Thursday, December 31, 2009

An Endorsement

I went to Trader Joe's this afternoon to pick up a few things to take up to Utah tomorrow for my daughter. We're going up for a short visit and I thought I'd take a couple of treats she likes.

I was standing by the chips contemplating which ones looked like they might be yummy with the jalapeno/cilantro hummus I'd found, when I was engaged by a guy about my age. He had a shopping bag in his hand, and was wearing a hat like some Aussie guy, and a light jacket. At first I thought he just needed me to move so he could get to the snack section. But, no...

"Oh, I'm glad I caught you." [I looked a little closer...did I know him?]

"I was in line and I didn't want to lose my place, so I paid for it first and then came looking for you." [Seriously, did I know this person?]

"I just wanted to tell you how wonderful your hair is. All those women with the red, brown, blond, whatever--You just blow them out of the water with your naturalness. They spend all that money and don't know how gorgeous it could be." [This would have been creepy if we weren't totally surrounded by a crowd of people in a nice store.}

"Women just don't know how attractive 'real' is. You just have sensational hair, and I wanted you to know." [Okay, now I'm turning red and smiling and giggling.]

"And you have a fantastic smile to go with it! How great is that! Well, gotta go, just wanted to let you know that I, for one, love your hair." [Oh, my, that was odd.]

And he turned and left and there I stood--feeling fabulous. It was a great way to end the year. Here's what he was raving about: streaked with gray and wadded up in a clip--it's actually several colors, all of them unaltered by L'Oreal or anything else. (Mostly, I'm just too lazy to mess with coloring it; also, I liked the color for most of my life, so I didn't have any motivation to change it.)


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brand New American

I was recently informed of a momentous event in my family. This past week my daughter-in-law took the enormous step of becoming an American citizen. I am very impressed by this choice because she really loves her birth country and lived there until she was a full-on adult. She came to the USA to attend college, and that is where she and our son met. They shared an affection for Argentina because he served a mission in her home city of Buenos Aires. They have been married for eight years and have a son (who is marvelously intelligent, completely bi-lingual and is a sweetie-pie.)(Grandma isn't biased or anything, however.)

So, this fall, in addition to enrolling in college to complete her degree, she has also gone through the rigorous study to pass the citizenship test. This link takes you to a study guide. I think you'll be impressed at the extent of the information that an applicant is expected to understand.

I've gone to a number of seminars and spent many hours learning about the government. Also, to get my teaching license in Nevada I had to pass a couple of fairly rigorous tests about the state and federal government. So, this is a topic dear to my heart. The student population here in the desert is very multicultural, so I include lots of basic Americana in my curriculum and explain all the holidays in an effort to acculturate my student body.

I'm very proud of her and salute her for taking this big step. Congratulations!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And That's All I Needed to Know for A Merry Christmas!

Semester Grades
Student Id: ***********
Date: 12/19/09
Semester: FALL 2009


CLASS: EPY 721 001
NAME: INTRO DESC INFR STA
CREDITS: 3.00
GRADE: B

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to My Mother

We're all thinking of her today. It's been three and a half years since she died, but it hardly seems like it. We had a great time last summer at our reunion, reminiscing about her and our dad. Then we spent more time going through the closets, drawers and cupboards of her old house to winnow more of the treasures she'd saved through the years. My daughter found my original acceptance letter to BYU from 1971. I don't even remember seeing it back then. Now that I've received about eight more "Welcome to our college" letters, it is amazing to think how much easier it would have been to just finish it all in four years back then.

Today for her birthday, I accidently celebrated by baking the famous Christmas dessert: chocolate refreshers. Iwanted to take a small token to my two co-workers before the madness of Final Friday came upon us. Plus, last night I had time to bake. I also took a few of them to treat my "buddy" (a student I mentor). Everyone loved them--of course--what's not to love? So, a gift from my mom for her birthday to give to my friends. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SAMTSIRHC

The title may confuse you, just read it backwards. I wrote it like that because I am participating in a reverse sort of Santa Claus situation.

Every other week, the trash company picks up household recycling. I put out my newspapers, used plastics, glass bottles and cans. They come along with a big truck and haul it all away. This is wonderful because the first six months I lived in Las Vegas I was in an apartment and there was no recycling. I collected my items and periodically drove them over to the university recycling yard and sorted and tossed. So, it was great to move into a house where trash pickup and curbside recycling was offered.

This year, I put recycling bins outside my classroom door and in the teacher's lounge, and every week I collect everyone's discarded plastic bottles to take home and put out with my stuff. In the past year, in the pre-pre-dawn, someone has been sifting the recyclables for the treasure of those containers marked "CA"--meaning the state of California pays a bounty for their return.

I'd never seen this person until about a month ago, when on the off-week (the non-recycling pick-up) I saw a fellow hiking around pushing his little cart and poking through the regular trash of people who (horrors!) throw out recyclable plastics. I called to him, and pulled out of my garage the overflowing bins I'd just brought home from school the night before and he smiled a big smile as he loaded it up.

The most recent Saturday, recycling day, I didn't have a chance to bring home my bottles--I left early on Friday due to vomit and I slept right through the trash/recycling trucks the next morning. But, tomorrow is the mid-week trash pick-up. (A Vegas exclusive: in the hot months, people really need their trash to go away frequently.) Well, knowing that I will be out of town on my next recycling day, I figured that I would be able to put out all my "valuable" plastic bottles and they'd be gone the next day. So, tonight about seven, I organized it all out on the curb by my trash can.

I went out to the curb about an hour later to drop off some smelly stuff directly into the trash can and (!!) "Look---atnaS has come and taken our bounty!" So, instead of putting out my empty wooden shoes, hoping that Kris Kringle will fill them in the night, I put out my filled recycling bins, confident that ---whoever---will empty them for me and haul all that used up plastic to California (just a short drive south of here) and turn them in for cash. Bless his heart---more power to him--we all win!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Not the Weekend I'd Planned

This post was supposed to be all about my fun week-end trip to Washington D.C. where I met up with my husband and son and attended the Ford Theater's annual production of "A Christmas Carol". We were planning to have dinner on Saturday at one of my favorite local spots in Southern Maryland, Captain Leonard's Seafood, and have their yummy fried shrimp and coleslaw, and a dozen raw oysters on the halfshell. Then we were going to stay in Baltimore on Sunday night after the play so that I could get back on the plane and jet back to Las Vegas Monday morning to go to my dentist appointment.

Instead, about 10:00 on Friday morning, I jetted out of my classroom to the girl's bathroom next door (I'm so glad it was nearby) where I sat on the floor and barfed into the toilet for about five minutes. Bleeeaaah. Although, as you may realize, once the actual puking has finished, one does feel so much better.

I'd mentioned to my fellow fourth grade teacher that morning that I felt yucky and I hoped that I'd not gotten a bug from one of our shared students who'd done his throwing up during her Math class on Tuesday that week. Well, perhaps I did...At any rate, I'd caught her eye as I raced to my appointment with the potty and she organized my students to line up in the hall for the class switch. And she called the office to let them know I'd need a replacement. Luckily there was a sub in the building who was filling in for a teacher who also had a student-teacher assigned to her class. So, they moved the sub to my room, and let the student-teacher carry on for the last two hours.

I came back in the room to tell her what we were doing for the rest of the day (luckily Friday is a shortened day) and got my purse and went home. The students all said, "Mrs. Frome, what's the matter? Your face is all white." Yes, and I felt pale and shakey. Good thing it is only a couple of blocks to my house.

So, I spent the rest of Friday lying on the couch with Nurse KittyCat snuggled up by my side. I had a little fever, I had a stomach ache. But, the real sign of illness to me: I had no appetite. Today, Saturday, I still feel exhausted and I have a headache and I'm still not hungry. The good news is that I'd planned ahead to be gone from church tomorrow so someone is already lined up to play the organ. I can spend all day tomorrow lying down too, if necessary.

Blah. I'm tired of being sick. I'd rather be slurping down oysters at Captain Leonard's.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Finals at the Finals

Today was the last meeting of my inferential statistics class about which I have whined often in this forum. I pulled into the parking structure at the university and got out of my car to the sounds of rockin' country music blaring through the concrete layers. Ah, yes...it's rodeo time in Sin City. This week the city is all cowboyed up for the PRCA National Finals Rodeo. I walked down the stairs onto the sidewalk toward the building where my class is held and it took me along the backside of the sports complex where the main event is being held. The service/parking area back there was fenced off and the pavement was covered with a layer of dirt. There were men with numbers pinned on the back of their western shirts, wearing Stetsons, twirling their ropes, warming up their horses and nervously pacing around as they got their game faces on for team roping. (I asked a couple of them what their event was.)

But, I was on my way to my own event: the final exam. I'd already spent a number of hours on the take-home portion over the weekend, and, frankly--I was just relieved to know that in two hours the whole thing would be done. I feel fairly confident that I passed this test. I really, really want to pass this course, because if not, I must re-take it until I do or I cannot complete this master's degree. Blah. Plus, it cost a lot of money and I don't particularly want to re-spend it for a repeat.

I came back out of the building into the darkness. It was quieter because the outdoor carnival was shut down until the events inside were finished and the crowd would come back out. There weren't many people walking around the campus right then. I'd finished before the two hours were over, so probably most of them were still sitting, writing, figuring, stewing, fretting in classrooms. There was only a guy hauling a trashbag out of the event center. He stopped for a cigarette. I imagine inside it was an exciting place to be. Lots of money in the balance. Next year, I should buy a ticket and go enjoy the show. It'd be a lot more fun than statistics.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Little House in the Desert

I was at school Monday afternoon right after the students had all gone home when the power suddenly went out. It came right back on, but 10 minutes later, it went off again. And again, flickered on in a second or two. However, my computer was shut off, and I really didn't want to be in the middle of something when (or if) the power went out a third time, so I packed up and drove home. This was at least one hour earlier than I've ever appeared after school, so CoolGuy was puzzled at who could be opening the garage door at that time of the afternoon.

