Monday, January 31, 2011

in pursuit of exercise

So, I need to exercise more.  I have plenty of time for that when I'm with Grandpa, but running around in little circles and up and down the stairs is getting old.  I've been told and have read for years that h...hou...housew...hang on, I can do this...housework can be a good form of exercise.  And Mom & Dad would love the help.  So this a.m. I finally gave in to my better nature and told Mom, "I'm looking for more ways to exercise here, and I'll probably kick myself for this later, but I was wondering if-"  "You wanna' vacuum?!" Mom interrupted hopefully.  I said yes, and she showed me where they keep the vacuum and dusting stuff, practically dancing around the house.

I haven't actually touched the stuff yet, but I'm getting to it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

THAT'S better...

Today Grandpa made up for greeting me with an "ugh" and a belch a few weeks ago.  This morning he looked at me and said, "Well, hot dog and cold puppies!"  Now that's the way to greet someone you love!

Friday, January 21, 2011

best tutoring family and set-up ever

On April Fool's Day, appropriately enough, in 2009, I met N. and his family.  I was finishing up training in Alphabetic Phonics and needed a practicum student.  N. was available.  And one of the most surprising and delightful relationships I have ever had was born.

I've written about N. before; we have a lot of fun during our sessions and, as his mother says, we're both weird.  N. once said I was like the sister he never had.  I said who knows, you may still get a sister someday, and N. said, "Nope!  Mom got her tubes tied!"  (Mom said I could post this.)  It turns out N's father and I went to the same high school.  He was a couple of years ahead of me, and we don't remember each other, but my dad was his spanish teacher.  Twenty-five years later, I'm teaching his son.  Cool, huh?  At least it was until N's dad dug out his old high school yearbooks yesterday and showed the boys my freshman picture - never heard such a fit of giggles.  :)

N's family just moved to a place about 10-15 miles outside of town.  At first we weren't sure how we were going to continue tutoring, but we knew it would continue somehow - it was clear to all of us that this connection we've been given is more than that of a student and his tutor.  What we've come up with has been a tremendous blessing to me; I hope it continues to work out.  Twice a week I leave Grandpa's in the afternoon and pick up N. and his younger brother at school, drive them home, tutor N, then eat dinner with his family.  I'm loving it!

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory basically says that intelligence is not just something you have or you don't.  Everyone is intelligent in different ways and challenged in others.  As I've written before, I'm just a wee bit challenged when it comes to directions (east, west, etc.) and finding my way in an unfamiliar - okay, even in a familiar - setting.  That has to do with spatial intelligence.  I have none.  The other day N. didn't have school, so I decided to try an alternate route to his home.  Naturally, I got lost on the way to his house and had to call for directions.  When I finally arrived, N. came outside, stood next to the house, and pointed to it, just in case I needed any more help.  N. knows that when it comes to driving somewhere, I need a tutor.

At dinner last night we were all chatting and I mentioned someone's "gamut of experience."  N's brother, L, pointed at me and hollered, "Ah!  Fifty cents!"  "Huh?" I said.  "You said a bad word!  You have to put 50 cents in the swear jar!"  N. said, "Kerri said a bad word during tutoring today, too!"  "Hey!" I said.  N. was right, I did let one slip.  Those iPads are really cool, but when you want to stop a Youtube video at a particular point it can be a real pain until you get used to it.  Then there's the time I got called into the tutoring director's office for saying "pissed," even though that's not exactly what I said.  But that's another story.  And yes, there is more to my sessions than swearing and Youtube.  We also gamble.  Anyway, once L. found out that "gamut" wasn't a bad word, it just sounded like one, he amused himself by peppering the rest of our dinner conversation with it.  N & L's mom didn't really put her head down on the table (she's the blonde on the right) - she's great, too - but I thought this was a nice touch.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

how to: get revenge on your housemates

When a housemate throws away the cereal you just bought and claims she thought it was old, try giving her food away to the local food bank or something similar.  "Oh, were you going to eat that?  Gee, I'm sorry..."

I made these guys up in high school during some class - good to see that private education didn't go to waste.  I've been wanting to develop whatever artistic tendencies I have, so I thought I'd try this.  Many thanks to for the idea to use illustrations in my posts.  Also, many apologies to for even remotely connecting our blogs in any way.  You have a tremendous gift!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

you know...

