Saturday, March 23, 2013


Many years ago, my father had a secretary who wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper.  Her column named "Potpourri" was a collection of happenings about town.  Some may have even seen her writings as gossip.  Others dreaded seeing her coming down the street because they were afraid they would be fodder for her next column.  We warned our father never to tell this secretary what we were doing in the family because we hated reading about our life events in the newspaper.  A teenager is sensitive about the entire town knowing when she had a slumber party.  I remember the time I came home from college and brought a girlfriend with me.  Sure enough, it was reported the next week in the newspaper.

I did always love the idea of the flexibility that such a title gave her column.  She could write about anything with a title like that.  So, today, I am remembering that red-headed secretary my father had so many years ago as I write about several topics in one post.

Potpourri for March

March in Colorado can be totally crazy.  If I had just kept an online journal of the weather this month, it would be one filled filled with extremes.  Yesterday, I wanted to get started with some plan for my garden this year.  I am totally overwhelmed when it comes to knowing what to plant and where I should plant it at my new house.  So far, I have no vision whatsoever when it comes to my landscape.  I only know that many of those things I love most will not be able to be planted because of the deer who roam so freely here.  

So, my hubby and I went to a local nursery to see what they might have that I could set out for Easter.  Really?  Easter?  Who sets anything out for Easter in Colorado?  I am hungry for some growth that I can see somewhere.  If I were in Pueblo, I would see my peonies emerging from the ground.  I would see the daffodils and the tulips breaking through the earth.  Here, since I didn't even plant daffodils, I have nothing popping up.  I thought I might by some pansies.  They would survive the spring snows I reasoned.  No pansies were purchased.  The deer love them.  So, what about primroses?  Yep, the deer love them.  Well, it is still early.  I didn't buy anything to plant.  I came home with a big spray bottle of Liquid Fence.  I'm going to try to keep the deer out of my pine tree at least!

Today, being as it is the first Saturday of Spring Break, the week we traditionally get the most snow of all, we did get snow and wind.  One might think it was nearly Christmas instead of nearly Easter.  I stepped outside to snap a photo of the doe trying to find something to eat on the lawn across the street.  Those who are observant will note that the trees are budding.  Yep, it is Springtime in the Rockies.

I spent a large part of the day in the kitchen.  I do love my new kitchen.  It is much more functional than my old kitchen.  Today, I made 15 bean soup and added the ham I had frozen from our Christmas ham.  Somehow, that seemed appropriate with the snow and all.  I then made homemade whole wheat rolls by using my Vitamix.  That was the first time I tried using the dry blade container that is used for grains and breads.  The rolls turned out quite well.  It sure was easy to do.  

Now, as I sit at my new desk in the guest room, I look out of my window to the blue sky that is filled with just a few clouds and think how blessed I am to be surrounded by such beauty.  The hillside just out my window is covered with snow and tall ponderosa pines.  Tomorrow the snow will be gone.  We are fortunate to have the moisture.  We need it so much.  

Last Sunday we were walking in the Garden of the Gods and soaking up the sun.  Oh, ok, it was spitting a bit of snow last Sunday, but the sun was shining brightly and it was mostly warm.  

As we walked, Jim decided to lean into a nearby fence to stretch out his back.  Immediately, Boston jumped right up beside him.  This dog keeps laughing.  We love him so much.  He never misses a beat. He is always right by Jim's side.  No one ever had a better buddy. 

The week has been full of activity.  Jim and I try to get to the 'Y' on a more regular basis.  We are both doing Pilates.  Jim works out on the elliptical machine while I walk the track.  I am so thrilled to be back at what was our old neighborhood 'Y' when my children were young.  I feel like I am back home again and find it so comforting to again work out at this particular 'Y' where my children spent many happy hours.  

As I write, I listen to music streaming though the Bose radio that is hooked up to Jim's old iTouch.  Music from Roger Williams Radio, provided by Pandora, reminds me of the good old days in the Sixties as I listen to old show tunes from those years gone by. We live in an amazing age.  

I must say that I am grateful for the technology we have today.  I love that I can text my family so easily.  I love that when I ask my daughter how much snow she got today, she texts me a picture of it!  I love that I can stay in touch with all of you out there in the blogosphere.   We've come a long ways from those days when my father's secretary tapped out her weekly column on an old upright typewriter.  Wouldn't she have loved writing her potpourri of news in a blog?  

