Saturday, April 29, 2017

Inch One Hundred Sixty-Eight: Small Moment

Today is the next to last day of April, which means it is the next to last day of National Poetry Month. That sigh of relief you just heard was from my dear Warren, one of the most poetry-adverse individuals I have ever met. (I believe I have written this before, but somewhere in his past he had a doozy of a literature teacher who scarred him for life.) 

I was all set to write about poetry and indeed had as of last night a post about 80% done on that topic. It can wait. I want to write instead about a small moment, a small personal moment, that happened and that has been warming me ever since.

Those who know me know that my schedule is hectic, especially during the school year. I wrote about some of the hectic quality in this blog just last week, in fact. This week has been no exception. Thanks to changes to the Ohio attendance law, our attendance season is stretching longer into the school year, which is rapidly coming to a close (25 days, but who's counting?). As a measure of how tired my colleagues and I are, Stacy arrived at a school yesterday for yet another set of mediations, slid into the seat next to me, then laughed and said "I had to ask myself if I had the right school. Is this where I was supposed to be? They are all blending together at this point."

I write for a column for the online Myeloma Beacon, and my April column just ran. It is about treading water, because sometimes that's the best I can do. (You may find my column here if you are wondering.) 

So here is my small moment, which took me out of the pool, out of the hurly-burly, just out. 

Warren and I went out for dinner (which is a rare enough event). My only requirement was that it be quiet. Our mutual requirement was that we stick to Delaware. One by one, we rejected locations, mostly on the issue of noise. We finally settled on the Panera on the west side of town.

Note: We are not Panera patrons. Nothing against the chain, mind you. We just don't eat there. Ever.

Panera was quiet. (The drive-through line was heavy, but the indoor area had only a few diners here and there.) Warren ordered this and that; I ordered that and this. The meal came. It was warm, it was filling, it was delicious, I was starved (I had not eaten since breakfast due to an unusual schedule that day). 

We ate slowly and gratefully. Grateful for the food, grateful for the quiet, grateful for one another, grateful for the chance to talk and catch up on the day, grateful to be across from one another. 

As we sat there, talking or not, savoring the interlude, I felt the world drop away. It was just us. The Symphony, my workload, my health, our families, Aunt Ginger, the nation, Warren's shop work, the upcoming schedules, all receded. 

It was a small moment. It was a quiet moment. It was a Warren and April moment.

And it was all I needed. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Inch One Hundred Sixty-Seven: End of the Season

No, not that season. Although we at Court are nearing the end of the attendance season, it's not over yet, even though the school year almost is. I am currently slated for mediations up through May 4, and we may add some more before calling it for the year. Some would question whether it makes sense to mediate attendance so late in the school year. The schools are all out by May 25; seniors are out even before then. Yes, it makes sense, especially when we are having the discussion and a parent suddenly says "oh, I didn't know that..." (usually but not always said in the context of how many parent notes may be used each year) and can tuck that information away for the 2017-2018 school year.

The season I am talking about is the end of our Symphony season. Season 38 of the Central Ohio Symphony comes to a grand conclusion this evening, with an all Ohio emphasis. The concert features Ohio composers, Ohio arrangers, and Ohio soloists. (And, of course, all of the orchestra musicians and our conductor are also Ohioans.) Aptly titled "Hear Ohio," it should be quite a performance.

I realize I have written a lot lately, both here and elsewhere, about how much I deal with exhaustion and illness on a daily (hourly) basis. My friends both here and by mail, admonish me to slow down, pull back, don't push so hard. My Aunt Ginger today looked at me and said "don't do it all at once. Take it in small pieces until it is done." (She then sat silent for a moment, then added, "so says mom" and giggled.)

Finishing the Symphony season tonight takes a little off my plate. I am not as deeply involved in the group as I was in years past, but you can't be married to the group's Executive Director and not be married to the Symphony. I don't do the heavy lifting and carrying anymore, but I still write the press releases, proofread when asked, and generally aid and assist in smaller ways.

And I still bake our wonderful conductor a pie for each and every concert. Here is the End of the Season pie for another amazing year.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Inch One Hundred Sixty-Six: Keeping My Accounts

Back in January I wrote about putting stringent monetary controls in place so I could achieve some upcoming financial goals. I had two looming expenses at the time. The first expense was meeting my 2017 out of pocket and in network medical deductibles ($1500.00). As of the last EOB, I am within $5.00 of accomplishing that, and with the EOBs trailing the actual medical bills, I know I have met that figure early on.

The second expense, a goal really, was buying tickets for the whole Pacific Northwest contingent to fly home in July for a week together. I bought the tickets on the last day of March, managing to reach that goal in the first quarter. That expenditure ($2150.00) knocked my account (my "expense account," now renamed my "goals account") to under $300.00, but with recent deposits, including my March mileage check from my job, I am closing in rapidly on a balance of $1000.00.

