Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Got Picked Today...

Remember back in June when I went to a try-out for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Well, THEY PICKED ME! I got a phone call while traveling to my family reunion informing me that the show was going to have a special Teacher Week, and would I be able to come? I agreed to, and that started a marathon week of e-mailing, Fed-Ex-ing, faxing, calling, and filling out forms. Here are a few important highlights, if you ever decide to try out for the show:
  • No, they don't provide your fare to NYC. You pay your own way, and provide your own accommodations. However, NYC is a very cool city and I'd never actually "been" there--just as a stop-over-never-left-the plane, or a quick trip to JFK to see off Foxyj when she left for her mission to Madrid. So, yesterday afternoon I walked in Central Park, took in the smoggy view from the top of the Empire State Building, saw Times Square and rode in a pedi-cab up Broadway! Whoo-hoo! I truly felt like a Smoot girl in the Big City. I was intimidated.
  • All the people in the production staff are really, really nice. Meredith Vieira is really, really nice. It takes SO many people to put on this show, I was quite amazed. I've been on game shows before, almost 20 years ago, and I don't remember that many staffers. Or attorneys...ahem.
  • There's no appetite suppressor quite as effective as fear and anxiety. They plied us with food and drink as we waited for our turns, but I honestly could hardly eat, I was so nervous. I knew that it was just for fun, I'd spent very little on the trip (because I cashed in frequent flyer miles for the ticket) and usually a person could at least get up to $1000. But, if I'd have eaten more, I'd have just risked barfing all over dear, kind Meredith.
  • Make-up: today I had applied to my skin more make-up than I use in an entire month. Seriously. And I got touched up THREE times. I should look fabulous, dahling, on TV.
  • For a person who often cannot remember why she walked into a particular room, it was interesting today what arcane pieces of information ARE in my brain and popped right up when I needed them.
  • Here's the official script: "I had a terrific time! Tune in and watch the show [third week of October..tentative broadcast date] to find out what happened!"

So, if you get a chance to be on a TV game show, by all means, go for it! If you don't throw up on the host's shoes from nervousness, you'll probably have a really fun time! And....


Monday, July 28, 2008

Home Ec, circa 1970

Today in my never-ending quest to organize various piles of debris in my spare room, I came across a bundle of papers that I picked up from my mom's house. These were things of mine that were left behind in a desk drawer in my old room. I'm sure I've gone through these things any number of times in the more than three decades since I gave up my residence in that room. My two youngest sisters and a niece have also lived in there, and it is impressive that anything at all remained from my high school years in the Blue Room. I just gathered up a pile last time I visited and today I finally began to sort it.

I found a couple of keepsakes from a conference I attended at BYU while I was still in high school, called "Laurel-Life". I think it was only held a few years, and the year I went was the first. I have very few specific memories, but I recall that it was terrific. Thousands of girls from all over the United States and Canada attended and then we were to go home and organize a similar event for a Saturday, in our home stakes. It was a unique opportunity to learn some really powerful leadership skills. I went between my junior and senior years of high school. My mom was our chaperon.

But, the really impressive find was a collection of Home Ec materials. Wow. Booklets entitled:
  • Make It With Wool: Pressing, Blocking, Shaping (American Wool Council)
  • Let's Clean House (Procter & Gamble)
  • The Fine China and Crystal Story (Lenox, Inc.)
  • To the Chairman of the (Ironing) Board (Faultless Starch Company)
  • Guide to Complete Upholstery Care (Bissell)
  • All About Silver (J.A. Wright & Company-Wright's Silver Cream)
  • Crystal Notes, A Planning Book for Students (Fostoria Glass Company)
  • How to Choose the Right Thread and...
  • A Story of Thread (Coats & Clark's )

The parenthetical information is the company who printed and distributed the booklet for my teacher to give to her classes. Absolutely fascinating booklets. They all assume that the students are female, that we will accumulate a dowry of household paraphernalia, that we will marry and run our own home, that it will include fine dishes for entertaining, and that we will sew and care for our own clothing.