So, there you have it.  March and its madness is nearly over.  I am looking forward to next weekend as a few of my children and grandchildren will gather here to celebrate Easter.  I hope it doesn't snow!  If it does, it won't be the first time it snowed on Easter.  If it does, it will remind us in a very bittersweet way of another Easter when it snowed.

Julie, Keicha, Amy
Mason, Hannah and Phoenix
A Snowy Easter

Monday, March 18, 2013


A recap of the gathering of my high school girlfriends:

As some of you who regularly read my blog know, my high school buddies and I gather every three months for a get together.  This time, I was the hostess.  It was the first real party at my new home.  I was so excited to have my girls properly "warm" my new home with their presence.  

Whenever we gather, we spend nearly entire Saturday together.  We have our routine.  The hostess selects the theme and prepares the main dish.  The others bring the rest of the food.  We begin to gather around 11:00 and start off by catching up with each other while we munch on the appetizers.  In the past, margaritas were prepared in a blender so we can toast each other and remember those of our group whom have passed on.  This time, Ginger made that job easier.  Why didn't someone think of bringing already prepared mixed drinks before?  

All we had to do this time was make the "virgin" drinks.  I got out my new Vitamix to make those "unleaded" drinks.  Since I didn't have on my glasses, I pushed the "hot soup" button instead of "frozen desserts."  Oh well, it all worked out.  Someone saved the day by catching my mistake and the virgin drinks were mixed correctly.  Toasts were made, and we remembered our dear classmates who are no longer with us.  

Now we could get on with the party.  Pam set up the staging area for our group photo.  We have to do that before we eat so we don't forget to take that all important photo for the scrapbook.  Also, we must take the photo while we still have our lipstick on! 

After the official photos are taken, it is time to get the food on the table and eat.
Pam cuts up the corned beef

We had plenty of wonderful food

Val serves up her green jello
When my husband and I were looking for our home, I had several criteria that I said must be met.  First of all, I wanted a kitchen where friends and family could gather around a kitchen table, and yet there would be room for those who are cooking to have room to cook.  This house fits that bill perfectly.

Next, I needed a formal dining room that was big enough for me to use when entertaining my high school girl friends.  That was a priority when it came to selecting the perfect house.  With each house I visited on the house hunt, I would ask myself, "Could I seat everyone in close proximity to each other for luncheon gatherings?"  Check that off the list.  This house works perfectly for that too.   

Takeaways from our time together
Takeaways definition from
"conclusions, impressions, or action points resulting from a meeting, discussion, roundtable or the like"

As a teacher, I often asked my students to record takeaways after a roundtable discussion about a book we were reading.  As a teacher, I often recorded my own takeaways after a conference I attended.  And so, as I reflected on the time I spent with my dear high school girlfriends this past week, it is no wonder that it seemed appropriate to record the takeaways I want to remember about not only this group, but also about our most recent gathering.  

  • It takes a long time to grow an old friend.  ~ John Leonard  Friendships as deep and rich as those in this group do not happen overnight.  They were first formed when we were young girls, but they have been nurtured and treated with great care for decades.

    • Of all the secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood the most divine was humor. ~ Rebecca Wells The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  Carol showed up in her outrageous St. Patrick's Day hat.  I teased that she would get me kicked out of the HOA if she walked down the street in the hat.  One of the things we do best as a group is laugh.  We have many deep belly laughs when we are together.  Sometimes, my stomach will actually hurt from laughing so much when we are together.  It is just great to laugh with your girl friends.  What a blast we all still have.  

    • A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.  ~Lois Wyse
    Since our  70th birthdays are not that far down the road, we decided we should start to plan for a weekend get away to celebrate reaching that important milestone in life.  We will have sleepover of sorts by getting away to a bed and breakfast for the weekend.  I remember those sleepovers when we were 16 and 17.  I wonder if the guys will try to crash our 70th birthday party sleepover.  I doubt it.  One of the girls asked if we'd noticed how the guys in our class seem like old men.  

