The Joy of Life Standard

I went to teacher college in Colorado, about ten years ago, when public education in Colorado was really at a low point. "No Child Left Behind" had just passed- ugh! Everything was about, "standards based education". At a certain age, you will be able to do certain things. Blah blah blah. I had the Colorado standards for Language Arts memorized. It was enough to make you just die of boredom. It was enough to make the kids die of boredom. It was just awful, I must say.

Oh, you can say that there must be standards, and this is true. But the focus at the time was to have every word that came out of your mouth be rooted in standards. It frankly took all the joy out of teaching, if you took it too seriously- which I definitely did.

My friend Sabine is originally from Germany, and she went through teacher college with me. She's always been such a breath of fresh air. She is tall and blond and used to tuck in all her shirts and clip her cell phone on her waste band. Sabine rescues small birds and keeps them in her apartment with her. She speaks with the most charming accent. (She also collects idioms. It's the funniest thing. She throws random sayings into her speech like, "and the chickens really came home to roost...") She's one of those people who is always positive but still comes from left field half the time, so she's not annoying at all in her constant positiveness. So, in teacher college, when we were memorizing the standards and writing lesson plans to meet standards and everything was standards, standards, standards, she said, quite loudly and accented,

"What we need is a 'joy of life' standard! We can try to cram all this stuff into these kids' heads, and it won't do anything for them if they don't enjoy their lives in the first place!"

Well, yes, Sabine! You're absolutely right. A joy of life standard. A joy of learning standard. Something that considers that, hey, wait a minute! I think I heard somewhere that children are people with souls who spend most of their time in school... hm...

Over Thirty-Five?

Hey, now I'm 36, so I have to wear great accessories. According to a former coworker, "Over 35? Accessorize!" She always wore great jewelry and huge belt buckles.

Should I start wearing:

* Hats?

* Scarves?

* Clunky Necklaces?

* Feathers in my hair?

Or... or... something else?

A Happy Birthday Indeed

If you keep up, you know all about Mrs. X and the trouble with selling the house. We wrote a document to cancel all our dealings with them. Today, we got that document back signed by Mr. and Mrs. X, along with an entirely new offer on the house from someone else. It was actually in the same email as the cancellation: two documents. Out with the old, in with the new.

(I just want you all to know that I am very thankful for all that I have, and while my mother is of one mind, I myself would never ever steal Jesus's car. Or Manuel or Juan's car. Ever!)

This new offer is from a musician. Back in the day, I asked you all if we should stage the house, and the resounding answer was no. I did, however, leave the piano, partly because it looks good in the basement, but mostly because it's really hard to move through the snow. I think this may have been a good move (or non-move). The musician probably saw the piano and instantly saw himself living there and happily playing the piano. The original offer, this morning, included the piano to be sold with the house, but I said,

"I can't give up my piano on my birthday. I miss it!"

So, we counter-offered, for three thousand more and no piano in the deal, and he accepted! Right away, too. [Mr. and Mrs. X never did a thing without talking to their lawyer for 48 hours, first, and then doing not quite exactly what they said they would do.] After all that nonsense with the other people, Mr. Musician is looking great!

One thing I do know, is that musicians are good people. Mostly.

I've had this theory about musicians for a long time, actually. The concentration that is necessary to learn an instrument also makes you someone who can concentrate for long periods of time, in general. Therefore, your judgement might be more clear than other people's, because you have the patience to work things out. Also the joy of making music makes you naturally more mellow, and you can be nicer because you experience deep joy more often than most people.

I've noticed this substituting in schools. You can go to the worst school in town and teach instrumental music and have no problems. I've done it.

One could argue that it is not necessary to be a musician to feel this way, and that's true. But the other people who gain such joy purely from listening to music, or others who concentrate deeply on different hobbies, while they may still be good people, those people are just harder to identify.

Cheers to Mr. Musician.


Today I'm 36 years old. It's not so old, but a lot of changes have come about in my lifetime. I think I'll be an old fuddy duddy today and complain about a few things I miss about the good ol' days:

* Knowing who the crazy people were. Remember when only crazy people walked down the street while talking to people who weren't there? Now, we have the borg. Everyone's crazy!

* Hitch-hikers. I haven't seen one in years. Why? What happened? Did all the hippies buy minivans?

* Real letters, the kind you stumble upon when you clean out your closet. You read a few lines from a friend. Sometimes, they have drawings or poetry.

