Category Archives: The world and my place in it

The inability to meet all requests

While standing in the office at Columbia yesterday, waiting for my agreed-upon time to go read to the second graders, I talked with a fifth grade boy who was also waiting, waiting to cool down and regain his composure before returning to class. The current fifth graders are the first group of kids I read to, when they were first graders.

Boy:  (after telling me my he was in the office) Who are you reading to today?

Me:  One first grade class and one second grade class. I’m going to be able to read to all the second graders this year because there are only three first grade classes. When you were in first grade there were five first grade classes.

Boy:  How come you don’t come read to the fifth graders?

Me.  Because I’m old.


Are you going to run the sprinklers?

That was Terry’s question this morning, around 7:40, after I had been up for about an hour. Sleeping in until after 6:30 is not good for my timing of morning chores, but that’s another story.

“It’s Tuesday. Is that our day to run the sprinklers/” was my response.

“Yes, Tuesday and Saturday. I thought you got that straightened out last week.”

You see, we have specific days and specific times we can run the sprinklers here in drought-stricken Fresno. For the past few months, up to September 1, our days were Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, from 6 am to 9 am and again in the evening. Terry usually hand-waters in the evenings and I run the sprinklers in the morning, first thing after I get up. On September 1, our days changed to Tuesday and Saturday but I keep thinking Thursday and Saturday. Some glitch in my brain can’t get it right. And, we’re 18 days into the month!

I got my watering chores done and Terry even hand-watered since he had not done so on Saturday. We went to a party Saturday evening instead of staying home and taking care of chores.

I also did my usual set of exercises again this morning. On Saturday, after learning about the value of the exercises I do for my neck, I looked up, online, other exercises I might try. They were so easy that I could do them in the car as we traveled up the hill to the goat farm. Then I tried some more, and demonstrated them to Terry, while we had lunch at a popular local sandwich shop.

I woke up on Sunday in pain. My neck never hurts, but I had overdone the exercises and irritated the nerve endings. I remembered, too late, that I had been told 10 years ago to go easy on the exercises, not to overdo as I could irritate the nerves. Took a couple of days to calm everything down, and this morning I felt fine. Also, learned my lesson to take it easy with those exercises and continue as I had been doing for the past 10 years. Now, if I can just learn the watering schedule.

The weather is perfection

After all those days over 100 degrees that we suffered through this summer, we have settled into the 80s for awhile, which to me is perfection. The weather is still warm enough that I don’t need a sweater, but cool enough for pants. It’s still warm enough for skirts, too. So, I get to have a little more wardrobe flexibility around here.

After a very busy, very hectic weekend, I am staying home today. No where to go. I can enjoy the light as it travels through the  house. The temperature is such that I can bake a coffee cake this morning without concern for overheating the house. Then I’ll enjoy a slice of the cake with more coffee. After I finish the laundry that didn’t get done over the weekend.

I wish the weather could stay like this all year round. Heck, Fresno could become a tourist destination with this kind of weather. We might even be like San Diego. Without the ocean, though. That’s the reason, right there, that we won’t become like San Diego. No ocean breezes to blow through and cool us off. This is a very temporary climate shift for the central valley. Hopefully we will get rain soon, and with the rain comes the fog. It will get cold, and I will hunker down and complain about being unable to get warm. If only I could capture today in a bottle.

Time flies

It’s been a busy week around here. Doctor’s appointments. Lunches with friends. Short trips. Celebrating amazing projects. Those first graders at Columbia. Getting ready for another funeral lunch and other church meetings. It’a all good stuff and it all makes the time fly.

Terry has his date for open heart surgery–October 10. I visited with my doctor and learned that my recent MRI showed more deterioration in my neck vertebra but because I have no pain, there is really no need to do anything but to continue my exercises which seem to be keeping the deterioration from interfering with my life.

There were eight of us at our Ladies Who Lunch last week. One of the gals was headed for rotator cuff surgery the next day. Another had just returned from Hawaii. And yet another has just become a great grandmother. Lots going on in those retired teacher lives!

