Do I look like I need help or is customer service just gotten better?

It’s been awhile since I shopped at Whole Foods so I had a full basket when I finished perusing all the aisles and headed for the checkout counter. Just as I started to unload my bounty onto the conveyor, a young man ran around the counter and said he could help me do that. I thanked him but told him it was good exercise for me to lift and heft all those items. He chuckled and we both unloaded the basket.

He then proceeded to bag the groceries as they came off the scanner. The clerk and I had a discussion about overloading bags. I told them that I didn’t mind heavy bags, again more exercise for me. The bagger said he would load them up for me, then, since I wanted the exercise. Guess I didn’t need his help taking my bags to the car? Thanks, but no, I can handle this.

After getting all the bags into the car, I was just about to turn around and take the basket back to the store (again more exercise), when another young clerk came by and said she would gladly take in my cart. Such good service, but it makes me wonder. Do I look like I need help?

Put on the uniform, show up, love kids

Tuesday did not turn out as planned, but that was okay. The joy of being retired is that I can change my plans and adapt to the needs of the day.

There was a shooting and stabbing early Tuesday morning in front of the high school near Columbia Elementary. The stab-wound victim, left for dead, was found by police when they arrived to check on gun fire report. Using CPR while waiting for an ambulance, they revived the 17-year old victim and he is currently in the hospital in critical condition. When I heard this on the early morning news, I felt compelled to put on my chaplain’s uniform and show up at Columbia even though I’m not beginning to work with the first graders until after Labor Day. I figured the school could use another adult on campus.

I arrived at lunch time and spent two hours in the cafeteria, first helping the kindergartners and first graders open their food packages and encouraging them to eat their vegetables. Then the third and fourth graders arrived. The third graders are the first class of students I worked with as chaplain. They started shouting my name when they saw me at the front of the cafeteria. They all wanted to show me how they were eating their vegetables and reminded me that I gave stickers if they ate all of them. I ran out of stickers!

Then the fifth and sixth graders arrived. The kids who were fourth graders last year remember the help my friends and I gave them to do their mission project and many of them gave me hugs and said thanks for all of the help. Some of them asked if I would visit their classroom again. I’m always explaining how I work with the first graders. Even the second graders ask if I can come read stories in their classroom. The kids see no reason why I can’t come to their classroom, too.

This is what I am pondering: could I show up one more day each week at Columbia and just have lunch with the third/fourth graders and then the fifth/sixth graders? It would have to be another day from my regular schedule because I am reading stories to the first graders when the older kids are having lunch. The older kids have gotten to know me. They seem to like seeing me. It would give me an opportunity to make an impact on more lives. And who knows, maybe I would learn of another project in which I could involve my friends.

Another change in my plans: After leaving Columbia, I went by the school supply store and bought lots more stickers.

Dressing for the hot weather

We’ve had weeks of hot weather this summer. I remember writing a post at the very beginning, when the weather had just turned warm, about the outfits I had worn to stay cool. Someone replied that they would have liked to see photos of those outfits. Too late for that day, but my plan had been to take pictures along the way so as to share with you, but it slipped my melting brain as the days grew hotter. 

Yesterday, I remembered. Here is the outfit I wore to church:


I changed into this sheath when I got home. I have three of these dresses that I’ve worn for 15 years now. They are beginning to show their age. :


Today the temperature will stay under 100–only 97 degrees. I’m going to lunch with a friend and am wearing this:


Just trying to stay cool. 

Around the house 

It’s been hot here–10 days straight over 100 degrees.  We have forest fires raging to the north, the south and the west of our bowl shaped valley making the air quality very bad for all groups. I have stayed indoors, all day most days, to keep as comfortable as possible. 

School started this week and the school where I am chaplain had their back-to-school event late Thursday afternoon, 4:30-6 pm. Hottest part of the day, but that’s okay, the buildings are air conditioned as is my car that takes me across town. 

