Category Archives: foreclosure

Grandma Heads Off To College: A Recession Era Tale

ImageGRANDMA HEADS OFF TO COLLEGE

A RECESSION ERA TALE

               I drove through the quiet, manicured suburban Roseville neighborhood I would no longer call home this morning. My swollen eyes and red splotchy face were the affirmation that I had made the right decision not to put on make-up after my morning shower. That was the last shower I would take as a permanent resident in my daughter’s home. At one point, my daughter knocked asking, “Are you OK Mom?” which I answered, “Yes” though I didn’t tell her I had been in the bathroom for an extra-long time this particular morning because I had been balling my eyes out while writing my two little grandchildren, Hudson (4) & Dayton (2) their good-bye, I will miss you cards. I also didn’t tell my daughter that the first time I walked into a drug store to buy a Thank You Card for their family, I started crying so much that I just had to leave!

Yes! Today is the day I headed off to college! Yet, unlike the eighteen year-old, I am leaving behind six of my eight grandchildren, two of my three daughters, my roses, the vegetable garden, most of my belongings (in storage), my two son-in-laws (who probably aren’t crying) and Baxter, my daughter’s ten year-old pug that may not live to my next visit. (I just realized that in my blubbering, that I forgot to say goodbye to Baxter!)

The impetus for my unstoppable fountain of tears is because I am leaving my youngest grandchildren whom I have lived with for most of their little lives. How will I get along without anyone to share with when I see a magnificent bird, an egg shell from a nest or a giant caterpillar? Who will be there to be just as amazed at the sunset as my little 2 year-old granddaughter Dayton, who asked me to pull the blinds up last night so she wouldn’t miss the “set-sun?” Who will care about whether or not the “owie” on my finger has healed yet? Who will be there to never tire of playing card games, like my three oldest grandsons?

Regardless of the monumental suffering these daily dilemmas and others will create for my aching heart, I had to leave! I had to leave for the very reasons my eighteen year-old granddaughter, Elora left her friends and family behind last year to head to college. If I didn’t leave, I would have the pressure of a poverty-stricken or very family dependent retirement looming large over my loved ones. I had to get my rear-end to graduate school quick!

This was never my plan, yet it was always an unspoken dream cast away after decades of repetitive mental reality checks every time I saw those enviable titles after someone’s name that I knew I could never compete with, no matter what I had accomplished in my life: MPH, PhD. EdD. MSW, etc…

If I listed the journeys I have taken to get to this moment, I would never get through this post, so I won’t. Briefly, after losing my home, my retirement, my marriage and with wages plummeting, I only had the hope to work for $12-15 hr. with little chance for benefits, if I worked in the field I Ioved, without those three initials. My daughter and her husband and 2 babies took me in and we have helped each other for the last 2 ½ years. I am so grateful for them and what they did to bring our family together. Truly one of the better outcomes of this recession has been the return of the extended family experience.

Grandiose plans to be a famous author and “child expert” six years ago were quickly dashed during the recession after I self-published my first book, The New Physics of Childhood (IUniverse, 2009).  Not only was it rejected by many because I did not have a credential behind my name like, PhD., MSW, EdD., etc. I realized that the tone of it (due to a lifetime of pent-up experiences) was somewhat arrogant and harsh. I began the rewrite immediately, along with edits by several professionals. Then the publishing industry took a dive and so did my income. It was time to set idealistic dreams aside and make way for Plan X.

Foreclosure, bankruptcy and divorce (in that order) were juxtaposed to my extinguished author dreams. I knew that the once well-paid work I had done earlier as a caregiver was a very temporary replacement and sabbatical to my teaching career, yet this job title had lasted for over a decade and seemed it was my only real option for earning income forever, unless I had a Master’s Degree! With a Master’s, I could finally earn the respect of my years, since wrinkles don’t show well on a resume. After researching and allowing the dream to simmer, I knew that a Master’s in Public Health was the only way for me. It would allow me to focus on my passion for Preventive Health Education, while also giving me incredible opportunities to influence public policy and the health of communities. It would also provide me with the potential for a real income and benefits so I can rebuild my life and my nest egg before I allow myself the luxury of retirement in my mid-70’s.

I could have never imagined that when everything was gone, save my beautiful family, that the only option was actually the dream I had so wanted, yet had never uttered or allowed myself to think of. This dream also occupies the same space as my dream to be a well-known and respected author one day. *

For now, the reality is one dream at a time! I prepared for two years by taking brush-up courses and using the time to finally become fluent in Spanish. All of my experiences and preparation in the last two and a half years got me accepted to the 3 programs I applied for! In August, I begin my journey in San Francisco State University’s MPH Program in Community Health Education. Yeah!!!!!!

I am saving money by couch-surfing for a month, while I work in my field of choice, in preparation for grad school. I am not thrilled about taking any student loans out and am hoping my second year in school is funded solely by scholarships and part-time work. I have a lot to accomplish professionally, and am committed to being a full participant in my graduate school experience.

During my undergrad career, I was a single mother raising three daughters. I had no time for friends or campus activities. All I wanted to do was race home to my daughters every day after school. The 3-hour commute to higher education ate up many precious hours with my daughters as it was. Now, I am one mile from campus and by myself to focus on school work, etc. Maybe I will even make some friends, something that hasn’t really been a part of my life with every second going to family. Though I am realistic enough to know that I won’t really have time to do much of this or to sit around and play cards while I am in grad school. However, I am already looking forward to visits “back home” to indulge my inner card playing junkie.

Yes, this day, this life, this new chapter is the perfect description of a bitter-sweet moment. I will miss my family in Roseville, but I will actually have more time with my youngest daughter and other grandson, now that I am closer to them.

