Digital Learning

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The past few months my eyes have been opened. I have learned to appreciate many things that I took for granted like worshiping in my church, family birthday parties and celebrations, a walk in the park, exercising in the gym, and so on. But most importantly, I took for granted my grandchildren’s teachers. Digital learning replaced the classroom and digital math, science, social studies and language arts tools replaced the teachers during this pandemic.

But the truth is, these digital tools were already in our student’s classroom being used daily supposedly to assess the progress of the students or in some cases to personalize the learning for students. In fact, under the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) (United States Congress, 2015), schools and districts are expected to use federal funds for evidence-based activities, strategies, and interventions. This includes selecting digital tools and assessment instruments to align with the district’s learning objectives for students. This may be why iReady and IXL are the given tools being used in our district.

IXL, for example tracks each student’s progress, reports it back to the teacher supposedly allowing the teacher to review the digital data and apply what the student needs as additional classroom work or homework. Addressing individual needs is time-consuming and reports show that teachers advise that in order to personalize learning for students, professional development should model this by being personalized to each teacher. While I am not privy to what professional development the teachers are getting, I feel certain it is being provided.

My question is the problem that the online digital tools are not “teaching” the subjects. There is a huge difference between the two, and we parents and grandparents have discovered this during the pandemic. The programs are designed as a supplement, not a permanent form of education.  One discovery that affects the success of iReady and IXL is that when a wrong answer is given, the consequence is the student is forced back to start over again. The average student can spend over and hour trying to reach their goal. And if a child spends all day on the computer learning from these digital online tools, research has discovered that when answers are incorrect without explaining misconceptions, students may lose rather than gain opportunities to learn. I saw this firsthand as my granddaughters struggled with the demeaning and unhealthy manner in which iReady and IXL “teach.”

I could find no worth in either of these programs other than it was better than no education at all. But in my opinion, nothing  can replace a teacher. It is my prayer and hope that when the day comes that our children and grandchildren return to a classroom setting, they will never be exposed to either of these two programs or any other digital learning unless is limited to a small amount of time and done for fun, not as the main way to learn. I would suggest the school districts spend the money they currently spend on digital programs for additional teachers. Give teachers an opportunity to teach without using the programs.

Yes, we have learned a lot. But for me, it is that teaching is a gift and to be a teacher, care and concern for the student come first over test scores. Small groups, individual attention, paper, pencils, library books, and sharing stories should not be replaced by a chrome book and digital learning. Now is the time to prepare for the return to the classroom and what education really means to our future. Living in this pandemic has been hard on everyone. Compassion and understanding are the keys to surviving. Our children are the most vulnerable and because they are our future, it is our responsibility to put them first. To bring them back to school and sit them in front of a computer again will be like a slap in the face. Let us trust the system and remember the value of our human ability to be present in the lives of those that  matter.

Happy New Year

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A few years ago I picked a WORD for the year that I wanted to see reflected in my daily life. It was RADIANT – a wise and amazing choice that gave me joy. Another year I chose JOY which lifted me up and cheered me on as I ventured in another year of aging.

I try not to over-think the next year’s word. I spend a little of each day as the end of the year approaches meditating on what word might best fit the new year. For some reason I did not pick a word for 2019, and found that I really missed seeing the little things that a word might show me. Because of this I went back through my photos and realized that my word should have been CREATIVE due to the amazing number of ways I was creative.

2919 Christmas Ball OrnamentIt began when I started making quilted ornaments from styrofoam ball. I used a YouTube video to teach myself how to do it. That lead a year-long effort making over 40 ornaments which I gave away to friends, family, teachers, or donated to raise money for my P.E.O. chapter or the Chattanooga Autism Center. My first ball was one of my favorites.

mushroom kale soupThe next thing I knew, I started a weight loss journey with Noom and discovered hundreds of wonderful healthy fulfilling recipes like this mushroom and kale soup with orzo pasta and within four months I lost 15 pounds and dropped two sizes.

