Saturday, August 1, 2009
In mid-July my significant other and I headed for the northern states. For me the trip was more than going to my nephew’s wedding.
Tim and Ester
My mother and son would be there, my sister, her children and grandchildren, many of us traveling from various parts of the country. Then there were my aunts and uncles, my cousins… I’d be seeing family members I hadn’t seen in at least ten years.
My sister, mother of the groom. I know she is so very proud of her children, all five of them, their spouses, and her grandchildren. This was her night as well.
Cousins… the next generation in our family. All wonderful ‘kids’… this wedding was a grand opportunity for bringing them all together, to celebrate the marriage but also to celebrate Life!
These are just a few: Vi, TJ, Steven, Tim, Tom, TC, Joey, Tom. I love these guys (and girls)!
My Aunt Vickie and Uncle Joe warmly welcomed us into their home for seven days. When we finally had to leave to come home, I told myself I wasn’t going to let so much time pass between visits this time. They reminded us many times that we are family and they’d love for us to visit more often. I realized how much like my aunt I am. That’s another blog entry! For now, a great big thank you and I love you to these two loving and generous people!
While in Connecticut, it seemed practical to drive another three hours north to visit one of my childhood homes in New Hampshire. Before we made the journey, I Google searched the area, hoping to find a map that could take me back to my home. Yet, I was unable to recall any street names. Even my mother couldn’t remember the street we lived on 48 years ago. In my mind, I knew that if I could find the school or the church I attended, I could ‘walk’ myself back to my home. I have a very good memory!
In the end, my husband and I just drove there, with a state map in hand. He’d never been to New Hampshire in his life. This trip was all about me and finding my ‘roots’. He was my traveling companion. We’d been on a similar trip to his childhood home in Virginia a few years ago, and now it was my turn.
After checking into a motel room in Manchester, I talked to the receptionist there about the purpose of my visit. I told her of my memories living in “the projects”. I couldn’t remember more than that. She frowned… said that the projects were Ghetto now.
However, standing a few feet away, a woman who also worked at the motel overheard our conversation. When she heard the words ‘the projects’ she joined in the conversation. “You mean the Kimball Street Projects?” she asked. When she spoke the street name, it all came back to me.
She smiled and said she knew the place. The expressions on her face as she spoke about the projects confirmed my own fond memories. She told us how to find the place. I was grateful for her helpful insight.
Soon after, we were driving through the city streets. With only the memories to guide me and the directions the woman gave us, we neared my childhood neighborhood. I began to recognize the general layout of the streets, the houses, the ‘feel’ of the area. I knew we were near my home place. Even before the first building came into view, I said to Steve, “That house there… there used to be a store there. A little store where we walked to, to buy milk or eggs, or candy. But the store is gone!”
We drove on, and it was like reliving the dreams and memories all over again. Just as I remembered. Appearing only a little older, with some minor differences, the neighborhood looked nearly the same. Brick buildings, each with twelve apartments. Expansive back yards, playgrounds nearby. Family oriented. Walking distance from the school and the churches we attended.
We drove around the neighborhood. The lawns mowed, children riding their bikes or running to their friends’ apartment. I asked my husband to stop the car so I could take a picture of my ‘home’. I was eight or nine years old when we first lived there. All my memories of living in the Kimball Street projects are good ones.
In 1961, I didn’t understand low income housing. I didn’t recognize that we had less opportunities than other children… probably because all the kids I knew there lived in the same area, we went to school together, and church together. But we learned within our friendships, we played outside every day... kickball, hide and seek, jump rope, marbles, and tag. We cut through the woods to get to the swimming pool each summer, even though our parents told us to walk along the street sidewalk. We picked blueberries in the summer, built snow forts and ice rinks in the winter. We suffered the long hot summers when the evening air was thick and still, with no fan nor air conditioning to relieve the heat. I didn’t even know what air conditioning was back then. Did anyone? We walked to school every day, even when bussing first began. The idea of riding a bus to school seemed so alien to us… school was only a mile away. It was a great childhood.
It didn’t seem like the ghetto when I lived there those two or three years, and it didn’t look like a ghetto in July 2009 when we visited there. Perhaps it is because I’m getting older that thoughts to past days and places come to mind. I’ve been wanting to travel ‘back home’ for the past few years. I just wanted to check it out, to see if what I remembered was what actually was. For the most part, it was.
