Thursday, May 31, 2012


I noticed a dime in the parking lot today and picked it up.
Walked along, wondering.

Do you ever think about how strange money is?

We tend to treat it as if it's a thing, an object.
Money is not an object. It's time.

I receive money based on how much time I work at my job. If we sell something we've made for money, it's still about time - the time we spent making the object. Just about every way you can think of that we obtain money is tied to time spent doing something - if not our time, then someone else's time. We talk about gross and net, profit and loss, but really we're talking about time.*

Take my current salary, divide it by the hours I work**, divide the hours into minutes, the minutes into seconds.

10¢ = about 8 seconds

What can I do in 8 seconds?

Say, "Hi, how are you?" "Fine, how are you?" "I'm fine, thanks."
Walk up a flight of stairs
Put a batch of rice in the rice cooker
Tune 2 of the strings on my ukulele
Pull the clothes out of the dryer
Post attendance for one class
Wipe a counter
Hug my husband
Dig out 2 dandelions
Wash my hands (but they're still wet)
Send a short txt message
Walk to the mailbox
Smile warmly 3 times
Miss you

My heart can beat 8 times

I think this is taking me somewhere. Thinking about what I value most. How I "spend" my time.

Or maybe I've got this all wrong. Before I went back to college and became a teacher, I was blessed to be a full time stay-at-home mom for fifteen precious years. Other than earning a little money for offering occasional childcare in my home, I didn't earn any money at all. What was my time worth then? How much did my heartbeats cost in those years? Snuggling a nursing infant? Washing diapers? Ferrying children to and from school?

Even though my retirement income will always be lower because I spent those years at home, I would not trade them for any amount of money.

What about the women in the poorest areas of the world, the ones who don't earn a penny, who walk for hours and miles every day just to get dirty water for their families, and they do it day after day after day after day? Just because they don't have a salary, will never have more than the tiniest amounts of money in their lives, does that mean that their lives are less valuable than mine? Of course not.

Now I'm not sure what my dime means, after all.

The more I try to think this through, the more my head goes in circles. A hug with my sweet husband is worth more than ten cents.


We have several dear family members flying in from out of state to visit us this summer. Give or take a little, most of their plane tickets cost around $500. So if a dear granddaughter comes for a week, and hugs me three times a day, then each hug is worth 32 minutes. $24.00. Whose money? Whose time? Mine, or the child's parent that bought the ticket? Who, by the way, was compensated for their time at a job, and who used the money to buy the ticket to bring the granddaughter to Oregon to give Grandma a hug or two or twenty.

You think I am foolish for trying to quantify things that can't (shouldn't?) be quantified.

And yet there was a dime in the parking lot this morning.
And I'm still wondering about it.

This dime isn't going into my purse. Maybe it's 8 free heartbeats. Maybe it's a life-changing lesson, a sign, worth far more than ten cents. 

For now, I am keeping my dime taped to my computer desktop, where it is an in-my-face reminder to think about moments, which are precious and holy and probably can't be measured out in coins.

*I'm not sure how this works for interest earned. I tried to think that through and it made my brain hurt.

*"Hours worked" for a teacher, of course, is a deceptive number. A shifting target. Plenty of hours spent at home grading papers and planning lessons. Depends on the month, the day. For this exercise, I only counted my contract hours, not the extra evening hours. If I added those in, the 10¢ is probably worth 5 or so seconds.

Monday, May 28, 2012


This afternoon we spent several hours out in the orchard. Our friend Ken joined us. He and Mark had fun with their chain saws! I did the more "delicate" work with my loppers.

 Ken starting in on the massive cherry tree.
Unfortunately, all three of its main trunks were rotten on the inside.

 Mark contemplating an apple tree.
It, too, was mostly rotten on the inside.

 Ken still working on the cherry tree.

 Mark left one little shoot on the apple stump (left side of photo).
 The cherry tree is history...but it will be a great play stump for the grandkids!
 I told the guys it looked like a bomb had gone off in the orchard...
...a cherry bomb! 
 I worked on the pear trees.
They are still standing.

We're not finished yet, but we're pooped! We'll tackle the other trees another day. We plan to take out one more huge old cherry tree, and majorly prune everything else. We may also take out the filbert "bush," a.k.a. blackberry trellis.