These assumptions were all fairly dead-on for the girls with whom I attended Home Ec in our high school. Well, I'm not sure that all of us anticipated "entertaining", but we would be hosting family meals on special occasions and would likely use our special dishes--as did our mothers.

You could be thinking, "In 1970??" Wasn't that the Times They Are A Changin' Era?? Well, yes, and no. In my hometown, we were always about 10 years behind the rest of the world, culturally. Mostly. Until I was 14, my house could only receive one channel on our television, because the broadcast had to overcome the height of the mountains surrounding our valley. Some households in town were connected to a mountaintop relay device through an early form of cable or something. (I'm just remembering technology I didn't understand at the time...) But farm people still relied on an antenna--ours was strung between four really tall lodge-pole pine trunks set out in a pasture (actually, the logs were lashed atop another really tall one to get the antenna high enough to catch the signal.) People didn't live there to be cutting edge. Actually, I doubt many of the folks there really gave a lot of thought to Cutting Edge. Some in high school did, however, and longed to leave and find the rest of the world.

But, Home Ec was, in fact, a very useful class for me. I did grow up, get married, and run a household for many years before I got a job that had a paycheck. Many of the things in the booklets and the class syllabus were old hat to me: I'd been ironing since I was about eight years old. And I KNEW how to clean house, and I got lots of practice. But I didn't learn machine sewing at all until Home Ec in junior high, and I really appreciate my teachers for that skill. I still don't have a set of "fine" china, or silver, but I've never really missed them. My mom taught us the correct way to set the table--I've never been embarrassed at a formal dinner with all the place settings: I knew what to do with all those utensils.

The one thing I did learn in Home Ec, however, was that there were girls my age, in my little, old-fashioned farmy town, who had not been taught, like me, to cook and clean. I was surprised over and over at who didn't have basic cooking skills when we learned things in class. Not that many of them, but there were a few. I'm glad they got to learn in Home Ec, because, no matter how the Times Change, people need to eat, and making it yourself from ingredients is a satisfying and economical skill to have.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Best Crop

We didn't have to worry this summer about the ban on consuming tomatoes because in the garden box, we had plenty of them growing. We also had some peas, and have plenty of basil. I think it is time to plant some summer squash or zucchini, since it'll do nicely well into November.

But, despite these successes in growing tasty vegetables, it seems the thing we can produce best here is: dirt. The composter I bought for my birthday several years ago is just a little soil factory. We keep it filled with grass clippings, leaves, chopped watermelon rinds, egg shells, lettuce that went bad in the fridge, potato peelings, etc. Then, add a little moisture, turn it once a day, and the microbes do their stuff. I know it is hot here, but the center of the compost in that tumbler is is steaming hot from the breakdown of organic matter. It's weirdly fun to observe. It never smells bad, in fact, it is the pleasant odor of dirt.

I chose this tool because I didn't really have a good place in my smallish yard to build a pile. This unit keeps all the untidiness contained and also keeps out any critters that might think a heap of leavings from the kitchen is just a Vegas Buffet for Bugs. (or mice, rats, or pigeons.) Also, if I'm gone for an extended period, and not adding anything to it, nor turning the handle, it just sits there quietly and awaits my return without creating a fuss or a mess. Add water, turn, and it starts right up where it left off. In the desert climate, the main concern with keeping a composter composting is moisture.

So far, we've "harvested" three big garbage cans of dirt. We used up one can when we changed the look around the pool, and planted ornamental grasses and ground cover. I've used almost all of a second one enriching my garden. We've still got the front yard to landscape with desert plantings, and by the time we've saved up the money to do it, we'll have plenty of rich new dirt to use for the transplants. We make great dirt here!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Land of Wild Ponies

Many of you may know that large herds of wild horses live in Nevada. But, recently another herd of equines was spotted here in the wilds of our own backyard:

And, they are freshly washed, scrubbed, bleached and combed, waiting to be "adopted" by someone, who will have to undergo a rigorous background check, ie: Are you a grandchild? This adoption will not necessarily be final, but selected ponies may be taken out of state, with the approval of the Bureau of Old Toys Management. We're waiting to hear from all who may have prior claim to said ponies and other interested parties.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Joy Journaling