You know you've taken enough cold/sinus medication for the day when you turn your head to look down a grocery aisle and nearly fall over.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

license plate of the day


RLLYOLD was driving a royal blue Toyota Rav 4.  I should have rear-ended her; she sounded like someone I'd enjoy meeting, and I have car insurance again!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

retreat in the flint hills - Dec. '10

Well, I'm still not ready to write about my personal experience of my 12/15/10 retreat, but kind folks have asked about it so I'll share what we did.  It really was a great time and I was/am deeply affected by it.

I went to the Tallgrass Spiritual Retreat Center:  It offers a wonderful variety of retreats, presentations, and space to make your own retreat.  Part of the appeal of this center is its location.  The Flint Hills in east-central Kansas are truly beautiful; rolling hills and valleys filled with fields, cows, streams, and a windmill here and there.  I wish my pictures did them justice.  But I was running a bit late, and my camera's coloring is off somehow, and I am a very amateur photographer, so all you can see here is a flat area going by at 60 mph.  (Are you starting to see a pattern in my photography?).  As a friend of mine from LA once said about western Kansas, "I've never seen so much...and so little!"

Now here's the backside of a great picture.  I'd foolishly just turned the camera off when I drove down a small slope dotted with trees and under a bridge with a bright orange train engine just passing overhead.  I mean, I could've won prizes with that picture.  Instead, I passed the bridge, pulled over, turned the camera back on, and captured this.  See what I mean?  Prizes, I tell you.

Anyway, the retreat was titled, "Marking a Passage" and had to do with recognizing and giving attention to any changes we've had in life recently.  We began with a ritual that reminds me of yoga's sun salutation; retreat facilitator (and center director) Billie Blair credits Joyce Rupp:

1.  Stand up and stretch your arms to the sky - giving thanks
2.  Reach your arms out to your sides and twist at the waist - acknowledging our brothers and sisters throughout the world
3.  Reach arms straight in front of you, palms up - giving of yourself
4.  Bring arms in and cup your hands together, holding them against your body - receiving
5.  Bend down and touch the floor - blessing and giving thanks for the earth
6.  Stand up and put hands flat, palm in, against your heart - I didn't write anything down after this step, but I bet you get the point.

Then Billie had us write down and answer the following questions:  "Why am I here?" and "How do I feel about my answer?"  Then she had us do it again.  Then she had us do it a third time.  It's interesting to see how your answers change as you go deeper.

Then she had us write the answer to the question, "How would I describe myself before (the passage/changes I'm marking today)?"

After lunch, Billie had us answer the following questions:  "What brought me here?"  "What do I want to acknowledge?" and "What is changing in my life that I've not been willing to see?"

To answer these questions, we could write in our journals or make a collage using pics pre-cut from magazines.  We probably could've also done an interpretive dance or written a song or painted a fence - whatever way worked best for us.  I chose to make a collage rather than write because it would be a different way to express my experience of the recent passages I'd traveled through.  I don't do much in the visual arts, and I thought it would be interesting to see what I ended up with:

The picture at the top left of the collage is a (fake) duck's rear end and legs - it was one of a set of three mounted on a board; it looked like a coat rack.  Anyway, I am fond of the image of ducks' rear ends - I'll share why another time.  (How's that for getting you hooked?  Or repulsed?)

We shared our answers to the questions with each other, then began a new activity.  With our dominant hand (hand we usually write with) Billie had us write down, "How have I been changed or am changing by this passage?" and "Is there a gift to be claimed?"  We had brought items to symbolize the passages we were marking, and we addressed each item with each question.  (I'd brought Chester and Oliver's name tags and my school/teacher ID from when I quit teaching special education in 2007.)  We wrote our responses to the questions using our non-dominant hand.  The changing of hands was very interesting to me; it is like walking a labyrinth: so simple, yet so powerful.  You turn off your autopilot and the automatic responses you might give to the question, and you access a different part of you - the whole you that God made - that you may not listen to very often.  Try it sometime.

