11 weeks and counting

    Life sure does take some funny turns. I have a book that I keep starting to read (and RE-starting) called How to Survive Change . . . You Didn't Ask For: Bounce Back, Find Calm in Chaos, and Reinvent Yourself, by M.J. Ryan that seems to capture--at least in its title--what I keep trying to do in the last six years. Since I stopped teaching at Edinboro at the end of Dec. 2011 (officially, as of Oct. 2012), I HAVE been trying to reinvent myself, without completely starting from scratch. I realize some people will end up doing that, but I don't really want to. I don't think I have to, either, to be honest. I just need to reconsider what angle of my talents I am working on at the present moment. 

    At this time, I have accepted an offer to teach full time (for 10 months) at Wenzhou-Kean University in Wenzhou, China at the Lecturer level. I would have preferred being at the Assistant Professor level at least, especially considering that I had earned my way up the ranks to Associate Professor at Edinboro University, but since I am not in line for a tenure-track position there, just an option to be renewable, I am temporarily content with that.  I am also very glad to be able to teach again at the same university as my husband! When we got married, I fully expected to be working at the same school as  my spouse, but I accepted that I was marrying a person who could conceivably take me away from a job I loved. (Of course, not without my consent. But in my scheme of what's important in life, I rate my choice of spouse and subsequent commitment to him higher than I rate my commitment to a job.) And that eventually happened, as Dan started working at Northeastern. Those of us who know the situation understand how we ended up back here in Erie, but I have to say that, lately, or at least for the last two or three years, our lives have seemed to be directed by divine forces. Just when it seemed like we would have to make some drastic changes again, we have had opportunities come our way that fit well into the calendars of our lives. If I am seeming a little cryptic, it's only because what I am writing can be seen by anybody, but those who know us will understand better what I am leaving unstated. 

    I think this space will be a good one for those who want to keep up with what's going on in our lives from afar, although we'll be using WeChat and Skype to catch up with loved ones on a more frequent basis. Meanwhile, I'll keep posting on this blog more frequently now, at least once a week, preferably on Friday mornings until we leave, and then on Wednesdays, which will be my day not teaching.Sahin-yesilyaprak-546710-unsplash

Christmas bling excitement!

Christmas tree        Ever since I was a little kid, I've felt the month of December was magical. I was very fortunate to grow up in a happy, intact family. Granted, we were not storybook-happy/Disneyland/idyllically happy, but normal happy, with all the brother/sister fights and imperfections that most families have. As the next to youngest child of five, all of us spread out in age by an average of four years apiece, we had developed traditions already that I was eager to participate in as soon as I could. We'd go with Dad to pick out our Christmas tree, help him get it all set up, get the Christmas tree ornaments out of storage, decorate it with that silvery tinsel that no one uses anymore. (Was that a fire hazard or something?) I know that many people didn't use it even then because their pets might eat it, but we didn't have a dog or cat. In the earlier years, we re-used the tinsel over and over again, but eventually, as manufacturers came out with more flimsy tinsel at lower prices, we'd break down and get a new package or two every year. The lights on the tree had to be strung first before we'd do all that of course, but with Dad an engineer, he always had a certain plan about how to put them on the tree. 

        Also, in early December in our town, the local firehouse would host an event where Santa Claus would ride in on one of the trucks and give out little treats to the kids, if I remember correctly. And I don't, actually; it's all a little fuzzy, but with a warm shiny glow around it, as if were in a snow globe in my memory. Makes sense, though, because it was always snowing when that happened, and it was always dark outside.  Like it still is now, everywhere you go in December, you see colored lights, decorations, and hear cheery, familiar songs playing on the loudspeakers. 

        And the anticipation! That was the most fabulous part about this season! I couldn't wait until Christmas morning when I could finally open presents and see what I got from Santa and everyone else. I always liked wrapping presents and not that many others in my family loved it, so I quickly capitalized on this disparity by setting up our only card table and commandeering all the wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, tags, and the scotch tape and scissors and promptly began to charge everyone for my gift-wrapping services! The bonus was that I got to see some presents before everyone else did! As a generally selfish person at heart, I had a hard time myself giving others things and paying for it with my own hard-earned allowance (or gift-wrapping earnings). I remember one time when I bought this neat $10 pinball game for my older brother that you had to set on the floor with the top of it tilted off the floor about 2 inches, just like the big machines are slanted upwards. With shiny Tabletoppinballsteel balls that rolled easily into the launching spot, numerous flippers on the sides to open or shut trap doors and whack the balls in a different direction on their way down, the machine had flickering lights and a cool headboard at the top end that featured the game's context. After buying it, I had taken off the annoyingly alluring cellophane and hid it under my bed where I'd take it out at night or in the evenings when my brother would be gone and play it to my heart's content, on the self-delusional pretext that I was "testing" the present first to make sure it worked right before I gave it to him. I didn't want to give him a defective present. No, sir! 

