Friday, January 30, 2009

Creeping Toward Equinox

Have you noticed? It is staying light longer in the evening. (!!) I crave the sunlight of summer. Well, actually, I guess I crave the sunlight of March through June. By the end of August, you can already tell that the sun is moving into the winter mode of early darkness. But from February to July, it's my favorite time of year. I just love evenings when it is light until 8:00 or 9:00 o'clock. It just feels so much better to leave work and have some daylight left to enjoy.

Part of the problem is that I have worked so often in buildings with no windows. In Maryland, for 10 years we had a school without windows. I'd have recess duty everyday and so I had 30 minutes of outdoor time and that was good. The first year in Vegas I had a room with glass bricks up high but they let in natural daylight, and I could get by without the lights on when I was alone in the room and in the morning, the light was bright enough to leave off the lights for the students. The second year I was in the "cabin"--portable classroom. Now my classroom is underground! The school I'm in was a prototype, build mostly underground to save fuel costs. Here in the desert, air-conditioning is a must, and they experimented to see if it would be more efficient to have most of the building underground where the temperature was more even. Maybe...but the building costs apparently far exceeded any off-set of the heating/cooling things, plus they've never solved a leakage problem around the skylight in the hallway just outside my door. But, it means, I'm in a windowless environment again.

I loved our schools in Southern California. They were the old fashioned, built around a courtyard kind with a full wall of windows that looked out onto a square. You didn't need heating, you didn't need air-conditioning. Usually you didn't need the lights on either. But, it takes a rather specific climate to have that kind of school. Kids need natural lighting. So do I.

So when this time of year comes around again, I always feel younger, happier, calmer, kinder. Sunlight---elixir of the gods.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby

Tonight, I brought home some groceries and asked CoolGuy to close his eyes, and take a sniff of the object I placed near his nose. He breathed in and said, "It smells like going to work early in the morning on the motorcycle in Port Hueneme." Yes, he was correct!! He was smelling...

And, indeed, they were the REAL THING:

And those of you who aren't quite sure what I'm writing about...I'm sorry for you. Please try to move to Ventura County, California, so that you can eat some strawberries that were just picked from a field in El Rio (a neighborhood of Oxnard) and sold at a roadside stand. You'll never feel the same way about strawberries ever again.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Intriguing Fact

I've been reading some really difficult academic papers for a class I'm taking. The topic is how the brain works when people read--what exactly is occurring. It is incredibly dense and difficult to read. I have to really concentrate, and sometimes read it aloud to myself to absorb any of it. It is fascinating what some of the researchers have done with timers that can tick off milliseconds, for instance.

But here is the intriguing fact: when person learns numerals or the alphabet, it is the first time that the orientation of an object counts toward the identity of the object. The lower case letters b,d,q, p & g can be written in an identical form EXCEPT for the orientation...get it? (Also 6 & 9)So, for the first time, something every baby learns---Mom is Mom even if she is upside down, (and therefore all other tangible objects have this quality)---for the first time, this is no longer true.

It's amazing that anyone can learn to read at all.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Alexander the Second

Did you ever read the book by Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? I had one of those yesterday.

First, I had to go in very early to work to write sub plans because I'd had to leave work early on Tuesday for an appointment. And I had to have a half-day sub because I had a doctor's appointment at 9:30 A.M. Which I'd already gone to on Monday (a day off with NO sub plans NEEDED) but when I got there, they'd forgotten to write down that I'd changed it from Wednesday to Monday and they POSITIVELY could not work me in, sorrysorrysorry. Oh, and your MRI report isn't here anyway. Which was supposed to be there because the lady at the MRI place asked me THREE times if I wanted to wait for the report and I said why and she said oh, never mind, since your doctor appointment isn't until Monday, we'll have the courier take it over tomorrow--no problem. Except apparently there WAS a problem.

So, I left the school at 8:00 A.M. and drove home to have a shower quickly and drive A LONG way, clear across town, to the doctor's office. (But she is a really good doctor, so that really isn't part of the problem.) I shut off the truck in the driveway, opened the door and heard a loud hissing sound. Coming from the left rear tire. Where I looked to see a key sticking up out of said tire and air whooshing out around it. So, (stupidly) I thought if I could just quickly pull out the key with some pliers the air would stop (I said stupidly) and so I punched open the garage door and ran in and got the pliers and pulled out the key and realized, stupidly, that, DUH, the tire is filled with pressurized air and it was just going to keep whooshing out air from that big hole that the long sharp key had poked into it.

