Monday, December 27, 2010

My wish for you at Christmas

I hope you are finding magic, warmth, and joy in this holiday season, and I hope the magic continues for many more days.

Our ornaments, like our holidays, mix old traditions and new experiences. For example, this very old green glass ornament comes from Peter's parents' tree. My mom embroidered the yellow bird shortly before she died about 30 years ago. A music-loving snowman purchased only a couple of years ago celebrates our delight in music, the heart came from a good friend, and the jester is a memento of a stay in a favorite city, New Orleans.

Over the years, my husband has greatly expanded my understanding of what a family Christmas can be. He spends enormous effort finding just the right gifts, and then wrapping and presenting them in ways designed to surprise and delight. We also developed many family rites and traditions, mostly focused on daughter Abby.

Now Abby and Eric are creating traditions for their children, centered in their own home. Instead of packing up the kids to come here or trek to Montana, they arranged Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home, and we spent part of each with them. Everything was relaxed, flexible, responsive to toddler needs, and designed for maximum delight.

I played with Augie's expanded train set, read to both kids, and crawled under the bunk bed while we played bone-digging archaeologist. I wore my new pink crown, chosen by Augie and Vi who have dubbed me "Glinda" in their ongoing Wizard of Oz fantasy.

Speaking of which, Peter and I made these ornaments (from a kit) and used them as gift tags. Vi handed out the gifts based on the characters she has assigned. When Augie got his Scarecrow gift, he laughed with excitement. "Mom, mom, look! I got a present and it has ME on top!"

I hope that you will giggle with joy and delight during this holiday season and through the new year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If my pill box says "T" it must be Tuesday

When I was working, I always knew what day it was. Even during vacations, I retained a sense of time. Now that I'm retired (for a whole 11 days), my days are a daze.

We've had two snow storms that threw off everyone's schedules. And Abby and Eric have two weeks off from school, so the grandkids are home with them. I found myself checking the weather for Tuesday and Thursday, when I've been driving Augie to preschool, and then realizing that I won't be doing that again until January.

Here are a few other things I've noticed about my new life phase.

1. I figured I'd have lots of time to do Christmas stuff--bake cookies, decorate the house, write cards, etc. I have trimmed the tree--always a major undertaking. But we decided to simplify the decorating of the house, and I don't feel motivated to bake. The cards are definitely on my to-do-soon list. Along with gift-wrapping.

2. I'm now responsible for making dinner. I know how to sit down and come up with a concept for a brochure, but it's been years since I planned a meal. I need to read some cookbooks to kickstart that part of my brain, then make some choices and make up a grocery list. (I've seen a couple of nice recipes online that got me interested, so that's a place to start.)

3. I have some groovy new toys:

  • Peter's company bought a couple of iPads, and since he doesn't use his all the time, I get to borrow it. Wow... I never thought I'd want one until I sat down with it. I love it. It will definitely be the subject of a future post. 
  • He bought me a new camera for Christmas. It's a Canon super-zoom, a compact camera with a powerful lens so I can take better photos of the birds in the backyard. I just had to open it early, because we had a yard full of birds. Then we got a ton of snow, which dramatically shortened the distance between the ground and the bird feeder. The squirrels realized they could jump right up, and they sent out the word to half the squirrels in the city. The birds disappeared until yesterday, when we raised the level of the feeder. So I'm back in business. Another subject for future posts! 
  • Tap shoes! We found a great source of used shoes for the kids, and they love them. I ordered some for me, fearing that I'd never find a comfortable pair for my long narrow feet. They came yesterday, and I LOVE THEM. I still need to find a DVD or online source of tap lessons. I was searching a couple of weeks ago when zombies attacked my computer.

4. I'm spending a LOT of time doing paperwork to arrange health care coverage for Peter and me. Q: How many times do I need to submit the same information to different units of the same company? A. Four doesn't seem to be enough. Maybe five will do it.

