Friday, December 31, 2010

Vacation

Wow, I really must be on vacation. I've read two entire books. Cleaning out my room and revising the bookshelves, I found a couple of books I like and I re-read them. I finished Captains Courageous this morning--I woke up and just stayed there in bed reading until I was done. Luxury...

Of course part of it was due to owing KittyCat. She'd accidentally been out all night because I forgot to pay attention to her whereabouts before I got in bed. When I got up and went for a drink in the kitchen, there she was-on a patio chair, all hunched up sorrowfully. It was 29 degrees here last night, so it really wasn't the best night to be a little kitty outside. When she came in, she rushed into the bedroom and jumped up on the bed. What else could I do but get back under the covers so she could push her paws and snuggle? I picked up my book for a few more pages and an hour later--I finished it. Cool---vacation!

We went to see the new version of True Grit last night. It was very well done. I've seen the first version from 1969 many times, so I knew the story. But the new movie does a fine job of retelling it with a few little differences in emphasis. Jeff Bridges does quite a good Rooster Cogburn--he's completely different than John Wayne's version, yet excellent. Remember Glen Campbell as LeBoeuf? (tee hee) Well, it's weird: Matt Damon is just about as tee-hee-able.

Anyway, I came home and got out the novel by Charles Portis and I'm almost finished reading it now, too. Good story. So, I feel very vacationed. What a luxury to read for fun--two entire books. But, for the rest of this afternoon, back to cleaning out my room. This time, it's the bedroom. Clothes all over, dust, junk piled up on the dresser...I should be ashamed. I am.

[Looking up that link for the book was illuminating. I knew I'd first read this story in a magazine. The link points out that True Grit was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in 1968. I could picture myself reading this story from a magazine while lying on my aunt's sofa while I was still in high school. But I had begun to think I'd only dreamed that memory. Whew, what a relief. Oldness is getting to me.]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Renovation

I have taken my Thromdimbulator apart.

There's a great Dr. Seuss book called Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? that tells of different folks who are in a dreadful circumstance because of some unfortunate event. One of them is Poor Herbie Hart, who has taken his Thromdimbulator apart. There sits Herbie surrounded by countless pieces of something: pipes and wires and connectors and fasteners. Two whole pages are covered with the bits and pieces of this mechanism and Herbie is having a little trouble putting it back together.

This book and that page are infamous to our family because it perfectly articulated CoolGuy's problem at work the first year we read this story. He was in the Navy, working at a submarine base as part of the team of sailors tasked with keeping the Advanced Submerged Shipboard Control Trainer up and running. This was a new technological marvel that trained sub crews in an environment that was so accurate, that when we visited, there were covers on the gauges to prevent anyone without proper vetting from seeing the capabilities of a modern nuclear sub. It was on hydraulic legs so it could mimic the motion of the sea. One Christmas stand-down period, something wasn't working. There was a lot of pressure to get it back on line before the holiday ended and the training schedule started back up. CoolGuy saved the day, naturally, and got a commendation, too, for his efforts. But, at the time, we likened it to Poor Herbie Hart.

Now, I am Poor Herbie Hart. I got a lovely, thoughtful gift from CoolGuy--new computer! But as we set it up on my desk, we realized that it needed to be in a new spot in the room to minimize window glare. Sure, move the desk, you say. Except that for 6 months I've been just putting stuff into this room thinking I'd get to it later and take care of it, or put it away or something.

Then school ended and I had foot surgery. Then I got healed up from foot surgery and went on vacation to see my family and then we went to the beach and then I started the new school year. And then I got hired to teach the Instructional Aide class. And then I got hired to write lessons for the Tobacco Prevention Task Force. Oh, and don't forget graduate school, and, oh, hey! I teach fourth grade full time, too. So, of course, I didn't actually get to anything "later" except adding to the piles of crap.

Well, we got to it yesterday. I took everything out of the room and we moved the furniture and I washed the Venetian blinds and vacuumed and washed the book shelves and dusted everything. Now I am tasked with putting things away in here. So far, I've filled four boxes and two bags of books for the thrift store. I've thrown into the trash quite a selection of things. We're boxing up some more books that I can't yet part with, but will go to our storage unit. It's going to take a bit of time to get everything put away or thrown away, but I'm confident that it will occur. Then, I'll try to curb that tendency to just stick stuff in here for "later"---bwaaaaa haaaaa haaaaa! As if.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Love, One Lifetime

We went to see Phantom of the Opera last night at the Venetian Hotel. It was superb! CoolGuy used our "locals" coupon and got us two-for-one seats on the front row. When the Trumpeting Elephant sounds...we practically got sprayed with elephant sweat. We love Phantom of the Opera.

We've seen Phantom quite a few times. When our oldest son was in high school, we chaperoned a band trip to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles to see their production. We sat up in the farthest balcony seats, but were absolutely stunned as we watched the show. The band had been playing the music, and we'd had a friend send us a tape of some of the songs, so we were familiar with the score. But the entire production was so magnificent and spectacular that we almost felt compelled to go down and buy tickets for the next night when the lights came up for the intermission.

We did go see it two more times while we lived in So. Cal. I discovered that you could go to the box office in person, with a student ID, and get half price tickets. So, I drove down there with all the kids, even the one in 1st grade, and we presented our IDs (I had one for college) and we got tickets for the whole family---sort of. The first grader stayed overnight with a friend while the rest of us--including non-student Dad--went to the show.

Then we moved to the East Coast, and by then that "little" boy was in high school and we took him to see Phantom at the Kennedy Center. Of course, he'd been fully indoctrinated to the music through listening, playing in band, and the piano book of the score that was constantly played at our house. His reaction--like ours each time we've seen it--was the desire to run down to the lobby and buy tickets for tomorrow. We've actually resisted that impulse, but it is a strong one.

Before last night, our most recent viewing was in the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore. It is the perfect venue because it is a beautifully restored old-fashioned theater that strongly resembles the Paris Opera House where Phantom is set. That production was also fabulous.

Which brings us to the Las Vegas version...It was very well done--very professional, well-acted. The costumes were superb, the theater interior was reconstructed just for this production, and it is stunning. There is a live mini-orchestra that sounds like an entire symphony (the percussion dude really gets a workout). We loved the music, the special effects--mist, fireworks, chandelier crashing. The OG is all over the place and a couple of times, they break the "wall" and come down into the audience, treating us as though we are in the theater, too.

You're hearing my "but" aren't you? The hesitation for a full-on Two Thumbs Up is because of our previous experiences. We're Phantom snobs, I know. But, the show lacks that ultimate punch because--even though they are VERY good---the leads aren't awesome. The Phantom is a good singer, but not as expressive as the versions we've seen. His voice doesn't have the range of emotion that the others who did the role. I've seen it and heard it so often, that I was waiting for his voice to crack with sorrow and emotion in certain places, and while he did use some dynamics, they weren't authentic. "Christine" was the best of the principals--she had the range for the songs, but you could tell that those high notes were her limit. "Raul" was pretty good, too, but not fantastic. His passion was sometimes a little meh.

But---it was terrific! Fabulous! Worth the time and money! It's just that I'm able [unfairly] to compare this production that these people do six days of the week--and sometimes twice a night--with no intermission--with the Broadway productions. I don't mean to demean their talent or professionalism. If you love Phantom, you will enjoy this production. The theater is packed every night. We really enjoyed ourselves, but...we've seen better.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

I wanted to post something Christmas-y and I remembered that a few years ago, I took you on a tour of our living room. I developed a hankering for Nativity sets many years ago and we have collected several. So go to this link:

http://earthsignmamawrites.blogspot.com/2008/12/o-come-let-us-adore-him.html

And then go to this link:

http://earthsignmamawrites.blogspot.com/2008/12/o-come-let-us-adore-him-part-2.html

I hope you enjoy Christmas and have a cookie or two. I'm headed back to the kitchen to finish cutting out and baking the rest of the treats for our Giving Plates. CoolGuy and I will go around to friends' houses and sing and drop off goodies. Then, we'll come home and watch White Christmas or something. Merry Day to you and yours!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blue Skies Smiling on Me

It's been like we were living in California the last four days here. It rained and rained and rained. Without stopping. Sometimes it would ease off a bit, but it continued to dribble rain down on the desert. I'm glad I live on the uphill side of town.

