Busy Days

We went to see “Little Women,” which Rich and I enjoyed. Ally was not quite sure about it but she was a good sport and said she liked it by the end. She said “it was confusing at first.” She’s never read the book and the movie hops back and forth in time so I can see where it might not make sense to her. ¬†We’ve played lots of games and Grandpa’s fixed her favorite meals…predictably pizza, tacos, burgers, etc. ūüôā We’ve taken a walk most evenings and she likes getting on the swings at the park when we go by. She went with me to my volunteer work at the White Rock Center of Hope and was a big help to everyone, straightening up and rearranging the book shelves in the waiting room, wiping down clipboards since we are trying to be extra hygienic these days, greeting people, and chit chatting with all. The “little old ladies” loved her and told her to come back any time. She said she would like to do that so maybe in the summer she can return. ¬†After the Center of Hope, we stopped in at a laundromat and left some kids’ books to be given away. ¬†We made a Target run and she found a bathing suit she wanted for her birthday gift…then had to jump in the pool to try it out, despite it not being all that warm yet! We’ve watched movies at home and let her have a little bit of her iPad time. I will say again that this kid is really, really pleasant to be around and we are so enjoying our time with her. We miss her brother and it’s the first time she’s come without him since he’s now a working boy. They pick at each other and I didn’t think she’d care too much but she says she wishes he were here. That’s pretty sweet.

Christmas Time

Here’s a little round-up of the holidays.

Rich’s sister Vesta had a long layover at DFW on her way to a friend’s in Georgia. We picked her up, took her to lunch, and visited for several hours before having to return her to the airport. ¬†It was a nice surprise to get to see her!

Volunteer party, looking at Christmas lights, playing in a huge box is better than anything, hot chocolate always hits the spot!

Visit from my friend Susan, gifts and cards from near and far, holiday toys donated to refugee families, Christmas Eve and Day with Sarah and Miles, along with Miles’ family. It was a lovely season and we are appreciative of the many people who bring so much to our lives. Thank you to all and let’s hope for peace, love, and justice in the new year.

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All the good stuff

My ex has two aunts who live in Dallas and I was always pretty close to them during all the years we were married. ¬†When we divorced, the battle lines were, unfortunately, drawn and some of his family, whom I had known for 30 years, did not want to have anything to do with me any more. ¬†It was sad, especially, ¬†to lose nieces and nephews I’d watched grow up. Nevertheless, there are several family members who have stayed in touch and maintained relationships with me (even becoming friendly with Rich after we got together). ¬†These aunts are in the latter category and we always have a lot of fun when we have a chance to meet. ¬†Last month, Sarah and I went to lunch with them and we decided we’d set a date each month so it didn’t fall by the wayside. ¬†A few days ago, I was to pick up one aunt and thought about texting before I left my house but I figured she would be ready. Imagine our surprise when I knocked on the door and she answered in her robe! ¬†We both had a good laugh and she quickly got dressed so we could go. ¬†We met up with the other aunt (they are sisters in law, were married to brothers who are now deceased) and had a great time at lunch, talking and laughing and catching up. ¬†One of them just turned 80 and the other is 90! Love these ladies!

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Beck’s 7th birthday was on Thanksgiving and they were out of town, as were we. ¬†Since then it’s been one thing after another and we finally managed to have a little birthday outing with him a few days ago. ¬†We’d asked him if there was something he wanted to do, somewhere he wanted to go, or if he just wanted to pick out a gift and have a snack. ¬†He chose to go to Toys R Us and then to stop for a treat. ¬†Easy, right?? ¬†Well, not so much! ¬†Note to self: Toys R Us is too big and overwhelming and overstimulating for a kid to make a choice if he doesn’t have something in mind already. ¬†Beck loves Legos but has a million of them and Sarah said he did not need any more since he has still not finished putting together a large set he got for his birthday. I knew he really wanted to look at the Legos but he walked on by and started perusing the other shelves. ¬†Oh, my goodness, we walked up and down every aisle once, twice, three times, four. ¬†The only thing he *really* wanted was a $150 R2D2 robot. ¬†We told him we were sorry but that was too much money. ¬†He was sweet about it but we could tell he really wanted it. We encouraged him to look for smaller, similar items but that was not cutting it. ¬†So we wandered some more. I even told him he could get Legos if that’s what he truly wanted, so what if his mom said no! LOL We suggested some educational things like science experiments or a microscope or art projects but he was not interested. ¬†He finally picked a couple of little packages of Star Wars characters and I told him since they were small, he could get something else. ¬†This led to more wandering around the store. At one point, he did say, “We could be on our way home if I got that robot.” Funny boy! ¬†Eventually we found ourselves in the nerf gun section. ¬†I don’t like toy weapons and will usually not buy them for any of the kids but by then I was worn down and when Rich spied a four-pack of little guns, Beck was excited that he could have some friends over and divide up into teams and shoot at each other. So I said okay and off we went. ¬†Thankfully he was pleased with his choices by the end; we were afraid he would just settle for something, anything, and be disappointed soon after. ¬†But he was sweet and thankful and happy–he really is such a good kid. ¬†Rich said next time we will just buy any of the grands a gift of our choosing and present it to him or her instead of torturing them with so many choices and decisions. ¬†Lesson learned! ¬†We asked Beck if he wanted to go somewhere and get a snack so he suggested his favorite place, 7-11, to get a slushie and a treat. ¬†ūüôā ¬†We love this kid!

