Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Chicks No Longer

We haven't been real productive during our spring break.  Both my husband and I are lamenting heavily that we have to return to work next week.  We really do miss our retirement life and schedule.  Also, I think we were both really shocked at how tired we were and how much we needed a break.  Working everyday is taking a toil on us.  I only have about a month to go while he has two months to go.  We don't want to count the days, but are certainly tempted.

One thing is for sure:  we are not as young as we used to be.

Early in the week, I had an appointment with a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor in Colorado Springs.  Last month, an MRI confirmed that I have stenosis in the neck.  This is what causes the severe shoulder pain and numbness in my left arm that I have suffered from so much in the past six months.  I already have been diagnosed with stenosis in the lower spine.  I have chronic problems with my sciatica which can cause me to suffer from numbness in my left leg and foot.

The doctor said I could go in for an injection in the lower back to relieve the inflammation, and I scheduled it for today.  I then chickened out.  I guess the whole idea of having to go to a surgery center for the injection, and prepare as if I were having surgery freaked me out.  I decided to go with chiropractic and massage for a while longer to see if that helps.

I've had a flare up of my hip problems since break began.  Most likely it is due to my leaning over from the waist and cutting back my lavender plants.  I had a massage yesterday, but didn't get much relief.  I have a chiropractic appointment on Monday.  Hopefully, this will give me some relief.

The doctor also prescribed a Saunders Cervical Home Trac for my neck problems.  Have any of you ever used this device?  If it gives me relief, I guess I am willing to give it a try.

The diagnosis of stenosis has set me back some because I have been suffering from its effects off and on for quite some time now.  I hate to be physically limited.  I also hate to take the anti-inflammatory pills because they are so hard on my stomach.  I do get relief from doing Pilates, so I will get back to doing that on a regular basis again.

In the meantime, this afternoon,  Jim and I went out and got started with our yard clean up.  I felt just fine while I worked.  I didn't have any pain at all.  Now, I am really suffering.

These photos were taken last year, but we did the exact same clean-up this year.  I got things done earlier this year.  I have not yet cut back the roses.  It is too early.   My daffodils are just beginning to bloom, and so far, the grape hyacinths have not yet bloomed.

I need to get rid of the lavender in the bed in the center of my front side yard.  (see photo below)  It is taking over the bed.  Lavender works better as a hedge.  I have a hedge of lavender between my yard and the house next door.  I am working on a hedge of it to line the backyard walk.

These are one of my favorite garden tools.  They are razor sharp and are just great for sniping back the lavender in the spring.  They also are really wonderful for harvesting lavender.

I also get frustrated with the grape hyacinths.  They also take over a flower bed.  I have dug them out, pulled them out, and then dug them out again.  I swear they are like gray hair.  You pull one out, and ten come back in the space you tried to pull out.  Do any of you also fight these little purple flowers from taking over a flower bed?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Very Special Spring Break

Last year, Spring Break came and went, and my husband and I didn't even notice.  When you are retired, who cares about Spring Break?  This year, with both of us working again, we wondered if we would make it until we had a week off.

My husband has never liked going anywhere for Spring Break.  He's always liked to stay home and rest.  I usually go visit my mom or the kids.  This year, I just wanted to stay home and catch up on my rest.  I had also hoped to clean out the flower beds, organize the basement, clean out some closets, and wash the windows.  Funny how ambitious my mind is.  In reality, I am just hoping not to get behind on the laundry and not mess up the house too much while we are off from work and relaxing.  I also hoped to get out of Dodge (Pueblo) for at least one day.

So, about two weeks ago, my husband told me he had decided that he would surprise me with a minication.  [translation:  very small vacation]  He said he had booked us a room at the Brown Palace in Denver for the first Saturday night of Spring Break.  He also booked reservations for tea at the Brown and for Sunday brunch at the Brown.

Little did I know that the best was yet to come.  He had booked a suite for us.  Just before we reached the  door of the room, I had said, "Oh look, I think we are staying in the same room as we did last time."  He responded with, "No, I guarantee you we are not staying in the same room."  Then, the attendant approached the door to our room, a corner room, and opened the door.   I was literally shocked when I looked inside.  "Why, this looks like a suite."  Sure enough, before my unbelieving eyes was his well kept surprise for me.

This was what I saw first.

During the Eisenhower Administration, when I was growing up in Colorado, The Brown Palace was often in the news.  It was called the Western White House.  I clearly remember when Eisenhower would be visiting Denver and staying at this wonderful old hotel.  Built in 1892, it opened its doors just one month before my paternal grandmother was born in Florence, Colorado.  It has been open every day since.  Few things, say Colorado to me quite as much as The Brown Palace.  It links me to my family's long tenure in this state, and is a major part of the proud history of the state I love.  It is uniquely Colorado.  (For those of you who are interested, click fun facts about The Brown Palace to read more about this historical spot.)

