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Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Oh for a Book and a Shady Nook..."

"Diapers dragged the floor, salmonella dripped off thawing chicken breasts onto the counter and the phone rang out its throat as I eagerly read page after page of this middle-brow novel."

I found this on this morning. Here's hoping everyone out there has such a book absorbing their lives today!!

“Oh for a book and a shady nook,

Either indoors or out,

with the green leaves whispering overhead,

or the street cries all about.

Where I may read at all my ease

both of the new and old,

For a jolly good book whereon to look

is better to me than gold”

― John Wilson

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Was So Scared I...

I'm not sure what kids "play" when they get together these days.  I suspect it involves a joystick.  Back in the day we played cowboys and Indians, house, farm animals, night games, board games when it was cold, Lewis and Clark (that story is like mother's milk to us Idahoans), and countless other concoctions which involved streets, empty lots, canal ditches, darkness, and oftentimes fire.  I am the youngest, so frequently I was pulled along and forced to adapt or at least take a minor part.  When I was five, my particular neighborhood at the time was fiercely engaged in a dramatic role play/adventure which involved very realistic exoduses (exodi?) through vacant lots and neighboring fields in a frantic attempt to outrun and evade...communists...Russians.  Our neighbors owned a set of abandoned motel units with which we had free rein. Oftentimes, we hid there under old dusty blankets, and I remember fervently praying we would not be caught.  I don't think my 5 year old mind knew the difference between reality and play at the time, unfortunately.  When the plot of our adventure called for travel, we took off through fields, oftentimes needing to stop along the way, build a fire, and roast hard little potatoes.  They were always undercooked--black on the outside.  Two years later I entered school.  The stakes were higher now.  Not only were those same Russians stalking me in my dreams and neighborhood play, they  also were, apparently, the reason we hopped under our desks when the terrifying siren sounded in drills..  Now, when we see those pictures, we all laugh and say, "Silly People of the 50's/Early 60's!!  Radiation isn't intimidated in the least by a wood desk blockade!"  Then, in third grade, enter, the Bay of Pigs.   I didn't know it was that until years later, and I saw pictures of Kennedy in his infamous rocking chair.  Rocking and fretting.  Why did the principal keep announcing over the intercom, "In the event..."?  The fervor of the these drills intensified as history unfolded.  Fortunately the nitty gritty traumatic global historical details of the news elude most children--in America, that is--sometimes.  I don't remember anything more than a few events associated.  But I DO remember one particular day.  We were having a bus evacuation drill, or so I thought.  All of the other times, we'd heard the alarm and headed for the bus.  Roll call and back to class.  On this particular day, however, the bus was instructed to take us all home.  Mid morning.  No drill!  Bombs were surely going to be raining on us before lunch.  When I realized this was not a drill and the REAL RUSSIANS WERE COMING, I did the unthinkable as the bus exited--I wet my pants.  I was truly truly panicked.  AND I left my coat at school.  My teacher brought it to me.  Those kinds of things stick in your head.  It was about 25 years later that I came face-to-face with bona fide  Russians--my first communists.  I was working at the time in the Texas State Senate in Austin.  A convoy of Russian diplomats had come to Texas--perhaps on a goodwill tour--but it looked all the world to me to be for the purpose of shopping!!!  Each of the dozen or so gentlemen were decked out in an expensive ten gallon Stetson, jeans,cowboy boots, and a fancy leather belt with a big old Texas longhorn belt buckle.  All of the senate staff were invited into the rotunda to behold them--Texas ettiquette requires such things, I suppose.  I'm ashamed to admit that I thought to myself, "Well, I'll be. They look just like everyone else."  I don't remember any punch or cookies;  I think we just gawked, maybe clapped a little, and went back to our offices.  Someone probably made a speech.  I'm sure it was diplomatic.  One must tread lightly around communists or bear the consequences.  Fifteen years later, I landed on communist soil.  The circumstances of that adventure are for another time, but let it suffice to say that when that plane landed in Beijing, for a few brief moments,  I was five again.  The communists were just outside that plane.  I should run.  I should grab raw potatoes and head off over the field so they wouldn't find me and do whatever communists do to little girls.  And for a brief moment before my rational mind returned, I almost ...wet my pants.

