It was rainy for part of the week, but we still got some yardwork done. 

I finally got the leaves cleaned up in the front yard. This was my audience:

I uncovered some tulip shoots:

I texted this photo to our former neighbor whose daughter sold the bulbs to me as a school fundraiser. She had been excited to see the tulips bloom last year. I invited them over to see the flowers this year. 

Terry started pruning the mulberry tree:

The geranium on the front porch is blooming:

Makes a bright spot for these gray days. One storm after another has rolled through with a few breaks for sunshine that lights up the family room:

So, there you have it. Rain, work, and a bit of sunshine. That’s been our week. 

A very nice man, an acquaintance of long ago

From 1976 to 1987 I worked for Ranchers Cotton Oil. This was a company that took cottonseeds from cotton gins in the San Joaquin Valley, cut off the rest of the lint (sold this to a variety of businesses), removed the hull (sold as cattle feed), extracted the oil from the seed (Lays potato chips were fried in it) and then ground up what was rest and sold as meal for animal feed. I stayed busy selling and shipping all of these products.

Ranchers Cotton Oil employed over a hundred people in the plant, processing all those seeds. There was a laboratory with chemists, too, as well as an engineer who designed much of the equipment to do the processing. Although I had very little contact in my work with the engineer, he was often in the office and would stop at my desk to chat. He always had stories to tell, many of them about his two daughters. Jimmy was cheerful, smart, even funny. He died two weeks ago at age 83. Today was his funeral.

A friend and I attended the service. She too had worked at Ranchers Cotton Oil but only for a couple of years but remembered Jimmy and his cheerful nature. We did not see any other former employees of this now extinct company. I think most of them have died or no longer live in the area.

Stories were told by family members of how Jimmy  was organized and efficient in everything he did. The minister referred to the fun Jimmy had with his two daughters. I remembered the stories he would tell me about those daughters. He was so proud of them. At the end of the service, the guests were channeled into a line to greet the family. I stopped to tell each daughter about my time with Jimmy and how proud he was of them. Forty years later, those small daughters have become smart, lovely women. I was glad we attended the service for their father.

Wishful thinking

Remember when my Cuisinart died? I just left it sitting on the counter, hoping it might heal itself. That there might be some magic dust in the air that would make it functional again. That the appliance fairies might come by some evening and do a little fixing-dance on the machine. Nope. Didn’t happen.

This morning I got up early to start the process of making beerocks. I had cooked a roast on Thursday. The bread dough was thawing in the refrigerator. I just needed to chop and cook onions, add the shredded cabbage, chop the roast beef, and put it all in a big pot with lots of salt and pepper. Chop onions and roast beef. That’s where it all came crashing down.

I’ve always done the chopping with the Cuisinart. Quick, easy, pretty mess-free. The Cuisinart had not magically healed itself. It was not going to ever chop onions again. I got out the mini Cuisinart and did small batches. It worked okay for the onions. Not so much for the roast beef. Out came the knife and cutting board. I worked diligently to finely cut up that roast and get it into the pan with onions and cabbage. I WAS smart enough to have bought the cabbage already shredded. There have been times I have shredded an entire head of cabbage, using the Cuisinart.

Terry rarely has to help with cooking projects unless I need something from a high cabinet or shelf. Today he was called in to clean up behind me. What a mess I made. He was a patient soul and never complained. Of course, he was quite happy that I was making beerocks as they are a favorite of his.

The beerocks are rising as I type this. I will start baking after lunch. The Cuisinart that didn’t magically fix itself? I threw it in the recycle bin. No more wishful thinking, just shopping for a new appliance.

Addendum: Here is where I waxed ecstatically about my Cuisinart.

When it rains…

…the sixth graders go wild.

Thursday was a crazy day at Columbia. First of all, the sixth grade teachers were all gone to a teacher inservice. Why the district would require such a thing on the first week back from Christmas break boggles my mind. It’s hard enough to get students back to routine, and having a substitute in the classroom is NOT routine.

Second, we had a major rain storm on Thursday. There were huge bodies of water throughout the campus. It seemed as though the kids were finding and falling into those “ponds” left and right. Upon arrival at the school I was greeted by a boy soaked to the skin from falling into one. I worked with the home liaison to find dry clothing for him from the stash of spare clothing I have been bringing. Nothing. The supply of pants was all gone due to so many “accidents.” Guess I have a project for next week. We eventually had to call the boy’s mother to bring him spare clothing, meaning he sat out of class for about an hour.

Rain does strange things to kids. Maybe it’s atmospheric pressure or something, but they become wild creatures, even under the best of terms, but with those substitutes in the classrooms, they became even wilder. I was asked to help get a class under control. Why me? Well, the vice principal was out sick, and the other administrator was out for a doctor’s appointment. That left the principal dealing with other issues, like the second grader who brought a small blow torch to school.

When I entered the classroom, after gathering some intel from students already sent to the office, things seemed to be fairly calm. The students were working on a math problem (I’m NOT a math teacher, never have been, never will be). The substitute was at the front of the room, with his back to the class, trying to do the problem on the white board.

