Monday, April 27, 2015

My Life As An Educator ~ Part I ~ Project Head Start



*Fifty years ago this year, I first embarked on my journey to become an educator.  I'm looking back on some of the memories I made along the way. 

1965
Leadville, Colorado

A clipping rom the Leadville Herald Democrat 
Summer 1965
I am the "Trained Aide" in the photo
 1965, the year I turned twenty, I was just beginning the upper level courses that would lead to a degree in elementary education at what was then Colorado State College. (Now University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado)  That summer, between my sophomore and junior year, I had the very unique opportunity of working as a "trained aide"  for Project Head Start in Leadville, Colorado.  A young, idealistic preservice teacher I jumped at the opportunity to work in this program as a summer job.

I saw the philosophy behind Head Start as one that aligned with my own belief system about the value of education and the role it played in economic opportunity.  While I had never articulated my beliefs at the time in this manner, a believer in social justice, I firmly believed that it was only through education that those living in poverty would be able overcome the social and economic inequities that were found in our country at during the early sixties.

Head Start Students
Summer 1965
Leadville, Colorado
Some of you may not know much about Head Start.  1965, the U. S. Office of Economic Opportunity began the eight-week summer program that would launch Project Head Start.  I was one of many tutors, aides, and teachers that were hired that summer to serve over 560, 000 children throughout the country in this newly created program.

 As a refresher, I want to briefly outline the reasons why Head Start was created.  It grew out of Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, and I think it is interesting to note that it was created by the Office of Economic Opportunity.  The basic premise for this program was established on the belief that education was the solution to breaking the "cycle of poverty."    It was a time when the civil-rights movement was greatly influencing education.  It was thought that "government was obligated to help disadvantaged groups in order to compensate for inequality in social and economic conditions."  Head Start was to be a comprehensible program for preschool children that would meet their "emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs."

I wish I had kept a journal of those days because now, nearly 50 years later, my mind is a bit fuzzy about it all.  I do remember that in my youth I was idealistic about education and social reform.  I had great dreams about the kind of educator I would become.   As a young woman coming of age during the 60's,  I embraced the Civil Rights Movement and the "new" ideas about education, but I also respected and looked up to my mentors for their wisdom, leadership, and advice.  

My mentor for the summer of 1965 had also been my younger sister's kindergarten teacher the year or two before.  As a family, we already embraced Idelia B. Riggs as a gifted teacher.  As I reflect back on her now, I still consider her as the consummate educator, and as one the best with whom I have had the privilege to know throughout my entire lifetime.  She must have been in her sixties when I worked with her.  She had taught everything from kindergarten to college.  She had been the principal of a one-room schoolhouse at one point in her career.

She knew what children needed to grow and to prosper educationally, emotionally and socially.  She embraced the ideals behind Project Head Start and imparted them to me along with all of the reasons why she believed the program could be successful.  She said that the children of poverty in the area where we lived were beginning school without the skills that other children brought to school.  Sometimes, they didn't even know how to use indoor plumbing.  Yes, in 1965, in our program in Leadville, Colorado, some of the children did not have indoor plumbing.  We had to teach them how to use the bathroom facilities.  Some did not receive proper nutrition at home and many were undernourished.  They lagged behind their peers in knowing how to grasp a pencil or how to turn the pages of a book. Many did not know the alphabet.   They did not know how to write their names.  Many did not know colors or shapes.  They did not have group or personal social skills.  All of these needs would be met, as best they could be, by our summer program.  The program was comprehensive.  School readiness was achieved by giving the children equal portions of playtime, story time, art activities, and basic academic preparation such as learning how to recognize and form letters through reading and writing.

I have a vivid memory of the lunches that these children received.  The government's philosophy was that this program should have "maximum feasible participation" for success.  Therefore, those who would benefit from the program, the low income population, should help plan and run their own programs.  Many of the women who planned and cooked the meals were the mothers of the children.  Everyday, they prepared wonderful meals.  I loved the Spanish rice we had nearly everyday.  Believe me,  in those days the meals fed these children were good.  They are nothing like the terrible meals that are put together in an off-site place and served to low-income kids these days.  In the 60's, at the Leadville Head Start, meals included not only wonderful rice, they also included great main dishes like fried chicken, and vegetables. The best part might have been fresh home baked dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls we were served daily!  Oh the agony of waiting for lunch while smelling those fresh rolls bake. 

