Sunday, February 27, 2011

Timely Advice

Today we woke up to snow. Well, snow on the mountain, anyway. But, instead of the snow being all the way across the valley, shining from the nearly 8000 foot height of the western perimeter of Sin City, it was dusted half-way down the 4000 foot rocky promontory that juts up behind our neighborhood. Whoo-hooo! There had been heavy rain down here in the valley, and it was chilly. Last night, as we went out to the hot tub, it was real darn cold. But snow! And it was beautiful, too, with the bright blue sky, and sparkling clear air.

Our church is located at the top of hill and it has a magnificent view of the entire valley from the parking lot and steps. The east side of Las Vegas is on the edge of the bowl that makes the valley, and while it is not the "cool" part of town, it does have the very best scenery. We can see all the way to the south where the highway cuts through the canyon on the way down to Hoover Dam. We can see the curve of the horizon to the north where the mountains open up to the Great Basin and the highway heads into the vast open spaces where the government hides Area 51. We have an unrestricted view of the stunning Red Rocks Canyon, framed by Mt. Potosi on the south and Mt. Charleston to the north. For a"barren desert," Las Vegas is blessed with remarkable natural wonders.

Now, about that advice mentioned in the title...I arrived at church to participate in a regional conference. Every stake in the entire state of Nevada, and a couple of areas in California and Arizona were all a part of a closed-circuit broadcast from Salt Lake City. At first, I was somewhat un-enthused. I actually enjoy stake conferences. I like to hear from people in my area and get their point of view and their testimonies. I wasn't sure about going to a presentation from SLC. We get to do that twice a year, and I like it. But, stake conference is sort of special. However, it was superb. The speakers were general authorities with a personal connection to Nevada, and they explained their associations. The stories that several of them used to illustrate their point were about people in various parts of our state. The life problems they each addressed, while not exclusive to Nevada, are particularly acute here right now. It was timely, personal and very spiritually nourishing. Silly me for being a crank. At least I didn't go around whining about it before-hand. Only you and I know about my reservations.

The advice, the advice...I realize that there are only a few things that God actually requires from us: obedience, acknowledgement, service. And that is what they discussed today. But, again, the way in which they addressed these timeless themes went straight to my soul:
  • patience in affliction
  • recognition of God's hand in all things
  • the scriptures are our modern-day Liahona: when Lehi's family was rebellious, whiny and lacking in faith, the Liahona didn't work. If we are rebellious, whiny and don't consult the scriptures and God in prayer, we won't get personal revelation to guide and comfort us, either.
  • our difficulties can either strengthen our faith or drive us away from God, depending on who we decide to follow: man or God
  • God and Jesus Christ know us personally and care deeply: are we not more valable than many sparrows?
  • patience means being willing to submit to the Lord's will and to recognize what we cannot change
  • walk the walk, don't just talk the talk, of a faithful follower of Christ

So, after the meeting, I felt buoyed up and ready to face the future. I know my concerns aren't insurmountable. Some of them are a great burden to me, but I'm not carrying the burden alone. I know what to do now. I mean, I've always known, but I feel reinforced and refreshed and bright and clear as all that snow glittering on the mountains that surround me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring is Peeking Around the Corner

Today, I realized that tiny little leaves were sprouting on the trees in our parking lot!

Today, as I drove around town, I saw trees that were bursting with pink blossoms.

Today, I actually had to turn on my air conditioner while driving on the freeway, because it was too warm inside my car and I couldn't roll down the window going that fast.

Springtime in Sin City!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

They Say It's Your Birthday!

It's my birthday, I've been properly feted with the Beatle's song---a family tradition. Now I'll go to school and hear the birthday song performed as a dirge by my class (they always sing it so s-l-o-w-l-y...not sure why) and then I'm passing out Jolly ranchers instead of cupcakes because I have 107 students. They'll want to know how old I am, and I'll make them do the math. Sometimes a person who isn't quite adept at borrowing across zero will announce in loud awe, "She's 158 years old!" No, it just feels that way sometimes.

I decided to borrow from this blog to reflect on the past decade. In February 2001, we were still just a family of seven. Three children had left home, two of them had served missions---our daughter arrived back from Spain just that month. We still had two boys living at home and going to high school. I taught fourth grade, CoolGuy tested new stuff on remote control spy airplanes. By the end of 2001, we'd had two weddings, our own temple sealing and the family sealing. Oh, and a scary new war for me to worry that someone might decide would be a necessary place to send CoolGuy.

