Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

A stroll through Arlington National Cemetery.
Lest we forget.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The journey begins--Moving

Military families always seem to be on a journey.
My daughter was military and married military, but decided two moves were too much for her. They got out and plan on never moving again.
My son moves next week.

My family did ten moves in sixteen years.
Wuerzburg, Germany/ Alexandria, VA/ Indianapolis, IN/ Manhattan, KS/ Fort Riley, KS/Monterey, CA/ PokFuLum, Hong Kong/Honolulu, HI/ Riyadh,KSA/ Flagstaff, AZ.

My son's family is on track to be close to our record. They are currently starting their fifth move with about half of our sixteen years done.

What I have learned about moving?

ALWAYS have a safe room. That is where you put the stuff that you cannot live without (like your passports when going overseas).

Don't let them pack the trash in the trash can.

Let it go.  Once those boxes are packed, there is nothing you need from them. Ever. You may even learn that you can do without everything in those boxes. We had one move that our crates went all over the US while we lived in an empty house with blow up mattresses and borrowed pots for six months.

If it is larger then a bread box, expect that it will get dinged.

If you are expecting the move to go without some screaming fits or some wild antics, you are crazy. We spent one move trying to convince our seven year old that her undies were NOT different and she could wear them. Children need outlets and comfort zones. Dogs are almost as bad.

Drive for 100 miles, get out, go to the bathroom and begin again. This will be important this time as my husband and son will drive two cars from CA to NY. My husband says they will be in NY in seven days. My son is less optimistic.

When you get to the new place, set up a children's room and do not mess with it. Same thing if you have a family member that hates to move. Set that room up first. My husband does well if the kitchen is ready to roll.

The journey begins this week. I feel for my daughter in law. I am planning on meeting her on the NY end of a six hour plane ride (with two under 4) with a large cup of coffee and a cruise up the turnpike to her new home.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Sometimes we just have it so easy

My role of Nana is so dear to me.
My oldest grand is on the couch right now, getting ready for a day of homeschooling at my table.

Two days ago I met with some of my distant cousins.
They shared pictures of a side of the family I knew little about.
On picture was of Grandmother Mary.
"She was always such a sour puss."
"Look! I think that is the first time I have ever seen a smile on her face."

So I did some leg work.
Mary was the wife of Oliver. Oliver was the youngest of seven (living) children. My great grandfather was his brother- 17 years apart. Unlike most of his sibs, he did not go on to university. His parents passed away before his teens.
Mary had been brought up by first generation Americans who worked for the railroads. My husband's family was brought up in the rail business. Tough, hard, dirty, underpaid work. She was one of ten.
Oliver and Mary lived with her parents for the first ten years (and three children) of their marriage.
Oliver was a steel man, before unions.
My understanding is that Mary and Oliver had ten children in their first twenty years of marriage (they were married at least fifty years).
Of the ten children: two were stillborn, two passed in infancy, six were raised to adulthood.
I cannot imagine. One miscarriage and I am a mess.
Oliver worked hard, but never seemed to make enough money to sustain them.
Their oldest daughter bought a farm in Northern Maryland. Oliver and Mary moved onto that farm and the two city folks began to work with the rest of the family to raise Christmas trees.
No nice and relaxed retirement for her.
Oliver passed away in 1955. I think this picture (with her best friend and her oldest daughter) was probably at her husband's funeral. One of those rare (although probably fake) smiles on her face.
She went from family to family until she passed in 1963.

Here is Sally. Oliver's middle sister.

She had ten children as well.  Four died in one week from the flu.  Two years later two more were killed in a car crash.  She passed from the flu that year.  Of her ten children, none lived to be adults.

I cannot even imagine.
I have it so easy!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Deep Pantry

This is the day that changed my life.  My husband was in the office on the top end. Our car was near these cars- completely destroyed. I was at school- five miles away. My building was rocked and so was my world. We brought students back to a small compound that had injured soldiers all over it- many of the injured were the parents of the students. We had no idea.

For the next month I made meals for a core group of twenty people on night shift. Night shift in Saudi is day shift in the US- so they were core to the survival of the injured and moving the KIA. Several of the cooks were in the destruction, so that left the night shift to those of us who could put it together.