Just then the alarm to our house went off. Because in my rush for the pliers I totally forgot that I only had 70 seconds in which to type in the number to shut it off. So I dashed through the garage, around my car toward the door, and slipped on the rug in front of the door, and fell onto my knee and hands, bashing my head against the door. And I couldn't even lay there and feel bad because the alarm was blaring all over the block and if I didn't get the code punched in and the cancel button hit within a minute then the alarm company would send the police.

So, after I got the alarm off, I realized that the tire was still going flat and the truck was parked in the way of my car, which I needed to use to drive to the doctor's appointment which I was going to be late for if I didn't just get in the shower and get ready and leave. So, I limped out to the truck and moved it over out of the way on its flabby tire. Then, I got ready and left for the doctor. I was on time. She did all the nerve tests on my leg which include jabbing you with a pin all up and down the length of it and observing your reaction while she apologizes for hurting you.

I got my prescriptions, my referral to PT, my referral to the ortho doctor because some of the knee pain isn't nerve related, it is skeletal/cartilage probably. When I got to my car I decided to call AAA for a tire change on the truck. Usually when I call AAA it takes almost an hour for someone to come. The drive from the doctor's office is 35 minutes. So I called, we got it all arranged. I drove home.

About five miles from my house, the phone rang. It was a man saying that his driver was at my house but no one was opening the door. AAACCKK. I apologized, I said I'd be there in five minutes. I lied and said I was coming from my school. Then I drove like a maniac. But I hardly stood out because Las Vegas is full of maniacs, that usually I'm bad-mouthing under my breath as they swoop and swerve around me trying to get all the green lights and driving too fast. Like I did for that last five miles. Whew...the truck was still there in front of my house. The tire got changed. He put it into the back of the truck.

Since I still had an hour till I had to be at school, I drove to the tire store and asked them if they could repair it. No, it would need to replaced. All these tires look bad, lady. You should buy new tires. WHERE HAVE WE HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE? So, I just demurred, not-my-truck; not-in-charge-of-tires; is the spare good enough to drive on? They checked the air, and assured me it was fine for now. So I went home, unloaded the flat tire into the garage so no one would steal it; only broke one fingernail. Ate lunch. Went to school to teach for three hours. I really needed a stiff drink.

Well, it turns out that the tires really are crap; CoolGuy is planning to replace them. He felt bad that I didn't just leave it sitting there flat till he got home. I have a big bruise on my good knee. And my head aches from the steroids that are wearing off. Only five more days of Big Time Drugs, then I go back to the regular anti-inflammatory. And PT twice a week. But hopefully no more flat tires.

At least I didn't have gum in my hair, too.

Cheerful News

I got a phone call last night from my sister. She sounded giddy. Which was a nice sound to hear from her. It was a little over a year ago that all the happiness was punched out of her when her husband was killed in an avalanche. So, it was intriguing that she was giggling as I picked up the phone. She is usually a rather level-headed person. Even before she was widowed. This was a new voice I was hearing.

It seems that last weekend when we were out enjoying a lovely Vegas summery January day on the motorcycle, she was in Las Vegas getting married at the home of her (now) husband's good friend. GOOD FOR HER!!

He (divorced a few years ago) is a decades-long BFF of my brother-in-law who stepped up and helped with whatever he could--firewood, snow removal, roof repair--whatever--when his friend was killed. He isn't a stranger; he grew up two miles down the road from us. So, I guess he just quietly went about making himself indispensable to her, and voila!

Listening to her voice last is a good thing, I can tell.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Oh, come on...couldn't those two have rehearsed a little so that they didn't mess up the oath of office? Tut tut, it was a little disconcerting.

We watched it with my students live, because, as I told them, it was historic. We only change presidents every four years, and these students will nearly be in high school the next time we have an inauguration. And of course, being a notable First, it was also historic for that reason too. It was an excellent ceremony and very awesomely befitting our great nation.