Oh, and Happy Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Up in the Night

I know it will delight some of you out there that I'm not sleeping. I know who you are, and I forgive your delight in my insomnia. It was a bad combination of stereo snorers, an immovable canine lump stategically placed, an overly efficient comforter, the new glow of my Ipad charger/alarm clock, and an unusually active mind. I do prefer to sleep, but hey, why fight it? Actually writing the blog title reminded me of something I attribute to my brother--Up in the night--he used that to describe someone who is a few screws loose, not typing with all the keys, a bubble short of plumb, not playing with a complete deck. All of which I guess describe me during 90% of my waking hours. I headed on over to catch up on some blogs. Jana Riess keeps cropping up in blogposts and Goodreads. Interesting. She's a name I hadn't thought of for awhile. In case you don't know her, Jana is the author of a book I'm currently reading, Flunking Sainthood. She has a bachelor's from Wellesley (where my friend Anna introduced her to the church), a master's from Princeton, and a PhD from Columbia. Her area of expertise is religion--lots and lots of degrees and time spent writing about religion. Plus she's funny. I met Jana in our ward in Princeton when she came back to visit once. We had a delightful conversation about Mormon kitsch--one of her pet subjects as well. Head on over  for the fun.  Alright, who's been messing with Blogspot?  This probably won't even publish.  My HTML cannot be accepted.  Tag is not closed.  Huh???  I shall cowboy on and hope this gets resolved.

 Paco brought home a dandy composter from Logan today as well as a deluxe chicken feeder.  He's going into warp speed to get the fencing and gates up so the Philosophers can return (they've been wintering down the road)--probably just in time for shearing!  I've missed them.  Rumor has it that someone's preggers...I think alpaca gestation is probably similar to llama gestation in which case very possibly we could have a baby alpaca mid Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Lake winter.  Perhaps the canine lump on our bed will have to share sleeping room with a camelid lump...We wouldn't be the first to cohabit with baby animals born out of season.  I'm just could happen.  Probably not so much the bed thing but possibly a box by the fire.

In other news--there really isn't any that I can mention here.  I don't feel inclined to rant this morning.  I don't have any recipes to post.  I really have no business taking up the webspace here.

I need advice about cheating in school.  It's a constant fly I keep trying to alleviate, but it just keeps buzzing around my ear.  Being  honest is such "entry level human behavior" to me that I almost have no place for it on my radar screen, so when it DOES show up (which believe me is frequently), I'm taken aback.  Sometimes I catch it personally, and then I run the risk of going nuclear right then and there.  More often I get little notes on my desk, or a student pulls me aside and informs me.  Today I got one of each, so I DO need to act.  Any long term solution suggestions?

I won 3 firestarters in the recent library contest.  I read about 20 books this year from January 15-ish to April 15.   What I won't do for a ticket in a glass jar and the anticipation of possibly winning something.  Last year I read 40 and won a great large bottle of lotion.  The year before I won an apron and a Farkle game.  High stakes here.

I need to "get up" in about 50 minutes.  Ugh.  Aargh. 

I'm thinking of starting another blog somewhere--maybe focus on one particular subject.  Branching out.  Maybe assuming another identity and toying with people.

I supported a mother today as we met with school administrators to discuss her son.  Why does a parent with a child at the top of the game need to fight for services while a parent with a handicapped child is protected under a mile of government mandates?  The great state of Idaho decided a decade ago not to fund gifted programs.  Come again?????????  And they obtained the joints they were smoking at the time from whom???

Here's something purely charming that I encountered in an autobiography today.  I wish you could meet this kid--I've taken a liking to him.  Enjoy.

"If you didn't know, my family is a nuclear bomb waiting to blow. We mostly try to avoid family outings together. We just get in fights--a little fist action, and it gets out of hand. We have to get the guns out. Outings would only end in a riot. At minimum, a fight will usually end with a black eye. Sometimes we end up crouched over someone in the ER. In fact, we have been to the ER so much the hospital was going to name a wing after our family As I said before, my family shouldn't have family get-togethers unless there's enough food to occupy us so we don't notice each other. So, we don't have family traditions. If we did it would just mean more hospital bills." (I love the part about being crouched over someone in the ER!)

