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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lonely? Bored?

My day was without any appointments or duties.  I left home once briefly to return books to the library and to buy a few groceries in preparation for an event tomorrow.  Otherwise, I had no plans.

A neighbor asked me yesterday if I got lonely without daily work contacts.  I guess I do get lonely and bored at times, but if I do, it's my own fault.  There are many good things to do and a world of learning and fun and friends all literally at my finger tips on the keys of my laptop.

A few weeks ago I posted a review of a Van Gogh  biography on Goodreads.  My Facebook friend Raully said that even though he guessed I was probably not a Dr.Who fan, I might like Vincent and the Doctor, Season 5, Episode 10.  With a little bit of effort, I found a free video and enjoyed 45 minutes of great entertainment.  Afterwards I increased my "cultural literacy" when I read more about Dr. Who. 

My friend Maggie suggested I might enjoy Frederick Buechner's memoirs.   I started Sacred Journey. reluctantly, feeling overwhelmed by his long paragraphs and flowery language but was glad I stuck with it.  I plan to read the sequels.   Reading a bit more on Goodreads led me to an interview with the 86 year old Buechner in The Princetonian , an alumni magazine,  in which he reflects on why he writes (and maybe this is why I write too!)

“Because otherwise it’s just a lot of wasted effort,” explains Buechner, a cane by his side. “To live is to experience all sorts of things. It would be a shame to experience them — these rich experiences of sadness and happiness and success and failure — and then have it just all vanish, like a dream when you wake up. I find it interesting, to put it mildly, to keep track of it and think about it.”
                     
Then tonight I traveled to Amsterdam with Rick Steves who takes me on a nightly trip to Europe and places I have seen and many others I probably never will see.

So, the day was not boring or lonely.  In fact,  I only got half way through the bathroom cleaning I started earlier.  It can wait until another day!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wellfield Botanic Gardens in Elkhart

I have posted before about interesting places to visit just a short distance from home.   I had read about Wellfield Gardens in Elkhart in our paper and added it to my local bucket list.  Today was the perfect day for a visit-sunny but cool and comfortable.  My friend Maggie is usually ready for an adventure so she joined me.


The gardens were lovely.  We walked through natural sections of weeds and wildflowers, next to Christiana Creek with its rapids and water lilies, and then through a more formal landscaped section.  There were vertical gardens and sensory gardens and sculpture gardens.  All of this is on a well field where the water for the city of Elkhart comes from aquafers 70 feet below ground.  The huge water storage tanks are right next door. 

I don't think this will be a once in a lifetime experience.  It's close enough and lovely enough to visit often.    

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sleep or the Lack Thereof

My name is Mary and I am an insomniac.

 Oops!  That is not a "positive sleep thought" as recommended by cbtforinsomnia.com, an online program for those of us who do not immediately fall asleep at night. 

I remember saying to my parents "I can't fall asleep" when I was very young.  One of them would crawl in with me and fall asleep right away and I would listen to them snore!   I used to have Sunday night insomnia when I was teaching 6th grade--thinking all those kids were sound asleep and I wasn't.  And then there was my daughter who was so dear during the day during her first two years and so wakeful at night.  That was probably the worst of it but there have been other times of stress and even when there was less stress that I have struggled with sleeplessness for a period of months.

  Sleeping pills, both Ambien and OTC, do not help me.  They leave me feeling worse in the morning even if I got some sleep.

So when I saw this online program mentioned by a writer in the NYT's Upshot section, I sent for it at a cost of about $40.  There is an initial introductory webinar and then five lessons.  You can send in a sleep diary for an extra $5 so I signed up for that too.  The instructions said to use only numbers, no words and no comments or it won't be analyzed.  That tells me that "Dr. Jacobs" is probably a computer.  I sent in weeks 1, 3, and 4; week 2 was free of any insomnia at all.  I was surprised to get prompt responses that spoke directly to my results.

What are the basic suggestions or tips?  There are many but here are a few that are relevant to me:

1.  You are probably sleeping more than you think.
2.  A bad night does not mean you will not function the next day.  It may affect your mood.  Try to remember the times you didn't sleep because of good reasons like a party.
3.  Settle on a wake-up time and stick with it.
4.  Figure your average hours of sleep and don't go to bed more than 30 minutes before that time subtracted from your wake-up time.  In other words, make sure you are not lying awake in bed for hours.
5.  Don't nap after 3 pm; however, earlier and short naps are natural and good.
6.  Don't think that there is something wrong with you--there are plenty of folks who don't sleep well.
7.  Chronic insomnia is a learned response to temporary insomnia.

Suggestions that don't help me:

1.  Don't look at the clock.  However if I look at the clock, it reminds me that I may have already dozed some and that is good.
2.  Get up out of bed and read or do something else.  I have tried this but I yawn and yawn through my reading and then lay awake when I close the book.
3.  Make myself stay up until midnight (number 4 above).  When I am really sleepy, I want to go to bed.

.  I am tired of trying to think positive thoughts when I am just plain tired.  I worry about making plans for tomorrow or next week if I don't know if I will have the energy to carry them out. 

