March 23, 2014

I’m reading a book called, What Makes Olga Run?, which is about a woman who started competitive track and field events at age 77. At age 90 she had no more female peers to compete against, so she now competes with the 90-year old men.  The book is exploring research around Olga’s aging process. Scientists are trying to determine what factors in her earlier habits of life might have contributed to her having slowed-down the natural decline of the body.  She can sprint and throw a javelin at age 90.  She considered pole vault, but then decided not to take the risk.

I’m inspired by Olga.  She was a teacher for 34 years.  That inspires me, too.






March 22, 2014

My mother always talked about the winter it snowed every Thursday.  She compared every winter to that winter.  Now I wonder if that winter had more meaning for her than just snow every Thursday.  This winter may be one that becomes the measure against which all future winters will be compared.  Perhaps like my mother, this winter has meaning for me beyond frequent snows.  As I reflect on the events of the past few months, I realize that I need to focus more on this moment in the journey.  

Last fall, I let everyone know that I really wanted a blizzard this winter.  My December was going to be packed with Christmas, my baby Jill’s wedding (How was that possible?), and my 6th grandbaby (Yes, 6th!).  All good things, but all in 2 weeks?  I felt that in January I deserved a blizzard for a much needed rest.  We got the snow.  I got some rest, but I also got the stomach flu–several days of it, in fact.  In all the wedding preparations, I didn’t have time to realize how much it would stretch my heartstrings to give my daughter to her husband, no matter that he’s adorable and a very good person.

When I returned to school after wedding, baby, and holiday celebrations, I found we had had a flood from the ceiling in the bookroom. I had to face sorting damaged books, mold, and filling out reports for insurance.  What a mess.  Then more snow.  

In February, I nearly lost my older daughter to Dengue Fever which she contracted from a mosquito bite while serving in Honduras with a group of doctors and nurses on a surgical mission.  It seemed so unfair for her to get so sick while trying to do good in this world.  Then more snow.

I was getting discouraged because it seemed we were never in school enough days in a row to be able to see measurable progress with students.  Start and stop. “Where was I?  What day is it?  The test is when?”  Then more snow. 

My energy has been very low this winter.  Hibernation seemed like the best alternative, though not possible.  In looking back, I realize that a blizzard wasn’t the answer to the replenishing my spirit needed.  Snow days didn’t fill my cup.

Today, however, I took a walk outside.  The crocuses, snowdrops, and daffodils were blooming.  The willow branches were slightly yellow green.  They say more snow Tuesday.  I don’t really care anymore.

In Chinese medicine this season is described as the time when water gives way to wood.  Wood (all vegetation) must work very hard to push against water – to put down new roots, to shoot up new stalks, to open buds, and to leaf.  I have to push hard for my spirit to blossom, too.

March 21, 2014

Samantha is my nine-year old granddaughter and the first of my grandchildren. She has a talent for drawing and is already able to draw with proportion and perspective.  She has a good eye and can copy what she sees.  I admire this ability and try to imagine what it would be like to have that kind of eye-to-hand connection. 

I took her to the National Gallery of Art one afternoon recently.  It was just the two of us.  Since her mother has been careful to teach her about modesty, we had a little conversation about the human body being the subject of art as a thing of beauty.  I told her that in art the human body, with or without clothing, is often the subject of paintings and sculpture.  We walked into the gallery and immediately she stood a little taller, became a young student, and had many comments about the art she saw.   

“Grandma, I can imagine the story of this painting.  Here is the. . . .and here is the. . .”  She was so enthralled with the colors and shapes of a piece of modern art.

Later, a different artist did not impress her much.  It was an abstract seascape, but looked a bit like a young child’s work.  Samantha said, “Grandma, how did this get in the art gallery?”  We laughed together.

I loved showing her the paintings that I had fallen in love with when I was nine.  Fragonard, Renoir, Degas, and Monet were among my most favorite painters. I liked to imagine that I was in the big garden swing of Fragonard, or the girl in the garden with the watering can.  It all seemed so wonderful and magical. Samantha paused and took them in, but she didn’t react with the things I imagined.  She seemed especially interested in the Dutch painters and their techniques that made fabric look like you could touch it or flowers so real, you might catch their scent.

The final room we went in was the sculpture of Rodin.  I had forgotten his beautiful study of horses.  Samantha also spent a long time studying each piece and asked a lot of questions about how the work was done.  I shared what little I knew and wished I knew more.  It was a wonderful two hours, followed by hot chocolate at a nearby restaurant.  It made me happy to be the grandmother I want to be for a few hours.    