Our lead teacher, Mrs. Riggs was a very practical woman who put up with no nonsense from anyone.  Her character was stellar.  She saw her role as an educator as one as a public servant.  She was not interested in feathering her own nest or building her career.  She was there for the children she taught and for the families she served.  In my mind's eye, I see her now.  She is wearing the apron with plenty of pockets so she would have "a place for those tissues to wipe a child's nose or tears," or as a place to keep stray crayons, pencils or rubber bands that she might need while she was teaching.  She believed in expecting the best behavior and performance from all kids.  Patient, kind and loving, she was also demanding when it came to giving something your best efforts.  We ALL learned from her.   As I said, I could never have had a better mentor.  Mrs. Riggs, and the ideals of Head Start, greatly influenced my philosophy of my own role as an educator.

I am including a treasured letter that Mrs. Riggs wrote to me in August, 1965.  It reads:

 Dear Sally,
May I again express my appreciation for your top quality contribution to our Head Start program and staff.  You are a genuine and capable and very personable young woman, Sally, - a credit to your fine family and the best of our American Youth.  And besides, you're just plain sweet. 

Fondly yours,
Idelia B. Riggs

Hello to all your family, too.


********

I will always be grateful for the time I had working by Mrs. Riggs side.  I also am grateful for the time I had working with  groundbreaking Project Head Start during the first year of its inception.  Even though I spent the majority of my career as an educator at the secondary level, children of preschool age continue to have a soft place in my heart when it comes to education.  I am also grateful that I held fast to those idealistic views I held for education during the years when I first began on my journey as an educator.

 I often wish I could discuss today's state of education with Mrs. Riggs.  I know she would have some very strong ideas on what must happen if we are to achieve the lofty ideals that we had in the 60's.  

*  I originally wrote parts this post in 2009.  Parts of it were publish in the Fall 2010 issue of  "The Colorado Communicator," a newsletter for the Colorado Council International Reading Associate.  Serving as co-editor for this newsletter was one of my "retirement jobs."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Change of Heart


I’ve had a change of heart.
The beating of my heart had become more and more erratic.
Now, I have a 
pacemaker
 to keep things a bit more 
steady.

I’m learning to align
my mind and emotions 
with my body 
while it acclimates to a new and different heart rhythm pattern,
one more orderly,
one not yet understood.

The medical notes from the recent X-ray read:
A left subclavian transvenous bipolar pacemaker has been inserted. 
Leads project over the region of the right atrium and right ventricle.
 The notes go on to say I have a new bipolar pacemaker.

It all seems a bit surreal.
I wonder at times how those notations became a part of my medical record.

The time had come when I knew things had to change.
I simply could not go on the way things were.

Some hearts found in my study:
A pink heart from blogging friends Sandi & Deb, A big heart from Vashon Island, A colorful heart made by my granddaughter Hannah,  a heart from Deb from Catbirdscout, a found heart.

On March 24, after years of irregular heart beats that never seemed to get better, a loop recorder was implanted in a very simple procedure performed by my cardiologist.  Just before the procedure, I was told that this device gave the doctors very good results very quickly.  Basically, the tiny little device, implanted just under the skin over the heart, is set to record those irregular heart beats that occur throughout the day in my heart.  Every night, at midnight, the day’s recording was wirelessly sent from the implanted device to a receiver that situated near my bed.  I felt nothing.  I did nothing.  The device in my body just talked to the device by my bedside.  Amazing.

At 8:00 the next morning, these reports were read by my doctor’s office.  If there were any events that were life threatening, I would be notified.  Of course, if I felt any of these events, I would have notified them!