It has always been one of my favorite places to visit whenever I am in the neighborhood, even if it has just meant walking through the lobby and making my way up the wonderful wrought iron lined staircases to the seventh floor.   Once, when just walking through the place on a tour, a friend and I searched for the two upside down panels of the iron grill work that "ring the lobby."

I love the "wrought iron panels that ring the lobby from the third to the seventh floor."

I love the unique shaped walls covered with rose themed wallpaper

So, this past weekend, I could really barely believe that we were actually staying in one of her grand old suites.   I loved the stately, old look of our room.  Note the curved walls that speak to the location of the room.  It is a corner room  on the Tremont and 17th Street side of the building.

Jim, looking quite presidential, tried out the desk.

The bed was very comfortable.

The bathroom was very nice.

Jim practiced using his camera while I tried out the desk.  I'd like to have this room to write in on a regular basis!

My thank you note to my dear sweet husband...

My teacher look...

Here is a shot of the lobby where tea is held.

Before long, it was time for tea.  So we made our way downstairs.

Tea time...

When we got back up to the room, I heard bag pipes.  Finally, I thought to look out the window.  Sure enough, a bride and groom had just walked from The Trinity United Methodist Church across the street to a reception to be held at the hotel.  A bag piper was heralding their arrival.  "Oh how romantic and exciting," I thought.

 I missed being able to get a photo of the bride and groom and the bag piper, but I did get a photo of the bridal party.

Our weekend did not end with tea, but my husband said, "Enough with the camera already."  So, the photo log stops here.

We walked down the Sixteenth Street Mall to the movie theater where we watched, The Lincoln Lawyer.  I loved the movie and highly recommend it.  My husband is a real fan of Michael Connelly's books.  Based on the movie, I may have to start reading his books.

We had dinner in the Ship Tavern at the Brown.  The hamburger was wonderful!

We walked to Larimer Square and back to the hotel in the moonlight of the Super Moon.

We then got up Sunday morning for the amazing Brown Palace Sunday Brunch.  We actually had free tickets for the brunch which is why we had decided to go to Denver during Spring Break.  I just didn't expect my husband to also book the 'sweet' room that he did.   I wish I had photos of the brunch, but my husband nixed the idea.  Just trust me; it was really, really good and beautifully prepared.

Sitting at brunch, listening to the jazz quartet, watching the people from various stages of life enjoy a special Sunday Brunch, I couldn't help but reflect on the past year.  With tears in my eyes, I felt I needed to thank my husband for being by my side during the worst year of my life.  I know I would not have made it without him.

He has sat and watched over me as I have grieved.  He has given me space to grieve with the knowledge that he was always just a few steps away,  He has made sure my every need was met.  His quiet, solid strength, his wise counsel in all matters surrounding my daughter's death, his willingness to take care of those legal matters that I just couldn't deal with in the beginning, his constant support, his love, his ability to try and make special memories for me have all caused me to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was greatly blessed by a provident God when He gave me this man for a husband.

Sometimes, I feel such regret that he has had to suffer along with me.  I guess I feel guilt also.  He did nothing to deserve this tragedy.  I know none of us did, but it hurts to know that the actions of others hurt  those around them so deeply.

I said to him, "Jim, I really must say this.  You didn't deserve to go through all that you have had to go through in the past year.  Thank you for being there.  Thank you for being you.  I'm sorry you have had to suffer with me this past year."  He said, "I'm sorry too, dear, not for my sake, but for yours."

Do you see why I love him?  I am truly greatly blessed to call this man my husband.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Past Saint Patrick's Days and A Dear Friend's Birthday

This holiday also holds another special memory for me. Fifty 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 Sweet Sixteenth Birthday Party for Dove, the girl who actually introduced us, and set us up. I was a very shy, skinny sophomore in high school. He was a very popular senior who played football, was a class officer, and king of the girls' sock hop.

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.

Jim & Sally
Prom 1961
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!

Here we are, fifty years later.  This photo was taken at a 50 year class reunion this past year.  Now  please note, I did not graduate 50 years ago.  I am much younger than my husband.  Remember, he dated me when I was just a sophomore and he was a senior.

Dove & Sally
EHS Reunion 2010
So, on this Saint Patrick's Day, I want to thank that dear friend who introduced me to the love of my life.  Thank you, Dove.  You know how much this man means to me.  He is a treasure.  Who knows if I ever would have met him if it were not for you.

  Today, is Dove's birthday.  I hope it is a happy one.  Perhaps she will go skiing in Vermont with her dear husband.  I will be thinking of her.  I never forget her sweet sixteen birthday.  We were all so young back then, but we made friendships and relationships that grow more valuable with passing day.

