Saturday, June 26, 2010

Girls of Summer

Say what you will about "social networking": I've heard so many great Facebook reunion stories.  This group is from our church youth group circa '76. And many of these girls changed my life.

M became my college room mate and life time friend. We taught at schools together several times over the years.

J has been my plumb line for sensible decisions my entire adult life, and we teach at an elementary school together right now.

P helped  us all maintain a passion for family and friend connections: she taught us the value of keeping up with friends through calls, letters and long-distance visits. (Hey, people: we did this before internet and cell phones made it easy. Remember letters and stamps? Well, we walked uphill through snow to mail them...)

A discipled me through early morning Bible studies during high school. I passed that discipleship along to my daughter who married A's son. (You may have seen me mention that a time or 100 on this blog.)

The five of us meet several times a year from our various locations. (And if the Oklahoma contingent would just move Back Home to Austin, it could be more often. Girls: take it for the team!) 

Last night we reunited with 4 other newly discovered old friends. We met at a  Mexican food restaurant and talked and laughed well past our welcome. When the kind waiter removed our chips and salsa, we relocated to a Starbucks. There we were finally told they were closing, so we moved outside to their patio chairs until well after midnight. Never stopped talking or laughing the entire time.

Old friends are the absolute best friends. They know your story, they love you enough to call you on bad decisions, and they stand by you in good times and bad.

Facebook: You are my friend. Keep bringing the friends from former days into my present.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eye Thought Wrong

Well, shut my mouth...ah, eye: the opthamologist informed me that what I thought was "pink eye" is an eye infection. A pretty severe one at that. And since we only get two eyes, I'd like to take care of these. I didn't even blink at the price of my prescription. (Little eye humor, that.) $128 for a bottle of drops the size of my thumbnail. Administered one drop every hour.

And here I was thinking it was some innocent child who had passed along conjunctivitis to me. Maybe I'm still sore about that kindergartner who had warts on his hands and always wanted to hold my hand. Having those "caught" warts removed from the pads of my fingers was worse than childbirth. But I'm not bitter. Just suspicious, these 18 years later. But I digress.

Who knew you could have a raging eye infection that could bring you down physically? Just the other night I was sharing with my friend A (whose son married my daughter!) that I just was dragging around. It was past the possibility of jet lag, and a stretch to believe it was  a lack of caffeine because I traded coffee for tea in Ireland. 

And what is one to do when an eye infection saps one physically? Dial up Season Two of "Friday Night Lights" on line. I had no choice during my recuperation. 

You see, my Netflix Season One of "Gilmore Girls" came by mail. I tried to get into it, but Coach Taylor only speaks about ten words per episode on "FNL", and Lorelai and Rory use every word in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary twice in each show. Here's something I never thought I'd type: too many words! Time to dial it back in Star's Hollow, girls.

I hope I don't end up standing at a meeting saying, "Hello, my name is R, and I'm addicted to FNL." (Not to be confused with SNL, which was in it's infancy and prime when I was in college in the 70s. They don't make them like that anymore, says MeMaw.)

But addicted? Nah. There are only five seasons; I'm half way through Season Two. There's an expected end.

But I hear they are shooting the new episodes in Austin even as I  blog.  Hmmmm. Maybe when my eye clears up...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Have a little cheese with that whine...

Joining the burst blood vessel in my right eye is apparently conjunctivitis in my left eye. More commonly known as "pink eye", even thought it should be called "bright red eye". It is either that, or an angry porcupine has moved in behind my eyeball. The doctor will make the call at 1:30 pm when I beg for medication to lessen the pain.

One thing that stinks about living alone? There is no one to whine to. I promise, I'd be in full whine this morning for the pain and inconvenience of pink eye if someone were here to listen. On the bright side, in 30 years of working in and around children, I've never contacted this infection before. And I seem to be immune to most of what circulates through my classrooms.