5. I'm also spending tons of time changing my email address contact information for dozens of accounts. Yes, I should have used a personal account instead of my work account from the beginning. But I didn't. And yes, I should have started switching a couple of years ago. But I didn't. I was able to keep my work account for the next several months (because it provides access to information I may need in order to do some freelance work or just help my former colleagues figure things out). But I quickly realized that I don't want to spend a lot of time on that account, because it draws me back into the work world.

6. I need to reorganize all my spaces. Starting with my office. I have places for my fabric projects and my photo projects, and a lot of old papers from work and the carousel and whatnot. But I have a huge collection of electronic stuff--cameras, iPod, the iPad, a digital voice recorder, etc., and accompanying cables, batteries, manuals, cleaning materials, carrying cases, etc, mostly living on a messy shelf and in a box in the office closet, under a bunch of kids' toys. Not to mention that my bedroom closet is full of work clothes I won't wear again. That's a project for summer.

That's it for today. I have to go make some phone calls about health coverage. Wish me luck.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time marches on.....

I was privileged to be part of the life of Macalester College for 28 years as publications manager, writer, and editor. At my retirement party Wednesday, our current president told the guests that in many ways I've been Macalester's voice for all that time. That's high praise, because it's been a period of fairly remarkable achievement for the college. He and others said very nice things about my work. (When one of the higher-ups said some really nice and perceptive things, it flitted across my mind that a couple of years ago he wasn't nearly so generous in his assessment. But we've worked together well since then. In this moment, it sounded like he was the head of my fan club, and I chose to believe that he meant it.

When it was my turn to speak, I said that when you've worked on admissions materials for that long, you can't help taking pride in the students who enroll. When you've worked on three fund-raising campaigns, you look around at the new buildings, programs, and scholarship funds and think, "I helped make that happen."

For every student who chooses to enroll, and for every donor who makes a significant gift, hundreds of people have worked in thousands of ways to make it happen--not just to reach out to that individual but to create an institution worthy of their choice. That fact doesn't diminish the satisfaction we feel. It's shared work, and shared satisfaction. (When I said that, a lot of people were nodding and smiling in agreement.)

I went on to say that just as I've been part of the Macalester family, Mac has been part of my family, affecting three generations. While representing Macalester at a meeting in April 1985, I met the man I soon married. He continues to work for the college as a vendor and has participated with me in many college events. A generous tuition assistance program among a consortium of colleges enabled our daughter to attend a wonderful college where on her first day she met the young man she would marry 11 years later. And my bosses' willingness to let me work reduced and flexible schedules in order to provide daycare for the grandkids has benefited them, their parents, and us.

A colleague spoke up and thanked me for hiring her. That reminded me to make one more point: I think part of my legacy is the good people I hired over the years, including six who continue to work there. (I also served on advisory committees that played roles in hiring three others, including the president.) Finally, I reminded everyone that I live just three miles away and expect to stay in touch. (I know, everyone says it. But I will, with some of them.) I think I ended with something funny that got a good laugh, but I can't remember what it was.

There were gifts (a fancy international desk clock, some things to enjoy with the grandkids, a stash of chocolate, a bottle of  lemoncello, and a lifetime supply of purple pens), and a book in which my colleagues had pasted messages from many people, and in which party guests wrote greetings of their own.

Several times during the party, I felt a little wave of relief and joy. "I'm done; I can relax now." I totally enjoyed talking with all the folks who came. Some were very special to me, including a former Macalester president and vice president, and one of our major donors. The grandkids behaved charmingly, and every time I was asked "What will you do now?" I could point to them. The Alumni House was decorated beautifully for the holidays, and the food looked elegant, though I didn't get around to eating any until the last few minutes. Eventually we packed up the gifts and cards and drove home, where I blogged about how tired and happy I was.

Thursday morning while reading the book of messages, I had my one twinge of nostalgia..It was gone in a flash.