Check out hugelcultur!  Gardening is such an adventure, isn't it?  We're putting an 80 foot one of these across the front of our house!!!!

Detecting some light out there.  I'm scared to death to push publish.  This may all disappear.  Cross your fingers.  Here goes!!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012


A book clerk at the Tattered Cover in Denver placed this book in my hand about 6 years ago. I never take book recommendations lightly. In fact I'm about 100% on reading (or at least purchasing for a future time) what people tell me to. This book rose quickly quickly to probably my top 5--maybe 3. Furthermore, sometimes whenever I discover someone else who has read it, we become instantly connected. One of my former students and I had a poignant conversation about it. I approached a stranger in an airport waiting area who was engrossed in it, and we had a phenomenol conversation. My son took it into a women's prison for a book group. Those women finished it ahead of schedule and clamored for more. My unbridled enthusiam for this book has not met with unqualified success, I regret to inform you. One friend said she couldn't follow it. Another said it was "all over the place." Those comments left me speechless. Currently my copy of this book is on loan with a young friend. I'm going to go get it today.

I watched the movie this morning. It was perfect. Just perfect. I can't even post this picture without tearing up. The spirit of this movie will most likely accompany me during this entire day. Perhaps it will never leave me. I can hope. But I actually have no adequate words to write about it, except that sometimes I feel and witness people surging towards God--in a very powerful personal way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Few Days Late on This Anniversary

My son's reflections from Facebook on invading Baghdad with his fellow Marines.

Forgetting, Remembering, Hoping.
By Taggart Giles

... I have a horrible memory. I forget birthdays, names, places, work stuff, and pretty much everything else. Writing things down helps, but then I forget that I wrote it down. However, I won't, or better yet can't, forget ANYTHING from April 8, 2003.

I can't forget the sounds. I can’t forget the smells. I can’t forget the sweat, the blood, the fear, the hate, the pile of spent ammo casings, the cars racing toward me trying to end my life. I can't forget what it feels like to shoot at someone, or to be shot at. I can’t forget knowing that I would happily take a bullet for one or all of my brothers, and knowing that they would do the same. I can't forget what an RPG looks like flying past my head, or the relief I felt when it missed. I can't forget wondering who was going to make it out alive and who we would have to mourn over. I can't forget running out of food or water or ammo. I can't forget thinking that this was only one day, and wondering how many days were going to be like this. I can't forget the bullets impacting the cement just a few feet in front of us, hitting the seemingly invisible barrier and unable to penetrate. I can’t forget the memories of April 8, 2003.

I can't forget the love I had for my brothers; the heroes to my right and to my left; the clear mind; the adrenalin racing through my body. I can't forget how I had remembered every bit of training from the previous 6 years, or that EVERY other Marine did as well. I can't forget the pride I felt seeing my fireteam perform flawlessly under the worst conditions imaginable. I can't forget looking into the souls of every Marine of Fox Company, and understanding why it looked like we all just aged 10 years almost instantly.

9 years it's been; and somehow my memories become more vivid every day, like a movie you've seen thousands of times, being able to recite the lines and predict the next sequence of events as it plays on. I remember the flight home to the U.S.A. I remember coming home to a foreign land; one with strange sights and sounds and people; a place where I felt like a stranger. I remember wanting to leave this place and go back with my brothers, where I could carry my loaded rifle with me, and sleep on the floor of vacant buildings, and not worry about school, work, friends, bills, politics,

I remember my brothers. I remember the pain that they went through and continue to go through, though the bullets have stopped. I remember reading about them in the paper and seeing them on TV. I remember each of us going our separate way; getting new jobs, graduating from school, getting married; getting divorced; getting arrested. I remember moving away and losing contact with most of them. I remember craving their friendship, their companionship, their understanding. I remember the pain that I feel knowing that my brothers are suffering silently, and that I would give anything for the pain they feel to go away.

