Saturday, May 28, 2011

Power Toes

At physical therapy there are several different difficult things I am doing to regain strength in my re-built foot. I wear a 3lb. weight while I march in place, or balance on one foot, or do leg lifts. These all leave me quivering with fatigue. (3lbs.!!--what a baby) But the one special torture is the marble pick up. 

The aide dumps out a container of about 3 dozen glass shapes onto a towel. They are the approximate size and shape of curved ice cubes (like from a freezer dispenser).  My job is to pick them up with my toes, one by one, and place them back into the container. Yea, right. These are toes that no longer have a tendon going directly to them. That tendon was rerouted to the side of my foot to compensate for the shredded one that was removed. The doctor told me that I wouldn't be able to curl my toes and pick things up in them like regular feet can do. They'll curl a little, but they won't be like before.

And, of course, these toes have been encased in an ortho-boot for almost five months now, too. So, each day, I'd sit there and clench my hands on the seat while sending messages from my brain to my feet, "Pick up the marbles, Pick up the marbles---scrunch yourselves around the glass thingies."  The most I ever got was 8.

Yesterday---32!!!  I've been really giving my toes the business all this week. I've scrunched them hundreds of times a day inside the boot. I've carefully modified my walking to be sure I forced my foot to push off on my toes and not just stump around on the heel. At night, I did toe crunches by squishing a towel under my foot over and over while I watched "Jeopardy!" and while I sat at the computer. It paid off!  Toes can learn new stuff, even if their big tendon has moved away.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First Swim of the Season

I finally got home from work tonight about 7:30. I'd actually been home at 4:10 just long enough to change into something suitable to wear to physical therapy, and I so wished I'd had the time to go jump in the pool then. My clothes were stuck to my skin and I was so uncomfortable. Yes, theoretically, I have an air-conditioned classroom, but---don't get me started...

Anyway, it is finally warming up here. It's weird how this spring has been rather cool, even here in the desert. I was reading my blog last night from several years past in the May entries, and in each of them, early in the month, I mention how swimming season is on, and how much I love coming home from a sweaty day at school and jumping in to relax.  But the thermometer has only gotten up to 90 degrees or more a couple of days so far this year. Today--94.

Anyway, after PT, I had to jet back over to school to write lesson plans for tomorrow morning so I can be in a meeting till noon. It's a good meeting, and not at all a waste of time. But, finally, I could go home and I went straight in to change clothes and go to the pool. It isn't exactly warm yet--maybe 72, but that's warmer than the ocean. And if you just plunge right in, it feels FABULOUS.

I swam back and forth and back and forth and then I leaned on a step and just did kicks. My re-built foot was squeaking "Ooooh---watch it!" but not too loudly. And I was cleared by my doctor to swim as long as I didn't use swim-fins, so I just kept on kicking. It will really help get the strength back in my shriveled calf muscle to kick it across the pool for 20-30 minutes every night. YEA! for swimming! Yea for any activity for which I can ditch the ortho-boot!  Yea for summer!

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's May 23rd... you know that we're going to talk about Trish!  Happy Birthday to her--this is 57 years since she was born. I decided to just post some photos I have of her as we were growing up. You'll notice that I am also in nearly every one of the pictures, because, hey, we were together nearly all of the time.

Trish is in the red dress and is almost four years old.
She called this photo the Hillbilly Shot, but you'll notice that everyone has combed hair.

Aren't we just adorable? Her gorgeous lips and white blonde hair were there from the beginning.

It must be Easter Sunday. That's newborn baby Scott on the left.

Here we are in the basement of the Smoot church at a Daddy-Daughter Date.  We're in front of our tall Dad just a little left of center.

You can see I grew tall sooner than she did. But she caught up finally. I love these groovy dresses. (for real!)

Okay, that's her on the front of the horse---what a patient horse Suzy was, too.

Same horse, same girl---a few years later.  Viva la difference!

Celebrating once again, my Almost-Twin sister, Patricia. AKA "Trish"  --I drive by this street sign every day so I get to remember regularly.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Golden Julibee

This year I've been playing the piano for 50 years. Wow. I should be a little better at it, don't you think?  Actually, I'm not bad at playing the hymns at church. It's become my only genre, mostly. Since 1989, each time we moved into a new ward, within a short time, I became the organist because there wasn't really anyone else who could do it. In one ward, I played for Sacrament meeting and then went in and played for Primary, too. For several months, I led the singing and played the piano for that Primary. There just weren't very many musical people in that ward. Luckily, more people moved in gradually and some of them could play and lead the singing.

