Sunday, June 24, 2018

Inspired Recreation

Okay, you'll probably really think I'm peculiar after reading this post, but I wanted to nod toward my husband when it comes to a certain type of leadership in our family, that of "wholesome recreation" as written in the The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Before I met and married Ken, I was a really nose-to-the-grindstone kind of person. I was focused on paying bills, working a second job in addition to teaching school, and depriving myself of many things in order to become debt free. I was raised in a family that didn't do things like take us to Disneyland. We had picnics with cheese, crackers, and watermelon. If I needed something in high school like a dental appointment, a prom dress, or senior pictures, I had to arrange all those things by myself. I kept getting my dad's vet bills for his dog, Duke, after Dad moved out and continually called the vet after each notice explaining to them that this was not my dog and that I was not an adult and they could reach my dad at such-and-such a phone number and address. After graduation at seventeen, I moved out and was on my own for the duration. My parents never gave me a car. I struggled through college and gave every last cent I had for my mission. It takes a long time to pay for these things and manage to clothe yourself. I constantly compared myself to roommates whose parents gave them cars (or they could just move back in with their parents if they had to) and clothes and other gifts, parents who payed or helped pay for their college expenses or their missions or their cell phones. So, not complaining, because I learned a TON through the struggle and am a better person for it, but what I'm trying to say is...I wasn't having as much fun as some of those around me. They had gone on study abroad or would just go buy something or felt entitled to trips or other luxuries like clothing...and I wondered how they balanced all of that. I felt like I couldn't go anywhere or do anything because I was still playing catch up from not having any of those safety nets that a lot of people provide for their children.

And then I met this ranger. He grew up in a stable family with no history of divorce. His parents paid for his college and made sure his needs were met. They provided a financial and emotional scaffold for him throughout his childhood and young adult years. They didn't take him to Disneyland either, but they took him on lots of trips, including the "let's go check out some colleges" trip. Unheard of in my family (my parents never went to college). I announced to my parents that I was planning to attend the University of Montana. My mom said, "Someone was raped there last week." My dad said, "Don't expect me to pay for it." But I digress.

TR majored in RECREATION! It seemed a bit frivolous to me at first. But he pointed out that it's written in the family proclamation. And I am so grateful I married someone who believes in this stuff. We have had an absolute blast together. We've done things I've never dreamed of. Been to Hawai'i twice. Visited big cities such as: Washington D.C, San Antonio, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego. We've been to so many NPS sites. Hello, we went to Japan in April. We've seen Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Hamilton. He knows how to pack it in!

On Wednesday evening, we did our finances. Afterward, he surprised me with this. "Hamilton is playing in Vegas. There are two seats left together. Wanna go?" YES!!! So he bought the tickets, booked our hotel, and we left the next day when he got off work. Spontaneous! We swam. We ate. We attended the Las Vegas Temple and did sealings for ancestors on my side of the family. And I FINALLY GOT TO SEE HAMILTON!!! It was amazing. And he loved it too! And we keep bringing up pieces of the show in our conversations. And on the way home we visited three of his cousins and their families. And then we started packing for Yellowstone.

We are off this morning for our sixth summer in the park. Oh the adventures we have had and the adventures that are in store! It's a crazy life, but you know what, it's all a gift and I'm glad I'm a part of it. I could stay home and paint the bedroom, but nah...I enjoy volunteering and engaging with park visitors. Most of all, I love cohabitating with my husband and sharing life together with him. I love that he has brought so much fun and recreation to my life. It was something that was missing. And yes, I have brought debt-free living to his life and now he can see the benefits of that. Together, we are Team Kyburz.

And that's how we manage to do things like wake up in Las Vegas on Saturday morning and go to bed in Yellowstone National Park on Sunday evening--6 Western States in 2 days, Baby!

Monday, June 18, 2018

I See London...I See Spain?

We went camping. TR was kneeling down to pound in the stakes of our tent. It was just the two of us and I noticed something and since I'm an elementary school teacher...I just sort of sang out, "I see London, I see France..." He knew what I was talking about. So later, I was tending to the fajitas we were making in the fire pit and TR thought it would be an appropriate time to get back at me saying, "I see Spain! I see France!"

Spain?

Still laughing.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sheriff Ivan, King of the Ranch

So yesterday I stopped by my sister's ranch to visit for an hour and a half on my way home from seeing Dad. This is my oldest sister who is married to a cowboy and they have cattle and horses and other various animals at various times along with several dogs. My second oldest sister is also living there. And she is the one who has decided that Ivan is the Sheriff of the entire dog posse...and king of the whole ranch. Ivan is a minpin who hasn't missed too many meals. He's low to the ground with big ears that stick straight up, but everything else is round and robust which prevents him from jumping up on the couch to cuddle, so he just whines until his favorite human picks him up for a nap. Snoring is his specialty.

There's Stinger who is the boss of the outdoors. He likes going into the house too, but finds it ever so much more fun to sniff through the bushes and generally patrol the property. He's a mostly big white dog with some blonde patches.

Fancy is a miniature schnauzer who is eight years old, so she's quite finished with caring about most things except for naps on the couch. That is her forte. She's a little old gray lady.

