Back to School

owl-47526_1280I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. As usual, the excuse is I’ve been too busy. Right now, there are several other things I should be doing, but sometimes it’s good to take a brain break.

Topping the list of my too-busy-to-blog excuses is that I am taking a couple online classes. One is a California history class, and the other is called “Single-subject Methods for Teaching Social Science”. I am also studying for the state-required exam that will deem me—once I pass—eligible to teach social science at the middle school and high school levels. For anyone who might be reading this outside of the US, middle school is what we call school for children who are eleven to thirteen years of age. High school is for students who are between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years.

I will finish both classes at the end of May and take the exam the first week of June. Then in July, I will take the same type of class and start studying for the same type of exam that will allow me to teach English language development to middle and high schoolers.

If all goes as planned, I will be credentialed to teach all grade levels.

The worst part of doing this is how exhausted I am. It’s tiring to work full time, be a mom, do adulty things, and go to school all at the same time. The end is in sight, though, and that is what I hold on to when I feel like I’m going to drown in reading and writing assignments while trying to tackle the ever-growing pile of my students’ papers to grade … all while trying to study the material I need to know for the social science exam.

Why am I doing this? Because I thrive on change and I love to learn. The end result, however, is to make myself more marketable. Options are always a good thing.

 

The Music Played

Three years ago, I lay curled up on the couch in our living room, covered in an icy blanket of hopelessness and depression. My dad was dying.

The hard truth about death is there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. We can only postpone it. My dad’s time had come after years of keeping it at bay, pushing it off each time it crept in like a fog, and I knew it.

What could I do?

He needs his music.

The idea, seemingly external in origin, reached in and took hold of me. I knew how important music was to him. I couldn’t stop him from dying, but I could give him one final gift—the same gift he gave me years before when we sat, poring over his record collection, listening to everything from Janis Joplin to the old-school folk music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. I pulled myself off the couch and spent the next couple hours scouring iTunes and making a CD of music I knew he would like.

Three years ago I sat by my dad’s bed in the skilled nursing facility, talking to my mom and listening to the CD I placed into the player on the laminate wood nightstand. Together, we waited. My dad had been in a “non-aware” state for a couple weeks so my mom and I talked around him, not to him—at least until my mom needed to make a short run to her office down the road. She kissed him and told him goodbye … that she would be back soon.

I think he was waiting for that moment. I think he didn’t want to die alone, but also didn’t want to put his wife through the pain of watching him take his last breaths.

I turned up the music, which had been set to a barely audible volume and returned to my chair near the foot of his bed. I laughed when Johnny Cash repeated his famous lyrics about falling down, down, down into a growing ring of fire. That kind of imagery probably wasn’t the most comforting to a man who was about to pass from this world, into what lies beyond. I said as much to my dad while switching to the next song. We shared the same dark sense of humor, so I’m sure he didn’t mind.

During the next couple of songs, the time between each rise and fall of my dad’s chest grew longer and longer. I moved my chair next to the head of his bed and held his hand while we listened to Alison Krauss and Neil Young. I cried bawled. I wondered at times if he had taken his last breath, only to see his chest rise again. I called my brother, who was at work, and told him to call our mom.

I told my dad it was okay to go. That he had been a good dad. I thanked him for taking me fishing and camping, for always being a part of my life, for sharing his love for music with me.

I told him I loved him.

I don’t know at what point he left his body—the exact moment that he died. He left without a word, without a sign. At some point between his last breaths, he had opened his blue eyes just enough that I could see the light was gone.

He was gone.

Still, the little CD player serenaded him with the music he loved while I held his hand, tears streaming.

I smiled. I don’t know why. Maybe because he chose me to be the one to see him off; I was honored. For a moment, I felt his presence in the room. But maybe I imagined it. I like to think he stood—for the first time in years—and saw that I wept for him, for the loss of him. Then he felt … gone.

Death is a knife to those left behind, cutting deep, leaving scars that heal slowly. But, just like music, the memories play on.

 

Xenodochial (R.I.P. Rocco)

Xenodochial is an adjective that mroccotuxeans “friendly to strangers.” At least that’s what http://adjectivesstarting.com/ claims.

My go-to source for most things word related, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, doesn’t recognize that form of the word so I can’t say for sure it exists. But I’m going to use it because it works for what I want to write about. Because two days ago it was “X” day for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  

Because two days ago, we had to say good-bye to our sweet Golden Retriever. 

We adopted Rocco four years ago. Even then, he had enough white fur on his face and body to tell us that he was an older pup. Still, he was energetic and healthy for most of time we had him. And, like most Golden Retrievers, he loved just about everyone—friends and strangers alike.

A few months ago, things changed. His health and vitality began to decline until finally his suffering, his struggle to breathe and eat, became too much.

It was a gloomy, atypical rainy day in San Diego County when we gathered around Rocco as a family, stroked his once-golden fur, and said tearful good-byes to our faithful friend. We were there when he took his last breath.

I couldn’t help but think of the day—two years ago—I sat by my dad’s bedside, held his once-strong hand, and sobbed as I told him how much I loved him. I was there when the first man I ever loved took his last breath.