After having a tour in Hong Kong, I had learned to buy the things my children loved to eat in quantity when I saw it.  The supply ship would come in and three families would purchase cases of dried milk, pasta, pasta sauce, canned meats, jams, flour and yeast (one ship brought us salsa). Divide and conquer.  Each of us had a picky seven year old. It was important to them. It was then and there I can to appreciate a deep pantry.

The commissary officer laughed in Germany when I went for a mid tour breather from Saudi and ordered cases of the same things.  Those foods arrived in early October. November came with a crash and my life became one of "looking for fresh" on the economy. That meant that I would done my abaya and hijab, call one of the few drivers who still would take us places, and head to the market.
People in stress love comfort food. Finding a place that sold fresh ricotta and mozzarella was huge. I had the noodles and sauces in the pantry. I went to a huge market and found baking pans. I learned about the local fresh veggies and fruits in season and how to use dates instead of sugar. We made breads, entrees and fruit platters. It was crazy.

 Since that time, I have always had one. Deep pantry.
My family says that I am a closet prepper, but it is all about the moment.
Canning has added fruits to the winter- fruits from the area instead of South America.

After a wicked ice storm in Kansas in 2009 (we were stuck for ten days), different types of fuels were added to our deep pantry. Bees wax and soy candles, lots of solar lighting, back up water and propane were all a part of that preparation.
The garden is my new part. Having my own foods in the pantry, foods that were brought up in my backyard, well, it is a pleasure.
We finally live in a place where we can ride bikes to get places. We live in a community that can be self sufficient very easily.

Twenty years ago my life was changed by 220 lbs in the back of a pick up truck. Learning to take the good from the bad.
Maybe next year first aide will be on my list of things needed to make myself a part of the deep pantry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring gardening

Several of my family garden in southern Arizona.
Their gardens are almost done.
Mine have just begun.

Quietly it sat all winter.

 Awaited new soil and a bit of organization

 The herbs and a very early tomato are dug in.
 The raspberries and mint are finally coming back to life.

Asparagus is planted by the creek
BTW- if you are into all things Hawaii or Japan go see Laura at Occasional Nomads.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Vietnam Veteran's Day - March 29th

Did you know that?
I didn't until someone I knew put it up on her Facebook wall.

My husband and his brother both served in Vietnam.  Growing up in the poor side of their town, they both had gotten scholarships to the University of Idaho for engineering. My brother in law got kicked out because he failed to go to classes after he fell in love.  My husband quit the next year because his scholarship ran out. Unlike what my parents did for my brother; their parents could not afford to send them back by buying a slot at school. Their father had been in the Army Air Corps in Japan. Their grandfather was in WWI with the big guns. Service was an honor in their family, so off the boys went.

My brother in law became a door gunner for a medic helicopter. His second tour he was a crew chief on the same type of ship.  From what he said, when he was drunk, his role was to tell the pilot when to take off- wether everyone was on or not. They landed in some pretty heated places. Purple Heart type landings. When he returned for good he finished his degree and made a pretty good living.  He died ten years ago at the age of 58 from a combination of Agent Orange and lots of self medication.

My husband was a Special Forces medic. My guy is pretty shy, but sharp as a whip. He was at the top of his medic classes and saw that field as one to get to the most people in the fastest way. When he arrived in country his assignment was an area that lost a medic every ten minutes. His commander from training spotted him and rerouted him to teach the Montagnards the art of being a medic. His brother had no idea that he had enlisted and was mighty mad. My husband experienced nightly shelling, but felt he was "safe". Of course, all 20 year old guys are invincible.

Both men left as gawky, poor, inexperienced kids and returned as solid guys. Unfortunately, they were both assaulted at Fort Ord as they got off the planes after their tours with spit and dolls filled with red paint. People justify themselves often over these tactics, just as they currently justify themselves with calling  people who do not agree with them names. I don't know how many times it has been implied that, "I am the smart one on the right side".  To each their own.

My husband left service and returned to school. He went back and forth between his GI Bill and working in Alaska for seven years. His hair was down to his waist and his bar tab was higher then the trailer rent. The GI Bill ran out, so he joined ROTC. He graduated, with high honors with a Finance major and seven minors.