I hope that the changes I have gone through since April 8, 2012 are not permanent, and I will someday fade back to the old Taggart…someday. I hope my brothers can find peace in this life. I hope this movie stops playing someday, and I forget the words. I hope that we can all stay in touch. I hope my brothers can come to me for support, and that I will go to them. I hope that this is a priority for us. I hope that, though we are taking different paths through life, that they will remember me, and I will remember them. I hope we don’t lose another brother. I hope that we can be forgiven for our actions on April 8, 2003. I hope that we stop feeling guilty. I hope we can be happy. I hope we can forget. I hope we never forget.

-Taggart Giles

Monday, April 9, 2012

Participles? Really?

I woke up yesterday thinking about participles. Not just the joy and beauty of a simple participle to grace a sentence. My feeling was one of panic--two weeks until the ISAT's (the standardized test given each year in the great state of Idaho upon which NOW rests a school's very existence), and I don't think I've taught participles yet. The stakes are high this year. The state withheld money (as in from our salaries...insert eery music and doubletakes) with the edict that we could get it back in the form of bonuses (come again?????) IF our students proved proficient. Furthermore, only math and English are tested. I'll leave the kind reader to extrapolate the cosmic implications of such a system. Wait! It gets better! The bonuses of ALL teachers in the school rest on the students' performances on the test. In other words, SOME necks in the school are lined up on the guillotine,and all eyes are watching. Angst?? One of my fellow English teachers is developing a constant pain right below her sternum. Another says her sleep is down about 40%. So is it any wonder that instead of waking up contemplating the glory of Easter or even the dawn of a beautiful spring day I'm being shaken awake in the mouth of a rabid beast whose name is Participle...? It hurts my brain. Speaking of which--

• The human skull contains 22 bones.

• Your brain is more active and thinks more at night than during the day.

• The brain stops growing at age 15, but learning never stops.

• The spinal cord and nerves—known as the nervous system—let messages flow

back and forth between the brain and the body.

• We actually “see” with our brains; the eye is basically a camera.

• The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.

• The average person has 32 teeth.

• Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never

stop growing.

• Your thumb is the same length as your nose

I'd like to take my thumb and wedge it right up the equal length nose of the suits who thought up Pay For Performance.

On the lighter side, enjoy this. Apparently this was completely spontaneous. The girl and her skateboard friend were just walking along and just happened to ask these guys for a tune. See if you find yourself wondering if the skateboard guy wishes he'd stuck with the music lessons.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Last week I almost stepped on a petrified squirrel in the parking lot between the police station and the library. It was a huge specimen--perhaps made even more so by its complete smashedness. Something extra heavy had come its way, no doubt. I was taking the same route today during my lunch break, and subconsciously kept an eyeball on the lookout. You can imagine my surprise when in the exact spot as last week's Rocky J. was a banana peeling! So here's my question: Is it possible that things are happening in nature that we just aren't aware of because we miss it? Could squirrels, in fact, transmogrify (I am not 100% sure that is a word, but it feels like it is) into banana peels under the right conditions which heretofore have just not been documented by science?? If John Carter can find himself lying in a cave in what looked to be southern Utah one minute and suddenly in a hatchling nursery on Mars the next, I'm not so sure anything anywhere anytime should be ruled out! Common sense tells me that scientists cannot now or have never been capable of being everywhere at all times graphing data and keeping track of EVERYTHING! Everything is so very much, you know. Along these same veins, I wonder if scientists ever stop and say, "Hey! Enough of this scientific method! Let's do something really bizarre and random! Let's crush Smarties and feed them to these cancer cells! Ready, set...GO!! Hey wait! Stand on one foot while you do it!" I'd made a heck of a scientist.

Paco went on a bit of a cattle round-up the other day. Forty some odd cattle needed to be moved from here up the road a few blocks is all (I guess that makes it a super mini drive), but scenes of City Slickers are certainly relevant here because Paco rescued a calf who got into the water trough somehow!!! Yippee Ki Yi Yo!! I asked if he had to do CPR. Nope. But he does say he will miss #51 and hopes little #18 gets healthier.

