Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Now that I don't blog anymore, obviously I rarely come here.

I may start blogging again at some point...

But even though that has not yet happened, I wanted to get something down.

A recipe.

It's been rather hectic lately, and by "rather" I mean "tremendously."  A traditional Christmas celebration very nearly did not happen at our house this year.  I still feel a bit sick to my stomach at the amount of receiving (as opposed to giving) that I did during 12-2012.  Perhaps I will buy and mail some late gifts over break.  If I do, it will be at the expense of lesson planning.  Sigh.

Thank the Lord for kids who can bake cookies, decorate trees and play carols on the piano.

My heart is also filled with thanks because Shannon came home and had her wisdom teeth removed on 12-21... and it went smoothly and she is recovering very well.

Probably I don't need to spell it out, but I was not at my peak regarding holiday plans, holiday shopping or holiday meals.  When Christmas Eve rolled around, I realized that I had some cryovac-packed chicken breasts in the refrigerator and an old bag of chopped spinach in the freezer.

Does it happen to you the way it happens to me?  I can plan, strategize and work my fingers to the bone preparing a nice meal for company and have everything turn out ho-hum at best.  But when I have no plan, no recipe, no company coming, possibly not even any ingredients, this is when my culinary masterpieces occur.  This is what happened Christmas Eve.

The result was delicious.  I sat at the table and shared a chicken and rice casserole with my family, savoring each bite and thinking what a shame that I did not exactly know what I had done to bring it to pass.

It was good enough that, even though I don't remember what I did, I wanted to try to get something down in case I want to try it again some day.  So here goes:

Crazy Christmas Eve Chicken and Rice Casserole
long grain white rice
kosher salt
raw chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
granulated garlic
minced onion
crushed red pepper
chicken broth
whole milk
grated sharp cheddar cheese
frozen spinach

(1)  Cook 1.5 cups of rice and set aside
        (saute the 1.5 cups of rice in a couple Tbsp. of butter until warm, add 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 3 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover tightly, let sit 20 minutes or until ready to use)

(2)  Cut up 4 good-sized, raw chicken breasts into bite sized pieces.  Cook in a large pot in a little bit of olive oil.  Add:  granulated garlic, minced onion, kosher salt, crushed red pepper and cumin.  I did not measure.  I tend to be generous with seasonings.  Cook the chicken and seasonings together until the chicken is no longer pink and the flavors have permeated into the chicken.

(3)  Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour over the chicken and cook and stir until it is evenly coated and the flour seems to be lightly browned.

(4)  Add 2 cups chicken broth.  Stir well as you add it.  Stir and cook over medium heat until it bubbles and begins to thicken.

(5)  Add 2 cups whole milk.  Stir constantly and continue to cook over medium heat until this also thickens and bubbles.

(6)  Add about 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese (I did not measure).  Stir in until melted.

(7)  Add about 1 cup of salsa (again... I did not measure).  Stir in.  Turn off heat.

(8)  Cook a bag of frozen spinach (16 oz.?  12 oz.?).  Drain and snip with scissors into small pieces.

(9)  Add the spinach and the rice to the chicken and sauce.  Stir well.  Pour into a large, buttered casserole dish.

(10)  Top with additional grated sharp cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (this is assuming that the parts were still quite warm when you combined them).  When the cheese is melted and slightly starting to brown, and the casserole bubbles around the edges, it is ready to eat.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sometimes life asks a lot of you

It's Friday and another week of school has come and gone, like the waves on the beach, only maybe not quite.  I hope I am teaching somebody something.  Originally, the thought of having to prepare for four different classes scared me senseless, but after a couple of weeks, I find that one of my biggest challenges is keeping a consistent pace between my two classes that are supposed to be the same.

Now I have two full, beautiful days wherein I will not have to handle chalk or breathe chalk dust.  For these two days, I can sleep in, which now means until 7:30.

My sister has breast cancer.  That is what I alluded to earlier, a few posts ago.

Her prognosis is good.  They caught it early, and she had three surgeries to remove all the cancerous tissue until there were what they call "clear margins."  Not being a doctor, I imagine "clear margins" to be areas of tissue around the cancer sight where there is no cancer.  I think of MLA margins, the kind I try to teach my students to use for their papers, one inch at the top, the bottom and down each side.  Empty space, free from text.  Clear tissue free from cancer cells.