 Dove, the years have taken all of us down roads we never expected to travel back in 1961.  I guess that between the two of us, we could write quite a book.  We've been separated by years and by miles, but you have always been such a dear friend to me.  Happy birthday!  I hope you have many more.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My World is Smaller and Much Wider Because I Teach and I Blog

I have been struck by how small our world has come.  We hear of disasters almost in real time because of the internet, and social networking.  I first read of the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunami warnings as soon as I got up on Friday.  A dear friend and former colleague who now lives in her native Hawaii posted on Facebook that there was a tsunami warning in Hawaii.  Before I even knew why there was a tsunami, I was concerned for both my former teaching buddy and my blogging friend who both live in Hawaii.  When I say concerned, I mean, I really was worried.  They both are a part of my daily life these days, almost as if we were teaching in the same building or living on the same block, because of social networking.  I connect with them more than I connect with my next door neighbors!  I know more about them than I do about my next door neighbors.

So, once I heard about the tsunami warning, I immediately went to my Hawaiian blogger friend Kay's blog (click to link to her blog) to see if she was ok.  She is such a dear person.  I read her blog daily,  and, even though we have never really 'met,' I've really grown fond her and her husband and her mother.  Her mother, originally from Japan, lives with her.  They still have family in Japan.  Kay is always so kind in her words when she comments on my blog posts.  Yes, I think, it is amazing.  I am connected to people a great distance from me because of my blog, and I am genuinely concerned about their safety and well being.

I wasn't able to see a posting by Kay until later in the morning on Friday, March 1l.   While I was work at the University and on a break, I finally was able to read her most recent blog assuring us that they were safe.

Being able to read a blog on my iPhone also amazes me.  Technology has made my world not only bigger but also smaller.  It is bigger because I have access to people I never would have met otherwise.  It is smaller because the miles that separate us mean little in cyber land.

While I was reading about Kay's situation, I was still worried about the family of one of my student Junichi who is from Tokyo, Japan.  He had not yet come to class at 9:30 on Friday.  Junichi never misses class, and he usually the second to arrive in the morning.  We were all concerned.  Was he trying to reach his family?  Were they ok?  Had they suffered any kind of harm or damage?  Yes, because I teach international students, my world is smaller. After all the years that I have been teaching second language learners,  I am connected to students who come from many countries and speak many languages.

Sally with Junichi using iPhone to photograph cake
Woo Huck on far left
Finally, just before 10:00, Junichi arrives.  He is noticeably shaken, but he also seems greatly relieved.  He has been able to finally reach his mother by phone.  She had safely arrived home.  Her apartment was still standing.  He said that she had left her job at 5:00 in the evening on the day of the earthquake.  Public transportation was not working.  She had to walk for seven hours to get home, but she did it.  She made it home safely.

I can't even imagine what she saw on her long journey.  I can't even imagine the fear that must have gone through her mind.  I wonder if she worried how she would find her home once she reached it.  I keep thinking of this woman and wonder at her stamina and determination.  I feel privileged to be able to teach her son.  He works hard.  He studies hard.  He is a son for whom she can feel great pride.  I am grateful that his life has not been touched by the loss of his mother while he is in the United States.  I am sure he must be devastated as he sees the photos coming out of Japan.  He will need a great deal of support from others in the days and weeks ahead.

Just a few weeks ago, we in the International Program at CSU-Pueblo, were worried about our former student who was from Libya.  Several had tried to call him or email him to see how his family was doing in Libya.  That very afternoon after we had been discussing our worries about his family, I came home and saw an article about him and other Libyan students in the United States in The Denver Post.  In fact, I was very shocked when I saw our former student's picture posted in the newspaper.   (Photo from The Denver Post)

Yes, indeed, my world in smaller and much wider because I teach. It is also much enriched with friendships that span many countries and many languages.  My heart is open to the struggles that other nations and their people are going through.  I have worked with, taught,  grown to respect, and to care deeply about their youth.  My mind is broader, and my soul is enriched because I understand how connected we all are no matter what we believe or what languages we speak.

 I am grateful to be part of a profession that allows me to link my life to lives of so many who have come from all over the world.  It has been a blessing.  My life is much richer because my path has crossed the path of many students from many lands.  These students have touched my heart as we labor together in the classroom.  Their families are never far from their minds.  For that reason, their struggles, their heartbreaks, and the devastation that touches those they left behind at home touch my heart deeply.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birthday Celebrations - Part I

As I approached my birthday this year, I found that I was experiencing conflicting emotions.  Last year's celebration had been so special.  Turning 65 had seemed like a milestone that deserved special recognition. Since I'd written about the celebration on my blog (linked) last year,  I decided to look back and see what I'd written.  The feelings of excitement that I felt that day all came flooding back.  I love entertaining, and my favorite group of ladies were all coming to my house to celebrate.  During the celebration, I received flowers from my son and my sister.  Now, looking at the photo from last year, I am again reminded that one of our dear classmates, seated in the center of the photo that I included in last year's post, lost her battle with cancer in the year since we all gathered at my house a year ago.

