Friday, December 2, 2011

Transition: What's next after high school?

Two of my grandsons, the eldest two, are about to graduate from high school. Their parents are thinking about what the next steps will be for these boys, and I suspect the boys might be giving it some thought too. I like my position as grandmother, one who has a little distance from the momentous step these boys are about to take.

I do have some pretty strong opinions about the transition from high school to young adulthood. My ideas are based on watching my own 3 children make the transition and also come from witnessing the children of friends and family as well as hundreds of young people at Columbia College take this step.

I think kids need to embark on a growth inducing activity immediately after high school, in particular one that throws them out of their comfort zone into an environment that challenges them. The degree of challenge depends on the kid, but it should definitely push their edges, make them feel uncomfortable and confused and ultimately provide the space and support to develop effective decision making skills. In most cases, this involves moving to a new setting away from the home and family in which the child was raised.

Here are some of the things I've seen accomplish this transition effectively:
  • going to a foreign country either as a student, a missionary, or a traveler,
  • going into the military,
  • doing service work, e.g. working in inner city schools or conversely wilderness areas, assisting in a disaster or poverty torn area, Ameri-Corps, California Conservation Corps, or other service directed group,
  • getting a full time job,
  • moving into an apartment or dormitory with roommates,
  • getting married.
Notice that I don't include going to college in this list. While attending college might be part of any of these, the school experience is not fresh enough to give kids the PUSH they need at this time. There has to be an element of challenge and discomfort that comes from moving to a unique setting where they have to think and decide.

I recognize that the discomfort also hits the parents because they have to watch with a certain amount of hands off approach. It can be an incredibly scary time. At best, they have to offer moral support and maybe a little financial assistance, but the trick is getting out of the kid's way and letting him or her muddle through. In most cases, this takes about a year for something fairly dramatic to take place

Of course, there are a few for whom it will take many years because of developmental and or psychological differences, and there are many parents who stymie their kids by being too intrusive or directive which makes the passage take longer. And yes, there are kids who go wildly astray, driven by incomprehensible forces both internal and external. But a large majority of the kids I've watched make their way with only a few tumbles, scrapes, and bruises.

I don't think the "what" is as important as the "how." That's not to diminish the intensity of what parents feel as they try to guide an offspring toward the setting that will accomplish the most effective transition. There are probably several possibilities, but once launched, the work is to breathe while the young person learns to swim into adulthood.

It's as exciting and disconcerting as any other stage of parenting.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yoga & Metaphor

Last Sunday, I went to a wonderful Yoga workshop by Rocky Heron, called "Journey into Bliss." The workshop focused on back bending poses which Rocky wanted us to look at as heart opening postures.

I've always been intrigued by the body/mind connection that is intrinsic to yoga, so I particularly like teachers who help me see how a pose is connected to the way that I think and/or hold my body. For instance, Rocky spoke about how much of our day is spent slouched forward with our shoulders curved so the chest cavity encircles our hearts. To bend backward is to open and expose the chest area and therefore the heart. Metaphorically the heart is the seat of emotional experience, so opening that area is to make ourselves vulnerable to feeling.

Back bends are my least favorite pose while I adore forward bends. It probably comes as no surprise then that I'm also much more comfortable with thought than I am with feeling. But I knew what the workshop was about, and I was willing-- in fact eager-- to expand my chest along with my interest and skill in these poses.

Rocky is a very fine teacher, moving the class gradually and expertly into deeper more expansive chest opening postures. I was really enjoying myself, and about 2/3 of the way through the class, I experienced one of those physically transcendent moments. My chest filled with fluid warmth and the room seemed bathed in sea green light. I felt a smile come to my lips. I knew that I had discovered the joy of backward bending poses. I left the class confident that I had a new relationship to chest expansion and perhaps even to emotional vulnerability.

This confidence glowed all the next day. When I dove into the pool for Masters swim practice, I was thinking about how I might apply chest expansion to swimming. About halfway through the workout, I crashed into another swimmer as she was pushing off the wall. Her head hit me full force in the sternum. The pain was excruciating. Somehow I finished the workout, showered, and drove home. But by then, breathing had become painful. Bending forward was nearly unbearable.

