{Flat Stanley brings me back after a longer than anticipated furlough}

I knew when I decided I needed to take a break from my routine blogging schedule I was going to be away for at least a couple of weeks. I didn’t count on a six-week shutdown. I really do enjoy the rhythms of writing, posting and responding to fellow-readers and bloggers, but I had to wait until the creativity and inspiration kicked back in. I must have truly been out of steam.

I previously shared some of the stressors that derailed me in April, but what I had not mentioned was that after 43 years as a Southern Pacific turned Union Pacific railroad switchman with a secondary “full-time” 24-year position as Union Chairman, Jay finally retired.

It was simply time. In case you’ve been sleeping for the past few years you may be surprised to learn that the corporate climate surrounding a headstrong workers rights/labor activist isn’t a perennially warm and cozy affair. After a few choice incidents, my sometimes very humorous husband–funniest when he doesn’t know he’s being funny– turned to me and said, “I think I’ve outstayed my welcome.”

That seemed clear to me, too, so we chose the Ides of March as the day to adapt to new freedom and  take the opportunity to see what life on the other side of employment could offer.

We just returned from visiting our son and daughter-in-law in Oakland, and I thought to ask Flat Stanley to help share a little bit of what we enjoy about Oakland.

Do you know Flat Stanley? He offers a very creative way to teach children about geography and social studies while also involving them in a simple writing project. Karina’s first grade teacher encouraged the children to send a letter to special people in their lives requesting participation in their classroom Flat Stanley project.

To better explain, I’m sharing what Flat Stanley had to say upon his trip to Oakland. I’ll have more photos from our trip soon. Enjoy, and have a great week. It’s good to be back sharing with you again.

Flat Stanley’s Oaklandish Adventure

Hi Everybody,

It is so great to be back to your school and to see all of you again. I just got back from Northern California, where I visited Karina’s Uncle Jonathan and Auntie Liz. They live in Oakland, which is located in a part of California known as the Bay Area. Here is a picture of the bay!


Before leaving the house I put on some new clothes so I could fit in with the Bay Area locals. I wore a baseball cap for the home team, the Oakland A’s. I also wore a sweater with a symbol of an oak tree. The city of Oakland is named after the native oak trees that once filled the area. The oak tree symbol is so common it is even on the street signs! I also had to wear a scarf because it can get chilly in the Bay Area. And I grew a beard.


One of the best ways to see the San Francisco Bay is to visit one of the several islands in the middle of it. To get to the islands you have to either drive across a bridge or take a boat.

We drove our car across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island!


Here is a picture of me in the car with Uncle Jonathan and Auntie Liz’s dog, Obi, on our way to Treasure Island.


From Treasure Island I could see the entire bay, and the bridge we drove across. Behind me you
can see where the bridge connects directly to the island!


We also saw Golden Poppy, the official California state flower!


If we had stayed on the bridge instead of stopping on Treasure Island we could have driven all the way across the bay into San Francisco. Here is a picture of the other half of the bridge. You can see San Francisco behind me!


On the way back from Treasure Island we stopped at the Port of Oakland to see the giant cranes. These cranes are used to move large shipping containers on and off boats arriving
in Oakland from the bay. They look like the AT-ATs from Star Wars!


Finally, on the way home we stopped at Lake Merritt in Oakland to enjoy the sunset. Although it is called Lake Merritt, it is actually a tidal lagoon that receives ocean water from the bay and rises each day with the tides. Lake Merritt is a favorite spot for Oaklanders to have a picnic, walk their dog or go for a jog.


I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventures in Oakland and my trip to Treasure Island to see the San Francisco Bay! I can’t wait to come back and visit my friend, Obi!




56 thoughts on “{Flat Stanley brings me back after a longer than anticipated furlough}

  1. Welcome to your “new freedom” Debra. A whole new, exciting chapter awaits you and your husband. Revel in all of the possibilities!

    As an aside, I just went a full month without posting, reading others blogs and commenting on those shares I have grown to appreciate. And the hiatus wasn’t even planned. Life is fascinating in the ways it chooses to redirect our time, energy and focus. It’s good to have you back. 🙂

    • Eric, You have such a very special way of seeing life with positivity and I always enjoy hearing from you. I hope your unplanned hiatus gave you an added measure of redirected time to focus on the things that bring you pleasure. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

  2. Happy to see you back in the blogging sphere (although you definitely deserved a bit of a break!). I haven’t been as active either the last few months, but as you mentioned, I think a continual outpouring of creativity is not easy! There are definite (and sometimes longer) spurts of creativity, and then the wave dies down a bit for a new one to come forth :). Hope you’re enjoying the summer so far and also easing your way back into old and new rhythms!

