Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Getting to Know You

We had a very interesting and amusing Relief Society meeting this week. We have a new set of women who have been called to be the leaders, so they wanted to introduce themselves to us, and then have us get to know one another a little better. It was clever and very well done. First we took a little quiz about their lives and likes. Then we had the chance to sit and chat with other sisters in our ward.

We were instructed to sit at one of the tables set up in the room, which had each of us across from another woman. Then, a deck of index cards was placed, face-down, between us partners. At the sound of the timer, we picked up the top card, read the questions and took turns answering, so that we could learn some interesting facts about our lives. One card was all about music: Do we play an instrument? What kind of music do you like to listen to? What is a favorite song? Etc. One card was about where we'd lived, traveled and where we'd like to go. Another topic was about school: Did we like it? Would we go back to finish a degree? What was our best/worst subject? After just a minute, the timer would ding again, so that each team only answered the questions on one card. At the "ding" one side of the table would move right to the next chair, with a new partner, for the next card and question.

Here's one I read that I decided to share in this post. "What was your first job?" The first job, for which I got money, was babysitting for various neighbors. I'd go and put their kids to bed, and then do some homework or watch T.V. while they were out on the town, often dancing at one of the bars that had a band, and when they'd get home at 11:00 or closer to midnight, I'd collect my 50 cents and get driven home. very first job--meaning responsibility--that I remember was watching my little brother.

Actually, I had a partner in this endeavor--my sister, Patricia, who was fifteen months younger. Our brother would have been about six or seven months old. He didn't crawl yet, but he could sit up. So he was tucked into the red wagon, with a blanket around him for extra support. He was probably wearing little overalls with suspenders. He was a rather big baby. I think he weighed nearly 11 pounds when he was born. So we weren't expected --- perhaps forbidden-- to try to pick him up and carry him. After all, we--the "babysitters"-- were only four and five years old ourselves! So, brother sat in the wagon and we were to watch him and keep him entertained. The wagon was parked near the fence that was about 30 feet from the open barn door. Between us and that door stood about a dozen cows, lazily flipping a fly now and then with their tails, chewing their cuds, as they waited their turn inside the red barn. That's where our mother was. She and our two older sisters, nine and ten years old, were milking the twelve cows that were standing in the stalls, munching their tasty rolled barley ration. Our dad was up in the fields either harrowing, or drilling, or --most likely on a beautiful June evening like that--irrigating the alfalfa, armed with a shovel and canvas dams, dressed in his hip-high waders and his straw hat.

Our mother milked the cows every evening in the summer, so that my dad could do all the multitude of jobs that really never ended. Our big sisters were almost old enough to handle the whole chore on their own, and I know that by the next summer, with my mom queasy with another baby on the way, they took over from her. Mother had grown up milking her father's cows, so she was an experienced hand at this farming business. It really takes everyone in the family to make it a success. Also, she wasn't exactly a sissy. She spent plenty of time in a tractor seat, herself, from harrowing to running the buck rake before my dad owned a baler. In the fall, she would drive the grain truck, taking loads from the combine in the field down to either the feed store or to one of the granaries by the barn to be stored for winter use.

So, when it was milking time, everyone was expected to step up and do their job. My job, as the bigger sister, was to supervise my little sister and my little brother. I'm pretty confident that we needed watched almost as much as he did! But, I remember floating lilac leaves on the little stream of irrigation water that floated across the barnyard to the pasture. I remember having the kitties frolicking near us, batting at the little bugs that would fly up from the grass along the fence line. If there were lambs in the pasture, they would crowd near the wire, hoping we had their bottles of milk. It was warm and wildflowers were blooming. I don't think the milking took more than an hour. I don't even know if the herd was up to two dozen cows by then--probably. We had old-fashioned milkers that got carried from cow to cow. A few cows were fussy, and had to milked by hand into a bucket, but a nine or ten year old girl could do that. We all had our chores and we all did them and afterwards, went inside for supper and bed. When you are farm girls, you learn early how to just get to work and get it done. It was excellent training for my grown-up life.  

This is the brother, when he was just a few weeks old. I'm the sister in the blue dress. By summer, he could sit up and you can tell that we two on the front row would have been excellent babysitters. The two sisters on the back row were very responsible cow milkers at that point, too.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cat Life

I read today a comment that said, "If the NSA is archiving all of our Facebook postings, then you're saying that about 30% of our national security information is cat pictures?"  Well, here's another contribution to the cat database....

