Thursday, March 01, 2012
I started an introspective blog and it disappeared. I am yawning, so life is conspiring to tell me it's time for "light's out".
Today was productive and yet not on track - sort of sum of my SP journey! I'll come back to those introspective thoughts, but, in the meantime, think on this: sometimes doing every day things can turn into moments of functional fitness. What did I do? I lugged a jug of 35# of cat litter! I can sure feel it and am amazed how good it feels!
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I am finally back online! My home internet connection died on Monday evening and I FINALLY got it back up yesterday evening. My internet provider could not solve my problem and I got different info each time I called. Finally, I did some poking around on my own and figured out that I needed to install some Windows updates so that the computer would load the drivers for my broadband access card. I went down the street to the retailer where I bought my PC and had them fix it for me. Long story short - after paying a ton of money, I am back in touch! Woohoo!
Yesterday, I took a short walk while my PC was being worked on. It was a gorgeous day, but I had zero, absolutely zero energy, so I moved even more slowly than usual. Bleh! I had a bad back ache most of the week. It has gotten better and I think yesterday's walk, as pathetic as it was, helped me today. I got up later than usual this morning which is usually not a good thing. I like to get to the laundromat early so I can get in and out without too many other people, screaming children or other chaos. I must have hit a lull today because it was not crowded, there was ample parking, plenty of open machines and no chaos. While my clothes were getting clean, I walked to the post office and checked my box. Instead of then going to Starbucks, I continued walking. My back hurt a little bit, but I liked the feeling of my leg muscles! I feel as if I am back at the beginning, but it feels great! When I got back to the laundromat, my clothes were still spinning in the dryer, so I went back outside and did some stretching.
That is very nearly a first. I DO NOT exercise when people can see me. For me to do my Achilles tendon stretch and wall push ups in public was kind of a big deal! WOOHOO!
As I was folding my clothes, I flashed back to the first summer I lived with my dad and 1st stepmother. She had to teach me all kinds of things, including how to do laundry. That led me to think about all the other things Mom has done for and with me. She had my brother the year before I came into her life. It was about then that she learned that Dad had two children from the first marriage. She was instrumental in getting me to meet my dad. I was headed to see them for what they thought was about a 2 week visit. At the end of the 2 weeks, my older brother died and they kept me. At the end of that first summer, they sent me to boarding school. I thought I had been kicked out of my second family, but it turned out to be what I needed.
When I went to live with them, I was very immature, had been abused and sheltered at the same time and was way behind socially. I also was a trial for Mom - I had such a chip on my shoulder! She is about halfway between Dad's age and mine, so she was in her 20s when I came into her life. When I reached that age, I marveled to think what she dealt with at the same age.
Long story short, their marriage fell apart because of Dad's midlife crisis. I was living in Alaska and they were in New Mexico and I was again afraid that I would be without family. But she told me she was divorcing my dad, not me.
Fastforwarding...Dad remarried a few years later and ended up in KY with her family. My BF and I joined them in Vegas for their 10th anniversary and, as I said goodby to Dad and watched him walk away, I had a bad feeling. It turned out that was the last time I ever saw Dad walk. A year and a few months later, he died with me at his side. He died at the hospital in Indiana and was buried in New Mexico. Mom opened her home to all of us. She said she was willing to go to the funeral if we wanted her to go. I really wanted her there, but I knew it would feel really weird for her, so she did not come. We flew into Albuquerque, spent the night at her house and drove up to the mountain community where my aunt lives (Dad's older sister). The funeral was the next day. We spent a few days going back and forth between Mom's house and my aunt's house. Unfortunately, we did the same thing two years later when my cousin was killed in a solo car accident. This time, Mom and her husband came to the same mountain community for my cousin's funeral. I never thought I would be visiting that cemetery again so soon. I know the next time I will go will be to bury my aunt and I dread that. My other aunt is also buried there and we have two-thirds of the same name. (I am named after both of my aunts, so that will also be true with my living aunt.) Seeing 2/3rds of my name on a headstone is quite disconcerting! It is the only bit of humor I find there, but my family appreciates it. In my mind's ear, I can hear Dad laughing.
Mom has been an ear when I needed it, a partner for Scrabble and other games when we're together, a "partner in crime" when we take a train ride or visit a casino or just visit at her house. It does not matter what we do - we enjoy each other's company. She is my first stepmother, but we are closer than I can express - sisters, friends, mother/daughter - no easy title, but it does not matter.
