Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NOT Just the Grammar Police

I've chronicled my inability to overlook bad grammar in public, and my esrtwhile attempts to fix it. But today, I got a chance for REAL enforcement.

I (and many of my fellow teachers) are certified School Safety Patrol Volunteers, with credentials from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. We've been trained, photographed, vetted, and given safety-green vests and stop signs to use after school. We actually have the authority to stop traffic on city streets around our school during the 10-15 minutes after school when the families are picking up their students. If you don't obey us, we can take down your license and a policeman will go to your home and give you a ticket--on our say-so. Hmmm...maybe they just mail you the ticket.

Most people really are nice, follow our directions, and realize that in 10 minutes, it'll all be over with and they'll be home again. After all, everyone comes at once (3:30) to pick up their children and so it is crowded. Our only purpose is to keep the students safe as they leave the school.

Today, we were short one of our teachers because he was sick, and his sub didn't come out to help. No problem, there are really more than we need at our spot. It is a sticky spot because there are two lanes merging. One group of parents are pulled over in a pick up spot, off the street, another group of parents are pulled over at a sidewalk alongside the street. We alternate between letting cars leave from each place, and I stop traffic on the street so the cars can exit the pull-in-pick-up lane. There is always a long line of cars creeping up this street waiting for their turn to pull-in or pull-over. It's crowded. But, again, if you're one of the family members who do this daily, we all know the drill.

A guy came along today who DIDN'T KNOW THE DRILL. I didn't recognize him. I don't know if he intended to pick up a child, or if just made a mistake of trying to drive up this obscure side street today at 3:30. He pulled to a stop right in the middle of the street, blocking all the cars. I gestured for him to move on. I called out that he should keep moving. He rolled down his window to yell at me--I pointed out where he could pull over to either side if he was picking up a student. No cars could move in any direction. I said he needed to move on, again, and he put it in park, got out of his car and stood up to yell at me.

"You have the whole f*&** street blocked here, g**%$# it!! What do you think you're doing, g**%#@?? The whole g**%&$# f **%*$$^ street!!"

At that point, several parents were quickly writing down his license number for us. No one wanted their kids run over or cursed at by this big scary man. I stared at him in amazement, dressed in my bright green vest that says "safety officer", holding my big old stop sign. Well, yah, we're blocking the street. That's our job!! Just as quickly, he got back into the car and drove away.

So, after we sent off all the students, I took the license plate number to the office and filled out my report for the police. Really, I'd just like to have a chance to sit down quietly with him and ask him if he'd never come up that street at 3:30 on a school day before. I'm pretty sure it was just a new experience for him. (I recognize most of the cars and families by now.) I'm also pretty sure he won't make that mistake again. Especially after paying the ticket.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Severe Weather Alert

I was scrolling over the weather places on my screen where I have listed a number of places where we've formerly lived, and where various off-spring and relatives currently reside, and a little box popped up declaring a "severe weather alert" for Ventura County, California.

I've been in some severe weather there. Once, it got so cold, ice formed on our dog's water dish. This might not seem so bad, but it was a big problem for the inland orange groves where freezing temperatures several nights in a row threatened their crops and almost killed thousands of acres of strawberries. Also, we've had stunning rain storms that overwhelmed the gutters, flooded our patio and had to be swept out of the kitchen, and caused cascades of mud to rush off the mountainsides along the Pacific Coast Highway, closing the road.

But this particular Severe Weather Alert was to warn of temperatures in the 80's and 90's at the beach. I realize that if it was in the 80's and 90's at the beaches, then the inland valleys would be sweltering in the 100's. Many people in Southern California don't have air conditioning. You rarely need it. So, it would be severe weather for people who aren't equipped for the really hot temperatures.

But, 80's and 90's at the beach is more like a dream come true--whooo-hoooo, surf's up, see you later, I'll be swimming. I found it an amusing characterization.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Honoring Mothers

Yesterday, as we cleaned up a post-funeral luncheon at church, I listened to two of my associates discuss the pending Mother's Day service at church. One of them said, "Well, if I hear again the one about how I'm screwing up my kids because I work, I'll get up and walk out." The other one agreed and recounted how it would inflame her whenever she heard that said at church because, as a single mother, who else was there to earn the money? I just listened because I made the deliberate choice to not work when my children were small, even though, for many years, we lived just above poverty in order to pull that off. Sometimes I even regret that I started working when I did, with the last two as teens, because I can see that my not being there at the end of the school day was not a good thing. Sigh. You can't win as a mother. So stop trying to conform to others' expectations.

I've also begun to realize that it is inevitable that your own children will grow up to be critical of you in some way. This just has to be, or they cannot ultimately separate themselves from you and go off and be independent adults. If you, the mother, cannot have failings, then they cannot be released from being children. I know how critical I was of some of my mother's ways, and I vowed to not repeat the same irritating things with my offspring. I've found that they will just choose new things to be irked over.

