Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Lunch Date

"Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby." (Langston Hughes)

Rains splatters the street and rattles my roof this morning.  Ahhh...fall is finally here!  No more 95 degree days, thank you very much.  I'm ready for sweatshirts and jeans, breezy days and cool mornings, and yes, a little rain to wash the world clean and paint my window with silvery jewels.
I thought today would be a good day to invite you for a Lunch Date.  Haven't had one of those entries for quite awhile.  Nothing too serious in a Lunch Date entry - just chatting, musing, sharing a laugh hopefully - while I fix us lunch.  Today I'm fixing something warm and hearty - comfort food to celebrate the arrival of the rain.  Macaroni and cheese!  Who doesn't love homemade mac and cheese! Steamed fresh green beans on the side...apple crisp for dessert...sounds yummy!

So, while I'm cooking and bustling around, what would we talk about?

How's retired life?  Pretty darn good!  Schools have been in session now for 3 weeks, and I haven't missed being there at all.  I've especially enjoyed not feeling the tension in the middle of my back and in my forehead that seemed to start ratcheting up every day as I drove to work.  It rarely was a product of having or expecting "a bad day".  It was mostly produced I think by the fact that I was diving into a high energy environment each day - surrounded by 2,000 people, all scurrying through a fast paced, hectic day, trying to "get stuff done".  I love waking up when I want now and mostly letting the day unfold as it does.  And surprisingly, I've been just as busy - but not as stressed!  So what have I been up to?

Being Mr. Landscaper!:  Deborah and I spent a lot of time and effort into redoing our front lawn.  We took out 3 humongous Mugu pine bushes along the driveway; picked out a gazillion rocks and made them into a "river"; dumped some dirt, and planted a bunch of new flowers and plants..."English style".  Heather, verbena, lavender, pansies, pots of geraniums, and plopped a transplanted Crepe Myrtle tree in the middle of it.  Blanketed it all with barkdust and then put a brick border around it.  Very proud of it!  So proud, we put a new bright table out front so we can sit and enjoy it in the evening!

Volunteering more at the Foundation:  Deborah and I attend classes at the Life of Learning Foundation in Merlin, Oregon.  We are both grateful for all we continue to learn there about letting go of harmful negative states and living a kinder, compassionate life from our teacher, Guy Finley.  Since the Foundation is a non-profit organization, it depends on the efforts of volunteers, so I've been doing more.  I help administer its Facebook page, give talks once a month, facilitate online study group sessions, and even cook lunches on Saturday every now and then for the volunteers.  There's no doubt - Guy knows how to "find something for you to do" - and it's always rewarding to give back in appreciation.

What do we do for fun?  We love hanging out at Troon Vineyards, enjoying their wines and the great view out back. (Tiffany, the tasting room manager treats us like royalty!  "Hello, my lovelies!" She's sweet and generous!)  We also keep trying to work out more at the Club - no easy job "staying young"!  Haven't had any "big" adventures yet, but we have some planned in the next few weeks.  Going to Sunriver for our anniversary - Las Vegas next month to see Deborah's parents.   Our days are always filled - no wonder we're tired and in bed by 9:30 pm!

Oh, boy!  My first substitute job!  Got called yesterday for my first job as a substitute teacher - a new adventure coming!  Returning to South Medford to sub for one of the American Studies teachers for the day.  Good luck to me!  Hope I have an easy day of it!  Wonder what we'll be doing? 

Our 7th anniversary is next week.  We'll be celebrating at the Sunriver Resort in Bend.  Looking forward to riding our bikes, going on hikes, swimming at the water park (hope the weather is nice!), and just being together with my beautiful wife.   And what will I be giving Deborah?  7th anniversary gifts are traditionally copper or wool...hmmm.... how will I surprise her?  We shall see. Stay tuned!

Well, time to do the dishes.  Finish up our tea and dessert and say "Later, alligator!"  Rain's stopped - time to go find something else to do

"One never knows what each day is going to bring.  The important thing is to be open and ready for it." (Henry Moore)

So far, that's the gift that retired life has given me, and there's one thing I know for sure.

I'm a lucky guy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Seven Years, Seven Threads, Seven Pearls Discovered

"Chains do not hold a marriage together.  It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years." (Simone Signoret)

Calliope has been whispering to me today.  Many days she seems to have little interest in inspiring me, but today is different.  The Grecian muse of writers has been gently prodding me today, softly saying, "You have something to share.  Share it."  So I will.

Calliope, Greek muse of writing
I saw on Facebook today that some friends of ours were celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary (Hooray Ed and Denise!), and I wished them both well.  "Wow!", I thought.  "Lucky them!"   Then later in the day, I serendipitously came across an article titled, "The Ten Things I've Learned After Ten Years of Marriage."  Click the link below if you'd like to read it.

