Christmas Letter 2014

Happy Boxing Day (2nd Day of Christmas) and may all be well with you and yours!

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I’m learning to live as a Human Be-ing and not so much a Human Do-ing . . . enjoying a “broad margin to my life” as stated by Thoreau. I’ve taken to calling the little pond near my house Walden Pond. I can see it well in winter because the leaves are gone, one of nature’s little trade-offs. Today it’s sparkling in the sunshine. A Y friend and I agreed that our doing less now is partly because home is so very comfortable. I cook more, using the veggies from my Terripin Farms CSA. I had a great Christmas Eve with storytelling friends. enjoying raclette while telling stories and laughing and generally having fun . . . and reading Green Eggs and Ham in Latin — who knew?

My comfortable little eco-home is a bit less quiet, as builders work to “complete the subdivision.” We knew it had to come, and it has brought some very nice new neighbors, but the wildlife will miss the empty lots. There is still common ground, what a friend called “decorative woods” (I hope it’s enough), and the process of building homes is quite fascinating to watch . . . our own Bob the Builder!  Their piles of left-over wood remind me of the scrap wood blocks my dad made and this story https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/santa-dreams-a-new-toy/

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A dozen or so favorite authors keep me happy by writing books I love. Students used to ask, “Is every author your favorite?” Here are just a few recent loves: Elaine Viets, Susan McBride, Louise Penney, Laurie King, *Hank Phillippi Ryan, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Margaret Maron, Nancy Martin, Brandon Mull . . . Edith Maxwell writes mysteries set on an organic farm much like this one

My wonderful library keeps me supplied with books and DVDs (all sorts of favorite shows from PBS, plus old favorites like Twilight Zone and Quantum Leap). Readers and Stitchers, book groups, and our monthly Second Monday Story Swap are all fun. I still knit apple baby hats for friends, and am currently making socks for myself with yarn from a shop called Hanks. I have to take more breaks to massage my “angry” thumbs, but it’s not a race.IMG_0114

Gateway Storytellers meets every other month, and I am in the process of handing over the newsletter responsibility to new officers in January. I’ve been doing it forever, and there should be more than one person able to carry on a task. Our Riverwinds friends meet in Illinois, and the Festival will continue, first weekend in May as it has for 30+ years.

The body requires maintenance to stay mobile. I teach tai chi twice a week, because Charlotte couldn’t keep doing it, and was very good about teaching me enough to be able to step up. I’ll be giving a short class at the New Year’s Day open house (free t-shirts and snacks for attendees). I don’t teach aqua aerobics anymore (a new rule about having to retrieve a ring from the bottom of the 5’ water which I couldn’t do), but I attend. Going over in a bit to do the old routine, which I’ve missed, with whoever shows up (no one, so I did it by myself; maybe more will be there Monday). There are no classes right now . . . doing our own thing is a good break in routine.

I used to mail holiday letters (closer to New Year’s because teaching was so all-consuming), then switched to mostly email, with only two friends needing paper copies. I’ve been neglecting email lately and do most of my (over?)sharing on “social media,”
sporadically on this blog
and daily on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mary.garrett.37604 plus a few videos
My videos on YouTube   one more video here

Lovely surprises: warm enough weather for a sunset walk. Then when I went out to open/close the mailbox so the paint wouldn’t stick it shut, I saw a beautiful moon! Also, in addition to finding the little auto-parts bird in the “Room of Requirement,” I also found my official Certificate of Credibility, issued after a student, denied some concession, told me that was “why you have no credibility with your students.” Colleagues, including Cindy Menkhus, Sherri Pogue, Donna Wallace, signed it, and then most of that class asked to also sign — take that, ornery student! Fun times remembered . .

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Wishing you all the best in the coming year!

P.S.

On the Third Day of Christmas, I just read in Deborah Crombie’s _A Share in Death_ “. . . your life isn’t trivial or inconsequential. If the things that matter to us every day weren’t important, no one’s death . . . would be much loss.” Good reminder to savor the ordinary!

Back from the library, having put the rest of my planned errands on the mañana list AKA “not today.” Rainy and a bit dreary I could handle, but the tires slipped a bit on the road and as Dad always said, “Watch out for those other drivers.” When Stephen Michael Hahn was small, the Parents as First Teachers visitor asked what one does on rainy days, with expected answer being wearing raincoats, boots, etc. He said, “Stay home.” She wasn’t allowed to give credit for that answer; I’m saying now he should have gotten extra credit (I’ve been called the Queen of Extra Credit), and that answer should have been added as the best possible answer. Think of how many problems would be prevented if people stayed home in treacherous weather . . . . Y’all stay safe! ❤
Post Office was on my list . . . postponed by rain. I mailed Christmas letters with Harry Potter stamps. Still don’t know what happened to the stamp order I posted two weeks ago.