* The way you used to look at me. Sometimes, I wonder if you still see me at all.

Wait... something happened... where was I?

Do not block this door!

This is a real sign.

This is on a door in the classroom where I take Little Z once a week to her music class. It is not (thank goodness!) ever necessary for us to use this door. The part under the glare says, "Do not block this door!"

The rest,

"If door does not open, tell occupants to move away from the door and evenly distribute weight on the platform, then it will open."

I don't know. Do I even have to explain why this is amusing to me?

Let's say someone, maybe me, let's say I want to open the door. I'm not supposed to block it. Do I stand in front of it to open it? Is that okay?

And then, if I try the knob (never will I ever be so brave as to try the knob) and it doesn't open, I guess I'm supposed to scream through the door at the "occupants,"


This is bad enough, but then consider that, while contemplating this door, I am in a music class for people under the age of five. What would happen if they all got that door open, ran in, and shut it after them?

Take a moment to visualize a dozen people under five. All but one of them are actually under the age of four.

I would say,


And they would say,

"You have a green shirt!"
"I like noodles."
"There are twelve of us!"

And we would call the fire department. And the fireman would say,

[I'll let you decide what the fireman would say.]

Gosh darn it, shucks (I don't like to swear on my blog) and other people's stories: the car thief

Well, the whole gosh darn real estate transaction fell through. The house is up for sale again. It turns out the buyers (let's call them Mr. and Mrs. X [I have no idea who the heck they are, anyway!]) - It turns out Mrs. X does not have a valid Social Security Number to obtain a loan to buy the house! And this is after, well, about twenty crazy things which I won't go into.

My dad called it. (Maybe.) A few weeks ago, Mr. and Mrs. X were having trouble getting a mortgage because Mrs. X had no credit history, because she "grew up on a farm" and her "mom and dad told her never to use credit". This, I thought, was possibly admirable. Wow. How do you get through life without using credit? Mrs. X is around forty years old. Because she had no credit and couldn't get a loan, they wanted us to basically rent to own the house to them for a while, until they built some credit history. My dad was totally against it,

"Who are these people? Who goes through life with no credit? No, no. They're drug dealers. Stay away from these people. You don't want them in your life. Sell it to someone else. And make them replace those ceiling tiles! [long story] And don't be Canadian about it!" (I love the last bit. I'd never heard that expression, "Don't be Canadian." Lovely.)

But then, Mr. and Mrs. X got another hope. Another lender thought he could work it out for them. And it was all going so well, until... my great real estate agent called me today,

"Are you sitting down? Because... okay. Mrs. X called today, and apparently she does not have a valid Social Security Number." After much What da's? she explained how Mrs. X explained it,
"I loaned my social to someone a few years back. I thought it was all cleared up, but I guess it wasn't."


Okay, well, I could go on, but... let's not rant. Let's just say that I no longer trust the word of Mrs. X. Unless... can you think of any possible legitimate reason that a person would not have a valid social security number? She doesn't seem foreign at all. Maybe Dad was right. Maybe they are drug dealers. Who knows?

Now it seems like we have a reason for Mrs. X's lack of credit: Mrs. X just newly became Mrs. X and has had no time for a credit history... or? Is there an explanation? Really, if you can think of one, I'd love to hear it.

Of course, this reminds me of a story...


This reminds me of the time my mom married that Mexican guy to help him become a U.S. citizen.

This was before I was born.

My mom had this boyfriend who was Mexican and wanted to be a U.S. citizen. So, she married him. I don't know the guy's name, so let's call him my favorite Mexican name: Jesus.

Frances was never the type of girl to dream of a walk down the aisle dressed as a fairy princess, her father on her arm to faithfully give her away. This was not a marriage where she made Jesus's favorite pot roast every Thursday night and they watched Laurence Welc on the tele. (I have not a clue what other people did in the late sixties and early seventies, obviously. Maybe they watched Johnny Cash's short lived variety show? No clue. Maybe people didn't watch TV then. But now I've really gone off course...) Anyway, I asked her about Jesus years later (after my dad told me this story) and she smiled at the memory of him, but it wasn't like she'd lost the love of her life or anything.