The Ten Things I've Learned After Ten Years of Marriage

Our own anniversary is just two weeks away, so it seemed to me that this wasn't all just random sprinklings by the universe.  I was being asked to ponder something - something positive - something special.

What are the special things that I've learned after seven years of marriage?  What are the gifts of understanding that I've been given?  That I couldn't have received any other way than by agreeing to share my life with Deborah?

A Golden kiss - September 24, 2006: Along the Rogue River
So, in honor of Ed and Denise, Sasha Emmons and her husband, but most importantly, my partner, lover, and best friend, Deborah DeMattia - here, humbly submitted, are Seven Pearls I've Discovered after Seven Years of Marriage.  I celebrate learning these things, and want to remember their value whenever I act with them in mind.

1.   Be On Each Other's Side, No Matter What:  This was #1 on Ms. Emmons list, and I couldn't have said it better.   In a world that through events, its challenges, technology, the pressures of other people, etc. is always trying to pull you apart, always "looking for a crack", it's vital to know that you are each other's greatest ally, cheerleader, and protector.  To know that there is one person who, while you may not always agree with them or like them in a moment, you know that they always will support you and give you the benefit of kindness in that same moment, is a divine blessing.    Thank you Deborah for all the times you've done that for me.

2.  Be Honest with Each Other:   Trust is the most important thread in a successful relationship, and Honesty is the seamstress which weaves that thread into a tapestry.  Some of my most painful moments have been when I've seen that I hadn't been honest with Deborah, or myself, about how I was feeling, or what I wanted to do, or thought.  Thankfully, she has always insisted on the Truth - never let me "squirm out" of it.  Always told me exactly how she felt, even when it stung a little.  And because of this, we grew closer together - closer now than ever before.  Because we can see each other genuinely, and we genuinely love the one we see.

3.  Don't Be Afraid To Laugh at Yourself:  Ms. Emmons said in her article, "Being vulnerable enough to laugh at yourself leads to a special kind of intimacy."  Amen to that.  Deborah's spontaneity, her penchant for teasing with a loving twinkle in her eye, and for saying whatever the heck pops into her pretty Italian head, has helped crack open this stoic, "proper" German, and enriched my life.  Thank you Sweetie for all the unexpected belly laughs and snorts, as well as the sheepish smiles when you remind me to not take myself so seriously.  And most importantly, thank you for loving me even when I'm acting like the biggest dork in the world!

Me being G.I. Jonathan on the S.S. Lane Victory in Long Beach CA
4.  Remember The Little Things that Make Each Other Special:  I will always seek out your hand to hold.  I will always appreciate the look in your eyes that tells me "I'm proud of you.".  I will always, always believe (and tell you) "You're the prettiest girl in the room."  I will always appreciate that the things you love the most about me are the inner characteristics of patience, stablility, strength.  They may not sound "sexy", but they are timeless.  I will always nurture, and take joy, in you learning something new.  You are my best "student".  And I will always be grateful to you for introducing me to the Work that we share through the Foundation and teachings of Guy Finley. 

5.  Let Go of the Little Things that Try to Pull You Apart:  It's impossible to live together with someone day after day, year after year, and not get "a little irritated" at times (euphemism for thinking "You're an idiot!").  But we've both learned to forgive and let go.  So for all those times I've forgotten where the car is, slurped my soup, stared at you with a blank face because I had no clue what you were saying, bristled at the suggestion I do anything that was "work" after 6 pm, or slipped into a pouty, clingy state, thank you for letting it go and loving me still.  And for all those times you've lost your glasses or your phone and we've gone crazy looking for them only to find them in your purse, or gotten grumpy with a store clerk, or talked about ten more things you'd like to do around the house before I've finished one, or scolded me for "monkeying with the thermostat at night, I promise to always do the same:  let it go and love you still.  Perfect Love doesn't always feel perfect.  But that's when you know it's real.  When you realize nothing is more important than that love.

6.  You Can Never Say "Thank You" Too Much:  Because we both came to each other in the later years of our lives, I think we've always had a special sense of gratitude for each other.  We both lived previous lives that left us very unhappy at times, so we are grateful to be with each other now.  And through our actions and words, we show that.  When I bring you your cup of coffee in the morning or when you bring me my dinner, we still look each other in the eyes and say "Thank you".  These little courtesies are also fine threads that lovingly tie us together.  We recognize and appreciate each other - nothing is assumed.  I love that.

