Sunday, November 02, 2014

Desert Day

On Friday, I didn't have to teach school because Nevada celebrated its annual Statehood Day. This was an extra special celebration since it has been 150 years that the Silver State joined the Union. Abraham Lincoln needed us to secure enough votes to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that would outlaw slavery in the United States.

So, while the parade to commemorate the Nevada Sesquicentennial (new word of the year for fourth grade)  marched through downtown Las Vegas, we went out to the desert and visited the Colorado River. Last spring, during Teacher Appreciation Week, I received a two-for-one offer to go on a raft trip that started at the base of Hoover Dam and went down river several miles through Black Canyon. So, CoolGuy and I decided this would be an excellent way to celebrate the founding of Nevada, and to enjoy a beautiful, calm fall day in the Mojave. Boy, were we right!

We rode a little bus down a hair-raising twisting and turning road that went down the canyon wall to the river side. It was originally created in the 1930's to get the workers down to the water where they first started on the dam, and it hasn't seen much improvement since. But, it is awesome (in the original meaning of the word) to stand down there at the edge of the placid river and look up, and up, and up to top of the canyon walls. Then, you look to the left and there is the historic face of Hoover Dam looming up into the sky. There is a new highway by-pass bridge that crosses the canyon just south of the dam to eliminate the need for traffic over the historic structure, and, seeing it from that view was also a mouth-gaping experience. I have endless respect for the people who built both of those structures!

We had a fabulous time! During fall, the river is at its lowest, so this is not a fast-water, rapids-type of river cruise. In fact, a couple of times, we actually scraped the rocks on the bottom as our guide carefully maneuvered the craft through some delicate places. The water is so clear at that part of the river (because the silt is behind the dam) that we could see fish swimming, and the underwater plants swaying in the current. There were cormorants nesting along the canyon walls, and flying overhead, looking for dinner. We saw mallards and a pair of blue herons, and heard the warbling of wrens. But mostly we just gaped at the canyon walls and the astounding geology all around us.

The guide was well versed in explaining the interesting details about various rock formations and the little canyons that split through the edges of the massive rock ledges surrounding us. He pointed out several caves created by sulphur hot springs that came from inside the volcanic formations we passed through. It is really rather jarring to be there in this stark environment and then come upon a cave carved through the stone, with the ceiling and walls of the cave completely covered in maiden hair fern. The startling green surrounded by the red rock is so beautiful. Also, there are the barrel cacti dotting the walls that seem to sprout directly from the stoney surface. The desert is filled with life! But you have to be tough to live here.

We were not treated to any big horn sheep on this trip, and usually they see several, so we stopped off at the city park on the outskirts of Boulder City and admired the herd of 20-25 that hang out there on the grass around the tennis courts. In the evenings, they head back up into the mountains where they are protected by their ability to stand on the tiniest ledges imaginable and keep an eye out for predators. But during the day, hey--back to the shady park with the nice green grass that the people provide for us.

The river trip was fantastic--it included lunch on a sandy beach where we pulled in to take a little rest. Then, we boarded the pontoon boat for the rest of the ride down to a campground/picnic area on the Arizona side called Willow Beach. This is definitely a future Grandma Camp adventure! Our fellow passengers were from England, Sweden, Wisconsin, Las Vegas and Arizona. Just wear plenty of sunscreen, drink lots of water, wear your wet towel around  your neck and you'll have a great day, too.

 Hoover Dam, from the side of the river.

 The new by-pass bridge almost dwarfs the amazing dam structure. 

Here's CoolGuy standing on the Nevada bank of the Colorado River.

We walked down to the boats from the parking spot.

 It didn't take long to leave the dam behind.These passengers were from Sweden.
And, yes, they were wearing sunscreen. They told us how much they loved being in the sun.

I got completely absorbed after this, and forgot to take anymore photos. I was mostly using my binoculars to look at bird nests, and rock formations. The weather was very pleasant--it was around 75-80 degrees. We were completely comfortable, especially when we took advantage of the damp hand towels offered by the guide. We draped them around our necks and that cooled us down perfectly. The Colorado River water is about 55 degrees, so that's where we moistened the towels. You could sit on the edge of the pontoon and dangle a foot in the water, if you wanted, too. Next time you come to Las Vegas, you ought to consider doing this trip. I knew it would be pretty good, but it far exceeded my expectations for serenity and beauty and just really fine immersion in nature.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Fall has come to the desert. We don't get colorful leaves, although some of the trees here are deciduous and, because of the decreasing hours of daylight, have dropped their leaves. We do get pumpkins and Halloween decorations everywhere. Our school's Fall Festival is coming up next Friday, wherein we teachers all supervise the carnival games and paint faces and sell hot dogs. But it's really pretty fun, and the older students come back with their younger siblings and so it's like a reunion.

The next indicator that fall has officially arrived is the temperature. It only gets up to 85 during the days now, and in the early morning, when I first leave for work, it is actually in the 60's. The pool season is officially finished. The water is just too chilly for even me. I've been known to jump into the ocean when it was really cold, but I'm probably too chicken to do that now. These days, we just use the hot tub. Every evening, we go out there and enjoy it under the starry sky. (No really, we can see quite a few stars since we're situated next to a large mountain and beyond it is the open desert). It's always nice to soak for a little while before heading into bed.

But, the real proof that autumn has arrived is this:

Some of my students are now wearing their coats to school. Yes, a coat, with a fur-lined hood. After all, it isn't 95 degrees at 8:00 A.M. any longer, so it must be coat weather, right?  I can understand a sweater, or a light jacket...but, seriously? My students crack me up. They're so weather-warped living here.

We will actually have a few days that will require a coat. A couple of times each winter since I've moved here, it was quite cold. A few times the temperature hovered in the low forties for several days. It has dipped below freezing every year during the winter. I'll go outside and there will be a layer (a mighty thin layer) of ice across the pool and spa. So, yes, I own a coat and I occasionally wear it. And, if I were a youngster walking to school for 15 or 20 minutes, I'd probably wear my coat more often. But, Sweetie-who-wore-it-this-week, I think you can hold off for a few more weeks.

