Thursday, July 17, 2014

10:00 PM

I heard the cicadas singing, I saw the corn grow above my head with silk emerging from the small pods, I realized the LL baseball season is about to end, and that can only mean the end of summer is coming all too soon.  We have no vacations or even little trips planned to look forward to (we are buckling down to pay for college without loans), but the end of summer now only means to me, the boys going back to school. With Eli already gone for the summer, it shouldn't be too much of an adjustment. I know Cal is excited beyond words to get out on his own. He had a good omen today when his roommate texted him to say, "one more month, bro!!" at the same moment he was thinking the same thing.

We got to see Cal coach his 13 year old traveling team last Thursday on the turf at Jacksonville. Unfortunately, they lost all their games and Cal got an earful from some upset parents. Weird to see my little boy on the receiving end of adult angst. We encouraged him to take this volunteer position to get a taste of what teaching/coaching will be like in his future. I think he handled it pretty well. There were other parents who were very supportive, which I hope we always were to the persons who coached and taught our kids. I frequently sent thank you notes to those who had a positive impact on them. It was nice to see Cal drop off his key and a thank you note to his parent helper who gave him rides and fed him over the season.

I almost can't take looking at a computer screen any longer. Much of my day is spent doing that and my eyes are going crazy. I am slowly adjusting to the new job, but the sedentary nature and intensity of the job is draining me out by Thursday. I took a nice walk about tonight and the weather and peacefulness was relaxing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Frettings

This morning I got up with that blah feeling I have a hard time describing.  I had four days off in a row, yet I wasn't ecstatic like I should be. (Lucky I don't have all summer off to feel this way, right?)  It probably didn't help that I was up last night from about 2-5 a.m. doing everything I could think of non-pharmaceutically to get back to sleep (eating Froot Loops, writing down brainstorms, reading a book, eating oatmeal-yes oatmeal, paying bills- did you know US Cellular is closed from 11 p.m.-6 a.m.?).

After finally falling asleep, I got up at 8:00, drank some coffee (thanks Pat) and went to the Y to lift weights. I then dropped in on a Pilates class which was fantastic. Just my fitness level. I then got my hair done, ate lunch, went to Goodwill, grocery shopped and took a nap. Finally feeling myself again with some afternoon coffee and Pat home to keep me company.  Kind of turning into a thrift shop clothes hound, as I picked up 3 items today around town second hand.

Stopped at the library to see if by chance they had the new Matthew Quick novel, The Good Luck of Right Now.  Of course, they didn't so I will get it via inter-library loan, making due with Silver Linings Playbook by him (2008). Normally, I prefer to read the book first, see the movie later, but I devoured the first chapter sitting in front of Sullivan Taylor Coffee House, even though I know what's going to happen because SLP is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It's a good distraction from this weird book I've been slogging through called "Casebook" by Mona Simpson.  It's from the point of view of an adolescent boy who is running surveillance on his parents as they go through a divorce and establish new relationships. It's a little far fatched that any teenage boy would be interested in his parent's phone conversations and reading their emails.

A busy day so far, we shall see what the evening brings.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Family Time

The annual pilgrimage and Vick gathering at Macomb has concluded for Summer 2014.  A good time was had by all (I think). Some of the highlights are summarized below.

Game Nights: with Adam we played Beyond Balderdash. This is where you make up definitions for words, acronyms, dates, people or movies. You try to write an answer others think is the 'real' one.  The funny thing, the real one is often the most bizarre. Case in point, Francesco Lentini- Italian man born with 3 legs sounded way less likely than inventor of mustache wax, but guess what, he was! Google it. There's pictures.  Ethan got very creative and thus won the game. Adam was a close second.

Last night we played Charades with Cal just back from Michigan. We used a Windows app to generate the words, and they were flagrantly too easy or hard.  Ice cream or Top Marks vs. Parental Controls or Convalescence.

Physical Activity: Friday morning Betsy, Ethan and I circled most of Argyle Lake on foot while Chris rode a bike around the hilly venue.  Saturday morning we went back for more, and the walkers tried a looped hiking trail (there is only ONE in this park) while the peddler circled the lake again.  Ethan and Chris traversed Macomb on bikes that evening and Sunday morning Chris and I rode back and forth to mom and dad's on bikes.

Story Telling:  Much visiting was done around the tables, living rooms and vehicles.  While Minneapolis prevailed (code for telling the same story ad nauseum), there was some Dallas (knowingly retelling a story because you either a) want to or b) for the benefit of someone in the group who hasn't heard it), and even a few Albuquerque's (a story no one has ever heard before such as when, oh forget it, what's told in Macomb, stays in Macomb).  I wish I could record some of the conversations because we laughed till we cried at times. And I can't remember why.