I started playing in second grade. I remember my mother cautioning me not to talk so much during my lessons because I spent the time talking instead of playing. Then one day, we'd had an exciting adventure begin our school day, and I heeded her message to just shut up and play, and my mom then expressed her amazement that I didn't tell the piano teacher about the skunk in the school. I was trying to obey. ( Yes, yes, somehow a baby skunk was put into our tiny four room school---through a window into the cafeteria room. We arrived at school and the cook had already been there and found her furry guest, so she called a neighbor to come over and trap it --- gently --- and take it out without fouling the atmosphere with musk. He was successful and so we went on with our regular school day without having to hold class outside.)

I enjoyed piano lessons. It was a novelty. Each Friday, as my Dad drove the school bus through town on his way south to return all of the students to their homes, he'd let my sisters and I off the bus at one corner that was just a long block away from the piano teacher's home. We'd walked down to her house, let ourselves in, get comfortable on her fluffy couches with a comic book and wait for our turn in the alcove off her kitchen to play our simple songs.  I loved reading the comic books. There was a huge shelf of them, and since comic books were forbidden in my house, I devoured them. My favorite genre was the true stories of WW II. I learned about the Bataan Death March, the Dolittle Raid over Tokyo, Pearl Harbor and the battles for Guam from these magazines. No one ever addressed WW II in school. American history never got to the "modern" times, so this was my only information. I knew my dad had been a sailor in that war, but no one ever discussed it.

Then, after we were finished (when I went to school in town --instead of the tiny one--it was just one sister and I taking lessons) Mother would come by to pay and pick us up. She paid with two dozen eggs and two dollars. Then, we'd get in the car and be her egg deliverers around the town. She had a group of ladies who'd put their empty cartons on a shelf in their porch, or meet us at the door with them in hand, and we'd carefully carry that week's order to them and collect the money. (Elder Bednar's mother-in-law was one of our customers.) I'm digging in the deepest pockets of my brain to try and figure out how many cartons we delivered on Fridays, and I'm thinking that it could have been 25 or 30. Most people took 2 dozen each week. I don't know where she got the customers and I think she used the money for groceries because that was where we went last on our Friday town trips. We'd get home from piano lessons/grocery store/egg deliveries and then go out and milk. My dad usually had it started, because we'd get home about five or five-thirty--late for milking. 

We had to practice the piano every day, too. Mother had heard all these songs many times, and so, even though she didn't play, she could call out--"That's not right. Try again."  I learned the melodies to famous operas and I learned lots of themes to classical music through piano lessons. My favorite thing to do in high school, was to just sit at the piano and play songs and sing to myself when no one was home. I still like to do that.

I've written before how I developed skill at the hymns, and since musical genres are quite different from each other, I'll probably never get good at playing classical music in its original form because I don't practice it. Simple arrangements of songs are all I can handle. I do fine with "Home Means Nevada to Me" and I think I've talked here about discovering that my ELL kids were willing to sing in English even if they were too shy to read aloud in English, so I found a way to incorporate songs into many of my lessons.

Last night, we were talking about My Golden Jubilee, and how I still can't play the pedals on the organ. CoolGuy said, "Why don't you just play them?"  I asked him why he didn't just climb up on that wall, juggle six tennis balls and then start tap dancing.  That's what the organ pedals do for my brain. I'm good with playing different notes with each hand, keeping the beat and playing on. But my brain just cannot add that one more thing of the pedals. Maybe if I practice for another 50 years....

Thursday, May 19, 2011


So, my work day ended with me comforting an hysterical woman who was standing in our school office waiting for the police to arrive. She is the mother of one of my students. I marked him "absent" today, without really thinking about it, because he sometimes gets sick and doesn't come to school. No big deal. Except that this morning, on her way to work, his mom had dropped him and his bicycle off at a nearby friend's house so that the two boys could travel to school together at the correct time. I guess, after we got it all figured out, he did, indeed ride over to school with the friend, but then, he surreptitiously left the playground and rode away to another friend's house. There, three of our students played hookie:

A day in which liberty is taken upon oneself to exclude themself from school or work obligations while, most likely, pretending to be sick 

But, the plan went awry when his mom came home to find he wasn't there, and then he wouldn't answer his cell phone (yes, 10 year olds with cell phones...) and so she came by the school to see if he was at tutoring.


