Friday, January 30, 2009

Life's a Journey, the Anniversary Edition

One year ago today I started my blog. Having a place to share my experiences has made the journey easier.  I've had incredibly sad things happen, (the blog began with the deaths of my mom and my brother, and covers my dad's heart attacks, and I also had a painful stomach illness that stretched on for months without a diagnosis) and incredibly wonderful things happen--trips to Turkey and El Salvador, seeing Molly off to college, my new teaching partner, and three graduations (Molly from high school, Brenna from Cal Poly, and Kelly with a master's degree from UCSD.)

One of my favorite things about the blog is the flag counter at the side. I love it that people read my blog, but it's especially fun to know people in 33 different countries have read it. Most of these flags represent friends who have gone to these counries or live in them. I feel lucky to have such great friends all over the world. I get such joy when a new flag is added, like when Brenna went to Costa Rica last week. Sometimes I don't know who added the flag-like my newest visitor from Korea a couple of days ago. (I love it when I find out.)

I love it when people tell me they've read the blog, and I hope it helps my family and friends understand me better or at least keep in touch. Maybe it will even help a stranger on a similar journey. Even if no one reads it, it's a place for me to sort out my thoughts and work things through. It reminds me that life's good and that I have treasured friends. Life's a journey, and mine's a good one. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Love to Laugh. Ha ha ha ha. Loud and Long and Clear

I love the people I work with, especially my new teaching partner, KW. She has this great love for the students, and a humorous toughness with them, too. She cracks me up. One student promised to bring her a paper last Friday. When he didn't show up with it, KW called his dad. "What can he do now  to make it up?" the dad asked. 
"I would suggest chocolate, because apparently he's going to have to get by in life on his charm, and not his follow-through." 
So, the student shows up bright and early Monday morning with a red Valentine heart filled with Ghiradelli chocoate squares--the good stuff. (I particularly like those mint-filled ones. Yum!) It was great. If he doesn't learn any academics, he's learned a great lesson about how to appease an angry woman, and that will help him way beyond high school. 

My whole staff has a great sense of humor. My principal leads the ship in hilarity. She can make anyone laugh, and usually gets what she wants because people are so entertained by her. The kids adore her, and so do the teachers. Mr. G.'s humor is a little sarcastic, but incredibly funny. He usually pokes fun at other people, but in  a kind way. KA is the queen of puns and practical jokes. TS--well, what can I say? Her nickname is the same as a rowdy cartoon character. She is literally a laugh a minute and keeps me and her students in stitches. No one loves our students more than NS, but last week when I called, and said "I have a student...", she interrupted me saying  "Cut him off at the knees!" Her humor is dry and cuts to the quick. So, they are all comics and I love to laugh, so it works well for me.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Owner of the Stapler

A couple of years ago two of my students were taking tests, and one said to the other "I bet I do better on my test than you do on yours." 
"I bet you're wrong," said the other.
 "Am not."
 "Are, too." 
And they argued awhile until one said "OK, whoever gets the higher score gets Mrs. Peters' stapler." 
"What?!! My stapler?"'
"Well, we won't really keep it, but one of us will OWN it." So, one of them earned a higher score, and "owned" the stapler. And it started a whole class culture that student with the high test score of the day owned the stapler. It meant absolutely nothing. They don't actually get to go home with anything. And yet it means everything. Later, the kids started writing their names on the board when they won the stapler. And they might add comments like "Now, I'm the Lord of the Stapler", or "Mwahahaha, I've beaten you all with my high score."  Kids come in extra just to check on who owns the stapler now. 

So, I have this freshman boy who I've really been trying to turn into a student. A few months ago he wasn't that great at taking tests. He didn't know how to study. But I've been coaching him on how to make his efforts more efficient. Last Friday he earned the stapler. The look on his face was incredible! He left the classrom feeling like he was a genius.  Today he won the stapler again. It was one of my proudest teaching moments. He was so excited, and I knew I had made a difference, not only in his knowledge of Geography, but also in his ability to study and take tests. His self esteem rose about 300 points today. Later, after this student had left, another student came in the room and saw that CW had won the stapler. She decided to call and congratulate him. I love it that we have this meaningless, random symbol that encourages kids to do their best, and gives them back confidence and prestige among their peers. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009


