The lab rat gives blood

A few weeks ago I posted about a couple of health research projects in which Terry and I are participants. Terry’s involves strokes in regards to geographic and racial differences. Mine is for women teachers and involves cancer studies.

Here are two websites that can provide more information about the cancer studies.

California Teachers Study

Cancer Prevention Institute of California

This morning, bright and early, a delightful phlebotomist showed up to take my blood for more research. The blood will be stored, along with some of my statistics, for later study. My name is not attached to the sample and I will never hear what they found in the sample.


It was easy, painless, and I feel like I’m contributing to what may be better health for a future generation of teachers. The phlebotomist told that the women in the study range from age 42 to over 100, and that the majority now are retired as the project has been in place since 1995.

Due to the large database and the amount of data collected, they have now started a study that compares a woman who gets cancer with one who does not but is of the same age and in the same area as the cancer patient. I think those results would be fascinating.

Missing my multitasking mojo

I have always been a multitasking phenom. I can listen to and keep up with four conversations at once. I can watch tv, work on the computer, and talk to Terry, all at the same time. I can cook, bake, prepare three or more dishes in my tiny kitchen in one afternoon.

Well, I COULD do these multitasking feats until a year or so ago. What has happened to my multitasking mojo? I can keep up with only two conversations now. I can watch tv and read, but conversation is lost. And cooking more than one thing at a time is getting to be difficult. What gives?

On Saturday I attended a luncheon with a group of friends. We stopped, on our way home, at a popular strawberry stand that I never get to because it’s on the other side of town. Taking advantage of this stop, I bought a flat of berries-12 baskets. Getting home with all these fresh berries late in the afternoon, I knew they needed to be processed immediately as they are a variety with short shelf life. I decided to make jam.

All other tasks came to a screeching halt for the rest of the day. I had to put all my attention to those berries and jam jar preparation. I should have been able to make caramels at the same time as it all takes place in the same space, but no, all I did was make 6 half pint jars of strawberry jam.


So, what difference does it make that I didn’t make caramels? These bunnies are accompanying me to Ladies Who Lunch sans caramels.

Just empty bags. I’ll try to explain about losing my ability to get it all done. It’s a bit frightening, though, to think this may be the new normal for me.


A tragedy that shakes me

The accident involving the FedEx truck and charter bus just north of Sacramento has shaken me to the core. This kind of trip, high school students getting to go see  a school, a business, an institution, was what I did with my students for 21 years. Nineteen times a year we got on a bus and went somewhere. Trips in town,or locally, were taken on school district busses; those out of town trips were taken on charter busses.

Before every trip, I would prepare the students as to what we would see, how they should dress, how to behave, when we would leave and when we would be back. One thing I never discussed was how to handle an accident, especially one of this magnitude. The bus drivers would quickly tell the students, before we pulled away, about the emergency exits and how to access them and what to do should something happen to prevent the driver from performing his duties. Almost all of these drivers were highly conscientious and well trained. Many of the drivers would request our trips because the students were polite and well-behaved and the teachers on time and knew where to go. Our trips were successful.

As Terry and I sit in front of the television, watching the film footage of this horrendous accident in Orland, we reach for one another, thinking the unthinkable–this could have been us.  Terry often accompanied us on out of town trips. I would pray before each trip, asking for safety and good behavior. Once we returned to school, and stepped off of the bus, all of  the teachers would say, “Thank God, we did it again. Another trip done.” And then we went to our cars and drove home, safe and sound. The parents picked up their kids and took them home.

Those parents and loved ones who will not be taking their child home weigh heavily on my mind. The young couple who was chaperoning the trip to visit a college at the other end of the state will not get to see their own children go on such a trip. They didn’t even make it down the aisle to say “I do.” All, in a moment, gone. The thought keeps running through my mind, “It could have been us.”

It’s getting a little crafty in here

Lately I have been complaining that I don’t have a “field trip” buddy. Someone, who at the drop of the hat, can take off for a day trip to some place local. Just a fun day out, have lunch, see some sights. Terry and I do this occasionally and it’s fun, but I want to do it with girlfriends, too. We can talk, gossip, catch up, and just have an all-round good time. My long-time friend who I could always count on to do this died a couple of years ago. The Ladies Who Lunch outing sort of fills this desire, but that’s once a month, for a couple of hours, sitting at a restaurant. I want to GO somewhere. The problem with my girlfriends is that they are busy taking care of sick husbands, babysitting their grandchildren, going to doctor’s appointments, or traveling. When I would suggest something, it seemed that everyone had something else they needed to do, all week long.

