Saturday, August 30, 2008

First School Break

The First Day went well, the First Week zoomed past, and here we are at the First Three Day Weekend! What a year! Also it is the First Day Ever for both of our grandchildren who are five years old, so it really is a landmark year.

We celebrated this little break in the routine with a trip to Port Hueneme, our home for six years (1989-1995). There is a bike/car show at the Ventura County fairgrounds and we went there to look around at the groovy vehicles and the gearheads--many geezer gearheads, actually. Hmmm...we fit right in. Although, again I realized how grateful I am that I didn't ever get a tattoo. On a woman of A Certain Age, a tattoo is just not a good look.

We drove down the coast highway, past Mugu Rock, which you'll recognize if you've seen any car commercial on television. We'd planned to do lunch at Neptune's Net, but evidently so did most of the rest of Southern California. We were too hungry to wait, so we cruised back up to Oxnard and had albondigas soup at El Ranchero in downtown. After a nap, we visited some old friends, and tomorrow, back on the motorcycle for more cruising around a favorite old stomping ground.

Once again, note to self: move back to the coast---ocean is good.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Day...Again

It's the first day of school tomorrow. There have been a lot of first days. As a teacher, this will be my 14th. I can hardly believe it has been so many. I admit that this year, after my first summer off in four years, I'm not quite leaping for joy that the new year has begun. Partly, it is because there is yet another Big New Thing. We've had imposed on us, in the guise of "it was voted on", a new report card that does not use letter grades, but just rates each of the standards assessed as "exceeds" "meets" "below" and "emerging". I think this is good for preschool and kindergarten. Maybe even first or second grade. A narrative assessment of how a student is doing on individual skills. But upper grade students always ask first, "Is this and A or a B?" no matter how many notations or rubrics or narrative assessment comments you put on their work.

So, we'll all be scrambling around trying to figure out how to grade things without using a grade...It's mostly just a resume bullet point for our leader. It is hard to jump into such a big project when you don't have any enthusiasm for it. Ooh, listen to her whine...

Once the students show up, I'm sure I'll feel better. As long as I still enjoy the company of nine year kids, I'll be fine doing this job. I don't know what else I'd do, anyway, since I didn't win the million dollars, after all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Just Wondering...

How hard is it to attach the milkers to those furry little cat udders?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Should I Do Something?

I have a co-worker, with whom I work rather closely, whose interaction with her own child is very distressing to watch. But, I don't know if I should say anything. Probably not, huh? The child is with her on these work days, because he is in the younger grades, (I'm trying to be vague...) so I witness these interactions. She is very harsh and sharp when she speaks to him.

He's doing regular kid-like things, like trying to climb up in her lap while she was sitting at the computer, but tipped back in her chair, talking to me. She shoved him away, and in a loud, angry voice said his name, "***** GET OFF! I TOLD YOU I'M WORKING! GO AWAY!" ooh. All of it could have been said in a neutral voice, or a kind voice, and it would have had the same effect: tell the child that climbing in mom's lap right now is not desirable.

You know how whiny kids get at the end of the day? And they might even hang on your arm? Of course, he's a regular kid, and he does these things frequently at the end of our school day, when he comes on down to his mom's room to meet up. She is consistently harsh and, frankly, almost as whiny. It's almost the way you'd talk to your younger sibling to get them to knock it off.

It is quite striking to witness on the regular basis that I do. I probably can't do anything to affect it, because I realize that this attitude of negativity is an integral part of her personality. But I wonder, if I did find a way to point out that speaking in a neutral or kindly voice to her little son would be good for both of them, if she'd be able to hear me? Or would I just put myself into a place where I don't belong? Probably, huh?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thumbs Up

We went to see Man on Wire Saturday night. It's a movie about the fellow who strung a tightrope cable between the World Trade Towers in 1974 and then did a performance way up there. Of course, he sneaked up there, no one gave him permission.

I vaguely remember this happening. It occured in April, about six weeks before my wedding, plus the whole country was completely engrossed in the Watergate scandal. Just four months later, Nixon resigned.

Watching this movie was a delight. One strong impression I had was that this was the definition of obsession. The young man in the film had seen an article about the trade center towers before construction had even begun, and from then on, had this need to walk between them. Another thing that intrigued me was his ability to engage, or almost entrap, others to help him pull off his exploits. He's climbed and walked a number of places where he wasn't invited.

