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WARNING!! If You Have Diabetes, Avoid the Red Zone in Grocery Stores!

Posted: 10-11-2017
Blog Articles

My husband has diabetes. Fortunately, he is currently able to control it through diet. This approach will not always work but for now eating healthy and exercising is keeping Ron in the “prediabetes” range.

Recently Ron went to a diabetes lecture which included a handout of high-carbohydrate foods to avoid. The Red List  (as in STOP!!!!!!Avoid anything on this list!!!) is quite extensive and includes every foodstuff I enjoy: bread, cakes, biscuits, carbonated beverages, beer, ice cream, chocolate, pre-packaged foods—all flash red. The Green List (as in GO! Eat anything on this list) includes eggs, meats, poultry, full fat dairy, nuts and seeds and vegetables. Unfortunately for me, the only way I am eating a handful of pumpkin seeds is if they come with an equal number of chocolate chips.

All of the dastardly Red List food products are located primarily in the center portion of grocery stores. The best advice for healthy eating I have received is to avoid the interior aisles that make up the Red Zone and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, yogurt, cheeses—all are located in the outer aisles. Venturing into the center of the grocery store takes you right into high carbohydrate territory. Of course sometimes a foray into the center is essential so I can buy carbonated beverages and a half-gallon of ice cream.

Thanks to my avoidance of the Red Zone when shoppping and my husband’s commitment to exercise, we have teamed up to keep his diabetes under control—for now. How long diet alone will keep his diabetes at bay is unknown.

The bigger mystery is why my husband has shed 20 pounds and I have not lost an ounce even though I am the cook in the family.

Maybe I need to empty the kitchen cabinet of my hidden stash of Red Zone goodies.

Rolling Down the (Danube) River

Posted: 08-22-2017
Travel for the Old and Slow

My husband Ron and I embarked on our first ever river cruise in August. We travelled with AmaWaterways on a 7 day float from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. I say “float” because the sailing was so smooth I could hardly tell when we were docked or when we were in motion. This was a great comfort as I once crossed the Atlantic on the SS United States during very bad weather. I spent the entire crossing on deck with other sick-as-a-dog passengers sipping bouillon while wrapped in two layers of blankets. Staying below deck as the ship rolled and tossed was NOT an option! After 45 years of resisting all forms of water travel, I finally succumbed to a river cruise.
It was fabulous.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

Prague. We signed up for a three day pre-cruise stay in Prague. What a beautiful city! I thought Vienna would be the highlight of our trip but Prague was far more interesting. Vienna features monumental buildings and a rather confusing street pattern. Prague is a checkerboard of public squares connected by very pedestrian friendly streets.
We took a special interest tour of Terezin a Jewish ghetto created by the Nazi’s. Those Jews who refused to die from starvation were shipped to extermination camps. The visit was emotionally devastating. That night we went to a wonderful concert at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague (there are concerts every night at many different locations). The program ended with Jewish folk songs that helped alleviate the sadness that enveloped us from Terezin.

The river locks. We passed through a dozen or so locks that make the Danube navigable for ships. It was amazing to watch the ship enter a lock (while sipping a coffee macchiato from The Coffee Machine) and observe the river water levels drop by as much as 30 feet. Sailing beneath low bridges was also interesting. All the structures atop the ship collapse to allow the ship to clear low bridge clearances.

The coffee machine aboard ship. The coffee served at meals aboard ship was not very good. No problem. They had a coffee machine in the lounge that was phenomenal. It featured 8 different coffee choices (including  straight-up regular,  cafe latte and espresso), heated cups and hot chocolate.  It was like a Keurig on steroids.

Illumination tour of Budapest. Budapest is coined “the Paris of the East” and it certainly deserves that title. Heavily bombed in World War 2, the city has made a remarkable recovery. At night all the amazing buildings along the Danube are illuminated. Drifting past these structures on a clear summer night was stupendous.  We drank wine instead of coffee to toast this spectacular display of lights.

Excellent tour guides. Every day featured a choice of tours, all led by local guides. There were a few so-so guides but for the most part they were excellent. Passionate about their respective towns, they could recount what it was like living in Budapest or Cesky Krumlov (yes, that is a town not a dinner course) before the Russians left in 1989. This personal view of life before and after the communist regime was always interesting.