In Rocco’s final moments, he lifted his head and looked toward the door of the vet’s office. Maybe it was a normal reaction. Maybe he noticed a change taking place in his body. Maybe it was electrical impulses. I prefer to think he was responding to a loving call to transition to the other side of life.

I wonder if it was my dad—who always enjoyed visits from our happy, loving dog—he heard. Maybe Rocco recognized the man who slipped him pizza crust when he thought we weren’t looking.

In any case, I know Rocco is being taken care of. I know I will see him again. I also know we will always love and miss him.

Good-bye, sweet Rocco.

drroccoroccopup

 

 

Working Again

WThis year’s A to Z Blog Challenge has been a fail for me. Since I went back to teaching in February, I have little time or energy to do much else. There’s a lot I want to write about, but by the time I sit down to do it, all I want to do is not think.

I know it won’t always be this way; it just takes time to settle into a new routine, new school, and new curriculum.

It’s almost summer and my workload will soon decrease significantly. I hope to catch up on the A-Z Blog Challenge during that time.

Thank you for stopping by. I promise to stop by your blog if you let me know you visited. Just hit “like” or make a comment.

In any case, enjoy the last few days of the A to Z Challenge. As always, I look forward to reading all the different posts!

My Fitbit is Stalking Me

FI got a Fitbit about a week ago, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I could go on about how motivating it is to have a device that tells me how many steps I’ve taken, how many calories I’ve burned, and how many flights of stairs I’ve gone up.

I could go on about all that, but I have a feeling it already knows how I feel about it.

It’s a little freaky how much it knows about me—in particular my sleeping patterns. It records when I fall asleep and get up in the morning. It knows when I wake up briefly during the night and even when I’ve simply tossed or turned.

I test its accuracy by looking at my clock when I do wake up in the night (too often, thanks to my cat) then checking the Fitbit’s data in the morning. I’m sure there are brainiacs reading this who can explain to me how the Fitbit works, but I don’t get enough sleep to comprehend any other explanation than my watch-thing is watching me.

So, with that in mind, I’ll leave you with this…

“Every Breath You Take”
by the Police

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

Since you’ve gone I’ve been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying, “Baby, baby, please”

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you
Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you

I’ll be watching you
Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)
Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)
Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)

Name Change

So, I changed the name of my blog. I got tired of the old one, so to add a little excitement to my life, I spent the better part of a day thinking of the perfect name.

Good bye “Whims & Wanderings.” You’ve been replaced.

Why “Life Within the Words”?

Words are a big part of my life, especially written words. I am surrounded by them. Mostly I read them; sometimes I write them. I’m paid to evaluate them. I love words.

I also have a life. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister.

The new name represents what this blog is about. I write words about people who write words. I write words of my own. I write about the words I write. But filling the spaces between the words in my world is my world—my life. I use this blog to write about my life.

I began this blog years ago. I think it was originally called “Life in Bits & Pieces.” I liked that one, but it sort of made me think of a life that had been shattered. Mine’s fine. Thank God, my life is not broken. It was about my life and all the parts of it.

Then it was called something else. Must have been boring because I don’t remember what. I don’t think I wrote much during that time. ((yawn))

I changed it to “Whims & Wanderings” because I figured I’d use it to write about whatever I wanted, unbound by a theme. It was a decent name, but like I said above, I got tired of it.

“Life Within the Words” better suits what this blog has evolved into. It’s a stopping ground for all my blog posts. When I write a post on my author blog, it will end up here. My editing blog posts will be copied here as well. Posts about my real life—where my family, my faith, and my musings reside—will continue to be posted here.

Life … within the words.

My husband suggested the name “The Junk Drawer” since everything ends up here. I like that one, but … junk … maybe not.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thanks! I hope you visit again.

word
Yep. I made this.

 

 

Z is for ZaniLa

Z is for ZaniLa

The ZaniLa Rhyme is a form created by Laura Lamarca. It has 4 lines in each stanza.
The rhyme scheme ABCB; the syllable count is 9/7/9/9.
Line 3 contains an internal rhyme and is repeated but switch alternately with each stanza.
It has a minimum of 3 stanzas. 
Source: http://www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/zanilarhyme.html

Steel Like You

I see the steel bars on the window
and there are locks on the door
I hold the key and I can be free
but do I want to give any more?

What is left unsaid, others will claim
and what I can’t give, you steal
I can be free and I hold the key
but is it too late for us to heal?

A generous heart that is tender
bound in a soul that is true
I hold the key and I can be free
but I never want to be like you.

P is for Planning

P is for Planning

PI am the first to admit, I am horrible at planning. It’s not that I don’t have goals. It’s not that I’m lazy… okay, sometimes it is. I guess it’s not a priority to me. I’m sure those who are reading this who are planners have a hard time understanding that concept.

I don’t remember dates, so if I plan too far ahead, I will absolutely forget. For example, hair appointments. Instead of scheduling my next appointment while I’m still at the salon, I just wait until my hair is unbearable and then call to schedule an appointment… preferably for that day.