Terry and I drove into the hills on Saturday to the goat farm that makes the amazing soap we love. Figuring it might be December before we can get back, we stocked up on various soaps and I even bought some small bars to pack in Christmas gift bags.

Another friend invited us to her husband’s showing of the murals his uncle painted in southern California 50 years ago. The murals depict life and history of the Chicano struggle. The uncle died before he turned 40 so the work ended in 1979. Our friend tracked down the murals, took photos, and interviewed as many people as he could who knew the uncle and the lifestyle. Saturday’s presentation at the local college library was very informative and well attended. There may be a book coming next.

There are only three first grade classes at Columbia this year. I’ve decided to carry on the stories with the second graders, of which there are another three classes. I started last year with one of the second grade classes where the teacher was very receptive to my “interference,” and the kids begged me to come. The other second grade teachers seem to like what they are seeing so said I could come to their classes, too. I will only be in their rooms once a month, though, unlike the weekly visits to the first graders.

It’s Sunday and I feel like it’s a work day! I have a meeting at 9:30 with the nominating committee to find elders and deacons for the next season. After church there is a congregational meeting to hear an update on the purchase of a new organ. At noon I will moderate the deacon’s meeting. Along with the usual business, we also have to finalize plans for a funeral luncheon that will be held next Saturday. I’ve done much of the preliminary work but now comes the “all-hands-on-deck” part. It takes hands and feet to make the luncheon successfully take place.

That’s it for this past week. Let’s see what the new week brings. I know it too will fly by.

An addendum:  Forgot to mention that in all that activity, I had a tire disaster. Picked up a screw or metal something when I turned the corner into our neighborhood. When I got out of the car, in the garage, I could hear this loud hissing sound. Terry came out and investigated, finding the hissing coming from the right rear tire. I called AAA, he moved the car out of the garage and got it jacked up so it would NOT go flat and ruin the wheel. After the spare was put on, I took the car to the tire dealer and got a new tire. Of course, this happened on a day I didn’t eat lunch so my blood sugar was pretty low and my mood pretty dark. 

More pondering about places we live our life

I don’t know how it is where you live, but it is getting more expensive and harder to find a place to live in our city. Not like San Francisco-expensive, but the demand is outpacing the supply. Especially in rental housing. There just isn’t enough in Fresno. Our street has become more rental houses than owner-occupied, unlike when we moved here 38 years ago. At that time, none of the houses on the block were rentals.

That changed in the first two years we were here. The house next door became a rental when the young pharmacists moved to Stockton for better jobs but wanted to keep the house in case they ever came back to Fresno. And, it made a good investment. It’s been a rental ever since. One by one, the original owners sold and in many cases the new owners only stayed for a short time before selling again, this time to investors who were looking for good rental stock. Unfortunately, many of those investors are not taking care of the properties and they are looking shabby. But, that’s not what this post is about.

Because rental housing is costly and sparse, and wages are low (even at $11 an hour for minimum wage, it’s hard to find affordable housing), we are seeing families moving in together. This has just happened across the street. The two parent, two child renter family has taken in another family as well as the grampa, making it a household of five adults and four children. The house is not big enough for that.

Next door, the son and grandchildren have come to live with mom and auntie. That’s only three adults and two children, but the house will be cramped, none the less.

On the other side of town where three families had combined their lives into one fairly large house, it all came crashing down. The homeowner’s father did not like the fact that his son’s inlaws had arrived in America, gotten their permanent green cards and were planning to stay in the house making it six adults and at least one child. The father took a gun and shot his son’s inlaws as they sat, watching television, on a quiet Sunday morning killing both of them.

Perhaps these crowded homes are the reason people are living their lives in more public places. Just more pondering on my part.

Where do we live our lives?

Yesterday’s post about Starbucks and the previous day’s experience with the people in the neighborhood coffee shop got me to thinking. I awoke during the middle of the night, pondering this question:

Where do we live our lives now, in the early part of the 21st century? And, how is this different from the way we lived in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, when I was a child and young adult?

