Archive for November, 2010

reading and waffles

One of my grandson’s favorite foods is waffles. He used to like them frozen out of a box – that started when he was teething and frozen waffles seemed to soothe his gums. He’s graduated to the real deal now.  He’s a very picky eater, believing not in the pyramid of food groups but in a tiny mound of individual food items. Waffles for breakfast. Only.

He’s five,  in kindergarten, and learning to read amazingly well. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that as he was riding home with his mom and dad last week he realized that nirvana was only  a few blocks away from home. A big shout from the back seat: “Mama, there’s a place called Waffle House!”

Of course they stopped and ate.

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I’m canceling my Sunday New York Times subscription for a couple of reasons, but I’ll miss that once-in-while discovery of  a wonder that sneaks onto their pages.  Here’s the link to the back page of the Times where this wonderful poem was published.

Thank you poet ‘”LOUISE GLÜCK, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author, most recently, of “A Village Life”‘ which I’m going to buy, in real paper book form, so please don’t be upset I am putting your poem on my blog.


First divesting ourselves of worldly goods, as St. Francis teaches,
in order that our souls not be distracted
by gain and loss, and in order also
that our bodies be free to move
easily at the mountain passes, we had then to discuss
whither or where we might travel, with the second question being
should we have a purpose, against which
many of us argued fiercely that such purpose
corresponded to worldly goods, meaning a limitation or constriction,
whereas others said it was by this word we were consecrated
pilgrims rather than wanderers: in our minds, the word translated as
a dream, a something-sought, so that by concentrating we might see it
glimmering among the stones, and not
pass blindly by; each
further issue we debated equally fully, the arguments going back and forth,
so that we grew, some said, less flexible and more resigned,
like soldiers in a useless war. And snow fell upon us, and wind blew,
which in time abated — where the snow had been, many flowers appeared,
and where the stars had shone, the sun rose over the tree line
so that we had shadows again; many times this happened.
Also rain, also flooding sometimes, also avalanches, in which
some of us were lost, and periodically we would seem
to have achieved an agreement; our canteens
hoisted upon our shoulders, but always that moment passed, so
(after many years) we were still at that first stage, still
preparing to begin a journey, but we were changed nevertheless;
we could see this in one another; we had changed although
we never moved, and one said, ah, behold how we have aged, traveling
from day to night only, neither forward nor sideward, and this seemed
in a strange way miraculous. And those who believed we should have a purpose
believed this was the purpose, and those who felt we must remain free
in order to encounter truth, felt it had been revealed.

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Our financial situation is not very healthy here at the little newspaper. We all know it. We’re looking over the edge of the canyon of financial doom, wondering if a bridge will appear or if we’ll get pushed in.

Several of us have worked here for more than 20 years. Others have been here long enough to become part of this caring circle of coworkers. We’ve shared family deaths, serious illness, weddings, births and hundreds of birthday cakes together. I care about these people, and consider them my extended family. They were all there, waiting to give me hugs, at my father’s funeral.

So is it wrong to make a big personal decision in part because it might help one of them?

There’s a chance I can take early retirement next fall. It’s a financial risk. But if I can return to work part time as a retiree (a cheaper employee) I think I can make it.  And that leaves dollars which would have paid me available to pay someone else. A person who can’t retire yet, who would lose health insurance and desperately needs it.

I had a long talk with my boss about it. He says he has to look at it purely from an operational standpoint. Okay, but we’re not General Electric. We’re a small group of employees and he knows each of us pretty well. He knows who will suffer most. There’s no pureness about his decision.

Yes, it won’t be great for him without me here full time.  But he said if my decision to retire is purely personal, then he’ll figure out how to make it work. If my decision is based at all on our budget, or on another employee’s needs, then he is totally against it.

There’s no pureness in my decision either. I want to retire, and return to work part time. I need to be able to help out my elderly mother more than I can now.  But I also want to save a job for someone who needs it and doesn’t have the same option I have. And – no sainthood here – I don’t want to take on more work because others have left. But would I do early retirement if it didn’t save a job? I don’t know.

Yet I can’t tell him that protecting others is a part of my decision because he’s against that reasoning.

I don’t feel any doubt that my decision is morally right for me, and it’s topped by the personal reward of more free time.

A decision based only on what’s “good” operationally without regard for the people who actually do the work cannot be right. Right?

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