Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are We Done With This Yet?


We need to downsize.  The task of going through a lifetime of things stored in our basement seems a bit daunting at the moment.  We decided that the only way we can possibly accomplish the task of moving and downsizing is to do it in stages.

Stage One

Sort through professional papers, books, notebooks, teaching materials and memorabilia from the classroom and our professions.  

Most folks don't have to close down two complete offices during a lifetime.  Many just retire and walk away from the job they may have performed for many years.  My husband and I were educators.  We have a lot of teaching materials that we either could not give away when we retired because we weren't sure if we would need it for consulting and such, or we didn't have time to sort through as we went through the process of working right up until the last day on the job.  Hence, we brought it all home with us with the best intentions of going through it all later.  You know how that goes.

Well, later is now.  We must make those hard decisions.  What shall we keep?  What shall we toss?

Thankfully, there are those who understand.  There are those who have been there and done that.  My dear friend Dixie has been a teacher, and she has moved a lot of times.  She has the skill set I needed for the task that I face.  I didn't even have to ask her for help.  She just picked up the phone, called, and said, "I will come and help you pack.  When do you need my help?"  She came for three hours one day, and she came back the next day to finish up with what we had started.  

Dixie holds two books.
Are we done with these yet?
Yes, for sure toss No Child Left Behind!
We are happy to get rid of that for sure.
Some of my best friends are ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers.  We share a special bond.  We love our profession where we were blessed to teach immigrant children who were learning English while they tried to adjust to life and school in a new country.  As Dixie and I were going through endless books, papers, and professional notebooks I had acquired during my career, I found the training notebook I had put together for a professional development course I taught to teachers in the local school district while I was working at the Colorado State University-Pueblo as a program coordinator and professor.  When I opened the notebook to see if I should keep it, there was Dixie's name and phone number on the first page.  I had taken the number down so I could come to visit her at the school where she taught.  She was actually teaching in the same high school and had the same job I had held before I left to go to the University.

Back in January of 2004, I had been hired to write the curriculum and develop the program that would allow teachers and pre-teachers to add an endorsement to teach the Linguistically Diverse (ELL - English Language Learners) Education Endorsement to an existing teacher license.   I left the public classroom at that time.  After I retired, I met Dixie again.  We taught together when I took a semester position to teach reading at an elementary school where Dixie was teaching ESL.  We became fast friends and have remained so ever since.  I recommended she be hired after she retired to help teach the same course I was teaching to foreign students learning English at CSU-Pueblo during the second semester of 2011.

I love Dixie's approach to most things in life.  She is very practical and level-headed.  She is great sounding board for me.  She also is a faithful friend.  She has long time friends all over the country.  Once you are her friend, she is there for you forever.  I don't think I could have accomplished much of this move, been able to survive the death of my daughter, or been able to cope with my health issues without friends such as Dixie.  Thanks, Dixie!

The emotional side of downsizing

I think I could write a book on this topic.  Our basement, the mess that it was, had been culled over and over by my husband and myself over the past seventeen years, and yet it still remained the repository for our lives.  When we married 20 years ago, we combined two families that were well established with a lot a stuff.  We thinned out many possessions then.  The scrapbooks and mementos from the past were relegated to the basement.  The textbook we saved from college were still there.  The books we read in the 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond were there.  We are readers.  We have books.  Our professional books and papers were there.  Our children's games, books, and even many toys were there.  The grandkids played with the Lite Bright, played UNO, played all those other games from the 70's.  There were Fisher Price people and animals, Barbie dolls, and G I Joe toys in the basement.  There coloring books, crayons, legos, small toy trucks, and puzzles.   I'm a mom who has a hard time getting rid of those things.  I got a bit emotional about donating the small children size  table chairs where my children sat to eat and play games when they small.  I almost gave it away, and then rescued it in the end.  

We tried to be objective.  Dixie was most helpful with assisting me in objectivity when it came to professional items.  She guided me to ask the good questions.  "Is this outdated?"  "Will you use this to teach again?"  "Do you plan on doing any more consulting?"  "Are there duplicates?"  "Was this book one you bought for a course you took, or was it for one you taught?"  I was able to get rid of many things based on answering these questions.  We made our piles of things as we sorted:  to storage, to the new house, to donation, to shred, to throw away.  We got it done! 

