Sunday, December 4, 2016

Kim

I will never forget the first time I met Kim. It was 1992, opening day of the new school year for my girls. Our family had arrived in Salem nearly a year before, the day before Halloween, 1991. Before we knew it, it was time to come back after our summer break. I was outside, with the rest of the parents, near the Salem Heights Elementary parking lot at a table set-up for parents to meet-up and collect information about school activities. Small talk buzzed throughout the area, then our eyes met. A connection! Despite ten months in Salem, I was eager to meet possible kindred spirits.

Kim and I shared our arrivals to town. She said she hoped to find a part-time job that allowed her to be home when her kids were home. I told her I'd found such a job I loved. Our conversation continued a short while from there. A few weeks later, I spotted her at the school where I worked. She'd been hired as a one on one for a young child in a neighboring classroom. I was surprised and pleased to see she had listened and acted upon what I'd told her.

Eventually, after being a one on one and subbing around the district, she became the second KG assistant. She was kind, loyal and efficient. And now, 20+ yrs later, both of us have gone through teachers & changes over the years. We've bonded with the teachers, watched them move on and in Gwen's case, mourned a wonderful teacher passing.

Now we've begun a year that has challenged both of us on many fronts. Our principal has taken advantage of the district homogenizing the description of our position. Instead of kindergarten being our focus, we've been scheduled to assist in 5th, 4th & 1st grades. Moving to a different location every 30 minutes. Instead of focusing on the development of the skills of the youngest, we're being deployed into other classrooms to assist with a new curriculum.

All of us working in kindergarten are frustrated. Partly because "change is hard", but mostly because we both believe the district's focus ought to center on the youngest. It's the reason (we heard) for the district's full day KG investment. Sadly, it'll also be the reason Kim will leave sooner than she planned. I'll miss her: her obvious love of the children, her attention to detail, how she never fails to remember to help us all everyday.

Now that I think on it, this will be the most selfish thing she's ever done. I only say that because she's never selfish, but her action is completely understandable in this situation. Not only is she old enough and situated well enough to retire, but she's no longer enjoying her days. We've experienced changes we don't agree with before, but this latest change has made the least sense and caused the greatest upheaval to all of those involved.

I'll miss her every day. So glad she has my phone number!



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Replacing Our Dryer or How We Spent Our Saturday Evening

N spent Sat. trying to revive/repair our dryer. After several hours, we decided it was time to replace it. (I deleted the curmudgeonly remarks about how appliances don't last like they used to.) Home Depot & Lowe's both had sales. We drove to Home Depot first. The back area of store was empty of employees. Irritated and unwilling to seek out help, we went to Lowe's. An easy decision when we remembered how the Salem Lowe's appliance employees have gone the extra mile for us in the past.

Despite both employees being busy, we received excellent customer service. They were out of the model we wanted, but called (& called & called) Albany to have one put on hold for us. "It's a gorgeous new store!" We made the drive down, happy to know we'd have a dryer in time to do some laundry on Sunday. It is a beautiful store. However, once we walked in, we soon realized that the employees weren't making eye contact at all. Most were walking to or from the break room or looking at their smart phones. We navigated our way back to the well marked appliance area, Not a customer or employee in sight.

I began to scan the aisles in the vicinity and saw an older woman putting things back on the shelves. I called out a greeting to her and she came over to help us out with the transaction. Even though she seemed unfamiliar with all of the required steps on the computer, she stuck with it and escorted us to the front where we completed the transaction at the cash register. The young clerk at the cash register may have spoken 2 words to us and pulled her phone out of her pocket when the transaction was over.

We waited and waited: Used the restroom, flipped through some magazines, checked our phones, chatted. I was hungry and getting impatient. We went over to the customer service area. There was a young clerk sitting in front of a computer looking at her smart phone. I called out a greeting to her to get her attention. She repeated to us that the dryer would indeed be brought up to the front of the store. We waited another 15 minutes before a young man appeared with the box on a cart.