For some reason, from the end of March until Easter Sunday, my symptoms just kept getting worse and worse.  I had two reactions to allergy shots that caused my heart to go a bit crazy.  In the evening of the day day of the second allergic reaction, thinking I was going to black out, I took my blood pressure.  My heart rate was listed as 48 beats a minute.  “Surely, this is a mistake,” I thought.  I am the girl with the overly fast beating heart.  I don’t have slow beats.  As the night wore one, I became more and more faint and had readings of beats in the 30’s.  My husband insisted I get to the doctor the next day.

On Good Friday, I saw my doctor.  He said the reports were showing that I was having a lot of events, “a lot” he emphasized.  “You have beats in the 30’s,” he said.  Thats a relief, thought I.  I was just sure that suddenly my blood pressure machine was not working, or I was crazy.  “You are showing us that you now have Tachy-brady syndrome.  How do you feel?”    “I feel terrible,” was my response.  I can’t function. I feel faint. I am exhausted.  I’m afraid to drive.”  

He thought we should treat the symptoms systemically for a little while to see if we got positive results.  If not, I was told I’d need a pacemaker.   I was on the low-normal range on potassium.  Knowing the potassium might help sounded reasonable.  I’d try that.  I’m not one to jump to surgery, but to be honest, I’ve heard the pacemaker suggested for too many years, and I was beginning to think it was time.

On Easter Sunday, after going to church, and then to a lovely brunch with my dear husband at the fanciest place in town, The Broadmoor Hotel, I again was faint and nearly blacked out.  My blood pressure was very low.  The exertion of the day had done me in.  At 7:00 that evening, at the insistence of my doctor’s office, I was in the emergency room.  I had a total melt down.  Sobbing to the nurse, I said, “I can’t do this anymore.  I am done.  This has to stop.”  She then told me I must calm down because in that one minute my heart had skipped 30 beats!  I calmed down. I also made a decision.  I decided that I was having surgery for a pacemaker as soon as it could be scheduled.

On Friday, April 10, my good Dr. L., my cardiologist for the past ten years, the one to whom I trust the intricacies of my heart, implanted a pacemaker.  The procedure went well.  It seemed to go quickly.  I awoke to find my kind and supportive husband by my side.  I sent him to eat breakfast while I rested.   Soon, my dear high school girlfriend, KM, was holding my hand and kissing my check while she spoke encouraging words to my heart and prayed for me.  

I came home from the hospital the next day.  I thought I would walk into the hospital, get the pacemaker, walk out, and go on with life without a bit of interruption.  It hasn’t been quite that easy.  True to form, I overdid yesterday.  I attended a tension filled meeting for my HOA.  I’m the secretary.  I thought I HAD to be there.  Wrong.  I then visited for two hours at a friend’s house.  By the time I was home my anxiety levels and stress levels were off the charts.  

The nurse calls everyday.  She says the first week is a rough one for many.  Yesterday, she said a meeting might be good.  It would keep my mind occupied.  The meeting was too stressful.  I should have stayed home.  I’m not handling stress well right now.

I go to get a device check tomorrow.  I took today off.  I have done nothing all day.  I will do the same until I am feeling stronger.

Reflections

The heart is a sensitive organ, and mine appears to be especially sensitive.
Both doctors who have done invasive procedures have said my heart was particularly sensitive to the medical instruments used, more so than the normal patient.

I wonder if the doctors saw the broken part of my heart?
The part that keeps on beating through all the sorrow.
Does a broken heart become more sensitive?

Did they see my strong heart?
The part that is resilient, full of hope, that looks forward to the future.
Did they see that I have a survivor’s heart, one that wants to overcome the hurts of the past while remembering and holding on to the love that remains for the one who is no longer here?

Did they see my loving heart?
The one that is full of so much love for my husband and my children and grandchildren.
The one that is so full of love that I want it to beat strongly so I can fill my days with their joys and sorrows and accomplishments and laughter.
The one that wants to live as fully as possible.

Modern medicine is a miracle.
I now have a computer inside my body that regulates the beats of my heart.
I hope this does not make my heart mechanical.
I’m sure that will never happen.
That little computer will just help smooth things out for me and my heart.

