Thursday, November 29, 2007

You Know You're in Utah...

...When the fast food place doesn't even ask if you want ketchup, but automatically puts in Fry Sauce.
...When Fry Sauce is pre-packaged into little containers.
...When there IS Fry Sauce.
This is not an East Coast thing. But, since I love fry sauce, this is a good thing here in the West.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post Holiday

I found another thing I'm thankful for! Warm weather and southern (Nevada) living. We visited in Wyoming and Utah over the four days, and the high for three of those days was 29 degrees. Brrrrr....When we got married Cool Guy was in the Navy and he (therefore we) were stationed in San Diego--for 14 years. He just got transferred from base to base working on a succession of flight/shipboard control trainers. But, if you've got to be "stuck" somewhere, San Diego is a wonderful place for it! We reveled in the day-after-day perfect weather. We moved north for a couple of years, and then immediately sought a transfer back to Southern California's predictable pleasant weather. Six more years of boring bliss followed. So now after ten years on the east coast (weather there is varied and extreme) we are here again in the world where the temperature spends most of the year in a very lovely zone. We've even grown to enjoy the Hades-like summers blessed as we are with air conditioning and the swimming pool.

But we've totally become weather sissies and spending time in the frigid northland made us realize it even more. Then I could have worn my coat more often. A sweater or jacket just isn't enough when the air is below freezing. But the thing I really appreciate about visiting in the cold part of the year is that I don't have to do any more than visit. I no longer have to go out and milk the cows for two hours twice a day when the weather is like that. I no longer have to feed the chickens, or the calves, or any animal in the cold. I don't even have to be cold unless I choose it. It's a great feeling. I've embraced lizard-life. Bring on the desert.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Day of Thanks

Thanks Giving Day is a great day. It doesn't have political or religious content and so it is celebrated universally by people of every culture. I've noticed this since becoming a school teacher. Kids who come from all the groups of people who've moved to the United States celebrate Thanksgiving the way everyone in the country celebrates: having a big meal with their extended family. The food choices often include turkey, etc. but they also incorporate the foods of their heritage: tamales, sticky rice, curry, pineapple cake.

I celebrated with my extended family and, as we went around the table, enumerating our blessings, my brother-in-law stated his thanks that our sister lived there in our home town still and was a willing hostess. Since we became orphans last year with the death of our mother, it has seemed weird and disconnected to celebrate holidays. So I, too, am grateful for my sister and her husband's big house and fun-loving spirits to invite all comers from our large family. We had a really good time and it was a small step towards maintaining family ties in the wake of the loss of our center.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2 Days of Thanks

Today I am thankful for stuffed ham. This is one of those "local" foods that one discovers when you live the nomadic lifestyle and move every few years. It is a dish that no one makes anywhere else and everyone in the town knows and loves. This is quintessential St. Mary's County, Maryland food. It is so YUMMY. And last night Cool Guy opened up his suitcase and brought forth about two pounds of it, all packed in ice, JUST FOR ME...Now that is true love. Really. It's just wonderful. And now all of his clothes smell like boiled kale and onions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

3 Days of Thanks

Today, thanks goes out to all the geniuses (and I use that word for its exact Webster's meaning) who dreamed up computers. This one tool is such a life-saver for a teacher.
  • making documents
  • revising documents
  • my lesson plan template w/cut & paste tool
  • making and printing off labels/lists
  • clip art
  • report card programs
  • in-house e-mail
  • learning programs
  • the INTERNET (and the jillions of sites to help you with ANYTHING)

Probably there are more things that could go on this list. I couldn't teach like I do without this fabulous tool. Just being able to write my own spelling tests on a template that I can easily revise each week is only one little tiny piece of the whole gamut of useful uses. I revel over computers! I rejoice for computers! I love, love, love computers for being such a workhorse in my classroom.

Plus, I really love having this blog---I'm a born blabber-mouth---this blog is the ultimate outlet.