Thursday afternoon I drove Augie to preschool and then showed up at the office at 1:15, as usual this past few months. I told everyone how much I had loved the party--every minute of it--and how good it made me feel. I participated in a couple of meetings to hand off continuing projects. I told my two bosses how glad I was to have worked with them the last couple of years, after some bad years with a previous boss, and they returned the compliment. I walked across campus to turn in my keys and trade a staff ID for a retired staff ID. Then I tossed my remaining possessions into a large box, took a big framed poster off the wall, and put on my coat. Several co-workers gathered around to say goodbye. I'd been nervous about this moment, but it was smiles and hugs all around and then two colleagues carried my stuff down to the front door. One last hug for the guy who helped me load things into my car, and I was behind the wheel.

I was smiling as I pulled away from the curb and noted that it was exactly 5 p.m. No twinges of sadness, no emotional welling up. Just immense satisfaction.

Peter and I went to dinner at Olive Garden so I could celebrate in the happy glow generated by my favorite cocktail, their strawberry lemoncello martini. He said, "I hope your retirement is everything you've hoped for."

I said, "It's here, and for now that's all I need!"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's almost official...

My retirement party was this afternoon. I enjoyed every minute, and tonight I'm tired and happy. It's that old introvert thing... talking to people for several hours leaves me exhausted. But my colleagues put together a lovely event. Lots of people came and said gracious things, the program was short and heartfelt, there were some nice gifts and some funny ones, I managed my remarks just fine, and the grandkids looked adorable and acted like angels.

Also, it hit me about halfway through the party: I'm essentially done! Tomorrow I'll pack up a box or two of stuff, say goodbye to my closest co-workers, and turn in my keys.Wow. I'll be back here to tell you lots more, but right now I need sleep. Cheers.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One week left... a Career Woman. Which is how I used to think of myself. For a long time, if I met you at a party the first thing you'd learn about me was what I did for a living. Eventually I married, and then Peter and I got into Saints baseball and saving a carousel, so you had an even chance of hearing about one of those activities first. For nearly four years now, I identify first and foremost as a grandma.

So I'm not losing my whole identity, as once would have been the case. And I've been retiring in stages, working less and less time and participating in fewer meetings, social events, and the like. In fact, they've invited me to say a few words at my retirement party on Wednesday, and I can't really think what to say. It's forcing me to examine my feelings instead of just slipping silently away.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The last of the nekkid guys....

In case you're new around here, this photo is from a fund-raising calendar produced by the York (Maine) Chamber of Commerce.

While other months featured realtors and insurance agents, etc., this one features representatives of a group fighting against the turnpike authority's plan to build several new toll plazas. Based on what I could find via Google, the battle rages on.

So ends the monthly Men of York feature. Thanks again to Eva, who held a giveaway of this calendar last year. It's been fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Countdown: Tea for Two...

...and two for tea. Dum-dee-dum and dee-da-dee....

Two weeks to retirement. My brain is mush, except for toddlers and toys and Christmas. I can do a task for work, but I can't strategize even a little.

I do have new post-retirement goals: learning to tap dance and play drums. Just enough to enjoy. And maybe pass along a couple of tricks to the kids. They want to dance on the ceiling like Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding.

I was wondering how long we should let them keep being amazed and asking "How does he DO that?" One of these days, we're going to help them build a model so they can discover how he does it, and we'll make a little movie to awe their parents. Magic and wonder needn't be lost when it leads to experimentation and figuring something out and re-creating it.

I'm off to make some tiny furniture and find a Fred Astaire-like action figure.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guess how many weeks until I retire!

I'm not doing the countdown to make you jealous. Really, I'm not. I'm excited, I'm celebrating, I'm helping myself adjust to the idea. Last week the eminent Mr. London Street called me a "lucky sod," which has had me laughing all week. But it also made me think.

My response all along has been, "I've earned it." I've worked hard for 45 years. I've stayed at my current job 28 years, during which I often worked long hours, periodically put up with nasty politics, and made some fine and important contributions. I've worked longer than my father did, because we needed the medical insurance. I've continued to work even while working with my husband to provide daycare for our two toddler grandchildren. The daycare continues, full-time weekdays during the school year. It's great--and also a challenge. So yeah, I've earned the right to retire.

