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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Zen of Insomnia

The ancients believed that the moon was responsible for madness--that's where we get "lunatic", but then, you knew that.  My readers are astute.  We here in Idaho also know that superintendents of education named Luna richly deserve their own names.  My issues with the moon extend no further than its full stage. Our bedroom becomes so illuminated when the moon is full that I can actually read in the dark--well almost.  At any rate, I am often rendered sleepless.  I'm also not beyond believing that a recent corral event resulting in a patch of alpaca fleece being ripped from the hiney of our baby Simone was the result of some classless animal's night maraudings--yet another lunatic abroad.

All of this aside, I have made my peace with moon-induced sleeplessness over the years.  Once I determined that tossing and turning resulted in...well, more tossing and turning, I learned to get up and embrace my inner insomniac.  So far tonight/this morning I've progressed on a shawl I'm knitting, watched a couple of youtube tutorials, ordered some fabric with my birthday money, sent out a couple of emails, breezed briefly over to, snacked up a biscotti, put my phone on the charger, and now I'm wowing the world with this heart-stopping blogpost.  I've done a bit of thinking too, but experience has shown that too much of that in the wee hours is detrimental.  Thinking be gone!!!!

  • Paco has a $25 reward posted for the discovery of his van and truck keys.  He has lost them in a grand way--somewhere in the farmyard.  Needle in a haystack you say?  Exactly.  I imported one of my 7th graders (I have a limitless supply) after school.  Zac's methodical search yielded no keys, but he did join in some jolly dung raking and feasted at our dinner table as well.
  • We're on skeleton crew at school between fieldtrips and track meets.  Those of us left behind do our best to cerebrum on, but today was a parade of drama queens and squirrels (my "pet" name for restless mischievous 7th graders).  Spring, post standardized-test trauma, and May in the air.  Doesn't leave us much to work with.
  • Have you met Pudsey yet?  Google/youtube him.  A snappy little dancing canine who won the hearts of Britain's Got Talent.  Mugsy hmmmphed when I showed him the youtube.  He doesn't cotton to show-off types apparently.
  • I received some priceless 6 year old art in the mail today.  Thanks, Charlie!  You rock my world!
  • We've picked up a boat.  It's a bit of a relic, but then, so are we.
It's almost 3.  I should try and sneak in a few winks.  Fortunately, the residual effects of this won't hit until Friday--at which point I can collapse in a pool of weekend stupor...ness.  I bid you a fond adieu.  Au revoir.  May all your schlafens be gut.  And if you've got a spare metal detector, head on out.  We've got acres of undiscovered diamonds...take your pick.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Elijah Kidnapped Houston!!"

I hosted not one, but TWO seder dinners today in my 7th grade reading classes.  Passover is certainly passed and over, but we had to wait to import some matzos.  Passover foods are scarce in these parts.  For the past month my reading classes have been studying  and discussing some age-appropriate aspects of the Holocaust as introduced in The Devil's Arithmetic.  Interest is high.  I've done my best (because I ever strive to be a full service literature teacher...yeah right) to stumble over the Yiddish and bring some small understanding of Jewish history and customs to light.  I can guarantee my charades and  explanation of a bris would have brought the house down in the right setting.  Being the goy that I am, I modified the meal today.  After a youtube briefing on the seder plate ingredients and their symbolism, a sincere explanation of the why of Passover by Virtual Rabbi Axelrod, AND a vivid step back into a review of the plagues and the flight from Egypt (yeah howdy!) on another youtube, we peeled and chopped apples, poured grape juice, broke matzos and even sampled some horseradish. We also opened a can of sardines that my "Passover Connection" had sent along as well as some grand macaroons. I gave a smashing explanation of kosher, threw in what I know about some other Jewish holidays gleaned from books and a tight friendship with Margie in NJ whose husband was a rabbi, and tied it all up with a back reference to the seder dinner as depicted in our novel.  I was delighted when one of the kids offered to hide the matzo (they DO listen!!).  We covered our eyes and counted to 20.  Then Houston enthusiastically volunteered to open the door for Elijah (yet AGAIN they listened!!).  I said sure, and then the next thing I heard was a chorus of, "Elijah kidnapped Houston!!"  What 7th grade boy could  resist disappearing once any door is opened, let alone one from which an ancient Old Testament prophet might appear? I don't know any. Not to worry.  Houston has an identical twin, Hayden, so we had a spare. Will update on Houston when we get the note.  Anybody out there read, "The Ransom of Red Chief"...?

