Archive | May, 2010

Once a Gator, Always a Gator

28 May

26 years of stuff gone through, packed, loaded into my truck, and now in a stack in the garage.  I left my office nearly empty of books and doo-dads and decor.  All that remains is stuff going to a friend next Tuesday,  stuff bequeathed to the new librarian, and the soon to be replaced computer. 

I feel so fortunate to have been a part of MGMS.  It’s the third middle school of my career.  I was at WMS for the first 8 years–the years before CSAP.  Then RMS–Camelot to me, “The Academy” (insert sarcasm font) to those not lucky enough to get a position there–for 13 years, and now the last 5 at MGMS–the Swamp–home of the Gators.  MGMS is a rural school, drawing mainly from a low SES population.  We struggle with test scores, but we LOVE our kids.  The staff continually searches for whatever will help our kids connect to their learning.  The building re-invented itself into a culture of reading these last few years, and continues to move forward to help our kids–they who probably have no books at all in their homes. 

It feels weird to disconnect myself from this.  I drove home in tears.  I knew this was the end of my career, thought I was ready, and now I feel teary and a bit lost.  Kind of like I felt at the end of The Book Thief.  I knew exactly what would happen–any story narrated by death just cannot end well–and then the ending I expected happened and I wasn’t prepared for it at all.  I sat on the couch, sobbing ’til my face hurt.  So here I am at the end of a story, wondering what to read next and hoping for something as fabulous as the last one.  I’m sad, but excited for the next chapter of my life. 

I said my “so longs” to the literacy staff today.  So long because we want to stay in touch.  We’re thinking book club and other get-togethers.  I’ve stayed in touch with friends from RMS, and have every intention of doing so with the Gators too.  I’m keeping my Twitter name: @gatorgoddess, because my heart belongs to MGMS.  I’m proud to be experiencing what I’ve heard said by others who have left MGMS before me:  Once a Gator, always a Gator. 

(The picture is my collection of gators, sitting on the “new books” cart in the library that was my home for the last 3 years.  The gators came home with me today.)

Soul Gardening

24 May

Ahhhhhhhh.  The wind has “relaxed” according to our TV weather guy.  The sun came out.  You can see the Mesa from our house for the first time in days.  After dinner (Monday night is pizza night!), I went out to water the plants still in the greenhouse, and assess the wind damage from the last four days.  Those little plants are not much worse for the wear!  I planted a new tomatillo where the wind broke one off, and may need to re-plant a couple of Roma tomatoes.  Aside from that and a few broken leaves on the squash, the garden seems happy.

I went around visiting each little group of plants, talking to them and telling them how wonderful they are to have survived outside in wind that picked up a piece of plywood and tossed it to the back of the property.  I poked around a bit in the radishes to check their size and found some ready to pick!  I picked black-seeded Simpson lettuce, arugula, spinach and an onion to go with them–“House Salad” for lunch tomorrow!  What a lovely bouquet the radishes make, what an earthy still life they make with the greens. 

Just this wee bit of time in the garden has quieted my wind-borne demons.  A garden connects your soul to the earth, nourishing spiritually as much as it will nutritionally.  Everyone needs someplace to reconnect to themselves; a place to be present.  Worries will still pop up every now and then.  I’m lucky to have a place where I can set them aside.

Partly Worried With A Chance of Panic

24 May

So.  We’ve had a run of greywindyrainycool weather lately, and all the dreariness has taken up residence in my head.  The result?  Partly worried with a chance of panic.  I’m worried about how already 5-years-retired DH will adjust to me being in the house more often.  A lot more often.  He has a sort of schedule he follows—will I fit in there?  Will I be in the way?  Will he be resentful if errands don’t get run, email doesn’t get answered, finances don’t get managed because I got a wild hair and decided we should go buy a new tree or something?  Will I be resentful if he needs to get his email answered when I want him to come out and play with me?

Will I lose track of my school and library friends?  What will I talk about at parties with them?  We always commiserate about stuff going on at our respective schools.  OMG!  I’m going to be like our spouses who feel excluded from the conversations!  Ack!!!!  Should have been more understanding of THAT—hindsight!