I think though, as this term of office unfolds, that some Americans are going to be puzzled. For eight years, it has been the drumbeat that all things horrible in our country were directly traceable to the White House. Unrelenting negativity, sometimes to a ridiculous level, has been spoken, written, published and blogged about this outgoing executive team. There are many people who have apparently been conditioned to believe that the person who is president has a huge impact on their lives in a seriously personal way.

When tomorrow dawns, and the next day and the next, and very little change occurs on a personal level in these people's lives, do you think they'll realize that the president isn't in charge of them personally? Do you think that they'll realize that they are the main determiners of the direction their lives take? Do you think they'll be disillusioned and disappointed that everything isn't magically fabulous just because a new president was inaugurated? Do you think they'll realize what a bad idea it is to allow someone else so much power over your attitude?

Monday, January 19, 2009

WWDKD? (What Would Dr. King Do?)

Tomorrow is inauguration day. This is a big deal, and it should be. For more than 200 years it is the peaceful process by which our civilized republic changes leadership. We don’t have a war, a coup, a revolution. We don’t have riots, killings, pogroms or anyone having to flee the country to avoid death in order to have a new president. I like that about our nation.

This inauguration is notable because, for the first time, the president being sworn in is not a white Anglo-Saxon guy person. Again, because we are a civilized republic, we can elect leaders who aren’t the same old , same old. I keep hearing people who say “I never thought I’d see this in my life-time.” Meaning a black man being elected president. And if that person saying it is African-American of a certain age, I can understand this sentiment. The experiences of their life are completely different from my experiences, and they’ve seen prejudice and ugliness that I have not.

I, being a white woman of a certain age, was at first puzzled by this comment. Over the last fifteen years there have been a number of African-Americans in prominent political situations who have been qualified to run for president, and for whom I would have voted with confidence. When I first heard this quote---“not in my life-time”---I thought it was weird.

But, I realize that I’m probably the weird one. I wasn’t raised to look at people as a skin color or a race. I grew up in a homogeneous community, where everyone was a relative (almost). But when I left there as an adult, and lived in a city where I had daily interactions with people of different races and languages, my upbringing served me well. I didn’t have to think about how I was going to treat people who looked different from me; I knew. I was going to treat them politely, respectfully and kindly---just like I had been taught to treat everyone! I didn’t see their color or their race. I saw them as a person. There were a number of times when I got rebuffed for this. I was treated as a “white person” by some—called names, ridiculed. I was surprised and upset. But, rude is rude, and I realized that rude comes in all colors. So, anyway, my naivete got me slapped down a few times.

But this is why I was puzzled by the “not in my life-time” comments. Why not in our life-time? If we’re truly trying to achieve the society we agree we need—the one dreamed of by Dr. King where character is more important than color---why not in our life-time? I’ve been completely put-off during this election cycle by the gag-inducing focus on skin color. It has been harped on by the media in an unseemly way. We will have the inauguration tomorrow and its historic momentousness will be lauded again by the press. But then, I hope that the new president can just be the president, and not have to be the Black President for his entire term. It seems insulting to him and to us and to Dr. King.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Two Enthusiastic Thumbs Up

If you haven't gone to see Clint Eastwood's new movie "Gran Torino" yet---go! go! We're huge Clint Eastwood fans anyway, and he's just gotten better as he's gotten older in his talent for writing, directing and starring in movies. This movie is somewhat personal for us because 26 years ago we befriended some families of Laotian "boat people" who'd just arrived from years in a Filipino refugee camp. Culture clash is real and this movie portrays it very well. We don't all have to think alike or be the same, but we do all share common values of family unity and the need to be needed. So, go to the theater and enjoy 90 minutes of compelling story telling. Sometimes Eastwood's character is a bit of a caricature, but you can overlook this because you learn some of his life details and begin to understand. There are some awesome vignettes in this movie about being a man, about neighborliness, about family traditions, and you might feel like I did when the credits came up:

Let's go buy another ticket and watch it again--right now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bad Vibes

I had to have an MRI a couple of nights ago. It wasn't a particularly great experience. First, the appointment was for 6:00 P.M. Or at least I was to arrive at 6:00 to fill out the paperwork. So I did, and after I turned it in, I settled down with my newspaper. A few minutes later the nice lady behind the desk came over to confide that they were running "a little behind" and there'd probably be an hour wait before it would be my turn. (!!) She suggested that I might like to go over to the mall next door...They had my cell phone number and would give me ring. So, I realized I did need to pick up a few things at the market, so I went there and wandered around and got my stuff.

