Monday, December 31, 2012

Developing Habits

Because it's a day away from school, and because I've been up since 12:35 a.m. this morning (never happens, but I have SO much to do and that just happens to be when I woke up!), I decided to write in my journal this morning rather than wait until my usual evening routine in order to close out the year.

I've developed this habit of writing in my journal every single day. I didn't ever start keeping a journal until I was sixteen, but back then, it wasn't a daily habit. And then on 1 January 1991, I decided I would do it every day for that year. And I did. I actually kept that goal. And then I kept going. And today marks the end of twenty-two years of writing in my personal journal (by hand!) on a daily basis, never missing. That means I've had the habit for over 8,000 days in a row. Too bad some of that discipline hasn't carried over to weight loss!

To be sure, not all of those journal entries have been what you would call "high quality." Some of them are pretty good, but not all. There were many lazy days where it was all I could do to write the day, date, month, year, city, state, and one other tiny little thing before hopping into bed. It's been great, on the other hand, to be able to look things up. Even K asks me to check my journal so we can remember the last time we did something or went somewhere. My journal helps me to see God's hand in my life. It helps me to count my blessings.

On top of my journal, we have a special camping journal, we have our NPS Passports, and we have our blog. So, I think I've done a fair job of documenting my doings. However, we have no posterity, so I really don't know what the point is other than my journal helps me. I suppose all the moms out there with posterity don't have as much time as I do to keep a journal and there's the juxtaposition of it all.

Here's to the New Year and the practice and development of more good habits!

Cold Chicken and Pine Nuts

Our neighborhood was suddenly adopted a couple of months ago by these chickens. They sleep in this pine tree every night and then they jump out and walk around during the day. Some people have seen them on the sidewalk. I sometimes see them near the kids at the bus stop in the mornings. More often, I see them across the road and I always wonder, "Why DO the chickens cross the road?" They don't seem very worried about cars and such so I'm really surprised they've made it this long. Don't know much about chickens, but they sure seem to be handling the cold temperatures. K keeps asking, "Where did they come from?"

I just had to take their picture this morning. They weren't very happy about it. Didn't make a peep, but they were on high alert. They crow a lot (or would that just be him crowing a lot?) and some people find that disturbing. Personally, I think it just adds to the music of the wetland preserve on the other side of the neighborhood. Chickens on the South and ducks laughing uproariously on the North. Seriously, those ducks sound like they're attending one whale of a cocktail party! Hope they don't mind when I chime in with my own cackling.

Hey, Stalkers!

Quite a lot of people mention to me that they stalk our blog. I usually say something like, "It's totally public! Anybody can read it." However, if you feel like being brave in the new year, you could officially "follow" our blog (looks like we have a grand total of 13 followers at the moment--not so popular) and you could even leave a comment, occasionally. They say it really helps to know your audience. I guess I, in turn, need be following more and commenting more myself. So, while I've got you here, and because I'm too lazy to click around and look it up (headed to the fitness center) and because I do NOT find Blogger easy to use, how do I go about getting my blog made into a keepsake book? I hear of other folks getting their blog printed up every year...what would that take? Please advise and Happy New Year!

Getting Jazzed!

Back in July, we were gifted two tickets to the Utah Jazz with seats in the Lower Bowl! Everyone's been asking, "Who gave you the tickets?" Well, it's our friend, Ann! I have her blog listed on my blog reading list. She's been teacher of the year, her blog won best educational blog of the year, and she's incredible in many ways on top of all that! Ann has the distinction of being the first person to ever take me to a Jazz game several years ago, and THAT was a playoff game! We hadn't been to a game for a couple of years, so this was a real treat!

The photo above documents the first time in the game the Jazz were in the lead.

Meet Linda! She is the Guardian of Portal L. Nothing gets past this woman! If I had season tickets, I would want them to be in Linda's portal! Teenage hoodlums tried shlepping in, but she asked to see their tickets and they shlepped right back out with their heads down, guilty as charged. When we arrived and showed her our tickets, she said, "Oh, you must be Annie's friends!" Yep, we are! Every now and then I could hear Linda yelling, "Keep your cool, guys, keep your cool!" She confided to me that she really likes the younger players because they haven't been around long enough "to get an attitude."

