Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 - This is it...Imagine

It seems long ago since my return to the United States but it’s been only five months. I’ve purchased a car, acquired a smart phone and established a routine with my dog.  I’ve unpacked just enough boxes to be comfortable and rearranged the closets and cupboards.  

I’ve been home long enough where there is no consideration for a cold shower, I don’t remember what peanut butter tastes like and I’ve given up on walking to the market with a backpack.  I recently found a forgotten and neglected bag of garbage in my freezer, an artifact of past behavior.  

Although I have resumed my past and readjusted to my lifestyle in California, I have changed and look at life differently.  I know what it is like to be different.  I learned what it is like to be accepted into a different culture and cared for by people who wanted to teach me their ways.  Yes, I have been the target of racism, but not often. 

Mia, my new granddaughter, arrived four weeks ago and I’ve bonded once again with Ava, my four year old granddaughter.  She often looks at me very sweetly and says, "I love you Grandma".  Ava and I have been baking cookies and cakes, decorating them with icing and candies.  I’ve gained a few pounds which needs some attention but will likely be put on the back burner until January.  I reactivated my gym and spa memberships.  Now I need to actually use them.

I purchased my car in late August and most days it’s parked at the curb, ignored and gathering dust.  I’m not one to remain idol too long, but I must say this has been a nice break from the world around me. I haven’t spent this much time without work since my late twenties.  Never mind how many years it has been since my twenties – let’s just say it’s a lot.  

Life is taking over.  I have been lifted from a slow leisurely pace and into the fast lane.  One day bleeds into the next and many times I have to look at the calendar to figure out the day of the week.  I still fight the fast-lane concept.  Today, I woke up at ten. I was in a panic. I missed Barkley’s grooming appointment. I shot up from the bed and fumbled for my cell phone.  I quickly looked for the number of “Poodles are People Too” only to discover his appointment is tomorrow. I went back to sleep.

I have been putting off writing this post as I knew it was my last.  I spent the entire day looking at pictures and reading old posts today.  It's been awhile since I've had a day of reflection.  My life, while certainly not even close to perfect, is good and 2010 was a wonderful year.

I began 2010 continuing my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer and ended 2010 reintegrating into life in the United States.  I’ve learned a lot about myself; some things I like and others I need to work on.  I’m rested and have some ideas about the direction of my path. So here are a few highlights of my year:

A few of my favorite after-school program students. I taught them literacy and IT

Cheering for the children who race in my village

I taught Junior Achievement. The children are proudly holding up the banks they made.

This painting was made especially for me.  I had it framed and it will be hung at my mountain home.

A vacation with friends in Costa Rica.  We are ready for zip-lining.

My sister (Janyn) second visit to the island

A great rain forest experience and a new friend.

The beauty and sounds of a rainforest

Elaine and I relaxing in Miami Beach
A quick visit to New York that also included Atlantic City, Jersey Shore and Philadelphia

And of course, my favorite - bartender school
Close of Service Conference - Peace Corps EC78
My son Kevin, travels all the way to Saint Lucia to help me move back to the United States. Unfortunately, it rained almost the whole time.

I enjoyed a few last wonders of nature

Listened to a final crow

Visited one of my favorite views in the village for the last time

My very last visit to Vierge Point in Micoud
And then, just like that this adventure is over
I'm home to celebrate Ava's 4th Birthday

And see her Christmas Play

And bake cookies

We enjoyed dinosaurs at the Discovery Center

And I have a new granddaughter, Mia Jo

Barkley and I are back in routine

I have a believer for Christmas

I helped spread information about Peace Corps at the Orange County Peace Corps Association (OCPCA) booth in Irvine

I was the guest speaker at the OCPCA Christmas Party
I have learned about another's Peace Corps experience in Africa
And, I spoke to a great bunch of students at Cypress College about my experience.
Going back to review my year has been fun. I've had a great year.  Just a few years ago, I never could have imagined so many possibilities.

I’m on to 2011 and the next chunk of my life.  I will begin teaching a course at Webster University in January and will look for some meaningful volunteer work.  I hope to fit some travel into my schedule as well.  There are so many places to see in this world.  Thank you for listening to me.  I’ve used you as my sounding board and as a method to keep my service light and not take myself too seriously. Please feel free to comment or email me!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Big Sisters are Special People

No matter how well-prepared, something is likely to slip through the cracks.

I remember when my youngest sister was born. My mother prepared me for what would happen. I would have my own bedroom because I am the oldest. My new sister and younger sister would share the other bedroom. We played dolls and mom showed me how to feed and burp a baby. I was a big part of the change that would be taking place in just a few short months.  I was ten years old when Janyn was born.

When the day came, I was told that I was too young to go inside the hospital. My dad took my sister and me around to the window of my mother’s first floor room. I stood outside the small Hawthorne Hospital that has long since disappeared. I could not reason why they would not let me inside where I could view my sister from the nursery window. As I stood on the flower beds, not caring that I was crushing the flowers and plants beneath my feet, we chose her name.

The call came early Friday morning, just hours after another huge Thanksgiving dinner. I walked into the hospital where I found Brendan, Theresa and Ava. Waiting for the elevator I glanced at the clock. It was just after two in the morning. The attendant wheeled Theresa into her room and we followed. 

I took Ava to an outside waiting room and it was there that I realized that, although Ava has been well-prepared for her new sister, there are still things she does not understand. Ava is just three weeks shy of turning four years old. She was tired. It was time for a small melt-down. After a few minutes in the waiting room and a lot of tears, it was decided we would be far more comfortable if I took her back home to sleep in her bed. 

Ava has a beautiful new sister.  Mia Jo was born the next morning. My middle name is Jo.  I feel honored that Mia will go through her life's journey with this special connection.  

Big sisters are special people. Unlike when my sister was born, the next morning we walked into the hospital and into her mommy’s room where she was greeted by her mom and dad and her brand new sister. She held her and hummed a lullaby. 

We compared feet and talked about her tiny body.

We baked and decorated a cake for mommy. 

Yesterday daddy and I took her to see the new Disney Movie Tangled. There was a special live performance with many of the Disney characters in it.  Of course, she loved both the performance and the movie.  

After the movie she said she would like to pose nice for a pretty picture. It was then we realized there was a Disney store just beyond the theater lobby. She scored some new hair clips for this pretty pose.  Big sisters are special people.