Saturday, November 7, 2009


Last week I attended a conference in Washington DC. At 3:30 each afternoon, my traveling companion and I took the RoundAbout bus to view historic memorials. Truth be known, I had never really wanted to visit Washington DC. I am not political. In fact, I tend to view it as formalized game playing! And, I generally avoid war related museums. Once I stayed right next to the Alamo and refused to actually go see the inside of it. The reason I give is that it just seems to me that there has to be a better way for people to solve problems then to shoot at each other! I struggled to know why so many towns have military canons displayed prominently in parks with such pride.

And then I visited the war memorials in Washington DC! Miles and miles we walked, passing display after display that tried to symbolize the number of people who died...for me!

My brother Dave believed that you fight for what you believe in. He was not a war monger. In fact, he couldn't kill anything. Even during the time honored deer hunting season, Dave took his camera instead of a gun. And yet, Dave served in Viet Nam and Desert Storm because he believed that he owed his country something because his country had given him so much. He served to protect that freedom for his own kids. So here I am in Washington DC passing someone else's brother, dad, mother, son, daughter and thinking that every one of them believed that the battle was worth it even if it cost them their life! And, I am ashamed as I sit in my nice house and have the many conveniences of our life but for 59 years snubbed my nose at those memorials. What have I done to preserve our freedoms? What have I done to make a better life for people who follow me?

The war canon that sits in the downtown park now symbolizes something more to me. It symbolizes being willing to fight for what you believe in. It symbolizes pride in fighting for the right to be free!

This November 11th, I will honor the veterans in a very different way! I will honor them with a deeper sense of duty. They died for me! I owe them that!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fuzzy Morning

A friend sent a twitter message saying that his son got up, looked out the window and said, "Daddy, it's fuzzy outside!" After receiving the message, I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture and sure enough, it was "fuzzy outside!"
So, I enjoyed the beauty of that for awhile and now today I think, you know it's often "fuzzy outside!" and inside for that matter.
Take for example these fuzzy ideas: What prompts us to decide that now is the time to get married, have kids, move, buy a house, sell a house, change jobs, retire?
What brings clarity to a day? Usually the sun burns through.
What causes the fog to lift in us?
Some decisions I have made in my life felt as though someone was grabbing me by the collar and saying, "Time to move on!" Other times, I have made decisions based on whim - my last car for instance was just because I felt like it! Most of the time,though, I feel as though fate moves me! Opportunities are placed in front of me like a door. I ponder the door for awhile wondering if I should walk through or not. And usually I decide that the door was put there for me to walk I do!
I know other people are presented with doors and something causes them to look away. I am going to say that it's fear! I think that people are often afraid to move in an unfamiliar walk through a strange door. These people are waiting for the fog to lift! They want to see clearly what is on the other side of the door and if they can't see clearly, they do not pass through.
Life is a journey. For me, being fuzzy outside has been part of my journey. I often couldn't see what was coming next and that actually became part of the fun.
Fuzzy mornings are, in fact, beautiful, if you're willing to really look at them!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Photo Story Extraordinair!

If you've been reading this blog, then you know that I have been spending hours laboring over the thought of retirement. This wraps it all up!

I just want to know...did I do the right things with my life?

Right now, I think the answer is "No"! or "Yes"! I don't really know!

I'm not sure that I laughed enough or danced enough. I laughed and danced with children at work but I have spent little time actually enjoying the laughter and friendship of adults who are not related to work.

I have loved but I don't know if it has been deep enough! As a Teacher and as a Principal, I can actully say that I loved each and every one of the kids! I loved their honesty, their enthusiasm, their creativity. I loved their hugs, their smiles, their toothless grins, their birthday treats and valentines. I can also say that I love and have loved my own kids without reservation. They are my center, my life! I loved their dad but not enough. I didn't realize the depth of his dispair. I became selfish at that point in my life and wanted to separate myself from his needs. I will always regret the fact that I didn't pay more attention to what was going on in his life right then. I know that leaving him allowed me to move forward but it came at a great cost! And the there is Jim. I love him differently! I love him as a partner and friend. I know that he has needs and I hesitate now to separate myself from those needs in a self centered way. I have to be able to show at least one partner that I can be there for better or worse!