Shucks.'s New Year's Eve!

What does one write about on the last day of a whole year? Turkey soup, that's what! Oh, how I loves me a turkey carcass! After Thanksgiving, K and I made our own turkey dinner and later I made this soup. It looks a little green but I think that's because there are no carrots, as per K's request. The noodles were made by the Amish folks and purchased in Iowa. I know it's not right to brag about your own cooking, but this soup was SO good. So, so good!

The soup was good, but I still managed to catch a really bad cold. I've officially been sick since 12 December! I'm almost better. Almost. I rested, I pushed water and other fluids, I avoided dairy products, and I did the steamy shower therapy which doctors have been prescribing for me my entire life: close the bathroom door, get in the shower with the water just as hot as you can stand it, force yourself to cough until you spit out as many green and yellow chunks of mucous as you possibly can, cough some more, go back to bed with a couple of humidifiers, and don't get out until your bladder demands that you must. Repeat daily. Hey, I've had pneumonia four times in my life (twice before the pneumonia shot and twice after). Shower therapy is preferable. Let's move on to our drive to Iowa for Christmas, shall we?

This is like the only picture I took the whole trip. I had my camera with me everywhere I went, but I was just out of steam, you might say, for snapping pictures. It probably had something to do with my illness, my mom's passing, and sheer exhaustion. People complain a lot about that drive across I-80 and how there's "nothing to look at." Well, if you'll just open your eyes, you'll admire those stalwart cattle in Wyoming making their living on windy slopes at a balmy five degrees. You might also notice the sculpted snowbanks that look like whipped cream and merengue. You might somehow feel motivated to actually snap a picture of a semi that had been on fire, since traffic was backed up anyway. My favorite sites were the aftermath of the blizzard: fourteen vehicles strewn across one little patch of I-80, one of them a semi upside down surrounded by thirteen other unluckies. It's kind of a challenge to count that fast as you speed by! Can't tell you how many big trucks we saw on their sides waiting for the tow-ban to be lifted.

Bottom line is...God has blessed us for so many miles! K is a good driver, I'm a good driver, we maintain our vehicles, we pray our way across the plains and back, and everything has worked out to our benefit. Anything can happen at any time, even to good drivers who try hard to be prepared, and so we just thank the Lord for watching over us!

Friday, December 28, 2012

My Husband's Ancestral Home

I, for some reason, started referring to Des Moines as my husband's ancestral home. I used the phrase a couple of times over the Christmas holidays and a few people chuckled. Here's the thing though, except for the first six months of his life, he's only ever lived in that house. Well, you know, until he left for college. This is amazing to me. A lot of people move around more than that. When we pulled out of the driveway the other day to return to our Marriage Home, he said aloud in the car, "Goodbye, Childhood Home!"

And then there's my mother-in-law's ancestral home, also known as Grandpa's Farm or The Farm. My MIL has spent every single Christmas of her life out at that farm! I love being attached to a family such as this. Grandpa is as cute as ever, cracking jokes, teasing, and telling me, "You're a good member of the family."

My husband's parents are amazing, sweet people. They are so loving and kind. Salt of the Earth. Who else would sit at the table with me first thing in the morning and play seven games of Aggravation? At first, FIL was reluctant to send my marble back to base saying, "It's early in the game, no need to get ferocious." However, once I started sending his marble back to base, he wasn't quite so hesitant. As far as MIL goes, she's out for blood every single time! And BIL beat the socks off all of us in Michigan Rummy.

Aunt J., cousins, babies, was a nice, nice Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Starring Santa!

We painted our wooden Santa Stars today as I have been doing with my students every single year for many years (thanks to the idea from Tim) and...I had a new experience with those stars this year.

The Early Birds had just left for the weekend and the Later Gators were transitioning into Literacy. What was I doing? I was speaking to the physical therapist because he had stopped by my classroom to chat about a student of mine with whom he works weekly. So, yes, the Later Gators were a bit chatty, but I knew Mr. PT would be gone soon, so I was making eye contact and actively listening to him when one of my girls yelled loudly in a most ferocious tone of voice, "SANTA'S NOT GAY!!!"