Monday, November 19, 2007

4 Days of Thanks

I am thankful that parent conference day occurs regularly. After several weeks of dealing with the students, some of them tend to take on exaggerated qualities. The boy who never stays in his seat, but wanders the room harrassing others. The kid who calls out a meddling remark no matter who you are speaking to, always exacerbating the situation. The girl who has made it her job at school to pick on this other girl and when you ask why tells you that she doesn't like her. And my suggestion that she could just leave her alone and play somewhere else is dismissed completely since it is important that the other girl be reminded several times an hour that "I'm not going to be your friend!" Sigh.
But on parent conference day, when these students enter your room with an adult, suddenly they shrink back into a child. You and the parents sit down together and talk about their schooling, looking through the portfolio, checking the progress report and the student is suddenly outnumbered by concerned adults. It helps me get my perspective back, and forces me to put things into a dispassionate form so that we two adults can be a united front for the student. It usually happens that way--really. Sometimes it doesn't last long, but the kid knows that I've met mom or dad and they know what I know and it changes the dynamic. For a while.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

5 Days of Thanks

Today I am thankful for music. Music of all kinds is essential to life, for me. When we got married we had a lamp, an ironing board, a car, a motorcycle, and 150 record albums. Oh, and Cool Guy also had a stereo system with which to play the records. We graduated to cassette tapes and finally CD's, and now everything is on-line or IPOD. Sigh. We have the soundtrack of our life in so many formats...Once when he was deployed overseas to a very bad place, he'd been gone for months and it was starting to wear on us both. You lose track of reality and start to forget what the other person's voice sounds like, or what they smell like. (I used to bury my nose in his motorcycle jacket, but finally it just started smelling like the rest of the house.) One day I got a letter from him (this was before the internet) and it was just five pages of hand-written song lyrics, nothing else. As I read the lyrics, I knew that he remembered me and I could remember him and everything felt okay again for awhile. The last page was this song. That is what is so awesome about music. It transcends physics: I can be any age, be in any place, or be with anyone I want to, just by listening to a song. Music stirs memory so vividly that every detail is there. We've been separated several more times for long stretches because of work but I just remember that the rainbow will always be there and we cope.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

6 Days of Thanks

The temple...I'm thankful I can go, I'm thankful one is so near my house, I'm thankful for the things I learn there. It's a pure place in a troubled world and it is a huge blessing.

7 Days of Thanks

Friday: Today I am thankful for cusines of the world. Tonight I went to eat with one of my colleagues from work. We chose the India Oven, a restaurant that Cool Guy and I have frequented. The food there is excellent, and one hint is that many of the tables are filled with East Indian families. Anyway, as I ate my aloo ghobi and prawn korma I was reminded of something my mom said once. I was cleaning out a purse that belonged to my deceased grandmother and found a grocery list on which was listed "spagety". My mother was amused too, but she pointed out that the notation actually meant elbow macaroni, because her mom would never have cooked anything so exotic as spaghetti with Italian sauce. The fact that her mother had branched out to any kind of pasta at all from the cooking she learned in her Scottish immigrant mother's kitchen was quite a leap. Then my mom got ethnic by introducing spaghetti and Italian sauce to us children. I ate my first "Mexican food" at a Taco Bell in Utah while going to college. So, we learn to expand our culinary lives bit by bit. It is a shock now and then, to still meet people who've never eaten Thai or Indian food which seem so ordinary and American to me. But I've lived for many years in parts of the country where a variety of immigrants live and opening a restaurant is a popular way to earn a living. Anyway, I'm thrilled to have experienced the food variety the world has to offer. And I'm still a fan of the old menus my grandmother taught my mother to cook.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

8 Days of Thanks

Okay, today, I am thankful that some of my students can't read too well...Let me explain why---this is the only incident in which I am thankful for their illiteracy.

We were doing an exercise using the dictionary. They were to turn to any page and look up different things: a two syllable word; a word with multiple meanings; a word with a long vowel sound, etc. I was helping two boys who can't read on grade level (or hardly at all...) and the job was to find an adjective. So I was looking at the page upside down and running my finger down the columns slowly as they looked for the little italicized "adj." when I saw one, but they didn't yet. Just as I was about to point it out, I looked at the entry word--"horny"--!!!! I quickly choked off my words and kept my finger moving down a little further. They, not being readers, didn't even notice. Whew. They would TOTALLY have known the meaning of that word, in slang, NOT the dictionary's definition "covered in a horn-like material". I don't even remember what word we settled on. But it only had one (non-sexual) connotation.