Squeaky is a fluffy black thing with a pointed nose. I think he looks and moves (waddles) just like a skunk minus the white stripe. He's a little love and nested right in under my arm for petting and devotion. He's also portly and has a habit of wheezing.

Shiloh is a teenage movie star. She is a glamorous red-headed standard poodle with curls for days and big brown eyes. She plops herself on the couch literally sprawling ALL over with her head resting on my sister's thigh or belly and her own legs splayed open. Her only concern is to be stroked by my sister. She hasn't quite grown into her legs yet but makes friends easily by licking and licking and licking every finger and hand she can find. Shiloh is currently fascinated with Tallie's pups and wants to see one really, really bad, but Tallie isn't having it.

Tallie is a cow dog. She works hard with my sister's husband and is an Australian Shepherd. She was bred with another dog and gave birth to 8 pups five days ago. So yes, I was holding four day old puppies yesterday and Tallie was just fine with that. She completely trusts all the humans. Other dogs? Not so much. She watches her seven sons and one daughter like a hawk and if anyone comes near, such as the ever curious Shiloh who will be bred next year and have her own turn at motherhood, Tallie just tears right out of that nest of babies shrieking and barking like no other. Shiloh is just going to have to wait awhile before she can seriously become an aunt. These puppies are with their mother in a dog house on the front porch (the one that's shaped like an igloo). Tallie goes inside the house when she feels like it, but the other five dogs are inside a lot, so it's rather a menagerie. With their separate and distinct breeds, I couldn't help but wish for a dog family portrait. Shiloh would have to be front and center being so tall and glamorous, with the others posed around her. But this, of course, would be impossible really. They would never sit still long enough.

Unless there was toast. Toast might work. At six o'clock every morning, the dogs all get toast. With real butter. That's simply how each day begins on the ranch.

Just Workin' on the Blinds

I just returned from a trip to Montana. By myself. 1300 miles. I called my husband each evening and texted him occasionally throughout the day. Yesterday morning, at my departure, I forgot to text him that I was leaving. When I stopped by my sister's place, I called him to let him know where I was and asked how his Saturday morning was going. He said, "Fine. I'm just workin' on the blinds." This is what went through my mind: Often, he'll open the sliding glass door but leave the long vertical blinds in place rather than pulling them to the side. When a big wind comes up, the blinds get blown around, sometimes wildly, and I'm always afraid they are going to break off because that's what happened in one of our previous homes. So I'm always conscious about that and figured something had happened and now he was attempting a repair. So I asked, "Why are you working on the blinds?" And this was his response:

"Oh, you know, they are really dirty! I'm just cleaning them with the feather dusters and wiping them down. And there's a lot of sand and grit down in the runners where the window slides, so I'm vacuuming that out and wiping the rest of the dirt out with wet paper towels. The ones in the guest room are the worst!"

Blinds were never on my radar. We have not mentioned this or discussed this. Out of all the things he could be doing by himself on a Saturday morning, he decided to do this! Where did this man even come from? I don't know, but I found him in a cave and I'm never giving him back!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Children Finished School Last Thursday and I Will Finish Today

So...people ask, "When's the last day of school?" And I answer, "The kids get out on the 31st and the last day for teachers is June 5th." People look at me funny. Then they ask, "Since when do the teachers have to stay at school longer than the kids in summer?" And I answer, "Oh, since about ten years ago when they started stealing our summer vacation." Now...I can't rightfully use the word stealing since you are not technically forced to attend. However, if you don't attend, your administrators notice, and even though they're not supposed to judge you or anything...they notice. Also, you don't get paid if you don't attend and the carrot they dangle here to persuade you to trade in a couple of non-contract days is money.

Inevitably, people ask, "When do you go back to school?" I will say, "The first day of school for the students is 20 August, but my first meeting is 10 August." Sometimes I see raised eyebrows.

Here's to the next 45 days "off" (one friend calls it seasonal unemployment) for summer vacation. I plan to read a lot of books relating to my curriculum and the fifth graders whom I teach (in hopes they will be inspired to read them as well). I plan to work on my language arts, math, and science curricula as well as some social studies. I will shop at Wal-Mart at 4 or 5 a.m. one morning in July to obtain the school supplies I need for my class this year. I always go that early so I can dig through all the notebooks and folders in order to get the colors I need. I still end up sweating even at that time of the day. I will volunteer at two National Park Service sites, adding to my background knowledge in geology so I can improve my teaching there.

Our contract days are 8 hours (7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. with 30 minutes off for a duty-free lunch). I will be "off" for 45 working days (normal work days, and I didn't count July 4th, a national holiday, or July 24th, a state holiday, or any weekend days). Those 45 working days multiplied by 8 hours each equals 360 hours. There's about 38 weeks in a school year, but let's just call it 36 weeks. Those 360 hours divided by 36 weeks equals about 10 hours per week. Those 10 hours per week divided by a 5 day work week comes out to 2 hours a day. I have already worked those 360 hours I'm about to get "off" throughout this past school year. On Memorial Day alone I spent 12 hours at school volunteering. The next day, I volunteered another 3 hours after I was off the clock. If you add up all the times teachers get to school before contract time, all the hours they stay late, and all the stuff they do on their own time at home in the evenings and on weekends, we have more than earned these 45 days of "summer vacation" as compensation time. I just don't want to hear those comments over and over about "Yeah, but you get the WHOLE summer OFF!" No, we really don't.