My students might appreciate the parallel between text and cancer cells.

Meanwhile, my sister is losing her hair.

She never really liked her hair, and she was able to buy a smashingly cute wig.  Even so, there is something about running the comb through your hair and feeling, watching the hair come off in the comb.  Clusters of it detaching from your person, lying prone and dead on the counter like some sort of amputation,  It isn't pain, like a a stubbed toe or a pin prick or a bee sting.  It's just sickening, a sensation that takes your breath away like a fist in your gut, but less sudden.

So many drugs.  Poisons.  The stuff organic chemists make a career of developing.  It is so weird to think that my daughter is developing these medicines, and my sister is having her body pumped full of them.

A professor of Shannon's once said, "It takes a poison to kill a cancer cell.  If you could heal cancer with vitamins, there'd have been a cure long ago."  So they research and design and create medicines... medicines with cloaks that allow them to travel right up to a cancer cell and recognize it before they "uncloak" and attack.

I want to be with my sister.  We are a very unhuggy family, which is sad, but it is the way it is.  So I probably would not hold her, and we would not cry together.  Instead, I would tell her how nice her new wig looks, and we would run errands together, and I'd find ways to help her rest when she was tired.  I'd make dinner and do the laundry because that is what I do.  I'd chat with her while we walked the dog.  I'd drive her to her appointments and make lame jokes while the drugs were running into her port.

I don't know if I could actually say the words "I love you."  But I would do my level best to live it out.  Because I do love her.

It's so hard to be so far away.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

School has started

Today was my second day of school with kids in the classroom.  It was Jonathan's third (as a kid in a classroom).

I like teaching.  I feel pretty good at school, pretty natural, pretty in-my-element considering we haven't even cracked a textbook yet.  I did hand most the textbooks out, though.  I wasn't planning to until tomorrow, but I got ahead of my plan, and it felt good.  I'm still trying to get to know the kids and learn how to take attendance.

At the end of the day, I sat over my lesson planner and tried to gather my thoughts.  It is Thursday, a marching band day.  On Tuesday, Jon's first day of school, I didn't even have students yet, but I didn't get home until after he had gone to marching band practice.  Today I called him at about 3:30.

Yes, he was going to a sectional, early.  He would be gone before 4:30.  I still had lessons to plan.  By the time I finished and drove the thirty minutes home, there would be no way I would see him.

My throat caught as I tried to stay upbeat on the phone.  "Are you finding good, nutritious stuff to eat before you go?  I miss you, Buddy."  A tear rolled down my cheek and I grabbed a tissue out of the box on my desk, a box donated for extra credit which I need to figure out how to enter into the computer grading system.  I am keeping meticulous paper records.

I held my breath and tried not to let him know his dumb mom was falling apart.

"Yeah," he told me, "and I'm going to the gym with Dave after practice."

"Well, stop by at home and say hi to me," I somehow squeaked out with a modicum of composure.

Hanging up,  I gave the tissue a real workout, holding my breath, hoping not to make a sound.  There were people in the hall, and my door was propped open for air.

Good grief.  He is 17 years old.  How do moms do this with their little babies?

Maybe it's because they aren't on the last year before the child leaves for (possibly) ever.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Anniversary Trip -- Day 5

OK. I know I have to stop blogging, but it seems abrupt to stop in the middle of our Zion Park trip.  I know this is probably not interesting to anybody besides us, but I am on a mission to finish what I started.  Or perhaps I am procrastinating.

Anyway, Day 5 dawned bright and early, because we had scheduled a Canyon Adventure.  Our guide, Zach, picked us up promptly at 7 a.m.  Yes, we were on vacation.

I will, for the most part, let the pictures speak for themselves.

 This is where the canyon opened into the ground.

 Here, Zach is getting the ropes ready to go.  He was very careful, and I trusted him.  He and Shawn were dressed the same, which can get confusing in the pictures.  Shawn is the one in a protective hat.  Zach did not wear a protective hat.

 Yepper.  That silhouette is ME.

