Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Thoughts about:
the air taken into or expelled from the lungs

The Book of Genesis tells us:
- then the LORD God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, ant the man became a living creature. ~ Genesis 2:7

Idioms or cliches about breath:
out of breath
time to catch one's breath
under one's breath
breath of fresh air
catch one's breath
Don't hold your breath!
gasp for breath
I don't have time to catch my breath.
waste one's breath
with bated breath
take your breath away

How many times have we all used these idioms?

I was taught how to breathe during childbirth.

I was taught how to breathe when I learned to do Pilates.

I had the great blessing to watch each of my five children take the first breath of life.

I held my father's hand during his last days and would literally tell him,
"breathe in"
"breathe out"
in an attempt to help ease his breathing as he struggled through the effects of congestive heart failure.

When I have an asthma attack,
I use my flow meter as an aid to understand how my breathing is doing.
At high altitudes, as I gasp for breath, I use my finger oximeter to check my O2 saturation levels.

My therapist cautioned me about 
holding my breath.
She said that she thinks that when I get worried and anxious and stressed,
I am doing great harm to my body when I don't breathe deeply and practice stress releasing breathing.
She said that she thinks I go around "holding my breath" too often.
She means I am not relaxed and taking life as it comes.
I am uptight.
I'm not breathing deeply.
I am stressed.
She is right.

My GI doctor told me that when the body is not breathing easily in deep sleep at night,
it is out of balance.
When adrenaline is pumped up, one's body goes into 
fight or flight response.
When one sleeps deeply and well, one's body is able to 
rest and digest.
These two bodily responses to life need to be in balance.

Breath gives life.

I've been thinking about breathing a lot lately.

Interestingly, this past week, I had my breath collected.
I know, that sounds crazy,
but really I did.
I spent three hours at National Jewish Heath
where a nurse had me blow into a balloon type object so my breath could be 
collected and analyzed.
This test is called the hydrogen breath test. (click to read about the test.)
It is used to diagnose several gastrointestinal conditions.
I should have the results on Friday.

And then, today, for the first time since the first of 2013,
I let out a huge sigh of relief.

It has been a rough year for my family.
There have been a few bumps in the road.

Two of my children have been searching for jobs.
Both have always worked since they were sixteen years old.
Both have been highly successful.
This year there were reversals in employment for both.
Job searches are trying, difficult, discouraging, and disheartening.

I have prayed daily for the Lord's provision for these two and for their families.
The Lord has provided every single day with what was needed for their needs.
Then, two weeks ago, one was offered a job opportunity where the salary was the same as the last wonderful job.  Opportunities for growth and advancement are also there.

Today,  the other one also got a wonderful job offer with the same salary and benefits as the last great job.  Opportunities for growth and advancement are also there.

I am breathing again!
I am doing the happy dance.
I am so relieved.
I am so thankful.
Praise the Lord!
Many prayers have been answered.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Time in The Classroom ~ Becoming a Teacher

Missing the classroom begins when the shelves are stocked with new school supplies.

The beginning of any new school year always causes me to be a bit nostalgic.
I found myself in the school supply aisle at the store the other day.
Who can resist looking at those new notebooks,
and pens,
and pencils?
I know I can't.
I love this time of the year when the shelves are stocked with all those new school supplies.
This year,
I didn't buy a new notebook.
I didn't even buy a new pen.  
I don't need a new pen since I bought my favorite pen of all time:
the wonderful Bee Blossom Seven Year Pen.
(I do love this pen.  It is the best pen I've ever had. It might not last seven years, but writing with it is pure joy.)  
Ok, maybe that last statement is a bit over the top, but some of us really love our pens and pencils.

Missing the Classroom

Maybe, just maybe, it was my love of pens and pencils, and of books that set my destiny in motion.
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to teach.
I decided I wanted to become a teacher in kindergarten.
I loved school.
I loved my teacher.
I loved the classroom.

No wonder, I get a bit of a lost feeling when the school year starts without me.

My journey to becoming a teacher was a long one.  It took me longer than I ever expected to actually become a teacher.  In high school, I'm not sure I had my pathway mapped out for the future the way I wish I would have.  I knew for sure that I wanted to teach.  I also knew that would mean I would need to go to college.  No one in my immediate family had ever graduated from college when I was in high school.  My father had attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, but he had dropped out just short of finishing his degree.  I think he only needed about seven credit hours to finish.  Somehow, the financial concerns during the Depression Era, and marriage, must have gotten in the way, and he never finished. 

