The Joy of Learning

b78a63b3fd0ee7792d6a65e1d9fffea0I love school!  I guess that’s a good thing since I was a teacher, huh?!  But that simple fact was the reason I finally chose teaching as my career path.

I remember one fall day in Colorado, 1985, with college graduation coming quickly in the spring, thinking I’d better buckle down and decide what I was going to do with my life. I had changed majors three times (math, nursing, psychology), and I knew for a fact, that my dad, who had paid many pennies for my education, would want to know ‘the plan.’ There was no way I could graduate and not have ‘a plan.’ Plans are a big deal in my family! *grin*

So as I looked around campus that day, I realized how much I loved learning… and not just learning, but the whole school environment.  There is a pattern and rhythm to the days, to the seasons of the school year.  There is a constant buzz on campus as students and staff chatter and debate about important subjects, new ideas, their personal lives, and more. Schools offer a great deal of predictability and stability, while at the same time classrooms and teachers provide opportunities for exploration, adventure, and creative expression.  What a great balance!  It came clear, at that moment, that I wanted to continue my life in education and be a part of all the things that I loved about school.

In a few days, it will be seven months (already!!) since I ‘graduated’ into retirement and left that comfortable, steady environment to seek a new life.  And I am so excited to say that my love of learning has continued and grown exponentially outside the classroom! Instead of heading off to a training on the newest tech program or report card system, I get to take quilting classes and research new recipes to create.  Might sound boring to some, but I’m in heaven!  Instead of staff development on the new math pedagogy, I have the freedom to go on photography field trips and learn new editing skills and build my business.  Sure, I am ‘only’ seven months in, but I have yet to even imagine being bored. My mind is always challenged with new ideas, mostly creative endeavors these days, that actually have my head spinning lately!

As for my soul’s desire for exploration and adventure…. our north Idaho life has fulfilled that greatly since June.  And right now, my research is focused on finding good winter gear for snow hiking and snow shoeing (we are virgins!).  Again, I am learning so much, and our Rocky Mountain home awaits our arrival next week!!

I honestly did not have any worries about retirement, but I did wonder a lot. I wondered if I would miss the kids, miss the teaching, miss that campus buzz I mentioned, or miss the learning that was required of me. Yes, I do miss the people, my friends, but I have been blessed to embrace the world as my new classroom and have found a new rhythm to my days as I move through the seasons.

2016 has been an amazing year for Pat and me. It was filled with so many gifts and blessings as we embarked on this retirement journey together, and I am grateful to God for every moment. I cannot wait to see what 2017 has to teach me…. I’m sure it will be an unforgettable adventure in learning!

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Mitch Miller, Gingersnaps, and Mom

I am so very excited for Christmas this year! Obviously it’s because I have more time to enjoy all the different aspects of the season… playing carols on the piano, baking, Advent readings at Mass, spending time with loved ones, parties, cozy fires, Christmas movies, and the list goes on!  In all my eagerness, my cards were ordered, delivered, addressed and ready to mail out three weeks ago. The sign of a retiree, for sure! And I wanted to start decorating two weeks ago, but held off until after Thanksgiving. My niece and I have had so much fun shopping for decorations during this time. She has her first house to inspire her, and our 26 years of decorations needed some new life. It’s been fun!

A friend and I went to dinner and a play the other night, and on the drive home, we chatted about favorite holiday memories from childhood. We started with the basics, that first one or two that are at the forefront of your mind every Christmas, but as we spoke, more layers were uncovered. It was great to share, laugh, and learn even a little more about each other after all these years.

It’s hard to pin down one favorite Christmas memory. You see, my mom loved, loved, loved Christmas, and every single special memory involves her. Our house had decorations everywhere.  Some gorgeous, like the carved nativity scene, and others tacky, like tinseled garland hanging around every single door frame in the house. And oh, mom was the queen of ugly Christmas sweaters back when we all thought they were awesome. I still have one of hers that I will never part with. And food!!  My mom was an incredible cook, and she enjoyed making amazing meals… all with lots and lots of butter, as it should be!

But of all my memories, I think the one I’d say I appreciate most was her love of Christmas carols. She had two sisters who lived about an hour away, so we were often on the road back and forth, and more often during the holidays. Being the youngest, I was with mom alonmitche a lot on these trips and during Christmas, we would play Mitch Miller’s Holiday Sing-a-Long album. What an awesome album! Both of us knew every word by heart, and her favorites, Silver Bells and O Holy Night, quickly became my favorites. Christmas carols are still the very best part of the season for me.

But, of course, baking and candy making is a very close second! Mom always made the Kraft Fantasy Fudge recipe, Icebox Cookies from her childhood, and an amazing Gingersnap cookie from a recipe she found in the 70s.  All of it was so delicious and what fun it was sharing time in the kitchen.  I have carried on all these traditions, and our friends across the street beg me for ‘Mom’s Gingersnaps’ img_1595year round.

So today, I spent the day in the kitchen, listening to carols, and loving the season the way my mom did. As usual, I delivered gingersnaps to our friends and was told, ‘Your mom would be proud.’ She’s never far from me, and I am so grateful she filled my heart, soul, and childhood with such loving celebrations of Christmas.

And yes, that is ELEVEN pounds of butter in that picture!
What’s your favorite Christmas memory?