Living in the lap of luxury. During my college years, I visited Europe on a tight budget. Staying in hostels, eating cheap and travelling by Eurail Pass helped keep costs to $5 per day. Spending 7 days on a luxury cruise ship cost a tad more than $5 per day. But I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed having everything planned out, tour guides all arranged, meals prepared and served, cabins cleaned and bed made.  I liked being greeted by clean towels fashioned into animal forms.  AmaWaterways provided a complimentary pashmina scarf which I figure, based on what we paid for the cruise, is the single most expensive article of clothing I will ever own.
The Wachau Valley. The Wachau Valley is a beautiful stretch of the Danube in Austria that features picturesque towns, the crumbling remains of castles and terraced vineyards. Ron and I stretched out in deck chairs and enjoyed the view. The Coffee Machine provided us with café lattes.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?

The cruise definitely surpassed my expectations. Unlike the bus tour of national parks my husband and I enjoyed several years ago, a river cruise avoids the need to pack and unpack at different locations and eliminates long bus rides. I liked having more options in terms of socializing, too. On a bus tour, there are only as many people as bus seats. I liked the larger numbers on a cruise (we sailed with 140 people) because we got to meet many different people.

Sometimes the scheduling got a little too structured for me. I bypassed a castle hike mid-cruise because I just couldn’t handle another guided tour. I am still seeking that perfect vacation that combines the luxury of overnight accommodations found on a cruise ship with the spontaneity and adventure of travelling Europe on $5 per day.

SOME ADVICE

I did not bother upgrading my cell phone so I could use it in Europe. My husband did not even take his. So when my husband missed the bus going back to the ship after a castle hike tour, he had no way to communicate with me or the ship. (This was the one tour I skipped). Fortunately the ship was docked within walking distance (3 miles) so he hoofed it back. Next time we travel to Europe, I am going to make sure we are cell phone ready.
The only other piece of advice I would offer is to study up on the history of the area before the cruise. I wish I had done a cursory review of past events in the countries we visited. My knowledge of the Habsburg Monarchy is pretty weak yet they played a major role in shaping the countries we visited. I made amends by buying several bottles of Frankovka Modra, a red wine supposedly favored by Empress Maria Theresa, the final ruler of the House of Habsburg.  Imbibing history is always  a pleasure.

 

I’m Old but I’m Funny

Posted: 03-22-2017
Blog Articles

Growing old obviously poses risks.   We seniors learn about them every day. News stories, television specials, advertisements all remind us of the perils of old age. Health problems are a big topic.   After watching a television commercial about ocular myopathy, I went panic stricken to my eye doctor.  I was convinced my fuzzy eyesight was the harbinger of total blindness if not the first stages of a fatal brain tumor.

The good doctor examined my eyes.  “You can tell me the truth,” I bravely told him.  “How much longer before I lose my eyesight and/or die?”

He said my eyeglass prescription was out of date and I needed stronger magnification.

Television has truly become a health hazard.  An NCIS episode may be forgettable but commercial warnings about insomnia, incontinence, dry eye, dry mouth, dementia, COPD or diabetes are not.   The list is endless.  Even worse, the cure seems worse than the disease.  Television ads for “miracle drugs” feature older people laughing and cavorting with their grandchildren.  Obviously these clueless octogenarians cannot hear the disembodied voice over warning of side effects like bloody stools, suicidal thoughts, nausea and growing extra limbs.  I keep waiting for that giggling grandpa to start foaming at the mouth as he staggers crazily through the yard, babbling incoherently and spewing liquids from every orifice.

Worrying about the Awful Things That Are Sure to Happen Now That I am Old is definitely not healthy.  But even if health concerns can be corralled, other life happenings are apt to raise anxiety.  When is my adult child going to get a job?  How do I survive on a fixed income?  What is the Cloud anyway?

The only solution I can offer is humor.

Dylan Thomas wrote “Do not go gentle into that good night…rage, rage against the dying of the light.”   Good advice but I plan to laugh my way into eternity.

Excerpt from upcoming Chasing Pills:  I Must Be Old, I Have a Pill Dispenser, all rights reserved.

 

Gilmore Girls: Sorry, Can’t Relate

Posted: 01-27-2017
Blog Articles

The recent fanfare over the return of Gilmore Girls eight years after it was cancelled prompted me to watch the first season of the series.  All the press notes and Facebook comments raised my curiosity. Having never seen an episode, I really did not know what to expect.

The story line, for those non-Gilmore Girls aficionados, revolves around a mother and her daughter (who is a teenager in season 1) living in the bucolic town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. The mom Lorelai, gave birth to Rory as a high school student so the two resemble sisters more than mother and daughter.