Maybe she bought it over the weekend, and it was new, so she just couldn't resist. Me? I wore Capris again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Date Night in Gonzo Land

I meant to write this on Sunday evening, but I've been really busy with school stuff. Teaching is hard enough, but now our district has added a whole new gigantic computerized grading program/attendance/parent link set up that, apparently, wasn't actually ready for roll-out, and every day is a new adventure.

However...on Saturday night, we did something fun. It all started when I attended a school supplies give-away day at one of the casinos here. Each year, just before school begins, they sponsor a big event in which you just show up and load up a huge bag with notebooks, pencils, erasers, paper and all kinds of excellent school supplies---free! There is a limit of one bag, but it can be a big bag. At the conclusion of this event, I also was given a ticket to come with a friend, for free, to see one of the attractions to preview as a possible field trip destination.

So, on Saturday, one day away from the expiration of my free ticket, CoolGuy and I went to see the dolphin habitat and white tigers at a big old Strip casino. We thought maybe we'd scout it out as a future Grandma Camp option. It was pretty cool. The dolphins are quite fun to watch, and they interact with their trainers every hour, so you can sit by their pools and watch them play with balls, wave their tails, leap out of the water and do other fine dolphin things. Then, we wandered through the tiger/lion garden. It doesn't matter what size they are---cats are cats. They really just reminded us of the Queen KittyKat who allows us to share her domain. The big ones laid on their branches and casually flipped their tails, yawning wide and letting you glimpse their amazing fangs. It was a lounging time of day, so they didn't do much, but you could see the remains of a watermelon that the tiger had apparently been batting around with his paws. There are two little white tiger cubs in this habitat, too, but we missed them because they were already put into the nursery for the night.

So, after we visited the ocean and then the wilds of Africa and India, we wandered across the street to Maine. We went to a favorite eatery called Lobster ME.  (Get it--ME as in Maine?) We ate some lobstah rolls and a little coleslaw and people-watched because this little corner of Maine is situated inside Italy. Or rather, FAKE Italy inside the Venetian hotel. Lots of different folks, from bridal parties to families to packs of young adults wandered around as we munched our yummy seafood.

Then, we had a little dessert decadence from Haagen-daz and made our way back to the free parking valet to get the truck and head for home. Except that as we were driving down the weirdo Strip, I noticed that the front parking lot of one of the casinos was filled with old hearses--car show! Yes, hearses...

Hey! It's October---it was the Haunted Hearse Car show! It was an unusual event. I've been to plenty of car shows in my time, but who knew there was a group of gearheads devoted to funeral vehicles. It was weird;  fun, but weird. We walked around for a few minutes and admired the many versions of ways you can take your last ride. There were lots of people dressed in zombie attire, or long capes and top hats, and a few in the sexy-witch-type thing. But, there were some mighty awesome old cars, too.

So, after that little detour, we headed for home finally. It's a pretty strange place where we live---lions, tigers, dolphins, haunted car shows, lobstah rolls and showgirls. Most of the time, I stay far, far away from the Shiny Streets, but every once in a while--it's kinda fun!

 Can you see the "driver"--it's a skeleton.
He at the wheel of really nice 1960's Cadillac.

Here's the back end.

It takes all kinds...

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Life to Celebrate

It was 105 years ago today that CoolGuy's father was born. He was the third child, and third son, born to his parents. Undoubtedly he was born in a home---whether it was his own or in his grandmother's home--I don't know, but that's where women had their babies in that era.  He was 16 years old when his youngest sibling, a sister, was born. In that era, the 1920's, in the Rocky Mountain valley where he spent his entire life, he'd have been finished with school and working full time. As a young man he helped with the family farm which included a large herd of sheep. He was a skilled sheep shearer and herder. Married at age 20, he and his lovely young bride spent their first six months of married life living in a sheep camp.

 Here's a cute photo of the honeymooners.

 Within five years, they had three fine young sons. 
When the youngest of these was eighteen, 
they added son #4--CoolGuy.

Their first house was a tent on some property they owned in town. He dug a basement, finished it, roofed it, and the family moved in. It was a complete apartment that served them well while the house was built above it. The sheep ranch had gone bust because of the Great Depression, so he worked where he could find a paycheck. He labored in a traveling shearing crew during the wool season. He drove a coal truck, a log truck, and a grain truck. In the fall, he guided out-of-state elk hunters in the surrounding mountains, helping them to find their dream trophy animal. It was a time when people did what they could to keep food on the table and clothes on their back. He was also an Army veteran, working at a base in the east as a mechanic. Another interesting job he did for a couple of years was working as an usher in the Wyoming legislature when one of his sons served as a state representative.

There was a large support system of family members. Between the two sides of the family, there were eighteen aunts and uncles. Nearly every Sunday dinner was eaten at a grandparent's home with a group of relatives. It's just what you did back then. 

The years passed, the three sons grew up. One got married, and produced a grandchild. The next year, that little granddaughter got a brand-new uncle!! I really wish I'd had a chance to talk to CoolGuy's mother and hear what she thought when they found out he was "on the way" at that point in their lives. CoolGuy remembers fondly his pleasant life as an "only" child, since his nearest older brother graduated from high school shortly after CoolGuy was born. 

It confused our children for several years that their "cousins" were all adults on their dad's side of the family. the cousins' children were our kids' contemporaries.
(Isn't he a cute little boy??)

 CoolGuy's father worked in the summers for his adult son's trail ride business at this point. Since his mom was employed full-time as a telephone operator, CoolGuy spent a lot of time at work with his dad. They fed cattle from a horse drawn sleigh in the winter. CoolGuy cleaned corrals while his dad worked to shoe the horses and mules in the Spring. One summer, his father drove a road grader up and down a fifty mile canyon, keeping the dirt road passable for the big trucks that hauled logs out to the lumber mill in town. CoolGuy got to "drive" behind the grader in the Dodge truck that held the fuel and tools to keep the big machine running.  (It involved mostly steering, as it chugged along in the lowest gear.) They spent their nights in a log cabin at a ranch in the middle of the forest. Dream job for any10 year old boy!