Birthday Lunch
Garden Room
Broadmoor Hotel
In the past year, my life has also been forever changed.  I am not the same lively, outgoing, cheery person who loved nothing more than being with my friends and family.  I have experienced that which I feared most, the loss of a child.  The shock, the pain, the sorrow, and the loss that I have suffered have greatly changed me and the way I see and experience the world around me.  I certainly no longer take anything or anyone for granted.  

I also know that life is to be celebrated, and on my birthday,  I chose to celebrate that I have survived the events of this past year.  At first, I could think of no way to celebrate.  Then, on Sunday morning last week, the day before my actual birthday which falls on the 28th of February, I suggested that my husband and I drive up to Colorado Springs for brunch at the Broadmoor. (See the link here.)  We couldn't get reservations for brunch.  (No surprise here because I know that the waiting list is always long.)  So, instead, we made reservations for a late lunch at my second favorite place to go at that dear old hotel:  The Garden Room.

We left a little early so we could walk around the Broadmoor Lake a few times.  I love this place.  So many wonderful memories of childhood and my years as a single mom are associated with the Broadmoor.  As a child, we learned to swim in the pool here, or we ice skated in the old ice arena.  The same arena where Peggy Fleming trained.

 During the 80's, when I was a single mom, I worked at Cheyenne Mountain School District which is located just a few blocks from the hotel.  Many times after work, or during my lunch hour, I would walk around this lake with friends.  Or we would go for lunches and special dates in the evenings at one of the great restaurants in the hotel.  
I've never been to the Broadmoor that I didn't feel like the time and the place was special.  It seemed like the perfect place to celebrate my birthday this year.

As we walked around the lake, I had my first bona fide sighting of a robin for the season.  It seemed fitting that I should be blessed with this sight on this day.  I had heard what I thought were robins singing when I awoke that morning.  Yes, my day was being blessed.  I recalled that last year, my first sighting had been the weekend after my birthday when I went for a run with Amy and Julie.  I teared up at the memory, but was also deeply touched by how much I needed to see that red-breasted signaler of spring.

Jim and Sally
Birthday at the Broadmoor
Lunch in the Garden Room was also just what I needed.  I love going to this special restaurant in February for Valentine's Day or my birthday because the setting of lush greenery always uplifts the spirit.  It is the perfect place for a short respite from winter. 

After lunch, we of course had to visit the shops.  I always hesitate to admire something in a gift shop when I am with my dear husband because the next thing I know, he is buying it for me.  My eye was caught by the most beautiful tea pot and cup and saucers to match.  I loved the rose pattern, and noticed that daffodils, my favorite flower and symbol for my life, was also featured on china.  I really did try to dissuade my generous husband from purchasing the two sets for me because I knew he had already ordered my birthday gift.  He bought it anyway, and I do love it!  Even the boxes the china came in, deserved to be on display in my favorite red hutch. Thanks again, Jim for this beautiful gift.

Jung Hee puts candles on cake
Thinking my celebrations for the year were over, I got up on Monday morning, my actual birthday, and grumbled about having to work on my birthday.  When it came time for our morning break, my dear, wonderful students surprised me with a party.  I couldn't believe it when Jung Hee pulled tulips in a vase out of a bag.  Soon, Shin pulled a cake out of her bag.  Then, she began to pour orange juice in to small plastic cups.  It looked like they were getting a great party together!

Shin lights candles
Sure enough, there was a wonderful cake, flowers, colorful napkins, fresh organic strawberries and oranges, and wonderful little chocolate cookies spread out before me on what was our classroom work table.  My students even produced candles for the cake and matches to light the candles.  Shin is quite the party planner!

Birthday Spread

Before we all ate the wonderful birthday food, we gathered for a group photo.
English Language Institute Students

Here I am surrounded by my five wonderful students.  They gave me permission to post this photo of them. I am blessed to work with these five international students this semester.  Each one is very special. They will never know how much this party meant to me.  The gratitude that I feel for being able to teach these students will never be forgotten. 

 As I teach them, I am reminded that life is greatly enriched when we are able to do what we love most.  For me that is teaching and being involved with young adult who are just beginning their journeys through life.  My passion has long been wound up in teaching English to speakers of other languages.  I admire my students' fortitude in coming to a foreign land to attend college.  I celebrate their growth as individuals as they risk learning a new language, a new culture, and meeting new people who do not share their language and culture.  I also marvel how human connections transcend language and culture and how love and respect grow when we all learn together.  

For so many reasons, my birthday was indeed special this year.  I've learned that even after unspeakable loss, life is beautiful, and it should be celebrated.  Thank you, dear students, for making my day so special.  Your kindness will never be forgotten.