Community storytelling project

Saturday morning found me across town at a branch of the Fresno County Library. I had signed up to record a 15-minute conversation about agriculture and how it has changed over my lifetime and what the future holds. My conversation was with Bob Rodriquez who is the agriculture writer for our local paper, The Fresno BEE.

I know Bob, of course, through his writing in the paper, but I am also connected to him through social media. We exchange tweets every now and then. A few years ago I noticed that cotton was being harvested a different way than I had ever seen. I tweeted a question to Bob about what kind of machinery was doing this as I was only seeing the end result. He sent me a link to a video that demonstrated the new cotton harvester. I was mesmerized and made a point that year to be out in the fields during harvest season so as to get a closeup, and photos, of this amazing contraption. You see, I go back to the day when cotton was hand-picked by humans. I wrote a blog post about cotton picking.

I also know Bob through Fresno High. Although I never had her in my classes, his daughter was often on my radar. She faithfully brought her check for the yearbook at the beginning of the year. She passed through our hallway and bought cookies from us on many mornings. She was bright and engaging and funny. After I retired, his daughter friended me on Facebook and I have kept up with her educational and career pursuits over the years. She continues to be bright, engaging, and funny.

Here we are, getting set up to record our session. The woman seated in front of us is an employee of the library who was learning to use the equipment since we were the first ones to record. She had a series of questions she asked about our backgrounds with ag and the changes we had seen and what we saw happening now that could impact the future.

The final question was about our hopefulness for the future. Both Bob and I are hopeful for the future of ag in California, but we are concerned that people are losing track of where their food comes from and how farmers struggle to get food and fiber to us. There could come a time when all of our ag products will be imported because other countries will grow it cheaper and in larger quantities. That concerns us because those other countries may not have the ability to keep food safe.

The recording will be edited and archived both at the local library level as well as with the California State Library.

What’s in your mail?

Our mailbox is out by the street. The mail is delivered by a mail truck. Our mail carrier is usually an African-American lady who, when I see her, is very congenial. I don’t know if I would be if I had to drive up and down streets in a truck with an open door, stopping every few houses to get out and deliver a package to the door, many times of an empty house, having to bring it back to the truck and write a note to the house’s occupant that they missed the delivery of their package.

Over the years, our mail has become less and less, and because I order few things online for home delivery, we seldom get those packages or the notices of their delivery. Today’s mail, like so much of it any more, was all requesting me to part with my money–a JJill catalog, two offers for credit cards, and a request for a donation to a worthy cause. Some days we get no mail at all. The mail carrier just zips right by our box. Unless, of course, I have put mail in the box, and raised the red flag.

We are warned, again and again, to not put outgoing mail in our home mailbox. Too many identity thieves in Fresno. One more thing we are famous for that we would rather not be. I rarely send a check to anyone, but when I do, I usually deposit the envelope in a post office mailbox. But greeting cards, of which I send a pretty steady supply to friends and family, are put in our mailbox. This week I put two get-well cards, a birthday card, and a thank you note in our mailbox.

Many of our neighbors have put in those locking mailboxes so that no one can steal their incoming mail. We still have the old fashioned type that looks like a quonset hut.

Most of our bills are delivered online. As are our bank statements and reports on our pensions. One of us is usually home in the late afternoon when the mail carrier comes by, and we can pick up our mail immediately. I often wave at neighbors who are doing the same thing.

Do you get much mail any more?

I give up

If you have a Blogger blog, you may not hear much from me. I have tried on three separate blogs, all powered by Blogger, to leave comments. And on all three blogs, my comments just disappeared when I hit publish. In all three cases, the comments were long, so I didn’t attempt to write them again. If you haven’t already figured it out, I hate Blogger.

I need to add that I love reading your blogs, no matter what platform you choose. I just wish I could comment more often.

Lunch with the bigger kids

Today I got to school in time to see the first/second graders going into the cafeteria. The plan had been to arrive after they were already inside the cafeteria, but there has been some changes made in the way the kids gain entrance to the cafeteria so everything was behind schedule.

This probably came about after a week’s visit from downtown administration to see how things were working on the campus. Three teachers on special assignment were kept busy last week writing notes on their clipboards as they followed the students from playground to cafeteria. One of the teachers complained to me about how badly the kids were behaving and yet I thought they were doing better than usual. She wrote down my comments, too!

Today, only five students were allowed to enter at one time, rather than the line snaking from outside to inside. It does keep the disruptions down, but it eats up huge amounts of time when the kids aren’t in a continuous line, moving forward.

I could tell that the cafeteria manager was nervous about getting the cafeteria cleaned for the next group of students, the third/fourth grade. This was the group with whom I planned to eat lunch. Of course, again, all the kids wanted to sit with me, at the table I had selected. This created a bit of a bottleneck because one of the administrators made the kids move to their respective places. I felt so bad because I was happy to see these students (they were my first set of first graders to whom I read books), and they wanted so badly to see me and tell me things about what is going on in their lives. Many of them will be moving at the end of the school year and will go to different schools next year.

I handed out 10 boxes of crayons, 20 pencils, numerous erasers, stickers, and 75 coloring pages to this group. I had nothing left to give the fifth/sixth graders when they arrived at the cafeteria for lunch. Fortunately, the oldest group wasn’t made to come in five at a time so they actually had plenty of time to eat lunch.

I sat with the class I had helped with a writing project and for whom I had arranged the guest speakers. They were happy to see me, and one of the girls who always goes out of her way to say hello to me, sat across from me and chatted about how much the class had improved since the first of the year. I dug around and found a special sticker for her in my “bag of tricks.” This will be the last time I see them as next year they will all go on to middle school.