Some professional files etc.
To some, all of these boxes, files, and notebooks are just a bunch of junk.  To me they are my body of work that represents my professional life.  Many of my files of lessons taught, curriculum developed, and presentations given are saved on thumb drives.  Despite this, I felt the need to keep some hard copies because they give me a more clear picture of what I developed.  I may yet decide to consult again.  I was not ready to throw it all away.

Going through the remnants of my professional life gave me renewed confidence.  I was reminded that I have accomplished a lot.  I was a stay-at-home mom until my divorce in 1982.  I had five children between the ages of five and fifteen.  I had not finished college.  I went back to school and earned my first BS in Business Administration in 1987 while I worked full-time and went to school full-time.  I finished my second degree, a BA in English with an added teaching certificate to teach secondary Language Arts (grades 9 -12) in 1995.  I was 50 years old when I began teaching,  and I finally reached a lifelong goal by doing so.  From there, I earned the long sought for MA in Teaching Linguistically Diverse Education in 2002.  

Cultural responsiveness, assessment, lesson plan guide, second language learning strategies, content instruction to English language learners, L1 and L2, Lau vs. Nichols 1974, and other such terms no longer seem relevant to my everyday life.  I no longer look forward to monthly meetings with my great friends and colleagues at the Colorado Department of Education - English Language Acquisition Unit where other colleagues from universities around the state and I met while we worked on projects funded by a Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant we had received.  In fact,  the ELAU no longer exits in the same form.  I remember meetings at BOCES and the CDE Talking Book Library.  After fondly going through my meeting notes, I  finally throw out all the agendas and notes from those days.  

I look at Socratic Seminar Grading Criteria forms I created while teaching World Literature at the high school level.  I ponder the EQ's (essential questions) for lessons on Beowulf, The Inferno, Oedipus, the King, and other pieces of literature we studied.  I read the list of Habits of Mind to use while responding to literature:  give evidence, state connections to other topics, state the significance of what you are arguing, etc.  I look at the handout for a unit a work by Shakespeare where students were to write a personal commentary on one of three topics:  Power relationships, Courtship/dating, Sisters.  Most of all of these final bits of teaching materials that remained after other times of getting rid of things, I finally tossed, but I remembered those days of teaching with such fondness and a bit of longing.


I take with me fewer concrete reminders of my teaching days.  We have lightened our load considerably when it comes to books.  Some books, mostly or personal reading books,  were like dear friends that I had to send away.  This quote says it best:

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Despite these feeling and emotions surrounding our beloved books, we just could not move them all.  It is too expensive, we can't carry the loads up and down the stairs, and we have no place to put them in our new place.  So, we donated many to a local bookstore that takes donated books, re-sells them, and the proceeds go to the local library.  We donated 35 boxes of books filled with about 20 books to each box.  That means we got rid of over 700 books.  That was just with this latest book culling project.  About five or six months ago, we probably go rid of at least 300 more.  Believe me, we kept plenty.  We still have our most beloved books to take with us.  Plus, I have many, many of Julie's books.  She had great books!  I treasure her reading choices and selections.  Those books are not going anywhere except with me in my lifetime.

Stage One Completed!

Stage Two 

Move the things we have left from the basement to a storage unit.

Yesterday, after receiving much help from wonderful friends and family members, we finished stages one and two of our move.  The basement is nearly empty.  The box after box of canning jars are gone.  Childhood toys, games, and books are mostly gone.  Jim and I made the run to Colorado Springs with the U-Haul truck last night and loaded a much lighter load than we thought it would be into the storage unit.  We promise ourselves that this is a temporary fix for stuff we will revisit once we are completely moved.  

We are tired, yet we are also most relieved to have this part of our move done.  Now, we await the final closing and hope it all comes off according to plan.  Then, the professional movers will come in and pack up the house and we will make the move to a new home and in a new town.  I will be going home, but for Jim this is a very big change.  He is very excited, and so I am I.  I am finally over a lot of the nostalgia and sadness over leaving this home.  I am ready to move on.  We are tired.  We are stressed!!!  We are happy.