It is hard to wrap one’s head around it all.

I still feel the skipped beats, and the new rhythm pattern is one I don’t quite understand.
Sometimes that makes me very anxious.

I must learn to trust
the device within my heart.
I must learn to trust more fully
 the One who made my heart.
Ultimately, He controls the span of my days.  
Each day I learn anew that I must trust.

Living life fully makes trust easier to come by.

My heart has been subject to an invasive procedure.
I know from experience that this means that I will suffer some emotional side effects.
My husband, my children, my friends have been so supportive as I have prepared for and gone through this procedure that I honestly don’t know what I would do with out them.

Healing is not a liner process.
Some days are better than others.
One must learn to listen the rhythms of the body and the heart and let them work together.
Healing takes time.


I am reminded of the lesson I learned with a head injury in 2012.
Adopt the pace of nature:
Her secret is patience.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A rose from my rose garden:  Pope John Paul II

A lesson from Proverbs:
A joyful heart is good medicine…
Proverbs 17:22

A life verse written out that has been on my reading table for many years:
Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 31:24

I borrow a line from a poem by Emily Jane Bronte,
not because I feel that sadness of the poem, but because I think her advice speaks wisdom to me:

Me thinks this heart should rest awhile…

I will not push through life as I am prone to do.
I will give myself time to heal.
Soon,
I’ll be walking much faster and farther,
Soon,
I’ll be able to go over 8,000 feet in elevation again.
Soon,
I will be feeling better than I have for years.

I’ve needed a change of heart.
I think this this change will be wonderful.

I never was good at keeping a beat.
My rhythm has always been a bit off.
That has been changed.

The beat goes on.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Gift of Friendship

Birthdays and gifts go hand in hand.  I've been questioning how one should celebrate the birthday of one no longer with us as my daughter Julie's birthday has approached.  Julie had a gift when it came to making friends.  After her death, one of the most wonderful gifts that she left me was the gift of friendship with her many friends.  Tomorrow, April 8,  Julie would have been 39 years old.  Today, I will celebrate the gift of friendship that was found in one very close to her:  Scott.

When Jim and I were in Florida in February, I received a text from  Julie's high school boyfriend Scott Roberts asking if we would be able to connect while we were in the area since he lived an hour or so away.  I was thrilled when he contacted me, and we made a visit with Scott one of our highest priorities.

The Story of Two April Babies Born in 1976:

Scott and Julie



My daughter Julie met Scott not long after she moved to Pueblo Colorado, when I married Julie's step-father Jim.  I always admired the way Julie jumped right into the challenge of moving to a new town when she was in high school.  I know this was no easy task.  It wasn't long before she made a bevy of wonderful friends.  Scott was one of them.  After Julie's death Scott sent me note he had written to Julie on nineteenth anniversary of the first day they met.  He wrote: you were so cute, so happy, so full of life.  I loved you instantly...  This will be the first year I don't get to call you and tell you how long we've known each other.  We always made jokes on how we could have tolerated each other so long... There was always something special about you, I couldn't tell you the day I met anyone else...that's how much you've always stood out.  

The relationship between these two lasted as long as Julie lived.  They had some pretty rocky teenage times when much to my dismay they would have their spats.  I would hear the telephone ring all hours of the night when Scott would call Julie.  (Probably because she called him first.)  More than once, I heard the little tiny pebbles hit Julie's bedroom window.  I knew Scott was trying to get her attention either late at night or early in the morning when he was delivering his newspapers.  I would go to the bedroom next to Julie's, open the window and holler down to the young man standing below her second story window, "Go home Scott.  Julie is sleeping.  Leave her alone."  We laugh about it now.  

Scott and Julie attend their junior prom together.  They continued to date off and on during their freshman year in college. Scott was born three days before Julie on April 5, so every year, even the year Julie died in 2010, they always made sure they talked to each other on their birthdays.