As I went back through the office to check out, there stood one of the third graders with her mother. I had not seen her at lunch (she too always makes the point to come say hello to me) and I realized her mother was turning in a doctor’s note for her absence. I gave the little girl a big hug and dug around my bag and found one more sticker to give her.

The girl’s mother was in conversation with the school secretary about seeing the teacher and completing a contract. The little girl is too ill to finish the school year and will need to do the remainder of her work at home. She has strep throat and impetigo. Let me remind you, I gave this little girl a big hug when I first saw her. Pray for me.

The last week of school for me

After looking at my calendar for this week, and realizing I had a lot already planned, I decided to back out of a trip with The Ladies Who Lunch to go get blackberries and blueberries at our favorite grower who starts selling from their packing shed today. There may be another trip in June, before the season ends, or perhaps Terry and I can drive to the small town where the berry farm is located, have lunch, and get a few crates of berries.

Instead of a fun trip with my friends, I did a few loads of laundry, sent cards to ill friends, and attempted more yard work before noon. Since I don’t get to have lunch with my friends, Terry and I are planning lunch out before we run a bunch of errands this afternoon. Thank God for air conditioned cars.

The yard work didn’t get too far as the heat is bearing down (101 today), everything I pruned was so dusty and it all seemed to fall on my head when it came down, and the trash containers filled to the brim with my prunings. That’s always my best excuse to quit and come inside–the containers are full.

This is the last week I will be going to Columbia. The school district actually has two more weeks of classes after this, but the chaplains have told all the stories and will hand out certificates and celebrate the end of the year with the munchkins this week. We also have an early morning meeting on Thursday to turn in all of our books and miscellaneous paperwork and say goodbye until late August.

I’ve left Friday open this week so I can do laundry, and maybe more yard work. On Saturday I am going to one of the local library branches to partake in a recording event that ties in with the California State Library. It is a community storytelling project where two people at a time will have a conversation that reveal generational shifts and perspectives on a topic. I chose agriculture as my topic since Fresno has fed and clothed the world and I have seen so much change in how the crops are grown since I was a small child growing up on a cotton farm. The conversation will be with a local newspaper writer who covers the agricultural industry and what he currently sees in the field. Next Monday I should be able to fill you in on how it turned out and may even have a link where you can go have a listen.

Speaking of links, here is one to an article about what I do as a school chaplain that was published by Presbyterian Today.

Recapping the doctor’s appointment

That doctor’s appointment on Thursday went late–the doctor and I sat and talked until 8:15. She is the best doctor in the world, and a good friend. She shared some of her poetry with me and she drew on her new presentation board that has been installed in the examination room. The board has these electronic screens of all the body parts. She explained how my kidneys worked, how my heart could change as I age, and then showed me what a gouty toe looks like underneath the skin. She makes it all seem simple.

While sitting in the waiting room, I heard other patients speaking a foreign language that I did not recognize. I found out, in talking to Dr. Jones, that these ladies had come from Dubai for her to diagnose the mother’s ailment. I had overheard one of the women telling another waiting patient that Dr. Jones is the best doctor anywhere and can figure out things that no other doctor can. It’s true. It’s why none of us mind waiting for hours to see her. She spends hours with her patients. She is also the director of ethics for the hospital where she practices. A family from Idaho had called on her to help them dispute the care a family member was receiving in the hospital. This is who she is.

A few years ago, Dr. Jones was diagnosed with an ailment that is usually only found in an autopsy. The patient goes from being healthy to being dead very quickly. A blood test for an insurance policy found a tracer that no one recognized. That started a battery of tests, including a kidney biopsy which determined the problem. I was actually in the office the day she got the results. I prayed over her and prayed every day afterwards. She was hospitalized for almost a year. There was celebration and jubilation on the day she returned to her practice. I still give thanks for her good health. It is indeed a miracle, and she knows it. She says, almost each time I see her, “I keep learning what NOT to say to my patients after hearing these terrible things from my doctors.” She often says she would like to have herself for a doctor!

The gout thing I had a month or so ago was the reason I had this appointment. The podiatrist I saw said I should see Dr. Jones and have her look into my uric acid levels. The podiatrist knows Dr. Jones very well and knows her diagnostic ability so felt that was the best route for me. I had to return Friday for the blood work. The kidney, heart, and toe drawings that Dr. Jones did all tied together into what could be happening in my body.

“From all indications, you are very healthy, and we have to keep you that way.”

My kind of doctor.


I’m sitting in the doctor’s waiting room at 5:30, waiting to see the doctor I’ve told you about who can easily take 2+ hours for an appointment. I know there are at least two patients ahead of me. It’s going to be a late evening. 

Earlier this week I replaced my hanging cosmetics bag that I use when traveling. I had this one since 1990. 

It’s seen a lot of miles, and I would say I got my $19 worth. It has begun to fall apart, but it was hard to find something I like to replace it. 

Then I saw this Vera Bradley bag where I had bought my larger storytelling bag. 

The new one is a bit smaller but it will do, and I’m hopeful it will last me for the rest of my travels in this lifetime. 

Our weather is finally warm and the winds have stopped blowing. I worked in the yard this morning before heading to school to read the last book of the year. So many of the first graders wanted to sit by me at lunch that they got in trouble for sitting at the wrong table. I just stir up chaos!  Wish more adults would show up and eat lunch with these munchkins. 

It’s been a long day, and tomorrow I have no plans. I will just be at home, doing tasks I have put off for awhile. One would think, being retired, I could accomplish more, but no, I procrastinate.