Monday, April 28, 2014

Change from within

Soon, right around the bend, we'll be receiving pamphlets and literature about local, state and national elections, as well as  about measures that will affect local quality of life. My front yard will display what we believe are the right  candidates and the right measures to support.

Were we always this open about our political views?
Not really.

Most of our adult years were spent raising a family and providing for the present while hoping the future would automatically get better by itself, somehow. We accepted rules and the status quo automatically. After all, we were just cogs in big machines.

The first time I experienced a change in policy occurred accidentally.

I was pregnant with my youngest child, and had ten days to go to finish my third year of probationary status as a teacher. Ten days. If I didn't teach those ten days, I could not become permanent.  Ten days at the end of a school year are the most difficult days to teach for reasons teachers know well : teens are most erratic at this time; their families angry at the school and the teacher that dared hand out failing marks; and vandalism can occur even among "good" students. The child was due at the end of April. Returning to teach for the last ten days of school in June meant that I would have to leave a small infant too soon.

I spoke with my administrators about my situation before I left for maternity leave. They told me rules were rules. I offered a compromise. What if I could return to work and bring my newborn and a nanny so I could still nurse him as necessary and not disrupt his life at such a stage? Though this meant that I needed to run to the lounge that existed in the next building over at break time and rush to nurse in the ten minutes left, they agreed it could work out.

The administrators were more than willing. They moved my classes closer to the lounge, and they provided both a rocking chair and an extra heater for that room.  A colleague with a free period before break came by ten minutes ahead of schedule to cover my class and released me to go nurse for a whole half hour!

I was able to nurse the baby every two hours and the school didn't have to get a sub at the end of the year when any change would have been most distracting to students.

It was this act that changed my viewpoint about rules and regulations. Rules are meant to enhance our quality of life not diminish it. When I became an administrator, I made sure my staff had time to attend to their own children's needs.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How old dogs learn new tricks

We do what we do the same way we did last week, last month. Heck, we can count back to last year, and last decade. Most things we do, we do because they are easy and automatic. Most of human inventions have created a world where we hardly have to do any thing besides sit on that desk, walk next door to a meeting, drive an automatic car back and forth, and at the end of the day, pick up food before heading home to finally lounge on that couch that supports our weary backs,  and enjoy the 100+ channel television with a remote control that can automatically switch to a pre-determined program.

We skipped breakfast, ran off to work or play and by noon we'd be ready for a lovely lunch at our favorite restaurant with a glass of beer or wine, a slice of cake, and enough calories to last us for the next twenty four hours. In a stupor, we craved afternoon naps and long rest breaks, too tired for anything else the rest of the day. We managed to stay awake with coffees and energy drinks, and since we all had long work days and work weeks, we accepted that we had to make time to go to the gym as well after our work days.

If the family never saw us, it was not our fault!

In my family, our evening meal, if it was cooked at home, occurred late.  Until the children were able to start a roast or reheat a casserole,  they all relied on me to get  the big pot to boil water for a pasta meal. Satiated, we'd watch television until we fell asleep; or until one of the children needed help with homework.

We lived like this for decades.

Only after we retired, and  after some serious health scares, new habits had to be incorporated, spoiling all the routines we had cultivated for decades.

Now, we don't leave the house without water and snacks, and identified places where we can exercise and sit down for a healthy lunch.

Usually, as soon as we wake, early most days, we  eat a balanced breakfast, whether we are hungry or not. An hour or so after that, we're off and running, physical movements prevailing, long walks, chores like gardening or cleaning, and driving off to doctors and pharmacies.  When we do go out for lunch, we share an entree, and each gets a salad. Sharing had never been part of our earlier routines. At dinner, I don't have to use my big pot to boil anything. Vegetables can be steamed or stir fried easily in a smaller pan, and fish or chicken is grilled quickly on the side. Noodles, pasta and pizza, our favorite stand-byes, are now almost dessert. They appear on special occasions.

We are conscious of our physical needs all the time; we park as far away from a place as possible, and walk the rest of the way. We do our house maintenance just because we need to use certain muscles. We even bought shoes with laces so that bending and lacing up keeps us limber longer. We store stuff in the big garage freezer that requires a conscious effort and consciousness before we choose to eat up the house.

We used to rest after our meals in the past. Now, we try to stay active, cleaning up, folding laundry, watering plants, sweeping the deck, or taking a short walk around the neighborhood. Smaller meals do not make us drowsy; and moving about after small meals is easier than after big meals.

Our refrigerator is full of vegetables, fruit and dairy.
Our pantry has nuts, beans, grains, oils and spices.

Of all habits, feeding ourselves, and moving consciously have improved our lives the most.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Free to define this Living

Writers and Artists Exchange-Port Orford, Or. 2013

For decades, on freeways and byways, driving miles and hours to and from work in the early and late hours of the day, I could only concentrate on two things, the road and the immediate problem facing me at the end of the trip.

Sometimes, the time that it took for me to drive, that distance, physical and emotional, between my problems and the rest of my life though long in miles and time, was enough to help me see that the bigger question was never asked; and the bigger decisions were never in my in-basket. I could only think of the most pressing tasks ahead, while the bigger things in life were deferred, day after day, months after months, decades after decades.

The bigger things in life moved at their own pace.

How and when did I define my life?
Did I contribute much to the direction my life took?
When did I have an opportunity to be bold and unafraid and state what was most important in my life?

By my count, five times stand as markers:
1. When I came to America
2. When I moved out to live on my own.
3.When I got married.
4.When we decided to quit our jobs and pursue higher education.
5. When we retired.

What do I wish I had done consciously during all those years of work?

1. Take sabbaticals.  I could have planned three to six months travel studies in all the major parts of the world. Our lives would have been enriched immensely.

2. Take more vacations.

3. Write

4. Learn to play an instrument

5. Pursue hobbies and other activities on my own, not just what my family needed from me.

How about you? Were you free and conscious of your decisions?