The next morning, N began the process of installation. He went to attach the new cord we had been handed by the appliance employee--wrong cord. How can two stores be completely different in the level of customer service? New and beautiful doesn't count in my book.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Waves of Sadness

After spending several days with 3 of my 4 siblings, I tweeted:

"How is it possible to be with people you love and love being w, only to be broadsided by overwhelming waves of sadness during visit?"

And an insightful friend responded:

"I think the sad with the happy is an important life balance.  We're always going to morn what was missed, lost or changed."

And waves of sadness is what it felt like--being knocked down unexpectedly, water threatening to cascade down my face, the air knocked out of me. I tried turning towards the scenery the first time, but my oldest sister couldn't help but comment. Then I had to expose my wet, blotchy face to them all.

On the ride home, my phone alerted me to a text from my older sister. She wanted to be sure no one had said anything hurtful to me. And all I could do was type: "Yeah, what the hell was that?" and share the tweets up above.

I used to regurgitate and analyze until any possible meaning was long gone, but when I read Jodi's response it made complete sense. Who knew there was such a thing as Twerapy?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ghosts

Over half a year
And you didn’t visit me.

I was patient.
I knew you’d come.

But no. Nothing.
Seven months gone
And so are you.

This past week,
A character in a book I read
Was puzzled over ghosts
And why her mother had not come to her

When she asked a new friend
He simply said, “she was ready to go”

And there you were between the pages.
Leaving me guessing over whether
You were reason I chose that book.

Or no need to guess at all.
It was you or perhaps . . . it was Mom.
Whichever, whoever, thank you.

Rest well, until I need your memory.
~KGM 8-16

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nelson Park Sliding & Sledding Hill

I'm re-posting the following. Hoping that someday there will be a grant opportunity that matches the project or a public official who sees the healthy benefit potential:

Embankment Slide Proposal
One of the natural features of Nelson Park that can be enhanced are its hillsides. Already, people use the hillsides in the center of the park during snowy periods for sleds. During the summer these same hillsides are used to slide by sitting on cardboard sheets that slide over the grassy hillsides. Both of these recreational uses do damage to the hillsides by killing the vegetation and exposing bare dirt and causing ruts in the hillside. This proposal can be used to enhance the sliding experience, repair the damage that has been done to the hillsides, and increase the physical activity of children by encouraging them to climb the hillside in a safe fun environment.
The basic proposal is to add four slide areas to the hillside between the newly renovated play area and the gazebo on top of the hill. Two slides would replace the current sliding area and provide a safe sliding area and stairways to return to the top of the hill. One slide would be added to the short hill immediately adjacent to the new play area. This slide would be targeted toward smaller children and if possible children with physical challenges who currently sit and watch the people sliding down the bigger hill. A fourth slide would be just north of the first two slides. This slide could use natural features of the existing hill to support a longer, less steep slide that has a couple twists and turns for added fun. The final part of this proposal would be to improve the vegetation on the hill. There is a fair amount of poison oak that should be eliminated from the hillside. Trees and shrubs could be added that would provide shade for the slides and help to discourage in-growth of poison oak, black berries, and other unwanted species.
The cost of this project is highly dependent on the materials used for building the slides or even the types of slides used. I have researched a company that makes plastic slides for use on embankments. Their slides would cost about $40,000 for one slide. Other types of slide would change this estimate. The re-vegetation could cost around $2,000 depending on the types of materials used. My suggestion is that we begin with one slide and a set of return stairs as a pilot to gauge cost, interest, and durability. If the project garners the support I think possible, grant support, local donations, neighborhood labor and donations could be used to complete the project.
I have seen on-line examples of other cities that have developed embankment slides in their parks. Each one expresses that these additions have been a valuable addition to their parks system. There are a number of unknowns for Nelson Park  like initial cost, maintenance cost, liability, and developing a need for restrooms.  I would like to work with the city to explore the embankment slide opportunity, and to add a fun, useful new feature to Nelson Park. If the expertise does not exist with Salem Parks staff I would help expand the research on this project to cities who have experience with such a project.