Okay, here are some rules I have: Never turn your back on a class, especially if you are not the regular teacher. Always walk among the desks, speaking to each and every student, checking to see if they know what they are doing. Don’t yell. Don’t let them see you sweat.

The students in the office had told me that students weren’t doing the work and had their phones out. They also said the substitute was yelling at them. I did see the yelling, but the cell phones had been tucked away by the time I walked in. I helped students, individually, with their math problems and got them on track. Kids need to feel successful with the task or they quickly go off-task and misbehave. When I felt things were going well, I talked with the substitute and asked about the students he had sent to the office. He said they could return if they were quiet and behaved.

I returned to the office and filled those students in, but one student refused to return to class. He wanted his audience with the principal, to tell her about how bad the substitute was and how the class had behaved. The others returned with promises to be quiet and to say they were sorry. I suddenly realized I was late to lunch with the first graders, my real responsibility for the day. It was still raining.


Some things just don’t work out

You may remember the post about the teddy bears that had been collected and would be distributed to all the first graders at schools with school chaplains before Christmas break? It all sounded fine when I left Columbia on the Thursday of the last week of school. Ninety bears were awaiting the police resource officer who would come at the end of the next day, the day before Christmas break, and hand out the bears as the first graders left school. What could go wrong?

  • The resource officer was late.
  • There weren’t enough bears.

Because of absences, every child who was there got a bear, but even though I had been told there would be extras, there weren’t enough. I am not happy with this situation.

In talking with one of the first grade teachers, I learned 90 bears would not have been enough if all students had been in attendance. The lady who collected and distributed the bears had called the schools ahead of time and gotten the headcount for first grade. That’s why she gave me the number she did–nine bags, each with 10 bears. And remember, she had told all of the chaplains there would be extras we could do with as we saw fit. Didn’t happen at Columbia.

Because the teachers wanted the bears handed out on the last day of the week, at the very end of the day, so as not to disrupt class, I was not able to be there to help with the distribution. I thought, though, it’s pretty simple, what can go wrong. Famous last words for a control-freak such as myself.

New year, new tasks, new window

Let the new year begin. Let’s return to routine.

Our kids were here last week. The house, of course, was turned upside down. Priorities shifted to the care and feeding of small children. On Sunday they packed up and headed out into the Atmospheric River of a storm we are having on the West Coast and fortunately made it home to San Mateo before Hwy 101 was closed to traffic due to mud and water on the road. Terry and I packed ourselves off to church.

Terry was ordained as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church yesterday. Next week he takes on the responsibility of clerk to the church’s Session. Sort of like secretary but even more so. I will become the moderator of the Deacon’s Board. Although happy to remain the board secretary, there is a need for a moderator so I will give it a try, with the unanimous consent of the other deacons. The only way we will be able to do these tasks is with God’s grace.

Our church has beautiful stained glass windows depicting the apostles and disciples. They are not your typical windows that are all showy and pretentious but instead show the men in typical work garb with the tools of their trade. Yes, men, all men on those windows until this past week when this window was installed in the sacristy:


This is Martha. The window was placed in honor of a deceased member who worked tirelessly in the church. She just happened to be my daughter’s seventh and eighth grade drama teacher, too. She worked tirelessly for the children at that school, too. She definitely deserves a window in her honor.

This window is near where I will be preparing Communion elements once a month. I thrills me to know that I can check in with her on Sunday before setting to my task.

A few weeks ago we had a visiting dignitary from the national offices of the Presbyterians. She spoke about what you love about your church, telling the story of one church she had visited where the ladies group told her they loved the stained glass windows of their church. Although Tiffany windows, and quite beautiful, she had hoped to hear more about what the church DID than what the building was. I had just told this story to my daughter on Sunday morning, before they headed home. Later, same morning, I post the stained glass window picture to my Facebook page. My daughter laughingly chastised me in a text, saying, “so what else did you love about the morning besides the window?”

The beautiful stained glass windows at our church, depicting the disciples and apostles shown in their everyday work clothes, doing the work of Jesus, remind me of the members at Westminster who come to worship on the beautiful grounds, in a beautiful building, hearing beautiful music and words from Scripture and then going out, all over our city and being the hands and feet of Jesus. That is why I love Westminster. It is a church of faithful people who love the Lord and show it in their daily lives. 

Eating my words, sorta

Yesterday’s post, about throwing away what’s broken, came up this morning when I noticed a coffee mug my husband uses. It’s an old mug, probably 25 years, at least. It’s a FarSide mug that our daughter or I bought for him so long ago we can’t remember who actually found it. It has a small, nervous dog making espresso on it, a FarSide comic. He loves it. So much so that it is chipped, cracked, and badly stained. I worked on the stain part this morning and got it clean. The chips and cracks? They’re still there.

“The grandkids got you a new mug, how about you throw this one away?”

“Yes, I like the new mug and I’ll use it, but no, I’m not getting rid of the FarSide mug.”

“It’s cracked and chipped.”

“Doesn’t matter. I still use it.”

“Someday, at your estate sale, people are going to wonder why the old man kept that mug. Was he decrepit?”

“No, just sentimental.”

I’ve lost this argument.