I failed to mention that it was also pouring rain. Rain is unusual here in our town, and because it is December, it has also been rather chilly. So, on a cold, rainy day, it felt good to be home. I sat down at my computer here, checked my e-mail, answered a few, then started to settle in to finish my take-home exam.

The power went out.

We waited for it to return. By now it was late dusk and so we went to get our flashlights. Still no magical surge up of lights and machine-humming. We got out some candles, I found my oil lamps. I looked out the dining room doors, down the hill--Glitter Gulch and downtown were shining away in rain. But no power at our house yet. CoolGuy got his Coleman lantern from the garage and we lit it.

By now an hour had passed. It was dinner time. Not a problem: I have a gas range. We enjoyed our soup and quesdillas by lantern light. We usually eat dinner accompanied by Jeopardy! on DVR. We had conversation instead. Then we played dominoes. For an hour. No electricity.

We got in the truck and drove around the neighborhood. The grocery/pharmacy/pizza shopping center was dark. The Walmart/gas station/sandwich shopping center was dark. It was a weird outage. On one side of a street there was the blinking glow of Christmas lights and the other side just darkened windows. It was a rather localized problem. We drove the perimeter of the dark houses and passed the power crew hard at work near a big pole and an underground circuit. I figured that the rain had possibly flooded something and shorted it out.

We went home and because it was now getting a little chilly in our power-less house, we took our lantern and went to bed early to read.

I woke up because of habit, my watch said 6:30 A.M. which is my usual getting up time. But there was still no power. NO TOAST?? How was I going to have breakfast? I dressed in the dim dawn and put eyeliner on by flashlight, but I just put the curling iron in my purse to use at school. I drove a few blocks south to McDonald's for breakfast. Finally at 10:00 A.M. I got an e-mail from CoolGuy telling me the power was restored.

No electricity for an hour is kind of fun. None for the night isn't too bad. But, folks, I need my morning toast. It stopped being funny at 7:00 A.M. I like my modern day luxuries and electric power is definitely right up near the top on my list.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Weekend

Perhaps it is because I've been sick and lacking in energy. But it seems that the joy of not setting my alarm on Friday night has been magnified to me in the last few weeks. So it was not welcomed when Kitty Cat stood by my side of the bed this morning at 6:00 and meowed loudly for me to get up and open the door. It has been very chilly here in the desert this week. It was in the mid-30's when we went out to hot tub last night, so I'd brought the litter box into the house from the garage. I didn't want to get up in the cold night and let out the Kidiot. So, when she came meowing at me to let her out, I just waved her off and rolled over.

She persisted. She'd go away for a minute and then return to meow again. Finally, she jumped up on the bed and stomped around on me and stood right by my face and meowed loudly directly into my closed eyes. This woke up CoolGuy who laughed and got out of bed and granted her wish. The little wretch.

I did go back to sleep and got another hour's worth. Then I got up and went to Curves, did a little shopping for the Night of Giving at our school. The Boys and Girls Club brings a bus full of children to our school from a less prosperous part of town (not that our part is overly prosperous this year) and we have an evening of singing, crafts and treats. Also, each kid gets a gift donated by our student body and teachers.

Then, after I got home, CoolGuy and I went out on the motorcycle to In-N-Out for lunch. He said, "It's not as cold as yesterday, let's take the bike." Yesterday, it barely got to 50, so I agreed only because I have a nice leather jacket and gloves. But, you know, at 40 MPH, 58 is pretty dang cool. We arrived with rosy cheeks.

In-N-Out is always packed. It is fun to sit and watch everyone there. The burger wrappers are such pros. The lady's hands were a blur as she folded the tissues around the buns and stuffed them into the paper envelopes. The girl behind the register was so short she could barely see over the top of it. So when tall guys talked to her, they unconsciously bent over. Here are little snippets I heard all around me:

"Well, Circus Circus was out in a field, with nothing around it but dirt lots for people to park their RV's."

"If we run, we can catch it." (They saw the bus slowing down for the red light.)

"She was soooo coming on to him. I almost hit her, the b!&#$."

"Get that table and the ketchup."

"It will be a rental, but it's got so much interior work it won't be ready till January."

After we ate and got home, I was determined to get started on my take-home quiz for statistics. I sat down at the computer and promptly nodded off. So, I just surrendered and flopped out on my bed for an hour. I woke up with Kitty Cat cuddled up by me. Right now, she is in CoolGuy's office harassing him to get up and serve the kitty chicken. But it is only 4:30 and he has a strict rule that it must be 5:00 P.M. So, I'll sit here and figure a couple of T scores on my calculator while I listen to thirty minutes of piteous cat whining.

The weekend: it's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The End is in Sight

Okay, all that is left is the final exam. Yeah! I went to the last official class tonight of "Descriptive and Inferential Statistics: An Introduction" and I have the take-home portion of the exam to do between now and next Wednesday when I will take the in-class portion of the final. I'm so excited, or I would be if I weren't so tired. But with the end in sight, I'm gaining a little steam.

Today we had the awards assembly at school. This has been preceded by about two weeks of preparation which included:

  • checking lots of papers and entering grades (because of procrastination a big-ish pile had grown)
  • writing comments for 78 students about their writing
  • parent conferences for three days
  • figuring out who was eligible for which awards (attendance, honor roll, citizenship, most improved)
  • revising the comments after the principal read them
  • looking at each kid's report card on the computer to see if anyone had a standard that we'd missed
  • sending out the invites to the parents for the awards assembly
  • typing and printing the awards certificates
  • re-printing the awards certificates after messing up about half of them because the printer had some type of heart attack
  • staying after school and using the printer in the computer lab to print report cards because my printer has officially ceased acknowledging my computer
  • signing all the report cards and the awards certificates
  • stuffing report card envelopes (very carefully--twice in my career I've mixed up kid's cards and it isn't good)
  • go to assembly, read all names correctly
  • have mom stop you in the hall and ask why her kid didn't get his award when she received the invitation
  • go to classroom and look at list and realize you overlooked printing his award--arrrrgghh
  • give him a tissue to dry his tears
  • print off reward in co-worker's room
  • include certificate to Carl's Jr in his report card to make ammends
  • send everyone home with report cards
  • rush off to graduate class
  • come home and collapse

But, now that the end-of-the-trimester-circus is completed, all I need to do this week is study, do the take-home part, and go next Wednesday and be FABULOUS!!! Or at least average.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Night at the Improv

We had a Relief Society Christmas dinner this evening. I'd signed up to bring a green salad, and a Nativity set for a centerpiece. I assumed I'd be playing the opening song, since I am the de facto pianist for this ward. No problem, I feel confident playing almost everything from the hymn book.

I'd gotten a phone call from one of the organizers, confirming that I'd be there because she said they needed someone to play the music. Yes, no problem; it's a night when I'm available. Then I got another phone call. How many Nativity scenes did I have? Could I bring several?

I arrived there tonight and they had twenty tables that needed centerpieces. Oh. Good thing I brought both big storage boxes of the lifetime collection. Then, after we got all the centerpieces arranged (and yes, I did take the pine cone version of the Holy Family), I sat down to relax. The RS president came over and asked if I'd gotten a copy of the script. Script? Um...no. She looked a little stricken. Oh, here it is and all the songs.

We actually didn't have an opening song. Just the prayer/blessing on the food, followed by dinner. That was then followed by the "program" in which the group sang about eight Christmas songs, nearly all of them from the hymn book. Luckily, the two that weren't, were in a key that was easy to play. So, after the program was finished, and we said the closing prayer, we cleaned it all up and I repacked and went home. Whew...Good thing I'm an expert at making it up as I go along.

Actually, I have a college degree from California in that, and a special license that authorizes me as an expert in classroom improv, from the Department of Education, State of Nevada.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Lights

I like Christmas lights. I like those dripping ice-cycle garlands around the perimeter of the roof. I like the zillions of twinkly lights wrapped all the way around the palm tree trunk with the fronds highlighted with streamers of lights. I like the twinkling colored lights that go off and on at random intervals so the effect is star-like. I like huge Nativity Scenes in the yard, with wooden camels and a real hay bale for Mary to sit on. I like the whole fence festooned with ropes and ropes of lights. I like the colonial style houses in Maryland with a wreath and a candle in every window. I like them all---on other people's houses.

On our house, we usually just hang one strand of colored lights all along the edges of the roof, put a lighted wreath on the door and call it Merry Christmas. On my own house, I like understated and simple.

But, seriously--everyone else--knock yourselves out. I'll drive around and look at it and admire it and get the Christmas spirit from you. I just don't go to all that work at my house.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Music Season

It isn't just food season in December--it is music season. In my current ward I'm the organist, by default. No one else is confident enough to play the hymns. The only other person who is willing (and she subs for me when I'm out of town) is also in the stake RS, and isn't available half the time. So...it's me, again. I've been the organist by default in three of my four last wards (going back 20 years.) But, this time of year is my favorite time to play.

I love Christmas music. Today we were practicing for our program with the choir. The music director asked me what we should close with. I chose "Angels We Have Heard on High." She decided to have a little fun with me. Each verse she upped the tempo until we were really rocking. I felt like shouting "Huzzah!" at the end because it was just so exhilarating. I love that song--both playing it and singing it.