It was good to ‘go home.’
And it is great to be home.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
For nine months it has been a regular feature of neighborhood conversations. A typical chat would go like this: "Hi, Neighbor! How are y'all doing this week?" (answers varied: Mary is sick, Stan lost his job, I'm looking for a new job, we're doing great, etc) followed by more in depth conversation....
"So how's your son in the Coast Guard?"
"He's on ship off the coast of Florida this week, loving it."
Keeping up with our children's lives is an important topic no matter how old they grow. I think those of us whose kids have grown up and moved away have adjusted well to their absence because we have friends and neighbors who remember to ask about them, and who truly appreciate the little stories we pass on to them, knowing that they will pass on the story to another neighbor. It's a living 'grapevine' I have respect and gratitude for.
"Have you heard about Mrs. Neighbor?" We often share what we know about our most senior neighbors as well, the ones we've come to know and love over the years, the ones we will be missing soon enough. Whether they still live in their homes nearby, or further away in a home care facility, we need to know how they are doing. There is a warm feeling of true neighborliness as we find out who needs a visit, a phone call, a hug... who is celebrating a life transition, or who is mourning one. When tragedy strikes one of our neighbors, you can be sure the rest of us will be there for support and comfort. But our greatest strength is that we are there. I find comfort just knowing that my neighbors are there, a holler or phone call away.
Finally, the conversation, whether it was personally in depth or cautiously distant, always got around to "The Bridge."
"So, have you seen the new bridge lately?"
"Yeah, I walked down there last week... they're making good progress...."
"Yeah, what the heck is taking them so long to finish it? Think they'll be done before the May date?"
But the most shocking, if not surprising, news was when we learned:
"Have you heard how much our new bridge is costing us (via taxes and other funding)?... a million dollars."
"Aiyeee! They could have built two bridges for that kind of money!"
But we love our new bridge, and that's all I'm going to say about that!
I wanted to have these pictures embedded throughout the text, but could not move them. I'm thinking there's something about this blogger program that I'm not using... if one of my blogging friends could enlighten me as to how to do this, I'd be ever grateful.
BTW, the sleep study was successful, as I got enough sleep. I'll get results from my doctor, but the sleep technician did say my oxygen levels dropped as I slept, so there will be changes in my sleeping habits in the future for me.
For the first time I am posting from my son's apartment! I knew I'd love having a laptop.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I am a little bit disoriented coming back like this.
I feel like I owe an explanation for my absence this past year. Demands of the school year and the unpredictable, time-consuming ways of an old computer combined to interfere with my blogging routine. Despite being disgruntled about not having time to blog, nor the desire once my computer started misbehaving, I was able to turn my attentions to other things, other thoughts. Long reaching thoughts.
Mid-Life Transitions... the new bridge that was built down the road from my neighborhood (less than a mile away) this year has become a metaphor of life for me and my neighbors, in more ways than we can count. I started blogging about the same time workers began tearing down the old bridge (in August 2008). We were all looking forward to the completion of the new bridge because it was going to take nine months for them to complete it, and that's a lot of extra driving to and from work each day. With gas prices rising dramatically during this time, we were not very happy. The bridge was finished on schedule in May. We've rejoiced at having our trips to town shortened, as well as having a shiny new (albeit costly) bridge to drive over. I still haven't gotten a picture to post. I don't know why I haven't walked down there to take the photo. I'll set the goal for tomorrow.
I can't ignore it any longer, I am definitely experiencing mid-life changes. On the outside it looks like I'm cleaning house. I started cleaning out my attic three months ago. If I'd been bloggin every day I would never have tackled that job. It was my goal to clear out the attic of anything we have no use for, anything we haven't used in the past three years, and anything we didn't think our son would care to inherit. We've been married 34 years. Accumulate has been our middle names. Well, more mine than his.