This day is my day "off" from VBS. When I signed on last spring, I had the good sense to ask if there was an "outside" day. I have learned I am not an enthusiastic participator in ropes courses, zip lines, swimming marathons or prolonged exposure to Texas afternoon heat in the summer. Don't judge me: I know my limitations. When I was told Wednesday was The Day, I opted out early and scheduled some contractors to come by for bids. Interrupted by the late breaking opthamologist appointment.

The house remodel continues, and I have long lists of repairs in priority order. The replacement of the 70s Harvest Gold master bathroom counter tops my personal list; tiling of the laundry room floor leads the realtor's advice list. New windows are next, followed by carpet in the bedrooms. When those repairs and replacements are completed, we will have changed every square inch of the house since we moved in in 1999. (And that counter will be changed out. It ranks above "running water" for me right now.) 

I hope I'll be able to scan in the "before" pictures for you, along with the "after", because this house really was a labor of love for Dave. As I continue to try to decide whether to downsize and move, or to stay here, my heart is so drawn to all the custom woodwork he did around our home. It just makes me happy to be here.

That and the fact that the next owner would probably paint neutral colors over everything,(ala TLC's "Moving Up"program, where former homeowners must view what the next owner does to their home), and I think the house needs me to stay here. 

This home remodel has been a real eye opener for me. I've always been a Type A Get it Done kind of person. There is no rushing contractors or workers. They operate on a time continuum that is a new dimension for me. It will get done when it gets done, and I just need to have a happy heart about it. 

Another thing I'm slowly learning is that everything will not be all finished at one time. There will always be one more project; one more repair. Reminds me of the documentary I saw on the Golden Gate Bridge: when the workers finish painting the bridge, they return to the other end and begin painting again. It is a continual work in progress because of the salt water's wearing on the paint. Life is like that, isn't it? No matter how hard we push, it will always be a work in progress. There really will not be a day where we plop down in an easy chair, prop up our feet and proclaim, "Finished!" with all our ducks in a row, all our packages tied in tidy knots or (fill in the blank with the expression you harbor for a finished life's work).

Learning to be content in the journey, and wishing there was a method for itching behind my eyeball. This too will pass.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What I'm Doing on My Summer Vacation

Many months ago, one of my former students (I taught her in kindergarten and third grade) asked me if I'd be her assistant at her Vacation Bible School. Well? Yes, please. Just this sweet girl seeking me out and asking me was reason enough to sign up. And the timing? Turns out having something planned for the week after my trip to Ireland was a very good thing indeed.

I went to the orientation for this VBS in May and was absolutely blown away at the size and magnitude of the organization. This church holds two one-week sessions for 500 children each week. The day lasts from 8:30 to 5:00, and a yummy lunch and two snacks are served. Church membership is not a prerequisite: the congregation sees it as a way to love on the children of the community. When registration was open to the public, the 1,000 slots were gone in something like 23 minutes.

A far cry from the VBS of my youth which involved red Kool-aid, and crafts such as gold sprayed macaroni glued onto a cigar box. This, obviously, is NOT your mother's Vacation Bible School.

The first day began with me looking in the mirror and gasping. A blood vessel must have burst in one corner of my right eye, and I looked something like a vampire. Great. What a way to meet seven year-old children. To their credit, only one little girl asked me if I got something in my eye. I wanted to say, "Oh, darn! Must have used the squeeze ketchup bottle instead of my contact lens solution again. That's what I get for leaving it on the bathroom counter!" Because I love messing with kids. But you know what? All they really care about is how high you can push them on the tire swing. And I was apparently something of an expert, because my pushing line was the longest on the playground.  And a good time was had by all.

There were bouncy houses and Bible Stories. Pizza and homemade cookies served by the over 80 crowd under trees that barely masked the Texas heat--but these seniors turn out year after year with smiles on their faces. Songs and crafts; videos and magicians. The day flew by in a church entirely decorated to look like a ranch. My group is the Mighty Tumbleweeds, and this is not their first rodeo. Little Texas humor, that.

What I love about working with children is they are all the same, just in different packages. There is still the little helpful boy who falls immediately in love with you (even with a scary red eye), the little princess girl who makes every thing a little more fun, and the child who always has a cut/bruise/headache or need for immediate emergency room attention, to name a few. By the end of the day we were all fast friends and looking forward to a fun week together.