So, start thinking Christmas thoughts and sing or play on your instrument of choice some holiday music. It's all so terrific. (except for "Grandma Got Runned Over by a Reindeer.")

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bibli-Biography: Chapter Four

Tonight we will discuss Roald Dahl because some of his books became very significant in our lives. Everyone thinks of Willie Wonka when they hear Dahl's name. But that book is not our family favorite. We would have a toss-up between Fantastic Mr. Fox and Danny, the Champion of the World. Both of these were read-aloud favorites at our house. Dahl had a successful career in writing adult fiction, but he began to write for children in the 1960's and 70's. Even though some of his books were published when I was a child, I didn't read any of them until I became a mother.

I don't know what attracted me to Danny, the Champion of the World, but I remember reading it aloud to my four oldest children (#5 was a baby.) We'd read a chapter each night, but when we got to the climax of the story--the drugged pheasants--(you must read this book!!) we stayed up to finish a couple of chapters. We were laughing so hard that we could barely read. I'd read a sentence or two, then we'd laugh until we were gasping for air. Then, I'd go on for a couple more, then more gales of laughter. I have read conflicting information as to whether this book was based on Dahl's own life, so I don't know. But it is a completely charming story. It isn't necessarily intended as a comedy, but that one part will leave you breathless.

Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't just a book enjoyed by my children. I've read it aloud at least 12 times to my classrooms. When I became a teacher, one of my goals was to be that teacher who read aloud to her class. I'd always experienced that in my elementary years and, even though I was a good reader, it was always a pleasure to listen to a story read by our teacher. I had rules for this time in my own classroom:

  1. You were to simply listen.
  2. There was no drawing or anything else while I read.
  3. We didn't have tests on these books.
  4. It was just for enjoyment.
  5. I usually chose authors who had written other books so students could read more if they liked the style.

I often read a book that coordinated with something else in our curriculum, such as Social Studies or Science. Or sometimes I'd read a seasonal book because of a holiday or event during the time I was reading. So, I guess I often used read-aloud time to build background knowledge or give them an extension. But the first book I'd read every year was Fantastic Mr. Fox. This book could be easily read in five days so as to not try their patience with my process. Also, we'd often have a three-day weekend following our first week of school (Labor Day) and it was good to finish before that big break and start fresh when we returned.

Fox was so awesome to read aloud because the characters say "Shut-up!" to each other, and one of them picks his nose and another one belches, and there is a drunken rat that shouts other horrid remarks. My students were always scandalized by this type of real-life rudeness being in a book! And their teacher read it aloud! It was so terrific! It opened their eyes to possibilities of reading. It wasn't all just stuff that someone made you do so you could learn. It could be thrilling and titillating and a little bit naughty. It is a pleasure to read stories to kids and have them be audibly disappointed that you've come to the end. When we'd visit the library next, the Roald Dahl books were snatched off the shelf eagerly.

Tonight we went to the movie that Wes Anderson has made from the book. It is clever and unusual because he used stop-action puppets, instead of animation. He tended to use the book as a suggestion, mostly. The characters and plot are quite altered from the book. It was entertaining and pleasant and we laughed several times.

However, I'm going to need to start reading it again to students, because if all they know of the story is the movie, they will not appreciate the story nearly as much. There's nothing like making the pictures in your own head and hearing a grown-up say, "Just shut up you little pot-bellied dwarf!"

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Eating Season

This time of year is reknown for food. I think there must be more eating traditions between the two holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of the year. So today we're having our left-overs. They are always almost better than the original meal. Don't know why.

While we're eating tonight, we've been watching a marathon of a show called "Drive-ins, Diners, and Dives" on the Food Network. We're both still recovering from a two week illness. Actually CoolGuy is still fully on the second week. He's got energy for the morning, but by 2:00, he's losing steam, and by 5:00, it's back on the couch.

The question for tonight is: how can we sit there with our bellies paunched from eating yummy Thanksgiving Dinner, The Sequel, and yet have our mouths water as this nutty guy takes us from town to town, all over the country, to show off viewer's recommendations for local eating establishments? We're watching things like a meatloaf sandwich with cheese and bacon in Minneapolis, or shrimp po'boy sandwiches in New Orleans or macaroni and cheese you wouldn't believe in Salt Lake City and looking at each other and groaning in delight, planning our trip to these destinations.

Gluttony is a sin, right?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving & Birthday

Every year I read magazine articles or something in the food section of the newspaper around Thanksgiving to the effect of changing up the menu. Either they have recipes for new ways to make the sweet potatoes, or altering the menu even more by excluding some old standards altogether because of the calorie content or too much salt or fat. I'm always amused because when I think of Thanksgiving, it is in the context of the old familiar foods that we eat every year.

In fact, some menu items are eaten only on Thanksgiving and I do not even think of making them at any other time of year. Dressing falls into that category for me. So do candied yams. I would never make or serve them at any other event. I happen to love dressing---my mom's recipe is my favorite. Toasted white bread, sage, sauteed celery and onion, moistened with chicken broth and melted butter, then baked in a dish. It is not put into the bird. A couple of times in Maryland I put oysters into my stuffing, and while I liked it, no one else did especially, so when I wanted oyster stuffing, I always made the plain alternative as well. I didn't even make candied yams this year. I could go the rest of my life and never eat them again and be fine.

This year, CoolGuy and I stayed home alone. We've both been really sick and decided not to carry our germs over the river and through the woods. So I cooked a turkey breast, baked rolls and a pecan pie, then steamed a couple of yams in the microwave. I also made stuffing, and, after the disappointment on CoolGuy's face (which he tried to quickly conceal) I rinsed all the drippings from the turkey pan and whipped up some yummy gravy to pour on his dressing and turkey. Tomorrow I'll make mashed potatoes to go with our leftovers.

We ate, then played dominoes, and watched a video. It was classic Thanksgiving afternoon.

Another big holiday was commemorated today: our first grandchild's birthday. He is the coolest kid! I love visiting him, and it was disappointing that we were too sick to travel. He is seven, perfectly fluent in English and Spanish, and just a charming fellow. He plays several sports, and today they went bowling. I just enjoy hanging out with him. We talked on the phone and at Christmas we'd better be good and healthy because we definitely want to go and see him.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Biblio-biography--Chapter Three

Another book that I've loved throughout my life is The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. My parents owned a copy of it, which is where I got the idea to read it my first time the summer after sixth grade. Pearl Buck published The Good Earth in 1931 and it was a best seller for two years. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for it and several other awards, and it was made into a stage play and a movie.

Mrs. Buck had been raised in China by her missionary parents, and then continued to live there as a young married woman teaching at a university. She knew China at the beginning of the 20th century, during the time of the last dynasty. This book is so poignant and tragic and realistic. It is the story of Wang Lung, a poor farmer, whose marriage day is the opening chapter of the book. If you haven't read this book in your life, you should.

I loved it because it was about a farmer. I was 12 when I first read it. I could completely identify with Wang Lung throughout the story because his focus is always on the land. There is nothing he won't do to keep his farm. At one point in the book, the whole family is forced into the city because of a famine. For Wang Lung, this is temporary. He doesn't know how he will do it, but knows that he will return to his land, and eventually a series of events give him the resources he needs to go back. His wife is an heroic farmer's wife, like my mom. (My dad was more thoughtful to my mom than Wang Lung was to O-lan.) And, my mom actually took off a few days when she gave birth...

An interesting stylistic aspect of the book is that it is written as though it has been translated from Chinese without really adjusting the syntax to accommodate English. It has a sense of being told in another tongue. It is, in fact, written in quite lovely English, but her style of writing and her use of language give it a distinctly foreign voice. I was transported to China while reading it.

Buck went on to write a series of novels about Chinese life. My grandmother gave my parents a copy of Pavilion of Women for Christmas once. I have it now; it is signed with love. Grandma was a school teacher, so she appreciated literature. I read that book, too, as a girl. I couldn't seem to get enough of Buck's writing.

While living in San Diego as a young Navy wife, I used to shop at thrift stores regularly where I'd often discover excellent treasures. My favorite find, though, was six Buck books, including The Good Earth. They were a beautiful set, bound alike, and in decent condition. I don't remember if they were expensive or cheap. I just knew I really had to own them. I read them all. Some of them, I wouldn't re-read. But a couple of them were just terrific, almost as good as my farmer's book.

I'm not sure I read The Good Earth aloud to my kids. Probably not, because reading aloud tended to be done with younger people and it isn't really a little kid book. One aspect I especially loved about it as a 12-going-on-13 girl was the frank (yet tastefully chaste) sexuality in the story. The book was full of real life: concubines, childbirth, adultery, drug abuse. Wow---I was enthralled. But, mostly I related so strongly to the protagonist who loved his farm and knew that it was essential to real life. I knew just what he meant; I felt that way, too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Parent Conferences

I spent all day (until 6:45) having parent conferences and I'm all "niced" out. I always dress up a little for this event, so I look professional. I want to be in charge, but I try to make it comfortable for the family, too. I was taken aback the first year I was on the "teacher" side of the table at how stressed some of my parents looked and acted. I realized that I was The Teacher, and it was a little startling. I felt like me still, but when it is school, and people are talking about their children, there is a lot more involved than just grades. People can be very upset when they hear unpleasant news about their child. They can personalize it and be very resentful of the power that you (the teacher) hold over their lives. If they didn't have a good experience in elementary school, then just walking into the building is a stressful event.