They are very close and tell each other everything.

Based on my experience with my teenage daughter (who is now 30), I found this as believable as ads that promise your double chin can be eliminated with a simple cream.

When my daughter turned 13, she began referring to her father as the “good parent.”   Molly always wanted her dad to be the carpool driver to activities and events.  “He doesn’t ask questions.’ She explained.  My only avenue into my daughter’s high school activities was Amanda, Molly’s good friend.  Amanda would arrive early to pick up Molly and I would sit her down at the kitchen table, ask “what’s new?” and Amanda would spill the beans.  After Molly figured out I was receiving classified information from Amanda, she met Amanda elsewhere.

Molly and I have a great relationship now that she is older.   I hope the Gilmore Girls keep up their treacly sweet relationship and their rapid fire conversations in subsequent seasons.    I will never know because I have stopped watching them in favor of reruns of the Big Bang Theory.

My Favorite Book of 2016

Posted: 01-01-2017
Blog Articles

It is that time of year when magazines and newspapers list the “Best Books of 2016.”  One of the novels making an appearance is News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  It is certainly on my personal list of favorites.

news-of-the-worldNews of the World is set in Texas in the 1870’s.  The story follows the adventures of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and a 10 year old girl.  Johanna was abducted by Indians at the age of 6, has just been rescued and needs to be reunited with relatives.  Capt. Kidd agrees to transport the girl from North Texas to the home of her aunt and uncle near San Antonio (Johanna’s parents were killed in the Indian raid).  Johanna wants to stay with her Indian family. She is not happy about the upcoming reunion.

Captain Kidd, who is pushing 72, questions his decision to escort the girl home.  “[ He ] worried about the very long journey ahead, about his ability to keep the girl from harm.  He thought resentfully, I raised my girls.  I already did that. But now it was different… because there was once again a life in his hands.  Things mattered.”

As the two travel together, they begin to respect and love each other. .  They become quite a team as they overcome the hardships and dangers of the long trip south.  Along the route, Johanna even helps collect the dime entry fee Capt. Kidd charges at town gatherings to hear him read newspaper stories from around the world.

News of the World is a great story and I really appreciate a main character who is one of my peeps (that is, old).  Capt. Kidd bends and hears “a light creaking of the spine” or sits and hears “the jointed sound as one vertebrae settled on another.”  His hand looks “as bony and wrinkled as those of a catacomb mummy.”

Like me, Capt. Kidd can be cranky and short tempered.   I appreciate his observations about being old like when he is dressing for one of his readings:  “young people could get away with rough clothing but unless the elderly dressed with care they looked like homeless vagabonds…”

A veteran of many wars, the captain still suffers from nightmares and flashbacks from past battles.  He awakens to the smell of cannon smoke from “those long years ago, almost thirty years.  It would stay with him always as everything you ever did stayed with you, every horse you ever saddled, every morning when he awoke with Maria Luisa [his late wife] beside him, and every slap of the paten on fresh paper…and his captain dying under his hands, always there like a tangle of telegraph wire in the brains where no dispatch was ever lost, what an odd thing, an odd thing.”

The author of News of the World, Paulette Jiles, is 73, about the same age as Capt. Kidd.  I am not sure a younger author could have been as successful in drawing a portrait of an aging hero.

Despite his advanced years, Captain Kidd is determined to deliver Johanna safely to her relatives:  “he must not become incapacitated, he must not be killed” before they reach San Antonio.

The Captain and Johanna face some violent encounters on their trek.   On one such occasion, their escape seems hopeless when they are pinned down by gunfire from three nasty hombres.  Thanks to some pretty creative thinking by Johanna and the aim of Captain Kidd, they survive.

The two eventually arrive at the home of Johanna’s aunt and uncle where the story takes an interesting twist, which I will not reveal.

I have read other selections on 2016 Best Book lists, notably Swing Time by Zadie Smith and Commonwealth by Ann Pratchett.  These books are certainly well-written but I do not enjoy lead characters who are self-absorbed and mean spirited.   Give me likeable characters like Captain Kidd and Johanna and a compelling story line, and I am hooked.  That is why News of the World tops my personal list of best reads of 2016.

Travels with The General

Posted: 12-06-2016
Blog Articles, Travel for the Old and Slow

Son Nick just left for two weeks in Cuba. His luggage consisted of a backpack and small tote bag. I take more stuff than that on a weekend visit to my daughter in Winston-Salem.