One thing that's complicated about my life is that it changed so suddenly. One minute I was considering how I was going to spend the five glorious days of my fall vacation and the next I was in the ER with Dad while he stablilized from a massive heart attack. I feel as though I adopted a child that day. Suddenly. He came to live with  me unable to care for himself. I had to worry if he was warm enough, eating enough, happy enough, and bathing enough. I also began to worry even more than I already had before, that I would lose him. As if this wasn't complicated enough, I had just seen my last child leave for college. I was grieving the loss of my role as mother. The girls are all doing great, and I can see that they will be wonderful adults. I feel OK about the job I did as their mother, but I feel sad that they will never be living with me in the same way again. Even if they move home for a time, I won't really be their parent in the same way. Each time I kiss one of them good bye I feel incredibly sad and overwhelmed with grief. I feel a lot of loss right now...I'm sandwiched between learning to be the parent to adult children and learning to be the daughter to an adult with huge needs. And in October I had no idea that my life would take this direction. Surprise!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

I am famous in my family for my complete lack of a sense of direction. I get lost in my own (small) town. I have excellent map-reading ability, but because I'm directionally challenged, people who are lost, rely on their own instincts and ignore me EVEN WHEN I'M HOLDING THE MAP. Anyway, Molly asked my dad if she could buy a suitcase off of him because she needed one and thought he might not need it any more. He gave her the suitcase, and turns to me "Honey, my GPS is portable, would you like it?" I assume I have to give it back if he ever drives again, but it was such a sweet gesture. He knows I am spending a lot of time on his life--getting his medicines, doing his laundry, running his errands, checking his messages and making his phone calls--and he wanted to be able to give back. You can tell he thought about it, and chose something that would be lasting and meaningful and used daily to give me. It's so touching to me because Dad has always shown me the right way to go, through his example, and through his wise advice. He's always been there for me, to point me in the right direction. I hope he drives again and I can give the GPS back, but if he doesn't, I'll feel a lot less lost. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Book Fairy Runs an Errand

I am the Book Fairy to a small boy whom I love. I buy books at the thrift store and he loves them. Read more here. Since my staff meeting was a field trip downtown, aftewards I thought I'd go to the nearby thrift store. I had such fun finding beautiful books. Then I felt really guilty. Here I am doing something pleasurable for myself while other people are doing my work! It's hard for me when other people are pitching in to help me because I can't get it all done, to allow myself to do something enjoyable. "You can't meet the locksmith, but you have time to go shopping?" "You turned down Randa when she needed you, and now you're just sitting around reading a book?" Part of me feels these thoughts aren't rational. I need some down time. Yet it's really hard to enjoy the down time because the list is so long and my friends have been so good to me. I had a busy life before my Dad became ill. Now 90% of the list is things for him: get the lost hearing aid replaced, open a bank account in the same city he lives in, call Social Security, return the wheelchair, etc. I don't enjoy these things. Yet I do enjoy getting to be with him so much. The times we have are sweet and special. He asked me yesterday "Do you think I'll ever get any better? Or will I only be sicker from here on?" We have lots of good talks. He tells his friends on the phone what a good daughter I am, and he always tells me how much he loves me and is thankful for me. These are the good times that make his errands worth it. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Genetic, and Photegenic?

My oldest daughter is brilliant and adventurous and witty. She has this quirky sense of humor that makes me laugh. She tells us all the time how funny she is, and she's right. Sometimes my family and I feel differently about pictures. I love it when the kids let me take pictures of them together. I especially love it when they allow me to shoot a picture on a bridge, and we have pictures that I cherish of them on bridges all over the world. I'm trying to see the pictures that Kelly jokes around in as comical and humorous instead of a personal attack on me. I have cried when she won't let me take pictures on trips, but I'm really going change my attitude in the future, and let her be herself. I want a great family picture, and she wants to express herself. Could it be that the great family picture is not one where they are all smiling in traditional poses? Here are some El Salvador pictures that make me laugh:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thoughts on Another Weekend

I've had a great weekend. My sweet, precious, wonderful, positive niece, Jane, is here. She is the daughter of my brother who died, and I'm so thankful to have her in my life. Because of choices my brother made, I didn't get to see her for many years. Now we're all getting to see her more, and we're starting to form family traditions and history. The best thing we've done together is going to See's candy and letting her pick out her own custom two-pound box of chocolate. Although Jane LOVES See's, she resides in a state without See's. (As the See's lady says, you can't really LIVE in a state without See's. You can only reside there.) Jane was clapping her hands with glee just walking into the store and smelling the air. Then there were the samples. Anyone who gives me chocolate for free has my undying affection. Then the precious, white, wrapped box. A true treasure. Kelly and Molly also got small bags of candy. (And NOT because they are the unfavored step-children. They were happy to get more than a sucker.) It was a delicious adventure. 