We fourth grade teachers came up to the office in answer to the secretary's call, and mom was screaming and crying and shaking. She, of course, was sick that someone had kidnapped him. We, of course, didn't have any proof that this didn't happen. Except that when we all stood there in the office, we school people began to do a little know 2 + 2 = ???

As we came inside initially this morning to start school, I'd had an older student tell me a cryptic message about another student in my class. "If (boy's name) is absent today, I know something about him and (5th grade boy)."  Well, Ididn't reply, because I was immediately distracted by other events.  Then, later, as I contemplated the attendance roll, I realized that two of my students were absent and one of them was the boy referenced by the mysterious tattler. I called the office to see if  they knew anything, but she said the 5th grade boy's grandfather (with whom he lives) had called to say he was home sick.  I was still a little suspicious, so I called my student's house and left a message about his absence and that we were taking an important test, call me back, please, blah, blah. 

Well, after the grandpa left to run errands, a miraculous recovery occurred, and the two boys from my room had met up with the "sick" 5th grader and had apparently spent the day biking around, and dropping in on different houses when they could see that their various family members had left for work. There is a lot of shift work in Las Vegas, so it isn't a 9-to-5 town. Now, after school, I finally connected with my one student's parent on her cell phone at work, and this was the first she'd heard that her son had apparently skipped school two straight days. "Thanks," she said, "good information to know."  Well, good for her...not so good for him, me thinks. 

A friend of the hysterical mom finally called her to say that she'd seen the boys biking past her house and she'd run out and snagged the missing son. We heard Mom start in on him on the phone as she left the school with the police officer who needed her to help him finish his report---now that it was no longer a missing person.

All seven of us (secretaries, teachers from both grades, principal and nurse's helper) sat down in the office and took a deep breath.  I said to the principal as we looked at one another in amazement, "Well, if they survive the beatings, I'm guessing that they won't be part of tomorrow's Field Day, huh?"  "That's right, " she replied. "That's right."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Marry Month of May

We got married today, 37 years ago. It was a Spring like they're having now in Wyoming. The day after we got married, it snowed three inches. It's probably snowing today there, too. Spring is a little late this year. Anyway, we got married and then drove back to San Diego where CoolGuy was stationed in the Navy and we lived happily ever after.

Well, we learned how to live happily ever after. We worked on it. It takes a lot of attention. Anyone who thinks they can just get married and then go on with their lives learns right away that there is a lot of negotiation and accomodation in being married. And there is a lot of wonderful stuff too!  You have babies! They turn into kids! You get to go out on dates! You get pets! You move to different cities!

You can say all of those things with little grumpy emoticons after them, too. You see---being married is the worst way to live, except for all the other ways that have been tried. (I stole and modified that from some *famous guy who said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.)

I guess what I'm saying is that being married is a lot of work and all of the work is worth it. At least in my life, I can say that. CoolGuy and I have many terrific memories, and we can laugh about other things, now that they are in the past. There are also many sad memories that bind us together. That is what life is about to me: sharing. So, today we congratulate each other for being willing and happy to have shared the last 37 years.

We went out to eat on Saturday at a favorite restaurant of ours in Washington D.C. that we were pleased to find had opened a place here in one of the new casinos. It was a fabulous and decadant meal that we enjoyed immensely up there on the third floor in the company of crowds of giggly, slightly drunk girls dressed in shiny little dresses and towering high heels. They were obviously bridal parties. There were families and couples and trios of young guys. The service was very attentive, no dirty dish was allowed to rest on our table; all beverage glasses were constantly refilled---all very unobtrusively and professional. You'll want to go with us when you come to visit. It's a fine place for celebrating.

So, today, when the secretary walked into my classroom about 11:00 A.M. with this:

I was puzzled for a moment, then astonished and delighted!  She walked across the room and I said, "Oh my gosh! That is outrageous!" and she replied, "That's exactly what we said in the office, too, when he brought them in!"  My husband, that is.  The students ooohed and ahhhhed, and then I read the card aloud to them:
37 roses for 37 years, I love you...