Here I had to jump.  It was probably the hardest part of the whole adventure.  I was fine as long as I could use leg strength, but when shoulder strength was required, my bum shoulders messed me up.  We had to fill out a health questionnaire before we started, but it only asked about things like high blood pressure and diabetes, not faulty rotator cuffs.  So I just didn't say anything and tried to be a good sport.  At this point, after I jumped, I did experience a bit of blinding pain, which I silently sucked up.  Afterwards, when nobody was looking, I lifted the arnica out of Shawn's fanny pack and spread a bunch around my collar bones.

 I have to be honest, the farther down I went, the more anxious I became about how difficult the climb back up would be at the end.  But the trail at the opposite end of the canyon wasn't bad at all!  I cruised up that path, hand over hand.

We are so tough!  I tell you, I was very proud of myself at the end of this adventure!

Later, I was floating in the pool at the lodge when Shawn told me he thought he'd lost his credit card.  While I cruised around in an inner-tube, he retraced our steps from the day (we'd gone into the park after our canyon climb), and he actually got the card back because somebody had turned it in to the ranger station.

It makes you feel so good to have a day like that, sort of builds your faith in humanity, or in Utah Mormons, or something.  Maybe this is a sign from God to me that I should vote for Mitt Romney.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hope to be in contact later...

I will write again some day.


In the meantime, we've encountered a serious family illness that I do not yet have permission to discuss.  No, it is not AIDS... don't worry.

Little Schubert had a tumor removed and biopsied, but yesterday we found out that it's benign, so that's good.

I got a job teaching English at the local private Christian school.  This may signal the end of my blogging days.  My kids tell me that teachers can't have blogs.  At least, not this type of blog.  Teachers can have teacher blogs and post assignments and all that jazz.  Teachers can't core dump their deep feelings on-line, though.  Yes, it makes sense.

Jonathan has pneumonia.  (He is not the one with the illness I'm calling serious.  He has a Z-pack that he will finish on Saturday.)

Shawn is in the process of moving Laura back to college, and I needed to stay home to prepare for other things.

And that's just the big stuff.  Well, most of the big stuff.

So, there is a lot to do, and a lot to pray about.

If you are up for praying, please pray particularly for Jonathan on Friday and Saturday.  Also, please pray for my sick family member who will undergo a third surgery on 8-17-12.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our Zion trip -- day 4

On the fourth day of our trip, we decided to poke around a bit in The Narrows.  We had no intention of really hiking The Narrows; the previous day had been quite adventurous enough.  But we did want to venture up the river a bit and see what the hike was like... so once again we found ourselves on the Riverside Walk Path (which you may recall from my journaling about Day Two, led to the beginning of The Narrows).

Here is Shawn, armed with a pair of water shoes (he insisted on wearing his hiking boots and carrying the water shoes).  We had cheap watershoes, not the sturdy water boots the real hikers were renting.  We also did not rent poles, even though everybody else seemed to.

Here I am in my water shoes.  I was very matchy-matchy that day, and felt pretty stupid.  I cannot imagine what possessed me to buy hot pink water shoes in the first place.

On this day, we ran into an inordinate number of kind strangers offering to take our picture.  This was the only day this happened.  It was strange, but in the end, we wound up with quite a few pictures of the two of us together, pictures that are not even what Laura's photography teacher would call, "armpit shots."  I do not know why this day, of all days, was so filled with kind strangers.  We had walked the same trail both previous days, and received no photographic offers.  Maybe I really stood out in my psychedelic pink or something.  How mortifying.

Another couple picture, taken by another kind stranger.

And yet another couple picture, taken by yet another kind stranger, this time right in The Narrows.  The lady who took this seemed like a nice Mormon mother.  She was particularly sweet, and we took pictures of their happy, blond family for them, too.  I was nervous at this point, because Shawn had taken off his hiking boots and left them on the rocks where the Riverside Walk trail ended and The Narrows began.  There were literally hundreds of people coming and going at that point of the trail, and I was worried somebody would take Shawn's nice boots.  The whole time we picked our way up the river in our water shoes, I was thinking, "We really ought to get back, before somebody makes off with his boots."

