Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I suck at Yoga and that's a wonderful feeling!

This is not bragging just a realistic assessment: I am a person with multiple intellectual and artistic talents. There are not many things that I have tried in life that I could not learn to do moderately well with a modicum of effort. 

There were two negative consequences to that: First, because I could do many things pretty well with a little bit of practice (like playing piano, or  understanding mathematics) with a few exceptions I rarely put in the kind of concerted, long term effort it takes to get really outstanding. I've been content with being above average on many things but not really excellent at anything.  Second, on the rare occasions that I encountered something at which I truly sucked (like playing guitar), I very quickly gave up. 

So yoga is a whole new experience for me.  I'm over Medicare age, morbidly obese, with extensive osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; my disks are deteriorating, my rotator cuffs in both shoulders scarred from multiple injuries, and while my knees and hips aren't ready for surgery yet, it may not be long before they are. I haven't tried any exercise beyond walking since 1989. So I truly suck at yoga.  

My first yoga lesson (four weeks ago) was nearly my last. By the end of the first lesson, when I couldn't come near doing any of the exercises or postures - except for the breathing - I felt I had no right to take up space in a yoga class or the time of the yoga instructor. At the end of the class feeling depressed and humiliated I went up to the instructor to apologize for my miserable existence and say that I would not be back. But before I could get the first word out, the instructor (a truly amazing young woman) put her finger over my mouth and said "NO! Stop! You are NOT allowed to criticize yourself here." I don't remember everything she said next, but I left that room knowing that I would keep coming back and that it didn't matter if I continued to suck at yoga for years to come, as long as I got some benefit out of it. 

The incredible thing is that even though I still can't do anything at all the way it's suppose to be done, I can see tiny improvements and I feel so good at the end of each lesson, despite sucking so completely. It feels like a huge life victory to keep doing something even though I'm terrible at it.  


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Transitions

As an academic, retirement has been a process, a series of "last" milestones.

April 25th was my last honors night, giving awards to my awesome, outstanding students...and getting a "standing ovation" from my colleagues.  April 27 was my last classroom day, and at the suggestion of the students we had a little party (after I crammed in one more 30 minutes of lecture!) - they gave me a lovely picture frame as a gift.  May 5th was my last graduation ceremony. Time to say good-bye to most of my teaching colleagues as well as this years' graduates. Then the last weekend of grading, and turning in my final set of grades on May 8th.

The rest of May was a mix of vacation days and days working in emptying out my office. I had 35 years of files - from previous teaching jobs as well as my current one - to sort through. A few things to keep, a lot to toss in recycling and even more that had to be run through a shredder (student confidentiality). There were lots of memories in there, lots of wonderful students, and some lousy experiences as well. On the days I wasn't in the office I was working on organizing my home office space so that there would be room for the few things I wanted to save. A lot of vacation days were also spent dealing with retirement paperwork..."who knew" there was so much paperwork involved with retirement?!

There were things that needed to be given away:  a huge treasure trove of craft materials were donated to a local Headstart program; my microwave went to Wendy in the office on one side of me, the refrigerator to Ariel in the office on the other side of me; Pricie in the office got huge piles of file folders, pens, pencils, scissors, tape, and other sundry office supplies; my multi-colored dry erase markers went to John; the Respiratory Therapy program gratefully accepted drawer organizers for their new classroom, and the Adult Ed program was glad to have all my stacking in/out boxes; books were donated to a variety of sources; the faculty secretary got my collection of coffee mugs, and sugar containers.

There was paperwork involved with tying up the committee I'd chaired for 2 years and making sure all the documents were available to be passed on to the next chairs.

This past Wednesday, May 31st was my very last day in that office. Everything (except two telephone books left for the next occupant) was gone except for the college's furnishings and college computer. My diplomas and awards and paintings had been taken down from the walls and carried home. At the end of the day, I took all the office keys - keys to the office door, the building front and back, the other building, and all the desk, cabinet and file keys - off my key ring and left them on the desk, leaving the door unlocked.

I had not realized how final that would feel. This is the first time in 42 years (since I started graduate school in January 1975) that I do not have a huge bundle of office keys and access to an office space away from my home.  I actually feel "retired" now (although my official retirement date is June 30 and last pay check two weeks after that).

Suddenly I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. The earlier stuff, the end of actual teaching and grading and going to graduation felt good, felt like letting go of a huge burden. Letting go of my own personal office space and all that entails is much more sobering and scary.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The best moment of the year

It's the middle of May in eastern Kentucky and white blossoms are everywhere. Wild roses (rosa multiflora) and blackberries spill from banks and hillsides perfuming the warm air, while field daisies and daisy fleabane (erigeron strigosus) march gaily along the roadsides and adorn the unmown yards and meadows.