I have never truly relaxed! Even now, on a Sunday, I check work emails! I did reach for the sky and I found that sky with my job. I have deep and profound satisfaction with my career!

But now it's time to reach for that sky for me. Perhaps I will be able to spend more time listening to the birds or going for a walk in the middle of the day. How about running into Milwaukee to be with Katie just for the heck of it or flying to Columbus to spend time with Erin?

And then there is going to Florida or any place warm for the winter with Jim. We are both so tired of dealing with the winter cold and snow! The thought of not seeing a fleck all winter is something both of us would like to experience.

Is it time to move on? Is it time to let the life of work be someone else's paycheck? Am I ready to pass the baton?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Blooms

Summer Blooms

I spent the day out in the sunshine. After days of cool weather, today was a real treat. It's time to think of all the things that are right with my life right now.

I just made biscotti. I love the rich dark chocolate variety. I can hear the birds singing from here and I can see the cat sleeping on her perch on the screened porch. There is such a satisfied calm in the air. Everyday should be this quiet and beautiful.

This week has not been so completely calm. There is beauty around me but there is unrest in the air. Jim and I are struggling with this thing called getting older! We are entering a time in our lives where there are thoughts of retirement but I can't imagine days of unstructured time.

Imagine a life time of marching to the beat of scheduled work days, committee obligations, night time meetings, alarm clocks and stress. A body gets used to the day to day of it all; infact sometimes finds joy in the accomplishments!

Now imagine sleeping until you naturally wake up, lingering over coffee, no real plans for the day - day after day after day!

Do you enjoy the flowers if you see them every minute of every day? Does the sounds of birds make you smile if you hear them day after day?

These are the thoughts that are running through my mind today. This day of beauty, sunshine and flowers...lingering over the final minutes of daylight as I ready myself for another busy week of work. For as much as I always longed for time to just relax and enjoy, now that I have that on the horizon, I worry about leaving the structure that I have had for so many years.

I think I will just linger on enjoying today and let tomorrow take care of itself!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ok, it's not so bad after all!

Did I just type that? Do I really believe that? Here's the thing...I struggle with the following things:

1) I love my job but hate the stress!
2) I could retire but the thought freaks me out!
3) The thought freaks me out because it feels like a teetering bridge to old age!
4) I don't want to get old!
5) I pretend that I can stop it by just not retiring!
6) Retiring though would reduce the stress!
7) Ultimately stress makes you old before your time!
8) And...I don't want to get old!!!
9) Maybe I'm already old and just don't know it!
10) Can I just concentrate on being young one day at a time?

Do you see the dilemma? There are times at work where I feel completely on top of the world! It's during those times that I think that I could possibly work forever.

Then there are times, I like to call them "the great equalizers" when I feel as though I do something that brings me literally to my knees! It happened this week.

We struggle with trying to tell people as politely as possible that they need to continue to improve their skills so that they stay relevant in today's market. Teachers seem to think that they will always be relevant! I made the mistake this week of using one person by name as an example of someone who had not kept her skills sharp. She retires this year! The conversation happened because we are contemplating not filling her position. This leaves a potentially heavier work load for others but more importantly a change in their schedules. Well, word got back to this poor person that I had "bashed" her good name! I quickly sent an apology but the reality is that I can't stop thinking about how sad the whole thing is.

It saddens me that others in my field hold on so hard to the past that they do not see the changes happening. They don't hear other's whispers. "How soon before Mary retires?" "How much longer are we going to have to keep doing things in this outdated way?" "What is the purpose of her position anyway?" "Couldn't we save money if we just didn't fill that position?"

I said the words outloud! I then apologized because no one should hear something like that two weeks before they retire! I would hate for others to be thinking or saying that about me!

How does one know when it's time if people are afraid to say the words outloud? The great equalizer this week is that this person, who has lost relevance, could be me!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May Day! May Day!

I've let some time lapse since the last blog. I was gently reminded!