 

handmade cardsThe next creative thing I discovered was handmade cards. I found fabric with pretty or cute patterns, cut them out and ironed on adhesive then trimmed them, peeled off the adhesive and ironed the pattern onto a card.

The next thing I did was paint the shutters on my house and then the front door. It’s kind of fun being known as the only house in our neighborhood with the yellow front door!new paint

Chickamauga Race

And if that wasn’t enough, I started walking on the treadmill at the gym and participated in the Chickamauga Chase walking two miles beeting my treadmill time by five minutes! Doesn’t sound too agressive, but before I started training, I could barely walk down the street to my granddaughter’s house without getted winded.

Dream Catcher

In April, I created a dream catcher for my granddaughter who has Autism.  By the time summer arrived, our backyard garden started to produce and I was able to create some delicious breakfasts with zucchini, cherry tomatoes and boiled eggs.

 

Lexi's dress

Sometime before school started I decided to make a dress for Emery Kate and then Lexi.  It has been over thirty years since I made a dress with my sewing machine.  It was such fun and so rewarding that they liked their dresses. EK's dress

 

 

I participated in my church’s first Trunk or Treat.  I rained so we brought it indoors to the Parish Hall.  Halloween Healthy TreatsOver 100 children visited with about 15 families hosting a table in lieu of a trunk.  I created mummy boxes of raisins, pumpkin cookies, and jack-o-lantern tangerines. They were all a big hit!

 

Finally, the last creative thing I did in 2019 was to finish Emery Kate’s afghan. I started crocheting it last year. She loves it! EK's afghan

 

Part of staying healthy at my age is staying mentally healthy as well as physically healthy. My morning routine of prayers, meditations and reading devotionals is key to my success. I discovered a little book by Catholic monk, Fr. Richard Rohr entitled Just This, a book of contemplative prayer. And although I am about finished with the book, it has occurred to me that I really like the idea of a contemplative mind.  According to Fr. Rohr, “The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see, ut teaches us how to see what we behold.”

That’s what I want! My sweet cousin, Patsy, says I’m the only person she know who doesn’t take things at face value. I question; I did deep; then deeper until I feel I have the answer. Contemplative prayer exemplifies this technique: read, study, read again, write, and of course pray. Maybe I’m a little OCD, who knows? If so, too bad I didn’t have this desire while in school or I would have made better grades! But one is never too old to learn new things.

And so this year I plan to stop my habitual thinking and work to broaden my horizons by usig my imagination. I begin by posting yesterdays message today. I kept telling myself to post, yesterday, but I was focused on cooking the blackeyed peas and my mother-in-law’s coleslaw recipe to which I added my father’s cheese grits recipe and fried ham bringing all the luck and prosperity I could muster up on one meal.

But then what is New Year’s Day really? For me, it’s about new beginnings and seeing things through a CONTEMPLATIVE mind.

Blessing for 2020

Gratitude

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Daylight Savings happened several days ago. Mornings are bright, evenings are not. For months we had temperatures rise to and go beyond 100 degrees with no rain in sight. Summer never seemed to end. Then in one day the temperature dropped 20 degrees in a few hours and it is suddenly Autumn. It rained, the leaves have turned to many glorious colors, and yes, our nights and early mornings are very cool while midday is sunny and amazing.

outdoor chapelNovember is the month of gratitude. On Sunday, November 3rd, my church celebrated All Saints Day. We met at our outdoor sanctuary, the Earth and All the Stars Chapel. During the Sunday School hour, the children and adults painted hand-made markers with names of loved ones gone before us.  We then placed them around the ground surrounding us all. Then during the ceremony we listened to the reading of the Necrology.  There was a slight breeze; the sunbeams danced between the tall pine trees; and there was a hush felt as we listened to Fr. Jason and Dea. Jay call out the names. Grateful, I am that everyone could share this beautiful time as a community.

