So Busy


 

100_3263The past week few weeks have been…well, challenging. Thankfully, we’ve had a refreshing bit of a reprieve the last couple of days and expect a less stressful week ahead. I am looking forward to going in fewer circles in the weeks to come.

Youngest Son and Better Half seemed to have gotten the truck fixed. Apparently, a new part bought to replace a broken part was defective—working intermittently, giving the illusion that the replaced part was not the original problem and making the defect difficult to locate.

Auto mechanics was so much simpler before computerization. A person could dismantle an engine and transmission, examine each individual piece, visually determine what was broken, worn, misshapen, unaligned. Then correct the problem with adjustment or replacement, reassemble everything and drive off merrily on your way. Now the problems are usually hidden in a sealed black box, a computerized module, that can’t be visually examined and often can’t be externally tested without specialized and expensive equipment that only professional shops can afford. The number of shade tree mechanics diminishes with each new drive train innovation.

Still, when a vehicle is paid off and loved as much as our old truck, it’s hard to give up on it–even when it’s too expensive to take it to a professional shop. So Better Half and Youngest Son have tinkered with it for the past three years. They refuse to be outsmarted by a fourteen-year-old technology. Time will tell if they’ve solved the riddle. I hope so, I’ve missed the old truck. It will be nice to be able to take the travel trailer on trips and down to the lake. And it will save the minivan thousands of miles of wear and tear.

While the men worked on the truck, Grands #5, 6, and 10 helped me with a few chores around the gardens and in the house. They filled the bird feeders, weeded the window boxes, cleaned the flowerbeds in front of the house, and started weeding the raised bed vegetable garden. I hope to get everything planted in the coming week.

Inside, the Grands helped with odds and ends. Grand #5 vacuumed. Then we made a late lunch and celebrated with the first picnic of the Spring. Afterward, they all helped clean up and then played the rest of the day. Well, not quite. Ten-year-old Grand #10 wanted to make dinner by herself. We started with canned chicken and noodle soup, then she scoured the pantry for additional foods and spices for added substance and flavor. She needed just a bit of supervision choosing the right spices and getting the right “dosages.” It was wonderful and nourishing. I look forward to watching her integrate her loves of cooking and science.

Last week I found a few got-to-have books. Among them was a single volume collection of Dick and Jane readers. Four-year-old Grand #10 learned to read “Look” and “Oh” in various combinations. He read them, first with help, then without, after they arrived on Friday and on Saturday he needed no help. Sight reading, for sure, but still reading. I bought a spiral bound pack of fifty index cards, glued an unbound card to the front cover and wrote “My Word Book” on it. Then I tied a small sharpie to the spiral with a red string. (Did you know some sharpies now come with rings on their caps so you can put them on a necklace or tie them to a notebook?)

I used a pencil and lightly wrote each word he could read on its own page to show him how to “collect” his words. He traced them with the sharpie. He’ll be writing without tracing in no time—just needs to get the hang of using lines. Every time an adult hears him read a new word without help two days in a row, the adult can give him permission to write the new word in his word book (which will double as flash cards later). Writing one word on the front and one on the back of each page in his book, he can collect 100 words. By then, he’ll be well on his way to reading. Grands #5 and 6 said they wanted word books too. I’ll have to buy them larger books. Both are accomplished readers already.

Grand #6 went home with both the Dick and Jane book and a book of science experiments tucked under her arms. They are on loan. I put one of my sticky address labels inside the front of the book to remind them that these books are mine. That means they will be extra careful with them, being sure to only handle them with clean, dry hands. But more importantly, it will keep one from claiming ownership and remind all that the books have to be shared with everyone in the house. I don’t expect to ever get the books back. (But don’t tell the Grands that. They might forget to take good care of “Grandma’s” books if they don’t think I expect them back.) These books will be well read and loved, then passed on to other Grands.

While I was loading the dishwasher, Grand #10 came twirling into the kitchen behind me. “Gwanma,” he said, “I am busy, busy, busy….  Do you know why I am busy? Fwom spinning awound!” 

Perfect summary of not just our day together, but of my last few weeks.

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Time to Breathe


I’ve turned in my last assignment for now.  Class is over.  I await my grade in the mail.  Graduation is only two more classes down the road.  My online school has a virtual graduation, but no stage for that coveted walk.  It’s my only disappointment with this university.  It is well respected and accredited.   For good reason.  Its courses are challenging and empowering.  But it has no in-person graduation.  Bit of a let down, that.

I’ll still get my cap and gown.  My son and daughter are each attending different online schools and will have their master degrees soon.  Their universities do have real graduations, but the kids may not attend because of other obligations.  No matter.  We’ll have a picture made together in our regalia.  Honors all ‘round.  Then we’ll have a party to tell stories about.  And finally, we’ll go fishing to catch our breath.  To prove to ourselves that it is over.  For now, anyway.  There may be doctorates in our future.