And what about money?  A pension is not the same money you make being a 26-year employee with a master’s degree in a large school district.  We don’t have a ton of bills hanging over our heads, but less is still less.  And, Mr. 15 is on the verge of a driver’s license, and moving ever closer to college.


OK.  So I feel a bit better just writing this all down—after all, it’s only a few paragraphs—not nearly so insurmountable as it had been when it was just lurking around in my head.  I’m feeling the need to balance out the panic with some reality.  On to the stuff I’m NOT worried about.

It’ll be OK.  Lots of people retire and live to tell about it.  Many of them even enjoy retirement!  I know I’ll be busy; I’ve joined the Band Parent’s Board of Mr. 15’s high school, the greenhouse wants me to work more hours, we have a lot of landscaping to repair now that the addition is complete.  I have a ton of the usual “oh, I’ll clean out the storage shed when I’m retired” stuff.  We want to travel and visit friends and new places.  I’ve promised to go play in friends’ libraries and bring them mochas.

I will have the freedom to not be TOO busy.  I’m definitely not going to be too busy to have that second cup of coffee and listen to the birds welcome the morning.

What will you do when you’re retired?

21 May
Evening in the veggie garden
Evening in the veggie garden

This is the most asked question these days.  A close second is “how many days left?”  For the record, the number is 6 after today.  One of my answers to this question is “putter around in the garden.”  Last night I finished planting my veggie garden for this season.  There are 8 kinds of tomatoes, 5 of which are heirloom varieties, onions, shallots, 3 kinds of peppers, 2 kinds of beans, 3 kinds of squash, corn, cucumbers, carrots, tomatillos, potatoes, peas, dill, garlic, cilantro, basil, lettuce, arugula, spinach, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries. (whew!)

Potatoes are planted with beans, each keeps a bug off the other, carrots planted with tomatoes, they help each other grow.  Tomatoes are kept away from potatoes–they hate each other and don’t grow well together.  Squash are in their own bed in anticipation of this summer’s epic squash bug war.  As the tomatoes start setting, I’ll tie bird tape to the tomato ladders, hopefully discouraging the birds from sampling my tomatoes (MY tomatoes) before I get a chance. 

I took this picture last night after I’d finished planting and turned the water on.  It was about 7:30.  Birds were singing, the roosters next door were crowing, there was a light breeze whispering through the pussy willow.  The sun was still illuminating the Mesa in the distance, and dancing around in the top of the cottonwood.  Just being in the garden made my shoulders relax and placed a contented smile on my face….ahhhhh.  My garden is such a wonderful place. 

You probably noticed the tall fence around the garden; it’s not because of deer, but to keep out bunnies.  A bit of overkill, but the chainlink was free, so a tall fence it is!  Bunnies are cute and all, but can be voracious–decimating entire sections of a garden overnight!  The beds are all raised, filled with quality soil we brought in and amend yearly.  The native soil of this place is way too alkaline for growing much of anything.  It seems like commando gardening here sometimes–a lot of hard work and effort is needed to harvest enough food for dinner, let alone canning for the winter.

But, in spite of the bunniesbugsalkalibirdswindheat, I LOVE to garden.  I love going out in the morning to see what will be in my omelet.  I love gathering fresh basil and tomatoes for a caprese salad, I love making salsas and tomato sauce that let me taste summer all winter long.  I love how stress is left at the garden gate.  I’m looking forward to enjoying my garden well into the fall when I’d normally be back at school.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

Two boxes, a Tribble and a Triumph

17 May

 Lots of stuff sorted, some tossed, some recycled, some packed.  Two boxes of my teaching/librarian life came home with me today.  Some of the little trinket-y things will make my home desk more familiar.  Books will find a home on the shelves of our loft library.  This is starting to feel not so bad.  Things that have been a part of me for only 191 days a year will now be here with me 365.  I’m kinda likin’ this!  I’m thinking I’ll be OK.  My school family won’t be here, but reminders of them will.