Monday, April 15, 2013


The sum total of this madcap self-imposed marathon of events has been mostly private in nature.  Not that I haven't been vocal about it.  I have indeed!  To complete strangers and to my friends who are probably like, "Enough already!"  I read 60 books, blogged 60 posts, walked 60 miles, gave up sugar for 60 days, passed out 60 homemade cookies to 60 strangers today, read 60 children's books outloud, and gave away 60 of my possessions.  That's what it may have appeared I was thinking about this past year.  That's what it LOOKED like.  What it FELT like has been completely different.  I'm way too tired to wax eloquent here, and besides, that wasn't my point.  When I started thinking about what another decade would mean to me, I was running scared.  So there you have it.  My experiment has been nothing more than a distraction to keep me safe from addressing the real demon--my own mortality.  It's all been a smoke screen--something to keep my hands occupied while my mind was busy wrapping itself around aging.  Conclusions?  I don't think there's a book in it for me, but perhaps a chapter in a book.  Maybe that's all we can hope for--life gives us enough material for a really smashing chapter. 

"Quickly Fly the Years"

I fully intended to write this post today complete with pictures.  In typical fashion, I'm down to the midnight hour as it were, so this post comes au natural, which is actually appropriate because that's the way I came too 60 years ago!!

10 Years Ago--We had just moved to Omaha two weeks previously.  My son, Taggart, had been deployed to Kuwait and then on to Baghdad with the First Marines.  This was truly a time of terror in my life.  The entire 3 months he was gone, I was glued to the news or on my knees praying.  The traumatic move from NJ to Nebraska sort of compounded my emotions as well.  On April 15, 2003, our home was still full of boxes.  Some new furniture dotted the new space.  We were getting the lay of the land, and Jerry was settling in to a new work environment.  I would not begin working again for 18 months.  Nevertheless, I celebrated my birthday by treating myself to a burrito at a local Mexican cantina and then puppy shopping at the Omaha Humane Society (which incidentally is actually worth a trip to Omaha to see!!!)  It would be 6 months before Mugsy joined the party, but I became a regular, making bi-monthly visits to oogle the dogs.  Life went on to even out.  My son came home, we settled into our lovely home, and our new lifestyle unfolded.

20 Years Ago--I was recently divorced and smack in the middle of obtaining an English teaching certificate from Idaho State University.  This necessitated driving to Pocatello one night a week in fall, winter, and spring and 4 days a week in the summer for three years--a gargantuan sacrifice looking back on it.  My three kids and I bought a comfy little home and filled it with marvelous friends and good times.  On my 40th birthday,  I remember a small celebration at school with friends.  When I returned at midnight from Pocatello, Thomas and his friends had written a large, "Happy Birthday" over my bedroom carpet with tiny pieces of paper.  In the center was a "sunflower seed container" Thomas had made out of a small box.  I still have it.  Ever unique.

30 Years ago--At this time we were living in a 2-bedroom apartment in married student housing at the University of Texas in Austin.  The year previous we had gone without a car of any sort--took the bus, walked, bummed rides to church, or rode bikes equipped with saddle bags to carry groceries.  My ex-husband Chris was working on a doctorate in piano performance.  On my birthday some friends came for cake.  Texas memories are always a quirky combination of poverty, 3 little kids, and some of the best times of my life.  For a good time, go to Texas, ya'll.

40 Years Ago--I was a sophomore at Brigham Young University.  For my 20th birthday I cooked stuffed pork chops for my boyfriend Mark.  I also baked 3 jello cakes and invited about 40 people to come for cake.  It was a smashing party!  People wandered in and out.  Nobody does that except at college which is a true shame.  At the end of the evening I remember shoving cake into Mark's face.  Pretty classless on my part.  I remember one of my roommate's boyfriend gave me some beets as a gift.  Why do I remember that 40 years later?

50 Years Ago--My family lived in Arco, Idaho--a microscopic Idaho hamlet just this side of Hell way out in the desert.  For my birthday unfortunately I was sick with undiagnosed hepatitis.  My birthday was a blur of trying to keep 7-up in my system as my sole means of sustenance.  No party.  No friends over.  Just my parents trying to figure out what in the heck was wrong with me.  And oh yeah, my mom thought shots would help, so she administered lots of those.

What will I remember 10 years from now about this day?  Snow--more than April has a right to bestow, lunch with my friend Elyse, a giant mango frosting cupcake made by a sweet student, losing the dog, and cooking spaghetti noodles and then bagging them for 200 servings of spaghetti in anticipation of a church fund-raiser tomorrow night.  I had good help, though.  I received a beautiful bouquet from my son and his family, and well wishes galore. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Top 60 of Pushin' 60