Okay, cheesy title...I know. However, I read an interesting article in which the writer pointed out the importance of regularly chronicling our joyful moments. That record can then serve as a little life-raft through the bad times, reminding us of former blessings and helping us to remember that, while sorrow is a part of life, joy is too. This, of course, pre-supposes your understanding that joy is a blessing from God, and that He wants us to experience it. So, here are a few joyful moments I have experienced recently.
  • Last night, we went for a twilight motorcycle ride (the only kind reasonable when it is July in Las Vegas) and, as we curved up the freeway on-ramp, and looked over to our right, the huge full moon had just risen exactly between two peaks of the eastern mountain. We simultaneously shouted an exclamation of "LOOK!" It doesn't matter how many times you seen the full moon rise, each time it is spectacular.
  • Watching my grandchildren play in the park as I talked to my son and daughter was a joyful time. The kids are healthy and adorable, my children are still friends with one another, and I get to enjoy both generations.
  • Watermelon: tastebud joy.
  • On my drive back from the family reunion, I put in a CD of the MO-TABS greatest hits and sang along, loudly (and a little off-key now and then). I love singing hymns. I know most of the verses of the standards because of my many years of being ward organist, or maybe just from my many years of singing them. Singing these songs always puts me in a great mood and uplifts me and reminds me of past spiritual high points.

Okay, that's all for today. Think about it--if you write down some of the good times, then you'll have something to read during the bad times that will help you to remember that once you felt joy, probably you can again. It is part of our purpose here in this existence. Joy...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Doctor Skills

You know, I understand that we all have different personalities, with the accompanying strengths and weaknesses. I also realize that many of the character traits that make a person extremely capable in one area, do not translate to other areas. So, I always give any doctor a lot of latitude in the odd personality realm, because they have a very distinct area of expertise. That is why I am visiting them: for that special ability that enabled them to go through all the rigors of education and training that results in their being able to apply that highly specialized knowledge to my problem. What I'm trying say, in a nice way, is that many doctors are not great "people persons" nor very tactful or personable. Okay, no problem.

My problem with this whole experience of the carpal tunnel surgery and follow-up care is that my doctor is not only NOT a people person, he also seems to be NOT very good at what he does as a surgeon, either. My loss. If you'd like a NON-recommendation for a hand-surgeon, I can give you one. That's all I'll say about him. If, in six more months, I don't have a lot more satisfaction from this whole adventure, I'll go find another doctor and see if there is anything I can do about it. But, I'll never, ever go back to their clinic to any of their doctors. I'm so disillusioned about their whole office. Live and learn.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Family Reunion

My sisters and brothers and I had our 2nd annual family reunion over the weekend. It was terrific! Two years ago, following the luncheon after my mother's funeral, we had a short family meeting, and agreed to schedule a family reunion for the same weekend, one year later. That reunion was also a success, and it made us eager to have this year's. Next year, my youngest sister and I are in charge, and we hope to continue the popularity of our get-together with another boffo event.

Mostly, it just involves food and talking--a totally appropriate way for our family to gather. My mother was all about food. We have been so lucky in that the tall, skinny genes predominate and we could have food be a highlight of family gatherings. (Mostly when we were younger--age changes everything.) My mom was an excellent cook and showed love by feeding people, so you couldn't go to her house without getting fed.

One of my brothers completed a project he started several years ago to honor our mom by videotaping conversations with us about aspects of our lives with her. There were several themes and lots of them involved food. He spent a lot of time on the production, editing it with music and dividing it into topics, and he made us each a copy. It made us cry because three of the people he interviewed are no longer living, and seeing and hearing them again was very poignant.

So, next year, I've decided we also need to focus on our dad. He died 24 years ago, and more than half of the grandchildren never knew him. The rest were so small they barely remember him, if at all. So my goal is to have an "Introduction to Grandpa" theme for the reunion my sister and I host. It will be 25 years since he left us, so it will be an appropriate time to bring his life into focus for the second and third crops of the family. I'm excited to work on this and figure out how to make it fun and informative for all. Yeah for family ties!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Endless Vacation

Have you ever fantasized that you could just go on vacation forever? We began to think we'd done just that, yesterday, as we attempted to come back to Nevada from Washington D.C.