In a few months I will be beginning a new decade, my seventh, and quite honestly I don’t feel any different than I did the last six decades.  Well, sort of. There are some aches and pains, some wrinkles and changes in skin color, but for the most part, I’m as healthy as I can be for a woman my age. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health, along with my annual flu shot a few months ago, and I can’t complain about a thing. So I am grateful to stay the course and continue to live forever.

Recently, a friend from over 20 years ago, sent me a message on Facebook that she had read Matthew 5:16 and thought of me: “Let your light to shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” She went on to say, “You exemplify this verse BEAUTIFULLY and I am very fortunate to have met you!” To which I responded thanking her and suggesting she sent this message to others, but that I too felt fortunate to have met her.  But she followed up with saying, “No, Pris, I sent it only to you. I remember asking you once how you managed always to be so positive and you replied that you were going to live forever. I could have imagined the conversation, I suppose, but it was a pivotal moment for me and one I have never forgotten.” How grateful I am this friend from so long ago reached out to me and shared this message. My response was Thank You.

Autism Walk 2019 photo

As this month continues I’m sure I will be blessed with more bits and pieces of gratitude. Tomorrow I will spend the morning with Emery Kate’s third grade class chaperoning a field trip to Rock City. Four little girls and one young man will be under my charge. Then on Saturday, I have the honor and privilege to walk in the Chattanooga Autism Center’s Annual WALK with our very own TEAM LEXI to which we are so grateful for family and friends donating to this important fundraiser.  On Monday, Emery Kate will be singing at the Veterans Day ceremony to which I will be attending while Mark is in Marietta at Hayden’s last time to sing and walk the halls of his school with his grandfather.

autism ornamentsWednesday next week I have two reasons to be grateful, one is a Local School Goverance Meeting at Lexi’s school, a position I was elected to by other parents and grandparents, and then I am helping a sweet friend and others she has invited to learn to make quilted ornaments.  We have reserved a room at the Catoosa County Library and are having so much fun. Finally, we will spend Thanksgiving in Jackson, MS with Mark’s sister and her husband Bob, who is recovering from heart surgery.  Grateful that the surgery is a success and that he is on the mend and very excited we are coming to visit. A wood fire buring, a new puppy jumping on our laps, rocking on the front porch under a warm blanket and telling old stories. I love November!20160402_093616

I end with a quote from Miester Eckhart: “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is, ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.”

THANK YOU

My Secret Place of the Most High

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“He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (KJV).

My father grew up a faithful Episcopalian saying his prayers on his knees every night even as a grown man.  His mother took credit for instilling such faith in her youngest son.  He passed that faith on to me.

It began when he invited me as a young girl to join him at the early church service at our home church, Trinity Episcopal in Baton Rouge.  It began at 7:30 a.m. and was over in 30 or 40 minutes. We entered in silence, me wearing my lace head cover and he a coat and tie.  He always held the doors for me and walked down the aisle with me. He bowed his head and I curtsied toward the brass cross sitting on the alter in the chancel. He entered the pew pulling down the kneeler, the wooden padded bench for our knees to rest on in prayer.  We silently prayed and sat down on the pew.

There was no music, no singing, and no sermon.  But there was a beautiful magical service of hearing God’s Word from both the Old Testament and then from the Gospels of the New Testament. The best part of the service was celebrating the Lord’s Supper. I never left one of those Sunday morning worship services without feeling closer to God than I was the day before.

Sometime during that time of my life, I forgot to look for God and began to realized God was already with me inside my heart. I would seek out quiet places to talk to God such as a fig tree in a garden on my way home from school, or swinging on the front porch of my house, standing by my open bedroom window listening to the rain fall between the branches of the cedar tree just outside.

As I grew older, I took my relationship with God another step by asking advice when I needed help.  That may sound childish or silly, but it always worked. At first appearance one might say I had a lot of coincidences in my life, but were they? The word coincidence is related mathematically to the idea of angles that coincide.  When two angles meet this way, they do so perfectly. When I got my answers was it a coincidence or God working through me perfectly?