Our school has a wonderful tool we use for parent/student conferences: the data binder. Each student has one, and we store all their work in it for the first trimester. It also has little charts or graphs or tables (each grade level has one that we create for our students to use) that tracks their progress through the standards that we cover. So, when we have the conferences, the students get their data binder from the shelf to present their work to their parents, and what their status is with the standards. If they are only approaching a standard, then they will have the work right there to show why that is so. They also explain what it takes to meet the standards, too. The theory is that the students will be aware of where they stand so the report card isn't a surprise.

It actually works really well, and today and this evening, students sat with their parents and showed them their work and chatted away knowledgably about what they'd been doing in math, writing, reading, science and social studies. It was pretty cool to watch. We all discussed ways that the student could do better, or offered compliments on their fine work so far and every conference was a team effort. It was nice.

But, I am exhausted. Weird how all that instensity just drains your energy away. Unlike a normal school day, I sat in a chair most of the day, and I'm dead. Time for the hot tub.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Copy Cat Meme-ing

I borrowed it from her.

1.What time did you get up this morning?

Well, Kitty Cat woke me up at 4:15 to go out. I wanted to get up at 5:00 because I needed to wash my hair for Parent Conference day, and I needed to get to school early to get some more things ready for Parent Conference day...so I got up 4:55. Sick.

2. Diamonds or pearls?

I really like pearls. My only diamond is in my engagement ring.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

Wow...um...I think Australia. It's been so long ago.

4. What is your favorite TV show?

We watch Jeopardy every night because we can DVR it and watch it at our leisure. But my favorite T.V. show is WKRP in Cincinnati. Or Major Dad. Or The Flintstones. Or Hawaii 5-0 (It didn't say current TV show.)

5. What do you usually have for breakfast?

Oatmeal or Frosted Mini-wheats and cinnamon raisin bread toast and a banana.

6. What is your middle name?

Don't have a middle name: my mom squeezed both of the names I go by onto the "first name" section of the birth certificate.

7. What food do you dislike?

Vietnamese fish sauce; also, feta cheese

8. What is your favorite CD at moment?

I like Los Lonely Boys or Chris Hillman

9. Favorite Color?

I like purple things, but I prefer to wear dark green or red.

10. Favorite sandwich?

Stuffed ham; or open faced PB with honey and a glass of cold milk

11. What characteristic do you despise?

Meanness

12. Favorite item of clothing?

My jeans: Levi's 529, boot cut

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?

I'd like to go to the Serengeti and see all the animals.

14 . Favorite brand of clothing?

I've discovered that Cold Water Creek clothes fit me very well, as a woman of a certain age.

15. Where would you retire to?

I'd love a beach house on the California coast.

16.What was your most recent memorable birthday?

My birthdays have all blurred together into one event. I can't distinguish one from the other except for my 7th birthday when my sisters gave me a party.

17. What is your favorite sport to watch?

Little League Baseball when one of my children is playing.

18. When is your birthday?

February 23

19. Are you a morning person or a night person?

I'm kind of a 10 o'clock in the morning person. I don't like really early, and I can't stay awake late.

20.What Shoe Size do you wear?

10 medium

21. Pets?

one cat--we'd love a dog, but someone needs to be home during the day to be nice to a dog.

22. Any new and exciting news you' d like to share with us?

Only two more classes of my miserable statistics class!!! I am optimistic that I will actually pass.

23. What did you want to be when you were little?

a scientist or a secretary or a cowboy or mom or ...

24. How are you today?

Sick of being sick--all coughed out.

25. What is your favorite candy?

Chocolate, preferably dark and soft caramel popcorn.

26. What is your favorite flower?

lilacs

27. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to?

March 22--Spring Equinox

28. What's your full name?

Mrs. BuzzKill--elementary teacher (according to CoolGuy)

29. What are you listening to right now?

a movie that CoolGuy is watching

30. What was the last thing you ate?

Dinner: homemade chicken soup

31. Do you wish on stars?

I wish on birthday candles.

32. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

burnt Sienna

33. How is the weather right now?

Chilly for the desert: 53 degrees

34. The first person you spoke to on the phone today?

My sister

35. Favorite soft drink?

regular, plain Coke

36. Favorite restaurant?

Um...I like quite a few...Aranda's Taqueria, Lotus of Siam, Clark's Landing, anything Indian,

37.. Real hair color?

dark blonde with many silver highlights (I've never colored it.)

38. What was your favorite toy as a child?

My Annie Oakley skirt, vest and six-shooters.

39. Summer or winter?

Absolutely: summer

40. Hugs or kisses?

Hugs from grandchildren, kisses from CoolGuy

41. Chocolate or Vanilla?

Chocolate, preferably dark

42. Coffee or tea?

herb tea or hot cocoa

43. Siblings?

5 sisters, 2 brothers

44.When was the last time you cried?

a couple of weeks ago--I was discouraged.

45. What is under your bed?

a sleeping kitty cat

46. What did you do last night?

visitng teaching, cooked dinner, watched t.v. and soaked in the hot tub

47. What are you afraid of ?

Getting sick or hurt with something that I can't fix

48. Sweet or Savory?

Depends...I love salty, but I crave sweet, too.

49. How many keys on your key ring?

five
50. How many years at your current job?

I've been teaching for 15--in this district-- five

51. Favorite day of the week?

Saturday is a special day--it's the day we don't set the alarm...

52. How many towns have you lived in?

nine

53. Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?

extrovert -- to the never-ending annoyance of some in my family because I'm always talking to strangers

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A few Points

First...I have a correction. On November 17 I published the news that my "baby" was 24 years old. Today, for some reason, I was thinking of him, and it suddenly occured to me that --DOH-- he is 25 years old. (2009-1984=25...) Wow. I've had everyone's age wrong for a couple of years, including my own. Two years ago my good friend pointed out that, no, I couldn't be 53, because he was 53 and I'm one year older than him. I was turning 55 on that birthday. Just like that I aged two years in two days. One day, I was 53, but I realized I was actually 54, and because it was my birthday the next day, I was, in fact, 55. So, I guess I haven't recovered from that brain-spasm because I've done it again with my son. Wow. It was a milestone birthday and I blew it.

Second...what do you suggest we do with a cluster of ladies in our Relief Society who sit and chat during the opening announcements? And it isn't just an occasional whisper...they're usually talking to each other, quite audibly, with laughter, and very distractingly. Our RS room is oddly shaped. It is a shallow U and these women sit on the far left side of the room, along the back wall, and--frankly--never shut up until we're into the opening song a verse or two. I play the piano, I'm sitting right in front of their section over there and it is extremely distracting and completely rude. The announcements in RS are usually quite elaborate and pretty strategic: lots of important scheduling occurs and there is usually a series of clipboards going around that need a word of explanation. Having been in a RS presidency, I know that these announcements must be made, so there isn't an alternative. But, I'm truly tired of these interrupters.

Oh, and incidently, two of them are: the stake RS president and one of her counselors. Yes. That is why we do not know what to do about it. Today, I went over to the "club" after I'd played a little music following the prayer, and I spoke like an annoyed mom: "Now you girls just cannot sit together anymore, I'm telling you. Am I going to have to come over here and sit between you?" Then we all laughed. But I actually meant it. I know our ward RS president is peeved. But she doesn't know what to do either. Any suggestions out there?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Technology

A couple of months ago, I checked out three science videos from the county library so I could show them to our students as part of an astronomy unit. Then, I took them back to the library.

However, the library has been remodeling and part of their new "up-grade" was an automated check-in system. You place your items on a belt and it scans them as they travel through the opening in the wall.

Except that one of the videos didn't make the machine beep. I grabbed it back and tried it on a different barcode on the box, and then on the DVD itself. Nope. I looked around for a human. Nope. So, I thought, I'll just let it run through here and they'll figure it out.

Nope. A couple of weeks later I received an e-mail telling me that the video was overdue. So, realizing that the DVD had just been replaced on the shelf without ever checking in, I went to the library. There I told a person behind a desk about my problem, I wrote down my name and the name of the video and she said she'd investigate. I figured it was all solved.

Nope. Today I received a collections letter from the library system to pay them $50 and a $10 fee because of my lost or overdue item. So this time, I went down to the library, looked on the shelf, where--yes, the DVD was parked--and went and got a human. After I told her the whole story, she came with me and looked at the DVD, picked it up and took it back to her desk where she took my name off the Bad List.

She promised me that they had corrected their earlier problems with the new self-return scanners and that they'd had some trouble with them at first. Good. Next time I don't hear the "beep" I won't leave until someone helps me right then.

Technology good: sometimes. Real librarians: best most of the time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eye-Check

Everyday after school I am stationed at the street corner, wearing my fluorescent yellow vest, raising my stop sign aloft so students can cross safely on their way home. Today at the end of my 12 minute shift, a fellow came walking up the sidewalk with a rope in his hand. Curious...

He was looking for his dog. I told him that I'd been out there since 3:30, but we hadn't seen a black dog. We'd have noticed because all the kids would have been trying to pet him. The guy was distressed because he'd been working in his yard and the dog was just there. How could he have gotten away so quickly?

Then he said, "Well, thanks, young lady, for your help. I'll keep looking."

Well, there's his problem: he called me "young lady"--clearly, the dude needs glasses. Of course he can't find the dog. Probably can't see him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In the Nick of Time

I'm posting this with just moments left of November 18 because there hasn't been time earlier. I got up at 6:00, left for school at 7:15. At 8:00 there was an IEP meeting on one of my students. We finished in time for me to pick up my class and start school. I did some homework for my statistics class during my planning. Then I checked some quizes as I ate lunch. At 3:30 I sent my students out the door and hurried to the car to drive to the college for the 4:00 P.M. class.

