Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Good Day at Grammy's House

When Jackson comes to Grammy’s house, it’s a good day.  If you ask him what makes Grammy the happiest, he’ll tell you in a heartbeat that she’s the happiest when he’s at her house.  And he’s absolutely right.  Jackson Matthew Yocham brings sunshine to his grandparents, and here’s how . . .

The day starts when he gets out of bed and announces, “It feels like I need to go to Grammy and Pop’s house today!”  You know what that little declaration does to our hearts.

As this bundle of energy hits the front door, he heads for both of us with hugs.  Now, don’t get me wrong—his hugs aren’t with his arms; they’re more a leaning in to us with his head.  But we know that they’re hugs.  Most days, he comes in dragging his Handy Manny suitcase (really a backpack with wheels) filled with extra clothes and underwear, snacks, and a toy or two.  The only part of the contents that he needs is the clothes and underwear because he wants only two snacks at Grammy and Pop’s house—chocolate milk and round crackers—and both of them are right here.  He seldom needs toys of any kind because he’s far too busy helping us.  And no toys are required for that.

He immediately asks for chocolate milk after his daddy leaves, and you know he gets it.  Since he knows where it is, he goes directly for the pantry.  The organic chocolate milk box has rows of three little individual boxes in it.  If Jackson is trying to get his milk from a full row and is having trouble, I remind him of our motto:  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Yes, I know it’s an old mantra, but it’s new to him, and he likes for us to use it, and he likes to use it on his parents at home.  Round crackers—Ritz Crackers— come later.

After being rejuvenated with chocolate milk, he goes to Pop’s garage to help him with some project, like wiring, putting in circuit breakers, putting up lights, examining and learning about tools, hanging garage doors, and installing the garage door openers.  Or maybe he’ll help

 outside with moving sand or laying flagstone or watering the trees in the “orch-red,” as he calls the orchard.  He can tell you the names of almost every fruit tree there.  He and Pop may take a little break to rock in the wicker chairs on the portal.  Since I’m not invited to those sessions, I don’t really know what those boys talk about, but I’m sure it’s important.  It may be that they talk about the mama bird and her eggs, the growth of the grape vines, the inadvisability of messing up Pop’s sand on the terrace just down from the portal, or the name of the bird making “that” sound.  They talk about all sorts of things.

At least twice during the morning, he’ll run inside wanting to know if it’s time for lunch yet and if he can have tomato soup and croutons when the time comes.  That’s what he has every day that he’s here.  Never tires of it, and the little sweetheart eats almost a whole can of soup and croutons made from two slices of bread all by himself.

I think you need to know that five people in Jackson’s life have nicknames for him and that no one else can call him by these names.  To his dad, he’s Little Man; to his mom, Sweetie Boy; to Pop, Buddy; to me, Sweetheart and Darlin’; and to Chris, one of our good friends, he’s Short Round.  Quite a range of names, huh?  I’m not sure why I thought you needed to know all of this, but now you’re educated and know not to use those names yourself.

When lunchtime does roll around, right at noon, the three of us gather, and Jackson says the blessing:  “God is great; God is good.  Let us thank Him for our food.  By His hand we must be fed.  Give us, Lord, our daily bread.  Ah . . men!”  When he first began to be in charge of this part of the meal, he kept his eyes wide open to be sure that everyone else had his/her eyes closed.  Lots of pauses to remind folks.  Now he squinches his eyes closed, but if you dare to look, you’ll know that he’s still peeping out through little slits so that he knows what we’re all doing.  His intonation reminds me of that of a television evangelist. 

After lunch, it’s naptime.  You might think that he can twist Grammy around his little finger and avoid snooze time.  Not so.  We have a little ritual that we follow, and I think the pleasure of completing it makes taking a nap worthwhile.  First, we get the bed in the guest room ready:  one pillow with a sham on each side of the bed, his special pillow between them, the colorful blanket (an afghan crocheted by my mother) ready to cover him, the ceiling fan turned on (even in the winter).  Now we’re ready for the next step.  “I’ll turn the dryer on, Grammy!”  We put his towel in the dryer for about two minutes so that he can snuggle up to it.  Now he’s all set, and we each say, “’Night, ‘night, I love you!” about three times, and he’s off to dreamland.  He used to sleep about three hours, but nowadays, an hour and a half is a good length.

