Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Old Friends

Keisha, Matt, Trish, Lee, Charlie, Mary, Kate, where Jill sat, Valerie

I feel blessed that there are some folks in this world who I will always treasure, and even more blessed that I have been able to reconnect with so many of them over the past few years [again... thanks to facebook].

Who'da thunk that I would regularly be seeing people I went to high school with twenty-two years later? Some I see every few months; others every few years. But I swear, every time I get together with any of these people, it is just plain good for the soul. Picking up where we left off. Laughing with each other, and just genuinely caring about each other and how we are doing.

Saturday night was no exception - we got together because my friend Matt was in town from Memphis. By the time the night was done, eleven of us had spent time together, and time passed so quickly. We started at 5, ended after 1. I could easily have stayed longer.

Good people. Good times. Good memories, both old and new.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Some Things I Don't Want To Forget

are some things that happened with my girls today:
  • Walking my youngest daughter into school because she was nervous about not having finished her homework. Seeing her calm down as she got things done, but also seeing the tears in her eyes as I left.
  • Watching DD1 work on a homework assignment at the computer. She only asked for my help with the word "diurnal," but she ended up looking it up online to verify that my educated guess was correct (it was). This year marks a turning point for her - organized, thinking about time management. I've been teaching her her whole life how to be responsible. I'm beginning to see that come to fruition.
  • DD2 showing me a dance she is making up.
  • Listening to both girls practice the piano.
  • DD2 asking to watch TV, to which I said no, since her sister was still doing homework. She pulled out Harry Potter book 5 and started reading it instead.
  • The girls asking me to read the next chapter in The Lightning Thief at dinner.
  • Both girls wanting to sit in my lap this evening after dinner. DD1 on my left leg, DD2 on my right. One of them asked me about loving them, and I said I've loved them since they were first formed. Somehow that morphed into talking about how we show love, and I said that when they were inside me I showed them I loved them by how I ate and took care of myself. DD1 said, "Mom, you still do that. How you eat affects how we eat, and when you take care of yourself you are also taking care of us." Wow. Mighty profound for a 12 year old.
  • Lying down with DD2 as we do just about every night as part of her bedtime routine. The stress from the previous evening of not being able to finish homework is gone, and we chat about everything and nothing. Tonight's topics included missing camp and her horse - Maverick, her shoe size, and comparing hand sizes.
  • The way DD2s hand looked next to mine, when they were palm to palm and fingers outstretched.
  • DD1 wanting to show me things from school as I tucked her in. She pulled out a number of assignments she has been working on, as well as her All-State audition piece. I commented to her about how organized her notebook is. She has a lot of pride in what she is doing, and in how responsible she is becoming.
It is so easy to let these little things go unnoticed and undocumented, but seems to me that these are the little things that put together make a life.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Feel Like It's Rainin' All Over The World...

Last year the governor of this great state announced that the way to solve our drought problem was to pray for rain. Well, evidently the prayers were heard. Folks - you can stop praying for rain now.

I'm posting this picture from the AJC only because I am amazed by this weather. I have never seen anything like this in Atlanta, although Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994 was pretty close - at that point a Tropical Storm just hovered over the state of Georgia for about 10 days and caused "100 year floods," although those were predominantly south of the city. This time, it has just been a low pressure system that has sat here, and it has literally been raining every day for a week, and is expected to keep raining until the weekend. What is most noteworthy, though, is that over 13 inches of rain have fallen in a 36 hour period in the Atlanta area, and that is after it has been raining for a week. And while I'm not in the Atlanta area, the rain has been unbelievable. And clearly [well, not clearly - it's very, very cloudy out] - more is still to come. This rain has gotten obnoxious. Claustrophobic even.

I drove the stretch of interstate pictured above, though, when I was in Atlanta Saturday night. It was raining then, too, but I was gleefully sitting in the sogginess at the Indigo Girls concert. Oh, it was fabulous! I consider Indigo Girls concerts to be a religious experience. It was my 6th IG concert in 4 years, and the rain just so didn't matter to me. And while the crowd I went with wasn't the originally intended crowd, that just so didn't matter, either. I loved every minute of it.

