Monday, March 31, 2008

I Have Two Little Hands

Actually these two hands are rather large and gangly and ever so useful for milking cows and changing diapers and gardening and writing on a chalkboard. But--they are a team again. They are required to be a careful, gentle team: no soaking in water until two more days so the holes can heal where the stitches were. And wear a big bandaid for a couple of days. No lifting anything over two pounds for one week, then nothing over five pounds for a second week. And my palm looks like Dr. Frankenstein worked on me. Maybe I'll show my students tomorrow. Fourth graders love gory stuff.

But! I can shampoo my own hair, and wash by using both of my palms, also apply lotion! I do have to thank Cool Guy for the shampooing help. He has a gentle touch and could moonlight at a salon if things get tight.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Left Hand--(Not Starring Daniel Day Lewis)

Myleft hand is tired. For over a half a century it got a free ride there on the end of my arm. But for the last ten days it has been called into service for which it is entirely unprepared.
  • It cannot brush teeth. I've finally resorted to an electric toothbrush.
  • It cannot hold a fork properly. I eat most of my food without the fork as a result.
  • It cannot use a curling iron without dropping it onto my forehead repeatedly.
  • It cannot cut an orange--this requires down, and back and forth, simultaneously.
  • It cannot open a jar by itself--to be fair, I don't think the right hand could either, but the left hand is particularly puny when it come to any lid of any container, including the butter tub--duh.

But, it has acquired a few skills:

  • It can zip my pants and fasten the button of jeans.
  • It can use the computer mouse if I put it on the left side of the keyboard.
  • It can turn the key in the lock of the front door.

By the time this miserable bandage is removed on Monday, I'm afraid I'll need physical therapy to help my left hand and the entire arm recover from its sudden thrust into the spotlight. For sure my brain is going to need therapy to recover from the sudden need to reprogram my poor left hand.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Death Valley Day

By Wednesday, I got so bored hanging around the house trying to avoid using my right hand, that Cool Guy agreed to a trip over the border to Death Valley.

{Note: on Monday this week I had carpal tunnel surgery done on my right hand and so I'm typing this with my left hand...mostly.}

It is only about three hours drive to the national park from here so it was a leisurely day. We planned a stay at Tecopa Hot Springs in one of their little cabins so we wouldn't have to go all the back in one day and, again, we had a really nice visit there. Tecopa is a weird place--truly just a wide spot in the road--there is one restaurant in another wide spot ten miles up the road. Other than that, it is an hour's drive to the nearest town with any other restaurant or store or anything. But the "waters" are lovely. Everytime we go, there are several Japanese couples also visiting for the theraputic benefits for which the hot springs are internationally known.

Death Valley--to use a fourth grade adjective--is cool. The air temperature was 85, and therefore bearable the day before the vernal equinox--you can hardly get any spring-ier than that! By summer it will be a blast furnace. The place itself is very interesting. If you're not intrigued by geology, don't bother. However, if rocks and the formation of the earth with its attendant geothermal anomalies and breccia and mineral deposits and uplifts and sedimentation and fault lines are just up your alley, then COME ON DOWN! Death Valley has it all.

We kept wondering aloud about the dismay of those poor early settlers just wanting to get to California who mistakenly ended up trying to cross this piece of forsaken territory. It's quite clear when you finally get over the eastern mountains into the basin that leaving won't be easy. The mountains on the western rim soar from the floor straight up 11,000 feet. There are no foothills and no obvious passes. The rivers that flow into Death Valley just sink into the earth and then bubble up elsewhere in its vastness bringing mineral deposits with them that turn any pond into a brackish salt-rimmed pool where only small organisms more suited for the ocean can live. And Death Valley is very long, north to south, so just gutting it out and walking either of those directions isn't exactly easy either. But it was the only way to leave.

