Saturday, March 27, 2010

Master Gardening

Yesterday, I finished my course work for the Colorado Master Gardener Program through Colorado State University Extension. I started the program in January and have attended classes every Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I now must complete 50 hours of volunteer work to complete the program and receive my certification.

Becoming a master gardener has been one of my retirement dreams. As with all dreams, I found that the reality of reaching the goal that comes from the dream requires much commitment and hard work. I also found that at this stage in my life, I have less patience for sitting in a classroom and learning more material. Always one for needing to be the "A" student, I was rather surprised to see myself not needing to excel in the coursework associated with this program. I just accepted that I am a novice when it comes to all I need to learn in the life sciences. Let's just say that whatever background knowledge I had in that area was really buried in the back of my brain.

The terms found in botany, entomology, soil management, abiotic factors in the environment and etc. are terms that I normally do not think about. Who knew that soil could be such an interesting topic? (Anyway, it was to me.) I also found entomology fascinating. I look at the world around me in a new way. I also know that I have much to learn about gardening and all the problems that go with it.

Yesterday, we learned about producing small berries and fruit. As I listened to our instructor, Carol O'Meara, speak of growing raspberries and grapes, many memories came flooding back to me about my days as a young mother in Utah when we grew raspberries and grapes in our back yard. I harvested the grapes for juicing.

Thinking of those September days when I could actually smell that it was time to harvest the Concords and begin making juice, I became quite nostalgic. I think I will plant at least one grape vine this year. I want to again enjoy the satisfaction of harvesting fragrant grapes and making some wonderful, home grown, home-made juice.
Sally harvesting grapes with Julie, Fall 1981

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Acclimatizing to Becoming the Sole Mistress of My Time

"Acclimatizing to becoming the sole mistress of my time" is a repeated theme in my life since retirement. This phrase, discovered in the book I am currently reading, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, rang very true to describing my own on-going struggle. The quote was actually used to describe Fanny Burney following her retirement from the court of King George III and Queen Charlotte where she had served as Second Keeper of the Queen's Robes. She obviously eventually became "accustomed" to her retirement because she went on to write novels, plays, and a biography. Her many diaries and journals were published after her death. It is important to note that her readership included Jane Austin and Dr. Samuel Johnson.

I loved this quote because it so accurately describes some of the frustrations experienced by those of who have always had so many demands on our time. As stay-at-home moms, we have jam-packed days that are dictated by chores, crying babies, curious toddlers and demanding pre-schoolers. We dream of the day when our little ones will begin school only to discover that our time is still not our own.

In my case, I went from being a stay-at-home wife and mother to becoming a single working mom overnight. My time had an entirely new set of demands. I had to continue to raise my children, keep house and provide meals, and I had the sudden and unexpected burden of becoming gainfully employed and educated. Somehow, I lived through those days and was able to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table while working at a very low paying job while I worked on finishing a college degree at night.

Between 1989 and 2002, I worked full-time and earned three degrees: a BS in Business Administration, a BA in English, and a MA in Teaching the Linguistically Diverse. Believe me, I was not "the mistress of my time" during those years. In 1992, I married my husband. In 1996, he became the principal of a large high school. So, I added the duties of being the wife of a high school principal to my long list of "things that keep me very busy."

As they say, "it was all good" during those years. I loved my multiple roles of wife, mother, daughter, teacher, and wife of a principal. I had little time to spare. It seemed that we were always on the go, and I had multiple demands for my time.

I've learned that I am motivated and become more productive when I am surrounded by others or when I participate in discussions or conversations. That is one area of my life that is missing right now. I don't have enough interactions with other people. So, in order to feel more energized and productive, I will need to mix with people more often. I must guard again becoming isolated. I've found that when I don't have a job to go to, it is way to easy to get lazy and isolated.

Productivity still remains a value that I wish to see reflected in my life. I don't want to be on the shelf, but I find that I now struggle knowing exactly what I wish to produce. I know I don't want to create lesson plans, educational design plans or curriculum maps. I am certain that I want that part of my life behind me. However, education still remains a passion in my life. I am concerned about the direction of the current educational system, I am just unsure what, or if, I want to do anything about my concerns.

For now, my blog, does keep me writing. I don't write much, but I do have place where I can write. I also have my writing group (of one other person) which serves as a place where I can exchange writing ideas, get feedback, and give support. This exercise in meeting to write and share ideas and thoughts on writing serves an important role in helping acclimate to this stage in life.

The part about retirement that I don't have down is believing that I have the right to be the "sole mistress of my time." That is what I will continue to work on now that I don't have the needs of children or demands of the school bell to dictate my time and direction.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day Memories

Today as I was picking out which green sweater to wear, I remembered an interesting encounter with my paternal grandmother that took place on Saint Patrick's Day in about 1958. I remember that I was in junior high, and I think my cousin and I decided to walk over to our grandmother's house after school. Right away, I noticed that my grandmother was not wearing green. Since her mother had been born in Wales, I thought that grandma would be wearing green. Boy was I wrong to assume that. In an indignant tone, she said, "I don't wear green on this day. The Welsh wear orange." Wow, that was news to me. I didn't know that a Welshman would wear orange on the day that the Irish wore green.