After a while of being sort of married to Jesus, but dating other people? (okay, I know virtually no details here) my mom wanted to marry my dad and have a daughter and give her a weird name to carry with her like a billboard that said, "HIPPIE PARENTS!" for the rest of her life, so she naturally needed to divorce her husband, Jesus. But Jesus wouldn't have it. He didn't want a divorce. So, she did what anyone wouldn't do. She stole his car. And she hid it.

Poor Jesus was beside himself without his cherished car (I now picture the car like the buses of Mexico, only smaller) but the police would do nothing. They said that she was his wife, so it was her car, too, because people who are married have common property. Now, if they were divorced, that would be another story, but since they were married, the police could do nothing.

Jesus granted Frances a divorce. Later, Frances married my dad in bermuda shorts. It just goes to show: Sometimes, stealing a car really is the best solution.

Frances, 1951, Lake Tahoe.

Dave and I

Someday, I will be so rich that money will mean nothing to me. I will throw hundred dollar bills at people for tips, "Here!" I'll scream indignantly, "Take it! And be gone with you!" And that day, that day when I am inclined to cast one hundred dollar bills aside like chicken bones, that day I will have Dave Sedaris do all of my cleaning for me, and no one else.

I know you think it's unlikely, David. You're out there in France, tending your spiders, writing your little stories, making your little crepes with your little boyfriend and you're thinking you've got it made, Dave Sedaris. No way in a million bazillion years could our lives be so entwined, yours and mine, Dave Sedaris. But you are wrong.

I will watch you clean my refrigerator, Dave Sedaris. I will make sure you scrub it with baking soda. Thoroughly. As your little behind sticks out of the refrigerator door, I will say,

"I see you're leaving spots. Make sure you dry those, David... Oh, and the number twelve bird feeder is getting a bit moldy. You will clean it with vinegar and rinse it thoroughly, won't you? And then there's the car, David. I'll be using it tonight. Someone splashed on it earlier. Can't have that."

Timidly, you might dare to ask,

"Could I write a little bit today, perhaps? I mean, when I'm finished with the car, of course."

And I shall laugh politely.

"Oh, David. You and your stories! Well, I suppose if you choose to sleep five hours tonight instead of six, that's really your prerogative, isn't it? It's not like you're my slave or something! Really, David. The things you say!" And I'll prance out of the room, martini in hand.

You're thinking you've got it made, David Sedaris. No way in a million bazillion years could our lives be so entwined, yours and mine, Dave Sedaris. Just you wait.

The Boxer

Grandpa Al, in his heyday.

Man, could that guy eat ice cream. Dryer's Vanilla. He kept it hard as a rock and cut it out of the carton with a butter knife, 2-3 inch giant cylinders, served on a dinner plate. Eaten with a spoon in one hand, a butter knife in the other. He gave me that much, too. Always.

"That's too much ice cream," Grandma would say. "She'll get a tummy ache."

"Oh, Amy."

Every night, at 3 AM...

Every night, at three AM, the following happens:

* My husband wakes up.

* He witnesses a car drive up our road, which is really more like a driveway we share with two other houses. A few minutes later, the car drives down the driveway again and goes away.

* Little Z cries out in the night, waking me up- although I have been half awake since the car drove by.

* I go to comfort Little Z, and she asks me to cover her with her blanket. I do.

* We all go back to sleep, except maybe for the person driving the car.

This has been going on for I don't know how long. Maybe a week. I sometimes don't remember getting up in the night. (I do things in my sleep.) Anyway, tonight I put Little Z in her footie pyjamas with two blankets, and I hope to no longer be a part of this nonsense! Although it would be exciting to see the car again...

You see how life is in the country. A car drives by, and it's worth a blog entry!

The Stylish Aunt

I don't know that she's an aunt, but she is definitely stylish- although perhaps inappropriate for a farm.

I have a stylish aunt. She's inappropriate at times, as well.

The Sun Umbrella

Men just don't hold umbrellas against the sun much anymore, it seems. Pity.

Garden Pictures

She has a way of smiling with her eyes, and not with her mouth. It's the opposite of a fake smile.

The Picnickers

I have a "Somewhere in Time" kind of crush on the guy closest to the camera.

Very twisted of me. He's probably my great-great-great uncle, or something worse.