When I was a young woman, I felt that my mother tried to "run my life". So, I try to not tell my offspring what to do. Then I find out that one of them craves my advice, but feels it is pointless to confide concerns because I do not offer advice. Sigh. I wasn't going to hyper-manage my children's appearance. (I was visiting my mom and I realized that she was really ill, just before her death-- because in the several days I spent with her, she didn't complain about my long hair even once.) But one of my children once asked why all the many photos of them show rag-a-muffin children playing together outdoors, when our cousins' photos are all filled with them perfectly dressed and coifed. (Our dad tended to follow the kids around and capture unposed, arty moments, often at the end of a long hard play day. Most of the cousins photos were posed at some event we were too far away to go to.)

But, it's okay. I've also figured out that we each can only do the best we can at any given time in our lives. My mother was a fabulous mother. When women write about "having it all" they have NO IDEA. A farmer's wife truly Has-It-All: the milking, the gardening, the cooking, the cleaning, the diapers, the laundry, the baling, the truck driving, etc. She was a whirlwind, a multi-tasker before it was defined. She had her ideas of how things ought to be and, by golly, that is how they were done. But, thanks to her, we all learned how to work hard and take care of ourselves and anyone else we could see who needed taken care of, and still have a cheerful countenance and loyal friends. She and my dad really loved each other, and supported each other. And they yelled at each other, now and then, too.

Mother's Day is a mine field. Some years I've been really touchy about the rituals and have felt overlooked or underappreciated. Some years I have been very sensitive about my female friends, especially at church, who couldn't have children, or who've never married. But, their status does not alter the fact that motherhood is an institution worth honoring. As a mother, I realize that what counts isn't how my children act on this contrived holiday, or how anyone at church tasked with speaking on the topic presents their thoughts.

Really, I feel honored as a mother when I recognize the best qualities of my mother, channeled through me, coming out in my children. When they show no fear of hard work, value family relationships, and act in Christ-like ways then I know that my job as a mother has been done well enough and I'm just part of a long, long chain of "good" mothers, even if I still get griped about, now and then.

Friday, May 09, 2008

But Who's Counting

There are only 18 days of school left. Actually, I only have to be there for 15 of them because this week I have three days when I'm attending a writing seminar. It is the follow-up to the four day one I attended two weeks ago, so I know it will be well-worth my time. However it is always a huge load to write lesson plans for someone else to implement, and most of my subs this year have been rather nincompoop-ish. Blah.

It is a hard crowd some hours. There was a boy today who was briefly cowed by my calling his mom in the middle of our spelling test to set up a conference for Monday morning before school. But, really, by the end of the hour, he was back at it again--smartest mouth in the west. Sigh. 15 days, 15 days, repeat and take deep breaths.

Tomorrow is a funeral for a lady I know who was hit by a car. She had a tragic life, filled with elder care, deadbeat children, drug-selling grandchildren and alcohol. She's better off, but I fear for her old father, and I have no idea who will get her home and her stuff. I'm just going to go and pay my respects and serve lunch. Sigh. Just when you think you've got problems, you find out about people who REALLY have problems.

It's starting to be that 80-90 degree weather that is just so lovely here in the desert. The pool is warming up, the tomatoes are ripening, I've got beets and peas and flowers. And in 18 days, I can stay home and clean out closets and put together photo albums and swim all day if I want. Summertime!!!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Faith, Promoted

You know those faith-promoting stories you read about how someone read something, and it really helped them and blah blah? I had a real-life one today. It was spooky.

A couple of months ago, I showed my RS president the article I had printed in the Ensign (because I was being vain.) But she really liked it and asked me to use it as the lesson for this month's presidency message since it was my turn. She felt it would be very relevant for our sisters. One thing about being published is that the editors edit. In my case, they pared the article down to just one aspect of the topic I'd written about, and mostly removed my "voice". So, I went back to my computer and printed off the original talk I'd prepared for a RS lesson eleven years ago, and I gave that one.

I'd begun to give the lesson, and I started to make a point, and then I interrupted myself to explain why I was giving this lesson. Actually, the RS president interrupted me and asked if she could explain why I was giving this lesson. She showed off the magazine, and gushed in a very nice way about how thrilled she was to be having the author of this excellent article speaking to us today. She's quite good at this.

So, I went on to give the lesson, it went well. It's interesting how the Spirit steps in and helps you to know what to say to people. One point I made was that this wasn't a "formula for success" story. I emphasized that all we can do is our best, but our family members have their agency and their ultimate devotion to the gospel is out of our hands. But not to ever despair, because God is really in charge and we don't know everything. Our peace of mind is knowing we did our part, and that the payoff for good parenting might not even be seen in this life. However, I pointed out, our children were all adults, and still good friends with one another, and still maintained positive relationships with us, the parents, so I felt like a huge blessing was mine right there.

After the lesson, there was a few minutes left and a sister stood up to bear her testimony--you know--first Sunday and all. She was very emotional and could hardly speak. She told how her sister had sent her this magazine when it was published and told her to read this article. The sister (in my ward) had loved the article and told how it was so important to her right then and had given her something positive to do with her really difficult family situation. She and her husband were divorced shortly after that, but the principles in the article helped her keep it together with her kids and finish raising them to adulthood. I was floored. She thanked me for writing it. She told me she was really glad to know me, and happy to let me know how it had helped her.