 This photo is from CoolGuy's first trail ride. The ride/camping trip lasted about two weeks. They were in the wilderness area in the southwest corner of Yellowstone Park. His dad wrangled horses and mules, and helped cook in big Dutch ovens over a campfire. I realize now what a huge amount of work this business entailed. But for an eight year old boy, it was pretty much heaven.

After 34 years of marriage, the two childhood sweethearts were separated by the death of CoolGuy's mother. He was only eleven years old. His father was bereft, of course, but the large family support system helped the two of them to continue on. A little over three years later, his father remarried and she is the Grandma pictured below.

CoolGuy's father and his new stepmother had twenty years together before his dad passed away at age 78. She was a great traveling companion, mother to his teenaged son, and, in the last few years, his loving and kind care taker. They came down to balmy SoCal visit us several times to escape the harsh winters. They'd sleep in a nearby motel, but spend most of their time with us. These visits lasted several weeks, and it was great to have relatives be a part of every day life. It was a little glimpse of how CoolGuy's dad had raised his sons.

He taught his sons that hard work is a noble profession. He taught them that family loyalty is important. He taught by example that people should be kind and helpful--it's always the right thing to do. He led a long life, and was eulogized by a large family who remembered him with love and gratitude.

He, too, was born with motor-oil in his veins, and passed that on to his son. Luckily.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Waning

So it is now officially Autumn. We passed the autumnal equinox on Tuesday, and we are heading into the Dark Times. If you read this blog very often, you'll know that I whine about this event every year. You'd think I was an ancient Celt or a  follower of the old Nordic gods.'s just that I love summer.

 I've been enjoying this latest season of the sun. It was weirdly not scorching-hot here in the desert for most of August, but now that September is here, we've had the temperature get up to 100 degrees almost daily. However, since the sun is lower in the sky, it doesn't stay hot at night. But the pool warmed back up, and I've been enjoying splashing about at the end of the school day. I might be able to keep swimming into October this year. I'm definitely going to keep trying. One day it'll be too cold. In the meantime, I'll be out there.

I don't look forward to the dark times that approach. Yes, yes, we get to celebrate some fun traditions with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. But you know that these holidays are situated in the fall because of ancient peoples and their attempts to ward off the dimming light and bring back the sun?  Christmas --- the remembrance of Christ's birth --- would be more accurately celebrated in the Spring. Thanksgiving is just a northern hemisphere party to rejoice over the bounty of the harvest. Winter is coming and it will be a long, long time before things start to grow again. In the fall, it seemed like there was such an abundance, that people could afford to splurge a little and have a feast. Halloween, again...another celebration of the spooky darkness.

Okay, I'm sounding too cynical. I actually LOVE Christmas and Thanksgiving. I'm also a fan of Halloween as a chance to dress up and act silly and eat candy. (horror movies, devil worship, zombies, etc. not-so-much) So, I'm not bad-mouthing the fun things we do in the fall. It's really only the fading daylight that I mourn. I'm pretty sure, however, that if I lived near the equator, where the daylight remains the same throughout the year, that it would seem too weird to me and I'd miss these seasonal changes.

So, enjoy the remaining days of Indian Summer, Fall, Autumn, Harvest---so many names! Enjoy the autumn leaves--if you've got them. Enjoy the pumpkin spice latte or cider or hot cocoa around your bonfire of burning leaves. I'll enjoy the slight decrease in sweating, the opportunity to wear a light sweater in the early part of the day, and my students' enthusiasm for their Halloween costumes. There's something to cheer all of us, as we note the coming of the Darkness of Winter. The end of Summer. The earth's orbit around the sun...I'm so glad I know about science, and that, this, too, shall pass.

Here's someone loving the celebrations of Fall!

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Her Birthday!

It started out for me to be one of those no good, horrible, terrible days. I was grumping around, moaning about a day of meetings I had scheduled because of our regular monthly planning time. No students today...just pieces of paper and bureaucratic nonsense to deal with. Blah.

But! Then I remembered that it was HER BIRTHDAY!! At 4:00 A.M. (or there abouts) she arrived in our home! Literally...we had the midwives come and we delivered our third child in a very serene home birth. Now that so many people have watched the cool T.V. show, "Call the Midwife," we don't freak out folks so much when we tell them about our four, on-purpose, homebirths.

Our second daughter's entrance into the world was really lovely, too. It was just before dawn and SoCal was really starting to heat up. The weather was in the Santa Ana pattern, so by noon we were up in the 90's, which is ridiculous for the ocean-facing hillside where we lived. But, She was completely calm for all of it. In fact, a short time after she was born, I was a holding her on my lap as I reclined on a couch, and she looked at me intently, and then chattered some babbling baby conversation at me. It was so unexpected. It was behavior that is not typical of a child so young. She "talked" to her dad, too. Then, we didn't have her make eye contact nor "talk" to us again, until she was many weeks older, and it was developmentally appropriate. I always feel she was telling me something really important about heaven where she'd just been.

She's spent most of her life making friends, helping others, and being a total ray of sunshine for those around her. She's also spent quite a huge part of it in classes and all that hard work paid off last June as she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Nursing Practice. So, now the "doctor" can officially go out there and take care of everyone!! We love having her in the family.

  I think she was probably approaching two years old in this photo in San Diego.

 Her smile is just irresistible!

Helping to wash the didn't get very clean.

Posing like a model on Dad's bike.

 And here, she is actually a model in a fashion show at a mall.

On a windy day in western Idaho, going for a roller skate sail.
Outside the church with Dad and sister.

On the pier watching the storm waves with sister.

With Mom and sister on the patio.
 First day of school!

Last day of junior high in California.

 Matching dresses from our Master's degrees.

Doctor of Nursing Practice
Oregon Health and Science University

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I stood in line patiently at Kohl's, awaiting my turn at the register. There began to be quite a group of us, so some other cashiers from different departments started calling customers over to them. I ended up at the fine jewelry counter. As I placed my items on her counter, I realized that anyone could probably figure out my profession.

#1-- new khaki pants made of tough, stretchy, washable material. They will survive wipe-off marker, pen swipes, the playground, multiple up-and-down to little desks without wrinkling or bagging (linen looks so elegant---for a minute.) Plus, they are a bit dressier than jeans.