I left class three hours later and stopped at the grocery store for milk and bread. I got home, checked my e-mail and saw the unwrapped birthday present sitting on my desk. It's for our grandson who is turning seven next week. I realized I forgot to pick up a padded envelope to mail it in, so I went back out to the store and bought one. While I was there, I remembered that I have to bring some pasta salad tomorrow to school because it is my group's turn to sponsor the once-a-month potluck. I decided on ancini-de-pepe, so I wandered around picking up the parts for it.

I got home, made quesdillas for supper, ate them with some tomato soup while watching DVR Jeopardy! Then I put the ancini on to cook, and we watched a DVR of The Good Wife. Then I made the pudding, put the pasta in it and put it in the fridge.

Now I'm going to wrap the gift, and get it ready to mail. Then, I'll get in the hot tub and after that go to bed. In six hours I'll get up and start over. Whew. Just made it. NaBloPoMo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Celebrate With a Tuba

Today is the anniversary of the end of my very last pregnancy. Which is an awkward way to say Happy Birthday to the Music Man--our youngest child. Only he isn't exactly young anymore. It's been 24 years! Ack! How could so many years go by so quickly? It's especially ironic that I feel that way, because he was actually about three weeks late in being born.

All the rest of them were born on or very, very near the due dates. But, this guy just seemed to like it up there in Heaven, and stuck around for a couple of extra weeks. We were attending our oldest son's soccer games from August through November, and the other parents had started asking me early in the season when I was due. You could see their barely concealed eyerolling when it turned out I had nearly three more months to go. I looked ready to pop in September. To think that I wasn't going to be giving birth for 8 more weeks was just amazing to them. That's because they'd never seen me pregnant before. However, September came and went. Then October came and went, but I continued to stagger onto the sidelines and sit heavily in my lawn chair and then lurch back out of it and waddle back to the truck. Each game in November, you could just tell the other mothers were feeling so sorry for me. Finally, one Saturday--we missed the game!! Our little brother was born!! At last!! When our oldest son called his coach to say why we weren't there, his coach replied, "We were all hoping that's what had happened."

Well, he was a darling baby, a darling little kid, a killer baseball player, a math whiz and a kind and good friend to all. But who knew what lay in store during teen-agerhood? Music...

He started in band in 8th grade. He taught himself the entire 1st clarinet lesson book over a weekend. The band director was excited! Music Man had learned to read music during piano lessons. (Everyone in our family was treated to piano lessons.) But, somehow, in the gene pool, he and our oldest have been blessed with another skill in music of being able to hear it as no one else does. Both of them sit down with an instrument (piano, guitar) and just play whatever they'd like, in whatever key and whatever arrangement they feel impressed to use. Whew.

Then, Music Man was recruited to join choir in high school and another amazing musical talent was revealed. He can sing bass and with a perfect pitch. And in a couple of languages. And in multiple genres.

Luckily, he attended a high school where all this talent was appreciated and nurtured, and he availed himself of several opportunities in the community to be in musical ensembles. If you've never attended a Tuba Christmas concert---go! go!

So, over the years of high school, community college and up through the present, whenever there was a need for another person to play a particular instrument, he stepped up. Here's a partial list I've seen him play: clarinet, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, tuba, euphonium, kettle drums, piano, organ, snare drums, both stacked drums in marching band, electric bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, marimba, banjo. He was given the John Phillip Sousa award by his senior band director.

Then, after high school, he found opportunities in community musical theater, and college choral, and bar bands with his other brother! So, the performing just went on and on. I am their Biggest Fan.

So, I guess I'll quit now. But one problem of living with great musicians...they grow up and leave home and there you are living in a quiet house. Blah. So today, if you have a chance to raise a toast to a kind friend, a good brother, a terrific son, a valuable employee, and the best musician I know---you should drink it to the sounds of a Sousa March, played on a tuba.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Point

Well, I KNOW you've seen it. If you have watched a car commercial in the past ten years, you've seen it! We used to see it as often as possible. Last summer I introduced some newer members of my family to it. What am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about one of the most filmed lumps of rock in Western America--Point Mugu.



Here's a cool shot of CoolGuy and the motorcycle on the cliff by the rock. Just continue north on the highway that threads between the point and the mountain and you'll be at the base where he worked for six years. He drove south past this icon many days for lunch at Neptune's Net. (Featured in "Point Break") The Net is a little diner where you can get clam chowder and shrimp and then sit and eat it while watching the surfers at County Line Beach (of the Beach Boys' song: Surfin' USA).

So, anyway, we are quite fans of Mugu Rock and have driven by it countless times. It is a marvelously picturesque piece of real estate with the Pacific Ocean stretching off into the background. Now that you're looking at the photo, I know you've seen it in so many car commercials, huh?

We found another occasion when it was filmed. CoolGuy was vegging recently and as he channel-surfed he found the beginning of an old favorite movie, "North to Alaska" featuring John Wayne, Stewart Granger and even Fabian (!). We remembered seeing it at our home town theater when we were 9 or 10. Plus, the theme song is by Johnny Horton of "Battle of New Orleans" fame. (Well, fame to us in 1960...)

In the plot, Sam is heading south, after he and partner George hit it big in the Klondike. Sam is the only person that George can trust to go fetch his girl and bring her North, now that George has enough money to propose marriage. So there are Sam and George, on the pier in Nome, waiting for the ship to finish unloading, so Sam can board. All around them are men building the boomtown, hauling barrels off the ship, carrying another load of something onto the ship. Sam is dressed in his warm jacket and hat and it is portrayed as a busy Alaskan port.

Except as the camera pulls back to show Sam walking up onto the ship and the hills in the background....we see....Mugu rock. Hmmm...I'm sure I've seen that movie about five times, but none of those times were after I'd lived in Ventura county. So, I'll bet I assumed it was Alaska when I saw it as a kid. But, that beach along the Pacific Coast Highway is about as far from the frozen north as you can get. I still like the movie.

Here's a gorgeous day in September on the PCH between Malibu and Port Hueneme.
Neptune's Net is often crazy busy on the weekends. It is a perfect motorcycle ride from L.A. and sometimes you'll see "bikers" that you normally see in their other life starring in a t.v. show or a movie. If you're really lucky, you'll see the Sexiest Man Alive 2008*...

*and every other year since I first laid eyes on him*

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weather-Wise

It snowed this week. As the clouds lifted from the big mountain west of the city on Thursday morning I saw a shining crown of snow on its peak. It was beautiful and breathtaking, and right where it belongs: waaaay up there, far from me. Yes, it is weather-sissy whine-time again!

Truly, I've grown to love moderate weather. Even hot, desert weather. I didn't care for the humidity of the east coast. (A massive understatement: "didn't care for...") and I really don't feel the need, ever again, to experience forty or twenty below zero temperatures. That is just so "previous-life" for me.

When I left the house today for church, which starts at 11:00 A.M. (for 6 more weeks anyway), I shivered, and went back in for a jacket. Then I stepped over to the window to check the temperature from the patio thermometer. It was 58 degrees. I rolled my eyes. If I were living in Wyoming on November 15th, and it were 58 degrees, we'd all be going to church in our shirt sleeves, excited that we were having a summery day this late in the fall. Yeah, I know. I'm a weather sissy, and this has been today's Whine-Time.

Here's a flash from the past. I'm third tallest, it's probably Christmas and I think I'm in fifth grade. And it wasn't all that cold--just really snow-covered on a bright, blue, Sunday morning in our drive-way. It is picturesque there at Christmas, all white and pine-tree green. But there is usually snow on the ground from October through the end of April. I'm just ruined from living in Southern California.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Veteran's Day Follow-up

When I was listing the members of my family who are veterans, I didn't list some significant ones:

CoolGuy's father, and all three of his brothers. Army, Army, Air Force, Army. Our thanks to all of them and his various cousins and uncles who served too. And did I mention my mother-in-law? She too was in the National Guard for ten years. Her profession was registered nurse, but as an Army girl she drove a truck.

Today is the Aviation Nation Air Show at Nellis AFB here in Las Vegas. They've been practicing all week. Since our school is located just south of the air base, we've had lots of previews of the Thunderbirds howling through the air. Tomorrow, we'll ride the bike over to the edge of the air field and watch them do their thing. Very impressive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stop, Please

Okay, I am officially tired of people using the phrase "a ton" instead of "many, a lot, various" etc. I am struck by how often some of my co-workers are willing to use it when they are put in an official position, such as when giving a lesson at an in service meeting. Tonight, I heard it in a testimonial-type ad on the radio. Please...

Okay, I know that I am the Grammar Police, and and International Grammar Enforcement Person, as well, but aren't there certain words or phrases that irritate you?

Here's what I don't like about the use of "a ton" lately. Most of the time the speaker is referencing a large number of items, as opposed to a weight. Such as, "There are a ton of reasons why you'll love ------ products." OR "I have a ton of strategies for teaching these concepts to your students." It is just so colloquial and weak and inaccurate: a ton is a unit of weight not a long list.

That is all. Just try not to use "a ton" when you mean "a lot"--please.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Life Coach

CoolGuy recently noted that he understands Kitty Cat's life, and occasionally feels that he is living it:

Food magically appears when he needs some more. He likes to eat a frozen fruit bar as we soak in the hot tub each evening. Last night, he was impressed that when he opened the freezer door, instead of the lone lime bar awaiting him that he expected, there was a brand new box.