But I'm also a lucky sod. I've been able to work in my chosen field--call it public relations, publications, or communications--my whole life. Except for one regrettable experiment working for an insurance conglomerate, I've worked at colleges and universities--good ones, at that. I believe in the product, and the workplace is filled with interesting people, ideas, stories, possibilities. I've had a semi-decent retirement plan that didn't go belly-up. Our health is fine, except that we should exercise more. Social Security is still solvent. Our house is paid for; we have no debt. And Peter's business continues to be successful. So I can retire, and we should be fine. And that, when I think about it, makes me a lucky sod indeed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The countdown continues....

Just four short weeks until I'm retired. I'm beginning to believe it will really happen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sparrows and finches and woodpeckers, oh my!

We woke up to a heavy, wet snowfall and a symphony of chirping in the back yard. Apparently our bird feeders are on the map. As we watched, dozens of birds were gathering in nearby trees and swooping in for a snack. They swarmed around all day, now and then scattering because of a passing vehicle or a sudden plop of show from the upper branches.

We had lots of finches and sparrows all day. The juncos put in an appearance for an hour or two. A couple of chickadees stopped by.

A downy woodpecker and a nuthatch took turns at the suet feeder.

A female cardinal graced us with her presence.

And our first-ever red-bellied woodpecker visited twice!

We introduced our feeders sometime last winter, and it takes a while for birds to find them, so today was an all-time high in popularity. Our feathered friends are definitely brightening up an otherwise blustery winter day!

And P.S., I want to thank Abe Lincoln for his advice about feeders and about creating a welcoming spot for birds. His photos take your breath away. I'm just taking snapshots through a snow-streaked window, but it's fun anyway.

One last picnic lunch

"You know what, Pa?" said Augie last Monday, "It's a great day for a picnic!" It was in the 60s and sunny, and he was right. Tuesday was equally nice, and we did it again. The sun is low in the sky even at noon, and every few minutes another flock of geese flew over, announcing the end of summer. It turned colder Wednesday, and tonight it has begun to snow.

It was a fabulous October, and November opened without its usual bluster. I'm glad we celebrated the turning of the seasons. Any picnics will have to be indoors for the next six months or so.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Countdown to retirement

Five weeks left! That means ten more trips to the office  before I'm officially done. I don't feel sad; it's a very positive change. But even positive change can be difficult. I'm finding it hard to focus, so writing anything - for work or my blog or any other purpose - takes much longer than it normally would. (That's why I've hardly written anything here for several weeks.)

I have three big projects to finish at work, and I keep encountering problems. It's as if I get all the buttons buttoned and then they begin to pop open, one after another.It gets more and more difficult to find the grit and determination to close them up again...and glue and nail them shut.

The fact that I'm doing some of my work from home, and that home is filled with grandkids so much of the time, certainly complicates things. But my colleagues are being extremely patient and understanding. After 28 years on the job, people are willing to cut me a little slack. Bless 'em. And me. I've earned it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat, part 2...

We've just been visited by a pair of adorable trick-or-treaters...a Unicorn and a Max Wearing His Wolf Suit. Augie's Grandma Anita made him a similar wolf suit two years ago, and he has loved it ever since, so she made a new, taller version this year. It does seem that Halloween goes well with the concept of Where the Wild Things Are! ViMae wanted to wear her Dorothy dress but it's too cold, so she made do by carrying her favorite Dorothy basket. Mommy is tough...she only allowed me to give them one candy bar each.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or treat!

Realtor Wes Cook is Mister November in the Men of York (Maine) calendar produced by the Chamber of Commerce to support local nonprofits. .

Halloween preparations? I bought two bags of candy in the past month and then ate nearly all of it. Not buying more! I did buy this little pumpkin, picked out by Augie. We'll probably draw designs on it tomorrow.. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Friendship is golden

A month ago, we celebrated our silver anniversary with a golden weekend.