I got back to the clinic and, great news, it would just be about 10 more minutes. And it was only about 20 minutes, so that wasn't so bad. I took off my clothes and donned the icky gown, removed all my jewelry and hair clips and stashed it all in the locker. Then, I followed the technician down the hall to the machine room. I've had several MRIs. They are unpleasant--loud clicking and banging noises assault your ears, and you're in a small space. But I've never felt uncomfortable. They always give you headphones to help block the noise and once they even asked me to select a couple of CDs they played through the headphones while I was magnetically resonated.

So, I laid down on the freezing cold tray, shivering because I'd been dressed in my snuggy clothes all day and now I was clad only in a thin cotton gown and my socks. She did have some blankets to tuck around me, for which I was grateful. I was so tired, and by now it was after 8:00 P.M. so I thought I'd just close my eyes and sleep during the procedure. I'd napped through other MRIs.

But when she'd inserted me into the tube, and started pinging me, I realized I'd left on a silver ring that I wear on my right hand. I rarely take off this ring because it is smooth and doesn't snag on things like my diamond engagement/wedding set, so I'd forgotten it. But the ring was vibrating and and zinging with the machine and I didn't think it was a good thing. But then I suddenly realized that I didn't have any way of communicating with the technician. In another city, they'd given me a little buzzer to ring if I needed to signal the tech. But, I didn't know what was going to happen to my hand with this ring and just as suddenly, I realized I was completely shoved into this little teeny tube and couldn't move and I freaked.

I mean, I didn't start screaming or anything. I merely knocked on the side of the apparatus like one would knock on a door. I just hoped she'd notice because the noise from the procedure was really loud and so I knocked and knocked a couple more times. All the while my stomach started to churn, I felt completely panicked, I felt like I've seen a rabbit look as I surprised it under a bush--wide eyed and ready to flee.

It only took a second, really, for her to shut off the machine, come over and push the button to extract me. But I was in a state when I got out. I felt so stupid. I told her about the ring and the zinging and vibrating. She assured me it wouldn't hurt a thing, nor mess up the images. But, I just couldn't go back in there like I'd been before. She said that maybe I'd rather use the open MRI machine, but that they didn't have one on this site. Well, my doctor appointment is on Monday, and I really, really wanted to have this MRI so she could review it. But, I'm telling you, I was in a state. I felt so awful and so exasperated with myself, simultaneously. She was very kind and reassuring. I kept apologizing and saying that I'd had several MRIs and I'd never felt this way before.

So, she tried another technique. She had me lie the opposite way, so that my feet and legs went in first, so that when I was in the position I needed to be for the imaging, I could see the ceiling of the room by just tilting my head a little back. That felt comfortable and open enough and fine. I was able to get the procedure finished successfully. But my stomach and my brain didn't recover from it until about midnight. In fact, sitting here describing it to you, I felt the same emotions, just not as intensely.

I think I've realized what happened. When my ring started to vibrate and resonate with the machine, I didn't know to what level this reaction would continue. I didn't know if my hand would be burned or hurt, or if some other more drastic reaction would occur. (I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking what a dope I am--because you understand the technology of the MRI.) But when I realized I couldn't do anything about it if my hand did start to burn or some other unknown and more dramatic consequence would happen, it made me very worried. Not being able to move or extricate myself, or even lift up my head to look suddenly completely freaked me out. It is a very, very bad feeling.

I hope this isn't some new manifestation of Old Ladyhood. Last month, I couldn't lean over the rail at the hotel and look down the five floors to the lobby below me without going completely weak in the knees and having my stomach drop. I've never liked roller coasters, however, and even the Ferris wheel used to spook me. So perhaps it's just the usual cowardly me. I hope so, the aches and pains that forced me to the doctor are quite enough, without some new weird thing going on in my brain.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Cool Birthday

Today is the anniversary of Cool Guy's birth--happy birthday! He shares it with Dr. King, and that is a good thing, because every few years it means Cool Guy gets his birthday as a paid holiday. Here are some reasons I enjoy him:
  • He fathered great kids. They are handsome/cute as he is, and also as intelligent, too.
  • He thinks I'm the greatest thing walking and tells me so regularly.
  • He can fix everything. No, seriously.
  • He has a marvelous sense of humor.
  • He appreciates music.
  • He'll eat anything I cook.
  • He washes dishes.
  • He reads all the time.
  • He lets me ride the motorcycle with him.
  • He gets me upgrades to "ruling class" on flights.
  • He edits my writing.
  • He's cute. Still.
  • He knows who wrote and performed almost every song.
  • He gets excited about things I get excited about. Most of the time.
  • He is kind to animals and likes pets. Even cats.
  • He has always earned a living for us.
  • He sends me flowers.