When Julie and Scott were in their first year of college, they took a road trip to Utah with my son Jon to visit Julie and Jon's father, sister, and brother in Utah.  I think it must have been over Spring Break.
I recently ran across photos taken just before that trip.  Scott reminded me that he lost his job because he went on that trip with Julie.  I guess he'd just been hired on a new job at the newspaper, but decided to take a vacation anyway.  When he got back, he didn't have a job.

They all look so young and cute in these photos.  I think Julie must have the face to her tape recorder in her hand in the photo on the right.  I think she has a police detector radar device in her hand in the center photo.  I guess they must have had dinner at our home just before they departed for the trip.  I'm thankful for these fun memories.  I wonder if they were celebrating their 19th birthdays with this trip.  The trip was taken twenty years ago in 1995.  It seems impossible that many years have passes since these kids were teenagers.


I used to tease Scott whenever I saw him over the years by asking, "When are you finally going to marry my daughter?"  All those years ago, when these two teenagers were making each other and their parents crazy, I recognized the positive character traits of loyalty, faithfulness to friends and family, hard work, and belief in his religion in Scott.  I saw a young man I would have felt proud to have as a family member.  Scott has remained a dear "adopted" part of our family.

Upon hearing of Julie's death in May of 2010, Scott flew to Colorado from Florida to be with us and all of her dear friends for her funeral.  His presence meant so much to us.  Later that same year, he came to visit us and spent some time with Jim and me on our back deck.  I always remember him asking me as we walked through the house towards the deck, "Is the trampoline still there?"  Of course it was.  He said he hoped to see the trampoline where he and Julie had had so much fun when they were younger.  He sent a beautiful letter to be read at her memorial service that was held a year after her death when we buried her cremated remains at the cemetery.

The way Scott has honored Julie's memory has always touched me more than he will ever know.  This past summer Scott made a very quick trip to Colorado from Florida for his 20th class reunion.  It also would have also been Julie's 20th class reunion.  He was in Colorado for fewer than 24 hours, yet he made sure he found out where Julie was buried so he could visit her grave and leave some flowers.  After he visited her burial site, before he headed forty miles south for the reunion, he sent me a message saying her stone was beautiful.  His thoughtfulness brought tears to my eyes.  I know Julie would have been greatly touched by his gesture of remembrance.  How many of us have a friend like Scott?  I've said it many times that Julie had a gift for making great friends.  Scott was one them.

Our Visit

We had arranged to meet Scott and his wife and daughter early in the afternoon on Valentine's Day for a late lunch on Daytona Beach.  This was not a day to spend a lot of time on the beach because the weather was quite cool.  Blistery winds whipped the waves of the ocean as Scott, Jim, I caught up on our lives.  Scott had brought his beautiful wife and daughter with him.  His two year old daughter, full of personality and spunk wanted to be outside running on the beach while we stayed inside the great spot Scott had picked for lunch, Racing's North Turn Beach Bar and Grille.

Scott
2015

While Scott was attending the University of Colorado working on his engineering degree, he took up skydiving.  He has been involved in competitive canopy piloting since 2002.  His passion for skydiving has led him to create his company called Fluid Wings.  (Click to read about his company.)  He makes parachutes for a living.  He also does contract work in engineering.

Scott and I recounted what a crazy small world this is as we talked about my blogging friend and fellow Vashonista, Djan Stewart of DJan-ity and Eye on the Edge.  Scott had seen Djan's name on one of my blog posts.  Scott knew that there is only one Djan.  And of course he is right.

Djan was the person that certified Scott as a sky jumper while he was still a student at CU in Boulder, Colorado.  Isn't that just crazy?  He spoke of how much he learned about skydiving from Djan.  Then, he told me about Djan's husband, "Smart Guy."  He had great admiration for both of these people whom influence him so much in his younger years.  He said, "I learned to skydive from Djan, but I'm still alive because of "Smart Guy."  I asked why, and he told me that Djan's husband taught him about being wise and not so crazy as a youth.  He taught him not to take stupid risks.  He made him think.

