Hometown Visit

Since trying to plan a trip might not be the best idea at the moment (although we are considering one at the end of October), I decided to take a look back at a special trip we made to Chicago, Illinois about four years ago.

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M. was born and raised in Hinsdale (about 25 miles from the city) and had not been back except for business trips in almost 20 years. He was anxious to revisit places that held some of his favorite memories. I especially loved hearing the stories he narrated as we drove from place to place. Hearing the excitement in his voice and at times talking at such a pace it was if his thoughts were outracing his words he had so much to share. Occasionally he would pause and silently reflect ~ I think he was hearing the voices of friends and loved ones from so long ago in the quiet of his mind ~ this memory still makes me smile.

We drove past where he went to elementary and high school, the church he attended, and then towards the ice skating pond where he once flirted and showed off for the girls back in his youthful, carefree days. We drove past the location of his childhood home (it is no longer there), found the place where his dad owned a restaurant many years ago (surprisingly the building is there and is still a restaurant) and past the house where his beloved grandmother had lived. We drove through a complex in Naperville where he worked for many years after graduating college. (Little did he know that this same company would transfer him to the area where he would randomly and unexpectedly meet this southern belle!) We drove past the location of the community garden on this same site where he first discovered his love of gardening. Sadly, the gardens are gone and all that remains is a field of weeds.

Our visit also included a drive to Downers Grove where he once lived as well.  We visited Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery (isn’t that a cute name?), walked through the small town, and he showed me the first house he ever bought and I could see how proud of it he was ~ even to this day.

There were many foods he wanted me to sample (and we did) such as Italian Beef sandwiches, a Chicago style hotdog and of course, Chicago’s version of pizza.  The trip, however, would not have been complete without a stop at the Bohemian Crystal Restaurant. M. has raved about this place for years so it was a must do on our activities agenda. As we looked over the menu, I was a little amused when our choices to start with were either soup, or small salad, or tomato juice. Tomato juice???? M. was as happy as I have ever seen him when he ordered the dinner of roast pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings smothered in gravy (which we split – no way we could have eaten all of this food as two separate orders – in fact we didn’t finish what we were served with just one order – although M. tried his best). Yes, dessert was included and we could choose either a homemade Kolacky or Jello.  Jello????? I don’t think I have ever been in a restaurant that offered Jello as a dessert choice unless it was on the children’s menu or cafeteria style.  With a big smile, extremely full stomachs, and a vow to return again one day M and I drove back to our hotel.

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Over the next few days we were typical tourists seeing such things as Buckingham Fountain, Lake Michigan, and Pier Park and other popular places here and there both in downtown Chicago and the suburbs. We visited Millennium Park and took photos of our reflection by the Bean.  After lunch we walked through the park and stumbled upon some performers rehearsing for an evening concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion.

It was such a nice trip down memory lane for M.  Although some areas had changed, there was just enough remaining to rekindle fond memories of so long ago. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to actually see all of the places that mean so much to him.

Although I have lived as far west as Texas and as far north as Connecticut I was actually born and raised only a little over an hour from where I currently live. I haven’t been back in several years and hear that area is growing and changing like crazy. I am lonely for it and will return very soon.

How about you? Have you been back to your home town lately?

Savoring Retirement – Summer Nights

Another great thing I am discovering about retirement is that every night can feel like the weekend.  We have a little shed in our backyard and we love to sit outside on its deck off and on from early spring until late fall.  We listen to music, talk softly, grill something delicious to eat, laugh, and just enjoy being outside. Sometimes I pretend we are at an outdoor cafe somewhere in the world or sitting dockside eating delicious seafood while pretending to listen to the waves pound the nearby shore.  M is a good sport and will play along for a couple of minutes.  We often wind up getting too silly or we sigh and wish we were really in that special location.  During this pandemic we have tried to be creative in making meals a little more special and evenings a little more fun since eating out at a restaurant or travelling is not a high priority these days.

M. loves to grill (he has three – gas, charcoal, and a Big Green Egg) and does so almost every single evening.  Yes, the temperatures are warmish, but we still like to sit outside most evenings and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

I like to try new recipes and this was a delicious lump crab cake dinner.  I mixed everything together that morning and let it marinade all day.  We modified the cooking by baking them on a pizza stone on the Big Green Egg instead of heating up our oven.  Recipe here

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My siblings and spouses joined us for dinner one evening and it was so so so VERY good to see them.  We took precautions and just being together was worth the effort.

We are in the process of waiting to build a home closer to other grandchildren, so we are trying to soak in as much of what makes us happy in our current location as we can before our dream of a move becomes a reality.

Savoring Retirement – Early Morning

I cannot believe it has been THREE months since I retired!