Motivation for tackling this major work came from the thought that one day my husband and I would either be dead or incapable of climbing the ladder that leads into the attic. I just couldn't bear thinking of who would have to climb up there and take all of our (mostly) junk down to either sell it or burn it or give it away. Rather than burden our friends and family with that chore, I decided to do it myself. I'm healthy now. I can walk, run, climb ladders. I'm the one who put the stuff up there, I should be the one to take it down again. Clothes, shoes, books (the ones I really don't need), dishes, tapes, old record player, etc went into boxes. Over a period of several weeks, I was able to donate mucho, mucho things in great condition to the Good Samaritan Thrift Shop, things that someone else might need more than I. I didn't want to bother with a yard sale... that would have been more work on a weekend than I'd care to do.
I hadn't realized how liberating cleaning out the attic would be! The cleaning and clearing-out frenzy continued for several months, while that new bridge was being built, and soon I was cleaning out the basement level of our home. Then the garage. By the time the school year was over, I was ready to do some 'clearing and cleaning' in the attic of my body: the mind/brain. I told my doctor I was having trouble sleeping at night, feeling tired all day, yawning excessively (embarrassing) at meetings. But the one symptom that perked her ears was when I said "I snore."
There, I'm out. I'm a snorer. Haven't always been. It's a new development over the past ten years. My husband (of 34 years) didn't tell me about if for the longest time. He let me complain and joke about his snoring all these years, but never made a big deal that I snored. He said it didn't bother him. But lately it has gotten louder. And now it's interfering with his sleep. Ironically, he doesn't snore anymore... after he lost 30 pounds several years ago, he stopped snoring. Now I'm the snorer in the family. It's embarassing. But more importantly, it's interfering with both of our sleeping needs. That's when I decided to tell my doctor.
She said I may have sleep apnea. I thought that was only for people who held their breath in their sleep. She said (here's how I understand what she said) that I wake up because I hear myself snore, and when I wake up with a start, with a "snort" of sorts, that's when I'm taking a breath. She said I'm possibly not getting enough oxygen at night, that my brain is waking me up to breathe. The only way she can know for sure is if I come in for a sleep study.
That's where I'll be tonight. Just like Regis did on TV. All those wires taped to my head and face, my chest wrapped in wires, my legs... how does anyone sleep with all those taped on wires? I guess I'll find out tonight.
But I am curious to see how much REM I get at night, and I'll ask them if they can show me what my dreams look like on paper. So though I'm a bit anxious about my comfort tonight, I am excited that I'll get some information about my sleeping patterns, at least for one night.
If you have been part of a sleep study, and you have a CPAP machine, I would like to know what you think of it. Either leave a comment, or send me an email. I want to know if it's worth it, do you use it every night? Is it loud? Did you stop snoring? Please let me know!!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
It's below freezing temperatures, so I'm expecting that even by tomorrow, the snow will still be with us. I'm more excited for the kids in our area than myself. The last significant snowfall we had was years ago... and an overnight dusting a couple of months ago.
This month, kindergartners are painting a snowman scene with tempera paint, and first graders are painting a polar bear scene... also using white tempera paint. This is a convenient arrangement, as I have the kinders before the first graders, so I can leave out the plastic disposable cups with white paint out for the next class. Here's a tip to save money in the classroom: I get the disposable cups from the cafeteria... before the kids can toss them in the trash I collect them in a dish basin. Then, with about 150-200 cups, I carry them to my classroom, and as soon as students leave the building, I wash them. It's my contribution to reusing and recycling of plastic.
When I asked a group of kindergartners to raise their hands if they had ever built a snowman, nearly all of them raised their hands... an unexpected response as we really haven't had much snow during the past five or six years. How could they have built a snowman, I wondered.
When I repeated this story to my friend and her daughter, they reminded me that we'd had enough snow to build a snowman the last time it snowed, but it had to be done late at night because it was gone by end of the next day. Okay, so I missed that one. I don't build snowmen in the dark anymore.
Things have been warming up pretty good in my classroom, though. Second grade students have finished their warm hues painting... actually, an oil pastel and watercolor resist. The various suns and star-like images are hung throughout the school.
Some kids added facial features to their sun image, as this student (above) is doing here. Oil pastels are not tricky to work with... they are a leap above crayons when comparing quality of color and blend-ability. Oh, but I do love crayons, the marks they can make on a paper, as well as their clean convenience, however, oil pastels can spread like butter. Despite that oil pastels can be messy, they certainly do leave vibrant colors on the paper, and allow for a variety of applications. You can draw with oil pastels in much the same manner as with crayons, but you can also develop a painting style with them by blending the colors with your finger or with a paper towel or wax paper.
