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.