Now almost a week later, the injury is only about 50% improved, and I'm learning about chest expansion from a different point of view. To avoid pain, I have to keep my shoulders back and lead with my heart. Forward bends haven't been fun this past week. Pushing anything away from me (be it a wheelbarrow in the garden or the floor during chaturanga dandasana) is nearly impossible.

And so the metaphor of opening the heart invades my body in a deeply physical way. I wish I had listened more closely to how Rocky explained the Sanskrit word meaning bliss. I suspect it included the pain of my injured sternum as well as that of sea green euphoria.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Do you ever have those days when the unexpected seems to transform your point of view?

I had one of those days yesterday. It started at Masters Swim practice when there was a substitute coach at the workout time I usually attend. Her style was totally different from the usual coach. In addition to the workout instructions, she gave very specific techniques to practice. WOW! It felt like the two techniques she suggested transformed my work out--making it more aerobic and powerful.

Then I went on a "Dearma date" with my 16-year-old grandson, Cody. I always let the kids choose what they want to do, and Cody's choices never cease to surprise me. For instance, he wanted to go to Perko's for lunch. This is not a restaurant that I frequent and according to his mom they never go there, so what's the appeal? He likes a particular burger they serve. And I had a Thai chicken salad that was absolutely delicious. The place was cool and not very busy at 2pm when we arrived, so it was a perfectly delightful and, for me, unique lunch spot.

Then we went to see the movie: "The Transformers: The Dark Side of the Moon." What a hoot! The movie is funny and the animation is fabulous. Cody and I shared a large popcorn and laughed and commented liberally as there were very few people in the theater. This is a movie I would not have normally seen, but I have to say I enjoyed all 2 hours and 37 minutes, something I surely didn't anticipate when Cody announced this was what he wanted to do. Another thing I liked was that we sat through the entire run of credits after the movie, something I ALWAYS do but was surprised to learn my grandson liked to do too.

The next unexpected thing was going to the final performance for Vacation Bible School at Chapel in the Pines. The plan was that I'd drop Cody off there so he could do the sound for the performance. I popped into the little chapel to get a Raleigh hug, and he encouraged me to stay for the show, so I did. What a blast! The theme was upbeat summer Caribbean, so there were lots of grass skirts and flowery shirts and plastic fruit. Brent Corson led the singing which was lively and joyous. The highlight of the evening, however, was the closing song. It was a partnered, hand-clapping affair which I did with Raleigh. The short verse was repeated 4 times at a rapidly accelerating pace. Glistening with perspiration, Raleigh and I hand-clapped and sang with joyous abandon.

My Friday was transformed by unexpected pleasures and I'm feeling pretty grateful.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Working with Dearma

This summer, I set a goal to have each of my grandkids come and work for me. I have tons of chores that need to be done, and I like working with someone. They like making money, and I like to think they enjoy spending time with me. I know I love time with them, especially one-on-one time when I get to hear from them without the distractions that accompany many of our encounters.

So I made a list of tasks that I thought were age and ability appropriate and went to work setting times for them to come. Lunch and a treat were part of the deal. Usually I took them to the deli to select what they wanted and then we went to freezer to choose ice cream or popsicles for dessert.

The first to come was Gianna. She helped me trim a 50 foot rosemary hedge. Gianna is methodical and always figures out the practicalities of a task. Based on her evaluation of the project, we used both hedge trimmers and hand held pruners and moved along steadily with her setting the pace.

Next came Clare and Mary Autumn. Three-year-old Clare organized drip system pieces by size, type, and color in the drawers a small parts cabinet. She also helped me plant rotten bananas in my rose garden. She loved that job, especially when the trowel turned up worms. Mary Autumn helped me clean and organize my potting yard cabinet. She cleaned pots, wiped down shelves, and put things back in the best of order. That cabinet has never looked so good.

Leon helped me build a rock retaining wall and a step into the side yard. While eating popsicles after completing the job, we discovered our shared love for bird watching. The kid has an incredible eye for sighting the smallest bird in a tree. We took a bunch of pictures.

