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.


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?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Other Mother

This is an 82 year lady riding a horse in a canyon in Wyoming. We went up a rather steep trail and rode for about a half an hour each way. Don't you hope you will be this spry when you're 82?

I'm posting in honor of this woman, Lila Haderlie Burton, my mother's last remaining sibling, who passed away a couple of days ago at age 84. As I've spoken to my sisters about her, we all said the same thing, "She was like our other mother."

These sisters were less than two years apart in age, and were fast friends all of their lives. In fact, Aunt Lila was the reason my dad and mom met. She'd been the victim of his teasing in a class in high school. One day, he saw Lila sitting in a car along Main Street, and stopped off to bother her some more and noticed the cute girl in the back seat. When he started flirting with her, Lila told him to leave her sister alone. He didn't. They were married four years later after she finished high school and he finished WWII.

I think Lila visited us or we visited them every month of every year. She only lived 90 miles away in Idaho, and it was a convenient place to shop. They liked to visit us because my mom was a great cook and it was a mini-vacation to come "home" to Star Valley where they'd both grown up and my parents still lived. Often, in the summers, when my grandparents were at their home on the Idaho/Wyoming border, instead of Arizona where they wintered, our families would split the difference and meet up down there. We kids would play in the "woods" or the yard and the moms would bring the meal and my dad would bring his fishing pole, and we'd spend a long afternoon before we'd have to go home to milk.

Lila was the kind of aunt who sent a card and a gift to one of my young daughters who'd fallen and broke her arm. She was the aunt you could always stop by and visit if you were passing through town, and she was as happy to see you as your own mother. She was also the kind of aunt, that when you were 9 and staying for a week at her house, she'd yell at you just like she yelled at her own children, if the occasion called for it. You were her kid if you were in her house.

These two sisters had some upsets and a couple of falling-out times, but they always got over it and got back together. They always showed up for the special occasions, they talked on the phone many times a week, they shared the care of their elderly father by moving him into their homes on a monthly rotation with their oldest sister. When that sister died, there was just the two of them. They'd already shared the tragedy of losing their youngest brother in a plane crash at astronaut training school. Their mother went a couple of years after that. Their father's death wasn't a tragedy, just a sorrow at becoming orphans--it doesn't feel okay no matter how old you are. Years later, an estranged brother came home and they all made peace before he passed. It finally got down to just the two of them, and Lila made the two hour trek often to visit her little sister as our mother faded away those last two months. Lila missed her immensely.

They never hesitated to share what they owned. They took care of each other's children in good times and bad. They griped and complained and laughed and conspired and now I know they are embracing one another and rejoicing in the family reunion. Both are again with their beloved, eternal spouses, their bothers and sister, their loving parents and all the assorted aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandchildren that preceded them both. All together, forever more.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Your Birthday!

This is the smile that blessed our family on September 15, 1979. It seems like just a short time ago. CoolGuy and I clearly remember one significant thing about her birth. The first hour of her life, she looked at us each, as we held her, and focused her eyes intently on ours and babbled something extremely earnest. Of course, we didn't know that language, nor did she know ours, so we don't know what she said. But it was clearly very important. The reason this is significant is that new babies don't focus their eyes, nor babble. But she did, right after getting here, to each of us. And then, she didn't do it any more until it was developmentally appropriate. I hope some day to know what the important message was. I think it was something about God, or Heaven. She'd just been there so recently.

Here are some more remembrances of a life lived well, a delightful daughter, a loving sister, a loyal friend, and compassionate nurse.

Coronado Island beach on July 4th.

With Snowball, the bunny, in Idaho.

Eighth grade graduation, E.O. Green, Oxnard CA.

And did I tell you that she is also a talented artist? No, really--she started young with flowers and ladies, but expanded her talent to include pencil drawings, watercolors, ceramics and pies.

She has always loved cats and now she has two of her own who are really quite charming, in a psycho kind of way.

I'm telling you, that smile...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writing Lessons

I implemented a new lesson format for my students last week. We first have a lesson about a specific skill and practice it a bit. Then, we write. The first day, I set the timer for 8 minutes and everyone diligently wrote. We had a few people share, then we evaluated them to see if they had successfully utilized the skill, and several of them did. The next day, the writing time was extended to 16 minutes, and then the following day we had 21 minutes set aside for writing. Finally, on Friday, we practiced how to be effective in a writer's conference with a partner, so several people read and we used our skills. We then had partners working together to implement the conferencing. (We had a four-day week...Labor Day.)

The concept for these first lessons is to choose a small "seed idea" not a large "watermelon" topic. Instead of talking about your whole soccer season, choose a moment from a game or practice in which something happened that you can make a little movie in your mind, and then retell, step-by-step. To generate these seed ideas, the students were to first think of a person, then list under that person's name three incidents they could think of that occurred with him or her. Another day, we wrote the name of a place, and the third day, we wrote about a thing. These are just ways to help them to think of specific incidents to recount, rather than a general topic that is broad and their story may then just degenerate into a list of items concerning it. We're trying to be story tellers--it is a personal narrative unit.