P.P.S. (part of my response to a friend’s email)

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I’ll put in a photo of the little bird.  It was a gift from a worker when I went to a junkyard in search of a window handle for my Pinto, rather clever work.  I had lost it in the move, half-thought I might have given it away, but I went through a bag of things in the spare bedroom (Room of Requirement is a Harry Potter reference), the same bag in which I found lost photos.

Angry thumbs might be arthritis, possibly related to the sarcoidosis, or just years of use.  My chiro says a majority of post-menopausal women have thumb issues.  As with all such problems, the key is to keep using them, but respecting the limits.  My aunt’s doctor told her to keep doing crochet so her hands wouldn’t stiffen — she made doll clothes, easier to hold and quicker to complete.  I’m making baby hats and socks for myself, though there is one sweater I should finish.

I can relate to the fear of getting lost, no sense of direction at all.  Perhaps walking a short route or taking a friend . . . Dr. Paul Lam’s tai chi DVDs are pretty easy to do.   One can also work short stretch/movement breaks into the activities of the day, and it does warm one up, too.  Hardest for me is to try to remember to do occasional stair climbing . . . the second floor condo made that automatic, but now if I want to be able to climb when I need to, I have to consciously do some stairs sometimes, down to the basement, or at the Y.  Stairs also help me relieve some of the lower back stiffness.