Tuesday was my last day of volunteer work till after the new year. We had a little party and Rich was nice enough to make homemade tomato soup and croutons to go in it. ¬†The weather was terrible, pouring down rain–just what I needed on a day when I was hauling a bunch of stuff! ¬†We had a nice time, the soup was a big hit, and we all brought home little gifts from each other. ¬†I love these ladies, too!

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Now we are on Day Two of what I am calling our Six Days of Quietude. ¬†Sarah, Miles and kids have gone to Colorado for Christmas and we will not have Susan’s kids till the 26th. ¬†We do not often have so many days by ourselves and we don’t really hang out with anyone in Dallas other than family. So far we’ve done housework and laundry, had a flat tire on the car, got the tire repaired, did some shopping and gift wrapping, watched some TV, read, went out to eat, and today I made another big haul at the thrift store–score!

25497961_10210683076569494_4292776563060692455_n13 books, 13 toy vehicles, 3 little journals, a word-find book, a jump rope, 3 whiffle balls, plus a holiday “peace” decoration for me. ¬†$21 minus a $10 credit I had earned, minus a special holiday scratch-off for $5 more. ¬†So, in essence, all of that for 6 bucks! ¬†I am proud! ¬†The kids’ room is getting pretty well stocked so it might be time for me to quit!

Happenings

Tuesday night we went to the community garden’s annual meeting. Although we have had mixed results in the garden this year, we decided to sign on for another stint. ¬†There’s gonna be a seminar for beginning gardeners next month, so we will attend and see if we can get some more pointers! ¬†The main problem lately has been an abundance of rats in the garden who have managed to devour plants from almost everyone’s plots. ¬†A team of rat-catchers has been assembled and will hopefully take care of those critters. The meeting was held in one of the public library branches, which made us discuss the fact that we have not checked out our local library nor obtained a library card yet. ¬†When we were in Unalaska, I was part of the “Friends of the Library” organization and enjoyed our very nice little library out in the Aleutians. We resolved to find our nearest branch and check it out soon.

We’ve been doing well with going to the gym; have made it 3 days out of 4 this week. ¬†ūüôā ¬†After working out today, we came home, showered, and went to visit the library branch closest to our house. ¬†There we met a very friendly woman who signed us up and gave us the scoop. ¬†I asked if they used volunteers or had a Friends of the Library group and she said yes to both. ¬†So I am thinking about getting involved with those. ¬†And since we are being more frugal in retirement, it makes sense to check out books or download from the library than to purchase those we want to read. ¬†Our bookshelves are pretty full already, anyway!

I also finally¬†have¬†a task¬†with¬†the refugee organization. Next week, I will go shopping and set up an apartment for an individual before he arrives. I’m excited to get started.

Tonight I went to a meeting of progressive women (and a few men). ¬†It was GREAT to see so many kindred spirits (75 people, maybe!) and to chat with some of them. We had speakers from Annie’s List, the League of Women Voters, Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety, and the local Democrats. ¬†A staffer from our state rep’s office was also there and introduced herself. ¬†My state rep is a young woman who beat the incumbent Republican. Wowie! ¬†I told her staffer I’d help out where needed. And may get involved in my precinct…we’ll see. ¬†Soon I will be overbooked!

