Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our son....Alex

This is Alex, our 23 year old son and his lady friend, Lisa. She flew in to meet the family over Christmas vacation and she and Alex live together in Juneau, Alaska where Alex is finally in his last year of college. He is on the six year undergraduate plan but we actually think he is going to complete his degree! Whahoo!!!!! Alex has been problematic in the past, meaning that like many young people, we didn't always see eye to eye and we didn't like some of the people he hung with and some of the things he got involved with. Hopefully, he is on the road to manhood. Like many parents, we have worried seriously about where he would land and how.
Watching him for the first time ever with a woman he clearly cares about was very special. We saw a young man concerned that his woman be treated well. That she fit in and that she understood just how snarky his mom could be under pressure. I wanted to talk about Alex because today, I cried. He wrote the most loving message to Lisa on Facebook. A public proclamation of his feelings for her. Something I had not seen from him before.

One day during the holiday, the kids decided to go to the discount store and Lisa bought some play doh type material and proceeded to make toys. She first made a doll which she said was Alex like. Kinda looked female to me but she is clearly artistic. We had lots of laughs. Lisa also made a clay mask for Alex. Amazingly, he put it on and had his photo taken looking dorky.
Here are three of my favorite men. Richard, my husband, along with Alex and WeiLiang, or William as he is called. William, one of our sons, is our former Chinese exchange student who lived with us in Flint for his senior year. William is an "American boy" as he says. A graduate of the University of Arizona, who works in Northern California as a high tech computer engineer. We were so happy to have him home this summer while Alex was with us.

One thing I am enjoying about Alex is his ability to laugh with others and laugh at himself. He received these intriguing pjs for Christmas and put them on while everyone laughed at him. They are snuggly and I am betting they are getting plenty of use in the privacy of the kids' home in Alaska.
Because Alex lives so far away from us, we have only been able to see him twice per year, at the most. William gets home infrequently but we are hoping he will be with us again this spring in South Georgia. Family makes me smile and we are so lucky to have a growing extended family. Lots of family photos and family stories to tell. And there is always the story of how it is that I have a Honduran son, Allen, who I miss terribly. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


There is so much going on these days that trying to portion out time and energy for each option is somewhat frustrating. Still continuing to write, substitute teach, work on some consulting projects and do the family/friend get togethers that we want to do. This "retirement" gig is often more difficult than what I experienced when I used to have, "a real job."

Something good about routines. Wake up, shower, get dressed, eat, hop in the car and go to work, attacking all of work's daily challenges. These days, serious decisions have to be made. Sure, wake up and shower have to happen. But really, do I have to get dressed if I am not going out? I can work in my house isn't like anyone can see me UNLESS work involves a Skype video call. And now that my friend, Lois showed me how to do a Facebook video call, I just may have to get back into the routine of: wake up, shower and get dressed.

And breakfast, IF it happened when I worked every day, had to happen quickly and in an order....before brushing my teeth, for example. Today, I can eat breakfast at 5:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. or anytime before or after that. NO problem!

Today's real difficulty begins after eating my yogurt and swilling several cups of the very strongest coffee I can make. Should I write? Should I draft a proposal for a potential client? Should I try to reconnect with some friend somewhere in this world? Or, should I just sit down and listen to country music, read a book or complete a few Sudoku puzzles? And there is always the tiny gym at Sand Point that I can visit. Conversation there is guaranteed to be interesting. Many of the year round folks in the area are former educators and avid book readers.

Keeping touch with family and friends takes time also. That, like many of these non-routine activities makes me smile. Seems I didn't do as well as I should have while working; yet, there are many friends made in the workplace that I am now out of touch with and that makes me sad. I just reconnected with a friend who lives in Atlanta and I found that she has had numerous health issues, including cancer. I missed that and missed holding her hand from afar and lending support. She was there when I went through my cancer. Had I only connected with her earlier, I maybe could have helped in some small way. Again, the time is here but it is somehow all about the use of that time, the priorities and the results we want out of these "golden years."