Golden because we drove to central Minnesota, where the trees were at peak fall color.

Golden also because we visited with old friends Carol and Michael, whom we hadn't seen for at least a couple of years (none of us could quite remember how long).

It was SO GOOD to see and spend time with them again.

For 13 years before I met Peter, Carol and Michael were like family to me. We met when I went to work in the office where she worked, and our friendship soon extended beyond working hours. We went to art fairs or hung out at their house talking about our lives, our families, our hopes and disappointments. Over time they added two adorable children to the mix, and I was included in quite a few family celebrations. I met their extended families, and they met mine. To this day, when Carol and Michael talk about their parents or siblings or nieces and nephews, I can picture them...just as they looked 30 years ago. Carol and I had season tickets for the ballet for about 30 years; often having dinner first so we could talk. Even when we no longer worked together (I left that office after 10  years), we could pick up on our conversations with the comfort than comes from a well-worn friendship.

They retired a few years ago and moved to their lake home, about 2.5 hours north. We could never understand how they could leave the city behind. But being there, with the golden light pouring in through the windows and with all the comfort and serenity they have built into their place, I began to understand the draw. I wouldn't want to commute as much as they do, but I get why they love it there. And while we were there we loved it, too.

It was in their living room that we were married 25 years earlier, so it was great fun to celebrate our anniversary with them. And we discovered that the resort where we stayed last summer...and where we plan to stay again next maybe an hour's drive from their place. The welcome mat will be out! Having finally gotten ourselves together again, we promised that we will not let years go by without seeing one another. Our friendship is too's golden.

(I didn't take pictures, so these photos are not mine.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making soup

Augie loves to cook. With his mom, he does it for real; other times he plays make-believe. Wouldn't some good hot alphabet soup hit the spot as the weather gets cooler?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wanna see something cute?

How 'bout this girl, with Toto and her ruby slippers as always.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another perspective

If you're lying under the tree and looking up, it might look like this.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A gorgeous autumn... what we're having, thanks to lots of rain plus cold nights and sunny days. The ash trees are brilliant yellow (and quickly losing their leaves with every breeze); our northwoods maple is a lovely russet and gets a bit deeper every day. We've been really busy, but Sunday I snapped this as Peter and I sat for a moment in the garden. Today we brought out the kids' table and chairs and had a picnic lunch. So beautiful! Okay, now I'm getting back to work....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The men of October...

...are John Edmondson, Jeff Wright, Thomas Sherman, Jeffery Jellison, and Mark, Bill, and Peter Foster, representing the Stage Neck Inn in York Harbor, Maine. Apparently they volunteer as the Ox-Roast Crew for the Harvestfest event. This, of course, is another in a series from the Men of York (Maine) fundraising calendar.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27, 1985: The Wedding

Do you remember back to April 15 of this year? You might have been doing your taxes, or you might have been reading this post about how I met my husband on that date 25 years earlier.

From then until now is how long we’d known each other when we were married.

It was wonderful to love and be loved. But moving so quickly was out of character for me—I used to tell people I’d taken longer to pick out shoes. I was 42 and never married, and I had lived alone nearly 20 years (and liked it). I spent the latter part of the summer processing this enormous change and following Peter’s lead in getting ready for it. We tidied up my house and put it on the market. To spruce up the townhouse where I would join Peter and nine-year-old Abby, we did some painting, carpeting, and wallpapering. Oh yes, and we negotiated about furnishings.

* * *

The St. Paul Saints used to have a PA announcer who would follow any mention of a coming marriage with an admonishment to the groom: “Say goodbye to your friends and your stuff.” We laughed every time he said it, because we knew there was truth in it.

Peter didn’t have to get rid of any friends, but when it came to furnishings I was sure that most of my stuff was better than most of his stuff. He had sturdy favorite chairs he’d purchased at flea markets and estate sales and lovingly reupholstered. All these years later, he still has them. Just not in the living room.