At the visitor's center there's a motto coined by the 19th century people who passed through:
20 miles from wood, 20 miles from water, 40 feet from Hell
Yup. But, in a modern conveyance, with air conditioning, water bottles, and our sunscreen, we had a lovely day in Hell. So did hordes of other visitors, and it was interesting to listen to their conversations, many of which were conducted in a variety of languages I do not speak or understand. It was an international day in one of America's most unique National Parks. We heard Italian, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew, and a Slavic language I did not recognize and didn't feel brazen enough to ask its speakers to identify. (Imagine! me---shy...) Here are some photos, which will do more credit to the scenery than my description.

This sign at the entrance points out that the Timbasha Shoshone live here. They have lived here for many centuries, and they have a little settlement down the road from the visitor's center. You are invited to go visit them, and another time I'd like to just to admire people who have such amazing stamina and adaptability to have as their ancestral home such a forbidding environment. Their homes are clustered in an small oasis by Furnace Creek. There are green places in Death Valley. But they are outnumbered by the dry ones.

If you look carefully in the very center of this photo, you will see a tiny sign that says "Sea Level". As a visitor stands reading the information on the signs that overlook a vast white playa identified as Badwater, many other visitors are walking as they follow the boardwalk to its end out onto the saltbed. One of the instructions on the visitor information plaque is to look over your shoulder. There, high up the cliffs opposite of where you've parked your car is this sign that is easier to read standing there, than in my photo. It points out how high up the cliff you must go to get to sea level. You are standing at the lowest point in the contiguous United States: Badwater Basin--282 feet below sea level. Cool.

It would have been very daunting to stumble into this valley thinking you were almost to the ocean, or at least in the part of California where you could mine gold and have some neighbors, too. But some people finally found something to mine--borax--and while I don't know if it made anyone wealthy, it does make your laundry nice.
We'll go back to Death Valley. There are several roads that take you to a trail head where a short hike leads you to another fascinating nature effect. But, we'll go hiking next year in November or December. Here's one last amazing view: Zabriskie Point. It has no plant life, but it has vivid colors, textures and geology!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Looking at Another View

I had some interesting insights to a couple of my most difficult students on Friday. Since we always dismiss the students 90 minutes early on Friday and have coordinated team meetings, I have just 45 minutes with each class. We often just do our spelling test or some other assessment, but this week, the last day before Spring Break began, I had a very casual day. There were at least five students missing from each class because no matter how much time you give people off for a holiday, there are always quite a few who take more than that. Anyway, our "job" was to create some simple Easter decorations for my friend who is the charge nurse at a nursing home. We made something for Christmas for all 60+ patients and so I decided to do something again for Easter--I copied some outlines of decorated eggs and every student got to color one and write a greeting on the back, then punch a hole in the end and hang it from yarn.

One child is quite lacking in impulse control. He snatches, he leaps out of his seat and asks later, he has to be first, he has to be #1 at all times and then moans and groans impatiently when he has to wait on others to take their turn. Apparently, at home the world revolves around him. When he finished the coloring part, he cut it out and then (literally) tossed it at me and said, "Here, finish it. I can't." All it meant was that he didn't know the steps to punch the hole, and choose a yarn piece, thread it through and tie a knot. I said, "No, you finish it. Here's what you do." I showed him a finished one and pointed out the items he'd need to do it.

Big Sigh...but then he picked it up and started to try. But--again--it took a couple of attempts, and he couldn't master the knot immediately. Again--give up, turn to leave, throw it at the mom figure to finish. No, I patiently showed him again how to roll the yarn around his finger and pull the ends through to make a knot. After three tries he suceeded. I realized that maybe no one in his world has ever insisted that he keep trying in the face of the impatient, shouting, Big Sigh--almost-a-tantrum, method he employs when he can't get it on the first attempt. Or maybe someone at home would always rather do it themselves because they are in a hurry, or want it done "right", or some other reason that eliminates the feeble attempts of the very young. In my experience, children's ability to do a job is in inverse proportion to their eagerness to do it. ie: a 3 year old LOVES to do dishes---12 year olds DON"T.