Everyone said, "Aaah....that's so nice."  They were also astonished that anyone could be married for 37 years. One boy exclaimed that he bet that must have cost $200! Another girl said that I must have the nicest husband ever (I concurred) and then we all went back to work, and at lunch I texted my thanks.

Tonight when I got home, I expressed my appreciation again, and told him how amazed I was, and all of my friends at work, too, because naturally I invited them in to check it out.  I mean---37 roses!!!  He said, "Well, I couldn't let a nine-year old boy show me up, could I?" 

*("Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." --- Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, November 11, 1947  British politician (1874 - 1965)

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Hurry, Timmy is in the Well!" Meowed Lassie

This morning, as I lay savoring the last few moments of slumber, I was disturbed by a harsh "meow" just inches from my face. In fact, three or four of them previous to that one had finally pierced my conciousness just before the extra loud one emitted by a whiskered snout right next to my own nose.

I remember thinking, "GO AWAY! I'm not getting up until my alarm rings." Then, I tipped my head up and opened one eye to view my clock to see just exactly in how many more minutes that would be.  EEEK! It was already 6:30 A.M. Why hadn't my alarm clanged away at 6:15 A.M. like I'd programed it do last night...oh, wait.

The red "A.M." light was not on. I quickly hit the alarm "show" button and found that, yes, in my fatigued state, I'd moved my alarm from the Sunday morning time of 8:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. My alarm, therefore, had about 11 hours and 15 minutes more until it would ring. But, I needed to be to school in 45 minutes---A.M.

So, I suddenly changed my irritation with the loud alarm cat to grateful apologies for her deep concern with my oversleeping.  Or, her pressing need to go outside, which coincided with my pressing need to be awakened--whatever.  So now, I call her Lassie.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Someone tried to steal CoolGuy's truck! Saturday, I went out to run errands. (YES!! I can drive again!!) A couple of hours into it, I pulled into Burger King to get a little snack, and as I unrolled the window to tell the disembodied voice what I'd like, I realized the window didn't roll down smoothly, and I heard a scraping sound. Well, I didn't need to roll down the window again the rest of my travels, so I forgot about it till later. We went out to eat that night, and because it had cooled off, and was a pleasant night, CoolGuy unrolled that same window and heard the same scraping sound. I told him I'd heard it, too, and we speculated what could be the cause....probably the fact the there was only a few months left until the truck is paid for--so it's time for things to break!

We came home from our date and he pulled the truck into the garage to diagnose the window problem. I heard him calling to me and when I went out he held up the door handle mechanism to show me where someone had used a hammer and a punch to attempt a break-in! The scraping sound was the door lock cylinder that had been pushed all the way through into the space where the window needed to move up and down.

Somehow, even though they'd punched in the lock, they didn't take the truck. Maybe something or someone scared them off. Maybe they still couldn't get the door open on their first attempt. CoolGuy was messing with it, and discovered that it took him two tries on the broken door handle before the electric lock system gave up with the lock punched out. Don't know why they left it after they'd tried. Don't care!  Just glad that they went away.

Today at church, I overheard some men discussing stolen trucks, and it turns out that in the last two weeks, three people at church have had a truck stolen out of their driveway.  Hmmm...our neighborhood was targeted, I guess. CoolGuy has ordered an additional security system that will holler and squeal if the truck gets touched again. In the meantime, he parked it inside the garage. My old, less-tempting car is in the driveway.

Personally, I'd love to just find a hiding place, and wait there until someone tries it again. Then, I'd jump up with a big stick and pound them till they'd be happy to see the police arrive to rescue them from the deranged old lady.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Two Feet Week

Well, I went from 0 to 60 on Monday morning this week. Whew...I'm dead tonight. (I see that it is after midnight, so blogger says it is Saturday, but for me it is still Friday.)  After laying around for six weeks, I just jumped back into the jet stream of school teaching and discovered I was out of shape. Not only was I physically flabby, I was a little slow mentally to leap back into the grind, also. But, I survived the first week.