A lot of other stuff bit the dust. His ceramic flamingos, which have since returned to a place of honor. A 50’s-era ashtray featuring a lounging lady with her skirt up, which has not. Large plants, which we moved to let in more light—healthier for me, but not so good for the plants. I hurt his feelings when I didn’t appreciate his treasured belongings and leaned too hard on “tasteful” choices. In my defense, I was moving into “their” space, and it felt important to create a sense of myself within it.

Much of our “stuff” did coexist. For example, my big slab pots lived nicely next to his ever-so-delicate Lladro porcelains. In fact, we take great pleasure in the fact that over the years our tastes have merged and we’ve selected many new pieces that blend strength and delicacy. (And after we were married 20 years we finally bought a set of living room furniture together.)

* * *

We wrote our own vows, using an outline provided by a minister I knew from work. We sent new versions back and forth using the same new technology that had brought us together over a work project. The vows were promises to one another. The minister asked us to please mention God in a couple of places.

On Friday, September 27, Peter went to work as usual. I took the day off to arrange a few flowers and try to steady my nerves. A little after 6:30 p.m. Peter, Abby, and I arrived at the home of my friends Carol and Michael and their children, Dan and Maia. The minister arrived a few minutes later, as did Peter’s friends Jim and Sharon. Exactly at 7 the sun came out from behind a cloud and angled its way through the living room window, landing just in front of the fireplace. We emerged from the kitchen, took our places in the sunlight, and pledged to love one another to the best of our abilities.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tagged...and thinking about the bucket list

Jenn at Just Add Water, Silly has tagged me to answer a few questions. It seemed like a simple task, which is my limit these days. Even so, one item brought me up short and made me realize that my lifelong goals are not still something "out there." Read on, and you'll come to that.

4 Things in My Purse:
* Instructions for the new booster seat we’ll use when I drive my grandson to preschool starting this week
* Unused coupons and gift cards for coffee, bread, and two lunches
* Giant collection of keys (soon to diminish when I surrender my 7 work-related keys)
* An iPod Touch that I rarely use—and I’m not sure why

4 Things in My Desk (at Home):
* A silver “Peace in Guatemala” medallion from the Rigoberta Menchu Foundation
* A wonderfully tiny digital voice recorder
* Photo paper in various sizes
* An unused package of hand-held fireworks (sparklers)

4 Favorite Things in My Bedroom:
* Sleek and sturdy oak furniture I bought long ago and still love
* Counted cross-stitch wall hangings made by Peter’s sister and mother—I used to read them to Augie and discovered that he soon learned them by heart
* A dream-catcher
* A sweet taupe pitcher that was my first pottery purchase

4 Things I Enjoy Very Much at the Moment:
* Simplifying—recycling or tossing accumulated papers, clothes, and junk collectibles to reclaim space
* Playing “drum concerts” with the kids
* Hiring someone to help with the cleaning
* Blogging

4 Songs I Can't Get Out of My Head:
* “At Last”…the version by Eva Cassidy, who sang like an angel and died much too young
* A couple of Dr. John’s blues piano riffs…I hear them in my head and find myself playing air piano
* “I Want to Be Your Personal Penguin” by Sandra Boynton…just one of her many great kids’ songs
* “Little Red Rooster,” an old Willie Dixon tune recorded live by the Rolling Stones with Eric Clapton—they should have stayed a blues band!

4 Things I Always Wanted to Do (but Haven't Yet):
* Learn to paint acrylics and/or water colors (which is why I was drawn to Jenn’s site)
* Win the Powerball lottery

Seriously, I don't have much of a "bucket list." Of the things I "always wanted to do," apparently (a) I’ve done it or (b) it’s no longer important to me. I just want to live the life I've built for myself (with the help of others), and that doesn't require big travels or achievements or ... Okay, I just remembered I've always thought about a hot-air balloon ride, but I'm not sure it's in the "want to do" category. Still, I'm sure I'll be remaking that list over the next months and years (I hope!) as I move into retirement. And finally,

4 Things You Don't Know About Me:
* My sleep number is 45.
* I have no tattoos, but if I had the nerve I’d get my eyelids lined to save time and avoid smudged eye makeup. I do NOT have the nerve.
* My favorite candle scents are cinnamon, vanilla, and a wonderful cranberry-orange holiday blend.
* I am fascinated by the information we put out there about ourselves, on the chance that someone will enjoy reading it. I think it’s a new way of bonding…not better or worse than in-person, just different.