In my sorting, I came across something that will tell you if you’re as old as me: a Tribble.  Remember the old Star Trek–the one with Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty?  I watched it growing up and then every day in reruns on the TV in the student lounge of ASC–it came on the hour before the cafeteria opened for dinner.  Are ya with me?!  “The Trouble with Tribbles?!”  The one where the Starship Enterprise becomes infested with Tribbles–brought on board after a shore leave as comforting, harmless little pets.  Tribbles are sort of ovoid, furry, fit nicely into your hand and coo when stroked.  But then they do the wild Tribble thing, and the ship is overrun.  Earlier in the show you find out that Tribbles hate Klingons, and this becomes the day-saver.  A surgically altered Klingon has come on board to do some evil and is undiscovered–until a Tribble goes nuts when he walks by!  So.  I had a Tribble.  Furry.  Ovoid.  Strangely comforting to pet.  AND–if you squeezed it it made the Tribble alert noise (hehehe!).  The Tribble now lives with the rest of my Star Trek/Star Wars toys in the room of a fellow Jean Luc Picard lover (swoon!).  One of the harder things I’ve given up for some reason.

And now, the Triumph.  Not me.  Mr. 15(!) is now the proud carrier of his driver’s permit!  Woot!  He was pleased enough to text me!  We’ve decided to celebrate by toasting each other with our own personal pints of Ben and Jerry’s:  Karmal Sutra for Mr. 15, Americone Dream for DH, and Coffee HeathBar Crunch for me: Ching!  To the newest driver in the family!  May he help with driving duties on the long summer road trip to New Mexico, Arizona and Californ-i-aaaa!  I’m very happy for him and hoping to NOT stress him out by showing my stress over the common skill set of a new driver.  I’m very lucky in that he is cautious by nature– a good quality in any driver.  More to look forward to in the days to come.  My end is becoming a new beginning!

The Ghost of Retirement Yet To Come…

16 May

Today was everything I hope retirement will be:  sleeping in, lazy breakfast, coffee on the deck.  Then gardening–I planted most of my tomatoes and squash, while DH placed new drippers into a couple of wine barrels repurposed as planters.  All the while, the usual Sunday stuff that is laundry was going on–hanging out clothes to a mockingbird seranade.  Just a beautiful day. 

In the afternoon, we drove up the road a few miles to the Reeder Mesa Winery for the wine club pick-up party.  Doug and Kris throw THE best pick-up parties.  Not only do you get your new wine club offerings, but they provide all sorts of appetizers, wine tastings, and barrel tastings of wines yet to be bottled–my fav today: the 09 Cab Franc–beautiful dark red, lots of spice!  Hung out with lots of other wine clubbers, including a friend from work who is retiring this year too.  We lifted our glasses to each other and toasted the good fortune of retiring in a great place, with many years of parties like these yet to come. 

Now home, watching the sun set over the Uncompagre.  Last load of laundry is on the line.  11 days left, only 8 of those with kids in the building.  Then everyday can be like this day, or however I decide it should be.  It makes me smile contentedly just thinking about it.  Ahhhhhh…..

How do you pack memories?

14 May

I’m a cluttery person.  I like to have whatever I’m working within reach.  Right now, that’s book fair financials and a ship-back bill of lading, it’s the password to a science teacher’s ning, the latest School Library Journal, the last two years’ “State of the Library” reports and the missing books and fines list. 

Surrounding my cluttery desk, I keep memento clutter from 26 years in education:  a silly postcard from “The Phantom”–a teacher from the first building I taught in, who made it their mission to leave day-brighteners in mailboxes.  A whale that hung over a group to identify them for an interdisciplinary unit.  A name badge from a conference, decorated with “badge-bling.”  Journals I kept and wrote in during free-write time with my literacy students.  Magic wands that used to cast good spelling spells and a bee puppet–the “spelling bee.”  Pictures of team 7-1, known as 7-wonderful.  Posters made by former students.  Pictures of me and the literacy team from RMS and Will Hobbs from nearly 20 years ago, along with a picture of Will from his visit to MGMS this year.  Writing books, Science books, Librarian books, novels, picture books and some from my bachelor’s degree a million years ago.  Stuffed gators (this school’s mascot), a plush Babymouse, a plush Skippyjon Jones, and a vampire bear used to promote “books with bite” last year.  A signed Nancy Pearl action figure (with magic shushing action) and her library.  Really, more stuff than should fit into my tiny office.

