Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bye-bye Things!

The name of my blog is my motto in my classroom as well.  When my students ask what matters most,  I say, "People, Attitude, Respect and Effort."  Specifically, I say that people matter more than possessions.

So, one month ago I received a rather shocking prompting by a wise Heavenly Father that since I was spending a great deal of time driving, teaching, playing with grandchildren, and sleeping and way too much time feeling guilty and frustrated about not cleaning, repairing and maintaining a home I hardly live in, it was time to make the difficult but necessary decision to sell my house.  Since that time, Sam and Terri have decided to rent the house from me while they are here for a 7 week med school rotation, which meant that things had to happen fast!  Before they move in around January 20, we decided all carpet needed to be replaced, both bathrooms needed to be redone, and the kitchen and dining room floors needed done.  Whew!  That means everything off of all floors in the house.  I have 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen--all full of things I thought I needed at one point in time.

Jana has been amazing.  She has spent ridiculous amounts of time over here in order to help me, especially while I've been home for Christmas break.  She cracks the whip, but as I see what I have managed to accumulate over 25 years in  this house, she needs more of a cattle prod than a whip.  My goal was to keep 25% of my belongings.  I'm probably more at the 40% level, but still--I'm pretty proud of myself.  Jana has driven several carloads (like a dozen) of things to various thrift stores, I have thrown away a lot of junk, Bonnie has picked up many, many sacks of books for the library sales (most with the 'library sale' price tag still on them), and I am taking dozens more to school with me.  In a couple of years when Quinn starts a classroom he will have more books in his class library than any 1st teacher in the world.  I say that because once these wonderful books leave this house, they are never coming back!  Of course, I kept hundreds.  It is not exaggeration, boasting nor confession, but merely a fact to say that I had thousands of books before this process started.  Of the fourteen bookcases I had in various rooms, I have taken 2 to my classroom, sold (or have listed on Craigslist) 4 more and will donate a couple more before I am done.

I also like dishes.  I just finished packing up 12 boxes of glass plates, bowls, sugar and creamer sets and other miscellaneous glassware for Bonnie's brother, Scott, to take to an antique store he rents a space in.  Of course, I kept all the really nice Depression glass and dishes I 'love' so his offer to buy stuff he probably can't sell is a gift of friendship as well as service.

We've been selling things on Craigslist (by we, I mean Jana does all the work and I collect the money).  That allowed me to buy a new, used stove to replace my old one, and will pay other bills that will accrue in this crazy endeavor.  Part of my provident living philosophy has always been to buy used furniture, books, etc etc, so it's fun to see items start a new life somewhere else.

Cody has hauled about 30 loaded storage containers out into the garage--books and dishes are heavy--and helped Chuck and another friend, Don, tear apart one bathroom today.  Chuck has also hauled stuff to thrift shops and primed one bathroom today so he can paint it next week.  Cody primed the other bathroom so that Chuck can paint it too.  Quinn helped get the ball rolling at Thanksgiving and Sam's rent while he's here is paying for some of what has to be done before I can list it in March.  Still, Jana gets the crown.  I have to wonder as she learned just before Christmas that she's having her first daughter in May if she thought maybe she'd have a wonderful adult daughter someday who would help her in her future hour (read: months) of need.  I appreciate her so much.

So, bye-bye green hutch, farewell glass plates with stars etched around the rim, ta-ta trains sets and toys, adios Christmas decorations that I have never/will never use, and ciao to clothes I don't wear.  Hello to less stuff to dust, wash, ignore and forget.  But before I get too excited, I will remember what Robert Frost said, not when he was riding home on a snowy evening on a loyal horse I suggest, but while he was cleaning and packing up a house:
                                         "But I have promises to keep,   
                                                      And miles to go before I sleep,   
                                                                  And miles to go before I sleep."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Christmas Wish

Someone at Church read this quote by a now deceased general authority today and I really like it.  It doesn't describe who I am, but it describes who I want to be.  I think it's who we all want to be, but it's harder than it sounds.  It's what I was trying to say in an essay I wrote a few years ago about second chances.  That essay was on my old blog that I can't add things to anymore, but I've copied it and added it below Brother Ashton's quote.

“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

None of us need one more person bashing or pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we're trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses. What ever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt? What ever happened to hoping that another person would succeed or achieve? What ever happened to rooting for each other?”

