Sunday, August 23, 2009

USACK Nationals

Nathan and I spent the better part of Wednesday through Saturday up at Lake Lanier, where Nathan competed in the USA Canoe & Kayak Sprint Championships at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue.
I am proud to report that Nathan's 4-man team took the gold in the K-4 Bantam event on Thursday.

Nathan's team is on the right. It looked like they would win easily.

But then the second boat started gaining ground.

It got closer.

And closer.

The race was a nail-biter, for sure! But, in the end, Nathan's team was victorious. Here they are at the awards banquet after receiving their gold medals.

And here is Nathan wearing his gold medal and a big smile.

Nathan's name even made it into the newspaper. Here is a link to the article.

Way to go, Nathan! Way to go, Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Everything Is Different Now

Nathan is finishing up his second week of eighth grade; Casey started his joint enrollment classes on Monday. Here is Casey on his first day of school.

Both boys are busy and happy. Me, too.

But being in an empty house, after sharing it with six other people for so many months, and home schooling all those years, is strange. Not in a bad way. It's just taking some getting used to.

Casey has been heading out before dawn, and Nathan catches the bus at 8:30. My piano students start arriving between 11:45 and 2, depending on the day. So I'm really only talking about three or four hours here. Still, it's a whole different life.

Monday was easy. I had to run to Nathan's school to let them know he would miss class today through Friday due to his participation in USACK Nationals, and then I needed to go to the UPS store to send a fax. And there was lots to do to make sure my studio was ready for my students' return. Busy, busy.

Tuesday, though, I felt a little lost. It helped that I had made myself a to-do list for weekday mornings.

1. Journal (30 minutes).
2. Walk (45 minutes).
3. Tidy the house and make my bed (15 minutes).
4. Check e-mail and Facebook (could take all day!--but I'm allowing 30 minutes).
5. Practice piano (one hour).
6. Write (two hours).
7. Shower and dress (30 minutes).

If I get up at 6--just a few minutes before the high school bus stops in front of my house, and wakes me up, anyway--I can accomplish those first three or four items before Nathan is ready for breakfast. The rest can be done between the time he walks out the front door and my first student walks in.

I didn't do so well yesterday. I stayed in bed until 7, so I was left with only had about an hour to spend on writing. And the rest of this week is a wash; I have to get Nathan back and forth to the lake for Nationals, and make sure Casey has transportation to and from classes when he needs it.

But I know I can be successful. I have history to prove it. My first couple of years post-divorce, I got up promptly at 6AM and walked, journalled, checked e-mail, and got myself ready for the day before waking the boys up. But after that, mornings were devoted schoolwork and/or running to and from activities, appointments, etc. Now I can use that time to focus on personal goals. And Fridays are all mine--for housework and laundry and lunch with friends and hobbies. Ahh.

I saw my doctor on Friday; he wanted to follow up with me on some routine blood work I had done a couple of weeks ago. The bad news was I have an under-active thyroid, which explains the weight gain and other symptoms I have been experiencing the past few months. But that is easily treated. The good news was that my HDL cholesterol is the third highest he has seen in his entire career, and if I can mange to avoid cancer or being run over by a train, he sees no reason why I can't live to be 100. Saturday was my 50th birthday, so that means if I'm lucky I have half my life left to do all those things I might be running out of time to do.

But there's no time to waste. I'm going to keep myself too busy to think about Empty Nest Syndrome!

Friday, August 14, 2009

End of Summer

I am exhausted. The past few weeks have been insane, with John and his family moving out, dealing with the physical and emotional aftermath of that, and jumping through all the hoops required by the Gwinnett County, Georgia public school system and the Georgia State college system to get my boys enrolled in their respective academic programs. Finally, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I will return to full-time piano teaching on Monday, and I really didn't get much of a break. Still, I am optimistic about the future. The next couple of weeks are going to be challenging; Casey and I will be sharing one car until Labor Day week-end, and in the meantime we have to figure out how to get my little red Honda two places at once. But figure it out we will, and, once the dust settles, I am going to have a whole new life.

The summer wasn't all work and no play, though. There were those lazy afternoons at the Dockside Grill. There were also a couple of lovely lunches with Casey and Nathan and my one and only sister-in-law, Donna, at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Del Rio, in Dacula, GA.

I spent a couple of afternoons working on jewelry. I made an angel bracelet for my mom, using clear crystals from a necklace that once belonged to my grandmother, along with new sapphire crystals (my mother's birthstone) and a pewter angel clasp.

I made a handful of seed beed bracelets, similar to this one, that I am hoping to sell at a craft show in September.

I honed my chain maille skills, and made a pair of chain maille earrings for my friend Cindy for her birthday.

And I made a few new friends--like this fellow at Steverino's in Duluth, GA. We had to take Nathan's violin to Huthmaker in Duluth, GA for some new strings; afterwards, we made the executive decision to patronize the interesting-looking restaurant across the street. I had a grilled veggie sub. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow is my birthday. New adventures await!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back To School

Sometime in the early 1980's, years before I had my first child, I read an article in the Mother Earth News on the topic of home education. It was a strange notion at the time--I was surprised to learn that it was even LEGAL--but I was intrigued.