I rely on Facebook and email to keep in touch with folks. That just isn't as thorough or deep as a phone call or a visit. Hooks everyone together but with string....not a tight rope binding us closely together. And by "tight rope" I do not mean cinching us tightly...just that a personal visit and conversation helps cross barriers that the wrong word or the wrong phrase might create.

Time to get "to work" on a proposal and then, later today, I am driving to Harbor Beach to substitute for a Weight Watcher leader who is in the hospital. In between? Maybe a nap? There are advantages to this "retirement gig" after all!

This is one of those family moments I am so happy we had. This is my adult son, Alex, with Lisa here at our home. Lisa was having some boring moments; so bought some play doh type material at the local discount store and made Alex some decorations. There is more of a story and more photos coming shortly! Family time is special time!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Luna...delighting us daily

It all started quietly enough. She just sat there looking at us thoughtfully, while all of her friends were rustling around, making noise, jumping and creating a chaotic scene. My granddaughter just pointed at her and said, “Isn’t that one cute?” After watching her and holding her for some time so we could get some idea of her personality, we made the decision. She had to come live with us…now. My husband was up north at our cottage but we called him to let him know that we had found our newest family addition. He was stressed and yelled at his granddaughter, “NO WAY!”  She shouted back, “WAY!”

The next day, my daughter, granddaughter and my grandson went to the pet store and we checked out the tiny Chorki. She is a Chihuahua, Yorkie mix puppy who was still quietly standing in the midst of the puppy chaos. Again, we called my husband who was no less clear…”NO damn pretend dog is being bought. I want a hunting dog. No more boot dogs.” Boot dogs, by the way, are those tiny ones you just want to kick out of your way!  Kenzie, our granddaughter patiently explained that the decision had been made and we were in love with her. She had to come home with us. I snuggled the puppy close to my heart and she looked lovingly at me. I knew this doggy belonged in our home. We already had two Chihuahuas: Paco and Chica at our cottage in Caseville. Really, what would one additional, five pound dog matter? Richard was still blowing steam as I told him our decision was made…she was our newest doggy and would be home soon.

At this point in our lives, I was still consulting overseas and was shortly heading out of the country. Richard was clearly NOT going to be training a new puppy. So, Heidi, our daughter, decided to keep Luna, until my return from Rwanda.  And, at some point later, Kristin kept Luna while Richard and I were away...I think when we were camping with our grandkids. When we came home...Kristin called to let us know that Luna was alive, but rather broken. Which is the photo above...Kristin had taken Luna on a ride on their gator and Luna jumped off and broke her leg.

Each of our dogs have a Spanish name…they are Chihuahuas, after all. And I love the Spanish language. I forget what we thought we might call her at first…but I ended up with Luna, which means moon. She is dark, yet bright and light.

Luna is now two years old and the light of our lives. Both Richard and I adore her and she continues to be intelligent, frisky, loving and adds a light to our lives. She is frisky despite her broken leg which healed but not quite correctly. I never realized that dogs could look lovingly and deeply into one’s eyes and really see one’s heart. She knows when we are happy, hurting or just feeling down. If happy, she plays and jumps around. If we are hurting, she snuggles quietly nearby and if we are just not feeling perky, she will settle next to us quietly on the sofa and wait, looking at us carefully…for what, I wonder?

She waits for a touch, a hug or sometimes, just a tender word.  She cocks her head and looks at us as if to say, “It will be alright.” Though light in weight, she has affected us profoundly. We cannot be near her without smiling and we enjoy watching her adapt to new people.  

When times are tough, a pet is so comforting. I cannot imagine a life without a dog. To open the door and be greeted happily every day is amazing. It matters not what my mood is or whether I have time for my dogs…they are there, eagerly jumping and happy to see me. They are never cranky that I left them for too long, or forgot to feed them on time. They love me unconditionally in a way that people cannot love another…and that is returned in spades. Luna lights up our lives…daily.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Meet Leo, in blue, and Sebastian in the red shirt. Loved that they had their own tiny table and chairs in the kitchen.