I've talked before of the magnificent KitKat. She rules the house. One of her most favorite sleeping surfaces is our bed cover. It is a patchwork quilt made from corduroy. If I get into bed and only place the sheet over my body, because I'm a little too warm, then she will stand beside me and stare impatiently until I pull the quilt over my legs so that she can cuddle on the corduroy. On the days when I wash the sheets, and the corduroy is piled randomly in the center of the bed, she is beside herself with unrest. It simply is the best nap surface, ever.  Here's an example of her devotion to this quilt.

So, it was with extra irritation a couple of nights ago that I walked into my room to find that she'd chosen a new place to sleep. I'd placed a pile of clothing from the dryer on the bed, intending to fold them after I'd put dinner on to cook. But, I found the KitKat sound asleep, curled up comfortably on my black knit pants. NOT on the two pair of jeans; NOT on the denim shirts; NOT on the vast expanse of the Special Corduroy Quilt. Oh, no! That would be too obvious! She chose the small bit of black knit pant leg that was exposed. It was the one object on the bed that would most vividly display the cat hair she was shedding as fast as she could in the limited time she had to nap there. Sigh. Cat life---so incomprehensible.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Birthday! Birthday! Birthday!

It's birthday time again! Here's a little retrospective of  years gone by.
 Such a funny book! It's called "Miami Mice" about some Florida rodent detectives. 1988
Hiking in the canyon above the Pacific Ocean along Highway 1. 1992

 Thoughtful? Exhausted? We'd just had five kids born in eight years, and he wasn't a sit back and watch kind of dad...1985

Monterey, California...such a nice place 1991

Baby boy and daddy  1984

Santa Barbara weekend get-away 1990

Admiring the artist Cristo's work along I-5 in California 1991

Daddy and Sweetie-Pie 1981
Grandpa! 2005

Navy Achievement Medal 1980

Biker Grandpa! 2013

Horsey-ride Grandpa 2007

Friday, January 10, 2014

Off They Go

My whole married life, I've lived by a military air base. In California it was always a Naval Air station (or two). In Maryland, we had a Naval Air Station and then, about 30 miles up the road from my school was Andrews Air Force Base. Some days, while at recess duty on the playground, I could see Air Force One up in the sky on its final approach. Cool. Even in our brief time in Idaho, CoolGuy worked at an Air Force Base. Here, in Las Vegas, our home and my school are only a few miles from a large Air Force base that also happens to home to the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. In fact, one of my student's father is their videographer.

Living near air bases means there is usually the noise from planes and helicopters. But, I've just become accustomed to it as the background sound of life. Once, in California, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels air team was performing at the base where CoolGuy worked. They put on two shows that weekend, but we didn't drive over to the base and struggle through the traffic. We just went into our backyard and laid on the trampoline and watched! Of course, we couldn't see the entire show, but they flew over our house regularly in their turn-arounds and you could count the rivets on the wings.

Today, as we do each Friday, the entire student body met upstairs on our playground for flag ceremony. Each class gets a turn to present it. Students march up the center aisle carrying the U.S. flag and our Nevada state flag, place them into the holders, and then we all remove our hats, and join together for the Pledge of Allegiance. Just as we finished reciting it today, as we all still stood at attention following "...with liberty and justice for all" the six jets from the Thunderbirds team swooped up and over the air field to the north of our school. They had their smokers on, leaving a white trail, and they soared straight up in the sky. One jet peeled off to the west, while the other five turned north and then, we couldn't see them anymore. It was awesome! How many other elementary schools get the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flying team to provide the perfect accent for their flag ceremony?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Ringing in the New Year

Or, rather riding in the New Year. It was 65 degrees, and beautifully sunny this afternoon when CoolGuy and I set off into the desert for the Because-We-Can motorcycle ride. Seriously, the air felt warm on my face and we tooled along the road that goes east up through a gap between two mountains and leads out into the Lake Mead Recreation Area. It is always so desert-y stark out there. It doesn't really matter what time of year it is--it will never be green out there. A few hardy pieces of vegetation poke up out of the hard packed alkaline soil, but the scenery is dominated by rock.

So have a great day and a great year. We hope to able to ride out to the desert again, 365 days from now and take another photo. Hopefully, it will be on the motorcycle, and not wheelchairs.