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.