I'm ready for a new decade, though this past one did have some wonderful life-enriching moments: my retirement from teaching, the births of 3 grandchildren, good health, and the election of 2008. So, on this last day of 2009, I am pondering the approach of the new year. There will be no resolutions for me; I gave that up years ago, as my annual avowals were always the same and never kept for very long. You know...lose weight, exercise. Yawn. What I will do is continue to reach for little ways of bettering myself and refining my thinking. Always a work in progress. Yep.
This Christmas morning, as I sat on the couch eating my Cheerios, I found myself looking back. When I was a child, Christmas morning breakfast was always way too big an occasion, as far as I was concerned. I had already checked out all my gifts, squeezed and squished them, tried to peek inside if there was a way, and taken a wild guess at what might be inside the ribbon and colorful wrapping.
I was SO ready to rip into those packages. But no. The table had to be cleared and the kitchen tidied, which seemed to take forever, before we could finally begin what I saw as the main event. Ah, the impatience of youth.
Over the years Christmas and gift opening evolved a little bit year by year until, by the time I was an adult, a much more kid friendly plan was adopted: all gifts were opened on Christmas Eve and Santa's offerings were attacked Christmas morning, forever ousting the tedious Christmas morning waiting while the adults dawdled endlessly over coffee, totally oblivious to my impatience to get the gift opening show on the road.
Once I became a mother, I stuck to this tradition, never wanting to go back to those Christmas mornings that dragged on and on like a mile-long train. I'd get my coffee going and then it would be stocking time. Maybe there would be a tricycle or scooter leaning up in front of the mantle, a sand box or swing set in the yard. One year there was a massive dollhouse that I had painted, wall papered and furnished sitting expectantly in the living room, just waiting to be noticed. It was all about her, and I loved watching the joy and excitement. Then I would retreat to the kitchen to begin preparations for an early afternoon family dinner, usually turkey, but sometimes prime rib. Fun.
So here it is: another Christmas morning, and I am alone typing at my computer, enjoying the quiet and listening to carols, yet missing just a little bit, the glee of Christmas past. The day will pick up, of course, as I head to my brother's home for turkey and festivites. Lingering in my head, however, are visions of how it used to be. I miss it, and yet I don't. But I love the delicious memories.
So...which Bear team, ferocious or teddy, will show up in San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl on December 23rd?
I am hoping it is the ferocious Bears that were at one time ranked in the top ten and rallied at the season's end to put away The Big Game thereby keeping the coveted axe.
However, I fear the teddyBears might tumble through that stadium tunnel at game time... the Bears that suffered humiliating back-to-back losses to USC and Oregon with the subsequent embarrassing freefall in the national rankings. Season after season, the fans never know which Bear team will appear.
Fingers crossed. Here's hoping for an abundance of boldness and skill as the ferocious Bears run through the goal posts, take the field, and go home to Berkeley with a big win.
Looking back over my life so far, I realize that six events have had a profound effect on me. It is one thing to read about long-ago history in a text but quite another to live it, watch it unfold as it moves into the archives.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
I was a college freshman, away from home for the first time. As this news was breaking, I spent much time on the phone with my parents. Should I come home? Should I stay in Berkeley? I was young, scared, and wondering if the world was going to end.
The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy
The despair of dreams ripped apart was overpowering and stays with me still. What could have been? We'll never know.
Neil Armstrong's Moon
The moment did not seem real to me. I felt like I was watching a science fiction film; but what an amazing accomplishment.
The Explosion of the Challenger
I got news of this disaster as I stood outside my classroom, greeting my 4th graders in the cheerful sunlight of a typical California morning. A parent of one of my pupils came rushing up to me and whispered, "Did you hear...?" I hadn't. I turned into a statue, total stone inside my gut, wondering what to say to my young students, beginning the school day as we did every morning...with current events. Ohmygod.
Drinking my morning coffee as I watched the Today show, I could not comprehend what I was seeing. Like eveyone else, I at first thought it was an horrific accident. Speculation was rampant. Driving to school to begin my teaching day, some newsperson was glibly rattling on about rumors the Golden Gate Bridge was the next target. I was numb and just went about my day because I didn't know what else to do.
The Election of Barack Obama
Tears poured down my face as, glued to the TV, I watched the election results. When I awoke the next morning, I was afraid I had dreamed the whole thing, but it was true; and I was a witness to a huge happening, one that I never thought I would see in my lifetime.
These events are forever etched in my memory. I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and what I was thinking. The missile crisis, the assassinations, the Challenger disaster, and 9/11 caused me to feel fear, grief, and profound horror. With Armstrong's moon walk and Obama's election, I experienced joy, hope, disbelief, and amazement.
forever carved into my soul
The future? How about a woman president?