What have I learned?  I am learning to seize the moment. If it's a good night and a good day, I try to enjoy it to the fullest.  And that's not a bad lesson in life anyway.

 And really,  there are far more good nights and days than bad--so that is progress for which I am grateful.

Back to School (but not for me!)

My friend and former colleague emailed that she had four days of meetings in adult education before meeting students next week.  I have no meetings.

  Instead I have walked along the river with my walking buddy, chatted on the phone with another friend who moved away, had lunch with a young friend who wanted my listening ear,  practiced the organ, read two books and recorded them on Goodreads, and volunteered tutoring a student at Hope Ministries.  I have read long articles on line from GQ and The New Yorker. 

 I have no regrets that I retired 1 1/2 years ago.  My life is full enough. 

However, there still is some beginning of the school year excitement that I share when I see so many posting "first day of school" photos on Facebook.   Maybe I should go out and buy some new notebooks and pens just for old time's sake. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Vacation Reading

Post-vacation reading?
 I started and deleted this post earlier but then I read that President Obama released his list of vacation reading.  I guess I can do it too!

I don't like the decisions of packing for a trip, trying to pack lightly but having the right clothes along.  However, the most important decisions I make are what books shall I bring along.  Actually, the pressure is somewhat off these days when I know I can download ebooks from our local library no matter where I am.

My first vacation read was an ebook--Looking for Rachel Wallace by Richard Parker.  I like these sassy Spenser mysteries with their tough talk and their Boston setting.  There is too much unnecessary violence but at heart, Spenser is a good guy.  This book, set in 1978, and written a few years later, had a theme of "women's libbers" and the difficulties Spenser has in being a bodyguard for a woman who is very independent--and an outspoken lesbian activist. 

The other two books I read were not quite as frivolous.  The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway was recommended by my Goodreads pen pal Marilyn and is based loosely on a cellist (Vedran Smailovic) who played Albinoni's Adaggio for 22 days in a Market Square where 22 Sarajevans were killed by a mortar blast.  The actual cellist was quite resentful about being used in this novel, but it really was not about him but instead about two men crossing town under great danger to find water and bread and a young female sniper who resists killing a civilian when ordered to do so. 
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The book that fascinated me the most was Christ Stopped at Eboli, a book written by Carlo Levi who was exiled for a year to a very poor Southern Italy village for his anti-Fascist work in the 1930s.   Even in translation, the language was so direct and powerful.    It's an account of such dismal and hopeless lives but he writes of them with compassion.  He has no compassion for the middle level bureaucrats who take advantage of the peasants and the "State" so far removed from them.

With a world of information available through my little laptop, I was able to watch a video about how the discovery of oil changed some lives in that area, I read about Levi's life after his exile and looked at his paintings.  I visited the present day museum in the house where Levi lived and saw his burial place.

I even heard Smailovic play the Adaggio on his cello years later when he returned to Sarajevo. 

We're home again and I followed up with a bike ride to the library where I found several books that have potential for being good reads.  If I follow my usual pattern, I'll start all of them but finish maybe two or three.

I wonder how President Obama is enjoying his vacation reading.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

From Hope Rescue Mission to Hope Ministries

The name has changed for the better.  The location has changed for the better.  After volunteering in The Learning Center at Hope Ministries for two months this summer, I know that the whole situation has changed for the better.

I used to pray "God help me" as I walked into the mission to meet my adult education classes 20 years ago.   It was dingy  and the smell of unwashed bodies was always there. I never knew who would show up for class after a weekend because often students were asked to leave after breaking rules.

Going back to Hope has brought back memories of my former students.  Dale was my first student to achieve a GED.   When I was concerned about my own son home alone during a storm, Dale said not to worry.  His mother would leave for a week at a time as soon as he could use a can opener.  I thought, " Look how you turned out, Dale."  He had been living in an unheated garage before his residency at the mission.  He died a few years later in an apartment above a bar--alone I think. His siblings never responded to my offer to give them a painting he had made for me.

And then there was J, who may still be around somewhere.  He convinced me to sign for a safety deposit box with him at a bank downtown.  Years later, I was called because he had not paid the rent.  I opened the box with a clerk and all that was in it was two pennies.  Somehow that "two cents worth" symbolized a lot more to me.  J used to give me lottery tickets.  What would I have done if I had won?  Give it to him? 

I brought students to our local zoo a few times.  One trip with just two students was very memorable.   One, a young white woman, told me she was a nymphomaniac.  The other, an older black man, was living at the mission until he could leave to be a missionary to the Philippines, he said.  We were an unlikely trio but we had a great time seeing the animals and eating ice cream together.

Today T and I worked together in a comfortable, air-conditioned room.  There are computers available for us to use.  There are books and a copier and other supplies.  T has been faithful in attendance and we are both supported by staff.  She has made excellent progress in two months.  I am delighted and so is she.  A GED begins to seem like a realistic possibility.

I am glad to be a volunteer and not an employee of the school system any more.  No records, no staff meetings, no discipline situations--just the enjoyment and rewards of working with one motivated student.