March 20, 2014

I had my first experience with animal rights when I was 10 years old, but I didn’t name it as that until just now.  It surprised me then, and still baffles me at times.

One chilly November day, near the end of the 10 sessions of horseback riding lessons that I had begged for, we took a trail ride on the property that is now the Tysons Corner shopping mall.  Back then, the area was all farm and forest.  It was beautiful.   Most of the leaves had fallen making a swish-swish crunch sound as the sure-footed horses trod patiently along.  The sky was gray, so characteristic of a November sky in Virginia. We started out from Storm Farm and headed south toward Route 7.  Birds flitted through the trees.  Squirrels busied themselves with the gathering of nuts.  There I was, in the place I loved best, riding a beautiful horse.

The teacher led the way. We guided our horses into a line and I enjoyed the rhythmic walking of Filly, the young, strong bay that was my horse for the morning.  Filly was a little more spirited than other horses I had ridden, certainly more robust than the gentle little pony, Bandara, that I rode on my first lesson.  Filly shook her head and was acting a little feisty; I fought to control the reins.  She kept trying to stop for a snack along the way.  The teacher called back to me, “Don’t let her eat.  Pull up on the reins!”

We spread out a bit on the trail. I was surprised when we jumped over a fallen log. I had never jumped before. I felt so happy.  I was really riding! My heart beat faster and I giggled.  Another log. Jump!  Soon the trees opened up into a big meadow with rolling hills. What could be better?  It was like all my dreams were coming true.

Then, thunder clapped. Suddenly, Filly took off at full gallop.  I had never galloped before.  I was sure I was going to fall off, break my neck, and die.  I screamed for help.  Filly was going full-speed up a hill to territory unfamiliar to me.  Near panic, I called for help again. My teacher finally caught up to me, grabbed the reins, and brought Filly back to a walk.

“Don’t ever do that again!  Your yelling scared Filly to death!  What were you thinking? The more you screamed, the more she ran.”  I was speechless, embarrassed, and ashamed. I had expected consolation from my terrifying experience.  Instead, I got a lasting lesson on animal rights.  


March 19, 2014

I want to tell you about the sensible shoes my mother bought for me in 3rd grade.

I didn’t want to wear those shoes.

I want to tell you how she took me shopping before the first day of school.

I didn’t want to wear those shoes.

She said that RED Oxfords would be fun and would last all year.

I didn’t want to wear those shoes.

We bought those shoes.

They lasted even when I walked in the rain-filled gutter all the way home.

Sensible, red shoes.

March 18, 2014

It’s March Madness and there are games on upstairs and downstairs.  My husband and children (now grown) are avid fans of college basketball.  They discuss brackets, picks, match-ups, and how much they hate Duke (sorry, Duke fans).  Actually, this year, they like Jabari Parker, but still hate Duke.

When all five kids were at home, it was a constant battle to have homework time be a quiet time. It was a battle I rarely won. I finally gave up. They all insisted that they could concentrate better with background noise.  Especially when that noise involved sports. Their success in school proved them right and left me without a quiet leg to stand on.  

I’m an introvert, by nature.  I crave quiet.  I suffer when there is constant or too much noise.  It’s a loud world we live in with media coming at us from all sides.  However, tonight I’m adapting and am able to write this little slice of life with NC State and Xavier battling on the court.  I wonder what each of my kids is doing tonight as they watch.  I’d bet money that they are all watching.  I wonder if they would be surprised to see Mom doing her “homework” in front of the game. Maybe I’m becoming my children.

March 17, 2014

After watching the movie, “Nebraska,” I was thinking about the shift that we all must make at some point in our lives.  That point where we realize we must become adults and accept our parents’ aging.  It’s a shift that can happen in an instant or over years. The movie reminded me of the gains and losses that come with the switching of roles of parents and children.

With my father, it happened in an instant. It was in the fall of 1995 on a crisp, late October day. I had gone to visit him and my mother in their apartment.  We had our usual Wednesday lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, home-canned peaches, and fresh homemade cookies.  I had my youngest daughter with me who had just turned three.  My dad walked us out to the car, and I buckled Jill into her carseat.  In the next few minutes as we stood by the car, I took the opportunity to really look into my dad’s blue-gray eyes and thank him for all the love and kindness he had given me.  I thanked him for supporting me in my dreams and in my realities, for loving my sons and daughters, for teaching us of goodness.  My eyes filled with tears.  The moment felt important, significant.  Little did I know then that in two weeks he would have a heart attack and pass from this earth.

I have always been grateful that we had those few minutes in the parking lot.  So much more was exchanged than words.  


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