I was visiting in Arkansas recently and stayed with some friends I roomed with a couple of years ago in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Matt and Cortneigh lived full time in Tegucigalpa.  I would fly in to work with a fledgling media group, two weeks every month over a span of 18 months and I would stay with them. They generously shared their home and, most importantly, we shared and adored Juanita, our maid, who was very much a part of the family. Time passed. The project ended. We all moved on.

Matt and Cortneigh moved to Arkansas and added two sons to their family. Cortneigh, an elementary teacher, eventually launched a pre-k program for the KIPP schools in Helena, where Matt is Director of Operations. I left Honduras and continued my international media management consulting which took me to several countries in Africa; Tajikistan; Iraq; Yemen and Guatemala.  As offers became more localized in the middle East, where war and riots reign, I began substitute teaching, working as a consultant for a local school system and finding work on projects which would allow me to remain close to home. Our daughter was ill and this allowed me to help Heidi and her family, as she recovered from her seizures and accident.

I was tickled when Matt called one day recently to see if I might be interested in checking out the situation in Helena at his schools. The “situation” was defined openly. I was to take a look, ask questions, listen, observe and make some observations and recommendations for improving the schools’ efficiency and effectiveness. He wanted me to think like I had in Honduras. No evaluations, just observations and lots of digging to see what the opportunities are.

 Having been in our area schools, I was most interested, indeed. My son-in-law teaches high school math and has told me over the past few years how much kids, the environment, and the level of parental involvement have changed schools. Working as a trainer has been my passion and I have been blessed to be able to train wherever and in whatever I have been doing…whether in schools, at a newspaper or as a consultant. Figuring out what is needed and then, trying to come up with solutions to whatever issues are presented has been a treat.

Arkansas was no different. Helena is a rural, agricultural and poverty stricken area. KIPP schools are known for their ability to raise the standards, performance and abilities of youth in inner cities or rural areas of our country. I saw passionate young teachers and worn out administrators who were working more than 70 hour work weeks trying to meet the academic and social needs of their students. Support staffs were also working tough work weeks trying to support the faculty and the families they serve.

I was invited to stay with Matt, Cort and the boys at their home and that seemed so much more fun than staying in a local B&B. This meant more work for Cort, because she doesn’t have a Juanita anymore. We spoke of Juanita several times and how much we both missed coming back to the US and not having a Juanita to help cook, wash and clean for us. We were spoiled…just a bit! We both agreed that we love our homes, love cooking our own meals and being in charge.

Quickly, Matt remembered how important huge amounts of early morning strong coffee are to me. I was quickly reminded that though Matt gets up early (not MY early but earlier than most arise) he is not fit for human consumption until well after he has showered, eaten, had coffee and truly awakened. We re-learned living together; but, it was complicated by having two young boys thrown into the mix.

I am older and with grey hair; so, the boys thought I was, “Nene.” Grandma I have been and could be. So, when they called, “Nene,” I responded with a smile on my face.  We played together. Sebastian shared his cars with me and even told me I could take a couple home. I thought about that and decided to leave my favorites there with them so that I could play with them when I return. Leo, younger, was a bit unsure, but quietly settled into hugging my legs and sitting on my lap.

Our Kristin and her husband, Pat, have a three year old; so, I am comfy with little people, although I must admit, I do enjoy children more when they are completely potty trained and able to express themselves fluently using words. Leo and Sebastian were very verbal which helped considerably.  Busy parents made me welcome, and reminded me of the fun we had working together earlier in a tough environment. To be invited into the next stage of their lives was super special. Sharing their lives, seeing them grow into their new roles and being so happy together makes me smile and reminded me how special it was that a young couple was able to tolerate someone twice their age hopping into their lives every couple of weeks!

 I still miss Honduras and the friends I made there. Facebook and email make it possible to stay connected. Typing, or talking via Skype is just NOT the same. Maybe it is time for a side trip to Tegus… just one more time!
And here are the smiling Colburn family. So happy to have shared time with them.