I was about to get a lesson about my heritage. It turns out that the Welsh would wear orange to show that they were protestants, while the Irish Catholics wore green. To this day, I always think about this history/culture lesson that I learned about my heritage on St. Patrick's Day when I was just a very young teenager. I have yet to wear orange on this Irish holiday, but I always think about it.

I wonder if my grandmother would be dismayed to see me wearing green. She most likely would be somewhat disappointed. After all, when I named my first-born son Ryan, she said, "Why did you give him an Irish name?" It's a good thing I added William as his middle name. William had been the name of her Welsh father and was the name of my father, her first-born son.

This holiday also holds another special memory for me. Forty-nine years ago today, on March 17, 1961, I had my first date with the young man who would one day become my husband. Yes, Jim Wessely and Sally French had their first date on this day many years ago. We went to the sixteenth birthday party for the girl who actually introduced us, set us up, and I think even arranged the party so we would have a reason to go out together. I was a very shy, skinny sophomore in high school. He was a very popular senior. Now, I'm not sure I should kiss and tell, but he did kiss me on our very first date. Shocking, isn't it? I was a bit mortified. We went to the prom together about a month later. At about the same time as our first date, the following quote by him appeared in the school newspaper: "The perfect date for the prom for me must be cute, sweet and short." I fit the short part...I guess that is how I made the cut!

It took 31 years for us to marry after that first date and first kiss. Today, I made new St. Patrick's Day memories with my wonderful husband when we fixed ourselves some corned beef and cabbage for dinner. I've been a very lucky girl to have this great guy in my life through all these years. I hope we have many more St. Patty's Days together.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

February - Celebrating a milestone reached

Thanks to a blogging buddy, I've been nudged into posting an entry to my blog. Where did February go?

I spent most of the first week of February at CCIRA (Colorado Council International Reading Association) in Denver. It seems at bit strange that I would first attend CCIRA after I had retired, but there is an explanation for becoming a part of an educational conference at this point in my life. I had been asked by a good friend to co-edit the Colorado Communicator with her. Since I really knew very little about the organization itself and the people who held leadership roles in it, I decided to go to the conference. I had a wonderful time attending the sessions and came away with many things to think about and explore. I am actually working on a post about some of the sessions that I attended.

Of course, an extra bonus that I gain from the conference was spending time with my good friend Dr. Linda Button. Linda and I met many years ago at what was then Colorado State College. We lived in the same dorm and we both pledged to Sigma Kappa. While we were never close friends in college, we re-connected about six years ago when I attended a meeting in Greeley at our alma mater, now the University of Northern Colorado, where Linda was a member of the faculty. Since we have both retired, we have tried to make it a point to stay connected. Re-connecting with friends and building friendships are a great benefit to retirement time.

February was also the month where my husband and I tried to jumpstart our diet and exercise plan. I did spend more time at the gym during February than I have in the past few years, but I can't say that I have spent enough time there. My husband has been much more committed, and for that reason, he has had better results.

February is my birthday month. This year was a milestone. I finally was eligible for Medicare. Who would have ever thought that I would celebrate that? I entered retirement a bit naive about the reality of paying insurance. In fact, I went back to work full-time from January to May in 2008 in order to get insurance. At the end of that job, I had to begin paying my insurance through COBRA. Ouch! Finally, at age 65, I no longer have that big insurance bill staring me in the face every month. What a relief!

Every Friday during January, February and March, I have also been attending classes Colorado Master Gardener classes. I've longed dreamed of the day when I would finally be able to take on the obligation of working toward a certificate in master gardening. I knew I would be making a huge commitment when I took this project on. Not only do I have to attend classes weekly for three months, but I also must contribute 50 volunteer hours in order to meet the qualifications for the certificate.

In February, I was blessed with had two special birthday celebrations. My good friend Judy met me in Colorado Springs and took me to lunch at The Margarita at Pine Creek.
We both love this special place! It was so great to laugh, talk and reminisce with Judy. The crazy thing is, it wasn't until she said something about teaching in Alexandria, Virginia, that I remembered, "Oh that's right. Judy is an ESL teacher just like I am." In fact, that is how we met each other. She worked with me at the University as we worked to get the ESL endorsement program put together. Now, our lives don't revolve around professional things. She is now my "retirement model." I hope to someday enjoy retirement as successfully as she does.

East High Girls Gather
At Sally's House
I had a big birthday bash at my house on the day before my big day. Actually, the gathering was a get-together for a group of girls I went to high school with. I am a newcomer to the group. They've met three times a year for over 25 years. I lived out of state when they first began meeting, and just joined the group in November. What a special group of ladies they all are. We all had a great laugh when my husband asked if he needed to turn the t.v. on for us before he left. I guess he thought we would have nothing to talk about. As you can guess, we didn't stop talking, laughing and sharing our stories for the entire time we were together. I love that this group loves and supports each other through the good times, through illness and death, and through the loss of husbands and parents. It truly is comforting to know that I have friends who knew me back when and continue to be a part of my life.