I like to pack in anticipation of any occasion. For two years, I included dress pants, dress shoes and a nice jacket in case my daughter unexpectedly suggested we go to a four star fancy restaurant. This never happened so I have finally stopped packing dress clothes. We always go hiking or take long walks at Molly’s.

Lyns suitcase

My orderly approach to packing

This means packing a variety of outdoor apparel, including sweatshirts (might be cold in the mountains), jackets (might be REALLY cold), sneakers, hiking boots, different weight socks, a sports bra, lots of wicking t-shirts and just in case we experience a break in global warming, gloves. You would think I was about to make an assault on Mt. Everest.
My husband on the other hand packs quickly and efficiently, unhampered by the need to fold the clothes before inserting them into the suitcase. I swear his suitcase is like one of those

Rons suitcase

Ron’s  less orderly approach to packing

clown cars at the circus. He just keeps pulling out all the right clothing from his teeny, tiny suitcase. Ron always has the right complement of clothing while I invariably find I have forgotten something.

Ron’s only failure at packing occurred because of me. We joined friends on a weekend visit to Lewes, Delaware. Unbeknownst to my husband, I used a suitcase identical to his to pack bed linens. We arrived at our rented beach house and my husband opened his suitcase only to find a stack of sheets. Off we went to Dollar General and for less than $30.00 we outfitted him for the weekend. The General (Ron’s new nickname) was quite a vision in his shiny blue warm up pants and slightly irregular bright yellow nylon shirt. My husband became quite attached to his new wardrobe but I made sure his new clothes never left Lewes.

All the travel advice columns for Old People suggest packing light to avoid physical strain. I am going to try my best to follow this guidance on future trips. I take comfort in knowing I will always have Dollar General as backup.

Medical Bills Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Posted: 11-12-2016
Blog Articles

Medical bills are driving up my blood pressure and causing me anxiety.  Despite my best efforts, I simply cannot understand what I am being billed for.

For three months I have doggedly tried to understand a medical bill from West Virginia University Healthcare Physicians for a routine outpatient medical visit.  The visit lasted 30 minutes.  Figuring out the bill has taken considerably more time.  Here is the bill:

Office visit:                        $124.00

Insurance payment:          – -19.21

PB-INS contractual adj       -37.99

Amount Due:                      $105.22

 

I was a liberal arts major in college but I can still do basic math.  If the office visit is $124.00, and the two deductions (insurance payment and contractual adjustment) equal $57.20, shouldn’tmaxine-cartoon-medical-bills the owed amount be $66.80 instead of $105.22?  And what the heck does “PB-INS” mean anyway?

If Dante were alive today, I am sure he would add another level of suffering to the Inferno:  figuring out medical bills.

I started my quest for answers with the number on the bill for West Virginia University Healthcare Physicians.  The lady who answered my call said she had no idea why the bill did not add up and suggested I call Medicare.  There is no reference to Medicare on the bill.     I suggested a billing specialist should know the answer and not send the client to another agency.    She connected me to her supervisor who was equally confused and promised to get back to me.  I never heard from her again despite my three follow-up calls.

Undaunted, I started the process again.  I ended up being transferred all over the system again. At one point someone explained a double minus sign  (“- -$19.21 insurance payment”) is actually an addition to the bill because two minuses equal a plus.   Thus the $19.21 should be added to the total, not subtracted.   I replied this billing sleight of hand was really, really sneaky. How could anyone be expected to know a double minus equals a plus?  The billing specialist replied (I KID YOU NOT!) that “any fifth grader knows two negatives equal a plus.”

I answered using my best mathematical logic:  “Let me speak to your supervisor.”

The supervisor admitted that statements should be better formatted.  She  blamed the computer billing company for the lousy format.  In fact, everyone I talked to about this bill said it was the fault of the billing company gremlins and good luck in getting anything changed.  Apparently finding someone with the authority or the concern to change the billing format is more difficult than finding a doctor who makes house calls.

I won’t bore you with more details, as I am sure every medical consumer can share a horr
or story or two.  A friend in Maryland shared a medical bill she recently received.  She simply could not figure out why a single procedure on a single day performed by one doctor involved 4 different “General Surgery” fees at $1000 each and  two “General Surgery “fees at  $300 each for a total of $4600.00.  Here’s the kicker:  my friend is a doctor.  If someone who has spent 35 years as a physician can’t understand a bill, what hope do the rest of us have?