We spent the morning at the Jefferson Memorial, then the Kennedy Center, and, after slowly driving past the Big Pencil again, we headed to Virginia to turn in the rental car, and check in for our flight home. But, unlike most of the visits to D.C. in the ten years I lived in Maryland, we couldn't seem to find the right road to get across the Potomac River. It began to be hilarious. Usually our attempts (Cool Guy and I) to get out of the District of Columbia and head south to Maryland were thwarted by the obtuse road signage there and we'd circle across the river to Virginia, then back past the Lincoln Memorial a couple of times before we'd finally figure out the correct exit to go home. Well, yesterday, I figured this would be easy! After all, it always took such an effort to prevent our inadvertent trips to Virginia. But somehow I kept missing the bridge exits, and we circled the monuments on the Maryland side in a vain attempt to get across the river. It was foreshadowing.

At last, we got to the airport, turned in the car, checked our bags, ordered some lunch, and leisurely waited for the boarding announcement. And it came, and we got on, and we buckled our seat belts, and we backed away from the gate, and we stopped. There are often afternoon thunderstorms along the east coast that interrupt air travel, and our flight to Charleston, NC, had become victim of just such weather. We were informed that we'd be sitting there on the taxiway for a while. But, it was only about 30 minutes. At last we were airborne.

But soon, our 55 minute flight to North Carolina turned into a nearly four hour circling, weaving, bobbing, stalling for time, extravaganza. We were diverted to Charlotte, SC, where we landed and refueled. This was good news to five people on our flight. Charlotte was their ultimate destination that night, so they just got off the plane. I think their luggage had to come the next day, but maybe someone rustled around in the hold and got it for them. The flight attendants were passing out cookies to everyone, and drinks of water, and we were milling around the plane, chatting. After an hour, we finally were cleared to go to North Carolina.

Well, most of us had a connection we had missed by now. So, when we set down in Charleston, the announcement was to check with the airline people right inside the terminal. They asked our names, handed us new boarding passes for the last flight to Las Vegas that night and said, "Put on your track shoes, girls." We ran from Gate A 10 to Gate B 7 (yes, running--our week of hiking through D.C. had toughened us up!) and slid into our seats, and five minutes later we were headed for Vegas, Baby! Whoo Hoo!!

So, when we arrived at 12:30 in Las Vegas, it was really 3:30 in our exhausted brains. We'd optimistically buckled our first seat belts 11 hours previously. Whew. Cool Guy picked us up. (Naturally our luggage did not sprint from one plane to the other, but it arrived today by courier.) He had the hot tub ready, we lolled around in it, soaking our tired fannies that had spent entirely too much time confined to airline seats for entirely too many hours. Then we fell in to bed and our vacation had officially ended. So, be careful what you wish for...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

School Teacher Tourists

We are now on the eve of the End of Our Trip. On one hand, we cannot believe that it has gone by so quickly! On the other hand, it seems like we have been walking in Washington D.C. for our entire lives. They have laaarrge blocks here. The map will show that from Sight A to Sight B is just a couple of blocks. However, one block can contain a building that holds the whole collection of American history, and that takes a very large building. It is a regular D.C. summer: humid. And today the clouds all went away and the sun was very hot, magnifying the humidity. Whenever we chat with people as we wait in lines, and I say I'm from Las Vegas, they always exclaim, "Oh, it's hot there!" But I say, with no irony, as I'm wiping the sweat that is dripping from my brow, "BUT! It's a dry heat!" And we both laugh heartily.

It is so great to be here! I've been in Washington so many times, I cannot count. But every time I come back I'm thrilled all over again. It is a beautiful, elegant place along the federal corridor. It is a moving, heart-swelling place when you view the iconic monuments or, like today, the original documents of our nation's founding. It is a vibrant, authentic place where you can dine on world cuisines, listen to eclectic music, and enjoy international people-watching. Everyone who is a citizen of the U.S.A. should come to the capital city for a visit, at least once. Politics are eclipsed by the splendor and grandeur of the whole scene.

