Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Role models have been important to me throughout my life, and at this part of my life, I really appreciate having people leading the way for leading life to the fullest no matter what their age, their health, or their physical limitations.
My grandmother was the first person I recognized as someone who set a path for what aging can look like -not getting old and frail, but living vibrantly. She was the person who raised my mother to be a gardener, who in turn raised me to be a gardener. I remember many summers working with my grandmother in her gardens, precious and lasting memories.
Vera continued to be active throughout her life. Even after a series of strokes, she lived in her own home, cooked her own meals, stayed active in church and in her garden club and went out to listen to music with her friends. She lived that way up to the last two weeks of her life, when at 96, she succumbed to melanoma. Her last two weeks were spent in Hospice, where she had a lovely view of their gardens and bird feeding stations which she kept very close track of.
My father was another one of my role models. Dad was also someone who lived life to the fullest. He did not get to enjoy his life on this earth as long as my grandmother, but he was bright, involved, and active throughout his life. At 84, Dad was still painting, mentoring artists, playing music, he was treasurer of the Ex POW organization, walking 3 - 5 miles, playing music, etc. All this while he was undergoing grueling treatment for lung cancer which later spread to his brain. During his treatment, he was the one who brought a sense of humor and a dignity and humanity with him that was uplifting to the technicians and doctors who treated him. Dad was full of life and humor right up until a couple of days before he died - for the duration of his conscious existence in this world.
My Aunt Yve is still with us, and today it is she that I would like to celebrate.
(Yve with Dad during his last autumn)
She was the next in line of Dad's 7 siblings, and I was always very close to her. I love my parents, but they had a very rocky relationship, and Yve would take me in when things got to wild at home. She did not have a lot of money - she worked in the garment industry in NYC and just got by. But she loved the ballet and would find every opportunity to take me to performances of the Bolshoi Ballet, the New York Ballet,and the Royal Ballet to see such great dancers as Nureyev, Baryshnikov, and Margot Fonteyn. What she could afford was standing room tickets, and we would watch the ballets together, standing at the back of the theater, totally enraptured with the ballet.
She loved to travel and spent her younger years living in different places around the world, such as Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Turkey. At 84, she still loves to travel, but not as far as she used to. Last year, she was coming to Ohio to visit her sisters and fell at the Cincinnati airport, breaking both legs. Since she lives in a 3 story walk up in Philly, she was not able to return home and had to stay with Aunt Carol for a few months. As she was getting back to walking, she fell and broke her wrist. At that point I brought her here to stay with me for a bit. (Stella, of course, was overjoyed with this arrangement.)
About 8 years ago, she developed breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, and radiation treatments. Unfortunately, she developed complications from the radiation which took her a while to recover from. When her breast cancer came back, she decided not to treat her cancer with traditional treatments and now it has progressed into her bones, probably contributing to why they were breaking.
Yve is okay with her cancer. She has lived well into her eighties and is still going strong. She tells me that she does not want to treat her cancer, does not want to spend time thinking about her cancer, or to let it limit her or color the way she lives her life. She says that she has led a very rich life and is still leading one, that eventually she will leave this world, so why fight the cancer with treatments that will make her sick and not give her that many years anyway.
Meanwhile, she is still working with ceramics and loving it. She has been focused on birdbaths recently, and has been trying to make one for each of the people who are important in her life. Since she has become less physically strong, she has had to limit the size of the ceramic pieces she creates but she is still loving her work with clay and glaze.
This is the birdbath she made for me in 2009, right before her airport accident. The bowl she made many years ago.
She just completed this birdbath for my sister.
I know people will have different ideas about cancer treatment, but I am proud of my aunt's self knowledge, love of quality of life, strength, and determination. I love it that she does not let her cancer define who she is or what she can do. I wish there was a treatment that would cure her cancer without making her so miserable that she cannot enjoy her life, a treatment that would giver her another 10 - 15 years, but she does not wish for that at all. She wishes to leave this earth strong and in her own way, and although I want her here longer, I really love her for that.
I feel so lucky and honored to have had, and to still have in my life, people who don't let age or illness define or limit them from living life to the fullest. They pave the way to keeping my strength, creativity, humor and personal integrity through the trials of life.
I only hope that I can be such a positive and powerful inspiration for those who follow my steps.
I want to end this blog with a pitch for breast cancer screening and The Breast Cancer Site.