The memories attached to these things are making it hard to pack them up.  I just can’t bear the thought of putting my memories in a box that will likely end up in storage.  It just seems so final.  I’ve given away a few things to good homes, comforted knowing they’ll go on amusing those I’ve gifted them to.  I know the giant stuffed snake will be happy with the boy who admired it these last three years. 

I’m not making much progress cleaning out my office.  I have great intentions, but fewer days all the time to pack.  Logical me thinks it would be a great idea to bring a box home each night.  Boxes brought home so far?  None.  It’s gotta happen, though.  Soon.  26 years of stuff to pack, along with the people, the places, the events, the laughs and the tears.

Miss Brooks Loves Books

13 May

Yesterday, the fabulous staff and administration of my school threw a retirement party for the five of us retiring.  Each of us received a basket of goodies selected especially for us.  The goodie in my basket that touched my heart was this book.  Miss Brooks really loves books and makes it her mission to help kids love books as much a she does.  She dresses up in costumes and reads to her kids.  A lot.  A situation particularly “vexing” to reluctant reader Missy.  When Miss Brooks assigns each kid to dress in a costume and share a book they love, Missy still can’t find a book to love; dismissing her classmates’ books as “Too flowery, too furry, too clickety, too yippity.”  Of course, Miss Brooks doesn’t give up, and neither does Missy’s mom.  Will Missy find a book to love?  I’ll bet you know the answer to that, but you’ll need to read this book to find out the connection that turns Missy into a reader.  I LOVED this book.  It brought a tear to my eye.  Thanks, Terrie!  You found the perfect book for me!  Read more and have a look inside this book at Amazon.  (Image above from the Amazon site)

Release the Kraken

12 May

A retirement affects more than just the retiree.  Completely logical.  Different people react in different ways to the impending leave-taking.  Sadness.  Abandonment.  Indifference.  Anger.  Unfairness.  Happiness.  I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of  such a range of responses as I released my “Kraken.”  Actually, never thought of retirement as a Kraken until experiencing the negative effects it’s having on others.  The Kraken is here, confronting them on a daily basis.  

The response that caught me completely by surprise was Anger.  Anger with me because I choose to celebrate the end of my career and the beginning of the next part of my life.  Anger from the assumption that if I’m happy with my decision to retire, I’m being a drain on those around me, detracting from the quality of my work.  The assumption that I’m a “short-timer” and have no motivation to do a good job.  Nothing is farther from the truth. 

The reality of retirement is that it’s change, and change is hard.  You get to choose how you handle change.  I’m choosing to learn and grow from it.  I’m choosing to let others deal with the Kraken how they see fit, but I’m not letting him drool his negativity on me.  I’m just gonna have another cup of coffee and plan out what to do with my first day of “freedom.”

Letting go….

11 May

Who knew letting go would be so hard?  Letting go of control over the library I’ve helped to mold into a welcoming, comfortable environment for learning and creativity.  Letting go of daily encounters with a staff that has become like family.  Letting go of the professional me.   When I’m in my library, I feel smart.  I feel needed.  I feel valued.  Some days, I even feel like “super librarian.”  Who will I be June 2nd?  Someone who used to be a librarian?   What IS that?   Will my connection to my professional self become like the soft frayed fabric of my jeans; closer to completely tearing with every wash, a hole where the knee used to be? 

I’ll miss professional me, but I’ll miss my “family” the most.  They are passionate–about their jobs, their kids, each other.  I have been so lucky to be a part of them.  Leaving them is leaving a hole in my heart.  I refuse to completely let go of them and really, I suppose the professional me will still be lurking around, ready to pop back out as needed.

Y’know, after the initial shock at the tear, I always get used to the holes in my jeans.  I even like them.  I can’t wear them to work, though.  Starting June 2, that won’t matter.  Each morning, I’ll be enjoying my second cup of coffee in my jammies, and wearing my holey jeans whenever I want–hopefully when I can go out for a “beverage” or two to stay in touch with my “family.”