The door will open as if by magic. Or won't open. It's random. When I'm home, and I hear him coming down the street and slow down to pull into our driveway, I'll step into the garage and push the button that opens the door. Then, just as he enters the driveway, the automatic opener kicks in and he can just drive right into the garage. But, if I happen to leave while he is out--no magic--he has to put the kickstand down, enter the code himself, and then after the door opens, drive in and park.

Too bad he can't also just sleep 14 hours a day, get his ears scratched, and be adored by every kid who comes to the house.

However, I do love him. and he can cuddle up in bed by me every night, too.

As long as it doesn't disturb KittyCat.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Today is a day that I'm glad gets the recognition that it does. When I was in high school there seemed to be a sense in our nation that the military wasn't well respected. Popular culture was enmeshed in the political conflict over our involvement in Viet Nam and it spilled onto the people doing the actual serving.

There are many veterans in our family. Of course, CoolGuy is my favorite one. But my dad was also a Navy veteran, as was his brother, my uncle Dan. Many adults where I grew up had served in WWII. My dad's father was also a WWI veteran. And one of my brothers has done family history research on our father's line and discovered we had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. Really awesome! Knowing that CoolGuy's family came from New York and arrived from England to the "colonies" in the 1600's, I'm confident that some of his family were undoubtedly soldiers then too.

I respect veterans because it isn't an easy career. Even if you just sign up for one enlistment, it is a deep commitment. You are Uncle Sam's 24/7. It isn't just a job like others, when you have your own time. Oh, of course you aren't at work every minute. But you are obligated every minute. Your "free time" is only free as long as your commander doesn't need you. I know that when troops are deployed, or sailors at sea, there actually isn't any free time. Oh, you get to sleep and eat, and there are video games and movies and books to read. But you are "on" really.

An interesting aspect of the military is the pride. Ask a veteran--they're proud of it. They might tell jokes and complain and make fun of aspects of it. But, deep inside they know that they are part of a long, honorable tradition and they are a member of a great "club". It lasts your whole life. Your status as one who has served our fantastic country never expires. America never forgets.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Jarheads

Today the USMC is 234 years old. The Marine Corps predates the Declaration of Independence for goodness sake. The Continental Congress passed a resolution to create the Corps on November 10, 1775 to fight for independence.

We have a long affiliation with the Marines in our family, even though CoolGuy is a Navy veteran. (Don't tell this to a Marine, but they are really a division of the Navy.) Rivalry is rampant between these two parts of the military. Here's a good bumper sticker you'll find in the parking lot of a Naval Hospital: The Marines have found their good men: Navy Corpsmen

Here's a good joke: (and you can adjust it depending on who is telling it...)
A sailor is standing at a urinal next to a Marine. They finish at the same time and the sailor starts to walk out the door, while the Marine steps up to the sink. The Marine says, "In the Corps, they taught us to wash our hands after we use the bathroom." The sailor replies, "In the Navy, they showed you how to pee without getting it on your hands."

And on and on...that is a joke I can actually post on this blog. There are some I can't. But...the Marines are not a joke. In fact, I'm very, very glad they are the United States Marines, as opposed to some other country's Marines. They are the best. They are the top of the heap. Anything you hear about them is true. They have a lot of tradition, valor, honor, and skill. Semper Fi is not just a motto.

When CoolGuy went to the Big Sandbox about twenty years ago as a civilian supporting a company of Marines, who were up at the front doing surveillence, I fretted that he would be unarmed. He assured me by saying he had something better than a weapon: he had a Marine whose job it was to protect him. If anything were to have happened to CoolGuy, this dude would have hoisted him over a brawny shoulder, along with the pack he was obligated to haul around, and would have brought CoolGuy out with him. Yes, it sounds corny. But it's true. They do that.

So, raise a fist and shout "Oooh-rah!" and then sing Happy Birthday. And someday, go to Washington DC and see the Marine Corps Memorial. You can read all the years and campaigns around the base. It is very sobering and inspiring.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Teacher Teacher

I just read a post by a good friend who is also a teacher. She pointed out that in her fifteen years of teaching, this is the only time she has been in the same school, the same grade level and same classroom for a couple of years in a row.

I, too, have been teaching for fifteen years. But, I have worked to stay in the same grade level that whole time. Even when I moved across the country to come back home to the West, I managed to get a job as a fourth grade teacher. And you know, I hope to remain in this grade level until I'm done with the job.

Teaching is hard work. It takes many hours off-the-clock. I like my job, I enjoy working with kids. I like the little dumb things, like putting up my calendar every month with the themed dates (like this month every card for the dates is a little handprint that mimics the shape of a turkey--so we're multicultural with the variety of skin tones of the handprints, and seasonal.) Also, I still have the patience to help nine-year olds remember to put their name on their papers, and keep their desks organized and wash their hands after recess.

But, I don't want to change grade levels, or be the literacy facilitator, or (heaven forbid!) an administrator. I'd like to keep teaching fourth grade because I know that there will be enough changes each year with the curriculum, the grading system, the principal's latest whim or fad. So I don't feel the need to change grade levels to get variety. I'm not tired of fourth grade yet. I do get tired of new stuff for the sake of new stuff. But that is inevitable.

So, I'll just stay here in fourth grade and keep doing what I'm good at and keep getting better at it. I change things up all the time--you have to--the kids are different each year. Current events are different--curriculums require different things from the children. I get enough change.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rubbed the Right Way

Is this just a Las Vegas perk? Or can you go to a mall in other cities and find professional massage therapists who provide a variety of massages right there in a chair in the mall? There is a big mall right on the Strip with all the stores you would imagine for people who can afford to stay across the street at The Wynn: Neiman Marcus, Ann Taylor, Lacosta, etc. etc. Well, there is also an area on the main floor where you can book time with a massage therapist, right there and then. You sit on a special chair that leans you forward onto a support cushion, your face resting on a horseshoe shaped pad, arms resting on another support cushion, and get massaged. Depending on how much time you wish to pay for, you can get just a little comfort or quite a bit.

Now, I know when I mention "massage" and "Las Vegas" in the same paragraph, there are going to be some eyebrows raised. Undoubtedly, when this blog pops up, there will be disappointment for any number of people who google that phrase in anticipation of a Hot Time in Sin City. But, seriously, this is completely legit. You are right out there in the open, all of your clothes remain on your body, and it is very professional.

I paid for the neck, back, arms and shoulders version. A couple of days ago, I was talking on my cell phone while multitasking and I tucked the phone onto my shoulder and held it in place with my head while reaching for something with both hands. I was instantly smitten with a vicious muscle cramp directly below my right shoulder blade, that caused me to gasp and drop the phone. It caused me to gasp all day whenever I moved a certain way. So, I decided I'd go and get a rubdown on Saturday.

It was awesome. I wanted to just pay for another 20 minutes on the spot and sit back down. I felt ever so much better, and he pointed out that my shoulders were very hard and tense when he started. They were definitely relaxed when my time was up. I'd like to hire their crew to come over to our school and give these massages at the end of the day. (There are male and female and you can choose -- he was available and I'm not fussy.) So, if you have this little perk at an upscale mall in your area, go, go--it's better than a new pair of shoes, and less expensive too.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Take Out Treat

After school, I had two uninterrupted hours at my desk. I finished my lesson plans, cleaned off my desk (!!), organized my parent conference forms and made a tentative schedule for those visits, and then I went home and fed Kitty Cat. After that I drove down to my physical therapy appointment. My arm goes numb less often, thank you for asking. The work out there is helping, I think.

Then, I stopped off at K-Mart to get a heavy-duty extension cord for my classroom. I also ended up with a cute little sweater and a new purse. So then I stopped off at a Thai restaurant I've never eaten at and ordered some pad thai and tom yum soup, to go. The lady/owner was so kind and sweet. She gave me a drink, asked me to sit and rest and said she'd bring me the food when it was ready. Then, she also pointed out that she would treat me to some eggrolls since it was my first visit. She has a lot of repeat customers, I'm guessing. They return for the royal treatment.

I got home, dished it all up and watched Jeopardy. What a pleasant evening. YUM, YUM YUM. I'll go back for another dinner some night when I'm just too tired to cook.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Book Two: Biblio-Biography

These two books have only been part of my adult life, and, ironically, they are children's books. William Steig was a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine for years before he published any children's books. I enjoyed his wit and style of drawing. But I was unaware of his venture into children's literature in 1970.

After I became a mom, an opportunity came my way in the junk mail one day to join The Children's Choice Book Club. The selections in the catalog were so great, that I couldn't resist. It was all literature, nothing to do with popular culture like t.v. or movies. I received hardback books about every two months, and the price was very reasonable. I eeked it out of my "extra" money. There was virtually no extra money in those days, but, we agreed that books were not a luxury but a necessity. Of course we went to the library regularly, too, but I couldn't resist owning these books I got through the mail. Many of them turned out to be our bedtime favorites which we have read, re-read, and re-re-read to the point of memorization. Several of our family-phrases have come from these books.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

This is the story of a little donkey who finds an interesting pebble one day. By chance, he discovers that it is magic pebble. When he is holding it, anything he wishes comes true. He changes the weather, he changes a couple of other silly things, but suddenly a lion comes out of the woods and in a state of fright, Sylvester wishes he was a rock so that the lion won't be able to hurt him. Poof! He's a rock. But the magic pebble is lying on the ground beside him and, because he is not touching it, he cannot make the magic work, no matter how much he wishes. He sits there as a rock, with his own thinking ability intact, and despairs over what to do now. In the meantime, his family is bereft by his disappearance. It is such a touching story, almost too intense for children, actually. As we read it, we almost felt as heartbroken as Sylvester's parents and hopeless as Sylvester. When an astonishing coincidence solves all of their troubles, we fully understand the final line of the book: They have all they've ever wanted: each other. I dare you to read this book without crying. I can't. Even now.