I arrived in time to introduce myself to the new principal and meet a new first grade teacher. I was saddened to learn that one of the really super teachers I had worked with the last two years has moved into an introductory administration position. She is still at the school, and she will be wonderful at anything she does. We chatted about the position and the opportunity to try something new. She was apprehensive to take it as she loves the classroom, but she felt there would be regrets if she didn’t at least try. I agree. 

Because Thursday was a long day, starting at 5 in the morning and ending at 6 in the evening, I slept in until 7 on Friday, getting a late start on the chores of the day. I made two small batches of jam. 

The first was peach made with very overripe fruit that cooked into the most flavorful concoction. 

After I washed the pot, I got raspberries ready to turn into jam. I had only had 4 cups of berries so it didn’t take too long for the sugar to cook down and thicken the fruit. I filled 3 small jars with jam and even had a spoonful left over to taste. 

After washing my hair this morning, I proceeded to prune shrubbery in the dusty, cobwebbed backyard. Terry had to literally vacuum me off when I got back in the house. I only worked about an hour because it had already gotten hot and it wasn’t even 11 o’clock. Enough outside work for this Saturday. There is plenty to keep me busy indoors what with all the dust that has been accumulating around here. 

Planning is overrated

Plans. I had a whole series of plans for when I left teaching. Please note, I was not calling it retirement. The plans called for starting over. I would move to a new city. I would get a job with a nonprofit. Maybe in microfinance. I had done much research into this area. Even attended a conference or two and spoken with many already working in the industry. Because of my small teacher pension that came with health care benefits, I didn’t need a large salary or benefits. With years of marketing experience I saw myself as quite hirable.

The nonprofits had other ideas, though. They saw me as too old. Instead, they were hiring fresh young things right out of college. I tried volunteering, and the agencies thought I did great work. But hire me? No. In two places I volunteered for weeks and months until the work was complete and I wasn’t needed.

Since I had the education background, and retired teachers did not seem a hirable commodity in microfinance, I decided to look into nonprofit education organizations. Again, sure, my skills were valuable, but for volunteering, not paid work.

The rent on our studio apartment that overlooked the Bay Bridge skyrocketed. Things were changing in San Francisco and an even younger crowd would soon be taking over the city. We packed up and returned to our house in Fresno.

After six years away from teaching, I am now happy with the word retired. No one is going to hire me. I’m going to be a volunteer for numerous organizations for the rest of my working days. I’ve come to terms with it. So much for those PLANS I made.

These thoughts have been swirling in my head since I met my friend, Lynn, in person, a few weeks ago. She was returning from a writing retreat and one of the participants had admonished her, upon learning that Lynn would retire from teaching in a year, to plan carefully for her retirement. The participant had not and had regrets.

I told her that it didn’t make much difference if she planned or not. Her plans, like mine, might not come to fruition. Having the plans and yet unable to carry them out has given me regrets. So, I guess it can work both ways.

One thing I said, over and over, before I left the school scene, was that I wanted to do good work with good people for the good of the community. I felt that in all my years at the inner city high school I had that and I wanted it to continue. Six years later, I can say that part of the plan is being fulfilled.

Shopping day?

A blog post by my blogger friend Shirley made me question her sanity. She is planning a shopping trip on a Saturday. Not just any Saturday but one right before school starts. Madness, I say.

While working, and having only the weekend to do my shopping, I always wondered why older people were out shopping on those days. They had all week to shop, why torture oneself with a weekend trip to the store? I would also get annoyed with old people in the grocery store on Saturdays who moved too slowly for my frantic pace through the aisles. I just wanted to get my groceries and get home. It was not a social outing for me, but rather another chore in a long list of things that had to be done on my two days off.

My husband often pointed out to me that it was a social event for the elderly, to shop among all the crowds. I didn’t see it then, nor do I see it now when I’m on the elderly side and still not wanting to get my socialization from shopping.