Just bring an extra piece of luggage, because if you're like us two Mature Lady Schoolteachers, you'll need it to haul back the collection of "really neat" books we've found in the gift shops of: Congress, the Museum of Art, Mount Vernon, the National Archives, the Natural History Museum, Arlington National Cemetery. And we've still got one more day to go!! Ack! We may be paying the over-weight luggage fee, if we're not careful!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Looking For Rod Serling

I'm in Washington D.C. for a week, wallowing in American History with my good friend Teacher Girl. She, like me, came to this career after a life of raising children, and so we have many things in common. We're having a total blast! We arrived early Thursday morning on the "red-eye". We took Metro to our hotel, dropped off our luggage, bought some bagels & juice, and then headed up to the Capitol to pick up tour tickets. The tour is free, but you must have a timed ticket. We had two hours before our turn, so we walked down to the botanical gardens, then the art galleries, and returned in time for our tour.

It is a spectacular building, full of historical imagery, and our tour guide was very charming and informative. And the capitol police have one of the most difficult jobs of law enforcement: balancing their very real concerns for the security of the building and those who work there, and maintaining access for the public--the stated owners and proprietors: We, the People.

After a several hours, we acknowledged the late hour, and our hunger and thirst. So we headed for a food court I knew of that didn't usually seem so far away as it did on this occasion. We arrived, ordered, sank into our chairs and consumed. All that was between us and our beds, those glorious soft, pillow rich, down-covered havens, was a brief Metro ride and a short walk across the street to our hotel door. By now, our lack of sleep, and the trudging up and down Capitol Hill, had completely drained us, and we were operating on automatic.

The train came to our stop. With great effort, we forced our exhausted legs to stand and shuffle off the car, following the crowd over to the escalator, we stepped on the tread and moved upward. We were both thinking, "Almost there, almost there." We carefully hoarded our last tiny sparks of energy so we'd have enough to walk across that street. Then, we stepped off the escalator, walked out of the Metro stop, froze, and simultaneously squeaked, "Where are we?!" I was so tired from the day of walking and not drinking or eating enough, that I couldn't wrap my brain around what was going on! We were SUPPOSED to be in front of our hotel. We were SUPPOSED to be able to trudge across the street, get in the elevator, and then drop into our beds. WHAT WAS GOING ON!!?? We felt like crying. It was a Twilight Zone moment. I half expected to hear Rod intoning as the credits came up...

I realized finally that we'd exited the Metro tunnel at the wrong end, and we needed to walk around the block to get to the right street. But we were so finished that even that seemed like too much, and--what if we walked the wrong way around the block and got further away!?

Surprisingly, we did have enough left to shuffle around the block and we saw the blessed sight of our hotel name glowing in the middle of the next block. We did make it, and the beds were every bit as wonderful as we'd anticipated. And the next day, we remembered to drink more water and eat more often, and it was a Capitol Fourth.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 Addition--32 Years Ago

It's too small for you to read, but this is a page from Redbook Magazine in 1976. [If you click on the image and open it in a new window, you can see a larger version.] It is the announcement of the birth of our first child, a son. The writing is my explanation as to why we chose this way to tell everyone our exciting news. I sent a copy of it to Redbook because they had a feature where you could send in your unique announcement and, if they thought it sufficiently original, they'd print it and send you $50. Cool--the money was a bonus. I loved the announcement! Cool Guy took my idea to a guy at work who was an artist-type and he drew the pictures of the motorcycle and the bassinet side-car.
I only attempt to show you this announcement by way of saying "Happy Birthday" to our number one! He is now the age I was when I was finished having babies. It's a miracle, because I am still in my thirties (in my brain) and yet, so is he! Mysterious how that works, huh? I remember my grandma telling me that some mornings as she washed her face, she was startled to see an old lady in the mirror; who was that person?
Anyway, Feliz Cumpleanos to Number One, and many more!!