Have I mentioned lately how truly truly truly truly truly truly truly truly difficult my job is? Maybe I haven't, but I should. So I did. You wouldn't understand unless you're there--right in the arena...every day...the bell rings, you stick that mouthguard in, your new fresh opponents rush in, you don your gloves and take it in the gut over and over and over. First from the feds right on down from the state. And what they don't knock out of you, the kids will. Over and over. I could write a book. "But Mad!! I thought you loved your job!!!!!" I have a very passionate love/hate relationship with it which is actually twisted and sinister. I told someone today I felt like teaching grammar must be much like skating on bacon grease on a rink in a whirlpool. That's all I'll say about that.

I see Charles Manson is due to be paroled. They say he's difficult--ends up with sharpened pens which he seems to think he can joust with. AND they've caught him with cellphones TWICE!!!!! I know!!!! Where do you go punishment-wise when you need to discipline someone imprisoned for life??? No ice cream for a week? Rougher toilet paper? Cut his magazine subscriptions? I still recall the empty satanic eyes through which he sneered at us all in 1969. His photo at 77 reminded me of an eccentric mountain man. I see similar-looking specimens in the grocery store here sometimes--I wonder what he's been up to lo all these many years. Ahhh...the 60's.

We're reading Maniac Magee in one of my classes. I challenged them all to see how long they could run on a railroad track. I'll keep you posted on that. So far one kid made it a foot. Maniac RUNS a-l-o-n-g the track! Runs.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Did You See This??????????

I have basically cut sugar out of my life since mid October of 2011. Do not start addressing me as "Saint Madhadder", however. I have had a couple of cookies, some sixlets, one See's chocolate, and some gelato once. But basically I am 99% sugar free. My purposes are more spiritual than physical. I wanted some control, and I knew that sugar was a culprit for health ills as well. I knew I was doing my body good. And my pushing 60 body wanted to slim down as well. Going off sugar, incidentally, didn't affect my weight at all. But I'll bet my pancreas and kidneys would make you stand up and cheer if you could see them! Watch this video, and then we'll talk.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peck..peck..peck peck..peck peck peck peck...

Random musings:
-Did anyone else see Steve Martin in the Tabernacle Choir yesterday??? (Sometimes I see things...AND my daughter saw a kangaroo in a local canyon once, AND I SWEAR I saw a zebra in Shenandoah National Park on Thanksgiving Day a few years ago!!! So we're a little used to having second sight. Don't feel badly if you missed him.) I immediately hoped that maybe the choir was going to break into something with a banjo solo but alas...nary.
-In other choir sightings! I soooo missed David Arculeta singing in the missionary choir!!! He's off to South of Ze Border somewhere--secret, so as not to attract attention. Shhhh... I'm thinking maybe a jungle would provide some good anonymity. Good on ya, young elder. Go thou forth!!!!! Oops! Here he is!!

-I've been gorging on a diet of really smashing non-fiction lately, but my current problem is everything I pick up POST these great books feels so very mwyeah..
-Do you remember that scene in Fiddler on the Roof when Motel's sewing machine arrives and the whole village comes to ooh and aah and the audience is supposed to think it's a baby? Well, it was just like that here yesterday when our....wait for it...

arrived!! Our new electric drum carder!!! This is the bomb! Now we can take the entire room of fleece we have in our cellar and turn it into gold just like in Rumpelstiltskin! I'm going to boil me up some vinegar and Dharma Trading dyes as well and make something truly drooly! Working on my spinning skills too of late. Spinning is much like chewing gum, patting your stomach, composing a symphony, AND minding a toddler all at once BUT I shall conquer it! So the demo of this carder showed this gal just slapping all manner of things onto the carder--leftover fleece, ribbon, carrot shavings (not really) and letting it morph into something WOW to spin. Stay tuned.
-Paco has become a farmer. Cool. He bought a blue tractor which seems way more useful than I currently am. Next week the visiting 40 head of cattle which have been using our corral as a maternity ward are leaving, and our alpacas are coming home from their winter retreat down the road!!! We have plans to go to Portland for a couple with our name on them and down Colorado way as well to adopt part of an on-line friend's herd. Look for a great post on all the Philosophers when it greens up a bit more around here! Paco has also been ripping down some fences in preparation for our 60 foot greenhouse (I KNOW!) and making ready for the chicks we're taking in. Yesterday he was waxing eloquent about the glories of goats. I'm campaigning for a pony.
I'm off to star hunt some more in the choir today.

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