My father was a man who championed education and placed great value on reading and writing.  He was always reading.  He wrote well.  He was a wonderful story-teller.  He encouraged great discussions at the dinner table, and he encouraged us to read and to think.  He also was realistic when it came to helping me select the courses I should take in high school.  He thought I was foolish to take Latin instead of Spanish.  I think we was pretty much right on that.  Latin always helped me with my understanding of vocabulary and grammar, but I should have also taken Spanish.  I regret that I did not.  He also insisted that I take typing.  He said that I would need that skill to get a job.  He was right on that advice.  He thought it was fine to take college prep English, but he also knew that I really needed help in the mathematics department.  He tried to help me all he could as I suffered through high school algebra.

When I graduated from high school, I was offered scholastic scholarships to two different state colleges.  I insisted that I wanted to attend what was then called Colorado State College in Greeley, Colorado.  It was the "teacher's college."  And so, on a September day fifty years ago, I went off to college on the first leg of a journey that would take more years than I ever imagined to becoming a teacher.  (This photo of me, decked out in my new going off to college outfit,  was taken one late summer afternoon all those many years ago by my high school boy friend.  Yes, he is now my husband.  And yes, I did wear this outfit, right down to shoes and the purse, on my first day as a college co-ed.)

Off to College
My head is full of many happy memories of my college days.  I lived in a college dorm, worked in the college dining hall, joined a sorority, Sigma Kappa, and met many wonderful friends.  One of those friends is still one of my dearest friends.  I am so grateful I had these opportunities and experiences.  Unfortunately, after the first semester of my junior year, I left college.  

I thought I would get back to school to finish my degree, but before long, I met a young man at work.  Six months later, I married this young man.  He and I spent nearly sixteen years together as husband and wife before we divorced.  During those years when we were married, he would finish his college degree, earn a masters degree, and earn a living as a high school teacher.  We also have five children together.  Those years, short on money and time, I spent my days taking care of my children and home. Going back to school to finish what I had started years before was only a dream that I knew would have to wait until later.  

After my divorce, I found my self in the unenviable position of being a single mom without a job or a college education.  During this time, in the Summer of 1981, I went to a conference where I was inspired to follow my dream to get that long desired college diploma.  That night when I returned home, I wrote the following words in my journal:
August 6, 1981
"The time frame in which we attain our goals may be altered but never lessens our inner need to fulfill them."  These words were spoken tonight at the conference for women by Dr. Lindquist at Weber State College.  My deep inner needs include a need to write seriously, to finish college, and to teach.  With the Lord's help, I do hope to fulfill these goals in the timeframe in which I have to work.

In reality, meeting such goals right after my divorce seemed like a dream that would never happen.  I had no money.  I didn't have a job.  I hadn't worked in years.  I didn't have any marketable job skills, except, I could type.  (Thanks to my father's instance, I could do that.)  

In time, I found a job as a secretary for a school district in Colorado Springs where I had relocated from Utah.  My salary was low.  I was a single mom.  I need to work.  I could not take off the time to go to college.  Even if I did finish my college coursework to teach, I could not take the time off to do observations of classrooms and student teaching.  

So, I went a different route.  After a few years, I went back to college at night to work on a BS degree in Business Administration.  Finally, in 1987, twenty-five years after I had begun work on my first year in college, I earned that long sought for college degree.  

Earning a BS in Business Administration
I was very proud of what I had accomplished in that moment, but I still didn't have a teaching certificate.  I had not let go of that dream yet, but again,  it seemed rather bleak that I would ever actually turn this dream into reality. 

Fast forward to 1992.  I married my high school sweetheart during that year.  I also began working as an accounting assistant doing bookkeeping for the school district in Pueblo.  About a year later, the carpel tunnel syndrome  and cubital tunnel syndrome problems I had ignored for years finally caused me seek treatment.  My surgeon said I could not work during the time I was recuperating from surgery, and in fact, told me to expect to be on workman's comp for at least a year and a half.  He also told me he would never release me to go back to doing the kind of work I had been doing for the past ten years.  In the meantime, I lost my job and my benefits.

Looking back, this turn of events was a God send.  My doctor would not release me from going back to work, but he didn't say I couldn't go to school.  So, in January of 1994, just a few weeks after surgery to release my trapped ulnar nerve from the cubital tunnel on my right arm, I began college again.  Julie, my youngest daughter was a college freshman at the same University.  She proudly wrote my name in my books for me since I could not yet write with my right hand.  Equipped with a tape recorder, I began the coursework that would lead me towards my long sought goals. 