#2-- Halloween jewelry...I just can't resist holiday jewelry. If I were an attorney, I'd never be able to wear jingle bell earrings or a necklace with candy corn pendants. So, here are my latest seasonal acquisitions:

 They're kind of hard to see here, but they say "Boo" and have sparkles on the two "o's."

And, I already own several pair of earrings that will go
nicely with any of the pendants on this necklace.

So, anyway....if you were the cashier, profiling people while you checked them out through your register, I would have been an easy "get"--duh--elementary school teacher.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Weekly Time Warp

It's happened again! We started school all fresh and reinvigorated from the weekend. But, by Tuesday afternoon, my co-workers and I were meeting in the hallway after dismissal and looking at one another, exhausted.

"Really? It's only Tuesday afternoon?? It feels like Monday and Tuesday lasted for a week! Sigh..." We shuffle back to our rooms to clean and straighten everything, and perhaps stay and correct some papers, or prepare something for Wednesday.

Actually, I stayed until 7:30. Yes, P.M. It was ridiculous, I know. But, see, on Monday, I'd had to leave right after school to go over to the church to help with the music for a memorial service. Someone's father died; the father wasn't affiliated with a church, but his son-in-law is, so yes, we sponsored the memorial in our building. It was very nice, and I'm glad I could help. However, right after that, I also drove over to a hospital to bring some supplies to a woman who was a patient there. She is a friend and a fellow teacher, and she'd been very sick last week. Then, she finally went to a quick-care clinic, they'd sent her to an ER, where they admitted her on Friday night. I found all this out on Sunday when talking to her fellow church goers (we meet in the same building, at different hours). So, I called her to see what I could do, and she was so relieved. I stopped off at her house to pick up a bag of things prepared by her daughter (an adult who doesn't drive), and then I went over to visit her. She was in isolation, so I could only stay a minute, and had to gown and mask before I could go in. But, she was so delighted to see someone and get her hair brush and phone charger. I got home at 8:00.

So, on Tuesday, knowing I had a two hour class I needed to attend on Wednesday, I stayed after school and did everything that I normally would have done on Monday and Wednesday. Whew....I'm glad I did, too, because Thursday, today, was simply nuts! We had our staff usual meeting before school, and then an impromptu meeting with my grade level team during planning. I'm so glad I was prepared for the rest of my day--thank you Tuesday.

Today, as we trudged back into the school after seeing off all of our students and locking the gates, my 5th grade teammate across the hall looked at me and we both started to laugh. "Remember how long it took for Tuesday afternoon to arrive? And now----zoooomm----it's Thursday night! This is a crazy life, huh?" Yes, time warp, it happens often in teacher land. I'll be ready for that nice Friday night, when I don't have to set my alarm. It's just around the corner!

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Anniversary

Today is the 68th anniversary of my parents' wedding. They were married in the Salt Lake City temple, and afterwards, I believe they were feted at a dinner by my grandparents in a restaurant there in Utah. My mom actually lived there in SLC for a few years, working as a secretary for the Sunday School office. They continued to reside in the city for the first six months of their marriage, and then returned to live in Wyoming where they both grew up. They lived in Wyoming the remainder of their lives.

 This is shortly after their wedding in 1946.

I realized today that I have been married longer than they were, because of my father's untimely death at age 61 from leukemia. CoolGuy and I have made it to our fortieth anniversary. They were only able to celebrate 38 years together on this earth. When our mother passed away eight years ago, we were pleased that they could be together again to enjoy one another's company, as they had in this life.

This is on their 25th anniversary when we "adult" girls chipped in to buy them a new recliner chair. We all turned up for church that day, as a surprise, and had a special dinner for them, too.

As a pair of farm kids, they were quite suited as a couple. Neither my mother nor my father ever shied from a hard job. They helped each other all the time with whatever needed done. My mother milked in the evenings so my dad could irrigate, or mow, or bale hay. My dad could, and did, brush out little girls' hair, and, apparently was quite skilled at making fudge. They didn't expect anyone to do for them. They had a lot of experience at working hard to provide for themselves, and were generous in sharing with others.

Every year on September 5th, I can't help but remember how old and unexciting I thought they were by the time I was in high school. I realized one year, when I was the mother of teens, that my mom and dad were both younger than my age currently at the time I was considering them "old." Ha! Ha!

It's simply not possible to appreciate your parents enough when you're a kid. Your life is the only life you've lived. It all seems to be "normal" and to be a given that your parents will be there, and that they will take care of you. Now that I have been a teacher for nearly two decades, I recognize what a marvelous childhood I had. I had two parents whose very existence was devoted to taking care of their children. They worked hard at making a living. They had high standards for our behavior and our education. They taught us skills, and manners, and compassion, and a love of God. They loved each other, and even though it wasn't all roses, they worked at being married, and maintained a sense of "sweetheart" with one another.

It was very sad when my dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He lived for many years beyond the expected because of my mother's care and devotion. He was seriously ill for the last couple of years, and she did all she could to bring him comfort and peace.

I'm happy that I have their example in my life. We, their offspring, have tried to pass on to our children, and our grandchildren, the pride and love that we were taught in our heritage as farmers, Westerners, and God loving people. I hope our parents are proud of us. We certainly admire them, and celebrate their choice to start this whole enterprise way back in 1946.

 This is 1977. We'd just started the grandchildren production with the first four married girls. We'd each had one boy; and one sister had produced #2 by then, also. The ultimate total was 33.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Timeless Lesson

I finally returned to yoga a couple of weeks ago. I'd given it up in April because of the Annual Foot Surgery, and so the fascia felt healed enough to go try. It was rugged. The usual Saturday teacher wasn't there and the substitute apparently felt that everyone was capable of a bit more than "beginner" status. Um...not me. I tried to keep up. I knew how to achieve the positions mentally, but the physical part was so out of practice that I really strained. I had sore muscles for days afterward. Then, the following Saturday, the regular teacher was back, and we took it a little easier. I don't know what got into my brain, though, because I kept checking my watch. Mistake.