(Now, if you grew up with a spiritual background similar to mine - protestant, evangelical - this activity would be akin to voodoo.  But the unusual methods in which the questions were asked and answered did not open me up to demons from hell, so don't worry.  It just gets you thinking, reflecting, praying, and listening outside of the box of your ordinary state of being.)

After further discussion and reflection, we ended the retreat by sharing what we had gained from it (that we were aware of at that point) and prayers for our continuing beyond the passage(s) we had marked.

I can't wait to go back.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

you know...

You know it's going to be an interesting day when:

You pick up your toothbrush and the toothpaste, then spread the toothpaste onto your palm.

You have to leave and you can't find your phone, so you call yourself from your aunt & uncle's phone (thank heavens for housemates).  The house phone you choose isn't cordless, so you call yourself, dash to your room, and think the phone is ringing in the canvas shopping bag next to your purse.  You pick up the bag and hold it to your ear and walk away from your purse to see if you're right re: bag vs. purse, and the phone stops ringing.  You think you're right about the bag, but you leave it in your room when you go back to the house phone to call yourself again - hey, it was early.  You call yourself for the 2nd time, dash to your room, and rummage through the bag.  You know the phone's in there now because you can hear it and see the light coming from it, but you keep rummaging through the bag and can't find it.  The phone stops ringing.  You empty out the bloomin' bag and find your phone in the plastic grocery sack with the loaf of bread - of course!  You go back to hang up the house phone and hear yourself on the line saying leave a message.  Even though they were both hang-ups, your cell phone then says, "Voice mail received."  Yay, I have mail!

Now you're running late, so you stuff a notebook with a post-it on it into your purse, telling yourself you'll read whatever reminder you wrote on the post-it later when you get to Mom & Dad's (M&D's).  Then you actually listen to the little voice in your head that says "check the note" - you do, and it says "record mileage to M&D's".  You remember you also wanted to take mayo to M&D's, so you say "mileage and mayo, mileage and mayo" nonstop so you won't forget them as you go start the car to warm it up.  You grab the mayo and start just saying "mileage" over and over.  You finish getting ready ("mileage, mileage, mileage"), grab your stuff and get in the car.  You put the car in reverse ("mileage, mileage, mileage") and stop at the end of the driveway when you realize "mileage, mileage, mileage" means you actually have to push a button.  You set the odometer and continue on your way, proud that you actually left home with everything you meant to take and do.

And that was all just this morning!  I have also recently and mistakenly sprayed body spray all over my hair instead of hairspray.  Later I thought, "Gee, my hair smells terrific!  But why is it so flat?"

fun with grandpa

Grandpa and I still have fun with each other, although the funny times are getting fewer and farther between as Grandpa gradually sleeps more and as we progress through this new relationship we have.  There is a website about caregiving that lists steps in the process of caring for someone in this way.  The steps include deciding how care will be provided, "I'm helping," and "I'm still helping."  Grandpa could probably relate - "She's still here."  :)  Some days are like that, but I'm thankful for the new dimensions it gives our relationship.

A few weeks ago, Dad had wooden runners made for the stairs so we can get Grandpa upstairs (and down!) more easily.  Today Grandpa said to me, "Hey, I've got an idea.  Why don't you slide down those boards?" 
"Yeah, and get a splinter in my rear.  You'd enjoy that, wouldn't you?"
"No, I'd think it was dumb."

After lunch today, I moved the TV tray and helped Gpa re-settle in his chair.  "Are you comfortable?" I asked. 
"Yeah - I mean yes," he said. 
I hit his knee - "Are you (still) comfortable?"
"Yes, ma'am!"
I hit his knee again.  "Now are  you comfortable?"
"Aw, shucks."
Grandpa laughed and said, "You should be in the circus."

Friday, January 7, 2011

how to: make a bank teller's day more interesting

Twenty years ago, I was a bank teller.  It was a fun job, once I got over the whole eww-how-many-people-have-touched-this-money-before-me-and-where-were-their-hands? thing.  Every once in a while we had to stay late for meetings, which irked me even though we were getting paid, but I didn't mind when the meetings were about how-to-stay-alive-while-you're-being-robbed.  I know bank-robbing isn't a good thing, but come on - who doesn't like a good dumb-and-smart-things-crooks-do-and-how-to-respond story?  In one, after the teller gave over the money, the guy said, "Now give me your car keys."  He had scoped her and the bank out beforehand and knew which car she drove!  (And therefore she was able to give a very accurate description of the getaway car to the police.)  Perhaps just an urban legend, but I was an early-20's-year-old in my first "real" job, and that creeped me out.