Cody worked with Granddaddy to build a retaining wall and two sets of stairs in the side yard. It was hot, hard, dirty work but Cody hung in there and finished long after I had retreated to sitting in the shade. I now have a spot for a fruit tree and berry vine to be planted in the fall.

Taylor and Candice are window washers extraordinaire. Candice worked ahead of Taylor and I cleaning all the window sills and the cruddy tracks where the aluminum windows sit. We came behind washing windows, inside and out. Cindy meanwhile was working on cleaning the screens. This was a 6-hour job and there was not one complaint from these girls and plenty of giggles! And can I just say, Taylor voluntarily cleaned up inside after the job while I was putting things away outside.

Next came Athan who helped me trim the oleander, a monumental job that I have to do every summer after the bloom. High atop a ladder, Athan chatted away about the view and pruning decisions he was making, once commenting on how he was like his dad in his interest in pruning. Yep, this is true. The oleander have never looked so fine as when he finished.

Still to come are Kyle, Aliou, Huck, Nell, and Anna Mae. Also, Candice and I agreed that she is going to come twice. (She was saving for dance camp so she came along for Taylor's job.) I haven't mentioned August because he regularly works in Dearma's yard.

When people find out I have 14 grandkids, the first thing they often say is "How do you afford Christmas?" I must say the gifts I get from these kids far exceed what I give them.

(NOTE: I didn't get pictures of Gianna, Clare, or Mary Autumn and promised Taylor I wouldn't publish a picture of her as she didn't feel prepared for a photo shoot.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memory Month

I do believe that the month of May 2011 will go down in history as one of the busiest and most memorable. It was cram-packed with special events and family connections:

May 2- After 11 days of caring for her mom, Cindy came home, worried still but hopeful that her mom was returning to her strong, durable self.
May 3- I worked with Candice & Kyle on their end of the year writing samples and then had a pre-birthday visit with my dear friend, Trish.
May 5- Childcare at the Tippetts while JL went to a training for IEW--one of my longest days ever caring for her brood.
May 6- Grandparents day at Mother Lode Christian School where Taylor and classmates served brunch and I got to see her classroom and meet her teacher, Mrs. Briniger.
May 7- Fundraising pancake breakfast at Applebees for Cody's soccer team. Phone call to Nell to sing the Hooray Birthday song, followed by a trip to Mariposa where we planted veggies for Cindy's mom for Mother's Day.
May 8- Dixon family birthday, celebrating with Sabrina and Sandie, plus Mother's Day calls from my kids.
May 9- August did major yardwork at my place. Fred & Bonnie arrived to spend the night after a doctor visit in Sacramento where Bonnie got an excellent report. Started Masters Swim 101.
May 10- Birthday party at Culley's for me, Nell and John. Pizza party with the whole family!!!!
May 11- Huck's play with grade 1 students at Waldorf.
May 12- The gear shift on Cindy's truck broke and Raleigh was on the scene immediately to make repairs in under 10 minutes.
May 13- Huck's play again, this time with Cindy. Shopping trip to Modesto with Anna Mae (also paid of tax debt!!!)
May 14- Outing with Nell, Mary Autumn, Gianna, and Candice to Columbia (see previous post).
May 15- Buddhist workshop with Nancy Spence.
May 17- Anna Mae's graduation from 8th grade.
May 18- Dokasan with Nancy.
May 19- Open house at the Country School for Athan, Aliou, Leon & Mary Autumn.
May 20- Belated birthday dinner with Becky at Applebees
May 21- Kate Reid concert in Pioneer; fast drive back to Tuolumne County to see the last 20 minutes of Roller Derby. We missed Madam Ovary's 35 point jam :(
May 22- Lunch with Cindy's cousin Bobby and his wife at Diamondback. Anna Mae's confirmation at All Saints.
May 23- August does yardwork at my house.
May 24- Cody helps me spread bark at Culley's.
May 25- Mary Autumn's graduation from kindergarten. Writing group meeting in the evening.
May 26-30 Four day weekend--planting plants, painting door, setting up swamp cooler, watching movies & TV-- basically fun stuff at home :)

Oh, and I can proudly say that I went to Masters Swim 101 faithfully throughout the month and have almost mastered the butterfly stroke. And to top it off, I was selected as the winner of the free coffee at Day-O this morning.