  1. 7th graders rocking their state achievement tests!!
  2. early spring--warm and green and beautiful
  3. end of school year!
  4. working in my garden for the first time of the season--I love that!!!  Green peaking through!!
  5. week in Pocatello with teacher friends at a conference at Idaho State
  6. glancing into the alpaca shed and seeing a brand new white little darling baby!!!!  Such a surprise!!! 
  7. a magnificent 10 day trip to parts east with my friend Lana
  8. a day at  Grounds for Sculpture in NJ
  9. end-of-school-year party at my friend Cathie's with all my old friends
  10. quilt store hopping with my friend Eileen
  11. Newsies on Broadway!!
  12. cheesecake at Junior's!!!
  13. lunch at Yale
  14. walking the Freedom Trail in Boston in an unbelievable downpour!!!
  15. canolli's at Mike's in Boston
  16. Make Way for Duckling ducks at Boston Commons
  17. walking tour of Concord and Lexington, MA
  18. walking around Walden Pond (never you mind that naked guy we saw..)
  19. lobster on Cape Cod
  20. Newport mansions in Rhode Island
  21. alpaca shearing day (oh my gosh...)
  22. 6 weeks with my daughter and grandchildren as guests
  23. taking everyone in the electric car to the library, for ice cream, and to get Chinese multiple times!
  24. playing in the water and mud with grandsons
  25. early morning reveries in my English garden
  26. reading books in the cool of the evening after everyone was asleep all summer
  27. trips to the lake
  28. Treehouse Museum and Dinosaur Park in Ogden with grandkids
  29. raspberry shakes in Garden City
  30. 4th of July parade in Paris
  31. 4th of July with Aunt Norma and Thomas' family as guests
  32. river trip down the Snake with Paco
  33. hiking and camping in Tetons and Yellowstone with Paco
  34. visit of friend Tricia and her adorable daughters Claire and Olivia
  35. Zack's wedding
  36. river trip down the Snake with friends
  37. first days of school
  38. Jackson/Teton trip with knitting friends
  39. bonding with my entire family during the sickness and death of Aunt Norma
  40. raclette Thanksgiving with family
  41. Christmas in Denver!
  42. massage gift from Tag on Christmas Eve with Tracy and Mary (two of my favorites!)
  43. playing store with grandkids
  44. knitting every Thursday night--oh how I love to do that
  45. sewing Happy Birthday banners for New Beginnings
  46. long weekend in Phoenix visiting my friend Lana
  47. hiking in the Superstion Mountains of AZ
  48. spring break in DC and MD
  49. visiting the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (Shuttle, Concorde, Enola Gay etc.)
  50. pushing a stroller around the monuments in DC
  51. pandas, tigers, elephants, lions at National Zoo
  52. Appalachian Trail adventures with Shelly
  53. yarn stores with Shelly in VA and MD.
  54. sitting by the fire with Paco
  55. reading books in bed
  56. dark winter nights (I love them!!!  I head for my bed!)
  57. Shrek
  58. brief spring visit of grandkids
  59. planning trip to Europe
  60. anticipating my 60th birthday!!

Book #60...whew...

In the interest of full disclosure I have read this book before.  Not only have I read it perhaps a dozen times, I mark in the little boxes--adding dates and locations etc., so my copy is getting tattered.  And not only have I read it a dozen or so times, marked in the boxes, and messed around with its binding, I have also given away probably 30 copies of it and been responsible for ordering conservatively another 175 which were then purchased by my students. Ms. Kipfer owes me...This is a book of 6,000 things you might want to include in your lifelist, bucketlist--whatever you choose to call it.  I have been doing lifelists with my students for 16 years as a writing assignment and keeping one myself for over 20 years.  Some of the kids get WAAAY into it.  I'm assuming this will all be grocery store talk (assuming I can still put coherent thoughts together) when I run into them in the years to come--already has been.  If you just tuned in, reading 60 books has been part of my Take That-You-Big-Bad-Nasty-60th-Birthday warfare.  Tomorrow I'll recap it all. Don't touch that dial!  I probably filled in at least 45 more of the check-off boxes this time around.  Surprisingly, the items on my list are getting done!  Furthermore, I noted some events I want to accomplish and cross off  very soon--this summer! (she squeals as she practically wets her pants!)
  • sleep in a stable surrounded by animals (I don't remember ever having seen this!  I have animals AND a stable-like thingey too!)
  • visit the country my spouse's family came from and look for cultural clues (Paco and I ARE going to the Czech Republic in June!  The cow of his relatives was stolen back in the day--Ellis Island time.  They reported it to the local constable who gave a primal shrug, and then the Hadds  said (or the Bohemian equivalent), "We're outta here!" and headed to Minnesota.  There.  Now that's cleared up.  Paco is Czech.)
  • bike roads of Alps (check check soon!)
  • see Cathedral of Autun (good chance)
  • see a Viennese operetta (with some begging!)
  • pause for a kiss under  the Arc de Triomphe (did it once but am game for another)
  • visit a boulangerie, confiserie, and patisserie to determine differences
  • visit Hradcary in Czech Republic--largest castle in the world!
  • eat gaufres (hot Belgian waffles) in Belgium
  • eat Edam cheese in Edam, Holland
  • soak in an Icelandic hot spring
  • ride an Icelandic pony across Iceland (a stretch perhaps, but maybe I could pet one)
  • eat Limburger cheese in Limburg, Belgium
  • smell lavender fields in Provence
  • visit Giverny of Monet fame
  • eat Suchen torte in Vienna
These may not all get checked off, but I'm going in prepared just in case!  Ya got have a plan!!  And I can always do write-in's on the lines provided if something else crops up.
I also jotted down a few items from the book that I just generally don't want to neglect because they are so ever-loving cool!
  • build a backyard gazebo (I would just park my bones there and say gazebo, gazebo, gazebo over and over because it is the snazziest word in the language!  Right?)
  • learn to say I Love You in 10 languages
  • read the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy (I picked it up at Strand's a bit ago!)
  • learn to make baklava (I have a teacher!!!!)\
  • wear white all year (the Year of Living Biblically guy advocates that as well)
  • go to clown school (you just wait...)
  • shed ambition (Oh, I SO have!)
  • build a backyard pond
  • rid the Western world of body piercing
  • diagram the Gettysburg Address, so I can see Lincoln's logic at work
  • spend a summer at a writer's colony (ahhh...)
  • rollerblade down the spiral ramp of the Guggenheim Museum
  • build a getaway treehouse (we'll send pictures!)
And last but not least BECAUSE I WILL Do this tomorrow
  • on your birthday eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Looking For Spring In All the Wrong Places!

