Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of School

When I was a little girl getting ready for the first day of school, it was always so exciting. I am a little bit excited today, too, as usual. But the actual reason for this post is the weather. It feels like the first day of school in Wyoming here today.

It is 65 degrees right Las Vegas. Bizarre. It was windy all weekend and I guess it just blew the hot right out of here. I expect the temperature will creep back up to the "normal" range this week---low 100's. But it is very odd today to wake up and see that thermometer below the 80 mark. In July, it didn't dip below 90, even at night. Bizarre.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Family Style

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Here's just one reason why I like his music.

I'd heard his music, and I liked it, but I didn't really know much about him. CoolGuy liked the blues and played them a lot in the rotation at the house. Vaughan was one of those Texas guys. We'd been to see another Texas guy in concert that I'd vaguely heard of: Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet (a relic from junior high top forty). He was now in a group called The Texas Tornados that we listened to one night at one of the most awesome concerts I'd ever been to.

So Vaughan, being another of those Texas guys, was someone I took to right away because he had the great sound. He could do things to a Fender Stratocaster that was really attention getting. One reason he was such a big deal to me is the inspiration he had on Number One Son. Son likes to play blues guitar too, and he listened to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan. NOS does a pretty good job with Vaughan songs, too.

Vaughan had a rough and tumble life, and ended up in rehab (which is better than the morgue with so many of his fellow musicians.) He'd gotten his life and career back and he and older brother Jimmie finally made an album together. Jimmie's guys, The Fabulous Thunderbirds are completely outrageous too. I don't know what Mother and Father Vaughan fed the boys, but it worked!

Anyway, the album "Family Style" was released under the name of the The Vaughan Brothers in September 1990. It was right after Stevie Ray was killed in helicopter wreck. He was leaving a summer concert. It was a huge loss for music because he really was just fantastic at his craft.

CoolGuy was in Saudi Arabia working with the Marines at that point. I bought the album and sent him a copy. It remains one of my favorites today because of one silly song: The Telephone Song. This trip to the Big Sandbox came up suddenly and CoolGuy was gone with only a few days notice. It was disorienting and lonely for me, and although he was very busy, he did find time to miss me, too. So, when I first heard this song, I wrote the words out for him and mailed him the tape. It was "our song" for the duration:

Woke up this morning, I was all alone,
Saw your picture by the telephone.
I was missing you, oh, so bad.
Wish I had you here to hold,
all I've got is this touch-tone phone.
So I guess I'll give you a call,
Operator help me please
get thru to my baby way overseas.
Time's a wastin' oh so fast
Hello, baby tell me is that you?
I don't know what we're gonna do,
But for now I'm glad I got you on the line.
Well, it feels so fine knowing you're all right
But you're miles away, lord it's not the same.
Well, I woke up this morning
I was all alone, saw your picture by the telephone
I've been missing you baby, oh, so bad.
I love you baby with all my might.
Come on home and squeeze me tight.
Long distance lovin's gonna drive me out of my mind.

It's not great art, but it hit the spot, and was amazingly dead-on for our particular circumstances right then. So, whenever I hear Stevie Ray Vaughan playing, I'm transported back in time and feel again the pangs of loneliness and appreciate him all over again for putting my angst to music. It's too bad he left the earth so abruptly with the world hungry for more. We all miss him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ah, Now I Get It

Last night was the first class for the fall semester in my ongoing pursuit of a master's degree. I'm enrolled in two classes--one lasts the full term and the other is only five weeks. The shorter one is a seminar about being a graduate student. It is labeled "701" which should have been a hint to me when I was first taking classes...I've taken 711, 721, 702, & 712 so far. The first class I enrolled in was 788 which turned out to be the first class for PhD in Ed.Psy. that my friend urged me to take with her. It was really good--really hard, but good. And I learned a lot of things that have been really helpful in my subsequent classes. But, sheesh, I felt like a Kindergarten kid in there when everyone else revealed their multiple master's degrees. I was the only classroom teacher in a room full of women who were all in supervisory positions in the district.