So, today I'm thankful for illiteracy, in a limited capacity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nine Days of Thanks

Today I am thankful for cats. Especially pet cats. We've had a number of pet cats in our family and I am also thankful that Cool Guy likes cats as pets, too. Some men don't. Our current cat is no less wonderful than all our other marvelous kitties. One of our favorite things she does is act as life guard when we are in the hot tub. Whenever Cool Guy is in town we close the day with a pre-bedtime soak. We're in the tub blissed out in the warmth and, right on schedule, Kitty Cat strolls out the door and steps over to the edge of the tub. She gives us a sniff and then goes on about her appointed rounds. Every night she marches along the same path around the whole pool, stopping to sniff at each plant, sitting and gazing off into the distance at a pre-determined spot, then continuing the stroll until she has circled the pool and returned to the spa where we get checked out again. All she needs is a little whistle and one of those floats with a rope on it. After she concludes that we're not drowning (or running or engaging in unsafe horseplay or whatever life guards worry about) she steps through the fence onto the grass and flops down to watch us in the darkness. Every night---the same routine. We feel very safe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

10 days of Thanks

Today I am thankful that I teach nine year olds because I get to read their essays. It is often illuminating and ALWAYS entertaining. A recent assignment was to draw a very detailed picture of the place you visited with your family (from a previous assignment) and then write a paragraph to describe that place you drew. Use lots of details, don't tell about your activities, just describe what you saw, heard, smelled, felt. It was hard for them to stay on topic. I'll share one: (I've corrected the spelling...)

Three days ago I went to my cousin's house. Their house used to have lots of cockroaches but not any more. Their house isn't that neat or that small. They have two dogs. One is very sick and one is just fine. The dog is sick because it ate a water hose so now it can't poop. They have lots of grass outside too. Lots of my cousins were there, too. Outside they have a table with food and drinks.

So, isn't that fun? Here's the picture that accompanied this story. She has great details. This dog looks a little too happy to be the sick one, so I guess the hose-muncher is lying down in the back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

11 Days of Thanks

Today, I thank veterans. I realize that yesterday, November 11th, is actually Veteran's Day, but I'm having a holiday today in their honor, so I'll take this occasion to offer my thanks. Cool Guy is a veteran and so was my dad. Most people of my dad's generation were veterans because of WWII, many of my generation are veterans because of Viet Nam and the draft. But whatever the motivation for joining the military, the outcome is the same: that person who joined gave up their choices for several years to be subject to the needs of the common good. Most Americans live their lives with little concious thought of the military or what it does. That's a good thing: that means that the military is doing its job well. We're massively blessed in our country because we haven't had a battle fought on our soil (Pearl Harbor excepted) since Lincoln was the president. The military helps to keep it that way. Thank you to all the people who maintain the traditions of their family and sign up. Thank you to all the people who sign up to "give back" because they know they live in a great country. Thank you to all the people who sign up just because they want help with college. Until you've been in the military you don't realize that they own you, body and soul, 24/7. It's not like a regular job. So, thank you all you veterans and all you people still serving.

Late Again...12 Days

Today I am thankful I can play the piano. My mother decided that she wanted her six daughters to have piano lessons. (One of my brothers is still sorry that he didn't ask for lessons, too.) So she bought a piano for $200 and used her egg-selling money to pay our piano teacher. Actually, we paid for the lessons each week with two dozen eggs and a dollar bill. Our piano teacher's goal was for us to become proficient in playing hymns so we could be useful at church. I wasn't a particularly diligent student. I practiced, but not with much fervor. I was terrified at recitals, no matter how well prepared I was. I can't remember any of my recitals where I didn't end up crying either in the middle of the performance or after the performance. And one dreadful occasion I froze after my first mistake, jumped up from the bench and ran out to my parents' car to hide and cry. My favorite piano playing, even still, is to just sit down when I'm all alone and play through a few books that I've been playing since teenager-hood and enjoy myself.