Or this comment, "You chose this profession. You knew what you were getting into." I like to think of myself as being "called" to this profession. And no, I didn't know exactly what I was getting into. But I love it. And that's why I keep doing it. This is not a rant. This is not complaining. This is just an explanation that teaching pretty much takes up my whole life which sort of leads to the bristling that occurs when people suggest it's just a job. It's when they "calculate" my hours that it sort of bugs me. So this morning I calculated a few hours to show evidence. My husband has only had jobs in our marriage that clock in and clock out. If he's not getting paid, he's not working. He doesn't spend any extra time at home preparing for the tasks he'll be doing at work. He hasn't taken any classes since I've known him, unless the government paid for him to do so. When he's off duty, he's off duty. He doesn't walk into visitor centers at national parks and exclaim, "Oh! I NEED this for work!" He doesn't even think about work when we recreate. There's a difference between teachers and non-teachers. Unless you're a teacher, you haven't experienced it.

Here's to my last day of "work!"

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day at School

I know. I should be at a cemetery or something, however, I have been at school since 7-something a.m. and I am getting so much done! What's more, my husband brought lunch and helped me for awhile. What's more, he's a custodian at a high school and he's really tall, so all the high places got dusted and organized. He also showed up with a couple of new plastic bins for organizing! Don't worry, there are plenty of jobs for the students to do over the next couple of days, but this feels so good and what's more, there's AIR CONDITIONING for today because it's automatically programmed for weekdays! Ha ha! I'm getting so much done with no children in the room! Almost giddy with joy! And yes, there is no pay for this time spent at school. I'm volunteering. No pay. No holiday pay. Just volunteering in my own classroom for my own sanity to remain intact over the next three days, after which I have professional development meetings.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Broken Hiring System in the National Park Service

This is not a rant. This is simply an explanation. My husband, the park ranger, still finds permanent status with the fed an elusive business. He's great at being a seasonal park ranger and last summer he moved up a couple of grades, but now this year he's moving back down a couple of grades because of budget. We know a few people who have found perms--either they have moved around a LOT as a single ranger (not so conducive to our marriage) or they have something else going for them (non-caucasian, female, Schedule A illness/disability, Veteran). K has something going for him as well...a wonderful boss at a local high school. Thankfully, she takes him back whenever he shows up in town and she's happy to keep him as long as it takes the Department of Homeland Security to complete his background check.

So these background checks have to happen annually because the summer seasonal rangers separate from service each fall. Each background check costs the NPS around $1800. They don't care that K has had one every single year since 2001. They don't care how many times he's been fingerprinted or interviewed by a federal agent. They don't care that he has a stellar resume with glowing reviews. The rule is that because he's "new" every spring, they have to do another background check.

Another rule is that you can only work 1039 hours in a season. If you surpass that even by 15 minutes, you cannot have rehire status. This has been some kind of a rule for a really long time, but nobody enforced it until like February...just recently. K's big crime is that back in 2003 (I think) he was asked to work a bit longer in the season after the cave closed and that unknowingly tipped him over the 1039 for that one season and now in 2018...he has lost his "rehire status." So, he has had to begin from scratch, so to speak. He did his due diligence, applied for his old job successfully and was offered a position which he accepted. However, this new enforcement of this very old rule that no one realized they were breaking all those years ago, has created a big problem for the NPS. Rangers didn't find out that they couldn't be hired for their old job until after the hiring process was completed (no chance to apply for their old job which they thought they would be automatically rehired to do). Also, they say in the news that this "rule" hasn't been evenly applied throughout the country.

Bottom line is, there are a bunch of seasonal park rangers out there who would love to work, who have done all that's required of them, but they can't work...yet.

So we wait. This would have been the weekend we would have reported to the park. But because the ranger hasn't cleared, we're not allowed in, can't move into government housing, and can't work. We know a ranger from Washington who has worked 47 seasons and he's just hanging out in Seattle until he gets the call that he has cleared. His situation really cracks me up because a couple of summers ago he was coaching track while teaching high school science and asked if he could skip training in order to coach his kids at their state track meet (they got first in state). No, he was NOT allowed to skip training. So he dutifully reported to be trained for a job he had been doing for forty-something years and got photos texted to him of their big win. And now, he's retired, but training starts on Monday and they won't LET him come to training because he hasn't cleared his background check. Oh, the IRONY! We know a married couple from Florida who have been staying in their RV in Blackfoot, Idaho, just waiting to hear that they have clearance so they can buzz into the park and get started. I know a ranger who has his blue tubs stacked up by the front door so that he can load up and roll when he gets word.

I know a supervisor who is opening a visitor center on Friday, just in time for Memorial Day, with only three rangers who have cleared thus far. Maybe word will come soon.