Go see this movie. It's almost a documentary, not quite--some things are reenacted. It's black and white, it has some interviews with people who aren't fluent in English so there are subtitles here and there. Just describing it, it sounds weird. And it is, a little. Oh, and the music is excellent! But, you'll love it! It's not like anything else I've seen. It's very entertaining and odd.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Grocery Store Follies

I went to the market for a couple of things. Using the self serve section, I dropped the watermelon off the quickie check-out shelf and it rolled across the floor. After I successfully got it purchased, in a bag, and out the door, I realized that my keys were buried under my wallet because I hadn't put them in their correct pocket. So, when I arrived at the car, I set down my bags (the fabric stores sells them now) and fished around in my purse for the dumb keys. I got the door unlocked and picked up the two bags that have flat bottoms and handles, and placed them into the car. But where was the watermelon? I'd put it in a net bag that I've had for 15 years or so, and it doesn't have a flat bottom.

The watermelon had been overcome by gravity and had rolled under my car. I couldn't reach it from either side. And it was 107 degrees, so I couldn't exactly lay down on the parking lot and kick at it or push it with a stick. So, I backed up my car a little diagonally, hoping that it would make the melon more reachable.

Except that the watermelon was now jammed under the oil pan and so was being dragged across the pavement as I attempted to free it from being wedged in. A lady came out to get in her truck next to my car. She laughed in that uncomfortable little way we do when we fear the stranger speaking to us from the car now sitting akimbo in the parking lot with the door open, the motor running, and the sun shade still up in the front window. But she couldn't go anywhere till I could get the watermelon unstuck.

Luckily, a really nice man was talking on a cell phone by his truck, apparently calling for someone to help him with his engine (the hood was up). He came over and offered, in heavily accented English, to help me. He was wearing work clothes (I had on white pants, no less) and was willing to get down on the parking on one knee, reach under my car, and tug at the net bag until the watermelon came free. By now it was quite streaked with grease, so he got it all over his hands. Sorry. But GRACIAS, GRACIAS. Sheesh.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Memorial Ride

Another activity I participated in while visiting Wyoming was a ride up behind our valley to the site of the avalanche that took the life of three men, including my sister's husband, in January. There were many people on this trek, including two babies. We took ten horses and four 4-wheelers. We trailered the horses to the trail head, then saddled them and rode about two miles uphill to the meadow. It had been a favorite destination for my brother-in-law on many snowmachine and horse trips over the decades he'd lived here.

I've seen pictures of the mountain and the debris, but until I rode up there, I had no idea of the immensity of this avalanche. It is hard to imagine how they found these men at all in the vast area where they had been buried. As my sister showed us around, she pointed out landmarks. "Here was his helmet, over here we found his soda can and a glove. Way over there was his windshield." His machine was fifty yards away from his body.

This was the second avalanche he'd been in. I've a seen a video of the first one. Someone was filming the riders as they went up a hillside and just kept filming as he was swallowed up by the snow, not in a ghoulish way, but because it happened so quickly that the video just kept running as the person's brain hadn't quite registered that it was an avalanche covering up a man. That time his effort to "swim" up out of it worked and as the snow stopped flowing, and settled into the heaviness of cement that it does, his gloved hand shot up to the surface and everyone could dig him out immediately. In January, the rescue squad said they found him with his hands up again, but it was many feet below the surface, and several hours after the event.

It is an inspiring place. I can see why he'd return to this spot, in every season, year after year. My sister said he always insisted that everyone just stop and look around and savor the atmosphere, whether they'd arrived on snow machines or horses. He felt like it was a place that should be treated as reverently as church. It was a spiritual environment to him. It definitely is a sanctuary now, not just for the three bereft families. The search and rescue workers were all close friends of the men who died there, and in addition to the small stone my sister placed there in his honor, the squad is creating a memorial that they are going to install along the trail to honor their companions and brothers.
This is my eighty year old aunt who is aboard a 31 year old horse. I hope I'm this adventurous when I'm 80.

This is one of the babies riding with her grandma. Mom and Dad were at the county fair, competing on their horses in some events. This little cowgirl was six months old on that day. She rode a 4-wheeler up the hill and a horse back down. She's a real Wyoming girl, huh?