One of the aspects of yoga is that it isn't just physical. The teacher is calmly reciting a series of directions as you work through the positions, but she is also reminding us to "be in the moment" and let "now" be the only thing we are involved with as you "send energy to your muscles so they can move just a little further."  That sort of thing is continually being mentioned. However, that week, I just felt impatient or something, and I kept looking at my watch and seeing how much more time we had left.

This week, I accidentally left my watch home. What a difference in my experience! When I realized I wasn't wearing it, I no longer even considered the time. I simply concentrated on the movements and, as she advised, let all my thoughts be "in the moment." First, the class zoomed by, and before I realized, we were lying there in the final relaxed stage, as she smoothed our brows with a scented oil and I felt how truly refreshed I was after an hour of very strenuous movement. I hadn't even considered time. I simply turned all  of my thoughts inward and really focused on each muscle we were moving, and extending my spine, and in lengthening my neck. It really was advertised.

I realized how nice it would be if I tried to spend more of life "in the moment." For instance, I have a friend who never wears his watch to the temple. Good idea...When I'm having an especially good day in school, I'm always startled that the day has ended so quickly. (Recognizing that the clock is my task master in class...) But, I think it is going to be a goal of mine to avoid checking the time whenever I'm having an especially "present" moment, so that I can just be there, and be it, and not mess up a great part of my life by anticipating its end.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to be the Perfect Teacher...

(The following is a letter written to my school from a woman who worked with us for three years in our Severely Learning Disabled class. She moved to a different building this year in order to be closer to home and their baby, avoiding the 45 minute commute. This letter was printed off and placed in our First Day Back packets from the principal. Our co-worker named names in this letter.)

Title:  How to be the Perfect Teacher

The first thing you need to be a wonderful teacher is tough love. You follow up student decisions (both good and bad) with consequences that were laid out in the beginning of the year. Your class will highly effective and efficient. For this, look to Ms. [5th reading grade teacher.]

You will need to know how to do 5 billion tasks at the same time while being organized. For this, see Ms. [4th grade math teacher.]

Teachers must always work with less than they need and still make student gains. To know how to do this, go talk with Ms. [4th grade reading teacher.]

A teacher must be kind to others and non-judgmental. Observe Ms. [3rd grade] and Ms. [2nd grade] to figure out how to be this person.

If you want to know what is going on with your students and be someone they trust, follow Mr. [3rd grade]'s example.

As a teacher, we must be knowledgeable in several different types of programs and strategies. Talk with Ms. [1st grade]. She is a wealth of knowledge.

On days that are bad and make you want to get even with your students, go see Ms. [2nd grade] and Ms. [2nd grade]. They will start practicing for the Students vs Teacher softball game early and tell you how hard the fifth graders cried last year when they lost.

To see how a teacher treats special education students the same as everyone else, observe Ms. [Librarian].

A teacher always wants to look his or her best. Give up on this now. Ms. [Counselor], Ms. [Learning Specialist], Ms. [Intervention leader] and Ms. [Principal] will always out-dress you. Always. This is a fact.

If you want to know how to be the kindest and most caring teacher, follow Ms. Kindergarten]'s lead.

If you want to secretly be one of the nicest teachers in the building, watch Mr. [Special Ed]. He doesn't like people knowing all the nice things he does, but he is pretty amazing when he thinks no one is looking.

For days you need a good laugh, and someone to joke with, go see Mr. [Special Ed].

If you want to be the most fun teacher in school, watch any of our specialists.

And last, but certainly not least, is Ms. [EarthSignMama]. She is not a teacher from 8:30 -3:30. She is a teacher every hour of the day. I will never forget her kindness to others. Especially the time she went and cleaned a student's lice infested house so they would stop missing school. This, my friends, is true love of a teacher; uncompromising love and loyalty for all others. You know, one of my favorite quotes says, "Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who are not, come to be loved." If this is who you want to be, see Ms.[EarthSignMama].

 So, then she ended her letter with an additional shout out to our principal for hiring a first year teacher and giving her a chance at a career that she loves. She loves us all, will miss us,--swears that we will miss her!!--and we will...

 I cried when I read it. I blushed and I cried. I've never had anyone lavish such unexpected praise on me, ever. She and I got along great! I'm sure she is young enough that I could have given birth to her, but she treated me like a peer and taught me many great skills, also. 

So, in the future, when I might be having a bad day at school, I'll pull out my letter and read again about how wonderful I am, and I'll stand up straight, and throw back my shoulders, and march right back into the storm. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Right Traveling Companions

I wanted to write one more thing about my journey to Yellowstone Park. This trip was accomplished due to the efforts of my dear friend. She is the one who looked up the accommodations, and she is the one who got me to commit to the trip. We have known one another since 1976. I moved into her neighborhood and we met at church. We just "clicked." I'm not sure why we have been able to maintain this friendship through this many years, especially since I have not lived in her neighborhood, nor even the same city with her for more than 27 years! I guess that is a sign of true friendship---it lasts. I tell her she's like another sister to me.

So, anyway, she and I made these preparations, and as I was packing the truck for the trip, CoolGuy remarked, "Those kids [the two grandchildren who accompanied us] have no idea what they're in for." He shook his head. I laughed! I knew exactly what he was referencing--my friend and I have awesome conversations. I wasn't even a little kid, one of my favorite things to do was sit quietly and listen to my mom and other grownup ladies talk. It was illuminating, entertaining, and a great way to figure out how to be a friend when you're an adult.

That morning, we pulled up to--[I'll call her New Sis] New Sis's house and, after we got all of our supplies carefully tarped and tied into the back of the truck, we said a prayer for safety in our travels and set off on the 300 miles north to West Yellowstone, MT. Now, New Sis raised seven children to my five. She has a group of grandchildren, too, so we're old pros at traveling with kids. Plus, my grandchildren are excellent travelers. It's good, too, because we spent a huge amount of time in the truck over the next four days. We tend to think alike--we brought lots of snacks; we both like to stop for random things; we are interested in just about everything. We had a blast!