During the concert I was able to find an old friend I haven't seen in probably 20 years and talk with her awhile. She is the sister of a guy I used to date, and for that matter, a guy I still consider a good friend. She texted him to get my number since she knew I'd be there [thanks to the magic of facebook], and then she sent me a text telling me where she was sitting. We talked some about him, mainly because I wanted to see if my read on how he is doing is accurate, but mostly we did a quick catching up. Still, sitting talking with her was like talking to someone I talk to all the time, and I guess that is partly because of facebook, too - we already had a baseline. I have to say, though, that it was neat to be with her for a few minutes because I could tell she loves the music as much as I do. We agreed to go to a concert together in the future, and I already know - that will be delightful.

ETA: I heard on the radio today that the rainfall total was actually 20 inches in a 36 hours period. MUCH worse than Alberto. The flooding has been unbelievable. 9/22/09

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Current Pet Peeve

My students have totally destroyed my ability to remember when to use there/their/they're, your/you're, it's/its, and no telling what else. I used to be such a grammar/spelling queen. When you see things wrong so many times, you eventually get to a point where you no longer know what is right and what is wrong.

Currently, I'm hearing/reading "anyways" a lot. Sigh. No, children. It is "anyway." If they mess this one up for me, too, I will have to get a new job.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Different Kind of Teaching

Today was interesting - different than what I've experienced lately at work. I "canceled" class this morning, but not really since I was in the office available for assistance, giving the students class time to work on a big project due next week. I had a steady stream of students from 8:15-10:00, which is our normal class time. I had a break when their next class started where I graded a few papers and also did some sorority work, and then the steady stream again from 12:00-3:00 when I left to get my kids from school.

While a number came to talk to me about their work, it seemed today that more of the conversations ventured off into the personal realm, which I have to admit always amazes me when that happens. I don't know what it is about the cohort, but there is something about it that triggers growth in LOTS of areas, not just school. I heard today about family issues, boyfriends, worries, frustrations... a piece of me is conflicted about this, but also not. I love that these women trust me enough to share more about who they are and what is going on - I think it helps me be a better teacher/mentor for them. I do think it is important to build relationships with my students, and that means knowing more about who they are and what makes them tick. I left today with a sense that many got what they needed, based on the sheer number of sighs of relief I heard today, and I do hope that is the case. I don't really dispense advice, but I do share things that seem relevant if I feel it is appropriate. At the same time, I worry about the personal/professional line. How much do I really need to know? How much is too much to share with them? How much is too little?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grrrrrrrading...

And so it begins...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Run, Forrest, Run!

Yesterday morning I woke up early and was out the door by 7:20 for a long run. My intent was 9.5 miles, but after measuring the part of the distance I was unsure of this afternoon, I discovered that I misjudged the distance - for a change, it was more than I thought. I actually ran 10.3 miles.

I started running "in earnest" last February. I ran some a year ago, but just threw it into my cardio periodically to mix things up. What caused me to change from running periodically to running more regularly was a 5K in February of this year. While I can't say I really enjoy running in and of itself, and I'm not a super fast runner, I enjoyed the whole vibe from that race, and found that it gave me energy rather than depleting it. Since April I have done at least one race a month, starting with 5Ks, and moving to 10Ks the months of June, July, August, and September. Next month I plan to do a 5K and a 15K, and the month after that at least one half marathon. Maybe two. Depends on whether or not I decide to train for a marathon in February. I'm pretending that I am, but still giving myself an out.

So, while races are what motivate me, and I don't really enjoy running by myself each week, I have to say that yesterday morning's run was incredible. I did 2 minutes running/1 minute walking intervals for the entire time. It was cool outside, with a nice breeze, and I frequently found myself singing along to whatever was playing on the iPod. Somewhere between miles 5 and 8 I really became amazed with myself. Who is this person who purposefully chose to get up early on a Saturday morning to run? Me, the person who just 1.5 years ago didn't like to exercise, much less break a sweat. And who is this person who is being successful with each 2 minute interval, even if it is in the middle of a hill? Yep, it was me, again.

Thing is, I was enjoying myself! And it wasn't a race day! It was just me - seeing what I can do. Refusing limitations, whether they be real or imagined. I don't think I was experiencing a runner's high - perhaps it was... but what really struck me yesterday was even though I was able to focus on details, such as breathing, eliminating foot pronation, rhythm, posture, I was more interested in the process of the run than in putting the run behind me - something that seems to have emerged because I am running further than 5K. And while I paid attention to the details, I was also able to really sit with the thoughts that popped into my head and ruminate on them. It was almost like each step became an act of worship, as with each step I felt power and connected to a greater power. I felt pride and joy that seemed to emanate from within and surround me. Pride and joy that not only have I quit hiding in this world, I have quit letting others define me.