So, the next insight was with the Wild Monkey in a Cage: I helped him with something and asked where his mother lived (since I know he lives with Granny and dad.) "She didn't love me, so she left. And that's why I'm so bad---there's no one to show me love. A dad punishes you, a mother loves you." He declared all this in the tone of boy who has heard it over and over. So I said that he'd have to learn how to make good choices some other way then, huh? I don't spend enough time with him to have this new mantra repeated as often as the old one. However, I think I'll say it as often as possible anyway. It couldn't hurt!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

S-L-O-W-E-S-T Week of the Year

On Friday, March 14, at 3:43 P.M. I am officially on Spring Break. That is approximately 2 months away---according to the inner clock my brain is operating on this week. Every day this week has gone by so S-L-O-W-L-Y. All the other teachers agree with me on this. It isn't just me. The students came in on Monday in a coma because of the combination of Daylight Saving Time and the usual staying-up-too-late on the weekend. Then, as they've shaken off the sleepiness as the week wears on, they've become increasingly crazed. I'm just so glad we finished our BIG TEST last week. Some of the grades are testing this week and I feel sorry for them...

But, Friday will come, it always does. It'll be fun to not go to work for a few days. I am, however, having surgery on my right wrist for carpal tunnel repair. But, at least I'll get one week of no school with the cast. Only two weeks with it. Blah. But it'll be good to get this fixed.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Garden Lust

You've seen the cliche of the woman sitting in a store surrounded by pairs of shoes, buying several. Compulsive clothing shopping, jewelry accummulation, all those shop-aholic jokes. Well, I can forego department stores, no sweat. But tonight as I circled the garden department at Lowes I really had to force myself to stick to the list: tomatoes, basil, petunias, and pansies.

Look at those tulips!! And the daffodils!! Hanging pots of geraniums--which just wither and die here on my patio in the heat. Great big bowls of snapdragons, pansies and sweet williams---I have two big bowls already filled with succulents and herbs that can survive the summer. I don't have flower beds to fill with daisies and poppies. I don't have a pathway in which to plant alyssum so it will grow up between the paving stones. I don't live in San Diego where the bougainvillia can creep up over a trellis and live all winter.

If I go to a nursery for my bedding plants it's even worse. They have ten times the selection and they have little "idea garden spots" set up all over. You go in there for bag of fertilizer and get lost wandering through the fountain section thinking how wonderful some trickling water into a stone lined pool would sound in the evening. It could have big tufts of pampas grass growing beside a large boulder...and...and...

NO---just pick up your six tomato plants, two basil plants, the seed packs of beets, peas and pole beans and go quickly to the check out stand. You do not have the yard space for these other awesome effects. Besides, the focus of the landscape efforts and money this year must be on the front yard. It looks like an abandoned vacant lot out there under the palm trees. But, maybe the trickling "pond" (recirculating with a tiny pump) could be part of the remodel...hmmm. Let's go home and give it a look.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Weekly Summary

Weird week---several really terrific things that either aggravated me or were delightful happened but I CANNOT blog about them. Some of them have to do with test security at our school since we were taking the big state test this week. Some of them are just too personal. It's interesting how when something happens now, the first thing I want to do is blog. It's not like it's private or anything! So, some things just can't go here.

