm using it as a forum to get past the regrets.
Our mother, grandmother, sister-in-law, and friend, Leta Schwiderski lived a life much different ours. She did not have the advantages that she made sure that Frank and I had but she never complained.
Mom was born in 1917 in Toluca, Illinois to immigrant parents, Massimo and Maria Passini (or Paseni...no one was ever sure of the spelling as her parents were illiterate in both Italian and English), the youngest of four children.  Massino passed away in the early 20's leaving Maria with four children and no mean with which to return to Italy. She housed single coalminers as boarders (in a two bedroom "company" house), took in washing (with a wringer washer and outdoor clotheslines) and cleaned the local post office.  Mom never shared much of her childhood memories but she also never complained.
Mom attended St. Ann's elementary school (as did my brother and I) and intended to go on to high school.  When the first day of what would have been her freshman year came, Mom made plans to meet her friends on the corner across from the school.  Whether it was a communication problem or whether Mom was late to the meeting place, I have never learned.  When she arrived, her friends had already gone in.  Mom was very shy and she could not make herself walk into that building alone.  So, instead, she walked 3 blocks to the local garment factory and applied for a job.   At age 14, Mom went to work full time.  I'm sure that she missed doing what her friends were doing at school but she never complained.  Her weekly paycheck went to help with the family's living expenses.  She bought a wooden ironing board with some of her first paycheck....the ironing board is in my laundry room.  It is no longer used but it's still here, part of the family.
Our dad, Clarence (Bud) Schwiderski noticed Mom and pursued her relentlessly.  Mom was not interested and perhaps Dad's sense of style had something to do with that.  Dad was a farmer and had the habit of going "uptown" in his denim bib overalls, minus a shirt and with a red bandanna tied around his neck.  This was not something Mom considered in good taste or the height of fashion but it was the Depression...  Dad finally wore her down and she improved his look.  He never gave up the bibs but he added a shirt and lost the bandanna.  They dated for several years and Mom waited patiently through World War II, writing to Dad every day.  All of her friends were in the same situation, waiting for their fiancees so I'm sure that she never complained.  After all, he was coming home and all in one piece.
When Dad came home from the War, he wanted a more secure future for his family than farming could provide so he went to work at Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria.  Dad was an avid hunter and outdoorsman so his choice of second shift (3 to 11 p.m.) was perfect for him.  He could still hunt in the morning and when nothing was in season, he could do private contractor work.  That choice left Mom at home alone every night.  I'm sure that she hated it but she knew what Dad needed to be happy and she never complained.
Dad's second shift work made Mom a single parent in many ways.  Parent-teacher conferences, extracurricular clubs and sports and everything that was involved in parenting was pretty much left up to Mom.  It wasn't that Dad didn't care, it was that times were different and Dad put our financial stability ahead of his parenting responsibilities.  And Mom never complained.
Mom walked everywhere she went.  She never learned to drive a car.  Everything that she needed was located within walking distance from the house that Dad built less than a block away from her mother's home. The grocery store, post office, church and bank were all within walking distance.  Shopping for clothes was another matter.  She shopped mostly from the Montgomery Ward catalog but we did need to shop for school clothes and Christmas gifts.  If Dad wasn't available to drive us to Streator or Peoria, Mom had to ask someone to take us on these shopping trips.  Aunt Rita usually got the call and Mom paid for the gas.  I know that she felt that she was imposing on others but she really had no other choices and she never complained.
Frank and I were fortunate to be able to attend college and that meant moving away.  I know that Mom was lonely during these years because she was truly at home alone in the evenings and no longer had the responsibilities of taking care of us. When I came home for a weekend, I used to complain because she talked the entire time that I was home....I couldn't find a minute to myself.  But Mom never complained about being alone.  And she was proud to have two college graduates when she had not been able to make herself walk into the high school.
We also made Mom proud by each marrying a terrific spouse and presenting her and Dad with 5 grandchildren.  These grandchildren were the highlights of her life.  (And being a Nonie now, I understand completely how much she loved the title!) She understood that jobs moved us far from home and that meant time with these grandbabies was limited.  We came back to Illinois as often as we could and she and Dad drove out to see us a couple of times a year.  She would have preferred to see our families daily but she understood and she never complained.
A lifetime of smoking cigarettes result in Dad developing COPD.  His last years were tough ones and their travels came to an end.  There were many hospital stays, many doctor's appointments, and lots of medication but Mom never complained about the care that Dad needed.
Dad passed away in 1998 and we were all worried about how Mom would handle being alone with no one to care for after all the of the years of devotion to us and then Dad.  She surprised us by forcing herself out of her comfort zone and discovered the senior citizen services provided by the state.  Mom joined a group of ladies who hopped on the county van every week for a shopping trip to Peoria, Streator, Pontiac or Bloomington.  She made a whole new circle of friends and faithfully joined those bus trips even if she had no shopping needs.  She especially enjoyed the "secret" stops that the bus made at the local casino.  Since this was a state-provided service, the driver was technically not allowed to make this gambling visit but everyone was sworn to secrecy and you never saw a happier bunch of ladies....imagine..putting one over on the state of Illinois!  There were no big winners but the adventure was enough excitement for them.
Mom was able to live on her own for many years even when she could no longer hop on the bus.  Friends like Cathy Althaus and Joanne Butenas were there to fill in when Frank and I could not.  But the time finally came when it was no longer safe for Mom to live on her own.  She moved into assisted living at Heritage Manor in Minonk and this time, she did complain.  She wanted to be back in her own little house where she could stand on her front porch and see the place where her childhood home had stood.  She wanted to eat what she wanted to eat and watch TV when she felt like it.  She wanted to go to the church that she had been married in, where I had been married and where Dad's funeral had been.  She wanted to sit by her picture window and keep an eye on the neighborhood.  (Her vision was awful but she never missed a thing and could tell me how many strange cars had been at neighbor Kay's over the weekend.) But she did understand and finally adjusted to life at the Manor.
One of my favorite memories of Mom during this time was her 90th birthday.  We hosted a dinner for her at Capponi's (which she always preferred to Mona's).  Her family and 3 out of the 5 grandchildren were there as were the ladies from the bus.  It was a memorable evening and one she truly enjoyed.
We were able to have Mom with us until just days before her 92nd birthday.  She lived a long life and one that was, for the most part happy, but even in the bad times, she never complained.   I miss her every day and Sundays just don't seem right without our weekly phone conversation.  But I do know that Mom has been reunited with Dad and the rest of the family and that if there is a shopping van, I am sure that she is on it.  Now if I could only stop complaining!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You CAN home again...but do you want to?