    • I have a lot of fun.  If something isn't fun, I don't do it.  ~ Kathy Eisert Lautaret  Kathy, our Irish princess because she had the most Irish blood in her, said this when we were sharing our updates in our sharing circle after lunch.  I love her attitude.  This is definitely a takeaway I want to remember.  Fun, is must be a part of life.  I am trying to remember to incorporate a bit of it into my life everyday.  Thanks for the reminder Kathy.
    • A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.  ~Donna Roberts

    • I think about little girls going off to kindergarten holding hands to support each other and now as we face 70 we support each other– symbolically holding hands maybe. ~ Iris Clark  Iris sent out this sentiment via an email after the gathering.  In a nutshell, she summed up the beauty of the group.  We do hold each other in our hearts and by the hand.  We share our latest joys and challenges during our sharing time.  This time, Pam brought a timer.  We only had five minutes!  If we took longer we would be driving home in the dark. 
    And so the greatest takeaway of all is: 
    • Hold a true friend with both your hands.  ~Nigerian Proverb

    I am richly blessed by these beautiful ladies.  I love each one of them so dearly.  What a treasure you all are.  

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    Life at Work

    Today, I had the opportunity to watch the Today Show.  A panel on the news program discussed Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  I've not read this book, and I don't know that I will read the book, but I found the discussion interesting.  I've been thinking a lot about those days when life at work was a major focus of my life.  I've thought about how I miss my profession.  I miss interacting with students.  I miss teaching.  I miss the discipline that my working life caused me to have when I faced deadlines and daily obligations.  I miss the creative side of my professional life.  I miss the relationships developed on the job.  Or do I?

    Not every relationship one makes in the workplace is positive.  In fact, many of those relationships drag a person down and make it difficult to perform the job one is hired to do.  Have you ever experienced working in a dysfunctional workplace?  Have you ever worked for an unreasonable boss?  Have you ever suffered from office politics?  I think most of us have.

    While going through boxes of files during our recent move, I came across this quote I had saved among my other profession papers.

    "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

    I originally found this gem, printed in large font on a sheet of 8 X 10 paper, in an old file cabinet that I was cleaning out so I could claim the cabinet as my own soon after I had been hired at a University to write curriculum for a new program that was being developed.  At the time, I could not relate to the quote at all, but finding it interesting, I kept it.

    I should have had a clue that I would soon learn how true this quote was when I had beg, borrow, and steal enough equipment to set up my office during the first week on the job, but, at the time,  I was still too enthralled with the idea of working at my dream job to honestly assess my situation.  I soon discovered that petty office politics exist even in the ivory tower.  Or, should I say especially in the ivory tower?  I'm not sure that statement would be true.  I only know that I saw the careers of many talented and gifted professionals hijacked by those with less talent who did not work as hard as those who were forced to leave or who left because they realized that if they stayed, their careers would stagnate, become less than fulfilling, and that they were stuck in a dead end street in their careers because office politics and petty ego wars were alive and well.

    In the end, I retired before I was really ready, not because I did not accomplish what I was hired to do, but because the relationships I valued most with the professionals I most respected and admired,were no longer there in the workplace.  The professionals I worked with the closest all had left for greener pastures where they hoped their careers could again get back on track.  Thankfully, I had the luxury to make the decision to retire.  Many others do not have that luxury.

    While I was working at the University, a dear colleague  and friend, a professor who got her degree in educational leadership at Harvard, listened sympathetically to my frustration one day at work.  As she spoke, she made a statement that struck me with its wisdom.  I said, "Wait a minute.  Repeat that so I can write down what you just said."  I wrote it down on a sticky note, put it in my top right drawer of my work desk, and referred to it often as I tried to navigate the professional minefield I found myself walking through.  Unfortunately, the quote has been lost.  I can't tell you what it said, but in essence, it was on how to successfully deal with a manager who does not know how to lead.

    What does one do when one finds themselves in a work environment where egos are more important that job that needs to be done? How does one survive a workplace that is difficult?   If I had the answer to these questions and others like them, I could write a best seller.  I only know what worked for me.