Look what I got from one of my students the day I returned; it's a dozen, long-stemmed:

I also got many hugs and happy greetings: (think squeal) "IT'S MRS. [EarthSignMama]!! SHE'S BACK!! Seriously, teaching little kids is so gratifying because they really are happy to see you return when you've been out.

We adjusted to one another rather quickly, however, and I was giving the Teacher Stink Eye by early afternoon. I took over for the fifth grade teacher on Tuesday, because all of Fourth Grade went on a field trip, and I just knew that it would have been ridiculous for me to try that. Even former students were happy to have me back.

It's been no slack this whole week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I had physical therapy. Tuesday evening was a Relief Society Visiting Teaching conference and I was the speaker. Then Wednesday night, I helped out with the MIA Maid class activity, and immediately afterward stayed for a one hour roadshow brainstorming meeting with two other sisters. We came up with a great idea and I'm to write the script so that we can submit it for approval on May 29th. ---I'm telling you: breathless. (Write the script--no problem; just don't ask me to create scenery or costumes.)

Actually, by Thursday night, I realized that my foot wasn't in much pain. It still swells up quite a bit each day, which I try to ameliorate by wearing compression stockings. But I felt fine walking on it Thursday afternoon, and that was unexpected. Of course, I'm walking really slowly, and I prop it up whenever possible. I'm faithful with my stretching and massaging in between PT visits. I'm eager to heal. When I go back on June 13th, I want the doctor to say, "Let's lose the boot, okay?"  By then, it will be almost six months of it, and, believe me, I'll be ready to lose it!

Here I am showing off my two feet, both touching the floor, with my weight evenly distributed. And, I'm not using any appliances to stand there, you'll notice.  Whooo-hoooo!!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Mother's Day Travels

We had a good weekend with a quick trip to Los Angeles. Our son, MusicMan, was going to be there. Since his home turf is Baltimore, MD, (a very long way from the desert) (in many ways) we were excited to go down and spend some time with him. It turned out to be a rather short time, but at least we were able to share a meal and watch him work.

He was hired by a concert promoter to run the sound board for a band whose record company had booked a tour. So for three weeks he hit the road with them. There were 18 shows in this schedule, that took them from NYC to LA, around the Northeast, Upper Midwest, three shows in Canada, and down the West Coast from Vancouver to L.A. Whew...yea. Lots of driving.

The brother in Seattle, and the sister in Portland went to the show and spent some time, and then we met up in LA. He was hoping for a little down time after the final show, so that he, and a couple of friends in the band, could hang out with us in Las Vegas for a day or two. But, they had to get all the gear and rental van back to Madison, WI, by Tuesday, so they just waved at the mountain and thought of us as they drove through Sin City. Actually, they probably got to Nevada long before we did.

We slept in on Mother's Day and then roamed around LA, moseying our way toward the ocean along Sunset Boulevard as we enjoyed the sights of eclectic SoCal with all the greenery. Living here in Xeroscape-ville, I tend to forget about ivy growing up the sides of buildings, and nasturtiums spilling down a hillside. The jacaranda trees were still mostly purple and bougainvillea vines were arranged in every possible configuration, from framing dooryards to cascading over a side fence and nearly covering the alley.

We ate brunch (heuvos rancheros for me, omelet for Coolguy) on a patio just off the beach and then we wandered around again on a scenic route through neighborhoods in Brentwood and Bel Air, and Glendale and Burbank on our way to the freeway that took us back up over the mountains to the Mojave.  But even there, the yuccas were showing off their huge flower-covered stalks, and the poppies and desert sunflowers were blazing away still, even though it was May. We had a wet winter and so the plants were thriving.

Here are  the magic hands of MusicMan as he manipulated the controls for the show.

Here's CoolGuy in the lobby of the concert place.

Here they are outside after the show.

We had a great time, and there is nothing like going to where your children work, and watching them in their element as competent adults, to make one realize that you are an old lady.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Standing in the Barn

On Monday, we went to the doctor and got cleared for walking on the foot--with crutches. And the crutches were to be eliminated by the end of the week. I'm still to wear the boot until I return on June 13th. The next day, I drove myself to the physical therapist!! YEA!! CoolGuy said, "Well, she's back in the saddle again." But I really, I'm just standing in the barn looking at the horses.  On Monday, I go back to work, so that's when I'll be back in saddle.