Surprisingly, despite the mood about the national election, I am feeling positive about local action.   There were so many YOUNG women at this meeting!  Makes me hopeful. Kinda calms me from my ill will toward the Congress working on repealing the ACA in the middle of the night.  And the horrible Trump press conference. And the terrible people having confirmation hearings for jobs that they are not qualified to do.  Man,  I really need to keep thinking about those passionate young women ready to take on the world! All politics is local, right?

 

 

 

Winter

We’re having a little cold snap in Dallas. ¬†The heater is running tonight and we went by the garden earlier today to cover up our plants. ¬†They’re not doing great–we are getting a lot of lettuce and chard, but the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower look like they’re being eaten up by something…critters or insects, hard to know which. ¬†And the carrots are barely growing so I am not sure if we’re going to end up with any or not. ¬†It’s a little discouraging but we signed on for another year recently so we are hanging in there!

Most of our days are still being spent unpacking and trying to arrange the house, plus I am wasting a lot of time looking online at furniture, rugs, and decor. Sometimes it’s a chore to start fresh! ¬†I can’t believe it’s taking so long! ¬†I did take a break to watch Elle play indoor soccer today–my first time to see her with her new team. They are pretty hard-core for 8 year olds! ¬†Oh, my goodness, some rough play was going on! They competed against an older team and came out on top–Elle scored a goal, so it was a good game all around.

Rich made us his world famous fish tacos tonight–we haven’t had them in a really long time and they sure were good. ¬†Reminds us a lot of our time in Alaska. ¬†ūüôā

I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit–it’s a little bit hard with the house still in disarray and I haven’t even found my box of Christmas decorations yet. ¬†I did put up my wreath made by my friend Tammy a few years ago (see above!), and Friday morning I ran out into the street in my pjs and my bedhead chasing after our sanitation guys to give them a little holiday gift card. ¬†Isn’t it funny how you see yourself in your head one way and then realize you actually look like a crazed grandma? ¬†Those poor guys probably didn’t know what was going on!

I’m still working on Christmas cards, and ran around to buy a few things for our gift exchange at my volunteer work, and a few that needed to be mailed (yes, they’ll probably be late, as usual! And I don’t even have the slow Alaskan island mail to blame any ¬†more). OH, and I passed my background check to volunteer with the refugee agency so I am excited to get started!

It’s 2:22 AM and I should probably get some sleep! ¬†Sweet dreams!

 

 

Mid August

We’re keeping busy even though the kids are gone! ¬†Last week I went to see my new dentist, had a check-up and cleaning and, thankfully, liked everyone at the office. ¬†I didn’t relish the idea of dentist shopping! One bad thing about retirement is dealing with all the issues associated with finding insurance on the marketplace (a blog post all its own one day); we currently have no dental insurance so it was all out of pocket. ¬†Luckily¬†I don’t need any dental treatment at the moment because the check-up, X-rays and cleaning were pricy enough. ¬†ūüôā ¬†But I’d been wanting a cleaning for a long time so I am happy I sucked it up and got it done.

I went to my volunteer work on Tuesday and again on Wednesday because we are short handed for client interviewers. ¬†I am also being cross trained to be a “day coordinator,” the volunteer responsible for the day. ¬†It’s not difficult but a little time consuming with paperwork. ¬†I will then be able to fill in for coordinators who are absent for whatever reason.

Rich is becoming our yard-man and handyman, keeping the lawn mowed and shrubs trimmed and plants watered at home, plus doing the majority of the work at the garden. ¬†The previous owners had left a little succulent garden planted in a bird feeder and it apparently toppled over a few nights ago (it was set in the ground a little lopsided so we are not sure if the kids’ dog accidentally knocked it over or it just lost its balance). ¬†We salvaged the plants we could and then took a trip to the garden store to get some small ones to add to the mix.

Thursday I went to an acupuncturist to try some alternative treatment for my longstanding headaches.¬†¬†I’d had acupuncture once before when we lived in AK and was having back pain; the acupuncturist was an itinerant who came out to our island to consult. ¬†I wasn’t scared or worried about it but at one point he stuck a needle into my thigh and I thought I was going to come off the table! ¬†It sent some sort of weird electrical shock throughout my body and hurt quite a bit. And did nothing for my back pain. ¬†But yesterday was good, the doc was nice, if not very talkative, and the needles didn’t bother me at all. ¬†It was actually very¬†relaxing and I almost fell asleep a couple of times. ¬†Then I laid on my stomach and he inserted more needles for the accompanying neck pain.¬†I didn’t actually expect anything to happen the first time-and it didn’t-but he seemed to feel that things¬†would improve with further treatment so I made another appointment for next week.