    1. Believe in yourself.  When I first started teaching, my confidence level in my ability to teach was very low.  I really wondered if I would know how to teach.  It all seemed so mysterious.  How does one make another person learn?  The answer to that question is, "No one can make another person learn."  I just needed to have the confidence to know that I was in charge of my own little sphere of the world, or in my case, the classroom.  I had the background knowledge to do the job I had to do.  I could not be timid.  I had to walk into that classroom believing in myself.  If I didn't believe in me, the students were not going to believe I was the real deal either.
    2. Demand respect.  A teacher must demand respect or leave the profession because one cannot create successful classroom management if respect is not the first order of business.  I think it is the same in every other job or profession.  One will never be successful if one does not demand respect by behaving in a respectful manner.  I am appalled to see how disrespectfully people treat those they work with these days.  It seems civility has gone out the window.  Just because someone is your boss, that does not mean they can treat you with disrespect.
    3. Show respect.  Even if one does not show you as a worker respect.  It is best to be the better person and show respect.  One can disagree with another on the job, but it should be done with respect.  
    4. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.  As a woman who entered the workforce long before women were given any type of equal footing in the workplace, I have always encountered a lot of discrimination where I worked.  Thankfully, I was not always on the receiving end of this discrimination, but I saw plenty of it and experienced it more that I wish I had.  Sometimes, women treat each other the worst.  One must be assertive when the need arises.  I have at times risked my reputation, and my job, by being assertive.  When I see injustice, I must speak up.  If another person has no trouble "throwing me under the bus" in order to protect or advance themselves, I have no problem being assertive.  Remember, be bold, be assertive, but also show respect for yourself and those with whom you must interact.
    5. Take care of yourself.  I love how we are reminded to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first when on an airplane.  As a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, I find it difficult to put myself first. The truth is, I am no good to others if I am filled with stress and anxiety because I am working too hard, or under too much stress, to take care of myself.  Leave the stress of work behind when you get home.  Don't let the boss or the job bother you at home.  Just before I started teaching, my professor and advisor gave me great advice.  "Get to work early and stay late, but don't bring your work home."  I know that many top corporate officials would disagree with me there, but I stand by the philosophy that all of us must be able to leave the job behind when we come home at night.  I've seen too many at the top burn out from not taking time to live life.  It's not all about the job.  
    6. "Don't get down in the blender blades."  I love this quote from my dear friend Linda Button.  She advised that when I found myself in the mix of office politics to keep myself from getting down in blender blades.  One knows what happens to anything that gets down in those blades, the item gets chopped to pieces!  It is always best to not get in the mix in the first place if possible, but if it does happen that you find yourself involved in office drama and politics, exit as soon as possible from the mix.  Sometimes, the best thing to do at work is just to show up and work.  Keep out of the fray that is swirling around you.  
    7. Keep your mouth shut.  Don't gossip.  Don't tell everyone around you about the rough time you are having at work, and don't talk about the ones you work with to others.  Especially, don't talk behind the bosses back!  That seems so simple.  It is not easy though.  I remember a lunch we once had where the old staff took new staff out to get better acquainted.  We drifted toward the topic of some of the things that the boss did to make life difficult.  The newest staff member went straight back to the boss and told her of the conversation.  She is the only one still working there. Enough said on that topic.  
    8. "Get your work done one piece of paper at a time."  My father used to tell a story about a man who worked for him who said he just didn't know how he was going to get all his work done.  My father said, "By doing it one piece of paper at a time."  I remembered that story so many times in my working life.  I handled things one piece of paper at a time when I faced piles of papers to grade.  Beyond that advice, I think that one must be able to prioritize work and know how to focus on the task at hand.   
    9. "Don't get your honey where you get your money."  This is a quote my husband is fond of using.  This too is good advice.  I also applied that advice when it came to making my closest social contacts in the work environment.  Sometimes, people who work together can become enmeshed outside of work.  This enmeshment never works in the work environment.  I have witnessed screaming matches between former best friends, who were professionals, who could not separate their failed relationship when it came to working together.  This is not a pretty sight.  It leads to low office moral for everyone, and no one really wins when intimacy occurs between two people in the workplace.  
    10. Finally, don't become a victim of the pettiness that can and does occur in office politics.  Workplace bullying is a reality.  There is a debate over who first coined the quote about university politics that I attributed to Henry Kissinger.  Some say it first came from Woodrow Wilson when he was President of Princeton University.  I take comfort in knowing that either man had the experience it took to pen such a saying.  Obviously, they had either suffered from or witnessed vicious politics in the workplace.  Unfortunately, the stakes of losing out because of such political battles and attacks are not small.  Careers, paychecks, and lives are derailed when workplace bullying in any form occurs.  I found this wonderful resource on line that deals with workplace bullying.  Called the WBI Workplace Action Plan, I found the action plan the Workplace Bullying Institute has put together reasonable and valuable to anyone who is suffering from this all too common practice in today's workplace.
    When one is being bullied at work, none of the advice on what I used in my career applies except for #1, #2, #4, and #5.  Believe in your.  Respect yourself.  Stand-up for yourself by taking the advice of the Workplace Bullying Institute.  Take care of yourself.  One's livelihood should be a force for good; it should never be the thing that contributes to us living an unhealthy life.  Unfortunately, many of us, at one time or another, has had to face these hard decisions in life.  I hope these ideas I written about today are helpful to others.  I know it helped me to just write them down.