He rejoined the military, with an exemption for his age. That is a whole different story.

We go to Arlington and visit some of his friends and some of my relatives. Vietnam, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan. We have friends at Arlington from each of these wars (or more politically correct- conflicts). We stand for the flag and put our hands over our hearts and remember that Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines are people who are trying to do their duty to serve a country and a people whom they love and honor. They are not political. They do it for us.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Garden is ready

Spring cannot decide the weather it desires. Cold, Hot, Warm, Cold, Ice, Warm. Today it is rain. My spinach is in and the rest of the seeds are germinating.

The spring flowers are up and enjoying the moisture.

My constant companion. 

Asparagus was planted about three weeks ago next to the creek. It will be another year before we will get to taste it.
 The raspberries should produce this year.

 Our old girl just doesn't like those stairs to get outside. Good thing we have a screen porch so she can watch us play. I will be like her someday.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The reshaping of education in the US. Why should I care?

Now, why, as a 60 year old, should I care? 
I'm retired.
My own children are out of K-12 school.
I should care because
a) I pay for the kids in the area to go to school.
b) I want an education for them that is something they will use
not just warehouse them for 12 years.

In the last 100 years, public education in the US has not really changed.
Yes, there have been different standards
but the delivery model has been the same.
Teachers are the "sage on the stage".
Student, in turn, would walk out the door after nine or thirteen years,
and be ready to be told what to do by a supervisor.
One way, "my way".

Then came computers.
Schools have, basically, stayed the same.
I pulled out a "newspaper"  Navajo class did in 1998.
Those cute Macs were used.
I was totally the sage on the stage for that project.

Basic information is now obtainable.
With help, students could find out "more" about almost anything.
I am a history teacher by trade. Do I know about every aspect of the world's history? Do I even know everything about US History?  Do I know everything there is to know about the 2000's?
Being the sage on the stage was silly.
Teachers should be the "guide on the side".

My opinion after thirty years in K-8 settings, four "one more class to finish" Masters and three years of working with 700 schools?

Primary should be totally ungraded and untested until the end of third grade. Children learn to read and manipulate numbers at such different paces. There should be a huge variation in types of books in the room (forget libraries). Math needs to be touched and moved so it is understood. (Why teach area if we don't look for a run that fits a place).  By the end of third grade children should be able to read, do the basic math facts (+,-,x,/), and know how to write/ word process.

The wealthy figured this out years ago. My son had this overseas in amazing International schools. Sites like this filled his day after he learned to read,

Fourth through eighth grade should be about teams. Give kids problems to solve and give them computers. Go. They will seek out the knowledge they need- via Ted talks or the teacher or Google.  They each work on the problem and come up with solutions. Then join the team at the end of the period and look at how to do it. Average and above average should be able to do it easily. Lower average need more support (usually in the basics).

At this point, I am describing Common Core. This is the way Obama learned at Punahou in Hawaii. The problem is that the current K-3 setting pulls kids into the 4-8 model. Once kids hit 4-8, they do not know their basics, so they feel like failures. They should be placed back into basics until they are ready- hence the one room school house worked well.

Those who fight against change are comfortable.
They receive money for the books they sale or the children they teach.
They may care, deeply. Still, it is time to change.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Another bit of information

Oldest County in Every State

Use the page numbers at the bottom to avoid click bait.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What if? Going from Married to Widow.

No disrespect to my widow friends.
I've watched several people make this transition.

Currently we have plenty of income
yet, if something should happen,
to my hubby,
my income would significantly drop.

Being a part of the "bag lady syndrome" generation,
this used to be on my "worry list".
About a year ago we decided to really look at
how much would be left
if something happened to my husband.

Building a rough budget was a good start to ease worries.
The income will be:
-Widow SS amount (a bit higher then my work SS)
     medium for the SS amount since neither of us ever made loads of $$
-Two tiny pensions from my teaching years
-Income from our savings + up to 4% a year

Here is what we came up with.