But today--blue sky! KittyCat was astonished when she was rousted from her sleep. She wandered over to the door, looked out, expecting to see water running off the patio roof, but instead--bue sky! She turned and meowed at me to open the door---glory be! She hurried out to enjoy it.

I've been looking at the destruction this weather hath wrought in California and I feel sad for them. It really is awful to imagine cleaning up from the mudslides. And here, one of the big charity organizations has lost a huge amount of revenue from the holiday lights fundraising activity because they had to shut it down in the rain. Plus, there are so many guys who've bought a water tank on a trailer and set themselves up to wash cars alongside the streets. I'm sure many of them were once in construction, but I admire their pluck to figure out someway to make a buck---but no one has been washing cars.

Here's a video I took in my driveway yesterday to give you an idea of the effect of the continual rain.

video

Monday, December 20, 2010

Solstice Eclipse

Wow, tonight is the Winter Solstice, and a total lunar eclipse during a full moon, and we won't get to watch the moon. It's raining here in the desert. The weather dudes call it The Pineapple Express because the moisture comes like a fire hose from the tropics because the jet stream has been pushed way south.

I'm amazed at how much rain has fallen today. It hasn't stopped since about 9:00 A.M. It has been gentle, but steady, so all the flood control channels are roiling along with muddy run-off. The usual spots are filled with huge puddles. The desert is mostly flat, so any little indentation will become a shallow lake in weather like this. In the higher areas, there is flash flood danger, so the radio in the car would periodically feature the robot-like voice telling of the warnings and the bad places to avoid.

It is nice to get the rain. We always need it to wash away the grime from the streets. The plants are always grateful. It helps to refill the reservoirs and Lake Mead. In the high elevations, it comes down as snow usually and that also helps the rivers and lakes. This storm may not be much for snow down here, though, because the air is warm. It has been around 60 all day. Last night at midnight we were in the hot tub and the air temperature was 57.

Up in the Sierra Nevadas, however, snow is falling. They're measuring it in feet. California is getting washed away. It's normal. Many things in Cali are done to excess. That's what makes it California.

So, if you live where the sky is clear tonight--go out and enjoy the celestial spectacle of a total lunar eclipse and dance in the coppery light to celebrate the End of Darktimes. From here on out, we get a little bit more sun every day. By February, it will be obvious. This is a good day for me. I miss the sun.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday Time

Since today is our mother's birthday, I pondered what I'd write. It has been four and a half years since she died, and I am astonished that so much time has passed. We miss her, but she is still such a powerful force in all of our lives. Last summer, at our family reunion, we were all asked to send in a memory of her in form of "Since Grandma has been gone..." Some were humorous: "...we leave the butter out to get soft." (She was notorious for using cold, hard butter to spread on bread, and she could do it better than anyone and it does taste good that way.) Another was silly, "...no one laughs and has their teeth come loose." (She had a partial upper plate and it would sometimes slip loose when she laughed hard.) Mine was, "...now I'm the one in my family who says, "S#!t" when they make a stupid or scary mistake." Yes, it slips right off the tongue in a moment of fright or frustration. It would slip off her tongue, too, and scandalize the grandchildren.

I was going to post a story I wrote about a special Christmas gift she received from my dad one year, but I looked back and realized I'd already done that. So you can go back and read it again, if you'd like, part one and part two.

So, today, think of the hard working, great cooking, ever cheerful, doer of good deeds, opinionated, and well-thought-of person who was our mother. Cook something for your friends, or eat some bread and butter, or smile and talk to a stranger in her honor.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Every Day a Marathon

I took off from school on Monday and went to the doctor. My right foot had been aching severely for ten days. It has been diagnosed as posterior tibial tendonitis. The treatment: prescription NSAI, ice and immobilization. I'm sporting the storm trooper boot from this summer's surgery, but now on my right foot. However, without the stitches and wires, it isn't nearly as uncomfortable. It is annoying, though. And no matter how much I try, I cannot successfully find a shoe for the left foot that results in my legs being on the same plane, so the right foot is slightly higher than the left. My hips are sore tonight. But, my foot does hurt less today than yesterday, so perhaps this is a good thing. I've been sitting in my rolling chair, moving myself about the classroom. But, there is still quite a bit of walking that must be done, so I'm exhausted. Two weeks and then I go back and if it isn't much better, we'll do an MRI.

Today, we had an author visit. Our librarian knows someone who knows someone, so we got a presentation. He is in town to promote his new book at a local store. Despite the obvious advertising for his series, he had some great things to say to our 4th and 5th graders about writing. They were captivated by him, and lots of them have read his books so they were excited to meet him. The amusing part for me was during his talk (and slides) he told them 8 powerful things that a writer must do. #1 was Read. Every fourth grader turned and looked at my colleague the reading teacher. #2 was Write...#3 was Write Some More...#4 Revise...#5 Edit. At each of these steps, the whole fourth grade turned to look at me in amazement. After all, here was a celebrity, a person whose books they had read--famous, even--echoing their teacher! I mean, who knew? Someone else saying all those weird things that she said, "Write--Write some more--write about everything that happens in your life. Revise! Edit!" Just amazing...

After the assembly, back in the classroom, I learned an important lesson today from my students. Each year for Christmas, we make a card for their parents. I usually let them use my stamps and create an original design for the cover. Then they write a letter inside to say loving and seasonal things. This year, I found some really cool craft items made of sticky-backed foam where you peel and stick the parts on and then glue the whole thing to a card and put a photo of the student in the center of it. And since we get sticker photos of each kid, it seemed like a great idea.

I realized that, a) it wasn't very creative...you had to follow the exact design--it was peel and stick. b) They were packaged inconveniently---you couldn't just hand a kit to each child--the parts were all joined together in sheets, so people have to sit together and get their five little red shiny shapes after someone else plucked off their five little red shiny shapes. I have 107 students, mind you. This was going to be going on all day. But, we got through the first three classes with astonishing ease. They loved it and they did a good job.

But when I got to the last class, I was panicking. I couldn't find the rest of the supplies. They had their foam ornament shape, but no shine red piece of pre-cut shapes. I could find several partially used pieces of foam. But, mostly, there were just scraps left over from the other groups punching out the precuts. Well, silly teacher, just give us the glittery foam -- we'll take it from here. They got scissors and went to town. It was sticky on the back, so they just cut out their own designs and actually, they created the best looking cards of all! They were well behaved--being enthralled in a bit of creativity and crafting. Tomorrow, we'll write letters and read some Christmas stories and everyone will go home with a cool gift for their parents.

What did I learn? Something I already knew...give children some supplies and an idea and stand back. They love to create and will come up with something marvelous most of the time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fuschia Cadillac

I've found CoolGuy's Christmas present! I was driving home along Boulder Highway and passed it parked in a used car lot. What do you think?

Two-door, convertible, tastefully-sized tail fins, whitewalls...
Now this is Vegas Car, Baby.

I would so drive around in this awesome vehicle. And the paint is kinda iridescent, too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ahhhh....

You know, I saw some video today of the football stadium in Minneapolis when the roof collapsed because of the vast quantities of snow on it. Then, CoolGuy chatted with me a bit and talked about the steady rain and 40 degrees he is experiencing in Maryland this weekend. I heard how Portland and Seattle are inundated with rain and that they're warning people to stay home and be safe--landslides, mudslides and flooding are the dangers. Right now it is 24 degrees in my hometown in Wyoming, and they are expecting snow all week. Wow, bad weather---this must be winter.