Another neat thing happened. Tomorrow the thief who stole Mom's wedding ring will be sentenced. My dad wanted to go see it. Jane said "Let's all go. It will be like Law and Order!" But it's a long walk from the parking lot to the courtroom. I knew Dad would need a wheelchair. I wondered when, and how I would obtain that before tomorrow. I asked someone at church if there were wheelchairs there to borrow, and he said "No." But a woman passing by, heard the conversation and said "I have a wheelchair you can borrow. Where do you live?" I had never seen this woman before, and she just happened to pass us at that exact moment, and happen to have a wheelchair that she didn't need tomorrow. Amazing. So Dad will be riding in style in his black-plaid, magically-apppearing wheelchair. 

It wasn't all good. I turned on the water tonight just before dinner and it wasn't coming out right. Jim discovered silvery-gold fish egg sludge blocking it. It was in all the taps. We couldn't do dishes or take showers or wash hands. Too late at night to call a plumber. We were so grossed out. The Internet held no clues. The realtor selling Dad's house knew the answer. Thank goodness he called right when we needed him, and thank goodness I mentioned it. It's our water softener. It's gone out and spewed little plastic beads (not fish eggs) into our pipes. I remembered what my friend RP said "When you are under stress, and something breaks, you need to say to yourself 'It's only money. It's only money.'" So I'm not getting upset. I'm not hyperventilating. No one died. I'm going to be OK. It's only money.  

Friday, January 2, 2009

A FIne How Do You Do

Welcome home, but don't get too comfortable. I was having a great day. An amazing day. I walked with a friend. I went shopping with my aunt and uncle who are visiting. Jim, Molly, Dad, my aunt and uncle and I were eating Peppermint JoJos after a great lunch, when Dr. Cardiologist called. "Your dad has to get to the hospital right away, and have blood drawn. Do not pass "Go", do not go home until you have results and prepare to spend the next three hours of your life in lines and hospital waiting rooms." So, on a day when we all had remarked how much better Dad was doing--eating more, feeling better, having more energy--we discovered that apparently we don't have a clue. When we arrived at the hospital, the orders weren't there, so the receptionist called Dr. Cardiologist's nurse. She said "I faxed them five times." Huh? Why would you fax something five times unless you were having problems or someone had called to say it hadn't arrived four times? Wouldn't you just fax it once, and assume it had arrived? We stood in line some more. We waited in waiting rooms. We read Dr. Gott and Heloise. Finally Dad had blood drawn. Then we were told "DO NOT LEAVE UNTIL YOU HAVE THE RESULTS." But the hospital lab couldn't give us the results. They could only give them to the doctor, who was off today and unavailable. "But DON'T LEAVE. Sit there until you are bored out of your mind and willing to give us all your cash." And why didn't they want him to leave? If the lab results were bad they wanted to admit him. Wait. He's fine. He's having his best day yet!!! And you want him to lie in a hospital be hooked up to monitors and feed him hospital food because why?"  I just couldn't see how that would help him. Every stay in the hospital has been a step backward for him requiring days to recover. Finally the news came. "Oh, sorry. False alarm. His labs are GREAT! The last results must have been a lab error. Silly us. He he." Geesh. Welcome Home, Dad. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

We arrived home safely. It was very sad to leave Brenna, knowing that I won't see her until July. I cried much of the way to the airport. One of the moms in our group discovered late the night before we flew that she had lost her passport. Suddenly the only thing worse than leaving your child behind in El Salvador became having to stay in El Salvador. They looked most of the night for the passport and called the embassy and the consulate, which were closed. In the morning their son drove out to the airport and asked if his mom's passport was there. The man in charge rolled his eyes, but went to look. Amazingly, he came back and said "Yes. It's here." It seems like in traveling there's always something stressful that happens, and it seems like it always works out. I'm not sure why that is. We checked our bags and walked to our gate, but on reaching security Matt suddenly remembered he had his pocketknife in his pocket still. It's easy to forget to check something you always carry with you. Amazingly again, they let him go behind the scenes where the luggage was and try to put it in his suitcase. He was gone for what seemed about two hours. His parents were a little scared of him going to El Salvador, so I was very conscious of keeping him safe. When he didn't return right away, I was sure that he had been safe the entire trip, only to be kidnapped and knifed at the last minute as we were ready to leave the country. Finally he showed up unscathed and we all drank lattes to celebrate. 

We scarcely recognized our house when we arrived. Leprechauns had come again and organized every cabinet, nook and cranny. The garden was free of every leaf and weed, and the deck was scoured. We have a shed that is full of old junk tossed together, but our friend had organized it to the point that we wondered where all this new stuff came from. One of the girls said "Our house and yard have NEVER looked like this!" I feel like a complete slob. A happy slob, but slob nontheless. I love living in this new place, and I'm thankful for a good friend with time on his hands.