Here's a couple that can:
  • Is it just me, or is local TV news--in any city--the most vapid, obnoxious form of information available?
  • Don't you love chocolate covered orange sticks? I got a package for my birthday and they are simply delicious. I don't like any other kind of chocolate covered fruit, orange sticks are irresistable to me.
  • Whew--I don't know if you've heard about the medical clinic scandal here in Vegas, where a series of endoscopy clinics have been closed by the health dept and city because they re-used vials of medicine for more than one patient, thereby contaminating them with blood borne pathegens, but when I contacted my doctor about the location of my tests two years ago, they assured me that it wasn't there. Whew--several patients (over a four year period) have contracted Hepatitis C and B and they're waiting on the HIV tests. Whew.
  • I love spring: flowering trees, soft air, daylight lasting until 6:00 P.M.
  • Cats are such a great pet. They love you, and when you neglect them by staying away from home for 12 or more hours, they still love you.
  • It's time to garden! I get to plant tomatoes and beets and peas!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I'm Going There Someday--Probably Thursday

I'm part of the Relief Society presidency in my ward, and we have a "Ladies Night Out" on alternating months when we go to the temple. The temple is three blocks from our ward boundary line so getting there is easy. In March we're going to do baptisms so that we can include women who have recently joined the Church or who haven't been to the temple officially yet. So today our president gave her lesson about temples and asked several people to participate. The bishop explained the process of the interview and what it involved for a regular recommend or a baptismal recommend. Then an older sister who was both divorced and then widowed (in her second marriage), and whose daughter and grandchildren (and husband), live in the ward spoke of her experience going to the temple her first time. She was motivated to go by this only daughter's upcoming wedding years ago.

I've known this woman for a couple of years and talked to her several times. Her husband's death was a tragic work accident. They were happily married and after years and years of single parent-hood, she felt so lucky to have had him come into her life. He was very accepting of her decision to go to the temple and even attended the preparation classes with her, despite not being a member of the Church himself. It was a very sweet story. And as she told of her experience of being in the temple, and how she was sealed to her parents that day too, because they'd finally become eligible to attend the temple themselves in their old age, everyone in the room was just overcome by the Spirit. There were tears trying to escape from my eyes for the rest of the lesson.

It reminded me of all the reasons I love the temple. I love that in the interview with my then-bishop for my first recommend (after thirteen years of marriage) I was able to finally set down the burden of all my past stupid mistakes. I remember them still, but they no longer eat away at me because I know forgiveness is real.

I love that when I finally got inside the temple that first time I had such a powerful spiritual witness of life after death and the reality of our eternal souls.

I love the way time ceases to function while I'm in the temple. I never look at my watch; it doesn't really matter what time it is--there is no time.

I love the way I can think clearly about different concerns I have in my life. Many times a clear solution to a serious student problem comes into my brain while I'm sitting there being still. I have repeatedly realized answers to concerns about my children or husband while in the temple. I once asked someone who had been a temple president several times if I should worry that my mind seems to wander during the session, or if the amazing insights that it wanders to are actually answers to my prayers. He stated that if I gained insights into problems that helped my life, and the lives of those I cared about, then I shouldn't consider it "mind-wandering" but "personal revelation". Hmmm.

I love the serenity of the temple. In two places where we've lived, the trip to the temple was about an hour long, and the last 4 or 5 miles of the journey was on one of the most congested, crazed part of the region's roadways. The contrast made the atmosphere of the temple interior even more sanctified. Interestingly, the temple is the rare place I go that I do not engage in conversation with others. I usually go on my own and so my talking is confined to quiet greetings and the ritual responses that are part of the ceremony. It is very restful and contributes to the rejunvenating effect of the experience.

The ironic part of living this close to the temple is that my attendance was more regular when I had to drive an hour and survive that ridiculous traffic. Since I don't have to plan it out carefully, I've been shocked to come to the end of a month and discover that I didn't go at all. Saturday comes and goes without my spending time in the temple. Each week night it seems something is on my schedule to prevent my attendance. So the only solution is to return to my planning of the past. I must choose a day and go without fail. I need the rejuvenation of the experience. I need the quiet communing with God. I need the regular service involved. It reminds me that life is just a little piece of the eternal picture and how important it is to keep that knowledge formost in my mind. It is easy to get cynical or lazy about spiritual things if you don't immerse yourself in spiritual events and the temple is an ideal place for that.