Scott then told me that Djan had met Julie, "She just doesn't remember it." He said Julie was dating a friend of Scott's when Scott was skydiving and they went skydiving together and Djan was there when they all took their jumps.  That really warmed my heart to see the connection that I made with Djan after Julie died.  Djan, Scott's mentor, helped me in so many ways to cope with Julie's death through blogging.  Yes, it is a very small world.

Our time together was too short, but I left the lunch we had together feeling so blessed.  I loved talking to Scott again and was so pleased to observe what a wonderful human being he remains.  I was especially blessed to get to know his wife.  She was delightful and so very interesting.  I also was thrilled to finally meet Scott's daughter.  Words can't describe this child's bright, lively, and intelligent personality.  I think she will keep Scott on her toes when she becomes a teenager.
Scott and Family
Daytona Beach
2015

My life has truly been blessed by knowing and spending time with Julie's friends.  She truly had a gift for making friends.  She made good life long friends.  Her friends are among my great gifts now.

This year, as I celebrate the birth of Julie, I am also celebrating that other April baby born just days before Julie was born: Scott Roberts. Memories of Julie's teen years and beyond will always be intertwined with memories of Scott.  Scott, you will never know how much it has meant to me that you made a great sacrifice to be with us when Julie died.  You will never know how much it meant to me that you made sure you left flowers for Julie on her gravesite when you came back for your class reunion. You two were friends with a friendship that spanned the years.  Now, it is my great joy to see you happily married, the father of a beautiful daughter, and involved in a career that represents your passion.  Julie would be so happy for you.  I am so very proud to count you among the gifts that Julie's life bestowed upon me.

Scott & Sally
Daytona Beach
2015











Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rebirth



After Christmas, the two red amaryllis blossoms that had sprung forth from a bulb planted in just stones and water, died back.
Those brilliant red blossoms that brought brilliant color to the drab days of winter eventually faded and began to die.
If I had known nothing about bulbs.
If I had known nothing about amaryllis.
I would have assumed the spent looking appearance of what was left of blossoms meant the the plant’s day had come to an end,   
I then would have tossed the plant out.

Instead,
I cut the flower stalk back to about three inches above the bulb.
I then took it downstairs to a cool dark closet that seldom gets opened.
I thought I’d check on it again in the fall.


Mid-March, I was looking for something in that dark, unused closet.
Not wanting to knock over the glass container containing the rocks and the bulb, I looked to see exactly where it was hiding in the closet.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a new green stalk shooting out of the bulb.
On the end of stalk was a bud.

I brought it upstairs, 
gave it a big drink of water
 and 
waited to see what time and light
 would do for it.

Thankfully, I had not read the fact sheet stating that amaryllis planted in rocks and water without soil
would not re-bloom.
The photo below proves they will re-bloom.
There was a rebirth.

Now the Christmas plant has bloomed for Easter.

Last week, my daughter sent me a text with a photo of daffodils attached.
Daffodils are my favorite flower.
They are a beautiful symbol of hope and rebirth.
She had made an arrangement with the flowers that combined springtime objects that gave her sweet memories.
One item in the arrangement were the salt and pepper shakers that once belonged to our dear Julie.

This next week will be a hard one for us.
Easter is a mixed occasion of joy and grief for me.
The last time I saw Julie was on Easter of 2010.
On April 8, Julie would have turned 39 years old.
Julie
Easter 2010

If I knew nothing about life, and death, and about faith in a God in Whom I can trust,
I would have completely been undone when my daughter died.
Many, many years ago I came to faith in Jesus Christ.
I went down paths that led away from my belief,
But I did not remain on those misleading paths.
I returned to faith.
When I needed that faith in the most,
My need was met by Jesus, the one trusted as a young girl, with grace and continued healing.

Easter brings me joy and hope.
Tomorrow, I will raise my voice in joyful Hallelujahs of praise for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I will join others around the world when it is announced 
He is Risen
By saying,
He is Risen Indeed.

A few day later, on what would have been Julie’s birthday,
I will remember Julie with these words penned by C.S. Lewis as an epitaph for his beloved Joy:

“Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day."

Have a blessed Easter.