Travelling within the travelling:  Betsy was on the road everyday except Thursday. Arriving Wednesday from Clarksville, she and Ethan picked up Chris at the airport in Indy and head to Springfield to pick up Adam.  Thursday she got a break. Friday, Betsy and I drove Adam back to Springfield after an early dinner. We watched the fireworks in all the little towns on our way back. Saturday we all drove to Galesburg and back for dinner. And Sunday, Ethan was due in Decatur for piano camp so I accompanied Betsy on this trek and stopped at Michael's for some decor for my office and Little Saigon to surprise Adam for dinner.  Today (Monday) Betsy reversed course and drove Chris back to Indy and then continued home to C'ville.

And let's not forget...

Food:  Mom and Dad cooked every meal that wasn't eaten in a restaurant,  Wednesday night was Taco Salad but those arriving from out of town had eaten Asian in Springfield at Mimosa's.  Thursday night was baked chicken on the grill although I missed this meal because I worked late. Friday night was Kabobs, they were amazing...

Grilling was a joint effort...

Some people just relaxed in the mighty jungle, I mean on the deck. It looks pretty lush out there, doesn't it?
I would download more pictures but it takes an eternity, I don't know why blogger uploads pictures so slowly.

Saturday evening we headed to Galesburg to try the new Iron Spike Brew Pub.  Most everyone enjoyed their meals, though some people fussed about the beer and the waitress.  My shrimp and grits was Loaded, and I mean loaded with salt, so I guess I fussed about the food.

My only regret about our time together is that we didn't take up Pat's offer of a fire on Thursday night. It was perfect weather, and he had everything set up.  Come to think of it, the weather cooperated quite nicely the whole weekend.

Everything's Better with a little Yoga

Just stretching out with a little yoga after (or was it before) my nap today and marveling at how much better I feel when I take the time to do my 12 minute routine. It literally got me through a difficult year of work. I probably missed less than five days out of 188 work days of doing yoga at 5:15 a.m. and it's not just the stretching, though my neck really thanked me for it. Two hours of driving and nine hours of solid intensity on a daily basis does not a soft neck make.  The other coping tool I used was aroma therapy shampoo and conditioner from Bath and Body. In the fall, I used the Stress Relief formula and the spring semester I went with the Energizing version. Well worth the $17 or whatever it cost over the price of 88 cent bottles of VO5.

My yoga routine has some floor stretches, seated poses, sun salutations, and balance poses followed by a corpse meditation I learned in one of my classes. A great way to start the day. It's not just the stretching, but the coordinated focused breathing that is required. Puts the mind and body in a relaxed and receptive state. Open to the experiences that will come my way, for better or worse. I know I can handle it, because I will always be back on the mat the next day.

Today I noticed it finally happened. I was doing the Plow, and my knees gently brushed my forehead. I was wondering all year when this might happen. The beauty of yoga is you don't push it or make it a competitive (even with yourself) exercise. You just do what feels right in that moment. One day it may be more or less than the next, and you practice acceptance. No wonder this ancient practice has remained and increased in popularity. What a wonderful way to counteract the insanity of our daily lives.

this is not me, by the way

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Musings from my Bike Ride 6/20/14

I had these thoughts yesterday at 7:30 a.m. and today I am trying to block out the fact Eli is going to be gone until August 13 or so.  More on that later.  I might do that in my ArmMeat blog.

So, on my bike ride early in the morning the weather was a perfect 72 degrees about.  Humid, in a good way, the way that you can smell everything intensely, like the flowers and trees. I think we still have daffodils, and those are usually reserved for early spring.  Anyway, everything smelled so nice, just what Bath and Body puts in a bottle.

Do you realize those pretty flower and plant berms have to be weeded?  You never see anyone doing it, but it must take some maintenance.  I rode about 40 minutes and it was glorious.

On my way back into town, I saw two teens interacting by a car. How I loved being a teenager in the summer...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summers Off, Schlummers Off

This may sound odd, but trading the school job with summer's off, for part time work year round is feeling like a really good thing for me.  Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe the teachers need the summer break. Some even start the old "count down" in March or so.  A teacher lives and breathes school for 180 days, going hard all the way. It really is an intense avocation.  And a special shout out to the Special Education teachers who are required to do way more paperwork, meetings, parent contacts and student issues than regular ed teachers, all for no more pay and usually much less glory.  I'm not saying traditional teachers don't work as hard, many do. It's just the special education laws and requirements are so absurdly out of control, you couldn't slide if you were so inclined.