For example, I might have a problem with a simple decision to go out with boy or not (when and if he asked). Turning it over to God did two things.  First it freed me up from stressing over whether to say yes or no and second when I woke up the next day and had my answer, I was thrilled. Today, they call this letting go and letting God.

The secret place of the most high is not a place but a state of mind.  For we can talk to God anywhere whether it’s in church, on the side of the road, on a noisy playground at school, or closed off in your room listening to the rain filled with the sweet scent of cedar.

As an adult this line in Psalm 91 came to mean something else to me. My future husband was being shipped off to who knew where during the Viet Nam era and I was beside myself with concern for his safety.  Then one day, his dear sweet grandmother, we called MyMy, Rachel Richardson Metcalf, wrote me a beautiful letter.  She told me that I was not alone in my love for her grandson that I should read Psalm 91 every night before going to bed and my fears would be eased.  It did not take me long to memorize the sixteen verses.

To live eternally in the household of God, I am living out my calling to be like God – with power, wisdom, love, and intelligence. I give thanks to my Father for giving me the opportunity to dwell in the household of the God with him, to respect me enough teach me early on that God and I are one.

And to this day, I live in faith that I, “Abide under the shadow of the Almighty” who also lives in me, as me, for all eternity.

Service Is Joy

 

2018 Adult Autism Symposium

Recently my husband and I volunteered at the Second Annual Adult Autism Symposium in Chattanooga.  This is the only such gathering east of the Mississippi River and so many of the attendees came from out of state.  The creator of this event is Scott Kramer, program director and founder of the Centre for Adult Autism, Southeast USA (GCA.)  The purpose of this organization is, “Empowering autistic adults and young adults and their parents/caregivers by serving as a resource center to provide mutual support, information & activities.” The GCA is a program of the Chattanooga Autism Center (CAC) which my husband, Mark and I volunteer regularly for as well as help to raise money by sponsoring Team Lexi at the CAC Walk every year.

Scott Kramer is an adult with Autism and founded this GCA, formally known as the Greater Chattanooga Aspies. But not all adults or children for that matter have the high functioning Asperger’s. In fact Asperger’s is now just part of the spectrum of all forms of Autism and not considered separate.  When I asked him about the Logo, he explained that the round ball in the center represents a head of a person while the curved moon shape reflect open arms.  The balls are being “tossed” between the hands.  In Scott’s words, “This perception can be seen as an adult living with autism who (a) has hope (because of the arms being open), (b) is learning independent living skills (because of the juggling of various responsibilities), (c)is strong (because of the dark shade of blue).” 

I learned the meaning of service at a very young age. Doing a “service project” in Girl Scouts was a given and the older I got the more sophisticated the service. At Sunday school, my teachers taught that giving to others our time and talents was good for all concerned. Not only did the person I was helping benefit, but I grew spiritually in doing the giving. It wasn’t until I was an adult and continued to volunteer for various organizations that I truly understood the meaning of service. One of my favorite quotes is by Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy.  I awoke and saw that life was service.  I acted and behold, service was joy.”

At the symposium I met adults with Autism, parents of adults with Autism, speakers with knowledge to share, and vendors with goods to sell for anyone under the spectrum and vendors with Autism selling their art, inventions, and ideas. For example I met at young man and his mother who started an alternative baseball league for teens, age 15 and up and adults with Autism.  He lives in the Atlanta area and now has leagues in seven states and was looking to start a league in the Chattanooga area. His name is Taylor Duncan. I took a few minutes of my time to hear his message and left with a heart filled with joy.  What an inspiration Taylor is along with his mother who sat proudly supporting her son with his effort telling me that for the first three years there was only one team but members of a minor league volunteered to give the new alternative team tips and so each time they met they played scrimmage games. In 2018, Taylor Duncan was awarded House Resolution 1420 by the Georgia House of Representatives for his work in Alternative Baseball.