And, yes, I am going to gloat. In Las Vegas today, it was clear and 70 degrees. It was absolutely lovely. I enjoyed every moment of it. And one reason I enjoyed it so much is because I know how good I've got it. You are all invited to come and visit us for Christmas. It will be balmy the whole two weeks of our school vacation. We'd love to have you.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holiday Cheer

We had a really nice Relief Society dinner tonight. It was held in the meeting room, so it was intimate and pleasant. They had asked for eight different people to be the "hostess" for a table: bring the dishes, silverware, glassware and centerpiece. So I signed up. Three years ago, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and I bought some Christmas dishes with some of the game show money. Then, we've traveled at each of the holidays since I got them, and I've rarely used my festive dishes at home.


Here's a photo of my table setting. Of course, I had to get placemats and napkins, too. I went shopping all weekend trying to find something I liked. I ended up buying a whole gorgeous set at one store and gulping at blowing so much money. Then I went to the discount store and found something perfectly fine for a fraction. So tomorrow after my meeting, I'll go back to the kitchen store and return all the unused pricey stuff.

We ate, sang, listened to a nice Christmas story, but mostly--relaxed. We had two whole hours to sit and eat and talk and it was very lovely. We rarely get to do that during our frantic weekly meetings. Thanks everyone for a pleasant time.

I stacked a salad plate on the dinner plate.
I alternated the colors of the dishes, the placemats and napkins.
(Um..this plate isn't centered on the placemat..oops.)




Naturally, I used a Nativity set for the centerpiece.

Come and visit during December, and I'll serve you food on my cool Christmas dishes.

A Lighter Feeling

I just e-mailed my final exam to the professor, ending another semester of graduate school. Awwww...a giant weight has floated off my brain. I will have to enroll in some class in January, yes, but for now, I have three weeks without homework due.

Of course, I still need to check the homework of the people in the class that I teach on Saturdays. And I'll need to prepare the lesson for this week. So I still have several things hanging over my head.

But, I did stay late at school tonight and print off every report card, sign them and place them in the envelopes. This might sound like not much, but our report cards are unique in that we don't put letter grades on them. We use designations like "approaching" "meets" and "exceeds" to show how a student is in relationship to the individual standards in each subject. Lots of work, yes. So that means that we have to compose our own first page. Then we each write a comment for all 107 fourth graders about our subject. Then, my county has a page called the parent report card that evaluates five areas such as attendance, homework completetion, parent attendance at school events, etc. That's another page I get to fill in on the computer. Then, to print them, I had to manually re-insert the pages so I could print back-to-back to conserve paper. My printer doesn't do it automatically. It took over an hour to print, staple, sign, fold and stuff. BUT IT'S DONE!! I pass them out on Wednesday after the awards assembly.

I've crossed off almost everything from my list that absolutely, positively had to be done before Christmas break. Just a couple more things...then--I restart my daily paper and I get to sleep in and I'll have time to scrub my floors. Whoo-hooo! Vacation!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Day Off

I had my schedule wrong, I discovered yesterday afternoon. Rather than having to teach the class this morning, I actually...had no where to go...on a Saturday morning. I've been here, in my own home, since I woke up. Wow. And, I didn't set the alarm!

So, I took the spider plants outside and groomed them. Then they went into the bathtub for a nice soaking shower to wash off all the dust and soak up their potting soil. Then, I made some hot cocoa and read a pile of newspapers that have been sitting on my couch for ---a month. Yes, I read old newspapers. The "news" isn't news anymore, but the comics and advice columns are still new to me.

Actually, and this is a sign that the End Is Near, I didn't restart my paper again after we returned from our Thanksgiving trip. I don't have time to read it. Now, my family members reading this will realize that their mother is truly in a crisis of time--no daily paper is being delivered to my house because I don't have time to read it. Ooooh. This is the first time--ever---since I've been married, that I haven't had the paper delivered to my house.

But, I intend to start it up again in a couple of weeks. I'll be on vacation for two weeks at Christmas, and I will, once again, have time to read the daily paper. In the meantime, I'll sign off now, because today I need to:
  1. Write 2 of the 5 essay answers to my final exam for the graduate class due Monday night at midnight via e-mail
  2. Get my toes done at the nail lady shop (my toenails look like dragon claws)(TMI)
  3. Shop for napkins to coordinate with my Christmas dishes for the Relief Society dinner on Tuesday evening, for which I've volunteered to "host" a table
  4. Correct some papers to finish getting the grades for the report cards
  5. Play the piano at a baptism for former student

That's all. After all, it's my day off.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Blogger of Note at Words of Wisdom

Greetings to friends of Words of Wisdom! Today I get to be the "Blogger of Note," an honor for which I wish to thank my good friend Amy. She nominated me. I hope you'll like what you read here.

My career trajectory went like this: farm girl, dental assistant, wife, stay-home mother of five, college student, and now I teach fourth grade. I've lived in several states since being married due to the nomadic nature of my husband's job. They all have their pleasures, but one of my favorite states is California. I love the sun. Wyoming will always be home, but we're in Las Vegas now because one doesn't ever have to shovel sunshine.

I write because I breath. I love to craft words. Every day I try to teach children to learn to love writing. Blogging is a terrific medium to praise, whine, muse, and vent. I hope you'll enjoy the variety of subjects and find something to entertain you or make you think.

Here are a few of my favorite posts:

Meet the Parents

Family History

A Bird Story in Two Acts

What Teachers Learn

Biblio-Biography

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Setting The Bar

So we were watching our favorite re-run shows: Dharma and Greg, and the plot involved their two lives before they were married to each other. Greg had proposed to his girlfriend by putting the ring in a glass of champagne at a nice restaurant. The fiancee was recounting this to her future mother-in-law, who replied, "How romantic!" Then Greg's father, getting himself another Scotch, leaned over to Greg and said, sotto voce, "Slow down, son, you're setting the bar awfully high--it's a long haul." This, of course got a big laugh---even from us.

But, I immediately thought back to when CoolGuy and I were first together. My parents weren't particular demonstrative with each other. I don't recall my dad getting my mom flowers, except perhaps on her birthday. They kissed a little, sometimes he'd give her a little pat on the fanny in passing and she'd giggle and demure. So, anyway---I didn't have great expectations of fabulous romance. Plus, I'd inherited the practical gene from my mom, and I hadn't had any boyfriends up to that point who'd gone out of their way to be particularly chivalrous. And--gee---I'd spent most of my life being manly--hauling hay, milking cows, cleaning barns. I didn't have much practice being a delicate flower of a lady.

But the day that CoolGuy came rolling into the driveway with a bouquet of daisies strapped to the sissybar of his chopper...seriously...that was sooooo romantic and dear. I was bowled over. There was no special occasion, he'd just seen the flower stand lady as he waited at a light and thought of me, and acted on the impulse. It was awesome.

Just like tonight, when I came home from work, dead, and there he was, dressed in his jeans and boots and biker vest with the hand-embroidered "Shovelhead" patch on the back, cleaning the sink as he filled the dishwasher. He set the bar high with the daisies and he just keeps leaping over it, higher and higher.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pardon My Complaining

The high temperature here in the desert today was only 49 degrees! I just watched the local weather report and they pointed that out. Currently is it 38 degrees and will drop to 33 before morning. BRRRRRR.....

First, may I say how sorry I am for any of the people who are walking along Glitter Gulch, shivering, on their vacation here from whatever bitterly cold climes they left. I'm sure they were hoping to wear their sandals and lie by the pool and soak up the sun.

And may I say: at least it wasn't just me feeling all whiny this afternoon as I stepped outside to pick up my class after lunch and found that it was still as cold as it felt when I picked them up at 8:40 this morning.

Hey! This is just WRONG! What are the weather gods doing??? Their job is to keep things moderate here in the winter. Yes, yes, I know I'm not shoveling anything, (except cookies, into my mouth.) But, we're the Land of the Sun here. We're not supposed to shiver at noon. Let's hope this is the last we hear of not even hitting 50 degrees for the rest of this year. After all--the story is: summer is hot, yes, but the mild winters make up for it. Well, 49 at noon is not mild, thank you very much.

That is all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two More Weeks

I have a lot to do over the next two weeks. I know I can do it, too, but it will require total discipline. Blah.