I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
I am having motivational problems this holiday season. There's always so much to do and I am having none of it. I've purchased my Christmas cards and holiday stamps in anticipation of spreading joy, but that is as far as it has gotten. There is still a mound of shopping to do, but the thought of venturing out in the pouring rain and standing in long lines is not very appealing at this moment. There has been no baking yet, and I didn't even have the energy to put up a tree this year.
I have, however, put up many decs and mailed packages, so at least I am not a total bah humbug. Well, it's only the 13th...maybe the merriment will kick in next week. Do I hear ho, ho, ho?
When I embark on a brand-new dating situation, I am a sucker for a snow job. The lastest budding relationship began with so much snow, it was practically a blizzard, and I was foolishly charmed by this delightful deluge: the thoughtful gifts, the jolly disposition, the wining and dining, all of it. However, the snow eventually melted, as snow does, and reality reared its ugly head. This bewitching suitor showed his true colors. The gifts dwindled, the temper erupted, and the wining and dining turned into dinner at my place, cooked by me. It's over. Since I'm no spring chicken, I should have known better. Lesson learned. Watch out for blizzards. They can be dangerous.
I am in recovery mode today after an extremely raucous birthday party yesterday for John and Chris. Neither look particularly pleased in the above picture because the guests are yet to arrive, and the boys desperately want a piece of cake. For sure, Chris does not want to wait because, turning 3, he is unclear on the concept of party etiquette.
Once the guests arrive, however, the cake is temporarily forgotten and the fun begins. The house is alive with laughter, loud voices, and - of course - football on the television.
With lightning speed the presents are ripped open, wrapping paper is flung aside, and oohs and aahs reign as the wonderful gifts are properly appreciated by the delighted birthday boys.
Rylee takes charge of the candle lighting, and finally it is time to dig into the butter-creamed Star Wars cake, complete with light sabers that actually light at a finger's touch.
I wrote weeks ago about the coming far-away move of one of my best friends, someone I see regularly for fun and conversation...a friendship that goes back 40 years. The good news is she is no longer leaving CA! The bad news: her house sale fell through. So, while I am sorry about the lost deal, I am thrilled to have some more time with her, at least until the spring when the house goes on the market again. Yayz for now.
Thanksgiving is now one for the books, and I am glad of it. For the first time ever, we had dinner in a restaurant and, since there were little people involved, a buffet joint was wisely selected. There was everything you could ever imagine to pile on your plate, and that's exactly what we did. The adults in the party stuck very uncreatively to the traditional turkey and all the trimmings. The children, however, were much more adventuresome, with John selecting spaghetti, fries and pizza. Alex, the most daring of all, chowed down on gummy bears and fries, while little Chris slept peacefully in his stroller through the entire meal.
We had a great time with the added bonus of having no messy kitchen to get back in order. A trip to the park to work off some of the calories was our next stop. Great day.
Right on the heels of that feasting fun, the pugs and I took off for Dillon Beach and yet another pig-out party...this time ham, scalloped potatoes, and asparagus with hollandaise. I am now back home with snoring pugs at my feet and happy to return to normalcy.
I love holidays, but they can be exhausting. And now it's time to start thinking holly, Santa and candy canes. I'm not mentally ready. And it's coming fast. Too fast. Better watch out.
I have already bemoaned the body changes that are occurring as I age. Thank you very much, Gravity. It's just a fact, the circle of life. And I accept that. Really, I do. And this sagging experience is personal, all about me. Even though I know it happens to us all.
Harder to accept are the more subtle changes, personality shifts, that I am noticing in people I have known for years who are much older that I am. Specifically, I am referring to my 80 year old 2nd cousin, affectionately called 2Cuz. We have had many outings over the years, beginning when I was a scrawny 10 year old. Mom would dress me in my finest, we're talkin' short white gloves and beribboned hat, to lunch and shop in San Francisco with 2Cuz and her mom, both also gloved and hatted. Can you imagine? We are talking eons ago! Our moms are no longer with us, but 2Cuz and I still manage to lunch and shop, thankfully not gloved and hatted in SF, though it is considerably more difficult now that she is 80 and has had a mild stroke.