Susan, Corey and Ally came to town around 1 PM, ate lunch with us, hung out and chatted, Ally swam, we all went to get frozen yogurt and then they left to go to Gwen Stefani’s concert tonight. They were taking Ally as a surprise and she had no idea where they were heading. ¬†I just saw a picture on Instagram and Susan said Ally was happy and excited. What fun! ¬†We didn’t get to see Aidan because he went on a “guys’ trip” with his other Grandpa this weekend.

Sarah, Miles and kids should be home tomorrow. They are stopping in Amarillo at Bonnie’s and spending the night so the cousins should all have fun playing together. ¬†I told Sarah I’d do her grocery shopping so she wouldn’t have to run out to the store as soon as she got home. Kinda nice having Mama around! ¬†ūüôā

Reading is Fun(damental)

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My second volunteer job was helping two elementary school students improve their reading, but we are¬†now finished for the summer. ¬†I worked with two cute little boys for one hour each, one a second grader and one a third grader. ¬†As I mentioned in an earlier¬†post about seeing poverty up close, it was eye-opening to learn about my students and their lives, as well as the other children who came to the tutoring program. ¬†Many of the families were¬†struggling to make ends meet and some had additional social problems to deal with: ¬†some were¬†immigrants, some couldn’t¬†speak English very well, many had¬†difficulty finding employment, some had¬†substance abuse issues, and more. ¬†The kids were sweet and smart and mostly¬†positive¬†about life, despite their circumstances. ¬†Sometimes I would go in an extra day and help students make up a session they’d missed. ¬†On one such day, I had a very intelligent little girl who told me she loved school, her school was “the best in town” (it’s not….but I am so glad she thought so!) and that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. ¬†I hope she forever keeps that enthusiasm and achieves her dream!

I’ve always loved to read, though I have to admit that in these days of internet browsing of news and informational articles, I don’t read as many books as I once did. ¬† I think part of it is a symptom¬†of getting older, too, because my eyes get tired much more quickly than they did when I was younger. ¬†ūüôā ¬†But I can’t imagine not enjoying reading nor being unable to read. ¬†Reading is such a foundation for so many other subjects in school and for so many functions in life. ¬†I find it really sad when kids struggle to read because then they heartily dislike it, and they avoid working on it,¬†and then they get further and further behind. ¬† It becomes the proverbial vicious cycle. ¬†Hopefully the tutoring program is breaking¬†that cycle and helping kids catch up, keep up, and learn to enjoy reading.

Both of my little guys were strugglers but they were bright and curious and usually seemed to enjoy participating in the program. ¬†We had structured lessons so we started out with the tutor reading aloud for 10 minutes, then we worked on tasks together, including the student reading aloud to the tutor. ¬†Most of the books were fun and interesting for the kids, so that helped. ¬†They were also encouraged¬†to take home a book after each session and they received rewards for writing a basic book report if they wanted to do so. ¬†One of my students LOVED to do book reports and I don’t think the other one ever did any! ¬†ūüôā

I looked forward to my once a week sessions with the kids and¬†had a couple of funny encounters–one day I was¬†sitting with a student¬†and he was lightly stroking my hand while I read a story to him. ¬†My heart swelled as I thought how sweet he was, just wanting to connect with me while we read¬†together. ¬†Then, as he ran his fingers over the veins on the back of my hand, I heard him say under his breath, “old, old, old.” ¬†LOL ¬†Kids can certainly keep you humble, can’t they?

We¬†were all a bit¬†sad when the school year came to an end. ¬†We had a little party and I took my students¬†some books for the summer–hopefully they will keep up with their reading¬†and enjoy it¬†on their own while out of school.¬†¬†I worry about what they will do all summer and hope that they will be safe and not too bored. ¬† I can’t post photos because of confidentiality but you can just imagine how cute they were. ¬†ūüôā

Now that my Wednesdays are free, I might have to look around for something else to do with my time!

 

 

 

 

 

Poverty up Close

I mentioned that I am a social worker by training and I’m also a pretty big ¬†joiner so I couldn’t wait to get involved in my new community. ¬†Even before we arrived in Dallas, I was doing research on the internet to find organizations that resonated with me and aligned with my particular interests and values. ¬†In addition to getting started at the community garden,¬†¬†I signed up for two different volunteer jobs–one with a social service center and one with a reading tutoring program at an elementary school nearby.

Continue reading “Poverty up Close”