The Grey Economy Cult

Lately, I haven't gotten any sub jobs. Actually, it's a good thing, because I've gotten so much done on the farm. Bad-Ass Husband (BAH, recently upgraded from Tender Lovin' Banjo Player for reasons that will not be disclosed) says that I have joined "The Grey Economy". I have no idea what that really means, but I love it. It sounds outlawish. What he means by it, I think, is that I seem to have gone askew of the normal resource venders, and tend to find things from "That guy who lives by the coop" and that sort of thing. I call around. Use the phone book. Talk to people who tell me to talk to other people. Etc.

Today, for instance, I got a three quarter ton load of pea gravel to build a little driveway parking spot, from a place with a little sign asking you to call Tim for help. There was a number. I called Tim, who didn't answer, but then called me back right away and appeared from a nearby farmhouse. He didn't have a working scale, but he dropped what he supposed was three quarter tons into my truck, and tallied up the bill with a calculator, I paid cash and off I went.

Also, today, from going around running my mouth about how I'd like some sheep and goats and such, I located a lady who raises some sheep, and she wrote down my number that she's going to give to a lady who raises goats and might have a kid to spare.

I am also hot on the track of the leader of a conservation society who will probably be able to help us plant a little tall grass prairie in the mud hole that the geothermal dig left. He's on the answering machine. I should really do that right now, actually.

BAH thinks that if I keep this up, we will soon be initiated into the cult. The cult that makes everyone out here so darned happy, that is. Our neighbor up the road, who we share the drive with- every time he drives by, he has this enormous grin on his face. Same with his wife. It's uncanny, really. It could be a cult, but more likely, it's just the air out here.

Incidentally, I realize I am now rambling, but people are so darn friendly out here. We all know each other's business. We just do. I don't believe those stories of criminals hiding out in the country. At least not in Wisconsin. Maybe somewhere else, but you couldn't live out here for long without everyone talking. Just because. The Grey Economy, you know. We're onto you!

"The Grey Economy Cult" - another good band name, no?

Happy Salmonella Day!

It was eleven years ago today that BAH and I had to cancel our wedding because we both got food poisoning. Traditionally, I bake a cake. This year, I bought one. Isn't it beautiful?

Who's in charge here?

Aren't they just great? The guy reading the paper. The hat. The dress. The broach. The skirt. What is she saying?

And who took all these pictures?

Old Pictures

I have this little black book of pictures, and about half of them feature this girl. She doesn't like to show her teeth. (Click on the photo to see it large.)

I have no idea who the boy is. The girl is, by her looks, probably my Grandma Amy's mother. It's funny to see your ancestors as young people.

I'm thinking she finds this boy to be a complete idiot. Or... what is she thinking?

Mexico Follow Up

Well, I did say the Mexico entries were over, but there are a few loose ends to tie up:

They had TLBP's suitcase all along, at the airport. When we went to leave, the lady at the desk asked us if we were missing something. Then she just went back to some other room and got our suitcase. (I called them, mind you, and they said they didn't have it.) Inside the suitcase were all of TLBP's clothes, and a better Spanish dictionary. (We might have avoided some embarrassing comments- but then what would I have blogged about?) The suitcase no longer shut properly. We checked it in again and brought it home.

At home, there was a message on TLBP's cell saying they found his suitcase. The cell didn't work in Mexico. Well, at least they called.

Little Z was not nearly as well behaved on the way home as she had been on the way there. She didn't want to go home. Also, getting back into the US is incredibly tedious.

It is, after all, cold here. Surprise! But spring is in the air!

We had ordered the chics mail order over the internet while we were in Mexico, so the day after we got back, we built a big warm box to keep them in. And then they arrived! And now they're getting big and strong!

Old Photographs inspired by Professor Batty

One of my favorite blogs that is just a blog- that is to say, someone just writing about his or her life and general musings- is "Flippism is the Key". This is written by Professor Batty, with whom I don't have much in common, but I still really enjoy it. I think that's the best it gets in the little blogging world: taking an interest in someone else's life for no particular (obvious) reason.

Professor Batty sometimes posts old photos. I've enjoyed them quite a bit. He writes about the people in the pictures. Silly me, it only occurred to me recently that I might do the same thing! Also- well, I'm ashamed to admit this- I just figured out how to scan pictures! All the older pictures I've posted were scanned by someone else, generally my dad or stepmother.