But, last night's first class of 701 was the "Ah ha!" moment of my graduate school experience. The purpose of the class is very specific. One is to introduce us to the Educational Psychology department of the university and the faculty (next week is an actual gathering, catered, with the 17 members of the department). These are the people from whom we choose our committee to guide us through to completion of our project/thesis. Also the seminar teaches a quick course in APA style writing (how to correctly cite references and compose for research reports). We also have to pass an on-line program to certify to work with human subjects in a research setting--yes, an actual certificate. Then, we must create a CV for ourselves (curriculum vitae = professional academic resume) which the professor will review and return for corrections until it is complete and stylistically correct. In order to practice the writing skills and to acquaint ourselves with the faculty and their areas of expertise, we must find, read and summarize a research article for which each of them has been the primary or secondary author, and create a paper with these summaries.


All of my instructors in those other classes have assumed that I took this 5-week seminar already, and knew about various concepts that they referenced periodically. Wouldn't that have been nice for me if I'd have carefully enrolled in the first class, first?

But, I'm in it now and it is a relief to find it. I've been pretty confused up till now about this whole experience. One thing he stated last night is practically a quote I've said to CoolGuy. "To graduate with the bachelor's degree you get the list, take the classes, check off the boxes and, voila, we hand you a diploma." Yes, that is what I liked about it: there's the goal, I scurried about and achieved it.

But, the professor (he's actually the department chair) went on to say: "The difference at this level of the university is this: a graduate degree requires that you choose the focus for your mastery, and we'll guide and mentor you through the process." all makes sense now. See what doing things in their proper sequence can do for you? Confusion is cleared up, I have the view from beginning to end--at last. Just another episode in my life of not doing first-things-first. Doh.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Example

There is a saying about everyone being useful, even if only as a bad example. I'm the dental bad example. I visited an endodontist and my regular dentist this week and it was bad news all around.

First, let me explain that, as a child, I spent hours and hours reclined in a dentist's chair having fillings put into my teeth because of rampant decay. Then, as a young adult, one of my first jobs was chairside assistant to a children's dentist. I learned on the job, and the most important thing I learned was that tooth decay is preventable. It may sound bizarre that I only learned that as an adult. I did brush when I was a child, but I also ate lots of sweets and --- it turns out -- our family has genetically weak teeth. All of my brothers and sisters also have many restorations.

Luckily, I did two things to avoid passing this on: 1) learned how to care for teeth correctly (fluoride treatments, flossing and brushing, limit sweets) and, 2) married someone who brought good teeth to the gene pool. So, due to a minor bit of fanaticism (can you have minor fanaticism?) on my part with the teeth hygiene and sweets-limiting & the lovely dental inheritance from their father, our children have mostly excellent teeth with very little need for restorative dental work.

And this is good for many reasons --finances, appearance, personal comfort. But the principle reason this is good is that once you start making holes in the enamel it is all downhill from there. A cavity will be filled and eventually it'll deteriorate into needing a root canal and a crown. Then sometimes those fail too, and you'll need to have a rotted root structure extracted and a bridge built. Which puts undo pressure on the adjoining teeth after so many years, which can crack their delicate structures and lead to more avenues for bacteria to invade the root systems and make little pockets of infection around the bottoms of those roots. Then you must remove the bridge and allow the cracked tooth to try and heal while you take antibiotics. Or if you can retreat the root canal, you may resolve the infection, or perhaps you just have to extract the tooth after all because it is too difficult and iffy to retreat such an old root canal with scar tissue like that.

Now all of this takes decades to occur. The first little cavity starting in the permanent teeth when you're about 14 and too lazy to brush every night, and chewed sugary bubble gum a lot or ate snacks like bread and butter with sugar sprinkled all over it. Then it culminates one week when you are 57 sitting in the dentist's chair while he and his assitant nearly dislocate your jaw while trying to dismantle and remove the "permanant" bridge so that the supporting teeth can get exotic treaments. And you sign the consent/estimate for dental work to be done over the next six-eight months that cost more than any of your last three cars.

But, having the two missing (one gone, one soon to be gone) teeth replaced with implants beats the heck out of just being a toothless old lady, or putting up with dreadful dentures. Technological advances in the dental world are a wonderful part of modern life.