So how about you? I’m supposed to tag four people, but not everybody enjoys memes, so let’s open it up instead. Answer these questions, and if you let me know I’ll link to you.

P.S. Having mentioned Jenn, I want to show you the lovely handmade scarf and bookmark (complete with jewels) she sent me when I won her giveaway celebrating her 150th follower. As I told her, I’d been using a receipt for a bookmark; this is much classier. And the scarf will be great with my winter coat when the Minnesota winds get blowing!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By the numbers

Lisa at Grandma's Briefs talks today about how the pressures of life sometimes come to be represented by a brace of numbers. She ends each post with a question, and today's is this: What numbers are currently causing you distress -- or elation?

I realized that numbers do express both my anxieties and my joys right now.

12.5...weeks until I retire.
20...hours a week I work until then. 
40...hours a week I spend doing daycare for the grands
3...major work projects I'm trying to finish
2...beautiful kids who bring me inestimable joy
6:45...the hour they arrive each morning posts since a week ago.

and last but not least,
25...years with Peter; our anniversary comes up soon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wednesday's Word: Exhausted

Exhausted, spent, weary, beat, fatigued, done in...but in a good way.

Our family celebrated my Dad's 95th birthday this weekend. We planned a big brunch with my siblings and some of their offspring (and ours) and assorted cousins. Then before I knew it plans had grown to three days of get-togethers including a visit to the State Fair on its most crowded day ever! My dad clearly loved being the center of attention, and he is enjoying life much more since he and my stepmother moved into assisted living last June. But I'm an off-the-charts introvert, so even when celebrating with my own family, lots of face-time means lots of exhaustion.

Last week was the first week of Wild Rumpus Daycare for this season, so I was already tired before the socializing kicked in. And this week the kids arrive even earlier than last week...6:45 a.m., which is not really in my vocabulary! They let me sleep until 8, when they come and wake me for breakfast. Pretty sweet.

Meanwhile, I finished one big important work project early last week, but the weekend got away from me with not much progress on the next project. So I'm playing catch-up. On the other hand, this coming Friday is September 10. Exactly three months later, I'll be retired from work. Woo-hoo!

Bottom line: life is good but it wears me out, and there's not a lot of time for blogging. I expect that will be the case until, oh, let's say December 10!

Monday, September 6, 2010

I forgot the calendar!

Meet Chris, John, and Andy of Chiropractic Works in York, Maine. The bean pit crew for Harvestfest, they are the September pinups for the Men of York calendar. It's a fundraising project produced by the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce. Having won this calendar from Eva, I have been sharing each month's photo, because I'm generous like that.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday's Word: Imagination

Peter was insistent: we were going to Once Upon a Child, our nearby used clothing store, to find "ruby slippers" and a blue-and-white-checked pinafore so Vi could dress up as Dorothy Gale of Kansas. I admit it: I rolled my eyes. Yet another of my husband's crazy ideas..

Except it was a great idea. ViMae loves her ruby slippers and wears them constantly. She loves the dress we found and wears that nearly every day, too. She renamed her little dog and now totes Toto everywhere she goes--sometimes in a basket.

The kids love the excellent Wizard of Oz exhibit at the Children's Museum (the exhibit closes Sept. 12). We showed them the opening scenes of the movie in which Dorothy gets transported to Oz and meets her traveling companions. Mom and Dad showed them the rest, carefully talking through the scary parts. Like Dorothy's heels, something clicked. ViMae decided she was Dorothy and she assigns supporting roles to those around her. Sometimes I get to be Glinda the Good Witch. Pa has been the Wizard... totally appropriate, given his role in encouraging this little scenario. He regularly tells her to "Pay no attention to the man behind..." whatever he's hiding behind at the moment.