Anyway, I was reminded of that story today about half-way through performing the following maneuver in the parking lot of one of my new bank's branches, and I realized my actions could have looked like this:

What I did:                                          What a well-trained teller would think:
Pull into drive-thru area, look for             Pull into lot and block any cars which
place to pull over to fill out my               gung-ho employees or plain-carred security
deposit slip because I am so polite,       officers could use to follow me after the
fail to find much space, so block            robbery.
bank employees' cars as I write.

Lean over to my purse on the floor          Lean over to pick up weapons.
on the passenger side and pull
out my wallet and a medicine bottle.

Take an allergy pill.                               Take meth for courage.

Fill out deposit slip.                               Write robbery demands.

Back up, nearly hit car lurking just          Make erratic movements while operating
in front of the drive-thrus as that              heavy machinery just after taking drugs,
polite woman filled out her deposit           then...wait...never mind, it's just some
slip (they really need to expland that       idiot.
parking lot) and pull into drive-thru lane.

"little" blessings, big impact

Yesterday I left Grandpa's a little early and realized I'd be getting home right when my friend Ben got out of preschool.  As I'm sure you remember, he used to come visit for a bit after preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays until it was time to pick up his brother Sam at grade school.  So I called another friend, who just happens to be Ben's mom, and asked if Ben could come over.  She was signing Ben out, talking to someone, and had just changed purses and couldn't find her phone, so I had to leave a message.  (If mothers couldn't also be multi-taskers, what would this world be like??)  Anyway, Ben called me back and I asked him if he wanted to come over and play.  "Yeah!"  So Ben came over and caught me up on Legos and his mom and I caught up in general when we could fit words in edgewise.  Ben got on the Legos website, Mom left to get Sam, and Ben and I printed some pictures of Legos characters.  I had the brilliant idea of putting them in sheet protectors so they'd stay nice.  (Look for my "Nerds Having Fun" calendar coming out later this year - instead of pics, there will be fun tips like, "Make a list!"  "Make another list!"  "List your lists!", etc., and the month pages will be blank so you can draw your own lines and write in the numbers yourself - fun!)  Thought I'd commemorate the visit with camera phone pics - I'd like to say the quality of the pics is due to Ben moving, a rare Kansas earthquake, or your caffeine buzz (vs. mine), but you're probably smarter than that.  And can't you just hear Sam in that last one thinking, "Are you going to start pulling that thing out every time you see me?"  At least I don't pinch your cheeks, buddy.


Last week when I sat for Bella, I ate the family's entire box of Peppridge Farm assorted cookies - hey, the box was already open, one or two cookies were gone, and Christmas was over - what did they expect?  Today, our favorite hospice worker came to see Grandpa and brought me a belated Christmas gift - hot chocolate and...cookies!  I whooped in happiness and when Grandpa heard her coming down the stairs, he started clapping.  Y. always brings joy into our lives.  Then Grandpa asked her when she was going to hurry up and bring the batteries for the remote-control helicopter she gave him 2 weeks ago.  Taskmaster.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

fun with Benjamin and Maddie

My niece and nephew (and their mom and dad) visited for Christmas.  We all had a great visit, which included:

How to properly eat a birthday cake (don't tell my "stupid little brother" that he was right all along...).

One of my favorite things about being an auntie is getting the kids started on something then leaning back and watching what happens next.  (And looking like I had nothing to do with the whole thing.)


Hanging out next to Grandpa/Old Papa (and getting a much-needed nap).

(I didn't want to wake Maddie up, so I kept myself entertained with "here is the church, here is the steeple...."  Not really.)

Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie never fail to delight us. I like how Maddie's holding onto my hair in this one.

Twister's still fun!  Maddie and I are arguing about dibs on a particular blue dot.

And that's what happens when you argue with me about blue Twister dots.

Who knew there were so many ways to interpret left hand blue, left foot blue, right foot yellow?  I think Benjamin's showing some Saturday Night Fever potential here - you're just waiting for him to spin around, cock a hip, throw up an arm, and point.