About that example: brush, floss, avoid a constant diet of sweets. You don't want to get the holes started in your teeth. My dentist explained today, "The trouble with restorations is that, while it solves one problem, it starts another. Every hole in your tooth enamel, even the carefully drilled and filled ones, create a pathway for bacteria and it is all downhill from here." Even if it takes decades, it will occur.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Home Again...From My Once and Future Home

Camping at the Beach 2010 is finished. There was a unanimous vote to come back here next summer. It was a little bit cooler this year than we've experienced living in SoCal, apparently caused by La Nina after a winter time El conditions having to do with the ocean. So, at night we got a little chilly. But that's what the campfire is for. Actually, the last night, we ate inside the motorhome because it was extra windy and darn cold.

But, aside from that, we had a really nice time. There were birds--scrub jays, crows, and the wild parrots. And of course, seagulls at the beach. There was a very busy gopher who was vigorously shoveling dirt up out of his hole to the delight of our four-year old grandson. And then, the gopher himself peaked up to look around and was as startled as Little Dude when their eyes met. Mr. Gopher dug another hole during our breakfast the next morning, too. He was worth the whole trip!

Some people went to the SeaBee Musuem. Some people went to the Santa Barbara Mission. Some went on down the highway to Leo Carrillo beach to the tidepools. Some hiked up a trail that ended with a magnificent view of the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway. Everyone of us just had a very pleasant time hanging out, reading, eating dinner, making the ritual S'Mores around the campfire each night for dessert. (Auntie Skye has added roasting Starburst candies...weirdly yummy.) We played Scrabble at the motorhome table after all the little people were tucked in, drinking Mexican hot chocolate.

CoolGuy ended up making a couple of trips to LAX that were bogus because of bad intel...blame me, mostly, for either being ill-informed or deeply confused. Oh well, we survived, although I got really mad at myself for being such a dope that I didn't double-check.

The ocean was stunning. I've never seen a more gorgeous shade of blue-green than it was the entire time we were there. And every day, we saw groups of dolphins. There was also a seal who'd swim in the surf so close to the shore that you could see him blink. And pelicans, squadrons of pelicans---flying in formation just off the surface of the water. Occasionally, one would swoop up high and dive straight down into the water at top speed only to pop back up again gulping down his fish.

The beach is the only place I don't take a book. I just like to look at the ocean. One of these years, I'll be viewing it daily because I'll be riding my bike there every morning. One of these years...

Lunch in Santa Barbara:

Grandpa CoolGuy helping with the dig to China.

Poor little baby was stressed out by all the new people and endless outdoor time, but she smiled a couple of times. We think her teeth were growing in, too.

Tide pools...the tide was coming back in, but we saw some nifty things, anyway.

The view from the top of the trail. Our campground was around the bend to the left in this photo. The point at the top right is seen in most car commercials if there is a view of the car driving along the ocean.

The campsite fire-ring in the center; the eating area under the shade tent to the left.

I tried to snap one last picture as we drove off this morning, but it is hard to see. Plus, in a photo, you can't inhale the salty scent and you can't hear the waves crashing on the rocks, nor feel the steady breeze. But it's all there in my head...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


That is how many degrees the thermometer in CoolGuy's truck has dropped since yesterday. We arrived at the beach today and every time I come back here, I think, "Now, why don't I still live here?" Oh, that's right, the job moved somewhere else, and we liked eating every day so we went with it.

But here we are visiting for 6 days and it is lovely. Today, we set up the whole camp and this year I added a shade canopy to my camping supplies for the dining table. We have the tee-pee from last year and each of our children brought a tent, so we have a very cozy set-up.
We went over to the beach today and dug big holes in the sand and walked a little in the surf. But the ocean at this beach is freezing cold and the break is fierce because it is steep, so we will drive up the coast to a more shallow, gentle beach that we can play with the boogie boards and swim.
Here are some photos of fun on the beach:

Sunday, August 08, 2010


On Tuesday morning we're headed for the ocean. Last year we rented a campground at Sycamore Canyon, in Ventura County, near where we lived for six years. Camping in SoCal is good because they have actual bathrooms, real toilets, sinks, and --for fifty cents---hot showers. Plus, you're right across the street from the beach. The campsites are nestled in among the big oak trees, and have the lovely, pleasant, (not scorching hot) weather of the ocean. At night, you can hear the waves crashing and see all the stars.

We rented a motorhome so we'd have a kitchen and CoolGuy and I could sleep in a bed...But we also had a campfire every night, and a little kid teepee for playing in. This year I bought a shade canopy to go over the table so that we won't be cooked while eating lunch. We go over to the beach in the afternoons and make elaborate sand castles and play in the water.