I finished the 15-20 pages for my project in the graduate class. I ended up with 17 pages. Tomorrow my group will present our chapter and lead the discussion.

Then, Tuesday, after tutoring, I will stay at school until I finish the report card comments. I will need to write up some lesson plans because...

Wednesday, we have an afternoon planning time in which the fourth grade teachers will disect the results of our end of trimester testing. We figure out what went wrong and what went right and work on it so that the students will be remediated for the Big Test in March. Wednesday evening I must go to the church to rehearse some music for an upcoming program.

Thursday, I must plan after school for my Instructional Aid class on Saturday. Also, report cards are due into the office for the last minute check.

Friday is the usual staying late to write next week's lesson plans and check papers. Also, I need to start getting all of my awards organized and printed off so that I'll be ready next week.

Saturday, I'm teaching all morning and then a former student is being baptized in the evening and I've been invited...and I'll be playing the piano since he lives in my stake.

Sunday is the usual frenzy of playing for church and then choir practice in the afternoon.

Each day this week I also need to devote a little time to typing the essays for the five questions I need to have answered for the final exam in my graduate class. I don't actually have to show up to the class next Monday, but I have to have the document e-mailed to her by midnight that day.

And I won't start in on the rest of the week...program, meeting, awards assembly, etc. etc. Let's just say that by December 13th, I'll be ready for a rest...that I will get on Monday the 20th because by then the Christmas programs will be completed, school vaction will have begun and I will be breathing slowly and calmly.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

  • I am thankful for the beautiful world where we live. I've lived in five distinctly different climate zones in the United States, and can say, without hesitation, that all of them have natural beauty. Each of the places was quite different from the others, yet all had some feature that struck me with awe in its glorious wonder.
  • I am thankful for my health. There have been times when I wasn't particularly healthy, and each of those times reminds me to be grateful that it was something from which I could recover. I hope to stay a vigorous person for many years to come. It is a priceless bounty.
  • I am thankful for my faith in God. I have a strong belief in His loving care for all of His children. I'm sure He is often grieved as a parent over the choices we, the children, make to harm one another. I feel His love for me often, and recognize His Hand in the blessings I have.
  • I am thankful for my job. Again today, I met with parents who thanked me effusively for the relationship I have with their child. How enthused their kid is to come to school--because I am the teacher. It is humbling and gratifying to be appreciated for something I work so hard to do well.
  • I am thankful for reading and music and good movies and bacon and cold milk and KittyCat and driving and the full moon and the constellation Orion and flowers and bird songs and automatic washers. Life is filled with wonders.
  • I am thankful I can be a mother and a grandmother. It has been a long strange trip, but this role has enriched my life immeasurably in unimagined ways. I could never have dreamed that a person could have so many emotions all connected to one part of living.
  • I am thankful for my husband. He and I epitomize the "strange and wonderful relationship"---we alternate between the roles. We help each other, we inspire each other, we provoke each other, and we cannot imagine who we'd be now without each other. I'm glad to be his wife.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meet The Parents

I made a mother cry today. Let me explain...

We are having parent conferences. Another thing I love about this school where I'm lucky to be teaching is that we set aside the three days before Thanksgiving as Parent Conference Days. Yes, all three of them. It allows us fourth grade teachers (and fifth) to meet with more than just our homeroom students. We can meet with students whose homeroom might be the math teacher, but the writing teacher has a concern. It also gives our parents a lot of flexibility because we even have evening appointments on Tuesday until 6:30 P.M. In the time between appointments, I can start typing my report card comments and take care of all sorts of business I don't normally have time for on a regular school day.

About the crying---the mom was crying in gratitude. She was so grateful for the progress that her child had made this year, that she actually teared up. Wow. Now, that really makes my day. Gratitude, I mean, not crying. The student is the fellow I wrote about a month ago who gifted me after a trip they'd taken. I asked the parents, after he and I presented his portfolio of work from the term, if they had any concerns for me. Mom sighed, adjusted her glasses, and started in a sober sounding voice, "Well, Mrs. [EarthSignMama], all I can say..." She paused and I was really getting nervous about what could be so hard to tell me. Her son has an IEP and is officially diagnosed with a form of autism, so I know they have many concerns.

She continued, "...all I can say is that I'm so grateful for this school and for you. This is our son's best year. He is doing so well, he loves school. He loves you. He has never expressed so much joy before about being in school." By now she had removed her glasses and had to wipe her reddened eyes. Her son looked at her and smiled, "Mom, don't cry! I thought you were happy." His dad laughed and patted her arm. "She is happy...sometimes mommies cry for happiness."

They stood up to leave and they both thanked me again and left. See why I LOVE my job?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We Laughed

We had a good time at the radio show on Thursday. Our seats were near the front and so we had a good view of the stage. I took this photo of their backdrop from the edge of the stage before the show started; we weren't that close. It is a sparse set, because it is a radio show, duh. There was a table full of engineers and producers to one side. Two podiums were near the center for Carl Kasell and Peter Sagal to stand by as they read the scripted parts from their Ipads, and the "panelists" were at a table to the left of them. A comfy looking chair was in the direct center for the guest (Wayne Newton) to sit in while his "Not My Job" segment was done.

They came out and chatted us up, and then they went on with the show. There is an outline, with some scripted parts, but mostly they actually do just make up a lot of it as they go along. The job to be amusing is mostly tasked to the panelists. I listened to the broadcast today, and it was clear how they edited the performance that we witnessed. But, it needed edited, because not everything the whole group riffed was worthy to be presented coast to coast.

One part I enjoyed was the extended conversation that Peter Sagal held with Wayne Newton. There was a small part of it on the broadcast, but Sagal is a skilled interviewer and he allowed Newton to go on about Old Vegas, his lengthy performance career, his friendships with Elvis and the Rat Pack people. It was informative, nostalgic and amusing. Wayne Newton is pretty good himself at cracking wise off the cuff. It's clear how he's managed to be in show business for such a long, long time.

Anyway, we appreciate the freebie from the Wait, Wait folks. We had a great date and laughed a lot. I'll tell you about our "dinner" at a sandwich shop in the Paris casino some other blog. I don't want to mess this one up with any downer stories. But, someone at JJ Boulangerie should be ashamed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

С ДНЁМ РОЖДЕНИЯ

This means: Happy Birthday! It is directed to my Russian speaking child who is 26 years old today. Child...he's definitely a man. He is a kind, talented man who has always been a valuable employee to whomever hired him. Once he got asked to work doing data entry for a friend of our family at this person's job site. This person needed a couple of guys to work independently for just the time they were off from high school for the Christmas break. I heard later that he chose our son (and his friend) because he knew they wouldn't need much supervision and they would work diligently and not embarrass him. That is a great compliment. Even today, he is at a job (that he got when he moved to a new city) through a recommendation from his previous boss because our son is a trustworthy, capable worker. It bodes well for the rest of life.

Which life he will spend surrounded by music! He plays lots of instruments, writes music, sings, hums and pretty much lives in a world of music. Sadly, he took all the music with him when he left home..it's awfully quiet here without him. (Except when CoolGuy is in charge of choosing the soundtrack for the day.)

Here is a small photo montage of the "baby of the family"---he's actually the tallest one,now.

Twenty-Six years ago, today:


Isn't he a doll?

At Coronado State Beach, San Diego, on the 4th of July, 1985.

In Idaho with best buddy, Jed. (Note tennis ball in dog's mouth.)


This is what happens when you let your big sisters mess around with you.


This was twenty-one years ago, today.
This is Hueneme Beach, just a few blocks from our house.

He was also a natural at baseball. Here, he is the catcher. But he could pitch like a pro, too.

The last photo before entering the MTC where he learned Russian...in theory.

This is where he really learned Russian. Until you live somewhere and try to communicate with people, you don't learn it. (I'm not sure this is him in this photo...it may be another guy.)


But this is definitely him in this photo, being the Most Fun Uncle Ever.

I can't believe I couldn't find even one picture of him playing music...hmm...another blog for another day.