When he wakes up, he comes very quietly to wherever I am . . . sometimes in my office, sometimes here on the sofa answering email, writing on Facebook, or writing for my blog.  If I’m in my office, he plays office while I work.  That means that he punches holes in paper with my hole punch or sits there pinching the staple puller together, listening not too carefully to my admonishing him not to poke his fingers.  If I’m working on my laptop in the family room, sometimes he begs to write on his blog.  I pull up a new page in Word, and he types away.  Here’s an example of his talent:


Beautiful, isn’t it?  I love having him work with me, no matter what we’re doing.

Just a few minutes after he gets up from his nap, he asks me if he can have a “little treat.”  Actually, he asks several times during the morning, but the rule is that he can have it after his nap.  He seldom forgets.  Now, you may be thinking that a “little treat” is a handful of cookies or a bowl of ice cream.  No . . . his “little treat” is one Junior Mint, not one box of Junior Mints . . . just one little piece of nickel-sized candy.  He’s perfectly content with only one.  In fact, he knows where the boxes are stored and will go there and get his one “little treat.”  Wendy and Todd didn’t give him any sweets until just a year or so ago, and he’s now four.  The only kind that they let him have then were cookies that I made because they knew what was in them.  He’s not really attracted to sweets much . . . just his “little treat” and sweet biscuits on Sunday morning at his house . . . ones that I make.  He calls them cake. 

Another thing that Jackson almost always does when he comes to Grammy’s house is  work with me in the kitchen.  Oh, my goodness, can he ever bake biscuits!  On second thought, I guess I should say, oh, my goodness, can he ever make a mess!  He pulls his little stool up to the counter where I’m cooking and announces that he’s going to help me cook.  That means that I need to get two bowls, the sifter, a measuring cup, a couple of measuring spoons, and some

 flour ready.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that he can stand there for 30 minutes or more just sifting flour from one bowl to the other.  And is my kitchen covered in flour?  Oh, yes, and so is he!  After we finish cooking, he just moves his stool a few inches back and helps me wash dishes.  That process is very similar to biscuit making:  he has one sink, and I have the other; he has a measuring cup, a spoon, and lots of suds to pour between them.  And is there soapy water everywhere?  Oh, yes.  But does he have a grand time at Grammy’s house.  Double or triple that yes!

When Jackson’s daddy comes to get him, Grammy and Pop are a bit weary but ever so happy for the good day.  Jackson, named for both Frank and Jay, is so precious to us.  I don’t even let myself think about what our lives would be like if we hadn’t moved to Cerrillos in 2003.  So many things would have been different.  Perhaps the most important one would be our not being close enough for Jackson’s proclamation, “It feels like I need to go to Grammy and Pop’s house today” to be fulfilled almost every time he makes it.  You see, it is, indeed, a good day when Jackson comes to our house.


Friday, May 15, 2009

AR the Blogger Boy

Just as I make “new best friends” everywhere I go, I find “new favorite blogs” almost every time someone mentions that he or she has started one.  Just this week, I’ve added Pardon Power, Our World in 3-D, and The A-train Journal.  Pardon Power is authored by P.S. Ruckman, a former student, and concerns presidential pardons; Our World in 3-D is Rodney Taylor’s blog, and like mine, concerns a little bit of everything; The A-train Journal is being written by Andrew Reed Waltrip and is a photo journal.

This morning when I checked my email, I found a message from Beth Waltrip, one of our best friends in Pensacola and the wife of our “son,” Andy, one of Jay’s best friends and one of “my boys.”  The purpose of Beth’s email today was to let friends know that Andrew Reed, her and Andy’s little 71/2 year old boy, is posting to his very own blog, The A-train Journal.

As soon as I read Beth’s note, I went to Andrew Reed’s blog.  What a work of art!  Since his momma’s a photographer, he’s already traveling with camera in hand and taking really good pictures.  GrammySandy, the name he gave me years ago when he was just a little boy, immediately posted a comment telling him how proud she is of him . . . especially of his composition skills and of his great vocabulary.  All of us bloggers love comments, so I know he’ll like hearing from me.