We had such a good time last year, that we reserved another camp for this year. All the kids are able to come this time, and we're going to have a very nice time. The other good thing about beach camping is that it is relatively stress free. We don't schedule any outings, or visits or anything. If someone has a good idea, then we can go and do it, and those who feel like a nap instead, just have a nap. The only thing I plan is meals, so that we can eat without stress, too.
I probably won't be blogging because instead I'll be body-surfing. So, hasta la vista.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Temple Tourism

Today I drove 120 miles up the freeway to St. George, Utah, to be a tourist. I don't believe I've ever stopped in St. George longer than it took to put gas in my car and/or grab something to eat. Once, a couple of years ago, I also went to Dillard's there and bought a pair of shoes. It was just a longer than usual pit stop.

But today, my destination was St. George. It was novel to go there and have it be the end of the trip. When we lived in SoCal, St. George meant The End of The Desert, and that was a good thing. It meant that we were no longer traveling through a vast wasteland, and that, if our car broke down, there would be someone living within walking distance and we wouldn't die. But seriously, it was always a relief to get to Utah because each mile from then on (on the trip north to Wyoming) was going to be cooler, rather than hotter, than the previous mile.

So, I pulled into St. George today and got off the freeway and wandered around in an older residential area until I got to the temple. It was built in the 1870's, when the people were hardly established there, and still lived arduous lives in a harsh climate. It is a beautiful relic that is still extremely useful. I was struck by how small it is, particularly compared to modern temples like L.A and Washington D.C. The rooms are intimate, but the ceilings high, so you still feel the grandness of the edifice. It has pioneer period furnishings, and so you have the sense of being in another era, in a grand parlor and you almost expect ladies to have their hair swept up in buns with their long, silk skirts sweeping the floor in a hushed swish. It was nice.

After a couple of hours in the temple, I went to my other destination: Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm. There are signs along I-15 beckoning the traveler to stop. It is a small museum/learning center that has been built on the site of an amazing find. A man who owned this property for his whole adult life, began to level off a hill in 2000. About 20 feet of dirt was removed, and he got down to a layer of rock. Using the digger bucket, he started to pull up the rock. One big slab dropped out of the bucket and turned over so he could see the underside. There was a large, 3-D mold of a three toed foot, that looked for all the world like a dinosaur footprint. Except that it was a cast, not a print.

Well, I'd read all of this in the materials, and watched the informational film, and wandered around looking at all the specimens, and then I went back to the front desk to ask some questions. I waited patiently for the lady to finish talking with an elderly man, and then she turned to me. I said I had a few questions about the large area of rock and I pointed behind me. She directed my attention to the elderly gentleman, and said, "He can tell you all about it." It was the Dr. Johnson, whose property this was, and who had been digging in 2000 in an attempt to level the piece of ground. (!!!) So we stepped over to the side of the railing and he told me about what he'd been doing and why and where back then.

He'd called the Smithsonian Institute in DC when he first found the slab, and they directed him to a palentologist in Salt Lake City. This scientist couldn't understand what he was describing and, frankly, didn't think it could be what the doctor thought it was. Finally, after about three months, the man was in the area and he came by to look up the doctor and see what he'd found.

"And did he blow a gasket when he saw what you had?" I asked. Well, yes. The doctor's daughter-in-law wrote an article about it, and quoted the scientist, and gave the article to AP. The family was soon inundated by gawkers from all over the world. They had to build a fence and hire security to keep people from trampling the site and stealing rocks with tracks. In 2004, the center was built with generous grants and gifts from local people and the city, and now you can go there to study, or have a field trip, or just marvel at it, like I did.

The doctor was at the site this afternoon because he was with a group of adult Down's Syndrome people, one of whom was his own son. There were about a dozen people waiting in a state of chattering excitement near the door, so I thanked him for his time, and told him I was a teacher with my enthusiasm for dinosaurs still high. He loved telling me his story and I loved listening to it.

What an astonishing thing to discover when you're just out digging around on your farm, trying level a piece of ground! It had been there for thousands of years, unknown. What great timing I had today, asking a question of the desk lady right at the moment the man who would know all the answers was available to talk to me. Serendipity strikes again. It must be a magic place on earth.