Sometimes plans change, so I take a proactive stance and wait to see if an event is really going to happen before I commit to it.

I’m not going to lie. Life would be simpler if I took some time to plan ahead and being open to improving my life, I plan to plan more. One area I will start planning more faithfully is in figuring out ahead of time what my kids need to do for their school work that day. Then I can write it down and they don’t have to keep asking, “What should I do next?” I used to plan a week at a time when I was teaching, and that worked pretty well. I should try it with homeschooling.

Okay, now I plan to finish this so I can go ahead and plan something for the letter Q.

Thanks for stopping by!

B is for Bike

BA couple weeks ago, my doctor told me to get some exercise. Not because I’m overweight. Not because I have high blood pressure or heart disease. No, he scolded me because after listening to me go on for twenty minutes about how depressed I had been over the past few months, he asked the three-word question I had hoped to dodge.

“Are you exercising?”

A year ago, I would have proudly told him I had just gotten my purple belt in Taekwondo. I would have told him that I was working out regularly. A few short years ago, I would have told him how I was training for and ran a marathon.

But sitting in my doctor’s office that day, I answered with a guilty shrug, “No.”

One of the problems with depression—at least for me—is that it can suck the energy, motivation, and vitality out of life. I think everyone has seen the articles and research about how much exercising helps with depression. I found myself in a  circular situation. I wasn’t exercising because I was depressed. I was staying depressed because I wasn’t exercising.

The doctor boosted my anti-depressants along with strict orders to exercise, even if it is just walking. He must have seen through my less-than-enthusiastic “okays” and “sure, I’ll do thats”; he scheduled me to see him again in six weeks. He warned me he was going to ask the same question and I better have a better answer.

I’m a wimp. I don’t like to be scolded.

I thought about what I could do for exercise, besides walking… I’m sure you see where this is going since the title of this post is “B is for Bike.”

Now, I’ve been very vocal about how much I dislike cycling. Running was my love and even though running abused my left foot, I still mourn for that loss.

I’ve done road cycling. I don’t like it. I don’t like traffic and I live in southern California, where it’s almost impossible to avoid people who I’m certain are just waiting for the perfect opportunity to run me off the road.

I do love nature. I especially love being where there are no cars or crowds. So the day after my visit to the doctor, I told my husband that I was going to start mountain biking with him. He was surprised but glad… he’s been bugging me about cycling for almost two years.

He got my dusty, old mountain bike down from its hanging spot in the garage, pumped air into the tires, and checked the brakes. And we went mountain—or trail—biking. It was tough. I am embarrassingly out of shape, but I had fun. We’ve gone a few times since and I actually look forward to putting my body through the work… seeing how far I can push myself.

It is true; exercise really does help with depression. I’ve been happier and mentally healthier than I’ve been in almost a year. I feel like I’m coming back after being checked out for far too long.

And it feels good!

DSC_0364

Sometimes I Think

Sometimes in the quiet of the morning, before everyone is awake, I give myself time to think. Sometimes my thoughts wander to what I need to do that day. Sometimes I think about a book I’m editing. Sometimes I think on a deeper level and look inside myself.

Sometimes I find that my mind is focused on the wrong things. Maybe I allow the small stuff to take up residence in my head and heart because it’s easier to face than the hard stuff—the things that really matter.

Recently, I forced myself to take a step back and ask what is really worthy of my time and energy. This was very freeing; once I realized how much I was allowing myself to be emotionally drained by the petty things and decided to let them go, it was like coming up for air after being underwater for too long.

So, who/what is worthy of the space in my head?

  • My son and how we need to address his social anxiety and Tourette syndrome. The road ahead of us as we start the process of having him assessed for Asperger’s syndrome. His future. He deserves to be on my mind.
  • How to meet the needs of my younger son who is gifted in many areas. I feel like I fall short when it comes to encouraging and nurturing his growth in these areas. He also deserves space in my head.
  • My health. I’ve always been blessed with good health, but ever since my dad died and I lost my job, my health—physical and mental—has not been a priority. Depression will do that. I need to make changes.
  • My marriage. God knows I am far from the ideal wife. My husband deserves the best of me and I haven’t given that to him for a long time. Again, changes.
  • My friends who are struggling. Those I care about who are sick, have sick children, can’t make ends meet, who are grieving… they are worth it.

And who/what is not worthy of the space in my head?

  • People who don’t deserve to be there. Those who act like friends when they want or need something but will toss that “friendship” aside when it suits them.
  • Undeserved low opinions from people I don’t know and who don’t know me. I like to be liked… I admit that, but there are people will never like who and what I am. Wondering why and having my feelings hurt? Not worth it.
  • Grudges. I’ve never been much of a grudge holder. I forgive and move on easily. Every once in a while, though, something will happen and I enjoy disliking someone who hurt me. Is it worth my energy? Not at all.
  • Unhealthy criticism of myself. I am much harder on myself than I am on others. If I feel like I did something wrong or let someone down, I will beat myself up over it. It’s time to give myself the same grace I extend to others.

And now? I think I’m done writing this post.