        Then, possibly because I had been observing him a bit more judgmentally since I'd gotten the tantalizing present, he must have done something that made me decide he didn't deserve to have this magnificent thing bestowed upon his unworthiness. So the day before Christmas, I marched down to the corner drugstore and bought a couple 15-cent comic books to give to him instead. I think I eventually showed him the pinball game, but probably not before I broke it by playing it too much. Come to think of it, maybe that's what made me go get the comic books. Hmm....can't quite recall. Well, at least that wasn't as bad (probably worse, actually) as what my younger brother (who was too young for an allowance still and thus had no money of his own) gave the same brother: he swiped one of David's baseballs and wrapped it up for him and put it under the tree! Even though David and I had a hearty laugh at Scott's gift, his present to David certainly had much more tenderness and love behind it than my pathetically stingy offering. 

        Despite how Pollyanna this sounds, I still feel the holiday season is supercharged with magic and specialness, even though nothing that is most special about it involves wrapped presents or how much a person spends. 

Life after My Dad

I knew this time would come. I just never could imagine how life would be when one or both of my parents was not alive anymore. My dad, John Courtenay ("Corky") Warren, died on Saturday, August 17, 2013, having lived a long, full life at the age of 93 and exactly 2 months. About 2 or 3 weeks before, he had started to decline rapidly at Sagebrook Health Center in Austin, TX, where he began living  a year or so before, and on Thursday (Aug. 15), his status changed from palliative care to hospice care, but no one knew he was so close to the end of his life. I prayed a lot about when I should fly down and on Saturday morning finally got a ticket to leave early the next day. However, when I was in the middle of cancelling my membership at Healthworks Back Bay, I received a cell phone call from Deede saying that he had passed away a few minutes before. No one was actually right there with him when he died, but she and Doug were both on their way to Sagebrook as she spoke to me. I broke down pretty violently, almost too overcome to walk down the stairs to our waiting car, and then cried hard on Dan's shoulder as he held me. After I got a grip on myself, I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and realized Deede was still on the phone. Immediately, I felt bad that I subjected her to hearing my outpouring grief so baldly, but who better to hear it than her or Dan?

I wanted an ice cream cone immediately. Somehow it seemed fitting. Oh, Dad, I will miss you! Later that day, I managed to reach my son Nick and told him, and then a few hours later, my friend Nancy with whom I have been friends since 9th grade. I didn't tell anyone else directly. Around 6 or 7 p.m. as I ruminated sadly between weak but draining bouts of crying, I gathered a batch of pictures I found on my computer and posted them on Facebook. I wish that my oldest nephew Dave Greeves and his son Leo hadn't found out about Dad's passing that way which they did, but I was glad that my nephew Chris(topher) Warren made a gift of one of the pictures I put on there to my brother David. As always, public postings carry a mixed bag of consequences.

Throughout the week and a half I spent with my sister and siblings and their spouses (and my husband who joined me on the weekend), we had a small memorial for Dad at Sagebrook and we did fun things together, sharing our thoughts and memories, and laughing and crying. Mostly, we all felt strongly that Dad led a "wonderful life" and created great memories. Doug and Chris have so many pictures and items from Mom and Dad's house; we looked through them on Thursday when we were there for a casual barbecue after the memorial, and resolved to do something to allow them to be shared with all. I love my family so much and am richly blessed to have been born to parents who taught us to all love each other above all else (except for God) and to accept each other as we are.

Although Mom does not know that Dad has died, at various times we visited her at Emeritus just as we would any other time. I thought I would have a hard time not revealing that Dad was gone, but it was not too hard at all, since her memory is shot. I can hardly believe the many things she can still do and remember. Me, for one! :)  She knows who I am and loves me thoroughly. Loves each one of us thoroughly, even if she can't immediately place the name/label on her loved ones. It is truly amazing how much love Mom has, and it gladdens my heart that this bedrock of love is so deep within her that even the ravages of Alzheimer's cannot destroy it.

I am going to create a shared blog/web page where I'll post updates on sympathy cards, memories of Dad (and eventually of Mom), and pictures. I'll probably call it The Warrens (i.e., http://thewarrens.blogspot.com). I wonder if that url is available. ....?



In Austin again coincidentally during SXSW also

Enjoying visiting with my elderly parents and my sweet, sweet sister in Austin. She has a new place here, and boy, is it nice!! I've told her I'd be glad to move in with her anytime she wants! It's a terrific place!!! Plus, I'll enjoy seeing Doug and Chris when they return from Calif. It's a little difficult to keep up in the airport because I walk so slow, but sometimes I ask for help from those cart people when/if I'm worried that I won't make it to my gate on time.

It is very nice to be able to live in Boston, actually, and be with my husband full time. I am learning the T system and learning how to manage carrying a variety of things without killing my shoulders or back. Also, I am getting a little more in shape as I continue going to Healthworks. It takes a long time, but sometimes I can see a difference. I just have to keep working at my goals.

We also got a new cat: Max! Pictures to come soon. (I have to fix th E button; it's sticking!).


Thanksgiving 2011

Spent Thanksgiving break in Boston with Dan and Emily. Driving out there sure is long, though. I split it into two parts on the way out, but when I came back to Edinboro, I took a much longer way than I anticipated, forcing me not only to stop, when I might have been able to make it back in one day, but also making me get up at 5:45 a.m. Uggh! What a long day! Then I had to teach three classes today.