For instance: along the freeway in Idaho, we all spied a sign announcing the upcoming Idaho Potato Museum. Of course we stopped! I mean, how could you resist? You're in Idaho! It's a potato museum!

It was an wonderful experience, too. We learned stuff, and we read lots of signs, and I found yet another group of horrible chores I'm so grateful I didn't have to do as a child.

When we got to our destination, we checked into our campsite, and then went into town to a performance at  the community theater that is staffed by talented and energetic college students. For the cast members, this a summer job. As they were introducing everyone, the grandchildren recognized a girl from their church, who had been in local theater performances with them at home! Again, a great experience we wouldn't have done without New Sis planning our agenda!

As we waited in the line with the other vehicles at the Park entrance that first morning, we realized that visitors to the Park had come from all over the country, according the cars we were seeing. New Sis casually asked the kids if they were interested in playing the license plate game. She had no idea what she was starting! These children are highly motivated to finish what they start and they are very observant. So, by the  third day, we'd found all but four of the 50 states, as well as six Canadian provinces and two states in Mexico. We were so close!!

We arrived at our main destination for that day, where we'd eat lunch and then start on the final loop of the park, and----there were two of last states, parked next to each other as we drove through the parking lot!! Excitement!! As we parked, there sat the third state we were missing!! ONE TO GO!! Despite the complete distraction of mostly looking at license plates, and the effort of walking up and down the parking lots at every place we visited the rest of that day, Rhode Island remained elusive...I guess no one from there decided to drive to Wyoming this summer. It was a big disappointment. But, we had a blast looking for it.

One day, when we women had been chattering away on one of the many wide-ranging topics on which we'd converse, I paused and turned to my granddaughter. "Grandpa said that he worried that you children would have no idea what you were in for, traveling with us two. Are you getting tired of us?"  She laughed, too, and explained that she loved listening to us! She knew exactly what her grandpa was referencing. But, she and her brother would often join in. They have opinions, too, about the school system, where ones gets the best ice cream, and why cats are such great pets. Once, they started the conversation by asking us to recall a memory from second grade, or fifth grade or to describe a fun birthday we remembered. We had a lovely time.

We were silly sometimes. There were moments of the normal sibling quarreling. Everyone got waaaay too tired everyday, and we had to remember to be kind and gentle with one another. We taught each other great facts about the nature we were viewing---I have extremely well-read grandchildren. We learned interesting and, sometimes sad, stories about our own childhoods. A trip to an amazing location was made even more enjoyable by going with agreeable companions. I guess you can't ask for more than that.

 Taking photos of taking photos.

 She decided to run away with the wolves. 

 We bought some souvenirs, but the cutest purchase was when they were looking everywhere to find something for their little sister, who didn't go on the trip. 

 It's one thing to go on a trip with one grandmother, but when two grandmothers are with you...! Except that she is as awesome as me, so we all had a lot of fun. 

 Just a little joke, Grandma! But...someday!

Here is a view of the whole campsite. This is located along the Madison River and so the view from the door of the tipi was river, backed up with forest, and behind that were mountains. Pretty awesome! Plus, another building housed real bathrooms--shower, toilet, sink, mirror. My kind of camping!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Weird Weather

Okay. It's August. It's the Mojave Desert. is only 82 degrees outside. And last night it was the same....80 degrees at sunset. If you've never traveled through Nevada in the summer, you might now be wondering what is the fuss? Well, let me explain: it's August, it's Southern Nevada, it's 82 degrees.

Normally, the only thing that would be 82 degrees in August, in Las Vegas, is my bedroom in the late afternoon. The air conditioner, try as it might, can only cool that west facing room just so much as the blazing sun bakes the house, even with the shade of the chubby palm tree growing just outside the window. Plus, the power company would have forced my system into a 20 minute shut down because of Peak Hour Usage blah, blah, blah.

Yes, we're having weird weather here. Most of July and, so far, August, has been unusually cool. Well, perhaps "cool" is not the correct word. Maybe just unseasonably not-so-hot-as-normal. Many days we have not even broke 100. It's been cloudy and humid (for Nevada) and we've had so many thunderstorms. Very strange summer here.

My first August in Las Vegas was a test, I know. I actually had a lady at church say to me, "I always feel so sorry for people during their first August." I understand what she was talking about, having lived here now for nine years. Yes, it starts doing the 100's by the end of May most years. In June, it is regularly gets into the 101, 102, 103 category during the day at some point. Nights are not yet the oven that they become in July, however. By July, everyday is over 100 by 10:00 A.M., and frequently it will soar to 110, 112, 113. By midnight, it'll go back to 90.

But August...every single day in August is a blast furnace. It can be 110 by 11:00 A.M.  It is always over 110, every single afternoon. When darkness falls, you imagine that it will be cooler, just because you can no longer see the sun. Nope, not really. Okay, it doesn't feel quite as bad when there is no sun, but it is still incredibly hot. By dawn, it might be down to 96, maybe. But the moment Old Sol peaks up over the horizon, zoom----up goes the temperature and by 8:30 it's 100 again. August is a very impressive month. Swimming pool and air conditioning are your only hope.

Or renting a beach house in SoCal. Which is what many, many Las Vegans do. Or they go up north to visit relatives, or stay in the mountains in Southern Utah. It's just simply like living in Satan's back yard here in the Mojave.When the second week of September comes, you can tell a real difference.The angle of the sun is obviously slipped a little to the south. Autumn equinox is on the way, and everything is different. We can still see a few over-100 days, but night is cooler in the fall. Usually by October, the pool has gotten uncomfortably cool, and we no longer use it. It stays so warm all summer because the masonry and ground all around it never get a break from the heat.

So, this fall, I think my swimming season is going to come to a close even sooner. The pool water has only been "warm" a few days all summer. It doesn't take many days of 85 degrees to cool it right down. Weird...I'm lamenting cool weather! Just another way that Nevada warps your thinking.

Swimming pool weather is a good thing!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Shameless Cheerleading

As a Wyoming girl, I have always been inordinately proud that Yellowstone Park was largely situated within the borders of my home state. ...Even though I never managed to see it in person until I was an old lady. Nevertheless, I always actually thought of it as a Wyoming place, not specifically a national park. I'm not sure why...maybe it is because the parts of Wyoming with which I was familiar at that time were also stunningly beautiful.