☼♡ HaPpY ThAnksGiVing ♡☼

☼♡ HaPpY  ThAnksGiVing or Thanukkah and may every day be glorious! ♡☼Image

(Numbers/dates should start with 11th . . . but what do numbers really matter? 🙂

  1. Storyteller friendships, and especially the wisdom of Elizabeth Ellis, who has helped me more times than I can count.
  2. Sustenance and beauty in life . . . . Reminder from Renée Tompkins — Bread and Roses  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWkVcaAGCi0    The birthday cake Lisa made for me, the first in many years! . . . and ongoing friendship, including last night’s  small but interesting story swap at McClay.   . . .  interesting date 11/12/13  . . . I read that there are many weddings scheduled for today. I’ll think of something memorable to do . . . but not that.  Maybe teaching tai chi is special enough . . .  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3.   Coffee and chocolate!!  There were those few years when I could have no caffeine, and yet somehow I did function . . . I don’t know how.
  4. Big thank you to whoever (Marie?)  recommended _Waitress_ and _Strangers in Good Company_ (and to my library for lending them to me) — marvelous!!  . . .   Healthy living gives us more time to do the things we love.  One easy step for me, a lesson from my Aunt Yoko,  was making real, not instant oatmeal, with cinnamon and sometimes ginger and a splash of milk . . . better tasting than the over-sugared little instant packets.
  5.   Years of wonderful students, wonderful fellow teachers, and a few good administrators.  Jan Freeman, my favorite assistant principal taught me, “Choose your battles.”  Only so much energy and time . . . and taught students, “The best discipline is self-discipline.”  Wayne Gronefeld taught so much calm competence and humor, and trusted us that, even when our classes might look chaotic, our junior high students were learning in the best, most active, way.  Every spring, he gave timely warning to be extra vigilant because, “the sap is rising.”
  6.   I love ordinary, quiet days.  As I learned about some of my students‘ difficult lives, I’d thank my mother for our “boring, ordinary life.”  Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times . . .   I have learned that many of the things I worry about are actually “doesn’t matter.”
  7. Gratitude:  My nieces’ wisdom (beyond their years?) Any time there’s a techie question, young friends and relatives are the ones with answers, and they are also good with the people problems.  Jill once said to me, when a friend dropped me for not wanting to boycott _The Golden Compass_, “She wasn’t a real friend then, was she?”  Moriah put into perspective my angst over new, impossible for me, testing requirement for teaching aqua, “Why are you worrying about it?  It’s the worst-paying job in town.”    ** I learned the trick of “fake” early deadlines when Jill was little and Bill needed my help on the nights he was working.  Papers done early meant I could play without worrying about schoolwork.  Even then, she had good ideas, and once when I complimented her cleverness, Jill summed up life’s wisdom well, “I may not know it all, but I know some things.”  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Grateful for the hard lessons and for the foreshadowing in books and stories to prepare me for real life lessons:  Listening again to _Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire_, Jim Dale’s wonderful reading.  As Stephen said, “The man’s a genius!”  I am enjoying revisiting parts that I had forgotten and/or that were different in the movie, and a realization of life’s lessons.  At the end, when Ministry official and others are denying Harry’s report on the return of Voldemort, I realized that I can understand that part a bit better now, thanks to someone I thought was a friend . . . My close friends know they can trust the truth of whatever I say to be true, to the extent that no one ever assigned me to bring someone to a surprise party. (“a glass face” Outlander series)  This person taught me how it feels to be told, “Shame on you.  That can’t be true” . . . a valuable lesson, just one of many that life has taught, whether I wanted it to or not.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  9.   Retirement means time to read . . .  whole series in order . . . and savor the levels. In  Laurie R King‘s _A Grave Talent_ (first of the Kate Martinelli series), I was struck by this apt and lovely metaphor for love, “getting to the end of a puzzle and finding you’d been given the wrong pieces, and then finding the right ones, and it all falls smoothly, naturally into place.”
  10.   I love the hand-made gifts I receive, socks, decorations, candles.  I used to make sweaters for the little ones, now mostly stick to easy baby hats . . . but they are all special, full of the love that went into them ❤   Two former neighbors at the condo laughed one day as they talked about throwing away “horrible” handmade gifts they’d received.  Those who don’t appreciate deserve not to get more and remind me of Walker’s “Everyday Use.”  http://faculty.weber.edu/jyoung/English%206710/Everyday%20Use.pdf
  11.   I am grateful for KDL What’s Next http://ww2.kdl.org/libcat/whatsnext.asp  It does help to read series in order, though not impossible to put facts together out of order, if one can remember long enough.  A student and I decided long ago that books were a benign addiction. ❤
  12.   Quiet . . . and company.  There is a Hoja story in which, desiring quiet, the Hoja told everyone that there were free seeds in the market.  Then, as all rushed off for the free seeds, he wondered if there might really be free seeds . . .  and went to the marketplace himself.  I’m reminded of times I opted out of excursions to catch up on grading (teachers’ particular Sisyphean task) and then wished I had gone.
  13.   Grateful for roads taken . . . and not . . .  Frost’s poem can be interpreted multiple ways: a sigh . . . of contentment?  or regret?    “What if?” seems such a useless phrase, unless one had Hermione’s time-turner to back it up.  There are some decisions or accidents I might want to redo, but on the whole, I’m happy where I am, and the journey’s side trips got me here.
  14. Gratitude for fun times singing this with my niece Joy Hahn  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAfCQ-t7xY0    and mixed-up versions of Hey Diddle Diddle with Robin and Christopher and Nicolas, and “It’s behind us now” sightings of the impossible with Moriah and Stephen.  Mom used to call me Auntie Mame when I’d return from an adventure with kids.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  15. Gratitude:  I recently found a green round tablecloth at Goodwill to add to the collection . . . I’ve started keeping a cloth on my glass table, not to be fancy but because my eyes do not like the glare off the glass . . . each birthday seems to bring a new challenge.  Grateful for all the stages and seasons of life.  Almost time to switch from the oranges of fall to red and green (Celtic/Christmas), then red for Valentine’s Day, then green for St. Pat.  A friend used to separate red/green M&Ms (half price after Christmas) to make Valentine and St. Pat’s treats later).
  16.   Grateful for pretty sunsets, ripples on the little pond (now visible since leaves have fallen), birds finding food and resting spots . . . time to notice the beauty . . .  Our family home had westward-facing windows in living room and kitchen, good planning by a father who was raised on a farm and appreciated nature.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  17. Wishing for McCoy’s medical tricorder for my own little troubles and for friends who are fighting more serious battles . . .  Meanwhile, grateful for Dr. Albers, chiropractor, and Dr. Cannon, allergist, and Dr. Siler and Janelle for breath and sleep . . .  and all the other healers out there  ❤  and for my new frog ballerina from Lucy, and catching up on frog stories http://www.youtube.com/user/storytellermary/videos     Gateway Storytellers meeting was great last night — lunch today with Janelle Shahid — life is good!  Interesting that I’m going out to lunch with friends more now that I’m not committed to teaching at noon M/W/F . . . though I do hope to make it to aqua on Friday, to make up for so much feasting.
  18. Grateful for close friends (Mary Ellen’s for Thanksgiving dinner) and for travel . . . I’ve adopted a strategy of stopping any mental negativity by recalling places I’ve been . . . where I have met so many kind and loving people.  GPS keeps me on track better now, but whenever I became “temporarily mislaid,”  I met so many nice people in so many nice places.  ❤  and grateful for  good, strong people.  This reminds me of Joseph’s Good Samaritan story.   http://www.viralnova.com/protective-bikers/
  19. Grateful to be cosy at home drinking coffee . . . and grateful for the fun of following Marisa’s thrift store makeover designs, and inspiration to try my own small projects.  Contest right now for fancy coffee maker . . . we’ve come a long way from Mom’s percolator (though I did like the sounds of the coffee perking away).  http://www.newdressaday.com/2013/11/27/holiday-giveaway-tassimo-brewing-system/
  20. and one more “to grow on”  http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/2013/11/Doctor-Who-Wedding-Cake-Chipotle-Cranberry-Sauce.html