2Cuz has transformed from this smiling,vibrant 30ish cousin into an iron fisted, very rigid senior. When she makes up her mind about something, that is it. To put it mildly, she has become difficult. Consequently, I find myself wanting to see her less because our outings have become such a struggle for me and , perhaps, for her. To try to cope, I have determined that I must have a firm plan for our jaunts and not allow her to orchestrate our activities, which -trying to please and be agreeable - I used to allow, resulting in wild goose chases because she never knew exactly where we were going but insisted that she did, did, DID. Example: a couple of months ago, hopelessly lost in Petaluma, she insisted I turn onto a one-way street, going the wrong way. What? On the same disastrous venture, her directions got us onto an entrance only freeway lane, a big mistake, with quick-moving traffic in the lanes on both sides. With massive restraint, because what I wanted to do was shout shitfuckingcrapola, I calmly burbled, "Oh no! We're stuck going onto the freeway." She replied in her I'm soooo bloody right voice, "Well, just change lanes!" She might as well have said, "Let's get killed." Thank goodness I am always the driver. I swear, this could be a screenplay for a sit-com, no laugh track needed.
Yesterday was our lastest excursion (written for my weight blog because I was rewarded with a high caloric and very delicious tempura lunch), and there were only a few hitches... though it took all my patience to not just massively lose it and begin to roll on the ground yelling curse words.
Bottom line: I will continue our outings, under my guidelines, in order to add some spice to her diminishing life remembering that I, too, will oneday most likely become a bossy, know-it-all, stubborn old matron hoping that some kind schmuck is willing to help me shop and take me to lunch.
Ah, that circle of life. Kinda sucks, but I soooo take it on, not liking the alterrnative. Sis. Boom. Bah.
Hooray...I have escaped yet another cancer mini-crisis, this time thyroid. Soooo...good effin' bye to that worry...for now. I am currently 21 years cancer free and feeling thankful, relieved, pleased. appreciative, gratified and on and on. What a wonderful diagnosis, so apt this time of year as we approach Thanksgiving. I wish I could say that I attribute my good health to some fabulous program I am doing that ensuresadios cancer, but we all know there is no such guaranteed regime. I frankly think that much of it is just plain ol' luck, and sometimes, who knows when, that just runs out. So far, Lady Luck, since the initial very ugly diagnosis, has been in my corner. I live by my motto: everything in moderation, even moderation, which basically means enjoy your life by occasionally, but not consistently, succumbing to your desires...whether it be a juicy steak, a martini (or two), a trip to a far away shore, or just a day on the couch with a good book. One life...that's what we have. I am happy to have dodged yet anothe Big C bullet.
Since I keep having recurring dreams about school experiences, I can only conclude that my years in school - first as a student and then as a teacher - were somewhat traumatic. In the first nocturnal vision I am an overworked, harassed college student who finds myself, on graduation day, one unit shy of a degree, due to a clerical error beyond my control. No amount of pleading and cajoling with the powers-that-be will change the dismal number situation, and I am doomed to another semester in collegiate hell.
The second dream, which reoccurred just last night, takes place at yet another school, this time elementary, where I am a veteran teacher loving my students but totally frustrated by the growing demands thrust at me by the county, state and fed. Tired of the uncompromising bureaucracy and, frankly, exhausted by the stress of it all, I realize that early retirement is the only way to keep myself from being carried out of the classroom door on a stretcher, permanently incapacitated and never able to return. I complete the mounds of paperwork only to find that I've been denied. Denied! I will not be allowed to retire. Not now. Not ever. Once again I am stuck, this time in underfunded No Child Left Behind hell.
I always wake up with a start once I slam into that brick wall of despair, relieved to discover that I am once again in night terror mode. What does this say about my relationship with schools? In both scenarios I find myself in situations where I have completely lost control of what is happening; and, now that I think about it, that was the reality, especially in the retirement dream. Thank goodness that hopeless, trapped feeling is now behind me, except when it infrequently revisits me while I sleep. When I spring awake, I remember that I am finally free and my own boss.
I enjoy doing the Martha Stewart entertaining act, but it is an exhausting workout. I basically spent the whole day preparing, and that doesn't include the planning and grocery shopping, also part of the party package.
We began with cocktails and appetizers - spring rolls dipped in sweet and sour sauce, Mary's famous stuffed mushrooms, and a platter of assorted cheeses and crackers. Dinner consisted of Greek green salad with kalamata olives and lots of feta, pesto four cheese ravioli covered in sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, panko crusted chicken, garlic bread; and we topped off the meal with apple pie from Mom's, one of the best bakeries around. Quite yummy, if I do say so myself.
Then the clean-up, which took a couple of hours, commenced. It not only involved clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, but breaking apart the dinner table, returning the table leaves to the coat closet, schlepping chairs around, and generally moving pieces of furniture back to their starting positions. Lots of work. It's the day after and my back is aching. Even the pugs are pooped. So now it is time to cast Martha aside and morph back into just Janice. I'm liking it.