    By the way, I LOVE the Flat Stanley project pictures in Oakland! They make Oakland look like a whole different place! And his “Oakland-inspired” outfit and jumping peace-sign pose was just perfect :). Can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks!

    • We have really been enjoying our trips to Oakland, Stacey. There are so many pockets of the city we never knew before Jonathan and Liz moved north. 🙂 And blogging should be easier for me now that I’ve adjusted to shared evenings. You may not have known that Jay worked nights…that was my blogging time. LOL! So many changes in just a few weeks, but it’s all going well. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing you soon, my friend.

  3. Good to have you back Debra! I hope your husband (and you too of course) adapts happily to being retired and can enjoy his extra time and freedom now. The transition is difficult for some, but my father for example flourished and the years visibly vanished the day he stopped work!

    • Thank you for your thoughtful encouragement, Cathy. We are “all” adapting very well. The dog couldn’t be happier. LOL! I think it’s been a surprise to us how well suited Jay has been for new transitions. He is very committed to gardening, and I am currently benefiting from his hours of weeding, pruning and hand watering. He is currently creating new garden space for me to plant a few vegetables this season, and having the dedicated time without many restrictions is suiting us both very well!

  4. Retirement from the status quo working life is brilliant. Those of us who are blessed to be able to do this need to appreciate that we are the lucky few on the planet. It’s been 5 years for me and I treasure increasingly the luxury of this new found time to live at my own pace and follow my passions without the ‘man’ looking over my shoulder. I hope you both embrace your new journey and cherish every moment…

    • I really appreciate your comment, John. It mirrors thoughts I’ve been seriously considering. There was a brief temptation to continue complaining about some of the circumstances that preceded the decision to retire. But I think we are very fortunate that retirement was an option and that we aren’t stressed over the circumstances. I have many friends who feel a little trapped in their employment and aren’t quite yet prepared to move on! There is a luxury of time that we are really appreciating. I’m only working part time, and by the end of the year I will also have made the transition. So this is a very nice time in our lives. Thank you so much for the encouragement towards a positive direction.

  5. Flat Stanley has GOT to be the most traveled fella EVER. Congratulations to your Jay on his retirement. I am excited for all persons entering retirement. I look forward to everyone’s celebrating it!!!!

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Colleen. I am only working part-time at this point, so I say that I’m practicing retirement along with him. It’s been a very busy season getting personal affairs realigned to new expectations, but it’s been very lovely to see that he has definitely earned this season. And yes, Flat Stanley is just the best. Karina’s classroom had the different “adventures” on display for Open House and I just loved reading them all. Someone had sent a request to President Obama and he complied! We had Flat Stanley reporting from the White House! LOL!

  6. Hi Debra! Brought back memories of my kids’ Flat Stanleys! It really is a cute project. Couldn’t help but notice the Vizsla in your photos… have one myself, but she has Golden Lab in her as well… a Labralas or Vizslador as they say! She looks a lot like the dog in your pics though, same expressive face! Glad you’re back and hopefully refreshed! 🙂

    • I’m so interested in hearing that you have a Vizsla, Kelly. Obi is such a character. They are such smart dogs and from what I’ve seen in Obi, very high in energy! He is a beautiful dog. With a mix of Golden Lab your Vizslador–I love that combo–must be really beautiful. When we’re able to get up to Oakland to see the kids Obi is just so pleased to have us there and to be two more people who love on him! LOL! And thank you for the thoughts about refreshment! Yes, a little time away was good for me. I needed it more than I thought I did, but it’s good to be back visiting with you all again.

      • Yes, Vizslas are gaining in popularity as a breed, although it seems many people still aren’t familiar with them. Ours is the perfect mix – the lab in her helps settle down that typical high energy!
        You’re smart to know your limits and take breaks – like anything else, stepping away from something for a while helps with perspective, I think. I’m due for a vacation myself… but more from work than from blogging! 🙂

  7. Loved this post, Debra. Welcome back!

    Looks like Flat Stanley had a blast in Oakland. And congrats to Jay on his Ides of March transition. If he needs any tips on how to utilize his time (i.e, goof off), let me know. After an unexpected extended sabbatical (8 years and counting), I’m a trained professional.