Beyond the tears and tugging of little heart strings, life is good! I even received a $1,000 scholarship by a wonderful organization that felt compelled by my personal journey. Perhaps there are more angels like this in my future. I sure hope so, because as this Grandma heads off to college, I need all of the angels I can get, yet nothing will take the place of the beautiful family I have waiting for me when I return home after I receive my Master’s in Public Health! It will be the 1st. Master’s Degree in our family, just as my AA & BA were when I received them, years ago. I hope one day I can be an inspiration for my grandchildren so they know that it is never an option to give-up or give-in and that it is never too late for your dreams to come true!

*CONFESSION   – In the middle of preparing to leave for grad school, the writer in me just had to get that one last lick in! I formatted the 30+ years of my children’s stories and printed them out for my grandchildren to read in my absence. More on this project in future posts.

Hasta Luego!  Got places to go, things to do, people to see!

Christina Ivazes

aka Granny Pants

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Filed under Banks, Barack Obama, children, community, Education, Elders, foreclosure, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Granny Pants, health care, jobs, mother, Parenting, prevention, teaching, The New Physics of Childhood, Writing

The Secret Garden-Revisited

Every Garden is a Blessing!

Every Garden is a Blessing!

As Spring approached this year, I discovered myself devouring the colorful front yard gardens of downtown Palo Alto with a hunger I haven’t felt for some time. Every week, the longing for my own garden in Sacramento grew, the deep desire to compost, grow vegetables and plant more flowers. This seasonal hunger to garden has been with me for as long as I can remember, but more voracious than ever this Spring.

While strolling by well-established gardens—each filled with surprises—my own deep need for roots was awakened again; a need for a place where I know I will enjoy the fruits of my labor year after year, without the typical uprooting I have experienced throughout my life. Though no matter how much I myself have moved, nothing will stop me from enjoying the gardens of others.

Daily meanderings took me to a creek with a green strip of psuedo forest on one side and lovely, open, bountiful gardens on the other. One day I marveled at a huge black crow chasing a white cat into the bush, laughing at how comical nature can be.

Each weekend when I returned to Sacramento, I was curious though as to why people in my own Sacramento neighborhoods didn’t have gardens like these. Why did I feel such an affinity for the Palo Alto gardens? Why was I one of the few growing flowers in my own community?

Then came the evening while reading Virginia Woolf’s, The Common Reader, when a familiar title flashed by in one of her essays: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Like a knee-jerk reflex, a familiar magical flutter filled me as I recalled the tattered, dingy, green bound book with its gold-embossed title; the book I had read so, so long ago. Warm inside like always when remembering this story, I savored the feelings it brought me.

Sunny Spring days continued and Palo Alto’s gardens proliferated with boundless colors, intensifying my hunger, yet also the gratitude for this blessed environment I found myself in—this particular year. During an unlikely detour one afternoon, I passed a home surrounded not by welcome, but by mystery. Its high fence was covered with overgrown roses and bushes meant to keep curiousity like mine at bay. I peeked where tiny openings allowed, catching a view that was followed by a flash, this was a ‘Secret Garden’!

Once again, my mind wandered back to explore the past. There was an answer for me somewhere in this story, The Secret Garden. It had deeply effected my view and appreciation of nature as a child, an appreciation and a hunger that have stuck with me throughout my life; a hunger that hits me every Spring and everywhere there are reminders.

I had to understand how this came about. I would re-read the book, hopefully solving the mystery of my serious need for nature.

Reflecting to a few years back, I remembered buying my eleven year-old niece a set of classic books, books which she gobbled up in a few weeks—much like I did at her age. I remembered the envy and pleasure I felt when she told me she had finished, The Secret Garden. I knew she now had something magical that would stay with her forever. I wished I could have shared the enchantment of this story with my grandaughters too, but they were in a different world by then; I had missed my window of opportunity—before the obsessions of boys, friends, text messaging, and social networking sites.

So, giving myself permission to be a curious child again, off I steered towards Bell’s Books on Emerson Ave. in Palo Alto; one of the last holdouts in fine new and used books after 65 years! The co-owner who I usually talked to would understand my feelings about this story. When I entered and found her free, we shared thoughts of the book, her detailed memories being more vivid than my own. I could not remember when I had read it, but it must have been somewhere between nine and ten years old before my own obsession with mysteries started—about forty years ago!

As I perused the volumes of children’s classics, the familiar binding from my past was not to be found so I chose an inexpensive paperback version to get me started, one I could pass on to others. I couldn’t wait to begin; I opened the book and started reading it as I walked down the street, looking forward to my break so I could indulge myself completely.

While I began reading this classic book from my childhood I devised a theory about the difference between the downtown Palo Alto gardens and others. Since Stanford University is close and downtown Palo Alto is filled with Stanford faculty, who are of course educated in the classics, perhaps these homeowners were creating their own gardens in reminiscence of the magic they felt after reading The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden DID answer the questions to my passion for nature. But I had not predicted that it would answer so many questions about who I am today.

How fortunate I was to have read this as a child, to understand how nature works, how receptive she is to us as humans, and how vital she is to our well-being, no matter our age. I bought a hardback copy for my six year-old grandson so he and my daughter could enjoy it as well. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to share this vital message with my offspring.

Although it never dwindled, I am filled with renewed reverence for the wonderous feelings and hunger for all of nature, even as they come with a bittersweet accent this late Spring. Upon my return to Sacramento last week, I found out we are losing our home to the bank and once again, I will uproot myself to God knows where, still longing for my own romantic secret garden someday.  Until then, I will be enjoying the gorgeous gardens of others, always hungry, always searching, yet always grateful every time I hear the song of a bird or see the blossom of a flower. Nothing can take away the magic that nature has given me in my life, not even the bank!

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Filed under 1, Banks, Books, foreclosure, Gardening, Literature, nature, SPring, Writing