I end with this quote that contains all the wisdom of seven years: "Tomorrow I will have even a better time because last night I was so excited about today I couldn't sleep. That made me sleepy today so I guess my excitement kept me awake. Now I know what will happen and I can sleep good because I have the regular excitement about tomorrow, not the kind that keeps you awake like on Christmas Eve. This is going to be a great week." 

Makes perfect sense to me. Rolling with the Tumbleweeds through a great week in VBS.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In the Summertime...

First off, did you notice my new blog header? It was done by a dear family friend; a girl I taught in first grade who now has a daughter of her own  almost that age. You can see her precious one here. I think A is the cutest little girl  anywhere. Until my future granddaughters are born. Thanks, Autumn, for being inspired by my "view from Ireland". I love it! You should go into bloggy header business.

OK. On to today's post.

Every summer there comes a time, and usually it happens as I'm walking across a sea of asphalt parking lot, when I think, "WHAT AM I DOING LIVING IN TEXAS IN SUMMER?" That time was this weekend. My first mistake was looking at the heat index in the paper: 105 degrees. My second mistake was going shopping in the middle of the afternoon in that heat. My final mistake was wearing tennis shoes, because I'm pretty sure I left the rubber soles somewhere in between JC Penneys and Office Max. 

So, I did what any sensible person in central Texas would do: I went home, cranked up the A/C, got a glass of iced tea,  and checked out NetFlix online. I've renewed my subscription because I am a teacher, it is summer, and can you say, "Free Time"?

I will have to admit that Summer Free Time is not the friend to me it used to be. This summer seems to stretch out before me with endless amounts of time. This is compounded by the fact that most of my house is still a work in progress due to the continuing work of painters. I can't seem to get anything done around their work. I am stuck in neutral, and it is a hard gear to get out of.

I realize during the school year, I could stay pretty busy and not think about missing Dave. School came to a screeching halt, and I am aware of my aloneness 24 hours a day. If I don't pick up the phone to call a friend, or answer the phone when a friend calls, I really can go days at a stretch without seeing or talking to anyone. 

Except in Dillion, Texas. Because I attended a solo reunion with "Friday Night Lights", Season 1 this weekend. I watched all 22 episodes of the Panthers on their way to the State Title. I'll do the math for you: 16 1/2 hours of total viewing. Disturbing? But so worth it.

 Have you seen this show? It is filmed in my town, and I love watching it to see what locations I recognize. The acting is incredible. The story lines are gripping. And if you have 16 hours or so to spare, you should watch it online. Or have a life instead. It's your choice.

Looking for more structure and more time with friends this summer. And realizing what a blessing Dave was to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Room With a View...of Ireland

Just got back from a week in Ireland with loyal friend O'Reilly.
(O'Reilly and O'Brien: almost guaranteed a good time on the Emerald Isle.)
My friend lived in Ireland for 10 years while her Irish husband taught at the university. She had all three of her children there, and left behind a country full of friends. Many of whom we stayed with during our visit. The best way to explore a new country? In the company of locals who love to show off the best of their country.

Here is Ireland through the windows of our guest rooms.

We landed in Shannon airport and headed toward Cashell, a castle and tea and cookies with Mary. She led us on a walking tour of the village, fed us a hearty Irish meal, and was understanding when jet lag took us down early.
The next day took us to Kilkinney to a "girl" castle (fancily furnished as opposed to yesterday's "boy" castle marred by past battles and missing walls).  We landed in County Kildare at Pauline's house, where we immediately had tea, cookies, and a brisk walk through the countryside. We were treated to a barbecue, spent time with her three teenagers who considered everything "lovely" and "brilliant"--two adjectives I may adopt into every day conversation. We slept in their spare rooms, or "Granny Flat", and had Wheatabix and tea for breakfast.