A year and a half later, after taking all those English courses that I loved, and after a wonderful trip to England to study Theater in London, and after student teaching on my 50th birthday, I finally graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English and a secondary teaching certificate in English/Language Arts. I thought I was pretty old, to be entering the teaching profession, but as I look at a photo from that time, I marvel at how young I was!
Sally & one of her favorite professors
Dr. M. Barber
Oxford, England
I guess the rest is history.  I did land a teaching job after graduation.  I began my teaching career by teaching seventh grade English in the toughest middle school in the school district.  I was told not to smile before Thanksgiving because the kids would eat me alive if I did.  I don't know when I smiled; all I know is that I never cried.  That year deserves a book.  I will tell you about it in another post.  Just know, that I was hooked on teaching, even though my first year was worse than rough.  

I don't know that I have ever gotten the bug to teach out of my system even though I retired from teaching at the University level seven years ago.  I miss those times in the classroom.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Vicissitudes of Life Encapsulated in One Day

At times during the day, I've been at loose ends.
I flitted from one attention grabber to another.
I couldn't settle on one activity because another would call my name.
I was distracted.

At one moment, I have been sad, crying, and in mourning.
During the next, I would find myself rejoicing over the beauty of the day.

I couldn't settle on reading a book.
Couldn't seem to pick up my journal and begin to write even as thoughts tumbled through my mind.

I don't want to eat dinner,
yet I am searching for a snack.
I don't want to talk to anyone,
even as I long for a good conversation.
I want to be alone.
No, I really think I want companionship.

I have many tasks that need to be completed.
My desk if piled high with papers and books to be sorted through.
I don't think I even made my bed today.
Did I?
I don't know.  
Does it matter?
It is nearly time to go to bed again.

I've been tired,
but heaven knows I could never settle down to go to sleep.

Do you ever have days like that?

Today, 8.08 began at 8:08 A.M.
when I finally awakened enough to look at the clock.
Damn digital clocks.
Even they send reminders of Julie.
as the story goes,
once said her ideal man was BOB.  
Digital watches were the new "in" thing when she was in high school.
8:08, meaning BOB, became a symbol of Julie's life.

Memories of her began to flood my mind.

I wasn't alone.
Many of us were reminded of her today.

In my memory
I vividly saw her twirling her hair around her slender fingers.
I saw her showing the grandchildren how to hula hoop.
I've been missing her so much lately.
I've needed her humor, her silliness, her kindness, her take on life that could be wise.

Julie, Amy, and Mom
I grieved because I can't be her to her sister Amy.
I know Amy needs her in her life so much at this time.
I called Amy to tell her that I wish I could be her sister to her,
but of course, I can't be.
Only Julie could be Julie to Amy.
Only, Julie could be Julie to any of us.

She was our family lynchpin.
She is gone.
What will hold us all together?

Grief no longer incapacitates me.
Or does it?
I went on with my day.
I had lunch with my sister.
I made tea for my husband and served him tea and cake on the porch.

This evening,
the two of us,
my dear husband and I,
took a walk in the neighborhood.
The air was crisp and cool, reminding us of an early fall day in the mountains.
We followed a beautiful buck in velvet who was just ten feet ahead of us on the path.
Peace and beauty filled my soul.
It was a good reminder that:
Life is full of vicissitudes.
And yes, there are days when those vicissitudes are encapsulated all in one day.

Thankfully, at the end of this day, I could agree with a quote from Jerry Sittser's book on grief.
I had experienced the ups and downs that come when one continues to grieve.
I could also honestly say, 

I was struck by how wonderful ordinary life is.
Simply being alive became holy to me.
~ Jerry Sittser
A Grace Disguised:   How the Soul Grows Through Loss

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Our Getaway - Part Two

Just as June was ending, my husband and I had a getaway prior to his back surgery.  I wrote about part of that getaway in "Our Getaway - Part One." (Click to read that posting.)  Now, as we are beginning August, this posting I am finally writing is old news, but I did want to share with you some of the places where we traveled on our getaway.

Just looking at the photos I took has actually caused me to long for another getaway.  In the meantime, I will take some refreshment and joy by remembering the beauty we saw as we traveled to some beautiful parts of Colorado.

The Fourth of July is never my favorite time to be on the road.  In fact, I prefer to stay home that weekend or get to my destination before the holiday begins.  Unfortunately, this year, our decision to take a small road trip during the holiday was a last minute decision I insisted on before we faced my husband's surgery.

Thankfully, we found great accommodations in Glenwood Springs despite it being a holiday weekend.  We did not plan on spending time in the pool during the heat of the day on the Fourth of July, and we didn't want to go in and out of tourist shops in town.  Jim wanted to go over to a small town near Glenwood Springs called Carbondale, Colorado because he found that was where the nearest dog park was located.  It had been a long time since I had been to Carbondale, so I was up for the 13 mile drive to find a dog park.

