Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I've been thinking about how wealthy I am. No one in the NBA or NFL would think I am wealthy, nor would Bill Gates or Warren Buffet; but I live indoors, I have more food available than I can eat, I have a car that gets me from point A to point B, more clothes than I have room for and STUFF!

As I get older, I'm back to giving a lot to charity. When I was in my twenties and thought a $10,000 per year salary was more than excellent, I gave freely of my time and treasure. While I was bringing up children and facing some difficult months, I was less faithful about giving. In the October of my life, I find that I have more than I need to live, so I give more away. I think about how so much of the world has too little and feel guilty about having too much.

Giving feels really good, whether it is to a charity, an educational institution or a church. It also feels good to hire experts to do things I'm not quite qualified to do.

My husband and I were talking about taxes (which he hates), and I realized that there is something wrong with me. I enjoy paying taxes. It means that I have plenty and can freely support national defense, a system of super highways, schools, police and fire protection, public health departments in the jurisdictions where I own property. I can also support public libraries and schools that at least pretend to educate the next generation. My tax dollars support services for old people who need places to interact with others and health care for those who can't afford private health insurance. My taxes ensure that executives at failing banks and auto makers can continue to live lavishly (I'm not thrilled about that); and that defense and highway contractors can continue to buy yachts and McMansions (that does not particularly thrill me, either).

Some wise person (I think it was Winston Churchhill) said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Despite all the tax protesters, taxes in the US are relatively low, compared to the rest of the developed world. I think I prefer taxes to infant mortality, bad roads, homelessness, poor police and fire protection. I would like more child care so that single parents can work knowing their children are safe. I would like longer school days so that children could learn how to live. I would like to see larger tax deductions for children. I would like to see more and better public transportation both locally and nationally. I'm willing to pay for services I'll never use because that improves the society in which I live. I'm a fan of taxes and of citizens watching how those taxes are spent.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I was on my way to give a short talk today and thought about how much I really love words. I love the way they sound in my ears; I love the way they look on a page; I love the way they feel in my mouth. Unfortunately, I am mostly limited to English words because of my deprived childhood (although I head Italian, German and Spanish, as well as Yiddish in the neighborhood, I did not learn another language until high school). I would gladly share some of my non-English favorites, but correct spelling is important to me.

My brothers and sisters and I read dictionaries for fun. Think of the wonderfulness of zymurgy (the last word in the dictionary used as a dinner table booster seat for pre-schoolers). What about abracadabra? We seriously enjoy word games and puns.

I like Dr. Seuss for his ability to use words in different ways and to invent words. But my favorite words are in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." Not only is that word tasty and round like an almond, think of brillig and slithy. I can see the Jabberwock galumphing.

Since my son has described my writing as aristocratic, I feel an obligation to use sonorous, important words; so I was proud that the talk I gave today was in ordinary English, suitable for publication in a family newspaper (albeit one written at a 12th grade level). Some of the best writing I've encountered has used simple words and simple declarative sentences to express complex thoughts and ideas. Obviously, I have not yet mastered the simple declarative sentence. Doing so probably requires more intellect and practice than I have.

Yesterday I was thinking about my favorite books, which probably led to my thinking about words. I truly enjoy Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, both of whom can express profundity quite simply. They, like Bertrand Russell, have styles so clear, so limpid that you do not notice that they have a style. That is writing.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Almost two years after beginning this, I'm returning. Self-disclosure has always been difficult for me, but my blog should be self-disclosing. I have finally retired (at least I think I have). Last December I rolled my retirement money into a variable annuity and began working three days per week (except when I worked more). Because the company had financial problems, this seemed like the perfect solution to both my need to work less and the company's need to reduce its general and administrative costs. Even then, I knew that I was a luxury.

To make a long story short, they eliminated my department (comprising ME) effective April 27. I had more difficulty with this than I had anticipated, because the original plan had been to retire in December 2008. The best laid plans . . . Anyway, I am accustomed to having my very own self make the decision about when to leave an organization. Having someone else take the control was a blow. However, I quickly recovered and departed with dignity.

I intended to quietly ease out the door, but it seems important to a number of other people that I have a retirement reception. So be it. I have made the arrangements and am entitled to 50 invited guests. I'm thinking that there will be more than that.

My work for the last 15 years has been a remarkable ride: sometimes I cantered; sometimes I walked; most often I galloped. I truly loved what I was doing and came to love (if not always like) the people I worked with. Watching the light come on in a face when someone "got it" was a high like few others in my life. I'll miss learning from my classes and miss helping them look at life and work differently.

My work, whether at a job or as a mother, has always consumed me. I always, always wanted to do it right. My errors and omissions interfered with my sleep and other attempts to relax.

Now what can I stress about? My number 1 child is happily married and has given my a second wonderful daughter to love as well as the world's greatest grandchild; my number 2 child is newly engaged and living 1,500 miles away from me. That leaves my husband of almost forty years as my project. Fortunately, he knows how I am and usually accepts it. I figure that in about 20 years we'll have this marriage thing done right (unless endless proximity causes one of us to kill the other).

My department gave me a blank "Book of Me--Autobiography in 201 Questions" as a retirement gift. My darling daughter-in-law suggested that I use this blog as a way to answer those 201 questions, leaving my personal history as a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I think that will work.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blogging for the first time

I am not very good at sharing my personal, private thoughts with others; but LJ's and MJ's blogs are so cool that I thought I'd try this.

Reading their blogs fills my heart, especially since LMG has presented herself to rule. Seeing one's own child bond with his child is a transcendent experience. Although I adore my very first grandchild (who has photos that look exactly like her daddy in his early weeks and exactly like me when I was a little older), my real joy is watching her parents interact with her.

After two different breast cancers I was not certain I would live to see a grandchild. This is surely a blessed experience. I cannot wait until LMJ becomes fully responsive (another week or so, perhaps). I watch Kaya, my grandneice, who at two and three-fourths is very responsive and verbal. She knocks on my bedroom door, lets herself in and says, "Anybody home? It's me. How's it kickin'?' She reminds me a lot of my second child at that age: social, fully self-assured, adventurous (since I crossed 60 I don't really know how to spell anymore).

This process is beginning to exhaust me. I must stop now.