I couldn't resist. Since seeing the $9.99 ladybug costume at Target, I have not been able to get it out of my pathetic mind. Today, I finally decided. Enough! And off I zoomed to Target to turn the unsuspecting Cleo into a ladybug. Looking like a bird dog in search of a fallen pheasant, I eagerly roamed the aisles. I finally found a pitiful pile of on sale pet costumes. No ladybug. Then, buried at the bottom, I spotted the hot dog. Having learned my lesson, this time I didn't hesitate. And here is the result. Gotta love it!
An ongoing argument with myself about whether or not to drag my bones to the gym = gymnauseam. Why do I make regular gymming it difficult to the point of mental nausea? I dread it, put it off, finally drag myself to the car, and always discover that is is relatively painless-and I feel satisfied after that I have done something positive for myself. It is always an issue with me, a fact that I guess I attribute to my latent couch potato tendencies.
It is a nice enough place to go. The equipment, to get that ol' heart a-pumping, is state-of-the art. I mean, I can even watch tv while on the ho-hum treadmill, which certainly eases the boredom factor of the activity; but I'd much rather be sitting on a cushy couch sipping a drink and munching popcorn dripping with butter.
The weight room, staffed with trainers, is filled with machines to strengthen every muscle I could ever imagine...and some I can't. Groaning and grunting in time to the piped-in music is the activity du jour in this room, but it leaves me cold.
Yep, hitting the gym is even worse than trotting around my hilly neighborhood, a cardio activity right out my front door. Ah well, the truth is that I was never much in the jock department, and I suspect this is just my oxymoron approach to regular exercise. And so it goes. Ad. Nauseam.
Former roommates...we go years and years back, to our flight attendant days with the now defunct Pan Am. I am so used to being able to call her up and meet for a spontaneous lunch, movie, or shopping excursion; but those days are slowly winding down as she is moving to Washington. Soon.
Damn this economy anyway, since that is the reason she can no longer afford to live in California. However, sorting through the mounds of pictures taken of us over the years, I will be able to fondly look back upon all the fun outings and laughter we have shared. Consoling each other over injuries, family disputes,cancers, untimely deaths, husbands and aging parents were all part of this complex galpal package. Of course, our friendship will endure, though it won't be the same. Distance does that. Hello, Ms Change, you often unwelcome visitor. Well, I guess the corny adage applies here: "The road to a friend's home is never long", which puts a postive spin on this potentially boo-hooish situation. It's a minor glitch in my life path. That's all it is. But I don't have to like it.
I've already bemoaned the fact that it seems grossly unfair to me that, as my body ages semi-gracefully, I still retain some of the vestiges of my teenage years: ZITS, which I still get, while my ass is clearly falling. I accept that, though I don't like it, which leads me to a resolution. Just let it happen. In fact, treat it as a scientific experiment. I could even go so far as to chart on a regular basis what area of my bod has fallen apart on a given day. Today's chart would show no zits (yay!), ass no saggier than a week ago, the same old flat feet of several years past, and an achy knee that comes and goes. That sounds pretty good, and I am bloody happy that's all that is going on with me. So, let the ass fall; bring on the zits; throw the friggin' hypothetical chart out the window. Who cares? It's a glorious day, and I'm ready to let it happen.
Definitely not, but my toes are. I just felt like doing something totally different from my usual ho-hum pedicure polish choice, pink or red. Too bad it is a bit coolish for sandals, or I would be showing off my wild and crazy toes; but it is enough that I know their glittery blueness is lurking inside my shoes. What's next for me...purple hair?
Why am I a born-again single? I like weddings. Since I always have fun at parties and celebrations, I have always said I would love to have a wedding of my own...again. It's just the marriage I have very little interest in repeating. Too bad they have to go arm-in-arm. Loooooong ago I got over the syrupy illusion that marriage would equal bliss, and I happily cast aside the fallacious prince-on-the-white-horse syndrome that had been drummed into my young head. It's not that my marriage was awful; it just wasn't all I dreamily and unrealistically thought it would be as I contemplated my life as a wife, unfortunately one of the main goals of my generation of young women. The best I can say, in retrospect, was that my marriage was....satisfactory, which is not saying very much. Once the intense madness of being so in love began to slowly hit the post wedding skids, reality began to creep into my gradually awakening consciousness. I've never put a label on my marriage until just recently: satisfactory.
And so yesterday I watched a happy young couple take their forever and ever 'til death do us parts, and I couldn't help but wonder what the future holds for them. I hope it is happy and fulfilling. I believe such marriages do exist.