As I read through the past one, I realized that the focus was on the potential rough times ahead and now I can clearly say "Yes" it has been a Lion kind of spring! Dealing with change brings out the monster in some people. Let's just say that it has not been easy. Some teachers are actully claiming that the stress of this past year is the reason that they are retiring! Other teachers say that the mood in their school is so toxic that they try to stay clear of everyone just staying in their classrooms and doing their job!

So, why change then? Why go through the ordeal? If the act of changing causes so much anxiety and stress, why do we not just keep everything the same? I think that it's because we truly can not stop it! Whether we want to change or not, change happens! Everyday, we are older - like it or not - and everyday weather changes, seasons change, life moves on!

So...the school district has weathered the storm of a new online learning initiative and a major decision to evaluate the role of school librarians. One would have thought the world was coming to an end! Teachers banded together to bully their collegues into signing petitions against the online movement and still other teachers used students to petition the school board about proposed changes in librarian coverage in our schools. One board member reprimanded the teachers saying this is not the way to communicate your displeasure. Will it stop them though? Probably not. It's a fighter stance where they are holding on for dear life to the past.

Teachers have always thought that their role was so necessary that nothing could take away the need. However, the economy has been rocked this past year. People everywhere are losing their jobs, their homes and more. And in the midst of all of this, teachers are demanding that their union rule. They believe that not only should their jobs be secure but decisions about changes should not occur without their input.

And so, where will it land? Change will happen! What else? It's just too soon to see who the survivors will be!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lion or Lamb?

Today is the first day of March. The weather has always been wild and crazy during this month, sometimes starting out gently (lamb) but then ending with a blast (lion) and other times vice versa!

I believe work will be one or the other this year as well. Lots of changes coming which will throw people off - perhaps already has. Here we go again with that change thing! I suppose it's hard for people to change but on the other hand, how is it that anyone can think that things should stay the same?

When I first started teaching, elementary classrooms were a showcase of bulletin board art! My March boards always showcased something typical - lion and lamb or march into spring, something like that but never were the boards the same from year to year! Teachers right next to me put up the same tired heading and pictures year after year as they "refreshed" that bulletin board once a month. Their lessons were basically the same as well, now that I think of it! Plan books were saved for that very purpose!

Can you imagine going day after day, month after month, year after year doing exactly the same thing?

No wonder people are frantic with the world right now. It is a bombardment of change everywhere you look. Kids deal with it rapid fire. Infact, I think they are now hardwired to expect it daily. When things become too routine, they say "I'm bored!"

So, lion or lamb? How will we all deal with the changes ahead? It's going to be an interesting month!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snow, Snow Go Away!

Ok so this picture was from early this winter but it is snowing again just as hard and now it is February and I want it to all be done! The forecast is for up to 10 inches today!

So what does one do in weather like this? In Wisconsin, we clear it and move on! If the roads aren't cleared by noon, we get frustrated! I am not a skier, sledder or snowball maker. Snow is a nuisance, a condition that I tolerate for the homey Christmas feeling in December but then...take it away!

Time to find a warmer climate

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Out of the blue, I received phone calls over the past three months from two brothers and a sister whom I have not spoken with in at least 2 years. Much like the friendship of my earlier blog, I have to ask myself if it is me who is not reaching out enough!

As a family, we have not been close since my mom died. I was 29 at the time of her death. We tried to maintain a sense of family but we struggled with our differences. Values, beliefs and ethics were vastly different from the oldest to the youngest in our group based on how the world had changed over the span of time.

I was raised at a time when the male/female roles were in turmoil. My mother's lessons were that men should find good jobs to provide for the wife and children. Women should care for their men. The world messages, during my adolescent years, were that women had the right to pursue their own career and duties should be shared.

My oldest sister and brother moved into adulthood with my mother's lessons. My sister married but was frustrated by the knowledge that her husband thought she should work.

My oldest brother felt he had a obligation to provide so would not let his wife work even though she desperately wanted to.

The next older brother got caught in the past but with a selfish, spoiled twist. He believed that he was the bread winner. He also believed that as that bread winner, he had no obligation to assist with anything inside the walls of the home. That was the duty of the woman. He struggled in school but so what. He felt that school was just a nuisance that passed time until he could leave and find the job that would make him wealthy. He believed that he had an inherent right to a job that paid well enough to provide for a family.