Things that disappear IF something should happen to him:
His allowance
Tool fund
All of his car expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance on two cars)
Cable TV

What would stay the same, monthly, at least for a year:
Food and take out allowances $400
My car expenses $60
Netflix $15
Internet $35 .
Phone  $30
Who know what those^ three will look like in a few years.
Pet expenses  $20
Electric and heating gas  $120
House and one car insurance $200
Lower property taxes $60
  (A widow over 60 with little income, the state cuts the tax bill.)
Health insurance $100 (until Medicare and then it goes up)
Dental insurance $30
Clothing $30
Presents $20
Church $100
Lessons/classes $40
Travel/entertainment $100

Things that would grow:
House repair account (Angies list is the best!)
Gas allowance
Savings for emergencies

Things that help:
-Owning our house, outright.
-If I am healthy, a roommate would not be out of bounds
     ---living by an airbase helps
-Having a raised bed garden and fruits bushes
  expensive in the beginning, but beginning to pay for itself.
- Being close to an orchard where I can gleam
-Medication when needed, they are free to me right now.
-The library is my friend.
-Pet meds are purchased from Australia
- YMCA is inexpensive for senior singles
- Three channels can be caught by rabbit ears.
- My kids are great- as are my grands.

We have saved more then the "bottom amount" that SS suggests to keep medical afloat.
If Social Security goes to 75% in ten years,
which was announce several years ago,
serious adjusting will be done.
Not cat food- but tight.

Have you done the break out for you and yours?
Am I missing anything?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Homeschooling, It is all about the love of learning.

Three years ago I witnessed a scene
 that I never thought could happen to me.
My precocious, fun, active grandson
was on the floor being dragged out the door
so he could go to school.

This was not the first time.
My daughter had let me know
that things were going poorly.
As a four foot tall Kindergartener
he was being accused of almost everything.
Plus he was put in the "lowest group"
because he did not read.

I did have experience with a child who did not read in Kinder.
My son did not read until the end of first grade.
He graduated from West Point,
flew helicopters,
and in a month a Masters in Nuclear Physics.
He never cried about school.

I did not see changing schools as an option.
This was a good school.
All schools were bears about "reading in Kindergarten"
and being big would not go away.

As a teacher of thirty years,
it was difficult for me to say,
"I totally agree, homeschooling is the only way."

The summer was rough.
Intimidated, sullen, no longer hands on Mr appeared.

Homeschooling began in the Fall.
My daughter chose the curriculum.
It helped that I had taught First and Second grades
so I knew where he had to go.

The first year was pretty relaxed.

Lots of reading aloud.

He worked through Saxon Phonics and Spelling
and Saxon Math.
I had in-serviced Saxon for a few years and
was convinced of its power.

We played games, went to the zoo,
saw the museums and just relaxed into school.
He did soccer and the play gym.

Year two, guess what, he read like a champ.
I put my daughter on the trail of
Illustrated Classics
She had already started a collection of Usborne books and the library was their friend.
He enjoyed some crazy field trips with Nana while mom wrangled the toddler.
Piano and Soccer again. He tried scouts and did religious ed.

This year my daughter found a coop for him.
He attends two days a week-
 Classic Curriculum style.
A small class of twelve, he has soared.
Summary writing, report making, multiplication tables,
religion class- it is was a great placement.
We still get to do all of the field trips,
science and lots of Minecraft.
He LOVES it.
The bonus is that he has a relationship
with siblings who are 5&7 younger then him.

Fourth grade, next year,  he will
go to his neighborhood public school.
The Catholic schools are too expensive
and it is time to re enter the game.
He feels ready.

Homeschool, like "regular school" has changed.
I found that the rigidity of my middle school
has moved into the public school Kinder class.
The fluidity of my first few years of teaching (1979-83)
has moved into secular homeschooling.

School should bring
is the love of learning.
My grandson, once again, loves to learn!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What about those retirement questions?

Cindi, ThriftyatSixty, wondered what people wanted to know about retirement.  Tonight she answered this question:
"I would like to know about what you think about things like Amazon prime, warehouse clubs, cable TV vs Netflix, etc. Some of these things I have been thinking about recently. Are they worth having? Do you save enough to make them worth it? Also I  would like to hear about do you still save in retirement? Do you save 10%? How much should you save? I am thinking for things like your emergency or rainy day fund. We are less than 10 years from retirement and saving a lot right now, but wondered how it changes once you do retire."
Love the set of questions. I'm going to tackle them myself!