She is only one reason why I am so blessed, but what a wonderful reason!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Here it is nearly 2 weeks since my last blog. When I first joined SP, I was much more regular about sharing my thoughts. Lately, I have kept things more to myself. The outward evidence of that is not a surprise: no weight loss, very little interest in sticking to it, almost zero belief that I can actually lose all of this tonnage, even a little at a time and my negative attitude about exercise-the-four-letter-word-that-got-str
etched has not changed.
I struggle in very many areas of my life, but we all do, so it seems pointless to air my laundry as it were on this forum. I certainly have little positive to impart, no wisdom, no "aha" moments, no victories to celebrate. So I am silent.
This week, thinking about my beloved first grade teacher (see last blog) whom I knew for almost my entire life, nearly 5 decades, and who was a part of my life for all that time, made me think about other very special people in my life. Despite or because of my rough childhood, I have been blessed, fortunate beyond reason, to have had wonderful people enrich my life with their generosity. I thought about dedicating each day to one of them in an effort to reignite that spark, to find my way out of this long season of blahs.
There was my first music teacher who opened the world of music for me when I most needed that outlet. I came to her music room a very troubled and very immature teen. She had a rule. When you came into her music room whether for choir practice, music theory or piano lessons, you had to leave your troubles outside the door. She would say it was my choice to pick those troubles up again as I left, but they had no place in the room. It was years before I understood that second part, but I fully embraced the image of dropping a heavy backpack outside the door and being free to immerse myself in music for a time. Music became my sanctuary. I played the piano as much as I could and sang at every opportunity. I do not have access to a piano now and have not had one for years, but I sing nearly every day, even if it's only during my commute. Miss Wrisley walked with me in the mornings before breakfast and we talked about everything and nothing. She was my teacher for only 3 years, leaving the boarding school when her mother needed her, but we remained in touch for the rest of her life. I had the privilege of visiting home in Vermont and will carry the memories of that week with me forever. We shared hymns in our letters, wrote about music and our exceedingly high regard for one another. She added to my hymnal collection. I sent her a custom cross stitch wall hanging "She who sings prays twice" and, after she died, it was sent to me. I have it hanging in my kitchen. There were many other women, deaconnesses in the church who gave their lives as missionaries teaching at the boarding school, but Miss Wrisley represents all of them. Together, they created a place where it was safe for me. I grew up and gained an excellent education. Looking back, I realize I learned a lot more than the required coursework!
In college, Mom Angell and Dean Moon saved my life and again gave me safety. I was able to finish my degree and I am Mom Angell's "adopted" daughter. She is in her 80s and not in great health, so I cherish every card and letter.
As I became a member of the working world, there were countless bosses and coworkers who showed me the ropes. For a long time, I was the youngest employee or the newest or....And now, I can claim none of those distinctions. While I have worked many jobs that are seemingly unrelated, each one has proved to be the stepping stone to the next.
And here I am. I am a paralegal in a legal department of a nonprofit corporation. I absolutely love my job! I honestly cannot wait to arrive in the morning because I can't wait to see what will happen. If only the other areas of my life were going so swimmingly! HA!
I find myself unable to focus on diet and exercise. Unable? Unwilling? Both? It seems to muster more energy than I have, but is that the truth or is it a matter of conflicted priorities?
I don't want to be introspective enough to ascertain the answers.
Of course, there is money stress. Of course there are back-of-the-mind health concerns. Of course there is a less than perfect relationship. Of course, given my age, there is the overarching concern about the future.
As I type this, I am at work on my own time, online here because my internet connection at home is dead. I have my new iPOD plugged in and am really enjoying my personal concert!
I need to go home because there are a zillion things to do, but I am avoiding all of them!
I cannot continue to live like this. Avoiding things I don't want to do (like reorganize a closet, weigh my food or exercise), wasting the life I have been given.
Searching for equilibrium is a phrase that has many meanings for me. Physical because I have balance issues. Emotional because I feel things very deeply. Mental because I find myself completely absorbed in some things to the exclusion of others. Work/life balance...Something akin to the balance I need to find between food and exercise.
It's all about quality of life and I am aiming for that zest!
Friday, February 10, 2012
Mrs. Stapleton died yesterday. At 97, it was not unexpected, but it breaks my heart no less.
I thought she had died in July 2010 when my Paralegal Studies graduation announcement was returned. I was destroyed and my heart hurts as badly now as it did then.