For someone whose finances have ranged from tight to tightest for a decade and a half, being able to see I almost have $1000.00 set aside in an account separate and apart from my daily checking account is a stunning moment. I all but blink back tears when I think back over those years: a lengthy separation and divorce during which I shouldered 99% of the expenses of two households, the medical catastrophe of an incurable and expensive cancer, being unable to work for over a year, a bankruptcy, and on and on. There were long stretches of time, even as my finances stabilized, even after Warren and I married and both of us had more financial stability, when I wearily wondered whether I would ever get past living paycheck to paycheck. [A note: Warren and I keep our finances separate. When I talk about living paycheck to paycheck, I am talking about myself only.]

And here I am.

I continue to print out my pay stub every payday and pen out where my dollars will go. This has been a great visual tool to keep my mind focused on the relationship between money in and money out. On the home front, I am tracking our 2017 monthly grocery/household expenses and we have dropped them from $200.00 a month (not counting eating out, which continues to regularly come in under $50.00) to about $175.00 a month. (Thank you, Warren, for being as thrifty as I am.) And thanks to my outright antipathy towards shopping and mindless consumer consumption, my expenditures tend to be few and far between.

In Walden, Thoreau often wrote of economy, which is fitting given that his time at the pond was an experiment in seeing how close to the bone he could live. In my recent rereading of the book, I came across this wonderful bit of advice: "keep your accounts on your thumb nail."

What a great sentiment! I don't do my nails ever, but if I did, I would have $1000.00 painted onto my thumbnail, just to remind me of how far I have come.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Inch One Hundred Sixty-Five: Small Connections

Mary Poppins by Mary Shepard 
We are still in what I call attendance season: the span of months from October to early May in which three colleagues and I at Court spend much of our week mediating attendance matters in four school districts. I am only the mediator; Vikki, Lisa, and Stacy, in addition to mediating, also meet with students individually on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Between the three of them, they will have over 3000 contacts; add 300 mediations and you are talking a lot of work.

A. Whole. Lot. Of. Work.

It goes without saying that I am tired. I am invigorated by the pace but exhausted. Early May cannot come soon enough. Coffee with friends has gone by the wayside. Other appointments are squeezed into the cracks between the mediations. (Actually, it is the other way around. I set appointments that I cannot move—Aunt Ginger's hair appointment, for example, or chemo—and then wedge mediations in around them.) And the three colleagues I work with are going at my pace and beyond.

So what does this have to do with small connections? Stay with me.

Christopher Robin & Pooh by E. H. Shepard
Warren has been playing in the pit orchestra for an area high school's musical, "Mary Poppins." I went to see the show last night. Let it be known that I am a huge fan of the books by P. L. Travers. I am not a fan of the Disney movie, which removed all of the wit and wisdom of Travers and added a huge dose of saccharine musical numbers and dialogue. (Which is too bad, because Julie Andrews was excellent and would have been every bit as good, probably better, if she had the real Mary Poppins to play instead of the Disneyfied version). The musical version, still a Disney vehicle, is better, allowing a bit of the vinegar back into into the story, but it is still a far cry from the books.

Which is a long way of saying this morning at breakfast, after a late night getting home from the musical, we were discussing the show and certain scenes, and I jumped up to get my 80th anniversary omnibus edition of the Poppins books. (The revised Poppins books, because Travers had the good sense to remove some wildly racist writings, with apologies, and totally rewrite the stories, although she still missed a scene here and there). In thumbing through the book, I came across one of the line drawings that showed Warren what I was referring to.

In my tiredness, I looked at the drawing and thought "Shepard."

Toad by E. H. Shepard
E. H. Shepard illustrated all of the Winnie the Pooh books and The Wind in the Willows. His line drawings for many of us define what Pooh and Toad look like (hint: not the Disney version, either). But to my knowledge, E. H. Shepard had not illustrated Mary Poppins.

And indeed he had not. Mary Shepard had. Related? A quick Google search confirmed that Mary was the daughter of E.H.  E.H. was too busy to illustrate Poppins when it came time to find an illustrator. Travers claims she saw a Christmas card illustrated by Mary, liked what she saw, and the rest was history.

And my small connection today. Not dot to dot, but line to line, drawing to drawing, book to book, father to daughter, Milne to Travers, Pooh and Toad and Mole to Poppins and Jane and Michael.

We were having a later than usual breakfast this morning due to a later than usual night out last night due to the musical. We were having a slower than usual breakfast because it was Saturday and neither of us had to rush to the office or to a school or to rehearsal. Warren and I have not seen a lot of one another the last few weeks because of rehearsals and work and mediations, so we took the time to talk and smile and savor Margo's homemade English muffins (a birthday present to me) and reconnect.

Connections. Some big, some small, all just right.