The link below will take you to The Breast Cancer Site where you can click daily to contribute to free mammograms for women who cannot afford them. It costs you nothing, as it is paid for by corporate sponsors.
My mother 's breast cancer was diagnosed early , which was then able to be successfully treated. Two years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her remaining breast, and again was treated successfully. I worry about the current trend away from routine mammograms because I believe that my mother's breast cancer was able to be cured because of early detection. I encourage women, especially those of us with high risk factors, to get routine screenings. And I encourage both women and men to support free mammograms for women who cannot afford the screening by visiting the Breast Cancer Site and clicking the Free Mammogram button.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
One of the Younger Group parents brought in quail eggs to hatch in the Younger Group room. Both the eggs and the babies are charming. The ones that have hatched are the Japanese quail. They are from the speckled eggs. The white eggs are from Bob-White quail. Their incubation period is a little longer. These babies were just hatched today.
The babies stayed in the incubator until they dried.
Once they were dry, they moved to their nice toasty brooder box.
Night night little peeps!
As for me, my life has returned to its hectic pace. I have not even taken the time to track my exercise or nutrition. I really want to get back to that aspect of SP, as I think it is very beneficial and motivating, however, I've been so busy that I feel lucky to get home cooked meals and exercise in. Since I would rather do that than spend time recording, the tracking is what has had to give. I don't feel bad about it, but sometimes I muse about those spark points down the drain.
I am trying to check in on people's blogs as well. I really enjoy reading your blogs and wish I could check in on everyone every day. Ah well, summer will be here and my time will less crunched.
Meanwhile, the spring musical, the end of the year camping trip, and general school activities, plus gardening, taking care of the baby chicks, walking Stella, getting my exercise, and playing music are the things my life is most focused on. Not a bad thing, at all - no complaints here, but there are only so many hours in a day!
Monday, April 12, 2010
Does gardening belong in the curriculum? You betcha!
The children learn so much! It is a non-competitive cooperative venture. They have to work together to decide on what plants to grow, to dig the soil, to start the seeds, water the garden, hoe the weeds, and tend the plants. They research what kinds of plants grow well together, when to plant, what the best soil conditions for each plant are, which insects are beneficial, and how to attract those insects to the garden.
They get fresh air and exercise preparing and tending to the garden, become much more interested in the food they eat, and learn to experiment with and love new vegetables. They learn to compost and pay close attention to food wastage. They are engaged with their environment and become more aware of human impact, both positive and negative.
These photos are from last year's garden.
The children built and painted the sign for their garden, and painted the picket fence around it.
The bathtub in the background is their strawberry bed. Flowers are planted around the garden not only for beauty, but also to attract beneficial insects.
The children do the planning and most of the work - the teachers just facilitate with any help or guidance that is necessary. Last year the children wanted to have a pumpkin patch attached to the main garden.
The earlier children become aware of food, the benefits of growing and eating fresh (organic) food, the more likely they are to establish an appreciation for and lifelong love of fresh and healthy food. They also get the benefit of productive outdoor exercise and the personal gratification that comes with it.
This garden was designed, planted, and tended by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade children.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Sometimes the beauty is about contrasts, soft and hard, bright and dark, fluid and static. Sometimes it is about texture and age.
I love the intrepid nature of ferns. They can survive in the shallowest of soil, cutting their niche out of rocks.
This limestone was once the ocean's floor. Shellfish, horn coral, trilobites, and other sea animals live here, died, and have been transformed into this rugged home to plants and animals. I love finding the occasional trilobite fossil on my walks; but mollusks and coral are more commonly found.
This is the 'yellow' spring for which our town is named. There is a lot of iron in the water; the source of the orange red color. The water is pure and cold, but has a distinct iron flavor to it. At one point in the history of the town, , back in the 1800's, there was a healing spa (and nudist colony) in what is now the nature preserve. The water was thought to have healing powers. And our town, well, it always has been a little unique
I love the texture of the fungus against the log..
And the layers of flora; tree, moss, hepatica..
And do we call the pulpits blooms?
Life is about contrasts, enigmas. the yin and the yang. The delicate has great strength, and what appears unyielding can be broken down by the softest of beings. There is a power to being delicate, and even the rigid can bend. Old supports the new, and new helps revitalize the old. Our weakest points can be our strengths, and our strengths can impede our progress.
These old limestone cliffs and this newly emerging life have wonderful lessons to teach. I love to listen to their stories.
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