Happy Birthday!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In a Pinch

Some mornings, I rush out of the house because I failed to get up when the alarm rang. Today, I apparently shut off the alarm in my sleep, and only because CoolGuy rolled over and asked me if I needed to get up yet, did I actually awaken and leap out of bed. It wasn't a good day for sleeping a little too long, because I really needed to wash my hair. So I took the time and washed it, and dried it, and used the curling iron and it looked great.

In fact, whenever I leave my hair down, with curls here and there, several students will always say how pretty it is. Or that I should wear it down all the time, because they really like it. They're sweet. But, it does look nice like that--for about an hour. Then the curls start to droop a little, and pretty soon, the sweaty-me starts to fire up and it is just too hot. So, I have a clip or two in my purse or in my desk, and in my car, and everywhere, just for that time of day.
However, today...couldn't find one. So I used teacher-skills and improvised:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Smokey Cuisine

Little Smokies are legend in our family. Well, legend may be the wrong word...how about notorious? Actually, they started out very popular. It all began a really long time ago near Christmas. We were going to decorate the tree one evening, and I thought it would be fun to have a buffet-supper so that we could nosh as we trimmed. I bought a bunch of cool things I'd never normally purchase: ready-made hors d'oeuvres and appetizers and then I made a punch bowl of something yummy. NOT the normal, frugal, made-from-scratch type of meal I usually served. One of the menu items was Little Smokies in barbecue sauce, eaten by jabbing one with a toothpick and plopping in the mouth. Cool! And we had cups for the punch bowl--it was exotic. It was pretty fun, too. So we did it again for most of the years that we had children living at home. Somehow, Little Smokies became a ridiculed item on this menu, yet, it was strangely required. I no longer know if they were actually despised all along, or if people secretly like them, but are too embarrassed to admit it.

Anyway, I found a new way to serve them! It's a recipe from Sunset Magazine, of all places, so that gives it the imprimatur of coolness. But they were also tasty and attractive. Here's photo to show them off:

Here they are "plated" with a little mustard, a little sweet relish and a sprinkle of grated cheese:



I served them with fruit salad (pears, mango, pomegrante seeds, banana) and baked beans. They were really terrific and also good again today with lunch after we re-heated them in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

The recipe has you make creme-puff dough and then squeeze it out onto a parchment paper in two tiny strips, side by side, not quite touching. Next, plop a little piece in the center, so you've formed an "H". Then you nestle the sausage onto the center piece. Bake them about 20 minutes, and serve them with mustard, sweet relish and grated cheese. They were attractive and delicious. Seriously.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Whining Pays Off

A couple of weeks ago, I complained about the cost of tickets to go to an NPR show that was being broadcast from Las Vegas on Thursday. Well, about a week later, I got a comment on my blog from a person with that show. (!) She offered me free tickets! Good Grief...I'm simultaneously embarrassed and delighted. So, I responded to their website, as instructed, and now I have two tickets at WillCall in my name to attend the show at the Paris Casino. Cool.

I'm pretty sure there must be some service that they hire to keep track of how and when their show name shows up on the net. Then, they rank if it is positive or negative, or if people need some response. I am startled that they gave me free tickets. I hope it's because they read some of my posts and learned what a wonderful person I am, and that I teach little children and I'm a fabulous mother and grandmother, and that I'm just so worthy to part of their audience. Hah. No, I imagine it's because their PR people are hoping I'll give them a positive shout-out in my blog and they can count it on their list. So, excited as I am to go to the show on their dime, I decided I'd just refrain from mentioning them. I'll write something nice after I go as a thank you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrate A Veteran

We commemorated this day by attending the parade in Las Vegas. It is one of the biggest Veteran's Day parade in the United States. It actually lasted almost two and a half hours. But it was a lovely day to be standing outside here. It started out a little chilly, but got up to a sunny 65 by noon.

There were many groups represented. The first group to come by, and then they took their seats in a reviewing stand, was a large troop of "wounded warriors" who are here as guests of a couple of casinos. They and their families are spending a few days on R&R here in Las Vegas. Then there were many, many high school marching bands and JROTC groups. We had all the VFW groups, floats with Pearl Harbor survivors, Purple Heart Vets, and one gentleman who marched on his own wearing his orginal Army uniform. He was introduced as a veteran of the Burma/China Trail. He had to have been at least 87 years old and that would have made him only 20 when he served. Tough nut. The group that got a standing ovation, and many a tear-filled eye, was the Gold-Star families who each carried a photo of the loved one whose sacrifice resulted in their family's entry into this "club" of bereaved people.

I always spend time with my students learning about Veteran's Day. I don't ever want them to think it is just a free day off from school, or a shopping time. We looked at a short video this year that described the history of the day. We took a little quiz on the information. Another day we drew "commemorative stamps" on a paper, and then wrote about what we were honoring. When they were finished with that project, they could use my "stationery" (I've copied a sheet with a box for a drawing, and typed in my school address for the return address) to write a letter to a veteran. I'll go on-line and find someone to mail them to. A few of my students asked if they could take their letter home to give to someone in their family. What a great idea! The letters are to say "thank-you" for the veteran's military service. How nice that they have someone personal to give it to.

That's the main reason for this post: to thank the veterans in my life. Naturally, at the top of the list is CoolGuy--US Navy. Then, there is my dad, US Navy, CoolGuy's dad, US Army. All three of his brothers served, two Army and one Air Force. I have a nephew and his wife who are in the Army, and my mother-in-law served in the Army National Guard. The problem with a list like this is that someone will be left out. So I just want to say to all of our relatives and many, many friends who are veterans:

Thank You


Here's a little flash from the past: CoolGuy's re-enlistment ceremony on the deck of the submarine control trainer in San Diego.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Seven Down---25 To Go

Many adults no longer have their "wisdom teeth" because, often when these third molars begin to grow in their late teens and early twenties, there isn't room in the person's mouth for them to fit. Or many times, in my case for instance, they were growing in sideways and would not have erupted crown-up, but would have grown into the other teeth, crowding them together. So, I had to have all four of my wisdom teeth extracted. The uppers came right out. But the lower ones were quite an ordeal to remove. Most people know that an adult has 32 teeth, and in the case of those who had their third molars extracted, they spend their life with 28.

I'm now down to 25. Yes, I went back to my dentist this afternoon because all weekend #20 was really aggravating me. The extraction site, after a week of healing, was feeling rather good. But even tapping on the tooth with my fingernail caused sharp pain. So, I determined that I had to go back. He reviewed the advice from the endodontist and agreed: something was definitely wrong with that dopey tooth. The only option left was extraction. We both sighed.

Actually we laughed with great ghoulish gusto. None of us--the dentist, the assistant, nor I--wanted a re-run of the previous procedure! That took two hours of torture--they worked so hard. So he gave me the injections, they made little jokes about it, I laughed despite the hands in my mouth. But! 40 minutes later, success! He lifted the entire tooth right out of my jaw without having to resort to drilling and chipping and grinding. Awesome!

And there it was: an obvious crack the entire vertical length of the root, starting right at the gum line, all the way to the base. [FYI: root length was 3/4 inch] So, all that gunky stuff in my mouth has been seeping down that crack, pooling up in the root cavity. I was finally feeling the effects of the inflammation now that I had no other teeth on that side to take the force of a bite.

Three teeth are gone from the lower left side of my mouth. When the bone and gums heal we will put in some implants and make some lovely crowns to cover it all up and give me a chewing surface again.

When I told my students that I was leaving this afternoon for the dentist and I'd probably have stitches tomorrow, they said, "You always have stitches!" Um...yes, I have had a rather crazy few weeks between my foot and my mouth. I'm looking forward to just healing right now. After all, Food Season is here--I want to be able to eat.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Doom and Gloom Days Are Back

Autumn starts a period of wonderful events. First is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, finally Christmas and New Year's round out the celebration season. The leaves change colors, and the temperatures moderate. If you live in the East, humidity finally goes away, allowing you to throw open the windows and turn off the air conditioning. Here in the desert, we don't have the humidity, but we also get to enjoy the outdoor air, because it isn't over 100 degrees every day. Even the clothing colors are pleasant: people wear orange, yellow, tan and shades of russet. The air is clear and there is just a sense of vigor and joy as people walk in the evenings.