June . . . here I come . . .

Sunday, May 15, 2011

All in a Saturday

Can I just say that the following chain of events appeals to my sense of family-centeredness:

At 8am on Saturday morning, Uncle Raleigh met Uncle Michael in Twain Harte so that Cody, Kyle, and Candice could be transported to the Tippetts. Cody was going to work with Uncle Michael while Kyle hung out with Athan, Leon, and Aliou overseen by Aunt Jennie Lou and Clare. Dearma was going to pick up Candice later in the morning for a girl cousin outing.

On the way to Belleview Road, Aunt Andrea called Uncle Michael to say she wanted to go to to the Farmer's Market with Huck and wondered if he could pick up Nell on his way home for a visit at the Tippetts until Dearma arrived to collect the girls for the outing.

At 10:45, Dearma arrived at the Tippetts to get Nell, Mary Autumn, and Candice. She still needed to get Gianna at Little Red School house where she and Anna Mae were painting sets for the school play. Aunt Jennie Lou asked if Dearma could deliver Anna Mae's lunch which she had forgotten to take when she left earlier in the morning.

At 3 o'clock, while the girl cousins were eating ice cream after a picnic, stage ride, panning for gold, and rock climbing (see Facebook photos), Candice mentioned that she had overheard Uncle Raleigh tell Uncle Michael that he would pick her up at the Tippetts, so Dearma texted Aunt Jenny to confirm. After a few text messages and a phone call, Dearma agreed to take Candice to the Tippetts where she would get Kyle and Cody and meet Uncle Raleigh and Aunt Jenny somewhere between Sonora and Jamestown to deliver the children.

As Dearma and the girl cousins drove over Big Hill, a text came in from Aunt Andrea saying Huck had petered out on a bike ride and was laying in the grass at the bottom of Belleview Road. Could we pick up him and his bike?

After stopping for Huck, Dearma dropped off Huck and Nell and then took Mary Autumn and Gianna home where she picked up Kyle and Cody and left to meet Uncle Raleigh, Aunt Jenny, and Taylor at Willow Springs Market.

In my book, this is the gift of family all in a Saturday! (in keeping with Ann Voskamp's notion of 1000 Gifts.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Training

I hesitate to say that I'm training for a triathlon when I have yet to run a mile nor is my bike in working order, so I'll just say that I'm seriously thinking about doing a triathlon next October.

Watching my daughter-in-law do a sprint triathlon last October instigated this thought. The event was exhilirating, and when I spotted a woman who had the number 63 on her leg, her age category, I began to think about participating in 2011.

I took preliminary steps in December by joining the gym and asking for the book The Slow Fat Triathlete as Christmas gift. Reading the book was motivating. I immediately bought a little blank calendar booklet to create a training guide. Here are the things I've done so far to get my body ready:

1.) To develop core strength, I go to yoga 4-5 times a week. This month I added a pilates class and just recently, I noticed a little indentation in my abs. Might they be the beginning of a 6-pack?
2) To build cardiovascular capacity, I have been going to aerobics classes at the gym 3-4 times a week.
3) Last week, I went to my first spin class. Whoa! That's one tough class. I'm hoping it will prep my for the bicycle which is definitely going to be the most challenging segment for me.
4) I am going to the track once a week where I walk/jogging to remind my body about running. It's eager, but I'm taking it easy. I also read the book Born to Run which really got my mind pointed toward the joy of running and planted some new ideas about shoes, among other things.
5) On Monday, I start Masters 101, a swim refresher course. Actually, I'm on the waiting list for the class, but I intend to show up and beg to get in.

I'm not ready to say I'm doing this yet, but I'm headed toward a triathlon. As soon as I get my bike fixed and go for the first ride, and right after I run one whole mile without stoppping, I will say I'm in training.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hither and yon

Yesterday, Gianna was reading a story that she wrote, and when she came to a part where her main character looked out the window at the "gleaming snow," she paused and said, "I love the word gleaming." I think she loves the delicious sound of the GL blending with the long sound of E that culminates in the hum of MING.