We had even thought of driving on into Aspen for the day.  Aspen is only about an hour from Glenwood and just about an additional 30 miles from Carbondale.  While the prospects of going to Aspen for the day were intriguing, I didn't really want to be limited to where we could go while we were there because we had the dog with us.  So, as we drove towards Carbondale, I pulled out the map and suggested we go to Marble, Colorado.  Jim immediately and incredulously responded with, "No, are you kidding?"  You see there is a story behind this response.  One that will take another blog post.  It involves a wild ride I once wanted to take him on over Schofield Pass.  Google Schofield Pass images for a reason why he did not want to go to Marble with me.  I guess he doesn't trust me.  I assured him that I had a different route to Marble in mind for this trip, so he agreed to take my word for it that he would like my plan.

I'd forgotten how beautiful the drive between Glenwood and Carbondale was.  As Mt. Sopris came into view, I asked him to pull over so I could photograph this beautiful mountain.  As you can see, my selection of spots in which to take a photo was not the best, note the telephone wires, but you get the idea of how beautiful the area is.

As we pulled into Carbondale, we headed towards the dog park.  Boston was ready for a nice run and a refreshing drink of water.  

While Boston romped and ran, I walked down towards the entrance to the park to a community garden that had caught my eye on my way into the dog park. I loved the sign that the gardeners had created.

Can you imagine the joy that gardeners in this spot enjoy?  What a view!  The neighborhood around the garden and the dog park was lush with beautiful yards and flowers because of ditch water that ran through the area.  

After Boston was duly exercised and watered, we took CO 133-S to Redstone, Colorado.    

Once we got into town, which is more like a village than a town, we wished we'd planned our trip better.  (This is the story of our lives!)  Our timing was slightly off.  We headed down Main Street just after the Fourth of July Parade ended.  In fact, some folks might have thought we were part of the parade!  This town would be the perfect place to watch the perfect small town America Fourth of July Parade.  Every tricycle, wagon, child, and dog seemed to be decked out in red, white, and blue.  The town is tiny, so the street is closely bordered by mining era houses that are decorated for the holiday.  Being a mountain town, the flowers were stunning in their profusion and rich hues.  I just could not bring myself to stick my head out of the window of the car to take photos.  Trust me; it was a magical, patriotic place on this day.

We were starving, so we found a place to eat that was dog friendly.

We will return to Redstone, and next time we will plan our trip better.  We hope to catch a tour of the castle there and even perhaps spend the night at the Redstone Inn.  Both of these things have been on 
my bucket list for quite some time.

Just outside of town, one find the interesting and historical coke ovens that were built by the Colorado Fuel and Iron and the coal "coked" by these ovens was transferred by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  Both the CF&I and the D&RGRR figure largely in my personal family history, so I am always fascinated by the history of such places as the coke ovens near Redstone.

After taking a short time to photograph the coke ovens, we needed to go to a place I had been longing to re-visit for a long time:  Marble, Colorado.

I had not been to Marble since my girlhood days.  I don't even remember when I last went there on one of my father's fascinating road trips through Colorado.  If only I had a recorded oral history of his voice as he told us about these places in Colorado.  He had such knowledge of these places, and he told the story of each place in such an interesting way.  I used to love these trips with him.  Now, all those stories are lost somewhere in the recesses of my memory, but I remembered the town, and thankfully, it had not really changed.  It is still a place off the beaten path that is somewhat undiscovered.  It is hard to read the sign, but it states that the population is 85 and the elevation is over 7,000 feet.

Just as I remembered, marble is everywhere.  It almost litters the ground, if marble could litter.  

Naturally, many sculptors live in this area.
 This is a rock solid mail box holder!

The sizes and shapes of the white marble against the blue of the mountains and the green of trees and grasses is a delight to the eye.

As we drove through town, it was hard to believe that in the rest of America crowds where thronging and celebrating.  This was the view that welcomed us as we drove toward a small church in the town.

Here is the perfect setting for a small family wedding the mountains, or for a peaceful Sunday morning service.

We parked the car near the church, and I wandered to side yard.  I found this beautiful sculpture next to the church.
 I could not help but lift my eyes towards the heavens and think of my darling daughter Julie as I sat in this peaceful place surrounded by beauty and peace.  I thought of her in the presence of real angels and rejoiced that she was in a place of peace.

My reflection was soon interrupted by a visitor.

Boston joined me on a marble bench and brought a big smile to my face and gratitude to my heart for this dear canine companion.  It seemed that this was the perfect ending to a perfect day.  Soon, the three of us, Jim, Boston, and I, headed towards Glenwood Springs where Jim and I would enjoy a great evening soak in the hot springs.