 Paco and I went in search of Spring.  We didn't find it in the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  It wasn't at the National Zoo.  Rosie thinks the otters have a clue. We looked in a couple of parks.  Someone even suggested that Einstein was hiding Spring!  Was it behind the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial?  How about in that cool cool head of white hair?  Shelly and I searched high and low--all the way down to Corbin Cabin in Shenandoah National Park.  Maybe if we spend the night on the floor, Spring will arrive in the morning!!  Let's just hike a bit on the Appalachian Trail.  Surely we'll find it.  Wait a sec!!!  That bear is looking for it too!!!  Run!!!!  As for that elusive Spring--we're still stalking it.

Friday, April 12, 2013


I knitted this little yellow dress which my granddaughter Rosalie is wearing on Easter Sunday.  I've knitted blankets, hats and sweaters for those two clown brothers behind her as well and for my other grandchildren.  If you were inclined to research all the knitting blogs available it would stagger your imagination.  Yet, I rarely write about the effect of this very intrusive hobby on my life.  I just finished a book called Free Range Knitting by a very clever and funny Canadian knitter named Stephanie. Her book has prodded me to write more about knitting or to at least blog about it today

Like most Mormon girls of my generation I was taught to knit in Primary.  My grandmother knit and my mother knit sporadically, but I was a late-bloomer.  When we moved in the early 80's to Austin, TX, my neighbor, Janice, rekindled my interest.  She and I worked in the Senate and would spend our breaks and lunches out under a tree on the lawn knitting--which by the way, is totally pleasant.  She "retaught" me to knit European style or continental--a skill she had learned when her husband was stationed in Turkey.  Janice was a wonderful patient teacher, and we became good friends.  I made sweaters, Christmas stockings, and some scarves, but it wasn't until 17 years later in the middle of Hurricane Floyd that I pulled out my needles and never put them away again.  My friends Emily and Carl were in Alabama haggling out legal matters in the adoption of Spencer who was to be their child.  It was touch and go; we at home were on the edge of our seats!  On the day of Hurricane Floyd, I was sitting alone in our home in NJ with the winds raging--Paco was in AZ.  Hurricanes were a new matter for me. I pulled out my knitting to calm myself and decided I would knit a "sweater of faith" for Spencer--thus extending my hopes in his behalf that he would come home with Emily and Carl.  He did.  He wore the sweater, and that became the first of dozens of baby pullovers I would knit.  I can knit them in the car, in the dark of a movie, and almost in my sleep.  My skills have expanded as has my obsession. I meet EVERY Thursday with my current knitting group, "In Stitches", and we are one tight little knitting family.  They deserve more than this Shout-Out, so I promise more on them at another time.  I've added spinning to my hobby AS WELL AS 9 ALPACAS who spend 24/7 growing this phenomenol fleece. 

At times I feel obsessive which should perhaps worry me.  I pack my knitting around with me basically everywhere--in our ward in Princeton we even knit during Sunday meetings!!!  I'd SO like to be that gutsy here!!  My daughter Shelly is a knitter as well.  That compounds my pleasure!!  She's more funky and daring than I am, and it tickles me to behold that.  Someday when I pass on she'll inherit my stash.  When the semi pulls up in front of her house, I can imagine the neighbors will be disappointed in its contents...