The decade really whizzed by: no more high school students; no more marching band; no more Boy Scouts; no more parent conferences; no more early-morning seminary; the final missionary out and back; the first Peace Corps volunteer; college graduations; my very own passport stamps! In Arabic! CoolGuy traveling the world to places where people blow stuff up, hoping you go up with it.

Funerals... and sister, my mother, my aunt, my uncle, married children's new relatives, my brother-in-law. Too many of those funerals were held decades sooner than we'd anticipated.

Babies!! Four of our very own grandchildren came to dote on and love and spoil and fret over.

Kids moving out, then back in briefly while they transitioned off to, and back from, selfless adventures in serving others. Little did they know (or maybe they did) that I would have loved to have any of them stay longer. But they were full-fledged adults and, having done it myself, it's too hard to go back with your parents for very long once you've flown the nest.

I moved across the country to get back home in the West--and be closer to family members--especially the grandchildren. It was the first time we moved for my job. It isn't any easier that way. I started a graduate degree...twice. I hope to finish it before another decade has passed!

We started new family traditions: reunions, camping at the beach, spending Christmas at their houses, professional family photo shoots, Facebook birthdays, blogs and learning new languages.

I won money playing games on TV; I've been published in two magazines; I was interviewed on radio and television news. I've had six "minor" surgeries...believe me...that's a misnomer. I've still got long hair! It's mostly silver instead of gold. I've lost some more teeth. I'm still up for adventure, and someday I'll get to Israel with CoolGuy.

In the meantime, I'd just like to still be here to chronicle the decade when I have a birthday in 2021.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It Always Somtin' Lucy

Thurday, we had ward temple night. I was available so I left school as soon as the tutoring students finished and headed home to change. I had a bowl of cereal for dinner (CoolGuy was back east) and drove the four or five blocks up there.

I was fishing in my wallet for the card that entitles me to attend the temple, and as I got it out to show the gentlemen at the front desk, I realized a dreadful thing. I'd been too neat, and as a result, the valid version of this document was not in the wallet. The one I'd handed over was expired last October. He pointed that out as I told him, "Oh, no that is the expired one." (We could have have crossed pinkies.) Oops. One alternative was to call up someone to the front desk who would then phone a strategic person from my ward who could give him information that would admit me, but I said, "No, that won't work, those people are all inside here already." So I said I'd go home and look on my desk, since I live nearby.

However, I was pretty sure I'd shredded it along with expired Auto Club card, empty gift cards and some other debris I'd cleaned out of purse last week. I'd found both versions of this card in my purse and looked at the names, seeing my bishop's signature on one (and stupidly not verifying the dates) I tossed the other one. But...since the last time I'd sat for this interview, the man who'd signed it as a counselor to the stake president had become my bishop, so his signature was on both of the papers. DOH. And, no, I couldn't find that little card anywhere. So, I stayed home and read a chapter for my college class and went to bed early.

Friday morning, I called the bishop and explained the faux pas and asked what I could do for Saturday morning: our women's group was meeting at the temple early. He went way out of his way to arrange for another gentleman to meet us at the church right after work on Friday and and get me new card issued, signed and logged into the computer system. It was very thoughtful.

Now, Saturday morning, I woke up with horrible intestinal malaise and cramping and pain. I didn't dare go twenty feet from my bathroom door. By noon, when CoolGuy's plane was due, I felt secure enough to go to the airport and pick him up, but came straight home for a nap. Now, I have a fever. Blah.

But I also have a valid temple recommend and that is a relief, because I would have been very dismayed to have experienced that Thursday night moment in Salt Lake City attempting to attend my nephew's wedding next month.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Daddy

It seemed weird to write "Daddy" when referencing my dad, but that is what I always called him, even when I was an adult. So, even though it looks funny, it really is my reference point. Today is his birthday. He would have been 88 years old. I know I've talked about Birthday Week before: we had three within six days. And my mother would always squeeze in a cherry pie to honor George Washington between the birthday cakes. She loved to bake. We loved to eat. A match made in heaven. The match is actually in Heaven now, for almost five whole years.