This is just a perspective shot, to show what The Narrows was like.  You can see a guy with a walking pole.  Most people seemed to have them.  It really was pretty hard to keep your footing.  We saw one grandmother and granddaughter coming back down from above, and the grandmother was kindly encouraging the little girl, "Just one step at a time.  Just take one step at a time."  And the little girl emphatically replied, "Yes!  I am being careful!  I don't want to fall again!!"

Here am I, standing in The Narrows.  I like the way this picture shows how the water comes right up to the sides of the canyon.  It was very cool and refreshing in there, miraculously so.  You could forget how hot the rest of the desert was.

Shawn went out deeper than what I was hoping.  I had to remind him that our snack was in the fanny pack, and it was not a waterproof snack!

Eventually, we turned around and returned... and got Shawn's boots back.  Then we found a nice rock, sat down on it and availed ourselves of that snack.

There is not much in life that I enjoy more than sitting on a big, shady rock in the middle of a beautiful rippling stream, surrounded by majestic canyon views, drinking cool water and eating carrots sticks, grapes, almonds and Triscuits.



Well, I guess you need at least one armpit shot in a post like this one.

Then we headed "home" to our lodge...

We did some interpreting of signs along the way.   "Blind Curves" means different things to different people.

Back at the lodge, we cleaned up and had a lovely, simple dinner on the veranda.

The blueberry parfaits were particularly tasty, but the smoothies weren't half bad.  We ate, and then we took pictures...

 ... of our Adirondack balcony loveseat ...

 ... of ourselves...

... and of our view of the moon.

It was another lovely day, maybe even my favorite day, although the day before was pretty fantastic and so, come to think of it, was the day after.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Participate on Facebook

I am taking a break from the memoirs of my 25th Anniversary vacation with Shawn to bring you this public service message.

Here is an explanation of how Facebook should be used.  Many of those of us over the age of, say, 30, do not have the same intuitive ability to navigate an internet site that our children have.  My children are teaching me all the time (they know these rules, people), and I am willing to share the knowledge with you.  So, without further ado...


You may notice that there are many different ways in which you can communicate on Facebook.  The four most commonly used are:

(1)  Writing a status update on your own wall.

(2)  Writing a wall post on somebody's wall.

(3)  Commenting on a status update on somebody's wall.

(4)  Sending a private Facebook message.

***We will cover each of these phenomena  in turn.***

(1)  Writing a status update on your own wall.

You write a status update when you type in the box that prompts you with, "What's on your mind?"

Status updates are for when one has something to say.  Some people also update their statuses when they have nothing to say, but we try to be patient with them.  Status updates should not be a place where we air dirty laundry and complain about other people in our lives.  It is unbecoming to write status updates that are chronically complain-y or negative (although it is perfectly acceptable to ask for prayer in appropriate instances).  It is also unbecoming to brag; think carefully about how people will read your update before you post it.  Inspiring quotes can be uplifting.  Most people appreciate reading something that makes them laugh--self-deprecating humor is pretty safe.  The best status updates are the ones that cause people to think and respond, creating an interesting dialogue. 

I usually try to refrain from posting more than one status update in a 24 hour period.  It is generally acceptable to post an update every 6-8 hours.  If you regularly find yourself needing to update more often than that, you might be better served with a Twitter account.

(2)  Writing a wall post on somebody's wall.

You are writing a wall post on somebody's wall when you go to that person's wall and type in the box that prompts you with, "Write something."

We write posts on each other's walls when we have something innocuous to say to someone.   This should be something we don't mind everyone seeing ("innocuous"), as it is obviously a public post.  Examples would be, "Hey!  I enjoyed running into you at the park yesterday!"  or  "Did you know that avocados are on sale at Aldi this week?"  or  "What time does the concert start at church tonight?"

This is actually, among the older demographic, a very rarely used form of Facebook communication.

It is mostly good that we rarely post on each other's walls... when we are being cautious and send the sentiment in a private message instead.  I will discuss this further in the section on private Facebook messages.

It is mostly bad that we never write wall posts... when we just write what really should be a wall post, but we add it to the comments of somebody's status update, even when it has absolutely nothing to do with the status update.  I will discuss this further in the section on comments on status updates.  Speaking of which...

