Thursday, May 24, 2012


Pattern for Chinese Puzzle available at
Like a Chinese Puzzle quilt, life works in mysterious, intersecting ways.

For example, a postal worker reviewing your passport application notices you're from Wisconsin and asks a question that inspires you to write an article that's published in a magazine with international reach that leads two friends -- one from elementary school and one from high school -- to reconnect with you. And one of them lives in the same sprawling city that you do.

That scenario has played out for me over the past couple of months. Apparently the elementary school pal -- one of my closest friends back then -- had been searching for me for a couple of years and was able to finally locate me because I included my maiden name in the publication. We've been carrying on a lively email correspondence ever since. The high school friend -- the undisputed genius of the Terror class of 1975 (yes, we were the Appleton West Terrors, a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one) -- also recognized my maiden name and found me through our college alum association. We had so much fun catching up over lunch a few weeks ago.

One of the topics both friends and I have discussed, of course, is our teachers. My elementary school girlfriend and I were in the same class from 1st through 6th grades. We were part of an innovative program in which three grade levels were integrated under one teacher. We both still harbor a great affection for Mrs. Bastian (1st-3rd grade), and my friend, who earned her PhD and works for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says it was Mr. Miles (4th-6th) who influenced her toward a career in higher education.

My high school friend -- I want to call him a kid or a guy but I suppose he's more properly addressed as a man now, proving that time can do some crazy things to us -- doesn't share my feelings for our Spanish teacher, Mr. Meredith (you'll recall he referred to me as a high school age scholar; what's not to like?), but he did remember fondly that great Constitutional History class with Mr. Fanning. And he reminded me how cool our newspaper advisor, Mr. Mrotek, was, tooling around in his little Karman Ghia.

I think most everyone has a teacher that he or she will never forget. Among those most memorable teachers, I bet, is a friend of mine who retired today after a long career as an elementary school teacher. I haven't known this woman long, but I can tell she's the type of teacher adults look back on with gratitude.

One of the things she has shared with me is the term, Squaddling. Apparently one of her 5th graders used it to describe the way a penguin walks. Man, I think that kid is destined for literary greatness. I've appropriated Squaddling to mean puttering, but in a slightly purposeful way. I suppose it's in the same neighborhood as "Loafering," which writer Rick Bragg describes as "less active than piddling, more respectable than slacking off."

I Squaddled a fair amount in the sewing room today. Tried some provocative color combinations for The Wild Things, cut some diamonds out of florals to see if I liked them with the stripes. The jury is still out.

I'm sure it's scary to be retiring after a full and busy career, especially when you're younger than I am (but only by a few months). Heck, you have time for a whole 'nother career, if you want one.

But tonight, my friend, I want you to relax and enjoy yourself and not think about the future.

Except for how much fun and exciting Squaddling lies ahead.

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