Greys River, just to the east of Star Valley

 Or perhaps because geysers and hot springs are not confined to just the Park in Wyoming. My childhood swimming lessons were in a pool that was filled from a hot sulfur spring that bubbled up from underground in the owner's pasture. Sure, we smelled like rotten eggs all summer, but after an hour in that pool, the usual cuts and scrapes acquired during outdoor play would be healed up from the healing quality of the sulfur in the water. My dad especially liked to relax right where the water came into the pool to soothe his aching back with its heat. There were also hot springs sprinkled throughout the forest in random places. So, geologic wonders weren't all that unusual in my experience.

So, my affection and personal connection to Yellowstone Park were born of being very protective of what I considered to be a very special place in the world, my home of Wyoming. Now that I've actually been to Yellowstone, and watched other people as they also viewed its many wonders, I realize that this Park is waaaay more significant than I could have realized as a naive little native-born Western cheerleader.

First, it was recognized to be absolutely unique and magnificent so early in its discovery by the white people who came out West from the rest of the United States. The early explorers who'd traveled there were thought to be exaggerating when they described it. The native people, Shoshone-Bannock, knew all about it and treated it as a special place too. So deciding to set it aside as a national park, a brand new idea in 1872, was pretty spectacular, and I feel grateful for those who made that decision.

As we traveled through the Park last week, it was immediately apparent that this was a "destination" visit for many, many people. We heard many different languages being spoken. We saw license plates from (almost) all 50 states, [we never saw Rhode Island to make our list complete...arggghhh.] and 6 provinces of Canada, and two states of Mexico! And buses filled with people who didn't want to drive themselves. Go to Yellowstone! "Thank you, we will," replies the entire world. And it is worth their time and trouble, believe me.

There isn't a single photo that we took that can do justice to any of the scenery we saw. Again, I've seen beautiful nature---but I continually found myself exclaiming, over and over, about what met my eyes around every turn, or at the crest of each hill. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere. There were huge meadows with meandering rivers that twisted and turned, creating oxbows and marshes. The mountains went on and on, craggy peaks fading off into the distance. Birds of all kinds were everywhere; fish jumped in the streams; brave little chipmunks sneaked around the parking lots hoping to find some treat.

Then---we finally managed to see a bear! A group of cars were stopped along the road, so we did, too. Just inside the trees we saw a young grizzly, shuffling along, turning over logs, stopping to sniff for bugs or berries. We also saw elk, which I've seen many times in my life, but seeing them lolling around on the grassy median and grazing on the lawn of the visitor's center at Mammoth Hot Springs was a new experience. The biggest thrill was driving through the Hayden Valley on our last day. It's Bison-Land there! We saw hundreds. At first, we were pretty excited to see one walking along the roadside while were approaching the valley, still in the forest. But, as we drove down into the open spaces, we were treated to groups of them speckling the meadows that stretched to the horizon. We got to park (in a parking space...) and stand on the side of a hill and observe a small herd as they lay chewing their cuds, rolling in a dusty wallow, and just looking back at us humans. It was a classic scene---fumerols were spewing steam, the river was flowing along, the meadows were green and speckled with flowers, and bison were lounging. It was classic Yellowstone!

So, I'll stop now...but, if like me, you've procrastinated going to see the original national park, then you must start planning now for your inaugural visit. It's SO worth it! I'll be back next summer, with CoolGuy, on the motorcycle. That is also a popular way to see it, believe me; there were biker tourists everywhere.

The affection I felt for "our" national park, when I was a child, had only been enhanced by finally seeing it in person. And now I realize that it doesn't just belong to us Wyomingites, or even us Americans. It's a world treasure. I'm proud to share it with you all. Now, go plan! Get up there! Don't be like me and wait 50 years.

 Bison near the Firehole River

 Yes, elk, just hanging out like cattle. Ignoring all the people who were taking their photos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Blessings, Large and Small

(Gosh, I've been having so much fun this summer, that I haven't taken time to discuss any of it here. But, I plan to write several posts in the next few days to describe some of the good times. Stay tuned.)

In the Book of Mormon, there is a passage where a trouble maker is preaching to the people that there is no God and they are foolish to think He exists. Ultimately, he and the local religious leader have a discussion about God, and the teachings this man is attempting to discredit. The man declares again that there is no way  the leader can prove that there is a God. The chief priest replies to the unbeliever that, in fact, his own statements are unprovable, and points out that, "... all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it..."

I spent last week surrounded by this evidence of our Creator. My long-time friend invited me, and two of my grandchildren, to go to Yellowstone National Park with her.  I've never been, and she really wanted to be my guide for the first visit. She's a veteran Park visitor, and was delighted to accompany me on my initial trip.

 Wow. Just WOW. As you may know, from previous posts, that I am a native of a most beautiful environment, in Wyoming. So, I'm completely familiar with the wonders of nature in the Rocky Mountains. I appreciated that beauty when I lived there; I still appreciate it now. And I've visited many other spectacular natural environments in the world. I'm just partial to the Rocky Mountains because they are part of my DNA, sort of. However, Yellowstone completely blows "beautiful" "stunning nature" and "gorgeous scenery" totally out of the water. (Often with a loud, exploding geyser, if you know what I mean.)

Seriously, I was in complete awe the entire time. Every curve you drive around, every vista, every bubbling mud pot, every wild animal, every river, mountain, wildflower, and cloud was over the top of my experience with the beauty of the natural world. If  "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it," then probably His vacation home is Yellowstone Park.

I'll go into more detail about the large blessing of that world in another post, but to conclude this post, I need to explain one of the small blessings I experienced while on my trip. I left home and drove the 365 miles north to my daughter's house and slept over night. Then, two of her children and I packed up and drove north about 50 miles to pick up my friend. After carefully securing all of our belongings in a large tarp, and fastening it with a variety of tie-downs in the back of CoolGuy's truck, we set off for another 300 + miles to the north. While in the park, we drove probably 50-100 miles each day, for three days. Then, we loaded up the gear, drove the 300 miles back south. After a couple of days to recover, I got in the truck and started on the final leg of the long journey.