I also told him that I’m happy to see him calling himself a redneck.  The dictionary definition of a redneck isn’t very complimentary; however, people from parts other than the South have used the term about us for so long and so unkindly that we Southerners are tired of it and have decided among ourselves that it’s not such a bad term.  We like rednecks.  They’re good country people.  And little AR is a country boy.  He and his family live out from Pensacola in the Perdido area.  I love to go to their home because it’s so peaceful, a bit like our place out here in The Land of Enchantment, in solitude and quietness, that is.  In appearance, quite different . . . think “green, lush” when you try to get an idea of their place. 

I hope you’ll check my blogroll sometime and give yourself the pleasure of reading Andrew Reed’s blog and looking at his photos.  Tell him that you read about him on GrammySandy’s blog.  He’ll get a real kick out of that!

(Just a little aside . . . AR isn’t an only child.  He has a very creative, energetic, equally-as-handsome-as-he younger brother, Wil Tyler.  Someday I’ll write about him!)



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Facebook, the Great Connector

Almost thirty of my friends on Facebook are former students.  The majority of them I have not seen since they graduated.  They are all dear to me in one way or another, but for today’s post, I have chosen to write about only three of them.  They just happen to be the three with whom I’ve been in touch the most recently.  If I know myself, I’ll wind up writing about everyone before my blogging days are over.  You’ve heard the expression “Let the buyer beware”; there’s another one—“Let the reader beware”—and I’m invoking the latter today.  Why?  Because this is one terribly long post.  Consider yourself warned!

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True confession—I have a MySpace place, but I much prefer Facebook.  MySpace is too hard for me.  I don’t know why.  Maybe the reason is that I haven’t really tried to learn how to use it and haven’t given it a chance.  One thing I didn’t like had nothing to do with my learning ability:  I didn’t like the query as to my mood for the day.  Silly, huh? 

Ordinarily, I don’t think of myself as having moods, so I don’t want to choose a mood for the day.  I’m certainly not a moody person, but I don’t guess being in a mood necessarily means being moody.  Today, for sure . . . I’m in a mood.  And what mood would that be, Mrs. Young?  Nostalgic, that’s what.  And why do you address yourself as “Mrs. Young,” to be pronounced “MizYoung” or better yet, something like “Mizzhung.”  Because my nostalgia is caused by former students, and these young people are the ones who, for the most part, pronounced my name that way. For thirty-two years, I was MizYoung to a host of teenagers, mostly at Woodham High School in Pensacola, Florida. 

 Thanks to Facebook, I have been reunited with many of these youngsters, some of whom are between the ages of 40 and 50.  To me, they’re still young.  Three of them are rooted so firmly in my mind and heart today that I’m impelled to write about them.  If they read this, they don’t need to worry about my telling any deep, dark secrets.  I doubt if I knew any back when I saw each of them every school day during their senior year, and even if I knew secrets back in 1986, 1979, and 1977, I wouldn’t remember them now.  You know the elderly and their memories!  And so to my Thursday nostalgia . . .


I’ll begin with the young man most recently my student, Todd Cathey, who was in my Advanced Placement English class in 1985-86.  Todd found me on Facebook earlier this year, and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since, especially during the past couple of days.  If any of you who are reading this are now teachers or were teachers in the past, you’ll understand when I say that teachers grab firmly to any compliments that they receive.  When I engage in this action, savoring every positive word aimed in my direction, I feel really guilty for not going back to my teachers to let them know what an impact they had on my life.  This is what Todd wrote on the “25 Things” questionnaire on Facebook, and I immediately got the big head: 

High school was so intellectually unchallenging for me that I missed half of my senior year from sheer ennui. AP English was the saving grace - and I'm not saying that just because Sandy Young is one of my friends on Facebook!

How I do love a big head! 

Two other reasons for Todd’s being on my mind today are his being an author and his connection to my boy.  He pointed me to a Web site called, where I was able to see his Web-published pieces.  I thoroughly enjoyed a story/memoir titled “It Was Always Tommy.”  I’d love to teach that story!  And then Todd mentioned Jay and how he found out about my boy’s death from Todd Laws, the drummer in Velvet Melon at that time, in a chance meeting at the airport . . . how shocked he was—as were we all.  This is what he told me about Jay:   He'll forever be that vibrant young man, singing and playing his heart out and reaching for the stars.”  Thank you, Todd Cathey.  You have made my heart sing today.  I hadn’t forgotten you through the years, but I hadn’t thought of you for a while at the time that you found me on Facebook; however, I can assure you that you won’t be far away from my thoughts now.