Well, this is just a partial list. It's late, but I wanted to have this posted so he can see it first thing and know that, out here in the land of the setting sun, we (KittyCat and I) are thinking of him, way back there in the land of the rising sun. (no, not Japan---Maryland...)

Happy Birthday Cool Guy!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The I-15 Show

I wrote that title because we'd driven along 1-15 through the high desert a number of times, and passed the sign for the Roy Rogers Museum -- Featuring "Trigger" Roy's horse -- stuffed.

Here's another episode. I was on for one week.

All the episodes were taped on one evening, and then two weeks later I came back as the returning champion. In the interim, I'd been to the clinic at the Navy Hospital for a pregnancy test--positive--and so when I returned to the show, Allen asked "What's new?" (really) I told them. A few weeks later, Allen Ludden said something about "We once had a contestant who got pregnant on the show. --er, I mean---" It brought down the house.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

There Are Many Things About Which I Know Nothing

This particular episode was taped about five years before the birth of my third son. He is very knowledgable about sports. He was a super baseball dude as a little league player, and followed a couple of football teams for years. He just knows a lot about sports. When I told him of this incident, when he was about 16, he just shook his head in embarrassment...How could I be so clueless? It was easy.

At the time, I knew so little about professional sports that I wasn't even embarrassed. I didn't even hear Allen Ludden when he said that hilarious crack.

A Trip in the Time Machine

It is 1979... Check this out!!

Absolutely amazing what one can find on the internet!! I found my youth.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A REALLY Full Moon

Tonight I went out to soak in my spa (a nightly ritual I wish for all of you--aaah, oooh, aaah--it feels so good) and the moon was so bright that I could distinguish colors. The blue of the pool bottom and the green of my robe were clearly visible. You could almost get a moon-tan from it. The moon was so spectacular that I came in and googled it.

Aw, yes, another Celestial Event is occuring. It is the perigee moon of January 2009. It seems that in its elliptical orbit around Mother Earth, the moon is very near--just like it was in December. So, yes, the big full moon of Saturday is a little bigger seeming than usual. It is closer. We had a very windy day here, so now that the air is still, all the dirt, smog and haze are gone and we have an unobstructed view of the heavens. Also the Strip--the lights are especially glittery tonight on Glitter Gulch.

So go out and enjoy the beautiful ultra-full moon tomorrow--and if you're up reading this in the wee hours, go out right now and see the lovely lunar lobe.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wouldn't It Be Nice...

I took a vote in my classroom this morning at 8:50 A.M. and it was unanimous:

We all wished we were home, still in bed.

It is hard to regroup after vacation.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

World Traveling

We used this map to label all the countries where someone in our immediate family(parents and children) has traveled. We've been to quite a few countries. Notably, we've neglected most of Africa, South America and Asia. Russia is huge, huh?
Visited Countries

Visited Countries Map from TravelBlog

Friday, January 02, 2009

Starting the New Year Off Right

I have a friend who claims that it is essential to do only good things on the first day of a new year because that sets the tone for the entire year. (They always make love...but I'll never tell her husband she told me that...) ANYWAY---CoolGuy started a tradition when we were first married to always have a motorcycle ride on New Year's Day because we were in Southern California for the beginning of the marriage and it was so awesome to be able to ride a motorcycle in the warm air and see the ocean and the palm trees on January 1st! We haven't gotten over nice weather in the middle of the winter, either, after all these years. Las Vegas isn't as balmy on New Year's Day as San Diego, but it is much, much balmier than Wyoming. So, we went for our traditional "We aren't living where it is covered with snow and freezing cold--hurray!!" ride on January 1st. And it was mighty nice, as usual.

He looks scary, but he's really a sweetie. Especially if you know him as "Grandpa."