She sometimes responds only to her pseudonym and occasionally blames Dorothy for bad behavior ("Vi doesn't have the crayon in her mouth; Dorothy has the crayon"). Mostly she just has fun with it. And what better role model? Dorothy is brave, and she helps her friends.

The other day, Abby mentioned that Vi's feet are growing again. We've already gone back to buy red shoes--er, ruby slippers--in a larger size.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Three more days!

I can't quite believe it, but I have only three days left of working in the office. After this Thursday, I'll be working half-time at home and I'll drop in at the office briefly one or two afternoons a week until December 10, when I officially retire. Funny thing, we've been planning it and discussing it and I've longed for it, but it still doesn't seem real.

It's not like I'm retiring to a life of ease, because as of Monday the kids will show up at 6:45 a.m. every weekday.  Have I mentioned that I don't do mornings? Last year they arrived at about 9:15, which was totally acceptable. This 6:45 thing is a bit daunting.

Truth to tell, I feel a little disoriented.Big changes are in the making, but they are coming in stages. In a way, that makes it easier. In another way, I can't quite focus. So I'm thinking about the silly stuff: I have to figure out which three outfits to wear this week--the most attractive, the most comfortable, or whatever is clean and not too wrinkled!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tutu times two

By popular demand, here are new photos of ViMae and the St. Paul Saints' Brat Favre wearing their tutus and carrying baseballs to the umpire.

Yes, the pig's name is Brat Favre...names in previous years have included Kevin Bacon and Hammy Davis Junior. Dennis, the animal trainer, carries a bottle of sugar water. ViMae needs no such incentives...she loves putting on the tutu and the helmet and she takes plenty of time to approach the umpire and then to turn and wave to the crowd. Very soon she won't need Grandma to keep her on course.

The helmet is now required for any kids who go onto the field. You can understand it for the bat and ball kids, and the tykes who post the "K" signs to mark strikeouts. But kids take balls to the umpire between innings, when nobody is swinging a bat. Still, rules are rules, and we need to set a good example. So she plops the big old helmet on (as does Augie when it's his turn) and off she goes.

This tutu is huge and puffy. I made it with a no-sew method that you can find here and here. I used 6-inch rolls of tulle from the fabric and craft store--nearly 3 rolls of pink and one of purple. You make a loop of elastic a little bigger than the child's waist, and then cut the strips of tulle to double the length you want (I used 26 inches for a 13-inch skirt). You double the piece of tulle and loop it through the elastic. Repeat a hundred times (or whatever). I think I made it a little too full for a 2-year-old, but she handles it fine. It will look all crisp and neat at first, but if it's worn for play (which this one is) it will develop, um, "character." All the more charming.

An extra-special treet was running into Saints mascot Mudonna beneath the stands and getting a special hug. Both kids LOVE Mudonna. She is very good with children, and it seems as though she goes out of her way to be good to ours.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday's Word: Blogiversary

Yesterday (August 17) was the one-year anniversary of my blog. My first post was photos of the grandkids at a Saints game. To celebrate, here are some new pix of the kids at the ballpark.

Augie has made friends with the umpires, and the crew chief recently invited him to join the umpire crew as they rubbed mud on the balls before the game. (Yes, the balls come shiny in the box and have to be rubbed with special mud to take the shine off.) He has no idea what an honor that is, or how unusual it is for umpires to emerge onto the field, turn to the stands, and call, "Hi, Augie!" Not only that, they gave him an official American Association umpire's cap.

On the same evening, ViMae was invited to carry balls out to the umpire. One of the Saints' traditions is that each year a new trained pig totes balls to the umpire. On occasion a fan gets to do the job; Augie's done it a few times. ViMae was wearing her new tutu (which I had just made) and the pig wore his tutu, and they were both very cute. (I'll post a better shot of the tutu another day.)


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