The nostalgia for the next student has been building for weeks.  One Saturday evening just before I went to bed, I had two Facebook friend requests from former students from the Class of 1979.  In case you need math help . . . that’s 30 years ago!  Robert Sims and Candy Bellamy Carter found me, and I was ecstatic.  I could hardly sleep that night.  I’ve been in touch with both of them a lot during these weeks: with Robert mainly because of their Class Reunion this summer; with Candy because of so many things.  Today, I want to talk about Candy.  Robert will come in another post, I’m sure. 

Candy Bellamy . . . what a beautiful, smart, friendly young lady in my Honors English class from August 1978 to May 1979.  I remember her as an excellent English student and one of the few students through the years (few in comparison to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of young people that I taught) who actually wanted to get to know her teacher.  Candy and I became friends.  I’m sure that I, along with others during that year, was a bit disappointed that Candy wouldn’t go to The University of South Alabama the next year because she would marry Arthur Carter even before graduation since he was going into the Air Force and wouldn’t be back in the Pensacola area.  Adults shouldn’t be criticized for being doubtful about young people getting married this young because the track record for them isn’t all that good.  We didn’t need to worry.  The marriage of Candy and Arthur was meant to be, and none of us should have been overly concerned.  They are still happily married and will be celebrating their 30th anniversary by spending five weeks in Europe this summer.  And by the way, Candy told me that she still uses the pie plate that I gave her as a wedding plate.  A pie plate!  It must have been a good one.  I just hope it was pretty, too.

Early in their married life, they were stationed in Germany; Candy tried to keep up with me while she was there, but I was a pitiful correspondent.  Just think . . . I could have been keeping up with Candy through all of these thirty years instead of just re-connecting lately if I had just answered her letters.  Yes, I have apologized, and she has graciously forgiven me.  Candy is another student who has heaped accolades on me, especially for making grammar finally make sense to her.  What a great compliment to one who became an English teacher largely because of being able to teach our language to teenagers and possibly helping them to love the language as much as I do.  Candy credits my grammar instruction with making it possible for her to learn the German language.  An English teacher’s dream is to be able to claim such credit! 

Candy is the first former student to share a certain happiness with me:  We are both grandmothers!  We have become such good friends because of Facebook, and once again I’m so thankful that I took the leap and joined.  By the way, envy is not a Christian virtue, but I’m certainly feeling a bit envious because of her trip in August!  Candy and I will not let ourselves get out of touch again. 

Isn’t it funny that memory can pick up on happenings from decades ago and transform them into nostalgia?  That’s exactly what has happened to me with a young man who must be at least close to 50 by now.  Pete Ruckman (AKA Peter Ruckman and P.S. Ruckman, but always Pete to me) graduated from Woodham High School in 1979, and I will never forget him . . . or his cohort, his “partner in crime,” Chris Tredway.  They were unstoppable and unpredictable.  Today’s post is just about Pete, though; maybe someday Chris will admit that he lives in the twenty-first century and join Facebook.  Then perhaps I’ll write just about him. 

Pete Ruckman . . . my goodness, what a character!  If you’re familiar with the USA Network, the expression “Characters welcome” won’t be unfamiliar.  Pete was truly a character, and he is truly welcome to my nostalgic mood today.  Unlike other students from long ago, Pete has almost always been within my reach.  I don’t know exactly how I knew where he was . . . maybe he dropped by school to keep me up to date.  I don’t know.  At some time, I found out that he was living in the Chicago area, teaching in Rockport, IL.  I always intended to get in touch with him when I’d go to Chicago for McDougal Littell sales meetings to see if he might come to see me, to let me take him and his family to dinner; however, deep down, I’m a bit shy, and I didn’t want to hear that he couldn’t come.  Pretty silly, now that I think about it.