Last month, out of the blue, her daughter reached out to me to let me know my beloved teacher was still alive. She explained that the reason my card was returned was that Mrs. Stapleton had moved into an assisted living facility the year before. I rejoiced to hear she was still alive! I dashed off a joyful letter and took the opportunity to again express my love and appreciation for her.
This evening, her daughter sent me an email with the news that Mrs. Stapleton died yesterday quietly in her sleep after fighting a respiratory infection for a week. Jane’s husband is undergoing treatment for leukemia so the service will not occur for a few weeks. I cannot go, but I sent my love and prayers to Jane. I think they live in Texas and he will not be able to go with her to Albuquerque for her mother’s service. I wish I could be there to give her a hug and to make sure she does not feel this burden alone.
Mrs. Stapleton was my first grade teacher and the school librarian. She had been my older brother’s teacher the year before and I met her several times when she came to the house with his lunch box, art shirt or whatever else he’d forgotten.
When I came into her classroom, my life was changed permanently. My home life was terrible and Mrs. Stapleton made school my sanctuary. I could not go outside for PE with the other students, so I spent that time in the library with her. She taught me to love and care for books. She ignited my passion for learning, awakened the flame of intellectual curiosity that still burns today. Years later, I learned that she went to bat for me even then. Back then, first graders were given IQ tests that were primarily tests of manual dexterity and coordination, neither of which did I have. Mrs. Stapleton stood up to the principal, refusing to put those results in my permanent file. She did not want those scores to follow me, to label me, for the entirety of my scholastic career. What wisdom!
In second grade, I wrote a story and Mrs. Stapleton “published” it for me. She typed it on thick pages in big letters and used my own artwork to illustrate it. She bound it with a red velo-bind spiral (red was my favorite color). I wish I still had that treasure!
I attended Aztec Elementary into my sixth grade year. Mrs. Stapleton was always my go-to person for a hug, a chance to cry or to get another book or three. When I had to change schools, I was absolutely heartbroken and could not imagine school without her! I think it was about then that she gave me a trinket box from Mexico. Mother did not want me to keep it, but Mrs. Stapleton prevailed. I was amazed as I had never seen or heard Mother lose! I still have that box, albeit without a few of the decorative pieces of tile that adorned the exterior.
Two years later, my life was turned upside down. I was sent to live with my dad (whom I had never met) and, two weeks after that, my brother died saving another boy’s life. Dad sent me back to Albuquerque for boarding school. I thought I was being turned out of my “second” family, but it turned out to be the best thing for me, made all the better by the continuity that having Mrs. Stapleton in my life represented. She was the only person who knew me when I went by my stepfather’s name and continued to know me after I started going by my father’s last name. That reads as just a collection of words, but, given that this change occurred while I was 13, it represents a complete and profound bifurcation of my childhood.
Through the years, we exchanged letters. I sent my high school and college graduation announcements and there were always birthday and Christmas cards. Seeing her familiar name and address on the envelope was always an occasion for joy. I read my mail in a lowest-to-high-priority order, saving the best for last. Her mail was always last!
A lot of holes exist in my memories, chunks of time that I don’t remember, but memories of Mrs. Stapleton are vivid from me being small enough to fit under the chalk rail in first grade, finally being tall enough to sit in a first grade desk without a block under my feet when I was nine to a million more through the years. For three years after college, I lived in Albuquerque. We met at Furr’s Cafeteria more than once and spent more time talking than eating. Often that lunch out included my stepfather’s mother who had been a third grade teacher. They talked shop, which I thoroughly enjoyed!
The last time I saw Mrs. Stapleton, she was in the hospital and she had a therapist coaching her to breathe more deeply in order to inhale some kind of medicine from a large green hose. I don’t remember why she was there, but I do remember cheering her on! Mrs. Stapleton started laughing at my enthusiasm and passed her therapy. It was a precious moment! The thing was, she used to cheer me on. I wore a leg brace through some of my grade school years and, when she was on playground duty, she kept an eye on me. I felt braver; emboldened to try to run (I loved to run even though I could not do it well). I felt protected because she did not let the boys tease or bully me. She always encouraged me to do more, to try harder and to strive to achieve my best.
I do not know Mrs. Stapleton’s birth date. I always figured it was during the summer because, otherwise, we certainly would have celebrated it at school. She emailed me about being proud that she had turned 90. I gleefully sent her a $90 check, a salute to my youth when aunts and grandparents would give money to match the birthday. She wrote back saying she would not cash it, that she was embarrassed to have mentioned it. I replied that I would respect her choice, but it was a sincere gift. I sent the money to a local grade school that had nearly empty library shelves. With the check was a letter explaining the gift was being made in her name and why. When I told Mrs. Stapleton about it, she sent some more books for the school and one book for me.