Marvin J. Ashton
For several years, NPR encouraged listeners to write an essay titled, This I Believe. So I did. I did not however, send it to NPR like I wanted to. But here it is:

This I Believe

I believe in second chances. Not necessarily the kind that romance novels tout, although who can’t applaud that, but second chances in all respects. Rooted in a belief in redemption, my hope is that all of us hold fast to knowledge that few mistakes are fatal, nor are many first attempts completely successful.

My students roll their eyes when I remind them that I expect not just one edited draft, but several, before they turn in that final offering. No matter how good your first draft is, I nag, your second and third will be better.

Still, it’s not with student essays that my hope for second chances resonates any more than for new love. My deepest, most abiding hopes are for those who have taken a path that is in a slow or quick descent. Too many of these people have been led to believe that their journey is one way—there is no way back to higher ground. Too many others, watching them make these mistakes, turn their backs on loved ones, broken-hearted but resigned to what they fear is a hopeless cause.

I reject that negative approach. I reject the cynicism that perpetuates the idea that people never change. I acknowledge that these doubts often develop through seeing a loved one improve only to regress again. Perhaps I should admit that I believe in third chances and twentieth chances. I should also acknowledge that in the large collection of light bulb jokes I’ve heard, my favorite is the one where we are asked how many psychologists it takes to change a light bulb. Only one, the teller responds, but the light bulb has to really want to change. It is an absolute truth that we cannot control another person or their choices.

What we can do, however, is give each other permission to become better people. I believe in suspending doubt, even though the softened heart that results might get bruised. I believe that while we might be culturally or chemically predisposed toward certain weaknesses, we are not powerless to change. Some weaknesses are relatively easy to eliminate—chewing gum with your mouth open or using words that are inappropriate or inflammatory come to this teacher’s mind. More difficult to amend are substance abuse addictions or long held, childhood learned prejudices. Still harder are habits that harm or exploit others.

Some people will need extensive help and may even need a space away from the general population. Would that our corrections departments truly believed in second chances. Far too many employed in these programs have hardened their hearts to the point that recidivism is expected.

I believe in our ability to stand up after falling and to climb out of the depths in which we are mired. I believe that we are stronger than we acknowledge, but that we need others to believe in us as well. Call me crazy, I believe that Miguel de Cervantes gave us Don Quixote as a role model. I’d rather be accused of being delusional while encouraging a Dulcinea than be sensible and give up on people.

I teach teenagers, I mother my own children, I associate with much loved friends and family, and I look in the mirror at least once a day. I believe in second chances. I depend on them. I rejoice in them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lightening My Load--Literally

One of the ways I'm going to handle selling my house and most of what's in it is going to involve writing about it.  Bad news for my blog followers.  Good therapy for me.

Thanksgiving break:  Step one-- Quinn and Jana help me get rid of stuff in my garage.  Most of it was from a garage sale that Cody held in the summer.  Some of the items were given to him by friends who were decluttering as well as things we were getting rid of.  So now it's gone on to thrift stores along with a few more things I won't ever use again.  We also threw away stuff.  Not valuable stuff.  Just junk. 

Step two--Jana and Chuck came over today to start in on the house.  We packed up two or three boxes of VHS tapes. Harder than I expected.  Not that I would have probably every watched most of them again, but I liked looking at the titles of my favorite movies.  It was proof I'm not a hoarder though.  When it came down to it, I waved all but a few goodbye.  My facebook post:   Took a step into reality today and packed up almost all of my VHS tapes. Fine, I watched other people do it for me. Kept a few: It's a Wonderful Life, Chicken Run, Waking Ned Devine, Wallace and Grommit, A & E Pride and Prejudice--you know, just the essentials. The rest will be at a thrift store near you!

We also packed up a ton of fabric I was sure I'd make quilts out of someday and games I haven't played in years.  Even a few tablecloths--not all, this is the first time through.  When I realize how much a storage unit is going to cost and how quickly it will fill, I'll go through everything again.

Tonight I'll start on Christmas bins.  My strategy will be that every Santa or Snowman figurine I get rid of will mean one more nativity set I get to keep.  The last count of Nativity sets was 60.  Some are tiny!

I know why most people make their children do this after they die.  I'm not a hoarder, but I'm a collector.  As I say to my students:  We can do hard things!