Before I talk about having him in my College Prep class, let me hasten to say that Pete was an excellent student, a student who could do well with anything I was teaching but who could bring hilarity to the subject, making it fun for us.  I don’t necessarily mean fun for the whole class, but for the two of us.  Most of the time the fun was in writing because Pete was relatively quiet in class with just an occasional comment that would break us all up.  His sense of humor was wonderful but still in the developmental stages.  I noticed on his Facebook Profile that he belongs to a "sarcasm" group.  I'll bet that today both his humor and his sarcasm have fully flowered and are a work of art. I hope so, anyway.

I don’t always have very specific memories of students’ activities in my classroom, but Pete Ruckman was different.  I’m thinking of one day, probably on Thursday before research papers were due on Monday.  Pete spoke up and asked if the class could have an extension on the date.  I don’t know what happened to my head, or maybe my heart, but I gave them a few more days.  Before I knew what was happening, that young man was at the front of the room.  He grabbed my foot and kissed it . . . well, he didn’t literally kiss it.  He just pretended, but the class thought the action was real.  They cheered.  Another time, he saw me in the hall and fell down at my feet, probably begging for something.  What a character!  The last memory that I’ll mention is gleaned from my memory of a day shortly after the students received their yearbooks, the Mnemosyne.  My habit during those early years at Woodham , if a student happened to ask me to sign his or her yearbook, was merely to write something like “I enjoyed having you in class this year.  Have fun at college!  Come back to see me . . .”  Well, when I wrote this inane comment, or something similar in his book, Pete once again ran to the front of the room, this time to chastise me for not writing a more personal comment.  After all, we had enjoyed the year, and I should give him more than an enjoyed-the-year little nothing.  You guessed it . . . I wrote something with meaning.  This young man taught me a valuable lesson:  I needed to be able to think back over the year quickly and mention something personal in each student’s precious Mnemosyne . . . and that’s just what I did for the next 20 years.  For re-connecting actively with Pete Ruckman, thank you, Facebook.

I can’t believe that I forgot to tell you what these folks did after high school, what they’re doing now:

·      Todd lives in California and dubs himself  “musician by day, nurse by night.”  He’s a registered nurse who loves playing bass.  Check out this video, in which he’s playing in Seville Quarter with Joey Allred, Darin Boyd, and Mike Magno, original Velvet Melon members, along with Jay:

·      Candy Carter went to law school, passed the bar, and became a lawyer.  After an automobile accident, she was left with disabilities that caused her to close her law practice.  She’s hopeful, though, to do some mediation work after updating certifications later this year.  She and Arthur have two sons and one granddaughter, Alli, the light of her life.

·      P.S. Ruckman is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL.  He is married and has two little boys.  At the risk of sounding simplistic, I’d term Pete an expert in presidential pardons.  I’m sure I’m supposed to say that differently.  He has written a forthcoming book: Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy.  Check out his blog at

Nostalgia is “a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past”  (The American College Dictionary). Today, nostalgia set in, and these three persons of the past, along with their situations, were very much a part of it.  I loved today, and I’m very much grateful to Facebook for re-connecting me with these young people, my link to a past made up of some of the best years of my life.






Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blogging with the Stars

Earlier in the spring, I enrolled in a great online course called Blogging 101, offered through Editorial Freelancers Association.  Each Wednesday for the four weeks that the class lasted, we received a lesson.  As my friend Cecily used to say, “I waited with bait on my breath” for our teacher’s expertise, comments, advice to arrive via our class blog.  What a wealth of information and encouragement we received for four weeks!

 During those four weeks, we students also became friends via email, the class blog, and our personal blogs.  I added three  of my classmates’ blogs to my blogroll and check them periodically to see what they’ve written.