When I saw that book, I was frozen in time for long minutes. It was Whose Little Red Jacket? A book I knew very well back when. When I was in first grade, I had a red jacket that looked exactly like the cover of the book. That was always the story I begged her to read. It was always the first book I wanted to check out of the library. Mrs. Stapleton finally refused to let me check it out because she wanted me to choose more challenging books to read. When I opened this “where-in-the-world-did-you-find-it?” book, I was stunned to discover that the protagonist’s name was the same as mine, even though she did not spell it correctly. I had absolutely forgotten that fact about this book. To think that she either kept that book or rounded it up later for me absolutely staggers my imagination!
Years ago, I read something that made sense to me. The book said that people who are important to us are “balcony” people. Whether dead or alive, even if they are no longer present in our lives, their contribution to our lives is such that we continue to feel their influence – as if we feel them watching us from a balcony and that, feeling their presence, we make the better choice. For me, that has to include my beloved first grade teacher. I owe all of my success to her. Without her nurturing during those early years, without her continuity in my life, I would not have learned to love to learn, to treasure books and to be anxious to learn as much as I could about everything. Without her positive influence, I shudder to think how I would have turned out. It is because of her influence that I am not a statistic. The news is full of stories of those accused of crimes blaming their past as the source of their bad action. I could never be on a jury, hear that claim and vote for the defendant because I, too, had a horrible childhood and did not make those same choices.
Teachers were greatly respected back then. Even now, despite her more recent cards where she signed her first name, I still call her Mrs. Stapleton. Though I am honored she wanted me to use her first name, that was never a bridge I comfortably crossed.
It was not until I grew up that I began to see Mrs. Stapleton through more mature eyes. I marvel at her investment in her students, remembering how she came to our home more than once not just to drop off things we'd left at school but to talk to Mother about us. I salute her strength in standing up to her principal and my Mother on my behalf. Most of all, I treasure her loyalty. As she said in an email to me once, even then, we had a special relationship. Yes, we did and yes, we do.
Tonight, my heart is full of tears. As time flows, the pain will ease. Underlying that pain are a few absolute certainties. She had a profound impact on my life. I loved her and she loved me and we knew that about each other.
My challenge is to live the rest of my life in a manner that honors her memory and to find a way to honor her in a manner that allows her legacy to continue.
How fitting that I should write in her memory…
Love without end,
Your first grader
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
I've been having a bad attitude for a while now about looming stress at work. My friend and coworker Yvonne is going on two vacations - one this Friday to Mexico to photograph monarch butterflies and next month to Canada to photograph the harp seals. Of course I am happy for her, but I am not at all happy about covering her desk. Past experience shows that she will be at least nominally grateful, her boss will merely grunt at me and they will expect that I will somehow be able to do her desk all day and still do my job! On top of that, I am training and mentoring a brand new student employee and trying to support 7 attorneys. I have no back-up when I go on vacation. So I have been full of self-righteous resentment and have not been happy about that. My internal efforts to adjust my attitude have not been successful.
Then last night, I clicked on an email link and read a really inspiring story. This week was the anniversary of the sinking of the USAT Dorchester by a German sub in 1943. A lot of men died that morning, but it could have been worse. Four chaplains were on board and they gave away their gloves and life jackets, spoke words of encouragement and faith to the men as they helped them get on lifeboats. As the ship sank, the chaplains stood arm in arm on the deck and prayed.
If they could do that, I thought, I can certainly handle what's on my plate! I once gave a Toastmaster speech about being surrounded by heroes. My elder brother gave his life at age 14 when he saved another boy's life, my younger brother has put his life on the line more times than he will tell me wearing the uniform of the US Navy, my father served in the army during the cold war, both grandmothers were nurses during WWII - the list goes on.
Reading the story of those four chaplains made me cry. I can only hope that. if ever presented with the opportunity to give of myself to someone else, that I would follow through.
Today's training session for the new process on Yvonne's desk went much better than I anticipated. I sang the Prayer of St Francis on the way to work and my resentment was gone. At the end of the day, I had an amazingly smooth commute home - I did not expect that given that I had stayed late. I am at peace and grateful for the attitude adjustment. I needed that!
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