Honestly, I have to admit, it has been a little challenging filling my time. I am not one to be content finding things to keep busy around my house.  We anticipate a move sometime in 2021 (after M retires) so there are several decluttering projects I have taken on and more to come, but I need more mental and physical stimulation. For many years my time was so structured that this new opportunity for more “freedom of choice” is taking some getting use to. Some of the things I thought I would try to get involved with are either very limited or just not available due to COVID.

But the good news is I am discovering I have time to do some things I have always made an excuse not to do on a regular basis. Such as….taking an early morning walk.  It is something I look forward to each and every day. There is just something so very special about watching the birth of a new day.  The colors have been spectacular some mornings. This is also a wonderful time for me to give thanks and praise as well as talk over a few things with Him as I trudge along. I marvel at the beauty I see and these photos are but a few I have taken. They just don’t offer the same clarity and beauty my eyes see each day.

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I always hear the early birds singing their wake-up songs ~ busily tending to their chores. Here lately I have been treated to the almost daily sightings of geese honking as they fly overhead getting an early morning start on their journey.

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I tried to take along a special furry friend – my Havanese -MooMoo- but after a while she would have enough and stubbornly refuse to continue walking.  Carrying her and her additional 10 pounds of added weight the rest of the route – especially up and down hills – was not what I had in mind – so I no longer take her with me.  Instead, once I get home, she is eagerly waiting for me to take her for a short 15 – 20 minute “stop and smell everything walk” on a flat section in our neighborhood.

Once I have completed my route I usually sit on my back patio to enjoy my coffee as I watch the backyard light up with sunshine.

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Retirement is off to a very good start!

As I Close the Door

Thirty two.  The number of times I have packed up my classroom.

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The teachers at my school have to pack up our classrooms so (over the summer) the custodians can throughly clean the desks, wipe down the book shelves, wax the floors and get everything looking spic and span for the next school year.  This year, however, is different because it is my last time.

It was also different because this is usually a happy and bustling time. Teachers at my school enjoy playing the game of “someone’s trash is another’s treasure” as we set items up for grabs that we no longer think we will use or just don’t have room for any more.  But this year there was a feeling of loss and emptiness. You see only a few teachers were allowed in the building at a time in keeping with the state mandates.  We also had to wear masks and social distance.  The silence was deafening.

Little did I know that March 11th would be my very last full day of teaching in the classroom. I would not get to experience the “this is the last time I will ____” moments.  Little did I know that for the next nine weeks the students would experience total online learning and never walk back into their third grade classroom.  The picture taken above was less than two weeks before the school closed down for the year.

As I unlocked the door, flipped on the lights, and (after being away for seven weeks) stepped into my classroom it was a very surreal moment. It was as if the scene had been frozen in time.  A forgotten jacket was left hanging on a hook, test papers neatly stacked on my desk were waiting to be returned, an abandoned lunch box sat on the shelf, desks were filled with books, pencils, and erasers. There were library books waiting to be read, miscellaneous art work and stories that had been written and proudly displayed ~ all waiting silently for the sweet faces of my students to come back.

It took me two days to pack up my classroom. Each child was supplied with one bag in which I placed the items from their desks to be given to them on a later date. Once that was completed I moved on to the task of getting rid of or finding a new home for teaching material.  I am not a pack rat so it was not as tedious as it could have been.

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When I completely finished I walked out the door and was about to close it when I decided to go back and sit at my desk one final time.  So many thoughts and questions began to go through my head. Did I do enough?  Did the children learn what they were suppose to?  Was I too strict or too lenient? Was I always fair, was I kind, was I patient, did they know how much I cared ~ even though I told them those words every single day, did they really know? When they look back one day remembering their time in my class will it be with a smile or a scowl?

I thought about the teammates I have worked with over the years.  I guesstimate I have worked with about 96 different women on my grade level alone over the course of my career.  Was I a good teammate?  Did I mentor enough?  Was I supportive enough? As time passed, it was eye opening when I realized some of these ladies were not even born when I started teaching.

Will my students and coworkers ever know how much they taught me? Patience, understanding, acceptance, humility.  I truly will miss the life and energy they brought each and every day.

Did I make the right decision to retire? Yes, indeed I did.  It is time – sometimes you just know these things.

I smiled as I got up and silently walked toward the front of the room and out the door. As I quietly closed the door one last time I momentarily paused, closed my eyes and thanked God for this incredible blessing/journey the last 32 years of my life.  I am not “Always a Wildcat”  I am “Forever a Wildcat!”

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”– Fred Rogers

We Are Not In The Same Boat

 

As our circumstance continue to shift during this most unpredictable time in our lives, it is (in my opinion) important to try to see other people’s point of view.  Who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are today all lend to forming our perceptions of current circumstances in today’s world.  As the author of the brief essay below states, “We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.”

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The following essay is making its way through social media – I think it is worth the quick read. What do you think?

“WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT …

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.”

-Unknown author