“…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23.7) What we think and say determines our life experiences. Yes, the first time I met an adult or child with Autism that did not make eye contact when talking to me, it was a new experience.  But I realized early on that they still see me and I see them and if I listen to them instead of watch them talking, I really hear what they are saying.  I then can think in my heart instead of my head and be the person I’m called to be.

Service Is Joy

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GCA ScanRecently my husband and I volunteered at the Second Annual Adult Autism Symposium in Chattanooga.  This is the only such gathering east of the Mississippi River and so many of the attendees came from out of state.  The creator of this event is Scott Kramer, program director and founder of the Centre for Adult Autism, Southeast USA (GCA.)  The purpose of this organization is, “Empowering autistic adults and young adults and their parents/caregivers by serving as a resource center to provide mutual support, information & activities.” The GCA is a program of the Chattanooga Autism Center (CAC) which my husband, Mark and I volunteer regularly for as well as help to raise money by sponsoring Team Lexi at the CAC Walk every year. Mimi and Lexi 2017 Walk

Scott Kramer is an adult with Autism and founded the GCA, formally known as the Greater Chattanooga Aspies. But not all adults or children for that matter have the high functioning Asperger’s. In fact Asperger’s is now just part of the spectrum of all forms of Autism and not considered separate.  When I asked him about the Logo, he explained that the round ball in the center represents a head of a person while the curved moon shape reflect open arms.  The balls are being “tossed” between the hands.  In Scott’s words, “This perception can be seen as an adult living with autism who (a) has hope (because of the arms being open), (b) is learning independent living skills (because of the juggling of various responsibilities), (c)is strong (because of the dark shade of blue).”

I learned the meaning of service at a very young age. Doing a “service project” in Girl Scouts was a given and the older I got the more sophisticated the service. At Sunday school, my teachers taught that giving to others our time and talents was good for all concerned. Not only did the person I was helping benefit, but I grew spiritually in doing the giving. It wasn’t until I was an adult and continued to volunteer for various organizations that I truly understood the meaning of service. One of my favorite quotes is by Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy.  I awoke and saw that life was service.  I acted and behold, service was joy.”

At the symposium I met adults with Autism, parents of adults with Autism, speakers with knowledge to share, and vendors with goods to sell for anyone under the spectrum and vendors with Autism selling their art, inventions, and ideas. For example I met at young man and his mother who started an alternative baseball league for teens, age 15 and up and adults with Autism.  He lives in the Atlanta area and now has leagues in seven states and was looking to start a league in the Chattanooga area. His name is Taylor Duncan. I took a few minutes of my time to hear his message and left with a heart filled with joy.  What an inspiration Taylor is along with his mother who sat proudly supporting her son with his effort telling me that for the first three years there was only one team but members of a minor league volunteered to give the new alternative team tips and so each time they met they played scrimmage games. In 2018, Taylor Duncan was awarded House Resolution 1420 by the Georgia House of Representatives for his work in Alternative Baseball.

2018 Adult Autism Symposium“…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23.7) What we think and say determines our life experiences. Yes, the first time I met an adult or child with Autism that did not make eye contact when talking to me, it was a new experience.  But I realized early on that they still see me and I see them and if I listen to them instead of watch them talking, I really hear what they are saying.  I then can think in my heart instead of my head and be the person I’m called to be.

A New Year and Adventure

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This is an open letter to all teachers, para pros, staff and faculty at my grandchildren’s schools:

It is that time of year that students, parents, teachers and faculty begin the new year at their respective schools.

I am very grateful that my grandchildren live and go to schools where they are treated with love, respect, kindness and understanding. And that are receiving a superb education.

My one request would be that no one go back to anything!  By this I mean to resolve to let go of a backward-looking consciousness.  That is, don’t say such things as, “go back to work” or “go back to school.”  These words imply monotony and unhappiness.