State Two Completed!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Observations on Then and Now

Observations and Reflections 
on Then and Now
1962 vs 2012

This morning, as I stood idly at the counter of Starbucks waiting for the barista to make my de-caf, skinny cafe latte, or as one barista called my coffee choice, "a why bother," a girl dressed in a high school letter jacket and sitting in the cab of her truck waiting for her morning coffee at the drive-through window caught my eye.  Her make-up free face looked tired and a bit harried.  My first thoughts were, "She's a bit late for first period.  School has already started."  That was the teacher in me.  Then I thought how harried she looked.  It seemed to me that a girl of seventeen or eighteen just should not look as if she were the mother of three and in her 30's.  I don't remember looking that tired and overwhelmed in high school.
Coffee Shop Reflections

Suddenly, I found myself comparing my life as a teenager, a senior in high school, to what I found myself observing of a quick snapshot into this girl's life.

As a senior in high school, I did not stop by a coffee shop on my way to school to pick up coffee because:
  • I did not drink coffee.  I ate two pieces of toast and drank a glass of milk, both of which were prepared by my mother every morning of the world before I went to school.  I didn't like breakfast in those days, but my mother insisted I eat something, so I did eat what she fixed me.
  • I did not drive.  My father drove me to school every morning of my senior year at Leadville High School.  My first class, college prep English, started before 7:00 a.m.  Mornings were very cold at the two miles high altitude where we lived.  I would freeze just sitting in the car as my father drove me school.  
  • I did not drive because I did not have a driver's license.  My father didn't support the idea of me having a driver's license.  He insisted I learn to drive, but he saw no need for me to have a license to do so.  Once my driver's learning permit expired, and I knew how to drive, I never got a driver's license until I was 21.
  • I never would have had my own car, nor would I have had access to a car.  My father would never have even dreamed of getting me a car.  He wouldn't let me get a job during the school year either, so I wouldn't be able to earn the money to get a car.  In fact, the idea of having my own car never even entered my mind as a young woman.  Very few of my friends had a car.  A few guys had a car, very few, and my girl friend Mary had an old '50 Ford.  Other than that, it was just unheard of in my town for high school girls to have cars.
  • If I had a car, and if there had been a Starbucks or some other coffee shop to drive up to and buy a cup of coffee, and if I had drunk coffee at the time, I would not have had any money to buy a cup of coffee, and I would never have dreamed of all the coffee drink choices there are today.
Even today's visit to a coffee shop is a rare one for me.  I had some time on my hands after dropping my husband off for a medical test at a hospital near-by and thought I would settle in with my book and a cup of coffee while I waited for his call to pick him up.  After observing the girl in the truck,  I couldn't help questioning whether I would have liked to live today's teenage life, or if I preferred the life I lived as a teenager.  With my 50th high school reunion coming up this year, it only stands to reason that times have changed.  

I'm thankful I came of age at the time I did.  My life was much more sheltered than the lives of so many teens today.  Since I was under my parents' roof, I was also under their rules.  These rules protected me in many ways.  I didn't have the responsibility of driving.  I didn't have to have a job during the school year.  My father thought there was plenty of time for having job responsibilities later in life.  My mother made many of my clothes, or I made my own.  I had a difficult schedule at school, but I also had plenty of time to study.  I loved to read and spent hours doing so.  I didn't have anything handed to me.  Whatever clothes I wanted beyond the basics made by my mother or purchased just before school started, I bought with the money I made as a car hop at the local A&W across the road from our home in the summer.

I had a very active social life with much time spent at Teen Town dances, attending ball games, taking jeep tours with my friends in the mountains, hiking, biking and having a lot of fun just "dragging Main' with the lucky ones who did have cars.  I was not a cheerleader; I was too clumsy for that.  I was involved in drama and acted in high school plays with lead roles.  I was elected homecoming queen.  I guess I must have been popular.  

If there is one regret, it is that in those days, before Title IX, girls did not participate in sports at school.  There were no teams for girls at school.  I wish I could have had the chance to develop my skills at a sport.  