On Thanksgiving, we had three guests along with us three, and a wonderful spread: Turkey, of course, as the main event, and gravy, mashed potatoes, Dan's Out-of-this-World rolls, my cranberry/cherry/walnut chutney, my sweet potato casserole, and my green bean casserole, gocumwat (sp?), and pumpkin pie. I still wish I had some pumpkin pie to eat. Everything was great, and we felt like stuffed animals afterward.

Speaking of which, Dan made sure to have Gobbles on hand, and Sally (of the Sally and Pete team), but the day after Thanksgiving, I picked up Sweetest (?), the Christmas Beanie Baby counterpart to Gobbles.

I sure have a lot of grading and catching up to do, so I doubt I'll write much here before Dec. 20 when grades are due.

 Oh yes, forgot to mention we had an uninvited guest in the apartment that Tiger would have had a field day (key word there, get it?) playing with, as long as it lasted. It was still in residence when I left, though, quite hidden, but I am assured that tomorrow (or is it next Wed.?) he will get his marching papers.

Germs Catching Up with Me

Unfortunately, I've been sick most of this week, battling an upper respiratory infection that leaves me super exhausted, if possible even more so than usual. Good health is something a lot of people take for granted until it leaves them. Nevertheless, besides resting, I am using this time to communicate with my students and colleagues via email, and catch up with grading, along with adjusting the two course calendars so they are back to being up-to-date after these small glitches.

Even so, I'm pleased to be asked to be a reviewer for a First Monday publication, which coincidentally is where I have planned to send my most recent article early this summer.

If you are a cat lover or a fan of Tiger (he has his own "Catbook" page!), please say a prayer for him! He is losing weight too much and seems to be more depressed and inactive than usual. He is 14 years old, but shouldn't be declining this fast. We are worried. He used to be so fat, and now you can feel every little bone in his skeleton. His backbone feels more raised than normal or knobby, so I wonder if he has cat arthritis. Poor Tiger. I sure love that cat. He is in Boston now, so he can't catch any of his favorite critters, like voles. He used to get one for us (like a present--ewww!) practically every day! He'd leave it right outside the back sliding door so you couldn't miss it when you tried to step out. I may bring him back here next week to see if that helps any. Nicer whether always makes him happier.

 Meanwhile, here's one of my latest favorite songs: "King of Anything" 

Yesterday was a good day

I had a productive meeting with my dean, chair, and director of online programs. Then I met my son for dinner, which is always a pleasure. Being wih him is like putting a piece back into the puzzle that is the whole me. I think it will always be that way.  Because we were so long together by ourselves against the world in our own little family with a bigger, very loving family surrounding us, we have an unusual closeness for which I'm very thankful. Nick and i

Crazy Apps and Taylor Swift

Joachim's off to college now--wow, hard to believe all of the kids are officially out of the house. With Dan's new Droid X, I'm getting a few pictures along the way even, which is kind of neat. I was just reading about some neuroscientist who wants to explore whether technology makes us dumber (hasn't he read Nicholas Carr?) This information revolution is simply making things different; why can't people accept that? At any rate, it seems to be for me. I read about 5 apps that help make us healthier: opower, imoveyou, glowcaps, withings, and hybrid cars. I'll investigate those in my so-called free time. But as soon as I exercise with my ipod, I have it set up so that it will automatically go to twitter (my stats). It'll be pitifully bad at first, but I think I'll appreciate it. I didn't feel so good today because I took my shot last night, and I felt sick all night and all day. But now it's easing off, so tomorrow I'll try to exercise in the morning. On another note: I can't believe I have been listening over and over and over to Taylor Swift's Fearless album. It is really good and/or I must have a hidden country-western music gene. Maybe it was those 8 years in Texas. Confession: I actually had some cowboy boots and a hat and went to a Moe Bandy concert. Still, I love "The Best Day" and "Breathe" and "Fifteen." Wild.

Last Week of Summer 2006

Random thoughts. . . Next week marks the last official week of summer for me, since school starts Aug. 28. I'm finishing up the Technical Writing syllabus today and will finalize the other one by Wed. for sure. We may go to see Scott and Lisa and family this weekend, but that's yet to be determined.  Retired colleague Ron Woodland died this past week; even though he wasn't around the office halls anymore, it'll be weird knowing he's just not here with us anymore. Nephew Jay stayed with us unexpectedly this past week and will be leaving this morning. I did not expect the visit; It is hard to get any work done. What do I want to do in these last few days of summer? Go swimming, see a silly movie, travel early in the morning, have a cold O'Doul's on a hot day, maybe even go to a fair. I had my debut acting stint at Fallingwater last week, which seemed to go well. I certainly hope it works out for their film, which is sponsored by NHK (the Japanese public television station) and produced by M Square, can't wait to see the actual documentary. I loved that place! After being there for nearly 16 hours in two days, I began to feel like I could live there! I wouldn't mind being a tour guide there in the summers, actually. Well, enough about dreaming of summer even though I'm still in it, back to work....(if I can concentrate).