(3)  Commenting on a status update on somebody's wall.

We comment on a status update when we read the status update and have something to say about it.  A box appears after the status or at the end of the thread of comments, inviting us to: "Write a comment."

If a lot of people are commenting on a given status update, you should read the other comments before you add yours; otherwise, you may just say the same thing everybody else said.

When commenting on a status update, please keep in mind that every other person who has already commented on this status will receive a notification of your comment and see what you said.   Make sure that you are actually adding something to the conversation at hand.

Sometimes some of us older folk just peruse our homepages, and we see the status update of someone (for our purposes, let's suppose a hypothetical friend named Trisha) followed by a long thread of comments.  Rather than reading the status and the thread, we simply think, "Oh!  I haven't spoken to Trisha for a long time!!"  Then we type into the comment box, "Hi Trisha!  What have you been up to lately?  I just bought a brand new car!!"

Now, this comment (a) has nothing to do with anything, (b) will appear as a notification to every other previous commenter on the status, and (c) is even slightly boastful and off-putting.  So:  Do not do that.

Make sure that whenever you type into the box that prompts you with, "Write a comment," you are actually commenting on the post connected to that box.  If you have something else to say, please write a wall post or send a private message!  Yes, you have to visit the person's page to do that.  It requires one click on their name, and you will be there, perfectly positioned to use excellent Facebook etiquette.

(4)  Sending a private Facebook message.

You can send a private Facebook message by going to a person's page and clicking on the box that says, "Send a message."

The nice thing about private messages is that they are private.  They are just between the person and you.  You should choose this option if:

(a) There is anything of a confidential nature in the message, or any information you need to keep secure.
(b) The message would be totally boring and irrelevant to the general public.
(c)  The message is about a social event or something else that is somewhat exclusive and might have the capacity to be hurtful to people who are not included.
(d) You are unsure of whether it is appropriate to post your message in full public view.

You might be tempted to think that you should only ever send private messages on Facebook.  Indeed, it is the safest way to go.  However, it is nice to write on people's walls when an appropriate occasion presents itself.

Everybody feels loved when they get a wall post.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Zion trip -- day three, the Anniversary proper

 This is actually a photo from the previous day.  
Shawn snapped this shot on the Riverwalk, and I really liked it, so I wanted to share..

 Also from the previous day, I think this photo quite effectively captures the hot, dry, sunny, relentless heat of the Pa'rus trail that we took back to the visitors' center.

The following photos are a montage of our attempts to use the timer 
on Shawn's camera to get a picture of the two of us together 
on the Pa'rus trail...

 The first time, the camera fell over right before it took the picture.

 The second time, it went off too early 
(note Shawn's hand near the camera and me standing all by myself).

 Third time's the charm.  Thank goodness!!

OK--for real, we are at the third day of the trip now!

This is Shawn on the morning of our anniversary.  He is wearing the fanny pack that we purchased the previous day.  We will not be caught in Zion Park without water again!  And... today, we have an agenda planned!

The first item on our agenda: a visit to Weeping Rock.  This is a very easy hike up to a shady glen where an outcropping of rock weeps and sheds a mist down over lush growth on the side of the mountain. 

That's me up there, sitting among the moon lilies, of which you also see a close-up.  
They were just beautiful.
They are also incredibly poisonous.

This is the view looking straight up.  
Of course, in real life, you can see the background mountains better.  
It is so amazing when you see all that growth on the vertical sides of the canyon, 
growing right out of the rocks.

These tiny columbine were blooming under the mist, like a fairy land.  
I loved how beautiful they were,
but I also loved how respectfully all the park guests treated them.
It was an amazing thing on so many levels.

After Weeping Rock, our agenda directed us to a slightly longer hike,
the hike to the Upper Emerald Pool.  It was only a 2 mile hike.  
That's nothing, right?  And just look at this gorgeous canyon view!

Off to a nice, fresh start!

On the way.

Further along the way.

The trail became steeper, rockier, and hotter as we went along.  I noticed in our picture files that we took fewer and fewer pictures as the hike progressed and the going got tougher.  A rocky, uphill hike in full sun on a 105 degree day is not an easy hike.  It just isn't. 