We drove into Naas to see the O'Reilly's former house, church and elementary schools, and stopped in Dunlearaghy for tea and scones. We drove to Dublin to meet Edie and Carmel, who showed us Trinity College, the Book of Kells and Stephen's Green. We arrived back at our rental car to discover our car wheel was being clamped for an expired parking ticket. We put on our best American twang, and somehow the clamp came off and we were welcomed to Ireland with just a warning. We drove on to our new friends' home in Ardee and had fish and chips from the chipper and  a second course of Chinese "take-away".
The next day we drove to their country home in Donnegal. We stopped in Northern Ireland for groceries to make a traditional Irish dinner of salmon, leeks, potatoes and parsnips. Delicious. Followed by a traditional breakfast of rashers, sausage, grilled tomatoes, and eggs. And tea. Lots of tea. Did I mention tea? With milk; no sugar. And I think I am trading in American coffee for Irish tea from now on. Cross my heart.  The rest of the visit included a picnic on the coast, (that included  tea served in china. Sensing a theme here...) a visit to a pub and a beautiful Catholic mass.
We left for Galway where we heard traditional Irish music and shopped in the City Center. The next day brought a visit to the Cliffs of Mohr, lunch in Lahinch where we walked the beach, and drove through Ennis to Shannon. The weather throughout our stay resembled the perfect October day in Texas, and the early June heat of Texas was but a distant memory.
Our last night in Ireland found us at a hotel near the airport for our flight home. A 24-hour day followed that led us through various airports, flight delays, cancelled flights (oh, Atlanta weather: you are so cruel!) and an arrival home that did not include our luggage. (It traveled on without us to Memphis, and continues to visit points north.) This is not a problem since jet lag calls me to stay home and sleep and nap and sleep. Laundry can wait until it arrives in the missing suitcase.

So, now we are home with lots of great memories and pictures. The last picture is just for my daughter who gave us these glasses for the trip with a note that read, "Wear these in Ireland for a picture. The locals will never notice that you are tourists. Really!"

Two happy tourists, home after a great adventure. Failte abhaile. Welcome home. Welcome summer vacation.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In the Summertime...

So, this is what it comes down to. I've packed the last box and finished the year-end paperwork. I locked the door to my first grade portable for the final time. (Next year I'll be inside the school in a "real" room.) Without the students in the mix, the room really has no life or spark to it.

I could not shake the thought as I cleaned, that at this time last year I was boxing furiously. Last summer, I was going home to help my husband through his final days of life. We ended up having about six weeks together. Some very sweet and bittersweet times. It seems like yesterday; but it also seems like a lifetime ago. I cannot comprehend that I've walked this life without D for almost a year now.  

I know that I've made a lot of progress. Less tears, more of The Happy. Memories now make me smile and laugh. Some of my "new" future is becoming clearer. The house projects are getting wrapped up. And I may have mentioned a time or twenty that I'm going to Ireland this summer.

Moving on. But not forgetting. Because D will forever have his handprint on my heart.

Welcome, summer. Let's make up for last year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Last Day of School

175 school days later, we have reached our final destination: the last day of school. What are those last days like you ask? See the picture above for an accurate depiction. And these are my quiet girls.
My sweet daughter Katy mailed me this t-shirt she made for me to wear the last day of school. This is the front...
...and this is the back. You see, I'm moving up to second grade with this group! Saying good-by was no problem for the Bumblebees, because we will all be saying hello again in August. Can't wait. (Actually, I can wait until I've had a looooong rest. June through August should suffice.)

The students loved this shirt. Dave always said that teachers were the only people on earth who would wear this type of clothing. Only he used more colorful adjectives to describe them. He was right. At various times in my teaching career, I have dressed as a red crayola, a blue M&M and Junior Asparagus from Veggie Tales. And those were the ones my own personal children would tolerate and be seen in the same room with me.

This shirt also sparked a conversation among teachers as to, "What is the worst teacher-themed accessory you have ever been given and/ or you have worn?" 

Me first! One year a student gave me a ginormous necklace that included real sharpened pencils. One of the teachers wanted to know if the points faced "up" toward my neck. Well, no. And I did not run with my scissor necklace, either.

Thanks for a great school year parents and students! I will miss you and I appreciated all your help and support this year. See you in August!