I spent yesterday helping the new librarian at my former school.  She is very nice but very overwhelmed so when she called to ask for help, I just couldn't say no.  (I even gave up a day of sewing with friends for this if you can believe that!)
School starts on Monday and I, wisely, have scheduled to spend the day with the most perfect grandchild in the world.  Otherwise, I know that I would have "volunteered" to get her started on her first day and that would not have been good for either of us.
What did I learn?  You can go home again but it isn't the same.  I feel good about getting her started with the database update for the students.  I worked from 8:30 to 5 and we managed to update grades 1 through 5.  She will need to do kindergarten on her own but it is doable.  Some of the teachers stopped in to visit and some barely acknowledged me in the hallway but that is nothing new.  Some administrators were more pleased to see me than others...again, nothing new.  I was able to see a couple of favorite former students and be reassured that they are ready for life after Binion.
The most important thing that I learned from yesterday is that I am glad I was able to retire.  Financially, things may be tough for awhile and we might have to give up some trips that I hoped we could take but my sanity is worth more than money.  The library schedule for the coming year is ten times worse than anything that I have been a part of in my 20+ year in education.  "Teaching" kinders for 45 minutes with no teacher assist would be torture.  I know that some of you have kindergarten students for 8 hours but your rooms and lessons are set up for this.  The library is an all-purpose room for all grades.  The schedule is not set up so that the librarian can develop "centers" for the primary grades because her next class could be a 5th grade class...don't even think about 11 year olds with play-doh! And she has absolutely no breaks in her day.  Yes, she has a duty free lunch but that comes after her daily lunchroom monitoring assignment (during which the library is closed!).  Yes, she has a daily conference period but it is at a different time every day.  I am not sure when she is going to be able to even go to the restroom as there are no "passing" periods scheduled between classes.  I know that this schedule was devised so that the teachers have more time to plan together and collaborate.  I understand the importance of that but there is no time for the librarian to collaborate with the teachers and that is what librarianship should be all about.  We are an extension of the classroom and need to reinforce what is being taught.  That cannot happen when there is no time in the day to even chat with a teacher.....oops...remember, Judy, you retired....this doesn't concern you anymore.
So...will I go back again...I am not sure.  I will continue to check in with Mrs. V but I need to learn to let it go and let her develop her own plan.  And I will not go in to help her shelve the 1000+ books that will circulate in her 6 day schedule....shelving is one of the things that I hated the most about my job.  But I am glad that I went in yesterday....John will much happier coming home to a somewhat bored wife than to a raving lunatic.  And we might actually talk about something other than school.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Here We Go