    All my days go exactly as planned . . . as long as I plan to “go with the flow” or procrastinate.

    • I think you’ve got the perfect approach to retirement, Nancy! And so far I’ve observed that Jay isn’t having any trouble at all making the transition, although I think we both thought it would be more difficult. He’s now encouraging all his friends to do the same, which I think is quite hilarious since he really was dragged somewhat kicking and screaming to make this decision. I am confident that leaving behind all the stress that was a part of every day and moving to a “go with the flow” day is definitely going to add years to his life. 🙂

    • Thank you, Jim. It feels so nice to be sharing again! The fires aren’t really close at all, I didn’t think, but we had ash on our cars this morning, to my surprise. I’m so glad you’ll have time in your lovely La Jolla home soon. Such a nice time of year for the San Diego area. We went to a concert in San Diego just a couple of weeks ago. We saw “The Who” celebrating their 50 years–one of those bucket list experiences for me. The Los Angeles venue was just too big to entice me, so we went to the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. I wondered if you’ve ever checked out their concert schedule. I’d come down again for the smaller venue experience!

  8. Good to see you back. Congrats on your new found freedom! I’ve been retired 4 years and it seems like just yesterday. I’m never at a loss for something to do. Your trip sounds fabulous!

    • Thank you, Kate. I’m “practicing retirement” with my part-time schedule, but plan to join Jay by the end of the year. I think the two of us will do just fine with a more relaxed pace and some general freedom! We’re already wondering what took him so long to make the decision. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Bruce. When our son and daughter-in-law left Los Angeles to move north we were happy for them, and then thanked them for moving to a part of the state we love to visit! They always express their delight that I am so eager to explore the different historical places of interest, but of course, it’s just beautiful, too, which I fully appreciate. All of the Bay Area is so distinctly special. And now that retirement is official, we can visit more often. 🙂 They say “anytime,” so I’ve teased them that we’ll be dropping in frequently!

  9. So glad you are back, Debra! Love to see more photos of your fabulous trip!
    Btw, I’ll be off to SF and Napa next week for a short vacation! 🙂

    • Amy, I hope you have a wonderful time in San Francisco and Napa! I am sure you will and I’ll look forward to seeing what photos you’ll be sharing. There are so many different little pockets worth exploring and I’m so glad to know you’ll have some vacation time. We all need those get-aways from time to time! 🙂

  10. The pictures remind me of the many years of going to the bay area to see family that lived there. It brings back many good memories. Thanks. Now that John has retired it frees you up for many more trips when ever you want to go and explore. Adventures await!!!!

    • It’s nice to share and hear that good memories are stirred! I’m pleased. And it does feel like a season of adventure, so thank you for encouraging that as well. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Lori. We are getting new rhythms established and finding that having some freedom in our lives is truly wonderful. It’s hard now to say what took us so long? LOL!

  11. Flat Stanely certainly shows much enthusiasm for his adventures…and he is sooo detailed. I’m sure Karina was excited to share this with her friends in class. Wishing yours much enthusiasm for life on the other side as you so wonderfully put it. Happy trails!

    • Thank you so much, Cristina. We are truly adjusting very nicely. It’s a milestone we all talk about for years and years, and then when it finally comes, it’s the strangest feeling! But a good one! 🙂

  12. So good to have you back, Debra! I know what you mean about burn-out, and I also know how frustrating it is not to have the time to blog because of too many other things going on. I’ve had both over the past couple of years, and I really missed connecting on a regular basis with all my blog buddies. How exciting that Jay has retired and you get to enjoy some new adventures together! I’d never heard of Flat Stanley until you wrote about it here, what a fun teaching tool! Great photos as always. 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I remember the times you pulled away for a while after storm damage and caring for your aunt. It’s remarkable to me still, even after five years of thinking about it, how important the “connecting” is to me. It is still a lovely surprise. Thank you for noticing and for welcoming me! I think we all have challenges to our schedules and wouldn’t it be nice if we ALL had more free time. LOL! Someday?

