The close of the first month of 2023

January has been a long month, or so it seems for me. It’s definitely not my favorite month; that would be February which comes in just two days. January is always cold and dark here in the San Joaquin Valley. This year there has been lots of rain, which is a really good thing. I cannot lament the rain, except that it’s kept me from working in the yard.

One would think the month flew by when I look at all that I did over the past four weeks. But, it just seems that it was even longer than usual. July and August also have 31 days, and yet, those months pass in a blink of the eye. Each week in January I had a list of things to do taped on the shelf unit here at my desk. Every week I was diligent and accomplished the whole list. A new list hangs there right now, with more activities than usual as I really need to do some shopping. I was also given tasks on Sunday to accomplish for this committee I now chair at church. It’s not fun stuff, but it much be accomplished, so on the list they go.

I did accomplish a task for the committee yesterday, while at church, but it was enjoyable as it was all about talking to people to garner information to pass on to other people. I really enjoy talking with people and problem-solving, but accounting stuff, details with accounts, banking…those are like fingernails on the blackboard, and those are things to be done in February.

When I saw the first and second graders last week I told them that February is my favoritist month of the year, especially since it’s the end of winter. It’s also the shortest month, with lots of school holidays, Valentines Day, Groundhog Day (which is my sister’s birthday and my half-year birthday) and my wedding anniversary on the very first day. The days get longer, the daffodils bloom in the front yard. So, let’s finish up January and move on.

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Lots to do

Here we are, at the end of January. Fast month. So much going on. Meetings, activities, errands, appointments.

There were six storytelling days at Columbia, and even though February is a shorter month, there will be eight days at Columbia with seven books. February is Black History month so we use the Ruby Bridges books in our classes. I have a new one, written by Ruby Bridges, which I will be debuting with first and second graders.

Church activities were in full swing in January, with our annual meeting tomorrow (Sunday). I did the children’s story one Sunday and served coffee fellowship on the next. I will do those activities again in February, but due to Lent and Easter activities, I won’t be serving coffee fellowship in March and April. There is a need for children’s Sunday school teachers so I may be called in for that. I’m not real hung-ho to do that since I did it for decades at our previous church.

Preschool board meeting was on the same day as my eye doctor appointment, I got new lens in two pair of glasses, but not new frames. I have frames I really like and don’t want to give them up or have the expense of new ones. Frames are so expensive. I actually had new lens put in a frame that dates back to the early 2000s because I paid a small fortune for it, it still looks great, and I didn’t want my bill to run any higher. We are fortunate to have optical insurance but it pays very little of the total bill.

After the rains the temperatures are a bit warmer so Terry and I have both been getting some yard work done. I am also walking most days because I have to check on how I can drive out of our housing tract. The replacement of all the gas lines is continuing (it was started in September), and it appears there is a different crew coming in to reopen the utility boxes on each street and now replace some other equipment. It’s a huge operation. The boxes they are working in are all underground, and very deep. The workers use ladders to get in and out of the boxes. Streets are closed off for the day so I have to figure out which way to go when I pull out of the garage.

Because Terry and I are both going out of the house for more and more activities, we are using more clothes. That means more laundry. We change our clothes after every outing, and unless it’s an item to be dry-cleaned, it goes into the hamper. Of course, the dry cleaning has to be taken in and picked up every week, too.

One chore I seem to have cut back on is cooking. Last night we had hot dogs and French fries. An apple for dessert. It was quick and easy after a very busy week.

Remember where you came from

A Twitter friend asked the question: If you could live in any state in America, which one would you choose?

I’m assuming she figured that her audience all lived in the United States, or else she might have asked “where in the world would you choose to live?”

I was born in California and have lived my entire life here and would continue to do so, no matter where else I could choose. I would always choose California because that is what my family did almost 85 years ago.

My parents came with two small children, with all of their belongings packed into a Model A Ford, from Arkansas. They had buried a baby boy who died of diphtheria, before there was a vaccine. They left family, friends, and a job my dad had with Welch Grape Farm. Neither of my parents were well educated. My dad could not read or write. And yet, they packed up and drove across country to California to start over.

It amazes me to think of doing something like this. My sister, 17 years older than me, would tell me stories of how hard it was when they first arrived. They camped under trees. They worked wherever they could find a job. My dad, a trained vine pruner, sought work in the grape fields and was able make a living.