In an essay called "Eleven" Sandra Cisneros wrote: "What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one....Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one." This is true in my own life. It is probably a truth for us all. I realize that when my parents married, they weren't just the adults that appear in the photo, but they were also the children who had grown up to become that young couple.

They both grew up during the Great Depression. But my mother's family was relatively secure on their small dairy farm, with her father an accomplished carpenter. She was the little sister in a loving family, living in a close community, enveloped by an enormous network of relatives. It was the very picture of security. My dad's family was fractured by his mother's death when he was just six years old. His father was involved in a questionable enterprise (he helped his brother bootleg liquor) and there was no large, loving family especially because his own grandmother didn't acknowledge their relationship. Then his father died two years later, followed the next day by the death of his father who'd been living in his son's home to help with the three little children. Orphaned at age eight, left destitute, taken in by relatives---he grew up quickly, always a little worried that he might not be allowed to stay there either. Despite growing up just 25 miles apart, and attending the same high school, their childhood worlds were completely different.

Yet, they joined up as a team, and worked hard to have a stable family life for us. I realize that my mother's expectation was that her childhood was "normal" and that was how a family should be. Lucky us! My dad thrived in her orbit. She told me once that he was really "hard" when they were first married, and that she'd had to soften him up. Meaning---help him to relax and realize that he was now part of a new loving family and no one would push him away. He didn't have to "deserve" it or be "useful" in order to compensate for his keep. She simply loved him as her mother had loved her father, and she passed that on. Grandma had made a pleasant home in which she provided comfort and love to her family, and my mom did the same from that example. Daddy, in response, did all that he could to provide a living and life for our family. His devotion to our mother was the soil in which the whole enterprise flourished.

On this anniversary of his birthday, I want to acknowledge what a magnificent gift their legacy has been to me as their child. I was bequeathed optimism, thoughtfulness, the desire to share my bounty with my fellow man, and a faith in God as our loving Father. I'm rich beyond belief as a result. It is my life goal to pass on this heritage to my own husband and children.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Helicopter Copping

For the last 10 minutes a police helicopter has been circling my house. Yes, shining its light all over my back and front yards! It is probably looking onto the cul-de-sac behind our street, I realize, but it is starting to unnerve me to have its continued presence thwack-thwack-thwacking overhead. So, I went outside to look around. There are cop cars blocking off the streets at both ends of my block, and all the other entrances and exits, too. Hmmmm...doesn't look good.

I went back inside and checked all my locks and set my alarm so if a window or door is opened a loud siren will go off. I hope the helicopter leaves soon. I realize now that I heard sirens about 20 minutes ago, then squealing tires out in the street right in front of my house, and saw flashing lights through the slits of my closed blinds while I sit here procrastinating my school work.

I don't like having a helicopter circling my house. Hurry and catch your prey and beat it. Hurry.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fun With Websites

Here are CoolGuy and I as cartoons:I think his looks quite realistic.
Mine is a version of me about 15 years ago.
What do you think?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It Works

Regular exercise, I mean--it works. Not that I've been exercising especially regularly. However, each of the last four Saturdays, I have ridden my bicycle for at least 30 minutes. Last Sunday, I rode up (and I do mean up) to choir practice, too. The good thing about that is the return trip which involves: sit on bicycle, point it downhill, coast all the way to our house.

Today, I rode over to my school at 8:00 A.M. because we were having CRT Camp. (I'll explain later...) Then, I just returned at noon and I was quite pleased to realize that I pedaled the entire way back, shifting to a lower gear for the rises, but I did not need to stop and rest at all. I kept moving forward the whole time. This is a first. It is about 1.6 miles to my school. The wind was in my face and it is a slight incline for most of the return trip. And I did it without stopping to rest! Yea! Now, I just need to work it out so I ride two more days a week, not necessarily to school, but at least around the blocks near my house. It's a goal that this summer at the beach, I not look like I did last summer in my suit---eeewwww is all I'll say about that.

CRT Camp: wherein we teachers plan a test-skills-centered Saturday mini-session for our grade level. Fourth graders were invited to come today at 9:00 -- 11:00. We had about 45 students come (out of 104--pretty good), of course few of the ones who really need it most were there. But several were, so that will help. We held short sessions---25 minutes each---and rotated. We each took different strategies and practiced them. My emphasis was the written answers in math: use a diagram, chart, graph or pictures to show how you solved it. Write your equation, use arrows and words to show your steps. Voila: you will have explained it to the reader. None of these skills is new---we're just reiterating because in two weeks we're up to our necks in testing.