My Birdville ISD buds returned to work today.  My DH starts back tomorrow.  To celebrate the end of the summer, we spent the day with Ben, the most perfect grandchild in the Universe.  Unca Tim gave Ben another swimming lesson and after his (Ben's, not Tim's) nap, we checked out a local splash pad.  I had hoped that the splash pad would be a bigger hit than it was.  Apparently it is hard to get excited about a splash pad when you don't like the sensation of water on your head.  We finished our day with a delicious dinner prepared by DIL, Dianna, when we delivered the boy home.
So....tomorrow it begins....the first day of my retirement.  I had originally planned to jump right into my planned schedule....starting each day with my trip to the Y, cooking healthy dinners, finishing up and starting quilts that have Christmas delivery dates and sewing on Fridays with my little sewing posse...but I have changed my mind about that.  I am taking a vacation this week.  (Of course my friends think that I have been on vacation all summer but that is just not true!) I plan to do a little grocery shopping, cook what sounds good, sew what I want to sew, watch season three of Downton Abbey, stay up late reading and sleep until I feel like getting up.  I am having breakfast on Wednesday with two other retired library goddesses and will probably pick up Ben again on Thursday.  And then on Friday after a day of sewing with my buds, I think it will be time for Happy Hour at the Three Parrots.  After all, my teacher friends and family members will probably need a drink or two by then even though the children don't actually return to the classrooms until next week.  Professional development and room preparations are just as difficult as dealing with the children and the professional development portion is just plain mind numbing!
Now I need to contact my last school to remind them that I no longer work there and that they can remove my phone number and email address from the phone reminder system.  I really don't care that "Meet the Teacher night" is Thursday. 
So...let's see how this retirement thing goes......

Friday, August 9, 2013

A little pre-planning pays off

When I decided to retire, my conscience would not let me just walk out the door and let my replacement fend for herself.  There is so much to being an elementary librarian that others do not see and the beginning of new school year can be overwhelming if one has never taken on these tasks before.
First of all, each returning student's record must be updated in the database.  That means changing at least three fields (homeroom, grade, and class) for each student...all 700+ of them.  There are shortcuts but the particular company that provides our circulation software does not include them in its manual.
Likewise all teacher records in the database must be updated, especially if there were classroom or grade level changes.
And then there is equipment to be checked out to each teacher.
And lesson plans for the first day of school.
And instructions on the set up and operation of the morning announcements close circuit television system.
Not to mention decorating and making the library feel like "home".
Because I did not want any new person to come in and flounder or face overwhelming tasks, I spent many hours preparing a Binion Elementary library manual complete with instructions on how to handle all of the above situations and providing all of the passwords that the new librarian would need to even begin to operate the library.  I scheduled the book fairs for 2013-14, started the book orders in my favorite book selection sites, alphabetized all of the returning students' library cards, left one year's worth of lesson plans, gave her all of the shortcuts that would make data entry easier, and cleaned up all of the errors that I could locate in the database.
All of this information was saved on a flash drive and given to the principal who labeled it and put it away for safekeeping.  As a back up, I provided the lead librarian with a copy of the flash drive and told key teachers of its existence.
Well, I am happy to say, that the work payed off.  Today I received a call from the new librarian (I cannot call her my replacement because I'm irreplaceable, right?) gushing her thanks for my time and effort.  The flash drive was MIA until today and she had been at a loss on where to even begin.  She had checked all of my files and there was no paper trail.  Thankfully my buds mentioned the flash drive's existence to her and she was able to jog the principal's memory.  She has admitted to having a few sleepless nights so I hope that since we spoke Mrs. V will get a good night's sleep tonight.
I am still struggling with the "did I make the right decision" concerns but at least I know that I did not abandon my former life without instructions to the new kid. Every little victory helps.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

These times, they are a-changin'

I've been retired since June 1st but being a teacher, I don't feel retired.  I've spent this summer break doing what I always do during the summer...traveling with my family, enjoying adventures with good friends, seeing movies and plays, playing with the most perfect grandbaby in the world and floating in Jeri's pool.  So when someone asks me, "How do you like retirement?" The honest answer is...I just don't know because I don't feel retired.
But the summer break is winding for teachers.  My teacher buds on Facebook are itching to get back into their classrooms to organize and decorate for the coming year.  My DH John is stocking up on the school supplies that his students constantly forget.  My DS Andy is busy getting his training room ready and being on hand for pre-season volleyball and football practice.  Some friends are squeezing one last quick trip before the craziness begins.  Others are finishing up professional development requirements.  And me?  I'm starting to get nervous.
I feel like I should be out shopping for a new convocation dress but since I won't be going to convocation, I don't need one.  I feel like I should be working on a book order so that I am ready when the budget is released in September but the only book budget I have now is with Barnes and Noble and my nook wishlist.  I feel like I should be working on some new lesson plans for my kindergarten visitors but the only lesson plans I have right now including reviewing colors with GS Ben.  I feel like I should be thinking of redecorating the library but the only redecorating I'm doing involves my master bathroom.
So how will I feel when my teacher friends hop on the bus and it doesn't stop for me?  How will I feel when I finally realize that my days as Mrs. D. are finally over?  How much will I miss the way that a group of kindergarten students vibrate when they are engrossed in a story?  How much of a hole will there be in my heart when I don't have my fifth grade posse with all of their drama to fill it?  I honestly don't know.
I've considered lots of day-filling options like subbing (but only in the libraries), getting a part-time job (but where?), volunteering in friends' classrooms (not thrilled with that option), or volunteering in an elementary library (but I hate shelving).  Nothing feels like a good fit.
So that's where this blog comes in.  I hope to use it to explore my options and I hope that you'll come along as I attempt to reinvent Mrs. D.