Why didn't I exercise when I was younger? Partly because my parents wanted me to [yet they didn't exercise, so I didn't really see what the big deal was]. And while I knew I should exercise, the rebellious little rascal in me figured I wasn't "fat," and who was society/doctors/etc. to dictate what I should or shouldn't do, anyway? I think it was also to allow me to hide in my body. I know now that I didn't feel good about myself, and a lot of choices I made in my 20s and early 30s were to allow me to hide. Life was nothing more than going through the motions. I also dressed and acted in such a manner that said, "don't look at me - I'm just part of the wallpaper." Even now, I have a few friends who I don't see all that often who make the comment that they can't imagine me exercising like I do, because they think of me in that "hiding" frame. But that goes back to the "who defines me" idea. I define me. I choose to exercise. I decide how I want to spend my time. And more and more it is in not listening to those who "can't imagine" but in being with those with whom I feel alive.

I find myself using the word savor a lot, but what I have found over the past year is that is exactly what I'm doing. I will frequently be doing something (in this case running), or watching something or others, and I realize that I am suddenly taking a moment to really absorb what is happening around me. Almost like taking a mental picture for myself - recognizing that these things are what I want to remember. More than that, though - recognizing that in these moments I am really living. I'm not just willing the days or the time away. I am actively experiencing my life and the people in it, and enjoying the moments for the richness that they hold. So different than how I was just five short years ago.

10 miles. Incredible. Everything about it is just plain incredible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Picture Day

Oh yes, the glorious rite of passage that is school picture day was upon us today for DD2. She was so excited that she didn't have to wear her school uniform today for pictures [another rant I could have - I think the uniforms are silly and pointless], and planned out to the nth degree exactly how she wanted to look. Last night she asked to sleep in curlers. I said, "Um, no... but if you want me to roll your hair in the morning with hot rollers, I will." She liked that idea, and made me promise to wake her up early enough to make that happen.

So a whopping half hour earlier than I normally get up, I am plugging in the hot rollers that I used nearly every day circa 1985 - 1991, the curling iron, and the flat iron. I am truly trying to remember why I even still have hot rollers. Seriously - what would make me think those were good to keep?

DD2 comes into my bathroom dressed and ready for hair to be done at 6:30. She wants the front rolled in tight ringlets, and the rest just curled under. I think to myself, "God, this will be so tacky," but didn't discourage her. 10 minutes later, mission accomplished. She looks in the mirror and is clearly unhappy with the result. So then, I offered to braid her hair - 2 little braids on the side. "Yes, Mom, that would be great!" A few minutes later - she's still unhappy with the result. We tried something else with the braids. Nope. Nothing doing. She took out the braids, which were where the curls from the hot rollers used to be. All the curl is gone. She finally settles on me using the regular curling iron [which is what I would have suggested in the first place] on her hair, and then I sprayed it. She really hated that part.

By the time we left, the curls had fallen out somewhat, but she still looks cute. I pull into the car rider loop, she trots into school, and then I drop off DD1, make my way to work, only to have the phone ring within the first 10 minutes I'm in the office. My office phone never, ever rings. Low and behold, it's the school. My heart drops, and I'm worried that DD2 is suddenly sick. Why are they calling? Because they can't find her picture money. She can't have the pictures she wants without the picture money. Sigh.

I agreed to go back to the school and pay it again, but it would have to be after 11 when I was done teaching as my class was due to start in less than 15 minutes. I wrote myself a note to remember to do that, placed it on my chair so I would see it, and the phone rang yet again. Low and behold the money had been found. Where? Her bookbag.

I love picture day. And my 9 year old. But God help us if this is going to be repeated the next few years.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bar Induced Philosophical Musings


Last night I did something I have never, ever done - went out to a bar by myself (although I was going to see a friend of mine perform) and I have to say the evening was immensely enjoyable. And I'm amused with him - there were several times he voiced a concern that I was not having a good time, when that couldn't have been farther from the truth. I imagine he had that concern because a) he was the only person I knew there, b) I nursed a glass of wine most of the evening and didn't drink that much, and c) I parked myself at a table on the side of the room and wasn't up dancing the first 2/3 of the evening.