In the meantime, I’ve push my final two classes back a bit to catch my breath and attend to other important things.  When those are finished, I’ll return to school and finish up, rested and focused.

For the moment, my whole job is simply to breathe.  Guess I’d better get to it…

In the Pink or The Ice Man Cometh


For the last several days we’ve been under a Winter Storm Warning. The weather maps colored us pink, just like areas for many states along our latitude. Now the freezing rain has arrived and the radar shows it as gradients of pink to purple.

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See that little town called Kansas? The K is right on the edge of the blue and pink. We live 1.5 miles south of that first s in Kansas. See me waving?

Meteorologists are warning that this could be as bad as the ice storm of ’07 or ’09. In ’07 we were without electricity for nine days. No electricity meant no water from the well. Thank God we had propane in the tank and a gas range for cooking and a backup wall heater that worked without electricity. We learned a lot about preparing for ice storms in those nine days.

Now we have a generator and the capability of powering the well with it. We won’t be running medical equipment, cell phone charges, or laptops from 12 volt batteries charged in the car and rigged up with power converters. So long as we have enough propane for the stove and heater and enough gas for the generator, our lives change little when the power goes out.

Until we can switch our water heater to gas, we’ll miss hot tap water in a power outage. The automatic dishwasher won’t plug into the generator (but the clothes washer and gas dryer will). I’ll heat water on the stove and wash dishes by hand—and get the added benefit of soothing the arthritis in my hands. We’ll use lamps and flashlights instead of overhead lights. And there will be strategically placed extension cords for the fridge, electronics, and medical equipment. Small inconveniences, really. Hardly a hiccup in our daily lives.

We’ll have soups, stews, casseroles, fresh bread, hug-in-a-mug, and other wonderful cold weather foods that warm us body and soul. We’ll cuddle and watch movies or read books or play games….unless the buried phone lines quit powering our DSL, we’ll have Internet and I’ll still get my homework turned in on time. (Dang it, nearly all the schools in the state are closed but online schools don’t close down for bad weather.)

Well, like I said, we’re prepared for the storm…maybe a little too prepared.

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Another Talyn Quote


Some of life’s biggest moments drop on you when you are not looking, and stick to you, and brand you, and change you in ways you cannot understand and would never expect, and when they first happen they look like nothing so terribly important and then they gather mass and speed and momentum and when you finally realize what has happened it has become far too late to move to safety.  If only when they happened bells rang and eagles dropped from the sky carrying notes from the Saints in their beaks saying “Run!

But they don’t.

from Talyn by Holly Lisle

And where would we run to anyway?

Most personal growth happens that way.  With us kicking and screaming in protest like a child getting a wound flushed with alcohol and the debris mopped out with gauze clenched in a heavy clumsy hand.  It is out of our control, blindsides us, blocks our escape, forces us to endure the pain and fear.  And we do.  When it is finished, we sit there bewildered until we remember how to breathe again.   Real growth, meaningful growth, permanent growth can often happen no other way. 

If we had a choice, we would never choose some of life’s biggest moments.

Guilt is a good friend, isn’t it?


Guilt is a good friend, isn’t it? It will stand at your back when every other friend has abandoned you, and in the face of all reason it will stay by your side, and even when you tell it, “I am moving on now,” it will say, “I shall never leave you; never.”

If only I could find a lover as faithful as guilt.

from Talyn by Holly Lisle

Well, that puts a new spin on guilt, calling it a faithful friend.

I would never have chosen this book from the shelf. The reviews praise it, but say it is dark and violent. The cover looks as though that is true. It belongs to the fantasy genre. I’m not a big fan of fantasy warrior stories. I get violence overload from the current news. I had to give up being a news junkie because the violence was so incomprehensible that it somehow wounded me through the televised sights and sounds. I would never have chosen this book.   I am grateful that it was chosen for me.

Cruising the boards on the NaNo site, I came across a recommendation for Holly Lisle’s writing course and clicked the link. I clicked several more, intrigued by the honesty, humor, and sense I found there. Holly has thirty-two novels in publication and earns a good living at it. She knows how to explain what she does clearly, easily, entertainingly. And she doesn’t charge a fortune. Much of what she has to offer is free and useful, not just an advertisement for her courses. I signed up for her “How to Revise Your Novel: get the book you want from the book you have” course. I will never regret the few dollars invested.