My younger brother grew up in the shadow of two older brothers and no dad. My oldest brother tried to be the dad and teach him about duty and work ethic. The younger rebeled against these roles and continued into adulthood rebeling against anything that appeared to be rule driven. He did not like being told what to do.

My younger sister, who was 9 years younger, grew up at the time when drugs and sexual freedoms were the norm. As you can imagine, she and my mom fought about this. This sister married a man who perhaps, like my brother, felt women needed to maintain their place. He gave my sister more than one black eye before she finally left him!

Now today, I have three siblings who struggle with alcohol, drugs and joblessness. They drifted into their own worlds believing that they didn't need anyone. Now today they hover around issues of depression and point fingers of blame at the world that they believe caused them to not be able to have their American dream.

My oldest sister and I have maintained a friendship and although she was raised in the past and would love to have someone care for her, she has fought alone to raise children and care for herself. She works hard to have the things she wants and works even harder to continue to dream hopeful dreams. I am a mix of everything except I do not want to be taken care of. In fact during the women's movement, I argued that I did not need to join a liberation movement to show that I was capable! I do have the sense of duty and work ethic and I continue to dream hopeful dreams along with my sister. I do not, however, believe that the world owes me anything. I have what I have because of me, no one else! My oldest sister and I are fighters. That's the difference! We take what is, acknowledge it and then move on! We talk daily, share ups and downs, help each other when we need to.

The calls from the others recently were calls for help! They are losing everything now that they thought was a right. The world can be a dark place when you have no money, no home, no family! they want a family again!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Friends and Family and More

I returned from a vacation to find that a "friend" was taken to the hospital and is in serious condition. I have not spoken to her in over a year.

The "friend" is a person I worked with for many years - she, a music teacher and I, a special education teacher in an elementary school. We collaborated on many elementary musical productions together: laughed and created some amazing shows actually. I considered her a very good friend. I moved on in my career leaving behind the teacher role and entered administration. She would comment often about crossing to the "other side"! She got angry when I ran a staff meeting before a holiday with business as usual. She said loud enough for all to hear "You should know better!" After she retired, she wanted me to join her for lunch and insisted that now that I was in administration there was no need to return in an hour. "You don't need to go back. You're an administrator!" I stepped back.

We moved into the district as part of a requirement for being in administration and my husband and I called often to ask if they wanted to join us for dinner but she and her husband were always busy. We hosted two parties for her and other teacher friends and were never invited back. We stopped calling.

This friend suffers from arthritis and ended up confined to her home and to a wheelchair. I should have gone to see her. I know I should have continued to reach out. When we did happen to see each other, there was anger in her face and her words were full of blame. "Why don't you come to see me? Why don't you call." I said, "The phone works both ways." and I backed further away.

Instead of being a friend, I left her! Now she lies in a hospital and the family is asking for words of kindness, prayers, and memories to fill her mind. I want to tell her how much I enjoyed those early days. She and I would sit at her dining table and eat pizza and write the script for an elemenentary musical extravaganza year after year. We loved the fun of it all. Her face would glow at the end of each production. We had made memories for so many kids. She had coveted those memories for years and years after. Oh how I wish I could have continued to share those memories with her. I wish I could tell her that I didn't leave her. She left me!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Travel Plans Again!

Christmas moves quickly to Erin and Katie's birthdays. It's always been a hectic time for us and this year is no exception. Today, after work, I am off to Milwaukee for an early morning flight to Mexico. Katie celebrates a birthday on Wednesday and Erin's was last Saturday. What better present for all of us but a vacation in sunshine and warm weather.

Watch for pictures upon my return!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peace On Earth

Another Christmas can now be stored in memory!

It comes fast. It goes faster!

The memories though include silly weather traveling in conditions that included lots of snow then rain and fog and finally deeply cold temperatures - the total mix to keep the anxiety high.

Everyone traveled safely though and my kids laughed at my preoccupation with the fears. In the end, the best present of the whole holiday is not only having time with my kids but also knowing that they arrived safely home!