 Dee writes a blog all about Disney.  Honestly, she knows enough to write a veritable tome!  I don’t know how many times she’s visited both Land and World, but she’s headed back to Orlando in three months and three days.  On her blog, she writes about everything Disney, from clothes to characters to the monorail to . . . you name it, she writes about it.  What a fun blog!  (

Laurel has become a true friend as a result of taking the course together.  She was the first person to encourage me to write a memoir.  She likes my voice!  There’s not a nicer compliment that another writer can give me than to say that I sound like a real person talking, and she doesn’t even know what I sound like.  Laurel is an editor by trade, and when I do write my memoir, I’ll hire her to edit for me.  She even offers classes over the phone to talk the will-be writer (her term . . . so much kinder than “wannabe writer,” which is the designation that I usually give myself) through her book.  Because of the suggestions for writers in her blog, I have unsubscribed to my subscription to a professional help-for-writers company and use her posts for my personal writing advice.  (

 Michelle’s blog is about language . . . about funny things that she’s heard and/or read, things she’s said herself that brought the house down, anything “quirky” (her word) about language.  So you know I love this blog.  She makes me wish that I’d kept a journal of all the funny things that my students said and wrote during my thirty-two years in the classroom.  I could write a book or two or three, I’m sure.  I read Michelle’s blog for my language fix!  (

 Each of these bloggers is a person to be admired for her writing ability, her dedication to the “cause” of good blogging, and her willingness to share thoughts with fellow bloggers through comments on blogs. Each one is a star in my estimation.  Each of them commented on my posts, encouraging me to write a memoir, and one day I'll so just that.  I am indebted to them, and I’ve told them so!  



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sexagenarian Sandy

Now don’t get all hot and bothered.  I’m not getting ready to write about a very personal aspect of  my life.  Wild horses couldn’t drag that info from this old lady.  A sexagenarian is simply a person between the ages of 60 and 69, and 69 is exactly what I became on Wednesday, May 6, 2009.  Next year, I won't be one, so I feel compelled--by what I don't know--to write about these past years.

 My official entry to the sexagenarian decade came in 2000.  I remember having thoughts about that far away year when I was a child.  Surely no one would even be alive then!  The twenty-first century?  Impossible!  But the century changed, and so did my life, mostly for the better and crammed with lots of fun:


·   September 11, 2001 changed everyone’s life, not just mine.  I was at a McDougal Littell sales meeting in Chicago when disaster struck our country.  Thank goodness, I didn’t know anyone personally in the towers or on the other planes, but I knew people who knew people.  Every American and many others all over the world grieved for America.  Since all of the airlines closed down, we attendees in Chicago got on chartered buses and headed home in all different directions.  Maybe someday I'll write about that experience, complete with pictures.

·   In June 2003, Frank and I, somewhat like the Beverly Hillbillies, packed up everything and moved west . . . to Cerrillos, New Mexico.  Could a sixty-three-year-old Florida girl from a relatively large city find happiness in a village of 200, where she knew no one?  Would she ever have friends?  Oh, yes, think "yes" to both of those questions.  We love our new digs, and we have friends galore.  At Frank’s 75th birthday party on September 14, 2008, about 125 of our closest friends and family joined us for the celebration.  Happiness abounds at Two Rocks and a Hubcap!  The name for our home is fodder for another post.

·   Also in June 2003, my McDougal Littell friends in Florida gave me the big retirement send-off, thinking they’d never see me again unless I made a pilgrimage back to Florida or they made the long trek to New Mexico.  Retirement didn’t last long for me . . . 79 days, to be exact.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of these little schools out here not having someone visit them to sell them the new textbooks.  So I became a per diem consultant sometime in September or October of 2003, traveling the highways and byways of New Mexico for the next five plus years and enjoying every minute (well, almost every minute) of my time with teachers.  For one year—the 2004-05 school year—I was the sales rep for our state.  I loved that year!  I’m much better at sales repping than I am at being a per diem.

·   The fall of 2004 saw the organization of our Bible Study group in Cerrillos.  Every Sunday morning, Frank leads our study, and I make sweet biscuits for our fellowship time.  One of our members, Glenn, devours so many that we have re-named them Glenn Biscuits in his honor.  We gather each Sunday from 8:30-9:00 at Wendy and Todd’s house in Cerrillos for study, spend another hour in fellowshipping, and then Frank and I head to Santa Fe to Rodeo Road Baptist Church for worship.  Appropriately, Wendy has named our group The Renegade Bible Study because we are something of a rebel group.  We’re a bunch of Christians who love the Lord and love to study His Word, but we’re not associated with any denomination, though I’ll have to admit, Frank and I are such died-in-the-wool Baptists that our beliefs creep in.  If they go too far, though, our friends are quick to rebel.  You see?  We’re renegades.