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    Birthday Reflections

    a time of reflection
    a time to explore identity
    a time to contemplate the future

    Who am I?
    I am not a baby boomer.
    I was born while the world was at war.

    I was born during a time when there was much uncertainty in the world.  My father, drafted into the army at age 29, left for his initial processing into the service the day I was born.  My father did not see me during the first year of my birth.  My mother cared for me and my brother by herself during this difficult time.  I treasure the photo snapped of the four of us on the occasion of my father's homecoming.  We celebrated Christmas in February that year because that is when he came home. 

     Who am I?
    I like to identify with my Welsh ancestry the most.
    I was born the day before St. David Day.  St. David was the patron saint of Wales.
    Photo taken in Keukenhof, Holland
    May 2010

    When I think of my birthday, I think of daffodils.  Sometimes they are poking their heads out of the recently frozen earth on my birthday; other years, they are not.  Daffodils, the symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, are nearly always given to me by one or more of my children on my birthday.  (Click for last year's birthday blog post.) Each year I look forward to my first bouquet of these flowers that I have long claimed as my symbol.  I look forward to the reminder that spring is coming, winter is nearly over, and the rebirth of those long dormant flowers and trees will soon be seen.  I love these flowers because remind me to never give up hope.

    Who am I?
    I am a mom.
    The greatest gifts I've ever received were not given to me on my birthday.
    My five greatest gifts were and are my children.

    The night before my birthday, my husband gave me a gift certificate to have my nails done a fancy spa.  He brought home a beautiful cake which we ate from the daffodil plates I display for Easter.  We celebrated early because I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday with my daughter Amy.  I got up early, packed my bags, and headed north to her house.  We had lunch.  She made me a wonderful dinner of her new healthy taco salad.  She provided a yummy carrot cake for dessert.  She gave me a bouquet of daffodils buds.  She could not find any bouquets in bloom.   

    Who am I?
    I am a gardener.
    I love to tend to my flowers. 
    I learn lessons on life from the garden.

    Was this bouquet a reminder of life?  Sometimes, the flower we are has not fully bloomed.  Sometimes, we are buried under six inches of earth that is still frozen.  

    The gardener plants bulbs with great faith in the fall.  The gardener does not have the reward of seeing the beauty the bulbs bring until spring.  The bulbs are protected even in this frigid environment during those long, dark, cold, dreary winter days.  Once those days are over, the bulbs cannot help but break through the earth, grow, and bloom.  Even those bouquets that are picked too early, and cooled so they will not bloom before the public sees them, will bloom.  They will bloom because that is who they are.  They are daffodils.  

    This morning, when I first got up, I was blessed by a beautiful sight.
    Given a little warmth, the daffodil buds were beginning to open up and bloom.
    I will remember this bouquet for a long time.
    I will remember it as a reminder that after long winters of darkness,
    the soul longs to bloom.
    Sometimes, a bouquet is gathered too early, but that doesn't mean those buds won't bring beauty.
    Thank you Amy, my beloved, for this special birthday gift.
    May you always continue to grow and to bloom.
    We all need an extra dose of love, warmth, and support in our lives to be fully who we are.
    Thank you for being that special someone to me so many times in my life.
    So many times, you have had the perfect word for me when I needed it most.
    So many times, you have supported me when I needed it most.
    So many times your wisdom spoke to me when no one else seemed to have the wisdom I needed.
    You truly are my beloved.
    Your name, Amy, beloved, fits you perfectly.
    Thank you for letting me be that special someone to you.
    I will always be here for you.

    I love you.