It was only during the Franklin Roosevelt presidency, when work programs were instigated, that he got a well-paying job breaking up old, and installing new sidewalks in Fresno. He not only made a living but also saved enough to buy his own vineyard, and from there, their life in California became successful.

By the time I was born, they had sold the vineyard and bought open land so as to farm other crops. My dad became a successful cotton farmer as well as built the house they lived in, and where I lived until I was 18. The man who couldn’t read or write, but who could do plumbing, electrical, construction, and grow crops.

California provided a free education for me from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I applied for and received a California State Scholarship which paid for my four years of college at Fresno State University. After working 13 years in industry, I went back to that college and got a teaching credential and worked in a state-funded high school for the next 22 years. I owe my success and prosperity to California, just as my parents before me did. Why would I ever leave.

Friday lunch date

It’s been cold, rainy, windy, and it gets dark so early. Usually by the time we’ve eaten dinner, I want to go to bed. It’s already dark and I’m tired. It’s hard to go out for dinner during the winter months.

I do my best early in the morning and did so this Friday morning. After my usual morning routine of feeding all the cats, having my mocha, exercise, makeup and dressing, I sat here at my desk working on February’s books for second graders. When I asked one class what kind of books they would like to have next month, they were ready with suggestions:

*science

* flowers

*art

*outer space

I have four books that will sort of fit some of the requests:

*Ada Twist, Scientist

*The Big Orange Splot

*I Am Ruby Bridges

*Afer the Fall, a Retelling of Humpty Dumpty

After I produced the lists for each teacher, I went grocery shopping, hopefully buying enough food to get us through most of next week. However, the baguettes I bought were not my usual French bread but rather sourdough multigrain. Not sure how they will go with minestrone soup.

When I got home after two trips, Terry asked if I still wanted to go out to lunch. Oh, yeah, we had talked about that. Sure, I would like a really good hamburger. After some discussion, we decided on a close-to-home place, Triangle Drive In. The spot by us went into our favorite Mexican restaurant’s place when they shut down, so it’s very convenient. Triangle has been around about as long as Terry has been alive. It’s now a retro place, but it started when retro was the current fashion. It’s no longer a drive-in, but more like a 50s diner. There are four of the places scattered around town after being in one spot for decades. It’s that good and that well-known in town.

It was fun to go out for a lunch date with my husband, and now I have all afternoon to get loads of laundry done, write a blog post, and read my latest Louise Penny book, A World of Curiosities. Dinner? I doubt that we will have much after burgers and onion rings AND a Coke for lunch. Perhaps Friday lunch dates should become a “thing.”

Back to normal times, whatever that means

Did anyone else get tired of all the holiday tv commercials playing over and over just as all the election ads, which also played over and over, went away? It seemed that anytime I turned on the the, it was an endless loop of advertising that I was totally uninterested in watching. Terry got quick with the remote and muted many just as they started because they made me sigh, cringe, shake my head, etc.

Those are gone. I’m not even sure about what is being advertised right now, except some furniture ads that aren’t too annoying. I watch very little tv beyond the news shows. Terry records all of the weekly shows and specials that we like. It’s not very many, and then we fast forward through the advertising, if there is any. Television viewing, though, is not annoying me right now.

This is my second week, after winter break, back with the first and second graders. We are all settling into a groove, and it will be a long one. Twelve weeks of school before the spring break for our local school districts. That means 24 books will be read from January to April and 12 books will be shared after spring break up to the end of the school year. I’m sitting with my calendars, planning out the books for each grade and how one will teach a concept that will be picked up and used in a later storytelling session.

Like last week’s second grade book, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun, will be remembered in today’s book, The Juice Box Bully, as some of the same characters return but with changed attitudes. This week’s first grade book, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, set the tone for what we will witness next week in Chrysanthemum. My hope is that the students have taken the message from Molly Lou Melon to help Chrysanthemum deal with the mean girls in her class. And so it will go, week after week, as we build resiliency skills and learn how to live our life among annoying people. Just as I’ve built skills to ignore annoying television commercials.

Choose your friends wisely

Read this on Twitter today and liked it:

The best life hack is to audit who you spend your time with. Those people will influence what you value and accomplish.

I have said that to students over the years, and to myself. Be careful who you allow into your life. Listen to that inner voice which may warn you off of some people.

Over the decades this has proven true again and again in my own life. However, do not try to tell others who may think the sun and the moon are hung by this person. They will not listen. They will resent you, and when your warnings prove true, they will really resent you.