I can appreciate Gianna's pause to admire a favorite word because I have many words that I love. They are gifts to me. Here are a few:

#54 hither and yon
#55 nimbus
#56 glorious
#57 gurlesque
#58 kettle and mug
#59 aeolian
#60 spurtle and putz
#62 caesura

I could go on and on but let me just add that it's gift
#63 to hear a granddaughter's pause to admire a word.

And another gift is
#64 a lengthy phone conversation with my son's wife about kids, school, books, TV, friends and life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The First Day of Spring

Stormy weather all night that continues into this morning makes our upcoming vacation all the more appealing. Not to say, I don't enjoy the rain. Here are the gifts I'm grateful for on the first day of spring:

#39 snuggling under a down comforter on a stormy night;
#40 electrical power;
#41 witnessing the athleticism of my loved ones: daughters-in-law, granddaughters and grandsons (am I the only one who gets a rush of pleasure from seeing graceful, strong bodies in action?)
#42 the utter delight of the birthday girl--Gianna is 11!
#43 a toddler in my lap enjoying a middle school production of "Annie" (did I mention that she gently stroked the backs of my hands which were holding her in place on my lap?)
#44 catching and releasing a sweet gray mouse brought into the house by our huntress cat;
#45 fertilizing the roses and strawberries with Cindy's help in the pouring rain;
#46 drinking hot tea while wrapped in blankets after fertilizing the roses and strawberries in the pouring rain.
#47 a conversation with my daughter at the kitchen counter during a lull in the kid party action;
#48 Cindy's delight in Kohl's coupons and the bargains she wangles out of those coupons.
#49 hot greasy fries from MacDonalds;
#50 homemade ice cream sundaes;
#51 screaming "Go Madam O" at roller derby as she skated skillfully around and around the rink.
#52 receiving the drawing of a shark by Athan.

It's blustery and raining sheets outside, but it's a warm spring day in my heart.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Gifts

The point of the 1000 gifts exercise is to notice the blessings in one's life and to let that noticing do wondrous work. When the fragility of each day is so apparent in the devastation in Japan, it feels like a privilege to notice and be grateful:

#22 yummy black tea (Keemun) in the morning with half-and-half and stevia;
#23 spiral notebooks in all sizes with lined pages;
#24 Facebook postings from family near and far that are rich with life details;
#25 a partner with superb attention to detail and diligence in managing our taxes;
#26 weeding, weeding, weeding;
#27 a lay Buddhist monk who has been my guide regarding the mysteries of life for 25 years;
#28 Sangha buddies to practice with;
#29 an Oprah Winfrey show about camping in Yosemite that was laugh-out-loud funny;
#30 Skype and spontaneous calls from my brother and sister-in-law;
#31 super wonderful audio book narrators;
#32 a dependable old Subaru Legacy;
#33 neighbor kids' voices and laughter as they wait for the bus;
#34 the unsettling of and adjustment to Daylight Savings;
#35 the rush of anticipation each time I think about our upcoming vacation;
#36 reading and tutoring the literature assigned to my grandson for 11th grade English class;
#37 listening to my son-in-law's enthusiasm (and angst) as he embarks on a new career direction;
#38 Acorn slippers

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Packing for a Cruise

We don't leave for our Mexico cruise for a couple of weeks, but since we pack away seasonal clothes, we decided to bring down the boxes with shorts, tanks, and summer wear this weekend so that we could start thinking about what to bring on the trip. Now that airlines charge for luggage that is not carried on, we wanted to be thoughtful about what and how much we packed.

It wasn't long before clothes were spread all over the bed, and we were struggling into shorts that were too tight for our winter pudgy bodies. We stood before the full length mirror trying to find the best angle, wishing to see someone slimmer and more tan. Pastey white legs stretched from swim suits and belly fat hung over the edges of hip huggers. It was depressing to say the least. Cindy vowed to exercise for the next 10 days and I started an immediate fast.