Back to the point here.  I have informally surveyed teachers about their enjoyment or ability to get the full benefit of the summer off, and they resoundingly agree, they have no problem basking in it to the maximum. One guidance counselor, however, agreed with me that there is a lingering sense of guilt, depression or inability to feel productive during the long break.  Turns out, she previously worked most of her career outside the education system in year round employment.  I also felt a little restricted by the schedule in only being allowed two personal days to use when and as I choose.  Again, don't get me wrong, having holidays and a long winter break, not to mention snow days, were a gift, and well appreciated...I just like the idea of taking vacation when I want or need to. For example, to attend a wedding mid year or shoot off to Jamaica in February (like I would!).

One thing you have to be careful of when you have summers off is not to complain about it to your working friends. It seems obvious but it actually took me awhile to catch on that when they ask how your summer is going, they don't want to hear, "I'm bored" or "I'm tired of sleeping in."

Except for the financial aspect, working Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday sounds pretty good to me right now. In fact, when I had this schedule in the past (when the boys were young) it was the happiest of times. I could manage the stress of the job better, knowing it was limited to a minority of the days of the week. I had time to make appointments, phone calls and take care of the business of the family during my weekdays off, as well as to do healthy things for myself such as exercise, read, write and drink copious amounts of coffee. That was a funny. And, when and if you do go back to work full time, you feel like you just got a huge raise.

So, this is all to say that I feel I made a good decision for me in changing directions at this time.  I already feel like less of a deadbeat.

Monday, June 09, 2014


It's hard to believe I will be starting a new job tomorrow.  I want this to be the last new job I have to start.  I had quickly forgotten how hard the good-byes can be when one invests heart and soul in a vocation. After giving my resignation, a huge sense of dread and fear enveloped me as I had to plan how/who/when to tell the different constituents (I know that sounds like a weird word to use) I work with: teachers, students, administrators, co-workers, in five buildings and a central office.  I quickly devised a pretty good plan, but can't help feeling I offended someone who didn't get told in person, or at all.  I thought I had my bases covered, and then more and more people kept coming to mind that I needed to say goodbye to.  I had about 3 weeks to unravel myself from the education web, and I pretty much did it without tears (mine or theirs).

One of my teacher friends had a wonderful collage of photos of students past and present made for me with the caption


OMG, I thought today, I'm going to be introduced to many new faces which I will have to learn their names and ranks quickly.  No worries, I consoled myself, it could never be as vast and intimidating as an ENTIRE school full of personnel, whose first (for casual conversation) and last (Mrs, Ms, Mr, Miss ---in front of the students) names must be memorized as rapidly as possible, let alone Four new schools at once.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Mini Book Reviews

I just read two books back to back and they couldn't have been more different.  Beneath a Marble Sky takes place in 17th century India where the Emperor is building the Taj Mahal to honor his recently deceased wife. He has married off his favorite daughter, Jahanara, to a cruel, disgusting businessman who brutally mistreats her. She secretly falls in love with the brilliant architect of the Taj Mahal, Isa, and they find a way to be together with the help of her dying father. This story is told by Jahanara talking to her granddaughters in the 'present' so we know the outcome will be favorable for her.  This is John Shors' first novel and I went from barely knowing what country the Taj Mahal stands in, to being fully immersed in the world of war, culture, relationships and architecture of Agra, India in 1632-48.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat is set in southern Indiana a few years back and is reminiscent of "Steel Magnolias" which I saw on stage recently.  Three friends nicknamed "The Supremes" since high school meet regularly at a diner and the story weaves past and present seamlessly to reveal their rich, intertwined lives and the power of friendship. Amazingly, written by a man in the voice of a woman, Edward Kelsey Moore nails the female psyche. In a nod to 'seven degrees of separation' Moore is a concert cellist who is friends with my sister's old college pal, Claudia, who plays viola professionally in the Chicago area.

Both these novels were recommended to me by my parents, and both took about 1/3 of the way through to become engrossed, but by the end I was disappointed to reach the last page.

I am now at the beginning of The Whole World Over a 2006 novel by Julia Glass. If you have read Three Junes or anything by Glass, you will find her writing can only by described as dense.  The way she details every passing moment or thought is just incredible. Not in the way I find monotonous as when authors go on and on describing scenery. This density is internal, as if we are inside the mind of the characters and seeing and thinking as they experience life.