  13. This sounds like a fantastic beginning to many wonderful adventures and projects, Debra. The garden expansion including vegetables sounds perfect.
    I was just thinking of last summer’s posts with your visiting nature preserves or conservatory grounds. Are you having more rain this year?
    I think things fall into place, sometimes going as planned, sometimes as experienced. Either way, seems like things work out perfectly in the end. I liked the Flat Stanley and now shall have to ask my grandies about him! I hear about most of the cool, new stuff. The beard, oak tree sweatshirt, scarf to keep him warm from brisk winds were great additions to him. I enjoyed the real photographs with him captured within them.
    Fun times ahead, only take it easy, savor those moments. ❤

    • Thank you so much, Robin. We are really taking the time simply to enjoy a different pace. It’s lovely. Our rainfall was very short of what we’d hoped, but we had just enough, particularly in Northern California where the reservoirs and catch basins are more important to the overall water system, so although technically still in a drought, I think we are sensing less emergency. I’m telling myself that anyway. LOL!

  14. 24 years of activism is something to be proud of. Well done to him.

    I finally know who Flat Stanley is! For years, I confused him with Accrington Stanley, Hero of the People. I wondered why a strongly-accented children’s character/obscure football (soccer) team was featuring in FB photos.

    Thank you for the link!

  15. Good luck in this new phase of your lives, Debra, it sounds like you have made a very good start. Your Bay Bridge travels took me back 40 years to when I lived in Berkeley, a very naive expatriot Brit. One of my favourite drives was across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, the radio tuned to KSAN and turned up high. I loved the drive for the views of the City and the water all around me.

  16. I was concerned that I wasn’t seeing your posts in my newsfeed. I thought the WP gizmos had somehow jammed up. That being said, though, welcome back and congratulations on this new chapter in your life — and thank your for this fun-filled post. Keep the Debra and Flat Stanley adventures coming!

  17. Congratulations to Jay! Interestingly, he retired two weeks ahead of my wife …. of course, that means another thing you and I have in common. Oh my … that list must be pages long!

    Flat Stanley is quite the tour guide. I haven’t had much time on the eastern side of the bay, but I’m sure I would enjoy it. Being one who likes college campuses, I must stop at Berkley.

    A little late … but at least I made it.

    • I think you would enjoy Berkeley very much, Frank. It still has a very 60’s feel and evidence of the very liberal social and political element is very strong. And yes, you and I have so many things in common it does make me smile! I’ve never been to Ohio…I will just have to come and visit one day! 🙂

  18. Welcome back, Debra. You certainly are going through a season of change. I do hope your husband is adjusting well to retirement. I love Flat Stanley and that dog is gorgeous! It sure does look like you had a wonderful holiday xx

    • Thank you, Charlie. Jay is definitely adjusting well. He’s done so well he has me thinking it’s time for me to do the same. He’s having too much fun without me. 🙂 Obi is a beautiful dog. He’s very high energy and quite high strung, but his overwhelming personality keeps us very amused with him! He loves it when we come to visit.

  19. Happy retirement Jay! Hope we get to hear some of your Railroad memories in due course. And you’re winding down too Debra – sounds like a time for some new adventures together 🙂 I won’t be far behind you both – I’ll be retiring next July if things go as planned.

    Thanks for the tour Flat Stanley and great to have you back Debra 🙂

  20. I forget about Flat Stanley as a teaching resource! A couple of years back a lovely lady in Pittsburgh was running a Flat Ruthie blog and I found it enormous fun, and joined in for a while. My Ruthie still sits on a dusty shelf in the study. Maybe I should get the duster out 🙂
    Sounds like time to start winding down and enjoying your health while it’s still good, Debra. Your line about when your husband’s funny made me smile. I’m glad mine can still make me smile too (when I’m not scowling at him 🙂 ). Take care!

  21. Oh, Debra, with my recent malady, I almost missed Flat Stanley’s excellent adventure to the Bay Area. Wonder of wonders, my friendly (at least today) computer saved your post for me to read it- what a happy girl I am. I loved this! I’m hoping that my kindergartener, now a first grader, will be doing this and including me in the next year or so. 🙂
    You and Jay will enjoy and grow in his retirement and whatever else may come your way. Talk soon.

  22. I’ve been to quite a few hiatuses, but blogging is always going to be with me. I don’t think I can completely turn it off. We just need balance, the answer to everything. 😉 Seems like Flat Stanley is a selfie pro. Ha! 😀 NorCal was my first home when I arrived to the US, and I remember Oakland well. Thanks for showing more than I remember it.

  23. Nice to have you back and in such an enjoyable way. We now both have husbands that have recently retired. My husband it taking to it like a duck to water. I hope the two of you enjoy the retirement as well.

  24. Pingback: {spending time in nature …making the whole world kin} | breathelighter

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