Cable and such?
Right now we still do basic cable. We tried rabbit ears- but we are too far away from any large cities to get a good signal. Now that the election is over, we are tempted to cut it again.
We do watch Netflix and Amazon Prime. We used to go to the movies several time a week. They are our relaxation. Works for us.

My husband shops, almost exclusively, on Amazon Prime. 
He has his allowance and I have mine.
Works for both of us.
How much do we save?
Currently we save, for specific items (car/house repairs) about 10% of our retirement income.
For two years, before we both retired, we saved 50% of our income. 

We also save about 20% of our income because we have adjusted to living on less and don't really feel the need to go over and above. Since we are making hardly any money off of our assets, this amount helps with inflation. The other issue is that if my husband passes before me 2/3 of our income would disappear. I need a good cushion. Like Cindi, we own our house outright. Our expenditures are such that I can live on 1/3 of what we currently bring in. It would be tight, but I could do it. 

Where we save?
Since we live in Amish country, overconsumption is not normal, so thrift stores tend to be rather sparse.  We do go to Restore (Habitat for Humanity).  I "eye buy" at estate sales.
We share a Costco membership with our daughter's family. We also, often, buy and split. We tend to spend enough to pay for the membership. Their milk, olive oil, salsa and fresh fruit are good quality and way cheaper then the local stores. We also use their car rental service, pharmacy and eye doctor. Both families will get new tires soon. 

We are also blessed with the military grocery store. We buy many things in bulk there, and use it for the weekly shopping. Although we don't save much money(there is no sales tax in Delaware, but the commissary has a surcharge), we continue to use it because we appreciated it overseas.  We support the system that supported us! 

We do set aside money for our Church and other organizations that depend on charity. The community they provide and the work they do is of great value to us. Spend your money where your heart lies became even more important to us in retirement. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Travel in retirement

Bob, Satisfying Retirement, asked about travel this year.
Laura, The Occasional Nomad, is about to take a trip
(and loves to plan a secret trip out for the future).

We have had our share of passports

We have lived "Stateside" for twenty years now.
I have not renewed my passport.
Our last duty station was a "blast" literally.
going overseas again has been outside of my comfort zone.

My 60th birthday is this year
My younger sister suggested we travel.
She is a travel queen right now.
She may hit every continent
and then some
before her 60th.

First, I thought Prague. 

Those castles and cobble stones.
Then, in my dreams I could not get home.
Woke up and my PTSD scratched that off the list.

Maybe Hawaii.

I haven't been in a few years and would enjoy the beach
and the pineapple,
and the shopping.
We both have been too many times.
Now the contest is between two places
New York City (and area north)

my son will be living near there
and my sister knows it well
maybe I could learn some things?

Walking Hadrian's Wall in England.

I am not in shape
at all
It is 30 miles of hills
It will be cold at the end of September

What do you think? Should I renew that Blue?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Remembering Martin Luther King

I was young, very young, when Martin Luther King spoke and changed the world.
One might think that a middle class six year old white kid would not have memories of such days.
You might also think that Phoenix was such a wonderful mix
that the speeches and actions made no difference.
You would be wrong.

My dad was a news person.
I remember watching the news with him
every evening in the den.
My Dad made sure that, those of us who were interested,
heard and saw everything.
We were not shielded.

JFK being shot,
the War
The LBJ speeches

I remember sitting in front of the black and white

I remember watching the people being attacked with dogs.
I remember Dad "swearing" as people were hurt for their rights.

And I remember "the Speech".

I remember going to "South Phoenix" with him
to help in the Churches "down there" when people,
mostly of Hispanic and a few Black,
We also helped the police who attempted to separate the protesters from the disrupters.
Keep in mind, I was six.

When I was seven he made sure we all went to JFK's grave
I remember standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
and looking out
and being amazed
that it is where Dr King spoke.
A little kid
looking at the expanse
of where once stood a great man
and so many people.

It formed me.
At seven.
It is why I taught for 30 years.