But, then comes the day of darkness. Daylight savings time is on us once again. I'll walk out of school tomorrow afternoon and the sun will be down. Twilight will be nearly over and it'll be dark for hours and hours. I do not like losing the light and so this time of year is depressing for me. It's a good thing it is filled with beautiful music, holiday decorations (all of them---Halloween decor is one of my joys!) and celebrations. I can understand how ancient peoples in Scandinavia and other Northern climes would hold celebrations and holy days this time of year in an attempt to bring back the sun, or to show how they missed it. I'll be thinking of them until finally February comes around again, and we'll get back our friend, Old Sol.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Wait, Wait,--How Much Did You Say?

So I've been hearing on the radio that one of my favorite NPR shows, "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" is going to have a live show here in Las Vegas. Tonight I finally sat down and went to check out tickets.

Oh.

I guess I'll just be listening on the radio after all. I selected "best available" and hit the button. Those tickets would cost us $250.00 to go. The lowest prices were $70 each.

Wow. Who knew? Maybe I'm just naive. But I was certainly not expecting to pay that much to be in the audience of a radio show.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

I have always loved Halloween. It is fun! There is chocolate! Even when I was depriving my children of trick 0r treat, I loved the costumes and the party parts. I enjoyed thinking up my costume every year. I recall being Pebbles Flintstone once. I can remember cutting out a cardboard bone to put in my hair. For a couple of years here I've been a cowgirl. I wear my red bandana skirt, a cowboy hat, my boots, and I hang a lariat from my belt. Then I put my Beanie Baby cow in my shirt pocket. Students ask me why I have the rope, and I say it so if my cow tries to run away, I can catch her.

We only went out trick or treating once that I remember, but it was snowy and cold and, since we lived out in the wilderness, our mom had to drive us. It was always a lot more fun when they held a party at the church and we could just be indoors and play games and have fun. Of course, we still got the candy. I loved getting the candy. One of my sisters always rationed her candy so that she ran out just in time for the Christmas candy to begin. Not me...gobbled it right up. Which probably accounts for the stitches in my mouth...hmm...cause-effect.

Oh, well--Halloween is still quite fun. I live on a street where lots of people come by begging for candy. I just got in from lighting my pumpkin candlesticks and hanging up my ghost bells over the door. I anticipate many costumed small people tonight again. Fun for me!

Here are some of the Ghosts of Halloween Past in our family. Because, as you know, "Halloween is just for fun! There isn't any "deeper meaning" of Halloween to worry about." (quote from a seven or eight year old daughter long ago.)

San Diego 1985

Mountain Home, Idaho 1987

San Diego,1980



San Diego, 1985 Bat Girl


San Diego 1985 Tooth Fairy

Friday, October 29, 2010

What's Worse Than Cleaning the Refrigerator?

This morning I got all energized for my day off and cleaned the refrigerator. Took out all the shelves, washed the walls, really really cleaned it. I took out all the wilting produce and chopped it up for my composter. I discarded everything in the little leftovers containers, just in case. (One of my sons, who once worked as a dairy stocker at a grocery, would have died...buttermilk from June.) (Eeew-I just dumped the whole container in the trash without looking.) I even cleaned out and organized the freezer. Again---any container that I couldn't instantly recall putting in there---dumped. Wow, it looks awesome! And can I tell you how much I don't like cleaning the refrigerator? Which possibly accounts for the buttermilk from June.

But, then I spent the afternoon doing something even worse! Tooth extraction. When I realized I was spending the second hour with my mouth cranked open while he and the assistant drilled and tugged and suctioned, I began to long for the stinky refrigerator. This was the tooth that had been root-canaled years ago and now had a pocket of infection growing around the base of those dead roots. So, now I'm on anti-biotics, I have a wad of gauze in my mouth soaking up the leakage from the 4 stitches. I just took a big dose of ibuprofen and I will lie down on the couch with a cup of water to sip while I watch a chick-flick. Cool Guy arrives back in town tomorrow night. Ironically, he, too has stitches in his mouth because a cracked tooth had to be pulled while he was in Maryland. We're just falling apart here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Perks of My Job

Tonight was our school's "Harvest Festival"--the big fall PTO fundraiser. It is an elaborate affair, and it is worth all the hoo-hah because we usually make a great deal of money. All the staff members have a job, which we volunteer to do-I've been face-painting for four years now.
1) It is easy and I stay busy
2) I can sit the entire time.

I make a poster with about 8 drawings that we can do and so the kids don't sit down and say, "Paint the Lakers' logo on my face." Well, some of them still ask for extravagant things, but we just point to our poster and say, "Sorry, that's all we can do!" We offer choices like the peace sign, or a spider or a bat or a jack-o-lantern, and we increased our repertoire to include a kitty face with a newly recruited teacher. We always have a long line and everyone goes away happy. They get their money's worth--we charge nothing! (A little money is earned through food sales, but the big bucks are made at the auction where themed baskets centered around a story book are sold--one went for $400 tonight.) (How nice are some of our families? Guess where all the cool stuff in the baskets comes from--yes, donations from them.)

But, the real fun is the casual atmosphere where parents and grandparents get to come to school and meet the teachers and everyone is just having a good time. Students who've moved on to middle school always come to see their old teachers and to bring their little brothers and sisters. Grandparents who barely speak English get introduced by our students. I meet non-custodial dads, and mothers who otherwise would never be at school because of their schedules. Tonight was another night that made it worth staying until 8:00 P.M. when our day started at 8:00 A.M.

I have a boy who is on the autism spectrum. He isn't misbehaved, he is just stand-offish. His parents had a business trip back to their home in Trinidad last week, so he went with them--and they visited relatives, too. When he returned on Monday, he brought me gift. He just plucked it out of his backpack, and thrust it at me, without saying anything. I opened it and found a little dolphin statue, with "Trinidad" painted on it and a water globe with a bit of sand and teeny shells balanced in the curve of the dolphin's tail. I smiled and thanked him and said how much I love the ocean, and put it on my shelf where my family pictures are. He didn't say anything.

But, tonight, when the brothers sat down for their face painting, Mom leaned in to tell me how much her son loves me and my class. (Seriously---I would never have suspected that he had any reaction whatsoever to me or my class.) She pointed out that during the entire trip, he was looking for a gift for me. In a market, he hurried up to her with the dolphin souvenir and told her that I love dolphins and the ocean and that this was just perfect for me and he had to buy it. I assured her that he was right, I do love the ocean, and I did love his gift.

Really, I had been quite impressed that he gave me a gift. He also talked to me about his trip a little later that day--it was new for him to speak to me at all. But to find out that he planned it all himself, and shopped for me--wow! So sweet!

This is why I'm a teacher. I just love working with children and being their friend. I get thanked for oddly shaped bat drawings painted on their cheeks, and they bring me ceramic dolphins because they remember a story I wrote in class about my summer trip at the beach.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Passing

So far, I'm getting an "A" in my current class. That's great! I don't think I've gotten a straight "A" in any of the classes I've taken so far for this master's degree. I got one A- and several B+ so if I can keep this up, it'll be great. It will make my GPA improve. The problem with school at this level is that you have to get a B or an A in every class, or it doesn't count. Bleh, can you imagine having to take one over again? Oh, yeah, I was imagining that last fall, as I recall, when I flunked the first test in statistics. But then, I finally figured out the right formulas and how to use my calculator correctly, I did get a B, ultimately.