I spent some time over the past few weeks asking folks if they would like to go with me. Timing of this event stunk - it is Labor Day weekend, and invariably, the people in my life who would be fun to hang with in this atmosphere all had plans. Sure, there are others I could have asked, but I really wanted to be with someone who would just enjoy being there and I didn't feel the need to entertain. When that didn't pan out, I admit to having thoughts of, "well, do I go?" Five plus years ago I would have decided not to, and then been upset later that I didn't. This go round I listened to myself - I really wanted to hear him play, so why would I NOT go. Turns out, I was with someone who just enjoyed being there - I was with me.

I think what I enjoyed most, other than the music, was the chance to just be in my own skin without worrying about anyone else. I didn't anticipate that feeling going in, but when it hit, that was really cool. Watching other people was a hoot, and I have to admit that there were moments that I wished I had gone to Bama watching this group, although when they started into "Rooooooolll Tide Roll" I countered with "Goooooooooooo DAWGS!!! Sic 'em!" - not too loud - just loud enough to amuse me. Hey, I was in enemy territory... I'm not stupid.

If the music had been bad, I wouldn't have been able to stay. Life is too short to have to listen to bad music, unless of course it is your child playing that bad music in a school band, and then you kind of have to. No, the music was damn incredible - and I'm not saying that because my friend was on stage. All three bands I heard were amazing to listen to. The first because they were just having a good time and you could tell. The second was just a magical combination of people and instruments. The last because not only were they having a good time, but they could rock. Music all three had in their set lists, even if I didn't know the songs, just resonated deep within. And while I didn't get up and dance during the first 2 sets, I connected with it and them. The last set there was no choice - I had to get up and dance. The chair was just too confining.

Watching my friend, though, was the most fun. He is super talented, and while he gave up the idea of making it big in music awhile back, I could just see how much he loves making music and how much he was enjoying himself. Watching how he interacted with the crowd and the band was downright entertaining. He told me it was the hat that caused it. I know better. The sly little smile he gave me when I was up and moving was amusing to me, too - a lot was communicated in that look. The whole evening just seemed to feed his soul.

When I was in the ladies room after the last set, a woman asked me, "Does tonight make you feel old or young?" I knew that her frame of reference was that these bands were a part of her college experience, and I did have the thought while watching the 2nd set in particular that it is clear we are all aging. My answer to her was, "I haven't decided," which was not entirely true. She said the second band made her feel old, but the last band made her feel young. Had I been in the mood to be philosophical with a complete stranger, my answer was really more of, "So, this is what I missed." I don't think I would have appreciated the evening in my 20s - I was too insecure and uncomfortable in bar/party situations. No, what I missed was having fun and not worrying about what other people thought. And finding that for myself at the age I am now is one of the most liberating things imaginable. My sitting back last night and watching was both a being blown away by that feeling and a savoring of sorts. Savoring the moment for a lot of different reasons.

So, to my friend, I'd like to say - I had a blast! You are incredible, and I am proud to be a groupie. Oh, and Roll Tide. As long as they aren't playing Georgia or Auburn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grandma


I remember sitting at the piano with my grandmother when I was a little girl. She would play and I would sing Jesus Loves Me, and one that I consider her favorite - Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam. I would bang on the piano, even at age 3 or 4, and she never stopped me.

Grandma taught me how to "really" play the piano when I was 6 years old. We started with Mary Had A Little Lamb, and she taught me how to play Heart and Soul, Chopsticks, and all the perennial things that seem to be what everyone knows how to do. She made sure I had a keyboard at home, even though it wasn't all that big. I started playing on a small electric air organ that was portable - it looked a lot like this organ, perhaps a little bigger:


Grandma found beginning music books for me, and even though I would only visit with her once a month or so, she would work with me, I would practice, and we would play together. My big Christmas present when I was 7 and in second grade was an upright piano. I officially started taking lessons in third grade, and I was so proud, because I got to skip several of the beginner books thanks to her. I've always been rather competitive, and the fact that I was ahead of a lot of my friends probably spurred me to keep playing.