More rain in the forecast means more floodwaters

We are drying out a bit today but more rain is forecast for late tonight and into Monday here in central California. The weather forecasters are saying that will be the end of the rain for awhile as there are no more atmospheric rivers coming our way. It would be nice. We really do need to dry out. Especially some of the towns to the north of us. The ground is soaked, more rains come, the rivers are cresting and overflowing, homes of hardworking people are being flooded.

It breaks my heart to see the stories of these folk. Their homes are inhabitable. There is no where for them to go. They are unable to get to their jobs to make the money they so desperately need. These are homes without flood insurance because it would cost about $3000 a year for such insurance, it they can find a company to write a policy. Right now, not even private insurance agencies are taking on new policies, and FEMA is not offering any for at least 30 days.

I am hopeful that a state like California will have the resources to help people caught in this crisis. But, we have been unable to solve the unhoused problem so what makes me think this tragedy will be cleared up and taken care of. So many who lost their homes to forest fires are still waiting for a place to live.

Every day I give thanks for our home and all of the advantages we have. I try to never take it for granted, because like these storms that have pounded us, anything can happen. We have no guarantees. Terry and I have talked about what we would do it we were told to prepare to evacuate as so many in California have been required to do. Where to go? What about our animals? What do we take?

I feel fortunate that we do sit on higher ground here, and our tiny plot of land slopes towards the street, and run-off has been going well, so far. After years of drought, it’s good to see the rain, but just how much can we take?

The second week of the new year…

…went super fast. Flew by because of all the activity. Our three weeks of winter break were quiet and uneventful, and then the first week without a holiday came, and a lot happened in a few days.

On Sunday I did the children’s sermon during church. We have only a few children among our elderly congregation, actually grandchildren and great nieces and nephews, and this Sunday we had a good turnout of kids. That always makes me so happy to see them. The members love the children, and actually I think the older part of the congregation likes the children’s sermon even more than the kids do. I taught about the three wise men (although it was probably a very large contingent of astrologers who made their way from the Far East to find this new king.

I had stars for each child to hold up in front of this amazing fiber art installation of the wise men at the front of the church for epiphany. We talked about how God gives us directions in ways we can understand. He told the shepherds about the baby Jesus with a host of angels singing in the fields because they probably couldn’t read. He told the astrologers about the King Jesus with a new star that they found in their studies of the skies because that’s what they were educated to do. He gives us direction through our parents, the Bible, prayer, and stories at church. The grownups liked the lesson as well as the children.

Monday was an eye doctor appointment (my eyes are very healthy) and a preschool board meeting, attended in a pouring rain.

Wednesday and Thursday I was back at Columbia with stories for first and second graders, thankful for no rain on those days as it makes the kids squirrely. More squirrely than usual.

This Sunday I am doing coffee fellowship after church so I was out early, before the rain begins again, shopping for the ingredients. I’ll spend tomorrow putting it all together. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday.

The forecast calls for another week of rain

Lots of rain will fall this week, starting on Sunday night. It rained all night, still raining Monday morning with a southeast wind blowing the rain onto the porch and living room window.

I’m up, having breakfast and getting ready to go out in the deluge. I have an appointment with the eye doctor. Later I have a preschool board meeting. My boots and rain coat at the ready. Terry drove my car one day during a rainstorm, and decided it needed new wiper blades, so the Subaru is ready to take on whatever the skies send. The driver, hopefully, will be likewise.

Yes, we’ve had some rain

Is the drought over with all the rain we’ve received this season? NO. We would need a few years of rain fall like this to get out of the drought. Our groundwater needs to be recouped as the farmers have pumped out so much that the water tables have drastically fallen and wells are failing and there is no way to find more water for a new well. I know a former teacher who has a vineyard they have given up on because their well failed and they now have water trucked in to a large holding tank for their household needs. It is that dire.

The coastal areas are flooding due to rising tides AND the rain falling AND the water being released from reservoirs so as not to cause flooding inland. And yet, I open the San Francisco Chronicle and see pictures of flooded vineyards in the Sonoma region. For a state desperate for water right now, we aren’t real good at managing the water when it comes in huge amounts.

Fresno has had just under seven inches of rain this season, a bit over half of normal rainfall for the whole season. Will there be more in the coming months? Who knows. In years past there was lots of rain in December and early January (just like this year), and then the rains stopped. Six to seven inches was the total. Remember yesterday’s post about wildest dreams? Well, there’s another one–enough water to raise water tables and irrigate our fields, but not so much to flood our communities.