Then we tried on dress-up clothes for formal night. We each found fancy outfits that totally changed our mood and made us wish we were headed for the gala evening as fast as possible. Dressed to the hilt, having also chosen fitting accessories, we stood side-by-side in front of the mirror, grinning. We knew we would look great for the last evening aboard ship and maybe if we stuck to our plan to exercise and diet, most of the other clothes would fit OK too.

When we looked back at the pile of chosen clothes on the bed, we also knew we would by paying extra for luggage.

#22 the lovely irridescent green skirt and top I bought for way too much money in Hawaii a few years ago, which looks good terrific when I've gained a few pounds;
#23 the wherewithall it took to save for this trip and the fact that it's almost here after a year and half of saving.
# 24 a body that actually will respond to 10 days of exercise and dieting to shape up a bit so I can wear my favorite shorts comfortably.
#25 dear Cindy who says all the right things when I'm feeling fat.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Grandparents Day at Waldorf

I can't remember if they had Grandparents Day when I was in school. Maybe there was such a day, but it meant little to me since my grandparents lived many states away, so I rarely saw them. But it means a lot to me now that I'm a grandparent who truly enjoys visiting my grand kids schools to see what they are doing, especially on a day designated for the elders in their life.

Uncle John, Cindy and I attended Grandparent's Day at the Sierra Waldorf School. Now that Huck is in Grade One, his class was part of the assembly. They kicked off the program by reciting a wonderful poem about a beetle and then did the entire poem again silently using hand gestures. Grade One was followed by the other grades in ascending order, which gave those of us in the audience a taste of the future. It was like watching children grow right before your eyes.

After the program, Grade Eight students escorted us to the classrooms of the children we were visiting. We went to Huck's class where he displayed two beautiful portfolios, one for math concepts and one for reading concepts. His art work was colorful and imaginative, and he took pleasure in sharing each page with us. We didn't think Huck had spotted us in the audience during the assembly, but we were wrong. He had been looking out for us just as we were looking for him.

Then we went to preschool where we sat behind Nell as the class said a blessing for the soup and bread they were about to serve. Miss Beth directed Nell to distribute napkins to guests and her friend Richard to pass out spoons. Then each child served their special guests. Can I just say that watching 4 and 5 year olds carry bowls of hot soup took my breath away. Fear and admiration were the compelling emotions. Every bowl was delivered without a drop spilled. After lunch, the children sang the good-bye song they sing each day as they take leave of their friends and teacher. Finally the children collected our dishes and headed out to the porch to wash and dry them.

Nell gave us big scrumptious hugs good-bye before leaving with Uncle John to collect Huck and go home. I am so glad I live down the road from the Sierra Waldorf School rather than states away.

#19 two grand kids attending a school I would love to have sent my kids to;
#20 Miss Beth's tender attention to those 2 children these past 3 years;
#21 The marvelously serene and talented teacher Waldorf found for Grade 1 at midyear (wish I could recall her name) . . .

Friday, March 11, 2011

1000 Gifts

I'm joining my daughter, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in listing the gifts --the multitude of blessings--that are a part of my life on a daily basis. The value of thanksgiving--of expressing gratitude--is the rapidity with which hit erases poverty mind. In a flash, the heart swells with tenderness. In her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp calls it a dare list--daring to acknowledge the grace in one's life.

Let my list begin:

#1 bird song at dawn
#2 hot baths and ibuprophen
#3 sweet messages, handwritten and electronic, from my partner
#4 someone who balances my checkbook
#5 granddaughters who greet me with genuine enthusiasm
#6 a phone call from a friend I haven't heard from in a while
#7 reading poetry as the sun rises over Table Mountain
#8 three exceptional yoga instructors, Cherie, Christian, Dee
#9 texts and email from my sons
#10 sharing confidences with my daughter
#11 the DVR that records my favorite TV programs
#12 pink blossoms on 3 ornamental plum trees again a back drop of blue sky
#13 aching muscles, the result of shoveling bark
#14 enjoying the lovely results of shoveling bark around new plantings
#15 the talking tail of my cat
#16 morning fog rolling into the meadow from the reservoir
#17 the steady tick of the burl clock our neighbor gave us.
#18 the rolling fire trail around our mobile home park that offers a place to exercise, constantly changing vistas, and innumerable wildlife sightings.