The fun part for me is that I, too, am supposed to write. I circulate around the room at first and check to see that people have been able to think of something. Then, I sit and use my own examples (which are on the board) and, in my writer's notebook, I write while the timer ticks away. If a person "finishes" they are to choose another of their incidents and start a new story. "Done" isn't part of the deal here. One should be always writing--either generating or revising--during our writing time. I'm liking it so far. Here is one of my small ideas:

Place: the beach---

It was like being on a cloud. I was floating on the green cool ocean along the edge of Carpenteria State Beach. It's one of my favorite places in the world. The oak-covered mountains loomed into the sky to the east. The dim outline of Santa Cruz Island was visible through the misty clouds hovering off-shore. I was suspended in between, drifting and bobbing like a piece of human seaweed. I could faintly hear the surf splashing as it landed on the sand. I could hear laughter and shrieking from people using body boards or just frolicking in the the wave break. But all the noise was far away as my body dipped and rose with the moving ocean. As I gazed around, a dark form appeared above me and I was astounded to see a pelican crash, bill-first, straight into the water not 10 feet from me. He was such a perfect arrow shape that his body hardly made a splash. He disappeared entirely into the water and then almost immediately popped back up--swallowing a fish I could see outlined through the skin on his throat. He floated there serenely, looking at me, blinking, not caring that I shared his watery feed ground. I was simply one more small creature in the vast Pacific Ocean.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Not Laboring Day

All week I was home alone. Which is good because I spent too many hours at school and two nights last week, I had to go to classes. But CoolGuy was coming home finally from business tripping and we were anticipating a three day weekend. Except that I worked all day Saturday.

In the morning, while it was still (relatively) cool, I rode my bicycle over to my school (8:30 A.M.) and hung up all 97 papers that my students got finished the first week. They were to write a paragraph to introduce themselves to the rest of us and then draw a picture above it to illustrate. I had conferenced with each one just to check spelling (mostly--a couple needed a serious re-work for coherency). Now they were turned in and I could make a display in the hall. The reason I hung up 97 was because the other 6 students weren't quite finished and are going to bring it back Tuesday from home--completed.

Yes, we have 103 fourth graders. Yes, it is far too many to divide between three teachers. Yes, we have been authorized to hire another fourth grade teacher. YEAH! We just don't know how long that will take.

After that, I came home and started reading the chapter for my college class. I still need to finish and also to write a one-page paper about it (the writing is easy--the reading takes time.) But I have until next Monday night to do it. Then, I left the house at 3:00 to go to the teacher store for a couple of things, then I went by the airport and picked up CoolGuy. We came home and ate dinner and hot-tubbed and went to bed.

On Sunday after church, I read the first book of the writing series I'm using this year. I tried and tried to read it this summer and kept falling asleep. Not a good sign, huh? But, I've enrolled in a teacher development class offered by the district to use this series. Also I meet with another group of teachers at a school a block or two from mine once a week and we discuss what we've done and how to do it better. We are to answer questions and post comments in an on-line forum, too, to discuss this with the larger group. It will force me to use it and do it and I will also have support, so it is a very good thing for me.

Finally, Monday morning, after CoolGuy got back from his early morning run, he and I went off for some recreation on the motorcycle. Our original goal was to drive over to Hoover Dam and gawk at the new highway bypass they've built over the canyon, downstream from the dam. We drove up over the mountain on Lake Mead Boulevard and down and around through the desert until we came circling back up to the highway that leads from Boulder City to the dam/border of Arizona. And discovered that thousands of other people had the same great idea this morning to go to Hoover Dam. We were at least 8 miles from the dam and the highway was a parking lot. Cars backed up, creeping along at 5 miles an hour. The road to the border/dam is only two lanes, and winds down through the canyon. Plus there is a security checkpoint to make sure someone isn't driving a carbomb onto the road that crosses the dam.

Well, on a motorcycle in Nevada, one cannot "split lanes"--a practice one can do in California. I recognize that many car drivers hate it when motorcyclists drive between the lanes of stopped or very slow cars. But it is excruciatingly difficult to balance a motorcycle upright while driving in stop-and-start traffic. So we decided to just go the opposite way and travel into Boulder City and have lunch. We can go to Hoover Dam some other day when far fewer people are also heading that way.

I was struck, though, by one thing I saw in the desert as we traveled on the road through the Lake Mead Recreation Area, an official Bureau of Land Management area. You must stop at a kiosk and pay 5 dollars for the privilege of entering this zone, and you are in a stark, vast desert area, with very little vegetation and jutting slices of rock that thrust upward into mountain sized piles. It is beautiful, yet harsh and unchanged by the passing eras of time. One gets the sense of prehistory out here. An intersection appeared, giving us the choice go left or right, toward different coves and bays of the enormous Lake Mead. At this intersection is a yield sign shaped in a red triangle. And someone has taken the time to stop and with their two inch wide black marker (which strangely they've brought with them to this unique, remote, delicate area) and write stupid graffiti on the yield sign. Sigh. Jerks.

We ate our lunch and headed back to Las Vegas, passing at least one more mile of the long stretch of cars heading out to the dam. When we got back, I went swimming for a half hour or so, laid in the sun and now I'm going to finish my lesson plans for tomorrow. I wish every school week was four days long.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Little Extra Touch

Have you ever eaten Amy's products? I get them quite frequently, and all of them are delicious. One of my favorites is the Indian food. There are several different frozen dinners made with rice and beans and a vegetarian Indian entree. Tonight I had palak paneer. It is creamed spinach with a soft Indian cheese cut into cubes. It really is tasty just microwaved as is. But I like to steam cauliflower and put it on the plate first, then pour over it the spinach and cheese mixture, eating the rice and beans on the side, too. Yummmm ...seriously, if you like cauliflower, this is terrific.

Tonight, I was craving meat, however, so I rummaged around in the freezer and there was a bag of Italian meatballs, with just two left in it. So, I steamed them with the cauliflower, and served two meatballs alongside the palak paneer over the cauliflower. Now you're talking...mmm, mmm, good.

I hope there aren't any food police out there who will come to my house and revoke my purchase rights to Amy's organic, vegetarian tasty meals made with no bioengineered ingredients, and using rBST hormone free milk products, no hidden ingredients, etc. etc.

I like their food. With or without meatballs.