Wednesday, October 28, 2009


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 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, 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!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wake up Call

CoolGuy is three time zones away for a week or so. We talk on the phone periodically during the day. Yesterday I texted him photos of us on our field trip. Technology is good. Usually.

This morning my phone rang loudly and persistently and I was dragged from deep sleep stumbling to my desk where it was plugged into the charger. "Hello? Hello? Hello?" No one answered my froggy morning voice. I listened and could hear the calming tones of the NPR morning show in the background. But no one responded to my greeting.

I looked at the time on my phone: 4:01 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time. No way CoolGuy would be calling me for real. So I hung up and went back to bed.

Later on we determined that he had used his phone as an alarm clock and when he pushed at it to shut off the alarm, he'd pushed "redial" by mistake. Since he'd put the phone down on the bed shelf by the radio and gone off to shower, he hadn't heard me answering...

Oh well, it was time to get up and let the cat in. Or out. Or something, I'm sure.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Good Things from Today

  • I love the song "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and it was performed by the Tabernacle choir on "Music and the Spoken Word" just before conference started. It is such a beautiful tune and the words are so poetic. It was written in 1758 by a minister to conclude a sermon. I especially love the third verse:

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.

  • I concur with Ann M. Dibbs final point: "It [the Gospel] is everything."
  • The performance of "O, Divine Redeemer" just before Elder Holland's talk. He was quite emotional and could barely speak. But that song has that effect on me, too. It is so great to sing and so great to hear.
  • Elder Holland's talk was as powerful as the song. He fervently bore testimony of the Book of Mormon as the word of God. He left no doubt that he believes. I believe that as well.
  • Pres. Monson recounting his birthday presents: all the acts of service performed by children and adults around the world, as he requested. I'm not sure he expected to receive a vast pile of letters and cards detailing what people did in his honor.
  • Elder Cook pointed out that we cannot rationalize our failure to honor the committments of our stewardships. We are accountable to God. We can't hide from Him. It is like when little children cover their eyes and think we cannot see them anymore.
  • Elder Oaks: The effect of God's commandments and laws is not changed to accommodate popular behavior and desires. God's love doesn't give us a "pass"-"If you think that, you understand neither law nor love."
  • Pres. Eyring's recitation of the words from "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" was very moving. I LOVE that song and everytime I sing it, I feel emotional. I try really hard to live the message of that song. "I'm trying to love my neighor, I'm trying to serve my friends." "Love one another as Jesus loves you, try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, for these are the things Jesus taught."
  • Brigham City is getting their own temple! I wondered if they would some day. It is a treacherous drive up over the pass to Logan. It'll be nice for them.

(Happy 400 blog entries--whew!)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Autumn--Sin City Style

You know how it feels in a temperate climate zone in autumn? One day, you realize that the air is different, the leaves are starting to turn colors, the shadows are longer and you think that maybe you'll wear a sweater this morning?

Here in Las Vegas, the city of nuance and understatement, we had autumn arrive, too.

On Monday, the high was 100 degrees. Monday evening, the wind started to blow and by Tuesday morning, it was 60 degrees. The high on Tuesday was 73 degrees.