I try to do all my shopping during the week, specifically on Tuesdays. That is the quietest day of the week in the retail world. Early in the morning, too. It’s cooler here at that time. When I can’t make it on a Tuesday, like yesterday, I still get out early in the morning and am home before noon. I find that the streets in Fresno get really busy around 10:30 and traffic just increases from there on.

Heavy traffic wouldn’t bother me so much if everyone was relaxed and drove the speed limits and paid attention to pedestrians, but we seem to have more and more crazed individuals behind the wheel. It takes all of my attention to the roads and sidewalks to make it across town. One of the roads that I travel to my chaplaincy school has all these people who cross wherever and whenever they like. Small children, shopping cart homeless, and animals. Bicycles that dart out of nowhere and expect you to stop on a dime for them.

If you see shopping as a social event, then the weekends are probably the best, but if you are like me and see shopping as a chore, then Tuesday looks pretty good.

Not the typical back-to-school pace

Today is one of those rare days that I really have no where to go. I did pick Terry up from the mechanic’s garage where his Mazda is being serviced today, and we stopped for a few essentials at Target, but the remainder of the day is being spent at home, catching up on a few chores. In looking at the calendar, I think the next two days may be more of the same for which I am not complaining.

I helped with a funeral reception at church on Saturday for a long-time member who died at the age of 101. Her life was quite amazing, and although I did not know her, her story made me wish I had. Single mother, one child, divorced in 1954, who worked as a bookkeeper until she was 76 years old. She sang in the choir, taught Sunday School, and was well known for sending cards and notes to people. Her daughter convinced her to move to Seattle when she was 80 so as to be close to family as there was none here in Fresno. Even though she left her beloved church, she continued to send letters, cards, notes, and financial support. It only made sense to have her memorial service at the church. She had pretty much written her own service and she wanted pie served at the reception.

Sunday I was in charge of the coffee fellowship at church. In nice weather we do this in the garden, outside the sanctuary doors. We set up a table and bring coffee, punch, and delectable tidbits for people to enjoy as they visit with one another after church. I really like the custom, and since I serve on the Deacon Board, I get requests to provide the service every few months. Sunday was the third time Terry and I have done this. I made caramel bars and also served salami/cheese/tomato bites. There was even some pie left over from the funeral reception so we had that, too. Every bit of the food was eaten. I especially liked that.

The next day was a Ladies Who Lunch outing. In July there were 8 of us, but on Monday only 5 of us were able to make it. We dined at an old establishment (over 100 years in downtown Fresno) that has moved to a new building. The old location is being torn down for high speed rail, and since the restaurant and bar are of such historical significance, the city offered the owner a special location–in the convention center parking lot–to build a new restaurant. It is a beautiful building and even contains the bar from the old location. The food is a bit more expensive but still as tasty as ever. My New York pastrami sandwich was so large that I brought half of it home for Terry to have for dinner. A friend and I are going back in a couple of weeks in honor of my birth month.

On Tuesday I picked up donuts at one of best purveyors of such decadence. The business is owned by the family of my former students. An immigrant family that has assimilated and become highly successful. The oldest daughter was the secretary for the Class of 2000 for which I was the advisor. She was such a hard worker. I always check up on her when I pick up donuts and yesterday was no different. She has a 5-month old daughter now, the first grandchild for the family. Of course I had to look at photos and videos of this darling child. The grandmother is over the moon.

I delivered the donuts to the office staff at Columbia and picked up a school calendar while chatting with a few of the staff about their summer. The teachers and principal, though, were all off-site for training. School starts here next Monday and back-to-school night will be on Thursday. I will show up, smile and mingle, but my real work won’t begin until after Labor Day. By then the teachers will have a routine set up for the children and they will know the rules and expectations. I can fit smoothly into their schedule.

I am grateful that I don’t have to return to a full time job at school with demanding responsibilities. I enjoy setting my own pace.  I love being able to go to lunch with friends. I’m thankful to be available to help with church activities. And into all that I can fit the two days a week for school chaplain duties.