We filled the pickup truck and took a load of branches to the dump. Still have another load to haul another day when we're not so tired. Plus a big pile of larger limbs that can be cut up for firewood.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lost and Found: II

What is it with Lost and Found lists lately?
Here's the latest installment from the ladies at the church library:
The list starts out normally...collapsible umbrella, weekly-monthly planner (do people still use those?), silver watch bracelet, The Berenstain Bears Inside Outside Upside Down book, small doll with pink brush...

But then the list goes a little wacky on me:
  • 5 baby sippy cups (ewww...would I really go get a cup that might have belonged to some other germy baby?)
  • Fred Meyer shopping bag (ok, but how will I know if it's mine?)
  • "Ho ohana hou (to use again)" shopping bag (from Hawaii? I guess I'd be more likely to claim this one)
  • Nokia cell phone battery (hmmm...guess this individual really wanted to silence their phone during church)
  • Pacifier with two "front teeth" (??? I had to google this. It is seriously disturbing)
  • Puzzle pieces (how will I know??)
  • Toy vehicles and more (more what?)
  • Black board eraser (I thought the library checked these out...)
  • "Canby 1st Ward Priests - The Rocket Crew" (had to look this one up - it's not on google! - So maybe those engineer-type Priests down in Canby 1st Ward launched a rocket and made a video? Huh? Canby 1st Ward meets in a separate building...not so sure about this one)
And then, just a few days later, this in from the high school secretary:
To: All high school Staff
Subject: Staff Fridge/Freezer End of Year Cleaning

"We need your help.  Please take home any items that belong to you that are in the Fridge in the Staff Room.  Any items that you aren't going to "eat" in the next 2 weeks need to be taken home this weekend (or soon).  We will be emptying it on the 8th.
Among the items in the freezer are:  Hamburger Patties, Cookie Dough, a Turkey, Ice Cream.  It is so full the door doesn't close correctly.  This is what burnt out the motor in the other fridge.  Thanks for your help."

Seriously? I'm sorry, but who on earth would bring a turkey to school and leave it in the staff room freezer? Making it so full that the door won't close properly...and it's been there for weeks and made the other freezer motor burn out??

I confess: Lost and Found lists both mystify me and delight me. Here's to hoping that all those "Losts" find their way home!

Feeling a little "lost in life" lately? This video has a good reminder and made me smile.
There's a fun twist at 1:07. And is it just me, or is that ukulele music in the background at that point?

Oops - I included the same video through a different pathway - now I can't get rid of it! Oh well, you can listen again if you want. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

3 Nights Away

Several months ago I submitted paperwork to attend a training this week in Spokane.

Lucky me, my request was granted! Better yet, I was allowed to use 2 personal days to spend some time with my parents before I go back home.

Tonight is my third night on my own, away from home. This is a rare occurrence for me. I miss Mark, but at the same time, it is soooooo relaxing to not be in charge of anything for 3 days!

I am enjoying this little mini-vacation to the max.

Yesterday I attended a rich training with literacy expert Cris Tovani. She flew in the night before from Denver, where she teaches half time and does literacy work half time. (Hmmm...I know what that life is like...) An added bonus for me--my colleague Penny from Portland also attended the training. It is so much better to attend a training with a buddy. Not only is it friendlier, but I get more out of the training when I can check in with a partner throughout the day. Penny and I already have a de-brief session on our calendars in a week or so.

That's Cris Tovani on the left of me, and Penny on the right. 
The woman on the far left is the gal from Spokane who organized the whole training event.

One of the discussion questions that hit home for me was figuring out the difference between what is "rigor" and what is "hard." Rigor is a big deal in education these days. We're supposed to be teaching children in ways that are rigorous and relevant. Everyone wants to be a rigorous teacher, wants their students to be able to do rigorous things. Sometimes (maybe most of the time?) "rigor" carries the connotation of being hard. Throw the children to the wolves. If they can't handle the rigor, too bad!

So Chris brought up the question of "rigor" versus "hard" and asked us to apply that question to an activity we enjoy. Of course I thought of hiking.

When hiking is hard--My feet hurt or I'm out of shape. I have the wrong footwear or not enough water. I just want to get it over with and never do it again.

When hiking is rigorous--even though the trail is steep, I feel strong to conquer it. I am challenged but not overwhelmed. When it's over I feel stronger and better and ready to try it again.

It was interesting to think about those differences and apply it to reading for teenagers - what I want is rigor for my students, not hard, miserable reading experiences. I'm also doing a lot of thinking about how I can take Chris' ideas back to my staff, where I'll be training all the teachers--not just the English teachers--in ways to guide our students into successfully tackling rigorous reading passages that matter in their lives.