Medical bills need to be more understandable.  We expect doctors to take the time to carefully explain medical procedures.  We should demand billing companies show the same consideration when it comes to billing procedures.  Telling puzzled consumers to go find the answers themselves is unacceptable.   Billing information should be presented in understandable terms, not like my friend’s medical bill which explains “payment from BCBS of MD (Local XW) & out of.” There should be a uniform format for all medical bills that has been vetted and reviewed by consumers.   I asked a representative from University Healthcare Physicians if they had a consumer advisory board to suggest such improvements. They don’t.

I just received the third billing notice for $105.22.  The billing technocrats are certainly persistent.  I wish they were just as persistent in making medical bills understandable.

 

Don’t hang up! It might be my son!

Posted: 10-28-2016
Blog Articles

My son is one of those people you love to hang up on.

Nick is a field organizer for the Democrats in Prince William County, Virginia.  He is relentless in his telephone pursuit of people to volunteer.  I live in West Virginia but I get similar calls from Democrats here.  I have to admit I quickly say “no, thanks” and hang up.  As a retired elected official, I have paid my political dues.

In early October Nick appealed to me as his mother and a lifelong Democrat to be a weekend canvass captain in Prince William County, Va…  I said I would help but made it clear I would not make ANY phone calls—except to order pizza for the team.  No problem, said Nick, another volunteer would be in charge of phone calls.

nick-and-me-canvass

That is how I found myself in an unheated garage in Dumfries, Virginia, working for my son.  My job is to hand out packets with lists of Democratic voters to volunteers who go door to door harassing, I mean encouraging, residents to vote.  After two weekends working 10 hour days, I suggested to Nick that maybe I could stay home one weekend.  After all, I reasoned, Hillary is ahead in the polls.  My son has clearly drunk deeply from the political campaign Kool-Aid.    He reminded me in very strong terms that we are saving the republic and how could I even think of risking our nation’s political future by relaxing in my heated living g room underneath a thick blanket watching reruns of “Call the Midwife?”

I am a diehard Democrat but I am a mother first.  I relented.

As a Democrat, my experience in Dumfries has been rewarding in many ways.  Meeting volunteers from all walks of life who give up their weekends to canvass is wonderful.  It is a nice antidote to all the negativity occurring at the national level.

As a mother, the experience has been even more rewarding.  We parents don’t often get the chance to share our children’s work life.  My daughter, who is a bio-medical engineer, says her projects are top secret and if she tells me anything about her job, she will have to kill me.  Working side by side with Nick has been a great chance to see him perform on the job.    He is really, really good.  All the volunteer canvassers light up when they realize I am Nick’s mom. Two of them even volunteered to work for Nick if he ever runs for office.

My time in Dumfries has renewed my enthusiasm and trust in our democratic system.  On a more personal level, I have thoroughly enjoyed basking in the kind words about Nick from all the volunteers I meet.

 

REMEMBER TO VOTE – or I will give your phone number to my son.

Cinque Terre Italy: Travel Tips for the Old But Slow

Posted: 09-26-2016
Travel for the Old and Slow

Cinque Terre, Italy, is wildly popular among Americans these days. I know because I just came back from visiting all five (Cinque) towns strewn along a rocky portion of the Italian coast (Terre). We heard more English than Italian. Everyone seemed to have a copy of Rick Steves Guide to the Cinque Terre tucked somewhere on their person. Even the hotels we stayed at had copies of Steves’ guidebook and one hotel offered a 10% discount if you showed them your copy.

vernazza from trail

View of Vernazza from the trail

The towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, dating back centuries and clinging precariously to the steep hillside, are certainly worth a visit. . But the main reason my husband and I and two other couples traveled to Cinque Terre was to hike the 12 km (7.5 miles) foot path that connects them all. For centuries this rocky trail was the only connection between the villages. The arrival of train service and adjoining roads has reduced the importance of the trail to everyone but “i turisitci” (tourists).