Still, I was just a bit embarrassed to be taking writing courses from an author whose work I have never read. Truth be told, I had never even heard of Holly Lisle until I saw that NaNo post. But like I said, it isn’t my genre. And I’m only now beginning to read regularly again. After consuming all fifteen volumes of John Jake’s Kent Family Chronicles in fourteen days, I realized that reading was replacing real life. I had to quit. During the past twenty-three years, I have read only about half a dozen books—all of which came to me through someone else’s hand, insisting I “must read this book.”

As I said, I was embarrassed that I’d neither heard of Holly nor read her work. So I asked which of her of books she would write if she could only have written one. Talyn was her choice “without question or hesitation.” I bought a hardcover copy and began to read—not to know the story recreationally, but to know the author who is teaching me so very much. She practices what she preaches. I want to join her choir.

Back to this quote about guilt. It’s true that it refuses to leave against all reason. Guilt the emotion, is not a matter of fact, truth, or reason. It is a feeling. It looks for any chink in our defenses and moves in on us gradually. And we allow it to do so. We embrace it before we realize what we have done. We befriend it, make it part of our lives just the way we draw our friends into our lives. And too often we begin to depend on it. Need it. Cling to it even while we say we don’t want it. But guilt knows our heart, our soul, and hears not our words. We know it will destroy us, yet we cannot turn away even in the midst of our own protest. We become the enabler, the co-dependent.

Like any co-dependent behavior, guilt can be overcome. Guilt is no longer my companion. I learned to send it packing long ago. It didn’t happen overnight and took some practice, but I learned. Yes, I still make mistakes. But I am quick to recognize them and make whatever correction is possible. I mark them up to lessons learned without fixating on my error or letting guilt become a controlling factor in my life. I have learned to embrace, not the guilt of my error–real or imagined, but the growth and maturity gained from the experience. I have issued guilt a restraining order—thus far and no farther.

I have learned to discard destructive friends. And, like other destructive “friends” I have discarded, I will not allow guilt to influence my life, to be my friend, faithful or otherwise, ever again.

Having broken off my relationship with guilt, my life has filled with Joy.

Let the Homework Begin!


I’ve started back to school after a six-month leave. My current class is the capstone of my M.Ed. in Adult Education with a specialty in eLearning Technology and Design. “Capstone” sounds so final. But it isn’t. I still have two more classes to complete after this before I can graduate. A scheduling fluke landed me in the last class two classes early. No matter. It should be an easier class than the two remaining, and I need to ease back into things—get my academic feet back under me before tackling the next challenging class.

The next two classes won’t really be too bad—once I get focused. They are in the Technology and Design specialty, so there will be quite a bit of information that is new to me. I always feel a bit lost in the beginning of such courses. Too much new material all at once, I suppose. But soon enough, things start coming together, and I sail through to the end.

Jones International University doesn’t give exams in its graduate programs. It requires application of course content to real world problems, which is far more challenging and meaningful than responding to a prompt by spewing back the expected information. Education should contribute to a better world, after all.  Explanation and defense of the course project is done in writing–even if the presentation uses multi-media. So I’m thriving academically. I’m in my element: words.

If there are no more scheduling problems, I should graduate end of June this year. I’m ready. It’s been a long haul. If it had just been the classes, it wouldn’t have been quite so difficult. I would have graduated end of October.  But my health issues keep throwing a wrench in the works.

In the past two years, I have spent a total of eight months out of class because of my health. I had hoped that after this last leave I would return to school with a diagnosis and specific treatment/management plan that would reduce or eliminate my risk of having to take more time off. But that was not to be. There are still more tests to be done. So far the tests have ruled out diagnoses, but have not confirmed anything. This process of elimination dictates the next test. Unfortunately, scheduling the diagnostic tests has become a bigger challenge than scheduling classes.

Now we are getting hit by a series of small snowfalls. The highways clear quickly as the traffic follows the plows. Even on sub-freezing days, the snow will melt on the pavement as the sun hits it and traffic warms the pavement. But the dirt road linking my driveway to the pavement can be treacherous days longer than the paved roads. The plows don’t come here. There is no pavement to absorb the heat of the tire friction or the sunlight. There is not enough traffic to warm the ground. When the road does thaw, mud will swallow it.

I don’t have a sidewalk from the house to the unpaved driveway. Snow deeper than 2 ½ inches or deep mud will prevent me from getting my wheelchair to the car. I can be housebound even if the roads are passable.

During such times, we rely on the “information super highway” for banking, shopping for non-food items, visiting with friends and relatives. But the Internet is useless for getting me to my diagnostic tests. The tests have to be rescheduled time and again—just in case I can get there.

Still, this is good weather for going to school online. I don’t have to miss class because of the weather, and I have something meaningful and intellectually challenging to accomplish while I wait for the road to thaw, the muck to dry up, and the test that finally reveals what is wrong with my muscles.