Dr. DeSoto

This charming book is a favorite for two reasons. One, Dr. DeSoto is a mouse and our own rodent pets created warm feelings toward all rodent book characters. Two: I once worked for a children's dentist and developed an understanding of how to prevent tooth decay in my own children that I did not have when I was a child. I was determined to keep them from the dental tortures that I'd had, and I went to some rather extreme measures to insure that. So, a book about a clever dentist who looked like a ratty was a cinch to be popular at our house. If you haven't read it, you must hurry to the library and get a copy. It is fantastic! He and his wife--the assistant--are popular with all the animals, but they wisely refuse to treat cats or other rodent-eating types. One day, they take pity on a fox with a terrible toothache, but realize that they must figure out a way to protect themselves anyway. It is one of our favorite books to read aloud. And...anyone in the family who needs to indicate their reluctant, not-necessarily-sincere gratitude still says, "Fank-you bery mush." Read it--you'll get it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Kitty Cat is Fine

Just in case you'd heard something different...I don't know if she was successful in holding the press conference to protest her appalling treatment of today.

CoolGuy went back east last night, so this morning when I left for school at 7:30 A.M., she was left alone with her crunchy food dish filled, her automatic water bowl, and the freshly filled litter box. She was deep in slumber on the bed.

However, I couldn't return until 7:45 P.M. because of my college class, so I wasn't sure if I'd be met at the door by her attorney, or the ASPCA, or what. So, I'm just saying, she is fine. The kitty chicken was served. She has been outdoors, and is now back on the bed.

Exhausted, I'm sure by the traumatic afternoon with no one here to serve her at 5:00.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

My Blood Pressure Feels Lower Already

I got an e-mail from my statistics professor (finally) to tell me my grade from the test two weeks ago.

17/20 correct on the take-home portion. 18/20 correct on the in-class test.

YES! I may pass this course yet...

Doh...

Well, I already missed a day and it was only the 2nd of the month. I plead busy, frazzled, exhausted. I had a staff development day yesterday and then there were so many things to do after it finished that I didn't leave the building until 8:30 P.M. That is sick.

But I also don't feel well. I've been monitoring my blood pressure for a couple of weeks because it was too high at a recent doctor visit and it remains high. As a result, I have a teeny, nagging headache and I feel that I don't think well. So, everything is taking longer to do. I'll figure out this stupid blood pressure elevation---not extreme, but mine has been very low all my life, so I don't like it. My fingers are puffy, too, so what's going on? Hmm...medical mysteries to solve.

Anyway, I got home so late and so frazzled that I totally forgot I was intending to blog every day. I'll try to do better the rest of the month. Well, back to school--eleven short hours later.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo--Writing, Writing, Writing

Hey, just what I need: a reason to spend more time at the computer! If I actually wrote something each day for National Blog Posting Month instead of just surfing through political websites it might be a useful thing. I think of stuff to write now and then, but often I get home from school and I am just too tired to do something intellectual. So, surfing through a variety of rantings from different sides of the political spectrum is about all the "thinking" I have energy to do.

So, this month, I'll see if I can write a post that someone would care enough to read. Here's today's attempt:

We had a lesson on visiting teaching today. I've given this lesson many times. The one where we try to get the sisters to decide that VT is important enough to prioritize, to plan for it. Statisically, this ward is at about 70%. That is better than some wards I've been in, but when you put it in terms of, say, bringing back 70% of the students you took out on the field trip (as our RS president did recently) then you see that it's not a good number.

I know all the reasons why it is difficult to do VT. We're all busy. We're don't know the people very well. They're not exactly excited to see us. They're inactive in church and wonder why we keep bugging them each month. Or...you're busy, you know the sisters you're assigned are also busy. You see them in church every week anyway. You know they're fine. And, here's another one I've never personally experienced in my adult life: you're not in need of one more person to "check up on you" because you have a busy and full life with your [fill in the blank] children, siblings, grandchildren, lifelong friends.

Since I've been a married woman, I've lived "temporarily" wherever we've lived. I've always known we were going to move. Someday. We've lived as long as ten years in some places, but it was usually year to year--I didn't know it was going to be 10 years--the job could have moved us at any time. Many of our ward members were also affiliated with the military, so they were temporary, too. So, it is a new thing for me to live here in Las Vegas in an established neighborhood where it is the norm for people to have been born, raised, married, had children, and now their grandchildren, all while living in the same neighborhood, or at least in town.

My incentive for being a concientious visiting teacher is that I have been befriended by women tasked with being my VTs and it was a life-saver on a number of occasions. It gave me someone trustworthy when I had a crisis--large or small. I was grateful to pass forward that blessing. But, when you have sisters, childhood friends, children or grandchildren just around the corner, maybe it isn't as compelling.

My current visiting teacher (a very busy woman about my age, who works, sings in a professional choral group, is in the stake RS, and has grandchildren living locally) came to my house last month. We sat and talked and laughed about our similar childhoods (she grew up in Idaho about 100 from where I grew up in Wyoming). It was so nice to sit and talk to someone for fun. She stayed almost an hour. We could have talked for another hour, but she needed to get home after a long day. Yes, she sees me every week at church. Yes, I'm well, so is she. But it is nice to sit and enjoy a calm chat with another woman. It filled a need I didn't realize I had.

I could tell you a whole book full of inspiring stories about people who helped me, or people whom I've helped (I found one such lady a couple of years ago here in Las Vegas--it was very random--our paths had crossed 27 years ago in San Diego when I was her VT briefly). But the reason I wrote this is to tell you that no one but you can compell you to be a consistent visiting teacher. If you are willing to put in the effort, you will be blessed. So will someone else, and she may really be needing it, whether she knows it or not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Biblio-Biography

Some recent blogs I read have written about the sound-tracks of their lives and I thought it was an interesting idea. But then, I realized that I didn't really measure my life with music. My life has been defined more by books I read. They don't necessarily follow in a straight narrative, but some books have had a prominent place in my biography. Such as....

Misty of Chincoteague

I first read this book because it had a horse on the cover. I couldn't pronounce the name of the island when I was eight years old, but I was obsessed with horses and horse books. I lived on a farm, we had horses. But I was so frightened by them that I rarely enjoyed them. My sister and I were bucked off once when our horse took a pitching fit at the sound of the ice cubes clanking around in our lunch water bucket that was strapped to the saddle. I can still picture myself lying on my back under a piece of farm machinery seeing him bucking and gyrating just a few feet from my face, trying to get rid of that horrible sound the way he'd shed us two girls. So, reading horse books was much more soothing than my dad's real-live, real-frisky, real-big horses.

I cried when I read Misty. It was exciting and tender, and had nail-biting suspense. The end was triumphal and thrilling. I read the library copy three or four more times. Then, as an adult I found some beautiful copies of Misty in a store and bought my very own. I also got several other books by Marguerite Henry because all of her books were horse stories--real stories about real horses. Even though I'd had my own horse from age 12 till I left home after high school, and I'd broke him, and I wasn't afraid of horses anymore, and he was my good friend, I still couldn't read Misty without crying.

In my Navy wife home, I read one day in the San Diego paper that Marguerite Henry was appearing at a department store to sign her books. !!! So, I snatched up my books, and went down there and bought another copy of one of them (for my cousin, who shared my obsession) and stood in line with about 20 nine-year old girls (I was nearly 30 and had three tiny children not old enough to read this book to yet.) We were all so excited to meet our hero--the author of our favorite books. She knew the "Real Misty" and we were thrilled to be in her presence. I still keep my signed copy in a special place.

When those first three children grew old enough to understand it, I read Misty of Chincoteague to them. We'd sit on the couch each evening and read a chapter before bed. We got to the exciting Pony Swim chapter, and we just had to know what happened next, so we read an extra chapter that night. I read the book again, twice, to our next two children when they each reached that age to appreciate my literary treasure.

Then, I became a school teacher. In Maryland. To the East, in a straight line, across the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore, was Nine-year Girl Mecca: Chincoteague Island. Of course nothing is in a straight line if you're in Maryland. Only birds can travel in a straight line there. Everyone else must go up and around and down and around to travel across the maze of creeks and bays and inlets. But, after many years of reading Misty aloud to my students, I resolved to make the pilgrimage.

Many of my students had visited the two islands in the book. Assateague, the place of the wild things, is a National Seashore, and Chincoteague, a little island town, is where the people live. I even became friends with a woman who remembers going to the movie when she was a little girl and seeing the REAL Misty at the theater, at a fundraiser to help the pony herds that had been devastated by a hurricane.

Finally, Cool Guy and I made a trip over there. It was winter, but we saw ponies. We saw all the places that I'd read about in the book. I took home with me a handful of sand that I scooped up from a pony hoofprint, and a seashell from the beach. We saw Misty's hoofprints in the cement in front of the movie theater where the Misty Movie had premiered. We saw Pony Ranch. It was pretty close to Nirvana for me.

Then, I did the ultimate. Two summers later, I drove over on a July evening (about three hours from our home in Southern Maryland -- western shore) and just slept in my car in a parking lot at the beach. At dawn, I walked over to the water's edge and I wasn't the first person there, either. It was the most exciting day of summer: Pony Penning Day. If you haven't read the book, then you must to get a sense of what anticipation I was feeling that morning. For almost 40 years, I'd read about this event and finally, here I was, in person, to witness it myself. And it was totally worth it. Everything I'd read about, probably 15 times, was in living, breathing reality, right in front of me. The crowd had a preponderance of middle-aged women and nine-year old girls. The Misty people.