At my age (68) I wondered if I had the stamina to complete the trek. After scouring reviews of the trail, I concluded I could hike it as most reviewers said the trail is challenging but manageable. Even the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, caretakers of the trail, rank the difficulty of the trails as “low.” I should have checked the age of these reviewers. They clearly are not part of my “old but slow” cohort.

cinqueterre-trail-surface

The trail surface

My husband and I intended to do the trail section by section, day by day. On Day 1 we hiked the 2.1 miles section between Monterosso and Vernazza. I consider myself in fairly good shape for an old person. I walk a lot, favoring flat park trails or the treadmill at the gym. None of this activity prepared me for a trail that is very rocky, narrow and steep and features hundreds and hundreds of rock hewn steps. Going up was difficult but coming down was equally challenging. I gingerly negotiated steep, uneven rock steps carved into the mountain. There are no level parts. I often grabbed my husband’s hand not from love but from fear I was going to trip. (My husband is in much better shape than I am)

I truly enjoyed the vistas. They are the perfect excuse to stop, gasp for air, wipe the sweat from your brow and gulp lots of water. I am going to write Rick Steves to suggest a nice trail accessory for older hikers like me would be a defibrillator

Many times I heard footsteps behind me as younger, fit hikers approached. Moving to the edge of the trail to let them pass was challenging because the trail is only 18 inches wide in places. Step too close to the edge and you will find yourself ensnared in grape vines or dangling from the branch of an olive tree.

After successfully hiking the section from Monterosso to Vernazza, we tackled the second part (Vernazza to Corniglia) on Day 2. The 2.1 mile trail was somewhat easier but still steep, still rocky, still lots of steps. As I struggled to catch my breath while enjoying a dazzling vista of Corniglia, the sea and vineyards, I met a gasping older couple from Seattle. They too had heard the news from park administrators that section 3 and 4 of the rail were now closed due to rock slides. We looked each other and proclaimed at the same time, “THANK GOD!”

Even with sections of the main Cinque Terre trail closed, we racked up a lot of miles just exploring the hill towns and adjoining paths. According to my pedometer, we walked over 5 miles sight-seeing in Riomaggiore alone. In nearby Manarola, 374 steps and ten landings connect the town center to the train station. (There is a shuttle for wimps)

Even hotel accommodations have lots of stairs. My husband and I stayed in a room at the top of 60 steps (no elevator). We expected sympathy from our traveling companions who stayed nearby but got none since they had to climb 120 steps.

Despite all this exercise, let me quickly say I still gained weight. Too much pasta slathered with pesto, too many generous portions of homemade lasagna and too many glasses of vino accompanied by cheeses with names like “fragole” and “pecorino pienza.”

The best way to appreciate the history and landscape of Cinque Terre is on foot. But the terrain is difficult on and off the trail. Of the thousands of steps I took, I would guess only 1/3 were on level ground. I would advise my fellow “old but slow” peeps to get in shape before visiting Cinque Terre. If you are not physically fit, here is an important bit of advice that you won’t find in Rick Steves’ guidebook:  the medical emergency number in Italy is 811.

You’re Not Teaching Middle school Anymore

Posted: 08-17-2016
Blog Articles

This fall I shopped for school supplies for the first time in 10 years.  Not for my kids.  My children are adults and I only wish their needs now were as simple as a box of No. 2 pencils.

I went shopping this year for my good friend Patti who is making the switch from teaching at the local middle school to elementary school.  After teaching pre-teen boys and girls for decades, Patti felt a change was in order. She will still teach kids with special needs, but now she will focus on math for youngsters in grades 3, 4 and 5.

Even though Patti is a seasoned teacher, she will be new to her school.  Some of us gave Patti some elementary school goodies to ease the transition.   The gifts included a new lunch bag, themed socks for holidays, a stapler, “I Love Teaching” stickers, scotch tape, paper clips and a mug with the school name.

I was a bit mystified by a few gifts provided by Patti’s teacher friends.  The fly swatters for example.  Apparently there is some math game where the kids compete to be the first to run to the black board and “swat” the right chalked in number as an answer to an equation.  This game is not as successful in middle school level because students apparently prefer to swat each other.

The bundled pack of pencils with “Happy Birthday” embossed on each also puzzled me.  I had never heard the story of how Patti always gives a similar pencil to students on their birthday.  One day, she was in the student’s bathroom (it was closer than the faculty lounge) and two gals came in.  One wished the other happy birthday.  The birthday girl replied,   “I hope Mrs. Corley isn’t going to give me one of those stupid birthday pencils.”  Patti yelled out from the stall, “Don’t worry… I won’t!”  Both gals were long gone when Patti emerged.

Grade schoolers will hopefully be more appreciative of Patti’s generosity.

Patti will be able to use all her new supplies in her new classroom.  Only one gift will have to remain at home.

The miniature bottle of gin should probably be consumed off school property.