Driving this week car windows down to smell the roses and blackberries, I found myself saying "now is my favorite moment of the year." Then I laughed to remember that just four weeks ago, when the purple redbud and lacy dogwood were in bloom, I had said the same thing: "my favorite moment of the year."  Moreover, a few weeks before that in mid-March I was sighing over the splashes of yellow daffodils, and exuberant forsythia everywhere, also thinking "best moment of the year."

Not long from now in June I'll be thinking the same thing when the first local blueberries come to the Letcher County Farmer's Market and the day lilies turn my hillside orange. The thought will come again in July when my first tomatoes get ripe and I eat them warm off the vine. I will also be thinking it when the jewel weed blooms its millions of tiny orange flowers that attract the hummingbirds to sup in September - also the moment when the Virgin's bower vines burst into delicate white blooms.

Then comes October and all the maples go scarlet and rose. Once again, I'm thinking "my favorite moment of the year."  One might think that was the end of it, but in November when all the leaves are gone the stately majesty of white limbed sycamores stand tall as the guardians of the winter forest causing me to once again think "this is it."

So it turns out that every moment in the mountains of eastern Kentucky is the best moment of the year.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Old Dogs (and Humans) Learn New Tricks

Eight years ago today (February 23, 2009)  I posted the following "25 Random Things About Myself" on Facebook:

In the last two days I've seen the 25 random things lists of two very different people (a fellow baby boomer poet and a 19 year old college student) which got me inspired to try. I'll bet I'd come up with 25 very different things a week from now.

25 random things about me: 
  1. The best portrait I ever drew was of my best college friend’s dad, George Porter – it was a tiny sketch that looked so perfectly like him it was almost as if some outside force had worked through my hands. 