Now, with my newfound skill, I'd like to post some old pictures. I inherited a chest of them, really, but the ones that are the most interesting are the ones where I don't know a thing about the people. I was left these pictures by my grandmother, who (as noted before) was not a great talker. The pictures don't generally have any names or dates on them, either. It's all quite a mystery, really. I like to look through them and hypothesize. I'm pretty sure about which person is my great-grandmother, just from how she looks so much like my grandmother, yet isn't her.

So, I'm going to post some pictures from this black, unlabeled old photo album. I won't post them all, just the ones I find more interesting. I think the benefit of my grandmother not telling me anything about them is that now they are a blank slate! We can surmise as we will.

The one thing I do know about my great-grandmother is only this: She died when she was about my age now (35) or younger, from making tea. She had the boiling water and somehow spilled it on her lap. The burn became infected and she died.

Great-grandparents are thought of as old, and yet mine never even lived to be middle aged.

Little Stalin and the Pecking Order

There really is such a thing as a pecking order among chickens. The chicken with the most social standing gets pecked by the others the least. He gets to eat first and enjoys all the privileges of the poultry upper class. The lowest on the totem pole gets pecked the most and eats last. Most chickens, of course, fall somewhere in between, the vast proletarian masses of egg layers and broilers, leading lives of quiet desperation. This chicken here is the king of our flock:

I know you're not supposed to name animals you plan on eating, but I call him "Little Stalin". It's not the most affectionate name, anyway. Isn't he ugly? No hair on his neck at all.
Here are some of our proletariat chickens, (Little Stalin's Mindless Minions, if you will):

We've kept them all alive and growing for a month now. I'm practically a professional.

Little Stalin and the Pecking Order would be a good band name, no?

Many Buses

I suppose you might think me odd, to travel to the end of the Earth, only to ride buses. But hey, that's my thing! Here in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I especially enjoy the icons and decorations at the front of the bus. The best drivers seem to have the best Jesus figures and such, Mary, different saints. And then they have curtains. Notice how much of the visibility is blocked by the curtains! and then they paint the destinations on the window, too. How can they see stop lights? It's lovely. And where do they get all of these amazing curtains? Do the bus drivers' mothers sew them? Is there a "Bus Curtains Are Us" store?

This first one has Mary painted on the ceiling with tassles, an excellent curtain, Jesus on the dash, and a cute dog ad for a vet- the only ad I saw on any bus while I was here.

I wonder who the saint in the picture is on this next one. Perhaps someone to protect travelers? Or is there even a specific saint for bus drivers? No, that would be too good to be true. I think this guy also had Jesus on his key chain, not shown.

These little girls and my little hija were playing with each other, making funny faces from across the bus.

Each bus is very personal to the driver. Clearly, they have their own buses; they do not share. Something missing from the photographs, too, is the Mariache music. Each bus has a different quality of speakers, as well as saints. These buses have no set schedules, no maps, no nothing. They are all old American school buses, and some of them still have the red crossing lights working. There are a few drivers who just drive around with those lights blinking all the time, like decoration. There is one bus with Christmas lights on the front. Ah, Mexican buses, how I will miss you. Lurching around town, music playing, passing Palm trees waving in the wind, cruise ships, abandoned adobe buildings, people selling everything imaginable on the streets. Today is our last day here.

* All Mexico entries have weird dates.


You can't drink the water here. That's what they say, so we don't, but bottled water is as common as water so it's all good.

A funny thing happened about the third or fourth day we were here, though. We got this notice slipped under the door, in English and Spanish:

"Due to the temporary shortage of water in this area, we inform you that the water will be turn [sic] on for the first 30 minutes of each hour, and will be as follows:

From 12:00 To 12:30
From 01:00 To 01:30

[Then it listed every hour of the day]

Thank you for your understanding,

The management."

So, I thought, Santa Maria! They are serious when there's a water shortage here! They just turn it off!

We planned our showers accordingly. Then we went to dinner, poolside (really roughing it here) and I noticed that they were watering the lawn. What da? But it turned off at 5:30. Well, okay...

But, the funny thing was, they never actually turned the water off. They just sent us that note and forgot about the whole thing, I guess. Then we were wondering, is it voluntary? Are we just supposed to enact this ourselves? And, if so, it was very, very poorly worded- I would assume I was supposed to leave the water running for a full half of every day, if it were voluntary, which of course would not conserve any water.

So, that was kind of funny.

Then, today, it rained. A lot.

I guess the water supply is okay, now?

* All Mexico entries have weird dates.