I can tell this is the tip of the iceberg of what I have to say about knitting. 

Be Our Guest!

I've been keeping a guestbook since 1991  when my kids and I bought a little A-frame house, moved in, got a dog, and hunkered down for the next 8 years.  That book filled up, we got another etc. Last week headstone salesman/good friend Scott wrote the last comment in our 5th book.  Replacing a guestbook isn't as easy as one would hope.  They're very very challenging to find-- white wedding ones being dominant.  Our last book has a moose, a wood duck, a fish, pine cones and an Adirondack chair on the cover.  Outstanding as far as guestbooks go--top in its class!  I found it in a gift shop of a restaurant on Lake Superior in Minnesota.  I should have purchased two.

I curl up in bed with these guestbooks sometimes.  They make great reading and infuse one with nostalgia.  Several languages appear, some addresses and emails, art, jokes, recipes, and even titles of books or dvd's that have been borrowed.  Some people just sign their names.  Others write epistles.  A few just parrot back what the person ahead of them wrote.  Some signatures are illegible.  The next time we're all together, I think we'd better do some deciphering.

These books chronicle exchange students, wedding dinners, slumber parties, book clubs, knitting groups, baby and bridal showers, home evenings, class visits of my students, investment clubs (both inceptions and founder's days), family visits, fundraisers, missionary farewells and homecomings, Eagle Scout parties, graduation parties, birthday parties, cooking demonstrations, Chinese New Year celebrations, BINGO, Old Movie Club, new Beagle puppy baby  llama and  newborn alpaca visits, Halloween donuts visits, moving away farewells, moving in welcomes, visits from church people, strangers passing through who came to dinner, guests who stayed overnight or for multiple months, students who brought college roommates or fianc├ęs or new babies to introduce, relatives in town for a funeral, friends who came to wallpaper or paint or start a furnace, guests using our NJ home as base or NYC visits, missionary meals, llama and alpaca shearing events--in other words, lives lived.

One small guest recorded losing a tooth at our house that day.  One guest was traveling through on horseback from Colorado.  He stayed for a week, cutting wood, making fabulous omelettes, and filling our dinner table with such stories. Another guest proclaims she's "Going out to see the world!" At last report from her mom, Marti is living in Italy, so I guess she is! Eight senior citizen cross America bikers that I met in a camp by our home came for dinner.  They wrote:  "Thanks for stopping to inquire about our trip.  It was so nice to meet your son and friends."  "I loved your bread, my Bosch 'sister'!"  "Marilyn, I don't know how to tell you how much pleasure it gives me to see God's children being kind to wayward travelers."  Oh, but that was MY pleasure, Bud.  I have addresses for a few of those bikers from Corvallis, OR.  We're going to Oregon this summer.  What if...?

One of my favorite entries was made in August of 1997 by one Jerry Hadd: "Sure beats Wyoming and Western Nebraska.  Great dinner and marvelous company.  It gets better every day!"

At the moment we're freefalling with no replacement guestbook to break our fall.  I'm tempted to lock all the doors and turn out all the lights until I can once again offer a guest a place to record a date, a signature, and a comment.  Paco always tells people that if you don't sign the book we won't let you come back.  I always deny that. Have I chased people down the sidewalk to their car waving the guestbook?  Well...maybe once or twice.  What good hostess wouldn't?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 15

  • 1775--Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language is published
  • 1817--Gallaudet and Clerc found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT
  • 1865--Abraham Lincoln dies after being shot the previous evening by John Wilkes Booth
  • 1892--The General Electric Company is formed
  • 1912--The RMS Titanic sinks at 2:20 A.M., two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.  Only 710 of 2,227 passengers and crew on board survive.
  • 1923--Insulin becomes generally available
  • 1924--Rand McNally publishes its first road atlas.
  • 1927--The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the most destructive river flood in U.S. history, begins
  • 1945--The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp is liberated
  • 1955--McDonalds opens its first franchised restaurant by Ray Kroc in Des Plaines, Illinois
  • 1964--Chesapeake Bay Bridge opens (world's longest)
  • 1969--North Korea shoots down a U.S. Navy aircraft over the Sea of Japan, killing all 31 on board
  • 1973--Walt Disney Store opens
  • 1983--Tokyo Disneyland opens
  • 1989--The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 begin in the People's Republic of China
  • 1992--Leona Helmsly is sent to jail for tax evasion
  • 2010--Volcanic ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland leads to the closure of airspace over most of Europe
  • Births: Leonardo da Vinci, Catherine the Great, Henry James, Corrie Ten Boom, Nikita Kruschev, Sir Neville Marriner, Roy Clark, Elizabeth Montgomery, Heloise, Dodi Al-Fayed, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson
  • Deaths: Jean-Paul Sartre, Corrie Ten Boom, Greta Garbo, John Jacob Astor