·   The fall of 2004 also saw the biggest blessing of our lives since 1986.  Wendy was pregnant again.  Corey was born in the fall of 1987 (on Halloween!), and Jackson would come in the spring of 2005.  He arrived on May 21, just three days before Wendy’s 42nd birthday.  We never thought we’d have more than one grandchild, and that was fine with us because we love Corey so much; however, with the addition of Jackson (named for Frank and Jay), we found that we had a whole “nother” heart full of love to shower on a grandchild.  We are doubly blessed!

·   June of 2006 brought one of the most exciting months of our lives:  Corey graduated from Santa Fe High, and the next day we left for a three-week tour of Europe visiting our European family in Germany, Croatia, Switzerland, Holland, and England.  No room for details here.  Just know that we visited all of our “daughters,” one “son,” and “sisters and brothers” that we have accumulated during the past twenty plus years and that it was our Dream Vacation.  I wrote a book of pictures and memories when I got home and sent each one a copy.  What fun I had in getting this thank-you gift ready for them.  I think they liked my gift. 

·   The travel bug really bit us that year, and in 2007 we were still feeling the bite and headed across the Atlantic for  another three-week trip, this time to Ukraine to visit Irina and her family.  Another great trip with all of our time in Kiev, at the home of the Andrushenkos (my favorite part!), and on the beaches of Yalta.  We have been truly blessed by friendships with so many Europeans.  I can’t imagine our lives without them.  As many of you know, Irina is truly like a daughter to us, and we love her parents and sister for being so willing to share her.

·   I’ve already mentioned Frank’s Big Birthday Bash in 2008, but I didn’t tell you that about twenty of those in attendance were his brothers, sister, nieces, nephew, one sister-in-law, and cousins from all over the U.S. (Washington, California, Montana, Connecticut, Florida, Maine), plus friends from Mississippi, Georgia, and Croatia.  We hosted the first Young Family Reunion since 1940.  It was right here at our house in Cerrillos.  What a grand time we had!  Someday I’ll write a post about it.  Just a couple of things right now, though:  Everyone sent old family pictures, and Wendy made a lovely slideshow for us; Bob rode his motorcycle from Florida to NM; several of our neighbors opened up their homes to our family so that they could stay out here instead of in a hotel in Santa Fe.  Our friends Ivana and Andrea from Croatia stayed a bit longer than others because they had come such a great distance.  Andrea went home after a week, but Ivana stayed for two weeks, and there wasn’t a minute of dead air the whole time she was here.  I even took her on the road with me because I had to go back to work.  She was great company and a tremendous assistant!


And now I’m to 2009, right now.  The biggest event of 2009 for me is that I’m getting ready to hang up the van keys for good.  When I first mentioned that I’d retire at the end of the school year, many friends and family members said, “Yeah, right.  You’ve said that before, but we know you’ll never retire.”  I assured them that this time I would.  I don’t think they knew how smothered it made me feel when they doubted me.  What if they were right and I really wouldn’t leave the company?  What if I’d be leaving home at oh-dark-thirty, heading for Roswell before my eyes were really focused just so that I could be there to talk to a teacher during her planning period at 8:30 for the rest of my life?  I wanted out.  I wanted to stay at home, not to be a couch potato, but to work with Grace in her editing business, to get myself on a writing schedule, to be here for Frank, to play with Jackson whenever I jolly well pleased.  When they doubted me, I just wanted to scream!  Without going into the negative thoughts that I've sometimes had about the company that I’ve worked for for the past couple of years, I’ll just say that I’m ready to “be shed of” it.  I’ve loved the people that I work with, just not the company in general.  If our company had remained just plain old McDougal Littell, instead of the merged company that it now is, I'd probably have worked till I dropped, but I didn't need to do that.  Just as I didn't want to teach so long that someone discovered me dead in the classroom one morning, hunkered over a set of papers that I had been grading, I didn't want to be found on the side of Hwy 285, doing my best to make that early  appointment, eyes still glued to the road and hands cemented to the steering wheel of my old red van.  

So . . . I’m beginning my last year as a sexagenarian with a smile on my face and lots of goals in mind.  I just love a new beginning!