Let the new year be a time of reaching forward with eagerness and anticipation. In the days and months ahead live each day as if were the only day of eternity.  For it is true that the most important day is the present day.  There is no point in looking back or wasting time trying to look ahead.

Instead of keeping a calendar counting down the days to the first school break, countdown to upcoming events, celebrations, parties, and fun activities.  Post successes and achievements. Be proud that school is alive and well.

Success is based on the fact the we all have something in common.  We all love our children and grandchildren and we all only want what is best for them.  Knowing that we are one in this effort makes us strong and powerful and lifts us up which makes our schools wonderful.

And so I wish for you a great new year and an adventure for all concerned.  I plan to stay involved in all my grandchildren’s schools and be there for others who would also do so if they could.  For today is the most important year of my life and yours, the midpoint between all that we have been and all that we can and will become.

Happy New Year!

Pris Shartle

Paige, Lexi, Hayden and Emery Kate’s Grandmother and School Volunteer

A Lesson in Perception

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This year, 2018 has, for me, several serendipitous qualities. For one, I graduated from high school in 1968 at the age of 18. I, like the majority of my classmates was 68 years old at the reunion. But I have to admit, turning 68 years old has changed me more than any other birthday.  And for the good, I believe.

Philosopher and author, Wayne Dyer published a book not long before he passed away entitled, “ I Can See Clearly Now.” It is a book about his life and how when looking back on those times, he was able to see more clearly what really was going on or in some cases why it happened.  It got me to thinking about my own life and how I got to be where I am today, a sixty-eight year old woman.

My earliest memory was one when I was age three or four.  My brother and I are Irish Twins, born in the same calendar year, me in January and he Christmas day in December. It was Easter and my mother had made matching outfits for the two of us.  My sister was not yet born or was a baby.  Our mother was an excellent seamstress making her clothes as well our clothes.1953 (2)

What I remember most was not that my little brother and I were dressed so beautifully but that my mother was not happy that Sunday morning. I remember clearly sitting in the big arm chair in our little living room of our home.  My brother and I sat together, side-by-side, our legs too short to reach the foot stool at our feet.

He was crying silent tears.  I don’t remember why, just that he would not stop crying and the more he cried the more upset my mother got.  After we got home, my mother started to get us out of our new clothes.  By now my brother is exhausted from not trying to cry and we both show as much patience as two small children can to keep from upsetting our mother more than she was already upset.

My new Mary Jane patent leather shoes would be tucked away until the next time we went to church and my brother’s new saddle oxford shoes were removed.  Doing so, my mother discovered a wad of tissue paper jammed into the foot of each of my brother’s shoes. In that split second my mother realized that in taking the new shoes out of the box she had neglected to pull out the tissue and thus  my brother was forced to wear his new shoes with the tissue cramping his little feet.  This is why he had been crying and yet was unable to tell our mother what was wrong.

Later when she told this story to us, what I remembered remained the same but what I forgot was her over-whelming sense of regret and shame she felt for letting this happen to one of her children.  It was not a terrible thing, but one that could have been avoided had she stopped being upset with my brother and taken the time to figure out why he was crying.

I can see clearly now, at age 68, while sitting in that chair, holding my little brother’s hand that I was able to see things from a new perspective. I watched my mother who sat on the step stool discover that tissue paper, and it was the first time in my life that it occurred to me that things just might not be what they seem. It also marks the first time I began to wonder why my mother was always so unhappy. I inherited that same stool and today when I prop my feet upon it, I am mindful of the lessons I learned that Easter Sunday so many years ago. Things are not always what they appear no matter if seen through the eyes of a small child, young mother, or a 68 year-old grandmother.

 

Crow Like a Rooster

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This morning I got to thinking about why a rooster crows. I had heard it was to find a mate, but research tells me that a rooster will pretty much crow for any reason.  Scientists have determined that they have an inner clock that calls them to crow before the sun rises.

There are two roosters that live on the farm behind my neighborhood, and my house backs up to the road which the main house of the farm sits on.  I’ve never seen them, but I hear them all day.  So much so, I often don’t hear them even when they are crowing.