It was such piece of cake to get good grades when I was a little kid. I didn't struggle at all until I met Algebra in the 8th grade. By then, it was too late. I'd never learned any study skills and I didn't know how to learn something that didn't come easily to me. I didn't get skilled at that until I was a mom going back to college at age 32. I guess I just needed to grow up. If you know someone who has an easy time in elementary school, watch out for them, because they, too, may hit a scholarly wall someday and you'll have been warned by me to help them learn how to learn. It may be the first time they've had to be conscious of doing so.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

California Dreamin'


The air outside today is exactly like San Diego. I stepped outside the church about 12:30 and it was soft and moist and just the right warm. There were clouds in the sky, but the horizons were clear and you could see every rock on the mountains. The only thing missing was the smell of the ocean.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mother Nature's Bounty

It rained here in the desert. Several times this week, actually. One night, it was a serious gully washer, with thunder and lightening. There are still little swaths of landscaping gravel along the streets from the water that pushed it off people's yards into the gutters. The soil in the front of our house is still damp and there were streets in the city that had yellow cones marking off the flooded lanes. The concrete channels that mark where the natural desert washes once were have been flowing with the run-off that is headed downhill to the Colorado River and Lake Mead. Everything looks refreshed and shiny. The pungent odor of resin from the desert plants is in the air. This morning the early sun showed the first snow atop Mt. Charleston on the western border of the valley.

But do you know what is the best part of all this delightful wetness? We didn't have to have even one rainy-day lunch/recess schedule this week! It managed to deliver all that moisture outside the 11:30 -1:00 block. Wasn't that kind of Mother Nature?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Busy, busy...

I've spent a lot of time at the computer lately, but none of it was spent blogging and I hope my "vast" audience (all three of you...) are still checking now and then to see if I've posted anything lately.

I started teaching the Saturday Instructional Aide Writing Academy. Every other Saturday my partner teacher and I are teaching 30 IAs about the Clark County Writing Curriculum in order to help them to be more effective in the classroom. Apparently they've had a Language Arts and a Math Academy for two years, and there is such enthusiasm for it by the teachers and the aides that they started a Writing version this year. I applied to be a teacher because I wanted the extra money, and--hey--I like to teach writing. We are allowed 20 paid hours for planning and we used a bunch of it in the last 10 days to write our overview and some lesson plans. The first session went really well. In fact, we didn't get through everything we'd intended to, so this week we're half prepared already from last week's left-overs! I'm much less nervous for this Saturday because now I know what to expect and what their response will be. And yes, I realize I said "alternating" Saturdays, but because of Nevada Statehood Day (Oct. 31) there is no school on Friday, Oct. 29th, and so they did not want to stick a class in there on a three day weekend.

There are also no students coming to school on Nov.1st because of staff development. And there is another staff development day on Nov. 2nd. At first I thought how weird this was, until I wrote it into my November calendar and saw that it was election day, and, of course, they use the schools for polling places, so they'd be in the way when it was time for lunch. That means our students will have five days off in a row! They'll be zombies when they return. But the good news is that the Halloween candy will mostly have had time to exit their systems by Nov. 3rd and we won't have sugared-up kiddos. Just tired, sugar-coma children who've stayed up late for days and days and now have to return to the grueling schedule of school.

In addition to teaching two groups of people, planning for two groups of people and correcting papers for 108 fourth graders, I've also been busy with church playing for baptisms and Primary program practice. Then, my neighbor had a baby shower for her daughter (I went) and I'm going to a meeting tomorrow night to write curriculum for a tobacco use prevention lesson series for elementary school. Again, I applied for a bunch of extra pay projects...got them all!

In the middle of this, I had a midterm for my graduate class. We didn't have to go to class on Monday night (yippee) but I had to complete and e-mail to her by then the answers to five essay questions from a page of 9 that she passed out two weeks ago. Each answer was about a page and half long and had to use information from our text to prove our point. I turned it in on-time. But, hey, that took a lot of typing and hours.

So, you can see I haven't been lying around much. But on the upcoming three day weekend (Halloween) I intend to do just that.

P.S. Tom Bosley died today. He was the dad on Happy Days. I didn't regularly watch that show, I don't think we had a TV at that time. But I did know who he was. One day, in the 90's, I was driving through Malibu on my way back to my home in Ventura County from L.A. The traffic was thick and so we stopped often at lights and it was just too crowded to go fast on the curving Pacific Coast Highway. I glanced over at the car to my left as we wended our way north, and thought to myself, "Hmmm...that guy looks familiar." I had the chance to drive alongside him for two more lights and finally realized it was Tom Bosley. He was just whistling as he drove along, his arm propped on the open window, enjoying the lovely California afternoon like the rest of us, cruising up the PCH.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keep Praying

Tonight I got home from work really late. I made some supper, I turned on the TV and watched for about 45 minutes "live from Chile" and saw as the first of the thirty-two trapped miners was lifted to the surface and embraced his family and then embraced all the men who'd worked so hard to get him up there. Big, burly men in work clothes with hard hats, all hugging and crying. I'm sure there will be cameras all night as they slowly extract all the rest of these miners. I'm going to finish my contribution for tomorrow's potluck lunch at work, and then I shall collapse into bed.

But first, I will pray again to thank God for this awesome miracle and to implore Him to keep it up so that the rest of these men can hug people uptop, too. (You also realize that thanks for this miracle includes His providing the skills and talents of all the blessed people who invented and manufactured and operated the technology that enabled this rescue.)

And I'll pray for many other things as well: my students, my children and their lives, CoolGuy, my sister's neighbor who is dying of brain cancer and leaving his young family. I'll pray that every one of His children can feel His love and His guidance in their lives. A person could simply pray continually...oh, right, that's what we're advised to do. Uh, huh--I get it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Power Weekend

Wow..I'm sitting here after coming home from stake conference. I'm aglow with the powerful talk given by the visiting authority. He is Elder Pearson and his final address today was sensational. I realized I'm using odd words to describe a talk in church, but it was really so stunning and well delivered I wish I could watch a video of it to enjoy it again.

I was part of the stake choir and we sang "Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning," "Praise to the Man," and ended with "High on a Mountain Top", and the rest hymn was "The Spirit of God," so you can see that the theme was the Restoration. He started his talk by complimenting us (we were awesome, I agree) and he said, "Do you know why it was such a lovely morning?" He then went on to explain, in the plainest way I've ever heard, the entire history of the Church of Jesus Christ--the original one and how it was altered and changed by apostasy. He explained how the texts that later became the Bible were written mostly by men who'd been apostles of Christ and realized how the doctrines were being changed and subsumed by the cultures of the surrounding Greek and Roman civilizations. (Here's a good book on the subject--it's a challenging read.) These men wanted the words and deeds of Jesus recorded by those who had known him and witnessed the miracles. It had only been a few decades since Christ had been on the earth Himself.

Anyway, he described the compilation of the Bible from these texts, he described the Protestant Reformation wherein the Bible was finally translated into a language that common people could read and see for themselves what the actual teachings of Christ were, instead of the altered and mutated doctrines of the prevailing organized church.

In a very powerful section, Elder Pearson describe how the young Joseph Smith wanted to get some advice from God, not because he thought God himself would answer, but because Joseph thought of himself as just a boy who was confused and he'd been taught to read the Bible, and in it was a promise that God can clear up confusion. He only went to pray whether he should join the Methodist church with his mother and brothers. Of course, the doctrine that every Christian had been taught at that time was that God was unknowable, without body or parts, and was a spirit that all in one contained the Father and the Son. So, imagine how stunned Joseph was to be greeted by two separate personages, one introducing the other as "My beloved Son." That is why it was such a lovely morning...Finally the world would know the truth.

What a conference this has been. Last night at that session, Elder Pearson talked about Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life and the Iron Rod. I gained thought provoking insights into the symbolism of this vision and how to really ramp up my own spirituality. I came away from it feeling optimism and joy I haven't felt in a long time.

I'd started the day early, too. Our Relief Society president invited us to join together for the 7:30 A.M. temple session and then meet at her home for a breakfast following the temple. This has been probably one of the most uplifting, light-filled, joyous weekends I've spent in my life. I have learned so much and been bathed in the Spirit for hours. Too bad I have to go correct papers now....Oh well, I will correct them with joy and love. What a great Father we have in God.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Traditions

This weekend was sooo relaxed. It was General Conference and so there weren't church meetings held at the building. One could still go there and watch the broadcast via satellite transmission. Or, here in Almost-Mormon-Land, one could watch it on a local television station. Or, like I did, I have Expensive Cable and so I watched it on the BYU channel. (We have all-the-bells & whistles cable as part of the internet package CoolGuy needs for work.) Anyway, being able to watch General Conference on TV is such a luxury for me. This means that I had the opportunity to lay on my couch for eight hours this weekend!