I'm down to less than a week before my "Pushin' 60" becomes history--a thing I did once, an experiment.  What started out as a hairbrained idea to spend my 60th birthday on the Appalachian Trail has grown and evolved and morphed into something I would never have anticipated.  Not that it's over.  Oh no!  I'm still pushing each day.  I have blogposts to write--lots to still say because I'm going to wrap the year all up in a bound book.  I still have 4 books to read, 60 cookies to give to strangers, and some other stuff I'm keeping as a surprise.  Oddly enough I'm hoping that by the time the commemorative day arrives I can basically ignore it.  In this case, the journey has devoured the destination completely.  The natural question my friends ask is "What next?"  That is a GREAT question!  We should ask that on a daily basis.  Originally I thought I'd write a book--sort of a handbook for graying women.  I'm no Nora Ephron, but I know there's an audience of baby boomers like myself.  Crossroads, self minimization, deteriorating whatever--good stuff to write about.  I've also toyed around with the idea of starting another blog and bravely addressing some non-conservative matters--perhaps anonymously.  It also looks like I'm going to be able to redefine myself as an elementary teacher for a while--a big big deal personally.  Don't touch that dial!!!  You can all come along--that is, if you thrust yourself into something as well.   

Monday, April 8, 2013


Sprizzards are annual events here in Brrrrrrr Lake.  They're usually spliced somewhere between the first day of Spring and the time we plant gardens.  Today's sprizzard was particularly dramatic because rumor has it that we're to expect 10-12 inches of snow and 60 mph winds!  A real doozy of a sprizzard!!!!  I am currently the reigning "Farmhand" here at Provident Heritage Farm.  Paco is off wrestling Minnesota for a spell.  I HAD to feed the alpacas--no other humane choice was left to me.  They need and deserve to eat. I bundled up like an astronaut, contemplated stringing a rope from the house to the barn ala Little House on the Prairie, and headed out.  If I leaned into it I could remain upright.  The animals were hunkered down in their respective quarters.  Plato spit at me, but I'm choosing to interpret it as "Thanks, oh thanks a bunch!  Really thanks!"  Midway between hand hauling the hay around the barn to deliver to the girls, I thought to myself, "If you were to go down out here--break something, trip, infarc randomly--no one would even miss you until the bell rings tomorrow morning at 8!"  A heck of a lot of frostbite, hypothermia, and DEATH could take place before then!!!!  At one point I came upon a wheelbarrow that I thought might help me move the hay.  After stopping every 2 feet to kick off the accumulated snow from the wheel (yes it was THAT deep), I scooped up the half bale and pushed into the wind.   When I came inside I was completely crusted over with ice and snow--encased as it were.  My cowl (thank you dear daughter) stood up by itself in the bathtub!!  Hoping for a snow day out of this, but if not that, then bragging rights--"I Survived the April 9, 2013 Sprizzard!"  Incidentally Spring + Blizzard = Sprizzard.  I know you figured that out, but just in case.  I composed that word special for this blog.  I've never heard it or read it or even thought it until just now.  Bling? 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saints Alive!

Twice a year 21,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather in this phenomenol building across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City,and in five different two hour meetings listen to speeches of instruction and faith from leaders whom we all sustain as prophets, apostles, and great leaders.  Paco and I just returned from attending.  The conferences look and sound similar time after time with a few variations.  Sometimes the news announced makes the whole audience go, "Wow...ahhh...ohhh..."  One time I was present here when President Hinkley playfully hit Elder Eyring with his cane in a comradrec way, and the place broke out in laughter sort of bordering on jolly.  We sit way way up in the rafters for the most part, but a couple of times we've been very up close and personal.  For most of the 120 conferences that I've been alive for, I've watched it on TV with family or friends.  The thrill of being there for me is singing with 20,999 other people.  It's grand beyond description for me.  This year's conference was short on the over-zealous Bible thumpers who usually station themselves along the sidewalks and try to hurl insults.  They must be tiring of coming. I wouldn't imagine they're targeting the right audience. A row of teenagers was sitting in front of us.  One of the boys was stretched across someone else, and the girl of the group was writing all over his arm.  Paco leaned up and said something like, "Did you come to listen or to play?"  The girl next to Paco was texting off and on.  REALLY PEOPLE????  REALLY????

I miss attending conference in the original tabernacle.  Those were the days when you had to arrive early early to stand in line.  The place filled up fast!  I remember my BYU days fondly--singing outside in the dark in a huddled crowd of strangers waiting for the hours to pass--making new friends. A couple of boyfriends took me there.  I remember one of them sleeping through the entire session.
My father told the story of running down this very aisle when he was around 5.  His uncle was on the general Sunday School board and had taken him (my father was left fatherless at around 3, so lots of extended relatives raised him).  The charming part of the story is that President Heber J. Grant stopped him and reprimanded him.  Less formality in those days.  Nowadays not too many prophets ever end up in the aisles like that.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Milk and Cookies

Subject:  Biology Exam- Priceless, 'Name seven advantages of Mother's Milk.' The question was worth 70 points or none at all.

