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


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 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


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