7.  Keep Seeking New Adventures to Share:  From our first (and only!) raft trip together down the Rogue River 8 years ago, to our hike up Lower Table Rock two weeks ago, our lives together have been filled with new adventures:  places gone and seen, things done and shared.  Some have been grand:  our trip to Italy.  Others have been quiet and small:  painting the backyard fence together.  Some have required us to have nerves of steel:  ziplining through the trees in Cave Junction.  Other times all we did was sit quietly in a dusty, ancient California mission and breathed history and reverence together.  The new experiences we've shared have also helped bond us and write virtual chapters in the story of our life and love together.  I look forward to many more.

Deborah zip-lining and screaming "Oh My God!"
So to my wife, my partner, my best friend, my lover, my companion, my confederate and confidant.

"Molte grazie!"

"There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing  someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps" (Ronald Reagan) 

Us along the Oregon Coast - March 2013
I'm that happy man.  The best is yet to come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Letting The Breeze Blow In

" But I will give you a breeze to help you on your way; it will never tire nor fail, but bear you easily over land and sea." (Louisa May Alcott)

"Life seems a breeze right now".  That thought has ambled softly around my brain the last few days.

I'm slowly learning to adjust to a whole new rhythm of life as the fact of my retirement sinks in.  Summer is over - its carefree idylls ended.  Yet, here I sit at home this morning, while all across the state 28,000 teachers are greeting 583,000 students for the first time and launching a new school year.  The winds of Life - breezes or storms - will take us both in new, unknown directions.  I wonder if they are all as eager and hopeful as I am.  I hope so.

For the first time in my entire life in September, I can choose whatever it is that I want to do.  No ABC schedules; no curriculum goals; no bells; no periods; no Learning Targets; no meetings.  No 50 minute lunches, filled with 35 minutes of helping kids.  No more PLCS, SLCS, LPAS, or POPS.  No more fire drills, earthquake drills, lockdowns, or Discipline Lessons.  I am free to define my day however I want to, and not have its meaning and tasks dictated by a calendar or agenda.  Today, after helping my wife head off to her job (brought her coffee, packed her lunch, kissed her and waved goodbye), I hopped on my bike and rode over to the club and worked out.  First thing in the morning.  Just because I felt like it. Just because I could.  Wow!  Hard to believe I could do that.

"Life is a breeze".  Perhaps that's why we all long for the breeze. It reminds us of what freedom feels like.  I bet if you closed your eyes and thought for a moment, you could probably remember distinctly a breeze that touched and tingled a part of you.  I know I can.

  • The summer breezes I felt sitting in my back yard.  Morning breeze - cool and fresh.  Afternoon breeze - its music gently rattling through the trees.  Evening breeze - soft and sweet, lulling me to sleep.
  • Walking along the beach with Deborah and feeling the ocean breeze whip past and around and through me, turning me teary-eyed in appreciation as it raced along the sands to destinations far away.
  • The welcome breezes that came last month and scoured our gray smoky skies clean and brought back the bright blues and greens of the Rogue Valley - and lifted our spirits.
We love the breeze and we long for its caress.  But why?  I think the answer is because it touches a part of ourselves - a longing inside us - a need that gets buried by everyday life and the schedules, plans, jobs, and tasks that fill our days.  The breeze, whenever I'm present to its presence, reminds me to reconnect to Life. That's the longing that busy-ness blankets and blurs.  

Life is meant to be like the breeze - moving, ever changing, fresh and new.  I know that over time it's easy to become habitual and mechanical - stuck in what I've always done.  I want to seek out Life's breezes.  

But contrary to our assumptions, all breezes are not easy and soothing.  Some disturb and lay bare that which has been dusty and dry.  Some breezes shake things up and make a mess.  Some breezes chill to the bone, and are precursors to a storm.  But that is what my Life is meant to be - ALIVE.  Filled with all of that.  That which soothes me, makes me happy - that which shakes me, but in doing so, reveals that which is unshakable within.

"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.  Don't go back to sleep." (Rumi)

I'm grateful to feel Life's breezes stirring me today.  I'm happy to be able to set sail for some new experiences in my life:  being a substitute teacher for the first time, new travels with Deborah, meeting new people at the Club, learning new things, and all the other surprises that Life will present me with as long as I stay open as I wander this new path.

"Hark, now hear the sailors cry, Smell the sea and feel the sky,
Let your soul and spirit fly,  Into the mystic" (Van Morrison)

Me on top of Lower Table Rock last week
I know that's the Pearl that Life has offered me.  A chance to be alive, and to experience all that's fresh and new - and to grow.  Whether I'm scaling mountains, or just putting a flower behind my ear.  

Out to dinner at Taprock with my beautiful wife
I intend to be open to it all.  I'm a lucky man.