  2. I hate asparagus – if I even attempt to eat them I start gagging. 
  3. The most thrilling experience I ever had was riding as a passenger on pilot check rides, where the pilots did touch and go landings at Half Moon Bay airport. Once at sunset, a pilot made the sun “set” and then “rise” by swooping down and then up above the fog bank. 
  4. My favorite city to visit is Boston – I love the MBTA and I always had the right change to get back off. The best hot fudge sundae I ever had was at Bailey’s in Boston (long since gone out of business). 
  5. I never spent a night alone in the house I grew up in until I was 19 years old, and found I was unable to sleep listening for every little noise. 
  6. My favorite book in childhood was Little Women, and my favorite character in the book was “Beth” – the one who dies before adulthood. My favorite book in adulthood is Beauty by Sherri Tepper in which she blends fantasy and science fiction in a moral tale about the destruction of beauty in the world, and really made me think about the choices we make. 
  7. As long as I have a nice warm house and no place I have to drive, the best weather is what I can see out my window right now – deep fluffy snow. The world simplifies down to the stark basics of white and black. 
  8. The person I enjoy talking to most in the whole world is my husband, John. 
  9. I love Cinderella stories. My favorites are Eleanor Farjeon’s book The Glass Slipper and the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore, but I’m also found of the movie The Glass Slipper with Leslie Caron, the Rogers and Hammerstein television version from the 1960’s with Leslie Ann Warren (and her crooked smile), and movie musical The Slipper and the Rose from 1976 with Richard Chamberlain as the Prince. But I will read and watch any version of the story at least once.
  10. I cannot go to sleep unless I read first. My preferred bedtime reading is mysteries, especially police procedurals, detective fiction, and legal thrillers. 
  11. I’m not sure I was really “in love” with my first husband, although I certainly loved him. 
  12. Until I was in high school and was earning my own money, I had only three “store bought” dresses. All my clothes were hand me downs from older cousins, from rummage sales, and thrift shops or hand made by one of my aunts. I learned to sew at age 10 in self-defense and made most of the dresses I wore from fifth grade on. By the time I was in my twenties I was an excellent tailor, and made the wool suits that I did my job interviewing. 
  13. I haven’t sewn a dress or skirt or blouse since 1988 when I discovered credit cards and catalogs. 
  14. I never went on a date in high school. My best friend wanted me to come to the junior prom with her and her boyfriend, so she set me up with an old friend from junior high school (who went to a different school). I was so anxious about the date, that I worked myself into illness (supposedly strep throat but I don’t think that was diagnosed by a doctor) and cancelled out on the whole event. I never finished sewing the evening gown for the event. 
  15. My first kiss was at 16 from a college boy who was a counselor at a day camp where I volunteered. I was so terrified by the sexual feelings that were evoked that I actually blanked out the experience completely for more than twenty years. If you’d asked me at age 20, I would have said my first kiss came in college at age 18. 
  16. I hate grading essays. It’s the one thing that I really dislike about being a college professor. But nonetheless I think that students learn more from having to synthesize ideas from various sources into an essay, so I persist on assigning multiple essays in every class, every semester. 
  17. The only thing that makes being “pre-diabetic” tolerable is Russell Stover sugar free mint patties in dark chocolate. The thought that I might never be able to eat another box of See’s Candies dark Bordeaux chocolates is almost unbearable.
  18. I have not made any new close friends in fifteen years – a fact that I very much regret, but don’t quite know how to over come, as everyone I know locally these days has their life sewn up with children, grandchildren and other family ties. 
  19. Most of my interaction with people (other than my husband), including students is over the Internet or by long distance telephone, which I value but still miss the face-to-face connections. 
  20. In the winter, I’m obsessed with looking for sycamore trees, with their white limbs standing out against the brown of the forest. In the spring, my obsession is daffodils. In college, we could buy huge bunches of daffodils for 50 cents at the local grocery store. In graduate school, unable to find any to buy I would go out at night during spring break and steal daffodils from Fraternity row. 
  21. Currently my favorite color for clothing, flowers, and household stuff is yellow. But giving me a bright fire engine red car any day. 
  22. I don’t know which I regret more, the things I did do that I should not have, or the things I did not do that I should have. What I do know is that I try not to spend too much time regretting either thing – it detracts from living.
  23. People’s faces I can draw with ease, but I can’t draw a cat worth a darn. Their bodies always seemed distorted and too long and narrow. I’ve never tried drawing my dog. 
  24. During my senior year in high school, while working in the city library, I saw a girl I’d never seen before on the far side of the library’s main floor – more than 100 feet away, and knew instantly without a doubt that her name was the same as mine. I walked across the room, and asked her “are you Sue Greer?” and she said “yes.” So I said “hi, my name is Sue Greer, too.” She went to a different high school at the other end of the city, and was two years behind me. We were not related in any way. The only way I could have know who she was, was some form of extrasensory perception.
  25. I love television. I love sitcoms, dramas, movies, soap operas, 24 hour news channels, home improvement shows, the Weather Channel, even commercials, although I don’t watch as much as I once did. Nonetheless, my evening doesn’t seem quite complete if I don’t watch some TV.
What I find fascinating is that quite unexpectedly a number of those have changed in just 8 years.
#2 I've actually eaten and loved locally grown asparagus, turns out it all depends upon the quality of the food and the cooking!
#7 I have become much more active out of necessity to stay healthy and now don't much care for snow or cold weather (which mess with my asthma), now my favorite weather is anything above 50 degrees where I can be outside and moving - doesn't matter if its sunny or drizzly as long as I can walk, I'm happy.
#13 I've been doing more sewing in recent years, including making a skirt this past fall.
#17 Turns out sugarless candies give me gas. I did develop diabetes - now well under control - and it turns out I didn't have to give up See's dark bordeaux chocolates completely. What I did have to give up was being a couch potato and that is more of a gain than a loss.
#23 Gotten a lot better at drawing cats, and have done drawings of dogs.
#25 I don't care for television as much now that I am more active, and there are now many days during that the television does not get turned on at all. When I do watch it something specific that I share with my husband.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What is Romantic?

Apparently two years ago, my Valentine's Day must have been similar to yesterday, because I began this blog post exactly two years ago - and here I am wanting to write about the exact same thing. 

I have a wonderful husband.  He is kind and considerate, loving and caring. He cleans up after himself and after the cats and dogs and me at times. He does dishes, scoops kitty litter boxes, does laundry, does grocery shopping. But the best thing about him is that he is a wonderful conversational partner. Talking to John is the greatest thing in my life. He's knowledgeable and interested in the world, and very funny. We share many interests and points of view from our career paths (we're both sociologists and college instructors) to our social and political views. He is from my point of view just about perfect in every way.  

In fact the only flaw I see in him is that he absolutely refuses to accept that he is wonderful, and persists in believing that some how he is inadequate, and that I "deserve" someone "better." 

When I was a child my ideas of love and romance were influenced by what I saw happening between my parents and all the schmaltzy romantic movies that my mother loved and shared with me.  My parents had a pretty typical 1950's style marriage. My dad went to work everyday, earned a paycheck, brought it home, kissed my mom, ate dinner, watched TV and did yard work and worked on stuff in the garage. My mom did everything else. My father always remembered her birthday, Valentine's Day and their anniversary with flowers, cards, candy, and sometimes  sexy nightgowns. Each night they slept together in a cozy double bed. However, my father was also a petty tyrant who at times treated both my mother and us children as his subjects to be bullied and belittled. 

I grew up thinking that a husband had to do all those things to show his affection. And I have to admit that it took me a while to let go of all that external symbolic stuff. But let it go I did, because I'd far rather have the true romance of shared life and companionable equality, than a "romantic" tyrant.