The early sixties was a different time from now.  We did our research projects by using note cards, and I typed my senior paper on an old upright typewriter.  We listened to records and danced to the Loco Motion, Wipe Out, and Our Day Will Come on recorded '45's.  We watched Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and The Ed Sullivan Show on television.  

There were no coffee shops that I knew of in our town.  A memory stands out in my mind of walking to a bakery after school before play practice would begin.  We would buy the most delicious cream puffs and eat them as our after school treat.  On a Saturday, we would go to a restaurant with a group of us and order cokes and French fries and take up the booth for a very long time talking and laughing with each other.  We didn't text; we talked.  Our talks were sometimes long and quite philosophical.  We didn't facebook; we had lots of face to face time.  All I remember is that high school was a fun time in my life.   I had a chance to gain my own identity.

The summer after I graduated from high school, just before I left for college in the fall of 1963, I visited my boyfriend's home to say good-bye.  I am now married to the one who snapped this photo of me in front of his parent's home.  High school provided me with a time when I made life time friendships.  It also was a time when I met my true love and partner for the second half of my life.  I remember how proud of me Jim was because I had earned a scholarship for college tuition and was going away for college.  Dressed in my new shirtwaist dress, I thought I was the picture of a college girl.  Now I think I look terribly young and if naiveté is written across my forehead.  When this photo was taken, I had wonderful dreams and goals.  I am happy I reached all of them.  I do wish I'd had higher goals and loftier dreams.  It was a different time then.  Women didn't really think of doing much except being a wife, teacher, or nurse.  For the times, I am happy with my choices and that I accomplished what I set out to do.  I wouldn't trade the time in which I came of age for anything.  I grateful I grew up when I did.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

End of A Season

Announcing Some Big Changes Coming Our Way

It was hot this summer.
Some mornings after a romp on the grass,
Boston would rest in his favorite spot under the glider on the back deck.
Before long, once he was settled and comfy, 
he would be asleep and taking his morning nap.


If Mom wasn't looking, he would climb onto the glider so he could take a proper nap.
This spot is forbidden,
but who could make him move?
He was too cute, and he looked very happy and content in this spot.

He is a smart dog.
He found one of my favorite spots and made it his too.

This glider was where I spent many hours journaling after my daughter's death.
It gave me great comfort to look out on my garden during many difficult days.

This spot is also a favorite for my husband.
This is his morning newspaper reading place in the summer.

I usually sit across from him when he reads here in the summer.
Once a week, usually on Sunday, I sit here and happily enjoy watching Boston's grooming time.

Who is enjoying this time more?
Is is Jim,
is it Boston?
I see joy in the faces of both of them.


our previous golden retriever,
also loved this deck.
As a pup, he chewed it so badly, it had to be rebuilt.
My daughter-in law Sam
has sweat equity in this deck. 

and my son Jon,
shown here with my daughter Keicha enjoying time together on the deck,
rebuilt the deck for me over a decade ago.

Jon & Keicha

Cousins have spent many happy times here with each other.

Gillian and Hannah

It has been the gathering place for the family during summer get-togethers over the years.

Trista, Julie, Amy, Ryan
Yesterday marked the beginning of the end of a season of our lives.
We will say good-bye to this deck,
and to so many other places we have loved so much 
in this home
where we have 
for the past seventeen years.

It is the end of season.
The season has been good.
We have loved this place.
We will be so sad to leave it.
There will be tears as we say our good-byes,
but seasons do change, and we are ready to move on to a new season in our lives.

After 25 showings,
and after keeping our house on the market during this past summer,
we finally have accepted an offer on this home.
We have made an offer on a new home in Colorado Springs.
It all came together yesterday.
The last few days have been an emotional roller-coaster.
I didn't find the house I wanted to buy until Tuesday after accepting an offer on this home the day before.

Hopefully, all closings and all those other details that go along with selling and buying a house will go well.  If so, we will be out of here on October 23rd, the day after Jim's birthday.

Did I say I haven't slept much?
Did I say I was exhausted?
Well, I am.
I am also feeling those mixed emotions that one feels as one moves from one season to the next.
I am melancholy.
I am sad.
I will miss this place I have loved so very much.
I am excited.
I am looking forward to many new adventures.