And the biggest hit of the holiday?

Yep, bubble wrap.

an afternoon prayer with God

"Kerri, wake up."
I wake, turn in bed, and wait.
"Kerri, get up.  Come walk with me."
I leave my bed, get my shoes, and go out in the backyard.  I see the sidewalk going around the edges of the yard, along the fence.  I remember a labyrinth, and I begin to walk slowly.
"The time for mourning has gone, for now."
"Was that you, Lord, or me?  Was I jumping ahead, or do I just know it's time to stop mourning for now because of the way you said my name?  I can't tell."  I come to a tree swing, and I stop walking and sit down.  I quiet myself, and listen.
'Get up, come walk with me,' I remember, and sit with that for a while.  The afternoon light is dying, the pecans at my feet are dead, the trees are bare.
I get up and walk some more.  It's true: mourning is done for now.  "They're dead, Lord.  Chester's dead."  I cry.
"I know, my child, I know."  God's voice and presence are soft and loving, so caring.
I sit again and God reminds me of the new pack I have now, new tribe, new group.  I remember the ones that are gone: the dogs, former students.  I wonder how long this present situation will last, what will come next.
God lets me wonder.  He lets me know he loves me.
I go back into the house and open the door from my room to the rest of the house.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

in process

What is this space, this thing, this animal that I name grief?  What is this strange creature that slides in and out of my life with no warning, no asking of permission, yet also no menace?  What are you, you

transformative and transforms itself
death, and new life, growth
fine one day, slammed the next
weary all the way down to my soul
"grief" is sanity, vs. "depression," "mental illness"
knock me upside head, out of blue, suddenly I have no skeleton, no inner support
it must be drugs, see your doctor, get your meds checked, they say
no, I say - this is different - we've all been watching too many drug ads - it's okay to feel bad once in a while - in fact, it's probably imperative
let me be sad, let me be
but if you can't function...
I will function, I am functioning - this is how people function when their legs get swept out from under them and they fall flat on their face - just give me a minute to recover and stand up again - and please, please, stop making assumptions about or trying so hard to know what is happening to me and what I need - you probably do it without realizing it - I know you love me, but this desire to "help" me is not that at all; it is a desire to solve the problem, find an answer, remove the pain - and you do not have the right to do that, nor have you been given that do not have enough information to know the answers, and I choose not to give you much information - stop - don't be defensive - I love you, too - examine your heart, see if this is true - I know that desire to "help" well - I live with it and learn from it - do not let it come from a desire to know or control things that are not given to us - do not be afraid to let the pain, the uncertainty, be.
I do not welcome the uncertainly that is a constant part of my life, but I hope to, someday.  will she be alright?  will I?  We think we have to know more than we really do.  I have no idea what comes next.  All I can see is where I am now.  And I know that above all, underneath it all, through it all, all is well.
Let me be.  God is here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

movie with Sam

Sam and I saw "Despicable Me" today at the local see-it-late/see-it-cheap theater.  We figured this was our third time going to the movies together; we're hoping to make it a regular tradition.  Here we are waiting for the movie to start:

And here we are afterward:

Nowhere to go but up, as far as my taking-pics-with-my-phone skills go, huh?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

i like how you put that

(A police inspector had fallen through a trap door.)  "At the moment of his disappearance from the normal level of perambulation...."  Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time

(Re: a character with a slight (!) case of megalomania):  "Preoccupied with details of universe management and with thoughts related to the oncoming changes in his life, he was all but oblivious of the beauty of the forest."  Dean Koontz, Breathless

"'Christopher Robin and I are going for a Short Walk,' (Eeyore) said, 'not a Jostle.  If he likes to bring Pooh and Piglet with him, I shall be glad of their company, but one must be able to Breathe.'"  A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

"He was playing a song he had written himself called 'He Was Playing a Song He Had Written Himself,' all about how he was playing a song he had written himself.  (He had also written a song called 'But He Wasn't Playing That at the Moment,' but he wasn't playing that at the moment.)"  Andy Stanton, You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! - this book is FULL of funny, clever, out-of-the-box writing!

"Pretty please?"  "The appearance of the 'please' changes nothing.  No."  from Despicable Me