I followed the Salt Water cowboys and the herd to the fairgrounds. From the side of a corral filled with wet ponies, I called my cousin at her home in Arizona to tell her where I was. She was as thrilled as I knew she would be. Her youngest son was reading Misty that very week at his mother's suggestion as a cure for summer boredom. I mailed a T-shirt to my sister--her daughter was also a fan. I soaked it up and reveled in it for several hours, and finally got in my car to drive home, knowing that now I could die, having been to the site of my childhood obsession. It was a good day.

I still cry when I read Misty of Chincoteague.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Tiny Glimmer of Light on the Horizon

Tonight I took the second test for my Really Hard Graduate Class. It was all about regression equations and standard deviations of error, and coefficients. Yeah. But--this time I remembered the advice I've given my own students a zillion times--
  • Read through all the questions and answer the ones that you can figure out right away
  • Then, go back to the hard ones, or the ones that will take more time and calculations
  • Look at your notes
  • Take a deep breath
  • Eliminate the obviously wrong choices
  • Guess from the remaining ones

I actually finished the test 45 minutes before the class was finished. Which made me a little nervous. But, I worked carefully and I calculated an answer for each one that matched one of the choices she offered. More importantly, I felt like I'd understood the work. So, I just packed up my things and turned it in.

Next week, I have an obligatory night at my school--Harvest Festival--(annual PTO fund raiser night) so I can't be in class when she returns the tests. I've already told my professor, so I plan to e-mail her on Monday next week to remind her, and see if she has the tests corrected. And, if so, would she be so kind as to tell me my score.

I really think I passed it. I need at least a "C"--hopefully I got a "B"...I truly do not want to repeat this class. It is required, so if I don't pass it, I'll be taking it again. Both CoolGuy and I don't want this to happen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Living a Patient Life

Most people who know me probably wouldn't use the word "patient" in a description of my characteristics. I have numerous scars on my hands and fingers that are the result of impatient actions--vigorously washing dishes and breaking them; quickly grabbing for some sharp implement and hurting myself; cramming something into place that actually needed gentle coaxing and causing a cut or a slash on my hands. It's a gene-pool thing according to CoolGuy: he worked with my grandfather and great-uncles. They were usually set on "high" "fast" "zoom". I know, we aren't lackadaisical. I used to think my gung-ho style was an asset. (And sometimes it is...don't get me wrong.) But, in a spiritual, philosophical, metaphysical way, it is a handicap. Let me explain.

Today in Sunday School, I got a new outlook on an old principle. We were reading from Doc. & Cov. 21: 4-6. It is God telling us how the church should give heed to His prophet. When the prophet is walking in all holiness before Him, and receives commandments, then we should receive these words from the prophet "as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith."

The last four words were what got my attention. I've known about the admonition to regard prophetic statements as "if from mine own mouth" -- referring to God's mouth my entire life. But today, as we contemplated this scripture, I was struck by the Lord including the need for us to show patience with our faith. I have a lot of experience with faith. I've had mine tried over and over. I've exercised faith in many situations. Faith is my friend and companion and hero. But patience is an infrequent partner of mine.

We humans are always measuring time. I know that the nine-year olds with whom I spend my day generally only consider the moment. Their whole life occurs in that day. I can ruin their life or make their life. It is an awesome power I don't take lightly. As we grow older, into our 20's and 30's we don't get much more perspective than my fourth graders. Oh, sure, many of us learn to budget our time and plan enough to complete college or some type of vocational training. We learn to be an employee or a parent. We know we have to save up our money, defer gratification, go to work on time, wait for the green light. We learn lots of things that nine-year olds can't do well. Those young adults that don't learn this end up in jail fairly often. But still, we do not really know about patience yet.

Finally, as a woman of A Certain Age, I'm starting to get a teeny-tiny glimpse of my existence as God sees it. I'm a work in progress. I need guidance continually. I need an anchor or a standard to use as a reference. If I listen to the words of God, as spoken by His prophets, I'll have the anchor. But only if I listen to them using faith and patience. It takes a whole life of listening to the prophets to learn to see things the way God sees them, using the outlook of eternity. I am so often rushing about that I don't stop and gaze at the long view. God's words, through His mouthpiece, the prophet, are usually unchanging. They are usually unaffected by fashion or current vogue. These words are focused on my inner qualities and require me to monitor my passions and actions regardless of what others do or say.

In other words, God needs me to be patiently listening, patiently correcting myself over time, patiently doing His will. He doesn't ask me to rush about accomplishing tasks. He asks me to have faith, to align my desires and goals with His. This is something that can only be done through a slow process of continual, careful, patient work. If I have been seeing my life as series of milestones to achieve, He sees it as a process of refinement. What I do isn't the goal. What I become is the important thing. Patience...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Doing It The Hard Way

I'm taking a statistics class for my master's degree. It is hard. It is especially hard for me because I tend to do it the hard way. CoolGuy pointed out tonight that I'm having a little war with my calculator because I'm using it the way I use the computer. Meaning: I wait until I absolutely, positively need something done (the correct way) and then I try to use the tool, but discover that I don't know how to do it because I've never sat down and learned how to use the tool. True, I do that. I've been struggling with the calculator in exactly that way, too. Tonight in class, a fellow student had to show me how to decipher my screen so that I could find the square root of a number. (It was a big, elaborate number, with a decimal...in my defense.) But, my eyes had not seen the parenthesis mark at the beginning of the number there under the square root sign, so I had not learned how to add the final parenthesis and make my calculator understand what I wanted it to do. It kept displaying Syntax Error and making me crazy!!! Oh. I see. Sigh....

I met with my professor this afternoon (taking off a half day of work in order to do so, which involves lesson plans, etc. etc. I'm just saying that nothing about this class is making my life more simple.) But, it's good that I did because one simple thing she showed me will make a huge difference. I asked if it should take almost an hour to calculate the standard deviation for a set of data she had given us and she said to show her how I was doing it. Well, turns out the formula I was using was wrong. Oh, it would get me to the standard deviation, but it was an elaborate, twisted way to do so. Here's my analogy:

Say I wanted to eat quesadillas for supper. My way (using the wrong formula) was the equivalent of going out and milking the cow, bringing in the milk, making the cheese, and grating it with a fork onto the tortillas. Her formula showed me how to just go buy grated cheese. Yeah.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Night on the Town, Down Memory Lane

Last night my sister and her husband came to town for a weekend visit. Their main incentive was to watch a college football game tonight, Saturday. Huh--I just realized--I'm an actual student, enrolled in the college that is playing tonight, but I didn't even consider attending...I'm so not a sports fan.

But, I heard on the radio that The Lettermen were performing in the showroom of the casino where they had gotten a deal on a nice room. So I e-mailed her and suggested she might want to go. So they got three tickets and I met them there. (CoolGuy is out of town this week.)

We had a BLAST! Now, you've probably gone to the link I embedded above, for this group. If you're a person of a Certain Age, you knew exactly who I meant. But if you're a contemporary of my children then perhaps you said..."Who? Aren't they all dead?"

No, none of them have died. But the group itself has gone through many permutations, with the one constant being Tony who has been performing under the name since 1961. Yes, I was 8. But I LOVED their songs. The other two fellows in the trio have been part of it for 20 plus years.

My sister and I knew all the words to their songs. We sang along. We cheered and laughed. They told lame-0 jokes, but it was in such fun we couldn't help ourselves. The singers each performed solos and wandered through the audience. They glad-handed folks, stood for photos with women older than me who were just giggling in delight. They sang all their greatest hits and more recent ones made famous by other people. They have terrific voices and great stage presence.

During a couple of the songs, I leaned over to my sister and said, "Are you transported back in time to the SVHS gym? Sitting on the bleachers, alone, while all the other girls are dancing?" That was my reaction! High school dances...what a torture chamber when I was a freshman, sophomore and junior.

Finally, as a senior, I got smart. I had to attend a number of functions in high school because I had a leadership position in several clubs. The clubs were the sponsors of the dances, and we arranged for the music and the decorations, etc. So I couldn't very well stay home, but going to dances was such a drag, because I didn't get asked to dance. And back in the olden days, the boys asked the girls, except for Sadie Hawkins. So, anyway...as a senior, I identified a nice person, who had a car (and a job so he could afford to date and have a car) and asked him out to Sadie Hawkins (always held in the fall) and then, he was my date for the rest of the year.

I liked him enough. He was nice, and he was pretty fun, but it was business for me. I needed to go to these events and I was sick of being without a date. In our school, most everyone was "attached" to someone. Some of these relationships actually turned into marriages that have lasted over the decades, but many of them didn't survive graduation or the following years of leaving home and being part of the great big world. I did, in fact, use this nice person. And I feel badly about it now. It was more than business for him. Sorry.

BUT....the Lettermen---despite those momentary bits of bad vibes---the concert was awesome, we had a great time. I used to sing all those songs in the barn while milking my cows and it was interesting how I could remember all the words last night. Yet, I can't remember some of my co-workers' names. Sigh. After the show, we went to a nice restaurant on the second floor, ate a great meal, and talked. It got very late and we finally called it day, but it was a groovy, awesome day. (And I'd like to note that "groovy" is an appropriate adjective for the occasion--no eye-rolling.)

One interesting aspect of going to a show featuring performers of that vintage, is that most of the crowd was significantly older than me...Or maybe I just need to look more closely in the mirror. There were a lot of geezers there, but we were enthusiastic geezers!