I became fascinated with “my” rooster when I first heard the story of the rooster Chantecler in the play, so named, written by Edmond Rostand, (the man who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac). The play is notable in that all the characters are farmyard animals including the main character, a chanticleer, or rooster.  Chantecler believes that his crowing causes the sun to rise and refuses to tell the other barnyard animals why his music is so beautiful. The play goes on with plots of deceit and murder, symbolizing the sign of times during Rostand’s life.

Chantecler the rooster

Maude Adams playing Chantecler in the 1911 play

Finally, Chantecler is lured from the barnyard by a beautiful pheasant who wants him to give up his crowing for her.  He denies her request but he ends up protecting all the birds from a hawk. He and the pheasant end up together in the forest when his life is threatened and this time she saves his life.  Both return to the barnyard where the pheasant resigns herself to being second place to Chantecler’s devotion to his duty of crowing every morning.

We can all take a lesson in devotion to duty and what is wrong with crowing about it as well? I’m sixty-eight years old and my duty in this time in my life is to help take care of my grandchildren.  Maybe not every day, but in a supportive role when needed. Whether I’m volunteering at their school, driving them to and from school, being the “mystery reader” in their classroom, or cheering for them at award ceremonies, I am present.  Maybe I cook a meal or two now and then, or take them out for a treat, a movie, or lunch.  Maybe we play a game of cards, Candyland, or I binge watch Fuller House with them on Netflix.

I’m proud to be a grandmother and grateful for my inner strength, healthy outlook, and ambitious attitude that makes me want crow like a chanticleer rooster or the roosters that lives behind my house.

 

group bowling

The Grandchildren – Good Times

Boomer Mindfulness

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I think it’s been two years since my last post.  Not a whole lot has changed on the outside, but a lot on the inside.

Since my hysterectomy three years ago, I’ve put on 25 pounds, lost a tooth and started taking high blood pressure pills.  The weight gain was expected and a direct result of the hormones I lost from the surgery – information I could have used had my doctor accurately prepared me.  The tooth loss was a misnomer other than the actual surgery which was the worst experience of my entire life in many ways.  And the blood pressure was just a “fact of age,” I’m told by my doctor of record.  But complications from the two surgeries were determining factors that brought the issue to the forefront.

However, I do not want to be one of those people who spend all their conversations talking about their health and tribulations related to their health.  So I want to share with you the good news.  My two young granddaughters moved down the street last year and I am loving every minute of their presence in my life.  It has been a learning experience for us all as they get to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins which they have never been around on a regular basis.  All this while their mother learns to be a single mom and they go back and forth every other weekend to be with their dad who lives about two hours away.  Everyone is working kindly to make the change a smooth one.

I’ve been focusing on mindfulness and really enjoying Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “living Buddha, living Christ.” His approach to mindfulness is simple and empowering at the same time, with tips on how to be mindful when brushing your teeth to walking on the earth to preparing a meal and so on.  Thich-Nhat-Hanh-books-stack

 

The best part is that I’m finally beginning to become mindful without trying!

Now that our backyard garden is producing, I am eating healthy foods and picking them and then eating them immediately which is an amazing experience.  But when done so mindfully, it becomes a spiritual experience.

Like the other day:

I decided to make a squash casserole to contribute to a family dinner to celebrate my great-niece’s first birthday.  I needed at least three pounds of squash and so went out to the garden and picked some.  Inside I gently cleaned the squash and then began to peel them.  As I held the squash in my hands I felt the warmth of the sun and the squash became alive in my hands.  Tears began to run down my cheeks as I blessed the squash for providing the nourishment we were about to receive. It didn’t take long for me to become aware of the beautiful casserole I was preparing nor did it take long for the guests to taste and appreciate the dish I prepared.

first 2016 garden crop

 

Being mindful, reminds me that I am part of a whole and that whole is Life.