Recently, I have reconnected with a friend from that large inner-city high school where we both toiled for a few decades. She retired many years before I did, though, and we lost track of each other. Thank goodness for Facebook. Jeri doesn’t have a husband, children, or doctor’s appointments. She’s almost always available for a day trip so this week we took off for a trip up into the hills. We stopped for lunch at a small outpost, overlooking a lake. The lake is very low due to the drought:

bass lake

On our way back, we stopped at a scrapbooking store I had been hearing about. It’s up in the hills, and isn’t a place you just run over to when you want to stock up on papers. Although tucked back behind the major intersection in the town, we found a shop chocked full of crafting supplies along with a delightful proprietor who was quite happy to demonstrate some of the tools. One of my main reasons for wanting to stop here was to see about small boxes in which to put the salted caramels I make. Sure enough, this store carried a tool for making boxes:


Jeri discovered another tool that could also cut out forms for boxes and she decided to buy it as I passed it by as too expensive:



Jeri insisted that I take her purchase as well as mine and learn how to use them, practice, and then I could teach her and the other gals in our Ladies Who Lunch group. So, for the past couple of days, I’ve been watching YouTube videos and practicing making a few things:


The Chinese take-away boxes are made with the die cutter, the squared boxes are made with the envelope punch board. We also bought a die cut for a bag that could be turned into a bunny. The bunny took another set of die cuts, and each piece had to be run through twice to have enough for a bunny. So far, I have made three bunnies:bunnies


Hard hat area

A local builder is doing a lot of infill projects in downtown Fresno. Many are finished and have people living in them, and one is almost done and will start leasing in June. Because the projects are not the normal type of Fresno dwelling–single family on a large lot–the company, and the downtown association, work hard at getting people to view and talk about these properties. They are high density, multiple stories, and urban in design. The projects definitely attract a younger audience.

Last weekend was a “loft tour,” showing off many of these properties and giving a sneak-peak at the newest, and yet unfinished set of town homes. Because the building is still “under construction,” we had to wear hard hats and sign a waiver to tour it.



Too much talking (or writing)

At the beginning of each new school year, I would give my students a journal in which to write during the next two years. We didn’t do a lot of journal entries, but I liked to take a survey of how they were feeling about certain events or projects without having a whole class discussion. With the journals, they wrote during class and I would read them afterwards. And, because they knew I was the only one to see these entries, I learned some interesting things about my students.

The journals were always handed out the second day of school and the first question to which I wanted a response was: How did the first day of school go for you? Almost every student, every year, would write that the teachers talked too much, they got tired of listening, they shut down and quit listening. This was due to the fact that the teachers were required to give out their rules and syllabus on the first day. I don’t know WHY that was a requirement, but it was. Being the rebel, I quit doing it after reading my students’ responses.

So, what did I do on the first day of class? I introduced myself. I told a little about the class and what we would be doing. Then I let them talk for the rest of the period. They had been away from school all summer. They wanted to talk to their friends. However, while they talked, I watched and listened. A few would engage me in conversation. They had questions about what was going on at school or how to do certain things like sign up for a sport. The next day, after they wrote in their journals, we would do a few of the record keeping tasks like hand out permission slips for all those field trips we would be taking. I would introduce marketing and talk about customer service. The third day, more paperwork, more rules. But, each day, I didn’t talk the whole period. No one wants to listen to someone talk at them for an hour.

The program in which I taught had a separate graduation ceremony for the seniors. If you have been with me on this blog for a few years, you may remember some of those events. We had a student speaker, a faculty speaker, and a member of the community speak. I had a rule for speeches: five minutes ONLY. I would tell the speakers that no one wanted to listen to them talk for more than five minutes. The students and their families appreciated this and would often complain about the BIG graduation for the whole school where the speakers talked FOREVER. Sometimes the kids would say, “Mrs. Zody, you should be in charge of graduation.” Uh, no thanks.

The other day I saw this infographic on Twitter and I had to laugh. It visually shows what I’ve been saying all these years:


Spring time weekend activity

The weekends are getting busy around here now that spring has arrived. We’ve been so busy going and doing that I’ve neglected writing about all the activity.

Last weekend we headed out to the Clovis Botanical Garden open house. The last one I had attended had been in the fall where I had bought a plant for the backyard that was supposed to do well under trees. I never found out how well it would do because the snails devoured it almost as soon as I put it in the ground. This year I said no plant purchases. Instead we looked at an exhibit of birds of prey,  wandered through the gardens taking photos clovis Botanicaland enjoying the variety of plants.

Clovis botanical 2







The birds of prey had been rescued from various places. This fellow owl1had the most interesting story. He and two siblings had been smuggled into the country as eggs, dyed to look like Easter eggs. The smuggler then hatched the eggs and raised the baby birds only to be discovered by a bird sanctuary where the smuggler worked. The birds were rescued with this one (who was very vocal with his “who”s) coming to the San Joaquin Valley, one going to Half Moon Bay, and one going to San Francisco.

All of the birds are somehow damaged, either physically or emotionally, and unable to be returned to the wild. These birds actually put on shows during the year, helping to raise funds for their upkeep.Owl 2