This is the path of the avalanche. It broke off the ridge, scooped up all the trees in the "V" area and filled the meadow below and splashed up the opposite side. Ten acres, ten feet deep. There are trees lying in the debris field that are eight feet in diameter that were snapped off like you'd break off a cattail. (Looking east)

For the first time in my life, I saw what was on the other side of the mountains that I've looked at all my life while standing in my mom's yard. Fifty-five years of wondering, fulfilled. When I was quite small, I thought that New York City was there--it was east, after all, and I knew that over the mountains, to the east, was NYC. Hmmm...a little further east however, it turned out. (This is looking west)

This is looking north. You can see why he felt like this was a sacred spot each time he visited. It is serene, awe-inspiring, and completely spectacular. Very few of us can spend our last moment on earth in an spot that soothes our soul and makes us acutely conscious of the reality of a loving God. It just happened too soon for those he left behind.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The County Fair

I went to my hometown fair this year, in Wyoming. On Thursday night it was Demolition Derby. This was a first for me, because this event wasn't held when I was a youngster. It was okay. Two relatives were winners in their divisions, so it was somewhat fun. But, really, I think it would be a lot more fun to be out there crashing the cars, than sitting and watching it.

But then we went to the 4H stock sale on Saturday, and it felt much more like the Fair I had experienced. There were many, many animals being sold at the auction, including the two lambs raised by my neices. It was a classic auction: the crowd had their cards to hold up, the helpers roaming the arena, sharp-eyed, pointing and shouting an affirmation to acknowledge a successful bid. The auctioneer sang out his rhythmic banter. Lots of money spent for a good cause: the 4H kids and their work at raising a quality animal. But, the buyer also got a year's meat from a reliable source.
When attending the stock sale at a county fair in the West, you must dress appropriately. Here are some photos of the correct footwear:

Notice that the pant legs must scrunch down over the heels, and a little mud on the hem is okay.
Next: the jeans. There is a correct cowboy jean, it must be snug fitting, not slouching off your fanny, but up around the natural waistline, and accessorized with the right kind of belt.

Ideally, this belt will be fastened with a big, oval buckle declaring your prowess in a rodeo event.

Finally, the ensemble is completed with the right kind of hat. Because it is summer, this hat is straw. If it was a cold weather event, then a felt hat would be appropriate. The hat is not soiled, nor is the rim twisted up, ala Britney or a dozen other celebs.

This is the proper attire for the stock sale at a county fair in the West. Of course, your shirt will be button-up (or snaps) and it will have a collar, and be tucked into your pants.

Isn't it interesting that no matter where you go, an unspoken dress code is in effect? Despite being dressed as a tourist from Las Vegas, I wasn't shunned by the other attendees, probably because many of them were friends and relatives who were surprised to see me there at all. It's nice to be the person others are happy to see.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Real Life

Well I came back home to the desert, and my bedroom is still here, and still needs a thorough cleaning. I didn't lose any weight and I still need to do my thirty minutes of walking/swimming/something everyday. I had to empty the catbox and sweep up the kitchen. There was a mini-crisis at church and I was suddenly giving the RS lesson with 24 hours notice. Fourth grade is going to start up again in two weeks and I'll be re-inventing my curriculum because I'm going to be teaching writing and Social Studies together. The garden needs to be revamped for the coming cooler weather. No one but me is here to wash the dishes and clean the toilets.

In other words, even though I won a whole bunch of money, and got to be on TV, Real Life is still here, and nothing really changed while I was away, except the condition of some left-overs in the refrigerator---eeewww.

I'll just keep going along like I always have, but I know that in three months, I'll be able to remodel my closet!! Yea!!

Friday, August 01, 2008

P.S. to the Previous Blog

I forgot to add a couple of pieces to the blog from last night about the game show business:
  • The check arrives thirty days after the air date of the program in which you appear. They gave me the fake check that Meredith shows on the air in the amount of money I ultimately won. It's cool to look at!!!
  • Yes, you have to pay taxes on it. But, it isn't taxed extra because you won it. It is just taxable income. So, a smart person will get the check, bank the money needed for the taxes, and earn interest on it until she needs to hand it over to the Feds. And since she won the money by knowing weird stuff...then she'll do the smart thing, huh? Yes.
  • However, you also have to remember that if you won enough it could put you into a new tax bracket, so read up on it!

I find it amusing that, even though I live in Vegas, Baby, I wouldn't dream of playing blackjack, poker or even putting even one quarter in a slot machine. But I love being on gameshows. It's different, isn't it? I mean, at least I get the fun of being on TV; most of the people I see at the casinoes aren't even smiling.

I'm smiling.