However, I eventually did get proficient at playing the hymns because I moved away from Mormon-land where so many people had taken lessons, just like me, to be able to play in church. Oddly I've ended up in congregations several times where I was the only one able to play AT ALL. So, it was me playing for Sacrament meeting, and then for Primary, too. The reason I became skilled at the hymn book is this: When I was first married, the ward where I lived was in charge of the church services at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot: boot camp. They asked me to help when they discovered I could play. Plus, I had no little children to mess with so I was free to go down there on Sunday mornings at 8:00 A.M. I practiced my three hymns diligently for the first meeting, and that all went well until the man conducting stood at the pulpit and asked the congregation what they'd like to sing for "singing time". My heart sank. These recruits were all headed for Viet Nam after they finished their time in San Diego and so naturally they wanted to sing "Come Come Ye Saints--4th verse especially" and "We Are All Enlisted" and "Behold a Royal Army" and "Onward Christian Soldiers". None of these were in my repetoire, so I was reduced to one-fingering most of them. To avoid this humiliation for the next week, I went to the church most afternoons on my way home from work and practiced the whole hymn book (well, the popular ones) until I could play almost all of them.

So, I thank my mom, the chickens, Mrs. Cranney and the Marines that I can play well enough to help out in church wherever I live. And, thanks Mom, too, for giving me that awesome old upright grand piano you bought so long ago.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

13 Days

Today my thanks goes out to Orville and Wilbur Wright. We were out driving around on the motorcycle, getting lunch, buying Cool Guy new jeans, just enjoying the beautiful, clear, 75 degree desert afternoon. We were almost home when we realized that the Thunderbirds Air Force jet performance team was overhead doing their amazing tricks. I'd forgotten that this weekend is Aviation Nation--the annual flight show at Nellis AFB. So we continued north, past our house, until the street ended at the fenced edge of the air base. We were in an excellent viewing area (so were many others who'd arrived before us) up on the hill that marks the base boundaries to the east. WOW!!! Airshows are really awe inspiring and heartstopping. I've watched the Thunderbirds practice nearly every day since I moved to Las Vegas into this north end of the valley near the base. But I've never stopped marveling that you can fly so fast and so precisely. So, thank you Orville and Wilbur for your determined research, practice, and belief in the principle of flight that started the whole thing off. It still looks like magic to me.

14 ( A Day Late)

I am thankful for the astonishing sunset I saw tonight. It was cloudy all day, almost looked like it might rain a couple of times. In the late afternoon I was driving around doing errands, and from my high-on-the-east-side location, I can always see the sunset. And it is usually really spectacular here in the desert. There is a large, craggy mountain range on the west side of the valley facilitating it. But tonight's sunset was especially memorable. The clouds were lifting and a breeze had started and the entire sky was brilliant orange with sunrays shooting up from the mountains. The broken clouds were indigo against the flaming sky. WOW. I just pulled over and stared.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

15 Days

Hey, I like this idea, so I'll copy it.

Today, I'm thankful for Cool Guy because he loves me and will be coming home tomorrow (Friday). I was looking through a container of things I brought back with me after my mother's funeral 18 months ago. A few photos, some doilies, the pages about me that I tore from her "baby book". She had a spiral notebook in which she recorded our births and vaccinations. I even have my original blessing and baptism certificates. We were going through her dresser drawers looking for some official document that we needed for the bank or Social Security or someone, and one drawer was filled with correspondence. We each took back letters, announcements, and photos that we'd sent her over the years from us and our children. But one letter I found I'd never read before.

It was written before we were married by Cool Guy to my dad, asking his permission to marry me. It is a couple of pages long and is very articulate and thoughtful and every word has come true of his prediction to my father that he would love me and support me and our future children. I've always been thankful for that and I'm still thankful.