Show stopping to be sure.

Mr. PT quickly finished and left. It was all I could do to to hold the laughter in thinking, "Am I going to get a call from a parent over this?" I mean, how would one anticipate such a circumstance in the classroom? One doesn't. So I gingerly asked, "What brought about that statement?"

As it turns out, one of the boys had grabbed someone else's Santa, made it face his own Santa's face, and made kissing noises and motions. I explained that these Santa Stars were intended to be holiday ornaments and then distributed baggies so that each child could put theirs in their backpack.

What would you have done?

Monday, December 10, 2012


I started bawling yesterday morning when we packed up to leave Fairfield. Every single other time I've left, I had hope of coming back to visit my mom. Now, I know for sure she won't be there anymore.

I cried off and on all the way home. K kept asking in his gentle way, "Do you need a tissue?" He listens to me. He inquires about how I am doing. I'm so glad he was by my side for all of this.

I had a dream last night that my mom called me on my cell. I answered and she said, "Hi...this is your mom." And then the phone went dead. I said a little prayer asking Heavenly Father that if it's okay with Him, I would rather not continue having such strange little dreams as that (unless it's important, necessary, or just part of the process).

The service was very short (less than ten minutes) and extremely cold (too cold to cry). We all should have left our vehicles idling, but no one did. The temperature on the car said sixteen degrees. There was lots of gusting wind and biting cold. There were about twenty people there, perhaps more--I didn't think to count. I was able to read the poem L requested with a clear strong voice (answer to another prayer). L and K and I watched them place the remains in the burial site. My sisters decided to have that Yahtzee cup put in there with the five dice. The funeral director shook the cup one more time and let me tell ya, that sound of the rattling dice took me right back to my childhood. L placed a rosary. The Catholic ladies provided a wonderful luncheon/reception afterward and it was great to visit with folks. L's son and daughter-in-law brought chili to the house for our evening meal. All five of my sisters were there and my dad also came for the day with his wife. He said he thought it was all very nice and that Mom would have approved of the way we did everything.

The story was told of Mom's first official date with L. They had gone to Great Falls to go dancing and Mom was driving. On the way home, L kept inching his way closer and closer across the front seat toward my mom. Mom was wondering if this guy was trying to get fresh with her on the drive home. Turns out that Mom had too much to drink and L wanted to be ready to grab the wheel if needed. L said, "It was quite a ride!" Baby Sister said her first speeding ticket happened while following Mom into Great Falls. She was trying to keep up with Mom, but got pulled over! Eldest said she was stopped for speeding once and Mom came along behind her, paused, rolled down her window and said, "That's my daughter." The officer smiled and said, "Okay!" He let Eldest go with no ticket!

Back to the salt mines!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Roller Coaster

When we visited Mom in the nursing home, she was in the process of standing up from the bed in front of her walker, in order to visit the restroom. I was standing near in case help would be needed. When she stood, I was pretty much standing directly in front of her with nothing but the walker separating us. She reached out and patted my belly with a smile on her face. I don't think she's touched my belly for decades, you know? But she was smiling and just teasing me and being silly. My husband laughed too.

L. asked me to read something aloud at the service tomorrow. Hope I can pull it off! My cousin from Michigan called to express his sympathies using the words, "Wonderful, wonderful memories!" We stopped by the funeral home to look at the flowers since the high tomorrow will be twenty degrees with lots of wind and blowing snow. Each card just put me over the edge emotionally. People are so sweet. All those same-sounding notes on Facebook? They make me tear up--every single comment!

My five sisters and I met for breakfast this morning at the Cozy Corner Cafe. A lovely Mennonite girl named Suzanne was our server. She took us all in stride. We drove out to Sunset Hills to look at the burial site because it might be hard to find in the morning with all the snow. Yep, still riding the roller coaster!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dance the Watusi

My mom had all these interesting little phrases she used such as, "She looked like she wanted to dance the Watusi!" It took me a few years to figure some of them out. Another one was, "Well, just give me a New York minute!" One of my personal faves was, "I about had kittens!" I remember her taking me to the doctor when I was young and informing him that, "She 'flipped her cookies' twice last night." When you're a little girl and don't have much background schema for such phrases and meanings, it does tend to help you visualize some pretty interesting scenarios! She loved to chat with people and I spent a lot of time listening to her. I learned to tell stories from her.