I watched my sister during those mid-century years, living an adult life as she is 17 years older than me. She had a home, two small children, a husband who was climbing the executive ladder, and she wasn’t employed outside of the home. She shopped almost every day, going to different stores on various days for different items–food, clothing, household goods. Every Thursday she was at the hairdresser, having her hair done, and every Friday the family went out to dinner. She often entertained on Saturdays or was entertained by her husband’s associates in their homes. Because her husband was an investor in a race car, she  sometimes spent Friday nights at local race tracks, with another group of friends. These are the places she lived her life.

Now, in her 80s, my sister looks back on those years and laughs. She seldom shops, except for groceries and the small amount of household items an elderly woman in a two-bedroom apartment would need. She says she can get everything she needs at a nearby Wal-Mart. She does her own hair. Much of her family, and most of her friends, are deceased. The great grandchildren come to visit once a week or so. A close friend lives a few doors away and they visit on the sidewalk or go into each other’s apartments for a cup of coffee. She and I talk on the phone. Her life has gotten much smaller, and she likes it that way.

When I tell her about the Starbucks outing and what I witnessed, she just gives it up to the times we live in. It’s different now. She sees no point in going to a coffee shop to see her friends for a cup of coffee. She can call them up, those who can still get out, and they can come over to her apartment. They sometimes get very adventuresome and go to one of the local casinos. My sister still likes to gamble but not like she did in her 60s and 70s. The cigarette smoke bothers her. She gets tired much easier. She really doesn’t like to be out for more than a couple of hours at a time, and if she has a doctor’s appointment during the week, that will be her outing, preferring to stay home the rest of the week.

The department stores, the hair salons, the restaurants, the race tracks…replaced by online shopping, spas, gourmet coffee shops, sports arenas and gyms.  Does that sound about right for where people are living their life? I’m going to continue pondering this question.

The way it is now

A friend who lives out of town came to Fresno for a dentist appointment. She was going to get into town early enough for us to meet and catch up. This is the friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. We agreed to meet at Starbucks that is close to the dentist office and is actually in my neighborhood.

I don’t go into Starbucks very often. When we lived in San Francisco, the Starbucks right across the street from our apartment was a favorite stop of mine. I often stopped in and even had a small Starbucks card that was attached to my apartment keys. The crew knew just how to make a mocha that I liked and I could pick up a Chronicle at the same time. It was a nice place and filled with a variety of people. I still have the small Starbucks card, and Terry, bless his heart, keeps money on it for when I do decide to stop by and get something, but that is very seldom. Usually, like yesterday, it’s to meet up with someone since Starbucks is every where and a good meeting place.

Because she was coming from out of town and I was only coming from across town after my school chaplain duties, I easily got to Starbucks ahead of my friend. I hadn’t eaten lunch at school because I was showing a visitor around campus so I was parched and hungry when I arrived. I ordered a peach-flavored tea and a slice of banana bread and sat myself down at one end of the communal table that runs the middle of the store. There are lots of individual tables in the place, but they were all filled. Some with students. A middle-aged couple who were flirting something fierce and left entwined in each other’s arms. One corner table had four very well-dressed, well-coiffed older women, playing cards. A business meeting taking place that involved selling insurance to new homeowners. Do people not think anyone can hear them in Starbucks?

Right before my friend arrived, the strangest thing of all occurred. Two people, man and woman, again middle aged, dressed casually, came in with McDonald’s bags and sat next to me at the communal table. There is a McDonalds across the street and has just been remodeled. I could not understand why they didn’t eat their big Macs there. They never ordered anything from the Starbucks counter except the man did get a newspaper (for which one is supposed to pay but he didn’t) and read it while noisily scarfing down the hamburgers. He left the paper on the table but at least cleaned up the wrappers and fries’ boxes.

So, is this the new thing to do at Starbucks? Hold your canasta parties in a corner? Meet for an afternoon tryst? Plan your wheeling and dealing for the next sale? Eat food from another establishment?  I was just meeting a friend to catch up on her life since moving out of town.