CRT Camp goes by so quickly that the students were amazed that it was over already. The only little hiccup was actually vomit. One poor little girl lost her breakfast between the last two sessions. We only had 15 minutes left by the time we got her settled and the barf covered up, so she just sat at a table with her head down until the parents came. She was embarrassed and felt awful, too, so it wasn't such a good time for her. But the rest of us? We'll be back on the 26th for session two!

PS: Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln--1809-1865. Go learn about him on this link.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Teeth Tales

One thing about getting older is that my teeth have darkened. Although, it could also be the coca-cola I often drink for breakfast. But for years, I didn't drink any soda, and my teeth still yellowed. At any rate, I've tried an assortment of whiteners over the years. The icky trays, and the little strips that you wear around for a few minutes, trying not to swallow. The trouble is, these products usually leave my teeth too sensitive. So, I've settled for my twice yearly dental hygenist visit to enjoy lighter, brighter teeth for the few weeks after a cleaning.

Then, I read about a new toothbrush. It was advertised to have microscopic gritty bits on the bristles that would scrub off the stains. So I went looking for it. However, that brand (which I cannot remember the name of now...) had an empty spot on the shelf at the drugstore. Apparently other people had read the same ad. However, I did find my favorite brand of toothbrush, OralB, also featured a disposable battery-operated "whitening" toothbrush. It needed to be used in conjunction with a whitening toothpaste, so I chose Crest 3D Whitener.

It has been exactly one month, and I can see a significant difference in the color of my teeth. Yea! They are much whiter and, as a result, I think my smile is much more appealing. So, if you're unhappy with the stained appearance of your teeth, you might try one of those new whitening toothbrushes and see if you get a shinier smile, too.

Also, I know---I should give up the soda at breakfast. It's bad for my teeth, my waistline and my arteries. I'm working on it. At least I only consume one can each day. Getting enough sleep would be an excellent step in the right direction, so I'll sign off now.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Too Much

Today, I opened an e-mail that was curt and very pointed. The writer had no other choice, actually. I have failed to fullfill my obligation to her. I did sign up to write lessons to develop a curriculum for tobacco prevention in elementary school. I did have a deadline. I did fail to meet it. I did fail to notify her in a timely way if and when I'd be meeting it.

I have no excuse, either. I just found myself up to my eyeballs in everything else, and I didn't spend time to take care of that obligation. I have a rough draft. I spent an hour and a half after school today working on the revisions suggested to me from our last meeting. But, it isn't done and everytime I think about finishing it, my brain shuts down.

I don't remember ever having this sort of thing happen to me before. I don't know what makes this particular assignment so dreadful to me. I'm being paid, it isn't volunteer. I will go and cook dinner and then I will drag myself back to the computer and type more. I promised it would be completed by Wednesday, so Wednesday it will be.

Next year---I will not obligate myself for so many projects. Even if they are paid. Apparently, I have a maximum amount my brain can handle, and I seem to have found that limit. Blah.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Ice Castle in the Desert

It was very cold here the last few days. Brrr....

I know, I know---it was a lot colder in other places. Yeah, yeah. I've lived in some of them. That's why I live here now. It's not supposed to have temperatures cold enough to do this when the lawn sprinkler system comes on at midnight.

See that swimming pool in the background there? It's just wrong to have icicles in the same yard as a swimming pool.

Add Image It could be worse. I could have been driving along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago (look at # 22). Or milking cows in Star Valley, Wyoming. I'm looking forward to the weekend. We're supposed to get back to our regular 65 degrees.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Moving On

You know, we had one of my most squirrely boys move to another school this week, and (I really feel badly acknowledging this) I'm so relieved.

#1 He won't be counted in our test scores.
#2 He was such an exhausting child to have in class.

But, at least I also have regrets.

#1 We'd figured out a plan to help him improve, we were implementing it and he was making gains. I don't know if he'll get it at his next school.
#2 He and I had developed a rapport, and I hope his new teacher will try to do that, too.

I'm glad he got to go on the field trip with us. He really enjoyed learning from the real world like that. Plus, his mom told me at parent conferences that she doesn't take him places because he's too much trouble and she was very clear that she doesn't like him much. Poor kid. New house, new school, same mother.