One student, in particular, was hard put to think of seven advantages. However, he wrote:

1) It is perfect formula for the child.
2) It provides immunity against several diseases.
3) It is always the right temperature.
4) It is inexpensive.
5) It bonds the child to mother, and vice versa.
6) It is always available as needed.

And then the student was stuck. Finally, in desperation, just before the bell rang indicating the end of the test, he wrote:

7) It comes in two attractive containers and it's high enough off the ground where the cat can't get it.

He got an A.
Yes, those ARE cookie crumbs you see on my face.  Yes, I AM eating Girl Scout cookies.  Yes, they ARE Samoas--the best of GS cookies.  Yes, it is only 6:06 A.M., and I am feeling a little woozy.  No, I am NOT sugar free anymore.  Yes, I DID enjoy 4 Cadbury caramel eggs yesterday.  Yes, I AM looking forward to brown licorice today.  Yes, I WILL return to sugarfree soon--deep down inside I know I should.  No, I am not the self-discipline maven I was a mere 48 hours ago.  Yes, I feel a bit diminished. 
  • it's pouring outside!  So very April!!
  • Paco is heading out today for a 40 year missionary (French Swiss) reunion.  I'm putting my money on him as "best preserved"!
  • I'm campaigning to teach 5th grade next year--that's been on my mind since my OWN year in 5th grade and appears on my Lifelist.
  • I'm knitting something tubular, very bright, and that goes around your neck!
  • I have 4 more books to read before I reach my 60!
  • Another ginormous box of herbs arrived...du du du...
  • We're off to General Conference!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Sh Sh Sh Sh Sh Sh Sugartown"

I gave up sugar 60 days ago today.  More specifically (because I know sugar is hiding in everything), I wiped out candy, cookies, cake, pie, ice cream, and soda.  Results?  Hmmmm....I don't have any to report, other than the rush that self control brings.  One disclaimer:  I DID eat one lone macaroon made lovingly by Paco for me in MD last week because he knows I will cross vast deserts on my knees for a macaroon AND he used the last of the coconut to just make a few.  How could I turn away from that kind of devotion?  So on this morning of re-entry I wish I could say going off sugar was life-changing.  It wasn't.  I don't feel any differently.  The only masjor difference I've experienced is that I don't have blood sugar spikes, or in other words, cravings or extreme hunger. Maybe other more visible results would come tomorrow or the next day.  Maybe 61 days is the magic place. Perhaps THEN my body would arise Phoenix-like and to the swelling of the "Hallelujah Chorus", I would awaken with the body of a 20 year old!  My teeth would glisten!  I would recall poetry memorized in 4th grade!  I guess I'll never know because I've squirreled away Samoas and Cadbury (did you know that you can purchase Cadbury chocolate in vending machines on the tube platforms in London????  It's a BEAUTIFUL thing...) caramel eggs for this day.  Part of me wants to soldier on sugarless and just have faith that I'm doing my body a big huge physiological favor.  Part, not so much. But, I will cross it off my "Pushin' 60" list

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Soul Food--Brazilian Style!

I'm posting my best recipe today!  It originated with a friend from our first "tour of duty" in NJ, Rene Brage, a bona fide Brazilian himself.  It was his standard missionary meal.  I've served this with unfailing rave reviews to all manner of guests and taken it along on camping trips as well.  When my youngest son, Thomas, returned from missionary work in Brazil we made a bee-line for a Brazilian restaurant in Manhattan and ordered this.  Similar, so I know it's pretty legit.  My only advice is to make a VAT of this.  Don't question why.  Official name?  Here it is phonetically--fezsh wada com plet a. Oh, and you might want to make the veggie topping in your bathtub because you'll want to serve it over everything from oatmeal to ice cream from now on.
Brazilian Black Beans and Rice
Wash and soak a bag of black beans overnight.  I cook mine in the pressure cooker for about 45 minutes and then throw them into the crockpot with the meat (bratwurst, porkloin, pork ribs, pork chops, Italian sausage etc.).  Brown the meat and add to the beans.  Chop up an onion and some garlic in there too.  Cook until the beans are cooked and the mixture is kind of thick like chili.  Six hours or so should make them irresistible.  Cook rice.  Vegetable topping:  Chop up any array of fresh vegetables (tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumber, little green onions, fresh garlic, zukes, radishes etc.).  Add a glug of olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar and spices (salt, pepper, your favorites etc.).  You can allow that to marinate if you have time.  Not essential.  Keep that mixture kind of soupy because the more liquid that soaks down into the beans and rice the better.  Just before you serve the bean mixture saute some fresh chopped garlic (2 or 3 cloves) in olive oil (maybe 4 T.) and add it sizzling hot to the beans.  For some reason that makes it wonderful--especially if the garlic is kind of toasty.  Then serve rice topped with beans topped with veggies.  Enjoy.
This stock picture lacks the color that carrots, zukes, cucumbers and radishes would add to it.  The more crunch and color the better!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hats Off!