After they drew their sun/star image, they had to continue radiation-like lines or shapes that filled their paper, all the way to the edges. Only warm hues were used because that was our focus in this lesson. Black watercolor was the final treatment. The reds, oranges, and yellows just popped right off the page!
Sometimes art teachers will model a painting or drawing before students paint to show them how it's done. There are times when we don't like to model a particular drawing or design because we don't want to encourage copying... we'd like them to rely on their own imaginations. In this case, I did model a sun image to show them the steps of watercolor resist. However, the results of their own work surpass the one I did by a long shot. The one above and this one below are two examples that stand out as being spectacular!
Yesterday, though it was cold at 48 degrees, Alyson, Marlene and I walked to the new bridge. We are now calling it "Our New Bridge"... we walked across it for the first time since the road/bridge crew started working on it in August of 2008. It's less than half of a mile from our homes, but it's a very hilly walk... good for the legs and heart.
You can see in this photo (above) that the concrete 'floor' is completed, as well as one metal rail (on the right). Close-up below, and the only construction vehicle is this great shovel at one end of the bridge. Further back is a port-a-potty, a huge box, and a few odds and ends of materials. For the most part, the bridge looks completed. The bridge builder happened to be there, and he answered our questions. He told us our bridge cost a million dollars...! That's taxpayer's money at work. I'm not even going to get into the discussion the three of us had about that. I have no idea why we needed such a grand bridge out here in the country, but it may have something to do with future expectations for the area. I'll have to look into that.
We love our new bridge, and plan to continue taking walks from time to time for our own good health and friendship. Can't wait for it to open up to traffic, possibly by early May.
Speaking of new bridges, I am so excited that it snowed today for one reason: it's Inauguration Day! That means I can watch the event on TV... had we been in school I would probably have missed it because I had my tv removed back in December. I didn't feel that I needed a tv when I much rather would have the space it occupied for other more practical things, like storage space. So it was removed.
I know some of you are chuckling about our miniscule snow fall, especially if you live up north and east, and you Canada folks... but here in North Carolina, we love our little snowfalls. It feels like a real winter when we get snow, unlike those fake winters where it just gets cold and rainy.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Koopa, of Turtlekiss.com, and his owner Kira, made a painting for me after I had entered a contest and was one of the winners. Koopa actually did all the painting himself. Kira set up the canvas with the colors I chose, and turned Koopa loose. Here is a link to some videos that Kira has made of Koopa at work and play.
This is the part that Kira did, using words I had sent her that she worked into the painting in order to add the colors I asked for.
Then she put Koopa onto the canvas. He walked, or should I say, ran across the turtle-safe (non-toxic) tempera paint like it was wet mud .
The final result is called "Ponderings," to remind me of our pond which was (sadly)filled in two years ago. But in this beautiful abstract, Kira and Koopa have captured the feeling of our koi pond. I will always remember our pond when I see this painting, and I'll never forget the adorable box turtle who added his unique paint strokes and style.
I didn't know where I wanted to hang this lovely addition to our home, an original masterpiece which I will always treasure. It would get lost in the darkness of our living room walls (barnboard, rustic style). It would look very small in our bedroom, and no one would see it but us. But in my drawing room. Hmmm, now there was a possibility.
So, today I hung the painting right over my drawing table. Finally! Kira has probably given up on me, but I have to tell you that over the Christmas holidays I used my vacation time to reflect, to ponder, to rearrange, and to clean. It was more than physical cleaning that took place... I took a good long look at the 'vessel' inside, and saw the light still shining there. But that could easily be another journal entry.
Now, after I had hung Koopa's painting, it was then that I noticed the similarity between Koopa/Kira's, and one I had done using melted crayons about ten years ago. I call it Lightfall, Third Series. Possibly no one else will notice the similarities unless I put them side by side, which I haven't done yet. I'll do that another day and compare them in a blog entry to sharpen my critiqueing skills.
BTW, Kira has retired Koopa from painting following a recent illness, but she continues to paint using her understanding of color theory and her own unique (personal) style. You might wish to visit her website at http://turtlekiss.wordpress.com/ to learn more about Kira's colorful abstracts and the story of Koopa's life as an artist.