Mail Call

All of my life I've always eagerly anticipated opening the mailbox and seeing what surprises await inside. Today we received such a groovy collection, I have to share: (but really almost any day has its own candidates for ridicule)
  • a card soliciting us to try another insurance company addressed to "Our Friends or Current Residents"... (in case we've had a falling-out)
  • A very official postcard from the National Vehicle Headquarters (be sure to lower your voice as you say this and sound stern) SECOND NOTICE Notice: VEHICLE WARRANTY EXPIRATION, and then there's a little box checked :Immediate response required, but the boxes labeled return receipt required and signature required aren't checked (WHEW!!)
  • a solicitation from an insurance company "Just for Members" of my credit union. But, it is in an envelope that has a very official type of label along the top declaring: IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED, PLEASE FOLLOW DIRECTIONS INSIDE, TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS, DELIVER IMMEDIATELY and then there's an admonition to "deliver to addressee only" and it has an elaborate approval code, also. Double Whew!
  • a $10 gift card !! from Shell Oil!! (mutter when you read this next part) activated only when you apply for their credit card...
  • my paycheck direct deposit statement--whoeee--I often get so wound up during the day that I totally forget that payday is coming tomorrow.
  • my "hometown" newspaper---having not lived in this hometown for 34 years I guess it isn't a surprise that I recognize no one from the obit column or the wedding announcements.
  • a catalog from the company that imports craft crap from Asia--I bought something once and cannot get off their mailing list
  • a coupon flyer from the teacher store "Learning is Expensive"
  • two more catalogs from clothing places--I ALWAYS order on-line--puleez don't kill more trees sending me your catalogs
  • a brochure from a plastic surgeon the cover of which is a close up color photo of the torso of a woman who used the services I guess---she's also had a Brazilian bikini wax and you can count the number of her empty hair follicles on a part of her body I'd rather not see that up-close and personal---I'm thinking that the doctor's office number printed on it keeps it from being classified "porn" so it can be mass-mailed.

So that's the mail delivery here on November 8, 2007 at our house. What did the USPS Fairy leave under your pillow?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Hope You Don't See Me on TV

If there was a hidden security camera tonight in the physical therapist's lobby then you'll be seeing me on some reality show, I'm sure.

I got into the elevator on the first floor of the two-story lobby. (I've been in this elevator many, many times--PT three times a week for four weeks.) I pushed the 2R button. The doors closed in front of me and the car rose gently to the second floor where the PT offices are. I felt the car brake, I heard the bell ding. I waited, waited, waited three more seconds for the door in front of me to open. But it didn't...

Then, I realized, the door BEHIND has opened, about 6 seconds ago, as it always does to let me off at the second floor. The door in FRONT of me is NEVER going to open on that floor because of the two-story lobby...

Doh! I rushed to go out the door and it closed on my face. DOH! Push button, open door. If anyone would have been standing there in the lobby waiting for me to get off that elevator while I contemplated the wrong door...sigh.

So, I hope there aren't security cameras because FOR SURE someone would put that one on t.v. with the little pixels over my face.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


It was trash day. I took it out. It was also recycling day. But when I set out the two milk jugs filled with used motor oil, I saw that one of them had no lid. So, I poured the last of the milk into a cup for my breakfast, put the lid on the oil-filled jug and put everything by the curb.

As I came back into the kitchen, there sat Kitty Cat on the counter, licking her chops in an unsuccessful attempt at cleaning off the milk on her chin. Little drops of milk were scattered between her and my breakfast...arrghh...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A "Successful" Family

Today, the journal prompt for my students was "Tell why you like (or would like) having a brother or sister." For twelve years I've had to explain to my students that there MUST be something you like about being a sibling. They are ready with all the reasons why they don't like it. I tell them that it is too easy for them to complain, so I want to know what is good about it. And sometimes for a few of them the only good thing is to have someone handy to tease...or someone else to take out the trash occasionally.

But, when pressed to find something good about the situation, most of them can write something actually quite nice. In fact many of them are really sweet and I encourage them to go home and tell their family member what they wrote.

It made me realize what I like about our family: the one Cool Guy and I gave birth to. Our children are friends with one another and enjoy getting together and doing things. I can hardly think of a more satisfying thing for parents than to have their offspring choose to stay close emotionally and socially when they no longer are close in proximity. We feel like successful parents.