Since I am sporting three-day-old stitches in my left foot, lying down with it propped up with an ice-pack was ideal. So, mostly I did just that. When I felt drowsy, I got up and cleaned the windows in my patio doors. Then, I laid down again. CoolGuy was in and out, so he went to the store for the milk and, seriously, I just stayed home. For two straight days. Except for stake choir practice this evening in preparation for next week.

That is where I realized what different traditions we all have for these bi-annual Church-wide events. The choir director was thanking us all for coming out, especially realizing that it Conference Weekend, and one fellow said, "Yeah, I've been in my PJ's all day!" Another person said that she'd almost not come, just because it was so nice to have a day off from everything.

When we first lived in Maryland, sixteen years ago, the only way for us to see Conference was to drive over to the church building. We were joined by many others. It was rare for most people to have satellite TV at that point. The cable company in Southern Maryland would definitely not have dedicated any space to something as obscure as LDS conference at that point. We'd go over for the morning meeting, then go out for fast food for lunch. Due to the time zone differences, our morning session didn't start until noon. Some people lived 15-20 miles from the church, and so they would pack a lunch for Saturday to feed their brood. The kids would run and play, while the parents had a little nap and we'd all be back for the for the P.M. session.

The afternoon session was from 4:00 -- 6:00. After that, the men and boys would stay at the church, play volleyball for an hour, then eat ice cream sundaes, and clean up in time for the Priesthood session from 8:00-10:00. We'd all get to sleep in the next day, and arrive at noon again, this time toting our contribution to the potluck lunch between the Sunday sessions. It was truly one of our favorite Sundays of the year. Everyone came. Even non-member spouses of faithful Church-goers would come over for the lunch because it was just so relaxed and pleasant.

My daughter and her husband now live in Utah close enough to his brother and sisters and mom to get together for dinner on Conference Sunday. Most Sundays, everyone's meeting schedules make it hard for a big dinner. Plus, if they're like me, after all the work we do at the meetings, we're kind of glad to just go home and have a quiet afternoon or evening. I remember as a little kid, that we'd all sit in the living room and watch it. As a teenager, I don't think I made through a single afternoon session without nodding off.

It's a weekend I eagerly anticipate now as an adult. I enjoy it for the content. What was once an endless weekend of old guys talking when I was a kid, is now a feast for my spirit that ends much too quickly.

This year my take-aways were:
  • be grateful for what you have instead of bemoaning what you don't have
  • never, ever let your faith in God and His Son Jesus waver
  • Priesthood power is personal because you have made baptismal covenants and are entitled to it
  • follow the prophet

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sunset on Ocean Beach, Easter 1980


It had rained all day. That was unfortunate because Easter Sunday is a time for many to spend outside on egg hunts or picnics in the park. We had been to church and now it was late afternoon and the deluge was stopping. The solid gray ceiling was breaking up into big purple clouds. We knew a spectacular sunset awaited anyone who stood along the beach in San Diego that day. We pulled up in the parking lot just as the brilliant orb pierced the remains of the shredded storm clouds. Light poured over the ocean and, as the sun touched the horizon, a single shaft of gold shot from the far edge of the ocean, sliding across the darkening water, through the weathered pilings that held up the pier. The shimmering light traveled across the wet sand until it stopped at our feet. We were stunned into silence at this display of nature's glory. All day we had been enshrouded by dark rain and dim light. But, now, as the last moments of Easter Sunday ebbed away, this glorious revelation of light seemed to express the entire message of the Holy Day: from darkness to light--for eternity.



Photos by CoolGuy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Going Home

I had a great weekend. That might be a weird way to describe a trip that included a funeral, but even that was great. I left Friday morning to fly up to Utah. I had lunch with my son, got to visit a bit with his wife and son and then I drove up to Idaho.

It was a simply gorgeous day. The weather was balmy and pleasant, all along my way were late autumn fields where hay bales were being gathered, or straw being baled. There were hawks flying around and wide open spaces. I got up to Idaho in time to go to the viewing and greet my cousins. Then I went over to my friend's house to stay overnight. I was able to help them out early the next morning with a ride to the airport, so they didn't have to leave their car for four days to rack up parking charges.

The funeral was really lovely. My cousins honored their mother very well. Other friends and church leaders also spoke lovingly of her. The music was completely apt and performed very nicely. The whole event was befitting her long and good life. This song caused me to cry. It reflects her era, her life and the reunion she experienced with her family as the last one to arrive in the Promised Land.

She was buried next to my uncle, near her parents and brothers, on a hillside that overlooks their family homestead. The mountains surrounding this little corner of the valley were shimmering in the afternoon sun with clusters of golden-leafed aspens. Here and there were brilliant red patches that almost looked like the photo of a burning bush. The effect was created because some leaves from the bush had fallen to the ground, so that the lower part of the plant was still covered in the flame-like leaves while the upper part was just dull gray sticks jutting up like smoke billowing. It was surreal effect.

When the entire event was finished, my sisters and I took a small nostalgia tour of our grandparents' old farm, and then we met for a quick dinner. We then drove up to a nearby church where the broadcast of the General Women's meeting was being hosted by the stake which we had grown up attending. The meeting was uplifting and spiritual, but I realized it was almost eclipsed by the opportunity I had to sit surrounded not just by sisters in the Gospel, but actual SISTERS. It was fabulous. We joined the others for cookies and ice cream after the meeting, enjoyed a reunion with some old (in every sense of the word) friends from our childhood ward, and finally ended an excellent day of memories, family, spirituality and joy.


"Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters."

Way off in the distance, you can see some grey-roofed buildings. That is where my mom and her sisters and brothers were born and raised. Now they rest at peace on a beautiful hillside overlooking their childhood home.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Left Foot...Again...Still

I've been swamped this week with college and with school. So that's why I haven't been writing here. Instead, I've (finally) finished a project for the seminar for the Ed Psy master's program. I had to look up a research article with a faculty member as primary or secondary author for each of the seventeen of them, and you can use one article for two of them. Then make an annotated reference for it (using APA style) and compile all of them into a document and send it off to the teacher. Who is also the department chair, and therefore is extremely familiar with everything each of his faculty members has written, so don't try to fake it or just copy the abstract word for word. Of course, I've crammed it into the last three days, even though I've had four weeks to w0rk on this.

But that would be the same four weeks in which we opened the 2010-11 school year. And we in fourth grade did it twice because we hired our new fourth grade teacher this week and that entailed rearranging all of our classes, rewriting the lists, reformatting the grade books, rearranging our rooms and putting new name stickers on their notebooks and folders to reflect their current teacher. Whew. (yes, it was crazy--but not crazier than 37 students per room.)

I also had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday afternoon with the foot doctor. We're both pleased with the big toe and its healing and posture. However, I'd developed a nagging pain in the ball of my foot, just under the next two toes, and the toe next to BigBoy was definitely not looking good. It has curled up and sticks up higher than the others, creating a red mark where it rubs on shoes. The diagnosis for the pain was a neuroma, into which he injected a painful cortisone shot. But that is already feeling much better by tonight. However, the curled up toe is the result of the tendon he'd "released" [severed] growing back together and pulling my toe the wrong way. So, I have another appointment next Thursday morning to go to the office and have the tendon "released" again, and I will have to splint my toe and wear a slipper on it for the next four weeks.

Blah.

Someone today asked about my foot. How was it? She knew I'd been to the doctor this week. I said it wasn't good this week and I had to have some more messing around with it. She expressed her sympathy and I said, "Well, I've learned that the ultimate solution is "be born with different feet." She laughed and I laughed, because, hey---what else are you going to do?