Mom never completed the ninth grade. However, she loved to read and believed in sending us to school. The woman never once took me to a public library, but she always let me order books from Scholastic and I think of her every month when I send the same Scholastic book order forms home with my fifth graders. Mom and Dad purchased a set of World Book Encyclopedias for us when we were young. Mom read them the most! She would choose a volume, such as "P" and take it to bed every night for weeks, learning all sorts of random things. She subscribed to the Reader's Digest and so of course, I bought the December issue in the Denver airport the other day. I remember her laughing in the old Suburban while reading excerpts aloud to the rest of us. One of my roommates mentioned once that my habit of reading the newspaper every morning seemed like such a male thing to do. This surprised me because my mom loved to read the newspaper every day--I never thought of it as a gender specific activity.

She was blind in one eye and her good eye had an infection this last while. She was so happy when it started to clear up enough that she could resume reading the paper and working her Sudoku puzzles. She loved to play Yahtzee by herself. All of my sisters and I have memories of that Yahtzee cup shaking and shaking with the dice spilling onto the dining room table late into the evening. It was her way of winding down after a long day at work. And then they invented the hand-held electronic Yahtzee. Mom kept notebook after notebook with lists of all her scores. She would talk about "beating him" or "beating the man." As a young girl, I couldn't quite figure out who that man was when she played Solitaire and other card games. I think I'll play a game of Yahtzee now!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


The day has come when my mom is no longer living on the earth.

I sure hope I can express myself appropriately. I thought I would wait until after the services, but I'm afraid I'll miss important little bits of conversations and thoughts if I wait. I don't think I'll upload many pictures just now.

Mom passed peacefully in her sleep on Monday 3 December 2012 at 8:55 a.m. at the hospital in Great Falls, Montana. We hugged and kissed her goodbye the Saturday after Thanksgiving after visiting over a period of four days. SO GLAD we got to see her then (nine days before she passed) as well as in July! SO GLAD she had all of her intelligence, wit, humor, and sarcasm! She would say things like, "I don't know what you have to do to get a cup of coffee around here and when they finally bring it, it's strong enough to float a battleship!"

I asked, "Mom, how's the food?" She lit up with a huge smile on her face and said, "Oh my gosh, the RICE is amazing! I just love the rice! I get it twice a day every day!" She hated rice. She kept asking them to stop bringing it.

I called the lady at Meals on Wheels to suspend Mom's account while she was between the hospital and the nursing home these past three weeks. Being a small town, Bertie inquired about Mom's welfare, etc., so I told her, "She doesn't like the rice!" Bertie chuckled and said, "Oh, we all KNOW she doesn't like rice! We try real hard to keep it out of her meals!"

She was craving food like a Holocaust victim. We would be chatting in her room and a commercial would come on the television. Mom would stop and stare and ask, "Doesn't that lasagna look SO good?" She talked about cheesecake, wraps, burgers, and more. I called her the other day and she said, "Describe for me...what you are having for supper tonight."

Supper. She cooked a lot of those and she was good at it. And she could get it on the table faster than anyone you've ever met. She used to own a restaurant and all those years in that industry transferred to the home. Not even Costco can beat her pumpkin pie, in my humble opinion.

She was supposed to be released from the nursing home this Friday, the day before her graveside service. She was doing so well! She just wanted to go Home and I guess she sort of got her wish! She was getting stronger every day, doing things more independently, and getting rave reviews from her physical therapist, Jane. Mom knocked the socks off Jane every time they had a therapy session together. Mom was the toughest, strongest, most determined person ALL of her doctors had ever worked with--we've been hearing this from them for a long time. One medical professional told me, "I'm not sure why she's made it this long, but I have to admire her sheer grit and pioneer spirit!"

I will conclude this post by saying that between the sporadic crying jags and the funny stories and memories that keep popping up, I have been enjoying a great measure of Peace. It's hard, but it's all okay. God is watching over us!