Pausing to pay homage to a chapter in my life that I loved so dearly.  This is a picture from a job I had as a K-2 media specialist in Ewing, NJ at Antheil Elementary.  More particularly this picture was taken during the annual Literacy Festival--a school-wide night devoted to books and reading.  As one of the school's two media specialists it fell on me to co-contrive a theme, coordinate activities, and generally make merry!  I call your attention to the artwork on the glass over the entrance--Thomas did that!  What you really can't SEE are the over 200 hats that I borrowed to decorate the media center--hats of all varieties from all over the world because our school was very multi-cultural.  What you can't HEAR is my smashing rendition of The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins which I read about 6 times--complete with a headful of stacked hats and all the voices in that story.  Go read it!  It's a good one--early early Seuss.  Last of all I'm holding Momboo.  If you don't know HIS story, I really should share it.  I'll do a little digging so I can do justice to it. 

As part of my "Pushin' 60" campaign, I have been reading 60 children's books aloud--to my grandkids and 7th graders.  During my time in NJ I was paid handsomely to do that ALL day to the  most charming job ever.  Really.  Hats Off to my memories of them, their fabulous teachers, their extraordinary parents, and the hours and hours and hours we spent together in some pretty magical places...

So If I'm NOT One of Those, What Am I?

I originally titled this post "Voyeur" which is a word I've used to describe myself quite frequently, unfortunately.  I paused to google image something to snazz up the post, and THAT is when we entered deep deep water.  Back away from the computer and DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT search that word!  Sheesh...Pushing 60 and no one ever corrected me????  Come on, people!  I've used the word to describe myself as someone who looks over the shoulder of one and all to see what they're reading.  I've also used that word to describe my innocent eavesdropping of strangers.  And no one has ever called me on it!!  Maybe that is innocence on your part as well.  We'll assume that.  Paco and I just returned from a jaunt to tweak cheeks in MD.  It was all very wonderful and mind-expanding and soul-searching--by-products of any good vacation--sites aside.  Back to my point.  Yesterday we were on an early morning short bus trip taking us and about 30 other United Airlines displace-ees (mechanical difficulties cancelled flights Sunday eve) from our night's lodgings  to Dulles.  Mind you this is pre-dawn when most people are slurring and shuffling--barely human.  I noted a young handsome family of 6 sitting directly in front of me.  But what really caught my attention (because I was fairly alert and had my busybody radar up) was the conversation the father was having with his ten-ish year old son.  I heard the words:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Tiberius.  Come again!!!  This father was explaining some eschatological concept?  Pre-dawn?  10 year old?  Bus?  So I "stalked" these folks through security and then lost them.  But what I did observe was phenomenal, and I pause to make note of it here:
  • each child pulled their own carry on
  • the 3-ish year old in the stroller calmly played with a hand-held electronic something or other
  • the father engaged in pleasant conversation with several around him
  • the mother passed hand signals to her husband and children which they immediately interpreted and obeyed
  • no one whined
  • the two brothers joked around a little, obviously delighted in each other
  • the father joined in their laughter
  • ALL were interested and engaged in the experience
  • they had obviously done this before--pro's
  • they seemed to glow
This may not be that unusual in your circles.  Maybe ALL the families you see run like Fortune 500 companies.  But I don't see it too often.  It delighted me--gave me some faith.

Then later in the day on yet another bus to long-term parking in Salt Lake I couldn't help but hear another conversation.  One woman was describing to another an encounter with the mother of what sounded to be the stepchild of the narrator.  The mother had shown up at a doctor's appointment for the child that morning dressed in short black shorts, a lime green tank top with hot pink underthings showing through large holes.  She had silver jewel-studded boots and was garishly make-upped as well.  The gist of the story involved negligent diabetes monitoring of the child on custodial weekends and huge denial on the part of the mother.  The stepmother telling the story was just beside herself. Furthermore, the clueless mother is now working for her attorney!  That doesn't sound good for the child, the father OR the stepmother!   Little human dramas all around us.

So if I zoom in on strangers' conversations, and follow people with my eyes, and know way too much about intimate details of lives I'll never cross again...what is that called????  And if you say "busybody" I'll never talk to you again.

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley