Saturday, July 30, 2011

"It takes a long time to grow young." ~ Pablo Picasso

1st Birthday
So today is my birthday.  Whoop-de-doo.  Surely seemed like a much bigger deal when I was a kid.  I remember the excitement, the anticipation of the party and the cake and the presents!

There were basically three possibilities for my actual birthday party: a picnic at Eyre Park, a gathering at home of family or of my classmates. Each of these variations had its own appeal. Eyre Park was a tiny oasis of trees, water and sand in between my parents’ farm and my maternal grandparents’ farm, about six or seven miles from each farm. Oh we kids thought it was great to get to Eyre. We could swim (in a big slough), climb trees (and get a million mosquito bites) cook food outdoors (burned dropped wieners and scorched smoking marshmallows) jump off the big sand dunes (and bite clean through our tongues upon landing as one poor unfortunate cousin did) and generally forget for the hours that we were there that we lived on the dry dusty and hot Prairies. We kids really thought it an oasis, a little piece of magic where we could pretend that we were really on a vacation. Fifty years later, I marvel at what Eyre Park really looks like. Was it always that small, that bare, with a dried up slough and surrounded by stunted prairie wind-blown trees? Oh through the eyes of a child!

Most birthdays were celebrated at home mainly with family. It was hard to organize a birthday party with one’s classmates when it was summer holidays. My mom always made me a wonderful angel food cake for my birthday.  That was standard in our house. Mom made the highest and fluffiest angel food cakes in our neighborhood. I know the secret (thanks Mom) and no, I am not sharing it here. Usually the cake had the cooked egg whites and white sugar frosting that was known as “Seven Minute Frosting” in our neck of the woods.  I loved that cake and that frosting so much that I made the same cake and frosting for my five children’s birthdays. I am not sure if they appreciated it like I did.  Maybe I should have asked?  That cake and frosting became a tradition for my children whether they liked it or not!.

Looks like four candles!

Usually just before or just after the birthday meal, Mom would line us up in a straight line outdoors for the customary birthday ‘snaps’. Those pictures are treasures today even if I cannot singlehandedly identify all of the faces.

My birthday at Eyre Park (double click for more detail)

The birthday I remember most vividly was my 16th.  I asked for and got a truly adult- type dinner party for about eight friends.  It was a sit-down dinner, no burned wieners or scorched marshmallows.  My mom outdid herself in the kitchen that day- fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables, and salads galore crowned with an English trifle dessert.  Let me tell you that trifle was tres exotic in my opinion!  I had tasted English trifle at my Aunt Bett’s house (she married a real Englishman you know) and I asked for it as the dessert. Why my mom even put up with me asking for this dinner party, let alone cooking it, serving it and cleaning up after it is truly beyond me. It is not like the end of July is a slow time on the farm and she had nothing better to do. She was a busy farm wife. Where she stashed my three siblings for the party, I don’t know, maybe  in the basement eating peanut butter sandwiches. I know my dad would have been in the field until dark.  I remember that birthday party so well. Maybe someday I will get the chance to host a special birthday party for her and her friends.  I think I prepare ‘sit-down adult-type dinner parties’ fairly well now, and I would love to do one for her.

Nowadays birthdays come and go with a minimum of fuss and that is how I like it.  I used to enjoy my birthdays.  I proudly stated my age publicly until I hit the 50 year mark.  Yikes!  That 50th birthday nearly did me in.  I kept thinking that 50 marked the end of my dreams, hopes, and aspiration.  I assumed 50 marked the beginning of my physical and mental decline.  Thanks goodness I got over that. Well sort of.  No longer do I share my age except to say I am in my fifties. I realize that most of my work colleagues are much younger than me and I don’t want to stress them out by admitting my exact age. It might be more than they can take.  They might tell their friends that they work with a seriously old person (me) because 50 is outside their comfort zone. I remember thinking along those lines in my faraway past!  Also helping me get over the 50th birthday was the realization that the mental and physical declines were well-established before I hit 50, I simply had been in denial. That is another topic for another day entirely. J

So today I say to myself: Happy Birthday Old Girl! Remember Picasso's words about how long it takes to get 'young' and enjoy the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years on your way there. Life is good. Birthdays are one way to celebrate life.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Who is Cindy Anderson Deetz and why is she writing a blog?

   As a woman in my fifties, I count myself to be really lucky because I have had two completely diverse periods in my life: in fact, I often refer to these parts as my ‘two lives’.  These ‘lives’ have given me very different experiences and skills.  Both lives have been very challenging and educational in their own ways, and each life has given me unique knowledge and distinctive perspectives on the world.
Flaxcombe Saskatchewan
Life number one started in Saskatchewan, Canada.  First, I lived in the world’s greatest durum-growing area and then in the dairy-farm-studded woodlands area of the province.  In life number one I was the daughter of grain farmers on the family homestead.  I then went on to become a dairy farmer for twenty-three years with my former husband.  Life number one also included five wonderful children born in a short seven years.  These wonderful offspring certainly added to the workload of our mom-and-pop dairy farm.  
Capitola California
 Life number two finds me situated on the coast of the Pacific Ocean living in the eclectic culture of Santa Cruz, California.  I drive over the coastal mountains daily to teach high school in San Jose.  If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I would live on the coast of California, teach high school students with learning disabilities, earn a Master’s degree all the while championing the cause of marginalized persons and their accessibility to education and employment, I would have laughed out loud. If they had continued by predicting that I would crave raw fish (as in sushi), pick up little warm dog poops in plastic bags and love rap music, I would have roared in laughter!
I have thoroughly enjoyed both of my ‘lives’.  Both lives have given me so many opportunities to learn.  During my first life I raised five successful children (two teachers, one farmer/agricultural services salesman, one firefighter, and a psychiatric nurse-in-training) all while being tied to the regime of the dairy farm. I milked cows, delivered calves, gave needles to cows, dehorned calves and cut extra teats off heifers. I learned how to dodge lightning quick kicks and manure-crusted cow tails, to tail-jack cows to make them stand still, to halter-break calves, to identify the cows that were in heat and needed to be artificially inseminated and to bring them in and out of their specific stalls for milking. I was the surgical assistant at several Cesarean sections, gastric repairs and embryo retrieval and implantation procedures. I shoveled manure, washed milking equipment, had a huge garden, raised and butchered chickens (200 one summer) and kept laying hens to supply our own eggs and to sell in town. Once my youngest child was in kindergarten, I began to work off the farm as well. This first life also included many community and educational activities such as a 4-H club, serving on the board of a non-profit dairy association, working as a teacher’s aide in my children’s school, involvement with the provincial Spina Bifida Association, working at a sheltered workshop with developmentally delayed and mentally ill adults, working  in a group home, working as an addictions counselor, working as an employment counselor and acquiring my undergraduate degree in psychology.  It was a time when I gathered much knowledge and discovered the direction of my future endeavors.
In my second life I began working as a full-time high school Special Education teacher in Santa Cruz, California.  I completed two teaching credentials, one in Special Education, and one in English while working full time.  I followed up with a Masters of Arts in Education degree including a human research project and thesis.  Over the past nine years, I have worked with many types of disadvantaged students: emotionally disturbed, those on probation and parole, students that are parents, those fighting addictions,  students that are Autistic or have Aspergers’ syndrome, gang-affiliated students, second language learners, students with learning disabilities including cognitive delays, physical limitations such as ADD/ADHD, and students with processing disorders.  I enjoy the challenge of these populations. I think "normal" students would be boring!   
  Seldom content with the status quo, I am driven to pursue knowledge and progress, to try new things, to find new solutions to problems through diligent research.  I will always be a student! As a forty-year-old, I completed the undergraduate degree I began as a seventeen-year-old.  I found the biggest difference between my two sessions of university was that instead of wanting to know ‘just enough’ as a teenager, as an adult learner, I wanted to know it all! In my fifties, I completed my Masters in Education.
I love to take photographs, learn something new, read voraciously, write short pieces and dream of writing BIG pieces. In this blog, I intend to share some of my writing and photographs from the multiple perspectives of my life: farmer, former Prairie dweller, teacher, mother,grandmother,  perpetual student, current California resident, dual citizen of Canada and the USA just to name a few. I love to write but I also love to be read. I welcome any and all feedback. In fact, I crave it so that I can improve..

And now let the journey begin...................