I think I was born to teach. When I was growing up, I loved everything about going to school--my instructors and the classrooms, the crayons and the jars of paste, the workbooks and the library. At home, I loved playing school, rounding up my dolls and my little brothers and forcing them to be my pretend students. Then, at the ripe old age of seven, I started taking piano lessons. Right away, I determined that I wanted to be a piano teacher when I grew up. I had a few struggles along the way--The Song of the Volga Boatmen and Turkey in the Straw were special challenges--but I rose above them ended up going to college and obtaining both a bachelor's and a master's degree in piano performance and piano pedagogy. It seemed like the perfect choice for a woman who wanted to have a career AND stay home and raise a family.

It was. As a newlywed, I taught piano in Peoria, Illinois; a few years later, when my then-husband accepted a job in Raleigh, North Carolina, I said good-bye to Peoria and established a studio in Raleigh. There, my first son was born; of course, I continued working with my students, but along with the parenting handbooks and Clavier magazine, I read everything I could find on the subject of education in general and home schooling in particular. And when Josh reached the age of mandatory attendance in North Carolina, I completed the necessary paperwork and our home school became official.

Casey came along in four years later; in 1994, our growing family moved to the metropolitan Atlanta area where Nathan was born in 1996. The little ones learned alongside the older ones. Over the years, I taught all three boys to read and write; how to add, subtract, multiply and divide; I even taught Casey and Nathan how to play the piano. Together, we learned about American history, world geography, the scientific method and elementary French. We went on field trips to art museums and symphony concerts, took art classes and attended park days, joined Cub Scouts and took swimming lessons, watched birds and baked cookies, created nature journals, dissected owl pellets and listened to books on tape while we drove from one activity to the next. And I spent many afternoons and evenings reading aloud--even after the boys were able to read for themselves--including the entire Little House series and all the Narnia books. Eventually, I became something of a leader in the home school community; I gave seminars and led support groups and tried to give other interested parents the skills and confidence to teach their own.

Altogether, I spent 33 years home schooling. But this week marks the end of an era. On August 10, 2009, the first day of school in Gwinnett County, Georgia, my thirteen year old son, Nathan, boarded the big yellow bus and rode it all the way to Osborne Middle School and began his studies as a public schooled eighth grader.

And yesterday Casey got the phone call we have been waiting for from Georgia Gwinnett College; he was accepted into the joint enrollment program for his senior year of high school. His classes will start on Monday. Josh is already in college; he graduated from home school high school in 2006, and is studying photography Portfolio Center in Buckhead, GA.

I couldn't be any prouder of my three sons. They are bright and capable; I can only hope that I gave them the foundation they need to be successful in their future educational endeavors. But one thing is for sure: I have wonderful memories of the many happy days we all spent learning together. I wouldn't have missed them for anything.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Empty Spaces

I have a birthday coming up soon. The big 5-0. I have heard that "50 is the new 40" but I think that's a bunch of hooey. On the other hand, I still feel 19 on the inside.

The past few days have been tough. John has been in and out, moving boxes and furniture out of my house and into his family's apartment, leaving behind a lot of empty space. That's not an altogether bad thing. I have spent the past two or three years feeling positively overwhelmed by STUFF. So I am not going to replace anything that he is taking; rather, I am back to the task of getting rid of everything I don't truly love, everything that doesn't make me happy, happy, happy when I see it.

My new living room furniture arrived on Friday. I love it. All I need is some great pillows and window treatments to make it my own. Thanks to Marcy at Rooms To Go Furniture at Mall of Georgia. If you need new furniture, talk to Marcy!

I moved the old sofa into my student waiting room, the old love seat and the battered coffee table (temporarily) into the garage. I also emptied the large oak bookcase that has stood at the top of the stairs in the living room and moved it into the waiting room. I never intended to put it in the living room; I wanted it in the piano studio/classroom, with its four identical brothers and sisters, but it didn't work out in there, so it ended up in the living room by default. And there it has stood there all this time--eight years!--stuffed full of books and odds and ends of knick-knacks, collecting dust, making it difficult to walk from the top of the stairs into the hallway that leads to the boys' rooms and the upstairs bathroom. But it looks great in the waiting room, and is providing me with a perfect place to store the books I am selling.

I had my carpets cleaned today. Thanks to Mike, the carpet cleaner guy. If you need the phone number for a great carpet cleaner, please ask me! This is actually the second time he has cleaned my carpets--but, of course, I lost track of his phone number. Then, as I was wringing my hands in despair about the fact that my carpet was filthy and I had not earthly idea whom to call, MIKE CALLED ME and asked me if he could be of assistance. I was delighted to say yes! While he was here, I also had him clean the old sofa in the waiting room. It still looks like an old sofa, but it doesn't SMELL like an old sofa any more! HA!

And now, with new furniture and the bookcase gone and clean carpet, it is clear what an eyesore the rickety entertainment center with its bulky television and clutter of electronics and knick-knacks is. The plan is to retire the entertainment center, move the old tube television into Nathan's room, so he can use it with his video game systems (Nathan is redoing his living quarters, too; we replaced his bed with a futon--he has a regular bachelor pad now!) and replace it with y a 32-inch flat panel TV and a small, simple stand.

I still haven't figured out what to do with all the knick-knacks. Some of them are precious; clay figures the boys made when they were small, trinkets picked up on cruises and vacations. I can't bring myself to get rid of them, but I don't want to stuff them into boxes and forget about them. Something will come to me.

What I don't know is what I'm going to do with all the space that John's departure has left in my heart.