Now, before I set out on this extravaganza, I'd taken the truck in for a tire rotation, air check, etc. etc. I felt confident that everything would be fine--the truck runs well. As I drove back toward our desert home, I was strongly impressed to stop at particular highway off-ramp that I don't normally use. Then, I just decided that I needed to back the truck into the parking space to avoid facing the sun. After I returned from the restroom break, and stretched my legs a little, I approached the truck from the passenger side, which I would not normally do, as the driver. The rear tire caught my eye. It really didn't look right--too low. I thought I'd drive under the freeway, and find a garage in the town, but as I rounded the corner of the gas station, there was a tire place right there. If this had been the next town on I-15, I'd have really hesitated. But, these guys were just sitting in their work bay, chatting with one another, not out there hustling gas customers and trying to drum up bogus business.

I pulled up and asked one fellow if he'd please check the inflation because I didn't like the looks of my back tire. It had all of 8 lbs of pressure (out of the needed 40). EEK! It was flat. He jacked up the truck, took it off, sprayed it down with soapy water and found the leak. A nail was extracted, a plug pushed into place, and the tire remounted. He checked all my other tires--everything was fine. I paid him the pittance he charged for essentially saving me a ruined tire, a possible wreck, and being stranded in the middle of nowhere. All done in less than 20 minutes, and I was treated respectfully.

So, as I continued my drive south toward home, I spent a great deal of that time praying silently, and sometimes aloud, thanking Heavenly Father for hearing my prayers that I offered each leg of my trip. I always petitioned for a safe journey, no accidents, no car trouble. Wow, I certainly got a loud and clear answer. "Stop here. Park like this. Look at that tire."

Blessings:  large as Yellowstone Park, and small as an urge to stop and do a tire check.

The falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Pictures are SO inadequate.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Wyoming

Today is the 124th birthday of my home state, Wyoming. Even though I have not lived there since I graduated from high school, I still feel very attached to it emotionally. I  realize that the introduction of my blog extolls the wonderful sameness of California's lovely weather. I also have a soft spot for Maryland, after living there for ten years. I probably won't ever feel love for Nevada, but I tolerate it because I live here. Plus, it has several fine Western qualities of independence and cussedness. But, Wyoming will always have a special place in my heart.

When we were in the sixth grade, Wyoming celebrated 75 years of statehood. We staged a grand pageant in its honor. Most of the other students were like me---parents and grandparents had spent all of the their lives in our little valley in the Rocky Mountains, there on the western edge of Wyoming. I even wore a dress that was hand sewn by one of my grandmothers when she was a teen. (full disclosure...technically, she grew up on the Idaho side of the highway in her little town in the northern end of our valley...but she went to church and school in Wyoming!) Anyway, CoolGuy dressed in his cowboy hat, fringed jacket, and boots. Plus, he brought a neat old rifle to complement his outfit. Yes, he brought a fully functional gun (unloaded) to school for our program. Several boys did. It was a different time. Plus--it was Wyoming.

(I've had to crop it a little to make the people big enough to see.)
 You can see CoolGuy with his fake mustache in the center, rifle balanced on his legs. I'm seated on the second row, about four girls over to the right. I'm dressed in a blue gingham dress with a large white lace collar. You can see a couple of other boys holding or wearing their guns, if you look closely. It was an awesome pageant. I was part of a group of singers who performed "Springtime in the Rockies."

 Here is the state flower: Indian paintbrush. My fourth grade teacher taught us a song about it. I think she composed the tune to go along with a poem she knew.
 "A strange little flower with a sunkissed nose; without any perfume, yet red as a rose..."

 Here is an excellent example of the Wyoming state tree: the cottonwood. This one used to tower over our house when I was the little girl in between the two big sisters toward the back of this patient horse. It was actually two trees growing from one base and it loomed over the yard and provided shade, autumn leaves and a pretty cool climbing trunk. Unfortunately, its roots were pushing at our house's foundation and wrecking the basement walls, so it was cut down when I was about ten years old. 

State mammal: the American bison. No, it is not a buffalo. It is a bison. I know, I know, it is often called a buffalo. I mean, there's a city in Wyoming named for Buffalo Bill---Cody, Wyo. And there is another city--Buffalo, Wyo.  However, the actual name of this formidable beast is American bison. They're very cool and very crotchety---don't try to pet a wild one.

The state bird is the Western meadowlark. The warbling call of this bird still evokes my childhood. Their bright yellow breast, with the black chevron, made it easily visible as they perched on a fence post and called out, "[EarthSignMama] is a pretty little girl." Well, that's what my mom said it was saying. Turns out CoolGuy's mother told him the same story---not my name, but his name was being whistled loudly as a "good little boy."

The nickname is "Equality State" for giving women the right to vote before any other state did that. But it is also known as the Cowboy state, and the car license plates all display this bucking horse symbol, along with the number identifying which county you hail from. Bucking horses always mean Wyoming to me. 

Here we have the fabulous flag of the 44th state. I've always been glad that the designers chose something graphic and really distinctive for our fabric symbol. There's no mistaking what this represents. We share the colors with Old Glory, but that bison makes it ours. 

Here is a very typical Wyoming view from my part of the state in winter--lots of snow and mountains. 
(P.S. When I took this photo, it was in the afternoon, and it was 3 degrees.)

And here is a really great representation of a summer evening in June. 

But, lest you think I am romanticizing the place, or have my youthful memories clouded by the dimming abilities of age, I present you--

Spring Time on the Farm
It's melting snow mixed with...bovine effluent. It's slippery, it's smelly, it's on everything. Under this ankle-deep goo is a surface of melting ice, which adds to the treacherous footing, and keeps the sliminess working for weeks. It's warm and sometimes rainy during the days, and goes back to really cold at night. Summer is a fleeting event in my beloved home state---spring is erratic and temperamental and endless.

However, I'll still sing a chorus of Happy Birthday, and raise a glass of milk in her honor---Wyoming, Land of my Youth; state that I love; place that I try to visit only in the summer!