And then Shawn got a nosebleed.  We don't know whether it was the altitude or the dryness, but something broke loose, and the nose, it began to pour out blood.

Shawn had one tissue.  I, being the organized and prepared mother of four that I am, had zero.  At this point, I was not taking any pictures at all.  We tried to figure out whether to turn back or continue to the Emerald Pool where, conceivably, Shawn could rinse himself off.  It was also almost certainly the closer destination at this point.  I begged a tissue off a fellow hiker who was already on her way back down, and we trooped on.
Funny, how all our photo choices are of the lush green areas 
that were not particularly typical of the desert terrain.  

Finally, we reached the Upper Emerald Pool.  And this is the only photo we have of it.  I suppose I was trying to capture it when it was not full of people.  Every hiker seemed to need to walk out into the water and cool off.  Some sat in it, splashing their faces.  Shawn rinsed the blood off his hands and face.  Then we sat down in the shade for a snack.

Ha!  We are getting better at this camera-timing thing!

Before we began our descent, Shawn wet down his shirt in the pool, and both of us wet down our caps.  It was a very hot day.  I was  a little nervous because we were getting low on drinking water.  But what goes up must come down.

I post this picture to show how, on the right side of the path, you see the tops of trees because of how steep the drop-off is.

This is the path down, and it was much easier going down than going up.


At one point as we descended, a mother and her daughter passed us going the other way.  My husband, being a self-denying-gentleman-type, stepped out to the right to allow them to pass him easily on the inside.  

In so doing, he lost his footing and began to fall down the side of the canyon.  I screamed.  He threw his body back to the left, trying to get his center of gravity over solid ground, and landed hard on his left shin, scraping a fair amount of skin off.  Grasping the solid ground, he pulled himself up and back onto the path.  This, while I stood and screamed.  The woman and her daughter stopped to watch and see if he was all right.

I held tight to his hand after that, and told him over and over how sad I would be if I became a widow on my 25th anniversary.

He limped, but made very light of the situation.

We decided to go back along the Riverwalk path that we'd done the previous day.  Surely we'd find a place where he could rinse the dirt and blood off his leg, and we could relax and have a little snack.

Shawn, getting ready to have an energy bar.

Soaking his feet, having a drink, taking a break.

Then we got back on the bus.  (Thought I'd include this shot since we actually spent a lot of time on these buses seeing sights like this.)  The day's agenda had one more item: The Patriarchs.  We rode until the bus narrator told us, "This IS the Patriarchs."

The patriarchs are three peaks named by the Mormons after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   
Shawn took this lovely shot of the view.

I took this shot of the cacti behind a fence at the lookout point.  I thought the sign was funny.  You have to tell people to stay off the cacti?

Later, we cleaned up and went out for our anniversary dinner.  We tried out a Springdale restaurant called the Whiptail Grill.  Oddly, people mostly all want to eat outside, even though it is 98 in the evening as it cools off.  It really is not uncomfortable in the shade, especially if you have a cool drink.

Shawn waiting for his food...

and me, waiting for mine...

Our appetizer, seriously the BEST guacamole I've ever had.  Our server told me, "We make our own salsa, too, but nobody ever says anything about the salsa, only the guac."  He looked really sad.  I tried to reassure him: "The salsa is fantastic.  It's just hard to compete with an avocado."

My entree: a green chili filled with goat cheese and deep fried, with a side of chicken, garnished with pico de gallo and cucumber pico de gallo.  You can't even tell how huge it was.  That was over a cup of sliced chicken.  And it was so incredibly delicious, I ate it all.

Shawn's entree: a whiptail steak burrito.  These photos don't give you any perspective on how huge these dishes were.  This food was so good!

Unfortunately, Shawn got his second nosebleed of the day in the restaurant, and could not get it stopped.  The staff was very kind about it, but eventually, after burning through about 40 napkins, we made a getaway.  Fortunately, we had a microwave back at the lodge, so he enjoyed his dinner later, when he felt better.

And that was our 25th anniversary.  Perhaps it was not Shawn's best day ever.  My tough day was yet to come...