Then last night and most of today I've been with my parents. They are so dear to me. This week Dad underwent his first chemo treatments for leukemia. He had to be in Spokane every day this week for the treatments. Since my parents' home is a 2-hour drive away from Spokane, they drove their travel trailer to a beautiful little RV park near the Cancer Care facility. This has made the medical appointments much simpler for them this week! Dad can nap and rest, and Mom can fix meals they like.

Dad is doing so well with his treatments that the doctor doubled up his chemo dose today, and Mom and Dad get to go home tomorrow. I'll drive up to Colville with them to spend a few hours in their beautiful little mountain cabin, and then I'll head back down to the Spokane airport in the evening to fly home to my sweetheart.

Bonus activities on my mini-vacation:

  • yoga stretches every morning
  • not fixing any meals
  • reading through all of my thesis this morning to prepare for the last (?) round of revision
  • working on a little side $ project for ODE for a few hours                                                           (I know that doesn't sound vacation-ish, but it's been hanging over my head, and it was a gift to have some time to work on it. Plus it will help pay for this trip!)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Today is the 21,172nd morning I have opened my eyes here on the good blue globe.

I often tell my students, "I'm so glad to be here on the planet with you today," and they look at me funny. I get's 7:40 am and they are teenagers and it's 1st period. But I can usually get them to grin a little and come along with me.

I hope that it's one of the things they'll remember about my class. That and a few comma rules. And the sense that they can trust their stories, that their lives and stories matter, and that they do have something to say.

Lots more things running through my head, things I'd like to say, to tie together here, but...time to make my lunch and head to work. Time to greet my sleepy students and remind them what a good gift it is to be here together.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Update

Click here to vote for Sammy!
Last day to vote is Sunday, May 13.

Sometimes I have a little time to post, but I'm just not in the mood.
Sometimes I'd like to check in with my readers, but there is no time.
There's been a lot of that going around, lately.

And when it's been almost a month (!) since the last post, sometimes it's difficult to even know where to begin. I know, that's a lame excuse for not posting...
We finally have some blue sky here in the Portland region. After months and months of rainy gray, it is soooo welcome. We've even had a couple of days with temps in the 80s! And no rain in the forecast for the next week+. Yay for weather!

I'm sitting here in the church lobby for a couple of hours today. Ditto for two days ago, and another day next week. Peaceful...quiet...wifi access...time to blog for a bit, then grade some papers, then work on my thesis some more. It's AP test season here in high-school-land this month, and the school's normal venue ran out of space. That's what we get for growing the AP program at the high school. So the administrators cornered me a few weeks ago and asked if I could set up space for the overflow test sessions at the church.

(Just between you and me, that was a pain. Arggh. Mormon churches don't have a church secretary on site to set up the schedule, take care of the paperwork, and let you in the building. We do everything by volunteer labor because we have a lay ministry. About fifteen phone calls later, I had the whole thing set up.)

I'm not running the AP test sessions, but the church requires that a member be on site when a nonmember group is using the building, so I am the high school's designated Mormon girl, sitting here in the hallway while the kids are sitting at tables in the gym, taking their AP test. Now that I'm here, it's not such a bad gig. Given the usual pace of my average day, this is a lovely interlude, now that all the logistics are finally arranged.

Along with the sunshine, I've been getting in lots of mower time lately. We actually have 2 mowers now, and for a while Mark and I would each tackle half of the yard. Great fun - the whole 3/4 acre mowed in 45 minutes, with sprays of grass going everywhere! Then the pollen count got a little high for Mark, so I'm back to being chief mower...for now, at least. Good thing I don't mind this chore! Good time to think outdoors while whacking off dandelion heads. What's not to love about it?

 Maddy was in town a couple of weeks ago! It was such a joy to spend time with her again. Lots of good sibling and mama time for Maddy. Mike was a champ to fly with her all the way from New Jersey! We had a jam-packed four days of giggles and cuddles. More giggles than cuddles...she is one active little girl. She turned 3 last month - hard to believe how fast the grandkids grow!

 Speaking of grandkids growing, Josh turned 12 and was ordained a deacon. I love the photo of him with his deacon's quorum (that's him on the left). Twelve-year-old boys are so cool.

 I'll try to be better about posting! Happy May...and if I don't post again before Sunday, happy Mother's Day to all you moms, grandmas, and all of us with mothering hearts. You make the world a better place, and I am grateful for you.