As I grew older and better musically, we eventually started playing piano/organ duets, since she had an upright piano and an organ side by side in her house. I remember playing Deep Purple, Lara's Theme (from Doctor Zhivago), Amazing Grace, Our Love Affair, Sentimental Journey, You Made me Love You, Peg O'My Heart, and no telling what else. Grandma could play by ear and improvise, something I've never really been able to do well, other than to hammer out a melody. We would spend hours playing these duets, and I remember this incredible sense of pride and love that we both shared during those moments. My grandfather, when he was alive, would sneak in and listen at some point - frequently commenting, laughing and smiling. These were their songs. The love that you could feel in the room between them during those moments was something I will never forget.

Most of my memories of my Grandma involve music. She needed "noise" during the day - I remember being at their house and listening to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra - a host of records in their large record player/stereo console. Papa was a sucker for the Time/Life collections, and every month a new collection of music would arrive, and they would get hours of play. Lawrence Welk, when he was on, was a given hour in front of the TV. When he came to Atlanta, we went. Thankfully, it wasn't my first concert, but it is certainly in the lower single digits.

Grandma and Papa had three residences, and there was at least one keyboard of some kind in each. We still have the house at the beach, and while there was a piano and an organ there for many years, only the piano remains, although it is badly out of tune and the keys are very sticky. I can remember Fourth of July celebrations where people would be in the house and coerce Grandma into playing. She never liked being the center of attention, but she loved having people sing the old songs. These concerts would go on for hours.

My grandmother is in the hospital with pneumonia in both lungs. She is 90 years old, and I am so lucky to have had her this long. Based on what my brother [the "real" doctor] told me, she should be fine this go round - this is a normal precaution based on her age. Since I've found out she's in the hospital, I've thought about her a lot. I asked if I needed to go, and I was told no.

Thinking about Grandma makes me realize just what an impact she has had on my life. She's the reason I sang Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam to my kids when they were little, and why I still sing a version of the song using my kids' names ("DD2 is my sunbeam, each and every day. I love DD2 at home, at school at play. My sunbeam, my sunbeam, DD2 is my sunbeam. My sunbeam, my sunbeam, I love DD2.") every night - DD2's request. DD1 on occasion will ask for it. My kids take piano lessons, and when we visit her, I always have them play. While I'm not as good as I used to be, if she asks me to play, I do.

She has had an incredibly hard life. She grew up during the Depression, got married at 16, had four daughters, the second of whom had a very high fever at age 2 or 3 which led to mental retardation (she currently lives in Florida as a ward of the state). Her youngest daughter, Shelley, was killed in a car accident the day before her 19th birthday. I am a lot like Shelley, both in demeanor and musical ability, and was not allowed to apply to Emory University, or to leave the house the day before my 19th birthday (Amazingly, I didn't balk on either one of those "requests" from my mother). Arthritis set in for Grandma at a fairly young age, and her beautiful hands that provided so much joy to others through music could no longer play like they used to. I wonder how much it hurt for her to have those concerts with me, and how she never said anything. She and my Grandfather celebrated 56 years together, before he died in 1992.

Most days I wear a diamond solitaire necklace around my neck. The diamond is from my Grandmother's engagement ring. She personally supervised its conversion to a necklace, and gave it to me when I graduated with my doctorate, 70 years after it was given to her.

Despite the hardships I know she has had, she is one of the most positive people I know. At age 90, she lives by herself, still drives (which I admit frightens me), plays bridge several times a week when she can, gets up every day and works the crossword puzzle, jumble, and the cryptoquote in the newspaper. She can barely walk, but she goes outside every morning with her walker and retrieves the newspaper from the yard. I know at this point in her life, she fakes it a lot. She really doesn't complain much, although I've seen her tear up several times because she just can't do what she used to, and she feels like a bother. Still, her spirit is just plain beautiful, and despite those hardships and the chronic pain I know she is in, I can think of no time when I have been with her that I haven't seen her smile or laugh (although in pictures that isn't as obvious - she hates having her picture taken).

I admire her for who she is, how she has handled adversity, and for being a gracious, amazing southern lady. She is one of the most incredible people I have ever come in contact with, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out when I can go see her, because - well, this hospitalization just highlights for me that she won't be here all that much longer.


December 2008 - Grandma's 90th birthday party
Lee, DD2, Grandma, DD1, my mom